Tuesday, September 30, 2014

A New Book You Won't Want To Miss

My dear friend Lisa Whittle has a new book out-- one that is perfect for your morning quiet time, a small group study, or to give to a friend with a pretty journal and a pen that writes great. I invited her to share here about the book. I think you'll find her words compelling and inspiring.

1) What led you to write I Want God?

I wrote I Want God at a time when I was really sick of my struggles, my fears, myself, basically – I call it the heartcry of the sick of me life. It was at a point of desperation and wanting to quit the ministry that my heart just cried out for God to consume me more than my life currently was and what started out as a blog post turned into an anthem for many of my readers who wanted God in that way, too. (That blog post, by the way, is included as a little bonus in the back of the book.) I remembered that the only way I’ve ever gotten better about anything in life is to focus on God harder, and that is really what I Want God was and is for me.

        2) What’s different about I Want God, compared to the other books like it out there?

                    You know, there are so many great books out there. Truly. I think what makes I Want God so beneficial is that it is very bottom line, simple even, and tells the reader specifics rather than a lot of fluff they have to figure out. Maybe it’s because I’m basic and straight forward, but I just think people crave some core truth in a world where there is so much information out there it causes us to be on overload. I Want God is a book I still pick up for myself to see where I am off when I find myself in a place I don’t pursue God like I should.

      3) Your book is filled with Scriptural truth. Can you share a favorite Scripture from the book and a unique perspective God gave you about it?

            Wow. That’s tough. I love the passage in Haggai (1:3-6) that God gave me for the book because it shows how other things we chase have failed us…I love the Revelation passage in chapter 6 that shows us how to have a soul revival from Jesus’ own red letter words…I love John 1 where Jesus asks the question, “what do you want?” because I have realized it is maybe the most important question He ever asked. A favorite is the verse I share in the intro, Psalm 142:5, “Then I pray to you, O Lord. I say, “You are my place of refuge. You are all I really want in life.” It’s really my heart’s cry and my prayer for the readers of the book.

        4) Who did you write your book for? Who can benefit from its message?

                    I wrote it for the person in a place of lack – starving, desperate, need-God-to-consume-them-more-than-what-is-currently-consuming-their-life. I wrote it for the person who lives in a place of plenty but it’s still not enough. I wrote it for the searcher and for the one on the spiritual roller coaster – wanting God one minute then not as much, the next. I wrote it for the spiritually dead – the believer who is stifled in their relationship with God and can’t figure out why.

        5) What was your goal when you started writing I Want God? Was it achieved?

                    My goal for this book is that it would be a guide for years to come to help readers see where they are when they find themselves spiritually off course.  I wanted it to convict, inspire, and most of all, help the reader remember their God. My biggest hope is that someone will read it and need to stop and put it down and get on their face before God. To hear that it has done those things for early readers means a great deal. One of those early readers, Jill, calls I Want God “a wrecking and a revival and a resurrection, all at once.”

        6) What was the most personally meaningful thing to you in the book? How has God used it in your life?
                        Again, this is a tough one – it’s like asking me to pick between my kids when I love them all! J God spoke to me so loudly in the writing of this book I actually mourned it when I was through. (Usually, I’m honestly just grateful to have met my book deadline!) I think chapter one will always hold a special place for me because it still convicts me just as powerfully everytime I read it.  Several of the stories – the one of my tattoo is meaningful to me in a big way.

But I probably cry the most when I read the beginning and end of chapter 6. Chapter 6 opens with a huge vulnerable story from me and ends with a story of my dear friend, Jennifer, who passed away. It reminds me that no matter what, God is Who I always want most.

        7) What do you feel is the greatest obstacle people must overcome in order to make a deep desire for God a priority?

                    You know, that’s a good question. My first instinct is to say that everyone has different obstacles. For me, it is my desire for comfort. For others, it may be a desire to have people’s approval. So to a degree, we all have a different “issue” we face that most keeps us from God. But as I think about it, probably it can boiled down to a universal issue of self. Self is our greatest obstacle and most often keeps us from God.

8) What is your prayer for anyone who reads I Want God?

Absolutely, that God will use it to change them in some way. We have enough stirred believers, and that is a spiritual waste because it doesn’t have lasting impact. I pray that their prayer will become that of David’s in Psalm 142:5.  That right in their living room, on the beach, wherever they read it, a soul revival will begin. I’m trusting God for that to happen!

