Friday, December 2, 2016

A Weekend Exhale for December

Christmas wonder carries children to a place of mystery and excitement, more than any other time of year. Families draw closer, and share traditional recipe delights, and sing songs of cheer and toast one another in blessing. Does the simple take us to the profound?










Christmas teaches us the joy of simple pleasures: cutting out gingerbread men with children and watching a black and white movie we've memorized decades ago. And giving gifts to children who may never receive one, and crafting popcycle sticks and felt and glue to make something "special" for a grandparent. 

Yet, so much more than the traditions and gifts and gathering, we pause to remember and reflect.

Just what was it like to come down to life here and be born in a cave? My youngest was playing with his nativity set this morning and asked me, "Mommy, why was Jesus born in a tomb?" A tomb. A cave for animals foreshadowed what would come 33 years later. A cave for his precious body, newly born and newly resurrected. 

And we are the ones that come to the tomb cave and say, "Praise you; though You are nothing here (a baby born into obscurity), You are the Something we all need. Though I am nothing, you are making me something." 

Here He is, and here we come. Oh, come, let us adore Him

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

A Shattered Paradox

Those dear friends in my listening circle already know I've been walking through the desert lately. Life seems to stretch as an empty wasteland of fatigue and frustration and insecurities. I feet stumble with trepidation. Even though I know I'm not alone, I can echo David's lament in Psalm 102:6-7.

In a fit of anger, my child ripped his paper hearts off the door and shredded my tokens of affection for him. Another child screams in my face and declares his hatred over me. I feel this bombardment of guilt and the sting of not-good-enough.

I've been told "Don't take it personally." But, how can I not? They are my persons. Therefore, in the words of Meg Ryan (You've Got Mail), "What's so wrong with being personal, anyway? Whatever else anything is, it ought to begin by being personal."

Now before you start saying, "Well, that's just stupid. You can't make everyone's business personal to you." I know. Thus, the fatigue. Even so, I need to carry this burden and find ways to help those who are burdened around me. I want to care without carrying the care of complete repair (the care of God).  Does that make sense?

I fluctuate between this overwhelmed sense of my emotional attachment and this refusal to express anything but resentful anger (a protective mechanism?). Dumbfounded, I wonder over the irony of my current state of affairs; I'm writing a book on the influence of emotions, weighed on the scale of biblical understanding and human design. We live in this paradoxical tension of falling in head first or abandoning the waters all together.

And I keep hearing this word: broken. It reverberates in my soul and mocks through the shattered pieces surrounding me. Relationships fracture and my emotions crumble into shards of sharp glass. I hate it. It's messy; how am I supposed to carry around this broken jumble? How am I supposed to make things better with broken?

I'm on the treadmill, reading these words from a kindred spirit. I'm amazed at the timing of it all: "Never be afraid of being a broken thing. [...] There is no growth without change, no change without surrender, no surrender without wound--no abundance without breaking. Wounds are what break open the soul to plant the seeds of a deeper growth.

"My dad told me this once. For a seed to come fully into its own, it must become wholly undone. The shell must break open, its insides must come out, and everything must change. If you didn't under- stand what life looks like, you might mistake it for complete destruction."

"I whisper to the Farmer, one line that unfolds like willing, cupped hands: 'Brokenness can make abundance.'

"And the weight of hell shifts almost imperceptibly to feel more like the weight of glory, even if I'm not quite sure yet if that greater grace will come" (The Broken Way).

I need to examine the pieces, but I am not going to be the one to pick them up. I am going to let Him do it; it may take longer than feels comfortable and I may find my brokenness more exposed, making me feel all the more unstable and insecure. But, my security can't rest in my wholeness; for I am whole when I am broken and humble before Him--not when I feel put together. He doesn't despise this shattered life like I do (Psalm 51:17). Life a dandelion blow to all corners of the lawn, I will allow the seeds to scatter and trust that He has a plan to redeem this brokenness.

As Ann Voskamp says, "The miracle happens in the breaking."


Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Best Reads for the Holidays



Inspiring us to give thanks...


Read this book several years ago, but still remember the power of Ann's honest and poetic style. 




Same Kind of Different As Me: A Modern-Day Slave, an International Art Dealer, and the Unlikely Woman Who Bound Them Together by [Hall, Ron, Moore, Denver]
This book remains one of  my all-time favorites: Read it before the movie comes out next year.




Reading this book with my daughter right now, but everyone should read it regardless of age.
Powerful story that will shift the way you view life, giving you renewed gratitude and perspective. 



Inviting us into the Advent season....


Ann Voskamp's book brings insightful revelations on Scripture and personal connections.


Dr. Jeremiah takes us through 25 short chapters that lead us deeper into the heart of Jesus' coming.



This book is the only one I haven't read, but I recommend Piper's work. He will take you
 to a place of humble contemplation.


Any suggestions for holiday reads? 

Friday, November 18, 2016

Weekend Exhale: Encouragement for the Soul

Journaling a few of the things that have encouraged me this week. Hope they bless you too.






I want you as you are, not as you ought to be
Won't you lay down your guard and come to me
The shame that grips you now is crippling
It breaks my heart to see you suffering
'Cause I am for you
I'm not against you... (Hawk Nelson, "Drops in the Ocean")


Letting go of the Goodness Gospel: makes me want to read this book.



When you don't measure up, we rely on the "but God" truths. 


Sometimes you have to wait for the clouds to pass before you see the moon, but it's worth                                                the waiting. Here's Monday's beauty. 



If you appreciate George Winston, here's a little Autumn for you.



