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As we have stumbled through these frigid, snowy, obscenely cold days of January and February, perhaps you have held onto some new year’s resolutions to become a kinder, thinner, healthier version of yourself. I love setting goals, and I spend my professional life trying to help people move toward personal goals for change. And although I have a slew of things I’d like to work on, I don’t want to get so busy striving, accomplishing, completing, finishing, and improving that I miss out on living, enjoying, resting and being.

Between my book release and a variety of family and personal obligations, the first two months of 2014 have been exciting, but also exhausting and chaotic. They have also reminded me of my desire for 2014 to be a year of traveling light.

Last December, Jeff and I flew to Houston to celebrate the birthday of a dear friend. We continuously marveled at how easy it was to travel without our kids. We sped through the airport with only carry-on suitcases. No backpacks crammed with portable DVD players and crayons and books. No sippee cups or bottles or snacks. No babies in diapers or toddlers who forget to pee unless asked repeatedly and even then have accidents in the most inopportune moments. No complaining or whining or questions. No messing with car seats or strollers. No back pain from hauling multiple children and all their stuff from place to place. 

It was just us, and we were - actually, physically - traveling light. 

I love the whole metaphor of traveling light, but living that reality is difficult. And although a weekend away makes it feel easier, traveling light isn't really about leaving the kids behind any more than it's about quitting a stressful job or cutting off a challenging relationship.

Traveling light doesn’t mean throwing aside the hard stuff in my life. Rather, it’s about learning to live in those places without being buried under them. To live with a lightness in my attitude that acknowledges the darkness within myself and others, but fiercely searches for the gentle, the humor, the tenderness and the silly. 

I want to be able to do things spontaneously in my personal or professional life without getting completely stressed out by the whole process of shifting gears. I want to be patient with my kids instead of feeling rushed and irritated at their slowness, their mess, their kid-ness. I want to use a calm voice instead of an angry one. And I want it to be because I actually feel calm inside, not just because I'm using my "I'm a good mom and look how patient I'm being in this teachable moment" voice. 

running light

A few years ago I ran a half-marathon with Team in Training. I had never been a distance runner, and a group of us trained together for several months in preparation. Over Saturday morning long runs we got to know each other, both in personality and running style. One of my teammates, Shelley, was a natural athlete and a much faster runner than me. On race day, however, she had to make a pitstop in the first mile that slowed her down. Consequently (and unbeknownst to me) she ended up running behind me for the first several miles of the race. 

Somewhere between miles 8 and 10 I started dragging. Wondering if I could really, actually do this thing. And suddenly, Shelley whizzed past me. I didn't expect to see her until the finish line, and it was an unexpected gift. As I watched her fly by, I was immediately struck by Shelley’s light and easy stride. She didn’t look like a runner who was frantically trying to make up lost time; instead, she looked easy and relaxed, like she was out for an afternoon job.

“She is running light,” I thought to myself. And I immediately realized what I was doing wrong. Heavy feet, heavy breathing, eyes on the ground, doubting thoughts. "Look up,” I said to myself. "Watch Shelly. Run light. Breathe. Run light." And I did. And it made all the difference.  

When I crossed that finish line, it was one of my proudest moments. Some of those 13.1 miles were exhilarating, easy and fun. Others were painful, exhausting and boring. But running light got me through it. 

As meaningful as it was to complete that race, how much more do I want to cross the finish line of this year (this season, this experience, etc) with pride in my relationships, my work, my marriage and my parenting?

I want to travel light - not by leaving the hard things behind, but by loosening my grip on control, breathing through the pain, and really learning over and over again what it means to pray.

I want to travel light.


What about you? What does traveling light mean for you? 



Remember to check out my latest book, Things Your Mother Never Told YouSarah Bessey, author of Jesus Feminist, calls Things Your Mother Never Told You, "Redemptive, wise, practical, honest and tender." 

And if you're close to Chattanooga, you are invited to my book release party next Wednesday, March 5 at The Camp House at 7 pm, with special guests Lisa Williams of Living Water for Girls, Eric Peters and Charity Lusk-Muse. Desserts provided and drinks available at the coffee bar. Hope to see you there!


