An Introvert’s Journey Toward Biblical Community + Starbucks Giveaway!

Because surely biblical community and coffee go hand-in-hand.

For instance, remember the eavesdropping that took place in a North Carolina cafe last October? (If not, you can read about it here.) My being tucked away in a dark corner of a coffee shop isn’t unusual, but my willingness to interrupt the conversation of two young women I’d never met? Highly unlikely.

If you know me or have followed my writing for two minutes, you know I’m an introvert to the core. I love people but quickly crumble inside without ample space to breathe. Tapping keys, not stranger’s shoulders, is more my style.

 

But God.

 

Two words that weigh as heavy as the world He came to save.

 

Who needs Once Upon a Time when But God starts the story of every believer?

My story began three decades ago, but God used two young strangers as a catalyst to reboot my sluggish spirit.

“God wired us for biblical community. Yes, even us introverts. Since moving to the country, I’ve sensed a tug to be involved with women at a nearby campus. I don’t know one woman yet, but God does and I look forward to seeing what He will do. Want to join me in praying for God’s lead on that particular adventure? (I’d love to pray for yours too!))” – from my post, The Day Eavesdropping Inspired This Titus 2 Woman to Tears

I touch on the answer to this prayer in a follow-up post, The Night This Titus 2 Woman Hosted a Tea Party. Biblical community involves more than simply gathering together, but spending time with our small group women, getting to know them, and allowing them to get to know me feels like a healthy first step for this late-blooming introvert.

In fact, after I type this post, the list-making begins in preparation for our church’s women’s retreat this weekend. And this might be a good time to define the word journey, as used in the title of this post.

Journey: a passage or progress from one stage to another (dictionary.com)

Staying home, drinking coffee from my afternoon mug (yes, that exists), writing, playing with my grandkids, organizing organizational books currently stuffed in a cluttered closet⏤these are comfortable places for me. Traveling, sharing a room with even the best of choices (and she is!), being with truly wonderful people 24/7, and all that goes with this is not comfortable for me.

 

But God is doing a new thing, I perceive it.

 

He is making a way through my comfort zone, providing refreshment in a place that’s long felt deserted.

 

I have a long way to go on this journey with much to learn, but God is helping me progress from one stage to another. He’s not asking me to become someone I’m not. Instead, He’s empowering me to become someone I could not possibly be without Him.

Yes, the enemy whispers there’s too big of an age gap for connections to be made this weekend, but a young woman once told me that Titus 2 women are needed — and we Titus 2 women need them too. So I prepare with an excitement that’s surely not natural.

And to think it all began in the corner of a crowded, dimly-lit coffee shop.

“Practice of true community involves responsibilities and actions that do not come naturally to us.” – Jerry Bridges, True Community: The Biblical Practice of Koinonia

 

In keeping with the definition of a journey, where would you say you are in relation to pursuing biblical community?

a. sipping lavender lattes in the cafe corner? (pre-clueful)

b. receiving words from strangers that could be a “direct message” from God? (open to receiving)

c. feeling oddly awkward that God might be up to something you didn’t expect? (contemplating)

d. taking steps to put yourself in the path of biblical community? (still clueless but desiring to become more like Christ to the point of obedience?)

e. signing up for a women’s retreat or other gatherings that are not normal for you? (becoming a comfort-zone crusher!)

f. fully integrated into biblical community (refusing to allow natural tendencies to overrule God’s supernatural power, putting the gospel on display in beautiful and unexpected ways.)

I’d love to know! Share in the comment section and you might just win your own eavesdropping session at Starbucks. {Told you I had a long way to go!}

 

Thanks for stopping by the Tiny House on the Hill. If you’d like to receive my bi-monthly posts, plus Tiny House Tuesday, where you can spot the latest photos and updates, subscribe in the sidebar. As a small token of my appreciation for your support of this ministry, you’ll receive three fall calendars with daily prompts to watch for God’s goodness, perhaps in ways you may not expect.

Tiny House Tuesday // The Tarp of It All

Funny how hurricanes force you to re-think everything.

