The Lord’s Perfect Way; Not Always What We Expect

There is less than two months until Christmas, and then only one week beyond that 2019 begins.

I recently was rereading snippets from my journal and repeatedly read about the stress and exhaustion I was feeling. How very overwhelmed I was, and how much my neck and shoulder muscles were throbbing. Over and over and over these complaints were voiced in nearly every journal entry.

This made me want to cry. You see, my word for the year 2018 was “Cultivate.” I wanted to cultivate presence, passion for life, gratitude, and joy. Sadly, I saw very little written about those things in the fabric of my life.

So, I am on a quest towards rest for my soul. I am reading books on rest, Sabbath, and leisurely time with the Lord knowing His presence. I have a special journal I am using to put my notes in about these topics. As I read I record words and thoughts that resonate with me.

The Lord has been consistently working on my behalf in so many areas of my life that I have allowed to stress me out. And I see Him healing some very deep and painful wounds within. It is not an overnight process. It is slow but He is gently with me teaching me truths to help me heal.

This morning I meditated on Matthew 11:28-30 (NIV).

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

I have been too busy, and too stressed, and just am feeling exhausted. The Lord’s invitation for me to “come” touched a tender place within and made tears sting my eyes. I felt so like a little child, needy and fragile, and I crawled into Daddy’s lap as he stretched his arms out to me and called me to ‘come.’ I ran to the Lord, and snuggled in heart to heart. I told Him once again about how I feel and all that is weighing me down. I cast all of my cares on Him, trusting in His care for me, as 1 Peter 5:7 tells me.

My neck and shoulders relaxed.

My jaw unclenched.

I breathed in deeply.

All too often I do this but then run head on into my day and lift the boulders of worry, the heaviness of expectations, and the overload of obligations up again. I carry it all back into my life with me.

But then I heard, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest” (Exodus 33:14). The rest doesn’t need to end when I get up and begin my day. Unfortunately, it often does.

Yesterday, my husband and I had to make a long drive and as we were traveling I started to think about 2019. It felt refreshing to think of starting over. And I began to remember all that I have been taught this year during my time with the Lord as well as during those unexpected opportunities in the midst of life when He finds a teachable moment. As I recalled those things, I realized how much I want and need to make some very important changes in my life. Changes He has been pointing me towards that I have been reluctant to follow down the path of.

I felt frustrated with myself in not having cultivated joy, presence, gratitude, or passion for life consistently through 2018. My frustration made me feel earnest and deliberate about seeking change. So much so that I have already chose my phrase for 2019’s focus in my life.

My two-word phrase is “Recalibrate Life.” In 2019 I want to focus on the essential and be intentional. I want to choose to live passionately. I want to practice walking with slow feet, abandoning outcomes to my Lord, living present before Him, practicing reflection and listening, and setting aside time for play. All of these, so I may learn to know more joy in life, more joy in my heart. I will only truly know that joy as all of life is centered around Christ.

So as I prepare, as I read books on Sabbath, soul rest, and leisurely time with the Lord, I will be praying for more of His leading regarding how He desires me to live out these changes.

I know holding tightly to control, worrying, allowing anxiety to take over, pushing through, manipulating, trying to get my way; none of these work. Relying on Him and resting fully in His love is the way I want to live.

I have found that reading through past journal entries, reflecting on the paths I have been traveling, reviewing how the Lord has worked in my life, and considering what He is teaching me, help me see the road I have been walking on during the previous year. And I have opened my heart to the Lord to help me clearly understand what He was doing. Taking this time for reflection with an open heart and mind are so important.

What about you? Where have you travelled this year? Are you taking time to reread, reflect, review, and really look at where you have been as well as consider where you are being led?

I am so thankful to the Lord for all that He has taught me so far in 2018. Not easy lessons, but good lessons, ones that have helped me to know Him more and have helped my trust to deepen.

Now in the frustration I was feeling, I just realized that I had totally misunderstood my word for 2018. Cultivate. Wasn’t I suppose to make something happen? I was looking or good things to be planted in my life and bear good fruit.

But instead I realize that the Lord truly wanted to cultivate, He wanted to begin to weed out roots of sin, to make me see my lack of trust, to loosen my tight grip on control, and so much more. It was not the journey I expected or even wanted, but I am realizing it was a very necessary journey.

He had to start the weeding-out process before He could make the soil of my heart ready for what He wants to grow there. He has specific desires for changes He wants to make. My Creator God is at work recreating my life, heart and soul, to work out His purposes rather than my own. He had to help me learn to release my grip of control in order for me to be open to the new thing He is doing.

