Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Breath


"Some people have a hard time finding their strength.  Others have a hard time finding the ability to soften."

Immediately, I know which category I fall in as my yoga teacher's words hit my heart.  Looking back, I think I've used sheer brute force to achieve goals and manage my life more often than I would care to admit.  Even in ministry, when I've been tired and broken, I've thought the best thing to do was the quintessential pulling up of boot straps.

Keep working.  Bare down.

We've been building towards the elephant trunk's pose.  We've been inhaling and exhaling, stretching and priming, gently willing our muscles to bend and lengthen.  But when she shows us the culminating pose of all our hard work, all of this has gone out the window for me.  Instead, I find myself strong-arming my way into it.  My old habits of forcing myself to do what I view as required have overtaken my body.

As such, I collapse in a giant heap.

She shows us again and reminds us to scoot our bottoms back before we try to lift up.  I do this and find I have much easier access to the lift, but the pose is still sustainable only for a short while.  Pretty soon my arms start shaking and again, I collapse, not so gracefully.

As she sees me straining she reminds me that brute force is not the only way to manage this pose. In fact, there is another viable resource I have completely forgotten.

Breath.

She shows us again, inhaling and exhaling at every part of the move.

Your breath can help you.  Your breath gives you power so you don't have to work as hard.  The breath works for you.

And all I can think is Yahweh.  YHWY, the Hebrew word for God, when spoken, sounds like our very own breath.  It sounds like life inside us.  And without it, we will cease to live.

I know God is why I live. I know He sustains me.  I've learned to call on Him when my strength is depleted. But not before.

What would life look like if I allowed Him to flow through every moment, every movement, all that is mundane and miraculous?

She tells us to try again, this time breathing, inhaling and exhaling through each part, "trying to find grace and agility when you feel heavy, like an elephant," she says.

Lord, have I felt heavy.

And so I breathe.  And I am astounded.  Though I still am unable to complete the pinnacle pose in fullness, I somehow release the brute strength, embrace the breath, and everything seems so much easier.  So much more sustainable.
photo source


This is the power of breath, the power of Yahweh.  This is God, in His infinite love and grace, who cares enough to show up at my yoga class, to teach me that I could choose to live my whole life like this...

Not on brute strength, but on His breath.  Instead of muscling and forcing, I can make room for the miraculous.  I can find grace and agility when I feel heavy like an elephant.

Life can feel so heavy.

I leave yoga, but God's voice still speaks, and He's talking to me about my book and the launch that has me filled with anxiety.

Do it with my breath, not the world's muscle, not on your own brute strength. Let me show you, for my burden is easy.  My burden is light.

I don't know how a book launch can feel light, but I drive to my next meeting, a friend whose marriage was almost destroyed by porn, much like mine.  We meet for three hours and she tells me she wants to prayerfully consider helping me launch my book.  She knows nothing about launching books, but she knows how porn wrecks.  And she knows Jesus saves.

The world would tell me this is a risk, two girls knowing nothing about taking a book and offering it to the world.  But when some conventional tools don't seem to fit the job, when I haven't gotten peace about any of the other things I've thought of on my own strength, it's time to pay attention to the breath.

And let it help.  Even if it doesn't seem possible.

Even if it initially feels like an elephant trying to float.

Linking up with Emily for Imperfect Prose, Jennifer Lee for #tellHisstorySharita for Everyday Jesus, Lyli for Thought Provoking Thursday, Laura for Quitting Thursday, and Amy for #RiskRejection.

 photo credit: seyed mostafa zamani via photopin cc (text added by Jen)

Monday, April 28, 2014

When you have no words 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.  SDG is about relationships.  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.  I'm slowly updating the SDG retreat page.  Take a second and check it out?
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(Last week was incredibly rough for me and I cannot find the words that might be roaming inside me to post for SDG tonight. {And please forgive me to not getting around to last week's beautiful medley of ladies.} Even if I could locate them, I am not sure I have the energy to make them coherent.  And I cannot manufacture something because that would be inauthentic and contrary to God's design for this community. Instead, I found an old post that pretty much encapsulates some of the thoughts I've had the past week. Though I feel strong in my faith, I think we all have moments where we are desperate to see God be big and dwarf all the sorrows and heartache this messy world brings.  Love you each of you, sisters.  Soli Deo Gloria.)

