Tag Archives: joy

Letting God Manage My To-Do List

2 Feb

IMG_20160126_124010You may have noticed that my blog posts lately have just been updates on my girls. That’s not because I haven’t had thoughts I wanted to write about. I do have thoughts, and I do want to write – it’s just that when I sit down to write, sludge comes out. A few words emerge from the muck of my brain, but they’re incoherent and incomplete. Even writing this paragraph has been sludge-like, letters forming into words at the speed of molasses.

My problem is that I have too many thoughts. There are too many things going on in my head. This actually happens a lot. I’m struggling with things, so I go to God in prayer but I can’t even get words out about my emotions because there’s just too much all at once. It’s like there’s this giant bottleneck at the point of my thoughts merging into external expression. (At those times, I’m incredibly thankful that God knows my thoughts without my needing to actually say them!)

This also happens when I’m talking to Travis. Poor guy. I often start telling him about an idea I had but while I’m talking, a voice in my head counters it or offers a different idea, and I swerve mid-sentence to disagree with my idea before I have even finished telling Travis about the original.

Just as I am a chronic over-thinker, I am also a chronic over-planner. I suffer from the condition known as “Too much to do and too little time.” I frequently find myself stressed out over my own imposed to-do list – things that I alone have decided must be done.  During this past Christmas season, when I was just beginning to see this tendency of mine, I found myself thinking, “Well, when the holidays are over, things won’t be so crazy.” Before I had finished that thought, the dang voice in my head interrupted and said, “No they won’t.” And I realized, that voice was right.

I have been stressed out over my imposed to-do list since even before I had kids. There’s this blog post from my life pre-kid, lamenting my ability to turn even a day off into a stressful situation.

The truth is that I’m not stressed out because of the time of the year, or because I have two young kids, or even because one of those kids is a toddler tornado. The “too much to do” does not come from the laundry, dishes, cleaning, grocery shopping, diaper changing, mess cleaning reality of being a wife and mom.

I’m stressed out because of me. I’M THE PROBLEM.

My stress comes from wanting to do extra things like update baby books, create scrapbooks, write blog posts and books, plan elaborate birthday parties, repurpose furniture, decorate the house, go thrift store shopping, get my craft on.

In short: THINGS THAT AREN’T NECESSARY.

It’s the unnecessary things (that I like to think are necessary) stressing me out.

But here’s the tricky thing: it’s also the unnecessary things that bring me joy.

For several years, I fell into the trap of feeling like I “should” do certain things because they were either expected of me, or because I was trying to “keep up with the Joneses” as it were. But that’s not the case here. If I didn’t want to scrapbook, craft, decorate or update baby books, I wouldn’t. But I DO want to do all of those things – because I ENJOY THEM. (Case in point, back in high school, I planned a formal New Years Eve party in high school FOR FUN. Formal as in, we sold tickets, wore formal dresses and suits, and held it in a hotel ballroom. Kudos to my mom for indulging my whim and helping me with the process!)

So it’s not that I’m doing things I don’t want to do. I have whittled my list of All the Things down to those that I personally want to prioritize, but I still don’t have enough time in a day to fit it all in. It works on paper, and I have contemplated implementing a more rigid, set schedule for the purpose of using my time wisely and intentionally. But then the girls have several days when for some unknown reason, they don’t follow their usual routines and the whole idea of having a set schedule seems laughable and completely unrealistic.

Obviously I don’t have the answer to the question, “How do you do it all?” (Not that anyone’s asking me that anyway, ha!) I’m caught between wanting to be intentional with my time and wanting to be flexible for whatever the day holds. I don’t want to be completely rigid, but I also don’t want to fritter away minutes here and there on “who knows what.” Minutes add up to hours, and hours to days, and think of the things that can be accomplished with that kind of time!

The only thing that has brought me peace in the midst of this swirling whirlwind of emotions and plans is trusting God. Several years ago, God used a particularly stressful time of my life to teach me that while I love me a to-do list, it cannot serve as the agenda for my day. Peace comes from holding my plans with open hands, doing the One Thing in front of me, and entrusting the rest to God.

