Trek to the Manger (DQ1)

Trek to the Manger Ch. 1 2017You didn’t sign up for a season of CrossFit, but here we are – at the foot of the Cross and fit-to-be-tied.

For my friends who are committed to taking a Trek to the Manger this Advent season, my first question for you is this:

What challenges do you anticipate this season will bring? 

I’m going to be honest, and I hope you will be, too. The past couple of months have been… rough. As much as I want to celebrate this Christmas, I’m mourning a little bit, too. (Wait. I told you I’d be honest. There’s a whole lot of mourning going on!)

I miss my house.

I miss my friends.

I miss my church family.

I miss the “me” I used to be.

And at the end of the day, it’s going to be a challenge for me to celebrate the Light because all I really want to do is wallow in my loss. Does this make sense? Can I get an Amen? Anyone else there with me?

How about you? What’s YOUR biggest challenge going to be as we move into this holiday season?

Post your comments and thoughts below (and remember – if it’s your first time posting at Pink Shoes Ministries, there will be a delay before your post is approved).

 

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Trek Community Call-Out

Our ADVENT-ure begins on Sunday, and already there are women (and brave men!) joining up to take a Trek to the Manger… will you come along?

Our Trek community includes, so far, participants from Canada, Washington state, Virginia, Arizona, Oregon…

Check out the details here and invite a friend to tag along – the more, the merrier, as they say!

One day and counting…

Trek to the Manger Begins Nov. 26th

Ready for an ADVENT-ure?!

Check out the 2017 Trek to the Manger details here!

Join Up! Take two minutes to complete the registration form.

Gear Up! Get your copy of Trek to the Manger on Amazon.com and download your 2017 reading schedule from the Trek page, right here at Pink Shoes Ministries.

Team Up! Traveling is more fun with a friend, so team up with your favorite girls for an advent season like no other! Download your FREE copy of the small group discussion questions (on the Trek page), or weigh in on the daily question right here, from November 26th through Christmas Eve.

Look Up! As you travel through the holiday season, let us help you keep your focus. Registered participants who engage in the online discussion will be eligible to win nifty prizes (see Trek page for details)!

To Be Continued

On this Reformation Sunday we are reminded by the apostle Paul that our salvation is a gift from God. Romans 3:24-25 say that we are made right with God when we believe that Jesus sacrificed his life for our salvation. If we connect the dots in these two verses, we can see that we are justified by faith; there is nothing we can do in order to acquire this gift of salvation other than, simply, to have faith.

Faith in God’s ability to give this gift.

Faith in the reality of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.

Faith in the power of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross to bring us into right relationship with God.

Faith in God’s ability and desire to affect real change in the messy lives of real people, like you and me.

Now, let’s be clear: Our faith doesn’t make it so – God’s gift of grace is real whether I choose to believe it’s real or not. Our faith simply receives this gift with open arms.

The message we find in Romans 3:28 reveals the fact that humans throughout time have had great difficulty accepting this gift of God on faith alone; there has to be a catch! Right? The skeptic would say that gifts always come with strings attached. The Catholic church in Martin Luther’s day, much like the Pharisees Jesus encountered, preached the necessity of doing the right things and following all the rules in order to be right with God. In order to somehow “deserve” or “earn” salvation. Yet Paul proclaims “that a person is justified by faith apart from works prescribed by the law.”

And Martin Luther picked up where Paul left off, carrying this word and this truth into his own time; through the doors of the churches where he worshiped and into the streets of the places he called home. Martin Luther knew that the work of Jesus’ first followers was only the beginning; this work was To Be Continued – and that’s just what Luther did.

And that’s just what Jesus meant when He “said to the Jews who had believed in him: If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples” (John 8:31). To continue assumes the start of something; and that something for Jesus’ original disciples was a relationship with Him. Jesus’ first followers spent days and months along dusty roads, listening to Him talk, watching Him care for others, learning about God firsthand from the Master. We may not have Jesus’ physical presence, but we listen to Him speak through Scripture, which is amplified by His Spirit’s confirming presence in our hearts. When Jesus tells us, then, to continue in His word, it is clear that He didn’t mean “follow all the rules” in some legalistic way – that was never the spirit of His teaching.

Likewise, to continue in Jesus’ word does not mean resting on the laurels of our salvation, getting fat and happy on His good graces. To continue in Jesus’ word does not mean hanging up a shingle or putting down a stake, as if to say “here is where God acted – let’s set up camp forever,” as if the story has ended and all that’s left is for it to be retold.

