Hear It on Sunday, Use It on Monday: In the Waiting


Christina and me at She Speaks.
Before we left for Massachusetts to visit my family, my sister suggested I take a "Christian blogging hiatus," while I am there. "I mean take a real hiatus," she said. "Like, don't get on the computer at all." I hesitated...I am a control freak you know. But then I realized she was right: I need to take a break. {I am even leaving my laptop at home!}

So...in light of that, I am honored  to welcome my friend Christina Fox here to guest post for the Hear It on Sunday, Use It on Monday Community. I had the absolute delight of meeting Christina in person at She Speaks recently, and she is just wonderful: sweet, honest and true.

Be sure to check out Christina's blog, To Show Them Jesus, and give her a little "Like" on her Facebook page!

And thanks, Christina, for hosting the community here today.



I do not like to wait for anything. Patience is not one of my virtues. Having children has only exacerbated this lack in me. Yet, life requires waiting--waiting for the kids to get ready, for the computer to wake up, for a return text, for my turn in line, etc.

I know that waiting is good for me and that I can learn much while in the valley. Too often though, when I wait for God to move or answer a question, I attempt to push things along. Do you ever do that? I try to help Him make a decision or ensure His will comes to fruition (as though I could). I go on ahead without an answer or direction. When I face a junction in my life, I turn down a road without knowing if it's even the path He wants me to take.

Recently, I spent time with the Israelites in Exodus chapter thirty-two. They were about as impatient as I and this passage reminded me of my problem with waiting on the Lord. Moses was on the mountain with God, receiving the Law, inscribed by God's own hand.The people waited at the bottom of the mountain, restless and agitated. With Aaron's help, they made a golden calf and began to worship it.

"When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, “Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.” Exodus 32:1

Whenever I read this passage, I always think, "Didn't they know better?" Yes. They did know better. But perhaps what they knew to be true hadn't made its way to their heart. They knew the power of God. They knew that His timing is perfect. They knew He would lead them where they needed to go. After all, they had seen Him open the sea and turned it into a road, allowing them to walk to the other side. They had seen Him rescue and save them from slavery. Yet, they could not wait for Him and His word.

This story reflects my own heart. I know I need to trust God for my future. I know He has a good plan for me. I know I need to wait for His answer before I move forward.

The knowing has to sink into the heart before faith can be lived out in the waiting.

When Moses returned to the Israelites and found them worshiping an idol of their own making, he was so angry he broke the Law in pieces. God was angry and wanted to wipe them out from existance. I don't want to be found making idols because I'm too impatient to wait for God's perfect timing in my life. I don't want to be so impatient with God that I move on and follow my own plans. And I don't want to just know that God is faithful, I want to also live like He is faithful.

I want what my mind knows to be true to be what my heart lives out as the truth.

After all, haven't I seen Him part the waters in my own life? Hasn't He rescued me from slavery to sin? Haven't I witnessed His grace in each and every breath I take?

Even now, as I wait for answers in my life, I ask for grace to live faithfully in this valley. I pray that I will live in today, not pushing the present into the future. And instead of filling my heart with idols of my making, I will wait for His word to return from the mountain to this valley below. Remembering His past faithfulness, I await HIs perfect timing.

What about you? What are you waiting for?


Christina Fox is a writer, blogger, and coffee drinker--not necessarily in that order. She is a licensed mental health counselor with an M.S. in Counseling Psychology. A mom to two active boys, she spends her days answering all their questions while asking God plenty of her own. You can find her blogging at To Show Them Jesus and on Facebook.




Welcome to the "Hear It on Sunday, Use It on Monday" community, a place where we share what we are hearing from God and his Word.

If you're here for the first time, click
here for more information. Please include the Hear It, Use It button (grab the code below) or a link in your post, so your readers know where to find the community if they want to join in -- thank you!

Please also try to visit and leave some friendly encouragement in the comment box of at least one other Hear It, Use It participant. And if you want to tweet about the community, please use the #HearItUseIt hashtag.

Thank you -- I am so grateful to have you here!

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Weekend Meditations: Small Beginnings


With the quiet communities:




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Graceful Summer: A Time to Abandon, a Time to Keep


I had big plans. Big, big plans. When I resigned from my part-time job as a communications specialist for Nebraska Public Broadcasting on May 3 to launch a new career as a free-lance writer, I couldn’t wait to get started. I leaped into the challenge head-first, making to-do lists and ticking off goals one by one. I stuck to a rigorous writing schedule and wasn’t even tempted (much) by Facebook and Twitter.

