Saturday, December 29, 2018

Called to Worship.

I know many of you have been waiting to see when I would FINALLY post about November's Call. I hate to keep you waiting, but between the retreat I spoke at, the conference I attended, schooling the kids and prepping for the Holidays, I got quite behind. And, in all honesty, I didn't start researching this Call feeling like I was very good at worshipping, or even knowing what genuine worship ought to look like. I didn't have a lot of direction or even a thought that I wanted to follow or chase down.

I ended up choosing to listen to a few audiobooks before even doing a lick of planning for this post and both have been extremely helpful! This first book is a bit more in-depth, not as "inspiring" really, but it was still very informative and thought-provoking; it's called Worship by A.W. Tozer. The other book I listened to (which was actually the first book I started with) is called The Air I Breathe by Louie Giglio. This book was definitely easier to follow along with and listen to eagerly (my 10-year-old agrees), and it gives a lot of great insights, scriptural references, and questions to ask yourself about the way you are living.

Over all, my study of what it means to worship God didn't change me the way I expected, but I also feel like I want to keep on this path and dive in a bit deeper. I'm not sure what to do next, but I do have some good stuff to share with you in the meantime.

First off, the actual definition of Worship in the Bible was not what I expected.

What is your idea of worship? What does it entail? What does it look like for you on a regular basis?

Photo by Edwin Andrade on Unsplash

Did you know that worship simply means "to bow down to" or "to kiss the hand of"? Kind of odd, right? I always thought of worship as glorifying God, mostly through singing and praising, but just overall making known the ways that God is above all else. And sure, worship includes those things, but the root of worship is actually a submission, an admitting that God is ruler, King, worthy above all else.

Our church does a fabulous job of naming this kind of stuff about God at the outset of our services, but that hasn't always been the case in the other churches we've attended. The more I thought about this idea that worship is actually submission, the more it made sense. Can we really praise God if we are not fully revering Him? Can we sing of His glory if we refuse to admit His complete control over our destiny? Can we tell others of the way He is good if we do not confess that we have actually chosen our own ways over His?

Worshipping God in spirit and in truth (John 4:24) begins with complete submission to Him.

Thank goodness we already covered that in one of our earlier Calls, right? Surely you have it as dialed in as I do (and I hope you can hear my sarcastic laughter through your computer)! Yes, it's certainly helpful that we've already talked about this Call to surrender, but I still need this reminder many times, every day. It is never-ending, and I will likely always need some redirecting throughout my life. But the Call to Worship God is one we don't want to overlook, take lightly, or miss out on the deeper meaning and the deeper riches that come from following it.

We were all made to worship and we all worship something, whether we recognize it or not. Timothy Keller says in Counterfeit Gods that if you want to know what you worship, take a look at where your time and your money go. Where does your mind drift off toward when you are driving somewhere on autopilot? When you are stressed to the max, what do you start to long for? Those are likely the things you've put on the throne above God, and they are what you are bowed down to.

Anything we bow down to that isn't God will ruin us in the end. We will always be searching, always longing for that something to fill us up. But God satisfies us completely only when we are submitted to Him. We don't even need to try and seek out that kind of filling either, it just automatically happens when we finally submit ourselves to the reality that we ought to desire Him above all else. There is no chasing, or striving, no series of hoops we need to jump through. There is just a bowing down before Him that takes the burden of self-fulfillment and endless pursuit off our backs and allows our hearts to be filled with the goodness of who He is.

Romans 12:1-2 is a great place to take a look at what this means for us.

"I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect."

Our worship is not just the time we spending singing God's praises. It is what we do. It is how we live. It is what we give ourselves over to completely. It is the sacrificing of our lives to Him that enables us to think clearly, so that we may see where He is leading us. And it will always be good, right, and exactly in line with His laws of love. 

There are all kinds of actions the Psalms call us to take in our worship, things like shouting, dancing, singing, telling, standing, meditating, walking, stilling our hearts, casting down our idols, and more. But all of these must come from a heart that is bowed down to the Creator. Our spirit must decide what it will do, and if we hope to live a life that glorifies God, we must do what is commanded to us in God's true word. 

In Matthew 4:10 and Luke 4:8, Jesus tells Satan that God has commanded us "You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only shall you serve."

I serve many things over God on a regular basis. I serve my own desire for rest, despite knowing that God has the power to give me the energy I need for the tasks I am currently avoiding. I serve my own desire for approval from others, despite knowing in my head that none of it actually matters. I serve my own desire to enjoy the pleasures of the earth (seemingly to an unlimited extent, as my wanting appears to have no end), despite knowing that eternal treasures are the only "things" I ought to be consumed with gaining. 

I don't know what you are currently serving. And I can't tell you what dealing with all of this will look like in your own life. I can only give you guidance on how to approach your current state of heart and encourage you to ask God for the willingness to let go of the things you are choosing to serve before Him.

As with most of these Calls, I see a willing spirit as the best tool for growing in our ability to worship well. So here are the questions I am asking myself to help keep me on the path toward glorifying God in my worship.

1: Do I want to submit to God's commands?

This is often a hard pill to swallow. Am I willing to respond in gentleness, like I know God desires? Am I willing to give generously, like the Bible commands? Am I willing to be wronged, in order to show my trust in God's timing and justice? Am I willing to love others and give myself to them without a guarantee of service or love in return? Questions like these help reveal to me what I am clinging to and what I am refusing to lay before God. It helps me see where my heart is not aligned with His will.

2: Am I willing to take action?

If you have grown up in the church or been a Christian for many years, it's easy to know the right thing to do. Heck, even many unbelievers use the moral compass God gave them to try and discern what is right and what is wrong. But it's a WHOLE other thing to actually follow through on that knowledge. When I take the time to consider my own level of willingness to participate in God's commands, I can more clearly see my own selfishness, my own desire (or lack of desire) to worship Him the way He calls me to. Our worship is action, not just in words and song, but in the daily bowing down to what He says is right and wrong.

3: Am I recognizing God's authority and control over all of my circumstances?

This is the final, authoritative question for me. When I really step back and consider God's place in the universe, it becomes very apparent that my plan to do what I want to do is rooted in complete foolishness. If the One who created all things, who orchestrates all of my circumstances for the good plan He is working out, if He tells me I need to stop chasing the temporal things of this world, why on earth wouldn't I listen? The root of this problem is that I honestly think I know enough to work out my own plans. It's completely ridiculous, but it's true. 

