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Making Sense of Life's Messes

You > Me.

youme2 You > Me.

I’m so stinkin’ busy.

At least that’s what I tell myself on a daily basis, and when I forget, I have friends that faithfully remind me of my “busy bones.” And (ugh, I hate this part), they’re right.

My busyness is more appropriately termed “overwhelmed”. I am known to consume myself in my work, finding way too deep a meaning in where I allocate my talents. A kind of self-induced weight that zaps me of the energy that I need for the interactions I’m given with others . . . Interactions that matter more than my title.

I can sit at my desk and sort through five different projects in my head all at once, and write out lists of tasks. I can wordsmith. I can concept, plan, and execute-on routinely and without hesitation. Sound like a bragfest? Far from it. See, I’m perfecting a GLARING imperfection.

People approach me while I’m plowing through e-mails and the best I can muster up is a “huh”, “hmm”, or genuinely listening while pounding away a million miles a minute on my keypad. And honestly, who does that help?  Not my sanity, and especially not the person who is requesting my attention.  (And c’mon, I was raised in the south – have I lost my grasp of southern hospitality?)

In an effort to care deeply about the work I have been given the opportunity to do, I am being careless about those around me who need me the most. 

photo8 21 You > Me.

The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still. — Exodus 14:14

I’ll start with what is leading to this “revelation”. I’ve recently been reading through a few books (of which I HIGHLY recommend), “The Ragamuffin Gospel” by Brennan Manning, “7” by Jen Hatmaker, and “The Minimalists” by Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus.  (If you dare try to tell me it’s a happy coincidence that I’ve been reading through all three at the same time, I’ll have to laugh — it’s just too perfect a storm.) All of which deal with the pursuit of a minimalistic attitude and spirit.

So what exactly does that mean? Good question . . . I’m still figuring that out. But here’s how I’m sorting through it: The problem isn’t that the world is moving by me in a million little pieces – it’s that I feel the need to consume/be a part of/weigh in on, every single one of those little pieces. (Sigh deep with me.)

If I’m on my computer at home, I have the t.v. on in the background. If I’m watching a movie, I’m also perusing through Pinterest. Before I go to bed, I am sure to scroll through Instagram, Facebook, Twitter. On my drive home, I catch up on all my personal emails, text messages, and phone calls.

So, I am busy. But the sad part is, the majority of my “busyness” is a result of my own self-imposed obligation to stay busy. I’ve never been a fan of sitting still . . . but I’ve also never been a fan of neglecting those around me. 

I’m literally handing over my leftovers and expecting others to resound in gratitude. 

photo4 2 You > Me.

Teach me, and I will be silent; 
make me understand how I have gone astray. — Job 6:24

In “The Minimalists,” Millburn recalls a word he heard from Rob Bell that talked about a command from God to Moses to travel to the top of the mountain — followed by a command to “be on the mountain”.

Why would God have asked such a command? Think about it . . . Our “next-step mentality” is not merely a result of our busy culture, for some of us, it’s knit into our DNA.

“God didn’t want Moses to start worrying about how he was going to get down, or worry about whether or not he turned off the lights before he left the house, or worry about what bills need to be paid this week. God just wanted Moses to be on the mountain, to enjoy the mountain.”

I’m so busy looking at the clock, the keyboard, the screen, my feet, my phone — you get the point — that I’m not looking out.

On this trip to Seattle, I realized — get ready for it, because I’m going to sound like my own personal broken record — I need to create the room for margin. And to do that, I have to stop being the queen of multi-tasking. I have to stop trying to be great at everything.

I should stop biting off more than I can chew. I should lighten my load and use my energy to lighten your load. 

photo1 2 You > Me.

I am leaving you with a gift-peace of mind and heart. 
And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give.
So don't be troubled or afraid.
— John 14:27

I decided to use this break from my routine to once again test this change in attitude/perspective: “How can I make a point to give my very best to every single person I meet?” I’ve been there before. Surely I can slow down enough to do it again . . . I can make time for others.

Here’s what happened: I stopped to make people feel known, to feel heard, appreciated, thought of, cared for. They smiled, laughed, look at me confused, welcomed conversation, or went on with their busy day.

