Engaging Our Five Senses this Spring!

Never was Spring more welcomed than this past March.

Longer lit days, the promise that when one season closes, another will open.

I wonder if we’ll notice more this spring as we work, play, and do school from home. If the necessary pause in our society will heighten our awareness to God’s goodness in ways we all experience — salvation, biblical community, a baby’s birth, nature — as well as the way He personally ministers to us through His Word, prayer, and even our God-given senses.

My hope is that we don’t see the following only as a list to check off or something to look for, but also, opportunities to praise our Maker.

 

This is one way we slow our soul down to a holy pace.

 

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What We See:

  • Leaves unfolding from a long winter’s nap.
  • Daffodils and other memory-making flowers. (It’s hard to pass a patch of these tiny trumpets without thinking of my grandmother. She loved old-timey varieties that held a touch of sweetness.)
  • Song Birds gathering twigs, mud, and feathers for their nests.
  • Kites catching spring winds and riding them across the sky.

 

What We Hear:

  • Bird songs, especially early in the morning before their day begins. “In the trees nearby, the birds make their nests and sing.” Psalm 104:12 GNT
  • Lawnmowers (and if you have four acres, you’ll hear it for hours).
  • A personal concert created by wind chimes stirring to rhythmic winds.
  • Collisions of unstable air, moisture, and lifting in the atmosphere, producing spring storms that hold the power to jolt us from our bed. And on those days you might enjoy “Engaging Your Five Senses on a Rainy Day.”

 

What We Smell:

  • The sharp, distinct scent of a freshly mowed lawn.
  • A musky mingling of soil and air when the shovel turns its first scoop onto the ground. It’s the fragrance of spring!
  • The savory fragrance of meat on a grill.
  • A clean home, but not perfectly so. A comfortable home creates a sweet fragrance that lingers long after any cleaning product is gone.
  • Spring flowers, heavy with the scent of victory, for they survived the winter.

 

What We Touch:

  • Tufts of green moss carpeting the woods nearby.
  • Sandals instead of boots. Light sweaters, not heavy. Bye, bye bulky.
  • Spring breezes that scoot through open windows.
  • Pool water, because we want to believe it’s warm enough for a swim.
  • Feathery fern fronds, lacy Japanese Maples, bristly pine needles, and smoothly textured leaves.

 

What We Taste:

  • What have we not tasted during this quarantine? Sweet mercy!
  • Strawberries (Subscribers, watch your inbox today for a simple, old-timey Strawberry Pound Cake recipe from my namesake, Catherine Edwards. Did I mention there’s icing involved?)
  • Fresh produce. Now’s a great time to support our local farmers.
  • Is it safe to say we could be tasting a bit of loneliness? Being apart from those we love, our church gatherings, and perhaps even from the loss of normalcy. It’s okay, you’re not alone. But distance doesn’t have to distance us where it matters.
  • God’s goodness. Every moment, every day. Memorizing a Scripture verse is one of the most powerful ways to engage our season, both in spring and life. Click here to download spring-inspired verses.

 

“This is what the LORD says⏤he who made you, who formed you in the womb, and who will help you: Do not be afraid, Jacob, my servant Jeshurun, whom I have chosen. For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants. They will spring up like grass in a meadow, the poplar trees by flowing streams.” (Isaiah 44:1-4)

 

So tell me, what’s your favorite part of spring?

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Thank you for stopping by! I hope you’ll decide to stay awhile. If you’d like to become a part of the community, simply type your e-address in the righthand sidebar. >>>> Bi-weekly posts offer a pause of goodness to your busy days, and once a month, you’ll also receive a newsletter chock-full of the latest happenings in the Tiny House on the Hill, along with ideas on ways we can draw near to God and love others well.

So, come on over and sit a spell. I’d love to get to know you!

 

5 Ways to Prepare Our Soul for December and a Christmas Gift for You!

 

I know, I know. Here I am mentioning Christmas and we’ve not even carved a turkey yet.

