by The Word Weaver, Deb on January 16th, 2014

When will I learn?  Life is not about me. 
Each new year I choose one word to focus upon and to guide me. (Why One Word? Click here to find out.) 
. . . At least I used to think that I chose the word.  
In 2011, the word was RADIATE. 
It was the most difficult year of my life I found myself faced with frustrating health issues and immersed in grief. I was so deeply submerged in grief, regrets, and sadness, I barely survived, let alone emitted any light. 
That fall, I frequently sat out under the stars and sobbed.  Even through the streams of salty tears, I felt and saw the love of a majestic God.  He comforted me.  He sustained me.  He held me.  He reminded me of His Word.  His creation emanated His personal, faithful care.  What I discovered that year was that God’s love radiated to me. 

By 2012, I thought I was healed emotionally to the point of moving forward.  The new word was ADVANCE.  Sounds positive and victorious, doesn’t it?  
Instead, I experienced reoccurring, debilitating bouts of fear.  Often I ended up in a corner, cowering. 
Yet, little-by-little, day-by-day, clash-after-clash, His Truth advanced in me.  (<--Click to Tweet)
My faith muscles were strengthened.  Do I still face fear?  Yes.  But, as a result of that year, I’m better equipped to do battle with it. 
2012 came to a close amidst a month-long sinus infection.  I was too exhausted to consider a new word for 2013.  Then, without any thought or effort on my part, a word floated to the surface of my heart:  PURPOSE.  I thought, “Wow.  That’s a great word.  Yeah, I’ll choose that one.”
You’d think I’d learn, wouldn’t you? 
In the first book that I picked up in 2013, the first paragraph was about GOD’S PURPOSE.  It was at that moment, I remembered—again—that life is not all about me.  The word was not an accident.  It was not a coincidence.
God led me to the word.  He had His purpose that He wanted to reveal to me.  My job was to listen and pay attention. 

So that’s what I did last year.  I listened more than I planned.  I read a lot of inspirational books.   I journaled.  I prayed and pondered.  I even took a few risks (in writing—you may read about it here & here—& personally--here) as I watched and waited.
At an amazing blogger’s conference in October, Allume, key components clicked together.  David Walker (a worship leader) said something significant, “So much of our lives and selves goes unnamed.  We cannot confess nor own what we do not name.” 

A workshop speaker, Nasreen Fynewever, said something else that resonated with me.  She said that she’s “intensely interested in people and always asking how she can help.  In doing so she mobilizes others’ dreams.” 
Emily Freeman, spoke briefly and asked questions that she also poses in her book, A Million Little Ways*: “What makes you come alive?  What’s most alive within you that you can offer someone else?” 
I didn’t know the answers at the time.

Then on Sunday afternoon, I walked down to a local restaurant. As I approached the stoplight, there were three older women standing there.  I noticed one’s perfume and started a conversation with them.  We chatted and delighted together in the moment before the light changed.  Then I went into the restaurant and connected with the waitress. 
On my way back to the hotel, thinking about and relishing those interactions, I realized that what makes me come alive . . . is to love. 

Because that has been true of me but has been demonstrated in so many different ways, I didn’t recognize that it was a true purpose of mine.  In fact, so much of my life has seemed scattershot.  I’d see others who seemed to have a very definite, focused purpose and I’d long for it.  
I’m now fifty, and I’m finally getting this fundamental part of myself:  my life’s acts will be varied because God has called me to love everywhere—just as He does.  

As a result of this realization, I’m naming and owning it.  

My LIFE PURPOSES (what I hope to BE):
  • To be a gentle, beautiful woman of God who quietly yields my will and life to His plan and purposes.
  • To be a Spirit-filled Christian available to be used by God, for His glory in the lives of those within my personal sphere of influence.
It is my prayer that I would live out His purposes for this life because, simply put, life is not about me!
End notes: 
I’ll be writing soon about My One Word for this year and some LIFE GOALS/DREAMS (what I hope to DO).  I hope you’ll keep coming back!
*(I HIGHLY recommend and obnoxiously quote Emily Freeman’s book, A Million Little Ways.  It is a transformational way of thinking about life and our part in it.  She also wrote Grace for the Good Girl which is on my to-read stack.)
Copyright 2014, The Word Weaver, Deb Weaver

by The Word Weaver, Deb on January 13th, 2014

I journal frequently.   It's an on-going conversation between the Lord and me.  There, I write out my everything--the good, the bad, my ugly.  A couple of days ago, I poured out my fear. 

