Resolutions

Dear Readers,

Happy 2017!

 

This year we did resolutions following this tip I had seen on CNBC:  A career coach suggested drawing/mapping your goals rather than writing a list.

My children, husband and I sat day on New Year’s day with big sheets of paper, markers, crayons and pens and went to work.

It was a fun project – especially to see what our kids said.  Everything from improving grades to making new friends to being nice.  And our youngest had some great artwork to add as well.

Some of my resolutions:

  • Put our House on the Market (Minimize and Cut Spending)
  • Monthly Date Night (Marriage)
  • Read a Nightly Devotional with my Girls (Parenting)
  • Explore Guest Blogging
  • Read Through the Bible in 2017 (Time with Jesus)

What are you resolutions?  Or do you have any creative ways to creating goals and tracking them?

 

 

 

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Reading Through the Bible – 2017

In 2016 I read through the Bible in a year.  And I highly recommend it.  Without a goal and direction I find myself aimlessness reading random verses . . . which often leads me to get out of the habit of reading.  With a challenge of finishing in the year I have motivation to stay on track because I know what happens if I miss too many days.

Last year I used the Life Journal Reading Plan on YouVersion app or Bible.com.

This year I’m using the same platform, but using the BIBLE in a year plan.  So far it seems like a little less reading than last year.  The daily reading includes passages from the Old Testament and New Testament everyday and a chapter from Psalms or Proverbs every second day.

In addition to reading the Bible, I use the SOAP method:

  • Scripture Reading
  • Observation
  • Application
  • Prayer

Without using the SOAP method I tend to read . . . and then quickly forget what I read.  The SOAP method helps me to retain and think on a deeper level about what I read.

I’ll also be using this blog to track some of my Observations and Applications.

And of course, if you would be willing to join me in this challenge it will help keep me motivated and we can discuss what we are learning together!

 

I kept my 2016 Resolutions . . .

I kept my 2016 resolutions . . . but the results weren’t quite what I expected.

I had very high hopes for 2016.  For the first time ever, I was being extremely intentional with my life and I was making massive changes.  My main resolutions at the beginning of 2016 were to:

  • Make a career change
  • Read through the Bible in the year
  • Minimize my personal belongings
  • Cut out things that waste time and focus on what matters most

And for the first time ever, I really stuck to my resolutions.

I quit my company that I had had for years – I let all my clients go by the end of May.  I walked away from a large source of revenue in order to cut down on stress and give myself a less crazy schedule.

I read through the Bible and used the SOAP method to journal (most days) outlined in the Divine Mentor.  I just finished Revelation yesterday morning!

I did a massive purge following Marie Kondo’s supposedly Life-Changing Magic.

By the end of the year I was finally off Facebook after many attempts.

And I really thought 2016 was going to be amazing.  That with these massive changes I thought I would start 2017 a new person with a completely new life.

It’s been a little like our trip to the Dominican Republic – lots of planning but the outcome wasn’t exactly what I had hoped for.

I’m still trying to figure out my job – and how to use my strengths in my job.  I’m not used to not being the boss.  I’m used to calling the shots and making my own schedule.  The adjustment it much harder than I imagined.  And where I thought I was going to be changing the world on a daily basis, mostly I’m still trying to figure out how to maneuver the organization’s database.

And for all the purging and the massive garage sale we held in June, my house is still a mess.  This was my kitchen when I went downstairs to reheat my day-old coffee.  I am sure Marie Kondo would be appalled.  This wasn’t her vision when she said everything should have its place . . . and the magic didn’t seem to work on me.

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I still struggle as a parent and a wife.  It is a daily struggle.  I fail and get back up.  Fail and get back up.

So what did I learn in 2016 . . . and what I am still learning?

  • The grass isn’t always greener on the other side of the fence.  And regardless of the color of the grass – whether it is green or brown – I’m what ultimately needs to change.  A change in circumstance can be a good thing.  But an internal change in me is what is going to make the difference in how I see and experience the grass, regardless of the color.
  • Having less stuff is freeing in ways, but it is also time-consuming and a never-ending process.  If you think my kitchen is bad you should see the pile of crap in my bedroom.  The lack of stuff or the accumulation of stuff won’t make or break me.  It is more about how I view my material possessions.  Am I living for stuff (whether it is the accumulation or the minimization)?  Or am I living for what really matters – God, People, Loving Others, etc?
  • Does God care about what I do for a living?  Yes, I think he does.  He cares about if I am doing my work (regardless of what it is) for his glory and that I am putting him first.  He cares if I am seeking his will and following it.  He cares about my priorities and what is in my heart.

