May Your Hearts be as Full as Your Bellies

El Dia de Accion de Gracias.

That’s what my friends in Latin America call our turkey day. I absolutely love the translation: The Day of Action of Thanks.

Action.

So often we think thanks, or even think that soon we’ll give thanks. We think the thought as often as we think we’ll get in shape, but the action behind either seems to fall to the wayside. Or perhaps we give thanks for the big 3 (possibly our health, a home, or something else), but then have a hard time thinking of other things to take the action of giving thanks for. So here’s a little something that perhaps will help you and me as we prepare food, eat, clean up, and everything else on Thanksgiving. I’m thinking through how things normally look at my parents’ house on Thanksgiving. Of course, you can adapt this.

may your hearts be as full as your bellies

Image Courtesy Flickr: James McCauley

  • As you thread napkins through the napkin rings, think about our Alpha and Omega, Him who has no beginning nor end.
  • As you pull out the fine china, praise God that He can take something as dirty and broken as us frail peeps and turn us into something beautiful.
  • May the water or wine goblets be a reminder to drink deep of God’s love and mercy, as well as an opportunity to praise Him for the mercy He has poured out on us this past year.
  • Turkey. I’m switching to first person on this one, for I know I can be the biggest turkey of all time, making mistakes left and right.

Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men”

~ 1 Corinthians 1:25

God, thank you that you see my many imperfections, my foolishness, and everything else. Yet you love me just the same.

  • Salt

“You are the salt of the earth”

~Matthew 5:13

God uses us, His humble vessels, to represent Him and teach His truths to others.

God, thank you for the opportunities you’ve given me this past year to talk to __________ about you or to reflect your love to them. Please continue to give me the boldness and courage to proclaim you to others.

  • Rolls

Jesus, thank you that you are my bread of life. You have sustained me, even (especially) on the days I didn’t know if I would make it through. Thank you that through you I truly have everything I need, and forgive me for the many times I lose track of that and think I need/deserve so much more.

  • Pie

A friend helped in an orphanage in Africa several years ago. A young child asked her, “Is it true that kids in America actually get dessert every day?” Tears flooded her face. No, not every child gets dessert here, but most of us could if we wanted to.

God, you teach us to pray for daily bread, yet I frequently have pie and chocolate and sweets with my bread, too. Thank you for your abundant provision.

  • As you scrape the dishes clean at the end of the meal, reflect upon Jesus’ sacrifice that removes our filth and grime.
  • As you place extra food in containers and then shuffle things around the fridge in an attempt to find a place for everything, thank God for the way He orchestrates our steps and pray for Him to lead and guide you throughout the upcoming year.
  • Of course, there’s always the one who falls asleep on the couch (I’m not naming names, okay, Uncle Billy?).

“It is useless for you to work so hard
from early morning until late at night,
anxiously working for food to eat;
for God gives rest to his loved ones.”

Psalm 127:2 (NLT)

God, so often I think I’m the one that has to make everything work, to figure out how to stretch my pennies or get the kids everywhere they need to be. Oh, but to be reminded of the way you love me, to remember that you give me rest–even command me to rest in you–and that you give to me, even while I sleep. Lord, even with the chaos and the unknowns, may I rest in you.

This list is by no means exhaustive. Feel free to throw in some more.

Happy Thanksgiving and praise be to God!

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Tweet: May your hearts be as full as your bellies this Thanksgiving. #StacyVossMay your hearts be as full as your bellies this Thanksgiving.

Am I Enough?

An editor wrote me last week, sharing some of the themes they’re hoping to address next year. One jumped out, screaming for my attention as it’s the very question that has been forefront these past several months, or should I say the question that has begged for an answer my entire life. For the first time, I have my response. And my freedom. Here’s a bit of what I shared with her:

Am I enough?

Let’s be clear. No. Absolutely not. Ever. I will never be enough. Neither will you. The chasing, the hoping, the chipping away of self, trading those precious pieces of my identity for anything I thought would make others look at me and give me a different answer. A desperate longing for someone—anyone!—to say I was enough. A thirst that refused to be satisfied.

