Category Archives: Faith

One Step At a Time–Jesus Calling

book_JesusCalling_MDThis excerpt from Jesus Calling really spoke to me when I read it while going through my latest set of job interviews…

Follow me one step at a time. That is all I require of you.  In fact, that is the only way to move through this space/time world. You see huge mountains looming, & you start wondering how you’re going to scale those heights. Meanwhile, because you’re not looking where you’re going, you stumble on the easy path where I am leading you now. As I help you get back on your feet, you tell Me how worried you are about the cliffs up ahead.  But you don’t know what will happen today, much less tomorrow. Our path may take an abrupt turn, leading you away from those mountains. There may be an easier way up the mountains than is visible from this distance. If I do lead you up the cliffs, I will equip you thoroughly for that strenuous climb. I will even give My angels charge over you, to preserve you in all your ways.  

Keep your mind on the present journey, enjoying My Presence. Walk by faith, not by sight, trusting Me to open up the way before you.

Psalms 18:29, Psalms 91:11-12, II Corinthians 5:7

Loving these songs….

trees

A good friend introduced me to NeedToBreathe and I have been savoring these two songs for awhile now.

Both are from their album, Outsiders.  The_Outsiders-Needtobreathe

Would love to hear what stands out to you in both:

 

 

Something Beautiful

In your ocean, I’m ankle deep
I feel the waves crashin’ on my feet
It’s like I know where I need to be
But I can’t figure out, yeah I can’t figure out
Just how much air I will need to breathe
When your tide rushes over me
There’s only one way to figure out
Will ya let me drown, will ya let me drown

Hey now, this is my desire
Consume me like a fire,
’cause I just want something beautiful
To touch me, I know that I’m in reach
‘Cause I am down on my knees,
I’m waiting for…
something beautiful…
Oh, something beautiful

And the water is risin’ quick
And for years I was scared of it
We can’t be sure when it will subside
So I won’t leave your side, no I can’t leave your side

Hey now, this is my desire
Consume me like a fire,
’cause I just want something beautiful
To touch me, I know that I’m in reach
‘Cause I am down on my knees,
I’m waiting for…
something beautiful…
Oh, something beautiful

In a daydream, I couldn’t live like this
I wouldn’t stop until I found something beautiful
When I wake up, I know I will have
No, I still won’t have what I need,
Something beautiful…

Hey now, this is my desire
Consume me like a fire,
’cause I just want something beautiful
To touch me, I know that I’m in reach
‘Cause I am down on my knees,
I’m waiting for…
something beautiful
Oh, something beautiful [fade out]

Garden by NeedToBreathe

Won’t you take this cup from me
Cause fear has stolen all my sleep
If tomorrow means my death
I pray you’ll save their souls with it

Let the songs I sing
Bring joy to you
Let the words I say profess my love
Let the notes I choose
Be your favorite tune
Father let my heart be after you

In this hour of doubt I see
But who I am is not just me
So give me strength to die myself
So love can live to tell the tale

Let the songs I sing
Bring joy to you
Let the words I say profess my love
Let the notes I choose
Be your favorite tune
Father let my heart be after you

Father let my heart be…
For you

Let the songs I sing
Bring joy to you
Let the words I say profess my love
Let the notes I choose
Be your favorite tune
Father let my heart be after you

Jesus Calling–Absolute Trust

Let Me show you My way for you this day. I guide you continually, so you can relax and enjoy My Presence in the present. Living well is both a discipline and an art. Concentrate on staying close to Me, the divine Artist. Discipline your thoughts to trust Me as I work My ways in your life. Pray about everything; then, leave outcomes up to Me. Do not fear My will, for through it I accomplish what is best for you. Take a deep breath and dive into the depths of absolute trust in Me. Underneath are the everlasting arms!

Psalm 5:2-3, Deuteronomy 33:27

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Swimming in it until I’m pruny!

splash waterHow are you with waiting?  Lately the topic of patience has come up a lot with my kids.  When talking to them about what I expect from them when they’re asked to be patient, I realized I needed to define what patience was.  What I came up with was “waiting with a good attitude” and every time I describe it that way, part of me feels like I’m reminding myself that I too need to “wait with a good attitude.”

