Rejoice in Our Suffering {What? How?}

I see and hear this idea in church circles. I’ve heard it from friends and stages.

It’s so simple they say…it’s right here in Romans: …we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope. (5:3-4)

rejoice

I’ve seen this: Perseverance producing endurance and endurance producing character. We observe it in the lives of others often. We gain strength in suffering. {It’s a song even: What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger…yes, you’re welcome. You might hum this all day!}

Here’s my hang up: Rejoice in our sufferings.

I’ve never been able to say this to another human. Oh, you’re getting a divorce?  Rejoice! Cancer is back? Rejoice! You lost your job? Rejoice! You live without clean water or access to food? Rejoice!

No way.

Truly, how does one rejoice in sufferings?

I have assumed the super Christians know how. I’ve even heard them give this advice. Or, appear to live this way.

But, as so many around me grieve deeply for divorce and diagnosis, I look at the words rejoice in suffering and think…Lord, that could not mean “to feel or show that you are very happy” (dictionary definition). That just doesn’t sound like you.

So, I google “define rejoice in Greek.” {The New Testament, which is where I am reading in Romans, was first written in Greek} So, my hope is that rejoice meant something else in Bible times. That God doesn’t really expect us to go around “showing that we are happy” when life seems so very difficult.

(Patience needed here – it sounds a bit mumbo jumbo;)

Rejoice in Greek is xairo from the root xar-, meaning favorably disposed, leaning towards. It’s from the same original word or root as xaris meaning grace. Specifically, to delight in God’s grace. Literally, to experience God’s grace and be glad for His grace. And xairo, which means glad for grace, also comes from the same word as rejoice and grace. **

Doesn’t this make more sense? God doesn’t expect us to walk around faking happy. He isn’t asking for our response to “how are you?” to be “oh, just rejoicing over here even though I am devastated.” Perhaps He’s saying…

Follower, in the face of suffering – rejoice! Lean towards grace. Be glad for my grace. Delight in my grace.

During this season of suffering, I pray you experience His grace and you’re glad for it. Lean in to His grace. For when you do, suffering produces endurance. Endurance produces character. And character produces hope. And we can all use more hope.

How are you “rejoicing” today?

**Thanks to Bible Hub for this information. Disclaimer: I am not a Greek scholar; I simply love words and etymology (word origins).

Divorce {I Am Just Sad/Mad Today}

I see the all-too-familiar message pop up on Facebook messenger. At first, I don’t look, but I can see the preview on my home screen: “I know it’s been awhile since we talked. I hope you are well. I see you and your kids on Facebook and have a favor to ask of you. I have a friend that has just divorced her husband…”

It’s right above…”Hey there Sarah!  I have a lady that I met with a few weeks ago…she has just filed for divorce and needs some support.”

I don’t open the previewed message because I’m at the pool, and I can’t open these messages in public.  Each time I read one, my heart aches and my spirit screams NO NO NO.  And while I am honored to be asked and trusted with another’s heart…I never dreamed of one day being the gal who was known for walking people through divorce. NO ONE wants to be that girl.

Yet, this who I am and where I am.  One who knows the moment when you realize…we aren’t going to make it this time. And my 10,000 prayers to God about saving this marriage evidently fell in the “nope” category. I can’t even begin to describe the level of rejection. The devastation. And it doesn’t matter whose “fault” it is – because after a few years you realize that the fault might not be evenly distributed but you both are culpable – the realization that the commitment to God and one another is being terminated in a sterile courtroom is gut wrenching.

The roles, the labels, the identities – all of it seems erased with one pound of the gavel and two scribbled signatures.

Yesterday at 10:00 am I muster the courage to open the latest plea on behalf of a well-loved friend.

And I begin to pray. For her. For me. For the friend. For my role – if any. God, how can I take what you’ve taught me and love this woman well? And if I can’t for reasons I can’t see, then nudge my no.

Through a series of events, I end up calling a friend who is also a pastor. As we talk, he says….in the past two weeks, I’ve had seven calls about infidelity and/or divorce.

SEVEN.  IN TWO WEEKS.  IN THE CHURCH.

As the pastor-friend and I talk, another friend texts, have you seen Lysa’s blog? This is an odd text. So, I open the link and glance down to read a few lines of an all-too-familiar story…

Infidelity. Divorce.

I want to scream. And cry.  Even as I type these words, tears bounce on my keyboard. I am SO MAD!

How can this happen to Lysa? I KNOW she loves Jesus. I’ve been in her presence many times. How can this happen to the sweet lady at Panera who teared up as she told me how she fears being buried all alone? How can this happen to the amazing momma and grandma who wanted so badly to be married? How can this happen to a humble and gentle spirited friend who is the most faithful woman I know?

