An Invitation to Savor

There are few people whose voice I want to hear speaking into my every day, but Shauna Niequist is one of them.

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I was so thrilled to receive her latest book, which is a daily devotional called Savor: Living Abundantly Where You Are, As You Are.  My introduction to Niequist was in reading her last book, Bread & Wine, which has since lived in my kitchen amongst my three most used cookbooks, and it looks like this:

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Yes, as you can see, my copy of Bread & Wine is well-loved.  And if you aren’t familiar with Shauna Niequist than you must know: the woman loves food, but not just for the sake of food alone, but for the gathering that happens around the table.  For the way sharing a meal together cracks our hearts wide open to one another, breaks down stiff walls between each other, thaws out our awkwardness toward one another.  The way opening our homes and inviting someone in says, “I see you.  I want to know you.  I want to give you something my hands have made.  I want to share life with you.”  Because of her love for good, nourishing food and the power of a meal shared with loved ones, Niequist often incorporates her favorite recipes into her writing.

Savor is no exception!  Not only is the book beautifully designed, with hand-lettering by Lindsay Letters accenting the linen cover + each page, but it is also thicker than I expected and has gorgeous navy blue edged pages.  Her recipes are sprinkled throughout the book, reminding you that “spiritual living happens not just when we read and pray, but also when we gather with family and friends over dinners and breakfasts and late-night snacks” (back cover),  including a wide variety of recipes such as Blueberry Yogurt Breakfast Cake, Wild Rice Salad, Curried Cauliflower, Fregolotta, Thai Beef Salad, and Grilled Peach + Caramel Sundaes.  I’ve already been busy cooking out of it, as you can see.

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In this devotional, each day begins with a short scripture and a pertinent reflection, encouraging you to savor this life, to savor each day that God has given.  Each day finishes with a question for reflection.  You know an author is gifted at her craft when her words stay with you months or years afterwards, when those words rattle around in your bones and start to live and grow deep in the soil of your own heart.  When that writer communicates the way she sees life so clearly that you can see it, too, and your own vision is transformed.  This is how Shauna writes.  She will inspire you to move beyond surviving your days to paying attention to them, slowing down, feasting, savoring.

“So read and learn and pray and cook and share.  Remember to savor each day, whatever it holds: work and play, coffee and kids, meals and prayers and the good stuff and the hard stuff.  Life is all about relationships, and your daily relationship with God is worth savoring in every moment.”

My only complaint is that each day’s reading leaves me wanting more!  Shauna’s words are evocative, stirring, and true, and a couple paragraphs is just not enough!

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Thanks to HarperCollins Christian Publishing for a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions expressed are my own.

Savoring the End

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Well, it’s the last day of this writing challenge/series!  I have really enjoyed it, and it has definitely been a challenge.  Here are a few things I learned along the way:

1.  Blogging every day can make it a challenge to savor the present moment.  Whew!  Did it ever.  This month has felt like the busiest October we’ve ever had, when my whole objective was to slow down and savor it before the busy (or just crazy?) newborn phase arrives.  However, it just so happened that this month I’ve been doing the bulk of the work of getting set up for baby, while juggling a few other responsibilities and also dealing with end-of-pregnancy insomnia and anxiety.  It was a challenge most days to find time to blog when the kids weren’t around, and usually that happens during afternoon naps.  Which is hard, because nap time also happens to be my lowest/most exhausted time of the day.  And some days I just plain didn’t have anything to say.  It was a challenge to be real and actually spend time savoring the moment instead of trying to keep up with the blog.  Most likely, blogging every day is not ever going to be my jam. 🙂 But it was fun for a month!

2.  The challenge to think about “savoring” every day helped force me to savor more.  I guess professional bloggers, which I am not (hah), plan their content ahead of time and write posts in advance with scheduled postings.  That’s all well and good, but for me, the reason I actually took on this challenge was to literally walk each day through without a plan for how to savor or what I was going to blog about.  Instead I wanted to be sensitive to God’s leading and to listen for Him and to journey through the process of savoring it all.  I didn’t come to this series with something to teach, but as a learner wanting to be open with others about what God was teaching me.  So, even though taking on the commitment to blog every day in some ways filled up my days with just one more activity to potentially distract me, it also forced me to be thinking constantly and intentionally about savoring.  About what it means to receive all things, each day from the Lord.

