All I Want for Christmas (& Forever)

 

listen

Time is a precious commodity. I cannot believe how quickly the days and weeks roll by. There is so much I want to accomplish, and most of my list is really good: clean the house, write a blog post, laundry, sew some bunting, have neighbors and friends over for dinner, organize my freezer, call friends and have lengthy conversations, meet and know all of my neighbors, exercise, bake, attend classes, volunteer… I mean really. I could keep going, but I don’t feel like I have the time.

If I could ask and receive for anything this Christmas, it would be the gift of more time. (I promise I’m not speeding past Thanksgiving – more to come!)

Life will not slow on its own. I have to be mindful of the days and hours I’m given. In the midst of baking and holiday preparations, I have to tell myself to slow down and declare thanks for each moment. I have to remind myself not to wish these days away- believing somehow that living will be easier, cleaner, or more spacious in the future.

Life is messy in all its parts. The days will run into months if we don’t take time to pause. If we long for God to fill in our gaps, we must give Him space to move and be.

This year, may I suggest a gift for all of us? be

BE.

 “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

God’s answer for our busy schedules, constant striving, and stress-induced insomnia is simple. Be. Just Be.

Be rested.
Be known.
Be filled.

Carey Bailey and I have a dream to gift women just that. A weekend retreat to step away from the striving and to step into being present.

 

Here’s the heart behind With Joy Retreats…

With Joy from Ginger Ciminello on Vimeo.

 

 

Thanks for taking the time to watch and share. I so hope to see some of you in attendance April 10-12, 2015. The Chapel Rock Camp and Conference Center is gorgeous and we are hard at work pulling together an incredible team and intentional sessions for our first retreat. For more information or to register,  follow this link to the With Joy Retreat website.

 

retreat2

 

Following,

Ginger

I need an anchor for my days, even the hangry ones.

It’s amazing what lack of sleep can do to a person, isn’t it? I’m generally a fairly even-keeled gal throughout my day. (Some of my family members are laughing because they might disagree with that sentence.) Let me make a more truthful statement. As long as I’ve eaten (stay away HANGER -> hungry + angry), slept, and things are under control, I’m really pleasant and easy-going.

HAH.

I just reread what I wrote. So maybe I’m not as even-keeled as I would like to imagine. Having a child has illuminated this fact to the nth degree, because my friends, I HAVE NO CONTROL. This is a good thing. It brings me to a place of humility, dependence, and empathy for others. But I don’t really like it. I don’t like waking up in the middle of the night and hanging out with a teething baby for two hours. My emotions run the gambit during that period. First I’m calm and caring. Then I’m tired and desperate. Then sometimes I’m weeping and asking WHY ARE WE AWAKE ALL THE TIME, FOR THE LOVE? Then I can drift into a prayerful and thankful phase. . . but if this phase continues for an hour and my child isn’t getting any closer to calming down, then bring on the bitterness and desperation again. It’s quite the cycle.

I’m not in control. WHAT?

The sleepless nights over the past week were compounded by a busy schedule and lots of speaking and writing requirements. Exhaustion + high expectations = tears and prayer and more tears and more prayer.

After some soul-searching and talking through why I was actually feeling upset, I came to the root of the issue. I don’t like when I’m not in control. Not at all.

But if I try to hang my days on an anchor other than the Lord, I will find myself adrift. As soon as I turn to my own resources I end up frustrated and overwhelmed. Nothing else is weighty enough to see me through the challenges. My performance, recognition, perfection, roles; these are a one-way ticket to a meltdown.

“I’m a bad mom.”

“I’m not cut out for this.”

“If I just try harder.”

“I can’t let them see me fail!”

Sacred Echoes

Enter Hebrews 6:16-19. The phrase “anchor for our soul” came to my heart one challenging morning and I pulled out my Bible to find the verse and context. I have been reading the passage repeatedly every day since.

“People swear by someone greater than themselves, and the oath confirms what is said and puts an end to all argument. Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie,we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. (NIV)

anchor

During one of those nighttime parties last week, I began singing my old favorite, Come Thou Fount. After about 15 minutes of singing every verse at least three times, I determined a new song was required. The first hymn that came to mind: On Christ the Solid Rock I Stand. I couldn’t remember all of the verses, but I knew enough to get me through that night.

