Saturday, April 25, 2015

No time for self-care? The Fringe Hours could change that! {book review}

I was recently blessed to be part of an online study for Jessica Turner's book, The Fringe Hours, and
trust me... it couldn't have come at a better time! The months of March - April proved to be a very full time (sharing a car, both of us working more hours, visitors, new health challenges). Many of those things were good (or had hidden blessings - like more time together on our shared commute), but a full schedule can certainly make it hard to find time for yourself. If you are anything like me, it is so easy to put everyone and everything else ahead of my own health and happiness. It can be challenging to know what godly service looks like - aren't we called to put others before ourselves? YES, of course... but does that mean that we completely ignore our own needs? Of course not. I value self-care and holistic health, but when it comes down to everyday life, I'm no different than any of you... how in the world do we find time to do it? Many of you have kids, work in some capacity, volunteer, and more I'm sure! Do you ever get to the end of the day, put your head on the pillow, and realize that you did absolutely nothing for yourself all day? This book will help you learn how to utilize your 'fringe hours' to change that...

Jessica's book is divided into four parts :

1. Explore (discussion of balance, self-imposed pressures, and how to eliminate guilt and comparison)
2. Discover (delves into ways to shift our perspective about self-care, what activities actually help each of us rest and recover personally, an exploration of past joys, starting a dream board, and actually finding the time to do all this!)
3. Maximize (how to prioritize activities, time management and efficiency, admitting the need for, as well as finding, help...and how to overcome common obstacles)
4. Live Well (valuing and cultivating community, what is rest and how to find it, and finally, choosing joy and living well)

An appendix also contains some 'extras' like The Fringe Hours Manifesto, survey results (the author surveyed more than 2000 women from all 50 states and more than 30 countries!) and a companion website with more goodies ( I enjoyed using the time log found at the companion website to discover where all my time was really going (what, you mean another week went by and I didn't get to xyz...??)

Some of my takeaways were the reminder to care well for ourselves and how to eliminate guilt and comparison, as well as choosing joy, cultivating community, and finding rest. The chapter on identifying my own personal self-care needs was especially insightful as well. Everyone is different when it comes to what energizes and drains us, so this was a wonderfully helpful section. I also appreciated the companion book club, videos, and social media connections for added support. All of that can be found here on the {in}courage website.

Although some of the author's suggestions were familiar, many I had not considered, and the practical suggestions combined with philosophical discussion was a very nice balance (haha)...

I'd encourage you to put this book on your 'wishlist' even if you can't get to it now... you won't be disappointed! I received the book as a free giveaway from {in}courage and am very grateful. I did not receive any compensation for this review - all ideas and opinions are my own.

For your wellness and God's glory,


(Please consider using this linked image below to buy the book, at no additional charge, while supporting this blog...thank you!)

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Links & reflections for a lovely spring weekend

Y'all. It was so beautiful outside today! Yes, that is y'all worthy, even though I should technically be saying youins, yinz or youse guys, considering that I now live in Pennsylvania :-) Regardless, when you have dealt with snow and chilling temps for months, you can't help but be thrilled with gentle spring days. It's a happy feeling you can't understand unless you just faced a winter season in every sense of the phrase. This happy-spring feeling is also touching deeper parts inside me, and colliding with a certain hope that even though nothing is in full bloom (in nature or our circumstances), we see God on the move, small changes happening, and light shining in previously dark places. It's something worth celebrating! Add to that the fact that Easter + our anniversary were this month, and we've got quite a bit to celebrate...{smile} That's okay with me, as I've always been a fan of prolonged celebrations - what would Jesus do, right? But it would be only half the truth if I didn't admit it was a hard week with difficult news in our personal life that brought me to my knees. So thankful for a Father's love that woos, comforts, and satisfies me when nothing else can. The mixed blessing of pain is the joy that follows close behind! He knows exactly what each of us need and sends glimpses of love and hope at just the right time.

Here are some sweet joys around the web that have been an encouragement to me lately:

Make your own kefir (easy way to start fermenting at home - we're loving it!)

Emily Freeman on 3 Ways to Determine Success (not what you think)

Interstellar trailer - I'm not the sci-fi fan in our home (big surprise)... However, this movie has a very interesting storyline and subtle redemptive themes...see what you think?

