I Want to Choose to See

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He is a tough one to figure out, this little boy approaching teen who grabs my heart with a smile and pushes me away the next day. A lot of conversations around this house are about how to be kind, how to love well, how to think about the heart of another before oneself.

But I think it is the talking less and showing more that matters most. And I am grateful how he lets me hug him in the mornings, the dark still resting on the house like a blanket hushing us back to sleep. But I’m awake, and he’s awake. And we sit side by side in the dark room just off the kitchen. When the rest of the family sleeps and there is only that one crazy bird outside calling the rest of the neighborhood to wake on up.

I sit here, in the dark, with my son, and I read a note from a sister in England who reminds me “how different God sees!” I can try to begin this day asking Him how He sees. For I can charge right on with my expectations for this day without heeding and listening and waiting.

I push God away so much, without even realizing it much of the time. I get so caught up in whatever it is I want to be doing, not even thinking about Him, that I don’t see that I am doing it. There is that young place in me, still–the girl who pushes back against her Father’s pursuit, His gentle nudge, His arms-out-greeting each morning as I rise.

Come on now, sweet girl, turn. Let me help you see as I see.

So for a while, this day, I will put way words and typing. I will put away cleaning and planning. I will put away wondering and thinking. For it is right now–my right now with Him, that matters. And to be in communion with Him–to even practice being with Him so I can notice how He is with me at all times–is the most important thing for me to do, this day.

In what way, this day, are you choosing to see?

 

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Where I Ramble and I Ask You How You Are

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We bumble our way a bit, don’t we, as we try our best to love people in our lives well?

In the circle where I sat the other day, with women I’ve known for years, I shared how I’m not sure I’m giving it all I’ve got in the loving department. I think about Justin and how to love him. The bumps in the road throughout our 18 years of marriage have helped me learn, the hard way, how to love him.

My friends know I’m still learning.

It’s definitely been a wild stretch for Justin and me to write alongside one another this last year and a half –me with Loop; he with WiRE. And Holy Entanglement?–a blog about marriage?–it’s a whole crazy story how that blog ever came to be. It actually started with a conversation between the two of us about rebranding You Are My Girls. And I thought I was going to let this blog, here, go.

Ouch.

We love how Holy Entanglement is a place where we, together, can encourage married folks in the three areas we love to talk about most–seeking what Jesus thinks about our identity, community, and adventure with Him. But I was drawn to keep writing here, too, focusing on our identity as God’s daughters. So, I keep seeking His heart and listening and writing down what comes. And You Are My Girls has not yet gone away.

Trying to love? Trying to love well? I guess we just keep trying.

I told these women how I think about you all here, a lot. I pray for you and ask God about you. I wonder about your days. I wonder what it would be like if we got to hear each other’s voices and see each other face to face and give each other a hug. ‘Cause I hug my friends. And you all, well, you’re sisters. I know we’ll see each other one day.

For now, I’m wondering what’s ahead here, for our time together. I wonder what God is up to with us and I marvel at how He brings together His daughters. It’s crazy how He says, “You are My girls.” It’s crazy how He loves to laugh with us and heal us and hold us and show us how beautiful we are to Him. ‘Cause you know, He just can’t help it: He can’t help but tell us the truth.

We are adored.

And I wonder how we can speak truth to each other here.

I wonder how we can speak truth and love well, even more than we do, from behind these screens. What are your ideas?

I was listening to a podcast about sin and brokenness the other day, while on a long five hour drive in the car all by myself last weekend. The two speakers focused on how it is the voice of our culture to be comfortable with each other’s brokenness, when sometimes, our brokenness isn’t being called for what it is sometimes: sin.

Anything that we choose instead of God is sin. But we often just call it our own brokenness. (Is this an excuse to be okay with sin?)  I wonder, now, if I need to call my failure to love well by the name it is. Not brokenness in me, but sin.

What do you think?

I know it’s okay to not have this all figured out. He leads us, always, to Him, if we let Him. So I will keep listening for Him and seeking Him and pressing in to Him.

