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.

Advertisements

The Diligent Intentionality of Slow Feet

I had coffee with a dear friend a couple of days ago and we shared about our walks with the Lord. We both discussed specific areas where we wanted to see growth, especially in recognizing His presence through the day and in being more attentive to the Holy Spirit’s nudges. Jan Johnson in Abundant Simplicity says, “Simplicity with time requires the diligent intentionality of creating enough space that I may say yes to God about treasuring God and loving people.”

Just before meeting my friend I had to stop at my church. This was an extra trip made necessary because I accidentally picked up a plastic bag that I thought was mine and did not realize my mistake until I got home. The extra trip had me agitated, my plan for the day already had too many things to do. On my drive there I told the Lord I was frustrated because it seems no matter how hard I try not to be busy, my time always shrinks because of extra things to do. And then I told Satan that my God is not a God of chaos but One of peace. I spoke out loudly against my busyness.

When I got to church my pastor greeted me and asked me how I was. I told him I was overwhelmed even though my life is quieter. My mind keeps racing with a never-ending list of things to do. He said one word, “focus,” and spoke of the importance of being present to what I am doing in the moment. I left church feeling settled, our conversation brought me back to Johnson’s words regarding the diligent intentionality of creating enough space…”

I have a lot I want to get done, but I can choose how I go about it. I can either race from one thing to another or I can slow down and be present focusing on one thing at a time. I am working at learning to focus at one thing at a time, but am obviously still struggling with it. Focus.

In Abundant Simplicity, Johnson suggests doing a “heart exam” asking yourself, “[what’s] running me?” Such a good question. Often the things that keep me racing through my day feeling overwhelmed and frustrated come down to my need to people please and to earn love. And I have mentioned that I realize I don’t get what I need from these measures, but I seem to be stuck in a habit of living this way. It is a bad habit that I am trying hard to change.

Johnson also suggest checking with the Lord about what He is calling us to do, with the emphasis being on loving Him and letting His love for me overflow to others. This definitely means a change in focus for me. Instead of focusing on my agenda, checking off the items to do, it means a constant checking in with God. How am I living out love in what I am doing? And it is an excellent reminder to help me really abide.

A few years ago I was at a women’s retreat. One afternoon we had a couple of hours of free time, so I decided to take a walk by the beach. There were lots of rock, and I love rocks! I am always trying to find one with special significance for the moment. So as I walked along this rocky path I talked with the Lord about what He wanted me to do, how I should move forward in life living out my mission. I also prayed that He would give me a special rock. I listened as I hunted. He seemed to tell me to have “slow feet.” I wrote this in my little notebook along with other snippets from the Spirit’s lead. I picked up a small rock that satisfied my desire and headed back to the retreat center. As I continued to walk there along the side of the path there was a rock that caught my attention, not because I was hunting but because it was the rock the Lord had for me. It is in the perfect shape of a foot (see featured image). So incredibly amazing is our God!

Proverbs 19:2 says, “One who moves too hurriedly misses the way.” The Lord wants me to have slow feet so that I don’t miss the way. He wants me to walk with diligent intentionality. I have circled back to those words “slow feet” often in the past few years. But it seems I always get caught up in the hurry of life. This time I am choosing diligent intentionality for the longterm future. It will definitely take focus!

Johnson suggests the importance of having margin in our days. She uses the example of Jesus. Jesus was constantly interrupted, and He allowed those interruptions to become times of blessing others. He made Himself available to the needs of others. He didn’t grumble that He had too much to do when someone begged to be healed or asked Him to meet a different need.

Johnson suggests that we need margin in our days. Time to breathe in between activities. Time for reflection and prayer. She says, [a] life of sabbath, pauses, and margin creates a stillness inside us that infuses each thought and conversation.” We need “whitespace” both in our lives and on our calendars. Making this happen may require that we set some boundaries. Johnson defines a boundary as “a practical statement of intentionality.” 

I am realizing, especially in my people pleasing, that I need to set boundaries. First, asking myself why I am saying “yes” to this as I consider it in my mind. Then, also making sure that I do not answer in a hurry, but instead taking time to prayerfully think about it. What will it require of me and my time? What will I have to give up in order to do it?