 
 
Today I want to share with you an official invitation to my book launch party being held in just a few weeks in Chattanooga. 

If you've read my book, then you already know it's a HUGE honor to have Lisa Williams coming to town to speak and share her story, her passion and her heart!  I'm also honored to have two fantastic musicians. Eric Peters is a gifted singer-songwriter who writes songs about faith and doubt, depression and joy in ways that are so honest they bring me to tears. You don't want to miss him.  And my dear friend, Charity Lusk-Muse, has been leading worship at events with me since my first conference, and it is an honor to share the stage with her. My sweet friend, Linda Townsend, will have Trades of Hope products for sale, an organization which empowers and promotes women worldwide. David Sternberg, pastor of Bridge Christian Church, and Jeff Eckert, proud husband, will say a few words as well. 

Desserts will be served (free!!), and tasty hot beverages will be available for purchase from the coffee bar.   

And, of course, I'll have copies of my books available for purchase. I'll be drinking my decaf coffee, giving hugs and generally being overwhelmed with gratitude for the gift of being able to write this book and share its message. So if you're anywhere close to Chattanooga, I would absolutely LOVE for you to join us! 

 
 
Today, I am excited to share one final excerpt from my new book, Things Your Mother Never Told You, which is now available on Amazon.com! Normal blog posts will resume next week, but I so appreciate all of you for reading along and journeying with me. 

If you have gotten a copy of my book, would you consider taking a few minutes to write a brief review on amazon? My publisher tells me this is super helpful, and I would be so grateful!

The following paragraphs are taken from the last chapter of the book, "Redemptive Sexuality," in which I explore the shape of God's love and the beautiful mystery of sexuality. I also tell the story of Lisa Williams - you can read about her amazing work rescuing girls from the sex trade and her own powerful story of resilience, hope and change here

I am honored beyond words that Lisa Williams will be a guest speaker at my book launch party at the Camp House on March 5 at 7 pm. More info will be coming, but I do hope you will join us for an evening in which we celebrate the light that can come out of darkness. The amazingly talented Eric Peters will be performing, and you can also pick up some cute scarves or jewelry at my friend Linda's Trades of Hope booth. It will be a special evening, and I hope you will join us!

Sexuality: who we are and who we are becoming

In one of the most familiar passages in the Bible, the shape of God’s love is described perfectly: “For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). God so loved that He gave; this is the essence of God’s sacrificial love.[1] God has a nature, and that nature is life and love. 

As we seek to reflect the shape of God’s love in our own lives, we can ask ourselves: what do we so love? My 8 year-old son so loves video games that his perfect day would be a marathon of the Wii, iPad and computer. When we first explained why excessive video game time is not good for him, he responded with, “But this is just the way I am!” 

It is easy to write this off as a silly example of a kid trying to get his own way, but don’t we all have things that get in the way of God growing us up? What do you so love that you spend excessive time or energy pursuing it? Perhaps you love shopping, being liked, Facebook, being right, getting attention from men, working out, drinking wine, Pinterest, or sex? 

If I look at my life, my heart, my sin and my struggle and say to God, “This is just the way I am,” then I am asking God to stop his work in me. I am essentially asking him to love me less, not more!

God is love, and love that leaves us where we are is not really love. God meets us where we are at, but He also gently and inexorably takes us to where we are going. One can envision God as the artist who is continually re-drawing us. When we justify ourselves as we are, then we keep God from transforming us into who we truly are in Christ. Sexuality is about who we are as women created in God’s image, but it is also about who we are becoming and how we live, whether young or old, married or single.

