Coming to Our {Summer} Senses // 4 Ways to Never Lose Our Wonder

The wonder of God
 A man is a very small thing, and the night is very large and full of wonders.
– Lord Dusany

 

In the city, the night sky felt like a backdrop. I knew it was there but I couldn’t see it for the street lights and gnarly oak trees growing nearby.

But here⎯in the country⎯a wide-open sky spreads out like a picnic blanket offering up its finest for all to see and enjoy. Smatterings of stars, planets, the big pizza pie-in-the-sky, and sometimes even meteor showers await. When I look up I can’t help but stand in awe of God’s majestic feast that He displays every night without fail.

The sky is obviously the same in both places but one is obscured by trees and city lights. Or was it just the trees and city lights obscuring my view? Rushing to get inside the house to unpack groceries, start projects, binge-watch the latest series on Netflix, and of course, perusing the internet can hinder the clearest of views.

Clearing the mental clutter and physical calendar makes way for wonder⎯being awestruck by the One who was struck for me, and for you.

Wonder

May we never lose our wonder
May we never lose our wonder
Wide-eyed and mystified
May we be just like a child
Staring at the beauty of our King.
[first stanza]

Talk about a hymn of praise! Perhaps I gravitate to this song by Bethel Music because I know how easy it is for me to get distracted to the point that I forget to look up and all around me. “May we be just like a child, staring at the beauty of our King”. Oh, the power of child-like wonder. These simple lyrics reflect my heart cry, and maybe yours too.

Wonder-women, let's hold out our shields, refusing to let the temporary penetrate the eternal. Click To Tweet
So, how do we hold out our shields?

4 Ways to Never Lose Our Wonder

 

Stay in the Word of God.

How can our heart⎯the one that longs to be known⎯not be drawn closer to our heavenly Father when we read how He calls forth each starry host by name?

“Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one and calls forth each of them by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.” Isaiah 40:26 NIV

Be intentional.

Wake up every morning with the intention to see the wonders of God at every turn. Watch for it in nature, in other people, and in the eyes of those we love. Set aside a few minutes each day to stop and see the wonder of God.

Keep a journal of wonder.

We’ve benefited from gratitude journals so what if we start journaling those moments when we’re awestruck by God?

Rub shoulders with other wonder-women.

Show me a grateful person rescued from the clutches of sin and I’ll show you a fellow wonder-woman. The woman at the well in John 4 came face-to-face with the One who knew her better than she knew herself. Her sin was confronted, but done so in love. She was offered Living Water that would flow new life through her veins for an eternity. I know how she felt in that moment when she saw love instead of condemnation in His eyes, except my setting was inside a duplex instead of beside a desert well. Our outcome was also similar for neither of our lives would ever be the same. The wonder of salvation spurred us on to share this love with others and to rub shoulders with other wonder-women, like you.

Physical sight is not necessary in order to grasp the beauty of God’s wonder (one need only know my friend Jamie to testify to this truth), but if we do have sight, look up, sweet friend! The sky testifies to His wonder tonight.


What has left you in awe of God this week?
 (Can I start? Hummingbirds. I could watch them for hours. God’s creative touch is awe-inspiring!)

 

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Heading to the Beach? Don’t Forget to Pack This {Or Gift It!}

Pauses small framedAre you or someone you know heading to the beach this Memorial Day weekend? Or do you have a day, weekend, or week circled on your summer calendar for days by the shore?

There’s no better time to pack my NEW release “Pauses for the Vacationing Soul: A Sensory-Based Devotional Guide for the Beach”. It’s a one-week devotional that includes your arrival and departure days. The book provides an opportunity for you (or your family) to pause each day to draw closer to the Lord through a brief devotion, Scripture reading, prayer, and sensory activity.

And if you know someone heading to the beach, consider giving them the book as a gift. {Did I mention it’s only 99 cents?} To do so, simply go to the Amazon page and you’ll see a “Give as a Gift” button in the right sidebar. You need only enter the recipient’s email address and it will show up on their device as a gift from you! {No Kindle? No worries! Amazon allows you to upload their FREE Kindle app to your laptop or phone here.}

In addition to packing my little book (more vacations coming soon!) here are several more items you may want to add (or check off) your own beach packing list:

 

Don’t Leave These Behind On Your Next Beach Trip:

Earbuds:

While it’s hard to compete with the lullaby rhythm of the waves crashing nearby, there are times I love to plug in my earbuds to my phone and zone out. My music list is all over the place. See for yourself:

  • Frank Sinatra – his songs remind me of my grandparents and the wonderful memories we made on the same very beach we now vacation.
  • Fleet Foxes – this indie band woos me with their masterful vocal harmonies.
  • Brandon Gilliam/River Crossings Worship Team – I’m especially proud that Brandon wrote some of the songs on this CD. Amazing!
  • David Crowder – just because.
  • Dusty Springfield {I warned you it was random}. One song: “What Are You Doing With The Rest Of Your Life”. I wasn’t even old enough to know this song when it was recorded but it hits a reset button of sorts when I listen to it one week a year.
Quality zip-top bags:

When you read through my book, you’ll see an opportunity to use these on the beach, but they’re also good to secure items like phones, books, foods — anything you don’t want to get wet. They’re also good for holding seashells and other memorable items you find on the beach.

