Tuesday, March 10, 2015

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” ~ Psalm 46:1

I don't know about you, but I struggle with expressing my feelings. Sometimes I keep too much inside until it overflows and is more than I or anyone else can reasonably handle. Sometimes I worry that expressing how I really feel will cause rejection or hurt. Sometimes I think that my feelings don't matter or that ultimately there's no reason to express them. Sometimes I think that it's wrong to give in to my pain, that I should be able to triumph over it, that in comparison to others, I should just get over my shallow or petty feelings. Sometimes I realize that it's okay to feel what I feel and even express what I feel...but this doesn't tend to happen as often.

While I'm more than willing to listen to someone else express their feelings and would never make them feel bad or wrong to express them - I don't do the same for myself. I have all the patience, encouragement, empathy and love for my friends and family, but I tell myself to hold back or to get over it or to pretend that everything is okay when it's really not. Do you ever struggle with that? I hope it's not just me.

“There’s no ‘should’ or ‘should not’ when it comes to having feelings. They’re part of who we are and their origins are beyond our control. When we can believe that, we may find it easier to make constructive choices about what to do with those feelings.” ~ Mister Rogers

Oh, how I love Mister Rogers! I know he's known for working with and speaking to children, but aren't we all just children at heart? I know that anytime I read his words I feel so understood, so encouraged, so loved. I think he helps me to feel brave.

“I have always called talking about feelings ‘important talk.’ Knowing that our feelings are natural and normal for all of us can make it easier for us to share them with one another.” ~ Mister Rogers

In my head, I know we have every right to our feelings. We really can't control how we feel, however, we can always control how we act or react. And I know it isn't wrong to share our feelings with others - if they've hurt us or scared us, if we're worried or stressed, if we feel anger or sadness. Sometimes it's good to wait until our feelings no longer overwhelm us, but other times the only way we can be truly honest is in the midst of our strong feelings. I don't always do this because I worry so much about saying or doing something hurtful or cruel or that I don't really mean. But I have also had experiences with being able to share my raw honest feelings, and the end result was so much better than I could have ever imagined.

“It’s good to talk about things that make you feel uncomfortable. Getting them out gives you a lot of freedom. It allows you to move around inside your life and get comfortable.” ~ Robin Jones Gunn

I hate to be uncomfortable. I hate to feel awkward. I dislike confrontation and never want to argue. But life is full of uncomfortable, awkward confrontations and arguments are bound to happen. But if I'm too afraid to express myself, to be real and honest with people - especially the people I love who love me too - then our relationships can never deepen and grow and become all they can be. This of course comes back to fear - fear of being the "only one," fear of being rejected, fear of being hurt, fear of being different, fear of people's opinions and so many other fears. I know I'm not supposed to live in fear, I know that God call us to a life of community with others and especially with Him, I know these things...but I struggle. We all struggle.

“Whenever I’m afraid, I will trust in [God]” ~ Psalm 56:3

Last year, when I was reading through my Bible I fell in love with Psalms. For many reasons, this book was such an encouragement and balm to my hurting soul. I got so many encouraging, joyful, and soul-strengthening promises to cling to and I was reminded that God created us and He created us with a full range of emotions. And it's okay to feel all of those emotions, and to express all of those emotions. The Psalms reminded me that, like David, I can swing from the highest heights of love and peace in Him, to the deepest depths of sorrow and anguish and pain, to the burning furies of anger and resentment and desire for our enemies to suffer. The key is to bring it all to God, to share our joys and pains and anger with Him. To allow Him to remind us of His promises, to soothe our hurts, to lessen our anger, to share our joy. He just wants us to be honest with Him.

“Anything that’s human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable. When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary. The people we trust with that important talk can help us know that we’re not alone.” 
~ Mister Rogers

The people that God brings into our lives are also a way we can safely express those feelings and emotions. When we are able to be honest and real with others, we begin to see that we aren't alone, we aren't the "only one" and that by being in community we can be reminded of God's promises when we might not be able to remember them on our own. I'm so incredibly grateful for the very special family and friends that God has blessed me with because I have learned so much about myself, about community and most importantly, about God by these relationships and the trust and love found in them.

“Those of us who are strong and able in the faith need to step in and lend a hand to those who falter, and not just do what is most convenient for us. Strength is for service, not status. Each one of us needs to look after the good of the people around us, asking ourselves, “How can I help?”
~ Romans 15:1-2

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially those who belong to the family of believers.” ~ Galatians 6:9-10

I'm so thankful for the people who have stepped in to my life to encourage me, to support me, to remind me of the promises of God and the ways that He has worked in their lives and in my life. And I'm thankful for the blessing it can be to be that person to someone who is struggling, who needs encouragement and strength in their time of struggle. God works in so many mysterious ways, and one of those is the beauty of how He brings lives together. How wonderful that we aren't all struggling at the same time or even joyful at the same time...because we are always in flux, there is always someone we can encourage in the faith and thankfully someone who can encourage us in the faith.

“Maybe life’s pretty good for you right now. God has given you this good stuff so that you can show the world a person who enjoys blessings, but who still is totally obsessed with God. Or maybe life is tough right now, and everything feels like a struggle. God has allowed hard things in your life so you can show the world that your God is great and knowing Him brings peace and joy, even when life is hard.” ~ Francis Chan


This isn't to say that we can't feel alone. This is definitely something that I think we all struggle with one way or another. But even when we don't feel Him, God is always there with us. He will never leave us or forsake us, but that doesn't mean we can't "feel" alone. I can't say that I know any solutions or perfect ways to deal with this, but what I do know and what I have to cling to is that we are never truly alone. God is always there and the more we turn to Him and cling to Him and are honest with Him, the better off we are. It won't necessarily solve the pain and hurt, but it's a start and God won't leave us unfinished.

“Friends, when life gets really difficult, don’t jump to the conclusion that God isn’t on the job. Instead, be glad that you are in the very thick of what Christ experienced. This is a spiritual refining process, with glory just around the corner.” ~ 1 Peter 4:12-13

“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

One of my goals this year is to be mindful of my relationships. To make time to keep in touch. To find ways to spend time together. To reach out. One of the ways to do this is to send cards. Another is to set phone dates with those who live too far away to get together. Or find the finances to visit those who live far away. To have lunch or dinner with those who live close by. To pay attention. To pray more and reach out to those who might be hurting. Something a little bit harder for me is to be more open about my thoughts and feelings - to be more real and honest, to take a risk and be brave, to not be afraid to be who I am even if it might lead to loss or rejection or hurt. Another thing that I struggle with is wanting to be able to fix things, to always have an answer, to take away someone's hurt and pain. But I can't do this, and often even if I might have some answers, it may be better to just be. I love this quote from one of my favorite theologians - it speaks to my heart and encourages me to be this for those I love and appreciate this about the ones who love me.

