How to have what all our hurting hearts want most this Father’s Day

I can’t say it any more beautiful than Ann Voscamp. Breathe in her words of healing and HOPE and whisper a prayer for the men who aren’t what you know they could be or who wish they were. Relish who God says you are, apart from the identities given to you in your childhood, apart from how loved you feel, apart from your disappointments and unmet expectations. Know that GOD THE FATHER CAN BE TRUSTED WITH YOUR LIFE. Rest in this promise. He will make evil good and right all wrongs (Genesis 50:19-20.) Let’s celebrate our Heavenly FATHER today.
I sat with a man once —

who told me about falling in love with a woman who was most alluring not in satin but in sweats,

her hair undone and falling, laughing about something long ago, her head thrown back and her neck arching bare and lovely.

That he couldn’t take his eyes off her when she was like that, vulnerable and unmasked, and maybe that’s what beauty is, the brokenness of bare exposure.

He said that’s all he ever wanted.

He wanted her and he wanted to live unafraid because what does it matter what people think of you when you know that you’re known by God?

what does it matter what people think of you when you know that you’re known by God?

 Let people have their bloated opinions — he’d take God’s bottom-line approval any old day. 

Thing was, every time he went to ask for her hand, to commit to a taking and holding gently a life like that, to daily daring to lay down for a life like that, some voice in the back of his rattling mind mocked him for thinking he was a man.

That he wasn’t man enough for a woman like her, that he wasn’t man enough for a brave life where souls lived unashamed and uncovered to each other, that he wasn’t man enough to live unmasked in a world of stiff suits and swaggering loud certainty.

So he’d gone to his dad.

He’d knew where to go — and it was back to his father.

Because a Father is the seed of your beginning, he is the catalyst of your being, the genesis of your becoming. 

Because sometimes the only way to silence the voices in the back of your head is to stand face to face with your Father.

Because when we dream of making a life, dream of making a love that will make life, we return to the beginning, and pray for a moment when our Father leans close over our hoping to breathe the warmth of His willing self into us.

That is what makes him your Father: He is your beginning.

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So he went and sat at his Dad’s table.

He looked his Dad in the eye and told him the life he wanted to have and to hold.

Told his Dad that there was something in him that said that there was something in him that wasn’t enough for her, a voice that told him that he wasn’t good for living vulnerable dreams, a voice that told him he was less than —his voice broke — that he was less than others, less than expectations, less than enough.

He’d looked his father in the eye and that was his Esau Moment.

It happens. And you don’t know when it will come, how often it will come:  Every child, every man, every woman, has these Esau Moments when everything in them wants to beg a blessing from their father.

When you want the man that began you to bless you — to say that you are one of his dreams come true, that you are what he hoped for, you are his desires and love incarnated and there is nothing he will leave behind that compares to the masterpiece of you changing the world and everything coming ahead.

Sometimes what you want most is your father to give you the greatest gift anyone can give someone: for him to believe in you.

Sometimes what you want most is your father to give you the greatest gift anyone can give someone: for him to believe in you.

So that’s what he said — He looked into the face of the man who had given a part of himself to conceive him and he let the Esau words come:

“Dad — I need you to say that I’m enough of a man.” 

I need you, Dad —  to say that I am yours and you aren’t ashamed of me.
I need you, Dad — to say that I am loved and nothing I can ever do or fail to ever do will change how you forever love me.
I need you,  Dad —  to say that I am enough of a man.

And his father turned to him and said —-

“I can’t.”

I could hardly breathe.

His father said, “I can’t tell you everything you need me to say —-

because my own father never said it to me.”

And he looked into the eyes of his own seeking father — and that’s what he felt:

For the first time in his life he felt all his wounds bleeding right there on the inner walls of his own father’s heart.

The Esau Moment of begging blessing had become an Epiphany Moment of softening—

His hardened dad was still but a broken boy who himself had never heard I love you.

His stiffened and masked dad was still a kid who himself had never gotten his own blessing.

His distanced dad was but himself a question still reaching across the chasm of generations, desperate to find something under fingers to touch, to believe in —- and pass on.

Nothing wounds like the elusiveness of love. 

But it can happen and it can be your tender miracle:

There can be an unspoken bond with the one who has wounded you — because you know you both carry the same wounds. 

Hurt people, hurt people. 

You can’t deeply love your parents  — until you grieve the deep wounds of their life.

You can’t deeply love your parents  — until you grieve the deep wounds of their life.

My own Dad looked different to me when I saw him that spring, when I saw his worn hands slipped into his Levi jeans, the way time silvered at his temples and his eyes tried to say things I knew his words never could.

I felt it like a slow thrum around the tender places —- how there is nothing stopping me from being the voice that reaches across the chasm of generations, from mebeing the whisper of what he never heard from his own dad —-but he could hear now from his own child.

I could be the one to say the words he’s always longed to hear: 

“I love you. And nothing you’ve ever done or ever failed to do will change how I forever love you. 

You’re mine and I’m not ashamed of you but I acclaim you for the battles you fought and won, for every struggle that counts as a win because you stayed in the game, you kept breathing and kept wrestling and kept getting up again.

You’ve never lost if you’ve learned. You’ve never failed if you’ve let your feet find the floor again come morning.

And if I’ve loved redemption and grace and mercy for the likes of me, how can I love anything less for the wounds of yours?

And if I’ve loved redemption and grace and mercy for the likes of me, how can I love anything less for the wounds of yours?

Love is patient and patience is a willingness to suffer — and simply, I choose to always love and suffer with you.”

And maybe there’s a way every kid can someday, maybe, get a little closer to the hope of saying that. 

Maybe… maybe there’s a hope that someday, maybe, every one of the wounded can move closer to the healing of that:

Because when you look in the mirror, there it is, in the sheen of the lit reflection, and you recognize it — a glimpse of your own father’s face.

And that face sees their own father’s face who sees their own father’s face— and the reflecting washes over you and on and on until there’s the beginning and there’s a glimpse of the face of God.

