PERFECT DOESN’T MEAN PRETTY

Posted by Tori on Dec 13, 2012 in a good word., theology, video.

It’s funny how music influences you so deeply. And it’s funny how you sometimes feel more alive in a certain place, or doing a certain thing. But that’s just the beauty, mastery, and intricacy of our incomprehensible Creator. Listening to this song tonight, with everyone else in the house asleep in their beds, stirred up so much of this in me.

I’ve been thinking a lot this Advent season about Mary. Her words in Luke 1:46-55 play over and over in my head. This is what she said while she was staying with Elizabeth before she had given birth to Jesus. I’ve been thinking about what those months of anticipation and preparation must have been like for her. Scripture tells us that she stayed with Elizabeth for an entire trimester before returning home (3 months, Luke 1:56).

Finally, she is reaching the end of her pregnancy as she and Joseph travel to Bethlehem for the census. I have been thinking about what it may have really looked like for Mary and her betrothed that night. Not like the picture that is often painted for us this time of year.

Somehow, over the course of time, we have sanitized the picture of His birth. The traditional hymns of the season sing of a baby who doesn’t cry, and marry peace with silence. Is the reality of that night any less holy in the humanity of the moment? Do we have to make the scene seem calm and perfect because of the sacredness of the Incarnation? Absolutely not! In fact, that is the beauty of the whole thing! The Maker of heaven and earth becomes a baby to redeem His creation back to Himself. The perfect, holy God has entered our messy, untidy world — just as it is. The humanness of the moment here is sacred. Not something to be edited out of the story.

We are made in His image. The anticipation of pregnancy, the waiting, the wondering, the pain of labor, the sacrifice that comes with love, the expectation and joy of the moment while giving birth mingled with the exhaustion and the feelings of “this is too much for me!” All of this and more, I think most mothers can relate to. We’ve experienced it. And there aren’t words to describe it. But, God is very much alive and on display in those moments. He made them. And they can bring him honor in ways that other moments are inadequate to do. Isn’t it beautiful how sometimes the messiest moments can also be the most sacred? The ones where He meets us and speaks straight to our hearts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I can imagine how exhausting and difficult the journey was for her. Mamas, think about traveling on the back of an animal 40 weeks pregnant! That alone was probably enough to induce her labor. The place was crowded with people. There was nowhere for them to stay. Finally they find shelter in a barn. Her labor growing ever more intense. Far from a glamorous scenario, it was absolutely comfortless. Dirty, smelly, harsh, cold, and the constant temptation to be very scared. She was with the man she would marry, yet they had not been intimate. And they were about to become VERY intimate! Sweating, screaming…finally, the Savior of the world has arrived. First cries, wrapped snug, and laid in a feeding trough – as clean as they could get it. There was nowhere else for Him to go. They made their home in the barn. Mary recovering; a new family formed. Perhaps surprised by the visiting shepherds who came as fast as they could, explaining what had been revealed to them in their fields.

And the Scripture says that Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart.

Oh, how full her heart must have been. A million emotions, a million questions, yet no record of a complaint. Instead, we get the impression of a thankful heart, knowing that she is in the middle of something way bigger than she could fathom.

I could learn a few things from her.

The glory of those hours is overwhelming. Oh, how perfectly he came, even though the night wasn’t pretty. It gives such incredible perspective to me. In the celebration of Christmas it is easy to become more engrossed in the celebrating than the celebrated. Oh, may it never be! Comfort, security, beautiful homes, and time with family are such wonderful gifts. But, He is what is needed. He is our salvation.

This makes me think of my own heart right now. I have a million emotions, and a million questions. But I am asking His Spirit to find me faithful. He has called me out and marked me with the message of His glory and I will proclaim it loud and clear wherever He leads. Maybe not where I would expect. Maybe not somewhere pretty, or clean, or nice smelling. But one where He has come.

He has come!

Praise you, O Lord! You have come and you have made your dwelling among us.

And you are coming.

Come, Lord, Jesus! Come and do not tarry. Find us faithful. Our lives are yours. I don’t need the answers to my million questions. I know you are here and that what you are doing is way bigger than what I can see. Your plan is perfect. My soul finds rest in you. My heart is full. These lessons pondered and treasured in my heart.

This is a revised version of a post published on December 7, 2011.

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PREPARE THE WAY

Posted by Tori on Nov 29, 2012 in a good word., family., video.

