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.

 

Re-Gifting the Beautiful Gift of the Gospel

The Gift of the Gospel
No greater gift exists than the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is the very definition of Christmas.

As mentioned in last week’s post, there seems to be a softness to one’s soul this time of year. Songs, the scent of certain foods, hymns, readings, and traditions take many of us back to simpler days. But this divinely placed soft spot also gives us unique opportunities to invite others into our story, into the story of the gospel.

I couldn’t close this Christmas mini-series without focusing on the greatest Gift ever, so here are five ways we can share the gift of knowing the one true living God (not to be confused with knowing about God). Thank You, Jesus.

5 Ways We Can Share the Gospel This Christmas

Add an extra gift to your list. Do you have those on your Christmas list who do not have a relationship with Christ? Consider purchasing a small gift that could be given in addition to a gift of their choice. This way, they might be more open to enjoying the extra gift rather than resenting it. Some ideas might be a book, bookmark, or a candle with John 8:12 written on an attached note.

Invite that person God has been laying on your heart to join you for coffee. Pray for ways to share your gospel story. It’s one story that can never be disputed! {If this person is not the same sex as you, invite your wife/husband/friend to join you. It’s just a wise thing to do.}

Give purpose to your Christmas light expeditions around local neighborhoods. This year will be the first in over twenty years that our family hasn’t driven around our local neighborhoods that we love so much. We’ve all moved to different areas but putting the kids (or grandkids!) in pj’s and riding around on holiday nights leaves lasting memories. I wish I’d thought of this particular idea I’m sharing today before our boys grew up. {We always judged the lights – how’s that for sharing the love?) Here goes: Before you go, share different ways you can pray for people you don’t know. Write them down and take them with you. Before you pull out of the driveway, pray that the Holy Spirit will make each person sensitive to His leading in praying for complete strangers on your route. Take turns praying for whatever houses you feel led to pray for. If you’re in a neighborhood and it’s safe, pull over and pray in front of the home. It doesn’t have to be a long prayer. Something as simple as “Lord, please give this family peace” is a sweet fragrance to God.

Pray before our feet hit the floor. Opportunities, especially during this season, are ripening Cookies with purposeall around us. Pray that the Holy Spirit would make you sensitive to His leading as you go through your day. Purposeful prayer is a potent weapon!

Bake cookies. But don’t stop there! Choose cookie cutters that hold a symbol of the gospel story: a star, cross, heart, cradle, etc. Be creative! Write out a corresponding verse (Google “scripture” and then a particular shape or object and see what happens!). Attach your verse and note to the cookies. Or use Psalm 34:8, “Taste and see that the LORD is good”. Deliver the cookies with a warm smile and release the results to God.

I pray that you and your family will have a
beautiful,
blessed,
grace-filled,
forgiven and Gospel-driven Christmas.

{And a Happy New Year! See you in January!}

This is Christmas: not the tinsel, not the giving and receiving, not even the carols, but the humble heart that receives anew the wondrous gift, the Christ. – Frank McKibben

You might like:
The Meaning of the Gospel – Tim Keller

Re-Gifting the Fragrance of Forgiveness

The fragrance of forgiveness

Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.” -Mark Twain

Fragrances during the Christmas season can evoke a mix of emotions, even unexpected ones. One whiff of vintage vinyl and I become ten years old all over again, upstairs in my grandmother’s house where we played Johnny Mathis and Bing Crosby. Or the scent of firewood freshly split for the woodburning fireplace transporting me back to a house filled with love, laughter, and impromptu family concerts in the den.

The sense of smell is a powerful sensory. In fact, it’s the most sensitive of the whole bunch. Perhaps this is why Mark Twain’s quote catches my heart every time. Sometimes it’s my heel that tramples on another. And then there are times when I must be the one to release the fragrance of forgiveness because of the bruised and imprinted heel marks left on my own life. Just as the violet doesn’t decide as to whether or not it should forgive the heel that stepped upon it, neither do I.

