Complaining, Contentment, and Graves of Craving

Do everything without grumbling or arguing. Phil. 2:14
Our pastor has been preaching on the book of Numbers the past several weeks. When he started this series after Christmas, I was a little curious as to what he could possibly preach about, since many of the chapters are just census information. However, Numbers is a rich book about the Lord and His people in the wilderness, and our pastor has given his congregation much to ponder over. I've been meaning to write about one sermon he gave towards the beginning of the series, which was on Numbers 11. This sermon really convicted me about my own life. Here is the passage from which he spoke:
Numbers 11:4-15, 31-34
The rabble with them began to crave other food, and again the Israelites started wailing and said, "If only we had meat to eat! 5 We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost—also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. 6 But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!"

7 The manna was like coriander seed and looked like resin. 8 The people went around gathering it, and then ground it in a handmill or crushed it in a mortar. They cooked it in a pot or made it into cakes. And it tasted like something made with olive oil. 9 When the dew settled on the camp at night, the manna also came down.

10 Moses heard the people of every family wailing, each at the entrance to his tent. The LORD became exceedingly angry, and Moses was troubled. 11 He asked the LORD, "Why have you brought this trouble on your servant? What have I done to displease you that you put the burden of all these people on me? 12 Did I conceive all these people? Did I give them birth? Why do you tell me to carry them in my arms, as a nurse carries an infant, to the land you promised on oath to their forefathers? 13 Where can I get meat for all these people? They keep wailing to me, 'Give us meat to eat!' 14 I cannot carry all these people by myself; the burden is too heavy for me. 15 If this is how you are going to treat me, put me to death right now—if I have found favor in your eyes—and do not let me face my own ruin."

31 Now a wind went out from the LORD and drove quail in from the sea. It brought them down all around the camp to about three feet above the ground, as far as a day's walk in any direction. 32 All that day and night and all the next day the people went out and gathered quail. No one gathered less than ten homers. Then they spread them out all around the camp. 33 But while the meat was still between their teeth and before it could be consumed, the anger of the LORD burned against the people, and he struck them with a severe plague. 34 Therefore the place was named Kibroth Hattaavah, because there they buried the people who had craved other food.

In this passage, the Israelites are complaining about their circumstances. Life had seemed so much better before they were left to wander in the wilderness. They were probably hot, tired, and hungry. Tired of eating manna. They just wanted a simple request--meat. God could easily provide that, even in the midst of the desert. So they started to complain. I can imagine them before Moses, thinking that just a taste of meat would be a simple request. The thought must have eventually consumed them.

Usually, this is how I see complaining in my own life. Things are not quite up to my expectations, so I pick and prod to get things done. It's just a simple thing I need, I tell myself. It doesn't even really matter. I must admit that my husband tends to get most of my complaining. After all, if I don't complain, things may not be done quite right. Eventually, the thoughts tend to well up inside, and I dwell on them far too long. However, I still tend to push it aside and think that it really isn't that big of a deal.

But after hearing our pastor's sermon, it struck me that complaining really is significant. When my expectations are not met, I linger on that fact and think, poor little me. I complain in order to weasel my way into having my expectations met. At this point, I'm not only being selfish and petty, but more importantly, I am becoming my own god. I'm essentially saying that I know how to do things better than God concerning the things in my life, and I want control. I want what's best for me.

I found it striking about the name Kibroth-hattaavah. It literally translates into graves of craving. What a vivid image! The devastation caused by their disobedience left many dead. I can almost picture the graves of those who rallied against God's wisdom for their lives in the wilderness, and dying after receiving what they thought was best. And to think, I'm so much like them!

It's astoundingly comforting to know that our Lord knows what's best for our lives. I know that I cannot understand His ways many times, and complaining seems like the easiest route to try to gain control. But I know that I shouldn't complain--it is sin. God is orchestrating every detail of my life, and I need to rest in that fact. Complaining certainly will not get me anywhere, so I must be content and trust in the Lord

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Join the Party!

So most of you are probably already aware of the Ultimate Blog Party hosted by 5 Minutes For Mom. Beth and I have decided to join in the fun! Look forward to seeing some new posts from us next week to celebrate with the best of 'em!

For those who haven't heard of the Party before now, it's a week-long bash where people get out, meet new people through their blogs, post fun things, and be eligible for a huge prize give-away on Friday, March 9th! You can read more about it on the website.

I'd love to decorate for the party if I can get my act together and change the template!! :-) Stay tuned for that, as well as some fun posts from both Beth and I. (Yes, Beth has promised to post! She has been conspicuously absent from this blog, but I assure you it's just because she's been extremely busy lately. But you should leave comments telling her how much you miss her so she'll come back sooner!)

Now, hurry over to 5 Minutes For Mom so you can join in the craziness too!!

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Random Thoughts

Life is settling down a little bit again, so I hope to have a few good posts up soon. Work has been very busy the past recently, but things look like they will quiet down again very soon.

I've been meaning to post on several happenings at home, but since I keep putting it off, I'll throw everything into one post.

