Overcoming roadblocks to rest

Yesterday I sat for 15 minutes at the piano…headphones on while my baby cried and my three year old clamored for attention in his room. Eventually I was able to let go of their needs and think about my own for just a small window of time (and they were okay anyway!) This morning I’m thinking about what keeps us from shutting out the noise and coming to God for rest. What is it for you? Maybe a few of my roadblocks will shed some light on what is keeping you from finding what your soul needs…

True busyness – This first one is a key culprit to look at for ALL of us, I’m sure. Our schedules are jam-packed and it can be hard to realistically find much time to care for our very real needs. Whether you’re a mama, single lady, working woman, or tough guy, life shouts at us with all the things we need, need to do, must accomplish, etc. Letting the voice of love permeate our schedules is truly unusual for most. Scheduling some margin into your day is such a beautiful habit….literally putting an appointment on your calendar to be alone, or to be with someone or doing something that brings you deep soul joy.

Pride – Ouch. Are we really that important to keep the world in motion?? I have to remind myself that my little people and close circle – even reaching out further to my community and extended connections – they will be OKAY if I back off on some things. This one can be just. so. hard!! It feels good to be wanted and needed, and it is easy to think it is more “spiritual” to be doing lots of good things… rather than just being with God and your “people.” I have really had to look at my schedule lately and trim some things down. It’s hard! Trust me, I really get it. As a mom of itty bitties, and wife to a pastor, our schedule is far from relaxed. But there’s so much joy in surrendering my priorities to God, and letting him fill my days, rather than jumping in to try and “save the world.”

Shame – Do I even deserve this time to myself? time to be with God? time to simply ENJOY something? This can be a real toughie too, at least for me. When the chores are piling up and others around me have legitimate needs, how can I put some of my needs first (even just occasionally?) A friend has lately been reminding me of the oxygen mask analogy – you know it – the airline stewardess always reminds us to put our mask on first, before we attend to others. Of course the analogy breaks down because we are also called to serve selflessly, but even Jesus got away from others and felt no shame doing so!

Resources – This seems like a legitimate reason to power through life working, trying harder, being “all things to all people.” You may need to work two jobs, you might be strapped for cash and can’t afford some “luxuries,” you may think there’s no way you can truly “afford” to take time for yourself, time to relax a little. But trust me, this is simply not true. Growing up in a family of eight kids, on a farm, I get it. There can be 5,000 things to do to just make life “work.” And now, as a ministry wife, we don’t have a lot of extra. But I still find ways to rejuvenate! We have gotten gift cards for several occasions, which is super fun for treats here and there. We were gifted a piano, and I truly enjoy that! I do yoga videos on YouTube, take walks with my kiddos (using a Black-Friday-deal baby carrier and second hand stroller!) Drinking enough water is a great beauty tool, and that is free! Ten minutes here and there with simple little things is not going to break the bank for anyone.

Boundary issues – I’m slowly reading the book Boundaries, by Cloud and Townsend. I’m sure you’ve heard of it, because it’s been around for a long while. The idea, if you’re not familiar with it, is that we have a responsibility for our lives and many times others cross over our boundaries that are God-given. We can also walk all over others. I highly recommend this book if you find that you are often getting into situations that lead to resentment and frustration. Are you doing more than you want to do because you simply “can’t” say no? Is someone loading guilt and shame on you for wanting to take a break? Lots to say on this topic – read the book!!

Lack of self-knowledge – Lately I have realized that in the busyness of being a newborn / toddler mama I have quite literally “forgotten” what brings me joy!! There are things I really loved before Baby A came along, and I have had to dig deep and really think about what will bring rest to my soul. The easy “Sunday school” answer is that we need to read our Bibles and pray more. Shocker – sometimes we need a nap more! My favorite author, Emily Freeman, talks about this concept in her writings on the blog, in her books, and on her podcast. I’ve had to ask God to remind me of how he made me and what things I might start back on now that my baby sleeps a bit more. ūüėČ

These are just some of my own ideas, things that I have to work through in getting back to a good place in my soul, with God and with others. What about you? What is keeping you from rest? I’d love to hear.