My friend, Christin Ditchfield, (author of What Women Should Know About Facing Fear and more) asked me to guest post using the words I'd written in my journal to complement her blog's theme of Fearless:  

"I live afraid.  I realized that this morning . . ."

To read more, please visit Christin's blog.
Copyright 2014, The Word Weaver, Deb Weaver

by The Word Weaver, Deb on January 11th, 2014

Have you ever known anyone who makes things 69.789% harder than they need to be?  No?  Well, allow me to introduce myself. 

I’m Deb, forever crowned, “Empress Unnecessarily Complicated.”  
I can twist a simple to-do list into a thick, iron-clad chain that binds itself around my mind and pins me to the ground.    It’s not intentional; I just have ridiculously sky-high expectations for myself, and I over plan.
Unfortunately, those are not the only problems.  You haven’t met my other personalities—when you do, you’ll better understand. 
"Empress Unnecessarily Complicated" shares the life stage with "Duchess Do It Later (or Never)" and "The Perfectionistic Princess" who firmly believes that if something cannot be done perfectly, it should not be done at all. 

We all wear tiaras and hold titles.  We excel in our areas and combine our efforts as often as possible.  
Here’s how it works:  I look around my house and see a multitude of tasks that need completion.  I make a list that puts bunnies to shame in its multiplication rate. 

Then I begin to fill my calendar with scheduled tasks.  I color-code them. 

I accomplish a couple of tasks, crossing them off the list (one of my favorite activities.)   I am compelled to rewrite the list because it’s now messy. 

I brainstorm more items, adding both to the calendar and master list.  
I try to follow the rigid schedule for a couple of days.  Then, more often than not, I get overwhelmed and put off doing anything.  I find it far too confining. 
The list then sits there glaring at me, accusing me, paralyzing me.  

Instead of tackling tasks a little at a time, I bury my head into the internet.  I sit there, wearing my triple crowns and feeling terrible, while next-to-nothing gets done.  
With such an overwhelming approach, you may understand why I cherish crisp beginnings and brand-new years.  The slate is clean.  Hope is refreshed.  It’s like a beautiful journal with unblemished, untouched pages.  I breathe easier with anticipation. 
Yet, even in this fresh start, I make overwhelming, well-intentioned, and equally impossible lists of resolutions and goals. 
Nothing like sullying a new opportunity, is there?  Taking a permanent marker and scribbling over every page of your new journal.  Ugh.
Perhaps I need to start small.  Simplify. 
This is why the “My One Word” approach to the new year appeals to me.  It’s an over-arching target.  A gentler goal. 

My One Word frames my prayers, priorities, and perspective.   (<--Tweet)  

Perhaps you, too, need permission to let yourself off the hook and to extend grace to yourself.  Perhaps you need to start small, too.   (<--Tweet)
Let me invite you to join me.  We could toss the tiaras of the past and try something new this year.  We could ponder and pray about one word/concept to focus upon in the coming months. 
I’ll be writing more about my experiences with My One Word in the next week or two.  Stay tuned …  In the meantime, I’d love to hear your word for the New Year.
Copyright 2014, The Word Weaver, Deb Weaver

by The Word Weaver, Deb on January 8th, 2014

In this fresh, new year, here’s what I most want to say to those I love:  We are beloved by God. 
We are beloved.  You and me.    
For some reason, I get that for you more than I get it for me.  I easily extend grace, forgiveness, and love to you.  I remind you of His love.  But when I experience a bad day or feel like a failure, I berate myself and forget that I am loved, forgiven, and even cherished.  But, regardless of my feelings, it is still the truth.  
Do you ever feel that way?  If so, let’s learn and walk through this together.  
These verses are my prayer this year:  “And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”   (Ephesians 3: 17b-19, NIV)
One phrase jumped out at me—“together with all saints”.
Maybe the reason we have not truly gotten it is that we’re struggling to hold the truth by ourselves.  When life gets hard and slippery, we keep losing our grip. <--Tweet That
Perhaps this truth is so massive, so amazing, so life-rearranging that we need one another to wrap ourselves around it, to hold on tightly to it, and to remind each other not to let go.  
So, now, this year, take my hand
We’ll clasp this truth together and hold on through the moments that threaten to tear us from it.  You remind me.  And I remind you.   <--Tweet that
We’re in this together—ready to listen, affirm, and encourage.  We’ll hold onto one another with our: words, attention, time, acceptance, grace, and truth.  Let’s commit to being honest about our true selves and our experiences even when it’s scary.  In the beauty. In the mess.   Whether or not we completely understand.  Whether or not we agree.  We’ll stand together, hand in hand, grasping the truth of God’s good, unchanging, unconditional love.  <--Tweet that
We are beloved by God.  May nothing pry us from this incredible truth.  Let’s grasp it together.  What do you say? 

