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Showing posts from 2016

a tale of two paths

Each time I leave my neighborhood - my comfort zone - I am faced with a choice. I cannot go straight ahead. I must choose, left or right.

To the right, and I will be met with rocks, potholes and dust. Yet it is quicker, and I often turn that way when I am in a hurry.

To the left, and I will find sheep grazing and a church that rose from the ashes. The lightning strike is emblazoned on my memory, much like the flames that burst forth and the black smoke that seemed to hover for days. In one brief moment I saw God aim His power to consume a temple constructed by man. He had something greater for His people.

I can reach my destination by either path.

The bumpy road or the smooth one.

The parched earth or the green pasture.

The choice is mine. I wrestle it more often than I should. Most days I instinctively turn to the easy route, but some days I involutarily choose the other. I set my jaw to absorb the jarring, squint against the dust, and pray I'm not causing any permanent damage …

joy

You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound. ~Psalm 4:7

I close my day and the second full month since leaving my girl in a strange room. Her eyes danced in a mix of nerves and excitment. Mine were steely blue, unaware that tears would come a few days later.

They still come at the strangest times.

It's been two months in this new normal. It's been more difficult than I imagined, in ways different than I expected. I'm realizing how much of my identity - even, maybe especially, in our home - has been tied to being a mother. The daily demands of motherhood no longer clamor for my attention, a truth that saddens more than it relieves.

Treading this foreign territory frequently requires more balance than I've been able to muster, though I am learning. Learning to find joy, because there is much joy to be found.

Phone calls and text messages from my girl.

Library books that whisk me away to England, France, and New York.

Ella Fitzgeral…

august waning

A school bus passed by my house Friday afternoon. A sure sign that Autumn is on its way. Despite my dreams of cooler weather and pumpkin muffins, summer still burns down hot. It refuses to go without a fight.

As I wait for the seasons to wrestle it out, I am doing some wrestling of my own. Finding this phase of my life a little uncomfortable. Stepping through each day gingerly, learning how to settle in. It will take time.

In the meanwhile I'm adjusting to fewer loads of laundry and dishes, more time for reading and thinking. I'm also cleaning out some clutter, enjoying my library's digital audiobook service, loading up our Netflix and Amazon Prime queues, and looking for a good Bible study.

Adjusting to a household of two will take time. And grace. And I'm thankful for each day that the Lord gives me both.

bittersweet

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Nearly 18 years ago we brought our girl home from the hospital. She disrupted our comfortable life in every way possible. When she leaves for college next week, she'll do so again.

I have waxed poetic about how quickly the time has passed. It's true these are the days of bittersweet. Watching my girl chomping at the bit, so excited about what this next part of her life will hold is incredibly sweet. Understanding that this part of parenting is over and how far I missed the mark is bitter indeed.

Syler Thomas writes, Raising children must be more about growing them as disciples than about our experience as their parents. His words cause me to examine the past 18 years. I cannot keep count of the moments that raising my daughter was about me - my expectations, my plans, my image, my happiness. How often did I earnestly seek God's expectations, God's plans, God's image, God's happiness? I squandered many opportunities. Knowing that pierces my heart.

This is the sa…

an evening ritual

The unbearable, energy-draining heat

The non-stop political banter and back-biting

The rapid pace of online debates

The reality of my girl leaving home in less than four weeks

Unexpected family health issues

The combination of them can be exhausting. Despite my fatigue, my brain sometimes insists on performing mental gymnastics at bedtime. In these instances sleep evades me or, if it comes, is fitful. The next day I am on edge, more weary and more sensitive than the day before.

I have finally put the merry-go-round behind me with the comfort of an evening ritual. I wrap the last 30 minutes of each day in beauty and truth.

I set my Pandora station to Yo-Yo Ma Radio, pick up my stack of books and crawl into bed.

First, I read soothing prose. This is not the time for an exciting, keep-me-on-the-edge-of-my-seat read. I deliberately seek a calming, rhythmic pace.  Wendell Berry is a favorite choice.

