Browsing Category: Faith

The Year I Found Me

The Year I found Me: Daughter of the King

My birthday is this week, Friday to be precise. I turn 35. Goodness that sounds so old, 35. I remember when my mom was 35, I was 13…I think I planned a birthday party for her. I was always planning parties for people, still do. It’s taken me a few years to be OK with this new age…fortunately, it’s just in time. I feel like at 35 I’m finally willing to live my life on my terms, that I’ve finally found myself.

The Year I found Me: Daughter of the King

So much, too much, of my life has been lived in fear. I never really lived my teens or early 20s, I was too responsible. Too scared of pissing off my parents. And I did nothing. Now, I sit and think about all the things I didn’t do, all the things I wish I had done. The girl I wish I would’ve been, rather than the girl who was too scared to do anything.

Those few risks I took, the limbs I went out on, all turned out pretty good…and yes, Matthew was one of them.

A couple of years ago I realized something: That while I am a wife and mother, I am first myself.

I existed as Me, long before any of those other titles came to be. I was created as a Daughter of the King; Only to Him do I owe any explanation. That moment, that realization, has set me on the course of living my life with less fear. I had to STOP ignoring who I was or in 20 years I was going to wake up to an empty house and wonder what I was supposed to do with my life now.

The only title I have had for all eternity is Daughter of the King, and it is only to Him and for Him, that I am bound to live my life.

Can I tell you what a freeing concept that is?! That I don’t have to sacrifice who I am for what other people think I should be. God created me just as He wanted and needed me to be; the talents, the interests, all of it. All that is me was created solely for the purpose of bring Him glory.

What does that even mean?! It means I can stop stuffing down who I am and what I like and what my interests are. It means that I am free to be WHO I AM in my roles as a wife and mother. It means that I am not JUST A MOM, but an individual, created uniquely to live this life for him.

A friend was recently chided for writing a book, that somehow as a wife and mother it was not “good” for her to take time away from her husband and children to write a book, and I loved her response:

I smiled and told them that way back when, God reached in and tugged at my heart. I chose to live my life for Jesus and not for my children. Any legacy left here for them, is because He has my heart and gives me my focus. My children are just living in my surrender. Wholly and completely given to God.
When my children leave, God is still my first love.September McC.

Before I belonged to anyone, I belonged to Him. When everyone is gone, I will still belong to Him.

God is the only one who has the final word on who and what I am. No one else in this world has any right to tell me that they think my energies are better spent a certain way, that I’m not permitted to be who He created me to be. If I am right with God, that is all that matters. If I am following His lead, that is all that matters.

That weekend trip to Dublin…it was something I desperately wanted (and needed). It was crazy, I knew people would think I was crazy, irresponsible even, but I knew it was a GOOD THING. I knew it was something that God had put together just for me, to learn that I was His, and the He had freed me to live the life that He planned for me.

So, these next few years, I’m hoping you don’t think I’ve gone off the deep-end or that I must’ve lost my mind. I haven’t. I am just living the life God has for me, pursuing the interests and paths He has laid out, and BOY! do I have a lot of time to make up for.

Still Waiting {a Review}

*This post contains affiliate links.

I have to admit something, I wanted to be on the release team for Still Waiting because of it’s cover. That’s right the cover. But this book is so much more than just a gorgeous cover. The book was fantastic, for lack of a better word. Still Waiting chronicles Ann’s own struggles with waiting for a resolution, a healing, that doesn’t seem to come…and maybe never will.Still Waiting by Ann Swindell

Ann parallels her story with that of the Bleeding Woman in the Bible; how her life became turned upside down, how she struggled with shame and being ostracized, and in desperation took a great risk of faith. How her leap of faith resulted in her healing, and how sometimes, healing doesn’t come.

Ann does a beautiful job of personalizing the story of the bleeding woman, who is only briefly mentioned in passing of a greater story. Through the story she shows just how flawed we are, how desperately we needed a savior from ourselves, and still need one now.

It is not our strength which God will work with most, but our weaknesses, and we are at our weakest when we are waiting.

We all know that, but embracing it is an entirely different thing. It’s not socially acceptable to admit that we are weak, that we are failing, that we are less than what we appear to be.

And yet God seems to embrace weakness — value it, even. In fact, in Jesus we see the valuing of our frailty — of our flesh — with heavenly fervor. He became human. (p. 38)

Digging deep into her own pain and struggles and anger and frustration with herself and her still waiting, Ann’s words embrace the scary truth, that it’s hard to wait. Physically painful even. But even there, in the waiting, Jesus is still with us, still caring for us in our pain and need. Even that is hard though, knowing that Jesus is with us in the waiting, when all the waiting would end with just one word from Him. Ann beautifully describes her struggle with God’s unwillingness to end her waiting.

