Level Up: A 2019 Word of the Year Review

This past year has turned out very different from what I would have predicted this time last year. Just over a year ago, I was on the hunt for a business property for my husband’s office when I stumbled upon a home that fit the bill of our hypothetical forever home. A home we had only talked about once and weren’t planning to pursue for another few years. Yet, here I sit celebrating one year in a home that fills me with joy and gratitude nearly every day.

A little over a year ago, I was dreaming of beginning to do more ministry in my own space. Having dealt with feeling like my dismal hosting skills would keep me from living out some of the dreams God had placed in my heart, I was asking God how to do more for His girls. He answered, and February will mark a year of doing what I call Friday Soak in my home once a month. Yes, not even a month after moving, I hosted women in my home. The goal was to hold space to just be and rest in whatever He had for them that day.

Not only has He helped me with hosting in a ministry capacity, but I have also had the opportunity to host family as they have traveled into town over the past year. A thing that we rarely did before, and I always stressed over. Now, it is a joy and that is a testimony in and of itself.

In the beginning of 2019, I chose a word: Level-Up. Now as I begin to reflect on how that word has played into the events of the last 11 months, I am blown away. He has upgraded so many areas of my life—least of which was my housing situation. I have seen Him use tension to invite me into a higher level of being. I have been enjoying massive breakthroughs that—although they cost me in the moment—were some of the biggest advances I have seen in my entire life! It wasn’t cheap! It cost me my pride, my self-protection, and my ability to “do it myself”. It felt like too much in the moment if I am honest. The only reason I pushed through and paid the price, was because I was sure to the deepest part of my being that God—the one who paid an even higher price for me—was asking me to. And true to who He is (you can’t out give God), I have received 10 times anything I paid. The counterfeit comfort I once knew can’t even compare to the newness I am experiencing now. 

Level Up had come to cover a lot of areas: my thinking, my self-worth, my confidence in what God has called me to do, learning to put to death selfishness and pride. I love being blown away at the end of the year by how God took my feeble willingness to choose a word and focus and make it into SO MUCH MORE than I ever thought or imagined (Ephesians 3:20 anyone?).

I have already begun to direct my attention to my word for 2020 and am excited to declare dependence and growth over my next calendar year. I have goals to be more active here and the exciting news that my book will be out in 2020!!!     

As I work to peel off old-self ways of thinking and being, I hope you pick up some encouragement if you choose to follow me on this journey. I can be found on Instagram and Facebook @embracingthewild and I am openly working to teach and encourage the beautiful message that saying yes to becoming holy (sanctification…I know churchy word) is the most fabulous journey you can take. You will never regret it! Let me know on social or the comments below how your 2019 word has played out. Also, if you have a word for 2020 please share. Mine will come in a new post next week.

A Dream Deferred is not a Dream Destroyed

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Today I was thinking about dreams. Hopes, dreams, goals, and things we want to happen. We talk a great deal about our dreams and what we hope to achieve in this life. I have gone through times when the dreams I have for myself are right in front of my face. For instance, my writing. I have dreamed of being a writer for a long time. A few years ago, I started to see this opportunity come to life as a friend asked me to write for her website. It turned into a weekly gig, and eventually two published devotions! I was sure it would continue to ramp up and I would be writing regularly from then on…not so much.

The website was sold off and I shifted to a homeschool mom who had too much on her plate to really give writing the proper attention it needed. I was frustrated and a little disheartened. It’s not that I doubted that God put that dream in my heart, but it turns out that that specific path was not a straight shot to a career. I know that it played a crucial part in my journey, and I trust that I will have other writing opportunities in my life. But when a path has an end, we have to make a choice: we can see it as a part of our big picture, or we can be consumed by the end of it. I am so glad that the Bible has so many examples of deferred dreams. because I am sure the enemy salivates at the open opportunity that exists at the end of a path.


Biblical Examples

Joseph: pretty sure he had the opportunity to lose all hope sitting at the bottom of a cave that his brothers threw him in. I mean didn’t he just dream about them bowing down to him?

David: Hearing you will be king of Israel is great…but it’s hard to firmly accept while spending years continuing to be a shepherd and then being hunted my the current king.

Ruth: Marriage usually means a new chapter and the beginning of a family, but Ruth experienced loss and displacement well before her arms held her own baby.


