Tag Archives: life

A Perspective for the Messiness of Motherhood

18 Jul

I am hemorrhaging sanity.

And it’s not just that I can’t remember to do things, or recall basic facts. Or that I can’t think a coherent thought or accomplish anything requiring adult mental capacities.

I’m talking complete psychosis. A full mental breakdown. Like I’m one horrible day away from pulling a stunt like Vivi Abbott Walker did in Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood: just up and leaving one day, telling no one where I’m going, or for how long. Except I’d probably escape to Canada instead of Mexico, simply due to proximity.

Motherhood is relentless. And truth be told, it’s full of a lot things that are just plain boring, and other things that are actually odious. Stay-at-home moms like myself work all day doing things that immediately get undone. There is no actual task that is ever completed once and for all. My job is to simply keep the chaos at bay. If my house looks exactly the same at the end of the day as it did at the beginning, I have been productive.

In my finer moments, I actually don’t mind doing dishes or laundry. I don’t mind grocery shopping or meal planning. (I do hate cleaning, and it shows.) But after a while, doing the same thing over and over to simply maintain the status quo starts to wear on you.

And that doesn’t even touch the tip of the parenting iceberg. Take the never-ending loop of household chores, add in a screaming toddler and whiny preschooler, subtract any time for yourself—that’s the recipe for total mental meltdown.

I can’t help but compare myself to the women out there who seem to be unruffled by anything, who seem completely confident and competent in their parenting decisions, who have tuned their family routines to be a finely humming orchestra, and who still have time to get ready each day, make elaborate and fun meals, blog, write books, pursue hobbies, exercise, and take amazing Instagram pictures of it all. I mean, who are these women?!?!

That’s not me. I’m just throwing stuff at the wall and seeing what sticks. My life is a total crapshoot. I don’t have the confidence or insight to know what routine or rhythm would work well for our family, and even when I do have the slightest hint, I lack the discipline to carry it out.

It’s right about here that the voices in my head start piping up. One says that I should just extend grace to myself because I have two young kids, one of which has not slept well for the past 9 months of her life, and the other is a very high-energy, high-need child. The other voice says that making changes to our family routine isn’t about increasing productivity or trying to run a business on the side. It’s about survival. Because I am literally losing my mind, and that is not working for me.

I haven’t even figured out how to accomplish the basics on a regular basis. I frequently find myself completely over grocery shopping and meal planning, so I just don’t do it. Travis asks what’s for dinner, and I shrug. What I want to say is “I don’t effing care, you figure it out.” Instead, I stumble to the kitchen on the fumes of willpower and hodge-podge something together using frozen vegetables and a box of pasta.

I clean bathrooms about once a month. I change sheets about every two. I can’t remember the last time I vacuumed downstairs and we have never washed windowsills in our current house (even though they are disgustingly filthy).  The girls can sense whenever I’m mustering up motivation to accomplish something out of the ordinary because without fail, that’s when they unleash their most unruly tantrums.

All my fantasies lately are about relaxation. It’s me, a good book, and a bed. I check out of my life by reading some brain candy. Reading transitions into naptime. After naptime comes leisure time. Remember leisure time, time to do the things you enjoy? Does that still exist somewhere in the world?

Instead, I find myself trapped in a life that requires me to spend all of my time and energy on things I don’t want to do, like change poopy diapers, fix 10 snacks a day, clean up messes and spills every five minutes, schlep four armloads of stuff to and from the beach for an hour of play, and my favorite, deal with two screaming, tantrum-y kids simultaneously while my husband is out fishing.

The cherry on top of the crap sundae is the nitpicky bickering in marriage over NOTHING and EVERYTHING caused by both spouses being overextended and stressed out. Somedays I’m *this close* from going to bed for the rest of the year.

Don’t get me wrong, I have a wonderful husband and my marriage is actually in a pretty good place. Even so, it often echoes the theme of my life right now: EVERYTHING IS A BATTLE. It’s a battle to be a loving spouse. To let things go in the name of unity and love instead of demanding that things be done or said how I want them to. To find time and mental energy for doing thoughtful, kind things for my husband.  To view him as more than just the replacement babysitter or the impediment to doing what I want.

