Standing (kneeling, bowing, dancing?) before God

I’m linking up with Suzie Eller for #livefreeThursday. The prompt: Worship. I wanted to repost something I wrote for the Internet Café last July. It’s about prayer, but it’s also about worship. Read on… and I’d love to have you share your thoughts on how your experience in prayer and worship has changed, based on ...

Read More

I’m linking up with Suzie Eller for #livefreeThursday. The prompt: Worship. I wanted to repost something I wrote for the Internet Café last July. It’s about prayer, but it’s also about worship. Read on… and I’d love to have you share your thoughts on how your experience in prayer and worship has changed, based on your posture.


I’ve prayed sitting in a pew. Balanced on my knees on a cushioned kneeler. Standing at the altar, hands on another’s shoulder. In a circle at prayer group, joined hand to hand in unity. I’ve pressed my face into my carpet, distraught and wordless, and I’ve stood with both arms raised high above my head with confidence and praise.

It’s all prayer. It’s all good. And however you approach it, I’m not here to tell you you’re doing it wrong.

What I know, though, is that so often we get stuck in a routine. Before long, actions that once help deep meaning no longer carry any weight. Emotion is replaced with familiarity.

Familiarity can be good. It comes with comfort and peace. You don’t want to lose that.

But I’d like to suggest that maybe you should shake things up once in a while.

**

A few months ago, on a Sunday morning, I went to the altar to pray. I’d been closing in with God, doing a lot of writing, thinking of Him as a friend. Sitting beside me. Walking next to me.

But that day, as I knelt in prayer, I realized something. I’ve spent time side-by-side, but not enough time at His feet. It’s a posture of surrender. The physical position is important. Because as I sit at His feet, I remember how big He is. How powerful.

I realize that for generations and generations, kings had to grant special approval to let someone enter the throne room. I’ve done nothing to earn that kind of access. But He allows me to approach Him in His sanctuary, this place of peace, away from the chaos and noise. To rest in the shadows of His glory. To draw near in the shelter of His wings. To not have to do anything. To simply be. To be with Him.

Nothing more is required.

Resting my head and shoulder against the throne, leaning near Him, imagining His hand resting on my head, I feel the weight of His majesty. A fatherly gesture of familiarity and comfort. The bestowal of a blessing.

The sweetest of gifts. The greatest.

**

We can’t control the way God responds to our prayers. But I’ve discovered that I have different types of experiences when I change the posture of my prayer.

Standing with arms open toward the sky makes me feel exultant. I close my eyes and imagine His light shining upon me, His Spirit pouring into me. I’m coming boldly before His throne.

Bowing on my knees makes me feel like I’m coming to Him in humility and supplication, remembering who He is and offering Him respect. Asking Him, humbly and reverently, for help.

Standing, arms open, palms up, I’m talking to Him as a friend. He reaches out His hands to grasp mine, and we stand face to face.

Face down on the floor, awash in emotions, I am physically responding to the almighty power and greatness, the majesty of my God. I am bowing as low as I can in order to lift Him up.

Lying in bed at night, whispering to Him, unloading the burdens I’ve carried all day, I feel an intimacy and can imagine His arms holding me tight as He rocks me to sleep.

**

If the only way I’ve experienced God is in the silence, the quiet moments might not seem so sweet. If I’ve only ever danced and shouted, I’ve missed the opportunity to hear His still, small voice. If I always humble myself, I may forget that He wants to come face to face with me and build relationship. And if I simply walk through life with Him beside me, I may lose sight of how powerful and magnificent He is. I may forget that He. Is. God. We’re not equals; He is so much more.

And the more ways I approach Him, the more I experience of Him.

What are you doing today? Whether you meet me at the foot of the Almighty God, or we link arms and dance for joy, or we sit down together and talk over coffee, know this: There’s plenty of room for all of us. And He will meet us there.

 

He whispers

My friend Cindy and I stepped inside the empty chapel, lowering our voices as we did so. A wooden structure with lots of windows, this humble building perched on the lake. The empty room was decorated with hardwood floors and a view of trees and water. The only furniture: three benches, a chair and a ...

Read More

My friend Cindy and I stepped inside the empty chapel, lowering our voices as we did so. A wooden structure with lots of windows, this humble building perched on the lake. The empty room was decorated with hardwood floors and a view of trees and water. The only furniture: three benches, a chair and a desk. And on the desk, two leather journals.

I opened one, and tears blurred my vision. People who came here before me wrote their prayers on these pages. There was both childish handwriting and mature penmanship. Neat and sloppy. Short and long. Careful and scrawled.

But all were heartfelt.

Some penned cries to God to please hear them. One woman promised to forgive her husband. Others begged God to make Himself known. Some entries were signed “your prodigal son.” People talked of suicide, of loss, of loneliness. One teen wrote, “I’ve put off the old, but when will the new come?”

