Anchoring in Christ allows me rest in the fury of the storm

They gaze in awe.  Is this for real?

Just moments before they launched the Dorothy into the tornado and watched in amazement as thousands of little computers whisk away.

The storm cloud suddenly shifts threatening their immediate safety.

After a life-preserving run through a nearby field, they find safety by chaining themselves to plumbing anchored deep into the ground just as the funnel cloud passes over them.   And for a moment, they allow themselves to rest in the storm until the cloud passes over, wreaking havoc along its chosen path.

It’s my favorite scene from the movie Twister.

After a lifetime of actively seeking resolution from a childhood event, the character, Dr. Jo Harding, rests in success of knowing her plan is working.  Soon she will have the data she needs to create a pre-warning system created to save lives of those who find themselves in the path of the storm.

Dare I say she begins to experience healing & resolution from years of pain in the midst of this storm?

Author Sheila Wray Gregoire suggests that allowing ourselves to feel pain is actually a key to the process of healing.  She states the physical feeling of pain, while not pleasant, will not kill us. It’s a necessary emotion to experience & process.

At the time I received this advice I too was in the midst of a storm.  I knew I could not walk in pain of my storm alone.  In the depths of emotion, I called out to Jesus and anchored myself to him.  Like the characters in Twister,  anchoring myself caused three things to happen.

I stopped running.

When I stopped running and just basked in his presence, I realized how much baggage I had gathered.  Years of bitter memories fought to reach the surface of my heart.  Issues I let slow boil until the pressure became too intense to keep shoved inside any longer.

I surrendered to the storm.

Anchored safely in Christ, I allowed myself to truly feel the depth of the emotions buried within me.  In moments I was most overwhelmed the still, small voice of God called to me, encouraging me to participate in the struggle.  Like a deep wound, healing had to establish within me.  The old and ugly had to fester to the surface so true recovery could begin.

My perception shifted.

I prayed. I journaled. I released memories and emotions as they surfaced. I committed to prompt resolution of the emotions which reigned freely for so long. I accepted accountability for my actions. I allowed Christ to shift my perspective and change my heart.

When I anchor my life in Christ, I can allow myself to experience the depth of the life.  I can feel the wind in my hair.  I can position myself to fend off oncoming danger.  I can see the first signs of light as the storm weakens.

I can experience the mighty power of God without fear of being overtaken by the waves.

Anchoring to Christ does not take away the storm.  Anchoring to Christ does not relieve the tension of living in a broken world. Anchoring to Christ does allow me to rest in the storm, even when there is work yet to finished.  Anchoring to Christ allows me freedom to move towards completion of God’s purpose for my life. Anchoring to Christ positions me for safety and keeps me from moving in a direction that could take me off path or place me in harm’s way.

Anchoring in Christ keeps me focused on my surroundings wisely judging each moment from a place of security as opposed to the storm clouds of my emotions.

Service requires an attitude of ownership

I was honored.

Serve Weekend is a huge collaborative outreach effort in our community every year.  Five churches and hundreds of local volunteers tackle projects throughout our town as a means to reach the lost with the grace filled message of Christ.

David & I were asked to lead a picnic at a local high rise.  We said, “You bet”, thinking this would be no big deal.  I can coordinate our volunteer groups, he can grill and we both know our way around the grocery store.  Bring it on.

Then we were given the budget.

Eep.

Let’s just say no shoestrings were harmed in the creation of the budget.  Just the aglets.  Now, instead of calling volunteers with information on when and where to show up, I was also going to have to ask for them to help provide a portion of the meal for over 100 people.

Is it hot in here?

Our life group immediately jumped on board in helping us to create a menu and activity plan as well as being the first to sign up to bring food items.

Aren’t you thankful for those people?

They always remind me that kingdom service isn’t meant to be a solitary effort.

I woke up the next morning still feeling a bit anxious about the whole thing. Deep down, I know God will provide us with exactly what we need but I am the type of girl that likes organization and order.  Not faith with the potential of fallout.

