A Spark and a Bridge (Part 3)

A Spark and a Bridge Part 3

To Bridge: to make a way, to join, to connect, attach, bind unite

Be a Spark and a Bridge….  Those are the words I felt God give me as perimeters to all the other things the world would shout at me to be, to do, to accomplish in 2018.  A spark, even a small one, can light a great forest on fire (James 3:5).  An inspiration, even a small one can light a life on fire with passion.  So I have found the few fires that burn within me, and have committed to throw my spark.

A Spark and a Bridge Part 3

But sparks can be thrown from afar.  I have received sparks of inspiration from books I have read, testimonies I have heard from a stage, lives I have respected in history.  I bet you have too.  A spark cannot be held.

A bridge, on the other hand is solid under my feet.  It is trustworthy, for if it were not it would not be a bridge.  It is built and it is present, step by step.  A bridge connects and joins, unites and binds.  A bridge makes a way.

After a spark is lit, after an inspiration has caught in our hearts, do we know the way from aspiration to actuality?  The journey from idea to truth?  From theology to reality?  That journey takes a bridge.  And in my life, those bridges have always been flesh and blood humans that know the way.

When we made our trek to this West Texas town a dozen years ago, we were a family of 4… my husband, me, our extremely vulnerable and bruised marriage, our 1 year old daughter, and our 2 week old son (yep, you read that right).  I didn’t know a soul, but loneliness had been my companion for awhile.  Motherhood twice over in the same number of years had isolated me to the land of survival, but barely.  My soul was emaciated.  And then, by way of the unlikely bridge of an old high school friend of my husband’s, I found my way to an extraordinary group of women.  I recognized the wear of young motherhood in their eyes, but they were lighter than me, freer, bolder, connected.  I decided in the first 5 minutes that I would never let them go.

Very early on, while I was still wading in the extreme shallow end of these relationships, we sat in my living room for a Bible Study, and I surprised even myself when I meekly eked out a prayer request that had been weighing heavily on my heart.

And then Emmy prayed.

See, you just read that sentence as any other… words that conveyed information like all those before.  But within those 4 words, my life changed.  Dramatic?  Maybe.  True?  Absolutely.  I don’t know what to tell you…  I had never heard anything like it.  The passion, the authority, the authenticity, the familiarity…It was like prayer was the air she had been breathing all her life and asking for a miraculous healing was the most natural thing, the most logical thing she had ever done.

I did not know this scripture then, but I know it now and it is all I can use to describe this moment in my life: “For the Kingdom of God is not in word but in power.”  I Corinthians 4:20.  See, I had lots of words and I knew The Word, but I had never seen this kind of power.

And I wanted it.

This new friend of mine (please read “almost-stranger-in-my-living-room”) was no different from me, it appeared.  She was a stay-at-home mom just a few years further down the road than me.  She did the laundry and fed the Cheerios, and fumbled in marriage, and got frustrated when the toddler poured the water out of the bathtub by the cupfuls.  But when she opened her mouth that night, I knew there was a definite chasm between the two of us.  Not a shameful, or lonely chasm, but one that beckons to more.

A spark was lit in me that night that burns still.  A spark for prayer and the presence of God’s power in my life and in the lives of my family.  A spark lighting the authority we have in Christ.  A spark for wanting to see- no EXPECTING to see-the miraculous in our day to day.  A spark for an authenticity and familiarity with the God of the universe I had never known.

And if Emmy had walked out of my living room and life that night, that spark would have been lit still, and been real, and life-changing.  But she didn’t.  She took my hand and spent years walking me across the bridge of my reality to her’s. She was the bridge in fact… steady, trustworthy, strong.  She showed me the way, in word and deed.  I watched her life, her relationships, her passions.  I listened to the heart behind her “yes’s” and “no’s.”  I followed a few steps behind as she pursued Jesus in a way that was new and scary and unsure.  But she wasn’t scared or unsure.  She knew the way.  She wasn’t perfect, but she was the flesh and blood picture of where I wanted to get to in my apprenticeship to Jesus.

In I Corinthians 11:1 Paul says, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.”  Does that feel audacious to you?  Make you feel a little twitchy at all?   I mean shouldn’t our eyes only be fixed on Jesus and nothing else?  Shouldn’t He be enough?  Of course He is our one and only Lord and Savior.  But this is how He does it.. It’s how it has always worked.  Flesh and blood examples a few steps in front of us.  Bridges from where we are to where we want to be.  From who we are to who we want to be.  Paul was.  Emmy was.  Am I?  Are you?

The Great Commission in Matthew 28:19 says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations….”  In other words, “Go. Be a bridge from them to the Father.  From theology to reality.  From ideas to truth.  Go take hands and lead them from there to here.  Bring them to Me.  Let them follow you as you follow Me.  Show them.  Be a bridge.  Bridge the gap.”

If “calling” boils down to  finding the fire that burns within and throwing your spark, maybe making disciples is simply bridging the gap between Christ and those a few steps behind us in our journey.

So I pray I am that for someone out there, someone close to me.  I pray I have the chance to take a hand and walk someone across the divide.

How about you?

Look around.  Is someone looking in closely to see how you mother, how your family functions, desperately wanting the same?  Is there someone looking at your marriage, your community, your friendships, the way you handle the grind of everyday?  Has someone asked what your prayer life looks like, what you are reading lately, to walk her through a study?  She is begging you to bridge something for her.  Be the bridge.  Take the time and take her hand and lead her to Jesus.  Have the guts and the character to join Paul in saying, “Follow my example as I follow Jesus.”

So, 2018 I am coming at you with a Spark and and Bridge.  I pray to inspire and promise to stick around and join theology to reality wherever I can.  It is simple, yet weighty.  A Spark and A Bridge.  Who is in?

And Emmy, I love you.  I am forever changed because of the bridge you were to me.

 

A Spark and a Bridge (Part Two)

A Spark & A Bridge Part 2

“Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small SPARK.”  James 3:5

In his book, “Chase the Lion,” Mark Batterson says this; “I have a theory; your favorite scripture will become the script of your life.”  That feels pretty weighty to me although I don’t disagree with the theory, in theory.  I like the focus it presents.  It’s like the “one thing” verses, the 3 point sermons, the 5 easy steps… It feels like the narrowing in on guidelines while the rest of the world shouts a thousand things I should be doing, be being… a sieve to shake my life through.

I don’t know that I will ever commit to a favorite scripture for life.. Specific verses are like beautiful words and new books, I love them too much to forsake all others.  But, as 2018 has landed on my doorstep, ready or not, I have found my way to James 3:5.  It boasts my first word for the year, and even uses and adjective I can get my heart around in the early morning hours of the New Year.  A SPARK.  A small one in fact.

In the context of James 3, the small spark is in reference to the tongue, and not in a positive way either.  The very next verse says, “The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil…” (James 3:6).  Yikes!  So this scripture is saying that much can be burned down and destroyed by the tiny flames a careless tongue may throw.  Obviously, we know the truth in this.  There is not one of us that doesn’t bear the scars from such a burn.  And let’s be honest, we have all thrown a few flames ourselves… kindled a few ugly fires with our tongues, our words.

But I love the redemption Romans 5:20 promises; “But where sin increased, grace increased all the more.”   If a tiny spark can be used to burn down, to destroy, how much more can a fire of inspiration, of hope, of grace be started by a spark just as small.