It’s a battle to parent. To control my own emotions and use wisdom instead of anger and heavy-handedness. To balance spending time with the girls and getting things done. To just get enough freakin’ sleep.

It’s a battle to manage my household. To maintain the necessary energy and level of giving a crap to keep up on all the monotonous chores. To not compare my house organization and decorating style to other women’s, or to at least not feel like mine’s a bag of lumpy cheese compared to theirs.

It’s a battle to be a Christian. To find time for Bible study, prayer, evangelism, serving, and all the things I think I “should” be doing.

It’s a battle to have personal time. Actually, let’s be honest, the battle is to be ok with not having personal time, with having a long list of things I’d like to do but don’t have the time or energy to do after having spent all of my time and energy herding toddlers, completing the basic tasks of survival, and preventing our house from being condemned.

But in the midst of all this “NESS” (as my old boss Carol Ann Kelly used to say), you want to know what’s awesome?

Jesus came for messes like me.

We Christians often say to unbelievers that you don’t have to clean yourself up in order to come to Jesus. In fact, “if you tarry until you’re better, you will never come at all.”

What we don’t often say is that this is a message for us too. Because even when you put your faith and trust in Jesus, you don’t stop being a mess. You don’t stop being a sinner in need of a Savior. In fact, sanctification–the process of becoming more like Jesus in your character and spirit—almost always involves seeing more of your sin, admitting your mess, and humbling yourself through repentance and apologies. Sanctification is sacred work, yes, but it is borne of blood, sweat, and tears. “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:11).

I usually think of discipline as “the practice of training people to obey rules or a code of behavior, using punishment to correct disobedience,” but it can also be defined as “the practice of training oneself to do something in a controlled and habitual way.” Learning to repent and apologize for my own sin is discipline, but so is spending my days doing things I don’t want to do. It is painful in the moment to persevere in the cycle of clean, wash, organize, tidy—especially when my flesh is screaming “I don’t want to!”—but this verse in Hebrews reassures me that IT IS ALL WORTH IT. In my unbelief cloaked by twilight, all I can see is despair, discouragement, and the lie that It Will Always Be Like This. But at the faintest hint of dawn, when tendrils of sunlight touch dewy grass, my languid soul is revived and I am reminded that God is using even this to accomplish His purposes, “…that he who began a good work in [me] will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).

So then, the truth of God’s love and redemption remains the same. It is just as true on the days when the refrigerator is bare, I’ve lost my temper three times before noon, and I never change out of my pajamas, as it is on the days when I sneak in a run and Bible study before breakfast, the girls are getting along, and I am caught up on chores.

And that’s the challenge—are we willing to come to Jesus at all times, in our competence or in our mess? Are we willing to surrender our life, whether it’s going well or it’s hitting the fan, to God and His purposes? Or will we stand far off, demanding control and wishing life were different, unwilling to let ourselves rest or be healed because of our pride and stubbornness?

The messiness of motherhood reminds me of a beloved quote from Joel Warne’s book Soul Craving:

There are times, though, when transformation simply doesn’t come, times when our hunger for a new way to be remains unfed. At those times… simply rest with God in your problem. Simply be with him in your sin, your emptiness, your failure. Rest quietly with him in your confusion, your paralysis. Sit next to him in the wound that won’t heal, the pain that won’t subside, the desert that never ends… Here the still center of your love affair with Jesus Christ rests steady, unmoved, unquenched, unconquered by your unresolved messes. Here your love for God really does take precedence. It is no longer a means to an end, a kind of convenient tool to work your own liberation…

Sometimes, our very desire to be transformed into the new creation God wants us to be must be considered rubbish in comparison with simply knowing Christ. Is it enough for you to simply love him? To draw close to him, to offer him your affection? If intimately abiding with Jesus produced no change at all within you, could you be satisfied to simply remain with him in all your painful, unresolved stuff? (199-201).