When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand.  The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.  ~Henri Nouwen

I think that part of the beauty of this quote is that this is often what God does for us - He shares our pain, touches our wounds with His nail-scarred hands, He sits silently in our despair and confusion, stays with us through our grief and bereavement, but (and this is one of those glorious life-changing buts) He is powerful, He does know and He can heal. He is the best friend we will ever have and His love for us never changes even when we cycle through the full range of emotions that He has given us. He can handle our rage and pain, He can handle our hurt and confusion, and He loves to share our joy and wonder. When I think about feelings in this way, it makes me wonder why I struggle so much. But I know that even when I struggle, He is there and He understands and He will get me through it. God is good all the time and the feelings He created in us and not something to be afraid of, but something we should always feel comfortable sharing with Him. And like Mister Rogers says, "When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary."

Dear heavenly Father, thank You for creating feelings and allowing us the opportunity to feel such an amazing range of emotions. Help us to come to You with our fears and hurts and joys, and know that we aren't alone. Help us to “Be completely humble and gentle: be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:2-3) Help us to remember that even when we are hurt, it doesn't give us reason to lash out. Help us to remember that when we are in pain, to seek comfort and peace with You. Help us to remember to thank You for the joys and beauty in the world around us. Thank You God for always being there for us and for providing people in our lives to help encourage us in our faith. Thank You for loving us. We love you too. Amen.

Monday, January 26, 2015

“I love you, O Lord, my strength.” ~ Psalm 18:1

I've been trying to write this post for about two weeks. I know what I want to write about. I've pulled together a list of quotes and verses that fit my theme. I've started to write several times and thought about writing even more times. But I keep stopping. Although I can't tell you for certain that I know the reasons for sure, it likely has to do with the fact that I want to talk about being brave. And I'm struggling to feel brave enough to talk about it. Crazy, but it makes sense, right?

I've lived most of my life pretty safely. I prefer to be liked, I like to please others, I don't like to cause drama or conflict, I try to be the good girl, I want to make everyone else happy. That's not to say I haven't made some brave choices. I knew God was calling me to go on the 10:10 mission trip and even though it was hugely outside my comfort zone, I went. I was brave that summer....brave enough to leave my family for 8 weeks, brave enough to be surrounded by 19 strangers, brave enough to sing and act in front of even more strangers again and again, brave enough to trust God in so many small and huge ways.

"Sometimes you have to leave what you know to find out what you know." ~ Matthew McConaughey

I read this quote recently in an article about this actor and even though he isn't one I'd think of for wisdom this quote really resonated with me, especially in regards to my 10:10 summer. Prior to going on that summer mission, I thought I wanted to go away for college and I was pondering places like Hawaii, Chicago, Oregon, etc. I'm so incredibly grateful that I had those 8 weeks away which helped clarify for me that I am not meant to be far away from my family and friends. I truly had to leave what I knew to find out what I knew in my heart.

I feel like I'm still kind of shying away from writing about being brave. I live too much in fear...of what people might say, or do...or how it might affect how I'm perceived...or if it might cause conflict or drama. I don't really want to be like this. I know in my head that it's okay to have opinions and feelings and I should feel able to express them...but too many times I just don't. I defer to what others might want instead or pretend that I have no opinion when I really do. I know this isn't good and that my friends and family would prefer my honesty...and yet I still struggle. But I want to be brave. In big ways and little ways. In ways that matter and in ways that don't really matter to anyone.

"I was a good girl and I wanted to be a good girl, but it often kept me from saying what I really meant. In fact, my desire to be good even kept me from exploring my own opinion, and I grew up to believe that my opinion didn’t actually matter much anyway. I avoided vulnerability for fear of being rejected or being labeled needy. Good girls aren’t needy, they are needed. And so instead of living free, I lived safe.”
~ Emily Freeman

I want to step outside of the mask I all too often hide behind. But again...fear creeps in. I know I shouldn't be afraid. I know that ultimately many little choices are not the huge life-changers I imagine them to be and usually people aren't nearly as concerned with my decisions as I think they are. It has a lot to do with my desire to avoid attention, and the fear that certain choices will bring unwanted attention and that scares me.

“I don’t know if you have ever experienced the suffocating confinement of others’ expectations on your life, but it is a very difficult burden to bear. Whether it is a woman shedding the expectations of her parents to become a physician and answering the call to the mission field…or a woman resisting expectations of traditional roles to attend seminary and study theology…putting aside the expectations of others to do what God calls you to do can be difficult.” ~ Sharon Jaynes

“I was in trouble, so I called to the LORD. The LORD answered me and set me free. I will not be afraid, because the LORD is with me. People can’t do anything to me. The LORD is with me to help me, so I will see my enemies defeated. It is better to trust the LORD than to trust people. It is better to trust the LORD than to trust princes.” ~ Psalm 118:5-9

But God has been working on this in me. I didn't see it at first because I thought it was about simply growing deeper in my relationship with Him. But I'm beginning to see that this journey He's had me on for the past few years is not only about deepening my knowledge and faith, but also about being brave. About saying what I think and believe, in spite of other people's opinions and what they might think of me. Standing up for what I believed wasn't about rebelling, but it caused certain people to see me as rebellious, as the "black sheep", as someone whose heart was in the wrong place. That wasn't true though! What I learned was that I was seeking God's desire for my life, for my heart...and standing firm in what I believed made me stronger in my faith and made me brave.

“Don’t be afraid, my people. Be glad now and rejoice, for the LORD has done great things.” ~ Joel 2:21

“Don’t worry. Lay your hand in His hand. You will be safe, even if life today feels like crossing a bridge without parapets over wild rushing water.” ~ Corrie ten Boom

I still struggle with that fear though. Fear about sharing what I've learned in this journey because some people might not understand or might judge me for the decisions I've made. I struggle sometimes with writing this blog and sharing my thoughts and feelings. I struggle with how real to be and how open about my journey I should be. I wonder who might read it and whether or not there might be repercussions. I can see God's work in my life and I can see His hand guiding this journey and I do trust deep in my heart that He is leading my path. And yet, the fear comes back time and again.

