The Hope Chain: RECLAIMING ADVENT with FREE PRINTABLES!

 

NewBloggerCollageBW Yesterday marked the official start of  Advent – the countdown to Christmas, the day we will celebrate the arrival of our Savior, Jesus Christ: our Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

I admit that many years I’ve spent this season wrapped up in the ‘stuff’ of the holiday. The busyness. The stress. The shopping. The things. (Don’t you get exhausted just thinking about it?)

This year, however, a group of sweet gals and I have joined together to go against the grain and RECLAIM ADVENT.

As my beautiful friend, Krista Gilbert, author of Reclaiming Home, says, “Traditions matter, no matter the age. They provide a strong anchor of family identity and also make the season special. They offer a chance for us to break up the monotony of everyday life and infuse fun, connection, and meaning into Christmas.”

Amen.

With fostering tradition and building memories in mind, the 8 of us created the THE HOPE CHAIN – an old-school link chain made up of daily activities that will help us build fun, connection and faith in 15 minutes or less.

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Here’s the scoop:

The Hope Chain

What it is: An Advent chain with one activity for each day of December leading up to Christmas that promotes fun, connection, and faith.

How to use it: Print + cut the activities into strips. Form strips into a chain in order (they are numbered). Each day (carefully) tear off the bottom chain as a family and do the activity listed when you have a 15 min. window. Start on Dec 1st for 25 Days of Advent, ending on Christmas day.

You will need: Printer, Paper, Stapler / Tape

Hashtag: We’d love for you to hashtag your family doing the advent activities throughout the season. Use the hashtag #thehopechain

Because these bloggers are so much fun, each one has a different design of The Hope Chain. You can choose the one that fits your home décor and colors best!

Here’s my styled Hope Chain:

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Download it here.

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Take your pick and HAVE FUN celebrating
this most wonderful time of the year!

**All links will open in a new tab. Pick the best to match your decor.**
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Krista Gilbert
kristagilbert.com

Alexandra Kuykendall
alexandrakuykendall.com

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Tammy Strait
graceuncommon.com

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Allison Hendrix
thehouseofhendrix.com

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Jamie Ivey
jamieivey.com

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Elisha Joyce
rebelgrain.com

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Jessica Wolstenholm
graceformoms.com

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Positive Message Tees w/a Purpose
asyouwishdesignjewelry.com

I hope you’ll join me – and us! I’ll be looking for your on Instagram – so connect with me @rebelgrain and share how The Hope Chain is brining FUN, CONNECTION and FAITH into your Advent season.

Much love to you… and looking forward to watching this journey unfold 🙂

JOIN ME: 31 Days of Soaking Dry Bones

Cracked clay landscape in the Atacama desert.

Today I’m doing something quite crazy in my mind… I’m committing myself to a 31 day experiment.

When I left for the retreat last week, I need to tell you the truth: I was OVER it. I was over cleaning, and serving, and volunteering, and washing, and doing, and answering, and feeling like a puppet. I was over being exhausted, lonely, and feeling overlooked. I was dried up on the inside and dying (praying!) for the time away to light me up.

As I shared with you yesterday, the time away did renew me. The hard part about that, though, is that it didn’t renew me only because it was all fun and roses. (Sometimes we think fun will solve all of our problems, don’t we?) No – the deeper reason I came back renewed is because I did something I had been struggling not to do: face the Truth my hard heart was the reason for my exhaustion. As we opened the Word and shared our stories with one another, minute by minute, brick by brick the wall of bitterness separating me from the Truth came down until, all at once, I saw clearly: I wasn’t doing what I was called to do.

I am called to be a servant – that’s just what it is. I am married, I have babies, we have a life that requires my 100%… yet, I had stopped seeing it as a get to and turned it into a ‘got-to’. I had been running from “servant”, fighting against “servant”, hating the word “servant”… yet, on the very last day of our time together, one of the sweet gals handed me a printed word and said, “I’ve been praying for you… and as I prayed I asked the Lord for a word to share with you. He gave me this word…”

I reached out – excited to see “powerful”, “leader”, “strong”, “courageous”… yet, you know what she handed me?