But there’s a good reason, maybe two. In last week’s Tiny House Tuesday, I shared how this would likely be the final 2019 post due to dad’s recent surgery. {Thank you for your prayers. He continues to recover well.}

Also, despite the desire to create “Silent Night” December days, the real soundtrack that plays for many of us sounds more like the song Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer. But it’s not the reindeer that runs us slap over. It’s the shopping, the list of to-do’s, the baking⏤the parties that extroverts enjoy and introverts survive.

So let’s decide now⏤before the traveling, the turkey, and the rush to buy maximum-strength Tums⏤to prepare our soul for the celebration of Christ with holy intent, refusing to allow circumstances to decide for us:

 

Preparing My Soul Through Prayer

Before animals go into hibernation, they prepare a safe place to lessen the chances of being ambushed by other animals. Many of us shift into a whole other gear during the holiday season. It’s almost as if November and December deserve a separate calendar. Starbucks Chestnut Praline holiday drinks pack on the pounds, while the checking account quickly disintegrates beneath the weight of the Amazon delivery truck. In our “hibernated” state, we can become easy prey, leaving us vulnerable for a cultural ambush.

But prayer protects our holy intentions to stay focused on Christ by purposefully shifting our gaze heavenward, gaining clarity we do not naturally possess.

“Remember, our prayers do not need to be long. Sometimes a word or two will suffice.”    — David Jeremiah

 

Preparing My Soul Through the Celebration of Advent

The word Advent comes from a Latin word that means “coming.” It’s a 4-week celebration that captures our longing to celebrate the first arrival of Jesus, as well as the Second. Advent can be celebrated in several ways⏤calendars, Advent displays with 25 drawers or pockets to fill, devotionals, etc.

This year, I’m reading Walter Wangerin’s Preparing for Jesus: Meditations on the Coming of Christ, Advent, Christmas, and the Kingdom. (The Kindle version is 2.99). Up until now, I celebrated Advent quietly and privately. But this year, through my church, small group, and my children, I learned the beauty of biblical community. I still have a lot of room for growth, but more on that in 2020.

For now, I hope you will join me on Instagram beginning December 1st as I plan to celebrate Advent through scripture, prayers, prompts, and poetry each day leading up to Christmas. It’s one way we can pause to celebrate our glorious Christ together. {Each day will also include a *tiny* snapshot of Christmas at the Tiny House on the Hill.}

“God is coming! God is coming! All the elements we swim in, this existence, echoes ahead the advent. God is coming! Can’t you feel it?”  — Walter Wangerin

 

Preparing My Soul By Planning Wisely

Before Thanksgiving (ideally), set aside a few minutes to gather your people and pull out the calendar. Decide what you’ll say yes to and what you’ll decline⏤guilt-free. You may not know which parties or events you’ll be invited to in December, but you can determine the number of events you want to occupy your family calendar. Jot down a few traditions you enjoy as a family and refuse to budge for they are the builder of memories that will last a lifetime.

“The heart of a man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.” Proverbs 16:9

 

Preparing My Soul in Song

Our turntable rarely stops spinning during the Christmas season. I play Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, and Johnny Mathis because it reminds me of cooking in the kitchen with my grandmother while her stereo spun these crooners in the background.

But nothing stirs this soul like Michael Card’s The Promise and Andrew Peterson’s Behold the Lamb. One can’t help but sing when Word-immersed lyrics grab hold of both heart and mind.

“The Savior has rescued us that we might sing the song of the redeemed. May we sing it well. May we sing it constantly. May we sing it passionately. May we sing it for his glory and the advancing of his gospel until the time comes when our songs will never end.”  — Bob Kauflin

 

Preparing My Soul in the Pause

When we choose to pause, to slow down and consider our days, we’re able to see unique opportunities to celebrate and share the love of Christ during this particular season. To help in this effort, subscribers (or as I like to say, “our *tiny* community), will receive an easy-to-print download called KEEPING CHRISTMAS.

Here are four possibilities for using this resource:

(1)  Read the daily entry that includes a scripture verse and the simple but meaningful way to make Christ known that day.

(2)  Read the few words of scripture beside each Sunday and meditate on them throughout the week.

(3) Do both!

(4)  Print all three pages and cut each day into daily slips, using them as inserts for your Advent calendar.

 

If you’re not yet a part of the community, come on in and take a seat. We hope you’ll make yourself right at home in the Tiny House on the Hill.