The  morning began with excitement, curiosity, and a dose of nervousness.  But we were doing good.  We were moving along.  It's the first day of school and Hannah was ready for kindergarten.

And then...

Putting on our backpacks, heading out the door, I hear her say softly:

I wish Grannie was here to see me go to Kindergarten.

And I wonder, did I let something slip?  Or does she just intrinsically feel my grief?  Or is she really just that bonded to the great-grandmother that held her close at every chance she had?

And we go to school and there are no tears, just a hand clasped tightly to her daddy's.  She puts on a brave face, finds her cubby, and sits down in her chair, ready to color the happy frog laid out on her desk.

I make it home, go for a run. I absorb the silence of the empty house upon my return, but I'm not as happy as I thought I would be.  There's a hole, an emptiness that I'm not yet certain how to fill.  I'm locked into this place of unknown identity and I find myself grasping at all things tangible just so I can hold it together.

As I sit outside with my bowl of cereal, my phone begins to ring and in the span of 30 minutes, my world is crashed by new waves of grief.  My friend's husband, who was a mere 49 years old, has died of a massive heart attack.  And, my other friend calls.  Her grandmother has just slipped into a coma and she knows the end is near.

It's almost so much that my heart swells with the enormity of their grief and of my own and I compile it with the state of our nation, the dryness of our land, and I cannot even cry because I'm just too
overwhelmed by it all.

Where are You?

I go to the bathroom in which I am about to start cleaning and there is the bracelet that I received only a week or so ago.  It's the bracelet that reads, "God is Big Enough."

And in that flesh, broken-down moment, I whisper,

Are You?

And I feel so guilty for questioning, but the reality of my thoughts just escaped.  And I suppose He would know them anyway, had I not said it out loud.  And it's just one of those things that in the moment, my fears and my heartache seem so big that I let them dwarf my faith.  I let them dwarf my God.

And I whisper, I'm sorry, but in the same breath, like a little child, I whisper...

Will You show me just how big You are?  I need desperately to see You, to feel You, because I am weak and You, yes You, are strong.

And my brokenness is all I have to offer today, my friends.  But it is a brokenness with hope that, yes, God is big enough.

Let's get real: Have you asked God to show Himself to you before? What happened? (Sharing our stories of faith can be so encouraging!)

photo credit: Sebasti├ín-Dario via photopin cc (texted added by me)

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Time to share your heart, whatever it may hold, and to visit the heart of another sister, too.

Friday, April 25, 2014

FMF: Friends


Throughout my school-aged years, I thought friends were meant to be held onto because it sure was lonely not to have any.  Friends brought me happiness, something to do on Friday nights, and a security that I wouldn't face the dreaded lunch table by myself.

Now, I realize friends are just meant to be held.

Held in pain, in joy, when they are full of sorrow, remorse, trouble, failure.  Held in success, euphoria, quiet excitement, and loud jubilee.

We never know how our friends might need us to hold them on any given day, but they know we have arms and we understand the power of using them.

Ever since Soli Deo Gloria began, God has taught me numerous things about community and about friendship.  And He has showed me the power of love that enables us to lay down our lives for each other, how we simply black out the to-do list and the selfish thoughts when our friends come running to us in need...

when cancer strikes.
when darkness closes in.
when the air conditioner breaks, it's 100 degrees outside, and she has no money to fix it.
when sickness overtakes her children.
when she finds out she can't have children.
when she can't make it to the grocery store.
when she can't speak, only cry.
when her husband steps out on her.
when her parents die.
when her children rebel.

Friendship is hard and messy and sometimes the troubled waters are in the relationship itself.  But when we figure out how to love this selfless love, Jesus is in the midst.  Because the only way we can love like that is be cause He loved us like that first.

Here's to love.  Here's to friendship.  

Soli Deo Gloria (To God alone be the glory)

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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: FotoRita [Allstar maniac] via photopin cc

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Time for a Little FUN!: Challenge completed!

