Monday, April 27, 2015

Baby in a Ball Pit . . . and 4 More April Smiles!

April has been such a splendid gift, hasn't it?  Warm sunshine-laden air flowing back into our lives, creation blooming in the oddest places, plenty of reasons to laugh out loud.

And as busy as it's been around here, these weeks have proven to be an overflowing source of gratitude.

. . . baby in a ball pit

Celebrating Easter in the church's ball pit
So many of you have asked how Tyler's doing since I introduced him to you a couple of months ago!  Despite a few hospital visits {including one unexpected helicopter ride}, he's pretty much at home doing life with the gang and bringing joy wherever he goes.  If you missed big sister Kate's 'welcome to our family' video {or you want to catch the post again}, it's right here.  Get your Kleenex and turn up the volume.

And keep praying.  Please?


. . . going back to elementary school

Hall passes await in the music room
Don't you love these fun little hall passes?  Sure beats the scraps of paper we toted back in the day.

We did one Grandparents Day last fall and ventured into yet another foray into the school system just a few weeks back.  Kinda cool to perch in little plastic chairs while stringing beads and building words with wooden squares with eager little ones who are crazed with excitement at your presence.

Or sitting through a computer lab session and quickly realizing with awe that your 2nd grader knows way more about maneuvering around a keyboard than you'll ever hope to.


. . . playing personal shopper

Christmas Tree Shop bargains
I've had a ball pushing carts around a bunch of stores for my mom and for my youngest daughter, both who have been pretty much tied to the house in recent months.  What could be more fun than spending someone else's $ as you choose just the perfect kids' spring clothes, text back and forth weighing the pros and cons of wrapping paper, and scoop up boxes of pretty notecards and individually wrapped tea bags?

Sure beats opening your own wallet!


. . . joanna's story


video

I just love HGTV's Fixer Upper ... we watch it whenever we can.  Wouldn't it be just awesome if Joanna {and Chip!} dropped in at your place and re-did it even just a bit?  One can only imagine. 

If you're a fan, then you'll appreciate this peek into Joanna's soul, her walk with Christ, and her choice to trust Him with her great big dreams.

Good stuff.  Real good.


. . . #75

Bob & Dot celebrating his 75th
Together, we've kicked off a local Celebrate Recovery, co-founded Creekside Ministries, facilitated groups for single parents, and joined forces as a marriage counseling team.  For 13 years, this wise and kind servant of God has been patient with my rantings and occasional moody moments, and has enthusiastically championed my work, opening numerous doors to counsel, teach, lead, and write.

We all celebrated yet another milestone this past weekend with our faithful pastor, dear friend, and my partner in ministry.  Without a doubt I wouldn't be where I am spiritually and professionally without his encouragement and guidance.

{If you want some of Bob's meaty blog posts, they're right here.}  

And his gentle, lovely wife, Dot?  Back in 2007 she said 'yes' to releasing the whole lower half of her home to become Creekside's beautiful home base.  She happily 'lives above the store,' graciously allowing countless women and men to make themselves at home in this safe haven of counseling center and house church.

To say I'm grateful for this wonderful couple {who've been married 53 years!} would be a vast understatement.  Heaps of birthday blessings, Bob.  And deepest thanks, dear Dottie.


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And on that happy note, I'm stepping away from the keyboard for a few weeks.  
If you subscribe, you'll be one of the first to know I'm back on board.  I'd like that!

A few top-shelf shareworthy reads are on the sidebar.

Enjoy ... and I'll see ya' later!

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doing life with
Kelly  .  Mary  .  Holley  .  Lyli  .  Leigh  .  Emily

Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Unexpected Gift of Contradictions


'The many contradictions in our lives - such as being home while feeling homeless, being busy while feeling bored, being popular while feeling lonely, being believers while feeling many doubts - can frustrate, irritate, and even discourage us.  


They make us feel that we are never fully present.


Every door that opens for us makes us see how many more doors are closed.


But there is another response.


These same contradictions can bring us into touch with a deeper longing, for the fulfillment of a desire that lives beneath all desires and that only God can satisfy.


Contradictions, thus understood, create the friction that can help us move toward God.'
~ Henri Nouwen

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Don't you just love how God can flip our circumstances, our trials, our fears, our failures into something that's absolutely out of this world?

