Musings: March 2019

One thing so often leads to another, and, in retrospect, it takes a conscious effort to trace the trail of God’s active participation in our lives. Here’s a fresh example:

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In August of last year, I wrote a piece about praying for our teens because that’s something I do. (A lot.) When Desiring God picked it up, a reader in Maryland wondered if I might be available to speak at a women’s conference she organizes every spring. Following a series of delightful surprises, I boarded an airplane in Portland, Maine one Friday morning in March and spent a glorious Saturday teaching the women of Faith Evangelical Free Church of Mountain Lake Park, Maryland.

My photography doesn’t begin to do justice to their good work of making the entire church portray their nautical theme. It was an absolute privilege and joy to share truth from the Word of God about our need for hope in Christ as an anchor for the soul. 

On the Blog

March Book Reviews

Your Invitation to Embrace a New, True Life — When Michelle DeRusha and her family visited the Portland Japanese Garden in the Pacific Northwest, they observed the masterful application of open center pruning, a process that yields, over time, a tree with uniquely healthy and beautiful form. For DeRusha, the image of branch-by-branch relinquishment became a metaphor for the stripping away that happens on the way to one’s “true, essential self,” (19) and the outcome of her pondering is the gift of her latest book:  True You: Letting Go of Your False Self to Uncover the Person God Created

A Deep and Delighted LoveValerie Elliot Shepard has combed through her parents’ letters and journals and the resulting treasure is Devotedly: The Personal Letters and Love Story of Jim and Elisabeth Elliot. While the story of their courtship has been told in Elisabeth’s classic Passion and Purity, it is now possible for readers to trace the unfolding romance from love’s first stirring at Wheaton College in the late 1940’s all the way through the birth of their daughter Valerie.

When You Expect Nothing and Get the Gift of Everything –Singer, songwriter, and author Michael Card describes words as “clumsy bricks” we attempt to employ in defining concepts. While they enable us to have thoughts and conversations about God and about intangibles such as hope and love, ultimately, meaning cannot always be contained within syllables. In his biblical study, Card has found this to be particularly evident with the Hebrew word hesed, and his latest book (Inexpressible: Hesed and the Mystery of God’s Lovingkindness) is founded on the mystery of this unique word.

The Life and Legacy of Susannah SpurgeonWhen Ray Rhodes, Jr. was investigating topics for his dissertation, he followed his life long interest in Charles Spurgeon and began to research Spurgeon’s marriage and the spiritual element of his relationship with his wife of thirty-six years, Susannah Spurgeon. Surprisingly, his interest led him away from “the prince of preachers” and toward a more focused attention to the life and legacy of the woman behind the great man. Susie: The Life and Legacy of Susannah Spurgeon, wife of Charles H. Spurgeon describes an unlikely pairing from the beginning. This is is a story about a life that took place just inches from the spotlight, and yet, likely, changed the course of church history by serving and loving one of God’s key players in the building up of His church. 

 

Guest posts

A partner in prayer, another set of eyes, a companion in trouble:  these are the benefits of spiritual friendship.I was so pleased when April Yamasaki invited me to guest post on her blog. Since I enjoyed her book, Four Gifts: Seeking Self-care for Heart, Soul, Mind, and Strength, I wanted to write about self-care . . . and since I had just finished reading Janice Peterson’s Becoming Gertrude: How Our Friendships Shape Our Faith, it was great fun to write about spiritual friendships as a self-care strategy. The conversation over at April’s place was terrific, so I invite you to come on over if you haven’t already. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Ash Wednesday is a day to grow in our understanding of where to take our struggle with sin.

Parenting Lessons from the Ashes — Teaming up with Desiring God is always a great experience, and this time, I’m sharing memories of Ash Wednesday, filling up that concept with some history, some spiritual practices, and some story telling from my parenting life here on this country hill.

In Christian circles, we’re fond of talking about finding God, until we realize that He has been there all along.

Surprise! God Has Your Best Interest at Heart!  Mary Geisen is a long-time friend in the blogging community. She is well known for her hospitality, and, I have a feeling it will soon be a well known fact that she is a newly minted grandmother! It was a joy to share my own story with the friends who gathered for #TellHisStory in March. Click here to join the gathering . . .

Random Ponderings

What if the font we’re reading makes a difference in how easily we recall what we read? As someone whose eyes take in at least four books a month, I really want my brain to take in the content as well. Sans Forgetica: A font scientifically designed to help you remember your study notes. Sans Forgetica is a font that has been scientifically designed to aid memory retention. Apparently the missing parts of letters and the comparative difficulty in reading it forces the brain to press in to the reading process, making the content “more sticky” to the brain.

