Humble.

Humble.

Is there a word that can describe my life in 2018?

Sweet

Messy

Full

A word that can describe me?

Quirky

Loving

Loyal

A word that I want to permeate 2019?

Humble.

In a recent post from Esther Goetz of The Dolly Mama, I came across (perhaps for the first time) the notion of designating one word as a focal point for the entire new year (though it may be changed if one sees fit.) While I’ve made my short and sweet list of resolutions for 2019, I was very inspired by this idea as it focuses less on a pass/fail system, and more on an aspiration for personal growth. The suggested process for choosing your word encourages listing and researching several words and giving careful consideration to each. While I tried to follow the prompts, only one word came to me immediately and stood out most in my mind: Humble. I’ve spent time this month thinking over the importance of this guiding word, and this is what I’ve landed on.

Some definitions I’ve found of the word included “not proud”, “modest”, and “courteously respectful”. I mostly prefer the Biblical significance of this word.

Philippians 2:3 mentions this attribute as it says to “be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.”

Romans‬ ‭12:3-5 states: “Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us. Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.”‬ ‭(Emphasis added.)

James 4:7 says “So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”

And I define ‘humble’ simply as this: more of Him, less of me.

‭‭This is one sentiment that I want to carry with me in all of life, and one of my greatest goals: to be more Christ-like and less Jess-like, and to glorify Him in all things.

What is your 2019 Word of the Year?

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Living With Less

Living With Less

I remember the threat well: “if you don’t clean your room I’m taking a trash bag and throwing away all your toys!”

Look out! Whenever my mama made a threat like that I knew it was time to get my butt in gear. I really didn’t want my belongings relocated to the local dump, but I looked before me at the mess and was overwhelmed to the point of making no efforts at all. I wasn’t enjoying the benefits of my tea set or my life-sized Barbie when they were buried somewhere under coloring books and Lite Brite pegs. Yet I just couldn’t muster the energy to even begin. I already felt defeated. The things I owned were owning my emotions and draining my energy. I half considered letting my mom follow through on just hauling it all away.

– • – • – • – • –

(Photo credit: Hutomo Abrianto)

If I’m being honest, I’ve used that threat on my own child before.

It probably sounds irrational until there are heaps of toys, parts, and assorted junk spilling over in front of you. Any parent out there has probably at least thought as much. (Right?)

Toys aren’t the only culprit for that uncomfortable overwhelming feeling, either. I accumulate my own heaps and piles. One of the worst is the closet under our staircase. It catches everything. (Literally…. sometimes you have to toss items into the back because of the slope of the ceiling in there- don’t judge!) It’s perfect for wrapping paper, old paint cans, boxes of seasonal decor, and items I plan to return “someday”. You know what I’m talking about…. we all have that closet. I may go days without thinking much of it, but anytime I reach in there, the excess consumes me.

Over the years I have realized something very important whenever any corner of my home momentarily starts resembling my childhood room or that stair closet: it stresses me out. If I come home to clutter, my anxiety starts in. If I wake up and it’s there, my day can start to derail. It’s why so much of my day is spent tidying: ahh, peace of mind.

I can’t believe it took me so long to realize that property can penalize you.

But it can.

(Photo credit: Cheryl Winn-Boujnida)

“Better to have little, with fear for the Lord, than to have great treasure and inner turmoil,” says Proverbs‬ ‭15:16‬. And that’s exactly what excess eagerly gives me: inner turmoil.

After all, “what good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?” (Mathew 8:36). I don’t want to forfeit my soul or what peace of mind I could have by eliminating the distractions that keep me from living simply in Christ. That’s why “living with less” became my number one resolution for 2019.

I’ve started this process in small steps, and I imagine it will be just that: an ongoing process. It took me years to accumulate my belongings, so it makes sense that it will take a while to weed out the unnecessaries among them. I started in the kitchen by pulling out every pot, pan, and gadget that I have no reasonable use for. Away to donate they go. I plan to continue on this way throughout the year one cabinet, closet, and cranny at a time. At the end of the day, my motivation to make these changes comes from four of what I think are the greatest benefits.

