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Monday, June 15, 2015

Book Review: Longing For Paris: One Woman's Search for Joy, Beauty, and Adventure Right Where She Is




Recently I've been privileged to be apart of the launch team for Sarah Mae's (www.sarahmae.com) new book, Longing For Paris, and was able to read an advanced copy. What a treat!

I wanted to do a little review of the book on my blog and encourage you to pre-order your copy!

http://www.amazon.com/Longing-Paris-Womans-Search-AdventureRight/dp/1414372612

I'm sure most women can identify with Sarah's voice and her stories of longing and searching in the midst of the chaos of everyday life. I know I have an ongoing, internal struggle between my own dreams and my responsibilities as a wife and mother. But, what if there didn't have to be a tension between our realties and our dreams. What if we could learn how to bring our dreams into our present reality and find joy and purpose and adventure right where God has placed us. Yes, many days we may dream of traveling to Paris (Sarah's dream) or spending our days writing and teaching (one of my dreams), but that doesn't mean we can't find beauty and wonder and awe as we do our day-to-day tasks as wives, mothers, employees, etc.

The most refreshing part of Sarah's book is her constant encouragement to search your heart to discover your dreams and longings, not so that you can selfishly drop all responsibilities to "follow your dreams", but so you can identify how God created you and how He wants you to bring your gifts, dreams and longings into your present reality for His glory.

Do you crave adventure? How can you create adventure for your family where you are now? Do you love all things beautiful? How can you create beauty in the space you are in now? Do you dream of ministering to others and using your gifts for God's kingdom? How can you use those ministry gifts in your family, in your neighborhood and in your church as you live with purpose where God has you now, not stagnating waiting for the kids to grow up or to retire so you can "really serve"?

I highly recommend Sarah's book if these struggles sound similar to your own. With humor and transparency, she lets us into her struggles and successes in order to encourage us as we "navigate the tension between our reality and our longings".


Monday, April 13, 2015

Search Me and Know Me

It's so good to be back! I decided to take a break from social media for Lent and it was very refreshing. But, I did miss writing a lot. I'm not sure where I'm going next with the blog but since I'm wrapping up the Bible Study I teach soon, I'll have more time to meditate and write.

The focus of my study this week is Psalm 139. What a beautiful Psalm!

1LORD, you have searched me and known me!
2You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from afar.
3You search out my path and my lying down
and are acquainted with all my ways.
4Even before a word is on my tongue,
behold, O LORD, you know it altogether.
5You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
6Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is high; I cannot attain it.
7Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?
8If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
9If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
10even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me.
11If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light about me be night,”
12even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is bright as the day,
for darkness is as light with you.
13For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
14I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.a
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
15My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
16Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.
17How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
18If I would count them, they are more than the sand.
I awake, and I am still with you.
19Oh that you would slay the wicked, O God!
O men of blood, depart from me!
20They speak against you with malicious intent;
your enemies take your name in vain.b
21Do I not hate those who hate you, O LORD?
And do I not loathe those who rise up against you?
22I hate them with complete hatred;
I count them my enemies.
23Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!c
24And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting!d

What an amazing picture of who God is and how much He loves us! The God who is All-Knowing (verses 1-6) and Everywhere-All-The-Time (verses 7-12) created me, knows everything about me and still He loves me.

The God who shines light into darkness and dwells everywhere, has numerous thoughts about me, so many that I can't count them (verse 17). After reading this declaration from David, how could I ever doubt His love for me?

Also, His love is so deep for me that He can't let me stay where I am in my walk with Him. He desires for His children to cry out as David did for Him to search our hearts and reveal our weaknesses to us. He already knows our thoughts and our motives, but He wants us to want to hear from Him about our faults and where we need to be refined. He wants us to seek Him and draw near to Him so He can sharpen us into tools He can use for His purposes.

I am grateful daily for the refining love of my God for me!

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Own Your Life Book Club Part 4

Today I will wrap-up my thoughts on Sally Clarkson's book Own Your Life. In the last part of this book, the main theme running through all the chapters is "Love". What a fitting theme for the month of February! I love Sally's thoughts in these chapters on love.

