all is grace

Advent Day 5

“Only when you first unwrap the gifts of blessings to you can you be wrapped up as a gift of blessing to others. Only when you are overwhelmed with the goodness of God can you overflow with the goodness of God to others…The greatest gift God graces a soul with is His own presence.” Ann Voskamp

“It is no use for  you to attempt to sow out of an empty basket,
for that would deb sowing nothing but wind.”
Charles Spurgeon

What are some ways you can be a blessing to others?

*all quotations and questions taken from The Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp
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Rise

Advent Day 4

“Every flood of trouble remakes the topography of our souls – making us better or bitter.
Every trouble is a flood, and we can either rise up or sink down… Grace – it, too, has floods of its own… The way of heaven comes down so we can rise.”
Ann Voskamp

Strange, this familiar Father of prodigals whose love, too much for one lifetime, will that we shall share the feast of forgiveness and joy in the epilogue of eternity.
Strange, this day of advent of EMMANUEL.”
J. F. Wilson

When have you felt flooded, overwhelmed by the waters rising around you?

*all quotations and questions taken from The Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp

 

 

where are you?

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Advent Day 3

“We only find out where we are when we find out where He is. We only find ourselves… when we find Him. We lost ourselves at one tree [the garden of Eden]. And only find ourselves at another [the cross]. Wise men are only wise because they make their priority the seeking of Christ.”
Ann Voskamp

“When the year dies in preparation for the birth of other seasons, not the same, on the same earth, then saving and calamity go together make the Advent gospel, telling how the heart will break. Therefore it was in Advent that the Quest began.”
C. S. Lewis

What places deep within your soul do you long for the Lord to seek out during this season of Advent?

*all quotations and questions taken from The Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp

ravished with wonder

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Advent Day 2

“You are made of the dust of this earth, and you are made of the happiness of heaven, and you are flesh and you are spirit, and you are of two worlds longing for the home of forever and Him. No matter your story before, this is your beginning now: you were formed by Love…for love.”
Ann Voskamp

“We must be sure of the infinite good that is done to us by our Lord Jesus Christ, in order that we may be ravished in love with our God and inflamed with a right affection to obey Him, and keep ourselves strictly in awe of Him.”
John Calvin

What does it mean to you that you were made out of the overflow of God’s love?

*all quotations and questions taken from The Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp

God-glory breaking in

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Advent Day 1

“Just where you are, look for the small glimpses of God-glory breaking in, breaking out, sprouting, shooting, unfurling, bearing fruit, making a Kingdom, remaking the world.
Slow and still. And see the shoot that bears witness to God – the hardly noted child, the hymn hummed over the sink, the unassuming woman bent at the register the dog-eared
Word of God becoming from the shelf…This slow unfurling of grace.” 

Ann Voskamp

“The extraordinary thing that is about to happen is matched only by the extraordinary moment just before it happens. Advent is the name of that moment.”
Frederick Buechner

What are you waiting for, yearning for this season?

*all quotations and questions taken from The Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp

farther up farther in

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Sitting by the ocean. A peacefulness I can not explain washes over me. Everything in the world quiets. In that moment of sitting by the water, staring out into the ocean, watching the waves roll in, smelling the salt air and the sandy beach, all the world seems to fade away. And I am lost. Lost at sea. It’s almost as if I have reached a tiny edge of heaven. I am getting a little glimpse into my real home. I am feeling it in my soul.

This came up while we were driving up the Blue Ridge Parkway a few weeks ago. How there are those places who just make every other place seem not as good. That make everything seem ok. That take your breath away with their beauty. Where an unexplainable peace presses down and surrounds you. The ocean, the mountains. Sitting at the top looking outward for miles. Seeing ridge after ridge after ridge. Glowing in blues and purples and bursting with oranges and pinks in the sunset. It’s like coming home.

It made me think of C. S. Lewis’ Last Battle. They all go through a tiny door into what they think is a stable but they step out into a beautiful land. And Jewel, the unicorn, is the first to realize where it is they have come. “‘I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now. The reason why we love the old Narnia is that it sometimes looked a little like this…Come further up, come further in!” (Jewel, the unicorn)

And this line “further up, further in”, is repeated many times through the last chapter. It was running through my head as we were driving the curves of the parkway. “Further up, further in.” A longing that on this earth will never be satisfied. But that doesn’t mean we should give up. It means we should keep pushing further up and further in. We should keep digging. Trying to find those glimpses of heaven. Soaking in the beauty around us.

