"Many are the plans of a man's [mother's] heart, but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails." Proverbs 19:21
Ever see a hamster on a wheel? They run and run, the wheel squeaking and turning, and when they are finished, exhausted, they are still no further ahead, are they?
There are days when I feel like that. As the mother of a very busy, intelligent, strong-willed little boy some days I go to bed with dishes in the sink and toys scattered on my living room floor.
It can be difficult to order my days in such a way that I am able to accomplish the necessary tasks. Lately, it's been impressed on me that there are three things I can do that will help me to keep my purpose aligned with the Lord's.
1. Get enough sleep. It's hard to hear the voice of the Lord when I walk through my day half asleep.
2. Eat whole, energizing foods. I'm not talking about a diet. This is simple - is the food alive? Eat raw fruits and veggies as much as you can - you'll have more energy.
3. Carve out a few minutes for yourself, even just a few times a week, that you can read a devotional book and get out your bible. How will you know if your purposes fit with God's, if you don't know what his purposes are?...
When we can put first things first, we'll find that our life will fall into place. Last night, instead of folding laundry, my son and I sat on the couch and read a book about a porcupine named Fluffy. The laundry will be taken care of over the course of my day, my son will remember what I did - taking time for him - and hopefully connect it with the truth that God will always make time for him, always be interested in his life.
God's encouragement for you today? Align your purpose with His purpose and you'll be on the right track!
"Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed." Proverbs 16:3
Sitting on the park bench, I enjoy the feeling of the warm sun and the sound of Trey laughing as he runs around the playground. Basking in the 'see how well my son is playing with others' moment, a minute or two goes by before I see the arcing stream of liquid coming from the top of the high slide.
Inwardly, I allow myself an amused head shake at the boy whose mother obviously isn't paying enough attention.
Then it dawns on me.
That is MY boy.
And then, in front of the entire playground, I become 'that mom'. You've seen her. She's the one who calls and calls for her obviously neglected, undisciplined child as he runs away laughing.
Laughing turns to screams when I climb the play set and chase him to the top again. My face burning in embarrassment, I navigate around mortified children as I take the walk of shame to the car with the screaming, crying toddler under my arm.
Later, when I relate the incident to friends and family, the only response I receive is laughter. Then stories of their embarrassing kid/parent moments.
And I remember again, that sometimes, we just need to loosen up. Life isn't about being the perfect mom, having the perfect child, being the perfect example.
Sometimes, life is about seeing the humor and allowing ourselves to laugh.
God thinks so too.
There's a reason why, tucked into what is otherwise a rather depressing book of the bible, that God uses the writer to remind us that just as there is a season to cry and lament, there is also a season to laugh and cheer.
“For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.
...a time to laugh.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 4b)
Parenting is about seasons. It's easy to get so caught up in the day to day that we forget to move with the liquidity of the moments. Each moment makes a season – don't forget to let yourself laugh.
"I hope you're not going to be mad at me." My husband's cousin met me at the door. I looked at her in surprise. I had just come back from a much needed walk, a walk that without her willingness to come over and watch Trey, would not have happened.
Taking off my walking shoes, I looked up. "Why would I possibly be mad at you?"
"Well, I couldn't help myself," she stammered, looking very guilty. "I washed your dishes. I clean when I'm nervous..."
I began to laugh, and gave her a big hug. "Thank you so much!" I said. "And I'll never be mad at you for THAT!"
Remembering this made me smile as I began to write our devotional today. A few years ago, I struggled with all the help my mother wanted to give me. She was amazing - folding laundry, washing dishes, cleaning up around my house. But I was proud, and I felt guilty about accepting her help.
It was Rebekah, my Amish girlfriend, who changed my mind. "As our children get bigger, we mothers want to do whatever we can to help," she scolded. "You need to learn to just say 'Thank you' and let her be happy helping you!"
