Archives for January 2014

Fill it Up, Hold the Guilt

I signed up for a mentoring program at my church. I’ve been paired up with a mentor (hurray!!) and this week was our second time getting together. We’ve elected not to go through a book or create any additional homework. We are attempting “life on life” discipleship. This week we walked, next week we are making dessert together. During our quality time we share a little bit about our past, our present, and especially what God is teaching us.

About 45 minutes into our walk I made the remark that I just felt a little dry. Life has been filled with lots of great things, but lately has left little room for me to open up the Word each day. I explained,

“I wanted to pull out my Bible this morning, but every time I went to open it, my daughter just needed me. Diaper changes, naps, feeding, falling, teething, and then the laundry buzzer sounds.  I feel like it’s just out of my grasp today. I so need it to set my mind and heart each day or I just don’t think I can make it.”

My mentor shared about her past struggle with legalism. She felt guilty for years because she wasn’t a morning person and rarely pulled out her Bible until the evening.

But then she decided to stop feeling guilty and just start enjoying the time she did have to read. The important thing was to not get caught up in rote performance. Her words have replayed in my head for the past few days.

“You talk about filling up in the morning and getting set for the day. That’s great when that can happen, especially if it’s how you are wired. But don’t forget that you have the Holy Spirit – you ARE filled up.”

 filled

I’m the first person to tell you not to let guilt keep you from the gift of God’s presence, but I often forget that truth in my own life. This season of life makes me hunger for the Word like never before. That’s a good thing. But I cannot let myself feel guilty or defeated if I don’t have that thirty minutes to give. I can turn to the Lord and know that He is faithful to give His presence in so many ways, especially in prayer. Time in the Word is worth it, but I don’t have to live like my well has run dry. My cup runneth over because of a living, moving, and personal God. He provides streams in the desert.

Maybe I’m the only one who needed that reminder today. But just in case, I thought I’d share it here too.

 “… keep on being filled with the Spirit.” Ephesians 5:18, ISV

Following in freedom,

Ginger

I need an anchor for my days, even the hangry ones.

It’s amazing what lack of sleep can do to a person, isn’t it? I’m generally a fairly even-keeled gal throughout my day. (Some of my family members are laughing because they might disagree with that sentence.) Let me make a more truthful statement. As long as I’ve eaten (stay away HANGER -> hungry + angry), slept, and things are under control, I’m really pleasant and easy-going.

HAH.

I just reread what I wrote. So maybe I’m not as even-keeled as I would like to imagine. Having a child has illuminated this fact to the nth degree, because my friends, I HAVE NO CONTROL. This is a good thing. It brings me to a place of humility, dependence, and empathy for others. But I don’t really like it. I don’t like waking up in the middle of the night and hanging out with a teething baby for two hours. My emotions run the gambit during that period. First I’m calm and caring. Then I’m tired and desperate. Then sometimes I’m weeping and asking WHY ARE WE AWAKE ALL THE TIME, FOR THE LOVE? Then I can drift into a prayerful and thankful phase. . . but if this phase continues for an hour and my child isn’t getting any closer to calming down, then bring on the bitterness and desperation again. It’s quite the cycle.

I’m not in control. WHAT?

The sleepless nights over the past week were compounded by a busy schedule and lots of speaking and writing requirements. Exhaustion + high expectations = tears and prayer and more tears and more prayer.

After some soul-searching and talking through why I was actually feeling upset, I came to the root of the issue. I don’t like when I’m not in control. Not at all.

But if I try to hang my days on an anchor other than the Lord, I will find myself adrift. As soon as I turn to my own resources I end up frustrated and overwhelmed. Nothing else is weighty enough to see me through the challenges. My performance, recognition, perfection, roles; these are a one-way ticket to a meltdown.

“I’m a bad mom.”

“I’m not cut out for this.”

“If I just try harder.”

“I can’t let them see me fail!”

Sacred Echoes

Enter Hebrews 6:16-19. The phrase “anchor for our soul” came to my heart one challenging morning and I pulled out my Bible to find the verse and context. I have been reading the passage repeatedly every day since.

“People swear by someone greater than themselves, and the oath confirms what is said and puts an end to all argument. Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie,we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. (NIV)

anchor

During one of those nighttime parties last week, I began singing my old favorite, Come Thou Fount. After about 15 minutes of singing every verse at least three times, I determined a new song was required. The first hymn that came to mind: On Christ the Solid Rock I Stand. I couldn’t remember all of the verses, but I knew enough to get me through that night.

As I sang I began to see the connections with Hebrews 6 for the first time. A smile crept across my face in the dark, early hours of the morning.