How can this happen to me? How can this happen to you?

I don’t have any answers to how or why (except Satan). We can make a list of your transgressions and mine. We can make a list of our spouse’s sins too. We can trace childhoods gone wrong, addictions taking hold, and decisions made poorly.

All day long we can call ourselves victims (and some most certainly are).

All of these things are important. All of them help us to understand, heal, and move on.

And I am in favor of more marriage courses and retreats. I don’t want to see one more couple severed. One more family sharing weekends and every other Thursday.

divorce

But at the end of the day…Jesus.

For those who are still married, I’ve been to marriage courses and counseling. I forgave and God restored (for a season). And after collecting tons of marriage data and how-to (all good info), I know one thing: more Jesus wins every time. I know that sounds so very easy coming from my lips and so very hard for your heart, hands, and feet. I get it. Oh, how I know. But, please. Please. Please. Seek Him together. Jesus is the  “happy” in your ever after. And while there are no guarantees, you can never go wrong with more of Him.

For those who are divorced, I know you feel lost in the church. It’s awkward, huh? My pastor friend said yesterday…sometimes weekly church attendance becomes more painful than helpful. Do you know about that? Find a church that loves you well and loves others well – even if the divorcees are the elephant in the room (not a ‘true’ single, but not married). And when the pastor starts talking marriage, don’t leave or recoil, pray. You don’t want another human sitting in your shoes, right?

Crumbling marriages have existed since antiquity. I know this is NOTHING NEW under the sun. But it feels new. It feels like it’s everywhere.

And I wish I had a good word for you. A solution. A call to action. Anything. I can’t tell you how much I want to organize a march or a nonprofit or whatever to stop this madness – a place where you and I can be mutually encouraged by one another’s faith (Romans 1:12)  And who knows…I might:)

But for today, I can offer you, Jesus. In the midst of this heartbreaking news. In the midst of the division of property and custody. In the midst of the loneliness and heartache. In the uncertainty and the suffering. In the rebuilding and the reliving…

He will never leave you nor forsake you – even if it feels like He has. Trust Him. He hasn’t. (Deuteronomy 31: 6-8; Hebrews 13:5)

Circumstances change with the wind, but Jesus was, and is, and is to come. (Revelation 1:8)

Trust Him. Send me the Facebook message. We can and will walk this out together, friend, for HE IS FAITHFUL. You are not “too much” or “too much drama.” You are hurting and flailing. Together, we will cast our cares on Him every moment of every day because we know: He loves us.

 

A Grace Place {Welcome Weariness, Worry, Wavering, and Wonder}

I’ve been absent from this space for a few months.

I could give you reason after reason…I’m busy; I’m redefining my purpose; I’m redesigning this space; the experts tell me I need a niche, and I don’t have one; I don’t want to add to the noise that is “the Internet.” So many (all true) reasons.

But, when I dig deeper, I know these aren’t the REAL reasons.

The truth is…

Words won’t come.

In the past, I’ve been in Walmart, and the idea for a post comes from nowhere, pouring through my fingers as quickly as they’ll move.

Or at the park. Or at school. Or driving in the car. The Spirit said write, and I wrote.

So, I wonder why the words disappeared. Why I don’t feel His nudges. It’s like losing a piece of my person when I am not writing.

Have you ever felt that? You know God is “out there,” but He doesn’t feel personal to you? Perhaps you’ve just found Jesus, and you’re looking around at other followers thinking…Am I supposed to feel that? Be like that? Or maybe you’re like me. You’ve followed him for years, known His presence. And now you feel he’s distant, quiet.

It’s scary, huh? We know he will never leave us or forsake us. We know we are loved.

Right?

But, the doubt creeps in. We look at our lives and begin to think…I am not good enough. Why would He use a sinner like me to share His heart? He’s gone quiet because I am not who He thinks I should be. On bended knee, we ask Him if this is true.  Have the words gone because I am no longer worthy of them? And if I’m not, why? What is “the thing” that’s keeping us distant, Lord?

Or perhaps I’ve gotten too caught up in all the rules and regulations of writing. When you’re in writing groups and when you’re taking writing courses, the weight of the world rests on your words (or so it seems). Platforms and word counts and book ideas swirl from the writer/blogging Facebook groups as I look on thinking…I just want to write words that encourage the hearts of those who visit my space. I just want to take the gift of writing and serve others with words and prayers.

I am not looking for a “grand” platform, but a grace place.  A space on the web that accepts and welcomes readers and conversations. A safe place to share and pray. A place where there’s no outsider; no one too sinful (aren’t we all?) or too “far gone.” A URL filled with grace and truth.  A place where doubt is welcome and acceptance apparent.

