Thursday, April 17, 2014

Why I need to stop chasing God



Chasing God is exhausting. Yet God doesn't get weary of loving us.

Truly amazing, huh? 

I've been thinking about this lately. Since I first told God I would follow him, I've still struggled to give up control and trust. So instead of following my Savior, I've spent too much time rushing around trying to catch him on my own.

"Christ’s love has moved me to such extremes. His love has the first and last word in everything we do. Our firm decision is to work from this focused center: One man died for everyone. That puts everyone in the same boat. He included everyone in his death so that everyone could also be included in his life, a resurrection life, a far better life than people ever lived on their own." 
{2 Corinthians 5:14-15 in The Message}

Too often I've let my own expectations move me. Approval-seeking perfectionism propelled me when Christ's compassion and love should have compelled me. I've let my circumstances define my mood and other people's reactions dictate my emotions. I've let my own plans become my priorities.

"Over and over in Paul's letter, he urges his listeners to look past their current conditions and seek ways to bring glory to God in spite of the situation, and that doesn't happen by waiting to feel differently about it."
{Angie Smith in "Chasing God"}

Some days I wish my son would obey quicker and annoy his sister less. There are times I wish my daughter would quite worrying about what hasn't happened yet. I carry my own burdens of wanting to do more, thinking I should have said less, and wondering why details are the way they are.

But I need to lay those weights down. I need to stop chasing God.

God's got it. He doesn't need me trying to fix things and wait until I've got my act together. Really, if that were the case, I wouldn't actually need a savior.

But I do.

Because I'm human. So are you.

And we're going to struggle.

Our kids aren't going to listen.

Our plans are going to fall through.

We're going to lose our cool.

We're going to laugh til we cry and cry til we laugh.

We aren't always going to have the words our friend needs.

Other days we're going to say too much.

People are going to disappoint us and we're not going to please everyone we love.

But it's in those struggles, we find our Savior. Yes, sometimes it means letting go of our grudge or lowering our voice. But God's there.

"And the process of becoming more like Him is called sanctification; put simply, it's just the way we move toward righteousness and away from sin in our lives. We won't (in the life) ever be fully sanctified because we live in a bodies that aren't capable of perfection, but because of His love, we push ourselves to grow more like Him every day."
{Angie Smith in "Chasing God"}

In "Chasing God," Angie Smith has reminded me to recognize my need for a Savior. Following Him rather than chasing Him is likely to produce some longer lasting results. In her book, she made me want to seek God more, knowing it's going to be a life-long process. {She also made me laugh about Trapper Keepers because it's like she saw my middle school self, wanting to organize my life into those folders inside the fancy binder decorated with a cat.}

I haven't always been able to laugh at myself. That's something that's come as I've realized I don't need to chase my Savior. More importantly, each day has been part of the journey to walk farther away from my sinful nature and close to God's joy and righteousness. God's love compels me right here in the midst of my ordinary, earthly struggles.
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I received a free copy of "Chasing God" in exchange for a review from Icon Media Group. I was delayed in posting my review, but, honestly, it was good for me to read the book when I did recently. Angie Smith's message complemented some other things God has been teaching me.

I actually ordered hardback "Chasing God" when it released in January, so I'm going to giveaway that copy, which hasn't been read yet. So, who wants to read it? To enter to win, leave a comment about what God's teaching you about your everyday life. I'll randomly choose a winner Thursday, April 24.
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I'm linking this post with Jennifer Dukes Lee's #TellHisStoryThought-Provoking Thursday at Lyli Dunbar's blog and Jill Savage's Hearts at Home blog hop

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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

{Coming Soon} The Ultimate Homemaking Bundle

Y'all know I like to read.

So, if you're with me on that. Stay with me, I have a deal to tell you about!

Introducing ...



Nice, huh? I do understand that ebooks are trendy and popular. You can find them on any subject. But if you think you'd like any of these books included in this bundle, you should go ahead and buy it. It's $29.97 for a bundle of ebooks that would total more than $850 if bought individually. Plus there are bonus products and memberships included!

