Shine, Poet!

The first week of November holds BIG memories in my life. It feels big enough to call for my first blog post since the birth of my 2nd daughter in May. (Woohoo! Thank you Lord for baby Lucia Jeanne!) And it feels big enough for the first post since January. JANUARY. (Don’t hold typos against me. I’ve been trying to write this post for over 24 hours and keep getting interrupted.)


10 years ago TODAY, my parents and I pulled into Phoenix after two days of packing and driving. I was 24 years-old and moving out west ALL BY MYSELF. I don’t think I intended to stay here for this long. I was chasing adventure and following a call that was somewhere deep in my soul. Just two months prior, I began a job hunt to see if I could possibly use my degree (Theatre Ministry) and unique passion somewhere in the world. I had a specific skill set and I found a job in Surprise, Arizona that felt like it was created in my journal: Children’s Creative Writing Specialist.

Chasing Adventure, November 2006

I interviewed, prayed, and then accepted this new journey writing and producing children’s video curriculum for large group teaching. I spent my weekends teaching God’s Word to hundreds of elementary school students and my weeks writing scripts and filming on location. It was creative and full and fun. I tried not to think too much about my quiet Friday nights. I was adopted by an amazing Arizona family, treasured by friends, and cheered on by countless members of my church. Like most young people in their 20’s, I wondered if I was doing the right thing, if I had made the right move, and how long I should stay in this desert. I considered moving back home to Texas several times. At one point I boxed up all of my possessions and planned to spend a year in Uganda. I attempted dating on Match.com. I auditioned for local theater and joined a young adult small group. I started writing journal entries in hopes of one day turning them into a book. I shopped a lot at Trader Joes. I saw a lot of movies. I hiked, ran, and took photography courses. I accepted jobs to speak and teach. And every so often, I swallowed back loneliness and asked, Is this where I am supposed to be?

In my first months of my transplant, a friend mailed me a canvas with the words of 1 Corinthians 7:17 from the Message inked in gold. I hung it where I could see it every day.

“And don’t be wishing you were someplace else or with someone else. Where you are right now is God’s place for you. Live and obey and love and believe right there…”

That’s good, right? So good.


7 years ago this week, I pulled into a parking lot and convinced myself to GET OUT OF THE CAR. I had signed up for a month of eHarmony and November 2nd was my first date. We had been communicating for a month and now we would finally meet face to face. The day before I had shared with my mom the fact that he reminded me of my dad. I confessed that I really thought that this would be a significant relationship in my life. Our emails and phone calls had led me to believe that there was something different about the connection I was making with David.

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November 2, 2009, I walked out of my car and met my husband for the first time.


The view from November 2016 seems less glamorous than years past. I don’t have vacations planned on the horizon. I don’t even have any speaking opportunities until January. I have a lot of sleepless nights, floors to clean, diapers to change, and games to play. Life seems a bit small at the moment. But my friend Katie recently encouraged me not be discouraged in the smallness or seeming monotony. The beauty of the Gospel is that it redeems every aspect of life. The gospel touches even the mundane and our eyes are opened to the goodness of God and the little tasks that hold our families together.

So right here, right now, I give thanks. I give thanks for the coffee, the dirty floors, and the opportunities to do the good, hard work of today. I am thankful for the ministry to come and the ministry that exists to my little people right now. I can’t beat myself up for not writing a blog post in 9 months because I have much to do right in front of me. It matters. It all matters.

Whether you find yourself at the beginning of an exciting chapter, the slow middle, or even a sad ending, know that this day is a gift. This present is such a gift. Don’t waste it. Shine now.

IF thou indeed derive thy light from Heaven, 
Then, to the measure of that heaven-born light, 
Shine, Poet! in thy place, and be content:– 
The stars pre-eminent in magnitude, 
And they that from the zenith dart their beams, 
(Visible though they be to half the earth, 
Though half a sphere be conscious of their brightness) 
Are yet of no diviner origin, 
No purer essence, than the one that burns, 
Like an untended watch-fire on the ridge 
Of some dark mountain; or than those which seem 
Humbly to hang, like twinkling winter lamps, 
Among the branches of the leafless trees. 
All are the undying offspring of one Sire: 
Then, to the measure of the light vouchsafed, 
Shine, Poet! in thy place, and be content.
– William Wordsworth

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All for now-

Ginger

P.S. for more current updates, pics and posts, follow along via Facebook or Twitter.

All the Things 2015

I started writing my 2016 goals yesterday. I used this great dream guide by Jennie Allen, which took me through some deep processing and analyzing. Highlights, lowlights and everything in between ended up in my journal. Here are some moments worth mentioning.

