The Sacred Slow – a book review :)

the sacred slow.pngIt’s been a while since I’ve reviewed a book, so when “Sacred Slow” showed up at my house (even though I hadn’t requested it or offered to review it) I thought… God must have a purpose in me reading/reviewing this.A book about creating margin and being still before God was exactly what my soul needed after a crazy busy three years being back in teaching with a full load – – and accidentally getting my Masters – – and just about the busiest time as a parent with three active teenagers.   Yes, let’s slow down.  Let’s be still.

So, I started this in early June.  There’s 52 days of devotions and response activities to complete, and it is even advised to take a few days to reflect on one chapter so it can take even up to 52 weeks to complete (hey – that’s a full year) if you really want to chew on the concepts, reflect on what God is showing you and truly find the sacred in the slow.

On p. 3 Alicia Britt Chole writes, “Relationship with God is best fed by a steady practice of attentivenessto God.”    The book is divided into twelve movements and the first movement is a reminder that God is with us and to take the time to focus on Him.  Listening and attentiveness leads us to REST in Jesus. In this crazy world of over-scheduled chaos, this book provides practical and biblical ways to build in and intentionally have days/seasons/hours of a sacred slow.

For me, on a personal level, the irony of the timing of doing this devotional of slowing my booty down is not lost on me when a life circumstance slowwwwwed me down…. After a car accident this summer, God was faithful and gracious to show me in my slowed-downedness (is that a word?) that He is with me and that my rest and healing would come from being with Him.  Life crises tend to open the door to intimacy with the Savior and I don’t believe it was a mistake that I was already in the process of this sacred slow journey when this happened.  The Lord is so good.

All of that being said, I would recommend this book/journey/intentionality to anyone that is seeking a reprieve from the chaos, peace in the rat-race and practical application of stillness with the Father.  The first few months of “back to school” are always a busy season for me, so I’d love to hear – what are some ways that you create margin and intentionality in your time with Jesus in chaotic and time-pressed seasons?

 

I did receive this book for free in exchange for an honest review, positive or negative, as a contributing member of the Booklook Bloggers.

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His GRACE is Sufficient

I’ve always wanted a tattoo, but was not going to get one until I knew exactly what I wanted…

Throughout my walk as a Christian, in any sort of valley or hard time, God’s Spirit is always faithful to whisper to mine that His Grace us sufficient.

It’s hard.  My grace is sufficient.

I can’t.  My grace is sufficient.

It’s impossible.  My grace is sufficient.

There’s no way out. My grace is sufficient.

It’s unfair. My grace is sufficient.

It hurts. My grace is sufficient.

I’m alone.  My grace is sufficient.

It became quite clear that if I ever got a tattoo, it was going to include at least the word GRACE, if not this verse in some way, shape or form.

With the word or verse about grace, I wanted the tat to be pretty and feminine.  I thought it would be nice to accent with a flower, and since Gerbera Daisies are one of my favorite flowers I created some designs with a daisy. I tried yellow and pink with different placements.  I liked what I was coming up with, but I never felt like this is it.  And I wasn’t going to get the tat until I was sure.

Throughout a particularly loooong and brutal season, God’s promise that His grace is sufficient continued to be a lifeline of hopein dark days and difficult moments.  In that valley I heard the song “Amaryllis” on Christy Nockel’s Christmas album.  The words are so precious and spoke so deep to my heart that that year for Christmas I printed off the lyrics and bought several friends and family members an Amaryllis plant for Christmas.

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Photo by Nastasia on Pexels.com

“Here I am waiting
In a winter of my own
If it’s gonna be this cold here
Why couldn’t it just snow?
At least I could say through the pain
That it’s somehow beautiful…
And everybody knows that the time to bloom is spring,
But You’re asking me to break through the hardness of this freeze
And You say that You’re with me
And I can make it through anything….

