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

Step #11. Spread Joy

season

I want you to think of something that you really wanted for Christmas when you were a kid.  Make sure you choose something that you actually ended up receiving!  It should be the kind of gift that made it difficult for you to sleep on Christmas Eve.  You couldn’t wait for it.  When you discovered that very gift waiting for you in the morning you began hyperventilating and being terribly overdramatic.  (Wait, was that just me?)  Ok, have you picked something yet?  Did you choose your most-desired Christmas gift?  Good.

New question: Did you wake up thinking about that Christmas item this morning?

Isn’t it amazing that something that held so much JOY all those years ago is now lost and forgotten.  Maybe the memory of it put a smile on your face.  But the truth is that stuff (no matter how great in the moment) just doesn’t bring lasting joy.

christmas morning

But what about the huge trampoline that was waiting in the backyard in 4th grade?  I don’t think I even asked for it.  It was an AMAZING surprise that brought joy to my siblings and I (and let’s face it, the whole neighborhood) for years.  But like everything else, the trampoline wore out, fell apart, and eventually made it’s way to the trash.

Even if you enjoyed your favorite item for a few years, it doesn’t hold the same daily joy for you now.

So if we want joy like Christmas morning throughout the season, do we simply continue to replace the old stuff with the new stuff?

Rather than changing out our stuff, I think we need a change of heart and mindset.  God is always in the business of changing us from the inside out.  He desires for us to find real and lasting joy- something that’s done by spending time in His presence.  It’s totally contrary to the solution the world would give us.

“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.  Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”  Romans 12:2. 

I tend to lose joy when I put all the focus on me.  Joyless living is often wrapped up in self-focus and selfishness. So how do I break the cycle this season and stay tuned to sing God’s grace?

stepStep #11. Spread Joy

Buddy the Elf was headed in the general direction when he quips, “The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear.”

I think our joy is multiplied when we look upward and outward. Too much time on MY list, MY expectations, MY gifts and suddenly worry, resentment, and stress can take over. Joy flows most often when we take a step back from ourselves and notice those around us. Joy comes from blessing and encouraging others, rather than focusing on our own needs. When life is all about me, it leaves little room for the joy that emerges through loving people.

“The secret of joy is always a matter of focus: a resolute focusing on the Father, not on the fears. All fear is but the notion that God’s love ends.” (Ann Voskamp, The Greatest Gift)

I long for my heart to remain tuned to the key of grace. I want my interactions at the post office, grocery store, and with my family to bring joy, so my prayer is that I will choose joy in spite of any challenging circumstances or unmet expectations. The Lord has come, what a reason to spread the joy!

“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 #10. Give Love.

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

Step #7. Give Grace

season

I didn’t post anything yesterday. Since starting this series I’ve made an attempt to post every Tuesday and Wednesday. My parents were in town visiting until late yesterday afternoon. I made being present a priority. I hardly opened my computer. Apologies if you are awaiting an e-mail response from me! It’s coming soon.

In the past I might have let my inbox or the need to post translate into stress. But not this year. I’m finally learning to just let go. There is zero chance of me living up to a Martha Stewart Christmas. My side dishes for Thanksgiving won’t make it onto your Pinterest board. I will not be meeting the expectations of our culture’s holiday season, and the sooner I remember that fact the more pleasant my days will be! Part of tuning my heart to sing grace actually involves the permission to say “no” in order to say “yes” to receiving grace.

I’m talking to you, Miss/Mr./Mrs./Ms. Perfection. This season that celebrates the Prince of Peace also threatens to steal our peace. But let’s make a promise right here and now: fight guilt with grace.

stepStep #7. Give Grace

  • The house doesn’t have to be perfect. Maybe this is the year to scale back on decorations, or even gifts. Perhaps the tree doesn’t make an appearance until December 20th. Don’t take on the whole meal, ask guests to bring all the side dishes. Stop apologizing for the mess, instead, welcome others into your home with a willing heart.
  • It’s okay to play hookie every once in a while. I don’t want to miss an appointment or be rude, but sometimes I also just need to tell myself that the world will not stop spinning if I don’t write a blog post! You can express real regret (when you RSVP – which apparently is a lost art!) when you have to decline attending your 8th party of the year.
  • On the other hand, sometimes we say “yes” to others in order to bless them, even when there’s nothing gain on our end. I will always remember my mom telling me about the shift she made in her thinking about funerals. She doesn’t attend for the person who has passed, instead she attends in order to love on those who are hurting and grieving. There are a lot of things I don’t “feel” like doing – but it’s not always about me, is it? Maybe White Elephant exchanges aren’t your thing, so you take one for the team rather than acting the Grinch at the party.
  • Give the benefit of the doubt to the cashier, waiter, or staff member. We never know what kind of day someone else is having. Demonstrating patience is a tangible evidence of grace.
  • Freely dole out grace to friends and family who are also fighting the stress of the season! Push off any drama by being the one who is quick to speak kindly and forgive quickly.