3.  Writing every day encourages a lot less self-editing and posturing.  Because I didn’t (don’t) have a lot of time to write, I found myself posting more freely.  Writing more freely, self-editing less, and just being more vulnerable instead of over-analyzing.  It has been really freeing and in many ways has made me braver in writing!

4.  Savoring the good is good, but savoring the hard is essential.  This is the big one, huh?!  I had so much I wanted to write more on this but honestly just didn’t have the time or energy to devote to it.  Of course it’s easy to delight in the fun, happy days where we’re visiting orchards, eating pumpkin everything, playing in the leaves, snuggling by the fire.

But what do you do with the days where nothing goes right?
The days where your 3-year-old fights you and argues with every single thing you say all day long?
The days when you’re so sleep-deprived and anxiety ridden you spend most of the day crying?
The days when your soul is just blue?
The days when you have ugly fights with your husband?

Yeah, all those days happened during this month, too.  What does it look like to delight in those days?  Is that a ridiculous thing to even consider?  I thought often of what Job said:  “Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?” (Job 2:10).  To live with open hands means to receive whatever God gives and to find a way to see His hand of good in it.  To hunt for glory in it.

When nothing goes right, to remember that He is in control, not me.
The days when it seems your 3-year old is against you teach you how tiring it is to have a child who will not trust your wisdom and love as a parent.  It can force you to repent of this sin that you yourself commit against God every day, and to thank Him for being such a merciful Father to you in your weakness, to ask Him to help you to extend that kind of grace to your own child.
When you are anxiety-ridden and exhausted, to say no to a few more things, hold loose the day’s plans, and practice casting all your cares on Him, because He cares for you.
When your soul is just blue, to just quiet and to listen for Him and to hold onto Him through it.
When you have ugly fights, to remember how sanctifying marriage can be.  That God uses our failures to bring us to repentance and humility.  That failure can be a place where the enemy gloats over our defeat and accuses us, or it can be a place of repentance and treasuring Jesus who foreknew our wickedness, paid for it in full, and washes us clean when we confess our sins to Him (1 John 1:9).  What a Savior.

This is how we can practice delighting in whatever God gives.  Whatever the day brings.  We have no control over what comes to us, but we can choose how we respond to it.  We can choose how we look at it, how we behold, and we know that whatever our eyes are fixed on we begin to resemble (Matt. 6:22-23).  So we fix our eyes on Jesus, the author + perfecter of our faith (Heb.12:2) and how He looked toward the suffering He faced, and we trust that as we gaze on Him, and gaze on Him, and keep gazing on Him, God transforms us steadily into His same image, the image of His Son (2 Cor. 3:18).

So that wraps up this series!  Here’s one little family picture of us from this month:
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Happy Fall, folks!  Thanks for reading along, and I hope some of you new readers will stick around + continue with me in the journey of savoring everything He gives.

Savoring These Two

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So we are just one day away from wrapping up this 31 day series.  Often throughout this past month, I have been reflecting on and just enjoying these two little lambs.  They change and grow so quickly, and I don’t write down their little stages and idiosyncrasies often enough.  It has been a sweet thing, just being a little family of four and seeing the friendship grow between these two.  They are usually pretty inseparable and love to do most things together.

