Gracelaced Book Review

The worth of a book is to be measured by what you can carry away from it.
~James Bryce

About six weeks ago I opened up a box with one of the most beautiful devotional books I’ve ever had the privilege of holding.  I immediately began to thumb through page after page of gorgeous artwork and photography kind of enamored with the thought and skill laid into each one.  Design wise everything about it called out to me.  It made me want to curl up on the couch with some coffee and chocolate because chocolate and coffee are two things that take a book from great to amazing. 

IMG_7623

While l as an artist would like to judge this book solely on how pretty it is I know I can’t.  A book is not measured by how beautifully it was designed, I have read some pretty terrible beautiful books, it’s measured by the truth we take away from it.  A good book, any good story really, should feed our souls and reveal truths that sometimes get lost in our day-to-day realities.  

This book in particular, Gracelaced by Ruth Chou Simons, delivers on ever count.  Not only is it beautiful, it is authentic and overflowing with the deep truth, think coffee table book meets devotional book.

I’ve read Ruth’s writing for several years and have always been impressed with her ability to use words not only to convey truth but to point us to the Truth Giver in a way that is not demeaning or self righteous but encouraging and equipping.  The book is laid out into four seasons winter, spring, summer, and fall with each season serving a different purpose.

Winter is for “Resting in who He is”

Spring is for “Rehearsing the truth” He says about you

Summer “Responding in faith” to those truths

Fall is for “Remembering His provision”

Lately I’ve been wrestling with being overwhelmed while preparing for our school year which begins next week.  I’ve taken the last month away from social media so that I might get some clarity and focus but when I think about all I’d like to do:

  • grow a small business
  • minister to women
  • raise my kids
  • love my husband
  • home school
  • church
  • keep the house clean
  • get to know my neighbors
  • pour into friendships
  • have time in the Word

I can almost immediately feel my chest tightening and anxiety take over.  I’ve never been an anxious person but here dwelling in my list of to do’s I realize how short I fall and I begin to measure myself by those bullet points.  They scream at me “failure” and in that moment I want to throw in the towel and just give up.

IMG_7668crp

A few weeks ago as the overwhelming anxiety once again began to creep in I was reading the fall section of Ruth’s book.  I turned to that first devotional and read the words:

“God makes us needy that we might find him generous; He allows us to feel to weak to handle all of the details that we might delight in His sovereignty.” *

There it was.  I was needy.  I felt crushed and broken under all of the priorities I’d made for myself and in a moment My forgetful heart was reminded of the One who holds the world together.  She continues later,

“You’re held, not because you can handle it all, but because Jesus can.” *

I can’t handle it all.  I can’t juggle anything really, I’m a terrible juggler, but I don’t have to.  I needed the reminder that I am not measured by how much I can accomplish my Savior has already finished the most important work and He can more than handle these burdens I carry.  They aren’t mine to bear.  I am a finite person with a limited bandwidth but I serve an infinite God.  

Over and over throughout the book Ruth reminds us of who God is because, when we know who He is we can fully understand who we are.  We get real clarity when we look at life through the lens of God’s character.  We see what matters most.  I realized a few weeks ago while lying in bed reading this book that most of the things causing me anxiety were not the most important things and that if God calls us to something He will equip us for it but friends, He is not always calling us to all the things.  There are seasons, life ebbs and flows, so today breath in His grace.  Let Him carry the burdens that feel to heavy for you.  Remember you are not measured by your to do list, likes on Facebook, Instagram, or how outwardly successful you are here. 

You are measured by Christ’s finished work on the cross.

IMG_7665crp

I would highly recommend Ruth’s book to everyone.  Find it on her website, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or your local Christian bookstore.  

P.S.  I also loved that I felt like this book gave me permission to doodle all over it.  Seriously, you need this in your life.  You’ll thank me later 🙂


*All quotes from Gracelaced book by Ruth Chou Simons Copyright 2017
Advertisements

Joy Surrendered. An Easter Recap.

“Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things again is no trouble to me, and it is a safeguard for you.”  – Philippians 3:1

Two weeks ago on Thursday the first of my kids went down with what I thought was a nasty cold.  For five days she had a fever and as she calls it a “seal cough” along with sinus congestion, watery eyes, and a headache.  Finally, on Tuesday afternoon when I took her baby brother in for his physical therapy it looked as if she was through the worst of it.  She still had a little bit of a cough but her fever was down and her eyes looked clearer and brighter.  Then on Wednesday my other son began to cough and my oldest began to get a stuffy nose.  The next morning my oldest woke up with a fever.  Thankfully my son never got anything worse than big green boogers but after 5 days of a 100 degree temp my oldest fever finally broke last night but baby woke up yesterday morning with a fever as well.  So today we went to the doctor and… (drumroll please) my youngest tested positive for influenza A.