Thriving on rest – thoughts for the Lenten season

It’s been an amazing year for our family as we have walked through our third pregnancy (second live birth) and welcomed our second son. There is nothing quite like new life to change your perspective and also keep you humble! We have been through a lot leading up to this and are now enjoying this older baby phase. I love ages six to ten months! Our little guy is coming up on seven months this weekend, and I just can’t believe it!

If you take a look around at my blog, you will see that it has been quite a while since I have last written. I think I was hugging a toilet bowl the last time I wrote (thank you, baby A!) and decided I would sit out until after he was born… I just didn’t think it would take this long, but more on that later. I do very much enjoy encouraging others in this space, so here I am again.

Spring is hopefully around the corner, and since I last wrote, we have seen summer, fall, and what I’m hoping is nearing the end of winter! So too, have we walked through the seasons in our family. End of pregnancy brought some sleepless nights, growing pains for all, and lots of quick meals. Early newborn life brought more sleepless nights, but so many cuddles, copious help from friends, community, church and family, gifts, meals, prayers….in a word, abundance! Winter settled in and that brought some challenges as it is quite the busy time for my husband, and our reinforcements started fading away. However, my beloved mother’s helper, as well as a mature retired mom (and again, lots of prayer!) has seen us through. I must also mention that I have the world’s most patient and servant-minded husband who has done more than his share of diapers and dishes!

The deepest desire of my heart is that I could encourage other women in this Lenten season to find rest. Similar to the Christmas season, it is easy to make this another “try hard” season. Spring cleaning, decluttering, Easter gifts, Spring break plans, and spiritual preparations during Lent, as well as more gatherings with friends and family, and it is understandable why summer beach vacations bring a sigh of relief! Let’s all just make it to the end of the school year, right? I suppose I didn’t even touch on all the school activities that you may be doing with your kids. Perhaps you find yourself wondering how you will make it through this demanding time of year. I know I have had many seasons like that!

As I look back on those hard seasons in my life, I realize that sometimes I chose rest, and other times I chose to “try harder,” the latter coming with poor results. I believe this newborn stage of Baby A’s life has gone well thanks to God’s grace, but also because of the choice to rest. With much help and prayer, I have let the laundry go most days, dishes have piled up, calls have gone unanswered, and emails not returned. Perhaps that would sound like defeat to you. However, given the fact that postpartum was ten times as hard with Big Brother, I must gather that the choice to rest has made an impact.

Whatever is on your plate right now, might I encourage you to set aside what feels most urgent, and look to God for rest and help in Him? It can be a colossal feat to find even a few minutes to reflect and regroup at the end of a busy day, but in those moments of honesty with ourselves, God, and those we love, we can find peace. Choosing to rest in the knowledge that we are known and loved by God, no matter what our homes (or other performance area) may look, will bring long-lasting benefits. Peace and joy be yours, my friend. New life in Christ can be yours!

Isaiah 30:15: This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says: “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.¬†

What I learned // Spring 2018

The first quarter of this year just flew by!! (Partially because I’ve been growing a baby and that first trimester was just hard!) I’ve loved¬†this link up that blogger Emily Freeman does every quarter to reflect on what she and many others have learned. Though a bit late, I still want to take time to reflect for myself, and maybe you’ll enjoy it too. I’d encourage you to think through it for yourself, even if you don’t make it public. Such a good discipline!