Even in the messiness of motherhood, we must come to Jesus. We must keep our eyes fixed on Him, and Him alone. Not on Pinterest or Facebook. Not on “other moms” or “other bloggers.” Not on what we “should be able to handle” or what life was like before kids. ON CHRIST ALONE. On His provision of mercy and grace for this moment, right now. He wants us to live in continual dependence on Him and His Spirit, and He will use the circumstances of our lives to get us down on our knees in humble submission.

How does one reclaim sanity amid the never-ending demand and crisis that is parenting?

I don’t know.

But I do know that “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1) and “the LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever” (Psalm 138:8).

And with promises like that, who needs sanity?

Worth Repeating {5/19/16}

19 May

In honor of my 9th wedding anniversary, I edited a post from the archives. It’s still as true today as it was then. God gets all the credit and glory for my marriage. Hope you enjoy it.

worth_repeating

Originally posted February 24, 2012

 

 

There was a time in our marriage when Travis and I pretty much went our own ways on the weekends. We asked each other, “What are your plans for this weekend?” and both did our own things.

But in September 2011, things changed.

We still ran the same errands on the weekends. But we ran them together. Yes, it meant things took longer. And that we spent time doing things that weren’t our first pick (grocery shopping for him, Home Depot browsing for me). But we were together. And we were having FUN!

We also went on one impromptu date each weekend – which gave us time to talk, laugh and enjoy one another.

And those things made something else happen.

When Travis came home from work, instead of giving him a slight head nod and a “Hey beads” while I continued making dinner or changed out of my running clothes, I’d intentionally stop what I was doing and go hug and kiss him hello. He was happier because I was talking his love language. I was happier because I actually wanted to hug and kiss him (which sadly, hadn’t always been the case).

When I talked to him on the phone, I enjoyed hearing his voice.

When he smiled and his eyes crinkled, I felt so in love with him.

We laughed over well-timed movie line quotes and inside jokes.

We watched the dogs frolic from our kitchen window, silently daring them to jump the fence.

When Travis mused aloud about Roth IRAs and whether or not he should take the new job, instead of rolling my eyes, ignoring him, or lamenting that we’ve already talked about this, I listened and offered him my advice…again.

Travis would ask me to come look at, or help him with something, and I didn’t get frustrated.

Travis wanted to buy a ridiculously expensive antelope hunting tag and I didn’t demand the same amount of money to spend on myself.

I won a pool table competition and instead of running out to buy a new shirt with my $30, I offered to take Travis out to lunch.

The best part about all of this? 

I did none of it. It all happened organically, by the grace of God. I honestly look back at all this and think, How did this happen? I surely did not cause this! This is not MY handiwork!

God did this. And He did it by inspiring my obedience in one little thing: painting our front door brick red. I hated that door. Oh, how I hated it. I painted it once, 3 coats of painstaking strokes. Only to have the beautiful red paint peel off in my hands as I removed the painter’s tape. The door remained white for at least another a month. It took me that long to get over being angry.

Finally, at Travis’ request, I tackled it once again, this time armed with primer. I still remember standing in the hallway next to our kitchen, glaring at the door. I did. not. want. to paint the door again. I was done with it. But out of a desire to serve my husband by helping with a house project, I did it. And I swear, that was a turning point in the way I thought about our marriage.

Things only got better from there. Yes, we still had disagreements and tension from time to time. But it was no longer the door-slamming, fruit-throwing, cuss-word-yelling that our marriage my responses once were (Travis has not resorted to my form of temper tantrums).

Which proves that I, unfortunately, do not have any marriage advice. Because I could not have written this story. God’s ideas are always infinitely better than mine, though often harder to understand. Why did it take me almost 5 years of marriage to get to that place? Why did God bless me with my husband, though I abused him for so long? Why am I still learning these same lessons in different contexts after almost a decade of marriage? I don’t know.

But I do know that the best advice for anything is: Get to know God. The real God of the Bible. Jesus, who died for your sins. He is amazing. And He is the only answer you ever need.

