a new year, and God in the snow

[vc_row fullwidth=”true”][vc_column][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row column_padding=”3″][vc_column width=”1/3″][vc_custom_heading text=”A NEW YEAR, AND GOD IN THE SNOW” font_container=”tag:h1|font_size:30|text_align:left” use_theme_fonts=”yes”][mk_dropcaps style=”fancy-style” size=”80″ background_color=”#ffffff” text_color=”#000000″]I[/mk_dropcaps][vc_column_text css=”.vc_custom_1516315353848{margin-bottom: 0px !important;}”]t is cold the morning we climb. Strap snowshoes onto our boots. Head out while still dark. House quiet. Kids asleep.

The break has been needed. Away from home. The pace of running too fast, too long. I look up here. White aspens, bare fingers stretch to the most pale blue sky.

I am a Three on the Enneagram, which means slowing is counterintuitive. Going forward, doing what feels productive, is what feels comfortable.

But this is not what is best for my soul.

It takes intention, this battle for the health of my heart.

This is the second time I climb the snow-packed hill. The first is on a whim. In a restful house full of friends and family hundreds of miles from home, days before New Year’s, I pull on boots and walk into approaching dusk.

To walk in beauty. To look for Father’s footsteps. To grasp Jesus’ hand. To listen for Holy Spirit’s voice.

It is a hard, steep climb, my feet not accustomed to the snowshoes’ width, legs tired from skiing most of the day. Half-way up, I have to start pausing to catch my breath. And then begin counting steps each time I stop. 80. 100. Keep going ‘til you get to that fence, then that tree.

At the top, my calves burning, I am quiet. My God is quiet too. I feel no pressure to find words. Whether I can feel Him or not, my heart knows He is here. I am confident He is close. I am a daughter who loses her way, a daughter He, over and over again, tucks in close and brings home.

He is with me, in the silence, in the waiting. And I want to remember His presence with me here. So I bend forward where I kneel, my knees crunched in snow. And I pick up a piece of wood, a smoothed, flattened nub of branch, a half-inch wide and two-inches long. It is tucked in the snow at the top of the hill. Here, I remember, is where I climbed, and waited, and anticipated the presence of God.

It is quiet here. Darkness falling. And I don’t hear anything–not His voice, not a nudge, not a whisper. But I recognize His presence. I feel his breath, the cold air on my face. He is with me. That is enough. I stand, holding the stick in my right pocket. My left hand holding Jesus’ as I walk down.

* * * 

I want to climb the hill again.

It is early morning of New Year’s Day, two days after my afternoon walk, when Justin and I climb together. It is much easier this time—legs fresh, lungs determined. We speak little, listening to the crunch of snow under boots, the sound of our breath in our wool-covered ears. We watch the sky begin to turn. Deep blue. Slightly pink-gold. We reach the top and stand, holding hands, consecrating this moment, this morning, this day, this year to Him.

We pray, give our hearts again to our Father. God, what do you have to say?

And I hear Him this time. Justin prays aloud at this very beginning of the new year, his hand in mine, our boots in snow, the sun rising behind mountains, his voice speaking out thanksgiving, hope, promise, return. And I hear the voice of my Father, his voice in my heart, speaking over us: the promise of hope in the midst of trial, his presence equipping us to face challenges as we lean into Him, standing in his truth, fighting alongside Him.

And this standing with Him . . . begins with fighting for our own hearts.

Fighting for my own heart is something I have been neglecting to do for months now. Many months. What I love to do? What I am made to do? These things I have been ignoring. I have been chasing the satisfaction of the urgent rather than the important. And what is urgent is often a distraction from the important—a task, a request, a situation that, actually, ironically, can usually wait. For the important pulls me into deeper relationship with God. The important fuels what I need for the urgent. The important is both practical and romantic—a move, an action, a decision that leads to falling more deeply in love with my Father.

And above all else, I want to fall more deeply in love with God.

He keeps speaking, the sun glistening on snow. And, while of course I know He knows I hear Him, I want to acknowledge my own hearing, I want to respond. He is asking me to stand. He is promising that I will stand. He is inviting me to trust Him and follow Him and stand.

