Category Archives: Joy

Visibly Invisible

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In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.  Genesis 1:1, NLT

The first book of Bible (the book of Genesis) begins with that sentence. And in fact, the word “genesis” means beginning.  And there are lots of firsts and beginnings found within this book!

But the one thing this book is NOT a beginning of is God. God has always existed. He was, He is, and He always will be!  And if we are going to get anything out of the enormity of that statement, we need to understand two things about Him.
First, God is transcendent, this means that He is not limited by time, space, or matter. This is very hard for us to understand and get our heads around, but it is true, and if we believe in God, somehow we have faith in our belief that HE is indeed transcendent.

Yet God is also immanent. Let us not confuse that with eminent – which is someone of importance (i.e. Your Eminency) or with the word imminent, which means something that is about to happen. Immanent means to be fully inserted into something, existing within something in every aspect. We also believe THIS because we believe in and can sense God’s presence in the world around us in things big AND small.

So while Genesis isn’t the story of the very beginning of God and His existence, it is the beginning of His story and interaction with His creation – including us.

And speaking of US, take a look at this:

So God created human beings in his own image.
In the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.  Genesis 1:27, NLT

You know when God repeats something back-to-back in the same verse He wants us to pay attention, right?!   And this particular verse is a doozy because He repeats Himself with TWO things.

First, the phrase God Created/He Created is repeated three times. DO NOT MISS THIS. You are GOD created. Every single thing about you He created. His love for you is such that  this world would not be complete in His eyes without you. This theme of His overwhelming, amazing, reckless love is transcendent and continues forever! I never want us to forget that, even though I know there are days when it feels either far fetched or even like a bold-faced lie.   Stand on that Truth, sister friends!

The other “repeat” lesson here is that you and I are created in HIS image. His OWN image. And here’s the cool part – that word “image” is translated from the Hebrew word t’selem which means “a visible representation of the invisible”. (New Testament spoiler alert –  this is the same verbiage used to describe Jesus by Paul several times in his letters to various churches!)

YOU GUYS!  We have been created to be the “face” of God.  His visible representatives, mirroring His goodness and character back to all of creation!   And why does that matter?  Because it is WHO WE ARE.  And what we do should naturally flow from who we are.

When God created you, He knew the world would need your exact, detailed, unique concoction of DNA, personality, quirks, and beauty to reveal and represent yet another holy facet of Him that could not be made visible without you.  How awesome is that?!

Genesis begins with the beginning of the story of YOU and a God who SO wanted you to be His.  As we journey through this study together, I pray that Truth really does sink in and transforms you more and more each day in His image.

And speaking of our study, if you are following along with us at home, take time this week to read Genesis chapters 1 and 2 in your favorite Bible translation!  Just let the wonder of it all wash over you as you read it!  Next week, we’ll jump into Genesis 3 with Angie Smith and the beginning of Seamless!

This week, I’ve been listening to Lauren Daigle’s new album, Look Up Child, on repeat!  Here’s a link to listen to the title track!  ENJOY!

Peace, love, and JOY!

Wendie

 

 

 

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Be Glad TODAY (because it IS a good day)!

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Psalm 118-24

 

You all know I LOVE a really good microphone. Always have – always will. Put a “mike” in my hand, or slap one on my lapel, and well, you best be ready to hear my voice for a spell.

 
I’ve always been this way. Started in grade school when I got my first taste of the joys of being on stage when I sang the theme song of Winnie the Pooh…into a microphone. Yep, I have it BAD for a mike.

 
In middle school, I was part of a glee club type thing called Up With People, Junior. We sang all sorts of show tunes and traveled around to local places entertaining everyone from senior citizens to country club members. I loved it! Not only for the microphones, but for the upbeat songs and the feel-good vibes they gave off.

 
My FAVORITE song of all was called “The Best Time of Your Life”. It was written by the Sherman brothers way back in the 1950s and originally was the theme music set to a ride in Tomorrowland at the Disney parks (does anyone do “Happy” better than Disney?!).
The lyrics still run through my head from time to time and they immediately sprang to mind when I was thinking about our scripture this week! Here they are:

 

Now is the time. Now is the best time.
Now is the best time of your life.
Life is a prize, live every minute.
Open your eyes and watch how you win it!
Yesterday’s memories may sparkle and gleam,
tomorrow is still but a dream.
Right here and now, you’ve got it made.
The world’s forward marching and you’re in the parade!
Now is the time. Now is the best time.
Be it a time of joy or strife.
There’s so much to cheer for, be glad you’re here.
For it’s the best time of your life.

 

Sweet friends, today IS a good day. See, we can’t “hold” on to time – we can’t store it up in a jar or even lock it up in a vault. We cannot manipulate it with some sort of Orwellian remote control that would allow us to go backward to relive the good old days or catapult us forward through dry valleys today in order to get to the good times we pray still await us.

