It’s Not Always About Me (Part 2)

For quite some time, I’ve been putting together my thoughts for Part 2 of It’s Not Always About Me (Part 1). I’ve been researching and reading and have pretty well gotten my outline ready, but based upon what I’ve personally been struggling with the past several days, I knew I had to go a different direction with it. Maybe it’s my desire to keep things real and maybe it’s the knowledge that I’m probably not the only one that needs to hear this. So, here’s some different thoughts on why it’s not always about me:

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Where do you land with your thoughts on self? The last couple days my thoughts really haven’t been my friend. I’ve had lots of overwhelming thoughts that seem to hone in on the particular area of myself. Myself as a human, myself as a mother, myself as a wife, as a Jesus-follower. Why am I not better at physical fitness? Why I am I not more organized? Why do I get stressed? I allow these thoughts to seep in until I am questioning everything I do, questioning my very life-rhythm. I start down the road of self-fulfillment. I start believing that the key to my life is found within myself. MY self-control. MY habits. MY thought process.

Now, before I go any further, I have to take a moment to say I am a huge fan of processing emotions and thoughts on self. I think counseling is amazing, as well as meditation and self-analysis. We can discover so much about ourselves and I do believe our habits and decisions are the starting point to a really great life, but it doesn’t stop there.

The reason it gets dangerous to stop at self-exploration and self-fulfillment is that it puts all the pressure for a joyful and meaningful life upon myself, and the downfall in that is that I alone will never be enough.

Psalm 73:21-28a (The VOICE version) tells us:

You see, my heart overflowed with bitterness and cynicism; I felt as if someone stabbed me in the back. But I didn’t know the truth; I have been acting like a stupid animal toward You. But look at this: You are still holding my right hand; You have been all along. Even though I was angry and hard-hearted, You gave me good advice; when it’s all over, You will receive me into Your glory. For all my wanting, I don’t have anyone but You in heaven. There is nothing on earth that I desire other than You. I admit how broken I am in body and spirit, but God is my strength, and He will be mine forever. It will happen: whoever shuns You will be silenced forever; You will bring an end to all who refuse to be true to You. But the closer I am to You, my God, the better because life with You is good.

OK. I feel like I just need to pause here for a moment. Let this speak into the deep parts of who I am.

Here’s the secret, friends: Jesus is the answer. When I am stressed. When I am sad. When I am acting like a stupid animal (that one got your attention, didn’t it? I honestly had to laugh when I read that in the scripture, because well, it’s true sometimes isn’t it?!). When I don’t want my thoughts to rule over me. When I am burdened. When I am broken. Jesus is the answer.

It’s not always about me. I am not always going to be capable of being the “enough” that I need, in fact more often than not, I won’t be. I am not my own answer to a joyful and fulfilled life. Sure, I can start the process, but when my own efforts fail, as the scripture states, God is my strength! He is the one who brings me further than I can go on my own. Isn’t that the beauty of the message of the gospel? The answers and help my heart so desperately needs to hear don’t have to come from within me, but from the constant, faithful, strong Savior who lives within me.

But the closer I am to You, my God, the better because life with You is good.

Take a breather, friends. God’s got this. Let Him help you. Let Him be your strength. I’ll be over here trying to do the same.

 

 

 

 

It’s Not Always About Me (Part 1)

It’s not always about me.

That’s a hard pill to swallow, isn’t it?

As a Christian, I want to say to that: “No way, I’m fine with it not being about me. I’m always happy to serve and have Christ first and myself last.” But, if I’m truly honest, those aren’t always the thoughts that come rushing into my mind when God takes uncomfortable situations in my life to bless someone else or bring glory unto Himself. I’m usually thinking how frustrated I am and wondering where God was in that moment.

I’ll give you an example. I’m being super candid here, so don’t unfollow me after this, ok? I found myself in a waiting room the other day and I got the chance to connect with someone in regards to some difficulty they had been facing in their life. They mentioned they had read one of my blogs and that it had encouraged them, however they were still on a journey of trusting God to take them through this difficult season. I tried to be an encouragement. I hope I was. Sometimes we question everything we say to someone after they leave, but I’m gonna hope God helped my words to make sense to them.

Not five minutes later I found myself in a very stressful conversation in regards to the appointment I had, and let’s just say I got rather intense. I did not yell, but it was an uncomfortable conversation. There had been quite the misunderstanding, and I was feeling completely justified that I had been wronged. I left an emotional wreck and called my husband to vent.

