Archive | December 2011

My New Year’s Resolutions #1 & 2

 

It’s been a good year. It’s been a very good year. I will look back at 2011 with thanksgiving.

I always make New Year’s Resolutions, because I am wired that way. I like to look back and then look forward. What have I learned? How can I grow? What is my next step?

Yesterday I posted about my New Year’s Resolution #3: To join the Read 52 Books in 52 Weeks Challenge. That resolution will involve  blessing my intellect….being more responsible with my down time….making better choices than watching fluff tv or internet surfing.

My New Year’s Resolution #2 involves blessing my family. I resolve to do something with the stacks of family photos I have stuck in boxes, waiting to be put into albums. And the hundreds of photos still on my computer, waiting to be printed. I was really, really good with keeping my children’s photo albums up-to-date until we got a digital camera. Now it requires an extra effort to sort through the hundreds of pics…decide which I want to get printed….etc. etc. I’m tired of seeing that box of unmounted photos in my closet. Horrible feelings of guilt wash over me. What if I were to get hit by a train? I don’t want to leave my children without pictures of their happy childhoods neatly catalogued into albums. So I resolve to make progress with our photos this year. Progress of some sort. There. I’ve said it. Now this post shall hold me accountable.

Resolution #1 involves blessing my soul. Reading the book Invitations from God by Adele Ahlberg Calhoun really reframed how I look at my life and the whisperings I hear from God. I am a #1 on the Enneagram. I am The Reformer. My Enneagram type  makes me lean toward perfectionism and a personality that is not super flexible. I love to do and to accomplish. So my Resolution #1 for 2012 is to be open to God’s invitations. I’ve had a bit of trial-by-fire with that over the Christmas season. My over-achiever-ness pushed me to want to be completely ready for the Christmas holidays before December 1st. But I became sick with the flu for a week. Perhaps God was inviting me to rest, and to trust that He was in all the details of my holiday planning? And then my dad had knee surgery and was hospitalized for three days. Maybe God was inviting me to spend time just sitting with him and taking some pressure off my mother, and to let go of all the baking I normally do. And on a day close to Christmas, when I had a million errands to run, a hurting friend unexpectedly stopped by to talk. I felt God’s invitation to pause, listen, and be present to her.

Every day God has invitations for me. He leaves it up to me to accept them or not. Is He inviting me to overlook an insult and just be silent? Is He inviting me to get off the computer and play a game with my child? Is He inviting me to include a lonely someone whom I would normally overlook? Is He inviting me to speak truth at the risk of conflict? I long to hear and accept His invitations.

So those are my resolutions. What are yours?

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This entry was posted on December 31, 2011. 1 Comment

My New Year’s Resolution #3

New Year Resolution # 3:

To take the Read 52 Books in 52 Weeks Challenge. Go to the link and sign up if you want to join me.

I am a voracious reader, but I’ve never actually kept track of how many books I read a year. There are my required reading books for my Spiritual Formation program, my Chocolate Pie Book Club monthly pick, and then all the others that I choose to read just because. 

I am the first to admit that I waste time watching more tv at night than I probably should, and I mindlessly web-surf when I’m bored. I’m hoping that joining this challenge will hold me accountable to put down the tv remote some evenings, and pick up a juicy novel. I’ve always loved a good challenge!

Here are a few Must-Reads for 2012 that are on my list:

~A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller. I bought this for my teenage son at the recommendation of my spiritual director. It has sat in his bedroom for 15 months, along with other unread books I have purchased for him. (The boy doesn’t read unless it’s required for school, much to my heartache.) So now his mommy will read it. I hope to learn from Donald Miller’s writings about how he turned his life into a great story. Then I can share what I learned with my son. Or maybe entice him to read it. Or threaten to read it out loud to him in a fake French accent. Whatever works.

~The Shack by William P. Young. I started this book once, and quickly put it down. I watch enough Nancy Grace that I felt I didn’t want to read about a child abduction and murder. But I’ve had many-a-friend tell me to “keep reading.” The rest of the story is about finding God in the midst of pain. Let’s see if I can actually finish past the first chapter this year. Stay tuned.

