I’ve tried a few different methods! This last year, I received an amazing planner as a gift that had space to do a vision board, and then you could set weekly goals and check them off. Oh my gosh. I loved it. You all know I’m the type of person that adds something to my to-do list that I’ve already done just to check it off, right?
The year before that, a friend at Bible study taught us how to do the “One Word” exercise to pick a word to focus on for the year. That was so awesome too.
This year, I was praying about setting goals, wondering if I was going to set any. If you read my last post, this is the post that I said I was going to share later in the week haha. It’s a month later… Hopefully by now you can tell I write because I love to, not necessarily out of obligation, so ya’ll can expect me to be a little late sometimes. But it’s here! I did set some goals.
My goal this year is to be, drumroll please… more intentional in certain areas.
Okay, I want to preface that by saying, I know that “being more intentional” sounds a little bit like a cop out. How is being “more intentional” measurable? Didn’t I always have good intentions in these areas? As I was praying though, the word intentional just kept coming back to me. Intentional is planned, not on accident. It’s done on purpose. So, I am purposefully planning to put my efforts into these areas:
I want to be more intentional in my walk with the Lord.
I want to be more intentional with my relationships.
I want to be more intentional with my health.
And, I want to intentionally continue to be faithful in some areas that the Lord put on my heart the previous year, specifically writing and financial goals.
So, how can I start? How can I plan for these things?
I’m hoping to write more about each of these areas and how I’m being intentional in them, and I would love ideas in how you are intentional in these areas too– please share!
To start though, I’m beginning with prayer. I’m committing to pray over these things specifically this year. Last year I actually was able to complete all of my “goals” and I have to be honest— it really had little to do with myself, and everything to do with prayer. I shared in this post about praying over yearly goals.
I thought I would share in this post about my “why’s” for these goals though. For me, knowing “why” I’m doing something changes everything about how I feel about following through.
I want to be more intentional in my relationship with the Lord because He is the most important person in my life and I want to know Him better. I want to hear from Him more. I want my heart to care about what He cares about. I don’t want to waste my time doing things that aren’t in His plan for me.
I want to be more intentional in my relationships because loving others is important to God, He’s put them in my life. I want to grow in loving them better and be intentional in how I spend my time with them, especially my children and husband.
I want to be more intentional in my health. It feels a little silly to include this because I know it’s everyone’s New Year’s goal, and welp, it’s mine too. My reasoning though is because I’m tired and achy, and while I realize those may just be constant life symptoms since I’m a preschool teacher, I’m going to still make a desperate attempt to combat it this year. Another why is that the quality of my health also effects my relationships and how I’m able to serve. And, like most of the world, my clothes are a little tighter now than they were pre-quarantine =).
As for continuing to be faithful in the things God showed me last year…until I hear that He is leading in a different way I’m believing by faith He still wants me to continue in those things.
So– those are my “why’s” and I look forward to hearing your advice in walking them out =). Please let me know! I’d love to hear about your goals and why’s too!
I hope that you are doing well! While overall, I really am well, I still can’t help but notice lately my heart is a little heavy with different burdens of life around me right now.
On top of regular day-to-day life, I feel like there are always the constant questions in the air waiting for answers. Little questions like, “What will I make for dinner, do I even have groceries for that, did I remember to call that person back, when will I have the time to write that post I was hoping to?” Big questions like, “How will we come back from this? Why did that have to happen to them? Will my loved one feel better? What is the right way to respond to all of the theories going around right now?” And then, there are the emotions behind the scenes and the worries that start to sprout up in my heart as I look at current events and think of the future. But hardest of all are the burdens of what people I love are walking through. I feel like those questions, burdens, emotions and worries are so much heavier than my actual to-do list. It can be like a track playing on repeat in the back of my mind all day.
But what can I do with those things?
If you’re anything like me, you ignore them for a while. I can normally power through and keep doing “the next right thing” as Anna from Frozen would advise. All you parents of Frozen fans know what I mean 😆. Well, that works for me and Anna for a while, but eventually, the inevitable happens, and those things start coming out of the cracks. Recently, someone I knew went through a very hard time, and the next thing I knew, I was finding myself constantly on the verge of tears. Like, all you would have to do was tell me what you had for breakfast and I might cry.
I was telling my family about it, and my sister was like, “You had better make some time to just go cry before it comes out in a bad way.” Another family member told me it sounded like I was carrying some things that I shouldn’t be. Make time to go cry? Stop carrying things that I shouldn’t be?
It was so obvious to everyone but myself. I needed to cry, and I needed to take those tears and those things that I’ve been carrying and stop carrying them. I needed to do what the Word says and cast them on Jesus. That word cast is actually a very active word. Think of casting a fishing line.The Word is telling us to throw those burdens away from ourselves and onto Jesus.
“Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time,casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.”
