The Heart of the Matter {Think On These Things}

Saturday, August 20, 2016

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It lurks just below the surface. Most of the time we don't even know it is there; we don't see the power behind it. Regardless of the fact that we are unaware, our hearts motivate our entire being. Our heart talks to us. It lies to us. It forms our words. It compels us to act. It carries joy, love, and peace, but it also harbors bitterness, hatred, and deceit. Years ago, I stumbled upon a book entitled Enemies of the Heart which changed my perspective on how I live my life. Frankly, we can't change anything about our lives unless our hearts change. We can't control our tongue or even our actions unless our hearts are in the right place. So will you join me in September as we search out our hearts, realize their power, and begin the process of change. May your heart never be the same!

{As a side note: Enemies of the Heart by Andy Stanley is an incredible book! He goes through four destructive powers that our hearts have that can destroy not only us, but those around us. What I love about this book is he also gives four new habits (one for each destructive force) that we can do to change our hearts, words, and actions. I have read this book several times over, read it to by boys, and even used it as a basis for teaching teens. If you are looking for one resource to learn more about the heart, this is it.}

You can download the file here.

If you would like all the Think on These Things verses or want to know more about it, click here.

During the month I try to post my thoughts on the verses on Instagram. If you would like to follow me you can find me here. Also, if you are posting your own thoughts there please use the hashtag #thinkonthesethings. I would love to read how God speaks to you!!

There are many ways you can use these verses. You can read and meditate on them. You can write them out as you meditate on them. You can read them and then write about them in a journal or journaling Bible. Here are some of the items I use...

A single column journaling Bible...

ESV Single Column Journaling Bible (TruTone, Chestnut, Leaves Design)
ESV Single Column Journaling Bible (Black)
ESV Single Column Journaling Bible (Brown, Flap with Strap)

Some highlighters {These are my absolute favorites!}...

Eco Highlighter Pencils - Set of 5 Colors

Black pens...

Black Ink Pen Set

I love these journals that lay flat...easier to write in!

Living Loved {Uninvited by Lysa TerKeurst}

Thursday, August 18, 2016

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"Rejection. It's a pattern in your life. You will have to fight it to overcome it", popped on my iPhone screen. I knew her text and her analysis of me was right. She wasn't condemning me. She wasn't saying I would be stuck there forever. She was stating the facts. It would mean I would have to fight. Fight to heal. Fight to be whole again. Fight to not be afraid of the one thing I was afraid of the most: People. Oh, how she was right!

There are days I go to the mailbox and can scarcely open its tiny, creaky door. I don't want to look inside, because I have found rejection and hurt hide in its metal walls. And then there are other days where electronic mail is hard to open even though it means just touching my finger to the screen. I simply can't do it. I cringe as if half expecting a monster to jump out at me. You see most of my rejection came in the form of written words delivered to my inbox and and to the little white tube with the squeaking door in my front yard.

I wasn't good enough. I didn't know how to make the right decisions. I was mean. I was not a good (fill in the blank). I was unforgiving. I had a bad "aura". I was unworthy to be around others....All these words written and more. No wonder I have a hate relationship with any device where mail is deposited. It's too much. Those boxes don't hold mail for me. They hold my shattered heart.

I have fought it long and hard. Can I say most days are good? I have a husband who loves me. A great relationship with each of my sons. Deep friendships. Family that has been with me through thick and thin. I am loved. Then there are the days I can't fight the obvious...there are places in my past where love couldn't be found. And though I searched for it and longed for it, the fact is it will not show up in my mailbox. This is where acceptance of myself is hard...when you know you are not worthy of love in someone's eyes.

Three years ago I decided I didn't need a mailbox to show me love, and my inbox was a pathetic way to feel secure. I needed to be looking for other letters. Ones written long ago, by Someone who truly knew me with all my flaws and said, "I will always love you." I bought myself a journaling Bible and began the search for the love that would not fail me. Who needs affirmation and adoration from mere mortals when you can have the Creator of the universe always there by your side? I would stick with the love letter He wrote me. My goal was to live loved regardless of how I had actually lived!

One day on Facebook, the title popped up. The words made my heart stop: uninvited, less than, lonely, left out...LIVING LOVED. I had to order this book! So last weekend, I went out to my sworn enemy, the mailbox, and found what I had been waiting for... Uninvited: Living Loved When You Feel Less Than, Left Out, and Lonely by Lysa Terkeurst. I spent this week reading in tears hiding them from those around me. Her book undid me.