Baking soda, vinegar, and Benadryl:

Years ago, our oldest son, Brandon, was stung by a jellyfish. Those cries are not what any mother wants to hear. Oh, the pain! We ran across the street to a marina and happened across an old fisherman who advised us to use vinegar (rinse) and baking soda (paste). Online sources can give you the exact details. As the old adage says, “I’d rather have it and not need it than need it and not have it”.

Protective cover wear:

I remember the days of squirting baby oil all over my arms and legs in hopes of gaining the perfect tan. Oh my, those were the days. But today, I slather on the Helioplex suntan lotion and often wear a cover-up as both my husband and I have experienced skin cancer scares. This is the one I’m purchasing today. It’s a UPF surf shirt that guards against the harmful rays. It will come handy at the beach as well as our pool. Bye, bye tan.

Patience:

It is cheap but not always easy to find. Nothing ruins a hard-earned vacation like stress. Cars will break down, the weather won’t cooperate, and the waiter will spill ketchup on your favorite gray and white pin-stripe shirt (was that too detailed?). Unfortunately, mishaps don’t take a vacation but packing this virtue in your heart before you leave home helps everyone to have a memorable vacation⎯for all the right reasons.

God:

I know, we don’t take God with us on vacation, we go with Him. I actually write about this on Lori Roeleveld’s award-winning blog this week. Come, join us there.

 

I’m praying now that you and your family will enjoy a time of rest and relaxation away this summer. Soak up the rest God provides and bask in His goodness.

Pauses for the Vacationing Soul

Click to Order (or Gift to A Beach-Bound Buddy!)

 

Celebrating Mothers With All Five {Spiritual} Senses

Mother and Daughter

There are a plethora of ways to celebrate Mother’s Day but today I’m adding five to the mix that you may not have considered. And with it being only a few days away, there’s no time to lose so let’s get started.

 

{The Gift of Sight}

 

spiritual sightBeautiful items make themselves available on Mother’s Day. Restaurants with fancy folded napkins, a hillside with a readied picnic basket, and jewelry with all the right birthstones in place. But imagine giving mothers, especially those with baggage like myself, the gift of going to the Father and asking for the spiritual sight to see her as He sees her. I can assure you that mothers who have mothered from a difficult place, sometimes of our own making, want nothing more than for our child to know that despite their flaws and failures, they were loved. That we did our best even though our best often failed to measure up to hopes and dreams.

Consider writing your mother a note this Mother’s Day instead of simply signing a card. If your family is blessed to look more like a minimalist when it comes to “baggage” thank God and then share specific ways your mother has blessed you. But if you think of a hoarder when it comes to family baggage, consider praying for spiritual eyes to see beyond the hurt and disappointment, allowing God to show you your mother as He sees her. Share what you learn with her in a handwritten note. Has your mother passed? My heart hurts for you. Go ahead and write your note. If possible, visit her gravesite and read it aloud. Or go to a quiet place you know she would’ve loved instead and read it.

 

{The Gift of Taste}

 

ice cream If you’re a mother my guess is that you have a renewed sense of appreciation for your own mother. You now have insight into the sacrifice, unconditional love, and hard work that is required. In some ways, it’s like eating something new for the first time. You’re not sure what to expect — but when you taste it for yourself, you know {and appreciate it} based on experience.

Treat your mother to a new restaurant experience. As you enjoy your meal, share with her specific things you’ve learned (or one day hope to learn) about parenting. And don’t forget dessert!

 

 

{The Gift of Listening}

 

Mom and daughterWe all know there is a vast difference between hearing and listening. One is expected. The other is a gift. The art of conversation is a dying one thanks to our inability to turn off the phone with all of its well-meaning perks. When is the last time we asked a question and truly listened to the answer?

Turn your phone off regardless of how you choose to spend time with your mother this weekend. Give her the respect she deserves in her God-given role. Think of questions you can ask in advance about her dreams, how she feels God is moving in her life these days, her childhood, etc. And then listen.

