Enter Into His Presence {Christmas Style}

When I think of anticipation,
I recall the all-familiar
scene in
Christmas Story”

You know the one — where they are anxiously waiting for their moment with Santa. Ralphie’s rehearsing what he will say until it’s perfect. You can almost hear his heart pounding in expectation of what he considers the most defining moment of his young life.

Finally, his time has come, and as he approaches the man dressed in red, he freezes.

Ralphie’s mouth gapes wide. He stares at the one he’s been envisioning, his well-prepared speech weighing heavy on his tongue.

Whether he’s in shock, awe, or disappointment, I still can’t decide — maybe all the above… Regardless, he almost misses his chance to share what he longs for most.

burning-thru-the-fog-Courtesy of Greg Abel Photography

Friends, when we approach our Creator — hopefully every day — we are having that defining moment.

Think about it…

When we pray, we are walking up to the King of all Kings. The Jehovah. The Alpha and Omega.

We don’t have to travel far and wide, long and rugged like those wise men of old. We don’t have to leave our sheep behind to stand before Him personally. He’s already here with arms open wide. Inviting us into His chamber…

It should make our heart palpitate. Our souls should arrive humbled and yet expectant. Knowing this moment is sacred. Acknowledging this time is life-changing.

The best part? (Besides not having to wait in line) We don’t have to rehearse a thing. He already knows what’s on our minds. But if we can muster up enough strength to say it to Him directly, we’ll find what Ralphie was searching for.





I’m not sure, but maybe it’s all the above.

This Christmas Season, let’s find out together. Let’s allow our hearts to flutter when we bring our meager selves to Him. And let’s tell Him what we long for most as we bring our souls to His knees.

I don’t know about you, but I can already hear Him saying, “Come…”

And do you know what else, friends…He knows our name.

How about you? How do you prepare for your time with The Savior? I’d love to hear.

Thanks for sharing your time with me.

Simply striving,


Prayerful Perspective {How My Prayers Have Changed}

Psalm 34:4

My prayers for those I love and those I should have overwhelmed even me as of late.

There’s health concerns.
Financial struggles.
Unnecessary trials.
Unknown journeys.
Difficult decisions.

And I want to bring them all to the Cross and leave them in His capable hands. Yet, often, I don’t know how to pray.

Then I read this:

“Are you in the midst of a situation where, as you pray, you find yourself putting the problem first? If so, you’re starting where you should end. You’re rehearsing the problem, making it seem larger than it is, when what you need to do is rehearse God’s greatness and bigness. Then the problem shrinks to its right portions.”
The Rest of God, Mark Buchanan

Friends, I’m sharing my thought process regarding this over at 5 Minutes for Faith today. I’d love to have you stop by and help me work through it.

Simply click on the link below!

Thanks for sharing your time with me.

Simply striving,


Through and Through {Simple Utterances}

Heart without Words

Flickers of light find their way through the waving canvas, kissing my cheek as the breeze brushes the wisps off my brow.

It’s as if He’s right here, loving the very thought of me. And I can barely breathe as I allow Him to look.

My pulse races as I search for words to tell Him how I can’t get enough of Him. For I want to tell Him I’m ready. Whatever commitment He wants from me, I want to give it.

“Lord, I’ll do it. Today.
I’ll do whatever today brings. For You.
Just please, remind me I’m not alone…
You’re here and You’ll never let me go…
…thank You for that…”

Fingers begin writhing as I contemplate how much control I just gave away. And suddenly I realize — my heart has calmed. My burden’s been lifted. New mercies have found me.

Just like He promised.

Some mornings, that’s all the prayer I can utter. I used to have many words to share first thing. Lately, the words are few. Yet the heart-to-heart conversation has never been greater. 

I’m learning to simply invite Him in and ask Him to linger long. So I can love on Him through and through. No matter what today brings.

This song of simple utterances has fit me lately and I want to share it with you. The words are few. It’s the intent and declaration of awareness that take center stage.

Oh how He loves us…through and through.

