Hearing the Hummingbirds

On slow summer mornings, you can find me greeting the sun at a rusted table on a vine-covered courtyard right off of my bedroom.  The kids sleep, the trumpeter vine blooms, the Texas heat is kind for a moment, and I sit surrounded by some of my dearest friends- a mason jar of colorful pens, my prayer journal, and a worn Bible.  It is my very own secret garden and it has my heart

I am never alone though.  I share the space with a couple of flop-eared pet rabbits, four creeping box turtles, and this summer, with 16 baby chicks.  They are too small to move out to the coop with the rest of the flock yet, so they are safely growing right there in my courtyard.  And I love the menagerie, it adds to the magic.  But the rabbits and turtles are quiet, respecting the holiness of the sunrise and this momma’s need for silence.  The chicks are not.  They peck, and scratch, they flap and fight over flies.  Honestly, their charm is quickly being overshadowed by their mess and noise.

 

And some mornings, I have another tiny visitor.  With a whispering whirl of invisible wings, a hummingbird occasionally sees fit to hover above as I pour over the Word, and pray over my heart.  I’m sure I have missed it countless times, distracted by the pecking and the scratching, struggling to concentrate among the flapping and fighting.  But what a blessing it is when I catch the faintest sound of its presence and look up.  In those sacred moments, I know Jesus is there.  After all, if the Holy Spirit can be represented by a dove in the New Testament, why not a hummingbird in my courtyard?

In I Kings 19, we find the prophet, Elijah, running for his life, distracted, despondent, and desperate in the face of Queen Jezebel’s threats.  He has known the victory of being used to bring a widow’s son back to life, called down fire to incinerate a drenched offering in front of the prophets of Baal, and watched his prayers turn from a fist-sized cloud to a drought-ending delouse.  But at this moment, he is tired and afraid.  God finds him, as He always does, and tells Elijah to “go out and stand on the mountain in the Lord’s presence.” (I Kings 19:11 HCSB)  Elijah obeys and a powerful scene plays out before his eyes.  A terrifying wind shatters cliffs around him, an earthquake shakes the ground beneath him, and a fire lights up the sky above him.   But the Lord was not found in any of these.  Finally, ears buzzing I’m sure, Elijah hears “a gentle whisper (19:12)” and immediately recognizes the voice of His God.

I wonder if your ears are buzzing today too.  I wonder if, like me, there are so many things on your to-do list, people clamoring for your care, and responsibilities weighing you down that you are struggling to hear God’s gentle whisper.  I am learning that distractions will grow as quickly as my chicks, in size, in volume, and in the mess, they leave behind.  They peck and scratch for my attention and soon the undertone of their clucking becomes normal and I forget what the still small voice sounds like.  

But He promises, “You will seek me and find me when you search for me with all your heart.  I will be found by you. (Jeremiah 29:13-14 HCSB)  Like Elijah, He beckons me every day to position myself, my heart, and my agenda in the path of His presence.  He asks that I step out of the crush of my circumstances to seek Him in His Word, to search for Him in prayer, and to listen to Him in the whisper.   He is always there waiting to be found, but unlike the crowded voices of this world, it takes a bit of effort to perceive Him. 

Can you hear the hummingbird?  This summer, can you catch your breath, find your own rusted table in a secret corner, and listen?  Are there distractions that have grown too large and noisy?  Is it time to kick them out of the sacred space so that you can discern the whispering of the wings, the still small voice?  There are seasons of storms, earthquakes, and holy fires, and then there is the faintest of flutters.  He may have something important to say, and He may just want to bless you with the beauty of His presence, like my hummingbird.  Either way, I pray you fight for the sunrise, the peace, the quiet and notice Him there. 

Now, I think I need to go move some chicks out to the coop.  

The Ingredients We Have

The Ingredients We Have

I’m not much of a baker.  Something about the preciseness of it intimidates me.  I’m much more of a “little of this, little of that, add a hunk of butter to the sauce and it will taste great, dance around my kitchen to old Jimmy Buffet” kind of cook.  I can host a holiday meal or a summertime cookout for 20 with my eyes closed, but will someone else please bring the pie?  

Unfortunately for me, something about baking with our children has been sold to us mothers as holy ground. There are times one of my children will bring home a cookbook from “library day” at school and request that we spend the afternoon making cupcakes that resemble butterflies or unicorns.  And though I always consider “losing” that particular library book and forking over the $12 to replace it, I walk to the pantry and try y’all.  But, because I’m not a baker, I never have the right ingredients for the unicorn cupcakes.  Inevitably, we find what we need for a cobbler, a dump cake, a loaf of banana bread, and the holiness descends anyway.  Because the magic is not found in the final product, but in the togetherness…in the journey…with the ingredients we have.