What I would have traded to know then what I know now. I am not enough. Let me say that again. I am not now, nor will I ever be enough: enough to make everyone happy, enough to make myself happy, enough to do the right thing, or enough to be okay sitting alone with me, that crazy mix of carefree, worried, fearless and yet petrified. I don’t admit this in a defeated state or out of self-condemnation. Hardly. Rather, as I embrace my “so far from enough-ness,” I find wholeness from the place where my lack should glare more than anywhere else, the place where even the facade of having it together crumbles to bits. And it is there that I find freedom. Acceptance. Love and forgiveness.
We will never be enough. Oh, but to have the one who defines love look at us and say that His presence in our lives is enough to, well, is enough. Period.
 Am I Enough?
What about you? How would you answer the question “Am I enough?”
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My Life Compared to Spell-check

“I just hate spell-check,” my Girlie said the other day. “I mean, I’m trying to say one thing, but the next thing I know, it puts in something entirely different.”

“Oh, I know,” I chimed in. “I tried texting Emilynn a measurement, and every time I typed the number 7, it added my entire phone number. She kept writing me back saying it didn’t make sense and it wasn’t until I re-read my texts that I could actually understand what happened.”

“Tell me about it. It’s so annoying,” she replied.

“Yeah, but you know, I also love it, especially when I’m texting. I know I don’t have to get the word right, but it will take care of it for me.”

Believe it or not, the whole spell-check conversation paused for a few seconds before my girl said, “well, I still think it’s annoying. It just makes everything harder. I wish it would just leave stuff alone.”

The light. Yes, I saw it. At that very moment, driving down the road while we talked about texting and spell-check.

“That’s a lot like how we can be. We both want to help others out and we think we’re doing them a favor. Sometimes we are, but sometimes, we really are just like that spell-check, getting in the way and making things harder for others.”

I’ll be the first to admit I’ve spent much too long correcting others, whether that be helping them (even when they don’t want it), or stepping in and taking responsibility for things that only belonged to them. I thought I was helping and I had good intentions.

This is where I toe the line. Where things can be misinterpreted too quickly. Yes, helping is good. Great even. But just like auto-correct is a fabulous tool, there are times where it is limiting, frustrating, even crippling.

See, it’s one thing for Siri to try to have all the answers or help others, but for us human-folk, there’s just too much good living we’ll miss out on if we think our purpose is just to be the corrector, the intervener, the fixer.

As a recovering fixer–the one who always wanted things in order, and if they weren’t, I’d jump in and do my best to make sure they were–I’ll tell ya one thing: I’ve turned off the button. Sure, I still try to jump in at times, like a dirty habit that’s hard to break. But as I gain a stronger sense of exactly who God made me to be, I get to see who He didn’t create me as. He made me to be me, to live this life as fully as possible in a way to bring Him glory. Let’s admit it, no one praises the spell-checker when it’s turning words into something completely different than what we wanted. And no one will praise God because of us if we’re too busy meddling or fixing.

Instead, I choose to live a broken, messed-up, vibrant kind of life (in fact, I’m not even going to proof this post because I’m ready to hit the sack. So enjoy the evidences of my messed-up life, grammatical mistakes and all!). signature

Treasure Building

I made banana bread last week, eager to use up some of the rotting fruit on my counter. I had promised the kids a trip to the pool once they finished their chores, lighting a fire that burned more intensely than I had anticipated.

“Mom, can we go yet?” the oldest asked.

“Mama, you said we could go once we finished cleaning. C’mon. Let’s go.”

“But the bread has to bake another 15 minutes. We can’t go until it’s done.”

We waited, not with anticipation for what would come piping out of the oven, but for it to be over, to get on to the next thing.

Sound familiar?

Isn’t that what we typically do throughout Christmas? Sure, we start off excited as we decorate the tree or bake some cookies–things we do on our timeline! But once the other activities start popping in–the many parties, finding gifts for teachers or relatives that we rarely see–the timer starts ticking.

The countdown begins.

As the kids count down until the day they get to open presents, the adults click off the days until the in-laws go home and the house returns to normal.

We countdown to Christmas and miss so much of it along the way.

But what if we were to savor it? I don’t mean just to push off the countdown or force out a weak smile and pretend to enjoy the chaos. I mean what if we were to truly relish the season?

Sounds a bit impossible, right?

Yes and no. It’ll be hard. Culture-defying. But not impossible.

But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” Luke 2:19

Treasure Building

Photo Courtesy Flickr: Tom Garnett

She could have screamed, “It wasn’t supposed to be this way!” She could have protested her inability to deliver the deliverer.

She could have, but she didn’t.

Instead, she treasured.

The choice was hers, just like it is ours.

