Sunday, July 31, 2011

8 Miles with a Smile

Photo source
Saturday morning dawned cloudy with a slow, sweet breeze.  We received nary a raindrop from the tropical storm that had gone south and dashed our hopes for drought relief, but the weather that morning was great for an early morning run.

Eight miles was the plan and I left my house, turned on my music, and decided to be grateful for what I had instead of what was missed.  As my feet crunched the gravel from the trail, as the wind blew through my hair, as I watched the people also out for their morning runs and walks, my heart was filled with joy, mile after mile.

And so, in my perkiness, I decided to spread my joy.  No matter who passed me (I knew not a single one of them, save the last), I greeted them with a smile, a "Hello!", or "Good morning!"

And do you know that not everyone enjoyed my radiant joy?  The Saturday morning that dawned with brilliant weather, there were still grumpy people.

Normally, on a regular, not-so-cognizant-of-my-joy kind of day, I would be offended when people didn't smile back, return my chipper "Good morning!," or at least meet my gaze.  But this day, it didn't matter.  If someone wasn't in the mood to receive, I didn't let it hinder me from continuing to greet the next person in my path.  I kept spreading my joy.  I kept smiling.  I kept encouraging.

And then, about mile 6, I started to get tired.  The clouds began to dissipate.  The temperature started to climb.  It was time to go uphill, which meant my heart rate was inching up there as well.  I became focused and I began to tune out those around me.  In my own weariness, I turned inward, looking toward the end, gaze fixed on the goal, the clock, the miles before me.  It was all about me.

Jesus says,
"'For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.  Then the righteous will answer Him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?  When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?  When did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?'  The King will reply, 'Truly, I tell you, whatever you did for the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'"  (Matthew 25: 35-40, NIV)
 I thought about the effort it took me to look beyond my physical issues of the moment, to smile through my own fatigue, to greet another with the energy I could have been pouring into my run.  It was hard.  And yet, it was another physical, tangible example of God teaching me how to still engage and encourage others despite my own pain, my own issues, my own lack.

We live in a tired world.  A world that needs encouragement.  A world that needs tastes of joy.  A world that sometimes needs prompting to just...smile.  And to God's glory, I want to be able to give the world a bit of His energy, a bit of His unceasing love, a bit of His unending love -- one mile at a time.

Linking with Michelle and Laura.  Beautiful people, beautiful communities.




Oh!  Please don't forget -- Soli Deo Gloria opens Monday night at 8pm.  I would love to be able to encourage and pray for you!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Still: Five Minute Friday


Five Minute Friday Guidelines:
1. Write for 5 minutes flat for pure unedited love of the written word on the prompt, “Still.”
2. Link back here and invite others to join in.
3. Get a little crazy with encouragement in the comments of the five minuter who linked up before you.


We are still parched.

Still the ground cracks.

Still the dust kicks up upon arrival.

Still the leaves on the tree whither and fade.



Still the crops crumple under the relentless, scorching heat.

I pray.  We pray.  And still...

Still we are without relief.

And yet...

I still remain hopeful.

I still cling to the promise that He will provide for the needs of this earth.

He will still provide for the needs of me.

Perhaps not in my own timing,

But still, He will.

I still will remain steadfast.

I still will approach the throne of the Most High God.

I still will stand in awe of His mercy, His Love, His Nourishment.

I will still remain full of faith, for He has proven,

Time and time again, that His love still endures.

In the midst of the worry, doubt, concern,




I will be still and know that He is God.









If you would like to participate in 5 Minute Friday, click here.

Also, linking up with Michelle at Caffeinated Randomness.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

An Introvert's Guide to Hospitality


My article recently went live over at Blissfully Domestic.  Any of you introverts?  Any of you avoid the concept of hospitality because of this?  Click with me over there to find out how you can be an introvert and still practice hospitality!

Photo source click here

I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve used my introverted tendencies to get out of practicing hospitality.  I’ve blamed my reluctance to extend a hand or an invitation on being shy, on not being into small talk, on needing my own personal space.  And yet, all over the Bible, God talks about the importance of extending hospitality to strangers and friends alike...

To continue reading, please click here.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Gratitude

Photo courtesy of Michelle Norris
Yoga poses.
Body twisted to strengthen, lengthen, unwind.
The process of enduring pain for a time so to grow,
unkink, to remember.



On the mat,
wondering when I will be able to let go, release.
When will I be free from this hardship?
And the teacher's voice says,
Find gratitude for the body that enables you to do this.

