Posted in Faith Nuggets, Thoughts from Life

Unharried

It was a lovely Saturday morning. The chilly breeze blowing in through open windows offered a delicious contrast to the humid, oppressive heat that is typical of the last days of an Arkansas summer. The sound of rain against leaves and the roof provided one of my favorite auditory backdrops, and I wanted nothing more than to just sit there and soak up the beauty. Although my ultimate preference would have been to find a covered porch and a good book to enjoy on that delightful day, I found myself enjoying even the prospect of tackling a work day with the coolness and sounds of rain flooding the “office.”

Although Saturdays aren’t normal, routine work days in the Hibbard household, they are still full. Some are filled with outside obligations. Those that aren’t still produce full lists. School prep for the new week. Finishing up any remaining work hours from the previous week. Fitting in any yard or housework that needs to be done. Working in any ministry and writing tasks that didn’t fit naturally into the week before. It’s the catch-all day, and that can sometimes make Saturday even more intense that a typical work day! Unfortunately, that can leave me somewhat harried as I head into Sunday and launch a brand new week.

It’s funny how God embraces me on all sides with lessons He wants me to learn, and one of the lessons He started teaching me last year (and is still working into my heart and mind) is connected to that harried feeling. This lesson is a natural follow-through to what He’s been teaching me about Sabbath rest for years now. It’s the realization that there is no true rest one day a week if I live the rest of the week in a state of maxed-out rush. I’ve long known this reality, but I haven’t truly known what to do about it. We live in such a rush-rush world. Full investment. Full engagement. Full planners. Full lives. That’s our culture. How do we keep our commitments, maintain productivity at work, and truly engage this lost world if we slow down at all? Is that not laziness? Sloth? Unproductivity? The opposite of all that is good and exemplary?

I still don’t really have an answer to that question, although I learned much through my studies of James and 1 & 2 Peter last year. And, books I’ve already mentioned like An Unhurried Life and Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking have helped me consider practical aspects of the changes that need to be made in my life.

But, in all honesty, I recall even now how that cool, rainy morning enabled me to get a glimpse, for the first time, of what it looks and feels like to tackle a full day with an unhurried, unharried mentality. No less work. No fewer tasks. But a mind of calmness and peace.

The realization is rather convicting. I was incredibly relaxed and peaceful on that delightful fall morning because the weather and the physical conditions of the day met my preferences. It was easy that day to be thankful for my office with many windows (a room which now serves as my daughters’ bedroom). It was easy to let the cool air wrap around me and chill me and leave me feeling wonderfully energized for the tasks ahead. But what about when the heat returned? Or when the days turned cold and cloudy with no nourishment of sweet rain or even beautiful snow? When being unharried and unhurried would require more work? That’s where I am hit hard with the realization that I do not submit myself fully to the rest and peace of my Savior. In sinfulness, I attach rest to a specific set of circumstances. Hebrews 4 tells me Christ Himself is to be my rest. The guilt of my idolatry makes plain why I cannot seem to escape a harried life, even with all I’ve learned about Sabbath rest – I connect rest to environment, not Christ.

I wish I could say that I can flipped a switch and automatically took the revelation of that beautiful Saturday into each new week, immediately implementing an unhurried, unharried approach. But, that’s not the way growth works. I still have to actively learn how to live this out – yes, even months later, I’m still working on it! How to take the ease of a perfect day’s peace and rest and choose to engage in it when it’s not so easy. That day, though, was a lightbulb moment. A day when I recognized the conviction and training of the Holy Spirit. An Ebenezer I can look back on and remember as I move forward into a life of increasing rest and peace, as I am doing even now.

Oh, precious Lord, may I learn the lesson diligently, no matter how long it takes!

Posted in Thoughts from Scripture

Psalm 2

Last week, I mentioned how persistence opened up beauty and wisdom in Psalm 2 that I’d never seen before. I hinted at the light that switched on in my mind, but I didn’t go into details. This week, I want to share just a glimpse – just a taste of what I saw in those verses and what has spurred me on as I’ve continue to work methodically through Psalms.

Throughout the week, I acknowledged the angst found in Ps 2:1-3. This is a hymn of frustration about the state of the world – one that rings with familiar tones as we compare it to those our hearts tend to sing today, over three thousand years later. Nations still rage and kings and rulers still plot in vain. The world is a mess, and we have to deal with it. Even so, we can chuckle when we get to verse four and see the Almighty King of kings laughing at them. He mocks their supposed wisdom and planning and scheming. He reminds them that they’re not really in charge like they think they are. And He promises to send His Son to rule over them.