Want to join me?

It’s pretty cool how we get to do this together.

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Want to Know How to Remember the Most Important Thing?

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This is one of those  posts where I close my eyes and write. I am in that mood where I feel used up, distracted. But I know if I take a deep breath and ask for help, if I ask God for words for what I am feeling, He will give them to me. He does that for us, you know. He wants to restore us and give us glimpses of our true selves. We wants to help us understand our hearts.

Last week I wrote about how being with God doesn’t mean you have to be in a place of quiet. But I am learning how, while my surroundings don’t always have to be quiet–and my actions don’t always have to be quiet–my soul needs to be quiet. I need to be in a state of seeking God, if I want to be most awake to the whispers of God.

Now, I believe this is true: He loves it when we are quiet before Him. He loves it when we choose to put everything down and listen rather than try, so much, to do. I used to believe a good day meant one filled with a completed to-do list, with accomplishing. But now, I am believing the best days are ones when I seek Him and I let Him find me and I desire Him, even when I feel depleted, a mess, or my mind just can’t seem to quiet or slow down.

Be still, and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10).

I like the days when there is space. And I like the days, particularly, when space feels impossible to find but I ask Him to give me some anyway. 

Because He always does.

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you (James 4:8).

Have you ever tried this?  Prayed for more of God because you desire to be with Him? I am guilty of praying for more of God because I’ve hoped that by spending time with Him I will be a better person, a better version of myself.

But what if being with God is the only way we can experience moments of the fullness in us God sees? What if  the “us” spent away from God is not us at our truest, our most pure and clean?

Now, I know you know this: If we never spend time with God we feel stuck, alone, frustrated. This is because we are not giving our souls what they crave most: God. And with God, when we are in a state of seeking Him, we do what we are made to do: worship God.

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind (Matthew 22:37).

I am learning, when I am with God, that the me without God isn’t the person I most want to be. I am learning, when I am with God, I love being with Him. I am learning, when I am with God, I want to be with Him simply because I like being with Him. No other reason.

But the problem is that I forget this.

I forget that being with Him is the best place I could ever be. I forget that being with Him is the only thing that brings me peace. I forget that being with Him is the only place of light and freedom and joy.

And I want these things. And I forget these things when life gets too loud.

It isn’t just in the quiet spaces that we find God. However, being with Him in the quiet spaces helps us recognize Him when life around us–and in us!– feels loud. Finding Him in the quiet helps us hear Him and recognize His voice. Then, when we are loud, when we can’t slow because we feel it just wouldn’t be responsible or prudent or whatever . . . we need to heed our soul’s desire to quiet. We need to heed our soul’s desire to worship Him. 

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty (Psalm 91:1).

There is a clamor in our souls without God. It is the clamor of hearts who are lost without their Maker. We crave time and adventure with the One who designed us. We can’t do a thing on our own.

But we forget that, don’t we?  We forget how good it is to feel desperate for God. We forget this desperation is beauty. We forget this desperation is freedom. We forget this desperation is peace. We forget our strength is found in being desperate for God.

We forget our strength


Father, help us stay desperate for You. For in that desperation we are most able to breathe. We are most able to think. We are most able to remember the things You have created us to do, the things You’ve created us to love to do.

Help us to dream, God. When we are with You, we are more able to dream. And we like those dreams with You, because in them anything is possible. You increase our faith.  You help us believe that we can do anything with You, too.

We are so loved.

Father, help us here, your girls, to crave you with our whole hearts. Give us glimpses of beauty and delight as we stay close with you.

We remember you said it so perfectly once: “I am your home.”


Is there any other way I can pray for you, His girls? How do you feel about being quiet and seeking God? I’d love to hear . . .

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Why I Don’t Love the Term “Quiet Time”

artPaint is thick underneath my finger nails. Turquoise and silver and black chalkboard. I didn’t sit quiet the day I went up into the attic and found the basket full of picture frames, still filled with photos and kids’ art work from preschool five years ago. There is a photo of Justin with Ollie on his shoulders, little boy fingers grasping Justin’s forehead as a handle. And there is a photo of me in the entry of the church nursery before I handed them five-month-old Abby, the baby girl who radiated a joy I wanted to inhale.

