Saturday, March 24, 2012

Unplanned Bloggy Break

Sorry I've been missing a bit this week.  I've been fighting flu and bronchitis, and just haven't had the energy to be online.  Hoping to be back soon, though.  I miss everyone, and hope you all are having good weekends!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Never Standing Alone

Bosnia "You are so brave to have done that!"  I kept hearing those words when I got back to the States.  But I didn't feel brave.  I took a little break from college and served as a refugee relief worker with a missions agency over in eastern Europe while fighting in Bosnia and Kossovo was still going on.  I lived in Austria, and travelled into an area where Serbia, Croatia and Bosnia meet.  It was tense but because of the dynamics, little actual fighting happened there, making it a safe place(or at least safe-ish) to take medical supplies and to bring out refugees.

I was only 19 and it was a whole other world to me.  I felt alive some days, confused on others and sometimes I saw things that absolutely broke my heart.  But I never felt particularly brave.  I just felt like I was doing my job, longing to connect with people, and at times I could close my eyes and have the strongest feeling that God was right there with me. My only bravery was following God and going with Him.

Because of that, I tend to see bravery as trusting.  It doesn't come from me; it comes from trusting God to guide my steps even if they go places I wouldn't choose on my own.  Brave to me is living like I know it's not my will that runs my world.   And I cannot do brave on my own.  It's the Holy Spirit that moves me to boldness I would otherwise be lacking.

And even now, I suppose it's brave in a way to stand against some of the norms of the world.   But it's not really brave of me.  It's more God giving me courage, and making me really live.  Praise be to God for those brave places that show life.

Today I'm writing my heart out for five minutes on Five Minute Fridays.  Unedited and free.  Won't you come join us?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

OneVerse and the Vidunda (Midweek Links)

The work of OneVerse is something that has really touched my heart, and I am so honored to be a OneVerse blogger. As you may know, OneVerse is working to ensure that everyone in the world will have access to the Bible in his or her own language, and we as OneVerse bloggers are part of a project to raise funds for the translation of the Bible into the language of the Vidunda people in Tanzania. That photo above is the verse funded by my $26.00 gift last month. You can find more info on the project HERE.

When I see how far translation has progressed, I remember back in college when I read the book of Matthew closely for the first time. Even now, I can recall that feeling of conviction as I pondered Christ's teachings and saw His model for how we are to be His disciples. And I wonder how it will be for the Vidunda people when for the first time they get to hear this call. That feeling of God's Word soaking deep into the heart is like no other on this earth, and I want all of our brothers and sisters in Christ to be able to know it.

I've been following the progress of the Vidunda translation through the OneVerse website and via email with others on the OneVerse bloggers team, and there is so much to praise and so much to pray for. In this March 2012 report and prayer request, I found out that some sections of translation are already being tested and read aloud to people to see how well they can be understood. Can you imagine how amazing this must be both for the translators and for the people hearing God's Word for the first time? It gives me chills to think about it!

We're trying to get God's Word to these children and their parents!
(photo courtesy of The Seed Company)

And in case you wanted to see just how much this work means to the Vidunda people, I want to share with you a letter received from the Vidunda translation team in Tanzania at Christmas that really touched our hearts:

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Comparing Game

envy pear I think we all do it. "I wish my hair would hang just right like hers does." "I wish I could be like her and make a gorgeous centerpiece with just construction paper, salad greens, beads and a paper clip." "I wish I could afford to stay at home like she does." "I wish I could be as godly as my neighbor." It's endless, the way these dissatisfying thoughts just creep into our minds.

When asked, I can always respond that God has a plan for me. But somewhere along the way, I think we get so caught up in trying to fit in that it's easy to forget that just because God has a plan doesn't mean it's the exact same plan for every single person. Our blessings and our struggles won't look the same.

And we are reminded of this by Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians. In Chapter 12, he tells us that, "the body does not consist of one member but of many," and he goes on in 1 Corinthians 12:17 to say, "If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell?" In other words, the body of Christ needs us to have different gifts and callings because we each serve different and indispensable purposes.