Afterwards, I spend a few moments with the wisdom of Elisabeth Elliot's Keep a Quiet Hear…

doing

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Tears pooled in my eyes as I listened. I didn't know the man at the podium, but I was utterly surprised when he shared his testimony of God's faithfulness. I never would have suspected that he would choose to work with teenagers. He didn't look the part.

But once he started speaking, his passion for older children and teens became evident. His love for the Gospel and sharing it with others was tangible.

His words took me back to the time in my life when loving others and sharing the Gospel was part of me.  When serving was important. Has it really been seven years?


Seven years since my eyes were opened...

to the poverty that cripples much of our world

to the depths of pain unknown in my comfortable life

to the despair of those without the hope of the Gospel

to the fact that there are families who feel blessed to live in ramshackle accommodations roughly equivalent to the size of my bedroom

to the smiling faces of children who thought a piece of penny candy was worth a pound of…

lost

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I lost her infant and toddler years.

They are a blur of diapers and sleepless nights. A terminally ill father-in-law. Balancing home and work. All bear equal blame. I would tiptoe into her room at night - oh, so careful not to wake her - and peer into the crib, determined to memorize every sweet line in her face. I knew I would never forget. I was wrong.

I lost her preschool years.

On-going health issues and a number of surgeries stole them from me. I was so focused on building a new home that her first day of kindergarten sprung upon me like a jack-in-the-box. I heard the music and I knew it was coming, but I was still startled by its appearance.





I lost her elementary school years.

They are hidden among the ball practices and dance classes, homework, and church activities. We lived in 4-week increments of shift rotation - planning "girl time", trying our best not to wake Daddy, and looking forward to that one precious weekend each month when all three of us could be together…

war, no more

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There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: ...a time for war and a time for peace. -Ecclesiastes 3:1, 8
There is satisfaction in knowing that Nietzsche was right: That which does not kill us makes us stronger.  Muscles are strengthened and passions are ignited in battle. Defending something makes you realize how much you love it.

Yes, there is a time for war.
A time to stand up and fight,
to make your presence known and your voice heard.

There is also a time for peace. Not necessarily the peace of this world, but there is peace in accepting that some wars will never be won.

There is relief in understanding it's time to walk away. In no longer being held captive by Satan's lie that those who retreat are cowards. In knowing that by refusing to engage, you can find rest under the heaviest onslaught of artillery.

There is hope that the Lord is your strength and shield (Psalm 28:7). That, as He did for the children of Israel as they faced t…

my girl...

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...doesn't enjoy the spotlight. She doesn't like to draw attention to herself. In a world of selfies and oversharing, I treasure that about her.
The most important person in her life has always been her Daddy. They are peas in a pod, my Frick-and-Frack. One of the most joyous sounds I've ever known is their harmonious laughter. They look alike and they think alike.

Not far behind her Daddy is mine. He is the only grandfather she remembers and she adores him wholeheartedly.

She has a remarkable, understated wit. She doesn't try to be funny. She just is.

Her deep blue eyes - the only trait I could claim as mine - are morphing into a stunning green. No matter their color, I have loved seeing the world through them: big, exciting, full of possibilities and challenges.

She volunteers with the elderly, but her heart is with children. She wants to devote her life to making them well. The Lord has gifted her with a depth of compassion and mercy that I often envy and always…

coming too quickly

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The white robe is tucked away in her closet. The mortar board is hiding in the guest room. The announcements have been put in the mail box.

Each evening my girl gives the countdown. There's no need. A mother is well aware of how quickly her little girl is vanishing before her very eyes.

This week she receives the cord, the golden tassel, and the stoles that mark her years of hard work. Next week she'll march the final steps of her childhood.

And through the tears, I will be cheering her on: sad that this part of her life is ending, and thankful that the Lord has allowed me to be a part of it.




deeply impressed into my brain

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Thoughts on 3 John, from Douglas O'Donnell


Fellowship is more than sharing a cup of coffee after the service; it is sharing life together - the joy and sorrows, triumphs and defeats - so that together we might fight the good fight, finish the race, keep the faith, and long for the glory of God's gospel to cover the earth.