9) What are some practical ways your readers can implement the principles found in I Want God?

I think daily choice is super important. So if they will first find out what they struggle with the most (I have questions in the back of each chapter to help them identify this for themselves.), go into every day with that awareness and just be honest about it, and then choose that day – each day – to do something that lessens that grip, I believe over time they will see change.  And of course, prayer. I mean, prayer is everything, and that will always be the most important.

10) Is a soul revival really possible? How does that happen?

Yes. For sure it is. Jesus talks about this soul revival – which is really just a renewed passion for God, in Revelation 2, which I explain in the last chapter of the book. I believe all revival happens first in individual hearts. I believe it can happen in your office at work, carpool line, in the middle of Starbucks…that place where you know God is messing with you and you stop telling Him no and giving excuses and finally let Him. And yet I believe that a soul revival is ongoing. I don’t believe we have a quick moment, are stirred and then it’s over.  Many believers swing from one high spiritual experience to another but never see their life change. The kind of soul revival I’m talking about is the one where be become aware of God again, our life is altered, we confess the places that need to change, and then we stay with God daily to see the revival fires continue to be fanned.
To learn more about Lisa Whittle, her book, and her ministry, click on the links below:

To order the book:

To read more about I Want God:
Link to Blog: 

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Monday, September 29, 2014

That Time I Forgot To Blog

Thanks to those of you who have checked on me. My apologies for going missing. I've had a string of full and demanding days, but that's really nothing new. The school year is in full swing and, with it, my daily tasks have gone from afternoons by the pool to afternoons in the car. Keeping up with the grocery shopping, teaching new story classes at a local private school, attempting to write a new book, taking care of stuff for She Reads, answering emails, and getting everyone where they're supposed to be when they're supposed to be there has been... challenging. But no more challenging than any other time in my life. None of that is the problem.

The problem is, I just forgot all about blogging. I guess my mind, in its attempt to cope, decided that blogging was just something it didn't have to think about. And it didn't. I forgot all about it. It was actually kind of nice, to be honest. Not thinking about blog posts left me room to think about All The Other Things.

So what have I been thinking about lately? Well, please head over to She Reads today and see what I've been into this month. It will fill in some of the blanks I've left here, I hope. And again, my apologies for disappearing without warning. I have no excuses beyond plain ole forgetfulness, and busyness. I guess the two together can be a blogging death knell. At least for me. I won't say I'll do better. I'll just say I'll make every attempt to. Because that's all any of us can do.
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Friday, September 12, 2014

It's Friday... And Fall (Some Random Thoughts)

Last weekend I made this pound cake. And all I can say is, make it too. I used the cinnamon glaze from this recipe for some added deliciousness. It really added to the overall flavor. I'm a big believer in glazes and icings.

This weekend I might make these. Don't they look delicious? (It is no coincidence that they also have a glaze.)

Now that I have conceded that it is fall I am game on. It's time to decorate my house and make All The Pumpkin Stuff. If you love decorating and cooking in the fall, check out my Fall Pinterest board. I plan to get the fall decorations out of the attic, with the help of my loving and ever-helpful family, this weekend. Then my house will be transformed to a fall wonderland. Interesting side note: while summer is my favorite season, fall is only second to Christmas in the amount of decorations I have hoarded collected.

This made me laugh-- 25 Things All Basic White Girls Do During The Fall-- it's a little irreverent but, still, funny. I sent it to my 20 yo daughter and she thought it was funny too. I think she recognized herself and her friends.

I've already been burning this candle. I especially enjoyed it on a cooler day this week that was overcast and felt very much like fall. The glow of the candle and the quiet of the house while I took care of little business things made for a peaceful day. If you gotta do busywork, this is the best way to do it, I say.

Whatever your weekend holds, I hope you'll find a way to make it satisfying. Whether it's adding some touches of beauty to your home, taking a nice long walk on a fall afternoon, playing relaxing music (I highly recommend the Autumn Music station on Pandora if you're looking), lighting a candle that smells nice, or baking something sweet and fallish. How will you embrace the season?
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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Happiness Is A Chicken Biscuit

He wakes up and crosses the hall into my room wearing a mischievous, knowing smile. It is mischievous because he is going to ask me for something; it is knowing because he trusts I will say yes. His request is simple. He has woken with a hankering for a Chick Fil A chicken biscuit. Will I go and get him one? Please? He even offers to pay for it with the last bit of his birthday money. He turned 12 a few weeks ago.