On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand.

When darkness veils His lovely face,
I rest on His unchanging grace;
In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the veil.

His oath, His covenant, His blood
Support me in the whelming flood;
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my hope and stay.
-Edward Mote

The anchor was showing up everywhere I turned. We sang this hymn on Sunday. My research for a lecture led me back to Hebrews 6. The echo was loud and clear. Margaret Feinberg describes the echoes this way,

“I call them sacred echoes because I noticed that throughout my relationships, daily life, and study, the same scripturally sound idea or phrase or word will keep reappearing until I can no longer avoid its presence.” (The Sacred Echo)

As I walk through my days I now find a new course of action for my heart.

Rather than, “Am I good enough?” my question is simple. “Ginger, what is your anchor?”

What is your anchor?

When I’m desperate for approval or recognition – His anchor holds.

When I’m exhausted, frazzled, and worn – His anchor holds.

When you feel less than – His anchor holds.

This is a truth I will tell my soul a hundred times today and then a hundred times tomorrow when we wake up at 3am to do it all over again. . . because let’s be honest, the waves just keep on coming. But thankfully, His anchor holds.

Following and learning,
Ginger

Reading List for 2014

2014books

This year is a wide mix of material, and I’m excited for all of it!

Spiritual Growth Titles:

1. (Not pictured) Currently Reading – Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis.
I feel as though I’m one of the few who have never read this in its entirety. I’m working to fix that at the moment. He provides such logical explanations and examples to so many complex thoughts, ideas, and theology in this work.

Mere Christianity is a theological book by C. S. Lewis, adapted from a series of BBC radio talks made between 1942 and 1944, while Lewis was at Oxford during World War II. Considered a classic of Christian apologetics…” (Wikipedia)

2. Humility: The Journey Toward Holiness by Andrew Murray
Yet another book I’ve had for ages and still not done my due diligence and read it all the way through. Perhaps 2014 is the year to finish every book I’ve started. This one came highly recommended by several of my friends. It’s not long at all, but packs a firm punch.

“Here is the path to the higher life: down, lower down! Just as water always seeks and fills the lowest place, so the moment God finds men abased and empty, His glory and power flow in to exalt and to bless.” 

3. A Million Little Ways by Emily P. Freeman
I’m also currently reading this book. My copy is marked and worn and I haven’t even finished it yet. I read chapter 6 three times before moving on. So much of Emily’s writing feels as though it has been taken from a page in my journal, only my journal from a few years down the road and with a lot more wisdom. The subject line of this book speaks to my heart: Uncover the art you were made to live. You don’t have to be an artist or even an art enthusiast to enjoy this book. She’s taking the truth of Ephesians 2:10 and applying it to living daily art. “God has made us what we are. In Christ Jesus God made us to do good works, which God planned in advance for us to live our lives doing.” (NCV)

4. More or Less: Choosing a Lifestyle of Generosity by Jeff Shinaburger
I don’t know much about this book. My friend Carey text me while she was at the Allume Conference this October and told me I should look into Shinaburger’s stuff, that apparently I would really connect with it. So I put the book on my Christmas list and my mother-in-law was kind enough to oblige. Now I have the book and I look forward to reading it and sharing what I learn.

In More or Less, Jeff Shinabarger calls readers to create their own social experiments to answer the question, “What is enough?” (Amazon)

 

Family Growth Books

5. On Becoming Baby Wise: Book II by Gary Ezzo and Robert Bucknam
Can you tell I needed some more titles to round out my list?

6. Grace Based Parenting by Dr. Tim Kimmel
My friend and former boss, Kevin East, highly recommends this one. I’ve only heard positive reviews so I’m definitely looking forward to cracking this one open.

Despite the numerous examples the author cites where parents fail, this text is overwhelmingly upbeat with hope and possibility: Parents who strive to live a life of faith characterized by daily trust in God will pass on this message of possibility and potential to their offspring. Kimmel asserts that this “radical” mode of parenting will meet the three essential needs in kids’ lives: for security, significance and strength. He assures parents that these needs can be met with grace-laced love, purpose and hope. Kimmel’s gentle heart is evident in every chapter, and his obvious passion will spur frustrated parents to keep at the task with new resolve and optimism. (Publishers Weekly Review)

7. Beyond Ordinary: When a Good Marriage Just isn’t Good Enough by Justin and Trisha Davis
Yet another title that I don’t know much about. I actually saw this book pinned on someone’s Pinterest board and decided to do likewise. I pinned it and my husband gave it to me for Christmas. I’m hoping we can read it together.

