A “Christmas Card” greeting to all… MERRY CHRISTMAS! He came!

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HE came!

We are snowed in AGAIN! But as I was looking out my window this morning I saw ice cycles lining my gutters and I was reminded of this video: You Make All Things New. A couple years ago I was asked to write a piece on winter to accompany a Kanakuk Ministries video.

Whatever season you find yourself in today, I pray that you are encouraged by this.

He ALONE makes all things NEW!

You Make All Things New

Making Room {Are you celebrating the reason or the season?}

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by Heather Spring {Gilion}

Our Christmas construction paper chain is getting SHORTER! My boys (ages: 6 and 4) love to take turns tearing off a chain link as they jump and dance about:

“Only 17 more days!”

“16 more days!”

“15 MORE DAYS until CHRISTMAS!”

The sad thing is, up until now, every morning as they tear off the paper ring, I feel anxiety rush over me. As they are celebrating, my eyes glaze over as I’m internally groaning: “Oh NO! ONLY 15 more days! AHHHH… I have so much to do!”

Until I made room.

Sweet Mary, moments away from giving birth, was told, “There’s no room for you here.”

This became one of the themes of Jesus’ life: “There’s no room for you.” He pressed against culture, religion, purpose, and what others considered truth, as many encounters left Jesus feeling the breeze of the door slam in His face, “There’s no room for you.” And finally, as He died on the cross, wasn’t that the world’s final way of saying, “There’s no room for You here?”

I know God had a plan in all of it. He knew Jesus would be treated in this manner and still sent Christ into a world that could not hold Him. A world that could not understand Him. Among a people that struggled with His very existence. He was “other”—the Word became flesh. Finally mankind got to see – the words that were penned long ago foretelling of His birth, became reality as skin covered bones and came wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. God became man—one you could touch, hear, and see. His name was Jesus! He was sent at the perfect time to share the perfect story as He walked, talked, laughed, cried, loved, saved, and redeemed.

As I still my anxious heart this season, putting away my to-do lists, I can hear this steady knock.

Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. {Revelation 3:20}

“There is room for you here, my Lord,” I reply.

Christmas is derived from two words: Christ’s Mass. Mass means to gather and “feast” on Christ, much like a church (followers of Jesus) join together to remember Jesus’ life and death through the Lord’s Supper. What a picture of what Christmas means for the world, an invitation to feast on Christ. If we’re not feasting on Christ then we are feasting on something else. So far, this season, if I’m honest, I’ve been shoveling in mouthfuls of second bests. It’s just not cutting it, and I’m thankful. {I’m publicly repenting, here. Thanks for listening.}

~SO HERE’S HOW I’M MAKING ROOM~

In the heart department:
{1} I’m spending time meditating on my great need for Him. I can’t celebrate my “Savior” if I don’t daily come to grips that I need one. I need Him! And His birth is and was a BIG deal. I can say, as of today, with great delight I’m watching our paper chain grow shorter as I remember “the reason for the season”—God’s plan of sending Emmanuel “God with us” to become our deliverance!

{2} Even in this busy season, I’m waging war on my sin. I’m letting God reveal the areas in my life that are not pleasing to him and I’m putting sin to death. I wish this time of year just naturally made me more thankful, but I confess I’m quicker to covet, to compare, to hold things tighter… want.want.want.spend.spend.spend! Giving myself the “excuse” to follow the world’s “Christmas standards” is not acceptable or pleasing to Him, and ultimately not satisfying for me. There’s no such thing as a sin-cation, so as I make room and invite Him in, He reveals the sin in my heart. I must continue to confess and realign my heart with His.

In the decorating department:
Up until now, I’ve focused on making my house “pretty.” My tree stands loud and proud, along with twinkling lights in many rooms, and stockings hung by the fireplace with care; but I’ve missed making it all about Jesus and His birth. A couple days ago, as I took in my decorations, nothing really pointed to Jesus. I’m making room. I’m adding some things to turn my gaze upward. I long to put the focus on my Beloved, making some alteration that speak to my King’s birthday! {Sidenote: It’s not about a list of decorating do’s and don’ts—it’s a heart issue.} For me personally, I knew I hadn’t made Jesus the center.

In the children department:
Little eyes are watching. “What is mom saying {by her actions} is the ultimate meaning of Christmas?” I have great responsibility, as I stand alongside my hubby, to lead our family. Do I talk more about the presents they may or may not get on Christmas morning more than I speak of this baby that came and changed the world? In our home, no doubt, we talk about Jesus, [when Noah used to list our family members, he’d say: Mommy, Daddy, Woah {that’s how he said his name}, Zach, and Jesus!] but am I doing everything I can to “train up my children”—establishing the right traditions that frame my children’s understanding of Christmas for years to come.

I want them to understand
• why we relish this time of year (the promise that was fulfilled in Jesus’ birth!),
• why we decorate (It’s a birthday celebration),
• why we give extravagant gifts (following in step with the 3 wise men as they came bearing gifts as they celebrated God’s most extravagant gift—JESUS).