This weekend was rough.  Easter, holy week, Resurrection Sunday, which ever you prefer to call it usually conjures up images of daffodils, lilies, sweet little girls and boys in bow ties and hats, egg hunts, and baskets brimming over with candies.  With the exception of the daffodils which randomly sprung up next to our front door that I thought I’d taken care of last fall, and the bag of fun size candy bars my husband brought home Saturday night from the grocery store, our Easter festivities were lack luster this year.  There were no new beautiful Easter outfits, no baskets with chocolate bunnies and Cadbury eggs, and no family pictures (because it never fails EVERY year I forget to take pictures).

It was on Saturday night when my oldest daughter still wasn’t feeling well and probably wasn’t going to feel well the next morning either I realized that we were going to have a problem.  My husband and I were in charge of the Kid’s Easter Program.  We had no back up, no one who knew what was going on if we couldn’t be there.  My husband had picked up groceries for us that afternoon while I took care of all the snotty noses and at about 10 after finishing up the last of our last minute Easter Program preparations I looked at him and asked “OK, where is all the stuff you got for the baskets?”  He looked at me, smiled, then proceeded to throw a small bag of fun sized candy on the table.  “Here.”  I looked at him baffled.  Where was the rest of it.  Where were the chocolate bunnies or crosses, the grass, the sidewalk chalk, crayons, coloring books, or anything that would make these baskets seem special?  Things to make it seem like Mommy and Daddy had put thoughtful love into each one.  Where were the baskets, we didn’t have baskets!  He could tell I was silently freaking out.  “What?” He asked.  I broke the silence and all the inner freak out was unleashed.  Which, unsurprisingly, led into an argument, which ended up leaving both of us angry with each other.  Me, for having a husband who couldn’t possibly understand the importance of the perfect thoughtful more than just candy basket and Him, for having a wife so wrapped up in the materialistic portion of Easter that she was neglecting to focus on what was most important.    I had no baskets, no grass, no sidewalk chalk, or chocolate bunnies.  So I did the only think I could.  I took paper grocery bags folded the sides down to look like baskets and found some left over tissue paper, then I dumped 1/3 of the bag in each “basket.” It was a proud mom moment. I can’t remember where I first heard the saying  “Gratitude turns what we have into enough” but I remember seeing it all over social media a few years ago and as I divvied up the candy I could almost hear the Holy Spirit whispering those words to my heart.  So then, guilt ridden, I begrudgingly apologized to my husband for unleashing the crazy.  After all what I had was enough wasn’t it?

A couple weeks ago I posted on Instagram about a John MacArthur quote I had read that week.  In the quote he talked about surrendering joy.  Up until that point I always thought of things or people stealing my joy.  I hadn’t ever actually considered that I gave up my joy willfully to lesser things.  But that was the truth of it.  Every day I willfully trade my joy in the Lord for things that are unworthy.  Saturday night was no exception.  Having perfect baskets for the kids as they woke up in the morning may be nice but the truths behind Easter were changeless.  Regardless of whether or not our kids had Easter baskets or grocery bags, Christ died, the final atonement for our sins, and then three days later He rose again, defeating death and therefore giving us eternal life through Him.

It’s funny how we cling to the trivial things and end up surrendering what is most precious.

At approximately 3:30 am my oldest threw up in the toilet and in my sleepy haze all I could think was “Seriously, I have things to do today.”  Not my most spiritual thought for Resurrection Sunday.  In fact, to be honest, I didn’t have many super spiritual moments over Easter this year.  I finished cleaning my daughter up, gave her more medicine, and sent her to bed.  Then I fell asleep trying to figure out all the logistics of that morning with a sick child.

I had signed up for biscuits and gravy and juice for the breakfast our church was serving.  I made those the day before so that was taken care of.  As long as one of us could bring them to the church on time.  But what about the program, my husband was playing guitar, I was leading the kids and had a video presentation I’d designed to go along with the program.  In hindsight I probably could have stayed home and showed him how to show someone to do the presentation.  But the control freak in me wouldn’t allow someone else to handle that.  So we decided to bring my phone, sequester my daughter to solitary confinement somewhere in the church, and let her watch movies.  Because I wasn’t about to be ‘one of those people’ who bring their sick child to church and infects the whole congregation (insert eye roll here).  I may or may not have ranted the previous week about a family who did this and now here I was not only contemplating doing the same thing but actually following through with it.

My focus was on so many of the wrong things that day.  I was sad picking out their Easter outfits the night before because they didn’t have anything new.  They all looked adorable Easter morning and I wish I could say it was me intentionally letting go of unimportant extra’s in order to embrace what is right and good but it wasn’t.  So we all got up late rushed to get ready forgetting the juice in our fridge and bringing our tiny germ factory and my bad attitude into church that morning.   Then not five minutes after we step through the door someone complements my daughter on how cute she was and the first thing she says is “Yeah, I threw up this morning.”  I needed to find a hole to crawl into fast.