I've heard this passage preached many times, yet it's a message all too easy to forget. One of the blessings I find online is that I have access to so much more in terms of information and ideas than I would have had otherwise. And the fellowship I find there is so sweet. However, that comparison game that we sometimes find ourselves pulled into offline seems to multiply itself ten times online. After all, we have smiling and happy Facebook pages, astounding Pinterest ideas, and bloggers who are way better at crafts than I ever even thought about being.

Sometimes I see all of that and I feel the temptation to be pulled into comparisons coming on. But then there's that still, small voice reminding me that, "You have a calling and it's not the same as hers." "Don't follow your neighbor, follow Me." And best of all, when I'm tempted to compare what I'm doing to what my sisters in Christ might be doing, I can remember being taught that "If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together."(1 Corinthians 12:26) And living in this way is so much better than wishing we could be just like someone else, isn't it?

Linking up at

Monday, March 12, 2012

Book Review: You're Already Amazing

The Book: You're Already Amazing by Holley Gerth
Revell Books, $13.99 (2012)

I enjoy Holley Gerth's blog and often find it sweetly encouraging. So, when offered the chance to review her latest book, I jumped on it even though I was a little skeptical. With such wonderful buzz, why would I be skeptical? Well, I'll admit the title misled me a little at first. After all, this is a book called You're Already Amazing. And I already know that I'm completely not and that if it weren't for God in me, a more theologically accurate title for my life would be You're Already Sinning - And You've Barely Started the Week.

So, I'll admit that I wondered what I would find in a book trying to convince me of my own amazing self. However, I quickly figured out that this was not the point. As Holley Gerth herself points out in several places, including this one, "you're amazing because you're God's creation and he lives in you. You're valuable because you belong to him." And the truth of that hit me. God gives me value, and who am I to naysay Him on this?

The book opens with encouragement, and Gerth has that gift of speaking encouragement in a way both heartfelt and genuine. She reminds us gently that we are God's creation, and when she urges readers to see how wonderfully He has made us, she points out that this is not the puffed-up "Look at me!" pride of celebrities but rather that form of security that comes from remembering, "'I truly know who I am in Christ, embrace that fully, and live in it completely all the time.'" On page 28, she exhorts us to focus on being "in" (as in "in Christ") rather than "on" all the time (as in "doing it all by myself").

As I read those words, I felt my heart responding. Like everyone I know, I have had those times of doubting myself or feeling like I have to be the most special, sparkling woman in the room. I know deep down that this is not God's call for me, and I also know that we are instructed in the Bible to live in God's will and to seek Him, and these reminders from the author of where our perspective should be really helped.

We know that God has created us for a purpose and that we are to live in Christ, so what comes next? In addition to reminding us of that sense of perspective, the author uses her counseling background to give practical tools to help readers be intentional about following God and using their gifts to His glory. These include encouraging readers to chart whether their expectations come from God or elsewhere, to think very frankly about where they are with God in various parts of life (mired in sin, waiting,being led, etc...), learning exercises to help readers figure out whether God has wired them to be more comfortable in small groups, one on one, as well as exercises aimed at helping with discernment in terms of areas in which a reader might have been given gifts. As someone who is used to hearing these ideas discussed in abstract terms, having practical hands-on tools to connect the abstract to my own life really helped.

If you are having trouble figuring out where God may be calling you, or you need a little encouragement to actually get out there and follow Him, this book is an encouraging and helpful read. Gerth cheers readers on in their callings and use of their God-given gifts. Sometimes I need a little extra encouragement and the reminder that a life of seeking God's face is not a spectator sport, and this book delivers that in spades. So, while I may have wondered what I was getting myself into when I picked up this book, the author's biblically-based manner of lifting up readers and giving them ways to be more intentional in following God won me over, and I greatly enjoyed what I found here.

**Note: Most of the books I review I have purchased myself. However, I received a review copy of this book from the publisher in return for my reviewing it, though I am under no obligation to recommend or otherwise grant a positive review.

If you think you might be interested in giving this book a try, (In)Courage has made this their Bloom selection for the spring, so lots of other Christian ladies will be reading along over the next few months.  You can find the details <a href="">HERE</a>.

Friday, March 9, 2012

All Wrung Out

Wrung Out There are some days when I feel like I've just spent out all of myself that I have to spend. You know the sort I mean. Those demanding days of eleventy thousand and one errands, or sick family, or too many plans and just enough surprises to throw it all out of whack.