Music - I Am Not Alone (Kari Jobe) and You Make Me Brave (Amanda Cook and Bethel Music)

Nine Natural Cleaning Recipes - Mama And Baby Love (ingredients needed are vinegar + baking soda + castile soap + essential oils - side bonus - cleaning is much more enjoyable without the nasty fumes)

Proverbs 31 Online Bible Study on What Happens When Women Walk in Faith  (Lysa TerKeurst) - Having a great time with this, and learning so much...

Strawberries - been devouring these lately (with kefir above) - some good reasons why you should too...

Warm Kale Salad - new recipe for our Easter dinner - and friends... I. am. in. love!

Sweet Potato, Cranberry & Quinoa Power Bowl - a bit more time-consuming than the kale salad, but really worth it! (Husband-approved)

Young Living Valor oil apply to feet or diffuse at night for sleep aid - one of the many essential oils I've been enjoying lately (thanks, Lydia!)

May the Spirit of God fill you with hope, joy & peace as you rest in Him!

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

What I learned in March {link-up}

Love my new glasses; love seeing him happy even more!!
Hey friends,

So, I've written several posts in my head since the last time I popped in here, and nothing really I'm just gonna stick with this one no matter what. Hmm...

I also love Emily's blog and this sounded like a fun thing to join in on... so here we go!

What did I learn in March?? Good question. Here are a few things that come to mind...

1. I love throwing parties! Planning and executing Paul's 40th surprise party was tons of fun. Thankfully, Paul had as much fun as I did :) And I must add, we had lots of help from friends & family in making his birthday book, and keeping things secret! Can I also say how much I love SURPRISE parties?? Just have to give a shout out to my sisters for the best surprise party ever - my 20th birthday... now that's a story. But I'll just keep it short by saying that I've never been so embarrassed and yet simultaneously loved. I guess that's a good summation of a sister's role. :)

2. I stink at waiting and giving up control. Not much more to say on that topic, because I'm sure many of you can relate! Though I'm getting better at embracing the messy waiting seasons, I still don't love them, and my heart could be very easily compared to a two-year old's some days. Just sayin'.

3. Online community is still community - check out this post!  I used to feel guilty about 'indulging' in online groups and friendships, but I really enjoyed the online {in}courage Bloom book club for Jessica Turner's new book The Fringe Hours as well as being a part of the the Launch Team for Jeff Goins' new book, The Art of Work (hope to get reviews out for both of those soon...) However, it's still not the same as good ol' fashioned girls' nights, our community group, having time for long walks with Paul, chillaxin' with friends at worship team practice, leading women's studies, and being silly with my workout buddy (i.e. really. miss. our. Florida. friends. and. life!)

4. I love hearing my husband preach, like, really, really love it. And while I'm on this topic, let me just say, I really love HIM! It will be four years of marriage in a couple days, and I can't tell you what a privilege it is to watch my man give every ounce of his energy to take care of us, pursue his calling, care for his grieving father, reach out to his family, and love people that don't deserve it (including me)...While we aren't seeing many of our goals come to fruition right now, I must say I would rather have a faithful man, than a life that looks perfect on the outside but is falling apart behind closed doors. Listening to a man preach, and watching him live it at home, just really blesses my socks off. Love ya, babe!!

5. Kids are fun. (Okay, I knew this, but it's still true :) So blessed to get to care for ten kids between two families - and being friends with the moms is a bonus too! A good reminder to myself that even when life is hard, God still shows up to surprise us with good things (I guess he likes surprise parties too!)

6. Lovin' these songs... I Will Rest (City Harbor) and Sovereign Over Us (Michael W. Smith)

Okay, your turn! Click over to Emily's post, and either leave a comment about what you learned, or link up a post from your own blog.

Hoping that spring is here to stay?? I miss the sun.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Why Lent is not about trying harder

The scene we witnessed as a student team was both beautiful and haunting, watching a devoted follower crawl through the streets of a large Central American city on hands and knees, a bleeding, thorn-crowned, impersonation of Christ. This happens all over the world this time of year, and we might find this both shocking and moving. Recently, we also saw 21 martyrs answer the call of Christ to face death rather than turn from him. These dramatic events cause us to tremble, and look at our own lives. What sacrifice am I being called to? Is daily faithfulness just as important and sacrificial? Perhaps God is not calling you to something that appears to be as difficult as these examples, but the daily surrender to grace can be difficult as well.