SERVANT.

I didn’t know what to say in that second (especially since disappointment was coming on fast like a tidal wave), so thank God she continued. “… and here’s the verse this word for you flows from. I held back the tidal wave, looked her in the eyes, and she read to me Matthew 11:28-29: “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS.”

I wept. Like, I couldn’t hold it back kinda cry. It was like Jesus has stepped down from heaven in the form of my sweet sister, grabbed me by the shoulders and said, “SERVANT – LEARN FROM ME. SERVE LIKE I’M ASKING YOU TO AND YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOUL.”

It was a life-changing moment… that moment standing by Priest Lake with Jesus and Truth.

Now that I’m back, the challenge begins. Change doesn’t just happen – we have to MOVE in the direction we want to go in. And, me? I want to go in the direction of green pastures, still waters, and joy in the day-to-day of my actual, everyday, very real life. It’s where He’s calling me – to learn what SERVANT looks like so that I can life free, and full, and bright like He did when He walked this earth.

Studies show that the best learning happens when we engage ALL senses. This means for the next 31 days…

Here’s the plan:

Each day I will wake up with a new Truth to meditate on; a Truth that will help me get my focus off me and back on Him. I will read it with my eyes, speak it with my mouth (2 senses)… and then I’ll also assign myself an activity for the day that will reinforce what I’m meditating on (hopefully engaging touch, taste, smell).

I don’t know how this is gonna work – I’m literally thinking of it as I go and praying for inspiration. All I know is this: in the valley of dry bones, the only thing that can bring life, and form, and wholeness back is His Spirit pouring into us.

This is where I’m at… with dry bones that need a good, long soak.

What do you say… join me?

If so, come on over to Facebook and Instagram where I’ll be posting my daily verses and activities. Also, please tell me: what sucks the life out of your bones? Hearing what you have to say will be great inspiration for where to focus this journey. We’re in this together, you know – and I’d love to walk hand in hand as we pursue His heart.

The Door Is Open

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“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”

Matthew 7:7

Several months ago in late spring, right in the middle of closing on our new house and anticipating the new life we were jumping into, an invitation arrived in the mail.

It was an invitation that came unexpectedly… from a woman I had never met personally… and invited me to join a group of other women from across the country that I had no personal knowledge or connection to.

The funny thing, though, is that in my quiet times before the Lord, I had been praying – PRAYING – with tears for help. My spirit and creativity were drying up; I had been feeling lonely in my writing, wandering in my work, questioning my calling. Even though everything on the outside said “good” and “put together”, my insides were a mess.

Father, please,” I had asked Him… “Please place someone in my life that understands this place that I’m in – someone who can help me discern what you’re calling me to do with all You’re faithfully giving to me.” Days upon days went by – and soon weeks of this prayer, always the same: “Father, I know you see me. I need you – I need your guidance to calm me in this storm of confusion, and to focus me on using my gifts and talents for YOUR work.”

Then… He showed up in an invitation to The Open Door.

I chuckled to myself as I read the invite thinking, “Lord, I asked for someone… are you serious? You’re giving me an entire GROUP??”

I continued to read and when I got to the themed verse of the entire event, He whispered through it, “Yes, sweet girl. I’m giving you an entire group, and here is My purpose: that, when you walk through this open door, YOU WILL KNOW MY POWER, together with all of My people, and be able to grasp how WIDE and LONG and HIGH and DEEP My love for you is, and that My abundant love surpasses all knowledge.”

Fast forward. Priest Lake. Food. Prayer. Laughter. Wine. Song. Women I came to adore within seconds of meeting them. We opened our hearts, shared our visions, spilled our souls – and, in our vulnerability, Jesus met us. Through our talks He cast new light on our old stories; He softened hard places as we realized we are not alone in our struggles; He filled up the places that came empty; He took the baggage we were afraid to let go of; and, He inspired us to keep moving.

So, while I’ve tried to figure out how to tell you all about it, the truth is this: I just can’t. There simply aren’t enough words that would do the experience justice. What I can tell you, however, is this: when we seek Him, we find Him. Period.