Before starting calls to the rest of the volunteer team, I went to Gods word and found an incredible group of ladies in Luke 8: 1-3.  Their story goes like this:

Soon afterward Jesus began a tour of the nearby towns and villages, preaching and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom of God. He took his twelve disciples with him, along with some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases. Among them were Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons;  Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s business manager; Susanna; and many others who were contributing from their own resources to support Jesus and his disciples.
 In one short minute, these ladies taught me more about the biblical concept of service than a month of sermons.
Their service was driven by what Jesus had done for them, not what they could do for him.  They brought their testimony on tour with Jesus and his disciples.  Living, breathing examples of the power of God at work in their lives.  Driven by demons in their past only to be released to walk in freedom with their savior.  Can you hear their testimony?  Can you see the crowds captivated by their stories?
These women contributed their own resources to help support Jesus and his disciples.  They were invested.  They had skin in the game. Investment equals ownership.  This was no longer just a following this guy called Jesus thing.  They held a piece of ownership in God’s kingdom. They gave what they had to further the cause of Christ to those who desperately needed his message hope.
And now, I’m not so anxious about these calls I need to make.  I’m excited to partner with God in an event that can reach many with his name.  As I talk with each person who has signed up, they each have a story about why they chose this project.
My mother lived there for years.
I live there now and just want to reach people for Jesus.
How can I help? Is there anything more that you need?
Service, with a little skin in the game, brings a sense of ownership to God’s kingdom plan.  It changes the way we think.  It changes the way we talk.  It generates excitement.  This is no longer a picnic sponsored by my church.  This picnic is now a collaboration between Christ’s church and his people saying, “Yes God.  Use me and all I have to further your name in my community.”
Can you pray for us in the week to come?  Serve will happen this Saturday, June 27th.  It’s God’s chance to shine through his people.  We pray for his provision and lots of opportunity to share his message of hope and grace to those who may need to hear it and claim it for their own lives.

I gave you my old ugly heart. You returned it restored and new.

“Lord, it’s a mess.  You can’t possibly want it.”

I am standing in a crowded auditorium.  A prevailing churches conference.  A room full of ministry leaders.  Movers and shakers for the kingdom.

Do you ever just feel like you don’t quite belong?

Chris Tomlin is leading worship.  I mean, how cool is that?

The last two days, we have been poured into by names like Bill Hybels and David Ortberg.  I’m singing and connecting with God in an experience that is a bit out of my ordinary world.  I am compelled to lift my hands in worship.  And then, it happens.

I can feel the tangible touch of God on my hands.  He is silently telling me, “Return to me.”

You see, God knows that my outsides look pretty good, but my insides are another story all together.  I haven’t let him in yet.  I have been volunteering in kids ministry and learning things about his word that I have never heard while washing down tables and leading kids to their assigned classrooms.  But I haven’t let his word resonate yet.  I know he means it for them.  I just can’t believe it for me.

I want kingdom opportunities and when I see another succeeding, I don’t see that they are succeeding for God.  I just see that they are farther ahead in the race and I am bitten by a little green bug of jealousy. I long to be the center of attention.  There is an emptiness inside of me that demands it.  I just want my chance to prove that I, too, am worthwhile.

But in this moment, God is not asking me to prove anything.

He is just asking me to return to him.

So I did.

In those following weeks, I recommitted my life to God.  In my mind, I had always been a believer.  I was baptized as a baby.  I knew he was there.  But, I made the choice to be water baptized as an adult, not because I believe it will take me into the gates of heaven, but instead, to show outwardly what was happening to me inwardly. God was washing away the old and ugly to reveal something new & beautiful.

I immersed myself in his word daily.

I learned to pray in alignment with God’s will.  Not about my wish and want list, but about his purpose and balance for who he created me to be.

I connected to others through small group bible study.

One day, I was sitting in church observing a woman I greatly admired.  Her ministry was in the spotlight.  A strange, unfamiliar feeling came over me.  It was joy!  I was genuinely happy for the success she was bringing to the kingdom as a result of her work and effort.

I’ll admit that I was surprised by this new emotion.

I basked in it for a moment.  It was like trying on a pair of jeans that fit just right.  No way I was leaving it behind.  This is what a clean heart feels like.

To be totally honest with you, I’m still under construction.  This transformation of my heart will never be perfect this side of heaven.  I will always need to be wary of traps like comparison and inadequacy. But now I know how to fight back. I know how to keep my feet from slipping into bondage and brokenness.

Immerse myself, daily, in God’s word.

Pray often.

Stay connected to other believers for encouragement and motivation.

Do the work he has given me.  Own my share of the kingdom plan.

