This World is Not My Home…And That Changes Everything

IMG_7707As I wrote recently in my 2015 recap, I did a lot of wrestling over the past year. Much of that wrestling continues as we are one month into 2016. It’s not necessarily a negative thing; wrestling is a necessary part of the Christian life. There was a time when I didn’t really wrestle the way I do now, and I know that I had nowhere near the relationship with Christ or the desire to make my life count for Him that I do now. With growth and sanctification has come more intense internal spiritual battle.

In reading Letters to Pastors’ Wives (which is SO good so far, by the way), I stumbled upon a quote that absolutely hit the nail on the head in articulating one of my biggest struggles. This quote is written of two godly Christian wives from years ago…

“They knew this world was not their home, and this knowledge gave them stability to enjoy good times without needing them and to endure hardship without despair.”

When I read that, my world was rocked. That is precisely where I so want my heart to land. I’m a pendulum, constantly swinging between being so caught up in not holding onto my gifts that then I don’t even enjoy them, to being crippled by fear that I might lose them because I’m idolizing them. But that simple sentence encapsulates the balance that I long to strike: applying the truth that this world is not my home by enjoying the good times, with a precious, healthy family and all my material needs met, while still having a heart that is prepared to see those blessings removed without sinking into despair.

This concept boiled down into one simple sentence hit me in such a profound way that I felt compelled to share it in case anyone out there wrestles with the same issue.

Believing by faith that this world is a fleeting journey taking me toward my eternal home with Christ has massive practical implications for how I live my life. I’m constantly begging the Lord to give me the discipline and vision to set my “mind on the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God” (Col. 3:2).

Because doing so changes everything.

{Mommy Journal} Where’s the Chocolate?

DSC_1763It’s been one of those long stay-at-home mom weeks, as my baby has had a drawn-out flu bug leading to restless nights and fussy days. My “tired” this week pales in comparison to most mothers’ tired, but I struggled with it nonetheless.

In many little moments of feeling emotionally and physically spent, I noticed thoughts like this skip across my head.

I need a few minutes to put my feet up and watch a grown-up show. Chocolate would make everything better right now. I really need a nap. I need a washing machine in my apartment. I need my mom. I need a husband who isn’t buried in homework. I need a break. 

But guess what? I didn’t need any of those things. We’re a little over halfway through Whole30 right now (a restrictive 30 day nutritional reset diet), and if nothing else, it has shown me how quickly when I’m feeling sad or at the end of my rope, I turn to food or something else for the comfort I’m craving, without even thinking about it! I didn’t eat any chocolate this week, and I said no to a lot of other desires as I realized that these small trials are meant to push me not to comfort food, a nap, or a break, but to Jesus Christ Himself. On good days and on bad days, Jesus and Jesus alone is what I need.

I long for my first impulse in the difficult moments not to be “Where’s the chocolate?” but a humble cry to my Savior. When life’s hard circumstances, big or small, have me down, I want to instinctively run to sit at His feet, by meditating on memorized Scripture, singing hymns in my head, or poring over an open Bible.

This week, as I’ve recognized my sinful tendency to skip Jesus and seek joy from material gifts, I have experienced the lasting benefits of instead denying my flesh and “seeking the things above, where Christ is” (Col 3:1b).

It takes surprising discipline to do this–to meditate on the gospel while I’m cleaning a sick little one, or praise God for Who He is when I’m getting up for the 10th time at night–but the reward of real peace and contentment is well worth the struggle to think heavenward.

One specific thought that has encouraged me this week came from a chapter I read from Here is Our God along with Revelation 4-5 a few days ago. I’ll leave you with this quote.

“Let’s never forget that this heavenly scene, with God’s throne at the center, is the center of the universe NOW, with this ongoing worship of our Creator God. There is a throne in heaven now, awesome and sovereign. Don’t doubt it. It’s right there right now as if just through a door. Let’s think of this throne when we wake up tomorrow morning… Let’s never think of our sufferings or our joys–or others’ sufferings and joys–without letting live in our imaginations the picture of this sovereign throne and our awesome holy God and this worship of Him ringing right now at the center of the universe.”

(Kathleen Nielson)

Clarification: Chocolate, washing machines, naps…they are all gifts from God that can be used and enjoyed. This post simply seeks to point out my tendency to start (and often end) with those things, rather than running to God with my troubles. 

