I think one of the greatest gifts Jesus gives us is the opportunity to be learning. Our education is not limited to a classroom or certain topics. In fact, Jesus can use the simple, mundane, silly and serious things in our lives to teach us about who he is and who we are. A willing heart is all he requires of his students.
As we begin a new month and enter into the Christmas season, I spent time reflecting on what Jesus has taught me and the gifts he’s given me in recent days.
Here are 11 things I learned in the 11th month.
We get to choose if we want church to be more than a spectator sport.
Man. Jesus gave us such a gift in allowing us to settle into a church family from the first week we arrived on this side of the country. After some weeks of a membership class, an application and an interview with our pastor, my husband and I became members this past week. It may be subtle, but I can sense the shift in my heart as I feel more ownership of this place, and more importantly, these people. Even though we have already been serving in youth ministry, I sense my heart leans in more knowing that I’ve committed to being here. The people we pray for in church, they are my people. The programs that are put on, they are put on by my people. This is my church, not just the church I go to.
Even as I write about church, I recognize that church is far from perfect. I don’t want to paint a glossy, rosy picture that doesn’t exist. As I think of these imperfect people I’m part of, I am reminded of the words of Charles Spurgeon:
“If I had never joined a church till I had found one that was perfect, I should never have joined one at all; and the moment I did join it, if I had found one, I should have spoiled it, for it would not have been a perfect church after I had become a member of it. Still, imperfect as it is, it is the dearest place on earth to us.” (The Best Donation sermon, April 5, 1891)
I’m asking Jesus to help my heart see the church less like a building and an institution and more like the brothers and sisters he has given me to love. They are truly dear to me. May they become even more dear still.
Eggnog in your coffee is an absolute DELIGHT.
Seriously. Eggnog in coffee is a revelation. I never like how drinking plain eggnog makes me feel. It isn’t the healthiest stuff, full of sugar and fat, but oh so delicious. (And I’m a believer of things in moderation.) Friends, adding a little bit to my coffee makes it feel like dessert. My husband and I have a pact to only enjoy it in our coffee when we can drink it together, helping with our self-control and making it what it truly is: a treat. We get a delicious drink and a date-night-in every time we put egg nog in our coffee as we welcome winter. A true win in my book!
A one-year-old can handle alone time. And probably needs it.
We’ve started giving our little lady alone time for short periods of time. It is beautiful to see her learning to play and enjoy discovering on her own, while trusting her to act appropriately. I think our girl is an introvert and there aren’t often many opportunities for her to be alone during the day. I think it is a strange, but helpful gift I can offer her to create those spaces.
My heart is in a better place when I’m reading and writing often.
I can always talk myself out of giving time to creating something with my words or spending time reading a book. But I need to do both. I think we are all made in the image of our Creator with a need to create. I love what my friend Christine says on the subject here. My heart is always in a better place when I’m journaling, writing and blogging what I’m learning. My heart is always in a better place when I’m learning from others through books, articles and blogs. I needed that reminder yet again this month.
Sweet potatoes are a fabulous addition to dinner.
I think we went through several 10-lb. bags of sweet potatoes this month. Between Southwestern Slow Cooker Chili, African Peanut Soup, Chicken Sweet Potato Apple Skillet and Sweet Potato Fries, we’ve been thoroughly enjoying this exemplary vegetable. (Leave a comment if you want any of these recipes! I’d be more than happy to share.)
The bunny is my new favorite animal.
My daughter (L) is learning what noises different animals make. One of the books she likes to read with her grandma has a bunny in it. Since L can’t scrunch her nose quite yet, she blinks her eyes over and over. It is a true delight to watch a one-year-old work hard to blink again and again. It has quickly raise the rank of the rabbit to my current favorite animal.
Jesus can use anything to tell me he loves me. Pinecones included.
By American standards, we don’t have a lot of money in this season. I’ve been working to think of how to celebrate and decorate for Christmas well without spending money. I saw a few ideas for decorations using pinecones during my research and I started hoping to come across some. I didn’t even make it an official prayer to Jesus, but sometimes, Jesus gives offers us grace without us asking for it. Just a few days ago, Jesus gave me a whole bunch of pinecones on a trip to the library with my husband. I seriously was giddy, giggling as we carried pinecones to the car. I know it might sound silly, but it was the reminder my heart needed that Jesus is in the mundane and that he loves me. I am not unseen by him. And here is some pinecone delight to prove it!
If a contest takes less than two minutes to enter, it is probably worth throwing your name in the hat. You might actually win something!
I often convince myself not to enter a contest because “I probably won’t win.” But I recently decided that if it takes only a few minutes, it is worth giving it a shot. And this week, I actually won a Christmas CD from another blogger! Such a fun surprise from Jesus. Looking forward to dance parties with my girl once it arrives.
Spending money is not necessary to tell someone you love them.
My favorite part of Thanksgiving wasn’t the turkey or pie. It was a walk with my husband. It was surprisingly warm-ish and sunny, so we took advantage by adventuring in the park down the road. We went hunting for old-growth trees and found some beautiful paths, a tremendous tree and some old abandoned buildings. My heart was reminded that I don’t long for expensive dates, I just long for connection with my friend. What a gift our walk together was to my heart.
Worship isn’t only something to be done for a few hours on Sunday mornings.
I recently read Worship Changes Everything. The author is none other than Darlene Zschech, who penned modern worship classics like “Shout to the Lord” and “Worthy is the Lamb.” I honestly wasn’t quite sure what I would find in her book. I sometimes feel a little skeptical to read the words of someone “famous,” unsure of how their fame has impacted them. I was pleasantly surprised to discover Darlene’s humble heart throughout these pages. She saturates her book with Scripture (from multiple translations) and the words of many others on the journey to follow Jesus. I think one of my favorite lines, that summed up the heart of her book was, “I worship the one who knows me best and loves me most.” (24) This seems to lay the foundation for everything else. We worship as a response to being fully known and fully loved.
Church is only one aspect of our life, and only one aspect of what it means to worship. I loved her chapters on work, marriage, parenting, money that really gave definition to what it means to give God what he is due in all areas of our lives. He deserves everything. My heart was encouraged by her words as I listened to the words of someone else who loves Jesus and is working hard to follow him. As Darlene shared about her own recent suffering with breast cancer, her own painful season brought depth to her call to follow Jesus and worship him with our entire beings, not merely as an church activity.
* Bethany House Publishers and NetGalley has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book, in exchange for my honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255
My soul needs breaks from technology and comparison. My soul needs to connect.
Last week there was a day when I was on social media too much. I was grumpier and less gracious for it. I’d spent too much time looking at other people and what they were doing. The next day I knew I needed a true respite, not just an ounce of self control to look “less.” I made a deal with the Lord that I wouldn’t use my computer or phone at all that day. What a refreshing day it was. I felt like a weight had been lifted.
I so easily get sucked into the distracting scroll, looking and more often than I’d like, comparing my life to others. On my good days, I spent time on social media to connect and communicate and then sign off for the day. On my bad days, I’m just aching for a connection but doing nothing to create one. So instead, I end up with a handful of comparison and discontent that feels empty. I’m reminded yet again that I need to unplug. I need to utilize technology as a tool. As Shauna Niequist says in her article, “Using Technology to Connect,” “Scrolling isn’t the same as connecting. And connection is what we’re longing for.” Here’s to more connecting and less scrolling.