But you know what happened inside of me? I started to feel freed up to enjoy the thing in life that I love the most: moments. I made the time to create them with others, and I watched as it transformed their expression, their mannerisms, and hopefully – their day.

In cutting out the excess that I was willfully over consuming, I was able to make time to indulge in others – in a way that left both parties better off than had I been the typical queen-of-multi-tasking-head-stuck-in-my-phone-and-list-of-to-do’s.

I was happier. They were happier. I felt lighter and hopeful and encouraged . . . And it was all because I chose to make the time to simply “BE on the mountain.”

Cheers to a new minimalistic attitude I will fight myself (daily) to pursue and maintain in 2014.  I hope you’ll join me on the journey, and hold me accountable as I fumble my way through it.

photo10 2 You > Me.

What do you think? Can you resolve to stop overloading your own plate? To drop the balancing act? To stop overindulging, over consuming, overworking? Can you pause from your routine to make moments with those around you who could desperately use you? Would you be willing to slow down enough to simply “be on the mountain”?

Fire Refines More Than it “Warm-and-fuzzies.”

It’s easy to say we believe in God’s grand purpose for our lives, but is it as easy to cling to that truth when we need it the most?  

See, anyone can claim to believe in something, but you’ll really know if they stand for [fill-in-the-blank] if/when their faith for [fill-in-the-blank] is tested.

Behold, I have refined thee, but not with silver; I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction. — Isaiah 48:10

Christians (myself included) all too often tie God’s Goodness to circumstancial events. God never promised in scripture that our life would be good on this earth, but He did remind believers time and again that if we choose to live under His grace, all things in our life would work together for the greater Good — God’s Good, not mine or yours.

Meaning, even the messiest day, week … years, would amount to something that brought Him Glory, even if we never know of it until we meet Him face to face. And if the point of our existence (after accepting the sacrifice He made for us on the cross) is to bring him Glory, does God really owe us an explanation of His actions/His silence if we demand it of Him?

But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, establish, strengthen, settle [you]. — 1 Peter 5:10

Over the last six months, I’ve been reminded (more times than I can count) of who God isn’t (as I’ve defined his Being), and have had the opportunity to learn more of who God really is (who He proves Himself to be). And that time of finding and getting to know Him hasn’t been from His shouting His identity into my ear, it’s been through a breaking process of realizing that my definition of His existence has been flawed all along.

His silence has taught me to give up demanding that He speak His plan into my life, and allowed me to trust that even His silence can speak volumes of His promises.

In the midst of incredibly “trying” circumstances, this scripture about edification in Christ has seeped its way into my brain and I can’t shake it. A scripture I had never looked up, or even heard from that matter, kept coming to mind — reminding me that  “momentary blunders” lead to purification and restoration… reminding me of the freedom found in the Refiner’s fire.

And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried: they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It [is] my people: and they shall say, The LORD [is] my God. — Zechariah 13:9

There is a newness to be found in refinement if we could simply learn to trust the God who knows the number of hairs on our head with our moments of discomfort, or our life-altering disappointments.

We are not unknown to our Maker.  Each and every one of us, whether we acknowledge and accept His gift of grace or not, are known by the God who so carefully knit us together in our mother’s womb.

Our pains are not foreign to our Creator. He knows them before we can even cry them out, and He is willing to help us see them through if we would simply lay them at His feet.

That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perish, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ. — 1 Peter 1:7

If God has used my life to teach me anything it’s that as soon as I think I’ve found control over my life, my circumstance, my existence, He will surely remind me that I’ve lost it.

If we’re really choosing to trust in the God of All, then we should know that the last thing that we want and or need in this life is control … And that the further we are from it, the more we’ve surrendered our lives into the Hands of a God that is willing and able to refine each of us into those who will bring Him glory.

And if the point of our existence (after accepting the sacrifice He made for us on the cross) is to bring him Glory, does God really owe us an explanation of His actions/His silence if we demand it of Him? … Just maybe He’s too busy trying to remind us to trust in the answer He has already promised.

