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.

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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

Live and Love

Friends, Texans, Countrymen –

I’m back after six crazy weeks on and off the road. I was blessed to cross the country and meet so many wonderful people. I found sweet hospitality in South Carolina, tender prayers in Texas, and authentic new friendships in Arizona. It has been one long and exciting journey. I am so thankful for the opportunity to do what I love for a living and then live with the ones I love when I return home. God’s calling on my heart gets me out the front door and these faces always bring me running back.

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Leaving each time is both liberating and so very hard. I step away from my immediate friendships and relationships to go and make new friends. Every airport drop-off, every hug, every long-distance call; it’s just hard saying good-bye. But I’ve learned, more than anything, to simply love wherever I am. Whoever God places in front of me each day, that is who I’m called to love. When I’m home, it’s my joy and struggle to love my family, friends, and neighbors more than I love myself.

When I’m on a plane, in a car, at a campground, riding an elevator, speaking from the stage- wherever that may be, I’m called to love those individuals.

I don’t know where you find yourself today, but I know that right here and now, you have a purpose. Our purpose doesn’t change simply because it gets hard. Our purpose doesn’t change even when the days become long and stifling. Our purpose doesn’t change simply because we feel bored. Our purpose doesn’t shift with our feelings because the One who calls does not change.

You and I were made to live and obey and love and believe right here…

“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…” 1 Corinthians 7:17, MSG

I’m looking to sharing more lessons from the road in the weeks to come. Thanks for your encouragement and patience through the writing desert.

Following,
Ginger

Notes from the Road

Hello from 35,000 feet in the air! This flight marks the halfway point of my full travel schedule for this autumn. I realize that this post is about 3 months post due. I must ask your apologies for stepping back from blogging (yet again) without so much as a “see you later.”

This four-hour flight without a baby has provided the longest window of time to process than I’ve had in a long, long time. Who cares how long the layover might be, the freedom is glorious! (Can I get an Amen?)

Since July I’ve had my gaze locked on seven upcoming speaking engagements. The variety of the groups keeps me on my toes and also necessitates hours of prep work. Thus any free time – aka baby-napping time – was devoted to study and preparation, leaving zero time to even think about blogging.

With almost all the work behind me, I feel like I can slowly start to bring writing back into my regular routine.

I realize I wrote last week about my new venture, WITH JOY RETREATS, but this week’s post sat like a blinking cursor. I don’t want to write just to fill up another page on the internet. If I get to choose what I speak about, my most favorite thing to share is whatever God is teaching me in that moment. I sat through my first flight just trying to summarize and think about all the most recent things God is teaching me and working through my life. I hope you find one or more of these tidbits to be challenging or encouraging.

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A FEW LESSONS FROM THE ROAD

  1. My abilities, although God-given, do not have the power to change hearts. Only God has that power. Lest I forget and make my calling about what I say or communicate, Paul reminds me in 1 Corinthians 3:7, So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.” 

Whether I speak to 250 Jr. High School Students or 50 women, obedience looks like offering up what I have and trusting God to give the growth. This freedom keeps me from negative self-talk or the tendency to feel puffed up by the compliments and encouragement of others. This truth reminds me to keep God’s Word at the forefront and my words and stories for the background. I still fail, often my motives are not pure, but I cling to the promise that God’s Word will not return void.

 

  1. I should seek God, not comfort, ease, or safety. I should seek God, not adventure, experiences, or a bucket list.

I can allow the Western story of culture be the lens through which I view scripture… “I can do all things. God has a happy plan for me. Delight yourself in the Lord and you get what you want. God makes everything easy for those who love Him. Following God is a great adventure, #as long as its not too hard.The mantra of my generation tells me I don’t deserve to be unhappy. I’m learning not to put those words in God’s mouth.

