choose His way

As a book review blogger, I sometimes have the privilege of receiving advance copies of books, usually in electronic form.  But I decided to order my own hard copy of a new book from Malinda Fuller, “Obedience Over Hustle.”  Why?  Because this one needs to sit on my nightstand and join a short list of books that are important re-reads every year!

give me your heart obedience

I am a perfectionist.  I ask way more of myself than anyone else ever will.  I am guilty of the sideways glance, measuring my own achievements by what I see others accomplishing around me.  My passion can run amok, driven more by selfish ambition than unwavering commitment to clear direction from the LORD.  That drive can leave me anxious.  Worrying I have missed the mark.  It can all become very fragile. Those insecurities fueled by ugly, sinful pride.

Malinda very quickly grabbed my attention.  Drawing me away from my teetering house of cards, built in fits and starts, bursts of stubborn, independent determination.  She suggests a much firmer foundation.  OBEDIENCE.  To the LORD’s leading!  Orchestrated by His divine plan, guided and equipped by His Spirit, fueled by His power, and characterized more by worship, compassion and conviction than self-serving passion.  There is purity in obedience.  There is also peace.

I could have highlighted the whole book!  I lingered over every chapter, savoring the balm to my weary, fickle heart.  Malinda’s compelling definitions of “hustle” and “obedience” remind me of the dialogue among fellow believers that has captured my attention over recent years.  To choose the counter-cultural way.  To worry less about the tips and tricks and hoops to jump through to dream big and make those dreams become reality, and instead, to dedicate myself more to stepping aside with the LORD.  To regularly pursue a place where all other voices fall silent, where I can ask Him what He wants me to be doing!?!  And to get busy doing it!

In my writing, my longing to speak truth into hearts of women in whatever avenue is open to me, I also want to truly grasp that I am first a wife and mother and more importantly a child of the King!  He is the One who longs to hold first audience with my heart!  As Malinda describes what it might look like to prioritize my days and efforts in a way that honors Him, she reassures me that most of my steps are not as faltering as I fear.  Most of them have been toward Him, NOT swept away with the raging tide around me.

“She knows the voice of the One who speaks her dreams into being.  She has learned to heed those promptings when they come.  Instead of becoming bitter about the mundaneness of her days [as a mom], she’s choosing to be the influential leader GOD has created her to be, right now.  Even though she doesn’t have a giant platform, she is using her unapologetic voice to bring healing and inspiration to others through social media . . . she has gathered together women from all seasons and denominations in her city for mornings of Bible conversation and coffee . . . she meets together with other moms to encourage and strengthen them on a regular basis . . . and most importantly, she has sunk deep into the trenches of motherhood with an eternal perspective.  She is going after the hearts of her children, intent on raising them to love and follow JESUS.  Instead of chasing what other people are doing, she has plugged herself into her family and her community.  That’s what obedience looks like for her in this season.  Laying down the hustle meant being content with being small.  She has said yes to GOD, given up the hustle, and stepped into obedient living.” (p. 50-51)

Malinda’s words speak peace to my easily distracted heart and encourage me to keep choosing Him, even when the path forward seems unclear or uncertain, or unseen by others.  His full plans for me and my efforts will one day be realized.  A lot of them are already unfolding in those unseen places!  He is the One who has gifted me and faithfully leads me one step at a time.  He will truly delight in seeing any further plans for me come to fruition . . . in His time!  If I simply hunger to know His heart, with deeper passion than for anything else, I’ve already received the greatest gift He can offer!  As I look to the Father for His plan and His purposes, and work hard to align my efforts with His, I can rest assured that I am always on the right path.

As I recommit to choosing His way, these quotes from “Obedience Over Hustle” will serve as important reminders:

“Continued obedience . . . it is carefully tending to what He has commissioned us to do, sometimes without being able to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  It’s not just a one-time risk or a single act, but faithfully putting our hand to what GOD has led us to do.” (p. 220)

  “It is choosing His way over our own.  It’s laying down what we think best – our timing and our methods – and yielding to what GOD thinks is best.” (p. 221)

 “It’s living with the knowledge that His opinion is the only one that matters, and that seeking Him first is a command worth following.  When we live like this, we are choosing obedience over hustle.” (p. 221)

Malinda beautifully weaves Biblical truth with personal stories, her extensive research as she wrestled with these concepts, and examples from Scripture of men and women who have faithfully gone before us, choosing to follow Christ!

.   .   .

Do you find yourself crumbling under the pressure to succeed, to chart your course and make it happen, to dream big and “go for it!”?  Do you battle fear that you will miss that one big break, falter at that pivotal moment and lose your one big chance?  “Obedience Over Hustle” offers you the chance to breathe and look UP!  Malinda Fuller suggests a much kinder option: simply ask the One with the master plan which next step to take . . . and follow where He leads!

