New Year, New Word: Beautiful

About this time of the year I find myself in a rut.

I take down my Christmas tree. All the sparkly presents are unwrapped and put away. I sweep up the living room and sit down, mourning the loss of the twinkling lights.

It’s cold. It’s windy. And everything seems kind of boring if I’m honest.

Every year I know these grey days are going to come, so I choose a word for the coming year, giving the days an extra dose of creativity and focus. I ask myself sometime mid-summer, “What am I going to work on? What do I want to be different in my life? What could be improved? Where would I like to be more intentional, gain some clarity?”

Past year’s words have included:

Warm

Brave

Hope

Fearlessly wrong

Sometimes I cheat with two words. I don’t like rules. 😉

This year, nothing came to me, so I just let it set. And set. And set.

Still nothing.

How in the world was I going to get through the January rut when I already lacked inspiration in late summer?

Then, we got on a plane and headed to Spain.

One day, we drove up a mountain in fog so thick that I thought for sure we would be run off the road by a tiny little European coupe that wanted to come down the mountain using the same lane.

We saw some stuff, headed down the mountain, watched some Star Trek, and went to bed.

The next day, the fog lifted, and we made the decision to head back up the mountain. When we reached the top, we got out of the car and my jaw dropped.

It was beautiful.

Mountains all around us, trees, dew, sunshine – all in the same place we had missed it the night before, veiled from our eyes.

I realized that this is what I wanted to focus on: Beauty.

I wrote a book about it, so you would think the journey would be over. But that day on the mountain, I understood that this was just the beginning.

I wanted to see beautiful like this in my every day. I wanted to stop and enjoy it. To breath it in, rather than pass it by.

Laughing on the top of a mountain with our friends about fog adventures, guardrails, and the cross-cultural similarities in school field trips, I remembered things I think I had forgotten just a little bit:

Life is Beautiful.

Conversation is Beautiful.

This world is Beautiful.

I want to see those truths every day – not just in my rejoicing, but in my rut as well.

I want to see it through the violence, through the mess, through lonely, and through the mundane.

This year, my word for the year is beautiful.

I want to focus intentionally on all that God has made and done and saved and just how beautiful that is:

I am beautiful.
This world, with all its heartbreak and pain…is beautiful.
Relationship, in its complications and mess…is beautiful.
This day, rain, sun, or shadow…is beautiful.

Join me on this journey of seeing beautiful, fixing our perspective together on the One who truly makes everything, everything beautiful in His time. Where do you think we often miss beauty in this life? Tell us about them:

Name one, two, three, or more things that strike you as beautiful today and share them in the comments.

Download this Beautiful Reminders page.

List three things every day that are beautiful around you. These can be things of physical beauty, or ideas, people, experiences, anything.

Study with me! Journey through Altogether Beautiful with me. Preorder from Concordia Publishing House , Amazon  or wherever you like to get your books. There are samples at the Concordia link and look for free stuff details to come.

I can just feel it…

this year is going to be beautiful.

An I Love My Shepherd Christmas Present

Merry Christmas, dear readers!

Isn’t this the day of days? Christmas amazes me by the sheer fact that we have a God who comes to earth to be with us, to walk with us. He spent 33 years getting to know us, our sorrows, and our doubts.

Of course He knows all and is in all.

Of course He never even needed to draw closer…

but He did.

He came to us.

Just as He comes to us every day in His Word and through our relationships with one another; as the Holy Spirit moves and does His thing changing hearts and lives.

Yay!

Even in a season of grieving, even in a season of blah, even in a season of busy- that is the promise we hold tight to.

This Christmas I’d like to give you something to help you to cling to that promise. Yes, baby Jesus is the best gift, but He’s not the only gift. 😉

Christmas Day only, please download the Kindle versions of my print studies, Think on These and Casting Stones for free.

Who doesn’t love free?

Here are the links for each book:

Think on These: A Study of Philippians 4:8

Think on These has 5-10 minute daily reads. It is meant to be short and sweet, but allow you to linger in the Word with questions and contemplation if you desire. It’s good for individual or group study. There are YouTube Videos to compliment your study if desired.

Casting Stones: A Study of Ecclesiastes 3

Casting Stones came out of a time when I was struggling and I think you can see, hear, and feel the struggle in this study of the seasons of life. This is a longer text, still with five days of study a week, but slightly longer daily reads for more contemplation. Color outside the lines! No need to follow the study each day. Pick it up, put it down, repeat. 😉

Merry Christmas!