“What does this world need: gifted men and women, outwardly empowered? Or individuals who are broken, inwardly transformed?” Gene Edwards

 

  1. I know God desires obedience over sacrifice but I forget that often obedience requires sacrifice. I am on the road 17 days out of 31 in October. Thankfully my daughter and husband were able to join me for a large portion, but saying good-bye is still difficult. Through tears I broke down and told my husband that this is just hard. It’s hard living out of a suitcase, keeping all of the topics straight. It’s hard not getting to choose what I eat, when or if I exercise. So much of life on the road means things are out of my control. My husband, David, was gracious to remind me that there is a cost to following the call. The Bible is full of story after story where obedience means sacrifice. Sometimes the sacrifice is miniscule in the grand scheme, and other times obedience feels impossible because of the sacrifice required.

 

  1. I am compelled to love because I have been forgiven so much. I’m praying that my heart would continue to change. I want to be the one to volunteer when someone needs help picking up his or her kids from school or a ride to the airport. I long for my heart to stop trying to defend my sin to others, but instead respond in grace and readily ask for forgiveness. I’m reading the book “The Meaning of Marriage” by Tim Keller (HIGHLY recommend) and this definition of the gospel has been working itself out in my head and heart since chapter one: 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.” – Tim Keller

 

  1. Look for Jesus in everything. When I release my grip on my need for control and my definition of success and instead turn out my hands and say, “Give me what you want me to have,” something monumental shifts in my day. The peace that I can’t explain apart from Jesus, it’s at my disposal all the time. I boarded my plane this morning as one of the last passengers. Although my seat is in the front of the plane, my luggage is in the very back. When we touch down I will have to wait for the entire plane to empty to get to my luggage. Oh how I prayed to have overhead space right about my seat so I could exit and make it to my connecting flight with plenty of time. God was gracious to remind me of the question He asks me in moments just like this, “What if I’m writing a different story than the one you had planned for your day? Do you trust me?”

“Move toward God. In all things see Jesus. In all circumstances, whether success or failure, questions or answers, beauty or ashes, acceptance or rejection, look for Jesus.” Emily Freeman

  1. Hospitality is not the same thing as entertaining. I attended the Allume Conference this past weekend and the theme of hospitality is still ringing in my ears. Something Shauna Niequist said (or ALL of what she said) keeps pressing around my heart.
  • True hospitality is giving people a place to be when they would otherwise be alone.
  • True hospitality is a sacred space big enough to let God move in and through us.
  • True hospitality leaves people feeling better about themselves (rather than me) when they leave.

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All of the speakers were quick to remind us that there is something out of control and messy about hospitality- and that’s a beautiful thing. I want my front door to open more. I want to invite others in – not just the bits I choose to tell on social media or while speaking on a stage. I must get better about bringing people into my life rather than standing at arm’s distance. There’s so much stirring in me now, I can’t vocalize it all, but I’m excited- and terrified- and excited.

What has God been teaching you in this season of life?

Following,
Ginger

P.S. I just finished reading Tim Keller’s The Meaning of Marriage. It is not just for married people – lots of great truths for everyone in any kind of relationship or friendship. Also – it is hands down my favorite book on marriage, and I’ve read a lot of them. Put it on your list!

How to have it all AND balance it all. (Maybe not.)

Greetings, Friends!

Much has happened since I last posted – joy and pain, rest and activity, visitors, weddings, Easter celebration, losses mourned, books read, sleepless nights, starting a new business (more on this to come!), and delightful moments with a quickly growing 10 month-old girl.

For a large chunk of this spring my heart has felt a little dry and a bit distracted. I’m still learning how to do life as a work from home mom. In the past few weeks several kind friends asked how the balance is possible – raising a kid at home while working.

The truth is that there isn’t much balance going on.

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photo by Crystal Morgan Photography.

(Do you remember the last time I blogged? I certainly don’t. Sometimes I feel guilty for my absence/silence. Other times it doesn’t cross my mind. At all.)

I’m LOVING this new stage my daughter has entered. I treasure being a mom and I’m thankful for the ability to be at home with her. I really don’t feel guilty for not producing material on my computer because I’m too busy trying to keep up with a baby. I want to work, but not as much as I want to play with Norah.