Martin Luther and his fellow reformers did what they did as a continuation of Jesus’ word. We celebrate their efforts today! The problem, though, is that many who followed the reformers failed to take up the standard and march on. Instead of raising the rallying cry “To Be Continued!” we label ourselves “Lutheran.” We institutionalize the words of the reformers, and we repeat them again and again, as if the story has ended and all that’s left is for it to be retold, making the church of today look strikingly similar to the unmovable institution that Luther leveraged his life to reform.

But, if we listen to Jesus, and if we consider what the reformers did to continue in Jesus’ word, we can’t help but see our calling as a continuation of the Gospel, as a continuation of the Reformation, as a work of the Holy Spirit To Be Continued in our lives on this day. That’s why we wear red, which represents the Spirit who is moving through the church like wildfire, creating heat and burning off the selfish and complacent chaff.

What begins for each of us as pure gift – grace and salvation and forgiveness in Christ – is To Be Continued as we seek to be true to His word in this church where we worship, and on the streets of the places we call home.

Believing is only the beginning! The life of Christ is To Be Continued in us.

 

Morningly (re-posted for National Coffee Day)

I am not a morning person. Really not a morning person. I am a night owl to the bone. Marrow.

Unfortunately for me, life hasn’t been the most accommodating to my body-clock. About the time my REM cycle hits deep-and-satisfying, my alarm clock begins to chirp and the demands of motherhood, employment, and academia trump my biological rhythm once again.

So, I sit here tonight (or should I say today? It’s 1:00 am, after all), enjoying the irony of a newly-discovered word. I spotted it on a billboard last week, en route to the Atlanta airport, and it made me giggle. Plastered beside the image of an enormous donut were these terrific words:

Made Fresh Morningly

Morningly? Is that even a legitimate word? I admit to jumping through some mental hoops while searching for context and verification. The light came on when I realized that day becomes daily… I suppose morning could present itself as morningly by the same token? Being a night person, my very next thought was – of course – whether the same thing could be done with evening. Eveningly. Sounds weird. But night does become nightly, so there you go.

And if donuts can be Made Fresh Morningly, how much more wonderful it is to realize that God’s mercies are new morningly, as well (even though they come far too early for a late-night-thinker like me). Great is His faithfulness!

As crazy as it sounds, this word makes me smile at mornings, redeeming some of the unpleasant memories of dreams interrupted before the sun begins to shine (which, by the way, is completely unfair – if I have to wake up at dark-o-thirty, Mr. Sun, so should you). Unlike the word morning, which in my experience is never a good thing, morningly is positive. Upbeat. Full of promise. Akin to words like merrily and joyfully. Something to look forward to.

Eveningly, my energy level will continue to spike and I will fight hard for each and every wink, because that, my friends, is just how I roll.

But as long as my coffee is Made Fresh Morningly (and strongly), and as long I am met with the grace of a forgiving Father at the start of each new day, I simply can’t complain. (I can hit the snooze button, though.)

Great is Your faithfulness, God!

Power Jam!

It’s not only the name of the dark ale I’m sipping as I sit at the local pub on this “National Drink a Beer Day,” waiting for my growler to be filled. As the emotional roller coaster of this past week screeches to a halt, “Power Jam” seems like an apt assessment of what God has done in spite of me over these twelve short years.

POWER JAM! (what a juicy refrain!)

“Power” fits, because there is nothing our God cannot do, and He has delivered the goods – and the Good News – every single day I have awakened in this place. There is “Power in the Blood,” and as I’ve prayed for “More Love, More Power” He has faithfully infused my life with as much as I can handle – thanks be to God!

And it’s “Jam” because… dang! God’s gifts are sweet! No matter the jams we may get ourselves into, there’s no sticky mess He cannot redeem.

There is no sticky mess that He cannot redeem.

No sticky messes that can’t be redeemed!

That’s my jam! 

So I’ll sing it with gusto, frothy mug-in-hand: Our God is amazing! He is my Power Jam!

 

 

 

Evacuation Revelation

IMG_2237You’ve probably played this game before – the icebreaker that poses the scenario: Your house is on fire, and you can take only five things with you. What do you choose?

Designed to get at what you value most, this conversation-starter poses a theoretical question that can result in some pretty interesting insights about people and their stuff. You haven’t truly played the game, however, until there’s ash falling like snow in your yard and a phone call confirms you are next in the queue for mandatory evacuation.

We had been breathing smoke for days as the hills behind our home were consumed by fire. A shift of the wind overnight brought the flames close enough to warrant the decision to put our neighborhood on pre-evacuation notice. I listened to the voice on the automated call tell me that we weren’t in immediate danger, but we should be ready to go, just in case.