And you hear the words your longing is guaranteed to hear, your Esau Moment becoming an Emmanuel Moment, because you, your father, his father —- we all have a Father who is always with us, always blessing us:

You’re the child I imagined and dreamed about and chose before creation, whose name I etched into the palm of my hands with dying affection, 

You’re the one who I think about more than there are grains of sands on the seashorethe one I can’t stop singing love for.

You’re the one who gets what you want most, your Father to give you the greatest gift anyone can give someone: I believe in you — because I am in you so you can believe in Me.

You’re the one I made and will remake and will never forsake —

You are my child and I am Father and to love is to suffer, and I will suffer for you, and I will suffer with you, and I will carry you through till you suffer no more. 

Bear my name and nothing you’ve ever done or ever failed to do will change how I forever love you.”

You can sit with that. You can heal because of that.

And you can look in the mirror and no matter what you know of your father on earth —  you can know of your Father in heaven: A Father’s most important job is to know his own heart is secondary to that of His children’s.

A Father’s most important job is to know his own heart is secondary to that of His children’s.

And your Father in heavenbrokeHis heart for you on that Cross because His love for you is second to none.

And there you are —

You can exhale the relief of the awed grace of something you’ve longed for….

You have your Father and all you’ve ever really wanted —

the tenderest miracle of a redeeming Fatherhood at the core of the universe… at centre of all our seeking hearts.

 

 

 

Related: So God Made a Farmer — and a Mother
A Father’s Loveletter — for every one hurting this weekend. 

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That time I let my friends raid my closet…

Let me say from the get-go that I have very rarely had friends willingly participate in working holiness in my life.

For at least a decade, I have been asking people who know me well to tell me a character flaw I can work on. This exercise instead always turns into compliments. 

(This is NOT the goal.)

The goal is holiness, and I realize that I have blind spots. I love when I have the kind of relationship with someone that I can be completely honest and completely humble with them. It is an equation for success.

So, when the weekly challenge in D-Group was to give away something every day for a week, I knew I would need assistance completing this one.

Because giving gifts is one of my love languages. Doing what I do best is no challenge AT ALL.

I really prayed and debated about it. There were three ways you could give things away. 1 you could give away something you have two of. 2 you could give away something you don’t use. 3 you could give away something that owns you. 

Yikes.

Now, I would give you my last Oreo or my couch pillows or my favorite journal. I would give you my dishes. I could give you almost anything in my house, but at the thought of giving away my clothes, I almost had to take a nerve pill. 

(This was POST-PURGING, mind you.) (Meaning all that was left was what I loved.) (Dearly.)

When the Lord led me to this discovery, I knew my only option was to let my friends leave with something from my closet. I then conspired how to make this happen. I considered hiding my favorite pair of heels, tucking away a few scarves into “storage”, and considering a few of my new shirts as “dirty duds” and throwing them in the washer. 

Herein I discovered that I had a problem.

My accountability partner argued with me. “This is not a problem for you. I never hear you talk about your clothes as an idol. I think you’re being ridiculous.” 

And maybe it was a bit extreme. But I wanted it to truly be a challenge, so I set my resolve. When I announced it to my girls at D-Group, to say that they were less than thrilled was an understatement.

“You want us to raid your closet and pick something we like and take it? What if we take something you need?”

” What if we take your favorite shirt? You’ll hate us forever!”

“Ughhh….This stresses me out.” 

I realized that I wasn’t asking an easy thing. But I needed to know how it felt to give something away. Something that I loved. Something that apparently owned me. I really had to get to the bottom of this. Was it that I didn’t have a clothing budget surplus and I clung to every piece I have because I didn’t have money to replace them? Are those college clothes memories of things? I think it really came down to pride… For so long I promised myself that when I was older, I would look nice. And over a decade of buying individual pieces, I finally felt like I had accomplished that. No longer did I feel the shame and insecurity I felt as a teenager when I knew I wasn’t wearing something pretty. 

Truth be told, I just couldn’t go pick my newest purchases out of my closet and give them to a stranger. I wasn’t at that point yet. But I would be happy to see them go in good hands.

So I sent in the troops and gave them a tour. This drawer has pajamas. This drawer is workout clothes. This section is cardigans.

At first, I stayed out of my room to try to protect myself. Then I continued to hear occasional bursts of laughter and after 15 minutes I decided to go figure out what was taking so long. Either I had ugly clothes, or there were too many options to choose from. 

None of the girls had picked A THING. 

They were standing around looking awkward and making comments about how they didn’t fit in anything. So I pulled out my scarves and showcased my jewelry and even went to my closet and pulled out shirts I thought would work– surprising myself by picking some of my favorites to recommend. 

And you know what? When they walked out that night with my coat and my umbrella scarf and my ruffled sleeveless shirt– all things I love so much–I feel happy inside. I felt released from the idol of image. I still needed to downsize some more, but I still had a large wardrobe to mix-and-match. I no longer felt like my value was in any way attached to my clothes. 

God has gifted me with plenty of pretty things to choose from. 

But the real gift He gave was giving me friends who could help me re-establish my true identity in Christ. You can take everything I own for that feeling. 

You can have all this world. Give me Jesus.

Once Upon a Small House

Once upon a time, back in the last century, a man built a house for his family. He built it so that the sun would rise in the kitchen and set on the bedrooms. Every morning, the sun streamed in the windows and turned on the coffeepot. His wife would read her Bible at the gray-speckled kitchen table. They ate meals together and laughed in the livingroom. At the end of the hallway, there was a closet that had toys in it. Books and puzzles lined its shelves. The grandkids would come to visit and play with the toys. 

They just loved their dream house. As the years went by, the man and his wife grew older and became more feeble. And one day, the man’s wife passed away. He mourned for her every day, and very soon, he also passed away. 
People moved in and out of the house over the years, and their children tried to keep the house up as much as possible. 

