Monday, June 30, 2014

Jude in July

    I don't think you can understand how excited I am about this reading guide. The process has been truly inspired by the Lord (I would have never chosen Jude of my own accord) and His handprints are all over it-but then, of course, they are-it's His Word!

      I have been praying and praying for inspiration for a new study. I had thought about it even in the last few days, but just kept hearing, "Wait". And so, I was completely shocked when I felt the Lord say yesterday, in church service, "Jude". To which I said, "What?" a little afraid I had misunderstood. Then it just all fell into place, because that seems to be how things work in my life: wait, wait, wait, pray, pray, pray, wait....and at the last possible moment I get an amazingly clear answer!

    So, here it is: Jude. This guide has taken me more time and effort than both of my other guides combined. That just seems crazy when you look at it superficially. It is one of the shortest books in the Bible, eclipsed only in brevity by Philemon and 2 & 3 John. (Just in case you were wondering, 3 John is the winner.) It would seem to be a quick read, right?

   Wrong! In my study I discovered that this is a fascinating, confusing, conflict-arousing little bit of Scripture. Short and sweet it is not! It almost didn't make it into the canon because it was debated as being inspired of God. I love a little bit of heated debate, so I was definitely impressed that this slim epistle had to fight for its spot! But, oh, I am so glad it made it in. The fact that it triumphed over the naysayers proves even more to me how truly inspired it is.

    A lot of the conflict took place over the fact that Jude references literature from the apocrypha (Don't know what that is? Don't feel bad, I didn't either. Basically it is Jewish literature written between the period of the end of the Old Testament and the beginning of the New Testament, that isn't believed to be inspired of God, although it is moral and religious in nature.). He is the only NT author to do this. (Curious about those references? They are Jude 9 and 14.)

 Those references make this an even tougher nut to crack. When speech is short, sometimes it causes more assumptions to be made about what wasn't said than what was. Enter the second twist into this crazy journey. Second Peter.

    What? Yes, that's right. You get two books (mostly) for the price of one. Covering the Scripture from Jude quickly made me realize that you almost can't read it without repeatedly being introduced to 2 Peter. My studies revealed that these books are very closely linked. Commonly it is believed that 2 Peter (the longer book) borrowed extensively from Jude. It almost comes across as plagiarism! Of course, it's not, but I have found that when God repeats Himself we better sit up and take notice. He really wants us to catch what He is saying. And when you have two books that say so many things in practically the same way, out of a carefully selected 66, I would say it becomes even more important.

   And what is He saying? Believe the Truth and only the Truth, and be prepared to defend it against wicked teachers who lack knowledge. In Jude and Peter's day that was the Gnostics, but aren't false teachers, liars, and dissension-stirrers just as prevalent today? I say, "yes!". That makes these two books every bit as meaningful today as they were in the decades immediately following Jesus' ascension.

   A little bit of background. Jude 1 says the author is "a brother of James". Yes, if you are calling to mind the book of the Bible immediately preceeding Hebrews, it is one and the same. Guess who James is related to? Jesus! Though it isn't 100% certified it is commonly believed, and cannot be disproved, that the James who wrote James is actually the same one mentioned in Matthew 13:55. And then tracing this back through, Jude=brother of James=brother of Jesus, so Jude=brother of Jesus. I believe it is a testimony to Jude's humility that he didn't start of by proclaiming his biological, familial  connection to the Savior of the World, instead choosing to list himself as His "servant" instead. Definitely a point in Jude's favor!

    I almost couldn't stop reading, studying and searching out all the relating Scriptures, I am so utterly fascinated by this book. Matching up the verses from Jude to 2 Peter gave me chills. I couldn't believe some of the similarities! If you have never kept a study journal before, this is the perfect time. You will definitely find inspiration that you will want to write down.

   I have poured my heart into this, and it is taking me much longer than I anticipated, so in order to get it to you before the first (tomorrow, eek!) I had to break it up. I am giving you the first 15 days and I *promise* I will get the other part done before then! I have totally revamped the format for printing the guides. I am hoping this one will be easier to use. Also, because we are literally taking this book apart verse by verse, I have decided that on Saturday we will review the Jude verses from the week to get a little more context and perspective. Won't you try to review some of your other favorite passages that day, too? If not, it *is* summer time, and a little Bible reading is a whole lot better than none!

