Monday, March 31, 2014

"She said 'YES!'" and the Soli Deo Gloria Party

Welcome to Soli Deo Gloria!  This group exists to empower women to authentically share their hearts.  Want to learn more?  Click here to find out ways you can be involved here.
Some things to know:
1.  It's important to take some time to visit a friend.  If you decide to link up a post that reflects your heart, be sure to stop by your neighbor's place.  We want to make sure everybody at this party feels a little love!
2.  We are a safe place to be real.  I deeply cherish your involvement in the community.  Consider answering the question from "Let's get real" at the bottom of the post in the comments section.
3.  Please be sure to check out our Woven with Love auction item at the end of the post! We are raising scholarship funds for the 3rd Annual SDG RetreatMore than Conquerors.
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God loves spring, I think.  For all the obvious reasons - rebirth, renewal, weeds uprooted, etc…  And for another reason, too...

I think when God sees me head out the back door, gardening gloves, trowel, and pruning shears in hand, He must say something like this:

"Finally, she's going to get what I've been trying to teach her this whole winter!"

It happened today.  I'm ready to clean house, prune the bushes, dig deep and remove the most deeply entrenched weeds.  In essence, today in my garden, I answered last week's question:

Would you like to get well?  

Yes.

Yes, I would like to give up my crutch of worldly approval. I would like to smash the Love Idol for good.  I would like to fully believe that it's Your opinion that counts and you've already marked me as Pre-Approved.

In the garden today, I was attempting to tame my unruly jasmine.  She's grown so large she has caused the two Silverado Sages stationed in front of her to grow out instead of up.  She's literally pushed them over so they couldn't grow tall.  She morphed almost every branch of their being because of her largeness.  She blocked them from the fullness of the light they needed to grow.
It's not a pretty picture, but Love Idols aren't really pretty, are they?
"You are the sage bush, Jen.  The Jasmine is the Love Idol.  She morphs you, she alters your growth, she twists you in ways you were not designed to bend.  She keeps you from the fullness of My Light.  Would you like to get well, Jen?"

I haven't decided what to do about the Jasmine, if I'm going to uproot her out of my garden, but I have decided the fate of my Love Idol.

She's gonna get evicted.

I'm tired, you see.  I'm tired of trying to be both what God wants me to be and I want me to be. In some ways they are compatible and other ways, so not.  I think the reason I can say "yes" today to this question and could not before, not in the true core of my being yes, is because I didn't how to distinguish between a God prompting and a self-prompting.  Scratch that.  I could, but I wasn't willing to solely live my life by the God prompts.  It was a risk I wasn't ready to take.

So, what does it look like for me to smash the Love Idol, to uproot her and fully remove all that has entangled me for so long?  The picture isn't compete -- "the cure is the process," as Jennifer Dukes Lee writes in her introduction to Love Idol (pg. xxii).  The jasmine has grown for many years in my backyard.  How much longer has this love idol grown?  Decades. 
Click here to order


I've asked God to show me some tangible things that will help me press more deeply into Him and tune out the roar of applause I've so longed for from the world.
  • Check my spirit and check it often.  If I really want God's help in creating margin in my life, I have to let Him decide what activities will comprise my day.  When something feels like a should or an ought to, it's time to evaluate why I am doing it.  If I realize it's related to worldly applause or approval, I must make the choice to walk away or put it down.
  • Lay down "people watching."  When I begin to feel envious of what other people have or what they are doing, I need to repent and then thank God for what He has given me.  Just this morning, I had this revelation:  "Envy is telling God that what He has given me is not good enough."  Ouch.
  • Choose to do things I love even when things on "To Do" list remain unchecked.  There is nourishment found in those activities that help me gain perspective, refreshment, and joy.
  • Get over my own ideas of when I should be "recovered." I often get frustrated with myself when I can't seem to bounce back from intense times of ministry (and/or parenting).  If I am not recovered, if I am still tired, guess what?  I can still rest.  I can take more time.  Who made me an expert on time frames for anything? No one.
In the Garden of Eden, Eve said "yes" to the world.  In my garden, I am saying "yes" to God.  I've lived in the world and for the world and it's just not all it's cracked up to be.  In fact, it's cracked me.