We can choose to wish it away. Or we can use November as a time of training, of preparation. We can stop, even if it’s only for a few minutes here and there, and reflect upon what we’re grateful for. If it helps your training, feel free to join me in posting your gratimoments, either on the gratimoment page here or on social media with the gratimoment hashtag.

Then, in December, as the calendars swell and the patience runs low, we’ll be in the habit of bucking that trend. We can keep reflecting upon the joys that surround us (for even in the darkest periods, His light can penetrate). And in so doing, we’ll become treasure builders.

For where your heart is, your treasure is also.” Matthew 6:21

Happy treasure building!

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Savoring Christmas

I finally get to tell you all about my secret project I’ve been working on for the past year.

Savoring Christmas: 31 Days to Prepare Your Heart for the MessiahI can’t begin to tell you how much fun this has been. As I’ve dug in, it’s deepened my faith, helped me believe that slowing during Christmas really is possible, and made me fall so much more in love with the one who came as a tiny baby so many years ago.

It’s now available on Amazon and in my store.

If you happen to be in the Denver area next weekend, I’d love for you to come celebrate with me at my book launch–and trust me, when I say celebrate, I mean it. I have a surprise lined up that is going to be memorable and fun. I’m also working on a few other details that will make this like no other launch! But please know, when I say celebrate, I don’t mean to celebrate my accomplishment. This is a celebration of the Messiah.

We’re celebrating the One who gave up heaven to willingly walk among our filth, so much so that He allowed all of our grime upon himself and hung on the cross to view us as clean. It was–and is–the best gift ever!

It only seems logical that a celebration of the giver would involve some giving. Yes, that means there will be door prizes. There’s gonna be some great stuff, but it gets even better: we’re all going to have the chance to give to something that gives life. Some of you know how important access to clean drinking water is to me, especially after I lived in Mexico and had countless of the kids I loved beg for water.

Yes. Beg for water.

It shouldn’t happen, but it does. And that’s not the worst of it. Some kids can’t go to school because they spend their days fetching water, and what they fetch is contaminated and will make them sick.

Join me in doing something about that! 10% of all proceeds from the sale of Savoring Christmas is going straight to the clean water/well digging fund with World Vision. There will also be a way for you to make a donation at the book launch that will go straight to that fund as well, or you can give here. It costs $15,000 to build 1 well, which then gives water to over 300 people.

Fifteen thousand dollars.

That’s a lot of greens, but you know what, I’m throwing it out there with the radical hopes that together we’ll put a huge dent in that number. That together, we’ll make it happen that someday we’ll meet a little boy in heaven who will thank us because of what we did for one of the least of these.

So here are the details of the party I’m allowed to share (‘cuz of course I’m cooking up a surprise or two!):

Saturday, November 8th

Festive Cup Coffee (50 Springer Road, Highlands Ranch, CO 80129), by the AMC off Broadway near C-470

11am-2pm

Door Prizes, Surprises and a Lot of Fun!

Can’t make it?

I’m tickled that I’ll be speaking at two places that are letting me invite you! All you have to do is show up (and I’ll have books there if you’re interested).

Friendship Connection

Thursday, November 13th

Solid Grounds Coffee Shop (notice a coffee theme? I run on caffeine these days!!)

6504 S. Broadway, Centennial, CO 80121

6:30-8pm

OR

Christ Community Church

Saturday, November 15th

8085 E. Hampden Avenue, Denver, CO 80123

9:30-11am

They will have an incredible FREE breakfast!!

My Suitcase Message: Love Yourself Enough

Years ago when I volunteered with YoungLife, I was trained how to create Bible studies specifically for the high school students I was discipling. The main gist was: imagine those students could only take 1 suitcase to college. What would I want to make sure was packed in there?

The answer was obvious to me: I wanted them to know they were loved, to value themselves enough that others couldn’t devalue them. It wasn’t self-help. It was biblical truth. It still is.

It was the blind leading the blind, or at least I can look back and realize how blind I really was. Next year I’ll hit that proverbial hill and yet I’m going through my second divorce. Yes, second.

Insert mental picture of me hanging my head in shame.

But this isn’t about shame. Not even sympathy. It’s about our suitcases. You see, a friend made a comment a while ago, something about my picker being broken (“picker” as in the thing that helps me select the men in my life). She’s right.

This broken-picker girl is back on a mission to help pack suitcases, but my targets are different this time. First victim: me! Next up, my girlie.

