I’ve Found the Secret To Abundant Joy- Now What?

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There is an irony in today’s post and title. I began writing this post last week. A post takes me about 30 minutes to write. But I simply don’t have 30 minutes right now. So I pecked away at words here and there, piecing together fragmented thoughts. I hit save thinking I’d come back to it eventually.

Then Monday arrived, and a spiritual funk fell upon me. It began in the middle of a sleepless night over the weekend when my mind raced and pushed sleep far away. I reached for my phone and sent a desperate 3:00 am email to my mentor and friend.

I don’t even know what I said to her, but basically along the lines of HELP! Something about how I can’t balance it all, lead women’s ministry, homeschool, I miss writing, I miss quiet times of reflection, I feel I’m failing everywhere. Aghhhhh!!

Like a good mentor, she sent me a response to slap me back into clear thinking and basically said maybe I need to learn to trust God more and stop clinging to my control. Sigh. I love her. I read her email three times in a row soaking in every word. One sentence struck me in particular. ‘Maybe one reason I’m homeschooling is to learn that I won’t have peace until God is the one with total control. Not Renee.’

Everyone needs a mentor who isn’t afraid to speak what needs to be spoken.

Monday arrived and I felt like a black cloud hung over me. A deep oppressive feeling I couldn’t shake. I tried to run away from it, but it chased me wherever I went. I pushed and pushed, plastered a smile on my face to begin the morning with my boys. Things began to fall apart quickly. One tiny incident after another.

We needed to leave to get Andrew to a therapy, so the older boys packed up backpacks so we could take school to the park while Andrew worked with his educational therapist. Andrew’s attitude spiraled down an ugly path. Somewhere along that path his nasty attitude found mine and they challenged each other to a dual. The details are for another post.

I warned his therapist that his session could go poorly and to let me know if he was disrespectful. When I picked him up she told me he was a model student. I silently thanked God, and precisely 37 seconds later as I stood talking to the therapist, I heard screaming from my car and saw Andrew lurching over the front seat in full attack of Jacob.

The black cloud opened up a flood at that point. The details and story within this story will have to be for another day. But let’s just say I struggled in a bad way all day. I struggled to even smile. Within the walls of my home it was one issue after another. One argument after another. One discipline after another. I was spent and I could not find a smile anywhere. I wanted to sulk in my rotten mood.

During all of this, I texted several friends asking for prayer. My husband called and prayed with me. What plagued me I couldn’t fight in my own strength. It could only be demolished by the power of prayer.

Over the course of many hours, I felt the black cloud lifting. I cleaned up the kitchen and thought how nice it be would be to sit and write. How I miss writing. I opened up my computer and found a post I’d drafted titled “I’ve Found The Secret To Abundant Joy”. Then I laughed.

There’s that smile I’ve been looking for. God always goes about things in a way I’d never imagine.

The post was laughable. Not because I didn’t believe what I’d attempted to write, but the fact that I looked and felt anything but joyful. At the point I stopped writing that post, I’d only written what the secret was and how I stumbled on it through homeschooling. There had been no time to write out anything beyond this…

“I’ve discovered a secret many of us spend our lives searching for. The secret to abundant joy. I stumbled on it in the last place I expected to find it. Homeschooling. And not for the reasons you may think. Not because homeschooling is a better option than public or private school. Not because I’ve found the “thing” I was missing. Because of one reason. I obeyed God in this one area that made little sense to me. I said yes when I wanted to say no.

The path to abundant joy is marked by obedience.

This is the second time in less than a year I’ve learned this lesson. Last fall God told me to put down the book I was working on. It made no sense to me. I was then asked to lead women’s ministry at my church. I’d have to slow down on the ministries I currently served which seemed to be thriving. It made no sense. I’d planned to say no. God ordered circumstances so that a yes became my answer.

Weeks into serving in that role, I said to Steve that I felt like I was right in the center of God’s will for that season and space of my life.

We are in our second week of homeschooling right now….”