But this "yes" to Jesus is my first step to recovery.  I may look different when He's put me back together, but that's okay.  After being touched by Jesus, I should look different.  And that's a good should.

Let's Get Real: Do you see inconsistencies between what God wants you to be and what you want you to be?  What are the risks of giving up those things that press you deeper into the world?

Linking with Amy for #RiskRejection on Thursday.
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Time for a bit of fundraising for the 3rd Annual Soli Deo Gloria Retreat!  Last week was such a success!  Thank you, Jenny N., for bidding and winning! This week's offering is from Cheryl:
A note about the auction's set-up:  Because I know every one's budgets are different, I wanted everyone to be able to have a scarf and not lose because she was always outbid, hence the pledging.  Because we all deserve some tangible love around our shoulders, right?

How to participate in this silent auction:
1.  Click on "Place your bid." in the Rafflecopter widget below.
2.  Fill in the blank with the maximum you are willing to pay for this scarf, knowing ALL monies are going directly to the SDG Retreat.
3.  I'd be honored if you'd share this giveaway with your friends.  Not only is it a fundraiser, but I'd love for women to be physically covered by her sister's art!
4.  Saturday, Rafflecopter will choose a winner and I will announce it at next week's SDG party.  Check or credit card will be accepted (I'm working on the credit card option. Stay tuned!) for payment and the scarf maker will mail the scarf to the winner after I have received the payment.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Time to link up, sweet sisters! Show us your heart and then visit a friend...

Friday, March 28, 2014

FMF: Mighty

GO

Some days you feel it and some days you don't. Some days you don that superhero cape and you feel like you can pull that look off.  But other days "mighty" is the furthest thing from your mind and you're not sure just how you can even put one foot in front of the other.  Every movement feels like you're tromping through quicksand and you're this close to surrendering to just getting lost into a giant hole.

There have been days I've drowned in grief and frustration and pain, when the overwhelm has overcome me and I see darkness everywhere.  I remember having the devastating realization on night in the pitch black that there was no one I could trust, no one who could ever not fail me.  I felt so alone in that moment.

I got through that night and upon the morning, I woke up and realized that while everyone will fail me from time to time, so will I fail others.  The goal in this life is not to find that one person who will never let you down because people, by their nature will always let you down if some way, shape, or form.

But it doesn't mean I don't reach for their hands in the dark.  It doesn't mean I cannot call them or text them and tell them I've lost that mighty feeling, I've tossed the cape in the laundry, and that I'm drowning.

Because we're all in this together, right?  Knowing my sisters are there for me, praying for me, loving me, knowing they are beseeching God for me, yes, that is mighty.  Mighty work accomplished on this earth and in the heavenly realms.

STOP
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I'm hanging out with Lisa-Jo this morning.  Want in?  Here's the deal:

1. Write for 5 minutes flat – no editing, no over thinking, no backtracking.
2. Link back here and invite others to join in.
3. And then absolutely, no ifs, ands or buts about it, you need to visit the person who linked up before you & encourage them in their comments. Seriously. That is, like, the rule. And the fun. And the heart of this community..

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Do you get Restless? Book Review


I know what it is like to be on the search for significance, to feel restless with the content of my life, to look outward for fulfillment, and to wonder why God really created me to walk this earth.

I am incredibly thankful to have learned several things that took a very long time to fully integrate into my heart and mind (and I find there are moments where I need to relearn them):

1.  God desires me for me, not for what I can do for Him.
2.  God wants me to live into the plans He has for me.
3.  The spiritual giftings and opportunities He gives me are designed to make people pay attention to Him, not me.
4.  There is value to dreaming, to figuring out the desires of my heart, to trying on new things to see if they fit.  If they don't, it's okay.  If they do, it is my job to use them to serve.
5.  Whose opinion of me counts?  God's.

I don't find myself particularly restless right now in my journey, but as read through Jennie Allen's new Bible study, I find  myself nodding my  head and saying "Yes! If only I had known this when I was in the restless place." 

