Every Little Breath

Every Little Thing: Making a World of Difference Right Where You Are by Deidra Riggs
Today, I'm offering a little e-reading for you. Imagine you're sitting in a sweet little book store, the warm smell of coffee filling your senses, as Deidra's welcoming voice reads the following excerpt from her new book Every Little Thing:
When everyone seems to be upping the ante and raising the qualifications for what it means to impact the world in meaningful ways or to live a significant life, we write our story with our breath and we make space on the earth for God. 
Sometimes breathing is the only prayer we can pray, and God hears our sigh and once again breathes the breath of life into us. We exhale, and it seems like such a little thing. But some days it is everything. It is communion--intimate and more than breathing oxygen and exhaling carbon dioxide. It is sacred and it is holy: this agreeing with God that we need God, for all of everything, and his joyful entering into our lives and ourselves and our very souls to make us one with him. We are gulping and breathing and sighing and gasping, and we realize our deep, deep hunger inside. (pp. 102-103)
Maybe these words stand out because I need more breathing in my life. Not the short breaths that take over when stress wells up in my back and shoulders. The deep and real breaths that happen when I slow and am still enough to know God and be in His presence.

Making a difference in the world is an enticing thing with promise of mission and purpose and holy success.

Except that we often make our real purpose in God secondary. We imagine success something different than Jesus taught it to be, the opposite of smallness. We idolize stories of the Bible turning all of their lifelong stories into one giant of a godly superhero missing their own areas of smallness and surrender and that God really is the beginning, middle, and end.

I've read several "world-changer" type books that inspire me to take action, to embrace my calling in Christ and do something.

I appreciate what Deidra adds to the conversation. A starting place of sorts that's right here where I am or right there where you are. Like middle-aged Moses shepherding in the wilderness before receiving a direct calling by God or Joseph enduring prison before ever seeing his dreams come true or even Jesus living into adulthood before His own short and powerful 3-year ministry.

As Deidra put it, "We either want God or we want significance. ... Our significance actually arrives through the surrendering of significance."

May you realize that God is right there with you and has significance for you with each little breath you take. You can make a difference, and it starts now in this moment. If you need a companion and some inspiration in that journey, checkout Deidra Riggs' book Every Little Thing: Making a World of Difference Right Where You Are.

And see her book launch post on her blog: Jumping Tandem.


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10 Simple Tuesday Lessons

Simply Tuesday: Small-Moment Living in a Fast-Moving World by Emily P. Freeman
In figuring out how to share Emily P. Freeman's newest book, Simply Tuesday, with you, I decided what better than to bless you with her own words? Following are ten powerful, thoughtful, encouraging, and wise quotes from throughout the book to give you just a small sampling. (This list started much longer!)

Her subtitle "small-moment living in a fast-moving world" fits in well with what I try to share with you here and in my emails on simple faith and simple life. Whether you signup for her emails or get the book, follow her on instagram or checkout the inspiring collection of photos at #itssimplytuesday, or simply read the following words she's written, I pray you'll find God's beauty in smallness and His life in the everyday.

10 Quotes from Simply Tuesday

The lines in bold are from Emily's book Simply Tuesday, and the text below are my quick thoughts on it.

1. The deepest need of my soul isn't a personal organizer or an empty inbox. The deepest need of my soul is Christ.

This is from the intro and a reminder I need daily. My to-do list is all fine and good, but only after remembering the real essential: Jesus. And this insight spreads throughout all she shares in this book and in her other books as well.

2. What if, instead of thinking we have to choose between our ordinary life and an extraordinary life, we began to realize they're the same thing?

I've struggled with smallness. Maybe we all have. Not being recognized or feeling like my contributions aren't enough, while still wanting to simplify and embrace contentment. But so much that Jesus teaches is that we tend to confuse extraordinary and ordinary and maybe thay're not so different after all.

3. Jesus is often in the last place I look but the very place he always said he would be--in the whisper, in the children, in the small and secret places.

The times I hear God loudest are in the stillness and everyday smallness. You'd think I'd look there first, but I often forget. And in the forgetting, sometimes I neglect that He wants His big story woven through my small life.

4. Home isn't either beautiful or not, happy or sad, full or empty. Home is both. Home is and.

I love this reality of balance. Isn't not a straight line down the middle, it's a dance across the line into opposites. A college counselor talked about this importance in mental health and it's stuck with me--the bad is evidence of the good, the lows evidence of the highs, and we need it all to an extent, we need the and.

5. I can plant seeds, but I can't make them grow, I can create art but I can't make it sell, I can act in faith but I can't determine the outcome.

