Exhaling Worry

I’m not a chronic worrier, but from time to time I can sink down into that dark hole of anxious rumination, usually between 2:00 a.m. and 4:00 a.m. By morning, those fretful thoughts don’t seem like such a big deal. By mid-afternoon, however, I feel the full effect of wasting two hours of prime slumber.

You can imagine my joy and relief when I stumbled upon the solution to worry! It was right there, at the entrance to the grocery store — a simple three step process to wipe away worry for good.

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1. Pull.
Pull that anxious thought from your mind.
2. Wipe.
Wipe it away with the antiseptic power of God’s Word.
3. Discard.
Throw. And don’t go back to dig it out of the garbage.

He cares.
“Throw all your anxiety onto Him because He cares for you.”
1 Peter 5:7

His peace of mind is our peace of mind.
“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you.”
Isaiah 26:3

Inhale peace — exhale worry.
Repeat as needed.
You’re welcome.

Exhale

Take a deep breath.
I mean, waaaaaay down deep.
Until your tummy puffs out and your lungs are about to burst.

Hold it.

Hold it.

Okay, now let it go.

There now, didn’t that feel good?

Our cells do a happy dance when we take in all that lovely oxygen.
Our over-loaded brains get a turbo-boost,
our tight muscles sing for joy,
our frazzled nerves fire down.

My word for 2019 is EXHALE.

We were created to have a natural rhythm:
inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale.
I’m afraid our way of life has developed an unnatural cycle:
inhale, inhale, inhale, inhale, inhale, get sick, exhale.

I’m going to try to step into the Creator’s cadence,
listen for the heartbeat of the Master,
watch for His ebb and flow.

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I’m going to learn to exhale.

In the book of Exodus, we read, “In six days God made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day God rested and was refreshed.” Here, the word “refreshed” literally means, and God exhaled. All creation moves with the rhythm of the inhale and the exhale. Without the Sabbath exhale, the life-giving inhale is impossible. ~ “Sabbath” by Wayne Muller

My Top 5 Books of 2018

At the end of the year, I like to go back and look over the list of books I read in the past twelve months. Since 2004, I’ve been keeping a list of the titles of every book I’ve read, reread, or ditched. Here are the five books that meant the most to me in 2018.

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1. The Adventures of Oliver Twist, by Charles Dickens
I’ve seen the movie “Oliver” and can sing “Consider Yourself” with a British cockney accent, but I hadn’t read Dickens until this past year. The old classics make you work hard, but, oh, the reward. The language is deep and rich and weighty. As usual, the book is better than the movie. (Although I did stop to hum “Food, Glorious Food” on page nine.) Dickens’ style is so unique; the chapter titles were sometimes almost as long as the chapters.

Chapter XXXVI: Is a Very Short One, and May Appear of No Great Importance In its Place, But it Should Be Read Notwithstanding, as a Sequel to the Last, and a Key to One That Will Follow When its Time Arrives

I’m glad I didn’t live in Victorian England, but it was a lovely visit and I’ll definitely return to Dickens in 2019.

2. Recapturing the Wonder, by Mike Cosper
I received this book as a birthday gift in 2017, but didn’t get beyond the first few pages before putting it on the shelf. In December of 2018, I picked it up and wondered what was wrong with me before. This is a gem of a book. I learned a valuable lesson — sometimes a book isn’t ready for me and sometimes I’m not ready for it. Books are patient and don’t mind waiting for the right time.

“Life with God is an invitation into a world where most of what makes sense to you crumbles. It’s far richer than you imagined, far less orderly and sensible, and far more mysterious. Like Job, once you begin to see the wonder of it, you find yourself awestruck and, somehow, satisfied.”

3. Living Life Backward: How Ecclesiastes Teaches Us to Live in Light of the End, by David Gibson
I read this book in preparation for a Bible study on Solomon. I needed help with Ecclesiastes which is fairly dark and pessimistic. Gibson changed my whole perspective on Solomon’s reflection of his wayward life. This book shakes up the current culture’s view of what it means to live “the good life.” Thinking about death is actually supposed to help us pay attention to our limitations as human beings and embrace life as the wondrous gift it is.

“Life is not about the meaning that you can create for your own life, or the meaning that you can find in the universe by all your work and ambitions. You do not find meaning in life simply by finding a partner or having kids or being rich. You find meaning when you realize that God has given you life in his world and any one of those things as a gift to enjoy.”

4. 24/6, by Matthew Sleeth, MD
I read this book a couple years ago, but revisited it while doing research on the Sabbath. Dr. Sleeth makes a strong case for something called rest and literally prescribes a 24 hour break every week in order to maintain physical, mental and spiritual health.