“Obedience Over Hustle” by Malinda Fuller, from Barbour Publishing, is available wherever books are sold.  Find Malinda on Facebook or Instagram to follow #thefulleradventure as their family continually chooses obedience to the call of Christ!

give Me your heart

#obedienceoverhustle  #justbreathe  #Hehasaplan  #Hisplanisbest  #justaskHim  #followwhereHeleads  #trustandobey  #trustingJESUS  #heldandbeloved  #whispersofrest  #mysteriouskindness  #lostinwonder

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step by step . . .

In a quiet corner of our foyer there sits a large, hand-woven market basket from the small Caribbean island of Dominica.  Few, if any, of the people who pass by that basket as they enter our home (including my own family!) know the history those intertwined branches hold for me.

I traveled to Dominica 25 years ago, to visit a missionary family who had spent years reaching out to the island people with God’s love and truth, His saving message of the gospel and His guidelines for them in His Word.

The culture in Dominica is dramatically different from my home in the United States.  Many people live in lean-to huts made from scrap pieces of cardboard or wood.  They wash their clothes in the river and lay them out on rocks to dry.  Weekly “groceries” are purchased at the village market on Saturdays, where local farmers bring fruits and vegetables to sell, and fishermen vend fresh seafood.  Others sell items they have crafted from natural materials, like the basket I still treasure!

The people of Dominica have very few material possessions, but they beam with passion and joy!  Many of those dear ones hike hours through the jungle to meet in a tiny building with no windows and no door, to kneel on a bare concrete floor, to pray for their own people and those who live on neighboring islands.  They long for others to know the Savior and for those who already know Him to be devoted to Him and growing in their knowledge and service for Him.

When Sunday arrives, those same dear people travel again by foot to gather in that same little building to remember the Lord – this time in extraordinarily fine clothing!  They treasure the opportunity to gather in JESUS’ Name and to remember Him in celebrating the Lord’s Supper.  They wear their fanciest outfits and arrive with smiles that radiate a palpable love for their Savior.

During my visit to Dominica, I joined a full-day excursion, hiking the mountain in the center of the island.  That hike pushed the physical strength of my legs and core to the extreme limit!  Ten miles in tropical weather, the first half of which was almost entirely uphill.  One step after another, up and up and up and up, with the help of railroad ties that had been placed in the side of the mountain to provide steps.

Our guide noticed me, lagging behind the others.  Being the smallest of our group (and likely the least physically conditioned!), he decided that I needed to take the lead.  Because of an embarrassingly out-of-place and rather large ribbon barrette in my hair – in bright pink, no less! – he affectionately called me “Pinky Tuscadero” and bluntly stated, “you need to set the pace for us or we’ll leave you in the dust!”  So, I sheepishly climbed to the front of the group and on we went. . . up and up and up and up!

During our hike, we passed through some dangerous places.  One, in particular, was called the “Valley of Desolation,” where tufts of steam sneaked through the surface from the volcano underneath.  It was vitally important to follow the guide’s footsteps exactly!  Any step off the safe path would have resulted in serious injury or worse!  One of our goals was to reach a truly amazing sight, the “Boiling Lake,” a huge lake that literally remained in a constant state of rolling boil!

But there were also amazing delights along the way.  When our canteens ran dry, the guide would point out places where water ran down the mountainside in the clearest, cleanest streams we had ever seen!  There were beautiful clearings where we could stop to rest and enjoy the freshest, sweetest grapefruits I had ever tasted.

We finally reached the top where there was a breathtaking view of the entire island.  Our group erupted with bright, awe-struck faces, pointing fingers, busy cameras, and a rousing chorus of ooohs and aaaahs!!!  But “Pinky Tuscadero” was collapsing on a nearby rock, wondering how on earth I was going to make my jello-legs function enough to get me back down the mountain!  I was SO exhausted that I couldn’t even enjoy the view.  (How sad!)

After some much needed rest, we managed to collect ourselves and begin the trek back down the mountain.  At the base, 5 hours after beginning our jungle adventure, we were treated with a little surprise.  We were able to swim in a clear, cool river that ran through a crevice in the base of the mountain, then warm up again under a shower of water from the hot springs.  It was SO refreshing and comforting to our aching bodies!