When we stop to see God's complete authority and control over the entire globe, the entire galaxy, and everything that is beyond, we can more easily bow down before Him. If we want to worship Him well with our lives, with more than just our mouths, then we absolutely have to experience the truth about who He is personally, regularly, and honestly. If you don't really believe that He has your days numbered, your hairs counted, your situations covered, you will never submit to Him the way you need to, the way that is best for you. 

Worship is about so much more than singing, dancing, clapping, and speaking about who He is. 

Worship is about living out who He is. 

So who is He to you? Is He the ruler over all? Is He the good Father that all of scripture tells us He is? Is He the author of all beauty, of everything that is good and wonderful? If you don't believe He is, then you are missing out, and you will never be able to worship Him in spirit and in truth.

While over the next month or two I will be posting here on the blog a bunch, I'm still not quite finished with our Called series. I'm going to participate in a daily writing challenge, study up more on our final Call, and start to press into the submission of myself to the things God is calling me to right now, but I hope you will take the time to remember who God is. That was our first Call last January - to Know God. Knowing Him better will enrich your life and enable you to do anything He calls you to. 

You MUST know Him better if you hope to follow Him more closely, to hear Him more regularly, and to worship Him well. Head back to my posts about Knowing God here and here. Soak in all He wants to tell you. Question your motives, ask Him the hard questions, ask yourself the hard questions too. He loves you perfectly, and you need not fear where any of it will take you. 

I will be here on the blog more in January, posting more day-to-day ramblings, trying to make a habit out of writing more regularly, without fear or worry over how it all turns out. This is part of my spiritual worship: submitting to what God is telling me to do, submitting to the desires He is placing in my heart. I hope you'll tell me what you think, what questions you have, or answer any questions I have for you! This has been such a year of blessing for me, and having so many of you here reading and participating in this has given me more than I can even repay. 

I pray that you worship God well, and that you find the courage to surrender all of yourself to His good plans. I pray that you meet Him, know Him, and exude His goodness your entire life long. 

Talk soon, 

Friday, November 9, 2018

Called to Live for Him.

What does it really mean to live for Christ? For your life to no longer be your own, but God's?

I think hashing out this question is something people work on their entire lives, so I hope you won't expect to come away with a clean, organized list of things you can hop to right away and have "living for Christ" all figured out. But, I hope you do leave this post encouraged, ready to look at your daily life with a renewed perspective, realizing that hope for eternity is something you can focus on to give you endurance.

I don't think the bible is unclear about this in any way; we are Called to live for God. Even in the Old Testament, God's Call to His people over and over to seek Him, to live not for the things the world offers, but for the things He loves. This overarching Call included things like obedience, service, sacrifice, and more. But this same Call continues today. To live for God doesn't include all the same things the Old Testament (the old covenant) required, like animal sacrifices and diet restrictions, but the goal is the same: to have fellowship with God.

The whole reason we needed the old covenant was because of our human condition. We were slaves to sin and left to ourselves, with no way to come into the presence of God. Now that Christ has given His own life to pay for our sins, we cannot continue living the same way as before. We aren't saved from our sin so we can then go along our merry way. It's a completely different life that we should have.

The bible describes this difference as being dead or alive. In our sins, we were dead. Not just destined to die, or mostly dead, but completely unable to come alive and know God. We were totally incapable of putting into our lives the kind of goodness that He gives us. We see it in Colossians 2:13 and Ephesians 2:1-7. And Paul, who authored both these books of the bible, says again in Romans 6 that because we were dead before, we now need to leave the deadness we were enslaved to. In verse 11 he says "So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus."

Being alive in Christ means fighting sin, knowing that we don't have to submit to it, and then choosing to live for God instead.

Living for ourselves naturally leads us into sin. When my thought-life is full of my own ambitions, or consumed with what I am not getting, I am constantly on edge. I snap easier, I do selfish things without thinking, and I usually use my time in ways I later regret (hello Pinterest and Facebook). However, when I am living for God, I am no longer consumed with meeting my own needs. Instead, I look for what God would have me do and He helps me grow to love it.

Living for God doesn't mean you have to have a certain type of job or a particular type of lifestyle. It's more about how you look at your job, about how you look at your life. Instead of constantly looking at what you can do to make things better for yourself, you look at what you are already doing and how it can be done for God. It means you find your motivation not from looking to your future here on earth, but to the future we have in eternity with God.

Colossians 3:1-4 is such a perfect description of the perspective we need to have. When we come to know Jesus, when we accept the Call to be part of God's kingdom, we are raised from the dead and into Christ. Any life we hope to find is in Him alone. It is only seen dimly right now (1 Cor. 13:12) but when Christ appears, we will appear with Him in glory. So as Colossians 3:1 says, we have to seek the things that are above, since that is where Christ is. That's the only place we will find anything of lasting value. It's what we need to pursue.

In order to do that, we will have to lose the life we hope to build here. I'm not saying give up trying to do anything with excellence, or get rid of any nice thing you own, but we need to be honest with the ways we are pursuing the world and our own selfish fulfillment instead of pursuing God.

Jesus makes it very clear in every gospel, in multiple chapters: you will need to lose your life in order to find life in Christ. He says this Matthew 10 and 16, Mark 8, Luke 9 and 17, and John 12. In paraphrase, Jesus says that whoever seeks to keep their life will lose it, and whoever will lose their life for Him will save it.

So, are you currently losing or saving the life you have? Are you investing in the life you'll lose when you die, or in the one you will gain when you meet Jesus?

These are hard questions to answer. I can't say that I am doing this right all the time. I'm constantly confronted with how much of my time is spent on me, or how many of my frustrations are because I want my own way.

As I've thought through all of this during this past month, I have tried to ask myself these questions:

What is the root of my frustration? Myself or others?

What do I hope to accomplish right now? Something for myself or something God desires?

What are my thoughts focused on? My own benefit or God's?