Noah is almost two.  He is talking up a storm, and repeats a lot of what we say.  He loves anything to do with trucks, tractors, airplanes, trains, and firetrucks.  I love how when he sees something or wants to say something, it’s almost always directed at me.  “A truck, momma!”  “See a car, momma.”  “All done, momma.”  (Although in my weary moments, it can be exhausting, it is the sweetest thing ever to be the one he wants to share everything with.  I hope it never changes.)  He is just beginning to really love books, and now brings me books to read to him and says, “Gook, momma.”  (He never used to sit still long enough.)  His favorite is a board book we have that has 100 first words, and he wants to “read” it at least five times a day, which entails me having him find things in it or tell me the word for the picture. He loves “spiky hair” in the bath that Daddy gives him.  Daddy whips it up into two spikes and he smacks it down, squealing and laughing.  He loves music more than even Phoebe I think, and breaks out dancing as soon as we turn it on.  His favorite songs to sing at night before bed are “Jesus” (Jesus loves me) and “Ka-kee-us” (Zacchaeus was a Wee Little Man) and “David” (Only a Boy Named David).  When we ask him what he’s thankful for each night, it’s almost always “Jesus.”  After his bath and jammies are on he comes running for me down the hall saying “momma, momma, momma” and then shows me his clean snuggly self and just jumps up and down around the room.    When he’s thirsty he says, “water, me,” so I call him my little plant.  Lately he loves to lay down and drive his cars slowly back and forth, staring closely at the wheels and looking at how they work.  Yogurt is “whoa-gurt.”  He comes up to me often out of the blue and says “I la lu tooo, momma.”  He is obsessed with his blankie (“Dee-dee”) and always has to chew it.  One of his happiest moments is when I say in the morning “Ok guys, shoes on.”  He screams with arms in the air “Shoes on!” and runs downstairs for his shoes.  He’s pretty shy with new people and other kids, but he’s starting to warm up more to others.  He seems to be understanding that a baby is in my tummy and he sits on my lap, facing my tummy, poking it and talking to the baby.  He’s starting to love saying hi to people when we’re out, realizing often people will talk back to him.  He shoots his hand straight out like he’s jabbing them and says “Hey dare.” (Hey there).

Phoebe is almost four.  She loves wearing dresses, and changing outfits at least ten times a day.  Half they time she’s just running around half naked in between “costume” changes.  She loves to dress up in her tutu’s, or be “the bride,” or “Laura (from Little House on the Prairie).”  She could read books all day long if you would read to her.  Pretty much, if you sit down for more than thirty seconds, she will run to your lap with a book for you to read to her.  She loves to play with Noah probably more than he needs to play with her and is always scampering around to see what he’s up to.  And often pestering him, though she usually doesn’t mean to.  She loves to sing, often her own renditions of things like “If you’re happy, then you know it, clap your hands.”  She loves being outside, jumping on the trampoline, riding her trike or scooter, playing at the park, and going for walks.  She’s starting to be really interested in bugs and getting up close to examine them.  She loves when you play Doctor with her (she usually only wants to be the patient).  And she cannot wait to have another little baby in the house to hold and help mommie with.

I know that when baby girl comes, our “normal” will be thrown for a loop for a bit, but then we won’t be able to remember what it was like before she was a part of things.  It’s good for me to find things to look forward to in the next season so that saying goodbye to this one is easier.  It’ll be so fun to see Noah get to be the big brother.  And to see what Phoebe is like with a sister we can dress up, a real, live doll.

As this month closes and we are almost all ready for baby girl to come, I’m looking forward to slowing down the busy rushing and just enjoy and snuggle on these two kiddos a whole lot.

Finish the Day

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“Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

(Borrowed this quote from this lovely blog, a good word for the late end of this day.)

How to Turn a Bent Soul

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If anyone needs to pray, a momma needs to pray!  But the weary days.. the discouraging days.. the days when your brain is so fried trying to multitask 173 different things at once and answer the children’s incessant questions.  Kindly.

How to pray?  What to pray?  Often throughout the day, many of us shoot up our thoughts, our ramblings, our pleadings, our worries to the Lord, talking with Him over everything.  And we know He gladly hears + receives these prayers, as we know He tells us in Psalm 62:8 to pour out our hearts before Him because our God is a refuge for us.

Maybe like me, many of you struggle with prayer.  You can find time to fit other disciplines into your day, but taking time just to sit and do nothing but talk over specific needs and desires with the Father?  It feels like an unjustifiable luxury (especially in light of the dishes waiting to be washed, the laundry that needs folding).  It is hard to quiet our busy souls, our busy minds, and to feel allowed to sit before Him in stillness and pour out our hearts.