And when you feel like having nothing left to give, what to do? In those moments of feeling so completely wrung out, I ache. And I plead with God and I pray and I remember.

It's not myself that is the source of strength, the source of anything I have to give. I'm not alone. Even in this world, I'm not alone.

With all of my worrying and all of my many things, I may feel so emptied out sometimes. Yet He will fill me again. He reaches into all of those empty places, speaks to them of life, and reminds me to seek His face.

This was written in five minutes with no editing for Five Minute Fridays over at The Gypsy Mama. Do you have five minutes? Write a little something and join us!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Stepping Out in Faith

A day I’ve had marked on my calendar is finally here. I’m about to finish my last day at my old job.

I don’t do this without mixed feelings. I have some good memories of that place and of my co-workers, and I learned a lot. However, it was also something that took more from my life and my marriage than I could justify giving because instead of helping me to serve Christ and others, it started to keep me from living as God called me to live. Even so, I’ll miss some of the community that I had there for a season. And, while my husband and I did lots of planning, I have to admit that there’s something about not having a regular paying job, benefits, and a title that just feels unsettling in this modern world.
Today I'm posting over at Desiring Virtue. Won't you come join us and read more?

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Where is My Homemaking? A Simple Woman's Daybook

I must confess, friends, I've been in a little bit of a blue funk lately. I think it's because I'm closing one chapter of my life and God is sending me flying into another. And change always brings its little anxieties. Add in some unexpected family illness and last minute changes of plans, and there you have it.

Still, God is so good to us and I've been spending a few days lately thinking and praying about where He is calling me in my home life. Several of my friends participate in The Simple Woman's Daybook, and I thought I'd join in this month because as I read the prompts, I could see the ministry of my home coming more into focus.

Outside my window... Raccoons are gathering on my deck as the often do in the evenings. I love looking at the cute little faces of the raccoon family that lives in my backyard!

I am thinking... of volunteering at a nursing home near my church. I've been holding off on volunteer work as I transition home because I didn't want to simply exchange one batch of overscheduled mess in my life for another. I want to be intentional about where I spend my time and seek God's leading in what to do with it.

I am thankful... for my supportive husband and for the abundance with which God has blessed us.

In the kitchen... I have ingredients out on the counter, and am debating whether to make cookies tonight or just rest.

I am wearing... A navy and cream striped sweater and a long denim skirt; no shoes :)

I am creating... stories in my mind. And I'm trying my hand at cross-stitch for the first time in many years.

I am going... to be home for a while. But my husband has a conference over in the Shenandoah Valley later this spring and I'm going to tag along and enjoy the beauty of my favorite part of Virginia!

I am wondering... what God intends for my writing and where He will take me with it. I read a blog piece today, where the author mentioned that quote from Chariots of Fire where Eric Luddell says, "God made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure." And when I thought about it, I realized that when I park myself here at the computer and write, that's when I feel God's pleasure. I think this is part of what He intends me to do.

I am reading... a book of which I was initially skeptical, but I gave it a chance, and as I read, I'm seeing wisdom in the author's words. I'll review it next week, so you'll know what it is. :)

I am hoping... that I can show people something of God's love in how I live.

I am looking forward to... throwing an engagement party for a sweet friend of mine.

I am learning... to be more efficient and to be a better steward of my time.

Around the house...I see lots of little projects, but I find myself anticipating them in the morning rather than dreading them in the late evening as I sit in traffic on a commute home.

I am pondering... life and fighting that urge to disengage mentally from current events and politics because of the incredible ugliness pervading so much of it. It repels me, but I don't dare stop paying attention and praying because I feel like we are reaching a very critical point in history.

A favorite quote for today... "The fact that I am a woman does not make me a different kind of Christian, but the fact that I am a Christian does make me a different kind of woman." - Elisabeth Elliot

One of my favorite things... is to watch my cats sleeping. They're so cute!

A few plans for the rest of the week: clearing out the living room so that we can paint, running a few errands, and helping a family come up with a long-term placement/care plan for a relative.

A peek into my day...