Does the idea of finding your calling intimidate you?  Worse than a word of the year even, a favorite scripture for life?  I have shared my own journey to my “Open Door Calling” here before… how I have found it not to be the crossing of a chasm from uncalled to called, but just through the next door that creaks open before you.  Even still, sometimes I have walked through that door into a space crowded with others, voices louder, testimonies stronger, words wiser, lives neater, and wanted to turn around and walk right back out.

What is my part to play?
Be a SPARK.  Even a small SPARK 

(Click on the image to download an 8×10 Print)

A spark is; “anything that activates or stimulates; an inspiration or catalyst, to send forth gleams or flashes, to kindle, animate, or stimulate.”

A spark inspires, even in a tiny way.  It starts something in you that may just build into the great fire of your life.  And we have all been given sparks… places we feel passion, things we are better at than our friends, natural abilities, subjects we just can’t get enough of.  The Bible calls these gifts, and tells us that each child of God has some.  When we use our gifts for the kingdom of God, modern Christian culture calls this Calling.  So what if a Calling could really just be a small spark?  Does that feel like less pressure?

See, we have crushed ourselves with the expectation of Calling… it feels like committing to one verse forever…like picking a major in college… like choosing a career path- and sometimes it is.  But gifts were not meant to be given with crushing weight behind them, like cannons blasting through our lives… Gifts were meant to be shared.  What if it was as simple as a Spark?  Even a small one.

Let me tell you a few things I will never spark in your life, never provide inspiration for: healthy eating habits, anything financial, really precious mothering, simplified/minimalistic living, anything to do with business, and SO SO SO many other things.  Those are all great things, good passions FOR SOMEONE ELSE.  I cannot spark that in anyone because those fires do not burn inside of me.

A few things I pray I spark in the people the Lord brings into my life:

A love for the Word of God.  I just love it with my whole being.  I don’t just write that because it is the good Christian thing to write, I genuinely love it.  It feels like a giant cheeseburger to me… like I can’t wait to get my mouth around it, I’m hungry for it, I need it to fill me (see what I told you about the healthy eating… I said cheeseburger!!!).  I want to study it and talk about it.  I have realized after years of doing life with other wonderful, godly women, not everyone just naturally feels this way.  They can grow in the discipline, but the fire doesn’t bun as freely as it does in me.  I know that this fire was first sparked by my mother who fans the same flame.  She inspired me, and now I know that part of my “Calling” is to “send forth gleams or flashes” from my fire to yours.

Gathering people in my home.  I love it so much.  I can throw a party with my eyes closed.  A late night around my table with good humans, decent food and wine, lots of cheese, and great conversations are what my dreams are made of… except not just my dreams.  It’s what Friday night was made of too.  My house is not always clean, my table is too crowded, I’m not the greatest cook… but my door will always be open.  Usually there are 20 kids running around interrupting the adults, a dog escapes, and on Friday night the garbage disposal gave out before the spaghetti dishes were clean, but there was laughter and belonging.  And magic happened as we shared old stories with new friends, and new stories with old ones, eventually (always) ending up around the fire pit in the yard.  That’s not by accident.  My husband and I know that our Ranchito, our home itself, is a spark we are to use to light inspiration for community and relationships, and S’MORES whenever possible.  My Nannie’s spark burns on in me here, the spark of hospitality.  Her parties looked a lot different, a lot prettier and were a lot quieter.  An Australian shepherd never stole the ham off the counter at her house, but it is her flame that burns on just the same.  See, years after she is gone, thousand of miles away from her where she set her perfect table I can take her spark and light the lives of many.

I can reach down within me and light a torch for marriage restored.  That is my story so that is my passion.  God will honor obedience.  He can do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20).  He is in the business of restoration and it is worth it.  18 years in and I can tell you that no matter what, it is worth it.  It’s never too late and it’s never too far gone.

One more spark I can give you from a fire deep within me; I seek to always honor the childhoods of my children.  It’s never going to get too serious around here; not grades, or sports, or achieving much of anything but a good time and a kind heart.  Why?  BECAUSE THEY ARE KIDS, and in a culture that wants to steal that from my children’s generation at an earlier and earlier age, I will be the gatekeeper for childhood here.  I will wrestle “testing” and expectations and often my own pride because I really do believe kids with kind hearts who know how to have a good time will be better off than the hoards of little league select stars and straight A students in the long run.  We will buy go-karts and footballs before we buy gaming systems.  We will always say yes to friends walking home from school to have a snack at the picnic table, to forts in the pasture, and another pet.  We will forever add one more family to the pool party invite, and come visit the “mud pie shop” in the backyard because childhood is holy and, on my watch, it will be honored.

That’s really not so many sparks.  There are fires I wish I could sit around that I am not a part of, that aren’t mine.  I know those that are mine, and now you know them too.  It is my job, my calling if you will, to give you what I have, only what I have, and maybe inspire a great forest fire in someone else’s life. Fires always start with sparks.  So, be a spark.  Be a small one.  Look inside, name your fire… and then throw your spark!  And do the work of gratitude and recognize those who first lit the spark that burns in you.  I would love to hear their names.

Sparks are one thing.  Bridges are something entirely different.  I hope you’ll join me next week for Part 3 as we cross a few together.

A Spark and a Bridge (Part 1)

A spark and a bridge

For last year’s WORDS belong to last year’s language and next year’s WORDS await another voice.”  T.S. Elliot

Have you found it yet?  This year’s voice?  It feels like a lot of pressure, like a lot of weight.  And it comes so fast… before the last of the Christmas mess is cleaned up, before the leftovers are gone.  Red and green are traded for glitter and fireworks and a thundering demand to “be intentional, set goals, tackle the New Year” blasts over “Old Angzine.”  SHHHH 2018!  I’m still in my Christmas jammies….

We all know that New Year’s Resolutions are SO  2015 and now we are to declare our “word for the year.” And listen, I am here for that!  You know how I love all the words so that is enough to get me out of the Santa flannels pronto!  Therefore, as all good bloggers do in January, I will share my word of the year with you today.  But, here is the thing, I have two, because OBVIOUSLY I do.  And they aren’t brand new.  And they aren’t just words.  They are the filters God gave me as I desperately circled the drain of exhaustion and disillusionment back in the Fall.

Do you ever feel like your voice gets lost?  If so many others are living your exact life, only better than you, why try?  If so many other’s are closer to the calling you thought God put on your heart, what’s the point?  When the to-do’s and demands feel overwhelming, do you find yourself longing for clarity… for ONE THING?  I’ve always been attracted to the “one thing” verses in the Bible, the 3 point sermons, the “5 easy steps to _____.”  I suppose it’s because I don’t ever feel the luxury to focus on one thing at a time in my “real life,” 3 points always end up being 27, and there are no easy steps.  There are good steps, yes, but they are never easy.

So this is where I found myself, so many balls in the air I was dizzy.  Opportunities coming my way I had prayed for, and yet the laundry still needed to be done and groceries bought.  Was there room to be the old me but do new things?  Could I be faithful to old roles and forge new territory?  To do the things that made my heart sing, and do the things on my to-do list?  Was there room?  Was there time?  Is there ever?  Currently I am reading “Chase the Lion” by Mark Batterson and “Chasing Slow” by Erin Loechner.  Can I do both?  Chase a lion and chase slowness.

What divine rhythm does God have for me?  What divine rhythm does He have for you?

Dizzy I tell you.

“God, give me my one thing… give me a measurable filter for my days, my yes’s and no’s, give me a grid for my focus.”

Be a Spark and a Bridge.”

