Saturday, 5:00 am. Woke to the sound of my baby’s cries and remember that he still takes a bottle early in the morning – I should get up and do that. I go to the bathroom, return to our room, try to ignore his cries, and I am reminded that this phase won’t last much longer. I tiptoe to his room next door, and bring the bottle, comfort and cuddles that won’t last forever. As I tuck him back in, I hear the birds chirping, beckoning me to sneak out and watch the sunrise – something I haven’t done in a very long time. I tie on my running shoes, and open the door to a world of wonder – trees blooming, birds chirping happily, sun just beginning to wake up. So too, my soul comes alive as I remember how God invites us into His presence if we but listen. I’ve been trying to listen more closely. And it’s hard, but good. I’m turning from the noise, temptations, and distractions, to see what good things God might be waiting to give just around the corner.
I love the MSG paraphrase of Matthew 6:30-34 –
“If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.
34 “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.
7:00 am. I make a family recipe – Pfannkuchen – and listen to waking and rustling upstairs. Baby babble, happy laughter and tickles, chasing and throwing on the bed…My home is waking up, and I am ready to serve. I’m not always awake at this point, but today feels different. God has been whispering and calling to my heart, and it doesn’t feel as hard to repent from bitterness that has settled in over weeks and months.
9:00 am. Walk with my guys around the neighborhood. These walks are both good and hard, as are most things. Conversations bring connection and also conflict, but I find that God’s earlier preparation of my heart to look for what He has done, and not grasp for what He hasn’t yet, has softened me and brings sweet connection with the ones I love.
11 am. Dishes washed, and my heart has been washed too. I’m alive to God and though the battles still crouch at the door (Genesis 4:7), I’m more in tune with God and what is truly real.
What about you? Are you awake to the work of God in your life? I’m finding that small steps early on prepare my body, mind and soul to rest in Him all day. Our Warrior King has won the victory over all sin, flesh and evil. Will we walk in that? Put on those shoes. The birds are chirping and He’s waiting to open the door for you too!
Hello friends! Some thoughts rolling around in my head, and again it is connected to what I am reading and learning, to where God has us. The weather is turning (at least for this past week!) and I am wondering if it will stay or we’ll go back to winter. Do you ever feel that way in your wellness journey? That roller coaster of success and then disappointment? I do. Having a baby is a wonderful thing, but it certainly takes a toll on your body and I’m not quite back to where I’d like to be. Life can be like that too. We go through a hard season, and it can be easy to get stuck in a mindset of discouragement, rather than looking ahead to what God can do.
I’m realizing, again, that my hope is not fully focused on Christ, and that is what leads to this discouragement and lack of hopefulness. A fit body comes from having a fit soul! We cannot put our hope in these earthly things, like wellness and health, or in our circumstances being how we would prefer. It’s a back and forth, up and down ride, that God does not intend for us. He longs for our souls to be anchored in truth. When we fix our eyes completely on Christ, setting our hope in His unchanging character and our eternal hope in heaven, life is steady and fixed on the Rock, even if circumstances are not. It’s hard in this self-help, get-all-you-can-get world that we live in. Life is full of distractions from the narrow way, but God’s way is always the best way for deep, lasting hope.
“…for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” -1 Timothy 4:8 (ESV)
And so, I’m turning back to Christ for my ultimate fulfillment, even as I continue to eat well and exercise, care for my soul, and look forward to a new and hopeful season. Life might go how I hope, and it may not. But my soul is becoming more and more anchored in the One who alone can bring the fullness of joy I crave. What about you? Can you take a moment to consider where your hope lies? What outcomes are you working towards? Do they lead you to Christ and His kingdom? Do they lead you to eternal joy and hope in this life and the one to come? Exercise, nutrition, and a good life are not wrong in and of themselves. God desires good things for us. But more than that, He wants the best things for us, and we must be careful to focus on the best – seeking His kingdom rather than our own.