Do you see why I laughed now? Yes, I do believe the secret to deep, abiding, abundant joy is found in a life marked by obeying the Father. Submitting to His Will. Following Him no matter where He leads. Dying to self in order to live in Him and for Him.

Oh friends, the first two weeks of homeschool, I was floating on air not because everything was so perfect in our world, but because despite the fact that things felt bumpy and off-centered, I felt totally centered in His Will. I KNEW I had obeyed Him in this one thing. And in this one thing, I felt His pleasure. I felt joy that seemed to bubble up from within.

And then. I forgot that He was in control and I was not. I took my eyes off Him and placed them on me and everything around me. Panic set in and the black cloud descended. And I stopped obeying in the moment by moments. Yes, I still obeyed in the one thing. But I stopped obeying in the littles.

When scripture would pop in my head to guide me, I pushed it away. I chose to walk in my flesh and gratify my sin nature instead. Disobeyed. When my kids angered me and I heard Him whispering to me to respond with gentleness and lovingkindness, I hushed His voice by snapping louder than my kids. Disobeyed. When I heard His instruction to take every thought captive, I said, “No, I don’t feel like it. I want to wallow in self-pity a bit longer.” Disobeyed.

With each act of disobedience, the weight of oppression increased.

So, yes, after the power of prayer released me from myself, I sat to write and laughed at the words blinking at me from the screen. I don’t know of much I’ve written that God doesn’t take me through immediately after writing it to be sure I grasped what He wanted me to grasp.

I re-titled the post, adding a Now What? to the end. I need to remember that I found this secret, but what am I going to do with it? It’s a choice I make moment by moment. Will I obey Him even in the most uncomfortable spaces and places I want to say no? Or will I disobey? If I obey Him, I know I will walk in peace experiencing a deep joy no matter what circumstances I walk in. If I disobey, I invite the work of the enemy. I think I’ll choose joy, which comes along the path of obedience. Not only obedience to the big things, but obedience to the very small things that make up the hours of our days.

” ‘For sometimes my old bitterness returns. Now I shall just stand my ground, claim the victory of Jesus over fear and resentment, and love even when I don’t want to.’ My friend had learned well the secret of victory. It comes through obedience.”  Tramp for the Lord, Corrie Ten Boom

Unbridle my love, Lord

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To listen to an audio recording of this post, click here.

“Mom, you have to pause right now. You have to come outside and see God’s beautiful world. There is a yellow and black butterfly flying back and forth between the trees. And everything is just. so. beautiful.”

I swiveled my cracked leather chair away from the computer screen and looked into his eyes wide with excitement. His little hands clenched tight to the mason jar holding one tiny rock.

“I found this rock when I was digging. I saved it in this glass jar so you could always think of me. I want you to remember me.”

“Andrew, I will never forget you.” I smiled, closed my computer, and followed him outside. For the first time in days, the humidity wasn’t 95%. The sky was overcast. It was lovely.

“I see the butterfly, Andrew!”

“See, I told you, Mom, it’s just beautiful out here.”

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He led me to the spot where he had been digging. He found bird netting that had grown into the ground and a rock. “Mom, I’m trying to make a hot tub. I decided I would help dig so if we ever get a pool, we will have a hot tub, and you won’t have to hire so many workers.”

I smiled back at him, nodding my affirmation of his plan. He stood up, brushed the dust off his shorts, and held his garden shovel high. “It’s not impossible for a little man with a little shovel to do that kind of job.”

Not with faith and belief like that. For the one who believes that with God all things are possible, then all things simply become possible.

After a few minutes exploring outside, we made our way back inside. We grabbed the book he and I are reading aloud, Misty of Chincoteague. We snuggled close on my bed. The dogs took their spots, one as a pillow behind my head, the other sprawled at our feet. The dialect when the grandfather speaks is tough for me to read and even more difficult for Andrew to follow. Every few sentences, I would stop and explain in plain English what the grandfather was saying to his grandchildren. The grandfather in the story referenced “gentling” a horse. I explained this would be taming a wild horse.

