Thursday, December 29, 2011

to the one not with me

Dear Grannie,

I just wanted you to know that I thought about you through this whole Advent/Christmas season.  Well, I actually think about you quite often, but somehow the holidays always make me a bit more wistful.  I imagine my hands interlaced with yours.  My tears are closer to spilling over.  I take more moments to snuggle into the blanket you made for me a bit more deeply.

Today, I started taking down the Christmas decorations and as I was replacing garland with picture frames, I realized that I did not have a picture of you in my living room.  It was never an intentional oversight, but one that sorely stuck out to me today as I placed my With My Grandmother Willow Tree back on the mantel.

You are missing, I thought.

Of course, you are always missing.  Although there are these intense moments in which I receive a gift from God -- a whiff of your scent, a stranger on the street that looks like you, a phrase you used to say being passed between two friends -- you are missing from my life.  And I feel this loss deeply.  Do you know how many times I still long to call you?  Even though you have been gone for over a year and a half, I only just recently took you off my speed dial.  Do you know that there are certain things that I only really told you?  Not because they were any big secret, but because I knew you would understand.  I knew you would have just the right thing to say.  I knew that even though we were separated by 1,040 miles, somehow you would be able to wrap yourself around my shaking shoulders.

That's the power of a grannie.  That was the power of you.

I just want you to know that you were memorable.  Your great granddaughters still fill their worlds with your memories.  They pour through their scrapbooks and their fingers linger on your picture.  Hannah still gets teary-eyed when Selah's song, You Raise Me Up, plays over the radio. Oh, do you know the extent that you were loved?  I hope you realize that you left a legacy.  A legacy of rich, selfless love.  A legacy that I desperately want to pass on, but I fall short.

But you taught me a thing or two about grace and so I've learned to not dwell on my shortcomings but to just press into His heart more deeply.  I wish you had more grace for yourself while you walked on this earth.  Even though you gave the world everything you had, you never quite thought it was enough.  I want you to know that it was.  It was enough.  You were enough. You taught me that I was unconditionally loved.  That is the best gift of all.

I love you.

Jen

To read more about my journey through grief, please click here.


Linking with the beautiful Emily for Imperfect Prose.

Monday, December 26, 2011

soli deo gloria lite

Welcome.  Tonight is the lite edition of soli deo gloria.  I've thought about what I might write about all day, but I haven't gotten to the computer until now, which is less than 2 hours before the link up.  And, my kids are asking for yet another round of Battleship...

So, have fun reading this week those who had a moment to blog.  We will be back to the full edition next Monday, January 2nd!

Much love,
Jen

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Nourishment: 4 Things

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 Dea.  Do you ever just happen upon a blog and as you begin reading, your jaw just drops.  That's the way I felt over at her place.  Her words are just so rich, her spirit so humble.  Needless to say, you are going to love what she writes...
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The early morning sky is marked by a contrail of a jet airliner passing overhead. The roar of its engines follows. I lay back on the concrete patio---stationary, while the earth spins in the middle of vast universe. The sliver of silver moves quickly across the sky with its white cloudy tail trailing behind. Soon the plane will be out of site. I wonder where it will land.

Eleven years have passed so very quickly. The years race by like the plane in the sky.

Memories surface to the time when I had it all. My husband was a successful pediatrician in a small town, well loved and respected. I had three beautiful healthy children, the older two homeschooled while the little one made messes all over our big house on the cul-de-sac.

My life was full. I had taken incredible opportunities to serve God on mission trips to Cuba, served on the board of a crisis pregnancy center, and had a group of really close friends with whom I shared a church and social life, friendships that were deep and real.

But then there was the past. As much as the present was good and beautiful, the past kept creeping in on me.

One morning, I was studying God’s Word when the Spirit urged me, “Let’s take care of the past. It is time to bring to the Light the things you have shoved to the darkness.”

My reply, “No, thank you.”

I was serious. And I did pray, “Lord, You are Sovereign. It isn’t necessary to deal with the past. You know it so you deal with it. I will let you have it. I am moving on.”

I didn’t get far. God’s ways are not our ways. His plan was to redeem the brokenness, the pain, the fear, the need to control. I would not let Him have those things. I would not give up who I really was----the me that no one else knew, the me that I lived with everyday.

