Monday, November 18, 2013

God Will Act + Exciting Announcement! {Cauley's Journey Into Midwifery, part 7}

Miss this series? Start at Part One: "Assets"

Cauley prayed and thought hard about becoming a midwife. Even with the support of the entire family, she wanted to hold the dream loosely in case the Lord closed doors and led in another direction.

She committed her way to the Lord. She trusted in Him. She began researching midwifery educational programs and discussing them with my parents. She'd found one she really liked, Association of Texas Midwives. The program would allow her to do the bulk of the course from home, which was important to her.

But there was still a major consideration: the cost. On the list of essentials were the enrollment fees, books, a new laptop and a vehicle for necessary travel. It all seemed pretty insurmountable. She submitted an essay for a scholarship, but to no avail. The scholarship program wouldn't recognize ATM a university or college. McCauley wasn't sure what to do.

~ Psalm 37:5 ~ 

"Commit your way to the LORD;
trust in him, and he will act."

When the Lord acts, He leaves us awe-struck. He'd orchestrated our network of friends beforehand in such a way as to connect our family with a Christian benefactor. McCauley got busy on another essay outlining her vision and emailed it. In mean time, she faithfully participated in household operations, poured into her family relationships, and continued to build her handcrafted inventory. After a while, the benefactor responded. He had chosen to give McCauley a full scholarship including the cost of books! You should've heard the commotion when she announced that news!

A few months later, Daddy set a brand-new laptop on McCauley's desk and her books began arriving at our door.

She sought first the Kingdom of God. She put her confidence in Him. She was educated by Scripture and shaped her occupational desires by the greater context of God's plan for history. She applied herself wholeheartedly to the wise stewardship of all He'd already given her. She committed her work and way to the Lord. Her plans were established—and He is now bringing it all to pass.

All that is left on the "Needs List" is a vehicle and it isn't a necessity until next year. She's currently working to raise money for that with her Etsy shop and other local services. We're on the edge of our seats to watch how God provides for that or leads in a better direction. We know He will act. 

Want to read the rest of this series?

Part 7: God Will Act + Exciting Announcement!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Getting Started {Cauley's Journey Into Midwifery, part 6}


What should I do with my life?
So, putting our confidence in the Lord, operating according the greater context of His reality, and having Scripture as the foundation and substance of our education, how do we figure out what we're supposed to be doing with our life?

~ Proverbs 16:3 ~

"Commit your work to the LORD,
and your plans will be established.

The first question we must ask ourselves is this: what are we doing with our life now? Every single one of us have responsibilities. It is our job to figure out exactly what those responsibilities are, commit our work to the Lord and then do our job whole-heartedly!

~ Colossians 2:23 ~ 

"Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men,

I remember when Cauley was nearing graduation last year, asking what she ought to do next. As she wrestled over this question, she examined the assets that the Lord had already given her. Was she being a good steward over the "little" she had?

My sister began striving to be even more faithful with the life God had given her then. She became more efficient at cleaning the house, more available for running errands and more avid in her study of Scripture. She investigated our bookshelves and outlined her own private post-highschool studies. She poured into the children whom she babysat and nannied.

She also responded to the instruction of her father. Once upon a time Daddy asked us all to begin using the crafting supplies we had around the home to create useful things to sell. We all began crafting at that point, but our experiment didn't last long. Last year, Cauley decided to take dominion over the upside-down craft room and get busy building inventory. Pretty soon, The Thinking Tree was born.

As she faithfully stewarded her days, our family continued to discuss what direction the Lord would have us to take. As we talked about God's Law, our respective spheres of influence, Daddy's vision, the community and the future, a dream began to take shape in Cauley's heart. She wanted to become a midwife. She timidly presented the idea to the family and was met with overwhelming support. God had established her plans.

Next Up:

Friday, November 1, 2013

Education {Cauley's Journey Into Midwifery, part 5}

Miss this series? Start at Part One: "Assets"

Thoroughly Equipped
Higher education is extremely important. We're commanded to be fruitful, take dominion of the earth, subdue the complexities of nature (Genesis 1:28) and teach the nations God's Law (Matthew 28:19, 20)—we can't expect to excel in these colossal tasks without an adequate education.

~ Psalm 71:17 ~

"O God, thou hast taught me from my youth:
and hitherto have I declared thy wondrous works."

~ Ecclesiastes 12:11, 12 ~

"The words of the wise are like goads,
and like nails firmly fixed are the collected sayings;
they are given by one Shepherd.

My son, beware of anything beyond these.
Of making many books there is no end, 
and much study is a weariness of the flesh." (ESV)

Drawing near to the end of his days, Solomon had run the gamut of human experience. He knew what it was like to be rich, powerful, famous—successfulHe came to the conclusion that, in and of itself, the human experience is vanity. Occupational success must have a greater context to truly have meaning. Therefore, we must be educated in reference to the greater context in order to truly be wise. Solomon concludes:

~ Ecclesiastes 12:13, 14 ~

"Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter:
Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.