A few decades later, two people fell in love and wanted to get married. As their wedding day approached, they began to look for a place to live. They looked at one apartment and thought it was cozy, but the people who owned it never called them back to let them know they could rent it. They were very sad and started to worry that they wouldn’t find a house soon enough. One day, the girl’s grandpa mentioned that there was a house that would be for rent the week before the wedding. They fell in love with it right away. It was tiny, with only two small bedrooms and one bathroom with a pink toilet and bathtub, but the sunlight hit it at just the right spot in the mornings. It was just the right size for the newlyweds. They moved all their furniture in and began dreaming of making it a home and using it for God’s Kingdom. 

The wife especially loved to sit and read her Bible at the kitchen table, just like her great-grandma did. She hoped that her great-grandfather would be pleased with how they took care of the place. She also wished she could tell her great-grandparents how much they loved it.

Over-the-Top

“I heard something on the radio this morning,”  my Grammy said. “If you have one good friend, you are blessed.”

I nodded silently. This, I knew. But I had forgotten. After a while, the world has a way of jading. Being others-centered tends to be a blessing, and a curse, simultaneously. Serving as a way of life can be awkward for some who are not accommodated to it. It appears forced, or fake. Or, in the case of its genuineness, it creates a sense of guilt from those who do not feel they can compensate or repay the grace-giver. And so, they usually accept the first gestures with sincere appreciation. But after a while, as is the case with human nature, they become complacent. Where gratefulness used to be expressed, entitlement at its ugliest (and passivity at its best) takes over. If there is anything that mocks me at the deepest level, it is being overlooked. Not having worth. Not being valued. I have spent too much of my life believing that lie.

I wasn’t going back. And I wasn’t going to let anyone take me back there.

“But, if you have two good friends, you are,” she paused as she tried to remember, “over the top.”

I smiled. The sadness in my spirit melted. I often thought a lot about the friends who had maligned me, or equally hurtful, forgotten about me. Not the friends who call once a year and we pick up where we left off. The ones who ignore. Who don’t respond to attempts at communication. Who pretend to be too busy.Who keep saying, “Yeah– I’ll check the calendar!” and then never get back to me. Who don’t show gratefulness or write thank you notes. The fact is, I do serve for my own good. But I also do it for them. I have come to appreciate the most insignificant of joys, and it bothers me to see blessings overlooked or unidentified.

But what I didn’t spend enough time thinking about were the ones who were there for me, through thick and thin. I began naming people in my head as she continued to talk about the seasoned friendships she had maintained for over 50 years. It was incredible to think of having friends for that long. And I thought continuing to talk to college friends 6 years later was a huge win.

One thing about my Grammy? She is the friend that she would want to have. She has weekly phone dates with her closest buds and she prays for them EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. I know this because she remembers even the least of my requests and asks about them. She sends cards and packages. She hosts people for dinner even when she’s had a long day of babysitting. She loves people well.

My other Gramma is another example of a person who loves others. She is always helping, always busy, always doing. She visits the “least of these” and calls them on their birthdays. I remember going visiting with her when I was young and loving it. She doesn’t have a bad thing to say about anyone. I have a legacy of people who go beyond exhaustion to go above and beyond for others.

This is what I want to be when I grow up.

The friends that I have had the longest are the ones I never expected to go far. In fact, the friends I am closest to now are people I have thought in the past, “We will probably never be friends.” God has a sense of humor. One such friend is now my accountability partner, and I can’t imagine life without her. She has broken off numerous chains of bondage off my life because of her prayers. She asks me the hard questions no one else wants to ask, and she constantly sharpens me to be a better person. The Lord knew way-back-when that I would need her, and she resurfaced in my life at exactly the right time.

In the past, I’ve always tried so hard to force friendships, spending way too much time obsessing over why they didn’t like me as much as I liked them or why they always ignored my attempts at forging relationship. But the friendships that have meant the most to me seem to happen so effortlessly. I met a lady at a Bible study last spring and we were instantly friends. I call her my mentor– she calls me her daughter. She has walked me through seasons of despair and celebrated with me through victories. Her advice and walk with the Lord so inspires me. And I can truly say she does far more for me than I could ever do for her.

I make new friends every month. I’m never so comfortable that I am not looking for someone else to bless or be blessed by. I know the people God has placed in my life have made me the person I am today, and I don’t take that for granted. So now, I don’t wait for the invitation. I introduce myself and initiate conversation and extend the invitation

I saw a quote today: “A civilization flourishes when people plant trees under which they will never sit.” {Greek Proverb}

That’s what my new 80-year-old friend portrays to me. She is a valuable member of the Kingdom, having chili dates with 28-year-olds and inviting people to rock on her porch and share her mountain view and talk about Jesus. She listens to their discouragements and encourages their gifts, watering those young plants and watching them grow strong and tall. I can only pray that if the Lord leaves me here until I’m 80, I will be about the business of planting, nurturing, and watering small trees under which I will never find shade or pluck fruit.

The thing is? We may never get anything back from the friends we choose to bless. We may feel that the relationship is entirely one-sided. But isn’t that how Jesus was? Constantly pouring into people, healing them and speaking words of kindness to them, knowing full-well that they would reject Him? He was about His Father’s business, reflecting the Father to each person He encountered.

Jesus pursued me and I want to love people the way He loved me.  I want to pursue.

I am fortunate to get frustrated that there are not enough days in the week for coffee dates with each of my friends.

And you know what? I think that puts me BEYOND over-the-top.

Resurrection Family

This article is such a beautiful description of the season of Easter that not just any article will do. As soon as I laid eyes on it, I knew I had to feature it here. Lori Manry is an Instagram friend of mine (search environmentsofgrace) and hosts the blog http://environmentsofgrace.com. Please do yourself a favor and follow her!