 

{Reading Report} Glimpses of Grace

glimpses-of-grace_1As I ate up the reasonably sized chapters in this book by Gloria Furman, I was happy to find a balanced view of salvation and its affects on our thoughts, motives, and behavior as Christian women. Glimpses of Grace offers theologically sound but practically helpful counsel for cherishing Jesus, Who He is, and His beautiful gospel in the midst of the mundane moments that a woman’s life is made up of.

The balance of this book is clear throughout, including in the following quote from Chapter 3:

I believe it is helpful and necessary to retreat to quiet places to pray and read God’s Word. But silence is not necessary for you to have a vibrant relationship with God. your spiritaul life is not restricted to early mornings before the noisemakers in your life wake up. If you feel that God meets with you only when the house is empty or quiet, you’ll view every noise and every noisemaker as an annoying distraction to your communion with God.

Here we see the well-rounded philosophy that it is helpful and even necessary to retreat to quiet places for quality time with God. Yet if we legalistically believe that we can only commune with Him in that setting, we are opening ourselves up for a lot of unnecessary frustration and wrong reactions to the interruptions He has ordained.

One of my favorite things about this read was Mrs. Furman’s emphasis on the Person of Jesus Christ as our object of contentment. I’ve realized in recent months how easy it is to think I’m content because I’m choosing to enjoy my housework, my job, and the other mundane pieces of life. That’s great, but I really need to take it a step further. Mrs. Furman explains,

Surely these things–a cheerful attitude and sense of hopefulness–are wonderful by-products of rejoicing in God while in the midst of our homes. But that’s just what they are–by-products. The source of our faith, hope, love, joy, and gospel-grounded optimism is God Himself and not our stuff or our circumstances.

I also love the connection drawn between dwelling on Jesus and becoming like Him.

We study Christ because we’ve been saved for the purpose of being transformed into His image, and in our beholding, the work of transformation occurs.

In terms of practicality, Chapter 7 “All Grace and All Sufficieny for Every Dinner Guest” was my favorite. Serving through hospitality must, like everything in our lives, must be done out of a deep-rooted love for Jesus. I’m sure every woman can relate to the fear of man that is shown in letting earning the satisfaction and admiration of our dinner guests become an idol as we prepare to open our homes.

When we serve with the strength God supplies instead of from our own energies or motivation, we can serve with cheerfulness to the praise of His glory. We don’t have to be embittered martyrs on the altar of hospitality.

Quite possibly my favorite quote from the book is also in Chapter 7:

When grief over our sin and thankfulness for the gift of grace meet together at the cross, a powerful work of transformation occurs in our hearts.

I hope these few quotes whet your appetite enough to compel you to pick up Glimpses of Grace. As a young wife looking ahead to, Lord-willing, many years of serving primarily from my home, the truth and encouragement Mrs. Furman had to share rang true in my heart when held up against Scripture. Her sense of humor and realism kept the book light and enjoyable, and her illustrations and real-life examples skillfully brought heady theology down to a practical level, while not trivializing the magnitude of the Cross. I believe this is a book I will return to in years to come as I fight carnal thinking in the mundane moments of life, and I highly recommend it to any woman seeking to love Jesus through her day-in, day-out routine.

Choosing Gratitude Challenge

Would you like to join me in a 30-Day Choosing Gratitude Challenge?

I’m so excited to be sharing this project with my sem wives discipleship group and I’d love for you to hop on the band wagon, too! Each day includes a passage of Scripture (usually quite short), a few devotional thoughts, and a specific challenge or prayer prompt. For example, today’s suggestion is:

Ask the Lord to cultivate in you a more grateful heart over these next thirty days. If you have realized that your “Gratitude Quotient” is not what it should be, confess your ungrateful spirit to the Lord. Ask Him to forgive you and to transform you into a truly thankful person.

What could come of this but good? Additional reading from God’s Word and encouragement in the area of gratitude to Him. Sign this ungrateful heart up!

