Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Goal #39 COMPLETE: Calm My Anxious Heart

More progress on my Project 101 in 1001 list. Read about my journey here. 

Goal 39: Read Calm My Anxious Heart - COMPLETE
Hi. My name is Jennifer and I'm a worryaholic.

Hi Jennifer.

I have a problem - an addiction if you will. My drugs of choice? - "Whys?" "What Ifs" and "If Onlys." I put this book on The List as the first step to recovery (admitting I had a problem). The second step was actually reading the book. From there, the steps get kinda fuzzy, but I know two things: 1) I feel like something can, should and will be done about my worry problem. 2) I am very grateful that I read this book when I did (about a month before my due date).

As if my constant battle with worrying weren't chronic enough, I've now got motherhood to add to my easy excuses as to why it's "okay" to worry. We've all heard it said, "It's a mother's job to worry." And trust me, you hear it (and read it) even more when you're pregnant. (And probably even more when you have the kid.)

But if a mother claims to put her trust in God, how can worrying be her purpose as a mother? It makes no sense and the contradiction can't possibly be Biblical. (Even if a mother doesn't claim to trust in God, I think we can all agree worry is useless and gets us nowhere.) 

While I don't know the Bible cover-to-cover, I can't remember ever finding or hearing about a verse that gives believers permission to worry. Instead, we are told: Trust in the Lord with all your heart (Proverbs 3:5-6), Do not worry (Matthew 6:25-34), Do not be anxious (Phil. 4:6), Be content in everything (Phil. 4:11). But a cop-out for worrying even though God tells us not to? It ain't in there folks.

Another area where worry gets a hold of me - my actions, not just my thoughts - is in the area of control. I'm a planner and a doer and "waiting on the Lord" is not in my instincts. I'd much rather say a quick prayer and then plunge ahead with my plans if I don't get a speedy response. I "take" control from God when I feel He's being too slow in giving me a clear, precise direction. Being that God is ultimately in control, it shouldn't keep surprising me that time and time again this course of action has done me zero good and brings me right back to worrying as I wonder, "Will this work?" or "Did I make the right decision?" or "What now?"

(Now, the flip-side to this is stepping out in faith. Not really sure yet how "waiting on the Lord" and "stepping out in faith" work together, but I do know that "stepping out in faith in myself" hasn't worked out so great in my life.)

My biggest take-away and put-it-into-action from this book has been learning to turn my worries into praise and prayer. Here's an example: Worry: I don't feel prepared to become a mom. Praise: Thank You Lord for choosing to bless me with these two little boys. Prayer: God, please teach me to be a good, godly mom. Show me how to live in a way that teaches my sons to love You and love others. I need Your help Lord - I know I can't do it without You.

This practice has helped me a lot and it gives my whirling, worrying mind something positive to focus on and causes me to spend more time in prayer admitting my need for God rather than trying to rely on myself (and thus adding to the my stress, worry and burdens).

Second-to-Bottom Line: Worry is no fun. It's a waste of time and energy. It's un-Biblical.

Actual Bottom Line: Not worrying is something that is learned - it takes practice and trust and I've got a big ol' "Work In Progress" sign on my heart and head right now.

"As we grow in trusting God in all things, our contentment becomes an act of worship... we worship God more by contentment than when we come to hear a sermon or spend a half-hour in prayer. These are certainly acts of worshiping God, but they are only external. The soul worship of God is to be content with what He gives, to be thankful in all things." - Calm My Anxious Heart

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Ssekos: These shoes are made for changing the world...

If you were reading my blog around Christmas last year, then you know that I love giving/receiving gifts and making purchases that help someone in need. Fair-trade items, items made by artisans living in poverty-stricken counties, or by ex-prostitutes coming out of the sex trade, or by widows who are being taught a trade to provide for themselves and their children. Those kinds of purchases just bless my day and I love when these items (usually clothing or accessories of some kind) act as a springboard for conversations with others about caring for the poor.

courtesy of the Sseko website
I recently heard about Sseko shoes and desperately wanted a pair of my own. A cute pair of shoes that I could style in endless ways and that helped some young ladies in Uganda - yes please! I happened to have some "just for fun" money that Devin had given me to spend on myself, just for fun (that's hard for the practical, frugal, giving side of me to do sometimes) and the Sseko purchase allowed me to spoil myself with something fun and help someone in need: ha! win/win (and a little bit sneaky).

courtesy of the Sseko website
My favorite thing about Sseko as an organization (besides that they are in Uganda) is that they hire recent high school graduates to make the shoes, not in order to learn the trade of a shoemaker, but so these young ladies can save money to go to college and become the next generation of doctors, teachers and leaders in their country. During a nine month paid internship program, Sseko automatically puts 50% of the girls' fair-wage salaries into a college fund and whatever the girls save for college out of their remaining 50%, Sseko matches at the end of the nine months. It is an awesome program that encourages these young women with so few opportunities to pursue a positive future.

When my Ssekos arrived, I immediately started trying out some of the different styling options (not an easy feat while heavily pregnant, I'll tell you that!) The possibilities seem truly endless, but I've only tried four different ties so far. Here's how I wore my Ssekos the first few weeks:

I varied this one a little because my foot wouldn't stay in them when tied like the photo.
The shoes are really well made and I think that when I can easily reach my toes again, I'll enjoy styling them a bit more. I also got an additional pair of red straps so I can really change up the look of the shoes when I feel like it. Some of the styles I tried were more comfortable or stayed on my feet better than others (I also think I got a size too big, which might be part of the problem), but over-all they seem like a good product with a great purpose! So go ahead, put a pair of Ssekos on your Birthday/Christmas/Just For Fun List!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Goal #59 COMPLETE: Encouragement

More progress on my Project 101 in 1001 list. Read about my journey here.