My inner control freak says I can set goals and calculate every step of the way. But the truth of a life of faith is something so much better--leaving everything in God's capable hands. It still involves action, but it lets the ending be a bit of a mystery because God's plans are always the best.

6. When we consider the spiritual transformation of our lives, it often means being stretched beyond what comes natural and leaning hard into what is supernatural, those things that come from God.

Another like it: "Rather than turn from the pain of smallness, I can turn toward Christ and partner with him in every small thing." (p. 211)

Some writing I've been working on revolves around this: Our need leads us to Jesus. I've come to terms with the mess that comes natural to me, and am finding joy in discovering Jesus' transformation. By this, He gets the glory.

7. People need our with-ness.

This reminder is so good in a time when we expect our likes and our quick texts to be enough. I'm learning to listen and just be with the people I care about. Like a high school roommate that would let me cry in her lap without asking for an explanation or giving detached solutions. Just as much as we don't want to be alone or feel lonely, it's safe to assume others around us are feeling the same way. When we extend our with-ness in whatever ways present themselves, others are free to offer their with-ness in return.

8. Jesus looks nothing like I think he should look, speaks nothing like I thought he would speak, allows things I don't think he should allow.

This is a concept I've been learning to embrace over the last couple years. It started with words in books like Irresistible Revolution and more recently from something I read in Searching for Sunday. I've heard the term "putting God in a box" but failed to see all of the ways I do that. It's a blessing to be reminded that He is God and I am not and that's a very good thing.

9. These are the days of . . . what?

This is a practice of embracing smallness that Emily shared in her book and in her video series. When life seems to be flying by, it's helpful to think about the little happenings that make up our days. It's such a simple way to slow down and pay attention to the little habits and routines that will quickly evolve into something else and likely forgotten. It's okay to move on to new things, and it's good to embrace today while it's still here.

10. I sense Christ asking me to embrace the days of small beginnings even when they might lead to small endings. Because the mustard seed tells us the ending belongs to God and it is kingdom-sized.

Another like it: "Small things don't always turn into big things. But all things begin small, especially in the kingdom of God. Acorns become oak trees. Embryos become President. Life starts with a breath. Love starts with hello."

Oh, how I love these thoughts. A recurring prayer I've prayed for a couple years is "Use me in big ways by Your power for Your glory." Of course, in the back of my mind I have my own ideas of "big." This is such a good reminder that when God's in charge, nothing is too small to matter.

This is only a small sampling of the encouragement and wisdom in Emily's Simply Tuesday.

For more Simply Tuesday:
simply tuesday (book + email)


beginner beans: monthly dose of simple (email) | @beginnerbeans (instagram)

Our Wedding Story, Shame-free

Shedding Shame + Reclaiming Our Story
For the last eight years, our wedding was tainted by shame. Not my own, but rather shame handed to me unwillingly. I'm ready to shed the shame and reclaim our story.

When we found out I was pregnant a few months after we started dating, we hadn't planned to hide it. We were adults--him 23 and me 20. We still had maturity to gain, but we made adult choices in our relationship and we were ready to take ownership of the adult choices to follow. We loved each other and seriously talked marriage before--this simply meant it'd happen sooner than planned.

After a week of telling our families and a couple close friends and processing the news ourselves, we scheduled our first premarital counseling session with our Christian college's counselor. As we talked about the various intricacies of our upcoming wedding, our newly growing family, and juggling finishing college, we also mentioned wanting to be open with our college deans.

Both of our parents lived on opposite coasts and we knew we'd need some positive influence from our older, wiser "mentors" to make it through these big life changes. He agreed, but seemed hesitant as he asked us to hold off on talking to them until he could find out for us anonymously how that news might be taken.

When we met back the next week, he confirmed his suspicions. He suggested we not spread the news just yet. If they found we were expecting while still unmarried, we could likely be asked to leave the college.

I wasn't exactly planning on keeping this to ourselves and it bothered me. Shame forced it's way in and I wasn't liking how it was sitting. But graduating was important to us, so we played our part and kept quiet.

I also met shame in the face at the bridal shop. Asking for a pregnancy pillow to try on wedding dresses was a tad humiliating. It didn't help that nothing looked right over that pillow, and nothing about this experience was going how I had always imagined. I realized shame came in many forms and was likely here to stay.

A few of us RAs got engaged around the same time. The deans joked (or honestly guessed) that with all of these engagements and weddings following shortly, one of them had to be pregnancy-related. I found myself nervously laughing and wishing I could say something. By that point shame started getting comfy in me, silencing me from the truth I desperately wanted to speak.