For months I struggled to keep the dark things in the dark, but they began to roll over and over in mind. 

Eventually, they took over and I found myself unable to mother, to sleep or to eat. Having it all would not hold me together. I fell apart.

I turned back to God at His prompting on a beautiful September day just over eleven years ago. I was in a lock-down unit of a mental health facility. My diagnosis: severe clinical depression. God met me in the darkness and brought all to the Light.

Even with an assurance of healing, I had to pick up the pieces to see if I could put my life back together. 

Where would I start?

When I got up eleven years ago and walked back into my house, time was slow. I couldn’t drive for a while because of medications. Someone had to take me an hour to my counseling sessions. My preschooler went to the babysitter even though his Momma was at home. My kids were in school.

I was healed and being healed. Moment by moment.

I focused on four things:

Everyday I would eat. For me, the menu was coconut yogurt, banana, and turkey sandwiches until my appetite was restored.
Everyday I would spend time with God in his Word. I wrote in a journal about what God was teaching me. I started with the book of Job.
Everyday I would exercise. I began first with a stroll and then more of a power walk. Eventually I would run.
Everyday I would intentionally talk to someone. I initiated the encounter. This was usually over the phone, but sometimes included a visit with a friend.

I was going to the doctor and seeing a godly counselor, but these four things were the baby steps that got my life moving again.

I made my bed instead of getting in it. I dressed for the day no matter if I was going out. I went through the motions and my heart joined me in the desire to do those things. My open heart believed that God loved me and wanted good things for me---simple things like food, sleep, fresh air and people to share my life.

As quickly as I lose sight of the silver glint of the airplane, eleven years have passed and disappeared into the history of my life. 

I have landed in this time and place to live on the other side of healing. It is a gift of grace that has let me LIVE. My story is a life redeemed by the God of Love who has blessed me more than I could ever dreamed or imagined.

Time still races like that plane. I no longer have to rely on the short list of four things to get me moving. I move because He allows me to awaken to live another day. 

God trusted me with four things, so that he could give me many things. That was His plan all along.

My journey through depression humbled me but did not humiliate me. Still, it is not always easy to live life on the flyway. I gave God my past and I give Him my future.

The contrail marks the sky. And I rise to live in the now. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

sometimes, it's simple

sometimes helping isn't a big production.
sometimes it's inviting people into your home to be a part of something small.

like decorating sugar cookies


















and making cards

















not for neighbors, but for those who have no neighbors.
The ones who stand on the street corners,
whose motives are constantly under scrutiny,
the ones holding the signs that say
anything helps

so we made an anything
batches of cookies piled high with icing
and sprinkles
and Christmas cards
handmade, complete with misspellings,
but with etchings such as
we are praying for you


and I know that their Christmas might not be merry,
but I said it anyway
and the three of us in the car delivering,
we looked into their eyes
and we smiled,
offering kindness and a bit of hope...maybe

but their smiles revealed their acceptance
of our offering,
a special treat just because
it's a season that was meant to be about
simple gifts

and my littlest piped up from the backseat
why didn't we bring apples and oranges, too?
and I think, next year, hannah,
next year we will add on a little more love
to our simple gifts

and I smile because it looks like the heart of my daughter
has grown just as big as the smiles
of those who received our cookies
and I think oh,
it is more blessed to give than to receive.

Linking with Emily for Imperfect Prose.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Consumed & 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.
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It's early Monday morning and the only reason that I'm up is because I told my dad I'd get up early to check him in for his flight so he's assured a good seat on the plane on his way back to Florida.  But, I'm also grateful to be sitting in front of the computer here because it's so quiet.  For the next two weeks with the kids out of school and lots of things to do, quiet will be a rarity.  Sure,  I could be sleeping but being aware of the stillness just might be even better.


At church yesterday, I heard this line in the sermon (paraphrased):
"Perhaps we could all stand to be more like Mary who was consumed by the Holy Spirit.  Instead of being consumed, we have become consumers during this Advent/Christmas season."
Since yesterday this thought has continually rolled through my mind:  Am I consumed or am I a consumer?


Clearly, I can be consumed by things by other than the Holy Spirit, but if I remember this question in the context of the sermon, it is a good way for me to gauge my heart in the heat of the moment -- when the stress surmounts, when I am frantic to make things perfect, when I go back and forth in my mind about whether or not I have bought enough, done enough, am enough.