 

 

 

 

{The Gift of A Sweet Aroma}

 

grandma cooking Aromas flowing from family kitchens can create lifelong memories. To this day, I wish I’d spent more time with both grandmothers in their kitchens (and so does my family). Our sense of smell is the strongest of the five for a reason. One whiff can trigger a bundle of memories.

Purchase a candle for your mother and share all the ways she adds a sweet scent to your life, and to your family’s. But don’t stop with the practical ways. If applicable, share how she is the “fragrance of Christ” to you (2 Corinthians 2:14-16). If this isn’t applicable, go ahead and purchase the candle but keep it for yourself. Use it as a trigger to remind you to pray for your mother every time you light it. Or if your mother has passed, use each lighting as a reminder to thank God for her “fragrance” in your life.

 

{The Gift of Touch}

 

Mother Daughter HugIf you ever doubt the power of touch, visit an assisted living home. The elderly are hungry for a simple touch. And so are mothers. I could write an entire post on this subject and one day I will, but for now, can I take this moment to encourage young mothers? Never miss an opportunity to hug or kiss your child, even when he or she acts uninterested. Touch is a powerful communicator of love, regardless of age.

I’m blessed to still have my mother but having lost two grandmothers to whom I was very close, I can say one thing I miss most are the front/back door hugs. You know, the kind you can’t escape if you want to enter their home. I didn’t always appreciate them as a youngster but now I would give anything to feel their warm embrace again. Hug your mother, your grandmother, and any mother figure God has blessed you with — because the gift of touch is one you never outgrow.

 

What is God Redeeming in Your Life Today? {And A Gift for You!}

Redemption

I marvel at God’s redeeming power. Salvation. Forgiveness. Mercy. Grace.

Lives once lost, now saved — and that reality of redemption reaches deep into our days. Not one experience, one gift, one talent, one sin, one stumble, one glint of shame, one creative idea, or one of anything else is beyond His redemptive reach. He uses it all. Nothing in our life goes to waste.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28 NIV

Today, the discussion of redemptive power in your life and mine continues on Karen ‘Girl’ Friday’s blog, “Hope Is Among Us”. Click her to join us. {And did I mention a Starbucks gift card will be given away in celebration of the this week’s launch of Pauses for the Vacationing Soul: A Sensory-Based Devotional Guide for the Beach? What better way to celebrate than with a cup of coffee? It’s chock-full of sensory benefits! Visit Karen’s amazing site and leave a comment to be eligible for the drawing. See you there!}

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A THANK YOU GIFT… FOR YOU

Pauses SmallThank you to the best creative community ever! Your support and encouragement spur us all on to be the women God has created us to be. I’m deeply grateful for the amazing help you offered by sharing, purchasing, and reviewing my new book on its launch day Tuesday.

To celebrate, all new subscribers will receive an uber-cool beachy scripture-based coloring page. Design artist Brittany Leigh Powell of Britt Leigh Design & Marketing Studio created this just for YOU. {Current subscribers, if you did not receive the newsletter with the link to your coloring page, please let me know.} Enjoy!

Visit Brittany’s Etsy Store to grab your own cool designs for a multitude of projects.

The Power of With {One Week After Easter}

The power of with

This wasn’t the post I intended to write the week after Easter. Things, however, have been topsy-turvy at the Baker house. Last week, I was diagnosed with pneumonia. The tiredness is a reality that feels more like a nightmare. And while there’s never a good time to be sick, there’s certainly a bad time⎯like now. I wasn’t able to attend our Easter service or hunt eggs with the kids. And then there’s my little book that’s set to launch on Tuesday, May 2nd, that requires more of me than I have to give right now.

But amidst all this — the disappointment of missing out on a special holiday with my family, the feelings of inadequacy, and the concern of flat-out failing to launch the book properly, one word has held me together: WITH.

The weight of this word with is heavy and sweet like the scent of tea olives in Spring. It brings rest to the soul. Mark 16:20 frames the word in all its glory:

Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.  [Emphasis mine]

After the crucifixion and before the resurrection the disciples were confused and afraid. John 20:19 says, “On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews…”.

But then they discovered the power of the empty tomb. Jesus was not there. He had risen! In that moment they went from being without Jesus to being with Him, and Him with them. Jesus wasn’t only with them following His resurrection⎯He worked with them. And the same Jesus works with you and with me this very day to accomplish your goals for His glory.

Recently, I had a slight but powerful shift in my relationship with Christ, my prayer life, and my calling when I began walking in the reality of God’s “with-ness”. I’ve experienced the reality of His presence within me since becoming a Christ-follower at the age of 27. But only in recent months have I harnessed the power of His being with me.