And the sacred echoes of his voice continue, as I listen, and I wait, and I respond—my heart hungry to answer the call of the Father, the call of the important, not the urgent.

I learn that “stand,” in Hebrew, means to endure, to remain—to stand both in body and attitude.

Father, this is what I want to do: stand with You, in every way. My whole heart is Yours.

And Justin and I walk down.

What excites you about this new year? How is God inviting you to fall more deeply in love with Him?

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your one practical step toward Jesus this Advent

[vc_row][vc_column width=”2/3″][vc_single_image image=”5735″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][vc_single_image image=”5733″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][vc_single_image image=”5736″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][vc_single_image image=”5734″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][vc_single_image image=”5737″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/3″][vc_custom_heading text=”YOUR ONE PRACTICAL STEP TOWARD JESUS THIS ADVENT (+ FREE GIFT FOR YOU)” font_container=”tag:h1|font_size:30|text_align:left” use_theme_fonts=”yes”][mk_dropcaps style=”fancy-style” size=”80″ background_color=”#ffffff” text_color=”#000000″]I[/mk_dropcaps][vc_column_text css=”.vc_custom_1512606531883{margin-bottom: 0px !important;}”]tell them I’ve been running. Running and running and asking God to keep up. And it is tiring, depleting.

Of course.

Especially during this Advent season.

Jesus, help us prepare You room.

First, I confess it with friends as we pray–joining with community as I consecrate my heart. Then we seek wisdom. We ask God if we are more inclined to trust his plans for us or the plans we set for ourselves.

Yeah, we know the right answer– the answer we’re supposed to give. Trust God’s plans. Surrender our own. But we need to ask our Papa his take on our hearts. God’s wisdom brings clarity and depth we can never reach on our own.

And that’s when I see the picture of me running.

He shows me myself–the pace I set, the drive to go and go, the lie of productivity that tells me more accomplished is better than less.

My pace. My terms. My race.

Especially, ironically, this time of year.

Where are you, Papa?

Daughter, I am right here.

And I see him. He is close. But . . . he is on the side of me, then behind me. As I run and run and don’t look back.

Leading my own way. Running and just hoping God is with me.  But I am not checking to see whether or not he is.

Oh,  Jesus, forgive me. I make so little room for you.

I have so much more for you, my daughter. More, in abundance. More and more– the depth of which you can’t even imagine.

For I’ve been setting the plans. And my plans, compared to God’s, are so small, so limited. My capacity–with this pace, this mindset–is more limited still.

I  need to hear it again:

I have so much more for you, my daughter. More, in abundance. More and more– the depth of which you can’t even imagine.

Advent invites opportunity for space, for pausing, for asking God what, for us, he has. But I struggle.  Yes, because of pride, surrendering our own agendas can be so hard.

So I make it practical. I tell my friends that at 9 pm each night, I will shut the computer, turn off the phone, put away work, and rest and turn to my God. That was two days ago. And sisters this has not been easy. And I have not been perfect. But it is so good. So nourishing. So vital and life-giving for my heart.

What does turning toward God, making room for Jesus, look like for you, in a practical way, this Advent?

How are you invited to worship him? What will you do to help yourself pause, and turn?

The temptation for busyness, so contrary to the invitation of preparing room in our hearts for our Savior, feels amplified tenfold during this season of Advent. Jesus invites us to not only slow, but make him room.  And we can choose convenience and comfort–the pace of running. Or we can choose waiting, surrendering, trusting.

Jesus, help us turn toward you.

I love his reminders of goodness, freedom, and hope:

Daughter, I don’t despise your running. But in your efforts to achieve your own plans, you are running your own race, you are missing Me. You are not running with Me.

Our busyness during this Advent and Christmas season can build in increments so it is difficult to recognize. Until we feel lonely. Lost. Hollow. Depleted. Afraid. Eventually, busyness becomes the routine.