“One night before dinner, we decided to ride on one of the horse-drawn carriages through Central Park. As soon as I got into that carriage, the first thing I did was plop my heavy bag onto the seat next to me. I never once considered keeping that bag strapped to my shoulder for the ride. I never once thought of carrying the bag myself so the horse wouldn’t have to. That would be a weird and crazy thing to do. The amount of crazy it would take for a girl on a carriage ride to keep the bag strapped to her shoulder is equal to the amount of crazy I am when I refuse to trust the Lord to handle my worries.” ~ Emily Freeman

In good moments, I know that trusting God is the key. I know that He is in control and that all will work out according to His plans. When I talk to others and give advice or prayers, it's so much easier to have faith for them. I have such faith when it comes to others and what I know God can and will do. I just have to remind myself that the same God who is able to provide for them, also provides for me and is always there. I know this...but my heart forgets all too easily.

“Don’t be afraid, for you are very precious to God. Peace! Be encouraged! Be strong!” ~ Daniel 10:19a

“I’m proud of you for times you wrestled with your problems and discovered how much that helped you to grow.” ~ Mister Rogers

Going through these past few years has been a struggle. I've really had to wrestle with what I believe and why I believe. I've had to stand up, stand out, and be willing to not be liked. I've had to grieve and cry and be angry. I've read a lot, studied a lot, prayed a lot, cried a lot, talked a lot. I've begun to see the world a little differently, see my life and my choices a little differently, and see God and the Bible and the church a little differently. I've made new friends, deepened relationships with other friends and lost some friends. I'm starting to see new opportunities and one of those is about trying to be brave. Trying to step outside my comfort zone and try new things, speak out about my opinions and realize that it's okay to share my thoughts and it doesn't have to be as big a deal as I might imagine it to be.

“God has not given us a spirit of fear but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” ~ 2 Timothy 1:7

I'm not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don't get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I've got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. ~ Philippians 3:12-14

One of the ways I'm going to be brave this year is singing. My dear friend asked me to sing at her wedding. When she asked I was afraid...I don't like being in front of people. But I love my friend, and it meant so much to me to be asked to be a special part of her wedding so I said yes. Am I afraid to be in front of people, yes. But I know I can do this...she trusts me to do this, God has gifted me with a good voice that allows me to do this. I want to do this because it is a special gift I can provide for someone I love. But I have to be brave...and I know God will help me do this.

“The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid?” ~ Psalm 27:1

I'm sure there will be other opportunities to be brave this year and in the future. I want to try to accept them with a sense of adventure and purpose, rather than a sense of fear and dread. I won't always succeed, but I want to try. It can even be little things. Like I was always afraid of jalapenos...thought they were too spicy and I avoided them. But in the past few months I discovered that I love them. Like really LOVE them! My new favorite pizza is pepperoni and jalapeno. It may seem silly and not that brave...but to me, it's one more step in making the brave choice. And it turned out so well since they are soooo delicious!

As Your love, in wave after wave
Crashes over me, crashes over me
For You are for us
You are not against us
Champion of Heaven
You made a way for all to enter in

You make me brave
You make me brave
You call me out beyond the shore into the waves
You make me brave
You make me brave
No fear can hinder now the promises you made
You make me brave
You make me brave
No fear can hinder now the love that made a way
~ Amanda Cook, Bethel Music

My mentor Shauna shared this song on Facebook a few weeks ago. She too is wanting to be more brave (one more thing we have in common) and I told her it was meant for me as well. I spend much more of my life being afraid than I should. While some fears can be healthy, in general I tend to have more fears relating to fear of letting go, fear of not being in control, fear of people's opinions, and fears of being rejected or disliked. Those aren't healthy fears and while I don't expect to change overnight, I want to make an effort to go outside my comfort zones and be brave. This is scary, but I need to try and any encouragement would be VERY appreciated.

Dear heavenly Father, I want to be more brave and I feel You calling me to step out in faith. Please help me to trust You and depend on You and know that I don't have to fear the opinion of anyone. That all I need to do is focus my mind and thoughts and actions on You. Help me to be bold in my life and not be afraid to take chances that You place in my life. To try new things and not live my life in fear. Please give me wisdom to know the right choices to make, and the wisdom to know when it isn't that big a deal and there isn't just one right answer. Help me to be brave, and help me to have the kind of faith I have for others. Help me to be an encouragement and support to those people You place in my life and not do anything to hurt or discourage them. Continue to lead me along this journey You have for me and help me to be open to wherever You might lead. Thank You for loving us...I love you too. Amen.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

“The LORD will fulfill His purpose for me.” ~ Psalm 138:8

“They have been two terrible years – and yet I have a queer feeling of thankfulness for them – as if they had brought me something very precious, with all their pain. I wouldn’t want to go back and be the girl I was two years ago, not even if I could. Not that I think I’ve made any wonderful progress…I suppose I had a soul then…but I didn’t know it. I know it now – and that is worth a great deal – worth all the suffering of the past two years. And still…I don’t want to suffer any more – not even for the sake of more soul growth. At the end of two more years I might look back and be thankful for the development they had brought me, too; but I don’t want it now.” – L.M. Montgomery

Well, I finally finished reading the Anne of Green Gables series which was a goal from 2011. It took quite awhile because while I loved the books which were about Anne, I struggled a lot with the ones that focused on her children, with very little of the Anne and Gilbert I loved. The above quote is from the last book - Rilla of Ingleside - and it really resonated with me and the journey I've been on for the past two years. As I get older, the more I understand that the truly difficult things, the painful things, are the things that God uses to grow us in the biggest, most life-changing ways. And we wouldn't want to know in advance that we'd have to suffer through them, and we wouldn't choose to suffer through them again, yet we begin to understand that without those struggles we wouldn't be who we are - who God intended us to be.

“We say that we wish God would answer our prayers immediately, but I think that if He did, we’d run the other way. We need the gift of time. We need the grace of small steps.” ~ Robin Jones Gunn

“Small is how blessings, healing, progress and increase occur.”
~ Anne Lamott

“These things I plan [for your life] won’t happen right away. Slowly, steadily, surely, the time approaches when the vision will be fulfilled.  If it seems slow, wait patiently, for it will surely take place.” ~ Habakkuk 2:3

This is the time of year when we think of new beginnings. And although we might think we want big changes, generally the way things happen is slowly, steadily, surely. Small choices, adjustments, changes - these things add up and eventually we see the end result of those small things. It takes time to adjust to new things, even good things, and I'm thankful that God usually allows us to gradually become accustomed to things. It may seem unfair or too slow at the time, but often looking back we see that it was at just the right speed and just the right time. We can't see the big picture, but God can.