I have learned in my 13 years of motherhood so far, that many will tell you mothering is like the careful art of baking.  There is some sort of formula, exact measurements, perfectly timed outcomes, all the while trying to peddle just the tools we need.  “It should look, and taste, and feel this way… See, here is the picture.” But time and time again I have gone to the pantry and realized those are not the ingredients I have.

Motherhood, like all of life, is the journey to embrace what we have, while laying what we thought we would have, what others tell us we should have, on the alter over and over- day by day. 

I thought I would be living this life and raising these 4 children a stone’s throw from my own mother, just the way she had done.  Instead, I have traded the flip-flops of my Floridian youth, for the boots appropriate for planting deep roots in the west Texas desert.  I have cried a thousand tears for that dream, and yet… I have cultivated a sisterhood here I would not have known I needed had that expectation been met.  There have been seasons when my marriage looked very different than the fairy tale we all want, and yet… the muscles built in prayer during those years have made me a strong intercessor and know what miracles look like.  I have children that fit this culture’s mold, and I have children that do not.  When the only successes we know how to measure at this moment are in the classroom and on the sports field, so very much goes uncelebrated.  Things like kindness, and creativity, and epic forts in the back pasture, and childhood.  So I give high fives to the ones on the stage, and I honor the hearts of those who may never be, as I trudge out to admire their fort. 

See, I never want to live in the shadow of my expectations, letting them rob the sunlight of my reality.  This little unexpected piece of promised land may be thousands of miles away from my mom, but there is no more magical spot on a Fall evening to gather friends around the fire pit, lights twinkling in the trees above. It has my heart and has become my home.  And that cowboy of mine?  Oh, we will forever go round and round I suppose, but he loves us fierce and what more could “happily ever after” be made of?  As for these children of ours, so beautiful, so different, growing so quickly… they will all be just fine because they know how to love big even on the days they strike out.  And they know they have a mamma who is not afraid to turn her back on this culture of achievement to celebrate all that makes them unique.

We were not tasked with procuring the “right” ingredients.  We might as well rip that shopping list up the moment we say “I do,” the moment our first child is born, and every moment after.  I can fret over not having what I need on hand for the unicorn cupcakes- the sparkly life I thought I wanted- or I can lovingly gather the ingredients I have been given to create a life that is so much more delicious.  In the end, I have realized mothering is nothing like baking (except for the messy kitchen).  There are no precise measurements, perfect tools, or timers set.  The only way to count every bit of it as joy is to relinquish the picture, lose the book altogether, and dig into the sweet realness of what you have.  So, add a hunk of butter and dance around to old Jimmy Buffet, trusting that God knew the ingredients He gave you.  He only asks us to steward them well, Mamma, knowing that the outcome will be a sweet aroma to Him. 

Late to #internationalwomensday

“For He Himself is our PEACE, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility.”  Ephesians 2:14

Have you ever found yourself in a season where God keeps bringing you back to the same thing over and over again?  Like no matter what you thought you were reading, studying, listening to or talking about, you end up unintentionally swimming in the exact same waters?  All roads lead back to a single path He obviously wants you on.  In fact, at some point, it feels cosmically comical and you just have to surrender.

Please tell me I’m not the only one.

It seems strange that I didn’t choose these waters, this path, on purpose because I should have.  It is important.  Sometimes we have to jump into the deep end to “get used to it,” as my kids say.  But Mamma is more of a “one inch at a time” girl, and so it has been on this journey as well.  Now that I am here, I can tell you that the water is fine.

Women.

Women in the church.

Women in leadership.

Women with a calling.

It’s a frightening feeling to know that there is a fire burning in your bones that may have no way to escape.   What must it burn down to get out?  Will it just burn me up?  Such has the need to speak God’s Word aloud to the world been in me.

When I say “speak,” we are all comfortable.

What about “teach?”

What about “preach?”

Anyone squirming a little?

Maybe you are not.  Maybe you have been floating on your back comfortably in these waters for years and you are confused a bit by the girl on the shallow steps tiptoeing tepidly.  Give me a hand, will you?