I look into his not-11-anymore eyes and see desperation mixed with dependence and, though I am perfectly comfortable right where I am at that very moment, I answer the only way my heart will let me as I take in that face: Yes. Yes I will leave my perch and drive to the nearest Chick Fil A and I will get you your heart's desire. It will cost me $4.15 and you will be happy.

I wish it were that easy all the time.

The price tag varies on my children’s happiness. A new iPhone, acne medication, mint chocolate chip ice cream, family movie night, a birthday party, a new bathing suit, summer camp, pita chips and hummus-- all range in price and yet have bought happiness at different times in our house. But sometimes there is no price tag at all. A broken heart, hurt feelings, rejection, uncertainty, a careless, unkind word finding its mark-- these can't be remedied, save for the balm of soothing words, nearness, listening, promising that time does heal and this too really shall pass.

The waiting costs me more than I ever knew it could.

When they were born I walked the floor and whispered promises into their tiny, seashell ears. Promises to protect and provide. Promises to always, always be there. I meant those promises with all of my fierce, naïve heart. I believed I could protect them from all harm and provide them every happiness. I did not realize that they would not always stay where I put them. That I would not always be the gatekeeper of their lives-- that circumstances and people would slip past me and there was just no way I could always, always be there. I would have to let go. I would have to trust.

Later, he walks by me, the biscuit gone, a smile on his face. "Thanks, Mom," he says.

"Are you happy?" I ask impulsively, the question surprising us both. It is not something I ask very often. It is possible I have grown afraid of the answer.

He nods, gives me another grin, and saunters away. I watch his back, retreating. The leaving is something I have grown accustomed to over time, a grudging acceptance of the process of growing up. But just for a moment I am that young, new mother all over again, believing with all her heart that happiness is a chicken biscuit; that it could possibly be that simple.
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Monday, September 08, 2014

Dear Fall

Dear Fall,

I heard you were back and, while I mean no offense to you whatsoever, I wasn't exactly tickled to hear about your return. Please don't take it personally, fall. I mean many, many people declare you their favorite season, so that should make you feel good. And I really do like you, I do.

I mean, what's not to like? The dip in temps, the flannels and denims, the smell of wood smoke wafting through the air, snuggly sweaters, football on the tv on lazy Sunday afternoons, big pots of soups and chili, pumpkin flavored everything, the changing leaves. I see the appeal and, eventually, I will come to embrace you.

I do every year. But it just takes me a bit.

Because, you see, you have the misfortune of coming after summer. And summer is, let's face it, a hard act to follow. The beach, the sun, fresh corn on the cob, shorts and skirts and sundresses, the pool, vacation, firecrackers and watermelon and peaches and popsicles, flip flops, white pants. Summer is, without a doubt, my favorite season.

And so it's truly nothing against you. It's just so, so hard to let summer go. But alas, Labor Day has come and gone and I am, reluctantly, resolving to be a good sport, which is why I'm writing this.

This is my letter of welcome, my missive of no hard feelings, my written resolution that I will make the best of the season I'm in. Even if it means I have to ease out of red, white and blue and into orange, yellow and brown. Even if it means the soundtrack changes from the shouts of happy children diving into water to the cheers of raving football fans. Even if it means that instead of eating homemade ice cream on the back porch we're eating big slices of pumpkin pound cake by a glowing fire.

Every year I eventually accept you, and even enjoy you. I grudgingly make the transition and by Halloween I am fully into the essence of this season after summer. Because I really do, deep down, like you. You do have a lot to offer. And starting this week, I'm going to focus on those things. (But I admit, I will still be counting down the days until summer comes back around.)

And if it's any consolation, I will not be writing a letter like this to Winter.

Yours Autumnally, Marybeth

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Saturday, August 30, 2014

What I'm Into (August)

August wasn't all bad. (See my past two posts to understand what I mean by that comment.) There were some good parts. August is always a good and hard month for me-- we face the end of summer (bad!) but ease into a routine that involves large blocks of time for me to write in silence because the kids go back to school (good!). We have our oldest and youngest birthdays AND our anniversary in August (good!). But we also deal with heat and humidity here in the south (Bad!). In short, August is the month of emotional whiplash-- I'm happy! I'm sad!