And of course, a Happy New Year!

Things to look for in the New Year at I Love My Shepherd:

Our 8-week Spring Online Study -My Redeemer Lives!

***February 19-April 13 (Are you marking your calendar?)***

Podcast series that include:

The Truth about Mental Health – Anxiety, Grief, Suicide, and more

Ministry Moments – Happy Hour, Middle Schoolers, and more

Written in Iron Ink – Physical Wellbeing and Weightloss, Tending Marriage, Rest, and more

The print and Kindle versions of He Calls Me Loved: A Study of Isaiah

***June 2018***

and…

Altogether Beautiful: A Study of the Song of Songs

***release date – April 2018***

This study will be a full color layout, video driven study, available through Concordia Publishing House. Find more information on this study in the weeks to come! There will be pre-order freebies, a series of bonus articles related to beauty, relationships, and the study, along with all kinds of fun stuff in the New Year.

Now back to Christmas:

To Him who always give freely to us of grace and mercy…a very blessed Christmas to you all!

Confess Hope

It’s that time of year again, the time when New Year’s resolutions begin to creep out your back door when you weren’t looking.

There’s grace for that.

I’m not a resolution keeper, but I’m not really a resolution maker either. I’m one of the breed of people who choose one word for the year. However, I egregiously fail at keeping rules of any kind, particularly when they encourage keeping words to a minimum. I’m like a window shopper who has restraint in buying but absolutely no restraint in trying things on- I’ll try this one, and this one, and this one, maybe this one, two of those…

My one word is almost always two, or three, maybe four, if any of you remember from last year’s Fearlessly Wrong post. This year I was able to keep it to two words. Clean and simple. If I were honest, though, it’s not really my doing. My words were chosen in that way the Holy Spirit has when you read or hear a text of Scripture and a few specific words reach into your body and grab ahold with an unmistakable fierceness that cannot be ignored.

As I led a retreat this fall, Hebrews 10:23 resonated in my ears, and for many days after the retreat ended:

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.

Hope is a beautiful thing. Without it we fade and we wither. I have visibly watched this happen, when life crashes in and hope drains from a face…a mother who loses a child, a friendship abandoned, a marriage left out to dry.

Most of you reading this as Christians know the Truth that our hope does not fade and it never disappoints. Our verse in Hebrews tells us that it’s stable and sturdy, because it depends on the Maker, who is ever and always faithful. But let me tell you another story. A story of people that do not know Hope as we know Hope. Sometimes life rolls in and covers us like a flood, the earth shakes beneath our feet with family drama, long held back pain rises to the surface, and people do not know where to turn. Who helps when hope seems lost? Can you even imagine, my friend? A world with no hope, with shifting hope, with forgotten or disappointing hope?

Our Savior offers us something different.

He offers us an anchor of Hope (Hebrews 6:19)

A Hope unshaken (2 Corinthians 1:7)

A Living Hope (Ecclesiastes 9:4)

A Hope of Joy (Proverbs 10:28)

A Hope for Trouble (Jeremiah 14:8)

A Hope that does not shame (Philippians 1:20)

But they will not know if we do not confess it. God can work any way that He wants, but He chooses to work through our words very often. He puts Hope in us undaunted and pouring out. He helps us to reach across the table at the coffee shop and say,

“Let me tell you my story of Hope.”

How has God worked Hope in your life? What has He brought you through? What adventures has He taken you on? What rock has He set your feet upon in troubled times and in times of victory? What path have you journeyed on and discovered more of Him and less of wantonness?

This is confessing hope. God weaves His Word into our hearts and when we tell the ways in which He has helped us find hope or see hope more clearly, we help someone else see hope in the darkness and in the light.

Confess Hope

Will you confess it with me this year? Share with us how you confess hope each day in the comments below. Spur us on to confess our Hope boldly in the Lord. You can print the Confess Hope wall art below. Tack it up somewhere to be seen and remembered. Put it in a pretty frame and give it to a friend who could use an extra dose of hope this winter. Save it as your phone wallpaper. Share it at your family table. Print small copies and hand them out like little pieces of hope candy, from your purse or your backpack. Leave them in surprising places. Whatever you do…

Confess Hope

May the words roll off our tongue in the comfortable and the uncomfortable places, to share Christ Jesus, to share Hope.

“My Hope comes from the Lord…Maker of heaven and earth. Let me tell you a little bit about it…”

 

Click on the image to download the pdf file. Thank you to Jennifer Tinkey for creating this reminder for us!