My friend called me the day of the race telling me she wasn't sure she was sure she was going to do it.  Her main reason?

Because I just can't imagine "Jen Ferguson" and "running a race just for fun" in the same sentence.

She was afraid she'd be the last in our small group of friends and she didn't believe I wouldn't leave her.

Through 2014 and especially through reading Love Idol, I've learned that paces, times, and awards aren't all they are cracked up to be.

But friends are.  And so, I reassured her: I am not going to leave you.  This really is just for FUN!

And when you have an opportunity to get out somewhere just for FUN!, it's time to seize the moment.  It's time to dress up in a tutu and not care if people think you look stupid.
It's time to surround yourself with people who don purple balloons and pretend to be a grape and could care less if people think they are a little out there. 

It's time to take pictures of people's wit that they put on the back of their shirts.


It's time to walk a course so you can have a good conversation with a friend who lives a few doors down, but who you don't get to spend a lot of time with very often.


Sometimes finishing strong means finishing with a friend.

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At the beginning of the year, I asked y'all for some ideas of what to do for FUN! And y'all sure did respond (if you need ideas, too, just go here).  One of those ideas was to do a just for FUN! race.  And so, Easter eve, we did the Wicked Wine Run through the Spicewood Vineyards.  Literally, we ran through rows of grapevines and despite the dust, it was FUN!
More proof this was just for FUN! -- I stopped to take pictures!
(I'm always looking for guest posts about FUN! If you're interested, just contact me at jenfergie2000@me.com)

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

Monday, April 21, 2014

Love Idol {Book Giveaway} 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.  SDG is about relationships.  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.  I'm slowly updating the SDG retreat page.  Take a second and check it out?
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Paul continues to write after the verse above, "It is the Lord himself who will examine me and decide."

I've read 1 Corinthians many times, but this verse hadn't jumped out at me before.  Perhaps I couldn't fathom before that I could ever be free of the need for worldly approval.  Perhaps I thought it was something to be attained by the likes of Paul, but just a pipe dream for someone like me.

But I think about Paul and the man he was before encountering Christ. I think about his pharisaical attitudes and his self-righteousness and his need for power and authority.  To go from that to this, I can see how anything is possible.  Christ brings lasting and significant change to those most damaged, most broken.  And I am grateful because there are days I feel I fall into those categories.

It's this wicked cycle that has no clear beginning.  I can be down and brought up by worldly recognition or high praise. I can be up and then brought down by criticism or abandonment (unsubscribes can feel this way, can't they?).  And at any point, I feel the guilt of allowing my soul to be swayed by what the world says.  Because I know that is not the opinion that is supposed to count.  That is not the opinion that is to sway my soul.  That is not the opinion in charge of my moods, my guilt, my worth.

A few years ago, I spoke at a retreat.  Although many women were fed by the words God had given me to say, there were a few that did not like me or the words that came out of my mouth.  Even today, I can feel the pit in my stomach when I was made aware of these opinions.  Even today, I have to tell myself this:

I can only say the things He gives me to say.  To say anything else is to step out of what He has for me and for those in front of me listening.

I do not want to misstep, even if it means I have to sacrifice approval.

On Good Friday during my quiet time, I asked God to show me what this Love Idol of mine looks like.  I wanted a tangible visualization of it on the cross with Jesus.  Because with Jesus, I want this Love Idol to die.  And I want to walk out of the tomb clean.

In my mind I see Jesus on the cross holding 3 bricks.  Why 3? I'm not certain, but I think about the weight the load.  It's heavy enough to cause pain and damage over time as I lug them around for years.  But maybe 3 would also be the weight I'd get used to, eventually assuming this is the load I should carry if I was to get where I wanted to go.

And what could I build with 3 bricks?  Not much.  They are useless for any thing constructive...much like my Love Idol.

Worldly approval is useless.  It's always fading, always fleeting, never fully filling.

This Easter as we read the Gospel lesson, I wanted to weep, weep with joy at the miracle that Jesus is alive and because He is, there is an abundance of grace for me.  I shut the world out, it's me and Jesus and I am at His feet, marveling at the wonder, at the extent of His love.  The Lenten season flashes before me and I am humbled by the amount of grace I need to live this life.  And I believe it is testament to these past 40 days where I daily committed to rooting out critical thoughts, that I can see my intense need for grace and just be glad that He died to meet that need.