I’m making room this season, and sharing the spoils with my children as I strive to teach and train my boys that Christmas is not just about nostalgic songs, traditions, ornaments, sugar cookies, and PRESENTS! {Even though I enjoy each and every one of these things.}

In the list department:
I’m not suggesting throwing out the list. But there are times in my day, everyday, that I’m throwing out my list. I enjoy a good productive day, like the next guy, but the list does not need to rule my day nor should it be accomplished through the wrong motive. I’m giving Him my list, letting Him check it twice (heehee)! Yes, I have lots to do. You do too. But as we do and buy and make and bake and set and wrap, may it all be from an outpouring of love for our King that deserves our everything as He equips us to love others.

So celebrate your little head off! He’s worth it! Make some of that creepy Figgy Pudding that makes your guests turn into ungrateful children, ordering you to make it or they won’t leave your house and then on top of that you have to practically feed it to them. The nerve! But when we’re “making room” we can even love those people. 😉

I love Christmas time, but when we start celebrating ritual, nostalgia, and presents we’re not engaging in Christmas {Christ’s Mass}, we push the birthday boy out of the party and say, “Sorry, it’s not really about You.” I don’t want to miss filling myself with Him this season. He always makes good on His promises. So come feast!

Feel free to share some things that you do or your family does to “make room.” I’d love to hear! I may share some of the new things we end up doing… we shall see.

life after a women’s retreat

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By Heather Spring {Gilion}

A weekend full of estrogen, chocolate, giggles, tears, hugs, new and old friends, a themed t-shirt, songs in the female key, and—the centerpiece—JESUS! Is that a piece of Heaven on Earth? All the ladies say, “Whoop whoop!”

On Friday, we travel to the mountaintop to meet with God—pressing our ear upon His chest, conversing with Him about it all (the good, the bad, the ugly), pouring out our love and then letting Him fill us up with more of Him!  Ahhhh… He.is.more.than.enough! On Saturday evening, we travel back down the mountain. We return home, swing open the door all the while singing at the top of our lungs, “*THIS GIRL IS ON FIIIIRRRRE!” {*google Alicia Keys if you aren’t familiar with this song, you’ll be singing this chorus for the rest of the day… you’re welcome} And in true Moses-style, your face beams so brightly that your family, friends and coworkers have asked you to “Cover that thang up!” I love sporting the you-can’t-handle-this glow! He rubs off on us!

• I’m sure the things He put His finger on in your life, have all been neatly resolved.

• You’ve said, “Yes” to Him and haven’t wavered in your obedience.

• You’ve confessed and reconciled with those you’ve wronged.

• You’ve continued to dive into His Word, and every so often, grab the thing and pressing it against your chest declaring, “Oh, I LOVE THIS BOOK!”

• You’ve been the kindest you’ve ever been.

• Moms, you haven’t raised your voice once!

• Wives, you’ve served with a smile: making his favorite food while washing his underwear.

• You’ve been in constant conversation with God.

• You’ve given to the poor.

• You’ve loved on every stranger.

• You’ve cooked a meal for a neighbor.

• You’ve signed up for a mission trip.

• You’ve achieved having a Mary heart in a Martha world! {Shout out to Joanna Weaver. You rock!}

• You’ve done it all without complaint or an entitlement mentality.

Right? No?!?!

Oh…

Well, then you’re human. Congratulations!

But… good news—He’s NOT! Our Hope anchors in His strength alone, not in ours.

We surrender.
We surrender again.
And again.
“I don’t measure up!” He does.
“I wish I could…” He can.
“I want to be perfect for Him!” It’s not about perfection, it’s about progression, a friendship that deepens and grows as He grows fruit in us.

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Speaking of fruit… Remember Eve?

She was a masterpiece. The Master’s piece. Created last like a lovely bow that ties things together. She was the crown jewel in the King’s headdress. Lovely. Made to display attributes of God unique to the female kind. Unashamed in her nakedness, flesh of Adam’s flesh, walking along in the Garden of Eden with her Creator God by her side. Did they laugh? Did she see herself in His eyes? Did she gaze at her God in abandoned admiration? Did she feel comfortable to take His hand? Did she feel such security in their relationship that as He spoke she ran her fingers upon the tops of His hands—maybe examining His knuckles? Did she open His hands and trace the lines in His palms as she thought about how He used these very hands to make she and Adam out of dust? Did she catch herself staring at His lips as she pictured Him speaking everything into existence with simple words?

She must have been so full. Complete. Satisfied. He was enough. Right?

But before she knew it, she was engaging a conversation with a snake! What was it about his words that left her entertaining a lie?