As I sang I began to see the connections with Hebrews 6 for the first time. A smile crept across my face in the dark, early hours of the morning.

On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand.

When darkness veils His lovely face,
I rest on His unchanging grace;
In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the veil.

His oath, His covenant, His blood
Support me in the whelming flood;
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my hope and stay.
-Edward Mote

The anchor was showing up everywhere I turned. We sang this hymn on Sunday. My research for a lecture led me back to Hebrews 6. The echo was loud and clear. Margaret Feinberg describes the echoes this way,

“I call them sacred echoes because I noticed that throughout my relationships, daily life, and study, the same scripturally sound idea or phrase or word will keep reappearing until I can no longer avoid its presence.” (The Sacred Echo)

As I walk through my days I now find a new course of action for my heart.

Rather than, “Am I good enough?” my question is simple. “Ginger, what is your anchor?”

What is your anchor?

When I’m desperate for approval or recognition – His anchor holds.

When I’m exhausted, frazzled, and worn – His anchor holds.

When you feel less than – His anchor holds.

This is a truth I will tell my soul a hundred times today and then a hundred times tomorrow when we wake up at 3am to do it all over again. . . because let’s be honest, the waves just keep on coming. But thankfully, His anchor holds.

Following and learning,
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

 

Jump In.

I was paging through some old journals yesterday and came across a single sentence on one page. Usually I fill every space of paper within my books, and yet this question was given lots of blank space to surround it.

“Are you living or just existing?”

The question hit me again today, but probably not in the same way as when I wrote it in 2009.

DCIM100SPORTIn 2009 I was considering making another career change, moving to a new state, writing, traveling abroad … you name it, I was considering it. But at the end of the day all of those ideas seemed far-fetched or in poor timing. I wondered if my life had enough adventure in it. I often questioned whether or not I was settling for movies, reality T.V., trips to Starbucks, and long walks when I could actually do something amazing with my life and time on this earth. At that time I was working and thriving  in children’s ministry but still questioning what the next step might look like.

I’ve always been looking for the next step. As a junior in high school I experienced “senoritis.” While my friends were tearing up at college graduation I was ready and eager to go and start something new. I’ve spent my entire life considering what’s “next.”

But all of a sudden I find myself at a place where the next thing looks the same for the forseeable future. I’m still working from home but now I have a kiddo that demands a majority of my time and energy throughout the day. My lists have gone from the macro to the micro. Here’s my list for today: “Laundry, send an e-mail, return a phone call, eat lunch, shower.” I’ll be honest with you, the micro list feels way more overwhelming than the macro list ever did.

Here’s what I’m learning in the midst of this challnge: I still need to make some big goals. I don’t mean that I should rush ahead of the season of life that lies before me. On the contrary, I need to learn to fully embrace it! So yes, traveling will happen one day, but in the meantime I need to travel to my friend Lindsay’s house to continue to build our friendship. (Right now getting out of the house is a BIG goal.) More speaking opportunities are coming in the year, but I should also pick up the phone and speak life into the friendships God has already blessed me with. I will eventually master Photoshop and develop more confidence in photography, but presently I’m going to document life with my daughter on my phone. Instead of waiting, I’m having to learn to just jump headfirst into the life I have right now.

So what about you? Are you waiting for the next season? Are you holding out for the big dreams and forgetting to soak up what’s right in front of your face? Go snag a snowcone with your friend. Dance in your car. Take your Grandma to lunch. Go hike. Wake up and watch the sunrise. Compliment someone. Volunteer. Audition. Get a group together and play sand volleyball. Worship with your hands raised. Open up the Word and soak it in. Whatever you do, don’t miss out on the joys all around you.

“Robert McKee says humans naturally seek comfort and stability. Without an inciting incident that disrupts their comfort, they won’t enter into a story. They have to get fired from their job or be forced to sign up for a marathon. A ring has to be purchased. A home has to be sold. The character has to jump into the story, into the discomfort and the fear, otherwise the story will never happen.”