 

I love to imagine that the last couple words of that Psalm above (you know, the part that says, “let us rejoice and be glad today”) are a REAL LIFE, REAL TIME invitation from the Psalmist to stop and “smell the roses” – TODAY.
Sure, I encourage you to enjoy the big stuff and successes that come your way, but don’t miss those little morsels of joy that are just sitting there waiting for you to notice them.

Celebrate today

Like…the way the wind makes the lilac blossoms bounce on the bushes. The way the water shines on the tanned back of your child as she crashes into the pool with a swan dive. The smell of suntan lotion being sprayed on the kids on the softball fields. The sound of an old song you love being played a few cars up from you at traffic light. The intensity of a lightning bolt at night and the feeling of thunder’s reverberation rattling your storm screens. The scent of the rain on the fresh cut grass outside your window.

 

We have to take time (MAKE time) to do these things EVERY day, to combat the notion that we think we are all “too busy” to stop to smell anything, let alone roses.

 
Let’s take this week to remind ourselves to slow down and rejoice in today’s moments – big and small. Let’s also remind ourselves, if something unpleasant or difficult comes our way, to say, “If this is the worst thing that happens to me today, I can still count it as a good day, because (insert a blessing here)…”

 
“This is the day the Lord has made, let’s rejoice and be glad!”, really translates as, “This is a God created day, not me created day. And since everything He creates is good, today is good. So I’m glad to be living it today.”

 
So when you are tempted to forget to celebrate a “today”, just imagine me, as my 6th grade self, standing right there in front of you, microphone in hand and animatedly singing:

baton girl wendie

 

Because if nothing else makes you giggle in the moment, I’m quite sure that will! 😉

 

(What’s that? Oh, I’m sorry. Had I neglected to mention I also twirl baton???!!! )

 
Peace, love, and JOY!

 

Wendie

The Butterfly Effect (why YOU matter!)

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I don’t remember the first time I heard about The Butterfly Effect but I DO know it fascinated me immediately! The thought that a single butterfly could flap its wings somewhere in like, Arizona or something, and that the eventual effect could cause a hurricane somewhere on the other side of the world (due to the movement of air molecules that, in turn, moves more air molecules, and so on and so on…) is just SO COOL!

butterfly effect

Did you know The Butterfly Effect actually has been scientifically proven and is now considered scientific law?  It even has a fancy pants title.  Listen to this mouthful: The Law of Sensitive Dependence Upon Initial Conditions. Don’t ask me to explain it to you, because math and science aren’t really my thing. But overall, I can explain it this way: every flap of wings, breath breathed, and action taken all matter because they cause another reaction, which causes further reactions, etc.

That refers to YOU, too, spiritually speaking.  As in:  your actions, your words, your skill sets and talents.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes when I’m evaluating myself and my “strengths and skills”, I have a tendency to look around at the skills sets of others and wonder why I didn’t get theirs instead!

But here’s the thing, you guys.  We cannot all perform the same function(s) because NOTHING on earth would get done. We’d all just be flapping our wings and moving air molecules back and forth at one another and they’d never make it half way across the globe in order to change the world in the way God intended! Listen to what Paul has to say about this in his first letter to the Corinthians:

I want you to think about how all this makes you more significant, not less. A body isn’t just a single part blown up into something huge. It’s all the different-but-similar parts arranged and functioning together. If Foot said, “I’m not elegant like Hand, embellished with rings; I guess I don’t belong to this body,” would that make it so? If Ear said, “I’m not beautiful like Eye, limpid and expressive; I don’t deserve a place on the head,” would you want to remove it from the body? If the body was all eye, how could it hear? If all ear, how could it smell? As it is, we see that God has carefully placed each part of the body right where he wanted it.

1 Cor 12:14-24,The Message

I know. The ear always wants to be the foot. The foot wants to be the eye. The eye thinks it would be better off as the mouth. The mouth decides the hands have it goin’ on much more than it does. Sound at least a little familiar?!

But God knows what He’s doing, sweet friends. He designed us with a million different ways of serving, relating, leading, and connecting with one another so that things will get done and get done in His will! Here’s another way Paul said it:

All these gifts have a common origin, but are handed out one by one by the one Spirit of God. He decides who gets what, and when.

1 Cor 12:4-11, MSG.

If we’d all been given the spiritual gift of wise counsel, who’d be out there healing the sick? If we all only had the gift of clear understanding, where would we get the miraculous acts? I could go on, but I think you’re getting the picture.
butterflly it matters

“There are generations of yet unborn whose very lives will be shifted and shaped by the moved you make and the actions you take today. And tomorrow. And the next day. And the next. By [God’s] hand on you, millions – billions – of lives will be altered, caught up in a chain of events begun by you this day.”

Andy Andrews, The Butterfly Effect: Everything You Do Matters, copyright 2009.

