Monday, October 31, 2011

Unwrapped & Soli Deo Gloria Party

Welcome to Soli Deo Gloria.  This is a place to share what is on your mind.  It is a place where vulnerability is accepted, where heart cries are honored, where struggles are heard.  It is a place where we are unconcerned with the quality of your words, but about the state of your heart.  We are a community of women that seek to encourage, support, love each other with our words.  There is laughter.  There are tears.  There is everything in between.  No matter where you are, who you are, where you have been, I want you to know that you are in the fold and that as you leave your link, you are prayed for.  Desire more information?  Please click here for the full scoop.
photo source
What I am about to share may entice you to have second thoughts about me when you read this fact, but alas, it is such a good example of my point that I have to share.  Here is my confession:

I used to think that if I lost a game of Words with Friends that people would think I was stupid.  And, to be honest, perhaps I had built up my supreme wins so much that I thought that if I started losing, people would start seeing me differently.  Perhaps, if I started losing, I would begin to see myself differently.  Perhaps I would say:  "Well, there is something else you aren't the best in..."

Ridiculous.  I know!  And yet, at the time, I really didn't know.  You see, my whole life, I never entertained the fact that my failures were separate from my identity.  I never considered that just being who God created me to be would be enough.  But perhaps the problem was, I didn't know what my identity in Christ was.

Last week in Bible study, I asked my class to respond to this question and write their answer down in their journals:

"How would you define yourself?"

I then handed out two sheets of paper.  One was entitled "Who Does God Say I Am?"  You can find the whole document online, but here is a snippet:

• I am a child of God.

But to all who have received him--those who believe in his name--he has given the right to become God's children … (John 1:12).

• I am a branch of the true vine, and a conduit of Christ’s life.

I am the true vine and my Father is the gardener. I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in me--and I in him--bears much fruit, because apart from me you can accomplish nothing (John 15:1, 5).

• I am a friend of Jesus.

I no longer call you slaves, because the slave does not understand what his master is doing. But I have called you friends, because I have revealed to you everything I heard from my Father (John 15:15).

The second sheet of paper held a list of spiritual gifts, such as encouragement, evangelism, teacher, leadership, hospitality, writing.  I asked the class to compare their definition of themselves to the content of the sheets.  Which list did their definition most resemble?  Which list would yours?

Most all of them defined themselves by their giftings from God, but not by God Himself.  And thus, when our self-worth and identity is based on something we can do and use, when we fail, when we don't measure up, when we don't rise to the place we deem success, we feel pretty low.  And when we feel low, we compare ourselves with others, we try to over-achieve, or we just shut down and don't do anything.  Maybe we delete our Words with Friends account completely...

Your gifts are not your identity.  Gifts are something that are meant to be picked up and used for a time and then set back down again.  God created us out of love and equipped us with gifts that enable us to do His work, but it is when we clothe ourselves with our gifts, we feel naked and exposed when they do not fulfill the expectations we set out for them, and for ourselves.  God doesn't want us to be naked and exposed.  He doesn't want us comparing ourselves to each other.  He doesn't want us overachieving, leading to fatigue and burnout and a low sense of self-worth.  He wants to clothe us with His love, with His Spirit.

Unwrap yourself today, friend.  You will be surprised how beautiful you are when it's just you.  May you see yourself as Jesus sees you -- a new creature, a friend of Jesus, a citizen of Heaven.

SDG Community Builder:  God gave me this prayer to pray the other night.  Would you pray it with me?
Father God,
May the women who enter here feel welcomed.  May they feel loved.  In turn, may those who enter here welcome and love by Your power and grace.  May she know that her worth is not in the number of comments she gives or receives, but by You, and You alone.  Amen.

If you would like to be on the Soli Deo Gloria prayer request email list, please let me know in the comments.

Also, a fellow SDG girl is in need.  You can read more at Cooking Up Faith, A Meal in the Mail Ministry.

oh, and last thing.  I promise.  s(He) Listens Ministries is now on Facebook.  If you have a second, will you like me on FB, just like you do in real life?  :)

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Nourishment: Beginning with "No"

Have you ever just craved nourishment?  How do you get it physically, emotionally, spiritually?  Because I have these questions and I want answers, I've asked a series of people to come in and share how they find nourishment.  Will you come along for the journey?  We will meet here every Thursday until the posts  run out.  Have something to share about nourishment?  Contact me and we will set a date!  
Meet Daniele.  I met her recently, when she asked if she could contribute to this series. And I'm so glad that she asked because now that I know her and visit her place, I have another space in which to find nourishment (really, the moment you enter her blog, you just want to rest).  I pray that you are nourished as you soak up her words.  Here is Daniele...