I picture Eve sinning on a Monday. I don’t know, I just think about how sweet my Sundays are—Sondays. I know what you’re thinking—EVERY day can be a Sonday! You’re right. But there is something sweet about raising a unified voice with a group of hungry and thirsty people declaring to their God that He is enough. Singing melodies—truth on their lips and love flowing from their hearts. The Word of God open and spoken over a room full of eager listeners. “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” {Matt 18:20}

But I know sometimes it’s on my Mondays that the whiplash occurs—my faith is put to the test. The very words I was pouring out over my King become stabbing reminders of how I don’t measure up to the desires of my heart. I engage in conversations with the snake. I eat my apple. I wrestle with my flesh. I follow my own desires and so easily forget the good news of the gospel.

Here’s some good news for you today:

1. He’s still enough. Whether we live like He is or not. He is.

2. Where we are weak (and we will be), His grace is sufficient and His power comes to the forefront! The “snake” tempts us to disbelieve, to follow our own hearts, to push against the freedom that Christ came to bring us. Satan attempts to get you down, but in fact let him push you down… down to your knees. {2 Cor 12:9}

3. Our God is faithful {period}… {EXCLAMATION POINT}! Even when we are unfaithful, He’s still faithful. He can’t ever be something He’s not and His goodness doesn’t depend on ours. {2 Tim 2:13} And His mercies are new every stinkin’ morning… ahem… every glorious morning! {Lam 3:22-23}

4. This kind of piggybacks #3, but I think it deserves it’s own number: “He who calls you is faithful; HE will surely do it.” {I Thess 5:24} I’ve always loved this verse because it reminds me He’s doing the doing in me. He’s got this! He’s got me! He’s got you! The things that He’s called you to, He will do… just keep saying YES to Him.

5. Whatever He’s revealed to you on the mountaintop, cherish it in your heart, let it ruminate in your mind and settle into your belief system. And put a little accountability in action by sharing it with another Jesus-lovin’ *frister. {friend + sister}

You know, I can easily cast my imaginary stones at Eve, but she and I will be good friends in Heaven. After she wiped the apple juice from her chin, I bet she was a grieving mess. She messed up. She lost a lot on that day. But even then, grace had already been set in motion. God has crazy love for us… at times this makes me think He must be crazy. But it’s this love that won’t leave us alone. It’s His love that beckons us to the top of the mountain for sweet moments with Him and it’s the same love that calls us down again.

Spend time with Him today. Maybe your face will be a little brighter, your heart a little fuller, and your load a little lighter. May you keep singing at the top of your lungs, “THIS GIRL IS ON FIIIIIRRE!”

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I love this picture Posy Creative captured of my sister Heidi! She IS on fire… on fire for her God. OUR GOD IS A CONSUMING FIRE! Burn baby, burn.

{Photos in this blog were taken at Inspire’s, the Heart Retreat, held at the Winderemere Conference Center, Roach, Missouri. Fab photos taken by the lovely and talented Holly Hyde of Posy Creative!}

What would it sound like?

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by Heather Spring {Gilion}

What would it sound like if the trees had a voice and in unison they began to sing a song? One song. The same song. {Psalm 96: 11-12}

What if you could hear the sky tell of the works of His hands—the stars narrating their beginning or the moon enlightening you to his introduction to the sun? What if you could hear the planets spinning—whirring round and round—and if you listened close enough you could hear their voices in unison, “In the beginning was God. He was. He is. He will always be. God spoke a word and we appeared. Let us now tell you about this Creator God.” {Psalm 19:1}

What if the birds’ song made sense in our ears as we learned that every call and song expressed praise to the God that gave them their wings? What if their flight was more about worship than an animal in motion? {Psalms 104:12}

What would it be like if every time we looked in the mirror we heard, “You were made in My image?” Would we stop for a longer gaze? Would we peer deeper into our own eyes? Would our mind race as we imagined details of this ultimate being that we bear resemblance to? Would we bask in the moment that we are known and understood? What if we heard this same voice every time we met a stranger, “She is made in My image.” “He is made in My image.” Would that change our interaction with them? {Genesis 1:27}

What would it sound like if the walls that tower and protect our hearts came tumbling down? Would it be a mighty sound? Would we wince as brick and mortar came thundering down? Would we hear our hearts rejoice over the pile of dust and ashes? {Ezekiel 36:26}

What would it sound like if we could hear our sins striking the surface of the Sea as He cast them with force into the water’s abyss? Would we hear His loud cry as He hurled them into the deep? Would we witness the rise of the water, a splash reaching the heavens and then back down again acting as a cover? Would we then take in the silence on the water’s surface as the sins lay forgotten on the sea’s floor? {Micah 7:19}

What would it sound like if the chains that bound us fell to the floor with heavy might? We might, just might, sit speechless for a moment. But it wouldn’t be long before we raced through the cell doors that had been swung wide. Would we rejoice as three words rang through the halls, “YOU ARE FREE!” {Isa. 61:1}

What would it sound like if you could hear God’s thoughts toward you—one thought per grain of sand? Would you sit on the beach’s shore, scooping up handful upon handful, grains too numerous to count, as you took in each thought? As you let the sand spill between your fingers, what would you hear? Would you hear the whispers of His grand love? Would you hear of His plans? Would you blush and fight back the tears as you took in the words, “I’ve loved you before you breathed your first breath.” {Psalm 139:17-18}