Through and Through
Will Reagan

I find that I’m safe and warm
In Your loving arms.
You see me, You know me
and You love me, through and through.

Subscribers, you can CLICK HERE to listen to this on Simplystriving, or HERE to listen directly on YouTube.

How about you, friend? What kind of simple utterances have you shared with Him lately? I’d love to hear.

Thanks for sharing your time with me.

Simply striving,


No Buts About It {How My Prayers Have Changed Pt. 2}

This is the second post in my James Prayer series — on how my prayers have changed. You may read the first post HERE.


My elbows dug into my knees, palms firmly planted on my chin. And I rocked slowly, trying to soothe my pounding chest as I searched for words. I have no idea how much time fled as I started over and over, determined to get it right…I realized then I was doing exactly what the verses warned me about. Finally, I relented and told Him outright:

Lord, I don’t even know how to pray…I know how to praise and thank You, but I don’t know how to bring my worries to You. Because they seem to bubble with doubt…

It stung as it rolled off my tongue. I’ve considered myself a prayer for years, with prayer journals to prove it. And here I sat on this moonless night realizing I’ve completely lost my way, drifting off to sea.

I’d become a “But Christian”.

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, Who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.
James 1:5-8

For how many times have I said

“Lord, please heal _____, but if it’s not Your will…”
“Father, help me _____, but if You have other plans…”

Oh mylanta, I’m as wishy-washy as they come. How can He even look at me let alone listen…

I opened my Bible, hoping I missed something. Where does it say how to believe firmly when you know not every prayer gets answered with hoped-for results? How do you decipher between needs and wants? Do I admit how big of a deal these things are to me when in the grand scheme of grace, they are so very small?

Then I saw it…how I’ve been complicating prayer all these years. How I’ve tried to act double-minded, like I can read His mind, how I’ve presented pleas instead of just presenting myself.

  • I’ve asked for solutions and not answers.
  • I’ve treated Him like a taskmaster — focusing more on the gifts than the Giver.
  • I’ve acted as if I know better…and then tried to cover it up with a ‘but’…

James shows us how to get our buts out-of-the-way. What to ask when we’re deep in need: Wisdom. Ask for His wisdom. Every time.

And he even promises…God gives that out generously to all (vs. 5). I have no reason to doubt His will in this regard.

Solomon knew it–all one really needs to get through this world that’s not our home is wisdom. Intimate life-knowledge. And He is the Bread of Life. He is the source of wisdom we all seek. He is all we need.

If I want to gain life-knowledge, I need to know the One Who Is…I need to see Him.


Doubt holds no weight when all we seek is to know Him. When all we ask for is what He’s promised to always freely give.

So when trouble comes and I’m grasping for a way out, I can pray:

“Father, I’m sinking, yet You’ve never let me go… Here, You take this ____. Give me wisdom, Lord, so I can see You and know You’ve got this. Show me how You want me to respond. For I know and believe fully–You are all I need.”

When cancer/illness plagues someone who owns a piece of my heart, I can pray:

“God, You are bigger than this cancer cell. Let us see You, Lord, right here right now. Rest Your healing hands upon ___ and overwhelm them with Your comfort. Peace. Gives us eyes of wisdom, Father, so we can watch Your glory unfold and know You’ve got us in the palm of Your hand. We’re right where we need to be.”

I go through my prayer list and put it to practice as I seek this intimate life-knowledge He freely gives. And smile wide as I realize…there are no buts about it.

My back straightens as I pick up pace. My shoulders relax as I chat easily with my Creator. And for the first time in my tenure of claiming His name, I can pray with confidence and know He’s heard me when I call.

How about you, friend? Do you ask for wisdom when you pray? How do you tackle those areas we so desperately want to go a certain way? I’d love to hear.

P.S. I’m just getting started with what I’ve learned from the Book of James lately. I hope you’ll stick around. You can catch up on other posts HERE.

Thanks for sharing your time with me.

