Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Living Small

It is so easy to get caught up in the busyness of life, the long to-do lists, the pressure to achieve and accomplish. There is so much emphasis on producing, doing better, gaining more followers, making a bigger impact. An emphasis on big and important, rather than on small and ordinary

And it is a breath of fresh air to be reading an amazing book that so beautifully talks about just the opposite of what we are so often pressured into thinking. I am in the midst of reading a brand new book by a very gifted author, Emily Freeman ...  Simply Tuesday: Small-Moment Living in a Fast-Moving World.

embrace small-moment living

I am always reminding myself to embrace the small, to live in the present ... for there is such a pressure to do the opposite. And when we look at Jesus' life, we see the perfect example of small-moment living. We do not see Him hurrying through His short time here on this earth. We see Him walking purposefully and in close connection with His Father, giving His full attention to His present surroundings, to the people who were with Him in the moment. And I long to follow in His example, embracing the everyday; listening, and giving full attention to the small and the ordinary parts of our days.

"The metaphors Jesus used for the life of ministry
are frequently images of 
the single, the small, and the quiet,
which have effects far in excess
of their appearances: salt, leaven, seed.
Our culture publicizes the opposite emphasis:
the big, the multitudinous, the noisy."
(Eugene Peterson, as quoted in Simply Tuesday)

"It is ingrained in us that we have to 
do exceptional things for God -
but we do not.
We have to be exceptional 
in the ordinary things of life,
and holy on the ordinary streets,
among ordinary people ..."
(Oswald Chambers, as quoted in Simply Tuesday)

Jesus did not need to be known, applauded, or even recognized for who He was - He simply was living His life one day at a time. Keeping His eyes on the Father, living as His Father would have Him live. He actually lived "small", seeking no worldly acclaim. 

What if we chose to do the same? Here are a few of my favorite quotes from Emily Freeman in the first three chapters of her book (which is the point I am at now in reading her book) ... encouraging us to embrace the "small", following the example of Jesus.

"Instead of forgetting or running from my own smallness, what if I chose instead to look it in the face, to settle down into the place where I am, to notice what is happening around me on my ordinary days? What if these small moments are the very portal into experiencing the kingdom of God?"

"What gives moments meaning is not the moments themselves but the presence of Christ with us in the midst of them. To learn to live well in ordinary time is to keep company with Christ on our simple Tuesdays and remember how He delights in keeping company with us. To live well in ordinary time is to believe within the deepest part of who I am that wherever I go, I don't go alone."

* * * * * * *

Loving Lord, please help me to slow my racing heart, to embrace the small, to be fully present each day, each moment. To listen and love well, to invite You into all my ordinary moments, living in close connection with You. Following You, in each present moment, one step at a time ... 

If you would like to follow along with an online book club, gaining additional insight from the author and with others who are reading her book, as well ... click here to read about the details. This five-week online study begins today!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Welcome October

A brand new month,
filled with fresh, new opportunities ...
colorful, beautiful, vibrant October.

May we live with
our hearts and our minds
wide open to You.

May we embrace the beauty
of the changing colors,
inhale the scents of the season,
warm to the glow of candles.

May we put listening
above speaking,
loving above neglecting,
our families and friends
above our tasks.

May we count the ways
that we are loved by You, 
each and every day.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

September in Review

Taking time to remember what took place on my blog this past month; also, a reflection of what has been on my heart this month. I love September! It's the month that opens the door to fall, one of my favorite seasons ... and also, the month of my birthday. 

Click on the caption below each photo to read the posts that I wrote this month. I am grateful for the time that I had to write; several posts each week, except for the third week of the month when we were out-of-town for a vacation trip to Chicago.

Welcome September

It seemed that my thoughts kept going to prayer this past month, a desire to learn and grow deeper in prayer. It is easy for me to pray for the immediate, everyday concerns, but it is harder for me to persevere in fervent prayer for others, to be faithful in intercessory prayer. And I was reminded over and over again during this past month how important and critical it is to pray, to faithfully and fervently pray for others. There is always so much to learn about prayer. There were two posts that I wrote on prayer ...

The Door to Prayer

A Listening Heart

Towards the end of the month, my thoughts were drawn to focus on God's love in deeper ways than before. His love is beyond understanding fully, yet there is always more to learn. It was sweet to be able to write a post on my actual birthday, focusing on this Love ...

Count the Ways

It's always fun where there's time to put up a food-related post ... there were three this past month: two recipe posts, and one "In the Kitchen" post.

Amish Breakfast Casserole

Club Sandwiches

In the Kitchen

I've been keeping up fairly well with digital scrapbooking this calendar year - a fun hobby for me. In September I shared two posts with some of my pages ...

Thankful for Grandkids

Trip to Chicago

Thanks for visiting, and reading some (or all) of my posts this month! There are so many, many blogs to visit - and I am honored that you would come and visit here. It is a special calling for me from God to write and share here in these "empty nest" (but full life!) years, and it gives me a lot of joy ...

Trip to Chicago

The door opened up for us to take a five-day trip to Chicago last week! Our very first time to vacation in the big city, and we were not disappointed. It was quite amazing; we loved it! A very special gift from God ...

Sharing two of the many scrapbook pages that I am in the process of creating, capturing the memories of five days in Chicago ...

We are amazed and thankful for the way this trip opened up for us - just what we needed. And I am having fun capturing the memories in digital scrapbooking form ... so much beauty, and such sweet memories.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

In the Kitchen

Another month will soon be past, and here's a fun little post with a peak into my kitchen to see a few things that have been going on during the month.