{Thank you Jen for the opportunity to share words and thoughts on this journey of nourishment :: a practice so necessary for us all.}
How many times do I wish I had simply answered ‘no’?  Or at least ‘not now’ breadth and room for an intentional,
and not simply an emotional response?
To pause and listen, to wait on counsel, to ask of Him.
How many times have you?
We humans have this strange and often unexplainable capacity to overwhelm ourselves.  Over and over, decisions we make clutter life with fullness that does not feed.  And we stand empty-handed, spent and lacking, frustrated and disappointed.
Then we firmly resolve to ‘never again’, only to find we did it again.  Sigh.  I’ve lived this cycle one time too many.
In the midst however, there is hope.  A movement towards life abundant.
Nourishment begins with ‘No’.
There is incredible value in the practice of boundaries, in the walking of life with clear expectations.  An understanding of how the resources of time, focus and energy are to benefit and not deplete us. 
In my own personal journey of seeking nourishment, I am repeatedly struck however with the need for not only external organization -- figuring out schedules, clearing house, weighing opportunities, taking time for refreshment...
...but to seriously evaluate internal motivations of why I choose to live malnourished in the first place.  In the past year especially, I’ve wondered.  Do I feel I don’t deserve it?  Why don’t I act on what is known to be good for me?  Perhaps it’s a simply a time issue? -- but, not really, since hours are given to things of lesser importance.
I have made one observation in particular :: I can declutter my home, strip the schedule, journal regularly, study Scriptures and exercise faithfully and still be left clanging like a cymbal.
It’s true -- I’ve seen it.  Sometimes I’ve lived it.
I offer today that nourishment should be approached not just in the doing of specifics, but in the knowing of just why we should.  Think of approaching caring for mind and body with the deep conviction that we are loved.  Showered lavishly by One who delights in our goals of feeling well, living well, being well.
These are also His plans for those He loves.
He too is eager, determined even, for our best to shine.  I believe we find tremendous favor in seeking to live intentionally within this back-and-forth love relationship with God.  This knowing provides inspiration for our nourishment practices to find root.  The more convinced I’ve become that He wants this for me too, I choose nourishment over living in lack.
I only offer suggestions, not prescriptions.  The ways we seek to nourish are as numerous as individuals who pursue its path.
But today...
with the purpose of welcoming deeper ways of caring for self...consider saying ‘no’.
A resounding ‘No!’ to any feeling, any question, 
any distraction or any mentality
that would rob of living fully in the reality of God’s incredible love for us.  Let this conviction then feed our heart motivation to live life well!

To read more of Daniele and to subscribe to/follow her blog, Domestic Serenity,please click here.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


O God, you are my God;
I earnestly search for you.
My soul thirsts for you;
my whole body longs for you
in this parched and weary land
where there is no water.
Psalm 63: 1

I've been thinking lately --
what prohibits us from seeing this life from a God perspective?
Sometimes I forget who I am.
And a lot of times, I choose to forget what the Word says.
And I am seeing what competition this world is --
this world view that so often floods my very being,
photo source
a world view that tells me I must compete for what I have,
for what I deserve,
for even what He has called me to be.
That people are secondary and things are of primary importance.
How often do I choose things --
things that need buying
over people?
Over my children?
And how often do I choose people simply because they could
adorn me?
fill me?
elevate me?
How quickly the God perspective is drowned out
by the drone of the television
or in the books
or in the to-do list
or even the blogs
and the class
and the prayers.
And the question becomes:

Am I pervaded by God?

If I am, I do only the things He puts on my heart
and I am filled by the living water,
and not by this dry and parched land.

If I am...

And I read this Psalm 63,
this first verse,
and every time, it seems,
I am moved to tears.
Because I know what my soul truly longs for.
And I know how my mind and body often choose
to simply believe the lies
that there is something better than God
photo source
or that He needs some kind of supplement.
And I imagine myself, 
myself without God,
living a life unpervaded,
and I am simply a straggly girl,
crawling across the sandy desert floor,
yearning and despairing and dying
for a drink.
I don't want to be a straggly girl
who acts out of desperation.
I want to be in His sanctuary.
I want to be satisfied.
To be filled to the brim even when my worldly circumstances
are less than.

But, I must be pervaded.  
With Him.
Him alone.