   It's easy to use:
1. Read the listed passages Monday-Friday. Pray for the Holy Spirit to show you the connections between the passages and bring to mind other similar Scriptures. Keep a journal if you are inclined.
2. Re-read the Jude verses on Saturday, and any other passage that piqued your interest during the week.
3. Rest, reflect and worship on Sunday. Share what you are learning and seeing with other. Research the Scripture history and wording. Be still and let the Lord lead.
4. Check back with me (join me on Facebook to be the first to know!) for the second part. I'm praying that will be by the end of the week!

   Whew! This is the longest intro ever, so with no further ado:

Right click on the image to save, go to saved location, right click to print. 

I am fervently praying that this will inspire you the way it has me. Will you kindly let me know if you spot any errors? Also, pray for me as I finish this out...I'm excited!

As promised, here is the other half. Enjoy!

Linked up at: 
"Motivation Monday" at A Life in Balance 

Monday, June 16, 2014

The Story of a Sofa


     So, the good news first: we rented an apartment. I have to say, it really feels like this is where the Lord is leading, and that is exciting. I floundered recently in my faith, mostly because I wondered if we had misunderstood what felt like the Lord's direction to move here. It was not a decision we made lightly, we loved Colorado for so many reasons, not the least of which was our wonderful friends and church family. But when we got here and we haven't been successful in our job-seeking efforts (Joel is "under" employed at the moment) which closed the door on our hopes to buy a house, it started to feel like perhaps we had tried to align God's will with our own desires. So, we both went back and prayed, and searched our hearts and waited.

     And our answer was an apartment. Which is not what I was expecting. At all. See, the thing is, we haven't lived an apartment for years. Eight, to be exact. We have never owned our own home, and we have never lived in a single family home, but we moved from a duplex in Texas to a townhouse on Ft. Carson to a townhouse in Colorado Springs after Joel got out of the Army.  That last one- well, in a lot of ways it was the stuff dreams are made of. Lower middle class, blue collar, frugal homeschooler dreams, but dreams nonetheless. It had a *garage*-for my car (just my car, not the lawnmower or the trash can, but still)! And a *basement* (full of randomly duct-taped insulation and creepy spiders) that was a wonderland for storage of all kinds. And a *walk-in* closet-big enough for both seasons of clothes and all of my shoes (don't even ask how many pairs I have). And TWO bathrooms-a first for our little family after living for 7+ years with a single toilet and bathtub. The floor plan wasn't ideal, both the bathrooms were on the second floor, and there was no backyard to speak of, but we had definitely moved up in the world.

    And the house that we were only going to live in for 8 months (we signed our lease at an odd time of year, so they wouldn't lease it to us for a full 12) turned into 3 years. And then we randomly decided to move. So we did. And we shoved an entire family of four's boxes into my parents' shop and garage. Bless them, Lord, for they deserve sainthood. And we dragged our clothes and shoes and various other "necessities" all over their house for the last three months. And we searched for a place to call our own, because no one should have to live with their adult children and their kids for longer than that if it isn't an absolute necessity, right?

    So, after looking at quite a few rental houses (everything was wrong, wrong, wrong-mostly the price tag, but that is the most important part!) it just wasn't working. We went back to square one. An apartment had gotten crossed off the list of housing possibilities for a myriad of reasons, not the least of which that they do not (normally) come equipped with yards. And since my children have run amuck in my mother's neighborhood like island natives for the last three months, that just seemed like cruelty to animals, ahem, children. And also other little things, like not hauling your groceries up *outside* steps. And listening to someone else's music, and smelling someone else's cooking. And don't even get me started on space issues.

    But, one of my most favorite characteristics of God is His humor, and He is definitely laughing over this one. We have ended up in an apartment. I am surprised by how at peace I am with that decision (although I shouldn't be, because He is the one giving me strength, and every good gift is from Him, right?). I lost over 300 sq ft. of living space, not to mention the basement. No yard, and it has a stack unit for a washer and dryer that is so tiny I literally have to wash my sheets separately-and by that I mean I can't put my king flat sheet in with my king fitted sheet at the same time. But it does have a garage, and a dishwasher, even a little window A/C! And the kids are dying to try the pool. So, we are thinking that all is well.