Embrace the mystery. The messages we receive about our identity as gendered beings and what we do with that in our sexual behavior are varied. When we consider gender identity, gender roles, views on sexual practices for single and married folks, how to respond to questions about sexual orientation or masturbation or sexual freedom within marriage – it is easy to view sexuality as a complicated problem. Instead, we need to approach sexuality for what it is: a mystery

When we embrace the mystery, we can move away from contradictory, black and white messages about sex in our churches and popular culture in which sex is either evil or god. We can avoid viewing sexuality through a reductionistic lens where it is merely particular acts. Sexuality is a mystery to be approached with appreciation of God’s creative power, not a problem to be solved with quick answers or political stances. Instead of searching for prescriptive formulas that can be applied to all, we can appreciate the fact that our sexuality is a dynamic, living representation of God’s love being worked out in and through us. 

[1] I am grateful to Pastor David Sternberg for his insights on this passage in a sermon given at Bridge Christian Church on August 26, 2012.

Taken from Things Your Mother Never Told You by Kim Eckert. Copyright (c) 2014 by Kim Gaines Eckert. Used by 
permission of InterVarsity Press, P.O. Box 1400, Downers Grove  IL 60515-1426. 
http://www.ivpress.com/cgi-ivpress/book.pl/code=4309


Read more by ordering Things Your Mother Never Told You here!
 
 
Dear friends,
This week I received an email from a staff member at IVP who came across my book, and I couldn't wait to share it with you all: 

"My friend and I were talking today about how crazy good your book is. We're both 23 and wish we would have read it in high school or did a small group bible study with it at the time because that was when our view of sex was distorted. And yet, reading it now we realize how applicable it is to women of all ages and I told my guy friend he should read it too (honestly, I think men should read it). I love how you focus on personhood and the whole of sexuality. I have a lot of wounds related to the topic and I'm finding it healing and refreshing to read something profound & blunt, yet so focused on redemption too. Bless you for writing this book. I doubt it was easy, but I'm so glad you did. Be encouraged."  

I am SO encouraged and so thankful to this young woman for taking the time to reach out and share her experience with me. Writing this book has been hard -- so very hard -- but so good too. And I am grateful for the opportunity to speak words of God's grace and love, truth and redemption into women's lives. 

Today I am excited to share another excerpt from my book, which comes out in just one week! 

In Things Your Mother Never Told You, various sources of disappointment and confusion in our lived experiences of sexuality are explored, and how to grow in wholeness in our sexuality. I hope you will enjoy this excerpt. 

AND... if you haven't ordered your own copy yet, you have a few more days to get it for just $9!! See the end of this post for more details and a discount code!  

The Up-All-Night-Screamer

When I was pregnant with my first child I used to imagine what it would be like once our baby boy arrived. Images from Gerber commercials invaded my mind as I pictured my husband and I snuggling each other and our little one, holding hands and gazing into our baby’s eyes. With eyes welling up with tears, we would admire each other for the beautiful child we had created.

Thankfully, we did have moments like those – and they were precious and sacred – but we also had other kinds of moments. Moments like the night when, after having not slept more than 3 hours in a row for weeks, I was wandering the house at four am with blood-curdling screaming in my ear after having fed, rocked, changed and done any number of dance moves and lullabies for my baby. Instead of sweet looks of appreciation at my husband for his fine baby-making skills, I gruffly woke him and borderline tossed the baby at him while barking, “You take him now!” Although this is a scene that many parents may relate to, it is not the stuff of baby food commercials.

Sometimes reality does not meet our expectations. So it is with our sexuality. Most of us grow up assuming that our life will lead to a Hollywood style Happily Ever After: we will meet a great guy, get married, buy a nice house and have some cute kids. In the fairy tale, couples always still feel as sexually attracted to each other as the day they met. They have an exciting and spontaneous sex life, in which each partner has as much great sex as they want.

What happens when the realities of life do not meet our expectations? Sexuality is a gift, and it is good. This is what sexuality is, but it may not necessarily be what sexuality feels like to us. Perhaps you have never married and are tired of feeling like you have no outlet for your sexual desires and longings for intimacy. Maybe you are single again after being divorced or widowed, and you are missing the opportunity for sexual expression inherent in marriage. Perhaps you are currently married but disappointed in your sexual relationship, because of boredom, pain, dysfunction, or lack of desire. You might be experiencing the challenge of living as a sexual being in the midst of challenges like infertility, pregnancy, or menopause. Perhaps your frustration is related to your partner’s desire or sexual performance.  

While we may long to experience our sexuality as God designed it, the reality of our lives and circumstances sometimes leads to feelings of isolation, disappointment and guilt. We think we’re getting the Gerber baby, and instead we get the up-all-night-screamer.

Read more about coping with disappointment in your sexuality in Things Your Mother Never Told You...

Taken from Things Your Mother Never Told You by Kim Eckert. Copyright (c) 2014 by Kim Gaines Eckert. Used by permission of InterVarsity Press, P.O. Box 1400, Downers Grove  IL 60515-1426. 
http://www.ivpress.com/cgi-ivpress/book.pl/code=4309

To Order Things Your Mother Never Told You for only $9... Click here and enter code 506-371 at checkout. This code is only good through January, and you have to order $25 to get free shipping, so order a few copies or pick up some great IVP titles (like Sacred Rhythms by Ruth Haley Barton or Refuse to Do Nothing by Shayne Moore...) 

 
 
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This past week an “IVPress” package arrived on my doorstep. I squealed (really, there is no other word for it), and my 3 year old daughter promptly starting squealing too. Because when an adult squeals, it can only mean good things for a kid, right?

As I held the box in my hands and got ready to tear into it, I felt her chubby little arms sneak around my neck. “Is it happy, Momma?”

Wow. Those are the moments that stop me in my tracks. And so instead of opening it myself, I let my little girl rip open the box with glee. I watched with big happy tears as she gasped when she saw my picture on the back cover, “It’s you, Momma!” Honestly, I don’t know that I’ve ever felt so proud.

So today, with genuine pride and joy, I want to share a brief excerpt from the book's second chapter (titled "More Than An Act") and a bit of my passion for restoring a healthy, whole sexuality for women and men alike. As always, thanks for reading and joining me on this journey!

And if you haven’t gotten a chance to order my book yet, IVP is allowing me to share a code with ALL readers to get the book for only $9! More info on that at the end of this post. 

So here goes: my first ever excerpt from Things Your Mother Never Told You...

After getting my kids to bed and collapsing onto the couch last week, I grabbed the remote to wind down after a long day of managing sibling tiffs and power struggles. A familiar sitcom with sexually charged banter and dialogue flashed onto the screen. A man in his 20s, speaking to a buddy about a mutual female friend, stated confidently, “I’d do her!” This phrase gave me pause. How many times have I heard folks, men and women alike, reduce God’s gift of sexual union to a mere behavioral release: “doing it,” or the even more dehumanizing, “doing her” or “doing him?” 

Lately, I have been struck by how folks are tossing around the word, “sexy.” Instead of this word being relegated to descriptions of men and women who are dressed or behaving in particularly erotic ways, it is being applied to a wide range of activities or objects. Ariel Levy notes this pattern in her book, Female Chauvinist Pigs, in which she challenges ways that women have internalized the culture’s hypersexualization: “For something to be noteworthy it must be ‘sexy,’” Levy writes. “Sexiness is no longer just about being arousing or alluring, it’s about being worthwhile.”[1] 

I have heard church pastors apologize that their church activities are “not very sexy.” I have listened to academics discuss certain research topics as more “sexy” than others. I have overheard techies talking about how one computer operating system is “sexier” than another operating system. When did the word “sexy” get co-opted by the general public to mean something that has seemingly little to do with sex? It appears that in our current day and age, the word “sexy” is synonymous with cool, interesting and worthwhile. 

This has broad implications for how we think and feel about sex. If sexy = something that is valuable or worthwhile, then sex = value or worth. What does it mean for us if we equate the value and worth of objects, people and activities with their “sex appeal”?

Sex sells in American culture, and like all American women, I am assaulted on a daily basis by verbal and physical depictions of women in subservient physical and sexual positions. Like the sitcom I stumbled upon, degrading images of female sexuality are everywhere – in magazines and movies, on the Internet, at the shopping mall, at the grocery store with my kids, or walking around town with my husband.  The dehumanizing language and images that we are surrounded by teach important things about sexuality in general and female sexuality in particular. 