These observations were nothing new to me – I’ve noticed them every time I’ve read this psalm over the years. But as I wrapped up this particular week of reading and rereading, it was as if blinders fell off, revealing a new layer of beauty. I suddenly saw God’s response in verses 4-6 as a comfort instead of simply a statement of His mockery. How can such things be comforting? Well, when looking at this passage in light of the whole of Scripture – in light of the fulfillment of the promise to grant the nations as an inheritance to the Son – I remember that I belong to this Lord who sits in the heavens. I may be under the temporary authority of worldly rulers, but the King of kings, Lord of lords, and Ruler of rulers truly knows me. I am not relevant to His power. I am not critical to the accomplishment of His will. He works through me simply because He chooses to, not because He needs to. I may not be relevant to His success, but I’m relevant to Him and included in His plan.

I’m in awe. Not at all because any of this is about me, but because I am so very often distracted by those insignificant, temporary rulers of this world. Those who will ultimately be “shatter[ed] like earthenware.”

The greatest beauty is revealed in the final verses.

Now therefore, O kings, show discernment;
Take warning, O judges of the earth.
Worship the Lord with reverence
And rejoice with trembling.
Do homage to the Son, that He not become angry, and you perish in the way,
For His wrath may soon be kindled.
How blessed are all who take refuge in Him! (Ps 2: 10-12)

Is that not a perfect prayer for those in authority? Is it not a powerful way to lift up our rulers, asking that the Ruler over them all open their hearts to help them show discernment, take warning, worship Him, rejoice, and do homage? Should it not be my heart’s cry that they be saved rather than perish? That they be blessed rather than falling to His wrath?

Yet in my distraction, I rarely have prayed in such a way for the temporary rulers of this world. I’ve been frustrated by them, filled with angst because of them, and discouraged by them. My prayers have been more imprecatory than a cry for their salvation.

After progressing from a point of limited understanding to a sense of great comfort, my final awareness was one of deep conviction regarding my own sin of neglect and need for change.

This is what God’s Word accomplishes in us. It shows us the truth about the world in which we live. It shows us the truth about ourselves – both in comfort and in conviction. But, above all, it continually teaches us more about who God is: the one who is never thwarted by the temporary rulers of this world. It draws us to respond, not because of what we learn about this world or ourselves, but because of what we learn about Him.

Posted in Book Recommendations, Joy of Reading

Favorite Books of 2018

I’ve always loved to read, but I have to say that my love has only increased in the past couple of years. When I was a child, I devoured every book I could get my hands on. As a young adult and young parent, I would go ages without reading anything other than my morning quiet time Bible reading and a devotional, then I’d binge on something fiction. Only in the last few years have I discovered the discipline of intentional, habitual reading.

That intentional reading habit has led me to some really great books. As I looked back across 2018, several really stood out. So, what were my top picks from the year?

Fiction

Well, Julie Klassen, Elizabeth Camden, Patrick W. Carr, and Timothy Zahn all came out with much-anticipated sequels this year. And Tricia Goyer added to her London Chronicles series. All of those were wonderful treats, as always, and all of them continue to rank among my “favorite, will read whatever you write” authors.

But, I also made a new discovery this year: Rosemary M. White. Early in the year, I selected a book to review, only to discover it was book number two in a series. So, I decided to check A Name Unknown out of the library so I’d be prepared when I received A Song Unheard to review. Before I even finished the first book, I knew I wanted to own it to read, reread, and share. And, I was thrilled to know that An Hour Unspent was due out in the fall. (I got it for Christmas and started 2019 with that one!) Meanwhile, I checked her Ladies of the Manor series out of the library over teh fall and thoroughly enjoyed it – so when I recently found the first two books in the series on a sale rack, I snagged them quickly.

Another new discovery was Kristy Cambron when I read The Lost Castle for review. My 15-year-old daughter was even more hooked than I and immediately proceeded to check out a stack of her books. She loved every one!

Nonfiction

As for nonfiction, several books really stand out.

The first two are books that I would recommend without hesitation to anyone – and actually go further than recommend. I’d encourage them both. They are both incredibly useful for very different reasons, but they are definitely going to be rereads over the years.