I don’t wake up early for creative or peaceful alone moments. I don’t sneak out of the house in the evenings to punch out writing pieces or prepare for upcoming engagements. I never find myself slaving away at 11pm. I don’t know whether I’m lazy or just adjusting to reality. Pinterest is full of pins that tell me about the realization of dreams. Those dreams don’t play out in your sleep. They play out and pay out when you are willing to work. So right now I hope to spend the baby’s naptimes well and try not to get frustrated when she wakes up too early.

The question in every women’s magazine seems to be how to have it all and balance it all. I even downloaded a few books on the very topic but stalled out on reading when I realized the author wanted me to pause and journal about all the thoughts and feelings going on. It just felt like too much effort. I barely have the time to READ the book.

I don’t really know how to balance so the scales rest evenly.

But here’s what I do know-

  1. Seek God’s Kingdom first.
  2. Come to Jesus and He gives rest.
  3. If I want wisdom in all of these areas I need to get wisdom.

”The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. Though it cost you all you have, get understanding.” Proverbs 4:7, NIV

“If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.” James 1:5-6 

I need time in the Word and in prayer. I need it daily. Even as an artist who feels compelled to create and dream, my first need is the most basic and nourishing. My soul is thirsty.

I started the year reading a daily devotional, Streams in the Desert. It’s a lovely book, a compilation of thoughts from L.B. Cowman, written in the early part of the last century. The thoughts are deep, enriching and succinct. I told myself the single verse at the start of each page was enough to see me through the day, but really, I was still thirsty. And then I started doing my Jillian Michaels 30-day Shred Workout DVD.

Hang with me.

It’s a 20-minute workout that is super intense. She talks throughout the sessions and about the fourth time I worked out, something she said shouted to my heart.

“No. You do not get to do a 20-minute workout and take a break in the middle. It doesn’t work like that. If you want to see results, you have to be willing to do the work. You’ve been told to just take the stairs. We are feeding a culture of lethargy. You can do a tough workout.”

I want wisdom. I need wisdom if I’m to make it through any sort of day, pre or post having a baby. Life is complicated, challenging, and sometimes exhausting. So if my aim is gaining wisdom, the process includes time devoted to God’s Word for my daily fuel. It takes a different kind of effort and work.

God used a workout DVD to remind me that my lifelong pursuit isn’t to achieve some euphoric balance in my day. If I desire to see heart results: growth in my relationships, change in my character, and passion for the art I’m wired to make, I have to be willing to put in the work. Rather than balance- I want the scales to tip heavily toward Him.

ideasgrow

So the morning after my workout realization, I opened my Bible to the book of Isaiah. I fed Norah strawberries and cheese, poured a cup of coffee, and started reading outloud to both of us. There’s nothing quiet about our morning time. :) We read with vigor: “The vision concerning Judah and Jerusalem that Isaiah son of Amoz saw during the reigns fo Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah…” (Isaiah 1:1)

Today we made it to chapter 37. I feel no more balanced than I did at chapter 1, but I feel as though my life is posed for a better alignment. (This post was super encouraging!)

Whether you are a student, employee, artist, spouse, single mom, working mom, retired dad, or volunteering grandmother- my encouragement for us all is to allign our hearts. Instead of worrying about balance, begin seeking after the Lord in His Word. “Open wide my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law.” Psalm 119:18

The beautiful result of quenching my soul thirst has been more peace, more quality time[!], and a stronger desire to create/dream than I’ve had in months. I don’t know if this means more blogging in the future or an extended “sabbatical” of sorts, all I know is what lies ahead of me today- and I’m at peace with it.

“Lord, you establish peace for us; all that we have accomplished you have done for us.” Isaiah 26:12

Following,
Ginger

Why Waiting Doesn’t Have to Hurt.

 

I didn’t know how much my heart felt like it was waiting until the tears threatened to blind me on Sunday.

My husband sent me out alone (splendid!) for hours of writing and prep at a nearby restaurant. As I was walking out the door for my solo afternoon, I grabbed my copy of Emily Freeman’s A Million Little Ways. I ate my lunch in my spacious booth and turned to the pages I’d dog-eared in January. I’m not sure what I was looking for, but I found it on the first page of chapter 9.