WHAT NEEDS RESURRECTING IN YOUR LIFE?

spring

How good of Easter to come right after winter. For those cold barren months burrow in us an awareness of death, a humility to that which we cannot control. Instead of the obvious of vibrant colors and the fullness of foliage and the singing of the animal world, when we surrender to a season of dying we must look harder to see life in forms less visible. Like the whispers of wind that foretell change. And the provision of a thick coat that miraculously appear on the deer that winter in our woods. Like the glistening of snow that makes the bare branches sparkle. And the winter fellowship that happens when a family hibernates in their den of togetherness.

There are glimpses of life in every season of death. You just have to let grace be your vision.

But the hardest for me is right now. These days stuck in the in-between. None of the beauty of Winter, with few signs yet of Spring. It’s a holding place that makes me restless.  I yearn for the resurrection of colorful days, of the songs of the birds, of the warmth of the sun. I ache for the way it all breathes life into our bones and we begin to dance instead of huddle.

And this rebirth, this resurrection, is only possible because we endured the season before it. The one that taught us how to be still. The one that tested our patience. The one that made us tuck under covers. The one that brought the dark. The one that stirred in us a fervent longing for what’s to come.

And it has me wondering what needs dying in my life and what needs resurrecting. For when death is happening all around, you can’t help but also notice the winter in your heart. The starvation of control. The dullness of cultural conformity. The infertile nature of judgment. The suffocation of perfectionism. And how God is taking these territories of my heart and making them barren in order to resurrect the abundant life he intends for me. One of surrender. One of intentionality and mission. One of grace.

After death, God always resurrects. This we can be certain of. For it’s His story, and ours. But resurrection happens only after surrender, only after “Into your hands I commit my spirit.” This artist God of ours is always re-creating in and around us, springing forth new life, raising from our graves of flesh a life and spirit that embraces more fully our purpose on this earth.

What needs resurrecting in you? And what must die in order for God to raise up new life?

The Year of Not Yet

In true form, I am still reflecting on what-would-be resolutions this far into January. And I love it. I love coming back to my worksheets and planner and journal, cutting out things that aren’t priorities and adding things that have been needed, such as consistent Bible reading, studying, praying, and focusing on others. This afternoon, I pulled out my two favorite “new year” blog printouts: Beth Moore’s “Glancing Back Before We Move Forward,” and Tara-Leigh Cobble’s “The Ten.”

I wanted to share them with you, in part. First, Beth’s blog post on December 31, 2011:

“Spend a little time while today with Jesus begin very intentional about your last year. The changes. The ups. The downs. The hopes. The disappointments. The inconceivable grace of God. Something He brought you through that you were sure you couldn’t survive. Or something that has yet to come to resolution and what He has done even in the midst of the wait. Philippians 1:6 says that God will complete the work He started in us when He first saved us. That means for our whole lives long, change will be part of the agenda. Are we still changing? Are we still growing? Is there any evidence of growth over our last year?  These are important questions to ask ourselves before we get up tomorrow morning, put {2014} behind us (which is appropriate!) and embrace God’s goodness and grace toward {2015).  If you’re game, after spending those moments with God in reflection, write a comment to this post today using 3 words that have characterized {2014} for you. Tell us something that happened in your heart this year. I know that some of you have had a grueling 12 months and I don’t want you to have to fake it for our sakes, but please consider and express ways God has also shown His faithfulness to you. He’s good even when a season has been anything but.

I have had a hard time picking my 3 words to describe last year.

Last year, in some ways, was preventive. When you dare to dream, those dreams often get crushed. In many ways, I stopped hoping. Someone texted me last week and told me that he felt like he was supposed to tell me not to give up on my dreams. And you know? I realized that I didn’t have any. I had goals. I had passions. But dreaming? I was done with it. Our house was never built. My career promises never came to fruition. I lost people close to me. I believed for restoration for my family that didn’t come. I hoped for things in my marriage that didn’t happen. I was begging to see what God was doing. Even a glimpse would’ve been nice. But, in hindsight, God was preventing me from doing things I would later regret. He is so gracious.

In some ways, last year was paradoxical. When I held onto things, they seeped through my hands. When I tried to let things go, they stuck around. When I dreamed, my dreams got dumped. And, likewise, when I surrendered, I saw miracles happen. We stayed in our rental, and we love it better than the house we would have built. We sold the property we were going to build on and made a little bit of money, all the while thrilling the buyers, who had wanted to buy it when we did, but weren’t able to bid. When I prayed, my situation didn’t change, but I sure did. When I set out to make money, sitting jobs were canceled and people did me wrong and took advantage of me. But yet, when I stopped trying to make it happen and focused more on how what we had could benefit the Kingdom, jobs and money started coming out of nowhere. When I stopped forcing my husband into situations where I hoped he would feel comfortable, the Lord gave us an opportunity I thought he was sure to hate, and yet he has thrived in it. When I gave up on reconciled relationships, the Lord graciously mended them.

Over all, 2014 was parenthetical. And I knew it. The entire year, I felt like I was on the verge of something. It was a year of not yet. Waiting for the Lord to show up and work. Waiting for prayers to get answered. Waiting for a breakthrough. Learning to trust when I couldn’t see. Learning what walking by faith meant. The Lord renewed my hopes and dreams during this time. Not by fulfilling them or even giving me dreams, but by giving me permission to let HIM dream for me. His plans for us are better than we could ever plan for ourselves. In 2014, He allowed me to rest, to learn confidence in my identity as His child, to get filled up. For what, I didn’t know. And I still don’t have a complete picture. But that’s okay. Because we already know that He will complete the good work He started.

I hope you’ll take a few minutes to reflect on last year. I often get strength from reflecting on the past and recognizing what God has done.

And as we move forward, this, from Tara-Leigh, on January 1, 2010:

“So when I woke in darkness on the first new mercies of this year, I asked Him, “What now?”

He took my hand, put my fingers to His lips, and quietly spoke Psalm 62:1-2 to me.
For God alone my soul waits in silence;
from Him comes my salvation.
He only is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken.”