Like an Amaryllis, blooming at Christmas,
When everything is cold and dark
Your love breaks through and I shine
With the brilliance of summer,
Right in the middle of winter!
Somehow surprising the night
Like a Christmas Amaryllis…”

In the coldest and darkest days, God was growing me, creating something beautiful, making all things new. He is doing the same for you. He works ALL things for good for those of us that love Him and are called according to His purposes (Romans 8:28).  God is a constant, even in the dark and His work breaks through the toughest, hardest, frozen soil.

Jesus did and does that for us. When it seems like there’s no hope, no way out, when it’s unfair, it hurts and you’re alone.  When you can not. The Light of Life comes.

Talk about a winter
The world had never known,
Talk about a silence
That hardened up the soil;
No more life left in Eden,
But You knew the time would come…
‘Cause You were growing up a family
That You would call Your own,
And through a fragile people
The Light of Life would come,
And when it seemed like we’d never see Spring,
Heaven gave a King!

So, I ditched the Gerbera and redesigned my sketches with an Amaryllis flower. It’s a perfect representation of the work that Christ does in the winter of our lives. He is with us. He is creating something new.  And even through the tough, hard soil, something beautiful can come from it.  The work He does in us is an Amaryllis flower, with the “brilliance of summer”in the midst of the winters.

Finally, while I was studying in Spain last summer, my roommate had a few tattoos and I shared with her the plan for my tattoo.  She was hype for me to get the tattoo while in Spain and I was down for that – – so I made one final edit… Su gracia es suficienteand switched it to Spanish.  Spain, the Spanish language, how God has allowed me to use Spanish in my life… that was the nicely tied bow on top of the gift, so to speak. 🙂

I didn’t end up getting the tat in Spain but earlier this year in 2018 I did.   The Holy Spirit is my first reminder of His precious, sufficient grace in my life, but this tat is a close second.  Laying on a gurney after the car accident, alone for the moment in my room in the ER, in pain, scared, thankful, nervous, overwhelmed – I glanced at my right arm and there it was.  His GRACE is sufficient.  Su GRACIA es suficiente.  In my spirit I knew that this was going to be another winter season, there was going to be some hard, frozen ground to plow through – and it has, and I have – – but I have confidence in His work through this trial that He’s at work in and through me, making all things new.

“There are the rare and beautiful treasures
That grow when it’s coldest
When nobody’s watching…
Sending a message to a sleeping world
That You are here with us now
And You are making all things new again…”

His GRACE truly is sufficient.

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Vitamins… For Your Soul :)

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Screen Shot 2015-04-11 at 10.14.14 AMVitamins. I’ve been a regular vitamin taker since 2011. I take a good quality, effective vitamin pack that includes a multi-vitamin with maximum mineral absorption (so much better than over-the-counter brands – and no this isn’t a commercial 😉 ), antioxidant support to fight off free-radicals, probiotic with 10 billion colonies of flora to fight off the bad bacteria and enhance overall digestive health and Omega 3 fish oils to support cardiovascular health and decrease inflammation. The great thing about these vitamins, is when I’m consistent with taking them daily, I. Do. Not. Get. Sick. I really don’t. I have energy. I feel GOOD! However when I don’t take them, I can feel myself start to get run down (life is busy!), start the beginnings of a cold or sore throat, and feel really tired (and with tired comes cranky, moody, irritable – you get the point). When that happens I get back on track and take my vitamins. I try to encourage my family to take them… but they don’t… and they get sick. I try to get my friends to take them but they insist on the over-the-counter stuff or other natural remedies… and still get sick.

This is the same thing that happens in my spiritual life, my relationship with God. To be healthy spiritually there’s things we can do – draw near to Him and He draws near to you (us) James 4:8. Just like my vitamins, it’s the basics… spend time in the Word (sword of the Spirit Eph. 6:17), pray and talk with (and listen to) my Savior (fervent prayer of a righteous person has great power James 5:16), fellowship with other believers (not staying away from worship meetings... Heb. 10:25) and pray for faith (take the shield of faith, and with it you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one Eph. 6:16). And just like when I don’t take my physical vitamins, when I don’t take my spiritual vitamins I get grouchy, edgy and irritable. I may have a lack of faith or be anxious. Again, I try to encourage family and friends (and you reading this) to take their spiritual vitamins as well – so they won’t get sick. Taking these spiritual vitamins make us better equipped to fight off the bad bacteria, attack the free radicals that invade our lives, reduce the inflammations that rise up and encourage overall spiritual health.