It became pretty obvious that most of my unhappiness stems from my own desire to have a good life here on earth. When I'm upset with my kids, it's generally because I have an idea of how they should be. When I'm frustrated with my circumstances (traffic, bad hair day, giant zit on my chin), it's almost always because I think things should be different, more convenient for my schedule, or work together to make me look good. When I am annoyed with my husband, my friends, or pretty much anyone else I interact with, it's frequently due to my idea that I should be having things my way.

But a life lived for God... that's obviously different. When I am seeking to live out God's will through me, it changes my reactions.

When my kids do something wrong, I ask God how I should deal with it or what He wants to do through it.

When I'm stuck in traffic, I tell myself that God knows and that the details will all be worked out just fine.

When my husband does something I don't like or a friend doesn't invite me into their life, I can take hold of God's perspective and seek to love them despite my feelings and no matter their actions.

This road of living for Him is not easy, but He will help us do it. It will include sacrifice, sanctification, and probably some suffering too. But it's an eternal investment. The more we see the things we want on earth and their limited ability to bring us anything valuable, the easier it will be to lay them down and seek after God's eternal treasures. The more I sought to give what I have to others - including my money, my time, my energies, my gifts - the more I loved living my life!

This is an amazing aspect of living for God: He gives us greater joy now and greater rewards in eternity.

If this feels too challenging, too overwhelming, or not tangible enough for you to embrace right where you are, take a deep breath and relax. It's not an all-or-nothing type of endeavor. Here are a few tips that have helped me.

- When I am doing something boring, mundane, or challenging, something that I really would rather not do, I simply tell myself "This is for God, not me."

- When I get up in the morning, feeling less than enthusiastic about the day, I tell myself "God has something I can do today, and it will be worth my effort."

- When I am annoyed at all the people around me, I say to myself "God can love other people through me, and it is worth the effort."

Overall, the best tool we have for fighting the "right now" mentality that keeps us from living for God is preaching to ourselves. We must point our eyes to Jesus. Remind yourself that God is here, God can fill you, God can enable you to live exactly how He desires. Tell your soul that it is worth it, that even when you fail you will have new mercies to cling to, and that God really will direct you as you choose to step into action.

Give yourself grace. Be open to seeing God in your circumstances. And like I'm finding in all of these calls, everything becomes easier (and honestly, only actually doable) when we look to Jesus's example, rely on the Holy Spirit's power, and submit to God's eternal promises.

I hope God instills in you the desire to live for Him. I cannot convince you that it will be worthwhile, but I know you will find this to be true once you start taking these steps. I'd love to hear how it goes for you! Please consider joining my Called Facebook group and interacting with a bunch of us over there. This journey is always better with more friends to walk beside. You will find more riches here on earth and much more in eternity with a simple willingness to start working with God instead of trying to convince Him to work with you. Are you in?

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Fighting Joy -thieves

I never thought I'd be thinking so much about joy, much less writing about it! Most people would say I'm a pleasant person overall, but my close friends know I've got quite the melancholic streak. I chalk it up to my personality, which I think is pretty valid, but the way I battle my bouts of sadness or being overwhelmed by life are totally up to me, no matter how I'm wired. I don't have to let my personality rule, and I can have plenty of joy despite it.

September and October are really challenging months for me. Our two boys play Fall Sports, so I am chauffeur at least four evenings a week, sometimes both for dropping off and picking up the kids. Sometimes I stay for the entire practice (where I usually try to get in a nice walk and some reading or tutor prep), and sometimes I go home to fix dinner while my husband handles the pick-up. Add in two games every Saturday plus some snack-bringing obligations and serving in the Tigard High snack shack on top of all our regular life stuff, and well, it's a recipe for stress.

Last year I had to really cut back on my practice-watching. It was draining me of all joy and motivation. I started to doubt things about my life, my purpose, my investments in others, when none of those things were actually a problem. My full schedule pushed out my joy because I believed I needed more free time, more time for personal endeavors, and less time taking care of everyone else in order to be happy, in order to have a good, worthwhile, joy-filled life. In case you don't know, I was completely wrong.

Today I woke up feeling a similar type of stress. I was tired of people needing me. I was feeling worn out from others wanting a piece of my time and energy. My brain kept working through what caused my oldest son's football team to get so creamed the first half of their game yesterday. Because I have learned that I allow my joy to be stolen (rather than assuming I just don't have any) I started to pray and ask God why I couldn't get my emotions under control.

I said "God, just help me stop worrying over problems that aren't mine!"

Immediately His Spirit spoke to my heart...

"Which ones ARE yours to worry about?"

So funny, right? I actually started laughing and felt so relieved.

The answer is none.

None of the problems I allow into my head are mine to try and figure out. Not because I'm not responsible for anything, and not because I don't have things that need taken care of, but because God already knows what I need. My worry doesn't help Him take care of my problems.

I am a natural logistics person. Give me a problem, an issue, or a system that isn't working right and I can quickly, and usually pretty easily, see what the root of that problem is. And I'm good at finding practical solutions. But joy comes from somewhere else. It is not born out of perfectly worked out solutions. It doesn't live only where there are no problems. Because of Christ, it exists anywhere we allow it to reign. When we let stressful situations and circumstances circle in our minds, we are allowing joy-thieves to enter our hearts and push joy out. Instead, we need to push them out, lock the doors and let them know that they are not welcome.

Photo credit: Renee Fisher

The testimonies of Amy Carmichael and Corrie Ten Boom have really strengthened my resolve to stop letting problems here on earth take the joy that Christ has given me.

In Elizabeth Elliot's book, A Chance To Die, she talks about Amy's perspective on asking for funds. Early in her missionary journey, Amy would sometimes debate whether they should ask for money, or even prayer, for financial gifts. She feared asking for prayer about it would be dropping more clues than necessary. As she grew older, she was more and more convinced that if she truly trusted God, she would not ask others. She fully believed that God knew her needs and that He would tell whoever else needed to know in order to help or provide. And He did, over and over again, reaffirming that God does not need our worry or suggestions. He alone can provide every need.

When Corrie Ten Boom was a young girl, she often rode the train with her father to go and get the "true time" off a clock in another town. If this makes zero sense to you, just try and google why people did this, it's too much to explain here! On one of their train rides, she asked a question about something too mature for her age. Her father said he would have to explain it later, but Corrie was not very content with that answer.

