Tag Archives: faith

A Year of Being Thankful

Last night, on New Year’s Eve, just before my children woke up from their naps, I sat down with my journal and silent but bubbling glass of prosecco. I had seen a few people on Instagram talk about how they made lists of things they were thankful for and ways that God had shown up over the past year. Naturally, I latched onto that idea immediately; how better to be in a positive mindset and a thankful posture to begin a new year?!

So I sat, pen in hand, and wrote down twenty ways God had blessed me, our family, and worked things out for His glory and my good. I hadn’t predetermined twenty as the number, but it just worked out that way. The things are quite varied: some about our family, some about me personally, some about the kids individually. There were big things (my eldest starting – and loving – kindergarten) and small things (learning about the Enneagram). There were specific things (successfully transitioning our youngest to a “big boy bed”) and more general things (how often we were able to host our beloved friends and family in our home last year).

But what it did, even more than just posture my heart toward thankfulness, was make me SO. DARN. EXCITED. for what He could do in our lives in 2018. Lots of people are saying that 2017 was a dumpster fire, and in some ways it was. But I’d be willing to bet that at the end of every year, if you sat down and listed the crummy things that had happened, and the things that went wrong, that only thing you’d accomplish is a horrible mood at the end of it. But when I sat down to think of things that were successes, heartwarming memories, and things I was joyful about, I got a glimpse into God’s heart towards my family, His love for us, His protection over us, and His desire to build us up, not tear us down.

In this same vein, I just saw (again) a post by a fellow writer friend (check out the original here!) about how to daily shift the perspective from one of worry or stress to one of thankfulness. Cliff notes: each morning, she and her kids think of a thing or two – however small – that they’re looking forward to that day, and then she asks how she can be praying for them while they’re at school. Just a little shift to positive thinking, and a covering by mom of prayer over things they might not be as excited about. I love this idea so much, and I think that you can take that idea on a daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly basis, and totally run with it. God blesses us with so much; we can bless Him with our gratitude and prayers! When we do those things first, before asking for stuff or airing our concerns and “needs”, our hearts begin to change, ever so slightly each time, to become more like Jesus’s.

What Is Worship?

This post originally appeared on The Grit and Grace Project.

Worship. What does that word call to mind when you hear it? The songs that you sing at your church on Sundays? An organ and a choir, donned in jewel-colored robes? Your friend playing an instrument in the praise band? Perhaps you attach the word worship to the entire service on Sunday morning. Or maybe it’s something more.

Worship can actually be something we do day in and day out. It can be a heart posture. It can be an offering of praise. There is corporate worship: what we do when we are gathered together, in God’s name, singing, praying, reading/hearing scripture, receiving God’s word through a gifted preacher, and taking communion. There is personal worship – and it’s much more vague, or all-inclusive, depending on how you look at it. Worship is our response to our Creator, a dialog between us, a celebration on our part of all He has done. Worship is how we ascribe to Him (as it suggests in several psalms, and in 1 Chron. 16) the qualities of such a perfect, loving, forgiving, worthy God.

Worship can be asking Him to open our hearts and minds to be in tune with His will. Worship can be confession, and finding forgiveness. Worship is an expression of awe, wonder, and love. Worship can manifest in many ways; we aren’t all musical. Worship can be resting in His presence, praying continually (1 Thess. 5:17), shouting from the rooftops, or being silent. Worship combines exalting Him (Psalm 99), exulting before Him (Psalm 68:4), and offering our bodies as living sacrifice to Him (Romans 12:1).

Worship is heart work. It isn’t just singing the words, or even raising your hands. Isaiah 29:13-14 says this: The Lord says: “Because this people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me, and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men, therefore, behold, I will again do wonderful things with this people, with wonder upon wonder; and the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the discernment of their discerning men shall be hidden.”  The worship God desires from us is communion with him – letting our hearts be open to His bending and rending. He wants to give us His kingdom! To “acceptably” worship Him with reverence and awe should be our natural response (Hebrews 12:28).