Whatever you’ve been given, however you’ve been wired, whoever you connect with and how, is a GIFT. Every single thing you do, every flap of your wings? It matters.  Spread those beautiful wings of yours and SOAR!

Peace, love, and SO MUCH JOY!

Wendie

Freckles are Cute, but You’re Cuter ;)

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Confession time. And it’s “juicy”.

The summer after second grade, I read the book, Freckle Juice, by Judy Blume and suddenly became convinced that my life would be perfect if I just had freckles.

I know – I’m totally aging myself here and some of you won’t even know what I’m talking about with that book title or maybe even the name Judy Bloom.

PEOPLE. JUDY BLOOM IS LIFE.

Well, she’s LIFE for those of us girls who grew up in the 70s and early 80s. And if you take Judy Bloom books and follow them up with John Hughes movies? Now THAT is honestly LIFE.

But I digress. Back to Freckle Juice. I’ll have to admit, prior to reading it, I never gave freckles a second thought. But after reading this book, I was obsessed with having freckles because I thought they would make me special. The thing was, I was NOT willing to drink the concoction (I totally thought it was real, BTW):

“Sharon’s Secret Recipe for Freckle Juice: Mix up all these things together – stir well and drink fast: grape juice, vinegar, mustard, mayonnaise, juice from one lemon, pepper and salt, ketchup, olive oil, and a speck of onion. One glass makes an average amount of freckles.” (from Freckle Juice, by Judy Bloom)

SO instead of drinking that gross juice, I decided to try sun-tanning, permanent marker, and prayer. But no matter what I did or how many prayers I prayed, I never got freckles.

You ready for a sage truth I’ve learned that summer? Here it is:

If you don’t have freckles, YOU WEREN’T MEANT TO HAVE THEM.

Feel free to insert anything you’ve coveted and yearned for over the years. There are times we look at the attributes we admire in others and wonder why we weren’t gifted and blessed in those ways. We spend too much time looking outside of ourselves and feeling neglected and left out because of what we don’t have. But the truth of the matter is that you weren’t made for those things; you were made for different (and dare I say BETTER) things. Things that suit you. Things that allow you to do YOU.

This summer, I’ll be encouraging all of us to start thinking about the following three questions:

Who am I? (How have I been created? What am I good at? What are the attributes God uniquely ascribed to me?)
What do I care about? (What are the things that make me tick? What moves me to tears – both good and bad? What do I want out of life?)
How can I live my life so that it reflects God’s purpose for me? (How can I marry up who I am to what I care about in order to make a difference in meaningful ways?)

Why are we doing this? Because it matters deeply that you connect and cultivate the gifts, talents, and attributes that God bestowed upon you. These things are uniquely yours and have significance beyond anything your sweet little head can imagine.

Our job is to take everything good and sacred and holy that God has placed within us and, as we nurture and cultivate and grow them, pour them right back out into the lives of those He places around us.

This world, YOUR world, needs you to be YOU. Not “a version” of you, not the you that has Sharpie freckles tattooed onto your precious face because you think that is what makes you special. WE need you to actually be YOU. Because THAT you is the special you.

Here’s what I want you to do this week.

• If you don’t already have one, get yourself a copy of Melanie Shankle’s new 100-day devotional, Everyday Holy: Finding a Big God in the Little Moments. Start it NOW!

 

Melanie Book

 

There are 100 days from Memorial Day up to Labor Day! I can’t think of a more FUN and meaningful book to keep us in God’s word this summer!
• Start noticing the things that make you uniquely you. What are you good at? What do people tend to bring up about you that they admire? What role(s) do you personally gravitate to in your family/job/friend group (i.e. the one who gets things done, the big idea girl, the creative one, the teacher, the FUN one, the peacemaker, the calming influence, the math mind, etc.)?
• Grab a journal and start writing these things down!  Keep track of things as they pop into your head.
• Meditate (or even memorize!) this verse: For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. Ephesians 2:10, NLT
• Make this your motto this week:

be who you were created to be

 

See you back here next week for more Cultivate 2018! And follow us on Instagram and Facebook for Meaningful Mondays, Wisdom Wednesdays, and Friday Fundays!

It’s going to be a great summer, sister friends!
Enjoy your week!

Peace, love and JOY!

Wendie

The JOY of Gratitude! (She PERSISTED Week Two!)

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Gratitude Quote

Here’s a little Bible trivia for you. In scripture, how many times to you think God speaks to us about gratitude in the New International Version?  Well, according to a word count website, christianbiblereference.org,  it’s 340 times.

That’s third in frequency only to directives regarding love, which comes in at number one at 551 times, and fear at 366 times (one for every day of the year plus leap year)!

We understand the importance of love, of course. It’s the very fabric of Christianity and woven into our DNA!  And we can also understand the need to reassured about fear and anxiety and to be directed to trust God! But gratitude?  Why would it have such a prominent place in terms of scripture themes?