Her father gave her an analogy she never forgot, and neither will I. He asked her to remember at what point during their trip he hands her the train ticket. She responded that it was right before she got on. He explained that God is the same way. We are His children, and we are in His complete care, and that means He will always give us what we need, but it is often right before we need it.

I'm not saying don't ever ask for help, or prayer, or try to be prepared. I'm saying don't spend your time trying to piece out details in your head that God is already lining up for you.

So dear friend, what problem is robbing you of peace, or sleep, or contentment? Do you understand that God knows exactly what your problem is? Do you know He already knows the solution? You can trust that He will give it to you right when you need it. Likely not long before, not definitely not after.

The testimonies of these two women are helping me walk in faith every day. I can trust God with any problem I encounter. It's not "on me" to fix everything; I am only called to obey. When my mind is tempted to dwell on the challenges that might arise or the roadblocks I might encounter, I can close that door and know 100% that God will help me as I need it. It frees me to simply enjoy what I am doing instead of grumpily going through my tasks, my mind swirling in frustration and unknowns.

There is no problem worth your worry. There is no circumstance worth stealing your joy. It's exactly what Satan wants to do and exactly what the Holy Spirit can help us overcome. We can use our time to work, to plan, to deal with situations that arise, but we must never allow it to create chaos inside our hearts and minds. God gives us the power to overcome.

His joy is our redemption, the solution to our biggest problem. And His joy is enough to get us through anything we encounter. We must let it reign and fight anything that tries to take it away.

The bonus I'm finding in all of it is in this little verse, a verse that might not seem that encouraging at first glance.

"And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him." Hebrews 11:6

It takes faith to say "I know God will take care of my financial problems, so right now I am going to cook dinner with a smile."

It takes faith to say "I hate that my loved one is in pain, dying, but I know God is here in all of it, and I can comfort them and myself with His love and goodness instead of my anger and frustration."

It takes faith to face a million little problems and still believe that God is there in the midst of it, giving you what you need to be kind, courageous, and generous to those you encounter.

It takes faith to continue obeying in your mundane life, trusting that happily sacrificing your life for the benefit of others will be worth it.

When we deny the joy-thieves of difficulty, pain, doubt, and despair, we are walking in faith. And it pleases God. He rewards us for seeking Him in all of these trials, big or small. Only God could be good enough to give us the solutions to our problems and then reward us for turning to Him! It's kind of over-the-top ridiculous, don't you think?

Today I am grateful that He never gives up on me. When I ask for help to fight depression, sadness, or just general weariness in life, He gives. He gives however much I am willing to receive.

So I encourage you, become willing to receive. Be open to being happy. Be open to joy taking over your dreary day. I know it's a battle, but it is one you will always be glad you fought.

Friday, September 7, 2018

Called to Receive His Joy

I feel God's goodness toward me in far too many ways to count lately. We began homeschooling again this week, and while we had our fair share of bumps, it was far less tortuous than I was expecting. Sometimes the kids were glad, sometimes they whined or cried, and other times they enjoyed their work immensely. Overall, it was good. And I'm learning to have joy in many things that are just good.

I recently participated in an online bible study through the book of Philippians and before doing this study, I really didn't realize how much Paul talks about joy in this letter. I know there were several verses about rejoicing, but going through the entire book in only two weeks changed my perspective on what joy truly is and how we are to understand genuine, Christian joy. Then, as I was praying through my last four topics for our 12 Months of Called, I began to see this Call to Receive His Joy stand out in neon, flashing lights. 

Photo by Konstantin Planinski

In August I finished reading the book A Chance to Die by Elizabeth Elliot, which is a biography about Amy Carmichael. It was challenging, convicting, and thought-provoking. Many people think of those who sacrifice so much of "their" life as being very serious, boring, or too self-deprecating, but I have a very different picture of Amy after reading more about her life. She held onto joy in the most dire of circumstances. She remained willing to be happy in the Lord despite losing an astonishing number of children and babies to disease and tragedy. She truly embodied what it means to rejoice in the Lord always. 

I think the way she lived is what Paul talks about in Philippians 4:11-13, about learning to be content in all things through the power of Christ. After losing a child that was very dear to her, Amy talks about a conversation she had with God. She says He asked her if she was prepared to move forward without that child and if should would still be willing to find joy in the life she would live for God. Amy doesn't say that she was immediately happy, filled with joy, or even in a good mood. She just says she knew that if she wanted to continue in her ministry and truly give all to the Lord, she would have to willingly part with anything He allowed to leave her hands. 

So she continued on. Not without grieving the many losses she continued to endure, but with a different perspective. Amy realized that if we are Christians, we automatically obtain joy, but that we often allow it to be stolen, or that we give it to things that actually become idols in our lives. When we are unable to be joyful because we don't get something we want, we have placed joy in something that God does not desire. Sure, we can be happy about other things, but we cannot make our happiness reliant upon them. 

Jesus says in John 15:11 that what He has spoken to His disciples (about abiding in God) is so that His joy would be in them, that their joy may be full. Being one with God is the way we receive full joy. Jesus' joy was our redemption, our reconciliation to God. It's the joy that enabled Him to go to the cross, endure the wrath of God, and defeat death. Our perfection is His joy, and it should be ours as well. 

James 1:2-4 reiterates this for us too. We can consider our trials joy because of what they produce in our lives: perfection. Not that we are perfect yet (just as Paul says in Philippians 3:12) but we are getting there. And it's our onward march toward glorification with God in eternity upon which our joy ought to be set. 

There will always be distractions here on earth. We can always find things that leave us lacking, that drive us nutty, or that pull us under. Unless we are receiving the joy that Jesus gives, and unless we are willing to hold onto that joy with both hands, the happiness we find in things on earth will always, eventually disappear. If we cannot be joyful without these temporary things, we will never obtain the true joy that God gives.

What can we do to keep our joy properly placed? It begins with our thoughts. 

We have to continually point our thoughts back to Christ, to God, to the Holy Spirit's work in our lives. This means abiding in Him, obeying Him, seeking Him when we would rather seek the things in the world because we know it will be worth it. I often despair at how easily I allow my happiness-meter to be filled with earthly stuff and temporary circumstances. It feels innocent, like I'm just enjoying God's good gifts (as we are also called to do), but the longer I turn toward those things when I am feeling less than joyful, the less clear a joy in Christ seems to be. 