   That is, until the sofa. Now, to give you a little perspective, my husband is above average. Literally. He is 6' 4", and weighs over 250 lbs. So, we don't have tiny furniture. As a matter of fact, we own the longest conventionally manufactured sofa that they made back in 2003, the year we bought it. And it is huge. The thing is every bit of 8 feet long and wide enough that when I sit all the way back on it, my feet don't touch the floor. And I'm not tiny!

    But our apartment is. So, the guys (my dad, my husband and my brother-in-law) dragged this huge beastly piece of furniture up 11 cement steps and wedged it inside the door. Now, when I say, "wedged", don't think I am exaggerating. It was touching the ceiling at one corner and the floor at the other and the walls on both sides. And no one had to hold it up, either! Due to the strange layout of the apartment, it was stuck. The kitchen "doorway" wasn't wide enough, the sofa was too wide and too tall to turn the corner to fit through the short hallway on the other side to living room. We couldn't flip it, we couldn't angle it, we couldn't remove enough parts to get it in. For well over an hour they wiggled and jiggled, and turned and backed up and eyeballed things. And I prayed. Because for the last three months, my husband's one thing he has missed about having our own home is sitting on his couch to watch TV.

      And in the end, it just didn't fit. I would love to say that they hauled it over the balcony (they considered it, but the 15 feet was just too great a distance) or that they could "pivot" (let me know if you catch that reference) enough to get it through. But it just didn't work. So, our enormous sofa, my beloved's favorite piece of furniture for the last 11 years, was dragged back down the stairs, back onto the trailer. And he never cries, but I am pretty sure there were tears in his eyes.

       And what is the moral of this story? Well, I am learning that. I think that first, just because everything doesn't come together seamlessly doesn't mean that you aren't doing God's will. I think that He uses so many things to teach us greater trust and faith, deeper contentment and satisfaction in Him. I think sometimes He uses little things (like big sofas) to remind us that we may think that we have it all figured out, but He is really still in charge. Sometimes, you literally cannot force it-no matter how bad you may want to. Mostly, I think because of this:

"I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through Him who gives me strength." Philippians 4:11-13 NIV

    We love to quote the last verse, but we neglect to pair it with 11 and 12 which really give it heft that makes it a little scary. We love to talk about being content with all we have, but what about what we don't have? What about being content with less-so much less that you are sitting on the floor? We have soooo much further to go before we will see the lack that caused Paul to know need and hunger, we haven't the faintest clue about such matters. But maybe if our bottoms are a little sore, our hearts will be a little softer. 

    I briefly thought about rushing out to "fix" the problem. A little credit card action and we would be back in business with a brand new piece of upholstered seating (and I would be rid of the sofa that I don't love nearly as much as my spouse!). But instead, I have decided to pray about it, and seek that I would truly begin to understand what He is teaching me. Because a 900 sq ft. apartment without a sofa isn't what I was looking for, but just maybe, it is exactly what I need. 

Linked up:
"Thrifty Thursday" at Living Well, Spending Less

Friday, June 13, 2014

No-Sew Fabric Strip Garland

    I plan to post about the "Sunshine" baby shower soon, but first I wanted to show you the garland that I made for the shower. I love the "shabby chic" look it has, and it was so easy to make. My mom and I first saw this type of garland at an adorable craft boutique and it was definitely one of those "I could make that!" moments. I love to work with fabric, even though I don't sew, mostly because I love to mix colors and prints. This garland combines both, and it adds a great textural element, too.
This garland isn't just easy to make, it is pretty inexpensive, too! You shouldn't need much that you don't already have. 
I used:
-6 coordinating fabrics, 1/4 yard each. They were all cut from the bolt, except one, and cost $0.66 each because calico was on sale at Joann's, yay! The yellow chevron is a "fat quarter" which you buy pre-cut in little squares for quilting, usually. It was $0.99, so still pretty cheap. 
-heavy string. You can buy this in a spool fairly inexpensively.

The total cost for this project was right around $5, and it is definitely a decoration you can store and reuse. That makes it worth a lot more in my mind!