His eyes widened again. “I could do that. I could totally do that.”

“Andrew, honestly, I believe you could. I can absolutely see you having the ability to tame a wild horse.”

A few minutes later, he shared his newly discovered dream with Jacob. “Hey, Jacob, I’m going to calm a wild horse. I’ll just get the strongest rope in the world and bring him to me. Then I’ll get a brush and brush him softly because that will calm him like it calms our dogs.”

Jacob listened as he faked slam dunks on Andrew’s closet basketball goal. “Cool, Andrew, that’s neat.”

Andrew leaned back in his bed with his arms behind his head. He was in deep thoughts of taming wild horses. I softly closed his door for our daily “quiet” time.

An hour later quiet time ended and the boys transitioned to their daily movie or Wii time for 30 minutes. Andrew had lost his screen time because of an earlier in the day episode of disrespect, disobedience, and some serious outbursts of anger.

I sat on my bed writing during that time. He climbed on my bed with me. “Mom, I am just so sad. They are watching a show, and I wish I didn’t have to lose mine. I’m ashamed of myself.”

I put my computer down again. “Andrew, can I tell you a story?”

“Is it a true story?”

“Well, it’s a story from my heart.”
He shrugged his shoulders, crawled closer to me on the bed, and ran his fingers over threads hanging from the comforter.

“Imagine you see a wild horse. Of course, you would want it since you want a horse so badly. And you would love it immediately. In your heart you would promise to love it, protect it, and take good care of it. You would do for it what was best. But that wild horse doesn’t trust you, so it doesn’t know that you will only do what is good for it.”

He looked up from the threads and met my eyes. “Andrew, sometimes you are like that wild horse. You think you know best and forget that I love you and know what is best for you, so you forget to trust me.”

“That makes sense, actually.”

“It really does. We are all like that wild horse at times with God too. God has promised to never leave us and never foresake us. He will always take care of us and always love us. But sometimes we buck and run and He is whispering to us. He is saying, ‘Just trust me. I know what is best for you. Just obey me and love me.’ ”

He nodded as he began to play with the loose threads again. I pulled him tight to my side, kissing his cheek. “Do you know how much I love you?”

He rolled his eyes, “Yes, mom.”

“Do you know how much God loves you?”

His automatic answer, “Yes.” Then he switched his answer, “No.”

“He loves you so much He sent His One and only Son to die for you. That is how much. He loves you way more than I love you!”

His smile broke across his face as he pulled out of my embrace, skipping out of my room. We all like to be reminded that we are loved with a ridiculously wild, indulgent love.

His plans are good, His will is perfect. He asks us to trust and follow. And in response I ask Him to make me love Him wildly. With a love that is unbridled.

Lord, let me trust you with my whole heart. When I’m scared, let me run to you, not away. When I think I know what is best, remind me that you know my heart better than I know myself. Unbridle my heart to love you wildly.

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When I Watched the Gospel Wear Skin

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I sat in the corner of the waiting room where Andrew attends Interactive Metronome therapy twice a week. Jacob stood at the door leading from the waiting room to the hallway. “Oh my gosh, Mom, come here! Andrew is out in the hallway.” The laugh in Jacob’s eyes told me I didn’t want to miss this.

I placed my book on the seat and joined Jacob at the door. Peering around the doorframe, I gasped. Jacob doubled over gripping his stomach through his fits of laughter. From the end of the hall, Andrew shouts back, “What? Stop it, Jacob!” Jacob couldn’t stop laughing.

“Jacob, please go back in the waiting room,” I whispered. Just then Andrew’s therapist emerged from the bathroom holding the shirt Andrew had been wearing. It was soaked.

“Andrew had a little accident on his shirt when he went to the bathroom. I tried to rinse it off and accidentally got his shirt wetter than I meant to and now it’s too wet for him to wear.”