And this...

..."commendation of community" is a welcome "antidote to the individualism that infects" many local churches. Just as the body of Christ "does not consist of one member but of many" (1 Cor. 12:14), we need one another for service (v. 21), perseverance in holiness (Heb. 10:24-25) and mission (Mark 6:7).

And then there's this from Christine Hoover:

The Church is our opportunity to give and receive the love of God. It's about relationships in which we sharpen and are sharpened. Our service is a vessel to pass the love of Christ among ourselves...We are held accountable for our individual faith, but we experience his …

linger not

“‘He lingered.’ (Genesis 19:16) Do not be a lingering soul.

Would you know what the times demand?—The shaking of nations,—the uprooting of ancient things,—the overturning of kingdoms,—the stir and restlessness of men’s minds—what do they say? They all cry aloud,—Christian! do not linger!

Would you be found ready for Christ at His second appearing,—your loins girded,—your lamp burning. yourself bold, and prepared to meet Him? Then do not linger!

Would you enjoy much sensible comfort in your religion,—feel the witness of the Spirit within you,—know whom you have believed,—and not be a gloomy, complaining, sour, downcast, and melancholy Christian? Then do not linger!

Would you enjoy strong assurance of your own salvation, in the day of sickness, and on the bed of death?—Would you see with the eye of faith heaven opening, and Jesus rising to receive you? Then do not linger!

Would you leave great broad evidences behind you when you are gone?—Would you like us to lay you in the gra…

twenty-three

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I can see two pilgrims treating the highway of life together, hand in hand -- heart linked to heart. True, they have had rivers to ford, mountains to cross, fierce enemies to fight and many dangers to go through. But their Guide was watchful, their Deliverer unfailing, and of them it might truly be said, "In all their affliction He was afflicted, and the Angel of His Presence saved them; in His love and in His pity He redeemed them; and he bare them and carried them all the days of old."
- Susannah Spurgeon (source)


As of this coming Sunday, the earth will have orbited the sun 23 times since we said "I Do". It's been a lifetime of long days and short years, seasons of plenty and of want. Our life together is etched upon our hands. When we join them, the olive of his skin stands in sharp contrast to the fairness of mine.

We have seen sleepless nights and better mornings. We have witnessed the miracle of birth and the sorrow of death. We have forgiven, and we h…

leaving the drum line

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I was part of the flag corps in high school. Each year we traveled with the band to participate in a large parade. Our band was exceptional, but crowd always came alive when the drum line kicked into high gear. The onlookers didn't understand that the drum line's primary function wasn't to perform flashy solos - which always garnered a great deal of attention and applause - but to keep us in time while we marched.

I have to admit it.  I loved it when the drummers showed off. All these years later, I still remember how much I envied their talent.

It seems that drum-bangers are everywhere these days. Political, social, theological - there's a drum line for any cause out there. I've been quick to join them, pounding away as loudly as I could. Begging to be heard. Drowning out those around me. Trying to force them to follow my beat.


Lately I've been wondering if my banging has made me deaf to the cries of those around me. I have been content to debate, to look as …

truth, laid bare

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It's a terrible thing

to realize you're not who you've always thought you were.

to live under the threat of a flood of tears that will
melt away the mask
and expose you.

to see the spindly cracks in the facade
ready to split wide
and leave you open.

