And we have a winner!

I have loved reading the comments for this giveaway. The wonderful thing about God is not only does He customize our bag, but also the stones we need to equip us to live vibrantly for Him. There’s no one size fits all for His people, and I loved the variety and the different perspectives y’all have shared.

But we do have a winner, chosen randomly by a number generator, and that winner is Krista! I’m so excited to share this with ¬†you, and I wonder how much of our shared Liberia experience will be reflected in your book? My time there continues to shape and inspire me.

Thanks to all for entering and sharing. I wish I had one to give to each of you, but hopefully this can inspire you to make your own and customize it to suit your life. And I hope to see you around on here, on the kinda rare occasion that I actually write something ūüôā

 

Of Collections:: and A Giveway

I have a theory that the most interesting people in the world are collectors. Not collectors in the sense of acquiring coins or stamps or artifacts, but collecting experiences, stories and moments.

Much-Afraid, in Hinds Feet on High Places, was encouraged by the Shepherd to collect a smooth stone from every beautiful or difficult place she experienced. As her little pile of rocks grew, so did her confidence and her stack of life lessons.

I’ve tried to be intentional about recording both the mundane and the special moments that have made up my life this year. From the trivial to the heartbreaking, things as small as delicious new recipes, interesting media clips, social issues from the world- all have gone into my book. I don’t journal in the traditional sense of filling pages with my thought processes and feelings. However, I did want a place to record everything for the year, and then have to look back on and remember. Here is my collection book for the year:

 

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IMG_9855 I started off with the my mission statement page, where I wrote my life vision. This statement is fluid, meaning it changes from time to time as life changes and develops. Good questions to get you thinking on writing your statement:

Who am I?

What is my life about?

What do I want my life to be about?

How can I get there?

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I have a page for new foods I discover and enjoy and how I learned about them. I also source them for easy reference when I want to make them again.

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My page entitled “The Moving” has to do with current social issues or stories that I run across that are moving, shaking, and life-changing. In looking back on this book, I’ll be able to get a good feel of the local and global landscape of 2016.

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This page is one of my favorites, and it records the moments, both  little and big, that impact my life. In reading through it just recently, I remembered things that I would have otherwise forgotten.

The fun thing about a book like this is that the possibilities are endless, and it can be tweeked and personalized to fit personalities and lifestyles.

I hope to make a new one each year, and store away the old as a collection of the best and worst parts of my life, my favorite music, books, recipes and media.

And it so happens, that I’d like to give one of these away to someone else to enjoy. And since a giveaway is just so fun, I threw in ¬†a few of my other favorite things:

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  • a fun, cute notepad
  • my new favorite scented body lotion
  • a set of starry lights
  • a calendar (for what’s left of 2016)
  • a set of cute pencils
  • and of course the year journal complete with pictures.

Whoever wins the giveaway will be able to customize their book by telling me a bit about what they like and interests they have.

To enter, comment about one of the smooth stones in your bag: a life lesson you’ve learned or something that has shaped you and made you want to be a bigger person.

Giveaway will close August 3.

Thrills of Discovery

I often think about Anne Shirley’s conversation with Matthew Cuthbert on their way home from the train station. Matthew, still reeling from the shock of picking up a girl instead of the boy they ordered, is also being forced to see Things From the Imagination. Cherry trees in bridal veil, rose-leaf complexions, avenues that produced pleasant aches, and all by a girl with bright red braids. At some point, she asks him if things he sees and experiences gives him a thrill, to which he replies, after some thought, that the grubs in his cucumber patch do. She gently remarks that the thrill of a grub and the thrill of a lake of shining waters aren’t exactly the same and the conversation continues.

I think I have bits of Anne in me, and my hunch is, that we all have, to some degree, areas of wonder and delight in our souls. We all thrill to different things, because a creative Creator made us all differently.

I chose the name of my blog because of a little girl who regularly got thrills on the littlest things in life. Her nerves were always quivering with the joy of discovery, and as she experienced each new wonder, she would throw a paper and pen at the nearest person and ask them to “write it down big”.