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The chapter title stood out from the page: WAIT.

“It is not important who does the planting or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow.” 1 Corinthians 3:7

“Much good happens in the space where nothing is happening.” – Christa Wells

That’s all I read, the quotes before the chapter, and already my eyes welled up with tears. I didn’t even realize I was waiting. I glanced at the opposite page, the last paragraph of chapter 8 and read what I had underlined and starred earlier in the year.

“It is possible for us to uncover the art we were born to make and show up to release it into the world only to be met with silence, inability to make progress, and a seemingly impossible artless road ahead. The lack of movement isn’t because of fear or sin or lack of belief. Sometimes it’s simply God asking us to wait. – Emily P. Freeman

I shut my eyes and whispered a short prayer, “Why is it so hard to wait? Why does waiting hurt? Why can’t I trust you to make the seed grow?”

Six months ago I released my art into the world in the form of a book. I didn’t grow up dreaming of writing. I was much more interested in performing on stage. But the more time I spent speaking, the more the words filled my journals and soon my computer pages. The words came and so I wrote them out over three long years. . . loving and hating the process. . . wanting the wait to be over so people would stop asking how it was coming. I wanted the wait to be over because I didn’t know how to answer, I didn’t want to talk about it.

The professional talker didn’t want to talk about the art.

I was passionate about the topic, sure of the message, and yet, so ridiculously terrified to write and then release it to the world.

As the final steps of the publishing process came together, I was in the final months of my first pregnancy. The due date came and went and soon the waiting became frustrating.

NOPE. STILL NO BABY.

NOPE. STILL NO BOOK.

And then, within a period of six weeks – I could hold them both. Everything changed. And nothing changed.

While my roles and resume took a new direction, the person inside of me stayed pretty much me. Life was more full and complicated, but I still felt like  the twenty year-old version of me, so what am I DOING WITH A BABY?

I still wake up every morning and eat breakfast – granted it’s not always when I want to.

I still attempt to keep the house clean and organized. I meal plan, e-mail, shop, check the mail, and occasionally write. I also change diapers, wash tons of laundry, and try to keep up with the demands of an 8 month-old.

But writing a book has brought little to no visible change in my every-day existence. I’ll be honest: sometimes it’s really discouraging. I don’t think I was hoping for fame or notoriety. I didn’t need a post to go viral – but I still have that very human desire to know the art I’m making matters. What should surface as hope tends to overwhelm with fear. The fear pushes me to compare my book and platform with others. The fear demands I measure success in numbers and failure by a lack of response from every avenue I thought was a sure-fire win.

In those moments where I get caught in a whirlwind void of hope, when my waiting is full of fear, I throw my hands up and shout through tears, “It’s YOUR BOOK Lord. I trust You. . . but why in the world aren’t you doing what I think you should?”

“Fear says I’m going the wrong way. Doubt says I won’t find it at all. But hope? Hope says, Wait. It’s just a little farther. You are not alone and this is not just your idea.

My goal is a finished book – I call that my art. Yet there is a deeper work happening. I chase what I think is the art, but really that’s just the evidence. . . The real art is the invisible work happening in the depths of my soul as I uncover, sink, see, listen and wait.

The book is just the souvenir.” – Emily P. Freeman, A Million Little Ways

When I’m halfway through my third cup of coffee on my solo Sunday date, I slowly begin to look for the invisible work happening in the depths and the truth coming from those who love me in my worst moments.

David plays the purpose on repeat: If only ONE who needs these words reads them, it will have been worth it.
Carey writes to remind me that Jesus left the 99 for the 1.
My small group calls me to chase the Gospel rather than the idol.
My family members have all become book dealers. Who knew so many seniors in a retirement home would need a copy? Pretty sure my sister has copies in her trunk if you need one.
Friends who have bought, shared and encouraged.
And my Savior, who says the hope, the prize, is Him.