I Peter 5:6-7
Can you relate to holding on or carrying some things that are not your burdens to bear? It’s okay to admit that we’re carrying these things that are too heavy. We need His help. He didn’t mean for us to carry them alone. If you’re like me, you may mistakenly start to think that you’re strong enough to carry them. But it’s actually prideful of me to think that way. These things belong in His hands for Him to take care of.
I’m going to straight copy and paste out of David Guzik’s commentary here because it encouraged me so much and I hope it encourages you too. He says,
“Casting all your care upon Him: True humility is shown by our ability to cast our care upon God. It is proud presumption to take things into our own worry and care about things that God has promised to take care of (Matthew 6:31-34).
Spurgeon used the illustration of a man who came to move your furniture, but he carried a huge and heavy backpack of his own. He complains that he finds it difficult to do the job of moving your furniture; would you not suggest that he would find it easier if he laid his own burden aside so that he could carry yours? In the same way, we cannot do God’s work when we are weighed down by our own burdens and worries. Cast them upon Him, and then take up the Lord’s burden – which is a light burden, and a yoke that fits us perfectly.”
Seeing myself carrying burdens in this way is so eye opening for me. By trying to carry them myself, while I think I’m helping, I’m actually hindering myself from being able to help at all. When I’m trying to carry those burdens too, I think of my hands being full and unable to really be vigilant to what’s going on around me and able to respond well (which the next few verses actually talk about!) I need to obey the Lord in surrendering those burdens to Him, where they belong.
So how do we cast our cares on Him? We come to Him and talk to Him, knowing He cares. Talk to Him about what you’ve been carrying, what you’ve been feeling; He already knows. I, personally, have to repent for my pride and for trying to carry things so long on my own. And then we hand them over, ask God to please carry them for us… and then, we let go, believing by faith that He cares, He hears us, and He can work in those situations. He will guide us in them and give wisdom in the actions needed. He is all powerful and able. We can rest our minds from the constant thinking and worrying about figuring them out, and trusting that He is.
And then, hopefully the next time we notice ourselves trying to carry them again, we bring them back to Him a lot sooner.
Thinking about all of that, I can’t help but want to sing this old hymn by Scriven, this version is my favorite, here are the lyrics =) .
How are you feeling about this New Year? I know many people are so happy to be seeing 2020 in the rearview. Are you looking at the New Year with excitement? Maybe a little bit uncertain or skeptical?
I personally love starting a New Year. Something about the freshness of starting new and dreaming about goals and having a fresh time table to work with– makes my planning-loving self almost explode with happiness. I know, I’m so weird, but someone has to be.
I haven’t always felt hopeful around the New Year though. A few years ago, I remember being at an all time low. I felt so defeated and down about myself. I didn’t want to make any resolutions or goals, because I felt like there was no way that anything good could come out of me and that it would be impossible to follow through with any of my goals. I ended up trying to make some goals anyway, and I remember a month or so into the year actually ripping the paper up I had wrote those goals on. So not only am I weird, but a little dramatic too, haha–thanks for being my friend anyway! But you get what I mean.
I don’t know if you can relate to feeling like that at all. Last year was such a difficult year too, with so much unexpected. It can be hard to think about the next one and plan. It is very possible too that circumstances in the New Year may not be so much better than the last year. But, that doesn’t mean there isn’t hope ahead. While I may google the next stimulus payment as much as the next person, that cannot be where my hope or expectation is. While it’s probably cliché at this point to say it, my Christian sister, remember our real hope is not in circumstances or how things in our world are going. Our Hope transcends all of that.
Although it was a few years ago when I was really feeling down about the next year, I can see some of those similar thoughts creeping back in. I didn’t want to plan or try because I knew from my perspective that my own abilities and my own strength had failed me so much. I was fearful of other people letting me down as well. The thought of trying and failing, or trying and a circumstance derailing the effort just seemed so not worth it. But when I look back, I can recognize the reasoning why for me was because I was misplacing my hope and expectation.
I just want to encourage you this New Year, God has GOOD plans for you, whether you make goals or resolutions or not, whether you feel like anything good can come from this next year or not. Even if last year seems a failure, there is so much grace to start over each morning. If you know Him, there is good in store. His Word tells us that He already has planned good works for you to walk in this year! That means good things you don’t even have to plan for yourself! He’s already got the details, you just have to listen in. No matter how the circumstances in our world roll out. Things may get darker, but He is the light. We always have hope in Him and can always look ahead with expectation that He will be there. And He has purpose for you.
“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10
So, as your planning (or not planning) goals in this new year, I hope I can encourage you with that–focus your eyes on Him as your expectation and hope. Draw near to Him. It’s okay to not have all the feels about the new year or even to feel a little skeptical about it, but He is going to be there with you. He is going to guide you as you focus on Him. And you can expect that He has good plans for you prepared. His good may look different than what you expect, but you can trust Him. He loves you so much!
I am making some goals this new year =)! Are you? I’m looking forward to sharing later this week!