I like to picture God sitting at a big table, tall enough that I can’t see the top, with all of the items of my to-do list sitting before Him in 3-D form. He hands me the first item, saying, “Do this first.” And I do it. When I’m done, I go back to Him. He hands me another. “Now do this one.” My job is to complete the tasks He gives to me; His job is to show me which tasks to do.

Every Tuesday when Emma goes to daycare, the list of what I want to accomplish that day is 15 items long, all of which take at least an hour. There’s absolutely no chance under heaven that I’m going to even make a dent. So I lift the list to God in prayer and ask Him to help me spend my time wisely, and to trust Him to provide me with the time and energy for the things that He intends for me to get done.

In addition to prayer and the Spirit’s leading, part of what helps me determine what the One Thing to do is priorities. What’s the higher priority? Spending time with God should be #1, so that is often what I do first. I also give priority to things that are timely, like making a meal to bring to a family who has a new baby; scheduled, like doctor appointments; or necessary, like eating lunch.

Beyond that, I often experience the Spirit’s leading by feeling energized to do the task. There have been many times when I look at my to-do list and two things seem to be equally important, but I feel excited about doing one and drag my feet about the other. So I do the one I feel like doing. That doesn’t mean I never do the things that I drag my feet about – otherwise, I would never clean bathrooms! (As it is, I clean them much less often than I should.) But on the whole, it is much more enjoyable and efficient to tackle tasks when I feel up to them, instead of forcing myself to do them on a timeline I’ve arbitrarily determined on my own. Almost always, if I postpone a task that isn’t timely and I don’t feel energized for, I end up feeling energized for it a different day.

Obviously, though, I’m not in charge of everything, and many days involve unforeseen, annoying or undesirable circumstances. This way of approaching each day is still valid in those moments — because it’s God adding a few items of His own to my to-do list. Like I’ve said before, if I truly want joy, I must embrace the circumstances God allows.

Walking through my to-do list each day with God in prayer and faith that He will provide for what needs to get done, and take care of what doesn’t, has brought me immense peace and joy. And freedom! Before I learned this, I couldn’t sit and read a book without feeling guilty about not being productive. Now, I believe that if I want to sit down and enjoy a book, and have the opportunity to, I can do so without feeling guilty.

My desires are not something to be “overridden” by what I think I should be accomplishing. Jesus is not a taskmaster. He does not demand that I accomplish x and y each day. Rather, Jesus invites me to take His yoke upon me, and promises that when I do so, I will find rest for my soul. What is His yoke? “…having accomplished the work you gave me to do.” His yoke and burden were determined by God. He let the Holy Spirit guide Him through each moment of each day, and didn’t worry about how everything would be accomplished, or how He was being perceived, or what He should teach next, or where.  “For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak.” (John 12:49)

Unfortunately, I still let my to-do list act as my taskmaster and slave-driver too often. I still get stressed out and overwhelmed by having too many things I want to do and too little time. But I’m making progress. I’m growing. I’m learning to walk by faith, and not by the sight of seeing my to-do list checked off. 😉 I do believe that God cares more about character and connecting with others, than He does about productivity and efficiency.

As for finding time to do everything I want to do, I don’t have an answer. Instead, I bring myself back again and again to this quote from Elisabeth Elliot: “When there is a deep restlessness for which we can find no explanation, it may be due to the greed of being — what our loving Father never meant us to be. Peace lies in the trusting acceptance of His design, His gifts, His appointment of place, position, capacity. It was thus that the Son of Man came to earth — embracing all that the Father willed Him to be, usurping nothing — no work, not even a word — that the Father had not given Him.”

If God intends for me to do something, whether it’s as important as spend time with Him or as trivial as making a scrapbook, He will provide the time and energy for it. I can trust that God will fulfill His purpose for me. My #1 job is walking in daily dependence on Him.

“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:16)

Behold Your God {2016 Focus}

5 Jan

IMG_20160105_153553

“How we behold determines if we hold joy. Behold glory and be held by God.