Simply striving,


Intimate Life-Knowledge {How My Prayers Have Changed}


The word haunted me worse than a recurring nightmare. And no matter how I tried to look at it, I knew…it wasn’t describing me. Yet it needs to for it’s how He wants me:


Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
James 1:4

This I already knew, but the self-reflection portion of my Lenten journey revealed how incomplete I really am. And it scared me big time because I’ve read the verses preceding this many, many times. And let’s face it — I didn’t want to go through more hard times. I don’t want to test my perseverance. My faith muscles are still sore from the last one…

Falling to my knees between the chair and ottoman, I rocked back and forth as I made my plea known: God, please, this can’t be it. You’re trying to show me something else, aren’t You? I know I’m not complete and I’m willing to work on it, but Father, do You really think I’m ready for another trial? Is there another way? What am I missing here? Please…Help me see…show me…I’m listening.

Would you believe I witnessed the power of the Holy Spirit right then and there as I saw the next verse unfold.

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.
James 1:5

There’s no other way to describe it but a miracle. Without the Holy Spirit showing me, I would have missed it, I’m certain, because I’ve done many James Bible studies, and I never got it…until the Spirit knew I was ready to receive it.

Friends, for the last 30+ years, I’ve been praying through trials the wrong way.

My prayers have been far from complete.

It was as if I could see the transcripts of my prayers through every significant trial I’ve endured. And I saw it in black and white. Wow…I never asked…

  • I always prayed for a way out instead of asking for His rest to get me through.
  • I always asked for healing instead of asking for the Healer.
  • I always wanted to know why, how, when and never once asked for the wisdom to see beyond them…to just see Him more clearly.

Sure I would ask for wisdom when life decisions were needing to be made. Financial choices, job changes, moving options. I’m smart enough to know where to go for those answers. I’d even asked to know Him more when life was slow and easy.

The best description of wisdom I’ve heard is simply “Intimate Life-Knowledge.” And I can’t help but think…He is the Bread of Life. He’s the reason I have life. So how could I go wrong if I simply asked to know Him more intimately?

But when hard times were slapping me square on the face, I would ask for the escape route instead of the know-how of overcoming them.

Never once did I get to the root of the problem…which made me incomplete and always in need of another try…via trial.

WHY?!? How could I have missed this?!?

Easy…I don’t deserve this bigger picture understanding. So I wasn’t expecting a dirty sinner like me to be given the kind of gift worthy of King Solomon. Why would I ask for that?

That’s where grace comes in.

With one little phrase in the verse, given just to me. Friends, look at it again and say it out loud with me:

God gives generously to all without finding fault…

How soon I forget…

  • I’m not trying to earn anything–He gives this stuff away for free.
  • I can’t pay Him back for saving my life, but I can give the rest of it to Him.
  • I don’t need healing, I need the Healer.
  • I don’t need Easy Street, I need His rest and joy to fall upon me.
  • I don’t need a way out — HE’S my escape plan — I need Him.

And right there, between the cushions, I asked Him to help me. And I boldly asked for it…for intimate life-knowledge of Him…

How about you, friend? Have you asked for life-knowledge? Not just know-how, but for a greater understanding of Him? I’d love to hear.

Would you mind if I keep sharing what I learned while going through James? I’m feeling like He wants me to share how my prayer life has changed…but first, we need to talk about the “But” that proceeds these verses.

Thanks for sharing your time with me.

Simply striving,


NOTE: After I went through this, I discovered this Bible Study by Pastor Mark Hall of Casting Crowns which confirmed what my heart felt. It’s worth 8 minutes, friend. I implore you to listen as he also talks about what I plan on sharing next…

The Current of Circumstance {An Invitation to Come}


It was a white flag kind of day. You know the ones. Where the current of circumstance is so strong you just want pull the cord for the floating device and hope for a tan as it carries you to a deserted island.

Because that’s what it feels like. When your child is sick, the dryer won’t dry, the toaster over-toasts, and the paper boy hits the only wet spot on your driveway. Then you discover your vehicle has issues and your cellphone is MIA and what was that loud crashing sound? Later you receive an email from someone who disagrees with you and as you listen to the news you wonder: how can some people live with themselves? When will they see and where are their mothers?!?

