Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Wisdom for Wednesdays

"Feeling restless may be a sign that you haven't sat still long enough."

-Terri Trespicio

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Wisdom for Wednesdays

"As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them."

-John Fitzgerald Kennedy

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Wisdom for Wednesdays

"Whether it be a 'pretty' gift, such as a beautiful singing voice or great leadership qualities, or an 'ugly gift' such as pain and shame from a past you'd like to erase, everything we have right here, right now, can be used for God's glory.

Let it all speak."

-Jennifer Beckham

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Fierce Beauty: A Book Review

We live in a culture obsessed with the outer shell. When I pause and think about the amount of time and energy and money we—I—put into our clothes, makeup, hair, schedules, cars, and homes…I’m uncomfortable with the way I pursue comfort. I contrast my life with that of my little girl in Africa. With the poor I see walking the streets. It sobers me.

I know life isn’t all about me…but sometimes I live like it is.

I finished the last few pages of Kim Meeder’s Fierce Beauty: Choosing to Stand for What Matter Most last night. LOVED it.

Kim and her husband run Crystal Peaks Youth Ranch, a ranch that rescues abused and neglected horses and invites hurting children to learn and grow by working with the horses. Fierce Beauty is her fourth book and shares her passion for living a purposeful life of serving the King. She uses one of my favorite writing forms—analogies—to teach lessons that reach deep into the heart. Each chapter first shares a story or experience (all of them incredible, captivating, or touching) and then relates that to our spiritual life in a unique, memorable way. I was both inspired and convicted throughout the book. I see how many times I live for myself and the ways this blinds me, burdens me.

I love her analogy of the princess-turned-warrior. She describes the self-entitled princess of this world, weighed down by her own selfishness and in captivity from living for herself. She urges women to throw down such crowns of entitlement, selfishness, and pride and to instead embrace a life of taking up a sword to fight for truth and beauty and hope—and for those drowning without it. This is where true beauty is found—in breaking the chains of worldliness and living a life of real freedom by service to God and others.

The battle is real. So let’s put on our armor, girls(Ephesians 6:10-17).

[This book was provided to me at no cost by Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing. This review contains my honest and original thoughts.]

Monday, November 14, 2011

My Christmas Tree

Jehovah Jireh—the God who provides.

Even little things.

I was casually wondering aloud to my mom the other day what I was going to do about a Christmas tree this year. Last year we had a beautiful real tree chopped down from a field near our third roommate’s family home (with permission!). But E. moved out this summer, so the same adventure seemed unlikely this year and a sentimental part of me doesn’t want to buy an artificial tree yet on my own.

I soon forgot about my Christmas tree musing (it’s only October, after all—though I’m not sure all the stores understand this fact)…until my dad called later that afternoon.
He and my mom recently bought an old house near them to fix up and rent out. The barn is ancient and was full of all sorts of junk unique items for them to toss, keep, or send on.

“Guess what we found in the barn today?” I could hear my dad's grin through the phone line.

A Christmas tree.

Tidily bundled in its box, reader for a new owner. (Yep, that would be me!)

It’s such a small coincidence. And I could simply look at it that way. Yet something inside me says it’s more.

A smile from God. An open Hand. A loving Heart.

I wonder how many of these I miss.

Lord, please open my eyes to see the smallest of gifts You send each day.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Reflections of a Pity Partier

It was a rockin’ pity party on a Friday night. Me, myself, and a bunch of tissues.

I had a nasty head cold. (thus, the tissues)

And a confused, heavy heart from the last few days. (thus, more tissues)

But all good pity parties must come to an end. So I sniffled a few more times, picked up my pile of tissues, washed my face. I lifted up puffy red eyes, asking for an extra helping of grace from above.

And I baked.

I peeled apples. Measured flour. Melted butter. Shaped cookies. Chopped more apples. Mixed crumble topping.

I turned on the radio. I think someone informed the Christian station that I was having a pity party because they were playing some incredibly encouraging, beautiful songs.

It distracted me and soothed me, this rhythm of the kitchen. I love baking any time, but there’s something about baking or cooking that particularly calm me when I’m upset.
Maybe it’s the fact that if you follow the recipe, everything turns out okay. If you add this and measure that, something beautiful and tasty and wonderful comes out of the oven. When I’m confused and uncertain and feeling not in control of life, it’s comforting to take a recipe, follow the steps, and feel like you have some semblence of control.

(Or maybe it’s just because I like wearing cute vintage aprons.)

Whatever the reason, I’m finding myself thankful for the kitchen tonight. Thankful for a God who never leaves me—even when I host pity parties. Thankful that He is in control of everything--even when it's hard to see.