Only the Only Wise One can shake things up so that darkness fades to light, sorrow cascades into joy, apprehension morphs into a holy anticipation.

He has a sacred way of shaping what could have been a disaster into a radiant treasure.

And it's those unexpected gifts, those compelling invitations, that catch us off guard ... and then cause us to smile and nod our heads as we peer through the glass darkly and recognize, once again, His powerful Spirit drawing us closer, closer to Himself.

The thorn becomes the sweetest gift.

The burden draws us to His tender heart.

This, the unexpected gift of contradictions.






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'Every good and perfect gift is from above, 
coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, 
who does not change like shifting shadows'
James 1:17.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Dear Linda : : My Daughter Has Left Us

Dear Linda,

I have been a Christian for most of my life and believe that God answers prayer, even if the answer is not what I want.  

My daughter has been estranged from our family for over 5 years.  We have not seen her or heard from her.  I have prayed for her and for our broken relationship to be repaired.

I ask God to help me accept the situation and give me His peace, but it hasn't happened.

Am I praying the wrong way?

Heartbroken 

/     /     /     /

Dear Heartbroken ~

I am so sorry for the loss of your daughter.  I assure you that there is no wrong way to pray, that God hears our hearts even when our cries are wordless.  Jesus knew the pain of broken relationships.  He grieves with you.  Yes, He does.

There is so little to say that wouldn't sound trite or simplistic in the face of your daughter's choice to walk away.  A few thoughts that may offer you some comfort ...

>   an unmailed letter 
Sometimes writing a letter to the one who has caused such pain can be a huge release.  Find yourself a stack of loose leaf paper, a quiet place, a big box of tissues, and give yourself a good chunk of time.

Share your happiest memories and spell out all the reasons you love her.  Talk about the dreams you had for your future as a family.  Confess any mistakes you've made and ask her for forgiveness.

And then write about all the ways she has hurt you and your family by her choices.  Spell it out in detail.  Let it fly.  Uncensored.  All of it.

And then the hard part.

Tell her that you're sick and tired of the grief and are done trying to understand or fix or even accept the situation.  And that you're releasing her into God's care.

This is excruciating.  But it also can be very freeing.

Don't mail this.  Have a little burning ceremony outside or put it through the shredder.  If it would help, invite a loved one to be there with you for support.  And then go and do something good for yourself.


>   the prayer that never fails
In Jan Karon's delightful fictional Mitford series, Father Tim often prays the prayer that never fails, 'Thy will be done.'  Prayed with hands lifted high, these four words of Jesus are truly freeing, because we release our expectations and hopes and grief up to Him and allow Him to do what He does best ... be the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort.


>   a quick release
Every time your daughter wanders through your heart or crosses your mind, choose to show yourself grace and release her immediately back up to God.  Refuse to allow endless scenarios to play in your mind.  Refuse to beat yourself up with regrets and woulda / coulda / shouldas.

Like Abraham, you're laying your Isaac on the altar.  This, your living sacrifice, might be the hardest task you'll ever face.  You might never know why you've had to live with such heartache.  But somehow, by His unyielding grace, His presence can be enough.  He promises that His power is made perfect in your weakness.

And when we are weak and grieving and weary, He is strong.


>   discovering the invitation
God is always inviting us to something deeper, stronger, more substantial.  'What are You inviting me to in the middle of this, Lord?' is a continued prayer that just might begin to turn the corner for you.

Please know that I'm praying  ~






/     /     /

Would you please leave an encouraging word for Heartbroken?

And if you'd leave a question for me, 
I'll do my best to respond in a future Dear Linda post.

Or you can email me

/     /


/

visiting with 
Kelly  .  Mary  .  Holley  .  Lyli

Friday, April 17, 2015

In Which I Want No Grass Growing Under My Feet



'Don't lose a minute in building on what you've been given, complementing your basic faith with 

good character


spiritual understanding

alert discipline

passionate patience

reverent wonder

warm friendliness

generous love

each dimension fitting into and developing the others.

With these qualities active and growing in your lives, no grass will grow under your feet, no day will pass without its reward as you mature in your experience of our Master Jesus.'
~   2 Peter 1 {The Message}   ~

    *    *    *

And yes, while I can't wait for the earthly soil to burst forth with all things lush and green and new, in my spiritual life I'm embracing Peter's words on the growing grass thing.  For I don't want my faith stagnant.  

