Yesterday was the second time a group of authors and singer/songwriters gathered together in Nashville to develop a CD and accompanying book. I am a part of that group of talented women. I’m not a songwriter but I have had the opportunity to now contribute to three songs. Today will be the fourth. It’s been a thrilling ride and I look forward to sharing this work with you. But today I’d like to share one of the exercises we are doing to get our creative juices flowing.
The exercise of writing songs would be enough but we have also had the delight of learning how to find our voices, as they say, through writing prompts. If I get a chance, I’ll interview the women behind the prompt exercises. But if you are an aspiring author or writer, these practices might be a useful and helpful way for you to practice writing without editing, under a time constraint, and from whatever is on your heart.
Yesterday, we were given the prompt “I am from…” We had 15 minutes and this is what I wrote:
I am from the imagination of The Spirit. Crafted, knit together, formed, created.
I am from a small village of unseen, disposable, brown-skinned beauties. Loved of God in a land that flourishes even under distress.
I am from the mingling of old souls. Motown-lovin’, jazz playing, fried liver eatin’, poor in paper money, rich in soul, image-bearing, lovers—one gone to the next life.
I am from a perfect God-Man full of life, full of sorrow, gave me his so I could have mine. New creation.
But don’t you think my newness erased that small village, that old souls mingling work. No, it didn’t.
The Spirit’s too kind to make me forget where I’m from.
It’s a new year! None of us know what 2020 will bring but we know that God will be faithful and good to us. As you may know, my family started a small online boutique to benefit the artisans in Rwanda.The response has been incredibly encouraging and faith-building. You can see some of the stories we’ve shared and other encouraging updates on our Instagram page: https://www.instagram.com/sjboutique2020/. We have more work to do and hope for the women and the boutique, and we hope you’ll join us in praying for our 2020 goals. We believe in the power of prayer, so many of these goals double as prayer requests. Would you join us in praying for these goals?
Here they are:
1. SJ Boutique to order earrings every two to three months from the Abumurava Cooperative.
2. Sell 20 pairs of earrings per month
3. Raise money for our 2021 visit to Rwanda and the Abumurava Cooperative women
4. Learn phrases in Kinyarwanda to better communicate our affection for the Abumurava Cooperative women and all artisans in Rwanda.
5. Sydney finish designing custom earrings for the artisans and SJ Boutique
6. Provide increased work through SJ Boutique for the Abumurava Cooperative women
7. Towards the end of the year, begin to expand our inventory beyond earrings
8. Cultivate a culture of prayer for the Abumurava Cooperative and SJ Boutique through weekly prayer meetings with the staff (aka—the Newbell family at this point. ☺ )
Thank you for praying for our 2020 goals! Wishing you the happiest New Year!
I hope you had a wonderfully encouraging holiday break! I’m excited to share with you that IVP will be hosting a book club and you are all invited. We’ll be doing a lot over the next 8 weeks.
The IVP Sacred Endurance book club begins January 14!
This is not just a book club. We will be reading the book, hearing from special guests, meditating on a text of Scripture per week and much more.
-Support for your New Years Resolutions related to enduring in the faith
– Guided discussion of Sacred Endurance
-A chance to hear from special guests
-A chance to win great prizes
Grab Sacred Endurance for 30% off at IVPress.com
and join us (Promo code: SACRED30)
If you follow me on social media, you’ve likely seen posts and a video about a project my family has been working on called SJ Boutique. I wanted to take a moment to share more about SJ before we launch it into the world in the coming weeks (or days!!).
What is SJ Boutique?
SJ Boutique stands for Sydney Jean, named after and by our daughter by the same name. This small shop is in partnership with Azizi Life and the Abumurava Cooperative (“People Striving for Excellence” Cooperative) in Rwanda.
The Abumurava Cooperative was begun by a core group of women in October 2007 as a forum for working together in order to provide mutual support, development, and increased standard of living. Through the group, the artisans have been able to use and improve their skills in weaving sisal fibers in order to better provide for themselves and their families. The weavers hope to find new markets for their creations in the coming year. In their time weaving together, the members of Abumurava support and encourage one another in many areas of life.
The women of Abumurava Cooperative provide most of the jewelry provided here at SJ Boutique.
Why SJ Boutique?
In October, I went to Kigali, Rwanda with the wonderful organization HOPE International, a microenterprise development organization that partners with individuals and churches to provide loans, discipleship, and more. During that trip, we visited the Abumurava Cooperative through another organization, Azizi Life.
