Audacious- A Book Review

Outside of the Holy Word of God, I’ve never been more moved, taught, or ignited by a book in my life. A few weeks ago, I sent that exact sentiment to Beth Moore via Twitter. I just about fainted with glee when I saw a text on my phone indicating BETH MOORE herself had actually replied to my Tweet. I was downstairs with the kids, letting our dog Jovie out when I saw it. I began jumping up and down with excitement, which the kids loved. Any chance they get to jump with Mama is a welcomed opportunity!

My “Audacious” journey started back in early fall when God clearly led me to attend one of Beth’s simulcasts with the same title. I’ve already written about the powerful work God has done in me as a result of Beth’s message that day, but God’s work in me has boldly continued throughout the pages of her book.
Beth writes in a way that makes me feel like she is sitting at Starbucks across the table speaking directly into my heart. She writes like she knows my deepest struggles, fears, anxieties, worries, and doubts. This book has been impactful largely because it’s an easy read, a quick read, and it has a very specific message that rings loud and clear.

I was hooked by the third chapter where Beth posed the question, “When the blood in your veins runs hot with holy affection for the living Christ, what do you want to do most?” She also worded it a few sentences down like this, “What are you most compelled by the love of Christ to do? What would it take to do it?” These questions kept me awake at night. They rocked my mind. They stirred my soul. Then Beth pushed me off the cliff of adventure when she ended that chapter with, “Get to it. Nobody but you can do it.” Nobody but me. Nobody but you!

I love that Jesus has made my blood run hot for him in ways so uniquely different than anyone else. I love that He has done the same thing for all of you. I love that He loves us with audacity: intrepidly daring, adventurous, bold, marked by originality and verve.” (pg. 43)

Reading this book fanned the flame in my heart that Jesus started in recent years. He’s in no rush, but I feel the fire hotter than any other time in my life. Oh to love Him with audacity. I’ve spent the better part of my life working for Jesus. Pursuing Him with reading my Bible, praying, attending church services, and serving people has only left me feeling bored, empty, and angry. I’ve always done these things out of a driving force that I “needed” to do these things.

And as Beth pointed out in chapter eight, “Need Is Not Enough"!!!! She says, "Not one of us will get to the end of this book and voraciously keep seeking an audacious love for Jesus because it’s what we need to do. When push comes to shove, our driving force will be desire or this will turn out to be just another phase we went through for a week or two. Discipline won’t do this for us. Discipline can make us more Christ like but it cannot make us love Christ more. We will never love Him just because we need to. We will only love him audaciously because we WANT to.” (My emphasis added.)

If you’re anything like me, the doubt darts quickly fire themselves at my heart: “Well there’s no hope for you. Do you even want Jesus?” And that’s where the beauty comes in. Beth introduced me to the prayer that will most likely forever reign on my lips, “Jesus, I want to want YOU. Would You help me? I already know I need You. But I want to want You, too.” (Pg. 95)

"Audacious" isn’t just a book for me. It’s a journey. An intrepidly daring, adventurous, bold, marked by originality and verve kind of journey.

And to you Jesus, I want to want you.
 

 

Winner Winner!

Congratulations to JULIA! I will be contacting you via email. Kristi's awesome new book is yours!

THANK YOU to all who shared. Your comments were a great encouragement.

Reality Touched by the Miraculous, by Kristi Walker

The tree keeps falling over.
The dinner burns.
The baby spits up on your new sweater.
Finances are too tight to buy presents.
Family can’t make it for the holiday.
The neighbor you invited to church didn’t come.
You miss the celebration due to sickness.
The flight is canceled.
That special present didn’t arrive in time.
The weather isn’t cooperating.
You’re stressed and yell at someone you love.
Another car hits yours in the mall parking lot.
There’s no bonus this year.
That one person’s attitude is ruining Christmas (again).
Memories of past holidays are painful.
A loved one passes away.
You’re spending another New Year’s Eve alone.
Yet another year of unanswered prayer goes by.

Life is disappointing. Hurt is real. It may be no big deal, but it is at the time, and it is to you. Most of the above list has happened to me. Disappointment is often my reality because my expectations are high. My self-appointments don’t materialize in the timing or way I imagined. I na├»vely believe that everything is going to go perfectly. Inside my brain, it’s all Normal Rockwell, but in reality it’s . . . reality. We laugh about Pinterest fails, but sometimes life is a series of fails. I visualize the desired end result, do my absolute best, and stare at the seeming mess in disbelief. How did it happen? Why did it happen? Why me? Where was God and why didn’t He intervene? Why doesn’t He answer my prayers, protect me from hurt, keep me from sin? Wouldn’t the Normal Rockwell version have brought Him more glory??
 

I guess that’s why the biblical account of the Christmas story means so much to me. It was reality touched by the miraculous. It was Zechariah and Elizabeth, who had struggled with infertility until they finally faced the shameful fact that they were barren. The dream was dead. It was young Mary, afraid that she was not the right person to carry the Christ child, worried that her betrothed would reject her, that everyone would reject her. It was Joseph, grappling with the fact that, even though he had sought to live a righteous life, his soon-to-be-bride had been unfaithful. Then, of course, when Mary was finally ready to deliver, there was the physically exhausting journey to Bethlehem to pay taxes they couldn’t really afford, the inn with no vacancies, the reality that the Son of God would have to be born in a dark and dirty cave. That first Christmas was hard. It was confusing. It was painful. Until . . .


