Thursday, October 23, 2014

Treasures :: Pages of Prayers Scrawled in a Journal

Inspired by Leigh McLeroy's book Treasured: Knowing God by the Things He Keeps, I'm asking: What tangible pieces of my spiritual history would I place carefully in my own cigar box for safekeeping? What stories have shaped my journey with this ever-faithful, treasure-keeping God? Below is part six of the "Treasures" series. 


VI. Pages of prayers scrawled in a journal

I spent my entire senior year of high school (and most of junior year) proclaiming loudly how I couldn’t wait to get the heck out of Dodge. I had dreams too big for my small town; I had places to go. I sneered at the state university an hour away where ten percent of my graduating class would attend together, like some sort of Grade 13. No way, I said. Not me.

Instead, I agonized for months, trying to choose between New York University and Indiana Wesleyan University--two schools that could not have been more opposite. I started assuming the fetal position every time someone asked, "Where are you going to college?" I delayed the decision until the last possible day, when I signed the housing contract for IWU and prepared to move to Marion, Indiana.

Manhattan it was not. While I was excited about IWU, I also mourned a little bit, wishing I’d been offered more scholarship money for NYU, wondering what it would be like if I were transplanting from rural northwest Ohio to the coolest, craziest city on earth.

Fourteen years later, I still wonder sometimes. In retrospect, I can see that IWU was best; I marvel at what God poured into me and over me there. I shake my head when I remember how hard my first semester was, wondering how I would have survived at NYU. I imagine I might have flown home at Christmas a sobbing, shaking wreck of a freshman, unmoored and floundering, alone and ashamed of my weakness.

Yet that mental picture doesn’t wholly satisfy; I think I'll always wish I’d had an opportunity to live in New York for a summer, a semester, a season. It’s one of life’s great “what if” questions, where you *know* that what God had was best and yet you still can’t help feeling a little wistful. As Sue Monk Kidd puts it in The Invention of Wings:
"I longed for it in that excruciating way one has of romanticizing the life she didn't choose. But sitting here now, I knew...I would have regretted that, too. I'd chosen the regret I could live with best, that's all. I'd chosen the life I belonged to."

Anyway, I digress. I packed up at the end of the summer, said a fearful goodbye to the boy I was secretly in love with, and spent the weekend of freshman orientation blinking back hot tears, willing myself to swallow hard, embarrassment suppressing my fear. It seemed like everyone else had attended a seminar on “how to make friends instantly,” and I watched in self-pitying despair as they all paired up and formed groups and didn’t need me.

I chewed up all my proud words about my friends who'd gone off to college together, realizing now that my slice of humble pie would taste much better with one of those familiar faces sitting across the table. I was only two hours from home, and I had my own car on campus, but I didn’t let myself go home until fall break, afraid that if I drove those 110 miles too soon, I might not be able to drive back.

My dorm had a prayer chapel, a little room on the third floor with a couple of chairs, a few cushions, maybe a cross. I don’t remember much about the room, only the sinking feeling I’d get when I found its door already closed and I had no place else to go. I spent hours in that chapel my first semester, taking my anxiety to the feet of Jesus and begging Him to bring me just one friend.

I’d known Him before that; three years earlier I’d clung to Him decisively, taken hold of a real and living faith of my own. I loved His Word; I trusted Him. But I had never before had to rely on Him so exclusively. So again and again, because I had no one else to turn to, I climbed the steps to the third floor, journal and Bible in hand.

Somewhere along the way I learned to write out my prayers, discovering how much better I was able to concentrate and express my desires and praises with pen in hand. And somewhere along the way, someone had given me the idea to pray Scripture. So I paged through the Psalms and pored over Paul’s letters, scanning the heavily underlined text, copying out passages paraphrased into my own prayers.

I’d never choose to relive those lonely months, but, as we often say when we look at trials in hindsight, I’d never trade them, either. My roots went deep into streams of life that first year of college, and my prayer life in particular would never be the same. It was that semester that I learned to saturate my prayers with Scripture, learned the power of praying God’s Word back to Him.

In the end, God was faithful to answer my tearful pleas, lavishing on me not just the one friend I hoped for, but more incredible women than I could hope for in a lifetime--amazing women who would love me and sharpen me and add beauty to my life. And even more amazingly, He gave me Himself, more intimately than I had ever known before--a Friend faithful beyond all others. And so my written-out prayers continued.