She hadn’t heard me use the cliche “do what I say, not what I do,” until the final threads of my second marriage began unraveling. And along with that old standby, she also hears, “Make sure your picker is working properly.”

I guess I say it more than I realize because last night she made a comment that surprised me, restating an answer I forgot I’d told her previously.

“Micayla, do you know why my picker was broken?”

“Yup. Because you didn’t love yourself enough.”

Oh, sweet tears. If all this pain and agony I’m going through only results in my girl coming to love herself enough, it will be worth it all. Yes, every stinking tear I’ve cried at all of the most inconvenient times: worth it in full.

If I can keep learning this on the other side of the hill while teaching my girlie long before she even spies it, well, let’s just say it’d be a life well lived in my book.

And so we pack our suitcases. Lean into Love, for of course loving enough can never come from within, for that would only produce a mere illusion, a puffing up of something that doesn’t deserve to swell. Oh, but to sit at the feet of the one who made us? To listen to what He has to say about us? To believe we’re more than mere dust or happenstance. To believe. Accept. Embrace. Wrap ourselves in the truth and as we do, to see that same truth covers others. It isn’t a comparison game. A better or worse than. Just a pure, unadulterated enough.

I’m beginning to think we really can’t ask for more than enough!

Oh Father, forgive me for the countless times my thoughts or actions try to say that you goofed either in making me or in the depths of your love for me. I don’t mean to discredit your love, but it’s so vast that I can’t comprehend it. Stretch my mind so I can get a better glimpse of who you say I am. Give me the boldness to do what you ask of me. Help me live fully–fully alive, fully obedient. Help me wear your love and be transformed and renewed by it. And let me love others the way you desire, even when it costs so very much. And of course, please help my love for you grow more and more every day. Lord, I love you. Amen.

 

Life without a Commentary

It’s a painful story to read if ever there were one: a boy adored by his dad and despised by his brothers, a man betrayed by family and sold into slavery, a slave rising in power to the second highest in command, then thrust into jail unjustly.

Joseph’s story is littered with pain, hardship, turmoil, blessings, and just about everything in between. My heart wants to break for him as I read his account, yet it has a lilt to it, a commentary available to those of us reading about him centuries later that wasn’t offered to him at the time.

The Lord was with Joseph so that he prospered, and he lived in the house of his Egyptian master.”  Genesis 39:2

From the time he put him in charge of his household and of all that he owned, the Lord blessed the household of the Egyptian because of Joseph. The blessing of the Lord was on everything Potiphar had, both in the house and in the field.” Genesis 39:5

The warden paid no attention to anything under Joseph’s care, because the Lord was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did.” Genesis 39:23

“The Lord was with Joseph.” “The Lord blessed the household of the Egyptian because of Joseph.” It’s these backside commentaries that draw me forward into Joseph’s story, a promise that God was with him and a foreshadowing that something good was about to happen.

But the reality is, Joseph didn’t “see” those commentaries. He didn’t psychically see God with him, and he lived in a time before the coming of the Holy Spirit, so perhaps he didn’t really know that God was still with him, even in the pit of a well or on the trek to a foreign country after his brothers sold him, or while sitting in jail, or in many other situations.

He didn’t have a copy of the verses above since they weren’t penned yet. He simply knew his life.

Just like you and me.

It reminds me of a story I heard long ago. I’ll butcher the retelling of it, but it goes something like this:

An old man’s son broke his leg. The townspeople said he was cursed.

War broke out. The son couldn’t fight because of his leg, so he stayed home while all of the other men went to battle, many of whom never returned. The townspeople said the man was blessed.

The man’s horse ran away. The townspeople said he was cursed.

The horse ended up finding a herd of wild horses, which followed the horse back to the man’s house. The townspeople said he was blessed.

The story continues, the labels of blessing and curses alternating throughout. This story resonates deep because I long to put a label on things: my new job is good, getting divorced is bad. But life doesn’t operate so succinctly with “good” or “bad” labels for everything, for even with Joseph, the things we would quickly label as bad, God deemed good. Stop and reread that.

The things we would quickly label as bad, God deemed good.

I think Joseph would have done himself in if he spent all of his time trying to figure out the label to each situation he found himself in. Rather than deciding which points had “bad” stamped across them, he remained faithful.

Again: he remained faithful in the good times and bad, which perhaps were one in the same, or more accurately, intricately woven together. If you’re familiar with Joseph’s story, you know he ultimately saved his family’s life when he provided for them during the years of famine. But even Joseph knew that wouldn’t have been possible had it not been for God’s presence with him AND for the times we so quickly want to write a bold “BAD” by: jail, slavery, false allegations, betrayal and more.