 

With Joy Retreats: BE

There’s nothing like starting your own business to put your heart on the line and dredge up unknown fears and idols. Carey and I entered 2015 with less than 10 attendees for our very first women’s retreat. Personal obstacles, devastating circumstances in the lives of many of our friends, and the enemy tossing around defeating words at every corner all caused my hope to dwindle and my faith to falter. But from the dark moments of late winter came the life-giving fulfillments of spring.

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44 women gathered in Prescott, AZ for a weekend that was of the Lord and for His glory. Carey perfectly summarized the 2015 experience with one word: beautiful. What a joy to see women from so many states, so many ages, and so many chapters from my life connect in one place. Through art, nature, and worship we all were given the opportunity to let go, be still, and know God.

Because our first retreat was both enjoyable and soul-filling, we decided to do it again! This April 2016, With Joy will be hosting our 2nd retreat. We had the same space to fill – up to 60 women. As of January 1st we only have 11 spots remaining! Carey and I could not have imagined such a response at this time last year. We have an incredible team joining us for 2016 that we will be announcing in the next few weeks!

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The theme is one close to my story and my heart. As someone who was both a believer and a prisoner to a sin stronghold for many years, my passion is to see all women set free to live in the freedom given by Christ. 11 spots left. Would you consider joining us?

 

Man to Man defense

On Labor day, my husband and I learned that we were pregnant with kiddo number two. Another little girl will be joining our family this May! I’m delighted and terrified at the same time. I find working from home, parenting one toddler, and simply taking showers to be (at times) ridiculously challenging and completely rewarding. I want to look at other women and say, “HOW DO YOU DO THIS – DO ALL THE THINGS SO WELL?” Truth mantra: no one does everything… at least without a lot of help.

So, I made 2016 goals through the end of April, and then post-baby I’m going to reevaluate my new reality. That’s one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned about parenting. I get a good 4-5 months in a routine before something else shifts and changes. Adaptation is my middle name. Or at least I want it to be my middle name so I don’t go insane!

In between writing outlines and dancing to “Let it Go” for the thousandth time, I hunt for baby names, pin nursery ideas, and think about what this new little one might bring to the world. I think she’s a mover and a shaker.

 

Good Reads

I managed 12 books this year. I have the most free time when I’m traveling, so I got a few really interesting reads in on some long flights. My top picks?

Invitation to Silence and Solitude by Ruth Hailey Barton. This made my list because it was a completely refreshing and new spiritual discipline for me. She’s serious about bringing silence into your communion with God. I loved the scripture and stories she walked through. If you’re interested in the practice of stillness, this is a great read.

Sea Biscuit by Laura Hilenbrand. I was moved and fascinated by Unbroken in 2014, so I thought this would be a good follow-up. I know I’m late to the Sea Biscuit party (I never saw the movie) but this was excellent and so very interesting. I am a sucker for books with historical photos included.

For the Love by Jen Hatmaker. This was my first read by Jen and I completely get her appeal. She’s refreshingly honest. I underlined the entire first chapter. This one is set up like a book of essays on various topics generally tied to love. Some I enjoyed more than others, but over all, this was the perfect fit for some of the thoughts my own heart was wrestling through.

(I went and ordered her book Interrupted as soon as I finished, as she said that THIS was the book she most wanted her readers to open. I just completed the final chapter last night. It’s almost completely underlined. I also made my husband stop reading his book so he could listen to me read it aloud. All this Jen Hatmaker is likely what caused me to dream about being invited to the Hatmaker’s for dinner. I turned them down. Apparently it was the night of the season premier of Downton Abbey. Because, #priorities.)

You Can Change by Tim Chester. My pastor recommends this book about three times a year. And I will agree with Him: wonderful book, iffy title. The title might lead you to believe that this is a self-help book. Instead this is an incredible dependency book about ditching the sin in your life utilizing means of grace: service, hope, suffering, prayer, worship, the Word, and community. Convicting and challenging, this is a book to add to your reading list.

Bread & Wine by Shauna Niequist. This one did wonders for challenging my ideas on community and hospitality – as in– total paradigm shift. Some basic observations.

  • Hospitality is not the same as entertaining.
  • I want a tribe of people who know which drawer holds my spoons.
  • There is something sacred that happens around a table if I will simply take the time to notice.

The thoughts, words, and recipes found within have pushed me in ways I could have never expected. My heart yearns to be a woman with the gift of hospitality. Maybe that’s my word for 2016. I’ve prayed and pondered about finding the word. I made my lists, dreams, and goals. Free, fruit, earnest, yes, gentle, sink, lower, others, give, release… all of these fall under an open door policy. I want to be inviting, welcoming, and free with all I’ve been given. Bread & Wine sits on the shelf with my cookbooks, and aside from the Bible, it’s the book I’ve pulled out most regularly in 2015. I want it close to the heart of my home and ready to prod my own heart once again. Left to my own devices, I will care for my little family and call it a day. I don’t want to open my home to the neglect of those living in it’s rooms, but I do know there are 6 chairs around my table and only 3 of us filling them. Commence hospitality.