A child was born. A son was given. God became flesh. A newborn cry pierced the silent night. Heaven descended into this mess called humanity. The Light of the world dispelled the darkness. Prophesies foretold became promises fulfilled. Impossibilities proved to be possibilities and disappointments to be appointments. Religion suddenly had meaning, pain had purpose and life held hope!
This Christmas, no matter your hurts or disappointments, rejoice! Put your hope in God! The Savior is here, God is truly with you! Reality is still touched by the miraculous. The ultimate Gift was given, for you. Claim it, live it, tell it! Merry Christmas! 

***For a chance to WIN a FREE copy of Kristi's new book, Disappointment: A subtle path away from God please comment below about one of the following:

~How have you been disappointed this Christmas, and where has Jesus shown up for you?
~How do you keep Jesus at the center of your Christmas celebrations when the hustle and bustle starts to take over?

To keep the gift-giving going after Christmas, the winner will be announced Monday, December 28!

You Won't Be Disappointed!

Allow me to introduce you to my long-time friend, Kristi! I've known her since I was 10 years old, if you can believe that. When I first met her, my family had just moved half way across the country from Iowa- which we all loved. We hated moving to Pennsylvania. Kristi, on the other hand, was ecstatic to have us living in PA. She said to me, "Now the college (where my Dad got a new job) has the best speakers in the country!" (Also referring to her own Dad.) That actually sums Kristi up well- very positive, see's the bright side, extremely loyal, and is very passionate for the people and places she loves.

In the pictures bellow Kristi is the one behind me, and Mandi is to the right. (Hi Mandi!) For the past couple of years Mandi, Kristi, and I have been able to hang out several times together even though we live very far apart. They both frequently visit their missions agency which is only about 30 minutes away from us. A very sweet thing for me. It's always a blast to see them! They both make me laugh the tears-streaming-down-my face-kind of laugh.

Fun fact about Kristi- she is a missionary in Germany, which is also the country where my husband, Chuck, grew up! We still have family in Germany, so it's a fun connection. Kristi is the one who motivated us to raise our kids bi-lingual. Chuck only speaks German to the kids, and I only speak English to them. We are so thankful for her push- it's awesome that our kids understand both languages.

Kristi will be the guest blogger right here tomorrow. I've already read her post, and it choked me up. I was encouraged, and my heart was put to rest. I know you will not be disappointed! *hint hint* at what's to come! It's Christmas, so what a perfect week for a give-away! Come on back to enter to win a FREE copy of her new book, Disappointment: A subtle path away from God. See you tomorrow!



In The Meantime- Part 3: Our Little Healer

When Christmas finally rolled around that year, Chuck, Jovie, and I headed up to my parent's. The babies we had lost were always fresh on my mind, especially since the second child would have been due- or already born by Christmas day. I don't remember much about that year, but I do remember two things. One, I was surrounded by love from our family. Two, a friend text and told me she was pregnant.

I had been sitting at the dining room table, chatting away with family when I saw the text from my friend. ANOTHER friend getting pregnant made me feel like I had bricks in my stomach. My heart sank all the way down to my toes. I wanted to cry, but I didn't have anything left in me. I felt defeated. Hopeless. I'm sure I said the expected things like "Oh wow! Congratulations! I'm so happy for you!" (Gag.) But I honestly wasn't that happy for her. I just mourned my losses all the more.

It was OK that I wasn't happy for her. I put myself on way too many emotional guilt trips over my lack of enthusiasm for the other girls in my life getting pregnant. OF COURSE I WASN'T HAPPY. I'm only human. I was kind. I was respectful. I was loving. But I didn't have to be happy. It was OK that I was disappointed, or sad, or mad.

A couple days later Chuck and I visited the church I grew up in with my parents. After the service I saw a woman who has meant a lot to me over my growing up years walk towards me. Since I had moved away years before, I hadn't seen her much. I even wondered if she remembered me. Jeni had a huge smile on her face as she approached me saying she'd like to talk.

My eyes welled up with tears as I briefly described the deep losses and ache in my life. It had come to Jeni's attention that I had always believed I was going to live a painful life. She had been praying for me, and wanted to tell me to stop believing that lie! She actually asked God for a chance to talk with me, and I showed up at the church. Jeni didn't even know I was in town. Crazy enough, it was her last Sunday at that church before she moved to FL.

Her message was that God, in fact, wanted to pour out His blessings, His favor, and His goodness on me. Then she prayed over me in a way I've never been prayed over. Chuck joined us in the middle of the prayer, and the three of us stood surrounded by The Spirit in an almost tangible way. I could feel His presence wash over me. One of the first things she said was, "God, you're in a good mood." It blew Chuck and I away. I never pictured God in a good mood. More like Him looking angry, shaking His fist, and wanting me to get it right. Picturing Him that way was all part of the lie that controlled me. Jeni prayed in faith against those lies.

Then she prayed over my empty womb. Both physically and spiritually. She prayed healing over my heart, and healing over my body. She blessed me. She blessed Chuck. She blessed us. We drove away from the church building that day feeling riveted. The Spirit breathed life into my dead heart. A spark of hope began to ignite in the darkest corners of my soul. Jesus came that day. He came through Jeni.

Three weeks later I was back in that same bathroom. The one where I had laid agonizingly on the floor in sobs. This time, as the seconds ticked by after taking my millionth and one pregnancy test, something different happened. Something so unbelievable, Chuck really didn't believe it! THERE WAS A FAINT BLUE LINE! It was very faint, but very blue. Jesus was there.

See the faint blue line that crosses over the dark blue line in the big box?!
Chuck needed to see the word to believe it!