Colossians 3:23 (NIV): Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters

Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV): Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

Proverbs 16:9 (NIV): In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.

So do I regret making very intentional changes in 2016 and sticking to my resolutions?  Absolutely not.  Reading through the Bible in 2016 was the most serious spiritual discipline I’ve ever accomplished, and I hope it is just the beginning of a life-long dedication to daily Bible reading and application.

And for all the other changes – only time will tell how they shape my future and future generations.  I’d rather be intentional than not, but I also need to keep in mind that results might not be apparent for years to come.  And some actions won’t have the results I hoped for at all.

And as I kicked of 2017 with my morning devotions I read:

Philippians 1:6 (NIV):  being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

A very comforting thought as I begin to prepare to write my 2017 Resolutions.  And even more so a reminder, that whatever I plan to do, I need to make sure the Lord is the one establishing my steps.

Togo Travels

I’m writing about my 2016 traveling a little out-of-order.  My November/December trip to the Dominican Republic is here, but back in June of this year I took a trip to Togo, West Africa, with Global Partners in Hope.

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The lovely Keryvonne hotel

Outside of a high school mission trip to Mexico (20+ years ago), my only international travel had been via cruise boat. My only glimpse of international poverty was from the window of a shuttle driving from the port of call dock to the beach. My real exposure to life outside of the United States, especially in a third-world country, had been little to none.

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Togo was a feast for the senses in many ways. Like nothing I had ever experienced. Fresh mango and pineapple. Street vendors lined every street, selling everything from mattresses to tires to goats and stereos. The rush of motorcycles alongside a beautifully dressed woman, balancing a baby on her back and a basket of fruit on her head. Singing. Drums. Ocean waves. Red dirt roads. Laughter. Shy and curious smiles from children walking on the side of the road. A sweet smell like Moroccan oil wafting in the breeze. Prayer mats pointing toward Mecca. Basenji dogs waiting for scraps. Children the size of my own children, smiling up at me and calling me “Maman” and giggling while practicing English phrases.

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Togo is beautiful.

To me, it was breathtakingly beautiful.

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But there is another side to the story. There is breathtaking poverty. And pain. And just like everywhere else, a need for the hope found in Jesus.

Driving downtown through the capital city of Lomé, the streets are filled with young people. Beautiful children and teenagers everywhere. But the troubling reason for this youth and vitality is the fact that the median age in Togo is 19.6. The life expectancy in West Africa is 55. The sad reality is that in a sea of hundreds of faces, I saw very few wrinkled with age. I saw very few backs stooped with years. Very few hands weathered by time.

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In West Africa, the complexities and burden of poverty and health issues are just as breathtaking as the beauty. High infant and maternal mortality rates. Lack of clean drinking water. Lack of basic health care and health education. Lack of medical care providers.

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The thing I learned most in Togo was how little I know or understand about the complexity of world poverty. And for me, how it is much easier to sit home and lament about poverty and discuss philosophical theories on how to solve it, than to actually do anything. To just discuss politics and injustice, rather than get my hands dirty. To ponder solving world crisis from my air-conditioned living room.

But Jesus didn’t call us to solve the world’s poverty. He didn’t ask me to take on the world. Jesus called me to feed the hungry and care for the sick. Jesus called me to love others. Jesus called me to help the widows and orphans.

In visiting Togo with Global Partners in Hope, I see quite clearly that no, we are not going to solve poverty in West Africa. No, we are not going to save every sick child or hemorrhaging mother.

But we can make a difference.  Through the work of Global Partners in Hope and similar organizations we can provide sustainable health care and clean water wells to serve thousands of people. We will help widows and orphans. We can share the Gospel with those who have never heard it. We can improve the infant and maternal morality rates. We can show Jesus’ love in a real, meaningful way.