Topics included ...

  • Homemaking
  • Parenting
  • Faith
  • Marriage
  • Health & food
  • Pregnancy & babies
  • Working from home
  • Holidays
  • Self-care

I know some of the writing included and know a couple of the authors and if those writers are any indication of the bundle's quality, you won't be disappointed. If you're like me and prefer Kindle-ready ebooks, then you can pay a little more and have that.

The Ultimate Homemaking Bundle will be on sale only April 23-28. Stay tuned next week and I'll share more specifics as well as links to purchase these fabulous books.

So, tell me, do you like ebooks?
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I'm an affiliate for this bundle of books, so I earn a percentage of the sales through my links next week. But I'm sharing this offer with you because I think it's a fabulous deal and I'm going to have a new library of ebooks!

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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Making Easter Matter


I want my kids to understand Easter is Jesus' grandest story. That story -- The Story -- involves God sending his son to live on earth, testify of the kingdom coming, die a brutal death, and shock the world by rising from the grave. Our new life is possible because of Jesus' willingness to lay down his life for us out of obedience to his Father. So it is our story too. It's one about grace. And life. And forgiveness. And hope.

Jesus is alive. The stone was rolled away.

That's an exciting story. One that's way better than bunnies and chicks in a basket of pretend grass that shows up in random places for months to come. With the truth in mind, their "Easter basket," yes, singular, has looked liked this in the past:


  • Jelly beans :: Each color represents elements of The Story. Red is for the blood he gave, green for the grass he made, yellow for the sun so bright, orange is for the edge of night, black is for the sins we made, white is for grace he gave, purple is for the hour of sorrow, and pink is for the new tomorrow.
  • Chocolate coins :: The edible money is a reminder of Judas' betrayal
  • Candy rocks :: Sweet symbols of the stone that was rolled away! I couldn't find actual candy rocks this year, so I got Peanut M&Ms ... close, right?
  • Lamb :: One year I gave them each a stuffed one, another year I used smaller party favors, but, regardless, this reminds them Jesus is the Lamb of God. 

Other ways to make Easter meaningful ...


RESURRECTION ROLLS :: I'm sure there are many recipes out there, but this is the one we've used the past few years. {Thanks to Jennifer Schmidt of Balancing Beauty and Bedlam sharing it at incourage.me!} And it's worked well, which, really, is the most important thing when you're expecting a marshmallow to disappear. {See our original experience from 2011.}

JESUS STORYBOOK BIBLE :: My favorite children's Bible is a great Easter resource. Erin at Home With the Boys has outlined what to read through this week leading up to Easter. {Erin's printable is here.}

RESURRECTION EGGS :: These eggs are another fun way to tell the story of Jesus' crucifixion, burial and rising from the grave.

How do you celebrate Easter?
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Monday, April 14, 2014

LIGHT :: Songs of Spring



Here we are in the middle of April. After the winter we've had, I'm grateful for signs of spring. Yes, even the stormy morning we've having here.

I'm also grateful for the signs of new perspective in my life. A spiritual new life, if you will.

The process God's had me on for awhile is intertwining imperfection and light. The message of letting go of my perfectionist tendencies so I can see Jesus in my ordinary moments is one that has been spoken into my life through books, songs and friends. Different versions of the same message have found their way into my heart.

And I'm noticing as I focus on this one message, I keep hearing it. Like songs of spring.

God created the light that is day and the darkness that is night. And he's been in charge from the beginning. I want to be a light that glorifies him and in doing so I know he lightens my load, giving me more opportunities to delight in everyday life.

