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?

Talk to me in the comment section below!

 

 

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?

Talk to me in the comment section below!

 

 

It Doesn’t Always Feel Natural to Nurture [Day 10: listen]

“Mom. Mom. Mom. Mooooom!” This is the soundtrack of my life it seems. I remember when I was young hearing my mom say she wished she could change her name. I never understood that joke until it leaped out of my own mouth. “Just-a-minute” and “go play” seem to always be on my lips. The world pulls my heart away from motherhood and makes me feel like I’m not measuring up to what it means to be a modern woman in a million different ways.

The big dreams of motherhood can certainly feel far away. I often think way down the road to graduations and wedding days, but there are thousands of days between then and now. And right now, there’s an almost 6-year-old who desperately needs to know why you can see the moon this morning.

What I fail to realize when she seems to do nothing but chatter is that she’s listening, too. And she’s watching. She’s learning from me. She’s finding her way in this world, and she needs my help to navigate it all. Though most of it seems of no importance to me, it appears they are life and death to her.

I think we moms tend to forget that this is what we wanted — to be needed and to nurture. Perhaps we just didn’t expect to be on call for these jobs all. the. time. We forget, too, that we were created to do this. Perhaps we can’t see past our inadequacies to sense this may be true.

My daughter doesn’t know I don’t feel completely prepared — she just knows she needs me. She has a million questions, and I’m her most trusted resource. My daughter needs me to help her find her way to graduation and her wedding day. Baby girl is in a hurry, too! Just the other day, she was crying in a taxi asking me why God won’t tell her who she’s going to marry right now. Someone tell this girl she’s only 5!

Yes, this is what I wanted. It’s wrapped up in tears and drama, and maybe I wasn’t expecting that. Even when I wish I wasn’t, I am needed. I am called out of my self to nurture. Though I was created to do this, it doesn’t always feel natural to nurture. It’s in these moments I see my own desperate need for God’s grace in my life. Yes, I was created to do this — but not without help.

I wonder if Timothy’s mom had these days where she wanted to change her name. Did the future preacher ever get under her skin or inspire after-bed-time sobs on her pillow? We don’t get a glimpse into those days because all the Bible tells us is that Timothy was a great, godly man and it was much thanks to his mama and grand-mama and their unfeigned faith.

If it is my prayer to raise world-changers, I have to be present in their worlds today. I listen and lead and, above all, I pray. I give them over to the God who has the power to change them as I do the work on the ground of molding little hearts. To do that, I have to have real faith like Timothy’s mama. I have to believe God is who He says He is and that He will show up in their lives and mine as we figure this whole thing out together. When I realize the significance of this title I’ve taken, I don’t want to change my name anymore.

 

How do you feel about your title today?

Talk to me in the comment section below!

 

 

It Helps to have a Plan [Day 9: plan]

This past week, focusing on celebrating small in my marriage has been really convicting for me. It seems I have A LOT of work to do to re-train myself to purposefully praise, embody true love, treasure all parts of our story, cherish my spouse, and safeguard my marriage. If I’m honest, it all seems a little overwhelming to me which is a shame because the whole point of celebrating small in my marriage is defying discouragement and finding joy in each leg of our journey together.

I don’t know about you, but I tend to be able to combat overwhelm if I have a plan. So here is my plan to celebrate small.

P: Praise God for the sanctifying work He does in marriage.
L: Love each other through failures and disappointments.
A: Ask God to reveal His hand at work in my marriage.
N: Nurture harmony by dreaming big and celebrating small as one.

When our big dreams become nothing but a blur in the distance, we go back to the blueprint. We trust the Lord will work out the details as we follow Him. The beauty of following this plan is that it benefits us today by allowing us to increase in boldness and strength for the journey and — whether we realize it or not — it gets us closer to those big dreams of ours.

 

What does your plan look like?

Talk to me in the comment section below!

 

 

Purposeful Praise from Today ’til Forever [Day 4: hope]

Paul and I will have been married for 8 years in April. If you read my last post which revealed my age and you are skilled at kindergarten math, you can figure that we were married young. Real young. I was one month past my 20th birthday when we were wed, and my groom was 21. We knew so little back then, and everyone but us knew it already. For the most part, everyone was kind and shared our joy. As it was on that day, it is my sincerest hope — as I shared with you on day two of this series — that we will share a life-long union and magnify Christ in our marriage. 50 years or bust! I really pray the Lord grants me that wish or whisks us to glory instead. Mainly because I don’t know how to “adult” without him.

Awww…wook at da babies!

As I’ve learned to celebrate small, however, I see that today matters. The big dream of lasting decades and decidedly living for the Lord together through our old age is important, but it isn’t everything. Choosing to love my spouse and to see the good in our marriage every day — especially the hard ones! — is the path we tread to the swarms of grandkids and a jam-packed anniversary party. Today isn’t so glamorous. Rather, it’s nap-time’s-up, baby-boy-wet-the-bed, throw-dinner-together, quick-kiss as he walks in and we walk out to church-kind of day.

It’s easy to get caught up in the whirlwind and totally miss each other. Resentments can pile up quickly as I’ve unfortunately learned. But all the things that keep us spinning in ministry, family, relationships, and all types of service to the Lord are directly impacted by the health of our marriage. So, yeah, it matters. This is where that thing I’ve been preaching to myself for the last month or so comes into play in a huge way.

And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him (Colossians 3:15-17).


No, we don’t float around this house singing hymns to each other — to me that sounds strangely fun but maybe not so much to my dear husband — but we absolutely would benefit from taking the time, thought and effort to encourage ourselves and each other in the Lord. My husband is 100% better at this than me, so I am completely taking responsibility for improving in this area in my own marriage. Big-dreaming-discouragement keeps me from breathing life into our marriage, but celebrating small breathes life back into me.

Purposed Praising Powered by Peace

I can rejuvenate my marriage by celebrating small — by choosing to praise God for blessings he pours out on our marriage even in the daily grind and what feels more menial than missional. I remember that I am completely loved and accepted by God, created to do good work in my marriage. When I operate from this place of peace, I give support to the hope of that long, happy marriage and joy to the journey of getting there. Who we are and how our marriage stands will be important 50 years down the road, we know; we want to leave a legacy. But more than that, we acknowledge that our marriage matters today. It matters to two spunky monkeys that roam the halls of this house, and it matters to all who are touched by our ministry efforts. Above all, it matters because it is a covenant made with King of the Universe.

It seems I could write about this all day. I’m fired up, but my time is up! I’ll be talking about celebrating small in marriage for the next several days, so I do hope you’ll return and join in the conversation while you’re here.

How can you purposefully praise for the health of your marriage?

Talk to me in the comment section below!