The idea of 'giving something up' for Lent is relatively new to me, coming from a church background that was not especially liturgical. But the idea fits my personality quite well, being the over achiever that I was for years.

This year, I arrive at the Lenten season tired. Can you relate? The year has just started, but do you look at your goals for the year and sigh, knowing you'll never quite meet them? This is the perfect storm for many of us to approach the Easter season with a works-righteousness mindset, myself included. Coming to Christ needy, rather than with something to offer, is just plain uncomfortable.  Does this mean that God might still be calling you to sacrifice greatly this year? Yes, of course, but our response should be obedience more than sacrifice. I often find myself signing up for more than God is ever asking of me. Like my goal to read through the Bible this year - not a bad thing, at all, but why? Motivation in all our actions is key. I'm not going to say my motivation in that goal was bad, but why then have I resisted the Spirit's prompting to let go of that goal, and rather just focus on one passage? One. Not exactly what this goodie goodie wants to hear. I'm finding comfort in that one passage, in this book, and in the resources listed below.

What is God calling you to this Lenten season? Is he calling you to give up worry (like me), to find rest for your soul? Is he calling you to give up consumerism, for the joy of simplicity and contentment? Is he calling you to really just give in to his love, rather than giving up in general, like you might be tempted to do? Can we see the joy of what he is offering, rather than the contrived self-sufficiency that only serves to make us weary?

May we all find relief in his sacrifice this Easter season, rather than striving for righteousness in a way that leads to death rather than life, guilt rather than glory, unnecessary pain rather than purpose, misery rather than marveling at his grace. Because it really is all about him, isn't it? Let go of your need to feel good about yourself with self-imposed deeds of righteousness, and instead, find your worth in having been chosen as the focus of his sacrificial love, before all time and eternity.  By HIS stripes we are healed, not our own.  That's where I'm camping out right now, and the view is amazing.

Additional resources to fill your soul, cover you with love, and release you from guilt...

Resources from Ann Voskamp for Lent (and why failing at Lent could be better)

Ann's weekly Multivitamins post - don't miss this!! Sure to delight and inspire.

She Reads Truth Lent series

The Fringe Hours - Finding Time for You (what if God is calling you to give up busyness, to better care for yourself?) and online book club to go along

Emily Freeman's blog - a space for your soul to breathe

Emily's podcast and Art of Simple podcast (both are fun and refreshing)

Beautiful Enya video - Perhaps the grace of our Savior will keep you singing?

(Photos from some lovely friends at our church in Florida - really missing the sunny people and weather up here in the frigid north...)

Monday, March 2, 2015

Join me for the Winter Bloom Book Club :: The Fringe Hours

Hey friends!

Just a quick post to let you know that I'm still alive, haha, and have something great to share! Do you feel like your schedule is bursting at the seams? Do you wish you had more time for yourself, or even any at all? Do you constantly juggle several responsibilities and roles, and yet never feel like you can keep up?

This could be the book for you. I received a free copy of Jessica Turner's new book, The Fringe Hours: Making Time for You, and today is the first day of the (in}courage Winter Bloom Book Club!

Here is the schedule at this link.

You can view the first video book discussion below. Please join us! I can add you to the secret Facebook page for the group as well, just request that in the comments or send me an email at No guilt here for taking a few minutes a day to do something for yourself. I am so passionate about godly self-care and pray this book and online club can be a time of refreshment for all of us!


Monday, February 2, 2015

Grace for the messy middle

I usually write about what I know, but today I will write about what I don’t know. I don’t know what I’ll eat tomorrow, when we’ll need new tires, and I certainly didn't know who would win the Super Bowl. I don’t know where her life is going, or how he’ll respond to my words. Honestly, I don’t know what God is doing in my own heart & life much of the time. What if it is better that we know so little about the future? Could it be merciful of God to show us such a small part of where our story, or a friend’s, is going? Why do we desperately grasp for control, when we are assured so little? How can we live into the mystery without being paralyzed by our lack of control? 

I love this quote, but find it much harder to live:

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.” -Rainer Maria Rilke

Living into the mystery of life, one day at a time, and letting go of control, can be liberating. You won’t find a formula for this peaceful, contented and messy life. By nature, we humans like things to be defined, black and white, bottled up and sold for a reasonable price. Honoring the mystery and unresolved nature of life…is a sacred journey. Embracing grace as we take slow steps forward, and many more backward. I am often harsh with myself for not knowing exactly how to respond to X situation or Y comment. Much of life is gray; words from the friend who kindly shared the above quote. I’m beginning to understand just what she meant, and it is both freeing and terrifying. 

