Well, hello! This little corner of space has been on my heart often over the past few months, though it’s been unusually quiet here. I’ve been on a hiatus, so to speak.
Hiatus – a pause or gap in a series, sequence, or process.
That’s what these past several months have been for me here in this space – a pause…a gap…ironically, taking place immediately after attending an amazing and inspirational blogging conference. I’ve felt a pressure, a sense of failure that I’m not doing this blog its justice, not fulfilling the duty I’ve established here for myself.
Apparently, I’ve believed the lie that a pause is a bad thing.
That coming back when I’m ready, when windows of time have reopened, is somehow hypocritical. Or, that I shouldn’t dare to return until every duck has realigned in its row.
As though life is a formula to be discovered and pacified ceaselessly.
In my most recent posts from July (truly only five months ago, though it seems like an eon), I wrote a series on priorities. How fitting, in fact, rather than failing, it is that my hiatus came just afterwards!
What’s been happening? Oh, nothing much…(wink)
- A fabulous family vacation (much-needed fun & rest!)
- Prepping for and teaching a class on identity (my heart’s passion!)
- Upending and implementing new curricula in our school days (tending to 2 of my greatest blessings!)
- Completing my latest book manuscript and looking towards publication in the spring (unspeakable excitement!)
- Taking on speaking engagements for this fall and in upcoming months (incredible privilege!)
Nothing at all really…just the blessings and fullness of this season of life. Trying to live out, even quietly, those priorities I declared out loud. Hiatus – a pause, a gap – can be a blessing, rather than a declaration of failure. It’s a matter of perspective.
Littering the psalms is this word holding a wealth of mystery – selah. There is no shortage of opinions on the true, singular meaning of this word: praise or lift up, weigh in the balances, pause and think calmly, take a breath. But put together, this word has become a reminder to me while reading the Word, and also while living life, to pause, breathe, and praise rather than hurry towards the next thing.
Rest and realize His presence instead of race and rush right past Him. Selah…selah.
His presence or the world’s pressure? The feeling of failure in a hiatus or the feeling of filling in selah? Which will I choose? Which will you choose?
Welcome to Part 4 of a 4-part series called “In The Life.” I’d like to share a bit about priorities, balancing, and what life looks like for me right now. We’re chatting about putting first things first and some simple principles to live by. If you missed Part 1, Part 2, or Part 3, go check those out! Feel free to jump in the conversation and share what your days look like. Thanks for joining me here!
It didn’t happen quickly, this settling into living out what matters most. The journey has been just that – a journey (…and the journey is far from over!). Your journey will have its own twists and turns, its own flavor. And as I look back through my day-to-day decisions, I’ve realized that several simple principles tend to manage my moments. I hope these will bless you! (Take what works for you and chat with God about it. He’s the best Source we could ever have!
#1: Time with God doesn’t just happen at 6am (or whenever) for an allotted block of time. It’s a relationship. It’s ongoing and it doesn’t fit in a box.
#2: Tidy as you go. Yes, have times in the day that are reserved for tidying things up. But, the more we put things away as soon as we’re done with them, the less mess there is to tackle later. Also, declutter and give things away regularly. This keeps our homes uncluttered and releases the hold that stuff has on us.
#3: Create a vision and mission statement for your family and (if applicable) for your homeschool. Print and frame it to keep you on track and stay mindful of the big picture.
#4: If you’re homeschooling, don’t expect to fit the mold of a public school schedule. Spend only the amount necessary for academics. Teachers in public or private school settings must consider things like a bell schedule, waiting on some kids to catch up, transitioning between classrooms, preset curricula often determined by someone else, and managing 20-30 children or teens with varying personalities, quirks, and learning styles. As a homeschooling parent, you can go more quickly because there’s less waiting time and more opportunity to individualize your child’s education to their needs and interests. It’s different. It’s okay.
#5: Make leftovers and keep some healthy frozen options available. And, breakfast for dinner is absolutely fine on occasion. Snacking on the weekends can totally count as mealtime too!
#6: Embrace your gifts and passions. Making time for them will give renewed vigor to other areas of your life.
#7: Every moment can be a teachable one. For your kids. And for you. Learning is (as often quoted) much more about lighting a fire rather than filling up a pail. It’s not just teaching what to think but rather how to think. I’m far more concerned about encouraging the natural inquisitiveness of my children than I am about seeing how much information they can regurgitate.