Dr. Robert Emmons (UC-Davis), has helped to open the Greater Good Science Center at UC-Berkely to not only scientifically study gratitude and its effects on us, but also to promote the practice of gratitude world-wide.

Emmons and his associates have scientifically studied some of  the positive effects of a regular practice of gratitude (practices range from keeping a written daily gratitude journal, recording gratitude in some other way [like the 365grateful.com project we read about last week in  our Flow Book:  The Book That Takes It’s Time] to simply thinking of three things you are grateful for at the end of the day). The first thing they discovered is that you can rewire your brain to be happier by simply recalling three things you are grateful for each day for 21-days.  It all has something to do with neurotransmitters and the chemicals and hormones and stuff!  Basically, gratitude actually rewires the neuro-pathways in the brain to help release more happy chemicals than in the brains of folks who do not practice.

In addition, they identified these seven benefits mind and body benefits to the regular practice of gratitude:

  1. Strengthens relationships and helps to make new ones
  2. Improves your physical health and motivates you to take better care of yourself (less illness, quicker recovery times, exercise more, eat better, see doctors on regular basis)
  3. Improves psychological health (lead to improved memory, happier outlook, and a diminishing of depressive feelings and anxiety)
  4. Increases empathy and decreases aggression behaviors
  5. Improves sleep (one study states that if you spend 15 minutes recalling things that make you thankful at the end of the day will help you sleep better, deeper, and longer that those who do not)
  6. Improves self-esteem and helps you become an encourager of others
  7. Increases your mental strength and fortitude and makes you more resilient in times of hardship

Those are some pretty powerful and peace-inducing changes you can make to your body and your mind, right?  But, spiritually speaking, what’s so special about being grateful, other than the politeness of saying thank you?

Phil 1 3-4 Card

 

Gratitude breaks down the barrier between the mind and the spirit and is a TRIGGER for joyful and worshipful prayer!  How awesome is that?!

When we feel a sense of gratitude for something God has provided, (and let’s face it, it all comes from God!) our spontaneous response is prayer!  We don’t thank God because it’s the polite thing to do.  We thank God because we can’t help ourselves!  It’s our soul’s response to His goodness and our reward is His joy in our hearts.

Ann Voskamp, in her book 1000 Gifts, dives into the spiritual significance of gratitude.  She traces it back to the Greek word, eucharisteo, which, in Greek, encompasses the words:  grace, thanksgiving, and JOY.  Hang onto that for a sec, because we will be circling right back to it.

There is something called cognitive dissonance and that is a psychological term that means you cannot think and believe two polar opposite things at the same time. Like, you can’t be proud of your work while simultaneously being ashamed of it.

So with that in mind, you cannot feel gratitude in the spiritual sense (which we now know means grace, thanksgiving, and joy) and ALSO be sullen, burdened, and angry.

 

I did an informal poll over the weekend and asked people, spiritually speaking, what could they use more of in their lives. Unanimous two responses?

Peace and joy.

Okay.  So let’s do a quick recap of what we already know:

  • Number one thing gratitude does for your mind? Brings you peace.
  • Number one thing gratitude does for you spirit? Brings you joy.

Looking for more peace and joy in your world? The answer is to practice gratitude.

But , this is not something we do quickly, nor should we treat it as a “to do item” on a list of chores! It’s not just:  “QUICK!  Name three things you’re thankful for – GO!” and be done with it. It’s something we do persistently, intentionally, mindfully, prayerfully.  As Ann Voskamp says, “It takes a full twenty minutes after your stomach is full for your brain to register satiation.  How long do you think it takes your soul to realize when your life is full?”

I Belong to Jesus Mug

THIS is where we start getting intentional about mindfulness:  what it is, why it’s important, what it does for you, and how to begin a practice of it.  Our readings this week will be on mindfulness and gratitude and we’ll be stepping into exercises from our books to help nurture it!  Click here to access the homework exercises and click here to access additional resources for this week!

Go enjoy your week, sweet friends!  And get into the gratitude groove! 

I am GRATEFUL for YOU!!!

Peace, love, and JOY!

Wendie

Up Next Week:  A Special Conversation with some special guests!  😉

 

You do you. I’ll do me.

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If there is ONE thing I can say about practicing spiritual disciplines it’s this:  it’s personal.

Even though we’re all reading the same study (Enjoying Jesus) and following along with the same series here (Come Closer), we are all getting something different out of it.

That’s the beauty of such a wonderfully creative God.  We are each unique.  We each respond to the vast aspects of His holy character and His call on our lives differently.

And while I know study and meditation may not necessary sound amazingly exciting on the surface, these two disciplines we are covering this week  are my jam.  They are my entire heart toward God wrapped up in one luscious package.  They are the love language in which God speaks to my heart and the voice with which I hear Him most clearly. There is NOTHING I love more than some good, solid alone time with my Bible, a pen, my journal, and GOD.  As a matter of fact, I even told all the sister friends this week that if Tim were ever to ask them what the perfect gift would be for me, they now know they are supposed to say:  “A weekend away at a shwanky hotel tucked away with cozy pah-jeejees (aka pajamas), Prosecco, Perrier, and a Bible.”  Well, and maybe this handsome devil, as long as someone was willing to walk him for me.