The wall in the family room, with the thick black framed bicycle art, was driving me crazy. It needed to go down; I wanted to replace it with something I could make with my hands. I wanted to grab a brush and get out the tools from the basement. I wanted to play music loud in my kitchen, while the kids were in school, and I wanted to make a mess and make beauty and hang it up and look at it when I was done.

There is something about being still with God, with listening and letting my imagination be wide open, that stirs me to want to create. I can be quiet with Him; I can be filled by Him. And then, after being with Him in the stillness, I am both energized and exhausted and can hardly sit still. I usually write during these times–the moments after sitting with God. But this day I wanted to make something beautiful–and tangible–too.

So I stacked up the dozen frames and took out the glass and went out in the backyard and sprayed the back of each rectangle with looking-glass spray. While the glass dried, I got out brushes and small tubes of silvers and blues and layered ocean and sky onto slices of wood. And then Justin came home and screwed the edges of the frames together and we hung the whole thing right up on the wall.

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And I wasn’t quiet while I worked that day. And I wasn’t listening with an attentiveness and a piqued curiosity about God’s thoughts about me there, in the kitchen with the sunlight streaming in. I just knew He was happy with me doing it. I knew it gave him pleasure to see me using things He had given to create something new and surprising and beautiful.

This, in all its mess, is something that makes me smile: Old pieces of wood stacked up in odd angles with blurry silver glass and a funny black chalkboard painted on plastic from a kid’s art frame from Pottery Barn. “Full Life” is what I wrote in my messy scrawl. And on another chalkboard, “create,”  And then on the other chalkboard we have over the kitchen counter, “present.”

quiet time

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And I wanted this to all be mine–a life that is full not because I want to create something–but a life that is full because I am a daughter who creates from God’s pleasure and desires, more than anything, to be present.

I wonder what it looks like for you, after you sit for a bit with God. Are you quieted? Are you excited? Are you exhausted? Are you weary? Are you energized? Are you filled with Him?

One thing I want to throw out the window is an expectation of what time with God is supposed to look like. I’d love to start a conversation here about how creativity and imagination and goodness and beauty feels stifled, unreachable, unattainable, when we feel we just aren’t any good at being quiet with God.

What are some of the ways we hurt each other–and ourselves–when we have narrow expectations about what “quiet” and “stillness”–with God–is supposed to look like? Can hanging out with God be a quietness within us–and stillness and peace attained from knowing who we are and who He is and how, at our core, we are loved?

Is this where anything peaceful and good and beautiful begins?

{Sharing with Jennifer at #tellHisstory.}

 

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When We’re Afraid What Will Happen When We’re Alone with God

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Father,  you called me to quiet recently, and I don’t want to ignore it. I can’t hide that part of me that wants to achieve and to produce. I can’t hide that part of me that likes to run hard and loud and fast.

I trip a lot then. And I tire. Again and again I try to run a race all on my own, and you love me so much you let me do it.

So I am here, telling you I am tired of running a race alone. I am tired of trying, so much. I want to run hard this race you’ve given me to run, but I only want to do it with you.

Loneliness comes from shutting you out, from not opening the door, from seeking for the lost piece of me that is only found in you.

I want to love well, God.

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And I want to be quiet with you.

I am yoked with you, and I want you to set the pace.

My friends, here, these girls of yours who gather close and desire you to gather them even closer, are longing for quiet, too. They want to be with you and hear your voice and stay, as long as they can bear it, in the quiet with you. But it’s hard, sometimes.

I want to be married. In the quiet, will you ask me to lay that down?

I am scared of what will happen in the quiet, God. My heart is too heavy, my head is too full. I am afraid to quiet, because the noise inside me feels too loud.

My daughter is hurting, Father. Can I stay here, in the quiet, with You? She is suffering. It is so hard to bear.