Our minds need to be on Him. We have to train our hearts to rely completely upon God's promises, to have faith that His coming redemption is completely enough to get us through life right here, right now. When the gifts of His abiding presence feel too far off, too intangible, we must speak the truth of the gospel into our brains and into our souls. We must tell ourselves over and over that what is happening in our world, in our life, and in our emotions is not what really matters. It's our hearts that God desires. And when we stop allowing other things to take our joy we will find the world far easier to navigate. Losses feel more temporary, less pivotal. The tragedies we endure do not define the rest our lives, but offer us a springboard into knowing God better. 

When the people of God have returned to Israel after years of exile and Nehemiah is leading them in rebuilding the wall, he first guides the people in repentance and restoring the festivals they have not kept. The people despair, and weep, perhaps feeling the weight of their sin or the sadness of their circumstances, but Nehemiah encourages them to rejoice. It is God's joy that will strengthen them to endure. 

I have been striving to understand what that really means and I can feel a difference in how it is beginning to make sense. Knowing that the joy God offers, that Jesus has, in my perfection, in my salvation, in my already-but-not-yet glorification, is a stronghold I can cling to at any moment has altered every single day for me. Dirty dishes don't have to be joy-thieves. Uncooperative children or unexpected bills no longer have the right to steal my smile. I don't have to allow it. The temporary circumstances we walk through in our flesh can be overcome by clinging to the perfection God is giving me and that God rejoices in. 

I pray that God's joy in you will pierce your soul in the best way. Your joy does not have to be contingent on your circumstances. Your feelings may lie, your brain may tell you many other things, and it's not wrong to feel less-than-joyful as long as you don't succumb to it. Set your mind, as often as you can, on God's joy in you and it will strengthen you to endure more than you can imagine. Maybe more than you ever want, but even suffering is not strong enough to rip God's joy in you from you. 

If you are not already a part of our Facebook group, please feel free to join! You can follow the link to join here. There are surveys, free backgrounds, and a few live videos for you to enjoy. My hope is that we can all be mutually encouraged in walking down the paths of life in God together. Thank you for spending time here with me and have a blessed day!

Monday, August 20, 2018

The Call to Love.

God's divine work never ceases to amaze me.

I am baffled at how He put this idea into my head, helped me map out my year, only to find that each month has offered me something I didn't know I needed until I started hashing out each Call for all of you. I know some of you have probably benefited, but I know for sure that these Calls God put on my heart have definitely be life-giving and life-altering for me. It feels a little crazy that He does so much to work in our hearts and lives, right? 

The Call to Love naturally comes right after the Call to Receive His Heart. We truly cannot love the way God intends if our hearts are still full of self. And that is exactly what I've been wrestling with this month. 

I would never claim to be full of self-control, though I cleverly come up with elaborate methods for helping me get things done... sometimes. And all this month, while I have been trying to figure out my inability to write about the Call to Love, I have been struck over and over with how selfish I am. Even when serving my family, I usually only hop to it when there is some reward in it for me. Clean kitchen, laundry put away, meals planned and groceries bought - those all make my life easier, better. But ask me to do something that only benefits someone else and I'm likely to grumble, put it off, or find some way to make it beneficial for myself. 

None of this is of God. And that is tough to swallow. However, I do see God working in me in that I am not full of despair while confessing it. For a bit of the month, I just dove into other things trying to avoid it, thinking I could figure it all out eventually. But when my spirit could no longer stand it, God enabled me to see my selfishness for what it is and helped me start to lay myself down. 

Again, we need God's heart. 

This doesn't mean that we simply also love the things He loves, but that we get rid of the things we love more than Him, the things He cannot stand. We must abide in Him in order to love like Him. In John 15:9-11 Jesus says that we need to remain in His love, and we do that by obeying Him. 

When we see that our actions are not God's actions of love, we have to stop. And when we see the right thing to do and refuse to do it, we must confess that as sin (James 4:17). 

We want our loving of others to be an overflow of God's love in us, not just actions (like what 1 Corinthians 13 warns about) but how can we pursue this? How do we seek to love others when we still feel like God's love is not abiding in our hearts the way we desire, the way we wish it was?

We must look to Jesus.

Looking at His example, I see three things we can consider and make progress in, things I know will bring our hearts into a posture God will use to love others. I know this because if God will use someone as selfish and lacking in self-control as me, He will work in you too :) Here they are...

1 - Understand what Love is.
2 - Understand the value in it.
3 - Be willing to give up anything.

Love is Sacrifice.

We see what love is through Jesus' example in Philippians 2: doing nothing from selfish ambition, considering others as more important than self, and giving our life (even parts of it that are wonderful) for the benefit of others. Love equals giving, and not just out of our abundance.

Our sermon yesterday was preached by the pastor of one of our sister churches and he gave a great example of this from Acts 16. Paul and others are imprisoned for upheaving the local economy by releasing a slave girl from an evil spirit. When an earthquake releases their shackles and opens the prison doors, Paul and the others stay as they are, despite their wounds and unjust imprisonment. They deny their own rights, choosing to ensure goodness and life to the prison guard, who would have been a dead man for losing track of all his prisoners. The loving sacrifice of Paul and his companions is turned into the love of God for this guard, who then becomes a believer along with his entire family.

This is the love of God. Jesus gave up what was rightfully His, something beyond fantastic, and took on punishment so we could experience glory with Him. We cannot love well, or love the way God desires if we do not understand that loving others will require sacrifice. If we think we can love and serve others and not have it cost us anything but the extra we seem to be blessed with, we are deceived. 

That's why we need to see the value in it. 

Jesus saw the value of giving us fellowship and glory in the presence of God. He knew His sacrifice would be worth it. He knew that what awaited for us in eternity would be no match for what He gave up, so He gladly took the form of a man forever instead of staying in His Godly existence (whatever that looks like). Paul also speaks like this in 2 Corinthians 4:17, saying that this momentary affliction will be nothing compared to the glory waiting for us. 

Pleasures forevermore? Sounds good! No death, weeping, darkness, anything? Sign me up! Rewarded 100-fold and receiving treasure that can never be destroyed? It's kind of ridiculous that we don't already chase after all these things!