So I thought I'd share some of the songs that have been sung throughout my days as I embrace this transforming message of LIGHT :

"Pushing Back the Dark" by Josh Wilson :: "The city on a hill, it should be shining still. Every sinner saved by grace, has a purpose, has a place inside the bigger plan, we might not understand. But if we just keep walking on, we will see the Kingdom come. Whatever you do, just don't look back. Oh somebody needs the light you have. Whatever you do, just don't lose heart. Keep on pushing back the dark ..." 
"Marvelous Light" by Ellie Holcomb :: "I am not who I once was, defined by all the things I’d done. Afraid my shame would be exposed, afraid of really being known. But then He gave my heart a home. So I walked out of the darkness and into the light, from fear of shame into the hope of life. Mercy called my name and made a way to fly out of the darkness and into the light ... There's no place I'd rather be. Your light is marvelous. Your light is marvelous. You have come to set us free. You are marvelous; your light is marvelous" 
"Shine On" by Needtobreathe :: "Somewhere between the end and the point where we begin, there's a fire burning brightly that's found it's way too dim. When the feeling's gone ... Shine on, shine on ..." 
"God of Brilliant Lights" by Aaron Shust :: "He is lord over all. His reign will never end. Through the fire and the flood, He draws his children in. He's the light of the world, brighter than the brightest star. The God of brilliant lights is shining down over us, breaking through the darkness, covering all the earth. Oooh, his love is like an ocean. Oooh, forever overflowing. The God of brilliant lights is shining over us ..." 
"My Lighthouse" by Rend Collective :: "My Lighthouse, my lighthouse. Shining in the darkness, I will follow You. My Lighthouse, my Lighthouse. I will trust the promise, You will carry me safe to shore ... I won't fear what tomorrow brings. With each morning I'll rise and sing. My God's love will lead me through. You are the peace in my troubled sea ..."
"Let It Rain" by Zac Brown Band :: "Breathe in deep, let it out. Wash the bitterness out of your mouth. There's no room left for darkness when you're filled with the light it comes out ..." {Read more about this song in my life.}

"All Things Possible" by Mark Schultz :: "Even when it feels like the light is fading and I've lost my way, still I’m holding on to the One who’s making all things possible ... My God is strong and mighty. My God is faithful. My hope is in the Lord, for He is able."

"Dancing in the Minefields" by Andrew Peterson :: "And we're dancing in the minefields. We're sailing in the storm. This is harder than we dreamed. But I believe that's what the promise is for. So when I lose my way, find me. When I loose love's chains, bind me. At the end of all my faith, till the end of all my days. When I forget my name, remind me. 'Cause we bear the light of the Son of Man, so there's nothing left to fear. So I'll walk with you in the shadow lands till the shadows disappear ..."

Now it's your turn. Is it a theme of your year on you anticipated or one that surprised you? How has that message been reinforced through your life? Tell me about the songs you're hearing these days. If you share in the comments, you'll be entered to win a mix CD with these songs and others I've been liking. I'll randomly choose a winner Monday, April 21. 
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I'm linking this post with others who are reflecting on their One Word for 2014 over at Circles of Faith. If you're looking for more resources, "Love Idol" by Jennifer Dukes Lee and "No More Perfect Kids" by Jill Savage and Dr. Kathy Koch have been instrumental in my journey. 

The bracelets ... a few people have asked about my bracelets. The silver one is from DaySpring.com and is designed by Lisa Leonard. See it and other bracelets, necklaces and charms here. The beaded bracelet is one piece that wraps around from WorldCrafts, which sells beautiful handmade jewelry, hand bags and other products that help women living in poverty. 

I'm linking this post with Circles of Faith, Soli Deo Gloria at Jen Ferguson's blog, Inspire Me Monday at Angie Ryg's blog, Three Word Wednesday with Beth Stiff, and Holley Gerth's Coffee for Your Heart.

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Monday, April 7, 2014

When death teaches about living


"We fix our eyes not on what is seen, but what is unseen. 
For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." 
{2 Corinthians 4:18}


We drive by the cemetery almost every day on the way to school, but the last four years we've actually only stopped to gather around the headstone on April 6. {2011. 2012. 2013.}

It's been four years since my father-in-law died unexpectedly. He was 58 and had very few health problems. He was involved and engaged in all sorts of community organizations. While his death left a gaping hole in the Taylor family, it has also taught us about living.

Gary believed in leaving a legacy and lived accordingly. He didn't hold grudges and was generous. He fathered his three boys long after they didn't live under his roof anymore. Those three boys who are now men and their momma, who I adore, continue to live out that legacy.

I think about Gary often, mostly how I wish my kids knew him. Cate had just less than three years with him and Ben was just 4 months old when he died. When we say "Granddaddy," they know who we mean because we tell them stories. They see pictures. And they know where his body lays.

Thankfully, they also know where his soul lives.

Gary left earth four years ago yesterday, but he still teaches us. So much of Cate's perception of heaven is that she believes her beloved Granddaddy is there. With Jesus. Now Ben is learning that too.

"Reality isn't restricted by the limits of our ability to understand. ... And heaven is real even if we have a hard time envisioning it. But there's good news -- God has told us enough that we can begin to do just that. ... We do have the necessary earthly reference points to gain a significant -- though incomplete -- understanding of heaven."
{From "In Light of Eternity" by Randy Alcorn}

Heaven goes far beyond Granddaddy, but I can't help but to be grateful for the lessons of living and dying that he continues teaching us from his eternal home. His death has given our family perspective. We gather at the cemetery each year because it's a good visual for the kids and prompts reminiscing, but we know it's only his earthly body there. His soul that loves Jesus is alive and well.
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Joining Jen Ferguson's Soli Deo Gloria party, Jennifer Dukes Lee's #TellHisStory, and Holley Gerth's Coffee for Your Heart with this post. 

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Thursday, April 3, 2014

Come Alive While Waiting



Waiting is hard, yet it is something we all do. Every day, many times a day, really.

We wait for lights to turn green. We wait for people to return calls and extend invitations. We wait for the mail to be delivered. We wait for dinner to be ready and bedtime to come. We wait for the next season and the next adventure. We wait for babies to be born, job promotions to come, sickness to pass, people to understand what we meant, the necessary finances to come.

We wait.

Waiting was a theme in God making a momma. My husband and I tried for two years to get pregnant. The waiting broke my heart, but I have since learned I didn't approach that season in the way God intended.

I waited for a positive pregnancy test like I was wasting my time. I didn't draw near to God or seek out truth in the moment.

Recently, I was reading about Ruth waiting for Boaz to resolve the matter of caring for her and her mother-in-law, Naomi, in the proper way. In "Take Refuge," a study of Ruth, authors Lara Williams and Katie Orr write about how waiting is active. "Wait" means to "bind," which is interesting to remember while reading Isaiah 40:30-31:

"Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint."

What if while waiting we were binding ourselves to the Lord?

{Read the rest over at my friend Jenn Hand's Coming Alive blog ...}
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Jenn Hand recently released "31 Days to Coming Alive in Christ," a fabulous devotional that will make you laugh, embrace your real life, and find Christ in your everyday moments. This post was inspired by Day 7 in the book. You can order "31 Days to Coming Alive" at Amazon. It's well worth the $3.99. Read my review here.

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Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Lessons in dreaming from the Kentucky Wildcats


I've been a Kentucky fan longer than I can remember. That picture above is 16-month-old me.

But, admittedly, I've especially been enjoying this team the past few weeks. Yes, it's late in the basketball season. The Wildcats are one of the Final Four teams and here I am rooting for them in a new way because they've taught me some lessons about the dreams I have in life.

With all this one-and-done business, it's hard to learn the players' stories. And, yes, the stories are what I love about sports. But this team's story has won me over in a new way and reminded those dreams are worth pursuing.

Five freshman start. It's like Coach John Calipari has a new team every year as many of his players go on to the NBA before they turn 20 years old. As a fan, that's hard to keep up with sometimes. But, now, it's April and the 2013-14 University of Kentucky Wildcats have me.