Our consumption of his Word, and his voice in our heart, becomes squeezed. Short moments here and there. We forget what it feels like to settle into our Papa’s arms, remembering what Advent is. And I don’t want to miss it.

In Loop Advent, I ask God what He thinks of Advent. And this is what I hear him say:

Advent is the time of waiting for what is already here, who has already come. It is a time of turning–turning inward to study your heart. Turning inward to listen for my voice. Turning inward to heed what is true. Advent is for emptying oneself to receive joy in abundance. (from Loop Advent)

Turning. Emptying. Receiving. Yes, our Father continues to gives us good gifts to our hearts. Will you join me this Advent, turning toward the love of our Father? Asking him to empty us and fill us again, and again, with his more?

What does that look like for you, practically, this Advent season?

And as we turn toward Jesus this season, I wanted to be let you know about the special offer of Loop Advent being offered, for free, on Amazon, until December 10. And the audio version of Loop Advent, for free, right here.[/vc_column_text][vc_btn title=”GET LOOP ADVENT” color=”peacoc” size=”lg” align=”center” i_icon_fontawesome=”fa fa-gift” button_block=”true” add_icon=”true” link=”url:https%3A%2F%2Floopforwomen.com%2Floop-advent%2F||target:%20_blank|”][vc_column_text css=”.vc_custom_1512603088609{margin-bottom: 0px !important;}”]I can’t wait to hear from you, sisters.

Tell me your movement toward Jesus, and we can join together, praying for one another this season.

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ten things to get yourself closer to God

I spend the morning doing the usual last minute things you do when you and your husband are on your way out of town for the week and your mom is coming to keep the kids alive. Well it’s not the kids you’re worried about. They’re now old enough so that, hypothetically, not too many things should go wrong.

It’s the dog. He’s a big baby. To be more specific: he’s your big baby. He is super attached to you. When you leave he refuses to eat and he pretends he has go out to relieve himself only to hide under the neighbor’s bush and refuse to come out until you come home.

So, yeah, it was a morning throwing out the old food from the refrigerator and doing last minute laundry folding and trying to shove that last jacket in case it rains into a too-full/too-small duffle bag. (I’m asking for a rolling carry-on for my birthday.)

And then the dog.

There was a lot of worry about the dog. Can my awesome father-in-law come and hang out with him until my mom comes? Will he take him for a walk to cheer him up? Can he give him a massage? Can I get the dog to understand what I say when I tell him I will, indeed, not be gone forever? Please eat. I will come back.

I love him.

But, now we are on the plane, and I can think straight, and I have been assured by my mom that the dog, really, is fine. So, I am finally writing what is on my heart to say to you. What is actually not lame but important:

You are the beloved. You are adored. You are worth fighting for.

Even if the opposite of this feels most real.

Even if you don’t know how to take the first step to believing this.

Even if you don’t know how to get close to God.

Last month (how did time go by so fast?) I promised I would share with you what practical things I do to fight for my own heart when God feels oh, so far away. It has been a season of hard things—and a season of blessing.

There is so much more to say. But for now, let’s start with a simple list.

Are you ready?

Ten Things to Do to Get Closer to God

  1. Get your eyes off of you. When we are focused on our own self—our problems, our issues, our worries, our fears—we forget to look at God. This is super hard to do, right? Particularly when we feel overwhelmed. Stuck. Alone. But we need to do this.

We need to keep the eyes of our heart on God. His abundance. His presence. Right here. Right now. So, be bold—and, even if you don’t feel like it, praise Him for His goodness. Praise Him for His love. Name His attributes and look up verses that remind us of who He is. Speak them aloud. Write them down. Declare their truth over yourself.

Remember:

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
 I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”

 For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler
and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his pinions,
and under his wings you will find refuge” (Psalm 91: 1-4).

  1. Confess to God your brokenness. Ask Him to show you how your heart is struggling. Be specific. Don’t hold back. Don’t worry about your words—how to communicate what your heart is saying.

“Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts,
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting!” (Psalm 139: 23-24).

Just say what is on your mind. Trust your heart. The Holy Spirit will guide you toward Him.