In addition to KEEPING CHRISTMAS, you’ll also receive a PRIVATE VIDEO CHRISTMAS TOUR  of the Tiny House on the Hill!

Hop over to the sidebar and you’ll find a space at the top eagerly awaiting your email address. You can unsubscribe at any time. If you’re already part of the community {thank you!}, watch for your link in today’s Monthly Letter.

Now that the tiny studio build is coming to completion, watch for exciting opportunities coming our way in 2020! But for now, I hope you’ll follow me on Instagram and join in the Advent celebration beginning Sunday, December 1st.

 

“Awake, my soul!” Psalm 57:8

I pray this Thanksgiving and Christmas season will offer sweet opportunities to bless others, glorify God, and hold our families a little tighter than normal.

 

The Night This Titus 2 Woman Hosted a Tea Party

Tea Party

 

 

Remember this eavesdropping story that took place in a North Carolina café?

 

“Our generation needs women like you to pour into us.”

 

These words, from the lips of an eighteen-year-old woman, continue to flow through my mind as smoothly as the coffee tasted that morning.

Several weeks following my cafe encounter, Brian and I hosted our first small group from our new church. We were told ahead of time that the majority of the group consisted of college students.

I felt a rush of excitement over the opportunity to meet these young women but it didn’t take long for insecurities to rise and take their place. You didn’t attend college, so what could you possibly offer these young women? Why would they care what you have to say? Why are you in this group anyway?

All this while trying to rescue a dozen chocolate chip cookies from our gas-fired oven. But before they had time to cool, the college students, mostly female, began filing through our back door, two-by-two.

 

And I did what any good southerner would do—I hugged the puddin’ out of them.

 

We ate, drank hot tea, laughed, shared, studied and prayed that night. My insecurities fell like scales from my eyes. Like Saul, I was able to see—really see. The connection between “the girls” and I had nothing to do with me, my strengths, and especially my weaknesses.

 

I put my insecurities back in their place⏤at the foot of the cross.

 

It’s not about what I have or don’t have to offer. It’s about what God has to offer through me.

 

A few weeks after our first meeting, I asked the girls if they might be interested in coming over for a little tea party. “Will there be sugar cubes?” one asked. Why oh my, yes!

Because Valentine’s Day was right around the corner, it soon evolved into a bona fide Valentine’s Day Tea Party.

Valentine Tea table setting

Because I was expecting twelve and my great-aunt’s Apple Blossom china plates only counted to eight, I ordered a stack of ornately trimmed plates decked out in peachy-pink from Amazon. They come in an array of gorgeous colors and they were the perfect fit for both the table and my budget.

The love of my great-aunt, who purchased a piece of this china with every paycheck, was present through the use of these treasured teacups and saucers. (Did I mention she purchased these pieces for me even though I was a baby at the time?)

Valentine Tea Cupcakes

I found these individual cupcake holders in the Target dollar bin, along with the larger pedestal platter that held vanilla doozies wrapped in sprinkles. On each pedestal, a light pink gauzy ribbon was attached, even though they’re barely visible in the picture.

Valentine Tea Gold Hearts

After we munched on scones and sandwiches between sips of tea, I passed around this heart-shaped basket. Inside were hearts, one side gold, and the other paper, with a handwritten verse about God’s love.

Valentine Tea Candles

We closed out our evening together by taking turns lighting hand-held candles. After each candle caught flame, the gold heart was flipped over and the verse was read aloud. It was a sweet time of worship.

Valentine Tea group

My girls. Beautiful, inside and out.

Valentine Tea Gift Bag

Before leaving, they picked up this little bag filled with a Starbucks gift card, colorful gumballs individually wrapped, and chocolate kisses dressed in Valentine colors.

Looking back, I believe God began preparing my heart that morning in the North Carolina cafe. I could’ve never known that within a few months, the road would lead to my celebrating God’s love with a group of young women who’ve stolen my heart.

 

Like all stories penned by God, beauty unravels at every turn.

 

Is there some area in life where you’re holding back because of your insecurities? I’d love to pray for you. Private message, email, or leave your request in the comment section.