“Above all, trust in the slow work of God. We are quite naturally impatient in everything to reach the end without delay. We should like to skip the intermediate stages. We are impatient of being on the way to something unknown, something new…Only God could say what this new spirit gradually forming within you will be. Give our Lord the benefit of believing that his hand is leading you. And accept the anxiety of feeling yourself in suspense and incomplete.”~ Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

“Do not despise these small beginnings, for the LORD rejoices to see the work begin.” ~ Zechariah 4:10

When I look back at the past two years, it seems like time flew by, but I know that in the midst of the struggles it felt like time slowed to a snail's pace. It takes time to learn and grow and change. We stumble and fall and have to get up and try again. On of the things I've been feeling lately is that finally the true emotional toll is beginning to hit me. There is a process of grief and healing to go through. At the beginning the anger and the desire for knowledge reigned in my mind and heart and it pushed me to read through my Bible, to tackle books about theology and to really wrestle with what I believed and why. That time was very important and I learned a lot and I'm very thankful for the opportunity, even if I wasn't thankful at the beginning.

"The only possible way to have full understanding of the teachings of Jesus is through the light of the Spirit of God shining inside us. Once, the Bible was just so many words to us--'clouds and darkness'--then, suddenly, the words become spirit and life because Jesus re-speaks them to us when our circumstances make the words new." ~ Oswald Chambers

 "If you cannot express yourself well on each of your beliefs, work and study until you can. Stir your own mind thoroughly to think through what you have easily believed. Your position is not really yours until you make it yours through suffering and study. Try to state to yourself what you believe to be the absolute truth of God, and you will be allowing God the opportunity to pass it on through you to someone else."
~ Oswald Chambers

Although it feels like I've spent my whole life believing in God and knowing a lot about the Bible, it truly was like Chambers says in the first quote "from clouds and darkness to spirit and life." I can't recall another point in my life where God's Word came to life so vividly and lovingly. That alone is something I cherish and appreciate deeply. And all along this time of struggle, I've felt like there was something more - something God wanted me to do with this knowledge. Partly, this blog has been part of it - like Chambers says in the second quote "the opportunity to pass it on through [me] to someone else." But, it feels like there might be something else, but I don't think I'm there yet. I think that there is still healing and recovery to come. I do trust God to carry me through, but I'm a little worried about what that might mean and how it might come about.

“Healing is messy and fluid and often unpredictable. I can’t manufacture my own healing. It usually takes longer than I think, runs deeper that I wished, and involves more areas of my life than I ever imagined. But once I come though it on the other side, healing not only offers the closure I thought I wanted, it comes with a wholeness, wellness, and restoration that closure lacks.” ~ Emily Freeman

“The God of all grace who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” ~ 1 Peter 5:10

I'll admit it. I'm scared to go back to church. I'm worried about finding a place to feel safe. I feel overwhelmed about the need to be aware of what's being said and to have to think about it and not just blindly trust. I feel like I can't ever go back to attending church the way I used to. It means more now and that worries me. Yet, I know God is in control. I know the church is important to Him - the church is His bride, His beloved. I know it is good to be in fellowship with other believers, I miss the time of worship and praise. I want it to be easy and I feel like it can't be easy any more. Maybe I'm wrong...I'd like to be wrong...I would love to be proven wrong. But I'm afraid to try. I know I shouldn't feel that way...but I do.

“’The only exercise that works 100 percent of the time to draw one close to the real God is risk…To risk is to willingly place your life in the hand of an unseen God and an unknown future, then to watch him come through. He starts to get real when you live like that.’” ~ Jennie Allen

“God can do anything, you know – far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.” ~ Ephesians 3:20

But I have to try. I have to choose to have faith. I have to let God do what God wants to do in my life and not be afraid. I know that this journey is not over. I know there is more for me to learn. I know that I have to keep choosing each day to place my hand in God's and trust Him to carry me through. I know I'll sometimes let go and feel afraid again. But I want to choose to not give up, to take hold of His hand once again and daily trust Him. It's all I can do...it's all any of us can do.

“‘I trust God.’ …God, give us enough faith for whatever the stories of our lives will hold, even on the worst of days.” ~ Jennie Allen

“’Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty.” ~ Zechariah 4:6

“…it’s about the journey. It’s about rediscovering the parts of yourself that you never ever knew about or dreamed existed, and giving them room to grow and room to take flight…I do not fear what my future holds…I am choosing to anticipate the next great provision, whatever provision that may be.” ~ Heather George

God has a plan for me. I firmly believe that to be true. He will always be there. He will provide what I need - not necessarily what I want, but definitely what I need. I have seen Him provide in clear ways just recently. We got stuck in Cayucos last month when my car decided to stop working properly. At first, it seemed overwhelming to think we were stuck 5 hours from home - what are we supposed to do? But God provided in so many ways. We safely arrived at our vacation, we were "stuck" in our favorite place in the world, I had just begun a 2 week holiday from work and didn't need my car, we had family and friends ready and willing to come rescue us, and we had extra finances available. Thanks to a 16 hour drive by my Grandpa, we made it home safely with our car towed behind - traffic was terrible and doubled our driving time, but God consistently provided openings whenever we needed to change lanes, exit or enter the freeway and even at gas stations and restaurants for meals. We were able to enjoy Christmas and let the car sit and wait until after the holiday. Dad was able to find a transmission repair place that cost half as much as we'd been quoted in Cayucos and it was done within a week. Yes, Josh had to drive me to work and pick me up one work day, but his work schedule allows that anyways. My parents were able to cover the cost of the rebuilt transmission immediately and allow us to pay them back over the next few months - they had the space on a credit card, but God provided an extra check for just the amount needed unexpectedly. Isn't our God so amazing?!?