I laughed. He laughed. Then I realized, we really did have a bit of an issue. Therapy time ticked away. Valuable time. It’s been years since I’ve kept extra clothes on hand. He could go shirtless, which would be fine with him, maybe not with the other children. I saw no solution.

I wore a cardigan over my shirt. I took it off to offer it to Andrew. His always over-expressive eyes widened, “Mom! I cannot wear girl clothes! I’ll look ridiculous!”

He pushed his arms in anyway. We rolled the sleeves up, buttoned the bottom buttons, hoping he would roll with it.

“No. No way. Take this off me now. I can not wear this!”

“Do you think one of his brothers would loan him their shirt?”

“Ha! I highly doubt it, but I’ll ask.”

I thought to myself, “There is no way they will give up their shirt, sit shirtless in a waiting room so Andrew can continue therapy.” Having no other options, I entered the waiting room to ask so I could say I’d given it my best.

“Ok, boys, Andrew had a little accident on his shirt, his therapist tried to help him out and ended up soaking the shirt. In order for him to finish therapy, he needs a shirt to wear. I tried to give him my cardigan but he won’t wear it. Is there any way one of you would be willing to loan him the shirt off your back so he can finish therapy?”

Before I completed my sentence, Jacob shot up from his seat. “I’ll do it, Mom. He can wear my shirt.”

Before he could change his mind, I whisked him out of the waiting room back to Andrew standing shirtless in the hallway.

They locked eyes and both burst out laughing. Through his laughter, Andrew said, “Stop it, Jacob.” Jacob couldn’t help himself.

“Jacob, quickly take off your shirt and give it to him so he can get back to work.” Jacob pulled his shirt off, Andrew slipped it on his head. And I watched it dawn on Jacob what he had just done.

Jacob stood exposed.

Andrew looked down at his new shirt. “This fits perfect. Thanks!” And off he and his therapist went. Meanwhile, I handed Jacob my favorite white cardigan.

He looked at it as if it were poison. “Mom, I can’t believe I just gave him my shirt. I don’t know what I was thinking! I am so embarrassed right now.”

I let it all out. Every ounce of laughter I’d been holding in. Watching Jacob put his arms into that cardigan, button up the buttons which went to about his belly button, and looking at his bare chest. Well, it was about the funniest thing I’d seen in awhile.

After I gathered myself, I stood back looking at him. “Jacob, that is the most beautiful picture of sacrifice I’ve seen. You didn’t think, you didn’t weigh the options, you didn’t count the cost to you. You gave to your brother what he didn’t have, you suffered humiliation and embarrassment for his sake. And you did it out of love.”

A blush covered his face, as he gently nodded, eyes cast to the floor. “It was weird, Mom, because I didn’t even think about it until after I’d given him my shirt. It just happened. I really can’t believe I said yes.”

“It’s the absolute perfect picture of sacrifice. When we sacrifice something from our hearts, we often don’t think about it. It comes naturally.”

A soldier who gives his life for a brother isn’t weighing his options and what he will give up. There is no time. A mother who runs into the road to save her child crossing the street isn’t thinking. She is simply acting. Often what we call a sacrifice is simply an act of love to the nth degree.

“Jacob, you had what Andrew didn’t and out of your love for him, you sacrificed. You are embarrassed, you are humiliated. Jesus did for us what we couldn’t do for ourselves. He hung on a cross in complete humiliation. Willingly. It was the ultimate sacrifice.”

I watched the thought wash over him. It transformed his face, and I pray it transforms his heart. I know it will. Because the gospels transforms us. Not just the first time we get it, but every moment we live it.
When we truly get the gospel is when the gospel gets us. And we will never, ever be the same. It’s impossible.

Jacob showed me gospel living. The gospel is meant to be tasted, felt, experienced. The gospel is radical. Extreme. Unnatural. It’s wild abandonment of self and pride. It’s humbling.

The gospel isn’t meant to be boiled down to a Sunday School lesson leading to a sinner’s prayer. It’s so much more. It’s beautifully complex wearing the clothes of simplicity. It’s a simple message meant to be breathed in and out.