Big Boy Pic from Taylir

I’m a simpleton at heart, aren’t I?  😉

The point is, I LOVE these two disciplines and if you aren’t sure about them yet, I’m hoping to convert you today!

We read and study scripture to get to know the sound of God’s voice and heart. We get to know the things that matter to Him, to His heart, and we also get to know the things He doesn’t like.  It’s not so much knowledge for the sake of knowledge (although there really isn’t anything wrong with that unless we use that knowledge in order to be a know-it-all or to somehow distort the teaching of it).  But it’s more about getting to know what’s important to God because that information beings us closer to Him.

Think about it.  In your best relationships, you know what is important to the other person, right?  So it makes sense that we should know what’s important to God!  He reveals His character to us through His Word – His Living Word.

In other words, “study”, in and of itself, answers the questions of what does God say, what does God like, what does God want us to do.

Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.   Deuteronomy 11:18-19, NIV

Meditation, which of course goes hand-in-hand with study, answers the question of what does God want this information to mean personally for me? So while study could stand alone without meditation, meditation would be difficult to be independent of study because it’s hard to think about something you don’t know about!

So in order to get the most out of scripture, we should be doing both.

One of the videos for this week’s chapter has Julie talking about how meditation allows her time to dwell with a specific portion of scripture. I love that, especially if we put that in context with how we defined “dwell” a few weeks ago as in “pitching a tent with”.  So when we meditate, we are sitting down and hanging out with God and His word for a little while and letting Him speak to the importance of that piece of wisdom to us.

There are tons of different formulas to studying a piece of scripture. But the first thing we should do before we even begin the study piece of this is to come quietly before God and ask that He guides our study.  We ask that He would be with us and help us to get a little bit of wisdom out of what we are reading.  We surrender our own agenda or preconceived ideas that might be lurking in our hearts and minds, and just ask the Holy Spirit to guide our reading.

And then, I think it comes down to personal choice in how you decide to study. I found this graphic on Pinterest this weekend and think it’s just brilliant.

what to do with your Bible

I already put one in each of my Bibles, I love it so much!  Basically, study is a way for us to answer the question for ourselves:  “What does this say and how can I make this as easy as possible for me to understand.  You all should know yourself well enough at this point to know how you learn best.  Maybe you’re a memorizer or maybe you are a list maker.  Maybe you are artsy or a journal-er.  Whatever your preferred method of learning something, do that.  And don’t rush through it.  It’s not a race, it’s an exercise, a practice, a discipline.

As you first start out, you might find it difficult to decide what passage to study. You can always think about your favorite Bible stories or verses and start there.  Maybe there is something particular on your mind and heart that day and so you can use your Bible index or Concordance to look up a few verses that speak to that topic until you find one that seems to really resonate.

You can use a devotional or the gospel of the day or anything like that to get you started.  You can use any of the verses we’ve looked up so far in this study.  The key is to pick something digestible in one sitting.  In other words, a few verses or a short chapter – not an entire book.  Read it and play around with it for a bit. You will know God nudging  you to it if it piques your interest, makes you want to ask a question about it, or if you want to sort of insert yourself into the story.  Stay with the study piece until you get it.  Take it with you throughout your day, your week, etc.  Maybe read it a couple times a day.  Share the facts of the story with someone else (even if it’s me – I’m always up for some good Bible stories!).

Once you are able to close your Bible and sort of factually retell the “story” or verses you’ve been studying, you’re ready to move on to meditation!

Meditation basically answers the questions of “What does God want me to know about Him through these words and what is He calling me to do about it?”

Now. Just like study, there are a bazillion ways you can go about this.  You should’ve tried out one method in our book on day 2 with Psalm 1, which I hope was a good experience for you.  Maybe it feels weird at first, but it is insightful, right?

And AGAIN, the first thing to do is always invite the Holy Spirit to guide you through the process!  Otherwise, it’s just you deciding what YOU think about it, not what God wants to reveal to you!

I personally have used a method called Lectio Divina (which is Latin for Divine Reading), which is a contemplative sort of prayer meditation that originates from the Benedictines I think dating back to the 6th century.  And sort of like the Ignatian Daily Examen, it can be morphed a bit to suit your needs.  Here’s a graphic that explain it more clearly than I probably can in words!  If you want more info on this, just Google it!

Lectio Divina

The most important piece of this dynamic duo of study + meditation is this:  quiet your mind and ask God to guide you.  He never turns down an authentic, intimate invitation like that, girls.  And be patient with yourselves.  We are a society of BUSY BUSY BUSY.  And these disciples we are learning about and trying are all about QUALITY TIME spent in pursuit of drawing closer to God.  It’s counterintuitive to our nature.  But the payoff is well worth the time and effort!