We are all waiting for something.

And honestly once we’re done waiting for one thing, it’s inevitable that something else will soon pop up for us to be waiting for…that’s life. Ann’s words and story can touch and heal all of us in whatever we are waiting for, whether it’s physical healing, a hard situation, infertility, or any number of other things.

For me, the sign of a good (non-fiction) book is the number of pages that end up dog-eared and marked up; this book delivers. Her writing is beautiful and engaging. She strikes the perfect balance between story writing and information, making every page of this book enjoyable to read.

You can order Still Waiting from Amazon.com and any other book retailer.

 


Ann Swindell is an author and a speaker who has written for CT Women, Relevant, Deeply Rooted, Darling, the Gospel Coalition, and (in)courage. She holds an MA in writing and an MFA in creative nonfiction writing, and she makes her home in the Midwest with her husband and daughter. Connect with her online at annswindell.com.

 

***You can read my disclosure policy here. I received the above book for free, to review, but it was honestly so good that I’ve bought several copies to pass along ;-)

31 Verses to Write on Your Heart {a Review}

31 Verse to Write on Your Heart

How often have you said that you really need to start memorizing scripture, because you know that your heart needs the truth burned into it? I have, a lot. I have a few verses that I have memorized, but I’m by no means vast in my knowledge. I can barely remember which books go where in the bible. It’s horrible.31 Verse to Write on Your Heart

The problem for me is that I have no idea where even to begin or with what, so I get easily overwhelmed and do nothing….always the worst choice possible. When I was perusing the books available for review from WaterBrook Multnomah I stumbled upon Liz Curtis Higgs new book “31 verses to Write on Your Heart” and figure, that might just be a great place to start!

There are 31 chapters in the book, each with a verse to memorize and a helpful tip on how to make memorization a bit easier. She goes on to dissect each verse, clarifying its meaning and giving you little tid-bits about it. The best part is that each of these chapters will literally take you just a few minutes to go through, but obviously memorizing it will take a bit longer.

This is such a great place to start at memorizing more scripture, and isn’t starting half the battle.

* I received this book for free through WaterBrook Multnomah’s Blogging for Books program. My opinions are my own. You can read my disclosure policy here.

A Lenten Dare: Finding God’s Gifts in the Everyday

A Lenten Dare Finding God's Gifts in the Everyday

We’re so often concerned with the self denial aspect of Lent, that we completely forget about what the purpose of that self denial is: To draw us closer to God. What if there was a way to draw us closer to God, without our feeling resentful that we’re missing out on caffeine and chocolate? There is.

Intentionally seeking and finding God’s gifts in the everyday.

A Lenten Dare Finding God's Gifts in the EverydaySix years ago, I read Ann Voskamp’s One Thousands Gifts. During the reading of it I had decided to take up Ann’s challenge of counting the gifts that I received from my heavenly father. The timing perfectly coinciding with the beginning of Lent. What if, rather than giving something up for Lent, I took something on. Did something that ACTUALLY drew me closer to God, rather than filled me with resentment.

Every day I challenged myself to find 25 things that were gifts from God. Sometimes they were big huge things. Sometimes they were just little mundane things (more me grasping for filling 25 spaces). All were gifts. At the end of Lent I had a list of 1000 gifts.

“Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves
and take up their cross daily and follow me.”

Luke 9:23

We focus so hard on the denying ourselves part that we completely ignore the later: FOLLOW ME.

All the self denial in the world amounts to nothing, if we don’t follow Him.

That dare took me on a journey: A journey of seeking and seeing God and His gifts to me, in the everyday. I got more out of Lent that year than I ever did before. In the taking of time was the giving from God, showing me just how abundantly He has blessed me.

There were days when it was easy to think of 25 gifts (both good and bad days). There were days when I struggled to think of 5 gifts, praying for God to open my eyes to what I knew was staring me in the face. On those days He knew I was desperate for His presence. That I needed to see His gifts and feel His love; and He was faithful, always revealing His heart for me. I truly believe that if you open your eyes to His gifts you will see them. They are all there, just waiting: Seek and ye shall find!

Our brains have an incredible way of rewiring themselves. The more we seek, the more we will find. We can move from being people who “know” that we are blessed, to people who know just HOW we are blessed. How much greater can our faith be in a loving and caring God, when we are wholly aware of His presence in our lives?! When we’ve trained our minds to seek His gifts not just when everything is “coming up roses”, but also when things aren’t going according to our plan?

