Who Has Time To Rest?

I gently pulled Andrew’s door closed. I switched off the light in the hall making my way to the family room. The lights were off. The candles cast their dancing shadows across my new coffee table, which I’m in love with.

The table arrived, sat empty for a couple of hours, then I filled it with stacks of photo albums. The best time and money I’ve spent is creating these albums my family thumbs through frequently. They do not collect dust.

I, however, rarely sit long enough to enjoy. But this night would be different because I have received a wake up call. Similar to someone who has experienced that turning point in life where you are awakened to the gift of every breath you’ve been given. Mine wasn’t a near death experience. Rather a doctor’s stern warning that if something doesn’t change, my life will.

The couch reached out, wrapped me in a warm embrace, and settled me on its lap. I drew my legs under, hugging myself close. And I opened a photo album from 2010. 7 years ago.

Page after page of images that seem a lifetime ago.

Zachary came out of his room for water and caught me sitting. The surprise on his face stabbed my heart. I model a lot to them. Rest isn’t one.

Right there. That thought is the exact thing I’m aware of now. A constant critique of myself. How to be better. Guilt has been a tormentor for far too long. Guilt steals rest.

The couch has amazing arms I realize as I watched it reach for him and pull him next to me. We flipped, and smiled, and marveled.

Then another door creaked. Andrew tiptoed to the pantry I believe for a sneak food fueling for the night. We exchanged looks without reacting to each other. His look of surprise at finding me on the couch met my softened eyes and beaming smile at the remembrance of days to cherish.

“Mom, I love that smile that you are giving right now.” He expected my typical night time, irritable ‘get your butt back to bed’ reaction. He expected the furrowed brows and stiff shoulders. Instead he saw the mom that I work too hard to be.

Rest. It’s what God is speaking to me. Rest from your strive for perfection. Rest from your achievements. Rest from your striving life. My life verse has always been Psalm 46:10. Be still and know that I am God.

I gave a talk a couple of years ago called “Be Still”. It was based on my favorite translation of this verse which says “Cease striving”. I strive in my own strength. Eventually I tire out and have to let go. All the while God’s saying to me, “Cease striving. Let go now and let me carry you. Eventually you will have to let go, why not do it now without wearing yourself out. My burden is light. Let me carry you.”

So this is how my night ended last night. The boys catching me resting. And me allowing myself to enjoy the gift of rest free of guilt.

I began the evening the same way.

When Steve walked in the door from work, I imagine he startled a bit to find me sitting on the back porch reading a book. Dinner was waiting in the Instant Pot. The boys were playing with friends outside. And I sat. Relaxed. Not rushing around seeing how much more I could accomplish.

This is a new trend for me. Lifestyle change away from impossible standards and expectations I place on myself. A kind grace to me.

Since recovering from a recent ulcer, I’ve been working on being kinder to myself. I’ve tended towards the misconception that to think of self at all is to create patterns of selfishness. This can happen for sure.

In my case, I’ve gone so far in the opposite direction as to live in a state of constant stress, which I don’t see as stress. To me it’s simply become normal life. A visit to a new doctor came as a startling wake up call when he pointed out that I’m 40, and if I don’t start managing stress better then 60 won’t be pretty.

Managing stress better for me starts in my mind.

I thought this doctor’s appointment would be like all others. Instead, the nurse led me into his office. He began asking me questions about myself. He wanted to know my personality. My strengths and weaknesses. He wanted to know about my childhood, family relationships, how I do life. It felt like a counseling session.

The doctor nodded along. Wrote notes. Offered smiles of encouragement. No judgement. Just listened.

Before he began to discuss my ulcer, he said the words that opened up a surprise gate of tears. “I need you to hear the most important words I’ll say to you today. You will have to hear it here (pointing to his head) and receive it here (pointing to his heart).”

I nodded, bracing myself for the words. “You are a wonderful mom and God is pleased with you.”

That simple sentence. In all my talking about my stomach ailments and my life, his first sentence to me was that God was pleased. But he was setting me up to hear what that meant for me. God is pleased with me not based on how hard I parent or how hard I work in the home.

What I knew to be true of God, I wasn’t living out daily. And it’s dangerous for my body.

I can blame it on many things if I want to. Major change in a year. Cross country move. Homeschooling is me working a full time job, receiving no paycheck, and watching parts of me refined I didn’t know existed. It was a painfully, beautiful year. Learning to teach not only my own kids, but also teach to a learning disability. Deep hurts and wounds from relationships outside of our family I  want to be life-giving instead of life-depleting. Wounds from the past in relationships creating in me a drive to do things in a way as to not hurt others in my life like I’ve been hurt. Pressing, crushing circumstances. Not different from anyone else I tell myself. This is life.

The problem for me is how I handle the jabs, the rubs, the constant friction of life. I overcompensate by becoming more competent, more able, more of a problem solver, more productive, more good. Less forgiving toward myself, more critical toward myself. Less rest. Basically, I’m letting the enemy steal from me. And one day I want to share with you how God showed me 2 years ago I was allowing a thief into my life. Both in the physical and the spiritual world.

