Come as you are (and a GIVEAWAY).

I've been learning a lot recently about hospitality. My friend Lindsey and I often joke about how we are not "pin-able." We don't post DIY projects or have home tours on our blogs. We work with words, and at the end of the day, we just pray that the dishes get done. Last week, I had to wash the same load of laundry three times because I had let it sour -- and don't even get me started on the ring around the bath tub, because it seems to be here to stay. home We have this idea that in order to be hospitable, everything must be perfect. There must be garland and a gallery wall and the aroma of fresh baked goods. We think that we must be perfect. But I'm discovering that it really doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful.

I look around my sweet friend Amy's home. Two decades worth of marriage and babies, one of which has been spent nestled in our sleepy north Georgia mountains. Tonight she has stoked the fire and opened her doors to a group of women for the second time. There is red velvet cake on the island in the kitchen, and the kettle whistles anxiously. I watch and listen as Amy speaks, her voice dripping with sweet grace, and I can't help but feel a sense of peace whenever I'm around her. I can feel her warmth, her joy, radiating from across the room.

And at one point, I gather up my courage and ask, so you just decided to do this for all of us? Her eyes sparkle. "Yes." She tells me that she loves having people in her home, and that if she had her way, she would never leave.

What I've realized is that true hospitality isn't about how many times your home tour will be pinned. It isn't even about red velvet cake (although, we could probably make a pretty compelling argument for this one).

Hospitality is creating space for people to come as they are.

Over coffee and crafts, Amy tells me that she still struggles with wanting to be all the things. Lindsey chimes in about the inevitable disappointment that takes over when she is overlooked for something -- even when it comes to the things she knows she doesn't have time to do. Leaning into the moment, I said that it must be God's grace that we are not chosen to do all the things.

It was His mercy, His loving-kindness, that sent Christ to hit the mark in our stead -- and yet even the physical person of Jesus did not heal every sick person. Sometimes He simply gives us strength to bear our crosses with grace.

He invites us to come as we are and and find rest for our weary and busted up souls.

He is still Emmanuel, God with us. 

via

With the coming of December, we've entered the season of advent. The word advent simply means the arrival. As we anticipate His coming, our hearts are heavy. We yearn for the day when every tear will be wiped away. We have learned to survive in a culture of scarcity. We live every man for himself, slaving away to build the tallest towers. We try to do enough to make enough to be enough. We want to be all the things.

And Christ offers us rest. He offers an invitation to cease striving. He offers us a life of that which we were made for. All of Him is more than enough for all of us.

That, my friends, is revolutionary.

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Some dear friends of mine made this for you, and I'd love to send it to you, all wrapped up in time for Christmas.

{Preview}

[audio m4a="http://www.erinsalmonwrites.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/08-Emmanuel.m4a"][/audio]

 

 

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When You Need to Know You're Loved Right Here.

Never in my life have I clung more to Jeremiah 29:11. For most of my life, having grown up in the church, this verse was commonplace to me: as one of the most commonly quoted verses in scripture, I had heard it so often that it began to lose its meaning. It was always the theme verse for camps and youth events and bible studies, and I had managed to file those words away in a drawer at the very back corner of my mind. Processed with VSCOcam with t1 presetI didn't really struggle with planning until I went away to college, and my time had to be more stringently delegated. Professors told me that college was like a triangle, with a social life, grades, and sleep, and I could only ever have two of the three. No matter what I was doing, I would be sacrificing time that could be put towards something else. And I couldn't tell you now exactly when it happened, but at some point back there, I morphed from a person who could fairly easily go with the flow, to someone who very nearly needed to plan out every hour of the day. To this day, I am still very much the latter personality.

Between graduation, getting married, and getting a job, I feel as though I got sucked into a vortex of constantly needing to plan and make decisions -- not only for whatever is going on in my life at the present moment, but also for the future. And I feel the weight of responsibility for every decision made, even the seemingly arbitrary ones. Things that I ultimately have no power over whatsoever, I somehow end up feeling responsible for.

A script from a television show arrests my attention: "she is a narcissist," it says. "You can't believe everything is your fault unless you also believe that you are all powerful." 

The words leave my lungs feeling strained, and I didn't want to hear them, and I try to shake off the fact that Jesus is still in the habit of using whatever is in front of us, ordinary things, to bring our attention to him. 

It seems silly. It seems elementary. It seems like I should know better and why am I reading the same page over and over?

Have you ever heard the saying "we plan and God laughs?" Sometimes, I don't believe He finds it all that humorous in the light of day. I think it breaks His heart, this endless flailing of mine.

He is still inviting me to rest, still wooing me and beckoning me to trust that all things are held together by His infinite grace. He knows the plans He has for me. He knew exactly who and where I would be at this moment, and Spurgeon says "had any other condition been better for you than the one in which you are, Divine Love would have put you there."

Its a promise that wherever you are right now, there is meaning and purpose. We are being made whole.

The trial is learning to rest in the middle of wherever I am, knowing that He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow, and believing that He gives His children good gifts. He disciplines those that He loves. He teaches those that He loves. He directs those that He loves. And (later on in Jeremiah,) He says He has loved us with an everlasting love. That means no height, no depth, no fear, no plan for the future, no regret from the past, or anything else can keep me from His love.