For how could I, a forgiven soul through the fragrance of Christ, even consider withholding it from another?

Christmas cookiesThere seems to be a spot divinely embedded in the heart that softens at Christmas, offering unique opportunities to forgive even the smallest of offenses. People attend a Christmas Eve services, send cards, bake cookies, visit neighbors and nursing homes, etc. The list goes on!

Below are a few ideas on ways we can practice the art of re-gifting the fragrance of forgiveness this year:
  • Re-gifting the fragrance of forgiveness happens when we first forgive ourselves. Much like the gift of grace, we cannot give to others what we ourselves do not possess. If we are in Christ, we do possess forgiveness⎯but embracing it for ourselves often proves to be more difficult than offering it to others. {Or at least that’s what I’ve found to be true in my own life.} Poor choices I made years ago still quicken tears in my eyes more often that most know, but at the core of my sadness, I know that God, through Christ, has forgiven me for those past sins. It’s only because of my confidence in Christ that I can move forward in joy. And you can, too. Need a little reminder today of God’s gift of forgiveness toward you? Savor His words found in 1 John 1:9, Isaiah 43:25,26, Acts 3:19, Isaiah 1:18, etc.
  • Re-gifting the fragrance of forgiveness happens through simple, thoughtful gifts. If you know that you’ve offended or hurt someone in your circle of life, take a few moments to write a note and attach it to a plate of cookies. Leave it on their doorstep and let your written words open the door to future conversations.
  • Re-gifting the fragrance of forgiveness happens when you forgive someone else before they even ask for it. This goes beyond the realm of what’s expected but isn’t that what Jesus did at every turn? You can forgive them quietly in your heart or by extending your forgiveness through a card or letter. Not sure where to begin? Dayspring offers biblical greeting cards that will help get you started. Sometimes that’s all we need, right? If the person in need of forgiveness has passed, write a letter to him/her. Then throw it away or burn it, symbolizing the release that’s taken place within.

This Christmas, and every day, may we be the fragrance of Christ through the way we love, serve, and forgive others. When others see, hear, and rub shoulders with us, may they catch a whiff of the costliest, most extravagant fragrance of all.

“But thanks be to God, who always leads us triumphantly in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of Him.” 2 Corinthians 2:14

Who needs Chanel Coco Noir Eau de Parfum under the tree when the sweetest fragrance of all lies within us?

Is there a particular scent that evokes a past memory for you at Christmastime? Please share!

 

Week 1: Re-gifting the Gift of Grace

4 Ways I Love to Celebrate Lent

“Lent isn’t about forfeiting as much as it’s about formation.” -Ann Voskamp

For those of you who, like me, didn’t grow up celebrating Lent there is much to learn, and much to celebrate. Jesus Christ’s 40 days of fasting in the desert are the spiritual foundation for the season that begins on Ash Wednesday.

Thomas Merton wrote, “Lent is not just a time for squaring conscious accounts: but for realizing what we had perhaps not seen before.”

Lent officially began February 10th, but we know it’s never too late to worship, or to discover new ways to worshipping, even if we didn’t grow up celebrating the Lenten season.

Below are four resources I LOVE and have used. I hope you’ll share yours in the comment section!

 

I’m using Ann Voskamp’s free 40 Day Lent Devotional this year. I wish I’d started on the 10th, but I didn’t, so I will begin where I am.
Here are some quotes on Lent to consider during this season, and every day:
“The goal of fasting is inner unity. This means hearing, but not with the ear; hearing, but not with the understanding; it is hearing with the spirit, with your whole being.” Fr. Thomas Merton
“Lord, have mercy on me! … I make no effort to conceal my wounds. You are my physician, I your patient. You are merciful; I stand in need of mercy.” St. Augustine
“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23
Do you have a go-to resource for the Lenten season (February 10-March 24), or what is one way you choose to prepare your heart for Easter?