GRACE PLACE

As Paul said when writing to the church in Rome:

For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you— that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine. (ESV)

For I long to visit you so I can bring you some spiritual gift that will help you grow strong in the Lord. When we get together, I want to encourage you in your faith, but I also want to be encouraged by yours. (NLT)

I so want to be there to deliver God’s gift in person and watch you grow stronger right before my eyes! But don’t think I’m not expecting to get something out of this, too! You have as much to give me as I do to you. (MSG)

That’s how I feel. I may never know you in person, but I want to love and serve you well, reader, friend. And I want to learn from you too!

And if you’re not a Jesus follower, I hope you’ll stick around and read. We have much to learn from you too.

I welcome your weariness, worry, wavering, and wonder.

And I pray that the words are back. I’ve missed them.

 

To the Single Mom {Today and Everyday}

I see you. I see you cooking and cleaning.  Carpooling and crafting.  You’re wiping tears and cleaning knees. The need never seems to end.  A break isn’t coming.

And it’s not like you need a break – exactly. You love your kiddos. You’d spend every waking minute with them if you could. They’re great kids.

But, sometimes, it’s nice to have help. It’s nice for someone to acknowledge that you’re doing this alone. Sure, friends help. Maybe they even go with Dad once a week or every other weekend. And maybe there is no dad at all { I really am sorry.}

to the single mom

Still, the burden of providing and parenting rests squarely on your shoulders.  They come to you with all the questions...can I date? Does this dress look nice? Is my hair ugly? Am I overweight? Can I run track?

They come to you with the tears. I wasn’t chosen this time, Mom. I didn’t make the cut. She was making fun of me today. Why are there starving kids in the world? Where is God in this?  

They come to you for homework help. For car rides. For decision making. For affirmation. For confirmation. For love. For understanding. For all of it.

Sometimes you want to say…I don’t know, little one. I don’t know what’s best. Decisions are best made in tandem when two different people can bring strengths and weaknesses to create one solid team.

Could you text dad every time? Maybe. But it’s not really feasible. You can’t ask your friend or mom every time either. You’re the one. You’re the one who answers the questions, wipes the tears, encourages the hearts, helps with the homework.

And that’s ok – you “took them to raise.” But, sometimes, you’d just like for someone to say…I see you. I see you getting up early, working hard, sacrificing much. I see how exhausting this life can be. I know you love them deeply, but this work is hard.  I believe you want the very best for them.  I understand that this was not the plan.

Today, friend, I want to tell you: I see you.  I feel you in my heart.

This single mom road is challenging. But, it’s ever so rewarding.

And, best of all, it teaches you that you are not alone. In the earliest of mornings when the silent house creaks and bedroom fan whirls. He is there. During the late nights when you toss and turn and the weight of “I am responsible for them” hits. He is there.

He is with you. He is with them. He is a God of redemption and love. This may not have been his plan, but He is in control.  You are not a statistic or a failure. There is no label that fits you except daughter of the King.

I pray today that you walk in that, friend.

I had no plans to write today. Most of what I feel about Mom’s Day is in this post. But, God said…there’s a single mom out there, Sarah. And she needs encouragement. So, to the one for whom God nudged me…Happy Mother’s Day. You are seen and you are loved.

Your work matters.  Your children matter. YOU matter.

Your kids will never forget this season. They may not know or understand right now, but someday, they’ll know: My mom was a superstar! My mom is a daughter of the Most High God, and I am honored to call her Mine.

 

Lent 2017 {Preparing for Easter}

I’ve missed writing.

But, life in the new year began on a dead run  – and stayed that way.

Now, it’s time to slow down…

And although I don’t need a reason or excuse to hop off the busy bandwagon and into a slow, small space, I have one: Lent.

lent 2017

While my church doesn’t formally observe this season, I still do. And you can too. (Beginning tomorrow!)

It’s a time to take away; to fast. To humbly, quietly, and intentionally look toward the cross. To recenter and refocus. To sit in the stillness and ponder his promises.

It’s beautiful – like a long, deep breath then a restful, slow exhale.

So, for the next 40 days, I have chosen a “fast,” a book, an app, and an Audible book. Here’s a few resources if you’re interested in observing this season.

My book: Holey, Wholly, Holy: A Lenten Journey of Refinement by Kris Camealy Screen Shot 2017-02-28 at 7.33.19 PM

What if for Lent this year, you gave up something other than chocolate or TV.? What if the thing God wants us to give up costs more than what we think we can bear? Writing as a friend and encourager, Kris offers hope and encouragement for the journey of moving from broken in sin (Holey) to learning to surrender (Wholly) to claiming the gift of grace through Christ (Holy).

My app: You are Mine: A Lenten Study of Isaiah by She Reads Truth (I paid $2.99 for the app, but you can also receive free emails.)