“Oh, dear friend, just because we don’t hear an immediate response from God does not mean He is not listening. It does not mean that He has rejected our request. It may simply mean that He just has something else in mind or wants to take us to a deeper place of understanding. He may be taking us to a place that is so good, our minds need the pause to find it. What we do see and hear of God’s working is miniscule compared to the magnificent workings we cannot see.” ~ Sharon Jaynes

“I wait for the LORD, my whole being waits, and in His word I put my hope.” ~ Psalm 130:5

 God is good...so incredibly good and I have to remember times like these for the times when He seems delayed or unresponsive. Although my head knows He sees the bigger picture that I cannot see, my heart tends to worry and stress and assume the worst. My mom has always said that is why it's so important to write down the ways God provides and read through those moments again and again and again...to remind ourselves that God provides, that God answers, that God isn't bored or lonely or disinterested or too busy or too annoyed or too anything. He's right there, knowing all, and waiting for us to simply trust Him. To rest in Him. To have faith that He is in control. That's why this year, we're going to keep a blessing jar again. We did this in 2013 and gave them as gifts to a few friends that Christmas. The idea being to write down blessings, beautiful things, moments to remember, joys, etc. and place them in the jar throughout the year. Then at the end of the year, you can read through them all and be reminded of the many wonderful things that happened - the things we often forget since our fragile humanness causes us to focus on the bad instead.

“Perhaps we ought not to pray for an effortless life, but for God to give us the feet we need to traverse the life he continually unfolds before us…Go to the places Jesus asks us to go, the places the Shepherd leads us. Trust Him to provide on that journey and pray for feet for that path.”
~ Christine Berghoef

“Christ will make His home in your hearts as you trust in Him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.”
~ Ephesians 3:17

My very favorite author (Robin Jones Gunn) has a new series of books that continues the story of some of her most beloved characters - Christy & Todd - now in the married years of their lives. The second book came out in the fall and is called Home in Our Hearts and the above verse was her core verse. The deeper lesson in the book focusing on trusting God in the midst of difficult situations which rock our lives and make us worried and stressed. I'm so incredibly blessed by her books and as I've read them through the years I've grown along with her characters. Each time I read them (and I reread all her books about every other year), I'm encouraged in my faith, find new insights to treasure and find myself even more grateful for the wonderful loving God we serve. Other than my parents and my own study of the Bible, her books have probably made the longest and largest impact in my faith and so I am so thankful for her love of the Lord and so grateful for her willingness to write these books and continuing to write more!

“…your relationship with God grows uniquely in the soil that is your journey through life. Jesus meets you at places that are meaningful to you; he speaks to you as an individual, and he grows his influence in you in unique ways. You aren’t defined by anyone else’s map of the Christian life, even if those maps might be helpful in some ways.”
~ Michael Spencer

In this new year, I'm thankful that God is big enough to love us each individually and completely. He relates to each of us in unique ways and cares enough to build a relationship with each one of us. He isn't just one-size-fits-all in the ways He speaks to us and relates to us...He loves us unconditionally and fully and desires an intimate relationship built on trust and faith. He is gentle enough to allow us small steps, incremental changes, and tiny leaps of faith. He is kind enough to forgive again and again and again. He is wise enough to know everything, yet not overwhelm us with everything all at once. I hope that in this new year we can all grow closer to God and trust Him further and longer, obey Him more often, and love Him more and more each day.

Dear heavenly Father, thank You for loving us, especially for seeing us and loving us individually and unconditionally. You always give us more than we could ask or imagine - more colors, more flavors, more kindness, more grace, more love. Help us to be reminded of all those blessings especially in the times when we feel overwhelmed or forgotten or lost. Thank You for having a purpose for my life, for all our lives. Help us to trust You and remember that "our times are in Your hands." Help us to be bold in our faith and step out of our comfort zones. Help us to remember that even if we fail, we can try again. Thank You for loving us so much...I love you too. Amen.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

“He will come to us like rain.” ~ Hosea 6:3

About six months ago, I was looking for a verse to paint on canvas for some very dear friends who were moving up to northern California. I felt very drawn to this verse in Hosea, but it just wasn't right for the gift I was making and I ended up using Psalm 31:14-15 for their present. Ever since then, I have wanted to paint something with this verse. I didn't know exactly what I wanted to paint and I couldn't really express why I was drawn to this verse, but something about it just spoke deeply to my heart.

This past Sunday, my book club got together for an off-shoot get-together we're calling Art Society. Basically a time to get together and paint/draw/sketch/be artistic every month or so. I also invited my best friend and we met at my house on a lovely cold rainy day. We each had our own projects and I decided to finally attempt this Hosea verse. I knew I wanted it to be reminiscent of rain, but wasn't sure how to go about it. I typically like to paint landscapes and so the idea of doing something abstract was intimidating and definitely out of my comfort zone. I decided to read a small booklet that came with my watercolor paint set and read about a technique where you sprinkle salt onto damp watercolors and it absorbs some of the water and makes a cool look - it worked perfectly for reproducing the look of raindrops!

Two days ago, one of my Art Society friends asked me what this verse meant and at first I just wanted to say that I didn't know except that it spoke to my heart. But I decided to look up the whole verse and this is what I found:

“Let us acknowledge the Lord; let us press on to acknowledge him. As surely as the sun rises, he will appear; he will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth.” ~ Hosea 6:3 (NIV)

I really liked what the whole verse had to say but I like it even better in The Message translation:

“We’re ready to study God, eager for God-knowledge. As sure as dawn breaks, so sure is his daily arrival. He comes as rain comes, as spring rain refreshing the ground.” ~ Hosea 6:3 (MSG)

Immediately I was struck by the idea that this verse sums up much of what I've been going through these past years - seeking God and His wisdom and finding that He was there all along, full of grace and ready to pour into my life the refreshing rain of His love. And what a God-thing that I finally painted this on the day it started raining!

“Wherever Jesus may lead us, He goes before us. If we know not where we go, we know with whom we go. With such a companion, who will dread the perils of the road? The journey may be long, but His everlasting arms will carry us to the end. The presence of Jesus is the assurance of eternal salvation, because He lives, we shall live also.”
~ Charles Spurgeon

 Thursday, I spent the afternoon with my mom for our monthly chiropractor appointments and her monthly massage. We always spend lots of time talking since we have to drive a fair distance and we ended up in some deep discussion about faith, prison, Bill Cosby, the Bible, feeling convicted about things, rain, house issues, grief, being hurt...pretty much everything. At the end of our conversation we were both crying and I thanked my mom for always being such a strong encouragement, support and blessing in my life and for being such a good example of what it means to depend daily on God. She had so much wisdom for me and reminded me that this experience, like life, is a journey and the most important part is to keep trusting God and drawing closer to Him.