I didn’t make it very far in my car before I began to calm down and realized I could have handled the situation differently. I knew I had to call the establishment back and apologize. The conversation honestly went really well, but I was still really stressed about it all as some things still needed to be sorted out.

I was dwelling on all this when God gently spoke to my heart: “It was not about you. What if I placed you at that establishment today to be a listening ear to the person that was in a painful season of life. What if it was just for me to use you to bless them. Doesn’t Me using you for My purposes trump what you went through to be there?”

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“Wow. Ok, God. Hearing you loud and clear!” When I was wrapped up in the confrontation that had transpired that day, I had wished I just would have never gone there. If hadn’t gone then none of that would have transpired… but oh, now I see: “God, it was at that place that You spoke to a hurting soul through me. Ok, the uncomfortable doesn’t seem that way now. Now, it seems useful. Useful in Your plan and Your purposes. Ok God, I hear you. It’s not about me!”

Now, don’t think this is how I always feel. I still miss focusing on the big picture so often. I get trapped in my own little world and prioritizing myself A LOT! And also, I truly don’t know if I blessed that person or not. I’m no hero. God is. But, hopefully I was able to remind them that they are not alone in their suffering. That life is not always easy and everyone has their share of troubles.

But really, that day, those events, were not about me. It was about someone else, and that really is the point I’m trying to convey. The life of a Christ-follower isn’t about prioritizing self. It’s about prioritizing Christ’s agenda, whether it has to do with me or not. When God’s will is my focus it truly puts things, struggles, discomforts into perspective. It helps me to move outside myself and begin to see the glory of God’s kingdom, which is all about people. People. People that God loves. His heart is for this world, for building His kingdom, and if I can get myself out of the way, maybe I’ll see that He’s trying to do just that, in some small way, through me.

”  ‘And you shall love ADONAI your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

Mark 12:30-31 Tree of Life Version

Build On

I found myself reading in the book of Ezra the other day, and was super challenged and inspired by what I read there, so I thought I’d take a few moments to share it with you guys.

I’d love to give you loads of background on the history and specifics of the book of Ezra and the chapters proceeding in the book of 2nd Chronicles, but I actually tried to write this blog yesterday and as soon as I sat down to do some research, my one year old needed a snack followed by my seven year old needing a snack. One thing led to another and I never got back to my writing. Even as I’m writing, I have my littlest one climbing on me and I’ve gotten up for grapes twice now. Seriously, wouldn’t have it any other way, but in an effort to just get this thought out there, you’re going to get the very basic version. (Side note: in your own time, you could totally read the description of the book of Ezra or the book itself, and you’ll be completely filled in on what I’m gonna talk about.)

When we jump into the book of Ezra, we find that the Israelites have just returned to Jerusalem, the land God has promised them, after seventy years of exile in Babylon. The former temple that had been built for the Lord by King Solomon has fallen into rubble and it is now time for the Israelites to rebuild, not just a temple, but also “the spiritual condition of the people,” as my Bible states. So, here what happens…

“Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the Lord stirred the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and also put it in writing saying, ‘Thus says Cyrus king of Persia: All the kingdoms of the earth the Lord God of heaven has given me. And He has commanded me to build Him a house at Jerusalem which is in Judah. Who is among you of all His people? May his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem which is in Judah, and build the house of the Lord God of Israel (He is God), which is in Jerusalem.’ ” -Ezra 1:1-3

So, now we see that the people of God have returned and not only do they have permission of the king of Persia, but his support as well, and so after supplies are collected and everyone knows their jobs, they begin to build. What stuck out to me when I was reading through this was how quickly resistance shows up after they begin. In chapter 4:4-5 we read:

“Then the people of the land tried to discourage the people of Judah. They troubled them in building, and hired counselors against them to frustrate their purpose all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia.” (emphasis mine)

Well now, the building has begun, quickly resistance shows up, and if you read further you’ll find that opposition comes and building stops altogether. In fact, by the time King Darius comes to reign, gives permission for building to continue and the temple is indeed finished, it extends over a twenty year period. Let me say that again… from the time the Israelites began to build the temple to the time they finished was twenty years!

