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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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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The 4 Rs of Resurgence from Rock-Bottom [day 24: revise]

I’ve had one real rock-bottom moment since living on the mission field. I sat in front of a doctor sure I was gravely ill only to be told I was medically fine but mentally falling apart. A stressful first year in our new home — which involved earthquakes, 2 moves, a scary accident, and power and food/gas shortages — culminated in a wound up ball of worry with my name on it.

I had made myself sick with trying to manage all of this mess in the most perfect way possible. I carried so much pressure to make it all OK for my family. The harsh reality I had to face was that everyone was OK but me. I was living in a foggy state of fear that was blinding me to all the blessings at hand.

All of these fears — which I passed off as a natural response to stressful stimuli — actually revealed my deepest fear of them all: fear of failure. When thinking clearly, I am sure God is pleased with me. But when the stakes are high and the stress is higher, my feeble heart needs reminding. In these times of lost focus, it is likely I fall short of God’s standard for me. I forget whose I am or I forget my #1 goal in life.

Sometimes, the temptation to sin is stronger than my resolve to follow Jesus. Sometimes my emotional response to stressful stimuli is downright ugly. Sometimes I treat the people I love most in ways I would be ashamed to admit to you here. Sometimes I am just a stinking, rotten failure. And that’s a hard pill to swallow for a natural perfectionist.

However, when I faithfully practice celebrating small, I can see failure as a starting place. From rock- bottom, I cry out to Jesus in repentance for the ways I fail to reflect the ‘heart surgery’ I’ve undergone. With full confidence He will receive me, I — His broken child — collapse into His loving arms. I embrace the failure that enables me to clearly see His perfect love for me. His gentle reassurance tells me what I already know — I’ve got to get a grip on this pet sin of mine.

Because the stone cold truth is there’s no sin bigger than God’s forgiveness, and I am never too far away for God’s love to find me. He wants to work His will and way in my life and will go to great lengths to show me this. Fallen as I am, I will fail Him. I will mess up a thousand times in a thousand different ways. When I find myself face down in failure, it is imperative to pick myself up enough to run back to Scripture. There I find the truths that set me back on the path of big dreams where I celebrate small and live my life for Jesus alone.

In preparation for another rock-bottom moment, I can rehearse these truths to strengthen my heart and my confidence in the One who will meet me there.

The 4 Rs of Resurgence from Rock-Bottom

Remember

God loves you.
You have been made righteous in His sight.
He will forgive, and you can bear fruit for Him.

Repent

Confess to Jesus your wrongs and turn from the bad habits that don’t serve Him well. If they don’t serve Him well, they won’t serve you or others well either.

Revise

Plan to do right and arm yourself with Scripture.
Rid your life of the things that keep you from walking in the Spirit and serving Christ wholeheartedly.
Establish accountability with a trusted friend, church group, or pastor/pastor’s wife who will support you and encourage you with the truth of God’s word.

Rise

Keep following Jesus and seeking to fulfill the big dreams He has given you.
Grow in your relationship with the Lord and see Him perform a great work in you.
Lead others to Jesus and disciple those that walk the road behind you.
Trust that the Lord does all things well and will continue to perfect you according to His will.

And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world.There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.

1 John 4:16-18

 

Which of these stages do you find yourself in today?

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