to feel the heat of the impending derision and scorn

and wonder if there is enough grace
   to heal your hurt
   to cover your weaknesses
   to forgive your sins.
~~~~~~~~
Joe Fox asked the question, Do you ever feel you’ve become the worst version of yourself? That a Pandora’s box of all the secret, hateful parts – your arrogance, your spite, your condescension – has sprung open? Yes I feel it, down to the depths of my dark heart.
Today the Pharisee in me - the one who grumbles that Jesus "receives sinners" (Luke 15:2) -  has gone quiet. For I can no longer escape the plight of my soul; I am a sinner. Yet, in nothing short of a miracle, Jesus has received me. And he has loved me to the end (John 13:1).

King David …

rejoicing will come

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“Be not cast down in heart to hear that the world barketh at Christ’s strangers, both in Ireland and in this land; they do it because their Lord hath chosen them out of this world.

And this is one of our Lord’s reproaches, to be hated and ill-entreated by men. The silly stranger, in an uncouth country, must put up with a smoky inn and coarse cheer, a hard bed, and a barking, ill-tongued host.

It is not long to the day, and he will continue his journey upon the morrow, and leave them all. Indeed our fair morning is at hand, the day-star is near the rising, and we are not many miles from home.

What does it matter if we are mistreated in the smoky inns of this miserable life? We are not to stay here, and we will be dearly welcomed by Him to whom we go.

And I hope, when I shall see you clothed in white raiment, washed in the blood of the Lamb, and shall see you even at the elbow of your dearest Lord and Redeemer, and a crown upon your head, and following our Lamb and lovely Lo…

morning commute

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Underneath a canopy of steely gray, I leave the safety of home. My heart lingers for a moment, begins to count the moments until my family is reunited here once more.

The road ahead of me is too familiar. Years of travel have veiled its beauty - the deep greens of the grass, the new herd of ewes, the stately houses that have been standing longer than I have been.

The steady rain nourishes the crops, recently planted. Sprigs of life have escaped the dark soil, drinking deeply. I breathe in rhythm with the windshield wipers.

The aroma of coffee permeates the air. I reach down to feel its warmth against the cool dampness of the morning.

I arrive twelve minutes later. I cannot will myself to quiet the engine. Soon enough I will be lost in a sea of fluorescent lights, constant rings, and unfamiliar voices.

I pause. Strengthened by the soft staccato of raindrops and piano keys, I brace myself for the coming tide.

sticky

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It started with the desire to be acknowledged. Swat.

But acknowledgment wasn't enough. I wanted to be right. Swat.

Then I wanted to be acknowledged as being right. Pounce.

Before I knew it, I was tangled up in the stench and mess. The harder I wrestled, the filthier and stickier I got. Meanwhile, the enemy was rolling in laughter just as Brer Fox did.

By God's grace I'm learning that even though the tar baby might often appear friendly and harmless, sometimes the best thing to do is walk away and leave it to melt in the hot summer sun.

No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him...But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness...
Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels.
- 2 Timothy 2:4,16,23 (ESV)



from the past

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Papa's cool gaze catches my eye. He is thinner than I ever knew him to be. I look at that half smile, the one I saw so often, and tears play at the corners of my eyes. It's been almost three decades since I heard him tell me how much he loved me.

Mema is a beauty with that smart dress and jet black hair. Her eyes are as sparkly as the ornaments on the Christmas tree. She has been gone for 10 years now, but a quilt she stitched still warms me on cool winter nights.

The boy in the striped shirt and the girl in the lace collar are less familiar to me. I recognize them as second cousins I saw infrequently during my childhood.

It is the girl on the end - in a dress I imagine to be an emerald green that would have perfectly matched her eyes - who captures me. Those eyes pierce my heart. She looks unhappy, and my heart aches just a little. Did she dislike having her picture taken even then? What did she ask for that Christmas? What were her hopes and dreams?

If I had seen this pictu…

on the front porch