Desperation and gratitude filled the pages. A depth of feeling I could barely process, except by releasing a steady stream of tears.

I was standing on holy ground. This was a place where people met God.

And our God is a God who can handle all of these needs. Who loves each of those people and hears their cries.

Sanctified, holy ground.

Overwhelmed with His presence.

Bowed under the weight of God’s holiness.

I’ve never seen anything more beautiful. I flipped through the pages. Cindy and I read sentences out loud to each other, and smiled, and cried, and laughed, and prayed.

What a God, to inspire such devotion.

To motivate such surrender.

To cherish the depths of such raw emotion.

To answer the needs of people who are tired of hiding, who are desperate for answers, who will risk everything to hear from their God.

That moment is seared into my brain—really, into my heart.

Bet you wish you could go there. Here’s the truth: you can. Anywhere you are, when you drop the barriers and just get real with God—when you stop pretending you’re okay, when you face how badly you need help—that is holy ground.

Those are prayers that move God’s heart.

Those are words that He hears. Needs that He responds to.

Sometimes God has to shout to get our attention.

But other times—in these quiet moments, in these holy, sanctified times—God whispers.

He whispers just to you. Words for your ears only. Salve designed to heal your particular heart.

He whispers life, and hope, and light.

He whispers, “Thank you, my child, for coming home.”


51svFT1o0FL._SX321_BO1204203200_Today I’m linking up with Suzie Eller for her #livefreeThursday writing prompt. Click here to read other people’s responses to “He whispers.” Click here to get her wonderful new book, Come With Me.

In the boat with Jesus—and a giveaway!

Ever since I started genuinely following Jesus, I’ve felt an almost desperate longing for more of Him. For revelations that can only come from God. For a deeply passionate and intimate faith. But I can only go so far in that direction before I falter. My heart longs for more of God, it really does. ...

Read More

Ever since I started genuinely following Jesus, I’ve felt an almost desperate longing for more of Him. For revelations that can only come from God. For a deeply passionate and intimate faith.

But I can only go so far in that direction before I falter.

My heart longs for more of God, it really does. Even in my lesser moments. But, inevitably there comes a time when it gets hard to keep living out my faith. Really hard. (Or I get bored. Or busy. Or discouraged. Or I feel like He’s not listening—or maybe that I have nothing to say.)

At those times, I’m not sure I have what it takes to stick with it. There’s a verse in James chapter 4 that says, “You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” In context, it’s talking about not knowing what will happen tomorrow, about the insignificance of our lifetimes in the span of eternity.

But every time I read it, I’m haunted by the certainty that it’s Jesus speaking to me.

I am like a mist… I’m here now, but before long—tomorrow? next week? an hour from now?—I’ll vanish. I’m a vapor. Not solid. Impermanent. Uncertain. Fickle. Not dedicated enough. Weak and weary. All too aware of my lack of discipline, my inability to stay focused on one thing for the long term. I know that I can do all things through Christ. I know that He has called me, and that when I let myself abide in that holy place with Him, my abilities (or lack thereof) fall away and His take over.

And yet, some days the responsibility that comes from wholly committing to this life weighs heavy on me. The knowledge of my weaknesses immobilizes me.

51svFT1o0FL._SX321_BO1204203200_I recently read an Advance Copy of Suzie Eller’s new book, Come with Me: Discovering the Beauty of Following Where He Leads. There are so many things I would like to share with you, but I’ll stick to the one that truly stopped me in my tracks.

Remember in Matthew 4 and Mark 1 when Jesus asked Simon Peter and his brother to leave their nets behind and follow Him? They did.

And yet, we see in Luke chapter 5 that Jesus sees two boats, left there by fisherman who were washing their nets at the end of a discouraging night. He gets in the boat belonging to Simon and asks him to put out from the shore.

Here’s what I never noticed: At some point, Simon went back to fishing.

He was weary and wasn’t catching anything. Jesus had him try one more time, and this time the results were spectacular—but what came before that is the bigger point: Jesus waited in the boat for Simon to come to him. No shame, no beating him up for disappearing again. Jesus knew just where Simon Peter would be, so He went to him.

And Jesus knew just where He would find me—returning again and again to my old ways. He knew that, just as Simon was having no luck at all, catching no fish, feeling tired and discouraged, so was I. When I hurt my arm, I got weeks of much-needed time off work. A dear friend commented one day that I was given this gift of time, so why would I fill it up with the same ol’, same ol’? Why not do things differently this time?

Indeed. Because clearly my old way of doing things wasn’t working so well. No fish in my nets—no margins. I didn’t have time for the people who matter the most. I didn’t have the energy to reach out and do things for people, to be God’s hands extended. I didn’t have the kind of prayer life I want to have.

So I’ve pondered and prayed. I’ve let my crowded mind slow to a leisurely pace, accepting the fact that I need help and cannot do it all myself. I’m evaluating the way I work, the tasks that fill my days, and who I think God made me to be.