All along, He’s drawing me back in. Telling me to lift my eyes to that fixed position. That point that doesn’t move. To the One Who will never hurt me. To the One Who will never abandon me. To the One Who doesn’t expect me to be perfect because He did it for me. To the One Who is saying, “Come to me, you who are wearied, and I will give you rest.”

I’m accepting His invitation to rest in Him. This begins in my mind. Stilling my thoughts that can spin out of control. This is something I’m realizing I need to accept day by day, even moment by moment. A lifetime of habits won’t be corrected overnight. But there is hope. Day by day, He will help me to learn to rest in Him and to accept the gift of rest He offers.

It takes effort on my part. It’s easy for me to work. I’m a worker. Honestly, when I stopped working full-time as a CPA when my oldest was two, I think I feared so much the perception some people have of stay-at-home moms that I went into a mode of being the best mom and wife I could possibly be. That’ll kill a soul.

So to “work” less takes more effort for me than to “work” hard. My resting in God might be the best work I do all day. Especially for my family.

Rest is a gift. Rest isn’t a luxury like I’ve believed. Rest isn’t only for the ones who don’t have so much to do (laugh with me because you know we all think no one has it as hard as we do). Rest is about obedience. Rest isn’t selfish. Rest is a requirement for a life to be overflowing.

For my cup to overflow, I must rest. My cup has runneth on empty for far too long. This is a recipe for me to give the worst of me to the best of those in my life.

Today, I will rebuke the lies of the enemy that tell me resting is selfish. I will accept God’s invitation to rest in Him. I will obey God’s command to rest from my work each week. When I rest, may my eyes become fixed on Him, may my mind meditate on His Word. May I breath in and out of His Spirit. May I be filled by Him in rest so He can work through me in ways only He can.

 

 

Don’t Blink, Then I Blinked

#dontblink – a common hashtag when celebrating graduations, birthdays, a new school year, or a life change.

#theniblinked -it’s like a sudden realization that time actually does move at a pace that is frighteningly slow in real time yet megafast in the replay.

One day we are wiping smashed peas off chubby cheeks, then we seem to blink as we watch that same child wiping milk from our new grandbaby’s mouth.

One day we push a shopping cart holding our tantrum throwing toddler through the store as all eyes on us seem to be the cause of the sweat forming under our arms. Then we blink, and  one day we are by ourselves in a store. We look around in a panic for our child for a split second until the realization hits that we no longer have a toddler in tow.

One day we are longing for the nights we can curl up in our bed and read a book uninterrupted or watch a show without pausing every 3.5 minutes because someone wants a cup of water, someone is scared, someone remembered they can’t find their prized possession and are in full panic mode until we come to the rescue. Then we blink, and they are teenagers who become chatter boxes at the point of the night that are eyes are begging to close, our bodies desperate for rest. And we sit on beds and listen to dramas unfold, listen to aches no one else knows of. Then we blink again, and that room is empty except on weekends or holidays.

When in the dark depths of sleep-deprived infant days or knee-deep in the endless days of potty-training (or lack thereof), the moments of parenting can feel like we are living in slow-mo. Well-intentioned, seasoned parents offer smiles of encouragement and tell us to enjoy each drop because it will be over before we know it.

I’ll confess times of a cynical inner-self living inside me wanting to holler back, “Easy for you to say, I bet you didn’t have to….” Fill in the blank with whatever my thorn was for that day. Then I had the glowing moments of cherishing these words in my heart, desperately wanting to hold onto the time at hand. It is a tug of war between these two selves, one wanting to move forward, one terrified to leave the present because I want to never let go of the gift of now.

Scientists say we blink on average about 15-20 times a minute, which is about 28,800 times a day. In 18 years that is about 190,000,000 blinks.

While on the lookback it may feel a lifetime went by in a blink, we actually receive the gift of nearly 2 million blinks in 18 years with our kiddos, Lord willing. What sweet mercy to our souls.

“Mom, if we ever decide to stop homeschooling, the thing I would be most sad about is knowing how sad it would make you. I know you would miss us so much.”

I looked up to catch his tender gaze. “I would miss you. But I live season to season.”

Intrigued, he leaned in slightly. I went back to the task at hand while continuing, “You know God gives us life broken into seasons. I have chosen to embrace each season as God brings it and hold it with open hands. If I cling too tightly, I won’t be ready to release it when God says it’s time. So I try to keep my hands open, ready to release one season and receive the next.”

His eyebrows raised as he nodded. The answer seemed to relieve him of his worry.

“That is why it’s so important not to take any season for granted. Make the most of each moment. Cherish the relationships while you have them because you don’t know when the tide will change.”

It’s not a living in fear of the change of life. It’s living with the excited expectation of what is next on the horizon.

I remember when Jacob was an infant, an older mom saying to me, “This too shall pass.” I knew it was true. I saw moms who received a nightly 8 hours of sleep. It would happen again. All moments pass eventually. All seasons pass.

I’ve observed many in my life enter and exit various seasons and stages of their lives. I’ve gone through many of my own in 40 years. It seems there are the ones who joyfully accept the new while letting go of the old. And there are some who tend to become bitter and cynical even as they transition into new seasons.

It’s easier to release a season and receive another when we’ve made the most of the one we are leaving. But what happens when we squandered the time? What happens when we’ve made a wreck out of the relationships we should have cherished? Or what if we tried our hardest but surrounding situations or people cut in bringing sadness, destruction, or failures?

We can let regrets eat away at our soul. We can make excuses or blame others around us. This will surely create a bitter soul.

Or we can release the past to God. Confess our failures. Forgive others. Let go of resentments. Ask for a fresh vision. We can choose to not let our past define us and live with the truth that His mercies are new every day.

We can’t get time back, but we can choose to walk into the future with joy and hope. When we are in Christ, we are never a moment without hope. Feelings can lead us away from the truth. His Word is the unmoving point to fix our eyes on when we desperately want to enter the next season with a new vision.

My kids have taught me they remember more about the present than the past. In my own head, I may tend to stay in the past. They tend to live in today.

I replay times of failure to myself. They remember the times I was their hero. I’m my own worst enemy at times. They tend to be my champion cheerleaders.

When my boys were little, I played with them a lot. I’d run and chase outside. We’d sit on the floor and play cars. We’d read books for hours at a time. I invested heavily. Despite all the time I invested, Andrew said to me recently, “Why don’t you ever play with me?”

I immediately became defensive. All the years of floor playing, sweating in the yard, and reading until my eyes begged for sleep, and he thinks I don’t play with him enough? Then I realized that it’s today that matters to him. While I initially looked at the negative, I realized this is actually a blessing.

Yes, what I did in the early years is important. Vitally important. It built a foundation of memories and trust. However, it’s what I choose to do today that matters the most for today. He isn’t living in the past. He is living in today. And this is a healthy thing for him to do. And it’s a healthy thing for me to remember. Because I’ve regretted many moments in my past. But it’s what I choose to do with those moments today that matters going forward.

With my boys each day is a new day to grow in our relationship. Each season offers new and unique gifts. The letting go of one day is the preparation to receive the next day.

If yesterday was a disaster because of my incorrect perceptions or my negative attitude, Lord willing, I get a restart the next day. I am not a victim to the replay. I have the choice to create a new route. Often it begins in my own mindset. How I choose to view this life or this season holds quite a bit of power.

We are entering our second year of homeschool. We’ve mostly completed our summer. Summer #14 of 18 with my oldest. It’s time to release this season with a thankful heart and prepare my hands and heart to receive the new school year. He’s soon to be 14, which is hard for me to believe.

Didn’t I simply blink?

Yes. Yes, I did. About 143,000,000 so far actually.

For each blink, I thank Him. A blink is a gift.

Lord, You are the giver of all that is good. Today, we thank you for the gift of a blink of time. We thank you for the collection of blinks that create a life. We thank you for the blinks blurred by tears. We thank you for blinks happening unaware. We praise You that you are Creator of life. Your mercies are new with each blink. That hope is alive because of Christ. Today, may we receive each blink as the gift it is. In Jesus name we pray, Amen.

 

Want to experience miracles? Try this.

A portion of The Hiding Place is forever cemented in my brain. Before I share what God has been showing me, let’s start here. Corrie Ten Boom, along with her sister and other family members,  were christians hiding Jews during WWII. They were discovered and imprisoned.

Excerpt from The Hiding Place.

“‘Fleas!’ I cried. ‘Betsie, the place is swarming with them!’

“We scrambled across the intervening platforms, heads low to avoid another bump, dropped down to the aisle and hedged our way to a patch of light.

“‘Here! And here another one!’ I wailed. ‘Betsie, how can we live in such a place!’

“‘Show us. Show us how.’ It was said so matter of factly it took me a second to realize she was praying. More and more the distinction between prayer and the rest of life seemed to be vanishing for Betsie.

“‘Corrie!’ she said excitedly. ‘He’s given us the answer! Before we asked, as He always does! In the Bible this morning. Where was it? Read that part again!’

“I glanced down the long dim aisle to make sure no guard was in sight, then drew the Bible from its pouch. ‘It was in First Thessalonians,’ I said. We were on our third complete reading of the New Testament since leaving Scheveningen.

“In the feeble light I turned the pages. ‘Here it is: “Comfort the frightened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. See that none of you repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to all…'” It seemed written expressly to Ravensbruck.

“‘Go on,’ said Betsie. ‘That wasn’t all.’

“‘Oh yes:’…“Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus.'”

“‘That’s it, Corrie! That’s His answer. “Give thanks in all circumstances!” That’s what we can do. We can start right now to thank God for every single thing about this new barracks!’ I stared at her; then around me at the dark, foul-aired room.

“‘Such as?’ I said.

“‘Such as being assigned here together.’

“I bit my lip. ‘Oh yes, Lord Jesus!’

“‘Such as what you’re holding in your hands.’ I looked down at the Bible.

“‘Yes! Thank You, dear Lord, that there was no inspection when we entered here! Thank You for all these women, here in this room, who will meet You in these pages.’

“‘Yes,’ said Betsie, ‘Thank You for the very crowding here. Since we’re packed so close, that many more will hear!’ She looked at me expectantly. ‘Corrie!’ she prodded.

“‘Oh, all right. Thank You for the jammed, crammed, stuffed, packed suffocating crowds.’

“‘Thank You,’ Betsie went on serenely, ‘for the fleas and for–‘

“The fleas! This was too much. ‘Betsie, there’s no way even God can make me grateful for a flea.’

“‘Give thanks in all circumstances,’ she quoted. It doesn’t say, ‘in pleasant circumstances.’ Fleas are part of this place where God has put us.

“And so we stood between tiers of bunks and gave thanks for fleas. But this time I was sure Betsie was wrong.”

*****For the sake of moving the story along, I’ll skip forward to the passage I want you to see. They obediently gave thanks for something as miserable as fleas. They gave thanks in ALL circumstances. Now watch for the miracle.********

“Back at the barracks we formed yet another line–would there never be an end to columns and waits?–to receive our ladle of turnip soup in the center room. Then, as quickly as we could for the press of people, Betsie and I made our way to the rear of the dormitory room where we held our worship “service.” Around our own platform area there was not enough light to read the Bible, but back here a small light bulb cast a wan yellow circle on the wall, and here an ever larger group of women gathered.

“They were services like no others, these times in Barracks 28.

“At first Betsie and I called these meetings with great timidity. But as night after night went by and no guard ever came near us, we grew bolder. So many now wanted to join us that we held a second service after evening roll call. There on the Lagerstrasse we were under rigid surveillance, guards in their warm wool capes marching constantly up and down. It was the same in the center room of the barracks: half a dozen guards or camp police always present. Yet in the large dormitory room there was almost no supervision at all. We did not understand it.

“One evening I got back to the barracks late from a wood-gathering foray outside the walls. A light snow lay on the ground and it was hard to find the sticks and twigs with which a small stove was kept going in each room. Betsie was waiting for me, as always, so that we could wait through the food line together. Her eyes were twinkling.

“‘You’re looking extraordinarily pleased with yourself,’ I told her.

“‘You know, we’ve never understood why we had so much freedom in the big room,’ she said. ‘Well–I’ve found out.’

“That afternoon, she said, there’d been confusion in her knitting group about sock sizes and they’d asked the supervisor to come and settle it.

“But she wouldn’t. She wouldn’t step through the door and neither would the guards. And you know why?”

“Betsie could not keep the triumph from her voice: ‘Because of the fleas! That’s what she said, “That place is crawling with fleas!'”

“My mind rushed back to our first hour in this place. I remembered Betsie’s bowed head, remembered her thanks to God for creatures I could see no use for.”

AMAZING. MIRACULOUS.

How many miracles are we missing because we fail to consider His ways are not our ways? Or we are so focused on ourselves, we can’t see up? Or….we fail to offer thanks?

Now let me share how God has been teaching me this.  In church a few weeks ago, the pastor pointed out something I’ve never noticed in 16 years of Bible reading. 2 small words.

Sacrificial thanks.

Psalm 116:17 “I will sacrifice a thank offering to you and call on the name of the Lord.”

Psalm 50:14-15 “Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and pay your vows to the Most High; call upon Me in the day of trouble; I shall rescue you, and you will honor Me.”

A sacrifice costs something. It’s easy to thank God when life is going our way. But when it’s not, thanking Him becomes a sacrificial offering. Whoa.

Ya’ll I can’t move past this one.

Now it’s about obedience. I must offer thanks, sacrificially, as an act of obedience.

While sitting on the beach, it’s easy to whisper thanks to God. But when hunkered down by pelting rain and high winds? I typically thank God for the things I like. What I FEEL thankful for. The good things.

Or when life feels difficult, I find everything except the difficult thing and thank Him for those good things. I look for the good outside the bad. But what about the bad things?

I attended a women’s event this week that again had me hearing this idea of sacrificial thanks. It was explained that we aren’t saying this thing is good. Instead we are agreeing that God is good and Sovereign. We are aligning with His will.

Some of the “bad” things in my life have produced fruit that could only come from the difficult. I’ve paid attention to my thoughts. My quickness to complain when I dislike something.

Our new house has a ridiculous amount of light switches. We’ve lived here 3 months, and I still find myself hitting 10 switches before I find the right one. “I hate hitting 10 switches to find the light.”

Steve glanced my way, “How about being thankful you have 10 switches to hit.”

Well, that’ll stop the complaining. You see, God continues to show me how I’m prone to complain. How I want life to be my way. I want peace in my home. I want my kids to stop fighting for the love of all things holy. I want my kids to be kinder, and I’m mad they aren’t and I can’t make them. I want. I want. I want.

But this sacrificial thanks thing. It’s pretty much a wrecking ball right now. Knocking down habits and patterns of destruction in my life.

I woke today planning a glorious surprise for my boys. As I finished my coffee, I slipped quietly to the laundry room to throw a load of towels in. A smile dawned as I thought how perfect the morning would be. I envisioned excited and thankful boys who would be delighted to partake in my plans.

Then God said, “Let go of your expectations.”

I heard it ya’ll. In my spirit. I heard God speak. Clearly.

I set down the laundry basket. The smile slowly faded. And I said quietly, “Ok, Lord.”

The boys awoke. I shared bits of my plan. Life began to happen. I don’t know what mornings look like in your home. But we have 3 boys and 2 aren’t morning people. Things can get ugly fast. Like spinning out of control, and the control freak in me goes into overdrive and God is whispering…. Stop. Stop. Let me.

So I stopped. I ran to my bathroom. My hideaway. And I prayed. God, I need you. In the name of Jesus I cast out pride in the hearts inside this home. Give us new hearts. Plant kindness and patience inside each of us. Help me to not parent out of anger or impatience. Amen.

I had about 20 seconds for a help me prayer.

I walked back to the battle zone. Nothing had changed immediately after praying. Except my heart. I was submitted to the work of the Holy Spirit. Surrendered to the fact that I’m not God. I can’t make these young men into any image I want. Praise God for that!

My boys loaded into the car. I listened to the words exchanged among them I wanted to erase. I wanted to get in there and shush them up right then. Stop them from warring with words. But I’ve tried that, and it doesn’t change their hearts. So before I entered the car, I prayed. “Thank you God for bickering kids that exhaust me. Thank you for unkind words thrown carelessly around. Thank you for disappointed expectations. Thank you for every bit of all of this.”

The miracles began to happen. For the sake of privacy I will not share the details. But I will say what happened in the minutes and hours after in the hearts of these children and me was miraculous.

I remember reading One Thousand Gifts many years ago and a line has remained with me. Ann Voskamp wrote “Thanksgiving precedes the miracle.”

I guess I’m a slow learner. I agree with Ann now. More importantly, I agree with God. He is good. I will obey because I trust Him. If He sacrificed His own son for me, can I not sacrifice an offering of thanks to Him?

Miracles do happen. The greatest miracles happen when the Holy Spirit gets a hold of a heart and massages it, shapes it, forms it. When we obediently thank Him for the things that aren’t lovely, we lay down our expectations at the foot of the cross. We lay down our need to control. We lay down our pride that thinks we know best. We lay it all down and simply say, “Thank you, Lord.”

Open your hands in surrender. Keep them open to receive the miracles that can only come from a place of obedient surrender.

Thank you, God for your Word. Thank you for the Holy Spirit who brings us revelation. Thank you for who you are. Thank you for loving us relentlessly.

 

Do Not Worry- But How Can I Not?

He sat across the table sipping his orange juice. He ordered a man-sized breakfast of chocolate chip pancakes, eggs, and bacon. I patiently awaited my whole wheat toast, sipping water, while dying at the smell of coffee all around me.

The night before I’d spent in the emergency room. The verdict? A stomach ulcer. My medical diet became no citrus, coffee, alcohol, high fat or fried foods, no chocolate, no tomato based anything, nothing spicy. Basically they said eat small and bland. This was meal one on medicine to help with the symptoms while I await further tests and begin the process of healing.

“Mom, wanna play tic-tac-toe?”

“Yep, but I’m hard to beat.”

He grinned at the challenge. A boy is competitive by nature.

He placed the X. I placed the O while planning out my next O marking. I was strategizing 2 possibilities as he placed his next X. I went with my initial strategy to secure myself a sure win. The smirk began to give birth on my face as his 3rd X came down forming a 3 in a row. Smirk gone. Disbelief moved in its place.

He looked up at me incredulously. “Mom, what were you thinking?”

“Oh my goodness. I have never lost to one of y’all like this. I really can’t believe that happened.”

It was 3 across the top. Plain as day. Not many X’s and O’s to crowd the board. Simply that I wasn’t focused on the step right in front of me. I was laser-visioned steps ahead- planning, plotting, and thinking so far out that I failed to see the very next move to keep me in the game.

Our walk of faith is a moment by moment game. One that requires our eyes set on the next step set before us. No need to worry and fret when our Savior simply says, “Take my hand and walk with me. Let me guide you, strengthen you, provide for you, protect you, pick you up when you stumble, comfort you when the aches and pains overwhelm you.”

Matthew 6:25-34

Do Not Worry

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life[a]?

28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

You see. I do worry though. I’m constantly thinking not only steps ahead, but weeks, months, and years. Maybe the reason I now have an ulcer?

The ER sent me home with two medications. Day one and two I still had pain but less intense. I found myself all day those first two days fearing the next bout of pain. Finding myself scared to go exercise or plan anything for fear the pain would hit when I was away from home unable to curl up and stare at the walls until the pain passed.

At the end of the 2nd day, I began thinking about a dinner invitation we received for one week away. I felt the anxiety over the what-if’s of pain striking while we were at a new friend’s house. Could I manage to get through an evening?

That’s when I heard God’s soft whisper. Do not worry.

How can I not worry? This hurts intensely. I can’t function through the pain when it hits. There is no rhyme or reason to when it comes.

But worry doesn’t change anything. I can’t figure this out. I can’t heal this. I’ve been praying. I have lots of people praying. So why am I worrying about something 7 days away?

God brought to mind the Israelites in the desert. How He brought them daily manna. He didn’t provide a week at a time. He was teaching them to rely on Him day by day, moment by moment. One meal to the next.

I needed to rely on Him for this moment only. This day only. One meal at a time.

My mentor always reminds me that God’s grace is for right now in this very moment. She says, “Christmas grace arrives on Christmas morning. Grace to handle the next thing doesn’t arrive ahead of time, it arrives the day you need it.”

I was attempting to think 7 days away in fear and near panic but God hasn’t given me the grace for that day yet. My daily grace for 7 days away arrives in 7 days. Worrying about the future is me relying on my own strength and not God’s strength.

I went back to God’s whispering and listened closely. He was speaking. In my spirit I heard Him. Trust me. Let me care for your daily needs. Bring them to me. Cast your cares on me because I care for you.

A friend sent me a text in response to my prayer request for healing that read, “I stand in agreement with you that you are being healed. He paid too high of a price for you to be anything but totally restored, whole and without pain. I command the pain to leave in Jesus’ name.”

A key in her text that struck me was “you are being healed.” Not that healing would come instantaneously. All at one time in a miraculous kind of  ‘it’s gone in an instant’. It could because God is God. However, healing could take time and likely would. I couldn’t lose faith. I couldn’t let fear grow.

The next morning I didn’t think about my ulcer the same way. I didn’t think about pain that may come down the road. Instead I prayed, “Lord, I trust you. I’m healed by Your stripes. By my faith, I am healed. You are good, faithful, true, kind, loving, and compassionate. You tenderly take care of me. You love me to the point of death and back. I pray for healing and will trust you moment by moment while it comes.”

Then at each step of my day, I asked Him for what I needed. I wanted to go exercise. I didn’t stay home (which I had planned to do for fear of pain hitting in the middle of the class). I asked Him to strengthen me to exercise. I told the teacher I would be modifying my exercise while my ulcer is being healed. I thanked God when I left having completed the class.

The next meal I asked God to help me through it. He did. And the next and the next. I wanted a date night with my husband, but for the last several weeks I’d spent every evening on the couch or in bed in pain. On this new day of asking God step by step, I asked Him to keep me pain free for a date night. He did.

This ulcer is teaching me how to hold His hand step by step. How to place my worries on Him and keep my eyes on the step right in front of me. I won’t look at 2 moves ahead. Eyes right here. On my Savior, then my next step. On my Savior, then my next step.

God is good and works all things for His glory and our good. He takes the schemes of the enemy against us and turns them into something beautiful.

 

 

 

When God Leads You To A New Place

Someone asked me recently if I’d unfriended them because they haven’t received a post in their feed from me in so long. If you have wondered the same thing, let me assure you I haven’t removed you from my list. Our family has been in a bit of a whirlwind since the last post I wrote.

My husband’s job is taking us from North Carolina to Nebraska, and we are soon on the move again. This will be our third move since 2008. We are incredibly excited for this new adventure the Lord is taking us on.

Toward the end of January we knew we were moving. From the moment we received the green light, we’ve been in preparation and preparing mode. With supernatural speed, God has miraculously opened up doors only He could open in a span of time that has our heads spinning. We’ve known less than one month that we are leaving, and in that short span of time, we’ve prepared our house for the market, listed the house, sold the house, visited Omaha, placed a contract on a house, and here we are only weeks away from leaving.

In God’s kindness He prepared sweet gifts for me on the front and back end of this first phase whirlwind. A cruise before we came home to the storm of activity. And a retreat on the back end. One in which I spoke at and wondered initially what God was thinking having me speaking at a retreat in the process of preparing for a cross country move. Now I see His kindness in giving me time to rest in Him while experiencing the miracles He always performs at women’s retreats.

Weeks before we left on our cruise in January, I had a dream that we were on the cruise and found out Steve received a new job and we were moving. That was before I knew his new position was even open. As we approached vacation, and he began the process of interviewing for this new role, I knew he was getting the job because I knew God had shown me in my dream.

I believe God revealed that to me to give me the complete assurance and confidence that He was leading our family. When you know that God is opening doors, you can’t help but feel the excitement bubbling forth.

Within days of returning from our vacation, the flurry of activity began. Painting the house, purging, cleaning, rearranging, meeting with person after person. With each person along the process, God brought a gift of some sort. We began seeing God everywhere we turned.

In a span of two weeks, we had the house ready to list. The listing activated on a Friday. The same Friday Steve and I hopped on a plane to check out Omaha and search for our new home. Over the weekend, the house was shown 18 times. By the time I returned to North Carolina, we had multiple offers waiting. And we had found the house we wanted in Omaha. How like God.

On a Monday morning we signed contracts on the sell of our home and the purchase of another.

If I had planned for an entire year I couldn’t have put together the pieces the way God has. I couldn’t have worked out the timing with such perfection.

I’ve wondered if God has performed so many miracles to continue to give me peace in a transition of this magnitude. People have asked my husband how I feel about this move. His response is something along the lines, “Renee, would go to China if she knew God was leading us there.”

There is truth in that. When we see God’s faithfulness day in and day out, you begin to trust that no matter where He leads you, He won’t leave you. He is a good Father. He leads His people where He wants them and asks us to follow Him wherever that may be. No matter where I am, He is with me.

I pray constantly that God will lead my husband and trust that God leads me well through him. That He will give my husband wisdom and discernment. That He will use Him in mighty ways. And God is faithful. He does that. When God leads my husband, I desire to follow that leading.

Change can be both exciting and terrifying at the same time. Leaving the comfort and “safety” in what we know forces us to rely not on ourselves but on our Father. Our independence and self-sufficiency begin to decrease. Walking into unknown territory primes our hearts to hear from God in new ways. It sensitizes us to His voice if we allow our circumstances to soften us rather than harden us.

I will miss much about North Carolina. Our church, our friends, our ministries, the beach, the mountains. So much. But. I trust God. I trust in His goodness, His faithfulness, His kindness. He is doing a new thing in our family. It’s time to grow in new ways in Him. It’s time for new borders and territories. And I can’t wait to see what God will do.

One thing I’m most excited about is having more time to write when we move. I won’t have a social life or a women’s ministry to lead, so I’m guessing you will hear from me quite a bit more.

I would love your prayers for our family during this time. Our move is mid-March!

When God’s Blessing Looks Like Vomit

“I don’t feel like eating dinner.”

“You don’t have to eat, but you need to at least sit with us,” I responded to Andrew who all day had little to no appetite and seemed not quite himself. We were on Day 3 of a 7 day cruise where food surrounds you 24 hours a day.

Stepping one foot into Johnny Rocket’s, Andrew moaned, “Oh no, I can’t smell this food.”

“You are fine. Just sit with us.” We continued ignoring his moans believing he simply didn’t want to be there. Minutes after ordering dinner, Andrew continued complaining that he felt like he was going to be sick.

Steve ushered him out of the restaurant to sit outside with him in the fresh air, away from the smells of french fry grease and apple pie.

The rest of of our family, including Steve’s parents, waited on our order to arrive. While waiting, I decided to check on Andrew and Steve. I exited the restaurant and scanned the Boardwalk. Glancing to my left, my body froze. Andrew hunched over vomiting all over boardwalk. It was no dainty affair.

I bolted inside to tell the rest of the family the nightmare happening outside then rushed back to assist Steve in the embarrassing task of moving our vomiting child through a mass of people attempting to enjoy their own dinner.

It’s one of those moments where you feel time stops and everyone around you is frozen. I dared to dart my eyes to the tables near us and saw the shocked and horrified expressions on the couple who couldn’t take their eyes off of us. I can’t blame them. After the vomiting ended I tried to take a cup of water to wash the vomit off Andrew’s feet only to have Steve and I arguing about what is more acceptable – to walk through a cruise ship trailing vomit on your feet or to wash it right there at the scene of the crime which happens to be where people are eating.

As Andrew and I walked back to the room, he said, “Mom, God answered my prayer. I asked Him to please let me throw up and get this feeling out of me. I know He did that, and I know I won’t throw up again because there is no after burn and now I feel fine.”

Andrew was right in that he never threw up again on the trip. He wasn’t himself either, having little appetite for the majority of the trip.

The following morning we had booked an excursion in Jamaica that would require being away from the ship for 7 hours. We were hesitant to take Andrew when he was well simply because he is fearful of many things, but particularly heights or any risk-taking activity. This particular excursion was jumping from cliffs and waterfalls into natural pools. However, the minimum age was 6, and he said he wanted to do it. Having been sick, we decided it wasn’t worth the risk to take him.

The excursion began with about an hour and 45 minute drive, which the description failed to include. Immediately we were grateful we didn’t have Andrew. But when we arrived at Blue Hole, I literally began thanking God for Andrew’s vomit episode. Andrew would have absolutely hated the excursion and quite possibly would have ruined it for everyone.

Fear tends to bring out the worst in him. And if I’m honest, it brings out the worst in me as well.

Our tendency can often pivot to looking at our situations and circumstances in a negative light. We tend to ask why something bad is happening to us. We often feel our particular situation is unfair. But when we know who God is, His unchanging character and always faithful love, we begin to view every situation in a different light.

Yes it is true that not everything we experience comes from God. We have a very real enemy prowling, lurking, attacking, and accusing without ceasing. However, God’s Word also tells us that He uses all things for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.

That means that even the vomiting episodes in front of a cruise ship audience, God can and will use for our good.

I wonder how many blessings from God I’ve failed to recognize simply because I saw only the vomit.

Dear Lord, thank you that You are for us and not against us. Thank you that you promise never to leave us. Thank you that you tell us that when we are afraid, we can trust in You. Thank you for blessings of many kinds. Give us eyes to see you in all of our life. The moments that smell like roses and the moments that don’t. Because you never leave us, we know that you are with us in all things.  Amen

 

A Letter To My Middle Schooler- I hope you aren’t cool

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Dear Boys,

When I was in middle school, all I wanted was to be cool. In my day cool looked much different than it looks today. Cool comes with a cost. Know what you are buying when you make that exchange.

Most middle schoolers want to fit in in such a way so they will not stand out. They want to be cool in their own way. Cool for one may not be cool for another.

Begin by defining cool for yourself. Don’t let the world define cool for you. The world may say cool is what God calls rebellion. The world may say cool is to love things that aren’t lovely or pure. The world may say cool is to be someone God wants to protect you from being. The world may call cool what God calls idolatrous or foolish.

The world may say it’s cool to have a girlfriend when you know that having a girlfriend will lead you into areas of temptation you aren’t prepared to fight. All your friends may have girlfriends and say you are weird if you don’t. Don’t believe that lie. The ways of the world are foolish to God. 1 Cor 3:19 “For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: “He catches the wise in their craftiness”;

The world may say it’s cool to wear designer clothes and name brand shoes. But God’s Word says in Col 3:2 “Set your mind on things above not on earthly things.”

The world may say it’s cool to watch certain shows and movies or read certain books that are the latest craze. Your friends will stand in lines at bookstores or go to midnight showings. They may religiously watch a weekly show that in your spirit you know something isn’t right. It’s because you know God’s Word tells you in Phil 4:8 “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.

The world may say it’s cool to use curse words. God’s Word says in Eph 4:29 “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

The world may say it’s cool to talk bad about your friends or say unkind things about people who are different from you. But God’s Word says in Proverbs 16:28 “A perverse man spreads strife, And a slanderer separates intimate friends.” and in Proverbs 21:23 “He who guards his mouth and his tongue, Guards his soul from troubles.”

The world will offer you many definitions of cool, but you don’t need to accept any definition other than the one that aligns to a Biblical standard. You have known the words of the Lord. Walk in truth. Walk with Him. The world will do all it can to show you an alternate path. It will take truth and twist it ever so slightly creating a path that will lead you off the one God has paved for you to walk. It’s what satan did in the garden. He took truth and twisted it creating a lie. If you don’t know God’s Word, you won’t be able to discern between the truth and the twisted truth.

The world does not define you. Your friends do not define you. No one has a right to label you as cool, weird, nerdy, etc. They will try to define you, but you don’t allow anyone to define you. God already defined you. He created you and He is the only One who has the right to define who you are.

You are His. Here is who He says you are.

Eph 2:10 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

1 Peter 2:9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

Galatians 4:11 So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.

During your middle school years, you will look for where you fit in. You will seek to find your worth and value in friends, academics, sports, all kinds of areas. Your friends don’t complete you, your grades don’t make you, your talents don’t define you. These are simply gifts from God. Enjoy them, delight in them. Thank God for them. But don’t let them become who you are.

You are a child of God. As a child of God, you are free. Totally, completely free. Free to walk in the Spirit. Free to live released of the pressure to be a certain way or to walk a certain line. You are free to be the one He created you to be.

When you choose this road, the one of being a true follower a Christ, a true disciple, you will stand out. You won’t blend in. His desire is that you are set apart. You are set apart for His good purposes. When you are set apart, you will not be liked by everyone.

This is why it’s ok for everyone to not like you.

“If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.”

My prayer for you is that you seek to be like Jesus who didn’t get in with the cool crowd. In fact, he was radical and forever changed the world.

Since birth I’ve prayed for you to be a man after God’s own heart. I’ve prayed for you to love God more than anything in this entire world. I’ve prayed that you would follow God so hard you would strike fear in the eyes of the enemy.

Stand strong. Be bold. Choose courage.

Anyone can be like the world. It’s takes courage and strength to become the man of God He wants you to be. Walk in your calling. Be who He created you to be not who the world says you are. You are a child of God. Only God can define you.