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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Choices in Simplicity

“If your life is rushed or stressed or complicated. You may feel that circumstances or fate have somehow trapped you in your crazy lifestyle. But I would challenge you to look very closely at your life and see how often your choices are dictating the simplicity or the chaos in which you live.”

This statement makes me realize that more often than not I am the maker of my own chaos. I am looking for better choices. This month my Recalibrate Life read is A Place Called Simplicity: The Quiet Beauty of Simple Living by Claire Cloninger.

This is an older book. There are many recently published books on the subject of simplifying life, downsizing, and decluttering. But I chose to reread this one because it isn’t a how-to book, instead it’s more of a change from the inside-out book. Simplicity begins within us.

When we finally get to the place that the chaos of life overwhelms us and we decide something has to change, I am happy to say we have some choices. We have to learn to make “simplifying choices.”

One of the choices Cloninger shares is that of choosing “to limit our options voluntarily.” Sometimes our options are limited by circumstances, but when they aren’t, we may need to set our own limits.

So, you may be wondering what would that look like. First, you need to decide what you want to set limits on. Will it be the number of the activities you’re involved in? Or will it be limiting your possessions in some way? Or maybe you need to cut back on how many relationships you’re involved in? Or possibly it is necessary for you, like me, to set limits in all of the areas.

There are so many things I just want to have or have felt the need for. There are so many activities I want to do. And there are so many interesting people with whom I want to be involved with. But there are not enough hours in the day.

One of the choices I have recently made has involved a book club I am a part of. I like the people in my book club, but haven’t enjoyed the books being selected. I considered quitting, and then decided not to go every month because I didn’t want to lose touch with the group. So now I am only stopping in occasionally. I don’t read the book, but instead go for the sole purpose of reconnecting. I stay for the first part of the meeting and when the book discussion begins I leave. This has been working very well because I get to stay in touch without a big time commitmentment.

Cloninger says, “Simply paring down the number of things that draw on our time and energy gives us a heightened excitement and a deepened caring for the select few that remain.” This is so true. I have two close friends that I consistently meet with for coffee. We share deeply and laugh hard, and I leave feeling connected and refreshed. There are many other people I want to add into a time slot on my calendar, but being so busy really only leads to me feeling frantic and overwhelmed. I am deeply nourished by the two I meet with regularly. And that is the best I can do right now with the other commitments I have in my life.

I am also making some choices in the area of possessions. We are going to be moving in a few months and I’m working through closets and rooms, deciding what to keep, and what I just need to get rid of. I could pack it all up, but there are so many things that I haven’t used and really do not need. So, boxes of extra, non-essentials are going to Salvation Army and some things are just being put in the garbage or into the recycle bin.

This move is changing my shopping habits as well, I’m choosing not to buy things because I don’t want to pack them. So I choose to buy the necessary and the essential, not the on-a-whim purchases that just catch my eye.

I also am using up leftover shampoo, detergents, and cleaners, as well as other consumables. As I recycle the empty bottles our shelves are slowly looking less cluttered.

Cloninger suggests that our paring down be guided by “a positive organizing principle.” We have to consider “what essential priority…motivates our choices.” She says that, “Each life revolves around it’s own central belief system.” Finding this principle is, “a vital step toward simplicity.”

Unfortunately, I think my belief system has been centered around filling the hole inside, feeding the hunger with things that comfort. And with that belief system, the many purchases that initially brought a few moments of comfort have led to more clutter, as well as, more stress in my life.

Cloninger says that her belief system was all about “people -pleasing”. And it left her feeling “scattered and fragmented.” I am right there with her, running in too many directions with too many things and too many ideas I want to try.

I am also realizing the importance of my “hunger” being filled by the Lord’s unconditional love. I have mentioned this before and Cloninger brought me back to this important truth, I need Him to “quench my thirst.” I need Him to fill the emptiness within. I know this to be true, but so often I get pulled back into the needy-thinking.

Finding the place of simplicity is an ongoing journey with day-to-day, moment-by-moment choices. And it means continually returning to the Lord to find my all-in-all in Him rather than in possessions, activities, or other people. Only He can fill the emptiness and meet the needs that our souls cry out for. No other choices will satisfy.

Next week we will be focusing on the subject of time, specifically, chronos-time versus kairos-time. The subject fascinates me, and I know which I currently live in and which I want to live more of my life in. I hope you will join me.

*The photo is from Unsplash.

Four Choices Important to Yielding to Him

Proverbs 16:3 “Commit to the LORD, whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.

Romans 12:2  “Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may be evidence of the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”

Integrity. It is a word that doesn’t seem to matter much in our world anymore. Integrity is defined as “the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles” (Merriam Webster).

Our lives as Christian should be about integrity and obedience to God and His Word. Our insides and outsides should match. If we say we are Christians we should live in Christ-likeness.

Matthew 15:8 describes hypocrites as those who honor the Lord with their lips but their hearts are far from Him. This is also said in Isaiah 29:13 regarding the Israelites. I think if each of us would look at our lives, we too could find how we at times live as hypocrites as well. We say or think one thing and do just the opposite.

We can’t just say we are Christians, there needs to be some evidence in our lives. When we yield to the Lord in the way we live out our days we will reflect Christ-likeness. Jesus yielded all of His life to the Father even unto death on the cross.

We have a choice moment-by-moment. We can live life for ourselves, our own wishes, wants, and desires, doing our own thing. Or we can live for the Lord, living a life pleasing to Him.

We often think we know what is best and then move through life without consulting Him. But, that being said, if we are honest with ourselves we know that is not how we are to live and more often than not, it does not end up being the best thing. So how do we change?

We have choices in this life, we have a freewill. The four choices I am about to share can help each one of us in growing in the area of yielding. These are choices that we can learn to cultivate as we go through our days. They will take time and practice.

1. Choose to Abide– We need to open our hearts to His presence and remain with Him throughout our days. He is the Vine, and we are the branches. As we abide He is connected to us and us to Him.  He moves through our days with us and give us the wisdom, knowledge, and understanding for all that comes our way.

2. Choose to Attend- We need to still our minds to hear Him. When we attend to something or someone, our focus is on the thing or that person. Life’s busyness often keeps us distracted. It is so easy to lose sight of the Lord and miss what He has for us. Our spirits need to be attentive to His leading as we go through our days. He pricks our hearts to touch another person’s life with love when it naturally would not even cross our minds. He knows the big picture, He knows the effect. He knows the outcome and how it may grow His Kingdom.

3. Choose to Abandon– We need to abandon all to Him, but we especially need to release our personal desires for attention, and for acknowledgment, so that we can seek to desire that He alone is glorified. It’s all about Him, not all about me. This is such a hard lesson to learn. We want to be acknowledged for our work, for our ideas, we fight to get the recognition to make us feel good, or worthwhile. It seems like a hard lesson to learn to realize that all that really matters is the Lord. It does not come naturally to think that this life is all about accomplishing His will for His glory. It is hard to get self out of the way.

4. Choose to be Available– We need to let go of our agendas and be ready to act when He calls upon us. We can accomplish so much for the kingdom by being available to the Lord. We may think we are doing the Lord a favor by trying to grow a big, effective program on our own, but that may not be true if is not what the Lord wants, if it is not fulfilling His purposes. His thoughts and ways are higher than ours (Isaiah 55:8-9)

Each of these choices lend themselves to helping us to practice yielding our lives to God.

And, although, I know in my heart that I want to live out each of these choices daily in my life, I also know that none of these come naturally or easily. I need to pray for help so that I may grow in doing each of these. I need to ask myself these questions as I go through my day: 

  • Am I choosing to abide in the Lord in this moment? Or am I trying to make my own way?
  • Am I choosing to attend the Spirit’s leading, to the whisper of His windwords? Or is the noise of the world shutting Him out?
  • Am I choosing to abandon my need to get the praise and accolades and seeking to give Him all the glory? Or is this all about me and what I can get for me?
  • Am I choosing to be available to Him as I go through my day? When I feel the Holy Spirit nudge me am I willing to drop my agenda and move according to His leading? Or is what I am doing more important to me?

Learning to yield, living a yielding life, is a constant challenge for as long as we are in this flesh.

Romans 7:8 tells us “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is in my flesh, for I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.”

Every action begins with an attitude, with a choice, how will you go through your day? What will you choose? Will it be your own desires or yielding to Him in all you do?