Knowing all this, we must make a decision.

Are we willing to give up what the world offers in exchange for the life God offers? 

That is really the question you will need to answer. 1 John tells us that we cannot love the world and love God. God's love cannot abide in us if we think getting what we desire here on earth is more important than giving God's love to others. And this has been what I am wrestling with even as I type. My kids need me, my husband needs me, other people need me, and I just want to get done what I want to get done! But is that love? Is all my planning, my big agenda, really so much more important than loving others more than myself? Why is every small inconvenience in my day such a frustration? Because God's love is not dwelling in my heart. 

I know that feels rough. I am feeling it too. But I know God's love is in there somewhere because I do feel His grace in the way He gently reels me back in. 

Sure, we can do lots of loving things for others, but if we do not have His love running through our veins our shallow motivation will run out. At some point, we will revert back to our flesh, trying to figure out how we can do the right and good things while still getting what we think we need. His love has to remain in us. We must be connected to it on a regular basis.

What am I doing with all this? What can you do to get on this path away from self and toward God? 

Invite God in. 

Ask Him to change your heart and expect Him to do it. 

Be willing to do whatever it takes. 

That last step feels really hard! It requires an abnormal amount of faith to set down something you love here and now in exchange for something you'll get after you die. But it is more sure than anything else we cling to. 

I would encourage you to take a read through 1 John. It will prick you, be sure of that, but it will also open up places in your heart that God wants to dwell. You might be scared to go there, you might think you can just put a godly twist on your endeavors and therefore make them acceptable to God, but that is not how He works. He wants all of you. Until He has it, your love might bless other people here and there, but it's not the love God has for you. The goal we are after is being fully immersed in His love forever. And it can start today. Go to Him. Ask. And be ready to receive. You really will receive more than you can ever give. 

"Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world - the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions - is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever." 1 John 1:15-17

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Contemplating Steadfastness.

I am a bit behind on life. It's pretty understandable, after purging many of our belongings, living in a hotel for six weeks, then moving back in and setting up the home for guests, homeschooling, and more. The last week and a half have been filled with cardboard, screws, cleaning, organizing, building furniture, and more. It's been wonderful to be back home but I am feeling a bit cautious about my daily routines.

I would never claim to be very self-disciplined, so I compensate by forcing things upon myself in certain ways, so I know I will not succumb to the temptation to do less than I wish I could do. In case that makes zero sense, here's an example.

I am really athletic, but I don't always like the idea of exercising. I mostly enjoy it while I am doing it, but getting started is SO hard. So I do things like signing up for CrossFit. This also solves my problem of trying to get up early in the morning, at least on the days I attend. If I have nowhere to be each day, nothing specific to be done at a certain time, I struggle to get out of bed, or to even set my alarm. So needing to be at CrossFit at a certain time in the morning takes care of both of these problems for me.

This year will require either a lot of self-discipline or a lot of discipline-inducing activities. I'm a bit nervous about it, but this morning God gave me sweet examples of what it means to be steadfast and consistent in my work and in my life.

I spent some time reading from Exodus this morning and then opened up Rosaria Butterfield's book The Gospel Come with a House Key. The chapter I read was about life with her mother as an adult (in which I cried WAY too much) and she brought up this verse.

"And in all things let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, 
lacking nothing."   James 1:4

The patience it takes to live while waiting for God's promises to be fulfilled is enormous. The confidence I need to have in God's plan, in order to continue working and giving and serving and still LOVE well, is far beyond my own abilities. But God makes us fulfilled and complete by persevering in that work. 

The verse stuck with me and made me sit and think for a while. I decided to finally put a verse on my lettering board, as it has been hanging on the wall blank since we moved back in. As I was arranging all the letters (and realizing there would be no room for the reference) I had a hard time finding all the specific letters I needed. This verse has a lot of F's for how many I have in total, and I struggled to find them in my assortment of letters sprawled across the table. 

As I got to the end, I was still missing two letters. I decided I would simply start to put the letters back into the bag and grab them one by one. It only took a few seconds before I found the first letter I needed. As I continued to put just one letter or two in the bag at a time, I noticed a letter clinging to the inside of the bag. At first, I kept putting more letters in, then I took another look and saw that it was the very letter I was looking for. Immediately, I felt God's goodness in talking to me through this simple task. 

To be steadfast in my life, I may often need to simply start the small work, and do it over and over again. Putting the letters in one by one, despite not knowing when the end result would come to pass, is what enabled me to find the letters I was looking for. Had I not just started the work, it might have taken me even longer to achieve my goal. 

To be steadfast in my life, I need to be unhurried and attentive. If I had just grabbed handfuls and handfuls of letters without paying much attention, I may have missed the letter I needed, stuck in the bag.

In all the things God is doing in my life, my steadfastness will make that work more effective. It will complete God's work in me, not hinder it. Being steadfast is a gift. Bearing under the weight of time, longstanding effort, and the daily struggle of being a human is working in us to make us what God desires us to be. 

This comes as such a relief to me this morning. God's work is not hindered by the length of time or number of times I have to work on something. My willingness to endure is actually a help to the process. If I am grumpy and frustrated at the length of time God's work takes, it is a hindrance to that work! 

The more patient and willing I am to endure the long work God is doing in my life, the more complete I will be be, the more perfected I will end up. 

I can do my work happy today. I can breathe deep, relax, and just enjoy the interruptions, the road-blocks, the tasks that take longer than I could have imagined. Yes, you read that right: I can enjoy them! They are perfecting me, sanctifying me, making me complete. And that's the goal right? To be complete in Christ. 

Lately, I cannot help but see how a willing spirit is the key to making the most of almost anything in life. Willing to navigate hardship, willing to do the menial job, willing to sacrifice self for the well-being of others... it makes or breaks jobs, relationships, and more. So if I am going to focus on anything as the summer break is coming to a close, it's on my level of willingness. 

I want to be willing to walk through whatever it is God ordains or allows. I want to be willing to navigate whatever challenges arise during my pursuit of the endeavors He has placed on my heart. I desire to willingly work for the good of those around me, without bitterness, and without regret. A willing vessel is what God uses, and what He desires. Being steadfast is a matter of being willing to endure. And I want to be willing. 