And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14, NASB)

We, as believers, are about to embark on a season of Advent preparing to celebrate the birth of our Savior. Our English word “Advent” comes from the Latin adventus, meaning “coming” or “arrival.” Advent is not a biblical mandate, but rather, a tradition of the Church’s history as an intentional preparation for the celebration of Christmas. Families, individuals, and churches all observe Advent in different ways. Traditionally, Advent is observed beginning the fourth Sunday before Christmas through Christmas Eve. This year the dates are December 2-24. I thought that I would share how we are approaching Advent this season as a family with very young children (2 year old & twin 21 month old girls). I hope these ideas and resources will help you as you plan your own Advent, keeping Jesus at the absolute center of it all.

An incredible resource I plan to use as a sort of devotional with my husband is John Piper’s FREE eBook, Good News of Great Joy. It has devotional and Scripture readings for each day beginning on December 2.

Also, I am excited to celebrate Advent with the She Reads Truth community this season. Beginning December 2, you can follow along on the She Reads Truth website or with your YouVersion Bible app on you smart device. The plan will follow the progress of redemption throughout both Testaments.

For the kids, we have created a homemade Advent calendar with special activities scheduled for each day. Here are some of the activities we have planned. We may not get to all of them, and we may make impromptu changes along the way. I did not plan something for us to do every day of Advent. For the beginning of the month, we will shoot for every other day, but towards the last half of the month we will try to do one each day. Overall, we wanted to think of things that would be fun, easy, and special for our kids (remember that they are all under 3!), also keeping in mind our travelling schedule since we will be with family the last few days.

  • Pray for the Christmas season to be all about Jesus.
  • Get a special treat.
  • Color a Christmas picture to share.
  • Drive around and look at Christmas lights.
  • Sing Christmas carols (more like teach a few Christmas carols) in the living room.
  • Watch a classic Christmas movie while eating popcorn. (This will likely be A Charlie Brown Christmas – my fav!)
  • Special dinner date with the family. (We actually planned this one around extended family coming to town.)
  • Decorate Christmas cookies.
  • Bring Christmas cookies to the neighbors.
  • Make hot chocolate and stir with candy canes.
  • Retell the Christmas story with the nativity set.
  • Listen to a new Christmas album. (Planned for our travel day.)
  • Breakfast for dinner.
  • Read the Christmas story from the kids’ Bible.
  • Pray, thanking God for the greatest gift ever.
  • Make and decorate a “Happy Birthday” Jesus cake. (This one is a family tradition on my husband’s side of the family, and it’s something my mother-in-law does for the kids every year.)

We are also planning to use these Scriptures (one for each day) everyday with our children as we begin to teach them the wonderful story of redemption through Jesus. (These actually go from December 2-25.) I’m just leaving references, rather than quoting each verse for you so you can choose the translation to use with you family.

Okay, I have saved the best for last. This next one is my FAVORITE for the kids. If we don’t get to do anything else, this will be enough. My children have the Jesus Storybook Bible. (It is INCREDIBLE. Jesus is on every page, right from Creation. If you are a parent, you need this. If not, this is the perfect gift for any of the little ones in your life!!) There is a FREE printable reading plan for Advent using the Jesus Storybook Bible. We read this everyday with them anyway, so for Advent, we will read these selections during our normal Bible time.

I hope that you’ll take advantage of some of these resources as you are preparing your own heart for the celebration of Christmas and leading your family in Advent as well. Remember, that Jesus is the center. It’s fun and important to build family memories during the holidays, but passing along your faith and the story of redemption through Jesus is what leaves the eternal mark.

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we serve a king & a kingdom.

Posted by Tori on Nov 5, 2012 in a good word., video.

I usually choose to remain silent during election season, and times when political issues are extremely popular. I haven’t always been that way, but I think I have learned the wisdom in keeping my mouth shut if I don’t have anything beneficial to add to the dialogue. Ephesians 4:29 says: “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.” (NASB, emphasis my own) So, that is my sole intention here: to edify according to the need of the moment so that it will give grace to those to hear.

I was greatly blessed by a blog post I read here yesterday. The entire article is excellent, definitely worth the read, but this portion is what resonated most with me:

My husband and I had dinner with my parents the other night, and we got to talking about how God enters our messy stories and does big things with small people. The genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1 is quite the cast of characters, full of scandal and rebellion and deception and intrigue as bad or worse than any we’ve seen in modern day America. Then my dad pointed out something about the story of Ruth.