I’m up to volume 105 in my personal journals now; they have evolved quite a bit over the years. Through middle school and high school, my diary was mostly a chronicle of what I did, who said what, how I was feeling, who I was madly in love with, etc. In college, the written-out prayers started, so it was a balance of processing my feelings, recording significant events, and prayers. After I got married, the daily entries all but disappeared, leaving only the prayers and some occasional reflections on Scripture. These days, sadly, I've gotten out of the prayer-writing habit; my journal-filling pace has slowed significantly. 

Still, being able to go back through decades of recorded prayers is an immeasurable gift. To see my own growth; to see clear answers to desperate prayers; to be able to pray through them again as I read…just priceless.

Treasures, previously:
A broken piece of cornerstone
A sharp pebble
A pastel index card
A Bible with a broken spine
A rainbow lanyard with a pewter cross pendant

Friday, October 10, 2014

What to Do With Mom Guilt

October is my first month writing for Ungrind, a website dedicated to "churning out encouragement for women." Ungrind founder and editor Ashleigh Slater describes it this way:

Let’s face it, sometimes the daily grind of life leaves us discouraged. We desire to effectively serve God, our families, and our communities, but we often feel like we aren’t doing enough. Well enough. We find ourselves in desperate need of a word in due season.

At least, that’s been true for me.

Here at Ungrind, I hope you’ll find that word. It’s our goal to churn out weekly encouragement by being honest and transparent about our struggles, but in a way that inspires hope, faith, and perseverance. Consider us friends. The kind you feel comfortable sitting across the table with at the local coffee shop.

Due to all the writing I had to do for last month's women's retreat, my first submission was a revision of an article previously published here--full of truth I know I needed to hear again, as I so easily forget. The title refers to mom-guilt, but while the examples may be motherhood-specific, there's hope here for ALL kinds of guilt--I think men, singles, and those whose kids are grown can benefit from it, too!

Click on over to read about two kinds of mommy guilt...and a solution for both that provides far deeper and lasting hope than simply, "Stop feeling guilty; you're doing a great job, mama."

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Gifts From Coming Home (Take 333)

Another 700 miles on the car over the weekend--that makes three out of the last four weekends spent out of town!--but so worth the exhaustion and the hassles. I got to go to Indiana Wesleyan University for homecoming again this year and sing with the chorale again! It's become an every-other-year event. The first year, I was out-to-HERE pregnant with Jude and was so disappointed I couldn't go. In 2012 they put together an alumni choir again, and I wouldn't have missed it for the world. This fall, we were slated to sing with Michael W. Smith (instead of the Gaither Vocal Band as in the last two times), and I was all over signup as soon as I found out!

We had originally planned to go as a family, but at the last minute, Steve decided he'd just stay home with the boys, and I think (especially given the not-so-nice weather) that turned out to be for the best. So I drove up on my own Friday night, arriving at a dear friend's house at 12:30AM, and packed it in over the next 48 hours. The weekend's blessings included...

6568. Steve's willingness to stay home with the boys and let me go
6569. family members taking our extra concert tickets so we didn't have to eat those costs
6570. standstill traffic = opportunity to practice my music in the car :)
6571. a sweet old friend waiting up until 12:30AM for my arrival and hosting me

6572. a walk around campus, seeing my old dorms and townhouses
6573. extended time to catch up with a dear friend and hear her heart

6574. a brief chat with my wonderful thesis and newspaper advisor
6575. lunch at an old, beloved Mexican restaurant whose name I still don't know how to pronounce
6576. the harmonizing scale in D
6577. Prof's hilarity, and the impact he's had on my life

6578. third sweet friend and second-soprano buddy

6579. the way I can still sing "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God" after years, with no struggle to remember
6580. all of Prof's familiar conducting gestures, like the way he points upward in glad worship at "Were not the right Man on our side..."
6581. current chorale members swiping us into the dining center for a free dinner
6582. a chorale table full of old friends and laughter, like old times (except now we're old!)