“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” – Matthew 6:33 (ESV)
We’re all waiting for the cold and snow to blow away and spring to come in its place. This, too, is what our family has waited for, for quite a while. It has been just like this winter, a back and forth of hope and discouragement – maybe it is going to be winter? No, it’s going to be 50 degrees out! No, it’s actually winter. 🙂 But God has opened the door to a new season of ministry together, and we couldn’t be more excited. True, there are other emotions swirling, as we pinch ourselves and wonder if it’s really true. The prayers we’ve all been praying have been answered! As I reflect on where God is taking us, I’ve been thinking, too, of the Gospel.
I tend to fall in the ‘do this and you’ll get this’ mindset, as my natural mode of default, if I am not careful to run to Christ and His Word. It’s a dangerous place, this formulaic approach to life that ultimately brings death and not life. I’m finding it sneak up as we enter this new season, both in ministry and parenting. First let me say, we did not ‘do all the right things’ for God to open up this door, or give us a sweet little boy. I have to keep reminding myself of that. Suffering well honors God, but it does not guarantee His blessing. There are no guarantees. So I’ve been reminded as we move forward that there will still be challenges, ups and downs, and hard days. A blessing does not mean the struggles of life go away completely. Nor does it mean we have ‘figured life out’.
That is what the Gospel reminds us – to celebrate the good, but also rejoice during the hard (James 1). Celebration is good and right. We celebrate this new ministry opportunity, after years of prayer for the right door to open. We celebrate our sweet little P, after waiting, loss, and struggle. And we go back to the Lord and thank Him for what He did not have to give. But had He not given these gifts, the Gospel reminds us that we can still celebrate. It is a painful grace to walk hand in hand with God, through the painful spots, and find Him faithful. For those lessons of grace, I am ever grateful. I often struggled with jealously as others ‘moved on’ to buying houses, having babies, and living out their calling with joy. But a quote from this book reminds me that we can, in a sense, be jealous of those who have not been blessed with the gifts we have. Theirs is the joy of walking with Christ in His sufferings. The eternal hope that has been forged into our souls during this season is a great gift. So too, do I see this as I study 1 Peter. We are called to suffer for good; we are told we as believers we will suffer, and not to be surprised by this.
I’m also starting to see this a + b = c mentality sneak into my parenting. When I rejoice for having parented well, or despair when P disobeys, my heart is convicted that the salvation of his soul, and decision to live in obedience to God or not, is not ultimately in my hands. It is God that saves, not my good efforts at parenting. Yours either. This book is reminding me that Gospel-centered thinking must undergird all we do, not legalistic thinking and parenting. I’m entering into a phase where my sweet boy is developing his own opinions and requires direction and correction. This is requiring new grace for me, and for him. We are both covered by the grace found in the Gospel, and God disciplines me, even as I learn to correct Him in grace-filled, Gospel-centered ways.
All this being said, we are beyond grateful to be moving from a very hard, hard season of multiple trials, to one we anticipate will bring much joy and delight, as we serve this body of believers and grow together. We are praising the Giver of good gifts, who knows exactly what we need and when. Thanking God for many of you, too, who have fought for us in the dark times. What a Great God we serve!
I’m thinking of you today, and how you might already be tired with the resolutions, new calendars, and gizmos that were supposed to make this a great year. Are they working? I hope so. Maybe you’re the super-productive sort, that loves lists and can stick to a resolution all year long. I hope so. But maybe you’re like me, and it takes you a little bit into January to even decide on your resolutions, and honestly you don’t like calling them that. Maybe you’re a recovering perfectionist, and the word resolution makes your skin crawl! If so, read on…
The past couple of years I have enjoyed slowly setting goals for the upcoming year. I don’t want this to be a how-to-set-better-goals post, because lots of famous writers have done that better. But I will share what I am doing and how it is helping me feel good about making progress without crushing my soul.