Monday, October 24, 2011

God's Perspective & Soli Deo Gloria Party

Welcome to Soli Deo Gloria.  This is a place to share what is on your mind.  It is a place where vulnerability is accepted, where heart cries are honored, where struggles are heard.  It is a place where we are unconcerned with the quality of your words, but about the state of your heart.  We are a community of women that seek to encourage, support, love each other with our words.  There is laughter.  There are tears.  There is everything in between.  No matter where you are, who you are, where you have been, I want you to know that you are in the fold and that as you leave your link, you are prayed for.  Desire more information?  Please click here for the full scoop.

Last week, I told you that I had been thinking about some things.  I had a crazy dream and felt like God had asked me to lay down trying to go to all of your blogs and leave an encouraging, thoughtful comment.  It was hard to not visit all of you.  I sincerely want to know what is happening in your lives.  I desire to pray for you.  My heart longs to encourage you.  I also know, though, that in the process of sacrifice and surrender, there always comes new growth.  I think this is already happening, as I read in your incredibly loving comments how y'all desire to carry this community, picking up my slack, so to say.  Do you know how much that blessed me?  But in truth, a community has to be more than one person.  I am so blessed by the ways in which you interact with me and each other.  Each week, I am overcome with all the ways that God uses us to support each other.

The past few weeks in my class, we have been talking about hearing God's voice, and in turn, answering His call.  In preparation for the class, I've been digesting the first six chapters of Nehemiah, looking at God's call on his life (to rebuild the walls and community of Jerusalem), and trying to discern how he was able to do the amazing job that he did.  I boiled it down to this:  he listened and prayed with God's perspective, not his own.

How was he able to keep God's perspective?
  1. He remembered who God is.
  2. He remembered who he was.
  3. He remembered the Word.
In the very first prayer that we are privy to, we see evidence of all three of these keys to keeping God's perspective.  He opens his prayer with this:
"O LORD, God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps his covenant of unfailing love with those who love him and obey his commands, listen to my prayer!  Look down and see me praying night and day for your people Israel."  Nehemiah 1: 5-6a
Nehemiah remembers that God is great, awesome, and faithful.  His love is unfailing.

He continues on:
"I confess that we have sinned against you.  Yes, even my own family and I have sinned!  We have sinned terribly by not obeying the commands, decrees, and regulations you gave us through your servant Moses...The people you rescued by your great power and strong hands are your servants."  Nehemiah 1: 6b-7, 10) 
Nehemiah remembers that he is a sinner, imperfect.  And he also recognizes his place -- a servant of God. 

Finally, Nehemiah remembers the oral tradition that has been passed down, generation to generation:

"Please remember what you told your servant Moses.  'If you are unfaithful to me, I will scatter you among the nations.  But if you return to be and obey my commands and live by them, then even if you are exiled to the ends of the earth, I will bring you back to the place I have chosen for my name to be honored.'"  Nehemiah 1: 8-9
Nehemiah remembers the promises of God, the same promises we find in the Bible. 

Here is my question for you:  Do you lose God's perspective sometimes?  If so, what is that you forget?  Who God is?  Who you are?  What His Word says?

For me, as noted in my strange warehouse dream, I often forget who I am.  I forget that my worth is not found in my giftings, but rather, I am worthy and loved because I am simply made by His hands.  I find myself always striving, always trying to prove myself because I don't see myself as God sees me.  Instead, I look at myself through the world's eyes.  And there is a place in which I will never fully measure up.

Okay, enough of my words.  I pray that you would be encouraged and be an encourager as you go out among the Soli Deo Gloria community.  

Community builder:  As you look among the many faces, find one that you don't recognize.  Go hang out at her place for a bit and leave a note of welcome and encouragement.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

A Better World Facebook Review

I get addicted to word games and my husband gets addicted to war/slay the dragon/samuri type games.  To be honest, I have stayed away from even the tamer things like Farmville, etc, simply because I see how easy it is to get caught up in fantasy land and neglect the real life world we actually live in.  My kids however, are growing older and though they are still too young for a Facebook account, I want to be a type of mom who knows what's out there.  What will pull them in?  What will they be attracted to?  Will the game hold the same values as we try to uphold in my house?

When I had the opportunity to review a new Facebook game called A Better World, produced by ToonUps, I thought it would be great to dive into a fantasy world that might actually parallel with our real-world and encourage us to live out those "do-goods" off the computer as well.