  1. Calming Angry Kids by Tricia GoyerI reviewed it here, so I won’t rehash that review. But, I will revisit the encouragement to buy it, read it, then have extras on hand to give away. The focus is parenting, but I cannot express how helpful this book is for relationships in general. I would argue that this is Tricia’s best book, and that says a lot.
  2. An Unhurried Life by Alan Fadling: My friend Joanna commented that she wants to underline and highlight every single word, and I agree! I had to read it very slowly and intentionally, and I still need to reread it. Oh, how convicting it was! Oh how much we miss because we are so hurried – and often we don’t even realize it. We’re just fitting in with the way things are when we should instead be breaking the mold and setting a new pattern.

But, there were several others as well. And, honestly, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend these, either.

I came back again this year to Mark Buchanan. I read a couple of his, but Hidden in Plain Sight really stood out. Then there was Survival Guide for the Soul by Ken Shigematsu, another revisited author. Such nourishment and challenge! Not God Enough by J.D. Greear felt, on the surface, like an “easy” read because Greear, like Mark Buchanan, is so incredibly conversation. Yet, the direct and challenging content forced me to read it slowly, frequently stopping and take a look at my thoughts, habits, and attitudes.

Finally, I read a book entitled Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop TalkingThis is not from a Christian perspective (I am increasingly intentional about working those in, too) and is more research-based, so the writing style was definitely different from what I’d learned to train my mind to process over the course of the year. But, it was a very enlightening read. My husband read it first and kept reading quotes, so I knew I needed to give it a go. Now, I’ve challenged both of my girls to read it. It offers such a valuable insight into the nature of introverts, and it is one I will probably review in coming weeks just to explore some of the valuable insight. If you are an introvert, it will help you understand yourself better. If you know and don’t understand an introvert, it will help you, too!

Of course, there were also the homeschool read-alouds, mostly re-reads by this time. But, still wonderful titles! We’re all looking forward to 2019. I just started Shadow Spinner with Steven, and Seven Daughters and Seven Sons is coming up next. Both rank among the girls’ all-time favorite read-alouds (and Seven Daughters and Seven Sons was a favorite among my siblings as well!). But, this past year, Steven couldn’t get enough of The Incredible Journey, and I always love reading The Master Puppeteer.

So, there you go – my favorites from 2018! You are welcome to join me on Goodreads to see the rest of the titles I enjoyed (you can check out my 2018 tags).

Posted in Faith Nuggets, Meditations & Meanderings

The Persistence of Listening

I’ve long claimed to love the Psalms. And I do. Well, some of them, at least.

When I say that I love to read Psalms, the truth is that I love to read the beautiful ones. The passages that overwhelm my passions and help me see the glory of God so much more clearly. The passages that restart my stilted prayer life. Those beautiful poems that reflect my angst and remind me to move on to praise. Yes, I love those portions of Psalms.

Toward the end of 2018, I started a new, daily exploration of Psalms. But this time, I don’t intend to read a passage every day until I’m done. This time, my intention is to spend a week on each psalm, simply reading it for the first couple of days, then spending the remainder of each week exploring the deeper nuances of the psalm.

Psalm 1 was lovely, as always. I never tire of the exploration of the “tree firmly planted by streams of water,” and I thoroughly enjoyed spending a week relishing the beauty of this psalm. But then it was time to move on to Psalm 2. And Psalm 2, on the surface, just doesn’t have quite the ring of Psalm 1. It’s good. It’s powerful. But, it’s not quite a personally nourishing as the first entry in the book. At least, on the surface.

On the first day of that week, I read Psalm 2 with enthusiasm, riding the excitement of the previous week. Day 2 was much less enthusiastic. By day 3, I was tempted to go ahead and move on. Was a full week really necessary? I hadn’t made a commitment to anyone – just created a plan for myself. Why must I stick to a week? After all, it would take a long time to process through the entirety of Psalms at that pace.

But I stuck with it. I kept pouring through Psalm 2 with diligence. And finally, at the end of the week, the diligence paid off.

Somehow, a light switched on in my head and heart, and I began to see nourishment and relevance and power in Psalm 2 – things I’d never noticed before.

Now I cannot read Psalm 2 without being deeply moved. Now each word seems obvious in its passion and relevance. It seems hard to believe that it took days of reading and rereading to see this depth. But, that is the nature of our hearts. Our minds. Our spirits. Often they are closed to even the most obvious until we take the time to intentionally listen.

