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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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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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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When Life Demands I Pour from My Empty Cup [day 21:give]

Affection and time-I-don’t-have to my husband.
Sippies and snacks, hugs and kisses to my kids.
Surprise visits, small gifts, and gospel tracts to my unbelieving friends.

 

In marriage, motherhood, and missional living — at times– it can seem like I just give and give and give. If I allow my focus to turn inwardly, I can start to see myself as saintly and others as soul suckers emptying me of my energy and taking advantage of my efforts to serve. This is not a true heart of service nor is it honoring to the God who calls me to give myself to these people each day.

There is no doubt that I will fall short of the big dreams to love and serve others like Jesus would. As I wrote in “31 Days Living the Golden Rule” during Write 31 Days last year,

We will let people down. We won’t be able to fulfill what we promise. We won’t find the strength to love like Jesus. We occupy bodies broken by the Fall and are unable to live perfectly and honorably at all times (or most of the time!). We trust God to work on our behalf, to communicate the words we fail to speak, and to show the love we fail to display.

 

We will strive and struggle. It’s all part of this thing called sanctification. We need heaping spoonfuls of grace and answered prayers for the strength to do more. We make right the things we can make right, and we ask God to take care of the rest. Sometimes that’s all we can do.

Heaping Spoonfuls of Grace for When We Goof it All Up, October 2016

In all of this, sensitivity to the working of the Holy Spirit is of utmost importance. At times, I clearly sense that the Lord is telling me to give myself a break, to rest in His promises, and take time to recover and refuel. A burned-out missionary isn’t of much more use than one who stayed at home, and a checked-out mom and wife does not supply a firm foundation for family. But there are other times, I feel the stirring in my soul to look beyond my own borders and give a little more. Often in these instances, I sit with gaping mouth because I’m certain I have no more to give.

God reminds me then of the widow in 1 Kings 17 who ministered to the needs of Elijah. Even though what she had to offer did not seem to match the need at hand, God honored her willingness to serve others and never let her supply run out. In the same way, I can follow the Spirit’s leading to continue to serve when I feel like my cup is just about empty. I can trust He will give me a little more strength and encourage my heart as the service is carried out for Him — because ultimately my service to literally anyone is service to Him (Matthew 25:40).

Like the last sip of a hot mocha, I savor the emptying cup. When I celebrate small, at the bottom of the frothy glass I see evidence of a life poured out in service to others. I see an opportunity to fill up on the truths of God’s word and sit close to Him in hopes that some of His strength may spill over into me. I pray and trust that He will fill me up again each time I give the last bit to another. I give with a heart wide open, aware of the possibility of my cup going dry but so sure of His care for me when that time comes.

When I celebrate small, I don’t live in fear of an empty cup. I savor service to others and a sweet relationship with the supplier of my every need. When He says “rest,” I rest in Him, knowing He is multiplying the moments I’ve given. When He says, “give,” I surrender my need to know I have what it takes because I know He will do what He does best — He will fill up my cup,

How have you seen God fill your empty cup?

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