Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Year of "Rest"

2016 was the first time I chose one word for the year. 
It wasn't even that I had planned to but that Holy Spirit continued to impress upon my heart the word "rest", so I decided that was something to pay attention to and focus on. 

Initially I focused on physical rest.

Clearing my calendar. 

Learning to say "no" to things that weren't essential. 

Doing less. 

That was hard. I'm a person who enjoys being productive. I enjoy being involved with community and yet I was feeling called to give up so much of that. Pouring into my own family (mainly my children) more than others became a primary focus. But still slowing down is hard. 

Then things began to shift. I've mentioned before that we have faced a very difficult year and in February when things started to unravel the focus of this "rest" shifted from only physical to deeply spiritual. God was asking me to rest in Him. To simply "be" and allow Him to fight my battles. Allow Him to provide for me. Allow Him to protect me. Allow His plan to unfold rather than plowing through with what I thought the plan was. 

I snapped this picture a couple of days ago. 
My tiny girl completely at rest in the arms of her Papa. 
It completely captures the way God wanted me to rest in Him. Though I did not always have full trust like a sleeping babe in the arms of her Papa, I did learn to be more still and to wait on Him. 

And He proved faithful...time and time again. 

This Christmas wasn't what we expected. 

Our son was hospitalized for several days during the month of December and we still don't fully have a diagnosis as to what exactly was and is wrong. But that's another opportunity to rest in God's goodness. 

Just six days before Christmas my mother-in-law passed away unexpectedly. 
Two weeks in a row was were hit with very hard things. 
It definitely made for a difficult Advent and Christmas season. 
But again, it was an opportunity to rest. 

Despite all the hardships we have walked through this year, our family feels hopeful. 

God is proving faithful over and over. He is answering prayers. He is leading us. 

He is even allowing us to dream again.
Dream of the things He might have for us in the coming years. 

Just talking through a lot of hard things this week my husband referenced my word "rest". He said, "Don't you feel like its morphed so much this year? And now looking back at the end, we can see how so many of the things that held us captive, held us back from really running hard after God, have all been LAID TO REST."

Wow! Yes!
Until that moment I hadn't seen it, but that is true! 

So many of the things that kept us comfortable and kept us from fully pursuing dreams and callings (even good things like a community of people we love) have been laid to rest. They have been removed from our lives. And yes, we grieved. Oh! How we grieved the lose of so many things this calendar year! Death of relationships. Death of the vision we thought we were pursuing. Death (physical death) of loved ones (we lost my mother-in-law and also our family dog that had been with us for 8 years). 

So hard. So many tears.

While we still grieve some of those losses, there is hope in the grief. 
We are free from some of those things that were holding us in captivity. They've been laid to "rest". 

The work God has done in our hearts this year was excruciatingly painful. 
But now...NOW...looking back and looking forward--
all we see is redemption. Hope. Vision. Excitement. 

With the turning of the calendar we sense a turning of the tide. 
We are excited for what God has for our family this year.
We've spent hours over the last few weeks dreaming of what it will look like. Who knows...maybe we really have no clue what God intends for us this year, but its fun to dream! After several years of not having the freedom to dream our own dreams, we are reveling in the joy of dreaming God's dreams for us. Living loved. Following HIM. 

Thank you Jesus for 2016. 
For the hard ships and the glimmers of joy. 
For being a year that was painful...
for birthing so much out of that pain.


Tuesday, December 13, 2016

She Believed She Couldn't...

I'm sure you've seen this quote floating around Pinterest...
or heard someone say it...

It's kind of inspiring, right? 
Don't get me wrong, I love the strength that God gives women and we seem to live in a culture (even within the church) that lives this belief out. Its a "boot straps" mentality. 

I recently heard someone challenge this quote with another...a better...a more accurate one. 

"She believed she couldn't, so God did!"

Several months ago during a time when my husband and I were being questioned regarding our call to pastor and plant a church, I was asked, "So do you think you're ready to be a pastor's wife?" This question with it's tone came as a shock to me. A fellow Christ-follower was the one asking...and asking with a hint of "I don't think you're ready" inflection. What shocked me wasn't the question it self or the tone with which it was asked. What shocked me the belief system behind that question. The belief that I could actually "be ready" for something that huge. 

If I had answered yes, I would have proved that I indeed was not ready. I would simply have proved arrogance. 
How arrogant would it be for me to say, "I'm absolutely ready! I've got this under control" because that's basically saying, "I don't need God for any of's all me. I got it"

My answer
"No. I'm not ready. And I'll never be ready. That's why I need Jesus! It isn't faith if I don't need Jesus...if I can do it all myself." 

Do I believe I'm ready for the challenges ahead? 
Do I think I've got it under control? 

Absolutely not. 
But that's the beauty of the kingdom of  God. 

We can't. He can. 

His power is made perfect in our weakness. 

It's His work...not mine. I'm only called to obey His call and He will fulfill the rest. 

I've thought many times about answering that same question again.
If I'm ever asked again, I'll say the same thing and maybe add a little. 