With each breath of the gospel, we come alive, and out of the life He gave for us, we can give. We can stand humiliated yet unashamed.

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How To Live Fearless In A Scary World

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For the audio recording of this post click here to listen.

I sat straight up in my bed, my heart racing as my eyes desperately tried to focus. Light filtered in through the blinds as I reached for my watch and tried to understand why I felt terrified. My immediate thought went to Andrew. Did he sleepwalk out of the beach house we are renting? The pond steps from our place has several alligators cruising its waters. Did Andrew wander into the waters? What if he’s gone?

Initially, I tried to talk myself calm. I tried to prove to God I trusted in Him by praying and laying still in my bed. But I couldn’t. I bolted out of the bed and ran to the front door. I checked the deadbolt. Twice. I went to Andrew’s bed. Everyone was safely sleeping.

I returned to my bed and prayed myself back to sleep. I wish I could say this is the first time that has happened. It’s not and it seems to be happening more frequently.

Our first day at the beach the wind was fierce, so loud you had to yell to hear each other. The sand blew so hard it pelted our skin with little stings. The boys and I used different words to describe the waves. To me they were violent. To the boys they were adventure.

Steve and I watched the boys jumping in the waves while the sand stung our skin and all we could hear were shouts of kids carried intermittently by the wind.

“Steve, it’s too dangerous for them to be out there. Those waves are rough.” I immediately thought back to a conversation we had on the way to the beach. One I initiated about fear and how I refused to become a person directed by fear. While I wouldn’t jump from a plane, I wouldn’t stop living life because of the what if’s of freak accidents either. That would simply be life not lived, rather life controlled by fear.

But in that moment fear held me by the neck against a wall.

“Steve, I feel terrified right now.”

“Renee, you need to send that fear away.”

I began talking to God with my eyes lasered at my kids. In that moment it hit me. He commands those waves and winds. He quieted the waves and winds with two words. Be still.

Be still.

I’ve written talks around this. I’ve spoken on this topic multiple times. And here I am again. Reminding myself that the One Who holds the world, is the One who commands the waves, is the One Who has numbered my days. So why do we fear?

We are a scared bunch of people. Anxiety plagues our world. The world is scary.

We are surrounded by terrifying reports. Within days we read about the Orlando massacre, the tragic death of a 2-year-old in Disney, a missing 14-year-old who was swimming in the ocean, a 13-year-old almost kidnapped right from her mother’s side. I am debating getting off of Facebook for good because I walk away scared, or mad, or nervous, or something that is not good for me.

Here’s the deal. I hate when satan attacks us and we let him. There is something so deep inside me that begins to boil over when I see his schemes. I’m dropping the gloves with him. I’m tired of watching him seek to destroy us through fear tactics. It’s his age old trick. He’s not very creative. We are simply not seeing what he is doing. And we aren’t putting on our armor.

I will not live scared in this world.

How often does God instruct us not to fear? Throughout the Bible God tells His people not to fear. Trust Him.

But we read these words then we turn to the news and immediately forget God’s instruction to us.

The weeks before Steve and I left for Haiti, I battled fear in a big way. This is nothing new for me. Fear I battle regularly. Last fall I had an intense fear war going on as God revealed many things to me. His intent was not for me to fear, yet I went first to fear.

Prior to our Haiti trip, Jacob expressed his own fear about our trip. What if we died while there and he was left with no parents? It’s a valid fear. It was my biggest fear as a child. I shared his fear with a friend who instantly reminded me of the truth.

Job 14:15 You have decided the length of our lives. You know how many months we will live, and we are not given a minute longer.

Jacob and I read this verse together. I said, “Jacob, God has appointed a time for me to die. He knows the exact hour. Whether my plane crashes over the ocean or I’m sitting in my house and my heart simply stops beating, God knows the day I will go home to Him.”

I watched as the moment of understanding transformed his face. That’s why we can’t let the what if’s of life plague us.