That is not just a trite saying. I don’t say that flippantly. I say it with the full force of my being and my heart behind it. I say it as I look back on 5 years of hating the wife I was and wanting to throw in the towel, and another 4 years of still falling short of who I want to be. I believe that God has the power to redeem and glorify any marriage, even ones that have been torn apart by infidelity, loss or deceit. Because this God – He ransomed us from our sins. He has granted us eternal life. Surely He can do ALL things!

Put Him to the test. Ask Him to do amazing things in your marriage. Stay alert to the ways He works in your life. He will stun you.

Though I am dry and barren

By grace this love springs forth

Love for You and Your kingdom

Joy in Your glory Lord

2015 Recap

7 Jan

Last January, I said that I had two specific goals:

  1. Give birth.
  2. Start and finish the Northwoods Triathlon on August 8.

Check and check.

The other, less specific goals I mentioned (and an update):

  • Don’t let newborn sleep deprivation turn me into a raging b!t@h. (Trust God to provide sleep.) I have dealt with this much better!
  • Pray for and see my mom be healed. Still praying!
  • Spend more time playing with Emma instead of getting stuff done. Still struggle with this. Some days are better than others.
  • Support my husband more sacrificially and selflessly. Uff da. This is an area where I need to grow but I have had some victories this year!
  • Read more books and watch less TV. Currently sucked into Gilmore Girls, but I’ll be done with the last season soon and then I’m cutting myself off!
  • Go on bike rides in the summer. I biked during triathlon training, but that was it. We plan to get a bike trailer this summer and go on family rides!
  • Be more intentional about inviting people over, or getting together. I get together with friends for play dates on a regular basis, but we still would like to have families over for dinner more often.
  • Finish my book and either self-publish, or seek publication! Book is nowhere near finished. It is SO hard to find the time and energy!

Goals aside, this past year was challenging because of Travis’ working so much and my mom’s health situation. But it was also filled with lots of fun memories. I went through my phone and here’s a smattering of the Best of 2015.

2016-01-05_12.47.47(From top to bottom, left to right) 1) Pregnant! Due April 8. 2) Fun painting with Emma 3) It’s a girl! Annabelle was born on March 27. 4) Big sister + little sister. 5) New swingset from Nana Beth and Papa Al! 6) Spring’s in bloom! 7) Nana Sheri & Annabelle — we spent several weeks down in Rochester during the summer when Travis was traveling for work. 8) Emma at my parents’ cabin throwing rocks into the lake off the dock. 9) Kriswold family reunion at our place.

2016-01-05_12.52.271) Emma feeding a deer at Paul Bunyan Animal Land. We also went to the Safari North and Pine Grove Zoos. 2) Emma “painting” with yogurt all over the deck and sliding glass door. What a mess! 3) Annabelle’s faux hawk in full force! 4) At the beach, boy! 5) Emma holding baby on her lap. 6) We re-landscaped the planter in our driveway. 6) Lots of chalk drawing happened this summer. Other daily outdoor activities were playing outside on the dock by the river, picking wild raspberries on our property, pushing Emma down a small hill in her wagon or Little Tikes truck, and walking or riding her trike down the driveway to get the mail. 7) Sweet baby. Love this picture of her. 8) Emma taking her baby for a walk with no pants on.2016-01-05_12.56.301) Aftermath of the devastating storm in July. Picture taken just north of us a few miles. 2) I took Emma and baby to the St. Mathias corn maze by myself. One word: stressful. 3) During our trip to Evansville, we went to another corn maze / pumpkin patch. Almost lost Emma in a minion-shaped corn field. 4) Beautiful fall colors right in our yard! 5) Baby feet are the cutest. 6) Fall fun in the leaves! 7) Selfie of me and baby on our dock, enjoying the fall colors on the river. 8) One of Emma’s crazy outfits. 9) Dressed up as a fairy, 80s girl and Snow White at Pillager Fall Fest.2016-01-05_12.59.181) Annabelle sitting up in the cart for the first time! 2) Emma wearing stick-on earrings and the cutest top knot ever. 3) Sister love at Costco. 4) Family trip to Cabela’s in Rogers to buy daddy a muzzleloader. 5) Baby’s first Thanksgiving! Too bad it was followed by the stomach flu. 6) Diana’s bridal shower in Grand Rapids. 7) Snowman! 8) Annabelle’s first Christmas. 9) Travis’ and my trip to Denver for his work Christmas party.