And in this physical realm,
I can see how the moves make me stronger,
more able to balance, to be sturdy and firm and graceful.
And so I can find gratitude, even amidst the physical
aches and groans and misery of the moment.

And as I hold, I hear the voice of James echoing in my heart:
Consider it pure joy...when you face trials of many kinds.
I often do not understand it possible to be joyful
among afflictions,
tragedy,
loss,
devastation.
I forget how this, too, might make me
stronger,
more pliable,
bendable,
moldable,
sturdy,
firm.

I forget.
And I don't understand.
And yet, just as I can find gratitude for this body of mine,
even when it shudders and shakes and threatens to topple over
in my yoga pose,
I will find gratitude for all that exists both inside the tragedy
and outside of it.
Even when my spirit is shaky,
When my faith threatens to topple over,
When I feel myself shudder with fear.
I will sing the praises of my Creator.
I will endure the Refiner's Fire.
I will live to see the other side.

(The beautiful picture above is my wonderful yoga teacher, Michelle Norris!)

My simple pleasure is finding a spiritual truth manifested in the physical realm so that I might better understand what God wishes to teach me.

Linking with Dayle.

Project Simple Pleasures2


Monday, July 25, 2011

So Full & Soli Deo Gloria

Welcome to Soli Deo Gloria.  Really, welcome.


I pray as you enter here, you feel overwhelmingly invited.  Soli Deo Gloria is 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.  For more information about this community, please click here.  


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.  Also, if you would like to be on the email list for reminders and the occasional prayer request, please let me know if the comments.  There have been so amazing ways that God has been working through prayer through these precious ladies.  Blessings to you.
Stephanie, me, Amy
Oh, y'all.

I'm writing this on Sunday afternoon, in the airport in North Carolina, because I know every moment on Monday, I will have two little blonde-headed things attached to my legs, and blogging will simply be out of the question.  I haven't been able to process 25% of what I have learned or experienced at She Speaks, so if my ramblings are convoluted and plain gibberish, just pat my blog on the head and move on.

First, thank you.  Thank you for enabling me financially, spiritually, and emotionally to attend the She Speaks Conference.  God used you.  Thank you for listening to His promptings to support me.  Thank you for offering me encouraging words when I was filled with self-doubt.  Thank you for being a part of God's calling in my life. Words cannot express how wonderful you make my world.  If you could see me now, you would see the tears glistening in my eyes.  I am overcome by love.

Frankly, I don't know where to start.  There is so much in my heart, so much on my mind, and then this thing called fatigue that makes me want to curl up with my new travel pillow at the gate and just close my eyes.  But my spirit, it is too alert, too ready to start weaving into my heart the truths that I learned.  I weep with joy not because the talks that I gave in my speaker evaluation groups were perfect (they were not), not because I've come home with a packed agenda filled with speaking engagements (not one), not because God has shown me the big picture of where I'll be at key points in my life (nope, just the opposite -- I know only the next little step).  I weep because I know Him.  I weep because He has taken a huge chisel to my heart and knocked away the stones that say:

I must achieve.

I must be perfect the first time, every time.

God might not show up.

I have to be big to be anything.

I'm behind in this race.

I weep because I am overcome.  Overcome with His grace and His love.  And I know this might sound trite.  How many times have I myself written these same words at different points in my life?  But somehow, friends, in some holy and mysterious and powerful way, this overcome has gone deep and flushed out so much negativity and worldliness that has lived in my heart for decades.  This overcome comes with freedom.  New breath.  New life.  


Will you keep me accountable, friends?  When I fall back into old habits of negativity and doubt, when I lose my confidence and start trying to manipulate situations because I fail to trust, will you remind me of the time when I was overcome?  Will you tell me that the chains are gone?  That I am free?


It's time for me to let you go visit others, but know that as I visit each of you, I am committing not just to read and comment on your blog.  I am committing to pray for you.  For if I've learned anything at She Speaks, the power of prayer moves mountains.


More to come...


With all my heart,
Jen




Sunday, July 24, 2011

For It Is Not You...

"For it is not you who will be speaking -- it will be the Spirit of your Father speaking through you."
Matthew 10:20

I will be blogging about everything I learned at the She Speaks conference for quite some time.  In fact, I just wrote a blog post about She Speaks for my Soli Deo Gloria link up tomorrow night, but alas, I am sitting in an airport with free wi-fi.  What else to do, but blog, right?  And I love Michelle and Laura -- such fun people to hang out with in blogland.