"...measure your life by how well you have loved. In the moment that you love well, you are the most like Jesus." "God is much more concerned with your love than with your service." (pg. 181)

"God is the ultimate lover. Marriage is meant as a picture of our Bridegroom, Jesus, and His never-ending, unconditional love. He initiates and pursues a relationship with us. He values us so much that He gave up His life for us. He promises never to leave us or forsake us; He says that nothing can separate us from His love. He forgives us for all past, present and future failures; and He is preparing an indescribably beautiful place where we will celebrate and enjoy life with Him for all eternity." (pg. 208)

Living life intentionally involves loving well. But, how can one love truly and fully if one hasn't truly and fully experienced the love of God.

We sang one of my favorite hymns of all time at church today- "And Can It Be, That I Should Gain?" by Charles Wesley.

And can it be that I should gain
An int'rest in the Savior's blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain?
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! how can it be
That Thou, my God, should die for me?
Refrain:
Amazing love! how can it be
That Thou, my God, should die for me!
2 'Tis mystery all! Th'Immortal dies!
Who can explore His strange design?
In vain the firstborn seraph tries
To sound the depths of love divine!
'Tis mercy all! let earth adore,
Let angel minds inquire no more. [Refrain]
3 He left His Father's throne above,
So free, so infinite His grace;
Emptied Himself of all but love,
And bled for Adam's helpless race;
'Tis mercy all, immense and free;
For, O my God, it found out me. [Refrain]
4 Long my imprisoned spirit lay
Fast bound in sin and nature's night;
Thine eye diffused a quick'ning ray,
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free;
I rose, went forth and followed Thee. [Refrain]
5 No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in Him is mine!
Alive in Him, my living Head,
And clothed in righteousness divine,
Bold I approach th'eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own. [Refrain]
Amen.

My favorite line is, "'Tis mercy all, immense and free; For, O my God, it found out me." God's love and mercy are so immense and so free and oh how grateful I am that He found me!

If I could only understand a fraction of the love that God has for me- how much better I would love and serve those around me. This is my challenge for you this week- drink deeply of the love of God so that you can in turn love well. This is the life God has called us to as Christians- to love well. 

36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22:36-40 (ESV)

I highly encourage you all to read Sally's book if you haven't already. It has been very challenging, convicting and encouraging to me. 

Next week I will begin a new series of posts on the next book I'm reading- "The Fellowship of the Burning Heart" by A.W. Tozer. I'm excited for this next journey with each of you!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Own Your Life Book Club Part 3

Last week I ended my post with the suggestion that we cannot "own" our lives without the help of the Holy Spirit. Paul, in the book of Galatians, describes for us what a life, yielded to the Spirit, looks like.

"But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh." (Galatians 5:16, ESV)
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control..." (Galatians 5:22, ESV)
"If we live by the spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit." (Galatians 5:25, ESV)

But, what does it mean to "walk by the Spirit"? Sally suggests that, "Walking by the Spirit means yielding our thoughts, attitudes, desires, prayers, and goals to the Spirit as we go about our days." (pg. 89) As you can see, living by the Spirit is a choice and a choice that we have to make daily.

From there, Sally goes on to discuss how we can partner with God to own our lives, live more in step with the Spirit and be transformed into people who do His will. Some of these ways include:

1. The Spiritual Disciplines-

The spiritual disciplines include the disciplines of reading your Bible, prayer and rest. Oh how I know these are so hard to practice as we go about our busy, daily lives. The time has to be thoughtfully and intentionally carved out. It is so hard but so worth it to carve the time out to read Scripture and to pray. But, what about rest? For my thoughts on what true rest looks like, read this post-http://extraordinarytreasure.blogspot.com/2012/08/true-rest.html.

2. Be a Risk Taker-

This goes against every fiber of my being. I am a planner and an avid risk avoider. I attempt to plan my life in such a way that I'm always in control and always prepared for what will happen next. But, I don't believe that's how the Christian life was meant to be lived. I'm not saying that planning and preparing are wrong, to the contrary those practices are very prudent, but when all that planning takes the place of living by faith, we are headed down the wrong path.

"Faith, I've learned, is a mysterious process of following the voice of God, accompanied by hard work and wisdom. We step out in faith with engaged hearts as we pursue God's wisdom and ideals, which He whispers to us as we seek Him." (pg. 115-116)

3. Investing in your Emotional Health-

How do we invest in our emotional health? Reading good books that challenge us and inspire us, enjoying nature, exploring art, listening to good music and feasting on healthy, delicious foods are all ways we can invest in our souls.