Other things worth mentioning:

* Memorial Day was spent up at Travis’ parents’ cabin on Lake Namakan. The Fourth of July and Labor Day were both spent down at my parents’ cabin in Pine City. For the Fourth, Al, Beth, Matthew, Diana and Chris joined us too. Thanksgiving was spent up in Nevis with Trav’s family and Christmas was down in Rochester with my family.

* The girls and I played at the beach well over 2 dozen times, including several evening trips with daddy or by ourselves while daddy had Bible study. Annabelle went swimming a handful of times and almost always fell asleep in her carseat at the beach after I changed her into dry clothes.

* Emma loves dancing so we had many a dance party in the basement (many of them were with daddy while mommy was at Bible study).

* Other fun things we did (not caught on camera) were go to the Mall of America, Children’s Museum, Crosby Project Play, Family Fun Center waterpark in Nisswa and Timberlake Lodge waterpark in Grand Rapids.

The more specific things for each girl are captured in their monthly or quarterly updates (coming soon!). These are just the big picture things that I want to remember later.

Even though I mentioned that I’m not making any resolutions or goals this year specifically, I still am praying for and focusing on all the things I had mentioned last year, plus one other main thing: managing my time wisely. I’m going to do a separate post about that soon.

So that’s it for 2015!

Confidence from God

23 Jul

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We were sitting at a table eating lunch in the Rainforest Café of the Mall of America when my high-school boyfriend suggested we go try rock climbing. Even though it sounded sort of fun, I vehemently refused. What if I was horrible at it? What if I made a fool of myself?

Fast forward 5 years. My college boyfriend (and future husband) asked me what year the Declaration of Independence was signed. I timidly suggested “1774”. Then he asked what temperature water freezes at. I asked “30 degrees?” He scoffed in disbelief that I didn’t know these basic facts, and I felt dumber than dumb (and madder than heck). One fight and apology later, I vowed to never venture a conjecture on facts again.

Fast forward another 5 years. I was riding in the car with some girlfriends from small group at church and laughed LOUD at something that was said. All of a sudden, I was hyper-aware of myself and wondered if the other girls thought I was completely obnoxious. I didn’t talk (or laugh) for the rest of the night.

Then there was the time I was in Salt Lake City to time a triathlon with a co-worker. Unbeknownst to me, I got my directions completely mixed up so that I thought east was west. When I realized that I was discombobulated, my head spun and I felt a slice of my identity as “the girl good with directions” die.

Even though I believe that our relationships with people are what matter most in life, they are also the source of much angst, heartache and self-doubt. I’ve heard many a Christian lament their “fear of man” or struggle with people-pleasing. We know that we shouldn’t put so much stock in what other people think of us, but somehow, we just can’t get ourselves to stop caring.

I think part of our problem is the way that Christian leaders sometimes motivate us. They exhort us to live in such a way that “people can’t help but notice something different about you.” Even if they don’t say that outright, they often tell a story of an unbeliever walking up to a believer and saying, “I notice something different about you. What do you have that I don’t?” Those believers listening who have never had such an experience start wondering why they haven’t. What should they be doing differently?

I have listened numerous times to an excellent sermon called Blessed Self-Forgetfulness by Tim Keller on 1 Corinthians 4:3-4: “But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me.” Tim Keller’s sermon gave me the confidence and biblical footing to stop over-analyzing my life. I live my life on the basis of my relationship with God and by the Spirit’s leading. Whoever notices or doesn’t notice is inconsequential – believers and unbelievers alike. Like Paul, I live for the approval of one person: God Himself.

Obviously, I haven’t always had this confidence. And if I’m being honest, I don’t always have it now. But I have it most days. So what changed?

