Gift

It was just last year when I read the book that changed my heart and mind toward noticing the beauty of the wonder in the mundane.

Oh how it has changed me.

One by one they come alive. Lovely , remarkable joy through the lens  of a new prescription.

Gifts, that’s what they are called. When Jesus took the bread and gave thanks for something as hard as death, murdered for doing nothing, these are the things I’ve learned.

So how do I miss it so often. How do my little vices, the problems which cause me to be anxiety prone or to lose my temper, how do they happen so fast? When none are my death. When none are my cross.

I lose sight of the precious and I bask in the misunderstandings and I forget what it means to be grateful.

And then the husband of mine holds me, and he sets my mind and my perceptions straight from the knots they were entangled. And so grace becomes real again and I remember what it all means and I pray that I don’t forget so quickly the next time. Because gratefulness gives Him glory and that’s what my life is meant to do. To see the gifts is to recognize that He is sovereign even when I don’t understand. And there is so much joy from a life lived this way. And oh what a beautiful dance that turns out to be.

 

The book I am referring to is One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp…

Today is Five Minute Friday, where I love to stop, drop and write for 5 minutes with The Gypsy Mama

 

 

Trust

Five Minute Friday: So it’s that time of the week where I join other women and The Gypsy Mama in writing my heart, unedited, unscripted. Just write for 5 minutes.

Todays topic:

Trust

He asks me to open my hands. To keep them that way. To not try to hold on again, grasping at what I love. He requires this. That this is how I live. Open-handed.

I wish that I could say I want to. But sometimes I don’t. I ask for Him to teach me, to guide me to show me, and He has. But He needs the creases of my hands to face upward. Empty.

Because when I ask for patience, we all know that’s not what He gives. Opportunity. That’s what this God is all about.

But the labor can take years, and there is no epidural sometimes.

To trust Him with our growing pains? Isn’t that what He desires? That resolution doesn’t need to come, and the peace that passes understanding should do just that. I wish I could welcome peace without the need to understand. 

So I try to take the hands from my pockets, and I try to pry each finger from the fist.

But it always goes back.

I say I trust Him. But do I? Do I give Him all of me? Every time?

Oh how I want to…

Discovering simplicity…

If you looked at the life of Dan and I, you might not find it very grand. We are very busy, and our home is cozy, with decor that has been acquired through wedding showers and years of being the daughter of HGTV herself. We don’t spend exhorbitant amounts of money and our technology is relatively little compared to many other americans our age (one tv, one computer, one ipod, one stereo). Our closet is probably the most extravagant, and most difficult to maintain, but that too is many things from years past that have maintained their color and their shape enough to be re-accesserized (at least my part of the closet, that is) ;). And our food consumption/waste is definitely not well balanced, but is not to the gluttony stages that I consider unhealthy, but that one is all a matter of perspective.

But here’s the thing, this is a ridiculous amount of stuff compared to the rest of the world. Period. We live in privilege and we aren’t grateful. We aren’t grateful enough. I love our life and the coziness, the beauty of the new familiar, the peace that can be found in our home when it’s clean. But I started thinking a few months ago things like: Where does all of the money go (granted, much goes to debt, but still…)? Do we really eat all of the food in the refrigerator without it going to waste? What really is a healthy and moderate and reasonable portion size? What is the balance between loving fashion and knowing there are people without any clothes? How can we just keep living, talking about loving the unlovely, talking about decluttering and simple living, and at the same time maintain the status quo of our lifestyle choices, without giving them a second thought.

So a tangible thought came to me… What would we do if our food resources were limited? How much would we save if we ate, and planned to eat, only when we were hungry? If I were a better planner, would our food budget decrease simply by more conscientious choices?

And so I created a goal… Let’s try, for an entire month, to live on 30% of our typical food budget. This figure would end up being about $100. I knew I would have to get creative, and I knew that we would have to live with a lot of self control. sigh. 

After that I started reading a book that is kind’ve wrecking my world about necessity and love and giving and discipline. It challenges our habits, our motivations, our true heart’s intent, to the point where I am now looking at my life and realizing that our heart for God’s people is not demonstrated wholeheartedly within our finances, even though we’ve tried to make wise and discerning financial decisions as we go along.

I began to pray that God would move our hearts to desire Him alone in this process. That instead of it just being a budget cutting tool, it would become a sort of fast, a way that leads us to His heart and aligns us more with His will. And that is what He is doing.

I am seeing God move in my life in ways I never thought… I am starting to see so much excess and greed in my life and want to rid myself of it for good. I see that though I am grateful for my possessions, I still act like they are my possessions, rather than relying on Christ alone to provide for our every need and want. I am realizing that we are rich. For real. Even if we are just starting out, even if we are paying off a bunch of school debt, even if. Because much of the world doesn’t know where their next meal is coming from and many Christians are literally relying on God for their daily bread, and somehow I sit in my house with my refrigerator and freezer and hoard the possessions God has given me to share, and I still am willing to call myself the sister of one of those many when really I don’t even know how to begin to identify with them.

