Step #12. Remember

season

This entire series, 12 Steps to Stay in Tune this Season, isn’t the end all be all. I don’t attempt to claim expert status. I’ve simply been sharing what the Lord has taught me about keeping the main thing THE MAIN THING throughout November and December. Thanksgiving must be more than turkey and Black Friday deals. Christmas is so much more than decorations and wish lists. Around Mid-October I determined that I didn’t want to end up frustrated and worn thin on Christmas Eve. I resolved this year would be different.

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

This song easily became my motto. I heard it while shopping. I sang it as I rocked my baby. The lyrics have stayed with me and reminded me to seek what matters, to have a heart tuned to God’s grace.

Reminded.

Remembered.

We must remember why these dates are celebrated on the calendar. We must tell our souls the stories of God’s provision and faithfulness. We remember so we don’t forget.

stepStep #12. Remember.

“I am a wandering Israelite who sees the flame in the sky above, the pillar, the smoke from the mountain, the earth open up and give way, and still I forget. I am beset by chronic soul amnesia. I empty of truth and need the refilling. I need to come again every day–bend, clutch, and remember…” (Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts)

 

Remember how Mary was not chosen out of her perfection, but out of her willingness. Remember the first “Silent Night” was probably anything but silent. For while our Savior was sinless, he was most certainly fully human-  and much crying he probably did make. Remember the wise men who saw with their eyes and believed with their feet… they followed.

 

All this to say, in five days, when you sit by yourself or with your family in front of a tree, around a table, in a wooden pew, or on a cushioned chair… remember the 42 generations who awaited the birth of the Messiah. Recall the young teenage girl who gave up her expectations for God’s amazing reality. Picture the infant breathing his first gulp of air and wailing – and then the man who cried out and gave up his last breath on Calvary. This God made flesh has come.

remember

 

 

“Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, so that he might save us. This is the LORD for whom we have waited; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.” Isaiah 25:9

 

Following,
Ginger

Sharing the mess.

I know what you’re thinking. ANOTHER post about being authentic in our messes?

I have to. This is an exercise in changing my mindset. I am perpetual perfectionist, and if I can’t actually BE perfect then I will often give the illusion of perfection. I don’t say it, but I also don’t ask for help. I enter relationships that are convenient. But this is all about to change.

This Wednesday night our home will be filled with an additional fourteen adults and three more infants. Our small group is convening for the first time post baby boom. We’ve debated about where to host this ever-growing crew and it became obvious that the Lord was asking us to open up our home this time.

Remember that part about the illusion of perfection?

 messy

This is what my kitchen currently looks like. I told my husband last night that even if someone came and babysat for two straight weeks I still couldn’t get to everything on my list. This is what I wrote in my journal this morning:

My list is too big. I feel overwhelmed. Any of these tasks alone would be enough to fill my days.

-Writing for other blogs … when I feel like my inspiration has vanished.

-Speaking outlines

-Caring for a new baby

-Maintaining friendships

-Time in the Word

-Cooking and cleaning

-Exercise? (HAH!)

-Growing my marriage

-Book promotion

-More thank you notes

-Financial decisions

-My own blog

-Connecting with neighbors

-Investing in the community and our church

I need a workable plan/schedule. LORD I NEED YOU!

And after coming slightly unglued, I felt the Lord speak into the massive messy list. “You need me.”

I’m not sure why I thought I could do this, any of this, on my own. I didn’t notice the change. I was lifting up my concerns and requests to the Lord when one day I must have just started reaching up and taking a few of them back. “Oh, I’ll take that one. Don’t worry about this one. I’ve got it.”

I don’t got it.

I teeter on the edge of grace and mess each and every day. Here’s the real kicker- life was like this even before the addition of a baby! God is simply using this lifechange to remind me that I cannot do any of this on my own. Why would I want to?

I’m telling you and I’m telling me: stop taking the stuff back. He really wants to take it! This week I’m meditating, claiming, writing and memorizing these gems.

“Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act.” (Psalm 37:2, NIV)

“From the end of the earth I will cry to You, When my heart is overwhelmed; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” (Psalm 61:2 NKJV)

“Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.” (Proverbs 19:21, NIV)

Be encouraged. Share the mess.

Following,

Ginger

 

Remembering His Timing

I’m sharing one of my all-time favorite posts today. I can’t talk about trusting God’s timing without sharing part of the story of His timing in my love life. My husband is just one of the blessings to arrive when I least expected it…

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Blog post from October 17, 2012

His timing, His purposes, His wisdom…

In July of 2009 I turned down an amazing job at one of my favorite places on earth that would have subsequently taken me back to Texas. I was convinced that God had me in the desert to see things through. I started my job in the youth department, jumped back on stage in a local theatre production, began planning for an in-house girl’s conference, and made preparations to travel to Mozambique with the church. I felt like God had showered opportunity and blessing in spades! But mountain tops tend to come with their fair share of valleys. The end of September found me discouraged, opportunities removed, and with loneliness entering the picture in a very real and palpable way.