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to [his] purpose. — Romans 8:28 

The Various Ways to Wake

window The Various Ways to Wake

Sometimes you wake up with a sadness so real it’s stiffening. As you crawl out of bed, you give every last ounce of effort you have to swallow the tears and ignore the creeping, cloppy goo that slides down the back of your throat. The only sound you hear is the shuffling of feet too heavy to carry. A pain so raw, you’re clueless as to how to describe it to the onlookers who can see it hanging in your eyes.

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Words on Purpose

My husband, my biggest fan, often asks me why I stopped writing. He quizzes me about why I stopped doing this thing I loved so much. I avoid answering because I don’t want to think about why. Some of it has to do with it becoming my paycheck and less of my passion, but the majority of my “writing neglect” has to do with perception.

A year ago when Christ laid things very heavily on my heart, I began to share those convictions in type on a screen. I opened my mess up for others to read, hoping my vulnerability might bring strength in another’s area of weakness. And by God’s grace, it worked. It served purpose. I was contacted by strangers who admitted sobbing through words I ferociously typed down as they were given to me, but others started treating me differently. Treating me as if I was full of myself, as if I was somehow proud of my words. And I remember thinking “my words are of weaknesses, where strength is renewed” . . . How can anyone think I’m trying to be something I’m not in my little corner of the internet?

grandeous2 Words on Purpose

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then there was today.

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Remember the Thrill of School Supplies?

students Remember the Thrill of School Supplies?

When I think back on grade school, my mind is flooded with fond memories of  new beginnings. A new school year with a new teacher brought about the idea of being surrounded my new classmates, new friends, and most notably, a slew of new school supplies.

Sure meet-the-teacher was an exciting experience, but I most anxiously awaited the list that would be handed to me before exiting the building: my school supply list.

New binders, notebooks, folders, crayons, markers, pencils, colored pencils, and the occasional backpack were almost too much to handle.

This trend carried on for years until the excitement began to fade and waking up to go back to school felt more like a chore than a gift. It wasn’t until the later years in life that my heart began to change. And it took a trip to Africa for that to happen.

 

Read the rest of the post on Food for the Hungry's blog, here: http://blog.fh.org/2013/08/remember-your-exciting-school-supplies/

When I think of Jesus…

When I think of Jesus, I don’t think of a bullheaded, selfish, arrogant King. I think of a humble, self-sacrificing, feet-cleaning leader…the King of ALL Kings.

When I think of Jesus, I don’t envision Him throwing rocks at the prostitutes, I see Him standing up to protect the broken.

When I think of Jesus, I don’t imagine He'd tote around a Bible with the Pharisees, I imagine He WAS the living Word—in such a way that people longed to follow after Him, not because they were chastised into lawful submission.

When I think of Jesus, He’s not sitting alone, proud of His accomplishments and His blameless life, He’s pursuing the broken and being called one of them.

When I think of Jesus, I don’t think His eyes are fixed on the generous offering, I think He’s more concerned about the sacrificial giver, the one that gave the least in amount, but the most of what they had.

When I think of Jesus, I think of His willingness to enter into a broken, evil, hateful world, to offer ALL He had on their behalf…because He wanted to.

When I think of Jesus, I think that even in His last breath, He pleaded with God for this wretch’s forgiveness.

When I think of Jesus, I think of love. How He asked you and me time and time again to LOVE one another, that love is greater than faith or hope. Oh how we forget.

When I think of Jesus, I think of forgiveness.

When I think of Jesus, I think of redemption.

When I think of Jesus, I think of newness, fullness, joy.

When I think of Jesus . . . I think of love.

Love that doesn’t make sense.
Love that is wreckless.
Love that is selfless.
Love that keeps no record of wrongs.
Love that pursues.
Love that speaks loud and sits quietly.
Love that endures.
Love that meets people in their mess.
Love that gets its hands dirty.
Love that cleans, restores, renews.
Love that frees.
Because Love always wins.

…That’s the Jesus inside of me.

Two Words: Margin and Wonder.

lofty thoughts Two Words: Margin and Wonder.

I am a bona fide workaholic. Most of which stems from my inability to sit still, but is intensified by my desire to do more, to be more, to leave behind a mark worthy of having lived for. While that’s all fine and dandy for a good spurt of time, it’s also debilitating.