A spark and a bridge

Wait, isn’t the saying something about burning bridges?  Don’t sparks = fire which burn bridges?  How can it be both?  How can there be room for both?

Can I tell you something hard.  On the very weekend that my daughter’s hundreds of hours of hard work paid off in a breathtaking performance in The Nutcracker, I said goodbye to the best dog I will ever know.  So I smiled and cheered and checked eyeliner, and then laid on the floor beside my favorite nonhuman ever on her last night and sobbed my eyes out.  See, there is room for both… it’s always a tension.  New and old.  Lions and slowness.  Life and death.  Sparks and bridges.

So, that is it.  When the confetti welcoming 2018 cleared, when I quieted the voices and lies and expectations and noise, when I got up off the floor, that is what I heard.  Be a Spark and a Bridge.  Now, it’s not ONE THING, it’s two.  It’s not my WORD of the year, they are WORDS.  But they have given me a clear window view to my role.  Those signposts point me to what I need to focus on and what I need to let go of.  They are the rumble strips for my attitude and calendar.

I can’t wait to share with you how each of them will (prayerfully) play out in my mothering, gathering, and ministry this next year… I can’t wait to discuss ways we are all called to be sparks and bridges and to pay homage to those who have been that to me. Join me for part 2 and 3? And tell me, at this precipice of a New Year, what do you hear calling to you?  What is imprinted on your heart for 2018?  I can’t wait to hear.

 

 

 

Rest

Rest: A 3-part blog series on Savor, Celebrate, Rest, Repeat

Let me just confess this right here at the beginning… This last stop on our Golden Hour Tour of beautiful words and sacred practices is not one I frequent enough.  I am a poor tour guide, the blind leading the blind.  The residents here do not know my name or recognize my face as I step off of the fast moving train breathless.  Rest.  Here is a vulnerable truth about me… I still haven’t learned to rest well.

But I want to.  Or at least I want to want to.

After we have Savored every last drop out our “lot in life” blessings, those common beautiful graces, and after we have recognized, remembered, and reclaimed Celebration from the world, then we must rest to do it all again (repeat).

In a world that has hijacked rest as much as celebration, what does real, soul-restorative rest look like for the people of God?  Very few Scriptures have impacted my life in the last year as much as the Message’s version of Matthew 11:28-30.  Slow down, breathe this in deeply, and picture it as a balm being poured over the cracked places in your spirit as you read this divine prescription for rest:

“Are you tired?  Worn out?  Burned out on religion?  Come to me.  Get away with me and you’ll recover your life.  I’ll show you how to take a real rest.  Walk with me and work with me- watch how I do it.  Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you.  Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”  Matthew 11:28-30

Real rest is not found in the lies or trappings of the world… in the Netflix bingeing, or sleeping late, or even the vacation in the fancy hotel.  None of those things are wrong, and they can certainly be savored and celebrated!  But when your soul is fatigued to the point of exhaustion, you will still be worn thin when the show is over, the alarm finally goes off, check-out time comes.

Real rest can only be found in Jesus. 

We have to watch how he does it, like Matthew 11 says.  We watch how he savors a breakfast of grilled fish on the beach, early morning chats with His father, friendships with the simplest of people.  We watch how he turns water into a divine vintage at a wedding celebration.  We watch how he participates in the feasts and festivals of his culture and how he brings others in close and rejoices with them as well.  And then we watch how he rests… how his earthly life was simply following the Holy Spirit from one place to the next, from one life to the next.

Over the last 6 months I have been neck deep studying the Biblical principles of Fruitfulness. One of the most interesting concepts I came access was the idea of the Sabbatical year for the land itself.

Leviticus 25:1-7 says, “The Lord said to Moses at Most Sinai, ‘Speak to the Israelites and say to them, ‘When you enter the land I am going to give you the land itself must observe a sabbath to the Lord.  For six years sow your fields and for six years prune your vineyards and gather their crops.  But in the seventh year the land is to have a year of sabbath rest, a sabbath to the Lord.  Do not sow your fields or prune your vineyards.  The land is to have a year of rest.  Whatever the land yields during the sabbath year will be food for you – for yourself, your male and female servants, and the hired workers and temporary resident who live among you, as well as for your livestock and the wild animals in your land.  Whatever the land produces may be eaten.” 

I love how practical our God is.  He knew all about water levels, PH balances, and nutrient deficiencies in the soil centuries before farmers ever would.  He knew there was wisdom in letting a field go fallow for a year, in taking a rest… and He always has a spiritual truth for us in the physical.  Think of the faith it took for the Israelites to be obedient to this command.  Most families only had one field.  If they weren’t growing crops on it, there was not grocery store.  This was it.  Their land, their one field, was their source of sustenance. Their crops, their harvest was their life.  Could they trust that the sowing and laboring of past seasons would provide enough of a harvest in the resting?

The same is true for us.  We can only rest when we have learned to trust.  We trust that God will provide, that we don’t have to hustle for everything in life, that we don’t have to make it all happen or that we won’t fall apart in the fallow season.  He has promised not to lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on us.  We can trust the harvest because we can trust our God.

So, October was a whirlwind for me.  I was honored to speak at 2 out-of-town retreats and another local women’s night.  We also CELEBRATED fall in a big way with our 4th annual Family Fall Festival, inviting the whole city to the Ranchito.  I have committed to projects I haven’t started yet.  My kids are taking gymnastics, playing basketball, and rehearsing Nutcracker 20+ hours a week.  There isn’t a night off right now.  At the dawn of November I felt myself circling the drain… running on empty, forsaking what matters, unreasonably affected by the smallest thing.  I began to believe some old lies… “You can’t handle this.”  “Quit trying to be more than you are.”  “Close the gates.  The sacrifice for community is too much.  No one cares.”    My levels were off and nutrients low, just like the Israelite’s fields.

Time to rest.

I’ve taken a few practical steps in the last couple of weeks.  I have made peace with the term “self-care” in measured quantities.  (See, I even typed the word without rolling my eyes.  Progress).  I joined a Yoga studio and am giving myself the gift of something I really love.  I have released hosting Thanksgiving.  I have visited a friend who practices wholistic healing and let her do a little work on me, body and spirit.  I literally have “breathe and pray” and “HYGGE” on my daily to-do lists.   I am preaching rest to all of you so please hold me accountable as well.

The Golden Hour is coming to a close.  I can see the last rays of its sunset melting away.  The dawning of the next season will be wonderful, “the most wonderful time of the year” in fact.  But it will have a different pace.  For all the Hallmark commercials and hot cocoa propaganda, we women know.  We know that for every beautiful meal, every perfectly (or imperfectly) decorated home, for every gift under the tree, and Christmas card sent, there is a woman staying up late into the night planning, baking, working, wrapping, and addressing.  And we love it.  And it is worth it.   But it can leave us circling the drain as well.

So I pray the treasures we have found on this tour of beautiful words and sacred practices stay close at hand through the holidays.  I pray we will savor all of our “lot in life” blessings, those common graces and we will view all that the coming months bring through a HYGGE filter.  I pray that we will reclaim celebration, especially during the Advent season… that we will build alters and remember and celebrate others really well.  And I pray that we will find rest when our spirits are circling the drain of exhaustion.  That we will simply watch how Jesus did it and trust in a God that commands a sabbath.

Celebrate

Celebrate: 2nd blog in a 3-part series Savor, Celebrate, Rest, Repeat.

