At the End of the Day, Rest is Best [day 31: rest]

Rest seems to be a theme I keep coming back to.  Even before I began writing this series,  Dream Big, Celebrate Small, I used — and maybe overused– this word in many of my posts and personal writings. By nature, I’m a striver or doer, yet I’m rarely satisfied with what I get done in a day. God has used my time in this country where it can be time-consuming and taxing to accomplish small tasks to teach me to slow down and rest.

But this doesn’t mean I throw on my robe and slippers and retire to my couch at 10 am. Resting in the work of the Lord doesn’t alleviate me from doing the work of dreaming big and celebrating small. Resting in Him means I do all I can and know to do and leave the rest to Him.

When I rest in Him, I still show up and chase my big dreams in marriage, motherhood, and missional living, but I do it all knowing He’s ready for me when I need a soft place to land. And when I do crash into His care, I know there’s no judgment there. I am heir to His righteousness, a co-laborer with Him, and a victor just because He’s won my heart with His great love.

I can rest in Him when good work gives way to weariness. I can rest in Him when discouragement knocks me off my feet. I can rest in Him when those that wish to derail my efforts to serve Him well succeed in their attempts. I can rest in Him all day, every day as I labor and lead this wild life He’s called me to live out for His glory. The work He does in my marriage, family, and ministry doesn’t stop when I do because our mighty God is at work around the clock in every time zone.

All that in mind, it’s clear to me — rest is best when it’s in His hands.

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.  Matthew 11:28-29

How can you rest in Him today?

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God Refines Me for His Ultimate Glory [day 30: refine]

The past 29 days of examining this habit of celebrating small in marriage, motherhood, and missional living have been extremely stretching for me. I’ve been challenged and encouraged in the day-to-day of chasing big dreams and falling down into the dumps of discouragement. My perspectives and ideas about what it means to praise God and when I should have been refined. And that has the power to change everything in my marriage, family, and ministry.

Refined — made better, purer by stripping down and recreating. Certainly, I am familiar with this process as God refines me each day. This process, however, is anything but comfortable. In my flesh, I want to say, “No more. That’s enough, Lord. I’m good.” But God wants more for me. He wants the reward.

Much to my dismay, it appears, there’s no reward without refining. In Scripture, we can see praise amidst this painful process penned in poetic word.

O bless our God, ye people, and make the voice of his praise to be heard: Which holdeth our soul in life, and suffereth not our feet to be moved. For thou, O God, hast proved us: thou hast tried us, as silver is tried. Thou broughtest us into the net; thou laidst affliction upon our loins. Thou hast caused men to ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water: but thou broughtest us out into a wealthy place.

Psalm 66:8-12

God is not anti-prosperity, happiness, or success. He is for me and longs to fulfill my heart’s desires as they line up with His will. First and foremost, He is after His glory, but He’s also after my heart.

And when I’m wise enough to look for it, I see His care in both the crippling and the carrying. I see how He sustains my soul and steadies my steps. This is more easy to grasp than what comes next — He brings hardship into my life and allows my enemies to oppress me. He puts me through storms of “fire and water.” But why does He do this? To bring me to the wealthy place — to give me the reward.

What did the Psalmist do in after arriving in the wealthy place? He released his grip on the reward to lift his hands high in praise to the Giver of good gifts. He knew who had lead Him through the pits of poverty into this place of prosperity, and the natural response isn’t reveling in the reward. It’s revival.

The refining isn’t the end of the line. Pain is not the period at the end of a sentence of suffering. The reward is God’s glory and the opportunity to sing it loud and proud. But there’s ample benefit for us in this, too. There’s a wealth of joy and singing and laughter. We praise because God is gracious and faithful in each part of the refining process. We celebrate small — because He has made us able.

How is God refining you?

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Solid advice says, “Just Keep Following Jesus” [day 29: follow]

I once had a wise friend give great advice when my heart dragged with discouragement while chasing big dreams. I had been hearing testimonies from others who were seeing their dreams realized in every way imaginable while I was trucking along in the day-to-day duties of motherhood, ministry, and marriage. I was going through a tough time in all three of those areas and barely had the strength to dream enough for each day. I wanted the long-term, big dreams to just blow up in my face with confetti and glitter sparkles and club music pumping — like right now. Like they were for her.

As a voiced my frustrations to a friend in ministry — who has endured much more than her fair share of hold-ups and let-downs along the way — she said, “You don’t need to worry about what everyone else is doing. You need to just follow Jesus.” Immediately my perspective changed, and I felt a bit foolish. I was comparing my lot in life to others literally on the other side of the world, working in completely different ministries, and in totally different stages of life. If I had just kept my focus on Him instead of falling into this timely-placed trap, I wouldn’t have found myself quite so down in the dumps.

