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How to Redeem Your Time Every Morning + A Starbucks Giveaway

Prayer with a cup of tea

What do a cup of tea and redeeming our time have in common? (Not a tea drinker? Stick with me.)

Years ago, in a charming old home on a corner lot, I invited small groups of women over for tea, conversation, and a focus on a particular book of the Bible or Scripture verse. There was also an annual Christmas tea and other types too. It was a sweet chapter in my life. (The subject of tea continues to pop up in the oddest of places these days, so who knows what God might be up to?)

Recently, while making a cup of tea, I realized there were moments in the tea-making process that matched some of my prayers from the morning. So I grabbed a piece of paper, jotted down the big ideas, and asked God to keep filling in the spaces. And this is what I’m sharing below (or here, if you don’t have time to read it now).

It’s a way to redeem a handful of minutes used for an ordinary morning act⏤an act that often flies by without notice.

Be very careful, then, how you live⏤not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Ephesians 5:15,16

Here’s the beautiful part: The redeeming tea process can be applied to many things we do throughout our day. More on that later.

For now, let’s start where any good cup of tea begins, with fresh cold water.

 

A Kettle and Cold Water

 

My soul thirsts for you, God you are the living God. Psalm 42:2

Physical dehydration is tricky⏤it can sneak up on us. Before we know it, our lips are parched and we’re lightheaded. Similarly, we can also find ourselves spiritually parched. One day, without notice, we realize our joy is lacking, we’re not making the wisest of decisions, and something is just off.

So, as the water comes to a boil, it’s the perfect time to pause and pray:

Lord, please reveal any signs of spiritual dehydration in my soul. Awaken me to Your glorious truths. You are the One True Living God and I want my soul to thirst for you with the same fervor as King David did all those years ago. Amen.

 

Prepare the mug

 

One cube or two? Ha! My mug contains stevia, and a Paris Tea teabag (thank you, Harney & Sons). Sometimes, depending on the day, I might scoop loose leaves into little disposable “pockets” instead. How do you prepare your mug?

So, then, prepare your heart and mind for action. Stay alert and fix your hope firmly on the marvelous grace that is coming to you. 1 Peter 1:13, The Passion Translation

“Stay alert” speaks to spiritual alertness. When I think of these two words, I think of memorizing Scripture, meeting with friends during the week so I can be alert to new guests in church Sunday morning, and asking God to put a guard on my mouth. What about you?

When we stay prepared for action, remain spiritually alert, and fix our hope firmly on the marvelous grace of God, lives change. Ours, and others too. We never know how our faith, no matter how small, can affect another person’s life.

So, as we insert the tea bag, squeeze the honey, and tear the packets, it’s the perfect time to pause and pray:

Lord, prepare my heart and mind for You and Your ways today. Help me to stay alert and spiritually engaged to see where I can join in what You’re doing around me. Amen.

 

Pour the Boiling Water

 

Feed the hungry and help those in trouble. Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon. The LORD will guide you continually, giving you water when you are dry and restoring your strength. You will be like a well-watered garden, like an overflowing spring. Isaiah 58:10,11

Let’s be honest. There are times when we feel slap out of pouring ability. Other’s needs pop up when everything has gone wrong with our day, or we’re scraping by financially, or we’re mentally exhausted. In fact, we ourselves would welcome a little pouring into. I hear you.

And yet, it’s in those very moments when we feel depleted, but still offer someone else an oasis, that God’s power is put on display. In fact, Isaiah tells us that when we give at the most inconvenient times, God gives us refreshment and restoration. As we give, He continues to replenish.

Quick side note: Obviously, this doesn’t mean we’re supposed to say yes to everything we’re asked to do. Jesus didn’t help or heal everyone who had needs. It goes back to remaining spiritually alert, acting when God taps us on the shoulder or calls our name. There’s an old saying that goes we can’t help everyone, but we can help someone.

So, as we pour the boiling water into the mug, it’s the perfect time to pray:

Lord, show me where You would have me pour into someone, no matter how small an act, and give me peace when You have someone else in mind to help. Like a well-watered garden, help me to be an oasis, providing Your truth, love, and peace, as You lead. Amen.

 

Steep the Tea

 

Be still in the presence of the LORD and wait patiently for him to act. Psalm 37:7

Tea steeps anywhere between one minute to ten, depending on the type. So what if we took this time to simply sit or stand in the presence of the LORD? Maybe we’re currently waiting on the Lord for something specific:

  • Salvation for a loved one
  • A wayward child to return
  • A marriage to heal
  • Healing

Consider holding your hands out and palms up, as a posture of trust in God. We trust and we’re open to the Lord’s sovereignty.