We, like Joseph, don’t have the luxury of seeing the commentaries that go along with our stories, those God-eye views that us non-gods can’t possess.

I imagine this means something different to all of us. To me, it paints pictures with grays rather than mere blacks and whites. It means the challenge to recognize that crazy hard times can bring something crazy good, even if the crazy good is a refining of our outlook, our thinking, or our very souls.

One truth I’ve recently discovered lends itself strongly to this life without commentary attitude, this ceasing to label and instead living faithfully. It’s highly personal and isn’t the point of this blog, but I’ll share it just as an example. You know I’m going through an ugly divorce, a situation I long to put a big BAD across the file tab. But even in this “bad,” here’s my reality: it took getting divorced to know how deeply I am loved. I ask you: could you label that as BAD? Me, neither.

So I’m taking the Joseph challenge and am trying to stop with the labels, the Stacy-determinations of if God is for me or against me, and instead I want to remain faithful and trust His goodness. Always.

Who’s in?

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Hold on to Truth

There are all kinds of anti- things these days, things that fight against something else, like:

  • Antibiotics. I’m so very glad for these on my oh, so sick days.
  • Antiperspirant. Another one I’m extremely glad for!
  • Anti-wrinkle. I haven’t crossed that bridge yet, but it could be in my cards.
Image Courtesy Flickr: Paul Appleton

Image Courtesy Flickr: Paul Appleton

But how about a new one? Anyone heard of anti-perish? I know what you’re thinking: I’d be a millionaire if I could create it, a fountain of youth type thing. Well, the reality is, it exists, just not in the way we’d expect.

The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.” 2 Thessalonians 2:9-10, emphasis mine

Sounds a bit extreme, right? I mean, are we really going to perish just by refusing to love truth? In a nutshell, yes.

If a boat is sinking and a passenger abandons the damaged vessel and clings to driftwood, you better believe they will do just that: cling. They will hold onto it for their life.

In a world of relativity, we must ask ourselves if we’re willing to cling onto Truth, to love it wholeheartedly. To let it shape, redeem, transform, save.

Oh Lord, may your truth penetrate and refine me.

signatureLinking in with 5 Minute Friday, writing prompt “Hold”

 

 

 

Preparing for an Attack: Lessons from a Chokehold

Many of you know I got a new job (yay!!). I’ve gone through various trainings, one of which included a day on how to get out of a chokehold, what to do if someone bites me, how to put someone in a restraint, and more. I can’t begin to tell you the problems this caused for me, the inner turmoil that rumbled throughout. Am I really voluntarily putting myself in a position where I’m prone to be attacked?

Granted, my training process has been a bit backwards: I was offered the job after the initial overview of the company as a whole was offered, the one that would have offered the big picture of the job. I hadn’t even completed my hire packet before hearing about the many risks of the job, along with physical ways to try to alleviate them.

For the birds is just one of the phrases I’ve been heard saying these past few days. Why, oh why, would I put myself back into a place where I could get hurt?

So I had a heart-to-heart with the lady in Human Resources, sharing my concerns and fears.

“Those are extreme cases and you most likely won’t encounter anything like (being put in a chokehold), but we’d rather you be prepared in the event that something were to happen.”

Truth be told, this jury is still out. I want something a little safer. No, wait. Much, safer. But sometimes we aren’t called to live safe (but I’m saying to live stupid, nor will I ever, ever condone abuse. Never ever. Run to safety. Break down the walls of silence. Trust me, if you aren’t safe, you’d be surprised how many people will come to your aide to make sure you are).

I know it’s naive, but I’ve always feared being trained for something, thinking that somehow it will cause that thing to happen. I hated learning how to help a choking baby, fearing that somehow it might “make” my kids choke. Same with First Aid and CPR.

And maybe even with spiritual attacks.

Okay, not maybe.

I know the chances of facing a spiritual attack is infinitely higher than the odds of one of my kids dying from choking on a hot dog. In fact, it isn’t even a matter of if. Nor is it when. I’ve been there. Am there. And I’m not alone.

So while I might adamantly resist learning how to break away safely when someone grabs me by the hair, there is a major dose of prevention that I’m all over:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” Ephesians 6:10-17

Let’s not be unaware and pretend like nothing will happen. Instead, let’s armor up!

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