What would it sound like if our idols told us the truth? Would we hear with our ears their desperate plea for us to see that they are nothing more than created not Creator? Would we listen as they begged us to see that they are a lie and nothing more? {Isa. 44:20}

What would it sound like if your heartbreaking made a sound? If in suffering and pain you heard your inner man fight for joy? What if this sound filled Heaven’s halls and traveled to the King’s ears? What if He didn’t just listen but responded? What would it sound like if we could hear His binding up of our broken heart? Would we hear our own cry—an initial scream from the pain that this pressure caused? Would we feel His nail-scarred hands pressing deeper and deeper still upon our bleeding heart? Would we hear our tears fall—hope streaming down our cheeks? {Psalm 147:3}

What would it sound like if your life was a song? “This is my story, this is my song.” What would be the hook—the line that drove your song? Would others hum along as you sang your melody with confidence and passion? What would line the verses or mark your rhymes? Would you sing it in public or save it for the shower? {Psalms 44:8}

What if you could hear the cheers from the “cloud of witnesses” as you ran with perseverance the race that is set before you? An assembly of onlookers who have run and finished strong—those in the faith, the martyrs, the faithful, those that have completed their race and now cheer others on from Heaven’s stands. What if you could see Jesus, our prize, as you ran? What if you could hear your feet hitting the track as you picked up speed, breath heavy, heartbeat loud in your ears as you begged air in and ordered it out again? What if the sound of the wind that blew past your ears was overtaken by the voices—oh, the roar of the multitude of voices—the familiar along with the unfamiliar, rooting for and encouraging you on to not lose heart and to keep your eyes on your prize? {Hebrews 12:1-2}

What would it sound like if every knee, in Heaven and on Earth, came crashing down? A bowing that rocked Earth’s foundation and Heaven’s floor, sending a thunderous current to roar and ripple through space and time, filling the depths and heights, width and breadth. {Isaiah 45:22-24}

Today Jesus prays the same prayer He prayed over 2,000 years ago, “Whoever has ears, let them hear.” {Matthew 11:15}

Can you hear? Are you listening? If you have ears… HEAR!

“Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts…” {Hebrews 3:15}

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If you want to learn more about faith in Jesus, go here.
If you want to learn more about Heather and Holly, go here.
If you want to hear about Dancing On My Ashes, go here.

I do. I still do.

by Heather Spring {Gilion}

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Nine years ago I put on a white dress.
I was teary. You were too.
Joyfully we said, “I do.”
I still do. Tomorrow I will too. And the next day, and the next, and the one after that.

There are still days that I get overwhelmed that God wrote you into my story. Man, He’s a good writer.

You are my Boaz. My love. My best friend. A companion for the unknown road. You were “that guy from church” that mowed this widow’s yard. And then you became my guy… the one chosen to awake this Sleeping Beauty (as you like to say). Dallas, thank you for waiting for me, pursuing me, and giving me time to see what God was doing. I was a bit slow… but you didn’t mind. You learned more about patience—you’re welcome.

As I reflect on the last nine years, I am humbled. We’ve shared dreams and pursued those dreams. We’ve laughed and wept together. Words of courage, challenge, confession, and admiration have left our lips. We had a baby boy…

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…and then another!

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Our two little blessings!

We’ve moved houses. We’ve disagreed and then agreed… to disagree. You talked me into liking coffee and I grew out your hair. You smell like campfires and I smell like tanning cream. Remember that time I got mad at you because coffee is hot? Remember when you caught our neighbor’s fence on fire? Remember when I bought $200 worth of frozen meat from a drive-by salesman that we didn’t eat because it was inedible? Remember this morning when we opened our eyes and didn’t say anything but we just smiled? Yep, I do. I still do.

As great as you are, thank you for not being enough. Thank you for the times when you’ve unintentionally broken my heart. Thank you for being flawed. Thank you for being a work in progress. Because, Dallas, it’s in these moments that I’m reminded that you make a crummy God. Don’t get me wrong, you are my Mr. Wonderful, but it’s in your imperfections that I’m reminded to release my grip on you and come to grips with the reality that you do not, or will ever, complete me. You may not complete or be able to fix me, but as we allow God to do the completing and fixing and molding and shaping, we walk hand in hand, finding our security in His grip.

“We love because he first loved us.” {1 John 4:19}

It’s been just shy of a decade that I walked down the aisle with glassy eyes and a pounding heart and vowed to be your wife. I see ever so clearly God’s grace and extravagant love for me through your eyes. More than ever, I do. I still do.

So here’s to the next chapter. What will lie before us? Where will we go from here?

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All I know is that there is still much to learn from one another. There are things in our marriage that need work, areas that need grace to abound, places that need attention… and your new motto is running through my head, “I can’t just speak things into existence, I’ve got to lead in the change.” I will gladly follow and pursue more for our marriage and our family.