Finally, it was time to write the day off the books.
Every muscle moaned as I slipped under the down comforter.
I’m not sure if I was too wound up or too exhausted.
Regardless, I couldn’t fall asleep
and reached for the devotional on my nightstand instead.

Friends, it was as if God had orchestrated the entire day, building to this one event…

She invited me to read Psalm 73:12-26 and I found myself nodding furiously in agreement with the psalmist. He got it. He knew the days. The ones where no matter how hard you try, it’s never enough.

Yet he also knew how to deal with it. Whom to turn to when questions like what, why, or how start creeping in.

My heart began to slow while reading the author‘s thoughts:

“God wants us to take our questions, disappointments, and frustrations to Him. The process of grappling over our weary circumstances with God grows us spiritually and draws us closer to Him. The deeper the intimacy we forge produces comfort and fresh strength to keep going.

Our circumstances may not change, but God prepares us to meet them…Come into His presence. Bring your pain. Allow Him to strengthen your heart.”

Kathy Howard, God is My Refuge: 12 Weeks of Devotions
and Scripture Memory for Troubled Times

I closed the book and my eyes as I finally brought my day to Him. We talked about the moments I had wished for a do-over. I poured out my frustration over this and that and the other thing.

Friends, I talked to Him like He was my unconditional friend. Because He is…
How easy I forget that I’m not in this alone.

I don’t need to have all the answers, He does.
I don’t need any superpowers, He shares.
I don’t need to worry, He’s here.

And as I sat in the peaceful silence, my breaths grew deeper. slower. My heart warmed with each release. And I was reminded why He bids us to come.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
Matthew 11:28

How about you, friend? Where has your current of circumstance taken you lately? How do you enter into His presence and accept His invitation to come? I’d love to hear. 

Thanks for sharing your time with me.

Simply striving,


NOTE: I’ll be reviewing this book later next week. I hope you come back again as I have more to share with you! 

Unashamed Love {He is Worthy}


We meet each morn. Some days quicker than others, yet never once have I heard You complain. You always welcome me with open arms and commune as long as I’ll stay…

Thank You. You are so worthy of my time.

Then, we talk in short bursts throughout the day. Some days I do all the talking. Or so it seems as I plead and confess my lackings. And my heart aches just to see You. Hear You. Sense You. Make my day in a way only You can.

Sometimes I think Your voice is quiet so I can learn to be still. And I hear You then, when I slow and clear the clutter of my everyday wonderings. You bid me to come and lay it all down.

You offer Yourself in exchange for…me.
Crazy…I still don’t know what I bring You

Thank You. You are so worthy of my sacrifice.

And I see You as I go about my day.  The shimmer of the sunrise. The snow-capped evergreen swaying in the breeze, bouncing warm light on the wood floor beneath my feet. And I realize right then what unabashed worship looks like.

Thank You. You are so worthy of my praise.

I watch my 4 year-old give what’s in front of him his all, then jump in delight when he makes it through. He sees the beauty in ordinary, the big in the small. And when I bend low to see, I experience what unashamed love accomplishes through the eyes of childlike faith.

Thank You. You are so worthy of my heart.

The moon resides high, casting glimmers of life on the afghan draped over me. I close my eyes and feel the warmth of Your hand rest upon me. And I can’t help but thank You right then as I lay it all down and offer what You’ve been after all day…me.

Thank you. You are so worthy of my everything…

Subscribers, CLICK HERE to listen to the song on my heart today.

Unashamed Love (You Are Worthy)

~ Ten Shekel Shirt
You’re calling me to lay aside the worries of my day
To quiet down my busy mind and find a hiding place
Worthy, Worthy
I open up my heart and let my spirit worship Yours
I open up my mouth and let a song of praise come forth
Worthy, You are worthy
Of a child-like faith
And of my honest praise
And of my unashamed love
Of a holy life
And of my sacrifice
And of my unashamed love
You are worthy…

How about you, friend? How will you show Him He is worthy this week? How can I pray for you? I’d love to hear. 

Thanks for sharing your time with me.