And what I’ve discovered during these weeks of figuring out who I am when I’m not being defined by my work is that I’m not doing it alone. All along, Jesus has been sitting in my boat.

I don’t want to meet Him and follow Him temporarily. I don’t want it to be a phase I move in and out of. I want to commit. To follow Him—truly follow Him—without limits.

12998589_10209527014311098_646484234081389908_n

Jesus is waiting in my boat for me to push out from the shore of who I’ve been and row towards who He wants me to be. I’m not having to do it alone. I’m moving forward with the One who knows where we’re going. The One who knows what I need to do. The One who sees me, understands me, and inspires me.

But the biggest miracle, as Suzie Eller pointed out at a retreat I attended, is this: when I cast out into deeper waters, even if I never have any fish—the miracle is that I am experiencing a deeper walk with God. As she wrote, “Where we go is not nearly as important as who we go with.”

So I am going, with no hesitation whatsoever. Facing forward eagerly and happily. No looking back. Because as long as I’m in the boat with Jesus, there’s no place I’d rather be.

__

I’m giving away a copy of Come with Me. To enter, leave a comment below before midnight on May 2, and share where you think God is leading you. Or what He’s asking you to say yes to. If you don’t win, you can order the book here or from your favorite retailer. It releases on May 3. #livefree #comewithme

Finding Peace & Purpose in a World of Crazy

The irony is not lost on me. I have post-it notes all around my computer monitor, lists of deadlines and checklists to keep me on task. I eat at my desk. I stay in my office until late at night, trying to squeeze in one more project, one more email, one more blog post, one ...

Read More

The irony is not lost on me.

I have post-it notes all around my computer monitor, lists of deadlines and checklists to keep me on task. I eat at my desk. I stay in my office until late at night, trying to squeeze in one more project, one more email, one more blog post, one more cog in my social media platform. Then I get an email asking for help—can I read this book and post a review THIS WEEK in exchange for some free books? Of course, I say. Because, if you know me at all, you know I always think I can do one more thing. On Monday, I was a superhero designer, accomplishing massive, voluminous feats without breaking a sweat.

Tuesday was a whole other thing. A crappy day. Dreary, dark, blustery weather to match my mood. Work was making me crazy. Such a huge list of deadlines and not enough information. I sat at my desk and cried, but only for a sec, because who has time for this? I had piles of things to put away, galleys of my own second book to proof and return, and a son to pick up from school. I sent emails, checked the proofs, ran to the store, answered the phone, begged my husband to drive through someplace and bring back dinner because I had so much to do. Finished proofing while watching Downton Abbey. Power-watched two episodes of a brainless Netflix series (to escape reality and relax), and then I realized it was only 10:15. I could squeeze in a few chapters of my new book (the one whose review is due in three days) before bed.

I’ll be honest. I planned to skim it and get the review done quickly. But I immediately discovered that would not be possible. I underlined something on nearly every page. Marked almost every word on others. Drew clouds and thunderbolts and stars and boxes around things.

Breaking Busy Book. Alli Worthington. If it doesn't add to your life, it doesn't belong in your lifeAnd all the while, everything that I’ve been so frantically juggling decided to crash down around me.

I already knew my life was out of control, unbalanced. I knew I wasn’t handling things well. I’ve felt God nudging me, whispering to me, suggesting changes. But this wasn’t a still, small voice anymore. God was shouting. Not in anger, but it had to be loud to make me sit up and take notice. It had to be strong to get me to respond.

Earlier that same day, God spoke into my soul—hours and hours before I opened the pages of this little turquoise book—and said I need to make changes. I need to trust Him. I need to stick up for myself. Live the way I know I need to. Quit setting myself up for spiritual failure—spiritual, emotional, physical overload.

It needs to stop.

But it’s never quite as easy as that, is it? Because I feel like I have some kind of responsibility to do more, to do everything I’m capable of doing. Because I evaluate myself with such twisted measures of success. Because I need to earn money. That’s often what it comes down to for me. Quality of life I want schedule-wise, or quality of living money-wise?

Breaking Busy spells out the havoc of a life lived the way I have been living mine. It shows why we can’t and shouldn’t try to define ourselves by how busy we are. It spells out the dangers. Asks the right questions. Discusses warning signs and danger zones. And kindly, gently, with a good sense of humor, the author prodded me until I could see—no, admit—the problems I’ve avoided.

unspecifiedYou probably wish I’d talk more about the book and less about myself. But like all the best books, Breaking Busy spoke to me deeply. Books like this spark inner debate, stir up passions, and inspire—to such an extent that the change seems disproportionate to the actual words that started the spark and in a way that makes it impossible to separate the resultant change in me from the content of the book itself. But after sleeping on it, and getting up and reading more, I’ve prayed and prayed, talked to friends, and already taken some steps towards the changes God is showing me. I don’t know what it will all look like in the end because I’m still processing, still trying to ask for and hear what God is telling me. All I can say for sure is that this book has changed me, and I absolutely believe I will come out better in the long run, even if the process is hard.