Through it all, lean into him and trust that he is hard at work in my heart and my life.

Know that each day is filled with new mercy.  I am, after all, human.

 

“Create in me a clean heart, O God.  Renew a right spirit within me.”

 

Despite all evidence surrounding you; you’re not alone.

How pathetic am I?

It’s my only thought as I sit on an acute care bed with a nebulizer treatment hard at work and a throbbing pain in my right lower back, courtesy of the steroid shot I had just received for an exacerbated asthma condition.

Apparently, I am more allergic to Tennessee than my home state of Illinois.

After fighting a nagging cough for most of the night, I navigated a confusing stretch of roads through the pouring rain to find an urgent care in Nashville.

Here I sit.

Alone.

Fighting back tears.

Wanting someone to come along side me and say, “It’s okay. We’ll get this squared away and you’ll be good to go.”  I full well knew I just needed to pull up my big girl pants and deal with it.  I mean, this is just a glorified Doctor visit.

Yet, in midst of my pity party, I  just wanted the familiarity of home.  Someone to text.  Someone just to talk to in that moment.  I’m in Nashville for 12 hours and I already have the lyrics for my first country song.

In that bright blue room, on that hard uncomfortable bed, I prayed for God to enlighten me with peace and wisdom in that moment.  For the strength not to break down in tears.  My P.A. and Nurse were both men.  I didn’t want to add embarrassment and awkwardness to my list of pathetic.

I prayed for his word to come alive in my heart.  I prayed for God to reveal his presence.  Despite the circumstances, I am not alone.  I know that with my head yet in that moment I cannot make it resonate with my heart.

Loneliness is a common emotion believers often experience.  You don’t have to think very hard to recall stories of God’s people facing isolation and grief.  For me it comes in the most mundane situations:

In daily household chores and never-ending responsibilities.

At a table of virtual strangers in which you have little to nothing in common with.

In the midst of a long, sleepless night.

Walking through the process of pursuing a calling that God has placed on your heart.

How about you?  Can you relate?

As I prayed, Hagar came to my mind.  She was Sarai’s maid given the task of procreating with Abram in order to provide an heir.  (Did she get hazard pay for that?)  When Hagar found out she was expecting and the plan had succeeded, Hagar began to treat Sarai with disrespect.  Abram gave Sarai permission to deal with Hagar in whatever manner she chose.  Sarai chose to mistreat Hagar and Hagar fled from Sarai.

She finds herself sitting at a spring in the desert.  Can you imagine how she is feeling as the hot sun beats down? Lost.  Lonely.  Dejected.  Just needing wisdom for the next step.

In those moments, an angel appears to her at that very spring.  He tells her to go back to her mistress and submit to her.  He gives her a glimpse of the man she bears within her.  He blesses her with future children.

“You are the God who see’s me,” for she said, “I have seen the one who see’s me.”

God. See’s. Me.

God. See’s. You.

Whether sitting at a spring in the desert, a carpool line or an acute care room in Nashville, Tennessee.  God see’s me. God see’s you.

It’s in those moments of abandon that:

God reveals his presence.

He bears the wisdom and resources you need for the moment.

He blesses you when you walk in obedience to the command he has laid on your heart.

“Be strong and courageous”, became the mantra of my heart that day. “For the Lord, your God is with you wherever you go.”

Do not be afraid.

Do not be discouraged.

Despite the evidence surrounding you, You are not alone.

 

Helicopter Momma, it really is out of our control!

I’m freaking out.

Not had too much coffee before breakfast, freaking out.  More like box of Miss Clairol in one hand with a handy dandy brown paper baggie in the other.

I’m sending my 15 year old to Mexico on a mission trip.  With responsible, god loving adults who are not me.

I’m sending my 7 year old to church camp.  For a week.  With responsible, god loving adults who are not me.

I’ve always allowed myself to believe that I am a laid back momma.  My goal has always been to raise my kids well balanced in the tension of this world.  I work hard to make my home a safe place for them to land.  A place for them to take comfort.  A place of unconditional love and acceptance.

My kids know Jesus. They have had first hand experience of his peace and presence in their lives.  They know how to serve others in their community and they enjoy doing so.  They are learning how to construct healthy boundaries.

But one day, they will leave.