As He called me to the shores of Priest Lake, He used the time away to remind me that when we pursue Him, He brings us to sweet places. Yes, we must be willing to call and seek and search…but, more importantly, we must also be willing to let him say things to us that are hard to hear. We must be willing to let Him tell us we’ve been (or are being) prideful, or selfish, or mean… we must be willing to hear it’s us that needs to change, not the one we’re pointing at… we must be willing to be humble and broken so that He can fill in the gaps… and, we must be willing to do the hard things He asks of us – things like serve, forgive, trust, honor, hope, seek peace, lead with love, stop going our own way.

He’s calling our hearts, people. HIS DOOR IS OPEN. I’m telling you this because, here I am, 42 years old and ‘pulled together’ – yet I am human. From a past of brokenness. Prone to pride, anger, and bitterness. Not always happy to serve. Insecure, unsure, and longing for hope. The more diligently I seek Him, however, I more see Him… and when I see Him – like I did so mightily in the presence of the 11 beautiful women who started as strangers – I am able to take a deep breath, throw off everything hindering and entangling my spirit, and continue to run with perseverance this race marked He’s marked out for me.

You may not have a retreat you’re about to go on, but can I just encourage you today to seek right where you are? If you are discouraged, or exhausted, or questioning, or lonely, HE CAME TO SAVE AND HIS DOOR – AND HIS ARMS – ARE OPEN.

You are loved… adored… desired… valuable… needed. If I can pray for you in a specific way, please let me know – I would so love to come alongside you as you seek Him.

I’m blessed you’re here with me.

PRAYER: Father, while I thank you for the mountaintop experience You have brought me through, I pray for anyone reading who is longing to see you, not as the world portrays you, but in Spirit and Truth. May Your light shine bright in this dark world… and, as we seek, show yourself faithful and true to the brokenhearted. Thank you for how You love us unconditionally – and how, because of your Son’s willing sacrifice, we can have HOPE and HEALING. Thank you for who you are: unchanging, faithful, and true. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

ENTER TO WIN: Reclaiming Home, A Book By My Friend Krista Gilbert

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Today I’m joining in celebration with my friend Krista over at Meaning In A Minute. It’s the official day of her book launch… and peeps, let me tell you: this is a book I encourage every crazy busy mama out there will buy, read, and savor.

Krista sent me an early copy of her book several weeks ago – just as we were settling into our new house. It arrived in an oversized hand-addressed envelope; I wasn’t expecting anything and I must say: I was pretty giddy thinking something good may be hiding inside. As I reached in and pulled out the goodies, I was in awe by what I was holding: a handwritten note, her book, glittery things, an encouraging calendar… it was like an envelope of love and I could feel Krista’s sweetness pouring into my frazzled and overwhelmed spirit.

“Reclaiming Home: A Family’s Guide for Life, Love & Legacy” on the front… and, on the back the truth of my life in that very moment: “Are you watching as your family spins out of control?”

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Yes. There it was. My truth in a headline.

Krista’s care package met me right where I was. Wires hanging from the ceiling where fixtures should be; kids bickering; groceries waiting to be unloaded; laundry taunting me from the other room; long, long lists of ‘to-dos’ I had to do to get us settled into our new space; and, an overwhelmed heart from recognizing this fact: I only have four more years with my oldest girl before she’s on her own and my day-to-day with her is gone.

Our move was more disruptive than I could have ever imagined – and, honestly, the first weeks after moving in I was filled with anxious thoughts. How the heck do I reign our lives back in and get things back in order? What can I do to get technology use under control – the devices have taken over?! How do I bring joy and peace and connection and play back into our seriously ‘busied’ family… and, Lord, show me how to fill our home with so much love and warmth so that, while my kids my leave someday, they will always long to come home?

I was praying for wisdom… praying for clarity… praying for practical advice. Then, out of the blue, Krista showed up on my doorstep and invited me to do what I was struggling to do: RECLAIM MY HOME.

THIS BOOK IS ANSWER TO MY PRAYERS.