Then He repeated Himself, the way He does when He means business:
Two hours after He led me to those words, I found a tiny scrap of paper someone had written them on.

And so my New Year’s Resolution, if you can call it that, is to learn to wait for Him alone. I don’t know yet how to learn this, but I know that I have a patient, loving teacher.

I step into The Ten, lighter for lack of fear, heavier for weight of hope.

“All the waiting that I’ve done, all the waiting yet to do.” “

Sometimes, resolutions aren’t specific actions with hugely measurable results. Sometimes, they are quiet, unseen, unnoticed, powerful things that could silently change your life. So, amid your “try a new diet” and “clean the house weekly” and “be more social” resolutions, maybe add something quiet on there. Something like, “memorize a passage every month” or “pray for 10 minutes each day” or “write out three blessings every day” or “read at least two verses each morning” or “send one Scripture each day to a friend.”

Consider asking the Lord for a word and a verse this year. My word for 2015 is steadfast. Psalm 42:8 says, “By day the Lord commands His steadfast love, and at night His song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life.”  Every day, I want to remember His love for me. I want my life to sing to Him and to glorify Him. And I want to continue steadfastly doing the things I know I should be doing, even if I don’t see immediate results.

His promise remains and He will be faithful. 

I resolve to believe that.

Holiday Recap

Confession: I really wanted to boycott Christmas this year.

If it weren’t for the fact that it was Jesus’ birthday and all, I wouldn’t even feel sacrilegious at all about it. 2014 flew by faster than any year before (in my lifetime), and it’s just not okay with me. Also, my friend Elisabeth and I made the trek to Pennsylvania at Thanksgiving (which I haven’t done in 16 years), and so that felt like Christmas. (Elisabeth says what we experienced can be referred to as “ThanksMas”. On the way back we were staring at Gingerbread Coffee signs like, “What’s up with that? Don’t they know Christmas is over?”) Needless to say, we spent December being tormented, as it were, by dementia of the worst kind because we were so sure it was January already and yet everyone kept insisting on buying presents like they were going out of style.

Did I mention that I work retail? Yes. And it was “January”.  And yet I was being trampled by the holiday crowd. These do not mix.

By December 15, I was in dyre need of some Christmas spirit. As in, I was getting MAD because everyone else was enjoying Christmas and I was left out. Like I was trapped in a time warp and the world was moving on without me.

NOT a good feeling, in case you were wondering.

God, as usual, came to the rescue. I can’t say that I was ever in traditional holiday spirits, but I did accelerate in joy due to a few key things that got me in the spirit. I thought I would share them with the helpless soul, who, like me, may need to remember them for a time when they could use an ounce of Christmas spirit.

1. Christmas tree shopping

One tradition I have never been part of is the cutting down of the perfect Christmas tree for the Daryl Hilsher household. They make a morning of it and go to the Oregon Dairy and eat breakfast. I almost did a jig when I saw that chocolate milk had unlimited refills at the breakfast bar, and I came close to asking the waitress to set a pitcher of it on our table next to the coffeepot.

Then, out into the freezing cold we went. We went to a FOR REAL Christmas tree farm and got to pick out the “perfect” tree and cut it down. The boys all shared the saw and took turns trying to fell the tree. It was quite fun, complete with a hayride to and from the tree field and a trip to the sidehouse to get some hot cider, which we consumed immediately, to the chagrin of our tongues.

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When we returned to Tennessee, my man and I went out in search of our perfect tree. (We did not go to a FOR REAL Christmas tree farm.) When you go to a friend’s farm, you are at the mercies of the tree. So, this is my Charlie Brown tree. I nearly cried when we brought it home, but after a touch of burlap and some presents underneath, I was quite pleased. Also, it managed to keep my Christmas stress down due to the fact that the branches could only hold 3 ounces each. So my tree was complete with 10 lightweight balls and a string of lights. Bingo.

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We went for a “Christmas-y” lunch with some friends at the local General Morgan Inn, and had our picture taken in front of a REAL tree. Bingo, again. (Of course I’m kidding… this is really our house.)

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As if Christmas wasn’t busy enough, I decided to invite a friend over for breakfast. She came bearing these beautiful packages. That wreath might never get packed away, just in case you’re coming to my house in the next six months. It may still be up. You’ve been warned.

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I met with my mentor at Catalyst Coffee Company and we shared these gifts over a lovely cup of spiced apple cider. She sympathetically listened to my Christmas woes. She made me laugh. And she pointed me to the Prince of Peace. She is almost like having my grandmother in town. I am assured that when they meet, they will be fast friends. (They might not even like me anymore.)

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I went to my nephew Michael’s Christmas program, and I loved watching the wee ones wave their arms and yell at the top of their lungs. If only I could be a kid again! Then maybe my Christmas spirit would come back.

(One song they failed to sing was my mantra for 2014:

Where are you, Christmas?? Why can’t I find you??)

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I also hosted a Christmas sock exchange at my house and that made me feel quite festive. We had a grand time together, eating and well, exchanging socks. Christmas-y ones. My niece Kayla and her grandma even ended up with the same pair of reindeer fuzzies! Neither of them seemed to mind. The evening digressed as my aunt and I concluded with our duet rendition of Elvis’s “Blue Christmas.” IMG_4794

You should be glad you weren’t there.

IMG_5106We welcomed Kate into the world (my cousin/niece) at the end of December, and there’s nothing like a baby to get you in some spirit! As Faith Hill says, a baby changes everything. We THINK she is the last of the Mohicans on the Hilsher side of the family (translation: the last grand young’n.)

Christmas Day presented a fun day for us all! We laughed a lot. And we loved the little beards that my aunt Brandy gave to all the guys!

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(I can hear it now, “Ya’ll need to start workin’ on those great grandchildren!” Gimme time, boys. Too busy enjoying all the other babies!)