Following along with our Come Closer study?!  Make sure you’re up to date with all the reading so far (you should be finished reading through Week 3 in the Enjoying Jesus Book).  This week, I encourage everyone to find two or three verses and attempt to study AND meditate on them!  We will be back here on the blog in two weeks (we are using next week to have extra study and meditation time!).  Get ready for the next two disciplines  (one of which is my LEAST fave…fasting 😉 ).

Here’s a great link to our fifth song by The Afters.  I LOVE it!

May God’s peace, love, and JOY infuse you FULLY this week!

So much love,

Wendie

 

How to #HAGS (Have a Good Summer ;) )

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Happy First Tuesday, sweet sister friends! It’s FINALLY summer break!  I’m so, so happy about this for, like, a million and fifty-seven reasons. But Reason Number One is (drumroll please):  this beautiful family of mine needs a break.

Yours does, too? I thought so.

Don’t worry. We aren’t the only ones.  It’s been an issue for millennia.

mark 6

He knew we’d all need a break at times.  Thank you, LORD!

So here’s the practical application and importance of this – at least in my world.  For me, summer break means a break from the “control” of school days because it’s totally structured FOR us, but not necessarily BY us.  The school system decides when the kids will be in school.  The coaches and activity leaders decide when practices and games and recitals are held.  The tutors decide what hours they are available.  The teachers decide what homework is due and when.    The moms at pick up decide who is playing with whom afterschool and where…AHEM.

The order of our days is predetermined by the forces around us and, for the most part, we need to get in line with it in order for there to be order, if you know what I mean.

Graciously, summer dances to a different beat.

And so today, at the start of what is summer break for many of us, I am giving you a little advice on how to have a good summer. It goes something like this:

“GO DO YOU.

AND DON’T BE AFRAID TO ENJOY IT.”

 Peony 1 Talmud

Is that awesome or what?! So often, we think of indulging in things we enjoy as something we will judged for.  But God (don’t you just LOVE Him?!) basically turns that thought on its ear and says, “Girl, if it’s permissible  –  and tons of amazing and fun things in this life are – you might as well enjoy it because I made it just for you.”

I don’t know what it looks like for you because He wired each of us so beautifully different. For me, it’s a big girl glass of wine on a starry night sitting by the outdoor fire.  Or maybe it’s just an extra half hour by myself at the pool with my Bible.  Or hey – it’s even ordering pizza two nights in a row just because I don’t feel like cooking.  But whatever allows you to have some seriously permissible fun this summer, I say GO FOR IT!

Bring Me Wine

(Photo from Pinterest)

Girlies, let’s shake things up for a couple months. Change your schedule and include something new you’ve been wanting to do.  Try taking after dinner walks with your spouse, or maybe early morning coffees on the deck.

Ask your boss if you can shift your work schedule to come in an hour earlier for a week or two so you can earn a little flex time and take a few extra days off to just kick around in your garden or in the city. Get creative with your time.

Let your kids “drive the boat”, so to speak. Have them choose activities that allow exploration of their passions and interests.  Let THEM choose their playmates and embrace their own choices and decisions (within reason 😉 ).  Consider ditching those dreaded “summer skills books” in favor of comic books and silly novels and even Netflix (did I just say that out loud?!). Volunteer at the food bank and make blankets to distribute to those in need when the cold weather returns (because  – SPOILER ALERT – no matter how hot it gets this summer, that Chiberian chill will be back).

Go get lost on a road trip. Swim in a lake. Wear cut-off overalls.  Go to a concert.  Call your college roomie. Hang out with your mom. Show up at your best friend’s house with some flowers and iced tea just because you can.  Talk a walk with Jesus.  Smooch a puppy on the lips (this one might be my favorite!)!

Have your own church service in the park. Eat a humongous cheeseburger, for Heaven’s sake, and wash it down with a cold beer or soda in a glass bottle.  Have a popsicle at breakfast and ride the Ferris wheel…three times in a row!  Eat sweet cherries and spit the pits on the ground.  Embrace simple things that bring mega-doses of joy.

Yeah. These are the things I wish for you AND for me this summer because even the smallest, simplest things reveal God’s great love for us.  And we are blessed to be able to experience them. Be aware of your gifts and use them to better this world.

I guess what I’m saying, love bugs, is that I wish you the happiest summer break ever. Like, EVER.

Stop making your summer bucket lists and just go do all the things you were going to put on them. Sometimes the spontaneous stuff is sooooo much better anyway.

Okay. Enough screen time.  Go on now. Get on out there.  The world is waiting.

What are you still doing here?!?!? I mean it – GO!  Get outta here!  I triple dog dare you.

#HAGS 😉

Peace, love, and JOY!

Wendie

PS – See you back here on July 4th for the next First Tuesday post…!