For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing,
whether it be good, or whether it be evil." (KJV)

All of life—all of our education and occupation—must be in the greater context of the fear of God, His Law and His judgement. It makes sense, then, that Paul would tell Timothy:

~ 2 Timothy 3:16, 17 ~

"All Scripture is breathed out by God
and profitable for teaching, for reproof,
for correction, and for training in righteousness,
that the man of God may be complete,
equipped for every good work."

Books and study tools are important elements of a good education, but an adequate education begins with Scripture. This passage is especially exciting to me because it is so comprehensive. Look at the breakdown of the word work here:
"Business, employment, that which anyone is occupied; that which one undertakes to do, enterprise, undertaking; any product whatever, anything accomplished by hand, art, industry or mind" — Strong's
This passage is thoroughly economic. It has to do with real-life, applicable education. Scripture must be the foundation of our every enterprise so that we may thoroughly equipped to operate according to the greater context of God's plan for history.

Next Up:
{Cauley's Journey Into Midwifery, part 6}

Want to skip around?

Part 1: Assets
Part 2: Direction
Part 3: Fears
Part 4: Security
Part 5: Education
Part 6: Getting Started
Part 7: God Will Act + Exciting Announcement!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

How To Make NaNoWriMo a Success

We interrupt your regularly scheduled programming {the series about Cauley's Journey Into Midwifery, of course!} for our first post on the topic of writing for the glory of God. This blog exists for many purposes, one of which is to inspire ladies to harness their creativity for the advancement of God's Kingdom. While Cauley's creative skill-set is primarily of a handcrafting nature, my creative skill-set is primarily literary {though we're both pursuing proficiency in different mediums of visual artistry so as to complement our primary skill-sets}. Therefore, this post will be a DIY of the inky sort.

What is NaNoWriMo?
National Novel Writing Month {NaNoWriMo} is an annual challenge that spans the month of November. Starting November 1st, over 30,000 participants {a.k.a. WriMos} undertake the task of writing their own 50,000 word novel before the stroke of midnight on November 30th.

It's a crazy-fun adventure and has been a very useful exercise for me over the past seven years that I've participated. How so?
  • I can {and must} focus an entire month on a single creative goal. This keeps me from getting distracted with other ideas.
  • I can also prioritize my creative writing studies/practice above many of my other skill studies for an entire month.
  • Updating a word count keeps me motivated and having a deadline keeps me moving.
  • The deadline is helpful in talking myself back into the writing stage as opposed to the editing/design/marketing stages—keeps me from gettin' my cart before my horse!

But out of the seven years I've been a participant, I've only actually made the 50k word-count twice. Over the past several Novembers, I have learned a lot of lessons that I'd love to share with my fellow Christian WriMos. 

Why write a novel?
There are many answers to this question, but there's only one good reason for doing anything. Seeking first the Kingdom of God must be the sole direction of every single one of our pursuits. The "why" behind writing a novel should be because it would bring God glory and would be good for His people! 

Obviously this must shape my entire vision for the novel. This direction gives the project eternal value, bringing it under the Lordship of Christ. I desire for the pursuit to be more than just "fun"—I want writing the novel to be an act of obedience to the Great Commission. This gives my novel the beautiful context of God's Law and Gospel.

Tip #1: Write down {or verbalize to a fellow-Believer} your vision for your novel. How will it bring God glory? How will it bless His people? How will it advance His Kingdom?

Obtain Wisdom
I want to capture an audience that desires to obey God and then deliver to them content that will teach them a more correct view of God's reality using the enjoyable medium of storytelling. I must write fitting words that are beautiful, satisfying and valuable to them (Proverbs 25:11, 12). In order to do this, I must have wisdom. But there's a major problem: in an of myself, I lack this kind of wisdom.

James 1:5 says, "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him." These prayers must be prayed in faith, without doubt (James 1:6).

Tip #2: Determine the audience for your novel. What would you have to do to give your audience a more correct understanding of God's reality? 

Tip #3: Take time in your prayer closet, telling the Lord the desires of your heart for this project, explaining your natural weaknesses and asking in faith that the Holy Spirit would give you wisdom. Note: don't do this as some sort of a checklist thing. Do you really understand your own inadequacies for the task at hand?

Are you going AWOL?
Taking a month to focus on writing a novel can be a beautiful success—or it can cause miserable conflicts. You are an author, I get it, but you have real God-given relationships that take precedence over setting your characters free on paper. {I know they keep bugging you, but we have priorities gals!}

Think about the greater context of your relationships. You're a child of God, a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a cousin, a church member, a friend, perhaps a future wife and mother. Is writing this novel an investment in and an outworking of those covenantal relationships...or is it your method of escaping from any of them?

I don't know if I quite understood this in 2006, 2007, 2008 or 2009. {I know, I know. Slow learner.} Sometime in 2010, I remember saying something about not doing NaNoWriMo to my mother. She listened to my reasons, but then countered: "But, Shelby, you have to find some time to write down those stories! I want Gracey to grow up with them—I want them for my grandchildren!" Daddy agreed with her. So in November 2010, I participated with a sense of duty. It was at that point that my writing became a labor of love rather than an opportunity to shine. I finally met the word count for the first time in five years. My parents were not frustrated with the amount of time I invested into the project because they initially encouraged and blessed it. "Winning" became a cause for family support and celebration rather than the singular obsession of me, myself and I.