If you don’t live the kind of crazy, always-striving life I do—if you do things like find quiet time for yourself, take the occasional nap, and let yourself fully engage with your family whenever you can—then this book probably won’t speak to you like it did to me. But it might, because it’s full of wisdom—new insights from scripture and old stories told in new ways. If you feel like there’s always more you should do, then grab some kleenex and a journal and sit down and know it won’t be a quick, easy read. It might, however, be just what you needed to hear. It will definitely be worth it to contain the “busy” and find the calm that comes when we live as the people God made us to be. No more, no less. But just exactly right.


Just say no to unnecessary crazy. BreakingBusy.com #BreakingBusy


I received a copy of this book plus a book bundle from Zondervan in exchange for my honest review of Breaking Busy.

Branch Out—what to read in February

Earlier this week, I wrote about the book I read for January (Jen Hatmaker’s For the Love). Today’s post is relatively short: I’ll tell you my pick for February and offer some ideas to help you pick what you’d like to read. I really hope you’ll consider reading some books with me this year and ...

Read More

Earlier this week, I wrote about the book I read for January (Jen Hatmaker’s For the Love). Today’s post is relatively short: I’ll tell you my pick for February and offer some ideas to help you pick what you’d like to read. I really hope you’ll consider reading some books with me this year and telling me what they’re about. It doesn’t truly substitute for first-hand experience of reading it myself, but it sure saves me a lot of time. And as a bonus, it will help me clear out those “to be read” piles of books I have all over my house.

And (after all, this isn’t supposed to be all about me) you might learn something new in the process. See? Win-win.

Screen Shot 2016-01-22 at 3.06.35 PMOK, so “a classic Christian voice.” The first name that comes to mind for me is C.S. Lewis, and I have a book of his on my shelf already that I haven’t read, so it’s my pick for this month. A Grief Observed is a book I’ve had recommended to me many times, but I felt too tender to read it. So we’ll see how I do now. (Every time I think I’m “done” with my grief over losing Mom, it hits me fresh. It doesn’t matter that she’s been gone for more than four years. And you don’t have to tell me—I already know—that I’ll never be “done” missing her.)

Some other ideas to consider (and be warned, I’ve only read a couple of these so I can’t guarantee you’ll like them, but pick whatever intrigues you. Even if you don’t read it all, you’ll have a better idea of what it is):

The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom with Elizabeth & John Sherrill
The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer
Mere Christianity or The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis
The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence
The Seven Storey Mountain by Thomas Merton
Something by Oswald Chambers 
Dark Night of the Soul by Saint John of the Cross
Orthodoxy by G. K. Chesterton
The Cost of Discipleship by Frederick Bonhoeffer
The Imitation of Christ by Thomas á Kempis
The Helper (or any others) by Catherine Marshall
No Greater Love by Mother Teresa

And a few other names to think about:

Peter Marshall
John Calvin
John Milton
John Wesley
Dwight Moody
Martin Luther

If you’re planning to participate, please comment below with the name of the book you plan to read. And at the end of the month, when I tell you about the book I read, you can share your insights in the comments below that post. Thanks!

Branch Out with Me — 2016 Reading Challenge

It’s a new year, and I love reading challenges. Or, at least, I like the idea of them. Not sure I’ve ever completely followed through. But I’m willing to try, and hope you are, too. Things are always better when you do them together. Quite a few of you responded to my blog survey. (Thank you.) ...

Read More

It’s a new year, and I love reading challenges. Or, at least, I like the idea of them. Not sure I’ve ever completely followed through. But I’m willing to try, and hope you are, too. Things are always better when you do them together.

Quite a few of you responded to my blog survey. (Thank you.) What I learned is what I already suspected: You don’t have a lot of time—and you are tired of the conventional. You like to face doubt, explore, and find new, practical ways to live your faith.

Clearly, so do I. And what I have learned is that it is always good for me spiritually when I am challenged. When I face new thought and ideas (even if I don’t agree with them), I grow because it forces me to figure out what I believe. To read, to study, to research.

Don’t worry, though. You’re not required to do anything extra. But what I hope you will do is let this be your excuse to try something new. To hear other voices, ones you might not have encountered on your own. To keep an open mind in the hopes that it will enrich your spiritual life. That it will deepen your faith. That you will have a newfound respect for other people’s opinions, and that you will realize that different views don’t have to be threatening.