Would God give me a passion and then give me so many perimeters that I bump into myself with every step?  That doesn’t feel like my Great Big God.  Is He just grand and big in creation, in the scriptures, for my brothers, but very very small with his daughters?  I can’t believe that.

But it’s exactly what I believed.

So, I began the journey in secret.  I was afraid that what I would find would challenge what I thought I believed.  But what I thought I believed was already being challenged by a calling I could not deny.  Where was my place?  Where were my people?  Were these safe waters for a 40 year old stay at home mom? Would the progressives laugh at me?  Would the conservatives shun me?  All I knew was that I needed my beliefs to reflect the Truth and the character of God. and nothing else..

So I picked up Sarah Bessey’s book “Jesus Feminist” and snuck around with it like it was porn or something.  I was terrified my husband, friends, or mother-in-law would see the word FEMINIST on the front of the dog-eared, highly highlighted copy and assume I had lost my mind.  (The cover is golden and so is every word on the inside in case you were wondering).  It led me to “Half The Church” by Carolyn Custis James and I could feel my theology being stretched like an underworked muscle.

And as it did, I became braver and left the books about to be seen.  And conversations were had.  Questions were certainly asked.  And I don’t know that I am ready to take some official stand, and I don’t know that it is what is being asked of me.  But growth is.  ALWAYS.  God is not afraid of hard conversations and neither should we be.

Here, from the first few shallow steps, let me whisper, speak, teach, preach (?) the three most profound lessons I have learned so far…

First, according to Genesis 1:27, God “created mankind in his own image, in the image of God He created them; male and female He created them.”  There are masculine and feminine qualities to the character of God.  BOTH male and female were created in His image and BOTH male and female reflect aspects of His character.  Just like no one, imperfect human can represent the whole spectrum of God’s character and image, no one, imperfect gender can either.  There are parts of God’s character that resonate more strongly with me as a woman than they maybe do with my husband.  But, if the only voices we hear are male, won’t we be missing half of God’s heart?  I believe the answer is yes.

True, the Word of God is the Word of God, eternal, unchanging.  But a woman’s voice, a woman’s experience, a woman’s filter brings a different depth than a man’s.  Isaiah 49:15 says, “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne?  Though she may forget, I will not forget you!”   This is God’s love seen through a mother’s eyes.  A man can read this.  He can study it.  He can preach on it.  But he will never, with tears in his eyes, remember the first time his first born latched on.  His heart will never ache, searching his mind for the final time he nursed and rocked his last baby.  How it felt.  How tiny fingers wound around his hair.  How tiny heads smelled.  He has never lived it.  God knows.  And so do mothers.

Would that sermon not reflect a Truth more, well, true coming from a woman?  For BOTH men and women?  It isn’t about OUR voices at all. It’s about reflecting His.

See, my husband and I are raising 2 girls AND 2 boys.  Our fight is for all of them.  And in some ways, I think we as women have a richer opportunity for learning when we sit beneath BOTH male and female teachers.  We hear both voices.  We see a fuller representation of God’s character.  When men are only given the opportunity, are encouraged to only seek the opportunity, to learn from other men, I wonder if an echo chamber theology threatens them.  Is “half the church” cut off from half of God’s character because the other half of the church is relegated to children’s or women’s ministry?

So, first lesson… I believe both genders need to hear from both genders, in some form, to grasp more fully the complete character of God.

Next, my heart is broken as I hear from woman after woman that the world has so much more to offer them than the church.  More opportunities to lead. More encouragement to use their strengths.  More options.  More.

I cannot believe the Bride of Christ is less.

Recently I was chatting with a young couple that had just attended a marriage conference at their church.  They were eager to soak up some wisdom during a difficult season.  When I asked them about it, the husband said he felt like the material was “chauvinistic.”   They both said that the men were encouraged to lead and press into their callings while the women were encouraged only to support their husbands.  While I am a strong believer in headship in a home and traditional gender roles for the most part, I can’t believe a woman’s only divine assignment is to support that of her husband’s.

She doesn’t have a calling of her own?  Maybe even one that is distinct from that of her husband’s or children’s?  What about those women without a husband or children.  What of the empty-nesters or widows?  Nothing for them?

I’m sorry, but that is just not what I see reflected in the Bible over and over.

Ruth, Rahab, Deborah, Jael, Esther, Mary, Martha, Pricilla, Anna….