Even though it was excruciating at times, I felt surprisingly elated to have pushed my physical limits far beyond what I deemed possible – and to have survived!  I treasured the simple but important lessons too:  (1) follow the guide exactly, trust his leading, (2) appreciate his direction to find the best resources, (3) enjoy his provision of safe and comfortable places to rest and marvel at the view, and (4) know unexpected gratefulness for the surprises at the end of the journey!

dominica collage

The details of my trip to Dominica came flooding back recently.  For the first time in 25 years, I heard a lot about that precious island as it faced a direct landfall from hurricane Maria a few years ago.  My heart ached for those people and I stared into the darkness at 3 am, somehow stirred from sound sleep to pray fervently during the exact hours when the storm was passing over them.  That ache and those prayers returned this week as hurricane Dorian approached Dominica and its neighboring islands.  As my mind recounted the many pictures and places and people of the island, I thought about my market basket . . . and that arduous hike!

On many other occasions, in a variety of ways, the Lord has pushed my limits in the 25 years since I climbed that mountain in Dominica.  He has stretched me.  He has tested me.  I have experienced the greatest challenges and the greatest joys, all woven together.  My Savior has guided me through dangerous passages, provided for me in miraculously beautiful ways, and brought me to safe places where I can rest and marvel.

Hurricane Dorian is now steadily approaching our shores!  It is the first time since we moved to south Florida that the “spaghetti models” have been pointing directly at our stretch of the east coast . . . unchanging . . . for days!  Each new update seems to increase the size and intensity of the storm.  As we do our best to prepare, pray and watch, I find myself wondering, again, with fresh waves of concern, “what are we about to endure?!”

But I am reminded by the sweet people of Dominica that there is much less value in any material possessions we might fear will be at risk.  With the LORD’s help we can trust His sovereign plan for us, and beam with confident passion and joy that are contagious!

I don’t know what “mountains” we will have to climb over the next few days or in the weeks to come, but I know the One to follow!  Step by step by step . . .

“All the way my Savior leads me, what have I to ask beside?

Can I doubt His tender mercy, Who through life has been my Guide?

Heavenly peace, Divinest comfort, here by faith in Him to dwell!

For I know whate’er befall me, JESUS doeth all things well!”

– Fanny Crosby, 1820-1915 –

dominica step by step 2

#trustingJESUS  #mountainstoclimb  #Heiswithus  #throughthestorm  #Heleadsme  #stepbystep  #Histendermercy  #heldandbeloved  #whispersofrest  #mysteriouskindness  #lostinwonder

more than a number

I set out on my morning run, still fretting about a disappointing number on the scale, looking to the rhythm of the road to drown out those ugly voices.  A mile or so later I pondered how to pace my recovery intervals and had a number stuck in my head.  At 8:17 I’d transition back from a walk to a run.  But in my Monday morning weariness, I was not quite ready to give up a little active rest.  I sensed the nudge to just stay at a walk until the end of the block.  But passing that number on the clock nagged at me.  And I wished I wasn’t so OCD about these things!

His whisper came through steady and clear.  Straight to the heart.

“Are you willing to trust Me more than a number?”

The LORD can prompt me through my run.  He can guide my choices and show me His path for my health journey.  More importantly, He can make it clear how those seemingly little concerns in my life fall into the bigger plan He is always moving forward – with eternal purposes in mind!

If I keep my eyes fixed on Him.

.  .  .

A writing friend took the bold step recently to invest in a conference for creatives. It was costly – requiring precious time and money!  She worked hard to prepare her book proposal, to research publishers, agents and process.  And traveled to attend the weekend with eager anticipation.

She soaked in tons of valuable tools and wise insight from speakers, treasured connections and fellowship with fellow attendees, and sensed answered prayers and blessings from GOD during her time away.

But one of her worst fears came true.  An agent who was excited about her book concept and the details of her carefully prepared proposal, also told her there would be no further conversation about a contract until her platform was bigger.  She needed more followers.  At least 1000 of them!  My friend confessed needing almost a month to process the reality of the book “business.”  The fear of a number almost defeated her, clouding out the beautiful gifts of that weekend.

As she has done with every step in her writing journey, she took this battle to the LORD.  She didn’t want to be slave to a number!  And essentially, His gentle words to her heart were the same.

“Are you willing to trust Me more than a number?”

The LORD can give us words to write.  He can prompt us through the right choices about which channel to pursue in sharing them.  More importantly, He can make it clear how any creative project falls into the bigger plan He is always moving forward – with eternal purposes in mind!

If we keep our eyes fixed on Him!

 .  .  .

Numbers are everywhere.  My daughter’s SAT score.  My son’s fundraising goals.  The best sale price on toilet paper.  My steps or miles in a day.  Or even closer to my heart, the number of people who will come to the home Bible study I’ve prayed over, or the number of people who will read and be encouraged by something I post, or a note that I send.

We all look for confirming and affirming metrics.  But do I stop long enough to realize that there is only one measure that counts?

What most effectively reflects the heart of GOD?  Or touches the heart of GOD?

A number is only meaningful if it tells something of His majesty, reveals something about His character, displays His power, or conveys His boundless love.