We were one sheet of underlayment away from having the base of the roof covered before we left for our beach vacation. Apparently, Hurricane Florence decided to follow us home. Before we knew it, forecasters were predicting sustained winds up to 50 mph and possibly 12″ of rain. This could be the first test of the Tiny House on the Hill’s survival despite the fact that summer storms march over these mountains like soldiers going off to battle. The wind, the rain, the wind.

Thankfully, Brian secured her to the ground with these bad boys early on in the process. We felt she’d stay put, but with the potential for tropical downpours, it was vital to find a way to protect the interior of the house. Although empty, we prefer she stay dry for obvious reasons.

A few of the tarp grommets popped off during a recent storm so our confidence was waning. Let’s just say it didn’t take long for Brian to work his magic, aka, head to Lowes.

He purchased four overly-sized straps and a sturdy rachet system. Two straps hooked together created one large enough to wrap around the entire house. We buckled her down at the front of the house, as well as the back. Finally, a thick sheet of plywood was bolted over the door opening.

No, it wasn’t her prettiest moment, but it certainly was her most secure.

Tiny House Hurricane

While we had no control over Florence’s path or destruction, we rested in knowing we’d done everything possible to secure her well. Thankfully, Florence skirted around us, but our hearts broke for those who faced her head on.

 

Pre hurricane sky

Pre-hurricane sky with no filter.

 

The broken, but well-braced tiny house, reminds me of us.

 

None being whole, perfect, or complete. Missing pieces in the form of loss, feeling invisible, waiting, or the gaping hole within us that longs to know or draw closer to God.

Being a Christ-follower doesn’t always protect us from diseases, accidents, or hurricanes. Few people explain this better than John Piper but suffice it to say, when our spiritual positioning is under the umbrella of Christ, we can know that He covers and protects us in such a way that we can find rest during any storm this life may bring.

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. Psalm 91:1 NIV

 

Mustard Seed Moment

God covers it all.

 

Is there some way I can pray for you today? Nothing is too small. If you prefer not to share your request in the comments section, feel free to email me via the envelope icon in my sidebar. I count it a privilege.

 

 

Glass Magnets

Thanks for stopping by the Tiny House on the Hill! 

How Drawing a Line Down the Center of a Page Can Change Everything

Make a Change Using this Method

 

Ice cream has always been my downfall.

Not just any ice cream, mind you. It must include sweet morsels of cookie dough, thin mints, or chocolate chips⏤sprinkles, syrups, or anything fruity are simply not invited to the party.

Recently, while wiping minty green deliciousness from around my lips, the words Where is your self-control? rudely interrupted the moment. The words stunned me even more than the fact that I was returning a half-eaten pint of my favorite meal snack to the freezer.

 

We know when it’s time for a change. And this was that moment.

 

Scenes from the last two years darted past.

Let’s see. There was the stress of prepping our old house to sell, then the move, writing two books in one year, the heartbreak of returning a beloved puppy on Valentines Day, and struggling with a couple of ongoing medical issues that wiggled fingers from their ears, double-dog-daring me to just try and lose the weight.

Hmm…turns out, it wasn’t ice cream I tasted. It was my emotions. If only they were fat-free. *sigh*

Convinced I couldn’t gain control of my eating habits, or the expanding waistline, I gave up. I grew comfortable buying one larger size after the other, but way down deep, I knew my lack of self-control was costing a lot more than 4.99 a gallon.

 

So I whipped out my favorite sketchbook, turned it sideways, and drew a line down the center of the page. Each column claimed a title.

 

The left column: Results From Eating Poorly. Keeping it real here, folks:

  • Avoiding people I haven’t seen since the added weight.
  • I’m not reflecting the power of self-discipline.
  • Feeling dumpy.
  • Slave to sweets.
  • I run away from the camera and videos.

 

The right column: Benefits from Eating Healthier

  • Live unashamed!
  • Healthier body, mind, and spirit.
  • Attention and energy will shift more to others (instead of worrying about what people think about me.)
  • I won’t shy away from the camera, whether it’s snapping shots with my family, fun selfies with friends, or video opportunities.
  • This time next year, I will be healthier, stronger, and more energetic. (One of the reasons we moved closer to the mountains was for the convenience of kayaking and hiking.)

 

It wasn't until I took the time to draw a line down the center of a page that changes began to happen. Click To Tweet

 

There I sat, comparing the two columns and circling key words, like avoid, slave to sweets, not reflecting⏤followed by⏤live, unashamed, won’t shy away.