“It’s good to talk about things that make you feel uncomfortable. Getting them out gives you a lot of freedom. It allows you to move around inside your life and get comfortable.” ~ Robin Jones Gunn

I have a lot of things I'm still processing. Fears about comparing my experiences to others and finding that mine aren't "enough" or that my experience of spiritual abuse wasn't "that bad." But isn't any experience of abuse bad simply because it is abuse? It can seem easier to hide what happened and not talk about it because it's uncomfortable, it means being vulnerable, it means exposing yourself to the opinions of others and allowing yourself to be hurt again. But unless you work through those things, unless you talk about what happened, unless you take the time to give it to God and allow yourself to heal with His help then nothing will ever get better. Everything will eventually come out, nothing stays hidden forever, and isn't it better to choose to go through the process rather than be suddenly forced to do so because you can no longer keep it hidden?

I'm still struggling with that. As my mom said, I'm going through the grief process. For the most part, the anger is gone. The fierce desire to know the truth. The need to be upset and express that. I'm starting to feel more recently the sense of loss and hurt - I guess the deep emotional effect of everything that happened. The need to know what God's Word said was a strong motivator and it carried me through the past year or so and that has been a very good thing.

“It’s the hard things that God really uses. The things we hate going through, the things that push us to our limits. When we look back, we may never want to go through the pain again, but we’re grateful for the results.” ~ Jeri Odell

I am so incredibly grateful for the many ways God has poured His rain (or His reign? ;) into my life and while I'm certainly glad to not have to experience this again, I am glad that God brought me through this time for this reason. I would not trade for anything in the world the deep peace and encouragement and love I feel for the Bible and for God because of this experience. I can actually say I am thankful I went through it because this result was worth it. This verse almost perfectly captures what I've felt:

“Your words were found, and I ate them, and Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart; for I am called by Your name, O Lord God of hosts.” ~ Jeremiah 15:16

God is so good. Even when we don't deserve it. Not because we do deserve it. God is good because He is love and because He is God. I am confident of one thing - God loves me and I love Him. I mess up, I'm broken, I've been hurt and I've been the one who hurt others, I will fail often, I will succeed sometimes, but through it all God is present, He is able, He is dependable, He loves us, oh how very much He loves us. And I am grateful.


“Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” ~ 2 Peter 3:18

Dear heavenly Father, thank You for loving me even though I am quite unlovable. Thank You for allowing me the opportunity to go through this difficult experience so that I could come to grow in the grace and knowledge of Your Son Jesus. Thank You for the gift of Your Son. Thank You for the gift of Your Holy Spirit who dwells in us. Thank You for coming to me like rain - when I felt parched and dry and empty. Thank You for filling my mind and my heart with the glad joy of Your love for me. Thank You for drenching me in Your Word and for all the ways You've shown us again and again and again how much You love us and want to be in relationship with us. Help me to always seek You, help me to continue to grow in grace and knowledge, help me in this lifelong process of getting to know and love You. Thank You for loving me. I love you too. Amen.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Thanksgiving - week 4 - "O Lord my God, I will give you thanks for ever.” ~ Psalm 30:12

Thanksgiving Thankfulness

23 - Cooking

“This is my invariable advice to people: Learn how to cook – try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, be fearless, and above all have fun!”
~ Julia Child

I am so thankful for the blessing of food, the fun of cooking and the joy of providing a good meal for others. I am thankful that I have plenty and mindful of the fact that many have not enough. As a child, I loved playing "chef" outside with my sister. We would make mud pies, collect "paprika" and other ingredients from the various trees, shrubs and plants around our backyard, and proudly serve our meals. I liked to help cook for real, and probably around grade school I started making a pie at Thanksgiving - usually dirt pie (pudding/Cool Whip/Oreo crumbs) and later chocolate chip pie. I remember the first meal I made for my family in high school - chicken cattiatore with pasta, salad and bread served outside on our patio. As an adult, I've spent countless hours reading cooking blogs and cookbooks, watching Food Network, and creating hundreds (maybe even thousands?) of meals for my family and friends. I get so much pleasure from the whole experience - finding recipes, making a meal plan, grocery shopping, prepping, cooking, setting the table, serving and even clearing and doing the dishes. I am so thankful for the joy of cooking.

24 - Drama/Passion (in fiction, not real life)

“WHY did you betray your own heart, Cathy? I have not one word of comfort. You deserve this. You have killed yourself. Yes, you may kiss me, and cry; and wring out my kisses and tears: they'll blight you - they'll damn you. You loved me - then what RIGHT had you to leave me? What right - answer me - for the poor fancy you felt for Linton? Because misery and degradation, and death, and nothing that God or Satan could inflict would have parted us, YOU, of your own will, did it. I have not broken your heart - YOU have broken it; and in breaking it, you have broken mine.” ~ Emily Bronte

Oh the drama and passion of Wuthering Heights! I love it! It's not for everyone, and I totally get why some might find it annoying and unrealistic and even damaging in some ways. But I love it and am so thankful for the opportunity to experience the highs and lows of emotional drama through the pages of a book, a well-written movie, or even a simple TV show. I suppose I enjoy the ability to live vicariously through fictional characters - to imagine how they feel, why they choose to act and react in certain ways, and to know that I don't have to make their same choices but can enjoy them all the same. This is why I'm drawn to soap operas, emotional TV dramas, romantic comedies, YA novels about love and loss and betrayal, classic literature full of heavy drama and not always satisfactory resolutions. However, as much as I love this drama/passion in fiction, it is not my favorite in real life. But I'm thankful for the many ways I can appreciate it in small, manageable doses.

25 -  Cats

“I love them, they are so nice and selfish. Dogs are TOO good and unselfish. They make me feel uncomfortable. But cats are gloriously human.” ~ L.M. Montgomery

I love my cats and am so thankful for them every day. We have three of them - an all-black 8-year old male named Cyrano de Bergerac, and two all-white 5-year old female sisters named Talia and Marilyn Monroe. They get along pretty well most of the time and are often found snuggling together. Cyrano can be mean at times and doesn't like most people, however, he LOVES Josh. He seeks him out for lots of love and attention and likes to sleep on his chest and purr very loudly. Talia is very loving and especially like to snuggle high on my chest with her face buried on the right side of my neck. She is also very timid and scares easily, but she's loving and her purr is very very quiet. Marilyn is the most fearless, the most friendly and the most snuggly and she is also deaf. She loves to play, sleeps with me every night (and often likes to be under the blankets), loves chasing shadows and purrs pretty loudly and snores/grunts/breathes loudly when sleeping. We love our cats and are so thankful every day for their unique personalities, loving snuggles and special presence in our lives.

