when life is flat, it’s testing ground!

Before I had a baby, I pictured stay-at-home-mom-life as a season where I would joyfully nurture my children with undivided attention, meanwhile preparing them nutritious kid-sized lunches cut into little shapes, keeping my home clean, and sitting down with my bible during naptime everyday. I would use my other naptime creatively–discipling a younger girl, for example. Honestly, I didn’t, and still don’t, think this picture was too unattainable. But I’ll be honest… this is nowhere close to what my days look like.

Most days I fail to have a quiet time. I give Jack whatever food that I can find in the fridge that seems semi-nutritious. And most of his naptimes are spent watching a show on netflix. Even when he is awake and playing, I’m checking Instagram as I watch him scoot around. The only thing that is pretty consistent with my former vision of motherhood is the clean house–and that’s just because I’m a psycho.

Most days, my failed expectations of myself make me feel so hopeless that I feel stuck and unable to be with the Lord. I look back on my glory days of Mcdonald’s quiet times where I dug through the Word and books. Even on days when I think, “today is the day I will begin a routine!” I feel like I’m too far gone.

Today was not one of those days. We had to leave Sojourn after serving at the 9am because Jack was having a meltdown. I was determined to have “church” myself during naptime. The time was so refreshing. While I read, I came across this in 1 Peter:

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

All along I have felt like I am in a “flat” season. But in fact, this season is a trial! My walk with the Lord does not look like it used to, and it can not! It must evolve. I have to push though the temptation to have “me” time when my baby is finally sleeping. I have to pray though the same ol’ miniscule needs that I pray everyday. I have to remind myself that the disaster zone of a house can wait til later. I need to sit down and go to my God! And only then, will my faith prove genuine. This is not a “flat” season–this is a TESTING SEASON! And when I come out on the other side, my life will be found to result in praise and glory and honor in knowing my Jesus.

 

On an end note, as I was praying for the Lord to transform my walk with Him in this particular season, I came across this from Steph’s blog:

I know that my time with the Lord is going to continue to evolve. I have to learn to embrace the fact that my time with Him isn’t just part of a checklist that I can use to feel better about myself and that there’s no formula for it. If I take that approach, I’ll always fail. The Lord desires for me to find justification in Him alone. It’s rarely convenient to carve out that time and it will look different in all stages of life, but it’s worth fighting for because as John Piper says, “Knowing God is the key to being happy in God.”

Amen! That’s a good word right there, Steph!

Life Map & Saltiness.

Recently I revamped my Life Map to change and align my priorities in such a way that glorifies God and leads me into more holiness. I guess I could explain the Life Map in more detail, but that is not the point of my post…

Obviously my first priority should be “Christian.” As I sat down tonight, I pulled out my Life Map to see how I am doing. Here is my vision statement for ten years from now and the goals I have set for this year as I pursue that trajectory:

(In year 2022) I am a woman whose value is in Christ alone. I have surrendered my whole life and all my time talent and resources to the Lord. As a result, my priorities are Godly. The bible transforms my heart, both by reading my bible daily and studying theology. My life and understanding of God are evidently transforming in the way that I love and extend grace to my family, the church, and the lost.

 2013 Goals:

  1. Spend time reading my bible/ journaling everyday
  2. Read 12 books by 2014
  3. Blog 1 time a week

I was convicted about blogging. I know it seems silly, but my blog life really does reflect my growth with Jesus and the scriptures. As I process things, it helps to write them out for an audience so I can hold myself to a standard of theological accuracy and clear teaching. Just because I have a baby does not mean my blog needs to turn into a scrapbook–not that there is anything wrong with having blog posts about children, or even a whole blog site devoted to them!–this is just not the purpose of my blog on a large scale. So I figure I will ease myself back into a writing. I don’t have anything impressive to say, but Jesus has been good to me in giving me small nuggets of truth to sustain my heart…So I need to write about it! Amen?

This first month as a mama has been hard. Many days I don’t leave my apartment or open the blinds. I sometimes go a whole day without talking. I have felt lonely. I have also felt inadequate to be a mom who uses her life to advance the kingdom. How am I supposed to be the “salt of the earth” as a young mom, who knows few people in this city, and who doesn’t even have the motivation to leave the house?