Here’s the link: Growing In Gratitude 30 Day Challenge

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I’ll kick off this challenge with a public thank you to the Lord for providing Andrew as my life partner. Recently I have been working through a handful of challenging circumstances and Andrew has been right there next to me in each one, encouraging, counseling, listening, and gently correcting me as I stumble along. He chooses to take the time I need to talk through issues that arise even though the demands of the semester are expanding rapidly as December draws near. He’s making the conscious decision to prioritize me and my emotional and spiritual needs above homework and other responsibilities. That’s love in action. And that’s just one of the gazillion reasons I’m grateful for him.

Thank you, Heavenly Father, for matching me up with a man perfectly suited to do life with me! I am blessed far beyond what I deserve!

Your turn. What are you thankful for? Direct your gratitude to the One Who deserves it all!

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. (Col. 3:16)

Toward a Joyful, Prayerful Life

Maryland Renaissance Festival

Ostrich or Chicken?

When it comes to focusing on the good things God is doing in and around me, and being aware of, informed about, and prayerful for bigger issues further removed from my immediate life and circumstances, I seem to bounce back and forth between two extremes.

I’m an ostrich with its head happily buried in the sand, thriving in my bubble, ignoring the turmoil that’s at large in our nation, the greater church of America, and beyond.

Or I’m running around like a chicken with its head cut off, forgetting my blessings, freaking out, and trying to fix propaganda, defend honest people, and save babies.

Deep breath.

Both approaches alone are wrong.

Finding Balance

Like pretty much everything in life, I need to find a God-honoring balance.

God wants me to be excited about what’s happening in my sphere. It’s where He’s placed me, and there are good things going on here that I should support, participate in, celebrate, and enjoy. That’s kind of a no-brainer.

But my little world isn’t where life starts and stops.  Awareness of what is taking place elsewhere does a few things:

  1. Wards off tunnel vision and inspires broader perspective.
  2. Humbles me.
  3. Encourages me with good things occurring apart from “my world”.
  4. Incites thankfulness for “how good I’ve got it” here.
  5. Reminds me that this life is temporary.

I believe God wants to help me find that joyful balance between contentment with where I’m at and concern for people elsewhere. Rather than fret, I should bring all issues (both personal and widespread) to God in prayer. Freaking out is never a healthy or productive approach. It distracts me from the gospel, which then causes friction and negativity with the people around me.

The more I’m aware of my tendency toward the extremes, the more I can seek God’s grace in fine-tuning me and fashioning me into the joyful, prayerful Christian I desire to be. I don’t want to be the ostrich, with its head buried in the sand, or the chicken, running around with its head cut off. I want to serve with gladness where God places me, without becoming indifferent to the world around me. And when the population’s problems and decline feel too depressing to bear, I want to be encouraged and take heart in all the good that God is bringing about in the seemingly little ways.

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1 Tim. 2:1-4)

{Reading Report} When I Don’t Desire God

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Several months ago I promised to post about When I Don’t Desire God: How to Fight For Joy by John Piper (available on Kindle for $6.99). This is one of the best books I’ve ever read. It opened my eyes in new ways to what it means to be a follower of Jesus and how to pursue a relationship with Him and delight in Who He is. If you struggle with wanting to desire God and His ways but feeling stuck in a carnal mindset, I’d encourage you to pick up this book. You won’t regret it. If you only read one chapter, I recommend “Fighting for Joy Like a Justified Sinner: Learning the Secret of Gutsy Guilt”. My very favorite quotes are in bold.

“Conversion is the creation of new desires, not just new duties; new delights, not just new deeds; new treasures, not just new tasks.”

“Our hungerings and thirstings after God and Jesus Christ and after holiness can’t be too great for the value of these things, for they are things of infinite value.” – Jonathan Edwards

“The key to endurance in the cause of self-sacrificing love is not heroic willpower, but deep, unshakable confidence that the joy we have tasted in fellowship with Christ will not disappoint us in death.”

“Christ will be glorified in the world when Christians are so satisfied in Him that they let goods and kindred go and lay down their lives for others in mercy, missions, and, if necessary, martyrdom. He will be magnified most amont the nations when, at the moment Christians lose everything on earth, they say, ‘To live is Christ, to die is gain’ (Phil. 1:21).”

“Not to see and savor Christ is an insult to the beauty and worth of His character. Preferring anything above Christ is the very essence of sin. It must be fought.”

“When Jesus said, ‘If you love Me, you will keep My commandments’ (John 14:15), He was describing the effect of love, not the essence of love.”