Gideon needed less men.  The poor widow with Elisha needed more containers for oil.  David needed only one of his five stones.  Peter needed more fish than he could haul to leave him humbled in awe.  Mary only needed to hear one word, her Savior speaking her name.

Am I willing to trust Him with the numbers?  Will I allow Him to shift my value system?  To not only trust Him more, but to treasure Him more than any number?

If He has my heart, He will also have my trust.  In everything!  Transcending any quantifying number.

Are you willing to trust Him more than a number?

more than these 1

#morningrun  #Hiswhispers  #trustingJESUS  #morethananumber  #Hisplanisbest  #myGuide #heldandbeloved  #whispersofrest  #mysteriouskindness  #lostinwonder

this one’s a keeper!

Order this book!  Do not pass GO.  Do not collect $200.  Just order this book and hold a treasure!

If you have ever navigated the rocky waters of marriage or parenting, frustrations with finances or your physical body, failures or friendship, or simply the exhausting ups and downs of your own fickle heart in its deeply personal dance with faith in Christ, this book will meet you right where you are!  Lisa-Jo welcomes you in with a generous bear hug, abundant smiles, genuinely compassionate eyes . . . and maybe her favorite tacos!

I’m talking about The Middle Matters.  I devoured it in a matter of days.  Then immediately turned back to the beginning to read it again.  I highlighted so many sections that I quit taking notes and just let the beauty of (extra) ordinary wash over me.  Her words are memorable enough to declare careful record-keeping unnecessary!

I nodded, I chuckled, I sighed.  I let the tears fall freely.  I broke into heaving sobs.  I laughed out loud.

Lisa-Jo Baker’s new book will take you on that journey.  You will visit completely opposite ends of the emotional spectrum, and every point in between.  Why?  Because it is a collection of stories about life.  Real life.  And that is exactly the glorious, mysterious, maddening, terrifying, but also thrilling and wondrous adventure each and every one of us are traveling!

Lisa-Jo throws open her bright blue door, urging us inside to hang around her kitchen table with the remains of last night’s art project still lodged in its cracks!  To join the conversation, unabashedly sharing our own stories!  Encouraging us to look around, notice, and celebrate the smallest to biggest moments.  To tell it like it is!  To welcome others to step into our moments, give words to sights and sounds and smells and ALL the feels that make connections with perfect strangers and declare them sisters!

Months have passed since I first read this book, yet essay titles and catch-phrases from The Middle Matters keep popping into my head, offering understanding and clarity to so many of my own (extra) ordinary moments!

Friendly reminders:

. . . that it’s more than OK to “love like superglue,” to treasure a “pocket full of friends” that grows fuller and deeper with each passing year, and to understand and appreciate any opportunity to give “the gift of words,” especially lingering over a cup of hot tea!

. . . that there is a never-ending wedding “ring” that surrounds me more than any band around my finger, and that extraordinarily ordinary moments are truly the romantic and sexy ones in our marriage!

. . . that “parenting is do-over times infinity,” whether I am the parent looking for grace or the daughter offering it to my own mom and dad, that there are other moms who really do “sob in the mini-van” when their son or daughter finally, FINALLY overcomes their toughest challenge, and that a mother’s heart can promise things like “I will always come for you!’

. . . that the true beauty of a woman is not measured in inches or pounds or wrinkles or saggy arms, but in first breaths and steps, gotcha days, late nights, misunderstanding and forgiveness, heart-to-heart conversations, strength and never, ever giving up…

.  .  . that more than anything, we have a Savior who loves us like crazy, is big enough and strong enough to field any fiery question we launch and still offers truth and grace, who will always (always!!!!) be so thrilled when we seek His face, who will stop everything to meet us where we are with a jubilant and convincing welcome of “I’m just so glad you came!”

The Middle Matters is a keeper!  It is worth reading again and again and again.  Share a chapter with your hubby, your son or daughter, your girlfriend.  It will give you words for ALL the THINGS you want to say.  It will help you grieve what breaks your heart, but also help you rejoice in the smallest to biggest gifts!  Lisa-Jo’s heart and insight will alter your own, helping you to celebrate and treasure it all – the good, the bad, but especially the in-between.  Because the middle matters!

The Middle Matters by Lisa-Jo Baker, published by WaterBrook, is available wherever books are sold (also in audio, voiced by Lisa-Jo, herself!).  Be sure to listen in to the Out of the Ordinary Podcast on Wednesdays, with Lisa-Jo and her long-time friend, Christie Purifoy, to enjoy more and more stories that will touch your heart!

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#whythemiddlematters #bookreview #itsakeeper #buythisbook #tellyourstories #connectandencourage #extraordinary #outoftheordinarypodcast #HewelcomesusHome #truebeauty #lovelikesuperglue