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Monday, November 21, 2011

Let There Be Thankfulness to God

Ever Grateful - Reversible Table Runner

Let there be thankfulness to God.

That's what the runner says, draped across the table, bringing a smile and reminding me not to rush too quickly toward the fast celebration of Christmas, but linger awhile, in a place of gratitude.

Thanksgiving is next week and the holiday, this year, for us, will be full of family and wonderful food but will also be just another day on our calendar.  Work days for us both, right in the middle of our work week, we'll squeeze turkey and football and laughter in on lunch breaks and celebrate a breakfast meal and a postponed dessert.  I think it's what I need this year, though.  A break from the fanfare to realize the simple truth that Thanksgiving is not a day but a state of being, that gathering around the table and the knowledge that expressing thankfulness to God can be an every day reality and not just a once-a-year hooplah.

Shop DaySpring's New Ever Grateful Collection

It's one of the reasons why I love the entire Ever Grateful collection at Dayspring.  It reminds us, in runners and on aprons, on desert plates and cake plates and coffee mugs, that it's all gift and we are wise to thank Him for it all, every day, every meal, every cup of hot, steamy, life-giving, deliciously chocolatey coffee.

This month is a lean one for our family.  The entire year is, really.  And yet, I've got more to be grateful for than ever. It is not about celebrating what you have, I am learning, as much as it is celebrating who you have, and whose you are.

And if, like me, you happen to be temporarily without a dining table of your own, the table runner also makes a great end-of-bed runner, to carry the concept of thankfulness right into your bedroom, as well.  It's on sale right now for $17.49 (!!!).  I loved it so much that I ordered the matching apron, too (adorable and also on sale, for $12.49).

Follow my affiliate links in this post to DaySpring and check out the great prices they have on the Ever Grateful collection, among other things.  This month, they are offering 30% off all wall canvases (awesome) and buy 1, get 1 tote bags (hello Christmas gifts!).  Swoon.  I just love DaySpring.


15% off on all gift purchases. Coupon code: 15OFFGIFTS

Get $10 off orders of $60 or more from DaySpring with promo code: 10off60

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

What Good Christians Do.


Good Christians go to Africa.

Or, at the very least, to the soup kitchen.

They go to the bad neighborhoods and evangelize the homeless.  They risk their life in countries closed to the Gospel.  They give everything in order to serve.

And if I understood anything at all about Christianity, it was that my choice to follow Jesus was first and foremost a call to die. 

I knew that the only way to make God happy was to find those verses in the Bible about feeding the hungry and caring for the orphans and widows and live them wholly to the detriment of all else.  I knew that the only way to be a good Christian was to do something drastic in the name of the Lord… and that then, and only then, would I be enough in His eyes.

I didn't go to Africa.  I wasn't good enough to do that, after all, without a degree in Missions or International Ministry.  I didn't even have a passport, but I had a willing heart.

Instead, I went to Texas.  I cared for orphans.  I put on my Christian smile and my Christian uniform and I said the right catch phrases to be one of those women who give everything up for the calling to love the least of these.

Except that I wasn't.

I was drowning in my own effort, I was grasping for God in a dark, hopeless place inside myself – farther from Him than I'd ever been.  And I didn't know what to make of it.

I knew how it was supposed to work.  Good Christians go into full-time ministry, then God rewards them with warm fuzzy feelings and a gold star in the Book of Life.  That's how the equation was supposed to go – I'd been told that my entire Christian life – but no matter how I figured the numbers, my math just wouldn't line up right.  I couldn't get the right answer. 

I've never been good at math, so I puzzled over the integers.  Gave up belongings.  Check.  Left my family.  Check.  Cared for orphans.  Double checkcarry the one

But the pit continued to grow and the algebra of giving and serving continued to puzzle and I wondered if maybe Texas wasn't far enough but was afraid of what I already knew.  I wasn't a good enough Christian.  I wasn't satisfied with all this selflessness because I was a rotten, weak, selfish girl who probably hated all things holy and was doing more harm than good there, and Jesus probably couldn't love a girl like me anyway.

So I left.