I’ve never been good at waiting and right now I feel like that’s what I’m being asked to do.  Again.  Ever feel done with a season of your life but cannot clearly see what is around the corner and when the next season will begin?  That’s where I find myself.  Part of me feels like my season of being a SAHM will be coming to an end soon.  But without clear direction, I’m waiting, because maybe I’m wrong.  Maybe I’ve got more months or more years as a SAHM.  I feel like the past three years have been so beautiful, so purposeful, but now it’s time to move on.  I look at my daughter and can’t believe she’s three and that I’ve been home with her every day of those three years.  I look at my son and am in awe of how well he is thriving. That he’s now in the 27th percentile for height and 10th or 11th overall.  After four years of fighting to get weight on him and struggling to help him eat, he’s getting there!  Today he ate more solid food than purees and considering how little solid food he was eating efficiently when feeding therapy ended last fall, it is absolutely amazing!  His meals are looking more and more “normal,” meaning they are either all solids or if there’s a combination of textures (soup, sandwich, and some fruit). It could be any five year olds plate!!!  Incredible!

All that to say, it has been amazing.  They’ve grown.  I’ve grown.  But right now, I’m restless.  I don’t feel like this is a role I’ll play forever and I feel passionate and called back to working with high-risk teenagers and the system they’re in.  And since I have a personality that is all about trying to plan and create my future how I want it and because I don’t have a lot on my plate right now, I’m restless.  The question is, what does God want for me right now? How can I wait well?

Because I daydream about the next season of my life, I get caught up in details, planning, and what-ifs.  None of this is inherently wrong, but for me, it pulls me away from the here and now and can create a lack of contentedness if I’m not careful.  A friend, who is also in a waiting and wondering season of her life, reflected that she feels torn between praying for what she hopes for specifically (citing John 14:14 and John 15:16) and surrendering and praying for God’s will in her life because that is what will truly be the best thing for her–even if it looks nothing like her current hopes.  I feel the same way.  Am I to pray for what I hope and dream to happen (in technicolor and 3D) or am I to take an emotional and cognitive step back and say “Your Will, Lord, whatever details will be, will be…”  How do I wait well in this and seek Him?  Boy, did it make me feel normal that another friend was wrestling with the same internal dynamics as me!  Can you relate?

splash water 2I am excited about what the next season in my life is going to look like, even though there are a lot of unknowns.  That being said, I believe that God is teaching me to delight and live in the now.  The present.  Another friend and I were talking earlier in the week about God giving us a word or a phrase for the year.  The phrase that God gave me for this year was “Love well those I have given you.”  I’ve kept these words in front of me this year.  It has caused me to make better choices, to pray more intently, and to really ask myself, how do my kids and my husband best feel loved by me.  I can’t think of a better way to love my kids and husband and others God has put in my life than being fully present and content now.  Each moment, each day.  That’s hard for my personality but I’m learning.  And maybe because it’s summer, I picture myself being fully present like relaxing, floating, meandering in a pool or the ocean, savoring each aspect of the experience–the sun, the smells, the sounds, the water…being truly present and loving it.

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So I want to swim, soak, and truly be in the present until my fingers and toes get all pruny!  What does that look like for me right now?  How can I be purposeful and get every drop of goodness and joy in the present?  How can I fully delight in this season, right now?

BE TRULY PRESENT with my kids

  • I need to unplug from the technology—off the computer, off my phone, turn the TV off and just BE with THEM.  Getting rid of cable this summer has been a great start towards doing this!
  • We need to do bigger things (like going to the Springs, camping, going on vacation) but also savor hanging out at home or going to the park together. Creating a summer bucket list has helped me focus on what I’d like to accomplish together this summer
  • Studying, observing, and truly knowing my children inside and out.  Becoming a student of them so I can highlight their strengths, understand and empathize with their weaknesses, and help them become who God has made them to be.  I desire to draw them out and encourage their individuality, not create two little clones of Ryan and myself.

And, oh, how I love the little moments I get to have with my children.  This past weekend I got to watch them discover and catch fireflies for the first time.  Is there anything better than lightning-bug-jar1watching children delight in new things or delighting in what they’re discovering they are capable of doing?  And how many of those moments would I miss if I weren’t here right now or if my eyes were glued to a screen, zoning out…

READ, READ, READ… I love to learn.  I love to read.  I thought I wouldn’t be able to read often as a mom of two but this season of life has allowed me to do a lot more reading than the first few years of motherhood.  Listening to books on CD has really helped too!  As I reflect on my reading habit, I’ve found when I’m busy and/or stressed out, I gravitate toward legal/suspense novels or other fiction.  During those times, I tend to read to escape or be entertained rather than to be inspired, to learn, or to grow.  This past six months, while I haven’t had to juggle a ton of things, I’ve been taking advantage of the time I’ve had and am reading, reading, reading!!!!  And because I’ve felt relaxed and rejuvenated, I’ve been plunging into books that have challenged me to grow and to go deeper.  Not just reading for entertainment’s sake.