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Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Called to Receive God's Heart.

Working on all of these Called posts has been such a blessing to my soul. I'm not one of those people who loves writing in and of itself; it's hard work for me! But the challenge of digging in and understanding something, anything about God is an undertaking that brings life to my bones and purpose to my life. Plus, I just love talking about it and sharing what I learn with anyone willing to listen :)

This month's Call is to Receive God's heart. And wow, the last couple of weeks have really revealed just how much I need this. It's always a bit disheartening to struggle so hard through the things I want to talk about and share, but it continually brings me back to the humble place of recognizing how much I really need God. So let's walk together through why this matters and why we need God's heart.

The bible is pretty clear about the state of our own hearts. Jeremiah 17 gives us a glimpse of God speaking to Jeremiah about the state of things among God's people and he says in verse 9 that "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?" From the beginning of time, we have account after account of people who follow their own desires and fall away from seeking after God. Everyone has this struggle (whether they acknowledge it or not). 

We want what we want, and we seek out what we think will make us happy, content, fulfilled... to no avail. And this is no secret to God. Jeremiah 17:10 continues on "I the LORD search the heart and test the mind, to give every many according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds." 

When David is in the process of being chosen to be king we see God speaking to Samuel about Jesse's other sons. 1 Samuel 16:7 says "But the LORD said to Samuel, 'Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.'" Back a few chapters we witness Saul's fall out of God's pleasure and Samuel tells him what God desires: a man after His own heart.

God knows what is in our hearts. We cannot hide it or mask it or try to simply ignore it. Hearts pointed in the wrong direction wreak havoc in our own lives and the lives of others. It doesn't feel good to admit this, but acknowledging it, understanding that our sin-ridden hearts will lead us astray, is a first, very necessary step toward redemption. 

We cannot pretend that the state of our hearts without God can be mastered by our own determination  or self-discipline. We can do all kinds of "right" things from an external perspective and still have hearts that do not honor Him. And if we are unwilling to see this, eventually that rotting heart will pull us under. It will begin to spill out into our actions. 

Proverbs 4:23 says "Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life." 

And Jesus himself speaks several times in Matthew about how what is in our hearts will come out in our words and actions. We need new hearts in order to live rightly, in order to love well. But we cannot make our hearts new on our own, we need God to do it for us.

And praise be to God; He wants to change our hearts! He wants to take our heart of stone and give us a heart of flesh, a heart that beats to the rhythm of His love, His priorities, and His goodness. We are commanded to love God with all our heart and He is the only one who can give us a heart full enough to do that. 

For some reason, I have always really resonated with the verses that talk about seeking God. And maybe you are like this too, always searching to hear from Him, to understand Him, and long to know Him as Moses did. So the following verses bring me great hope in my ability to receive from God what I need to love and follow Him...

"But from there you will seek the LORD your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul."
Deuteronomy 4:29

"You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart." 
Jeremiah 29:13 

"And I tell you, ask and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him?" 
Matthew 7:7-11

God wants to give us good things, starting with a new heart, but we need to ask for it!

While this idea may feel like a double standard, or an impossible challenge, it really is a blessing for us. Every time we feel ourselves pulling away from God, pursuing things that He does not desire for us, we will have to turn back to Him in order to get our hearts right. We'll need to ask Him to help us love Him the way He desires. It's that same desire we see in David that pleased God despite all the sins David piled up or dreadful situations he seemed to get himself into. David was a man after God's heart.

So where does that leave us? What can we do about it?

Always pray. Always stay in communion with God. And ask Him to weed out the things that are not from Him. We may also end up needing to weed out things in our life that entice our hearts (ahem, Instagram and Facebook anyone?) and take a step back from the endeavors that entangle our minds. I know I struggle with fear of what fun my life might be (or rather, not be) without some of the things I am drawn toward. But if they take my eyes off God and steer my heart somewhere other than where God wants to lead me, why would I want it? I need to trust deep in my heart that they are not worth clinging to. 

This month will entail a lot of asking questions of myself, often questions that I may not want to get honest about.

Do I still love following God when it's uncomfortable?When it requires me to not have things I enjoy indulging in? When I have less than others around me? 

What things am I unwilling to let go of and what pursuits keep me from giving my energy to God? 

What in my life keeps me from acting in a way that honors God or what is causing my mind to be distracted with the world instead of focused on who God is?

What do I want more than God?

I'll let you answer those questions in the privacy of your own mind, but I would encourage you to write it down. Write down the scary, the brutally honest, the petty or silly things that are holding you back from living fully under the influence of God's heart. And trust this: there is enough goodness, love, excitement, fulfillment, and pleasure in God's love that He can put in your heart to fill ANY dark hole. 

Saints throughout history have proved over and over again, having nothing in this world except God is more than enough. Can it be enough for me? For you? I know it can, and I want to pursue being so filled with God that I don't even miss what the world would offer. 

Here are a couple books I have enjoyed immensely and I hope they are a blessing to you too. 

Counterfeit Gods by Timothy Keller
You Are What You Love by James K. A. Smith

Your willingness to allow God to change your heart directly affect how much your heart changes. Let Him do that work and be willing to give whatever it takes. It will be worth it! 

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Trusting God, Knowing Calm.

When I think about being calm, I imagine lounging on a cabin porch, with hot coffee, looking across a beautiful lake. But more often than not, when I speak about being calm, I’m usually talking to a hormonal child or a mid-tantrum toddler. And I am not generally very calm about it myself.

Thankfully, there is a calm that can penetrate every kind of circumstance. It is the same calm that allowed Jesus to sleep on a boat while the disciples were freaking out, fearing drowning and death.

It is the calm of completely trusting the will of God.

Photo by Jorge Vasconez

Matthew 8:23-27 and Mark 4:35-41 show us the disciples’ reactions to Jesus sleeping while being tossed about and their shock and awe regarding Jesus’ power over the wind and seas. The disciples saw what surrounded them and feared the possible outcome. But Jesus knew their circumstance on the boat was temporary. He knew it was only a situation they were in and He completely trusted God to bring them through it.

Is that how I see my daily chaos? As temporary? Is that how I view trials and circumstances that bring me to the end of myself?