#8: You can do anything God has called you to do! [Note: I didn’t say you can do anything you may want to do!] But, if God has called you to something, He will equip you as you go.
#9: Consider the ingredients and weigh the cost. Put things into your body and mind on purpose, knowing what they are, why you’re taking them, and how they can/will affect you. You alone are responsible for the way you steward your body, soul, and spirit. The responsibility does not fall on the shoulders of a doctor, or pastor, or friend. Information is out there. Do your research. Pray. Ask God what His best is for you and your family. And pray for the freedom to continue (and take back ground where it’s been lost) to steward our bodies and minds according to God’s direction and our consciences rather than according to governmental mandates.
#10: Guard your “Yes“, Give your “No” and Go back to your “Not Now.” Know why you’re saying yes to something and how it fits into your priorities. Give your “no” freely to anything that doesn’t fit, at least for right now. Perhaps consider it later. But remember that whatever you say yes to requires that you say no to something else. Be sure you’re willing to make that trade.
God is in the midst of our days. He sees us cleaning up messes and filing paperwork and dealing with challenging co-workers and wiping runny noses. He’s right there, longing to be a part of each moment, even (and especially!) the messy, unlikely ones.
What principles is He asking you to live by?
Welcome to Part 3 of a 4-part series called “In The Life.” I’d like to share a bit about priorities, balancing, and what life looks like for me right now. We’re chatting about putting first things first and some simple principles to live by. If you missed Part 1 or Part 2, go check those out! Feel free to jump in the conversation and share what your days look like. Thanks for joining me here!
In every schedule, there are anchors and there are exceptions. Anchors keep us stable and grounded when everything else seems to shift. Exceptions are just the reality of life. Stuff happens. Being prepared for stuff to happen, rather than being totally shocked when it does, helps immensely!
Over time, I’ve set up anchors in my days and weeks. They are the inevitable events that I write in my schedule first, and are rarely ever cancelled.
When our foster daughter left us over 2 years ago, I realized how much I missed writing. So, I told my hubby one Friday night, “Hon, I think I might wake up early and head to Starbucks in the morning at 5am so I can write.” He nodded and said, “Okay” in way that sounded to me more like, “I’ll believe it when I see it.” But that decision established a habit I maintain to this day.
So, my writing anchor means that on Wednesdays and Saturdays I’m awake at 4:40am. (Yes, you read that correctly.) I toss on clothes (whatever I can find, really) and head to my local coffee shop to write. Wednesdays are for blogging. Saturdays are for book writing or preparing for teaching, usually on the topic of identity.
I also need to have a resting anchor. So, on Sundays, I sleep in as much as my kids will allow. And since they’re 7 and 8 now, they’ve learned (thank You, Lord!) to just leave me be those mornings…well…for the most part.
And, for the past few months, I’ve traded childcare with a friend so that one day every week or two I get a full 8 hours to myself, which I devote to my most pressing work at that time: editing a book, preparing for my class, tweaking our websites, and promoting Now Found Ministries / Now Found Publishing. This is a work anchor for me, still fairly new to the schedule, but wonderful nonetheless. My kids get to have a new perspective from a friend I trust, who is also willing to do all those gross science experiments I’m happy to pass on.
These days and the habits I’ve found help me anchor my weeks and fit in those things that feed my soul, which can easily get lost in the day-to-day.
The older I get the more quickly I see a year pass by. The eternity which was the time between Christmases each year as a child now flies by with greater speed. And particular seasons mean changes in our daily routines. Here are a few exceptions throughout our year:
Pear Harvesting – We have a wonderful pear tree in our front yard that easily produces over 500 pears each year. But, the harvest time is only 1-2 months long. So, during those months (which I find myself in right now!), I have to carve out time every couple of days to peel, chop, and cook these pears. For most of the past 7 harvest seasons we’ve lived in this house, I’ve made pear sauce and frozen it in gallon bags to use throughout the year.
Advent and Holidays – Let’s be realistic… “school” in any formal sense just doesn’t happen for us in December. Family is in from out of town. There’s decorating and shopping to be done and parties to plan and attend. And, among my favorite things, we have a little advent tree to go along with our devotional by Ann Voskamp, The Greatest Gift. It’s a special season and I try to enjoy it with my family rather than feel guilty that we’re setting schoolwork aside.
Vacations – We usually take one long vacation each year and, in recent years, have added some long weekends here and there. We almost always road-trip and we don’t have DVD players in our car (on purpose!). It’s good family time, but our schedule goes out the window the second we pull away from our house.