summer reading

I love hearing from friends, family, and fellow bloggers what they’re reading currently.  I love it when people share their list of what they’ve been reading or want to read.  It’s like opening a treasure chest!  So I thought I’d throw together a list of books I’ve loved reading lately too.  Here’s the books I’ve read this past year that I highly recommend:

Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, & Lead & Men, Women, & Worthiness: The Experience of Shame & The Power of Being Enough

Wild Things: The Art of Nurturing Boys by Stephen James & David Thomas

Jen Hatmaker’s Interrupted:—An Adventure in Relearning the Essentials of Faith & Seven—An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess

Two books by Mary DeMuth (I discovered this author through Jen Hatmaker referencing her works in Interrupted book): Beautiful Battle: A Woman’s Guide to Spiritual Warfare (one of the best books I’ve read this year) and Authentic Parenting in a Postmodern Culture–Practical Help for Shaping Your Children’s Hearts, Minds, & Souls

Good Boss, Bad Boss: How to Be the Best….And Learn from the Worst by Robert Sutton

Lean In:Women, Work, & the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg

Carry On, Warrior–The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life by Glennon Doyle Melton

Forgotten God–Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit by Francis Chan

The Nesting Place–It Doesn’t Have to Be Perfect to Be Beautiful by Myquillyn Smith

I also picked up and re-read some oldies but goodies: Dallas Willard’s Divine Conspiracy and Ruthless Trust by Brennan Manning

Here’s some books I’m looking forward to cracking open next:

The Connected Child: Bringing Hope & Healing to Your Adoptive Family by Karyn Purvis (supposed to be great about early childhood development, attachment, bonding, and trauma issues)

Restoring the Shattered Self–A Christian Counselor’s Guide to Complex Trauma by Heather Daveduik Gingrich

Bread & Wine–A Love Letter to Life Around the Table with Recipes and Bittersweet- Thoughts on Change, Grace, & Learning the Hard Way by Shauna Niequist

First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently by Marcus Buckingham

I’d love to hear from you the books you’d recommend I add to my To-Read list.  I can never have too many options when it comes to books!

GROW…In addition to the stacks of books I’ve been devouring, I’ve enjoyed reading blogs, articles, and getting involved in small groups and large groups focused on faith, parenting, and relationships.  This past spring Ryan and I took part in a Love and Logic parenting course that was phenomenal and currently I’m part of my first Beth Moore Bible Study20140530_161559 (James—Mercy Triumphs).  And I’ll be seeing Beth Moore speak here in Denver in a few weeks.  It’ll be the first mostly woman conference I’ve gone to—I’m soooo not into the women’s ministry thing but am looking forward to this gathering.  All this to say that I feel like I’m doing a better job being intentional about challenging myself, learning, and reaching out to others to go deeper in friendships.  I’ve been learning a lot, laughing a lot, and feel like I’ve grown so much.

CREATE…besides being more creative with what I cook, I’ve enjoyed painting again (thanks to Ryan’s encouragement) and after being inspired by Jen Hatmaker’s verison of a “feature wall,” I’m in the process of creating our own “feature wall.”  Anyone else absolutely LOVE Myquillin Smith’s “The Nesting  Place”?  Her ideas about cost effective ways to make your home beautiful have changed my life.  And her philosophy on doing so, including shaking off the fear of messing it up or not getting 20140530_161611your creativity “perfect” has so freed me!  Diving into creating feels like I’ve been reunited with an old friend.  I had found other ways to be creative than art, but my soul sings when I’m doing something artistic.  I’m proud of this painting and I can’t wait to see more original creations hanging up in our house.  Before I used to feel like I had to do a whole room to completion, but I’m learning to do one thing at a time and watch it evolve.  I just started a project with old window frames and I can’t wait to refurbish some wooden chairs I got for super cheap.  I have several uber-talented friends who can school me in the basics.  And I’m super excited because a friend and I are hosting a girl’s creativity night this coming week.  We’ve asked women we know who live and breathe creativity to come hang out for an evening, each of us bringing something we’re working on. I hope to be productive and inspired. I’m super excited!!!!

So, here I go.