As we wait for the tea to steep, it’s the perfect time to pray:

Lord, help me to wait patiently on You for ___________. Even when circumstances try to shake my trust in You, I will stand firm in Your presence. You are a good Father and Your timing is always perfect for my good and Your glory. Amen.

 

Holding the Mug

 

As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the LORD surrounds his people both now and forevermore. Psalm 125:2

As we surround the mug with our hands, may we be reminded that the One True Living God surrounds us. He is unchanging (nothing we do or don’t do will make Him love us more or less) and faithful (He has been faithful and He will be again). And because we are surrounded, we move through our day with fresh mercy, peace, joy, goodness, and every spiritual blessing pertaining to Christ. We lack nothing!

So, as we surround our mug with our hands, it’s the perfect time to pray:

Lord, may this tangible reminder of Your presence help me to lean into You, Your strength, and Your power, today. Amen.

 

If you’re not a tea drinker, what’s something you do on a regular basis that could be broken down into redeemable steps? Do you garden, or enjoy baking? Whatever it is, this same process can help awaken those tiny redeemable moments we have every day!

 

Did one of the above steps, in particular, speak to you? Share in the comments below and you’ll be entered into a random Starbucks gift card giveaway for a favorite cup of tea, coffee, or whatever else you enjoy at Starbucks. Enjoy!

Here’s a PDF copy of the above steps!

 

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Cultivate A Consistent Prayer Life in 2021 + NEW GIFT + Giveaway!

While there’s a lot I’d like to leave behind in 2020, my prayer life isn’t one of them.

For thirty years, I’ve celebrated the truth that God wants to be personally known, experienced, and trusted. But my time with Him hasn’t always reflected it. My intentions were good, but apparently, my excuses were sometimes better, widening the door for guilt to slither in and crack open the window for shame to join in the harassment.

In early 2020, I began reading Priscilla Shirer’s devotional, Awaken: 90 Days with the God Who Speaks. The title resonated with a deep desire to stop the cycle of good intentions.

 

And so I began the 90-Day journey with God.

 

I sat down with her devotional, the Bible, and my trusted journal. Within a week or two, I sensed the Lord creating a daily rhythm for our dedicated time of fellowship:

  • Slowly and prayerfully, read through the book of Psalms, one a day.
  • Read the Proverb that corresponds with the date.
  • Read one devotional from Awaken.
  • Keep my travel journal close by and jot down observations.
  • Spend a few minutes in silence.

 

In no time flat, accusations disguised as whispers began to chatter:

 

  • You should be working through a study instead of just reading your Bible.
  • Why are you only reading “x” amount of verses?
  • You call this a valid quiet time?

 

But I did it anyway. And here’s what happened.

 

You know that elated feeling you experience when spending time with someone who shares a mutual interest? You could talk about (fill in the blank) all day long, and with a little caffeine, maybe all night! You leave their presence feeling energetic, encouraged, and ready to face another day, right?

That’s what happened when I began showing up with a holy expectancy! What will my heavenly Father reveal today? Not like a little girl on Santa’s knee, but a woman who’s incredibly flawed but hungry to hear from God and join in the adventure! (Even that desire is from Him, my flesh would prefer to be eating breakfast.)

During our dedicated time of fellowship, He reveals my sins: how I overdo sweets, the way I sometimes relate to my husband, and my lack of faith in various areas of my life, just to name a few. Some revelations are painful, but they’re necessary, and even a confirmation of His love. (Proverbs 3:12, Hebrews 12:6)

And

God opens my eyes to spiritual truths I wouldn’t see or receive otherwise. He provides ideas for ministry, ways to love others, words, sentences, paragraphs, and a dream Literary Agent only He could’ve provided. The list goes on!!! (Multiple exclamation points = holy excitement)

 

Still, I prayed for weeks before creating this post.

 

You see, I wanted to make sure it was God’s voice (and not mine) prompting me to share how He transformed our time together. The last thing I wanted was to give the illusion that I had anything to offer but a willing heart, or that there was a “magic” formula for drawing closer to God, or that I was discounting the vital need for studying God’s Word in-depth.

We know the simple act of reading the Word and studying it is the difference between wading in a pool and swimming in it. And if there’s ever been a time when we as Christ-followers need to know the Word for ourselves, it is today. I did, however, learn that if reading is done prayerfully, there’s much to glean and is anything but a simple read.