After the thrill of winning in 2010, I geared up for another November of writing in 2011. I cannot recall the details of the conflict, but I remember clearly feeling very torn between my writing and my family—and it was only November 1st. I brought the matter before God in prayer and the verse echoed in my heart: "...if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out..." {Matthew 5:29}. If it would be better to lose an eye than to follow its lusts and sin, then how much more should I be willing to lose a writing contest rather than to follow my lusts at the expense of my familial duties? 

Even though I was participating with a group of online friends {I'd had the same writing buddies since '06} and had announced to all of my family members that I'd be doing NaNoWriMo again, I decided then and there to drop out. My attitude towards my writing as a whole began to change over the next few months. There just were not very many family projects that required my literary skill-set. So I stopped trying to force it. If the Lord was calling the family into farming, shepherding {literally, as in, keeping white sheep that go baa} mechanics—whatever!—I wanted to be fully involved. If that meant that I didn't have time to write, so be it. That simply meant the Lord had something more important for me to do. In February 2012, I surrendered my writing to the Lord. 

Later that summer, Daddy and I were talking vision. He made it clear to me that he wanted me to become serious about my writing again. At first, I was resistant. I explained to him my desire to invest the majority of my time in my family for God's glory. He agreed, and then reminded me that if I was writing for the correct reasons, I would still be investing in my family. He also reminded me that Scripture described me as one of his arrows. He was "shooting" me into this field of writing for the advancement of the Kingdom. The Lord was obviously leading.

In November 2013, I signed up for NaNoWriMo again and made the word count. There was no conflict of interests with the family: my parents, siblings, grandparents, uncle, aunt and so many others were all supportive. I was learning about developing my craft within the context of relationships—and that lesson has borne so much fruit.

Tip #4: Examine your covenantal relationships and duties. Will writing this novel be a long term investment in your family, church, community? Or is this an individualistic obsession that causes you to be more of an island unto yourself? Do you have the support and blessing of your authorities? If you're unsure on any of these points, talk to your parents {or whomever your primary spiritual leaders are}.  

Make a Plan
I start working on my November writing project as soon as the season changes from summer to glorious fall. I begin discussions with my parents in September and start in on plotting in October.

One thing that has been a blessing to family has been for me to "buy" the extra time needed for NaNoWriMo by sacrificing blogging and social-networking time in October. The discussions I have with my parents in September often take the form of "negotiations"—but the good kind, 'cos we're on the same team! ;) I am able pour tons of "overtime" into the household and steward all of my excess time toward praying and planning. {It's also great to take a month-long break from spending so much time on the computer before being glued to it in November!}

Tip #5: Consider taking a month off of the computer "in exchange" for NaNoWriMo. 

Tip #6: When planning your novel, scribble down the goal of your project, make a mind-map, pencil out an outline {even having rough chapter ideas is super helpful} and write some character sketches. This little collection will get your juices flowing and will be a tremendously helpful reference whilst hammering out pages like a mad-woman. 

Keep the Sabbath
In addition to writing for God and others rather than myself, in 2010 I made the commitment not to write on the Lord's Day. One might worry that the "loss" of four days would set them back way too far—I was tempted to think the same! But whenever I'd get to worrying, I'd remind myself that the Sabbath is to be kept holy. I'd worked {writing is work—especially when one plans to sell the material} for six days, so on the seventh, I was determined to rest and trust in the Lord. This practice was extremely helpful for reminding me Who I work for, and that's God {not myself}.

Refraining from writing on the Sabbath never did set me back, but instead, it was as if the Lord had multiplied my time! He always knows what is best for His people.

Tip #7: Keep the Sabbath day holy. Save and back-up your story at the close of Saturday {we start the Sabbath on Saturday evening} and purpose not to write another word until the beginning of Monday {which begins Sunday evening for us}. Focus on prayer, Scripture and meeting with other Christians. Truly take the time to rest. You're not producing this novel on your own strength or time-table anyway: relax. 

Friends Don't Let Friends Write Dangerously—Alone
There's a great feature on NaNoWriMo. It allows you to have a collection of "writing buddies" and keep up with their word counts all in one place. This allows us to both compete with each other and know when a friend needs some encouragement and motivation. 

WriMos often participate in "write-ins" together. It's basically like a sleepover when everyone stays up reaaaaally late to hit some outrageous word-count goal. Because everyone else is awake, one is more motivated to keep going. We'll have word sprints and race to write the most words in a short period of time. We'll take a break, chat, and then scold each other playfully until everyone is back to being productive.

While these write-ins are a blast with online friends, they're ah-mazing in person. That's when everyone can share a few pots of coffee and way too much chocolate for our own good. It's wonderfully productive fun. 

Tip #8: Do you have any siblings, cousins or friends who like to write? If it would be a blessing to them and their families, perhaps y'all can do NaNoWriMo together. If you don't think you have any friends participating in the event, put a shout-out to your friends on Facebook, Google Plus or to your email contact list: you might be surprised! 