Personally, I love good music, art and interesting books. I truly enjoy spending hours in an art museum and listening to people speak on new thoughts and ideas. But, these things are so hard to do with small children. Sally really challenged me in this area though.

"When we are constantly emptying our hearts, minds and souls, it is essential that we take responsibility to keep filling them up. What we feed our inner beings will determine what we can give to those in our spheres of influence. What we have stored, cherished, and valued in our lives is reflective of our true selves." (pg. 133)

This year I am making a concerted effort to improve in this area. I truly believe that I cannot pour into my children and teach them to enjoy the world God created unless I enjoy it myself. Instead of just throwing the dog in the backyard, I want to walk her more and enjoy nature as I walk her instead of texting or talking on my phone. Listening to good music can easily be incorporated into my daily life as I cook, clean and do my other tasks around the house. Instead of watching so much television and randomly searching the internet, I am reading more books that encourage and challenge me. Instead of aimlessly wandering through Target on mornings my kids are in school, maybe I can visit an art museum or attend a lecture.

My prayer for myself and for all of you is the same as Sally's on pg. 141.

"Lord Jesus, we praise You because You came to restore life to our bodies, souls and minds. Help us to seek You today in the midst of all the good gifts You have given us, and may we be refreshed by Your Word, Your creation, and all that we take in through our senses. And then, O Lord, help us to become life givers within our homes, neighborhoods, and churches, for Your glory. Amen." (emphasis mine)

"Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things." (Philippians 4:8, ESV)

Friday, January 16, 2015

Own Your Life Book Club Part 2

Have you ever sat down and really thought about the talents God has given you so that He might use them for His glory? Oftentimes I get so busy with the daily activities of life that I forget to pause and think my vision for my life- what are the dreams, goals and ideas that I want to pursue? I don't often pause to pray and ask God to help me live my life with intention and purpose. I don't ask myself, "What skills, gifts and talents has God given me and how can I use them to further His kingdom?"

In chapters 4 and 5 of Own Your Life, Sally encourages us to pray and figure out the purpose God has given us to do on this earth. My favorite quote from chapter 4 is:

"If you dedicate yourself to taking in spiritual wisdom from Scripture, giving yourself wholly to the purposes of God, disciplining the attitudes of your heart, and stepping out in faith to show Jesus to the world, God will use us to shape history for His glory." (pg. 47)

Really?!! Me? Shaping history?! That is a really hard pill to swallow. How am I, an ordinary wife and mother, going to shape history? It is really hard for me to dream that big and to see that my life really matters in the Kingdom. But as a wife, mother, friend, etc. I have the opportunity to love well and use my gifts to further God's purposes in the world.

I need to ask myself the questions Sally asks. "Are you willing to live by faith and bring His influence to bear in every aspect of your life - to live each day filled with His love and power?" "When Jesus lives through someone, He always moves that person to do what is on His heart. He is always concerned to redeem others through the life that is yielded to Him." (pg. 53)

So, how do we practically "live each day filled with His love and power"? I really like the suggestions she makes in chapter 6.

1. Taking time to wonder- As we ponder who God is and how big His works are, our faith will greatly increase. In order to serve Him in this world, we must be in awe of who He is and how He displays His glory around us. That should bring us to our knees.

2. Becoming like a little child- Children dream big and believe in miracles. What would happen if I stopped worrying so much and just enjoyed life? What could God do through me?

"Even as the tiny, temporary lights of city streets, cars, and signs seem to snuff out the powerful stars, so the false lights and values of this world can darken our minds to the grandeur and brilliance of God. It's only when we see with the eyes of humble faith and bow before Him that we can hear His instructions." (pg. 75)

"He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way..." (Psalm 25:9, ESV)
"God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble..." (1 Peter 5:5, ESV)

3. Practice worshipping regularly

4. Choose thankfulness- If I am constantly discontent and have an attitude of ungratefulness, I will be blind to the work God is doing around me in the situations where He has placed me. But, if I choose to be thankful in all circumstances, I will be more open to what God is doing in my life in the here and now.

I know for me I can read these ideas and turn them into a checklist that I have to accomplish in order to be used by God. But, in the end, only God can work through me and use me for His will. I can try to do all He has called me to in my own strength, but I can't. I need Him to work through me by the power of His Holy Spirit.