It is impossible to overstate our need for a Savior. During this Lent study, we will read the book of Isaiah, the Old Testament prophet who, more than any other, describes the coming of Christ in great detail. During the final week of Lent, we will read passages from the Gospels that correspond to the events of Holy Screen Shot 2017-02-28 at 7.40.14 PMWeek, the final days of Christ’s journey to the cross. Isaiah’s message of repentance and restoration illustrates the salvation we so desperately need, and the Holy Week scriptures turn our eyes to the salvation already given us in the completed work of Christ. Join us as we observe Lent together.

My Audible book (for the car and mornings): From the Grave by A.W. Tozer

From the Grave, a 40-day Lent devotional, reflects on this critical spiritual dynamic. It features A. W. Tozer’s best insights on faith, repentance, suffering, and redemption. Gleaned from transcribed sermons, editorials, and published books, each moving reflection has been carefully selected for the season of Lent. It addresses themes like: Christ’s passion, death, and resurrection. Mortification of the flesh. Self-denial and cross-bearing. New life in Christ. Christian obedience and resurrection hope. Each day features a brief portion of Scripture for Screen Shot 2017-02-28 at 7.39.27 PMmeditation followed by a reflection from Tozer. Together the entries take you on a journey from the garden to the grave to light of day—the “pain-wracked path” to life.

Some other options I love…

Preparing for Easter by C.S. Lewis

Preparing for Easter is a concise, handy companion for the faithful of all Christian traditions and the curious to help them deepen their knowledge and consideration of this holy season—a time of reflection as we consider Jesus’s sacrifice and his joyous rise from the dead. Carefully curated, each selection in Preparing for Easter draws on a major theme in Lewis’s writings on the Christian life, as well as others that consider why we can have confident faith in what Screen Shot 2017-02-28 at 7.46.09 PMhappened on the cross.

A Way Other Than Our Own: Devotions for Lent by Walter Brueggemann

Lent recalls times of wilderness and wandering, from newly freed Hebrew slaves in exile to Jesus temptation in the desert. God has always called people out of their safe, walled cities into uncomfortable places, revealing paths they would never have chosen. Despite our culture of self-indulgence, we too are called to walk an alternative path one of humility, justice, and peace. Walter Brueggemann s thought-provoking reflections for the season of Lent invite us to consider the challenging, beautiful life that comes with walking the way of grace.

Eastertide: Prayers for Lent Through Easter from the Divine Hours by Phyllis Tickle

“A wise rabbi once told me that it is not how many prayers we don’t say that matters to God, but rather how many we do. That is important to all of us, but especially for beginners. If this is your first attempt to return to this most ancient of Christian practices, it is wise to remember that you are entering into a discipline and, like all disciplines, this one sits hard Screen Shot 2017-02-28 at 7.43.53 PMand heavy upon one at times. There are hours you will miss and/or some that you can’t even begin to figure out how to observe. That is all right, for either the joy will carry you into greater joy and transmute the discipline into privilege, or you will find yourself simply the wiser and the richer for such experience as you have had. As the rabbi said, that is what matters ultimately.” In her acclaimed trilogy, The Divine Hours, Phyllis Tickle introduced modern Christians to the time-honored practice of “praying the hours.” In this exquisite new volume, she provides a vibrant program of prayer dedicated to the anticipation of Christ’s resurrection.

I hope you’ll set aside the next 40 days to praise and ponder; wander and wonder; live and love; share and sacrifice; fast and forgive.  And I’d love to know how you’re choosing to observe Lent! Please share in the comments.

I plan to share some quotes and verses throughout my Lenten journey on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. If you have a great quote or verse, please share it. I’d love to pass it on too!

Leaving a Legacy {Remembering My Dad}

January 10.

The day I said goodbye to my dad for the last time, holding his hand, whispering “it’s ok, Dad, go on home.”

The day my Hannah will link arms with her team and dance during halftime of the #9 West Virginia University  vs. #1 Baylor basketball game. And as I spend this day remembering dad and traveling with Hannah, I am reminded that legacy – that which comes after us and from us –  isn’t about money. Or awards. Or grand scale, world-changing words.

Legacy is about how you live each day in your home, at your workplace, in your corner of the world.

Legacy is about the moments.

My Dad’s legacy…a legacy of moments.

My dad with his sisters and mom

My dad with his sisters and mom

My mom and dad

My mom and dad

My dad in 1956

My dad in 1956

Screen shot 2011-09-18 at 10.54.09 PM

Miss Mountaineer and Mountaineer Parents of the Year

Screen shot 2012-01-09 at 11.12.05 PMCamping, swimming, twirling. Disciplining, loving, providing. Stitching us up. Taking others in. Day in. Day out. And now that he’s gone? His two daughters have two daughters and a son. None are famous or non profit founders. No gold medals. No accolades or awards to wow the masses.