 

Other Random Favorites

Ellie Holcomb. I’m late to this train! The lyrics. The melodies. A playlist of Ellie Holcomb is what I use to focus and prep before I speak. This was my theme song for the fall. I am a little starstruck (FINE, a lot) to see her live in February.

The No Fuss Calligraphy Starter Kit. I am not a crafter, but I do love words and handwriting. Ashley Gardner has a beautiful Etsy shop called Printable Wisdom. I have several pieces of her design in my daughter’s room. So this Christmas I asked for and received a kit to help me learn to work with a calligraphy brush pen. It’s proving to be a fun and random challenge. (For the record: Ciminello is really, really hard to write in calligraphy.)

My latest Stitch Fix win. Once or twice a year I take myself shopping with a delivered Stitch Fix box. I usually have enough credit (WOOHOO!) through referrals to get one piece for FREE. In July I scheduled a fix for September, not knowing that I would be pregnant when the box finally arrived. This definitely limited what I was going to keep, but the red shirt has been a staple for speaking engagements this fall. I also loved the gold clutch, but I can find something similar for $30 cheaper at TJ Maxx. So that was out. The other pieces were too small for the maternity version of me. If you are interested in signing up for a fix, may I recommend using THIS LINK? Thanks! (Also, I need a new stance for photos, right? Hello. This is my arm. It goes on my hip.)

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Favorite WHOOPS moment on Social Media: OY! An old friend kindly alerted me to the fact that I had been repping WithOYretreats for many weeks.

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Speaking. From women’s retreats, Mops groups, mother/daughter weekends to jr. high retreats, this has been a gem of a year. I feel so blessed to not only love what I do, but to continue to have opportunities to share. Speaking God’s Word is my absolute passion. I can’t wait for the new adventures in 2016, including both the Aurora Girl’s Conference and There4 Gathering. (If you are in OK or TX – check them out!)

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And with that – my kiddo is up from nap time, so here’s where I close. Thanking God for 2015, the highs and the lows – and everything in between. Now to nail down those 2016 goals!

Following,

Ginger

P.S. THIS from Shauna Niequist… I <3 this.

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My Anniversary Gift for Year Five: Marriage Counseling

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This weekend my husband and I will celebrate our five year wedding anniversary. Just this past January, we began discussing about how we wanted to celebrate this milestone. We both value experiences and quality time over gifts, so we determined to take two trips sans kiddo. (We like to gift equal opportunities for babysitting to both sets of grandparents. It’s only fair.) But on top of two great experiences seeing different parts of the country, I also asked for a bonus gift. Marriage counseling.

When I shared my request at a recent speaking engagement, there were audible gasps in the room.

So I wanted to take a moment to explain why I believe one of the greatest gifts we could give our marriage is counseling. Unfortunately, counseling, especially marriage counseling, still carries a bit of a stigma for many people. Countless female friends and acquaintances have confessed to me that although they might like to visit a counselor, they didn’t think their husbands would consider counseling as an option. The reason? “There’s nothing that wrong with our marriage. I’m happy. Aren’t you happy? I don’t need to talk to a stranger to know I should love my wife.”

David and I committed to several sessions of marriage counseling because our marriage is good – really good – and we want it to continue that way. In the same way I see my doctor for yearly checkups or get the oil changed in my car, the goal is to do the work before any crisis arises.

If you told me that next year I would be expected to get in a boxing ring and go toe-to-toe with Laila Ali, I would be foolish to think my training could come in the middle of that match. You do the work outside of the ring so that you are skilled and equipped for the fight.

I asked for marriage counseling because I want to fight for our marriage, together.

The greatest threat to our marriage isn’t outside of our marriage. The greatest threat is in our marriage- it’s me and my sinful heart. It’s my husband and his flesh. I so appreciate the outside perspective provided by my counselor that helps us to see our blind spots both individually and as a team.

A personal trainer helps you to do the work that will shape your body and strengthen your muscles. A counselor helps us do the work to strengthen and shape our marriage.

Statistics scream that marriage is hard. My husband graciously accepted my request for counseling because we both want the same thing: a great marriage.

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On a recent road trip we talked through some of the greatest marriage lessons we’ve gleaned through reading (Tim Keller’s The Meaning of Marriage and Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas in particular), learning and counseling over the past five years. Here’s what what training has taught us:

Prepare for the fight before you get in the ring!

Invest in your marriage by strengthening your team: pursue each other, schedule date nights, develop your communication skills, seek out mentors, enlist a counselor for support. I have yet to regret time devoted to knowing my spouse in a greater way.

(Romantic) Love isn’t enough. 