It might be to go down the street to play with a friend, or an overnight trip to grandma’s. It might be to summer camp or a mission trip.  It might be in a car with a driver license that just came hot off the press or off to college to pursue the hopes and dreams of their heart.  It might be to serve our country in the military.

But one day, they will leave.

It’s irrational, but I often times trust my kids more than I trust other people.  I just don’t ever want them to stray too far away.  I mean, what if they come across negative influences.  What if they are exposed to drugs, alcohol or pornography?

What if they find themselves in a position needing my protection and I am not there?

What if they think little Annie’s mom is more fun than me? It might be true, but I don’t want my kids to know that!

What if my teenager makes a choice that goes against what we have taught her in faith?

One day, my kids will leave my cocoon of protection.  Whatever is a mom to do?

Helicopter momma, here’s the thing.  My kids are only mine for a little while.  But, they belong to God forever.  At some point, I have to let them leave my influence so they can grow to fulfill the purpose that God handcrafted them for.

In the meantime:

I can build them up in his word.

I can teach them how to live their faith in a broken world with broken people.

I can help them build a community of like minded people that they can fall back on.

I can allow them the possibility of exposure- in small doses.

I can let God work in their lives without getting in the way.

I can pray, everyday, for my kids to know a personal relationship with their savior.  No matter what.

I can’t raise my kids in a “what if” mentality.

I know they will make bad choices.  I know that they will crash and burn.  I know that God, and I, will love them unconditionally.   I know that I will always be their safe place to land.  Their safe place to receive coaching, instruction, and preparation to get back into the game of life.

But I also know that they will make good, God honoring choices.  They will experience success.  And then?  I will be their place to celebrate and praise God for the amazing work he is doing in their lives.

For now, I will catch and release.  I will make the commitment to let go in small doses.  Allow them to make choices, good & bad.  Draw them back in. Coach them.  Teach them.  Love them.  Point them to God and release once more.

Helicopter momma,  I don’t believe raising kids is the hardest part of being a parent.  I truly believe it is the fine art of letting go and knowing that God is in control.

I’m praying for you.  Pray for me, will you?

 

www.compeltraining.com

#Compeltip:  I have been working to tighten my writing as well as reduce redundancy. Behind the scenes, I have been applying the 5-f’s from tired, typical writing. For more tips like these, visit www.compeltraining.com!

 

Coffee Shop altercations: A story of mistaken identities

I was checking the balance on my smartphone ap while digging correct change from my ashtray in the parking lot of my favorite afternoon beverage stop.

It’s a venti kind of day.

I shut down the ap satisfied I have enough to cover my craving when I look up to meet the eyes of a middle aged woman staring me down from across the parking lot.

By staring down, I mean ready to snatch me bald.

Hmm.

I take a deep breath, close my ashtray and straighten my posture.  I put on my “you’re gonna love me” smile as I get out of my nondescript sedan and head in her direction.

“Hi.  How are you doing?”  I say in my attempt to kill her with kindness.

She stares me down with an owlish expression.  Blink. Blink.  Head shake. Shoulder shake.  Deep Sigh. I grow concerned as I wait for her response.

“I thought that was my car you were in.  But my car is parked over there.” She says as we both turn our heads toward her nondescript sedan.  Otherwise known as my car’s doppleganger.

“Happens to me all the time.”  I reply.

Really.  It does.  Ask my kids.

As I head into the shop I recall my pastor saying that we should follow Jesus so closely that we can say with confidence, “Just follow me.  I’m following him.” My life should resemble the belief that lives inside of me.

The truth is, I cannot always say I am following the footsteps of my savior closely enough to be mistaken for him.

I want my wrongs to be made right.

I want my comfort zone to be restored.

I want to give my emotions the key and the driver seat.

I want to go my own way.  And, when I go my own way, I’m not following Jesus any longer.

Please tell me I am not alone in this.

The bible tells me that I am not alone in the process of transformation from me to he. He gave me his powerful Holy Spirit as a seal and a ransom for my life.  I am marked as his.  I have an advocate for prayer when I don’t know what to say. A mighty power that fills the void on days when I’m feeling particularly human.

The best promise is that his mercy is made new every morning.  I have fresh grace and fresh mercy to call upon each and every day.  A new opportunity to take the mistakes I made yesterday and turn them into opportunities for witness today.  His redemption is powerful.  And, it’s mine. (It’s yours too!)