Too often in our culture sex is depicted through language and imagery that has little to do with beauty, love and intimacy; rather, sex is presented as a depersonalized and even desexualized act of self-pleasuring involving some other person or even thing. Sexuality becomes simply appetite, friction, desire, or even demand. Hypersexualized advertisements and pornography depict women not as human persons, but as long legs or large breasts – objects of fantasy or pleasure. But this is not the way it’s supposed to be! This is a counterfeit of sexuality as God designed it. We live in a broken world, which has far-reaching effects on our physical bodies, as well as our ideas about sex and gender. We can, however, live out our sexuality in redemptive ways. Living differently, however, begins with transforming the way we think and talk about sex. 

Taken from Things Your Mother Never Told You by Kim Eckert. Copyright (c) 2014 by Kim Gaines Eckert. Used by permission of InterVarsity Press, P.O. Box 1400, Downers Grove  IL 60515-1426. 
http://www.ivpress.com/cgi-ivpress/book.pl/code=4309

[1] (2005). Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture. New York: Free Press, p.31.

To Order Things Your Mother Never Told You for only $9... 

Click here and enter code 506-371 at checkout. This code is only good through January, and you have to order $25 to get free shipping, so order a few copies or pick up some great IVP titles (like Sacred Rhythms by Ruth Haley Barton or Refuse to Do Nothing by Shayne Moore...) 
 
 
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Last night I found this on amazon.com: 

Things Your Mother Never Told You: A Woman's Guide to Sexuality by Kim Gaines Eckert (Feb 3, 2014)
FEBRUARY 3RD! That's less than a month away! My book is being released in just a few short weeks, and I feel a bit like a pregnant woman about to give birth (not sure my nursery is completely ready, excited but nervous, etc...). Amazon is currently offering a discounted pre-order price, but if you subscribe to the blog I will be sending a discount code out in the next week that will allow you to order the book for just $9!! What a bargain :)

Let me introduce you to some people I admire...

One of the things that is both thrilling and nerve-wracking about publishing a book is hearing what others think about it. Today, I am honored to share with you a few words from people whose work I deeply respect. Just the fact that they read my book gives me chills, but to hear their words of affirmation means more than I can say here. Before I share their endorsements, let me offer some introductions. 

Sarah Bessey, author of Jesus Feminist, blogs at www.sarahbessey.com. If you haven't read her yet, you are missing out. She writes about faith and motherhood and marriage in ways that speak to my heart. I have one of her quotes displayed in my kitchen right now: "In this house we use our words to love each other." 

Shayne Moore is a gifted writer and compelling force for social change. She is the president of Redbud Writers Guild, of which I am a proud member. Her first book, GLOBAL SOCCER MOM, was endorsed by Bono. Bono! Need I say more? You can find out more about Shayne's work here.

Marnie Ferree is a licensed therapist and founder of Bethesda Workshops. Marnie is a nationally recognized expert on female sexual addiction. Her first book, No Stones, is the first book to address female sexual addiction from a Christian perspective. More info about Marnie and Bethesda can be found here.   

Doug Rosenau is a Christian sex therapist whose books on healthy sexuality I have used repeatedly in my own office. His book, A Celebration of Sex, should be required reading for newlyweds (in my humble opinion), and his work creating the Sexual Wholeness organization paved the way for conversations like the ones in my book. Read more about the Sexual Wholeness Institute and Doug here.  