The goal in A Better World is to get rewards for doing good and for helping others do good.  While I think the goal for doing good things in our house is to do them just for the sake that is the right thing to do, there does need to be some sort of tangible goal in any game.  The moral reasoning for doing good things will have to come through our family teaching/scripture anyway, so I am not opposed to the reward system in the game.  There are many areas in the game, as there are in life, in which to do good.  In addition, the game takes on a personal touch in that you can play and interact with other friends who play the game on Facebook as well.

Character Creation & Clothing Boutique

I have to be honest -- when I created my character for this game, I was a little disappointed with the lack of modest shirt options.  In addition, the standard body type given was a bit on the "perfect" side.  When/if my kids play this game, I don't want them to encounter yet another unrealistic body image.

However, when you travel to the Clothing Boutique, there are an array of modest options.  In addition, you can also choose from several cute pairs of glasses, which I love.

All Around Town:  Positive Encouragements

Fun highlights that encourage us to take initiative in our real-life communities:

  • Positive Post:  Send a message to a fellow Facebook friend in the game.
  • Arcade:  One of the games focused on recycling.  When we recycle we diminish the amount of stuff in our landfill.  Playing the game may not green up our earth, but perhaps will make us think twice about putting something in the trash next time.
  • Clothing Boutique:  Not only can you buy things for yourself, but you can also buy for someone else and leave gifts for them at their house.  Next time we are out shopping, perhaps we will pick up a little happy item for someone we know may not have had the best day instead of filling our carts with just stuff for ourselves.
  • Community Garden:  Start out virtual and by the end, you just may be excited about planting seeds in your own backyard.

To get a complete overview, you can click on the trailer below:
To find and play A Better World on Facebook, log in to Facebook and then click here.  You can also get started by clicking here to access A Better World homepage.

I was given the opportunity to share my thoughts and opinions on A Better World. ToonUps provided a $50 gift card as a thank you for my participation. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Will You Be A Light Halloween Night?

I am over at Blissfully Domestic today tackling the topic of whether or not it is appropriate for Christians to engage in anything associated with Halloween.  I would love to hear your opinions about being a Christian on Halloween night and how that affects your participation.

Here's a little teaser...

Have you ever had a really strong sense of conviction about something, convinced that there was no shade of gray about it, and because of that, viewed every one else’s behavior as simply…wrong?  Halloween is one of those polarizing topics, but could it be one that is actually peppered with shades of gray?

Where Are You on the Halloween Spectrum?
Many Christians see Halloween as a black-and-white situation.  The day has roots that date back to the ancient Celtics who believed that on the eve of the new year, the line between the spiritual realm and physical realm became blurred.  As such, they offered burnt sacrifices to Celtic deities and attempted to use the spirits to help predict future fortune.  Sounds like nothing a Christian would want to dabble in, yes?
As a Christian, I would agree and say that I would not be one to participate in ancient Celtic rituals.  But is this the meaning of Halloween now as we participate in the donning of costumes and treat bags, as we gather as neighbors and delight children by indulging them with candy?

To continue reading, please click here...  I would love to hear YOUR thoughts about Halloween over at Blissfully Domestic!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Nourishment: In the Waiting

Have you ever just craved nourishment?  How do you get it physically, emotionally, spiritually?  Because I have these questions and I want answers, I've asked a series of people to come in and share how they find nourishment.  Will you come along for the journey?  We will meet here every Thursday until the posts  run out.  Have something to share about nourishment?  Contact me and we will set a date!  
Meet Catherine.  Yes, I am blessed beyond measure that she is my sister-in-law.  She is a writer, a friend, a seeker, and just a fantastic person.  She is one to always find the bright side, to see the best in someone, and to offer encouragement to a hungry heart.

Def. of sustenance (n.) - sustaining health or life.

When Jen asked me to write a guest blog post for her nourishment series, I was happy to oblige.  Honestly, my super organized sis-in-law asked me over a month ago.   When she approached me, I had no idea what the Lord would ask me to share.  As a planning gal myself, normally I would have written "my assignment" and turned it in with plenty of time to spare.  But this time, the Lord said, "Wait".

The Lord and I have been going back and forth about that word for a while now.  Wait.  Wait.   Wait.  Ugh...waiting.  Not my forte.   I'm the last born of three children.  My parents and siblings would tell you I love adventure and have a zest for life.  I love to laugh, love my family, love to make other people smile.  I love being on the go.  I definitely do not like to wait.  Yet, God continues to give me opportunities for practice.