So we are cutting back. Intentionally. And we are more fulfilled. Already. There is so much more I could say as to our reasons, and how God is teaching us through this, but I literally would have to write much, much more than I have time for right now.

So…

30% of our food budget is first (and we are only choosing 7 foods— and a few extras for work— that are allowed to be purchased at the store, full of health and goodness), maybe clothes is next, or possessions, or whatever, I don’t know.

But I sense something is happening, and I wish you could catch my fire, enthusiasm, excitement for this endeavor over the blogsphere. Because this is real and God is working and it’s awesome!

“Freely you have received. Freely give.” Matthew 10:8

 

 

*I would seriously recommend the book 7: An experimental mutiny against excess, by Jen Hatmaker, even though I am only on the second chapter. Read it folks, you won’t be sorry. Not one bit.

Tender

So I’m writing to you here, from my sofa, as a girl in slow motion, praying for her coffee to kick in. The week has caught up with me, and I’m not sure what to do, because for me, the week is far from over….

So I will try to keep my disciplines and I will start by writing today, even if the thoughts are running slower than ever.

Today is Five Minute Friday, where The Gypsy Mama invites us to stop, drop, and write for 5 minutes without over-thinking or editing or backtracking. Today, this could be interesting :).

So here it goes:

Tender

Sometimes life causes us to callous. It causes us to crack and bruise and grow hard shells. It causes us to build walls triple our size and manufacture sentences so when people ask the “how are you” questions, we don’t really have to tell. There are events that can change us, that when paired next to the grand, beautiful moments of life, these hard ones take more stalk in our spirit. Why is that? Why is it that I look at the lovely parts of life and they matter, but the hard ones make weight? Why is it that when my dreams take over in the middle of the night, the regrets play out again and again, not the cherished moments that I wish I could relive? Why is it that the vulnerable, bruised parts of my soul, need protection and covered, so that I don’t feel I will break at any moment?

And he sees this, the man I have committed my life to. I’m not sure he realizes, but he’s the one who gets the brunt of it. The defensive mechanisms, the angry reactions, the parts of me that don’t want to let him all in. But it’s not because of him. He is wonderful and he loves me, and I don’t tell him enough. I blame him for not fighting for me, for not breaking down my walls, for not trying to be my hero. But how can he when I just build more? How can he when he doesn’t know they are there?

And it’s not his job to do these things, it’s his job to love and its my job to nurture and if I’m waiting around for him to do his part then I never get to doing mine.

And so I must open, I must grow. I must crack and show these bruises, these heartaches, so that we can live life, so that we can live whole.

I must learn tenderness, and I must overcome my defenses. I must grow softer, and more gentle, because in that I will find fulfillment and in that he will rise up. These are the hard parts. These are the parts they don’t tell you.

Oh tenderness, rise up in me. I want to learn what this grace means.

Roar

Today is Friday. Today is the day where The Gypsy Mama challenges us to write for 5 minutes without over thinking or editing. Today’s word: Roar.

There is a sense in me that all the waiting, all the praying, all of the searching, it’s leading to something. And I don’t want to jump, and I don’t want to move, because I’m so afraid that it is me getting ahead of myself. I want to  follow, I want God to lead, and yes, I want him to lead me gently, and pleasantly, and orderly. But right now, I’m sensing in myself, that He is not going to do any of those things. When His timing is right I believe He is going to show me loud and clear, with the roar of a lion, and all I can do is brace myself, prepare myself, for what that might mean. The part I am asking for, is that the call, the dream, the question is so loud, so audible, that we just can’t miss it, we can’t mistaken His voice for anyone else and we can’t mistaken anyone else’s voice for His.

Just like He spoke a whisper and all of the earth was formed, and everything we know as constant was made. And I know I can trust Him, I know I will follow, but sometimes it is the whisper I desire, and the roar I fear.

