Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Devotional Excerpt: Regrets and The Past

Why wasn't I saved sooner? Why did I have to go through all the things I went through because of my sin? The Lord tells us in Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1:5, Galatians 1:15) that we are set apart for his purpose from the womb, why then did I have to do the awful things I did, or deal with the consequences of my actions? 

When reading through a bible study I have been following recently, one thing smacked me square in the face, I'm harboring feelings of regret. I never used to do this, I used to hold the philosophy that no matter how something turned out, it was what was meant to be and every experience was worth it. So why was I holding on to these feelings? Realizing my sin. Knowing that the things I have done bring disgrace to the Lord, how could I say they are worth it? The 'what if's' took hold of my mind and heart and weighed heavily on  me. How could I ever face up to things that scar my dear Lord's reputation just by the fact that I am now his.

My husband and I have only been married a short time even though we were engaged to be married 14 years ago. We both made choices and sinned both together and apart that led to a 10 year separation. We married other people, had extremely rough marriages and divorces and the Lord led us back to each other.

Although I grew up in a Christian home and lived a 'Christian' life as a child, when My husband and I originally met, I didn't know the Lord. I knew of him, and I honestly hated him. Circumstances in my childhood had led to bitter feelings towards God. 'If there is a God, I want nothing to do with him' I thought. I was not anywhere near what the Lord had planned for my future.

Through a painful marriage to an abusive husband the Lord brought me to understanding, and a place of repentance. The Lord met with me, in my sin, convicted me and redeemed me to use me for his plan. However, I was still living in sin. I was married by law to a man that the Lord did not intend for me. I was struggling against the Lord in every way because of this. My peers all pushed me to stay in my marriage and attempt to bring him to the Lord, to love this man as my husband the way it was intended.(1 Cor 7:13-14) Although in a lot of cases and ways this road of thinking is proper and correct, I had forgotten about what marriage really is. I had forgotten about my first husband. The man I was sharing a home with was not what the Lord desired for me, and somewhere inside me I knew it. Psalm 127:1~ Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it: except the Lord keep the city, the watchmen waketh in vain. The Lord had given me a husband and built a relationship for me, even before I became the Lord's child, I had turned my back on it.

I worked hard to ignore the Lord telling me that this wasn't right for me. I threw back his words of encouragement to the married as he gently showed me time and time again of his laws in Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy of what engagement means,and what actions required marriage. He gently reminded me over and over about my first husband. This battle between self and the Lord lasted three years. I had known all along that I belonged with Mike, I knew when we separated that we were doing something wrong. I had long thought about leaving and going back to the man who had stolen my heart and married me as a young girl. If it weren't for my confusion and circumstances, I would have left and gone to him years before.

As a baby Christian I thought the Bible was clear and obvious, rules are rules and the rules were that you stayed married, period. I didn't bother to read the Bible, those were rules I knew growing up that's what every Christian says about marriage, I didn't need to read the Bible for the Lord's take on it. But I had still forgotten, I was married to Mike. In the Bible an engagement was a marriage. The marriage contract started from the day a couple became engaged. The law required a divorce decree to separate an engaged couple just as though they were married. (We see this in the story of Mary and Joseph for example, they were betrothed to each other and when it came known to Joseph that she was with child he intended to divorce her quietly until the Lord sent an angel to inform him that Jesus was to be born of his beloved and she had not betrayed him, Matt 1:18-20) To make even clearer the case that we were married the laws of Deuteronomy concerning fornication state that any couple caught in the act of consentual fornication were to be married quickly. (Deut 22:28-29) So by our sin of having sex while engaged but not married, we married each other spiritually. In essence I was living polygamy. In spite of the Lord leading me to this understanding, I ignored him and tried to fix my worldly marriage because people who didn't know my story or understand the abuse I was taking would look down on me for leaving!

You can't let what someone might think of you, even in the church, stop you from doing what the Lord prompts you to do. Things are sometimes more complex and sometimes people with the best intentions don't know you or your story well enough to guide you in a Biblical manner. I've learned that no matter what people say, you must allow the Lord to guide you around the Bible. He is the author of it as well as your creator, he knows what you need to read and when. This is not to say that you shouldn't seek Godly counsel, you must always seek Godly counsel, but you also must seek to understand the Lord's law and his leading and guiding as well. Not only that, scripture interprets scripture and the Lord will make things stand out all over the place if he is guiding you. One reference can be misinterpreted, repeated consistently and in several places the Lord will concrete the concept he is teaching you.