I typed the sample above on their site,  because I’ve been working on Philippians 1 this winter with the crew at Do Not Depart. I’m wondering how long it will be before someone publishes a San Forgetica Bible! After all, Scripture memorization is hard work, and we need all the help we can get.

It’s true! I do thank the Lord upon every remembrance of you–and I won’t forget that! Thanks for reading and for the continual encouragement of your reading, sharing your thoughts, and introducing your friends to Living Our Days,

Michele Morin

 

I  am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliateadvertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees  linking to Amazon.com. If you should decide to purchase any of the books mentioned in this post simply click on the title (or the image) within the text, and you’ll be taken directly to Amazon. If you decide to buy, I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular content delivered to your inbox. Just enter your e-mail address in the field at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging communities on a regular basis. They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week. I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.

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Self-Care and the Rare Gift of Spiritual Friendship

“Hey, we have a lot in common! Maybe we should meet for coffee?”

Coming from Facebook, a place where “friendship” usually remains distant and virtual, this was startling content. Add to that a full schedule and a hard bent toward introversion, and there was every reason for me to log off, click on “unfriend,” and run like crazy. The risk of a face-to-face meeting with a total stranger is way outside my comfort zone, and yet the outcome, in this case, was a real-life friendship and a lesson in self-care.

Even with open laptops and a list of technical topics for discussion, when I meet with this particular friend, the percent of time devoted to “business” may be pretty low. Conversations meander as coffee cups are emptied and refilled.  I almost always come away from face-to-face time with friends enriched and encouraged in a way that transcends even the satisfaction that would have come from spending that time hammering away at my to-do list. We gauge the temperature of each other’s hearts, and somehow our faith is shaped in the context spiritual friendship.

A partner in prayer, another set of eyes, a companion in trouble:  these are the benefits of spiritual friendship, and today at April Yamasaki‘s writing home, I am arguing for the benefits of curating an environment that allows us to go deep in each other’s lives. Click here to keep on reading. I think you’ll agree that friendship as self-care is a refreshing way to look at the time we spend with the important people in our lives.

April Yamasaki is a fellow member of the Redbud Writers Guild, and I’m glad to be teaming up with her today because I learned a lot from her book, Four Gifts: Seeking Self-care for Heart, Soul, Mind, and Strength. When I shared my review here, many of you expressed a need for and an interest in developing a greater mindfulness in your approach to self-care. When you hop on over to April’s place to finish this post, be sure to check out other articles that also focus on spiritual practices for healthier living for your heart, soul, mind and strength.


If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular content delivered to your inbox. Just enter your e-mail address in the field at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging communities on a regular basis. They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week. I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.

Musings: September 2018

Tired metaphor though it be, the transformation from chubby caterpillar to seemingly inanimate chrysalis, and then to elegant and dainty flying monarch was new again to me in this late summer season of 2018, because it was new to my tiny grandson.

“Leafy” had no idea that the milkweed he munched in a retired goldfish bowl was anyLeafy different than the succulent salad he had been savoring in the field adjacent to my garden. He went home with the boy who had christened him and for a few days, it was his job to put the creativity of God on display.

Following the dotted lines back to the glory of New Life, to the comprehensive and bone-deep transformation that comes with New Birth, or even to the patient waiting that accompanies a process would be a stretch for a four-year-old spirit, but awe is very much within his grasp. The God who says, “Do it again!” every day to the sun never tires of amazing his children, both big and small.

In the Morin Kitchen

I will save a final jar count until after the beets and carrots have been dug, the dill dried, and the last of the tomatoes have been harvested, but this has been a banner year for preserving the blessings from our garden. Then, in the midst of all this, after 25 years here on this country hill, we are turning our attention toward the kitchen, and the time has come for new cupboards, new flooring, and a whole new look. I can just barely believe it.

On the Blog

Kitchen reno 1

I shared a video over on the Living Our Days Facebook page, celebrating the new wall along with a heads up for some future books scheduled to appear here soon. If it seems to you that everywhere you look there is an announcement about a new book releasing, your perception is accurate–or at least it seems that way to me! Therefore, I shared six book reviews this  month in addition to pulling together a collection of recommended parenting resources for The Redbud Post.