 

I can only testify that the plan He unfolded for a season deepened my faith and infused our time of fellowship with a deep, abiding joy that I never saw coming.

 

So, how do we begin moving toward a more consistent prayer life in 2021?

 

  1. Check the heart. What do we truly believe about our time with God? Is He present? Does He hear us? Does He respond? Am I willing to hear His conviction as well as His blessings?
  2. Create a plan. Whether or not we consider ourselves a planner is irrelevant. We plan other worthy appointments⏤the doctor, work, hair, etc. Is He worthy?
  3. Come with an expectant heart! This connects with the first point but it’s also a vital part of the adventure.
  4. Prayerfully consider what plan God might want to unfold for your time together.
  5. Equip our time with essentials beforehand: Bible, journal, “travel with God” journal, and pen.

*Bonus: Continue the engagement with God throughout the day!

Not only did God confirm that others might benefit from this post, but He also broke it down into bite-sized pieces for “(Re)Awaken Your Prayer Life.” Inside, you’ll find more information on the five considerations above (and the bonus!), along with inspiring verses and quotes in the form of coloring pages.

 

 

This free guide is a small token of my appreciation for subscribing to the “Creative Pauses from The Tiny House on the Hill” bi-weekly blog. It’s also available to current subscribers (love and appreciate y’all beyond words!).

To subscribe, simply scroll to the bottom of this post or see the top right sidebar section.

 

So, as we look forward to a new year with a fresh slate, what is one spiritual discipline you sense God is calling you to cultivate in 2021? Share in the comment section to be entered into a giveaway for your own leather “travel with God” journal!

 

 

P.S. For one week in January, an added bonus on ways to grow a more consistent prayer life will be shared each day. (And don’t be surprised if there’s a daily giveaway to help in those efforts.)

So, come on over and join hundreds of other women who find value in holy pauses inside the Creative Pauses Facebook group!

 

 

Photo by Simon Berger on Unsplash

 

Praying With Our Eyes Wide Open

Literally.

I know, I know. It goes against everything we learned growing up. Bow your heads and close your eyes. To do anything different seems awkward.

But within my four walls, I welcome the difference, always praying with my eyes wide open. When it comes to praying with others, however, I cave to tradition.

 

I don’t want to look weird or feel out of place — and my spirit groans every single time.

 

The only way I know how to describe what happens the moment I close my eyes to pray is to compare it to a Twilight Zone episode called Little Girl Lost. A child accidentally falls through an opening in the wall and enters a different dimension. She cries while floating around in the dark, trying to reach for her dog, who suffered the same fate.

Okay, so that’s a tad dramatic but it’s true. I close my eyes to pray and everything goes dark. Everything except for the distractions. They bark louder than any dog I know.

 

Is it Unbiblical to Pray with Our Eyes Open?

 

It’s not. There’s nothing in the Bible that says our eyes must be closed to communicate well with our God. When Jesus feeds the 5,000 he prays looking up to heaven. Were his eyes open? I believe so.

“We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered. “Bring them here to me,” he said. And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people.” Matthew 14:17-19 [emphasis mine]

God doesn’t pay attention to what we wear, if we’ve showered, or if our hair is mussed or perfect. The tradition of closing our eyes is both understandable and honorable. We all want to be fully present, whether our eyes are open or closed. But since our conversation today is focused on the former, here are some tips for avoiding distractions:

 

How to Avoid Distractions When Praying With Eyes Wide Open

 

  • Look up! Jesus set the example. The sky is vast and full of God’s glory. Like the ocean, it reminds us of our smallness and that is good.
  • Journal prayers first. Write down the specifics first, and then pray. This way, when praying with our eyes open, the things we want to pray for surface quicker. Distractions, at least for me, tend to happen more when my heart/mind isn’t warmed up.
  • Whenever possible, pray aloud. Hearing the words help to cement them in the heart. By the same token, praying out loud also helps me to “hear” the sins that are trying to squeak in the back door of my heart. Sometimes the simple tone of my request says it all. Combining the two ⏤eyes open and aloud⏤changed my prayer life.

 

Other Times We Can {and Should} Pray with Eyes Wide Open

 

  • When driving. Or when the guy on your bumper scooches up just a little too close for comfort.
  • When we’re outside. “Listen to this, Job; stop and consider God’s wonders.” Job 37:14
  • As we go through our day. Ephesians 6:18 encourages us to be alert in prayer. Staying attuned to the beauty and heartache that surrounds us every day gives us continual reasons to walk and pray throughout our day.