But sometimes we need help.  Sometimes we don’t know what to pray.  Sometimes we don’t have a lot of time to pray, just minutes squeezed in while we wait in the school pick-up line, or the line at the grocery store, for pete’s sake!  It’s times like these that we can learn to lean on the prayers of others, the words of others that may give expression to the groaning of our own souls.

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This little book is a sweet companion for mothers.  It is small (and light) enough to fit easily in your purse and have with you or simply to keep it tucked in a spot where you can turn to it daily for help and encouragement.  There is a topical prayer for each day, ending with scripture, enabling you to journey through the prayers each day of the year.  Or you can flip through the topical index in the back to find words for the particular struggle or need, with topics such as fear, anger, conflict, comparison, marriage, money, guilt, regret, worship, etc.  I have found it to help me to pray more specifically for myself and for my children.  I am also finding myself turning to it at a particular time each day when my soul is most distracted, and turning my thoughts and words back onto the Lord.  Maybe I’m the only one, but I find my soul naturally bends away from God in the course of the day.  Prayer is such a mystery to me, how it works, even (dare I say it) if it works, or if “working” is even the goal of prayer.  But maybe “turning” is what prayer is about.  Turning again to the Lord.  Turning back to Him.  Turning over to Him what we are wringing our hands over.  Turning back what has bent away.  Re-turning.

“For thus says the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel: “In returning and rest you shall be saved; In quietness and confidence shall be your strength.” {Isaiah 30:15}

I would highly recommend it to all the mommas looking for a small and simple prayer help!  It would also make a lovely gift for a new momma.

“Therefore let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and find grace whenever we need help.”  {Hebrews 4:!6}

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*Tyndale House Publishers has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.  I am not required to present a favorable review of the book and the opinions expressed are my own.

My Soul’s Delight

The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
Matthew 13:44

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“Once we had no delight in God, and Christ was just a vague historical figure.  What we enjoyed was food and friendships and productivity and investments and vacations and hobbies and games and reading and shopping and sex and sports and art and TV and travel…but not God.  He was an idea–even a good one–and a topic for discussion; but he was not a treasure of delight.

Then something miraculous happened.  It was like the opening of the eyes of the blind during the golden dawn.  First the stunned silence before the unspeakable beauty of holiness.  Then the shock and terror that we had actually loved the darkness.  Then the settling stillness of joy that this is the soul’s end.  The quest is over.  We would give anything if we might be granted to live in the presence of this glory forever and ever.”

(John Piper, Desiring God)

May you find your soul’s delight today in Jesus, God’s treasure chest of holy joy for you.

Savoring the Gospel When You Fail

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There’s nothing like failure to make you treasure the Gospel.  I most savor the Gospel when I am most aware of my depravity and continued, seemingly constant need.  It was one of those days, today.  I am feeling a bit broken and grace-hungry and don’t have much to offer, needing to preach the Gospel to my own soul tonight.

These words from one of my favorite books:

“God joyfully puts the treasure of the gospel into our clumsy, butter-finger hands despite our sinfulness, inadequacies, and failings.  But sometimes we just don’t buy that.  Two main reasons come to mind.

First, it is contrary to our natural logic that God would choose to use the foolish and the weak to show himself to be wise.  We have difficulty seeing how God is praised through our insufficiencies.  Wouldn’t the Lord be more glorified through a flawlessly planned and executed hospitality event?  Wouldn’t the Lord’s name be more honored if we knew how to articulate his goodness with enthusiastic clarity?  Wouldn’t it give more praise to the heavenly Father when his children look presentable and don’t have any unsightly blemishes?  Wouldn’t the Creator be praised even more if his redeemed were admired the world over and lifted up as spectacular specimens of humanity?  We find it difficult to comprehend how God chooses to use the weak and the broken to show himself to be strong and sufficient.

Second, we’re uncomfortable with our weaknesses and failures. We would much rather host flawlessly planned and executed hospitality events.  We’d prefer to articulate ourselves with clarity.  We work so hard to look presentable and defer the effects of aging.  We want to be admired.  Our preference boils down to just that–we are the ones want to be admired.  We want to live for our own glory.  We’re sinful, self-centered, and reluctant to worship God as our creator who has the right to do with us as he pleases….