I realized that God loves who I am. In fact, God created me to be EXACTLY who I am. Something I like to remind myself of to kill Satan’s weapons of self-doubt is “The only wrong with me is sin.” No, I am not perfect. Yes, I have a long way to go to be the Christian, wife, mother and friend I want to be. But my love for endurance sports? My sarcastic sense of humor? My love of reading, writing and romantic comedies? My complete ineptitude at trivia and basic facts of life? Those are the me that God created.

When we embrace the fact that God created us to be who we are, and that who we are is a good thing (aside from sin), we can see our strengths and weaknesses in the light of truth. One of the most freeing realizations I’ve ever had was “I don’t have to be everything. I can just be me.” It’s ok that I have horrible hand-eye coordination. It’s ok that I can’t throw a Frisbee to save my life. I can’t remember dates or names, but I remember faces. I remember where I was when I was thinking about x, or what I was doing when I heard about y. I remember where on the page something I read in a book is located, and can memorize entire passages when they’re something that really resonates with me.

So no one is going to mistake me for a professional baseball player or ask me to join their team at trivia night. And that’s ok. It’s also ok if I play Big Buck Hunter and don’t kill a single deer. Or if I’m asked to retrieve a Frisbee only to launch it at a right angle into the bushes. Or if I laugh too loud at something that wasn’t necessarily funny. Or if it took me 25 years to learn the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776 and water freezes at 32 degrees (and that I googled both before publishing this just to verify).

This confidence is from something much deeper than just saying, “This is the way I am.” Rather, my confidence comes from a deep soul-belief that this is who God created me to be and that in Christ, I already have God’s approval. Actually… not just His approval, but also His lavish and abundant love!

So whenever I am tempted to worry about what other people think about me, or wonder about the impression they got from something I did, I go back to these truths: The only thing wrong with me is sin. The God of the universe loves who I am. I am who God created me to be. Who I am is a good thing.

Don’t get me wrong, I am still called to be loving to others. Embracing who I am is not a license to mow down anyone who gets in my way. “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (Galatians 5:13). Rather, just as Tim Keller says in his sermon that I linked to above (seriously, listen to it!), the more confident I am about who I am in Christ, the less time I spend thinking about myself. And the less I think about myself, the more time I have to spend thinking for and about others.

{This idea is what people often refer as “finding your identity in God” but as I almost always find pithy sayings like that quite unhelpful, I felt the need to expound on the idea.}

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.

A Psalm for Moms

19 Jan

God is my refuge and strength,

a very present help in trouble.

Therefore, I will not fear though all order breaks loose,

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Though everything I do immediately gets undone,

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Though I am overwhelmed and underequipped,

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Though my sanity is upheld by the tiniest thread.IMG_6046 IMG_6047

“God is our refuge and strength, 

a very present help in trouble. 

Therefore, we will not fear though the earth gives way,

Though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,

Though its waters roar and foam,

Though the mountains tremble at its swelling.”

(Psalm 46:1-3)

The Importance of Eternity

12 Nov

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If you’ve read my blog for a while, you probably know that I spend a lot of time focusing on accepting the circumstances God allows – true joy comes from surrendering to His plan. It’s waaay easier said than done because to be honest, I often don’t like the circumstances He allows. They’re hard. They hurt. Sometimes they just plain suck. But the truth remains: If I want joy, I must humbly submit myself and my life to God.

I still wholeheartedly believe in this and the book I’m working on is about how I got to that place. But I’ve noticed a potentially bad result of that mindset: forgetting eternity.

Finding joy by accepting what God allows isn’t just about making this life more bearable. The Bible is full of verses about the importance and benefits of trials, suffering, and persecution in a believer’s life. But the reason WHY those are so valuable is eternity.

The apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:19, “If in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.” God is our hope and joy in this life only because He’s our hope and joy in the next. There is no gospel without eternity. We cannot let go of this life and truly trust God with everything unless we are staking our hearts on another life, a better one – one spent face to face with Him. Paul also wrote, “My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.” (Philippians 1:23b)

It’s good to give thanks for God’s daily, tangible blessings and provision — doing so helps me connect the larger reality of the gospel to my everyday life. But it’s best to give thanks for salvation through faith alone in Christ alone. Only that will never change and never be taken away.

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