The Perennial Gen featured my review of Becoming Curious: A Spiritual Practice of Asking Questions by Casey Tygrett. AtBecoming Curious: God has equipped our souls for exploration. mid-life and for all our days, the spiritual practice of becoming curious is God’s gift to His people, and He has equipped our souls to take the shape of an explorer into the deep things that will change our way of seeing the world. The question is, are we curious enough to follow Him there?

"Reading literature, more than informing us, forms us." Karen Swallow PriorKaren Swallow Prior has been on my list of voices to pay attention to since I read her excellent bio of Hannah More. Her new book, On Reading Well: Finding the Good Life through Great Books, analyzes twelve of the books you may have read courtesy of your childhood library or bookmobile and invites you into the ones you missed. In a non-fiction format, Prior employs the most compelling aspects of fiction to take readers to a new level of understanding in their reading life, and this is a great gift because “reading literature, more than informing us, forms us.”

Self-care is definitely a growth point for me, but in In Four Gifts: Seeking Self-care for Heart, Soul, Mind, and Strength, April Yamasaki 4 Gifts: 4 Ways to Boost Your Self-Care Quotientopens her own life to self-care scrutiny and examines Scripture’s claims about the abundant life alongside biblical promises of God’s care for those who believingly follow Him.  To my great relief, Yamasaki frames self-care with a bigger vision than manicures and a daily green smoothie, as she encourages readers to receive the gifts that flow from the first great commandment:

“And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”  (Mark 12:30)

Marilyn McEntyre is a delightful thinker and writer. I shared Word by Word hereReview of Make a List by Marilyn McEntyre: Your New Life Beyond the To-Do List some time ago, and her latest,  Make a List: How a Simple Practice Can Change Our Lives and Open Our Hearts,  elevates list writing to a creative endeavor, a writing exercise that is partly spiritual formation, partly imaginative play, and partly a recording of the music of one’s own soul. Putting the pen to paper or the fingers to the keyboard, the list maker asks questions, poses possibilities, and frames her desires.

Pastoral Ministry: The Courageous Calling to a Faithful Love12 Faithful Men: Portraits of Courageous Endurance in Pastoral Ministry successfully dismantles the cool factor that prevails in our view of ministry life. Beginning with the Apostle Paul, who knew well the sting of the lash and the sting of rejection, the record shows that those who have been profoundly used by God “to build the church suffered grinding affliction along the way.” Editors Collin Hansen and Jeff Robinson of the Gospel Coalition have provided 21st century believers with a resource to heighten our gratitude for church leaders of the past and our appreciation for those who serve us today.

Conversations about missionaries and missions strategy are commonplace in our A Review of Mapping Church Missions by Sharon R. Hooverhome. We talk about the latest newsletter updates, who’s “home,” and who’s “back on the field.” We wonder about the members of our missionary family when we don’t hear from them, and we puzzle over big picture concerns in an era in which more missionaries are retiring than can possibly be replaced by new recruits. In Mapping Church Missions: A Compass for Ministry Strategy, Sharon Hoover introduces a way of thinking about the genuine challenges of initiating and maintaining a program of global outreach that is in keeping with a biblical view of The Great Commission, while also taking into consideration the uniqueness of each supporting church. Her good work and varied experiences have helped her to produce a road map for intentional missions strategy that will transcend personal interests and agendas.

On the Hill

Maybe this section should be captioned “Over the Hill” because in September, I

I just happen to share a birthday month with these two cuties!
Bam just happens to share a birthday month with her two grandbabies.

left 55 in the rear view mirror, but there’s certainly no time around here for lapsing into maudlin ponderings. The leaves outside my dining room window this afternoon don’t have the sheen they wore in June, but they are still green, and they are still doing their job.

The tiny hand that released the beautifully transformed “Leafy” for his southbound flight was acting in brave faith. Every single cell in his body wanted to hang onto his butterfly friend, to keep him warm for the winter, to enjoy his company. By grace, we are all in a season of letting go in some way or other. My prayer for you (and for me!) in this autumn of gentle warning is that you will have wisdom to know when to let go — and when to hang on for dear life!

Blessings and love to you, 

Image Credit for Pumpkin/Monarch Butterfly/Tiny Boy Hand: Christine Morin

I  am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. If you should decide to purchase any of the books mentioned in this post simply click on the title within the text, and you’ll be taken directly to Amazon. If you decide to buy, I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular content delivered to your inbox. Just enter your e-mail address in the field at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging communities on a regular basis. They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week. I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.

 

4 Ways to Boost Your Self-Care Quotient

“What would you like to do?” he asked.
My good and faithful husband had hired a babysitter for our four sons (Combat pay!), and we were driving away from the house, the cavernous mini-van feeling empty and oddly quiet.