Matt Chandler explains Matthew 5:13-16 well in his recent sermon “Light of the World.” Basically, he taught me that just as salt is a preserving agent in cooking, our function is also to be a preserving agent on earth. We become an agent of change and redemption for God’s purposes on earth right where we are. For me, I am now a mom and a wife, so breastfeeding, changing, and holding a crying baby all day is where “salt” takes place for me. What does this mean? No matter where we are in life, we can pursue saltiness as we:
1. Walk in integrity
2. Are a faithful witness to Jesus and his gospel
3. Refuse to enter into what is sinful

It is easy for me to spend all day with the t.v. on or to become frustrated with Jackson as he cries. Obviously none of us are batting 1000 in these three areas that make up “saltiness.” So how do we move forward? As we keep our eyes on the grace of God through the sacrifice of his Son on the cross, we will be led to a sobering seriousness about sin and a desire to be made into his holy image. It is this kind of seriousness that marks our life with confession and repentance.

Regardless of how I feel about my performance, I can rest knowing that God is using me as an agent of change and redemption as he preserves and advances his kingdom on earth. And as I pursue “saltiness” through regular confession of sin to other sisters and repentance, I am also a light for the world–revealing that there is something greater than my small world worth living for.

thoughts on being slow to speak & hope that hurts.

This year has been a slow year for visible growth in my christian life. I have been filling up journals more slowly and dissecting less of the bible than I have in previous seasons of life. And most times when people ask, I can not put my finger on one tangible thing that I am “learning” about the scriptures or about the Lord. This has really challenged my definition of sanctification, and I have bounced between pride and guilt many times as I try to figure out what it means to be “doing well.” As I mentioned before on my post on learning about forgiveness, most of my change has been inward, matters of my heart. One thing I keep coming back to is being slow to speak and quick to listen (James 1:19).

Moving to Sojourn made me feel like a small fish in a big pond. Surrounded by seminary students, godly women much older than me, and people from different life experiences than my own, I felt insecure of the “wisdom” I used to so flippantly share with other women. Two instances I can remember: the first when I was meeting with a friend who was married. She was sharing with me about the way her husband was leading their family and some hard things they were struggling through. I realized what an influence my words could have in that moment! I could have led her to distrust her husband’s leadership and create disunity in their marriage–the very way God didn’t want her to respond in this trial. How much weight and responsibility I hold with the words or counsel I choose! In another instance, I was on a panel for college students speaking about marriage, dating, friendship, and accountability relationships. The other girls on my panel were older and wiser than I, certainly knowing the bible better. My self-consciousness ended up being the Holy Spirit, guiding me to be thoughtful with my words, backing them up with scripture, and being open-handed with many of the gray life issues being discussed (instead of saying “this is what we did so you should do it this way too”). This year has taught me how to comfort a struggling friend instead of preach at them, what wisdom is purely from my own experience but isn’t “the only way,” and when to simply keep my mouth shut when I don’t know what God is up to (Prov. 17:28).

On the flip side, I have been more aware of when people are hasty to offer encouragement or advice (Prov. 29:20). This year I have shared with a few people the struggles Kevin and I face in our marriage. At times, it has felt as though our situation were hopeless. I have seen with many well-meaning people, that they simply don’t know how to give good hope. I know that I have been one of these people many times! We listen to the burdens and struggles others are facing, and then we try to simply tag on “hope” to the end of the conversation. We share with them the hope that Jesus is making all things new and the kingdom of God that is coming someday, and we force it into every desperate situation…and then we don’t understand when they aren’t encouraged! Don’t get me wrong, these truths are right and good to remember, but can be handled in a harmful way. The writer of Proverbs says, “whoever sings songs to a heavy heart is like one who takes away a garment on a cold day… (Prov. 25:20).” These joyful truths, verses, or “gospel nuggets,” can often seem trite and simple, and our friend may wonder if we were really trying to understand or sympathize with their situation. All the comfort they received from us simply listening was snatched away.

CCEF’s Winston Smith, in “How Hope Hurts” writes, “Hope is not something to be tagged onto at the end of a counseling session.” So how do we speak into those difficult situations? How can we practice being slow to speak in a situation that doesn’t need to be and can’t be “quickly fixed?” “To give good hope is to love well,” he says. Listen, show sympathy, weep with those who weep. The kind of hope they need comes from the present, everyday faith in God’s grace in the midst of our trials, teaching us how to preserver and love in a difficult situation. When my friend’s or my own marriage is in a hard place, hope means learning to believe that God is bigger than our mistakes, sin, weaknesses, and is in fact using them to make our marriages more beautiful! It also means reminding each other that growth and change needs faith that Jesus will help every step of the way and give us the strength we need for the concrete action to endure and extend love.

 

Just some thoughts…

thoughts on radical forgiveness.

I don’t have a lot to say recently. Most of what I am learning lately has been working on my heart more than my head. Thus, sometimes the heart work is hard to put into words.

