The secret to joy is hidden in the view

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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.

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

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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?

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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