It seems that life has been hard for us, for a while, and while a new season may be appearing over the horizon, I’ve learned to be kind to myself in the hardness. A mentor gave me that helpful phrase, in a season when all was well, and I am so grateful because it stuck and helped me when I really needed it! Being kind to yourself takes a while to learn, so be kind even in that. I like the phrase better than ‘love yourself’ because that has a ring of selfishness to it (just my opinion though). Kindness is a lost art, like letter writing, long walks and slow meals. We are an impatient sort, and we want to see results – now. Kindness takes time. Whether you are learning kindness towards yourself or others, be patient, the fruit will come. It often feels like nursing something back to life.
Kindness doesn’t choose me or you, it chooses honesty and soul care. Kindness waits and listens, it honors and cherishes, it enjoys the small things. Kindness is slow, like a dish marinating and wafting through the house. It leaves a gentle fragrance that will be remembered. It’s not fast or fancy, exciting or bold. But it lasts. It’s not the latest and greatest, but your soul will change. I’m giving kindness a second chance this year. You might say that’s my word for this year, kindness. I even bought a sweatshirt to remind me – Kindness Matters, it says. And it does, whether you’re learning to practice kindness towards yourself or towards another.
Kindness is also a practice – in every sense of the word. It might feel new and strange, this foreign ritual of slowing down, listening in, and caring for those warning signs that you’ve been ignoring. It might be scary – like walking into a room alone and not knowing where you’ll sit and if you’ll feel awkward the entire time. But eventually, you and kindness will become very good friends. She will keep you company during hard times, and build bridges when everything seems to be falling apart. But you must practice. Take your time, try new ways to be kind every day. Towards yourself, your family, anyone or anything that needs nurturing. Your soul is a valuable place to start. Reevaluate occasionally, but don’t judge and definitely don’t make it into a SMART goal. Just watch it grow in your heart, home, and happy places, until you see new life everywhere.
I’m hoping for a lot of new life this year, and kindness is the path I’m taking to get there. Will you join me?
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” – 2 Corinthians 5:17
Some additional thoughts for setting kind goals:
Take time to evaluate last year first – look through your online feeds, your photo books, your calendar – and get a feel for what happened, and where you want to go next.
Repost from the archives of Ruthless Love, my former blog. Though we’re not facing the trials on my heart when I wrote this piece, there are others. Reposting this in hopes it will encourage those whose Christmas is anything but holly and jolly.
I’ll omit the apology for not writing in a while, because honestly? It’s been a very challenging season of trials and this last heartache left our hearts bleeding and crying out for Christmas joy like no other. I’m not gonna lie, if any one of us is needing joy, I’ll be the first in line! As I’ve cried out for comfort and leaned on friends in new ways, I’m finding that the things I’ll share here are making all the difference. Perhaps this isn’t exactly a picture perfect Christmas for you either? Well, stick around, because you and me, friend? We’ve got front row seats to a Christmas miracle and the tickets are FREE!
I’ve asked God for a special reminder of His presence and love, and the song O Come, O Come Emmanuel has sprinkled crumbs on the trail to His glory and grace. My worship-leader-treasured-friend reminded me that most Christmas songs are written in a minor key, and you might be asking why? Longing. We are all longing for the hope, peace, and joy that the people of God craved before the first coming of Christ. They weren’t just waiting for months, or a couple years, we’re talking hundreds of years since there had been any prophetic revelation from God. Take a nice, slow read of a few stanzas in the song at this link.
Do you see the longing displayed in those words? These were some seriously dark times for the people of God, friends. May we find encouragement in knowing that we are not alone this Christmas, and God is again this year bending low, humbling Himself and giving His presence in the midst of whatever circumstances we are facing.
Emmanuel, God with us. He is the friend like no other, who will sit down with you in the middle of your mess. He’ll hold you, he’ll cry with you. In fact, He came to share the sufferings of life with you. He is the gracious and compassionate High Priest. My mind is struggling to wrap itself around the simultaneous truths of God’s goodness and sovereignty, yet again. No need to feel guilt over that if you are there too. But regardless of whether or not you are able to embrace those mind-bending truths, you can confess your doubt and struggle to believe Him.
