Tuesday, December 17, 2013

I absolutely love my Christmas tree.

Ben picked it out and I wrapped it with lights and hung all the ornaments. The needles are shorter than I usually like, but it's still soft to the touch. Our tree skirt is red with little wooden buttons sewn on it.

I turn the lights on just as soon as I can open my eyes enough to see what I'm doing and they stay on until the last second before walking out the door or heading to bed. I literally have warm, fuzzy feelings every time I see our little Christmas tree shining in its' corner.

I have a few of my favorite Christmas cards that I put out every year and some childhood craft projects that are fun to display. Ben has a beautiful nativity set that his mom painted and we got our first ornament together. God is good in this season and others.

We leave for North Dakota on Friday, so I'm savoring Christmas at our house for just a few more days. This will be my first Christmas outside the Pearcy clan. I'm excited to discover what a Striker Christmas is like and have some quality time with Ben's family. Our first two meetings were full of activity and commotion. This was fun, but not my ideal environment for connecting deeply. I'm hoping for conversation, laughter and a chance for our relationships to continue growing.

I'm looking forward to 12 days off all in a row. 12 days to be with my husband, to rest, to play, to read and to talk. I know there will be delicious coffee because we are carting our Nespresso machine with us. I have saved my most recent Real Simple magazine to read on the plane and I'm going to select one or two books that I want to focus on during my vacation. I'm doing laundry tomorrow so that all of my favorite clothes will be clean and trying to figure out how I can fit one or two games into my suitcase. God is good in my relationships and in my activities.

Until then, I'm purposing to see every day this week as a gift to enjoy. Yesterday, God sustained me to see all 10 of my clients and be fully engaged with each of them. Today, God blessed me with 2 cancellations and a no-show. This made it possible for me to go to the Rock River House of Prayer in the middle of the day and practice playing the piano for an hour. This is also what makes it possible for me to sit and write right now. God is good when my schedule is full and when it is empty.

I'm fighting a cold that has settled in my chest. The coughing fits are intense and inconvenient. They seem to occur most when I am sleeping or meeting with clients. I was up several times last night and have had to excuse myself from sessions because I was coughing so hard that I was crying and feared I would throw up. I was feeling angry this morning because I am still sick and did not sleep well. But, I was convicted by 1 Thessalonians and the command to "rejoice in the Lord always." I chose to start thanking God for everything that I could think of and I asked Him to help change my feelings about today and my coughing. He did. God is good when I am sick and tired and when I am well and rested.

God is good in all circumstances and in every season. His goodness is toward you today.

Still Counting Gifts:

  • #929: God loved on me today and I was able to recognize it
  • #930: I am being healed from my cold
  • #931: God is giving me supernatural strength in my physical weakness
  • #932: My dad showed up while I was practicing the piano and surprised me
  • #933: A really, fun, ugly Christmas sweater party
  • #934: Winning the prize for the ugliest outfit
  • #935: Celebrating one year since Ben and I started dating
  • #936: 2nd annual coffee social for Rockford Roasting Co. at Rockford Art Deli
  • #937: Seeing Ben drum with Lights of Albion
  • #938: Holiday mint m&m's

Thursday, December 5, 2013

2 books that have been a gift to me this week

A Million Little Ways, by Emily P. Freeman, is one that has been working on me for a few weeks now. The main premise is that we are all made to create art because we are made in God's image. This isn't necessarily art as we tend to think of it. It is more the idea that who we are and all that we do is art in the unique expression of who God has made us to be.

This book has been coaxing me into exploring art that I had previously ruled out, for various reasons. I decided to start piano lessons after a decade away so that I can finally learn how to play worship music by chords. I am starting to think that the extra time I have been finding in my schedule because I am seeing fewer clients might be a gift from God so that I can read, think and write. God seems to be offering me space to rediscover abandoned dreams and cultivate my creative interests. I'm not your typical art kid and my creativity has always felt more internal than expressive, but I'm want to allow my understanding of my strength, gifts and calling to expand as I connect with God and learn more about who He has created me to be.

The chapter I finished this week explored Psalm 46:10 in a new way for me. "Fail and know that I am God." Emily suggests that it may be in our failures where we find opportunities to know God more. Failures are usually devastating for me; even small ones. So the idea that my failure is actually a gift so that I can experience God more intimately was so encouraging and reassuring.

Becoming Myself, by Staci Eldredge, was given to me just this week. I started reading it when I had a cancellation and have been startled by how it has already impacted me. Twice, I have felt completely undone and found myself crying. This book is about transformation and how it is always rooted in the incredible love of God. We change from the inside out as we encounter His love.

Chapter 2 is about our life stories and how we understand them. Staci offers simple questions to facilitate reflection throughout the book. Rule-follower that I am, I force myself to consider each one. As a result, I have discovered that a core fear I have is that I am not enjoyable. I know that people enjoy me, but I fear that it is because of what I do and not who I am. God is exposing this lie and affirming that He and others enjoy me, as myself, and not for anything external that I offer.

Ben has referred to these as "sister-books" because of how God is using them, in tandem, to connect with me and bless my heart. I am a little apprehensive because God is doing yet another deep and somewhat painful work in me. But, I am mostly excited by how He is lavishing His love on me and healing my heart so that I can connect more with Him, which gives me such joy and peace.

How is God blessing you this week?

Monday, December 2, 2013

What a difference a year makes

On December 2, 2012, I was at home at my parent's house. I know that it was a Sunday, but I don't remember exactly what I did.

What I do know is that I was still thinking about how I had finally reconnected with Ben Striker at a burn at the Rock River House of Prayer the day before. I know that I was trying not to think about him romantically and that I was feeling proud of myself for reconnecting with him like a normal person after two years of separation and the strong attraction that I had immediately felt for him.
Christmas 2012

What I didn't know is that he would have a mutual friend text me just two days later to ask if she could give him my phone number. I did not know that we would have our first date just five days later, be dating after only two weeks or be engaged by Valentine's Day. I definitely could not have imagined that we would be married by the end of September.

I have been thinking a lot about how quickly things can change and how years of unanswered prayers can suddenly be answered. I think about all that has changed in my life while other things are remarkably still the same. I have been thinking, "This time last year..." and wondering what will be this time next year. Between remembering the past and anticipating the future, I find that I am missing out on the present.
Christmas 2011

December is a full month for me and I know that it is this way for many people. I know that I am out of the practice of savoring each day, again. My days feel more like burdens and to-do lists than gifts. I have less joy and peace and more anxiety.

So, I am back to searching for God in my everyday life. I am practicing His presence and looking for where He is at work in me and around me. I am counting every gift that I find and asking Him to satisfy me once more with Himself. I am asking God to expand my gaze so that it includes more of Him and not just me.

December 2010
Still Counting Gifts:

  • #914: Starting my second year of life with Ben
  • #915: Time to write, think and read
  • #916: How A Million Little Ways is inspiring me
  • #917: Starting piano lessons
  • #918: Extending myself grace when I don't practice for two full weeks after my first lesson
  • #919: How our basement space is feeling more and more like home
  • #920: Staring at my Christmas tree
  • #921: I survived another Turkey Trot despite running only twice since my wedding
  • #922: Ordering my wedding photo book
  • #923: My name change is closer to complete
  • #924: New perspective on who I am and what God has given me passion to pursue
  • #925: God's love is stronger than even the most devastating feelings
  • #926: Seeing hope find fertile soil in a person's heart
  • #927: Trusting God with my business and how many people I see
  • #928: Learning how God wants me to spend myself