6583. hugs and familiar faces

6584. the opportunity to come "home" and sing with the chorale and Michael W. Smith

6585. Steve putting the boys to work while I was gone and sending photos

6586. Prof taking a photo with Michael W. Smith when he came over to give us a pre-concert pep talk

6587. a fantastic, worshipful concert
6588. Michael W. Smith unexpectedly asking us to sing one of our own songs during the concert

6589. his response: singing "Friends Are Friends Forever" with us! so funny.
6590. my voice holding up through way more singing (and oversinging) than I'm used to

6591. another dear friend hosting me at her house Saturday night

6592. the way we can go deep and be real after so many years of friendship
6593. safety on the road
6594. Paige Benton Brown preaching so powerfully to my heart in the car (seriously, download these! SO GOOD)
6595. a big hug from Steve
6596. kisses for sweet sleeping boys

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Things I Learned in August + September

Once again I am linking up with Chatting at the Sky to share some miscellaneous things I've learned over the last two months--some silly, some simple, some meaningful and fascinating.

1. Misty Copeland is an incredibly talented ballet dancer who has found tremendous success despite all odds being against her. I love this kind of feel-good story. This video was going around Facebook--best commercial ever. I find it astounding that the human body can do that (and her calves! unreal!). Then a friend of a friend posted this article with a bit more background.

2. I figured this out a while back, but it occurred to me to share now as something YOU could learn: Store cut watermelon in a salad spinner. All the juice drains away from the cut pieces, so they stay fresh instead of the pieces at the bottom getting soggy and gross.

3. I learned a bunch of useless but interesting trivia about the evolution of cold cereal in America from this brief history.

4. The word "wheelhouse" is used to mean an area of expertise, or a "sweet spot."  I'd never in my life heard it before two friends used it separately in the space of a week. I thought the first one was a victim of autocorrect, since I had NO idea what she was talking about! Apparently it's an idiom derived from baseball jargon.

5. After seeing friends using it on Facebook, I finally installed the Timehop app. It's a neat way to revisit photos and old posts from social media--fun to see what I was doing on this day two or four or five years ago, without having to make the effort to go back and look it up. 

6. Taking kids to a wedding is both hugely undesirable and wildly fun. Our own wedding was not generally open to kids (though exceptions were made for older children of family members), so I was not surprised or offended when my brother and his fiance decided to have an adults-only celebration. They decided to invite my boys anyway, as the only nieces/nephews on either side. I couldn't believe how much whining and pushback they got from people who *were* offended and wanted to bring their kids. After taking my boys to the wedding (their first), I felt even more baffled. WHY, exactly, are you upset that you can't take your children to an event where they have to sit quietly for long periods of time, eat fancy food that comes in courses and takes forever, wear uncomfortable clothes and be up well past their bedtime? I mean, really?

Generally speaking, I'd much rather get a babysitter and enjoy a date with my husband. That said...I will say that it was sweet for my boys to be included in celebrating their uncle and new aunt (Elijah and Jude were very excited about it)...and, dancing with them at the reception was super fun.

7. In preparing my material for last weekend's women's retreat, I discovered "focus view" in Microsoft Word--by clicking the button, you can make the rest of the screen go black so you can only see the document you're working on. It won't help if you're toggling between multiple Word windows, but works great when you need to review and revise a single document without the temptation to click over to the internet. 

How about you...what have you learned lately?

Monday, September 29, 2014

Multitude Monday, Take 332

I am behind on gratitude posts! Two fun events this past month have kept me super-busy but also given me a huge number of blessings to thank God for. My brother got married on September 13, and then this past weekend, I got to speak at a women's retreat with my dear mentor and friend, Diane! Countless answered prayers and beautiful gifts, including but by no means limited to...

6431. a beautiful new sister-in-law

6432. the way my brother looked at her
6433. my boys being so well-behaved all weekend, all things considered

6434. Steve taking care of them most of Saturday while I was getting ready
6435. friends and family who came from far away to help celebrate

6436. my friend's mom who brought us donuts from the county fair back home :)
6437. Elijah: "When I get married, maybe my wife bride will wear a white dress!"
6438. my mom's sweet and hilarious dance with my brother
6439. Elijah's desperate desire to dance with *his* mother...his devastation when he found out we wouldn't get a special dance all by ourselves...and the fact that we finally, after much coaxing and pleading, convinced him to dance anyway
6440. doing "The Twist" with Jude

6441. East Coast Swing dancing with Steve
6442. my dad photobombing the best man and one of the bridesmaids taking a selfie--SO FUNNY
6443. church, lunch and a train ride with one of my dearest friends and her family
6444. our boys giggling together over pizza
6445. honesty, apologies, forgiveness, reconnection