Goal #59: Send hand-written notes of encouragement to five friends/family members. COMPLETE 

Using words (written or spoken) to encourage another has got to be the second-most perfect way to use the git of language. The first way being to use words as an act of worship, prayer or praise to God. There is just nothing quite like words of encouragement and praise to bless the person receiving them, which I think is interesting since Jesus said the greatest commandments are to "love God, love others." Should it come as any surprise then that the greatest way to use words is also to "love God, love others"?

For me at least, there is something extra special about hand-written, snail-mailed words of encouragement, which is why I wanted to include this goal on my list. Through this goal, I had the joy of using the gift of words to (hopefully) encourage some special, wonderful women in my life. 

Honestly, my negative/positive word ratio needs some major adjustment. It's so easy for me to use words to complain, argue and express the negative, but I know that is not what words were created for (James 3:9-10). And it really doesn't do me or the person listening to me much good. How much better to use words to encourage and to create a joyful atmosphere? This takes practice and discipline though doesn't it? It certainly doesn't come naturally (for me anyways). Hopefully this goal and what I realized about words as I completed it is a small step in the right direction.

What about you? When was the last time you used words to encourage another? Or, when was the last time your received a personal word of encouragement that really blessed your heart?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Goal #65 Complete: Birthday Giving

More progress on my Project 101 in 1001 list. Read about my journey here.    

Goal #65: For my birthday one year, ask for cash and donate it to House of James Orphanage - COMPLETE 

Generally speaking, I enjoy gifts (especially when they are made or thought-out with me in mind by a perceptive giver). But I say "generally" because even though I like getting gifts, I often have a hard time accepting them without regret when I look at my own vast abundance in comparison the deep needs of the world around me. It seems so frivolous in light of the suffering of so many. At the same time, I have to understand that people enjoy giving gifts and sometimes that is even their love language (my husband for example), so to demand that they stop can be hurtful to a well-meaning, loving gifter.

More recently, especially since last Christmas, the gifts that bring the most joy to my heart are those which also bless someone in need. So for my birthday this year, I asked for something that I felt would bring the most thrill to my heart - donations on my behalf to House of James (an orphanage in the Ukraine that many of my friends and family in Tucson are involved with).

House of James (HOJ) was founded by a young man named Sean who had been content to spend his life getting rich, partying and "living the dream". He was young, good-looking and what the world would call successful. Somehow, his dad convinced Sean take a mission trip with him and visit some orphanages in the Ukraine. Sean was absolutely broken and transformed by what he saw. Not only did he give his life to Christ during that trip, he became overwhelmed with a desire to do something to help the vast population of Ukrainian children with no one to care for them. When Sean returned to America, he sold everything he owned, paid off all of his debts and moved to the Ukraine to open a home for orphans.

House of James now runs two, soon-to-be-three, homes for orphaned and abandoned children in the Ukraine. Each "family home" has a set of foster parents and HOJ strives to create a warm, loving, home-like environment for the forgotten children in their care. 

From the HOJ website: "Our vision, as we grow, is to open up various family homes located throughout Ukraine and even the world. It is a vital part of our ministry to show orphans and the forgotten children the same love and compassion that Christ gives." Learn more about HOJ here.

(Sean, pictured center, with some of the HOJ kids)

I received a very kind, personal thank you message from Sean letting me know that my birthday donations would be going towards the registration costs for the new HOJ van. A van that will not only ease the transportation burdens of the foster parents, but also be available to transport the children to a hospital in case of an emergency.

Happy birthday to me - my heart is very blessed. :-) 

Verse on the HOJ website: “What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” - James 2:14-17 

Monday, August 1, 2011

What's in a Name? (part two)

(read part one here)
Soooo... where was I? Oh yes, I was getting ready to tell you the names we've pick for the twins. Thanks for your patience. (Not that I gave you much of a choice.)

Not only do I really love the names we've chosen, I also like the fact that Devin suggested one twin's first name, while I suggested that twin's middle name, and I suggested the other twin's first name, while Devin suggested his middle name (did you follow that?). It was not on purpose that we so evenly shared the naming of the babies, but I'm glad it worked out like it did.

Now, I think you've waited long enough. The names of the Hanson twins will be...

(The little game we played to announce the names to our families)

Weston Scot Hanson and Isaac Knight Hanson!
(I bet you can guess which middle name caused all the drama ;-))

"Weston" was the name Devin had liked for so long and "Scot" is my dad's middle name and what I have always wanted to use as a middle name for my son. (It is also the middle name of both of my brothers, and the first names of my cousin and his son.) This was our "easy" pick for a boy's name.

Isaac's name was my suggestion for a number of reasons: 
1) It means "laughter" which is absolutely what we did when we found out were having twins (the kind of disbelieving, baffled laughter that Abraham and Sarah expressed when they were told they would give birth to a son in their old age). 
2) The story of Isaac in the Bible is one of God's astonishing provision, which is something we've seen so much of in our lives since finding out we were having these babies. 
3) The pastor we primarily served with in Uganda is named Papa Isaac (I wrote about him here and here) and while our son isn't exactly named after him, our time in Uganda (while pregnant with the twins) was very significant to us and Isaac's name is an important reminder of all we learned while preparing for and serving in Uganda.

And then there is "Knight" - the middle name I rolled my eyes at, laughed at, refused to even consider, and made Devin vigorously scribble off the list, but then ended up loving in the end. Not only is it cool (let's face it -it's awesome), it means "noble soldier" which I think is a wonderful title to christen a son with. 

So there you have it! The names and the reasons behind them.