These days I'm learning the definition of Sufficiency. The lesson of Enough.
"This is the word of the God of Israel: 'The jar of flour will not run out and the bottle of oil will not become empty...' " 1 Kings 17:14a MSG
There is a neat story behind that verse - a three year drought resulted in a famine and an old woman and her son were on the verge of death. The prophet Elijah showed up (God told him to) and asked for a drink and something to eat. I can just feel the exasperation, the despair in this woman's heart when she responds to him, "Are you kidding? I have just enough wood, flour and oil to make a final meal for me and my son. When we're done with that, it's all gone, and we're going to die of starvation. And you want dinner?!" (1 Kings 17:12, my version)
But he assures her that her respect for his position will be honored and she makes him dinner. And for the remainder of the drought, this woman, her son, and Elijah had food to eat.
Pretty neat, huh? Talk about a leap of faith. (You can read an inspiring sermon on this story on the Sermon Notebook website.)
What I noticed about this story is that God didn't send a banquet. He didn't cause a garden to sprout in her backyard. He sent Enough.
I believe that one of the greatest counterfeits of the Christian faith is the lie of More: that Enough isn't sufficient. We are tempted by the lie that while meeting our needs is okay, having More is the true marker of a mature, successful Christian. A successful life.
And as if that wasn't difficult to maneuver, there's this twist:
Each person's Enough is different. So we see one person that seems to have More, and we feel discontent; then we see another's gift of Enough as failure.
My lesson? That God has promised that I will always have enough. That my needs will always be met. That what He provides will be sufficient for my needs.
"You can be sure that God will take care of everything you need, his generosity exceeding even yours in the glory that pours from Jesus." Phillipians 4:19 MSG
"By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life." 1 Peter 1:3a NLT
When I look around me and want the things that God has decided are not necessary for me, I run the risk of cultivating an ungrateful, dis-contented heart. I begin to believe the lie that 'more' is the definition of success, that 'more' will bring me joy.
On the flip side, when I choose to be content with the Enough that I have from God's hand, I am on my way to spiritual maturity:
"These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires." 1 Peter 1:4b
And when I begin to do that, I begin to see clearly that true success, true joy, are the moments when I am focused on simply doing the task that God has given me to do; resting in the knowledge that as I am focused on fulfilling His purpose for my life, He is focused on providing just what my soul needs to become like Jesus, and just what my body needs to perform His purpose.
There may not be much left over. But there will always be Enough.
On Friday, our son Trey celebrated his third birthday. I am reminded, again, that the plans God has for me are far better than I could ever dream...
Four years ago we had experienced our second miscarriage. I was teetering precariously on an emotional abyss, and my husband was at his wits end to know how to help me.
We decided to take a break from conceiving and I found a job as a trail-guide for a horseback riding outfit. For the summer, I led rides through the gorgeous forest of northern Pennsylvania. Each day I would drive through the quiet back roads to reach the stable. Brushing the horses, leading groups through the woods was the best life-disconnect I have ever experienced.
During that time, my soul healed to the point where I could relax and allow myself to be honest about what I wanted. I was finally able to let go and accept that if we didn't have a child, my husband and I would be okay. I was able to contemplate the possibility of another miscarriage, and realize that if that happened, I would be just fine. I chose to accept that God's plan for my life was better than anything I could conjure up in my mind, and I let go of my plans.
It was following that time of contemplation and release that Tom and I were able to conceive our son. During the pregnancy, on the direction of a midwife who dealt almost solely with the Amish community (on a recommendation from my Amish friend Rebekah), I went on life rest. I did nothing strenuous and reduced my ativities to picking out a new movie on Netflix, and for the first three months of the pregnancy, I sat.
When it came time to welcome Trey into the world, God again provided in a way that far exceeded my expectations. I had wanted a home birth, but my husband just didn't feel safe about it. So I honored him and we went to a hospital.
Since no one at the hospital believed my assertions that I was actually in labor, they administered the medications I had requested and left the room. Thirty minutes later, attended by my husband, mother and a nurse, I delivered Trey with my own hands, just as I had dreamed of. The experience was empowering, inspiring and uplifting. I was given a gift that the majority of modern women rarely experience. It changed me. My confidence blossomed into an assured, peaceful serenity, my heart believing in the truth that God would provide for each situation exactly what was best for me, my family, and His plan for my life.
This is a season of grateful hearts in our home. We look back at the birth of Trey and rejoice at how our lives have been changed.