“I know what I want: to see deeply, to thank deeply, to feel joy deeply.

“Don’t I give God most glory when I am fully alive? And I am most fully alive beholding God!”  (Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts, pages 113 & 118)

……………

“I don’t want a new better life in 2016. I just want new eyes to see that my life is already staggeringly beautiful.”  (Glennon Melton, Momastery, Best New Year’s Ever)

……………

“And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.” (Genesis 1:31)

“Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.” (Psalm 119:18)

“They shall see the glory of the LORD, the majesty of our God. Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who have an anxious heart, ‘Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you.'” (Isaiah 35:2c-4)

“Get you up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good news; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good news; lift it up, fear not; say to the cities of Judah, ‘Behold your God!’ Behold, the LORD God comes with might, and his arm rules for him; behold, his reward is with him. He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.” (Isaiah 40:9-10)

……………

Over the past few days, God has spoken to me. Through the Tim Keller sermon we listened to on our drive home from Grand Rapids. Through a song we sang in church on Sunday. Through a blog. Through Ann Voskamp’s book that I can still quote verbatim though I haven’t read it in several years. Through Bible verses.

And He’s saying: This year, BEHOLD ME. Behold My Power and My Glory.

Because honestly, as I stare down another year, I am fearful. I am scared about what this year has in store for me and my family. Usually, a new year brings excitement and freshness, a renewed commitment to priorities, a chance to start again. And while I do feel that, I also feel SCARED.

It’s not a mystery as to why I feel this way. My mom’s battle against cancer has been sobering and shown me how not-in-control of our lives we really are — making the idea of New Years resolutions seem rather petty and laughable. “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.'” (James 4:13-15)

“Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand.” (Proverbs 19:21)

I think these passages in James and Proverbs show that it’s not wrong to make plans. It’s just wrong to trust our plans more than God, and to live like we know what’s best for us. We may have ideas about what good things we want to happen in 2016, but we don’t know what’s best — because often, God giving us what’s best looks nothing like we expect it to, and truthfully, it’s not what we, in our limited insight and vantage point, would choose. Yet, the truth remains that “no good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly” (Psalm 84:11).

So I feel God prompting me to hold this year — and all it will contain, whether good or bad — with open hands, to wait and watch expectantly for Him to prove Himself faithful, and to behold His power and glory. I believe, in the depth of my being, that God’s way is the best way. It has to be, if He is the God the Bible says He is, and the God I believe He is.

But it takes FAITH, oodles and oodles of faith, to believe this day in and day out, in the mundane mediocrity of the everyday and the heart-wrenching trials of the hardest times. I need new eyes and new ears to see and hear God’s glory and power in my life. The glory of His presence already surrounds me; I just need help recognizing it.

So that’s what I’m praying and hoping for in 2016 — new eyes to see how staggeringly beautiful my life already is, because no matter what happens this year, my greatest need is already met: I have a Savior.

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

My sin—oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!—
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

All Grace Abounding

27 Oct

IMG_20151013_151122On my way to the grocery store while Travis was in Colorado for eight days elk hunting, I realized that sadly, his being gone actually didn’t feel that much different than his being home (in terms of how much I do taking care of the house and girls). He’s been working so much that it feels somewhat odd when he’s not working; when weekends are spent doing non-work things, like hanging out, running errands, chipping away at projects; when I actually see my husband for more than an hour or two at a time.

His work schedule has been so crazy for the last I-can’t-even-remember-how-long that instead of waiting for Travis to go do fun stuff like the zoo, corn maze, and pumpkin patch, I’ve just started doing those things without him. I’ve stopped expecting him to get off work at a certain time. I’ve (mostly) stopped hoping he’ll spend time with us in the evening. I’m still disappointed when Travis mentions that he has to work for a few hours, especially on weekends, but overall, I’ve adjusted my expectations to be that Travis won’t be hanging out with us.