“Grace isn’t natural, but supernatural. The natural responses when you get hurt are either to strike back or to withdraw. When we instead step out of the way and allow God to work through us, responding with unfailing love, even perennials that have endured a deep freeze may lift up their wilting heads and live.” (Dee Brestin, The Friendships of Women)

  • Encourage others to walk in grace. Instead of bragging in this year’s Christmas letter, speak truth! Lead by example and be willing to admit that although you had a great 2013, it also had some really trying chapters. For instance: I just wrote this sentence after my daughter made me cry. Yes. We’re both crying. I’ve been trying to put her down for a nap for almost 2 hours. SHE JUST NEEDS SLEEP. Forget accomplishing anything today, the kid needs to nap for longer than 20 minutes at a time. Love her to the moon and back but want to scream, “CLOSE YOUR EYES AND SLEEEEEEEP.” Authenticity is a gift this time of year.
  • Daily connect with the Author of Grace. If we want to have grace for ourselves we need to find it at the true source!

This is the God of the gospel of grace. A God who, out of love for us, sent the only Son He ever had wrapped in our skin. He learned how to walk, stumbled and fell, cried for His milk, sweated blood in the night, was lashed with a whip and showered with spit, was fixed to a cross, and died whispering forgiveness on us all. 

…To live by grace means to acknowledge my whole life story, the light side and the dark. In admitting my shadow side I learn who I am and what God’s grace means. As Thomas Merton put it, “A saint is not someone who is good but who experiences the goodness of God.”

-Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel

pumpkin

Gift yourself the chance to be less than perfect this season. Rely on the Lord and depend upon His strength. When you start resting on the promise that you are loved and that His grace is enough, you can’t help but sing of that grace.

“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 #6. Practice Prayer

season

First words that come to mind when I tell you that there are eight days until Thanksgiving and thirty-four until Christmas? I’m guessing rest and renewal don’t make the cut.

The expectations of this season are so high that what often gets side-lined in preparation for these holidays is time with the Lord in prayer.

“The more you pray, the less you’ll panic. The more you worship, the less you worry. You’ll feel more patient and less pressured.” –Rick Warren

Today I want to talk you through the idea of rest and renewal through prayer. I believe with all of my heart that if we invest in this time, the reward will astound us.

Now when I mention prayer, some of you immediately feel more rested. For some of us, prayer is as comfortable as pulling on comfortable sweats.

For others prayer can feel like fitting into a suit we purchased in 1998… it’s a ton of effort only to end up feeling uncomfortable, out of date, and defeating.

This is coming from the perfectionist who served up rote prayers for decades and felt uncomfortable with free-styling prayers that went longer than two or three minutes. Prior to finding freedom, my prayers were giant lists of names and sins. I prayed for the requests and needs of others and asked for forgiveness for all the wrong I had done. Much more than that and I began worrying about the construction and content of my prayers. Simple tools like ACTS – Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication only made me feel nervous. My mind wandered and I lived in guilt. I didn’t want to pray.

And yet.

God invites us to pray. Jesus demonstrates how to pray.

If we desire to have our hearts tuned to sing God’s grace we must spend time communicating with Him.

stepStep #6. Practice Prayer.

The truth: I know I should pray so much more than I do AND I often feel as though everyone else prays more and enjoys it far more than I do.

Sybil MacBeth seems to feel similarly and writes in her book Praying in Color, “…But a short attention span and a proclivity for daydreams hamper my efforts. Five or six sentences or breaths into a well-intentioned prayer, I lose focus…. The words of my prayers and the words of my distractions collide in an unholy mess. On a good day, when words flow with more ease, I become so impressed with my successful articulation that I become the center of my own worship. It is not a reverent sight.”

If prayer is something worth doing, then it’s something worth practicing. We aren’t seeking perfection, but communication with our Father. Write, color, draw, sing, walk, speak, just start somewhere!

I know why I must pray in spite of any perceived shortcomings. I must pray because of the deep hunger that stirs inside of me to know the Creator of the Universe. Prayer is our direct way to connect with Him. “Praise be to God, who has not rejected my prayer or withheld his love from me!” Psalm 66:20.

luther

In prayer we find a connection to the One who holds our worth, our futures, hopes, fears, dreams, and longings. Jesus lived through prayer, learning to speak God’s words, to do God’s will, and to pursue God’s glory.