For the first time in two years, I saw my life choices for what they really were, as well as their cost. Two scripture verses quickly followed:

 

You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is good for you. And even though “I am allowed to do anything,” I must not become a slave to anything. 1 Corinthians 6:12

[Truth is, I had given food way too much control over my life. It was my comforter, my be-happy-for-ten-minutes drug, my thoughtless activity. I want my life to reflect what I believe, not what brings me relief.]

 

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Galatians 6:22, 23 NIV

[I agreed with the voice that had rudely interrupted me only minutes prior, saying aloud, You’re right! I have no self-control. God said, “Wrong! I have given you everything you need to exercise self-control. My power lives in you. Depend on Him, not yourself.”]

 

Three Action Steps to Change

 

  1. I prayed for help, wisdom, and a desire to eat healthier.
  2. I came up with a simple plan to focus mainly on my eating habits. If I tried too much at one time, I would be overwhelmed. I re-started Weight Watchers, looked back at this post in 2015 for tips, and instead of finding ways it wouldn’t work for me, I found a way to make it work. Now I make a weekly menu and stock my fridge with all the right things (I use my extra points on the weekend for a cupcake — and I enjoy every bite!)
  3. I dedicated the plan to God with open and outstretched hands, confessing I can’t do it without Him.

 

So why am I sharing this journey with you at ten pounds down instead of waiting for a whopping victorious number?

 

Because it’s the small, strong, day-to-day choices we make that are to be celebrated.

 

It’s not about arriving at a certain number on a scale, or making “x” amount of money, or gaining “x” amount of social media followers.

 

It’s about arriving at the feet of Jesus.

 

Is there a situation in your life that might benefit by drawing a line down the center of a page?

 

 

3 Action Steps + A Prayer For Those Days When Disappointment Strikes

When You're Disappointed

Since returning from the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference, my days have had more twists and turns than Disney World’s Thunder Mountain.

 

On my ride home from the conference, I could barely see the ground for all the clouds. Two weeks later, I was sniffing dirt.

 

Two weeks after that, I was back to downing coffee, tweaking chapters and polishing an introduction, only to dust the dirt off my dreams once again. I think the word disappointment sums it up pretty well.

 

Somehow I feel like I’m not alone.

 

Disappointment is one of the most common emotions we experience. A dream job fizzles, friends let us down, or life simply takes unexpected detours. One doesn’t have to look far to find unmet expectations.

 

And yet, it’s what we choose to do with this disappointment that determines our next steps, and even our future.

 

“Don’t ever let today’s disappointment cast a shadow on tomorrow’s dream.” – Unknown

From Genesis to Revelation, we read of the disappointed. Moses, David, Rachel, Hannah, and poor Elijah was so downhearted, he asked God to take his life. Disappointment can dim our perspective, resulting in long-term discouragement, the too-early release of a ministry, the loss of relationships, depression, etc.

Perhaps it’s my own struggle with depression that alerts me to its danger, inspiring me to remember the following. I hope in some small way, it will help you too.

 

Tree Divider

BE KIND TO YOURSELF

 

Imagine telling a friend to “get over it” when the disappointment is so new it cries when spanked. So why would we treat ourselves any differently? I gave myself three days:

  • Day 1: Embrace the numbness. It tends to clip the heels of disappointment.
  • Day 2: Engage in prayer.
  • Day 3: Write down the next right thing to do and the specific steps required to move forward.

This structure proved helpful for my situation. Obviously, there are no time constraints for the grieving or 1-2-3 formulas for deeper disappointments.

Maybe you’re wondering why I didn’t devote the first day to prayer? It’s not that I wouldn’t or didn’t want to, but in a way, I couldn’t. Numb is numb. Instead of beating myself up for it (which I’ve done in the past), I embraced it as tightly as I did my heavenly Father’s love.

 

God knows the time required for filtering our emotions down to the point of an offering.

 

PRAY IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION

 

On the second day, and the following few, I noticed how my prayers were laser-focused on writing. Such as, What can I learn from these experiences? How should I proceed with the book? Should I proceed with the book?