The Gypsy Mama: Be careful which mirrors you choose to believe

Yesterday, The Gypsy Mama, one of my absolute favorite bloggers to follow, wrote a post that I can’t seem to get out my head. “Be careful which mirrors you choose to believe”, is so true to my life. I feel as though I am constantly comparing myself to what others, without truly knowing what is going on in their minds or in their homes. I have expected to be really good at what I do, every time, right away. Like being a wife, I thought it would come so naturally, but it hasn’t. It has been a learning experience and quite a struggle. And being a musician: I just know that those who write beautiful songs just have them flow without struggle and without question, but I just can’t seem to get my songs on paper so fluidly. And so, this blog has spoken to me about whom I truly compare myself to, and what the standard really is. It encourages a quite freeing perspective, of not looking around and feeling what we are or are not measuring up to, but instead taking the time to just rest and wait and be still in what we know of God and how He sees us. And when we do this, we will see so much more clearly…

So please take a minute to read this beautifully encouraging post… Let me know how it speaks to you…

 

Craving grace

Today, this Monday of the new year, signifies a day of beginnings. And I am here, at the starting line waiting for the gun to blow and I want to take off running. But somehow, in this moment with coffee and notepad beside, I sense that I am meant to walk. To rest before running, even though I feel ready. I feel the whisper saying “breathe”, telling me again that there is something to learn from the waiting, from the peace. That resting in His arms, is as fulfilling, if not more fulfilling than anything else I could be doing in this moment. That grace is something I will not learn when I am speeding through life, breaking glasses and slamming doors, in order to do the next “good” thing, the next “important” thing. And I know this to be true, in my heart of hearts, but oh, I just want to feel useful, to feel productive, and honestly, to be noticed. This is the vanity with which my choices stem from. This is the superficiality that I hope we all experience, think, or feel, because it would make me feel a little more real and a little less childish.

But deeper, there is the desire, the craving, the need to learn  more, to rest more, to trust more. For grace to be my mantra, I must slow the expectations, the striving. For grace to be my gift, I must learn it from the inside first. That grace has been given, so I must receive it. I must allow myself to have open hands of acceptance to transform the hard, running parts of me, into those of Spirit and peace. I must stop talking and start seeing that hope is found only in grace, and if I want to see change, to find fulfillment, then grace must be allowed to penetrate the cracks of who I want to be.

I need to understand the things I read last year, but are now just coming back and reminding me that those words were golden, and the thoughts now must be transformed into action. That, “a life so full it can seem empty”, is how I feel like many of my days are lived, even though there is beauty and joy and wonder to be found in the days I have been given. I need to remember the words that say, “The only place we need see before we die is this place of seeing God, here and now.” I  need to remember that “when I’m present, I meet I AM, the very presence of a present God. In His embrace, time loses all sense of speed and stress and space and stands so still and… holy.”

This is the essence. This is what our lives our meant for. Stillness, knowing God. Holiness. And I can’t be led to this, if I don’t slow down. And I will miss so much if I stop receiving grace. And I must open my eyes to the here and now, so I can see God really in this place, and watch what He is going to do next.

All quotes are from Ann Voskamp’s incredibly life-changing book, One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are.

Out with the old…

This time of year always brings new hopes, new ambitions, new decisions. It is a time of reflection, of purging, of wasting the things that have not mattered for a whole of 365 days and evaluating what has been meaningful and worthy. It is a time of finding value, of creating reason, of re-creating who it is we think we were and who it is we think we want to be. And often it is a time where great change is desired, but more often, the same is disguised in bundles of effort and words, without the heart poised behind it.

I’ve never been one for resolutions, for ideas that will change the course of my existence, simply because the clock strikes twelve and the calendar states a new year is born. I have never once had a resolution that I have followed through on, mostly because I am haphazard, and my ideas tend to be the same. I do believe that this reevaluation is good, it is meaningful when intentional, and it is beautifully useful when actually executed.

So in the midst of my lack of follow through, and the daunting task of thinking ahead during a crazy time of life, I am committing something. I do not pretend that I will be good at this, and I don’t really know how long the intentionality of this resolution will last, but I do know that this is my desire, and isn’t now a good of time as ever to try? To overcome myself with a little more of who I know I’m called to be?

So here it is. My new year desire.

Discipline.

You see, I’m good at creating to-do lists, at making ideas, envisioning possibilities. But actually executing what I want, gaining the motivation to do it, and not simply leaving all of the products required for the task in a bag in the basement, is a completely different story.

This might seem strange, but I want to be more intentional about finishing. About completing goals, about finishing tasks, whether they are tasks I enjoy or tasks I don’t.

So, here are some ways that I am committing to be more disciplined, more intentional.

1) Every day, tell my husband what a great man I think he is.

2) Every day, write down at least 5 things I am grateful for or 5 areas where I have seen God work.

3) Monday through Friday, something new will be posted on this blog. It might not be me writing, it might just be a link to another blog that is meaningful to me, but I will be putting out a schedule of what each day will look like (anticipate this for tomorrow) ;).

4) Write a monthly letter to our sponsor child, Seraphim, in Burkina Faso. Pray for him daily.

5) Read at least 1 book a month (probably the easiest goal, since I do it anyway, I just don’t keep track).

6) Pick one organization each month to pray over, advocate for, and possibly donate to.

7) Keep track of the recipes I cook.

8) Maintain consistency in prayer. Pray for specific, intentional topics daily.