Living it up in the Present.

Swimming in it until I’m all pruny and relaxed.  Loving those He’s given me, well.

How about you?  How do you handle waiting?  Do you tend to live most in the past, the present, or like me, the future?  Has God given you a word for this year or this season?  How do you manage the tension between praying about your hopes and dreams and asking that His will be done?

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If you liked this post, check out: Bloom Where You’re Planted

Jesus Today–Hopes and Dreams

One of my incredible friends sent me an excerpt from “Jesus Today,” another book written by Sarah Young. I love what it says about hope and dreams….
Hope for what you do not see, eagerly wait for it with perseverance. Among the five senses , sight is often the one that people value the most. I created the world gloriously beautiful, and I want you to appreciate beauty when you see it. However, even more beneficial than sight is hope, which is itself a kind of vision. It enables you to see- through the eyes of your heart- things that are not yet. The most stunning example of this is the hope of heaven. Your ultimate destiny is to share in My Glory! This is My promise to you, secured through My finished work on the cross and My resurrection.
Practice hoping for things you do not see- both for this life and the next. Ask Me to guide you into hopes and dreams that are in line with My will. Train the eyes of your heart to “see’ these blessings, while praying for My will to be done done fully and only. Discipline yourself to wait eagerly- with your focus on Me and the longed-for outcome. Remain hopeful and expectant as you wait with perseverance.
Romans 8:25 NKJV; John 17:22 NKJV; Hebrews 11:1 AMP
jesus today

Biblical Womanhood, Huh?

I’ve had the luxury of reading a lot of reading a lot of good books this summer.  I can’t wait to share what I’ve been reading and what I’ve been learning here.

I just finished reading Rachel Held Evans’ book “A Year of Biblical Womanhood–How a Liberated Woman Found Herself Sitting on Her Roof, Covering Her Head, & Calling Her Husband “Master”.  I have to admit, I don’t remember putting it on my to-read list and when I saw it had arrived at the library for me, I didn’t know if I wanted to pick it up and crack it open.  And I only started reading it because no other book I was really interested in was around to dive into.  But, boy, am I glad I opened this book!

yellow bible

If you like to learn and be entertained by the same book and have been wrestling with what the Bible says about women, this book is for you.  But, warning, this book is likely controversial because she challenges some commonly held beliefs in the Christian sub-culture.  This book may make some people uncomfortable because it pokes at strongly held beliefs about women of faith and challenges you to look at how you interpret and apply Scripture.  Rachel doesn’t expect everyone who reads this book to ascribe to her values, but she does explorrebecca st jamese how the church interprets verses that address women and challenges you to consider why you believe what you believe.

I have long wrestled with what I believe about women’s roles in the church, society, and the family.  I have a strong personality and believe that God gifts both men and women in teaching, discernment, and leadership so how the church and believers apply certain Scriptures has long been an interest of mine.  When the church I attended in Minnesota took steps towards including a woman in their preaching rotation, I felt uncomfortable, but quickly figured out that it was more because of my experiences growing up than what I believed theologically.  As I delved into the issue of women in the church and what women are called to do, I was not comfortable with those who interpreted Scriptures more conservatively but built exceptions into how they applied these verses…exceptions or caveats that were not stated in the very Scripture they claimed to be following.  That bugged me because their stated beliefs and how they applied them did not align.  There was incongruence there.  Either you apply the verses the way you claim to interpret them or be intellectually honest that those verses can be interpreted differently or may be bound by the context in which they were written.  And for me, I came to believe that the context of those difficult verses about women was important for how we apply them today.  Whether you are more complementarian or egalitarian, feminist or conservative, this book raises a lot of great issues.

Years ago, I stumbled upon the quote, “In things essential, unity, in things non-essential, liberty” and loved its simplicity and truth.  It also aligns with Paul’s thoughts in Romans 14 and while he was speaking about food back then, he could still be speaking today about current hot button issues.  Believers run into problems when they insist that everyone interpret Scripture the same way they do.  I have a really hard time when people say that something is the “biblical” way or “God’s” way.  God is a God of variety and diversity and He calls us to love and be understanding towards other believers who believe differently on non-essentials.  People get extremely heated when discussing homosexuality, gender issues in the church (and in society), the definition of modesty, and how to live out faith in our society today.  I think we need to do a better job of deciding which hills we will die upon.  Are these hills essential to our faith in God or are they non-essential?  Can we agree to disagree with other believers without questioning their faith and love for Jesus?  Can we vote differently, live out our callings differently, and still worship next to each other on Sundays?  So often believers are known for what they’re against instead of what we’re for.  We get caught up in divisive issues, majoring on the minors, and the gospel gets lost in the shuffle.  Where is our trust and faith that God may use the differences in our beliefs for His glory?  That as we peer into His Word and follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit in our lives, we will honor Him in our own way, and that is beautiful, even if it doesn’t look the same as someone else’s journey.