I have allowed the busyness of this age get to me so much lately . . . my soul is aching to sit with You.

What do you have to say, God? In the quiet with you I haven’t been speaking. I have been watching you, these pictures of you and me, often as a little girl–sitting in tall grass, yellow wisps of stalks bending near my cheek. Or we have been running, your hand tight around mine. And the hill below is so beautiful and vast and there is water down below and we head to it, and you are laughing. So often, you are laughing.

But, Jesus, I know you cry, too. And I know you ache, too. And I know you draw us close to you with this love of yours that is sometimes too much for us to accept. But we want to see you. And we want to hear you. And we want to know you.

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What do you have to say to these girls of yours, Jesus, who want to sit with you, in the stillness, and be reassured by the presence of the only One who brings hope and light and calm?

My darlings, there is no right or wrong here. (And there is no way you can outrun me, my love.) There is no way you can sit with me and do it wrong.

Yes,the quiet can feel like noise, sometimes. Everything feels amplified when you are trying hard to not be distracted. Or, the noise is welcomed distraction, when you are afraid to sit with me. Don’t be afraid to be with me.

There is not one word I can say now that will convince you to sit with me. There is not one word or story I can share–or encouragement I can offer–when your heart doesn’t want to hear it.

You know I want to be with you. You know I delight in having made you. You know I rescue you. You know I have plans for you that are better than anything you could ever dream up on your own.

But to hear me? To really hear me? That is to simply be with me. You can’t hear me unless you want to be with me. You can’t see me unless you want to see me. You can’t feel me unless you believe I am here. I am here.

I want to be with you, and I am with you. But you have to let go and trust me more than yourself. Let your mind go. Let your emotions open up. Let your heart guide you to deeper places with me.

There are no rules where I am, with you. I take you to deeper places where you are known and you are free. Time with me stirs you to know yourself more.  You see glimpses of who you are, how I see you. No words can convey that. No words can convince you you are mine and you are loved; only time with me will. Only time with me can bring your heart to me. Only time choosing me–time choosing me above anything else–can rescue you, can let me rescue you.

And I want to show you how I rescue you and how I love you and how you are safe here, with me. So take a risk–something new and exactly perfect: Be with me. It is who you are. It is what you are made to do. Be with me. We will stay and we will go and I will awaken in you parts of yourself that have been dead and asleep.

Wake up now, child. Wake up and see the light. It is on you. It is with you. I am here. Sit still with me and we will go places you have always needed to go.

I can’t wait.

LET'S NOT BE AFRAID to be alone with God

Sisters, let’s keep staying in the stillness with Him–a little each day? How amazing to do it together. It may be quiet, but there’s a lot of action here we don’t want to miss out on. What do you think?

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Three Things I Didn’t Know About Being Still With God

photo (58)Being still before God these last four days has made me realize a few things.

Number One: Being still before God doesn’t need to be complicated.

Number Two: I can still be in God’s presence even though He feels completely far away.

Being still before God requires no perfect chair, no perfect time of day, no perfect moment. It requires no perfect frame of mind, no perfect attitude, no perfect night’s sleep. It requires no perfect outfit, no perfect set of ears or praying experience or wisdom.

It requires one thing. You.

It requires you showing up.

It requires you being alert.

It requires you wanting to see God.

A few days ago I shared with you how I wanted to do an experiment–spend a few set minutes every day, for a week, being still before God. I wanted to discover what it would be like to experience a week intentionally sitting still for 15 minutes before God, without doing a thing (no writing, no listening to music, no talking to Him, no even trying to actively listen to what He might be saying).

I wanted to just be with Him. I wanted to sit next to Him. I wanted to be near Him, at His feet, curled up so my shoulder tucked up against His chest. I wanted to close my eyes and focus on Him, His goodness, His completeness, His wholeness, His safety, His hugeness (yes, such a sophisticated word, I know).

And I asked if you wanted to do it with me. And see what happens. And a lot of  you said you were ‘in’. (You are so beautiful.)