26 - Difficult Experiences

"Maintain your personal relationship with God at all costs. Never allow anything to come between your soul and God, and welcome anyone or anything that leads you to know Him better." ~ Oswald Chambers

Now, of course there is part of me that doesn't like difficult experiences. Who really loves them after all? They are difficult and not something I enjoy going through. However, as I get older the more I realize that the difficult experiences in life are the ones that tend to draw me closer to God, create in me a deeper faith and looking back I can see that without those difficult experiences I would not see the changes in me that were obviously part of God's plan. So although they aren't fun to go through, I'm deliberately choosing to be thankful for them and look forward to the opportunity to trust God more and lean further into His more than capable hands because the end result is worth it.

27 - Art

“We don’t make mistakes, just happy little accidents.” ~ Bob Ross

I have always loved being creative and as a kid (and adult) I've especially loved coloring and making collages. In junior high and high school, I loved taking art class and am so thankful especially for my high school art teacher Sheri Izzi. She is so funny, talented, encouraging, inspiring and still a daily blessing in my life. Whenever I see beautiful clouds, I can hear her asking me to describe what colors they are and how surprising it is to realize they are often a lavender gray or have a yellowish tinge. She helped me learn to paint beautiful things and to look at things from a different perspective and that everyone sees things little bit differently. I am thankful for the opportunity to teach my niece art when she was in second grade. I'm thankful for artists like Bob Ross who make it look easy to paint and remind us that mistakes are just opportunities to do things a little differently. Art is a blessing and I'm so thankful for the joy I find in it.

28 - Being an Auntie

“The soul is healed by being with children.” ~ Fyodor Dostoyevsky

One of the great joys in my life is being an auntie. I have the blessing and privilege of being an auntie by relation and an auntie by friendship to many wonderful children. I love their laughter, their joy in simple pleasures, the ways they learn and grow, and the opportunity to be part of their lives. I have been blessed to have many wonderful aunties both by relation and by friendship and their presence in my life has helped to make me who I am as well as the kind of auntie I choose to be. I love to send cards with stickers to my nieces and nephews - to remind them that they are loved and special - and to remind them of how much God loves them as well. I'm okay with not having my own children, partly because of the joy I receive from the many nieces and nephews that God has placed in my life to love. I'm thankful for them every day.

29 - Libraries

“I like libraries. It makes me feel comfortable and secure to have walls of words, beautiful and wise, all around me. I always feel better when I can see that there is something to hold back the shadows.” ~ Roger Zelazny

Libraries make me happy. I'm so thankful for libraries - for the books they offer, for the silence and peace inside them, for their openness to all. I'm thankful for the blessing of being able to work in a library. I love my job - being surrounded by books all day, my wonderful coworkers, the beauty of our campus, the quiet, the patrons - really I love all of it. Libraries have been an important part of my life and I am so thankful for them.

30 - Grace

“Unprovoked by any act on my part, God gives me breath. He opens his hand and gives and gives and gives. I don’t control his faithfulness. I don’t initiate his mercy. I can do nothing to earn his kindness. I don’t deserve his gifts. The truth is, I am powerless to stop his love for me. I did nothing to activate his goodness toward me. I am incapable of deflecting the endless showers of blessings that come from his store-houses and rain over my life. It’s all grace. Grace upon grace. God’s extravagant grace. Indeed, I am a victim of grace. And so are you.”
~ Robin Jones Gunn

More than anything, more than everything listed and not listed over the past four weeks, I am so incredibly thankful for God's love and grace. I feel like I have always loved God and been thankful for His grace, but in the last few years it has become even more vibrant, even more real, even more vital to my daily life and so much more appreciated. God doesn't have to love us, yet He does. He didn't have to be so full of grace, yet He chooses to be. He doesn't have to be in relationship with us, in all our mess and drama, yet He wants to be and He loves us. Oh, how He loves us. I am so thankful that He does...thank You, thank You, thank You.

“Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!” ~ 2 Corinthians 9:15

“Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.”
~ Psalm 100:4-5

Dear heavenly Father, thank You so much for Your wonderful gifts and blessings in my life. Thank You for all the things I have to be grateful for and help me to remember that there is always, always, always something to be thankful for. Thank You for making Yourself real to me, and help those who don't know You to be able to see how much You love them and to seek out a relationship with You. Help me to be a light in the world for You and help me to reach out to those in need. Make my heart open to Your leading and willing to submit to Your desires. Thank You for loving us...I love you too. Amen.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Thanksgiving - week 3 - "...overflowing with thankfulness.” ~ Colossians 2:7

Thanksgiving Thankfulness

16 - Mister Rogers

“Each person in the world is a unique human being, and each has unique human potential. One of the most important tasks of growing is the discovery of this uniqueness: the discovery of ‘who I am’ in each of us – of ‘who I am’ in relation to all those whom I meet.”
~ Mister Rogers

I have always loved Mister Rogers and I am very grateful for him. As a child, I loved watching his show, especially when they went to the Neighborhood of Make-Believe. As an adult, I've loved his wisdom, his slow speech and gentle kindness on the show, and the feeling of welcomeness and love that is infused in his way of speaking and talking to his audience of children (and adults). Through the memoir, I'm Proud of You by Tim Madigan, who shared correspondence and friendship with him for many years, I also came to know about Mister Roger's many years of friendship and correspondence with the writer Henri Nouwen, whom I've come to love and admire. I am thankful that Fred Rogers loved God, loved children, and loved people and that he was willing to make the sacrifices necessary to provide a lifetime of encouragement, affection and wisdom through the simple beauty of his show and his life.

17 - Language

“I love how the French language distinguishes the word “to know.” There is “savoir,” which is the information-kind of know. I know how to ride a bike. I know how to do algebra. But they never use “savoir” to describe a person, because people are not facts to be known. People cannot be read like books. The French use “connaĆ®tre,” a to-be-familiar-with kind of know. I know of this person. I am ever-growing-in-knowing this person. But I don’t information-know them. People are deep and nuanced and ever-changing, every-minute, affected from without and within, like rivers. We can never know them, we can only keep getting to know them.” ~ Kate Conner

I am thankful for words and language. Obviously, we all know I love quotes. I love the ability of words to express beautiful thoughts, lovely phrases, or even troubling questions. I've always been drawn to words and have loved reading my whole life. It amazes me to see how authors can create whole novels full of worlds and characters and thoughts and dreams. Language is an incredible gift and I'm thankful for the many ways it touches and impacts my life and world.