10-1-2009 | Journal Entry

I feel like I’ve become an emotional mess. I see myself not able to take any of the advice and wisdom I give to others. I am no more able to take every thought captive than I am to keep from crying when someone asks me how I’m doing. I am giving far too much weight to the opinions of others. I am not clinging to Him alone. I lay on my bed and wept several times last night. The only thing that could stop my crying was to read Psalms aloud at full force through the tears. I am fighting loneliness, I am fighting self-deprecation, I am fighting… and

I feel like I am losing.

I shared as much with a few near and dear ones who came to my side and poured gentle truth onto my searing wounds. A friend wrote me a long letter and I copied these few sentences and pasted them into my journal…

Do you trust him? Do you really believe that what he has is better, even if it significantly harder and costs you more?  

A few days later my mother forwarded this devotional to encourage my heart…

Before the Flood, God had said, “Come into the ark” (Gen. 7:1, NKJV). The clear implication was that God was already inside, inviting Noah to join Him there. After the Flood, when God said, “Come out of the ark” (Gen. 8:16, NIV), the implication is that He had left and was asking Noah to follow. The great God of the Exodus Who led His people out of bondage to slavery in Egypt, parting the Red Sea to allow them to pass on dry ground and so escape the armies of Pharaoh – that same great God led Noah, his wife, his sons, his sons’ wives, and all the animals out of the ark!

God’s greatness has not been diluted in any way over the years of time. He is just as great today as He has been in the past. So why do you think He cannot lead you out of trouble? Why would you think He cannot lead your entire life so that you find peace and fulfillment? Why do you think He is unable to lead your children in the right direction that will be pleasing to Him and good for them? God is great! (Anne Graham Lotz)

And I began to cling to hope.

10-15-2009 | Journal Entry

What do I know to be true?

But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love, to deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine. We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. May your unfailing love rest upon us, O Lord, even as we put our hope in you. (Psalm 33:18-22, NIV)

You watch, your eyes are on those who fear you. Your love is unfailing. You deliver from death. You keep those who hope in you alive during famine. You are my shield and my help. You cause my heart to rejoice. We wait in hope for you. Your name is holy. Your love rests upon us. I put my hope in you.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. (Psalm 34:18)

You are CLOSE to me and you save me even in my broken spirit.

On November 2, 2009 I met the man who is now my husband. The journal entries from November are filled with excitement and joy; a far cry from the hurts of September and October. I watched the Lord stand as my shield and help during some of my saddest moments, and I watched wide-eyed as He brought me to a place of abundance.

Today we celebrate our 2nd anniversary. I look back on the heartaches of 2009 and am so thankful for the love and support from friends and family who encouraged me to never stop seeking and trusting. I wanted adventure, direction, and healing in MY timing and within MY parameters. When I was willing to release my grasp and trust His lead, I could slowly glimpse the unexpected and beautiful story He was telling… in His perfect timing.

10-17-2010

 ”In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.” Proverbs 16:9

Amen.

Following and remembering,
Ginger

#AmIpretty

heart

I mentioned yesterday my concern about the LIKE ME aspect of social media. I’ve been thinking about for a while but it has really come to a point as I consider what it will be like to the mother of a young woman in just a few years.

After I speak at schools and conferences I end up with lots of new young followers through Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. I’m honored that you/they have any desire to see pictures of the chalkboard in my kitchen or the thoughts I share in 140 characters. But I’ve also noticed how few young people utilize the privacy settings available. Even though I live a fairly public existence on-line, I am very careful and cautious about the personal information that I do share. The majority of my teen friends on Instagram typically have a thousand followers. When I asked them about the account they could tell me to the precise number of how many people were following and liking on that day.

And then I saw this piece on Good Morning America.

I don’t know about you, but I find using tags like #hotornot, #beautypageant, and #amIpretty to be alarming, to say the least, especially when that’s being asked by young women to friends and even strangers.

Has Instagram become a self-esteem meter? Are we, in essence, asking Social Media to tell us that we are pretty?

I know I’ve only addressed teens at this point (none of my friends in their 30’s are posting “selfies” every day), but I want to acknowledge that the world of “likes” can be a dark addiction for any age. When we seek the approval of our peers to the detriment of our contentment, that’s a dangerous place to be.

So do we toss it all out the window in hopes of finding a cure? Maybe. I definitely admire people who take a step back from Social Media or who have never wandered into the format. But personally I find value in being able to connect with my friends and family who are so far away. I love seeing pictures of weddings I miss. I treasure the baby pictures. (I’m going to try to not go overboard when I’m a mommy. Hold me to it.) Facebook is one of my favorite ways to send my brother a laugh and let him know I’m thinking about him. But I also know that comparing myself to others is a real option when we are all checking out the “best-foot-forward” images of our idealistic lives.

So here’s my challenge to all of us. A few questions to consider before you post:

1. Why are you posting this picture? I try to ask myself this each and every time I hit “post.” I let this question lead me to really consider my motives. Is this true, noble, lovely, or excellent? (Sometimes it’s just funny, and that’s cool too.) Am I looking for an emotional shot in the arm through likes and comments? Am I seeking emotional empathy through a website?