But one is performing this evening in a place dad loved – for his favorite team.  I can see him sitting in the stands, popcorn and Pepsi in hand, watching his legacy, his granddaughter. I can see him cheering on the Mountaineers (while yelling at the referees!)

While he won’t be there, three parts of his legacy will be. And wherever we go, we are his daughters, his grandchildren.  We want to represent dad well…isn’t that the best way to honor his memory? To carry on his name? By living and loving well?

Out of love for Dad, for Poppy, we want to be people who love, who give. Just like him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And being those who love doesn’t happen in front of audiences. It rarely happens in the big or on Facebook. Love happens in the small. In the living rooms. On car rides. Beside hospital beds. In classroom and in cubicles.

So, today, friends, in honor of my Daddy – and our Father in Heaven-  I pray you love those who live under your roof and serve alongside you each day – even the unlovable ones. I pray you care for the widow and the orphan. I pray you cheer on your daughters and converse with your sons. I pray you desire to leave a REAL legacy of love…a legacy of moments.

And if you’re mourning alongside me today, I pray you see how your life carries your lost loved ones on…carry them well.

————————————————————-

As I wrote this post, I hummed this song. It’s my anthem; my prayer today. To be a child of mercy and grace who blessed your name unapologetically...Just want to hear, well done, good and faithful one.

Legacy by Nicole Nordemon

I don’t mind if you’ve got something nice to say about me

And I enjoy an accolade like the rest

And you can take my picture and hang it in a gallery

Of all the Who’s Who’s and So-and-So’s

That used to be the best at such-and-such

It wouldn’t matter much

I won’t lie, it feels all right to see your name in lights

We all need an “atta-boy” or “atta-girl”

But in the end I’d like to hang my hat on more besides

The temporary trappings of this world

I want to leave a legacy

How will they remember me?

Did I choose to love?

Did I point to You enough

To make a mark on things

I want to leave an offering

A child of mercy and grace

Who blessed Your name unapologetically

And leave that kind of legacy

I don’t have to look too far or too long a while

To make a lengthy list of all that I enjoy

It’s an accumulating trinket and a treasure pile

Where moth and rust, thieves and such

Will soon enough destroy…

Not well-traveled, not well-read

Not well-to-do or well-bred

Just want to hear instead

Well done, good and faithful one

Live Given {2017 One Word} {A Giveaway!}

When the new year approaches, most of us can’t help ourselves: we reflect on what has been and look forward to what might be. Me included. I love setting up my planner and writing in a new journal. 

But, this year’s been different. Little did I know, God began moving me toward the new year in August…

I am driving as my friend checks her email…

“I’ve not been reading Ann Voskamp’s blog lately, but listen to the one I just opened,” she says.

The summer I turned 40 — I felt a whole new kind of broken. Turns out what can happen when you’re halfway through your life, you wonder if you’ve found a truly meaningful way through your life?

What can happen is you would give nearly everything for more time just to get more right, less wrong. You can change — change into someone who’s begun embracing a love so large it broke her heart all over again in a thousand aching places, a woman who surprises you by longing to meet the world’s suffering with her own, because she knows that wounds can heal wounds.  

You can find out your heart is exploding and love and suffering are kin in ways we may not want to admit.

Honestly, what happened is — I didn’t quite know the way to put all these broken pieces back into place. And maybe that was the point?

Maybe — maybe instead of trying to put all the broken pieces of your life together again — maybe there’s deeper peace in reaching out to give those broken pieces away?

That’s what I had done. Instead of trying to put the pieces of my brokenness back together again, I began to give the pieces of my broken heart away though I didn’t know how, and I didn’t often want to even—didn’t even know what it truly meant. And I got it all wrong—in countless ways.

As I sat in the summer of age 40, these were my questions too. I’d like more time to get less wrong and more right. I mourn the relationships left in shambles. And in the midst of this, I find myself feeling just Ann described: completely broken for this world, longing to meet the world’s suffering with my own.

I wouldn’t read Ann’s book until October, but these words lingered…the question she asks became the one I ask:

What do you do with this one broken heart? This one broken life?

Because I did NOT want another program, diet plan, or Bible study. Not another self-help, how-to-get-better book. Instead of feeling anxious about what to do or follow next, I wanted peace…Jesus.

It sounds so simple. If I were reading this, I might say, “Oh goodness, the Jesus card.” {Eye roll.}

But, what God began in my heart with an August blog post, He continued in so many ways. A retreat in August when God spoke Isaiah 58 to me. When He showed me that silence and Sabbath are gifts. A prayer time in Honduras when a missionary humbly shared the futility of striving and list making and worrying. Want more Jesus, she said. Just follow after Him; He takes care of the rest.