Just check out the titles of her chapters:

Reclaiming Your Foundation
Reclaiming Time
Reclaiming Ordinary
Reclaiming Marriage
Reclaiming Childhood
Reclaiming Play
Reclaiming Imperfection
Reclaiming the Table
Reclaiming Traditions
Reclaiming Legacy
Reclaiming Faith

At the end of each chapter Krista has little checklists, worksheets, dares (the dares are awesome)… all kinds of things that have helped me pause, intentionally think through specifics of my situation, and be encouraged in the midst of the crazy, busy season our family is in right now.

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There’s so much I could tell you about it… so many nuggets of wisdom I could share. But, instead of being long winded, and because Krista is so dang cool, I figured I wouldn’t just tell you about it – instead, Krista said I could give you a chance to WIN YOUR VERY OWN COPY.

All you have to do to enter is this: leave a comment to this post stating the ONE chapter from the chapter list above that is speaking loudest to you. That’s it!  (I also hope you’ll subscribe to my blog in the sidebar… but I won’t make it a requirement for winning 🙂 )

I’ll announce THREE random winners on my Facebook  Page this Friday, September 18th, at 12pm PST. So, after you leave a comment, be sure you follow me on Facebook so you’ll know if you’ve won!

Ok, now go for it. I really want to give you a copy… it will bless your socks off.

Trusting Through the No

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The other day a friend of mine posted a photo of his little girl. She’s just a few weeks shy of three, darling as all get out and has a smile that lights up a room. In this particular picture, however, the little beauty was sprawled out in her velvet dress with her back against the concrete. From the lack of focus on her legs, she was obviously flailing her sparkly Mary Jane covered feet while clutching her hands to her chest and crying bitterly.

“Wasn’t allowed to dig a hole in the front yard,” the caption said.

I died… laughing.

If you’re a parent, you’re probably like me where, you see this photo, and your mind starts recalling all those ridiculous things that send kids to their knees:

“Brother pushed the elevator button first.”

“He was told he couldn’t pea on the front porch anymore.”

“She was told she had to put on pants if she wanted to go outside and play with her friends.”

“A blue bubblegum came out of the vending machine… she wanted red.”

“We asked her to not throw the cat against the wall.”

The only reason our kiddos freak out over these ‘non-issues’ is because they don’t get the ‘why’. They are so focused on self – and self wants what it wants when it wants it. Right? So, when they don’t get their way and they can’t understand why… well, all hell breaks loose.

The thing about this photo, however, is while it’s a picture of a little girl acting out… what came to mind (after I laughed about it) was this: Father, this is what you must see in me when I lose my self-control.

Ugh.

If I’m not careful, my self-control is easily whipped out the window and I throw an adult tantrum:

I can get critical…

I can get demanding…

I can withdraw…

I can get mean…

And, worst of all, I can start to doubt that the One who’s telling me ‘no’ really loves me and is for me – and my doubt makes me want to clench my fists, bite someone, and push the Big Bully out of the way.

It’s how our kids feel when they hear no, isn’t it? They feel we’re not for them… they feel we’re withholding something really good… they feel we just ‘don’t get it’. They see us as these great big bullies that just want to ruin their fun and prevent them from doing amazing things.

But that’s not a parent’s heart. We parents don’t say ‘no’ because we’re malicious… we say ‘no’ to things because we have perspective and maturity. We’ve lived enough life to know what hurts and what’s wrong – and, when we say ‘no’ or ‘not yet’ even, it’s because we LOVE our kids – and we recognize that ‘no’ is part of the training that will help them grow up into responsible, thoughtful, other-centered, gracious, loving human beings.

Jesus once said, “Which of you, if your child asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”

I am not a perfect parent… sheesh, I’m not a perfect anything. But what this verse tells me is that if I, even with my faults and baggage and pride, want good for my babies – how much more does my perfect God want my good.

This is what I remind myself when I start to doubt His love or His presence in the ‘no’ or ‘not now’. This is what I speak when I’m on my knees, lost and confused and weeping over why my great idea has been shut down by the hand of God. I say, “Father – I am yours… I don’t like ‘no’ and I don’t understand why I can’t have my way, but thank you for your faithfulness… and thank you I can trust that ‘no’ (or ‘not yet’) is for my good. I turn my eyes off myself and onto You – help me to see You clearly in this… and do the work in me this ‘no’ is meant to accomplish.”