Holley Gerth, blogger, author, and encourager extraordinaire, invited others to join her weekly in sharing encouragement for the heart.  She offers a writing prompt to guide the conversation.  

This is the first week, and I'm happy to add my link to the others.  Click here to browse and read the varied selections.
Copyright 2014, The Word Weaver, Deb Weaver

by The Word Weaver, Deb on January 1st, 2014

Books are sweet delicacies.  I love to read and often share my personal reviews with others. 
This year, I started a list of books I read.  I’d considered it before but knew that, in my disorganization, I’d never keep up with little scraps of paper on which I’d invariably list books.  In early January, I ran across a pretty blank journal that a friend had given me.  Suddenly I had a perfect place to keep my list!  I’m so glad I did.  I guess this falls into the categories of “Better Late Than Never” and “Definitely Continue!” 
Over the year, I read fifty-four books.  As I entered the last title (and my thoughts about it) into the journal, I looked over the list.  There was a smattering of different genres including: children’s, adult, suspense and mystery, romance, writing advice, biographies and autobiographies, inspirational, and Christian living.  It was fairly-evenly divided between non-fiction (26) and fiction (28) which surprised me because I tend toward non-fictional works. 
Some people are shocked by how much I read and wonder where I find the time.  Keep in mind that I work part-time and have adult children so I have more flexibility in my schedule than many folks.  The number is really not of significance—the act of reading is.  Whatever number of books is a challenging goal to you—3, 5, 7, 10, 30, 100—let me encourage you to try it!  Let me know how it goes for you. 
Reading is like eating.  I must ingest words daily.  I generally read my Bible and a devotional selection in the morning, blog posts during the day, and books in the evening.  I’ve found that if I turn the computer or T.V. off about 7:00 p.m. I’ll often curl up and snack on a book before bedtime. 

Most often, I am in two-three different kinds of books at a time.  This is because I chew non-fiction books slowly, reading a chapter or two at a time, allowing time to digest concepts.  Biographies usually take a couple of days.  I swallow fiction books nearly whole, often staying up late to finish in one sitting.
Following are three courses of book selections that I found particularly savory and satisfying.  They’re listed alphabetically by author’s last name.  I hope that you find it to be a helpful guide when you’re looking for a new selection to try.

A Tray of Fiction:

The Elegance of a Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery
At my daughter’s urging, I read this novel, and I’m so happy I did.  It may take a little patience and time to really delve into but, if you persevere, you’ll discover that it’s a lovely piece of prose.  Though I do not believe all of the worldviews pondered by the characters, I luxuriated in its many profound, beautiful thoughts.
A quote that I love, especially the last line:  “The camellia against the moss of the temple, the violet hues of the Kyoto mountains, a blue porcelain cup—this sudden flowering of pure beauty at the heart of ephemeral passion: is this not something we all aspire to?  And something that, in our Western civilization, we do not know how to attain?  The contemplation of eternity within the very movement of life.”

To me, this is what happens when we live daily in gratitude and anticipation, looking for moments of beauty and joy and thanking the One who makes them possible.  I want my life to consist of this!
The Magician’s Elephant by Kate DiCamillo
This is a sweet, gentle book of hope and finding home. 
“…The elephant was saying her name to herself…It was the name that her mother had given to her and that she had spoken to her often and with love.  Deep within herself, the elephant said this name, her name, over and over again.  She was working to remind herself of who she was.  She was working to remember that, somewhere, in another place entirely, she was known and loved.” (p. 94-95)
Though marketed toward children, Ms. DiCamillo’s writing is timeless and for everyone.  I plan to read more by her.  