Hi friends ! Wow what a year huh?? I started this blog at the beginning of the quarantine in March with no idea at all what the next few months would bring.
There has been so much that I have wanted to write about, but for one reason or another this has been my first chance for longer than I hoped.
Just like for you, I’m sure, this year has brought a lot of the unexpected. A lot of difficult things and some surprising good as well, I hope.
For me, a lot has changed this year! One of the biggest changes is that I am actually working at a school now (if you read this post you know what an amazing answered prayer of mine that is).
It has been so good, and I love it! But it has been a big change for my family! The drastic difference from us being home all the time together to all of a sudden all trying to get out the door early in the morning has been hilarious and sometimes stressful. My goal is for at least four out of the six of us to look somewhat like we could contribute to society that day. But to be honest, somehow my 6 year old really walked out the door in my two year old’s pants the other morning. And then getting home at the end of the day, exhausted and trying to figure out dinner and homework, and still wanting to spend time together… I know many of you can relate !
I’ve been looking so forward to resting and resetting on winter break this week. However, I find myself fighting against myself to slow down and do that. I’m my own worst enemy sometimes when it comes to rest. Especially because it’s the end of the year…I want to finish 2020 well! But what does that look like ?
The best person to ask is the Lord. What does that look like to Him? God, what does finishing this year well look like to you?
For me, it means just taking it one day at a time. Choosing Him today. Choosing to sneak away when I can. It means putting that thing that doesn’t actually need to get done right now to the side and just resting in the Lord. Taking extra time in the “quiet”, in His presence. Y’all know I had to put quiet in quotation marks because I know we don’t always have a choice for quiet, but that doesn’t mean we can’t focus on Him.
Take time these next few days, friend. Pray, read, talk to Him. Let Him encourage you and strengthen you. Listen for His guidance today. Follow through with what He shows you in how to love others. And do that again tomorrow, and the next day. Finishing this year resting in that habit of seeking Him is going to set us up for the best 2021.
If you’re not sure where to start, I was reminded of this thankfulness “life hack” we used to do in a ladies Bible study group. All you need is a piece of hard candy, paper and a pen. For the time it takes to finish the candy, try just writing to God about what you’re thankful for. I think you’ll find once you start that you don’t want to stop when you’re done. There really is so much to thank Him for, even in 2020.
As I was praying and talking to Him, I was reminded of this prayer written by Reinhold Niebuhr that I learned as a teenager and it still ministers to me, I hope it does for you too,
There has been a lot that many of us wish we could change this last year, but we can have peace knowing it’s in God’s hands. There is also so much peace knowing that we know the One who is really in control. Let’s continue to bring those things to Him in prayer, He cares, and He always answers!
Our hearts of thankfulness, the way we react, the way we live day to day, our choices in spending our time, what we think about, the words we say, how we treat others… these are things we can change. And it makes an impact. We can ask for wisdom in how God wants that to look like. He promises to give us that wisdom if we ask!
“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” James 1:5 NKJV
To ending 2020 well! Trusting in the One who is really in control 💗.
Do you all have something that’s so close to your heart it’s almost impossible to share about it? It’s been killing me that I’ve been working on this blog for a while and not really written yet about our family’s time serving in Mexico. I realize though it is because what that time means to me is just so big and so close to my heart that I can’t do it much justice in trying to explain because I know I’m doomed to come up short.
But yet, I still want to try . I’ve been thinking about our time there a lot lately as we have been settling into our new life here on the west coast. My husband has been blessed this last month with getting to visit our old home in Mexico more than once and I’m so happy for him and so jealous too because I miss it so much.
It’s funny though, because if we rewound our memories to 10 years ago, I would have never thought I would feel this way now, looking back so fondly on those years.
When we first moved to Mexico, we did it because we believed it was what God was calling us to do. Our pastor shared with us that there was a need for a couple that spoke Spanish to help with the training center there. I didn’t speak Spanish, but Bren did, and we prayed about the opportunity, and although we were nervous, we were so excited. A lot of people were excited for us too, but one thing we weren’t expecting were the many ominous warnings we got. Like, “don’t go there–you’re gonna die”. I’m serious you guys, someone straight up said that to us. Others told us our marriage wouldn’t last if we went. I laugh about it now, it’s so funny how encouraging some of us can be huh?
For me, I was a newer believer, but Brennan had known for years that God was calling him to the mission field. When we met (which you can read about here) it was actually on the mission field in El Salvador, and when we were getting serious in our relationship I knew that marrying him meant that we would spend time serving out of the country. I prayed and prayed because I knew I was called to marry Brennan, but the thought of whether I was called to be a missionary loomed in my mind. God really blessed me with some personal confirmations of my calling. In one confirmation, He led me to read Acts 20:22-24 which was my first time reading it ever, and since then has been probably the most important verse of my life.
“And see, now I go bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulations await me. But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.”