PPS – If you are local to the Chicagoland area, I encourage you to check out a great resource:  “Glen Ellyn Moms Village”!  They have awesome social media sites for ideas and inspiration for your summer… AND year-round!! Be sure to follow them so you can  keep updated about local happenings and musings regarding Glen Ellyn and the surrounding communities; the sites are run by one of my favorite sister friends!!!

https://www.facebook.com/glenellynmomsvillage/

https://www.instagram.com/glenellynmomsvillage/

“I love bread!” (Me too, Oprah ;) !)

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I was so incredibly excited when Oprah signed on with Weight Watchers.   I mean, I’m thrilled that she’s getting healthy and all that.  But honestly, the best part was when she said, – ON NATIONAL TELEVISION –  “I love bread”!

Breakfast toast with red heart jam symbol on a red checkered table cloth.

ME TOO, Sister Oprah! Me too!

My favorite kind of bread is homemade and hot out of the oven, fresh as can be, and with special touches (like organic sundried tomatoes baked right in and homegrown rosemary sprigs on top, and maybe even a little finely shredded artisan cheddar thrown in for good measure) that everyday, store bought brands just cannot produce.

rosemary-bread

(Excuse me while I salivate…)

I’m coming out of the anti-gluten closet and admitting it.  I’m a girl who loves artisan bread.

I ALSO love craft beer and single vineyard wines.

I like small batch iced teas and I love the health benefits and freshness of organic food.

I’m “all-in” on the farm-to-table movement.

I completely support the sustainable food agenda.

I’d much rather each a whole food than one that’s been processed.  And don’t even get me started on stuff that’s been genetically modified or chemically enhanced.

(Let’s ignore my diet coke habit for the moment, shall we? *Ahem.*)

People  who love and care this much about food know ONE THING for sure: the process is just as important as the end product.

For instance, a food artisan knows everything about the ingredients and process of what she’s making, and often uses traditional methods.  Why?  Because she’s learned that tried and true ways of doing things endure; traditions create consistently masterful products.

The craftsman makes his product by hand, using minimal processing and checking each step of that process to ensure it is done to his specifications for a quality product that he’s proud to call his own.

small-batch-wine

The small-batch creator believes in taking the time and effort to make each batch just so, just right, to please her consumers and make them feel special in receiving something that got such care in creation.

The food producers, shops, and restaurants who subscribe to the farm-to-table philosophy understand the value of cutting out the middle-man and ensuring the good stuff is coming directly from the maker.

And everyone who buys into the concept of sustainability is 100% on board in making sure that the resources we have will not be used up or destroyed so they can replenish as needed and continue for as long as possible.

The artisans who create these kinds of foods and drinks have two things in common:

  1. They are intentional in what they do (meaning they put thought, care, and time into each part of the process); and,
  2. They are specialized in their trade, not diversified (meaning they don’t have a million different things going on) which allows them to focus on the passion of their particular trade.

That’s pretty amazing stuff right there, don’t you think?!

So, what if we applied these concepts to something spiritual in addition to food? What if we used these ideas to radically affect our prayers and how we spoke them?

I think we’d be equally as nourished spiritually as we are when we eat cleanly!

I’m encouraging each of  us to do one (or more!) of the following things this week as we set some time aside for intentional prayer:

  • Apply the principle of organics: cut out the stuff that doesn’t need to be there!  Don’t be so verbose, adding in all kinds of words that don’t add anything to the purity of your prayers.  Keep it simple, sisters, and just say what you need to say as simply as possible. Then quietly sit back, waiting for Him to speak back to your spirit.

 

  • Use the concept of small batch creations and artisan work: be intentional in how you speak your prayers, carefully thinking about them and making little notes for yourself before you dive in.  Use traditional methods passed down to you from previous generations that honor the sacred process of prayer.  Use time-honored prayers you’ve heard in your own faith tradition to enrich your prayer life instead of saying those prayers as rote and perfunctory obligations.  Rewrite them in your own words in order to make them come alive to you again.

 

  • Subscribe to the main idea behind the farm-to-table “theology” and cut out the middle man! You have a direct line to Jesus!  Don’t “worry your prayers” with friends and hope God was listening while you did it; instead, sit down with God one-on-one and offer him your best instead of worn out and tired thoughts and prayers.  (“Go to the throne, not the phone!” 😉 )

 

  • Focus on sustainability in your prayer life. Try different methods until you can settle in on one or two that make it possible for you to be consistent and create quality, positive interaction between you and your Father.  Tend to the “soil” of your prayer life – if you will – which basically means to get your heart in the right condition to not only offer up gratitude and praise, but also to receive nourishing sacraments like forgiveness and loving correction.