I ask:  In this moment, am I consumed with the Holy Spirit or am I consumer of the ideals and expectations of this world?


If the answer is the latter, I am grateful for the grace of God, who is sends His Holy Spirit to fill me when I ask.  I only have to ask.  That is all.


SDG Community Builder:  What if we passed a prayer around?  What if we all prayed for each other that we would be consumed by the Holy Spirit?  When you go to visit, after you leave a comment, would you also leave this prayer (or even this prayer alone without a personal comment would be a blessing!).  You can copy and paste this one, if you wish...


Father God, You know the trappings this time of year.  You know how easy it is to fall into the ways of the world.  I pray that You would send Your Holy Spirit upon your servant so that they may be enraptured and consumed by You, this day and every day.  May she feel and know Your presence in her life.  May she be swept up in a dance with You.  Amen.


Because I've not had a lot of time for blogging, I'm also linking this post to sweet friends:
Michelle at Graceful, Laura at The Wellspring, Jennifer at Getting Down with Jesus, and Shanda at Pause on the Path.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Word on Nourishment

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 through the holidays...
Meet Amy.  Do you know what I just love best about her?  Her hunger for the Word.  She commits to going deep with Him, to understand, to study, to glean, to hide in her heart.  Just thinking about it makes me want to go get my Bible...
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How sweet are Your words to my taste!                 
Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth! [1]

It is that time of year when the festivities around Christmas offer us many temptations to overdo the intake of poor nutritious choices.  We bake more, eat more, and attend more parties where we are seduced by the food.  After all, we may not get to eat “this” again until next Christmas.  Munch, munch, munch.

Following such extravagance, we awaken the next morning with the resolve to be a better steward of our appetites going forth.

Our minds and stomachs hunger for extravagance it seems.

However, this may not be the case in our approach to the sound nutrition found in God’s Word.

If anything, we may err on being a bit anorexic when it comes to partaking of the Bible.

What we need is a steady diet of sound doctrine found there as we partake in the words of life that come off the page and into our minds, proceed to our hearts, and apply to our lives.

Once we feast on the divine precepts there, we realize how very hungry we have been and we begin to desire more of the nourishment therein.

In his first letter to Timothy (Paul’s apprentice “son” in spreading the Gospel), Paul said to and of him, “In pointing out these things to the brethren, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, constantly nourished on the words of the faith and of the sound doctrine which you have been following.” [2]

You see, those within Timothy’s sphere of influence, could have easily fallen prey to the false teaching going on in their midst (referred to as “these things” above).  The buffet, if you will, of spiritual junk food was plentiful.  And as most buffets appeal to our senses of sight, smell, and taste, I imagine these false teachings were also appealing to the spiritual senses.

It sounds good.
It looks so right and pretty.
Most people are flocking to it.
What’s one little sample going to do to me?
It’s really not a big deal.

Not only could they have fallen prey to the false teaching around them, but Timothy also could have succumbed were it not for his constant nourishment on the words of faith and the sound doctrine he followed.

Constant nourishment.
Words of faith.
Sound doctrine.

When it comes to your spiritual nourishment, where are you feeding?  Man’s words?  Or the abundant buffet of God’s inerrant Word?

It is so easy to pull up a chair to the table of world views.  It’s pretty.  It’s plentiful.  But, know that the intake there produces nothing of long value.  It’s prohibitive to our producing fruit as sound servants for God.

Like a sugar high’s effect on us, we will take off quickly and just as quickly crash when we try to live off of junk as our daily bread. 

Daily nourishment in the Word is vital to our spiritual well-being.

At this time of year, and every day forward, let us gather at God’s table and partake of the goodness of His Word as part of our daily nourishment.

The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul;
The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.
The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart;
The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.
The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever;
The judgments of the Lord are true; they are righteous altogether.
They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold;
Sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb. [3]


Encouragement:
Read the above verses from Psalm 19 and note the nourishing qualities of God’s Word.

Opportunity for Response:
How has God’s Word nourished you recently?  Please leave a comment below or you may go to Digging Deep and post a comment there.