Are you off track like I’ve been before in both my physical and spiritual vitamin routine? Are you worn down, on the verge or within the throws of sickness and germs? Start today. Take those vitamins. Not only will you be healthier spiritually, but the goal is to know Him (God)… (Phil 3:10) and glorify Him. These vitamins get you on that right track to know Him, for your spiritual health, for your relationship with God and equip you to walk in the purposes He has for your life.

“In-Between” Cookie Palooza


Screen Shot 2014-12-11 at 9.16.43 AMOh! Life of the “in-between”… Keeping up with Grubbie Christmas traditions is proving to be somewhat challenging, because we’re half living in a temporary house, half living out of storage. We have to plan timing, location, vehicles etc. to get stuff out of storage (ie. Christmas Decorations). We finally jollied things up around here, but some things are still in storage (wrapping paper, cookie cutters).   So my PLAN was to KISS (keep it simple stu… uh, er, silly). I was going to make MOST of our regular cookies/treats for Christmas but I was going to skip the cut-outs. When I made this grand announcement, to my surprise I was greeted with disappointment. And shouts of protest! And eye-darts that made me feel like the GRINCH! Really? Because on a normal year I say, “it’s cookie night,” and I RELUCTANTLY got some helpers. But cancel one aspect of the “cookie-palooza” and we’re suddenly scarring one’s childhood ;). Ha! That tells me that yes, even though they’re getting older, and they have to put the device down to mix, roll, cut, bake and frost – they still enjoy it. And for me, the best part of “Cookie-Palooza” is doing it together. Family Time.  Oh, and my sugar-cookie-that-melts-in-your-mouth recipe is to. die. for.

Just another reminder that little things do matter. Home is wherever we all are together. Life may be in the “in-between” but family is forever (and apparently so are cookie traditions 🙂 ).

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The Truth Is…

People are sometimes shocked at honesty.   For example, on my recent trip to Haiti, it was a medical trip and um, I’m not medical. Sure, I’ve worked several medical mission clinics over the years and am willing to do whatever, however my main job was keeping the (people) traffic moving, praying with people and sharing the gospel. But on Thursday, I was needed to be the “p-p nurse.” What is a p-p nurse, you ask? Well, it is the person who takes the PP, ahem urine, from the patients, dips the diagnostic stick into said PP and then reads and records the results. Let me reiterate, I will do anything that needed done, but I do not like PP. I was sure I would spill someone’s urine all.over.me. Yuck!   So when the actual nurse stopped by to see how it was going and asked, “Do you like being the ‘p-p nurse?’” I exclaimed, “NO!” Ha ha. No, I did not like being the p-p nurse. I think she was a little shocked that I was so honest. She quickly replied that she would find me a replacement which I told her wasn’t necessary. I would be the p-p nurse and I was fine with it, but it never was going to be my favorite thing to do. 😉

Another example is in our LifeGroup. At the first LG of the year, we were filling out informational forms (name/address…) and apparently while I was engrossed in filling out my papers, we were given instructions for the next “get to know you” activity. The leader asked, “What would you like to get out of this group?” What I didn’t know was the instructions were to write down your answers. However since I missed the initial instructions, I blurted out, “Ok, I’ll start. I don’t know about anybody else, but I’m looking to make new friendships. More than just LG, I’d love new friends to be social with. I looking for a group where we can grow together, be there for each other, rejoice together, bear each other’s burdens…” At the end of my needy dissertation, I felt like I was receiving a bunch of blank stares… The silence was broken when the leader thanked me for sharing, and that we were supposed to write down our answers 🙂. But people nodded in agreement. I think there was some shock at my honesty and transparency. But I wasn’t alone. Others were looking for the same thing. I broke the ice, with a jack-hammer, HA!