Tip #9: You're always welcome to add me to your writing buddies list, too. Click here to view my profile. {Make sure you have your parents' blessing to make these connections, though.}

Eliminate Distractions

This does not include little brothers {remember, priorities!} This does include a lot of unnecessary electronic-based social interactions. We often invite many more distractions to our work than we'd like to admit. If you allow yourself a little breather to scroll through the Facebook feed "just real quick", you will waste a lot of precious time. Rather than keeping Facebook open on a side tab, I keep my knitting on my desk. When I sit back to muse over something, I pick up my knitting to give my hands something to do while my mind works on the problem. If I let my hands go free, I'll inevitably click over and read something that breaks my train of thought.

Another sure-fire way of working through a problem without getting distracted with social media is to wash a load of dishes! Your family will be glad to see that you've emerged alive and well from your little writing hovel and your body will be thankful for the change of scenery and posture. {Soapy hot water sure has a way of clearing my head so as to come up with new ideas and work through plot-knots!} And if you're just sick of writing, take a sibling for a walk. Trust me, you'll need the fresh air. Plus, you need to keep investing in your relationships throughout November.

Tip #10: If you want to listen to music while you write, try music that doesn't have lyrics. Go to Pandora and type in your favorite composer {Hans Zimmer is great for action scenes while Jon Schmidt really sets the tone for sweeter interactions} You can take a listen at my Writing Pandora Station or Be Still Station if you want. 

Tip #11: Put your phone on silent and only check the messages periodically {if necessary—if you can put your phone in another room that's a better idea}. 

Tip #12: Sign out of Facebook and Google Plus for the month or only allow yourself to check them after you've made the day's word-count goal {but, really, if you've done that, your family probably misses you}. 

Tip #13: If you have some fun thing you'd rather do with your free time than write, make it a reward for finishing your word-count goal for the day. Challenges like this take a lot of self-discipline. Exercise that willpower! If it starts getting stressful, though, reevaluate things with your parents.

Be Careful

NaNoWriMo is not an exclusively Christian event. The "pep-talks" they send out push a lot of foolish ideas and sometimes contain cursing {and even blasphemy}. Read with caution or skip them all together.

Also, NaNoWriMo has forums. I have ventured on there a few times, but have largely found it to be a waste of time. Once or twice I discussed some things with Christians, and that was profitable, but I would advise extreme caution with those forums. There are a lot of non-Christians who participate and their conversation is often not very edifying {and sometimes down-right shameful}!

Tip #14: For more time and less fluff, skip the "pep-talks." They can be fun, but they can also be very, very foolish. I think we should write a better series of "pep-talks" to encourage Christian authoresses. 

Tip #15: Show the forums to your parents and ask whether or not it would be profitable for you to join the discussions. It is not a requirement to do so in order to participate in this event. 

Focus On Writing

The #1 tip for producing a novel ready?........WRITE! Don't get distracted by trying to follow some method, or trying to make your words come out perfectly the first time. Just pray and write. Write, write, write, write. Write knowing that you're practicing a useful skill and disciplining yourself to get thoughts out of your head and onto paper. That's a huge thing. 

Tip #16: Turn off spell-check. It doesn't matter if your words are spelled write in the first draft. Just focus on getting your thoughts out. You can proofread later {and practice perfect spelling when penning a letter to a friend}. Focus!

Tip #17: Did you just write a sentence that came out all funky? If you have a better way of wording the sentence, go ahead and change it. But if reworking the sentence is going to be a struggle, just leave it. If your thought came through coherently enough, you can rework it in December. If your thought didn't, just explain your thought in rough terms in parentheses just after the sentence.

Tip #18: Sometimes we write plots right off the edge of a cliff. If you do that, or get lost, or realize that everything you wrote is completely irrelevant to the story, don't scrap it! Just highlight the text, turn it a light grey and keep going {or move it to the bottom of the document}. In writing that section, believe it or not, you were being productive. You learned one way not to develop the plot. I urge you not to delete those sections because, 1) you'll be taking away from a word-count you earned, and, 2) you might surprise yourself and need to reference that "deleted scene" later!

Tip #19: Don't get too crazy about updating your word-count. If you find yourself getting distracted by the need to update it, try to set a limit for yourself. "I will only update if I write 100 more words" or 500 or 1k—whatever will work best for you.

Get a Head Start
Catching up is always much harder than staying ahead. If you get into word-count debt at the beginning of the month, you're most likely to be drowned in it by the end. Try to work your schedule around so that you have the most time in the month to devote to writing right at first. You'll tend to be most zealous about reaching your goal right at the beginning of the venture. Reigning in a substantial word-count right at the beginning does a lot to keep on motivated to persevere and is huge blessing once Thanksgiving nears.

Tip #20: Ask your parents if you can invest the majority of your writing time at the beginning of the month. 