Sometimes, I think we're that way with God, too. We fret and worry, we stew and fume, we feel guilty and think we're failures - and we forget that God, our Father, wants to help us. We forget that Jesus lived this life and understands our struggles. How many times in the past week did you ask Jesus to help you figure out a struggle?
Today's encouragement is this:
"We don't have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He's been through weakness and testing, experienced it all - all but the sin. So let's walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help."
Hebrews 4:15-16 MSG (emphasis mine)
Jesus WANTS to help you. He is waiting for you to ask for his help. You don't need to feel weird about taking the mercy he wants you to have.
And it trickles over into your other relationships too. When you allow yourself to accept Jesus' help and mercy - you'll find yourself more willing to extend it to other people as well.
Just say 'Thank you'. Then let him help you clean up that mess you're in...
"Here you go!" The midwife said, "You're doing great...just one more moment... Ah ha! Congratulations! You have a healthy baby boy!"
A pall settled over the room. The new mother began to sob quietly in exhaustion and fear. Her sisters gathered around her, tears streaming down their faces. The new grandmother left her post at the foot of the bed and put her arms around her daughter. "I'm so very sorry, my dear..."
The midwife looked up, a sweet smile on her face. "It's just so amazing that you were able to have this baby before I even arrived!" She finished her task of cleaning and swaddling the baby. "We Hebrew women are quite a sturdy lot, aren't we? I can't tell you how many of my clients have delivered their beautiful baby boys without any help from me at all!"
The women turned to each other, eyes wide.
Handing the newborn to his mother, the midwife turned back to her bag and swiftly packed her things. Turning to leave, she faced the women in the room one more time.
"Truly," she said softly, "God has blessed me with laughter and all who get the news will laugh with me!"
The women looked up and smiled at the midwife's use of their matriarch Sarah's words.(Genesis 21:6)
This story caught my eye as I was reading through Exodus this week. The midwives to the Hebrew people had been called before the king of Egypt. He was a fearful man, looking around at the numbers of the Hebrew people and determining that they were not to be trusted.
The midwives were instructed to kill every baby boy they delivered.
But the midwives, named in the bible as Shiphrah and Puah, were what we would call 'God-fearing' women. They knew wrong when they heard it.
If you read through these verses, Exodus 1:1-23, I hope you notice what I did.
The king, the most powerful man in the world at that time is never given a name. He's just one more... ho hum... king.
In contrast, the midwives, nobodies in the political and economic platform, are named individually. Those women are the very same women who were delivering babies when Aaron and Moses were born.
The point? In God's eyes, there are no obscure people.
In God's plans, there are no 'unimportant' Christians.
Your encouragement today is this:
No matter your task today, no matter your situation, your struggles or your status - your respect for God, your choice to believe and trust Jesus, your decisions to reflect God's truth and love put you in the perfect position to be used by God.
When the Holy Spirit prompted me to write this devotional today, I had one of those cringing moments. My calling is to share my life through stories and look for God in the every day. I try to keep myself (and my own sins!) out of it for the most part (sorry Trey!).
But today, when this verse popped out at me, I knew it was time to air my dirty laundry, er, I mean, dishes.
You see, I hate doing dishes. I mean, I REALLY hate it. When I was single, I would leave the dishes for... well, you don't need that much information. Just suffice it to say that my idea of satisfying work runs more along the lines of working out in the yard than in the house.
Unfortunately for me, my husband's primary respect-language, is a neat, orderly home.
You see where this is going, don't you?
Lately, God's been putting it on my heart (thanks so my husband's loving honesty) that I should have the kitchen neat and cleaned up when my husband comes home to work.
Can I just say, I'm not some Suzie-homemaker, whipped, bare-feet-in-the-kitchen kind of wife. God created me a powerful, strong, brave, outspoken, truth-speaking woman. So don't go down that road that I'm turning into a doormat. Just sayin'.