Two years ago, God gave me a dream - literally.  I woke that morning, ran to my computer and typed every detail I could remember.  The calling He had placed in my heart was so strong and undeniable that I was eager to tackle it immediately.  But God said, "Wait".  There were existing commitments and responsibilities that I needed to fulfill before I could let go.  Yet, in the midst of those commitments, I still tried to pursue this new endeavor.  I kept saying, "God, I've got this!"  The result was exhaustion, disenchantment and tears.

What I couldn't see or appreciate then was the process God wanted me to experience.  The planner in me had it all figured out, and I'd taken the reigns from the Master Architect.  Again, God was asking me to wait.  Wait.  What a frustrating four-letter word!  Begrudgingly, I did.  When people would ask me how my "special project" was going, I had a pat answer.  "I'm trusting God's timing."  I WANTED to believe what I was saying, but I also felt so frustrated that God would place something so important in front of me without letting me take it into my hands.

Six months ago, I finally felt released.  I began letting go of client work and projects while politely declining new ones.  At the end of August, I officially closed a successful consulting practice that I'd spent the last six years building.  And you know what?  All I felt was relief.  When I finally stopped moving, I realized how utterly exhausted I was in body, mind and spirit.  So I thought, "Now what?"  God said, "Just wait".

I spent the next month going to hot yoga (my favorite!), meditating on God's word and receiving sustenance for my body, mind and spirit.  I've read more books in the last three months than I've probably read in the last two years.  I go for morning walks with our lovable Aussie - enjoying the trails almost as much as my furry pal.  I've met friends for lunch and spent many a day at home in the quiet.  Waiting.  Being Fed.  Waiting.  Receiving sustenance.

God provided a last-minute opportunity for me to attend a Women of Joy conference a couple of weeks ago.  There in the midst of all these amazing women was a call to action.  God said, "Now.  It's time to begin".  I finally realized that God has been providing the sustenance needed for my journey - the great adventure that He has asked me make.  He's so smart.

My greatest desire is to trust and follow God in all things, but sometimes I get tripped up by my own excitement and looking for "the perfect outfit".   When God asks us to wait, He's not telling us, "No".  He's saying, "Not yet".   If God is asking you to wait, then wait.  Find the patience to be still and receive His sustenance.  You'll be better prepared for the work He has in store for you.

The Lord has given me the tongue of disciples,
That I may know how to sustain the weary one with a word.
He awakens me morning by morning,
He awakens my ear to listen as a disciple.
~Isaiah 50:4
Catherine & her brother (my husband!)

Want to read more of Catherine?   To follow/subscribe to her blog Taproot, click here.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

How He Loves Us

photo source
Sunday morning, my little girls and I receive communion.
We are sanctified and loved and free.
And my oldest goes to her daddy,
sits in a chair behind him as he plays
the bass guitar,
her heart moved by the proximity of the drums
and the deep notes
and I pray that the words flowing around
her find a place to root in her heart.

And my youngest climbs into my lap,
back in the safety of our pew,
the crushed velvet underneath us,
and I hold her tight,
and she never complains about my singing voice,
my just clings to me tighter,
and I wonder how many years we have left do do this.

And then the words of the song,
Oh How He Loves Us,
begin to penetrate my soul,
and I wrap her more tightly,
and I pray,
Oh God, may she know...
May she understand...
May she feel...
the extent of your love,
how it  never fails,
always holds tight,
always redeems,
always offers
a hand out to us.

And I close my eyes and wrap my spirit around hers,
and I pray,
may she never find a substitute for You,
Fill her heart, Lord, may it overflow with the rush of You.
May she see how your love is different than anything
else contained in this world.
And I whisper,
Do you know, Hannah...
Do you know how much He loves you?
And she shakes her head.
And I pray...

And I whisper again,
So, so much, sweet girl.
Always and forever.
Linking this week with Emily at Imperfect Prose and next week with Laura and Michelle (because this is going to be a busy weekend!)

Monday, October 17, 2011

Soli Deo Gloria Thoughts & Party

I've been thinking about us lately.

I've been marveled by your sharing.  I've been amazed by your prayers, your perseverance, your willingness to truly be there for people that you probably have never met in your entire life, except through this world wide web.  I've seen you give your time, your money, your prayers, your hope, your encouragement, and your love to each other and to me.

Marvelous.  In every sense of the word.

I love this community.  I look back to the debut of us, November 16th, 2010.  For the first link-up, we were 16.  Since then, we have grown.  Our largest party?  We had 83 people attend.  If I was good at math in my head, I would tell you what percentage increase that would be, but alas, I am not.  Any whizzes out there?  You can tell us in the comments.