Do you want to dream? Do you want to serve? Do you want to grab hold of God and allow Him to show you how He made you for more than what you can imagine today?  If so, I think you will find hope, introspection, and community through this bible study.  Here are my top five reasons I love Restless: Because You Were Made for More:

5.  The homework is divided up into "projects." These projects appeal to a wide variety of learning styles.  For example, in week one, she asks you to draw an image of the glory of God.  While this might be daunting and hard for some of us, it will speak to the hearts of others who learn though art and visualizations.  If this is not for you, it's a good way to stretch, to explore.  (Plus, no one is judging your work!)  In addition, the homework engages you with tangible tools and questions to help you along this journey.  You make lists.  You brainstorm. You pause and ask God what He thinks.  Listening always gets me the farthest along the fastest because I am actively seeking His voice.  He is my Creator! Of course I need to pull in and listen to what He has to say about me and to me.

4.  There is space to think about the Bible as a whole, not just individualized stories she pulls from various chapters.  What do Jesus' actions tell us about the very nature of God?  While this may be a daunting task for those new to the Bible, the chart makes it easy to see where we still need to grow in our knowledge of what Jesus did as He walked this earth.  It is important as sisters in Christ that we help each other build up our knowledge instead of tearing each other down for not knowing.  If you do this study, be prepared to dig into the Word and if you need help doing so, don't be afraid to ask.

3.  If you are leading this study, there is so much prep work done for you.  Each kit comes with a DVD, which has a 20 minute (or so) video of Jennie speaking to the group for each session.  In addition, there is a leader's guide and "ASK" questions, which help your group  get to know each other's hearts and to explore the concepts in Restless.

2.  Jennie sets the stage so that most any woman can use this book no matter if they feel a little restless, a lot restless, or not really restless at all.  She walks us through concepts that we can relate to our lives in a variety of different areas.  Sometimes we realize that though we may have learned a lesson long ago, we are in need of a refresher or we need to learn it again, but in a different way.

1.  Jennie's study builds community based on authenticity, vulnerability, and trust.  She herself shows her own struggles, heartbreaks, victories, and defeats.  Her reflection questions show that she values wherever we are and gives us the courage to validate own spaces.  This in turn enables us to respond to each other without fear, judgement, or other defensive walls.

Want to learn more about this study?  You can read some very detailed reviews about kit content on Amazon, as well as order the entire kit.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this kit free from Shelton Interactive, as part of their Book Review Blogger Program. The opinions I have expressed are my own. 

Linking up with Emily for Imperfect Prose, Jennifer Lee for #tellHisstory,  Women to Women Sharita for Everyday Jesus, Lyli for Thought Provoking Thursday, and Laura for Quitting Thursday.

Monday, March 24, 2014

When the answer is both Yes and No: Part 1 (and the SDG party)

Welcome to Soli Deo Gloria!  This group exists to empower women to authentically share their hearts.  Want to learn more?  Click here to find out ways you can be involved here.
Some things to know:
1.  It's important to take some time to visit a friend.  If you decide to link up a post that reflects your heart, be sure to stop by your neighbor's place.  We want to make sure everybody at this party feels a little love!
2.  We are a safe place to be real.  I deeply cherish your involvement in the community.  Consider answering the question from "Let's get real" at the bottom of the post in the comments section.
3.  Please be sure to check out our Woven with Love auction item at the end of the post! We are raising scholarship funds for the 3rd Annual SDG RetreatMore than Conquerors.
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I'm laying in my bed and it starts to creep, this anxiety that makes my heart feel like a mess of tangled thorns.  With each breath, it feels like someone is pulling on the terrible twine and it gets tighter and tighter, sucking out any ability for me to breathe.  For the moment, I don't know if I'm feeling my anxiety or someone else's, but at this point all I can think is, Please, Lord, take it away.

Craig is out at a friend's house so I move into the middle of my bed, on that ridge where no one sleeps, and I spread my arms out wide, letting my limbs relax, and I find myself in the shavasana pose.  And immediately, I am transported back to the very first SDG retreat, on the brown hotel carpet of the meeting room where we are gathered for a time of restorative yoga.  I see myself on the mat and I feel the fear I felt immediately in that moment.

It was near the end of class, all of us in shavasana (or corpse pose) and she said something about God seeing us.  And my first inclination was to wrap myself up in fetal position because I was afraid that He would be displeased with what He saw with my heart splayed open to the sky like that.