6446. glowing reports from the boys' teachers at parent-teacher conferences
6447. dinner and time to catch up with a dear friend, long overdue
6448. our boys loving each other and playing so well together
6449. the way her zeal for the Lord always encourages and challenges me
6450. warm chocolate chip cookies

6451. sweater-jeans-and-flip-flops weather
6452. apple season
6453. awesome used book sale
6454. Jude encouraging me while I work out: "You can do it, Mom!"
6455. a birthday outing to a bounce-house place one of Jude's little friends

6456. pumpkin spice lattes
6457. "broken + beautiful" playlist
6458. a friend's willingness to speak hard words, and her sensitive heart about how it came across
6459. the opportunity to speak to women about Jesus
6560. eyes to see His beauty in their faces and stories

6561. sweet times of prayer and worship
6562. friends praying for me
6563. women's voices lifted in praise
6564. one woman's recitation of Romans 8...made me weep
6565. eleven years of getting to walk through life with Diane...beyond what I ever imagined

6566. ministry alongside her, more than we ever could have dreamed
6567. Steve and the boys getting to enjoy time with her husband and kids while we were gone

Friday, September 19, 2014

Treasures :: A Rainbow Lanyard with a Pewter Cross Pendant

Inspired by Leigh McLeroy's book Treasured: Knowing God by the Things He Keeps, I'm asking: What tangible pieces of my spiritual history would I place carefully in my own cigar box for safekeeping? What stories have shaped my journey with this ever-faithful, treasure-keeping God? After a several months-long hiatus, I'm picking back up below with part five of the "Treasures" series. 

V. A rainbow lanyard with a heavy pewter cross pendant

A woman placed the colorful necklace over my head on a Sunday afternoon, at the close of one of the best weekends of my life. I was emerging from a three-day chrysalis.

We high school girls gathered on a Friday morning, some nervous, some excited, some reluctant. They told us, “Don’t anticipate, participate,” and they called us caterpillars. We divided into small groups, sat around tables and named our groups—names with which we’d have to introduce ourselves for life, but we didn’t know that at the time.

We listened to earnest, thoughtful talks, and we discussed and prayed and cried. We laughed and snacked and created posters, skits and songs. On Saturday night we got a little taste of Heaven: I have never experienced the love and welcome of God before or since quite so powerfully as I did in that candlelit sanctuary.

On Sunday afternoon, they announced, we were butterflies. We had grown, we had seen God, and we were ready to take our “Next Steps” back into a world that hadn’t changed while we were cocooned inside that church. We read piles of letters from loved ones, collected by our sponsors, and the tears rolled down my cheeks, my heart fit to burst.

At the closing service for Greater Findlay Area Girls’ Chrysalis Flight #13, we each received a necklace—a heavy pewter cross with a butterfly engraved on one side and "CHRIST IS COUNTING ON YOU" on the other, hanging from a lanyard someone had knitted with variegated yarn dyed in bright Roy G. Biv hues. As the Lay Director hung the necklace around each girl's neck, she said, "Christ is counting on you," and the girl was to respond, "I am counting on Christ."

I would go on to serve as a Teen Table Leader on one of these weekends two years later--another priceless, incredible experience on the other side. In the meantime, I’d shower others with “agape” (our name for the notes and gifts as tangible expressions of love poured out on the participants all weekend long). I’d set alarms for three a.m. prayer vigil slots and write letters and hold candles while singing “Love, love, love, love / The gospel in one word is love…” I’d even sponsor both my parents to go on an Emmaus Walk (the adult version of Chrysalis). And at monthly gatherings, I’d sing “modern” (1980s) worship songs with reckless joy and introduce myself as “Amy Kaylor, Greater Findlay Area Girls’ Chrysalis Flight #13, Table of God’s ‘G’ Girls.” I always felt silly saying that name, but I dearly loved the woman and the girls who had sat around it with me.

This community nurtured me and fed my soul while I was enduring the growing pains of no longer fitting in the church where I’d grown up. And then eventually, I no longer fit here, either.

I wore the rainbow lanyard one last time in the fall of 2004, after I’d graduated from college and was engaged to be married. I was invited to serve as an Adult Table Leader this time, to nurture a group of young caterpillars and watch them take flight. It was an opportunity I dearly cherished, but I was quickly sinking into a season I'd later refer to as a "dark night of the soul"; dry and empty, I had little to give to my girls. The low point was a huge and heartbreaking moment when one of the speakers basically said something heretical in the Q&A following her talk.