When people see my life, my words and my choices, they should see my savior.  They should see my flaws, refined and restored, in his amazing mercy and grace.

They should be overcome by His love overflowing from me.

 

Maybe it’s not her. Maybe it’s me.

The darkening sky is reflecting the stormy atmosphere inside of my car.  My daughter is singing along with the radio while my son’s fingers are jammed into his ears as far as they will go without the need for surgical removal.

Lightening strikes.

“Chloe, if you don’t stop singing, the lightening is going to strike you so you can’t sing anymore!”

Sometimes, people just get under your skin.

Lately, I have found myself challenged by difficult people. People different than me.  People who annoy me.  People who choose to go their own way and have a tendency to throw a kink in my well thought out plans.  People who act as a speed bump to the flow of progress.  And, when my flow of progress is bumped, my inner mean girl comes out.  Thoughts start to circulate in my head.

Thoughts like:

How can you be so oblivious?

I would love to put her in her place!

I really dislike that woman.

The real tragedy occurs when I allow premature judgement feed my annoyance.

Finally, all of you should be of one mind.  Sympathize with each other.  Love each other as brothers and sisters.  Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude.

1 Peter 3:8

What if, instead of making snap judgements, I rephrased my line of thinking.

Is the individual truly going her own way or does she just not grasp the vision and the plan we are trying to achieve? Am I threatened by the gifts and talents of this individual? Or, perhaps, the attention she is receiving?  Is my snap judgement and assumption of motive the cause of our delayed progress? Or, is it my unwillingness to communicate that keeps us from achieving our goal?

Maybe it’s not her.

Maybe, it’s me.

Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins.

1 Peter 4:8

The problem wasn’t her.  The problem was me.  As ugly as that sounds.  The next time the ugly emo of annoyance raises its head, I’m going to reach out to the person at the root of the cause.  Not in aggravation, but in love.

Love is the only emotion big enough to cover petty differences.

Love is the only emotion I wish to allow free reign in my life.

Love is the only emotion big enough to soften a heart hardened by annoyance.

 

 

Seeking the Sabbath

 

 

“Your coming straight to bed?”, my husband asks in shock, “not even bringing your kindle to read?”

“I’m exhausted.” I reply.

Lately, my schedule has run me ragged.  My days start early and end late.  As I pursue this dream of writing, I have been adding daily journaling, blog design, web development and a training schedule to a list that already includes my roles of:

  • Wife
  • Mother
  • Sales and Marketing Director of a Supportive Living Community
  • Chief financial officer of my home
  • Household upkeep and maintenance
  • Church Volunteer
  • Community Volunteer
  • Band Booster Secretary
  • Workout & Weight loss champion (kinda)
  • all other duties as assigned.

I’m married to a man whose roles include:

  • Husband
  • Father
  • Production worker owning lots of OT
  • CEO of discount mowing service for elderly
  • Primary Chef in Landrusland
  • After school car pool king for the kiddos
  • Homework coach
  • Household Maintenance and upkeep (yes, it takes both of us)
  • A phone call away from saving the day
  • All other duties as assigned

Sound familiar? Can you relate to our chaos?

Sure, your roles may differ a bit from ours, but the bottom line is this:

We live in an overwhelmed society!

The idea of taking intentional time to rest gets farther away from the top of my priority list.  Rest equates to lost work time.  Lost work time equates to the possibility that someone  might get ahead of me and gain an advantage.  It means a tic mark left unchecked on my to do list. It means that someone might perceive me as lazy and carefree instead of driven and successful.

But what does God say about rest?

“By the Seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.  Then God blessed the seventh day and made it Holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.”

Genesis 2:2-3

According to God, seeking the Sabbath is important!  If the mighty creator of the universe requires rest then so do I!

There remains, then, a Sabbath- rest for the people of God for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his.

Hebrews 4:

So when do you enter in rest from your works?  I find my Sabbath best met on Saturday.  A friend of mine who is a Pastor’s wife & youth leader experiences her refreshment on what she calls #recoverymonday.  Nothing defines the Sabbath as Sunday, but as the seventh day.  In theory, the idea of traveling together for church service is great.  Then, a lunch that magically prepares itself  followed by a nap and an evening of quiet family time.  Reality is that our family is up early for church and head that way in separate vehicles to accommodate our volunteer commitments.  We come together for lunch and hopefully a little downtime.  Then, the older two kids head to youth while the hubby, youngest and I begin our preparation for a new week.