18 - Mentors

“The ancient Irish, in fact, had a word for someone who acts as a spiritual mentor in a relationship of great depth. The word is anamchara, ‘soul friend,’ someone who joyfully embraces our life, questions and suffering as an extension of his or her own; someone with whom we can speak the language of the heart; someone, as Augustine defines true friendship, one’s soul cannot be without.” ~ Edward Sellner

I am so thankful for my mentors - both people who I can talk to and spend time with in real life and those whose words have deepened my faith and I will not get to meet until heaven. Marcus & Shauna have been spiritual mentors of mine for many years. I look to them as a sort of spiritual older siblings I suppose and I know that they are always there for me ready to listen, pray, offer wisdom and encouragement and always there to support me in my faith and life. I am incredibly blessed by them and love them very much. In the theological study I've been through in the past couple years, I was introduced to many spiritual mentors who have encouraged me, deepened my faith and helped me to seek God's Word through their writings. Men and women who are willing to share their faith, in both good times and bad, and be real with what they've learned about God. I've been especially blessed by the writings of Henri Nouwen who I feel closely bonded with in personality and struggles and his words of hope, doubt and ultimately faith and trust have encouraged me immensely. In a book, I heard about this South African word ubuntu which means "I am because we are" and this word sums up a lot of what I feel about my spiritual mentors.

19 - Scripture

"Scripture is a never-failing treasury filled with boundless stores of grace. In the depths of tribulations let this freedom comfort you; amidst waves of distress let it cheer you; when sorrows surround thee let it be thy solace. This is thy Father's love-token; thou art free to it at all times…Thou art free to all that is treasured up in Christ—wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption. It matters not what thy need is, for there is fulness of supply in Christ, and it is there for thee. O what a "freedom" is thine! Freedom from condemnation, freedom to the promises, freedom to the throne of grace, and at last freedom to enter heaven!"
~ C.H. Spurgeon

While I have always appreciated the Bible and have believed it to be God's Word and even memorized many verses - it wasn't until these past few years that I feel like I truly developed a love for Scripture. During this time, I have felt amazed, overwhelmed, encouraged, convicted, and blessed beyond measure with the blessing of being able to read this gift from God. So many things were new to me (like the minor prophets and some of the historical books), even more things felt fresh and brand-new to me (like Psalms and Romans) and all of it became something I looked forward to reading and constantly wanted to remember and write down or underline. I am so thankful for the ability to read and know God more intimately through His Word and I am also grateful to not just read it, but also love it and want to read it.

20 - Quotations

“The invitation to Miss Myra St. Claire's bobbing party spent the morning in his coat pocket, where it had an intense physical affair with a dusty piece of peanut brittle.” ~ F. Scott Fitzgerald

Isn't that a fun sentence? So descriptive and detailed - it makes me smile and picture it in my mind. Sentences like that are part of what make me love quotations. Once, while watching the film Batman Begins, I was so taken by a sentence near the beginning that I spent the rest of the movie repeating it to myself so that I could write it down and remember it. (Here's the quote, in  case you wanted to know - "Criminals thrive on the indulgence of society's understanding" - doesn't that just make you think?). Ever since I can remember I've been drawn to quotes and have many scraps of paper and notebooks full of quotes written down. I love quotes and the way they make me stop and think and ponder, feel encouraged or feel upset, or just seem to perfectly capture something I've always thought but was never able to put into the right words.

21 - Hospitality

“There is something so nourishing about sharing your living space with people where they see your junk mail pile…and pile of shoes by the front door. Opening your home says, ‘You are welcome in my real life.’ This square footage is where we laugh…and make homemade corndogs and work through meltdowns…This is the toilet paper we prefer. There are the pictures we frame, the books we’re reading, the projects we’re undertaking – the raw material of our family. It’s unsanitized and truthful. We invite you into this intimate place, saturated with our family character.” ~ Jen Hatmaker

I'm not sure if hospitality is the right word, but it's the closest I could figure out. I am thankful for hospitality - when it's offered to me and my family, and when I have the opportunity to offer it to others. I believe that it is one of the spiritual gifts I have been given and I consider it a special privilege to open my home to others and try to make them feel welcome and accepted. On the flip side, I love those people who open their homes to me and make me feel welcome and at home - who aren't afraid to let me see the pile of laundry in the living room because everything they own is dirty, who still have dinner cooking in the oven an hour after we arrive, who might have a home that looks like a magazine but encourage us to sit on the furniture, relax and feel at home and we actually do because they make us feel like family. You have to be vulnerable to do these kinds of things, but to be able to be vulnerable and then feel that acceptance and love - that is precious and I'm so thankful.

22 - YA Novels

“When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty, I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.”
~ C.S. Lewis

I love books in general, but I do have special affection for YA (young adult) novels. Sometimes, as an adult, I feel a little self-conscious about my deep love for these adolescent tales, but ultimately I try to remind myself that all reading is good and there is nothing to be embarrassed about. And so many YA novels capture the feelings and experiences that we can all relate to. My dad often has said that he still feels young inside and as I grow older, I realize how true that is. I may be 35 on the outside, but on the inside I often feel like a young adult still learning and experiencing life. These books help me to feel empathy, to imagine life in ways I've never experienced it, to sort through challenging life experiences, and sometimes to enjoy that I'm not a young adult anymore...but mostly they are just simply something I enjoy reading. I'm thankful for these books...and if you're interested, I can share some of my favorite titles and authors. :)

“Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done. Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts.” ~ Psalm 105:1-2

Dear heavenly Father, thank You for the many wonderful people and things in this world You've created. Thank You for the special people You've placed in my life to love and encourage me in my faith. Thank You for creating language and allowing us the ability to use it in so many ways. Thank You for Your wonderful Word, the Bible. For the many ways it helps us to come to know and love You and see Your plan for our lives and for the world. Thank You for the gift of hospitality - for the ability to be accepted with it and for the ability to use it to bless others. Help me to be open to Your leading and to allow You to work through me to bless others. Thank You for loving us so much...I love you too. Amen.