In this season of life, I feel safer with the black and white; it is much easier to stay where I’m comfortable, or work towards the expected, rather than stepping out into the gray, with passion and conviction, despite the resistance I might face. But it is equally dangerous for a bold and self-assured individual to risk without wisdom, like a bull in a china shop, so confident in his/her opinions and choices that hearts are damaged left and right. Staying in step with the Spirit is the only way forward. I’ve been hearing Jesus’ words roll around in my head over the last few days - I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Holding onto this truth will lead us forward, and most likely, in very different ways. Will we allow our fellowship with Christ to inform our way forward, his words to become ours, his life to continue through ours? 

I’m becoming aware of how little I desire fellowship with Christ, but long instead for results, answers, direction. Prayer becomes empty when it is devoid of fellowship. In the same way, life becomes empty when we are always looking for resolution, eager to find answers and completion. The messy middle is where life really happens: tough conversations you were brave to attempt, pursuing a new venture with no guarantee of success, offering thanks and praise when the answers still don’t come. This is the substance of life, not the extras. What I do know, and am coming to embrace more assuredly, is that he is WITH me regardless of the path I take. Keeping company with Christ, in the midst of the unresolved, directly affects our posture towards others as we all ‘fail forward’.

Can we give each other grace, and assume the best of each other’s hearts, even if we make very different choices, and come to strikingly different conclusions about gray issues? Can we remember that we are all 'in process'? There are certainly truths to live and be transformed by in the Word, directives that are not up for dispute, but I grieve at the judgement I see in my own heart and others’ over the gray areas. Find kind companions, who open new possibilities and bring unexpected joy, wrapped up in mystery just as we are. Be kind to your own soul as well. Embracing the tension of our responsibility and our Creator’s wise guidance in each choice, deepens our trust, joy, and peace. Resist the urge to leave the waiting rooms of life too early, or approach the next assignment with a consumer mindset. But do leave the waiting room when it is time, even if the knees still wobble. 

Sacred rhythms such as the Sabbath, fellowship around the Word, daily worship and generous living refresh our souls. Buoyed by these graces, we can patiently look for signposts and clues along the way. But let's not forget to lose ourselves in the wonders of nature, a child's laughter, and the deep unknown places of God's heart, expressed through a friend. I have a small sign above my kitchen sink that simply says, LIVE. One small word, with a very powerful message. Live today, entering the beautiful possibility of the unresolved season you are facing; perhaps you’ll find me waiting there too. There is glory in the messy middle, just as much as in the decision made, the project completed, the child all grown. Can we find grace for our hearts and others’ hearts as we stumble forward?

Bible passages for further study: Matthew 6:25-34 and James 4:13-15

What are your questions? Will you honor your heart in the midst of your unfinished story? Who will you invite into your mystery?

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Meet Nicole : powerfully changed from death to life

Nicole Gallagher - changed by God
Last week, many were reflecting on the Roe vs. Wade decision and Sanctity of Life Sunday. Rather than entering the conversation in an abstract or hostile way (which is sadly often the case), I asked my dear friend to share her personal story of God's work in her life--how he led her to choose life when it would have been much easier not to do so. Many women are aware of the obvious effect on the child, but rarely is the fuller picture of how the abortion will affect the mother discussed. I asked Nicole to speak to this issue as well. Her passion for God is evident from the moment you meet her! It was such a blessing to get to know her when we attended church together before moving back north. Our Presbyterian church needed her 'Praise Jesus' and Hallelujahs' and many were moved by her tears of thanks to God during the services (and still are, I'm sure). Read on, and may you be blessed and encouraged by Nicole...