There’s nothing wrong with these prayers. And yet at that moment, I realized my focus was more on the writing and less on the Author. I paused, thanking God for reminding me that He’s not nearly as interested in my writing as He is with me, His daughter. It’s my heart He desires above all, not my fingertips.

 

REMEMBER, GOD WASTES NOTHING

 

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

It’s this truth I cling to above most else when struggling with disappointment. When spitting dirt, it’s hard for us to imagine how God might use such an experience for good.

But the kingdom of God specializes in the redemption of dirt. Jesus spat on it to create mud that healed the blind man in John 9:6. Nothing is wasted when God is in the mix.

 

A Prayer for the Disappointed

 

Heavenly Father,
You know the words that linger in my mind but have yet to be spoken.
Nothing I say, think, or feel catches You by surprise.
You know me full well…and love me still.

Transparency is a glorious privilege. Every speck of disappointment, confusion, and frustration is not only heard but also received, and molded into glory.

Take all my expectations, Lord — the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Tuck them safely beneath Your authority,
the only place where they find true purpose, redemption, and rest.

Amen.

 

My disappointment quickly faded and I’m now working on new projects. Every word is for His glory regardless of the type of book that holds them. And if I had to do it all over again, I’d still climb into the rollercoaster because some lessons can only be learned from a heavenly perspective.

  • How do you handle disappointment? Please share in the comment section. Encourage away!
  • If you’re the one struggling today, know that I would count it a privilege to pray with, and for you.
  • Or maybe you know someone who would be encouraged by this post. Feel free to forward it and/or share.

 

Thank you for stopping by!

 

Balancing Summer Months with Your Calling

At Home with Kids During the Summer

Notice the title doesn’t say How to Balance Summer Months with Your Calling.

That’s because I’m still learning. But I hope by sharing my struggle we can face the fact that it’s not easy and that’s okay.

 

So how do we leverage the blazing days of summer for God’s glory?

 

I remember being a mom of young boys during the summer months while also teaching a Women’s Sunday School class.

I was intentional in spending time with the boys when they were out of school for the summer. Mostly because I just loved the pudding out of them (Southern saying) but also because I wanted them to have good memories of their childhood. Maybe it’s because I was an only child who was rarely around small children and never really babysat that I felt I had to be more intentional in making this happen. So at the beginning of summer, I made a plan.

One year, the boys and I wrote out a variety of chores and put them in a jar. They would draw one or two each day and if they completed them, they earned points to redeem for staying up later at night, a meal of their choice, or other fun things.

We went to the library, visited my grandparents in the next town over, adventured on unknown backroads, swam in a variety of public pools, and rarely missed an opportunity to stop by the local TCBY on the way home. Being the best mom that I knew to be for my boys was my second calling (with the first being a godly wife — or at least trying to be.)

 

But I was also called to teach.

 

When I became a Christ-follower at the age of 27, I couldn’t tell you where to find the book of John in the Bible. So even though I was growing in the Word by taking Precept, it still took me longer than most to prepare my lessons. I also liked to add a creative element here and there, which also took a lot of thought and prep time. Most of the year, I spent hours every day preparing for my class. I loved it! So when the boys were home for the summer, I had to figure out how to balance these two callings, while keeping the boys as my top priority. People always say that children grow up before we know it, and they’re right. Now the boys have families of their own and I couldn’t be prouder of them. {Glory to God!}

 

And yet, the struggle was real.

 

So I made a plan and adjusted a few things to help keep my priorities in order:

  • I designated mornings and early afternoons to activities with the boys.
  • Mid-afternoons were “free” time where they could play with Ninja Turtles or shoot hoops.
  • During their free time, I studied.
  • I incorporated videos by Kay Arthur and Wayne Barber of Precept Ministries into the Sunday School time to lighten my load.

 

Did it always go as planned? Nope. But I had three goals for my summer: Have meals ready for Brian when he got home, spend quality time with the boys, and to do my best in preparing the lessons, trusting the Lord to fill in the necessary gaps.

 

Nailing Down My Goals Helped to Keep My Priorities in Order

 

Today, I am blessed with grandchildren, two in town and two in Ohio {Pass me a tissue!} One of the reasons we chose our home almost two years ago was for the pool. We knew the grands would enjoy it, and they do. Few things in life bring more pleasure than grandchildren. Pure joy!