Concentrated classes/lessons – These are those times when something seems to take over for a few days or even weeks. Like swimming camp that meets every day for two weeks…or when I teach a 3-week class and need to spend extra time running through my notes to prepare. Housework and homeschooling may move to the back burner or be pulled to the bare minimum. Such is life. And it works for us.
Semesters with my group – I am blessed to co-lead a weekly women’s group that meets about 30 weeks per year. My kids go to their classes at church while I have some grown-up time. This time feeds me and allows me to invest in others. And the kids have one more opportunity to see friends and learn from a fresh perspective from people I trust. It’s definitely worth scooting things around in our schedule.
Play-dates – We homeschool. That doesn’t mean we’re hermits. Easily half of my friends home educate, so there are plenty of people we see on a regular basis. Developing and deepening relationships with friends matters!
Illness or “I just have to have a day off” days – Then there are just “those” days. Maybe one of the kids is sick. Maybe it’s me. Maybe I’ve just reached mental or emotional burnout and we need to take a break. Since we homeschool year-round, I don’t sweat taking a day off here or there. We may just need to relocate our school time to a new location for the day. Or we may need to do something totally different. Or snuggle and watch a movie. I’ve realized it’s okay for a day or so. Then when the illness has passed or we’ve had a chance to rest, we can jump back in with greater enthusiasm.
Exceptions will always come into play. That is simply part of living. But having some anchors that bring you back after an “exceptional” circumstance will help keep priorities in their rightful place.
What are the exceptions you face in life? Do they tend to derail you or add flavor to your life?
What helps anchor your schedule and protect your priorities?
Welcome to Part 2 of a 4-part series called “In The Life.” I’d like to share a bit about priorities, balancing, and what life looks like for me right now. We’ll chat about putting first things first and some simple principles to live by. Feel free to jump in the conversation and share what your days look like. Thanks for joining me here!
In Part 1 of this series, we looked at the proper placement of priorities. But where do we go from there? How do we take the vision and turn it into a mission, executed in day-to-day living?
As for a typical mid-week day…my kids and I use a flexible schedule that I’ve tweaked many times over the years to our present needs. I think in terms of blocks of time rather than a down-to-the-minute agenda. Here’s a look at our typical, daily rhythm (at least for the moment):
Before 7am – Everyone’s up…ideally having some quiet time…and our kids work on their “lists” (age-appropriate responsibilities…such as making their beds, emptying the dishwasher, taking out recycling, and wiping down their bathroom).
7-7:30am – Family breakfast
7:30-8:30am – “Bless the House” (a concept I’ve borrowed from FlyLady, which sounds much more pleasant than “chore-time”). This is when I make my bed, tidy the kitchen, do a quick declutter around our living areas, toss in a load of laundry, and remind the kids to finish their lists.
8:30-10am – My time to exercise. This is new to my schedule (at least in this time block). I’m on week 4. The at-home program I’m using lasts 3 months. I see this more as a kick-in-the-pants to up my energy and intensity. After I’m completed, I imagine this will go down to a daily 30-45 minutes which, for me, is more sustainable long-term. The kids get to play or workout with me.
10am – Snack time for all! Often during snack time we have family devotions. This could mean practicing our verse for the month (based on our family values) or discussing what God has been teaching me lately. The kids eat faster than I do, so once they’re done, I usually give them something school related to get started on, like some independent reading.
10:30am – We head over to our comfy spots in the living room and school time officially begins with our read-aloud. Currently we’re working our way through the Little House on the Prairie series, using an online unit study to dive in deeper to the many opportunities to discuss new vocabulary, science topics, geography and social studies, and to check on their general listening comprehension skills. (We also use the Five in a Row curriculum for this same sort of thing…we’re just on a break for this series.) I’m all about school-time that involves reading and snuggling.
11am – We now walk into our (brand new!) homeschool room we recently (mostly) finished, renovating a small portion of our garage. It’s a fun combination of purple walls and sleek, white counters with turquoise, polka dot chairs. I pull out our spelling curriculum (we use All About Spelling)…which also works on handwriting and listening skills. It’s meant to be used individually with each child, but since my kids are so close on their spelling levels, I teach them together and save myself 20 minutes. (Win-win!)