I am sure you all are like me. In fact, I got a glimmer of it last week as I scanned Facebook, Instagram, and other social media. You have lived rejection. Women all over were popping up saying they so wanted to read it. They didn't have to say why. I knew. They had lived rejected, but desperately wanted to live loved. I could almost feel the ache through the screen.

You know it's bad when you begin reading and can't finish a sentence, because you are having to highlight it. Then you need to write some of them out to ward off the forgetfulness in your brain. These nuggets of truth are too valuable to lose. Lysa's book looks at all angles of the dreaded "R" word. Rejection is a spider's web entwined with the shame of who you are, the need for forgiveness for the one who rejected, the fear of history repeating itself, and the hope of measuring day. Lysa deals with each facet with the heart of one rejected. Turns out she one of us.

I don't even know where to start to organize my thoughts on the PRACTICAL advice she gives to battle that left out feeling. There are questions to ask yourself, verses to help you change your perspective on what was done to you, and even the suggestion of praying Psalm 91 back to God as you heal from rejection. One of the mind-reforming thoughts is to realize that rejection has another level to it. It all depends on how you view what happened.  We may feel that we have been set aside by others when in reality we have be set apart by God to walk a different road from those who rejected us. Other times, rejection is actually a form of protection from something even more grievous.

If you are struggling with the fact that you don't fit in or have been kick out, Lysa's book will help you work towards healing those bleeding parts of your heart. Also, because it has been such a theme in my life you will find below several posts on the subject. If you are reading this, I am praying for you. I know the pain and ache for you. Read the posts below. Order the know, sometimes good things arrive in mailboxes...

Surviving Rejection: What Grandma Taught Me
Dealing with Rejection
Seven Verses for Dealing with Rejection
Journaling to Remember His Love

Writing the Psalms {It is Finished!}

Monday, August 15, 2016

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It took 270 days, 2 journals, a plethora of pens, and some determination, but it is finished. I wrote out every chapter...all 150 of them. In the end, it was a journey I am so glad I took! Writing out the Psalms has changed me and given me insight I would not have had if I had just read through the chapters. The act of handwriting out God's Word allows it to sink in deeply and helped me notice details I would have never seen. I became best friends with David, the author of many of the psalms and gained a deeper understanding of God's love for me. So here's a look at what happened while I wrote...

A heart for David- I learned to love his psalms. (I will admit when I got to the section where there weren't any of David's writing I was disappointed.)  It may be because David and I have something in common. No, I am not the leader of a nation. I haven't killed a giant. I don't even own a sling. However, I have been in David's shoes...the ones in which others have risen up against me. I understand David's cries to God about his enemies. I understand the grief and heartache. David taught me through his heartfelt words  people are not to be feared even when they turn ugly. God is the one we should fear!

Some Psalms are MY Psalms- There were certain psalms that became my own. Read Psalm 27, for example. Almost every single word in that psalm pertains to me. I have struggled with the fear of man (verses 1-2). I have had people rise up against me (verse 3). I yearn to see the goodness of God in the land of the living (verse 13). I could keep going, but you get the idea.

Some things bear repeating- I began to notice the repetition in the chapters. Phrases were repeated over and over again. Just take a look at Psalm 136. By the time you're done with it it should be burned in your brain the length of God's love for you! The repetition is not there to lure us to sleep. It is repeated because God wants to make sure we don't miss a concept or thought. It is like a parent who says the same phrases over and over again to their young kids. We are forgetful by nature and need reminding.

God can handle our emotions- If you want examples of how to keep your emotions in check, DO NOT read the Psalms! Ha! The emotions displayed are all over the map. Some of them are quite shocking like chapter 109...

When he is tried, let him come forth guilty;
let his prayer be counted as sin!
May his days be few;
may another take his office!
May his children be fatherless
and his wife a widow! (verses 7-9)

Who prays this stuff even for those they dislike? David did. He got all his icky emotions out in front of God instead of being ugly to his enemies. God can handle our emotions. Sometimes others can't. Better to take them all to Him.

You cannot escape His steadfast love- In the latter parts of the psalms, I began to notice how much God's steadfast love is talked about. It isn't just Psalm 136. It pops up all over the place! For someone who has struggled to learn and really feel His love these past three years, I found the talk of His steadfast love the best part of the psalms. He is there. He will not leave, reject, or rise up against me. I can't escape his love!!