After the first time I read those words I was like, “Oh my gosh, those people were right– we are gonna die!” Well not to spoil the ending,but we didn’t lol. But, we did go, fully trusting that God was the one calling us, no matter what everyone else was saying, because we wanted to follow Jesus.
When we got there though, things were pretty hard the first couple of years. We found out a few weeks before we moved that I was pregnant. I wasn’t like the delightfully pregnant lady, I was like, the throwing up every 30 minutes, crying the other 30 type. Brennan spoke Spanish, but I didn’t yet, so that made it hard to settle in without being able to build relationships on my own. There were also many other difficult things that weighed heavy on my heart in that season, on top of trying to get used to a new culture, that made it so hard to focus on what was really important.
And so, we would come back to the US every six weeks for my doctor’s appointments and I would just cry the majority of the drive back because it was so challenging for me to return to that situation. But we still went back, because of God’s grace we didn’t quit, and somehow clung on to the faith that He had called us and it was for a reason.
I just want to encourage you, if you are in a season right now that you feel that you were called to and it isn’t quite going so smoothly, it’s okay. And it’s okay if you don’t have all the feels about your season. Just keep clinging on, God is still with you and will help you and has good plans even in these hard moments. I’m telling you, if you told me back then that I would be wishing I could go back to those moments, I’d think you were out of your mind.
But, eventually, things did get better. For us the real breakthrough was with prayer, period.
We would be on our knees just crying for God to show us what He wanted us to do there and to give us the strength and courage to walk it out. I would pray and pray that God would help me to learn Spanish and send friends. In time, we watched the Lord do amazing things through His ministry there. We saw many come to know Him through Bible studies in orphanages and rehab centers, an internship program start up, a church planting school begin, and really sweet relationships form with friends there that still hurts our hearts to be away from them. We watched as He grew His ministry and would bring others alongside to help. And God stretched and blessed our hearts so much as we just fell so in love with the people and the culture there. It was like watching God give us a desire of our hearts we didn’t know we had, but He knew all along.
And then, after a little more than seven years, we began to hear God telling us it was time to go. And I dragged my heels. The leaving was so much harder than all of those tear filled drives back during the first couple of years. Mexico had become our home, the only place we had ever lived for a long time as a married couple, where our kids had started to grow up, and the relationships were ones that had been forged through thick and thin, through serving side by side in joy and in tears too. But, that same verse came to mind, the one that I thought we were gonna die about. Maybe we did die a little, if anything though, just to ourselves, but the life in its place was so much better than we could have ever imagined for ourselves.
And as God was calling us on, as much as we knew He had things for us to walk in, we also knew we could trust that it meant He had good plans for His ministry that we were leaving behind as well. It has been such a blessing since we’ve been gone to see how He has continued to grow His ministry there and flourish it more and more through the friends that continue to serve Him there.
Our time coming back to the US was challenging as well, but God of course thought through everything. He totally provided by sending us to New Hampshire where we could live with family as we were getting used to living in the US again. We were weird the first few months, maybe the first year, not gonna lie. Reverse culture shock is a real thing. But, we were so blessed to serve at the church there and grow in our faith and love of ministry again before He called us back to the west coast where we now get to serve in missions again, but from a support standpoint. We never imagined we would get to go back to the same place we served in Mexico and be a part of it again!
I wish that I could wrap up these thoughts in some kind of neat application, but I don’t think I have a tidy box for it all. But, I can encourage you that—you can trust God in His calling, to and from and during the in between. And that if you’re in a hard season, I know it’s so difficult to keep going, but just keep drawing close to God sister, keep praying, He does hear you. And if you ever need a friend, I’m here too =). And also, of course, remember that Mexico is amazing, and the people there are some of the best.
If I was going to start a fan club, I probably have around 10ish things that I really really love that I could start with. I’ll have to work on that list to share, but for sure, a big one on the list are teachers. I admire teachers so much. And it’s not just because so many of my favorite people are in education, whether it be in a school or homeschooling. But really, I just love their hearts for their students– their grit and passion day in and day out, and patience to deal with the sometimes crazy parents (I may or may not be talking about myself… 😉 ) And lets not forget, they had to study for and pass the Praxis exams, which I’m more than a little bit afraid of.
But, more than that, the impact they have on the lives of their student’s is immeasurable. It’s one of the reasons I’m currently going to school to get my degree in education.
It wasn’t until recently that I realized that God had been putting teaching on my heart. Before this year, my last experience in school was completing my associate’s degree and taking a break because I really had no idea at that point what career I would even like to pursue. The ten years following that, I served on the mission field in Mexico. During that time, I spent more time with children than I had ever previously experienced as I got to serve in an after-school program in the community and also began my own family.
When we moved back to the United States and I had the opportunity to return to school, someone in my life asked me why I had not thought of going to school to become a teacher. I realized that I had never seriously considered it because I didn’t really like going to school when I was a kid. Like, that’s an extreme understatement for how I felt. But, while serving in Mexico, I discovered that working with children and youth was one the greatest blessings, and teaching the Bible was something I enjoyed so much. So, I began to pray specifically about teaching, and more and more God showed me His heart for students.