I give God all the glory for this.  What He has done in us and through us is amazing and wonderful.  And I believe He wants to expand this community even further.  I think there are more people He wants to bring into the fold.  But, in order to do this, I have to get out of the way.  You see, God knows that I am loyal and steadfast and fulfill every obligation that I possibly can.  But, as this community grows, it's getting really hard for me to visit all of you and plan for my class at church, volunteer at my kids' school, run my house, study the Word, and be the mom and wife He has called me to be.  I'm getting this nudge that maybe, and literally I am cringing at the thought of this idea, I need to not have this expectation of myself.  Maybe, I need to listen, just as you do, to God, letting Him direct my mouse over your sweet faces, clicking where He wishes me to go.

Oh, this is hard.  My heart is heavy.  But the journey of Soli Deo Gloria began with me laying down, surrendering to His pruning, and so it must continue.  What I just love is how when He prunes, it is to allow new growth.  I think He is taking us to a whole new level of nourishment, of community, of enfolding those who need help to stand, to share, to love.
The only thing that is really changing is that I might not appear on everyone of your blogs every single week in the comment section.  To understand the precursor to this decision, read this.  Soli Deo Gloria is going to continue on as usual in every single other way...and maybe God will surprise us and do something else amazing!

If you are new here or have ever been discouraged about the lack of comments on your blog, I hope these words will comfort you.  I had this revelation while talking to a friend over a Starbucks chai latte.

I used to think that the purpose of linking up with another blog was so that I could receive something -- more comments, more followers, higher stats.  But God has shown me, instead, that linking up is an opportunity to give first.  When I link my post, I want to people to be encouraged, to know that they aren't the only ones is a bad place or a good place or a whatever place.  I want my posts to be a reflection of what God is doing in my life -- hard or easy.  It is my way of saying, "Here I am.  Walk with me."  It's me extending a hand, reaching out.  One never knows the life that can be changed with His Holy Spirit speaking through these keyboards.  We cannot limit our voice or limit where our voice may be heard just because of the number of comments we have received.  Even if only one person reads your post, that one person could be forever changed.  

This week, as you read SDG posts, know that your heart-sharing matters, whether it is on your blog or in the comments of someone else's.  Know that God is using your voice and your life to do amazing things for Him and for His Kingdom.
"Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.  And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near."  Hebrews 10: 24-25
Alright, girls.  Go out.  Spread the encouragement.  Spread the love.  Spread His Word.  Amen!

photo source

Sunday, October 16, 2011

About Staying Put

photo source
Today in my desert spirituality class, we got a dose about what the monks say about staying put.  Out of the thirteen wise sayings, this one struck my heart the most:
Abba Poeman also said, "A man who stays in his place in life will not be troubled."
You see, last night I had a dream, a troubling one, in which I awoke five times and upon falling back asleep, continued to remain in the same unconscious world.  Although parts of it seem incredibly unrealistic and quite funny at first glance, there is an underlying message for me that I simply could not shake.

I was in a dirty warehouse district of sorts where there were all these spa pedicure chairs (I know, you can laugh).  None of them had any water supply to the foot tubs, so I was responsible for fetching the warm water and pouring it into each basin.  It would have been much easier if the water supply had been close and if I had a nice, sturdy bucket.  Alas, I did not.  I had to climb several flights of stairs to get to the faucets.  I had only this large, flimsy plastic bag with which to carry the water, and the pedicure chairs seemed to be always  moving from one building to another.  I seemed to never be able to carry the water without spilling it, it was often so heavy in  my arms that I dropped each bag along the way, and by the time I had arrived at the basin, the water I had remaining was cold.

I remember the mean looks of the owner and the pedicure customers.  I was coming up short.  No matter how I tried to get better at doing my job, I could never meet everyone's needs.

I awoke from the dream utterly exhausted.  Realizing my dream and how many times I had waked during the night, I asked God:

Do you have a message for me here?

Thus, after reading this saying by Abba Poeman, I felt the very gentle, but still convicting realization hit:

I have not stayed put.  I have travelled outside my place.  As such, I am often troubled.

God has given me very specific people to which I am supposed to bring water.  And I have gone beyond that in a way that has ended up depleting my own supply.  And so, in my Sunday school class, I repented.  I repented for trying to be a savior when we already have a Savior that is perfectly perfect for the job.

