Give the Gift of Purposeful Presence this Holiday Season

Five Minute Friday: NOW

Maybe it’s the recurring question when I encounter someone here in America that wasn’t expecting to see me wandering the aisles of Walmart or the halls of my home church. “When are you going back?” And part of me, though in no way does this make any sense, is surprised at the inquiry. I think, didn’t I just get here?

I’m constantly recounting memories made in Kathmandu and sharing them with the lovely people who have supported us prayerfully and financially during our absence. When I’m not looking back, I am speaking of future plans and hopeful ambitions. They are wished in the silent, stirred places of the soul that dream big and hope only in the mighty hands of Jesus to bring any of it to pass.

Glancing back and looking forward, I see all the great things the Lord has done and that I trust Him to do. But I also sense there’s something I’m missing in the now as I break my neck to glimpse the past and prayerfully gaze into the future.

In the now…My babies need me in the whiplash of cultural transition. It seems like typical nursery tantrums but I know it’s so much more.
In the now… I have friends who have gone through the unimaginable. Their hugs are tighter and their eyes more misty. I’ve been gone so long and missed so much. I haven’t been there for them, but I’m here now.
In the now… The pieces that were broken in our pulling away can be mended by purposeful presence.
In the now… are endless opportunities for ministry during a season where many look for the hope of this world.
In the now…. my daughter endlessly questions me about this holy thing, baby Jesus. What better time to tell her the greatest story ever told! Again and again and again.

In the now.…Jesus lives inside of me. He’s the same yesterday, today, and forever. Just like those times I’ve seen Him work on the other side of oceans, He wants to work in and through me today. He has special blessings in store for the now. But when I’m looking forward and backward and all around at any place or time but the here and now, I miss them.

I really don’t want to miss them. 

 

4 Purposeful Ways of Living in Transition [Rachel Bennett]

This post was originally featured as a guest post for Rachel Bennett at Love God, Live on Purpose. Even now, I am referring back to these truths as a guide during this time of transition back to America for a while. I hope these words, though simple, will bless and encourage you during whatever season you find yourself in. 

 


Even the word gives me a feeling of uneasiness. Transition has been almost a constant feature of the last few years of my life. We moved shortly after marriage, got new jobs and started training for ministry. We had a newborn babe thrown into the mix of constant traveling, fundraising for a country which would eventually deny us a visa. Consequently, we changed fields, made our international move, started language school and were met by a whole host of challenges.

In the better part of my adult life, I’ve felt unsettled. I vaguely remember a sense of security before where I, at least, felt like I had some kind of idea of what each day would hold and a general picture of what the future may have looked like. I’ve learned that even in these times of perceived security, a sudden event can instantly lurch me into a new season of life. The whiplash of such change is unwelcome and uncomfortable, however, these times of transition have proven to be catalysts for needed change in my life. I can’t always sense God’s hand at work in each moment, but I can see it clearly as I look back on all that He was brought to pass.

I don’t know what transition you may find yourself stuck in today. You may be between jobs, on the verge of a move, or encountering major change within your church or family. I’ve learned a lot during my seasons of unsettledness. I’d like to share with you 4 ways to live on purpose in times of transition, all of which can be found in Proverbs 4:23-27.

Guard your Heart
Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.
In times of transition, we must be careful what we allow to enter into our hearts and minds. We must be faithful to fill ourselves with the truths of God’s word so that when the hard edges of change scrape us down to our bare bones, we are grounded in godly wisdom. We take a break from the things and the people who fuel our negativity and hinder our service for God in the midst of change.

Cut Out Complaining
Put away from thee a forward mouth, and perverse lips put far from thee.
In times of transition, we must be mindful of the words that escape our lips. These words come from the hard places of the heart but can take on a life of their own once released, bringing destruction on ourselves and our loved ones.

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Keep your eyes on the prize
Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee.
We must resist the temptation to compare our situations to the plight of others. There will always be someone who seems to have it better or worse than us. These glimpses into the lives of others are more accessible than ever and can leave us feeling either prideful or envious. We must trust that God is working uniquely within us and in the midst of our transition. We must not be distracted by lesser goals than pursuing Christ wholly with our lives. We remember our calling and press on to the prize. The prize is grand; it’s Jesus.