A lot of times I will sit with a photo for 20 minutes and then decide not to hit post. Perhaps I’m over-thinking everything, but in a world that tells me to post everything, I just have to put my foot down and sometimes say NO.

2. Is this humor at the expense of someone else? There’s laughing WITH someone and then there is laughing AT someone. I post funny and ridiculous video clips on my brother’s timeline all the time. It’s our little shared love language. But I’m also careful not to let that humor spill over into being mean. Screaming goats = funny. Celebrities embarrassing themselves while drunk = unkind.

3. Am I posting out of anger? I’ve blogged about this one before. If we are to be known as a people of love we should really be slow to post. May our words (typed or spoken) bring joy and encouragement to anyone listening or following.

“Watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth. Say only what helps, each word a gift.” Ephesians 4:29, MSG

4. Have I checked my security settings lately? I had to throw this out there. Be careful about geotagging your location. With whom are you sharing your daily routine and schedule? I don’t want to become someone overtaken by fear, but at the same time, I want to be smart and protect the privacy of my family. Who can see your pictures? Why do you need them to see your pictures?

5. Am I looking for social media to boost my self-esteem? Even if you won every Instagram beauty pageant and received 300 likes on your next post, my guess is that the high would only last for so long. The “likes” of others can never fill us up. Genuine peace and contentment come when we love ourselves without the approval of others. But true self-worth is found when we see ourselves through the eyes of our Creator.

“The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7, NIV

At the end of the day, my hope and desire is to run everything I present to the world through this filter…

Am I saying this now to win the approval of people or God? Am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be Christ’s servant.” Galatians 1:10, NIV

Following,
Ginger

Thursday Tips: Ammo

I was recently asked by a friend for some of my go-to verses when it comes to trusting truth rather than our ever-changing feelings. It’s a question I’m asked often so I determined to write a post on the very topic.

This Thursday, my prayer is that you will develop your own list of well-known verses for the road ahead. But for now, I present to you my own list of ammunition for taking thoughts captive and staying my mind on what I know to be true

verses

(*NIV 1984 version unless otherwise notated.)

“The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” 2nd Corinthians 10:4-5

“But you O LORD are a shield around me. You are my glory, the one who holds my head high.” Psalm 3:3

“He rescued me because he delighted in me.” Psalm 22:20

“But the eyes of the LORD are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love, to deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine. We wait in hope for the LORD; he is our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. May your unfailing love rest upon us, O LORD, even as we put our hope in you.” Psalm 33:18-22

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18

“When I said, ‘My foot is slipping,’ your love, O LORD, supported me.” Psalm 94:18

“Then they cried to the LORD in their touble, and he saved them from their distress. He brought them out of darkness and the deepest gloom and broke away their chains. Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men, for he breaks down gates of bronze and cuts through bars of iron.” Psalm 197:13-16

“Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go.” Psalm 143:8

“Surely, as I have planned, so it will be, and as I have purposed, so it will stand.” Isaiah 14:24

“You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you. Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD, the LORD himself, is the Rock eternal.” Isaiah 26:3-4

“I will be your God throughout your lifetime–until your hair is white with age. I made you, and I will care for you. I will carry you along and save you.” Isaiah 46:4, NLT

“Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear.” Isaiah 65:24

“You came near when I called and said, ‘Do not fear.'” Lamentations 3:57

“It does not depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy…” Romans 9:16

“He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” 1 John 4:4

“…Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” 2 Corinthians 3:17

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

This is just a start, but I hope you will add your own favorites in the comment section.

Following,
Ginger

Hurts and Hopes

 globe

It’s been a whirlwind of a week in my life. How about you? It feels as if once again the hurts and hopes swirl together until there is no longer valleys and peaks, but instead a whirlpool of life experience.

A car crash that causes us to remember how fragile and short this journey actually is.

A wedding and celebration that point to the best parts of life on this earth.

New babies, old friends, close hugs, exhausting days, and a sun that just keeps coming up in the morning.

This is life.

I’m spending the next days speaking to two groups of teens. Have I mentioned how much I love my job? I love connecting. I love storytelling. I treasure when a student finds me in a hallway, lowers her voice and looks in earnest as she says, “The story you shared? That’s my story too.”

When we hold our hurts and hopes so close that no one ever sees or knows, we prevent shared experiences. But when we tell our stories we remind each other that we are all in the whirlpool together.

“I listened so hard because it felt like, while she was telling me stories, she was massaging my soul, letting me know that I was not alone, that I will never have to be alone, that there are friends and family and churches and coffee shops. I was not going to be cast into space.”  Donald Miller, Blue Like Jazz

Share your story with someone today. The hard parts and the redeemed parts can both be equally encouraging and strengthening.

Let the redeemed of the LORD tell their story.” Psalm 107:2, NIV

Following,
Ginger

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