“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 and learning,

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 #5. Listen for the Echoes

season

Friday afternoon I was sitting at a nail salon getting a pedicure for the first time in five months. It was a delightful little gift to have my in-laws watch my kiddo while I stole away for an afternoon of errands. I took the book that I’ve been reading since that last pedicure in June. Reading Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts is like eating Thai noodle soup. The bowl is huge, and it takes focus and precision to get all the goodness with your chopsticks. I’m loving every bite, but I feel like I must savor it. Back to my story.

My toes were being painted with a coat of Guy Meets Gal-veston (Texas, represent!) while I poured over the latest chapter. I was pleased when I entered the salon and discovered they were playing classical music and there wasn’t a TV to be found in the place. There’s nothing worse than trying to focus and having your brain power stolen to watch Extra. So I’m reading and relaxing when all of a sudden the first stanza of Come Thou Fount begins to play, the single notes of the piano stilling every muscle in my body. I look around but no one else is stopping, no one else seems to be hearing. As quickly as it starts, the music stops and another song, a classical rendition of a One Republic chorus begins to play. I don’t know if the CD was changed at that moment, all I know is that for a few brief moments, I heard my song. If you’ve been following this series, you know what it meant to my heart to hear those notes. Even as I sought rest and relaxation, God was continuing to speak to my heart: I have true rest for you. I know what you need. I know how to encourage you.

 aha moment

I cannot tell you how refreshing that moment was, and I am so thankful my ears were listening for it. Because I wasn’t busy  thumbing through the web on my phone, my ears were ready to pick out the tune. Limiting distractions has real benefits. Because I had spent time in the Word that morning, my heart was attuned to hear… tuned to sing of grace.

stepStep #5. Listen for the Echoes

I love how the Lord uses every possible avenue to speak to our hearts. It can be easy to brush things off as coincidence, but I believe that we can discover hope and joy when we are willing to look for God’s voice in our lives, the sacred echo in our world.

“…Like an echo, God often uses the repetitive events and themes in daily life to get my attention and draw me closer to himself…  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.” (Margaret Feinberg, The Sacred Echo)

When you hear it, take note! Take a picture, write a line in your journal, say a prayer of thanks, just don’t let the sacred moment pass you by. When we pause to recognize the supernatural in the midst of ordinary, our hearts cannot help but to sing His grace.

“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.”

Listening and 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 #4. Rest

season

I know exactly when my daughter needs a nap. She switches from her usual lovely self to an angry/fussy version that if I’m honest, isn’t my favorite. Every noise sounds both sad and angry. She simply needs some rest. She ate, played, and her little body has to refuel before she can make it through the next portion of the day. It feels like she’s the only person on the planet who doesn’t realize that tired = I need to sleep. She FIGHTS sleep during the day. She could medal in trying to keep her eyes open. As her mom it can feel so frustrating to know that the one thing she really needs is the one thing she doesn’t seem to want.

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. The challenge for today is to make rest a priority, and I don’t just mean sleep.

If I want to keep my heart tuned to sing of grace, I have to listen to the words of Jesus when He calls.

Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” (Mark 6:31, NIV)

“If you are caught, as I was, in the barrenness of a too-busy life, look to Jesus. The gospels reveal Him as a man who had learned the importance of saying no. The were times when He said no to the demands and requests made of Him, times when He said no to the crowd and got away to be alone with His disciples, times when He left the disciples to be alone with His Father.” -Colleen Townsend Evans

stepStep #4. Rest.

Our physical bodies definitely need rest and sleep, but our spiritual lives need just as much rejuvination. There’s a reason God commanded us to rest on the Sabbath.

The temptation can be to utilize the weekend or days off with the items that keep getting pushed down our to-do lists. We find an open Saturday or Sunday and quickly begin to fill them with lots of good things while God has the BEST thing for us: REST. On my trip to Israel last spring I began to view Sabbath in a whole new light. It wasn’t a rule to follow, but a GIFT from God. He wants us to rest from work because we need it!

“God presents the Sabbath rest as a shelter we can enter.” ― Charles R. Swindoll.

I don’t know what Sabbath will look like for you, but I know that God would not command something without an important reason. I started my own routine for Sabbath when I was working at a summer camp. In order to be refreshed for the whole week, I spent a portion of it reading, a portion of one-on-one time with a friend or family member, and a portion worshipping with a body of believers. I knew not to schedule much, but to train myself that just “be-ing” was necessary to keep my spirit at rest.

