Finding Spiritual Whitespace {guest post & book giveaway}

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Do you ever wish you could just slow down and discover who you’d be if your life wasn’t filled with so much rush? 

The other day my friend told me she felt lost: lost in the hurry of carpool and kids, deadlines and dirty laundry… and she was tired, and I shared with her some things I’ve been learning through my friend Bonne Gray’s beautiful book Finding Spiritual Whitespace: Awakening Your Soul to Rest.

In, Bonnie shares how “underneath all of the stress and expectations we put on ourselves, and the ones that others put on us, our souls long for space to breathe.” Bonnie calls it “soul rest: a place where we can rest, not in what we could be or what we should be, but just as we are. Jesus invites us to come to Him when we’re struggling and carrying heavy loads, so He can give us rest.”

bonnie-grayToday I’ve invited, Bonnie to share a peek into her heart and inside the pages of her beautiful book, Finding Spiritual Whitespace.

“I once felt lost and tired.

Even though no one could tell.  By looking at my life from the outside.

But, deep inside, in my secret heart of hearts, I’ve always wanted something I could never quite keep a hold of — not long enough to make it my everyday home.  For my soul and for the me that wanted to be free.

I’ve always wanted to know who I really could be — if I was free to rest.

Do you ever wish life could be different? That somehow you could just rest?

Underneath all the stress, the expectations we put on ourselves and the ones others put on us, we all long for space.

Space to breathe.

Space to just be me.

Where we can be real.

To take care of our hearts, with the grace and kindness we often pour out to others.

LongToBreathe_SpiritualWhitespace

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


We don’t want to be numb anymore.

Just doing.  Coping.  Surviving.

All the while, there is a part of us that longs to come alive.

The part of us who longs for beauty, even though the daily road feels rough.  Or even broken.

The part of us who remembers what it’s like to have desires is hungering for quiet. For rest.

Who wants to feel more intimately connected with God.

To our dreams.

To our stories.

To who we really are deep inside.

Who doesn’t want to hide.

Who longs to be known.

With others.

A Deeper Part

There’s a deeper part of us who longs to uncover the stories we’re living in our everyday lives — hidden — so that they can be shared.

We don’t want to journey alone.

We don’t have to.

What we all long for is deeper rest.

Refreshment.

Comfort.

Real conversation.

Encouragement.

Peace.

Beauty.

As is.

What we all long for is soul rest.

Soul rest is a kind of rest we can savor — not as we should be. Nor as we ought to be.

We can enjoy rest for our souls — as we are.

This ache for soul rest is something Jesus longs to touch.

It is an ache that Jesus himself must have also felt as He journeyed in-the-the-skin through the realities of daily life.

Jesus invites us to experience this rest — by offering us an invitation.

If we dare to take the journey.

“Are you tired? Worn out?

Come to me, all you who are struggling hard and carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest.

For I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

Jesus’s invitation, Matthew 11:28-30

Will you dare to rest? Will you d
are to be real?

To whisper —

I am tired.

But, I still carry dreams. Desires. A story.

I want to be happy.

I miss the quiet.

I want to feel.

I want to let go of who I’ve been — so I can discover who I can be — when I take the time to rest.

I want to be present.

I want to love. And be loved.

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Jesus invites us on a new journey.

To pause.

To draw close.

To come into an intimate special space.

The rest we all long for really can be found.

Dare to take a new journey.

Create space in your life.

Feed your soul.

So you can care for what’s tender.

Because behind your most tired moments lie the deepest parts of who God made you — longing to be known and restored.

You’re loved.

You’re cherished.

You’re worth it.

The real you.

If you dared to rest — to uncover the real you God made — what would you want more of? What would you want less of? What can feed your soul today?”

FindingWhitespace_alt3DHow many of us find ourselves running on empty with no time for rest, no time for ourselves, and no time for God?  Bonnie Gray knows what that’s like. On the brink of fulfilling a lifelong dream, she saw her plans shatter into a journey through painful memories and anxiety. In her search for answers, she made an important discovery: we all need spiritual whitespace

Infused with biblical encouragement and thought-provoking prompts, Finding Spiritual Whitespace shows us how to create space in the everyday for God, refreshment, and faithright in the midst of our stress-frayed lives. And it couldn’t have come at a more perfect time in my life personally. I’ve loved reading this book {more than once}, and I know you will too!
Order a copy here.

