This Advent? You Have Permission To Stop Doing

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It’s been a long time since I sat down and tried to not do a thing. One month? Two? Yes, I think the last time might have been in September.

Truly, I hadn’t sat in stillness with my Father for two months. And when I say “stillness” I mean sitting down in a place with no input (music playing, internet beeping, phone buzzing) and having no agenda except to be in the presence of God.

I know there is a lot to do now. I can feel it. The pressure to do is almost tangible, isn’t it? Write those Christmas letters. Wipe the cookie flour off the counter. Decorate the house. Call that friend. Make sugar cookies and smile the whole time while you do it.

Do.

For a few minutes a day, this Advent, can you join me in rebelling against all that pressure to do?

Contemplating stillness

contemplating stillness

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Even in this beautiful invitation to celebrate Advent, I can twist all the beauty right on out of this season and try to do rather than await, with open heart, the presence of my Savior.

Let’s keep this simple: will you join me each day, this December, and sit with me with our Father?

Just a few minutes.

Mute and turn off all electronics.

Turn your to-do list upside down.

Go to a room or a corner where you can be by yourself. (I know how this is tricky and nearly impossible with little kids at your feet, but be creative with the when and the how and the where. You can do this!)

Get comfortable.

Close your eyes.

Put your hands in your lap, maybe even with your palms open. Keep your feet flat on the floor.

(Of course, lying face down, I know, works for some of you . . . but just don’t fall asleep . . . )

And just wait.

Wait on God.

Listen to your breathing. And as you listen, let God draw you in deeper. Let your imagination go.

Let.

It.

Go.

He wants to show you where He is. He wants to show you where you are with Him.

Right Now.

I’m doing this.

Every day. Just a few minutes.

It’s going to be good.

This Advent

Are you with me?

*Join me over at my friend Kristin’s today remembering “I am desperate for you, Father, and this desperation is my strength.”

Also, don’t forget that this Friday, December 5, is the last day to order Loop and guarantee delivery from the publisher for Christmas. AND, if you order by December 5 and you email me your receipt (jennifer@gatherministries.com) you get 6 free 8 x 10 free arts prints and/or a free Loop audiobook (if you order 10 or more Loop books)! You can order at Amazon or lots of other places where books are sold. Click here to learn more.

Loop free gifts incentive (5)

For You Shine Bright, My Love

You Are Bright

For J.

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Oh, it’s been cloudy here, God. This heart of mine drifting, unsure of what it feels. Sleeplessness can do this, I know. For I am so tired, stumbling through days with this precious life, my newborn, swaddled close. You journey me back home, where family is, and I am sure you are here.

Take me up close now, God. Take me in deeper. Take me where I hear you, where I feel you, where I recognize you, through the haze of my sleep-deprived state.

There is color all around and I want to step out into it. There is music singing. I can hear it in the trees, the aspens stretching gold fingers to blue sky and shouting aloud your name.

Help me shout with my whole heart, my Father. Help me to sing out loud this beauty you give me. Help me to inhale your rest, ingest you food. Let your words sink deep into my heart, your presence all around letting me rise.

You shine so bright, my Lord. Your holy presence fills me and equips me for standing. With you I sing and I stand.


My bright shining one, there is color all around you. You radiate hope my darling. You illuminate me.

I see you. I know you. You are given rest. You are loved and not forgotten. You are found and held.

You are my darling one who speaks healing with her words. You are my song, my poemia, my crafting of beauty when it stays and doesn’t fight and lets me show you how special you are, in my name.

My lovely one, close your eyes now. For I am here, in the turmoil. I am here, in the chaos. I am here, in the uncertainty. I am here, in the wondering of what’s next and when and how.

You, my shining one, know how to rescue because I’ve rescued and I am here, in the beauty of this moment, asking you to let me hold you close. No searching for me is required, just an acknowledgment of your desiring me. For you are made to desire me, and here, in the desire, I speak love and restoration into your heart.

There is more for you, in the staying close, in the trusting me, in the letting me hold your heart.

you shine bright


Song to listen to: “I Am Yours,” by Misty Edwards


Join me here each day, sisters, for this 31 Day series. Subscribe and you will get each day’s Voice slipped quietly into your inbox each morning. And click here to read Voice, from the beginning.

VOICE a journey towards life (1)

turning towards God isn’t just about quiet

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My phone vibrates on the table near my bed, and  I grab it quickly and shut it off. It’s one of those misty California Bay Area summer mornings–gray blanket thrown gently across quiet sky. Everything feels quiet. I picture God tucking me in still, even as I stretch my arms, rising slowly out of bed.

I know every creak in the beams of this old bungalow, nearing 100 years old. So, my steps into the kitchen are careful, ginger. The rest of the house still sleeps. The stillness is tangible–so amazing and beautiful and rare I can hardly believe it. I coax my noisy, excited dog out the back door and sit on the couch in the family room, right off the kitchen. This is sacred.

Oh, God, thank you.

I sit for a while, breathing in the beauty of this space–and then I lay down on the couch. Oh, I want to drink in this stillness. I want to wrap myself up in this quiet. This is no small thing.