The rest of the day was uneventful.  After church we all came home and fell asleep for three hours then my husband took our 3 and 4 year old to Grandma’s for an Easter egg hunt and dinner.  All through service and that afternoon as a perused social media I tried to figure out what was going on in my heart.  This past week was Holy week, we usually observe a Passover meal as a family, we usually have communion at church, it usually felt special.  This week is different, it’s supposed to be different than other weeks.  I’m not supposed to be distracted by my to do list I’m supposed to be reflecting with wonder on the mystery of the gospel, the beauty of redemption.  But instead I was stuck on the couch perusing social media, reading everyone else’s profound posts on Easter.

One of my favorite Psalms is Psalms 51.  David had just been called out by the Prophet Nathan for his sins with Bathsheba.  It is a psalm of contrition.  In it he cries out to the Lord to not only purify his heart but restore the joy of his salvation.

Create in me a pure heart, O God,
    and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
 Do not cast me from your presence
    or take your Holy Spirit from me.
 Restore to me the joy of your salvation
    and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
-Psalms 51:10-12

Over and over on Sunday I asked myself the question “Where is my joy in Your salvation?”  Why do all of these other people have it?  Why don’t I feel like I’m supposed to feel?  Then on Monday I began listening to Trillia Newbell’s book enjoy (which I love so far) and I was immediately confronted with the truth behind my problem.  Discontentment and unmet expectations.  Not just in how the whole weekend played out but even in my expectations of how I should feel this weekend.  Friends, let’s just be honest we don’t always feel like we have “the joy of His salvation”  In truth there is nowhere in the Bible that we are told we will always feel like anything.  Joy is commanded not because God wants us to be happy but because it is as Paul says in Philippians “a safeguard for us.”

Joy stands guard over our hearts.  When we choose joy we choose to believe God’s truth over the lies we are fed by our desires, the world, and the enemy of our hearts.   Choosing joy when life gets hard or maybe just exhausting doesn’t mean we slap on smiles and go around acting like everything’s wonderful.  Enjoying life and delighting in the perfect gifts we are given from heaven doesn’t mean life is always delightful.  It just means we live in the reality that “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.” (James 1:17)  and that like Trillia Newbell says  “There’s much to lament about but we can and should enjoy, delight, and rejoice.”

So friends, I hope you all had a blessed Holy week.  There are so many things I’m finding now that I can rejoice in.  Once I got past my desires for a perfect week I’ve found that I’m thankful for warm weather where I can open the windows and Tamiflu.  The beauty of the gospel is that God reached down and pursued our souls while we were still enemies of Him.  I’m incredibly thankful that even in my weakness He pursues me still.

Renew Sermon Journal

IMG_4373.JPG

So for the past eight months I’ve been working on something.  It started early last summer with the idea of creating a sheet to help my kids get more out of Sunday morning services.  We had recently moved to a very small church where they needed to sit through service.  Out of the desire to help my children pay attention I created a downloadable sermon notes page in my still water shop.  I was amazed at the response to that little sheet and had a friend ask for something similar but in book form that would last a whole year.  So after carrying that idea around with me for months I’m finally ready to print.  The cost of printing and binding is high so I currently have the books up on my Still Waters Etsy shop available for pre-order.

The Book Includes:

Book includes:
-216 pages to keep your hands and mind engaged during church service.

-Old and New Testament books listed for reference and to keep track of what you’ve studied this year.

-4 maps to fill with color, names, and places for better understanding of where and how things happen in Scripture.

-An original bookmark with instructions on how to use the book and to keep your place throughout the year.

So stop by the Still Waters Shop and purchase your copy of the “Renew Sermon Journal”

EtsyJournalImage.jpg

SWimg1

Exciting news here today!  After about 6 months of praying and preparing I am finally opening my second Etsy shop!!!  Still Waters Bible Study Materials will be the part of my business wholly devoted to helping people study the bible!

IMG_8444rz

I’ve posted a lot on here about my journey through bible memorization.  I just finished memorizing the book of Philippians.  Last year I did James and it changed the way I think about bible study.  You can find my thoughts on that here.  It’s taken me MUCH longer to get through Philippians even though it is a slightly smaller book.  Over the last year and a half the Lord has been planting seeds in my heart to try and help other people memorize the Word of God as well.  Last year I released my first scripture memory pack of James.  It has been discontinued in my main shop and a new updated version is now available on Still Waters but the vision for this part of my business is much bigger than just Bible Memorization.

Early this spring I read Jen Wilkin’s Book Women of the Word.  I would highly recommend it.  Her heart, like mine, is to encourage women to Bible literacy.  In our social media christian conference culture we have all kinds of devotionals and books at our fingertips.  Don’t get me wrong many of them are wonderful but my fear is that as believers we soak up so much of other peoples opinions about the bible we (myself included) often neglect to search out the scriptures for ourselves.