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A news story about cicada bugs, and childhood memories come rushing. They are so strong that I can smell Mema's White Shoulders perfume, feel the crinkle of her favorite housecoat (a robe would have been much too fancy for her). I've long since forgotten the granny square crochet pattern she taught me, but I still remember how accomplished I felt when I completed my first - and only - square. My summer visits with her and Papa meant simple Southern cooking, "coffee-milk", car rides to nowhere, and trips to the Tastee Freez for ice cream sundaes.

My favorite time of day came after dinner was finished and the dishes were washed and put away. Mema and I would walk next door and join Mrs. Ruth on her porch. Most often it was just the three of us, but sometimes another neighbor would saunter over from across the street. The cicada bugs provided the background melody to their voices graveled by years of smoke. Lightning bugs sparkled in the air as I listened to tales carve…

disconnected

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For nearly the whole congregation, or for all of them, and especially the men and the children, there was a disconnection between the little white clapboard church with its steeple and bell, it observances and forms of worship, and the world's daily life and work. It was as though the building itself, its emptiness between services, contained along with its smells of old paper and stale perfume a solemnity that the people entered into and departed from, quickening it for a few hours a week with the stirrings and smells of living flesh, but could neither inflect with the tone of their daily preoccupations nor transpose into their actual lives. This was a disconnection perhaps exactly coextensive with the disconnection they felt between Heaven and Sycamore, eternity and time. Laura recognized these disconnections in the people because she felt them, and labored over them, in herself. - Wendell Berry, "A Desirable Woman"
The church of my youth wasn't built of white cla…

taking flight

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Every year a mama bird builds her nest atop one of our porch pillars. Newborns tweet the morning alarm, perched high above the reach of the stray cats that inevitably come. Stealthily they prowl about, hoping one of the babies will test its wings too soon and breakfast will be served. Mama returns with food and a soothing lullaby. She nurtures and strengthens her young, preparing them for the future. Meanwhile, the enemy lurks below.

Most of the babies stay put, nestled away in a fortress of twigs and leaves. But every once in a while, one will grow restless. Mama doesn't return before hunger overtakes sense. Shaky, immature wings are no match for gravity. The enemy pounces, struts away in victory.

I've watched the ritual each Spring. This year it moves me to tears.

It's nearly 18 years since I became a Mama. By God's grace, I've nurtured and protected. The enemy has come close, but my baby has been shielded atop the pillar of God's truth. Her dad and I have pr…

on a crisp spring morning

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I grab the Word and pull the covers tight around my waist. I am soon lost in Paul's instructions to the church at Thessalonica.

Three exhortations leap off the page. My pencil draws them back there, nailing them down tight to my heart.

Encourage the fainthearted. These days I am so faint of heart. The sharp edges of this world have scraped my soul raw. Daggers pierce, wounds fester. How can I give from the shallows? Paul, too, must have been fainthearted. Years of ministry had left him spent. Beatings and chains, not to mention that mysterious thorn (2 Cor. 12:7-9). He had witnessed fighting among the brethren and the Gospel compromised. Surely Paul was weary, yet he encouraged.

Help the weak. To bare our weaknesses is a sign of...well, weakness. This photo-shopped, pixel-perfect world has no place for the broken. Am I the only one cowering behind the guise of an ideal life, afraid to lift the veil and let others peer into reality? Pride is a cruel taskmaster that keeps me from ad…

in this place...

How would you describe your blog?

My friend's question caught me a little off-guard.

Other than dormant, I had no idea. Instead, I described what I wanted this little spot to be. Behind my words, the question of my success began to haunt me.

A sanctuary of sorts. A place where visitors can stop in, worship the Lord and come away feeling at least a little refreshed. In fact, I want this place to feel exactly like my visit in my friend's home. I was met with a fluffy bathrobe and fancy towels. There was a bottle of water in the car when she picked me up, and a gift bag waiting on the bed for my arrival. Her family made me feel welcome, loved. Our conversations took many twists and turns, but the goodness of the Lord was the common thread that wove them all together.