"...for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure." (Philippians 2:13, ESV)

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Own Your Life Book Club Part 1

Myla, age 4, with Belle at Disney


Oh, little girls and princesses...It just seems to be ingrained. I am not a very girly girl and for the most part my daughter is not either. But, there is just something captivating to little girls about princesses. Myla has princess everything and when we went to Disney in November out entire trip centered on attempting to meet every princess. What is it about the princesses that cause little girls to be obsessed with them? I think it's the beauty, the adventure in each of their stories and the grandness of their lives (i.e. castles, beautiful wardrobes, handsome princes, etc.).

I've just finished the first three chapters of Sally Clarkson's book, Own Your Life. She spends the first few chapters discussing the barriers to owning our lives. In chapter 3, she quotes from the book A Little Princess saying, "I am a princess. All girls are. Even if they live in tiny old attics. Even if they dress in rags, even if they aren't pretty, or smart, or young. They're are still princesses." 

I would say it's the same for little boys and super heroes. As Sally's son Nathan said, "Superman is inside me waiting to come out!" In each little girl and little boy there is a princess or a hero waiting to come out. 

But, life happens. Life is hard, circumstances take place, things are done to us that are outside of our control, etc. and our lives go from the exciting to the mundane. Part of that is moving from childhood to adulthood and living life, but some of that is the world, sin and others squelching out of us who we really are and the lives we are meant to live.

As Christians, Jesus promises us, "I came that they may have life and have it abundantly." (John 10:10) As Christians our lives aren't meant to be mundane and mediocre. We are meant to live an abundant life that matters for the Kingdom!

Sally presents several barriers to owning our life such as culture and the busyness of life, but the one that hit home the most for me is the fact that I listen to too many negative voices. These negative voices, whether from within or without, keep me from hearing the voice of the Holy Spirit. Instead of living a life of purpose and intention and boldness, I cower as I listen to voices that spew lies and render me ineffective for the Kingdom. These voices convince me that I'm nothing special, I can't be effective in ministry, I'm not the perfect wife, mother or friend. But, these voices are lies! And God 's Word is covered in the truth that God loves me and has a specific plan and purpose for each one of His children.

"I have loved you with an everlasting love..." Jeremiah 31:3

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." Romans 8:1

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come." 2 Corinthians 5:17

"And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose." Romans 8:28


What barriers do you experience to owning your life, living a life of intention and purpose? 

"Remember - it's not just possible to live a full, flourishing life; God actually designed you to live this way." (Own Your Life, pg. xix)

"There is no single way to serve God, but the point is this: We each have only one life to live to tell a story about Him, about His ways, about His love. And if we are Christ followers, then God calls us to use our gifts, to exercise our faith, and to become salt and light right where we are." (Own Your Life, pg. xxi)

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

I'm Back! (Where I've Been and What's Next)

I'm back to blogging and it feels great! I took a little break in the fall because I started teaching a Bible Study again and I needed to dedicate more time to lesson planning. I will be teaching again this Spring but most of the prep work is complete.

One of my resolutions this year is to read more and watch less t.v./surf the Internet less. I've always been an avid reader but over the last few years I've slacked off mostly out of laziness and brain drain from raising little ones. My goal is to read one book a month over the next 6 months and blog here about my thoughts as I read. Talk about accountability!

One of my favorite bloggers is Sarah Mae (sarahmae.com) and I've decided to follow her reading plan because I think she's picked some great books! Here's the plan:

January- Own Your Life by Sally Clarkson
February- Fellowship of the Burning Heart (includes In Pursuit of God which I've always wanted to read) by A.W. Tozer
March- The Holy Spirit and Power by John Wesley
April- The Sovereignty of God by A.W. Pink
May- Sinners in the Hands of An Angry God by Jonathan Edwards
June- Names of God by Nathan Stone

There are lots of reasons why I decided to go with her list but one of the main reasons is because I've always wanted to read many of the Christian classics. I had to read a lot of books in seminary but there were so many I never touched. Time to change that! I chose Sally Clarkson's (sallyclarkson.com) new book first because I think a book on living with intention is a great read for the new year.

If you're interested in joining me in my virtual book club, comment below. I look forward to exploring these new (and old) reads with each of you!