How safe is your marriage? The answer may surprise you. The biggest threat to any marriage isn’t infidelity or miscommunication. The greatest enemy is ordinary. Ordinary marriages lose hope. Ordinary marriages lack vision. Ordinary marriages give in to compromise. Ordinary is the belief that this is as good as it will ever get. And when we begin to settle for ordinary, it’s easy to move from “I do” to “I’m done.” (Book Description, Amazon)

 

Fun Reading

8. Dad is Fat by Jim Gaffigan
My husband received this book from my dad this Christmas. We’ve been slowly reading it out loud on nights when we feel alert enough to stay up past 9:30. Jim is one of my favorite comedians. He’s pretty sarcastic and down-to-earth. This book is his memoir of sorts about surviving life with his wife and 5 kids in their 2-bedroom New York apartment. We’ve laughed aloud. A lot.

9. Son by Lois Lowry
Yesterday I wrote about books two and three of the “Giver” series. This is the final installment, book four. David wants to read it aloud also, so I’m having to sit on my hands to keep from tearing it open and reading it on a 24-hour binge!

My thoughts on the series: The Giver (book one) has been one of my favorite books for the past decade. It took having lots of downtime to finally check out the rest of the series. Think Hunger Games minus the violence. It’s young adult fiction but the themes within the book have nothing to do with teen romance. Each of the books has left me thinking for days.

– – – –

There you have it. Looks like I have an odd nine books on my list. I would love to add at least three more asap! I’m still formulating, although I’m fairly certain my sister’s top choice (Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by  Mindy Kaling)  will be making an appearance fairly quickly. That’s why I’m also looking to you, friend. What should I add to my hold list at the library ASAP?

What’s on your list for 2014?

Following,
Ginger

2013 – My Favorite Reads

This year was fairly sparse in terms of reading for me. My attention was split in a million different ways. I started a few and then didn’t come close to finishing. Fortunately I read enough to at least feasibly pull off a top 10 list. I had to pull up my library account and old journals to fill out my list. Blerg. I’m hopeful that 2014 will be full of a lot more books. As a family we are making a commitment to turn off the television and pull out a book instead.

reads

Here are my top books from the year – not necessarily released this year!

10. The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen by Syrie James

If you are looking for an easy and quick read this is good one to snag. This was a nice fluff mystery that filled the void after I finished reading Persuasion again. The premise: what happens when you find a lost manuscript hidden inside an English Manor. Intrigue ensues AND you get to read the “found” book.

 

9. Persuasion by Jane Austen

Austen naysayers beware: I am a HUGE Austen fan. (Who married someone who is a naysayer. BOO on naysaying husband.) I am such a big fan that I did not go and see Austenland. I read the book a few years ago. Meh. (I’m secretly waiting for it on Netflix. Don’t tell.) Persuasion is my favorite book of them all. Ann is my favorite Austen heroine (Lizzie is a close second) and the love story within is beautifully compelling. If you haven’t yet read this for the first time (yes, this is my 3rd time to read it), please do yourself a favor and pick it up!

 

unglued8. Unglued by Lysa TerKeurst

“I can’t control the things that happen to me each day, but I can control how I think about them. I can say to myself, ‘I have a choice to have destructive or constructive thoughts right now. I can wallow in what’s wrong and make things worse, or I can ask god for a better perspective to help me see good even when I don’t feel good.’” – Lysa TerKeurst, Unglued

Yes. Lots of good thoughts for someone who struggles with letting their emotions dictate their words, tone, and responses. I don’t want to fly off the handle. Unglued has seared this phrase into my memory: Feelings are indicators, not dictators.

 

7. Nehemiah: A Heart that Can Break by Kelly Minter

This was a really good study on the book of Nehemiah. I love Kelly’s approach to the reader, very authentic and direct. She spent a lot of time encouraging us to consider what (a person, issue, challenge) was breaking our hearts. Once identified, we were to move to action just like Nehemiah. I thought the study fostered some great discussion and I’ve already tried two of the recipes included.

 

6. Help Thanks Wow: The Three Essential Prayers by Anne Lamott

“If I were going to begin practicing the presence of God for the first time today, it would help to begin by admitting the three most terrible truths of our existence: that we are so ruined, and so loved, and in charge of so little.” –Anne Lamott, Help Thanks Wow

I love Annie. She’s real. She’s rough. I don’t agree with some of the things she believes and writes, but I can’t fault her grit and charisma. Like many of her other books, this one is full of real-life examples, her personal theology, and a reminder that we tend to make everything overly complicated. She takes prayer back to the basics in Help Thanks Wow.