11:30am – Time for math. No official curriculum here. (I tend to think of us as “eclectic” homeschoolers.) We’ve used all kinds of workbooks and now I’m ready to start teaching them together (again, the blessings of having them so close in age) using logic puzzles and printable math worksheets.
12pm – Official school-time is now over. I know…simple, right? We do life together, so there are plenty of other learning opportunities on the go. And, as they get older, our formal school time will certainly be an area we expand and tweak. But, for now, this is where we’re at. Kids get to play for a bit and then must clean up their rooms and toys before we get lunch going.
12:30pm – Lunch time for the kids. I (finally) go take a shower since I’ve been teaching in my sweaty workout clothes this whole time.
1-2pm – Free time for the kiddos. Lunch time for me.
2-4pm – Naps. Yes, my elementary-aged children still take naps. Most days they last about an hour, and then they can play in their rooms quietly. This is my time to either be super productive and write or edit, call a friend and catch up, or totally veg out and watch TV.
4pm-6:30pm – This is our most varied time of day. Sometimes, we’ll run errands. Sometimes it’s a free-for-all time to play or read. Sometimes I actually cook dinner.
6:30pm (or thereabouts) – We eat dinner as a family and the kids get ready for bed.
8pm – Our ideal bedtime for the kids. Sometimes it’s earlier, sometimes later. But this is our ballpark range. Then Steve and I chat a bit, perhaps have a snack and relax for an hour or two before it’s our bedtime.
That’s our schedule, for now at least. It’s changed more times than I can count and it, certainly, will change again. But having a rhythm to work with rather than just winging-it is a huge help to me as I try to make sure we get the important things done.
And yet, I’ve found that the schedule itself isn’t nearly important as is my Source. If I’m just going through the motions of our schedule – without tapping into God regularly, chatting inwardly with Him, taking the time to jot down gifts in my gratitude journal – then I burn out…fast.
Some days I start off great, fully ready to dive into all that’s on the agenda, but one or both of my kids require…ahem…a little more focus on character development that day. If I’m only focused on the short-term agenda, it feels like we’ve totally derailed. But, if I keep in mind our big picture goals, the larger reasons why we homeschool (to put discipleship, practical training, and academia in their proper places…and most of all to help our kids hear the Voice of God for themselves) then I see the value of those interrupted moments (or hours).
It’s all about my Source. Who or what am I relying upon to walk through today? Who or what are you relying on?
The schedule will change. The ebbing and flowing of life necessitates that. But the Source is what remains secure, anchoring the years and seasons and moments.
Continue reading Part 3: Anchors & Exceptions to see what keeps me secure in my priorities when the stuff of life tries to sway me.
Welcome to Part 1 of a 4-part series called “In The Life.” I’d like to share a bit about priorities, balancing, and what life looks like for me right now. We’ll chat about putting first things first and some simple principles to live by. Feel free to jump in the conversation and share what your days look like. Thanks for joining me here!
Let’s get started…
Perusing the posts in a writer’s group, I came across a question: Does anyone balance small business, homeschooling, homemaking, writing, and fitness? If so, how? Boy, do I relate!
How can we possibly do it all? Well, honestly, we can’t. At least, not all at once. I’ve found my life ebbs and flows with priorities. Over recent months I’ve felt guilty, like I’m failing in all the important areas of life: relationships with God, my husband, kids, and caring for my own health. After reading an amazing little article by Kat Lee on just this subject, I took a step back. She wisely suggested creating your top 5 list of priorities and retreating to #1 when everything seems to be out of whack, flowing downward from there as each relationship gets in line. I’m in a season where I’m focused on #1 and #2, while still (obviously) maintaining the others as I get my feet under me again. Here are my Top 5:
1. Following God
2. Living Healthy (mentally, emotionally, physically)
3. Loving Steven
4. Discipling My Kids
5. Ministry and Extended Relationships
[Side-Note: For me, I’ve found that if I put “living healthy” further down the list, it simply doesn’t happen. And then it’s harder to love my hubby, disciple my kids, and encourage anyone else. Putting it at #2 (rather than #4) simply makes everything flow, so that the energy and attitude I’ve gained can appropriately feed into the vital relationships I have in my life.]
So what exactly do these brief phrases entail?
FOLLOWING GOD: This refers to the time I spend hanging out with my Savior, listening to His voice, diving in His Word, allowing Him to search me and sift through my stuff. Practically speaking, this time encompasses reading the Bible, writing in my gratitude journal, journaling out my conversations with God, and chatting with Him throughout my day.