today's christian womanSo back to the book.  Rachel decided to take a year of her life and live out different aspects of “Biblical Womanhood.”  Some of her tasks are a little extreme or far-fetched while others really challenged her to explore different issues and make some changes in her own life.  She also highlighted common beliefs or messages many Christian women hear and challenged them, debunking some in the process.  From cultivating a friendship with an Jewish woman who lives out her orthodox faith wholeheartedly to caring for a home-economic computer baby, Rachel dives in and thoroughly explores and lives out aspects of Biblical Womanhood.  She also educates the reader on how women were treated in the Old Testament and throughout church history.  Martin Luther had some pretty inflammatory statements about women, you Lutherans might want to prepare yourselves!  One of my favorite parts of the book was when she explored the esteemed Proverbs 31 woman.  That instead of it being a list of expectations or ideals women should try to live up to, it was written as a blessing that Jewish men sang to the important women in their lives.  It was meant to honor “women of valor,” and in Rachel’s words, to be a “You Go Girl!”  The spirit of that chapter of Scripture is now seen in a beautiful and new light to me.

20140708_120142But for the rest of this post, I’m going to let Rachel speak for Rachel by sharing some excerpts from her book.  Ones that challenged me or ones I resonated with:

While cooking strikes me as an essentially creative act, cleaning seems little more than an exercise in decay management, enough to trigger an existential crisis each time the ring around the toilet bowl reappears.  Now, don’t get me wrong; I like things to be clean.  It’s not as though Dan & I ‘live in squalor,’ as my mom likes to say. But each time the laundry basket starts to overflow or the fridge gets crowded w/ old leftovers, I put up a fight. And when I’m not in the mood for a fight, I just sit around and feel guilty about it.  In a matter of days, The Martha Stewart Homekeeping Handbook had turned this little complex of mine into full-blown neurosis….As it turns out, until I started this experiment, pretty much everything on Martha’s “clean every day” list I did about once a week, pretty much everything on Martha’s “clean every month” list I did about once a year, and pretty much everything on Martha’s “clean every season” list I’d never done in my life. That’s right, folks; I’d never vacuumed our refrigerator grille and coil. We lived in squalor after all (27).  I actually vacuumed my refrigerator grill this week after learning about it from this book—and being near said grill while cleaning our hardwood floors.  It’ll likely be the only time I do this in my lifetime.

I get the sense that many in the contemporary biblical womanhood movement feel that the tasks associated with homemaking have been so marginalized in our culture that it’s up to them to restore the sacredness of keeping the home. This is a noble goal indeed, and one around which all people of faith can rally. But in our efforts to celebrate and affirm God’s presence in the home, we should be wary of elevating the vocation of homemaking above all others by insinuating that for women, God’s presence is somehow restricted to that sphere.  If God is the God of all pots & pans, then He is also the God of all shovels and computers and paints and assembly lines and executive offices and classrooms. Peace and joy belong not to the woman who finds the right vocation, but to the woman who finds God in any vocation, who looks for the divine around every corner. As Elizabeth Barrett Browning famously put it: “Earth’s crammed with heaven, And every common bush afire with God, But only he who sees takes off his shoes; The rest sit round it & pluck blackberries.”  Faith’s not about finding the right bush. It’s about taking off your shoes (30).

I looked into this, and sure enough, in Jewish culture it is not the women who memorize Proverbs 31, but the men. Husbands commit each line of the poem to memory, so they can recite it to their wives at the Sabbath meal, usually in a song.  “Eshet chayil” is at its core a blessing—one that was never meant to be earned, but to be given, unconditionally…It’s like their version of “you go girl!”…According to Ahava, the woman described in Proverbs 31 is not some ideal that exists out there; she is present in each one of us when we do even the smallest things w/ valor (88-90).

“I think Paul would roll over in his grave if he knew we were turning his letters into torah.”