This impressive productivity lasted all of three weeks.
...Will you join me over at Susan DiMickele's place for her Friday Working Mom's Devotional {yeah, I'm still a working mom...I just work from home now!}.

But before you go, link up your own Graceful Summer post here:
Welcome to Graceful Summer, a link-up community here on Fridays through the end of August. We're sharing stories about the smaller, quieter moments of summer - will you share yours, too?
1. Write a post about a quiet summer moment and link it up here on Fridays.
2. Visit someone else and leave a little comment love - you might get a new creatively quiet idea!
3. Please include the Graceful Summer button or a link in your post, so people can find us if they want to join in.





Click here to get Graceful in your email in-box. Click here to "like" my Facebook Writer page. Thank you!

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Straight Talk about Graceful Summer


A couple of weeks ago I got an email from a friend who’s having a difficult summer. When she signed off, she wrote, “I can’t imagine the Graceful summers you are describing, but they sound lovely.” I could hear regret in her voice, maybe a little despair.

Her email made me think that maybe I’m not being quite honest enough around here.
So here’s the skinny: My Graceful Summer posts are a mere slice of real life – maybe 1% of the whole story. I’m not saying these moments don’t happen, or that they aren’t true, but they are only a very small part of our lives. In fact, acknowledging these slightly graceful moments of summer helps me live them, appreciate them and recognize them when they happen. Because the truth is, a whole lot of other moments don’t make it to the blogosphere.
For instance, there was the morning I told Rowan five times to put on his socks. When he came downstairs and asked, “What am I supposed to be doing again?” I stomped on the pedal of the stainless steel trash can and slammed the lid into the wall with a horrendous racket. Rowan stood in the kitchen barefoot and bewildered while I ranted about “listening skills” like a raving lunatic.

Or the fact that while I wrote about playing Monopoly just a couple of weeks ago, I’ve since slipped the Monopoly box beneath the couch, where it sits with the dust rabbits (we’ve long since passed dust bunnies around here) and Ritz cracker crumbs. I cannot possibly bear the thought of another three-hour round of the most agonizing board game in history.
I know what it’s like to look at someone else’s life portrayed on the screen and think, “Wow, my kids aren’t that polite. My house isn’t that cute. I don't pray that much.” I know, because I do it all the time. A couple of years ago in the midst of a raving lunatic moment, I fumed aloud to my kids, “I bet Ann Voskamp’s kids don’t act this way!”

You know what Noah’s response was? “Who in the world is Ann Voskamp, anyway?”

In that moment I was grateful to Noah for offering me some much-needed perspective. There I was, standing in the dining room with the dustpan and broom in my hand, trying to live someone else’s life…and trying to get my kids to do the same. What’s ironic is that Ann Voskamp writes about the messy – she doesn’t make any claims of perfection. But I simply don’t choose to see her messy. Instead, I focus on the six kids who do two hours of farm chores every morning, while mine won’t put away his clean underwear.
The bottom line is that none of us is perfect and none of has perfect lives, even if appears that way on the screen. You may think my grass is greener, but let me tell you, from my perspective, it’s looking a little parched, brown and withered around here.

So please. Do yourself (and me!) a favor. Next time you read a Graceful Summer post, simply think, "Aw, isn't that a lovely moment." And then realize that's exactly what it is: one small moment in a sea of many.

Do you ever do that? Look at someone else's life on screen and play the comparison game?

: :

And a little note of thanks: for your prayers, emails, advice and comments last week before I left for She Freaks. The conference was wonderful - I didn't cry once...not even behind the brochure rack! I spent a lot of quality time with these two lovelies, and I didn't swallow my tongue during the editor appointments. While I wasn't exactly eloquent, I felt a rare calm and peace wash over me as I pitched my projects, and the four editors I met with took my book proposals with them, so that's something at least. So now we wait, because as you all know, the publishing industry moves like the last teaspoon of molasses in the bottom of the jar.

Thank you, friends. Truly. You give me peace and hope.

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Lunch with Lucy: A Story about Listening


A few weeks ago I had lunch with Lucy. I don’t know Lucy well – I’d only met her once through a mutual friend at church. When we were first introduced she mentioned she had a great story to tell me, so when she emailed to invite me to lunch, I accepted. I was curious about her story.