In the leaving, I laid down my good Christian.  I left her in Texas where she belonged because I had no use for her anymore.  I scooted across the country with a moving truck of things I wasn't leaving behind this time in the interest of running… just getting away from the incredible expectation of the kind of life I knew I could never lead.  And I sort of whispered "I'm sorry" to the idea of serving Jesus with my whole life because I'd obviously failed at that whole thing, and I might as well just get back to my regular old failing life where I wasn't dragging anyone down with me.

But a funny thing happened.

Jesus met me.  Right there when I stepped foot out of the moving truck.  Right in the middle of my mess and though I'd looked for him all along, I found Him only when I looked beyond the expectation of the holiest kind of me.  Only when I had failed and admitted that I wasn’t holy at all and had no good at all in me – when I finally knew, once and for all, that my ugly, messy love just paled in comparison to the love of a Father that never had to try.

"Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God."                                  -2 Corinthians 3:5


We're reading through Emily P. Freeman's Grace for the Good Girl (affiliate link).  This week is chapters 2-3.  Join us... but even if you don't.... please, please read this fabulous book.  Truly life changing.  

Monday, November 14, 2011

On Valley Girls and House-Shaped Idols

Have you ever wanted something so bad that you were sure God was withholding, just to watch you squirm?

Or that maybe He was teaching you a lesson about longing and the desires of the heart and the things that really satisfy?  But you just wanted to learn the damn lesson already so you could just go on and have that thing you really want – the relationship, status, job, move, baby, trip… or that shiny new widget with your name all over it?

And maybe you sorta have a little bit of an attitude about it, and you cock your feathered bangs and side ponytail to the heavens and whine like a teenage valley-girl, "Hey, God, did you, like, forget about me?  What about what I need, here?  Have you ever thought about that?  Furshur." 



Only me then.  Except I'm (thankfully) a few decades post feathered bangs and side ponytails.  It's that pissy missy attitude I still have trouble shaking.

Right now, for me, it's a house.  The great unattainable. 


And not even my own house.  I'm not even asking to be able to paint the walls here, just a nice neutral bungalow with a dishwasher and a garage and a backyard where my kids can play.  Something without shag carpet, please.  


I did my time in Seventies Haus (the ranch) and Eighties Haus (the children's home), and now, just maybe I can graduate up a decade.  C'mon Craigslist – hand me a nice Nineties Haus this time around.  We're not talkin' granite countertops here.  I'll rock an art deco lampshade, if I have to… maybe some flesh-colored stucco or a brass-trimmed fireplace.  

Wait, how about Fifties Haus or Turnofthecentury Haus with some cute built-ins and hardwood floors… doorways I have to duck into with glass doorknobs and hazardous wiring.  Oddly shaped bathrooms with subway tile and piles of character, maybe a sun porch off the back for good measure.


 You see the problem, don't you?

This thing I want?  This house?  This fresh chance to make a home? 

I want it too bad.  I daydream and night-dream about what our eventual rental will look like, where I'll put the black hutch or the distressed coffee table.  About what color the throw pillows should be, and I've logged thrice the hours on Craigslist than in my Bible, of late.  And every time I shiver 'cuz this house is always freezing cold and I can't go flip on the heater in someone else's house, I cringe and shoot up a snarky "thanks a lot, God" while I ruminate on what I deserve.

It's a problem, friend.  And confession is good for the soul.

Because I don't think that God withholds good things from His children. 

I think He withholds idols when we're in danger of letting them destroy us.  And I think he protects us from the desires of our flesh when our bank accounts and the size of our faith aren't ready to bear the weight of those desires.

We're one paycheck deep into new jobs.  We're six weeks out of a whole former life.  And man, how impatient I am for the world to spin as I would have it.

But right now, God is telling me to quit wiggling and wait.  Sit still for awhile.  Rest in His provision – his purple-carpeted, 42-degree, love and laughter and garlic-bread filled shacking-up-with-my-in-laws provision.  He protects me from myself, and in the middle of my stubbornness and the living room that isn't mine, I'm grateful for it.

And so, so sorry for the valley girl impression.

--- Linking to:

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

I'm a Recovering Good Girl

I'm a try-hard.  Actually, I'm a try-harder, since try-hard never manages to measure up.  And I care desperately what you have to say to me, about me, about my worth.

