He’s Coming

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Advent: Coming or Arrival

I had hoped to light candles more often and create a more peaceful welcome in my heart and home this Advent season. The wreath, devotions, music, Jesse Tree – all of those plans fell by the wayside as the month unfurled. They were traded in for plane tickets to attend my grandfather’s funeral, frequent trips to the playground with a restless toddler, play-dates with neighbors, parties with friends, and a few quiet moments in front of the glowing tree.

It could be so easy to turn this time into yet another list.  “Ginger, quiet yourself, prepare Him room! Have you prepared Him room?” My heart was challenged and comforted this morning in the thought that He is coming whether I feel ready or not. Even if I never catch up and send all the Christmas cards or take baked goods to my neighbors, He is still drawing near.

The love that has been coming for all of us since the beginning of time continues pursuing His people even now. He is in the relationships at the playground. He is standing in the receiving line at the funeral. God is WITH us – Emmanuel – and that is the gift of Christmas.

God graciously came to this world in the midst of the shouting and pain. He didn’t wait for the world to sit in silence and peace. He came to be our peace.

I remind myself that the coming of a baby is never quiet. The needs of this world shout for a Savior. Things are not as they should be.

We are living in the now, but not yet. The Savior has come and he will come again. So tomorrow morning I will pull myself from warm sheets, pour a cup of coffee, and remind myself that Advent is not what I do, but who I wait for.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found.

Merry Christmas.

 

Following,
Ginger

The Gift of Rest AND a Giveaway

restful

 

We are approaching a time of year when busyness is prized. We sleep less, fill our calendars with more, and then wonder why we end up exhausted, irritable, and distracted on Christmas Eve. Pinterest would love for us to equivocate Christmas hospitality with extravagant entertaining. But what if we could challenge that idea?

Joy to the world! the Lord is come;
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare him room,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven, and heaven, and nature sing.

Advent, the season leading up to Christmas, means coming or arrival. Advent is the ultimate example of hospitality. It’s a breath of time reminding us to prepare our hearts for the coming of Jesus. Rather than focusing all our energy on decorations and gifts, what if we could dedicate time every day to receive our King? What if rest was a daily practice?

“To brush past it, to rush through it, to not see how it comes for you up over the edges of everything, quiet and unassuming and miraculous–how every page of the Word has been writing it, reaching for you, coming for you. And you could wake up on Christmas only to grasp that you never took the whole of the Gift, the wide expanse of grace. So now we pause. Still. Ponder. Hush. Wait. Each day of Advent, He gives you the gift of time, so you have time to be still and wait.” (Ann Voskamp, The Greatest Gift)

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Chapel Rock Retreat Center

 

That pause or sacred rest is something so important to me. As someone who has a tendency toward doing, it takes dedicated heart and brain space to practice being still and being present.

To encourage that rest, With Joy Retreats is hosting a giveaway this week. We want to champion the discipline of stillness. Our upcoming retreat in April 2015 has EVERYTHING to do with rest… pulling back, being still, and filling up on good things. One lucky person will walk away with some fantastic tools for being still – even during the Christmas Season. (See the picture below!)

There are three ways to enter every day this week, December 1st-5th.

1. Share this blog post on Twitter or Facebook.
2. Share the With Joy Retreats Website with friends via e-mail.
3. Tweet about the giveaway.

 

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a Rafflecopter giveaway
If your name is randomly selected by Rafflecopter, you will win: Breath for the Bones by Luci Shaw, Taking Flight by Kelly Rae Roberts, Longing for More by Tim Willard, a “You Are Loved” Necklace from Lisa Leonard, a Scenty Plug-In and Two Bars, and a mug from World Market. Merry resting to you!!

Again, there are three different ways to enter each day until Friday, December 5th. Entries close at midnight and the winner will be announced on Monday the 8th. Best of luck!

As you prepare your home this week, don’t forget to prepare your heart and give Him room.

Following,
Ginger

Gift Certificate SquareP.S. If you are looking for a unique gift idea (for yourself or someone else!), consider gifting the 2015 With Joy Retreat. Check the registration page for details!