And then the book from the blog post arrives on my doorstep in early October: The Broken Way. Page after page – highlighted, underlined, noted, and cross referenced with His word. A message resonating so deeply in my heart that I can barely speak of it…

For God so loves that He gave…Is there any word more power than giving? Thanksgiving. Forgiving. Care-giving. Life-giving. Everything that matters in living comes down to giving. (p. 67)

Our loves are formed by our daily habits. Our loves are formed by our daily liturgies. We are made into what we make habits…The self is ultimately never really sacrificed in giving, but our real self is ultimately found. In the sacrificial giving of ourselves, we give ourselves back our real selves, the self we were made to be – blessed to bless, given to givenness, loved to love…

Jesus said, ‘Whoever loses their life for me will find it.”

Jesus risked himself on me. How can I not risk my life on you? You may not love me back. You may humble me, humiliate me, reject me, shatter my heart, and drive the shards into my soul – but this is not the part that matters…What matters most is not if our love makes other people change, but that in loving, we change. What matters is that in the sacrificing to love someone, we become more like Someone…

I am what I love and I will love like Jesus, because of Jesus, through the strength of Jesus. I will love when I’m not loved back. I will love when I’m hurt and disappointed and betrayed and inconvenienced and rejected. I simply will love, no expectations, no conditions, no demands. Love is not always agreement with someone, but it always sacrifice for someone…

Love defies logic and keeps on loving when it makes no sense because that is that love does.

Giving away the heart – heals the heart. (pgs. 118-120)

As I read these words, chapter after chapter, one phrase becomes God’s answer to every prayer I pray: Live Given.

Losing weight, saving money, reconciling relationships, extending forgiveness, embracing silence and Sabbath, serving His people…the answer to each prayer? Live Given.

Give away the extra food and money saved. Give away gifts and money each month for His glory. Give away your comfort; be inconvenienced; placed others before self; give away time on self for time with Me. Give away your abilities and talents and time to serve others.

Live a life given away for Me.

So, I wrote my kiddos a Christmas poem and a letter. From Haiti to Honduras to Cambodia to Syria; to our church and community; to one another –  it’s our year to Live Given.

live-given

And when I doubt and think, “what do I have to give? As a single mom with a tight budget and busy schedule, what can I “afford” to give away? How will this work?”

God sends a reminder through my pastor’s wife through one verse: The Lord is my shepherd; I lack nothing. Psalm 23:1

Sarah, you lack nothing. In me, you already have the abundance necessary to live given.

So, I want to begin 2017 with giving! Thanks to Blog About, I have a copy of The Broken Way and The Broken Way Bible study and DVD to give away! You can enter by commenting on this blog, commenting on the Facebook post, or sharing this post on Facebook. I’d love to hear your “theme” or “one word” for 2017!

screen-shot-2016-12-31-at-9-40-34-am screen-shot-2016-12-31-at-9-39-42-am

Happy New Year!


Thanks to Stephanie Alton from Blog About and Tara Brown from Givingtons for coordinating the purchase of 144 The Broken Way books for missionaries living and serving in Honduras. Without you, we would have never been able to deliver those books in time.

 

Our Christmas Poem {Live Given 2017}

Live Given

Christmas Poem 2016

My poem this year is different

Perhaps not as funny or bright,

Because I know in our hearts

we’d like to see wrongs made right.

We see Aleppo and refugees

Looking for room at the inn,

But no one even offers a stable,

And it frustrates us to no end.

How can we help? What can we do?

We ask ourselves everyday.

But then we make no real move

To seek Him, sacrifice, and pray.

So may this year be a bit different,

My hope is we move into action!

We will seek to love and give

To every group and faction

I know it’s easier to stay at home

And not work toward justice for others,

But Jesus didn’t call us to comfort

He called us to love our brother

What will this look like?  How will we afford it?

These answers I do not know.

But I do know when we ask Jesus

The answers He will surely show.

We don’t have to do it on our own-

Jesus has never worked that way.

We have to seek his strength and guidance

As we go throughout each day.

His word says to find your life you’ll lose it,

To seek and you will find.

To knock and the door will open to you-

That it’s always good to be kind.

We’ll call this living given –

Living life focused less on me.

And I bet at the end of this year

Our hearts will feel more free.

So as we go about our days

And live life following Him,

May we always be most aware

Of how we can cut and trim.

Our time, our cents, our talents

All can be used for His glory;

I hope the ways in which we live given

Become the central part of our story.

I think we are up to this mighty call

Or God would not lay it on my heart;

And perhaps today is the day

That we commit to this with a start

On the tree you’ll find Daniella-

A picture for each of you.