Welcome to the second stop on our Golden Hour Tour of beautiful words and sacred practices.  This one may be a bit more lively than the last.  I hope there are cards and banners and high fives and parties.   I pray there are gifts and candles and music and laughter late into the night. We move on from Savor to Celebrate.

Celebrate: 2nd blog in a 3-part series Savor, Celebrate, Rest, Repeat.

The older I get, here On the Other Side of Middle, the more aware and angry I become that the enemy of our souls has stolen celebration from the people of God.  This world has robbed us of this gift.  It tells us what is worthy of celebration… it shoves it down our throats and blinds our eyes with the flashing lights of how it should go.  And I suppose if we desire to be a people set apart, sanctified and holy, then we must turn our backs on all the fun.  Right?  Oh, I hope not!

One of my nearest and dearest friends, a steadfast presence in my life for more than a decade, has a slight thing for the Green Bay Packers.  And by slight, I mean full on love affair.  She painted her laundry room green and gold.  She listens to Packer’s Podcasts as she drifts off to sleep (yep, that’s a thing).  She has a cheesehead hat and dreams of trips to Lambeau Field like I dream of trips to resorts and spas.  And she and her husband do it!  They go to the games and brave the cold and choose to spend vacation time and travel money on watching her team play.  She loves being in that legendary stadium with thousands of other Packers’ fans cheering for her boys.  I currently live in the literal home of Friday Night Lights… Let me assure you that the hype is very real.  So what is it?  From PeeWee to the Pros, from football to baseball, to basketball, to soccer, what is it?  Why is it so much fun to go to a game and shout with friends and strangers alike, to jump right into the crazy?  What does this speak to in our spirit?  I’m making the case for CELEBRATION.

My roots run pretty redneck.  Cheesy country music gets me every time and I don’t care who knows it.  I tried to be cool for 5 minutes in high school and tuned the station to “alternative,” but quickly found my way back to George, Trisha, and Martina.  So, when GARTH BROOKS made his way out here to West Texas this past Spring, I WAS HERE FOR THAT!  Being in that arena with my husband, brother, sister-in-law, and thousands of other fans singing every word along with Garth was the most fun I’ve had in a long time.  Why?  It was a CELEBRATION of memories and music, of family and “Friends in Low Places.”

I believe that great concerts, big sporting events, moving movies, beautiful ballets… they tap into something spiritual.  It’s called worship.  It’s called celebration.  See, we were created to be a small part of something much bigger than ourselves… something good and exciting and worthy of all the yelling and singing and high fives in the world.  We were created to do this in community with millions of other worshipers.  When we are in a stadium or an arena or a concert hall and the celebration takes over and we are swept away in the joy and emotion, I think we put a tippy toe into what heaven will feel like.

We all know this can go too far.  I will not belabor idolatry here.  My friend does not worship the Packers.  I do not worship Garth Brooks.  But the very reason it can be a slippery slope for so many is that we were made to be worshipers and celebrators.  When we let the world dictate what we will worship or celebrate, it gets funky fast.  Does the celebration terminate on itself… end right there at the game or with the last song? Or worse maybe, do we turn our backs all together on these little tastes of heaven, deeming them too worldly to partake in, and give celebration up to the world?  Or do we credit a big, fun, creative God with giving us the gift of sports, music, art, and community to share it with?  All this fun was His idea after all!

In the classic devotional “Abiding in Christ” first published in 1895, Andrew Murray writes these incredibly convicting words:

“So there is nothing quite so attractive as JOY, no preaching so persuasive as the sight of hearts made GLAD.  This makes gladness such a strong element in Christian character.  There is no proof of the reality of God’s love and blessing He bestows, which people so quickly feel the strength of, as when the joy of God overcomes all the trials of life.”  

Andrew Murray quote in JOY

Celebration, joy, gladness in our lives will win more souls for Jesus than preaching any day… certainly more than “holier than thou” or “holier than fun” living ever will.  So is it?  Is joy and gladness and celebration a strong element in your life, in your Christian character?  Never underestimate its power.

Let me state the obvious: we cannot celebrate what we do not recognize.  I’m afraid our fast-paced, drive-thru culture has rushed into our faith walks just like it has rushed into every other aspect of life.  We order up a prayer request, a new gift to savor, and by the time we make it to the window we are hungry for something else.  The Bible gives the command to “remember” over and over and over again.  We cannot celebrate what we do not remember.

Has God been gracious to you, even in hard times?  Has He answered just one prayer?  Are you in a different place in your marriage, with a difficult child, in your finances than you were 5 years ago?  Has He illuminated things in Scripture for you that have changed your life, your faith, given you hope where there was none before?  Has He spoken quietly, “this is the way, walk in it” (Isaiah 30:21) to you and now your feet are on a different path?  Has He just let the Packers win or granted you some sweet Garth tickets?  All of those things deserve recognition, remembering, and celebrating

In the Bible, the people of God not only remembered, they set up alters when God did a mighty work.  They rolled bolder upon bolder into place.  Their remembering took time and sweat and left sore muscles and a lasting, visible evidence of God’s presence in their lives.  Their celebrating took weeks, and preparation and travel and pause.  They knew, God knew, that they needed those alters and feasts so that they wouldn’t forget because they were human just like we are.  They had kids and jobs and natural disasters to worry about too.  They had a new set of desires every day just like us and they first needed to take a breath, say thank you, and celebrate.  We all need reminders that God was faithful before and He will be faithful again.

I know the hubs would think I was crazy if I started building actual altars around the Ranchito every time God answered a prayer or came through for us… if his weekend “honey-do” list included rolling stones on top of one another.  But I have my own alters.  I have journal upon journal of prayers prayed for my children, my husband, my tribe, myself.  I can go back and celebrate those victories over and over.  When things are tough and I am doubting, I can re-read those prayers and marvel at how far God has brought us.  Those are altars of remembering.  My youngest child sort of came into this world in miracle fashion and his birth was an enormous victory for my faith.  All our kids are special, but his birthday is an alter of remembering for me.  God hears.  This humble 7 acres that I sit and write these words from is an altar.  There is a literal pipe fence around an altar to obedience, and staying when we wanted to quit, and trusting and praying and honoring childhoods and community and messy floors and real life friends.  When my kids ask if I have ever seen a miracle I can open those journals and read them the stories of their God moving on their mother’s behalf, I’ll show them pictures of a crowd of warriors around a birth center bed and a 10lb. 11 oz “surprise,” I’ll walk them around the perimeter of the Ranchito and tell them of His goodness.  Build alters.  Remember.  Celebrate.

And just like there is more to Savor when when learn to enjoy our “lot in life,” everyday gifts, we have more to celebrate when we learn to celebrate others well.  Romans 12:15 says, “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.”. I think maybe we put the mourning on a spiritual pedestal while giving the rejoicing a bit of a cold shoulder.  How well do you celebrate others?  Rejoice with those who rejoice?  Just like discontent can steal our ability to savor, envy can steal the joy of celebration.

The older I get, the more FOR the women in my life I become.  I am FOR every single one of them running their race, doing their thing, finding their lane.  I may have given this lip-service in my 30’s but I am all in at 40.  I use to live under the cloud of a scarcity mentality.  You know, like there wasn’t enough to go around… Not enough blessing, not enough gifting, not enough calling, not enough Jesus.  Crazy, right?  We serve an endless God and if we believe Jeremiah 29:11, that God has a good plan for each of us, then how can your plan, your blessing, something to celebrate in your life ever steal mine?  It can’t.  Your calling does not lessen mine.  My race isn’t going to cause me to steal your prize in the end.  If I know anything about our God, it is that His character is generous- it is the opposite of scarce or lacking.  When we root ourselves down deeply in this truth, it frees us up to celebrate others well… which ultimately increases overall celebration in our lives, and brings us one step closer to looking like Christ on this earth.

