You May Be Worn Down, But You Are Not Worn Out

rollerblades

We pulled into the Goodwill drop off lane when I realized we had a few minutes to spare. We could always make time for a real-life treasure hunt. That week Andrew had been talking about how much he would love to have his own pair of rollerblades. He stressed his own and brand new.

Taking my boys to any store is always an adventure. People must think I don’t let them out very often. They pick up everything as if seeing for the first time.

Thumbing through some books, I caught a glimpse of a one of my boys sporting a bike helmet. My eyes remained on the book in my hand, and I begged myself to stop pondering the possibilities of how many heads had been in that helmet. Another boy took practice swings with a golf club. Near the dishes. And another was trying his hardest to hop on a bike to go for a quick stroll. So much for thumbing through the books. I gently placed the book on the dusty shelf and made my way towards the chaos on the horizon.

As I neared the sporting goods section of the store, all I saw were heaps of messes. How in the world they could find a treasure in here was beyond me. But every 10 seconds someone let out a gasp to signify a new discovery. Then the gasps of all gasps came. “Mom! Mom! Look! Look! Rollerblades! Brand new. Can they be my own? My very own?”

I looked at what he held in his hands. They were not brand new. They were as far from brand new as you could possibly imagine. Beyond used. Worn slap out seemed a fitting description.

I began coming up with excuses why these would not be the rollerblades for him. They probably cost too much money. They probably aren’t your size. Wouldn’t you rather wait for your birthday when you can get the ones you want?

“Mom, look they fit just perfect. Perfect!” Bending over I felt his toe in the skates. Yep, just perfect. To the next excuse.

“We will have to see how much they cost. Rollerblades are expensive.”

“I have my own money. I have $3.”  Great, this will be my way out. No way can he buy the skates for less than that.

“Sir, how much are these skates? They don’t have a price on them.”

He picked them up with a slight look of disdain, which I totally got. The black material had rubbed off, the wheels looked in need of replacing, did the buckles even work? “Hmmm, $2.50 seems about right.”

His blond head snapped up to catch my attention. “Mom, is that less than $3?” Those eyes get me. It’s why I’d wanted to avoid making contact with them. The sparkle begged to take those skates home. To be his very own. And we did.

Those rollerblades had lost their value to someone at some point in time. Their season of use seemed to have come to an end. They made their way to a dusty shelf piled high with other items that seemed to have lost their value. The items on the shelf hadn’t lost their value. They were in a season of waiting for their next purpose. Their next assignment. The next person they would bring joy to. The rollerblades were worn down, not worn out.

I may be worn down, but I am not worn out.

There are days I feel like a new pair of rollerblades. Shiny and new, full of value and use. There are days I feel like the worn down skates sitting on a shelf. Tired and useless, little value. There are days I feel like the skates picked up off the shelves placed in new hands. Life reinvigorated, a new purpose in my heart. There are days I feel like the rollerblades on the feet of little Andrew. This time experienced, these paths are a bit more familiar. I can go a little further because I’ve been down this path before.

Sometimes I feel like the skates that got tired of riding those trails. Tired of the unexpected bumps on the road. Wanting to take a break from it all. I find myself on that dusty shelf conflicted by my need for rest and escape and my need for purpose and use. Sometimes I find when I’ve sat on the shelf long enough, I’m more aware of my need for a new rhythm.

Are you worn down? Do you feel worn out? Are you in a season of shelf sitting, wondering what the point of it all really is? Me too, my friend. God has many sweet messages for us on the worn down days, the worn down hearts.

No matter how worn down we feel, we are not worn out to God. In our most used up state, He breathes life into our every minute. We are His treasure. We may feel like a used up pair of rollerblades in a pile of dusty broken toys, but God sees us as a treasure. And He gasps. Because He doesn’t see our strength, He sees His power amplified through something that looks flat out useless. He sees something waiting to be used in order to bring glory and honor to Him.

So He says, “Come to me.”  When you feel worn down, remember you are not worn out. He breathes life every second of every day.

andrewbook

 

Matthew 11:28-30The Message (MSG)

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

[box] If you enjoyed today’s post, consider subscribing here to receive posts via email. You will receive a free Christmas ornament download that accompanies Seeking Christmas – Finding the True Meaning Through Family Traditions.[/box]

The secret to joy is hidden in the view

sunrise

His head was down, fingers flipping through his Bible. I paused at the doorway reflecting on the gift he is to me. The house was quiet, it was just the 2 of us. Looking up from his bed, his eyes did that thing that makes my heart melt. They’ve done it since he was a baby. Such life is in his eyes, such joy. When he smiles, he smiles with his eyes more than his mouth. No matter what I have going on in my heart, his eyes can soften me in an instant.

“Well, buddy, you are almost 9.” His smile spread a touch wider. Folding down the covers and positioning his body, gratitude filled me that he allows me to do this.  And then I began singing a silly song about this being the last night ever he would be 8 years old.

Snapping his head up, he sucked in his breath. The eyes so filled with peace moments earlier teared up, “Mom, what? Don’t do that. Don’t say that. I’m about to cry. I’ve never thought of it that way before. If I think about this being the last time I’ll ever be 8, it will make me less excited about being 9.”