I look back and relive the gift of the Holy Spirit, the surge of power that continues to enable me to complete the tasks set before me with confidence, courage, strength, and serenity.
I encourage you, dear readers, if you are experiencing hiccups in the plan you have set for your life, to step back, re-evaluate, relinquish and rest - rest in God's power to give you a life that is far better than anything you can imagine.
This time of year is my most productive, and my least contemplative. Honestly, I miss my contemplation time.
While everything around me is growing, blooming, maturing, my spiritual life is struggling to stay on task. It's normal, I know. Long days filled with many tasks, routines upset by a myriad of situations, late nights as I write... My heart is just tired. And my faith-life takes the hit. But in the midst of how I feel: tired, frustrated, grumpy, I still know one thing. No matter how I feel, I have to write. I have to speak Truth. Frankly, some days it's work. When God called me to write, I had visions of his thoughts just flowing out of me. But when my faith life takes a hit and I'm not spending as much time with him, it's a LOT more work to think his thoughts, focus on his ways, and understand his focus.
Today I read "If I proclaim the Message, it's not to get something out of it for myself. I'm compelled to do it, and doomed if I don't!" 1 Corinthians 9:16
And that's my faith life these days in a nut shell. The long and short of it - I must do what he's called me to do, regardless of what it costs me. Right now, it's a little sleep. And some focus, as I sit here and write with 'Sword in the Stone' playing in the background (for the 50th time).
There's a devotional in that movie somewhere, I'm sure of it. And isn't that my purpose? To help others view life, their WHOLE life, in a spiritual context?
This is where we all take a deep breath together and remember that God is using our everyday life to teach us more about him. It doesn't matter how mundane it seems to us, our tasks are still God-work.
I'm off to do mine. Dishes. Make breakfast. Fold laundry. Sweep floors.
Blessings on your day!
What a difference a week makes...
If my mentor, Nina Roesner, has taught me anything this past year, she's hammered home that 'God is a God of order'. So I approached vacation a bit differently this year.
Tom isn't a traveler, and until he met me he could count on one hand the vacations he'd been on. So in years past I've handle all the details of our vacations. ALL the details. With a farm, a homestead, a toddler, a myriad of critters, and all the little things that need to be thought of, vacation can be, well, stressful.
But this year I was wise to the stress. I planned an entire week of tasks, just a few a day. One of my BEST successes was in the prepping I'd be doing for the month and half previous. Each week when we get ready to go to the camper at the farm, I ask Tom to pack clothes for him and Trey. For vacation, I made the same request. Wow, did that ever go well! Good job, honey!
Order. Did I mention I've been learning about ORDER this year?
Remember that long weekend I took away for Mother's Day? Early in our vacation, I was doing something for Trey, and the discursive thought entered my head, "Yeah, sure. Vacation. Vacation for everyone but Momma."
Almost immediately, another thought came: 'Good thing I already had my own vacation.' That prompting settled my heart and I smiled to myself. Yes, I had enjoyed a long weekend of ME time, and this was FAMILY time.
Did I mention the order that God loves? Nice. Thanks God!
First Baptist Church of Dighton, Est. 1845
The last bit of order I experienced during vacation were the two very special, important meetings I had scheduled.
As a result of my meeting with the congregation of the First Baptist Church of Dighton (160+ years of history), we will now have a New England based church on our team. They will provide prayer support and encouragement, as well as a beautiful backdrop for future retreats and seminars. I can't wait to see what God is going to do next!
Courtesy Elizabeth Timmins' Gardens
My second meeting was in a nutshell, humbling. At the suggestion of the ever-wise mentor, Miss Nina, Tom and I prayed for and assembled a team of theological advisors who review my writing. Their input and critique ensures that I offer accurate, theologically sound, content.
I was excited to meet with one of my three advisors, Melvin Longtin, a retired Baptist minister up for vacation in New England. (Typically he's based in Florida.) Pastor Longtin is a scholar. His questions and thoughtful critique to my work, especially the book, Sarah's Journey, that I'm still (yes, I'm still working on it!) writing were insightful and pointed.
To be honest, I felt about an inch tall.
This man READS. And studies. And prays. And studies. Did I mention he studies? He's retired, but you'd never know it. I'm super blessed to have him on the team. And really, really intimidated. He's a true advisor. If it's wrong, ooh boy, I'm gonna hear it. Thank you God, for the wisdom and strength of the amazing people you've put in my life.
Order. It's what makes my life cool.