Want to go deeper with Amy?  Click here to follow/subscribe/comment on her blog, Digging Deep.

[1] New American Standard Bible : 1995 update. 1995 (Ps 119:103). LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.
[2] New American Standard Bible : 1995 update. 1995 (1 Ti 4:6). LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.
[3] New American Standard Bible : 1995 update. 1995 (Ps 19:7–10). LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Imperfect Vlogging & 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.
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I vlogged today.  I think it's more a lesson for myself than anything else.  It's full imperfections (yes, clearly I am newbie at vlogging because the book appears backwards in the video).  And then there are the pimples. Again.  I swear, I only get pimples when God tells me to vlog.

But it's the imperfections that keep me humble.  It's being obedient even when conditions aren't perfect.  It's about being a star that gets light from Him instead of trying cast her own glow...
Happy Soli Deo Gloria day, friends.  Life isn't as rich without you.

SDG Community Builder:  Where someone might see an imperfection, will you point out His beauty?  Lavishly love one another as you visit.

If you are interested in an art piece, please click here.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Isaiah, John, and Me

"The spirit of the LORD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to provide for those who mourn in Zion - to give them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit.  They will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, to display His glory."  Isaiah 61:1-3
This was the scripture spoken out into our hearts today as we sat in the pews.  Oh, sometimes I am awed by the power of the Holy Scriptures spoken out loud.  It is as though I can almost visibly see the words spreading out among us, reaching to our hearts, longing to be taken in, ushered into the deep spaces.
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And as I heard these words, I said to myself...I want that job.  I want the job where I can bring good news to the oppressed, the job where I bear witness to His holy power binding up the brokenhearted.  I want speak the words:  You are free, in the name of Jesus!  Can you just imagine the privilege of handing out garland to one who has only known ashes?  Can you contain the excitement within yourself as you think of offering an oil of joy to someone who has been destitute, held in the chains of forever mourning?  Oh, the exuberance of seeing the faint fade away, morphing into a strength that was never even imagined!

Glory.

Fittingly, the sermon today was about our vocation, our vocation that God has equipped us to take on so that we might glorify Him and proclaim His power to save.  No matter if you are a garbage collector, a software engineer, a writer, or a priest -- all can be done for the glory of God and unto His purpose.  As someone who seems to change careers overnight, I know that no matter what my vocation is at the time, He allows me to use the gifts that He has given me to impact His kingdom in some way.  But I still struggle sometimes with thinking that I am a quitter.  I look back and think about how I used to dream about being the top special education teacher and getting invited on the Oprah show.  I look back and think how I could have advanced up the ranks of college professor or been a creator of curriculum for Christian formation.  I look ahead, squinting to see if this speaking/writing/art thing will stick, or if I will wander from thing to thing forever.
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And then, in today's words from Isaiah coupled with the words about John the Baptist, a man sent by God who came as a witness to testify to the light so that all might believe through him (John 1: 6-7), it all becomes so much clearer.  I don't want my life to be about me.  I want it to be about Him.  I have the privilege of giving up my will to the Father who places me where and when He wishes to use me.  And through this movement, I lose my tight grip on the dreams and goals I thought would fill me to no end, because instead, I find that tightly gripping God is what really soothes my soul and softens my hearts and makes me melt with mercy and compassion.  And no matter what my vocation, no matter how much I get paid, or if I get paid at all, oh to be handing out garland and speaking words of healing balm from His heart, what more could a girl want?

May we all be a voice in the wilderness (but maybe not eating wild locust), proclaiming, "Make straight the way of the Lord!" wherever God has placed us and with whatever tools He has given us.


Also, would love for you to join us tomorrow for Soli Deo Gloria (link opens Monday evening and goes through Wednesday night).

Friday, December 9, 2011

oh my soul

A few weeks ago, Big Fat Mama from Cooking Up Faith asked me to share a story about a time in my life where I was held captive and God ushered in freedom.  I immediately thought back to a guest post that I wrote many months ago.  Here it is again, but rewritten with God's amazing words entwined with mine.  Will you join me over there?  Not convinced?  Here is a teaser...
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My husband is a recovering porn addict.  I am a recovering trying-to-control-my-husband’s-every-last-move addict.  His captivity provided monstrous amounts of fuel that powered my desire to cure him, rehabilitate him, to help him become consumed with anything but porn.  I bought him books.  We arranged counseling.  I monitored his email accounts, his web browser history, his time on the computer.  I drilled him, I questioned him, I cried out to him – How could you do this to me?  And before I knew it, we were both enslaved.  We were trapped by different chains, but they were chains nonetheless.  They held us back from Jesus.  They held us back from each other.  They threatened to keep us seated in our own personal prisons forever.