And our 2017 of living given

Will begin with giving her new-

A new chance at life in Honduras

With education, food, and clothes.

We will be her biggest fans and sponsors,

Loving her from her head to her toes.

In my heart I know one thing for sure

That gifts are nice and fun;

But the greatest gift I can give you both

Is the gift of God’s only son.

And Jesus commands his disciples

In three very specific ways:

To deny self, take up our cross, and follow

For every single one of our days.

So here goes this journey, little ones!

Disciples we will be

Denying, taking up, and following

All to show our love and give glory to Thee.

Remember the Signs {even at Christmas}

But, first, remember, remember, remember…” C.S. Lewis

I open the book and see this quote. I have seen it before.

But as Christmas draws near, remembering grows harder. Sometimes my memories of Christmas before divorce and before my dad’s death bring a smile. More often they bring tears. Sometimes I just want life as it used to be with little kiddos who wake up early on Christmas morning to rip open presents and a  Dad who gathers wrapping paper and stuffs it into trash bags before we can even get our box open. (I swear he threw away gifts accidentally!)

When the remembering causes an ache, why bother?

I write this question and the Spirit whispers…because of the signs.

The signs. I know what this is. It’s the rest of this remember, remember, remember quote.

In the Chronicles of Narnia (The Silver Chair), Jill is off to rescue the Prince, but before she descends off the mountain and into the valley, Aslan tells her to remember…

But, first, remember, remember, remember the signs. Say them to yourself when you wake in the morning and when you lie down at night, and when you wake in the middle of the night. And whatever strange things may happen to you, let nothing turn your mind from following the signs. And secondly, I give you a warning. Here on the mountain I have spoken to you clearly: I will not often do so down in Narnia. Here on the mountain, the air is clear and your mind is clear; as you drop down into Narnia, the air will thicken. Take great care that it does not confuse your mind. And the signs which you have learned here will not look at all as you expect them to look, when you meet them there. That is why it is so important to know them by heart and pay no attention to appearances. Remember the signs and believe the signs. Nothing else matters.

remember-the-signs

When you rise up and when you lie down, say the signs to yourself.

Why bother?

Because here on the mountain we can all see so clearly: the air is clear, our minds are clear. We feel close to Him. We hear, see, and feel Him ever so clearly as our eyes look upon the expanse of His kingdom. Our hearts overflow, and we know He is a good, good Father.

And we must remember the signs – these times on the mountain.

Why bother?

Because when we descend to the valley, the air thickens – the pressure, stress, inadequacy, and hurt rise to the surface as the fog envelopes us, making us self-focused.  We struggle to see further, to find the signs, to hear His voice, to feel his presence.  If we don’t remember the signs, we pay attention only to the suffering and brokenness instead of the Savior.

So, I remember, remember, remember the signs. Every promise from His word. Every adventure with my dad. Every moment with my children.  Because when I follow the signs – His signs – they all point to a Savior. I see His hand in every hurt…every happiness. And I am grateful for every single moment.

PS I LOVE CHRISTMAS! And I LOVE GIFT GIVING!  So, next week I’ll be giving two gifts on the blog thanks to the lovely ladies at Blog About: a copy of The Broken Way  and a copy of The Broken Way study guide and DVD! See you next week!

Waiting for Christmas {When the World Feels Weighty}

Twinkling lights and colorful packages.  Family gatherings and field trips with friends. Carols and baking.  Giving and loving.  

My favorite time of year:  Christmas.  

And perhaps I anticipate Christmas this year more than any other because the world feels heavy: Elections and refugees. Water pipeline protests and police shootings. I can’t open my email, sign on to social media, or turn toward the TV without feeling the weight of wilderness wandering…a hopelessness as I struggle to trust Him. As I forget his faithfulness.  

When do we speak and when should we remain silent? How do we pray? Where do we fit in this divisive culture? My heart is broken for this world, and I want to move into the darkness instead of sitting paralyzed by it.

advent

So. when the light of Christmas begins to twinkle, I feel the hope and the promise. He is still there. He’s still coming just as He said. He was faithful in the wilderness and will be faithful today.

Perhaps that’s why I love the Advent season so very much. It gives me permission to pause and ponder. To wait with wonder. It keeps gift giving from overtaking me. Advent reminds me there’s joy and peace in the waiting.  There’s a Savior who was born and will come again. Hallelujah. 

If you’re not familiar with Advent…

“The Advent season lasts for four Sundays leading up to Christmas…Advent begins on the Sunday that falls between November 27th and December 3rd each year…the church, during Advent, looks back upon Christ’s coming in celebration while at the same time looking forward in eager anticipation to the coming of Christ’s kingdom when he returns for his people…” (More about Advent here.)