Thursday, November 17, 2016

Walking through the Desert




Psalm 61:2, I cry to you for help "when my heart is overwhelmed. Lead me to the rock that is higher than I" (KJV).

Psalm 13 How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
    How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I take counsel in my soul
    and have sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?
Consider and answer me, O Lord my God;
    light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death,
lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,”
    lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.
But I have trusted in your steadfast love;
    my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
I will sing to the Lord,
    because he has dealt bountifully with m



Empty. 

Open the cabinet doors and the cupboard is depleted. I'm down to a bag of dry beans and a dusty can of pickled beets. And someone just asked me to make a gourmet meal for a dozen people, using only what's available. How's that going to happen?

For years I've been told, God is your source. Don't look to anyone else to meet your spiritual or emotional needs. He is the one that fills you when you are depleted. What wasn't as clear was how a person actually tapped into the resources of God. The analogies abound (a cord to an electric outlet, gas to a car, sun to a plant, etc.), but what does that process of connecting look like? I'm reading, I'm praying, I'm here. So, now what? Is the extension cord too short?

Lately, when I've come to God, desperate for renewal, I've pleaded and begged, "Will you fill me? I'm so depleted right now." I'm seeking Him, so where is this abundant feasting and flowing river? (Psalm 36). Feels more like a few drops in the sand. Doesn't do much to quench my thirst and it's far from taking me to a place where I'm overflowing and able to love others well. 

My love is dried up. And I know apart from Him, I don't have much to give. (I John 4 is disturbing at best). I work and try and try some more, but my efforts leave me bitter, frustrated and depressed. It's coming out of me, not Him.

It's the vicious cycle of clenching and unclenching my hands. Am I willing to say, "Here I am" or am I more into protective mode? Lately, the questions and pain have left little energies for anything or anyone else. My heart is hurting and full of guilt. Where do I go now, Lord? What do I do with this junk? How do I repair this?

I'd love to say that all is regenerating and in bloom, but I'm still walking through some desert fringes. Even so, I'm more at peace with the discomfort. Answers are on the horizon and God hasn't left me alone (despite what I may feel at times). 

When you find yourself in the barren lands, what do you do? How does the Father coax you back to the water? What restores your connection to Him and others?





Monday, November 14, 2016

The Rising Tide of Winter

As the days to the holidays flash by and the sunlight decreases at 5:30PM, many people face the assault of Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.). Around 5-20% of people (depending on the level of severity) struggle with S.A.D. and the negative repercussions of this depression.



Could I have seasonal affective disorder (SAD)?

If some of these feelings seem to happen each year, have a real impact on your life, and improve during certain seasons, talk to your doctor, you may have seasonal affective disorder.
  1. I feel like sleeping all the time, or I’m having trouble getting a good night’s sleep
  2. I’m tired all the time, it makes it hard for me to carry out daily tasks
  3. My appetite has changed, particularly more cravings for sugary and starchy foods
  4. I’m gaining weight
  5. I feel sad, guilty and down on myself
  6. I feel hopeless
  7. I’m irritable
  8. I’m avoiding people or activities I used to enjoy
  9. I feel tense and stressed
  10. I’ve lost interest in sex and other physical contact



Of course other deficiencies or circumstances can impact these issues as well. If your situation improves with the time change and longer hours of sunlight, you could have S.A.D. If you are woman, your chances are much higher; 3 out of 4 sufferers are women (helpguide).

But, you don't have to be helpless. 

1. Get outside as much as possible: take advantage of the sunlight when it's present.

2. Exercise: if it's too cold to get outside, invest in a used stationary bike or utilize youtube videos. Get a punching bag; buy a winter membership to a gym.

3. Take time to have fun and develop a new interest/project to get you through the winter. Be around people who have a positive attitude and can make you laugh. Try to engage and respond in like.

4. Eliminate sugar: Saying "no" to sugary carbs is especially challenging during the holidays, but sugar has been proven to increase depression. So, limit yourself. Consider the 90/10% rule when confronted with sweet choices.

5. Use light therapy: You can get on Amazon and find an affordable "happy light" that imitates the rays of the sun and increases serotonin levels. This is similar to the one given to me a few years ago.

If these techniques don't help, see your healthcare provider: something more could be at play. 

Remember, winter only lasts a few months: spring will come again. So, stay on the treadmill and keep moving (literally and figuratively). 😊 Choose today to smile, even if you don't feel like it. 

(Disclaimer: As most of my readers know, I wouldn't be myself if I didn't acknowledge my own struggle. Over the last two years, my wrestling with S.A.D. has greatly improved since I've been put on thyroid medication, but I'd be a hypocrite if I said, "I do all these things!"  I'm failing in most of them right now. But, as always, I write to encourage myself toward the truth too, even if I'm "not there yet." Be blessed and remember I'm here if you want to share your winter blues with a sympathetic ear. Feel free to share your own tips for coping with S.A.D.)

Friday, November 11, 2016

A Weekend Exhale

After this week, we need to share a little more love, peaceful perspective, blessed hope, and some escape to just exhale and remember, God's got this.

Come and saunter through Stefan's work and exhale.



Over 16 million people served in the U.S. military during WWII. I'm thankful to all the troops who continually forfeit their lives to secure the safety of others. But, since both of my grandpas--now in Heaven--served during WWII, I'm a little partial to veterans from that war. What incredible feats they overcame. They truly were the greatest generation. 

Jean Gerard Leigh 
To the brave men and women, I thank you.



Watch  a story that will move you to love and cherish those around you. Everyone needs someone to say, "You are valuable to me."