Don’t get me wrong: this self-control thing is stinky hard and IT. TAKES. WORK. Seriously – it takes WORK. It’s HARD not to follow my pride. It’s HARD to respond to mean people with love. It’s HARD to respond to irrational situations with patience. It’s hard to be vulnerable and be childlike in His presence.

But GOD… peeps, I tell you with all my heart: when I have the wherewithal and control to forgo the tantrum (and all the nastiness that comes with it) and instead call on Him for help, HE SHOWS UP.

He HEARS, He RESPONDS, He gives me strength and endurance and peace that, seriously, blows my mind. (And, if you know me personally and know my history, self-control is not in my blood.) When I look for Him in the ‘no’ or ‘not yet’, He, without fail, distracts me from the bitterness and anger that threatens to take over when I don’t get my way… and, yes, I’m kept off the ground clutching my hands to my chest as I cry bitterly.

Just as our goal as parents is to raise kids that can stand tall and face this harsh world – how much more does our Father want to mold us into bright, glorious, gracious people for His kingdom. If you’re hearing ‘no’ or ‘not yet’ today, think on these things. Seek Him. Ask Him. TRUST HIM. He’s never failed me – ever.

Thanks for being here… thanks for reading.

(Next time: a few things I learned in the dark while buying our house. I hope you’ll subscribe and stick around!)

 

 

Get To Work on the Trees (REPOST)

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I wrote this back in 2013… but I’m reposting it today (with a few edits) because I figured if I needed the reminder, maybe you do, too 🙂

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You ever feel like you deserve better?

You ever find yourself wishing you could be healthier, or fitter, or more patient, or more friendly?

You ever look at your life and wish you read more, or loved better, or took more walks?

I do. Not a day goes by where one of these thoughts don’t pop through my mind. The funny thing, however, is that they pop in… but then I push them right back out. How? By remembering God gives me the power to TAKE A STEP.

That’s it. Just one step.

That’s the thing He’s taught me over the last several years. “Wanting” is one thing… but, unless I am willing to put one foot in front of each other and do the work to really possess the life He’s graciously given, ‘wanting’ is all I’ll ever do.

Just look at this Old Testament story where the 12 tribes of Israel were being assigned their lots of the promise land. Joshua parceled out a particular area to the decedents of Joseph (the former ruler of Egypt), but they didn’t like their lot. Nope, as they looked around at what other people were getting, they complained to Joshua and basically said, “This? But, it isn’t fair! We are better than this! You gave us a bunch of land that requires too much effort to make it something: we have to cut down trees and fight enemies. But, we want the low country where it is beautiful and easy. We deserve it; we are great people and, therefore, we want the land that they have – but, not this.”

(Can you relate? It’s easy to think everyone else has it ‘better’ than us, isn’t it?)

You know what Joshua said?

He said, “Well, okay. You are right – you are great, and you do deserve better. But this is what God has set apart for you. So, if you’re really as great as you think, go up and make use of what you’ve been given: cut the trees, defeat the enemies, and make something of this land you call ‘nothing’. (See Joshua 17:14-17 for the full context.)

What does that have to do with me today? It tells me simply: what I have is what I get. I get one body. I get one mind. I get THIS life – with this husband, and these babies, and all that comes with. I can either complain and ‘want’ for more, or I can get to work on the trees that are blinding me from seeing the beauty of what I have – and that are holding me back from making the most of my lot in life.

I’m constantly reminding my children of this – my precious babies who are daily battling a culture that says what they have isn’t enough; that says they need ‘more’, and ‘better’, and ‘different’ to be happy. Because here’s the thing: whether we like it or not, life is not fair. There will always be someone who travels more than us, who has better hair than us, who is taller, who is more petite, who has more friends, who can knit better, who can cook better, who is happier, who is healthier, who wins more, who laughs cuter, who has a ‘sweeter’ husband, who has nicer legs. Always.