When we were holding hands last night, I noticed our hands have aged! And you of all people know that I religiously apply my anti-aging products morning and night, but last night, I loved our aging hands. Absolutely LOVED them. Growing old with you is priceless! So… happy anniversary, my love! May our hands get old and our laugh lines grow deep. May our knees know wear and our vocal cords tire as we talk to God on behalf of one another. May our car’s odometer wrack up more miles and our tires lose their tread. May we lace up our tennis shoes, or strap on our snow boots, or sit on the beach as the water steals the shore. May we serve friends and strangers. May we model a covenant marriage to our boys. May we dream, flirt, steal kisses, and hug long. May our cheeks hurt from smiling all the days of our lives and may our hearts never lose the awe of God’s glorious Story.

May we continue to choose to love. My promise remains—I do. I still do.

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{Heather Gilion coauthored the book, Dancing On My Ashes. To learn more about her God-story go here. The E-Book is on sale through November!}

E-Book Sale: Dancing On My Ashes

b59b9-domacoverThrough the month of November, we are selling the e-book version of our book, Dancing On My Ashes, for a special price! Our publisher gave us a price break and we’d like to pass it on to you! Soooo, you can purchase the e-book version of Dancing On My Ashes from us (using our paypal link) for $5! {Our publisher sells it for $13.99, and Amazon sells it for $9.99!}

If you’ve already purchased a copy of our book, but you’ve always thought you’d like to buy one for so-and-so, this is the PERFECT opportunity! No pressure over here, we just want to pass along this price break. We are confident that it will find its way into the right hands at the right time. God continues to blow us away by the incredible testimonies we hear of God working in hearts, minds, and souls. May His good news go forth!

Thankful for what God is doing and has done with our story, which is truly His Story of redemption, hope, grace, and unfailing love! (If you have no idea what our book is about, you can go here and read a bit of our story OR you can watch our short video.)

{Note: After purchase, you will receive an email from us that includes instructions on how to download your e-book! We’ll get that to you as soon as we can!}

SALE ENDS NOVEMBER 30, 2013, at MIDNIGHT.

Here’s where you need to go:

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“When I grow up I want to be…”

by Heather Spring {Gilion}

Do you remember what you wanted to be when you “grew” up?

Me? “Dad, I want to be a country-western singer just like Crystal Gayle! And I want to be a body-builder that works part-time at Piccadilly.” (Loooong hair, bulging biceps, and mashed potatoes! What little girl doesn’t dream those kind of dreams?!)

Here’s what I would have looked like if my dreams would’ve become reality!

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Scary!

I’m so glad that God knows best. His dreams for us are so MUCH BETTER than what we dare hope for. Did you know that God is a good writer? Yep, He writes the best stories!

He’s written me into His Story. And by His extravagant grace, I’m still learning and growing and changing.

Today, my story continues…

I’ve been wife.
I’ve been cleaner-upper.
I’ve been school lunch preparer.
I’ve been soccer mom.
I’ve been runner.
I’ve been nurse.
I’ve been cook.
I’ve been referee.
I’ve been writer.
I’ve been friend.
I’ve been not-so-good friend.
I’ve been procrastinator.
I’ve been the tickle monster.
I’ve been a light.
I’ve been a stumbling block.
I’ve been a sister.
I’ve been a servant.

And that’s just today.

We wear many different hats. Some we gladly wear, others we take off as quick as we can.

But over the last 13 years I’ve stepped into a couple roles that I NEVER dared to dream. I’ve come to realize that they were dreams that were dreamed for me, before the beginning of time… dreams too wild, too beautiful. Chapters written before my parents first held me in their arms and said, “She should be called Bubba.”

God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us. (Ephesians 3:20 MSG)

God has directed my steps and I’ve strived to follow Him as He whispers to my heart where to go next.

And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it,’ when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left. (Isa. 30:21 ESV)

It’s not been easy. I’ve said “yes” reluctantly. I’ve said “yes” when I wanted to say “no!” I’ve been scared. I’ve trembled. I’ve questioned whether or not I heard Him right. I’ve begged Him for different dreams! But if you’re not (at least a little) scared, you’re not following hard after Him. Because He calls us to do things that are BEYOND us! To accomplish in us and through us, things that are not in our ability to accomplish. Works that can only be traced back to someone BIG ENOUGH to pull them off.

Don’t hear me wrong. It’s not that I think I’ve “arrived” by the world’s standards, but I have arrived in this perfect storm of where my insufficiencies pair with His divine Story to make Himself known by using a simple, willing jar of clay.

A couple of years ago, I was invited to speak at a University to college students, professors, and their local community about how I came to write Dancing On My Ashes. As the kind, complimentary emcee of the evening’s event announced me as an author and speaker, I started laughing. Yes, out loud. And I was looking around like an idiot wondering who else was laughing with me. But no one was. I quickly composed myself, but in all honesty, I have those moments ALL THE TIME! The reason: I never dreamed of this.