There is hope for us who forget on a daily basis the work of Christ on the cross.  When we realize that we’ve blown it yet again, we must throw ourselves at the mercy of God shown to us at the cross.  When our attitudes are poor, we must cry out to Jesus for help.  When we’re certain that we’re doing fine and the shroud of pretense begins to envelop us, we must repent of our pride and grab hold of Jesus, confident that he will heal our broken hearts.

The grace of God reminds us to live in the reality of the gospel and the future that he has promised to us in Christ.  Our confidence comes from what Jesus has done and will do in the future in raising us from the dead to eternal life, just as he was raised.  We can reject the self-loathing and prideful gloating.  This will happen when we see Jesus as he truly is.  In seeing him truly, he becomes more and more precious to us, and we in turn become shaped by him as we behold him (2 Cor. 3:18).”

-Gloria Furman, Glimpses of Grace {151-152, 155-156}

“And we all, with unveiled faces reflecting the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another, which is from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (2 Cor. 3:18 NET)

There is good news

In the dead of night it can be hardest to hold onto the truths we believe.  For some reason in the dark of night, when it just seems so very dark and you can barely remember the day, it is hardest to hope.  During the day and the busy ordinary rushing, the fear sometimes seems to lessen, seems silly, even.

Maybe you’re coming off of a difficult night, a night spent battling anxiety, fear, worry over the future instead of spent sleeping.  Maybe you’ve had a night where you’ve felt nothing but weak and faltering, where you’ve whispered the words, “Lord, I cannot do this.  I am failing You!”

There is good news
There is good truth
That you could never change
No matter what you do

You are loved
More than you know
More than you could hope for
After everything you’ve done

As sure as the sun will rise
And chase away the night
His mercy will not end
His mercy will not end

There is good news
Theres a promise
That no matter where you go
You will never be alone

In the dark
In the doubting
When you can’t feel anything
Always, love remains the same

Even through the night, oh
Silver stars will shine, oh
Hope of glory’s light
That will wake us once again

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As sure as the sun rose this morning, even after a very dark night of soul, the sun will rise again.  His mercy will. not. end.  You are not alone.  Even though you feel like you have to go through this alone, you are never alone.  He abides.  He abides with us when we are faithless and failing.

So if you’re going into the night, if you’re in the dark of night.. He is with us.  Where no one else can go, where no one else can walk, in the very valley of the shadow of death, His rod and His staff will comfort us.  “All the way, my Shepherd leads me, what have I to ask beside?”

Leaves are Falling

It’s hard to believe it’s nearly the end of October.  We’ve had a very busy week, but here are some moments from the last day or two captured.  The leaves are turning and the higher winds this week are blowing many off the trees prematurely, it seems.  We’ve been enjoying chilly afternoon walks in this beauty!

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Brown Paper Packages

This week I’ve been feeling really overwhelmed with all the work that needs to be done to be ready for baby to come.  There is the normal work of the household, the slow and steady process of unpacking/settling in from our recent move, and then the work of preparing a space for the new baby as well.  Pregnancy insomnia has set in a bit as well, so exhaustion during the day and being up in the night mulling over tasks and to-do’s.. not super helpful.  Needless to say, we needed to be H O M E today and momma needed to get some work done.  Already, I feel better.  Just seeing the car seat installed, baby clothes being rummaged out of tuperwares, and a few meals beginning to accumulate in the freezer is a big mental help.

The little ones love morning outings, so the announcement that  “we will be home doing things around the house” was met with the usual weeping and gnashing of teeth.  Such days call for intentionality, for pulling out some fun crafts and activities normally reserved for rainy/stuck-at-home days.

We received the sweetest package in the mail yesterday from one of the children’s dearly-beloved aunties.  Such perfect timing.  I pulled it out this morning and their delight over it all was precious.  Each had received a goodie bag of raisins and snack bars, piles of stickers, a pop-up book, halloween window decals (stickers that go on the window??  Can life get better?), as well as a sweet note and some spending money for fun fall activities.  Even baby girl was included {the most adorable onesie}!

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So today we’re savoring the simple joys of brown paper packages + the ordinary fun we can have at home.