“In the 24/7 world, we ‘pencil’ friends in on the calendar. These loose commitments frequently fail to materialize. We have the best of intentions, but intentions don’t build relationships. Filling in every Sunday on our calendar with ‘FOR THE LORD’ in permanent ink changes our perspective. Honoring a Sabbath every week makes us more committed and serious about our relationship with the Lord. This is even more crucial today, when things travel as fast as the speed of light. God designed us to spend one day a week at the speed of stop.”

5. Beautiful Outlaw: Experiencing the Playful, Disruptive, Extravagant Personality of Jesus, by John Eldredge
This is my gold medal book of the year. I read it in April and I’m still thinking about it. In exploring the personality of Jesus, Eldredge uses words like “fierce”, “scandalous” and “beautiful”. This book helped me step beyond the Sunday-school Jesus that is meek, mild and melancholy. I love the descriptions of Jesus laughing, turning over tables, and grilling fish on the beach for the boys.

“We actually come to think that service for Jesus is friendship with him. That’s like a friend who washes your car and cleans your house but never goes anywhere with you — never comes to dinner, never wants to take a walk. We are meant to love the man himself, know him intimately. First things first. Love Jesus.”

May your reading life in 2019 be especially rich and satisfying!

“There is more treasure in books
than in all the pirate’s loot on Treasure Island.”
Walt Disney

2019 Bible Reading Plan

When I go to a buffet, I like to scope it out before loading up my plate. I peruse the salad bar and the soup offerings. I check out the main entrees and sides, and, of course, eye up the dessert table. After this fly-over, I form my plan in order to make sure I have room for all the things I want to taste or indulge in. Without this big-picture approach, I may just dish up my old favorites and miss some new and exciting flavors.

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Every five years or so, I sense a need to go back and recapture the grand sweep of the Bible. I much prefer the microscopic approach to study — choosing a small portion and burrowing down into it, squeezing out every bit of meaning and nuance. But from time to time, I feel the pull to step away from the microscope and lift my sights to the panoramic view.

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This year’s plan is to read through the whole Bible.

I know it’s daunting.
I know it’s hard to push through Leviticus.
I know a year is a long time to stick with anything.

That’s why I’ve decided to try something different.

I’m going to read through the whole Bible in two months.
Thirty pages a day for 60 days.
I expect this fly-over will provide new taste experiences.
I know this landscape view will add valuable perspective.

Perhaps a 60 day gallop through the Good Book is not for you. Then let me challenge you to pick one book of the Bible you haven’t looked at for a while (or ever!) and read a chapter or two every day for two months.

In March, a reading plan will be available that will focus on the 2019 Lenten series.

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(One year Bible reading plans can be found here.)

 

The (Perfectly) Imperfect Christmas

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The grands got matching jammies for Christmas.
So, naturally, we wanted a photo of them sitting together on the couch.
But Emma looked away and Abel was a blur.

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So we tried it again but Ruby looked at Emma and Eli was losing control of Abel.

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So we called Opa over to make funny faces.
Emma looked at her cousins and Anna’s hand got in the pic.

Sometimes Christmas is like that. You try to make it all perfect and then you realize perfect isn’t much fun. Life is better with a little blur and a hand in the corner and whatever happens when you get nine kids under six years old in one house for 48 hours. It’s perfectly imperfect. I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Ella wanted to put on the nativity costumes, so we set about staging the scene. Except Ruby was taking a much needed nap and Abel was dead set against putting on a sheep hat. So we didn’t force anything and went with the big five and two littles.

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Evie made for a very proud mama Mary. Eli stuck out his tongue — it’s possible Joseph did the same at some point that holy night. Ella was a slightly sneaky looking angel. Charlie wore his angel costume backwards, but it didn’t matter at all. Hudson was a shepherd with his eyes on baby Jesus. Emma sat where we told her to sit and posed for the camera. And Ember had her one big chance to take the leading role, not easy with eight older cousins. She played the part magnificently — smiling and cooing and blessing us all.

Perfectly imperfect.

I also contributed to this year’s theme.

 The Overlien Family Calendar for 2019.

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I’m just off by a year.

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Reprints are on the way.

“Christ made a single sacrifice for sins, and that was it!
It was a perfect sacrifice by a perfect person
to perfect some very imperfect people.”
Hebrews 10:14, The Message

Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!
1 Cor. 9:15 

He Came

Joy to the world, the Lord is come…

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Jesus came to earth
which means
He had to leave heaven.