So want to give it a try? If you want a day-by-day schedule for writing out the Psalms you can find it here from His Mercy is New. And here are the journals I used. It took two of them for me to write out the whole book (with several pages left over at the end of the second journal). If you decide to take the challenge I would love to hear from you and see how it is going!

Resources and Ideas to Help Your Prayer Life

Monday, August 8, 2016

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In the past few years I have tried to become more intentional in how I pray for others. For example, I have set up a system for praying for certain people throughout the month.You can read more about it here. Basically, I have created a calendar for myself in which each day of the month I pray for one or two people. For more example, on the first of the month I pray for my husband. This isn't to say I don't pray for him or others on other days, it just a means for helping stay the course and pray for all those who are a part of my life.

I started praying for others in earnest a few years back because I was going through a season of healing in which I needed to forgive some significant people in my life. It was a real struggle as their actions totally changed the course of my journey. I didn't know how to get past the pain and what they had done to me. I was stuck. Then I was reminded of the verse in which Christ asks us to pray for our "enemies" (Matthew 5:44). It was like God was calling me to be intentional and pray for those that inflicted the hurt. It was one of the hardest things I ever set out to do. At first, I could hardly even get the words out. These days, however, I pray for my "enemies" freely and without hesitation...prayers of blessings for them. It took a long time to get to that point, but I do believe that prayer was the answer to me eventually forgiving them.

If you would like to learn more about this concept of praying for those that you need to forgive, check out my post over at His Mercy is New about how to bless your enemies through prayer.

Another place I have really focused on in my prayer life is praying for my sons. Here are several resources for praying for your kids. I am going to include one for students also as I am a teacher and do spend time praying for my students.

Praying for Your Teen and Adult Children
The ABC's of Praying for Students
Praying for Your Kids Head to Toe

Another great idea is to create a "War Binder". What in the world is it and what does it have to do with prayer? A war binder is a notebook or journal in which you can put a prayer journal, prayer requests, sermon notes, gratitude lists, Scripture writing and so much more! The concept is based on the movie War Room. Basically, the binder allows you to keep everything in one place. If you are interesting in learning more here are some links:

A Flip-Through of a War Binder
A Prayer Journal 
How to Make a Prayer Journal
Facebook War Binder Group {A wonderful group of ladies!}

And finally here are some great books on prayer:

Fervent: A Woman's Battle Plan to Serious, Specific and Strategic Prayer
Too Busy Not to Pray
Upside-Down Prayer for Parents
Wait Only Upon God: 40 Days of Praying the Scriptures in the Waiting
Praying God's Word

The Psalms in Color

Monday, August 1, 2016

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For a woman riddled with anxiety, coloring has become a life saver for me. It allows me to detach from the worries of the day and release my creative side. I have reviewed and listed several coloring books here on the blog, but today I would like to introduce you to my new favorite, The Psalms in Color.

Last year, the day after Christmas, I started a challenge for write out the entire book of Psalms! So when I found this coloring book that incorporated beautiful pictures to color with verses from the Psalms I decided to try it out. 

Here is what I love about this coloring book:

  • The paper is HIGH quality that can stand up to gel pens and probably markers {although I haven't tried markers on it yet}.
  • The pages are perforated if you want to pull them out.
  • The binding is strong and made in such a way that you can really open the book and color to the inside edge in case you don't want to pull the pages out {which is what I like to do}.
  • There are simple pictures to color and more complex ones. A nice mix.
  • There are 56 pictures to color!

So if you are looking for a great coloring book that has the added benefit of helping you focus on God's Word The Psalms in Color would be a great option.

And finally, here is a look at the supplies that I love to use for coloring...

Tools for coloring:

Here is what I use...

Prismacolor Premier Soft Core Colored Pencils-These soft core pencils are great for laying down color in large areas.

Prismacolor Verithin Colored Pencils-These are what I use for detail work.

Sanford Prismacolor Colored Pencil Accessory Set, 7-Piece-Love this! The blender pencil is such a fun item to use to blend color. It also includes erasers, a sharpener, and a pencil lengthener.

LolliZ Gel Pens -When I don't want to go the pencil route I use these. Bolder colors.

Sakura Gelly Roll Metallic Gel Ink Pen Set-These are fun as the metallic shine really comes through!