  1. The DayOne app is so fabulous for recording gratitude – ever since we got married seven years ago, I’ve made it a priority to record a gratitude list almost daily. This was spurred on by this book, and has brought and sustained so much joy in my life! I used to use a good old-fashioned journal, but this app makes it quick and easy, and it’s fun to add pictures from the day as well. Totally recommend!!
  2. Late on this one, but Downton is totally addicting. And I must get the final season¬†(soon!) – a friend loaned us the first five seasons of Downton Abbey and we have thoroughly enjoyed it! It’s rare that hubby and I find shows we both love, but this is definitely one on the short list. The character development and plot line are just amazing (as most of the world already knows, but I’m so happy to have found out too!)
  3. Feeding toddlers takes a huge amount of patience – I was not expecting this AT ALL. I suppose I had a bit of pride in this area, having grown up on a farm and surrounded by super-healthy people… somehow I thought eating healthy and loving it would just miraculously be natural for my son. (I hope you’re laughing, because I’m not.) Nothing is more frustrating to me than making a healthy meal and my sweet toddler refusing to eat it! We are making sloooowwww progress in this area, but suffice to say this has been quite the sanctifying experience for me. This blog has given me some good ideas, and I love this¬†kitchen gadget!
  4. Creative outlets are super important for me – being sick from pregnancy for four months really limited me to just the basics of life, so I wasn’t able to write much or make time for any “extras”. It’s been so nice to get back to some of the creative things I enjoy, and I really hope I can keep that up once baby two comes. I feel so rejuvenated after spending even 15 minutes writing, playing piano/guitar, or coloring. Really anything that involves beauty or creativity gives me a boost.
  5. Living frugally can be a fun adventure – though our church is very generous, living on a pastor’s salary requires some creativity and effort! (We are so happy to be where we are, and don’t feel it’s a sacrifice as some might see it.) But I’ve found that second hand shopping, groceries at Aldi, and thrifting online can not only be fun, but can also help me grow in contentment. I’m looking forward to reading this book that’s been on my list for a while!

What about you? What did you learn this Spring?

 

Prepping your soul for Spring

Did Winter get the best of you? No thanks to Phil the groundhog, it seemed this Winter would never end! We may have finally shaken the cold weather, but I want to offer some suggestions for warmth and refreshing in your soul – regardless of what the weather does. Here are some reflections from my Winter hibernation as well as some forward moving ideas for Spring in your soul.

  • Assess where you are, body + mind + soul – We all have some pretty atrocious closets to clean out and cobwebs to dust, but when clutter starts building up in your soul, every aspect of your life is affected. Start by taking inventory. How do you feel? Are you sleeping and eating well? Moving your body? What do your relationships look like, as far as you can control? Where are you with God?
  • Start with one goal – and follow through – There’s nothing more discouraging than getting to April and realizing your January goals are buried in a pile and needing some attention. I like to start with ONE area, and ONE goal – and follow through on just that one thing. A¬†goal of mine that needs a little attention is gentle exercise. Yoga is always my favorite way to move so I’m heading back to class and also spending a few minutes in the morning or evening to refresh. This post inspired me lately in remembering that even one pose a day is better than nothing!
  • Try something new – I’ve been stuck in my reading and haven’t enjoyed the study plans I’ve been using, but it’s taken me a while to try something new. So I pulled an old Bible off my shelf – the¬†Daily Chronological Bible and I’m getting back on track there. You can switch it up too! Maybe it’s time to change your routine in some way, and breathe new life into this season. In the kitchen, I’ve been using this weekly meal service to keep my meals fresh, and it’s been a lot of fun.
  • Make it beautiful there’s nothing like beauty to refresh you inside and out, and it doesn’t have to be big. In fact, making your daily environment or beauty routine refreshed for Spring is better done small and intentionally. Think through one area that could use some life – your wardrobe, your kitchen towels, maybe a new candle for the bathroom? Try pulling out a bright scarf instead of the winter grays and blacks! Get some fresh linens on clearance or put citrus oils in your diffuser to brighten up your everyday.
  • Give yourself grace – This one has to be mentioned, and though I talk about it a lot here, it bears mentioning again. Oftentimes for me, I don’t realize how much I am neglecting my soul or demanding perfection of myself until emotional dashboard lights start going off. Dial things back even as you move ahead, by creating more white space on your calendar, making an easy meal, or saying no to something. One small step to give yourself grace could make things so much smoother elsewhere – I know from experience! (PS – thanks for giving ME grace as I’ve been growing a new baby – coming August of this year :-))

All I want for Christmas is a changed heart

It was a small thing, really. The store clerk couldn’t have known that the stamps she had weren’t going to be my favorite, but it revealed a yucky heart attitude in me and showed me I cared more about myself in that moment than the message of the Nativity stamps I wanted. I held my tongue and took those Santa stamps, reminded that Advent is made of all these small choices. I’ve been a slow learner, I’ll admit. Thankfully, I’m on the road to making Christmas more about Christ than all the other things it sometimes is.