Ready to go? I looked around my 2,000 square foot home and at the three cars in the driveway, knowing that I had an indeterminate amount of time to decide which of our possessions should be staged in the “go” pile, and of those deserving items, which would actually fit in the cars. Home alone, I nervously started the room-by-room trek through all of my family’s worldly possessions, evaluating their importance and considering their size. As items were deemed worthy, they were moved to the living room where they could be loaded up quickly when evacuation orders came.

Here’s where the revelation comes in. A couple of them, actually.

My first attempt to identify worthy items was literally all about me. What do I need? Like? Love? What could I not live without? What will I regret not having if I leave it behind? It wasn’t until I stepped into my son’s bedroom that I was hit with conviction about answering these questions for all of my absent family members, which meant I had to retrace my steps with an entirely different set of questions in mind.

Most of what ended up being chosen didn’t surprise me: Financial paperwork, family documents, clothing for a couple of days. Computers made the cut, as did several tubs of pre-digital family photos and my son’s guitars. What did surprise me was that, after checking my list twice, all of these necessities fit easily into three modest cars. There was room to spare! So much so, that I made another pass through the house actually looking for more things to rescue, but I just couldn’t find much more to add.

Seeing all of our items-worth-saving in a pile on the floor made me realize how little there actually is in this world that we cannot live without. I took pictures of several large paintings that wouldn’t fit in the cars, and I photographed the wall in my living room that is covered in crosses, each given to me by special family and friends.

Then I sat, taking mental stock of the many, many possessions I had no need to save. For insurance purposes, I did one more lap around the house, videotaping what would be left behind before my son came home and helped me load up the cars.

Evacuation orders never came, thanks to more than 1,000 firefighters working day and night to control the blaze. Even so, I don’t regret being forced into the living of this scenario, which has gracefully exposed some selfish tendencies and revealed that what we really need in order to thrive isn’t more stuff, but the carefully chosen, thoughtfully cultivated right stuff.

 

 

A Different Path through Advent

Advent begins on Sunday, November 27th, unleashing a “tradition” of holiday chaos in households across America. Will you join in? Or will you join me in taking a different path through the season of Advent this year?

Trek to the Manger is a daily devotional guide for busy women during the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Each chapter is bite-sized, giving women who are hungry for meaning and purpose plenty of food-for-thought without adding too much weight to your already jam-packed holiday schedule.

Check it out here! You’ll find a downloadable reading schedule, as well as a Small Group Discussion Guide to use with friends – near and far – who Trek with you.

So… invite a few friends, visit Amazon for your books, and gear up for a journey to the manger that just might birth something new in you!

 

I Love You, Tomonnow

It was a talent show in my parents’ living room, and the actors had taken the “stage.” The a capella version of Annie’s signature song began as a duet, but it quickly became my daughter’s moment to shine – or so she thought. Britton wore the crescendo on her face as she sang, building toward that moment when “tomorrow” would break through into right here and right now; only what broke through was her little brother’s voice, passion-full and louder-than-life…

Tomonnow! Tomonnow! I love you, tomonnow! You’re only a day away.

hawaii-sedona-boise-softball-baseball-09-466

Tomonnow, my little boy will be eighteen years old. So today I am letting the memory-reel run (completely out-of-order, I might add), pausing at eighteen of my favorite yesterdays with Joffrey, so grateful for every single day I have been blessed to be your Mom.