Good soil can take years to cultivate, right? And even a novice gardener like me knows that sometimes the fields you use to grow something great need to be rested every now and again to maintain and regain their efficiency.  So be patient with yourself in this process and remain flexible in trying new things along the way, okay?

sunflower-field

The important thing is that you DO commit to trying to create something artisan with your prayers. Why?  Because it will make the difference between a processed, plastic bag of white bread and a hot-outta-the-oven, multi-grain loaf bejeweled with morsels of deliciousness!

Following along with our Wonder-FULL series?  (You can click here for more info!)  We are reading chapters .005 and .006 in the Wonderstruck main book and completing section 4 in the participant guide!  And check out our song of the week:  “In Your Hands” by Unspoken.  This acoustic version makes me SO happy!  Enjoy!

Peace, love and JOY!!!

Wendie

Up Next Week:  The Wonder of Friendship

 

 

The Best Way to End Things

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The ending of something wonderful is never easy, is it?  I mean, when something sweet has run its course, how do you bring closure to it without feeling a wee bit depressed?

Well, you throw a party, of course!

Last week, we wrapped up our Summer 2016 series, easy, with a super fun, progressive Pop-Up style party!  We send out email invites a few days in advance and announced our secret locations!

We started the night at Camey’s house for drinks, appetizers, and lots of catching up and giggles!  (And Camey’s dog, Dodger, stole all our hearts!)

16 Candles Collage 1

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An hour or so later, we meandered through a candlelit path to Alicia’s, to find a spot to sit, relax, eat our picnic dinners, visit the popcorn and candy bar, and watch a silly movie from the 1980’s – “Sixteen Candles”!

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We spent out night enjoying each other’s company, eating delish food, and just plain ole’ took it easy!  My thanks go out to everyone who came and especially to our entire pop-up party team for your generous support of the night!  We had a BALL!

16 Candles Collage 4

And of all the wonderful things about Alicia, I have to say I was super impressed with her ability to pack my car so expertly at the end of the night!  😉

16 Car Packed

I hope you had as much fun walking through this easy summer as we did!  Stay tuned for our announcement next week – RIGHT HERE – for our big unveiling of our Fall 2016 series, “Wonder-FULL”!!!!  It’s going to be GREAT!!!

 

Peace, love and joy!

Wendie

 

 

Five Things You Can Find Today for More JOY!

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“Nature is one of our greatest spiritual teachers.” Oprah Winfrey

Good lord, I LOVE Oprah. She is one wise sister friend!  And that quote right there is one of my favorites because I think she is spot on – all the lessons we need to learn about life can be found by observing the wonders and rhythms of the world around us.

We learn the character of God in these wonders, don’t we? I mean, who else but a loving and creative God could design and make such diversity, resiliency, and beauty and put it on display for all of us to experience?

NTS Week 7

From the gorgeous flowers that bloom each spring, to the powerful weather that races across oceans, we can see and learn the value of appreciating amazing moments AND riding out the storms.

From the wide range of races and languages and dialects across the globe, we can learn that the goodness of God’s love is universal.

From the resiliency of the changing seasons we can experience that, even when things look bleak, a new season of growth is around the corner.

From the gentleness and grace of a sunset, we can plug into a peace that is unlike anything else.

All of these life lessons are ours because we have a Father in Heaven who loves us so much he wanted us to be surrounded by a natural world that would remind us of His goodness and care.

Earth from Space

Take an easy hike outside this week and find things that meet the  criteria listed below!  Take pictures of them (you could even record them if you are more auditory than visual) or simply make of note of them in your notes section on your phone or journal.

  • Something beautiful. (Colorful flowers, a blazing sunrise, a hawk in flight, a moving song, etc.)
  • Something unique. (Individual shells along a beach, your child’s smile, the night sky tonight, a bird chirping, etc.)
  • Something resilient. (Ivy growing on a brick wall, a bird rebuilding a nest, WEEDS in your garden ;), cicadas humming their end-of-summer tune, etc.)
  • Something powerful. (Storm clouds, rushing water, a bonfire, thunder claps, etc.)
  • Something peaceful. (Gentle waves, wispy clouds, leaves rustling in a soft breeze, a prayer whispered in the chapel, etc.)

Thank God for all the amazing “miracles” he created for your enjoyment and for the lessons we can learn by simply taking it all in and experiencing the ebb and flow of the seasons and all the wonder they bring. Regardless of the season, let him remind you that he is always good.

If you are following along with our easy 2016 summer series, we have reached our second to last week! Can you even believe it?!  Only one more week to go!  But never fear as we are already cooking up what’s coming next!  We will announce our fall study in a few weeks.  In the meantime…

Click here for the following easy goodies:

  • Link to this week’s mantra and scripture card!
  • Link to this week’s yummy menu and recipe cards!
  • Link to purchase/find out about our July book, Giddy up, Eunice, by Sophie Hudson!
  • And click this link for another great tune this week by MercyMe, “Flawless” – one of my all-time favorites!!!

Have an easy week, sweet friends! See you next week when we wrap up the easy summer series!

Peace, love, and JOY!

Wendie