 

There are more, but I think it is key to remember that none of us are immune from a deferred dream. If you are in the midst of a dream deferral I would love to encourage you to make sure you are pressing into the Father’s love and comfort during disappointment…or even during redirection. God wastes nothing. He will always use the opportunity to grow your faith, reestablish priorities, draw you closer to himself, set the stage for a bigger dream, or even give you a wake up call that that dream is not HIS best for you. Obviously, there are lots of things God could be doing while you are being rerouted or put in a holding pattern. The best thing to do is seek HIM! He will reveal, in His most perfect timing, some (or maybe all) of the reasons that you are not going at the pace or in the exact direction you anticipated going. Intimacy with Him is ALWAYS a part of it for Him.  Seeking God in a time of delay or rerouting will always be a good thing. Remember the infallible truth that God is good. It is as untouchable as His love for you. You can reject it (just like His love), but it doesn’t make it any less true.

This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.
1 John 1:5 

My challenge to you today is simple: spend time talking to God about your dreams. Then, spend time letting all the “missed opportunities” or “finished paths” go and ask God to make the next step in the journey clear. Then listen, write down what you hear. The thoughts that are higher than your own that come in your heart with a banner of love are those of the Holy Spirit. We hear from Him more often than we realize, and He is creative and full of hope.

Letters to Bea: Part 3

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Maggie knew that her life would be different after Bea and Robbie got married. She would be living on her own for the first time―ever. She knew she would see Bea at work and on the occasional girl’s night, but she never imagined she would be juggling that with thoughts of Jack. After that wedding weekend Jack asked if he could writer her. They exchanged information and gave no promises. The letters that Maggie and Bea had exchanged a few years ago when they were living in different states seemed to keep flowing only now between Jack in Alabama and Maggie in Nashville. They came every Thursday. She got to where she would request 2nd shift on Thursday just so she would be home when the mail ran. The door on the mailbox barely shut before she was outside making a beeline for the street. In fact, the mailman began to simply open and shut the box, holding the treasured delivery in his hand, he would wait knowing she would be out in seconds.

“Hello Mr. Wells,” she said with a blushed smile on her face.

“Hello Miss Maggie. You got another letter from your fella.” He said with a knowing smile.

He gave her a wink as he said, “I remember being young and in love. My wife and I were just kids it seemed when I would write love letters to her back in WWI. Nothin’ made my heart soar more than when mail call included a letter from my Pearl. She wrote the best letters. I would read them a hundred times it seemed before the next one would come along. You sure seem sweet on this guy.”

Maggie blushed even more and stared down at her hands.

“Is it that obvious?” She asked hoping Jack felt the same way.

“Honey, you ‘bout the only woman I know who gets a letter on Thursday and has a new one ready to go out on Friday week in and week out for two whole months. Either you in love or you just like to write letters.” The expression on his face gave away which of the two he thought it was. He tipped his hat and gave a wave and continued on his route.

She burst through the front door and practically fell into the kitchen chair. She ripped open the letter and began to devour its every word:

 

Dear Maggs,

I hope this week has been good to you. I have a surprise for you! I am turning in my two-week notice at work. I plan to relocate to Nashville in three weeks. I wanted to just do it and surprise you, but I know how you like to plan. I know we never made any promises, but I think what we have could be something real special. I’m hoping that when I move up there, you and I could become official. I’d like to make you my girlfriend―that is, if you’ll have me?

This letter may be short but I think it is loaded with my hopes and dreams so I’ll say goodbye for now. I’ll call you on Monday and we can talk through the details.

-Jack

 

Maggie stared at the letter for minutes after she finished reading. Her fingers seemed to be frozen to the page. To say she was surprised was an understatement. This letter was life-changing. It also answered the question of how he felt about her. What he hadn’t said with words, he said with a grand gesture. Jack moving here could only mean he had fallen for her too.


 

Bea opened her door to the most flustered young woman she had ever seen! Maggie had started talking before the it was completely open.

“Your brother is moving―here! He is moving to Nashville. I cannot believe this is happening. I am, just…well. I…He is going to be here…in my town. He also said he wanted me to be his girlfriend. Did I mention that?”

All these words came tumbling out seemingly at the same time. The look on Bea’s face was one of excitement and confusion. “Slow down,” she said. “Jack is moving here? When?”

“Three weeks! He just handed in his notice on Tuesday. He said he would call on Monday night to talk through everything. I just can’t believe it!”

They hugged in excitement because Bea knew exactly what this meant. She spoke with her brother just last week about Maggie. She knew from that conversation that he was in love with her.  Not the kind of love he had fallen into before. This was the kind of love that had the potential to make Maggie and Bea sisters-in-law.

“Robbie and Jack talked last week about getting a job up here, but I didn’t realize it was going to happen so quickly! I kind of thought he was just making pleasant conversation with Robbie while I got the roast out of the oven. Oh I can’t wait to see this happen!” Bea said with tears in her eyes. She knew how happy this would make Maggie.

The conversation turned to their relationship and how much Maggie liked Jack and how long the next three weeks would seem. They planned a few double dates and giggled like two girls in high school fawning over their current crushes. Some things never change.

That summer and early fall were some of the most carefree days of Maggie’s life. Everything was falling into place. Jack bought a place down the street from Robbie and Bea. It was only five blocks from Maggie’s place. The four of them hung out most evenings and Maggie didn’t feel like the third wheel anymore. Sometimes she would pinch herself just to make certain this wasn’t a dream.

~~~

Thinking back that many years ago was both hard and wonderful. Nashville was the last city that Maggie and Bea had lived in together. They started their married lives there as Jack would ask Maggie to marry him that Christmas and they tied the knot in March of the following year. Life was so simple and easy back then. Four young people carving their way out in the world. If only it could stay that easy.


 

 

If you need to catch up:

Part 1

Part 2

Letters to Bea: Part 2

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The letters didn’t start out to be the life line that they had become. The idea was born out of desperation when the girls were dealt the blow of separation the summer before their senior year. It had been a dream come true for Bea to be able to stay in one place for so long. Her Dad had decided to exit the military and take a civilian job after WWII. He took a job at the local gas company. He had been there for three years when her parents decided to move back to New York at the end of the summer to be closer to family. The news sent both girls into a state of depression. They had just one summer to make memories that would last a lifetime. By now Robbie and Bea were going steady and Bea felt like she would be leaving half her heart in Alabama―dividing the best of herself between her best friend and her best guy.

They spent the summer soaking in the fleeting moments of their youth and their union. They vowed at the end of the summer to keep in touch. College was just one year away and they had plans to attend the same one. If that plan worked the letters shared over the next year would only serve to keep them connected until they could be together again on campus the next fall. With that the first letter was sent from Maggie to Bea on September 14, 1948.

Dear Bea,                                                                                                                            September 14, 1948

I cannot believe I am sitting in Miss French’s class without you! I miss you so much!!! I hope you like your new school. Remember, no matter how bad it gets, you and I will be back to best friends by August of next year. I am already getting my application together for Vanderbilt. I know we can both get in! By the way I saw your brother the other day. He said he was going to come up to see you all for Christmas. I thought maybe I could talk my folks into letting me go with him and seeing you for a couple of days. It’s a long shot, but a girl can dream, right? I still can’t believe he didn’t go with you all. I guess being on his own this past year gave him the confidence to think he could make it on his own. Anyway, tell your folks I said hi. Let me know what your new school is like, okay?

Best Friends Forever and Ever,

Maggie

Nothing much to it, but it was the spark of something that they would keep on for decades to come. Even when they met up at Vanderbilt the following year. They shared a dorm and still left notes for each other. They spoke of the boys they liked, the classes they hated, and the functions they would attend. The three years seemed to fly by. After they graduated, they were hired on at Vanderbilt Hospital. Their adult life could begin! That first year after graduation was one they would never forget. Maggie and Bea were sharing an apartment and having the best time working and enjoying their grown-up lives when there was a knock at the door one sunny afternoon in May. Maggie answered the door and was shocked to see Robbie standing on the porch. She drew back, uncertain of how Bea would take this unannounced visit. Robbie and Bea had fallen apart in the middle of that first year that she moved back to New York. Many tear-stained letters came to Maggie’s mailbox over that winter. Bea had taken the breakup hard and was sure she was losing the love of her life. Since then, she had moved on and learned that love could come around more than once in a lifetime. She wasn’t currently seeing anyone, but Maggie wasn’t sure if this would be a good surprise.

Bea came around the corner to see who was at the door. She dropped the soda in her hand as she laid eyes on the boy-turned man who had stolen her heart. She fumbled around picking up the glass and slopping up the soda as she asked, “What are you doing here?”

He casually walked in wearing that same grin that always got to Bea. Maggie quietly slipped upstairs to give them privacy, but as she went to her bedroom she couldn’t help but hear his reply.

“I came to see you. I graduated college a couple of weeks ago and before I decide to call any one city my home, I thought I would stop in to see you. I wanted to find out if you were seeing anyone. I thought…maybe if you were free…well, you know, we could go get a bite to eat or something and…catch up.”