The only way we can truly celebrate others well is by knowing them well… by being a real part in their real story, by letting them into your own, by honoring their vulnerability with your own courage to step out.  Every baby shower is a lovely celebration, but when you have walked through infertility and loss for years with a sister, that’s a whole different party!  The graduation of a friend’s child is exciting, but when you have sat on the floor with her for years praying and crying and believing for favor and maturity for that kid as they have struggled through school, that celebration is a victory!  Marriages restored, business succeeding, callings clarified… All of those celebrations are increased when you have driven a spiritual stake deeply into them.

So have you?  Are you?

Are you connected enough with a few souls, that their blessings, their celebrations feel like your own?  ARE your own?  Have you invited others into your own story, your own life deeply enough that they can celebrate with you when that prayer is finally answered… they can come over and help you roll some stones into place for the latest alter of remembering?

At this moment in history, when there are so many to mourn with, so much tragedy, so much loss, can we, the people of God wave a banner of celebration as well? Can we recognize God’s goodness, remember His works, and reclaim celebration in His name?  I believe it would be a kick in the face to the thief who seeks to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10).

So, throw another baby shower, host another birthday party, keep someone’s kids so they can toast another anniversary.  Spill out little tastes of heaven everywhere you go. Joy is powerful. Celebration is holy work.

Celebration is holy work!

P.S. Don’t forget to subscribe for a chance to win the “Savor the Season” Fall Bundle, full of beautiful gifts to usher in a moment of HYGGE for yourself and celebration for your people (even if it’s as simple as sharing a yummy cup of coffee over candlelight with close friends).

Savor

Savor: a 3-part blog series on Savoring, Celebrating and Resting

The first stop on our three part series is a warm and cozy one.  There may be a fire in the fire place and a soft, plaid blanket to wrap up in, your favorite sweater, something hot to sip…

SAVOR.

What is the first thing you think of when you read that word?  Savor.  It deserves pause, a slowness all it’s own.  Maybe you think of food, like a savory meal.  Tell me I am not the only one who has gotten sucked into the Netflix series, “Chef’s Table.”  It is the most fascinating look at the world’s best restaurants (like there is a real ranking) and the chefs that have made them so… everywhere from rustic Padagonia to chic San Fransisco.  It tells the story of these innovators, their journeys with food, and their signature dishes.  Some of these meal are unlike anything I have ever seen before.  They bubble and fizz.  They are on fire or frozen inside of layers of something else.  They are simple and beautiful.  It is so captivating to me because, in the end, it is just dinner.  I mean, how many different things can be cooked in the world?  How many different ways can you plate grilled fish or chocolate cake?  After watching a few episode of “Chef’s Table,” I believe the answer is endless.

There are endless flavors to savor in the world.  Endless.  This is the world our God created, full of endless flavors to savor in food, people, seasons, experiences, and nature.

The definition of savor is this; “to give oneself to the enjoyment of; to savor the best in life.”. Does that feel a bit worldly to you?  A slippery slope perhaps?  Hedonistic even?  I get it, but I am here to fight for your right to savor as the people of God… honestly we should be the very best at it.

For wisdom on the art of savoring we will look to none other than King Solomon, the wisest man to ever live.  I Kings 3 chronicles young Solomon’s rise in wealth and wisdom by way of a dream in which God said to him, “Ask for whatever you want me to give to you.”  Wow.  I wish I could tell you honestly that I believe my request would have been as noble as Solomon’s.  Probably not.  But this is about him- not me!  

So Solomon says to God, “Now, Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David.  But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties.  Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number.  So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong.”

God is pleased with this request and answers, “Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, I will do what you have asked.  I will give you a wise and discerning heart so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there every be.  Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for- both wealth and honor- so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings.”

So, that’s our boy Solomon… the richest and wisest man to ever live.  He was born to King David and Bathsheba as a healing balm after losing their first son as a consequence of their sin.  Though his father David desired to build the temple and the Spirit had put the plans for it in his heart (I Chron. 28), God said that it would be Solomon who would act as contractor for the job.  We fall in love with his hot and heavy love story in Song of Solomon… life is good for this guy.

And then we get to Ecclesiastes, the book Solomon pens late in life, and we read this opening verse: “Meaningless, meaningless, utterly meaningless.  Everything is meaningless.”  Great, right?  It seems that at the end of this very rich, eventful, blessed life, we see Solomon looking back over it and wondering what the point was.  In all his wisdom, here is his conclusion: “Even so, I have noticed one thing, at least that is good.  It is good for people to eat and drink, and enjoy their work under the sun during the short life God has given them, and to accept their lot in life.  And it is a good thing to receive wealth from God and the good health to enjoy it.  To enjoy your work and accept your lot in life- this is indeed a gift from God.” (Ecclesiastes 5:18-20 NLT)

Think about the experiences Solomon’s life had been full of… being born into royalty, riches and knowledge beyond anyone’s comprehension, every earthly pleasure known to man at his fingertips… And in the end he says it is good to eat, drink, and enjoy the health, life, and possessions God has given to each of us.  Our lot in life.  He says it over and over:

A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil.  This too is from the hand of God, for without him who can eat or find enjoyment?” (Ecc. 2:24)

“I know there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live.  That each of them may eat and drink and find satisfaction in all their toil- this is the gift of God.” (Ecc. 3:12-13)

Do you know what the wisest man to ever live is telling you today?  He is urging you to savor your life, to give yourself over to the enjoyment of the the stuff of everyday.  After all, what do we all do every single day of our lives?  We eat.  We drink.  We work at things.  So with each bite, or sip, or task, we can choose to accept the gift that it is.  We can savor our ability to enjoy the simple things.  King Solomon doesn’t tell us to wish for grand events or royal ceremonies.  He isn’t singing the praises of life in the palace.  He doesn’t say that the best thing in life is arriving at the place where wealth is so plentiful toil becomes unnecessary.  He isn’t talking about feasts and festivals and holidays… He says the everyday stuff is the good stuff.

Why is this so hard?

I recently finished Mark Batterson’s book Wild Goose Chase: Reclaim the Adventure of Pursuing God in which he discussed the six “cages” he believes Christians are trapped in, keeping us from wholeheartedly chasing God.  One of those cages he calls the “cage of routine” in a chapter entitled “Dictatorship of the Ordinary.”  He contends that that we easily lose the joy of living when the sacred becomes routine and says, “We take constants for granted.  And that is the problem with God, if I may say it that way.  God is the ultimate constant.  He is unconditionally loving.  He is omnipotently powerful.  And His is eternally faithful.  God is so good at what God does that we tend to take Him for granted.”

I would add that we tend to take His provisions, the gifts He gives, those common graces for granted as well.  In September, the eye wall of hurricane Irma passed directly over my childhood home with my parents, brother, pregnant sister-in-law, and two-year-old niece inside.  After a sleepless, scary night- both in Florida and here on the Ranchito- the damage was minimal and all were fine.  But, as you can imagine, they lost electricity and water for close to a week.  Something they had taken for granted just the day before, something most of us take for granted everyday, they were suddenly without.  After 6 days with no power and no running water, you can bet they savored that first night sleeping with air conditioning again, that first real shower, that first time to flip a switch and have a light come on.  Everyday stuff, a great gift.

Listen, I love a fancy hotel.  In fact, I think “Fancy Hotel” is my love language, but I seek to savor sunsets on my very own front porch.  I enjoy a beautiful meal, but I seek to savor pizza picnics with the kids under the lights at the Ranchito.   I love opportunities to speak to groups of women, but I seek to savor funny group texts with my tribe.  An expensive bottle of wine is lovely and never lost on me, but I will savor the dog out of a Route 44 Vanilla Coke from Sonic. Why?  Which of those things happen more often?  Which are the things of the everyday?  In my life it is the sunsets, the pizza picnics, the Vanilla Cokes, the group texts.    When we look through the filter Solomon is teaching us about, we have opportunities to savor all the time.

As my favorite poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning says, “Earth’s crammed with heaven, and every common bush afire with God.  But only he who sees takes off his shoes; the rest sit round it and pluck at blackberries.”

During this Golden Hour, may we take off our shoes.

I believe the disciple of savoring, of enjoying our “lot in life” as Solomon puts it, is deeply spiritual and much more than a warm and fuzzy word to throw around the fire.  Luke 16:10 says, “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much.”  When you cannot savor the little things, the ordinary things, the constants, you may be blocking the blessings God has next.  When your tastebuds are burnt from discontent, you will never be able to taste new flavors.

Here is a bonus word on our little tour that I have recently come across it and am currently obsessed with…  I now own a sweatshirt with it printed on it and it will be my theme for our holidays (you are welcome to share):

HYGGE.

It is a Danish word and practice, pronounced “hue-guh.”  Here is a summary of what it encompasses: “a feeling or moment, whether alone or with friends, at home or out, ordinary or extraordinary experienced as cozy, charming, or special; only requires consciousness, a certain slowness, and the ability to not just be present but recognize and enjoy the present; the art of creating intimacy, coziness, charm, happiness, contentedness, security, familiarity, comfort, reassurance, kinship, and simpleness, being aware of a good moment.”. Do you love it?

This is my goal as the holidays approach.  I want a hygge filter.  I want to create intimacy with my people my God.  I want to open our home up every chance we get and have the hygge spill out onto our community.  I want to not just be present in the little things, but I want to savor them.  I believe it is holy work.  I believe, as Solomon said, it is a gift from God.

So here’s to hayrides and hygge… to fires and friends… to something warm in your cup and Autumn in your heart… to Solomon and savoring… to S’Mores and simple gifts… to Ecclesiastes and every common bush being afire with God.

Take your shoes off.

And remember to subscribe for a chance to win the “Savor the Season” Fall Bundle, full of beautiful gifts to usher in a moment of HYGGE for yourself. (Can I win my own give away?  Seriously?  It’s all so pretty!!!)

Fall Savor the Season Subscriber Incentive

Savor, Celebrate, Rest, Repeat and a Basket of Goodies

Savor the Season Fall Bundle

This Savor The Season Giveaway is now closed!

I wonder if it is Fall yet where you are.  I am seeing everything from snow to beach vacations pop up on my feed daily and I think elusive Autumn is fighting for it’s place somewhere in-between.  My kids are watching Elf and listening to Christmas music while running barefoot and shirtless until after dark.  Not me.  Nope.  No Christmas until after Thanksgiving.  Let Fall have it’s day!  There have been some cool mornings here on the Ranchito… I am anticipating the debut of a pair of new boots I have been wanting for a year.  The pumpkin spice creamer is in the coffee, the Fall candle is burning beside my Bible.  Let it sink in.

I love this time of the year because the anticipation of the approaching holidays is just starting to tickle our senses without the crushing pressure of it all yet.  We know it is coming… the planning, the decorating, the cooking, the shopping, the wrapping, the school parties and full schedules.  We will be waist deep in all the fun and festivities and busyness soon enough.

But not yet.

This is the golden hour.

We are just on the cusp and from here the coming months still look dreamy and picturesque. We are full of hope that this will be the year that expectations will be met, that we will actually slow down and enjoy it all, that we will not lose our ever-loving minds.  So here we are BEFORE.  Before it is too late and the rollercoaster of demands has us strapped onto its dizzying ride.  My hope for us all is that we will anchor deeply here in this golden hour so that when the winds of the coming season blow we will not be shaken.

So here in this “Before,” while we all still have a moment to breathe, and a thought in our head, I want to share with you some of my favorites…

Beautiful words top the list.

They always have and they always will.  I love a beautiful word.  I was reading Elizabeth Barrett Browning when everyone else my age was reading Sweet Valley Twins and The Babysitter’s Club, because give me all the beautiful words.  When I was a little girl, I thought my dream job would be getting to name lipsticks, nail polish, and paint colors, because let me use all the descriptive words.  This summer, on a girls’ trip with 3 of my dearest friends, I noticed that my bestie would pull pictures up of potential restaurants and their fare on her phone to decide if it was a contender.  She is visual.  Unsatisfied, I inevitably would want to read the description of the setting or entrees, because tell me all the delicious words.  I am a verbal processor as well.  I need to say all the words.  And to be fair, in relationships, I’m going to want you to say a lot of words too… they don’t have to be words about me, or important words.   I just want to feel connected to you in all the adjectives you can come up with.  So when I come across good words that represent beautiful things, important practices, spiritual disciplines I want to imprint on my life, I hold them tight.  I want to talk about them and learn from them and write them on chalkboards in my home and share them with my friends… So here we are.

Savor, Celebrate, Rest, Repeat. 

Those are good words.  They feel good on my lips when I say them… chant them even, like a sacred mantra.  They feel like a breath of fresh air.  Like Fall.  Like this “Before” space.  Like a golden hour.

Let’s dive in and anchor ourselves in these important words and practices together over the coming weeks.  We will take each one apart and give it it’s moment in the sun, in our hearts.  We will roll it over in our mouths and in our lives.  I hope you will join me for this 3 part series.

In the end, these favorite words will be joined by a basket full of favorite fall goodies for one lucky subscriber to savor…

Savor the Season Fall Bundle

Just make sure that you have subscribed to A Word That Matters to be entered to win the following:

  1. This lovely Spiced Pumpkin and Clove Fall candle to cozy up with on a cool morning.

Seventh Ave. Apothecary Spiced Pumpkin and Clove Candle2. The cutest “Morning Pumpkin” mug you’ve ever seen {It’s currently SOLD OUT too!}.

Francesca's Morning Pumpkin Coffee Mug3. A bag of my favorite “Porch Blend” coffee roasted by my friends Travis and Megan Voskamp at their roastery Leapknot Coffee.  Drink it on the porch (obviously) in the cute mug while watching their inspiring story here.

LeapKnot Coffee Roasters Porch Blend Coffee Beans4. This beautiful gather” sign from Magnolia Market.  All the heart eyes… no explanation needed!

Magnolia Market "Gather" metal sign

5. “The Road Back to You” by Ian Morgan Cron.  I cannot tell you enough how into this book I have been over the last 3 months.  I have made all of my people read it because I am literally unable to have a face to face conversation that doesn’t involve the Enneagram.  (I’m a 4 by the way… thus all the beautiful words).  OBSESSED. That is all.

The Road Back to You by Ian Morgan Cron

6. And last but certainly not least, a copy of a recipe for “Suz’s (MY MOM’S) Pumpkin Cookies.”  Seriously, these are the best things you will ever put in your mouth.  I am a terrible baker, (or at least a reluctant one), but if you come to the Ranchito from September to November, you can bet there will be a plate of these waiting for you!  So so so good!