Enter to WIN:
What is one way you could carve out time for whitespace and rest this summer? Let’s take time this summer to let our souls be breathe. Click “share your thoughts” and leave a comment under this blog post to enter. Two winners will be selected and announced next week. {if you are reading this via email, please click here to participate in the giveaway on my blog!}

 

Bonnie-familyBonnie Gray is contributor at Crosswalk.com, Relevant Magazine, and DaySpring (in)courage. A UCLA graduate, Bonnie has been missionary, ministry entrepreneur and Silicon Valley high-tech professional. Bonnie blogs at FaithBarista.com in Northern California with her husband Eric and their two sons.

When My Sunday Heart Dreads the Monday Hurry {a promise & a prayer}

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything.
Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.
Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand.
His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.Philippians 4:6-7, NLT

WhenWorryComes

As I look at the week ahead, Lord, my mind is crowded with thoughts and things.
Competing thoughts fight for my attention; cutting in front of each other to be first in line.
Too many things on my to-do list that feel urgent; tempting me to neglect what is most important.

Jesus, I want You to be first in line, leading my days and decisions.
When concerns consume me and worry comes, hel[ me pause and tell You what I need and
thank YOU for what You have already done. I long for Your peace to surpass my understanding,
and for Your promises to guard my heart and my mind as I live in {and follow after} You.
In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.

Fly a Little Higher: a life changing story {+ Book GiveAway}

“Okay, Lord, you can have him. But if he must die, I want it to be for something big.
I want someone’s life to be changed forever.”

This is what Laura Sobiech prayed when she found out her seventeen-year-old son, Zach, had only one year to live. With this desperate prayer, she released her child to God’s will and God answered her prayers in a big way.

One of the things Zach decided to do was write songs as a way to say “goodbye” to his family and friends. And what God did next is indescribable {watch Zach’s video below}

 

Last week Laura and I talked via SKYPE, and I recorded our conversation to share with you so YOUR life to be as impacted as mine has been. Laura’s faith is rare, her wisdom, grace and her poignant perspective will rearrange your heart with hope and comfort. Her’s is an amazing story of a mother’s honest struggle to trust God with her child’s life and a teenage boy’s determination to live his final days with unending purpose and joy!

In my next post, Laura shares what she prayed and how God moved in big ways – in her heart and soul, in Zach’s life and perspective, in her whole family and in millions of lives across the world!! 

God had bigger plans than they could fathom.
In May 2013 a documentary called “My Last Days: Meet Zach Sobiech” was released on the Soul Pancake YouTube channel and went viral – reaching over 12.3 million people within months of its release. During the week of Zach’s death, on May 20, 2013, his song “Clouds” reached #1 on iTunes and made its way up Billboard’s Top 100 chart, debuting at #26, and topping the Rock Digital Downloads at #1.

FALH Target edition coverTARGET Holiday Book Club Pick:
We’re so excited to share the big news that Laura’s memoir, FLY A LITTLE HIGHER: How God Answered a Mom’s Small Prayer in a Big Way” is the Target Holiday Book Club Pick!!

Just released this week, this exclusive edition created for Target is signed by Laura, and has special bonus materials including an in-depth Q&A with Laura, discussion questions for readers, small groups and families, and really powerful devotionals in the back!

Will you join us in praying this message will reach people who don’t know Jesus; hearts who desperately need His grace and love!!

 

FamilyCmasENTER TO WIN
Share your thoughts in the comments about Zach and Laura’s story, and why you’d like to win Fly A Little Higher  or who you’ll give a copy to this Christmas!!

Our family has been so impacted by this book, and Zach’s story, we’re giving it away as our Christmas gift to friends, extended family, co-workers, the kids’ teachers, and whoever else God puts on our heart.

MORE TO COME
I’ll share more of the amazing story behind Fly A Little Higher tomorrow, and a chance to WIN the book and a beautiful “Clouds” necklace. Plus a huge thing God did that connects our lives in a way we didn’t know about. It all unfolded in a way only God could orchestrate.

SUBSCRIBE for EMAIL UPDATE {in my top sidebar}
so you don’t miss the next part of our interview and more giveaways.

 

How Are You, Really?

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{Photo source}

Should I be honest? I wondered.

What if I start crying? What if she doesn’t really have time to listen? What if she’s just asking to be nice? 

I could keep it simple and say, “I’m fine.”

There I was, standing in the lobby at church waiting for my husband, when a friend I hadn’t seen in a long time walked up and asked how I was doing. Our 3-year-old had recently been diagnosed with Apraxia, a severe speech disorder, and I was not “fine.”

I was exhausted. I was overwhelmed. I was afraid.