With me when I don’t have the physical energy to complete necessary tasks.
With me when I can’t understand the timing of getting sick.
With me when I’m feeling alone in an overwhelming process.
With me when I can’t be all that I want to be for my family and for myself.

His with-ness provides the grace, mercy, and rest required to move forward when everything else around me feels backward. His sovereignty trumps it all. And knowing that He is with me⎯and not indifferent toward me or against me⎯changes everything.

Have you considered how grasping the reality of God being with you might shift your perspective in your ministry, as well as life in general?

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The Power of With:
  • You wonder if what you’re doing is making an eternal difference or if you’re just spinning temporal wheels. Jesus is with you, prompting others to encourage you at just the right moment. No — that email, text, or call was not “out of the blue”. He is with you and knows exactly what you need to keep moving forward in your calling.
  • In the grocery line, you feel prompted to share the joy of the empty tomb with the woman ahead of you. Your pulse pumps with fear — but Jesus is there — right there, standing with you, ready to give you the bravery to speak.
  • Your work weighs you down emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Jesus is with you. He longs for you to ask for His wisdom and discernment instead of relying on your own. Your work matters to Him.
  • You’re a single mom or a widow. You’re exhausted and loaded down with questions of “what if?”. Jesus is with you, upholding you, giving you manna-strength for the day.
  • You’ve received a dreaded diagnosis. Jesus is fighting for you and He is with you.

Easter is my favorite day of the year. Without the resurrection, there would be no hope. No hope of God being in a relationship with us, no hope of forgiveness, no hope of an eternity with Him. No hope of seeing our loved ones again — and the list goes on. But because the tomb was empty that Easter morn, with-ness with God is a reality.

As the song says, “May we never lose our wonder.”

“This is an invitation to spend your lives pursuing what you most enjoy doing⎯together with God. Raising a family. Investing in your passion. Chasing your dreams. In all of it, God’s primary goal isn’t to teach you lessons. He’s a Father who teaches, not a Teacher who fathers. And a Father’s deepest desire is to invite his sons and daughters into more intimate relationship with Him. Which means God didn’t primarily create us so we would do things for Him. Or even to learn lessons about Him. His primary reason for creating us is so we can be with Him.” — Allen Arnold, The Story of With: A Better Way to Live, Love & Create

How does it make you feel to know that the God of the universe created you to be with Him?

 

Pauses for the Vacationing Soul

ON SALE MAY 2ND

 

 

 

 

 

Book Cover Reveal + The Story Behind It

Pauses for the Vacationing Soul represents three years of questions, doubt, fleece-throwing, putting-it-off-till-perfect kind of excuses. And yet, this book also reflects those times I leaned hard into God’s goodness, invited His “with-ness” into the process, and listened well with imperfect but willing ears.

And so the story begins…

Once upon a time, the idea of creating a devotion guide for beach vacations sparked while sitting beneath an umbrella in Garden City, SC. I spent the remainder of the vacation struggling in my spirit to believe God had given me such an idea. Surely there were more qualified, with-it kind of writers to bring this idea to fruition. So I went home and tucked the idea away for safe keeping. The following summer, the same idea surfaced but this time with more details. In a split second, past bible studies I’d led using sensory items, like beach sand, scurried across my mind.

And then I returned home.

Within a few days after arriving home from the beach, my path crossed a friend who’d attended one of the studies (over ten years ago). As we were saying our goodbyes she mentioned she still had her small bag of sand I’d handed out during the study. She shared how she keeps it on her bedside table to serve as a constant reminder of God’s love. That was the confirmation I needed. So one might think I’d simply sit down, write it out, and upload it to Amazon, right? Wrong.

Life happened.

Two unexpected surgeries in one year, selling a home, buying a “new” one, and all the in-between. But this January, while mumbling to myself before God about my writing goals, or lack thereof, He hushed my words with His wisdom.

“You treat writing like a hobby, not a calling.”

Wait, what? I continue to process the words I heard in my spirit that morning but that moment held a turning point that has yet to loosen its grip.

I immediately hopped up and began writing down disciplines required for me to get back on track. You can read more about those in this post. Almost four months later, the idea that emerged on a sandy beach comes to fruition on an Amazon virtual shelf on Tuesday, May 2nd. God is good.

I’ll share more about Pauses for the Vacationing Soul release later this month but in the meantime, your prayers are appreciated. If you would like to consider being on the launch team, please click the email icon in the sidebar and let me know. I’d love to have you on the God-lovin’ Beach-going Book Launch Team!

Can I count on your prayers? I welcome the opportunity to pray for you as well. Please leave any request you might have in the comment section or feel free to email me.