 

I get it. I try to write down big in my many journals and notebooks the little things that stir and grip me. The collection of both the thrills and the aches of living shape our lives and write our stories.

I hesitate to write about my latest thrill, primarily because like dreams, it probably will be special to only me. And to even put into words, and into cyberspace what I’ve been learning and experiencing seems futile.

image via google

In my quiet times with my God, I keep coming around to the concept of light. It hunts me down and catches me, even when I try to study other things. This morning again, I stumbled across it and as I studied it more, the Thrills came. Goosebumps. The Presence. And then, the shaft of light suddenly streaming in through my bedroom window. These times make you feel so little, yet so big; so humbled, yet so excited, so broken, but so whole.

Light and the connection to Life has been an incredible concept to unpack.

“In Him was Life and that Life was the light of men.”

“The people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.‚ÄĚ

“When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, ‚ÄúI am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you.
2 See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the LORD rises upon you and his glory appears over you.”
“For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.”
As I was thrilling to these verses in my bedroom this morning, and thinking about the moments following the crucifixion and the Light of the World dying for humanity, and thinking about the darkness that enveloped the world, a  brilliant shaft of light came through my bedroom window, and I knew my little time was being Noticed by Someone Else.
 
Light- glorious,flickering,  blinding, piercing, shining.
Life- powerful, giving, empowering, changing, sharing.
His life coursing through us, emboldening us, changing and transforming us produces a beautiful light that cannot be denied.
Is it possible that the darkness of our world isn’t so much that the lights have gone out, but that His life isn’t in His followers? When we become His, when He merges our lives, when we are breathing his will and our hearts are beating together, the ¬†Light will come and it will be undeniable and it could change the world.
Life-breathers, light-carriers. My existence and sacred calling.
My latest written-down-big.

On my bookshelf

A few months ago, I did a post on what I was reading, and I’ve decided to do it again. For one, I enjoy looking back over my posts to see what all I’ve read and what I thought of the books. I also enjoy seeing what others read and I thought it would be fun to get some discussion going.

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As is apparent by the picture, I try to read a wide genre, but two books in this stack have really stretched my literary borders. I read a fair bit over the winter, but still have a couple that didn’t get touched. I joke that I don’t “put up” food for the winter, I put up books. I had a drawer full and picked out a few but still have a ways to go.

By The Great Spoon is a whimsical book set during the gold rush. The illustrations are perfect and add so much to the content. I enjoyed this as a light read.

Love Your God With All Your Mind by J.P Moreland was a thick, complex but wonderful read. It appeals to the intellect and bemoans the departure of it from the modern church. It is deep and thick, and headache invoking and I trudged through some of the chapters because they were so hard to get. Here are a few excerpts to whet your appetite.

“I am responsible for what I believe, and, I might add, for what I refuse to believe because the content of what I do or do not believe makes a tremendous difference to what I become and how I act.”

and

“The mind is like a muscle. If not exercised regularly and strenuously, it loses some of its capacity and strength. We modern evangelicals often feel small and without influence in the public square. We must recapture our intellectual heritage if we are to present to our brothers and sisters, our children, and a post-Christian culture a version of Christianity rich and deep enough to challenge the dehumanizing structures and habits of thought of a society gone mad.”

He bemoans the fact that church leaders were once the intellectuals and thinkers of their generation,but now have turned to emotionalism instead, leaving empty selves sitting in their benches, embarrassed because they don’t understand and articulate their faith, leaving them vulnerable and easily turned away.

It’s an excellent read, and I can’t recommend it highly enough. This would be beneficial on any pastor’s bookshelf, and any person interested in a well trained and ordered mind. If we are to engage in a thinking world, a world that is asking questions, then we have to know and be able to articulate what it is that we do believe, in a way that will compel others to experience it.

The Quakers of New Garden-¬†I probably shouldn’t include it because I didn’t enjoy it, or find it well written,but I picked it up because of the Quaker part. It’s about four Quaker brides and is one of those canned books, you know, where you open it up and it tastes just like 4,329 other books. I wouldn’t recommend it, because as a food it would be a marshmallow fluff dessert, but i did read it, and wanted to be honest ūüôā

I picked up Of Beetles and Angels at Dollar Tree and it was well worth my $1. The true story of a Syrian refugee family- it was moving and touching and gave more padding and structure to my refugee context.

I bought The Clear Light of Day¬†by Penelope Wilcock, because her Hawk and Dove Trilogy is one of my all time favorite books. I’m not feeling this book though, and really having a hard time engaging with it. I do want to finish it though and see if the last half redeems the first.

Okay. So The Kite Runner deserves a whole blog post about it. Seldom have I been so stirred and moved by a piece of fiction. If you don’t like sad and melancholy books,run as fast as you can from this one. My dear friend Amanda warned me that it just pretty much stays sad throughout the book, and so I hesitantly and nervously plodded through. It is set in Afghanistan, and so culturally, it was very interesting and included themes like Taliban activity, and stuff like that, of which I don’t usually read about. I don’t think I breathed in the last few chapters, as it gutted me but still left me full. I hated it because it was gut-wrenching but loved it because it was beautiful. It is the book of paradoxes, and when I put it down, I did almost respectfully, because I had just read something so well-written, so rare, so masterfully communicated. Now I will warn you, it’s not a Christian book, it has a very small amount of bad language, and it’s not particularly inspiring, so if you need those qualifications in your reading, it’s probably not for you. Here’s the quote that I read on Pinterest, that made me seek out the book initially,

I wondered if that was how forgiveness budded, not with the fanfare of epiphany, but with pain gathering its things, packing up, and slipping away unannounced in the middle of the night.

I’m a bit sheepish to include the last book in the picture, Straw Dogs- thoughts on humans and other animals– because its so terrible and false, but Ravi Zacharias recommended it to understand other worldviews. I don’t think I’ve ever picked up a book before where I knew going into it that it was false and wrong on every level, but I’m reading it to try to understand this world I’m living in and to equip me to help others more effectively. To give you an idea of how depressing it is, here is the first paragraph:

Most people think they belong to a species that can be master of its destiny. This is faith, not science. We do not speak of a time when whales or gorillas will be masters of their destinies. Why then humans? We do not need Darwin to see that we belong with other animals.

Shocking, huh? Especially because I know that humans are special to God because He breathed life into them, setting them apart from the animal kingdom. And that He gave his own Son, in the form of a human, to redeem the rest of humanity. And that I get to be part of this growing, living Kingdom, and I get to give light and hope to people like John Gray.

Which raises a topic of discussion. What should guide a Christian’s choice of literature? Two of the books in the list above are not necessarily Christian, and the last one is decidedly opposed to it’s worldview. For John Wesley, the study of extrabiblical information and the writings of unbelievers was of critical value for growth and maturity. (excerpt from Love Your God With All Your Mind)

What guiding principles should we embrace, especially considering that our mind is a muscle, and needs to be exercised to retain strength? Will that broaden or limit our exposure to books such as the above? Do these principles vary by individual? Does the spiritual growth of a person determine some of this? What do you think?

 

A Coal-Smudged Princess

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image via flickr

Maybe its because I’m not the starry-eyed girl of 17 with the world figured out and the moon in her hand. Maybe its because I’m old and jaded and pudgy and boring. Maybe it’s because the dreamy ideals I embraced have seen some real life. And the moon is further away then I thought.

I was chatting with my sister Kelly tonight, and talking about her upcoming job description at Calvary Bible School in Arkansas where she will be Dean of Women (aka mother to the girls, listener to life stories, turner offer of lights at 10:30, dispenser of hugs and cough drops.) We were discussing the different vibes and styles that deans bring to the table, and the messages that get promoted. Each is unique because it reflects on her own personal journey.

“Are we princesses?”, she asked, referring to the spiritual title that a lot of us grew up embracing. I understand the premise and technically we are, because we are daughters of the King.

He was also a Servant, which would make us scullery maids, but I digress.