Do I think that that’s the ideal way to handle this situation? No. I believe strongly in the importance of a husband and father spending quality time with his wife and kids, so I will fight against Travis’ absence being a long-term normal thing. But let me tell you, adjusting my expectations in this way has been a heck of a lot easier – on both me and my marriage – than feeling constant disappointment and unrealized hopes. Doing fun things with my girls and staying busy helps me cope with the ache of a heart that craves more time with my husband.

Travis doesn’t like working this much. He would cut his hours back to a simple 40 in a heartbeat if he could. He’d take more vacation days if he could. He’d be thrilled to spend his evenings and weekends with me and the girls instead of clocking hours in his office (which we’ve nicknamed the Chateau D’if) if he could. “Things are crazy right now, but they should get better soon” has been the echoing refrain of this past year.

But I’m starting to think through the possibility of things not getting better soon, the possibility of this being the reality of our lives for the foreseeable future. (Because that is a very real possibility.) It would be easy to let this situation drift indeterminably while optimistically thinking it’s temporary and have it end up altering what we consider to be our “normal” – that we’d get used to doing things without daddy and it’d no longer feel strange for him to not be there. Indifference to his absence would replace our hope for things to change.

Often, it takes the possibility of a situation not being temporary to make us realize how challenging the circumstance actually is. It’s like, as long as the spark of hope remains that you’re almost to the other side of the trial, you can stay strong and keep trucking. But once you realize that “the other side” might be a long way away, that spark of hope dies and you give up.

It reminds me of Florence Chadwick, the first woman to swim the English Channel both ways. In 1952, she attempted to swim from Catalina Island to mainland California. She had been swimming 15 hours, was physically and emotionally exhausted, and ended up quitting only 800 meters (1/2 mile) from shore (which to any seasoned swimmer is practically nothing!). “All I could see was the fog. I think if I could have seen the shore, I would have made it,” she said the next day at a news conference. {source}

Like Florence, I often stop swimming because I can’t see the end. I’m stubborn and determined so I survive for a while by hunkering down and gritting my teeth through trials, willing myself to stay strong until it’s over. “Just get through this. It’ll get better.” But rarely do I make it to the finish line before my resolve gives out. The tipping point is almost always caused by something that, on its own, is small and inconsequential – but added to the heap of stress, fear and pain that has been brimming underneath the surface of my life, it’s the last straw. The dam breaks. A flood of pent-up emotions comes rushing out.

But just like the rainbow that appeared when the waters receded after the great flood of Noah’s time, each flood of my own emotions brings with it with the blessed awareness that once again, I’ve been trying to survive life on my own strength. As seeing the shoreline would’ve most likely given Florence the influx of strength and motivation she needed to persevere, so also seeing the big picture will also strengthen and motivate me.

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What is the big picture? Surely it is not that this trial of Travis’ working so much will come to an end sometime – because that is not certain. Rather, the big picture that gives me hope is that God is sufficient in all things. His sufficiency in being, and providing, everything I need is the way through this trial, and any trial for that matter. For those who work multiple jobs, make minimum wage and still scrape by, this stress of working is a constant reality. But we all find joy in trying circumstances the same way: by looking to God.

Jesus says:

“The thief [of this world] comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10)

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation, but take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.” (John 14:1)

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” (John 15:9-11)

Joy in God amidst earthly strife is possible – Jesus says it is. He tells us to trust Him, abide in His love for us, and focus on the end – He has already overcome the world. We cannot see the end ourselves; we are stuck swimming in the fog. But God sees the end. And it is by banking on His future promises and His current provision of grace and strength that we can persevere and not give up.

“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:8)

The apostle Paul knew what it was like to persevere in the face of trials. In 2 Corinthians 6:3-10, he writes, “We put no obstacles in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love; by truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; through honor and dishonor, through slander and praise. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything.”

In chapter 11, he continues, “Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.” (v. 24-28)

“For we do not want you to ignorant, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.” (2 Cor. 1:8-9)

“But [the Lord] said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor. 12: 9-10

Paul welcomed his trials and hardships as opportunities for him to learn and live out dependence on Christ. As anyone who has been pushed past their capacity or strength knows, that’s often what it takes to break our attempts at self-sufficiency and get us down on our knees before God. In that spirit, I am trying to fight against my natural tendency to grit my teeth through this and instead, embrace this as another opportunity for learning how to live fully in a trying circumstance, trusting God to use it in our lives for our good and His glory.