Now, you might be tempted to think it was easier for Jesus because He knew He would live long enough to continue preaching the gospel... and then later die, be raised from the dead, and ascend into Heaven. Piece of cake, right?

Jesus trusted He would live long enough to fulfill God’s call on His life and we can trust the same thing.

We may not know the way Jesus did or when that call will be finished, but we can trust that God goes before us, preparing our works and putting us in circumstances that accomplish every last item on His agenda (Ephesians 2:10).

Jesus knew that storm was a passing circumstance while we tend to get too caught up in what might happen and forget who is really in control.

Photo by Jeremy Bishop

The way we allow calm to rule in our circumstances is to willingly trust the will of God for our lives.

Maybe you feel like you don’t know what God’s will is. Sure, I don’t know what His will is one year from now, or really, even next week! But, we can know His will for today. It’s nicely tucked into the beginning of 1 Thessalonians 4:3…

“For this is the will of God, your sanctification…”

I know, it doesn’t seem like the exciting or important “will of God” we often desire. But if we keep our sanctification in the forefront of our minds, we can see the will of God happening every day of our lives, in every circumstance we encounter. During storms, summer vacations, seasons of trouble, or trials by fire, God’s will can be accomplished in our lives.

Invite the same calm Jesus had into your own life by being confident of this very thing… that “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6)

Friend, you are being sanctified in your temporary trials, in your daily struggles, and in every storm that threatens to pull you under. None of it can defeat you! See yourself in that boat with Jesus. Be as confident as He was, sleeping though death was at the door. Remember that no stormy sea can overpower the plans God has for your life.

God, help us to trust you with our days. Help us to remember that You know what is best. Guide us through our circumstances with the continual reminder of your will for our lives: sanctification. Help us to set our minds on the life we gain in Christ and help us to value it above all else. Give us hearts that are filled with the calm, joy-inducing confidence only available through Jesus and His work on the cross. Thank you for the life you give and may our calm-ridden lives be a testimony of your goodness. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Calm and Free.

Good morning friends!

It's a new week and I have a new friend who is going to bless you with a new perspective on Calm. Hop on over to meet my friend Gelly May. She has a colorful and encouraging Instagram account, as well as a Facebook page. Be sure to follow here in those places so you can get doses of encouragement straight from her :)

Her contribution to our Calm loop is really valuable, and I hope you walk away from what she shares looking at your life and seeing where Jesus wants you to let go of crazy and grab ahold of Calm.

I used to be completely unafraid of the ocean.

I would swim far from shore, hardly looking back to spot my bags on the sand. It didn't matter how deep the water was or how far I got; I floated in peace.

Be sure to read the rest of Gelly's post and follow her all the places! And come back for some more updates later this week. I'm going to try and keep posting about my regular life; it seems like that's what all of you love to read about most! Have a great Monday and we'll see you soon. 

Thursday, June 21, 2018

The House Situation.

A lot of you have been asking me lately about what is going on with our house, so I figured I would give a little update on the blog and fill everyone in at once.

At the end of March, we had a toilet with a tank-flowing, flap-sealing problem. Every once in a while it would not seal all the way and a small stream of water would just continually flow from the tank to the bowl until we went in and wiggled it. Well, when a certain child tried to flush their poo down, it clogged and said child went on with their bedtime routine without noticing. The toilet flap didn't seal and water continued to flow from the tank, into the clogged bowl, and over the precipice onto our bathroom floor. It kept going for several minutes (or maybe 10? 15?) and long-story short, we discovered it after "black-water" was covering the bathroom floor and running down a light fixture through the ceiling beneath it, onto the downstairs floor.

Black-water is just water with human waste, so don't fret, it was all very clear-looking. But anything black-water touches has to go. And anything that gets damaged by replacing those surfaces also needs repaired too. Mark has worked with a disaster restoration company in the past, so we knew who to call ASAP.

This was our immediate solution...

This is how it looked after taking out all the damaged materials. Sorry, no pics of the bathroom - it's small and there is a lot of stuff in the way.

Because of where the water damage was, insurance will cover new floors in most of our home. We chose to go ahead and have them re-carpet the other two bedrooms and office, plus make the other two bathrooms match (new floors in one and counter tops in both). Because the damage touched surfaces that connect to around 2200 sq ft of the house, it requires all our furniture to be moved out, which also required us to move out. Thankfully, insurance will pay for our hotel stay too!

You can see our paint color experiments!

Looking empty.

So far, we have been in the hotel a week. The house was fully packed out by Tuesday, and hopefully some demo and potentially some of the new carpet will already be done by Saturday. They have a bunch of drywall to repair, paint to do in much of the house, some trim and then LOTS of carpet and a bunch of hardwood floors. We are praying it will only be three weeks, but it could be up to six if there are too many scheduling issues or other problems that come up.

I cannot wait to see how it will all look! We picked out some great new surface materials and will likely get a few new light fixtures as well. We also chose to repaint with a better shade of grey, something more "greige" than the blue-tinted grey we originally chose.

Main wood flooring plus carpet, counter surface, and backsplash. So nice!

This is the countertop surface plus the laminate that will go in the upstairs bathrooms (don't worry, none of the laminate will be in proximity to the wood floors). 

We have debated selling the house afterwards, but I don't think we will, even though it's tempting since the market is hot and most of what we own is in boxes! It's hard to pack almost everything you own, knowing you will just be unpacking it in the same exact place. It was a great excuse to purge though, and we hope to really get rid of our excess stuff and only unpack things into real places. At first we were going to use our tax return for new kitchen counters, but have since decided the risk of having cabinets damaged was too big (for our sanity and our budget) and instead we will make sure we get things like bookshelves, homeschool organization, and closet storage all figured out when we move back in.

So, ask me again in a week or two how we are doing. And PLEASE pray for me. The last few days have been good, but today I am weary (which I always am on laundry day). Some of the things I am weary over are not new (never being able to just leave my kids to pursue something on my own) and other issues are because of being in this small space and not being able to just turn the kids outside while I work or read. I feel the familiar spiral of my thoughts beginning to compound and make me long for a different life, but I am fighting hard to trust this path of mine to God. He knows. He sees me. He has good things for me (which are usually borne through challenges and struggles). It sure it a battle!

Thanks for stopping in and hearing me out. And if you're local, invite us over for dinner ;)