Princesses, as the story books inform us, are fairly useless. They are basically a title and a bunch of pomp and ceremony. They are valued and protected because they have The Right Blood and that gives them a lot of immunity to the real world. Now, to be fair, the more modern princesses have tried to live normal lives and live more like the populace than their venerable royal ancestors.

I’ve been trying to find some way to wrap up this past little series on vibrant womanhood, and this clicked tonight.

More than princesses, with the fluffy demands and red-carpet treatment, our lives should be also of the scullery maid, who daily does her Masters bidding. Our Master happens to be the greatest, kindest, savingest Master that you ever did see, and that makes service not a drudgery, but a delight.

As women, we dream. And we believe when society tells us that we deserve certain things: good health, financial sufficiency, religious liberty, a good husband, etc.

We feel cheated when we don’t get these things because we view our relationship with Him as a contract. I do x, y, and z, and you will give me the above list. We wheedle and beg and promise and demand.

He hasn’t promised us good health, and money and husbands. You won’t find those promises in His Word. You won’t find the sign-up sheet for a contract in the heavenlies. Its not there. ¬†Our happiness is not His primary concern. Our obedience and our relationship is.

Beware of the program or book or speaker who tells you that God wants you to be healthy and happy and satisfied. Compare that to the stories of the Syrian refugee Christians and the ladies worshiping in secret. Their princess gowns are tattered and threadbare and look awfully like servant rags.

I don’t know if I’ve articulated everything that I’ve wanted to in this. What is a true woman, a real, sure-enough woman?

A true woman is the softness of Mary, and the strength of Esther. She embodies what is pure and good and right. She is ready for any occasion because in the valleys, and wilderness of disappointment and pain, she has learned how to live. The mundane decisions and the training of her mind prepare her for crisis. She is a collector of stories, of experiences. of moments. She worships regularly and deeply. She is plugged into life, into relationships and into the broken world she shares with others. She is ever learning, always growing, and constantly in awe of her Father. She is a listener and a soft shoulder. She is a microphone for truth. She is a kisser of babies and chef of good foods. She thinks and reasons and leads her emotions, not follows them. She makes the world a better place, not because of what she does, but because of who she is.

Sometimes in princess gowns, but also in scullery rags.

 

 

 

 

Through Thinking Deserts: Womanhood Series Part IV

The Hurt You Hide, The Joy You Hold

Did you know that in addition to beauty appreciating, service rendering, and baby-producing faculties, there are other organs we give lesser thought to? The mind, for starters. Now that seems fairly obvious, but please hear me out.

I’m going to be really honest here and spill my heart. This is a topic I feel deeply about and I think God does too.

I have a love-hate relationship with those Period movies and books- you know, like Pride and Prejudice and Emma and books of that era. The scene is often a handful of dramatic, manipulative, and ever-fainting females (often mother and daughters), and a man or two who allows himself to be manipulated, can’t stand up for truth and bows to every whim, whether good or bad of his females.

It’s also the setting in many hyena dens. Look it up.

So you have the softness of ridiculous amounts of petticoats and bustles, accompanied by control and manipulation and pathetic assumed weakness, and together, it makes no sense and frankly, makes me nauseous.

And usually out of this chaos, a young woman emerges who is different than the rest of the women, and whose only apparent different characteristic is her bright and inquisitive mind. She wants more than her mother is experiencing and she is intrigued and touched by people beneath her social circle, much to the chagrin of her high-society family.

And of course, a young man usually shows up and is intrigued by the girl’s spark, her fine mind, and her rebellion to what is socially expected. He is a real man, and values what is good, and she is attracted. The story progresses as the man and woman both struggle to stay true to themselves and true, beautiful love emerges. The love of equals. The love of two people who are whole, both physically, emotionally and intellectually. And it’s beautiful. And that makes my nausea slightly better.

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It’s the struggle of the centuries- I don’t know if it started at the Fall, but the thread is seen through history. The struggle of the expectations of doing over being. It is seen in Jesus’ interaction with Mary and Martha, and women throughout the ages have felt sympathy for Martha while knowing they should be like Mary.