Which part of the tea party is your favorite? Do share!

 

 

Pauses for the Vacationing Soul

Tiny House Tuesday // Her First Snow

Okay, so it was more of an ice event. Still, it was a milestone for the Tiny House on the Hill.

Tiny House on the Hill Snow Pics

 

In 2018, we’ve seen her bare naked, dressed in walls, and covered in wrap. But this is her first clothing of white. She wears it well, don’t you think?

Tiny House on the Hill's First Snow

Before the first line was drawn on the tiny house plans, my mind ventured into the future, imagining a space the size of a twin bed tucked within her walls. There, we pile in with the grandkids, blankets, and books to snuggle and watch snow fall outside the surrounding windows.

Perhaps this will come to fruition before winter folds into spring.

But today, the tiny house is bare and bone cold. Vacant walls can only dream of the Decembers to come, Lord willing.

So they dream.

She wears her finest hand-me-downs borrowed from Christmases long ago: Antique postcards clipped on cords, stretching from one end of the eight-foot window to the other, a silver pom-pom aluminum tree adorned in Shiny Brites and a pink vintage ceramic Christmas tree that casts a warm glow on God’s goodness.

 

Dreaming of future Decembers in the tiny house is a delight. But it’s the honor held in the here-and-now that holds my attention.

 

On this day, I join in the silence and wonder of the season as I’m reminded of another small space that once stood vacant. It didn’t hold dreams. It held my Deliverer⏤and yours. One who traded splendor for skin, bearing our sins, and equipping us to move beyond simple dreams that we might embrace a new reality, Christ in us.

“Once in our world, a stable had something in it that was bigger than our whole world.” – C.S. Lewis

Christmas 2018

 

Merry Christmas from the Tiny House on the Hill!

In celebration of the first snow, I picked up this “dashing” Starbucks gift card. Who couldn’t use a warm cup of coffee or tea this season? Simply leave a comment below to be entered in the giveaway. Thank you for being a part of this *tiny* journey. I can’t wait to see what God has in store for us all in 2019. Blessings!

 

 

20 Simple Ways to Offer the Love of Christ this Christmas + Starbucks Giveaway

christmas gifts

My paternal grandmother, Alberta Scott, aka Ma-ma, crafted the art of memory-making.

Every December certain things took place in her home. The smooth sounds of Bing Crosby and Johnny Mathis spun on the console upstairs while boiled custard simmered on the stove. A twelve-inch ball of Styrofoam decked out in olive-green velvet hung over the same doorway for as long as I can remember. And the gold pedestal candy dish in the living room was emptied of common candy in favor of peppermints.

Ma-ma made Christmas special for everyone who walked through her door. But she didn’t stop there. Every year, she loaded her Buick with homemade pound cakes, fudge, and spritzer cookies, making her rounds to those who were home-bound, lonely, and sick. Even as a little girl, I remember thinking how I wanted to be like her when I grew up.

 

Her gestures were simple but meaningful.

 

She taught me that sharing the love of Christ, especially at Christmas, is a privilege that no jolly red-coated gift deliverer could possibly match.

Over the years, I’ve tried creating ideas that worked for our family. Below are some of those ways. I’d love to read yours in the comment box!

Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.
Hebrews 13:16 ESV

Offering the love of Christ at Christmas

  1. As you receive Christmas cards in the mail, place them in a bowl in the center of your table. Pick a card each night and pray for that family.
  2. Before your fluffy socks hit the floor each morning, ask God to help you be attentive to the divine opportunities He has for you that day. Maybe you will be the only patient person in line behind the woman who plops 20 items down in a 10 item lane. Or, the only person that shows restraint, refusing to honk at the woman who robbed you of a green light because she was too busy reading her phone. Deep breath Cathy, deep breath.
  3. Not only come to a complete stop for pedestrians but smile at them. It’s a nice way to let them know they’re not an intrusion on your day and that they are worthy of your time.
  4. Go beyond what’s expected when you hear the bell ring near a favorite store. Buy a bottle of water or a hot cup of cocoa for the person who is willing to brave the weather to raise money for those in need. If you really want to make their day, take their order for a nearby coffee shop or restaurant. The smile you receive will be the brightest gift you’ll open this season.
  5. Family activity: Bundle up, grab a basket and head outdoors to find objects in nature for a holiday centerpiece. As you walk, consider pointing out the details of God’s magnificent handiwork. When you return home, place a large white candle in the center, sharing how Christ is the true Light, the Light of all mankind (read John 1). Capturing ordinary moments for God’s glory releases extraordinary possibilities.
  6. Celebrate Advent as a family. It begins December 2nd and ends December 24th. Advent – A Countdown to Christmas, by Focus on the Family has several resources that are sure to help you get started.
  7. Give the gift of song. Gather friends for cocoa and go caroling! Hand out peppermint canes with tags that read, Taste and see that the Lord is good. (Psalm 34:8)
  8. Exchange busy for being. For a few minutes each day, be intentionally still and quiet as you meditate on Psalm 46:10, Be still and know that I am God.
  9. Curl up with your favorite cup of tea and Christmas novella. After all, how can we serve others if we ourselves are depleted?
  10. Lend an ear⏤a listening one, that is. For those who are struggling with the season, be there. It’s not so much what you say as much as what you hear.
  11. Do you enjoy decorating? Take time to notice those around you who may have physical difficulties and unable to decorate a tree.
  12. Gift a day. If you know someone who became a widow in 2018, create a day for them. If they’re a single mom of young children, offer to watch the children. Or plan a day that doesn’t require money — hiking, festivals, or a church Christmas program.
  13. “Wrap gifts” for Jesus. I was a single mom when I celebrated my first Christmas as a Christ-follower. Throughout the month of December, I jotted down specific ways I was thankful for my new life, His promises, and blessings. Each one went on a different note card and under the spindly Christmas tree. On Christmas morning, after the boys had gone to their dad’s, I spent a quiet time unwrapping the gifts and saying each one aloud. It was a Christmas I’ll never forget. That’s what happens when one crosses over from darkness to light.
  14. Invite a lonely neighbor to dinner or dessert. The blessing doesn’t dwell in a dish but rather, the heart.
  15. Adopt a family with a deployed military parent. Being a single parent is never easy but this is especially so during the holidays.
  16. Write to someone who has especially blessed you this year. “More than kisses, letters mingle souls.” – John Donne. What would it mean to you to receive such a letter?
  17. Who couldn’t use a cup of coffee? Consider treating the person behind you in line. Not so long ago, I chose to forego a pay-it-backward moment because the woman seemed to have it all together. Why would a woman driving a BMW with impeccable style need a free coffee? (Must I reason everything out?) One divine tap. That’s all it took. God alone knows what’s going on in the heart of another.
  18. As you flick on your lights in December, let it remind you how Jesus is the Light of the World. He pierced your darkness and mine.
  19. Do you know someone who has lost a loved one in 2018? Consider gifting them an evergreen plant or tree. In the note, remind them that like the evergreen that retains color all year long, their love too will remain. Perhaps invite a few close friends and spend time sharing sweet memories of the person as you plant the tree together.
  20. Take a cue from the song Silent Night, Holy Night and turn off all TV’s, phones and laptops. Read a book, sing Christmas carols, work on a Christmas puzzle, or bake Christmas cookies for yourself and others.

{Download a PDF copy of the above list here.}

Every December, I peel open the tote that holds Ma-ma’s ball of styrofoam dressed in olive-green velvet and smile. Yes, the memories of childhood prompt it but it’s the blessing she brought to others that hold it.

Mustard Seed Moments

Watch for the next Tiny House Tuesday! It will be my only post during the month of December. I plan to enjoy my family, merge into a new church family, prepare my heart for Christmas, and down buckets of coffee. Speaking of which…

What’s one way you/your family reach out to others during the Christmas season? Or, is there an idea above you plan to try this season? Leave a comment and your name will be included in a random drawing for a $10.00 gift card from Starbucks!

**Subscribers! Be sure to check your inbox today. A full list of family ideas for the Christmas Jar is included in your Letter from the Tiny House on the Hill. 

 

Three Ways to Draw Close to God This Fall

Draw Near to God

I’m convinced that if there’s an eternal season in heaven, it’s Fall.