LIVING HEALTHY: This is my body-soul section. Included here: exercise, tracking nutrition, taking thoughts captive to the truth of Christ, processing my emotions, recognizing and renouncing lies I’ve believed, speaking life-giving words, etc. This is where my flesh has to be put in its subordinate place to my spirit, which is connected to the Spirit.
LOVING STEVE: My husband has quirks and preferences and his own ways of receiving love. So, loving him can include a multitude of things: sending him a random “I’m thinking about you” text in the middle of the day, keeping those areas decluttered that matter most to him, listening to what he points out and keeping it in mind, being ready to help him on projects around the house, being fully present to him when we have time alone together…basically just considering his wants and needs and keeping my respect for him at the forefront.
DISCIPLING MY KIDS: I’m not only my kids’ mom. I’m also their schoolteacher and a primary life example. My main goals in raising up these lives entrusted to me include: teaching them to love and serve God and others, hear and obey the voice of the Lord, and prepare them spiritually, academically, and practically for life. So, as you’ll see in an upcoming post about our daily schedule, our “official school-time” may seem brief, but truthfully, learning never takes a break.
MINISTRY & EXTENDED RELATIONSHIPS: This is everything else of importance to me: teaching at my church, writing and blogging, co-leading a women’s group, investing in friendships and family members, working on our business, etc. This category experiences a lot of shifting with seasons and changes in life circumstances. And yet, this one is tough because if I’m not careful, it can completely take over the steering wheel in my life, driving in first place, if I don’t keep first things first. These are important things, but not as important as my relationships with God, Steve, and my children.
My days of late have taken on a new shape. But I know this is a season. Some habits will continue, others will tweak a bit, and some will flake away. Life isn’t static. My ability to move throughout my day greatly depends on the age and attitude of the kids in my home and the current season and activities at the forefront.
So, know that your days will look different than mine, and that’s great! You’re different than I am, you have different priorities, goals, and circumstances. But, regardless of our unique set of circumstances, we each make the choice either to rely on SELF or rely on the SPIRIT as our SOURCE.
Bottom line: Consider your Source. Are you relying on yourself or are you relying on God? Are you relying on your expectations to be met or are you trusting God to work through any and every circumstance for your good?
Continue reading Part 2: My Typical Day in this series to see how this vision turns into a day-to-day mission of real life living and Part 3: Anchors & Exceptions to see those things that either shift me or keep me grounded.
Yesterday was one of those ugly, in-the-trenches mom days. Hours spent in the car shuffling around town to all the places we needed to be. A long wait at the doctor’s office with two kids and a baby in tow. Feeling well-covered in all the fluids that babies make (I’ll leave that one there…). Two kids with questions that seemed never to end and a baby who just wouldn’t sleep…at all. And it seemed that everything that possibly could go wrong did.
Some of the thoughts that passed through my head included:
I don’t know if I can make it…
If I hear “Mom!” one more time, I swear….
It would feel so great to throw the remote straight at the TV right now…or punch a wall…
You know? One of “those” days. Just. Barely. Hanging. On.
Then, this morning, my alarm went off early, as it does on Wednesdays so I can go write. But I was confused. In all the mess of yesterday, I’d completely forgotten that today would be a new day, with new hopes and new happenings. I could get up, grab a cup of coffee and spend some time doing something I love, soaking in grace and the fresh mercies that come with every morning.
Here’s the problem with those problem days…When we allow ourselves to be defined by our fears, our feelings, our failures, rather than be defined by the Father. The problem isn’t that the difficult days come. We were told that they would.
It’s not strange to have a difficult day where everything feels upended. But what will we do with those days? What truths will emerge from those fiery trials? Here are a few truths I walked away with after yesterday:
My God is incredibly gracious and forgiving. Without Him, I am utterly lost.
My husband is my hero. (Thanks, babe, for listening to me vent, dropping everything to pick up the kids from class, picking up dinner, checking on the baby when he started to cry, handling the moments of discipline the evening brought, tossing in some laundry, and still managing to put up some drywall in our current room under renovation…all after coming home from your own long day at work.)
My kiddos have amazing brains and hearts that want to help. All their questions just reveal the depths of their inquisitiveness and the honor I have of guiding them into wisdom and knowledge.
Showers wash away the ickiness on my skin and mercy washes away the ickiness in my soul. Pretty simple. I just need to choose to grab that shower when I have a free moment and receive the mercy handed to me at every moment.