Knowing that there is so much more waiting for us on the other side. 1 Corinthians 13:12 says “Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.” And Mr. Tumnus said, “Of course, Daughter of Eve,” said the Faun. “The further up and the further in you go, the bigger everything gets. The inside is larger than the outside.” I believe that in these moments of peace we experience while soaking in beauty around us, we are getting this imperfect glimpse, a partial and incomplete reflection of what our real life is going to be.

 

In his book, Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis dug even deeper into this idea. “Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire: well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. . . .”

Is it a physical, emotional, or spiritual deepening? The desire to go further up and further in…I think it is all three. And because we were created for another world, we always have the desire. Some of us more than others. There will always be that emptiness. That hole. Longing to be fulfilled. We can try to fill it with earthly pleasures, but they will never satisfy. Or we can chase spiritual treasures, soaking in God’s beauty and creation, always trying to get further up and further in.

“The dream is ended: this is the morning.”

 “All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.”
The Last Battle
C.S. Lewis

Shaken by Tim Tebow

tim-tebow

What do you do when life shakes you?

Tim Tebow’s book, Shaken, is full of motivational stories that give great examples of how to take on life’s challenges in the midst of storms. It is a quick and easy read, and a glimpse into the heart of Tim Tebow. He has had a lot of setbacks in both his life and career, but he has never allowed it to shake his faith in God. Choosing to find your identity and worth in Christ allows you to live life without the highs and lows. It gives you a firm foundation, and gives you a purpose here on earth.

He shares his stories not to be a martyr but to be a fellow-traveler. To inspire others to learn from the hard times and never give up! He also encourages people to always push themselves to be better. Tebow says it’s important to remember that your best days are in front of you. “If your world is shaken and you feel lost and heartbroken in your pain… [God] offers you a new life, an abundant life… even in the midst of suffering.” p. 202.

Pick up your copy today!

 

 

 

 

 

34 Books Complete!

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For my 34th year I decided to make a goal of reading 34 books. When I made this goal I didn’t know if I would be able to do it. I’ve never kept track of books I’ve read before, so I don’t know how many books I usually read in a year. I was lazy for a while, but I pretty easily read all 34. Now I have a starting point. I KNOW I can read 34. So I guess I’ll see if I can read 35! If you have any recommendations let me know!

  1. For The Love ~ Jen Hatmaker
  2. The Last Battle ~ C.S. Lewis
  3. The Shack ~ WM Paul Young
  4. Poldark ~ Winston Graham (fantastic British TV series)
  5. In the Heart of the Sea ~ (book better than movie)
  6. Mean’s Search For Meaning ~ Viktor Frankl
  7. The Rock That is Higher ~ Madeliene L’Engle
  8. Bird By Bird ~ Anne Lamotte
  9. Demelza ~ Winston Graham
  10. Breaking Busy ~ Alli Worthington
  11. The Russians Series ~ Michael R. Phillips
  12. The Russians Series ~
  13. The Russians Series ~
  14. The Russians Series ~
  15. The Comeback ~ Louie Giglio
  16. Sisi: An Empress on her own ~ Allison Pitaki
  17. The Calling ~ Rachelle Dekker
  18. Life’s Great Dare ~ Christa Hesselink
  19. Brazen ~ Leeana Tankersly
  20. Miss Perigrines Home for Peculiar Children ~
  21. The Dressmaker ~ Rosalie Hamm (book better than movie)
  22. Through the Looking Glass ~ Lewis Carroll (book better than movie)
  23. The BFG ~ Roald Dahl (book better than movie)
  24. Fantastic Beasts & Where to find them ~ J. K. Rowling
  25. The Night Circus (highly recommend) ~Erin Morgenstern
  26. The Bell Jar ~ Sylvia Plath
  27. The Cursed Child ~ J.K. Rowling
  28. Dark Places ~ Gillian Flynn
  29. Present Over Perfect ~ Shauna Niequist
  30. The sun also rises ~ Hemingway
  31. The Old Man & The Sea ~ Hemingway
  32. Ethan Frome ~ Edith Wharton
  33. The Magician’s Nephew ~ C. S. Lewis
  34. Chronicle of a Death Foretold ~ Gabriel Garcia Marquez

 

Audio Books (Which I’m not counting in my reading, but I feel like deserve a mention because I “read” them)