I've come a long way from that moment two and a half years ago.  I've grown deeper into His love for me, His pleasure in me, His delight in my presence.  But here I am again, chest bared before my Father, no limb to guard it, and I realize I'm still a little afraid, not of God, but of my own heart.

**

I've been on this journey for Lent to give up my Love Idol and what I have laid down is criticism -- of myself and others.  Because I've been one to search the crowd for nods of approval, knowing smiles, and sweet tears of understanding.  I've used those to measure my worth.  And I've used the disproving words and down-turned lips to cut me down small.

And just recently, I've meant with mentor and she tells me I have no margin and she is right.  And I tell her I've gotten so locked into my routine that I don't even question what I should do anymore. I just do it.  And this has left me tired and in great need of being refilled.

So this knowledge fresh on my brain Tuesday morning, you'd think I'd make different decisions. And I do, sort of.  I pray before I head to the upstairs computer because my laptop died and I ask God, Do I really want to write a post to be published on Wednesday?  I'm trying to discern if my writing is a should or an ought to in this moment.

Do I really have something to say or is this just a day I'm in the habit of saying something?

I write the post, but I'm still not sure.  I suppose it can take awhile to filter through habitual things.

**

Back to the shavasana, back to me fearing my heart -- my motives, my desires, my seemingly endless need for someone to tell me I'm doing a good job, that I'm not failing or flailing or falling.  And I hear Jesus asking me:

"Would you like to get well?"

It's those same words He asked the lame man in John 5, the words I'm studying for my Monday class. It's the very same question I plan to ask them...

Would you like to get well?

We may not be lame physically, but we all have afflictions.  And Jesus is a gentleman.  He doesn't force His will and He knows that if we choose healing, there are ramifications for accepting it.  And though this miracle is purely based on the power of God, it requires effort on the part of us humans to allow the world to see its fruit.  The lame man did have to choose to stand up.  To pick up his mat.  To carry it.

The lame man wouldn't be able to stay in his same spot anymore, dependent on what people did and didn't do for him.  He'd have to go and get a job, support himself, enter into society in a way he hadn't done for 38 years.

"Would you like to get well, Jen?"

Would I like to be cured of my affliction of needing worldly acclamation? Would I like to be freed from the power of the critical word?  Would I like to be released from a routine that has me crying out for a fresh, full cup of water?  Would I like help in smashing this idol?
Click here to order

Yes.

And no.

Yes.  And no.  They are both true.  This is one of those posts that just isn't wrapped in a bow with a scripture at the end.  Victory hasn't been won yet because I'm still figuring out what I'm fully saying yes to.

I know what is best.  I know what is right.  I know what I should say, but how many times have I begged God for healing me of these needs and then I've continued in my own deeply rutted habits?

I haven't been healed because I haven't been willing to give up the crutch.  Or maybe I have been healed, but I've stayed on my mat, unwilling to fully surrender to the power of God.

I've not gotten up because I'm afraid my legs won't work.
I've not gotten up because I'm afraid of what will happen if I don't play by the world's rules.
I've not gotten up because what if people leave? What if they're disappointed in me? What if I miss something vital?

Who am I apart from everyone else's opinion?  And why have I let that opinion count so much?

But I'm close.  I'm looking into His eyes and I'm seeing Life.  I'm looking into my life and I'm seeing that one lived with no margins pretty much feels like death.

I'm glad He's patient.  I'm glad He stands there all the time with His offer.  And I'm glad He allows me to be real, that He doesn't demand the shoulds and the ought tos.

I'm glad He loves me enough to stick around until the very last bit of the Love Idol is smashed to the ground.

Let's Get Real: What is your affliction? Do you want to be healed?  What is your crutch you'd have to give up?

photo credit: spazzgirl555 via photopin cc

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Time for a bit of fundraising for the 3rd Annual Soli Deo Gloria Retreat!  Last week was such a success!  Thank you, Gena, for bidding and winning! This week's offering is from Valerie (I happen to own a scarf she made. It's very similar to this one and people ACTUALLY STOP ME TO ASK ME ABOUT IT.  The picture just doesn't do it justice:
A note about the auction's set-up:  Because I know every one's budgets are different, I wanted everyone to be able to have a scarf and not lose because she was always outbid, hence the pledging.  Because we all deserve some tangible love around our shoulders, right?

