Category Archives: Desert wandering

“The Sacred Journey 2: The Ancient Practices” by Charles Foster ~ Review


Soon after moving out to the Arizona desert from California’s Central Coast, I received this book through Booksneeze.com to review. I thought I was being clever in getting a free book, but I had no idea how powerful this book would be. “The Sacred Journey” is about the lost art of pilgrimage, a sacred journey to a place of spiritual importance. Just as Christians are pilgrims here on earth, the pilgrimage reminds us that we can’t be wrapped up in the trappings of permanence. This world is not our home, we’re just passin’ through. Charles Foster uses his own globe-trotting adventures as a backdrop to the lessons learned while out on pilgrimage; the importance of loving fellow travelers and helping them, of silence and meditation, and above all, being aware of what God is trying to teach you while you journey through life.

“The Sacred Journey” fascinated me. We had just left our deep roots near the ocean and moved out to the desert. What was worse, we were living in subsidized housing, which is government-code for roach-infested. Reading “The Sacred Journey” while living under these conditions was eye-opening, to say the least. Foster’s writing encouraged me to see our living situation through heavenly-eyes: only temporary housing until God moved us on. It challenged me every time I opened the pages to not complain about what was right in front of me, but look for what the lesson was supposed to be. Although I still complained (loudly and often), I can look back and see the places where the Lord had me grow, stretch, and learn, and many times it was because of something thought-provoking from “The Sacred Journey.”

Foster’s high, literary writing style was a huge appeal to me. His elegant, graceful use of language really touched me. However, many times when I would read quotes aloud to my husband, he would get confused, so perhaps Foster’s style isn’t for everyone. For me, however, this book is certainly one I recommend to fellow travelers on their journeys.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Leaving it all on the altar


This summer, our worship pastor, Matthew, explained how, as worship leaders, we prepare, plan, and practice for Sunday mornings, but we often take our sacrifice of praise back off the altar and drag it around with us the next week. For YEARS I have taken my value and worth in how I’d “performed” during worship services.

“I totally nailed it this week! God must be so proud of me!” = pride and self-righteousness

“Oh man, I completely forgot my part. I’m such a failure.” = depression and self-loathing

What would it be like if the priests of old had dragged the charred, spent carcass of their offering off the altar and carried it around the rest of the time saying “look at my great sacrifice!”? It’s absurd and disgusting, right? In the same way, making myself the center of the praise offering is absurd and disgusting…praise and worship should be centered, focused, and wholly about God…His goodness and grace and inexplicable mercy on prideful, sin-filled people.

I am so thankful that Matthew taught me this lesson. This weekend’s worship band was…wild. People were sick, fighting sickness, we had technically complicated difficulties…you name it, it was happening. But then we had this awesome time of baptism at the end of each service. God’s Grace and Glory was on powerful display as people spoke of how the Gospel has transformed their lives. During the first set, I had been self-absorbed with my fading voice and all the technical details of the music, but hearing these people testify to the Grace they had received reminded me that it didn’t matter one bit if I sounded great or awful…it’s all about Jesus anyways. As a lead worshipper, my job is to prepare, plan, and practice in order to bring honor to Jesus and create a place where others can come and worship and adore Him.

After that first baptism and the Holy Spirit reminding me of the truth, I just worshipped. I happened to have a microphone and keyboard in front of me, but that didn’t make me any more than just another sinner, saved by the amazing Grace of our Loving God.

Ascribe to the Lord the glory due His name. Bring an offering and come before Him! Worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness. ~ I Chronicles 16:29 ~

Amen.

Winds of Change…again


I could make this really dramatic, but these details are boring. Basically, I’m no longer employed. So for the first time, I am “just” a stay-at-home mom. I’ve always worked part-time, or been in school full-time since our kids were born. I went to work when Jonathan was 6 weeks old.

I’m thrilled.

Of course, there is the stark terror of losing 1/4 of our income. I’m not sure how the math is going to work out next month. And I keep having this compulsion to check my email (nope, nothing interesting) and I keep having the feeling that there’s SOMETHING ELSE I should be doing. I didn’t realize how much mental stress I was under while working from home. I actually cleaned the floors yesterday. All of them. And today, someone got jelly on the tile…so I was actually able to steam the floors AGAIN. I don’t think I’ve ever cleaned the floors two days in a row!

I’m spending lots of quality time with Josh and Izzy this week. Playing on the (super clean!) floor with them, reading to them, playing outside in the garden (although my lizard-hunting skills are really rusty). I have time to make dinner, make lunches, prep breakfast. I did ALL the laundry yesterday. And I’m almost done putting it ALL away. The last time I did that was…never.

I have TIME to coupon. I have TIME to blog. I have TIME to garden. I may even…gasp! have time to finish my book!

Oh the adventures! The drama!

I’m REALLY missing my big kids, though. With one car and their school 40 minutes away, they are gone as long as Anthony. Now that I can focus on my kids, I want them HERE with me….

Expect more from me in the future. I have time to explore my dreams. And I think it’s worth the trade off.

Teaching Izzy how to eat!

Loving Joshy’s wild side!

Missing my big kids!!