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In weddings, the message to the bride is often in the running of the household, the cooking and housekeeping and the submission. The grooms often hear about leadership and taking responsibility of the home. You see the difference? The doing versus the being.

When all women are valued for and encouraged in is their skills, their abilities, and the needs they provide, a part of us dies, because life is not ultimately found in doing, but in being. “The truth shall set you free,” said Jesus of Nazareth, not, “your housekeeping skills, or your child-raising abilities.” There is life in a thriving, vibrant relationship with our Redeemer, where we are constantly growing and learning more.

Do not hear me minimizing the doing. The doing is beautiful because of the being, not in spite of it. A lady who is interested in growing, in learning, and in personal development will be that much better as a homemaker, as a cook, as a teacher, as a wife. She will do it well, because that’s who she is. What naturally flows out of her in her doing will be a direct reflection of her character and who she is.

The men tend to get pushed towards personal development because of how we do gender roles and because of what is expected of them. They will often get elected to offices in the church where they are forced to study and grow, and good things often happen personally. The expectations of being a good leader and husband and father are quite high and they naturally expand and grow.

The women don’t get that. Their cultural expectations are to oversee a well-running home, and provide for their families needs. That’s not bad because of what it is, but it’s bad because that’s all. Any personal development is strictly that, personal, without much outside encouragement.

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That’s why womens sunday school classes tend to be more dry, and conversations less interesting. We speak out of what we know and experience, and often it’s not that big.

I’m here to shake things up. To call women to be more. To call women to think and live vibrantly because they love their Redeemer and are plugged into His Kingdom. I’m hear to urge women to start thinking, not out of emotions, which proves to be tragic and makes men’s meeting’s necessary, but to think logically and live truth.

Teach your children how to think, not what to think. I appreciate my parents doing that. We grew up listening to Ravi Zacharias because my dad enjoyed it. We learned simple logic lessons through the debates. As a result, our childish squabbles would often include terms like, “you’re not being consistent.” Because we knew that if A, that we just said, was true, B couldn’t logically follow. At this point the squabble was over, because if you weren’t consistent with truth, you lost. And then, as young adults, we were encouraged to think for ourselves and they guided us through decisions as we searched for Truth. That is powerful for young adults and provides a beautiful slate to develop worldviews and vision.

And if, in all this, you men think I’m shouting “mutiny”, and are feeling intimidated, guess again. As we grow and develop and learn and think, we won’t overpower or control you, we will complement you in beautiful and Biblical ways. As you lead in healthy, Christ-like ways, we will bring our submission to you as a gift, and it will be beautiful.

The Proverbs 31 lady? I’m guessing she was a combination of softness and strength. Of doing flowing out of her being. She ¬†was a lady of strength and of thought, and her husband encouraged her to buy fields because she had an eye for it. That’s my theory.

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all images via flickr

Those Period Women were not really women, they just pretended to be. Real women are women like Esther and Rahab and Deborah, who, under times of extreme tension and stress, didn’t faint and require smelling salts, but were strong and resilient and courageous. That is what being a woman is and that is what God is calling us to. Anything less is a travesty of the design that was Creator-inspired and breathed. Anything more is… well there is nothing better than that.

Why Did She Buy That Field? Womanhood series part III

::The Contradiction of the Virtuous Woman::

As ladies, we’ve all been in those study groups before. You know, where Proverbs 31 is studied and the virtuous woman is being extolled. Happily, we immerse ourselves in this mystical woman we are all trying to emulate.

An excellent wife? Check.

Her husband trusts in her? Check.

She sources good clothing materials, usually from the $1/yard table at Walmart, for her household? Check.

She provides good food, sometimes ordering it from afar, like on Amazon? Check.

She gets up early and makes cornmeal mush for her household? Check.

She considers a field and, wait, ¬†WHHHAAAATTTTT? WHY DID SHE DO THAT? ¬†Awkward silence. She’s that stereotypical stay-at-home-mom who buys fields.

(and at this time the moderator announces a bathroom break and resuming at verse 17)

Honestly, I don’t have the answers for all that. But I do have a theory. But that’s a topic for tomorrow.