David doesn’t complete me. He can’t complete me. To place my total purpose and satisfaction upon his shoulders would be crushing. David cannot read my mind. He will disappoint me. So giving love only when I feel the love, that’s going to lead to some lonely stretches of time. Instead this one goes back to our vows. We committed before God to be a picture of the gospel to the world. That’s our end game. That’s our firm foundation – we are both sinners in desperate need of a Savior, not each other. Even when I don’t feel loved in the way I might imagine for a particular moment, I am still called to lean in and love. Marriage is a daily choice.

“In any relationship, there will be frightening spells in which your feelings of love dry up. And when that happens you must remember that the essence of marriage is that it is a covenant, a commitment, a promise of future love. So what do you do? You do the acts of love, despite your lack of feeling. You may not feel tender, sympathetic, and eager to please, but in your actions you must BE tender, understanding, forgiving and helpful. And, if you do that, as time goes on you will not only get through the dry spells, but they will become less frequent and deep, and you will become more constant in your feelings. This is what can happen if you decide to love.” Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage

Place your vows where you can see them.

Our first Christmas together I had our vows printed and framed with a shot from our wedding. The picture hangs outside our bedroom door and serves as a daily reminder that we go out into the world committed to each other before God. We are in this journey to help each other become our future glory-selves, and that takes daily vow renewal in our hearts.

“[Spiritual friendship] is eagerly helping one another know, serve, love, and resemble God in deeper and deeper ways.” Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage

Practice Patience.

Almost every little frustrating spat is a result of differing expectations. Take a deep breath, then proceed with the reminder that this other person is FOR you and not out to get you.

Communicate. (Kindly.)

Sometimes it’s not exactly what you say, but how you are conveying your message. We have two big rules in our marriage when it comes to our words: No silent treatment and no cussing at each other, EVER.

Release the need to justify yourself.

I’m sorry goes such a long way to mend hurting hearts.

“To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.” Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage

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There are obviously countless more things to share, but this is what is fresh on our minds in a year with so many friends experiencing deep grief and challenges in marriage relationships. Marriage is hard, but it can also be such a blessing. That’s my hope and desire for this next year, that this journey together (no matter the minefields that await) would be so, so good because we are determined to walk this together.

“The reason that marriage is so painful and yet wonderful is because it is a reflection of the gospel, which is painful and wonderful at once. The gospel is this: We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope. This is the only kind of relationship that will really transform us.” Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage

Happy 5th Anniversary, David.

I love you so. xoxo

-G

*Wedding photos by Jane Zarzynski Photography

Summer Graces

When you live in the middle of a desert, you grow used to the oven that greets you in the middle of the day. But I will never adjust to having temps over 100 once the sun goes down. I do my best to get out of the house so we aren’t cooped up every day, but it’s still a challenge to keep from going just a little bit crazy.

I do well for pockets of time and then something happens to frustrate me: the cup of water dumps over, the website won’t load, the batteries died, the price changed, or the creative juices won’t flow. I am pretty bad with frustrations. But I’ve found that one of the quickest fixes for my mood is music. It’s an instant way to lower my pressure gauge. Sometimes I turn on kid music and dance with my daughter or blast top 40 radio and run laps in the living room. But the best fix this summer?

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Morgan Harper Nichols – this album is so, so good. My friend Carey pointed me in this direction a few months ago and I find myself listening to it at least once a day. The truth stops me in my tracks. The music is medicine to my soul. Here’s my current favorite off of the album, although I will probably switch to something else tomorrow.

 

 

Cooking through Bread & Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around breadthe Table with Recipes has also been aiding my summer sanity. I love me some Shauna Niequist. I feel like we sometimes share the same brain. This book did wonders for challenging my ideas on community and hospitality – as in – a paradigm shift. Some basic observations.

  1. Hospitality is not the same as entertaining.
  2. I want a tribe of people who know which drawer holds my spoons.
  3. There is something sacred that happens around a table if I will simply take the time to notice.

I don’t have the space to give you a full run-down, but know that this has been one of my favorite reads of 2015. I’ve also given away three copies of this book thus far. There’s another sitting in my Amazon shopping cart. The food is good, but I really love rereading my favorite passages and notes as I prepare to cook. I’ve never cooked all the way through any book, so this seemed like a great start. I made salad dressing for the first time. (As a Chopped fanatic, I’m only mildly ashamed to admit this to you.) I purchase almond meal and crafted homemade breadcrumbs. I just purchased new towels to try to make my own bread in the coming weeks. WHO AM I?

Here’s one of my favorite passages from the book:

“I felt within myself the desire to shoo her out, to hide, to keep her from the disorder that is my real, actual life some days. But I took a deep breath, and she sat there listening to me across my dirty coffee table, and we talked about community and family and authenticity. It’s easy to talk about it, and really, really hard sometimes to practice it.

This is why the door stays closed for so many of us, literally and figuratively. One friend promises she’ll start having people over when they finally have money to remodel. Another says she’d be too nervous that people wouldn’t eat the food she made, so she never makes the invitation.

But it isn’t about perfection, and it isn’t about performance. You’ll miss the riches moments in life–the sacred moments when we feel God’s grace and presence through the actual faces and hands of the people we love–if you’re too scared or too ashamed to open the door. I know it’s scary, but throw open the door anyway…” – Bread & Wine by Shauna Niequist

I feel like reading this book pushed me to pursue deeper friendships, especially when it comes to the girlfriends in my small group. We’ve committed to eating together once a month in the coming year. We will meet in a home to break bread, ask the “how are you REALLY doing” questions, and study the word. I have no doubt that this tribe will come out of this experience changed. My people, my tribe – I like how that sounds.

 

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And lastly, I feel like I should tell you that yesterday was pretty much a wash. I struggle daily with balancing my various roles. On the days I get good time in the word, play with my kiddo, and maybe exercise, I feel some guilt about not working. And on the days when I try to make calls or send e-mails while my daughter is awake, I feel guilty about screen time or just not spending time with her. Yesterday I tried to cram way too much into her nap time. I wanted to clean the house, record a podcast, send e-mails, read, and exercise. Sounds like I have 6 hours to work with, right? FALSE. I get on average about an hour and forty-five minutes. At the hour and a half mark I began crying. Do you ever feel like you have so many “I HAVE TO DO THIS” that it’s hard to ever get to the “I WANT TO DO THIS”?

I was still living in that frustration around 7:30pm. My daughter was in bed, my husband left for the gym, and I was gearing up to do a workout DVD in my living room. But I was tired. I was sore. And a dear friend text to say, “What if you just don’t?” So I thought, “Lord, can you take care of me tonight?” I filled my water-glass, took a shower, lit a candle, and then wrapped myself up in clean sheets. I had recently checked out a new book at the library and I was finally giving myself the space to read.

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Enter Small Victories: Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace by Anne Lamott. I love tender, crass, poetic, thoughtful Annie Lamott. She has eyes open to things I often miss. This quote in particular brought a smile to my tired face.

You can change the world with a hot bath, if you sink into it from a place of knowing that you are worth profound care, even when you’re dirty and rattled. Who knew?

The lesson of this summer has been to remember that God loves all of me extravagantly. He cares about my obedience, my service, and the condition of my heart- but He also cares about my body, my soul, and my spirit. He sees my weakness and He promises to match and exceed it with His grace.

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Summer On,

Ginger

 

No More Holding Back

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Well HELLO there. It has been 3 months since my last blog post and about 5 months since I was posting on a regular basis. What can I say, life has been full and my computer has remained closed. I’ve been reading, playing, running, connecting, studying, teaching, parenting, prepping, traveling, resting, cooking new recipes, and trying to just live in the moment. I wouldn’t trade the last few months for anything.

But since the last post in March, I haven’t been able to stop thinking of another story behind the garage sale. God has been teaching me a beautiful and messy lesson about hospitality. I’m learning more and more what it looks like to not simply offer the convenient, easy parts of my life- but to offer all of my life and trust the Master. Here’s what I mean…

No More Holding Back from Ginger Ciminello on Vimeo.

John 6:5-15 The Message (MSG)

When Jesus looked out and saw that a large crowd had arrived, he said to Philip, “Where can we buy bread to feed these people?” He said this to stretch Philip’s faith. He already knew what he was going to do.

Philip answered, “Two hundred silver pieces wouldn’t be enough to buy bread for each person to get a piece.”

One of the disciples—it was Andrew, brother to Simon Peter—said, “There’s a little boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But that’s a drop in the bucket for a crowd like this.”

Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” There was a nice carpet of green grass in this place. They sat down, about five thousand of them. Then Jesus took the bread and, having given thanks, gave it to those who were seated. He did the same with the fish. All ate as much as they wanted.

When the people had eaten their fill, he said to his disciples, “Gather the leftovers so nothing is wasted.” They went to work and filled twelve large baskets with leftovers from the five barley loaves.

Whether blueberries, loaves or fish, I long to be a woman who opens the doors to her home, sets out the very best, and stops apologizing for the state of my kitchen. I want to unclench my hands and give it all to the One who makes miracles over lunch. No more holding back.

– – –

More to come – recipes, a With Joy Retreat update, some new favorite things, top reads this year, and even a foray into podcasting. WHAT.

Following,
Ginger

Love first, ask questions later.

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Last fall I attended the Allume conference and was privileged to hear many amazing authors and speakers. I returned home from my trip with piles of books and pages of notes. But out of all of the amazing talent and famous names that graced the stage, there was an Iraqi High School teacher who has challenged the way I think about the world every day.