The last few weeks the Lord has been teaching me about forgiveness. It is always hardest to forgive the people who seem to sin against me in the same way over and over and over again. I have been prone to say, “seriously God? How many more times do I forgive my brother or my sister? Isn’t there a point where I require some action along with that confession? Isn’t repentance a two-sided coin?”

I feel like this comes up most frequently in my marriage, although I have seen it often in my friendships. We have this frustration when people don’t change or immediately stop the ways they hurt us, even after asking for forgiveness. On a particularly hard day last week with Kevin, I was tempted to stop being so gracious, and give back what he deserved. My plan? Go spend a lot of money on things that were not in the budget. This is something that would totally hurt and disrespect him. Luckily the Lord gave me a day off and led me to McDonalds to read, instead of to the mall.

I was struck by Matthew 18, when Jesus tells his disciples to forgive 70×7 times. This number is not meant to be a limit, but rather a principle: You keep forgiving him. He explained that in the kingdom of God, it will be like a king who forgives all of your debt. As Christians, our only hope is to plead before the throne of Christ and ask for the mercy that comes from His atoning work on the cross. “Therefore,” the king says, “should not you also have mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?”

Everyday I stand before God and plead my right standing on Jesus’ behalf. Never ever will there come a day when I do not need the full and free forgiveness from the cross. And now, as God’s chosen, beloved, and holy children, we are commanded to put on Christ’s likeness everyday. We are called to be humble, meek, patient with sin, and forgiving. All of this embodies love (Col. 3) and if we don’t have love, 1 John says we don’t have anything. This is the truest form of Christ-likeness!

And so sure enough, I attended the Oaks this weekend, and Pastor Bryan preached on the end of Genesis. Joseph wept when he realized his brothers doubted his genuine forgiveness of their wrongs against him. Joseph’s response: “I can’t punish you, I’m not God. He used your evil against me for good.” Joseph realizes the sovereignty of God and then continues to step out in this radical, unbelievable forgiveness. Bryan compared it to buying lunch everyday for a year for the guy who stole your job or got you fired.

It challenged me in the way I give forgiveness. Usually I verbally forgive my husband or friend, but then still close myself off to them for a while to make them “think about what they’ve done.” Never would I bake Kevin’s favorite dessert for him immediately after he repents of sin to me?! But why not? If I understand just how much I have been forgiven from, and the reward I have been given in return, I ought to respond to sin in a radically loving way. How much more would the gospel be shown to our brother or sister? What picture of grace would they see. I think it would speak volumes.

thank you @stephjamison.

Just started reading Dr. Helen Roseveare’s book, Living Faith: Willing to be Stirred as a Pot of Paint. Steph sent it to me about a week ago in response a former blog post I wrote and I was blown away by her thoughtfulness. The past few days I have been so thankful for that book! I feel like it is exactly what I need to hear, yet am so resistant to hear at the same time.

She talks about just as a pot of paint has to be stirred all the way to the bottom of the can until all of its separations, hardened layers, and discolorations can become one consistency, one color, and ready to applied to a white wall- the purpose for which it was designed. This stirring can’t be done only once, it has to be done daily until the job is done.

She proposes that our lives as Christians are the same. We must be willing to be stirred in whatever ways Gods has planned for us; stirred to the bottom of our innermost beings, until no solid, secular matter remains from the liquid, spiritual life. It is when we are being constantly, and sometimes painfully, stirred, that we know God is applying and using us for the purpose and works he created us in advance to walk in (Ephesians 2:10). All of this is very basic, I know, but how many of us are really genuine in our prayers to “stirred?” Sure, we pray, “God, send me!” or “God, change me!” or “God, make my like more…” but secretly we mean, “God, send me (as long as you don’t ask me to go here….or to leave these people…..or to miss out on this….) and God, change me (but please don’t do it this way….or take away this in the process…).

And so while I am here in Louisville, without a lot of direction for ministry, relationships, or opportunities to teach, I know that I am in the “stirring” process (as we always are) until I see God starting to apply me in this city. I am encouraged in this: “it is by the faith of the Son of God indwelling in me that I am assured that God has a place for me. It is by this same faith that I grow to realize that outside of God’s prepared place, there is no ultimate satisfaction or peace of heart for me. And so, I desire to be led into his will for my life, unconditionally surrendered for obedience to his will.”

So go ahead and stir me, God. I do care what it costs…and I’ve already felt the discomfort of the cost thus far…but stir me all the same, God.

If you are in a stage of uncertainty or transition, I especially recommend this book! Thanks again, Steph!