How often have I realized my need for grace and instead of turning full face to this incredible gift, available to me daily, and instead lambasted myself for needing it in the first place?

But this Easter morning, I show up with my sin, but all I can see is Him.

I see myself next to Jesus in the dark tomb.  He takes my hand and we walk out into the light.  Alive. Reborn.  Renewed.

And think, I could do this every single day.

You could do this every single day.

We sing as our closing song Easter morning, "And all the people say 'Amen!'" and I think, "Amen to life. Amen to grace.  Amen to the death of our Love Idols."

I've traded my bricks for something new, a different burden that is light and easy, the one Jesus asked me to carry and one that I can do with joy.  No shoulds required.  No looking over my shoulder to see if the world tells me I'm doing it right.  It's just me and Jesus and the cross that forever reminds me of grace.  A grace I am designed to need.

Let's Get Real: If you had to tangibly visualize your Love Idol, what do you think it would look like?

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To celebrate Jesus and all the growth He has done in us during Lent, I am so excited to be able to offer you a free copy of Jennifer Dukes Lee's book, Love Idol.  Enter to win using the Rafflecopter widget below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Time to share what's on YOUR heart. After you link up, please visit your neighbor and leave and encouraging word for her.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

When Death is Near

I'm melancholy today.

Death is near and I keep imagining myself at the Last Supper table with Jesus.  I wonder if the disciples fully understood what was about to happen.  I wonder if they could possibly wrap their minds around the anguish and the pain that was to come.

I have a vase of roses that are on their way out on a table next to me and I'm beginning to smell the rot of death.  I have tulips in the kitchen whose petals are falling, leaving the pistils bare, naked, unadorned.

You'd think I'd clean up this mess, but no.  I don't do it, not today, because today they remind me death is near.  And while I know resurrection is coming, while I know my Savior lives, I'm taking Maundy Thursday and Good Friday to heart.  To remember the fullness of His death allows me to unearth the amazing sacrifice He made for me and see it in its rawness.  To veil the pain and the agony is to rob the whole design of its significance.

I haven't pressed into Holy Week like this before.  For so many years, I've glossed over the weekdays and showed up on Sunday with all my praise and white on.  I've lifted my hands high, my voice loud, my heart full.  And it was good.  Celebrating the resurrection is so, so good.

But this year, this year, God has so much He wanted to root out of me and pour into me during this Lenten season.  And here we are on the home stretch and He's not letting me lose any intensity.  Because to truly know the death of Jesus is to truly know the death of this Love Idol I've been carrying around all my life.

While I've been in Matthew every morning this week, just now, I've turned to the Gospel of Luke.  Jesus has broken the bread and He's shared the cup and just a few sentences later, His closest friends are marveling over who would be the greatest among them.

They had love idols, too.

Just like me, they didn't understand that worldly acclamation and numbers showing success were not the answer to their emptiness.  They didn't get that fullness comes just from the incredible love of Jesus, the Man who sat with them at the table.  They had this very Man within arms reach, and yet, they ended up still trying to hug themselves, to congratulate themselves, to promote themselves.

I laid down criticism this Lenten season because critical words from others and myself have had the power to wreck me.  And Jesus doesn't want me to be wrecked like that anymore.  Through this journey, I have felt this need for worldly approval begin to die.  It has withered, just like my roses, inside my soul.  The love idol has lost luster.  I can feel it.

But it makes sense to me, these last few days, that Satan has tried to bring it back, to plaster my failures and my losses in front of me so that no matter which way I try to turn, I cannot escape them.  Because he knows to let this love idol die is to let me live.  To live in the fullness of joy and peace that God has for me, that Jesus died to give me.

So I must watch through Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. I must watch my Savior die because He's taking my love idol with Him.  It's all on the cross.

To see Jesus on the cross with my love idol, oh, the picture of grace He has painted for me since the beginning.  The picture for decades He's tried to get me to see.

