Do You Care for Your Heart or Your Heart?

February is all about the heart. It is the heart health month with Valentine’s Day smack dab in the middle. We learn the signs of a heart attack and ways to take care of our hearts, but we don’t think enough about guarding our biblical hearts.

Proverbs 4:23 says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” Our hearts are the essence of who we are and determine the course of our lives and affect everything we do. We tend to allow so much to go on around us, not thinking how it permeates our hearts.

Of course, it is important to take care of our physical bodies. They are precious to God and He created them in His own image. The way I see it is that we focus on the physical aspects, which is what we can see, feel and touch. We know the condition of our bodies at all times, but we ignore the spiritual part. It is like a bride and groom who only prepare for their wedding day and not the marriage. They focus on what they know will happen that one day and not for the ups and downs of married life. That is us when we only think about our physical bodies.

According to 1 Timothy 4:8, “For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.” Taking care of our bodies is definitely worthwhile and allows us to do more in life, but that can’t be all we do.

The biblical heart includes our feelings, desires and even thoughts. It represents so much of who we are and where we are going. Physically, we eat healthy foods and exercise daily. These are habits we incorporate to keep strong hearts and bodies. Do we do enough to keep the heart of who we are strong? Going to church and doing nice things for people are great, as is using kind and uplifting words. Those things are not necessarily daily practices though.

Reading the Bible and praying every day are wonderful practices to keep our hearts centered on God. I think it can be too easy to do those things and then “forget” who we are the rest of the day. I am God’s child and created to do great things, and so are you. Do I act like that all the time? Sadly, no. Throughout our days, we need to learn to focus on the good and uplifting and let go of the negative. This is not saying to bury our heads in the sand when it comes to what is happening in the world around us, but to do what we can and encourage others to do the same.

The biggest way I think we can strengthen our hearts is by using them. Working on developing compassion and viewing everything we do in light of how it may help someone takes our hearts from beating to thriving. Pumping life into people around us is a feat that takes a lifetime to accomplish and makes us stronger a little bit every day.

Taking care of our hearts will affect us and those around us here on earth, but doing so will also be beneficial for our eternal lives. If we are to love God and people well, there is work involved. Let’s be consistent in our efforts, not just one month, but every day of the year.

 

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Prayer Changes Me

Our church started a 4 week series on prayer. Don’t you just breathe a sigh of relief when you read that? There is always something to learn about prayer, and I am learning about it on different sides these days!

God must be trying to teach me lots about communicating with Him. Over at Linda’s blog, we are doing a 6 week study on the book, “Invitation to Solitude and Silence” by Ruth Haley Barton which has fascinated me. I am 2 weeks in to my new practice of sitting alone, allowing God to just be with me. I am not asking for anything for 10 whole minutes a day! If I want my relationship to grow deeper, I must not be the one always talking. Not easy for a chatty person who likes to fill silences.

Then we started the prayer series at NorthStar on Sunday. The fact that God will never leave me alone for the rest of my life just blows me away. He even thinks of me when I don’t think of Him. You know how often I just go about my day and either don’t talk to God or send Him up a quick prayer? Most of the day.

Wisdom is something that I strive for in my life, but I won’t truly gain any until I allow God to go through my days with me. Yes, it seems crazy that the God who is in control of the universe and has major fish to fry also wants to get up close and personal with me. He wants for me to seek Him out not only when I feel really good or really bad.  God just wants to be with me. Period.

Communicating with other people isn’t that different from communicating with God. Both require talking and listening from both parties. A one sided conversation will never get very far, so I have been trying to give God a chance to get a word in. While He wants to know my heart, I also need to know His. I need to feel His love and nearness, and that is tough to do in this fast paced world. Taking time to be alone and quiet every day gives me the balance I need.

Working on my prayer life is something I will do for the rest of my life. I believe that this is an area that will grow exponentially the more I put into it. It is time that will always be well spent.

Linking with Holley Gerth

Make Bold Plans

There have not been any updates on our plans to foster lately because there isn’t really anything to say. We are still in the pre-approval, paper work stage, especially since we are transferring from the county to a private church based foster and adoption organization. The only change is that our girls have stopped asking me when we are going to get a child to stay with us.