First rule: no pressure. I want this to be helpful, not another obligation you feel you have to endure. So here’s the deal: If you hate it, you don’t have to finish it. If you love it, you can take your time with it—read it all year long if you wish, and skip the rest. If you want to check off the challenge but don’t have a lot of time, skim your books. Read the first chapter, flip through the book, and read the last chapter. Maybe you’ll want to go back and read it all, maybe you won’t, but you’ll at least have some awareness of the approach, writer, or concept presented. Or read some reviews online. Or check out the author’s website or blog. Or take a break and join us again the following month.

Each month I’ll provide a list to help give you some ideas—but they’re just ideas. Insert your own. Let this be a reason to explore, to strengthen your beliefs, to start new discussions. To see what God will reveal, to be open to hearing from Him in a new way, to expect surprises and insights and revelation.

So won’t you join me? Please? When you do (even if it’s only periodically), I hope you’ll share your book selections in the comments. Each month, I will write something about the books I read. And if you have any “nuggets” from your book—a single quote that you’ll remember, your overall impression, or whatever—it would make me so happy to have you share those with me.

So how about it? Ready to branch out a little? I know I am.

If you’re planning to participate, please comment below with the name of the book you plan to read. And at the end of the month, when I tell you about the book I read, you can share your insights in the comments below that post. Thanks!


My pick for January: For the Love by Jen Hatmaker. Why? Because I love her but I haven’t read any of her actual books yet (only her blog and social media posts). And because my book club is reading it anyway. (That’s not cheating—it’s simplifying to give me a better chance of success :-).) I also chose this because she’s part of the team of women who are speaking on the new Women of Faith Belong Tour—which, I’d like to add, is the organization for which I wrote my next book, Designed to Pray (coming out in August for their first event).

Some other ideas to consider (note: I’ve only read a couple of these so I have no idea what they’re like… all I know is they look interesting):

Simply Tuesday: Small-Moment Living in a Fast-Moving World by Emily Freeman
Color the Psalms: An Adult Coloring Book for Your Soul (Color the Bible)
I Was Blind (Dating), But Now I See
by Stephanie Rische
Out of Sorts: Making Peace with an Evolving Faith by Sarah Bessey
Accidental Saints: Finding God in All the Wrong People by Nadia Bolz-Weber
Jesus Feminist: An Invitation to Revisit the Bible’s View of Women by Sarah Bessey
Bandersnatch: An Invitation to Explore Your Unconventional Soul by Erika Morrison
The SuperMom Myth by Becky Kopitzke
The Bible Tells Me So: Why Defending Scripture Has Made Us Unable to Read It by Peter Enns
Girl Meets Change: Truths to Carry You through Life’s Transitions by Kristen Strong
Longing for Paris: One Woman’s Search for Joy, Beauty and Adventure—Right Where She Is by Sarah Mae
Savor: Living Abundantly Where You Are, As You Are by Shauna Niequist
Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church
by Rachel Held Evans
Living Well, Spending Less: 12 Secrets of the Good Life by Ruth Soukup
Wild in the Hollow: On Chasing Desire and Finding the Broken Way
by Amber C. Haines
Untangled: Let God Loosen the Knots of Insecurity in Your Life by Carey Scott

The answer to your Christmas gift needs

The short answer: books. The longer one: My inbox keeps filling with more posts about Christmas gift ideas—last-minute ones, inexpensive ones, things to make, and so forth. So I figure why not add to the clutter with my own thoughts? Really, though, here’s the truth: I love to give books. And most people I know ...

Read More

The short answer: books.

The longer one: My inbox keeps filling with more posts about Christmas gift ideas—last-minute ones, inexpensive ones, things to make, and so forth. So I figure why not add to the clutter with my own thoughts? Really, though, here’s the truth: I love to give books. And most people I know love to receive them (or at least they do a good job pretending). And what I love even more is pointing people to new authors, particularly when they’re friends of mine. So here’s a list of some of my favorites. It’s not too late to order them on Amazon or Barnes and Noble (or at your favorite independent bookseller). I’ve taken the liberty of stereotyping personalities and genders for this list, but most of these overlap and would be great for, well, everyone.

For the men in your life who love cars:

The Detroit Electric Scheme (and Detroit Breakdown and Detroit Shuffle) by D.E. Johnson — great mystery series set in (you guessed it) Detroit in the early 1900s, based around the story of early electric automobiles. You don’t have to love cars to enjoy this mystery. I couldn’t put them down!

Truck: A Love Story by Michael Perry. My friend Scott, who never read a single book (besides the Bible) after he got out of school, loved this. So much. (I did, too.) A fun, quirky memoir about rebuilding a 1951 International Harvester pickup truck… and so much more than that. Confession: I’ve met this author but he has no idea who I am. I still love him.

For teens or tweens:

It’s a Wonderful Death by Sarah Schmitt — YA novel with a wonderfully snarky protagonist and a fun cast of characters…and a moving and heartfelt message underneath it all.