Maggie shut the door to her room and flopped on her bed. She had a lot of emotion flooding in at one time. She knew that Robbie still had a big piece of Bea’s heart. She wanted her to be happy, but she couldn’t stifle the feeling that her friendship would be threatened by this reunion. She grabbed a book and tried to get lost in the storyline, but soon there was a knock at her door. Bea popped her head in and told her that she was headed to the burger joint around the corner with Robbie. She didn’t invite Maggie to go along. She said she would see her later. Maggie knew this day would change everything at least a little. She saw Bea’s face when she saw Robbie standing in that doorway. A best friend could always see when the other was in love.

It seemed Robbie and Bea hadn’t lost a single day. They were as in love as they had been five years ago. By Christmas of that year they were engaged and planning a spring wedding. Robbie had taken a job as a journalist for the local paper just a few weeks after he came into town. It seemed that although her best friend would be moving out after the wedding, nothing much would change. They were still living in the same city.

April is a gorgeous month in Tennessee. The chapel was decorated by Mother Nature on the outside with the most fragrant cherry blossom trees anyone could imagine. The ceremony was simple and intimate. Only about 50 people were in attendance. All of Bea’s family had traveled in. Her oldest brother Charles and his wife and two children, and Jack still single and looking more handsome then Maggie had remembered. At the reception, Maggie found herself staring at Jack from across the banquet hall.

The last time she saw him was the week before she left for Vanderbilt. He was at Scoopie’s Ice Cream Parlor with a girl. She was pretty and the word around town was that they were pretty serious. Maggie remembered catching his eye that day. He looked at her a little longer than he should have since he was on a date. She would be lying if she said she had been disappointed. She had had a crush on Jack since she was in 4th grade, but between him was always going with some girl and being her best friend’s brother, Jack was always off limits in Maggie’s mind.

He caught her eye as she was glancing around the room while at the bar getting another Shirley Temple. He made his way over to her and his smile broadened when he realized she seemed pleased to see him too. He leaned against the bar and lightly touched her arm with his other hand.

“How have you been Maggs?” He said with a more familiar nickname than was warranted. She felt heat on her arm where his hand had been and butterflies in her stomach at his confidence in calling her Maggs. She was thankful that the glass in her hand was sweating as much as her palms were. She gripped both hands around it for a cooling effect.

“I’ve been good! How about you? I saw you didn’t bring a date…your girlfriend stay at home?” She was surprised by her own boldness. In her nervous state, she had lost a bit of her inner filter that would have labeled that question as presumptuous. But it was out there now, no taking it back. She stared down at her drink and stirred it nervously with her straw.

“I don’t have a girlfriend. Just living the bachelor’s life for now. Being single seems to fit my 60-hour work week and besides, if I had brought one, I wouldn’t be free to ask you to dance,” he said with the type of smooth tone that gives girls that light-headed feeling of being swept off their feet.

And it worked.

Maggie and Jack were inseparable the rest of the night. They danced till their feet hurt and talked until they had filled the gap of the last four years. She felt like she was living a dream. This boy of her childhood could easily become the man of her dreams.

 

(Part 1 Here)

Office Makeover: Bringing Peace to my Work Space

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One of the things that surprised me about my office makeover was the spiritual aspect of it. I used to be slightly annoyed when people seemed to spiritualize everything. Now I see that the deeper we go in God and the more intimate you become, it is hard to just see the physical realm. Once you decide to peel back the curtain it doesn’t just go back. As Bill Johnson has said, “God doesn’t see in supernatural and natural…it is all natural to him.”

I want it all to be natural to me too. I want to blend the two worlds as much as God allows. I don’t know where that line is, but I am going to keep pushing.

Anyway, that is not the point of this post. I stepped into the office makeover project with  fresh eyes. I have always seen these types of things as purely physical. The tangible things sitting in this catch-all room. The lack of discipline that I had resulted in this room being chaotic. This time, I looked at it as a battle ground. From the get-go, I invited Holy Spirit to be an active part of this project. I prayed for divine inspiration. He knows what I want to accomplish in this room. It is where I write. I want to stop fleeing to the nearest coffee shop every time I have an itch to write. I want to home school our oldest in this space next year. I want to host overnight guests when the opportunity arises. I want this to be a room of creativity and peace. I want it to reflect me and the love I have for God.

So without further ado, I would like to show the before. It is about as real as it can get. The day I took these pictures, I had rifled through my Thirty-One Gifts stash (as I had been a consultant for the past three years). The stuff is everywhere, but sadly that was more the norm than the exception.

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This is the view from the door way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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This is my work space. So inviting, right? 😉