Tip #21: Plan to stay up all night on October 31st–November 1st. Set a high but realistic word-count goal for your first writing marathon. Start writing at midnight and don't stop until you drop {or hit the goal, which is always awesome}. It's thrilling to update your word-count by a few thousand in the wee hours of the morning on November 1st. By doing this, I was able to write a 5,220 words—that's over 1/5th of the entire month's goal in one day!

Tip #22: Keep the momentum going the first week. I set the goal of 10k on day two and almost made it with 9,225. I may have kept writing past midnight—I can't remember. I tried to keep up the pace and broke 20k by the end of the first week {taking the Sabbath off, of course}.

Take Thanksgiving Week Off
I know this sounds crazy. Not only are we taking off four Sundays, but a whole week?! Thanksgiving is a big deal in our family. My great-grandparents travel down from East Texas {or we go up} and it's a wonderful opportunity to invest in family unity. In 2012, I took seven days off to prepare and celebrate a Thanksgiving feast with family and friends. 

In order to do this, I made a word-count goal. I decided to get to 40,000 words before Thanksgiving week. I had to adjust my daily goals accordingly. I was able to accomplish that, relax and enjoy Thanksgiving, and then wrap up that last 10k over the remaining week whilst eating Thomas Jefferson sandwiches to my heart's content {I'm telling you—best way to eat Thanksgiving leftovers}.

Tip #23: Remember your priorities! Don't sacrifice family unity and family traditions for a personal goal. NaNoWriMo is a fun challenge...but that's all it is. If your uncle asks you to come outside and run around on crunchy leaves and catch footballs, don't give your word-count a second thought—GO!

Tip #24: Try to get 40k by Thanksgiving week. If you do that, you'll be able to totally relax when you take a whole week off to help prepare the feast and fellowship with your family. 

Priorities, Priorities, Priorities
Have I stressed this issue enough? Heh. This is so important to remember, sister. Check out Psalms 127. Unless the Lord builds a house, they labor in vain that build it. How much more can that be said of your little novel? If you're writing in the Spirit, rather than in the flesh, your project will have eternal value. However, if you are stubborn about doing what you want, you will slip into idolatry and the Lord will chastise you for that. Don't sacrifice your duties in covenantal relationships for a personal goal.

I promise you, I can say this from a knowledge of Scripture and from experience: as soon as something ceases to be dedicated to God's plan for history and the good of His people, He will firmly and lovingly take it from you. 

Tip #25: Hold your writing project with loose hands. If the Lord leads through your authorities and they encourage you to pull out of NaNoWriMo, listen to them. The Lord put them in that position to shepherd you. If you have to neglect sibling relationships in order to get your word-count goal, question whether it is worth it. Perhaps you could just write your book over a longer length of time so you don't have to go missing from the home. You could always set your word-count goal lower. There's nothing wrong with that. If you see your mother half-asleep and yet dragging herself to the kitchen sink, forget your word-count. Go relieve her. If the Lord sees fit to take something away from His child, He always has a greater plan. Trust Him, rest in His Sovereignty and keep your priorities straight!!!

Do you have any tips for making NaNoWriMo a success?
Feel free to share your ideas and NaNoWriMo profiles in the comments below.
I'll be sure to check them out!

Happy writing, sisters!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Security {Cauley's Journey Into Midwifery, part 4}

Miss this series? Start at Part One: "Assets"


True Security
As young American women, we face fearful questions at every turn. With the breakdown of the family, irrelevance of the church and the infringements of the state turning the future into one big question mark, it's understandable why gals our age are starving for security. We're told we can find it in the right guy, in this politician, in that career, or in ourselves—but Scripture teaches something different.

~ Psalm 37:3 ~

"Trust in the LORD, and do good;
dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness." (ESV)

"Trust in the LORD, and do good;
so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed." (KJV)

"Trust in the LORD, and do good;
Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness." (NKJV)

"Trust in the LORD and do good; 
Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness." (NASB)

It is so interesting to see the four alternate translations of the same promise. "Faithfulness" is the key word, though, and it means "firmness, fidelity, steadfastness, steadiness." And the word translated as verily, feed and cultivate? It literally means "to pasture."  The world can make all of the hollow offers it wants, but there is life in the land where faithfulness flourishes. How can we be sure of this steady future? Because it is in the context of a relationship with One with Whom there is no shadow of turning (James 1:17).

He is faithful, and the command is unmistakable: trust in the Lord. Is there a better place to put our confidence? In fickle man (Psalm 118:8)? In the promises of civil rulers (Psalm 118:9)? In the precarious institutions of humanism (Psalm 2; Psalm 102:26, 27; Ezekiel 21:27; Hebrews 12:27)? 

Trust in the Lord and do good. How? Do means to work, make, produce. So this trusting in God plan isn't some pietistic retreat from the real world—it's a plan to dwell in it and be productive. 

So how do we go about doing good work?

Next Up:
{Cauley's Journey Into Midwifery, part 5}

Want to skip around?