Step #10. Give Love

season

I promise I’m not just stating the obvious when I tell you that giving love is an important part of tuning our hearts this season. I’m not talking about the sweater you ordered for your Mom or the cookies you are giving to your child’s teacher. I think our hearts allign with the Lord and are attuned to sing His grace when we give to others outside of our immediate family, and outside any expectations. So often we write a check for charity out of a surplus, but I want to challenge us all (myself included) to really ask and pray about how you can share this Christmas. How can we love the stranger, the difficult neighbor, and even the rude driver in the parking lot.

I know that more often than not, entitlement keeps me from loving more freely. “She was SO RUDE. I would be nice, but only if someone respects me first.” “I don’t have time to hold the door open.” “No one else is slowing down, I’m just going with the flow of traffic.

I think entitlement is sometimes hard to recognize because it’s so ingrained in our culture. The American Dream says if we work hard we deserve a big pay-off. There’s nothing inherently wrong with it. It sounds like the making of success. But I not only demand and deserve success, I also deserve to be right (as the customer), to be heard (as a citizen), and to be happy. So you can imagine my relief when I discovered Acts 20:35 (NCV) which says:

“I showed you in all things that you should work as I did and reap the blessings of your labor. I taught you to remember the words Jesus said: ‘You deserve to succeed and be happy.’”

Except that isn’t what the verse says at all.

“I showed you in all things that you should work as I did and help the weak. I taught you to remember the words Jesus said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ “ Acts 20:35, NCV

give loveStep #10. Give Love

Jesus tells us that we are more blessed when we give love than when we expect love.  This isn’t just a nice sentiment to quote to children when they are consumed by the wants of Christmas.  He’s stating a fact.  We will be blessed [divinely or supremely favored; fortunate… blissfully happy or contented] when we stop seeking self and begin to seek the Lord and His desires.

“I love those who love me, and those who seek me find me.” Proverbs 8:17, NIV

The real truth is that you and I don’t deserve anything. But thanks be to God who has not withheld His love from us. When we focus our source, direction, and identity in Him who is love, we will slowly begin to leave the demand for self behind.

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”  Matthew 22:37-40, NIV

“Come, thou Fount of every blessing,
tune my heart to sing thy grace;
streams of mercy, never ceasing,
call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I’m fixed upon it,
mount of thy redeeming love.”

 

Following,
Ginger

To catch up on the rest of the series:

Tune My Heart

Step #1. Demonstrate Gratitude

Step #2. Today’s Manna

Step #3. Limit Distractions

Step #4. Rest

Step #5. Listen for the Echoes

Step #6. Practice Prayer

Step. #7. Give Grace

Step. #8. Prepare Him Room

Step. #9. Set Your Hope.

Step #9. Set Your Hope

season

“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” Isaiah 7:14, NIV

“But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God.  You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus.  He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.”

 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month.  For nothing is impossible with God.” Luke 1:30-37, NIV

Forty-two generations of hoping.

Nine months of waiting.

One teenage girl.

One eternal promise.

Mary teaches us all what it means to hope. She hoped in the words of an angel who said the impossible would happen.  She hoped in a God who had chosen an unassuming Nazarene to bear the Messiah. She hoped that this baby would bring hope to all.

hope

Perhaps you are hoping for answers or resolution in the coming year. Perhaps you too wait in expectation to see what this season will bring. Maybe you don’t even know what to hope for, you simply have a yearning for something different.

Mary shows us where to place our hope. If we desire to have hearts that sing of grace, we must place our hope in the Messiah.

stepStep #9. Set Your Hope.

Are you crushed by circumstances?  He is your hope.
Are you worried about upcoming situations?  He is your hope.
Are you stinging from wounds?  He is your hope.
If only for this one moment today- take time to stop. Gaze at the Nativity scene in your home or even locate one in a neighbor’s yard. Look at the Messiah and take a deep breath of hope. Imagine His first breath of life and find hope in knowing that His life gives YOU life. Take heart, the King has come. Take hope, the answer is here.