Nine months later our Healer (the meaning of Jase) arrived. Jesus was there. He always has been. And He always will be. He's there for you, too, friend.
Jeni meeting Jase for the first time- she prayed over him, of course!

In The Meantime- Part 2: Cowboy Samuel

Samuel is the son of my wonderful friends Nic and Jessi. Samuel has a brain disorder called ACC, but it's certainly not what defines him. What defines him is Jesus- who fearfully and wonderfully made him. That Christmas season he was three and a half. I started helping Jessi by driving Samuel to different therapies he was involved in so she didn’t have to drag her pregnant self, or baby girl out of the house multiple days a week.

I didn’t realize at the time how God was using Samuel to fill me. Each day I spent with him, my heart fell more and more in love. On the days I picked Samuel up from school, I would anxiously wait in the car until I saw his teachers marching the class outside like little toddler ducklings. I’d get out of the car and walk to the edge of the side walk where we would meet. I’d be so excited for Samuel to look up, recognize me, and smile that infamously Samuel smile.

Oh that smile! It would light up his whole face, all the way to his sweet round eyes. Jesus was there in that smile, but I didn’t know it then. That smile would reach straight to my aching soul, and sooth the spots in me that were bubbling with pain.  
 
 
I’d help him into the car, and ask about his day. I’d make sure he had his current favorite toy in hand- back then it was a mini wooden wardrobe from a dollhouse. He adored that wardrobe! I’d give him his lunch and drink while we drove to one of his therapies.

Wednesdays were my favorite days because we’d get to go out to a farm for horse therapy. We would sing songs in the car like, “Old MacDonald had a farm!” We would share silly words, and laugh about silly kid humor. I’d call him “Cowboy Samuel” and he’d call me, “Cowgirl Abigail!” He loved to holler out, “Fee! Figh! Foe! Fum!” Those sweet boy giggles were music to my ears.
At the farm, Samuel would ride, (surrounded by three adults, of course) and I’d watch. Jesus was there, too. He was there in the gorgeous horses that made me feel serene inside. He was there in the colors of the changing leaves. He was there in the beautiful children I got to watch. He was there, using nature and other little humans to comfort my weary heart.  
 
 
Jesus knew that giving me a job where I got to care for a boy a few hours a week didn’t just put money in my pocket, it gave me life. The parts of me that longed to mother got to mother. Though Jesus didn’t give me my own child at that time, He gave me the opportunity to use the part of my heart that ached to mother. I needed that. HE KNEW.

 
I still longed to bare my own children. But that's where Jeni comes in. Jeni in all her spirit-filled, Jesus-adoring, faith-inspiring, powerful-praying glory approached me one day out of nowhere. The darkness began to lift, and the miracles started happening...


In The Meantime- Part 1: I See You

Recently, in a group setting, a friend shared some seriously tough things she is dealing with. At the end of her story she said, “But it’ll all be OK.” Another woman in the group replied with, “Yay, but in the meantime…” I didn’t hear how she finished. My mind instantly started thinking about the first half of her sentence. When I’m going through tough stuff I often feel it’s necessary to wrap a nice bow on my circumstances, and tell everyone that “God is good” or “I know I’ll be stronger in the end” or “It’ll all be OK one day". In actuality, sometimes there’s a very long meantime.

I See You
As Andy Williams sings it best, “It’s the most wonderful time of year!” But not for everyone.


I see you friend who is hurting. I see you friend who is struggling with anxiety, fear, and depression. I see you friend who desperately wants to conceive. I see you friend going through a miscarriage. I see you friend whose baby should have been in your arms this holiday season. I see you friend who lost your husband to an insane tragedy. I see you friend whose mother is in Heaven, and not with you. I see you friend who lives overseas and suffers with loneliness. I see you friend who deals with intense stress over seeing family during the holidays. I see you friend who would rather stay home with your family then have to travel with little ones. I see you friend whose husband is fighting for our country, and can’t be by your side. I see you single friend who aches to have a man by your side. I see you friend whose boyfriend broke your heart. I see you friend whose child is diagnosed with the unthinkable.   

I see you. I see you. I see you. You are not alone.
Exactly three years ago, that was me.

(Have you seen Inside Out?! So good!)
Maybe it was my thousandth pregnancy test. It felt like thousands. It felt like millions. And that day was no different. “Not Pregnant” flashed across the tiny screen, mocking me. Mocking my hopes. Mocking my dreams. Cutting my heart like a knife. Since one normally takes a pregnancy test in quite an undignified position, the surroundings of a bathroom only seemed to make the negative results that much more unbearable.  

That particular day, I had reached my utmost limit of pain. After two years of “trying” to get pregnant, after two babies had come and gone in the blink of an eye, my heart couldn’t bare it anymore. I collapsed into a heap on the floor. I fell halfway between the bathroom and hallway. My feet laid weak on the tile, while my head rested on the sterile beige carpet. The sobs wracked me. Absolutely shook my body. The pain was too great to contain so the sounds that escaped my throat were unrecognizable. The wails that came out of me sounded like a wounded animal about to die. The sounds scared me. Those sounds still haunt me.
Christmas was just weeks away, and our second baby would have been due right around that time. I often wonder about my first two children. What are their genders? What are their personalities? I find myself feeling bad for our second baby. There was a lot of grief hoopla over our first lost baby. But when we lost the second, I didn’t have it in me to grieve that deeply and darkly again. I was afraid I wouldn’t survive. Our second baby holds his/her own special place in my heart. He/she was due at Christmas time. We would have had a Christmas baby. A Christmas will never pass by where I won’t ponder that sweet second child. He/she is very real. Very much alive in the sweet arms of Jesus.  