So I decided to jump in here and share with you how it has been going for me so far–especially as there is a bunch of you who are doing this experiment with me. (Do you know how awesome that is?–that we, together, as sisters, are sitting together, with God?) I really hope, in a comment, you share with me how you’re doing with this so far.

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For me, my experiences on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday were pretty fun. This is what I did: when no one was around me and the house was quiet–because the other family members were at school or at work or, in the early mornings, sleeping–I set the timer on my phone and crawled up on the couch in my writing studio or into the chair in our family room and closed my eyes. That’s it. I just got in a quiet place and closed my eyes and desired to sit still with God.

Rather than speaking to Him–and rather than listening for His voice–rather than listening to music about Him–and rather than reading scripture–I simply sat down, with eyes closed, and thought about God. I attempted to not communicate to Him. No desires. No worries. No fears. No confession. Rather, I tried to sit with Him, sit in the same space with Him, wherever He wanted me to be. I wanted to simply be aware of His love–both His love for me, which, of course is amazing to think about–but also, His love, in general.

Amazing.

In the stillness with Him, I waited for Him. And I thought about Him. My desire to turn my every thought to God’s love kept me more present with God.

Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him (Psalm 37:7).

On those three days the time flew by. I set my timer for 15 minutes and I was present with Him, in the moment. My soul was quiet and awake. It was open space, uncrowded by distraction or unwelcome thoughts. I centered my mind, my soul, my presence on being with God, being in the presence of Jesus. And for those three days, I was.

And it was amazing.

And then Sunday morning happened.

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It was early, the house completely quiet–the dog passed out on the floor, and those 15 minutes were not at all the same experience as the previous three days. My mind could not stay in one place. I could not rein in my crazy thoughts; one annoying thought led to another. And these thoughts weren’t at all about God, but about seemingly random stuff that I really didn’t want to be thinking about so early on a Sunday morning. That wasn’t the plan!

I listened to Bill Johnson say once how one’s thoughts during times with God are perhaps not so random. A thought that occurs to us during our time with God–about a situation or a person–might be God actually whispering to our heart about something good He wants us to know or take care of. A thought about a person might be because that is someone whom the Father actually wants us to be thinking about, loving, caring for. Sometimes, these thoughts during times in prayer are God’s whispers, and an opportunity for us to respond. But, not always. And that wasn’t what I think was going on with me on Sunday. At all.

I think I was distracted and tired. I think I didn’t feel God close, even though my head told me He was. I think I was wanting the same awesome, beautiful, intense experiences I had had the other days with Him. I wanted to think about His hand touching my cheek. I wanted to think about His smile, His tenderness, His compassion, His all-consuming love that I can barely begin to comprehend. But I didn’t. Not even close.

Which brings us back to my realization Number Two:

We can still be in God’s presence even though He feels completely far away.

And I think that’s okay. But I also know this: I know that sometimes, when we are hurt and when we are scared and when we feel totally alone, God’s apparent absence doesn’t feel at all okay.

Not one bit. I know.

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But on Sunday, when I felt just empty space and the frustration of experiencing random streams of thought rather than the peace and joy and fulfillment of God’s presence, I remembered two words that God whispered to me on Friday: “Please stay.”

So here is realization Number Three:

When your heart has trouble feeling God close, your head can help you remember He truly is.

The Lord your God is in your midst,
    a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
    he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing (Zephaniah 3:17).

Sister, I pray you know God loves you and delights in you being with Him.

Isn’t His love simply, the most amazing thing?

So, this being still and quiet before the Lord? Let’s keep doing it.

Tell me how it’s going. Let’s encourage each other on.

STILL

What have been your realizations or experiences so far? We need to hear what you have to say.

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I Want to Stay in the Stillness with You

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It’s silent. I hear only my own breathing. And then Michelle’s puppy presses his paw against my bare foot–cute, clumsy paws gently brushing the thick carpet.

I’m not sure what I’m listening for. The right prayer? A whisper from God to my heart? I think, actually, I’m relishing the invitation to not think any thoughts. I think, perhaps, I’m enjoying not listening, not searching for what to say, what to do.

