Hope in the Waiting

If strength comes to those who wait, then what can we do while we try doing the nearly impossible task of waiting?

We’ve heard it quoted, seen the pictures of it, even listened to Lincoln Brewster’s son recite it: “Those who wait upon the Lord will renew their strength” (Isaiah 40:31, NASB). It sounds blissful. Empowering. Energizing. Wait on the Lord; rise on the wings of eagles. Sign me up!

But here’s the kicker: wait. No, I don’t mean wait to hear the kicker, I’m saying that is the “deal-breaker.” If only it said “those who clean 5 toilets a day” or “those who visit a shut-in every week,” but no, it says the one thing I find most challenging: wait.

It’s sad to admit, but I’ve looked up Isaiah 40:31 in various translations, hoping for a word I have a better shot at achieving, but it was just that: hoping. The NIV says, “Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.” Ah, hope! Yes, I hope in the Lord. I believe in Him and His mighty power. I know He will restore all things. I know, which is so very different than hoping.

I don’t have room to hide presents in cabinets and under my bed like I normally do prior to Christmas since all of those places are already brimming with other things like clothes, toys, and who knows what else. Without a place to hide them, I decided to wrap so each present the day I bought it and place it under the tree.

“This one is a Fly Guy book,” my Bubba proudly declared last week as he held up a gift.

“How could you possibly know that?” I asked.

“Because it’s square and flat. And this is a Lego set,” he announced as he shook a box. “But I was also hoping to get some Bionicles. Don’t worry, Mom. You can still go to that big toy store over by the mall and get some for me before Christmas.”

Whoa! Stop the mini-van! Since when does my kid get to tell me what he wants, where to buy it, and when to have it by? Since he started hoping, that’s when. No, he really shouldn’t boss me around (although his last name is Voss and he has somehow come to believe that his sister is not the ‘Voss’ of him).

Yet for as off as Gabe was in telling me what I needed to add under the tree, he was spot-on for reminding me of the meaning of hope. Hope isn’t an “oh, I hope the winning lottery ticket flies through my window.” It isn’t that, “I can’t imagine this will happen, but I sure hope it does.” Hope is the confidence of a little boy who just knows he’s going to get a Bionicle (although he added it to the list after this elf finished her shopping).

You know, that last set of parenthesis makes me pause. I don’t want to include it because it somehow takes away from the point of the story and turns into a little boy’s tears Christmas morning when he gets so many great things, but apparently not the thing. But it also makes me want to recheck my budget and see if there’s a little wiggle room for a $10 toy. Why? Because I just adore that kid. He’s crazy awesome and way too lovable. But more than that, he’s my son.

Tears well in my eyes. Scratch that: they’re now streaming. How many times in my waiting–that seemingly tortuous thing of day in and day out not knowing the why’s, when’s, where’s, or how’s of my life–that my Who reminds me, guides me, provides for me, and oh mercy, loves me in the most lavish of ways.

Oh, child, don’t you know that I love you?

Yes, Lord, I know. I know, and yet so often I forget. I’m so, so sorry. Help me love you more, to trust you more, to listen more, but perhaps more than anything else, teach me to hope in you like never before.

What does hope look like for you? And dare I ask, but how do you go about hoping in your days of waiting?

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The Thanksgiving of Christmas

My mom filled me in on how she spent the few hours between the time all of us left Thanksgiving night and when she left to board the plane to visit my uncle.

In between packing clothes and trying to remove the stain from where I dropped the cranberry sauce on her white tablecloth, she  packed away the harvest decorations, and set out the rest of the Christmas decor.”

Just like that, Thanksgiving was over.

Take a nap after the feast, then hit the stores.

Put up the tree and start baking.

I heard on the radio this morning that there is something about Christmas that stresses out 90% of us, ranging from traveling, to long lines, or gaining weight. In other words, 90% take a day (or part of one if we spent the evening hitting the deals early) to say thanks, only to wake up to a different emotion: frenzy and concern.

It’s makes me wonder if there’s a connection: gratitude out, anxiety in. I can’t say my theory is right, but it’s definitely worth trying out.

Shout for joy to God, all the earth!
Sing the glory of his name;
make his praise glorious.”

Psalm 66:1-2

Will you shout it out, sing of it, or breathe it in? It somehow defies what we’re supposed to do this time of year, and yet is somehow also fully embodies the very thing we should do every time of year, especially now.

Oh God, thank you for being my eternal God, the One who never changes, the lover of my soul, the One who hears, heals, loves. May I never stop singing your praises. Be glorified in everything I do (including the number of cookies I eat or the amount of money I spend this month). I love you. Amen.

What about you? What will you sing out in joy?

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Scarfing Versus Savoring

I figured that since all of Day 1 of my new book, Savoring Christmas: 31 Days to Prepare Your Heart for the Messiah, is available on Amazon, I’ll share it here with you! I’d love for you to jump in and share your thoughts on the questions at the end!

December 1st

Scarfing Versus Savoring

I’ve heard of fast eaters, but my black lab takes the cake (literally!). She can finish off her dinner in twenty-three seconds flat.

Twenty-three seconds!

It happens so fast that I have a hard time remembering if she’s been fed or not. The same is true of her. She comes begging within minutes of eating, apparently forgetting that she just scarfed down her meal.

I laugh and tell her to lie down, but sometimes I look at her and see myself. No, I don’t have fur, nor do I walk on all fours. But I am prone to forget the things I do in haste. Sometimes I touch the head of my toothbrush to check if it’s wet since I can’t remember if I brushed or not. Other times I eat lunch while I work and then struggle to recall if I ate or not. And then there are the times when I race from one activity to the next, dashing so quickly that I only remember feeling rushed while forgetting who I spent time with. The calendar fills and the memory fades.

Schedules bulge this time of year with pageants, baking cookies, addressing cards, and buying presents. If we aren’t careful, our Decembers could be defined by rushing from one activity to the next.

They could be, but they don’t have to.

Yes, our days might be busier than normal, but it can also be a season of heart training. Matthew 6:21 says, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” After the angels echoed carols of praise throughout the skies and the shepherds came to see the newborn king, “Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2:19). She undoubtedly savored that moment and her heart was fully present in the grandeur of God’s miracle.

So many things fight to earn the spot of being most treasured in our hearts this time of year. What will you most treasure?

Stop and Savor

  • What are some things you treasure about the Christmas season? Some examples are looking at lights or seeing The Nutcracker. Perhaps you enjoy being known for finding the perfect gift or baking the best cookies. What do you most want to treasure this season?
  • Deuteronomy 8:10 says, “When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you.” I normally pray before a meal, but what if the time of gratitude came afterwards? Would that cause you to savor the food more? Give it a try today and say thanks after each snack and meal.
  • Create a “treasure box” for this Christmas season. Perhaps you’ll use a small bucket or container, or maybe a gift bag. Jot down things throughout December as you ponder them, and then place them in your treasure box. Do you think you can fill it by Christmas Day?
Blessing Box

This is the blessing box my Girlie made yesterday. What would you put in yours?

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.