Endorsements for Things Your Mother Never Told You

"Redemptive, wise, practical, honest and tender, this book is a welcome addition to the conversation about women's sexuality."
--Sarah Bessey, author of Jesus Feminist

"A refreshingly grace-filled and intelligent discussion on the ever-daunting topic of sex. Every daughter, mother, wife, young single should read this book, share it with friends, and pass it around. Not only will you find things your mother never told you, you will find things society, church and culture never told you. These pages contain a no-nonsense honesty that, if applied, will change our lives and the lives of those we seek to love."
—Shayne Moore, author of Refuse to Do Nothing

"Kim Eckert deepens the discussion about sex to a profound exploration of our sexual soul. Practical and redemptive, this book explores who you are as a woman intimately connected to a loving God, to yourself and to others. Truly a provocative, fabulous read!"
—Marnie C. Ferree, LMFT, CSAT, author of No Stones: Women Redeemed from Sexual Addiction

"Kim Gaines Eckert gives Christian women a much-needed voice on the issue of sexuality. She thoughtfully dispels distorting sexual myths, brings wisdom to cultural pressures and gets to the heart of female concerns. This book conveys hope and redemption within a sexually confusing world. It is an excellent read for men as well as women."
—Doug Rosenau, author of A Celebration of Sex, and coauthor of Soul Virgins


As I read each of these endorsements, I was moved, encouraged, flattered and humbled. Thank you for sharing in this journey with me! As I approach the official release date, I will be sharing a few brief book excerpts in the coming weeks. I promise not to flood your inbox, but I do hope you will join in my excitement to birth this book and engage in open, honest, grace-filled conversations about sexuality and womanhood. 

Peace and grace to you. 
 
 
"So, what is your book about, anyway?"

For me as a writer, this is a daunting question! Hours of research and writing and reflecting flash through my mind. How do I answer that question in a way that honors the time of the person asking, but also accurately reflects my heart?

I am thrilled today to share a three and a half minute video done by the talented folks at InterVarsity Press that does just that. Here, I share a bit about my passion for helping women talk about, understand and experience healthy sexuality. 

I long to help women engage in conversations about sexuality free of shame or embarrassment or nervous laughter. Conversations about sexuality matter because they are really conversations about personhood.

So here is my first official plug for the book and invitation to join the conversation about healthy sexuality. Please take a minute (three minutes, but who's counting?) and watch. I'd love to hear any feedback, and of course please feel free to share with your friends or on social media.

My book comes out next month (!!!!), and in the weeks to come I will be sharing some exciting words of praise from writers I respect and admire. I'll also be sharing a special discount code from IVP for blog subscribers, so if you haven't subscribed already, sign up to get your discount code!

Thanks for reading, and I look forward to hearing your thoughts!
 
 
Recently I was asked to contribute to The Well, a blog for professional Christian women. Emily Dause wrote about the powerful impact seeing a therapist has had on her own life; you can read her poignant story here. As I read her words, my own therapist's heart was full. Read on to see my response... 
Dear Hurting One,

I don’t know you — your fears or your wounds, your worries or your heart. But I know that you are probably scared. You might feel ashamed, embarrassed, or alone. If you have never talked with a therapist, or if you’ve had a bad past experience, then you may have a lot of questions about counseling. Things like:

What will the counselor think of me?

Why do I feel this way?

Am I the only one?

Can a counselor actually help me?

Am I crazy?

Is there hope for me?

I cannot speak for all counselors everywhere, but if you were to walk into my office, I would want you to know a few things about me and about the counseling process.

Being a therapist is my profession, and I take seriously the privilege and responsibility of walking with people in and through dark seasons. I will not be shocked or surprised by anything you tell me, and I genuinely want to hear your story. All of your story — the glossy, pretty, exciting highlights, but also those moments cloaked in shame.

I think a huge part of counseling is being a witness to your story — standing next to you and helping you see and acknowledge and understand your pain and your journey. My job is not to judge or condemn, but to bear witness. To say — Yes, this happened. You felt this. You did that. You had that done to you. And I’m so sorry. Now let me help you unravel what it means and how this thing has woven itself throughout your everyday, walking-around life....

Click here to read the rest of my article, Walking With You to Hope: A Therapist's View

 
 
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To my sweet, kind, wild, tender boys – As we celebrate the first birthday of your baby brother, I am struck by how quickly time has passed. Wasn’t it just last year we watched Tommy dig his hands into Grammy’s homemade block cake for his first birthday?