So, subscribe for your chance to win a few of my favorite fall things.  And meet me back here soon for our 3 part series: SAVOR, CELEBRATE, REST (Repeat).

Happy Fall Y’all!

That’s Refreshing

That's Refreshing blog image of girl squirting a hose

I love to water my plants.  It’s like therapy.  In the middle of a loud, long, busy day I love to go outside, take a deep breath, turn on the hose and water those plants.  Back and forth, back and forth on the sweet potato vine spilling over in the Sunset Porch… back and forth, back and forth over herb garden by the kitchen …. mist the mint in the window box, water the pots of geraniums in the front, the wheelbarrow of ivy by the door,  and the basket hanging from the shepherd’s hook out by the gate.  If you are stressed, peace may be as close as the nearest water hose.  Seriously, go try it and then come back to read the rest of this post…

Good, right?

One day recently, the constant drone of late summer “Mom,! Mom! Mom!” forced me outside for my daily watering wind-down.  I slipped out the front door undetected, slipped on my gardening clogs waiting there faithfully, and took several deep breaths as I went over to the closest hose and spigot.  As I reached down to turn the handle, I realized it had been left twisted in the on position.   When I squeezed the nozzle at the other end, sure enough the water rushed out with the appropriate force of “shower, jet, or mist” – whatever I chose.

And God blew my mind a little.

If it had been left on all night, where was the water?  Why was the ground dry?  Where was it stored?  The hose?  The wall?  The pipes? . How could it be on, but stopped?  Would the pressure not eventually blow my nozzle?

That's Refreshing blog image of girl squirting a hose

I was so excited and curious I called my husband. About a water hose.  In the middle of a work day.  “Babe, when the water is on at the spigot but the nozzle isn’t being squeezed, you know, where is that water?  Is it in the hose?  Is it in the pipe?  Does it not come out until the nozzle is being used even though it is on?”

“Which hose is it?”

“No, it doesn’t matter which hose.  Any hose in the world.  How does that work?”

“Is the nozzle stuck?  There is probably a wrench in the garage you can use to …”

“No, there is nothing wrong.  I just want to understand how it works.”

“Ummm, like the physics?”

“Yes, I guess.  The physics.”

[Insert slightly exasperated sigh] “So there is a ball valve……”  BLAH, BLAH, BLAH.  OK, NEVER MIND.  THANKS AND BUH-BYE.

It turns out that I didn’t need to understand the physics to understand that was me.  The nozzle.  I’m a nozzle.  You are too.

Jesus refers to Himself and the Holy Spirit as water, living water, often in Scripture.  I’m a water person so this metaphor resonates deeply in my spirit.  Sometimes in this desert town,  I can feel a longing for the Atlantic Ocean of my home from skin to soul. And sometimes, in a desert season, I can feel a longing for the living water even more.  I get water.  Let these words wash over you:

“Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink.  Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”  John 7:37-38

“Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst.  Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”  John 4:13-14

“For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring and my blessing on your descendants.”  Isaiah 44:3

Isn’t that as refreshing as a Vanilla Coke in the middle of August?

So if Jesus is the living water, and His Holy Spirit is given to us at the moment of our salvation- if it is turned on- where is all the water?  In the hose?  In the pipe?  What are the physics?

The problem is the nozzle.

Though the water my plants need is ready, and on, and life giving, until the nozzle is put to use, it does them no good.  They can wither and die right there next to the hose, next to the spigot, next to the unused nozzle.

Though the living water is available to each of us as believers, though streams of living water are promised to flow out of every area of our lives, we can wither and die too if we don’t do our part.

You see, the Holy Spirit is a gentleman.  He is powerful, and life changing, but He is still and gentle as well (I Kings 19:12).  Just like I can choose how strongly the water will come out of my nozzle, I can choose to allow the Holy Spirit to flow, or be quenched in my life (I Thessalonians 5:19).  Jeremiah 2:13 says, “My people have committed two sins; They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.”

 Sisters, how are your cisterns?

Are you clawing at rock hard ground, trying to dig a dry cistern, all the while the spigot of the Holy Spirit is perpetually on and available?  Are you trying to refresh yourself with dust, next to a spring of living water?   Our lives, our culture, perhaps even our churches are littered with the broken, shattered pieces of cisterns that can never hold the water we need.  We know it instinctually, when we are pulling the bucket up from the dry cistern… of comparison, of wine, of beauty products, of social standing, of “likes,” of Netflix.  Don’t forsake the deep wells.

Use the nozzle.

Refreshing is what I need at the end of these long, loud, hot summer months.  I feel myself wilting beneath the grind of these days but already withering a bit under the heat of the expectations the next season holds.  Anyone else?  Here is how we get to the water we need::

“The law of the Lord is perfect, REFRESHING the soul.”  Psalms 19:7

He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, He REFRESHES my soul.  He guides me along the right paths for His name’s sake.”   Psalm 23:2-3

“[You] will REFRESH the weary and satisfy the faint.”  Jeremiah 31:25

“Repent, then, and turn to God so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of REFRESHING may come from the Lord.”  Acts 3:19

AND MY NEW MOST FAVORITE VERSE:

“A generous person will prosper; whoever REFRESHES others will be REFRESHED.”  Proverbs 11:25 (Do you loooooovvvveeee it?) 

There is a big bucket of living water for you. There are the ways we squeeze the nozzle.  Here are the physics: the law of the Lord, quiet soul-refreshing time with Jesus, coming to Him when we are weary and faint, repentance, and generosity. We are refreshed in the act of refreshing of others.  So, who can you refresh today with a kind word, with a extra moment, with a smile or a hug or a listening ear?  With a Vanilla Coke?    If you look around and see some areas of your life drying up and withering like an English rose in West Texas, try one of these settings on the nozzle.  The spigot is on.

Let’s turn this thing to “jet” and claim what is ours!  Living water- deep wells of it, streams and springs and rivers of it… Now that’s refreshing!

 

Hospital Blanket

Hillman with his Hospital Blanket

Last month I had one of the worst weekends of my life.

I say that cautiously, knowing that in comparison to what so many have walked through, it was a stroll in the park.  In the end, everything turned out fine and none of us are the worse for wear.  But in the middle of it, perspective seems far off and struggles in the mirror feel larger than they appear.

Part of the heartbreak was how very different the expectations for that long awaited weekend were from the complete mess of reality that unfolded.  You see, the adorable “Save the Date” card had been on the refrigerator for months… and the date was indeed saved!  The wedding was going to be out of town, and beautiful, and the perfect combination of time with friends, and time alone with the hubby.  The in-laws had been informed months ahead that the grandkids would be dropped off for the weekend, and their “Fun Aunt” was even coming to town to ensure, well, lots of fun!  Hubby’s suit to the cleaners, my new dress in the hanging bag, appropriate “alone in a hotel for two nights” sleepwear packed… CHECK!  Everything was taken care of and everyone was happy about it.

And then the blasted West Texas spring wind started to blow.  I mean REALLY BLOW.  In Florida we call those “hurricane force winds.”  In West Texas, evidently, we call that Thursday.  My youngest started having what he calls “rubby eyes,” then the next day it was a stuffy nose, and on the morning we were packing the car, it was a wheezy cough.  I followed all of my “seasonal allergy” protocols and we hit the road.  And he coughed.  And coughed.  And wheezed.  And cried.  And coughed the whole 5 hours to his grandparents’ house.  When we arrived, I sent my husband to the pharmacy to get some vapor rub and I put the little guy in a steamy shower.  Everyone went to dinner and I stayed behind to make sure he was going to be okay before we left for that glorious hotel room alone.  He wasn’t.