  • Why Live With Less:
    1. Less distracting
      Less costly
      Higher quality (vs. greater quantity)
      Less fuss

    If I don’t have my nose in my shopping apps I have more time for doing what matters. If my goal is to have less, then the intrinsic benefit is that I’m spending less. When I do purchase things, I then have the ability and the space to go for higher quality items which will last longer and not need replaced as often. I’m able to clear away useless items that do nothing more than take up space.

    Now I don’t think this has to be intimidating, and I don’t think it has to mean that you’re going to live in a plain house with a few walls and empty space in between. To me, the whole idea is to take a reality check on your heart and mindset when seeking out material things, and when observing what you already own.

    (Photo credit: Hutomo Abrianto)

    These are some of the things I ask myself when deciding on a purchase or making decisions of what stays and what goes:

      Am I/Why am I attached to this?
      Is my attachment to this item making me loosen my grip on what God wants for my life?
      Do I spend time on upkeep or shopping for accessories for it and wasting time and money better spent?
      Does the cost of it leave me less inclined to give to church or charity?
      Does the storage of it cost space or money that I could use more wisely?
      Am I buying/holding on to this to impress someone?

    As I move down the list of questions, my motives for whatever item become clear. Sometimes I don’t even realize there’s more to wanting a possession than just wanting it, but there always is. Buying or holding onto things for the wrong reasons just tends to stack them in between me and my Creator until eventually I can’t even see Him over the pile. It blocks my view of what a calming and peaceful environment looks like. It’s not until I start eliminating the excess that I can start to see the blessings on the other side.

    Have you come across any great tips for keeping your home decluttered, or cutting down on unnecessary items? Comment them below!

    Things My Kids Say Thursday #10

    Things My Kids Say Thursday #10

    Son (8 yrs.): What is tofu?

    Me: It’s a food people eat instead of meat, why?

    Son: I always thought it was food made from toes.

    – • – • – • – • –

    I was a good mom and corrected him.. BUT if I’d had more presence of mind through the laughter I could have let him go on thinking that and had a pretty fun surprise meal waiting for him later…. 😂

    “I made this for you!”

    “I made this for you!”

    “I made you this!” These are often the proud words of:

    A. Anyone who has ever considered herself crafty, or

    B. Any child who has ever finger painted, paper crafted, or demolished his or her parent’s personal belongings and glued them into a new creation

    (Photo credit: Karly Santiago)

    It’s a highly anticipated moment to finally gift someone with a creation from your own hands, whatever it may be. The long hours and unwholesome- I mean loving words that go into making a special gift make that moment worth it. Bringing life to piles of stuff and making them into a fully formed and materialized idea is a special experience. Some may see it as a frivolous use of time or materials, but I see it as an opportunity to explore a characteristic of God- one we exhibit because we are made in His image.

    The first five words of the Bible are these:

    “In the beginning God created…”

    God was a creator. It’s easy to remember that He made the heavens and the earth and so on, but have you ever stopped to think how plain and boring He could have made each thing? The sky could have been white and the earth could have been shades of gray, and so on with every creation in between. He could have created one food with one flavor for us. (Thank you God that you gave us good food, amen!) But stop and take a look around- God…. was a creator. He created purposeful things and beautiful things, and countless combinations of the two.

    (Photo credit: rawpixel)

    This is an exciting observation for an artistic person like me because Genesis 1 gives another truth not long after this first inspiring verse. It says that human beings are made in God’s image. So if God is a creator and He made me to resemble Him, that means that there is some creative power in me, too.

    Somewhere along in life I stumbled upon this perspective-changing quote from Leo Buscaglia:

    “Your talent is God’s gift to you. What you do with it is your gift back to God.”