Part 1: Assets
Part 2: Direction
Part 3: Fears
Part 4: Security
Part 5: Education
Part 6: Getting Started
Part 7: God Will Act + Exciting Announcement!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Fears {Cauley's Journey Into Midwifery, part 3}

Miss this series? Start at Part One: "Assets"

But, what if?
The future can be a difficult topic for a Christian young lady, for there are so many unanswered questions looming on the horizon. Will I get married or stay single? Will I be rich or poor? Will the economy be resilient or will some socio-economic collapse happen in my lifetime? Sometimes these 'what if's attach themselves to our thought processes and drain us of our joy and peace. How can a Christian girl ever equip herself for a future so riddled with unknown dangers?

I remember trying to explain some decisions that I made a few years back and having concerned friends ask me things like, "Well, what are you going to do if you marry a man who leaves you? How will you take care of yourself and your children financially?" I have been a witness to people losing their wealth to thieves, I've looked into the troubled faces of rape victims and I've come to understand that our choices literally mean life or death to many. I've known people who have been neglected, abused, diseased, abandoned, hated, deceived, betrayed, persecuted, homeless, ordered to sin, harassed by tyrants, stolen from and murdered. {While at the moment I can't think of anyone I've met personally who has been subject to starvation, I've read about them.} Though I've had very few trials actually hit home {and in those, God's mercies have been so indescribably abundant}, I have at least had second-hand knowledge of some of the more difficult things in life.

In making decisions that will shape our own futures, McCauley and I discuss these things at length. "What if... what'll we do... how will we...?" We wrestled through some of these things again as we folded towels this morning, before she went back to her books and I to my word processor.

~ Matthew 6:19, 20 ~ 

"Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth,
where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal,

but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven,
where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

The temptation to disparage, to default, to bury our talents in the sand and escape the challenge is often great. Would it really be a compromise to trade just a little bit of the liberty we have in Christ for the security that man-made institutions have to offer? The wide and well-traveled path seems to demand so little in exchange for so much. When immediate demands press heavy, we often find our eyes straying to the right and to the left, wondering what opportunities for temporary comfort that we might be missing in our pursuit of eternal returns.

Indeed, there are some very real dangers to consider. To put it simply, there are a lot of bad guys out there who would jump at the chance to take advantage of my sister and I {and any other young lady} in any number of ways. If we are so focused on the future of God's Kingdom, will we forget the warnings of the past and neglect necessarily preparations in the present? There are many conventional routes we could be taking right now to supposedly secure for ourselves good degrees, good careers, good credit, good standing with social services—why are we not scrambling for that security?

Dependence on covenantal relationships can leave one vulnerable to a lot of dangers: shouldn't we be securing our independence with contracts? Couldn't we focus on ministry a few years down the road, once we're well on our way toward individual success in the current American economy?

Next Up:

Monday, October 7, 2013

Direction {Cauley's Journey Into Midwifery, part 2}

Miss this series? Start at Part One: "Assets"

How does a maiden advance the Kingdom of God?
This is quite the loaded question, is it not? My sister and I been discussing it over the past few years, each from our own respective vantage points. I tend to rationalize according to a set of ideals while she tends to rationalize according to experience—though we sometimes switch places. We've challenged each other, wrestling over real issues and poking holes in the other's theories. We've found that the discussions are most edifying and productive when we both leave off of our own fallible and untried reason and look instead to the Ultimate Standard: Scripture. 

~ Matthew 6:31-34 ~

"Therefore do not be anxious, saying,
'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?'
For the Gentiles seek after all these things,
and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness,
and all these things will be added to you.

"Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow,
for tomorrow will be anxious for itself.
Sufficient for the day is its own trouble."

Whatever we do, we must seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. This focus must be the sole direction of every single one of our educational and occupational decisions. To seek anything less (e.g. comfort, security, wealth, fame, etc. in the humanist world systems) would be to bury our talents in the sand.

Next Up:
{Cauley's Journey Into Midwifery, part 3}

Want to skip around?

Part 1: Assets
Part 2: Direction
Part 3: Fears
Part 4: Security
Part 5: Education
Part 6: Getting Started
Part 7: God Will Act + Exciting Announcement!

Monday, September 30, 2013

Assets {Cauley's Journey Into Midwifery, part 1}

Wow. The last few months have been such a whirlwind of questions asked, prayers answered, and lessons learned. And in this tapestry of grace that we call life, we're following McCauley's thread into an exciting and challenging place. 

Before I endeavor to trace that thread for you in this latest update, I wish to provide some context.
{But stick around! At the end of this series, we have an exciting announcement to make!}

How are you changing the world?
This is the question Cauley asked herself some time ago. She knew that her life would have a very real and lasting effect, that her choices would either promote the hopelessness of humanism or the everlasting joys of righteousness. She knew that she had the privilege and duty to lay down her life for the cause of Christ. She knew that by default she was changing the world, either for good or evil, so she wanted to devote her influence upon the world to the advancement of the Kingdom of God.

~ Matthew 25:13-30 ~ 
a parable of Christ

"Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.

"For it will be like a man going on a journey,
who called his servants and entrusted to them his property.

To one he gave five talents, to another two,
to another one, to each according to his ability.

Then he went away.

He who had received the five talents went at once
and traded with them, and he made five talents more.

So also he who had the two talents made two talents more.

But he who had received the one talent went
and dug in the ground and hid his master's money.

Now after a long time the master of those servants
came and settled accounts with them.

And he who had received the five talents came forward,
bringing five talents more, saying,
'Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.'

His master said to him,
'Well done, good and faithful servant.
You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much.
Enter into the joy of your master.'

And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying,
'Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.'

His master said to him,
'Well done, good and faithful servant.
You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much.
Enter into the joy of your master.'

He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying,
'Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow,
and gathering where you scattered no seed,
so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground.
Here you have what is yours.'

But his master answered him,
'You wicked and slothful servant!
You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed?
Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers,
and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest.

So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents.

For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance.

But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.
And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness.
In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'"

The more Cauley and I dive in to the Word of God, the more sobered we are by reality. Everything we've been given is an asset that belongs to our Lord Jesus.

Are we being like the good and faithful servants who wisely invested everything that their lord gave them? Will we begin at once to strive to faithfully invest, cultivate and increase everything He's given us by 200%? Or will we be like the unprofitable servant and cowardly hide away the assets He has given us to steward and instead invest our time into building and protecting our own self-centered little kingdoms?

These are very important questions to my sister and I, compelling us to dig into the Scriptures given to us by our merciful Lord and Savior and to beg that He give us wisdom. He promises to generously provide wisdom to all who ask in faith (James 1).

Next Up:

Thursday, August 1, 2013

What the Media Cleanse is Not

August is here and the Media Cleanse has officially begun!

But, there has been a touch of confusion over what the Media Cleanse is exactly. Perhaps we should provide some clarification:

The Media Cleanse is not a "fast" from all media intake. Someone asked if I'd stop reading books—absolutely not! We are only abstaining from certain types of media, namely, anything that portrays the breaking of God's Law as acceptable or funny {unless we're intentionally, actively analyzing said media.} But, please. If you join us, don't stop reading books, blogs and newspapers! Don't stop listening to music! Don't skip out on that family movie night planned to watch a Christian movie or documentary! Just keep on guard and analyze everything according a Biblical worldview.

Now, take a moment to read another very important note about this cleanse, written by the event's co-host, Andrew Romanowitz:

"The Media Cleanse is not a chance to try out this "personal holiness" thing and see if it's right for you. To be frank, personal holiness is right for you, and you do not need a free 30-day trial to be sure of that fact. The standards that we will set for ourselves during this media cleanse should govern our whole lives. But even those who fight in a war set temporary objectives to win battles. Winning a battle is not winning a war, but you must win battles to win a war. I am challenging you, my friend and brother in Christ, to give special attention to this one area of personal holiness for the month of August, in order that you might establish some spiritually healthy habits in the area of media consumption." {Continue reading this article. You won't regret it.}

This event is also being hosted on the following blogs:

Happy August!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Media Cleanse Buzz

There's already some great discussion going on about August's Media Cleanse, which will start in just a couple of days! Here are some highlights:

From Koleesa Amundson of Dogs, Wars and Femininity:
"I have done things similar to this very recently and have found it extremely worth while." 

From Sarah Lee Bryant of KBR Ministries:
"This is an important idea... for all of our life at all times, as believers. Thank you for hosting it and encouraging our generation to think Biblically and evaluate everything in light of God's precious, enlightening Word. One media cleanse I have done in the past was to completely fast from internet, except email, for an entire month. The Lord used this powerfully to redirect my focus to the pure wholeness of His Word, eliminating all the distractions of modern media. "O that my ways were directed to keep thy statutes! Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word." -Ps 119 Blessings to each of you who honor Christ by cleansing your temples."

From Andrew Romanowitz of Sons of the Remnant:
"Thank you... for encouraging us all in the obedience of Christ. Let me take a moment and say to my friends who have received this invitation that I would heartily encourage you to take this opportunity to re-evaluate your media consumption habits in the light of God's word.
It takes a lot less effort to be very, very scrupulous and keep the gates closed to that which is unwholesome and spiritually toxic in the world of media than it does to recover lost ground where you've made concessions, because you've eroded your convictions and compromised your conscience. 
Don't let those gates down; we must fight for every inch of ground against the world, the flesh, and the devil. Discernment does involve being able to determine truth and error, good and evil in what we consume. But being able to identify poison does not give us a free pass to consume it. 
If you have let those gates down, the fact is that you've become gradually desensitized in your mind. If you're vegging out over and over on media that teaches what is contrary to the commands of Christ, you need to consider whether you are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. When lawless thoughts are introduced into our minds, how do we respond? With holy revulsion or at best passive disapproval? 
I've kept the gates closed all my life to lawless media. A couple of times they've begun to come down, but I've quickly closed them again. So I don't have as much de-toxing to do. The one area where I've made concessions is musical aesthetics, and because I have convictions on that matter, what I intend to do during this upcoming month is take a break from that music for which I've made concessions and re-evaluate how it has influenced me for good or for evil. I say this to point out that, in our media-saturated society, all of us have something that we can do to reform our lives in this area. Maybe what you're listening to isn't necessarily wrong in and of itself, but tends to shift your personal focus from serving Christ to pursuing your own pleasures. Maybe you've just been spending so much time with media that it's crowding out important relationships. Maybe you're consuming so much media that your mind is being weakened by passively receiving so much content, and your intellectual strength is weakened. These are all things to consider; content is not the only issue. 
While you're detoxing, instead of vegging out on entertainment, let me encourage you to spend some time listening to biblical instruction on making media choices in the light of following Christ. My friend Mr. Phillip Telfer has a ministry called Media Talk 101 which is dedicated to helping Christians with this very thing. Over the past few months they've begun to produce some podcasts which deal with a whole range of issues surrounding the obedience of Christ in the world of media. You can download these podcasts for free here..."  {Here's the link.
{Andrew posted a blog about the Media Cleanse. It's incrediblePlease take time to read it.}

