When Your Dreams Feel Unseen

When Your Dreams Feel Unseen at www.annswindell.com

Last year, my daughter and I planted a cantaloupe plant in our front garden right before summer got into full swing. I am the epitome of a black thumb, so it was an act both of faith and of craziness, and I wrote about it in the last chapter of my book, Still Waiting.

That chapter is perhaps my favorite chapter of the entire book, and while it’s about this particular cantaloupe plant, it’s also about the ways in which God cares for us and meets with us even when our prayers seem unanswered. It’s a chapter about faith and looking ahead and trusting that often, what we can’t see is making way for something more beautiful than we could have ever imagined.

I’ve had some readers ask me about the cantaloupe plant that I reference in Still Waiting, and I wanted to give you an update, albeit a year later:

Cantaloupe and God's faithfulness at www.annswindell.com

Cantaloupe and God's faithfulness at www.annswindell.com

Yay! That little cantaloupe plant grew and grew–in fact, the vines overtook the whole of our tiny garden and eclipsed anything else in the plot. And finally, as summer turned into fall, my daughter and I celebrated the growth that God did in that tiny seed by eating the literal fruit of his faithfulness.

So, just a reminder for you today, friend: if it feels like your dreams and hopes are in the ground, unseen…God sees you. He knows your heart and he hears your prayers. There is a day coming when you will see the fruit of your faith. I don’t know when that is; only the Lord does! But he is faithful and there will be a day of reaping the spiritual harvest you have prayed for.

If it feels like your dreams and hopes are in the ground, unseen...God sees you. He knows your heart and hears your… Click To Tweet

If you haven’t read Still Waiting yet, can I encourage you to pick up a copy? No matter what season of life you’re in, my prayer is that this book will strengthen you in your own walk with the Lord and remind you that you’re never alone. 

 

Still Waiting by Ann Swindell

 

The Summer the Roof Blew Off My House

Home has always been a central theme in my life, and today
I’m honored to be sharing about home over at Jen Michel’s wonderful blog.
Join me there!

To be human is to long for home. www.annswindell.com guest posting for Jen Pollock Michel

The summer the roof blew off my house also happened to be the summer I was away, studying abroad in England during college. All of it was an enormous surprise; there was no plan for a microburst to heave the roof off in July. When I left in June there was no warning about what was coming.

That house—the one that lost its roof—has been in my family for four generations. My great-grandfather was an architect; he designed the home. My grandfather laid the bricks, my father moved in at the age of four in 1954, and I was brought home thirty years later. The maple trees, just saplings when my father moved into the house, now tower twenty feet high.

I always knew those trees as tall. I slept in the bedroom that my father slept in as a boy, ate in the same kitchen, played basketball in the same backyard. Every story that belonged to the house also belonged to my family; the people and the place, wedded.

Into the house itself, my great-grandfather cemented a reminder of the family sentiment. He set odd-colored stones in the brick fireplace, uneven and small, jutting out in unlikely places.  Their colors do not match. These stones are from his travels to the Pyramids, the Coliseum, the Acropolis. He brought them back from those places to mortar them into the hearth, a reminder that though you travel far, you always, always circle back to where you started.

We are homebodies, embodied in a home that helps us know ourselves. Generations stay, or they come back.

I heard about the roof blowing off my house when I was in Oxford. My mother called from across the Atlantic with the news…

Read the rest of the story here, at Jen’s blog!

The Purpose and Power of Lent

The Power and Purpose of Lent www.annswindell.com

This post is adapted from a piece I wrote originally for RELEVANT Magazine and posted last year.
Click here to read the original article. 

In church tradition, Lent is the season preceding Easter, and it is often set aside as a time of remembrance and repentance. It is a season of preparation, a time of waiting and reflecting.

But is Lent important? Is it worth observing—or at least acknowledging—especially if, like me, you’re not currently part of a liturgical church tradition?

Even after years of not being in a church that intentionally observes Lent, I still think so. Here are some reasons why Lent matters—and how it can point us to the truth of the Gospel in practical, important ways:

Lent Reminds Us That We Need to Repent

Repentance is not an easy pill to swallow; repentance is a call to turn around and away from our sinful ways. First, it means acknowledging that we are sinners, and second, it means saying no to our sin. But repentance is at the very heart of Christianity: we cannot, in fact, follow Jesus without repenting of our way and choosing His way instead (Acts 2:38).

Lent is a season of acknowledging our consistent, daily need to repent. Click To Tweet

Lent is a season of acknowledging our consistent, daily need to repent—and therefore, of our consistent need for a savior. It’s important to remember how desperately we need to be saved from our sin, and that Jesus is the only hope we have to be saved; that reality grounds us in His kindness and goodness.

 Lent Helps Us Pare Down Our Excesses

Historically, Christians have understood Lent as a time when unneeded things are stripped away in order to remind us of our neediness before and for God. Christians still do this today, giving up meat or chocolate, or abstaining from alcohol or watching television.

By taking away things that divert our attention and feed our desires, the season of Lent invites us to attend to what is really happening on the inside of our souls—and to have our needs met by God first and only.

Lent invites us to attend to what is really happening on the inside of our souls. Click To Tweet

Lent Points Us to Our Humanity

In college, I was part of a liturgical church in college, and I attended my first Ash Wednesday service. There, I was marked with a cross in ash while hearing the words, “From dust you came, and to dust you will return.”

It felt like someone had sucked all of the air out of the room; suddenly, I was faced with my own death. As a college student, I rarely thought about my own finiteness, my own frailty. But that declaration over me—that I started from dust and will return to dust—deeply humbled me, in the best of ways.

Lent pointed me back to the truth that all of my value and all of my purpose comes from being a person made in the image of the God who created me and made the way for me to be saved. Apart from Him, I am dust; I am nothing and I have nothing. But because of His great love, my life is worth much more than dust.

Lent Sobers Us—in Order to Prepare Us for Celebration

Lent is a season of reflection—even of mourning—and that attitude flies in the face of the cultural waters most of us swim in. Sobering ourselves by confronting our own brokenness—by pausing our desire to keep things light and easy—is necessary if we want to celebrate the miraculous and life-altering message of Easter.

If we aren’t aware of our sinfulness and need, we won’t be able to comprehend the desperation of Good Friday or the world-changing truth of the Resurrection. Sobering our hearts and minds in preparation for Easter enables us to celebrate more deeply and joyfully, perhaps, than we would have without the solemnness of the season.

Because knowing our true nature, knowing our need for Jesus—makes Easter the best and most necessary Good News we could ever hear.

Read the original article here, at RELEVANT Magazine.

Writing with Grace course www.writingwithgrace.com

17 Ways You Can Pray for Your Husband

17 Ways to Pray for Your Husband in 2017 at www.annswindell.comI had the honor of getting to write for Way-FM recently about one of the topics I love the most: marriage! The start of the article is below; you can read it in its entirety here!

As wives, perhaps one of the most important things we have the opportunity to do in 2017 is to pray for our husband. No one knows him as closely as you do, and this offers a unique chance to come before the Lord and ask him to guide and protect your husband in a powerful way.

Still, sometimes it’s difficult to know where to start or how to focus our prayers, and so, below, you’ll find 17 ways to pray for your husband this year. You can pray through the whole list at once, or pray for specific aspects on different days of the week or month. Even if your husband does not yet know the Lord, you can pray these prayers for him, trusting that the Lord hears you and he loves your husband even more than you do.

1. Pray for your husband’s relationship with Christ.

No other relationship in your husband’s life is as important as his relationship with God—not even his relationship with you! The good news is that as your husband grows in closeness with the Lord, his love for Christ will start to spill over into every other relationship in his life, including his marriage. So, pray that your husband will be motivated and excited to spend time with the Lord, praying and reading the Bible.

2. Pray that the Lord will give your husband godly friends.

We become like the people we spend time with, and so your husband’s friends have a huge influence on his life. Ask God to give your husband close friends who are also pursuing Christ, and that they would “spur one another on toward love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:24).

3. Pray for favor on your husband’s life.

Your husband has already received favor in having you as his wife, for “He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the LORD” (Proverbs 18:22)! Now, pray that God will increase your husband’s favor with bosses, friends, co-workers, and acquaintances!

4. Pray that your husband will thrive in his job.

Few things matter more to a man than knowing he is making significant contributions in his work. Pray that God will give your husband joy in his work and breakthrough in any difficult situations at his place of employment.

Read the rest of the article here, at WAY-FM!

Looking for more marriage encouragement? 
Read 10 Ways to Grow Spiritually with your Spouse!
Read Cultivating a Joy-Filled Relationship with your Spouse.
Still Waiting by Ann Swindell

Write Your Story, Change Your Life

I started writing my story years ago; long before I was anywhere near a book contract or a marketing team, I felt that the Lord was inviting me into a process of writing my story down and–in the process–meeting him in the middle of it. I’m not sure I’ve done anything more powerful in my personal spiritual journey than write my memoir.

 

Write Your Story www.writingwithgrace.com

Memoir is the genre that I love the most, because it’s the genre that allows us–even gently forces us–to re-examine the lives that we have been living as we write them down on the page. A good memoir isn’t autobiography, and it isn’t a personal journal. It’s the true story of our lives written in such a way that others can understand, access, and be changed by it.

I’m not sure there’s a more dynamic form of the written word.

Our God is the God of story, and he loves making himself known through our stories; it’s how he’s wired us. We start loving stories as children, and we inherently know when a story has a satisfying or unacceptable ending, because we were made to long for resolution, peace, and hope.

Our God is the God of story, and he loves making himself known through our stories. Click To Tweet

If you’ve always wanted to write your story, or if you’ve been wondering how you can tell your story in a meaningful way, I’m going to suggest that writing your memoir might be one of the most powerful things you can do in your personal journey with Jesus. Down the road, might your story impact hundreds or thousands of people? I hope so! But in these days and months, writing your story will transform you most of all. I know that it has transformed me; I got to see Jesus at work all over again as I’ve written my memoir over the past years.

I just opened registration for the Writing with Grace Memoir course that I’ll be teaching this fall. To say that I’m thrilled about this class is an understatement; I’m practically jumping out of my chair!

Registration is open for Writing with Grace: Memoir! www.writingwithgrace.com #amwriting Click To Tweet

I’d love for you to join me over at Writing with Grace–you can even see the new video that we created just for this course.

If you’ve been aching to write your story, this is your time. I can’t wait to see you there!

5 Quick Ways to Refresh When You Can’t Slow Down

Although many of us hope that summer will be a season of rest and renewal, the truth is that sometimes the summer months are packed with more activities than we can count. If you’re finding yourself stretched thin, I hope that this piece of mine from Today’s Christian Woman will offer you some practical ways to refresh your soul in the midst of the craziness of life.

You can read the whole article here!

5 Ways to Refresh Your Soul When You Can't Slow Down

Most days, it seems like there’s not quite enough time to accomplish everything we need—or want—to do. It might be that we’re juggling kids, a marriage, and a dog; or it might be that we’re trying to balance classes and friendships and work; or that we’re living in the tension between our professional and personal lives. Whatever roles and responsibilities we carry, we have all experienced that nagging feeling that we’re not doing enough.

So it may seem counterintuitive to suggest that what we actually need is more refreshment. It may sound, in fact, like an unattainable luxury: to refresh ourselves when there are things to get done. It’s easier to put our own lives on hold when the kids are screaming, when the deadline is looming, when the bills are overdue.

We can’t put our need for refreshment on pause forever, though many of us feel as if we have to do just that. I’ve struggled with the tension of wanting to renew my soul but feeling guilty about the desire to do “something for myself.” As I’ve learned the hard way, though, things that refresh my body, mind, and soul aren’t luxuries. They are necessary for long-term health and wholeness—just as necessary as food and sleep. Go without refreshment too long, and you’ll find yourself exhausted and fried.

Making time to refresh our body, soul, and mind isn't a luxury--it's a necessity. Click To Tweet

One problem is that we associate refreshment with big trips or expensive experiences—and those seem unattainable. What we need instead are smaller, more consistent ways to refresh in the midst of our everyday lives, and that doesn’t have to take a lot of time or money. Here are five ways to refresh when you don’t have time to slow down.

1. Listen to Scripture

If your time to read the Bible is rushed or nonexistent, consider downloading a Bible-reading app to your phone or computer. Find a version of the Bible that you love, and start listening before you pull out of the driveway on your morning commute or while you’re on your way to drop off kids at school.

We’d all like to have time to study the Bible deeply, but listening to the Bible is another way to concentrate on Scripture in the midst of full days. This listening can keep us focused on “what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable”—the things that we are called to “think about” (Philippians 4:8). Consistently hearing the Scripture fills our minds—and hearts—with God’s truth, and that truth will refresh and sustain us in a soul-nourishing way that nothing else can.

2. Put Your Feet Up for Five Minutes

Whether you close the door to your office and put your feet on your desk or hop on your favorite couch at home, get your feet off the floor. Put your phone down and turn it on silent (it’s only five minutes, remember?), close your eyes, and focus on breathing.

Rest is good for our brains and our souls. A University of Illinois study points out that taking short breaks enables us to stay focused over the course of a long project. Similarly, a writer for the New York Times argues that idleness is good for us, stating that “The space and quiet that idleness provides is a necessary condition for standing back from life and seeing it whole.”

Scripture helps us see our lives as a whole, too. When we step back from the minutiae of our lives to consider the vast world God has created, we can rest in his mindfulness of us (Psalm 8:3-4) and in his ability to hold the world together—a refreshing truth and something we don’t have to accomplish on our own (Colossians 1:15-17).

Regularly refreshing ourselves is not a sign of weakness or selfishness—it is the way to stay… Click To Tweet

3. Spark Your Senses

God created us to experience the world through all of our senses. If you are calmed or invigorated by a certain scent, for example, invest in a fragrant candle and light it during a particularly stressful part of your day. If you can’t have flames in your workspace, consider melting wax pods, which release the aroma of a candle without the fire.

Similarly, if you are refreshed by the mountains or the ocean but can’t look out your window and see them, purchase a photo of a beautiful place and put it in your office or by the kitchen sink.

Music, too, can be a powerful way for us to refresh our souls. One study showed that playing music can decrease anxiety, even in an environment as stressful as an emergency room. Even if we must be in a stressful environment, it may be possible to turn music on in the background, or in headphones. Choose music that encourages you and lifts your spirits.

Read the rest of the article here, at Today’s Christian Woman!