~A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith.  I’ve been wanting to read this book for forever, and I finally checked it out of the library. It’s about a young girl in the beginning of the 20th century who grows up in the Brooklyn slums.

~The Twilight Series by Stephenie Meyer. I read the first in the series, and now I need to complete the trilogy. It’s among my daughter’s favorite series. I want to read it because she loves them and wants me to. This is the year I’ll finish!

I plan on blogging a quickie review once a week of the 52 books that I will read this year. I’m so motivated I can hardly stand it!

Teaching Children To Pray

I want to share an idea that our family has used over the years as tool to help us pray together. We stopped using this for a while when my youngest came along, but I am resurrecting it this year.

First, allow me to step on my soapbox. I am passionate about praying, and I believe that children need modeling in order to develop their prayer life. Our Family Intercessory Prayer File helped my kids to expand their prayer lives toward less self-focused prayers (“Dear God, please bring me a Wii.”). It also has enabled them to develop a heart for people and issues beyond their own inner circle. Intercessory prayer is a type of prayer defined as praying on behalf of others. It is necessary, it is a calling for all Christ-followers, and God chooses to move when we pray. He really does! Imagine Him looking around, seeing a child on his knees for another, and then moving to answer. That picture excites me! It thrills my heart when we hear an ambulance siren, and my youngest’s first words are, “Mom, let’s pray for whoever’s hurt!”

Stepping off my soap box now. There are plenty of books on the topic of prayer. But here’s a fun and organized way that we’ve prayed with our family at dinner time for years:

Here’s all you need:

~A little binder that holds the two-hole punched index cards. Or you could use a little recipe-type box.

~Eight different color categories of index cards.

~A pen.

Simple enough so far, right?

Here’s what we did:

Take eight different colored index cards, and label with these topics:

~Day One: Pray for Missionaries Around the World.

~Day Two: Pray for a Family Member.

~Day Three: Pray for a Friend.

~Day Four:  Pray for a Current Event.

~Day Five: Pray for Our Community, State & Country.

~Day Six: Pray Your Dreams.

~Day Seven: Any Prayer Request.

~Answered Prayer.

Here’s what we do: This is the fun part. Put each index card into the binder. If you choose the color pink for the first category, fill out pink index cards with all the countries you want to. We happen to know a few missionaries, so we include their names as well. File the pink cards you’ve filled out in the Missionaries category. On Day One, everyone takes an index card  and prays for the missionaries in that particular country.

Our Family Members index cards are green. I include each of the five of us, the grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins on those cards. We each take a green card on Day Two, and pray for that particular family member.

The Friends and Current Events I leave blank. We pray whomever God puts on our hearts. Perhaps there is a friend who is currently sick, or one that is struggling in some way. For Current Events, we think of stories that are in the news. Is there a missing child? A family who lost their home in a fire? A country that is devastated from an earthquake? Whatever moves our hearts is where we know God wants us to pray.

Our Community, State & Country category has us praying for our neighborhood, schools, church, public servants, the homeless, our governor, the military, the president, etc. I teach my children not to  complain about political leaders if they are not covering them or our nation in prayer.

Praying Your Dreams is simple enough. I write down our dreams, big and small, and we pray them to God. Since they are kept in the file, we can see how God answers them over the years. I prayed for God to expand my territory one year, and He answered by sending Ben to us.

On Day Seven, everyone prays for whatever they want. Anytime a prayer is answered, I write it down or take it out of its previous category and file under Answered Prayer. This is a way to catalog God’s faithfulness to our family’s intercession.

We keep it all simple when we pray as family. When dinner is finished, we light a candle to remind us that Christ is present, and we begin. One or two sentence prayers per person are perfect. This keeps my children growing in knowing how to pray in one accord within a group. I’ve experience many a church group where someone prays such a long, flowery prayer I feel myself dozing off.

Maybe different prayer topics would work better for your family. This is what has served our particular family well. The important thing is stand before God as a family committed  to praying together  for others. Then rejoice in the creative ways God answers!

Favorite Reads of 2011

It’s time for my Epic Favorites week!

