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

Fill it Up, Hold the Guilt

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

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

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

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

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

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

 filled

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

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

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

Following in freedom,

Ginger

Tune My Heart

“Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” is the song I sing most often to my daughter as I rock her to sleep. She goes down easily at night, but boy does she fight her naps. I sing this song over and over in the oversized rocking chair and watch her eyes grow heavy…

“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.”

– Robert Robinson, 1735-1790

The second line, “tune my heart to sing thy grace” lives on the tip of my tongue these days. The picture drawn by Robert Robinson’s lyrics are clear and to the point. We all know the ear-piercing quality of an intrument out of tune, and the pleasant sounds that come from simple attentive tuning.

tune

Tuning has become my theme for the month. My prayers are asking the Lord to oversee it and I am consciously looking for ways to identify areas that fall out of tune. My prayer is that my heart would be tuned to live out of thankfulness, grace, and joy. This is an active request. I will ask God to provide the opportunities for training and tuning, but then I must also commit to exercise these muscles.

I know the holidays have the potential to leave us overwhelmed and exhausted, but let’s commit right here and now to have no part of that. Deal? I’m aiming to be proactive. That’s why this week we will start checking our alignment. It’s time to take our task lists and minds and set a course for the coming months that won’t leave us empty. I hope you will join me in the coming weeks as we take very practical steps to keep the peace in our hearts and homes. (How many metaphors can I throw out in one post?)

If you are looking for a beautiful rendition of this song, I recommend this version by Sufjan Stevens…

Do you have a favorite recording of Come Thou Fount? Do share!

Following and tuning,
Ginger

Strengthen My Hands

After three months of resting, waiting, and making lots of excuses, I finally pulled out my post-baby workout DVD. Ugh. I was determined to make it through one of the twenty-minute sessions. Everything started well enough. My daughter was entertained for the moment, a miracle in itself. But about halfway through the workout, I began to doubt my plan. The perky mom on the screen was very encouraging as she demonstrated the set of 15 push-ups we were to attempt. I’ll be honest; the push-ups were a disaster. It felt like I had never done a push-up in my life. I immediately considered turning off the DVD. I thought to myself, “This is way too hard. I just want to be done. Can’t I just get the results without doing this work? UGH!”

And then I remembered Nehemiah.

I know. Odd line of thinking, but I’ll connect the dots. My Thursday morning Bible Study is walking through Kelly Minter’s Nehemiah: a heart that can break. Nehemiah is the central figure in the story of the Israelites rebuilding the dilapidated walls of Jerusalem. He wasn’t an engineer or a military leader. As an exiled Israelite in Babylon, he had served as cupbearer to the king. And yet, the Lord stirred in Nehemiah’s heart to see Jerusalem restored to its former glory. Even though he had limited leadership and building experience, Nehemiah responded in obedience. (If you haven’t spent time in the book, I highly recommend you pull it out soon.)

Fast-forward in the story and we discover that after a mere 52 days of building, the walls are almost completed and the opposition from enemies is in full swing. Nehemiah can’t seem to catch a break from these enemies, but his passion never wavers. In chapter six we read,

“They were all trying to frighten us, thinking, ‘Their hands will get too weak for the work, and it will not be completed.’

But I prayed, ‘Now strengthen my hands.’” (Nehemiah 6:9, NIV)

That one short prayer teaches me so much about Nehemiah’s resolve. Had I been in Nehemiah’s shoes, my prayer would have probably looked a lot different. “God, this is way too hard. Can you just take away the opposition and everything that makes this difficult so we can just be done?” (Sound familiar?)

All too often I just want the Lord to make my problems instantly disappear. I don’t want anything difficult to cross my path.

God cares deeply about my struggles, His Word promises that. But I also believe that the Lord wants to teach us through the challenges. Nehemiah reminds me to ask for strength in the middle of trials, to persevere, and to pursue God’s will.

My workout DVD is in no way a trial, but I’m thankful for the small ways that the Lord continues to remind me of His word and His promises.

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Whatever you are facing this month, know that God is walking with you. He has not abandoned you. May we have the courage to pray with Nehemiah, “Now strengthen my hands.”

Happy Friday!

Following,
Ginger

Self-Esteem Pit

forget the corsage

“I have a major problem.

I don’t really know who I am.

I’m not speaking in an “I hit my head and can’t remember my name” kind of way. I know my name, age, and my address. I know my parent’s middle names and my sister’s phone number.

But if you took all that away and asked, “Who are you?” I think I might be hard-pressed to answer. That’s because the answer changes every day and might even change several times within the same day. Who am I? No, really. Who am I? More importantly, am I my real self with anyone?

This inability to identify my true self is one of the big problems I have with self-esteem.

The definition of self-esteem according to Dictionary.com:

1. a realistic respect for or favorable impression of oneself; self-respect.