My mind turns to the beautiful young Mary, the mother of our Lord Jesus. Because of her humble faith, we are able to enjoy the embrace of our Savior in hard and happy times. When we don’t understand why God is allowing difficulties, or when we are equally astounded at undeserved blessings that come our way (as we should be), we honor God by entering the mystery of His grace with the humble faith Mary had. She did not understand exactly what God was doing, but she chose to praise Him in the midst of it and she chose to embrace HIS plan for her life. It was certainly not an easy road for her, in many ways. I’m asking myself this Christmas, how can I embrace where God has me, both the good and bad, and praise Him still? How can you?
Though He will always come to find us, humbly entering our mess, we can bring Him glory by moving towards Him in faith as well. Remember, He wants to be WITH YOU in your pain. He is not asking You to wash up and put on that cute holiday dress before you can show up at the ball. He takes your hand, and invites you into His presence anyway.
I’m still learning to dance, but here are some steps I’m taking towards His embrace this Christmas…
Honesty and humility – Nobody likes platitudes, but sometimes speaking the truth as a bandaid over our pain (whether it’s our self-talk or the words of others) helps, and other times, the wound just keeps festering underneath. I know, because when the pain is gushing out bright red, your sweet little heart feels like it just might explode and who wants that? Being honest with a few friends, my husband, and most importantly, God, has been vital to surviving this recent loss. It is pretty humbling to have to admit how much we can struggle to believe (especially when that word is plastered all over ads and commercials this time of year) but no one can really help if they don’t know what you’re going through.
Friends like Philemon – If you don’t have friends like Paul had in Philemon, who encourage your heart and stand with you in the battle, start asking God for them. But most likely, I’d be willing to bet there is at least one friend or family member who is wanting to be there for you. Will you let them in? I can totally empathize here, as asking for help is again, humbling, but thankfully the people who love me are patient, and I’m certain your support network will be too. Moving towards the pain, not away from it – Ouch. I know, I had to bring this up, right? Hiding in bed is pretty comforting too, but we’ve all got to face the day at some point. The pain and grief you are facing won’t go away, and maybe you are not ready to deal with the issues right now, but the longer we put it off, the slower the healing will be. Give yourself grace, but take some small steps every day to look at the wounds, allowing the Healer to bind them up and comfort you with His word. Forgiveness – If nothing else in this post has spoken to you, I’m guessing maybe this one might? Unforgiveness is such a huge obstacle to joy at Christmas time, considering all the people we are mingling with. Small talk won’t cut it if there are years of misunderstanding that need to be dealt with. What if you had that talk you’ve been putting off for so long? Have you considered forgiving yourself too? The Gospel is Christ coming to earth, entering our mess, making a way for hope, joy and PEACE with Him and others for eternity. Tears of worship – Remember those friends I mentioned? Another lovely friend comforted me with the fact that our tears are precious to God (He keeps them all in a bottle, the Word says, but it’s okay if you need that Olympic-size swimming pool next to mine 🙂 When prayer is hard, friends seem absent, and you’re just not ready to deal with the pain, tears are enough. He is WITH us, and willing to walk with us, wherever we are today, whether we are ready to heal or still curled up in a ball.
I hope you can find comfort in the mysterious joy of Emmanuel this Christmas, regardless of your circumstances. Remember that dusty, dirty stable where Christ was born? It’s okay if that’s what your heart, your home, or your relationships are looking like this Christmas. Jesus did not demand a perfect situation for His arrival on earth. He humbled Himself and came in the most vulnerable way. Wherever you are this Christmas, He wants to be WITH you there. Will you let Him in?
For additional encouragement, check out Emmanuel (Hallowed Manger Ground)by Chris Tomlin and Hope is Alive by Ellie Holcomb. I’ve had the second on repeat lately, it’s that good 🙂
Post partum is hard. I love being a mom and feel content many days, but at the same time, have to ask God for so much help every day. Change, contentment, and waiting are also hard parts of life. Three tough issues for me, and for many of you as well, I’m sure. So let’s talk about it! I’m writing from an ‘I’m-not-there-yet’ viewpoint, so take all of this as reflections on my journey, and apply through your own filters, most importantly, the Word of God.