“Now the temple was finished on the third day of the month of Adar, which was in the sixth year of the reign of King Darius. Then the children of Israel, the priests and the Levites and the rest of the descendants of the captivity, celebrated the dedication of this house of God with joy.” -Ezra 6:15-16

I’ve pretty much now walked you through what I read the other day, and so here are the thoughts that I had on this:

1. God will stir your spirit when there is something he wants you to do. From something as simple as needing to work on having more patience (ok, maybe that’s not so little) to developing a specific gift or calling God has placed inside of you, the Lord will stir your heart towards that thing just like he stirred King Cyrus’ spirit.

2. God will clear the way for that specific thing to happen. God used the specific man he needed, a king, to not only give permission to the people of Israel to rebuild the temple, but also to give the provisions needed to do so. In my own personal experience, I have found that if God stirrs my heart to pray for something specific, like more patience in my life, He then provides lots of opportunities throughout my day to practice that very thing. The catch, though, is that God may have provided the Israelites with the tools they need to build the temple, but it was up to them to build it! And so….

3. We have to do the building. It’s up to me to practice patience when things don’t go as planned throughout my day, instead of resorting back to old old habits of getting all worked up over it. It’s up to me to make time to develop the gifts God has given me. If I feel God has called me to a specific vocation, and He has set up the tools to do so (school, job, etc.), it’s still up to me to put in the work. I have to be willing to sacrifice years of schooling or experience to reach the goal of that job. When the Lord stirs my heart to do something and has provided all that’s needed to do it, I must follow up by doing the hard building.


4. Resistance and delays will come. The people of Israel very quickly learned that they were going to have opposition to the building of the temple, but I’m sure they never imagined it would take a total of twenty years because of it. Resistance comes in all forms and at times can even produce long delays. Maybe you’ve finally opened up to a friend about how you feel God has led you to start a photography business, but that friend quickly squashes your excitement by belittling your dream, and now you hit the pause button, second guessing yourself and feeling unsure if you should move forward in this pursuit. You’re delayed. Sometimes people just nonchalantly blurt something out, and other times, like with the Israelites, they come purposefully to create resistance. People won’t always like what God is doing in you and through you, so it’s important for us to remember whose voice is the most important to listen to, and that’s Gods! I have to remind myself to allow what God speaks over my life to be louder than what anyone else says about me or my life.

5. Keep building. There certainly are far more forms of resistance and delay than what I covered, but when resistance and delays do come it’s important to remember to keep building. When the Israelites had people show up specifically to discourage them from building, they continued to build. Even after their long delay from building, they picked back up and started to build yet again. We’ve never been promised that this process of life and the building of our dreams and character would be easy, and so if we were to give up at the very first sign of opposition, we wouldn’t get very far would we? It takes hard work, sacrifice and time to build on any facet of our lives. God stirs our hearts to begin the work, provides the opportunity and tools necessary to complete the work, but then we build. And we keep building, and keep building until we start to see the fruit of our labor. When at last the Israelites had completed the Temple of the Lord, they…

6. Celebrate with joy. Why follow Gods stirring? Why push through the resistance? Why put in the hard work? It leads to joy. When our spirit follows what God is doing, it will always lead to joy. Working on my character, like patience, will lead to joy. Stepping into Gods calling on my life leads to joy. Whenever we are in Gods will, whenever we are working on the things He has shown us to build, it will always lead to joy. Not just a simple happy feeling, but a true, genuine joy that only comes from bringing glory to God! After all, wasn’t that the goal of the Temple in Jerusalem? A place to bring worship and glory to God? Yes! And in the same way, all that I build, I pray will be used to bring glory to God.

So, keep building, my friend. Keep building.

Fresh Air & Sunshine

Last week I had the awesome opportunity to get out for the day, and by out, I mean OUT! Three other moms, myself and our kiddos spent a gorgeous day in the great outdoors. It truly could not have been more perfect, and as I drove home from our day excursion at a local State Park, I couldn’t help but think: “Why in the world don’t I do this more?”

Believe me, I get outside. My girls and I are outside every single day, but I’m talking about really immersing myself in nature. A friend of mine posted a quote on social media, several years ago now, but it’s stuck with me. It’s an old Zen saying that goes:

“You should sit in nature for twenty minutes a day. Unless you are too busy, then you should sit for an hour.”