So Travis and I have been discussing, “If this is our reality for the foreseeable future, what changes do we need to make to live well right now?” Not surprisingly, the changes we are trying to make address the issues that have caused the most problems between us:

1. Communicate in a helpful way.

When Travis has to work in the evening and I am disappointed, I have often expressed that disappointment as anger – because frankly, I’m mad he has to work. But not mad at him, just at the situation. However, he perceives my anger as being directed at him because he is, after all, the one who has to work. The helpful way to communicate my disappointment (according to the man himself) would be to say, “I understand you have to work, but I’m disappointed we can’t hang out.” Duly noted.

To Travis’ credit, he has done a pretty good job (after learning the hard way) of letting me know about his additional work demands a day or two in advance. It helps me to know what to expect. When I have time to process, I can respond better than I can when the situation is sprung upon me at the last minute.

2. Have family time free from the 3 P’s: phones, projects and the paper.

This one is mostly for me, because one of my love languages is quality time. Since we don’t have as much time together as a family as we want, we need to maximize the time we do have. And in my opinion, it just isn’t quality time when the whole family is doing their own thing. Our biggest distractions are our phones, the newspaper and “small, quick” house projects. So, from the time that Travis gets off work to the time that Annabelle goes to bed (which is usually 1-2 hours), those distractions are off-limits.

3. Prioritize date nights.

This is something we’ve (I’ve) been lax about because it’s my job to find a babysitter and I just haven’t put the time or effort into it. But now that Annabelle is 7 months old and can eat some solid food, we wouldn’t have to bring her along, so it would be a true date night! That would be awesome. I need to get my butt in gear and work on this. Our goal is one date night every month.

4. Be generous, but realistic.

There have been numerous good or fun things that we’ve had to say no to because they would have just stretched us too thin. It’s definitely a balancing act to know how much to serve and help out, or when to enjoy time with friends, and when you need to pull back and focus on your own family – but it’s a balance worth striving for. My natural tendency in hardship is to focus all my resources on myself and my family – because in my selfishness, my problems seem the biggest – but that kind of self-preservation usually just ends up magnifying the problem. It nurtures my soul to serve and love others, even when I’m experiencing a hard situation.

This also applies to my marriage. Hunting is an annual sore subject for us, just because it takes so much time – there’s packing, setting up stands, sighting in guns, target practice, traveling, then the actual hunting, and if they’re successful, meat butchering. The selfish part of me thinks that it’s just more time spent away from me and the girls for a “stupid hobby.” But the loving part of me knows that my husband loves hunting and since he spends the majority of his time providing for his family, he could use some time to relax and recharge doing something that je really enjoys (and almost his whole family hunts so it’s also time spent with them).

More and more, I am learning that the balance I need in life is only achievable through the power of the Holy Spirit. As a mere human, I am only capable of swinging from one extreme to another. In this case, from staking my heart on my expectations and demanding my own way to leaving expectations behind in a wake of indifference and cold-heartedness. But with the Spirit’s power and presence, I can continue desiring more time with my husband without that hope smothering our marriage, and I can be content with the time we do have together without losing hope that that time will increase. That balance is possible only when I am staking my heart first and foremost on God. God alone is sufficient in all things.

“And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency [or contentment] in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.” (2 Corinthians 9:8)

Embrace Your Life {Or, Why I’m Writing a Book on Joy}

3 Feb

Just the other day, I was driving from Rochester to pick Travis up at the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport and had found a Christian radio station to listen to. I’m not a huge fan of radio in general, but I usually choose to listen to Christian radio over Country or The Hits because 1) There are fewer commercials, 2) I don’t have to worry about the song lyrics, 3) I like at least 60% of the songs, and 4) Christian songs can serve as good reminders of Truth.