The Hunter Awakens and The Spirit of Steel by J.R. Roper — adventure for the middle-grade reader, especially boys. Ethan, the main character, is on a dangerous adventure, and he’s just the kind of kid you’d want your children to hang out with.

For people of faith:

When We Were on Fire by Addie Zierman — truly one of my most favorite memoirs. Addie’s story is about carrying the baggage of growing up in the Christian subculture of the 1990s, and her search to find faith again on her own terms.

Found by Micha Boyett — a memoir about losing prayer and her Spirit-life, and then finding it again. Beautifully written and eminently relatable.

Praying Upside Down (sorry, I know it’s obnoxious, but I have to at least mention it) — part memoir, part practical advice, and not (I hope) ultra-gooey-religious. For men and women.

For women:

The SuperMom Myth by Becky Kopitzke — fun and practical, this book talks about letting go of preconceived ideas of perfection and embracing the role of mother without guilt or fear. She somehow manages to do this without preaching at all. It’s so good. Probably ideal for those with younger kids, but even for me (whose kids range from 15 to 22), I learned plenty and found it relevant.

Untangled by Carey Scott — such a good book about how we all feel as though we don’t measure up. Great advice about how to untangle your self-esteem from the world and find it in God.

For women who love mysteries:

The Manor House Mystery Series or The White House Chef Series by Julie Hyzy — cozy mysteries that are well-written and entertaining, with protagonists who are eminently likable (as is the author).

Soul’s Prisoner by Cara Luecht (or any of her books, because they’re all good) — a woman in Chicago in the late 1800s discovers something she shouldn’t. A great, suspenseful historical fiction book.

For women who love good stories:

The Coincidence of Coconut Cake by Amy Reichert — food-centered story (so, really, how can you go wrong?) about love and misunderstandings and Milwaukee. I loved it. (Pair it with a whisk or spatula or bag of coconut to make a themed gift.)

Anything by Elizabeth Berg — my favorite is Talk Before Sleep, but be warned: it’s sad and probably not the right book for someone dealing closely with cancer. The Pull of the Moon is another favorite, about a woman having a menopausal crisis. And Durable Goods, a story about an adolescent girl in the 50s, is lovely.

For anyone (thinkers, activists, or anyone else):

Where Am I Eating? and Where Am I Wearing? by Kelsey Timmerman — a journalist travels the world to trace the origins of his food and his clothes. Fascinating glimpse into the lives of those who make or grow things we take for granted. Kelsey is a great storyteller and the books opened my eyes to so many things without making me feel guilty for my ignorance. (Add a bar of chocolate or pound of coffee to Eating or a pair of boxers to Wearing to make it a fun, themed gift.)

 

For the writer:

Escaping into the Open: The Art of Writing True by Elizabeth Berg — so good. That’s really all I can say.

And although I don’t know him personally :-), I ADORE Stephen King’s On Writing. And I can’t call her a friend, but I did get to meet her once, so I’ll also include Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott. Another must-have book for the writer.

**

As I’m writing this, I’m realizing that the real gift I’ve been given is the gift of some amazing friends. So thankful. And honored to be able to share them with you.

Calling all SuperMoms. Especially those who aren’t [giveaway]

Today is the release day for my friend Becky Kopitzke‘s book, The Super Mom Myth: Conquering the Dirty Villains of Motherhood. I got to read it early, and I loved it. Even though I’m kind of tired of everything related to being a mom. Don’t get me wrong. I love my kids. And you never ...

Read More

Today is the release day for my friend Becky Kopitzke‘s book, The Super Mom Myth: Conquering the Dirty Villains of Motherhood.

I got to read it early, and I loved it. Even though I’m kind of tired of everything related to being a mom. Don’t get me wrong. I love my kids. And you never stop being a mom. But I am past the “kid” stage so I wasn’t sure how I would relate, even though I knew I would love what Becky had to say, because she’s awesome like that.

But I loved it. Here is my official review:

As a mother of three, I am sick of all the messes, whining and complaining (mine, not my kids’). I try not to worry about all the ways that I have failed in this holy role God granted me. But in The SuperMom Myth, Becky Kopitzke pairs her stories with God’s words and wisdom to soothe, convict, and repair my tired, tattered soul. She somehow climbed into my head and heard my excuses, justification, insecurity, and guilt—and helped me leave them behind. She is real and relatable, and did I mention funny? Her gentle answers reveal Biblical truths and fresh insights that every mom needs to hear. She points us all to the only Superhero who is infallible, reminding us that, by ourselves, cape or not, we can’t save the day. I’ll gladly serve as faithful sidekick to the One who can.

If you still have children at home, you should read this. If you know someone who has children at home, you might consider this as a Christmas gift. It’s a fun read—the material has depth, but you never feel like you’re having to slog through. It’s in bite-sized pieces. And it’s real and loaded with wisdom and truth. It’s the book I wish I’d had when my kids were younger and I was struggling with learning how to juggle the craziness that is life. You can order it at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, or wherever books are sold.