Lord, I believe, but help my unbelief. In the morning, when I wake up feeling just as tired as when I laid my head down, help my unbelief. In the afternoon, when I want to be somewhere -- anywhere -- else, help my unbelief. And when I lay down, my body tense from the constant anxiety of bracing myself for the unknown, help my unbelief. When I doubt the nearness of Your presence, give me faith. When I doubt the fullness of Your love, help me to hold onto these truths, that from ashes, You bring forth beauty. Teach and direct this feeble flesh. Keep holding me together.

And help me to slow down, to open my hands to Your grace. Help me to remember that I don't need to have every answer, but rather, I can trust the One who does. Help me to lean not unto my own understanding. Let joy and rest be the balm to this burnt out heart.

Give me the grace, the unshakable grace, to laugh at the days to come -- trusting, unshakably trusting, that You have a plan.

A plan for good, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. And in those days, when you pray, I will listen. When you look for Me wholeheartedly, you will Find me. I will be found by you, says the LORD.

On trusting and becoming beautiful.

everythingbeautiful Eleven days into the new year, and my one word is already proving to be more difficult than I had anticipated. I'm learning, soft and slow, that resting in the Lord is really only possible when you trust Him.

Trust that He is making this, making you, beautiful. 

I struggle to find the words hiding deep within my bones, because trusting is a process and truly seeing takes intention. Seeing takes slowing down, opening my hands + my soul to appreciate the mystery of grace. He leaves fingerprints behind as he molds us, tiny evidence that we belong.

Study God as Creator, because if He made you, then He can keep you, and if He can keep you, then He can always reach you. He is strong enough to love you. -- Andy Kerner

My friend's words resonate loud, conviction thundering as I work to put the pieces together.

It's right there: He who has promised is faithful. He's trustworthy, even when we can't see beyond our doubt. And when we bring our burdens to him, we find rest for our souls.

He is unequivocally for us. At our darkest hour, hiding in the Garden, He came to find us. And ever since, He has been drawing us back. Have my clenched fists suffocated the glory from the gift?

Beauty needs room to breathe. I feel the Spirit say, "can you trust enough to just let go?"

At the end of the day, its all so intricately woven together.

 

Linking up with some of the most gorgeous women over at Lisa-Jo's place today for Five Minute Fri(Sun)day.

Resting in uncharted territory. {Scripture for the 2014 journey.}

psalm1162Three hundred and sixty-five days lie ahead in 2014. Its a new chapter, a new opportunity to respond well to the truth of the gospel. But of course, no one really knows what these days will bring, and that lack of knowledge can be daunting. 2013, in all of its glory, was also a year that, for me, was marred by anxiety.

In the midst of it all, I was thrilled by the congruence of scripture. Perhaps that idea is elementary, but for me, it became revolutionary. I fell in love with the Word afresh and anew in 2013. I came to understand what it means to hide the Word in my heart. In Proverbs, scripture speaks of writing the Word of the Lord on the tablet of our hearts so that we will not stray.

This space, my writing, has ultimately become a note to self -- a reminder of sorts of the faithfulness of God. When life seems tumultuous, this is where I come, with my Bible and a cup of tea -- to whisper His love over and over. The white space, silent like a prayer closet, waits patiently for me to wander in with my words. And as I look back over the past twelve months of blogging, I see just how much the Lord has used 2013 and this place to mold me.

I wonder, was my choice to be anxious so much of the time really me trying to test Him? Have I only been dipping my toes into the pool of faith?

"Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there will be food in my house. Test me in this," says the Lord Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it. I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not cast their fruit,” says the Lord Almighty. “Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,” says the Lord Almighty. -- Malachi 3:10-12 (NIV)

Its no secret: its hard to offer up our whole selves. Especially when we cannot see or touch Him. But even seeing and touching us didn't make it any easier for Jesus to offer up his life in our stead. Yet he said "not my will, but Yours." 

Oh, Love. Mercy, find me when I struggle to live out the Image.

The nations will call me blessed when I surrender to Him, the God who knows everything I need and desires to give me even more out of His goodness. And that goodness is constant. He does not change or falter. Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. And He is the author, the perfecter: love incarnate.

He is before all things. What do I have to fear? This, this is how our souls find rest.

 Linking up with a host of beautiful people from all over the world for OneWord365. Have you chosen a word to focus on in 2014? Share it in the comments below! 

On reflection, rest, and looking forward.

A local pastor cuts deep in a radio commercial heard during my morning commute: did you do everything you could in 2013? I doubt my preparedness to answer.

Because I did a lot -- became a lot -- of new things in the past twelve months: a fiancee, a college graduate, a wife, a daughter and sister-in-law, a licensed driver (for the first time, at 22 years old,) and a social worker. I joined communities of bloggers who not only inspired me, but got down in the nitty gritty to do life with me. I also got baptized, over ten years after my parents and a pastor held an intervention and used guilt to try to motivate me to obey. Those were the highs. The lows saw me become anxious, angry, bitter, rebellious, and exhausted.

Did I do everything I could to be better? I ask it frequently of myself, and often I'm reminded of how short I have fallen -- how many opportunities I had to trust the Lord, and instead tried like hell to control things myself. At times, I became physically sick from the tension.

Timothy Keller's words resound: "anxiety is the result of a collapsing false god."

How much of my time has been consumed by the god of control? The god of perfectionism and guilt? Time that I can never get back.

But as I look back over the past year, what overwhelms it all is how faithful the Lord is, despite my not always giving Him my best.

An old roommate and I had a falling out a couple years back, but she left me this letter:

I see you struggling. I know you are fighting some major battles in your life. You have dealt with far more than I can even see. You aren't giving in and you aren't giving up. You are fighting against what you know should not be there. In this, I see hope.

I hearken back to her words at the end of this year, as I read over the past year of journaling -- of pouring my heart out to the Lord, regardless of its contents. I pray her words are still true, wherever she may be today.

Because at the end of the day, the essence of journaling is that it provides evidence of the journey. Throughout this year, I have been more intentional about being in tune with the Lord than ever before, because perhaps more than ever before, I realize my need for Him. 

....

Many bloggers I know begin their new year by choosing a word -- one word to focus their writing on during the year. As a lover of all things semantic, it has been particularly difficult to land on a single word. It is also difficult, given that my posts throughout 2013 are jam packed with words like joy, holy, faithfulness, thankfulness, trust, and grace. But there has been one word to breach my conscience again and again, and that word is rest. 

Rest: 

1. Cessation after exertion or labor. 2. Freedom from anything that wearies, troubles, or disturbs. 3. Calm, tranquility, ease, relief.

In the midst of the whirlwind that was 2013, I struggled to find rest. I thought about and desired rest constantly, even writing about it a few times on this blog. But what I learned more and more as the year progressed is that rest is a choice. The Holy Spirit was so faithful to convict me and bring to my attention the choices I was making when anxiety rose up in my heart. More often than not, my choices were not favorable.

My friend Andy says that the whole of life is about reacting well to the gospel. Could there be a better reaction than the cessation of my striving? At the cross, with his dying breath, Christ gave me victory. He put an end to my striving for perfection -- my striving to somehow earn grace -- so why do I insist on dragging it out?

Perhaps you find yourself in the same boat? One of the most powerful things we can do in our journey towards healing is to realize that we're not alone. Back in September, I wrote a bit about perseverance -- things that must be born in a person. Birth is an incredibly messy and painful experience. We have to push, and sometimes we come apart at the seams. But it is also beautiful.

The Word says "He has made everything beautiful in its time."

He knows what we need. He is molding us.

These are promises that we can rest in.

Hey, friend! Whether you're new here or find my small space familiar, I am so thankful that you've taken the time to visit. This post closes the chapter of 2013, but with every ending also comes a beginning! Join me in 2014 in my pursuit of rest? And let me know how I can partner with you in your own journey towards all things joyful and promising. 

Wave the banner.

“He has taken me into the banquet room, and his banner over me is love.” -- Song of Solomon 2:4

Thoreau says that we are constantly invited to be what we are. His words have often  left me in quiet and loud wondering and mulling over what I might be. What in the world, this bruised and bleak world am I? In my arrogance, in my ignorance, I have stricken my own heel. Through communicating the darkness to myself over and over again, meditating on it day and night, I have created my own cancer, that which wreaks havoc throughout my bones, killing silently.

I have spoken many untrue words over my life. I have scarred myself with anxiety and anger in ways that many may never see. On many more occasions than I can count, just getting through the day has proven to be a trial in and of itself. The moment by moment choice to believe and hold on has seemed to require too much effort. I lie awake at night facing the turmoil of fear and depression, and at times, it seemed as if that was really all there was to being.

Today was the very monochromatic picture of winter. A chilled rain raced down to muddy earth, whose naked limbs remained still. The sky faded from light to dark gray. This is how the realization comes. I have waved the banner of death, and the white flag of defeat.

But this, the whisper comes, this is not who you are. I have given you fullness of joy, that which you have been created for. 

What grace is this, that life might be redefined? What right does the clay have to ask of the Potter why it is being crafted in such a way? I feel His hands molding me, and what have I to do except offer my own hands to Him in return? I long to give back all that I have broken in my haste and struggle to hold this life together through my own power.

Grace means unmerited favor. Not my power, but Yours, Lord. Scripture speaks of death losing its potent sting in the light of the glory of the Lord. This Creator God, patient with me in my waywardness, whispers a promise of love. Everything I have belongs to you. I have been defined from the foundation of the universe. My frame is not hidden from the Creator. My image, my soul, my emotions, my intellect, my pleasures have been known and, what is more, delighted in. What joy, to know that the Father delights in His children, to know that He still sings over me, still whispers grace, still looks at me and declares that I am good. I have been made holy, without blemish. Finally, joy.

I have been invited, beckoned into the residence of this Goodness. The hall of celebration. The hall of victory. The hall of plenty. In the presence of the Lord, there is fullness of joy. In the stillness, at the foot of the Mercy Seat, this weary soul finds rest.

Wave the new banner. This, my portion, will more than satisfy.