Monthly Archives: September 2017

How I Stopped Giving Excuses for Not Praying

Call it a gently nudging from the Holy Spirit, but I’ve really felt pushed to improve my prayer life, which is nearly…nonexistent. I am not an active pray-er. But I know that is an essential component in growing in relationship with my Creator. So I was thinking about this in my car on the morning commute and decided, “Why not now?”

Thus, it began. “Bless so-and-so, and bless la-tee-dah,” but I stopped and had this internal conversation:

“You know, praying for these vague things feels stupid. I wouldn’t talk to a friend like this.

Well, what does God want to hear from you? He wants me to be real. He wants me to praise His power, but also ask for big things.”

Then: “He wants me to take an active role. He wants me to go outside my comfort zone. He wants me to ask for opportunities to be His messenger today. He wants me to be challenged.”

Seriously. Why do I even start praying? I kind of had my own self-pity party about the whole “challenge yourself” message (all the Doane grads will understand my eye-roll over this phrase), but I also had a huge feeling of empowerment to do.God’s.work. ‘Cause that’s really why He put me here. So get over yourself, Kristin and start thinking about somebody else.

But you know how those experiences go, right? Excitement!! followed by fizzle…I quickly started thinking about all the things I had to accomplish (project at work, dinner plan). So I wasn’t any further in furthering my prayer life.

But I’m a pragmatist – and I couldn’t let it go. So I brainstormed strategies on how to make praying an easier part of my day. I remembered a blog I read about a woman who prays while folding laundry – talking to God with requests for each individual as she folds their particular clothes. It’s a good idea, but I’ve yet to actually do it because I never think of it.

I wanted something very visual, something I have to literally stare at every day.

And then it hit me: a prayer wall. I needed a dry erase board, or bulletin board, or something where I could write prayers, see them, and quickly talk to God. But I needed some ideas on how this might look. As any resourceful woman would, naturally, I went to Pinterest. And y’all. I was not disappointed. If you want to find where Christian women unite, look no further. After brief searching, I came across the perfect set-up: clothespins on a board. You write the prayer on an index card, clip it up on your clothespin, and take it down when it’s finished.

Galatians 5:22 “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, and craftiness.”

Ok, not actually craftiness.

I want to be crafty. Lots of times I try to be crafty. Sometimes it turns out ok. Most times it’s just…bad. Bad, bad, bad. So I went to Hobby Lobby and Michael’s to find the signs I wanted for this little prayer homage. And then I had to get a bit crafty by adding the twine and clothespins to one of the signs. And after getting my strong, manly husband (marriage perk!) to put two nails in the wall above the bed, I had myself a visual prayer board.

But the work was just getting started. Now I had to start the prayer writing. I grabbed a few index cards and wrote down every single thing I knew I wanted to pray about. I quickly ran out of note cards, so this Type A started over by categorizing the note cards and adding bullet points (I know. I’m sick.) of several prayers to each one. Then came the hardest part: talking to God about them. So I sat on the bed and started talking, using the index cards as my guide. I prayed really specific things for my husband, son, and me. I prayed for our church leaders. I prayed for my pregnant friends (there are so many of you right now!). I prayed specific things for my co-workers and their families. I prayed for our country.

It was emotional. It was tiring. It was hard to keep going. It was powerful. It was calming. I felt like God had control (that’s new! HA!).

I definitely don’t pray the pray board everyday (something I seriously need to prioritize). But I will peek at it while getting dressed in the morning and say a quick prayer over whichever bullet caught my eye. The board has given me focus in a day where I might feel frazzled over the million thoughts trickling through my brain. Selfishly, the board makes me feel like God is a teeny bit proud of me for coming up with this obviously fantastic idea (I realize I’m kinda missing the mark). I’ll probably feel that way for a while, but at least it has allowed me to consider moving past the inauthentic “bless them” prayers. And more important, it’s stopped me from giving an excuse for not praying and to start getting real with God.

Need help making a prayer board? Meet me at the local craft store with $25. And get your index cards ready.

How do you pray? What’s your strategy? HELP ME!! Please share in the comments!

This Bible verse is saving me right now.

A series at church was asking attendees to share a Bible verse that has stuck with them for some reason. I call it the “saving me” verse. This is your “why-is-my-life-falling-apart-around-me” verse you need to read to gain perspective when everything feels crappy. At church, I’ve heard numerous stories and a bucket load of verses, all leading up to being inspired to identify my “saving me” verse.

In the past, these verses have ebbed and flowed, mostly focusing around worry or unknown:

  • Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to you hope and a future.”
  • Matthew 6:34 “Don’t worry about tomorrow for tomorrow has enough worry of its own.”
  • Jeremiah 32:27 “I am the Lord, the God of all peoples. Is anything too hard for me?” (I still love this verse. Can you just hear God’s sass? I mean, maybe He’s not trying to, but I just picture his hip cocked out saying, “Girl, please! I got this!”)
  • Joshua 1:6 “Be strong and courageous.” (and continues in verses 9, 18, 25 and again in chapter 31, verses 6, 23)

The past couple months? I’ve felt God speaking to me through 2 Timothy 1:7. “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but one of power and love and self-control.”

Seriously, y’all. This verse has appeared in things I’ve been reading for the last two months. God is really trying to communicate to me. BAD. It started really standing out as I was feeling – for no good reason – near crippling fear about something happening to my boys. Like a deadly car accident. Or home invasion. Or…insert the scene of the crime from the latest crime investigation television show. (I avoid them like the plague because my imagination wanders.) I realize this probably sounds super humorous, but I was in tears at least once a week as a result of my imagination running wild. We all have our demons – and the devil is usually the culprit of every single one.