. . . I still haven't gotten around to cleaning out my cabinets, but I'm hoping to tackle this project this weekend. I'd like to get rid of several appliances I never use to free up my cabinet space, so that I can have more room to buy some bulk products (like flour, sugar, etc.), since I go through these quickly, and they tend to be cheaper in bulk . . .

. . . I recently picked up the Tightwad Gazette from my library--I absolutely love this book and may try to find it at a local used bookstore. In it are wonderful tips and advice for living the frugal life, which she explains is not depriving oneself, but being a better steward of available resources. As a celebrate a year of abundance, I hope to implement some of her recommendations at home. . . .

. . . I've found another way to put my sewing skills to good use. Hubby and I have been needing coasters for our living room, and the ones we have seen at Target and other places have been about $12 for a set of 4, and these were the ugly cheap coasters. I decided to make a set of 8 from my fabric stash, using this pattern. I'll have to post pictures later, since I've been lazy and have not gotten around to taking pictures . . .

. . . And, finally, I want to share that my coffee habit has been harder to break than I originally thought. I was hoping to rely on a morning cup of tea to get me through the day, since I have a limitless supply. Instead, I still buy coffee most every morning. I'm still trying to cut back and enjoy the tea that I have!

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The Beauty of Isaiah

This week's Carnival of Beauty is on the Beauty of Isaiah. Please be sure to check out all the lovely posts on this topic.

  • Barbara over at Fuel talks about an experience and a revelation she had of the truth of God's Word at a ladies retreat a few years ago. It was a transformational moment, and something that brings peace to her life. It is also a truth she intends to pass on to her children so they don't need to carry the baggage she carried along for so much of her life. Read more about "Can It Really Be True?"
  • And finally, Ashley wrote about her experiences running track and how she clung to Isaiah 40 for the strength and encouragement she needed to pursue to the end. Read more about "The Extra Push".
Thank you everyone for submitting your pieces! We hope everyone has a chance to reflect on the Beauty of Isaiah this week. Be sure to join the Carnival next week for the Beauty of Red!

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The Extra Push

When I was in middle and high school, I ran track. I started as a sprinter, and then moved to long distance. I didn't excel at either - I think my race was more the 400 m - but I stuck with the long distance for a long time. Sometimes it was so hard to keep going... Panting heavily, my chest aching, my muscles screaming for respite. Those races would take a lot out of me, as I pushed myself to make it to the finish line. I would talk to myself to keep me from quitting. One passage from Isaiah kept me going:

Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The LORD is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and His understanding no one can fathom.

He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.

Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;

but those who hope in the LORD
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.

- Isaiah 40: 28-31
There are two passages of Scripture I always read outloud whenever I am feeling down or discouraged: Psalm 139 and Isaiah 40. I would cling to the latter chapter when I was running. The idea of soaring like an eagle... running and not growing weary! I must admit, as I came panting to the finish line, I rarely felt that I was soaring. That's something I look forward to being able to do in Heaven!

This passage doesn't refer to just physical strength, though. How many times do we feel weary from life? Tired of running... Worn out from whatever trials we may be facing... "Even youths grow tired and weary..." For me, some of the biggest trials have been waiting... Waiting for the time to be right, waiting for the next bend in the road. I've gotten tired of the monotony of daily life during those times.

The beauty of this passage is that it offers hope to those of us who are tired and weary. Have you not heard? The LORD doesn't grow tired. He always has the strength needed to get to the end. And the best news of all - He freely gives it to those who "hope in Him". They will feel strengthened, renewed. They will soar on wings like eagles. Wow!

God has blessed me a lot - I haven't had to deal with some of the difficult trials that others have dealt with. In some ways, I don't feel that I can truly speak of the wonderful strength that God has to give us. I can only offer what His word says, through His prophet Isaiah... He knows you don't have the strength to finish on your own. That's why He is standing there right next to you, giving you a water bottle and giving you that extra boost of energy you need to make it to the finish line!

Can I say it again? Our God is so good.

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Carnival of Beauty Here!

This week's Carnival of Beauty is being hosted here at Onward & Upward! We are going to be exploring the Beauty of Isaiah. If you would like to participate, please send an email to us at onwardupward {at} ashleydesign {dot} org. Please submit them by Tuesday, Feb. 20th. The deadline is technically 3pm (EST), but we will be accepting submissions into the evening (until 8 or 9pm).

We look forward to your submissions! And be sure to check back on Wednesday to read all the posts on the Beauty of Isaiah.

If you would like to know what the Carnival is all about, please check out Sallie's blog.

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Happy Valentine's Day!

Happy Valentine's Day from Onward & Upward!

Valentine's Day is a special day to give us a chance to tell each other "I love you". Sometimes we don't take the time to say that enough! It's a day to celebrate romance, and those close to our hearts. (It's also a day to enjoy flowers and candy. :-) Hehe)

And now, one of my favorite romantic verses from the Bible (I guess I identify with having to wait for a loved one!):

"So Jacob served seven years to get Rachel, but they seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her." Genesis 29:20
Some 1 Corinthians 13 always seems appropriate:
"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails." 1 Corinthians 13: 4-8a
And the greatest Love Story of all:
"Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." John 15:13

"For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16

"As a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you." Isaiah 62:5b

"In Your unfailing love You will lead the people You have redeemed. In Your strength You will guide them to Your holy dwelling." Exodus 15:13
We hope you all have a wonderful day, whether you are spending it with a loved one, family, or friends!

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Lambs and Innocence

"He tends His flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in His arms
and carries them close to His heart;
He gently leads those that have young."
- Isaiah 40:11
The Bible often compares us to sheep, and the Lord is our Shepherd. If that is the case, then lambs are our children - the young, innocent (naive) ones who don't yet know how evil the world can be. Little lambs, with small bleating cries and unsteady legs, keeping close to their mothers who provide safety and security. Little lambs, who were the Jewish symbol of sacrifice and atonement, being the innocent (not guilty) ones who paid the cost of our sin. Christ is called the Lamb of God, showing His innocence and His sacrifice.

But lambs aren't just symbols of sacrifice, but also symbols of the littlest among us. We're flocks of sheep, following our master, looking for the best and most tasty grass. Along the way, lambs join our flock, which delights our Master. Lambs are the most vulnerable of us all, prey to wolves and other predatory animals who watch closely. For this reason, our Shepherd pays special attention to the lambs. He carries them close to His heart, not letting go because He knows the lamb is safer there. He keeps the mothers close to Him so He can keep an eye on them. And aren't we scared sometimes? Do we hear the howling of the wolves from oh the not-so-great distance? Yet a hand comes down to rest on our wooly heads, comforting us. A scarred hand, a broken hand - a symbol of the sacrifice that was paid. Without that, we would be next in line for the altar, because our sinful hearts could not get us into heaven.

The beauty of lambs is that we are not stuck in a sinful rut forever. Because of the Lamb's innocence, we have been given a gift - a wonderful, beautiful gift of eternal life. And as we take care of our husbands and our families, we can be assured that our Shepherd will keep us close to Him, not letting us go. After all, He paid the price so we could live, so He won't let us go.

I have a natural affinity to lambs and sheep. In Spanish, my last name means "lamb". The coat of arms has five dancing sheep on it. (Um... yes...) I am His little lamb. He loves me that much. I like that verse in Isaiah, because it reminds me of how near my Savior keeps me. And because of Christ's sacrifice, our sins are washed away as if we are innocent of any wrong-doing, and we are able to enter heaven.

Thank You, Jesus, for Your sinlessness and being the sacrificial lamb so I can live with You in eternity.
The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures,
He leads me beside quiet waters,

He restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness
for His name's sake.

Even though I walk
through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff,
they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.

Surely goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD

- Psalm 23:1-6

This piece was written as a submission for the Carnival of Beauty: The Beauty of Innocence.

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Keziah's Peru Trip

For those who might not have seen, Keziah has done a series of posts about her trip as a medical missionary to Peru - complete with pictures! It's pretty cool, so I'd recommend that everyone go check it out. :-)

Declare His Glory Among the Nations: part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6

Thanks so much for posting this, Keziah!
If you have posted about a missions trip experience recently, let me know and I'll add your links to the list. I love reading about this. :-)

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Decorating Help

So I am in need of some serious decorating help! Paul and I moved into our new townhouse almost three months ago. We like it, but to be honest, the living room feels so... empty and sterile. This is where you come in! I need some decorating ideas. First, here are pictures of the living room now.

(I was going to tidy up before taking the picture, but then I decided the before/after effect would be more dramatic with the clutter!)

The desire:
The stipulations:
  • I'm not allowed to buy any new furniture (although I can mix and match with furniture we already own).
  • Since we most likely will be moving in a year or two, I don't want to buy things so specific that I can't reuse it in a new house.
  • I am already planning on painting the bottom half of the wall (from the chair rail down), but I don't want to paint the whole wall
  • I am planning to buy or make curtains, but I need to decide what color and style (as you see, the windows are quite narrow... about 2 ft.)
  • I am willing to buy a sofa/loveseat slipcovers if I can find them for a good price and the color I want. I really hate the sofa but I'm stuck with it for now, so covering it up would be good. :-)
  • I'd love to have some greenery but I'm HORRIBLE with live plants... so fake plants perhaps?
Okay, feel free to pelt me with your ideas! I think the biggest thing I want is a clear theme or color scheme... I can go from there usually, but right now I just feel so frustrated and at a loss with where to start. So any help you can give will be very appreciated! :-)

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Nominations Open!

Nominations for the Hidden Treasure Blog Award at Everyday Mommy are now open! There are eight categories:

  • Children & Family
  • Faith
  • Marriage
  • Motherhood
  • Homemaking
  • Humor
  • Current Events
  • Life
Be sure to submit your nominations for your favorite posts over at Everyday Mommy. Voting will begin on February 8th. And if you should find any posts from Onward & Upward that you think should be nominated, then please feel free to do that. ;-)

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