Have you ever noticed where in Israel’s history the story of Ruth and Boaz takes place? It’s in the middle of the book of Judges, when Israel is making a bloody mess and clamoring for a king to fix it all. (Sound familiar? It does to me!) The big picture is dismal, tragic, and chaotic. But in a tiny town named Bethlehem, one righteous man and one foreigner who chooses to follow Jehovah come together, and they are the great great grandparents of King David, who is in Jesus’ lineage. I love this story. This is what God specializes in – working big things out of small people doing the right thing in a small place, out of the limelight and ignored by everyone of consequence. Stories like this give me hope in the face of the ugliness, the increasing bitterness, and the chaos in our country.

How true is that?! The big picture is that, as followers of the Way, His kingdom is what we are living for. Rulers and leaders come and go. Some good, some bad. All ordained and permitted by His good, sovereign hand. All of them. The ones we just don’t like. The cruel, wicked, murderous ones. The godly ones.

So, what is our response?

  • We live before our God & our neighbor with integrity, love, & grace. We follow Christ & He does the work to advance His kingdom. One that cannot be shaken or overcome. One that is eternal and perfect.
  • In case I have to say it: Yes, vote. Yes, take full advantage of the freedoms & blessings we enjoy in this country. But remember what’s really important. Remember that we are not the center of this planet & that America is not called to be His ambassador. I am. And you are.
  • Remember what His Word has to say about governments & authorities. Romans 13.
  • Remember Ephesians 4:29 & Philippians 2:12-18. The godly response is never to complain. That’s not okay.
  • Remember to intercede for your leaders. Even before you know who they are today. I don’t know if any of you follow Beth Moore’s blog, but on Monday, she asked her readers to pray Scripture over our next President before we know who he is. If you’re not sure where to start, she suggests thinking about how you would want people to pray if your husband were elected President on Tuesday.

 

And that’s about all I have to say. I’m trusting Him & PRAISING that He works BIG things out of small people who are committed to follow Him.

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it’s time!

Posted by Tori on Oct 18, 2012 in thankful heart., video.

This weekend, my sweet friend, Carrie, is getting married! I could not be more excited or happy for her if she was my own sister. She is one of my dearest friends. We shared life together in college and she has continued to be there for me through all that has changed since those days. I am so honored that she asked me to be a part of her ceremony. I cannot wait to stand with her and for her. There’s something about a wedding that I just love. The weight of that moment when Heaven meets earth and the Lord unites two to make one. It’s such a beautiful picture of His Gospel. I ask the Lord’s most abundant blessings on Carrie & Stephen. I know their life together won’t always be happy or easy, but I pray that, regardless, they will always grasp His goodness in any circumstance and learn to dance to the tune of His heart. I pray that their marriage will produce incredible fruit for the Kingdom. So…here’s to you, Carrie. I love you more than you know. Can’t wait for all that’s ahead.

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worship wednesday. i belong.

Posted by Tori on Aug 29, 2012 in a good word., video., worship wednesday.

Hi friends! I wanted to share this familiar, sweet song with you today. It has really ministered to my heart this morning and I pray that it will to yours too. Personally, the past few hours have been rough on my heart. This song reminds me of the truth – that no trouble, now or ever – can take me from the grip of His love. I belong to Him. My life is bundled in His hand and nothing can change that. Wow! Such a simple, yet profound truth that can completely transform my attitude and the way I view my circumstances. Thanks, Lord, that I am yours. This truth remains forever.

How is He encouraging your heart and leading you to worship today? I would love for you to link up and share with us. Grab a button for your blog and join in!

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worship wednesday. mighty fortress.

Posted by Tori on Aug 22, 2012 in a good word., video., worship wednesday.

Welcome back to Worship Wednesday! I pray that your hearts are encouraged and blessed as we worship Him together today. He is so worthy.

Today, I have been so blessed  by this reminder of exactly who our God is. This is the one we serve and worship. The one who has ransomed and redeemed us. I was reading Job 26 when Job describes the mystery and power of our Lord. He says:

“He stretches out the north over empty space
And hangs the earth on nothing.

He wraps up the waters in His clouds,
And the cloud does not burst under them.

He obscures the face of the full moon
And spreads His cloud over it.

He has inscribed a circle on the surface of the waters
At the boundary of light and darkness.

The pillars of heaven tremble
And are amazed at His rebuke.

He stirs up the sea with His power,
And by His understanding He breaks up the storm.

By His breath the heavens are cleared;
His hand has pierced the fleeing serpent.

Behold, these are the fringes of His ways;
And how faint a word we hear of Him!
But His mighty thunder, who can understand?”

He is a very BIG God – how easily I forget. We have only glimpsed the fringes of His ways. Lord, we worship you in this moment, surrendering our hearts & minds to you. You are the reason we’re alive. May everything we do honor you.