This verse, though, y'all, I got to live this out.  Amazing.  Simply and fully amazing.  Friday night, I had to give a 3 minute talk in front of my speaker evaluation group, which consisted of 14 people, all speakers.  I had written, and re-written, scratched out, re-worded, and ultimately totally tossed all of the drafts of this talk.  And so, when I walked up to the front of the room, I had nothing.  Not one scrap of paper.  All I had was a whispered prayer:

Holy Spirit, breath through me.  Speak not the words on my own agenda, but Your Words, Your Heart.  Let not my need for perfection supersede the impression of Your Will.

And to be totally real, I also said things like:

Why do you do this to me?  Why can't I just memorize some conglomeration of powerful words and get up there and say it?  Why can't you just TELL ME NOW so I can be PREPARED?  Why must I risk looking like a fool?

Looking like a fool.  That was the heart.  But walking up there, vacillitating between trusting that He would show up and resigning myself to falling on my face, there wasn't too much room for pride.  There wasn't too much room for my message.  There wasn't too much room for fulfilling my desires to be perfect.  In the emptiness of my brain, there was a fullness in my heart of just wanting to open my mouth and let Him be through me.

And He came.

Not in the form of perfection.
Not in the form of wonderful eye contact and pregnant pauses.
Not in the form of words so elegantly strung together.
Not in the form of a perfectly placed punch line.

But He came.

He came in the form of a message that visibly struck these women's hearts.
He came in a message of rest.
He came in the refuting of the common belief:  If you are busy, you are good.
He came in the gentle call to sit upon the steps of the throne room and just receive His gracious love.

The rush of the Holy Spirit's words coursing through my heart and then up and through my mouth...

Better than perfection.
More than enough.
Left breathless by His stunning beauty and unconcerned with my own image in those moments after it was finished.

He came.  

And with me, I carry Him, that He would be in my every word.  That is my hope.

Linking with these beautiful women:







And would you consider being a part of Soli Deo Gloria?  Link is open from Monday at 8pm CST through Wednesday at 11:59pm CST.



Monday, July 18, 2011

Nourishment Part 2 & Soli Deo Gloria Party

Welcome to Soli Deo Gloria, whether it's your first time here or your 25th.  Basically, we are a community of women that seek to encourage, support, love each other with our words.  It's a fun party and I love hosting you here each week.  If you would like more information about this community, please click here.  Just a note:  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.  Also, if you would like to be on the email list for reminders and the occasional prayer request, please let me know if the comments.  Blessings to everyone!

Ahhhh....it's good to be back.

That nourishment I was talking about last week?  It took place at the beach.  This beach...

Being at the beach has always been a nourishing place for me.  It's the beauty, it's the rhythmic sounds, it's the reminder that God is vast and powerful and ever-flowing.  One day, I settled into my chair and asked God, "Okay, what do you want to tell me?"  My expectation is always that He is going to reveal something big to me -- something I need to work on, realize, accept.

But this week, He just said, "Relax.  Enjoy.  Be nourished.  Be open.  Stop trying to figure things out.  Stop worrying about the next moment.  Relax.  Enjoy.  That is what nourishment is all about for you right now."

And so, I relished my daughter pulling me on the boogie board in the waves.
And I watched with love as my dad danced with his oldest granddaughter.
And I enjoyed a date with my husband.
And I watched a full moon rise above the ocean (this picture can't do it justice).

Sometimes (and I'm just learning this) life doesn't always have to be about work, and I don't mean the work that comes with a paying job.  Sometimes, we get the gift of easy times, of easy laughter, of children who entertain themselves on the beach for hours.  Sometimes, we can revel in the casual conversation and still feel closer at the end of the day.  Sometimes, it's just about being who we are.  And sometimes, who we are, is just enough.

Enjoy each other and I will be enjoying all of you.  It's good to be back!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Nourishment & Soli Deo Gloria Link-up Party

Welcome to Soli Deo Gloria, whether it's your first time here or your 25th.  Basically, we are a community of women that seek to encourage, support, love each other with our words.  It's a fun party and I love hosting you here each week.  If you would like more information about this community, please click here.  Just a note:  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.  Also, if you would like to be on the email list for reminders and the occasional prayer request, please let me know if the comments.  Blessings to everyone!
Last week, knee deep in writing a Blissfully Domestic article and two talks for my speaker evaluation group for She Speaks, I started to break down. I literally felt that I was at the end of myself.  Everything was poured out and nothing was coming back in to replenish and refuel me.  So, what's a girl to do?