Monday, March 5, 2012

Book Review: The Defiance, Texas Trilogy

The Books: The Defiance, Texas trilogy(Daisy Chain, A Slow Burn, and Life in Defiance)
by Mary E. DeMuth, Zondervan, $14.99 each ($9.99 each on Kindle) (2009-2010)

In my reading, I enjoy both fiction and nonfiction. After reading several nonfiction books, I was in the mood for story. And the tale Mary E. DeMuth tells in her trilogy gives one a lot of meat to think and pray about, even if not for the faint of heart.

The books are set in 1970s Texas, and the first book opens with the disappearance of teenager Daisy Chance. Her disappearance and its resolution form a story that threads through all three books, and together, the three books show a picture of lives interwoven and seen through three different sets of eyes. The opening book focuses on Jed Pepper, Daisy's best friend, while the second delves deeply into the life of Daisy's mother, Emory Chance, and the third tells the story of Jed's mother, Louise (Ouisie).

Readers will see pretty quickly that Daisy's disappearance is not the only trouble in the small town of Defiance. This far from idyllic little town has residents who struggle with broken families, addictions, serious illness and violence. So many of the characters encountered in Defiance seem quite broken, but still there is hope. As I continued reading, I found myself sinking deeper into these books because I saw characters growing and changing, drawing ever closer to God. Many of the main characters in this series are deeply flawed, yet we get to see God using them in each others' lives, broken places and all.

In my fiction reading, I'll admit that I enjoy reading books about happy families or characters who model strong Christian values that I try to emulate. Most of my favorite fictional places look happier than the rough little Texas town DeMuth shows us. However, Defiance with its outcasts, adulterers, wife beaters, and secret drinkers brims over with the kinds of people who actively sought Christ and followed Him.

We see Jed Pepper struggle with his guilt over Daisy's disappearance and his frustration and anger with his father's temper and his mother's refusal to stand up to it. We see Emory Chance's battle with drug use and her seeking for God even as she fears His judgment. And then there is Ouisie - the pastor's wife with so many secrets, trying to figure out what to do with them and afraid to trust God.

These characters frustrated me, and yet as I saw them moved to faith in Christ, and saw their lives change as they believed and earnestly sought Him, their rough edges took on a sort of beauty. DeMuth does a wonderful job in this trilogy of showing how God's grace in people can change the path of their lives. She shows sin clearly enough to make us flinch, but then redemption that almost melts your heart. The characters in these novels would be lost in almost every sense of the word were it not for God's grace, and that conclusion is inescapable while reading.

Of the three books, I think the first two worked best for me. Daisy Chain because it set up the mystery so achingly well, and A Slow Burn because the path of Emory's redemption moved me so. Even though Emory's story doesn't really resolve until the last book, much of the action takes place in this middle volume. I still liked parts of Life in Defiance, but I did find it the weakest of the three. I think this is partly because Ouisie Pepper simply frustrated me as a character and while I tried to understand her, I also struggled with patience for some of her secrets and the way in which she allowed her children to be treated. In addition, her husband felt a little too much like a standard-issue villain and hypocrite, and I wish his character had been a little more nuanced.

Even so, the Defiance, Texas books are a rather thought-provoking and sometimes wrenching read. One note of warning, though: Many of the characters' struggles with sin are rather vividly portrayed, so some readers may find them upsetting, and these are definitely not books meant for children. However, DeMuth confronts often challenging issues of abuse and sin, and does a wonderful job of imbuing her character's struggles with grace and hope, so if you're looking for fiction with some meat to it, this trilogy would definitely go on that list.

Friday, March 2, 2012

The Ache of Here and There

White Lilies As one of my favorite bloggers has written, "this world is not our home." Somehow that seems more acute when we lose someone we love.

My grandmother died late this fall, and since she was a devout believer, I know where she has gone. The pain fades with time, but there's an ache that lingers. An ache of memory and love and times shared together on this earth.

There's also an ache because with every death on earth, that sense that I am not home intensifies. There's something about knowing that others have gone home ahead of me that makes that homeward pull feel stronger. This world has its truly beautiful moments and memories, but that ache reminds me it's only for a season.

This was written in five minutes with no editing for Five Minute Fridays over at The Gypsy Mama. Do you have five minutes? Write a little something and join us!