“Believing means trusting Jesus not only as our all-sovereign Lord and all-sufficient Savior, but also as our all-surpassing Treasure.”

“Fight for joy, not by doing things that establish your identity with God, but by becoming what your identity already is with God in Christ. Become what you are.”

“The great gospel weapon in the fight for joy is the rock-solid reality that we are counted righteous in Christ by faith alone.”

“This is what we must learn to do in our darkness–even the darkness we have brought on ourselves because of our sin. Yes, I am under the gloom of failure. Yes, God has put me here in His displeasure. But no, I am not abandoned, and God is not against me. He is for me. Even in the darkness that He imposes, He will sustain me. He will not let me go. Though He slay me, He will save me.”

“Through the cross, God purchased and secured every possible blessing that could ever be needed to make us happy forever…God will–signed in blood–give us all things with Christ, because of the death of His son. That is, He will give us all things that are truly good for us. We must preach this to ourselves every day, because Satan is preaching the opposite.”

“The key to praying with power is to become the kind of persons who do not use God for our ends but are utterly devoted to being used for His ends.”

“The goal of brokenhearted repentance is the blessing of humble, Christ-exalting joy.”

“The plants of spontaneous communion grow in the well-tended garden of disciplined Bible-reading and memorization…The plants of ceaseless prayer grow in the garden of persistent discipline.”

Some of the oher books I’m reading or hope to start soon:

          

{Seminary Journal} One-Month Expectations

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Photo by Rv Sun. A hike I took with our Bible study this week.

This is the 100th post here on Anchored! We’ve been here for a month as of yesterday. Last night at a small fellowship group with fellow sem wives, my friend Tia asked everyone a few questions related to what we’d expected to encounter down here, and how those expectations have been fulfilled or turned out differently. It was a good question. I thought about it a lot more when I got home and decided to blog some of those expectations.

  1. I expected our apartment to be tiny and cramped, but it’s not. There’s far more space than I’d even hoped for and pretty much everything we brought fits, with a little wiggle room.
  2. I expected church to feel big and overwhelming, and it does. But joining a fellowship group makes a big church get small really fast. I’m surprised that we run into people we know every Sunday, in a church of thousands.
  3. I did not expect to feel lonely, but I do. It’s not the homesickness I’d anticipated, it’s different. There are moments, after my work and responsibilities are done and Andrew is still doing homework, when not having my best friend or a family member to call for coffee or a game night hits me really hard and I feel very alone.
  4. I expected there to be many young married couples without kids in seminary, but there aren’t. There are tons of young families and a lot of single guys.
  5. I expected Andrew to be swamped with homework, and he is. God prepared me to be fully ready for evenings and Saturdays to be for homework. I’m encouraging Andrew to study and not making him feel bad about being busy. This week he got 105% on his first Hebrew vocab quiz! When I texted that I was proud of him, Andrew replied, “It’s a victory for both of us ’cause the time I spent studying was time I didn’t spend with you…but it paid off!”
  6. I expected it to be hot, and it is. It’s been around 100 or more all week. As I write this, it’s 101 and supposed to reach 103 this afternoon. The apartment is stuffy and cooking is a drag. But that’s no surprise and I’m learning to get used to it.
  7. I expected it to take awhile to make close friends, and it does. But we’ve already been so blessed to meet a number of amazing people who love Jesus and have a heart for people and ministry. I know there are very special friendships in store, likely with some of the people we’ve already met but haven’t spent much time with yet.
  8. I expected to be hard to find gluten free food, and it is. Until yesterday. I discovered Sprouts on the recommendation of friends. It is like our co-op back home, maybe better! It’s in Burbank but so worth the extra jaunt! Thank You, Lord!

Yes, there are a lot of good and hard things about this new season of life. It’s stretching, and Jesus’ presence and love are becoming more dear to my heart. Despite the tearful moments and the ache in my heart that sometimes doesn’t want to fade, I am very content and completely confident that today I am exactly where God wants me to be. No second thoughts, regrets, or misgivings. God’s work in my life is an encouragement to me, and I know He has so much more in store for my spiritual growth as the weeks roll on. Thank you for your prayers…there is no doubt He is answering them!