How to participate in this silent auction:
1.  Click on "Place your bid." in the Rafflecopter widget below.
2.  Fill in the blank with the maximum you are willing to pay for this scarf, knowing ALL monies are going directly to the SDG Retreat.
3.  I'd be honored if you'd share this giveaway with your friends.  Not only is it a fundraiser, but I'd love for women to be physically covered by her sister's art!
4.  Next Monday, Rafflecopter will choose a winner and I will announce it at next week's SDG party.  Check or credit card will be accepted (I'm working on the credit card option. Stay tuned!) for payment and the scarf maker will mail the scarf to the winner after I have received the payment.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Time to link up, sweet sisters! Show us your heart and then visit a friend...

Friday, March 21, 2014

FMF: Joy

There's new pink blooms on the tree just over the other side of the fence.  And in the afternoon, the sunshine hits my face and it finally feels warm.

My feet pound the pavement again, but there's no time I'm shooting for, no exact mileage I have to reach, and Jesus Culture's Rooftops is blaring in my ears.

I sit around the table with my IRL SDG sisters.  There's laughter and FUN! and community.  New and old faces mixed.  Deep friendships and ones that are just beginning to get past the surface.

And then their are those I know who are hurting, whose pain is so fresh and real and raw that I think I could almost touch it tangibly, tender wounds so deep and I cannot stop the bleeding.

There is the long list of things I know I need to do, things I individually love, but collectively make me weary.

There's the anxiety that haunts me some nights and the dreams of my grandmother that tear at my heart.

And then, there is the state of the world, with it's bombs and invasions and poverty.

But I want to be like James when he says this:
"Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.  For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.  So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing." James 1: 2-4

Because the joy is in Jesus, in knowing God's got it all.  There is redemption to be found, purpose to be discovered, and love that covers a multitude.

I want to let the joy grow.

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I'm hanging out with Lisa-Jo this morning.  Want in?  Here's the deal:

1. Write for 5 minutes flat – no editing, no over thinking, no backtracking.
2. Link back here and invite others to join in.
3. And then absolutely, no ifs, ands or buts about it, you need to visit the person who linked up before you & encourage them in their comments. Seriously. That is, like, the rule. And the fun. And the heart of this community..
photo credit: Î’ethan via photopin cc

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

When Death is on Repeat

I've been dreaming about her again.

If they were nice and wonderful dreams where I find myself wrapped in her arms and held in her gaze, oh, I'd want to stay in that land for more time than I can possibly afford.
Me and Grannie

Instead, in my dreams this past week, she's been dying all over again. 

I wake up weeping, my grief uncontainable.  She's been gone almost four long years, but when you wake up reliving one of the most painful experiences of your life, wow.  It all comes back like it's just happened yesterday.

Four years ago, my grandmother died on Easter Sunday.  It makes sense in a variety of ways why Lent is a season of grief for me.  Not only am I in the process of unearthing spiritual weeds and prepping life space for new growth (which often times means grieving my sin that rooted those weeds deep), I grieve the loss of her.  The most intense part of her cancer dying took place over the span of Lent.  God was preparing her for a new season.  A season of death turned new life. 

Four years ago, I was also training for my first marathon and I completed it in between my last two visits with her.  Just last month, I crossed the finish line for the 3rd time.  Even though it's almost 4 years and two more marathons later, I still wanted to call her and tell her I had finished.  Because she'd listen to every single detail and drink it in and she'd tell me she was proud.

I've spent the last four years grieving her death, some times certainly more intense than others, but now I find I'm grieving the loss of her for a different reason.

See, she was the one person I thought loved me unconditionally.  She was always proud of me. She was always supportive.  It seemed that in her eyes I could do no wrong.  

I was afraid to lose that.

But as I've been reading Love Idol, as I've been asking God to pour into me deep this undeniable fact that I am already preapproved by Him, I realize that perhaps I just never let her see what I did wrong.

I filtered facts. I dressed them up.  I put on my best behavior when I was around her.  All because I was afraid of losing her love, her encouragement, her undying support.

The truth is, one can love unconditionally on this earth. I believe that.  But one cannot always hide disappointment or refrain from being disappointed by the behaviors of others.  It's nearly impossible to always approve of your loved one's choices.  And see, that's where I got mixed up.  I had the wrong equation.