We all come to Christmas with our baggage – albeit wrapped up nicely with shiny paper and bows. It has taken me a while to see the yucky amidst the shiny wrapping in my own life. Good deeds mixed in with selfish expectations, gift giving tied up with my own desires for affirmation, forcing traditions so I’ll have plenty of picture-worthy moments. Certainly, it is good and right to have quality family time, reflect on the meaning of the season, and cultivate habits of service. But God has shown me how having a quiet heart of anticipation, over expectations (for myself or others), makes for a Christmas worth remembering. Am I striving in my own power to make Christmas amazing, but over-spending, over-stretching, over-everything to do it? Am I expecting others to come through for me to make the holiday special (whether I express it or not?) I have in the past, sadly.

The shift in my heart is big – but it’s happened slowly. Too slowly, sometimes. But God is never late, and He has prepared this December with you in mind – and your people. Just like that first one, with all the messy beautiful. Oftentimes we find ourselves either trampled upon, or having made too much of ourselves. Only God knows where our hearts are. I’m stepping back from the big and bold Christmases in my past, in exchange for a quiet, humble, and hopeful one this year. And it feels so good. I’ve gotten all I want for Christmas – God has changed my heart.

You might feel like God is giving you a lump of coal this year, when you look around at your circumstances (I’ve been there) but His heart for us is good. Trust me when I say, I have had those hard (very hard) Christmases. Even though this year is full of joy and hopefulness, the greatest gift God has given me is a changed heart. And the bumpy path is what brought me here. Keep fighting for joy if it’s hard, and give thanks if it’s not right now. He is good, and here is here. Emmanuel, God with us.¬†

And not only that, but we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. РRomans 5:3-5

Keeping your heart alive to hope

It’s been almost exactly three years since I posted this previously, and I wouldn’t have thought to repost it except for seeing it on a friend’s FB page and remembering all God has done in the past three years. He is so good and faithful! We have walked through some pretty hard things, but God has been so good and gracious to bring us to the other side! We are grateful to be serving in a church together, enjoying our darling little guy, and excited about what lies ahead. If you are walking a tough road, may this post remind you that you are not alone. This journey to heaven is hard, no doubt! But we serve a great God who has overcome all….one passage that I held on to tightly during that tough season was 1 Peter 5:10: “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” There will be an end to your struggle. And God will restore!

Adapted from the blog archives…

Perhaps you’ve seen bits and pieces of the story the Divine Author has written across the pages of our one flesh life this year. The job loss, the weeks of travel, the moments of joy and reconnection with family, the darkness of losing a mother I never knew but gave me so much in Paul, the renewed desire to give our lives fully to vocational ministry, the desire for little ones, new and unexpected callings, moving a-g-a-i-n, and the unforgettable brilliance of Grace in the midst of it all. It has been an uphill, tearful, and yet joyful season. I am quickly reminded of the Cross as I write, the Story of Grace in the midst of darkness,¬†as the story His followers thought should be written one way had a dramatic, painful, and yet glorious eternal twist.¬†It was the hardest and best Story ever to be written.

Perhaps you are living a hard story, a painful story that you never wanted and would gladly write yourself out of if you could, yesterday. I know. I’ve been there. In some ways, I am there.¬†And yet, it’s in these dark and confusing moments where we find the deepest Grace, the most profound connections with those we love, and the most dramatic growth possible.¬†There’s no other way to move forward sometimes, except through the darkest valleys. We all live for the happy days, the days when life ‘makes sense’ (at least to us). But we look at our reality and we ache: we see the wicked flourish, the unlikely prosper, the ungrateful and selfish expand their broken families endlessly. Disease abounds, governments make unwise decisions, women make choices that bring death and not the freedom they crave.

And yet. Or rather, but God…. This masterful HIS-story maker and life-story production manager is at work writing an epic story through our brokenness. He is turning the effects of the fall, our sin and the broken systems in which we live into something glorious, beautiful and breathtaking.¬†If you are written into His eternal playbook as His adopted child it’s happening in your home, closer yet, in your very heart.¬†Pretty amazing, I think!!