I guess I thought a positive pregnancy test would dull the ache I felt over our losses. I lived to see a positive pregnancy test. It was all-consuming. My heart knew no other desire. But Jesus knew. He has always shown up to guide the way, but never how I would have imagined.
That year He unexpectedly showed up through the eyes of a little boy named Samuel.



Drum Roll, Please!

Well, my plan was to pick a favorite response but that proved to be much harder than I had anticipated. I loved all of them. So, I did what anyone else would do. I let the internet decide for me. I pulled up a random generator, popped in everyone’s names, and the internet chose Bethany!

Congratulations, Bethany! If you send your mailing address to hello@havenpaperie.com, I’ll get your cards in the mail to you.

Thank you to everyone else who shared glimpses into your hearts. I was really touched by all of your answers.

Have a wonderful holiday season!

Heidi



Hi All! It's Abigail here. Just wanted to say THANK YOU to Heidi for the beautiful post she wrote. I know many of us were inspired, touched, encouraged, and motivated to embrace who we are as women in Christ! Thank you all for your thoughtful comments. They were a joy to read!

Please tune in again tomorrow for a new 3-week series I'll be writing called, "In the Meantime".

Happy Thanksgiving!


Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I'm so thankful Jesus gave me the courage to walk across the stage this past Sunday when fear wanted to keep me home in bed! Jesus is LIFE! He is Hope. He Heals. I'm so thankful for Jesus!

She Is Good


I feel like I have big shoes to fill after Abigail’s introduction! I hope I do it justice.



I’m Heidi. I am a graphic designer, small business owner and a lover of travel. I am a Type A list maker. I have lived in nine states and 14 cities. I attended 11 different schools. I hate onions. I like black licorice. I love grapefruit. I have no favorite color, but my closet is organized by color. I am a left-handed introvert.

I have been wracking my brain for what to write about here for weeks. I am not at the end of some grand journey where I have wisdom or some deep reflections to impart. Instead, I feel like I am in the midst of a painful and ongoing battle in multiple areas of my life. One of the most significant battles being my “woman”hood.

I say womanhood with quotes because I am a 36 year old who has yet to claim herself as a “woman”. In my own mind, I am still a girl, trying to find her way into the world of women. I think a lot of this has to do with the environment I was raised in, but even more so because of the pain of infertility and loss I have experienced surrounding my body.

My body has not been a source of life or goodness for me. It has not been capable of doing the things it was designed to do, so I carry a lot of hatred and shame toward it. Shame that I am working hard to combat on a daily basis.

I was recently invited to participate in a friend’s birthday party. This particular birthday party was unlike any I had ever been to, and yet it was a party that I think every girl should be required to attend.

It was a celebration of what it means to be a woman, created in the image of God, and to honor the goodness of being a woman, our bodies, and our feminine selves.




I was anxious going into the evening because, as mentioned, this is an area where I struggle, and I am willing to bet a good portion of girls/woman do, especially in the Christian culture. Our bodies and our female goodness are hard to talk about. It’s a topic that is talked around, but never really about directly. (Why is that? I’m still trying to figure that out. There is so much fear.)

And so my friend, who is on a similar journey of discovering the goodness of the woman God created her to be, gathered eight women together to share in this special, intimate evening with her. Her 36th birthday.

We were each asked to bring a blessing and a symbol of what represents femininity to us. We dressed up. We sat in a circle on the floor on blankets, reclining on pillows, with candles glowing and lights strung overhead. And, we feasted together in similar fashion of a Seder.


 

My friend had brought various symbols that were used to mark pivotal parts of her story that she shared with us in between courses of the meal.

Sea water – represented her favorite quote by Isak Dinesen
“The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears or the sea.”
Juniper oil – represented youth, protection, chastity
Pomegranate – represented fertility
Covering – using a cloth to cover the pomegranate to symbolize all the times she was shamed for her body or that her femininity was shrouded
Bitter herb – symbolized the heartache of being detached and distant to her feminine self, the sorrow/loneliness as she tries to understand her feminine self
Cedar – this scent represented a cleansing, forgiveness to her
Cutting the pomegranate –opening it up and sharing her journey with her sisterhood of women

After she had so bravely opened her heart to us, we each took time, through tears and our own vulnerability, to share our journey as women. We presented our symbols of femininity: candles, poems, jewelry, art, nail polish; and after each blessing, we handed her a single pale pink rose. Roses are a symbol of femininity to her and so collectively we gave a bouquet of flowers to bless her effort to know and understand who she is and what she likes as a woman.


The gift I chose to bring, along with the above print I designed, was a candle. In my mind, candles represent warmth, glow, nurturing, sensuality, and the ability to light up a room. They are captivating and fragrant. All the things I think women are. We are fierce yet gentle. Strong, but calm. We are amazing.

But we forget that last part.

We berate. We belittle. We shame. We cover up. We snuff out. We forget. We forget the goodness that comes with being a woman, created by God.

I will never forget that special evening where I sat around with eight other women honoring the goodness of who we are, in all our various forms. We came as we were and offered what we had of ourselves to give.

Oh yeah, and we ended the night with homemade carrot cake and dancing in the kitchen to Justin Bieber while we did dishes. Perfect end to a beautiful evening.