Farm Life. Faith Life. Vacation Life. Writing Life. People Life. Church Life.
Order is what ties them all together and keeps me from feeling completely out of my depth.
Order is a floatie on each arm, filled with the breath of God.
This month Tom and I made the difficult decision to move to another church. If you invest in your community through a local church, you know just how difficult that can be. We Christians count on our church for everything from spiritual support and accountability to social functions and community service.
We had started attending Crossroads Community Church in Jersey Shore, PA three years ago. Our goal was to have a family, and I wanted our family to be established in a church that we could grow in together. I had it all planned out. Crossroads was a perfect fit for me – I loved the small groups, the activities, the contemporary service, the children's program. I could see us growing as a family into the church. I took on responsibilities, my husband volunteered, and I felt like we were part of something.
Then God showed me, in the story my devotional readers are familiar with, that my life purpose (after being a wife and a mother) was to write a book. As I did just that, my husband offered more and more support.
One day, in a flash of understanding, I realized that I had not been offering my husband the same support he had been offering me. My husband lives to work on our farm. He feels strongly that his purpose in life is to farm and he makes choices to focus on that. As I began to do the same with my writing, I realized that I had been lax in supporting him.
As I started supporting my husband the same way he was supporting me, I realized that we are truly a farming family. As traditional as we are about food and life (the old farming ways), we are as traditional in our approach to church. And as we started talking, really talking, about what we wanted from our church, we realized that we both missed the tradition of the services we had both grown up in. We missed the old hymns, we missed the smaller congregation. We wanted our son to experience the old tradition of a Sunday School program.
So we began praying about it. And finally I asked my husband – where do you think we should be? He shared that he felt the most comfortable with a small rural church we had attended briefly when we were first married. Lycoming Christian Church in Linden, PA has a rich local history and a pastor who grew up on a farm. The pastor, Rev. Dennis, had earlier in the year accepted a call to serve on the theological advisory board for the book I am writing.
So we made the difficult decision to move. Using the model I had learned in the old New England tradition, we communicated our decision to the church leadership in a letter that we followed up with a personal phone call to the pastor. Once those conversations were concluded, we felt like it was time to share this part of our life journey with our readers, many of whom are our sisters and brothers at Crossroads.
Those of you who are not in our local church family may find it a bit odd that we would share this story – but I ask you, how else do we demonstrate the spiritual context of living life in community with each other?
"You [the church] have one Master, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who rule over all, works through all, and is present in all. Everything you are and think and do is permeated with Oneness."
We believe that the mission of Crossroads Community Church is dead-on and centered on Jesus. We know that they are impacting lives for Jesus and we support their work and message. Our decision to move is not due to a lack of something, but rather, it's a decision fueledby the maturity and growth we experienced at Crossroads.
We also believe in the mission of Lycoming Christian Church. They preach salvation and the Cross of Christ. We are excited to share our life with them and learn from their wisdom and insight.
I guess the bottom line is this: Tom and I believe in the mission of churches – regardless of denomination – that focus on the truth of Jesus. Each church offers something different, and every believer has the opportunity to find a perfect fit.
The church universal is a powerful entity and we continue our commitment to its mission: to proclaim the Truth of Jesus Christ.
As disagreements go, it went well. Tom and I used our Love and Respect training (I cheated and added my Respect Dare knowledge, stacking the deck ), and managed to keep a conflict from spiraling into an out-of-control fight. Still though, I didn't feel satisfied.
I was simmering inside, replaying tidbits of the conversation and holding imaginary conversations in my head.
Of course, I was right in each conversation.
At some point during our disagreement, I said, 'Nothing I do makes you happy!' I felt ineffective and useless.
That night we sat down and prayed together. My husband talks straight when he talks to God. No 'thees' and 'thous', no fancy words or long, drawn out sermons:
"God, please give us wisdom. Show us how to see eye to eye and get along."
We opened the Bible and this is the verse that popped out at us: "...those who follow after the Holy Spirit find themselves doing those things that please God. Following after the Holy Spirit leads to life and peace..." Romans 8:5b,6a
And there it is, a simple answer to a simple request. For Tom and I to see eye to eye, we need to be focusing on the same thing -- following after the Holy Spirit. Pleasing God, and no one else. The rest will follow.
Maybe it's not a new idea; I mean, it's in the Bible, so it's been around for a while... But perhaps it's time for me to start considering that when I grumble about trying to please others, the reason it's so hard is because it's not where my focus should be.