I want to begin by saying that my story is not at all one of how I found Jesus, but instead of how Jesus picked me up out of the literal pit of destruction and set my feet upon a rock.
I was 27 years old and had already been on the path of destruction for seven years, before my eyes were opened to the consequences of what I was doing. I had been going hard all day, every day, getting high on crack cocaine and doing everything I was grown enough to do to support my monstrous five hundred dollar a day habit. Which sadly was most easily funded by street prostitution. Prostitution was an epidemic in Sanford at the time, the city I had run away to when I was 21. I hated what I had to do to get high, but being young and pretty made everything I needed readily available. This included being shacked up at the drug house, with the dope dealer’s brother, who also got high and loved the cliental I brought his way. This was the place I called home for the majority of the seven years I wasn’t in jail. At that point, I had frequented the jail more than 30 times. 
I was appalled when I found out that I was pregnant; who was going to want me if I was pregnant?? This was really going to put a damper on my everyday activity. So I asked one of my sugar daddies to pay for an abortion. He said he would, but only if I went and talked to someone first. I remembered how painful my first abortion was, as well as the promise I made to myself that if I was dumb enough to ever get pregnant again, I would give the child a chance. It is one of the worst physical pains I have ever experienced. Also, now knowing the infinite love of God for both me and the child I aborted, I realize that it is a spiritual pain that breaks the heart of God and leaves a scar on your soul.

I highly suggest that any woman who made the choice to abort a child, as I did, seek counseling through any pregnancy center in her area. When a woman (or man) comes to know the depravity of the sin of abortion, she will need healing and deep restoration. There is loving forgiveness from the Father in heaven, who can heal any pain that sin has caused. Seek the opportunity to honor that child's life through sharing your pain with someone who can help you. To any woman who is considering abortion, please know that you have other options for this child's life, who God has created on purpose for a purpose. Please also be mindful of those who cannot have children and would consider it the blessing of a lifetime to teach and raise your child.
The day I walked into the Sanford Crisis Pregnancy Center, which was oddly enough on the very same corner where I worked as a prostitute, I was greeted by a warmth and kindness that I will never forget. The ladies at the center told me that "life or death" was a choice. How could they be so kind to me after watching me jump in and out of cars with different men on a daily basis? I remember the words that Andrea spoke to me even today, “Why should I judge you Nicole, you just sin differently then I do."
I spoke with these ladies and let them know that I would be open to adoption, but made it very clear that I had absolutely no intent to stop doing what I was doing. I had no idea that from that moment, a spiritual war was waged concerning whether or not I would continue to self-destruct and possibly destroy the life inside me. I had no idea that I had been befriended by warriors in the kingdom of God that specialized in saving and preserving life in every form.
After meeting with the couple that would adopt my child, I wondered why such a nice Christian couple would want my baby, knowing that the father was African American and that it would possibly be born with some defects because of my selfishness. I had no idea that my blind eyes would be open to Christ’s love for me through this child's birth. Annalise was born on December 25th, a bit premature as an effect of my rampant drug use. Miraculously, she was not born with any defects or addicted to drugs and alcohol; Annalise was born with a 100 percent clean bill of health!!

It was three more years before I would be supernaturally delivered from addiction, and I have my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to thank, as well as the ladies at the crisis pregnancy center. The women continued to encourage and pray with me every time they saw me outside, and the adoptive parents of my daughter funded me to go to a rehab facility. Andrea, the director of the center, three years later continues to encourage me in who I am in Christ. She is my biggest cheerleader in every moment of victory that I have in my new life in Christ. Truly He makes ALL THINGS NEW!!

A couple of final notes from Ruth: Though I do not know your story, dear reader, and how your life may have been touched by abortion, I know you can find comfort in Jesus, the Friend who will walk with you every step of the way. He is WITH US and FOR US.  I will also add that having recently experienced an ectopic pregnancy, I was assured by many that this is one of the few situations where there is little to no chance for the baby to survive (and that the mother's life could be at risk). Thankfully, I did not have to choose to end my own child's life, though it was quite painful to experience the natural loss of our child. Because of my own struggle with infertility, I can relate to Nicole's encouragement that a mother consider adoption when she does not feel able to care for the child ...and am saddened by the many who do not know about or consider the women who can not carry their own child to term.

One last story... when I attended a prominent church in Colorado Springs, I was in a college and career group with a brave single woman who had been raped and yet chose to carry her baby to term! She humbled herself and moved back in with her parents for support during the pregnancy. I do not know if she put the baby up for adoption or raised the child herself, but I will never forget her testimony. She always said that it 'was not the baby's fault' and she did not want to add a second wrong to the first wrong.  

Additional resources for your encouragement or to share with a friend:

Focus on the Family Dignity of Human Life video
Article on how Abortion Harms a Woman's Health from FRC
David Crowder - Come As You Are - worship song

May God shower you with grace as you walk the road ahead of you...