This dare is not meant to create a list of favorites or special moments. But to be a conscious recognition of all the ways in which God bestows His gifts during and through ALL circumstances: Reminding us of His constant goodness, grace, and generosity. It’s meant to really make us think, to make us aware of the world around us, to make us aware of God’s His presence and His love.

This Lent I dare you.

Can you find 25 gifts each day of Lent? Or even just 5? Ask the Lord to open your eyes and heart to His goodness. You can following along on Instagram with me as I share my discoveries this Lent (@JessicaM.White)

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh
down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.”
James 1:17

A Weekend Trip to Dublin: Proving to Myself that I am Capable

The end of a year often results in retrospection and the creation of new plans moving forward: Those very ideas stress the bejeezers out of me. The very idea of dissecting the good and the bad and thinking that somehow I’m going to do “me” different in the next year has, in my experience, resulted in more failures and disappointments than not.

I kind of take each year as it comes. Of course, I toy with the idea of hitting up the gym to lose those pesky last 50lbs post babies or setting up a new morning routine, but I know me…at least a little bit. Those kinds of “resolutions” just are not going to be what motivate me to do anything. I have to come to things by a much more….organic method.

I was listening to the SortaAwesome podcast while cleaning church this afternoon and they were talking about the personal growth and development that each of the hostesses experienced in 2016. I rolled my eyes, in my direction…not theirs, and though to myself: I think the only growth I had could be measured on my scale.

Then as I listened something started to whir inside of me…a few gears were beginning to tick and something began to foment in my mind. 2016 was LONG…not just long, but LOOOOOONNNNNNNGGGGGGG! Or at least December was. December alone was incredibly hard, not for me personally, but for our family, specifically my sister (she’s been in and out of the hospital with what can only be described as a medical mystery seeing as no one knows what’s going on).

But there was January. A whole year ago.

Last January, I did something crazy and completely out of character for me…something that some would consider borderline irresponsible/crazy. At the time it was just a fun idea, a pipe dream if you will, but it quickly progressed past that into one of the greatest gifts someone could have ever given me.

My parents and sister went to Ireland last January for a 10 day vacation. I have loved Ireland since I was a tween…like L.O.V.E. it. I studied abroad there the summer of 2014, Matthew and I went in 2016. It truly is my second home, and some place I would not be at all surprised to find myself living when I grow up.

On a particularly hard Mom-Wednesday I was googling airfare on a whim, because honestly I was done with the screaming and shouting and arguing about doing school, and I found an incredible deal on airfare from JFK to Dublin. I giggled, texted Matt I was going, and chuckled. Then I kept thinking about it….my parents were scheduled to be in Dublin on Friday and come home on Sunday. And I kept thinking about it. I mentioned it to Matt. He chuckled too.

But I kept thinking about it. All. Night. Long.

I sat at the computer on Thursday morning and looked again, it was still there. I bravely mentioned it to Matthew and kind of made a joke about it, because SERIOUSLY there was no way I was going to go Ireland that night. Who does that?! Matthew texted me back a little later:

“Do you really want to go?”
“Well YEA! Who wouldn’t? But I know that’s completely unrealistic.”

30 minutes later Matthew called me, telling me to book the airfare, his mom would take the kids that night and Friday (he’d be home on the weekend). I was dumbfounded. Like seriously could NOT say anything. My hands started shaking, I was thinking the airfare would be gone, I’d do something and book the wrong thing. I started texting people to find out where to park my car, how to navigate a last minute flight out of JFK.

I managed to book the airfare and received my confirmation (hoping that my passport that would expire the following month wouldn’t be an issue).

“It’s booked. I can’t leave without saying good-bye to you first.”
“I know. I’m hurrying to get home. – My dad is going to take you to the airport.”

There were no words.

Matthew got home in time to not only see me off, but drive me to the airport too. I was off to my second home!

I landed in Dublin the following morning and walked out in the frigid sunshine, all smiles. I found the bus that I needed to take to get to where the AirBnB was that my parents were renting, hopped off, and began my meander through the city center and Trinity Colleges campus. The cold air filling my lungs, my thighs feeling frosted and warm from walking in the cold, and it was WONDERFUL!

I was completely alone without a schedule or anything else, and I had successfully navigated an international airport, and a city bus system without getting lost!

There was something that I desperately needed to learn on that trip…

While I am a wife and a mother, I am not defined solely by those things: I am a capable adult.

I am a capable adult outside of those titles, and I can do things that I’ve sort of forgotten that I could. It’s not that I became incapable at anything besides being a wife and mother, it’s that I forgot who I was as just me.