Posted in Faith

Living Intentionally

gentle breeze

I’ve been in a season of quiet and stillness for a few months now, and it’s becoming incredibly refreshing.  I am typically busy, running from appointment to meeting to gathering to party to… you get the idea.  Since I’ve learned to allow myself to say no, and not feel guilty about responses, I’ve become increasingly relaxed.  I believe it’s a lesson the Lord has been trying to show me for some time now.  And I’ll explain why.

The beginning of 2016 was a huge transition for myself and my hubster, K.  He was working the night shift at his factory job, and since I work at home, I transitioned with him so we could still be connected.  We did our best to be close: eating meals together, praying when we could, talking about what we were reading, fasting for specific reasons, and hanging out, since getting together with others was restricted to weekends and sporadic events we could handle in the hours before starting our night shifts.

Loneliness, isolation and quiet were paramount in that season.  We couldn’t change the way we felt about not being around other people, which was devastating and eye-opening, but the positive effects on our marriage were incredibly significant.  We grew so much in our communication and we bonded in ways I know we wouldn’t have otherwise.  We both were grounded in Scripture, challenging each other with questions about what we were reading, and sharing dialogue regarding passages that spoke to us.  It was a beautiful, trying season.

Just before Easter, we went back to day shift. I changed contract companies, and K began a different position with a new team under him.  We both began a new journey.  Staying as close as we were, when we were all we had, has become a challenge, because now we have time for others again, and family needs, and insert any other type of distraction here.  The down time we had in the winter was a way of opening our eyes to our availability: to others as well as ourselves. And for the first time, it was a time to just focus on our faith and each other.

Something we do pride ourselves on, is being available for others with our presence, and if that’s not possible, we send cards and prayers in our physical absence.  We try to stay connected to others as much as possible, because we are two social people who love people.  But I must admit that I know that I am someone who needs to step back at times to re calibrate in quiet.  And knowing that I’m an introvert, I had to stop considering what others might think of my absence.  Saying no to things is okay.  For so long in the past, I would be upset about turning something down, or saying no for fear of what someone’s opinion of me would become.  It took me a while to give myself permission to be okay with being true.

What I’ve come to realize as I reflect on both seasons this year, is that sometimes it is necessary to pull back and reassess our positions.  As believers, we are definitely sent out into the “mission field” every day, as servants and representatives of Jesus.  Divine interruptions happen frequently and we have to be ready.  However, we also must admit our emptiness at times and “fuel up” so we can be who we need to be for the Kingdom.

Living intentionally as a believer means that I am living with the purpose of reflecting Jesus through my words, actions and deeds.  I am a human vessel who is used by God to show the world His Son. I am accountable for that.  And sadly there are times I know I haven’t done a good job of that. I can remember times when I served in ministry that my actions became obligatory, that my “I’ll pray for you”s were rehearsed and unfeeling, and my “yes”es were because I was afraid of what others would think. Just as our bodies need physical food to provide energy so we can function, our spirit needs the Holy Spirit and downtime to recharge and be filled so we can reflect Jesus.

Don’t believe me because you feel like you’ll miss an opportunity to serve God?  Even Jesus took time to stop and pray, step away from the noise and reflect.  We don’t have to think we’re saving the world or missing out on opportunities.  The more time we have with God, the more we are able to hear His voice (John 10:27) and know what His intentions are for us on a daily basis.

When I was in the early stages of working the night shift, my physical body was a wreck (working during the night hours does something horrible to your mind and body).  However, I spent my days literally reading my Bible on my couch with my husband, sharing insights and fueling up.  Free of distractions and obligations, we both felt disconnected from others, but incredibly linked to the Lord.

I believe God wanted me to slow down and focus on Him.  And He accomplished it by changing my availability.  My choice to work nights was optional, K’s was not.  But I wanted my husband to feel supported and encouraged, and I didn’t think it would affect me as much as it did.  I’m glad we switched back to days, despite how much we were growing.  Because now even on day shift, I am still available for others. I am just more mindful of my time and whether or not my “YES” is because of God or my desire to please others. I have learned to pray before responding and not feel guilt, even when I get push back or disappointed responses from others.  I have to be true to myself and my Lord.