 

5. The Messenger by Lois Lowry

Why hasn’t this series been made into a movie?! I’m ready to watch it and then lament how they are not nearly as good as the books, but it was still fun to get out of the house and watch it any way! This is the third in Lowry’s “Giver” series. I’m reading book #4 aloud with David and we haven’t finished yet, otherwise Son would have likely made this list as well.

The Giver (book one) has been one of my favorite books for the past decade. It took having lots of downtime to finally check out the rest of the series. Think Hunger Games minus the violence. It’s young adult fiction but the themes within the book have nothing to do with teen romance. Each of the books has left me thinking for days.

three-books

4. Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry

This is the second book in the “Giver” series and I loved it. This was my favorite piece of fiction to read all year. The heroine, Kira, is wonderful. I love seeing the world through her perspective and going on an epic adventure with her. There are rich themes running throughout this one!

From the Amazon description: In perhaps her strongest work to date, Lois Lowry once again creates a mysterious but plausible future world. It is a society ruled by savagery and deceit and that shuns and discards the weak. Left orphaned and physically flawed, young Kira faces a frightening, uncertain future. Blessed with an almost magical talent that keeps her alive, she struggles with ever broadening responsibilities in her quest for truth, discovering things that will change her life forever.

As she did in THE GIVER, Lowry challenges readers to imagine what our world could become, how people could evolve, and what could be considered valuable. Every reader will be taken by Kira’s plight and will long ponder her haunting world and the hope for the future.

I know… why haven’t you read the series yet?

 

gifts3. One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp

This book took six months to finish. The first chapters are heavy, raw, and dark. The entire book is WORDY. Rich, deep, and very poetic, I felt as though I had to take space in between chapters to fully digest all I was reading. They style of writing certainly won’t be for everyone, but the imagery and lessons are strikingly beautiful. Ann is so very gifted with words. I found myself wondering: WHO TALKS LIKE THIS? More often than not, I would pull out my journal and record paragraph after paragraph.

“Spend the whole of your one 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 the one we yearn for: Joy in Him.” –Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts

 

2. The Valley of Vision

My dear friend Becca gave me this copy three years ago and I still pull it out just about every morning. There are over 300 Puritan prayers inside. The humility of these prayers always stills my heart before I open the Word. I highly recommend this book as an everyday devotional.

 

greatest1. The Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp

This book was such a special part of the Advent season this year. The daily readings were perfect. As I mentioned, Ann has such an ethereal quality to her work, that the smaller doses ended up making this work my favorite book of the year. The readings were poignant and dramatically helped to focus my heart each day of the month. I will be pulling this book out every December for years to come. (Thank you, Aunt Kathryn!)

“God can’t stay away. This is the love story that has been coming for you since the beginning.” – Ann Voskamp, The Greatest Gift

 

There you have it. 10 books from my nightstand to yours.

But now I would love for you to return the favor. Share 1, 5, or even 10 of your favorite reads from 2013 in the comment section. (Tomorrow we tackle what we’re looking forward to reading in 2014!) I plan to compile those answers through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and blog comments and share the huge “YOU NEED TO READ THIS” list on Friday.

Following,

Ginger

P.S. I did read countless pregnancy, parenting, and baby books this year. If you would like to know which I recommend, feel free to comment and I will respond to you individually!

Best of the New Year Posts

New Leaf

There were SO many fabulous resources going around the interwebs last week. Everyone had hopeful and helpful thoughts to propel us all into this new year. I’ve finally changed all the calendars in the house, rewritten all of the birthday reminders, and boxed up the decorations from December. 2014 feels fresh and full of potential.

Before I share my favorite blog reads from last week, I wanted to take a moment and clarify some thoughts from my last post, Growing Forward in 2014.

  • I LOVE my daughter. Even at 2:30am last night, I was singing her praises and thanking God for the gift of one more diaper to change, one more hour to hold her and still her crying.
  • When I mentioned that I was looking forward to getting away with the hubs, know that I was not speaking out of desperation. I’m simply excited to do something for longer than 3 hours without having to return home to feed my girl. We most certainly can and will travel with her, I’m just pumped for a hiking trip with just the grownups to celebrate our anniversary.
  • My goal list does look different this year. The posts by Ann Voskamp and The Tiny Twig have both helped to shape my focus. (See links in the list below.) I’ve chosen one focus phrase for the year: Intentional Growth and then I broke that up into manageable chunks of 3. They are going to seem really simple, but I NEED simple in this season.

Morning 3 goals: Make the Bed, Read the Word, Get Dressed/Shower

Afternoon 3 goals: Correspond (e-mail, phone, snail mail), Exercise, Play with my kiddo

(That’s not all I hope to accomplish in a day, but if those things can happen I will be pumped.)