I never constructed a dream board.
I didn’t meditate my way here.
The fact is God dreamed this for me. He accomplished this. I cannot boast or brag. I just said yes and have been obedient.

I understand my role in this process. I am nothing without Him. But He equips me. He gives me the knowledge, the ability, and this fire in my bones to stand and live this thing out. I can now look back and see the hand of God training me and leading me toward these things.

I don’t know what the rest of my life looks like—but He does. And that’s good enough for me. He has placed vision upon my heart. New visions. Am I scared? Yes! But that healthy fear makes me press into Him all the more. My faith has grown over the years and my yeses come more easily and quickly. He will continue to guide me. I’m confident of that.

A Word for the dreamer:
• God will never give you a dream that contradicts His Word.
• If you sense He’s leading you to do something and you keep saying “no” to Him, because you’re just plain scurred: You are missing out! AND others are missing out! He doesn’t have to use you… He wants to! Take a step of faith. Will you trust Him?
• Stop living in self-preservation mode. Stop holding too tightly to what you are dreaming for your life?
• Be encouraged. Be brave. His way is so much grander than yours.

“Be Strong and courageous.” (Deuteronomy 31:6 ESV)

1. Is there something you feel like He’s leading you to do?
2. If you sense this is from God, what are you going to do about it?

Is God Good All the Time? (Confessions of a former widow)

by Heather Spring {Gilion}
(Blog post originally appeared on JCaro.com.)

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Artwork by the talented Logan Pyle.

I cried through most of my twenties.

Who am I kidding? I’m still crying in my thirties, but for very different reasons.
Thirteen years ago, dreams were coming true. I had my college diploma in hand, the handsomest fellow by my side, and a wedding ring on my finger!
“God is good!” said the preacher. “All the time!” said the congregation.

I grew up in a church that said it a lot. We were taught when anyone from the pulpit said, “God is good…” in response, the congregation should echo back with exuberance “All the time!” 

As my life of ease and dreams was on its way to “happily ever after”, I easily joined the echo: Yep, God is good… all the time! (Even if I didn’t chant it out loud, I gave the pastor a good head nod.)

But a year later, I felt like I was Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, trying desperately to tap my heels together three times to get back home. Shoot, forget tapping, I was banging those things together until all the ruby glitter became a pile of dust. Because somehow my life got all jacked up, as a massive “tornado” ripped through my land.

My new reality was heartbreaking.  

My dad – who had just walked me down the aisle –  was gone… he died at the age of 49. Nine months later, I stood over my husband’s casket. James – the funny one, the kind one, the one with so much potential, and the one I was ready to share babies and dentures with (not at the same time)… gone at the age of 22. And on top of that, the same canoeing accident that took my James, also left its mark on my sister Holly. She experienced the same loss as death ripped her beloved husband, Scott, away.

What in the world?

Three widows, one family… now under one roof. 

I’m not going to lie; our household was a scary place, people. Not a place you’d likely want to visit. (If you ever hear of a house where three widows reside, just bring them cookies… they like cookies.)

I want to highlight the 9 months between losing my dad and losing my husband. Go back with me for a moment to the days following my dad’s death. The truth is, this professing Christian, who went to church and asked Jesus in her heart, was now asking herself “Is God good… ALL the time?” Because it sure didn’t feel like it.

During this soul-searching season in my life, I stood quietly as the others professed God’s goodness. Internally, I conversed with myself. “I thought I knew God. I thought I could trust Him? Why did He let this happen? If He was/is the Creator of ALL things—if He can usher in the rise of the sun every morning, if He designed my heart to beat at a rhythm, if He created birds to automatically know how to fly—then He could’ve healed my father.

In my mind, I could not reconcile my pain with His all-the-time good. I was broken. I was sad. Indeed, in hindsight, I was prideful to think that He owed me a life of ease—of no hardships. But if I were to be honest, that’s what I believed. My response to my father’s death flushed out this belief: I knew better than God. He should’ve healed my father, for crying out loud! He messed up.

Here I was a newlywed. I was supposed to be embracing this season of possibilities and yet I was becoming a very angry, pessimistic adult. 

I was mad at God. I was wrestling with all the things I had always been taught about Him.

This anger led to bitterness and this bitterness was seeping into every area of my life:
my marriage, my relationships, how I ate, what I thought about, how I responded to the normal ups and downs of life, and how I spent money. This question was eating me up.

James struggled with how to help me. He listened to my rants and then pointed me to Jesus. He was concerned, “Sweetie, you grieve as if you have no hope.” It was true. I had no hope. When I had placed my hope and faith in Christ, I had obviously attached a few conditions of my own to the deal.

God was not silent during this season, yet I did everything I could to silence Him. He still offered me His divine comfort, but I refused it. 