It’s weird when I meet people now for the first time and they just know the “Kendra of now”. However the “Kendra of now” has dealt with and experienced a lot, especially over the past three years. The negative things, the hard things are part of my story… part of who I am. And throughout it all, when “stuff” comes up, I pray I am communicating God’s faithfulness throughout it all. However, I can’t help but notice the awkwardness or surprise when I answer honestly simple questions about what I “do” for a living, or where we live, or future plans. Because our story is complicated it doesn’t take too long into the story that some of the back-story comes into play. Nobody wants to hear your non-warm-fuzzy-peach-keen stuff.   Somewhere along the line, it’s become awkward and unexpected to be real, authentic or honest.

My friends, it shouldn’t be this way. No, we don’t have to unload all of life’s baggage into one introductory conversation, but life is hard. And God is faithful. We don’t have to gloss over the hard stuff.  2 Corinthians 1:4 says, “He comforts us in all of our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any kind of affliction, through the comfort we ourselves received from God.” If we never honestly share some of the hard stuff, then we won’t have the opportunity to share how God was faithful and got us through the hard stuff.   God works all things for GOOD, so even in the hard stuff, God can be glorified. Our rough patches are not for nothing. God desires us to rely on Him, depend on Him and know that He is faithful in good and bad times.

Instead of honesty, authenticity or transparency, we throw out, “Oh, I’m fine” – in a martyr-like sigh.   Why do we do that? When our two-year-olds are having a tantrum, we talk to them gently and tell them to “use your words.” Why? Because it is important to communicate what is bothering you, what you want, what you’re feeling. Let’s take a step towards honesty, authenticity and transparency – even in the hard times. Use your words:

I’m struggling with anger lately.

My debt is strangling me.

I’ve been having impure thoughts.

I’m really missing my mom.

I’m not bonding with my baby.

My marriage is not what it should be.

I feel stuck in my job.

My teenager hates me.

I feel like a failure.

Life feels unfair.

Honesty opens the door for others to bear your burdens and bridges your heart to others where you find out you’re not alone. Honesty brings LIGHT to stuff the enemy would rather you stew on in the dark. Honesty brings glory to God when we can say, “This is hard. God is faithful.”

Next time a fork in the road comes up in a conversation where you have to choose, do I want to get into this or not, trust God and be honest. He is faithful and may just use what you’ve been through to encourage someone else.

Broken Surrender

I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” Gal. 2:19-20

Have you ever faced any resistance when taking a step to do something in obedience to the Lord? Maybe when you committed to be baptized, to join a Bible study group to grow in your relationship with Christ, or even to begin tithing? Ever experience any opposition when you are preparing to take a mission trip/planning an outreach event/or committing to disciple someone?

Any time we step out in faith to do what God has called us to, there is sacrifice. There is inconvenience. There is opposition. There is heartache, pain, blood/sweat/tears. Anytime you invest in the kingdom, there is a juxtaposition (one comes with the other) of Gal. 2:19-20 in our lives. Anything we surrender comes at a cost ~ just like Christ’s sacrifice for our redemption came at a cost. He was crucified so we could live, so we could have a bridge to the Father, so we could be saved. So we would have hope.

And it is worth it.

Something beautiful is born because of something being broken.

In Jen Hatmaker’s book, “Interrupted,” she put it this way: “Mercy has a cost: someone must be broken for someone else to be fed. The sermon that changed your life? That messenger was poured out so you could hear it. The friends who stood in the gap during your crisis? They embraced some sacrifice of brokenness for your healing. Anytime you say, “That fed me, that nourished me,” someone was the broken bread for your fulfillment.”

Funny, the same day our fam read/studied Galatians 2, I read this section from Jen’s book… and this quote from my YouVersion devotional plan, “My Utmost For His Highest” based on Gal. 2:19-20: “If you are faced with the question of whether or not to surrender, make a determination to go on through the crisis, surrendering all that you have and all that you are to Him. And God will then equip you to do all that He requires of you.