It’s also the perfect season for spending time outdoors, finding quiet spots, and rousing our senses, so let’s consider three ways we can draw closer to God in the coming weeks.

 

1. Engage Your Senses

 

October delivers the swiftest punch of the twelve, offering up a whole host of sensory delights:

Feel: Chilled heavy breezes, rough-hewn rake handles, warm scarves snug around the neck
Taste: Candy corn, pumpkin pie, cinnamon stirred apple cider, S’mores
See: Brilliant hues, baring limbs, roaring bonfires
Hear: Crispy leaves underfoot, banjos picking atop flatbed trailers at local festivals
Smell: Smouldering logs from dampened campfires, the rancid scent of ripening pecans on the tree

My book, Pauses for the Vacationing Soul: A Sensory-Based Devotional Guide for the Mountains, was written with the mingling power of our senses and God in mind. It’s also perfect for a staycation. *wink*

Taste and see that the LORD is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him! Psalm 34:8

Mustard SeedTake note of your own sensory finds this fall. How can you “taste and see” that the LORD is good through each of your finds? 

Heavenly Father, awaken our senses to Your amazing creation as we go through our days this Fall. As we taste and see your goodness, may we be quick to give You all the glory. Draw us near. 

 

**Subscribers! Your October Monthly Letter should’ve landed in your inbox yesterday. In it, you’ll find your exclusive copy of Ten {Tiny} Meaningful Ways to Celebrate Autumn.

 

2. Spend Time Praying for Specific Things

 

What are you praying for these days? Maybe it’s for a person, a situation, or a whole laundry list of needs. Regardless, God hears you. Now add specificity and we’re given an opportunity to witness God’s awe-inspiring attention to detail in action.

 

One of those moments came for me one day while peering out our window. I’d not sensed His presence as much in recent weeks, even though I was confident He was there—whether I felt it or not. Nevertheless, like any daughter desiring to feel closer to her Father, I made a simple heartfelt request, Lord, I just want to know You’re near.

 

Before I caught my next breath, a brief blustery gust of wind swept through the trees closest to my window pane—without disturbing another tree in my yard.

 

To some, a ten-second gust of wind would simply appear as our season’s signature. And perhaps it was⏤but to me, at that moment, it was a reminder that He is that close.

 

Prayer is not monologued, but dialogue. Gods voice in response to mine is its most essential part. ~ Andrew Murray

 

Mustard SeedSet aside a night in October. Find a cozy corner, pour a cuppa Joe, and consider what one person or circumstance you can pray for specifically. Bonus points if you jot it down in a journal and watch expectantly for His answer.

 

Heavenly Father, I thank You that Your presence in our lives is never dependent on whether we feel like You are near, or not. As we seek to draw nearer to You, give us a holy boldness to pray specifically, trust fully, and watch in expectation. Amen.

 

3. Head Outdoors

 

October invites us to marvel at the artistic flair of our Creator the moment we step outdoors.

Consider for a moment how God could’ve surrounded us in a black and white existence. But instead, He gifted us with a kaleidoscope of colored leaves, bright-colored pumpkins, crisp red apples for the picking, and honey-brown fried apple pies with a light dusting of sugar. Oh wait, do those count?

I made the earth and created man on it; it was my hands that stretched out the heavens, and I commanded all their host. Isaiah 45:12

 

Mustard SeedTake a walk and focus on one masterpiece in nature. Note the intricate details⏤perhaps things you’ve never noticed before. Consider spending time with God, thanking Him for your find.

Heavenly Father, our hearts bend toward You in gratefulness for the many ways You lavish us with Your love, grace, and mercy. Help us not to pass by Your creative works without a worship-filled pause. 

 

So, which of the three “mustard seed moments” activities might you consider doing this month? 

 

But first! A tremendous thanks to everyone for the success of last week’s launch of the Tiny House on the Hill.

Watch for a NEW *tiny* inspired giveaway every Tuesday through October 16th.

Enter this week’s giveaway by sharing the NEW meme located on my Facebook page. You must tag me to be entered. If you’re a subscriber, you receive two entries for every share. *Because you’re awesome*

Journals

journal

 

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