My baby is 9. Nine. How can that be?

So without further ado here is what I was into this month-- the good stuff and only the good stuff. Because it's about time I bring some uplift to this here blog.

I love this interview with Andrea Logan White, one of the stars of Mom's Night Out. I got to see this movie last winter and was totally remiss in sharing it with you guys. If you've not seen it, I definitely recommend it. And it's safe to watch with your whole family. It's available on dvd Sept. 2nd (this Tuesday!), so you can curl up in your jammies on your couch to watch-- my personal favorite way to watch a movie, if I'm honest.

And speaking of movies, my whole family loved When The Game Stands Tall. I typically don't like sports movies, but this one was an exception. And the best part was we all liked it-- from the 8 year old to the 20 year old. That's not usually the case. Go. See. It. And be inspired.

Not a great photo but see how close he was? Amazing.

For our anniversary we had FRONT ROW TICKETS to see David Gray. His new album Mutineers has been on constant play in our house and cars this summer, becoming a sort of soundtrack of the season. Snow In Vegas, Back in the World, Gulls, As The Crow Flies etc. are the songs I will always associate with this summer. So it was amazing to see him live and up close. And the best part is, he's coming to Charleston SC in October and we got tickets to see him there too! It was the only way I could deal with that concert coming to an end-- knowing I was going to see him again real soon. If I had my way he would move to our town and perform locally every weekend.

I also accomplished a bucket list item this summer-- 2 actually. One was to grow my own tomatoes. I shared about that earlier this summer. The other was to grow mammoth sunflowers and they bloomed this month. I planted them in different areas of the yard but they only came up in one. Needless to say I had to get a photo to preserve the occasion. Sunflowers make me happy.

This thing was mammoth. See the white bit behind it? That's the top of our house.

I shared what I've been reading over at She Reads' What We're Into post if you'd like to see the books I've enjoyed this month. Plus my She Reads partner Ariel shared about a super fun weekend I got to take part in with her that was all about reading and writers and story-- my kind of weekend.

This Labor Day weekend I intend to spend all the time I can soaking up the last of the view below, which is what I see from my lounge chair at the pool, looking through the fence at the lake beyond. It's a peaceful view to me, and I'm going to miss it. I always do. There might even be a few tears when we watch the lifeguards close up the pool for another year. Saying goodbye to summer is hard-- and August has been about enjoying every minute we have left of it.

This photo doesn't do it justice but it's quite the serene setting

I will leave you with this video montage put to the music of David Gray's song Last Summer. Because summer of 2014 is, as of this weekend, officially "last summer." Fitting. Enjoy the music-- I know I do.

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Thursday, August 21, 2014

In Thanks

A quick thank you for the lovely comments and sweet notes in response to my post yesterday. After reading it my husband called me and said "That was pretty raw." (He was surprised as he's been challenging me to be more real here, but I don't think he thought I actually would.) I agreed that it was pretty raw, and for a moment I felt weird about it, but then I remembered my resolve, my promise to myself.

One of the things I'm trying to do is to not only show my best side here on the blog. It's easy to only show the happy, the joyful, the positive stuff. The happy kids, the golden moments, the domestic bliss. But I think that can be deceptive and discouraging. It can send out an incorrect message and make others think that it's possible for other people to have it good all the time. If all I share is the good stuff, then how will you ever know I have bad stuff too? And yet, on the flip side, if I share too much bad stuff then I become depressing and a drag and you guys don't read anymore.

So I'm looking for a balance.

I've had several private notes of thanks for what I said yesterday-- notes along the line of "I needed to know someone else feels like I do. It's good to know I'm not alone." Which is why I wrote what I wrote. As I wrote I knew that there was at least one other soul out there who just needed to know that someone else felt it, saw it, and was hurt by it. Turns out there was more than one. I heard from people who were grieved by the loss of Robin Williams, people who were struggling with a string of bad things happening, people who are troubled by the headlines, people who had to say goodbye to a child going to college, and people who are dealing with financial difficulties. There are a lot of people hurting out there, and that can be hard to admit, hard to say out loud. So I decided to go first.

To all of you, I offer the same grace and hope I'm seeking. May we seek it-- and find it-- together.
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