Unmoving.  Lazy.  Or half asleep at the wheel.

I want to stay gently cradled in the protective loving arms of the Heavenly Father, listening deep for the sweet Spirit's still, small voice, discerning His will and direction, and answering 'please, yes, please' to whatever He beckons.

I never ever want to live a blah complacently lukewarm faith.  

I want that love for Christ growing.  Vibrant.  Springing wide open, overflowing up and out like a sparkling fountain that cascades life-giving streams.  

He must increase.  I must decrease.

I yearn to venture deeper in adoration of my Savior.  And keep moving forward at His command.

No grass growing.

You, too?

Let's do the iron sharpening iron thing and encourage one another daily, ok?  

Sabbath blessings, friend ...


P.S.  There's always some good stuff at From Hither & Yon on the sidebar ... 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

3 Cherished Little Guidebooks

Devotions.

That sacred little quiet time with God has gotten a bad rap along the way.  Instead of a winsome invitation from the Lover of our souls that woos us deeper into His arms of grace and mercy, it's too often morphed into a heavy, cumbersome discipline that we run from.

For many of us, it's become a guilt-induced labor filled with shoulds and oughts instead of a sweet respite, a nest of solitude and silence that overflows with delight and strength-giving power.

Truth be told, we've all struggled with creating those sacred minutes that impact us at the soul level.  I don't know a single person who's arrived and is fully satisfied with how they connect with the One that loves them best.  

Sometimes a new little guidebook or a fresh translation of the Bible, a crisp-paged journal or figuring out a better time / location can make a world of difference.

A few weeks back, I scooped up a few of the devotional books I've collected over the years and snapped this photo.




I love these little guidebooks that have been gathered along the way.

But my all time favorites?  Probably these three.

Bread for the Journey: A Daybook of Wisdom and Faith ~ Henri Nouwen
Just a few paragraphs speak so deeply into your soul that you're kind of left in awe.  That's who Nouwen was, that's what this book offers.  Spending a quiet minute at his site has become a bit of a sacred breath in my morning online routine ...

'The table is one of the most intimate places in our lives. It is there that we give ourselves to one another.  When we say, 'Take some more, let me serve you another plate, let me pour you another glass, don't be shy, enjoy it,' we say a lot more than our words express.  We invite our friends to become part of our lives.  We want them to be nurtured by the same food and drink that nurture us.  We desire communion . . . Every breakfast, lunch, or dinner can become a time of growing communion with one another.'


Jesus Calling: Enjoying Peace in His Presence ~ Sarah Young
I often read one of Sarah's offerings to a client at the end of a difficult counseling session when we've gone deep and unearthed pain.  She often can't believe that the words weren't written just for her, for they speak peace and hope to her weary heart.

And now the book is not only at my office, but also on my desk at home in the form of one of those perpetual calendars which keeps me company when my computer's dragging its feet getting where I want it to go.

'Talk with Me about every aspect of your day, including your feelings.  Remember that your ultimate goal is not to control or fix everything around you; it is to keep communing with me.  A successful day is one in which you have stayed in touch with Me, even if many things remain undone at the end of the day.  Do not let your to-do list {written or mental} become an idol directing your life.  Instead, ask My Spirit to guide you moment by moment.  He will keep you close to Me.'


One Thousand Gifts Devotional: Reflections on Finding Everyday Graces ~ Ann Voskamp
Ann's original 1000 Gifts book changed my life upside down, propelling me into a gratitude focused mindset that slowly but surely impacted the dailyness of my life.

If you loved the book, the devotional will take you back to that place where gratitude abounds, even in the midst of the ugliest or saddest of circumstances.  I just finished it last week and I've already started paging through once more.  It's that good.

'It is the astonishing truth that while I serve Christ, it is He who serves me.  Jesus Christ still lives with a towel around His waist, bent in service to His people ... in service to me as I serve, that I need never serve in my own strength ... He calls us to serve, and it is Him who we serve, but He, very God, kneels down to serve as we serve.  Spend the whole of your wild and beautiful life investing in many lives, and God simply will not be outdone.  God extravagantly pays back everything we give away and exactly in the currency that is not of this world but of the one we yearn for - joy in Him.'