Four Ways to Throw an Awesome Pity Party

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

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A normal Sunday with no REAL drama left me filled with angst. My schedule wasn't working out the way I had hoped. People wanted things from me I couldn't provide at that moment. Past hurts sprang up unexpectedly. I was feeling lonely, left out, and unloved. So I took a walk thinking some exercise would quell the waves thrashing about in my soul. However, if you know me, it only takes a short walk around the block of negative thinking for me to dive head first into an ocean of depression. I am susceptible to it. I have to be totally careful in my thought life to not spiral downward. By the time, I was done with my walk I  realized I had been the creator and hostess of my own pity party.  So, in case you too ever want to throw yourself an awesome gathering of  negativity here's how to get started:

Focus on your less-than-perfect circumstances. Look for how things have gone poorly. Life isn't perfect. If you could, you would change your circumstances. You can't, however. Hence, let the party planning commence.

Focus on what you don't have. One of the quickest ways to feel sorry for yourself? List what you don't have in life. The position you wanted. The admiration you didn't get. The love that passed you by. The money that slipped through your fingers. Make a list...not a guest list of people you hope will show, but a list of what DIDN'T show up in your life.

Be impatient. Patience is a virtue we rarely enjoy displaying. We want EVERYTHING fixed now. We want perfection. Never mind that if we would just wait things out many of them would fall into place. Impatience breeds pity and negativity so be sure that it is a part of the festivities.

Watch others' lives. All you have to do is look to all that others have and are. Be sure to focus on the benefits they have that your DON'T. They lived charmed lives without the pain you have to go through, right? They are better looking, richer, nicer, and more successful. Check out their Facebook wall...proof that they have it better than you do! Whatever you do, make sure you invite them to your party! You'll be glad they came!

As I finished my walk, I realized how shallow and self-focused I had been. The heartache I was feeling came from my negative thought patterns not from the reality of a bad life. I had taken my eyes off all the good in my life in order to feel sorry for myself. It was time to go back home, open up my gratitude journal, write down all those blessings, and put a damper on my pity party with thankfulness.

How about you? Each day we have a choice...throw a party or walk away from it...

I think I am going to take a walk...this time to focus on all the good in my life.

Four Benefits of Scripture Writing

Sunday, July 24, 2016

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The day after Christmas I made a crazy commitment. I decided I would write out the entire book of Psalms. As I write this post, I am nearing the end of my journey through this massive book. {Actually, by the time this publishes, I will be done!} I have to say this simple discipline of hand copying the Scriptures has totally changed my perspective on the value of pulling out a pen and journal, opening up a Bible, and then writing. Here's a look at the unexpected benefits...

  • Handwriting forces you to slow down. I have to admit I am a speed reader and tend to skip over information from time to time as I read. When you hand copy a passage you don't get that option. You must slow down which makes you focus on what you are writing. You can read something and quickly forget it, but when you write it out you are more likely to remember it.

  • Writing out His word makes you see the details. I have seen so many details in the Psalms that I have simply missed when I read through the book. For example, about halfway through I realized that I could recognize a psalm written by David without actually looking at who wrote it. His topics are distinctive as well as his style. I would never have been able to pick up on the subtleties without writing all the psalms out.

  • Writing Scripture helps you interact with His Word. As I wrote, verses, words, and concepts would jump out at me. If they did, I would take the time to highlight those verses in my journaling Bible and journal about them. Certain passage became priceless to Psalm 27 (simply because my life relates to so much of what is written in that particular psalm). I don't normally have that type of experience when I just read.

  • Hand copying His Word keeps you devoted to Him. Believe it or not, there is actually verses about this concept in Deuteronomy! It keeps us focused on God. "And when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself in a book a copy of this law, approved by the Levitical priests. And it shall be with him, and he shall read in it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God by keeping all the words of this law and these statutes, and doing them, that his heart may not be lifted up above his brothers, and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, either to the right hand or to the left..." Deut. 17:18-20

So what are you waiting for? See below for some tips to get started writing His Word.

Tips for Copying Scripture:
  • Buy a journal. Having all your copying in one little book keeps things organized. I love 
  • these journals because they lay flat! Easier to write in.
  • Be consistent. Even if you don't write out a bunch of verses, it is wise to make a habit of doing a little each day.
  • Re-read after you write. I make myself read what I have written for the day. If I am in the middle of the chapter I will start at the beginning of it and read up to what I have written. Or when I finish a chapter I will go back and read all the verses from it. It helps give a big picture to what I just wrote down.
  • Don't stress it. This isn't about getting quickly to the end of the chapter or book. At least that is what I tell myself all the time. (Remember, I am the one that likes to race through tasks.) It is about letting God's Word soak into your soul. Slow down. Take your time.