In the book of Deuteronomy God is commanding His people Israel concerning His word.

You shall therefore impress these words of mine on your heart and on your soul; and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. 19 You shall teach them to your sons, talking of them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road and when you lie down and when you rise up. 20 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, 21 so that your days and the days of your sons may be multiplied on the land which the Lord swore to your fathers to give them, as long as the heavens remain above the earth. 22 For if you are careful to keep all this commandment which I am commanding you to do, to love the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and hold fast to Him,”

-Deuteronomy 11:18-22

Like Israel we are to treasure the commandments and words in scripture that God has given us.  It is my hope that the tools I provide might be an encouragement and help to accomplish this.

I hope you can visit the shop today and check out some of our new resources.

SWimg2

WORTHYBANNER

This word.  Worthy.  The question of what it actually means to be worthy has been playing over and over in my mind all week and just like many other questions the answer usually depends on who you ask.  So naturally I asked google.  “What is the definition of Worthy?”

worthy

adjective wor·thy \ˈwər-thē\

Simple Definition of worthy

  • : good and deserving respect, praise, or attention

  • : having enough good qualities to be considered important, useful, etc

There it is, good, deserving respect, considered important, useful…so who decides that?  Who decides what is good?  Well, let’s think about our options.  If my worthiness depends on the culture than it will change depending on what society values at the time.  If my circumstances, family, and environment determine my value then all of these things are outside of my control and there is nothing I can do to affect how worthy I am.  If it is my actions that are the determining factor  than what decides which actions are “good” and which are not.  Is it even possible to know what my worth is?  A simple answer, yes.  Your value, my value, anyone’s worthiness really doesn’t depend on us.  It depends on something far greater than us.

When we look at the world around us we see hate, bigotry, natural disasters, death, homelessness, starvation, childlessness, the shear magnitude of evil around us can be overwhelming and when we compare ourselves to that we seem like we’ve got things pretty well in hand.  Compared to everything that’s happening in the world I’d say my life looks pretty good, but let’s take a minute and separate ourselves from the fallen conditions around us.  Let’s just look at us… or no, me, my own heart,  lets look at that because my worthiness does not depend on what’s happening in the world, it depends on what’s happening in my heart and when I look at that I see everything in a different light.  In my heart there is pride, jealousy, and hate, just to name a few off the top of my head.  Now, I’ve never killed anyone and overall I’ve done some OK things in my life so with that in mind I’d say I am a pretty good person overall.  I have some bad things but hey who doesn’t.  I’m still good enough, that doesn’t make me unworthy, or does it?

Well that depends.  If there’s no standard of what is good or bad, right or wrong, than absolutely!  Live however you want because ultimately it really doesn’t matter, except that it does.  There are standards.  The bible clearly lists standards that we are supposed to attain to.  They lay out the perfect life, how to live without sin.  The only problem is this: No one qualifies (Romans 3:10).  What does this mean?  It means we are lost.  We are a people without hope struggling in vain to be good and attain a standard which in the end is like treading a stormy sea.  We are cold, wet, exhausted, and alone.  We feel as if the strength in our body is failing and soon the sea will overtake us.  Only to our surprise someone has thrown out a life preserver.  There is one who is worthy.  One who has managed to rise above temptation and the evil that surrounds us to live perfectly.  God came down in human flesh to be one of us.  It was His plan all along.  He saw His creation, humanity, and knew we would never be able to attain to this standard, but the standard could not be changed.  God is not only perfectly good but He is perfectly just.  He must judge sin and He is holy so he cannot be near sin.  In order for God to be Holy and still be able to love His creation, to draw near to His people, than payment must be made, the sin had to be atoned for.  His solution, to leave the glory of Heaven and be Emmanuel “God with us.”  He lived perfectly so that in the end He would be the final sacrifice, the perfect lamb to offer as payment for the sins of a dying world.

Today, my friends, is Good Friday.  The day we look back and clearly see the death of a man who committed no crimes, the sinless Son of God “who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29).  He is what makes us worthy because He is worthy.

“Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.”

Revelation 5:12b

Can I just be honest for a moment friends?  I really think part of our problem as a culture especially as believers in our culture is that we focus way to much attention 0n this question, our own worthiness.  We remind ourselves constantly that we are enough, we are beautiful, and worthy.  We buy prints, mugs, t-shirts, and books that tell us what we need to feel better about ourselves.  Now don’t get me wrong.  I love many of those prints, mugs, t-shirts, and books.  Hey, I even sell some of them, but I think many times our focus is wrong because it is on ourselves.  In the end what makes us confident is not our own self-worth but how much value we find in our Creator.

“for we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh,”

Philippians 3:3

So today sisters let’s remember the One who is worthy.