As Carolyn Curtis James points out in “Half the Church,” it was Joseph whose entire life became about supporting his (very young, pregnant out-of-wedlock) wife’s “calling”. She says, “I am not sure from our cultural context that we can grasp how radically self-denying this was in Joseph’s culture.  It was certainly not the “manly” thing to do.  Joseph doesn’t stop there.  When the angel finally corroborates Mary’s story, he shuts down his carpenter shop, gets behind Mary’s calling, and adapts himself to his wife and God’s calling on her life.”

Yeah.

When I hear that companies in the world are fighting over well-educated, driven women while the church is still fighting internally to make a statement about women, I am discouraged.  A friend who has her degree in theater and has been staging professional productions for years, just told me that though she had served at her church in a similar capacity for some time, when a lead staff position opened up in the department she wasn’t even informed.  The church hired a man from across the country.  I don’t know all the details but it looks pretty strange from where I am standing.  It makes me sad.  She hesitates to serve now.  I get it.

Just like the church should be the biggest advocate for social justice, and political reform, and the orphan and widow… we should have the very most to offer women!  Jesus’ church should always be more.  This has been lesson number two.

The third thing I have learned on these first few steps revolves around the identity statement and job title for women as man’s “helper suitable,” or “helpmeet,” from Genesis 2:18.  The English language has translated the original “Ezer-Kenegdo” into these familiar terms and in doing so, has lost so much of it’s depth and power.  The word “Ezer” appears 21 times in the Old Testament; twice for women, three times for nations Israel asked for military help, and SIXTEEN times for God as Israel’s helper.  In “Half the Church” Carolyn Curtis James points out that “Ezer” is consistently used in a military context.  She concludes, and this feels so right in my spirit, that an ezer is a warrior, a solider, a fighter.  Kenegdo, which we have translated “suitable” is more of “match.”  As in, “Boy, you have met your match.”  After Adam named all the animals, God gave him his match, his fit, his equal.

This feels different doesn’t it?  We are not merely men’s assistants, wives, managers of their homes, mothers of their children.  If this is all Ezer-Kenegdo means, then 60% of women in this country alone have no identity at all, as they are neither wives or mothers.  If it in fact means a co-warrior, a co-soldier, a battle partner, well this story just got interesting.

Why did God say Eve was needed?  “It is not good for the man to be alone.  I will make a Ezer-Kenegdo for him” (Gen.. 2:18).  To do his laundry?  To snuggle at night? I  mean maybe.  But I think it is not good for man to be alone because we are in a war.  God knew what would happen in Genesis 3.  He knew the battle that would rage for centuries afterwards.  He knew the enemy was coming for our souls.  It isn’t good for any of us to fight alone, to war alone, to solider alone.  It isn’t good for man to be alone in life or in ministry.  We are co-warriors and any man who doesn’t appreciate a woman having his back in this war, who isn’t willing to have her’s, isn’t going to last long.

A couple of weeks ago, a couple of months into this journey, I had the rare opportunity to spend some time with my parents without my husband and children.  I got to play the sole role of daughter for a weekend.   The conversation turned to books we had been reading, the things we had all been studying… and I learned the coolest lesson of all.  My mom is a boss Bible teacher, that I knew.  She has taught a large “women’s” Bible study every week for years.  She and my dad also teach an adult Sunday school class at their church.  What I didn’t know is that TWICE they have left churches because her teaching gift was questioned and the fact that men had the opportunity to sit under her, and were coming, was causing a stir.  TWICE.  I wanted to stand and cheer for my parents!  Instead, I took the chance to tell my mom that I honored her for how brave she had been in paving the way for women who know there is a fire in their bones too.  She didn’t mean to do it… she just had to speak the Word of God to those within her hearing.  AND I told my dad that I honored him for standing up for her, for being secure enough to affirm her, and recognizing the calling on her life as well as his.  To say I am proud is an understatement.

When I got home from that weekend away, Facebook announced one morning that it was #internationalwomensday.  I laughed to myself.  Of course it was.  I see you God.  I am here for this, even if I am a little late to the game.

So, maybe you disagree with some of this.  That’s totally okay.  Maybe you wish I was holding a bigger sign and shouting louder.  That’s okay too.  We’re all on our own journeys.  I just want to talk about it.

And I want to thank the women who have been brave and let their fire out.  It has lit the path for me… So to Kay, Beth, Priscilla, Christine, Ann, Jennie, Jen, Sarah, Rebekah, and my favorite Suz, way to go girls!  I’m honored to even be in the shallow end of this pool with you.

*And to my church, thank you for empowering women the way you do.  Thanks for being more.

 

 

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