   First, if you buy your fabric off the bolt you will want to check for "selvage"- that is the unprinted edges of the fabric. See the white line on the piece above? You will want to remove it, because it won't look nice. Cut those off before you get started, you can even tear them off so that you can start more easily.
     Decide which edge of your yardage you want to start with. I had mine cut to 1/4 yard, so I tore down the "long" side (think of it as a rectangle" so that my strips would have more length. I simply used the width of a ruler to determine the width of each strip, but this project is super forgiving, you don't need to aim for perfection!
     Start each strip by snipping an approximately half-inch cut into the fabric.
     And pull the cut portion firmly away from the fabric. It will give you the "torn" edge. Don't pull too quickly or you will end up with decidedly uneven pieces. You don't want it to measure 3/4 of an inch shorter at the top than the bottom!  Finish tearing all your pieces. It took me approximately an hour (Measured by two half-hour TV shows! Love projects I can do while catching up on my shows.) You will have a giant, messy pile of pieces. Pull off any decidedly hanging strings, and the hard part is done!

      I folded each strip in half, and stuck the bottom pieces through the loop formed by the top, catching the string in the center and pulling down on the pieces to tie it on. To achieve an intentionally mismatched but not messy look, I followed a pattern of gray, yellow and orange, but didn't pay attention what print.
     Once you have threaded all the pieces on, you are done! My finished garland is roughly six feet long- a terrific length for decorating. I was thrilled with how it turned out! My mom also loved it, she gave it a home on her entry way shelf. She has a similar one in her laundry room. And after the shower, a friend was inspired to make one for her outdoor patio area. It is great for so many spaces-I think it would be precious in a baby's room, too!

Linked up:
"Craft Frenzy Friday" at Craft Dictator
"Motivation Monday" at A Life in Balance

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

In The Midst

   I feel like I haven't been around much-not like I want to be, anyway. I have some posts that I need to work on, but I will be honest: I just haven't felt like it! I hate that I am so temperamental, but that's just the way it is. It isn't any one thing, but rather a whole bunch of things.

   You see, I'm  in the midst. I read stories all the times about people who have "made it through"-tough transitions, job losses, moves and the like, and I try to draw hope from them. But the reality is, to me anyway, that it is easy to talk about provision and God's blessings after you have crossed through a trial and made it to the other side. Hindsight is 20/20, right? The past is all about rose-colored glasses. But I seem to have lost mine, and it doesn't matter much anyway, because I am so focused on the present, and the future.

   I keep trying to remember all the ways that the Lord has blessed our family, all the trials He has brought us through. (A few deployments, a transition out of the military, tricky health situations, just to name a few...) There have been so many! Also, it is not in any way as if my life is bereft of His hand even now-I am surrounded by family and a set of ready-made friends. He has not lost sight of us, not for even a second.

   But I keep losing sight of Him. The clouds crowd in and day-to-day seems frightening and overwhelming at times. I keep second-guessing myself, my husband, and even the Lord. I try so hard not to worry and grow anxious, but it is truly a moment-by-moment battle. Some days, I do really well. I am cognizant of all of His promises: to always care for us, that He has plans, that we are infinitely precious to Him.

   But some days, today being one, all I can see is the seemingly rising flood: my husband's job is tenuous at best, not really enough to make ends meet, no matter how good I am at being frugal. We don't have a place to call our own, and while my parents have been beyond gracious, staying with them was only meant to be a bridge, a temporary resting place on the way to hopefully buying our own home. Well, the door seems to be closed on that right now, and we are trying to rent and even that floats in and out of reach.

   This post isn't to garner sympathy-although prayers are always welcome. I haven't forgotten, no matter how dark the day, that I am richly blessed if the only good thing that had ever happened in my life was salvation in Christ. And I have so much more than that. It is really just to be honest. To say that I am in the middle, wading through the deep, unable to see the shore. I am fighting the current, and I am never alone, but sometimes-when the waves force me under I lose sight of the hope I have in Christ. I am writing to remind myself that when we do finally cross through (because "this too shall pass") that it was just as hard as I remembered it-which will make the relief so much sweeter when it is provided. It is a "memorial stone" in the midst of the waters, a promise to myself that I can trust without knowing. I'm passing through...yet, He is with me. God is good...

Linked at:
"Motivation Monday" at A Life in Balance


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