But every once in a while, I hear something in a song or some musician says something that I think is not entirely helpful. On Sunday, it was this statement:

“The only thing we have to fear is living an insignificant life.”

I disagree with this statement on so many levels, it gets me riled up. It’s statements like that that are the reason I’m writing a book on how joy in life is found in accepting the circumstances God allows, and embracing your current place as God’s will for you.

You see, I struggled for years believing statements like the one above. I thought that God’s will for me must be Something Other than what I was doing, Something Out There that I hadn’t yet discovered, and I went crazy running in circles trying to discover what God’s purpose for me was, and what I should be doing in order to be doing His will.

All the while, the Enemy (Satan) was laughing hysterically, thrilled to the core that he had gotten me to focus on Me and My Life and How I’m Living Out My Faith, instead of focusing on Christ and His Cause and His Power to change me from the inside out.

Here’s what I discovered: God’s will is that we focus on Him and let the rest go. We lay down our expectations and standards and ideas about what makes life significant, and we spend time at our Savior’s feet. As we grow in our relationship with God, we are inspired to pray more. Our eyes are opened to the way the Spirit works, and we start watching for His direction and guidance throughout the day, instead of living out our own agenda. The most amazing thing about living this way is that it brings us the most joy, and God the most glory. Because He gets to be all-sufficient, and we get to be all-dependent.

If you’re like me, you might be thinking “But if stop striving for things in my life and self to change and make a difference, how will anything get done?!?!” To that, I would answer: Make God your focus and it will happen. It is impossible to truly fix your eyes on God and stay the same. Like A.W. Tozer so eloquently put it in The Pursuit of God, “The man who has struggled to purify himself and has had nothing but repeated failures will experience real relief when he stops tinkering with his soul and looks away to the perfect One. While he looks at Christ, the very things he has so long been trying to do will be getting done within him. It will be God working in him to will and to do.”

Another question you might have is “What do you mean by ‘look to God’ or ‘fix your eyes on God’?” What I mean is: Study the Bible. Read commentaries and wise Christian authors. Pray about everything, even the menial stuff. Meditate on verses. Sing and listen to worship songs. Practice forms of fasting. Research what God says in the Bible about cultural issues. And I say all that with a caveat: The purpose of doing those things is connecting with God, not building up your spiritual resume or checking off things on a to-do list. If you feel guilty about not doing something, examine why. Maybe you’re just not there yet. If your desire is lacking, bring that very thing to God in prayer, and ask Him to change your heart.

Fixing your eyes on God also means turning away from your expectations and standards about life. You stop trying to determine your life’s worth. To borrow the words of Tim Keller, if you have been declared righteous by the blood of Jesus, accept that the verdict is in and get out of the courtroom. Then move forward in faith that if something in your life needs changing, or if God wants you to go in a different direction, He will tell you. Jesus says in John 10:27, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” If the message is truly from God, He will keep repeating it until you get it.

What is the result of living this way? Freedom. Rest. Joy. Peace. No more do you have to worry that you might not be doing everything God intended for you to do. No more do you have to agonize over the fact that you fall so short of who you want to be. God knows that you can’t do anything without Him — and He doesn’t expect you to. What He wants is YOU. He wants a relationship. He wants your honesty and humility that comes to Him and urges for Him to accomplish in your life through the Spirit what you want to have happen, but cannot do yourself.

He doesn’t want your failed attempts at living what you think is a significant life. He wants YOU, fully surrendered, willing to accept whatever He has for you — even if, especially if it’s nothing like you pictured it would be. Even if it’s nothing glamorous or monumental or earth-shattering. Even if it involves a dead-end job, or mounds of laundry, or tasks that no one appreciates or even notices.

Or maybe you’re one of those rare people who is called to something big (and you know specifically what it is), and it scares the poop out of you. Maybe you wish you could just stay in the shadows and not take a risk. Being faithful to God’s calling for you is taking that leap and trusting Him to be everything He has promised to be.