The Middle East feels so far removed from my every day life. It’s hard to identify with the struggles of a far off place I’ve only seen on the nightly news. But Nassir’s father changed my heart in 2 minutes and 46 seconds. It took 2 minutes and 46 seconds to move from apathy to concern. My heart broke at the 34-second mark of this video. I hope you will take a moment to watch.

“His Surgery Would Be Five Years Away”—A Father Shares His Story! from Preemptive Love on Vimeo.

I wept, missing my own daughter after having been on the road for weeks, and I wept for Nassir, his father, and the many children of Iraq who are struggling with very little hope of healing. I cried when I thought of the countless parents who feel powerless to help their children. Because of the use of chemical warfare in Iraq over the past three decades, heart defects affect roughly one in ten children. Although expensive in the U.S., children here at least have access to life-saving surgery.

Picture the landscape of Iraq: cities devastated by war upon war, large populations now running from ISIS. Many of the most skilled professionals left the country years ago for more opportunity. Hospitals are understaffed and under qualified to meet the surmounting needs of the people.

And that’s where Preemptive Love comes in. For less than $1,000, a child can receive a life-saving heart surgery. A tagline printed on Preemptive Love t-shirts explains their heart perfectly: Love first, ask questions later. It’s a beautiful motto for me to remember all day, every day. Love first, Ginger. Love first.

 

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Needless to say, I was touched and moved by the stories shared by the Preemptive Love Coalition. I couldn’t stop telling the stories of Nassir and other children like him. What would I do if my daughter had a life-threatening condition and no possible hope? Our small group from church determined that we wanted to take part in giving hope to Iraqi families.

 

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So we gathered our excess, picked a Saturday, and had a garage sale to benefit Preemptive Love. All proceeds benefited that one organization. We planned, advertised and THE PEOPLE CAME. (Hallelujah!) We had so much stuff, so much traffic, and so much craziness in one morning. It took time and effort, but the result, both in memories and monetarily, was completely worth it. I have a deeper connection, and a truer love for the people God has placed in our community. Serving alongside our small group served to connect our lives and unite our hearts in a new way.

 

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It was so encouraging to see friends, strangers, and neighbors all together in one space. In all, thanks to donations and sales, we raised roughly $1,900 and will help to fully fund two heart surgeries. Two lives. Two stories changed for good.

 

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Damaged hearts in Iraq broke my heart, but something else may tug at yours. I am deeply touched as I watch the world being remade, rather than undone, by acts of love. My friend Tanuja donates her time and energy to tutor and teach reading every Saturday in New York City. My friend Mary works tirelessly with the refugee population of Phoenix. My mother-in-law has volunteered every Monday for over two-decades at a homeless shelter. Countless friends have opened their homes and hearts through fostering and adoption. In such a dark world, your light is desperately needed.

Not every problem in this world has your name on it, but I guarantee you, something does. Someone needs your hands, your presence, and your generosity. How can you help mend the broken places? Sometimes writing a check is the answer, but sometimes, God is asking you to stand with your people and do the work. I cannot perform a heart surgery, but I can educate, promote, and stand in the gap.

So, what breaks your heart?

Following,

Ginger

 

P.S. THANK YOU to so many of you who have reached out with kind and generous encouragement over the past month. 2015 has been full of unexpected moments, but God continues to give grace each day. From the bottom of my heart, thank you!

P.P. S. With Joy BE retreat is ONE month away and we do have a spot left for you! There’s even a little scholarship waiting. If your heart just perked up, head here for more info and to message me. We want you here!

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In Need Today

My faith is a floundering mess.

My soul is worn.

My heart hurts.

And all of this is over circumstances and relationships over which I have NO control. I tried to verbalize my frustrations and hurts to my husband last night. “Everything just looks so broken and there’s a stubborn part of me that believes if I could just be the one in control, it might go differently. If I was in charge of the internet, our website would stop being ridiculous. It’s making us look so unprofessional. Doesn’t God know that? Doesn’t He see her running and hurting? Doesn’t He know how much I want them to stay here? Can’t He just direct him? Why are these babies struggling? Why is everything so broken?”

For all of my  all of my words about hope, I still struggle with surrender. I struggle to release. Just like you, I have to remember that things are broken this side of heaven. I must surround myself with the truth of God’s character and promises.

A favorite verse keeps running through my head today. “Let be and be still, and know (recognize and understand) that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations! I will be exalted in the earth!” Psalm 46:10, AMP.

My studies are teaching me that the verb for let be in the original Hebrew, rapha, actually means to release, to stop fighting, to just drop it.

So much of my inner struggle over what I cannot control (circumstances or behaviors) comes from a disconnect between what I claim to believe and how I actually lean into God’s promises. As I prayed to learn how to release and trust, God has been faithful to actually teach me. I can normally navigate my life in my own strength. This season, it’s not possible. I hate it. And I love it. And I hate it.