I'll confess, since it's just you, one reader, that I have a bad attitude about cleaning. A really bad attitude. In my mind, I need a wife of my own.
But lately, as Tom's homecoming creeps closer, I get this compulsion to get that kitchen clean. And it ticks me off, because I hate doing it.
So I've been saying a lot of 'Lord, please forgive my bad attitude, Please help me to put Tom's respect-language need before my own desire to _____ (fill in the blank).'
The other day, I was doing the dishes, saying my prayer, and the following verse popped into my head:
Whatsoever ye do, labour at it heartily, as [doing it] to the Lord, and not to men...Colossians 3:23
And it keeps coming back, those words echoing in my mind each time I begin to feel the grumblings coming on...
And I'm fine now! I can do those dishes with a cheerful heart and a respectful attitude.
Okay, I'm working on it.
What I AM fine about is the truth Jesus is teaching me: that each task I undertake, if I can keep my focus on my purpose, my goal of becoming like Jesus, I can look forward to a reward.
See, the second part of the verse goes like this:"...since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving." Colossians 3:24
What's this inheritance he's talking about? I'm no bible scholar (if you are, and have good input on this, heck, chime in!), but my heart tells me that this inheritance is the gift of being like Jesus.
Is there a task in your life that has you gritting your teeth? Today, be encouraged - over time, disciplining yourself to keep your relationship with Jesus at the forefront, any task becomes a catalyst that God can use to help change your attitude, your mindset, your focus - your life.
To help you become more like Jesus.
And isn't THAT ultimate goal, our purpose?
Laughter echoed through the house as Trey ran from room to room, calling out, "Dad! Chase me! Chase me!"
Bed time was advancing closer, and he was showing no indication of being tired, ready for rest. We attempted to interest him in reading a story, taking a bath - but he did his best to ignore us.
The battle began to wear us down. The boy had no inclination to listen, he wanted to play, and the more we attempted to calm him down, the more rowdy he became.
"That's it," I said to Tom, "Nap time is now officially being cut back to one hour."
We began to lower our voices, talk slower and quieter, and put a stop to the running. It took an hour of firm, quiet discussion. There was a very rare temper tantrum, even after Tom had said his prayers and told him a story.
That boy wanted what he wanted, and he would just as soon shout louder than listen.
We finally did get him to bed, but it was under major protest.
I began to think about how many times I am the same with God. Running through my life, my actions yell, "God! Chase me! Chase me!"
Sometimes, my frantic activity reflects disquiet in my heart - as I run from one activity to the next, it is almost impossible to hear the quiet, restful whisper of the Holy Spirit.
Sometimes, when I am struggling with my own questions, I find that I don't really want to hear what God has to say. So I keep my thoughts circling madly, going from one anxiety to another.
Because sometimes, God wants me to rest in the uncomfortable. To accept the pain. To allow myself to truly feel the disappointment, the hurt.
Sometimes, God just needs me to take the time to be quiet and see my soul for what it truly is - sinful.
It is in that quiet moment of self-acceptance (that I am a sinner, no better than the next) that I am able to grasp the need for, and the value of: compassion, mercy and unconditional love.
When I have rested in my own disquiet allowed it to penetrate, I have then opened myself up to God's quiet, God's grace, God's forgiveness.
And when I've been THERE - I can share it with others.
Today's encouragement is this - Be Still. God is on your side. He may ask you to bear patiently some feelings you would just as soon not feel. He may ask you to look clearly in the face some sin, to come to terms with your sinfulness - not to condemn you, but to FREE you. To give you the opportunity to share the grace you have received.
Do not be too hasty in your desire to get out from under - it could be that in your haste, you miss a blessing.
"You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don't try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way." James 1:2-4 The Message
"Be Still, My Soul"
by Catharina von Schlegel, 1697-?
Translated by Jane Borthwick, 1813-1897
1. Be still, my soul; the Lord is on thy side;
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain;
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul; thy best, thy heavenly, Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.