Tiffany & I would love to read how you’re worshiping Him today. You are such blessing to us. Please link up below and grab a button for your blog from the sidebar!

 

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worship wednesday. for a day like today.

Posted by Tori on Aug 15, 2012 in a good word., video., worship wednesday.

Hey everyone! Sorry I have been MIA all day…this seems to be a trend. We’ll have to remedy that! Here is how I am worshiping Him today. I would love for you to join me.

So…here’s what today has looked like. I feel like I’ve been running behind all week. We got up and ran out the door (late, of course). It is nearly impossible for us to be dressed, fed, and out the door before 9:00. I’m not entirely sure why this is, but it seems to be becoming a general rule for us (not something I’m excited about since Ayden will have to BE at preschool at 9 – 30 mins away – beginning in a couple of weeks). But, I digress. We enjoyed a wonderful couple of hours this morning with some sweet friends for a play-date. Then headed to the grocery store to pick up a few things I needed for dinner tonight. Then, we were home again in time for lunch and naps. And…then it happened. Ayden decided he wanted to do everything but nap. So, after a brief meeting of the minds, he rolled over and closed his eyes. Whew! Somehow, right around that time, I collapsed on the couch, where I have been for the last 2 hours. Normally, I don’t do this, but today my body just stopped. (Which is strange, because yesterday I was terribly nauseated until 11 a.m., and then had an uncontrollable urge to eat pizza…just sayin’) And, let me tell you…it was the most refreshing 2 hours for my mind and body that I have had in a while! I am so thankful the Lord allowed me to just STOP.

That’s kind of why we started Worshiping Wednesday in the first place. This beautiful song has been rolling around in my head since I stopped today and rested.

So, let the noise and clamor cease. Consider all that He has done. Stand in awe and be amazed, and know that He will never change. Be still.

Mrs. Pate and I would love for you to link up with us and share how you are worshiping Him today. We are always so blessed by what you write!! Have a great week, friends.  🙂

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the glory of it all. worship wednesday.

Posted by Tori on Aug 8, 2012 in a good word., video., worship wednesday.

So, it’s 5:00 here at my house and I’m sitting down to write this. It’s something that has been churning in me over the past couple of days and has been so huge in my heart today especially. But, as the Lord would have it, I wasn’t able to actually “put pen to paper” (sometimes I still actually do that) until now. I have been doing a Bible study on the book of James for the past several Wednesday mornings with the women of my church. Today we wrapped up our study, and it really did feel like saying a premature goodbye to someone who had become a dear, dear friend. Bittersweet. I left this afternoon with my heart extremely full. Thankful for where we are and for what He is doing. The days are not easy, but He is working and speaking.

Then, I got in my car and read this tweet from Jessi, “I love this crazy cracked beautiful life. Mostly because I can see bits of redemption. He’s the only good part of all of this.”

She could not have come any closer to my heart at that moment. I was telling some friends today that if I see something broken, I tend to just want to throw it out and start with something new. If your vacuum cleaner breaks, why try to fix it? Just get a new one. Right? Not so much. God is a MASTER at redemption and reparation. Because that’s what is best for us and that is what brings Him the most glory. So thankful He’s the one in charge.

Lord, make my heart more like yours. There is such beauty in the work you’re completing in all of us. So that others would see and praise your name.

That’s what I’m praising Him for today. His beautiful redemption. His ability to meet me right where I am and CHANGE me. He makes me new. He restores, He resurrects, He repairs, and He does it perfectly. Every time. So, if things are looking pretty messy and rough from wear you sit, take courage and know that He is working. And it’s beautiful.

How are you worshiping today? Tiffany & I can’t wait to read your story and worship our incredible Savior with you. Grab a button from the sidebar and link up with us! Love you guys.

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worship wednesday. week 9.

Posted by Tori on Jul 25, 2012 in video., worship wednesday.

Hello, friends! Welcome to week nine of Worship Wednesday. I am so glad you are here!

This week, I have absolutely loved this song & the truth about the character of our God that is packed inside of it. I was introduced to Aaron Keyes in college when he joined us for a series of chapel services. The Lord has truly gifted him as a writer and a leader in worship.

I am so incredibly thankful for our Savior’s wisdom & perfect love. I am fascinated by the picture of Him “reigning high above the heavens, reaching down in endless grace.” He surrounds and upholds us. He is our everything, no matter the circumstance or season. He, indeed, is sovereign over us. And I am forever grateful.