With that being said, I still fought to save my worldly marriage for three years. Finally after my prayer and cries for understanding the Lord brought to light my husbands affairs. The affairs that had undoubtedly been going on for the entirety of our life together. The Lord had released me from the bonds of my worldly prison. (Matt 5:32, 1 Corinthians 7:15- If the unbeliever should depart, the brother or sister holds no bondage) Now given this story, and the brief peek inside my past, can you see where the regrets and 'what if's' leading to them hide?

In reading through Lord help me grow spiritually strong in 28 days by Kay Arthur and David Arthur, day 9 speaks to my soul. She paraphrased her story (much as I did here) and explains how she was entrenched in a deep jealousy of the teenagers she was teaching because they, if they heeded her advice, had the opportunity to skip the dreadful things she endured because of sin. Then she shared what the Lord led her to.

The apostle Paul, formerly Saul, has a life story that would definitely bring forth some regret. He prosecuted and murdered Christians as a steadfast Jew thinking that these men and women were insane to believe that Jesus was the Christ Messiah and one true King. How high must his regret list have been? Yet we see him humble and Jesus led in the letters he writes as Paul to the Christian churches in the gentile nations. His sin and his past brought him to understand his desperate need for Jesus' work on the cross. He is one of the most influential New Testament authors, he is also one of the best examples of what God can use for his purposes.

The Bible tells us that everything written in it is written for our learning. When you look at Paul's life before Christ, the ugly sins that he perpetrated are driving curiosity into those who saw him later head over heels for Christ. What would that curiosity have driven these people to do? I know what curiosity leads me to, research. When I research truly seeking out truth, guess what, I find the truth. That's exactly what was intended because the truth can only be truly found in one, Jesus Christ. So taken that into consideration, what is my past for? Why did I have to be saved so late in the game? Why did I let my sin carry me away from my beloved? For Christ's purposes, he saved me when he was ready.(Gal 1: 15-16) Just like Paul, I have a past that shows my desperate need for Jesus. My need for Christ is like oxygen, we need it to survive, and I only understand it and fully comprehend it because of my sin. (Rom 8:1) But maybe that isn't all it's for. Maybe Jesus plans something more for it. Just like Paul reached some others through his story. Jesus might plan to reach someone through me.

Maybe your past is something you wish to bury and forget. Maybe you regret it like I did, but maybe just maybe there is a bigger reason to ask yourself  'Who is Jesus going to reach using my story?'

Is there something you struggle with because you are ignoring the prompting of the Lord? I pray that the Lord release you from those bonds and abundantly clarify his will for you.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Living More Simply: Dishwashing

Ah the dish washing chore. People around here, ok I, despise washing dishes. I thought that the dishwasher was God's gift to me, and people like me. Until I did some math and some real evaluating.

Have you ever noticed how much work a dishwasher really is? Really unless you have that stellar reputation of person who rinses and loads the dishwasher the very second after the dish is dirty, you have to scrub your dishes before they go in the dishwasher, or as everyone has witnessed from time to time the entire load ends up with crummy yucky stuff plastered to it.

Now that alone, seems like extra work to me. Usually if I've rinsed my dishes well enough to put them in the dishwasher I might has well have added the soap and they'd be clean by the time they got there! Seems like I just wasted time!

After pondering that, I started looking at all those things I cannot wash in my dishwasher. My pans. aren't the pans the worst part of the dishes? Couple that with the fact that most pans, especially those with any kind of non-stick coating, are not dishwasher safe, so if you are putting these things in the dishwasher you are voiding your warranties and not guaranteeing the safety of your pots and pans. The cast iron that I use often, can't be dishwasher-ed unless I want to re-season them every time I cook. Not a real useful thing.

Looking around at that I started wondering if there was more that I wasn't seeing. We stopped using the dishwasher and started washing ALL of our dishes by hand. I mean I was essentially doing that anyways! We stuck a towel on the counter and used that to lay dishes out to dry and after a month, lo and behold our electric bill was TWENTY DOLLARS cheaper! I never in my wildest dreams thought that the dishwasher could possibly eat up that much money!