I am intentional now about staying connected to Christ.  Knowing myself as I do (imagine that), I realize that as a woman, I emotionally respond to many things.  I’ve learned to slow down, filter it through the Lord’s filter instead of my human emotional filter, and have seen my responses change.  I realize that my eyes are being opened in many other areas of my life as well, and in order to navigate the dark, stormy waters that are approaching, I need to cling to my anchor.

Now, K and I also as a couple have to be mindful of when we’re getting so busy that we’re not making time for each other. I imagine every married couple knows when that happens because you start to get irritable or angry about little things when it’s really because you’re missing each other and not making time to connect. It’s an easy fix.  Say no to whatever is taking you away from your covenant.  My Lord needs to be first, then my spouse, then whatever God says is next, not what I deem important.

And just so this doesn’t sound like I’m knocking being there for others, K and I both have developed some pretty cool relationships with people this year and are connecting with some friends we’ve not spent as much time with in the past.  We are able to say yes to spending time with others without compromising time with each other.

My perspective has changed in the area of serving as well.  I know when God is saying Yes for me for something, and stepping into obedience has blessed me incredibly.  A study on forgiveness that I began teaching last fall with one woman went from an eight-week study to eight months.  The relationship that was forged through some many painful, tearful evenings blessed us both.  The study produced a woman who now is able to transfer her insecurity to Jesus and she was able to forgive someone for 35+ years of hurt.  I will never feel bad about saying no to things while working alongside the Holy Spirit for that woman’s transition.

Also, a door opened after ending my time with her, to help another woman who is struggling with her marriage.  My Tuesdays are set aside for her and developing trust through her heartache.  I’m enjoying what the Lord is teaching us both through her  sessions.

Slowing down, focusing on Jesus and listening instead of running has strengthened my heart and faith in many ways. I’m so thankful for His leading me to rest in Him, and teaching me to depend on Him instead of working out of my own power.  I’m intentionally seeking rest and stillness now, without fear of any other feelings being hurt. I am following where Jesus leads.

Posted in Faith

Thoughts on the New Year

open door

Well, we’ve officially moved into a new year. 2016 is here! Maybe it’s my age showing, but I’m amazed at how each year seems to go by faster than the one before. And as I look around, I see there is always more money to make, less time to spend and many unhappy people.

With the new year comes time for New Year’s resolutions. Since 2010, I’ve stopped making resolutions because I don’t like the feeling that I’ve failed. Setting the bar and not meeting it means I didn’t succeed, so why put that unnecessary pressure on myself? But lately, I am feeling the opposite. Since I have given my life to Christ, it doesn’t matter if I set the bar and fail, because He gives opportunity after opportunity without deadline.

I’ve written in the past about how I’ve run ahead of God and how He’s been extremely gracious in my hustle and bustle. In the past, I have loved the frantic, crazy pace of getting things done and having the feeling of accomplishment. I’m not ashamed of it because it’s part of my make up, however as I get older, I’m realizing God is asking me to sllllllooooooooooooooooooooooooooowwwwwwwwwww dooooooooooooowwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwnn.

Being a woman, it’s natural to just take over certain tasks, keep everyone in line, make sure things get done, and go to bed depleted. Checking boxes makes everyone happy, especially when the bottom line is saving money and time. But in all of the busyness of life, I’ve even recently noticed how Christian biblical women authors are encouraging women to listen to the voice of the Lord and slow down. And I believe God is speaking through them.

Lysa Terkeurst has released

the best yes
,

Susie Larson wrote

your sacred yes
and

Karen Ehman shares how to

let it go
.
I’m seeing a recurring theme from women who have “been there, done that” and have learned the rhythm of the Lord is in patiently waiting and not rushing. What a crazy concept in our fast-paced society! We don’t like to read these books that make us admit that we’re so goal-focused and check box driven, especially when it means something in our behavior pattern will have to change. Yet realizing EXACTLY THAT will save us much heartache and unnecessary rebuke.