Why are these things so hard? Change. I see our little man growing up so quickly, and though I love it, I just can’t keep up now that he’s moving or know how to prepare for what’s next! For me, it’s hard because whether what we know is good for us or not, we’re used to it. Comfortable in our cozy mess of sin, beauty, and braving the known rather than desperately clinging to God and others in the unknown. I’m there, friends. Change could be coming soon, and as much as I’ve wanted and prayed for it – I’m scared! What will it be like? Will I like it? How will my guys respond? Which leads to contentment. When we’re comfortable in our daily mess of beauty, love and life, we have found ways to be content, whether that includes idols or not. But when we are given something we’ve prayed for, and we’re still not content? I get really annoyed with myself, and can I say it? With God too. My heart remembers, again, that that next thing, season, or beautiful something is not going to fill my aching heart. But waiting on God is hard.
Waiting in the mess is where the beauty happens, but if we beg and cry out enough, often God does move us on to something new, even if it’s not best (Romans 1 – a hard word, for us, our communities, and country.) I usually do not enjoy waiting on God. And my little person reminds me how slow I am in waiting. But what I have slowly started to learn, is that patientlywaiting on God is directly related to knowing God. If we don’t seek to know God, why would we trust Him? Why would P trust me, unless he knew I loved him? Why should we, if all God is to us is a comforting Santa Claus who randomly answers our prayers? Perhaps that was harsh, but like I said, I’m there too. However, I am ever so slowly leaning into the whispers of God, the words of Life, and finding that He is in the still small voice, calling us to know Him, but usually not explaining what He is up to. He is the I AM. Emmanuel. He is All Mighty God, worthy of our praise and immune to our demands, but He IS with us. This is what we must ask Him to do in our hearts – help us to trust, when we don’t fully know Him or what He is doing. It’s a beautiful battle.
Why do we avoid the messy? Mom brain is in full force now…and I find half-finished tasks everywhere I look! I forget what I’m doing when my chunky monkey needs something NOW! (I also feel strangely productive about the smallest things getting done.) A nice reprieve lately is enjoying the Marvel TV shows with my husband while little P naps. Super Girl and The Flash, to name a couple. We feel burnt out on life after trial upon trial, and it’s nice to turn off your brain so you don’t keep thinking. My husband has always been able to do this – most guys can I think? But I am very new to the ‘nothing box’ in which you do, in fact, think about nothing!! I used to not be okay with that and insisted we watch dramas and documentaries, but as I watch my steady husband face life with a strong faith in God, rooted in Truth, I’ve realized that Supergirl and The Flash can be a gift too.
But not always. Anything can become an excessive addiction and distraction. We know when we are there, and we pull back or God does. (It feels nicer when we realize it first!) But He is gentle. And He will gently lead us into the hard places of life. I say that, knowing full well, and having experienced myself, that often trials come like a head-on train wreck, and you are begging for hope before you even understand what hit you. There’s no way to prepare for those times. Because we know (maybe only in our heads) that God is good and gracious, we must fight to find our way back to Him, cry out and ask Him to make it real in our hearts. We must refuse to believe lies that tell us He is holding out on us. We must find kind companions to remind us to care well for ourselves. But often, we must wait as He refines, slowly weaves our stories, and does not promise to give us the answers we want. We must accept the hard with the good. Up and down emotions (bring more hugs and grace), house is rarely put together (so I can legitimately ask for more help :)), and the most adorable little guy needs and wants me at every point of the day. (Hard, but good.) I like things to be wrapped neatly in a bow, but God prefers mind blowing glory for Himself and good for us, only in His timing. On That Day, (but hopefully before) we will want His will too.
We don’t need another Savior. Idolatry is a thief that promises hope, and robs you blind while you indulge. (Like most sin is!) It’s like a deceptive marketing scheme, or another gimmicky direct sales company banging on your door (trust me, not here bashing direct sales, but my husband has begged me to never sell again! 🙂 He says I’m not a sales person, and that is mostly true. I like meeting new people, talking and being persuasive, but asking you to buy something you might use once violates almost every part of who I am. Or maybe I’ve just been burned too many times by trying to sell with no results! Haha.)