Again, when do you enter into rest from your works? 

This is something I plan to begin scheduling week by week as an intentional effort to take a break from life.  I know that this is not a perfect solution.  We all have seasons of chaos that prevent us from taking more than a few moments of rest in an otherwise crazy schedule.  However, if crazy is your norm, it may be best to start creating some whitespace in your schedule.

Then the Lord replied, “My presence will go with you and I will give you rest.”

Exodus 33:14

Let’s talk about how to rest.  True rest comes from God.  How we rest is as unique as you are from me. The bible defines rest as a break from work or toil.  For me, this is a nap on the couch or a picnic in the park with my family. Reading a new book in the hammock, beach day or a hike.  Sometimes, it’s as simple as reading a book at the lake on my lunch hour.  Desperately needed moments of escape from my reality.

How can you seek the Sabbath today?

The Sabbath is simply about taking time to refresh and renew.  Recharge your battery.  Reconnect with God. Calm and rejuvenate.  Kick start your creative juices.  When resting, you’re to do list doesn’t go away, but, you can trust that God is going to give you exactly what you need to handle it when you return.

So go! Rest.  We’ll be right here, waiting, when you return!

What is your favorite way to break from your busy?  What are some great escapes that bless you & your crew?  Workaholics (like me) want to know! 

Leave your comments here:

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How refreshing!

“Mom!  My kindle free time is frozen and I need you to exit out of it!” Madi exclaimed.  She shoved the device in my hand as I was simultaneously peeling a potato.  I stopped what I was doing and realized that the entire device had frozen.  Madi, in her usual hurry, was ready to get on to her game.  Pronto!  “Madi, your kindle needs shut down.  You have to give it time to think.”  Just like mom, I thought in my head as I went back to finishing preparing our dinner.   How nice would it be to have a button I could push when I needed a break.  A quick little refresh to get me right back on track.

Much like every woman I know, I take on far too much in my day.  It’s like a badge of honor, having all those wonderful balls to juggle in the air.  Perfectly balance and in sync.  Just don’t try to throw anything else in the mix without prior approval or the whole show might come tumbling down!  As much as I hate to admit, my well orchestrated life is often an illusion.  And, like any good magician, only I know all of the tricks to making it appear seamlessly. To say I am overwhelmed would be an understatement.

The question I must stop to ask is how.

How do I get myself into this place of overwhelming exhaustion time and time again?

The first thing I have to consider is how much time I have allowed myself to get saturated in the word of God.  Like eating a healthy diet and daily exercise, time in God’s word is a daily essential requirement.  And, often the first thing to go in my routinely busy day.  Daily, I need to be reminded that his grace and mercy are new to me every morning.  Daily, I need to be reminded that God’s power is made perfect in my weakness.  Daily, I need to be reminded that I am a loved and cherished child of God.  An heir to his kingdom.  The crown on his head and the royal diadem in his hand.  A symbol of his living power, grace and mercy to a lost world that surrounds me.

Then, I need to trust him with every detail in my life.  Nothing is too minor.  Every worry and concern, every dark & unlovable feeling I am harboring, every circumstance and situation that seems impossible and out of my control need to be laid before the Father’s throne.  And left there! I need to trust that the God of the Universe can handle every detail of my life!

Last, I need to steal time away to sit and listen.  Quiet & uninterrupted.  To do that, I have to intentionally escape the realities of my life.  I personally love lake and pond areas.  However, my back patio will do in a fix.  This is time just to sit and listen for the still, small voice of God.  Time to allow his spirit to resonate my stress and anxiety that he may instead give me a peace that surpasses all understanding.  True refreshment to my parched soul.

I find that it is not the big things that most often overwhelm me.  It is the little day to day stuff.  Limited finances that crash into teens with endless pockets.  Broken car parts. Unmet expectations.  Broken dreams.  The responsibility of saying “yes” to one too many things.  But I have to remember that in these moments of overwhelming exhaustion, I am not alone.  In Psalm 3 it says that God is my glory and my shield.  He lifts my head high.  I picture a loving father, gently placing his hand under the chin of his beloved child.  Lifting gently until their eyes meet and he gently reassures her with the love and compassion in his gaze.   There is no refreshment quite like it.