A few minutes prior, we read scripture; we layered praise together to our God; and then, in silence–here now, in the silence–we confess our sins. I love this part, this sitting together, in this circle of sisters, not saying a word. It surprises me how much I love it.

Silent confession? Fun? Is it the confessing I love? Is it being in the presence of these dear friends who know my heart so well? Is it the almost tangible silence I find mesmerizing? What part of this is so inviting?

I think it’s all three.

Dolly, who, for almost seven years now, has led our little group through the experience of praying together for our children, guides us deeper into the silence. She loves to sit with her God. She loves to stay.

She helps me, here, by her example, with my sisters, to stay.

When we confess, privately, what is on our hearts, to our God, we stay there for minutes that stretch longer than time. We close our eyes and we sit and, well, I don’t know what goes on in the heads of my friends. But I love this confession time because it’s in this stillness, this quiet, that I breathe: My confessions to God are the act of emptying myself to be present to Him.

I spend a moment giving Him all the burdens of my heart, the ways I’ve messed up, the things I’ve tried to carry on my own. Through the act of confession my spirit is quieted. In the presence of my God I am quieted. The stillness is sacred space; this space with my sisters is holy. We are attentive to this presence of our Father.

Oh, I am thirsty for Him–although I struggle to seek God lately. I struggle to stay here, in the quiet, seeking the presence of the only One who can bring me exactly what I need.

Even with the kids in school now during the days, I jump into housework and errands and writing and work as soon as the house quiets down. Or, I’ll take the dog for a walk or I’ll talk to a friend on the phone or I’ll exercise–and in these moments I am listening to a podcast, to my friend’s voice, to music.

I am not quiet. I am not still. I am not inviting the emptying my spirit needs to be present to the Holy Spirit who makes me whole.

I work hard filling myself up with things–information, thoughts, media. It’s my own pride that chooses activity over being still–I keep going and moving and working, believing productivity will bring joy and contentment and fullness, not my soul quieted while in the presence of God.

I am missing something.

Are you, by chance, missing it, too?

I am wondering if you might want to join me, your sister, sitting in the quiet together each day. How about we try it, say, for a week? This is what I propose we do: how about, for fifteen (or ten or five or two!) minutes a day we just sit. In silence. With God.

How about we don’t have a pen or a journal handy. How about we don’t listen to music. How about we don’t read anything, not even scripture. How about we just find some place of relative stillness and stay in it.

That’s it.

LET'S SIT TOGETHER IN SILENCE PIN

How about we try it today? And then tomorrow, and then the five days after that? I’ll check in on Facebook after I’ve done it each day, and that would be great if you wanted to check in, too.  I might post about it again–well, yeah, I probably will. And if you could leave a comment here, on this post (subscribers, click here to go on over to the blog to leave a comment), to let me know you are here, sitting with me, in the quiet, well, that would pretty much make my day.

This is an experiment, for sure. But I think it’s going to be pretty cool. I don’t know what to expect, and I’m not going to get all freaked out if I struggle to slow and settle into the quiet, at first.

But I am going to expect Him. I am going to know He is with me. I am going to sit with Him and be quiet with Him. If He wants to speak, He will. If He wants me to speak back, I will. But I think there isn’t going to be a lot of talking.

Let’s quiet, knowing we don’t, for a few minutes, need to do a thing. Let’s remember, in the silence, He is the only one who makes us full.

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The Astounding Effect of a Single Yes

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I believe we are all called to do something, just not everything. Focusing on our one thing and doing it well to His glory is both liberating and life changing.

Kristen Welch, Rhinestone Jesus

Kristen Welch, author or Rhinestone Jesus, has me over at her place today. In my post I share a glimpse of the seed that started Gather. It is amazing how one yes to God can lead to another, and then another.

I’d love for you to come on over and read the rest . . .

Can you hear the invitation to say yes? (Sometimes we don’t know what we’re saying yes to yet, and that’s okay.) What is your invitation?

 

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