And thankful for the pile of cookies and that pan of apple crisp cooling on the stove.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Wisdom for Wednesdays

Ten Ways to Love

1. Listen without interrupting. (Proverbs 18)
2. Speak without accusing. (James 1:19)
3. Give without sparing. (Proverbs 21:26)
4. Pray without ceasing. (Colossians 1:9)
5. Answer without arguing. (Proverbs 17:1)
6. Share without pretending. (Ephesians 4:15)
7. Enjoy without complaint. (Philippians 2:14)
8. Trust without wavering. (Corinthians 13:7)
9. Forgive without punishing. (Colossians 3:13)
10. Promise without forgetting. (Proverbs 13:12)

-Author Unknown

Friday, November 4, 2011

On My Knees

I’ve found it hard to pray lately.

For many different reasons. Sometimes I’m too lazy tired and I barely get a thought in before I’m drifting away. Sometimes I’m distracted. Sometimes I’m moody and don’t feel like talking to God (just keeping it real, folks!). And sometimes…I just really don’t know what to say. It’s not that I don’t have things I want, or things I’m thankful for, or others to pray for…

It just feels like it’s all been said.

Yet in the back of my mind is the advice of our dear priest-friend when I was growing up. To keep praying in the dry seasons. You can shorten it, you can simplify it, but keep praying.

(Now trust me when I say I don’t always follow this wise advice. I’ve slipped into bed with a quick thought up to heaven while I’m snuggling under those polka-dot sheets. And I’ve rushed some Bible reading in before Rachael Ray comes on in the morning on a day off. But let’s move on to the positive, shall we?!)

So one night recently, I attempted to stir up the routine a little. I turned off my light and I knelt beside my bed. There’s something about kneeling that makes it a lot harder to fall asleep while you’re praying! And I followed the ACTS acronym for prayer—just one thing per letter. It’s simple, it’s thorough, and it helps me be purposeful in connecting with the Lord.

A- Adoration. I think of a way I was in awe of His presence that day…something that reminds me of His power and greatness. A comforting reminder that His ways and thoughts are higher.

C- Contrition. In order to keep growing, I need to be real with myself and look at a way I failed to be faithful to Him and others this day. Let’s call it what it is: sin! Acknowledge it, learn from it, and be sorry for it. His grace and mercy are abundant.

T- Thanksgiving. Something from the day that warms my heart, however great or small. There’s always something to be thankful for, and gratitude amazingly improves my perspective.

S- Supplication. Who did I interact with today that needs lifted up in prayer? What’s something that's really been weighing on my mind or heart today?

That’s it. One item per category. But you know what? Once I get going, I often think of more things to tell Him about. And if I don’t—I know I’ve at least followed Father M.’s advice and that of 1 Thessalonians 5:17. God sees and knows our efforts. He is strength when we are weak. His Spirit intercedes for us when we are at a loss for words (Romans 8:26).

If you’re struggling to pray, hang in there! These things are helping me right now, but it’s not about a formula, a to-do list, or a fuzzy feeling. It’s about connecting with the God who made us, redeemed us, and makes us holy one day at a time.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Wisdom for Wednesdays

"Don't be someone who pays more attention to what God doesn't do than what God does do."

-qtd. by Joyce Meyer Ministries

(LOVED this! Sadly, I definitely fall in this area many times!)

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Be the People: A Book Review

I’m flipping the calendar to November today. In one week, I’ll be standing in line at the polls and ready to vote! Yay! Being an American is such an incredible blessing and an exciting, empowering privilege.

But as Spiderman was told…(all together now:) “With great power comes great responsibility.”

The leaders of our country are not holding all the power. Each citizen has the power to let his or her voice be heard—whether by phone calls to representatives, letters to the editor, purposeful conversations with friends and family, and even financial support. This is our country and we need to take responsibility for its course.

Author Carol M. Swain, PhD., exhorts us with the title of her stirring book: Be the People: A Call to Reclaim America’s Faith & Promise.

Let me summarize: I LOVED this book. When I first received it in the mail, I was intimidated by the amount of words and pages. Though I was interested in the topics and love reading my Citizen magazine each month (Thank you, Focus on the Family!), I wasn’t sure how well I would be able to get into a whole book of such information.

I didn’t need to worry. It was both interesting and engaging. I found myself picking it up at breakfast, on my lunch break, in the evenings. I shared thoughts from it with my family and my friends and my co-workers—who kindly put up with my enthusiasm!

The author looks at the founding values of America and contrasts them with those of today. She covers crucial topics of abortion, the definition of marriage, racism, and immigration. These topics weren’t new to me, yet I learned so much from the studies, lawsuits, quotations, and more that Ms. Swain expertly compiled along with her opinions and knowledge. My favorite chapter was undoubtedly “Family Matters.”

As far as any negative feedback on the book, I don’t think I can give more than a sentence or two. Naturally, I didn’t agree with everything the author said, but I feel she did a great job presenting facts and opinions fairly. Even if I disagreed or did not have a formed opinion, she provided me with lots of food for thought. There were a few times it felt over my head or failed to keep me as engaged, but overall I am so glad I read this book. It was stirring, convicting, and energizing. I plan to pass it on for others to read and I highly recommend it.

[I received this book from Thomas Nelson Publishers via Booksneeze at no charge. These are my honest and original comments about the book.]