Let's talk about the devotional books you cherish



your struggles with a quiet time

&

and rewards of those nestling-with-God experiences



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Wednesday, April 8, 2015

6 Graces . . . for when we are our own harshest taskmasters

Sometimes we're just too hard on ourselves, ya' know?  If we can't blast into full throttle mode on any given task, we just throw up our hands, wander off, and do nothing at all.  

Maybe sulk in the corner.  

Pout.  

Or have a bit of a pity party.

Half-truths and downright lies about who we are whisper their familiar refrain somewhere deep.  The enemy of our soul's an excellent marksman, his poisoned arrows piercing right where it hurts most.  After awhile we define ourselves by our imperfections and flaws, screw-ups and sins, with a list of coulda / woulda / shoulda's draping themselves around our defeated shoulders like a heavy, immobilizing wet blanket.  

Slowly but surely, we feel 'less than.'  

Or like we're never enough.   

We begin to define ourselves by what we don't accomplish instead of who we are in Jesus Christ.  And after awhile, when life throws us even the simplest of curve balls we throw up our hands in defeat instead of figuring out what a Plan B grace might look like.

What grace responses can we choose?




6 scenarios

&

some options we can choose

&

some helpful, practical links to take us there

1.   The house desperately needs a heavy-duty spring cleaning, just like grandma used to do.  Windows, curtains, linens, shelves, floors, every nook and cranny stripped bare and scrubbed to a spotless shine.  Any less just won't do.  It's all just too much to even comprehend.

Exhausted at the prospect, we drag ourselves half-heartedly through a few tasks before deciding to call it quits for yet another season.

OR a Plan B Grace Response . . .

Not up for an all-out cleaning frenzy, we choose to crank up the music, set the timer, and do a bit of a spruce up for 15 minutes.  Amazed at what we've accomplished, we decide to do it again in a couple of days!  



2.   Walking at least 2 miles every day is on the unspoken yet rigid agenda.  It's sprinkling out and we'll get soaking wet if we venture that far.

Playing the martyr just a bit, we stay in and figure we'll head out some day when it's not too cloudy or wet or windy or cold or muggy.

OR a Plan B Grace Response . . .

We choose to pull the sweatshirt hood over our heads, shrug off the raindrops, and head out for just a short hike instead.  We return home surprised that it wasn't so bad after all!



3.   Self-appointed experts or some kind of internal blog police strongly urge a great big online masterpiece penned each week.  But we're swamped or life is going in a new direction or the creative well is bone dry.

Frustrated at these expectations, we force ourselves to write anyway ... and our words end up lifeless and dead.

OR a Plan B Grace Response . . . 

We choose to pick up our pens when we're really excited about what we have to say!

Here's 4 cool steps to get those creative juices flowing again.


4.   We've finally started on a great big diet, and we've committed ourselves to lose 10 pounds.  But then someone offers us a few goodies straight from the oven, and we end up gorging ourselves..

Disgusted, we throw in the towel and grab another handful.  The diet wasn't working anyway.

OR a Plan B Grace Response . . .

We choose to encourage ourselves to eliminate that restrictive word 'diet' from our vocabulary.  And then switch gears and begin to eat healthy once again!



5.   We believe that we must spend at least an hour each morning having devotions or we're bad Christians.  When we can't live up to that standard, regular devotional times soon become a vague memory.

Guilt-ridden but not necessarily convicted, we're sure God's mad at us.

OR a Plan B Grace Response . . .

We choose to consider a devotional time to be an invitation from God's loving heart, not a strict discipline that hangs over our heads like an ominous sword!



6.   The dining table has become a convenient place to stack piles of random stuff because it's been eons since we invited guests over for a meal.  We feel disconnected and wonder why no one's giving us a call.

Hurt, we figure no one would want to come over anyway.

OR a Plan B Grace Response . . .

Feeling a bit lonesome, we choose to call a friend and meet at Panera's for afternoon coffee in the comfy red chairs by the window!


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We've been called to love our neighbors as ourselves.

If we can't cut ourselves a break, if we refuse to ratchet down our endless, often unrealistic expectations, how can we expect to show grace to others?

May we be able to look in the mirror and allow the Lord to lavish that deeply needed grace to the precious soul who stares back at us.






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Connecting with Kelly  .  Mary  .  Holley  .  Lyli
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