And the truth was that little fetus that we didn't yet know was a "she" was always a miracle to celebrate, never a mistake to be ashamed of. And our relationship was always rooted in love. That shame that I started owning wasn't really mine, but was given to me from others. And that made me sad for the start of our marriage and for the beginning of our baby's life.

One evening, Daniel met me with a handful of my favorite flowers and took me to the places of some important firsts. First piggie-back-ride on front campus, first kiss under a giant full moon at Holmes Lake, becoming an official couple outside Barnes and Noble.

At the final stop, Pioneers Park where we had said would be a cool place to get married, he got on one knee and said something sweet (that I can't remember) and proposed.

Daniel is my constant. I knew he would be early in our friendship, even while we got to know each other on MSN. Even when I told him we'd never date because his sister was marrying my brother. Even when hugging him at our siblings' wedding or on campus that fall felt like a little piece of home. The cheesiest words I say about our relationship are also the truest: He's my magnet.

Sometime after spring semester and before our late July wedding, we went out to California to visit my parents. I had terrible morning sickness and it was nice to have a little refuge where we didn't have to pretend. Evenings were the worst, and one particularly hard evening, Daniel pointed me into the bathroom which he had prepared with lit candles, a perfect-temperature bath (seriously, he has a gift), a calming iTunes mix, and iced lemonade.

While I relaxed, the lyrics to Book of Love took me over: "The book of love is long and boring... but I love it when you read to me." I knew we were diving straight in to the long and boring--morning sickness and pregnancy exhaustion and depression and anything else we had already endured made sure of that. And somehow I was ready simply because we were diving together.

Our Shame-free Wedding Story

Our Wedding Story, Shame-free
We prayed regularly asking God to lead us. That we'd be suitable parents for this blessing given to our care. That we'd be suitable spouses to support each other in all the directions life would take us. Despite the outside forces of shame, I held to a glimmer of hope that perhaps this all really was a blessing and one day I really could acknowledge it as such beyond our close friends and family.

Over the years, I've struggled wondering at what point was our precious baby a miracle and not a mistake and at what point were our actions finally based in love and not sin?

My answer these several years has been quiet but persistent and countered the shame imposed on me. Our actions were always based on love and our baby was always a miracle. The shame others threw in said I was wrong. It said that such bold statements would only permit others to "live in sin" and excuse "mistakes."

But let me ask shame's promoters this--Was it marriage that fixed everything? Is that when our actions were finally justified and forgiven and when our baby could finally be considered a wanted blessing?

People sure acted like it did. We returned to college that fall married and my belly noticeably inhabited with a tiny being. I'm sure people talked, but overall the attitude seemed to be "well, at least they're married."

It's not our simple wedding and resulting marriage that "fixed" everything.

It was Who we turned to from the beginning. All along the way we took our love and our miracle before God. We asked forgiveness for not waiting on His ideal for us. We asked His blessing, because we knew His history of hijacking people's detours and leading His people somewhere good in spite of ourselves.

Marriage didn't do that. Our college's mandatory counseling when we returned to school didn't do that. A set amount of time or a birth after a wedding or one magical date didn't do that. It was all Jesus.

Life in Jesus has a way of bringing our choices back around to love and miracles if we'll let Him. In that truth I shed the shame so graciously given me now eight years ago. I proudly tell our whole story.

Pointing out there was a 20-week fetus kicking my insides behind that ivory bridesmaid dress as we exchanged vows--and the next week we were excited to find we were having a girl.

Noting that when our officiant (a friend who shame told us not to tell we were expecting) talked about one day sharing our cup with a little one, we smiled at each other knowingly because we were short months away from "one day."

And by being honest about those little joyous additions to our story, shame can't quiet me from also sharing that skipping the honeymoon phase of our marriage, and skipping an actual honeymoon, sucked. That trying on wedding dresses with a pillow strapped to my belly sucked. That hiding my excitement about our news sucked. That so many parts of embracing that love and that miracle, because of our choices to veer from God's plan, sucked.

Yet, our choices aren't enough to erase God's miracles or diminish His love. And by being honest about all of it, we get to celebrate one, while still being honest about the other. We get to celebrate our love for each other while telling the stress of rushing things. We get to celebrate our beautiful now-7-year-old miracle while sharing the juggling act of being college parents. Because it's all our story. And leaving out the hard or vulnerable only dilutes the good.

It took me eight years to formulate words for this stifled peace I've had since the beginning. I'll say now what I wish I was brave enough to say then: Keep your judgments and shame. We've got freedom and forgiveness and life in Jesus.

"It's all our story. And leaving out the hard or vulnerable only dilutes the good."


also read:
if you've quit church, read this
undressing our motives
monthly dose of simple