Tuesday, February 3, 2015

My One Word for 2015 {with NEW song debut!}

So... a two-month blog silence!  Read on to find out why... (I wrote this post last week on our return journey to Central Asia, but I couldn't post earlier due to Internet issues.)  Remember to click the Soundcloud link at the bottom to listen to my NEW song!  

Queenstown & the Remarkables, New Zealand South Island

As I write this, I am sitting in a place called “Caffé Béne”, in the bustling heart of an Asian metropolis, sipping a barista-brewed latte - my last for a while - absentmindedly staring at the cafe’s weird East-meets-West decor, and thinking about rest.

Right now we’re in a few days of limbo between two months of “Kiwi-leave” in New Zealand and returning to our current “home” on the field in Central Asia.  Home-leave offers a welcome break from the pressures and tensions of life overseas, but while returning to a western country is restful in that I can function in my heart language and I don’t have to cook every meal from scratch, the short times back in our passport countries are usually packed with people to see, places to go, and opportunities to share what God has been doing.  

This time for us was no different.  We’ve rested as we’ve been ministered to in prayer by faithful saints; we’ve rested as we’ve drunk deeply of New Zealand’s natural beauty, and as we’ve enjoyed the delicious, relaxed hospitality of treasured friends.  But we’ve been busy, and it’s taken its toll.  We’re tired, our kids are tired, and our family is running a bit ragged.

I snuck out this afternoon while the kids are napping to write you a note in this little online space which I’ve devoted to exploring the art of this sojourning life.  Most of us are no strangers to feeling fatigued, so I’m especially excited to share with you my word for 2015! 

Lake Pukaki, New Zealand South Island

Last year, I felt God calling me to listenIf you’re interested, you can read some of the things I learned here… and after 12 months of exploring and experimenting, I am fully aware my lessons in real, true listening have only just begun!  

This year, flowing on from listening, I’ve been invited by God to 


for a while.  

To rest from striving, from filling my life with effort and strain, to rest from the internet rat-race I’ve been unwittingly running.  

I’ve been invited to rest from my own agenda, from compulsively planning and preparing.  God is inviting me to go with the flow.  To surrender.  To submit to what each day brings.  To submit afresh to my husband.  To surrender afresh to my Lord.  

To rest in the care of my Good Shepherd, and let this little corner of the web lie quiet for a while, while I listen to His voice.  

This year, the word God is giving me for 2015 is rest.  

Milford Sound, New Zealand South Island

I am so happy about this word.  Whew!  What a relief!  

Towards the end of last year, I noticed myself struggling with the tension between wanting to develop and promote some sort of personal “brand” online and the actual reality of my tiny snippets of free time.  The worst part was, no matter how much time I spent tweaking, planning and writing, I never felt like I measured up to all the other amazing blogs and writers I love.  Frankly, I fell into the comparison trap, and it isn’t very restful!  I’ve also noticed that, instead of providing a satisfying outlet, blogging seems to feed a fever inside of me to reach for more ambitious projects than my stage in life will allow - things like writing a book (or two!) which would require me to sacrifice time my children need with me right now. 

I was sharing these tensions with a friend, and her quiet, wise response stopped me in my tracks.

“Maybe you could write your blog on the hearts of your children.”

You know?  Maybe I could.

I feel God inviting me to rest in the presence of my children.  I’ve been so busy managing them I’ve forgotten how to enjoy them.  Over these past couple months, as friends and loved ones reconnected with our family after a 2-year absence, seeing and hearing their comments and watching their joy in my kids jogged me into realizing I need to rediscover their preciousness all over again.  I need to tend their souls.  I need to observe their needs attentively and bring them to Jesus.  I need to rest my soul in prayer for them, carrying them to the heart of their Creator.  I need to seek wisdom as I try to do my part in shaping their character and their hearts.  

So, as this fresh new year unrolls practically speaking, among other things

I am taking a six-month blog break from January to July.  

Instead of writing for this space, I will be journalling about rest - and whatever else the Lord lays on my heart.  

I want to explore the beautiful theme of rest running through the Bible.  

I long to explore new - and old - rhythms of Sabbath rest, to learn how to rest well with my family… alone… in God’s creation… and in conversation.  

I’d love to increase my margins, create more whitespace in my life.  Earlier bedtimes, earlier rising times, more pausing, more looking around, more awareness.  

This year, I want to feed my soul creatively while feeding my family creatively (the end of last year saw us in a pretty monotonous menu rut!). 

I want to enjoy bringing my kids joy, and learning how to help each of them rest in the way he or she needs most.  

Every time I think the word “rest” to myself, I feel a delicious sense of ownership and anticipation.  Rest.  What a wonderful word.  I am looking forward to exploring it, doing it, experiencing and living it.  

I am anticipating discovering the rest of God.  

Do you feel a tug on your soul to join me?  If you do, will you pray for me, as I pray for you, that these next six months will be filled with refreshment of the soul and a rest we have never known? 

One verse God has laid on my heart for this year is from Exodus 33, during one of the most remarkable conversations in the Bible.  It takes place between God and Moses, right after the people of Israel have sinned greatly and God has punished them with plague and the sword.  Then, He pronounces the worst punishment of all: He is sending them on ahead, but He is not going with them lest He consume them on the way, for they are a “stiff-necked people”.  

(When I see that phrase, I feel the stiffness in my own neck - a trait my two-year-old daughter has certainly inherited!) 

Moses begs God to go with them, on the grounds that it’s His presence that sets the children of Israel apart from every other nation.  It’s the fact that God travels physically in their midst, leading and guiding them Himself, that marks them out as God’s chosen ones.  

Moses reminds God that He has said, “I know you by name, and you have also found favor in my sight.”  Then he pleads, “Now therefore, if I have found favor in your sight, please show me now your ways, that I may know you in order to find favor in your sight.  Consider too that this nation is your people.”

And God’s answer takes your breath away: 

“My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”  (Ex. 33:14)

There’s a lot more to this passage, and I’m planning to dive into it more and more deeply as this year unwinds, but for right now, I’m savoring those beautiful words tucked away in the middle of the conversation: “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”  

Rest from our enemies.  Rest from the desert.  Rest from being alone.  Rest from slavery, from wandering, from the monotony of manna.  Rest from bickering and quarreling and complaining.  

Rest.  In the presence of God.  

Mmmm.  Doesn’t that sound good?

So.  I’ll see you in July.  In the meantime, I’ll tuck myself away in our little Central Asian village, enjoy my children, love my husband, cook some yummy food, and explore rest.  

P.S. I recently wrote a new song around Exodus 33:14, called “Rest”… click here to listen on Soundcloud.  May you be refreshed!  

What’s your word for 2015?  What about it excites you?  What about it is challenging?  What do you hope God will do in you this year through this word?

Monday, December 1, 2014

Advent for Preschoolers {a resource for your family Advent celebration}

Several years ago, our eldest son was just coming to the age where he could understand the true meaning of Christmas at a deeper level.  I wanted to start doing the four Sundays of Advent with our family, but the traditional service I had grown up with was too hard for our kids to grasp, and I realized I needed something simpler.

Out of necessity I pieced together a simple service for each of the four Sundays of Advent, plus Christmas Day (when it falls on a day other than a Sunday).  I called it “Advent for Preschoolers” and our family has used it for the past 3 or 4 Advent seasons.  I have tweaked the lessons slightly each year based on what has worked with our kids and what doesn’t.

I would like to make this a free PDF link, but I can’t figure out how to do it.  (I think Blogger may not support such high-tech options!)  So I am posting the first Sunday of Advent here on my blog, and please email me at carolyn@carolynbroughton.com for the complete FREE 15-page “Advent for Preschoolers” PDF file (including optional Christmas carols) for you to use with your family.  

{Please feel free to forward it to others you think might enjoy using it with their families, but please do not alter the content in any way or charge for those copies.  Thank you!}

Each Sunday of December, our family lights another candle and prepares for Jesus’ coming: both His coming to earth as a baby at Christmas, and His coming back to earth again as our King. 
This year (2013) on the first Sunday of Advent we were reading through Week 1 with our kids. As we read, our three-year-old began absorb the fact that Jesus was really coming back to earth one day. 
“He’s really coming back?” he kept asking, with big wide eyes. “And we’ll see Him?” 
At the literal age of three, having a relationship with Someone you can’t see is continually frustrating. I was a bit afraid he was starting to think Jesus was coming back to earth this Christmas Day, and tried to explain that no one knows the day or the hour of His return... But I felt a glow of warmth that even at three, he was absorbing these important facts about Jesus, through our family Advent worship. 
Our family uses a candelabra that holds five candles which we light in the following order, adding one each week of Advent: 
Week 1: The Prophets’ Candle (Hope) - White 
Week 2: The Angels’ Candle (Joy) - Yellow 
Week 3: The Shepherds’ Candle (Good News) - Green 
Week 4: The Wise Mens’ Candle (Worship) - Purple 
Christmas Day: The Jesus Candle (Love) - Red 
Some families use four white candles with a red one for Christmas Day. Feel free to use whatever suits your family. 
May you be blessed as you read through these weeks together, and may you draw closer to Jesus together as a family this Advent season! 
Merry Christmas! 
Carolyn Broughton 
© 2013 www.carolynbroughton.com 

Advent for Preschoolers - Week 1 
First Sunday of Advent: “The Prophet’s Candle – Hope” 
Mother: The season of ADVENT begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas. ADVENT means "COMING" or “ARRIVAL”. Whose coming to the earth do we celebrate on Christmas Day? 
Child: Jesus! 
Mother: Right! During ADVENT, we get ready to celebrate the “arrival” of God’s Son Jesus as a baby. We also get ready for Jesus to come back again as our King. Let’s start getting our hearts ready for Jesus’ coming. 
Mother: What are these on the table? Child: Candles! 
Mother: Do you know why we light candles during Advent? Candles remind us that Jesus is the LIGHT of God coming into our dark, sinful world. Remember? Jesus said, “I am the LIGHT of the world.” Every Sunday of Advent, we light one more candle to prepare for Jesus’ coming. 
Father: Do you know the name of the first candle? The first candle is called “The PROPHETS’ Candle”. It reminds us of the PROPHETS in the Bible who foretold Jesus’ birthday hundreds of years before He was born. 
Do you know what the Prophets’ Candle means to us? It reminds us of the HOPE God’s people had as they waited for the coming of a Messiah, a Savior. God showed His prophets that He was planning to send a Savior for His people. Do you know who that Savior was? 
Child: Jesus!
Father: Right! God’s promise to send a Messiah, a Savior, was fulfilled when He sent His Son Jesus to earth. But do you still see sin and darkness in the world? 
Child: Yes. 
Father: So we are still waiting with HOPE, like the prophets and God’s people in the Bible, for Jesus to come back again to make the world new and get rid of sin forever. 
Isaiah 9, verses 2 and 6 says: "The people walking in darkness have seen a great LIGHT; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a LIGHT has dawned. For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be upon his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” 
Who is the child who is born, the son who is given? Child: Jesus!
(Father lights the first candle) 
Father: So, we light the PROPHETS’ candle to remind us that Jesus’ coming was foretold by the prophets, and that Jesus brings LIGHT and HOPE into a dark world. 
Let’s pray. 
Dear Jesus,
Thank you for coming into the world just like the prophets foretold. Thank you that you are the light of the world, and you bring us hope. Thank you that you will come back again to make the world new and take away sin forever.
All Sing: “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus” 

Come, thou long-expected Jesus 
Come, thou long expected Jesus! born to set thy people free, from our fears and sins release us let us find our rest in thee. Israel’s strength and consolation, hope of all the earth thou art, dear desire of every nation, joy of every longing heart. 
Born thy people to deliver, born a child and yet a king, born to reign in us forever, now thy gracious kingdom bring. By thine own eternal Spirit, rule in all our hearts alone.
by thine all sufficient merit, raise us to thy glorious throne. 

© 2013 www.carolynbroughton.com 


Saturday, November 29, 2014

Happy Birthday, William!!

Happy Birthday, William!  I can’t believe you’re 7 whole years old already.  I am SO proud of you — this year your big event was starting local first grade in Russian!  You have done so well, persevering with the writing homework and listening and understanding in class… your teacher told me how pleased she is with what a good student you are. Way to go!

Even more than Russian school, I have been so thankful for the way you are letting Jesus grow your heart.  Recently I noticed you really listening when Daddy points out things about your character - like learning how it feels to let Ben go first, or putting aside what you wanted to do to help your sister - and then later that day or the next day, I see you doing it!  That is the way to grow, Will… listen to correction, and then do it.  I hope you keep this pattern the rest of your life - it will sure help you grow into the young man God created you to be!

I love how attuned you are to God’s creation.  You’re always drawing my attention to a cool rock, or a neat flower, or a new colorful bird.  You notice the way the trees look against the sky, and you think about how things are made and how they work.  You have the mind of a scientist, engineer and poet all wrapped in one.  It’s so amazing watching you unfold!  

I couldn’t ask for a more wonderful first-born son.  I love spending time with you, just the two of us, reading (you love the National Geographic Science readers) or playing games (like chess, checkers, Connect4 and UNO)… you are a “quality time” kind of guy, and I love that about you.

You’re goofy too - you love to groove and beatbox, and your dance moves are legendary.  You like U2, Bluetree, Colin Buchanan and any other hoppin’ beat you can find!  You are a unique, quirky, wonderful kid, and I love you so much.  I love every day I get to be your Mom!  

I hope you have a wonderful, special birthday with your cousins in New Zealand this year, and know how loved and special you are!

XOXO  Love, Mom

Monday, November 24, 2014

Make Your Own Advent Calendar: Finishing Touches

{Are you making your own family Advent Calendar to teach your children the Christmas story?  Good for you!  Time for the finishing touches!  
Click here for Part 1, Part 2, or Part 3…}

Making Your Own Advent Calendar: Finishing Touches

Getting Started…

Gather your supplies:

  • wooden dowel the width of your calendar plus 2" either end for hanging
  • Christmas ribbon for hanging
  • gold felt and red permanent marker for verse, if desired

Add Luke 2:11 to your calendar (Optional)…

1. If desired, cut out a rectangular piece of gold felt the same size as the back of the folded-up storage section of your Advent Calendar.  

2. With a red permanent marker, print Luke 2:11 on the gold rectangle.  

3. Glue the rectangle upside down on the back of your felt background, so when you fold up your storage section the verse will appear right-side up.

Hanging Your Advent Calendar…

1. Sew a straight seam along the safety-pinned allowance at the top of your piece of background felt.

2. Slide the dowel in, making sure it's long enough to stick out 1.5 - 2 inches on each end. (My "dowel" is a backyard stick - I have to trim the knots off first! ;)

3. Tie a pretty Christmas ribbon around each end of the dowel, making sure your knots are tight enough so the ribbon won't slide in towards the center.

4. Hang your Advent Calendar!  

{If you included the verse on the back, it's your choice whether you fold up the storage section every day to show the verse, or whether you leave it unfolded until December 25 and have your kids fold it up for the first time on Christmas Day to display the verse under the finished manger scene.}


{For a free copy of the Christmas story divided into 25 pieces, email me at carolyn@carolynbroughton.com.  

Include a photo of your finished calendar, if you want - I’d love to see it!}

Christmas Devotional

Here's the story of my evening four years ago, November 2010, as I carried out the above instructions:

Out back, in our borrowed apple orchard, my husband hacks off a branch for me from one of the little apple trees.  “Long enough?” he asks.  I bring it in, the ice melting off its underside from the warmth of my hand.  Feeling decidedly rustic, I sit with a kitchen knife and chip off buds along its length, smoothing the rough places.  

I choose a reasonably smooth 70cm length from the middle - not too fat, not too thin.  I clip each end with secateurs, try to get a clean cut.  

I slide the stick into the sewn tube at the top of my felt Advent Calendar background.  A bit rough-looking, but it’ll do the job - and I didn’t even slice my finger (came close a couple times, though!).  

I sweep up the shavings, and think about Joseph being a carpenter.  About the beautiful cradle he might have made for Mary’s baby’s birth.  About the simple, rustic manger in which he had to lay Jesus instead, aware at some level that Jesus was much more than his natural son, that He was infinitely special.  

Did Joseph mourn the lowliness of the manger, cursing the Roman decree that dragged them so far away from home at this most inconvenient time?  Or was the manger well-crafted - did Joseph rejoice that the boy to be raised as a carpenter had good carpenter’s craft for his bed?  Did he even think of it at all, so thankful he was for the safe delivery of this precious gift, for a place to lay the baby that lifted him off the cold dirt floor and the mice and rats?

James and I listen to our Sunday night sermon.  I sew velcro on the backs of “frankincense” and “myrrh”, still missing a square gold button for the “gold”.  No trip to the bazar this morning as planned: everyone sick with colds, huddled up away from the snow, drinking soup and hot tea and taking long naps.  The gold button will have to wait.

My needle pokes and pulls, and John Piper describes the afflictions of Christ, in a sermon from Romans we chose at random.  A Christmas sermon.  Born as an illegitimate child, Jesus carried that slur all his life.  The Pharisees threw it in his face.  Forced to flee as a refugee almost immediately after he was born, barely escaped with his life; spent the first two years of his life sojourning in Egypt, grew up listening to a foreign tongue as his first language.  

“Let’s have a balanced Christmas celebration,” urges Piper, unpacking Romans 12:12: “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.”  Rejoice in hope, Paul says, but that joy is an embattled joy, under constant attack from inside and outside.  Piper quotes the angel’s words, “I bring you good news of GREAT joy!” and adds, “That little baby grew up and said, ‘I have not come to bring peace but a sword… and a person’s enemies will be those of his own household.”  

Sufferings are normal.  If you don’t have any right now, you will.  And the thing is, we rejoice in our sufferings, not just in spite of them, because we know what sufferings do: they produce endurance.  “More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”  (Rom. 5:3-5)

So… a worn-out furnace, a broken door lock, a leaky sink, a surprise visit from our landlady when I’m still in my pajamas, relationship struggles, sickness, sleepless nights, feelings of futility and fruitlessness… all these are  actually gifts, to be rejoiced in?

“We have a God who doesn’t just defeat the enemy, but turns that enemy into the servant of our faith.  Every tribulation that comes your way has a design from Satan, and a different design from God,” says Piper.  

“All our tribulation drives the roots of our joy into hope.  For the Christian, the best is always yet to come.  An hour before you die, the best is yet to come.  The minute you wake up on the other side of death, the best is yet to come.  After 10 million years of reveling in God’s presence, the best is still yet to come.  In a profound sense, rejoicing for the Christian will always be in hope: the best is always yet to come!”

I stitch and sew and poke at the buttons for the wise men's gifts, and I think about these gifts the wise men are bringing to Jesus.  I listen to Piper close his sermon by asking, “So, what would the wise men answer when they’re told to “rejoice in hope”?  They’ve got everything: gold, frankincense, nice clothes, elephants to ride on… What does a man like that say when he’s told, “Rejoice in hope”?  When he’s got so much around him to rejoice in?”

Piper answers his own question: 

We are given good gifts to enjoy - but only as gifts from God, and as pointers to God as the ultimate satisfaction of your soul.  All the pleasure in life - sex, food, relationships, thrills, more stuff - is created only to point you to Jesus.  You will barely remember it when what it is pointing to is given you in the age to come.  So don’t embrace the gifts as ends; send your heart flying to the Giver to embrace Jesus as the ultimate joy of your life - then the gifts won’t become idols.”

The goal and ground of my hope is Jesus Himself: the glory of God, shining in the face of Christ.  He is my Gift.  Do I really want Him as my treasure, more than I want anything else this Christmas?  

I glue this verse onto the back of my calendar: “Unto you is born this day… a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:11) 

I glue the verse on upside down, since it will hang on the back of the calendar until December 25, when the last piece is put in place and we fold up the bottom of the calendar, now empty, to reveal the verse on the back.  

I think about gifts, and idols, and the Giver, and Advent, the season of waiting for the coming of Christ, the upside-down King of an upside-down kingdom.  

And I remember a quote from Ann I read earlier today:

“Thanksgiving is inherent to a true salvation experience: thanksgiving is necessary to live the well, whole, fullest life.  ‘He who sacrifices thank offerings honors me, and he prepares the way so that I may show him the salvation of God’ (Psalm 50:23 NIV).  Thanksgiving--giving thanks in everything--prepares the way that God might show us his fullest sacrifice in Christ.”  

~Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts

Advent is about preparing the way.  And how best to prepare the way?  To rejoice.  To give thanks, even for trials.  To receive each element of each day, the good, the “bad” and the ugly, as a gift to be given thanks for.  To sacrifice thank offerings. 

Thanks is really the only gift I can give back to Jesus this Christmas, and in giving it daily, my heart will be prepared for seeing God’s showing of His salvation.

I tie red ribbon around the ends of my stick, like I’m wrapping a present, and stand back to look at my finished Advent Calendar: the scene it shows, God’s Gift to us entering the world, is only the beginning.

The Wise Men knew their gifts weren’t enough; they offered them, and then “they bowed low and worshiped.”  

The coming of the Gift invites worship; and the giving of thanks returns worship unto the Giver.  

Merry CHRISTmas!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Make Your Own Advent Calendar, Part 3

{Only two weeks left until December 1st - how's your calendar coming along?  There's still time to get started!  Click here for Part 1 or Part 2 of this series...}

Making Your Own Advent Calendar: Part 3

All your character pieces finished?  Great!  You're ready to make your title and decide on your final spacing.

Getting Started…

Gather your materials:

  • felt for title letters
  • paper patterns for title letters
  • velcro spots
  • craft glue or hot glue gun

Make Your Title…

1. Cut out your title letters.  (I used red felt.)  Hint: Be sure to reverse your paper letter patterns when you trace them onto your felt; that way your black marker lines won't show when you turn them right side up to glue them on your background.

2. Glue your title letters onto your background, using craft glue or a hot glue gun.

Final Spacing…

1. Double-check your final spacing by laying your finished felt pieces into your manger scene, arranging them the way you want them to look.  Mark the bottom of the manger scene with a pen or scrap piece of felt.

2. Then move all the pieces one by one down to the bottom of your background, making sure they all fit.  Leave enough space near each piece to write in each day's number.

3. Reassemble your pieces into the manger scene.  Glue the bristly side of a velcro spot onto each piece, and the corresponding soft side onto the felt background, in the place where you want it to finally stick. (I used two velcro dots on the stable and the double angels.) 

{Hint: Make sure to glue the bristly side of the velcro onto your characters and the soft side onto the background, so when you roll or fold up the background to store it, it won't stick to itself.  Plus, the bristly side of the velcro on the backs of the characters sticks onto the felt itself in the storage spots, so you don't need a second set of velcro backs.}

4. Number each velcro spot for the manger scene and the character storage places with black Sharpie marker.  (Black doesn’t show up that well on my dark green background, but I tried to make the numbers big enough for my preschoolers to find, and when the manger scene is completed it’s nice if the numbers sort of blend in or are covered up anyway.)  Where the character required two velcro spots, I either wrote the same number under both spots, or put the number in between the two spots.

Part 3 complete!  Great job!  You're almost done!

To read the next post in this series, click here… 

{For a copy of the Christmas story divided into 25 pieces, email me at carolyn@carolynbroughton.com}


In the Comments:

How are your calendars coming along?  There’s still time to grab some felt and start cutting and gluing… 

Remember, your calendar can look any way you want it to, ornate or simple - the point is to have something Christ-centered to help your children anticipate Jesus’ birth and learn the Christmas story!  

Leave a comment with your progress… I’d love to see a photo of your calendar when it’s done!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Freeze-Frame Listening {November thoughts on listening}

{We leave this Friday night for a 2-month stay in New Zealand, catching up with family and friends after a 2-year absence...  Here are my November thoughts on listening, amidst stress and challenges - trying to find the thread of His voice!  For the rest of my monthly thoughts on my One Word for 2014, LISTEN, click here...} 

What if we could just freeze the frame?  What if, in the moment right before I explode in annoyance at my kid, I could freeze that frame of time and - make a different choice?

I’ve been doing a lot of editing recently - movie editing, that is.  We’re getting ready for a home leave in New Zealand and before we go back we usually try and put together a video of current daily life here in Central Asia to show friends and family…  It’s a long process, involving taking footage (and then more footage since the first lot is too wobbly, not high-res, etc, etc), converting all the clips into a format that works with Mac’s awesome iMovie editing program, picking and choosing the pithiest clips, and then… editing.  And editing.  And more editing.  Squeezing each clip down to its essence, and then squeezing even more until just the barest bones are left - glimpses strung together to make a flowing window into our lives.  

Not being ultra-techie, I feel my way along with these projects, and since I don’t use iMovie very often I always have to re-learn everything I learned last time I made a video.  I pick up some new tricks each project, too; recently, I discovered the “freeze frame” option for the first time.  Cool!  You can right-click in the middle of a clip, choose “freeze frame” from the menu, and the program lifts out a frozen frame of that image and sets it apart separately in your timeline.  You can leave it there in the middle of your video clip, a frozen moment, or you can lift it out and put it somewhere else.  

I wish I could do that.  I wish I could freeze-frame the moment just before I yell at my kids, pause everything mid-motion, stop my voice before it explodes out of my mouth, hesitate for a moment, and thinkListen to the Holy Spirit, in that frozen moment.  Tune in.  Calm my beating heart.  Close my eyes and take a deep breath.  

And then speak.  Or act.  Or whatever I need to do.  But I guarantee, after a pause to take a step back, I would probably act differently almost every time. 

Recently, in an attempt to get enculturated for our re-entrance back into Western society, we finally watched the Disney hit “Frozen” as a family.  We liked it; it’s cute, funny,  not scary, and profound in a simple but true way…  

{SPOILER ALERT: if any of you, like us, have also been on another planet and have NOT have watched “Frozen” yet, skip the next paragraph…}  

Our sensitive Will was nearly in tears at the end, when the younger sister Anna, with her last un-frozen breath, steps in front of her older sister to save her from a crossbow arrow, and in the very act her frozen heart finally transforms her completely to ice.  Each of Princess Anna’s fingernails and eyelashes freeze solid into an exquisitely detailed blue-ice statue.  The very moment she saves her sister is literally frozen in time.  

I wish I had a magic wand so I could freeze a moment with a flick of my wrist - just make everything hang stock-still in mid-air, like a movie Pause button, or a crystallized ice-Princess. 

I don’t have a wand.  I just have my imagination.  But I’m learning I can actually imagine pausing my heart / words / thoughts long enough to listen to the Holy Spirit’s quiet whisper in that moment.  

You know, I’ve realized lately that even though I do think of Jesus always being with us, for some reason I usually picture Him as across the room from me: present, but not within reach.  Recently, during a prayer time with a friend, Jesus showed me that He is actually right. next. to. me.  Close enough to whisper in my ear.  Close enough so that even His whisper sounds louder than the world’s hubbub around me.  That’s how close He is, all the timeEvery minute.  Washing dishes, changing a diaper, hosting a friend for tea, breaking up a boys’ fight, walking down the street, talking to my husband, laying down for a nap… Jesus is as close as my breath.  

So, if I can freeze the frame, and remember His nearness, I can focus on listening for His quiet voice.  

And that might make all the difference.