The realization that teaching was something God was leading me to pursue was scary for me, because I had to look back and consider what it was about my years in school that made the thought of teaching so unappealing. In praying and considering those years, I found that it was not so much the schools that were the problem, but more so my home life. The circumstances and challenges in my family during that time had tainted memories of those years because my focus really was not school, but simply surviving.
In my college courses I’m actually learning about this right now. My textbook talks about this problem, saying, “before students will turn their attention to cognitive learning (the curriculum), they must feel physically safe and emotionally secure.” (Sousa& Tomlinson, 2018, p. 22) This was for sure a struggle of mine, while I always somehow maintained good grades during those years, my focus was never truly on being in school, and most days I dreaded being there.
During those years though, God provided help for me through school counselors. This is where my passion for teaching today comes in. I wish that I could say that a teacher noticed the home struggles I was having, but I never had a close relationship with any of them. I did not have many close relationships with adults in my life at all, but I knew I needed help and began seeing the counselor at my school.
During our counseling, he encouraged me that I needed to keep going in my education, and that I did not have to stay in the situation I was in. By my senior year, I had already lived through so many years of watching addiction and depression unfold in my home, and at that point I was living at a friend’s house, because I had been living with my dad in a motel from which he was later evicted. Things in my friend’s home started to go badly as well and I told my counselor that I was considering living in my car. Through opening up to him, he helped me to think more clearly and find a better solution. With his help I was able to apply for college and receive scholarships so that I would be able to live at the University. He really opened my eyes to opportunities that I never imagined I had. I can’t even begin to think of what could have happened if I had decided to not talk to anyone and just started living in my car instead.I know that God’s hand was guiding and protecting me then, even in His sovereignty through my counselor’s advice.
Teachers and those working in education have such a unique opportunity to be a safe person in students’ lives. My story is just one small example. In considering education for myself, it was hard for me to dig through these memories. But I realized how much that hard time was a blessing in disguise, because my story is just one of many stories of youth that walk through similar or worse circumstances. Many of them slip through the cracks unnoticed.
My teachers that did not notice me were not bad people, or bad teachers, and they probably noticed others that needed help. However, all of these considerations hit my heart so hard and made me realize that I would at least like the opportunity to notice a youth hurting like I was, and be able to help them somehow. The opportunity to be a safe person for them, to help them to see past their current situation to a future that can be so much different than their current reality is so encouraging.
Even though this next school year looks a lot different for teachers and students, I can’t help but feel so emotional thinking about the impact teachers are going to have right now in their students’ lives. Students right now are walking through a time none of us has walked through before, in a world that is so filled with fear and despair. The impact that a teacher can have being a light and encouragement for the student that comes to school right now is immeasurable. Or the impact that teacher may be, perhaps being the only voice bringing a kind or encouraging word in that student’s home as they learn online.The opportunity is there and needed more than ever to bring hope. I am so grateful for the teachers in our lives and my prayers are with you this school year. I can’t wait to join you whenever I finally finish this degree and by a miracle pass my Praxis exams. You all are amazing.
A couple of years ago my family was living in my in-law’s(or as I call them, my in-love’s) basement. We had just come off the mission field in Mexico and were transitioning back into life in the US. It was a really crazy time– because of circumstances, it wasn’t just us living with them, but most of our family was there too (there’s sixteen of us total). We would joke and say that the house must have elastic walls because it seemed to miraculously stretch for us all to be able to fit there. And we really did, it was pretty miraculous honestly. And more miraculous was the grace God gave us all in that season too–did I mention there was only one shower??
But something that would always make me laugh in that season was when I would hear the song “Who You say I am” by Hillsong. The lyrics go,
“Who the Son sets free
Oh is free indeed
I’m a child of God
Yes I am
In my Father’s house
There’s a place for me
I’m a child of God
Yes I am”
I would literally like have to hold back bursts of laughter in church singing that song. I guess it’s just my sense of humor, but somehow the thought of how in my father in law’s house there was a space for us all would make me laugh so hard.
Right before we moved back to the West Coast though, at the last church service in New Hampshire that I went to, the worship team sang that song and my reaction was so strongly the opposite. I could not stop crying. The thought of moving away from our family felt like my heart was being ripped out.God met me in that moment though and ministered to my heart about the same lyrics that used to crack me up. He reminded me of the original point of that song– that it is in HIS house that I would always have a place.
Knowing that I always have a place with Him changes everything about how I feel about the uncertainties of the future. It also changes everything about how I feel about my immediate perceived needs.
In that moment at church where I couldn’t keep the tears back because my heart was breaking thinking about being away from family– knowing that where I was going God was going to have a place for me brought me so much peace. Remembering that truth and having that relationship with Jesus when we arrived and things were rocky for a while was also solely what carried me through.
This week as I was doing homework, I came across this fact that I thought was so interesting and so pertinent, “According to research, a sense of belongingness—of being connected in important ways to others—is one of three basic psychological needs essential to human growth and development, along with autonomy and competence (Osterman, 2000, p. 325).
How important belonging somewhere is to us as people–it’s essential for our growth and development. With the word essential being such a buzzword lately, how interesting for it to be used regarding our need for belonging.
For so many years of my life I longed to belong. I was a mess, and that story is likely unfolding soon in a different post, but ultimately– that longing for what was missing in my life I can see now was really my longing to have a relationship with Jesus. In His house is where I always have a place, and not based on what I do, but based on His love. If I mess up, He isn’t going to kick me out and rent my space to someone else. He’s always there.
In my own experience, I can look back at my life and see how I tried and tried to fit squares and triangles into the hole of what was really missing in my heart. But reading in my textbook about how essential belongingness really is for people, it broke my heart because that need, like all of our needs, is found in Jesus.
I know it can sound overly simple, but that’s because it really is that simple.
“For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved.As the Scriptures tell us, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced.” Jew and Gentile are the same in this respect. They have the same Lord, who gives generously to all who call on him. For “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them?And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? That is why the Scriptures say, “How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!”
Romans 10: 10-14
I want to encourage you friend, if you haven’t yet met Jesus–He is real, and so is His love for you. I know it can seem impossible how having one relationship can change everything else, but this one really does. It seems impossible because He is God and does the impossible every day. The saving that we receive in a relationship with Him is eternal, but it is also very much about today too. I have to tell you, I could not get through a single day without Him. Looking at the world right now I often think that I don’t know how people are making it through. He walks with me through each moment and will with you too.
“For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39
When I was first learning to drive, my parents were terrified of me behind the wheel. They had good reason, and it’s a really funny story actually– but the point is, because they were afraid, they instead hired someone to teach me to drive. That instructor taught me something super basic that I didn’t know– that when I was driving I needed to focus my eyes far ahead of me because where they were focused was where the car was going to head.
Sometimes I come to a realization that certain struggles that I’m fighting are similar to this, because my focus is not right. My focus is on the circumstances around me, and my heart is wanting to walk not by faith, but by sight. I want so badly to know how things are going to turn out. The big things and the little things. And I want to somehow try to will them into happening one way or another, and my spiritual car and the bystanders around me are in trouble.
It’s because waiting for answers in the uncertainty of the future is so challenging. At times, I think unfortunately I ignore the unsettling feeling for too long and then it bubbles to the top and has to be dealt with, and I wish that I had right away. The truth is, walking by faith isn’t always easy. I’m pretty sure my flesh just plain hates it. But if I’m not walking by faith, if I have everything figured out, where is the room for God to be glorified, to do the miraculous? I have to repent–forgive me God for trying to run from the discomforts of not seeing how things will work out. He already sees them worked out and is able. It takes faith to walk by faith. Faith in His faithfulness! And He is faithful. I have seen Him be faithful time and time again, but yet in each new circumstance, the choice is there of whether I will choose to trust.
God doesn’t just deal with the seen–His word says that the things that are seen were not made of things that are visible. Often, that thing I’m walking out or waiting for doesn’t have an answer that is visible to me right now, but it is to God. But we are still waiting, and praying. One of my favorite quotes says,
“Waiting on God requires the willingness to bear uncertainty, to carry within oneself the unanswered question, lifting the heart to God about it whenever it intrudes upon one’s thoughts.”
In choosing to walk by faith I’m choosing to continue to give those things to God and trust them in His hands. When those untrue thoughts come, perhaps the ones that sound like, “I need to do something right now to make this situation workout”, or the ones that doubt that God may not answer this prayer or isn’t working in this situation, I need to do something about them right then. I need to, as churchy people say 😉 take those thoughts captive(2 Corinthians 10). That means, I’m not going to let them keep hanging around, bouncing around in my mind and heart. I’m going to stop and pray, and I’m going to choose to trust Him. I’m going to replace those thoughts with the truth.
One of my favorite thoughts of truth that I’ve needed to replace the yucky ones with and meditate on lately is the truth that as Christians, this world is not our actual home. I think of the verse in 1 Peter 2: 9-12 that reminds us that we are chosen, that God called us out of darkness and into light, that we’ve received mercy and that we get to show others His goodness. We are pilgrims here…just passing through, temporary residents here. We’re on a journey to our real home where God has prepared a place for us. And although we are on our way, this journey is still important, and there is temptation to get our mind’s off of the truth and to get caught up in what’s going on around us.
To walk by sight is to choose our actions based on what we see around us, but by faith is so different. It’s the substance of things hoped for… I’ve seen so many instances of God’s faithfulness in the past come through, things that once were just hopes. Remembering these things helps so much in the waiting.
To be able to really do what He has for us on the way, as we’re walking though a place not our home, we have to be focusing on Him and not caught up in the things around us. Some of the things around us right now are unsure, sad and heart wrenching. Some of the things I worry about or get caught up in are much smaller in comparison, and I don’t mean that we ignore these things–we certainly can’t. But we trust that God is not ignoring them either. We have to walk in faith in regards to them, knowing that He is at work with things that may not be visible, but as we keep our eyes focused, we can stay on the right track.
“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good testimony.By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.”
I have to be honest, I love telling “our” story. Even though most of the time I’ll default to letting Brennan tell it because it makes me feel so shy. But it’s just so fun to get to share, “Oh, we met in El Salvador.” Like, no big deal. Haha, sometimes I can play it pretty cool but most of the time I still nerd out about it. It really is a big deal, because I still think it’s just so cool that God brought me all the way out of the country to meet the man who would be my husband. God writes the best love stories.
I decided to post about it now because Brennan reminded me that it was around this time of year eleven years ago when God really put it on his heart that he needed to ask for permission to marry me. It was the sweetest thing, it was at a Good Friday service at church. Brennan was praying and God impressed on his heart that he hadn’t asked my dad for permission to marry me yet.
My dad at the time wasn’t very involved in my life, so Brennan didn’t get it, and was asking God, “How? Her dad doesn’t seem to even care?” But God replied to him, “No, you need to ask ME.”
This part of our story is so sweet and important for me because God was taking care of me. I love to be able to share it because I know that there are a lot of girls out there that may not have parents or dad’s looking out for them. I want you to know God will look out for you. He is the best Father you could imagine.
But, I have to backtrack a little to when we first met. At that time, I was just starting to really walk with the Lord. I had been going to church for a little while, but still very much walking “one foot in the church, one foot in the world” as churchy people say. For a while I had no idea what Brennan was even talking about most of the time because I didn’t speak the lingo yet. He’d use an expression like, “God’s got his eye on the sparrow,” to encourage me not to worry, and I was like, what the heck is he talking about. Haha, but anyway back to the story. You know what I mean, I was going to church but I hadn’t truly surrendered my life to Jesus yet. So, one night, when my one foot was in the church, I heard about a mission trip to El Salvador and I knew right away that I was supposed to go.
I started saving money and making plans but so many obstacles started popping up. God is so amazing and He blew the obstacles out of the water for me to get there. It was crazy, like on the way to the airport, I got a flat tire. At the airport, my name was spelled wrong on the ticket, and then when the customer service agent re-booked it under my real name–I got bumped off the flight because someone else booked at that same exact second. God even worked that out and I got there.
On that trip God did so much in my heart and it was just an over the top blessing that it was where I met Brennan too. While I was there, God called me out of my “one foot in the church, one foot in the world” lifestyle of hypocrisy I had been living in. He called me into full surrender with Him. There were a lot of implications in that, because my lifestyle hadn’t been sincere, so much had to change. The changes or things I “gave up” though all pale in comparison to all Jesus has done for me and the abundance of blessing in knowing Him. It was on that trip too that I realized my burden for missions.
Brennan and I got to meet because he was our host missionary on the trip. He had been there for 6 months, and was leading us on our outreaches. I noticed him right away for sure, his love for God and for the people there stuck out to me so much. But I never considered that someone like him would be interested in me. Like, I need a really tall ladder to get to his level type thing. I wasn’t single at the time either, but that was something God was calling me out of, because the other person wasn’t interested in knowing God, which was becoming the most important thing to me.
There was only one other lady on the mission trip, so we got to spend all of our time together. God used her so much in my life, she was so bold, to be honest, she called me out on my sin. And it was so uncomfortable. But I thank God for her. There was a lot to call out, but most notably, she would call me out about my relationship, and show me the scripture about not being unequally yoked. I’d never heard those scriptures before but the Holy Spirit had been ministering to me for months that our relationship was not something pleasing to God. I now saw the truth in God’s word. She would ask me what I was going to do about it. Even crazier, most of the other thirteen people on the trip sat down with me at some point on the week long trip and shared with me about their marriages and how they couldn’t do what they did without the support of their wives, and what a blessing it was to be in a marriage where you both loved the Lord. They shared that with me without even knowing the situation I was in.
Can you believe how amazing God is? He brought me all the way to El Salvador, made it perfectly clear that I was in sin, but showed me that there was a way out. He also began to put a passion for missions on my heart, taught me about what a marriage could be like, and even introduced me to my husband, all on the same trip. Like BAM, get both feet in. So, it was a really good trip.
When I got back home from El Salvador, our patient God even gave me an illustration in case I hadn’t heardyet. At church, the first sermon I heard when I got home, our pastor talked about this monkey trap.