2. an inordinately or exaggeratedly favorable impression of oneself.

Now compare that with what we read in Philippians 2:3,“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.” In humility, we are to consider others, everyone else, as better than ourselves. This does not say to have a poor view of yourself, but merely a right view of who we are in God’s eyes. We are His, but we are not better than each other.

Even if we totally ignore God in this equation and what He wants, I believe that we still have a problem!

Here is the issue I have with self-esteem. Although I often times have zero trouble discovering an exaggeratedly favorable impression of myself, most days my self-esteem fluctuates almost hourly. The way I identify myself is directly connected to my emotions and feelings. Emotions change quickly. What we are feeling for a period of time, unless depression is involved, tends to change countless times throughout the day. That means I can be on cloud nine in the morning because I received an encouraging text from a friend, and then the next minute I’m depressed about the quiz for which I forgot to study. I might just walk out the door in the morning full of joy, only to trip in front of a really attractive guy and find myself in the pit of despair. Yes, a pit of despair.

The idea that I could work on or grow my self-esteem doesn’t connect with me because I can’t maintain a favorable impression of myself for longer than ten minutes. I embarrass myself more times than I would like to admit.” (Chapter 2, Forget the Corsage.)

I’ve mentioned my feelings about self-esteem before. I really do embarrass myself too often to think that I could muster up good feelings to see me through my day. It’s like wearing water floaties in the middle of a hurricane, not exactly what we need.

But there is hope! God’s word is our shelter from the storm. He promises to keep us safe in the shadow of His wings if we will learn to turn to Him! He offers protection but I am the one who often pulls on the floaties and declares, “Don’t worry! I’ve got this!”

We don’t have to fake it until we make it. God’s truth is real and relevant. His words are enough to see us through our most embarassing moments. Yes. Even the ones that involve peeing in your pants.

For more on that story, you’ll want to enter this giveaway and win the set of e-books I’m offering this week! There are several ways to enter and you can do so each day through Friday. I’ll announce the winner on Monday!

 Question for Wednesday: What was your most embarassing moment in elementary school?

Following,
Ginger

Texas Bound

Pray for my little family of three right now if you have a moment. We are taking Little Miss on her first flight this morning. I’ve never been afraid of flying but I do have an immense fear of disrupting the peace. I am a rule follower. So the idea that I have this little someone who will possibly scream, leak out fluids, and cause disruptions is less than exciting. But I know that we will learn a lot. God continues to teach me about releasing control. YAY FOR ANOTHER LESSON!

I’m thrilled for the opportunity to introduce Baby Girl to my extended family, but I’m also pumped to be speaking at my first event post-baby. I’m going to be hanging out with Jr. High students this weekend and talking about living wide awake. Throw a prayer up for that one as well!

Saturday afternoon I’m having my first event for the release of my book, Forget the Corsage. I’m so thankful it is happening in a place that has such a rich history for me: Tyler, Texas.

If you are in the area on Saturday afternoon, I would love to see you, meet you, and hug your neck. (Just your neck. My sister tells me this phrase is a little terrifying.)

poster4

Because it’s a party, cookies are likely to be involved. (I’m not above bribery.) See you at The Scroll on Saturday. If not, I’ll be back on the blog next week.

Happy Weekending!

Following,
Ginger

Awake, My Soul

dawn

That’s the verse I’m memorizing this week. Psalm 57:8. The reason I am claiming this verse today isn’t because I pulled out my harp when I got out of bed. I identify with this verse because I don’t always awake full of the courage or desire to live out the joy of the Cross. Heck, I very rarely wake up with desire to do much of anything except plot when I can next take a nap or go to sleep.

If you open your Bible and turn to Psalm 57 you will see  inscription that preceeds the song. My Bible says: “Of David.  A miktam. When he had fled from Saul into the cave.”

A miktam was most likely a musical notation or title for psalms of penance for sin. (Jennifer Rothschild – Me, Myself & Lies) David was running for his life when this Psalm was written. He had likely been on the run for years. He spends the first portion of the passage asking for mercy and crying out to God. I picture him poring out these words on the verge of tears:

Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me, for in you my soul takes refuge.  I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed. (Psalm 57:1)

The passage continues as David anguishes over His situation. He lists his worries to the Lord. And then, starting in verse 7, the tone of the passage begins to make a shift.

“My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast; I will sing and make music. Awake, my soul! Awake, harp and lyre!  I will awaken the dawn. I will praise you, O Lord, among the nations; I will sing of you among the peoples. For great is your love, reaching to the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies. Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let your glory be over all the earth.” (Psalm 57:7-11)

David is in real danger. He probably hasn’t slept, bathed, or had a regular meal in days. He is lonely and probably feeling anything but courageous.

