God’s Grace for My Journey

It is a cool morning, I woke early and came outside with one of our cats. Her name is Oreo, named before we got her. She was a wandering stray. She loves being outside, but we never allow her to run loose for fear she would get hurt. So, we put her in a cage and bring her out, and she is content there for hours. She loves watching the birds and squirrels.

Up until a week ago, we would just put her out in the cage and I would check on her, through the window, every 15 minutes or so. But when our neighbor mentioned seeing a coyote going through our backyards, we decided it wasn’t safe to put her out alone. So, now, a new rest stop for me is sitting outside with her early in the morning. And, then again, after supper my husband and I take our coffee out so she can enjoy the outdoors.

My mornings out here are spent reading my recalibrate life book and journaling, sipping my steamy, creamy coffee, listening to bird songs, and putting my head back to close my eyes and breathe deeply. At first, I’ll admit, I thought of having to go out with her as another thing to do, taking up “my time.” But, it has quickly become something I both look forward to and enjoy.

Isn’t it funny how the Lord arranges rest stops for you when you seem to be having trouble making time for them yourself? God’s grace blowing in the fresh breeze, sending the sun’s shimmer across the dewy grass, opening tiny flower buds into beautiful blooms, and creating space in my morning to take in more of His love.

Just recently, I noticed that I had been falling back into old patterns of busyness leaving me overwhelmed. I had started putting too many things on my to-do list and ended up feeling very frustrated that everything wasn’t getting done. I was becoming short-tempered with others and angry at myself. I felt my neck and shoulder muscles tightening and hurting more and more. My breathing was shallow as I ran from one thing to the next. This is not the way I want to live anymore.

It took me a little over a week to realize all of this. It was around that time I came upon a few lines from Amy Simpson’s blog. I would link the blog but it is no longer available online. What really resonated with me were these words about our need to “intentionally carve Selah into our lives”  and that “Reverent pauses in God’s presence are vital.”  I need to live out those words! I need to say yes to those “Selah” moments, those “reverent pauses.”

Let me share a couple recent examples of a “Selah” moments that I have recognized in my life. Sometimes when I go to refill my coffee cup and gaze out the kitchen window, I look at my birdbath only to see robins lined up like school children. They’re all waiting for a cool bath. And just like children, sometimes, they fight about who is next. I stop and watch, I smile, and giggle just a little at how they splash and play as they cool off and get clean. And I tell the Lord how beautiful His creatures are.

Then there are the many times each week that I get Lulu Jean Loverbunn and Leila Jo Happy Hopper out to play, I watch my two adorable black bunnies hop around, run through their tunnel box, rip up the box of tissue paper, and come over by me to get petted. Sitting with them I thank the Lord for the joy and preciousness they bring to my life. They always make me smile. They are truly a gift from the Lord. He worked out the details of me adopting them in miraculous ways. And for a bonus, I later found out that they were born on my dad’s birthday. Dad went home to be with Jesus in 2014. The Lord touches our lives in ways we cannot even imagine or dream up.

My recalibrate life read this month is Your Sacred Yes by Susie Larson. It is such a good book and I am only a few chapters in. It has made me assess my life, what I say yes to, why I am saying yes, as well as, to consider if my yes comes from the fear of man, from putting pressure on myself, or out of what the Lord wants. I am realizing more often than not, it is me putting pressure on myself.

Larson is helping me to see and assess my choices. She asks:
When we assess honestly the time we give away to our various commitments, do we find behind it all divinely inspired soul growing in grace and strength? Or are we a spent and weary soul losing steam by the day?”

What a great question! I know my answer in the past often would be “a spent and weary soul,” but I want to be a “divinely inspired soul growing in grace and strength.” And that is my prayer. I can only become that as I know the Lord’s loving presence in my moments and my days.

So my days continue to change as I journey through this process of recalibrating life. I have changed my mission statement just a little to better reflect what is true and what fits right now. It is “to live firmly and joyously in the moment, encouraging and ministering in grace, as I journey in life, rooted and grounded in God’s love.”

Everything needs to come out of that rootedness in God’s love. My goals center around: 1. Growing in intimacy with Jesus; 2. Serving, loving, and supporting my husband; 3. Discipling women; and 4. Writing truths in blog and story from the depths of my heart as the Lord grows me in Christlikeness.

These four themes form the grid that my life choices are filtered through. They help to determine when and why I say yes. It requires me to go back to the Lord again and again for direction in my choices. And this leads me in learning to live as a “divinely inspired soul growing in grace and strength.” I am finding that it is a wonderful way to grow in the Lord, to know His love for me, and His direction for my life more.

Are you growing in His grace and strength and knowing His wondrous love more each day? Take a little time to reflect on Larson’s question and see what you discover.

My next post will focus on being rooted in the Vine and bearing fruit. I hope you will join me here.

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Rest Stops on My Journey

My Recalibrate Life Read for July is Even God Rested: Why It’s Okay for Women to Slow Down by Kim Thomas. This book centers around the themes of ceasing and feasting in the three areas of Emotional Rest, Physical Rest, and Spiritual Rest. There are suggestions, Rest Stops at the end each chapter to guide you in the process.

I have read this book slowly, a little at a time to let it soak in. I am left with a several takeaways but I will just share a few from each section of the book.

I am seeing as I move through this year that my four main priorities in recalibrating my life are to:

1. Learn to linger, savor, and slow down.

2. Learn to be present in the moments of life.

3. Learn to live in simplicity.

4. Learn to rest in the Lord’s love, abandoning outcomes to Him.

They all fit together like the pieces of a puzzle. They are interrelated, and as I grow in learning to live more like this, I am realizing that this growth in learning requires both ceasing and feasting.

Thomas says, “…we have neglected the pursuit of the eternal in pursuit of the temporary.” Looking back on my life I can see this as being true.

It is so easy to get caught up in the busyness of life. The expectations and obligations send us running and in the hustle and bustle of it all, we miss much of what really matters. We are consumed by the stressors of life. And quite often we never really stop to look at what the causes of our stress are, we just keep pushing on.

Stress is the very first thing Thomas deals with in her book. She suggests that we look for the stress triggers in our lives and figure out ways to deal with them. I am learning to recognize where my stress level is at and what the triggers are. I think often in our busyness we may not even be aware of how we are living with overwhelming stress. One book I read said that stress can become like adrenaline to our bodies, pushing us on.

Stress changes how we act and interact. It causes us to react, often in ways that may be harsh. When I am stressed, I often react with frustration out of feeling overwhelmed. Thomas suggests that once we learn what our stress triggers are, that we try to anticipate what is coming rather than reacting. When we do this it is easier to respond in a softer way.

As I learn about my stress triggers I’m learning to respond rather than react. I recently realized how frustrated I was getting when my brother called. All I could think of is what I needed to be doing, and I was short and edgy with him. After thinking about it I recognized that he was always calling when I was in the middle of getting dinner ready, and that irritated me. So the next time it happened I responded by telling him of a better time to call, and since then it hasn’t been an issue. Such a silly little thing caused me so much frustration, and there was such a simple solution. But in my initial upset, I didn’t think about a solution, I only reacted.

Thomas says, “…an unbalanced woman has nothing to offer herself or those around her.” So it is helpful to begin to find some balance in the areas of stress that have kept me teetering.

Along with that Thomas reminds her readers to remember to “replenish your well.For me, replenishing my well means taking time to relax, to read, or journal, or on occasion, even take a nap. I am choosing to gift myself with those things in between tasks on my to-do list. Replenishing my well does a lot for my attitude.

Some other areas Thomas discussed ceasing from in the area of Emotional Rest, are noise, negativity, numbness, and anger. I find that often my negativity and anger arise out of stress. She asks three important questions in the areas of Ceasing from Anger, Feasting on Flexibility. Each of these are important, especially to me, because often I have trouble being flexible. Maybe you will find them helpful as well.

1. “Is it possible for us to become more flexible, to survive the conflicts around us by adapting more appropriately?”

2. “Can I find myself surrendering my need to control in favor of relaxing in God’s ultimate sovereignty in my life?”

3.”Can I put the small stuff in perspective and flexibly move through my day?”

Good questions to take into consideration when learning to choose Emotional Rest.

The next section is Physical Rest. And in this section we learn about ceasing from busyness, hurrying, over-consuming, and crowds. Busyness and hurry were the areas of most interest to me here. As we learn to cease from busyness we learn to feast on leisure, and as we learn to cease from hurry Thomas discusses feasting on slowing down.

In the section on Ceasing from Hurry, Thomas reminded me of something I am slowly learning. “God’s love and acceptance do not depend on what I do. His grace is not opposed to my efforts, but my efforts do not earn grace.” Oh, how I need to remind myself of this when I forget about walking with “slow feet” and begin rushing about.

I know I often have heard myself say, “there is never enough time for all I want or need to get done.” But using the Bible story of the feeding of the 5000, Thomas reminds us, “…if we give God what is in our lunchbox, he will make it be enough.” I need to give my moments to Him and let Him lead me in making the time I have to be enough.

Thomas suggested in this section to make a time pie relating to how you spend your days. She asks, “Which pieces should be smaller, which pieces should be bigger?” This is so helpful to really see how your time is being consumed and to see if you are doing what really matters. I know I seem to easily waste time on things that distract me during the course of a day.

Finally, in the area of Spiritual Rest, she writes about ceasing from fear, hard-heartedness, the need to know everything, and anxiety.

Here ceasing from fear and anxiety interested me most. When we cease from fear we need to learn to feast on trust. In the Spiritual Rest Stop here, Thomas gives a long list of scriptures to feast on. Thomas says, “Putting away fear and feasting on trust, we rest in the reliability of God.” How very true! That is what I am learning as I seek to know His love for me in a deeper way.

In the area of Ceasing from Anxiety, Thomas reminds us of these important truths:

1. “The first step to ceasing from anxiety and feasting on peace is recognizing our need to surrender control.” (Yes, I am slowly learning to abandon outcomes to the Lord.)

2. “We have to remember that even though we have relinquished control, we are not sent untethered into life’s anxious circumstances. God secures our tether and he is still in control.”

So, with these things in mind, knowing that God is in control, Thomas suggests that we can only do what we can do. Anxiety gets us nowhere. But in the Lord we can find peace and we can definitely trust in Him!

Thomas shares the story of the fiery furnace from the book of Daniel. She reminds us of the courage of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego as they said “if their worst ‘what-ifs’ came to pass, ‘even-so’ they would praise God.” Oh, Lord help us to look at our “what-ifs” in this way, with a willingness to praise you!

This book was another great read on my journey of recalibrating life. I hope you found something helpful here for you as you journey with Jesus.