Some ideas for your Sabbath:

alone

1. Cyberless Sundays
2. Screen-free weekends
3. Cook ahead and just reheat leftovers
4. Family picnic
5. Spend the day outdoors
6. Reading
7. Attending a Worship Service
8. Sharing a meal with friends or family
9. Reading the Word out loud at the table before and after meals
10. Worship CD on in the house or car
11. Take a prayer walk
12. Refraining from shopping
13. Going through old photos and remembering God’s faithfulness together
14. Rest from worry!
15. Avoid homework/paying bills/and stress-inducing tasks
16. Learn the Shabbat prayer and why it is so important to the Jews.
17. Light candles.
18. Start small if necessary and build up: 5 hours, then 6, then eventually a full day!
19. Create a Sabbath box and place distracting items in the box for the duration.
20. Save stressful conversations for another day.

It is important to note: practicing rest or Sabbath when you “feel like it” does not make the experience more authentic. It’s so important to be intentional with our rest. Make rest part of your weekly rhythm. The gift of Sabbath will tune our hearts to sing God’s grace more freely!

“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.”

May your rest be deep and nourishing to your soul!

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 #3: Limit Distractions

season

I sat staring at the screen for several minutes.

The boxes were doing their little dance as the dark xs taunted me. Surely deleting the apps wasn’t THAT big of a deal, but the longer I took to make them vanish, the more I realized I was addicted to distraction. Sitting in waiting rooms, that two minutes before the oven timer goes off, while rocking my daughter to sleep… anything that could be a mindless activity begged for the glow of a small screen and updates from the world around me.

 distractions

I’ve been thinking about making a big technology change for the past month. Conviction about the amount of time spent pinning, scanning, and promoting took root in my heart and wouldn’t let go . The dinner table and church have always been technology free zones for me, but I began to wonder why I wasn’t willing to carve out sacred spaces in every area of my home and life. I don’t want my daughter growing up staring at the back of my phone.

It’s easy to talk about wanting to make changes, but so much harder to do. When I first started journaling about this series, 12 Steps to Keeping our Hearts in Tune, I listed out “limit distractions.” I wasn’t sure what it would look like, but I knew it definitely involved less screen time. A majority of my work requires time on the computer and posting through social media, so the practical how to make this happen appeared nearly impossible.

There is nothing wrong with social media at face value. I’ve just watched it become an area of temptation in my own life. It can keep me from prayer and time in the Word. It would have me substitute deep friendships for casual connections, compare my life with others, and ignite jealousy, worry, self-righteousness, and the need to please. Why do I turn to this thing, this technology like a drug?

I have to post this!

I wonder what I’ve missed in the past 3 hours?

My food looks amazing. People should see this.

My Bible Study on Nehemiah hit the nail on the head.

Making changes in our lives can be hard, but it’s our refusal to change the places God is asking us to change that keeps us stuck on the dismal merry-go-round we’re too afraid to jump off yet too sick to stay on. We hold on tightly only to pass by the same old stuff exactly where it was at the last time we swirled past… Reading through the Jew’s public confession and their commitment to do things differently has reminded me of how vital follow-through of obedience is to our repentance. (Kelly Minter, Nehemiah: A Heart that Breaks)

I knew what I had to do when I read Kelly’s words and the response of the Israelites in Nehemiah chapters 9-10.

stepStep #3. Limit distractions.

I can tell you with conviction that  following through in obedience is already tuning my heart only five days into the process.

I deleted them.

Good-bye Twitter. Good-bye Facebook. Good-bye Pinterest.

They still exist on my computer, but there’s something SO freeing about not having them on my phone. I’m not forbidden from checking or using them, I’m simply removing the distraction that was affixed to my hand. Now my phone is a camera and a telephone. My time with my daughter is WITH my daughter. I don’t read a passage thinking about which verse I’m going to stop and tweet.

These 5 days have been WONDERFUL. I wonder why I was too scared to try this sooner… the fear of boredom? I was addicted to distraction.

I just pulled up Facebook for the first time in three days. I scanned for 4 minutes, liked a few things, and then I was done. I closed my computer and got back to living my life … not so I could post about it or Instagram it, but just so I don’t miss out.

I talked to my husband about this distraction craving. We’ve determined to keep the TV off completely at least 2 nights a week. We spend our time relaxing and decompressing in a different way. The appeal is already wearing off and I couldn’t be happier.

Those are some of the ways we are actively removing distractions this season. I know this could look differently for each of us, but the challenge remains: if you want your heart to be tuned to sing His grace, limit the distractions that keep you from experiencing your own life and hearing from the Lord. This time is too short and too precious to spend it living vicariously through anyone or anything else.

“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

 

Following,
Ginger

To catch up on the rest of the series:

Tune My Heart

Step #1. Demonstrate Gratitude

Step #2. Today’s Manna