Make Progress Cautiously
Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established.Turn not to the right hand nor to the left: remove thy foot from evil.
As we seek to move forward, we must measure all ambitions and decisions on the sure scale of Scripture. The Lord will never lead us to do that which conflicts with His will laid out for His children in the Bible. We must consider both the personal and peripheral repercussions of our decisions and how we might best glorify God with the opportunities given to us. We can move forward steadily but cautiously, trusting God to guide as we go.
In times of transition, we trust and wait for God to move towards positive change in our lives, for the greater good, and for His glory. Waiting is the hardest part, but there is purpose in the waiting.

As followers of Christ, we must steward the opportunity to serve Him in periods of uncertainty and change. Though our knees may wobble and our faith waver, we have an unfailing confidence in the person of Jesus Christ. No matter how long we wait and whatever the outcome, we know who is the Savior of our story and who wields the tools of change.

We find Him at the center of transition, and He meets us, at the end, too. Somewhere along the way, we find ourselves. Not surprisingly, and to our benefit, we find that we’ve changed.

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Baby, Give Your Best: Lessons in Generosity from a 4 Year Old

My 4 year old daughter has a sweet, giving spirit. She runs all over our house (and outside, for that matter) collecting all sorts of things, coloring, cutting, and pasting mashed-up masterpieces crafted by busy hands. I am walking the fine line of praising her for her creativity and generosity while challenging her to think about what the recipient of her gift might like. “Honey, I know you really like that paper scrap you tore from your pre-school workbook, but to our neighbor, that just looks like trash.”

Her eyes become big and wet with disappointment. Her lip quivers, and I want to take my words back, but I know they are true. “Let’s think about what she would like. We could paste that onto a butterfly, and I will teach you to write her name. I bet she would like that.” Of course, I know that either masterpiece will end up in the same place. Here, we call it the dustbin.

This morning, in obedience, she threw something in and spotted one of her handicrafts inside. She gave me the third degree about trashing something she worked so feverishly to create. We talk about what happens to paper scraps left in common spaces, and she finds it in her tiny heart to forgive me and promises she will keep her artwork upstairs from this day forward.

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We gather some supplies and remember the task at hand: revising this trash into a treasure worth gifting. I want her to believe that the work we do for others is valuable and that being thoughtful is an admirable trait. I don’t want to crush her creativity or squish her generous spirit. I love that she desires to make others smile and spend time creating something to offer to another. But giving hands offering scrappy seconds is not giving at all. We want to give our best. We want to give until it hurts. We want to share our bag of imported Reese cups, even if we’d rather lock them in the upstairs closet for a rainy day (bad example, I know, but chocolate is really important to me!). We drive across town for birthday gifts and sit in traffic instead of buying something cheap from the shop around the corner because we believe this. These small acts of thoughtfulness make big impressions.

I write down our neighbor’s name and send the budding artist upstairs to sit at her desk with the special markers we don’t use often and the paper bags from America we use to make puppets and to quick-ripen peaches. She painstakingly copies her Auntie’s name and puts about twelve too many hearts on her creation. The puppet’s face is smiling, and so is mine. My daughter is proud, and I am, too.

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It’s a few minutes shy of 8 am, and she is ready to walk over there and present her prize. I’m off to get her dressed for school, and we will go with dust-bin-destined art in hand to deliver this piece of her heart before her bus arrives to shuttle her to the place that overflows with paper scraps, scissors, and glue.

I’ll stay behind to clean up the debris of crazed crafting hands and smile, thinking of the baby who seems more like the child of Mother Theresa and Picasso than the flesh and blood of her Daddy and me. I bring the Reese cups downstairs, brew a cup of coffee -the good stuff- and invite a neighbor over to share.

As I sip the fresh brew and chat with a new friend, I think about giving my best to God. How so often my best, looks like nothing more than a mangled up mess of trash. It isn’t treasure in anyone’s eyes. But it is good and acceptable, pleasing to my Father for no other reason than He loves me. I seek only His approval, and knowing I already have it, I busy myself with the work He puts in my hands to do. I proudly give it back to Him, as unimpressive as it may seem, trusting He will find the good in it. Even if its creator is backwards at best, I’m hopeful that, by His grace, my offerings make a difference to someone in this world.

I trust that He will bring to light the things that bring Him glory and throw everything else in the dustbin where it belongs. I’ll try not to get my feelings hurt knowing He knows the value of all things, and it all belonged to Him in the first place anyway. I’ll practice thoughtful generosity because I remember that my doing unto others is a reflection of the God that works in and through me. Half-effort jobs and scrappy seconds just won’t cut it.

He reminds me of all the good gifts he’s buried me under and urges me to love others well out of my abundance. He says, “Baby, give your best.”