New Year’s Day, I had some family over for a last minute brunch. This is our first year doing this, but we might make it a tradition! My Poppy forgot about it and ate breakfast before he came. When he asked for a raincheck, I said, “Sure! But you’ll have to wait until next year.”

That evening, my brother and his family and Brandon and I traipsed to Bass Pro Shop and we still aren’t sure why we did that. All I know is, shopping wears a girl out.

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This past weekend, I went with my mentor and sweet friend Debbie on our first post-Christmas shopping trip and we had a BLAST! We initiated the trip because we are both enamored with flocked Christmas trees and hoped to get one on clearance. Alas, we did not, but we DID find enough other good stuff to make up for it.

We had our last and final Christmas with my mom and brothers and sister this past Sunday. (We like to stretch celebrations out.) I was prepared for the event. Everyone was threatened within an inch of their life if they didn’t take a plate. I HAD to get those sweets out of my house.

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If they wanted gifts, they all had to eat a piece. They all obliged and not a piece was left untouched. This was Lacey’s first Christmas, and she was enamored with the wrapping paper.

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It felt fitting to take a group picture of all the ladies together, especially with my sister Caitlyn beginning her college adventure this coming week!

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It happened to be my half-birthday, but nobody remembered it. I’m still kind of sore about it.

Welp, that’s the end of my holiday recap! It’s hard to believe we stood in line for a roller coaster for 364 days only to have it only last a few hours. But I hope those few hours were meaningful to you and yours.

Thank you for your support, friendships, prayers, and feedback this past year. Here’s to a wonderful 2015!

(Though the Servants Knew)

I love parentheses. They claim to house unimportant material, but we often find out life-changing things in these (humble) abodes.

The servants.

The innocent bystanders.

All they were being paid to do was pull off the wedding. Make it look good. Make the host look good. And then–the wine was gone. Albeit not their fault, the servants usually take the brunt of a rich man’s temper. I’m sure they feared for their jobs, their lives… their joy! This was a big day. If this day went bad, they were all in trouble.

The ceremonial pots, used for cleansing: Those were what Jesus, one of the wedding guests, asked the servants to fill with water.

Now THIS was stupid and borderline risky. What if the Jews saw, heard? They could be out of a job. Or worse, out of the religious sect. Not to mention caught wasting a LOT of water. (SAVE THE WHALES!) Who was this Mary and her son, anyway? They weren’t the boss of them…

They didn’t raise their eyebrows.

They didn’t question.

They didn’t mutter under their breath.

They did what Jesus said.

The most rewarding obedience is what comes when we don’t understand the significance or the reason.

That was the easy part. Then they were told to take it to the master of the feast.

This took great faith on the part of the servants. They just met this dude. And he was asking them to determine if He was a trustworthy person or not. They only knew him for a few minutes!

Can you imagine the fear? The trepidation? This could get them in more trouble than if they stayed out of it altogether. I’m sure the hosts were already irritable and scared themselves. And skeptical of these servants.

But when you’ve tried everything else and it’s not working, you’ll be more willing to try Jesus.

Isn’t that often how it works?

And they took the wine to the master of the feast.

Maybe shaking. Shaking their heads or shaking in their boots.

I wonder if they truly believed it was wine. Or if they thought it was a cruel joke. If they were rehearsing the way they would blame Jesus to keep from losing their heads. I half wonder if they wanted to tell Jesus to take it to the master himself.

I wonder if the water changed colors before it reached the master of the wedding feast. I rather think that it didn’t… because Jesus likes to keep secrets.

He likes to see just how much we trust Him.

Something about this man must have been compelling— because they took it. Without a word of explanation, they gave it to the master of the feast. They didn’t even preface the wine tasting by covering their backs in case it was just water. “Some guy brought this to us….”

Verse 9: “The master…did not know where it came from (though the servants who drew the water knew)…”

Of course they knew. I think it took courage at first not to protect themselves in case it went sour. And later it took courage NOT to reveal the miracle worker. They kept it all to themselves.

It never mentions those servants again. But it does say that the disciples believed in Him.

I would say the servants did, for sure.

I don’t even know if they were introduced to Jesus.

But when you brush shoulders with Him, you can’t help but be changed.

Maybe He is trying to do a miracle for you. But you’re holding back. You don’t believe. You’re too rational, perhaps. Let Him change the muddied waters of your life into wine.

He can do anything. But He often won’t until we obey. Open your eyes to the miracle. The miracle of the season, and the miracle of your season.

Catching Up on Fall- A Few of My Favorite Things

I’ve been mourning the loss of the summer I think I missed. I honestly think this is the first year that summer mostly passed me by and I was unaware of it. Not having a school schedule (last day of school, first day back to school) has put me behind since I graduated from college. In 2009, YA’LL. I feel so old. 7 1/2 years ago seems like another lifetime.

Welcome to adulthood.

We did celebrate summer. Sort of. Brandon and I went to a brand-new beach in the tip of North Carolina and had the time of our lives. The problem was that we went in September. (That’s actually fall, you guys, in case you weren’t aware.) But I refused to believe it wasn’t still summer. So, I’ve been about 2 months behind everyone else. I am just now beginning to embrace fall, and it’s almost over. Like I almost feel guilty that my Christmas decorations aren’t up yet. I JUST CAN’T. It’s too soon. It can’t be that time. If it weren’t Jesus’ birthday, and I wouldn’t seem sacreligious, I would strike on Christmas.

Fall is beautiful, and so many of my Instagram friends have been talking for months about how they’re “bathing in the beauty of their favorite season.” To me, fall has usually been the yellow light before the red. It lasted with perfect weather for no more than two weeks. I dreaded the cold and bundling up and the pre-car-starting before I drive. I freeze in the summer, so you can only imagine my state of chagrin in the snow. It’s pretty and all, but shoot, it should be pretty if the weather puts us through that kind of torture.