–F.F. Bruce

Sometimes our actions shape our beliefs, rather than the other way around, and I think this is especially true when it comes to raising families. We tend to take whatever’s worked in our particular set of circumstances (big family, small family, attachment parenting, Ezzo, homeschool, public school), and project that upon everyone else in the world as the ideal. We do this, I think, to protect ourselves, to quiet those pesky insecurities that follow us through life, nipping at our heels. To declare that your way is the only way effectively eliminates any fear that you might be wrong, or at least pushes it below the surface for a time.  Things get hairer when parenting philosophies and religion mix, and the folks dishing out the parenting advice are convinced that God is on their side. From contraception, to spanking, to family size, to decision of a mother to work or stay at home, there is perhaps no arena in which women of faith are more subjected to the expectations of “biblical womanhood” than in their capacity to bear and raise children (177-178).

When we turn the Bible into an adjective and stick it in front of another loaded word (like manhood, womanhood, politics, economics, marriage, and even equality), we tend to ignore or downplay the parts of the Bible that don’t fit our tastes. In an attempt to simplify, we try to force the Bible’s cacophony of voices into a single tone, to turn a complicated and at times troubling holy text into a list of bullet points we can put in a manifesto or creed. More often than not, we end up more committed to what we want the Bible to say than what it actually says (294).

The Bible does not present us with a single model for womanhood, and the notion that it contains a sort of one-size-fits-all formula for how to be a woman of faith is a myth. Among the women praised in Scripture are warriors, widows, slaves, sister wives, apostles, teachers, concubines, queens, foreigners, prostitutes, prophets, mothers, and martyrs. What makes these women’s stories leap from the page is not the fact that they all conform to some kind of universal ideal, but that, regardless of the culture or context in which they found themselves, they lived their lives with valor. They lived their lives with faith. As much as we may long for the simplicity of a single definition of “biblical womanhood,” there is no one right way to be a woman, no mold into which we must each cram ourselves—not if Deborah, Ruth, Rachel, Tamar, Vashti, Esther, Priscilla, Mary Magdalene, and Tabitha have anything to say about it (295).

So what was I looking for when I started this project? I think, at the surface, I was looking for a good story. And I certainly found one. But further down, in the deeper recesses of my heart and mind, I think I was looking for permission—permission to lead, permission to speak, permission to find my identity in something other than my roles, permission to be myself, permission to be a woman.  What a surprise to reach the end of the year w/ a quiet & liberating certainty that I never had to ask for it. It had already been given (296).

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This book left me wanting to learn more by diving into the Bible deeper and by continuing to wrestle with how I live out my faith.  It also left me thinking and pondering long after I had read the last page….that’s what a good book will do! As I’ve continued to mull over what I read in this book, I’ve found myself thinking that I’d love to have my daughter read it when she’s old enough.  Not because I want her to believe the exact same things Rachel Held Evans does (which I tend to agree with), but because the author does a good job showing how to critically think and wrestle with issues in the Scriptures.  I want my daughter to know why she believes what she does and to wrestle with some of the difficult verses found in Scripture.  Rachel provides a great example of how to do just that!

Buy this book on Amazon using this link: Biblical Womanhood on Amazon.  When I checked recently you could get copies of it, used, as cheap as $2.50 plus shipping!

Jesus Calling…Learn to Listen…

Learn to listen to me even while you are listening to other people.  As they open their souls to your scrutiny, you are on holy ground.  You need the help of My Spirit to respond appropriately.  Ask Him to think through you, live through you, love through you.  My own Being is alive within you in the Person of the Holy Spirit.  If you respond to others’ needs through your unaided thought processes, you offer them dry crumbs.  When the Spirit empowers your listening and speaking.  My streams of living water flow through you to other people.  Be a channel of My Love, Joy, and Peace by listening to Me as you listen to others.

Exodus 3:5, I Corinthians 6:19, John 7:38-39

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My Hanging Lake Hike–The Best Mother’s Day Gift EVER!!!!

Your love, Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies. Your righteousness is like the highest mountains, your justice like the great deep.   You, Lord, preserve both people and animals. How priceless is your unfailing love, O God! People take refuge in the shadow of your wings. They feast on the abundance of your house; you give them drink from your river of delights. For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.       –Psalm 36:5-9

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Know any mothers who chose to celebrate Mother’s Day without their kids?  This girl!  Was there a little bit of guilt about this? Yes, but I’ve made my peace with it since then…

This year when Ryan asked what I wanted to do for Mother’s Day, I told him I wanted to hike Hanging Lake with my Mom sans kids.  And being the awesome husband he is, he was up for it.  This was the most selfless, amazing gift I’ve received.  It meant Ryan would take care of our kids all day on a Saturday because Hanging Lake was about three hours away which meant my mom and I would be gone for at least six hours plus hiking time.  I tried to arrange for a babysitter to give Ryan a break for a few hours but all the sitters I contacted already had plans that Saturday.  Luckily, Ryan’s dad and stepmom offered to take the kids for a few hours so Ryan got a break in his long day of childcare.  To me, Ryan’s gift to me this Mother’s Day was lavish, abundant love.  A gift that spoke right to my heart that he cared enough to give me a gift that he knew I would treasure.

104_4134So why Hanging Lake? Over the years I’ve lived in Colorado, Hanging Lake always comes up as an amazing place to visit.  Its located outside of Glenwood Springs just off the scenic I-70 and is a serene and beautiful lake high up in the mountains.  The main website labeled the hike as “strenuous” and the signs at the trailhead described it as “difficult” (most of the hike is at a decent incline, you climb up a lot of rock “steps”).   Surprisingly, these descriptors did not deter me!  I love to go for walks and hike but couldn’t say that I was in the best shape at this time.  But I was going to hike to Hanging Lake, even if it kicked my butt!  Even if I was red-faced and taking frequent breaks on the side of the trail, I was going to get up to that lake! (for those who are concerned about this hike being difficult, it really wasn’t that bad.  I was definitely not the worst hiker on this trail and when I did need to stop for a break, there were plenty of spots to relax without impeding other hikers and it gave me more time to soak in the beauty all around me!) 

Another challenge, we had also heard that parking at the trailhead was really difficult to get, especially on weekends and during the summer.  There were only so many spots and because it was just off the interstate, you could not “creatively” park just off the lot if it was full.  Websites recommended bringing a bike and biking in from other points near Glenwood Springs.  So my mom and I decided we’d try to get there super early (meaning we’d leave around 5am or 6am from our place) AND we’d bring a bike in case we had to park elsewhere (one of us would drop the other off at the trailhead and wait for the other to bike in).

The morning of our hike, I slept through my alarm but we still made it out the door at a decent time.  The drive towards Glenwood Springs was amazing.  I hadn’t realized how little time my mom and I have had to talk with each other, uninterrupted.  Usually there are two kids bouncing around near us which we love but it means we don’t always get to finish a sentence much less have a coherent conversation!  Having time to talk and just “do life” with my mom was priceless.  It made me feel so blessed all over again that she and my dad had taken the leap and moved out to Colorado.  To me, this time with her was a very tangible picture not just of Ryan’s selfless gift to me but also of God’s abundant goodness and lavish generosity in giving me time in person with my wonderful Mom.

When we exited I-70 and pulled into the parking lot, we were speechless!  The parking lot we expected to be full was 75% empty and even better, when we drove through it, the truck in the parking spot closest to the trailhead, backed out giving us the best possible parking spot ever!  We just wanted a parking spot in the lot, to give us the best one there, icing on the cake!  Someone was looking down and smiling!  Could it get better than this? The fact that it was the day before Mother’s Day and the forecast called for rain could have played into this blessing but we’ll take it!!!

So could it get better than this?  Definitely, and it did.  See for yourself.  A picture can speak a thousand words.

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Beautiful trees, gorgeous rocks, and a bubbling mountain river that meandered alongside the trail the entire way up to Hanging Lake.

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Inhaling fresh and crisp pine- scented mountain air while listening to rushing water as we ascended.

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Here’s the lake itself and the waterfall that provides mountain water to it…

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The trail wasn’t busy and when we did encounter other hikers, there was an easy camaraderie. In case you’re curious, it did start to rain as we ventured back down.  But it was a light, misty rain.  Even it was beautiful…

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104_4164As we hiked, my mom and I both pondered how Hanging Lake was just one place on earth that was so unbelievably beautiful that God created and experienced all day, every day…even more, how only He sees breathtakingly beautiful deep sea fish, how He sees every wave, every sunrise and sunset, every beautiful aspect of our planet even if we don’t.  He is lavish about beauty, abundant in goodness.  He does not just create functional or practical things.  He delights in blowing our mind with beauty!  Why do we doubt His heart?

God has been teaching me lately about His generosity, lavish love, and abundance.  I guess I’ve known that He’d provide for our needs, but so many verses speak to Him wanting to not just stop there but going above and beyond.  His heart is good.