As a side note, I would just like to mention that I’m writing this post in the middle of a pretty intense thunderstorm. I love those. Something about them just makes me fall that much more in love with Him…& recognize that I only know just an ounce of His power. Lastly, I love the atmosphere of worship in Aaron’s living room as this video was shot. Praying that His Spirit would fill our home with many sacred moments like that as we worship & honor Him.

V1
There is strength within the sorrow, There is beauty in our tears
You meet us in our mourning, With a love that casts out fear
You are working in our waiting, Sanctifying us
When beyond our understanding, You’re teaching us to trust

CHORUS
Your plans are still to prosper, You have not forgotten us
You’re with us in the fire and the flood
Faithful forever, Perfect in love
You are sovereign over us

V2
You are wisdom unimagined, Who could understand your ways
Reigning high above the heavens, Reaching down in endless grace
Youʼre the Lifter of the lowly, Compassionate and kind
You surround and You uphold me, Your promises are my delight

BR
Even what the enemy means for evil
You turn it for our good, You turn it for our good and for your glory
Even in the valley You are faithful
Youʼre working for our good, Youʼre working for our good and for your glory

Words & Music by Aaron Keyes, Bryan Brown, and Jack Mooring.
Copyright (c) 2011 Thankyou Music (admin. worldwide by worshiptogether.com songs excluding Europe, which
is admin. by kingswaysongs.com) (PRS)

Mrs. Tiffany Pate and I would love for you to link up your own Worship Wednesday post with us. We are always so blessed by what you share. To Him be all honor and glory! Have a wonderful week!

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worship wednesday. week 8.

Posted by Tori on Jul 18, 2012 in a good word., video., worship wednesday.

Welcome to our 8th week of Worshiping Wednesday! I’m so glad you’re here! If you’re new to this weekly link-up, you can read more about it here.

This week, really in the last 72 hours, the Lord has been doing some stirring in my heart. I have been studying the book of James in recent weeks. Chapter 2 is intense. James just boldly, clearly, and directly gets to the point: there is no room for favoritism in the life of the Christ follower. If you’re like me, the most immediate reaction that comes to mind is that favoritism is not something you really struggle with. But, favoritism can take on many sneaky forms in our hearts, minds, and actions, and can creep in unnoticed if we aren’t careful to intentionally guard against it. In 2:10, James tells us, “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.” Guilty! Right here. So grateful for a Savior!

Stronger | Hillsong

I was reading Melissa Fitzpatrick’s post from a few days ago, titled, Common Brokenness. She pastes in a portion of an email from a friend who is in a rehabilitation hospital. He explains that he shares this temporary home with about 30 others. He writes:

“For many of us, nights are the worst time – marked by restlessness, chasing fleeting sleep, often enduring pain. Please remember to pray for all who suffer—especially when you do not—in hospitals, at home and elsewhere. It is a difficult and weary ordeal.”

He continues:

“The human beings around me are Christian, Muslim, atheist, secularist and whatever else. They are white, black, brown and, in the dark, visibly none of the above. But they share something in common that is fundamental to their identity and to mine. In this identity is our oneness as humans. I am not talking about eternal destinies or theological categories, but about here and now. I have come to know many of these people—not by their jobs or professions, not by their achievements or connections or honors. I know them—and they know me—by their brokenness. We are one in our brokenness—our mortality, our frailty, our creatureliness. Made in God’s image, we have dignity and worth. Broken, we have needs—perhaps as obvious as a drinking straw wrapper that needs removing to begin our meal together in the cafeteria.

This is my experience on this night. Take it or toss it aside. Reflect on it or ignore it. I simply have to tell it. We are one with all humankind, but we probably will not see or feel that at the deepest level until we experience it in our brokenness, we who at best are always but a breath away from knowing what that means. So let us serve each other with awe and respect.(emphasis my own)

I love how Jesus completely levels the playing field in each personal encounter He has with someone. We are all broken, feeble, & finite creatures in desperate need of a Savior. How dare we create classes, or show special attention to one over another! The truth is that if we, as believers, do not allow the Spirit to minute-by-minute transform our minds & hearts to see people the way He does, we will never really love and serve like Christ. Only what is eternal will last – everything else will die away. You can take it to the bank. So, for me, it’s clear what I want my life to be about. I want to be about His work; His way. And He is the only one who can make that happen. Thank you, Lord Jesus, for your salvation! May your name be lifted HIGHER!

My friend, Tiffany, and I would be so honored to have you link up your Worshiping Wednesday post with us today. It is such a privilege and encouragement to read what you write.

Happy Wednesday!

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