Just yesterday I had a conversation with a coworker who also wants to foster or adopt one day. I pointed out that this process is similar to pregnancy in some ways, just no cankles or stretch marks. When I was pregnant, people loved to tell me their horror stories of childbirth and newborn babies. Maybe we all love the look of horror on someone’s face. I don’t know. Some people get really excited when they hear someone is having a baby. Both of these happen on a regular basis to me these days. Lots of family and friends are very excited and think this is great. There are also plenty who bring up their best friend’s sister’s nephew who apparently brought the spawn of Satan to live with his family. I know these stories are meant to be helpful, so I just nod along.

Yes, it is going to be hard sometimes and we are going to get attached to a child who then goes back to their family. I think God prepared me for this back when I was a hospice volunteer. I worried and worried over how sad that was going to be, but now I see God’s hand protecting my heart from totally breaking. For several months, I visited with people just once and didn’t get attached. Then I began sitting with a woman while her daughter ran errands. I was with these sweet ladies for over two years before I quit so I could go back to work. It wasn’t easy saying goodbye to them, but I got through it.

Do I also think about how this is going to affect my children? Of course! I never want them to feel they come in second to another child, but that doesn’t mean we should stop. I worried about this until I saw Lauren’s answer for how she will feel about sharing her parents, which made me cry. “My parents might treat them a little differently but I know they will love me the same.” Her heart is huge at only 11 years old. This is going to be such an adjustment, but our girls know there is nothing that can make us love them less. They are excited to be a part of helping others who need us.

When I look back, I see God’s hand preparing our family. Knowing that we have Him in our corner and seeing Him work everything out gives us a boldness to step out. Life isn’t meant to be easy. If we aren’t doing something that makes us uncomfortable in order to help someone else, we aren’t living life right. If we are listening to outside voices tell us the option we are choosing may not work, we will miss out. And if we listen to the fear that creeps in our minds, others will miss out.

I dare you to be bold!

Linking with Holley Gerth

Age is a Privilege

Nine years ago yesterday was my 30th birthday. Oh how I looked forward to my thirties! I was going to gain wisdom and maybe understand people a little better. I would find saying no easier and I would learn who I am. Overall I would be more comfortable in my skin.

Not everything has gone the way I hoped, but when does life line up with all our wishes? This decade has been mostly good. I feel a bit wiser and more calm about the future. I have discovered more about why I am here and even said no to an opportunity. (That one took until this year!) As I enter the last year of my thirties, I want to see what more I can do and whose life I can touch. Life keeps getting more interesting with age, in my opinion.

With 40 now a year away, I am not dreading my forties. Call me crazy, but I look forward to more years. I have a good life with a family I adore. Old age is not promised to anyone, so I will take any years I can get. Why dread what so many are denied?

My hope is to have as long as I can here on earth and see my girls grow up and maybe even a few grand babies grow up too. I may not be thrilled with wrinkles and gray hairs, but if they come with age, I will take them. Every day of this year in this one life I am given is a privilege.

Linking with Holley Gerth

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Be Generous With These

When we think of generosity, we think of money first, right? A generous person gives a lot away. However, I think we limit ourselves when we think this way. Here are other ways to give freely!

Money. While it is not the only way, I still have to mention the most common way to be generous. We can give money to help a neighbor pay a bill or buy them groceries. We can donate our unwanted goods to a charity. There are many things we can do with our money and possessions.

Time. This one ranks up there with money as second known, but there is a reason for that. If each of us would volunteer our time with an issue we are most passionate about, the world would be much kinder and better off.

Patience. Our kids and spouses could use more patience from us. The people in the parking lot around us could use it too. The lady taking too long in the checkout line could use a smile from us better than an eye roll. What’s that? You’d rather give money than be more patient? I hear you, but we can all work on this one.

Forgiveness. Whether or not the person deserves it, we should forgive them sooner rather than later. Holding a grudge is a heavy burden and it steals our joy, not theirs. Carrying bitterness will suck the life out of anyone, so let’s try harder to give forgiveness more freely.

Understanding. The world around us can be so cold and lonely for many. They are struggling in ways we can’t imagine, so let’s try to see the world from their perspective. It isn’t something we do automatically so it takes effort and forethought.

Mercy. Instead of condemning actions, maybe we find a way to see past them to the person. We show them that there is nothing they can do to push us away. No doubt this is difficult, but we all need mercy. Let’s be the ones to give it.