I’ve been thinking about what it was like for the Father to send the Son off on this holy mission. I’ve been wondering if the heavenly hosts threw a going away party or if He slipped away quietly with little fanfare. I’ve been pondering what heaven was like without Jesus for the thirty-three years He spent on earth.

Did they miss Him? Was something a little “off” in the heavenly realm without the Son? Were the angels on the edge of their seats in the unseen world, watching over the birth, the life, the death? Did the Father count the days until His Son’s return in a glorious, resurrected body?

Jesus left the splendor of heaven
to be born in a barn,
sleep in a pile of hay,
hang with stinky fishermen,
take a lot of abuse,
and be misunderstood.
Why?
For love of us.

How kind of the Father to lend His Son to earth for a time.
How generous of the Son to leave His home to come here.

The return trip can’t be far away.
Let every heart prepare Him room.

He came

10 Things I Learned This Fall

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1. The Byrd’s stole King Solomon’s poem for their hit song “Turn, Turn, Turn” in 1965. Other than the added lyrics, “turn, turn, turn,” the words are straight out of Ecclesiastes 3:1-8. I wonder if all those flower children knew they were quoting the Bible. Studying Solomon this fall has been a fascinating look at wisdom and folly. And how they both can reside inside a human being at the same time.

2. Kindness is still alive and well in the world. PB and I watched “The Kindness Diaries” this fall — a Netflix series that records Leon Logothetis’ travels around the world. He takes no money with him and relies entirely on the kindness of others for his food, gas and lodging. What a pleasant surprise to find something uplifting but not cheesy (sorry all you Hallmark channel lovers) on the television. Kindness doesn’t make for a sensational headline, but our hearts are starved for it.

3. Roasting is magic. Put any old vegetable in the oven at 450 degrees for 15-20 minutes and it is transformed. Ever since listening to The Lazy Genius spell out the dos and don’ts of roasting, PB and I have upped our veggie intake dramatically. I have a friend who also is genius when it comes to roasting tomatoes. I tried her method — in this case, putting halved tomatoes in the oven overnight at 250 degrees — and then freezing them. Oh my goodness gracious. Chili and goulash this winter will taste extra good.

4. MVP. Need I say more? The last time we played baseball in October, I was expecting my first baby. She’s 35. The Milwaukee Brewers exceeded all expectations and gave us a thrill this fall. Christian Yelich was National League MVP, and did it without any arrogance or swagger. I was ready to hit “send” and buy World Series tickets, but, alas, it was not to be. Next year.

5. In preparation for our winter women’s Bible study, I’ve been trying to figure out what Sabbath means for believers in our time. To Sabbath, or not to Sabbath? Can “Sabbath” be a verb? Didn’t Jesus set us free from the law? Is rest biblical? So many questions. We’ll have seven weeks to dig for answers.

6. There’s more than one way to shoot a buck. On opening day of deer hunting season, PB got his fluorescent orange out of the mothballs, trekked into the back yard, and found himself face to face with a buck stomping the ground with his front hoof. Happily, my man was ready and loaded and got off a great shot. With his camera. He enjoyed his time in the woods and I enjoyed not having to deal with a dead animal.

7. I might move to Iceland. A friend alerted me to the lovely Icelandic tradition of “Jolabokaflod” or “The Christmas Book Flood”. Every Christmas Eve, books are exchanged and then Icelanders spend the rest of the night in bed reading and eating chocolate. Iceland publishes more books per capita than any other country. The 4 hours of daylight in December probably has something to do with that. Okay, I might not move to Iceland, but how about a Book Flood right here in the USA?

8. It’s possible to host 25 people for Thanksgiving dinner without a working refrigerator. It helps if the temperature on the back porch is below 40 degrees. Our two-year old fridge went on the fritz back on Oct. 26. Three repair appointments and two compressors later, we are still waiting to move the butter and Cream Soda off the porch steps. All I want for Christmas is a working refrigerator.

9. I like opera. Kind of. If I know someone in the chorus. Our daughter was in a performance with the Madison Opera this fall and I’m still not sure what the storyline was all about, but the staging and the costumes and the music were glorious.

10. Our fair town made national headlines this fall. The good people of Baraboo are picking up the pieces and moving toward healing the hurts from all sides. I learned first-hand the power of the national media to swoop into a town and destroy everything in its wake for the sake of a story. PB and I are learning to be careful when exposing ourselves to social media and national news. When we start feeling anxious, less is better.

In the words of Solomon:
“Get the truth and never sell it;
also get wisdom, discipline, and good judgment.”
Proverbs 23:23

hello winter