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Book Review: Silence and Other…

I’ve never been one for silence. Quietness and darkness tend to put me on edge because I have such an active mind that without distraction and noise, a lot of times my mind will wander into incredibly weird places.

But, they say you never really know how much you love something until it’s taken away? Well this past semester absolutely took away any potential for silence, quiet time or alone time to just rest. It was filled with days of studying, writing, preparing, working, etc. that wore me down. Everyone has these seasons in their life where it is just non-stop go, go, go.

So when the semester ended, I was actually craving silence, and quiet, alone time. It became a perfect metaphor for this Christmas season where we celebrate the season of Advent, a time of expectant waiting and celebration of the birth of Jesus. Advent’s themes of quiet reflection, patience and silent expectation were exactly what I needed to decompress from a year of highs, louds and actions.

Enter: “Silence and Other Surprising Invitations of Advent” by Enuma Okoro.

enumo okoro

This little 30-day devotional (which I downloaded on my iPhone) is a God-send (no pun intended). It follows the story of Elizabeth and Zechariah and their miraculous conception of John the Baptist. Rather than focusing on the traditional birth story of Jesus, this devotional looks at all the intricacies of Elizabeth’s journey and how silence from God, silence from her husband (when he was rendered mute by the angel) and silence of waiting for her baby boy teach us many things about our own seasons of silence.

Honestly, I’ve been battling what I feel as my own season of silence over the last few months, where I have felt quiet when I prayed my hardest, or misunderstanding when prayers were not answered, or frustration when all my plans seem to fall apart. But, slowly over the last few weeks, reading this lovely book, has restored my heart and showed me the joy that comes in the times of waiting. I even read it in silence each morning over my coffee and bowl of grits before I turn on any electronics, lights, TVs, Christmas music, whatever. This is also why I’ve been quiet on here, I needed detox time. And I’m loving this quiet time more and more.

I’m not finished reading yet, but here’s a snippet of what I’m enjoying most about this book so far:

“Usually we think of God’s timing despairingly because we assume we know what’s best for us. But the scripture passages for the third week of Advent suggest that what we perceive as slowness of action is actually God’s patience with us.”

Such wonderful reminders during this busy, loud, active Christmas season. As we wait for God to move in our lives, there are countless ways to be thankful in the in-between times too.

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Getting Heavy

heavyYou may have seen this image floating around my Pinterest and Facebook page recently. I have no idea the original source, or I would link you to it, but this image hit me square in the face this past week. And I wanted to share encouragement to those of you who may feel as I have felt lately.

Things get heavy. School gets heavy. Jobs get heavy. Church gets heavy. Friends get heavy. Things. Get. Heavy. And the more we pile one, the more we busy ourselves and the more we fret, the more it weighs us down.

I’ve felt heavy lately with a lot on my mind, and I wasn’t being brave enough to let some things go. But I’m learning that it is OK to let things go, let them be and let them marinate for a while, instead of forcing, pushing or pulling our way to the next big thing.

I’m still learning and trying, but I’m listening as hard as I can for God’s leading. And I feel there is freedom and lightness when you scale back and just be for a while. So if you’re feeling heavy, a) you’re not alone and, b) let it go.



I Just Needed Salt

I just needed salt.

I was baking, and out of salt. So, I ran to the store to just buy salt. This is very unlike me. I normally will go without. I’d rather peel a teaspoon of salt off of saltine crackers to use than go to the grocery store for one item. But, this time I went.

And I failed.

I picked up my salt (plus a few other items, so my trip would not be in vain). And stood in line. A woman in front of me, with a banana, a tomato, bread and a bag of rice stood in front of me, counting quarters out of a ziploc bag to pay for her groceries. She was on the cell phone, while counting, so she told me to go ahead in front of her while she finished her conversation.

So I put my milk, chocolate milk, cream cheese, bread and salt on the belt and watch her count as the cashier rang me up. She had enough to pay…but I was so burdened for her, watching her count her nickels, while I pulled out my slick, shiny new American Express credit card to pay for $16 worth of groceries, that I’ll use within a few days, not thinking of what others are going without.