You are growing into such kind, funny, creative boys – and I see foretastes of the men you will become with each passing day. As you grow up you will learn many stories about what it means to be a man. The stories will be contradictory and confusing

And so now, before I blink an eye and you are towering over me, before you are too cool to hug me in public, before you no longer need me to kiss each hand before you fall asleep, before you stop turning around to make sure I’m still there – let me share my heart with you.

I love the spark and energy you bring to our home and lives. It’s loud and exhausting and chaotic, but it is so full. You have a toughness and a tenderness that reminds me of your dad. It is what I fell in love with, and I want you to fight to hold onto it. You don’t have to grow out of your soft heart. 

You may hear that men are strong and tough, and that’s okay. I want you to be the kind of men who can stand up for yourself and others. To be strong enough to say what you think, but just as eager to listen and learn.

I love your curiosity; I want you to be unflinchingly curious not just about how stuff works but about how people work. Nurture and relationships are not just the domain of girls. May you be the kind of men who pursue and nurture relationships, in friendship as well as in love. Make it a mission to help people feel seen and valued and loved. 

You may learn that men are angry. And I know you get angry now, my sweet boys. Sometimes you get so angry you can hardly breathe. But that's what I want you to do, dear ones. Breathe. Practice the discipline of paying attention to whether your words or actions will hurt someone. I know you get angry and don't know what to with it, but I will be relentless in doing my best to teach you how to stop and breathe. You matter and what you do matters. So choose carefully, dear boys. I want you to be the kind of men who take responsibility for how you feel and what you do with it. I will keep trying to model that for you, though goodness knows I am far from perfect. So be gentle and patient with me. 

As you grow up, you will hear the lie that men cannot control themselves and are always and only after one thing from women. That is not the way it’s supposed to be, my precious boys. Your dad and I will do everything in our power to teach you to respect women and men and boys and girls to the core of your being. So you will not see anyone as an object to be consumed but all as precious creatures made in the image of God.  “Boys will be boys” will have no place in our home.

Some will tell you that falling in love is about finding a beauty to rescue. But if you've learned anything from watching your dad and I love each other, I pray you will want more than that. A best friend to do life with. A partner in crime. A buddy. A lover. Someone to make beauty out of ashes with. And if you do love right, you and your future partner will rescue each other.

When you become a teenager, you’ll probably be introduced to an unspoken “guy code” that tells you to play it cool and be independent. I hope you will abide by a different code, following God and yourself instead of the status quo. Don’t leave an extra seat between you and your buddy at the movies. Go against the guy code and be intentional about pursuing real community with other men. This is one of the things I love most about your dad, and it is one of my deepest longings for you.  

I want you to be free to love each other as you are, in which differences are not threats or deficits. Every time I hear you brag about each other’s creations or accomplishments, my heart wells up with joy. May genuine appreciation, rather than competition or scarcity, mold your relationships. You are not and don’t need to be exactly the same to love each other well.

Your lives matter, my precious boys. The space you take up on this planet matters. So use it well, not to posture or climb or make yourselves better or richer or stronger than others. Instead, use your life to love well, to pursue and seek intimacy, and to find a passion to make the world a better place for you having been in it. 

And above all, sweet ones, I want you to know to the depth of your being that you are so loved. You are loved by us, but - somehow - loved even more by God. And I pray you will hear and feel and see that love in every tender word spoken and every boundary held up by us.

You are loved.
You are loved.
You are loved.  

- Your Mom
 


 
 
“I sometimes wonder if my knowledge about God has not become my greatest stumbling block to my knowledge of God.”  - Henri Nouwen

In 1st grade I discovered that I could earn stuff for memorizing Bible verses. In Whirlybirds, we got pins for our beanies. At church camp, we got points for our team. One summer I helped my team toward victory by memorizing an entire chapter of the gospel of John.

Many of my friends who grew up in the church tell similar stories. My husband earned money for books for memorizing 100 Bible verses per year. One friend memorized an entire book of the Bible to win a contest. Another friend memorized scriptures each week to earn tickets for an end-of-the-year carnival at the church.