Simply striving,


Prayer for our Leaders {On Voting Day}

Father, what an honor it is to live free.
Free from religious persecution.
Free from sin.
The enemy has no grip on me.
And neither does oppression.

May I never take that for granted.

Today, I get to exercise my right to vote.
It’s hard to comprehend how influential one vote is.
To believe my opinion matters.

But if I don’t vote, someone else votes for me.
And the only one I want to have that much control over me is You.

Lord, I know You hold the future.
I believe no matter the result, Your plan will prevail.
I realize in the great grip of grace, these details are minute.
Even still…

Father, make Your presence known to our leaders.
Ensure Your voice is heard among our nation.
Strengthen the sound of Your children.

Live among us, Lord.
Reside on Pennsylvania Ave.
Use those we assign for Your glory.

Take back what’s Yours.

Help us look beyond the partisans.
Give us Your vision to see these issues clearly.

May Your kingdom come on earth. Here as it is in heaven.
May Your will be done on earth. Here as it is in heaven.

Here I am, Lord.
Ready to fill in my ballot.
Lead the way…

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“To God’s elect…who have been chosen
according to the foreknowledge of God the Father,
through the sanctifying work of the Spirit,
to be obedient to Jesus Christ and sprinkled with His blood:
Grace and peace be yours in abundance.”
I Peter 1:1-2

How about you, friend? How are you praying for our nation today? I’d love to hear.

Thanks for sharing your time with me.

Simply Striving,


What Praying Without Ceasing Looks Like

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The back of my legs cling to the vinyl as if they never want to leave. Cold chrome brushes by as my toe traces the maze of the asbestos linoleum hidden beneath. Colors are beginning to fade, I notice, but the sheen will always remain. She’ll make certain of that.

“We need to take care of what He’s given us,
so He knows how thankful we are.
Remember, He giveth, and taketh away.
Let’s make sure He only takes away what we don’t need.”

One could blindfold me and I would still know where I am. A familiarity I never want to take for granted even if it smells of raw onions, old coffee, and baked cinnamon. Here it makes no difference. I can breathe in the scent of safety and let it percolate.

My heart warms as she breezes by, focused on one thing only: keeping my hands busy. Her lips curl upwards as she finds a project “just for me”. And I happily play along, pretending the task is of utmost importance. With every chance, I never told her I would have been just as content watching her do her everyday. Even at the age of 8, I found my great-grandmother mesmerizing.

Francis Chan in Crazy Love wrote that the point of our life is to point to Him. In whatever we do, glorify Him.

She was a prime example.

It used to be a game I’d play. Trying to guess if she was talking to herself or to her Savior. I have to admit, the longer I played the game, the more I began to realize there was no wrong answer.

Friends, there was no mistaking it. If you had been blessed to meet my grandmother, you would have known it, too. She was simply a sinner saved by grace. And she managed to bring her Redeemer up in any conversation. Crazy how it always felt appropriate.

She lived and breathed Him. Making Him always relevant. Reachable even.

The greatest gifts she ever gave me came when I was away at college. I can’t even describe the feeling of seeing her formal cursive sprawled across an envelope, waiting for me in my mailbox. I would try to save the letters for my quiet time, because that’s where they always took me.

I remember one particular morning. I sat cross-legged on the commercial blue berber in our walk-in closet. My quiet place. Her card in hand. She shared about the weather, her latest project, and how the river outside her picture window looked that very instant. Every other sentence was filled with praise. Of thanks for her Savior and were written as if those sentences were for Him with me as a witness…

At the bottom of this card, she had sprawled out the reference:

I Thessalonians 5:16-18

And I immediately started digging to see what hidden message she had for me. I reached for as close to The King James as I had so I could hear her voice read these words:

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing,
in everything give thanks;
for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Never had this passage made more sense. For my great-grandmother made this dream a reality.

I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you I’ve been plagued with fear from the command to pray without ceasing. I’ve gone through phases where I even deemed it impossible. Oh how soon we forget.