As it turned out, Lucy told about 20 stories over lunch, one right after the other in a breathless rush as she leaned over her plate, hands gesticulating wildly. All her stories were about how God has spoken in her life, or moved her in a specific way or performed a particular miracle for her.

I hardly said a word during our hour-long lunch. We didn’t chat about our families or church or our jobs or even the blistering heat wave. We didn’t discuss which might be better, the chop salad or the curry chicken soup. Lucy talked about God. And I ate my sandwich, occasionally interjecting a “Huh,” or “Hmmmm,” or “Really?”

My lunch with Lucy wasn’t as much a conversation as it was a testimony.

I admire Lucy’s passion, her conviction. As I polished off my tuna melt and two glasses of iced tea, nodding my head as Lucy rattled through her stories, barely pausing for a forkful of chop salad, I marveled at her courage and her willingness to speak so freely and boldly about God’s impact on her life. And with me, a near-stranger, someone whom she’d only met once before as we stood with our donut holes and Styrofoam cups of coffee in the hallway at church.

But on the drive home, alone in the quiet of my mini-van, I couldn’t help but wonder: maybe this, maybe Lucy, is exactly where we Christians go wrong? Maybe we’re so busy talking, we don’t stop to listen.


Maybe we’re so busy telling our own stories, so eager to convict and covert, we don’t pause to hear anyone else’s story.

I know Lucy’s intentions were honest and good. She likely takes Jesus’ Great Commission – to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19) – very seriously. She clearly feels called by God to tell her story in the hope of inspiring and convicting those around her, and she clearly believes this is an effective means to accomplish that.

Honestly, I can relate. I love to tell my stories, too. I write nearly every day about God and faith and how I try to live out that faith in the everyday. My goal is to inspire and convict, too. The thought of even one reader coming closer to God as the result of what they read on my blog is enough to keep my fingers on the keyboard.


But I suspect if Lucy talked to her co-worker or her neighbor or the bank teller in the same way she did to me, most of those people would clap their hands over their ears and sprint screaming for the hills. Or perhaps they’d do what I did at lunch: nod politely and scheme an appropriate time to make a get-away.

Lucy made the mistake a lot of Christians make: she forgot that we’re not all on the exact same spiritual page. She forgot that sometimes people simply want to be heard instead of talked at. Lucy made the same mistake I often do: she assumed that my story was the same as her own. And if it wasn’t the same, she assumed it should be.

I didn’t say much during my lunch with Lucy, but I did learn an important lesson that day over a tuna melt and iced tea. Sometimes the best way to tell a story is to listen to one instead.



{I don't usually post on Tuesdays...but Prodigal Magazine -- a new fav -- is hosting The Listen Project link-up today, and this one seemed like a good fit. Head over and check it out...and link up your story about listening, too.}

...And another note...I've been thinking a lot about the assumptions we -- I -- make in our day-to-day living, and how those assumptions can hurt and alienate. Stay tuned over the next week or two for a couple more posts on this topic. I've got more to say!

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Hear It on Sunday, Use It on Monday: These Kitchen Stools



They look harmless enough, don't they? Three simple black kitchen stools, not fussy or fancy, purchased at Target and assembled by my husband. How could three simple stools cause so much angst?

I'll tell you why.

Because my son Rowan can make crumbs from a stick of gum.

I clean these chairs between two and ten times a day.This is where the boys eat breakfast and lunch and sometimes dinner. This is where they munch Ritz crackers and Teddy Grahams and pistachio nuts. This is where they slurp Gogurt.

This is where they do crafts – projects with glue and sequins and molding clay and Play-Doh. This is where they make collages and paint pictures and decorate sugar cookies.

These stools, these three simple stools and this counter, are the center upon which our household revolves.

After each meal, snack, project and cookie-decorating fandango, I wipe down the chairs and the counter. I squeeze the moist sponge between spindles, push Saltine crumbs and Chex squares off the seat into cupped palm. I wipe away the debris of daily living and wash it down sink.

And then, an hour or two later, I repeat. And repeat. And repeat.

The Benedictines remind me that holy experiences aren’t found only in church on Sunday morning. They tell me that holy is all around us, in the mundane, in the everyday. Yes even in oatmeal glumps and NutriGrain smears.

Listen for God, listen to God, the Benedictines instruct – not just in church, not just in your quiet time with the Bible, but always, in everything.