Weekly 3 goals: Blog posts, Meal Planning, Family Date

Monthly 3 goals: Marriage enrichment, community building, sacrificial giving/serving

So yes, I am choosing a few things to help me cross items off my list and stay growing forward. On top of these mini goals I also have 3 big yearly goals that I’m holding close. (See the post by Donald Miller below.) Here are some posts to help you carve out your own intentional growth for the year!

Yearly thoughts from Ann Voskamp:
Monthly goals from Hayley Morgan, The Tiny Twig:
A contrasting post from Donald Miller:
A reading challenge from Sarah Bessey
A challenge from Jon Acuff
Carey Bailey on resolutions with resolve
5 Tips to creating Resolutions with Resolve

Can you tell reading is finding its way back into my life? In the past year I filled my empty spaces with so much noise that I lost the joy of words. I’m back tomorrow to share my favorite books of 2013 (or let’s face it, the books I actually READ and liked in 2013 – not necessarily new books in 2013) and then on Thursday to show the books just waiting to be read on my nightstand.

 

I would LOVE for you to comment on both Wednesday and Thursday with your best reads of the past year and what you are looking forward to this year. I plan to compile those answers -> through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and blog comments and share the huge “YOU NEED TO READ THIS” list on Friday.

 

Okay. Enough for now!

 

Following,

Ginger

 

 

Starting Fresh in 2014

 

“The object of a New Year is not that we should have a new year. It is that we should have a new soul and a new nose; new feet, a new backbone, new ears, and new eyes. Unless a particular man made New Year resolutions, he would make no resolutions. Unless a man starts afresh about things, he will certainly do nothing effective.”

– G. K. Chesterton

photo-6

Today I’m honored again to be blogging over at The Whaterever Girls about the process I utilize to set goals each year. I’ll admit that the steps waere a little more challenging this year for me personally, but I still went through each one. Find the full post HERE.

Next week I’m excited to talk books: my favs from 2013, what’s on my list for 2014, and I’m very much looking forward to hearing about what tops your list!

Happy Friday, Friends.

Following,
Ginger

Growing Forward in 2014

growth

Usually I am so jazzed to be making lots of lists this time of year, looking back and dreaming forward. I do have pages of notes full of lessons learned in 2013 and thoughts for 2014, but when I saw my friend’s pointed question at the top of my newsfeed, I couldn’t help but reevaluate my lists.

“What are you most excited about in 2014?”

I set my fingers on the keys and considered responding in various ways.

The deeply spiritual: experiencing God’s Grace.

The attempt at humor: showering daily.

The practical: sleep.

But my honest answer?

The first thought that came to mind when I read that question: a night away with my husband… next October.

I love Norah to the moon and back, but baby girl won’t take a bottle, thus making us fairly inseparable.  So call me crazy, but I’m looking forward to getting away, if even only for two days… next fall.

But if I step back and examine the goals I’m laying out for 2014 (here’s my process for creating goals), I can admit to not feeling a ton of excitement. Does that sound awful?

Let me rephrase.

The other night I was working through my goals and I began to feel very, very overwhelmed. Paralyzed, in fact.

The reality of my days has changed so much in the past year. I told my husband through tears that all of this goal-making was important, but it just didn’t seem feasible. I’m lucky if I do much more than keep my daughter and I fed, clean, and out of pajamas by noon. So when I keep seeing tweets and posts about goal-setting and BIG dreams for 2014, I can’t help but start to feel a little discouraged.

Are there seasons where we hang up our dreams for a while?

I don’t believe so. I think there are seasons where we simply need to think about our goals differently.

“Consider the lilies how they grow.” Luke 12:27

The whole point of making goals for the year is to foster growth. Even if a goal is about scaling back, I make that goal in order to grow. So yes, I make the goals and declarations (maybe not a 30 point manifesto or even 10 big hitters) but I claim something for 2014 in order to grow forward, to lean into the gospel.

“God doesn’t want us to give more, God wants us to give the best.” –Margaret Feinberg, Scouting the Divine

How can I give God the best this year?

How can I live out of joy, gratitude, and contentment rather than worry, stress, or anger?

How can I do less and yet experience more of what really matters?

My word for 2014 is INTENTIONAL. If I desire to see growth in all sorts of areas: social, family, career, physical, personal development, and spiritual – I must look at even the smallest moments with intentional eyes. Joy will come when I give thanks, when I notice, when I appreciate, when I acknowledge God’s hand each and every day.

I’m looking forward to 2014. I’m excited for the growth that’s coming.

Following,
Ginger