I realized that the rainbow lanyard had served its purpose, that its colors and heft no longer felt right against my chest. Yet while the time had come to nestle it in a drawer, I did so with fondness. I had been deeply moved and changed by the opportunities I'd had in this community to be loved and to love others.

The Emmaus/Chrysalis community loves and serves Jesus by loving and serving each other so practically and faithfully. They fill 72-hour prayer vigils; they serve meals and drive shuttles to shower facilities at six a.m. They serve on administrative boards, clean bathrooms, sacrifice weekends. They give hugs and make bookmarks and overwhelm people with a thousand little ways of saying, "God loves you. You are precious to Him, and you matter to us. We will go out of our way to help you encounter Him and know Him."

While I needed to move on from Chrysalis, there was no mistaking what the movement had done for my sense of identity, my understanding of the personal love of God, and my concept of the power and beauty of a body of believers.

Treasures, previously:
A broken piece of cornerstone
A sharp pebble
A pastel index card 
A Bible with a broken spine

Monday, September 08, 2014

Multitude Monday, Take 331

OY. It's been a while! Thanking God these past few weeks for many things, including...

6391. a walk home from school in the pouring rain

6392. easy + open communication with Elijah's teacher
6393. a bushel of peaches...gone before any of them made it to the freezer
6394. boys cheerfully emptying the dishwasher
6395. Steve beautifully preaching the gospel to my unbelieving heart
6396. Jude "working" right alongside Daddy (and by "right alongside" I mean "literally in Daddy's personal space")

6397. confronting me with the ugliness in my heart
6398. finding out about my alma mater's alumni chorale for homecoming in time to get one of the spots
6399. Steve's example of perseverance and learning through failure
6400. friends buying smart cards for Elijah's school fundraiser
6401. Aldi bacon cooked in a Pampered Chef stone bar pan (PERFECTION.)

6402. stories of slavery courageously told
6403. the people who fought for its abolition
6404. people who work to free modern-day slaves
6405. new book won on a blog giveaway
6406. an unexpected phone call from a dear friend

6407. the low angle of the rising sun on our morning walk to school
6408. peacemakers
6409. Skype
6410. a long-overdue phone date with my college roommate
6411. boys telling me I look pretty

6412. Jude begging to watch This Old House (seriously. what 3yo gets excited about that show?! love it.)
6413. a friend loving me enough to call me out on being harsh with my boys
6414. extended study time in the Word
6415. husband enabling me to get away and work
6416. husband engaging with his boys--bike rides, obstacle courses, wrestling, spaghetti-and-marshmallow towers

6417. teachable moments with the boys
6418. a stark, convicting reminder of how hurtful yelling is
6419. Pioneer Woman's Italian drip beef (we serve it open-faced on ciabatta with sure and broil it the last minute or two to brown the cheese :)
6420. my boys' health and life, and reminders of how fragile both are
6421. Labor Day dinner with friends

6422. toasted marshmallows and s'mores
6423. carpet installed upstairs!

6424. KIND bars
6425. Steve's porkchop grilling. also perfection.
6426. company picnic at Beech Bend Park

6427. the apostle Peter
6428. God's patient mercy with him and with me
6429. coffee with a friend
6430. another unexpected phone call from another dear friend and plans on the calendar to catch up in person next week!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Book Review: Interrupted [Jen Hatmaker] *PLUS GIVEAWAY*

If I have to be wrecked--if I am going to read a book that's going to make me squirm--I can't think of a better travel guide than Jen Hatmaker. At the risk of sounding all fan-girl...I just love her. Fantastic sense of humor, deep love for Jesus, and her insights on the church and culture are so frequently spot on.

So when I had a chance to get a free review copy of her self-proclaimed favorite book, Interrupted: When Jesus Wrecks Your Comfortable Christianity (extensively revised and re-released), you better believe I was all over that.

This is not a feel-good story...and yet it is. Jen recounts the painful, hilarious, gut-wrenching journey of how God gave her eyes to see what had been in Scripture all along, and called her and her family out to actually live it. She could no longer be satisfied with her comfortable Christian life spent "blessing the blessed and serving the saved"--she couldn't un-see, couldn't un-know. She writes in the introduction:

“This is the story of my heart, the arc I find most relevant and vital to my generation: God plucked me and my family out of complacent, comfortable, safe Christianity and dropped us into the deep end of struggle, injustice, brokenness, and a hurting humanity. Whatever used to be soft and squishy about faith gave way to a stunning urgency and painful acknowledgement of the mission at hand.”