(As Emily P. Freeman says, "If you wonder what gives you the authority to define me, I will say it is because you exist.  I must have worth and it is up to you to give it to me…I beg you to see me, to notice my goodness, to ignore my failure, to be inspired by my beauty, to be captivated by my essence." (Grace for the Good Girl, p. 17, 18)

I shouldn't do that, of course.  

I know where my value comes from.

But I am afflicted with a syndrome that makes me ever striving toward a make believe notion of good enough.

I am a good girl.

And this book?  Grace for the Good Girl by Emily P. Freeman…. Well, I'm only on chapter 1, but it's rocking my socks off. 

"I taught people around me that I had no needs and then was secretly angry with them for believing me.  Somewhere along the way, I got the message that salvation is by faith alone but anything after that is faith plus my hard work and sweet disposition." (GFTGG p. 13, 14)

Can I get an "amen"? 

…And all the bloggers said…Amen.

Maybe you're a good girl too.

If you'd asked me a month ago if I was a good girl, I'd have shook my head.  Nope.  Not hardly.  Good implies … well… good.  And I never feel good.  Not really.  I'm not even well behaved.  I am prone to surfing the internet when I should be cooking something nutritious for my family and craving a glass of wine every now and then and ten minutes ago, I devoured an entire king-size Snickers bar without coming up for air.  I sometimes watch rated R movies and used the "s" word yesterday and considered, at least twice this week, running away to join the circus.

Good girls don't do things like that.

Reading this book, though, makes me realize just how much good girls do do things like that.  They tell themselves all kinds of lies about the hundred arbitrary ways they'll never measure up… and then suffer in the misery of persistent failure.

If you don't already have a copy of this book, do yourself a favor.  Join me.  Buy it, read it, soak up the truth that has already begun to penetrate my mask-wearing heart.  And thank you, Emily P. Freeman, for writing such honest and beautiful words that cut to the core of this people-pleasing, try-hard heart.

Buy this book through my Amazon affiliate link and support WhimsySmitten.com!

Monday, November 7, 2011

{Book Review} Beautiful Girlhood and The Companion Guide to Beautiful Girlhood

I have been surrounded by boys my entire life.  First an only girl with two brothers, later in the workforce, and eventually as a houseparent to eight boys, in addition to my own three kids.  I'm outnumbered even in my own house, my husband and two sons trumping us girls in the gender war.

The testosterone-fest that is my life makes me truly appreciate the unique feminine beauty that I feel blessed to experience by watching my only daughter grow from an infant to a young woman.  Raising girls is so different in so many ways from raising boys, and as my onliest daughter grows into a young lady, I really enjoy the feminine bond we are strengthening every day.

This is one reason I was excited when I had the opportunity to read and review Beautiful Girlhood revised by Karen Andreola and The Companion Guide to Beautiful Girlhood by Shelley Noonan and Kimberly Zach. Another was that I had the opportunity to meet Shelley Noonan recently, and hear her share some of her story. This is a woman who understands the power in embracing your beautiful girlhood.

Beautiful Girlhood was originally written by M. Hale and published in the 1940s, but was revised in the 1990s by Karen Andreola. The book has beautiful, descriptive langauge and reads like a nonfiction version of Little Women or some other classic literature. I sort of felt, reading it, like I should be donning a corset and bonnet, and I don't say that to be contrary. The book retains a classic nature that transcends pop culture in favor of addressing timeless issues like trust, purpose, and modesty.

The Companion Guide to Beautiful Girlhood is exactly what its title suggests -- a companion on the journey through these topics, a springboard for discussion, growth, and connection between, for example, a mother and daughter reading the set together. It offers a Bible study outline, journaling topics, discussion questions, and real-life application of the issues that coordinate to the text.

While it was suggested to me that that the books were for use with girls ages 8 and up, I found that the language made my 8-year-old's eyes glaze over, and she wasn't really able to comprehend much of it. I continued reading the book and companion guide solo, and have used the topics as a springboard for more age-appropriate discussion of the topics.  A tad academic in nature, despite its flowery language, it will likely go back on the shelf for a few years until I feel she can maintain a clearer grasp on the text.