“We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.  For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.” Romans 8:22-25, NIV

“Come, thou Fount of every blessing,
tune my heart to sing thy grace;
streams of mercy, never ceasing,
call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I’m fixed upon it,
mount of thy redeeming love.”

 

Following,
Ginger

To catch up on the rest of the series:

Tune My Heart

Step #1. Demonstrate Gratitude

Step #2. Today’s Manna

Step #3. Limit Distractions

Step #4. Rest

Step #5. Listen for the Echoes

Step #6. Practice Prayer

Step. #7. Give Grace

Step. #8. Prepare Him Room

Step #8. Prepare Him Room

season

Joy to the World is one of my favorite Christmas Carols, and it might just be THE favorite. This morning sealed the deal.

Here was my expectation:

  1. Lay baby girl on the floor near the lit Christmas tree.
  2. Warm my one cup of coffee and take my Advent book, journal, and Bible into the front room with the tree and baby.
  3. Light a candle.
  4. Read today’s entry from The Greatest Gift. (Two days in and I highly recommend, by the way. thank you, Aunt Kathryn!)
  5. Play Christmas Carols on the piano while Baby Girl drifts to sleep.

Doesn”t that sound lovely?

After step #2 it was clear that the morning would have to look a little different from what I’d imagined. I ended up on the floor reading aloud to Norah, letting my coffee cool, not journaling, and then pulling her onto my lap as I sang…

“Joy to the world, the Lord is come, let earth receive her King. Let every heart, prepare Him room…” 

She stared at the lights and ornaments and I just took a moment to pause. I smelled, took deep breaths, sang, and took it all in. I gave thanks without saying a word.

More than any ritual, routine, or ceremony, this time of Advent calls for sacred spaces in the ordinary. It does not require books, crafts, projects, or perfection. This season exists so that we might let our hearts prepare Him room.

step

Step #8. Prepare Him Room

If we desire hearts attuned to sing of His grace, we must also make room for Him in our hearts. Our God has promised to be with us. Emmanuel, God is with us, but will we take time to be with Him?

If you are looking for some ideas to create a little space each day, check out these Advent resources.

Preparing Room

Advent Sounds

Advent Viewing

Advent Reading

“This, this, is the love story that’s been coming for you since the beginning. It is possible for you to miss it. To brush past it, to rush through it, to not see how it comes for you up over the edges of everything, quiet and unassuming and miraculous—how every page of the Word has been writing it, reaching for you, coming for you. And you could wake on Christmas only to grasp that you never took the whole of the Gift, the wide expanse of grace. So now we pause. Still. Ponder. Hush. Wait. Each day of Advent, He gives you the gift of time, so you have time to be still and wait.” – Ann Voskamp, The Greatest Gift

tree

“Come, thou Fount of every blessing,
tune my heart to sing thy grace;
streams of mercy, never ceasing,
call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I’m fixed upon it,
mount of thy redeeming love.”

Following,
Ginger

To catch up on the rest of the series:

Tune My Heart

Step #1. Demonstrate Gratitude

Step #2. Today’s Manna

Step #3. Limit Distractions

Step #4. Rest

Step #5. Listen for the Echoes

Step #6. Practice Prayer

Step. #7. Give Grace

Looking Back, Leaning Forward.

So, New Year, we meet again.

I really enjoy this time of year. I anticipate opening the new calendar and filling it up. Having two planners on my kitchen table for the past month has been driving me crazy. But now all the Christmas celebrations have passed, and all that’s left is reflection and goal setting for 2013. So if you haven’t already started resolving, dreaming, cleaning, and declaring… there’s no time like the present.

 

calendar

 

If the idea of making anything close to a resolution causes you to pull your hair out, this post is for you. I’m not about banishing snacks from my home or even picking a number on the scale. I prefer to speak in terms of goals that help me to live a better story. So today I wanted to share some thoughts, resources, and encouragement for embracing the new year.

1. Write out your story from 2012. I did this last week and spent  45 minutes to an hour tops on the whole project. I wrote out my highs and lows for the year. After doing so I stared at a list of God’s provision and providence. I was overwhelmed to see how many good gifts were poured out in abundance. I’m also humbled to see His hand in the midst of heartache. Writing out my story helps me to remember where I have come from and where He is taking me.