  1. Look at what He’s given. Ask God to show you how He has shown up for you in the past. Remind your own heart of His faithfulness, the gifts He has given you, the way He continues to press in. How has He healed you? How has He pursued you? How has He helped you?

This is a prayer He loves to answer.

  1. Listen to music that creates space in your heart for God. When we are stuck—when our mind knows that God is close, but our heart struggles to believe it and move toward Him, it can help to listen to music that opens up our heart to Him.

There are certain songs I turn to when I am lonely, when I am far away from my Father and I am desperate for Him to pull me close. They are songs that help my heart be receptive to the Holy Spirit. They usher Him in. They open up heart and mind and spirit to receive more of Him—more of all He has. Check out this playlist I pulled together, for you.

  1. Change your posture. Wake up. Get your body positioned to better receive the presence of the Holy Spirit.  This might mean finding a place of quiet, of removing yourself from distractions. Do whatever it takes—physically—to help yourself be present to Him.

Get on your knees. Or stand up. Lie down. Or raise your hands. Dance. Or run. Walk. Or be still. Concentrate your whole self on thinking about who He is, how He loves you, how He is with you, how He never leaves.

  1. Let your imagination run beautifully wild. Picture yourself with Him—with Jesus, or with God, the Father. Invite in the Holy Spirit and give Him full access to your mind. Let Him open up your heart. Ask Him to show you a scene—just you and God or Jesus. Stay there.

What does He look like? What is He doing? What are you doing? Where are you with Him? How do you feel? Stay there as long as you can. Stay. Let him show you what it is He sees when He looks at you. Let Him love you. Let Him come.

  1. Do something different. If you normally sit down and worship—stand up. If you normally stand, sit down, kneel, or lie down on the floor. Tell your mind to get out of your own way. Let your body respond to your heart. It is telling it what to do to wake yourself up to God’s presence. Trust it.
  1. Just do it—(do what you love). This might mean finding beauty—immersing yourself in it. Or going on an adventure. Or resting and reading a book. You are created to experience God’s presence in a way that is unique to you. Invite in the Holy Spirit to steer you toward an activity that brings you joy—and, in that joy, helps you experience God’s presence. And then do it.
  1. Be a rebel. Go against what your mind is telling you is true about yourself, and about God, and about the world that is actually false. Our Savior has risen up against the lies about ourselves and about the truth of who God—and who our Savior—is. He rises up again and again, just as the lies sneak in again and again.

Jesus never forsakes us. He never leaves us. He knows our hearts and how we need Him. He knows the false messages of the enemy and entreats us to pray—activate the armor He has given us. I am currently spending time, with sisters, in this study, by Priscilla Shirer. We can’t be passive, sisters. We have what it takes to stand, to be bold, to send to the foot of the cross the lies that threaten to pull us under.

Break the agreements you have made with the enemy about who you are, and who God is. Then you will hear Him and see Him and move with Him more easily. You can read more about this here. Go.

  1. Accept healing.This is big. This is the beginning of our life with Jesus—the laying down of our old life for His. This deep healing is difficult to do on our own. God welcomes us into community with Him—and into community with Saints—so that we can help each other toward healing.

This pursuit of deep healing can mean counseling. It can mean sharing our stories and receiving healing prayer. It definitely means doing the hard (and usually painful but necessary and good) work of letting Jesus into the places where we have never let Him in before. We need to let Him transform our wounded, broken hearts and make them whole again.

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion— to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified” (Isaiah 61:1-3).

The plane is about to land soon. And the whole time I am writing I am listening to this album on repeat. God is close, sisters. He is in us. We, the beloved. We, the ones who are loved.

Let’s fight for our own hearts now. He gives us the tools. He will guide us deeper into Him. We are not alone in this fight.

Father, let us step toward you now. Let us see You. Let us hear You. Remind us how we are Yours. Let us live this day believing You are right here.

Sister, what are your thoughts about this list? What would you add? What practical steps do you take to get yourself in the presence of God? I can’t wait to learn from you.

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