Bless the LORD, O my soul,
And forget none of His benefits; (Psalm 103: 2)

As much as I prayed that God would heal him from his addiction, and as much as I knew that he could be set free, I simply could not let God handle this one on His own. 


Please click here to continue reading...


Also, I was included in the Around the High Calling Community (what an honor!).  Click here to see who/what has been featured by the newsletter editor, David!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Nourishment: The Simple, Sweet, and Pure Drink

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 through the holidays...
Meet Abby.  She's preparing to live in Hungary for an indefinite amount of time with her husband and two kids to minister to the people living there.  She is passionate about Jesus, about spreading His Word, and about helping people to know the depth of His love and grace.  It is a privilege to know her.  I'm sure you'll feel the same way.
It was a night in the fall of my freshmen year of college and I knelt by my bed and sobbed great heaving sobs.  They were the good sobs of release. surrender.  Love. Joy. Peace. All of the Fruits of the Kingdom.

I had been preparing for the next small group meeting of the Sonship Discipleship Course that I was participating in through {thankfully} the persistent invitation of my R.D.  I was reading an article entitled ‘the End of the Struggle’ and in plain speech and illustration it explained that I didn’t need to strive for my own righteousness any more.  I could let go of the burden, this great struggle to please everyone and be the BEST at everything.  Grace could be my very own food any time. Anywhere. For all time.
As I describe it, this sounds like my conversion, and in many ways it was.  Yet I had been a committed believer many years, had shared my faith with everyone that I could.  I really did know Jesus died for me and I wanted to please Him.

But, it took this sobbing night to realize in the blood and guts stuff of me that, clothed in Christ, I already was forever pleasing to God.  The message of the Gospel, the life-giving good news, became not only my ticket to eternal life, but the food by which I live.

I cannot say I have never wandered from this life-changing truth.  But, it is true that I continue 19 years later to know in the very deep places that I will NEVER find life outside of the Gospel of His Grace.

I feel so blessed to have learned at 18 years of age this key understanding which shapes my mind, heart and soul into the image of Christ.  It has become my intimate centering reality that ‘just as I received Christ so I walk in Him.’  And I view all that I take in through this Gospel lens.
And this is how I nourish: drinking the pure and simple water of the Gospel.  No matter where I am in the Bible, I look for the Gospel.  Just like in the Jesus Storybook Bible, I listen for the whisper of my Rescuer’s, Jesus’, Name.  And with years of practice, I have to believe I can hear more quickly and clearly this heartbeat of my Savior.

Whatever book I am reading, I tune my heart to the rhythm of the crosswork of Christ.  All of Him given for all of me.  And if I can’t hear the Gospel in the book, I put it down and pick up the Word or put on a song that takes me there.

I listen to sermons by people like Tim Keller because in every message He ends with this beautiful will-never-get-dull rendering of the good news.  And that’s why I say I can listen to these kinds of sermons all day, because they resonate Gospel.  My eyes become fixed on Christ and taking in His Glory.
It is like the pure water of Aslan’s country, this Gospel drink.  You know the one that Reepicheep tastes in the Voyage of the Dawn Treader and says ‘sweet!’  The closer I am to His heart, His thoughts of me in Christ, the sweeter the drink and the more of it I want.

And the more I come the more I learn to come.

Also, the more bitter and perverse is the taste of the lies that try to get me to think that it’s still about me. My performance.  My perfection.  My striving.  And then, the more quickly and fully these untruths are spit out like the bile they are.

So, I raise my glass of the sweet, pure drink of the Gospel to you all and say let’s all lift it to our parched lips and take it in.  It will never stop being poured for our taking and we will never stop being healed and filled and every-kind-of-nourished by it.