2. Read this post by Kevin East. Every year this list influences how my husband and I create our family goals, but the areas could be applied to ANYONE, even if you call all the shots in your family. If you are looking for a great place to start when it comes to some serious introspection and goal setting, look no further.

3. Watch this video that talks through how I create my personal goals with some important guidelines: the goals should be measurable, attainable, realistic, and time managed. It’s dated from last January, but the main points apply just as easily today.

4. Don’t get discouraged! I didn’t finish everything on my list from last year, but that doesn’t mean I failed. It just means those things need to be reworded, reworked, and refocused. This verse keeps me encouraged:

“So here’s what I think: The best thing you can do right now is to finish what you started last year and not let those good intentions grow stale. Your heart’s been in the right place all along. You’ve got what it takes to finish it up, so go to it. Once the commitment is clear, you do what you can, not what you can’t.” 2 Cor 8:10-12 Msg

5. Write out your hopes for the year. When I step into 2014 (yikes!) I hope to:

– Have a copy of my book in hand. (Whether e-reader or printed.)
– Know my neighbors – beyond their names and a few surface details. I want to know their stories.
– Have finally read “Mere Christianity.” (How many times can you stop and start one book?)
– Tried out and attended a group activity class at my local rec center. (I’m not meeting people jogging by myself.)
– Have given away multiple copies of the Jesus Storybook Bible in English and Spanish.
– Own and have utilized an Advent wreath during the season.

Those are just a few… there are some more that are going to stay close to heart for safe keeping. But more than any hope I have for the year, I am waiting in expectation for all that the Lord has in store. For “many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails. (Proverbs 19:21) I trade in my lists for whatever He purposes!

My hope is that these words encourage you in your own story!

Following,
Ginger

Friday Finds: Advent Activity

The internet is full of great ideas for Advent Readings, Calendars, and the like- so I wanted to share something today that’s pretty unique. I’ve talked about Praying in Color before, and I’m sure I will again. ;)

Today I’m specifically sharing the Praying in Color Advent Calendar. The doodling side of my brain loves this format for prayer and meditation. Check out Sybil MacBeth’s blog posts on using color to pray this Advent.  This isn’t a product to purchase, but something you can start today with items in your home! She even has templates for recreating and printing. Take advantage and try coloring your thoughts and prayers this weekend.

Praying in Color Advent

“Prepare for God’s arrival! Make the road straight and smooth, a highway fit for our God.” (Isaiah 40:3 The Message)

Happy Friday!

Following and waiting,
Ginger

Advent Sounds

advent sounds

I have a vivid memory from my childhood, one that was replayed yearly. The Christmas tree is decorated to the hilt and all of the lights in the house are extinguished. Choral Christmas music is playing through the speakers and we are sitting on the couch just gazing at the lights. No more rushing, no more fighting to hang an ornament, no more talking… just resting.

We are such sensory creatures. I notice how my heart and mind respond when I step outdoors and gaze at the stars, or chat around a fire. There’s something sacred about tiny lights in the dark. I have a list of music to share with you today, but like most art… this music might not speak to you in the same way. My hope is that you explore, listen, find tunes and lyrics that quiet your heart and then take the time to shut off the lights, turn on the tree and just rest. Let every heart prepare Him room!

1. Dona Nobis Pacem performed by Yo-Yo Ma.  I could listen to this delicate rendition with cellos all day long.  It calms my heart and focuses my mind on the simple lyrics: Give us peace… over and over and over.

2.Advent Cantatas by Johann Sebastian Bach.  I find myself aided in times of prayer by the sweeping sounds of Bach’s choral music.

3. Behold the Lamb of God by Andrew Peterson. This is not a traditional Christmas album. This is an album about the who God saw the brokenness of humanity and then resolved to heal. This is the story of the Incarnation.  Listen. Purchase.