I have tried to stay away from the clichés that many say after trips like this but it was indeed life-changing or as one friend said, I was gloriously ruined. It’s been hard for me to put it all into words but meeting women from Rwanda, passionate about Jesus, working diligently and caring for their families was convicting, encouraging, challenging, and inspiring. Women like Primitive (who became a fast friend) and beautiful Speciose (pictured here) are women I knew I wanted to support.
Upon coming home and sharing about the women, their dignified work, and the relationship that I quickly built with them in just one day, my husband, Thern, wanted to get involved. As we sat at our dinner table, Thern developed the idea of supporting the women through their work, helping them expand their market reach so they can have greater financial stability to provide for their families and communities. But we wanted it to be a family adventure, one where we could all learn about Rwanda and support the Abumurava women together. Thern came up with the idea of allowing our daughter Sydney to “own” the shop.
SJ Boutique serves several purposes. It allows the Abumurava Cooperative to get their products into new hands, which has been a prayer of both the women and Azizi Life. A prayer that Thern and Trillia were unaware of until after they approached Azizi Life! It also allows Thern and I to teach our children about poverty alleviation in a way that we pray will help and not hurt. From everything that we are learning, simply sending money is not the way to best serve the Abumurava women. By purchasing their products, we are teaching our children about the value of work and in turn supporting the economy in that village.
Sydney has been involved in every aspect of the development, allowing her to learn leadership and management skills as well as use her very creative gifts and imagination. Their son will help with shipping, inventory evaluation, and cheering on his sister. It has been a true joy for our family—we are praying it will serve the families there too!
This is not a big business. It is a small shop where you can purchase handmade goods online as they are available, mostly jewelry to start. On a personal note, we are thrilled about this opportunity to partner with Azizi Life and the Abumurava women. I will have the joy of speaking at an event in Rwanda in 2021 and the goal is to visit the women as a family. We are also grateful to be able to continue the to support the work and ministry of HOPE, a portion of all profits will go to the continued work of HOPE International, where I have been involved in various capacities since 2014.
How can you keep up and get involved?
The community of people who read here and read my work in general are some of the kindest and most supportive around. I’ve been floored by the support already and we haven’t even opened our doors yet! Knowing that you would likely be interested in knowing how to keep up with SJ Boutique and support this effort, here are a few quick things you can do:
- Sign up for our newsletter: Keep up with when we launch, when there’s new products and more. I do not plan to send out a newsletter more than once or twice a quarter. You can sign up on the front page at sjboutique.net.
- Follow us on Instagram: One of our goals is to tell the stories of our artisans. Instagram provides a wonderful way showcase the jewelry and these wonderful artisans. Follow us here: https://www.instagram.com/sjboutique2020/
- Help spread the word: Admittedly, it’s easier to spread the word after you’ve received the product! I’m happy to tell you that I own many of the earrings and they are fantastic. But more than that, I’ve met the women we are supporting. If you think this would be a worthwhile venture to share, then please do let your friends and family know that they, too, can sign up for our newsletter and follow us on Instagram.
We are looking forward to letting you know when SJ opens for business. Until then, we covet your prayers! Thank you for partnering with us!
SJ Boutique will be selling products like these beautiful woven loop earrings.
(I’ve invited friends to share their own stories of endurance or the stories of others. My prayer is that you would be inspired and encouraged as you read each guest post. Learn more about my new book: Sacred Endurance.)
By Lisa Spence
I am weary. It’s been a particularly busy few weeks, with an out-of-town trip and a full calendar. However, I feel a weariness in my soul as well, a spiritual fatigue that extends beyond needing a nap, though that too may help!
Loss, grief, transition—all have been part of my experience this past year, and all these experiences weary the heart as well as the body. As does the seemingly dull ordinariness of my days. My life, so it often appears to me, is passing by in a blur of mundane monotony.
Sometimes I feel bored. Sometimes I am convinced nothing will ever change and I’m heading nowhere. Sometimes I want to give up. Sometimes I see the thriving, growing ministries of others and their jubilant confidence in the call and provision of God, and sometimes I doubt.
“For you have need of endurance,” Hebrews 10:36 declares (esv), and in some strange way I am comforted. The Bible is clear and uncompromising in its assertion of my weakness, and this is good news to me in my weariness. Life is indeed hard and wearying and, yes, maybe sometimes boring. Grief, transition, the sheer dailiness of my days, each and every day—it is all too much for me. I need endurance.
Isaiah 40:30 echoes this truth:
Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted.
Even those among us with the most strength and vitality grow weary! Life is too much and too hard for us all. We are all weak. Whatever strength you and I may have, it will not be enough. We have need of endurance.
How I love the promise of Isaiah 40:31:
They who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.
It’s the latter part of the verse I cling to most days, those days of walking, plodding along, one foot in front of the other, my surroundings changing only imperceptibly and oh, so slowly. There in the slow, ponderous days of walking, the Lord meets me with the promise of the endurance I lack. Glory to God, I will walk and not faint—I will endure—as I wait for the Lord.
Here, then, is the key to overcoming my weariness: waiting for the Lord. Hebrews 12:3 instructs us to “consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.” To fight weariness, to endure, we consider Jesus. We wait for Him.
To wait for the Lord isn’t like me waiting at the doctor’s office, my boredom and irritation escalating with each minute I am forced to wait. To wait for the Lord is to lift my focus up and away from me and from my circumstances and fix my eyes on Jesus, to believe that He is sufficient and sovereign. All is well and all will be well because it is Jesus who holds me, Jesus who keeps me.
As I consider Jesus and wait for Him, I remember the gospel. Jesus loves me, He died for me, and in Him I am a new creation, forgiven and redeemed and accepted. This is what is most true about me, and rehearsing these truths fuels my endurance. My circumstances, my failures, my insufficiencies—none of these define me. Throwing off these hindrances and looking to Jesus, remembering the gospel, helps me endure.
As I consider Jesus and wait for Him, I remember He too suffered. He sees and knows my struggle. He is able to sympathize.
Many years ago a friend gifted me a book. On the flyleaf she wrote, “To Lisa, because she walks a similar path.” It seems like such a small thing, but it encouraged me so much. I wasn’t walking alone! Being seen and known motivates perseverance.
As I consider Jesus and wait for Him, I remember my future hope. One day my faith, small as it so often is, will be sight.
Several months ago my church grieved the loss of a dear saint. Miss Patty lived a life of faithful service, humbly caring for her home and her family for decades. To my knowledge, she never lived outside our small town. She had no career, no platform, and she would have laughed at the idea of being an influencer. Her favorite hymn was “It Is Well with My Soul,” and she lived her life—she endured—according to that very confidence. Waiting for the Lord, she walked and did not grow faint. Now, in the presence of the God she loved, she soars.
As I consider Jesus and wait for Him, I realize that every part of my life—the small, the mundane, the monotonous—is opportunity for worship.
I’m not overspiritualizing here; cleaning the bathrooms is still cleaning the bathrooms. However, when I clean the bathrooms in the realization that as I serve my family in this task, I am serving the Lord, I can persevere in it. I daresay I can even find joy in it. So too with all the seemingly unimportant details of my life. They are opportunities to love Jesus by loving others, and thus I endure.
This past Sunday we sang of the faithfulness of God to hold and keep:
When I fear my faith will fail,
Christ will hold me fast;
When the tempter would prevail,
He can hold me fast. . . .
I could never keep my hold,
He will hold me fast;
For my love is often cold;
He must hold me fast.*
Praise God, He holds me fast. By His grace, I endure.
Lisa Spence lives in Alabama where she teaches a Sunday School class at her church, leads a community Bible study for women, and volunteers at the local crisis pregnancy center. She and her husband, Randy, have four sons and two daughters-in-law. Lisa blogs occasionally at lisafspence.home.blog
Scriptures quoted in this post are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
*Ada Habershon, 1861–1918, adapted)
Sacred Endurance is not an advent book or devotional but it is a book intentionally centered on Jesus. This is our sacred endurance: running the race of the Christian life set before us by the grace of God, through the strength of God, until the day we face our God. The writer of Hebrews tells us that to run this race set before us, we look to Jesus (Heb 12:2).
And I just love Sandra McCracken’s soulful voice and humble heart. Soak in these lyrics from her song “This is the Christ”
this is the Christ, our God and Lord
who in all need shall aid afford
he will himself our savior be
and from our sins will set us free
I want you to be refreshed and encouraged this Christmas and beyond and hope these two items will assist in that.
Prize: Two winners receive: 1 copy of my new book, Sacred Endurance and 1 copy of the newly released Sandra McCracken Christmas CD!
How to enter:
- We all need encouragement in fixing our eyes on Jesus this season. To enter share one way you intentionally set your eyes on the Hope that has come and the Hope to come. Comment on the post at the link on Instagram—one or two sentences.
- Bonus—tag three friends on Instagram and invite them to share too.
Head on over to Instagram to enter: Sacred Endurance and Christmas CD Giveaway