My list from 2010 is here. 2011 was a good year for “reads.” Some of these books were my Book Club selection (Love those girls! They challenge me, stretch me and make me laugh so hard I spit up my wine…..okay, moving on.). Some of these books were required reading for my Spiritual Formation program, and one was a novel I grabbed off the library shelf because I liked the cover. So here we go:

EPIC FICTION FAVORITES

Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins.

I read one a day on the beach at Hilton Head this summer. I wanted to read them to be current and know what all the buzz was about. I’m not usually a fan of science fiction, but this trilogy grabbed me. Each is a super easy read about a teenage girl living in what was once the USA  in the distant future. An annual tradition requires two children from every area to fight to their death in a televised event. My hesitations in reading this trilogy were  A)I love children, B)I hate violence, and C) Violence against children makes me ill. I held onto the first book for almost a year before I read it for those reasons. But I was pleasantly surprised that the topic was so creatively written that I felt detached from the violence, I connected with the main character, and I couldn’t put any of the books down.

The Winner by David Baldacci

This book is, well, a winner. The pun is absolutely intended. I found it on a little book shelf of donated paper backs in the condo where we spent our vacation. If you enjoy thrillers with twists and turns, this is for you. I loved it.

Shanghai Girls: A Novel by Lisa See

This novel is about two young women from Shanghai in the 1930s who emigrate to the US during the Japanese invasion in 1937. The novel chronicles their adventures and experiences. I learned much about a culture I am not familiar with. I’ve read other novels by Lisa See. She writes so vividly, and definitely does her research before each book. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The Ladies Auxiliary by Tovis Mirvis

I am fascinated by all things Jewish because of the way it makes me connect to the human Jesus. I also appreciate the culture and their deep sense of roots, their reverence and and the ways they live out the rhythm of the year.  In this novel, a free-spirited woman moves into an Orthodox Jewish community where her actions and motives challenge and are questioned by the other woman. The book’s theme really can translate to any other legalistic or rigid group that honors rules and rigidity above heart and relationship. Loved it, related to some of it, highly recommend it.

EPIC NON-FICTION FAVORITES

Seeking God’s Face: Praying with the Bible through the Year

For about four years, I followed A Guide To Prayer for Ministers and Other Servants in my daily devotional time. It follows the scriptural verses of the church’s liturgical year, and kept me in the Word every day, knowing my brothers and sisters in Christ around the world were reading the same things on the same day.

This year, I felt like I needed something fresh and new. I don’t want my devotional time to ever feel stale or in a rut. I get antsy if I do the same thing over and over again, although I do require some structure.  A friend recommended Seeking God’s Face to me. It was just what I needed. It’s user-friendly. Every day includes an Invitation, as Psalm, and a Bible reading, following the season of the year. A few points lead you into a very gentle Lectio Divina time of listening to God’s voice in the scripture. Then follows some specific prayer points, free prayer and a blessing. It’s very user-friendly. All the scripture reading is included, so it’s not a problem if your Bible is not on hand. It makes the habit of daily prayer and Bible reading very simple. Find the day’s date, and there you have it. I.Cannot.Recommend.This.Book.Enough.

Invitations from God by Adele Ahlberg Calhoun

I met the author on a retreat. I used her Spiritual Disciplines Handbook over and over again, so I read this with interest. As a self-declared control freak, It radically changed how I view interruptions or changes in agenda, or even rest. God offers us invitations every day, and stands by as a gentleman while we choose to accept or not. I will blog more on this subject later.

Are You My Type? Am I Yours?

I learned about the Enneagram on another retreat, and it has reframed how I view myself and others. The premise is that all people fall into one of nine types, with a specific motivation for why they do what they do. This teaching has changed my life, helped me to understand myself and others, and freed me up in many ways. There is so much more I could write about this……just read the book, or another one on the topic, and be enlightened.

I must state a disclaimer that it’s possible I’ve read books over the past year that I have enjoyed more than these. I am at the stage of life when I forget everything, so it is entirely possible that I have left out some amazing books from this post. For that reason, and also just for fun, I decided that I am going to write down every book I read in 2012. If anything, it will be interesting to me to see how many I read. Happy Book Devouring!