But it hurts. It really hurts. Some days, who am I kidding, most days, it is easier to distract ourselves from the pain with anything that works… could be something harmless, could be something damaging and deadly. You know what your go-to method is. [To be clear, finding ways to lift our hearts and bring us joy in good and godly ways is not to be denied. In fact, we are called to rest and allow our hearts space to breathe.] But our good God often allows pain to heal our hearts. The pain could be a result of our sin choices, the sin of others, or the brokenness we daily face because of the fall in the Garden (See Genesis 3). Life just doesn’t work the way it was meant to. Are there good and healthy ways to keep our hearts alive but at the same time not ignore the deeper work going on within us?

What happens to our hearts when life hurts? Does our heart stay alive to hope or does it slowing stop beating? Do our relationships die or do they grow stronger? Do our callings become stronger and more obvious, or do our dreams slowly die?¬†This is where the battle lies, and the enemy wants nothing more than to turn our hearts to stone…to kill, steal, and destroy the life that is growing within us as we are daily renewed in Christ.¬†How do we fight for our own hearts, and the hearts of those we love to keep beating with purpose, joy, conviction, and intentional focus on Gospel living?¬†¬†There are never easy answers. At least I haven’t come up with any! But looking to the ancient paths God gives us are the surest ways to lasting hope and joy. May I humbly encourage…

~ The Living Word. Ingest it in small amounts, big amounts, listen on audio, read online, read the old-fashioned hardbound, read it in Spanish or Greek. However you can get His words into your soul, please DO. The Psalms bring me relief in hardship like nothing else. Read good Christian books, fiction too!

~ Prayer and confession. With a friend, as you shower, as you cry, give kisses, wash dishes, or wish the day would end. Pray honestly, one word at a time if needed.

~¬†Gratitude. There are apps, there are notebooks, you can text it to your friend, or post it on FaceBook, or across the sky. But thankfulness will breathe life into your otherwise dreary day as few other things will. Ask God to help you when you’re not thankful, and thanking Him for the Grace He gave on the Cross is a good place to start.

~¬†Honesty. With your spouse, a friend, yourself. There’s no need to look pretty when life is messy. I’ve tried it – with horrible results!! I like the Day One app for a place to record my thoughts and prayers.

~¬†Care for your body + soul.¬†(Romans 12:1-2). Sleep, eat your veggies, take a walk or yoga class. Taking care of yourself, even when you don’t feel like it, will reap huge dividends. I find that taking care of myself physically and emotionally reminds me of my worth in Christ. You are worth the effort, friends! But – ahem –¬†dark chocolate might help too!

~¬†Extra grace. Being hard on yourself when life is hard is just…pointless! But we all do it. God is looking at you with deep compassion even if you’ve made bad choices to get you where you are right now. Beating yourself up in the midst of your struggles will just compound the difficulties.

~¬†Fellowship. Hold onto friends and family. Tightly. Look for every chance you can to spend a moment together with someone you love, whether on the phone, over coffee, a movie night, doing chores, whatever! Don’t be afraid to reach out to someone new – I’ll bet he/ she needs a friend as much as you do, and sharing your struggles honestly will open up more of your heart as well as theirs.

~ Look to eternity. If you are His child, all pain and tears will pass away, and our joy in Christ will far outweigh the pain and suffering of this life. I know very well how hard it is to wrap your mind around this truth, so ask God to help you live with eternal hope. Preaching it to myself as I type!

~ Find rest in the fellowship of His suffering, knowing you will never face the depth of pain and sacrifice that He bore for your sins, but that He is also a gracious High Priest who understands. He will meet you there, in deep and profound ways.

I recently started reading¬†The¬†Hardest Peace¬†and have been so deeply moved and impacted by Kara’s words. One point in particular that blessed me immensely are her comments concerning Proverbs 1:33, and the promise that as we rest in Him, He will remove not the disaster,¬†but the dread of the disaster.¬†Fear causes us to live in agony as we imagine the impossibility of future circumstances (often not imagining the God of Abundant Grace with us there!) But He will keep you in perfect peace as you turn to Him, as you walk the ancient paths… slowly replacing fear of pain, with faith in the One who suffered the deepest pain.