    Maybe you’ve talked yourself out of creative pursuits, either believing they aren’t worthwhile or that they won’t sustain you. It’s certainly not unheard of for a person to do this, but I’m here to encourage you to make wise use of the gifts God gave you! I believe that there is a way to honor God with every skill and talent He gives us. And what’s more- I believe they are connected to how you pursue your purpose. Our purpose in this life is to love God and love people, but the beauty is that God has blessed us with so many ways to do those things. He made no mistakes when carefully deciding what skills to give to each of us.

    If you sew, make items for those in need. If you are useful with building, help an unable neighbor with some much needed home repairs. If you paint, make a beautiful piece for someone who needs cheering up. There is always a way show love through your own personal God-given skill set.

    What are some of your skills and talents? How have you found ways to use them to “gift back to God”?

    Waiting is Hard

    Waiting is Hard

    “JUICE!” cried my tiny boss, when asked if she would like her purple butterfly cup refilled. Her little feet stamped and stomped, rambunctious with anticipation.

    “BOD#%ZTX!”*

    *(Translation: ‘bottle’.)

    The volume of her demands was rising, as if controlled by an internal radio knob. She was almost in full meltdown when at last- the bottle of juice was in plain sight. Her whining turned to giggles when she realized that I had not made her any false promises and the object of her desire was just moments away. Suddenly the waiting for her became bearable, and she became content knowing that she would receive what she’d asked for.

    (Photo credit: Brooke Lark)

    – • – • – • – • –

    Man, I can be a toddler. Waiting is hard, right? Whatever my proverbial juice bottle, I tend to want it when I want it, especially when it’s something big. I bow my head to pray about it, and then open my eyes half expecting it to already be before me. Even when I pray for God’s perfect timing, I still hold out hope that His timing might fit my schedule.

    Our wish lists aren’t always fulfilled on the “Christmas Day” that we have imprinted on our minds when we ask for them. Sometimes the wait even dampens our faith or enthusiasm for our prayer life. It’s so much easier to hold onto that prayer of perfect timing when we see the juice being poured into our bottle right before our eyes because patience is just easier when a reward is promised and visible.

    (Photo credit: Annie Spratt)

    The comfort in waiting is that regardless of your request, God does promise a reward:

    “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”

    ‭‭Philippians‬ ‭4:6-7‬ ‭NLT

    1. Give your worries to God
    2. Pray- tell God what you need
    3. Express your gratitude

    God’s peace- His perfect peace- is our promised reward when we do these simple things.

    I myself am in a season of waiting. I stumbled into a closed door recently, mostly because I had a mask of expectation obstructing my vision. It made me realize that sometimes the blessings sneak in through the window, or the back door, or heck- parachute down from the sky. We don’t always see where God’s answer is going to come from or what it’s going to be. We can’t always expect to see someone filling our order and handing it to us. When we wait, sometimes the answer is an easy ‘yes’, sometimes the answer is ‘not yet’, and sometimes the answer is something even better, though we may not fully understand the entirety of that in this lifetime.

    “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.”

    ‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭55:8-9‬ ‭NLT‬‬

    God is planning something big for your life. His plans are above yours or mine and so we have to keep an open mind for what our answer may look like.

    (Photo credit: Annie Snow)

    If you are in a season of waiting, I’m praying that this time develops your vision for blessings, and that you may see God’s goodness and answers all around you. I hope that your wait is made as short or long as is necessary for God to develop patience and perspective in you.

    How Delightful!

    How Delightful!

    The room was dimly lit with the sleepy light of a late summer day of rain. The rocking chair I’d settled into was neatly angled from the corner of our comfortable living room, and in close proximity to the fresh country air pouring in from the wide open window. The sound of water up against the porch awning was gentle and unobtrusive, more comforting than any lullaby.

    I rested my head on the back of the rocker as it glided back and forth. I found myself overwhelmed with gratitude. I was thankful that my husband was off working at a job that provided for our family, that my son was sitting in classes he enjoyed, and for the bliss of being nestled beneath the weight of a sleeping baby.