After nine months of licking my wounds and telling God what I thought of His will, I received news that James was gone. This was my breaking point with God. I was ready to once and for all denounce my faith in God. I didn’t doubt that He existed; I was just done. I didn’t like Him and didn’t want to have anything to do with a God like this.

I remember standing alone on a hillside in Vermont. Well… not quite alone. The Creator of the universe was there. I was broken and dealing with the kind of pain that makes me want to throw up even now. Today, thirteen years later, I still struggle with putting words to this moment because something happened to me on that hillside.

I stood before God feeling justified in all my accusations, but as mad as I was that He would let this happen, I could not deny that God was near and that He cared.

James had drowned that day. And the fact was, the previous 9 months, I had slowly been drowning as well—in my bitterness. But on that hillside, I started experiencing new waves. God’s Love was like the ocean. Wave after wave pulling me away from shore—my security, my reasoning, my stability. And His rushing water – not violent –  but intense nonetheless, ushered in peace and comfort again and again. Grief had her own waves and fought to take me captive into her embrace. The waters battled for my soul.

Yet, His nearness – in that moment – spoke of a love that was real—as real as the stars that hung overhead. As real as the grass underneath my feet. As real as the tears that fell from my cheeks. He loved me. And His heart was broken over my pain There were two roads before me: run from Him or run to Him. I saw my death before me as I contemplated the first. Wave upon wave, grace upon grace, washed over me. The God that has the “whole world in His hands” was grieving with me on that hillside, and mixed with the evening breeze a still, small voice spoke into my soul, “You can trust Me.”

Even though I didn’t like my new reality—not one bit—I couldn’t fight the truth that was staring me in the face: He is good. 

Me & my boys today.

Some of you are asking, “So, you’re saying that God is good?”

Yes.

“All the time?”

With tears streaming down my cheeks—YES! He is. There are things we will never reconcile in our minds. The sin that is prevalent. The depravity. The disease. The head-shaking-mind-wrecking stories we encounter everyday. We don’t get it. I don’t get it. But that doesn’t change the truth—God is always good.

I walked away from that hillside different.

Sad? Absolutely. 
Still distraught? Of course. 
But I was free. 
The anger I had been nursing like a bleeding wound was no longer holding me. He was holding me. 

I, maybe even for the first time, understood a fraction of His love for His created, and I was humbled. My choice to bow to His Lordship – come what may with no terms and no stipulations – ushered in a peace despite my pain. I was all in.

Like I said before, I cried through my twenties. Now, I’m crying in my thirties. I’m a crybaby. So what.

I’m not ashamed. Dwelling on His unconditional, ever-pursuing, never-changing, patient, out-of-this-world love makes me weepy.

I said some horrible things to Him and about Him. He forgave me. 
I wanted nothing to do with Him. He sought me. 
I was chained to what could-a-should-a-been. He freed me. 

You can call me a crybaby. I don’t mind. Because my Heavenly Daddy has whispered the same thing to my heart, “Cry, baby, cry. Your joy came in the morning! I have turned your mourning into dancing. I have clothed you with gladness. There will be a day that your tears will be no more. Your faith will be made sight. But today, cry away. Cry for the hurting. Cry for the lost. And cry knowing you are loved beyond measure. My love is like the ocean without a shore. Go and tell others about My healing waters.”

So take it from the widowed, the cancer patient, the adulteress, the sexually assaulted, the fatherless, the betrayed, the lonely, the addict, the weirdo… (and that’s just my immediate family): He is good—all the time.

Start where you are, and chase after Him as fast as you can.

—-
Want to hear more of the story?
Holly and I wrote a book about our journey called Dancing On My Ashes.
It’s a beautiful picture of restoration, and recounts God’s faithfulness on every page.
Prepare yourself to weep and rejoice with us.
You can also watch our story here.
Or follow our blog here.
DOMA - new cover

Thanksgiving: One Noodle at a Time

by Heather Spring {Gilion}

photo-51

Since Hobby Lobby already has their Christmas decor out, I can write about Thanksgiving, right?

I can get swept away in to-do lists with calendar alerts dictating my day. Frustrations rise up when I have to tie another shoelace or wipe another bottom. I can also get grumpy when I have to realign the pillows on my couch… one more time! Didn’t they see that I JUST straightened them? Or when my husband ends up having another meeting, I can inwardly throw a little grownup pity party! Seriously, are we going to have some family time or not? When all those frustrations, or {let’s get honest} moments that don’t revolve around me, are really opportunities to release “control” over my day and have a moment of thanksgiving…that my husband has a job, or that I have bottoms to wipe, or pretty pillows for my couch.

Or maybe it’s BIGGER than that: a tire blows, I find out someone I care about is in the hospital…again, a friend’s marriage is falling apart, there’s a school shooting, or a family member’s addictions are leading them to pull away. When things are not in our control, or simply don’t go as planned—BIG or small—I’m quick to get frustrated and short. Hello, didn’t everyone get the memo of how this day should roll?