He explained that in this trap there was a piece of wood with a hole in it, and behind the hole there was a big piece of fruit. The monkey could get his hand in and out of the hole as long as he wasn’t trying to hold on to the fruit too. Once he grabbed the fruit, he couldn’t get his hand back out. The monkey gets trapped though because he won’t let it go. When we are holding on to sin but trying to serve the Lord too, we won’t ever really be able be free. I knew God was speaking to me, and I was done living how I had been. He helped me to get out of the situation I was in and I began pursuing God with all my heart, not holding on to other things anymore.
Soon after, Brennan came home to the US to renew his visa, and during that time we found ourselves at all of the same church events, and before he went back to El Salvador again we knew that God was calling us to get married.
Normally when we are together and sharing our story, Brennan shares all the sappy details, I get too shy about it. His favorite part to share is that one day we were doing a Bible study together in the book of Ruth and I told him I would follow him anywhere. My favorite part though, the most important thing to me, was that I was afraid of someone coming in between my relationship with the Lord again. But God made it really clear that this time, this man loved Him more than he loved me, and it wouldnt be like that.
Anyway, this it seems so long ago now, and it was just the start. I can’t believe it’s really been around eleven years now since we first started dating, and to some that’s a little bit of time and to some it seems a lot. So much has happened in those few years. From moving as an engaged couple to Montana, to getting married and moving three months later to Mexico–pregnant! Almost eight years in Mexico, almost two in New Hampshire, and back to the West Coast and 4 kids later. Life with Jesus is such a blessing and adventure. I know technically this is our marriage love story, but it’s really God’s story. One of the many many many stories He’s writing. I had no idea when I surrendered everything to Jesus the good plans He had ahead, but to have the relationship with Him was all that was really important, all the other other stuff, even our story is just a blessing on top. I think it’s so important right now to remember the good things God’s done, He is so faithful and will continue to be. And there’s so much more good ahead to look forward to in our relationships with Him and seeing the stories He’s writing.
One of my most constant struggles is doing versus being. The classic Christian internal, “Are you Mary or Martha?” question. Even though I know the right answer is to be Mary, my natural tendency always leads me to Martha first and then I have to seriously track back. You’d think I’d notice this about myself and be quicker to surrender but man I fall into this cycle a lot.
It rolled out pretty quick when we first heard that the quarantine was going to begin–you know that I made a schedule for my family right away for how we would handle the day to day. I laughed so hard because someone put out a “whats your Enneagram type during quarantine” video and it showed the type 1 making a schedule. Yep, that’s me. I tried to be realistic in my planning and considerate of what we needed, like time for Bible study, being outside, chores, homework, rest, regular work, play…
It was a good idea, but it did not go as planned. What was really funny too was that my kids were actually trying to enforce it. Like, “Mom, it’s 10, aren’t we supposed to be on our walk?”
The truth was my focus was all over the place, and I was fighting against my own schedule that I had tried to make. I didn’t even want to follow it. I felt so strange and distracted. Trying to navigate this time with my own understanding, I was fighting to make a normal in my own perspective out of what just isn’t normal. I’ve never walked through this before, why should I pretend I have an idea what I’m doing?
I needed to get Martha in the back seat again and just let go and surrender. What really is essential for our family during this time that isn’t normal? I can’t ask myself; I need to ask the One Who is really in control here and recognize that I never was. And finally have some peace because I needed my eyes back on Him.
The same thing that was always essential before is what isessential now. The abiding in Jesus. If thatis all we get done today as a family, that’s all we need. I know we can’t force that on other people in our home, but we can control whether we will. It’s so essential that I’m in God’s word and praying right now. I need to let whatever “doing” happens flow from that time with Him, following what He has today, because He knows what really is important. That’s how my schedule needs to be made each day.
It’s essential that I’m loving Him and really loving others too. Only Jesus can really show me how my family needs to be loved right now. With my focus off I don’t feel like I’ve been doing so great at that, but I’m so grateful for His grace and forgiveness and opportunity He gives to try again. We are walking through a time unlike any before, and I don’t want to miss what God has for us in it.
So, here is how I’m trying again…
The schedule is out the window you guys. I’m not talking about being lazy, I know some things still absolutely need to get done, but I’m talking about surrendering. The essentials are first and most important, for me that’s my time with the Lord and doing a short study with our kids and praying together. I’m going to let Him lead, if we end up doing some stuff on my original schedule—awesome, but it’s His idea, not mine. With doing the things that can’t go, like homework, I’m doing it unto Him, like it should be done.
And I’m putting down my phone more. I realized a big reason my focus has been off is because I’m distracted worrying that I’m missing some kind of connection or information I need to have. That information will still be there in an hour, I don’t need to have my phone on me all the time. Everything is on screens right now… church, relationships, school, work, shopping… but it’s more than okay to take a break and just be present in the moment you’re in, to be present with Jesus and with those in your home.
This weekend we get to celebrate that He is alive! While this Easter looks so much different than previous ones, we still have the only thing that was ever truly important about it—our alive Savior. And I want to be present with Him!