“Good question,” I thought, “What would I like to do?” As a homeschooling mum, church woman, maker of beds and of sandwiches, I had just about lost touch with what grown ups do when they are assigned the task of having fun or the responsibility of relaxing.

In Four Gifts: Seeking Self-care for Heart, Soul, Mind, and Strength, April Yamasaki opens her own life to self-care scrutiny and examines Scripture’s claims about the abundant life alongside biblical promises of God’s care for those who believingly follow Him.  To my great relief, Yamasaki frames self-care with a bigger vision than manicures and a daily green smoothie, as she encourages readers to receive the gifts that flow from the first great commandment:

“And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”  (Mark 12:30)

Caring for You. Caring for Others.

The busy-ness of life in all its demanding seasons can lead to habits that could best be described as self-neglect. Conversely, culture screams messages that make a virtue of self-indulgence:  “I deserve this.” I have had a tendency to read messages about self-care as burdensome checklists, one more item on an already too-full list of things to do.

The abundant life involves caring for your own needs, caring for others, and surrendering to the call of God. There is freedom to be found in the “healthy tension” (188) between loving ourselves well and also being fully available to our neighbor. In Four Gifts, April invites readers into a purposeful pursuit of healthy living according to God’s design in ways that are both challenging and realistic:

1. Self-Care Leaves Space to Honor Your Core Commitments

Just as the heart “represents the center of our physical, mental, and spiritual being,” (221) each of us has “core commitments” that direct our daily actions. Mine are shaped around marriage, mothering and grandmothering, homeschooling, writing, and church ministries. Because your commitments are different from mine, the parameters of  our self-care regimens will look very different.

“Self-care that honors core commitments might be delayed or postponed or after the fact, but it’s still self-care even if it sometimes seems to come in second.” (234)

2.  Self-Care Begins with Learning How to Stop

For me, self-care is mostly about knowing when to stop, and this came into sharp focus as I was reminded of New Testament directives to the early church that clearly distinguish “between being weighed down and being focused on following Jesus.” The Hebrews 12 “weight” that interferes with the believer’s race can often be the tasks we take on that are not really ours to do.

3.  Self-Care Leaves Room for a Listening Life

In the rush of life, I often catch myself half-listening to people, tuning out details to conserve mental energy, or failing to set aside the task at hand in order to meet the eyes of my dearest people while they speak. When Jesus was being quizzed by the religious elite, pressed into choosing the most important commandment of all, His answer began with the word Listen!

“The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’No other commandment is greater than these.”  (Mark 12:28-31)

Taking time to listen to God, to hear the words of Scripture from a thoughtful stance, to listen to my own aging body in its need for rest, and to slow down and hear the messages coming through the words of the people I love are all forms of self-care that minister to the whole person and also spread ripples of health into a family or a community.

4.  Self-Care Frees the Soul for Sabbath Rest

April Yamasaki is a ministry professional, and she manages a website called When You Work for the Church. Her perspective on Sabbath rest includes first-hand knowledge that Sunday is often the busiest and most stressful day of the week. It turns out that most of us have a much too narrow definition of Sabbath-keeping. The rest and rejuvenation that come with it are “sometimes a by-product but not the primary purpose. The primary biblical purpose . . . is to put away the idol of control and power.” (766) If I can address this issue at its core, suddenly other pieces of the puzzle fall into place. Turning off my phone or taking a nap or postponing an errand to another day can become an offering in which I kick myself out of the center of the universe, a fruit of self-discipline in which I say no to the habit of accomplishment and yes to the habit of quiet or rest.

At its core, then, self-care may be uncomfortable. It may push me to honor limits I’ve become accustomed to pushing through, to utter a few well-placed “nos” that feel as if I’m squandering opportunities, to admit that I need help rather than forging ahead on my own. God’s four gifts of heart, soul, mind, and strength come with the expectation of a graceful stewarding of those gifts, a responsibility that takes practice–and a privilege that comes with the following life as we lean on Jesus for each step in the right direction.

Many thanks to Herald Press for providing a copy of this book to facilitate my review, which, of course, is offered freely and with honesty.

I  am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. If you should decide to purchase Four Gifts: Seeking Self-care for Heart, Soul, Mind, and Strength simply click on the title (or the image) within the text, and you’ll be taken directly to Amazon. If you decide to buy, I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Leaning on Jesus,

If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular content delivered to your inbox. Just enter your e-mail address in the field at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging communities on a regular basis. They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week. I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.