So when you wake up in the morning, or as you go about your day today, or when you walk into church on Sunday, take a moment to turn your heart to Him. Take a moment and ask Him to help your every move be worship. Truly ask Him to open the eyes of your heart. Let yourself see His wonders, see how He is working in your life. Thankfulness and acknowledgement of His goodness are acts of worship that you can do anytime.

Here’s to shedding some tears.

This post also appeared on Everyday Exiles.

I’m a mom of three. I’m a wife. I’m a friend, sister, daughter, writer, singer, colleague, and foodie. Which of those things says I should cry a lot?

Apparently all of them.

Recently, I’ve found that I cry at almost everything. Things my friends say. Books I read. Podcasts I’m listening to (I’m looking at you, Annie F. Downs!). Songs I sing, or hear on the radio. Literally every time I crack open my Bible. It’s a lot. Am I too emotional about some stuff? Maybe. Am I going through something difficult? I don’t know. Probably. Aren’t we all?

Recently, my boys (ages 3.5 and 2) got their first “official” haircuts. They went to see my dad’s barber, in my hometown, as my parents’ house was literally going under contract that afternoon. It was a lot – an emotional day. There were some tears involved, and rightly so. My 11-year-old self was looking around, appreciating the house I’d grown up in for the first time. My 15-year-old self was remembering sleepovers and cramming for exams and late night ice cream sundaes. My 20-year-old self was wondering why I came home from college for the summer, because it was a little boring comparatively, but actually loving the slowness. My 31-year-old self (at present) was wishing my kids would grow up vacationing to that pool and huge front yard forever, and wishing that we had been able to come “home” a little more often.

You see? Tears flowing, even now, weeks later.

Call it hormones. Call it motherhood. Call it “too soft”. But I’m a crier now, more than I ever was. But I know that it just means that Jesus is softening my heart to some things that I haven’t been softened to before… Relationships with incredible women in my life. Shoes that are quite big that it’s my job to fill. My headstrong daughter with ideas all her own, my sensitive middle child with a need for a schedule and some sugar, and my baby, who I equally want to rush into independence and coddle forever. I am torn, in limbo between the already and the not yet, unsure of how to proceed. And then I sit and cry.

I’m not ashamed. I’m really not. I joke about it a lot – and you can call that my coping mechanism. But I really don’t feel bad about the tears I shed. Because it means that I care, I feel deeply, and I love big. I’m okay with those things, because it means I got those traits from Jesus. He cared. He felt deeply. He loved big. And if, in me, it manifests as tears, I’ll take it.

Podcasts

Recently, I’ve started listening to some podcasts. I know, I know; I’m a several months (years?) late to that party. With young children constantly around me, it’s sometimes hard to listen to spoken word (you know, something that I actually need to pay attention to if I want to comprehend what’s happening), and that’s most of the reason I’m late to the podcast-listening idea. I can’t just turn one on when I get in the car because I usually have several people communicating wth me at once. I don’t need another voice added to the fray. But I’ve really enjoyed getting recommendations from friends about what podcasts are making them think, which ones are encouraging them, or even affecting heart change. So naturally, I’ve started putting in my headphones a little more often, and, you know, crying while I mow the lawn or fold the laundry. It’s almost like reading a book, but I can work on something else while I’m doing it.podcast

It been so interesting to me how God has ordained things in my life, right down to which podcasts I’m listening to. Ever think He doesn’t influence the small things in your life? Just look for connections between your struggles and an innocent book or podcast suggestion made by a friend. I know He is wooing me through different ways every single day, pursuing me by letting me hear from Him even in the oddest of places.