“As you stare at the stone of the hoped-for souvenir, remember the deeper work happening within you, where your life is hidden with Christ in God.” – Emily P. Freeman

Waiting doesn’t have to hurt, because waiting is part of the prize. In the waiting I’m given a window into my heart and all that still needs redemption. Jesus reminds us in Luke 7 that “…he who has been forgiven little loves little.” I know God is using this season to show me the depth of my sin and the abundance of His love through the cross.

The feelings of disappointment are real and powerful, but, as Carey tells me, in the disappointment I am reminded of my appointment. My purpose to share Christ is unchanging. I must remind myself that in the small God sees BIG. The point isn’t for me to see results, it’s to offer my art, my life, and my waiting to Him and trust that He will change me in the process.

We WAIT in HOPE for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. Psalm 33:20

Following and learning,
Ginger

Because Showing Up is Half the Battle.

My new season of life has meant scaling back on a lot of things. You’ve probably noticed how limited my blogging has become in the past six months. Entering this phase of life has also seen cutbacks in almost every area of my time. Less coffee dates with girlfriends. Less volunteering. Less free time. Less saying “yes.”

But in my exhaustion, I think I ended up scaling back WAY too much. The first few months it makes sense to pull back when your main goal each day is to survive and maybe shower. But I’ve put a lot of my relationships on hold and I’m ready to jump back in.

Lesson learned: Facebook and Instagram are no real substitutes for actually being present in relationships.

There are definitely positives to be found in social media. I can connect and share with hundreds of friends and acquaintances at one time. I can literally watch my college roommate grow with her children in California. I can stay in the loop with my childhood Girl Scout troop. But there’s no real substitute for a phone call, snail mail, or in-person communication. I just skyped with a friend I hadn’t seen in almost ten years. I met her daughters and we laughed and reminisced for over an hour. It was so much better than writing “I miss you” notes on a social media wall.

I have a list of excuses a mile long for choosing ease and convenience over authentic and present:

“They didn’t send me a card last year, so I guess we are phasing that out.”

“I’m sure they are out to dinner with friends celebrating. I don’t want to interrupt.”

“A text is less intrusive.”

“I don’t think adding one more person will make the event that much more special.”

“They won’t even notice I’m not there.”

This weekend I flew to San Antonio to attend my cousin’s wedding. I was in the state for less than 24 hours. My husband stayed with the baby, we juggled schedules, and just decided I should go.

I love all of my cousins. That alone is incentive enough to attend a family wedding. And sure, Grant flew to Arizona to come to my wedding a few years ago. And also, he was in an accident three years ago that makes his very presence on this earth a miracle. Every indication pointed to making this wedding a priority.

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I spent less than 5 minutes total conversing with Grant this weekend. There were lots of guests at the wedding and I know he would have understood if I couldn’t have attended, and yet every challenge to be there was worth it.

I am so glad I went.

**But trust me, this is not a bragging moment, because I deeply regret NOT going to several other life events for friends and family.

Sometimes I let the excuses win out, and that’s a shame. I’m trying to think of an instant when I regretted showing up. I honestly cannot think of a single instance.

My surprise 30th Birthday party was just about the best of all my birthdays. The thoughtfulness of my husband was evident. He kept an incredible surprise, planned the event, and ordered the food. The gifts, cookie cake, and even favorite restaurant didn’t touch my heart that evening, although they were all wonderful. My tears fell that evening when I looked at the wide array of friendships represented in the room. I was astonished that several knew no one but me and yet they still came. Their presence was a huge gift and meant more to me than any wrapped present on a table.

Loving well may take extra time and effort, but it is always well worth it. Loving well doesn’t have to be poetic, perfect, profound, or even alliterative. ;) Simply be there.

This week I hope we all take the time to show up.

Send the card.

Make the call.

Surprise them.

RSVP.

Clear your afternoon.

Invite them to lunch.

Ask them into your mess.

 

You won’t regret it.

“Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” (Romans 12:15, NIV)

Following,
Ginger