Listen to the Shadows by Joan Hovey
Truly tingling suspense! 

(Now, as a disclaimer, you should know that I am a scaredy-cat from way back so what spooks me may not necessarily frighten you.)

Home to Holly Springs by Jan Karon
This side story is of Father Tim Kavanaugh, the pastor from the Mitford series.  I love Ms. Karon’s ability to weave a faith journey and grace into everyday life.  Her characters feel like family to me, and I love my visits with them.

Misery by Stephen King
My first foray into Stephen King’s fictional work, I found it to be everything others say about it—highly imaginative, brilliantly written, and masterfully suspenseful.  It was both horrifying and captivating!  The language was very coarse but it also fit into the storyline.  I was visited by this story for weeks. 

Blue Hole Back Home by Joy Jordan Lake
This is a haunting book of race, courage, and forgiveness.  It’s beautifully written—plot-driven, well-developed characters and relationships, descriptive, and poetic.  

Non-fiction Buffet:

I read many excellent choices that I could recommend, but these are the ones that spoke most personally to me this year.
Preemptive Love—Pursuing Peace One Heart at a Time by Jeremy Courtney
This is a powerful, challenging story of love, hope, and sacrifice.  Jeremy and his wife moved to Iraq where they help children who are in need of heart surgeries, many as a result of birth defects caused by chemical warfare.  I learned a lot about the history of Iraq—how ignorant I have been of the numerous conflicts and the devastating effects of chemical warfare these people have endured.  I was also challenged by the Courtney’s commitment and courage.
Jeremy explains the motivation for such love and sacrifice:  “The truth is, preemptive loves does not begin in the heart of humanity.  Neither Americans nor Iraqis are inherently better at loving first than the other.  We are all tribal, programmed to protect our own. Instead, preemptive love originates in the heart of God.  The one who made the universe and holds everything in it—the one to whom Muslims, Christians, and Jews are all ostensibly pointing—is the first and last enemy lover.  And in the end, it is not our love that overcomes hate at all.  It is God’s.  And preemptive love is not just something God does as a one-off transaction.  Preemptive love is who God is…and when we accept God’s preemptive love, that Christ makes all things new, we can quit playing by everyone else’s rules and pursue a long, risky journey with the God who loves His enemies—even enemies like you and me.”  (p. 218-220)

Kisses From Katie—A Story of Relentless Love and Redemption by Katie Davis
This amazing true-life story of Katie Davis, a young woman who moved to Uganda to meet needs and ended up adopting thirteen girls, is filled with heartache and hope.  It’s an incredible call to love, give, and live sacrificially wherever we live and to be the hands, feet, and heart of Jesus to each person in front of us.  May I answer the call.
What Women Should Know About Facing Fear by Christin Ditchfield
I've struggled with fear, anxiety, and worry since I was a child.  Over the years I've learned to battle it with Scripture, prayer, and praise but, at times, I have to fight harder than others. It gets discouraging to continually face fear.  

I found this to be an excellent, encouraging resource.  Christin Ditchfield shares her own experiences and gives practical advice.  Scripture verses and study questions are included at the end of each chapter.  The last section of the book includes answers to questions women ask about counseling, medication, and helping fearful children; information about panic attacks; and recommended resources.  I’ll be returning to this book periodically as the need arises.   
A Million Little Ways—Uncover the Art You Were Made to Live  by Emily Freeman  

To say that I loved and highly recommend this book is putting it mildly.  Every person should read this book.  It’s a significant, life-giving, transformational conversation with the author.  Emily Freeman believes each of us was born to make art in the way we live.  She asks, “What makes you come alive?  What’s most alive within you that you can offer someone else?”  The answers to these questions vary from person to person, from day to day, from season to season—there could be a million different things—but discovering our passions is essential to being God’s living poems. 
A fun story related to this book:  I was seated at a table during the Allume blogger’s conference chatting with the gals seated on my left side.  I shared with them effusively about this book.  Then I turned and introduced myself to the gals seated on my right.  They ended up being the team who had published Emily’s book!  I snatched it out of my bag to show them how thoroughly I’d underlined it.  They were so delighted they ended up taking a photo of my open book.  We were all part of a mutual admiration society for Emily Freeman!