After a few months of watching our electric bill being consistently cheaper, my husband had an assignment for his environmental science class to measure the amount of energy you used on a daily bases for something like four days. Now I had no idea you could actually calculate this total! I know I must be blonde right? (actually red-head, worse than blonde!) We did the math our dishwasher eats up 120 volts at 8.5 amps, meaning it eats up 1020 watts (volts times amps) while it's running.  If I did the other math properly (hours of use times current cost of electricity) with running the dishwasher once a day (about an hour) it eats approximately 17 dollars or electricity a month, not including the gas to heat the water it uses. So my totals were not that far off!

Looking at the hand washing method, I can safely assume that the amount of energy to heat three to five gallons of water that I use while hand washing (and sometimes used while rinsing and loading the dishwasher anyways) is significantly less than the dishwasher eats up. While I can't calculate for the water usage as we don't pay for water where we are at currently, I still would guess that it doesn't cost as much because I was using the water to rinse the dishes before they went into the dishwasher anyways. All in all for our family washing the dishes by hand is far simpler than washing them with the machine. As an added bonus my dishes have never been cleaner!

Now I'm not saying go out and tape off your dishwasher, never use it again. That would be crazy! But, if you are interested in living with less work and using less energy, it might be time to evaluate your dishwashers actual potential. Are you getting the bang for your buck? Turns out, we weren't!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Combining and Condensing: Baby Clothes Edition

Over the past few months we as a family have been condensing and ridding ourselves of the excess stuff that has accumulated just about everywhere we look.

The other day I decided to tackle the baby clothes pile. We regularly sort through toys  and remove excess toys from the bin, but the baby clothes get a little overwhelming. Every month or so I'm sorting new clothes in and out of their dressers since my girls are so little and my system my lovely system, falls dreadfully short. Here is just one example of how:

This photo is of all the clothes that my kiddo's grew out of that should have been in the hands of someone else in need, some of them over 1 year ago. There are actually six boxes under that pile!

When you look at that pile, you might think that my girls must be running around naked right now. Nope, in fact, they both have boxes of growing into clothes waiting for them still and dressers still annoyingly packed to the brim.

But today, I am laying out for you my system.

We are blessed to have several families giving us some amazing clothing and we hardly ever have to buy clothes for our girls. But if we were to keep everything we get right off the bat my girls would wear a new outfit every single day (some of them I really wouldn't like!) and still not make it through all the clothes before they grew out of that size.

So we start as soon as we get a new set of clothes, We go through all the clothes with our girls in mind, would I ever consider putting my child in this shirt? If no it goes in the blessing pile, if yes it goes in a box for them to grow into. When it comes to my kiddo's since they are born in different seasons I have to watch what I keep and save because chances are if I'm sorting their clothes they won't transfer over to the next kid!

I then go through the keep pile again and make sure that everything will be worn, and that it fits into the box, I only allow myself to keep 1 box of each size (sometimes less than that!) and it has to work for both girls! Once that is finished we determine where the blessing box is going. Sometimes, unfortunately, we can't find a family that needs them and in that case it goes to the nearest Salvation Army, but we do try first to see if there is a family that can use the clothing.

When I am dressing the girls and I find that clothes don't fit, they get tossed into a bag hanging in the closet to be sorted the same way as the new clothes. I re-evaluate every item once again so that we are not storing useless items. Since we plan on having more children, I keep clothing after the youngest as well albeit in much lesser quantities.

About every two months I do a massive dresser dump and I sort, clean up, and size up their dressers. anything that's too small goes into the evaluate bag all the stuff that fits gets neatly folded and returned to it's drawer and the box of clothes to be grown into next moves into the dresser and becomes the  box for the set of clothes coming out.

Does it seem like a lot of stuff and sorting? Yeah it does to me too!! That is why I've limited myself so much that 6 months of clothing they have grown out of literally fits in one box now! The more we go through things the more I am realizing how little of their clothing actually gets worn! Why do I hold onto sixty shirts when my daughters will wear the same five over and over?

Do you have a system for your kids clothing? Share it!

Like this post? Stay tuned more condense and combine articles are coming!