So, what will your day hold? What has it already been like? And what truths will you carry away from it?
Will you choose to be defined by the fears that attack? Or the feelings that shift? Or the failing moments? Or will you, rather, be defined today by the Father who’s standing right by your side, hands full of forgiveness and grace just for you?
photo via Pixabay
I sat there with my friend chatting while our kids played nearby. It’s been a while since we’ve managed to get together, so there was plenty to catch up on. Usually our conversations run towards homeschooling, health/nutrition, family, and personal ministry: her calling within financial stewardship, mine in freedom and identity.
But that day, there was something new on her heart. I saw passion radiating from her while she spoke…
It was this same topic that’s arisen more and more over the past few years. It’s intriguing to me, where the God of the universe intersects our tiny calendar. The realization that our time here is short. The “End Times,” if you will.
Hold on…don’t let me lose you there!
We live and work and raise children and play and plan and save and repeat the day-to-day aspects of life in an ongoing pattern of repetitiveness. And that’s good! That’s great, in fact. That’s exactly what God placed us here for in the first place.
“…God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over…every living thing that moves on the earth.'” Genesis 1:27-28
Be fruitful! Multiply! Take dominion over the earth, which simply means to steward well the earth we’ve been given.
But God also said to be prepared. Jesus (…or Yeshua, the name He gained while here on Earth) is coming. Yeshua, meaning, “God saves!“
“Stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.” Matthew 24:23
We don’t know the precise day or the exact hour, but we’ve been given plenty of signs and seasons, clues as to what is coming: the end of what we know here, the coming of something new. In the midst of living life and looking ahead, He’s said to keep watch. Stay awake!
But so many of us live sleeping, complacent, with perspectives limited to the immediate rather than looking around at the eternity which surrounds us.
Still, boiling it all down, I don’t want to be someone who stands on a street corner, holding up a sign, “The end is near!” while I forgo living in the meantime. I don’t want to shout a warning without a heart of love behind it. After all, the greatest commandment we’ve been given is to Love God and Love People. (Matthew 22:37-39)
But God is love. And His heart is that no one would be asleep spiritually when He comes for His own. He doesn’t give us signs to watch for in order to cause fear, because fear is the opposite of love. He gives us signs and clues as to what’s coming to give us hope – the end of the pain and struggles and sickness here on Earth is coming soon. He spurs us on to urgency, so that we look at those around us with fresh eyes.
Don’t fear! Be filled with hope, with anticipation! Stay awake!
And remember, that at the bottom of everything, living in relationship with God, through Jesus, who displayed the greatest act of love the world has ever known, and loving those in our paths is the key to it all.
“…With the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance…” (2 Peter 3:8-9)
Now, a simple blog post is not enough to go into the details of the signs and seasons we’re surrounded by. So, please take a look (or listen) to see for yourself some of what we’re witnessing in our world today. See how recorded, ancient prophecies within scripture are finding themselves in our news headlines everyday.
Tipping Point series by Jimmy Evans – Taking a look at those critical junctures in our world, where we are heading towards a tipping point, a place of no return.
And, one final note: The End Times is one topic…one subject. Let’s keep balance, not letting this take over our awareness completely to the neglect of our relationships with Jesus, of growing in faith and character. This is one piece of a larger puzzle. It’s a topic to grasp, to learn about, to be aware of. It’s not an idol to be worshiped. It’s something to remind us of the nearness of God. Okay? Okay.
* Disclosure: This post contains an affiliate link which, if you use to purchase anything, will bless my family at no additional cost to you.
photo via Pixabay
What do we do with the hard things of God?
Do we let doubts and unanswered prayers influence how we see God? Do we skim over scripture that we don’t think lines up with our concept of what a loving God should look like? How do we handle the death of a loved one or being passed over for a promotion at work?
If we aren’t careful, bitterness will creep in. The door will crack open and the enemy of our souls will have a field day planting doubt in our minds, “Did God really say…” We cannot allow our circumstances to shape our view of God.
We must allow God to shape our understanding of our circumstances.
In Genesis 32, Jacob found himself overwhelmed with fear of his brother, Esau. Years before, Jacob had deceitfully and manipulatively stolen the blessing intended for his brother. Now, he approached Esau’s land with the fruits of that blessing: a large family, many servants, immense wealth. Yet he feared his brother’s retaliation. He feared for his life…for the lives of his entire household.