Sorry for the rabbit trail. But bringing the bunny back around to the Garden of Life that God intended for us in Eden, we humans are hard-wired (in my belief) to choose poorly more often than not (Like, every time, except for the mercy of God). We are depraved, but we constantly look for alternate saviors! The next president will fix XYZ, a new church might be the answer, a different haircut, exercise regimen, book to read with plenty of formulas, or a relationship that starts out safe and quickly turns immoral. I’ve heard preachers say that we are idol-factories. And that doesn’t sound too far from the Truth. The Truth is, we have a Savior – Hurray!! And we can run to Him anytime – Amazing! [i.e. He doesn’t read texts and reply later 🙂 ] He HEARS us as soon as we cry out! And He will never turn away from us, no matter what we might throw at Him or wrestle through with Him – glory be to God!
We won’t stop sinning this side of heaven. The hope in our very slllooowww sanctification process is that we’re ALL there. Different issues, varying severity, controversial or not, we need to remind ourselves that the guys and gals in our spaces of living are hurting too, are wanting to grow (usually), need God desperately, are bound in sin and shame, and fail Him miserably, every day, just like we do. What the heck!? How am I giving you hope, you might say?
When we realize that we ALL are there, we can start asking for grace and forgiveness. We can talk about that hard thing because she probably understands, he usually has messed up that way too, and most of all, God was human like us, and fellowship in His sufferings is the most beautiful experience I have ever had. Living in a hard place, and instead of complaining, timidly walking into the Gates of Heaven and laying out my heart to him, asking – Have you been in this hard place? – changes and softens me like few other things. You will realize, as I have, that Jesus had to wait, he had to face drastic changes, he couldn’t trust anyone, but His Father, and even then, Father God had, for a moment, to turn away in His deepest time of need, so that we could have hope. We call that betrayal when it happens to us. My hope for all of us, in this changing world, filled with discontent, brokenness on all sides, battles that must be fought and others that needlessly destroy – we all have a broken place inside that needs a Savior. I pray you go to Him today. Pray that I will as well.
Excited to sit down after the babe is asleep and ‘chat’ with you all! God is always up to something good, and don’t you just sense that in the air? The smell of fall, the hardships that are turning into beautiful things, and my sweet baby that is now crawling. Oh. my. goodness. Can’t even believe it, but being a mom is by FAR the best job ever!
So, on to the post. We’re doing a book club – yay! I know I’m getting this out late to those in the cyber-world, but a serious infection + new baby and time flies. There is a small group of friends that are going to be chatting about the book Own Your Life and have started reading already, but I am eager to have others join if you’d like! We’ll be doing a live FB chat party on my NBG blog FB page every other Thursday night at 8 pm ET. All you have to do is buy the book, and chat along with us. If you’d like to join my email list, I’ll send along some other resources and links as well.
Thus far, we have read the Intro and Chapter 1, as well as discussed that in a local group. But do not fear, we are planning to have our live chat party next Thursday at 8 pm, at this link (my blog FB page) to discuss chapters 2 and 3, and we’ll probably jump back into some of the previous content as well. So you haven’t missed much and please do still join us!
I love, love the author, Sally’s, focus on intentional living. It applies to every area of life and if you’re a guy out there reading, you are welcome too, because leaving a godly legacy applies to us all. Sally talks a lot about accepting the circumstances we are in, learning to be content and work out our ‘life puzzle’, but not become stagnant and give in to mediocrity. She has an amazing way of challenging but in an encouraging way. You won’t regret reading the book, even if you can’t join us!
Sally Clarkson’s podcast for our Own Your Life study. Subscribe on iTunes or whatever podcast service you use or just link to this page for each new episode. Podcasts for this book started back in May, but I’ll update you on which ones correspond with the chapters we’re reading. Check out this one and this one for our upcoming FB chat.
That’s all for now, friends. Have a great weekend! Bring on the pumpkins, I say. 🙂