I challenge you to check in with where you are with your body. I encourage you to be kind with yourself wherever you find yourself to be. How can we love others if we do not first love ourselves? It is not easy. It’s hard to love ourselves at times. That is what God desires for us, though. Love.



Bonus! As Abigail mentioned in her previous post, I am the owner of Haven Paperie, a small stationery business. I chose three cards that I think are fitting for this post that I want to giveaway to one of you!
Here’s how to enter to win these cards, plus stamps:
  1. Follow Haven Paperie on whatever social media platform you choose
  2. In the comments section below, answer the following question. What gift would you bring to represent your journey as a woman or what makes you feel feminine?
  3. For the guys out there, you can enter for a special woman in your life, too. Your question is: What do you value about the women in your life?
  4. Not on social media? Add that to your comment so we know!


A winner will be chosen Dec 1.

Meet Heidi!

This is my dear friend, Heidi. My creative, inspiring, courageous, hilarious, generous, beautiful friend, Heidi. She's on the left. I'm on the right. We first met when volunteering at the same youth group in VA. Teens would get us confused. One girl in particular used to run up to me quite often and say, "Hey Heidi!" I can't blame her. Blondes with big teethy smiles can be confusing.


Heidi is the creator and CEO of her own companies- Heth Design and Haven Paperie. I'm honored to announce she will be gracing us with her presence on the blog tomorrow. There may even be a little give away involved. ;) Come on back tomorrow- I'm excited for you to get a glimpse into her beautiful heart.

You Are There & You Are Light

For the months of September and October, the arts ministry I'm involved with (Infused Arts) had a huge exhibit at our church. 37 visual artists and writers combined to work for six months on our individual projects wrapped around the theme of the names of God. All kinds of artists came together to collaborate, share ideas, give and receive inspiration, and most importantly, seek the Spirit. We had some powerful times of worship, prayer, encouragement, and laughter as we studied and read about the hundreds of different names of our God! Artists tend to work alone, but something amazing happened when we came together once a month to share in the love of Jesus, and create for Him.

This week I am sharing the personal Psalm the Spirit put in my heart for the exhibit. It wasn't the style of writing I usually do. It wasn't my original plan. That's why I know it's His. If you find yourself in a place desiring to connect with Jesus in a fresh way, try writing a Psalm in your own words. Make it personal. Having a relationship with Jesus is the most personal relationship we can ever know. That's one difference between the one true God, and any other god on this planet. Someone out there today needs to hear this.

Jesus knows you. He is There.

photo credit: deAnn Roe; left painting: Molly Puz; right booklet: where my piece was printed 
 

You Are There
A personal Psalm
139:7-16

“Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?”

 When my baby boy has a seizure, you are there.

When he spikes a third fever this month, and I live in terror over another seizure, you are there.

When he has a mysterious fever with no explanation, you are there.

When I agonize over waiting on his blood work results, you are there.

“Where can I flee from your presence?”

 When I lie in bed in the middle of the night terrified for my child, you are there.

When panic attacks me throughout the day, you are there.

When fear consumes my every thought, you are there.

When anxiety robs me of my joy, you are there.

When the enemy confuses my thoughts, you are there.

“Even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.”

 In my darkest hours, you are there.

When I cannot see your light, you are there.

When I long to hide from this ache, you are there.

 
You Are Light
A Personal Reflection
When the perfect song comes on the radio the second I turn on the car, you are light.

When a YouTube video plays those lyrics I needed to hear, you are light.

When a teen girl talks to me and seeks advice, you are light.

When my infant daughter smiles and giggles, you are light.

When my baby son runs into my arms, you are light.

When my husband says I look pretty, you are light.

When a package shows up in the mail for me, you are light.

When a friend brings groceries for a week, you are light.

 “All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”

 

No Other Gods- Bible Study Review


Over the summer a group of friends and I went through Kelly Minter's Bible Study, What Love is. Kelly mentioned her struggle with fear in the book, and suggested her previously written study, No Other Gods. I jumped right on it, and another friend joined in!

No Other Gods is part of The Living Room Series. (Not to be mistaken with her stand alone book by the same title.) Kelly not only teaches readers how to dive deeply into Scripture, but she teaches how to do it within the context of community. Having dinner together, playing music, or lighting a candle can really set a relaxing and inviting atmosphere to the gathering. I fully believe in that concept, but at this phase of life it doesn't work too well. My friend and I consistently met up at Dunkin Donuts (free coffee every Monday if Penn State wins!), away from the baby chaos at home, and we found that environment to be just as sweet. Coffee + Donuts + Bible study = a win, win, win!

The study guides readers into making room for Jesus on a heart level. Kelly dives into many aspects of modern day idols/gods, some of which I had never thought about. For instance, she opened my eyes to one of the enemy's many schemes. Satan often "speaks a lot of true things, yet none of it is Truth." This was hugely profound to me. Often I hear the enemy whispering very scary true things into my head, but those things are not GOD'S TRUTH which resides in my heart. I am learning to make decisions based on Truth vs. true.

As an example, on the lesson page for that day I wrote,"True: moving to a house 13 miles away, being a half hour away from our church building and community. TRUTH: God's ways are not my ways, God is sovereign, God is all-knowing, God is trust-worthy, God is amazing"

This book was life-giving, eye-opening, and used by God to help bring peace and Truth into my heart. You can order your very own copy here.

 

Jesus in 43 Inches

We've been living in our new house for over three weeks now! It was fun to be all moved just in time for Halloween. That was the day I heard the door bell ring for the first time. It had been too early in the day for Trick or Treaters, and we had friends coming over, but not for another hour. I assumed somebody was arriving early. (Can we just stop and take a minute to bemoan early arrivers?!) Even though I wasn't ready for early guests, I gave myself a pep talk to calm down. The extra roll of toilet paper wasn't out yet in the guest bathroom- no one likes to be caught without the extra roll, the apples hadn't been sliced, Basye needed to be changed- nobody likes to arrive at a stinky diaper house, Jase needed to be changed out of his PJ's (a story for another day), and the dessert wasn't made, but I would handle those early arrivers.

This all flashed through my mind in just a few seconds. As I waited at the top of the stairs to hear which guests had arrived early, Chuck opened the front door. When he finally called up to me, "Baaaaabe! Come look at this!" things really got exciting! I ran downstairs to find a huge, and I mean HUGE present sitting on our front stoop. A very large box was completely wrapped in bright yellow paper. In case you can't read it in the picture, there was a typed note that said, "A gift for your beautiful family. We love you guys!" What on earth? We kept looking around trying to spot the sneaky gift-givers, wondering if they were watching us from afar.

What else could we do but rip that paper off like there was no tomorrow? Look what we found!


That's right! A FORTY-THREE inch flat screen TELEVISION! I think you can tell how shocked we were by the look on Chuck's face. My hand actually flew to my mouth in utter surprise. How was this even happening? Now before I go on, you have to understand our last TV. It was so old, I'm pretty sure we'll be able to donate it to the Smithsonian. And talk about huge. It was a beast of a TV. Chuck and I had only dreamt that "maybe someday" we would buy a flat screen, and be able to hang it up on the wall. Someday came out of nowhere, guys.

Sometimes Jesus just delivers a 43 inch flat screen to your door. HE knew we had this material desire. HE knew our living room was a bit awkwardly shaped, and a flat screen TV would help. HE knew I had poor vision and couldn't see the TV very well from where our couch had to be positioned. HE knew how excited we would be to get such a gift. HE knew how overwhelmed with love we would feel by whoever HE chose to so generously bless us. HE KNEW. AND HE BLESSED.

To our stealth little angels out there, we THANK YOU from the bottom of our hearts for such a gift. We are overwhelmed with Jesus. We are overwhelmed by HIS love. We are overwhelmed by YOUR love. And we thank you a thousand times. Blessings upon blessings all over you!

Godzilla

I had a post all lined up for today. Being that it's launch week and all, I wanted to write two posts instead of one. But, today turned out to be nothing like I expected, and thought some of you might be able to relate to the day I'm having. I would rather post the happy story already written, but in the spirit of being genuine I'll share this little tidbit instead.

Today stinks. Several months ago I heard about a conference that was happening close by. I was really excited about it! I love conferences, and love hearing from ministry leaders. I was in the process of arranging a sitter so I could attend the conference (not an easy feat), when my hopes of going got shot down. At first I was angry, but then anger turned to hurt. Eventually days kept passing, a couple months went by, and I got over it. Until today. The actual day of the conference.

Enter the ever-so-popular Pity Party. I woke up irritated that Chuck got to spend his whole day with friends and coworkers at a nice conference with a nice lunch while I stayed home. Even my brother and his girl friend from out of town are there today, as well as out of town friends! I got angry all over again. It hurts to feel left out, and it stinks. The kids were especially fussy this morning, and by 7:35am I was already on the verge of losing my mind. I've spent the majority of the day near tears.

No, I did not handle the situation in the right way. I sent Chuck an angry text this morning, all the while freaking out at the kids, and even telling the dog to SHUT UP. (She really does need to stop the barking during nap time.) Humanity is ugly.


But what's beautiful is Jesus in humanity. In the midst of my nasty, He showed up in pure sweetness. I had received a package from my sister-in-law yesterday. I knew she was mailing me a coat and boots for Jase, so I didn't bother to open the box until today. Well, she surprised the kids by throwing in a couple toys they were so excited about! Heck, as you can see, even the boots were exciting!



I wish I could say after that I turned into an angel. More like Godzilla. When I finally couldn't take myself anymore, I prayed, "I don't have it in me to choose a good attitude today. Would you please just help me?" Later during a very few minutes I had to squeeze in some of my Bible study, Jesus gave me the desire to drop on my knees and cry out. "Jesus I'm angry, I'm hurt. I'm sorry for my awful behavior and I forgive. This day is so long, and so stinky- please just help me get through it!"


I felt an instant glimmer of hope. I was forgiven. I apologized to my husband. The day moved on. While the kids played, I unpacked some more boxes. I found our CD player. We listened to kids praise music. Jase and I danced. Basye smiled contently from her crib. There was a subtle change in my heart.

His name is Jesus.

Blastoff!

I was sitting on our cozy, more than well-worn couch with my hands wrapped around a warm mug of coffee. The windows were open because the house was stuffy, but I found myself getting chilly by the slight Fall breeze. My friend Molly was sitting across from me on the other end of our larger than life couch. As we were discussing our Bible study lessons for that week, I blurted out, “I’m so annoyed by this author. I wish she would give us REAL LIFE examples as to what she’s talking about! Her references to her struggles are so vague.” Molly whole-heartedly agreed. As much as we were learning and growing from the study, we longed for stories that had actually happened to the author that could help us navigate through our own real lives.

A few days later, my friend Lisa (who recently wrote the post, “Disease to Please”) and I were talking about the struggle of blogging. Lisa’s words echo my heart completely, “I’m still that same person that struggles with the things I’m writing about! Sometimes you feel it would be nice if you could write something and that would mean that you’d have overcome it, and that you’d have arrived, and that you no longer struggled with it- you had this victory. But when I write about the things I’m learning and the Scripture God’s using, seconds later the struggle I wrote about is happening again."