Ask me about my trip to Togo and I will tell you I loved it. It is a beautiful country. And through the work Global Partners in Hope is doing, I know I can leave a small footprint of good in the red dirt roads. But even more so, I now know that Togo changed me…for the better.

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Traveling to the Dominican Republic

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San Juan de la Maguana

I love traveling, but probably even more, I love planning trips.  I love putting together the budget, researching and planning the itinerary.  Maps.  Travel time.  An hour spent on TripAdvisor or Sygic is an hour spent in my happy space.  I could daydream about traveling for hours.

Planning for our November/December 2016 trip to the Dominican Republic was pretty similar.  My brother and his wife and children live in the DR, so part of the trip was visiting family and seeing their work.  The rest of the trip was about relaxing, hanging out at the beach, eating good food and creating memories.

I also had big ideas about what we were going to experience and learn.

  • My spiritual life was going to blossom (and I was going to get great photos for my blog).
  • My children were going to experience new cultures and foods.  They were going to have their eyes opened to poverty and have a life-changing experience.  Probably they would come back to the U.S. and never complain about anything again after seeing how people live in real poverty (OK, I am half-joking . . . but part of me really hoped for this).
  • My husband was going to discover a love for world-traveling that would catapult our future travel experiences into a new realm.

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Reality was a little different.

Day one we flew into Santo Domingo, the capital and largest city in the Dominican Republic.  It was pouring rain and we were unsure if my brother was going to be able to pick us up or his migraine would keep him at home, which would mean we’d need to find our way from the airport to a taxi to a bus station to buy bus tickets (we don’t speak Spanish) and take the 3 hour drive to San Juan de la Maguana.  All by ourselves.

Fortunately my brother’s migraine cleared up enough so that he could pick us up and drive us to his home.

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The drive through Santo Domingo in the rain

San Juan de la Maguana was beautiful.  And not to sound biased, but I am pretty sure I have the most adorable nieces and nephews in the world.  San Juan de la Maguana is surrounded by mountains and hills.  Beautiful people.  Delicious food.  We visited villages where my brother and sister-in-law are working and met their co-workers.  Their ministry is pretty amazing – if your church is looking for a missions partner or if you are looking for a ministry to support, check them out:   Miguelandkristina.blogspot.com

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San Juan de la Manguana

My children did get exposed to different cultures and a different lifestyle.  No traffic rules (at least not enforced).  Being a minority.  Lack of hot water.  No air conditioning.  Not speaking the language.

They also got sick.  So did my husband.

By the end of day four of the trip I had dumped about 1,000 buckets of vomit.  I’m exaggerating.  But it felt like I did.  My 9-year-old thought she was going to die.  My husband wasn’t very happy with me and my status as an expert trip planner was quickly deteriating.

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Due to vomiting children our bus trip back to Santo Domingo was delayed by several hours, but armed with Ritz crackers and plastic bags, we climbed onto a lovely Caribe Tours bus and made the trip to the capital where we transferred to a private van to take us to Dreams La Romana Resort.

Here is the good, bad and ugly:

  • The vomiting continued.  We were very careful about not drinking water so I’m not sure if we had a bug or ate something bad.  But by the end of the trip we’d gone through lots of bed sheets and Pepto-Bismol.
  • The beach at Dreams La Romana was lovely.  They had free snorkeling gear, kayaks, peddle boats, etc.  I spent hours floating in the clear, calm water viewing fish, stingrays and starfish.
  • Even though we were staying at an all-inclusive resort they had sales people who tried (relentlessly) to get us to sit through a sales pitch.  We didn’t do it so I don’t even know what they were selling, but they got pretty upset that we didn’t participate.
  • The food was pretty good and there was a good variety.  We could have probably enjoyed more if we weren’t sick.
  • We did not do the upgraded “preferred” package and I thought the beach and pool-area were completely lovely without the upgrade.

After three days at Dreams we headed back to Santo Domingo and stayed at the Real Intercontinental which had just opened.  It is a beautiful hotel.  Fantastic service.  The pool is amazing and the food service was great.  Below is the view from our room.  Pretty amazing.