This is hard. I see God in the flash of orange Oriole or in the magestic peak, but I miss him in the daily grind, in the drudgery of  folding frayed dish towels, in the monotony of wiping the grease-spattered stove and the sticky fridge.

But he is there, too. He is everywhere.

Author Tony Woodlief writes about the home as a sacred place in his book Somewhere More Holy:

In the early days when community was richer and faith was deeper, a new home would be blessed and its doorsills anointed with oil, or honey, or blood. Before the explosion of churches, some homes even had altars…the first church in the Abrahamic faiths, in other words, was home. God chose to live among his people. Home, in this earlier understanding, was more than a venue for eating and sleeping; it was a holy place.

Somewhere along the way we forgot this. We began to think that God was out there – in heaven, a sunset, and ornate temple, a megachurch. We forgot that he has always come to where we are, to dwell with us.

He's right. I forget this. I forget this a lot. I find myself looking far and wide for God in the pretty and picturesque instead of in the daily slog, in the gritty here and now.
I’m not going to tell you that scrubbing three kitchen stools has become a holy experience for me ten times a day.

It hasn't.

But I will say this: sometimes I think about God as I wipe those seats and that counter. Sometimes I remember that he dwells with me, perched on the crumby kitchen stool, next to the sticky fridge.

"There is no event so commonplace but that God is present within it, always hiddenly, always leaving you room to recognize him or not recognize him." Frederick Buechner

Do you see your home as holy, as a sacred place?

I'm linking with Cheryl for her True Vine Challenge, in which she is living out the meaning of abide. Check out her brand-new community!



A repost from the archives as I return from the She Speaks conference.


Welcome to the "Hear It on Sunday, Use It on Monday" community, a place where we share what we are hearing from God and his Word.

If you're here for the first time, click
here for more information. Please include the Hear It, Use It button (grab the code below) or a link in your post, so your readers know where to find the community if they want to join in -- thank you!

Please also try to visit and leave some friendly encouragement in the comment box of at least one other Hear It, Use It participant. And if you want to tweet about the community, please use the #HearItUseIt hashtag.

Thank you -- I am so grateful to have you here!
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Weekend Meditation: Banner of Love



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Graceful Summer: Papa Day


Last February just after my father-in-law Jon died, Brad and the boys came up with an idea: every year on June 23, Jon’s birthday, we’d celebrate Papa Day.
While my personal childrearing philosophy has always revolved around the “one activity per day” theory, Jon’s was the opposite. His sole ambition when the grandkids were in town was to pack in as much fun as possible, from dawn till dusk…and beyond.

And so that’s exactly what the four of us did on June 23. We golfed. We ate junk food. We watched movies. We ate more junk food. We hiked and lit sparklers and went out for burgers and fries. We told stories in the blanket fort and tickled and chased and wrestled to exhaustion.


I won’t say Jon’s birthday this year wasn’t a hard day. The hours unfolded bittersweet, with a heart heaviness none of us could quite shake. But yet, as we played miniature golf, sipped root beer floats and tucked into the blanket fort with flashlights in hand, there was comfort in celebrating the Papa we love and miss so much.
Do you have any special ways of celebrating your loved ones? I'd love to hear.

Click here to get Graceful in your email in-box.
Click here to "like" my Facebook Writer page. Thank you!

Welcome to Graceful Summer, a link-up community here on Fridays through the end of August. We're sharing stories about the smaller, quieter moments of summer - will you share yours, too?
1. Write a post about a quiet summer moment and link it up here on Fridays.
2. Visit at least one other participant and leave a little comment love.
3. Please include the Graceful Summer button or a link in your post, so people can find us if they want to join in.

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She Freaks

She Speaks Graduate I’m off to the She Speaks conference on Friday. And I’ve got to tell you, I’ve secretly been calling it “She Freaks” for about two months now.

Because I. am. freaking. out.

For starters, I’m a bit of a wallflower when it comes to these events. I’m great with one or two people, or even a small dinner party, but put me in a room bustling with 650 women, and I shrink like a violet in the August sun. When I went to Relevant last October (it's now called Allume), I cried twice in a corner of the lobby. I couldn’t retreat to my hotel room to cry because I was sharing it with two lovely ladies, and I didn’t want them to witness me come completely unhinged. So I found a bench behind a rack of brochures advertising sightseeing trips to the Amish country and Hershey’s chocolate factory, dialed my husband and wept. Brad talked me out from behind the brochure rack. Twice.
So. You can see why I am just a little anxious about She Speaks. To further ramp up the anxiety, I will be pitching two book proposals (the memoir, and a new non-fiction project) to three editors at three different publishing houses. All this week – literally morning, noon and yes, 3 a.m. – I’ve been “practicing” (read: obsessing over) my pitch. I’ll have about 15 minutes with each editor to sell her on my project(s). No pressure though.