2. Be still, my soul; thy God doth undertake
To guide the future as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence, let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul; the waves and winds still know
His voice who ruled them while He dwelt below.
3. Be still, my soul, though dearest friends depart
And all is darkened in the vale of tears;
Then shalt thou better know His love, His heart,
Who comes to soothe thy sorrows and thy fears.
Be still, my soul; thy Jesus can repay
From His own fulness all He takes away.
4. Be still, my soul; the hour is hastening on
When we shall be forever with the Lord,
When disappointment, grief, and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot, love's purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul; when change and tears are past,
All safe and blessed we shall meet at last.
I can live my life with confidence, knowing that as I focus on God, he promises to calm my fears.
I can live my life choosing to think positively about myself - God himself delights in me, he rejoices over me!
I can live freely, unbound by the 'musts' of religion - FREED by his salvation.
My God lives here. In my life.
Should my choices reflect anything but his best for me?
"For the LORD your God is living among you.
He is a mighty savior.
He will take delight in you with gladness.
With his love, he will calm all your fears.
He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.” Zephaniah 3:17 NLT
I am so blessed to know Jesus - and to know that I can talk to him and listen to his plans for my life. It helps so much to know that he's going to use every circumstance - good or difficult - for his ultimate goal: bringing glory to God the Father.
As a inspiration writer, my vocation is not to write the best devotionals I can produce. My vocation is to listen to the Holy Spirit, allowing myself to be a conduit for the truth. And when I'm 'just not feeling it' - I have the blessing of being able to write anyway, knowing that this isn't MY website, my devotional or my project. It's God's.
I think of this in context of my toddler. When Trey is frustrated or angry, I use the situation to love him no matter what, to show him the value of saying 'Jesus help me' - allowing Jesus to help get himself under control. I allow him his voice - expressing how it feels - but I'm always bringing him back to our goal: a young man who learns to lean on Jesus, take responsibility for his reactions and actions, and who chooses to move past his feelings into concrete truths.
Have you consecrated your gift, your calling, to God? When you do, you'll find a freedom to create in the midst of chaos, encourage in the midst of frustration, and be inspired by the creativity provided by the Holy Spirit.
"Mere humans don't have what it takes; when they die, their projects die with them.
Instead, get help from God of Jacob, put your hope in God and know real blessing!" (Psalm 146:4-5 MSG)
PS ~ Enjoy some God-groove this morning, this new song will get your feet dancing!
A few days ago, I commented about taking some time out to relax on the couch. A fellow mom asked "What's that?" to which I laughingly replied: "You know! It's that thing in the living room where I pile my laundry. The clothes get to rest on the cushions for a week before they're folded and put away."
It seems that no matter how much I try, there is a pile of laundry somewhere in my house. I noticed the other day that while we have lots of laundry, we all seem to wear pretty much the same outfits all the time!
Pretty soon here, I'm going to be going through the piles and sharing the items that we simply aren't using.
But it got me to thinking - if I looked at my faith life through the 'laundry lens', what does it look like? Which faith-clothes do I wear consistently? Which ones sit in a pile in the corner? Are there faith-clothes that never seem to get pulled out of the closet?
"So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you:
Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive and offense.
Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It's your basic, all purpose garment. Never be without it." Colossians 3:12-14
When we read about reorganizing our closet and only keeping the 'essentials', we think basics. I believe the same goes with our faith life as well.
There are many, many styles, fabrics, fits and fads in the faith industry. So many books, teachings, approaches that can take the place of all the basics.
This year, I challenge you to take stock of your faith-closet and focus on the basics, as listed above. In addition, how about putting down the latest book and reading The Book instead?
How about setting time aside each week to spend time with Jesus, listening to the quiet voice of the Holy Spirit?
Now time to get back to the basics and focus on practising the basics of faith.
Now if you'll excuse me, I have some laundry to fold!