That’s the official “what is Advent” explanation, but my personal definition is…a time to slow down and focus on Jesus during a season that’s known for busy and buying.  A time to look at what He has done, is doing, and will do according to His word.

So, I’d like to share with you some of my favorite ways to embrace, observe, and celebrate Advent.

A few months ago I got an early copy of Come, Lord Jesus: The Weight of Waiting – a beautiful book by my friend, Kris Camealy.  This book will point you again and again to Jesus: Come, Lord Jesus is a companion in the waiting season of Advent. It’s a quiet invitation to sit with the weight of waiting, and recount the faithfulness of God, to trace the hope of Christmas, and prepare the way for Jesus’ coming into the world, into our own hearts, into our everyday, ordinary time. With its offering of a daily reading, a reflection, prayer and one, or two reflective questions for you to contemplate, this book is a welcome “friend” to readers during the Advent, or any other season of waiting.

screen-shot-2016-11-25-at-4-22-35-pm

I also LOVE Kari Denker’s Journal Doodle Bible Studies, and she has a new Advent study!  You can check out her studies at Stone Soup for Five, but I am excited to do Kari’s The Promises Advent Study with my kiddos this year…

Start this Christmas season by looking back to the long awaited Messiah through a 24 day Advent study about Old Testament prophecy and their fulfillment in Christ in the New Testament. Each day has a short Bible study, journaling ideas, Christmas challenge ideas, and more than 50 coloring pages to go along with each day’s study. Dig in, de-stress, and enjoy this Christmas season in a whole new way with Journal and Doodle Bible Studies!

screen-shot-2016-11-25-at-4-21-58-pm

If you want a paperback of the Promises Advent study, you’ll find it on Amazon, but if you want to download and print the study, use this link to the Stone Soup site. (I thought this download and print option might be great for my friends in Honduras!)

I also ordered Light Upon Light  compiled by Sarah Arthur. I’ve not read a page of it yet, but it appealed to my liturgical and literary sides. I simply love liturgy (raised a Methodist) and my English teacher heart loves that this book includes poems by Donne and Rossetti as well as pieces by Dickens and Eliot – woohoo! So, this is probably for the nerds among us. But, I plan to pick and choose from it throughout the season. The description…

screen-shot-2016-11-25-at-4-24-29-pm

This collection contains daily and weekly inspirational readings to help the reader prayerfully experience God through the liturgical seasons of winter. Well-loved classics by Andersen, Dickens, and Eliot join contemporary works by Frederick Buechner and Gary Schmidt. Poems by Donne, Herbert, and Rossetti are paired with newer voices: Scott Cairns, Benjamín Alire Sáenz, Susanna Childress, and Amit Majmudar. Readers are invited to experience Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany in its raw strangeness, stripped of sentiment, and to turn toward Emmanuel.

If you’re one who colors (not me:), Hannah and I loved this book when she spotted it at Lifeway: All is Bright: A Devotional Journey to Color Your Way to Christmas. I LOVE all things Nancy Guthrie, and the few pages I read were great. Nancy’s solid Biblical teaching inspires me each time I study with one of her guides.

screen-shot-2016-11-25-at-4-21-41-pm

And I will ALWAYS recommend both of Ann Voskamp’s Advent books: The Greatest GiftVoskamp reaches back into the pages of the Old Testament to explore the lineage of Jesus — the greatest gift — through the majestic advent tradition of “The Jesse Tree… retracing the epic pageantry of mankind, from Adam to the Messiah, with each day’s profound reading pointing to the coming promise of Christ, so that come Christmas morning you find that the season hasn’t blurred past you but your heart’s fully unwrapped the greatest gift you’ve always yearned for.

And Unwrapping the Greatest Gift: A Family Celebration of ChristmasEach day, families can read the provided Scripture passage (in connection with the original book), engage with a specially written devotion to help children of all ages understand the Advent theme for the day, and participate in suggested activities to apply the theme. 

My kids and I have had a Jesse for a few years, and although this book is for younger children, my big kiddos still love and learn from it.

And if you’re not into books and prefer something simpler, I LOVE (I know, lots of LOVE in this post;) She Reads Truth. The IF: Gathering and She Reads are celebrating Advent together by reading Christ was Born for This.

Beginning Sunday, 11/27, we’ll spend the Advent season exploring the Old Testament roles of prophet, priest, and king, and the way in which Christ came to perfectly fill each of them, as well as a week in Luke’s beloved narrative of Christ’s birth.

You can get this study FREE in your inbox – sign up at shereadstruth.com – or you can purchase it for $1.99 after downloading the She Read Truth app.  

I’d love to hear all about your Advent plans!  Please share with me what you’re reading, doing, giving, baking – whatever. I love new ideas and old traditions.