I have been learning scripture and marking up my Bible since I was a little girl. As an adult, certain passages of scripture are so familiar I can breathe them into my heart when I am struggling without even having to think about it. This is a gift, and I am grateful for it.

Sometimes, however, my familiarity with scripture actually gets in the way of my relationship with an active, living God. I know some of the words in the Bible so well that I mistakenly think I know all of them. Or the words are so familiar that I involuntarily tune out when the familiar chorus begins.

As a child I recited the words of John 3:16 so many times it sounded more like one big word, as in “Forgodsolovedtheworldthathegavehisonlyson…” And the craziness of God’s radical love got a little lost sometimes. When I look around our world today, I don’t think that’s the message people get very much. That God SO loves the world, SO loves them that He gave his son for us.

Here is the truth: I want to know God. I want to want to know God. But sometimes that desire gets transformed into a checklist, like the series of never-finished one-year Bibles lined up on my bookshelf. I have great intentions about how meaningful it would be to read the entire Bible in a year or two, but the project quickly becomes far from meaningful. My eyes begin gliding over the words just so I can get to the bottom of the page, and at the end of the day I might not even know what I read. Instead of reading scripture to know God more, I am just reading it to say I read it.

I want reading God’s word to be transforming, not just a task. I want my heart to sound more like the Psalmist: “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth...they are the joy of my heart.” 

For some of you, Bible reading has been woven into your life since you were a child. For others, reading the Bible may sound like a foreign and unnecessary concept. Whether you have a Bible degree or have never opened the Bible for yourself, today I want to introduce you to a spiritual formation practice that transformed my spiritual life. 

Lectio Divina is an experiential, personal way to approach scripture. A way to savor God’s word like honey to your mouth in which God’s word is approached for relationship and transformation, rather than for knowledge and information.

It is not meant to take the place of studying scripture for its theological, historical or contextual meaning, but to help you walk in relationship with God. It has breathed new life into my relationship with Scripture and with God, and I hope it will touch your soul deeply as well.

This week I want to encourage you to take 15 minutes to read a familiar passage of scripture (such as Psalm 23) in a new way. Lectio Divina is made up of five movements:   

Silence. Take several minutes to allow your thoughts to settle and become aware of your desire to listen to God’s voice.Utilize the practices we have already explored in this series to silence your heart and mind and put yourself in God’s presence. 

Lectio (Read). Slowly read Psalm 23 (or another reasonably short passage). Allow the words to settle in your heart. Listen for a word or phrase that stands out and catches your attention. It may be a word that brings a strong positive or negative emotion – resonance or resistance. Sit with the word or phrase and repeat it to yourself without analyzing it or trying to figure out what it means.

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,

he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul.

He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me;

your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.

You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 
Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,

and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
 forever.

 
Meditatio (Meditate). Read the passage a second time. Listen to how the word or phrase that stood out to you connects with your life right now. What is in your life that needed to hear that today? If the text is a story, then ask where you are in the story.

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,

he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul.

He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley, 
I will fear no evil, for you are with me;

your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.

You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 
Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,

and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
 forever.

Oratio (Respond). Read the passage a third time. Respond to God and the word or phrase that has stood out to you. What could God be asking or challenging or speaking to you in this passage? Where are you wanting to push back? Become aware of your feelings. If the scripture touched your heart in a place of pain or brokenness, share those feelings with the God who loves you.

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,

he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul.

He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley, 
I will fear no evil, for you are with me;

your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.

You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 
Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,

and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
 forever.

Contemplatio (Contemplate). Read the passage a fourth time. Allow the words to settle deeper into your heart. Resolve to live out the word or phrase (incarnatio) in your walking around, everyday life. 

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,

he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul.

He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley, 
I will fear no evil, for you are with me;

your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.

You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 
Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,

and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
 forever.


I hope you have enjoyed this series on spiritual formation strategies. For more information on Lectio Divina or other resources, check out Renovare or The Transforming Center.  


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