But we don’t listen. We rush. We move quickly. We speed through. We pick up and meditate on what we automatically love, because it takes little effort. But, we neglect to ponder what doesn’t resonate immediately, because it takes too much energy. I’m so guilty of this!

Oh, to take the time. Oh to ponder. Oh to be willing to stop rushing through the glories of Scripture. Oh to cease blocking out the work of the Spirit simply because we don’t see immediately. Oh to stop refusing to sit in the quiet. Oh to truly learn persistence, even when silence precedes it.

Because that, my friend, is what makes passages like Psalm 2 come to life. Will you join me in the persistence of listening?

Posted in Meditations & Meanderings, Thoughts from Life

Happy New Year!

Okay, so maybe I’m about a week late on that new year greeting. But, there is a point, even to that.

I love fresh starts. And I love succeeding in my fresh starts. But, all too often I miss them. For instance, I had intentions for welcoming 2019. I had productivity plans and writing plans and decluttering plans. But, as often happens, so much ended up getting crammed into the days off school that I didn’t get around to the “extra” plans. It was all I could do to make sure I got enough work hours in (and I didn’t always succeed even at that) and tackled the necessities. I wanted to start the new year ahead of the game. Blog posts ready to publish. Projects ready to go. Stuff done. Instead, I accomplished what had to be done, leaving the whole hopeful list still waiting for me.

So now, here I am, a week into the new year, launching into a Monday after a night of very little sleep, carrying a few basic tasks over from last week and seeing none of my “get ahead” hopes accomplished.

With my personality, that’s not a very encouraging fresh start.

Over the past few years, though, I’ve been trying to change my mentality about fresh starts. Several years ago, my boss wrote an article entitled “Tomorrow is Always Fresh,” combating the lie that we have to wait until a traditional “fresh start” day to reorient ourselves after our plan or routine falls apart. Why do we have to wait until Monday? Or the first of the month? Or the beginning of a new year? Why not tomorrow?

This is my tomorrow.

So, I didn’t start the new year as I’d hoped. So, I don’t have a writing plan or a new schedule or a head start. So, I have to just dive in and work on it all as I’m processing through a normal week. If I let all of that stop me, I’ll never truly enjoy fresh starts. I’ll always be waiting for that next Monday. That next first of the month. That next first of the year. That day upon which I hang hopes that will not materialize. Something will always stand in the way. Something will keep me behind. Something will always need to be caught up.

This morning, I choose to start fresh right here, right now. Yes, it’s a Monday, but the fresh start is not because it’s Monday. The fresh start is because it’s today. Because I have an opportunity. So, I’m going to take it.

And guess what? Tomorrow will be fresh as well. So if things fall apart as today moves on, I’ll get to start again tomorrow.

So, Happy New Year! No matter what your past week has produced, may today be a fresh start for you as well.

Posted in Family, Parenting, Reviews, Tricia Goyer

Calming Angry Kids

I love sharing books. I often have a list of books that I want to keep extras of on hand so I can loan or give them away. But, typically those books fit a targeted audience. Wives. Moms. Young women. Those who love historical fiction or fantasy or some other specific genre. Recently, though, I had the privilege of reading a book that I wanted to share with everyone.

Calming Angry Kids comes from the pen of prolific author Tricia Goyer. But, Calming Angry Kids was not just the next great book idea in a list of many. Instead, this particular endeavor was the result of tears, heartache, and pure determination. It was written with her skill as an author, but the credit goes to an entire family who chose to fight the fight and not give up. They chose to push through until they could see beauty birthed from the victory of overcoming the pure ugliness of anger. As much as I love reading everything that Tricia writes, I can honestly say that none of her books come close to the powerful message of Calming Angry Kids. And it seems others agree. Weeks before its scheduled October 1 release, Tricia shared the news that her book had already entered its third printing!

So, what is so powerful about Calming Angry Kids? Tricia doesn’t just speak from the perspective of a mom who has been there, although that would be a fitting description. She also doesn’t speak only from a clinical voice, although she has read exhaustively enough and interacted with enough professionals on the topic that she probably should be handed a degree! Instead, she combines the two concepts, delving into the psychology behind understanding anger at its very source while simultaneously offering help that is more than just clinical – it works in real life. In fact, it worked in her very real life.