"If you're asking me if I'm ready to plaster a smile on my face each Sunday, make sure my children's hair is perfectly combed and they behave in an acceptable manner, respond 'I'm fine' when asked how I'm doing, live in fear of what other's expect or think of me as a 'pastor's wife' then NO...I'll never be ready. BUT, if you're asking me if I'm ready to stand beside my husband, walk alongside fellow believers who are hurting, empathize with the lonely, walk out my own life without fear of man, show my weakness because its how others come to see the power of the gospel in my life, imperfectly yet intentionally seek to raise babies who grow to adults who love Jesus, and give my heart to those I serve as we walk imperfectly together, sin against one another, and worship at the foot of the cross...then my answer is YES!" 

I'm not "ready" because I can perform. I'm not "ready" because I can say the right things or do the acceptable thing. I'm not "ready" because I've mastered the art of life in a fish bowl. 
I'm only "ready" when I can recognize my brokenness and take it to Jesus. I'm only "ready" when I see that out of my deepest pain can come my greatest joy. I'm only "ready" when I'm walking with Holy Spirit toward the freedom and healing He is leading me toward...surrendered to Him. 

You may not be called to a man who is in ministry. You may be called to be a mother. To be a friend. To be a writer. To be a teacher. To be a nurse. To be a loving neighbor. To be a barista. To be an encouragement to someone. To be a light of the gospel in your workplace. Whatever it is you are called to, you aren't ready. You aren't capable. But if you're a Jesus follower, you know the one who is. His power lives in you. Rest there. Rest in your inability and His ability. When you know you can't you are in exactly the right place for seeing Holy Spirit take over and move in ways you've never dreamed. 

Ladies of the church, may we not buy into the "boot straps, believe in yourself and you can conquer anything" mentality of the world...but may we embrace the truth that we are broken, weak, and in desperate need of Jesus daily. 

Let's stop standing on the stage of performance 

Let's lay at the foot of the cross...

because only then will we have power...
only then will we be "ready" for what God has called us to. 

*This post was birthed after listening to The God Centered Mom Podcast with Lara Casey. The quote was hers and it settled deep in my heart and caused all of these thoughts to spill out. I want to be sure to give credit where it is due, so please take a moment to listen to this episode if you resonate with these thoughts." 


Monday, December 12, 2016

He Who Breaks the Silence

Psalm 40 is not typically what you think of when you think of Scripture that references Christmas or the Advent season. But God placed these verses in my path last week and they have ministered so much grace to my soul! 

Advent--the arrival of a notable person, thing or event.

The beginning of the Christian church calendar year,  advent is the season (including four Sundays) leading up to the day we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ--Christmas. 

In my mind Advent is a season of waiting. Waiting on the arrival of a very notable person--Jesus. 

While he has already come, taking time out each year to wait for the celebration of his birth is important. The anticipation. The inward longing. 

As a child I waited to open gifts. That was the "notable event"! 
As an adult, I'm seeing more and more the joy in simply savoring Jesus--THE Gift. 

This Advent season has held highs and lows, ups and downs. Many are the moments I have longed to just hear Holy Spirit or see Him move in situations that I cannot control. I have prayed and begged to see Him. To hear Him. To deeply feel and know His love. This has been a very different Advent season. It hasn't held the same things that the last several years have held. We have experienced a lot of physical sickness and much soul grief. Yet there is joy. There is joy in the promise that Jesus is coming. Joy in knowing that He goes before us and makes our steps secure. Joy in believing that He alone is our rock. 

"I waited patiently for the Lord..."

I can't guarantee that I have or am waiting patiently! That's the hard part! 

"He set my feet upon a rock making my steps secure"

How many times this season I have thought about the Jewish people. The ones who didn't hear God for 400 years. The ones who wondered where He was! The ones who longed to hear His voice or see His good works. 

And there my heart resonates...and is convicted. 

I feel that longing that I'm certain the Israelites felt. The thing is, they felt it for MUCH longer! 400 years is an immensely long season of waiting. The last few months have felt like an eternity for me, but I simply cannot imagine 400 years. No wonder hearts grew faint in the waiting for the Christ. No wonder there were doubters. I understand in a deeper way the doubts and fears in the waiting for the Rescuer! 

From this side of the manger, it should be easier to wait well. We have seen the life of Christ through the account of the Gospels and we have Holy Spirit with us continually. The Jewish people had neither of those things to rest on. But they clung to promises...promises like Psalm 40. They clung to stories of God's provision, protection, and faithfulness as told to them by their grandparents....great grandparents. 

Yet we are still humans with tendencies to doubt what we cannot see. Waiting requires great faith. Great trust in what we cannot fully see at the moment. 

All He asks is for us to wait on Him and He will do the rest. 

May we each experience the groaning and agony of the silent waiting season because only then can we experience the full joy of arrival of Jesus--the seeing, the hearing, the knowing...the end of the waiting. 

Our Rescuer has come. 
He breaks the silence.
He shines light in darkness.
He redeems. 
He fights.
He directs.
He protects.
He defends. 
He has won the war against humanity. 

The waiting may seem dark and silent...but the hope is that the Light is coming for you and for me. 

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