And, her groceries sat at the end of the belt, immediately next to the scanner. All I had to do was say “can you put her 4 items on my receipt?” and I could have paid for her probably $6 worth of groceries, saving her those few precious nickels for something else.

But I didn’t. I failed. I swiped my card, gathered my bag and left. And was immediately hit with a wave of conviction, burden and sorrow for my own failure. Why didn’t I reach out? I was afraid it would offend her, or cause a scene, or what? That I couldn’t afford $6, when I’m going to eat probably a $50 meal tonight?

I cried on the way to the car. I watched her walk out of the store to make sure she was able to buy the food, and then I left. All I could do was say a prayer for God to watch over her, and to give me more opportunities to reach out and bless someone. Not to make myself feel better, but to give them a moment of peace from something they are struggling with. I felt like an utter failure.

We all struggle. Even Jason and I count every cent, making sure we save and spend correctly, but we are blessed beyond measure. I can afford an American Express, AND two MasterCards AND put money in savings every month AND afford vacations AND new clothes every few weeks.

I prayed for forgiveness, but prayed harder for more opportunities to show God’s love, even in the grocery store. Because as we know:

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:13-16

All I needed was salt, but I got more. And for that reminder, I am thankful.

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Starting to feel a sense of renewal and opening again with my daily walk with God. It’s been a hard past few months, I’ve felt disconnected, unwanted and downright apathetic. But His mercies are new each morning, and I’m feeling more and more refreshed in His grace. Thankful for mercy and patience in the eyes of drudgery and stubbornness. Praying for God to move loudly in mine and Jason’s life, so that we’re exactly where he wants us to be.

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This Little Light of Mine

Happy belated Easter! I hope you enjoyed your family time, but most importantly enjoyed celebrating God’s grace and sacrifice that allows us these celebrations.

I admit, I did not prepare well for this Easter.

I’ve been so caught up in school, life, family, etc. that I failed miserably at preparing my heart for the meaning of this past weekend. I could wax poetic about how we always miss the reasons for the seasons, and our preoccupation with material and commercial things overshadow our true needs for forgiveness and salvation. How we “somehow mistakenly” miss it.

But not this time. Honestly, I just flat out failed. I ignored it. I paid no attention to it, almost on purpose. I was burnt. Burnt on making the effort. Burnt on trying to fit one more ounce of emotional need into my life. Burnt on fitting our creation of a family into a pre-fabricated church box. I couldn’t muster the energy or culpability to say I was wrong, so I just kept moving forward, without prayer or conviction. I guess you could say (in church lingo) I’m going through a valley. And Easter was just one more reminder of my failure.

I LOVED the family part of Easter. It’s what I needed. But I did not love the faith part of Easter. And it’s one of the first times in my life I’ve felt this disconnected from something that is so innate to me. It makes me prickly and uncomfortable. On one of the holiest days of the year, I was emotionally absent.

So, I’m praying for redemption, and for patience. I’m praying for understanding that as far away as I feel, I’m never too far from God. And I’m praying for forgiveness. I’m praying that I don’t make this a habit, and that I soon feel settled. It’s actually one of those times where I’m not sure all that I’m praying for, but I have faith God knows my heart and hears my unspoken and unknown prayers. My little light may be dim, but it’s not out.

Have you been through this before? I hope I’m not alone in this.

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Falling Into New

The little Fall weather that Louisiana gets is here for a day, and then quickly falls away. This tree, full and beautiful of red and orange leaves yesterday, is now bare with sticky, sharp limbs awaiting winter. But as the seasons change, it reminds us there are limits to everything.

Jewel (the musician) once sang “Everything is temporary if you give it enough time.” How true this is. In weather. In Life. In everything. So to be thankful in the moment is critical.

I’m thankful for the mildness in our seasons.

I’m thankful for the peacefulness of our surroundings and for the joyfulness in this holiday season.

I’m thankful for the humility of marriage.

I’m thankful for the stress of graduate school because that means I’m being challenged.

I’m thankful for Taco Bell and chocolate milk. Consumed separately, of course.

I’m thankful for the hugs Sadie gives me when I come home.

I’m thankful for girlfriends who I can share joy and pain with.

I’m thankful for coffee.

But most of all, I’m thankful for grace. And the freedom to be thankful.