And yet, as she wrote in a wonderful blog post today, the life she has found on the other side is better than anything she could have imagined. So she encourages the reader:
God is not engineering a Guilt Trip. Just go ahead and knock that off. He is giving you eyes to see a little better and ears to hear a little clearer, and you wringing your hands and mourning lost years is not helping. You did the best you could with what you knew. Now God is just giving you more to know, so off you go. Don’t be guilty; be grateful, be generous, be brave. 
I so appreciate this perspective. This book is hard-hitting; Jen doesn't mince words about the seriousness of Jesus' words and the urgency of our mission. Yet she clings fiercely to the gospel as she calls us to live out its implications. She finds comfort in the midst of the parable of the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25--somewhere I've never seen it. She comes alongside you as a fellow sojourner and friend, not a preachy know-it-all who is disgusted that you just don't get it yet. She's wonderfully willing to tell you how she has stumbled along the way. And she shows you the compelling beauty of Jesus and invites you to get on mission with Him.

A few of the best bits of the material were familiar to me from her phenomenal talk at IF:Gathering last February--especially the chapter "Desiring, Doing and Remembering," a radical, fresh look at Luke 22 (Jesus at the Last Supper). I've thought about her exposition of "do this in remembrance of Me" many times since I first heard it. I will say, however, that in the book, this section included one of the only quotes that made me pause to scribble down an argument. She says: "Obedience to Jesus’ command is more than looking backward; it’s a present and continuous replication of His sacrifice. We don’t simply remember the meal; we become the meal.”

I have to raise a serious objection here. Jesus’ sacrifice cannot be replicated. Ever. Our works are not the good news—His are. Our sacrifice may save physically, but only His can bring spiritual, eternal salvation. I love what she is saying here, how honoring and remembering Jesus is so much more than a five-minute ritual during a Sunday morning service, but in our zeal for Christlikeness and Christ-honoring social justice and mercy, we cannot confuse or equate our work with Jesus’ once-for-all work. Truly, Jen knows this, and her larger point stands and is so very important--but I just couldn't let that one go without comment.

And really, on the whole, Jen does not miss that point. At all. She cautions clearly against those who focus on doing good works apart from Jesus:
"There is no back door into salvation, rerouted around the sacrifice of Christ. Otherwise, the whole earth could gain heaven by good works, and His day on the cross would be pointless.” 
I so appreciate this gospel emphasis, and it gives me hope. Could our generation be the one when the two halves of the coin come together? The church commonly drives in one ditch or the other—either a focus on right theology and doctrine to the neglect of social justice, or a focus on social justice to the abandonment of truth and the gospel. Oh, that God would raise up a generation of men and women who love Him and His Word passionately, who keep the person and work of Christ absolutely central to everything, and *in response to* that glorious gospel, are passionate about social justice and extending mercy! 

I'm tempted to copy and paste eleventy billion more quotes here, since I underlined half the book. Her actual words say it so much better than my feeble attempts to summarize...especially at 11PM when I've procrastinated writing this review for a month :P Suffice to say I loved the book and found it well worth reading. I saw in Jen's story the undercurrent of dissatisfaction in my own journey, the persistent questions of "is this all there is?," the uncomfortable acknowledgement that I am not actually spending and being spent for the things that Jesus said matter most.

I have to admit, however, that while the book resonated so deeply and was convicting to me, I also lost steam a little through the last section, and even came away feeling a little discouraged rather than energized and motivated. I suspect that a lot of that has to do with my own personal circumstances rather than with any lack in the book.

Jen is careful to note repeatedly that Austin New Church is *not* the perfect church that has all this figured out. Still, I had this sense that it would be a lot…well, “easier” isn’t the word, but realistic, maybe, or doable…if you had a body of believers with this kind of vision and commitment, rather than being “wrecked” on your own and trying to navigate what you can and should do individually. I look forward to having my husband read this so we can talk about it more, for sure. And certainly the first call is to prayer--to earnestly ask God to kindle in me a holy discontentment and produce in my heart the courage to follow where He leads.