Before she asked me for my top three editor picks, Sheila, with Proverbs 31 Ministries, asked that we pause for a moment of prayer over the phone. Of course, I could hardly concentrate on her prayer because:
1. I was so freaked out that I was praying with a stranger over the telephone (a first for me). 
2. I was horrified that up until that point I’d entirely forgotten to pray about the conference and the editor appointment selection process.
What kind of Christian writer going to a Christian conference forgets to pray about meeting with editors at Christian publishing houses?

Yeah, me. That’s who.
So in light of all this, may I ask a favor? If you are so willing, would you please pray for me while I am at the She Speaks conference Friday and Saturday? I’ll pray, too (because I am really quite skilled at the desperation prayer), but it would give me comfort and confidence to know that together, you and God have got my back.

Thank you. Truly. Because of you, I've now downgraded my status to She Sort-of Freaks.

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Hear It on Sunday, Use It on Monday: In Awe of God's Yes



I’ve never been a go-with-the-flow, contented, optimistic person. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a bit disgruntled, prone to negativity and discontent, restless and anxious.
Back in the 18th century I probably would have been diagnosed with melancholia – a little too much black bile.

In the 19th century it would have been the vapors, or perhaps hysteria. I might have been prescribed the rest cure (bring it on, I say).

In the 21st century, of course, my malady is defined as depression and anxiety. I take medication for this. I have every day for the last six years – except for the two weeks a couple of years ago when I quit cold turkey and went all sorts of crazy. We won’t be trying that again.

My point is, I’ve struggled with being happy for pretty much my entire life. I’m not naturally happy. I’m not naturally content. I worry a lot. I’ve bitten my fingernails since the third grade; I suffered from an ulcer when I was in high school. I get tension headaches and eye twitching and irritable bowel and TMJ (shall I go on?) – all products of anxiety.

But (if you're still reading) it’s not all bad news.

I’ve realized recently that what’s impacted my ongoing pursuit of joy and contentment the most in recent years (in addition to the anti-depressant, of course) is the daily practice of thanksgiving.

The truth is – and this is going to sound really basic and more than a little obvious – a person can’t be ungrateful and thankful at the same time. It’s simply not possible to hold both a disgruntled, ungrateful thought in your mind simultaneously with a thankful thought. And so, as it goes, the more thankful I am, the more frequently I consciously offer gratitude and thanksgiving to God, the less inclined I am to be negative.

The act of being thankful has simply created less time, less opportunity, less room for negativity. Gratefulness has crowded out, overpowered, ingratitude.

I know I make gratitude sound scientific and pragmatic, but for me, it is a pragmatic process, because pragmatic works for me. I need an intentional practice, a formula, so to speak, because I am stubborn, and because my brain has been accustomed to working one way – on negative, anxious auto-pilot – for decades. The practice of daily – hourly, minute-by-minute – thanksgiving has retrained my brain.

The intentional practice of giving thanks has broken the cycle of discontent.

I had a revelation during yesterday’s reading of Psalm 128 in church:

"All you who fear God, how blessed you are! How happily you walk on his smooth straight road! You worked hard and deserve all you’ve got coming. Enjoy the blessing! Revel in the goodness! …Stand in awe of God’s Yes. Oh, how he blesses the one who fears God. Enjoy the good life in Jerusalem every day of your life.” (1-2, 4-5, The Message).

In the past, if I'd heard those words, I would have assumed they were meant for someone else. “Yada, yada, yada, whatever,” I would have thought. “Those blessings, that joy, it’s not for me. I’m just not made that way.”

You know what? Yesterday when I listened to the words from Psalm 128 I thought, “Yes.” Yes! Yes! Yes! I am blessed. I walk happily. I revel in this goodness.

And why? Why? Because I am thankful. It really is that simple. I give thanks, again and again and again, for God’s Yes. He rains these yeses on me, day in and day out, in every aspect of my life. And I say yes in return.  
I stand in awe of God’s Yes.

Has the practice of thanksgiving changed your life or outlook in any way?