But lately the Lord has been quickening my heart to pause and give thanks. I’m practicing the art of gratitude. I’m giving thanks when things don’t go my way. I’m trusting He’s in the details of my life and having a peaceful knowledge that He is leading me to holiness not a life of ease… and being okay with that.

So, to celebrate Thanksgiving in my heart today, I’m giving thanks for the times that have shaped me, that are shaping me, and that will shape me.

“In everything GIVE THANKS; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

{1 Thessalonians 5:18}

Giving thanks should be like eating spaghetti… one noodle at a time. So, here’s a list—not comprehensive—but today’s noodles:

1. I’m thankful that my dad told me that I was pretty. When I was a teenager, he wrote me a letter {that I still have today} that spoke more about the importance of inner pretty than outer pretty. I might have acted like I wasn’t really listening… but I was.

2. I’m thankful that God’s mercies are indeed “new” EVERY morning!

3. I’m thankful that in fifth grade, when I decided I was going to start cussing, a couple friends told me to stop it. They said I couldn’t cuss right. Instead of learning how to do it right, I decided to speak like a lady rather than a sailor.

4. Even though I do have short, fat toes; I’m thankful that I have ten toes. {I’m wearing flip-flops today… trying to be thankful.}

5. I’m thankful for a husband that tells me when I’m not being nice. This might seem like a weird one, but this sharpening means that he loves me—that he cares about my heart more than my ego. He was given to me to make me more like Jesus.

6. I’m thankful for my two boys that keep me dancing, make believing, and praying! I love learning more about sacrifice and grace by these two characters.

7. I’m thankful for the still small voice that’s within me that guides me, directs me, and points me to the path of freedom. God’s own Spirit inside little old me! What power and fullness resides within my beating chest! Who am I that I should carry around such beauty and perfection?

8. I’m thankful for friends that I can be vulnerable with. I have friends that know me and still love me, friends that aren’t “yes-women” but are God-fearing, God-loving ladies. Oh, and I love a good friend-hug!

9. I’m thankful for taste buds. Working on a banana with Nutella right now, get you some! Yuuuummmmm.

10. I’m thankful for black… its slimming. {#9 and #10 go together}

11. I’m thankful that in seventh grade Jeremy broke up with me because I told him I couldn’t make-out with him. Oh, yeah… and for the break-up with Chris over not being able to go to dances. Oh… and when I got the big dump-dump-a-roo from Brad, Brian, Jay, and Steven. Tears were shed, but God even protects us from ourselves.

12. I’m thankful that my sister Holly told on me when I started smoking in college. The fear of my dad’s wrath was enough to put out my cigs fast!

13. I’m thankful for music that leads me to see beyond this world and realigns my heart as I meditate on what’s true.

14. I’m thankful for mascara.

15. I’m thankful for the storms that have come in my life. When I think about His nearness during my darkest hours, my heart spills over with gratitude. I have never been alone. NEVER. Even when He allowed storms to come, in His perfect way, He stilled the storm in me. Plus, I have a new affection for rainbows—they are a constant reminder that God’s promises remain.

16. I’m thankful that I am not trapped in a pit of bitterness, fear, or anger anymore: from hole to whole. God rescues those that call on His Name!

17. I’m thankful that people can change. I can always grow, change, and be more of who I was created to be.

18. I’m thankful that He’s made me a dreamer. At times it feels as if I’m standing on the edge of a cliff, without a lifeline, but trusting Him is getting easier and easier as I’m witnessing His equipping the called. I’m joyfully dreaming God-sized dreams.

19. I’m thankful for rollie pollies. Enough said.

20. I’m thankful for really good laughs. The kind that make tears stream down your face. I had one of those the other night watching a new hire at Sonic, delivering food on skates. He was clinging to the side of the building as he maneuvered from car to car. At one point he rolled into the side of a car. It was dinner and a show, people! Tears were shed over the new kid. Now I feel bad… praying for his bruises and skillz!

21. Speaking of laughter, I’m thankful for Zach’s laugh when he watches “crazy cat” youtube videos.

22. This one could actually be my list, just this one. If I would let this take root in my heart every morning, there would really be no need for any other number: I’m thankful that I was loved to death. Jesus and the cross is the ultimate act of love. A love that daily motivates and changes me from the inside out.

23. I’m thankful for pimples… they keep you humble. {Okay, I struggled writing this one.}

What are you thankful for? Join me in practicing Thanksgiving today and every day as a way of fighting the rhythms of forgetfulness and annoyed duty. You have no idea what your day will bring, but thanking God for His hand that is ever present in your life will be fuel to your faith. As the sun breaks through to dawn, may His presence pierce our darkness. His light illuminates and fills.

So, who doesn’t like a full belly and a full heart? Are you ready to devour a giant plate of spaghetti? There’s no need to hurry or worry about etiquette. Fill up your plate. Pick out a noodle and enjoy it. Slurp away. Feast, my friends. A heart of gratitude will leave you full.

{Here’s Noah showing you how to eat spaghetti!}