Psalm 56:3 “When I’m afraid I will trust in you.”

Psalm 139:16 “You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.”

The day we depart this earth is no surprise to God. He has numbered our days. He knows the very moment we will enter into eternity. So why should I waste one second on fear? Why should I allow satan to steal my joy and my moments because I’m pondering the what-if’s?

We have two choices in where we allow our mind to go. On Him or on the fears of this world.

Isaiah 26:3 “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.”

To live fearless in a scary world takes us making the choice to live fearless. The choice is ours. The moment fear creeps in, we take charge by breaking down the stronghold.

2 Cor 10:4-5 “since the weapons of our warfare are not worldly,[a] but are powerful through God for the demolition of strongholds. We demolish arguments 5 and every high-minded thing that is raised up against the knowledge of God, taking every thought captive to obey Christ.”

Either we take fear captive….or it takes us hostage. All we have to do is take those fear thoughts captive and make them obedient to Christ. God is not the author of fear. Fear is from satan. Because we are under the lordship of Christ, we have the power of the Holy Spirit to take every thought captive and make it obey Him.

Our fear thoughts only torment us if we allow them to. Battle with His Word.

 

Don’t laugh at my video but do take the dare

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Last year I attended the Allume Conference, where I met Krista Gilbert (she’s next to me in the middle of that picture). It took all of 2.2 seconds for me to fall in love with her. Her heart for moms, for the family, for ministry flowed right out of her. And I loved her instantly.

One day at the conference, I stumbled into one of my friends, who quickly whisked me away to this little conference room. I had no idea what I was walking into. She told me it was a project Krista was working on, something about making a video, our roommates were in there.

I went along to support my friends and roommates. Had I known I would stand in front of the camera, I might have hung back. I’m not a quick thinker. I’m a processor, reflective in nature. I need time to decide what I think before moving or speaking on it. I like to practice what I will say before I say it to be sure it comes across clearly.

Well, I’m learning about God’s playful side. The part of Him that smiles down with a little chuckle in His heart and twinkle in His eye. I’m learning to laugh along with Him in these uncomfortable spots.

Krista invited me to record a Mom Dare, so I did. And ya’ll. Goodness gracious. Just watch the video. All I will say is that you can see my head looked like someone wound up the excited nod knob and let it go. My head is just a bobbing along, and several times I thought my smile would turn to laughter as I tried not to look at my roommates watching me do what feels soooooo uncomfortable for me!!

There is no turning back now because it is recorded and out there for the world to see. So forget my camera awkwardness and go take today’s dare.

Jump over to Meaning in a Minute and take today’s one minute dare. I do believe it will bless you. We all need to see His goodness a little bit more in our daily grind.

Just for fun here’s the awkward video.

 

The tension between the beginning of the end and the beginning of the beginning

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I have that nervous anticipation a kid feels when change is around the bend. The excitement of new adventure, the anxiety of the unknown, the anticipation of what may be ready to give birth.

The butterflies of back to school shopping or packing for summer camp. The chatter of summer plans whirling, who is going where, preparing for last hugs and times of prayer for a season of goodbye.

We are at the beginning of the end of something and the beginning of new beginnings. Tension is in this spot. A holding on to what was while reaching for what is to come. But what is to come? We don’t really know so we reach with timid hands.

We are in the final days of the school year. The boys are down to single digits. We are saying goodbye for now to the school that has become a family to us for the past five years. While I’m excited about what is in store for us with homeschooling, I’m still mourning what we are leaving.

Jacob is completing his 6th grade year. He made me a gift in art and wanted to be sure I kept it safe as it is the last school art project.

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We are walking through many lasts right now, but I want to feel the fullness of the lasts so I can be prepared to receive the fullness of the firsts readied for us.

The last field day is this week. The last awards day (my favorite day of the year). The last field trip. The last end of year parties. I will miss these things. I’m grateful for the moments, the memories, and the years we’ve built. A last must come eventually. Rarely are we ready when it arrives on the doorstep.