    (Photo credit: Danielle Dolson)

    “This is Heaven,” I thought. I knew even then that it was one of the best moments I had ever, and maybe would ever, experience in my lifetime. I was deeply contented and my heart was truly delighted.

    “Trust in the Lord and do good. Then you will live safely in the land and prosper. Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires.”

    ‭‭Psalms‬ ‭37:3-4‬ ‭NLT‬‬

    Oh, those traveling verses! Have you ever come across a line of scripture that begins to follow you around? You start to see it on wall hangings, on a passerby’s t-shirt, or maybe more subtly in a book you’re reading or in conversation with a stranger.

    This Psalms passage has been making itself known and as I read it again, a line jumped out at me: “take delight in the Lord”. Do you ever find that there are some common phrases in the Bible or church setting that we kind of take for granted and may not have spent time figuring out? This line occurred to me as a “taken for granted” kind of line, particularly because of what is said next: “take delight in the Lord, and He will give you your heart’s desire.” Well sign me up! The last part peeked my interest because of course, who doesn’t want to be granted their heart’s desire?! It’s like the Bible is saying- God will give you whatever you want, just follow this simple instruction! So naturally you backtrack to examine the instruction more carefully, (and while there is more to it) its true meaning becomes clearer.

    (Photo credit: Monika Grabkowska)

    To get a better grip on the phrase “to delight in”, I tried to plug it into my own life. Here’s what I came up with:

    • I delight in peaceful rainy days with the windows open like the one I described earlier.
    • I delight in funny cat videos.
    • I thoroughly delight in long slow walks through Joann Fabrics with a hot coffee in my hand.
    • I delight in seeing my kids play well together and not push each other into piles of Lego’s.

    The phrase begins to take shape. “Where is your heart?” it seems to say. Now I could edit my post and put “I delight in doing God’s will and studying His Word” at the top, but if I’m being honest, it wasn’t the first thing I thought of. The little joys in life- which are certainly supplied by God- were my more immediate thoughts. Of course there is delight in living a God-led life, but it’s often His blessings that catch our attention first.

    While it’s good to enjoy what God has given us, we shouldn’t allow it to replace our delight in the Lord. As the passage says- take delight in the LORD and he will give you your heart’s desires. The gifts in this life are to be enjoyed, but soon pass away. Our heart should find its happiness in the One who never fades or ends or changes, because then our joy will be unwavering, too. If we delight in the Lord, our desires will naturally evolve to ones that are good and pleasing to Him, and I believe He will in turn grant them.

    (Photo credit: Lesly Juarez)

    “He led me to a place of safety; he rescued me because he delights in me.”

    ‭‭Psalms‬ ‭18:19‬ ‭NLT‬‬

    So what does God delight in? He delights in us- our hearts devoted to Him! There’s no need to get caught up on figuring out any more than that. Just as we delight in our children, so God delights in us. Psalms makes sure to rule out the unnecessary as well:

    “You take no delight in sacrifices or offerings. Now that you have made me listen, I finally understand — you don’t require burnt offerings or sin offerings.”

    ‭‭Psalms‬ ‭40:6‬ ‭NLT‬‬

    God doesn’t need us to check serving, attending service, or activity in a small group off of our list- even though those are things that often come naturally as a result of a devoted heart. He just wants to be the priority on our list. When we study His Word and really grasp what it is to have His Holy Spirit living in our hearts, we will find delight in Him and doing His will becomes a natural side effect.

    “I delight to do Your will, O my God; yes, Your law is within my heart. [Heb. 10:5-9.]”

    ‭‭Psalm‬ ‭40:8‬ ‭AMPC‬‬

    It’s the beginning of what I hope is a delightful holiday week for you all! Enjoy your many blessings as you reflect on them this week- and feel free to share a little about them in the comments below!