To lay down criticism, my love idol, was to lay down one of the biggest obstructions to my walk with God.  I'm seeing the fullness of the cross for the first time.  I read Jesus' response to His disciples and my spirit simply cries out, "Yes..."

"In this world the kings and great men lord it over their people, yet they are called 'friends of the people.'  But among you it will be different. Those who are the greatest among you should take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant.  Who is more important, the one who sits at the table or the one who serves? The one who sits at the table, of course.  But not here! For I am among you as the one who serves." Luke 22: 25-27

Want to know more about Love Idol written by Jennifer Dukes Lee?  Click this link to read the reviews and purchase.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

A Promise in Pieces: Book Review


First of all, I hardly ever read fiction that takes place decades ago, much less Christian fiction.  The first chapter takes place in year 2000, but the second one is a flashback to 1943.  When I realized this I think I might have sighed a little.  But I love Emily and I love her writing, so I kept going.

And I kept reading and reading and when I got to the last page, I was so sad to see it end.  Emily's writing kind of does this to you, just to warn you.  It's like saying good-bye to an old friend.

It will seem like the book is about a quilt, but it's really more about learning to forgive one's self and those around you.  It's about realizing that no matter how hard you try, you cannot fix the world and the people in it.  All you can do is do your best, love, and forgive.

Emily's book brings alive this concept: Love really does cover a multitude of sins.  It's a biblical truth that sometimes I forget that's tucked away in 1 Peter:
    "Most of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins." 1 Peter 4:8 
When I allow myself to live from the depths of my heart, when I allow love to disintegrate my self-protective armor, I am able to see past the wrongs people have done, both those intended and those not intended for harm.  I am able to recognize that this world and the people in it are broken, just like me.

And we are broken and this is good, if we look at it from a certain perspective.  On this earth we will never be perfect, nor were we designed to be.

Because we are designed to need Jesus.

Every character in this book needs Jesus.  Everyone of them needs forgiveness and has to make a choice to love.  And those who choose love, choose forgiveness.  They choose freedom.  Because we may think we are holding onto past hurts to protect ourselves, but really Satan is using those past hurts to hold onto us.

I've spent too many years being held captive, but I am finding freedom as God helps me to use love as a weapon that breaks chains.  This freedom feels so good and I can't imagine going back to the prison which  held me.

But the truth is, it is my human nature to self-protect.  And I need examples and scriptures to keep me on the path God has for me.

If you are one who needs this, too, I recommend getting lost in Emily's book for a bit.  You'll come out fresh, renewed, and ready for God's arms.

Can you tell us about a time you have chosen to forgive instead of choosing chains of resentment or regret?

You can order this book today on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Disclosure: I was given an advanced reader copy so to review this book prior to its release.

Enter to win a free copy of Emily's book using the Rafflecopter widget below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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

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

Monday, April 14, 2014

When You Just Need to Know {Spiritual Misfit Giveaway!} 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.  SDG is about relationships.  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.  I'm slowly updating the SDG retreat page.  Take a second and check it out?
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My daughter took the house iPhone to school the other day for "academic purposes" (right!) and she texted me about an hour before I was to meet her down the street for pick up.  The text conversation is too long to post in pictures, but be sure, it was filled with all the possible sad emoticons that exist on the emoji keyboard.  (If you, too, have a ten year old daughter, you get what I'm saying.)

I watch her (barely) limp down the hill and I think to myself "This is no big deal."  And yet, when we make it inside the house, drama ensues.

Here's my disclaimer: I don't deal well with drama.  As much as you might think I am a compassionate soul, when I am confronted with irrational wailing, it just does me in.  For the life of me, I could not figure out why she was making such a big deal out of a non-swollen, perfectly fine-looking ankle.  And so (I basically shouted), "Why are you being so dramatic about this? Why must I rush you to the doctor?  Quit. Your. Crying."

And then she launches into this whole story about how her friend (just this week!) fractured her wrist on the playground and how her doctor said something to the effect of "If you had waited one more day to cast this, we would have had to put you to sleep and put in pins and needles."  (I'm sure the doctor only said "pin" but you know how things get lost in translation.)  After the whole diatribe, she concludes with "I just need to know if it's fractured. I just need to know."

