Saturday, September 20, 2014

Encouraging Snail Mail Happies

Everyone likes to get fun stuff in the mail, especially college students. I've been trying to send Alyssa something small in the mail roughly every 2 weeks.

I try to make sure each item is something she will actually USE and that each one costs less than $5. I also try to tie in a spiritual truth by adding a verse or quote to each one. Here are a few of the ones I've recently sent.

A Tide to Go pen. (Because who doesn't need instant spot removal, right?) The verse on the pen is 2 Peter 3:14, "Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, SPOTLESS and blameless."

Flip flops to use as shower shoes. The verse on these is Psalm 17:5, "Uphold my steps in Your paths,
That my footsteps may not slip."

Encourage-Mints. I put these in an old Crystal Lite container and tied it with a ribbon. I put a tag on each mint with a graphic I found here and a different encouraging quote on each. You can download a printable version of my labels with the quotes I used here. I just used double-sided tape to attach them. You could also use the Andies chocolate mints and wrap the quote around it like a candy bar wrapper.

I don't have a photo of this one, but last year I sent some of her favorite pens along with one of my favorite quotes, "I was but a pen in God's hands, and what praise is due to a pen?" (Richard Baxter)

I plan to send more in the weeks to come, but I won't post them until she's received them, since I don't want to spoil the surprise. :) Do you have ideas for encouraging, inexpensive gifts for college students? I'd love to hear them!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Seeing Dots

Last week we moved Alyssa back into the dorms. Since she's an RA and her dorm was newly-built, we weren't sure what her room would look like, but we knew she would have some wall space that needed decorating. I found this idea on Pinterest and decided to do a twist on it by adding some photos of family and friends. The result is pictured below.

Instead of using a strip of natural wood, I purchased a 4' piece of trim that was already painted white. We used a staple gun to staple the twine to it and added two picture hangers to the back to hang it with. My circles are all 4", 3", and 2.5". I borrowed some hole punches and a Cuttlebug from my friend Mae to cut them, which was a life-saver. Cutting all those circles by hand would've taken FOREVER!

I just taped the circles to the string. I probably should've used cardstock for all the circles to make it more durable or at least made them double-sided, but I didn't have time for that. When I hung it on the wall, we used poster putty to lightly tack down a few circles that wanted to turn backwards. I think that will keep it from twisting too much, but still looking like it's not completely stuck to the wall.

I was really happy with how it turned out, and more importantly Alyssa was happy with it, too. I think it really compliments her bedding, which is on the same wall.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Behind the Faces

Have you ever thought someone had a perfect life? Charmed, even? Nothing ever seems to go wrong for them, while you seem to always struggle and struggle?

I have had those thoughts on numerous occasions. However, the more I get to know people better, the more I realize that their lives are usually nothing like I imagined. Sometimes, behind a face that's always smiling, there is a person who has had a life of pain and struggles or who is burdened daily for lost loved ones.

Last week as I sat in my church service, I started thinking about some of these people that I'm aware of in my own church body. Then I wondered... how many more of the faces around me are hiding struggles I know nothing about? I would be naive if I thought there weren't any.

So I started praying for all of those people with hidden struggles and pains. I also started jotting down some lines, which eventually became this poem.

Behind the Faces

In your face I may see
A smile that’s carefree,
But behind your face may be
Struggles I can’t see.

In your face I may see
A happiness that’s glowing,
But behind your face may be
A pain you aren’t showing.

In your face I may see
A life of ease and blessing,
But behind your face may be
A history of trials and suffering.

In your face I may see
A dear sister or brother, always focused on things above,
But behind your face may be
A heavy heart, burdened for someone you love.

God, help me not to only see
The face that’s right in front of me.
Give me compassion, love, and grace
To minister to the soul behind every face.

(c) 2014

Friday, January 10, 2014

Book Review: Embracing Obscurity

I recently read Embracing Obscurity: Becoming Nothing in Light of God's Everything by Anonymous. As I write this review, I’m having a hard time expressing just how helpful this little book has been to me.

I think, especially in our affluent society, we are groomed at an early age to clamor for the world’s version of “success.” Successful people, we are told, get good grades in school, are leaders and athletes, graduate college with honors, get successful jobs, make lots of money, have 2.5 kids and a white picket fence, and are loved by everyone who knows them. That’s the “American dream,” right?

But is that how God would have us live? The American dream mentality fosters pride in those who accomplish it. Then the rest of us try to console ourselves by touting our meager virtues to everyone we know so that we can feel good about ourselves, too.

Think about it: in your heart of hearts, what do you honestly hope that people think about you? That you’re a great mom? You’re thoughtful? A great teacher? Funny? Intelligent? Giving? Athletic? Think about that for a moment. When your name comes up in conversation, what do you hope will be said about you?

We all want to be valued. We want people to see value in us and affirm our wonderful qualities. We sometimes even convince ourselves that those are good things – that we are somehow being good representatives of Christ if we have a good reputation for {place your idol of choice here}.

The problem, of course, is that this focuses solely on us and not on the person we’re here to make famous: Christ. In the words of the anonymous author:

Embracing obscurity is about being content with being “relatively unknown” so that Christ can be made more known. Temporarily going hungry so that many more may be filled.

Christ brought the Father glory by becoming nothing (Phil. 2:5-11). If He is our example in everything, it follows that we also will glorify our God when we embrace an obscurity of heart for His sake and for the sake of others.

There are so many facets of our lives touched by this simple principle, and I think the author touches on all of them. I have underlined and starred and “Amen-ed” more in this book than I think I have in any other book – and that’s saying something! This is a book that I think I will need to re-read often to remind myself of its truths.

THE VERDICT: I highly recommend this book for any believer.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Word and Verse for 2014

Every year, I select a verse and word to concentrate on for the year. And every year at the end of the year, I feel like I need a few more years to work on the given aspect. I guess I will never really feel like I’ve “arrived” with any of these words, but hopefully I’ve at least grown some by keeping them in front of me over the course of the year.

This year, as I tried to decide my word/verse, I started by making a list of sin areas and things I need to work on. Talk about depressing! However, as I went through the list, I kept coming back to the word “anxiety.” I thought about using that as my word and maybe using Philippians 4:6-7 as my verse. However, that seemed to focus more on the problem and not the resolution.

As I prayed about the list and searched my Bible for more verses, I decided to focus on the opposite of anxiety. So my word for 2014 is PEACE. My verse is Isaiah 26:3.

You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.

I thought this captured where I WANT to be more than where I AM at the moment. It also focuses on HOW to get there: keep my mind stayed (focused) on the Lord.

Some of you may know that I read through the Bible this year with a group in my church. While I loved doing that, I think I am still lacking in spending time to just ponder and think through Scripture. So, in an effort to keep my mind focused on the Lord, I want to spend more time meditating on Scripture this year. To help with that, I am putting some Scripture meditation techniques on the back of my bookmark this year, taken from Don Whitney’s book Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life. Click on the images to enlarge. If you would like to print a bookmark for yourself, feel free to download them and print your own.

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