During the sermon after my class, my priest talked about how the busyness of our lives has distracted us from God.  He then gave a visual image of a mother and her child sitting in the wide expanse of an empty field.  The toddler would toddle off a short distance, always making sure that mom was still there and he was still safe within her sight.  He related this to us, challenging us to not wander too far, to make sure we could always see Jesus, to stay put where we are safe in His arms.  While this is a powerful message in and of itself, it had a particular impact on me, as just a few days ago my friend told me that I had made no space for myself on a regular basis.  She said something along the lines of this:
There is a field, Jen.  Open space for you to run free, not so constrained by the things you feel you must do.
 I remember the freedom within that Sabbath day I took a few weeks ago.  It feels like the wide expanse of a green field, a place to run free.  A place to soak up enough water to pour out again to those to which God has asked me to minister.  A place where I can stay put, safe in His gaze.

Linking with Michelle at Graceful and Laura at The Wellspring.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Nourishment: In the Breath

Have you ever just craved nourishment?  How do you get it physically, emotionally, spiritually?  Because I have these questions and I want answers, I've asked a series of people to come in and share how they find nourishment.  Will you come along for the journey?  We will meet here every Thursday until the posts  run out.  Have something to share about nourishment?  Contact me and we will set a date!  
Meet Michelle.  She is my yoga instructor and friend.  We bonded while watching our children do gymnastics hour after hour.  Who knew one could bond so tightly in a warm, slightly smelly gym?  I am ever thankful for her honesty and openness, no matter what I have to say.
photo source
I am so honored to be a guest and to share with you my thoughts on nourishment.  Thank you for the invitation Jen, and for all of those whose amazing words came before mine. They have been inspiring and enlightening!

I found myself excited by all the ways nourishment presents itself.  So off to the dictionary, the dictionary from my computer, in an attempt to reel in my enthusiasm. The dictionary helpfully systematizes my understanding of nourishment with these words:  “the substances necessary for growth, health and good condition.”  I must add love.

For me, nourishment encompasses being purposeful in all facets of my life. It can be simply showing up for myself and others, fully present with the courage to lead with my heart and the intent to be kind, compassionate, and loving…(I could go on forever here). Nourishment has many faces and often changes with the seasons.

In my life, nourishment begins with reverence, gratitude and grace whether it is in the form of prayer, meditation, journaling, blogging, speaking, practicing, (physical activity – yoga, running etc.) or simply being.  It is followed by what I put in my mouth and what comes out of it. It knocks on the door in the form of breathing (not the in and out repetitive non-conscious breathing, the kind that fills you with sustenance…more on this) food(the kind that is produced from the earth) and dialogue (inner and outer stemming from loving kindness).   It materializes in my lifestyle choices. 

Being mindful of what goes in and out of my mouth is not easy.  Sometimes convenience presents itself and I want to give in by choosing foods that are not nourishing but fast.  It’s easier to drive through, just throw any ol' thing into the cart without understanding what is in it or where it came from or by letting the kids buy prepackaged food that is sold everywhere. It can be tiring contending with society and good marketing vying for the girl’s (all of our) attention to make healthy choices.  Then it hits me; isn’t it worth the fight to provide and seek knowledge so my family can continue to make healthy nourishing choices throughout life? Giving our bodies the best possible growth avenue? Will what we are about to consume provide my family with the nutrients needed to live a healthy active life?  Is it made with love? The same goes for what comes out of my mouth. It is mostly in the way I talk to myself (condemning, judging, shoulding) but can sometimes extend to what I say to others. Can I nourish others with my words? Can I nourish myself with my thoughts?

Nourishment can surprise me by making a guest appearance in the form of letting go or the act of surrendering what no longer serves my mind or body. I sometimes find it while taking the first sip of coffee (not saying coffee is nourishing -- I’m aware of its faults) in a quiet house with only a glimmer of light and the auspiciousness of a new day. It kicks me out of bed on a cold morning with the promise of nourishing my family and to sip said coffee.  It envelops me in the form of my husband’s loving arms around me. It lures me awake in the middle of the night in the form of my child snuggling so close her nose touches mine all the while knowing I will not get an ounce of sleep but will feel nourished with the notion that I provided love and security for her. It’s ever present in my children’s words, laughter, and actions (even in when naughty creeps in -harder, much harder to feel nourished with affirmation that every situation is a teachable one).  I am most comforted in knowing that when I feel depleted there is so much nourishment that surrounds me. It’s available for me to grab hold of. Below is a practice in nourishment. It can be done when you feel depleted or mindful...