~~~~~~~~~~
I want to read less opinion, more beauty. That tweet pierced my heart. Yes! my soul whispered.

Opinions are loud, brash, invasive. Opinions demand attention.

Beauty is calming, assuring, inspiring. Bea…

shifting

Periodically I realize that the quiet life is escaping me. Or rather, I am trying to escape it. I feel the weight of too much television and too many games of Words with Friends. I find myself reaching for my phone as my feet hit the floor in morning, too curious about what transpired in the social media world overnight. And then I realize it's time to take my life back.
We are not, not a single one of us, going to lie on our deathbed and wish we'd spent a little bit more time on Facebook or Instagram or Pinterest.  We are not going to wish we'd answered more emails.  Instead, many of us will deeply regret investing so much online, and so little in the flesh and blood around us.Sarah's words have made me think. I want to invest more in the flesh and blood around me. I've spent these first months of 2016 reading about loving others and gospel living. Now to live out the lessons I'm learning. I've allowed online discourse to take such precedence in my life…

thankful for

...conversations with my girl about her future. Watching her eyes light up, listening to her plans, affirming her gifts. These are good things.

...the Lord's provision. It doesn't always come in the way or time I'd like, but it always comes.

...books that challenge me to change my way of thinking.

...sisters in Christ who uphold me in prayer.

...fresh coats of paint

...laughter. With my husband, my girl, friends. Precious times.

...and these,

I thank thee for personal mercies,
a measure of health, preservation of body,
comforts of house and home,
sufficiency of food and clothing, continuance of mental powers,
my family, their mutual help and support,
the delights of domestic harmony and peace,
the seats now filled that might have been vacant,
my country, church, Bible, faith.

~Valley of Vision

pondering...

She'd denatured parts of her own existence by printing and framing and freezing them. And they'd become denatured even further by being written about, analyzed, lionized by other people, by strangers.  - Anna Quindlen Still Life with Breadcrumbs (p. 231)

and this,
It’s great that struggling and lonely people can find community, resources, and honest conversations with others online. But one drawback is that we can feel a weird sort of obligation to put our private stuff out there for everyone to read -- as if a little privacy were the same thing as a lack of authenticity. - Rebecca Reynolds @ Thistle and Toad 

as well as this,
The internet makes the world too big sometimes. Big can be good, as the internet delightfully stretches our reach across the globe, enabling us to glimpse what gospel laborers are so faithfully doing in various creative ways.
But then, when our view is stretched out across the world, it is far more difficult to close the laptop and return to the clos…
"I am deeply persuaded that the foundation for people-transforming ministry is not sound theology; it is love."  At first I wanted to close the book. The club-wielding Pharisee inside of me was quick to decry Paul Tripp's words.

Join me at Out of the Ordinary to read the rest...

ouch.

"My daily behavior is my attempt to get what is important to me in various  situations and relationships. My choices and actions always reveal the desires that rule my heart."  Paul Tripp, Instruments in the Redeemer's Hands

It had been the most difficult week I could remember in quite a while. Unexpected bills, a heat-pump on its last legs in the most brutal stretch of winter so far, two days of jury duty an hour away, and disappointing news. They had all converged in five tortuous days. I was at my breaking point when I opened the book for a much-needed reprieve. Yet the words were like a bucket of ice water thrown in my face.

I thought back to my behavior of the past week. I'd been upset, and I let everyone who came within a 10-mile radius know it. As each new disappointment came, I looked for someone to blame - my husband, our insurance company, the electric company, the legal system, and, finally, God. How could he let these things happen? Didn't he know how …

Around the House: January

In this first, quiet month I am:

~enjoying reading at a much slower pace

~seeing how much my Bible study, daily Bible reading, and other reading are fitting together. Some difficult, but necessary lessons.

~planning to share what I'm learning soon. At least portions of it.

~reconciling myself to the fact that I can't stop high school graduation or the ensuing departure for college. I might have cried when reading college acceptance letters.

~watching the Lord unfurl my girl's wings in preparation for her flight from the nest.

~curious to know what the empty nest will feel like, and trying hard not to think about it.

~happy for seasonable weather, at long last!

~savoring the empty spaces left behind by Christmas decorations tucked away again.

~revamping my homekeeping schedule, marveling at how much better it works for me, and wondering why it's taken me so long. 

~learning the importance of balance in all things.

~accepting the necessary place quiet has in my life.  Amy Carmicha…

Using the Sword as a Club

Just two weeks into my 2016 reading plan and I'm already reaping the benefit of reading less and thinking more. The slower pace gives me space to tie my reading together and apply it. Though beneficial, I can't say it's entirely fun. In fact, this extended pondering has led to conviction and brokeness.
Read the rest here...