I wrote this verse during my quiet time early this morning, “…May your mercy come quickly to meet us, for we are in desperate need. Psalm 79:8, NIV

I am in desperate need. I need more wisdom. I need God’s presence. I need to decide today whether I will choose truth over feelings. My flesh says my prayer list holds reasons to worry and doubt. My Father says His ways are higher than my ways. And that, should be enough. That is enough… for today.

“I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.” 2 Timothy 1:12, NIV

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Our website is back up and running. Praise the Lord. There’s one small change if you are still having trouble connecting. We’ve moved from http://withjoyretreats.com to http://www.withjoyretreats.com. Our knight in web armor, big-time-help man deserves a lot of credit for his hard work. John Griffith, you are the bomb-diggity. THANK YOU.

Thank YOU for praying, asking, and encouraging this week. Both Carey and I have needed it. God is good, all the time. Let’s keep pressing on to know Him, friends.

Following,

Ginger

Trust is a verb

Trust

My ministry and business partner, Carey, responded quickly and specifically when I text her asking what one word I could pray for her during the month of January: Trust.

Neither one of us could have guessed all of the ways God would call her (and me) to trust at the start of 2015. Just a few weeks into a new year and changes were quickly brewing. In the midst of questions we entered into February and I text her again. What’s one word I can pray for you this month?

The answer came once more: Trust.

I prayed that she would continue to trust and I would begin to release and rest. And then, last Friday, our website for With Joy Retreats disappeared. That’s the not-so-technical way of describing the tickets, back up data, hosting, and other jargon I don’t really understand. Our business, which relies on the web for everything- ticket sales, information, registration, contacts – just went away. Even with some amazing help, we still don’t feel any closer to having the problem solved. We are praying a fix comes soon enough.

Even as I attempt to look at this logically through the lens of my faith, the questions and doubts keep coming: Ginger, will you release and rest in this? Will you trust that my plans look differently from your plans? Will you believe that I don’t need a website to accomplish my purposes?

I was in a bad place on Friday. My heart was racing for long stretches of time and I was close to panic. I had to stop and remember that in the midst of unexpected situations, I have a choice. Will I choose to believe that God cares for the details of my life, OR, will I spiral into worry, anxiety, and panic?

Trust is so much more than hopeful concept. In selecting trust as a prayer for these two months, I’m realizing how much Carey longs to know and live surrendered to God’s will. She is teaching me through every challenge and change that God is always faithful to His promises.

If you are one of the many who have attempted to find our With Joy Retreats website this weekend, know that you can contact us at withjoyretreats at gmail dot com and we can answer any questions and even register you individually through e-mail and an invoice. It’s a lot less fancy (and a bit humbling on our end) but we are going to keep rolling and trusting.

Registration is still open for the 2015 BE Retreat. Spots are limited, and the website is broken – but God is good and we hope you can join us in April to rest and be known.

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Following (and trusting!),

Ginger

Afraid of silence?

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My stack from the library makes feel very spiritual and intelligent. I look at the pile and think, “Wow. What impressive books.” I just want you to know the state of my heart before we get much further.

But I’ve only read one of them and the due date is this Friday. I just finished Invitation to Silence and Solitude by Ruth Hailey Barton. I recommend it. I took pages of notes like a diligent scholar. There’s only one problem, this book isn’t meant to be a study. It’s meant to be a practice. In three weeks of studying about silence, solitude, and simply resting in God’s presence, I have yet to actually attempt even five minutes of silence and solitude. I have yet to receive the invitation. I’ve tried writing it on my to do list, but my toddler seems to wake just as I’m settling into stillness. Her nap time feels like the only time I can really accomplish, and so being still just feels so… unproductive.

Of course I realize that this post is in direct opposition to the post I wrote last week. I’m super great at telling others to be still and I am ALWAYS ready to journal and read… but those are all tasks. I can even turn prayer into a task.

The more I’ve wrestled with the need for silence and solitude, the more I have to realize how frightening the thought of NOTHING actually is. I want control. I need agendas. I long to feel accomplished and productive.

Barton gives wonderful insight throughout the book, normalizing my fears and helping me realize that this condition of striving is one shared by many of us.