But in this holiday-less mood I’ve been in, it hit me sometime this week: I love fall.  More than I ever have before. This year, fall has symbolized putting behind the old and forging the way for the new and fresh. As much as I hated to see the summer go, with the sand dunes and the warm weather, the falling leaves and the chilly coat weather has some sort of magic in it.

So before it totally passes me by, I wanted to share a post about some of the things that I love about fall. Besides pictures of the perfect weather temperatures (for about two weeks) and the beautiful leaves, I’ll share with you what makes my home a celebration of autumn.

IMG_4459  My mom always had a fun wreath on the front door. I picked up this wire frame and fall burlap at Walmart and simply wrapped and tucked it. I bought the inner corduroy wreath from a friend at a discount because it’s foam interior doesn’t keep its shape. It’s perfect snuggled inside the frame. Most people don’t know it’s  two pieces!

IMG_4460These two goodies came from Hobby Lobby when the store was 50% off. I am in love with clocks these days (old, vintage, or big statement clocks). I also adore this Be Thankful cutting board. I think I’ll keep it up year-round in my kitchen!

IMG_4461We have a new vendor-space store in Greeneville called the Burlap Bunny, and it’s the cutest thing I’ve ever seen. I picked up this lantern for something like $12 and paired it on a leaf placemat with these Longaberger pumpkins. I also love my crackle candle. Pumpkin nutmeg is the best scent and the the crackle sound makes me think I have a real fireplace!

IMG_4462I have a fridge frame that I decorate for the seasons. I have Ann Voskamp’s manifesto for the day on here at all times, and for fall, all I did was put some autumn paper behind it and a fall picture that I took at our local coffee shop a few weeks ago.

IMG_4463 I don’t have an abundance of fall decorations, but I try to find a couple statement pieces so that at least each room has something festive in it. I snatched up this Welcome pumpkin string at the Dollar General Market at the end of the season last year for about $3. I love that I can keep it up for at least 3 months. (So since I just got in the fall spirit, expected to see it here until January.)

IMG_4464 The furniture our tv sits on has a couple patches of orange. I love the clementine box… it’s perefect for putting my Groove book picture books in. I also added a pumpkin (which I will admit to having bought because I broke it at the store. There’s a huge hole in the back. Placement is everything, folks.)  IMG_4465

Eveetually, I hope to get this door up on the wall as wall art. But until I can convince my husband, it’s leaned up against a wall in the corner of our living room with strands of pictures around it. Only a few more weeks until lights and Christmas cards get added to it! For fall, I added a simple foam wreath my mom gave me last year to the doorknob.  IMG_4467 I also snagged this cast–iron mirror at the Burlap Bunny for $12. I have a green theme going over in this corner of my bathroom, so the pumpkin that my friend Kimberly made out of scrapbook paper and brads goes well in here to add a touch of fall.

IMG_4469I can NOT even think about the holiday season without my Bath and Body Works soaps. I debated for probably half an hour the other day why it’s so doggone important to me to have these soaps. I finally concluded that it is A) the scent plus B) the cute designs on the front. Like a picture frame with function. I could buy holiday scented soaps anywhere, but I think B&BW probably pay their package designers as much or more than they pay the scent-concocters. (I am confident that these are their real titles. “Hello, I’m Dan. I am a scent concocter for B&BW.”

IMG_4470 My friend Debbie has won her way into my heart. Almost single-handedly due to the fact that every time we meet, she gives me a copy of Better Homes & Gardens. I want to frame this magazine cover. You might recognize it as being part of my fridge frame. Yes. I took a picture of it. That’s how much I like it. If I had unlimited amounts of time, I have no doubt that this magazine would be read a half dozen times. But since I don’t, I just look at it and it gives me the calm that sitting on my favorite bench with cocoa in hand would bring.

Those are just a few things in my house that remind me to cherish the season and bring me joy. I know you have a few things you love, and I would like it ever so much if you would share your fall accent ideas or shoot me a picture of your favorite fall accent to me on Pinterest, Instagram, or Facebook.

Wishing you all a wonderful Thanskgiving and, most of all, a savoring of the best thing our Lord commands us to do: give thanks in everything. He is so good, no matter the season of life or the way things appear to be going for us. Resting in His unseen will and choosing to TRUST His plan above all else is what brings true faith combined with gratitude.

May family, loved ones, and calories be yours this Thanksgiving!

A Season of Change

Snow comes when you least expect it. Like on the dawn of November, just when you’re thigh-high into autumn decorations and pumpkins and gourds. When you’ve finally acclimated to the summer being gone and the cool weather beginning.

And then, snow shows its face.

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And while we may mourn the loss of autumn and the early entrance of winter, if we take the time to slow down, we can see the beauty of the seasons colliding. The brightness of the leaves against the backdrop of the snowy ground is breathtaking.

If you take the time to notice its beauty.

2014 hasn’t gone at all like I expected, either.

It started off with a bang. We were told in January that we would have a house by April. We had high hopes of our very own brand-new house on our beautiful property we had purchased a year before. And then the plan bottomed out. It was a little devastating for us. Okay, a lot devastating. In May, God gave us a new idea, very different from the one we pictured in our minds. We were so appreciative of what God had done. We just couldn’t figure out why we had gone through the process we did.

But in hindsight, I would have turned into an ugly person building a house. Making thousands of decisions and knowing they are practically permanent stressed me to no end. I was a nutcase just discussing all the options. I have come to the conclusion that building a house is only fun if you have fun-ds. (Unlimited, preferably.) Building a house made my two strengths– saving money and making the most of opportunities– butt heads. I knew that practically speaking, saving money was smartest. But also practically speaking, I only got one shot at building a house. And this was it. No pressure, right?

Autumn and winter didn’t mix. And neither do two antithesis strengths.

Or so I thought.

I’m glad God spared me from becoming a miserable person. (My friends and family should thank Him.) (Big time.)

Also in the past year, I’ve been offered two major career changes. I desperately wanted to do both. I wanted to do something BIG. These careers were both something I was passionate about, although neither were my degree. Both were fairly lucrative, in comparison to what I make now, and both offered new horizons and the potential to spend more time at home.