4. Breath of Heaven by Amy Grant. These are moving words. Read Mary’s story in Luke 1:16-38 and then push play. I’m immediately taken into the story, into the fears and doubts, and into her resolve: May it be to me as You have said.

5. Christmas Songs by Jars of Clay. This is my favorite Christmas album to play while I’m working. Chill, calm, and tender.

6. Oh Come Let Us Adore Him by Shane and Shane. This whole album is wonderful, but this is the one I put on repeat… and then repeat once more.

7. Handel’s Messiah, The Nutcracker, The Four Seasons- Op. 8 Violin Concierto, The Mormon Tabernacle Choir(talk about beautiful singing!)… the list of classical goes on and on for good reason. If you need a new Pandora station just type in Classical Christmas.

 

What are the sounds of your Advent?

Following and waiting,

Ginger

 

Advent Viewing

star

I have a few favorite videos on my Christmas/Advent list and wanted to share just in case you’ve missed these.

Advent Conspiracy: A movement to Worship Fully, Spend Less, Give More, Love All.  Follow the link to the site, watch the video below, and move from envy to action.

[AC] Promo 2012 – Living Water International from Advent Conspiracy on Vimeo.

The story of Christmas as told by the children of St Paul’s Church, Auckland, New Zealand. These kids make me super happy. I know you could argue the details, but you can’t argue the wonder and excitement in this retelling of the Christmas Story. I’ve already watched it MULTIPLE times this week.

 

Bethlehem StarThe Bethlehem Star.  Spend some time on the website.  I watched this DVD for the first time in 2006 and I have rented it from the library every year since. My mom bought the film this year and we are going to watch her copy on Thursday night. I’m so excited to share The Bethlehem Star with my husband. This film reminds me that you can press the Scriptures hard and find scientific evidence for the things that it says.

 

Obviously I have other favorites for this time of the year. Meet Me in St. Louis, White Christmas, Elf, The Christmas Story, and others usually come out while I’m wrapping a present or two… but there’s something beautifully different about the Star, the Story, and the Advent Conspiracy. Let every heart prepare Him room.

What’s on your list?!

Following,
Ginger

Advent Reading

Resource list #1. Favorite reads for December…

“Touching Wonder: Recapturing the Awe of Christmas” by John Blase. I can’t tell you how much my heart enjoys reading the Story with new eyes. “This retold story of Word made flesh invites readers to react appropriately—with eyes opened wide in wonder, jaws dropped in amazement, and hearts rejoicing.”

The Christ of Christmas: Readings for Advent by Calvin Miller. These 31 days of readings and Scriptures will invite you to rest in the presence of God throughout the Christmas Season and the whole year. “Revisit the Manger… the miracle… the meaning.”

“How in the World to get ready for Christmas?”  A beautiful blog post by Ann Voskamp over at A Holy Experience. ”This will take time. This will take waiting. I must make space for these….”

God is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. This book comes highly recommended by one of my nearest and dearest friends. Becca’s desire to savor the mystery of the season causes me to want to pick up every book she reads… this one by Bonhoeffer especially!

God Came Near: Chronicles of the Christ by Max Lucado.  A beautiful book that paints a unique picture of the humility and humanity of the Incarnation.

Advent and Christmas Wisdom from Henri J. M. Nouwen. This book was a gift from a dear friend and I have treasured reading it for the past 6 years. There are so many thought-provoking reminders throughout this devotional.

The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones. Every story bears His name… and I especially love the voice given to Mary’s story in this one! “At the center of the Story is a baby, the child upon whom everything will depend. Every story whispers his name. From Noah to Moses to the great King David—every story points to him. He is like the missing piece in a puzzle—the piece that makes all the other pieces fit together.”

Song of the Stars by Sally Lloyd-Jones. Although I don’t own this one (yet!) I’ve given multiple copies away in the past year. The text, the artwork… everything about this book is beautiful. “On one quiet night, creation whispered a secret. Grass and bees, robins and trees all spread the word. Sheep told their young while angels sang the song to the shepherds. Hushed news of a miracle echoed to the ends of the earth. The moment had come. The long-awaited child had arrived!”

What am I missing?

Following and waiting…
Ginger