Want to read more of Abby?  Of course you do!  Click here to follow/subscribe/read her blog, Fan the Flame.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Longing for the Midnight One

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I'm longing for the candlelight midnight Christmas Eve service this year.  The one where at the end, we all sing Silent Night and they turn off all the lights, and the only thing you can really see is the flickering from the candles on the alter, which shine their lights dimly over the red poinsettias.  

All is calm, all is bright...

There is a silence and a reverence here that I cannot seem to capture at the 4pm children's service.  I smile greatly at the parade of sheep and shepherds, of donkeys and camels, of the angels surrounding them all.  My eyes get a bit teary as Mary and Joseph take the stage and I mentally count the years when it might be my daughter's turn.  I think fondly of the time when I played the mother of Jesus, up there on those same altar steps so many years ago.  My Joseph would be my boyfriend for a short stint the next year.  I then shudder at the thought of my baby girls having boyfriends.  Oh my.
As much as I love these thoughts, as much as I love watching my children, as much as I love that there is a service that allows them to celebrate the birth of their Savior, I long for a private moment of worship, of my thoughts being unclouded and undistracted.  Perhaps I am just a romantic at heart...music, candles, the scent of flowers...they make me swoon.  They wrap me up tight in love and I can sit there for hours, talking and worshipping and loving Him in the dimly lit sanctuary of the midnight gathering.

I know that there will come a time when I will attend that midnight service and there will be a piece of my heart that longs to be back amongst the children dressed in robes and animals ears.  Don't we always long, at least a little bit, for something that we cannot have right now?  But I take heart, as I type out these longings, the Christmas lights dancing on the tree, that my heart is fashioned for worship and that God loves and accepts it in any form that I can give to Him on Christmas Eve, or any day of the year.

Alone in my house, I give myself the gift that I long for, this gift of worship.  I may not be in the sanctuary of the church, but God is still here, in the sanctuary of my home, candles lit, music softly playing.  All I have to offer Him, laid out of my heart, my mouth open in praise, my mind attune to Him, my Savior born on Christmas morn.

Linking with the lovely Emily at Imperfect Prose.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Plane Thoughts & 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.
My sweet niece, EK, and my daughter, Hannah
I had the pleasure of sitting with these 6 year-old munchkins on the way home from Disney World.  They were, overall, fabulously behaved considering that they had been together for six days and were sleep deprived (FYI, Disney is not a relaxing kind of vacation).  Because they were so well-behaved, I actually had a few moments to think (FYI, there is not much time to gather one's thoughts at Disney, either).

As I started typing out my lllooonnngg to-do list for when I arrived home, I started praying that instead of feeling anxious about all I had to tackle, that God would give me peace and show me how to plan my days ahead leading up to Christmas.  I've learned to ask Him for the plan instead of formulating my own.  In this, I learned to be dependent upon Him in ways that my controlling nature would not normally allow me to do.  For example, in college, I would routinely leave my roommates on the couch while watching a movie I picked out because I would feel the need to start working on a paper that was due in a week (or two).  I found security in having things done.  And so, through this last semester of life, as I juggled teaching a brand new class, as Soli Deo Gloria began to grow and grow, as the amount of writing I wanted to do began to increase, God took the opportunity to take planning away from me.  As much as I wanted to plan my class weeks in advance (and towards the end at least by the Tuesday before the Monday I was teaching), God would not give me the ideas.  I had to surrender to His timetable and put my own aside.  In doing that, I learned this:
  1. I don't want to be in charge.  I could have pushed through and planned my class before the inspiration came, but the words that came from my mouth would have been my own and not God's.  Dangerous territory, for sure!  Do you ever feel like you are pushing through to get something done and it feels like it takes all the effort in the world?  Sometimes this can be due to spiritual warfare, but sometimes it's just because we are jumping ahead and not waiting.
  2. Security does not come in the form of a checked off to-do list.  Sure, it feels good to get things done, to be productive, to even be ahead of schedule.  But, if I put all my stock in that, if I depend on that to help me feel good about myself and my life, what will I be like when I get nary a check on the list?  How can I depend on God to help me accomplish what He wants me to do if I am a slave to my own agenda?
  3. He is able.  When it seems impossible, He is there.  When it seems insurmountable, He is there.  When it fails, He is there.  Surrendering to Him means allowing myself to understand that nothing goes to waste, that there is a purpose to everything, even when I can't fathom it.  Holding this worldview makes life a whole less about me and more about Him.
I believe these lessons are rooted in my foundation (although I'm sure the college student in me might rear her head a few times down the road).  As such, I've felt God releasing me to begin to think about a structure to my days (because He knows I love structure and routine).  I was so far on one side of the pendulum of begin organized that I was rigid.  These past few months have made me softer, more malleable, more open to God's reorganization.  Perhaps now I can put a bit more structure into my life without falling into the traps of controlling and rigidity. May I walk this life with softness, with freedom, and with the trust that God has me in the palm of His Hand every second of every day.