I want to say so much more, to give you a better taste of the book...but I confess that having procrastinated so terribly, sleep wins out over a well-crafted review at this point. So I will conclude with one more quote, from Jen's blog post today--I loved her words to her "past self," the Jen who first wrote this book five or six years ago:
...This is the beginning of the rest of your life. Embrace it all – all the struggle, all the tension, all the humility, all the beauty. It is safe to be faithful to a faithful God. He loves you and is for you. He loves this world and is for it. Put that YES on the table indefinitely and, seriously, go with God.

I'm so glad that this book has been expanded and re-released for this very reason--the way the author can come back with a few years of perspective and affirm her own message from experience. And as I've revisited the book today and read through Jen's latest post, I'm inspired again and longing to press deeper into following Jesus.

GOOD NEWS: I have a copy of this book to give away to a lucky reader! Tyndale sent me both an e-version and a print copy--so I am happy to pass the print version along to someone else who wants to be wrecked in the best of ways :) Leave a comment below to enter. The winner will be chosen at random on Friday at 5:00PM (CDT). 

UPDATE 8/22, 5:10PM: We have a winner!
Comment #10 (Laura) will be receiving Interrupted next week in the mail. Thanks to all of you who read and entered!

[full disclosure: Tyndale sent me a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review]

Monday, August 11, 2014

Multitude Monday, Take 330

Thanking God this week for...

6363. Jude's excitement to go to preschool

6364. a neighborhood with tons of huge trees
6365. this powerful spoken word piece by a college acquaintance of mine
6366. delicious new recipes

6367. His Spirit at work in me, producing hunger and desire for His Word and prayer
6368. brothers walking to school side by side

6369. this phenomenal message from Paige Benton Brown
6370. two shirts from JCPenney for $3.24
6371. the opportunity to bless a pregnant friend by taking care of a food craving :)
6372. the privilege of voting

6373. a great meeting with Elijah's new teacher at open house
6374. Steve making progress on finish work around the stairs
6375. bags heavy with farmers' market goodness
6376. Elijah helping me make his birthday cake
6377. Steve getting creative with frosting it

6378. seven years with the sweet boy who made me a mama
6379. how completely Elijah has outgrown his communication delays
6380. his love for God's Word and for books and reading in general
6381. his creative and curious mind
6382. his affection and compliments

6383. the sprinkling of freckles across Elijah's cheeks
6384. his obedience and gratitude
6385. his excitement about the watch we gave him for his birthday

6386. our pastor equipping us to better feed ourselves from the Word
6387. the inexhaustible riches of Scripture

6388. technology that enabled us to do birthday candles and presents "with" both sides of our family
6389. all three of my guys raving about the macaroni and cheese I made at Elijah's request
6390. bedtime snuggles and prayers with the birthday boy

Monday, August 04, 2014

Multitude Monday, Take 329

Thanking God this week for...

6331. juicy, sweet, local peaches
6332. Thai chicken tacos
6333. crepe myrtles

6334. Steve's ability to make analogies and bring biblical truths to a 3yo/6yo level
6335. boys encouraging me while I work out
6336. beautiful days to play at the park
6337. showing me new things in Scriptures I've read dozens of times
6338. grace to toss my to-do list aside and enjoy time with my boys

6339. the huge mosaic dragon at Fannie Mae Dees Park

6340. a dear friend meeting us there so we could chat while the boys played
6341. Elijah and Jude's over-the-top excitement when I told them she was coming
6342. Jude trying so hard to be "stwong" and carry heavy stuff
6343. painting finished upstairs, little-by-little progress

6344. immediate, lavish answers to prayer
6345. soccer cleats in Elijah's size for $10 at Play It Again Sports
6346. the means to buy school supplies
6347. a lunch date with Elijah
6348. the way he inhales pancakes

6349. friends showing up at the park unexpectedly
6350. Jude's giggles as he spun round and round on the tire swing
6351. boys being so flexible about naptimes and lunchtimes
6352. Steve suggesting our favorite Mexican restaurant for Friday night dinner
6353. the incredible busboy who balanced five plates on one arm

6354. squeaky clean boys
6355. sweet corn
6356. BLT wraps
6357. opportunities to serve in areas where I am weak and not gifted
6358. our pastor applauding and affirming women in his sermon on Exodus 1-2

6359. Elijah cheerful and excited, not nervous, about his first day at a new school

6360. only 15 kids in his class
6361. Elijah reporting that he had a great day
6362. opportunities to let go of control and learn to trust

Friday, August 01, 2014

Things I Learned in July

This month, I haven't been as good at keeping track of the little random lessons I'm learning, but here are a few...