We have 40 participants and counting. Will you be one of them? You can join the event on Facebook or on Google Plus

This event is also being hosted on the following blogs:

(You still have an opportunity to sign up for
co-hosting by emailing me at ladylrae [at] gmail [dot] com.)

Join the Conversation
What do you think the standard should be for media consumption?

Friday, July 19, 2013

Make a Covenant With Your Eyes This August

I've been reading a bit about detoxing for health reasons. Eliminating toxins from one's body is beneficial for boosting energy, focus and the immune system.

While I've been doing pretty good diet-wise, I've begun to consume a lot of "junk-food" media. To a degree, I can see the consequences in my life.

"That would've been such a cute movie if it weren't for...
...and then that scene we had to fast-forward where...
...and there was that other scene...
...and, well, there was that fight with her parents...
...and she wasn't exactly modest...
...and he was pretty rebellious, wasn't he?....
...but they were sooo cute together!"

Sound familiar?

When I don't take the time to analyze and thoroughly "digest" the worldly media that I'm consuming, the toxic build-up often results in spiritual lethargy, loss of Kingdom-focus and becoming desensitized to sin.

The following verses convict me:

"Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity; and quicken thou me in thy way."
{Psalms 119:37}

"He that walketh righteously, and speaketh uprightly; he that despiseth the gain of oppressions, that shaketh his hands from holding of bribes, that stoppeth his ears from hearing of blood, and shutteth his eyes from seeing evil;"
{Isaiah 33:15}

"For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world."
{1 John 2:16}

"So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom."
{Psalms 90:12}

"Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour. But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks. For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. Be not ye therefore partakers with them. For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light: (For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;) Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret. But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light: for whatsoever doth make manifest is light. Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light. See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil."
 {Ephesians 5:1-16}

For the month of August, we're going to make "a covenant with our eyes" to avoid any books and turn off any show/movie/song/website that portrays the breaking of God's Law as acceptable and/or funny. {The only exception will be the times when we are actively analyzing the media through a Biblical lens.}

Here's an idea of what that covenant will look like for us:

By God's grace, during this "cleanse" I will not be passively entertained by any media that portrays the following as acceptable or pleasantly humorous:
  • Idolatry
  • Blasphemy {the taking of God's name in vain or the light regard of God's name in phrases like: "oh my g--" and the like}
  • Dishonouring parents
  • Murder / hatred / lawless revenge
  • Theft / piracy / cheating
  • Lust / fornication / adultery / sodomy
  • Dishonesty / deceiving legitimate authorities
  • Covetousness / discontentment with godly institutions and standards
 In the event that the media I'm consuming takes a sinful turn, I will either take the time to honestly analyse and judge the message from a Biblical worldview OR I will turn my eyes away from beholding "vanity fair" and choose instead to invest my time in drawing nigh unto the Lord in study/prayer or to worship Him by engaging in Kingdom-advancing service.

"Kingdom-advancing service" here In The Thinking Tree means a lot of work in and out of the studio! Cauley said that she's looking forward to all we'll accomplish without the distraction of all those shows we've let slip in over the past few months. Prayerfully, we'll be able to redeem more time that can be invested in our home, business and ministry opportunities.

Would you like to prayerfully consider joining us in this month-long challenge by making the same covenant with your eyes?

Tips for Success:
1) Sign the covenant, and hang it up in a place where you'll see it and be reminded of your motivation behind participating. You can print our version of the pledge here.
2) Join the event. In a challenge like this, accountability is your friend. You can sign up for the event on Facebook or Google Plus and join dozens of other Christians who are participating this August. {There is already some pretty great discussion going on!}
3) Explain your decision to join the "Media Cleanse" to a family member. Siblings are especially good at helping keep one accountable! Perhaps they'll even want to join you!
4) Get motivated. I have never been able to absorb worldly media with very much comfort after listening to the message on this video. {Some of the images may be disturbing for littles. Please don't let the slide-show distract you from the important audio message that is presented here, in part, by Paul Washer.}

This event is also being hosted on the following blogs:

Looking forward to August,

P.S. Are you a blogger? Email me at ladylrae {at} gmail {dot} com if you'd like to to co-host this event! The requirements for co-hosting are few and simple, plus your blog will be linked in this post! {I'll have to do a quick check of your blog, though, to make sure I feel comfortable with linking to it.}