  1. Harry Potter 1
  2. Harry Potter 2
  3. Harry Potter 3
  4. Harry Potter 4
  5. Harry Potter 5
  6. Delicious (Probably one of my most favorite books ever. It’s about food and it’s amazing. Recommended by Shauna Niequist)
  7. Delancy (really not good)
  8. Pride & Prejudice & Zombies (brilliant)
  9. Sarafina & The Black Cloak (literally one of the worst books ever)
  10. Harry Potter 6
  11. Harry Potter 7

Looking for hope

He heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds.
He counts the stars and names each one.
Our Lord is great and very powerful.
There is no limit to what he knows.
Psalm 147:3-5 

Orlando

Last weekend I went to Orland with a group of Boston survivors. We met with some of the survivors from the PULSE shooting, hoping to share with them our experiences  also bring hope, sharing how we got through the hard times.

We met with different groups of survivors. One just talked in circles. Mixed childhood stories and stories from yesterday. I didn’t know what to say to him, so I just listened. Maybe that’s all I needed to do.

There was a man who watched as 11 of his close friends were killed. The pain and hurt filled his eyes and spilled over onto his entire being. He was sad that he couldn’t do anything to save them. Sad that he alone remains.

Others only spoke only spanish. So we did a lot of sitting and listening. We had very few translators so that made it difficult. But we watched as survivors were connecting with each other, coming together to offer each other support. They didn’t know each other at the club. So they told their stories, where they hid, how they got out, where they were injured. So much like us three years ago.

War stories and battle wounds.

We had brunch at a family’s house. An amazing Colombian breakfast. Cheese Almojabana, bunuelos, arepas with chorizo, fluffy pancakes, fresh squeezed orange juice… We gathered in the sun room that held a long table. All 19 of us fit comfortably and had a long meal where we discussed the bombing, the shooting… tragedies that brought us together.

What they are looking for is hope. They are looking for someone to say, you’re not alone in this suffering. These things you are feeling. The fear, the flashbacks, the nightmares, that’s all normal. Because we had them too. And they need to hear that they won’t always feel that way. Those things will fade. They need to know that the hell they are living in isn’t forever. That they will slowly get back to normal. And there isn’t a time frame. It takes some a short time. Others, much longer.

Sunday we were in a park next to a pond with a fountain. The city of Orlando in the background. People from the community trickled in. People who had gotten tattoos to show their support for those in the PULSE shootings. Tattoos of love, hope, togetherness. We took photos and heard their stories. Soaked in the Orlando sunshine and the breeze coming across the pond. Willow branches hanging low. Tickeling the edge of the water.

Lifestyle choices were put aside. Language barriers. Cultural differences. What brings  us together is similar experiences. Terror ripping apart lives. And we, being three years past the terror, were there to bring hope to those just surfacing from it. To show them that life does go on. Survival is attainable.

I hope we brought a little hope.  A pin prick of light at the end of the dark tunnel. Knowing that we can bring others hope out of our suffering, gives us hope too. It helps to know that our suffering is not or was not in vain. If through our suffering, we can help others, we gain purpose. And that makes it seem not quite so bad.

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I won’t let you go

“I Won’t Let You Go”

When it feels like surgery
And it burns like third degree
And you wonder what is it worth?
When your insides breaking in
And you feel that ache again
And you wonder
What’s giving birth?If you could let the pain of the past go
Of your soul
None of this is in your control

If you could only let your guard down
You could learn to trust me somehow
I swear, that I won’t let you go
If you could only let go your doubts
If you could just believe in me now
I swear, that I won’t let you go
I won’t let you go

When your fear is currency
And you feel that urgency
You want peace but there’s war in your head
Maybe that’s where life is born
When our façades are torn
Pain gives birth to the promise ahead

If you could let the pain of the past go
Of your soul
None of this is in your control

If you could only let your guard down
If you could learn to trust me somehow
I swear, that I won’t let you go
If you could only let go your doubts
If you could just believe in me now
I swear, that I won’t let you go

I won’t let you go
I’ll always be by your side
Yeah

If you could only let your guard down
If you could learn to trust me somehow
I swear, that I won’t let you go
If you could only let go your doubts
If you could just believe in me now
I swear, that I won’t let you go

(I won’t let you go)
I won’t let you go
(I won’t let you go)

There ain’t no darkness strong enough that could tear you out from my heart
There ain’t no strength that’s strong enough that could tear this love apart
Never gonna let you go
Never gonna let you go

No I won’t let you go