That all being said, I’ll tell you about these podcasts I’m checking out. I started with The Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey. She brings another person (often one of her friends) onto her show and they talk about real life and I have LOVED it. It’s often a faith-based writer or speaker and I can get choked up just hearing them have real conversation about their lives. It’s so fun listening in on a conversation that feels like it would’ve happened the same way, even if they weren’t recording. After I blasted through several episodes of Jamie’s show, I got turned onto That Sounds Fun with Annie F. Downs. She has similar guests and conversations, but she has a cool perspective, too. Basically what I’ve realized is that these two hosts are writers, they have writers on their shows frequently, and I am totally inundated with books I want to buy/read because of it. And these aren’t usually novels that I can get on my Kindle and just blast through in a few days because they’re easy reads. These are the sort of life-changing books that I want to dig into. I want to have my own paper copy because I like underlining and circling and reading them again and again. For instance, I’ve already ordered Annie’s Let’s All Be Brave and one of her guests’ (John Mark Comer) books called Garden City. I want to hear the Lord speaking to me, I want to learn about Him and others’ experiences with Him and His goodness. Wouldn’t you?

Now don’t think I’m all crazy – I don’t necessarily think that God ordained these people to say things that are meant just for me. But I do think that there is knowledge we can glean from hearing about others’ journeys. I think we can hear from God when hearing someone else talk, teach, preach. I think we are more in tune to His voice than we think, but we often don’t give Him the credit when He speaks to us through the words of others.

Do you have any podcasts that you think I’d like? Please comment with them! I’m LOVING listening to them!!

Musings About Prayer

How do you pray? How often? Whose words do you use – yours? The Bible’s? Those of a trusted pastor? These are questions I struggle with every time I try to pray. I think all answers are valid, and ones that I haven’t thought of are, too. I think prayer is something that evolves as your relationship with the Lord evolves, and that’s a good thing.

I find that oftentimes, when I remember to pray is when I am asking for something. I’ve just heard that someone is sick or hurt. I’m having a hard time being patient with my kids. Or, I’m praying to stave off difficulties or issues in an upcoming situation. Either way, I’m asking the Lord to do my will. Or asking Him to help me with something. Or I’m just plain hoping that His will and my will are the same.

Why would I ever put the Lord in a box like that?

I am all about giving the Lord my honesty: all of my feelings, my fears, my hopes. He’s a big God, and he can handle those things. I can pray continually – without ceasing! (1 Thess. 5:16) – and I can pray about anything and everything (Eph. 6:18). But what I want to pray more often is for HIS WILL to be done, not mine (1 John 5:14). I know He has a plan more wonderful than I can imagine, and while it seems trite to only pray for that, that’s what He loves to hear! “I trust You! Your plan is perfect! I want for me and mine what YOU want for me and mine!” There is nothing greater we could tell Him than how awesome He is, and how we trust Him.

In alignment with praying, I think that worship (all kinds of worship!) can be prayer, also. Taking the sacrament is an act of prayer, communicating with God, a covenantal practice. Musical worship can be prayer; the words and melodies sung and played are indeed a prayer, especially when we know we need to connect with God but don’t necessarily have the words we desire to say.  I love James 5:13 – “Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise.” Prayer and praise often go hand in hand. Don’t just pray when you need something (I’m talking to myself, here!) but also pray when you are happy, pray when you are sad, mad, glad, tired, and full of joy. Pray without ceasing, depend fully and always on the Lord.

For me, to pray without ceasing is an act of submitting my will, my words, my actions to Him. This is me saying, “Lord, I can’t do this (anything!) without You.” I know I’m flawed, I’m a sinner, I need and desire His grace and mercy. As in Psalm 40: Come Lord, and pull me out of the muck and the mire; set my feet on solid ground.

Light in the Darkness

This morning, as I started to read my devotional and get into the Word, I realized there was a common theme of my study today. Doubtless, it’s a common theme throughout the Bible in general, but it seemed like today in particular I was being bathed in the concept of “light”.

The two scriptures that I wrote out in my journal (above, and yes, please excuse my writing mistakes, ha!) are two that I’ve heard before. They are familiar, and sometimes that means they get a little stale… not because they lose their meaning, but because we get desensitized to their power. So today, as I read them anew, I prayed to not be desensitized to the Word of God.

The Bible has innumerable passages about light. Some are just brief mentions, some mean “light” in the natural (sunlight, moonlight, firelight) and some mean “light” in a spiritual sense. Here, and in most cases, Isaiah refers to Jesus… Jesus has come. He is our light. He appears over you in His glory. I love that the heading for Isaiah chapter 60 is “The Glory of Zion”. Metaphorically speaking, the glory of God in the man Jesus has come to earth to bring healing and hope and LIGHT.

I always love the tension between light and darkness in verses like this. Darkness cannot exist where there is light. It is IMPOSSIBLE. Where there is a light, especially a light as bright as Jesus, there can be no true darkness. There are shadows, but no impenetrable darkness. Moving forward to John 1:5, I love the different words that are used in the second half. “The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not overcome it.” That’s the most common word, but in some other translations (overcome was in my ESV) we see comprehended, understood, apprehended, and extinguished. This light, the light that  shines straight into our own personal darkness, and also the same light that shines into the darkness that seems to run rampant in our world, that light cannot be understood, or fought, or dampened, or extinguished. Put simply, that light won’t be put out. It will triumph over the darkness. It has already done so!

One last little piece that was a huge encouragement to me was Isaiah 60:3: Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn. My prayer and the prayer of many fellow Christians is that our world leaders would be leading in a God-glorifying way. That they would love as Jesus loved. That they would come to the light, and the brightness of His dawn. Isaiah was a prophet. He speaks words that are coming true and have already come true. We pray for our leaders to be in tune with how God is leading them, changing them, and shepherding them. We cannot possibly know or understand God’s will and the way He works, and this discourages some. But take heart: His light permeates the darkness, it won’t be extinguished, and He is already playing out the victory that He has won. He’s been working on this since the beginning of time! Trust Him to see it through.

Isaiah 9:1-7 (ESV)
But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations. 
The people who walked in darkness
    have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
    on them has light shone.
You have multiplied the nation;
    you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you
    as with joy at the harvest,
    as they are glad when they divide the spoil.
For the yoke of his burden,
    and the staff for his shoulder,
    the rod of his oppressor,
    you have broken as on the day of Midian.
For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult
    and every garment rolled in blood
    will be burned as fuel for the fire.
For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon[d] his shoulder,
    and his name shall be called[e]
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace
    there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
    to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
    from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.

From the Manger to the Cross


Oh, how the first Sunday of advent prepares my heart for Christmas. Today is a day of celebrating, and also a day of being intentional about turning our hearts to the manger to await the coming of our King.

To turn my heart away from decorations and gift-buying can sometimes be hard. Often, getting caught up in Black Friday sales and locating the perfect decor for the unfestive corner of my home take precedence after Thanksgiving. Because t this morning, my pastor likened Thanksgiving and Christmas to s kind of homecoming. We typically gather with our families or even travel to our (former? forever?) homes to be with those we love. He nudged us to apply this sense of “homecoming” to the Christian life. A homecoming not for physical things, but coming home to the eternal love of a Father, the spirit of loving, giving no and worshiping a King who has sacrificed everything to bring us home.

We are reminded as Christians, especially during the Christmas and Easter seasons that we are only in a temporary home. This world is not our forever home, and we should never forget that. The home we look forward to joining is the perfect place to spend eternity, together with the saints and our Jesus in heaven. We have been adopted into the most prestigious, loving and healthy family there is, assigning us to a feast table beyond our wildest imaginations. We are accepted and loved and made whole in this familial identity. We have indeed found our worth in the sacrifice that was made on our behalf.

So as you enter Advent, turning your heart to the manger, don’t forget that the manger leads to the cross. We are on this journey together, pointing to the same destination in a few months’ time. This anticipation of the arrival of our King leads to His death, but also His resurrection, the mind-blowing realization that He has done the work to keep us His and whole and bring us home.