This NCAA Tournament run has been amazing. An eight seed, the Cats beat ninth-seeded Kansas State, top-seeded Witchita State that hadn't lost a game all season, fourth-seeded Louisville that happens to be the defending champion, and second-seeded Michigan to get where they are. They ended the regular season with a losing streak and hobbled their way in the SEC Tournament, where they ended up fighting until the end.

I knew this team was growing on me when it lost to Florida in the SEC Championship. So much so I had them beating Louisville in my bracket. Yes, it was wishful thinking. My dreams have nothing to do with basketball championships, but this team and its will to win taught me a few things.

Just listen to this quote from UK Coach John Calipari after his team beat Michigan on Sunday to head to the Final Four this coming weekend:

"They were trying. Loving the grind, learning to work, becoming self disciplined. Counting on one another, being their brother’s keeper, all that stuff. Losing themselves in the team.

It’s hard when all seven of them scored 28 a game in high school to give up something and then you’re looking at the other guy, and when they all just settled in and lost themselves in the team, the game became easier. They became better. They had more fun. They became more confident. And all of a sudden this is what you have.

But it took us four months."
{UK Coach John Calipari}

Most of us don't call our people a team. We usually refer to our family or friends. Or maybe your people are your community or even tribe. Perhaps you have a more organized moms group or Bible study. You have co-workers and neighbors.

These people really are like our team in life.

We've all had personal successes and failures. That's part of what we bring to the tables we gather around. We count on each other. We lose some of ourselves when we're part of a team and that makes us better version of ourselves.

But these relationships take time. It took this young team dominated by freshman several months to bond together in a way that made them stronger. When they got to that point, they've found success. It's true that we really are better when we're together. And we won't get better instantly or without the investment into each other's lives.

I listened to UK's press conference after the game on Sunday and I've read through the transcript more than once. It's packed with other lessons:

Believe in your story before it's over. After UK lost to South Carolina, which had a losing record, earlier this season, Aaron Harrison said his team was going to have a great story everyone would be talking about. Coming off a loss, he still knew what team was capable of more and he knew the players would need each other: "I just felt that even though we lost that game we came together in that game. We became stronger in that game because we knew that everyone else on the outside wouldn't be on our side after taking a loss to a team like that. I knew we just had to come together. If we came together we could do some things." Likewise, when God gives you a dream, know there will be losses, but there will be more to the story.

Stay in the moment. UK could have looked past Kansas State and started thinking about handing Witchita State its first lost or facing its rival Louisville again. But that would have distracted the players from what they needed to do in the first game. Take your dreams one step at a time.

Be ready when your time comes. Sometimes dreams have to wait. Marcus Lee got sick earlier this season and hasn't played much since. And then he was one of the stars of Sunday's game. His coach called on him and he was ready. He wasn't even mad that he had to wait for his name to be called: "Spending this time with my family and my brothers is not challenging at all. Once you see that glare in your brother’s eyes when they’re playing hard and winning games, you can’t be mad about it at all." Our time often isn't God's time, but hang in there because the best time is coming.

Stay the course. There will be criticism and doubters and hurdles, but focus on continuing to develop. Life is a process.

Make decisions that help the people around you. Aaron Harrison knew he needed to take the shot. Sure, he could have missed, but he wasn't worried about that and took it anyway. It turned out to be the game-winning shot. Listen to what he said afterward: "I knew I had to take the shot. I wasn't really sure how much time was left. But I knew that it wasn't that much time, so I just tried to take the best shot I could take. And it fell. And in making that shot and seeing my teammates so happy and running toward me, it’s the best feeling in the world."
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All of these quotes were taken from UK's post-game press conference following its win over Michigan on Sunday, March 30. You can read the entire transcript here

I'm joining Jen Ferguson's Soli Deo Gloria party, other God-sized Dreamers, Holley Gerth's Coffee for Your Heart, and Jennifer Dukes Lee's #TellHisStory with this post. 

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