Personal Failure

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God uses a variety of things in life to push us toward Him. Often, as I’ve written about before, it’s trials and grief. For me lately it’s been personal failure. It’s caused me to reach the end of myself and realize I have nowhere to go but the foot of the cross, where my Savior washed away all my sins, past, future, and present.

Recently I told Andrew at the end of a long, full, busy day that I thought it was literally one of the best days of my life. I was excited about visible ways the Lord was growing me and I was feeling great about some deepening relationships. Ironically, the very next day I was hit with some really tough things and I came crashing down to an almost debilitating low. All I could see were my shortcomings and sin. This despondency has continued for some days now, and I feel like I’m fighting a losing battle.

I know God wants me to wake up to the reality that I don’t have control over my life and I’m inevitably going to fail. After I’ve fallen, I have to take the loving hand He offers me, get back up on my feet, and carry on in His strength. He’s reminding me that my identity does not lie in my performance or the quality of my relationships, but in my Savior, Who gave me His righteous garments in exchange for all my filthy rags.  He’s removing the happiness I can often draw from nearly-perfect circumstances so that I run to Him for my joy and satisfaction. Jesus is enough, and He longs for me understand that reality first-hand, in a new and fresh way each day.

I want to be real and honest on this blog. Life isn’t all sunshine and roses. Today, I hope to encourage or challenge you from what feels like a pit of despair. I haven’t climbed out yet, but I’m seeing light near the edge and I’m grasping for footholds as I try to reach it. If you’re enjoying a spiritual high, praise the Lord for it and ask Him to keep you humble and hungry for Him. If you’re walking through a valley, keep your gaze on Jesus and trust Him to restore your joy in His perfect timing. I love the precious truth that no matter where you are in your journey of sanctification and growth, Jesus, His sacrifice for you, and His love, grace, and mercy never change. They remain constant through every season, on each mountaintop and in each valley.

My failures remind me that apart from Christ, I have nothing to bring to God. When I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Cor. 12:10) As I recognize my helplessness apart from Jesus, I pray that His light will radiate through me more clearly, that I would be a vessel in His hand and a channel for His glory.

When the morning comes on the farthest hill
I will sing His name, I will praise Him, still.
When dark trials come and my heart is filled
With the weight of doubt, I will praise Him, still.

For the Lord, our God, He is strong to save
From the arms of death, from the deepest grave,
And He gave us life in His perfect will,
And by His good grace, I will praise Him, still.

More Than We Can Handle

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Andrew and I just returned from a wonderful week away.

He was in San Francisco for a programming conference and although I took my work with me as well, it was an incredibly restful, special time to enjoy spending time with each other and dear family that we hadn’t seen since last July. When we boarded the plane for home yesterday morning, my heart was heaving with a sense of foreboding. Usually after time away I am eager to get back. But somehow, this time I felt that we were coming home, but not for long. We’re 62 days away from the move for seminary, and my stomach is beginning to knot when I picture saying goodbye. As I hugged my brothers at the softball game last night, I thought about how, very soon, I’ll have to wait several months at a time to get hugs from them.

We’re counting the days one-by-one, seizing opportunities to make memories, and making scheduling sacrifices to spend time with people that are important to us before we move. And in the midst of crunch time, we’re working hard to still enjoy being just the two of us and prioritize our marriage as we prepare for a significant transition. As up-and-down emotions threaten to take me over, I’m asking the Lord to help me cling to His promises and the stability I find only in my relationship with Him.

What are you facing today?

We never know what tomorrow holds, but as believers we do know that whatever comes, Jesus will remain the gracious, loving Savior that we have come to adore, and He will always be there for us. In a recent sermon, Pastor Dave argued the popular idea that “God never gives us more than we can handle.” I wholeheartedly agreed with Pastor Dave’s point. In reality, God often He gives us far more than we can handle, to expose our desperate need for Him and remind us of how dependent on Him we are for everything. On our own, we are inadequate to meet life’s challenges. But with our Savior, nothing is too difficult or scary.

Living for Jesus is amazing. It does not diminish the sadness and trials we will inevitably experience here on earth, but it brings hope, meaning, and perspective to every bit of life. Children of God are incredibly blessed to experience peace that only a heart redeemed by Jesus can every fully know. He is enough, and that truth remains, no matter what circumstances we may face.

“You are my strength when I am weak, you are the treasure that I seek, You are my all in all.”