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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Changing Seasons Changing Me [day 26: change]

The talk of the town here in Kathmandu right now is how the weather changed from summer heat to winter cold basically overnight. Thankfully, I had gotten a bit ahead of the game last weekend by pulling all of our out of season clothes out of storage and washing them. They tend to get smelly through the spring and summer stashed away in plastic boxes.

There was not a slow and steady drop in temperature; it just kind of plummeted. I went from hugging my fan one day to teeth-chattering out of the shower the next. In the sun, it’s still warm, and I am reminded of the “fall” in North Georgia when you’d wear a sweater and boots in the morning and hate yourself by the afternoon. All of a sudden, though, in shade or at sundown, I’m reaching for thick socks and fleece hoodies and dreading the bitter days ahead.

Autumn was always my favorite season in America. I picked my college of choice because it was a gorgeous place in the fall! I guess I would be described as basic — pumpkin-loving, flannel-sporting, boots-wearing, fall-loving girl. I so miss the leaves changing, temperatures dipping, and hot chocolate sipping. I miss the slow and steady change each day brings as it gently ushers us into winter.

There’s beauty in the slow change that’s easy to miss when the change comes suddenly. There’s a certain shock in sudden change that leaves us frantically attempting to cope. But the slow, steady change — now, that’s something else.

I see that beauty in changing seasons, yet I fail to see it marriage, motherhood, and missional living — or even in myself. God’s changing His children — recreating and renewing us — doesn’t stop at salvation. He is continually at work to sanctify us, but sanctification is slow. Much slower than we’d like.

When I celebrate small, I savor the slow and steady change while I prepare myself for the winter which brings hardship and tests my grit. I breathe deep the sweetest parts of the season and comfort myself with Scripture when the change feels like too much too soon. I tuck into the grace of God which sustains me through each day of change, and I bask in this process which makes me more like Him.

Sanctification is testing, temptation, and struggle— but it’s also victory, learning, and growth. It’s a daily choice to follow and obey Jesus even when it doesn’t make sense or feel good at the time. Each day, these choices change me. It may not be abrupt or dramatic, but it’s happening. I am changing, conforming to the image of Christ — and it’s truly beautiful.

What season of change do you find yourself in today?

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A Daily Choice: Dread or Dreams for the Day Ahead [day 25: because]

Whether it’s an overwhelming workload or a dull day ahead, I start a lot of days defeated. Deep sighs and unwarranted resentments fill the crisp morning air. I have found it is near impossible to face these days without first spending time with Jesus. I’m so thankful when He turns my morning around and grants me a good start.

It is most helpful for me to focus on the person of Jesus or the goodness of God before little feet tip-toe in my room to turn my quiet time into angry cries for food. Before the chaos begins, I grasp for Scriptures which inspire me to revel in just how wonderful He is. Eyes on His attributes, I am empowered to face whatever the day holds — not because of who I am or what I can do but because of Who He is and what He can do.

Instead of dread, I wake with hopeful expectation of what the Lord will do in a day’s time. Even more than my morning cup of coffee, I crave His favor and anticipate His intimate involvement in the unfolding of my day whether it proceeds with ticking off to-dos or twiddling my thumbs.

Like the Psalmist David, I can say,

Because thy lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise thee.
Thus will I bless thee while I live: I will lift up my hands in thy name.
My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness; and my mouth shall praise thee with joyful lips:
When I remember thee upon my bed, and meditate on thee in the night watches.
Because thou hast been my help, therefore in the shadow of thy wings will I rejoice.
My soul followeth hard after thee: thy right hand upholdeth me.

Psalm 63:3-8

I’ll celebrate small today — not because my health is good or my kids behave — but because His lovingkindness is better than life. Because He is my help in however it hits the fan. Because He holds me above the days I dread and allows me to dream big dreams and live each day for Him — however small it seems.

How do you deal with dread?

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Wowed by God’s Work in Me [day 23: work]

I’m one to stop and smell the roses. It seems I’ve rubbed off on my kids in this case.  My daughter is adept at noticing details of the day like cotton candy sunsets and full moons. She stops to admire a rosebush in the middle of a mess of weeds. My son notices every plane that flies overhead and can pick out a kite stories above as we ride in a crowded car. He stops to greet each dog (true story!) and explodes in joy at the sight of a butterfly in flight.

You don’t have to teach kids to be wowed by the wonderful world we live in. Perhaps this is one of the reasons we are admonished in Scripture to become like little children.

Another reason may also be to encourage our dependence on Jesus. Surely, this child-like awe of our Creator and total dependence on Him are paramount to cultivating and sustaining a life-changing faith. I love how Psalm 104 nods at both of these.

The glory of the LORD shall endure for ever:
The LORD shall rejoice in his works.
He looketh on the earth, and it trembleth:
He toucheth the hills, and they smoke.
I will sing unto the LORD as long as I live:
I will sing praise to my God while I have my being.
My meditation of him shall be sweet:
I will be glad in the LORD.
Let the sinners be consumed out of the earth,
And let the wicked be no more.
Bless thou the LORD, O my soul.
Praise ye the LORD.

Psalm 104:31-35

Throughout this chapter, the Psalmist celebrates Gods works of both creation and providence. His mighty work didn’t stop when He looked and said, “It is good.” He is intimately involved in lovingly sustaining His creation. And He is intimately involved in lovingly sustaining me. The power that put the world in motion and keeps it spinning precisely according to His divine will is alive and working in me. I can trust that the work He does is good for me even when it doesn’t feel like it.

God doesn’t need me to be wowed by Him, but it benefits me to celebrate small in His work I see in the world and the work He does within me. When I cultivate this daily habit of celebrating small, my meditation of the Lord can be sweet and my heart can be glad. I’ll rejoice in His work, and I’ll totally depend on Him just like a child who paints pictures in the sky and never ceases to be amazed at the puffs of perfection. He is totally helpless but totally happy because the world is just as it should be.

While that babe may not know who created the clouds or keeps his heart beating, I do. I put my life in His hands each day because I know He is only capable of good work in the world — and in me, too.

How can you praise God’s provision in your life?

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