“But silence is not always as easy as it sounds. At least that has been my experience. What sounds like an inspired idea in a spiritual director’s office is actually very difficult for those of us who have been moving so fast for so long… how surprising (and humbling!) to find that something so seemingly simple and doable can be so difficult! For the first year or so it seemed like all I did was struggle to make it to the ten-minute mark, all the while noticing the noisiness inside my own head, the pull of distractions, the resistance I felt to this new and challenging practice. Somehow during those moments the need to do laundry seemed more urgent, to-do lists began to compile themselves effortlessly in my head, people and situations I hadn’t thought of for years present themselves unbidden, emotions and questions I usually didn’t allow myself to acknowledge took me totally by surprise, The spirit of cynicism whispered, ‘How pointless is this? We’re not getting anything done here!'” (Invitation to Solitude and Silence, Ruth Hailey Barton)

I do appreciate some silence in my life. I awake most mornings to have coffee, prayer, and time in the Word. I treasure the quiet, the alone time, the chance to indulge and read. But I’m almost always researching, preparing, and writing down verses to text and send to others. Rarely do I let God speak directly to me. I set and keep the agenda for our meetings and I don’t allow for changes. Obviously I realize that I can’t continue in this pattern and hope for real change, growth or rest. There’s a part of me that desperately wants that kind of intimacy with the Lord, and the rest of me is scared. Barton echoes and validates that fear.

“The struggle into solitude is real because the danger is real – the danger of living the whole of our life as one long defense against the reality of our condition.” (Invitation to Solitude and Silence, Ruth Hailey Barton)

Yes. I fear silence because I know the truth of my condition. I am not enough. I cannot do enough. I will fail as mother, wife, and friend – **BUT the gospel** tells me I am more loved and accepted than I ever dreamed possible. That grace and level of trust should silence those fears and beckon me toward solitude with my Savior. “The gospel destroys fearfulness because it tells us that nothing we do will exhaust God’s love for us.” (Timothy Keller)

“When we sit quietly in God’s presence, the sediment that is swirling in our souls begins to settle. We don’t have to do anything but show up and trust the spiritual law of gravity that says, ‘Be still, and the knowing will come.'” (Invitation to Solitude and Silence, Ruth Hailey Barton)

Be still, and the knowing will come.

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This was my kitchen 45 minutes ago.

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It currently looks exactly the same. It’s still a disaster and the minutes of nap time are ticking down.

But my spirit feels a bit better. I walked outside, sat on the patio and let myself be quiet. “Ginger, what are you doing here?” I simply shared how I felt with the Lord and then sat for almost 15 minutes. My mind wandered here and there, but I would try returning to that question. It was good.

I’m going to commit to being still every day until the With Joy Retreat – and beyond then. I’m excited to share what God is teaching me, where I fail at this, and how God’s grace covers my failures.

Registration for our 2015 BE Retreat is open for an extended period! Spots are limited, but I hope you will consider joining us as we walk out what this idea of being still and being known by a Gracious God. Follow this link for information and registration: www.withjoyretreats.com

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P.S. If finances are keeping you from attending, please contact me!

Following,

Ginger

**If I ever actually were to get a tattoo, it would either be a tiny anchor (Hebrews 6:19 reference) or script on my wrist saying BUT THE GOSPEL. That phrase wins everything.**

Learning to Be.

I’ve learned to adapt. The me of fifteen years ago would have had a minor meltdown over changed plans or to-do lists that remain undone. Life has taught me to prepare and then adjust. With seemingly so much to do and so little time to spare, I have learned to make the most of opportunities. My biggest chunk of time is between 12:30 and 2:30 (give or take) each afternoon. My daughter naps and I furiously run from task to task. Dishes, laundry, e-mails, maybe lunch, exercise, cleaning, phone calls, meeting. It’s MY time.

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You can imagine my dismay when my daughter awakens early from that afternoon nap. If you listen closely enough you can probably hear my cries from your home.

But my heart is slowly shifting.

In the Gospels we find Jesus feeding 5,000 people with 5 loaves and 2 fish. From the outset it didn’t look like enough. That boy with the lunch might have just kept it hidden. But when God steps into a situation, He makes plenty out of what seems tiny. He multiplies what we offer.

Monday afternoon I made myself stop. I was (once again) eating my lunch while I washed dishes. My mind was running in circles of worry and need. Frustration over the lack of time to accomplish was threatening to choke. So I did the only thing I know to do. I prayed aloud and I talked to myself.

“HELP, LORD.”

“Ginger, the dishes can wait. Light a candle, get some water, and eat the WORD.”

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I am desperate for wisdom in so much of my life: friendships, parenting, marriage, work, writing, and so on. My soul thirsts for something real and true. Something inside me is stirring to desire silence and rest over noise and busyness. The tyranny of the to-do can’t keep winning. I want TO JUST BE.

Perhaps you are like me and you need to train your soul to be still. I’ve got a pile of books, but really, I just need a chair and 10 minutes of silence. 10 minutes where I give up control.

Perhaps this video speaks to your heart as it does mine…

If you would like to be a part of the very 1st With Joy Retreat this April, there are still a few spots remaining.Still considering? Follow this link to explore, ask questions and register. Don’t miss out! Registration closes on February 1st.

Following,

Ginger

P.S. The breakout sessions have been announced! Check out the descriptions here!