  1. Havoc! You had earned your nickname by age two, and you had the scars to prove it! I remember the first ER trip for stitches in your forehead – the result of our playtime gone awry. Thank goodness for your Dad, because I was a sobbing mess as I stood in the hallway while you screamed from the treatment room. Apparently I’ve blocked many of your nickname confirmations – like the Olympic season when you found an empty kiddie pool in the laundry room and decided to be a diver – from the top of the washing machine. You can thank Nana Bea for that crisis averted (I know I do)!
  2. Green marker in hand, green ink from head to toe – I found you coloring yourself when we should have been in the car and on our way five minutes ago. I was not happy. I think I made that pretty clear. You cried. And you told me, through your tears, “I just wanted to be like Larry Boy, Mommy.” I love that cucumber, too. How could I argue with that?
  3. Ebay was brand-spanking-new and I loved shopping there just a little too much. I found a “lot” of Power Ranger action figures (about 100 of them, to be exact), and I bought it and kept the box high on a shelf, taking out one at a time to give to you over the course of many, many months. Every single time a new guy came out of the box, you grabbed it and hugged it and said “Red Power Ranger! Red Power Ranger!” Eventually you realized that some of them were other colors, and you corrected yourself: “Blue Red Power Ranger! Green Red Power Ranger!” There really is no end to the Red Power Ranger stories we could tell… Don’t get me started!
  4. One morning in the kitchen, as we were getting ready for school, you said something that prompted me to say “that’s an oxymoron.” “Mom! Are you calling me a moron?” Things quickly got out of control and a song was born; the melody still rings in my ears: “When I was nine years old, my Mom used to say: Joffrey, you’re a moron!” Geesh!
  5. Did I mention Stinky Friday?
  6. And that Robin Hood costume that you wore, red feather in your cap and all, until the thing just could not be safely pulled over your head anymore…
  7. How many times can a person watch “Cats” before they grow whiskers and start purring? Even now as I type, I’m looking at your picture – Tigger suit and cat makeup – from your birthday fifteen years ago. Band-aid across your forehead, covering the stitches from incident #2. It’s still on my shelf. It still makes me smile.britton-joffrey-halloween-2
  8. You have often complained, sometimes bitterly, that we don’t have as many pictures and videos of you as we do of your sister. I don’t know if that’s true, but I do know that every time I hear your three year old voice on a home video, I can’t help but laugh and smile and fight back happy tears. No one has ever had a voice like that but you.
  9. We were buddies, you and I, when you were three and four and five and I was a stay-at-home Mom. From playgroup to the Muffin Shop to Kindermusik, we sang and danced and ate and played together every day. Someday you’ll have a little person to love like that – and you will.
  10. By the time you reached Confirmation age at church, you had been to so many classes with me that people said you could probably teach it! Obviously, I didn’t let you do that. But your Faith Chest is full and you’ll never stop learning. Don’t ever stop learning!
  11. Pride bubbled over in me as I watched you play Beethoven’s Fifth at your first piano recital! NO WAY is this my kid! You actually played better under pressure, which totally blew me away. Today your fingers move across piano keys and over the strings of your guitar so skillfully that you make it look easy. You make it sound amazing. Music really, really, really looks good on you!photo_120509_001
  12. We all cried buckets of tears when Sue went back to Germany. That next summer, she came for a visit, and we decided to surprise you and Britton. I picked Sue up in L.A. and we got home late at night. She fell asleep in her bed, in her bedroom, and when you woke up the next morning, Dad told you there was a surprise in Sue’s room for you. I’m sure you were thinking “toy” (after all, you were four), but when you realized Sue was in her bed, you climbed up and climbed in without missing a beat. You knew she was home.
  13. The fall we went to Williamsburg, you were SO EXCITED about riding the rollercoasters at Busch Gardens! You had been watching the videos of the coasters online, you knew all their names and you were more than ready to ride! You also knew the height requirements. For weeks before we left, you had us measure you, and it was going to be close… You wore your tallest sneakers that day, and we all held our breath as the gate attendant stood you beside the ruler – JOY!img_0927
  14. When we went to Germany for Sue’s wedding, you weren’t a little kid anymore. On our last day there, knowing how much you like soccer, Sue and Max suggested we tour the professional soccer stadium nearby. I could see your disappointment, because more than anything else that trip, you had looked forward to playing soccer with Sue. Of course, that’s what we did! The pictures from that day are beautiful.
  15. Remember when you whined and cried because you were cold and tired and didn’t want to listen to this loud music anymore (at Castles & Coasters, while I was jamming out to Red)? Every now and then I get a glimpse of you in me, when you’re testing out your DJ equipment and adding speakers to your wall…
  16. This list is incomplete if I don’t mention River Dance – right?
  17. The first time we put you on a plane to Wyoming by yourself, I’m pretty sure I didn’t breathe again until you came home. It gets a little easier, each time you get on a plane – or in a car – by yourself, but only a little. Easier. Just thought you should know.
  18. Last week your Dad and I sat and watched your last high school soccer game; bittersweet. I remember watching your first soccer game, as you spun around in circles and studied bugs in the grass. Oblivious to the game going on around you. Content to be yourself, where you stood. I watched as you stood as team captain this time, engaged in the game, but still content to be the creative, funny, sensitive, thoughtful, intelligent and strong young man you are today.joffrey-soccer

And tomorrow – tomonnow – you will be eighteen! And I will be the luckiest Mom in the world for having spent these eighteen wonderful years with you.
joffrey-smile

Welcome to “Life in the Zone!”

We are ALL a work-in-progress! Whether you feel like someone who is “under construction,” “being remodeled,” or “a renovation project,” each one of us is a piece of work (isn’t that the truth)! God’s workmanship, to be precise (Ephesians 2:10).

Having just spent an amazing retreat weekend with the lovely women of Mt. Vernon Presbyterian Church, perhaps a picture is actually worth a thousand words…

May your own Life in the Zone be filled with blessings this week and always!

 

Interested in bringing a Pink Shoes Ministries women’s retreat to your church? Contact Brita for details: brita@pinkshoesministries.me