Nourishment practice:

You can do this anywhere (a car, a chair, in your bed, on a cushion, at the grocery store). Begin bringing awareness to your breath (just as an observer – leaving judgment at the back door). Inhale more deeply let it fill your entire mid section extending to your spine, side body all the way to your lower belly. Exhale (slowly) all of your air out through your nose. Continue to breathe deep adding nourishment every time you inhale. Let it be expansive. Exhale what no longer serves you (negative self talk, anything that resides in the form of toxicity). You can do it 3 times or 300.  It’s always accessible no matter where you are.   Nourishment is a breath away.

Gratitude, love and all smiles, Michelle

Want to read more of Michelle?  Click here to read/follow/subscribe to her blog, Yoga and Randomness.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A Year with the Word

It happened yesterday, but I didn’t realize it until I sat on my couch this morning, chai latte by my side, ready to absorb what He was going to tell me.

I saw “2010” printed in blue ink above the date, “October 11.”  One year ago, I began my journey with the One Year Bible, and yesterday, without even noticing, I had completed my goal – to read the entire Bible.

And how ironic that just on Sunday, as I Skyped with my father, he asked me this:

“Does it really make a difference in your life if you read the Bible every day?  If you read the entire Bible?”

“Um, yeah, Dad.  It does.”

“How is your life changed since you started?” he asks me...

How has the Word changed my life in the past year?  Will you join me at The Scenic Route?  Click here to keep reading...

Monday, October 10, 2011

Dancing with the Star & Soli Deo Gloria Party

Welcome to Soli Deo Gloria.  This is a place to share what is on your mind.  It is a place where vulnerability is accepted, where heart cries are honored, where struggles are heard.  It is a place where we are unconcerned with the quality of your words, but about the state of your heart.  We are a community of women that seek to encourage, support, love each other with our words.  There is laughter.  There are tears.  There is everything in between.  No matter where you are, who you are, where you have been, I want you to know that you are in the fold and that as you leave your link, you are prayed for.  Desire more information?  Please click here for the full scoop.  

This is a growing community (Thank you, Jesus!), so please don't feel that you have to visit every single person that links up.  We are all on a time budget.  That being said, I do invite you to pray and ask God which blogs to visit simply because there may be words for you left in that place or words that God has given you to share to those specific people.  And, while you are there, as you write in the comments of another's blog, would you offer up a prayer for them?  (If you would like to be on the email list for reminders and the occasional prayer request, please let me know in the comments.)

photo source
This past weekend, I went to the Women of Joy conference in San Antonio.  Anita Renfroe was the first speaker Saturday morning and she did this number first.
Hilarious.  I laughed so hard my face hurt.  And then, we heard Kay Arthur.  This shift was kinda of like going from having a rip-roaring good time at a college party and then the cops showing up.  Not that I know what that is like.  Really.

Saturday night, we heard Michael W. Smith in concert.  I was immediately transported back to junior high school while he played "Friends are Friends Forever."  We all kinda swayed in the audience, bodies linked together, tears glistening in our eyes.  I've included one of the videos from the early 90s so you can get the scene, minus the jr. high swaying girls.
At one point, Michael was playing a melody -- no words.  Sometimes, God will speak to me in visions -- almost always at some point, I start interacting with the vision instead of just letting His words and pictures unfold.  This time, He was insistent that I give up my creative input.  He literally said, "Just watch."

As the scene unfolded, it was just me and Jesus, on this stage atop white marble steps, and as Michael's sweet music played, I danced with Jesus (please don't think me crazy).  A type of ballroom dancing, I suppose, but what is fully imprinted on my mind is how He would twirl me over and over and over again.  With every spin, the joy increased, the intensity of relationship grew, and it was as if nothing could ever matter as much as Him.  I never looked down at my feet to see if I was making the right steps.  I never had any inclination to lead (which if you ask my husband, he would be shocked at this comment alone).  I never had the thought that the music might end and the dance would be done.  I was swept away.

Honestly, at the end of the vision, I had no idea what it meant, except that it was quite nice, this being enraptured with Jesus.  I think I had a bit of doubt, too.  Did I just make this up?  Did Jesus really bless me with this gift, with this profession of love?  Is He really being this intentional with me?  Does it have any greater meaning?

The next morning, Sherry Rose Shepherd began her talk, entitled this:

Dancing on the Battlefield.

Maybe I'm not so crazy after all.

P.S.  Thank you, Soli Sisters, for your prayers for Abby.  She hasn't thrown up since 11:15AM this morning (a mere 30 minutes after I sent out the prayer requests).  

Also, linking this with Michelle at Graceful and Laura at The Wellspring.