Something else stirs, and I don’t know what it is. God is doing something, and none of us really know exactly what that looks like.

Steve and I leave on a mission trip next week. Another first. One day I have a great story to tell you. It’s a little too long for a blog though. I’ve written pieces of it in my journal. Maybe one day I’ll get to share the whole story with you.

Years ago I said I’d love to go on a mission trip with Jacob the year I turned 40 and Jacob turned 13. In God-like fashion, He made that happen by moving in Jacob’s heart. As the date approached, however, God prompted us to not take Jacob. (This is the part that is an amazing story and I want to tell you every detail because it just shows how super incredible our God is, and it just can’t be told any other way than all the way)

We decided Jacob would not go. Now Steve and I are going. My blog might be quiet for a couple of weeks. As we wrap up the end of the school year, pack to leave for Haiti, and prepare for our children to be cared for by grandparents. I have quite a bit going on.

I would love your prayers for this trip. I will be speaking to the women of the community we will be working with. I’ll also have an opportunity to speak with the teenage girls. I’ve never spoken to a group who speaks another language. I have much anxiety over that. I desperately want to communicate the gospel accurately and concisely. I want to tell these women the great story of their rescue, who they are in Him when they become His daughter, and how to live a godly life as His child.

I have a lot of anxieties I wish I didn’t have. All the ones you can imagine when you travel to another country when your children aren’t with you.

I would love your prayers for our team traveling to Haiti. For every step of travel, every soul we touch, every story we hear, every heart He’s prepared. I ask for prayers of spiritual and physical protection. For logistics and details. For health and safety.

Part of me is anxious because of the unknown. Not just the external unknown, but the unknown of the change God will do in Steve and me. Part of me is trying to put up a barrier. Pray I don’t do that. That I not guard myself in anyway from what God wants to do in my heart. For what He wants to strip away, for what He wants to implant.

Last year when Jacob’s heart was broken for Haiti, he prayed for rain. He learned it had been years since they’d received rain in this one region. So he prayed, and he prayed, and he prayed. And God brought rain. And we all cried.

Your prayers for this trip and the people of Haiti matter. Your prayers move God to action on their behalf .

Thank you for your friendship to my family and for your faithfulness to pray. And thank you for your patience during a quiet season on this blog. You will continue to be in my heart and prayed for.

I’ve been posting shorter reflections and insights on Instagram. I’d love to connect with you there.

I’ll be around for maybe another post or two, then back again the end of May!

Much love,

Renee

Maybe Our Best Gifts Shouldn’t Be On Social Media

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Listen to the audio recording of today’s post here

A couple of weekends ago, I had 3 full days to myself in my own home. I can’t remember ever having that much time to myself. It’s a real gift to the introvert. The days approaching I dared not allow myself to get excited for fear plans would fall through.

The moment my family drove away, I pulled out my spray bottles of vinegar and peroxide, my dusting cloths, brooms, and mops. And I got to work. I cleaned the house from top to bottom with no distraction knowing it would stay spotless for days. All my household duties were complete by lunch and I now had the gift of time ahead of me.

I’m a productivity lover. I fill every pocket of time with a task. Sometimes I hate that about me. I resist rest because there is always work to be done. I never sit in the evenings. After the kids go to bed, there is always work to be done. I tell myself I will sit down and rest when everything is done. The problem is that it’s never all done. So I fall into bed exhausted every night.

I had a choice to make with my free weekend. I could do what I always do. Get stuff down. Work through my long list of never ending tasks. Or I could be wild and crazy with my time. I could do nothing but rest.

I battled only briefly when I decided that God was giving me a gift and I wanted to receive the gift in full. No one likes to give a gift and feel the person they gave it to didn’t really appreciate the gift fully. They half used it because they didn’t see the real value it held.

My soul was in desperate need of a gift. The gift had been given to me. I had a choice. Resist the gift or receive it in full. Sometimes the kindest thing we can do for our own soul is to receive fully the gift of rest when it’s offered to us. 

For me to accept a gift of rest isn’t easy. To rest, I had to battle guilt. Guilt over not working through the tasks. Guilt over sleeping later than normal. Guilt over reading a book for hours when that simply felt too luxurious.

It’s not just my task list that taunts me. It’s the good things even. I could use that time to write, to work on women’s ministry. The list of ways I could serve grew long. And the guilt clung tightly.

I am well familiar with the person I become when I’m serving or working on empty. When I don’t pause for a soul refill, I become a person I don’t want to be around. Bitterness creeps in. I’m quick to judge others who aren’t serving to the same capacity I am. I become a flaw pointer, noticing everything that’s not right in the people around me. It’s ugly. And it loves to rear its head when I’m in desperate need of rest and soul filling.

I’m an all or nothing kind of person. So when I made the decision to fully accept the gift of rest, free of guilt, I went all in. God did the rest. I didn’t plan one second of that weekend and I couldn’t have had a more beautiful weekend.

The first evening I spent with my dear friend, mentor, and prayer warrior. She was steps inside the door and I was captivated by her stories. I could sit and listen for hours. In fact, that is just what I did. When I finally stood up from listening, I felt lightheaded and dizzy. How long had I been engrossed in her life’s story? When I looked at the clock, it was hours past my normal dinner. A gift. How often does food in my home revolve around clocks and hungry boys? How delightful to find myself lost in her stories, losing sense of time completely. We continued sharing stories for hours over shared salads, chocolate cake, and hot tea. Bedtime was not dictated by a menacing schedule waiting for me.

The following morning I woke leisurely, which never happens. I ordered the guilty thoughts to go back to where they came from so I could wrap my arms around the gift of this very moment. Enjoying the quiet morning watching the dawning day break through the curtains.

The rest of the day I spent on my screen porch reading. Hours upon hours of reading. Finishing one book, moving on to another. A gift I had never received before. Dinner out with a friend, back home to curl up and read for another round of hours.

By the time my family arrived back home, I felt like a new person. I had nothing to show for my weekend except a smile and a settled heart. My soul felt full again, ready to serve and give and love. I was ready to be all in again.

In 13 years, I’ve never had a break quite like that. I didn’t post on social media how much I was relishing in my rest. There were several moments I found myself so grateful for the rest and felt that urge to shout it from the rooftops, which typically equates to posting on Instagram or Facebook.

I refrained. I don’t know exactly why. Maybe it was that I wanted to keep my gift a secret for a time. I wasn’t ready to give up the intimacy of the moment or to invite others into the privacy of that time. Maybe if the world came in, the rest would escape.

Maybe it was that I realized that in 13 years I’d never had a moment like that, and to share those moments would only breed discontentment and jealousy to a mom who is hanging by a thread. How often have I been hanging by that very thread only to scroll through social media and see pictures that made me want to question my own life?

Maybe a part of me thought posting those moments was such a far stretch from my real life that I couldn’t bring myself to put them out there.

I’m not exactly sure. But there is something that felt so right about holding those moments close to my heart that weekend. Sharing them with only the real live people I interacted with. Cherishing the full gift for those brief moments, afraid if I shared them, they’d slip away. They wouldn’t be a sweet gift just for me anymore.

As we head into Mother’s Day weekend, may we hold our moments close to our hearts. May we cherish the intimacy of the gifts we receive rather than share them with the world. May we remember that in our excitement over our moments, sometimes we create deep pain and discontentment in another women who isn’t currently showered with love. Or a woman who has never had an opened womb or a completed adoption. Or a mother who is working through healing relationships with her children.

Maybe the kindest gift to our soul this Mother’s Day is to fully receive the gifts we receive….and to keep it a little secret. Not inviting the world into those secret places. There’s something to treasure about the little sacred moments and gifts in a see-all, share-all world. And there is something to behold knowing that we didn’t unintentionally hurt a women who is in need of a gift but didn’t receive one.