Learning about Acts: Holy Spirit

I have been reading the book of Acts lately, and over the next few days, I’d love to share what I’ve been learning. I always hesitate to share what I’m thinking about Scripture, because by no means am I a theological or biblical scholar. But, I’m reading the Word prayerfully and hoping God will fill my words with grace.

One night many years ago, I visited a youth group with a friend. Though I couldn’t put my finger on it at the time, I was searching for a place where Jesus felt relevant, and I was desperate to feel His touch. I did a lot of youth group hopping. On this night, an invitation was given: come to the altar, and we’ll pray for you to be baptized by the Holy Spirit. The proof of that would be speaking in tongues.

I went up to the altar, and people prayed over me, and nothing. happened. I didn’t feel God, no rush of warmth, so still small voice, and certainly no foreign tongues springing up, and I wasn’t going to fake it, y’all. So instead, I cried. I cried at the altar, and I cried in the back row, and I cried in the back seat of the car on the way home. 

Ever since, I think I have been a little wary of the Holy Spirit. He is the part of the Trinity that most eludes me, that I find hardest to understand. I’ve noticed over time that some people seem to really emphasize the Holy Spirit, insisting that His presence in your life should be tangibly evident, and that it’s proof of a growing relationship with God. Other people don’t seem to mention Him at all.

I guess I’m somewhere in-between. It’s hard for me to imagine that anything could be better than Jesus in the flesh, me sitting at His feet. Yet, Jesus Himself said the Holy Spirit would be better for us. How could that be?

All I want to say about Acts is that the author seems to mention the Holy Spirit a lot, more than I’ve noticed in any other book of the Bible. And I think the members of the early Church must have been so very grateful for God’s presence manifested in that way. When I left college, I was terrified to lose my community. As I moved to Orlando, my lack of community was palpable. How much more must have the disciples felt that way? They had lost Jesus. And so, how grateful they must have been for the Holy Spirit. And so Luke doesn’t hesitate to mention the Holy Spirit wherever he sensed that presence.

I want to strike more of a balance in my own life: looking for an acknowledging the work of the Holy Spirit when He shows up, but not shying away because I’m afraid He won’t.

 

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Learning about Acts: Calling You Out

I have been reading the book of Acts lately, and over the next few days, I’d love to share what I’ve been learning. I always hesitate to share what I’m thinking about Scripture, because by no means am I a theological or biblical scholar. But, I’m reading the Word prayerfully and hoping God with fill my words with grace.

When I think back on the teachers who had the greatest influence in my life, it seems that they all called something out in me. In third grade, I called someone a “cry baby,” and Mrs. Taylor told me it was un acceptable because I was a kind person. I did not feel kind at the time, nor was I acting like it, but she didn’t give me that option. She simply told me that kindness was part of who I am, and so I tried to act like it moving forward. (Side note: How ironic is it that I called someone a cry baby, when I am and have always been a person who cries about everything?)

This morning I was reading Acts 14. Paul and Barnabas are continuing their ministry by traveling around Greece and Asia Minor, and they found themselves in Lystra (in modern-day Turkey).

“In Lystra there sat a man who was lame. He had been that way since birth and had never walked. He listened to Paul as he was speaking. Paul looked directly at him, saw that he had faith to be healed, and called out, ‘Stand up on your feet!’ After that, the man jumped up and began to walk.” (Acts 14:8-10, NIV)

Two things stood out to me here.

1. Paul saw the man’s faith. 

Throughout Acts, the author gives a lot of credit to the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is mentioned by name over and over, whenever He intercedes to lend the early church power, wisdom, or words to speak. Therefore, I’m tempted to think that this wasn’t necessarily a matter of the Hold Spirit speaking to Paul (though it may have been that too). I think Paul actually saw something that caught his attention, and I wonder what, exactly, that was. Did he notice how intently the man listened, or was the man’s countenance spilling over with joy and peace? Did he watch the way the man communicated with the people around him? I’m not sure, but I know this: I want people to see my faith. How can I live and interact in such a way that my faith–this intangible thing–is actually visible?

2. Paul called out to him.

Paul was not satisfied to simply see the man’s faith, but had to point it out to him. He called out the man and told him what his faith meant. And didn’t Jesus do this? He called Peter “the rock” when the disciple felt fickle, and He called Zacchaeus “friend” when he tax collector. He called me redeemed and accepted and free, even when I have felt broken and insecure and stuck. Paul, likewise, chose this moment to call out someone’s full potential. I, too, want to be able to look at people and recognize the value God has placed in them, and I want toe call it out. I want to be brave enough to say, “I see you, and I’m grateful for you, and here’s what I think about who you are.”

Let’s be people whose faith is visible, and let’s encourage those around us to live out the faith, joy, and kindness that is part of how God designed them.

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February Goals

ImageToday I’m linking up with Haley to share my goals for February.

At the beginning of the year, I had a serious chat with myself about goals and resolutions. Being the type A, achiever person I am, I can make lists. Lots of them. Long ones. Full of good stuff. But I have realized that those lists leave me feeling guilty and like a failure, because my reality can not match up to my ridiculous expectations. So, I approached this year differently. I have a few big-picture resolutions. They are not “do this everyday” goals or time-bound or measurable, per se. I thought, “At the end of 2014, what will I wish I would have done?” Those are my resolutions.

However. I also need to work on cultivating resolve in my life. I want to be less of a dreamer and more of a doer. So, I’ve decided to set a few goals each month.

My January goals were:

1. Finish reading the books I’ve started.

I’m not normally the type to read multiple books at once, but somehow I fell into that trap. I hate it. It leaves my nightstand AND my thoughts cluttered. Still, I didn’t do so well with this goal. I finished 2 books, but I still have 3 more I didn’t get around to, AND I started two more. Oops. This goal may have been too ambitious.

2. Get all our paperwork organized.

Done! I can’t tell you how relieved I am to have this task finished. I need to shred a garbage bag of paper, and I need to establish a system for incoming paper. That will come soon.

3. Finish my December Daily album.

Also done! Full disclosure: I finished it today, and it’s not technically January anymore, but I finished, which is good enough for me. The last time I did a December Daily album, it wasn’t finished for 2 years, so I’m calling this a win. I hope to share this project here soon.

On to a new month!

My February goals are:

1. Finally do a craft project with at least one of the old windows we have.

2. Stay caught up on Project Life.

3. Read some fiction. (Seriously. Since January 2013, I’ve only read 2 novels! I’ve enjoyed my non-fiction spree, but it’s time. I’m taking suggestions!)

I’d love to hear what you are hoping for in February!

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Things I Loved: January 2014

January was a full month for us. It was full of time with family and some good time with friends, but it was also a busy work month for both of us. Mostly, we spend the month trying to take the first steps needed to make our 2014 goals and plans and resolutions actually happen. That’s always the challenge, right? We have no shortage of big ideas. But, at any rate, here’s the best of January.

The Best Stuff I Read on the Internet: 

1. 5 Questions to Ask Before Posting To Social Media from RELEVANT

In this day and age, learning to use social media in ways that are both fun and helpful (to us AND our communities) is going to be a constant struggle. I imagine it’s something each of us will have to tweak and adjust continually. These five questions resonated with me.

2. Do the Work from The Hollywood Housewife

“I had to make sure that it wasn’t a way of beating myself up, a subconscious way of saying You Are Not Enough, Your Efforts Are Not Enough, This Is Not Enough.” <–Yes! My life is a constant back-and-forth between wanting to take action (rather than just dreaming) and feeling like enough.

3. It is for Freedom from The Naptime Diaries

I’ve shared here that “free” is my word for the year, so naturally I loved this post. I’ve been asking, “What did Christ set me free for?” a lot.

4. Failing Your Way Through the New Year from The Art of Simple

Yes and yes. One of the things I hope to be free from in 2014 is my fear of failure. When I was teaching, I constantly told my students that mistakes were good, helpful, and proof they were trying hard. I truly believe it, and yet it’s been one of the hardest things to actually live out in my own life. I want to set this example for Ian! He does not need to be afraid to fail.

5. 9 Intentional Ways to Challenge Consumerism in Your Life from Becoming Minimalist

Lots of good things to think about in this post. Becoming Minimalist is quickly becoming one of my favorite blogs.

The Best Thing I Cooked

Creamy Orzo with Chicken Sausage from Table for Two. This was totally delicious. I omitted the mushrooms (because, ew). The instructions say you can keep it in the fridge for up to 5 days, and it’s totally true. This was just as delicious for leftovers on days 3 and 4 as it was the night we cooked it.

The Best Book I Read

My New Year’s resolution was to write more, so to encourage that I picked up Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg. It’s challenged me (in the best way possible) to stop overthinking it and just pick up my pen and write. Goldberg includes both the practical and inspiration, and it’s a quick and easy read. (It’s also VERY overdue at the library. Oops.)

The Best Podcast I listened to:

I loved this episode of The Art of Simple podcast with Shauna Niequist. So much good stuff in there. Just this morning I had a friend come over to drink tea and chat, and I kept thing, “I have some good make-up free people in my life!”

The Best Thing that Happened

Ian was dedicated to the Lord at our church last weekend. We had family come into town to celebrate with us, and it made me remember how very, very grateful I am for our church family. I know some people struggle so long and hard to find a church where they feel comfortable to be themselves and pursue Jesus. How wonderful it was to stand on stage and know there were such good people praying for our son, and that they really meant every word.

What was the best stuff from your January?

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Growing & Changing (12×12 Scrapbook Layout)

Hi friends!
I’m back today to share a scrapbooking layout with you.

Some days, I scrapbook because the photos have been sitting around forever, and I want to get them on paper. Other days, I have a story that I want to tell, so I track down the photos. And other days, like this day, life seems so good, and the story seems so important, that I just have to stop and get. it. done. I’m learning to embrace all that inspiration, regardless of how it comes.

On this particular day, I was struggling with worry. Is Ian growing the way he’s supposed to? Is he hitting all those milestones? Am I doing all the right things? Am I doing even one thing right?

And then, all the sudden, he was sitting in this chair, holding that little toy, and all my worry was gone. Instead, I was grateful. I went ahead and printed the pictures right away and had the layout done later in the afternoon!

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I was able to put lots of scrap to use on this layout. In fact, the background paper was the only full sheet I used! Most of the patterned paper scraps were from older Studio Calico kits, and the background paper is from Elle’s Studio (but also came in a kit at one point).

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Do you see that transparency peeking out? I have had a package of those transparencies in my stash for YEARS. Literally. Years. And I had not used a single one. They were adorable, but I could not figure out how to get them on top of a photo, so I realized I would have to think a little differently and use them for something other than their intended purpose. So, instead of going on top of a photo, I layered the transparency under the other layers. You can still see lots of that beautiful gray & cream stripe in the background, but it also provides an extra bit of interest.

Other things from my stash on this layout: gray buttons (and cream embroidery floss), and some acrylic paint! I mixed blue and green paints until I got a color to match the little word banners, watered it down a bit, and splattered it on with a wide paintbrush. Easy! And I love that the color matches the papers so well.

I’m happy to have this small moment documented!

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Why I Chose “Free:” My 2014 OLW

Every year, Ali Edwards leads the One Little Word project. I know the idea of choosing a word for the likely didn’t originate with her, and I’m seeing it pop up on the internet in lots of different places, but I first heard of it through Ali. 

 

In 2012, I chose abide, because I wanted to learn what it meant to be Mary instead of Martha, and last year, I chose grow because (hello!) I was literally growing a baby for most of the year. But my words went the way of most resolutions: discouraging by mid-January, forgotten by March, replaced by things and ideas seemingly more urgent. 

The past two years have been a whirlwind of change, excitement, sadness, and joy, and I have moved quickly from one thing to the next. I have learned so much, but it was like drinking from a fire hydrant with a straw: I’ve barely had time to process because the stream never stops. Yet, as I prayed through the end of 2013 and anticipated the turn of the new year, God began helping me to see the common thread in all I had been learning and experiencing. My word became as crystal clear as anything has ever been for me, as if God had hopped in His little plane and wrote it across the sky: f-r-e-e. Free.

For most my life, my Christianity was defined by an attempt to always. be. good. I chose to believe in Jesus not because I loved Him or sensed His love for me, but because I believed I needed His forgiveness if I was to avoid hell. My faith was motivated by fear: fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of messing up, fear of the eternal. By following every rule and avoiding trouble, I was working hard to win everyone’s approval of me, including God’s. 

Over time I’ve come to understand that Jesus is a God of love, of grace, of mercy fresh and new each day. I really, truly, understood His acceptance of me had absolutely nothing to do with anything I could or ever would do. And yet.

I have never been able to shake this perpetual rule-following and need for perfection in every facet of my life. Where rules do not exist, I make them up by setting impossibly high expectations for myself. And because I can never meet those expectations, at the end of every day, I have felt failure. Over the past few months, because of God’s gentle grace towards me, I’ve realized how my life has been defined by a constant undercurrent of stress, worry, and fear. Though I don’t like or enjoy those feelings, I still cling to them as though they are my friends, as though they mean I’m working towards something. In Galatians, Paul wrote, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.” I read that one day and thought, “I have NO IDEA what that means.” 

In A Million Little Ways, Emily Freeman wrote that we are all image-bearers with a job to do, and we are called to be fully ourselves in the presence of others. In the margins of the book, as she described what this might look like, I found myself writing, “free!” over and over again. What she described sounded, to me, like freedom, and I wanted it.

So, in 2014, I am on a journey to learn what it might like for me to be free. I’m excited to figure this out. 

Have you chosen a word for the year? I’d love if you’d share!

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Dear Ian (4 months)

4months

Dear Ian,

This past month has been full of so many changes.

Last week, after your breakfast, I laid you on your tummy in front of the Christmas tree. (Yes, it’s mid-January, and our tree is still up. But you love it! That’s how I’m justifying this.) I walked into the kitchen to grab my glass of water, and when I came back, you weren’t on your tummy anymore! I think I scared you, then, because I yelled, “Ian! You rolled over!” I was just excited, but your eyes got really big and you whimpered a bit before I picked you up. I gave you lots of congratulatory kisses and begged you to do it again so I could see.

Then, just a few days ago, you rolled over twice. I’m happy I was there to see it this time. You rolled from your tummy to your back, and then laid there with a look of both surprise and contentedness, as if you were saying to yourself, “Ah! So THAT’S how it works.”

And though you can’t move around on your own just yet, you are still exploring and discovering. Every so often, when your hands or feet enter your field of vision, you just stare, pointing your toes or twirling your first around and around. You love to look out windows, you kick your feet constantly, and I think you are so eager to get up and go.

There will be plenty of time for that one of these days, little man. For now, I’m happy to still carry you where you need to go and snuggle you to sleep at nap time.

Thanks for letting me discover all this newness alongside you.

Love you,

Mama.

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