What is it that sends us to the task driven life? In social circles, what is it that we are afraid of, if we don’t DO something? Each woman (or man) who reads this can answer the questions themselves. Honestly, I believe the questions should be mulled over, and prayed over, with time to hear back from God before replying. When we can recognize WHY we jump to do something, and whether or not it’s something the Lord is truly asking of us, we can answer with confidence and not hesitation.

fasting

Our church is currently in a new sermon series about spending time with Jesus. As part of that study, we are learning to fast and actually spend quality time with God. Doing so requires discipline to follow the suggested regimen, not eating physical food, but depending on the Word of God and what He is speaking to us. It’s a common practice done in the Bible by Jesus, for getting closer to God, and seeking His will. I’ve done it once, as a teenager, when raising money for the 30 hour famine. I’ve never done it longer, and I’ve never done it with the intent of getting specific answers from God. I believe it is not a manipulation tool, because God cannot be manipulated. But it is a practice worth doing, to have my physical body completely depend on God during my quiet time, and to exchange my hunger for food, to hunger for Him.

I have much to pray about specifically at this time in my life: I have many unsaved friends and neighbors, stepchildren with concerns about their futures, family members who have broken relationships, a job that is inconsistent at times, clarity for a dream/passion of mine to come to fruition. All of these things need to be placed in the loving hands of the Father and LEFT THERE. I needn’t pick them up again. I can trust Him and I believe that my quiet time with Him will be beneficial, as He will provide what is best for me.

fervent

Now my issue is that I’ve listed my specific prayer needs/wants, but I’ve left out the ones that the Lord has for me. How will I know them if I don’t ask Him what He has planned or what He is asking me to do? I fall into the trap of thinking that prayer is simply telling God everything that I want Him to accomplish and then waiting for it to happen. Have you ever had a conversation with someone like that? They just talk at you and walk away, and you feel as if you didn’t have a chance to share your viewpoint on anything? It’s one-sided, unfair, and is one thing I’m resolving this year. I’m going to take the time to wait for His response. Who am I to make demands? I know I am His daughter, but if anyone deserves respect and ultimate praise, it’s God. I need to be reminded of how I walk into His presence.

And something else that is heavy on my heart, is the gift that the Lord has bestowed on my husband and me. We love spontaneity, whether it be something we do together solely as a couple, or whether it involve other people who need us in a time of need. We have been obedient in listening to the Lord for those opportunities and then just “going”. And we’ve seen the fruit of that obedience. A dear friend of ours recently said Kevin’s and my greatest gift is our presence. That we stop what we are doing, and just show up. And I think that will be something I pray about specifically again this year. Where do you need us to be, in what way, and what should we bring, if anything? Giving of time has become such a wonderful way for me to see how the Lord can use me, instead of me having an agenda, or a place to rush off to. Time really is the most precious gift.

Have you ever done the OneWord movement for the New Year? I’ve come up with mine and it will be something I pray over and specifically focus on for 2016. My word is #abide. God has been speaking into my heart for some time now about spending time with Him (which is why I’m so jazzed about our sermon series at church), but also because I have been convicted by James 4:7. I need to be drawing near to God and resisting the devil. So much time in my past has been given to him, out of fear or insecurity, and I’m reclaiming my value this year. I’m going to spend more time with the Lord, actual QUALITY TIME, and immediately relinquish all thoughts that aren’t from Him.

post it

calendar

tast list

Finally, I have a challenge for you, a very simple one. If you trust your life in the capable hands of God, do you believe He has everything under His control? Do you know that He hears the prayers of His children and filters them through His ultimate purposes and wisdom?

A girlfriend of mine told me a few years ago that when she is in prayer about the future, or something that she is uncertain that she’s supposed to be doing, she takes the task, calendar, or a sticky note with the option written on it, and puts it on the floor. Then she prays over it, and waits to hear back from the Lord regarding it. She doesn’t say YES until she knows it is what He is asking her to do.

I’m going to be doing this challenge. I’ve said yes so many times in the past, without knowing whether or not something was correct, and I’ve become overwhelmed and burnt out. So instead of struggling to find my way, I’m going to give everything to Him and wait for Him to interrupt my plans, intercede with a better idea, and speak to my heart in a way that only I know.

Praying a special prayer for each reader, that your year would be one of surrender, hope, trust, love, grace and forgiveness. God is trustworthy and faithful to His promises.