There was one concerning element for me in the books, and that was the underlying message that all women were purposed to be wives and mothers, and that this is necessarily the desire of all women. I know many women in Christian service who are not mothers or wives who have struggled against the evangelical culture's message that they have less value to the Kingdom because of their choice, or even circumstances beyond their choosing, such as the arenas of infertility and singlehood.  I am cautious about furthering the notion in this day and age that a woman's value is determined solely by her family (or future family, or lack of family as the case may be), because it is my sincerest belief that her value is determined by God's love for her, whether she marries or has children or learns how to keep a home.

All that said, I will probably revisit this set of books when my daughter is older, mainly because it is offers an excellent springboard to discuss topics in the book on which we agree and those with which we disagree, to encourage my daughter to have a healthy self-concept of her internal feminine beauty, but also an invitation to engage in topics like purpose and family where the lines may not always be clear.


If you're interested in purchasing Beautiful Girlhood and The Companion Guide to Beautiful Girlhood, I invite you to use my affiliate links in the post above, or below, through Amazon.com.  Thank you!

Also, please note, the authors offer an additional companion text titled Beyond Beautiful Girlhood, appropriate for older teen girls/young women.


Saturday, November 5, 2011

The Gift of Chronic Pain


The bad days are the ones when I can't grip the coffee pot to pour the water and it rolls from the sides of the black plastic into a mocking puddle. When I throw the bagel across the kitchen because I can't hold the knife steady to cut it and it's only just a bagel so how can it upset me so badly? My knuckles are twice the size they should be but the pain is not just in my hands but my back and neck and eyelids, foot arches and earlobes and hair follicles. It all. just. hurts.

Besides my knuckles, everything looks right and people can't understand because I have good days too. Sure, my under-eyes sometimes pool with fatigue from the insomnia of this pain but there are no bandages, no battle wounds, no wheelchairs or braces or sickly props to illustrate the state of things inside my body…just a smattering of golden bottles with childproof lids, narcotics and anti-inflammatories and drugs that fool my brain into convincing my nerves that the pain is imaginary. These bottles I can't even open on days like these, even in my desperation to tear into them and suck down the chemical relief that really only takes an edge off that which never really goes away.

And my enemies are can openers and blinding headaches, office chairs and fall weather, ballpoint pens and uncomfortable mattresses, all of them giants to this aching David with pills in my slingshot, shooting tablets and capsules into the eye of the Goliath challenges of cutting an onion, brushing my daughter's hair, getting a good night's rest, or, the toughest one of all, sitting in a chair. I am angry because my mouth is full of ulcers, sores that no one sees but makes eating so difficult and when I am low and need comfort, even my husband cannot kiss this leper's mouth.

It feels like weakness, you know, when you require assistance to wrestle with a can of peaches, when you call for help to defeat a box of laundry detergent, and when you watch while, with ease, those other folks you know can do these things without effort. It bubbles up and I despise the helplessness, I create more pain for myself in the struggling stubborn refusal to be weak and needy. I am not fragile.

Still, the jelly jars must be opened. The tennis shoes must be tied and the twist-tie has to go back on the bread bag. The coffee must be made because I need the hot, dark liquid like I need the caplets in the golden bottles, to soothe my insides and stave off sleep but more, so I can wrap my aching fingers around the steamy mug and feel the warmth of relief through my hands.

In this needing, I unwrap the gift of chronic pain.

I am willfull and obstinate, a stubborn girl who wants control over this life. But in the pain and the daily struggle, He teaches me dependence…surrender…the truth that I am in control of nothing. I cannot rule over a bagel or a bread bag and I cannot rule over this world, not even my own corner of it. These prescriptions do not heal me and I am laid low before the only one who does. This girl who doesn't want to need anybody needs people around me like I need air and when no one else can really understand, I need a God who does. How this humbles my prideful heart.


It is a gift difficult to accept. My hands tangle in the bow and I am slow in tugging off the shiny paper, mangled knuckles throbbing in the unwrapping. And in the midst of the painful receiving, I am learning to have gratitude to the Giver for even a gift I would not have chosen.

Gifts are made to bless, and yes, even this. It is a thankfulness not come easily, but earned in the walking through hard places and the learning that the best gifts, the ones that sustain for eternity, are those farthest from our wish list. This has been the gift of growing lower, of learning how to need, and a ticket to a journey closer to the only thing my heart can ever really desire.