1. If your waitress casually mentions that the dish you're ordering has "Moroccan spices" and "South African spices," you should ask for clarification and not just assume that "spices" could mean "like cinnamon" and probably just indicates "flavorful." Because if you don't, your food will be so hot it will set your throat on fire. If you are me, you will at least have cause to feel thankful because a) your husband loves spicy food and b) he will be willing to trade with you halfway through and let you finish his lobster and shrimp risotto. This lesson brought to you by our anniversary dinner at Tin Angel :)

2. I like rap. Specifically Shai Linne's album The Attributes of God. I feel a little ridiculous sometimes cruising around in my minivan jamming to a good beat...but what can I say :) We've listened to four or five of his albums and this one is definitely our favorite--all four of us have been enjoying it. I find myself frequently astounded at how he can pack so much truth into so little space, let alone how he can make it rhyme! Really incredible theology writing. 

3. I have access to a gajillion playlists through Amazon Prime. We're trying out Prime this year for the first time, and I gotta say that while the free two-day shipping has been a fabulous perk, I've been disappointed with the selection of movies to stream for free and books to borrow. Just now (literally five minutes ago) I found out there's alllll kinds of music I can download free. Looking forward to checking that out.

4. I mentioned a couple of months ago how disgusted I was with Monogrammed Cases and Skins--well, this month I found a good replacement. It's worth watching Groupon for - while I wouldn't be willing to pay full price for one of their cases, the $20 groupon I got was a great deal. Lots of great designs to choose from, all even more customizable than I thought at first, and fast service. The case looks great and has protected my phone through more than one drop already. Not sure how often they do Groupons, but it looks like they run sales occasionally (right now it is 20% off).

5. It pays to be on a favorite blogger/author/artist's email list. It seems that more and more bloggers are creating these weekly or monthly subscription lists, not just to get their posts in your inbox but to get bonus emails with exclusive content. Being on Jen Hatmaker's list snagged me a free copy of her new book (she opened the giveaway to her "Email Friends" before making it public). Plus her emails make me snort-laugh every single time. Love it.

6. That whole "bake your sweet corn in the oven, still in the husk, and it will slide right out" thing that's been going around? Yeah, that TOTALLY didn't work for me. I ended up having to go to almost as much trouble as shucking a raw ear of corn--yet having to handle it while steaming hot. Not ever doing that again.

Check out the linkup at Chatting at the Sky for more posts like this one! 

Monday, July 28, 2014

Multitude Monday, Take 328

Thanking God this week for...

6299. grace to get up with my early alarm
6300. encouragement from Steve
6301. 99-cent iced coffee
6302. boys being the most spectacular shoppers ever in the history of Kroger, on a day when I really, really needed that
6303. husband washing me with the water of the Word

6304. this book free in the mail, uncomfortable though it may be

6305. first bruschetta pizza of the summer
6306. first bruschetta chicken of the summer
6308. grace to model confession and repentance to my boys
6309. time in the gospel of Mark with a friend

6310. Microsoft Office for free through Steve's work
6311. five gallons of organic blueberries (plus all the berries we ate while we picked :)

6312. zinnias (at least I'm pretty sure that's what this is...)

6313. boys asking theological questions, talking about God and Heaven
6314. a date with my favorite six-year-old

6315. the way he leans over his handlebars to go faster
6316. the fact that he still wants to hold my hand
6317. grace to ask for help when I feel weak and full of despair
6318. Steve's ability and willingness to preach truth to my unbelieving heart
6319. being a God who remains faithful when I am faithless

6320. the (intentionally) muddy play area at Edwin Warner Park
6321. little boys getting dirty and having fun

6322. both boys' recent enthusiasm and gratitude about the meals I cook
6323. time spent working on the house with Steve
6324. progress, slowly but surely
6325. blueberry cheesecake flapjacks for Saturday morning breakfast

6326. answered prayers
6327. a dear friend's incredible beauty and strength, exalting Christ in the midst of trials
6328. grace to pray when I don't feel like it and have only a mustard seed of faith
6329. the thunderstorm coming before we went to bed, so we could find the bathroom window leaking and fix the problem instead of waking up to a flooded mess
6330. Jesus' perfect obedience in my place