I quickly changed the tune to a silly song about being 9. His shoulders relaxed releasing apprehension to make room for contentment.

He was right. How we think impacts our view of the horizon. His view is always one of longing for sunrise rather than despairing over sunset. Mine is not. For me it takes daily effort and asking God to help me view life in a way that brings joy.

When my oldest was 5 months old, I sat on the front porch bench swing. It was March, the air was cool hinting at spring ahead after a long winter. I held him in my arms as we rocked back and forth. I watched as his eyes lost the fight to keep focused on my eyes. I never released my eyes from his.

I’d begun to have fewer and fewer moments of him falling asleep in my arms. A reminder that moments that seem so ordinary likely come to an end to make room for new moments. It’s good, not a bad thing. But a mama always longs to hold her babies. As I watched him sleeping in my arms, I thanked God for that very moment with him because I had the opportunity for one more. I was keenly aware how fast he was growing and all moments would end and make way for new developments. I knew he wouldn’t be 10 sleeping in my arms.

That was the last time he fell asleep on me like that. And I look back not with sadness but with such joy that I experienced it, fully aware that all moments are gifts from God.

As I tucked in my middle son, growing at a rate I can barely keep pace with, I felt that sense of gratitude I’d felt 10 years prior swinging his older brother as an infant.

He is growing. But so am I. And that is how I can view these moments through a lens of joy rather than sadness. He grows, I grow. Together we grow.

Today he is 9. Yesterday he was one. Tomorrow he will be 18. Next week he will be 30. I know how this goes. Today as we celebrate Zachary turning 9, I’m reminded again that every moment is a gift from God. This child has brought a gift to me that words can never fully express.

DSC_0098

[box] If you enjoyed today’s post, consider subscribing here to receive posts via email. You will receive a free Christmas ornament download that accompanies Seeking Christmas – Finding the True Meaning Through Family Traditions.[/box]

Everyday Fears: I’m Not Nehemiah – And That’s Ok

wall 2

Today concludes our Nehemiah Mini-Series on facing our everyday fears that threaten to hold us back from living out our dreams, our desires, our purposes, our passions.  Nehemiah is a big example of someone recognizing a desire placed in his heart by God, facing the criticism of others, praying through opposition and obstacles, and accomplishing an amazing task for God. One thing I hope you walk away with is this.  We are not all a Nehemiah.  And that is perfectly OK.  In fact, it’s more than ok, it’s the way God designed it.

This world doesn’t need millions of Nehemiahs.  My hope through this series was that we could look at the whole picture of Nehemiah and see the various components of the story and how it applies to our daily lives.

Neh 4:6 So we rebuilt the wall till all of it reached half its height, for the people worked with all their heart.  The people worked with all their heart.  I love that.  To work something with all our hearts, we usually are working out of our giftedness.  It’s hard for me to work with all my heart in certain tasks.  I am not a fan of physical labor.  My husband will plan these outdoor workdays, which are just miserable for me.  He will often say, “It won’t happen just by you looking at it.”  I’m just hoping that if I stare hard enough and long enough, it will magically happen without me lifting a finger.  It doesn’t work that way.  I rarely work with all my heart on those projects because I’m so focused on what feels so unnatural to me. I rarely look for my talents in those times and how I can apply them to the task.

To accomplish something as big as the rebuilding of the wall, it took everyone working with all their hearts.  Nehemiah was gifted as a leader.  Others, I imagine, were gifted with encouragement.  Maybe they were speaking words of inspiration to their fellow workmen during those long hours.  Others might have been gifted with strength and a strong work ethic.  They might have served as examples to others that struggled in this area, and they likely picked up some of the lags left by others not so gifted here.  Some might have been gifted with organization skills.  Maybe they used their talents of organization to keep the project flowing well and efficiently.  Maybe some were gifted with administrative skills and were able to focus on the small details that others missed, which are vitally important to a big project.

The point is this, we all have gifts, talents, natural bents.  When these are aligned with the purposes God places in our hearts, which give way to finding what we are passionate about, amazing eternal work is accomplished.

I have a friend who got a new puppy.  She began walking her puppy around the neighborhood several times a day.  Puppies are a people magnet, and she suddenly found herself having conversations with some of the same people everyday.  Many of these were elderly people that she did not know prior to getting her new puppy.  Then she noticed that some of the elderly would see her through a window in their home and come out just to talk to her and pet her puppy.

My friend is the most amazing listener. When I’m with her my love for talking and her love for listening go together dangerously well.  She felt a stirring in her heart.  Slight stirring.  She recognized that stirring would come alive when she was talking to the folks that lived around her.  These people were drawn to her because she can listen.  Really listen.  And many of these people are alone all day long with no one to listen to them.  She gives them that opportunity.

She is a busy mom, yet she recognized the Lord’s purpose He had placed in her heart for this place, for this time, for this season.  It is becoming her ministry.  Now, does my friend go around shouting from the rooftops about her ministry?  No.  Does her ministry look as grand as something like Proverbs 31 Ministries that reaches millions of people?  No.  Her desire isn’t a Nehemiah desire.  She recognized her giftedness and applied it to her daily life, thus living out her desires and passions.  She learned to be content as a fellow workmen on the building of something with eternal significance.

What happens when everyone is working out their passions and purposes using what God placed in them. What if others had thought their gifts weren’t as grand as Nehemiah’s and did nothing?  What if they compared themselves to Nehemiah ‘I’m not a Nehemiah…what can God do?’  Then Nehemiah’s purpose would not have been fulfilled.  He used his gift of leadership to inspire a people.  But the builders used their own talents and gifts to follow Nehemiah.  Without each of them working together, the purpose would not have been fulfilled.

Some desires are big.  Some are not.  From an eternal standpoint, they are all monumental.

This is Part 5 to a mini-series titled Everyday Fears.  We are looking at Nehemiah and how a desire, which turned into a passion, was awakened in him and how he fought through fear to accomplish a purpose.  Nehemiah is a big example.  Don’t let that intimidate you.  Our purposes aren’t always as grand as rebuilding a wall for a nation. Some of our purposes may seem so small that we feel silly sharing them.  That’s what fear wants us to think.  I pray through this series we will begin to examine what God has placed in us that begs to be awakened.  Big or small, if God placed it in us, it needs to be awakened.

You can see all parts here:

Part 1: The Awakening

Part 2: Nehemiah’s Awakening

Part 3:  The First Step of Combat

Part 4:  What Will Others Think

Everyday Fears: What Will Others Think?

DSC_4455

Neh 4:1 When Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, he became angry and was greatly incensed.  He ridiculed the Jews, and in the presence of his associates and the army of Samaria, he said, “What are those feeble Jews doing?  Will they restore their wall?  Will they offer sacrifices?  Will they finish in a day?  Can they bring the stones back to life from those heaps of rubble – burned as they are?

What if Nehemiah had listened to this?

When I first started writing, I cared too much what others thought.  I checked my stats way too much.  I checked for FB likes far too often.  I needed that affirmation that my abilities were being used for good.  Likes and shares are a poor indicator of eternal work.

One of fears strongest tactics is to convince us to care what others will think.  When we are using our gifts and abilities, we will have some who love it and some who hate it.  Period. When we stop performing for the world, and begin performing for an audience of One, everything changes.  Our motives remain pure and true.  Our giftedness can bloom and grow. When the fear of what others think is hanging around, we will not perform to the best of our abilities. Because we aren’t performing for the right audience.  We will be trying to please too many people.

When we move into an area we feel called to, fear will speak louder.

Fear is the ultimate intimidator.  It won’t be easily convinced to give up.  (See Neh 2:19)

When desires give birth to passion, opposition will soon follow.  The goal of opposition is to intimidate. Opposition is not our friend, nor should we listen to it.  This is not a voice we should care what it says.  It seeks to put to bed something God intends to be awakened.

Sanballet didn’t give up easily, and neither will our enemy.  When Sanballet heard that the wall had been rebuilt, he sent Nehemiah a message requesting him to come visit.  Nehemiah knew this was a plan devised to harm him and intimidate him, so he declined.  Sanballet didn’t give up easily.  On the fifth attempt, he changed the message and sent a letter claiming that it had been reported the Jews were planning a revolt, which is why they were building the wall.  The letter threatened to proclaim this to the king in Judah.

I love Nehemiah’s response, such confidence, Neh 6:8-9  I sent him this reply: “Nothing like what you are saying is happening; you are just making it up out of your head.”  I really, really love that line.  “You are just making it up out of your head.”  I will use this on fear when he whispers to my heart! Ok, back on track.  Neh 6:9 They were all trying to frighten us, thinking, “Their hands will get too weak for the work, and it will not be completed.”  But I prayed, “Now strengthen my hands.”

So much here.  So much.  Intimidation (fear) is relentless.  Nehemiah is an example to us of how to stand strong in the Lord and fight back.  How?  He didn’t listen to fear’s voice.  He knew his gifts, he knew his purpose, he trusted God to carry him through.  But what I love is even in his giftedness, he never looked to himself.  He always looked back to God.  Even with great success to that point, when Sanballet tried to intimidate him saying their hands would get too weak, he didn’t believe it, but more than that, he prayed specifically for strength in his hands. He recognized who the giver of talents was.

So today can we look our everyday fears in the eyes (procrastination, busyness, people pleasing, however it is disguised) and say “You are just making it up in your head!”  Then can we look to God and say, “Now strengthen my hands?”

This is Part 4 to a mini-series titled Everyday Fears.  We are looking at Nehemiah and how a desire, which turned into a passion, was awakened in him and how he fought through fear to accomplish a purpose.  Nehemiah is a big example.  Don’t let that intimidate you.  Our purposes aren’t always as grand as rebuilding a wall for a nation. Some of our purposes may seem so small that we feel silly sharing them.  That’s what fear wants us to think.  I pray through this series we will begin to examine what God has placed in us that begs to be awakened.  Big or small, if God placed it in us, it needs to be awakened.

You can see all parts here:

Part 1: The Awakening

Part 2: Nehemiah’s Awakening

Part 3:  The First Step to Combat