This entry was posted on December 27, 2011. 1 Comment

The Word Became Flesh

I am borrowing this from the blog of a woman that I greatly admire, not become I’m lazy, but because it’s so beautiful. And, frankly, life kept me very busy lately. I’ll write this week.
Merry Christmas to you and yours! Ponder and celebrate the gift  anew Emmanuel. The Incarnation. God is with us!
Good is the Flesh

by Brian Wren

Good is the flesh that the Word has become,
good is the birthing, the milk in the breast,
good is the feeding, caressing and rest,
good is the body for knowing the world,
Good is the flesh that the Word has become.Good is the body for knowing the world,
sensing the sunlight, the tug of the ground,
feeling, perceiving, within and around,
good is the body, from cradle to grave,
Good is the flesh that the Word has become.

Good is the body, from cradle to grave,
growing and aging, arousing, impaired,
happy in clothing, or lovingly bared,
good is the pleasure of God in our flesh,
Good is the flesh that the Word has become.

Good is the pleasure of God in our flesh,
longing in all, as in Jesus, to dwell,
glad of embracing, and tasting, and smell,
good is the body, for good and for God,
Good is the flesh that the Word has become.

© Brian Wren, as quoted in An Altar in the World by Barbara Brown Taylor (Harper One).

First Snow

Our first snow of the winter came on December 1st. For weeks, Ben, my nine year old, had been counting the days until December. This was not because he couldn’t wait until Christmas. He was excited about the snow season, and was absolutely convinced that it would begin on the first day of that month. Ben loves snow with the passion of the young and innocent who don’t have to shovel or drive in it. After forty-something years of living in the Midwest, I’ve become jaded.  I view snow as a major inconvenience. To Ben, however, snowfall is a party of white confetti falling from this sky, sent by God for his sheer enjoyment.

I warned him that we may not get snow exactly on the first of December. It had been a warm fall. But, living in Chicagoland, we’d definitely get snow eventually. That I could guarantee. “Oh, Mom,” he sighed, and said in tone that implied he was mustering up all the patience he possibly could: “It’s going to snow on December 1st. I asked God to make it snow then.” He was so certain.

Wouldn’t you know? It snowed on the night of December 1st. We walked out of our church from a children’s choir rehearsal at 9pm and into the crisp, cold air. Big flakes fell down from the dark sky as my happy son danced in the parking lot. “It’s snowing! It’s snowing! I told you, Mom!”

I absolutely love when God does things like that!  I believe with all my being that He answered the prayers of my little boy. It wasn’t a big snow, and it was mostly melted by the morning. But it snowed, none the less. God undoubtedly delighted in answering the prayer, and couldn’t wait to see Ben’s glee when he came outside from rehearsal, just as I can’t wait for my kids to open their gifts on Christmas morning.

I know and believe that God is good all the time. But watching Ben jump like a puppy through the falling snow, I also know that God is wildly generous and crazy fun. And He answers the prayers of a boy who wants snow.

This entry was posted on December 14, 2011. 1 Comment

It’s Time For A Change

I’ve been feeling birth pains. Not literally. I mean the kind when you experience a little flutter  in your soul…..an unfolding of sorts….and you know God is about to do something new in you. It’s time for a change.

 

I began my previous blog four years ago, as a creative outlet. It was also an attempt to chronicle the lives of myself and my family. It was fun and entertaining; kind of like the current version of the baby book. Since I have failed miserably about updating my children’s baby books, my blog felt like a fun way to catalog family stories for memory’s sake.

 

I’ve taken a writing sabbatical for a few months. My current ventures of homeschooling my youngest and stepping into ministry leadership necessitated putting some things in my life on pause. But I also felt God asking me to step back from writing. My personality type carries around an annoying inner critical voice who kept telling me, “You’re bad if you don’t write every day.” But the voice of God told me, “Take a break. Draw near to me right now.”

 

I have changed, grown and transformed in the past four years. Spiritual practices, relationships and experiences have shaped me into a woman who sees a bit more through what the Celts called the “thin places,” the veil that separates Heaven and earth, allowing one to see more of the glory of God. I still plan on sharing my stories. But I felt the need for a freshness; a change of venue and one of focus.

 

 

 

This entry was posted on December 11, 2011. 6 Comments