I have never really wanted to be a stay-at-home mom. But the older I get, the more I love being home. It could be because I’m almost never here, but this Saturday morning, I am “trapped” inside, with snow all around, typing while my husband sits next to me watching tv. And I’m so glad I can be here with him. It’s a guilty treat for me, taking time off from work to. do. absolutely. nothing. This is what I want my family to look like when we add mini Tranthams to it.

I have spent a lot of time over the last year wondering if these job offers were the voice of God, telling me I was created for something more. Something different than what I was doing. Was He trying to move me out of my comfort zone? Or maybe He was trying to see just how content I was where I was. 

Contentment has always been an issue for me. This seems to be a fairly frequent human problem. I am grateful that I am not alone, and grateful for the real-ness of my friends who admit that this is a struggle for them, too (#thestruggleisreal). So, it was very possible that this was the lesson He was trying to teach me.

Between house dreams crumbling and careers coming and going, most of this year has felt like I’ve been in “time-out.” Like I had made some bad moves, and I lost my decision-making privileges. I felt like everything I wanted to do was being dangled in front of me, but I was told not to touch it. And with that negative attitude clouding my view, I felt like my ministry was at best useless, or at worst non-existent. I told someone that I felt like I had to wait until I was 33 (like Jesus), before I was able to actually have a ministry.

But in hindsight, these job offers made me think beyond right now…about what I would do when I had children. He has been dealing with me about being a stay-at-home mom, and I have fought Him on it (just like I have almost my whole life about everything.) (I do not say this with pride.)

When we bought our rental house in August, I wore a few more hats to help pay for our increased house payment. I got into cleaning houses, also. I nannied a few more days than usual in addition to working full-time at the bookstore. I had been selling Thirty-one very part-time, but had gotten burnt out with the stack of bags I had accumulated. 

I wanted to sell something that was a consumable product. I wanted to sell something that would help people boost their self-confidence, not just boost their closet capacity. I wanted to offer people a solution to a problem they hadn’t previously been able to fix. I didn’t want to jump on a fad- bandwagon and hope I could ride on the waves of new-ness. I wanted to be with an established company with a great reputation and something to offer people of all ages.

But most of all, I wanted to give hope to women who had no hope, and that meant getting out of my circle of Christian friends (whom I dearly love) and get in front of people I didn’t know. I had become comfortable in my Christian existence doing everything with my “few five” and keeping things cozy.

This series of events this year have put me on a new mission. Not only a mission of meeting new people and increasing my circle of influence, but also a mission of either significantly decreasing the mortgage we just secured or of giving me the sanity to give up my full-time benefits that I enjoy right now so that I am able to stay at home in the future. This time, my practical side and my fun side have met.

Autumn and winter can mix.

Who knew?

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And when the Lord collides them, it provides a beautiful backdrop to show off His strength in my weakness.

Every day, I wake up and I promise you….I’m scared to death. I have many doubts, “Am I doing the right thing? Will I still be doing this in a year? Do I have what it takes to make this business work? Will I fail?” And I hear Jesus say, “Perfect love casts out fear.” And I ask forgiveness, because I know I haven’t loved Him perfectly. If I did, it would make everything seem less scary and I would trust more.

My greatest fears doing a direct-selling business? That people will think I’m using them instead of getting to know them for who they are. (People usually come to me for favors, not the other way around.) And then, I think about the opportunities I’m offering people. A changed life with a product that finally works. A way to “work the system” to get free products instead of dishing out hard-earned money. A dream of working preferred hours and being ones own boss.

This is what I want you to hear: Don’t be alarmed. I won’t blow up your feeds with products specials or group messages or the ever-annoying Facebook event invites. My blog entries aren’t going to turn into a sales pitch. I’m not going to spend our limited time together over coffee convincing you that you need nail wraps or cookware or wrinkle cream, but I will tell you how much you need Jesus. Because we need Him more than the air we bI will hopefully make deeper and more meaningful relationships with people because of this pursuit, but I won’t transform our existing friendship into a business. This has reminded me anew how much I need the Lord and need to pray my way through this. I pray for my events and my guests and my hosts. I pray for a fun atmosphere. And I do pray for success.

But not as much as I pray for new opportunities to minister. I hope that years down the road, no matter where I’m at in a career, that I will not be identified by a particular company or job or title. I pray that I will be identified because I’m a Jesus-lover. And that I will still be fast friends with the women I have met through this business. I am praying for some Timothys (that I can minister to) and some Pauls (that can teach me a few things).

I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating. Do you need to hear it again, too?

The death of a dream always brings life to one you didn’t know you had.

What have you experienced this year that has wrecked you? What has left you jaded and disappointed and afraid?

Maybe you’ve lost someone vital to your life. And you don’t know how you’ll go on.

Maybe you’ve been so hurt by a boss or a close friend or a spouse, and you don’t know if you’ll ever heal. Maybe you’re up to your eyeballs in debt or facing discontentment on every side.

Maybe you feel like you, too, are in time-out.

Maybe you don’t have a clue what’s next, but the possibility of an unknown future scares you more than the mess you’re in the middle of right now.

Maybe you brace yourself every time the phone rings because you know it will be bad news. Are you counting the days until the end of this year because you’re convinced it’s cursed?

Have you had your identity pulled out from under you? Have you been so linked to a person or a career or a title that you feel empty with it gone?

Let me answer your questions with a question: Do you trust that our God redeems?

If we say that we believe in Him, we must also believe that His promises are true. That He works ALL THINGS together for good… for those who love God.

Do you really love Him? Do you really believe Him?

Do you trust Him with your life and with the lives of those you love?

Do you trust His plan?

Do you trust Him to use your ashes to make something beautiful?

I’ve seen Him do it time after time. He has redeemed this screwed up life. That’s how I know.IMG_4176.JPG

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