After humbling himself in prayer, Jacob sent an extravagant gift ahead to Esau. Then, he sent his household ahead as well. Jacob was left completely alone when a man appeared and began to wrestle him. It’s always struck me as strange that this “man” just appears from nowhere at the exact moment Jacob is finally alone.
And just a few verses later, we discover that he’s been wrestling with God this whole night. Not a man…but God…the One who has the power to bless, to rename, to direct our paths. God is not having an identity crisis. He is secure in who He is and how He feels about us. He came to Jacob, He initiated – better yet, orchestrated – the whole event. God wanted to talk to him about identity.
“…Jacob said, ‘I will not let you go unless you bless me.’ And [the man] said to [Jacob], ‘What is your name?’ And he said, ‘Jacob.’ Then he said, ‘Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with me, and have prevailed.'” Genesis 32:26-28
At times when I haven’t heard an answer to prayer and I don’t know what the outcome is going to be, God has allowed me to realize that His thoughts are above my thoughts (meaning I wouldn’t understand even if He did tell me), but with that revelation peace is deposited and I know that everything will be all right.
I don’t have to worry about what is coming because God has told us we are entering His joy; we are going to a place where there is no more crying and no more death. Even when my feelings don’t line up, God is still faithful and He has always gone before me and made the crooked places straight.
I don’t like conflict. I would rather keep the peace than start conflict. And yet, God will allow me into situations where I must face conflict to show me that He is with me and that there are ways to handle conflict which are healthy and honoring to Him.
There are also times when I let myself get anxious about impending conflict and nothing ever comes of it. I’m sure a lot of that is me getting worked up in my mind. But I am convinced that, many times, God is diffusing situations and circumstances before I ever arrive.
And through the uncertainties, through the conflicts, God is standing ready to teach me more about who He is and who I am. He will not let an opportunity to reveal Himself to us pass Him by.
The book of James tells us that tests and trials come to perfect us. Jesus told us that in this world we will have trouble, not that we might. Our eternal God is bigger than circumstances, bigger than situations.
Just another note about Jacob, who was risking his life fighting for a blessing; he was already the carrier of blessing. God had promised him and his father (Isaac) and his grandfather (Abraham) that they would be blessed beyond comprehension.
When we are in tough places, if we will allow God to do His work, He will reveal more of our identity to us. We may not come out on the other side of trials with a physical limp, but if we let God do His work we should walk differently, with a better understanding of who we are in Him.
I’d lost hope completely. Whenever someone offered to pray for me…for this issue…I’d smile and say, “Sure, thanks!” But, inside, my heart had grown cold. I knew the prayer lifted up in genuine concern and out of love for me would fall flat.
After living with a diagnosis for more than eight years, I’d come to accept that having Type 1 diabetes, an “incurable” autoimmune disease, was to be my lifelong fate. This is the kind that you can’t just exercise your way out of. It’s living dependent on insulin injections every. single. day.
Years ago, my heart was still tender. I sat praying one day about just this issue, believing my God for a miracle, asking for what He wanted to do, fully open to Him. And I heard, resonating through my spirit, “I have healed you.” As in past tense…already complete.
But when I didn’t see that manifest in actual physical evidence, hope waned…gradually…over the next months and years. I stopped asking for prayer. I stopped praying even for myself. I started concocting reasons. I started believing lies.
I’m too undisciplined with food, so having diabetes is a necessary thing to keep my appetites in check.
The apostle Paul had a “thorn in his flesh” that never left him, so I guess this is mine.
Managing diabetes helps keep me in line and have a reason to eat well and work out. I can’t do those things without it.
It’s not so bad having an excuse to put myself first, such as urgently eating if my sugar crashes, or bringing food with me anywhere.
While I was at a conference a few weeks ago, God began stirring my heart. And when one of the speakers stood at the end of her message and prayed for healing over those of us in the room with autoimmune disorders, something broke free in me. A spark of hope. A sliver of receptivity to believe the impossible.
So, I asked…one more time.
The next day, my sugars were inexplicably crashing again and again. My body simply didn’t need as much insulin as it had the day before. Once I stabilized, I was using about 30% less insulin than I typically needed!
And I prayed, breathing out belief, breathing in truth…
Lord, thank You for restoring every single cell in my body to Your original and perfect design.
Father, thank You for being the God of the impossible things. Thank You for healing me.
Thank You for making me wonderfully, fearfully.
Lord, I reject the lies I’ve believed and spoken. I believe You can do anything!