Sometimes it’s hard to let people know how we’re really doing because we don’t want to be high maintenance, right? And it’s easy to believe people don’t really want to know when they ask. Sometimes they don’t.

But what about those times when others sincerely want to know and I still don’t want to tell them? Especially when I don’t have good excuse for not being “fine.”

There are times when I tell people I’m fine even when I’m not, because I want to be.  Or, I hope by saying “I’m fine” that somehow eventually I will be.

Other times I act like I’m fine because I think others expect me to be.

Then there are days when hormones trump all good manners and, if my people are within ten feet, they know I am NOT fine. And if I say I am,  what I really mean is that I’m  Frazzled, Irritated, Neurotic, and Exhausted!

But not in public. Not where others can see the real me.

And that is where I stood that day in the lobby at church. In public, at a pivotal point of decision, wondering… Should I let her know how I’m really doing?

Everything in me wanted to keep my guard up, keep my heart sealed off and my lips sealed tight…

You can keep reading today’s post at the (in)Courage community blog by CLICKING HERE where I’m guest-posting and hanging out today. I’d love to see you there and chat about about being real about how we’re “really” doing. Come on over and share your thoughts!

 

Living #FREE

Freedom. We long for it. We fight for it. We will do anything to get it.

Yet sometimes we forget to live in it!

This weekend while our family celebrated the freedom and independence of our country, I was reminded what freedom means and how easily I take it for granted, especially as a Christ-follower. Yet Jesus said, “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.“John 8:36

In Christ we are free!

  • Free from guilt that weighs us down and sin that holds us back.
  • Free from labels that define us and doubts that limit us.
  • Free from grace-less expectations and obligations.

It was for freedom that Christ set us free. (Galatians 5:1). Let’s take hold of this truth, and LIVE #FREE in the power of HIS promises and the purpose of His plans for our lives!

FREE Books & Conference Calls GIVEAWAY
I’ve been given FREE books and conference calls to give to you!
Just leave a comment under this post and share which one you’d want to win. And if you’d like to enter to win either giveaway, just say “EITHER” and let us know what area of your life you feel like you need to grow the most in {living} free.

 

FREE to Live a Limitless Life in Christ

LL.ConferenceCallGraphicReady to live in the freedom of knowing God isn’t limited by your limitations? If so, ENTER TO WIN {one of two sets we’re giving away} of our new extremely powerful  and fun “Limitless Life” conference-call series, hosted by Proverbs 31 Ministries Online Bible Studies team.

In this 5-part series we learn how to get rid of labels and limits that hold us back so we can live fully in God’s purpose for our lives!

This series’ topics include:

Part 1: “You’re More Than Your Past When God Holds Your Future”
Part 2: “From Mess to Masterpiece”
Part 3: “Losing My Religion, Gaining My Relationship”
Part 4: “Crafting a Life Vision Plan”
Part 5:“Living a Life Without Limits

SPECIAL GUESTS include:
*Derwin Gray, Author of “Limitless Life” and Paster of Transformation Church
*Renee Swope, Author of “A Confident Heart” & P31 Radio Co-Host
*Leslie Nease, Christian Speaker, Author & Season 15 SURVIVOR China Contestant
*Lisa Allen, Proverbs 31 Executive Director of Ministry Training and Christian Life CoacENTER to win one of two sets of CALLs or you can find out more and sign up for the calls here.

 

FREEDOM from Mommy-Guilt

NMPK Cover with Chapman name

Do you look at other families who seem so “put together” and wonder why your’s doesn’t isn’t? Does mommy-guilt over your child’s “issues” ever keep you from enjoying motherhood and where your kids are in their journey of growing up?

There have been times when I could answer “yes” to both questions. And during those days or weeks, or months, I miss out on what God has for me as a mom.

One of the best gifts we can give ourselves is GRACE to have an imperfect family and be an imperfect mom. And one of the best gifts we can give our children is to set them FREE to be all that God has created them to be—not forcing them to live out our dreams or comparing them to our friend’s kid.

Jill Savage and Kathy Koch have written a 
guide to help parents truly appreciate their kids. One thing I love about this book is their goal to teach us how to study and 
become an expert on our children, knowing that we cannot fully embrace them until you 
truly know them.

In No More Perfect Kids, Jill Savage and Kathy Koch equip parents with the tools and perspective to:
  • Identify and remove the Perfection Infection from our parenting.
  • Really know each child so we can fully embrace their unique design.
  • Release our children from unrealistic expectations.
  • Answer the questions our kids are silently asking in a way that gives them the courage and freedom to be themselves.