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Panoramic View of Santo Domingo from the Real Intercontinental

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The last day we went to the Colonial Zone (Zona Colonial) which is the oldest constantly inhabited city in “The Americas,” dating back to when Christopher Columbus arrived in 1492.  We only had a few hours in the Colonial Zone, though for a thorough exploration I’d suggest at least a day (or two) to tour everything.

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The Cathedral of Santa Maria la Menor

The Cathedral of Santa María la Menor; the oldest cathedral in the Americas, begun in 1512 and completed in 1540

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On this trip we created lots of memories – some good, some not so good.   Pepto-Bismol became my best friend.  My girls came home from the DR and still complain about “first world problems” but seeds were planted and hopefully their eyes were opened to a bigger view of the world.  My husband put his passport away.  I’m not sure if he’ll ever get it out again.

I think all of us have a better appreciation for what we have.  And we better understand what we don’t have.  And what we don’t need.

And that is something that all the trip planning in the world won’t prepare us for or provide.

So until next time (and hopefully there is a next time), “Adios” Dominican Republic.  Thank you for the memories!

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Respecting my Husband

Scriptures and Observations:

Growing up I witnessed women being demeaned.  Treated like lower class citizens.  Acting like doormats.  Basically being treated like crap.  And mainly being treated that way by men in the church.  I saw so-called Christian men demanding “respect” from their wives as part of marital duty, but these same men seemed to ignore Jesus’s command for them to love their wives.

I never saw a true demonstration of love/respect in marriage the way it was meant to be.

And from those early experiences I decided never to submit to a husband.  And only respect a man if he really earned it.

Fast forward thirty years.  I’m in my second marriage and “respecting my husband” is still a very difficult command and concept for me.

But I know it is something that God wants me to do.

Today’s reading (and if you are reading along in the Life Journal Reading Plan, yes, I am behind):

Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Romans 13:1 NIV

Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor. Romans 13:7 NIV

And not from today’s reading, but a passage that convicts me over and over:

Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to adorn themselves. They submitted themselves to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her Lord. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear. 1 Peter 3:1-6 NIV

Most days I feel so far from this image of the woman with “unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit”.  I’m much more apt to nag, complain and criticize than to be full of reverence.

So, how do I become a respectful wife?  Is if fear (1 Peter 3:6) that is holding me back?  Or a lack of knowledge on how to do it (because honestly, I haven’t seen it modeled much in my life)?  Or lack of discipline?  Or selfishness?

If you have any ideas on how to show your husband respect, please comment!

Doing some research on the topic here are a few articles I found:

Action Items:

  • Send at least one loving/encouraging text to my husband a day
  • Thank him at least once a day
  • Schedule date nights . . . and keep them nagging free

Prayer:

Jesus, please help me to respect my husband and be full of unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit.  Help me not to nag, complain, criticize or disrespect him, but to be full of love, honor and respect.

 

 

 

 

Submission and Respect

When I started getting more serious about my spiritual walk over four years ago I was very focused on my career.  It took almost all my energy just to get done with my daily to-do list.  And though I hate to admit it, my husband and children were often another item on the list that needed to be tended to and maintained.  And reading the Bible was something I did if I had the time and energy at the end of the day.

Through a Bible study I felt a whisper: my priorities were all wrong and my identity was in the wrong place.  I was putting my worth in my professional accomplishments.  I needed to put God first.  Then my husband (and I needed to respect him, something I am TERRIBLE at).  Then loving my children and demonstrated to them how to live a godly life.  I’ll be really honest, the thing I was most concerned with demonstrating to my children was how to be a hard-working, driven, successful woman.  Demonstrating to them how to submit to God’s will wasn’t on my radar.  And demonstrating respect to my husband didn’t cross my mind.

Now, almost five years later, I still have the same struggle.  Today I read in Romans 7.  Most of the time, I feel like this chapter sums up my spiritual life.  I want to do good,but I don’t.  I don’t want to sin, but I do.  

So what is the answer?

Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. Romans 8:5 NIV

The answer is where I set my mind.  The more time I spend reading the Bible, studying, praying, memorizing verses . . . the more my actions change.  The more I submit to God.  The more I respect my husband.  The more I love my children.

I can’t change on my own.  But the more time I spend with God the more my life is transformed.