Elisabeth Elliot says, “Do the next thing.” My friend says, “Just keep following Jesus.”  I’m just reminding myself of all I’ve learned about celebrating small — choosing to see the good and all God has done and is doing on the way to big dreams. But this kind of praise isn’t passive; it is purposeful. I have to will myself to keep moving forward and following Jesus. If I keep my eyes on Him and resist the urge to compare, I will find joy in this journey.

Do you need a reminder to just keep following Jesus?

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Each Piece of Me is Connected by Divine Design [day 28: connect]

My marriage, family, work, relationships, and personal life are not contained in separate boxes to be pulled out at the appropriate time and given attention only in its specified slot. No, each aspect of my spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical states are all connected by God’s intricate design. As much as I want to keep them separate, my work and family life will inevitably collide. My marriage will be impacted by cultural stressors as red flags are thrown up from deep within my soul signaling there’s something amiss. I will ask of my friends and family for things only my loving Father can provide. I’ll make a mess in one area of my life that spills over into what was once immaculate in another. And as unfair as it seems, the sins of others will destroy parts of my life I’ve labored to build up. Because it’s all connected.

This fact can either cause me to be extremely hopeful or terribly hopeless. Discouragement in one area of my life can bleed into all others. But in the same way, spiritual health as I walk with God has a positive affect on the health of my whole being, and I really believe that this concept of celebrating small is key in this holistic self-care.

My identity in Christ is manifested in my marriage, family, work, and relationships. At the church where we studied missions, this was called the “be” level. Before we can serve the Lord and bear fruit for Him, we have to make sure things are as they should be on this level. Here, we spend time with Jesus, giving Him full reign to convict and change us according to His will. In the quiet spaces where we reveal our true selves before the Father and relinquish control over each aspect of our lives, we can see His plans unfold before us. And while His plans for us are holistic in nature — good for each part of my life and for the greater good — it can be hard to glimpse just how this can be.

But I trust Him because He is good and has proven Himself to be nothing but faithful. As He cares for me in the quiet spaces, it seems like only a small part of the puzzle. But this is the foundation of it all — my relationship with God and my life surrendered to a Holy God are what the rest of it is built upon. He is the vine, and I am just a branch, rooted and grounded in Him. He ordains the sustenance and sustaining of each intricate part of me. He is not unaware of each instance’s implications as they flow through the circuitry of a complex system of interconnected pieces of me. He is in control of it all when I feel I have no control at all.

A Holy God is invested in the health of my whole self, and I am nothing short of amazed by that. As I connect with the Life Giver each day, I can celebrate small, knowing He is working for my good. He sees and manages the ripple effects I could only guess at and He manipulates it for His glory. I may not see how any of it was good beyond the “be” level because my perspective is limited, but my Father knows no limitations. I’ll sit with Him here, alone in the quiet spaces where I can just be me. I rest in Him while He works to connect the dots of disarray in my life.

How is your “be” level?

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Deliverance from Distress to Delight [day 27: overcome]

Five Minute Friday: OVERCOME

00:00

In our church plant, we are continually sought out to pray over those who are hurting physically or emotionally. We pray over these needs, trusting that the Lord will answer our requests according to His divine wisdom.

However, my husband has been faithful to teach those who come to us that, sometimes, it is not God’s will to take our pains and problems away but to use them as a means to humble us. He can use the greatest distress of our lives to make us more suitable for His service. Because what the enemy intends to use to bring us down, our great God intends to use to lift us up. It is only when we are girded with His grace that we can overcome.

Overcoming doesn’t always mean deliverance. Paul asked God to take away the thorn in his flesh three times, and the Lord left it where it was. Instead of a solution, He offered solace with these words “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” There was a type of deliverance — not from the physical affliction but from the fleshly response that plagued Him. God granted Him an eternal perspective, reminding Paul that He would use this case of suffering to show His power in Paul’s life (05:00).

Overcome by God’s grace, Paul finds joy even in persistent affliction. All these years later, people like you and me, when faced with great distress or disappointment, have been comforted and challenged by these words of solace. Paul’s deliverance from distress to delight continues to serve as a testimony of God’s great grace and power.

When distress finds me, I ask that God would enable me to overcome and delight in His perfect will even if it abounds with problems. If He will not deliver me from my painful affliction, I pray that He will deliver me from my fleshly response and grant me an eternal perspective. I trust He will be faithful to remind me of His strength made perfect in my weakness. Delivered from distress, — though not necessarily from the stressor — I can delight in all that plagues me, knowing He will use it for my good and His glory.

I can celebrate small knowing this obstacle that seems to take me further from my big dreams truly delivers me from attitudes and core weaknesses which pose bigger hurdles. I will both praise Him when I overcome distresses and when I am overcome by them. His grace is sufficient in either scenario.

And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.

2 Corinthians 12:7-10

What is the “thorn” God is using to humble you?

Talk to me in the comment section below!