 

Grandchildren

Not my grandchildren but aren’t they cute?

The Calling Has Morphed into Writing But the Struggle Remains

 

Yes, it’s different. I’m not directly responsible for raising the sweet munchkins and they don’t live with me but I still had to find a way to balance swim time with the calling to write. Sometimes I struggle to keep the energy level up in the afternoons so I need to work during the times when I have the most clarity.

 

So I Made Another Plan

 

  • Reserve the mornings and all day Friday for writing.
  • Keep the afternoons free for the kiddos to swim whenever they want to ride up.
  • On the day I keep them each week, bring the swimsuits!

 

Obviously, this is a fluid schedule, open for changes at any time but having a little structure in place helps to keep my priorities in order. I want to be the grandmother God and I desire me to be, as well as the writer⏤in that order. {And yes, having Brian’s meals ready when he gets home from his now one-hour drive is still a priority. *wink*}

It’s not a perfect plan, never has been. But most mornings before I begin my day, I open my hands to the heavens, palms up.

 

This simple act reminds me that this day is not mine. It is God’s to do with what He wills. And His plans never fail.

 

I would love to learn from you. How do you juggle your priorities during the summer months?

 

© Can Stock Photo / goldenKB

Three Ways to Quietly Serve Others

Quiet Service

I’ve been spending time in John 21 lately, and not because I’m a breakfast lover.

If you read this post you know I have a lot to learn about being a servant.

My heart bends toward awe as I study the ways Jesus quietly served Peter and the other disciples on the beach that morning. Yes, food was involved but Jesus, spoken from a heart of love, also asked a question that required them to face the reality of their situation. It was actually an irritating question that all fishermen dread on slow, unproductive outings: How many fish did you catch? (my translation)

While I won’t be frying up fish for anyone (sorry!) a few other ways to quietly serve like Jesus comes to mind.

Serving others well is a desire that begins in the heart, emerges from love, and comes to fruition by the power of the Holy Spirit. Click To Tweet

 

How to Quietly Serve Others

 

Crush the Desire to Compete

Don’t get me wrong, competition on the field is a must (just ask our Clemson Tigers!) but as believers, that spirit doesn’t belong in our writing circles, church ministries, or our calling. Why? Because we’re not competing against each other. We’re on the same team, desiring the same outcome for God’s glorification, not ours. When we refuse to compete, we release (and receive) blessings that a fleshly “win” could never provide. The enemy seeks division cleverly disguised as friendly competition. Let’s not fall for it.

Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. Everyone should look out not only for his own interests but also for the interests of others. Philippians 2:3,4

 

Do the Unexpected

The disciples didn’t expect someone to ask about their fishing, or to receive instructions on where to throw their net, or better yet, to find Jesus preparing breakfast for them on the shore. Jesus often did the unexpected during His time here on earth. Unexpected for the recipients, that is. (John 5:19) When we stay in tune with God, the Holy Spirit shows us opportunities to bless others in unexpected ways. Maybe it’s a phone call, a handwritten note, flowers at a doorstep, a simple hug, or a gift card to Panera Bread for a yummy breakfast (ahem, this month’s giveaway to my subscribers!)

God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them. Hebrews 6:10

 

Practice Breath Prayers

Back in 2013, I wrote a brief post on the subject of breath prayers. Kelly Minter refers to those quick, quiet prayers breathed up to God as the pre-work of prayer. At the time, I was teaching on the subject of Nehemiah. The breath prayer we read in Nehemiah 2 is simply the natural overflow from a four-month reservoir of prayer seen in Nehemiah 1.

We pray behind-the-scenes to pave a foundation for opportunities to pray for others at a moment’s notice. Perhaps it’s coming alongside someone after church or on a lunch break and praying aloud with them. But on those days we can’t do this, we can pray a prayer so quick and so quiet that the recipient will never know the power that just shot in a heavenwardly direction on her behalf.

“Let everything that has breath praise the LORD.” Psalm 150:6

 

 

The more I think it over the more I feel that there is nothing more truly artistic than to love people. – Vincent van Gogh

Is there some way you quietly serve others? 

 

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