9) Dig into God’s word. I’m not sure I’m going to set what this looks like, but I do recognize the need for this to be more intentional in my life and not simply something I do when it “feels” right.

10) Write an encouragement or thank you card each week and send it to someone I know or someone I don’t.

 

So there it is. Who knows how this will actually unfold, but I am excited to find parts of myself that I have not spent much time cultivating. I will let you know how it goes and please feel free to holding me accountable (gently, of course). 🙂

 

The Music of Life

Music moves me. A beautiful song or well-written lyrics can have me processing for days. My whole being can ache when a song is meaningful, and I love hearing the way the sounds and the meaning all come together to make an intricate piece. If a good song is playing, I will stay wherever I am before I move on, just to hear it come to its completion, because I find beauty in that.

I love that songs are created and crafted, and can be revised and renewed and redone. I love that they can be so poignant and meaningful, a result of the situation they are meant for, yet carry such different meanings and notions and still be just as poignant for the listener. I love when a song is considered, not just heard. I love to learn an artist, by the way they make their music and delve into their craft.

I love how a song can be robust and full, with exquisite notes and harmonies, full instrumentation and lovely crescendos. And I love how a song can be simple, and still hit a chord of emotion and beauty that wouldn’t have come if the scores were filled to the brim.

And I’m trying to love this in life too. I have always loved the parts of life that are full and robust, filled with laughter and love and joy. Filled with conversation and people and children’s voices. Filled with notes and harmonies that feel so good and so pure, like you know you are exactly where you are supposed to be.

But I forget about the other songs. The simple ones. Those songs where messages are hidden, where contentment must be found in the littlest of sounds. Where the crescendo has yet to come. There is always a part of life meant for waiting, for the small notes, so the big ones have something to build upon. Adding instrument by instrument, the starting soft can be very hard when all I want to do is be the big notes. I want to play with all my heart, I want to feel the keys underneath my fingers and know that I am giving everything I have to it. And I so easily forget that its possible to be passionate, to love the song, even when its soft. Even when its simple. Because sometimes simple is good, and simple teaches things. And I need to learn from the simple before the bigger notes come, before the dissonant notes hit. My hands need to learn the chords and my heart needs to learn the rhythm before any music can be made, or the music won’t be good at all.

But like a child, I want to hit the keys without knowing a thing, and pray that the sound comes out profoundly, though I know it would sound like noise. And I don’t want to be noise.

So I will learn. I will learn the notes of my song, and not another, though I might love the way theirs is being written in comparison to mine. And I will choose to sing with passion the words that are laid out for me. And I hope that the song will become beautiful.

Trust is hard.

This week has been a whirlwind. Exhausted, overwhelmed, consumed, filled with awe, searching– these are just some of the adjectives I would use to describe myself these days. Life has been good. So good. I feel myself drawing closer to God and my husband in profound ways, and all of that makes me feel so fulfilled. I don’t want to be anywhere else.

But the thing is that I over-think things. I am significantly emotional (combined with exhaustion is interesting), but more than that, I am so desperate to obey God, to follow “right”. I find myself ruminating over what God desires of me, what people want of me, where I “measure up”. I spend so much time questioning my actions, my words, my life, and wondering what is counting and what isn’t, what is effecting people and what is going left unseen and unheard. I want so deeply to be useful to God, that I forget what I am saying…

I.

If God is going to use me, I need to realize that the more concerned I am about what I’m doing over what God is doing, then I’m not putting my trust in Him. But there comes another tricky word…

Trust.

Giving God the glory, doing things without needing recognition or praise, allowing your heart to broken in order to love like Christ: these are all thing that require trust. They require surrender. They require obedience. They require me to take the steps of faith in following Christ, and allowing Him to decide where I should go, and who is being effected. They require me to be willing to give everything– all of my energy, my time, my money– in order for Him to be seen. Not me. My ambitions must be behind me, and He must be my goal. Not recognition, not praise, not even to watch people “get” what I’ve been saying. Nothing. No response. He must be my goal.

And so I question, who is it I trust? Christ is the only one who deserves my surrender. Who else should I want the praise from?

I have talked to friends in the last few weeks who have been so encouraging. I have witnessed their lives and heard their stories, and they all say the same thing. Trust is hard.

But today I witnessed a miracle that has been in the works for a year, and for longer in many, many hearts, and I see that if I can’t trust a God who is so faithful– who is so good– and simply withhold the things, passions, and people who are dear to me so that I can have control, then I will not be truly effective in anything.

This is the daily-ness. This is the hard stuff. But witnessing the miracle is more worthwhile than anything I could ever hold on to.

“But now, thus says the Lord, you Creator, O Jacob, and He who formed you, O Israel, ‘Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I called you by named; you are Mine! When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, Nor will the flame burn you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy one of Israel, your Savior.” Isaiah 43:1-3