Written in a passionate, candid, and personal way, the authors 
will instill within you hope and contentment. You’ll be inspired to apply the practical, 
realistic, and relevant ideas and tactics Jill and Kathy share. (Leaders Guide included in back of book.) And thanks to Jill and Kathy’s generous publisher, I’ve got 5 copies to give away!! 

ENTER TO WIN
Just leave a comment under this post and share which giveaway you’d want to win and why. If you want to enter to win either, just say “EITHER” and let us know!

You’ll Never Be Perfect {and that’s a good thing}

I couldn’t silence the words used to describe how much I’d disappointed her.

An email filled with criticism had slipped into my inbox that week and it hurt my feelings … for days.

The shooting pain of failure, regret, and flaw-focused thinking struck like lightening through my heart.

That one email set off a storm of self-doubting emotions. It’s amazing what one person’s criticism can do.

When my children or someone criticizes me as a mom, I’ll start doubting myself as a mom. When someone criticizes me as a friend, it will doubt my ability to be a good friend. Ten people could say something nice to me or about me, but what I will remember most is that one person’s criticism. How about you?

After being tossed and turned by the winds of my people-pleasing tendencies, I finally called a friend to process my emotions and the harsh email. With wisdom she told me:

“Renee, you’ll never be perfect. And if you ever get to where you are, you will be all alone!” 

Boy, she was right!

I am not perfect.

I’ll never be perfect.

And if I ever get there, I will be all alone.

Sweet friend, I don’t know if you ever feel like a failure ~ completely imperfect and full of flaws – like I do sometimes. But here is what I do know ~

Jesus was the only perfect Person to walk this earth… yet He was constantly criticized.

But, guess what? Nowhere is it recorded in scriptures that Jesus ever doubted Himself. No matter what, He stayed secure in His purpose and confident in His calling.

That day, my friend spoke reality into my reeling feelings. And God used her wisdom to reminded me: Jesus depended solely on His Father’s approval. 

What His Father said {about Him} was all that mattered {to Him}. And that is what He wants for you, too.

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No matter what, God loves you and He is there for you… not to criticize you but to encourage you.

  • He is there in the midst of your sometimes lonely, imperfect life… when your disappointments and failures leave you empty and make you doubt your worth and purpose.
  • He is there when you’re going through the motions, aware of what needs to be done but afraid you won’t be able to do it all.
  • He is there when you’re criticizing yourself and questioning whether you have what it takes to be a godly woman.

He sees you. He notices all you do and He knows what you need. Today He is pursuing you with the gift of His perfect love — love that is patient and kind, love that keeps no record of your wrongs, love that won’t ever give up on you!

Swope_ConfHeartDevo_3DsmENTER TO WIN
Enter to WIN my new Confident Heart Summer Devotional gift pack! It includes a copy of my A Confident Heart Devotional, a beautiful prayer journal and a Starbucks gift card! 

Simply click “SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS” and do just that.
To enter to win, you must comment on my blog under this post. {All winners will be chosen from blog comments only.}

 


SomethingMore
Sometimes We Need More Than a Blog Post
Do you ever feel alone or unnoticed? Need a friend to walk with you and help you see how much you are loved, pursued and created for a purpose? If so, A Confident Heart may be just the book for you!

Looking for the perfect summer devotional? Each day my new A Confident Heart Devotional: 60 Days to Stop Doubting Yourself offers a personal, powerful and practical way to live in the security of God’s promises right where you are!

The Good Life

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“I feel completely numb,” she said. “I don’t want to be a mom or a wife anymore. I could walk out on my family today and not feel anything…but it would devastate them.  And I can’t do that because I care about them. I just don’t have anything left in me to give or feel. And I don’t know what to do…”

I was shocked. Not as much about what she told me, but because she was the second woman who had come to me with such a brave and raw confession that weekend during the women’s retreat where I was speaking.

Two women who felt numb and empty. Two women surviving but not really living.

I had shared similar story and struggles that morning during my keynote message. Shared how ten years earlier I sked God WHY? Why, after being a Christian for over a decade, was I so miserable?  

Jesus said He came to give us life to the full. And I needed to know how and when was He going to keep that promise to me. Because the only things that filled my life were obligations, stress and hurry.

Kids activities and church commitments, play dates and Bible studies, neighborhood ministry and me trying to leave a legacy. All good “Christian” things, so I assumed my commitments reflected Christ and hopefully pleased Him.

Surely it’s just a phase, I had told myself. Things will slow down and I’ll start enjoying my life eventually.But life wasn’t slowing down; and I wasn’t enjoying anything.