Unending human approval ≠ Unconditional love.

Humanly speaking, you can love without approving.  You can love despite bad decision-making.  I realize this may not be revelation to some of you, but this is earth-shattering to me: 

Unconditional love is so strong because it is not dependent upon approval.  Because grace can step in, because grace is a requirement, because love doesn't demand perfection.

We can love the people around us despite their lack, despite our lack because God loves us first.  Because He's already preapproved us and therefore, we have no right or space to take that away.  Not from ourselves.  Not from anyone else.
I don't need my grandmother's approval anymore, even if she was here.

Because finally, finally, finally, in the depths of my soul, I realize it wasn't her place to give it to me.  I didn't need it from her because I already had it from Him.  I just didn't know it then.

So this grief, this grief for my Grannie, it's intense right now because no longer am I grieving the loss of having access to "approving words."  I'm just grieving the loss of her.  Two so very different things.

I loved so much about her. I miss her very presence. I miss her fun and her quirkiness and how she adored being with my kids, even when they were being brats.  I miss how she gathered her family.  I miss her stroking my hair, my 31 year-old head on her chest as she lay dying.

My grief is laid bare, my chest ripped open because I can see her fully for who she was, good and bad, and my vision is not longer obscured by what I thought she gave me.

She's more beautiful to me today, a complete picture, one who was capable of being disappointed in me, than she ever has been in my memory.  Because love is stronger when it's not dependent upon approval.  

Love is stronger when grace enters in.

Love is stronger when grace is a requirement.

Love is stronger when approval isn't given or needed because it's simply already had.
Click here to pre-order

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My laptop is dead, but if I'm able, I'm planning on linking up here: 
Linking up with Emily for Imperfect Prose, Jennifer Lee for #tellHisstory, Michell for DYWW,  Women to Women Sharita for Everyday Jesus, Lyli for Thought Provoking Thursday, and Laura for Quitting Thursday.

Monday, March 17, 2014

0% Prepared and 100% Dependent on the Holy Spirit (and the SDG Party, of course)

Welcome to Soli Deo Gloria!  This group exists to empower women to authentically share their hearts.  Want to learn more?  Click here to find out ways you can be involved here.
Some things to know:
1.  It's important to take some time to visit a friend.  If you decide to link up a post that reflects your heart, be sure to stop by your neighbor's place.  We want to make sure everybody at this party feels a little love!
2.  We are a safe place to be real.  I deeply cherish your involvement in the community.  Consider answering the question from "Let's get real" at the bottom of the post in the comments section.
3.  Please be sure to check out our Woven with Love auction item at the end of the post! We are raising scholarship funds for the 3rd Annual SDG RetreatMore than Conquerors.
*************************
The empty glass was on the screen, proof that whatever liquid was left had a slightly sour taste.

Because when I'm tired and I have nothing left to give, I'm not often oozing sweetness.

I'm standing in front of my IRL SDG sisters, my Monday morning regulars who have come for class.  Only what I have to give them is not what they're expecting.  Because normally, despite craziness, God usually gives me time to prepare.  He gives me insights and words and connections.  But prior to this class, He gave me nothing but one word.

Surrender.

The back story is short and sweet.  After yoga, my teacher and I are talking and I'm lamenting the fact that I don't have anything left in me to devote to preparing Monday's class.  I'm just back from speaking (and being a mom) at Tween/Mom retreat.  My dad had been in town just prior and now it's Spring Break (suffice it to say, my kids really like attention, so time to plan was not in the future).

And she opens her mouth to speak and I know I'm supposed to listen.  There is wisdom coming and God says "hear this."  Here's a recap of our conversation (because I'm still tired and I have no bandwidth to craft this in a better way):

Michelle: Remember how when you were a kid and you'd just open your Bible, close your eyes, and put a finger on a verse and that would be what you read that day? (side note:  How did she know I did this?) Why can't you do that?

Jen: Because we are studying John.  We can't just randomly jump around.

Michelle: Okay, well, read the next chapter of John and talk about it.  Let them talk about it in their groups.

Jen:  But then they'll know I didn't prepare.

Michelle:  You did prepare. Having them read and discuss the next chapter is your preparation.

Jen:  But I'll look like I didn't take the time to prepare.

Michelle (smiling because she knows this is hard for me to grasp and she's oh-so patient):  Your preparation for this week is to surrender.  To trust God that He will direct whatever is supposed to happen.

Jen:  Okay.  But it will still look like I haven't prepared.

That conversation took place on Tuesday and from then until today, I obsessed over my lack of preparation. But I knew God didn't want me to plan a typical class.  When I would try to start to plan, He would interrupt me (not hard with children at home.  They were used by the Holy Spirit and didn't even know it. And to think, I just called it whining.)

I never even read John 5.

I showed up with a plan that consisted only of not really having a plan.  Well, that and a picture of an empty glass.  Oh, and this quote from Jennifer Dukes Lee's Love Idol book:
"The Love Idol's prey live in fear of failing to meet expectations.  We fear the facade will drop and our peers or coworkers will discover the flawed us, the perpetually freaked-out us.  We cringe over the threat of disapproval, real or imagined.  And we feel as if we continually need to explain away any potential flaw.  
My life had become a defensive posture against possible criticism." (p. 23)
Whoops.  I gave up criticism for Lent. Could it be that my desire to have my class planned and primped and prepared was not so  much about imparting the word of God, but so I didn't look like a fool?  Was I unwilling to be real, to stand up in front of my sisters and say "I'm empty and I need to be refilled?"  Was I afraid they would see coming as a waste of time if I had something I viewed as less than to offer them?

And when was the Holy Spirit less than?  

Ouch.  Never.  Ugh.

But it's a good "ugh" and not a critical "ugh." Because I'm human and I'm going to go through moments when I forget what it's all about:

Jesus.

And I can smile now because my friend Michelle was right. It's about full surrender.  It's about being real.  It's trusting the Holy Spirit to move all the time, not only when we feel like we can't.


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I plopped myself down at a table and read John 5 with my sisters.  I resisted giving too much direction.  I worried not if people were on task.  I focused on the sweet faces in front of me.  I listened, I absorbed, and I contributed, all the while three other tables around me did the same (well, hopefully).

The Holy Spirit moved.

I could feel my cup refilling.

And now, it's time for a nap before the kids get home from school.

Let's Get Real:  Have you gone to great lengths to not look like a fool or to guard against criticism? What happened? 

**FYI**: I'm having computer issues, so I might not get around to your sweet faces like I would like to.  Thank you for your grace! :) *********************************
Time for a bit of fundraising for the 3rd Annual Soli Deo Gloria Retreat!  Last week was such a success!  Thank you, Tammy, for bidding and winning! This week's offering is from Dawn!
A note about the auction's set-up:  Because I know every one's budgets are different, I wanted everyone to be able to have a scarf and not lose because she was always outbid, hence the pledging.  Because we all deserve some tangible love around our shoulders, right?

How to participate in this silent auction:
1.  Click on "Place your bid." in the Rafflecopter widget below.
2.  Fill in the blank with the maximum you are willing to pay for this scarf, knowing ALL monies are going directly to the SDG Retreat.
3.  I'd be honored if you'd share this giveaway with your friends.  Not only is it a fundraiser, but I'd love for women to be physically covered by her sister's art!
4.  Next Monday, Rafflecopter will choose a winner and I will announce it at next week's SDG party.  Check or credit card will be accepted (I'm working on the credit card option. Stay tuned!) for payment and the scarf maker will mail the scarf to the winner after I have received the payment.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

photo credit: Lizziemay1 via photopin cc (text added by Jen)

 Time to link up, sweet sisters! Show us your heart and then visit a friend...

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Time for a Little FUN!: If you need some instruction on how to PLAY! (Guest post series)

There are some people for whom play and FUN! come naturally (like Cindy) and others who need some specific direction on how to infuse these elements into life (like me). Whether you are more like Cindy or more like me, I am SURE you will glean something from this post to help you incorporate even more PLAY! and FUN! into your lives.
Picture by Grand Rapids Press, which featured Cindy as a FUN! mom.  (How cool is that??)
Do you ever feel overwhelmed, overextended, frazzled, or flat-out exhausted? A little bit of all of the above? Me too!

As a busy wife and mom to four mostly delightful,  but occasionally disagreeable, kids and one very naughty dog,  I’m continually on the look-out for strategies, tips and techniques to help make our chaotic life more enjoyable and peace-filled.

What if I told you I discovered the secret to increased joy, love, and laughter in your home?
Better yet, what if it was something you could experience at no cost, with no pills to take, books to read, or calories to count. Would anyone be interested?

Friends, here is the key to a life of greater joy and satisfaction -- the gift of play!

Now before you sign off and say “Cindy, I don’t have time to play,” please hear me out. I completely understand. I’m a recovering performance-driven, approval seeking, overachiever.  

I thought play was for the lazy, the weak, the slacker.  My motto was “Heigh ho! Heigh ho! It’s off to work I go!” – 10 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year, for way too long.

In the midst of a crisis of faith, I asked Jesus for a new and better way to live. I expected I’d be guided to Bible verses saying I needed to work harder, memorize more verses, get my act together.
What I didn’t anticipate would be the simple, eye-opening discovery of learning how to slow down, experience more of life, and simply play.

Researcher Stuart Brown, MD, describes play as “time spent without purpose.” I respectfully disagree. I believe play has significant purpose. Play helps us –
  • Recharge our well-worn batteries
  • Remind ourselves that we are not God – and that He is capable of running the world while we disconnect 
  • Reflect to others how to “let go” and enjoy a life of laughter and joy
  • Rekindle relationships with family members and friends
Gifted author Brene Brown says, “Play -- doing things just because they're fun and not because they'll help achieve a goal -- is vital to human development.”

Vital to human development? Yes – play has a purpose!

So, how do we play?

Perhaps you find yourself where I was nearly a decade ago. In my quest for achievement and approval, I had forgotten how to play. It wasn’t until I watched a babysitter laughing with and enjoying my children that I put a stake in the ground and said, “No more.” 

No more long hours, missed opportunities, overcommitted schedules, and/or excuses. Instead I prayed, “Oh God, please teach me how to play.”

Here, sweet friends, is what I have learned over the past 10 years of playing--

Plug play into your schedule:  
If we wait until the house is clean, the laundry is folded, the emails are returned, or the bills are paid – we will never experience the gift of playing.
Instead, select a block of time and plan play it into your schedule. Once it’s scheduled, protect your play time as if it was an important meeting with a very significant person. Remember, play has purpose! 

Pick a play mate.
If you’re a wife and/or mom, of course, plan play time with your family. However, I’d also highly encourage you to organize “play dates” with girlfriends.
A few weeks ago a school mom sent me a text and said, “Wanna have a play date?” This time she wasn’t asking if my kids could have a play date--no, this play date was for us! Her sweet text brightened my day. Of course, I worked at a quicker speed to wrap up my projects creating free time to frolic. And yes, we had a blast!
   
      Play within your personality.
What do you love to do? Outdoors or indoors?  Active or sedentary? Keep an open mind and try new activities. The day I watched my babysitter having a blast with my kids, they were outdoors sledding. Who knew playing out in the cold could be so much fun? Now if cold weather isn’t your thing, pick activities you love. Tip: if you loathe every minute of it, it’s not play. Try something else.  
For fun-filled ideas, checkout my Play with a Purpose A to Z list here.

      Participate fully.
Playtime doesn’t count if you bring along your cell phone, work bag, or “To Do list.” Remember, our goal is to recharge, rekindle relationships, reflect Him to others, and remind ourselves Who is really in control. Be fully present for your playtime.

Sweet friends, play is not something we do when the work is done; play is what we do because the Work has already been done. We are not hamsters on a wheel trying to earn love and approval – we are already loved. The work of Christ on the Cross was enough. It’s time to have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance, to the full, till it overflows. ( John 10:10 AMP)


Let playtime begin!



Speaker, Author, Overcomer


" The Lord their God will save them...they will *sparkle*...like jewels in a crown".   Zechariah 9:16






Linking up with Emily for Imperfect Prose, Jennifer Lee for #tellHisstory, Michell for DYWW,  Women to Women Sharita for Everyday Jesus, Lyli for Thought Provoking Thursday, Amy for #RiskRejection, and Laura for Quitting Thursday.