I often forget to take a lunch break, go to the restroom, or actively participate in a conversation as I should. All because my mind is in a million places at once. And it’s causing me to lose something (aside from my sanity) — bits and pieces of the life happening around me — because I’m not stopping for moments, I’m just working towards monuments.

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If You’re Curious About the Adoption Process.

I choose to believe in the good of people. I know that belief will cause me to face a life filled with smackdowns and letdowns, but it will also reward me with some of the best community life has to offer . . . And I'm watching it do just that. 

When Josh and I first decided to pursue adoption now, we waited and we prayed. We asked for close friends and family to pray with us, and we waited to pick our agency and announce our adoption until we were at peace with the decision to do so. Neither of us took that decision lightly, nor did we anticipate the process to be easy — we'd heard enough stories of friends that endured the rollercoaster and came out the other side tattered but blessed and knowledgeable because of it. 

The day we were to send in our signed contract, a series of events transpired that were no less than the divine intervention of an ever present God. The extent of the details are unnecessary, but I just remember hanging up the phone, and as Josh and I looked at each other speechless all we could come up with was, "Praise God." And without doubts, frustration, anger, or sadness, we moved forward. Why? Because we trusted God in the beginning, we prayed His hands over the process and our child, and we knew that one way or another HIS will would be done, not ours. And if this wasn't the agency, then that was that. We wash our hands and move on.

Our God is good. And His goodness never depends on our circumstance. (I'm such a broken record, I know.) He is Soveriegn. His plan is so much better than I could plan for the two of us (for the three of us, or twenty of us – who knows what will happen). I just know that years ago I learned to let go of the reins and TRUST. And as I've learned throughout this season, and many others I've made it through, God loves to make beauty out of messes . . . We just have to let Him.

And we move forward with excitement! We are thrilled about the opportunity to expand our family — knowing that we are taking our next steps with information under our belts and good friends by our side. There is not a doubt in our minds that we were meant to adopt, and while the process may not be easy, that's okay. Because in the end, it is oh, so worth it.

A good (dear, amazing, loving, sweet, supportive) friend of mine shared this with me. And for those new to adoption, experienced in adoption, or have never heard the word adoption used before, you need to read this. To be knowledgeable and able to offer support to others during their adoptive process. 

Good words from Jen Hatmaker about the blessings and trials of adoption (international, specifically):

Part I: http://jenhatmaker.com/blog/2013/05/14/examining-adoption-ethics-part-one

Part II: http://jenhatmaker.com/blog/2013/05/20/examining-adoption-ethics-part-two

Limiting a Limitless God.

mudeyes Limiting a Limitless God.

Look at the nations and watch—and be utterly amazed.
For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe,
even if you were told. —Habbakuk 1:5

When you hear of an intervention made possible only by a divine God, how do you respond?

Are you in shock? Awe? Do you utter words of disbelief? Are you caught off guard? Left speechless?

Given the nature of our personal business, and our ongoing struggle to create art in various forms, I find myself in shock a lot. With our faith-based clients, we’ve taken on creative projects, asked the Lord to move, and have been surprised when He showed up. From casting the right actors, to the words used to convey story, to the bird that appeared in a bird less park as we considered a story re-write . . . all of it. It happens all the time, in each project we’ve taken on. I’ve just recently taken note of my response.

In sharing one of these happenings today with a friend, I caught myself—the skeptic—mid-story.

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On Giving Up Our Left Arm.

lipshapedheart On Giving Up Our Left Arm.

On Giving Up Our Left Arm (and Other Signs of Discontentment)

Arguably, I am the metaphors greatest fan. I live and breathe them, and light up at the chance to use them. Hey, I’m a word nerd, it’s not that weird. And from the sounds of it, most Westerners are as big of fans as I. But, have we been using them to our demise?

Let me clarify.

Take a moment and count on your fingers (toes, if necessary) how many times you’ve metaphorically offered up a limb or phalange to get/go somewhere/be something you wanted . . . Did you exceed your available twenty? I did.

From that question alone, we can wager one of two things:
1) As Americans, we really aren’t too keen of our available body parts, or
2) We are all too envious a people.

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