 

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Moments of Hope @ LoriSchumaker.com, Monday’s Musings @ What Joy is Mine, Glimpses Linkup @ Embracing Every Day, Literacy Musing Monday’s @ Mary-andering Creatively, Tuesday Talk @ Sweet Little Ones, RaRaLinkup @ Purposeful Faith, Tell His Story @ Jennifer Dukes Lee

The Hard Fought Battle for Contentment [The Mudroom]

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He stared at my back in the queen size bed we share. The inches between us loomed like a brick wall lined with barbed wire. I sobbed. He sighed. He must have felt as helpless as I did.

I suffered under a border blockade which prohibited the entry of petrol, propane, and essential goods in a country I never planned to live in. We faced winter with fewer than four hours of electricity to heat our home each day. It seemed I was at the mercy of an evolving government, the paper-thin houses, and my freezer-burned spirit. I was furious with my cozy Stateside friends who didn’t understand and my husband who couldn’t fix it.

In the morning, as I stood shivering, waiting for the shower to heat up, negative thoughts creeped in and claimed territory in my mind. I wished desperately for the rage to run right down the drain with the hot water. At the time, I wouldn’t have admitted that I was angry at God. I would have said I was overwhelmed and exhausted. I played the victim well because I believed I was absolutely powerless.

We had endured the hardships of an international move followed by natural disaster and economic crisis, but our marriage had now been threatened. Each night, we went to bed with cold hands and struggled to turn up the heat between life-long lovers wrapped up in ice cold sheets. Our intimacy had been killed by the chaos and cold that made up our days. The negative thoughts came around again to tell me what I already knew: I had lost all control.

Continue reading on The Mudroom…

 

linking up:

purposefulfaith.com

#LMMLinkUp,  Monday Musings

 

My Life as a Living Sacrifice: Confronting my Nothingness

Day 26, CONFRONT
I’ve been so challenged by exploring how I can live the Golden Rule in marriage, motherhood, missional living, and my every day life! I hope that if you’ve read along with me you have been challenged as well and encouraged by what God can do with a heart willing to serve Him and others. If you’re just joining me, I hope you will catch up!

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I think it’s time we ask ourselves what’s holding us back. What’s keeping us from living the Golden Rule for the benefit of others and the glory of God? Is there some sin you’ve stuck in your back pocket for a rainy day? A person you just can’t forgive? A fear of giving up control and giving your life to God?

I’m bold enough to guess that what’s holding you back is the same thing that’s keeping me from living out all I know to be true and good. It has its roots tangled up in pride whether it’s a secret sin or clutched control. No matter who you are, denying yourself just doesn’t come naturally.

If I were on your end reading this, I would want to cover my eyes or jump over to YouTube and start watching something light to make me laugh. I don’t want to confront my pride. It’s seriously cringe-worthy to peer into my selfish soul and see what lies beneath.

What did I do today that ministered to someone else? Did I do it without grumbling? Would I rather have been doing something else? Did the task at hand seem beneath me or bothersome? The answer to these questions reveals the condition of my heart. And so often it isn’t pretty.

Because as much as I love other people, I tend to like myself a whole lot more. I wholeheartedly agree with the decisions I make and the way I go about things because I’m awesome, y’all (satire… hang with me).

But when I look to the Word of God to tell me who I am and what my condition is all I see is that I am a sinner saved by a gracious God. I am made for the pleasure of God. I am purposed to serve and share His greatness with the world. That’s basically it.

110% YES- I am greatly loved and graciously gifted, but I’m given all of that to hand it right back to God. I don’t have to wonder what God’s perfect will for my life is. It is spelled out in Scripture. But, oh, I want to be blind to it.

present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith (Romans 12:1-3).

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My flesh already ran in the other direction. For real, this is rough for me. A living sacrifice. I am to be burned at the altar of humility day after day, letting my life be consumed by the Creator as He sees fit. I subject myself to the transforming power of the Holy Spirit and allow Him to work through my surrendered life.

Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. For if a man think himself to be something,when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself (Galatians 6:2-3).

 

I deal graciously with others when I confront my nothingness and my inability to do good apart from the transformative work of Christ in my life. When I consider what He has done for me, any act of obedience He requires is only reasonable.

And He tells me to get over myself and love my neighbor and my enemy too.

Come quickly, Lord, not sure how long I can do this.

Is pride keeping you from living the Golden Rule to the glory of God?
Will you endeavor to live in daily sacrifice to the One who died for you?

Talk to me in the comment section (this one’s a doozy!).