Compassion. Many times, giving monetarily comes from our compassion. We can also show this better to our families and friends. When one of them is hurting, we can reach out and show them we care. We see them in their need. Out of compassion, we can offer our help with a meal, babysitting, driving to appointments, or just by listening.

Love. Over everything, put on love. It is definitely the greatest thing and the most lacking in the world today. If we do anything, it should be to love generously no matter who it is or what they have done. We never know what someone is going through or what our actions can mean to them.

Let’s work on giving like it’s going out of style, because it sure feels like it is. May this list inspire you to think of ways to give more freely!

Linking with Holley Gerth

I Will Use My Gifts

I’m sorry, God. You gave me extra sensitivity to people’s feelings and emotions. What good is that gift if I don’t go out and use it? Feeling sorry for someone can take me to a dark place, but You also gave me a strength I forget I have. You have given me all the equipment I need to help others and be a good influence on their lives, but I can’t do anything by sitting in my house.

My purpose here is not fully known to me, but it won’t be until I go do what I know I can do. I can’t change all the injustices in the world, but I can start in the areas You gave me a passion for. Those will take me to the next ones until all is fully revealed.

Reading posts and the comments on social media is never going to uplift me and give me answers. I am never going to see people fighting there and feel fulfilled. What I need is to shut all that out and focus on You and Your answers. Searching through my experiences, personality, strengths, and weaknesses will tell me more about what I personally can do than a cutting remark from one stranger to another.

Talking about my beliefs without knowing any of the people these ideas affect will not help me learn and grow and know truth. Looking someone in the eyes while I listen to their story will help me find ways I can be useful in this world. There are hurting people all around me if I stop long enough to look. I am sorry for not looking deep enough. I am sorry for taking an “I’m fine” at face value.

I belong in a community that needs my talents and my voice. I should be speaking up for the ones who can’t or are too scared. It has been too long that I have sat silently.

My apology will only take me as far as the actions I now take, and I know that. With Your guidance, I will help those who need me. You are always by my side, and from now on we will go out and love people together.

Linking with Holley Gerth

Embrace Not Being the Best

Growing up with a sister who is really artistic was not easy. When I couldn’t be as good as Elizabeth, I eventually gave up trying. Then there is my 11 year old daughter who has a natural ability as well. A friend once told Lauren, who was 4 years old, that she liked her chalk drawing. That child looked at my friend and said, “I’m an artiste.” Well, OK then. She was so humble! Seeing the creations Lauren makes has made me even more hesitant to draw anything. However, these days, I am giving up perfection and instead trying anyways.

Oh sure, I have several adult coloring books. You know what though? They tend to stress me out! All those small spaces and I have to decide what color to make them? Nope. I gave up on them. If something makes me MORE stressed at the end than at the beginning, it’s not for me.

So after finally deciding I don’t have to be good at drawing, I spent some of my Christmas money on a sketch pad, pencils, and a book* that teaches anyone to draw. I may not have natural talent, but that shouldn’t stop me from finding a way to be creative. No one wants perfection anyways, right? Since I always loved to draw horses as a child, that was my first attempt. I showed it to my husband and to Lauren and got a rather high pitched, “It’s good!” from both.

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The other day I did two drawings. The first one of a sailboat did not turn out the way I wanted. I blame the book for making it too difficult and putting too many lines in it. It crossed my mind to erase the whole thing, but I left it in the book. This is going to take time to get better. I am trying to be brave, but I am not brave enough to show it here!

Then I decided to draw the cute panda. It turned out decent. When my husband and younger daughter saw it, they both thought Lauren drew it. Now that is because it was from far away and because she is usually the one drawing, but I will take the compliment.

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Sitting with a cup of tea at the sunny kitchen table, listening to Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, I relaxed and focused on sketching. I wasn’t thinking about the future or worrying about whether or not the picture was good enough. Who cares? I was just having a fun time. Life can be fun.

*The book series I am loving is called Draw 50. There are tons of them, and the girls and I are hoping to get a few to share so we can have fun drawing together! You can find these books here.

When we don’t attempt something because we don’t think we will be good at it, we lose. When we quit something we love because we aren’t the best, we lose. Is there something you have been hesitant to try that you think you would like? Jump in and have fun!

 

Linking with Holley Gerth