These two experiences with friends have given me a small window of insight into something at least the three of us long for. My hunch is that other women out there long for the same thing. This is not a new concept by any means, but I think we all want to see real life examples, and hear real life stories of what our struggles look like walked out in someone else. Not too long ago I heard Beth Moore share she is no longer shackled by fear. And I wonder to myself quite often, “How did you get there? What did it take? What did it look like specifically for you to overcome fear?” I even wrote her a letter asking my questions!

I would like to invite you to join me on this journey. This journey of watching real life examples, and hearing real life stories written out on this very blog. If you long to know what it looks and feels like for people to be walking the trenches with Jesus, this place is for you. These stories aren’t just going to be about overcoming fear, although sign me up for the answer to that one, but about all sorts of struggles, sins, heartaches, joys, triumphs, victories, and healing- all through Jesus!
 
If you long to hear a real life version of something you are going through, leave a comment or contact me about it. I would be honored to listen to your heart and share from my own personal experiences, or reach out to someone else who can write more appropriately to your circumstance.

Writing is what I am most compelled by the love of Christ to do. Every week it is my hope to share a real Jesus story with you. You better believe I have my doubts. You better believe I’m scared. You better believe I’m overwhelmed. But, I receive this mission He has placed in my heart, and I would be so happy if you would join me!

3, 2, 1....BLASTOFF! (See you Thursday!)





Living It Out

The realization of a lifelong dream starts tomorrow. My stomach is in knots. I feel giddy. I've thought of this moment long into the night, and have fallen asleep so happy at just the idea. God has given me a brand new vision for this blog. He has inspired my heart, and brought many creative people around to help on this adventure! My hands are nearly shaking as I try to grasp all God has planned.
 
Falling in love with Jesus is blowing.my.mind. He is opening doors, and unleashing His Spirit on me afresh. When I breathe Him in, He tastes sweet. He refreshes my lungs. He cleanses out those mundane cobwebs that have wrapped their silky webs around my mind deceiving me into believing "this is all life has to offer." There is more. So much more. I'm ready to live my dream of writing, and the moment is now.
 
Join me TOMORROW, November 3, as I pour the dream of my heart into the wide ocean that is the blog world. 
 
 
 

"Disease to Please"





I would like to introduce you to my dear friend and very first guest blogger, Lisa Beavers. Lisa and I grew up in the same church community in Northeastern PA, but it took us moving out to Minneapolis in our twenties, and becoming roommates to realize we were kindred spirits. Both us of married guys in full-time ministry, and we each had our two kids just months apart from each other.

Thank you Lisa for sacrificing your valuable time, and stretching your Mama mind to share these honest and vulnerable thoughts with us. Jesus' blessings all over you! I love you dearly!

Not only was Lisa one of my bridesmaids, but she also played the piano and sang during our wedding! It was beautiful!  

Hello readers of Abigail's blog! First I want to say that it is a true honor to be invited as a guest blogger here. This is a place where honesty is found and truth and Jesus are sought after. One of the things I admire most about Abigail is her courage to be honest about how she is feeling as she journeys through life, and then her courage to SHARE those thoughts with others. That is what I am attempting to do today :-)

Fear.

What a loaded word.

When you hear the word “fear”, there are so many different things that come to mind. Starting young (like my 3 year old son right now) we have “fear of the dark”. We watch tv shows like “Fear Factor” that capitalize on pushing our limits in braving “fearsome” things like tarantulas and heights. There is the #1 fear of public speaking and the anxiety the vast majority of people experience at the mere THOUGHT of getting up in front of a group of people to speak. And at this time of year we even “celebrate” fear in the way we dress our cute little children in costumes of ghosts and goblins and teach them to yell “Boo!”. We watch horror movies for the sole purpose of being entertained by fear.

There are many things people readily admit to being afraid of, but some fears go deeper than the physical realm. Some fears become these emotionally paralyzing and mentally draining traps that ensnare us and immobilize us.

The other day, Abigail and I were talking and she was sharing with me this recent theme in her life of FEAR. As she shared, she made the comment to me, “And I know you are not someone who struggles with fear…” In the context she was talking about, she is right, I do not struggle with that particular BRAND of fear. However, her comment got me thinking, “While I don't see myself as someone who is paralyzed by fear, surely there is something in life that I fear?”

And then it hit me. The fear of people being disappointed in me. The fear of people thinking any kind of negative thought about me. This is a fear that affects me every day.

Hi, I'm Lisa and I am a woman plagued by the “Disease to Please” (as Lysa Terkeurst so perfectly puts it in her book “The Best Yes”). It has been through reading this book as well as through conversations with Abigail about this topic lately that I have become more aware of this “disease to please” in my life and just how far-spread it has become.

And disease is such a good word for it too. Not just because it rhymes. This panic to please people–just when we think we finally have quarantined it to one aspect of our life, one room… all doors and windows sealed off– spreads to another part of us. It begins to poison another relationship. It begins to cripple us in another social setting. It just has this way of spreading and infecting parts of us we didn't even realize until we find ourselves worked up into a frenzy of anxiety and inner turmoil and we can't even always put our finger on the reason why.

Let me give you some scenarios of how this “disease” plays out in my every day life. It's about to get real and personal and my “what will these people think of me” sirens are already going off. But step aside, Fear. There is a healing in honesty among God's Church, and power when His people are honest with each other about struggles and fears.