-Donald Miller, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years

Time is short. Let’s get to jumping, friends. It doesn’t matter how big the leap, just move …

Following,
Ginger

Gethsemene: oil press

They came to an area called Gethsemane. Jesus told his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” He took Peter, James, and John with him. He plunged into a sinkhole of dreadful agony. He told them, “I feel bad enough right now to die. Stay here and keep vigil with me.”

 Going a little ahead, he fell to the ground and prayed for a way out: “Papa, Father, you can—can’t you?—get me out of this. Take this cup away from me. But please, not what I want—what do you want?”

 He came back and found them sound asleep. He said to Peter, “Simon, you went to sleep on me? Can’t you stick it out with me a single hour? Stay alert, be in prayer, so you don’t enter the danger zone without even knowing it. Don’t be naive. Part of you is eager, ready for anything in God; but another part is as lazy as an old dog sleeping by the fire.”

 He then went back and prayed the same prayer. Returning, he again found them sound asleep. They simply couldn’t keep their eyes open, and they didn’t have a plausible excuse.

 He came back a third time and said, “Are you going to sleep all night? No—you’ve slept long enough. Time’s up. The Son of Man is about to be betrayed into the hands of sinners. Get up. Let’s get going. My betrayer has arrived.”

 No sooner were the words out of his mouth when Judas, the one out of the Twelve, showed up, and with him a gang of ruffians, sent by the high priests, religion scholars, and leaders, brandishing swords and clubs. The betrayer had worked out a signal with them: “The one I kiss, that’s the one—seize him. Make sure he doesn’t get away.” He went straight to Jesus and said, “Rabbi!” and kissed him. The others then grabbed him and roughed him up. One of the men standing there unsheathed his sword, swung, and came down on the Chief Priest’s servant, lopping off the man’s ear.

 Jesus said to them, “What is this, coming after me with swords and clubs as if I were a dangerous criminal? Day after day I’ve been sitting in the Temple teaching, and you never so much as lifted a hand against me. What you in fact have done is confirm the prophetic writings.” All the disciples cut and ran.

Mark 14:32-50, The Message

We deserve the cup of wrath.

Thank you for the Cross, Lord.

When Time Matters

As we talk about the currency of time this week, I couldn’t help but point out the giant metaphor staring me right in the face.

I ran a half marathon this weekend.  It was a first for me and something that’s been on my goal list for almost a decade.  I can’t tell you how great it felt to check it off the list.

That’s why racing is on the brain.

Goofy smiles.

RACE= LIFE
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air.  No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” 1 Corinthians 9:24-27

Paul asks a very poignant question in this passage.  Why run a race if you don’t care about the prize?  I might rephrase it for our context and ask: Why live life without an ultimate purpose?  Hopefully our purpose is sure and we haven’t entered this race without a target goal in mind.

AIM FOR THE TARGET
I’m not a runner, but I am a goal-setter.  Once I had a goal time in mind I wanted to do anything I could to hit it.  I didn’t run aimlessly, determining that “when I get there I get there.”  Instead my running partner mapped out our time goals mile by mile and we focused on hitting the finish within a specific window of time.

Our race had tons of things that could have slowed us down.  There were bands on every corner, people dressed in crazy costumes, and some hills that threatened to slow our pace.  But we kept the music cranked and our faces forward.  And rather than stopping for water or fuel, we carried what we needed the whole race.  We stuck to the center, kept the goal in mind and just ran. 

FOCUS ON THE FINISH
It’s so important for us to stay focused on the goal set before us.  We know that there are a million things vying for our time.  If our desire is to know Him more, then we need to do whatever we can to succeed in that goal.  When we spend time with the Lord we need to be ready to run past distractions.  Turn off phones and close computers.  Even if that time is just in the shower, give Him your full attention in that moment.

Paul uses the race metaphor again beautifully:

“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 3:12-14, NIV

This is a life-long training process, but the time invested will be worth every minute spent in pursuit of the King of Kings.  Let’s keep our eyes on the prize!