Always. Always. Always.

So, instead of getting caught up in this cultural focus of what we don’t have and what we could use ‘more’ of, I try and always bring them back to what we do have; my message is always consistent and simple: Celebrate YOU and the blessing of YOUR life; your stature, your hair, your gifts, your talents, your laugh.  You have been assigned a lot in life – a lot that is beautiful, and abundant, and needs YOU to bring out the best in it. No one else can fill your shoes! Instead of looking at what other people have, figure out what lies in your possession! Do just one thing today that makes your lot more beautiful: cut down a tree, dig out a rock, plant something new. Do the work to make the most of what you’ve been given. 

It’s what I tell them… but, it’s also what I also have to tell myself – all the time. It’s a Truth I constantly feed into my spirit to combat my feelings of inadequacy: that God has promised my lines have fallen in pleasant places… and, life only grows more beautiful when I’m actively working the land He’s entrusted to me.

So, today, be encouraged… and do just one thing, just one!

Maybe you eat quinoa instead of pasta.

Maybe you choose a book before bed instead of watching TV.

Maybe you go for a walk instead of taking a nap.

Maybe you choose kind words over harsh words.

Maybe you tell your man he’s lights up your life, instead of waiting for him to say it to you.

Whatever it is, keep walking, sister. Just keep walking… and then, tomorrow, get up and walk some more. One choice at a time.

Because what we have is beautiful… it’s just that sometimes what we’re searching for is waiting beyond the trees.

And There She Goes Again

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Outdoor school is here once again… only this time, for my Kenna girl.

She’s quiet, yet incredibly strong. She’s organized, flexible, and filled with kindness. She’s the one I’ve always described as Snow White – the one that wakes up filled with so much brightness and joy that, if she opened her windows and began to sing in the morning, the birds and squirrels and deer would swarm just to be near her pure sweetness.

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She’s my tender one… my baby girl. And, right now as I write this, she’s on a bus and headed away from me for three nights with hundreds of other 6th graders.

We worked together last night to pack her bags. We went item by item down the list – if it was recommended, it was packed safely into the duffle.

Extra shoes? Check.

At least three pairs of pants? Check.

Towel and toiletries? Check.

Sleeping bag, pillow, flashlight? Check, check, check.

So when we woke up this morning to get her out the door, while I was sad she was leaving, I was confident I was sending her out as prepared as possible for the week ahead.

I stayed with her at school til it was time for her group to go. While I spoke excitement for her with my words and face, I think she could sense my heart was aching while I watched her inch to the edge of the nest. She giggled with friends and owned her space, but never overlooked I was still there. She’d turn every few minutes, to smile at me – her secret language of “Mom, I love you… don’t worry – I’ll be okay.”  While I took dozens of photos, she indulged me. When I hugged and kissed her for the umpteenth time, she hugged and kissed me right back; and, after she sat down on the bus and I knocked on her window to wave and take just one more photo, she smiled big and blew me a kiss.

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That’s my girl. Precious. Kind. Confident. L.O.V.E.

This is the business of parenthood, no? I must raise… and release. Raise… and release. Raise… and release.  I must take the moments we have together and intentionally help my little ones ‘pack their bags’ with all the things I’ve been instructed, things like Truth, Wisdom, courtesy, kindness, humility, empathy. And then, at various times – ready, or not – I must step back, let them take the bags I helped them pack, and watch them fly with their own wings – wings, I can only pray, are unburdened and lifted by His grace.

I will miss her this week, but I know she’s written on the palm of His hand and He won’t overlook her for one second. I’m struggling with the distance we’ll have between us, but I trust He goes before her and will be her rear guard.

Submitting to the Plan

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“Father, create in me a clean heart… and renew a right spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10

I sat beside my 13 year old today as she got braces. We’ve been talking about this day for months – and, now, no more waiting: the process to straight teeth has begun.