For each of us, our time with God looks different–and different situations call for different experiences with Him, too. This moment–in the stillness? It was one I didn’t want to forget. So I grabbed a blank piece of paper in the kitchen cabinet and a pen–and I wrote.

How rare and precious it is, this quiet, this time with you. I love my family around me, and I would be sad to be alone for days. But periods of quiet, of complete silence, when things, even the air around me, feels completely still? I am grateful. And I want to stay.

I have trouble desiring to hear you, Father, in the noise. It is not that I think you can’t speak to me in loud cacophony. But I am so easily distracted by sound around me. I know, this morning–the stillness–drew me to you. You can use anything–and you desire everything to draw me to you. I wonder what atmosphere you like to inhabit most? What is your favorite place to be, Father? You must enjoy it all.Or, are there places or situations you don’t like?

In the margin of the paper, I write a little heart–to remind me, when I read this page again, where I wrote down my words–and what I heard God say back:

I don’t like distraction. I like focus and intentionality. I like rest and play and laughter. I like stillness, too.

I fill every space, child. Look what and where I inhabit. Practice turning, so your mind, so distracted, can fix itself on where I am. And your heart awakes. It knows what it wants and needs.

Within you, seek the quiet space, wherever you are. I love noise and music. I love the joyful calling of voices. I love praise.

You are most yourself and at peace in the inhabitance of praise.

In noise and in quiet, I can be present in all things. But it is the turning towards me, in all situations, which lets your mind be focused on me–so your heart and mind cannot help but praise. And in praise you are not distracted and you are most yourself. And when you are most yourself, you are free; you abide in freedom. And that freedom is my love.

It is no surprise that we crave things that feel scarce. And quiet, for many of us, can be one of those things. For me, with summertime and three kids and our little house and our dog, quiet happens–but rarely. I fight for it sometimes, managing to cajole the kids to join me in our studio in the backyard, where there is a big couch and my writing desk pushed right up against Justin’s. There’s a big windowed door that stretches across to the patio and there are tiny lights strung across the ceiling beams. This converted garage is one of the sanctuaries He’s given us, and we use it as a place of escape from noise–even as it doubles as a mini-gym and occasional video game haven, too, with our exercise equipment near the door.

And sometimes, in the still, still quiet of early morning, I practice listening.

We need to do whatever it takes–and it will be different for each of us–to practice listening to God’s voice in our hearts. And as we listen, we are filled with praise. And when we praise, our hearts are turned to God. And we are most ourselves. And we are free.

The Father’s words encourage me to fight for whatever it is that will help me turn to him. He says, “In noise and in quiet, I can be present in all things”. But it is my choice, as his daughter, to practice turning.

TURNING TO GOD PIN

 I want more of that. How about you? How do you practice turning towards God?

 

looking home, inspired by Emily Wierenga’s Atlas Girl

This post, inspired by Emily Wierenga’s new book, Atlas Girl, is part of the Atlas Girl Blog Tour.  To learn more and read the other posts inspired by Emily’s beautiful book, CLICK HERE!

Emily Wierenga's blog tour: Atlas Girl

Three years ago, the afternoon of Mother’s Day, we scrap the bike ride plan and decide to cuddle close. All five of us on the bed, three under the covers, two at my feet.  My husband and my oldest grab the two edges of the big bed first: one with plans for a nap, the other with his book. I climb into the middle, and the two youngest begin silent paper airplane building, steadfast and determined. Their attempt at book reading–burrowed in between us all, under the covers–lasting a good five minutes.

We had planned to take a road trip to surprise my mom for Mother’s Day, but when that got complicated and we didn’t get to go, a day together was what we found God had planned for us anyway. Time together, just the five of us, is what we often need when the world around us feels like it is beginning to swirl.

This isn’t a usual practice of ours, all climbing up on the big bed together to read or to pursue a quiet activity, on a spring afternoon. The May temperature had turned unusually blustery cool, though, the wind spinning the leaves of the trees, and I loved the excuse to pull in close with this small flock He has given us.  I know it will be soon when we won’t all fit up here, and the kids’ idea of “quiet time” on a spring afternoon may include something far different than this.  We’ll see. But I wouldn’t be the mother I am without these four souls, here.

So on this day that happened to be Mother’s Day, when these three little children, still soft and sweet, are open to cuddling together with Mom and Dad, I jump at the chance to be close.  I soak them up and stay, my heart celebrating what He gives.

This moment, this moment now, and the next one He brings, so full of beauty and love and hope and joy–I know. I know, in my head, this is true. I believe, in my heart, this is real–the gift the Father offers, the gift He gives through hearts that give thanks in the moments that seem like details, accessories to the larger moments of  a day. But I need reminders to take in the beauty of the small. I need reminders to be present where I am. For I so want to be present with God.

***

Emily T. Wierenga, award-winning journalist and author of 4 books, has released her first memoir, Atlas Girl: Finding Home in the Last Place I Thought to Look. It is described: “Girl Meets God” meets “Wild” meets “Eat, Pray, Love.” I am loving every word. You can grab a copy here.