She writes a poem.  

God used the words that I wrote to bring me to a whole other level of awareness of what it means to rest.  I realized that this emptiness that I've been feeling is simply malnourishment.  You see, I've nourished other parts of me --

I run to keep my body fit.
I eat healthy foods (for the most part).
I read my Bible every day.
I pray.
I surround myself with encouraging people.

I could add a plethora of things to the list, but perhaps, at times, that is the problem.  The list goes on and on, which means what doesn't happen?

Rest.

I looked up the definition and this one grabbed a hold of me:

relief or freedomespecially from anything that wearies, troubles, or 
disturbs.


Does anyone out there need some relief?  Some freedom from what wearies or troubles?
Today, my husband took the kids to a free movie at one of the local theaters so that I might have some quiet in which to work on my two talks.  Normally, as soon as the door closes, I'm off to work.  But today, that word nourishment kept lingering in my brain.  I laid on the couch and just asked God:

What does it feel like to be nourished by you, where there is no effort or pouring out on my part, where I can find freedom and feel Your presence in my midst?


And so I just laid there.  And I listened to what He said.  And this is going to sound wild, but I felt refilled after fifteen or so minutes of just being prostrate on the couch.  Craziness!  


It took stopping.  It took being quiet.  It took time away from work.  But what is work if there is no rest?


Lifelessness.


The truth is that nothing is more important than being filled with God by God. Without that, we are running on fumes.


I'm going to focus on nourishment this week and I'm also privileged to be spending time with some family that I rarely get to see.  It breaks my heart, but I'm going to take a little vacation from visiting y'all so that I can seek Him out for more nourishment.  Y'all have a good time encouraging each other at the SDG linky party and I will FOR SURE see you next week!


Oh, and one last thing before you go encourage each other:  If you are interested in writing a guest post about how you receive nourishment from God, would you please drop me a note in the comments?  I want to start a new series about this soon.  Much love and many blessings...


Photo source here and here

Friday, July 8, 2011

5 MInute Friday: Grateful

From the Gypsy Mama:

Want to take five minutes with me and just write without worrying if it’s just right or not. Here’s how we do it:
1. Write for 5 minutes flat with no editing, tweaking or self critiquing.
2. Link back here and invite others to join in {you can grab the button code in my right side bar}
3. Go and tell the person who linked up before you what their words meant to you. Every writer longs to feel heard.
OK, are you ready? Give me your best five minutes for the prompt:

Grateful…


GO.

This morning, the alarm chirped at 5:45 am, and as I lay in bed for a few moments before my feet hit the floor, I found myself saying "thank You" to God.  

My mind does not usually achieve such clarity in the mornings, and truthfully, I felt much like I was on auto-pilot, that my heart had spilled over my mind and out of my mouth, as the sun started to peek its way into the day.

I was spilled over in gratefulness even though I'm still worn-out, a bit stressed out, and longing for something more than I have.  And I realize, I am more than I appear to be.  By His grace, I can see beyond the temporal.  I can live beyond the expectations.  I can revel amongst the imperfections.  I can be grateful, even for the things I do not have.

I appreciate the gratefulness that welled within my soul today.  I appreciate that it was gut-driven and not just a repetition of thanks for all the things for that I must indeed be thankful.  I am grateful for the haze of the morning light and the foggy mind.

STOP.

Linking with the Gypsy Mama today.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

nourish me

When the words don't come and I feel
left alone,
scattered,
the pieces strewn across the table,
and I am
unable to see how they fit together.

And my mind turns numb,
and I feel chased away by the
naggings and the petties and the frivolities.

Restless,
flitting from one thing to the next,
trying to find order in the physical
because the mental is a mess.

And I see the ways that I fall short
and I question,
oh I question,
the ability, the truth,
my perception,
and I long to dive
into the refreshment of You.


Where there is no rush,
where things are all in Your time.
Where I can rest without guilt,
Where I keep holy that which You have
set apart.
Gloriously,
You have set apart the sacred things.
The sacred things that whisper to my soul,
bringing sweet breath and cascading waters
to the parched being that I am.

Nourish me.

Linking with Emily at Imperfect Prose.