Surrender. Be broken. See Christ alive and working (in you, in others, for His kingdom, for His glory).

I can honestly tell you that over the 13 years of full-time ministry, I have repeatedly cried out to the Lord and asked if it was worth it.   And every time, in His precious mercy, He faithfully showed me how He was working ~ through the brokenness, through the heartache, through the difficulties, through the inconveniences, through the impossibilities.  That somehow through surrender and brokenness, Christ’s mission is accomplished. Someone comes to know Him. Someone is encouraged and strengthened by His word. Someone moves from darkness into the light. Someone is physically helped or blessed. Someone surrenders his or her life to Him.  Someone has hope. 

And that’s what it’s all about. And that’s what keeps us going.   And that’s what makes it worth it.

Crucified with Christ, so that I no longer live, but Christ lives in/through me. Christ’s sacrifice/brokenness for my redemption. My surrender for Christ’s purpose/mission.   God will equip. He gives the strength. He will bless.

I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” Gal. 2:19-20

Head, Shoulders, Knees & Toes

Knees and Toes.  And ankles and wrists and fingers and back!  Wait… That’s not how the song goes?  Well, that’s how my song goes this week as the Caribbean’s latest victim of the notorious Chikungunya.

Oh. My. Land.  Thursday night as I went to bed, I mentioned to Kevin that my middle finger hurt (no middle finger jokes… 🙂 ).  Then, I woke up about 2am and my ankles and knees were a little achy.  I was trying to talk myself out of the fact that I may have the Chik, thinking I worked with a group this week, was on the go a lot, my old body is probably just tired from the long week.  But no, as the night went on it started to become clear that I did, in fact, have the beginnings of Chikungunya.  Blerg.

So, Friday I began the ritual of alternating Tylonel and Ibuprofen throughout the day.  I was achy and had a mild fever, but it was manageable.  I thought, “Hmmmm, I don’t seem to have it as bad as some of the others that have had it.”  Then Saturday came.  Saturday I couldn’t get my fever below 101, even with the alternating pain-killers/fever-reducers.  And the pain… YIKES.  My knees felt like they were going to buckle and my ankles ~ oooo-eeeee.  You never realize how much you use different body parts until they are unusable.  Like the middle finger.  Try opening a water bottle without touching the middle finger or any of its tendons etc.  Who knew I took “tall man” (middle finger) for granted?

anklepain2And it got me thinking.  The Bible actually talks about this.  Like we may think the middle finger is just another one of the fingers, or the ankles, they’re a nice bodily feature to connect the feet to the legs.  Check out this passage from 1 Cor. 12:12-31.  “If one member suffers, all the members suffer with it.”  One body part can’t say to the other, “I don’t need you”.  God places us in “bodies”, whether in our churches, communities, ministries and maybe even businesses. And each person in the “body” plays a role.  And that role is a vital part of the operation of the whole body.  Whether you take out the garbage or make a multi-million business deal ~ your role is important.  In ministry, maybe you’re not the “one out front” but the stuff you do in the background helps the body function as a whole.  The body is not one person, but a group of people that God brings together, with different gifts and abilities, different interests and desires, different ways to add value and productivity to the body.  If the middle finger is out of commission it affects the hand and the arm and the whole body.  If the ankle is stricken with pain, the body walks with a limp, is slower, less effective.

Two things we can pull from this:

1) Do not think what you do or can contribute doesn’t matter to the body.  “God has placed each one of the parts in one body just as He wanted.” “…those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are necessary.”  You matter.  God has gifted you in a very specific way for you to serve at your church/ministry, in your community and maybe even at your job. You are valued and needed.

2) Do not think that you don’t need the rest of the body. “And if they were all the same part, where would the body be?” If we were a bunch of elbows walking around, all that would get accomplished is a bunch of rib nudging. “If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be?”  Work together, with all the parts of the body, to function (in the case of ministry) for God’s glory.