Writing is often cathartic and this post is one of those moments for me. If praying with my eyes wide open isn’t unbiblical and if my spirit groans when I try to pray like everyone else because of pride, I need to confess it and move forward in faith. Because this is what we know:

Eyes open, eyes closed. It matters not, as long as the heart is engaged.

 

 

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Did you notice the new title Creative Pauses…from the Tiny House on the Hill? I share a little more about the why behind the newly revised on my About Page.

Thank you for stopping by for a visit! I’d love for you to stay awhile. If you’d like to become a part of the Creative Pauses community, simply type your e-address in the righthand sidebar. Bi-weekly posts offer a pause of goodness to your busy day and they automatically land in your inbox. Once a month, you’ll also receive a newsletter chock-full of helpful tidbits on drawing nearer to God and loving others well.

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

3 Ways to Pray More Intentionally + A Tiny Journal Giveaway!

Intentional is my “one-word” for the year.

Some think the one-word movement is hokey. I know because that was me not so long ago. And yet, in a world that tugs on us with the same fervor as a hungry toddler, embracing a word that points us to the Word offers an intentional act that can help us stay focused.

 

Many areas in life deserve more intentionality on my part, but none more than prayer.

 

Below are three ways I’m learning to re-engage the power and beauty of prayer in my own life. I’d love to know how you’re doing the same in the comment section below. We are in this together, after all. *smile*

 

1. Re-visit the Why

 

Why pray? If we were raised in the church, our whys more than likely roll off the tongue with ease. But what about today? What about prayer stirs us to set aside time on a busy morning? What do we believe about prayer that causes us to risk embarrassment by thanking God for our food in public places?

For me, this “why” surfaced first: Because I can⏤because we can. Thanks be to Christ’s sacrifice, we can converse with the One True God⏤the One who formed us, the One who redeemed us, sanctifies us, loves us beyond comprehension, quiets us, heals us, and empowers us to live more like Jesus.

It is impossible to grasp the reality of this magnificent privilege and remain the same. 

What is your “why” and how does it change your intentions for 2020?

 

2. Scribble Your Prayers

 

Scribble, you say? Okay, maybe that’s not exactly what I mean, but one of the best pieces of writing advice I ever received was to scribble my rogue ideas and rough drafts in a plain spiral-bound notebook. Not fancy ones, like those Brian used to bring home from France. {I’m not sure what it says about me that I asked for paper instead of perfume, but let me just say, this was no ordinary paper. The crisp white sheets were smooth as glass, yet thick enough to resist any bleed-through.}

But this same sheet of paper sat blank because I didn’t want to waste a “good” sheet for what could be the worst paragraph ever.

And therein lies the beauty of a solid-colored spiral-bound notebook. The sheets are thin and anything but crisp⏤but they are brimming with words. There’s no concern about messing up or writing the wrong thing on a cheap piece of paper.

Sometimes when journaling our prayers, it’s easy to feel stuck, unsure of what we want to write. Or we skip a day, a week, or longer because we don’t know where to begin. So the page remains blank.

But when the imperfect spiral-bound pages make themselves available for imperfect words and sentences, there’s a freedom at work that I can’t explain.

“Scribbling” tips:

  • Write like no one else will read it but God. It’s a safe place to pour out your hurt, your dreams, your doubts–whatever is on your heart. King David paved the way in Psalms, showing us how to trust God with our honesty while never failing to recognize His majesty.
  • Try different methods. There’s no one way that’s right for everyone. Over the years, I’ve used an organized prayer notebook with tabs for praise, confession, intercession, and salvation. I also have stacks of plain notebooks, some started but never finished, and others filled with my failures and God’s faithfulness.
  • Keep a tiny journal with you at all times. Be intentional, watching for God’s goodness as you move through your day. Eventually, you will create your own pocketful of praises. {Don’t miss the tiny journal opportunity below!}

 

3. Incorporate “Touchpoints” of Prayer

 

To be clear, there’s nothing sacred about touching anything. But using everyday touches to prompt a prayer is a simple and intentional way to stay connected with God throughout our day. Such as:

  • Washing the dishes. Let the water running over your hands serve as a reminder to pray for those who are spiritually thirsty, without Christ. We pray for their salvation so that their innermost being will flow rivers of living water. (John 7:38)
  • Steering wheel. As you take hold of the wheel, let your grip serve as a reminder of God’s closeness to you, praising God for surrounding you with His presence. “Those who trust in the LORD are like Mount Zion, which cannot be shaken but endures forever. As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the LORD surrounds his people, both now and forevermore.” (Psalm 125:1,2)
  • Feet to the floor. This “touchpoint” is mentioned in 4 “Touchpoints” to Connect with God Throughout the Day, the latest gift for current/new subscribers. The moment our feet touch either the coldness of hardwood flooring or the warmth of cozy slippers in the morning, let that touch prompt us to offer God our first thought of the day. It can be as simple as, Thank you for a new day, Thank you for fresh mercy (Lamentations 3:22, 23), or Have Your Way Today, Lord.