So instead of saying “The only thing we have to fear is living an insignificant life,” I would say:

The only thing that brings us true joy is living the life that God has for us, in dependence on the Spirit, for God’s glory and favor.

Keep your eyes on the Savior, and rest in the good that He has planned for you.

Worth Repeating {11/10/14}

10 Nov

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Being a stay-at-home mom is hard. I struggle with loneliness (because you’re alone, and yet not) a lot, even though I’ve been getting back into the swing of normal life. My kneejerk reaction to emotions that I don’t like is numbness – going through life on autopilot. But depending on God during the hard times meaning acknowledging the hardness, and trusting Him to be sufficient in the midst of it all.

That’s why I like this quote that I found on Pinterest. Such a great reminder that the hard times have their purpose.

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Worth Repeating {10/27/14}

27 Oct

Now that I am finally emerging from the first-trimester exhaustion and can actually do something during Emma’s naps other than take a nap myself, I’m hoping to get back into blogging regularly! It’s been a while since I posted a Worth Repeating post, so to recap, this is a weekly series where I share quotes, sayings and verses that I enjoyed and found to be worth repeating.

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While up at elk camp, I re-read C.S. Lewis’ classic book The Screwtape Letters, and loved this description of how God wants his creatures (us) to embrace who He created us to be – and even, dare I say, like ourselves. Like David said in Psalm 139, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”

I think that sometimes Christians confuse the idea of hating our sin with hating ourselves. Yes, I am sinful. Yes, I have a long way to go in the process of sanctification. But God created me to be who I am, and I can only reach my true potential in life when I learn to embrace and accept all of Me, instead of wishing I were different. When I can embrace and rest in who God created me to be (sin aside), I can stop trying to prove myself. And when I stop trying to prove myself, humility and servant-heartedness become possible.

In case you’ve never heard of The Screwtape Letters, it’s a novel in which an uncle demon is writing letters to his nephew about how to win a man’s soul to their side (Satan’s).

“The Enemy [God] wants to bring the man to a state of mind in which he could design the best cathedral in the world, and know it to be the best, and rejoice in the fact, without being any more (or less) or otherwise glad at having done it than he would be if it had been done by another. The Enemy wants him, in the end, to be so free from any bias in his own favour that he can rejoice in his own talents as frankly and gratefully as in his neighbour’s talents—or in a sunrise, an elephant, or a waterfall. He wants each man, in the long run, to be able to recognise all creatures (even himself) as glorious and excellent things. He wants to kill their animal self-love as soon as possible; but it is His long-term policy, I fear, to restore to them a new kind of self-love—a charity and gratitude for all selves, including their own; when they have really learned to love their neighbours as themselves, they will be allowed to love themselves as their neighbours” (71-72).

Worth Repeating {8/19/14}

19 Aug

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One of the most influential books in my life has been Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts. It was while reading her book that my eyes were opened to the immense ingratitude in my own life, and I started to learn that true joy comes through accepting.

It is a daily lesson, as my first reaction to situations or circumstances that I don’t like is to reject them. And as I sit with those emotions of anger and frustration — knowing that if I just accepted what God was allowing, I would find joy — I am reminded of these apt words from One Thousand Gifts:

“In this wilderness, I keep circling back to this: I’m blind to joy’s well every time I really don’t want it. The well is always there. And I choose not to see it. Don’t I really want joy? Don’t I really want the fullest life? For all my yearning for joy, longing for joy, begging for joy–is the bald truth that I prefer the empty dark? Prefer drama? Why do I lunge for control instead of joy? Is it somehow more perversely satisfying to flex control’s muscle? Ah–power–like Satan. Do I think Jesus-grace too impotent to give me the full life? Isn’t that the only reason I don’t always swill the joy? If the startling truth is that I don’t really want joy, there’s a far worse truth. If I am rejecting the joy that is hidden somewhere deep in this moment–am I not ultimately rejecting God? Whenever I am blind to joy’s well, isn’t it because I don’t believe in God’s care? That God cares enough about me to always offer joy’s water, wherever I am, regardless of circumstance…

The well is always here. God is always here–precisely because He does care.