When the family got home we threw him in the car and took him to an Urgent Care for a breathing treatment… And then the nightmare spun out of control.  After a couple of breathing treatments, the doctors at the Urgent Care didn’t feel like they could get his O2 levels up enough to send us to the ER in our car SO THEY CALLED AN AMBULANCE.  All of a sudden, I found myself riding the the back of an ambulance with my (rather excited) son, instead of sipping wine in a fluffy hotel robe.  When we got to the ER they said he looked better but they would keep him for a 6 hour observation.

WE WALKED OUT OF THAT HOSPITAL 2 DAYS LATER.

No wedding.  No new dress.  No romantic hotel.  No fancy food.  No friends.

Instead it was a million hours on a hospital cot letting my 6 year old watch The Force Awakens at 2am for the 475th time.  It was the same t-shirt and jeans I had put on to travel in because, remember what I had packed?  It was trying to navigate pharmacies and doctors 5 hours from home.  It was being alone a lot because my husband was with the other kids and my entire support system was far away.  In the end, all that mattered was that my son was ok.  I am so very thankful for the care we received and would have cozied up to Kylo Ren on that cot for another decade if I needed to to make sure that my baby was well.

In the middle of it, though, everything felt out of my control… and my emotions followed.  Out of control.

When we made the quick decision to go to the Urgent Care that night, we didn’t change our little guy out of his PJ’s.  We didn’t even grab his shoes.  The only thing we threw in the car with us was his beloved blankie that his Belle (my mom) had crocheted for him before he was born.  He has never slept a night without it.  Even at 6 years old, I still catch him a few times a day holding it close to his face for a bit of a recharge.  It is tattered and worn.  There is even a hole big enough for him to put over his head so he can wear it like a cape.  When he was about one and I saw this blankie dependency growing, I asked Mom to make another one, in a little more portable size, just in case anything ever happened to the original (you know, like it had to go in the wash)!  Same pattern, same yarn, same colors, same hands making it… and he would have none of it!  He knew a fake, even as a baby.

So, in those first few hours in the hospital when he was scared and struggling, his blankie was there comforting him.  And for the days after that, when he was pretending to be a robot hooked up to the machines, and asking me to send his best friend videos of him making the bed go up and down (and up and down, and up and down), it was there too… like it always is, close at hand, by his side.

He had his blankie, I had my Bible.

Just like my son never leaves home without his blankie, I never leave home without my Bible. I know the app on my phone has the same words and is lighter in the suitcase, but I need to feel the weight of that leather bound book. I need to hear pages turning.  And though this particular Bible is just a year old, because you may remember last summer The Dog Ate My Bible, it is getting worn in all the good ways, marked, highlighted, falling open to the right places.  Just like my son, I feel a little panicked when I can’t get my hands on it, when it is too far out of reach and I need a recharge.  I can wear it like a cape too, like armor.  In the fog of those sleepless hospital nights and days that surely lasted more than 24 hours, I honestly cannot tell you what verses I read, but it was there, lending me comfort.

Over the last several years, I have cultivated the habit of writing the Word daily.  I have always loved to copy beautiful words.  The physical act of applying pen to paper helps solidify the spiritual act of applying truth to my heart.  Recently I have loved using Lara Casey’s Write the Word journals for this practice, but I write Scripture on notecards, on chalkboards, on mirrors, in the margins of books as well.  For me, it is grounding-first thing in the morning most of the time- to look up a Scripture, read it, write it out, re-read it, pray it, and then leave that sacred space with it on my lips.

I know Jesus is more than words on the page.  He Himself said in John       5:39-40, “You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life.  These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.”  Jesus is life.  Jesus is alive.  He is dynamic, moving, loving, beckoning.  He is a person to have a relationship with, not just read about. And that relationship can be fostered and grown through spiritual disciplines and practices of all kinds… prayer, worship, fasting, service.  But the Word of God is foundational.  I know Him because I know it.  I spend time investing in this, the principle relationship of my life, when I spend time in those pages.

And that discipline, that resolve to dive deeply into the Scripture, that desire to be completely familiar with and transformed by those words… it comes before.

The commitment comes before the ambulance ride, before the diagnosis, before the pink slip, before the marriage is falling apart.  The life preserver is much easier to find in the sea of chaos and confusion when you have had it hanging on your boat for years…. when you recognize it for what it is- your life saver.  I think of Daniel, when he and the other captives were taken into Babylon.   I think of his resolve and I am inspired and convicted by it.  Daniel 1:8 says, “But Daniel  resolved (purposed in his heart [NKJ]) not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way.”  I am sure it was much easier to make that commitment before the rich fare was placed in front of him.  His resolve strengthened him in his hunger and temptation.

My resolve to physically open my bible and apply pen to paper daily strengthened me in that hospital room.

It did not change my circumstances.  It did not magically transport me to the wedding I was missing or stabilize my son’s breathing sooner.  But it was my comfort.  It ushered in the familiar presence of Jesus to that cold hospital room.  Not only the words but the act of searching for them, the process of writing them. It was my hospital blanket.  My Bible.

Where do you go for your comfort?  Your phone?  Netflix?  Amazon?  Another person?  Pizza?  Wine?  Everyone of us will need a hospital blanket at some point, when our emotions are frazzled and our brain is foggy…  when life throws us a curve ball and we are crushed by disappointment.  What will ground you on those days?  What will pull you back?  What will be the most natural thing to reach for?

We must purpose in our hearts to be women of the Word before.  Every day.  In the mundane as well as in the crisis.  It is not about checking boxes or legalism, it is about resolve and strength and transformation. It is about getting to know Jesus and recognizing His face and His arm around us in the darkest of days.  You will find Him in His Word.  Touch it, read it, speak it, write it, feast on it, wear it, keep it as close as my son keeps his blankie.  It won’t let you down because He won’t let you down.  Resolve before. Resolve today.

 

Immeasurably More

Immeasureably more

I was honored to share a very personal story over on the TBarM Camp blog last week… a place we dearly love. Whether you are a “camp mom” or not, know that God hears your prayers…

Has God ever just knocked your socks off?  Has He ever come through in a way so personal and unexpected, you just had to laugh? We know we have a faithful Father, but sometimes He is just immeasurably more. 

I am a praying momma. I boldly approach the throne of God daily on behalf of the 4 children we have been entrusted with (Hebrews 4:16), not because I am spiritually strong, but because I am full of weakness. Prayer is my biggest parenting tool, without a doubt, because I find myself lacking wisdom (James 1:5) with each new stage and season. Anyone else? 

So, a couple of years ago I found myself pleading with God for specific requests for my 2 “big kids” over and over during their school year. My 10 year old daughter was going through a “less than kind” stage here at home. Everyday, with every interaction, every time she left the house I would ask the Lord, “Please, please make her kind.” Her 9 year old brother seemed to be having a few issues with self-control, as 9 year old boys tend to have. Every night we would pray together for the Lord to help him have self-control with his siblings, with his reactions, and in his classroom. By the time summer rolled around, and the schedules and demands of life melted in the Texas heat, I relented a bit in pounding on the throne room room. The stakes don’t seem as high in the lazy days of June for some reason. And then we dropped those big kids off at Sports Camp Session 7…Hope on over to the TBarM’s blog to read the rest.Ryden Kids at TBARM