I like this book so much that I’ll tell you what: Leave a comment below before Saturday, December 5 and you will be entered into a drawing for a free copy. My treat :-).

Gods-love-green-500

Holy-job-orange-500

What you missed (Allume 2015)

Allume is a Christian women’s writing and blogging conference that was held in Greenville, SC. I posted about my insecurities earlier this week, but like I said, that has more to do with my messed-up brain than with the actual other attendees. In addition to gaining several new friends, there were plenty of good things. ...

Read More

Allume is a Christian women’s writing and blogging conference that was held in Greenville, SC. I posted about my insecurities earlier this week, but like I said, that has more to do with my messed-up brain than with the actual other attendees. In addition to gaining several new friends, there were plenty of good things. Here are a few highlights.

The aforementioned friends. The swag bags—and oh my goodness were there lots of free books! A little bit of heaven. Seeing my book displayed alongside some truly amazing authors, and getting to meet a bunch of others. Late-night talks, and time spent with my agent. Dinner with some people from Tyndale.

allume collage 2A few random (but profound) tidbits from some of the people I heard speak (top left to bottom right):

Logan Wolfram, director of Allume—”Peace only comes through the whole body… Their differences paved the way for them to undertake their ministry together… We all end up at the foot of the same Jesus… Be curious about what makes you different, but more curious about what makes you the same.” Excited to join the street team for her upcoming book, Curious Faith.

Austin Channing Brown—”Doing nothing is no longer an option… Committing yourself to constantly entering the brokenness… Whites have been elevated beyond where they should be, and blacks pushed lower. Both are false identities and have interfered with the way we see God… Incredibly important to the work of justice is to follow the more marginalized… Reconciliation cannot be done alone. It must be done in community.” Her words really stirred up something inside me, showing me why I must care about racial issues.

The Museum of the Bible—being built in D.C. to open in fall 2017. An immense undertaking—and an exciting one, because they want to show people the history of the Bible. And it sounds amazing. I’ll be posting more about it later, but you can go to their site right now.

Tim Willard—spoke on the language of beauty with language and ideas too beautiful for me to replicate. A couple phrases from my notes: “What God creates communicates joy because there is an echo within us. He is echoing in you because he is alive in what you see… What connects with people in writing is that which comes from joy or tears… Beauty demands something of me because I have to first pause to see it… The embodiment of beauty in your writing is what actually makes it so.” I bought his devotional, Longing for More, and the intro alone brought me to tears. Something so beautiful and profound in his words.

Chrystal Evans Hurst—Author of Kingdom Woman with her dad, Tony Evans—and what an amazing speaker. “We serve a God who loves to interrupt us. Every interruption serves to introduce us to Him in a new way… Rest is worship. It’s trusting God. Believing He’s got this. Stop, beloved.”

Gwen Smith (not pictured)—you should listen to this beautiful song. Right now. And then listen to all her other ones.

Wendy Speake—such an inspiring session. “Your heart message usually comes out of your story. Not the first one, but the second story (the ‘I once was lost but now am found’ story). We’re just a reflection of that message. And until we understand our own stories, we can’t tell those of others.”

Esther Burroughs—reminded us of the power of the Holy Spirit. “The Holy Spirit whispers and He nudges—and if we don’t hear Him, we’re not still enough… When the Holy Spirit works, He always points to Jesus, not to you or to your book or your blog… A woman of God who trusts the Holy Spirit has to live this way: instant confession and instant obedience.”

Lots to chew on. Lots of thoughts whirring through my brain. So many people with so much to say… and a whole bunch of books to read, as well. Looks like my mind is going to be busy this fall and winter!

A letter to the women at Allume

Haughty eyes, a proud heart,
 and evil actions are all sin. Proverbs 21:4 Can you forgive me? I don’t like to admit this, but the reality is that I judged you. I looked at your skinny legs in your skinny jeans, at your fashionable tall boots, at the stacks of bracelets wrapping your slender wrists, ...

Read More

Haughty eyes, a proud heart,
 and evil actions are all sin.
Proverbs 21:4

Can you forgive me?

I don’t like to admit this, but the reality is that I judged you. I looked at your skinny legs in your skinny jeans, at your fashionable tall boots, at the stacks of bracelets wrapping your slender wrists, at your taut, luminescent skin. I listened to your gracious southern drawls talking about intentionality and living life in grace and nurturing your precious babies and the holy calling of being a mama. I looked at your popularity—how many people you know, how many followers you have, which publishers you are with, what you have accomplished. You sang popular worship music and knew all the words and I made assumptions about your churches and faith.

In short, I walked in with a judgmental, divisive spirit. You came in to the conference as empty vessels, preparing to be filled up. I lugged in bushel baskets of ugly. I looked through lenses of envy and jealousy. I let my longing to be better ignite my insecurities about my weight and age and the church background I come from. I assumed you weren’t interested in anything I might have to offer, so I held tightly to myself.