And my day at Hanging Lake was a reminder that God delights in blessing us in small and in big ways. Why do I doubt so often?  Why do my expectations of God pale in comparison to what He actually is all about?  Ephesians 3:20 has challenged me lately, “Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us…”

I’ll close with an excerpt from Jesus Calling.  Sarah Young speaks often about our God being a God of abundance.  Here is one excerpt that spoke straight to my heart and resonates with how I felt about my Hanging Lake day—that God was a God of details throughout it all:

I am a God of both intricate detail and overflowing abundance. When you entrust the details of your life to Me, you are surprised by how thoroughly I answer your petitions. I take pleasure in hearing your prayers, so feel free to bring Me all your requests. The more you pray, the more answers you can receive. Best of all, your faith is strengthened as you see how precisely I respond to your specific prayers.

Because I am infinite in all My ways, you need not fear that I will run out of resources. Abundance is at the very heart of who I AM. Come to Me in joyful expectation of receiving all you need—and sometimes much more! I delight in showering blessings on My beloved children. Come to Me with open hands and heart, ready to receive all I have for you.

Psalm 36:7-9, Psalm 132:15, John 6:12-13, John 10:10

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The Power of Prayer

A few months ago, God gave me a special blessing.  I was at a fundraiser for a ministry that works with high-risk youth, the very youth I’ve worked with over the years.  When a video came on highlighting some of the youth who had been touched by God through this ministry, two of the three kids on the video were ones I had worked with in years past and ones who God had burdened me to pray a lot for even after they had moved on to other facilities.  I had no clue at the time that they had reached out to a faith-based ministry, I just felt called to pray for them.  It brought tears to my eyes to hear how God had been at work in these kids’ lives and how prayer, not just mine but many prayers by many believers for these kids, had made a difference.  I love it when God gives us a glimpse of what He’s doing in our world and that night has changed me!

I don’t “get” how prayer works but over the last year to year and a half, I’ve become such a believer that it is where our power lies.  The power is there because it is God who moves, God who works, God who heals, changes, and does miracles.  Prayer is a way He invites us to be involved in the process.  I don’t exactly know how it all works together, but I know it does, and I’m committed to becoming more of a prayer warrior than I used to be.

One of my MOPs leaders shared the following thought with our group.  I’m not sure if it’s her words or if she was quoting someone else but it stuck with me so I don’t know who to give credit to:

“We need to be intentional about our prayer life.  If Satan can get us not to pray, he has a victory.  Getting us not to pray is often our enemy’s biggest target.  It is the stealthiest way to quench our relationship with Christ rendering our lives powerless.  We need to have a plan and be intentional.”

Another quote about prayer that touched my heart is:

“The power of prayer has overcome the strength of fire; it has checked the rage of lions, silenced anarchy, quenched wars, calmed the atmosphere, exorcised demons, broken off the chains of death, enlarged the gates of heaven, curbed diseases, prevented frauds, rescued cities from destruction, stopped the sun in its course, and arrested the momentum of thunderbolts.  Prayer is an all-sufficient exercise, a treasure that does not fade, a mine which is never depleted, a sky not hidden by clouds, a heaven undisturbed by the storm.  It is the root, the fountain, the mother of a thousand blessings.”  -Chrysosom

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If you believe in the power of prayer, how have you interwoven it into your daily life?  I used to keep a prayer journal but have tried something new lately and have found it pretty useful.  An idea I got from our winter MOPs retreat was to create a list of the people or issues you want to pray regularly for and divide them by seven.  Then assign a day of the week to each of the seven groupings.  I’ve done this and hung it in my shower and it’s helped me pray consistently for what’s important to me.

What else have you done to incorporate prayer into your daily life?  Comment below!

Jesus Calling…Moment by Moment…

book_JesusCalling_MDYou are on the path of my choosing.  There is no randomness about your life.  Here and now comprise the coordinate of your daily life.  Most people let their moments slip through their fingers, half-lived.  They avoid the present by worrying about the future or longing for a better time and place.  They forget that they are creatures who are subject to the limitations of time and space.  They forget their Creator, who walks with them only in the present.

Every moment is alive with My glorious Presence, to those whose hearts are intimately connected with Mine.  As you give yourself more and more to a life of constant communion with Me, you will find that you simply have no time for worry.  Thus, you are freed to let My Spirit direct your steps, enabling you to walk along the path of peace.

Luke 12:25-26; Luke 1:79