I love that. It’s really easy to brush off things like drinking in the beauty and serenity of nature in this fast paced lifestyle we seem to get sucked into, isn’t it? I for one couldn’t believe that it took my friends inviting me out for a day to be reminded of it. Shout out to my awesome mom friends! It was exactly what I needed to feel recharged and inspired about life. And, it was so easy. It was a simple hike (that all of our kids could handle), playground romping and sitting under a pavilion, with our packed lunch, as our kids played in the grass and made a home for a slug. Yes, they found that slug to be very precious. Haha.

My point? I guess I’m really just sharing a gentle whisper from those woods, that lake, the beautiful bike trail that you always say you’re going to go take advantage of, but you never do. It’s good to put other things on hold and let time stand still outside.

I went for a walk with my girls today. We started out on our regular route, but then I decided to go down a road we never do that leads to a hiking trail. I let my oldest truck on ahead of myself and my little one in the stroller. I loved watching her face relax and look around at the beauty of the woods. You could see this carefree posture to her as she took her time among the trees. Again, simple. However, normally I would have rushed us on. For no particular reason, I usually would have said we needed to get home. My mind often triggers the need to accomplish and be ruled by the tick tock of the clock. Oh boy, that rhymed! Haha. But really, you know what I’m saying. As my husband has said many times over: “Life is not an emergency!” And surely, I have time for another ten minutes in the woods with my girls!

As one of my favorite authors, Laura Ingalls Wilder, would say: “Some old-fashioned things like fresh air and sunshine are hard to beat.”

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Trusting God with the “Why” and Letting Him be the “How”

About a week ago, I shared a photo of my daughters on Instagram with the following thoughts:

“Lydia was sick yesterday. Louisa’s now the one not feeling quite herself. But, it’s moments like this that stop me in my tracks. When I ask Lydia to sit and read to her sister while I quickly throw a load of laundry into the dryer (gotta get at those germs!), and I come out and see this: it stops me in my tracks!

My husband and I prayed for this for so long. We believed for this for so long. We dreamed of Lydia having a sibling to do life with, and here it is. HEART EXPLOSIONS. Lydia loves her sister and feels sad that she doesn’t feel well. Louisa loves her right back and missed her yesterday, while Lydia was up in her room. That dynamic blesses my heart. The blessing of a sibling. Words aren’t sufficient to describe how thankful we are for our TWO sweet girls. The season of miscarriages was extremely difficult and those wounds are still there, but this moment feels like a victory.”

I felt led this evening to share this to a more broad audience than Instagram, so here I am, bearing the past of my heartaches with you all.

Having a second child, after our daughter Lydia, has been an extremely painful and drawn out journey for my husband, Luke, and I. Neither one us could have ever even fathomed the roller coaster of events that would come from the desire to have a sibling for our daughter.

We have walked hand in hand through a very dark season of loss. It began with one miscarriage, followed by five more over the course of almost six years, before we had our second daughter, Louisa, in 2015. During that time we also reached out to other options, by becoming certified foster parents as well as stepping into a private adoption, both of which ended in ways that you would expect to read in a dramatic novel.

As I’m reading the previous paragraph, I’m sitting here thinking: “Man, people must have thought we were nuts to put ourselves through all that.” All I can say is that it didn’t feel that way in the moment. All of these events took place individually, during our journey of hope that we somehow would be able to grow our family.

We hit walls of depression, of anger, of giving up. We found ourselves at counseling, and it was shortly after this that my husband had an epiphany that has changed the way I look at life difficulties forever. He said, “I’ve realized I need to stop asking God ‘why I’m going through something’, and instead ask Him ‘how He’s going to help me get through it.’ ”

My husband and I found ourselves in this place of noticing all the hurt and heartache around us. Every person on this planet suffers from heartache. We didn’t want to keep getting stuck with begging God to tell us why people go through hardship. We wanted, instead, for our eyes to see how God could help them, help us to get through it.

So, that’s some of my heartaches in a nutshell, and I know you too have so many you could share with me as well. I’m not going to even remotely pretend to have all the right words to say, and to always be confident in this life journey. I do know, however, that God is good. He remains the same from now unto eternity. He sees our heartache. He loves us. He is willing to walk with us through whatever comes our way. When the prayers are answered, and when they are not. God is the “how” that brings us through.

Love you, friends.

Peace Guards Our Hearts

It’s so easy to second guess ourselves, isn’t it? I find myself doing this periodically throughout the day. Over-thinking my decisions on the big, the little, and even the teeny tiny things. It’s just part of human nature, at least if you’re anything like me. I’ve struggled with perfectionism and self doubt my whole life. Mark Twain said: “Comparison is the death of joy,” and so I often sway away from joy because I’m too busy watching and comparing how others handle life, instead of being confident in my own rhythm of living.

One of the realms I probably do this the most in is parenting. It’s so easy to make a decision in regards to my children and then turn around and wonder if it was the right one. It can even be day to day simple stuff, and then let’s not even talk about how easy it is to compare with fellow moms!! Guess what? We’re all in this together. Who cares that my kid is vegetarian and yours eats burgers? Or, that my kid loves her tv time and yours may not get any. These are the small details that can send me into a spiral of self doubt. And, that’s definitely not just with parenting. Someone mentions a life practice to me and I immediately feel I need to hardcore think on it and maybe completely change my current lifestyle. Now, do not misread me here… I LOVE connecting with moms, with people. I love hearing their life stories and how they got to where they are now. I even love hearing their personal preferences; it’s what makes them an individual! Here’s where I need to flip that lense around and extend that same enthusiasm on myself. I need to know my unique take on life is what makes me (hopefully) an intriguing individual. Friends who know me, let me know if I need to up the ante on my intrigueness (don’t think that’s a word). Haha. Here’s what the Bible would encourage me to do (and the Bible is where I want to find all of my truth!):

“Don’t be anxious about things; instead, pray. Pray about everything. He longs to hear your requests, so talk to God about your needs and be thankful for what has come. And know that the peace of God (a peace that is beyond any and all of our human understanding) will stand watch over your hearts and minds in Jesus, the Anointed One.”

-Philippians 4:6-7 The Voice (VOICE) translation

So, where I land, if I focus on the truth of Gods Words, is that if I am questioning life decisions, big or small, I need to pray about it. I need to take some time and talk to my Jesus about the areas of life that I need guidance in. Verse 6 said that God longs to hear my requests! How well does that calm my questioning, doubting heart. And, the proof will be in the pudding; I will have peace when the right decision has been made. Peace, not perfection. I will have peace.

I like how the verse continues on to say that the peace of God will watch over our hearts and minds. I like this because we need watching over with this life thing, don’t we? We need God for all of life’s decisions. I want God for all of my decisions. God watches over me. God made me. God formed my specific make-up. So, if I can embrace that and if I can accept my indivuality on this planet… then I think I might just make some headway.


                                                                             (photo credit: my beautiful Mother)

I can make decisions. I can. I don’t have to second guess those decisions. No, I don’t. I can put my trust in my Creator. He made me, He guides me, He guards my heart. When I trust that process: discernment will come, decisions will be made and peace will prevail.

Happy decision-making, friends.

Every Morning

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I’m gonna just drop this truth here for you. For me. God’s mercies are new for me every morning.

 I’ve had these words trying to work their way into me all day, since this morning, when I found myself singing a song. It’s a beautiful worship song I grew up hearing: “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. His mercies never will come to an end. They are new every morning. New every morning. Great is Thy faithfulness, Oh Lord. Great is Thy faithfulness.” It’s a song taken straight from scripture, found in Lamentations 3:22-23.

So, these words, singing around in my head. They’re trying to remind me of the truth; the sweet, freeing truth that I will never be enough or do enough to satisfy me.

Today was a tough day. Nothing specific. Nothing catastrophic. Just life as a stay-at-home mom. It’s a beautiful thing; it’s a really hard thing. The beautiful is that I’m with my girls all day. The hard is that I’m with my girls all day. It can create an atmosphere, like it did today, where no matter how much I do, I still feel I should have done more. The list seems to always grow bigger, and of course, today I had a very sad and grumpy teething baby. I lost my patience, I felt overwhelmed, not half of my list was accomplished. It’s just how this parenting life works

With great thanksgiving, however, I can say that Gods love and mercy for me isn’t dependent upon how I perform. The Lord is fully aware of how limited I am in my human strength and I need his mercy. I needed it all day today, I need it now and I so very much need to depend on the fact that it will be greeting me on the other side of tonight, when I rise early with my girls.

The truth is, though, we all need His mercy fresh in the morning. No matter our specifics, we need the sweet mercy Jesus offers us each new day, because we aren’t created to do this life without it. We’re created to live under the tender mercies of a loving God.

That’s all. No long analyzing thoughts, for tonight anyway. I just knew I needed this reminder, and I figured I’d share it, because I’m sure someone else out there needs it too.

Goodnight, friends.