I pride myself on my ability to look for similarities, to focus on what people have in common rather than dwelling on the differences. So I’m feeling especially appalled and ashamed that I fell so far and so quickly.

True, I may be in my late 40s and you might be 23. I may have a muffin top and no excuses while you wear a FitBit and manage to work out even with a little one (or two or three or four). You may be especially stylish and I may feel frumpy. But since when has surface stuff mattered to me? And why did I let it consume me?

Maybe it’s this: I sense that you are genuinely that selfless and gentle and kind, and I’m just not as nice as you are. And I don’t like it when I become—what was it Logan said?—Judgy McJudgyPants? And the more I didn’t like me, the more inferior I felt next to you.

But when I took the time to fight through my feelings, when I turned again towards God and away from the master liar, I rediscovered the beautiful truth: We’re not that different. We both love God—love Him so much that He has become our source. We’re not in competition. We’re on the same team, and we’re representing the same Kingdom. We’re inspired by the same Source, and even so, we’re not meant to be exactly the same.

What you’ve found with God does not in any way diminish what I have found or what remains available to me.

You will have stories I won’t, and you will use them to reach people I can’t. That’s good. It’s how it’s supposed to be. Forgive me for succumbing to the falsehood that there are not enough pieces of pie for each of us. Please grant me forgiveness for my ugly—and unfair and unfounded—thoughts.

We all know the story of the woman at the well. She went in the middle of the day, alone, because she was an outcast. But Jesus met her there. He saw through her charade and spoke truth to the innermost part of her heart, and she discovered something in the water He offered that she had never found anywhere else.

When I picture the women who taught us, I can’t shake this image: Women who draw their strength from the well of life, which is the Word of God. The idea that won’t leave me is that of each of you casting your bucket into the well with abandon—and withdrawing life-sustaining power. You don’t drink of the leftovers or rely on others to bring it for you. You lower your buckets and when you draw them back to you, they’re overflowing with living water, and you bathe in the overflow. Even more impressive, you go back again and again. And again. Because you can’t get enough. You’re not content to merely survive. You long to grow, to thrive. To live.

I spent so much time dwelling on this idea that I missed something. Apparently, I am the woman who walked alone to the well, certain that I would be judged, and I almost missed taking a drink because I made such an idol of who I thought you would think I was.

But you? You welcomed me with kindness. Your face shone with the reflected glory of God as you shared your stories. I spent a lot of time feeling like an outsider, but that’s not your fault. I could have gone to the well early in the morning, like the other women of the village. But I chose not to.

The beauty of it all, though, is that Jesus still met me. He still waited and He still had something to offer.

Because He always does. He whispers the truth of who He is, and who we are when we belong to Him. He reminds us that this life has nothing to do with other people and everything to do with Him. Period. I need to look upward, not sideways. I need to ask Him to change me, to help me learn to be content, to instill in me such a confidence in His love for me that I no longer measure myself against others. He sees me—with all the ugly on the inside—but He doesn’t run away. He pulls me closer and tells me the truth about myself. And reminds me what I already knew: I am forgiven.

So now I need to forgive myself. I hope you will forgive me, too.

I went into Allume focused on promotion and meeting people who could help me further my career. And boy did I miss the boat. Because this conference wasn’t about success, or even really about publishing. It was about nourishing the souls of women who write about God, about feeding the desire we each have to connect more deeply with Him through knowing others.

And it was a learning opportunity. A place where God could show me my weaknesses in His ongoing efforts to prune me, to refine me, to redeem me and mold me into His image. I have a long way to go. But you know what? I’m feeling a surge of gratitude in my heart that I have the opportunity to walk alongside you on this path.

I’m finally feeling what I should have felt from the start.

I’m thanking God for the beautiful women He allowed me to connect with—in spite of my insecurities and inner turmoil. And I’m asking God to nurture you, to open doors and allow you prominent platforms from which to tell your God-stories. I’m praying for your success in publishing, and I’m trusting that God will reveal new things to you along the way. I’m in awe of your authentic relationships with Him and I’m inspired to renew mine. I’m pledging my help to you, in whatever ways I can, from a genuine desire to see you go forward, to see you change lives.

It’s how I’m turning my prayers upside down today. With each pang of insecurity I feel, I’ll pray for all of you. And I believe that in the process, God will transform me. Because He’s good like that. Oh so good. And I’m so grateful.

This website and its content are copyright of Kelly O'Dell Stanley  | © Kelly O'Dell Stanley 2017. All rights reserved.

Site design by 801red

Error: Please enter a valid email address

Error: Invalid email

Error: Please enter your first name

Error: Please enter your last name

Error: Please enter a username

Error: Please enter a password

Error: Please confirm your password

Error: Password and password confirmation do not match