Creating Christmas in My Heart


As often happens when I read posts by Susan Gaddis, I start to comment and then find I’ve written an entire blog post myself. Please go check out her beautiful post: How to Celebrate Christmas When You’re Not in the Mood

The last few Christmases have been a challenge for our family, financially, and living in a city without much of our extended family nearby makes it even harder to get in the mood to celebrate Christmas. But we’re doing our best!

This year, the kids and I made a Terrific Mess cutting out paper snowflakes to paste on our windows which we’ve surrounded with blue twinkly lights. Our little one especially loves to just sit and watch as they blink off and on, coloring the snowflakes white and blue. If I focus on just the beautiful window, I can almost ignore the desert landscape beyond. In our trips around town, I keep a Christmas station going in the car, and it’s fun to hear the kids’ sweet voices stumbling through the words (Oh Holy Night has become a mish-mash of made up words, Sunday school lessons, and I think even Optimus Prime got in there at one point…). Their current favorites are the rock-opera-style Trans-Siberian Orchestra versions of Carol of the Bells and Oh Holy Night.

Soon, I’m planning on making cookies with the kids and decorating them to take downstairs to our elderly neighbors who don’t have family around. I keep reminding the kids (and myself!) that we celebrate Jesus’ birthday, not getting gifts and presents. We may not be able to afford a tree or gifts this year, but between devotionals (an Advent calendar), practical acts, and praise, we’re trying to keep Jesus the focus of our Christmas!

I’m feeling especially close to Mary, Jesus’ mother, this year… being ungainly pregnant; an impending move looming right next to my due date; the alternating joy of new life within me and the crushing terror of how the heck we’re going to care for another child with our limited resources. Years ago, as a teenager, I was inspired to create a dance to Amy Grant’s “Breath of Heaven” and have danced it almost every Christmas for the last 10 years… so it’s a familiar song, but every time I’ve heard it this year, I’ve broken down weeping. It’s so near my heart… God what are you doing? Is this really Your best plan for my life right now? Help me be strong… help me be… help me.

But the Hope that is Advent… God encasing himself in the flesh of a helpless baby, to live like us, be one of us, so that He could save us from our pathetic existence… THIS is what excites me about Christmas. It’s what shakes me from the lethargy of my depression and causes me to turn my eyes towards the Hope of Eternity Future. This isn’t all there is to life. There is more coming. Christmas gives me a glimpse of that Joy Unspeakable.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel, the-God-Who-is-with-us, is coming!

Joy! The Choice and the Feeling.


My insomnia is back.

A few weeks ago, this would be a terrible thing. It was in the night watches that my dark thoughts would spin; endlessly looping in my mind. All the problems and difficulties in our lives would swirl around creating a hurricane of depression in my brain, leading to conclusions that were just more destructive and discouraging than anything. Yes, there were thoughts of leaving my husband, of suicide, of just walking away from everything. None of these are actually options for me… or choices that I would make, but the perpetual thoughts were there. I felt like I couldn’t stop them, couldn’t escape them, and for the life of me, couldn’t just go to sleep. Even for the time I was on medication, the nighttime battle was there.

I’d get up and pace to the couch where I’d cry and pray and beg for rest. Usually, the sun would start lightening the sky before my exhausted body would finally fall into a short nap before it was time to be up and back to taking care of the family.

I love my husband, but he didn’t understand. I love my children and my current role as stay-at-home mom, but didn’t find joy in that.

I’ve said before that I would battle it, that I would fight it, that I would choose to be happy and content with where I am. That would work for a time, but not for long.

My post a few weeks ago was about the basic idea of capturing thoughts. It’s an old spiritual discipline that I’d forgotten… but the basic idea comes from 2 Cor. 10:4-5:

The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments (imaginings) and every pretention (assertion) that sets itself up against the knowledge (truth) of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”  

Pretty much, although I don’t have control over the thoughts that enter my brain, I do have the authority (“divine power”) to tell them to go straight to the pit of hell where they belong.

So I have been.

And you know what? I’ve had an awesome last few weeks. Yes, there’s moments of sadness (our home church’s women’s retreat is this weekend and I wish I was there with my friends… the coastal town where my family lives had a fireworks celebration on the cliffs that my kids would have adored…), but I can acknowledge my sadness without STAYING there. Moving on to the next thing, fixing the eyes of my heart and mind on Jesus and the joy that He’s given me in my day-to-day life. Even if I still can’t go to sleep, I remind myself to meditate on scriptures, sing songs to the Lord in my head, count my blessings, or even just get out of bed and spend some time reading my Bible until I’m tired enough to go back to sleep.

This has been so helpful. I can FOCUS on my kids, and I’m realizing anew what a total delight they are… and I can’t imagine enjoying them more or better if we lived anywhere else. I can wrap my head around the reality that we’re having ONE MORE, and she’s going to just add to the happy chaos that is our home. I can see my husband as a man, not my SOURCE of joy or happiness, but as my partner as we try to figure out our lives and family.

So today, when I was reading Psalm 9 in my quiet time, my spirit shouted “YES!” to these verses:

I will praise You, O LORD, with my whole heart; 
I will tell of all Your marvelous works.
I will be glad and rejoice in You;
I will sing praise to Your name, O Most High!
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