 

“Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you.” Jeremiah 29:12

 

How would you like to become more intentional in 2020? Share in the comment section below to help cement your own intentions, encourage others, and have your name placed in a random giveaway for a pair of mini journals.

 

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How God Answered My Prayers Through a Man Named Finis

He wasn’t where he was supposed to be on the first night of the conference.

Someone noticed an older man walking in a room that was off limits until it was officially opened by faculty. A few people rescued him with the same fervor one might have when rescuing sailors at sea. Writer’s conferences take sign-ups seriously, after all. *wink*

The man shuffled out of the room and stood nearby like a schooled student. His gray hair and age-worn hands stood out among the rest. I wondered about his story and the spunk required to hone his writing skills at that age. But the first thing I noticed about this man was the black eye that cushioned his glasses.

The following morning, I made my way to the cafeteria for breakfast.

 

I’d barely added grits to my butter when I spotted the black-eyed man sitting alone at a distant table.

 

I walked over, leaned down, and asked if he’d rather wait on someone or come over and sit with us. He quickly responded, “I’d much rather come sit with you.”

He met Dee Dee, along with several other friendly faces around the table for eight and introduced himself as Finis (pronounced fine-us). He drove from Texas despite a recent fall that left him with a black eye and a bum knee. We talked about the places he and his wife have lived over the years, one being my favorite tiny town, Saluda NC.

Over the next few days, I saw him in passing and during the large gatherings. He may have regretted sitting behind me, Dee Dee, and Carlton. But if he did, you would’ve never known it.

One night, we saw him at the Nibble Nook. (For those who watched our Two Peas video a couple of years ago in front of the Nibble Nook, I can attest to the fact that there is now nibbling going on in the nook.) But this time, Finis wasn’t alone. Two older volunteers from Ridgecrest walked through the doors behind him. As it turned out, he and one of the volunteers graduated high school together. It did my heart good to hear laughter coming from their corner.

On the final day of our conference, Finis and I found ourselves in a workshop together. By mid-afternoon, I noticed him packing up his laptop so I assumed he needed to get on the road headed back to Texas. As he walked up the aisle, he took a sharp right and came to tell me goodbye.

 

As we hugged, Finis whispered, “Thank you.”

My eyes felt more like puddles.

 

Meeting Finis was the highlight of my conference and a direct answer to my prayer before I left for the conference. So what did I pray? It went a little something like this:

Father, help me to be sensitive to other’s needs more than my own.

This may sound like a sweet prayer but rest assured, it was birthed from a place of conviction. You see, it’s very easy to get caught up in yourself⏤your appointments, your introductions to the “right” people, and promoting yourself and your books⏤at a writers conference.

I’m not suggesting those things are wrong when done with the right motivation, but I’ve returned from the conference more than once over the last eight years feeling like I missed something, or more importantly, someone.

I wish I could say I lived out the prayer 24/7 while at the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference. There were still missed opportunities and downright selfish moments, but I hope and pray I’ll become even more aware of those around me in the coming years, Lord willing.

 

Finis may have thanked me but I’m the one who should thank him.

 

He taught me:

  • We’re never too old to start something new or hone our current skills.
  • We never retire from our calling.
  • His willingness to drive hundreds of miles to accomplish this shows me that even as I age, I need to be willing to step out of my comfort zone.
  • And despite his fall (and the black eye badge of honor to prove it), he didn’t let what others might think discourage him from following through.

I hope my path crosses with Finis again before they cross in heaven.

But until then, thank you Finis.

 

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While away at the conference, “Songs of Hope: 31 Days in the Psalms” released! This book includes thirty-one devotionals with reflection questions and short prayers. Twenty-five women, from all walks of life, share their stories of joy and heartache with an underlying thread of God’s hope. BONUS: Receive a FREE journal to go along with your study ordered by June 10th.

I’m both humbled and delighted to be one of those twenty-five women.

If you’d like to find out more information or order, click here! (This is an affiliate link, which means when you order through this link, I will receive the equivalent of a cup of coffee, at no extra charge to you.)

Thank you for stopping by the Tiny House on the Hill today!

 

 

 

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