Girls, what moment for you triggers the recognition of “home”?

no longer the brokenhearted: a review & giveaway of Finding Spiritual Whitespace, by Bonnie Gray

I miss writing here. I miss writing, in general. I miss sitting and listening and slowing. I miss choosing quiet and holding God’s hand.

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I have been reading Bonnie Gray’s book, Finding Spiritual Whitespace: awakening your soul to rest, a book about choosing to let God in, a book about choosing to let Him guide our time, our memories, our choices throughout the day. It’s a book about surrendering, in all the possible ways. It’s a book about a little girl’s heart that was broken and healed again when she let herself be guided into moments with her Father, especially moments in her past that He longed to heal and rewrite.

Bonnie’s story is stunningly beautiful and heartbreaking and glorious. All of this. She is raw and vulnerable and so amazingly brave in how she shares the details of her life that brought such wounding to her heart, as a little girl–this wounding that she carried with her until less than two years ago, when the weight of her wounds led to her experiencing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

God doesn’t want to leave us in the same place. He comes for the brokenhearted, resurrecting the hearts of His daughters who, as little girls, suffered. He knows His daughters, while even grown, still suffer: He knows when the wounds of the past are too great. He knows when the memories have been pushed down, tucked away, not surrendered to and rewritten by Jesus.

I never would have guessed in a thousand years my journey to rest would be paved with so much anguish. But the journey of the soul is one that Jesus is deeply and intimately familiar with (Bonnie Gray, Finding Spiritual Whitespace).

God doesn’t forget and leave the brokenhearted by themselves.

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound (Isaiah 61:1, ESV).

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Each of us is the brokenhearted, in so many hidden, silent, undiscovered ways. Our memories, our past, our regrets, the trauma we’ve experienced can cause these soul-centered-inward parts of ourselves to split apart, almost as a form of self-protection.

Sometimes, there are things we’ve endured that are too much for a little girl to face. Consequently, a part of us shuts down, turns off, becomes numb. We are the brokenhearted: not fully ourselves, not fully alive, not fully whole.

Our little girl hearts need to be reunited with the new heart Jesus gives us when He brings healing and rescue and redemption to our past.

We are hungry to be healed, eager for our broken pieces to be made whole. Thus we ask Jesus to help us be courageous, to help us face the memories we’d much rather never again see.

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Bonnie’s book resonated with me the first time I heard the title: Finding Whitespace with God. My new adventure with Justin, with Gather, has been stretching me. I’ve been working hard. But I’ve been neglecting letting God care for my heart. I need to spend time with Him, in quiet spaces, in whitespace where I can hear His voice whisper to me. I need to say no to opportunities, even if they are “good” ones, if it means I am saying no to whitespace with God.

For when I rush, when I am busy, when my to-do list is way too long, I feel so very alone. In these situations, my pride tells me I should work harder, be more efficient, dig in and get more things done. But the God who loves me, who created me, who knows me and draws me close, offers me time with Him. With Him, is whitespace–a place where I can rest and be creative and realize the truth of who I am and breathe.

I was gifted Bonnie’s book, but I’ve read it, instead, on my Kindle. I saved the beautiful paper copy, and didn’t read that one, because I wanted to pass the copy on to one of you.

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Would you like more whitespace with God? Would you like to be encouraged to seek Him–for rest, for healing, for a new start? Would you like to read the story of a woman who clung to God’s hand in the midst of facing nightmarish childhood memories and trusting God to lead her through? Would you like to be invited to slow and consider practical ways you can live differently, once God is allowed into all the hidden places of your heart?

I bet you would.

If you’d like to win the copy of Bonnie Gray’s book, Finding Whitespace with God, leave a comment below on the blog sharing what is drawing you towards God’s whitespace–why this is the perfect book for you to read right now.

Can’t wait to hear–and I’ll announce the winner on Tuesday, June 10.

Gratefully,

Jennifersignaturescript

 

Rest

The brown curled leaves gnarl up, twisting on the wooden fence.  The sprinkler’s water hasn’t reached this side of the yard, this little corner in a postage-stamp size space in the back of the  house, and the vulnerable little vine is dying.

I have prayed, Father, for You to be my gardener, the One who waters and cares for me.  And I look out the back window and see the lush green honeysuckle stretching up towards the sky, and the gnarled, leafless, nameless branches next to it.  These two plants share a fence, a piece of dirt, a place in the same garden.  And one thrives and one, in its patch of life a foot over, is neglected and dies.

It was the plant that bloomed with white flowers, its green leaves once kissing the wooden slats with beauty.  And I wonder if I trust to be cared for by my Father, who longs to water me, nurture me, give me everything I need.  I want this tired plant who dies from lack of care to revive, to rest in the care of the Gardener.

But to rest in His word means to know His word.  To rest in Him, means to know Him.  To rest in His truth means to know His truth. Do I know these things?  Resting means having a heart willing to follow Him, doesn’t it?  Trusting and believing I am being cared for doesn’t mean an act of passivity, does it?  Don’t I have to let Him help me, let Him care for me?  Let His word penetrate my heart and bring nourishment?

I don’t want to be in the dry soil, where the vine withers, doesn’t allow itself to be watered, and misses life.