We had a long talk with the orthodontist before today where we learned the transformation of her smile will happen without her even knowing it. He explained the wires and bands he’d apply would push and pull things into place – that it wouldn’t always be comfortable, but that she could be sure work was always in progress. He said what is crooked will be made straight; and what’s out of line will be brought into order. Slowly… slowly… slowly. He said he wouldn’t have to force anything to ‘right’ itself, but with the ever-so-slight pressure he’d apply over time, she’d eventually end up with ‘perfection’.

So at 7:35 this morning, my daughter walked into the office – willingly… a little giddy even. She sat in the chair – willingly. She opened her mouth – willingly. She gave in to the discomfort, dry lips, and multiple hands in her mouth – willingly. They didn’t have to hold her down, or bribe her, or scream at her, or pull rank. They simply said, if you want straight teeth, here’s what we have to do. And, since she wants straight teeth, she showed up and said ‘let’s do it’… willingly.

I was so impressed by her and her maturity. But, even more important, as I sat the foot of her chair with my mommy hand on the calf of her long, lean leg, I was impressed by a very simple truth I often strive to forget: sometimes I just have to submit to the plan.

HIS plan, not my plan. HIS way, not my way.

I know, I know. “Submission” is a dirty, loaded word these days. “Submission” brings up pictures of doormat women, and weak people, and images of everything most of us dread of being. But watching my daughter submit to the plan this morning wasn’t weakness – it was beautiful STRENGTH. She had a heart that understood the greater plan and she willingly said, “I’m in.” No one would call her a doormat because she submitted to the leading of the orthodontist; she wasn’t coerced or pushed around or belittled because she’s taking the opportunity to ‘perfect’ her teeth. To the contrary: by willingly submitting to the plan she can now sit back and allow the ever-slight-pressure to do it’s work for her good.

Just like my girl’s path to straight teeth began by her willingly sitting in the orthodontist’s chair, my path to ‘better’ – God’s ‘better’ – starts with my willingness to place myself before Him and His word. Yes, there will be troubles. Yet, in spite of the tests and trials He may use to make me uncomfortable and mold me through the process, if my heart is right and humbled before Him, I can know with certainty it will all work for good.

When we walked out of the office this morning, my girl had a Starbucks gift card in one hand and a pint of Ben & Jerry’s in the other – two gifts to ‘celebrate’ the day. And me?  I walked out praying for courageous willingness to submit to the ‘treatment plan’ my Father’s laid out for me.  I admit it’s so hard sometimes… it’s hard to let go of me and MY way and submit to His spirit and HIS way – especially when things around me aren’t changing as fast as I want them to. But just as the orthodontist promised my girl his work will make a difference over time, my Father promises that, just as the heavens are higher than the earth, HIS ways are higher than my ways, HIS thoughts higher than my thoughts… and, His plan will make me more joyful, more loving, more forgiving, more patient, more kind, more powerful, more EVERYTHING than I could ever be without Him.

 

Avocado Prayers

fresh avocado

…..And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.

Ephesians 6:18

I had a rough week last week and had a great talk with my daddy in the midst of my angst.

He listened… he sympathized… and then he said, “Honey, I know it’s hard, but you’re right where God wants you to be – you just have to give it all to Him and trust He will see you through.”

As he said that to me, I was reminded of something I wrote years ago about a lesson I learned from my little guy when he was only 4. Today I want to share it with you because, if I need an occassional reminder of how to pray, I bet you could use the reminder, too.

Here it goes:

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The other day my kiddos and I were eating lunch. I cut up a fresh avocado, squeezed a little lemon juice over the top, sprinkled a little salt and pepper, and then laid it out for them to dig in. My big girl ate some, my middle girl ate some… but my 4-year old little guy said, “Oh, no thanks mommy.”

“Seb, you have to eat some, honey. Just a piece. I promise you’ll love it.”

Not quite believing my promise, my boy stuck a slice of avocado with his fork, cautiously brought it to his mouth and barely stuck out the tip of his tongue to “taste” it.

“I don’t like it,” he said.

“Seb, you haven’t even really tried it yet. You’ve got to put the whole thing in your mouth to really get the taste of it – and you’ll love the lemon and the salt and pepper on it.”