“Since we are surrounded by so many examples of faith, we must get rid of everything that slows us down, especially sin that distracts us. We must run the race that lies ahead of us and never give up. We must focus on Jesus, the source and goal of our faith. He saw the joy ahead of him, so he endured death on the cross and ignored the disgrace it brought him. Then he received the highest position in heaven, the one next to the throne of God. Think about Jesus, who endured opposition from sinners, so that you don’t become tired and give up.”  Hebrews 12:1-3, GWT

Running the Race,
Ginger

Spending

“How we live our days is… how we live our lives.” – Annie Dillard

“It occurs to me it is not so much the aim of the devil to lure me with evil as it is to preoccupy me with the meaningless.” -Don Miller

WHAT YOU DO TODAY
Jesse Watson, a local pastor and friend, posted this thought today on his Facebook account: What you do today is important because you are exchanging a day of your life for it.

It’s amazing how one small sentence can pack such a powerful punch.  It’s left me thinking all morning… how am I spending my time?  Am I getting the best return on God’s investment?  The challenge that I’m taking this week: count your hours like you are counting calories.

I’m working on a personal fitness goal so I count my calories every day.  I don’t want to be oblivious to what I’m eating – every bite matters.  I’m hoping to apply the same dedication to my days.  I don’t want to be a time waster. I want to go so far as to make a pie chart and see where those 15-18 hours go each day.  Care to join me this week?

“Teach us how short our lives really are so that we may be wise.”  Psalm 90:12, NCV

Learning to live out His story,
Ginger

Time is Ticking Away

“How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone.” James 4:14 (NLT)

I feel like so many of the messages I heard as a teenager were built around reminding me that life is short.  The sentiment, while completely true, tended to fall upon deaf ears.  Even now as I approach the big 3-0 in the coming year, I am still thinking of my life in terms of “I’m still on this side of the hill.”  I’m still on the side where I should have plenty of time for all of the things I’ve been called to do and all of the things that I want to do.

But as we discussed yesterday, there’s no way of predicting what’s coming our way in the future.  So that means… (drumroll, please) … I have to carefully choose how I spend my time.  Rather than spending it like pennies, I should weigh my hours like hundred dollar bills.  Perhaps this would keep the T.V. off more and the eternal perspective at the ready.

Did you know that 9 years of the avgerage life is spent watching T.V.?  NINE YEARS!  While television and other forms of entertainment can certainly be entertaining; it can also diminish and change our desires.  I’m not saying that watching is going to drive us to make really bad choices, but I do think it can dull us into believing that lattes, sports teams, and new placemats are a goal worth striving for.

“Our greatest fear as individuals and as a church should not be of failure but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter.” –Tim Kizziar

Living for God is more than just avoiding badness and getting good grades.  Life for millions of people is a movie here, hanging out with friends, video games, swimming, buying stuff at the mall, going to a pool, making it to church.  And that’s it.  Anything inherently wrong with those things?  Nope.

But…

We were created for more, far more.

No one on their dying bed is going to regret not spending enough time at the mall or watching movies.  When you are asked what you did with this brief moment – what will you say?  I played basketball and made an A in History?

What are you doing with your life?

The world says, “You’re young, have fun!” It tells us to “obey your thirst” and “just do it.” Or it tells us, “You’re great! You don’t need to exert yourself.” But those kinds of mindsets sabotage character and competence.  Doing the jobs no one wants, doing them well, living well… it’s how we build character and competence.

Don’t let a life of entertainment, leisure, and comfort stuff deter you from the reality that this life is short and that there is much work to be done!

“However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.” Acts 20:24 (NIV)

“Nothing is as wonderful as knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. I have given up everything else and count it all as garbage. All I want is Christ.”  Philippians 3:8 (CEV)

“Here’s the truth about telling stories with your life.  It’s going to sound like a great idea, and you are going to get excited about it, and then when it comes time to do the work, you’re not going to want to do it.  It’s like that with writing books, and it’s like that with life.  People love to have lived a great story, but few people like the work it takes to make it happen.  But joy costs pain.”

“The ambitions we have will become the stories we live.  If you want to know what a person’s story is about, just ask them what they want.  If we don’t want anything, we are living boring stories, and if we want a Roomba vacuum cleaner, we are living stupid stories.  If it won’t work in a story, it won’t work in life.” –Donald Miller, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years

Following,
Ginger