Just this morning I saw an opportunity online to learn Hebrew, and I thought about how much I would like to do it, I went to the page to sign up and I stopped. What am I doing? I had to remind myself that I cannot do everything. I can’t be in this writing group, and learn how to quilt with this group, and learn Hebrew online and keep adding more and more things. I closed the page that offered the class, and although, I’ll admit, I felt disappointed because it is something I would like to do, I realized cannot do it right now. It was acting on impulse, not walking with slow feet, not walking with diligent intentionality.

I am choosing to recalibrate my life with the diligent intentionality of slow feet. I will be sharing more of this process in future blogs. It is a process that takes time to learn, but I am determined to seek His way.

How about you, how are you being diligently intentional with your time?

 

 

Savoring the Sweetness of Soul-Restoration

Psalm 23:3 “He restores my soul”

Last week I shared how I was knowing simplicity in my faith-walk through lingering with the Lord (The Luxury of Lingering). This week I want to share how I am knowing simplicity in my faith-walk through savoring the sweetness, as I am recognizing in slowing down, how the Lord restores my soul.

It is amazing to me how much you miss in life by rushing through and being too busy. Quite often I still am in that mode of rushing and busyness, but recently, as I have started to be intentional about slowing down, I began to notice the reality of soul-restoration. But before I recognized the reality of it I had to dig into what it really meant. I had studied Psalm 23 in-depth before, but this time as I looked at just this small portion of verse three, it wasn’t about learning for knowledge. This time it was about learning out of desperation and neediness. And there is definitely a difference between the two.

When you study for knowledge, you just want to gain information, most often head-knowledge. When you come to the Lord in His Word hungry and needy, desperate to find out how to receive what His Word tells you is reality, you look at the Word totally differently. It is personal, heart-to-heart, I no longer just want to know about it, I want it in my life.

So that is how it came about, I looked at those four simple words: “He restores my soul.” And I thought how much I need restoring, and how my life is in need of restoring. Then I began to look in Bible commentaries to learn what that could mean for me.

I learned that it literally means that “He causes my life to return to me.” “He causes me to live.” The word soul in this verse “refers to the spirit when exhausted, weary, or sad; and the meaning is, that God quickens or vivifies the spirit” at those times. The commentator clarifies that this has nothing to do with backsliding or wandering away from the Lord. Instead, it refers to “the life or spirit as exhausted, weary, troubled, anxious, worn down with care and toil…” This explanation spoke directly to my heart. The commentator went on to explain that in the restoration the Lord brings back the soul’s “vigor. He encourages it; excites it to new effort; fills it with new joy.” This explanation is taken from Barnes Notes on the Bible.

I took this all in hungrily, ravenous for this newness in my life. But. when would it happen? I didn’t know, and I took with me just a few words, a breath prayer for the day. “Shepherd Guide, Restore my soul.” And as I went through my day finding those times of depletedness (is that a word?) I cried out to the Lord.

It was a few days later when I was looking at Psalm 31:7 NLT “I am overcome with joy because of your unfailing love, for you have seen my troubles and you care about the anguish of my soul.” (Sidenote, most versions say “I will be” rather than “I am.”) Hmmm, David again is sharing about his recognition of the Lord’s presence in loving him in the tough times and knowing what he is going through. It must have been all those hours out in the fields with the sheep, much time to reflect on the Lord, His loving presence, and His work in David’s life. You see that is the savoring I am talking about.

That verse there in Psalm 31 started me on a journey of hunting through my mind of how the Lord has shown me His unfailing love, and how He had demonstrated care for the anguish of my soul. And I began to write down those instances that came to mind.

I wrote how the Lord had provided step-by-step help throughout the process of moving my mom. First, it was a Christian liaison, a go-between for Mom and her doctor. This kind lady came to Mom’s house and gave us so many resources. One of those resources led us to our Christian realtor. What a precious blessing! Then when the realtor came to mom’s house, because I had a few faith talks with the him previously via phone, I suggested praying before we began discussing the business of selling Mom’s house and so I prayed. At the end of that visit he closed our time with a beautiful prayer for peace and guidance. Then a day-and-a-half after the house went on the market it was sold, what an incredible blessing. And just a few days ago when the realtor delivered the check for the house to mom, he said prior to leaving, “We began this process in prayer, I think we should complete it with prayer too.” And he proceeded to pray with Mom, a meaningful, heartfelt prayer and it meant the world to her.

So very precious is the unfailing love of our God. He truly knew the anguish in our hearts as we worried about selling the house as winter approached. He knew how my need to attempt to control everything would come to a halt as He taught me to begin to learn to abandon control and He has shown His awesomeness through it all!

The Lord helped me to realize so many more ways that He has recently shown His love for me. I am sad to say that in the moment I missed that they were of His unfailing love. They slipped by in my busyness, and I was unaware. But I am changing that too now in this year of recalibrating life. I am beginning to slow down and savor the sweetness of the way He restores my soul. Those little things like an encouraging word from a friend and the bigger ones like an unexpected helping hand from my husband in the midst of my overwhelm. Most recently I have been looking back at His sweetness to me and not always catching onto it in the moment. But since the day this verse made me look for Him, I am growing more aware of how His love touches my life and how He truly does know the anguish of my soul in very real ways.

I have known what a personal God He is, but I have often let it go by only to allow the next thing to discourage me and bring me down. But savoring the sweetness to me means that I taste and see His goodness and don’t set it aside, but instead remember and hold tight to the love He touches my life with. And then along with David I can proclaim that I too am “overcome with joy.”

How are you tasting and seeing the goodness of God? How are you savoring the sweetness of His soul-restoration in your life? It doesn’t have to be so complicated, our faith-walks with the Lord can be simplified in the lingering and savoring. When we take the time to slow down and realize His love He truly will lead us to be overcome with joy. I pray that you will find that to be your experience also! He restores my soul.

Christian Platitudes and Spiritual Band-Aids

What do you say when you don’t know what to say?

  • When your neighbor’s husband dies from a heart attack at 32 leaving his wife with four young children.
  • When the retired couple at church have all of their financial savings taken in a scam and are left with nothing.
  • When the cancer comes back for the third time and the hospital bills continue to pile up at our friends house.
  • When the young college grad with a successful job opportunity ahead is unexpectedly killed in a car accident.

What do you say? We want to say something. We want to sound like good Christians and be encouraging. Yet so often our words end up coming out leaving the grieving one feeling hollow and empty.

We hear the grief, the despair, the hopelessness, and pain, and in our anxiety we search our minds for the right words. Then out comes a verse out of context or a platitude that drops like a bomb.

The Bible shares how initially Job’s friends really were helpful in bearing his burden. They came to him and they sat with him. For the first three days they were silent.

Those who are hurting don’t need us to explain away why God allowed this.

  • They need someone there with them in the pain– someone to just be fully present.
  • They need someone to give them hug, to cry with them, or to just listen without judgment.
  • They need someone who will allow them to be wherever they are in the process of pain or grief.

Grief and emotional-pain takes months and sometimes years to work through. Our losses, whatever they maybe, hit each one of us differently. Each step of the process takes a varying amount of time depending on the individual. That is why the spiritual band-aids and Christian platitudes can be so damaging and so hurtful. The things we say may very well be true, but the hearts and minds receiving them may not be at all ready to hear those things.

Sometimes the person enveloped in pain wants to share about what they are going through, whether it be fear or sorrow or even anger. Other times they cannot even form the words, they can’t even begin to think because of their depth of grief. We need to be aware of where they are at, and when we don’t know, just ask. A simple, “Do you want to talk or shall I just sit here with you?”

There just are no easy one-size-fits-all answers. All of our responses need to depend on the individual’s needs.

Our fear of not knowing what to say or do can even make us want to avoid the situation. But that can be hurtful too.

The bottom line is remembering to show love. Isn’t that what we all need all of the time? And we especially need love when we are going through the rough stuff of life.

Next time you are faced with someone near-and-dear to you struggling with what life brings, consider how you can show love and meet them right where they are.

  • Maybe that will mean going and sitting with them.
  • Possibly sending a caring card will be the right thing to do.
  • Maybe sending a note and flowers will show you care.
  • It might be that bringing a simple meal will be just what is needed.
  • Or maybe the Lord will lead you in a totally different way according to His perfect wisdom.

Whatever path of compassion you choose remember you definitely can help them to feel held in your love and presence by reaching out and being there.