The Goyers’ story is one of adoption and dealing with anger birthed from childhood trauma. It is a powerful story, and one that I know will help equip, strengthen, and encourage many adoptive parents. But, to say that Calming Angry Kids is only useful for adoptive parents – or even only for parents – is short selling the value of this book. This is about relationships. It is about understanding what causes others to behave in hurtful anger. What causes them to push away the very love they so greatly crave. My best friend regularly reminds me that “hurting people hurt people,” and that simple phrase fits beautifully with the message of Calming Angry Kids. When we find ways to work through our immediate emotional responses and choose instead to act out of truth, we can conquer the anger that plagues not only our children and others we come into contact with, but ourselves as well.

Calming Angry Kids is not a be-all, end-all solution to anger issues that plague our homes and our lives. But, it is a resource that shines a light in dark places, sharing tools and resources that will point us in the right direction. It encourages us to keep fighting even when victory seems impossible. It helps us to know that there is no shame in admitting that we need help. And it reminds us that there really is hope, even in a relationship that seems to be consumed by anger.

Yes, Calming Angry Kids is definitely a book I will readily and wholeheartedly recommend, not only to parents but to anyone struggling to find victory in a relationship haunted by anger.

Click here to read chapter one of Calming Angry Kids.

Posted in What I'm Learning, What Works for Me, Wonderments

My Sweet Spot of Bible Exploration

I’ve long struggled with finding the sweet spot of keeping myself immersed in Scripture. On the one hand, a read-through-the-Bible-in-a-year plan has always appealed to me because it enables me to not get bogged down in a narrow-minded focus. On the other hand, those broad plans tend to keep me from being able to really dig in and study on a deep level. So, I have tended to alternate between the two, some years reading through the whole Bible and other years spending extensive time in a single, focused spot.

Really and truly, though, my desire has always been to combine both. Time has just prevented it in the past. So, where does that leave me? There are so many depths to explore in Scripture. So many great books to read to help me along in my spiritual growth. So much journaling to do as I process each thought. How do I make it all fit into my schedule?

It’s Not a Race

The first thing I had to realize is that there’s no real rush. True, I only have so many years left on this earth. But, I will not learn it all in my limited lifespan. I can’t. It’s just not possible. And, once I get to heaven, my eyes will be opened as I see clearly instead of through a glass, darkly.

On the one hand, that could dissuade me from studying at all. Why bother if I’ll know it in eternity? But, if God didn’t want us to start here, He would not have given us His Word. He would not have revealed Himself so amazingly. So, even if it doesn’t all make sense to me, knowing that He wants me to do it is enough – at least for me.

So, if I really do need to study, even if I can never know it all, the other end of the argument states that there is no need to rush. If it takes me a year to process through a study, so be it! Progress is progress.

Broad Doesn’t Have to Be So Broad

The challenge of a one-year, whole-Bible plan is that the daily reading portions are long. It takes an average reader about twenty to thirty minutes of reading a day to get through the Bible in a year. I live in a family of above-average readers; they all read much faster than I do. But, I’m average. So, a through-the-Bible plan leaves little, if any, time for journaling, devotional reading, or closer studying.

This year, our church is working through a reading plan that is more focused, alternating between the Gospels (Monday and Friday) and the Pentateuch (Tues-Thurs). I’ve personally re-established the habit of reading a chapter of Proverbs each day as well. Small bites, but broad reading that allows distinct progress through the Bible this year. At this rate, it might take me closer to three years to process through the whole Bible. But, again, it’s not a race!

A Well-Paced Walk through the Focused

Meanwhile, each week I have two aspects of more focused study. One is my Sunday school lesson. This one is definitely time-based, but I try to spend some focused time – even if it’s only ten minutes a day – truly processing the Sunday school lesson passage. Over the weekends, I spend more time in specific lesson preparation, but I’m processing the passage in some form all week.

I choose a separate study for my own edification. This is important, because studying a passage for teaching requires a different form of focus and study than studying for personal growth. My current personal study is in 1 Peter, utilizing a Bible study and a conversational commentary to aid my slow work through this letter.

I love the combination of the time-sensitive focused study for Sunday school and the open-ended focused study of 1 Peter. (And I love how the Holy Spirit can tie them all together!)

It’s Not an Either/Or

This has really been the biggest discovery for me. I’ve always alternated between the broad and the focused, but it really doesn’t have to be either/or! This year, it’s smaller doses of both, with each taking up a certain percentage of my overall time. It may just be for a season, but I’m really enjoying this season!