Ah.  There was the fear.  The fear that if we don't catch this fracture RIGHT AWAY, she was going to have to undergo surgery and be put to sleep and "have pins and needles sticking out of my ankle!" (as she put it).

Once I understood the catalyst that set the drama into motion, I was able to become (a little) more compassionate.  The fear was real and if she could just know, she thought, the fear would be gone.  The thought of being able to absolutely know what she was dealing with was the only source of comfort she could entertain. No amount of trust in my words, opinions, or experience was good enough.

I've been there with God.  How many times have I said, "God, I just need to know and then I'll trust You.  Then I'll know it will all be okay."  I remember when I heard God tell me at a Christmas Eve service that He would provide if I stayed home with my daughter even though on paper it looked like Craig and I could not in a million years make ends meet for the long term.  I left that service with so much hope and faith.  And then a few days later, I lamented to God, "How are you going to provide? Can it please be in one lump sum so I can plan it all out?  I just need to know."  I actually entered an HGTV contest that was giving away $100,000 to a family that needed help paying the mortgage and told God He could provide through HGTV.

God laughed, I'm sure.

When I read this passage from Michelle DeRusha's new memoir, Spiritual Misfit, I identified with her so much.  She writes:
"When I thought about it, these lake-water images struck me as the perfect metaphor for my tentative floundering toward belief.  In matters of spirituality I often assumed that if only I knew for sure, if I firmly grasped the answers to all the questions if I saw clearly how it would all turn out, then I would be okay.  I thought if I could see under the surface of that murky water, glimpse what was hidden beneath, my faith would finally be secure, rock solid and steady.  On the other hand, my memory of yet another lake experience left me wondering if even that kind of clarity would satisfy." (page 91)
In the end, Michelle realizes just as the murky water was scary, so too, was the water that was so crystal clear she could see absolutely everything.  To see both nothing and everything are ends of a spectrum -- the black and the white.  And where I think God wants us to live is in the gray, where our lives are punctuated with light that sheds clarity exactly at the moment we need it.

Michelle's whole memoir is testament to this.  She doesn't have a Saul/Paul moment of conversion.  Hers is step by step, moving from doubt to faith.  She lets you in on her own analytical mind, showing us how she regularly clung to her logic as a three year old clings to her favorite lovey.  But we also see God gently prying her fingers off, one by one, eventually setting free the lovey, clasping each finger fully onto His, the very definition of love.

And isn't this how faith works?  Whether you've been a Christian forever or you are still entertaining the idea that He might be real, there are still worldly ways and worldly things onto which we cling because we just need to know.  The fear of the unknown, we think, is too much to bear.

It's by living that we trust, by giving Him opportunities to work in our lives, opening our eyes to seeing His involvement, to feeling His touch.  It's there.  If only we allow ourselves the time and space to see it.  Michelle's life is testament to this.

It's a beautiful, funny, poignant, wrestling life where, no matter what your journey, you will find some common ground on which you can grow.

Let's Get Real: Is there something you "just need to know?" Is there a place where you think, "If I could just see the grand plan..." OR have you had an experience where you trusted and let God work?  Let us know in the comments. 

Convergent Books has graciously given me a free copy of Spiritual Misfit to give away to one reader. (Full discloser: I was given an advance reader copy of this book as well, but my opinions here are entirely my own and I was not instructed to give a positive review.)  Use the Rafflecopter widget below to enter to win a copy of Michelle's book.
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Time to share what's on YOUR heart. After you link up, please visit your neighbor and leave and encouraging word for her.

Friday, April 11, 2014

FMF: Paint

I treated the painting class like all my other college classes...a place to make an A.

I wanted to do the right strokes, make the right colors, paint things as I saw them...the literal objects set before me.  If I could mimic real life, that would mean I was good.  Talented.  Worthy.

And then she went up there and presented her painting...the still life that looked only vaguely similar to the flower she painted.

It was beautiful.  And I was jealous.

That 20 year old college me wanted to stand up and say, "That's not fair! That's not what it looks like! I didn't know we could get creative with what we saw!"

Brat.

But I see that 20 year old in the class, that 20 year old who hadn't found that suppressed voice that nodded yes when she painted outside the lines, when reality blurred a bit and she saw beyond what her eyes took in.

*****

Painting helps break me out of my literal and black and white ruts.  It fuels my passion for living a grace-filled life, where you can paint over the mistakes with other shades of acrylic, where you can use the built up bumps and ridges to create a texture that never existed before.

Oh, how God has uses the bumps and ridges of my mistakes past to build something entirely new, to give my life a texture it never had.  Oh, how God has let the lines get blurry, let the blacks and whites turn to gray...and make grace.

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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, April 9, 2014

Time for a little FUN!: Up for Some Adventure? (A Guest Post)

There are some people for whom play and FUN! come naturally and others who need some specific direction on how to infuse these elements into life. Whether you are more in need of direct instruction or  not, I am SURE you will glean something from this post to help you incorporate even more FUN! into your lives.
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Adventure?? No, not me…

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you.”  Isaiah 43:2

I’m not the adventurous sort.

I’m of the “let’s sit on the couch and read a book” mindset.

I often tell people I am so glad my children have their father as their father... he’s the “let’s go get in the creek” type of guy… where as I am the “let’s just look at how pretty the creek is” type of gal.

He’s the adventurer and I’m not… but adventure is good for my children so I am very thankful for that aspect of him!

Well, last fall, after some much needed rain and a touch of flash flooding... our family made the short trek down to our neighborhood creek...

I was very content to just watch my husband, my children and the dog head into the creek, into the slow running water.

I hadn't even considered that I could go in with them until Princess said, ”Are you coming in Mama?  I’ll hold your hand and won’t let you fall.”

How sweet was that?  She wanted me to come be with them (not just watch from the bank) and she was willing to try to fix whatever it was that made me apprehensive.

Of course I told her “Oh no, honey… I’m fine.  You go ahead.”  She went on… but my heart was touched at her desire for me to be with them.

So after a couple of moments I thought... why not?
I walked right over to the spot where they had entered the stream, kicked off my shoes and cautiously entered.  Now when I say cautiously I mean… I could hardly enjoy watching my children for having to watch every place I set my foot.  This creek is incredibly slippery, so I used muscles I haven’t used in years (maybe ever).  But I was there… I was in it…and it sure was nice.

A long time ago when I first surrendered my life to the Lord, I told Him that I wanted a life that when people looked at it, they said, “The ONLY way she could do that is through the Lord.”

And guess what… He has totally taken me up on it! 

My life with the Lord has been quite the adventure.  I personally would like to sit on the sidelines…but the Lord has had other plans for me.  It has definitely been a roller coaster ride…  and as much as I’d like to have not taken one ride or another… I can’t imagine what I might have missed if I hadn’t!

Today, if I had sat by the creek, instead of getting in, I would have missed:
  • Watching my 3 year old falling time, after time, after time, till he finally just crawled along… with a huge smile on his face the whole way.
  • Watching the dog splash the water and at the same time trying to bite it.
  • My teenage son walking up behind me, placing his man sized hands around my waist and firmly walking me right where I wanted to go… never once slipping.
Those are memories I will cherish as long as I have my memory… and I wouldn’t have had them if I had not just gotten in the water.

So, where in your life are you sitting by and just watching?  Is there someplace you need to be kicking off your shoes and just getting in?

Let me encourage you sweet Sister… do it… do it while you can… cherish each opportunity the 

Lord gives you for adventure.  You are always safe with Him!


With you there is such great excitement Lord.  Help us to enjoy the ride you have given us in this life.  Help us to also enjoy our sweet children…to say “yes” to more when they want us to be adventurous with them.  To you be the glory, Amen.



MommySue is a Lord loving, red neck and home school Mama of 8 (6 boys and 2 girls).   Chaotic Simplicity fully describes her life … a life that exists with both diapers and dual credit.  She will openly confess that she has nothing of this world to offer you … no expertise, nor superior knowledge, nor authority in any given area … anything she is or has to offer you, is solely of the Lord and His work in her life.  Her desire is that her imperfect life will bless and minister to you in some way.

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