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As you can see, I had my work cut out for me. I originally wanted to gut the whole room and start over. The desk and the shelf are built in to the wall. They are not really designed to allow two people to work at the same time. I need a space for me to write and my son to do his school work. I want him to be near, but not on top of me. So I prayed. I prayed for inspiration and to see this space in a better light.

I heard these words: Use what you have.

Not an audible voice, but as one friend described it: It’s like a thought that comes in that is just higher than my own.

It’s true. I felt inspired in that moment to try and use as much of the things that were already in the room or that we had around the house. I did buy a few things, but I tried to use my own resources first.

In the end, I bought a desk for my son, some of the wall decor, a rug, and the paint. The rest came from what we had at home.

Now, (drum roll please) I am pleased to share with you the finished space.


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I still like stuff around. I am not sure what part of my personality needs this, but the wall space where I work is full. I also still have a few areas to go through as far as papers and stuff go. I love the feeling I get when I sit down to work. So much peace and joy.

On the other side of the room it is simple and clean. In time I may be inspired to decorate further…and then again, maybe not.

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This futon was in here, but under so much clutter that I have had a few good friends ask if it was new!

Now my favorite part about the home school solution came via Wayfair.com. I ordered a murphy desk and it came in two days and I love it!

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When the desk is not in use, it only sticks out about 5 inches from the wall. When it is open, he has plenty of space to do his school work and even some great storage!

I chose to do a small gallery wall on my right because I love them! I either made, re-purposed, or bought (for cheap) the things on this wall. The shelf is both functional and decorative. The picture in the black frame has great spiritual meaning for me. I have had it for almost two years and it finally has a place! I see it every time I come in here and am reminded of one of the most life-changing experiences I have ever had.

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Finally, I had the opportunity to have my prayer warrior and oldest friend in town for a few short hours yesterday. She and I spent time anointing this space and praying over all God wants to do in this space. It was such a precious gift! When I went to type this all up this morning the keys still had a little bit of anointing oil on them and it immediately made my heart smile. I am excited about the next chapter in my life!

Up next in the Ferris household is the kitchen. We have been saving and waiting for two years to finish the project and I will share the results with before/after photos next month. My year of establishing order (this ushering in peace) into my home is off to a winning start!

NaNoWriMo and My Tapestry

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NaNoWriMo is one of the strangest words you may hear this month. It is a mash-up of words that all push me to do something that I have never done before! NaNoWriMo stands for, National Novel Writing Month. The challenge is to write 50,000 words (a novel essentially) in the month of November. Wow! I am not sure I have ever written that many words in a three-month span. But hey, who says a girl can’t give it her best!

Here in lies the problem.

I have had an idea for a novel bouncing around in my head for about 10 years. It is loosely based on my own experiences. The fear of writing altogether kept my hand far from the pen for about 8 years. The last two years I have waded into writing with safer topics and tasks. I have enjoyed blogging and free-lance projects, but this novel not only didn’t go away, but it grew. This summer, it rose to the surface with such force that I began the very first character sketch. The project buried itself under pleasant summer days, family adventures, and –let’s face it–a little bit of fear.

Then I was introduced to NaNoWriMo by a dear friend of mine. Like a magnet to metal the desire to write the novel in my heart rose to the surface and attached itself to the challenge of NaNoWrimo. So I’m diving in! I have no idea what this month will produce in the way of an actual novel that others want to read, but I am trusting that the process itself is God-driven. I trust him. I no longer expect logical end-results from journeys I take with the Lord. I have learned in my years with Him, that he brings about lessons and opportunities for a purpose that I could never have imagined in the beginning. Life is like a tapestry. We are looking at the back of it. We see tangles of various colors and patterns that frankly don’t look like much. The finished product–our Philippians 1:6 life if you will–is the front. This is what He is looking at the entire time.


He weaves every thing into our lives with the end-result in mind.


An end that only He, in his infinite creativity, could ever have imagined! Maybe this challenge will result in a book. Maybe it will show me a part of my writing that I need to really work on, or a weakness in my character that needs renewing. I am up for whatever he has in store for me. I want my end-result tapestry to be pleasing to Him, I have to trust that His point of view is better than mine.

With all that said, what is He nudging you to do? Is there a little change He is pushing you to make? Is there a new adventure He is inviting you on? What’s holding you back? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments!


 Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

Philippians 1:6