You can't miss something new and shiny in my kitchen this month! I haven't had a good-size stock pot for awhile, as my previous one wore out from so much use. It was time for a new one, and isn't this a beauty? 

I think I'll keep it set out on the stove for awhile just to look at! But it will also be put to good use this fall and winter when I cook up some pots of soup, and also prepare some dishes for the holidays with family home. (It was a gift from my sweet hubby - he bought it for me after I spotted it in the big window of a fun store - Crate & Barrel - as we were walking down Michigan Avenue in Chicago last week.)

We enjoyed a special, comforting meal yesterday, one that I have not made for quite awhile. It seemed the right choice yesterday for a quiet evening meal at home on my birthday! (We had a special bday meal out the day before, and had a relaxing day at home on my actual birthday. Both days were pretty special!)

It was fun to serve the meatloaf and baked potato meal on two plates that I had picked up at the same store in Chicago ... two plates for the two of us, and also to use as special serving platters for the upcoming holidays.

We enjoyed having some of our family home earlier in the month. It was a gorgeous day outdoors, and I chose to serve Cheesy Chicken Subs for the main dish. I hadn't prepared that dish for awhile, and it was perfect to serve (with corn-on-the-cob, chips, and watermelon) out on the patio.

What has been happening in your kitchen this past month?

Monday, September 28, 2015

Count the Ways

Today is a day of counting for me ... a day where I add another number to my years. Birthdays are for counting. The numbers are increasing; there is no way to stop them, or even to slow them down.

And on this day of counting, 
I'm thinking of another type of counting ... 

What if we were to count the ways that we are loved? Would there ever be an end? My few short years on this earth, years that fly by faster and faster with each passing year, are only the beginnings of being loved.

How can we even begin to understand how much God loves us? Just when I think that maybe I am beginning to haves a grasp of His Love, I find myself in a place where I am learning all over again. Learning in deeper ways than ever before, how very much I am loved.  

We are loved. Period. We are His creation; His image-bearers. And all through our lives, we are pursued by this God who is Love.

"God pursues human beings ...
We see God walking in the garden with Adam and Eve.
We hear God speaking to Moses on a mountaintop.
We find His mysterious presence in the tabernacle and the temple.
When we come to the New Testament, we read about
the birth of Jesus - Immanuel,
a title that means 'God with us' ...
Later, He sends His Holy Spirit
to actually live inside of His people."
(Francis & Lisa Chan, You and Me Forever)

At this birthday time, instead of counting the years, 
I will spend my days counting the ways that He loves.

"I pray that from His glorious, unlimited resources
He will empower you with inner strength through His Spirit.
Then Christ will make His home in your hearts as you trust in Him.
Your roots will grow down into God's love and keep you strong.
And may you have the power to understand, as all God's people should,
how wide, how long, how high, and how deep His love is.
May you experience the love of Christ,
though it is too great to understand fully.
Then you will be made complete
with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God."
(Ephesians 3:16-19)

"Open your mind and heart -
your entire being -
to receive My love in full measure."

Loving Lord, this is my prayer as I begin another year ... that I will daily count the ways that You love me. Your Love is without end! And by Your grace and mercy, I will learn more deeply the art of receiving this Love. 

For more posts on this topic:
FIRST LOVE: What We are Made For

Thursday, September 17, 2015

A Listening Heart

I've been thinking a lot about prayer recently. Partly because of what I wrote in this post, and also in this recent post. And partly because there are seasons in life where I think God calls us to deeper prayer, and this is where I am finding myself now. I know there is so much to learn about this amazing thing we call prayer.

Sometimes we make prayer so complex, when really, it is so simple. Just like when we spend time with a close family member, or close friend. We are free to share our deepest joys and also our deepest trials. And we are free to ask for help in our times of need.

So it is with our communication with our eternal, all-loving, all-powerful God, who asks us to not worry about anything, but to pray about everything. 

This sharing of our hearts with our loved ones, 
and also with God, is all good.

But in any healthy relationship, there must also be another component of communication. Another side to prayer that we often neglect. And this other side of communication is called listening. Listening from both sides. We know that God hears our prayers and listens to the cries of our hearts. 

But do we pause, and listen to God's heart?

Communication, to be effective and to truly be communication, must be a two-way exchange. The sharing of one's heart, and the listening to the other's heart.

And this is what is drawing my heart these days/weeks ... to purposely slow myself, to pause from my continual asking, and talking to God. To pause, and to listen to Him. To read His Words more often, more intently, with a listening heart. To pause in my busyness, and to listen to His direction. To even be silent as I pray, and let His thoughts fill my mind.

I have found that true listening is a matter of the heart. It starts in the heart with a deep desire to hear from God - through His Word, as we pause in prayer, as we seek Him with our whole hearts. It comes with a longing, even a desperate longing, to hear from Him. Just as a newborn babe longs for nourishing, life-giving milk. 

Let me hear
of Your unfailing love
each morning,
for I am trusting You.
Show me where to walk,
for I give myself to You.
(Psalm 143:8)

In this fast-moving, busy world, filled with so many things to do, we need to continually remind ourselves that just as Jesus pulled aside during His days on earth to spend time communicating with His Father, so we also need to pull aside from our busyness to spend uninterrupted time communicating deeply with Him. And even in the midst of our days and in the middle of our busyness, in the middle of the noise, to quiet our hearts and pause, and to communicate. To pray ... 

To share our hearts and to listen to His.

For more posts on this topic: