Tuesday, December 16, 2014

YOU SHOULD NOT READ THIS POST!

If you're reading this... shame on you!

*grin*

Just kidding.

I was sitting there trying to plan my blog for today and the next two weeks... when this thought occurred to me.

The next two weeks will be busy for most all of us. It's when we should be spending our TIME with the ones we love. I shouldn't be reading blogs, and ya know? I probably shouldn't be taking the time to write them either. In the grand scheme of things, they can wait.

So I'm going to take the next two weeks "off" of blogging... put it out of my mind completely!

I'll still be on Facebook... you can connect with me on my author page at www.facebook.com/authorkristaphillips and I'll post some fun Christmas pictures there!

Although, we probably shouldn't be spending time on Facebook either. But if you're anything like me, you probably will anyway, so saying I'm going to take a break from it would just be setting myself up for failure. LOL

So my encouragement to you today is this:
 
Go spend time with your family. 
LAUGH instead of fret. 
LOVE instead of hate. 
BE PRESENT instead of busy. 

I'll be back the first Tuesday of January, I hope you'll be back too!

(and just in case... you can always subscribe to the blog using the widget at the sidebar... that way you'll get an email of my blog each time I post!)

Now... go forth and have JOY!

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!!!

(Oh, and a final reminder! "A Side of Faith" is on sale for only $1 through NEW YEAR'S EVE!!!! If you haven't checked it out, now would be fantastic time! It's also available, a long with my first book, in paperback! Makes GREAT Christmas presents!!! They are available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and ibooks!)

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

JOY IMPOSSIBLE

Last week, my post was about my determination to ENJOY Christmas and all that comes with it, the giving, the festivities, the decorations, the lights, the PEACE ON EARTH that was born so many years ago in Bethlehem.

But over the last week I noticed something interesting about my determination to have a JOY filled (vs. stress filled) Christmas.

In trying to AVOID stress... I was stressing over trying to figure out how to avoid stress.

Am I the only one who does this?

This is not a new phenomenon.

I've spent many a holiday or vacation determined to not stress out over things but end up fretting about how to not get anxious.

At one point this past week, I'm fairly certain I told my children... and I may or may not have been yelling. "JUST STOP IT! We are NOT going to fight and NOT going to yell at each other. We are going to have a GOOD time and ENJOY this, so BE QUIET and BE NICE and SMILE. GRRR!"

*ahem*

Please, pretty please, tell me I'm not the only mom who has done this.

I got to the point that on Sunday, I put myself in a much needed adult time-out (aka Sunday afternoon nap) and secluded myself from my kids and family and just closed my eyes and let my mind rest. It needed it, because I'd been a GROUCH all weekend from putting so much energy into having JOY and not stressing.

Isn't that dumb?

It is. Well, the timeout wasn't dumb. It was needed and helpful.

Even now, as I type this, I'm thinking, "Okay, I am going to REALLY try harder to be joyful this week..."

And therein lies the problem.

The harder I try to be joyful, the less joy-filled I get.

Because joy is not something we do.

It isn't something we manufacture or work hard enough to receive. It isn't based on circumstances, like happiness is, but is based in something much deeper, much more heavenly.

TRUE Joy at Christmas is found in JESUS.

TRUE Peace is found when we rest in our creator and worship Him.

I DO think, however, we can CHOOSE joy, just like we CHOOSE to follow Jesus.

We just can't make it. We can't earn it. We can't work for it.

So this Christmas season, I encourage myself and all who are reading:

Stop trying to PRODUCE joy. Just choose it.


(Shameless Christmas Sales plug: I am also CHOOSING to put my book, A Side of Faith, on sale for only $1.00 through New Year's Even... yup, for the rest of the year, just a buck for the ebook version. The paperback version is available too and makes a great gift...)

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Enjoying Christmas





Every year as December settles into our lives, I stomp my foot, determined to ENJOY the Christmas season this year and not let the "stuff" around me get me down. (am I the only one who doesn't think of Christmas as a DAY but instead as the whole time between Thanksgiving and December 25th?)


And every year the past few years, I'm only moderately successful.

But this year, we are determined as a family to ENJOY the Christmas season.

Stress is being kicked to the door.

JOY is being welcomed with open arms.

I'm praying HEALTH over my WHOLE family.

I'm finishing up a writing project this week then putting writing on the back burner for the month, only working on it in spare moments, not taking large chunks of writing time like I have been doing.

We are keeping our schedule open for spontaneity, to be able to have plenty of FAMILY time and not over booking ourselves.



We're focusing on the REASON for Christmas, celebrating JESUS and his BIRTH.

 It isn't that we didn't enjoy Christmas the past few years. We DID. We just also let a lot of other things crowd in and cloud our joy.. Annabelle being sick. Money woes, Job stress.

NOT THIS YEAR.

We are CHOOSING joy. Grabbing hold of it and swinging high above the daily stresses.

The view is GREAT from up here.

I invite you to join us!


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Art of Breathing

Humor me for a moment....

Close your eyes.

Take a slow, deep breath. Feel the air fill your lungs, every inch of them.

Then put your hand up to your mouth, and let out that breath. Let the air slide out of your mouth and feel the warmth tickle your palm.

What did most of you just do?

You took a breath. It was controlled. It wasn't painful (unless you have a cold, but let's pretend you're your normal self right now!) It allowed your body to supply much needed oxygen to your body, for your heart to pump it to your brain and your extremities. It allowed you to live.

Easy.

Painless.

Life-giving.

Now let me take you back to a moment I remember with horrifying clarity.

I was in a hospital room, watching my baby daughter in her hospital crib. Her eyes were focused on the light above, never moving. Her chest rose and fell in hefts at more than one breath per second. (Try to breath at a rate of one breath per second for just 60 seconds. Imagine doing that for hours.)

Her nose flared as she worked hard to breathe. Her skin retracted between her ribs as she sucked in air, trying with every ounce of her tiny body to get enough oxygen into her lungs so her blood could carry it on.

My baby girl tried SO hard. I saw it in her eyes. Determination. Willing herself to fight. I was so incredibly proud of her.

I alerted a nurse though, and we agreed that her work was too much. They drew blood and found that even though she was working SO hard to breath and doing a good job of keeping her saturations up on the outside, her blood was filling with Co2 at rates that were off the chart, because she couldn't get enough oxygen.

Doctors swarmed, and a tube was put down her throat, easing her load of doing the hard work of breathing.

Take this scene and multiply it by 10 or more. I stopped counting the times my sweet girl fought so hard for each breath and had to be assisted with a tube down her throat.

I remember thinking, as I watched my sweet girl, her chest rising and falling with the assistance of a ventilator for months on end, that I'd taken something so incredibly simple as breathing for granted.

You breath in, and you breath out. Easy, right?

But not for everyone. Countless kids live with some type of lung disease that makes breathing oh-so-precarious. Countless kids live with hearts that refuse to take that oxygen they are breathing to the rest of their body as they need to.

Goodness, it's not even just kids. So many adults suffer as well.

My list of thankfulness knows no end. I started to list my "30 days of thankfulness" but then last week, Annabelle woke in the middle of the night with a fever of 103.4. A simple virus, but her breathing made my heart skip a beat.

Her nose flared. Her breaths were coming at one per second with grunts in between, and she struggled to keep her oxygen saturations where they needed to be. It earned her a trip to the emergency room and some oxygen to help her through.

She's fine. It WAS just a virus. Her body is just NOT fond of fevers. She came home, feeling much better, about 10 hours later.

And it reminded me.

I can list so many things I am thankful for, but Annabelle has taught me to look beyond all the material things and to be thankful for even the most basic thing:

The ability to breathe.

Discussion: What is something you are thankful for? Maybe something basic and simple that you normally wouldn't even think to be thankful for? Is there something God has opened your eyes to lately?

Friday, November 21, 2014

BOOK GIVEAWAYS!!!!

Friday isn't my normal post day but wanted to share that two awesome bloggers did interviews of yours truly over the last week, and we're doing book giveaways as a part of the interview!

I'd LOVE for you to click over to either or both and leave a comment to enter the giveaway! Already read my books? Well, they make GREAT Christmas presents too!!!

Feel free to share with friends who may be interested too!

God is Love

Thinking Thoughts

(you're always more than welcome to comment here on THIS blog post... but only comments on each of the interview blogs will count toward the giveaways!)

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Is God our Life Support?

On Saturday, we went to the ECMO reunion at Vanderbilt Children's Hospital to celebrate their 25th year of the ECMO program.

For those of you who don't know what ECMO is, that's a really, really good thing.

ECMO is the "final frontier" if you will of life support. Most people think of a breathing tube as "life support" but ECMO takes it one step further by actually doing the work of the heart and pumping blood through the body.

When my daughter was 7 days old, she had her first open heart surgery. She did GREAT... until the next night when she crashed and needed CPR until the surgeon could arrive. Her chest was opened and she was put on ECMO, as her heart was too sick to work for her body.

There are no words to describe walking into a room and seeing the heart of your child through her open chest, with cannulas protruding, pumping her blood for her, on top of a breathing tube coming out of her mouth and more IV's and lines than I could count.

She was on ECMO for 2 days, then her chest remained open until the following week.

Her story is a long one, you can read it by clicking the "Annabelle" button up top if you want to read about her journey.

When I was thinking about what to blog today, my heart kept coming back to that machine we got to see again on Saturday at the reunion and the idea of "life support."

The analogy of God being our life support hit me. I was mulling it over in my mind when a big thought hit me.

Is that really what God is all about?

Just "supporting" our life until we can take back over?

I think sometimes that's how we treat God. When we can't take another spiritual breath, we cry out to God to step in, to support our life.

But when when the crisis is over, we're quick to nod our thanks, leave God and his support behind, and go on our merry way until we crash again.

That's not how God planned it.

God doesn't want to just step in when life gets hard. He doesn't want to merely pump our lifeblood for us when we're tired. He wants to BE our lifeblood.

God came to make us new creatures in Christ, not to just keep our old self going.

Oddly enough, sweet Annabelle ended up not being able to go home until she had a heart transplant, as her old heart was just too sick.

The parallels are pretty amazing, don't you think?

Discussion: Do you have a habit of just plugging into God when you need a break? I'll be honest. I've done this recently myself. Feeling like I'm finally getting a handle on life again... then having a stark reminder that I need to rely on God during the good AND the bad times.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Dude. You worship God stupid...

My blog posts lately seem to be taking on a theme. I read an article online, it makes me cringe, and so I want to blog about it to uncringe.

Maybe I need to stop reading articles online....

Eh, but there ARE some good ones.

But today's cringe-worthy article was about worshiping God.

Okay, I take that back. I didn't actually cringe at the article. It more provoked thought and reminded me of many moments I've heard Christians talk about this particular subject--on both sides of the argument--and cringed at their speech.

The argument?

How we worship God-- in particularly, the music with which we use to usher us into worship.

First, let me just say.

Doesn't that just seem kinda crazy?

We ARGUE about how to worship GOD?

Side A: I love contemporary music! That old stuff is boring and just doesn't put me in the mood to worship. It's tired and old and won't attract non-Christians. We're supposed to be a light to God, how can we do that with boring music?

Side B: I love old hymns! The new stuff is just all emotional fluff, trying to put on a production to please people and not God. It's no different than that horrible rap stuff they play on the radio. It's all about ME and has no truth in it at all! Worship is for GOD, not for us.
 
To sum it up bluntly, we're telling each other, "I worship God the RIGHT way, YOU worship God the STUPID way." Maybe we don't use the word stupid, but we might as well have.

Allow me to present to you a bit of a different perspective:

The only way to worship God stupid is if you fail to worship Him in the first place.
 
I've been in churches that have upbeat, contemporary music but the worship feels flat and non-existent, focused on boosting our own egos instead of lifting up the name of God.

And I've also been in churches that have traditional music where it felt like the only thing worshiped was the dinner they anticipated eating after the closing Amen.

In both cases, worship of GOD wasn't really happening, regardless of the music. And in full confession, I was definitely one of the guilty in the crowd too! I think if we're honest, we can all raise our hands to that one.

Yet...

I've been in churches with that same upbeat, contemporary music when you could almost physically touch the worship being lifted up to God.

And I've been in churches where classic hymns and organ music and harmonies are sung with hearts of praise and worship, and the sweet peace and love of God swirled through the room as hearts gave themselves over to the God they sang about.


My point?

Worship is about our hearts lifting up the name of God. It's about connecting on a different level with Him in song.

Worship happens on a heart level, not a music level, and not even on a word level.


God has made us all unique. Our music preferences have been formed through things like our experiences, our culture, and honestly, God breathed in the uniqueness of our emotions. Isn't it cool that we can have variety? Isn't it cool that we have SO many churches with hearts that LOVE Jesus through a variety of music?

We are all the body of Christ. But some of us bob up and down to the music and some of us sway. Some of us sit and some of us stand. Some of us bow down and some of us raise our hands.

Can we have discussions about worship and what kind we like? Yup. Can worship leaders have good discussions on how they feel God leading them to usher a congregation into worship? Absolutely!

But none of that is arguing. None of that is pointing fingers. None of that is divisive. Let's not let the heart of lifting praise and adoration to God be a point that divides us. 'Cause that, my friends, is what the enemy wants.

My encouragement to you for today:

Let's stop arguing about how to worship God, and instead, spend that time WORSHIPING.

Discussion: What about you? Do you have a type of music that helps usher you into worship?Are you a swayer or a clapper or a sitter or a stander? Any favorite worship songs?

Personally, I love the current worship music, but still have a heart for the hymns. "You Make Me Brave" and "Oceans" are two of my MANY favorites, but goodness, "Amazing Grace" and all the "Power in the Blood" songs are just AWESOME! There are WAY too many to list!!!