Monday, July 4, 2011

Asking for Prayer & Soli Deo Gloria Party

Welcome to Soli Deo Gloria, whether it's your first time here or your 25th.  Basically, we are a community of women that seek to encourage, support, love each other with our words.  It's a fun party and I love hosting you here each week.  If you would like more information about this community, please click here.  Just a note:  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.  Also, if you would like to be on the email list for reminders and the occasional prayer request, please let me know if the comments.  Blessings to everyone!


A few weekends ago, Craig and I went to San Antonio to celebrate our 11th anniversary.  We had been to the JW Marriott before, but this time, we discovered the adults only pool.  Oh, you could still hear kids, but you couldn't see them and they weren't close enough to actually splash you.  Not that I don't love children, but when I finally have a kid-free weekend, I like to make the most of it.  Anyway, the adult pool is an infinity pool that overlooks the golf course and the beautiful Texas hill country.  This picture signifies peace to me.

And peace is what I am asking for in the next few weeks ahead.  When I go to She Speaks, I will participate in two speaking evaluation groups and will have to give two talks.  In front of people.  10-12 people to be exact, but who's counting?  The first talk is Friday night and it's supposed to be 3 minutes long -- a bit about our personal story, our walk with God, etc.  I haven't even really begun to think about this one.  I've been focusing on my 5 minute talk, which takes place on Saturday afternoon.  I've written it, edited it, asked for feedback, and practiced it. It's about 200 words too long and I don't know what to cut out.  And then I have this nagging feeling that because I'm so passionate about the topic God has chosen, I'm going end up straying from my talk, losing track of time, and then maybe not saying half of what I've thought I was supposed to say.  In the end, I'm totally cool with the Holy Spirit, but in the time leading up to it, I'm a nervous wreck.  

So, dear friends and Soli Deo Gloria sisters, all I have for you today is a request that you would pray for peace and protection for me as I walk out in faith, as I cast my worries aside, and just live for Him, not just at She Speaks, but in every moment in between.  

Have fun at the party!  And Happy Fourth of July!!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Her Playdate with Jesus

The other night, we were snuggled in bed after Daddy read from the Star Wars chapter book.  My youngest and I, we are talking in low voices, and she whispers,


I'm scared.

And she blames it on the Star Wars book, but I'm not really sure that's the culprit or if there is any culprit at all.

And I say,

Mommy and Daddy would never let anything happen to you.

And she says,

And I know that God and Jesus are always with me.

And for some reason, I ask her,

What would you do if you had a playdate with Jesus?

And she says,

We'd go to the pool.

And I say,

Do you think He would walk on water?

And we both giggle at the thought of Jesus walking on water at our neighborhood pool amid the noodles and water guns and kick boards.

And I leave her with the thought of Jesus and the two of them laughing and splashing.  And I close the door and think about the times that I have with Jesus, the ones that are almost always serious and reverent and solemn.  And I think that perhaps now is the time for abundant frolicking and spontaneous laughter and uninhibited praise.

And maybe, even a splash or two in the pool.

Linking with the lovely Laura at Playdates with God.

Friday, July 1, 2011

5 Minute Friday: Welcome

From the Gypsy Mama:


Want to take five minutes with me and just write without worrying if it’s just right or not. Here’s how we do it:

1. Write for 5 minutes flat with no editing, tweaking or self critiquing.
2. Link back here and invite others to join in {you can grab the button code in my right side bar}
3. Go and tell the person who linked up before you what their words meant to you. Every writer longs to feel heard.
GO.

There are times the welcome starts to swell in my heart.

When I sit down to do my quiet time and I just feel that He is right there, arms open wide, heart swelled with pride, eyes that communicate the deepest love of the Father.

But then...

I turn away.  How can this be true?  How could this purity pass between us?  I am not worthy. I do not deserve.  And I start asking for forgiveness for the many things I have done wrong instead of just accepting this passionate love that flows from Him into me.

And I think about the welcome for the prodigal son.  And I think about the older brother and his jealousy.  And after all of this, I think, which one am I?

But then...

I catch myself, for I have been trapped in distraction.  The enemy has swooped in and I didn't even realize it.  He spoke the lies that tore me from my Father's love, from that God-moment that was intended to fill me for my day, to strengthen my connection with Him, that was meant to nourish a parched soul.  And why doesn't it matter if I am the wayward son or the steadfast servant when really the question is:

Will I accept my Father's love today?  Will I allow Him to envelop me into His fold?  Will go willingly and press into His welcome?

Yes.

STOP.


Find more 5 minute Friday entries about WELCOME here.

Also linking with Michelle at Caffeinated Randomness:

Photobucket