But another verse was just brought to my attention. Exodus 14:14 “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

This verse comes from the story of Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt as Pharaoh let them go (after a series of seven awful punishments from God). But as they were getting ready to cross the Red Sea, Pharaoh had a change of heart (again) and sent his troops after the Israelites. The Israelites freaked out (read Exodus 12:11-12; they are next-level scared out of their minds), and I can’t say I wouldn’t have done the same. But that Moses…he knew who was in control. And he also knew they didn’t need to do a darn thing, because God had promised he would take care of the situation. Moses says: “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Then the sea parted, all the soldiers drowned, yada yada, right? (I mean, not really “yada, yada,” – God did part the water through Moses, after all.) But that verse stuck with me.

I suck at being still. First, I solve my own problems. I was brought up in a home where you tried really hard to not rely on anyone. That’s the American way! But it’s really not God’s way (see: What does the Bible say about self-reliance? from openbible.info; spoiler alert: stop relying on yourself).

Second, I really suck at resting and waiting on God. (Hello…Recovering Martha is the name of this blog.) God designed me to be a do-er. But He did not design me to be angry with O when he dumps a giant cup of water out of the bathtub and onto me and the floor. Or snarky with J about all the hunting gear spread out in the basement. Or impatient with a little boy who just wants “one more, book, Mommy.” Or disobedient by not being in His Word or praying – ever. (Do you ever feel like you could write a giant list of all the things you do wrong, and struggle to think of one right? WHAT IS THAT?!)

God gave us a whole dang day of rest – which we Americans used to call Sunday but now tend to call it the “get all the things done ’til you can’t stand anymore” day. But yesterday (Sunday), I paused for a brief hour to sit and bask in the September sun while I read this book I can’t put down (“7” by Jen Hatmaker – prepare to be involved, to be asked for an uncomfortable life change, and to literally laugh out loud). And…It was lovely. I felt – dare I say – relaxed. Almost rested. Granted, the day didn’t end that way (J will tell the truth – he was definitely vacuuming at 8:15pm, per my request. Thank God for this man and how he doesn’t give up on me). But at least for one hour, I gave up the fight and let God take care of me.

Oh, Lord. Help me to be still. Help me to not get caught up in the day-to-day mess; but rather, focus on my purpose: to be in relationship with You and bring others to You via my relationships. Put people in my life to remind me of this perspective, and please send your Holy Spirit to me with a not-so-gentle “nudging” to crack open my Bible and find another verse to save me. I need all the help I can get.

Step Away From the “To-Do List”

I was with a group of young parents I hadn’t met before. And we were going to be in the same room for the next 60 minutes. We were doing the typical sharing: where you work, kid stories, etc., but I wanted to accelerate the getting-to-know-you process. I said, “This may sound dorky, but I really don’t know how else to say it or how else to know you all a bit better – quickly.” Pause. “But what are your interests or hobbies?”

If you’re a parent, you know how difficult it is to have interests or hobbies. And if someone would have asked me this question even before Owen was born, I would not have known how to respond. Because I am really into accomplishing tasks. I guess that is a hobby. But since starting this Recovering Martha blogging journey, I’ve forced myself to reconsider what I spend my time and energy on. Now don’t be fooled: I still spend a ridiculous amount of time on meaningless tasks (mostly related to way too much social media or a clean house – when people ask Jim about his wife, he describes me as “Monica Gellar“). But I’ve also learned the physical and mental benefits to a yoga workout, getting my accomplishment fix via gardening, and I’ve gotten way more comfortable with publicly announcing my wine habit. So I shared those things with this small group. And I felt like the odd one out.

I was proud of a couple people: one guy in a basketball league, another woman into home decorating (and announcing it took 3 years to build this cool bench out of 3 chairs. I was uber impressed she finished that in only 3 years. No sarcasm; I’m seriously so proud of her.)

But several people seemed to downplay their interests as something they didn’t have time for, or that it wasn’t important.

But it is important – especially to me! I know what it’s like to be completely out of whack with allowing yourself any time or enjoyment (see this beef post and my complete meltdown moment for reasons why I started this blog). And it’s important that we all find “our thing.” Because one day your kids will move out and you won’t know who you are anymore.

I have heard empty nesters describe having to date each other again once all their kids left because they didn’t know how to just be with one another anymore. I’ve heard these same empty nesters struggle to find things they are passionate about. I’ve also heard of some feeling completely lost in their own identity, and depressed because they feel like they wasted their life. Now don’t get me wrong. These women loved taking care of their children and wouldn’t trade that decision, but as they have time to think and reflect, they wish they would have spent a little more time with friends because no one is there for them now. They wish they would have had one night a week where they pursued a hobby: going to jazzercise/studio/horseback riding, so they could feel purposeful and have something to look forward to in an effort to get out of a quiet house.

I don’t want to be in that position someday. I want to feel an identity of more than “worker,” “mother,” and “wife.” I want to be “blogger,” “yogi,” “gardener,” “ wine drinker” (it’s about expectation management – and happiness). I want to be better about identifying myself as “God’s child” because I choose to spend time in His Word and in prayer. And it’s important that my husband and son see me as those multiple roles – not only full-time employee, mother, and wife.

There are a few friends in my life who help me see myself in those other roles – and encourage me to get out of the house. We might get together with our kids because we work and want to have it all: friends and family time. But I’ve tried to be intentional with at least checking in with these women so we don’t totally lose connection (or many times, they are actively pursuing me). It may be a text, email, or lunch date every six months, or it might be a quick yoga workout in a basement once a month. But I’m grateful for these women and their ability to make me feel like someone important and needed in their lives too. I hope I’m meeting a similar need in their life as we continue this struggle to be nearly everything, except, for a moment, “to-do list” people.

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