Isaiah 43:19 “Behold, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs forth; do you not perceive and know it and will you not give heed to it? I will even make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”

What an amazing God. You see, I thought I knew what cultivating meant, but the Lord had a different plan. A better plan.

Remember to take time to look for His work in your life, He will always surprise you with His wisdom and His love!

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Relinquishing Control and Finding Peace

The correlation between my fears and my need to be in control recently became apparent to me. But, I am happy to say that I am finding peace as I am learning to relinquish control. Actually, it comes down to learning to live out the truths of Proverbs 3:5-6.

This is what that Proverbs says in the Amplified version of the Bible. “Trust in and rely confidently in the Lord with all your heart. And do not rely on your own insight or understanding. In all your ways know and acknowledge and recognize Him and He will make your paths straight and smooth (removing obstacles that block your way.)”

Wow, what a beautiful promise! And, what a familiar promise. It is one we read often, and read over without thinking about because of its familiarity. I wonder how many truths of God’s Word I totally miss as I read my Bible. And in missing them I miss out on the amazing blessing He promises. But God is faithful and true to His Word!  He is showing me the magnitude of His love for me as He works in my life and shows me His personal presence as well as His omniscience regarding what I need. I stand in awe, thoroughly amazed at what He is doing!

Trust! Trust is very hard for many of us because of previous hurts, betrayals, or whatever is at the bottom of our fears. Yet, God is trustworthy and I am finding that as I reach for Him in trust He meets me with His faithfulness.

I knew something had to change because the stress in my life was too much. I needed to give it to God to take care of. I needed to let Him be in control. Oh, it’s not like I hadn’t prayed about it before, because I had given Him my frustration and overwhelm often, and I had told Him how to best work out the whole situation. But that is not what real prayer is, He wants me to rely on Him and let Him take control. So this time, out of complete desperation, I gave it to Him. I stopped meddling and trying to control the outcome. I told Him that I can’t deal with it anymore, You have to take care of it, and as I did I felt deep release within.

I shut my mouth, bit my tongue, stopped complaining,  arguing, ranting and raving. I completely stopped discussing the issue because the more I would think about it and share my frustration the more worked up I would become. Each time an opportunity arose that made me want to make a comment, I chose to abandon the outcome to God. I decided to let God do it His way. I know that is the way it is supposed to work, but I will be honest that is not what I had been doing.

Proverbs 3:5 tells us not to rely on own understanding or insight. That means I am not supposed to try to figure it all out and try to make it work my way. But my understanding of this particular situation said that there is a time limit and it needs to be done now. My insight says you can do it if you plan it all out. Just keep pushing and working at it. The problem was, it isn’t my stuff to control. I cannot physically make the other person act on it and forcing the issue has not worked. So the next best option, which is really the best option always, was to fully give it to the Lord to work out.

This verse is very clear, I am not only to “rely,” I am also to “acknowledge” His Lordship, and “recognize” His presence and power over the situation. He needs to be on the throne, not me. So, when I felt the urge to control, I had to tell my anxious heart that the Lord God of this universe had it in His control, He is present with me and has the power to bring the solution to pass. It all became a moment-by-moment prayer that I said. I needed to remind myself Who God is. I needed to develop greater trust in Him.

So, I lived out the trust part, even though it was a struggle for me, and then the blessing came. The blessing came and I have to admit that I did not even recognize it at first. Amazingly, I saw a heart-change in the other person. When I stopped pushing and controlling suddenly she moved into action. She recognized the things that needed to be done and responded positively when help was offered.

My path truly became straight and smooth. God removed the obstacles blocking the way, namely her refusal and constant disagreement. And my constant griping had stopped also. Now my path is one of loving support as I am given opportunity to do so, not stress-producing control.

The stress in the relationship has lessened a great deal.  I don’t have to take care of it all. And I am not trying to “people-please” or earn love. I am accepting the relationship for what it is and seeking to know God’s love for me in deeper ways.

Okay, so it is a start, and I know it is only one area that I have tried to control, there are others. But this one was one of the greater stress-producers in my life! So I am finding peace in my heart. It is in the relinquishing, in loosening my tight grip, in giving God space to work, this is where I see Him making changes. This is where I see Him giving me the answers necessary and in those answers I am growing in trusting Him and finding great peace.

Just now, as I was writing this post, the phone rang and I learned of another open door to the necessary solution. God is at work in this stressful situation. He is securing an outcome in a way that will be perfect no matter the timing, it will be available whenever we are ready. Wow, what an amazing God we serve! And how beautiful it is to see the truths of His promises at work in my life!

