Monday, April 9, 2012

I'm Not Who I Was

Today, I was reminded that what I've done in the past never really goes away. I have been learning so much and trying to give all my focus to God. Every morning, I pour my heart out to Him and ask Him for guidance, wisdom and the ability to love others like He loves me.

Yet, old friends know the old me. They bring up things that the old me would have enjoyed. They remind me that the old me existed. Unfortunately, they announce my old habits to my new friends.

So, I've been struggling tonight. I will go out on a limb here and admit that I talk to myself (sad, but true). I had 5 "mock" conversations where I was either trying to explain my actions to my new friends, trying to explain to my old friends that I've changed, trying to explain to other old friends that I wasn't lying - with God's help, I am changing.

Then I realized as I cut up veggies for homemade salsa (YUM!) I was trying to control a situation I had no control over. What's done is done. I have to give this to God. He owns my past, present, and future. I know I haven't consistently lived in a way that honors Him and brings Him joy. Thankfully, He loves me regardless of my past! It is only by His grace, forgiveness and unconditional love that I am the person I am now.

I have to give up control because if someone is going to judge me for what I've done in the past, they weren't a real friend to begin with. If God ordains it, nothing I say or do is going to jeopardize it. He can change someone's heart in an instant.

Here is an awesome video of "I'm Not Who I Was" by Brandon Heath. These are real people who have been changed too! God is good! :)


"The thing I find most amazing
In amazing grace is the chance to give it out
Maybe that's what love is all about
- "I'm Not Who I Was" by Brandon Heath

Monday, April 2, 2012

Extreme Measures

I am blessed that God understands me. He is patient with me. He knows (oh, how He knows), that I need to hear repeatedly that He wants me to do something before I make an attempt to do it. On one hand, I do want confirmation that it is God leading me to make a change in my life. On the other hand, it is pure stubbornness.

In my never-ending quest to get my finances in order, I see the glory and joy of giving. I see how even if I can’t go (or am not called to go) to far-away places to minister to others, I can be a part of the ministry by supporting them financially or donating items. I want to give my income away. God has blessed me with everything I need and I want to do this for others.

Yet, poor financial decisions in the past have left me strapped with several large debts. For years, I have been following Dave Ramsey’s book, “Total Money Makeover” to attempt to live like no one else (frugal), so one day I will live like no one else (financially independent). It is so simple and logical, yet it is challenging. He provides reasons we believe certain money myths that seem to be widely accepted. Then he challenges the wide path, “If debt is normal, I want to be WEIRD.” I’m sure on many levels, I've already succeeded in this feat, but I want to be financially weird too!

Last week, I was analyzing my budget and looking for ways to cut back my spending. I found a few quick fixes, but to be honest, some of the cuts seemed a bit harsh. I used to justify my budget by saying, “Anything is possible if you budget for it!” This is true, but what are my priorities? Where is my treasure being built? Why can’t I contribute the amount of money I want to for good causes?

Matthew 6:21 (NIV) For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

There was only 1 thing in my budget that stood out like a sore thumb. My cable bill. I figured it was because I gave TV up for Lent. It would have been nice to cut the bill while I wasn't watching it. Trying to be sensitive to what God is saying to me, I was praying for direction on whether or not He was actually leading me to give up TV. One day, I was driving to work and praying about this. Not 10 minutes later, the radio station told the story of a couple that gave up TV over 10 years ago and they claimed it was the best decision they made next to getting married! Really, Jesus? Really???

I attempted to look up the article online when I got to work, but I couldn't find it. So, I took a chance and emailed the DJ to ask for the link. Before I sent the email, I asked God for a prompt reply because I’m sure they are busy. Within 5 minutes, I had a response from the actual DJ with the link in my inbox. He wished me luck. *Gulp*

As a result, I am praying about giving up TV for good. At least for now. I hope it’s not forever, but that is up to God. This process started small and just grew exponentially. It started out as a sacrifice for Lent. 40 days, I could do that. Plus, I had so many things that needed my attention and it seemed like a logical sacrifice once it came to mind. The first few days flew by because I was being so productive. I was getting more sleep, finishing tasks, and really focusing on my goals for 2012. Then God started working on my heart somewhere in week 2-3. I believe that is what Lent is all about, focusing on our depravity and realizing our need for a Savior. Who would have thought that TV was the hindrance from this knowledge?

During the 4th Sunday of Lent, God smacked me upside the head. I realized that watching TV was making me want things I didn't have. Within 6 hours of watching TV as my “celebration day"*, I was devastated that I was single, and modeling the romance I desired after an affair in one of my favorite shows. WHAT?!?!? I immediately deleted that show from my DVR and went to bed. I don’t know if I dreamed about the show or just woke up thinking about it, but it was on my mind immediately this morning. I felt like I had taken 5 steps backwards since Sunday morning. Could TV really have that much impact on my life?

I never stopped praying about this because I think I knew the answer but I was afraid to take the final step to cut the ties. The last straw was when a close friend posted a question on Facebook about Roku boxes as an alternative to cable. Ok, Ok, I hear you, Lord. Four confirmations were enough, my cable service has been cancelled.

I look forward to that day where I don’t have to skimp and save to be generous to supporting God’s work. For now, I choose to follow Jesus’ guidance by listening for His still, small voice and fixing my eyes on Him. I know that He will continue to provide for all my needs and help me to become weird(er)!

*Sunday's are considered "celebration days" during Lent to celebrate Jesus' resurrection.  Whatever was sacrificed for Lent can be enjoyed on this day as a celebration for the victory that Jesus had over death.