Make me a testimony of Your presence, Your healing touch, Your grace in my very physical body.
Thank You for caring about every part of me…not just my soul…but You care about my spirit, soul, AND body!
I surrender to You my appetites and attitudes. I don’t need any disease to keep me in check. You are my everything!
Lord, thank You that the days of wearing my insulin pump are numbered. I will see the day when it is no longer needed at all!
Lord, I receive You. Renew every cell. Regenerate what has been lost. Resurrect what’s been dead in me.
Over the past several weeks, the confirmations of His movement have continued…every day! Insulin needs lowering. Friends standing with me, believing alongside me that we will see a miracle here. Words given (completely without prompting from me at all!) confirming that God has told someone to tell me that He’s healing me.
I’ve considered keeping this under wraps while healing is “in process.” But God is asking me to be bold…to draw a line in the sand and declare out loud what He’s doing in the quiet places.
“Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.” Proverbs 18:21
Will you join me in praying and agree with me? Will you dare to believe that our God is the same yesterday, today, and forever? This Jesus, who healed every single person who came to Him asking for healing, and healing many who never asked…will you believe with me that He’s still healing?
“Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases…” Psalm 103:2-3
Is there something you’re facing where you’ve lost hope that any change is possible? Your Healer stands ready to meet you. Are you willing to invite Him into the impossible situation?
I’d love to stand alongside you and pray with you! Let’s shake off the lies and the excuses and the doubts. Let’s believe beyond what our minds can grasp. Let’s spend time with the Healer, with Yahweh Rapha, The Lord Who Heals…it’s His very nature to do so. Let’s ask Him what He has to say about the situation, what His truth is, despite what the evidence might suggest. What are you believing for today?
“A man with leprosy came and knelt in front of Jesus, begging to be healed. ‘If you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean,’ he said. Moved with compassion, Jesus reached out and touched him. ‘I am willing,’ he said. ‘Be healed!'” Mark 1:40-41[In the meantime, I am still taking insulin. I am still monitoring my blood sugars very closely. I am still exercising and caring for my diet. And, as I see my blood sugars go down, I’m slowly lowering my insulin intake. I’m still keeping my doctor’s appointments. I’m believing that the “facts” of measurable evidence will continue to reflect the truth of His healing more and more.]
I think we’ve lost sight of what it means to know. We hear someone’s name and think, “Yeah, I know them.” But we really have only seen their picture on Facebook, or on a tabloid cover, or in the news. Maybe we’ve even met them a few times, exchanged some chit-chat. And we think that qualifies us to know them.
We do that with God too. Perhaps we’ve heard the name of Jesus, or attended church (even weekly!), or read someone’s devotional or quippy post about His character and love. Maybe we’ve even prayed a few times, sung some songs in the sanctuary. And we think that qualifies us to know Him.
Our English word, “know” is just simply too limited. In the Bible, while “knowing” can refer to an acquaintance, it primarily refers to far more than intellection. Knowing isn’t mere mental ascent.
Knowing is a euphemism for intercourse between a man and woman.
Knowing refers to the acceptance of and response to God’s truth and calling on a life.
Knowing is deeply intimate, intrinsically connected, reaching beyond mere thought into the deepest connection of spirits.
What if it’s just as simple as knowing Him more?
The best feeling in the world is knowing that you are known.
When husband and wife come together in physical intimacy, if they can cast off personal insecurities and enter into complete trust that their spouse sees them for who they truly are, scars and all, and loves them unconditionally…this is the moment that gives incredible witness to the euphoria of knowing God deeply, and grasping, even a smidgeon, how deeply He knows us.
Can this be the answer to every problem? To every attempt to compartmentalize issues and people groups? To just see Him, to know Him more? If we know Him truly, we’ll know ourselves accurately. If we know Him truly, it won’t matter what phase of life we’re in, because He’ll meet us anywhere. If we know Him truly, we’ll trust that He is working it all out for our good, so we don’t need to worry or overthink things. We can rest. If we know Him truly, we won’t even need to fear death, because we’ll know that death is merely a doorway that brings us into eternity with Him.
Tough day living in the grind? Envelop yourself in His presence.
Tragedy knocking at your door? Open the door up to God and let Him handle it, whether He brings healing we understand or not.
Tired? Bored? Uninspired? When we have the Spirit of God living in us, we are LITERALLY in-spired. Filled with the Spirt. Know Him. Be known by Him.