I know that when I become overwhelmed I want to crawl up into a ball and have a good long cry until everything has blown over. I want God to swoop in and just fix it.

David demonstrates reliance upon God, but he also makes a choice when it comes to his emotions. David chooses to praise God in the midst of terror. He commands himself, “Don’t sleep through this!Don’t trust your heart, trust God!  Get up and get moving!”  David’s heart might have been telling him to hide, to distrust God (after all, wasn’t David SUPPOSED to be the King?), and to even check out for a while. Instead, David knew how important it was to be awake and alert.

The Hebrew word translated awake means “wake, life up (self), stir up (self).” (Rotschild)

I’m not saying it’s easy, and I’m certainly not saying that this is my usual behavior. I just want to point out the example of David. He’s worn out from the fight and yet he commands his soul to praise the Lord. His attitude and response are his choice. Your attitude and response in the midst of exhaustion are your choice.

Living wide awake is a choice.

Following,
Ginger

Dreams Awake

dreams

I had the craziest dream last night. I can’t tell you all the details. Maybe if I kept a dream journal I would have more luck retelling my nighttime adventures. I have a few friends that keep those kind of detailed notes. My dreams never seem to convey anything other than fantasy, though. I’ve certainly prayed for dreams that give direction from the Lord, but I don’t think they’ve yet to come my way.

I like telling my husband my dreams, but his eyes tend to glaze over. “…And then I was on a bus with Brian Williams from NBC news when we stopped to go surfing, but there wasn’t any water.”

“That’s great, Babe. Thanks for telling me.”

Dreams while we sleep are entertaining, but the kind of dreams I want to pursue require wide and opened eyes.

“Our truest life is when we are in dreams awake.” -Henry David Thoreau

“Wake up, sleeper,
    rise from the dead,
    and Christ will shine on you.” 

Ephesians 5:14

More to come …

Following,
Ginger

Hopes and Dreams

Bibles

 

During my summers in college, I worked as a camp counselor. I spent three months each year ministering to junior high students and added all sorts of skills to my resume: I taught sailing, basketball, drama, and high ropes. I fought off bees, ate my share of corn dogs, and made countless friendship bracelets. I loved almost every second. But some of my favorite moments were spent in the home of my camp director. Each week his wife would host some of the women on the staff for a small group. We sat in the air-conditioned living room, eating popcorn and maturing through the study of God’s Word.

I remember one conversation in particular. We were discussing the dreams we had for our lives when she issued us a challenge …

That’s the start of my post that I’m sharing over at Trochia. I am beyond blessed to be guest posting on their blog and hope you’ll click on the link below and keep reading. Here’s an incentive for you: they are giving away TEN free copies of my book this week. Who doesn’t like free books?

Click here -> Life Starts Now: Trusting God with our Hopes and Dreams 

Hope you win!

Following,

Ginger

Friday Finds: Overwhelmed the Right Way

Friday Finds

Thanks for sticking with me through a crazy week. My new normal as a mom continues to keep me on my toes and forces me back down on my knees. I cannot do this job, much less my other jobs, on my own. I’ve recognized (through tears) multiple times how desperately I try to manage on my own, but really, I need help from every possible source.

But as I indicated yesterday, one of the surest ways to keep from feeling overwhelmed by a to-do list is to stand in awe, to be completely overwhelmed by a generous, loving, and powerful Father.

I felt that on Sunday morning as we sang song after song. I can’t even tell you what lyrics touched my tired heart, all I know is that the moment I released, threw my hands out and let the tears fall, I stood in awe. My list of reasons to be thankful kept flowing and suddenly I was overwhelmed by the nearness of our God. When the service ended someone remarked that I looked refreshed and renewed. I joked that 6 hours of straight sleep, coffee, and a shower will do wonders for you … but I knew in my heart that this renewal came from something bigger and deeper.

As I rocked my daughter to sleep yesterday afternoon, my tasks threatened to take all of my peace again. But out of the corner of my eye I spied this book on her shelf. I’m a HUGE fan of Max Lucado’s books for children. The Boy and the Ocean was a gift from my friend Carey and her family. I pulled it out again and let myself see the ocean, mountains, and stars through the eyes of a child … and in turn my voice cracked as I savored the overwhelming presence, love, and power of our God.

boy and ocean

Whether or not you have a child in your home or you are a kid at heart – you want this book. I typically gift The Jesus Storybook Bible for new babies, You Are Special for high school graduates, and Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing for everything else, but this book is heading onto my list. The illustrations are GORGEOUS and the refrain a perfect reminder,

“[God’s love is] always here. It’s always deep. It never ends. God’s love is special.”

There’s nothing complicated about The Boy and the Ocean. Plain and simple, God’s love is always here.

Happy Friday!

Following,

Ginger