Seven—An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker

Challenging!  Convicting!  Important! Jen journals about her family’s experiences of fasting for a month in seven key areas of her life in order to reduce their consumption and to free them to give more.  This falls in line with other books I’ve read (Crazy Love by Francis Chan and Radical by David Platt) that emphasize that our purpose is to obey God’s Word in caring for others. 

We have excess—outrageous, obnoxious excess—and it’s wrong to nearly drown in our stuff while our neighbors (near and far) are submerged in poverty.  I want to be more like our generous God who lavishes us with resources, attention, time, and Himself.
Bread and Wine— by Shauna Nequist
I love Ms. Nequist’s inclusive attitude about cooking and sharing meals together.  In this lovely book, she relates stories about life, friendship, and love around the dinner table. 

I especially appreciated the idea of the birthday party toast in which you gather to celebrate a loved one’s birthday and verbally gift that person with words that specifically express the impact he’s had upon your life.  As someone who firmly believes that words are tremendous, powerful gifts, I love the idea! 

I read this in one night but plan to go back through and try several of the recipes included at the end of each small chapter.  The pantry guide in the back is quite helpful. 

Follow Me—A Call to Die, A Call to Live by David Platt
Written by the author of another life-changing book, Radical, this selection was a challenging, upfront look at salvation based on Jesus’ words rather than on cultural and religious trends or personal preferences. 

Bottom-line:  Jesus Christ offers us grace and said, “Follow Me.”  He is worthy of our obedience.  May my answer always be yes.
The Greatest Gift—Unwrapping the Full Love Story of Christmas by Ann Voskamp
Divided into daily December devotions, this book is written by one of my all-time favorite authors/bloggers/women (Can you tell I love Ann Voskamp?!)  It is a refreshing reminder to still in the midst of frenetic activity, to search for our abundant moments of grace, and to savor the Presence of The Greatest Gift ever given.  

“Christmas is about God’s doing whatever it takes to be with us—and our doing whatever it takes to be with Him. He climbed down from the throne in heaven to get to you.  Climb over the throes of Christmas to get to Him.”  (p. 236)
I so appreciated having Ann’s perspective and experienced more peace and perspective during Advent than ever before.  Let me recommend you purchasing this devotional for December 2014! 
Or perhaps you feel like December passed in a blur of too much activity and not enough worship.  Why not start out the year with a renewed perspective and use this book right now? 
Dangerous Surrender—What Happens When You Say Yes to God by Kay Warren
Kay Warren’s well-ordered life was shattered when she read an article about the AIDS epidemic in Africa.  She began to learn more, to allow her heart to be broken over it, and to actively seek to meet needs.  Since then, she’s become a trusted, knowledgeable advocate in this area.  She shares her struggle to surrender her safe, comfortable life, the pain and heartache this outreach has caused, and the indescribable joy and fulfillment saying Yes to God has brought. 

My heart thudded in beat with this author and her life’s message.  I’m asking God to direct me to a ministry of His choosing where I may help meet the needs of the poor, the lost, and the maligned.

Complimentary Selections on this Year-end Menu:

These two non-fiction books didn’t make the list above because I didn’t technically finish them this year, but they are too good to exclude!  I’ve given copies of both to several people and highly recommend them.
One Thousand Gifts—A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are by Ann  Voskamp
I read it twice in 2012, and it continues to impact me every day.  In poetic prose, Ann discloses how being grateful for everyday, small moments transforms her messy, sometimes difficult life into one of abundance and purpose.  I have found this to be true of my life as well.  Dare to count your blessings too?

Jesus Calling a daily devotional book by Sarah Young
I’d repeatedly heard about this book from Facebook friends, but I didn’t order it until June.  Since then I’ve used it each morning, sitting quietly with my hot tea, Bible, and journal.  It is written from the perspective of Jesus and, oh, how I’ve treasured reminders of His love and presence through these words!  The devotions are quite short and only take a minute to read; their impact is lasting.

Already Anticipated Reservations for 2014:

Thanks for letting me share my favorite literary highlights!  I’d love to hear your personal recommendations as well.  Please leave them in the comments. 
Copyright 2014 The Word Weaver, Deb Weaver

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