If you look into your life, are there parts of you that are rigid and resistant to His touch?  Would you be willing to soften, even if it means stepping out in faith, knowing that ultimately, His touch is gentle and loving?

SDG Community Builder:  As you visit blogs, tell your SDG sister about one sentence or phrase that she wrote that touched your heart and why it made such an impact.  


P.S.  Don't forget to link up with your permalink (the specific blog post you want us to read, not your blog address)
P.P.S  So glad I'm back in town (thank you for your prayers -- we arrived in plenty of time to make Hannah's birthday dinner!) so I can visit you this week!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Nourishment: Give Us This Day


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 through the holidays...
 Meet Melanie.  I had the privilege of meeting her while we did a 31 Days Series together back in May.  Then, we went to She Speaks together, but didn't actually meet, which I am so bummed about.  Melanie has an amazing heart to help writers and speakers and is so full of talent herself, as you will find out by reading below...
photo by Melanie Saccomanno
I’m a runner and often while running I pray and meditate on scripture. I usually follow the Lord’s Prayer as the pattern for my petitions.
Inevitably when I reach the part, “Give us this day our daily bread,” I am struck by the request in present tense. Our Father is a present tense God. He is the now in our lives – and in His words, the “I AM.”
As I run and pray this portion I ask God to help me live in the moment. I pray that I am not tempted to worry about tomorrow and fret over yesterday.

“Father, give me what I need for this day—provision for practical needs, guidance for today’s decisions, and grace for each moment.”

We women, especially, are often tempted to try and control our world. Perhaps subconsciously we believe that if we are good enough, do enough and follow some kind of magical religious formula that our lives will be nice and neat – that we can ward off trouble. However this kind of thinking, rather than relieving us, actually leads to a kind of white knuckle living. We’re hanging on for dear life fearfully hoping we do not lose control. The idea that we even have that kind of control is a fallacy. For if you live long enough, trouble comes - like a bad houseguest who arrives uninvited and stays too long.

Our family has faced one of the worst tragedies of life. We lost a child. Our son, Andrew, was twelve years old when an odd symptom alerted me to take him to our pediatrician. Later that day an MRI and a phone call forever changed our lives. Andrew was diagnosed with stage 4 brain cancer. No cure. Little hope. Only God.

This Christmas will be our 3rd one without our boy. He went to his heavenly home 10 days before Christmas 2009 - less than 4 months from the heartrending diagnosis.
I share this to tell you that I know how easy it is to worry and fret. It would be very tempting for me to worry that something else terrible will happen tomorrow.
But as I pray, “Give me this day my daily bread,” what I’m really asking for is the empowerment to live faithfully unto God today. I know that I need daily sustenance - daily nourishment - to live unfettered from ruminating over the past and being anxious for the future.

“Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” (Matt. 4:4)
 
In the first few months after Andrew passed I had no appetite, I lost weight and I was drowning in my clothes. My face was gaunt and I began to walk stooped over. Physically I was undernourished. My spiritual conditioned mirrored my physical one. I found it hard to read my bible and pray. One afternoon I cried out to God and experienced a spiritual intervention. I made some physical and spiritual changes. Two of which were to get back to running and a scripture memorization plan. Soon I regained my appetite for food and for His word.

Never in my life have I lived more in the present than I do today. My highest offering to God is to daily surrender my desire for control and purpose to Him. I can’t change the past and I can’t predict the future. I can, however, truly live in the present trusting the I Am who is enough for me.

Want to read more of Melanie?  Oh, yes.  You do!  Click here to go to her personal blogs, A Faith That Endures and Fun Farther, Faster, Fearless.  Subscribe today!