His entire body slumped over towards the counter as he closed his eyes, squinched his face and quietly fake-cried at my request.

“Come on, just one piece,” I encouraged. “It’s so healthy for you – and you know mommy wants you to be super strong and super smart. Right? So, just take a bite! You know I only give you what’s good for you.”

I let the conversation end there and turned my back to wash the dishes so he could have privacy in his anguish over the avocado. A couple of minutes later I turned back around and he was sitting there with the avocado on his fork about three inches from his face. “Well, are you gonna eat it?” I asked.

“I will, I will,” he said with a concentrated look on his face. “I just need to wait because I prayed God would make  it taste good, okay?”

My heart melted as I silently watched. Three seconds… four seconds…

“Wait… wait…,” he said. Then his eyes popped open, “Okay, it’s ready!”  As the taste hit his mouth he closed his eyes tight; I watched and waited trying read the expression. The second the avocado crushed between his teeth, he eyes shot open and he busted out with, “Mommy – He did it! God made it taste good!” His face was lit up; he eyes were gleeming with excitement His prayer had been answered; and, he swallowed the avocado down and headed outside to play.

1 Thessalonians 5:17 tells us to “pray without ceasing.” And, Phillipians 4:6 instructs, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”  These are just two of the many examples from the Word instructing us to bring EVERYTHING to God… and I have no doubt “everything” includes our simple avocado prayers. Why? Because it’s in the mundane, unsavory parts of our day where a small whisper seeking help from our Father can turn something unappealing into something savory for our soul.

Now, did God actually transform the taste of the avocado from between his first tongue-touch and his actual bite? Maybe… maybe not! But, here’s the deal: even if the avocado itself didn’t change, my boy’s heart changed – it changed from being focused on the ‘problem’, to being focused on the One with the power to make all things better.

Dear Sweet Father – oh, how I love you! Thank you for my precious boy’s heart that is a perfect example of the innocence and humility you call us all to have. Thank you for the reminder that everything matters to you – everything. From heartaches that are about to burst us open, to the minor irritations that simply give us pause in our fast-paced days. Thank you that Your ears are open to our whispers for help, and thank you that Your eyes search throughout the earth to strengthen those of us whose hearts are truly fixed on You. You are a great and mighty God and I jump for joy in all things – in everything! – knowing that you have plans to prosper me through every one of my avocado moments.  May our prayers keep our hearts and minds fixed on you. I love you. In the precious name of your Son Jesus, Amen.

A New Year’s Eve Prayer


Father, I am humbled by Your mercy and grace that has brought me to this place. You have been ever so kind as you have walked me down the path of 2013. Through it all – through every joy, and through every heartache (and Father, there have been many of both), YOU HAVE BEEN FAITHFUL.

You have been my strength when I had none.

You were my feet when I could not walk.

You were my courage when I was fearful.

You were my eyes when I could not see.

You were my friend when I felt lonely.

You were my shield when I felt under attack.

You have been my comfort… and my constant.

Please forgive me for when I have fallen short. Forgive me for my pride, impatience, complaining, and lack of faith… and thank you for loving me through it all. THANK YOU.

While I know that your mercy is new every morning (and not just on the first day of a new year), tonight the year ahead is especially on my mind. You have laid dreams on my heart… desires and hopes and plans, and Father, I really don’t know how it’s all going to come together.

BUT YOU DO.

I understand that as the heavens are higher than the earth, Your ways are better than my ways, and Your thoughts are better than my thoughts. So Father, give me courage as you reveal Your plans to me… and as you refine me for your everlasting purpose.

You know how I need to grow…. grow me, Father.

You know how I need to change… change me, Father.

You know how I need to mature… mature me, Father.

I cling to you with all I have tonight because YOU WHO PROMISED ARE FAITHFUL.

Thank you that you’ve gone before me, that you stand beside me, and that you will be my rear guard when times are tough.

You find a willing servant that is HOPEFUL, BRAVE, and with eyes that are firmly fixed on you.

I love you, Father… with all my heart. And, on this New Year’s Eve, I say thank you for all that has been… and all that will come.

In the precious name of your Son Jesus, Amen.