 

The journey to freedom in Christ

Today is a day to celebrate freedom, but we are remiss as believers if we do not celebrate our freedom in Christ…freedom from sin and death, from things that hinder our growth, from fear, pride and shame, among other things. I have been freed from many sins, situations, and hardships over the years, and I’m sure you have as well. Celebrate that! Share your story!¬†Over breakfast we were listening to this podcast with author Jeff Goins (whose work often encourages me to share my story), and he was talking about his new book, Real Artists Don’t Starve. (I haven’t read it yet, but intend to and love all his books!) Artist or not, none of us are promised an easy life. Tolkein is mentioned in this podcast, which reminds me today of his book,¬†The Hobbit.¬†

Bilbo Baggins is the main character and he reluctantly agrees to embark on a treacherous journey with some new¬†acquaintances, 13 dwarves, and a wizard, Gandalf.¬†¬†The goal? ¬†To claim the treasure that has been passed on to the dwarves–if they can make it through Mirkwood forest and past the dragon. ¬†At many points along the journey, Bilbo wishes that he never agreed to this. ¬†But {spoiler alert!} once he acquires the ring, and learns that it will provide invisibility, he becomes quite a leader among his fellow travelers. ¬†He is able to help them through many a pinch, and the incident we’ll discuss is no different. ¬†The problem is that the dwarves are not that excited about his method of escape from their current dilemma: ¬†capture by the Elvish King.

“Bilbo saw that the time had come to explain his idea, as far as he could; but he did not feel at all sure how the dwarves would take it. ¬†His fears were quite justified, for they did not like it a bit, and started grumbling loudly in spite of their danger. ¬†‘We shall be bruised and battered to pieces, and drowned too, for certain”‘ they muttered. ¬†‘We thought you had got some sensible notion, when you managed to get hold of the keys. ¬†This is a mad idea!’ ‘Very well’! said Bilbo very downcast, and also rather annoyed. ¬†‘Come along back to your nice cells, and I will lock you all in again, and you can sit there comfortably and think of a better plan–but don’t suppose I shall ever get hold of the keys again, even if I feel inclined to try.”

Perhaps you see the corollary? ¬†At times, I see myself in the same situation as the dwarves….hearing the Lord’s voice leading me out of sin, shame, or another self-made prison, but not wanting to face the difficult road out.¬†Isn’t it easier to remain trapped, than it is to risk freedom, and the treacherous path to get there? ¬†We choose the comfortable, but deadly route, when freedom is right around the corner, beckoning us to come near.¬†¬†I have chosen imprisonment¬†far too many times.

As mentioned above, Jeff Goins shares a story of J.R.R. Tolkien being stuck as he was writing what we now know as The Lord of the Rings. C.S. Lewis was a contemporary of Tolkien, and in response to him feeling ‘stuck’, was able to help Tolkien get ‘unstuck’. You can listen in to hear more, but my point here is that freedom is not a solitary journey. We need fellow travelers to spur us on and lend a hand as Bilbo did for the dwarves and vice versa. Do you have a group of people doing this for you? Have you looked? Have you prayed for this? Don’t go it alone.

As Christians, we are all moving from death to life, through the process of sanctification, and we as a family have recently entered a new season of freedom. We have moved out of darkness into light. There will be hardships, for sure. ¬†But these very trials and joys will all be a part of the story. Check out Steffany Gretzinger’s song Out of Hiding – I love this line -“and oh as you run,¬†what hindered love, will only become part of the story…” What is holding you back? ¬†Are you pressing on, pressing into the fight for freedom, or lingering in the comfy prison cell? On this day, in which we celebrate the freedoms that have been granted through the courage of our forefathers, may I challenge you to turn your mind to the battle that Christ won on the cross?

Galatians 5:1: ¬†“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.¬†Stand firm,¬†then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”

Freedom is yours, if you will accept the journey….even if reluctantly, like Bilbo ūüôā