{A timely addendum: This morning, just after my Aunt Kathy read this post, she read this article and then emailed it to me, noting how providential it was that she read one right after the other. Turns out, there IS a science to this gift-counting - glass-half-empties like me can retrain our brains!}
{I know you don't see this list pop up on the blog very often, but just know that I am counting, always counting. This, this list right here, is the ongoing retraining of my brain to live joy and say yes}:
1080 Reading on the patio in quiet with Noah
1081 A Tupperware full of “dog water” on the side of the path on a hot day
1082 Rowan’s pet bunny “to do” list
1083 Flash of orange oriole in the backyard
1084 Noah telling me all about “Zucchini the Pirhana” at the pet store
1085 Weeding the garden
1086 Tie-dyed t-shirts hanging from backyard trees
1087 Tomato hot off the vine
1088 Grandparents proudly carrying grandbabies to communion
1089 Singing hymns loud around the house when no one else is home
1090 Curt smiling big and ruffling the blond boy’s hair in church
1091 The abiding prayer {thank you Deidra and H}
1092 Stack of library books
1093 Buying a tiny newborn outfit for my brand-new baby cousin
1094 A brave husband who stands down the thugs
1095 Sweaty, laughing bike ride with Deidra

And also with these communities this week:
 {Laura on Monday}
{Jennifer and the Soli Sisters on Tuesday}
 
{Jennifer Dukes Lee and Duane Scott on Wednesday}
 

Welcome to the "Hear It on Sunday, Use It on Monday" community, a place where we share what we are hearing from God and his Word.

If you're here for the first time, click
here for more information. Please include the Hear It, Use It button (grab the code below) or a link in your post, so your readers know where to find the community if they want to join in -- thank you!

Please also try to visit and leave some friendly encouragement in the comment box of at least one other Hear It, Use It participant. And if you want to tweet about the community, please use the #HearItUseIt hashtag.

Thank you -- I am so grateful to have you here!


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here to "like" my Facebook Writer page. Thank you!


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Weekend Meditation: Perfect Clarity



Quietly...with Sandra and Deidra:




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Graceful Summer: Monopoly


Summers and winters in Nebraska have one thing in common: extreme weather. During the winter, temperatures plummet below zero, and an arctic wind howls down from Manitoba, rattling the windows and forcing me to burrow under double quilts. The old metal storm windows are original to the house, and I swear on some nights I feel wisps of my hair blowing in the draft as I sit on the couch.

Summer comes with its own weather perils. In the last two weeks temperatures have seared past 100 degrees, and the wind blows dusty and dry up from Amarillo. The black handle to the storm door is too hot to touch, and I only make it halfway down the concrete driveway on bare feet before jumping onto the lawn. Tucked indoors in air-conditioned chill, the blinds drawn to keep out the glare, we don’t see much of our neighbors during July and August.
These are the Monopoly days.

This is a game that can’t be completed in anything less than three hours, at least at our house. There are times when a single game will span two or three days, pastel paper money in disheveled piles on the sunroom floor, plastic red hotels lining Marvin Gardens at St. Charles place. I can’t turn on the ceiling fan for fear it will stir a whirling dervish of tens, twenties and fifties around the tile.

So I bet you’re wondering what in the world Monopoly has to do with God? Maybe you’re wondering that about most of these Graceful Summer Friday posts, in which I write about cutting flowers in the garden and eating breakfast on the back patio. It’s true. Some of these stories don’t even mention God or Jesus or faith. But let me tell you, they’re all about God...because everything is about God.

Maybe you think that’s a cop-out answer, and that Monopoly – a game rooted in acquisition and greed – can’t possibly have anything to do with God, but consider this:

God is present when a dad sacrifices three hours of his afternoon to play a game (in my opinion, the most tedious game on Earth) with his son.

God is present in the gleeful triumph of a little boy who counts out the proper bills all on his own to purchase the Reading Railroad.

God is present when a family gathers around the game board (even the mother!), instead of gazing mindlessly at the computer screen or TV.

And then, of course, there’s the coveted Get Out of Jail Free card, the one I pluck from the Community Chest just after I’d tap out six squares to land my tiny metal iron behind bars. As I hold up the card in the afternoon sun, Rowan and Brad groaning at my good fortune, I remember God’s grace.

Which is, after all, the ultimate Get Out of Jail Free card.

Welcome to Graceful Summer, a link-up community here on Fridays through the end of August. We're sharing stories about the smaller, quieter moments of summer - will you share yours, too?
1. Write a post about a quiet summer moment and link it up here on Fridays.
2. Visit someone else and leave a little comment love - you might get a new creatively quiet idea!
3. Please include the Graceful Summer button or a link in your post, so people can find us if they want to join in.




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Follow Your Passion

Mario returns to the Kitchen “Titus is going to be a boxer, Trystan is going to hunt chickens and deer, and I’m going to sell Mario Bros. stuff,” my seven-year-old son Rowan announces at dinner one night.

“Wow,” I laugh, “you and your friends sure have made some eclectic career choices.”

I pause.

“What about being a veterinarian?” I remind Rowan. “I thought you wanted to take care of animals when you grow up?”

“Nope,” he says, shaking his head. “I changed my mind. I want to run a Mario store now.”

A Mario store? I picture a hole-in-the-wall shop squeezed into a run-down strip mall; torn, sun-bleached posters of Mario characters scotch-taped to plate-glass windows.

...I'm writing about passion and career choices over at The High Calling today. Meet you over there?

Photo by David Lea. Used with permission.

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Hear It on Sunday, Use It on Monday: The House and the Shack

Last week I cleaned and organized the basement. It hit 105 degrees here in Nebraska, so I figured burrowing into the cool cellar for a few hours wasn’t a bad idea.

I boxed up old toys and books, sucked in cobwebs with the vacuum attachment, rolled up and threw out the dilapidated rug and rearranged some of the furniture. Then I concluded that the bookshelf needed to be shifted over a couple of feet, so that it would be centered on the wall. Since I didn’t want to remove the dozens of books, stack them in piles on the floor, move the shelf and then rearrange all the books again, I decided I’d move the shelf with the books still on it.

I pushed. I pulled. I grunted and groaned and heaved and wrenched my back. The shelf creaked and cracked and threatened to topple. A few paperbacks pitched onto the floor. But the shelf didn’t budge. In the end, after 15 minutes of exhausting exertion and a pulled neck muscle, the shelf was exactly one inch from its original spot. Not  two feet. One inch.

I gave up. I left the bookshelf where it was. All my pushing and pulling and sweating and heaving resulted in nothing.

And this, my friends, is the perfect metaphor for my publishing journey.

For the last three years I’ve dedicated hundreds of hours to building a platform. I’ve written more than 700 blog posts, an entire book, a quarter of another and two book proposals. I’ve tweeted, Facebooked, commented, Klouted, emailed, guest-posted and Google Plussed. I’ve pushed and pulled and forced this process along with all my might.

And you know what? I’ve moved it the equivalent of one inch.
Thanks to yesterday’s reading, I now know exactly what I’ve done wrong.

“If God doesn’t build the house, the builders only build shacks. If God doesn’t guard the city, the night watchman might as well nap.” (Psalm 127:1, The Message)

Did you catch that? If God doesn't build the house, the builders only build shacks.
The hard truth is, I’ve tried to build the house all on my own, without God.

Okay, okay, God has sort-of been involved. After all, I write about God every day. I pray. I talk to God. I believe that he inspires my words, and I know that my faith has grown stronger and deeper because of my writing. But still. I have allowed him only a minor role in the construction of this house.

God has been a crewman on this project, not the boss.
As Pastor Michael said in his sermon yesterday, “When it’s apart from God, work becomes labor.”

This publishing journey has been labor -- labor speckled with occasional moments of joy, but mostly labor, with pain, writhing and a fair bit of screaming and cursing. 

I know, I know, you’ve heard all this before from me, haven’t you? After all, back on December 31 I resolved to make “surrender” my word for the year. But I haven’t surrendered, not entirely. Or maybe I have…on some days…but then I revert back to my pushing-pulling-grunting-heaving habits all over again.

Good grief I'm a slow learner.

So today, once again (sigh), I surrender. I hand over the plans and the blueprints to God. I allow him his rightful and only role as the foreman, the big boss. And I ask him to forgive me for trying to run the show.

I’m done building the shack. God holds the plans for this house, and he’ll decide whether it will be a mansion or a hut...or something altogether different. 

What about you? Have you ever caught yourself trying to build the house all by yourself?


With Jennifer and the Soli Sisters:
 
And a new Monday link-up community over at Duane's place (Scribing the Journey) - have you met Duane? He's cool...and so is Unwrapping His Promises:


 
Welcome to the "Hear It on Sunday, Use It on Monday" community, a place where we share what we are hearing from God and his Word.

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