Drained by all my doing, I became numb, exhausted and depleted. And I couldn’t just keep going. My heart was checking out and it scared me. I needed to get honest with myself and with God about where I was and how I got there.

And when I started asking hard questions and listening to His heart and mine, God showed me something I needed to see : Most of my {undoing} was of my own doing.

My doing and doing and doing…

Instead of hugging my brave new friend who stood in front of me waiting to see what I would say now that she had spilled her guts,  I looked into her eyes and said “I understand. I’ve been there…”

Over the next hour we prayed and processed what was going on in her heart and in er world. And I shared what God had shown me ten years prior in the middle of my personal “I can’t do this anymore meltdown”…

Read the rest of my post by CLICKING HERE and join me at the (in)courage community blog where I’m hanging out today as the featured (in)courage contributor and conversation hostess.. I’d love to see you there and hear your thoughts!

When Your Heart Needs Mending

Sometimes our hearts get to hurting and we don’t know where to turn. When our emotions are bleeding it’s easy to forget we have a Healer. It’s easy to run from the pain. My friend Suzie Eller is here today to remind us that we don’t have to run away. Jesus is inviting us to run to Him.  Here’s an excerpt from her new book, The Mended Heart. And… there just might be a way for you to win a copy at the end of this post.

Suzie.MendedHeart “The Spirit of the Lord is on Me. He has put His hand on Me to preach the Good News to poor people. He has sent Me to heal those with a sad heart. He has sent Me to tell those who are being held that they can go free. He has sent Me to make the blind to see and to free those who are held because of trouble.” Luke 4:18 (NLV)

“Why can’t you get it together?” “If you would just try harder.” Have you heard any of these statements? Maybe you’ve even said them to yourself. Perhaps those who stood on a hot hillside in Nazareth were asking themselves the same questions. Many tried hard to follow all the religious laws, but knew they fell short. Would Jesus give them more rules to follow? Imagine their surprise as Jesus spelled out His personal mission statement: I’ve come to open the eyes of the blind. I’ve come to set the prisoner free. I’ve come with good news for the poor in spirit. I’ve come to heal the brokenhearted. The crowd must have been shocked by His words, for they expected a warrior, not a heart surgeon. Jesus Himself was setting the record straight. He came so that we might be made whole … through Him. For those who had been trying harder, striving more, it was a transforming message. They were accustomed to following rules or meeting expectations of man, rather than resting in the power of their almighty God. When I became a believer, I didn’t understand Jesus’ mission statement. I was dealing with untended brokenness and trying everything to fix myself. When I grasped the power of Luke 4:18, this truth changed me: The power of the cross is not found in what I do, but in what has already been done for me. Jesus didn’t mean for us to do this alone. It’s not our strength or power that will transform us. Yes, we make changes. Yes, we open our broken heart to His tender touch. Yes, we allow Him to move us in uncomfortable directions to discover new paths — and leave old ones behind. But we are in a partnership with God … and He’s bigger. I also discovered I didn’t have to earn God’s love. Maybe, like me, you thought God would love you one day, when you had it all together. Jesus’ mission statement proclaims that He loves us today. With our baggage and hurting hearts. When we grasp that kind of love, it changes us. It compels us to return that love, and to trust Jesus from our hearts. This trust helps us listen for His voice. We sense when He is teaching or redirecting us. We weigh temptation in light of our love for our heavenly Father. This relationship helps us discover our “true selves, [our] child-of-God selves” (John 1:12, The Message). Last, Luke 4:18 reminded me that I didn’t have to run away just because I felt broken. A hurting heart can send us running down paths we may regret, searching for something or someone to ease our pain. Jesus’ mission statement invites us to stop running and rest in Him, expectant that our true selves will emerge with His healing touch. The truth of Luke 4:18 is ours today to hold close, for Jesus came to heal our hurting hearts. Dear Jesus, for the longest time I’ve been concentrating on my efforts, but today I expectantly rest in You. Thank You that the power of the cross is not in what I do, but in what has already been done for me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

The_Mended_heart_2_largeIsn’t it such a relief to know you don’t need to fix yourself, or earn God’s love or run any more. In fact, the more we don’t do these things, the more we live in Him;  the more we build a foundation of rest and trust; the more joy we rediscover in our faith and in our lives. What will you not do today? Click “Share Your Thoughts” below do just that to enter to win one of 5 copies of Suzie’s new book, The Mended Heart.   If you are reading this via email, click here to return to my blog and be part of the giveaway. {Your comment has to be left below this post to enter. Thanks!}