1.) Text messages: Ok. We'll start on a lighter note. So are you one of those people, like me, who will analyze a text message to DEATH if there aren't enough smiley faces or happy emoticons? This is a problem. My husband makes fun of me for it as he well should. When I compose a text AND when I receive one, the Disease to Please (We'll refer to it as DTP from here on out) is even affecting this part of my every day communication with friends and family. For example, say I need to decline an invitation to an event a friend has asked me to. I will ask my husband to look over the text before I send it to make sure it is worded in the right way so as to not offend and so the person “will still like me and invite me to other things”. He knows that the phrase “It's perfect, Babe” is pretty much the only acceptable feedback to get me to press “Send”. Also, if I've agonized over composing a certain text, I will sit and wait for those 3 dot dot dots (for iPhone users of course haha) and if they don't start soon enough I might get nervous that surely I've offended them and they are trying to figure out how to respond tactfully. Yep. Crazy I know.

2.) Social invites: On the heels of the “text turmoil” is the fear of being left out or having your kids feel left out if you know the right thing to do is RSVP “No” to an event. EVEN if you don't actually have another conflicting event at that time (gasp!) but you just know it's not your “Best Yes.” (I will shamelessly plug Lysa Terkeurst's book here in hopes that even just ONE of you readers will pick it up and read it if you haven't already done so). And even if I'm not so much afraid of the “left out” part, there is this nagging fear that somehow the person inviting me will feel rejected by my “no”, and that I will cause another person some sort of negative emotion. Really this is probably a bit of an ego problem if I dig deep enough because chances are (as my wise and blunt husband tells me often) “People are not thinking about you nearly as much as YOU are thinking about you.” In other words, when I say “no thanks”, while they may be disappointed for a few seconds, they are already moving on to other things in their busy and full minds that have nothing to do with me and my “no”.

3.) Parenting: As I was finding myself one day, trying to reason with my 3 year old son and attempting to calmly explain to him why he could not at that time watch one of his favorite tv shows, I realized to my horror that this DTP had even leaked into my parenting! Here I was “afraid” of how my 3 year old would feel if I didn't allow him to do this thing he was insisting on doing. You thought teenage peer pressure was bad! Try staring down a toddler and telling HIM no! It's terrifying. Especially for a people pleasing, ever-accommodating mama like myself. I'm always trying to take everyone's feelings into account. I'm constantly concerned with how my behavior/responses/actions are making other people feel. A little bit of this is good of course. Sensitivity. Social awareness. But when OTHER people's possible reactions have the power to change your actions that you know are right, it is a problem. A “DTP” problem. As I found myself stammering and over-explaining to my son, this lightbulb went off and I realized how ridiculous and out of hand my DTP had become.

4.) Re-playing conversations with people: Often times at the end of the day I find myself re-playing conversations I've had with people. It could be co-workers, people from my church family, friends, or even someone at the grocery store. I will mentally rewind the conversation in my mind and play it again several times over-analyzing a certain facial expression or comment made. “What do you think she meant by that?” “Do you think he was offended when I said ___?” "I probably shouldn't have said ___, I hope they aren't mad at me." The next time I see that person, our conversation probably starts with some sort of apology or disclaimer from me and the funny thing is most ALWAYS the person doesn't even know what I'm talking about and they weren't at all offended. As you can see, this is really a pride issue, spending so much time wondering how I am being perceived or liked.

5.) Volunteering: Have you ever been asked to volunteer for something and the instant reaction you had inside was a cringe and a silent inward “Nooooo!” but you found your mouth betraying your inner scream as you hear yourself say, “Sure! I'd love to!” Why is it that we (I) do that? I have realized that for me, plain and simple, the reason I say “Yes” to things I should say “No” to, is simply because of the fear that people will think less of me. That they will judge me that I'm not as involved as other people or that I'm not a team player or that I'm not carrying my weight. I'm afraid of “looking bad” in my circles. Heaven forbid I show up to an event that I didn't help plan or decorate for or be involved in in some way!

But what if I could let go of that fear. Just think of how much more fulfilled I would be if I could live from a place of confidence in who I am in Christ and in who He has created me to be. If the only person I was “afraid” of disappointing was My Creator.

I found the October 12th devotional by Sarah Young in “Jesus Calling” to be especially poignant to my current struggle. She says, “Beware of seeing yourself through other people's eyes. There are several dangers to this practice. First of all, it is nearly impossible to discern what others really think of you. Moreover, their views of you are variable: subject to each viewer's spiritual, emotional, and physical condition. The major problem with letting others define you is that it borders on idolatry. Your concern to please others dampens your desire to please Me, your Creator. It is much more real to see yourself through MY EYES. My gaze upon you is steady and sure, untainted by sin. Through My eyes you can see yourself as one who is deeply, eternally loved. Rest in My loving gaze, and you will receive deep Peace. Respond to My loving Presence by worshipping Me in Spirit and in truth.”

We live in a culture that feeds our DTP epidemic in so many ways. Social media is DESIGNED to make you feel happy or popular or validated by how many “likes” you get on a post or picture. Heck, if I'm being brutally honest, even as I type this blog, I am experiencing a certain form of fear in hoping that this entry is “well liked” by YOU.

But I am on a journey. And you are too. Let us resolve together to be people who are MOST concerned with pleasing our Creator and may the only fear we experience be the kind spoken of in the Psalms and Proverbs….“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom”.

A Very Very Very Fine House

Thank you Jesus.