We can trust Him and believe Him at His Word!  His love is real. I know I knew these things intellectually, but now once again I know them experientially. He is drawing me back from my path of independence to full dependence on Him and this is where I want to live.  I hope you will join me here, there is such great peace.

Thank you Lord that You know the way and are patiently gracious with control-freaks like me. Thank you Lord for teaching me more of how to trust You and for showing me Your amazing faithfulness! You are an amazing God and I give You all of the praise! Amen!

 

 

Letting Go; Knowing Truth Can Help

 

Living with stress sure causes problems! But how do we let go?

My thoughts pressure me to try to stay in control, to get it all done, to please everyone and gain approval. Yet, when I work hard to make it happen and the outcome isn’t what I hoped for I get frustrated and angry. It seems that it is a vicious cycle, and I am stuck in it like a revolving door.

My recent realization of how my stress is directly related to my need for control has led me to choose to make changes. These changes will not happen overnight, they will take time and practice.

I have been thinking a lot about my control issues, and realize how I am tied up in the temporal, looking for approval of man. Colossians 3:2 AMP says, “Set your mind and keep focused habitually on the things above [the heavenly things] not on things that are on the earth [which have only temporal value].” The Truths of God’s Word are things from above, and my need for human approval is definitely temporal. I need to fill my mind with His Truth, especially the truths regarding all He gives me. These are things that I miss out on when I am wrongly focused.

The changes I am going to make involve taking the following truths into my heart, and focusing on them throughout my days.

1. First of all, I need to focus on God’s great love. Jeremiah 31:3a AMP, tells us: “The LORD appeared to me (Israel) from ages past, saying, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore with loving-kindness I have drawn you and continued My faithfulness to you… “ When I am feeling like I need to try harder and do more in order to earn love I will think on His everlasting love that does not change or diminish.

2. God also promises us peace of mind and heart in John 14:27 AMP, “Peace I leave with you; My [perfect] peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be afraid.” Yet, even so, I strive and worry and sit here with aching shoulder and neck muscles. When I am feeling overwhelmed and stressed I need to think on the peace He gives. Do you need His peace today for whatever you are struggling with?

Isaiah 26:3 AMP promises us peace as well. Isaiah tells us this about God, “You will keep in perfect and constant peace the one whose mind is steadfast [that is, committed and focused on You in both inclination and character], because he trusts and takes refuge in You [with hope and confident expectation]”. When we keep our minds stayed on Him, we will have His peace!

3. I know that I end up in bondage to others as well as to my to-do list and, as their slave, I grow more and more tense and worried, continually striving. Bound to these, I am weighed down and overwhelmed. Hebrews 12:1-2 tells us that because so many have witnessed the truth God’s absolute faithfulness, we can strip ”off every unnecessary weight and the sin which so easily entangles us” and stripped of these, we can “run with endurance and active persistence the race set before us [looking away from all that will distract us and] focusing our eyes on Jesus who is the Author and Perfecter of faith, … who for the joy [of accomplishing the goal] set before Him endured the cross disregarding the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God [revealing His deity, His authority, and the completion of His work]”. The Lord has given help to us to run this race of life. We have freedom in Him, the pressure is off. We only have to throw off the weights and run this race free of all that keeps us tethered.

4. The Lord also has given us access to Him in prayer. Hebrews 4:16 AMP tells us: “Therefore, let us [with privilege] approach the throne of grace [that is, God’s gracious favor] with confidence and without, so that we may receive mercy [ for our failures] and find [His amazing] grace to help in time of need [an appropriate blessing, coming just at the right moment.” I can come to Him, we can come to Him, freely anytime and tell Him about our struggles and trust Him to supply mercy and grace to help us. What do you need to talk with Him about today?

5. The Lord also wants to gift us with joy, peace, and hope; gifts that, like the sun behind dark clouds, are missed or seemingly lost as I focus on the wrong things. Paul tells us about it in a prayer-like verse in Romans 15:13 AMP. This is a favorite verse of mine. It says, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing [through the experience of your faith] that by the power of the Holy Spirit you will abound in hope and overflow with confidence in His promises. “ In the midst of our overwhelming lives these are offered to you and me! I want to say,“Yes Lord, bring it on!”

6. And one last verse I want to focus on is James 1:5 AMP. James tells us, “If any of you lacks wisdom [to guide him through a decision or circumstance], he is to ask of [our benevolent] God, who gives to everyone generously and without rebuke or blame, and it will be given to him.” When we are at a loss as to what to do or how to do it we only need to ask the Lord and He will lead us in His wisdom. What a wondrous gift this is! So often, in times of stress we come to a place that we don’t know what to do next, and knowing we have help can really bring relief in times of worry.

Wow, what a list! Looking at these truths I wonder why I get into such bondage and overwhelm. I only need to remember all I have in my Lord. Each one of these verses gives us a way to set our minds on Him to help us take our focus off of the outcome that has us bound in knots.

I realize that what we each need to let go of probably is different, but when we transfer our focus to Him and seek Him for help, we are given exactly what we need to make it through. He helps us let go by leading us to focus on Him and on what we have in Him. He helps us focus on Who He is and what He can do for us and that is what we will be looking at next week.

The tighter I hold on to getting my way or to finding ways to fill my empty, the more frustrated, angry and short-tempered I become. My neck and shoulder muscles continue to tighten as I stress about how I can do everything so I get the response I need. I must turn my focus to Him!

What are you in need letting go of? Maybe you do not realize what is at the bottom of your clutching on so tightly, ask the Lord to show you what it is. He knows why you are feeling (emotionally and physically) the way you do. He knows what you are in bondage to and He wants to deliver you! He wants to deliver me. Ask Him to show you the Truths of His Word that counteract the lies that keep you bound. When you know the truth you shall be free indeed (See John 8:31-32)!

I pray that some of these verses have helped you and that you will join me next week as I share more about letting go!

Letting Go

Are you carrying too much?
What do you need to let go of?
I ask you this because I have been carrying too much. I temporarily took a break from posting because my life felt overwhelming. And now I come back to writing still feeling overwhelmed and stressed but I have learned something. This thing I learned is not earth-shatteringly new, in fact it is probably something very evident to you that you may have recognized in yourself in your own life. I should have known, but instead when it became apparent to me I actually was shocked. Shocked that I knew the connection intellectually but had not applied it in my actual life. Let me explain.
You see, it became apparent that I am very controlling. My thoughts tell me that if I don’t do it, it won’t get done. Nor will it get done according to my timeline unless I keep pressuring myself to push through. You see, I realized that I must think it is all about me, I am responsible for it all. And then the really tough thing I realized is that it is not everyone else “stressing me out” as I thought, but rather it is my need to control it all that is at the bottom of all my stress. And all of this stress is causing problems. Anger, frustration, hurt, and guilt are frequently at the forefront of the way I feel and respond. I have been complaining to others that they are the cause of my stress when in reality it is me and my attitude about life.
I recently read a beautiful prayer that spoke of abandoning outcomes to the Lord. It was that prayer that gave me a clue about what was going on. I decided that I need to be praying for help to abandon outcomes; to let go, and really put it in the Lord’s hand. What happened to trusting Him? You know the little verse, “Be still and know that I am God” from Psalm 46:10. That is what this is about. But instead of trusting in His will, I clutch on to my own will to make sure everything turns out the way I think I should. Choosing to abandon an outcome to Him would demonstrate trust in His sovereignty. I trust Him with some things,  but I guess I pick and choose which are safe to trust Him with and which ones I need to control. It is quite obvious to me there are way too many situations where I feel the need to be responsible for things. I can tell by the tightness in my neck and shoulder muscles. My need for control keeps me striving instead of surrendering.

The “what if” questions bombard me, and I tighten my grip on control rather than giving the outcome to Him. But the pressure is off, isn’t that the promise of Matthew 11:28-30? Aren’t we asked to learn “the unforced rhythm of grace” (The Message)? Reading those words brings tears to my eyes. There is nothing unforced in trying to control. The Lord is here to carry the burden and lead me through it all, so why do I hold on so tight?
Letting go is hard. I know I am carrying too much. I know I am feeling so overburdened. And it is all because I am trying to control so many outcomes. Yet, as I said, it all surprised me, it kind of slapped me in the face with a realization I have been oblivious to. I mean, I know the Lord’s love for me, why does my trust waiver?
I know that there are pressures and expectations constantly coming my way from others. And my stress starts when I first hear about another to-do, another obligation. But my need to fill the hole inside leads me to press on, work hard, and take control. I try to make the outcome feed the need within rather than find my satisfaction in what the Lord has to give me apart from my striving. And all of this leaves me exhausted from racing on the treadmills of performance and people-pleasing.
Are you exhausted and feeling overburdened?
This month’s posts will center on the theme of letting go of negative attitudes and emotions that keep us from peace within. I hope you will join me in this exploration.

Choosing Simplicity

The counter is clear now after being cluttered with dishes and food from yesterday’s company. Looking at it washed clean and free of a mess helps me to take a breath and smile. Somehow simplicity helps us to breathe deeply and feel rest within.
The same is true when I look at a week-at-a-glance and see chunks of whitespace on my calendar. It is almost as if those empty spaces give me permission to find pockets of peace. When the days are filled with lots of appointments and an overwhelming to-do list, I immediately feel the stress building inside.
The problem here is that we do not find those pockets of peace unless we are intentional about our choices. We must choose simplicity in this life, because it most certainly does not just happen on it’s own.
Jesus had a beautiful rhythm to His life. It was a rhythm of times alone with the Father and time with others, times of teaching the disciples and times of just being together, times of eating with friends, and times of healing the sick. It was a rhythm of work and rest. It wasn’t about rushing here and there to meet every need. There wasn’t any “tyranny of the urgent” in Jesus’ life. He chose simplicity. He chose a plan that coincided with His purpose.
Shauna Niequist in her book Present Over Perfect ran herself ragged for years until she realized what was important to her and simplified her life. Simplifying her life meant for some hard decisions of choosing less. Less clothes in the closet, less dishes in the cupboards, fewer speaking engagements, fewer trips, less people-pleasing, less doing and doing and doing more. It meant deciding what she needed to say “no” to.
I am realizing that, through the years, I have started many books and many projects. I find notebooks where I started a study, or taking notes on a book I was reading, but never finished. I also am finding bags with craft projects left incomplete. I hadn’t realized how scattered my busyness kept me, starting one thing only to get interrupted, forget it, and start something else. Now I am going back and trying to complete some of what I started. And, getting rid of what I no longer have interest in finishing because it is a different time in my life. I am seeing how I get too overwhelmed with too many balls in the air. It gives rest to my soul when I see myself heading in the direction of completing something I started. It is a path to simplicity.
It seems like busyness feeds on itself. You keep trying to find satisfaction in something else only making yourself busier and busier. Little by little, I am getting through what I haven’t finished, and it feels satisfying. I am choosing the simplicity of doing it at my pace, not pressuring myself to complete it with a deadline hanging over my head. I think we need to give ourselves the freedom to work at things at a comfortable rhythm minus the pressure.
We need to look at each step as progress rather than looking at the endpoint and seeing how close we are to it. We can choose to find enjoyment in each step, choosing to be firmly in the moment and living each moment with joy in our hearts. Joy because we have the opportunity to be who the Lord made us to be, in the place He put us, for His specific purpose.
It is too easy to go through life fighting Him all the way. He calls us to rest, and we say without any words,” later” and run on to the next thing on our list. Choosing simplicity means stopping to hear His call and meeting Him there. Yes, right in the middle of doing a sink full of dirty dishes, or getting the groceries. You may hear Him in that robin who is splashing and playing the bird bath in the backyard. You may hear Him as you see the trees sprout new leaves on their branches. You may hear Him speak into your heart the words you read this morning in your Bible reading. He shows us the reality of simplicity.
He reaches to us to take in this moment of life right now and rest in the love He is touching us with. Notice His presence. Take to heart the lessons He is trying to teach you. Don’t miss a moment of what He has for you. He has beauty, warmth, color, hope, peace, and so much more. See the beauty of the flower budding, feel the warmth of the sun, notice the color of the sunset, take in the hope in His word, and feel the peace that fills your heart as you breathe deeply.
We can get rid of the unnecessary clutter, and try to make time for what is really important, such as opening our hearts to those we love in our lives. We can say “no” to busyness, and find out what it is we are running from that keeps us on the hamster wheel. And all of that is moving in the right direction, but what really quiets the restlessness in our hearts is knowing His loving presence and growing in intimacy with Him moment-by-moment through our days.
The question I had to ask myself is, do I even know He is with me? Do I even take time to recognize and acknowledge this through the hours in my days? Do I see His hands at work in nature? Do I hear His whispers to me? Do I “taste and see that the Lord is good” in my days? The knowledge of His presence becoming a priority in my life brings simplicity of focus to it, He leads me to the green pastures for rest, and gives me refreshment by the still waters. When I choose Him, I have everything I need. I can stop striving to make everything seem perfect, I can let go of the shouts of “should”, and I can know simplicity in growing in the knowledge of His loving presence.
Choosing simplicity is intentionally finding Him to help me focus on what really matters, to help me learn what His purpose is for me in that moment, to see what He wants me to see, and mostly, to feel held in His love.
How will you choose simplicity today?