Focus!

“For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself, “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?  If the answer has been “no” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.”
Steven Jobs

Our family has been working to take advantage of the beautiful weather we have had over the last few weeks.  Part of this involves following Madi all over the neighborhood as she rides her bike.  This serves a two fold purpose.  She burns some energy and I get a little exercise while enjoying the beauty of fall.  However, her focus is limited at best.  Madi rides her bike while enjoying the scenary as well.  This means she spends a lot of time being bailed out of bushes.  She always begins well.  She has her eyes focused to the end of the sidewalk and she heads for her goal, only to be sidetracked.  It could be a bird, pretty flower, or a child her age.  She then continues to ride her bike while she turns around to tell me about it.  She inevitably ends up riding off of the sidewalk and running into something.   We have to stop, get her back on the sidewalk and headed in the right direction once more.  It can be a maddening process that sometimes reminds me of my life.

If I am not intentional, I tend to be a person that “Life” happens to.  In the book, “Seven Habit’s of Highly Effective People”, Steven Covey addresses this issue.  In the first few chapters he talks about identifying your circle of influence, meaning the people you have direct contact with on a regular basis.  This can mean your family, friends and coworkers.  He then encourages you to line up all of your responsibilities.  As humans, we tend to spend time doing things to stay “busy” as opposed to doing the things that will keep us moving  foward.  He then encourages us to set a mission statement, or a goal, for our lives and then identify the steps we need to take to make those goals happen.  Almost like a business plan for life.    As Dave Ramsey likes to say, “Children do what feels good, but ADULTS devise a plan and stick to it.”

This all sounds good and wonderful, right?  So, I went through my series of questions.  I identified the character traits that I wanted people to talk about at my funeral.  Morbid, I know, but it alls comes to beginning with the end in mind.  I put it all on paper and identified my mission statement.  At the end of my life, I want people to remember be as a lover and encourager of people.  I am someone who believes that you can achieve anything you put your mind too, and I want to empower the people around me (especially my husband and kids) to believe the same.  So why am I still in a funk?  Why am I still having trouble bringing my end goals into focus?  Why is it  that at the age of 31, I STILL don’t know what I want to be when I grow up?   To be blunt, I feel like I’ve been stuck in a bush!

God has been working on me in the area of mindset over the course of the last few months.  He has been challenging me to see “things” and “people” as he sees them.  To focus in on “Who” He really is as opposed to “Who” I think he is.  Yesterday, as I was reading through the book of 1 John, I was especially challenged about how Children of God are identified.  1 John 4: 15-18 says, “All who confess that Jesus is the son of God have God living in them, and they live in God.  We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love.  God IS love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them.  And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect.  So we will not be afraid on the day of judgement, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world.  Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear.”  The bible goes on to say that if I say I love God, but hate a Christian brother or sister then I am a liar.

Yesterday, God pulled me out of the bushes and put me back on to the sidewalk.  He renewed my focus and said, “Let’s go.”  You see, I have been a terrible lover of people.  I expect so much from the people in my life, that I don’t allow them to be their authentic self in my presence.  When people are flawed or different from me (thought, words, deeds), I tend not to let them get too close.  Isn’t it ironic that we are all flawed, including myself.  The beauty of the cross is that Christ came to us while we were still sinners.  He didn’t wait until we had it all together (as HE thought we should) before he accepted us and gifted us with his grace.  As 1 John 4 says,  we can face God with confidence because we live like Jesus here in the this world.    My new focus is this.  To love the people in my life, my circle of influence, right where they are at.  To build them up and encourage them in their goals.  To set healthy boundaries and to give them the permission to do the same with me.  To focus on the character of Christ and mimic his traits until they are second nature.  To depend on the power of the Holy Spirit to do an amazing work of transformation, not only in my life, but the lives of those who surround me.

This new focus will not be an easy one.  I am in day three and have already spent a tremendous amount of time in prayer.  But, I know that in the end, love will be the only thing that matters.    I leave you with this last thought from John, “For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our accomplishments and possessions.  These are not from the Father, they are from this world.” (1 John 2:16)  I am choosing to no longer focus on the best the world has to offer.  I am ready to be sold out on the best God has to offer.  I can’t wait to embark on the journey he is challenging me too.