A few weeks back, while reading Henri Nouwen, the memories of my great-grandmother flooded in, taking residence in my heart of hearts. Because of this:

“We must make our lives into one unceasing prayer”
~ Henri Nouwen, Love in a Fearful Land

And I’m starting to see more clearly. The secret she shared with me 15 years ago.

Friends, this praying without ceasing business isn’t really a sacrificial action. It isn’t something only the “most Godly” are capable of. It’s a state of mind. One even I can strive to achieve.

We simply need to keep our eyes fixed on Him. Live like He’s in the room. That’s all we need to concern ourselves with. For if we do, our lives will be offered up as one unceasing prayer.

Would you like to know what’s helped me the most on my journey of trying to live it out?

THANKS. Giving it, sharing it, acknowledging it, offering it, allowing it to consume my thoughts. For when I do, I feel my heart being lifted up. Unceasingly. With my face fixed. Fearlessly.

Mind if I share some of my recent thanks with you?

  • God is generous even when we’re at our worst (Luke 6:30-40)
  • My great-grandmother’s handiwork on my feet
  • The noon bell. Small town feel in this large(er) city
  • Talking eye-to-eye with a kindred friend
  • Signs of fall
  • Hearing “Mom, let’s dance!” when a favorite worship song comes on
  • Sidewalk chalk art
  • Playing games as a family
  • How He pursues me. Relentlessly
  • Freshly laundered rugs

How about you, friend? Do you see praying without ceasing within your grasp? What do you think it takes? I’d love to hear.

Thanks for sharing your time with me.

Simply striving,


Linking with MercyINK’s Heart and Home

So thrilled to be back in this community:

A Blogger’s Prayer

I’ve read a few in my 9 months of blogging. I’m sure you have, too. Some have stuck with me and I’ve prayed them more than once. Duane’s prayer resonated deep. I’ve prayed it countless times as it has been my heart’s cry lately.

Then my friend Mary Beth suggested I write a mission statement for my blog. Define my purpose in this space. She’s right. I do need to do that.

When I brought the idea to the Mastermind behind this space, He told me to slow down. And began to show me where I need to begin.

Friends, I need to find my own voice. My own heart’s cry to Him. I need my prayer to be more personal.

So, this is where I’m at right now. When I sit down at the keys, and seek His face, these are the words on my lips. And I wanted to share them with you. Let it be so.

Will you pray with/for me?

Father, thank You for meeting me in this space.
For letting me linger long in Your embrace.
Thank You for giving me words to shed here.
For using this outlet to draw me closer to You.

Jehovah, You astound me. Let it always be so.

You have given me the gift of writing.
And although I’ve fought it, I now humbly accept it.
Thank You, Yahweh, for allowing me to worship You this way.
And here, I give it back to You.

For Your glory. Let it be so.

So with trembling fingers I press publish,
Offering my heart to others in hopes they see You.
Although I know the words written are for You and me,
I pray You can use them for more.

Not for me, but for You. Let it stay so.

May my words speak Your name. Not mine.
May my writing be so that the author is forgotten,
But what is remembered is You.
Your glory. Your grace. Your love. Your works.

For it’s all about You. Let it remain so.

I am but a vessel.
Your handiwork.
Nothing more than a piece of clay.
Nothing less than a masterpiece.

Only You know the plan for my life. Let that be enough.

And when people stop by, may they see who made me.
May Your style resonate so that my face is forgotten.
For all they see is You.

I cannot think of a greater legacy
Than that which leaves Your fingerprints
On everything I’ve left behind.

Holy Spirit, let it be so.

Lord, make me unknown.
Known only to You.
And while You’re at it,
Can You make me okay with that, too?

To You, Abba, be all glory and honor forever. Jesus, let it be so.

I’m certain this prayer will  evolve as I continue to draw nearer to Him. So I’ve decided, like Duane, to add this prayer to the tab headers on my blog for easy access. My plan is to update it when necessary. I would be honored if you would stop by from time to time and pray alongside me. For His glory.

How about you, friend? What have you been praying lately? What is your heart’s cry? I’d love to hear. 

Thanks for sharing your time with me.

Simply striving,


Linking up with: