Satisfying Work

Thanks for patience and grace as I’ve been working on a conference for my church.

For the past ten years I have been working on our annual conference that welcomes folks back to our church to tell us what they’ve been doing in the world, as well as helping those folks in the pew understand that God has a plan for telling all people about Himself.  And ALL God’s people get to play a part in that plan.

The level of work for me personally has varied over the years as team members have come and gone and also folks have taken on different pieces.  But each time I am so energized and excited.  I love that I get to do this and I count it a great privilege.

But can I tell you something?  I am saddened at the number of people that offer to let me vent to them and say things like, “Are you glad it’s almost over?” or some question or phrase that implies that what I’m doing must drudgery and misery.

It simply is not the case.  It is hard work sometimes, but deeply satisfying work.  I have learned in the last ten years to trust God for all parts of it.  Of course, I don’t immediately get it “right,” but I am committed to remembering that I can depend on Him.

There were years when I took on too much responsibility for the “success” of something.  I had plans and I asked God to help me make them happen.  Those are the years that maybe did look like misery.  I did too much in my own power and I was angry and bitter.  But I was convicted about that–God is so patient to help me learn.   Now I try to wait on Him and let Him reveal His plan so that I can join Him.

I am amazed that God’s global plan for ALL PEOPLES of the world is something that I can join Him in.  He wants all His children to play a part.  He chooses us as vehicles to accomplish His will.  Plain and simple.  If He didn’t want to use us, He would just save us and take us to Heaven.

God certainly doesn’t NEED me–but He chooses to use me.  That blows my mind.

Every aspect of how God has made me can be used for His purposes and plans and glory.  It is FROM Him and THROUGH Him and TO Him.

Don’t buy the lie that you don’t matter.  Don’t buy the lie that you can’t make a difference.  Don’t buy the lie that it has to be a big thing to be significant.

Don’t buy the lie that only those who fly across the ocean are doing this work.  Don’t buy the lie that what you do for your church isn’t helping the great plan for the world.  I say this often, we have to have a healthy body to be of use.  Are you doing something to keep the body of your local church healthy?

Because you don’t want to be deceived to think that your gifts are just for you.  When I believed the lies from the previous paragraphs, my world got really small.  And all my skills and talents and dreams were focused on me and my little world.  There was no satisfaction there.

Hear me, we have seasons.  You are not in my season.  But you can always have the big view of God and what He is doing and how He wants to use you.  How that plays out in day to day stuff definitely is affected by the circumstances of your life.  God knows all that!

He isn’t calling you to this without knowing what your days are like.  So it follows that in the midst of every season there is SOMETHING to do.

I promise you, it is possible to find satisfaction in all the work you’re doing when you’re doing it for God’s glory and by His power (whether it’s changing diapers and scrubbing floors or living among people who might kill you for belonging to Jesus).

What are you doing that is beyond you and helps you see your need for Jesus?  Does your heart long for impact?  For your work to have significance?  How can I help you?  How can I pray for you and with you?

 

If it fits…

So often I stop myself from sharing my thoughts because they do not match all the voices I seems to be hearing out there.  But recently, I had an epiphany, part of how God made “me” is how I think about the world, how I process what I am seeing and learning.

I want to be a good steward of these thoughts and insights.

And if there are others like me, they too may not be finding voices with which they can identify.  They are imagining that they are alone in their way of thinking.  They are not alone.  They are not the only ones who don’t agree with the screaming voices that want to clump us into one group.

Who is “us?”

I want to speak from my view as a Christian woman, living in this culture, being a wife and raising children in this time in history.  I am one voice, but I don’t think I’m alone.  So, I will not be silent anymore.  I will speak.  I am not expecting to find that everyone agrees with me.  In fact, I am anticipating some resistance.  And that’s okay.

If what I say “fits” your situation and your point of view, then I pray my words are an encouragement.

If they don’t “fit,” then know they are not meant for you.  They are not a judgment on you.  They are not meant to start and argument.

Maybe they’ll make you think.  Maybe they’ll help you understand people who don’t think like you.

I would love to have healthy discussion.  I don’t feel the need to defend my thinking but I’m also aware that we learn from one another.  Points of view that are not like mine help me think critically.

I’m happy to read what others think and how they see the world.  I don’t think we all need to think the same.

But voices that are not like mine help me think and help me understand.

God’s Moon

Wow!  I hadn’t really been anticipating this moon.  I had been hearing all the chatter about how great and rare it was.  I just hadn’t made the effort.  This town is flat and crowded.  I thought I had already missed the peak viewing time.

But last night, I stepped into my back yard to look for it. 

The sky was a little cloudy, so it held the light and made the whole horizon glow.  The moon was rising over the treeline.  It looked almost like a sun rise.  What a sight!

The kids and I even stepped out several time to see its journey up into the sky.

Before turning in for the night, my husband and I went out to just stare at this beautiful, bright jewel in the sky just one more time.  The shadows from the trees were dancing on our back patio.  It was so bright.

We were both so struck by the gift of a moon like that.  

“It’s just a rock.”  

“But it’s spectacular.”

“Because it’s reflecting the Sun.”

All things are pictures.  I like pictures.  I need pictures.

For me, the moon reminds me of my own ability to reflect God to this world.  Because much of the time, I feel like a rock.  Dull and hard and not very spectacular.

But God.  He is beyond amazing and awesome and His light is what shines.  I just have to stand there and be in the line of sight of other who haven’t yet seen God, but get to experience Him through me.  I pray I am found faithful to be in the lives of those who need to see that.  

And I pray that I don’t forget that any light is not from me, but from the one who is the SOURCE of Light.

 

For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.
2 Corinthians 3:17-18 (NLT)

STEP TWO: Eating the Elephant

I wrote about NOT getting rid of stuff when you’re trying to organize.  Well, not as the FIRST step.  Before you can really order a space or your calendar, you need to have VISION for what you want it to be.  You need to imagine it as if it is already in that state.

Have you done that?

Once you have a vision for what you want, you can start tackling a little at a time. One bite at a time.

Let’s talk about organizing a space.  (Concepts translate to organizing your time too!)

Here’s how you “eat the elephant.”

  1. Set aside 15 minutes a day.  Or an hour.  Or an afternoon.  Whatever you’re able.  The more time you can devote to it, the large the “bite” will be.
  2. Remove all things from that area.  Again, it could be one surface.  Or one drawer.  Or a section of the room.
  3. Put ONLY what belongs there according to your vision.
  4. Distribute remainder to other locations, whether it is another place in your home (because it BELONGS there), or donate it, or trash it.
  5. Repeat until you are done with the project.
  6. Schedule a regular time to “reset” the area.  The more you use it, the more often you need to reset it.

What are you going to work on?

4 DIY Meal Ideas If You Have Picky Eaters

Picky eaters.

I was recently reminded of when the kids were younger and I was afraid that they wouldn’t get the right nutrition.  I couldn’t quite take the “Eat it or Starve” stance I joke about now.  So I would take their order and make what they were willing to eat.

It was exhausting.  And now I’m wondering how much that contributed to my trauma about feeding my family.  Hmm.

These days, it’s more like “Eat it or You’re On Your Own.”  Because I am making one meal.  Of course, there are other ingredients or leftovers or the fan-favorite:  cereal (what is up with that, really?).  But more times than not, we all eat the same thing.

But back then, I did find a few strategies that did keep me sane while feeding picky eaters.  I DO remember how hard it was to be a momma to littles.  I needed all the help I could get!

So, taking a cue from the “do it yourself” fro yo place, I found that when the kids were actively participating in making or plating their meal, they were more likely to eat it.  The bonus was they would even try new foods when I asked them to add something from all categories (i.e., they had to have something green).

Here are some meal ideas that may save you from feeling like a short-order cook.

  • Pizza:  This was a favorite for a season because I’d get time with each child as we prepared the dough and picked their sauce, cheese, toppings.  They would place the toppings to make a face or picture.  And I even let them pick non-conventional toppings (e.g., pickles?!).  But they ate and that is what mattered.  Usually, I’d pair with a salad, but that sometimes ended up  with them dipping various raw veggies in ranch.  Still a win!

  • Baked Potaotes:  They’d pick regular potatoes or sweet potatoes, and then choose from the typical toppings.  They’d add a protein.  Another meal to pair with a salad.

  • Tacos: We would (and still do) have corn shells or soft flour tortillas.  Recently I discoverd that they’re selling “soft flour boats” and those are a hit (because they can still be picky!).  We have various protein fillings and then the typical toppings.  This option is fun because we can use the same stuff on tostadas (a family favorite) and over salad greens as a salad, or even over chips as nachos.

  • Breakfast for Dinner: Breakfast is usually customizable anyway.  This was and is always an easy plan.

    • Yogurt/fruite/granola parfaits

    • Oatmeal with fruit (fresh or dried) or even sprinkles

    • Breakfast tacos

    • Waffles and pancakes (we usually have a can of whipped cream for this option!)

    • ziploc omeletes–which I’m particulary excited about doing soon with my older kids.

I wish I would have had done more of these things when they were younger.  Of course, you know your own kids and what they can handle.  But the mess would have been worth it!

So, let them wash and cut up and shredd and all other work to prepare the fixin’s or toppings or mix ins.   And have fun!

And if you’re up for it, maybe end the meal with sundaes and continue the “build your own” theme.

 (PS: I am having trouble with fomatting–praying for grace as I learn.  Thanks!)

What to Do When God’s Word Says Hard Things

I have been studying Romans this school year.

Paul says some hard things to the Romans–and to us.  Big theological concepts.

But like my friend and teacher said a few years ago.

“All God’s Word is equally true.  Not all of God’s Word is equally clear.”

I am wired to look for answers.  To try to understand.  To decipher and figure it out.

And there are some things where my study and pondering and reading and prayer have led me to deeper understanding.  And other things where I am more confused than ever.

I don’t give up trying to understand, but I also do not despair when I am confused.

Because in the final analysis, I have decided that God is good and I can trust Him.  If there is some concept that is too hard to wrap my mind around, then the issue is my limited mind.  NOT God.

In fact, I don’t want to worship a God I have all figured out.  That would make me bigger and wiser and smarter than He.  And I know I can be wrong and have much to learn.

So I will not impose my broken ideas of fairness and justice on the One who made me and gave His life for me.

God is God.  He does what He wants to do and all His ways are perfect.

He has invited me to reason with Him and to ask for understanding and wisdom.  He doesn’t want me to park my mind at the door.  I will continue to strive to know Him better.

But I also have faith when I don’t understand and where I can’t see, because of God’s character.  And I can rest.

It doesn’t have to make sense to me to be true.

The Most Important Thing to Pray for People You Love

In the last few years, I’ve grown in my amazement at the fact that we can pray.  We are actually invited to talk to the Creator of the universe.   He tells us He is listening.

Although there is much I can go on about prayer, today I want to simply stand amazed that He listens to us.

When I was a young mom, I prayed for all sorts of things for my one child.  I actually prayed AGAINST a lot of things.  That she wouldn’t be sick.  That she wouldn’t be hurt.  That she wouldn’t be influenced by bad friends.  That she wouldn’t join a cult.

It was amazing how quickly the ideas of what could happen got really ridiculous.

I did pray for the right things to happen.  For normal development.  For good friends.  For strong character.  For an obedient heart.  For wisdom.  For impact.

I am wired to look at possibilities and scenarios.  And it was backfiring on me.  I was SO anxious.  I somehow imagined that it was up to me to pray for the right things.  I had to be so specific if I wanted it to happen.

And I will tell you that being specific is not bad.  But in this case, it was clouding things.

It wasn’t until I started praying for my own anxiety that I had an epiphany.

I wanted peace.  I prayed for peace.  For me.  For my daughter. For our family.

I started praying from Philippians 4 (NLT):

6 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

I would tell Him all I needed, or what I thought I needed.  What my family needed.  I thanked Him for what He had done.  I started looking at how He had been faithful so far.

Then one day, I read further:

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.

There I saw it!

To have the peace of God, you need the God of peace.

True peace comes from having a relationship with God.

So the whole list of prayers from an anxious momma simply became, “Give them You, Lord.”

There was also another verse God used to cement this line of thinking.

Romans 8:28 (NLT)

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.

WHATEVER bad or good thing happened to my kid(s), they are covered by this promise.  All will be used for their good IF they are His.

So, I prayed for their salvation.

Once a child is a professing, growing believer, they get the benefit of prayers for wisdom and discernment.  Specific prayers for specific seasons.  But until they know Jesus, the only valid thing to pray is that they will respond to the free gift of God that is Jesus as Savior.

That is also the case for others who don’t know Jesus.  I don’t pray for their health and ease in life.  I don’t pray for happy relationships and good jobs.  I pray for their eyes to see Jesus!

Because if they never have anything “bad” happen, and their life is considered “perfect” and “charmed,” but they don’t know Jesus.  Then in the final analysis, none of that would have really mattered.  This life is a breath in light of their eternity.

Pray for the most important thing first.

Happy New Year…Again

It is NEVER too late to start again.  As long as you have breath, you can start over.
There is nothing magical about January 1.
Don’t believe the lie that you’ve already blown it.
Take a deep breath and start again.

FOUR Steps to Build Discipline Muscle

There is a difference between things you want to accomplish and things you want to start doing.

When you make a list of things to do, usually those are all mixed together.  Right?
Things that get done, but then have to get done again next time you need to go to the grocery store or do the laundry.
A project, however big or small, can be “checked off.”  You can install shelves.  Or you can build a patio.  Or you can organize the sock drawer.  Or you can plan a party.  It has a “finished” or “done” state.
Habits are things you want to start doing with regular frequency.  You want to floss every day.  Or you want to do some sort of exercise three times a week.  Or you want to vacuum your car out once a month.  Or you want to have date night with your spouse every other week.  Or pray every day for your kids.
Obviously, there is no “finished” on those.

Making recurring things “habits” and not “projects” has made a big difference in how I run my home and my life. Recurring tasks or appointments can be SCHEDULED or tied to something that is already happening at that frequency.

FOUR Steps to Build Discipline Muscle

While I cannot give specific advice about what YOU can do to install new habits, here are some steps you can take.

1. Decide WHAT habit you want to develop.

2. Find a baby step.  Make it so small and easy that you won’t have an excuse to skip it.

3. Tie it to something you’re already doing.

4. Once you “automate” it, go to the next baby step.

The goal is that you are working on your discipline–and like any muscle that starts off small and weak, you are building it up.

Baby steps will still get you there!

Some Examples

If you want to get up earlier, just set your alarm for FIVE minutes earlier.  Maybe THREE minutes.  Something small and easy.  And as that becomes the new normal, keep moving earlier and earlier.  Keep the increment small and take your time.

Or maybe keeping the kitchen clear is what you want.  Start with just keeping all the dishes in one spot, or rinsing as you stack, or clearing the sink.  Or emptying the dishwasher as your coffee brews.

Pick a baby step and add it in. Let it become a habit.

I would love to talk specific ideas with you, but all depends on where you are and what’s important to you.   Let’s all help each other find the baby steps.

What do you want to start doing?

NOTE: the comments area is finicky, I hear.  But if you are wondering how to get started, comment below.  Just use “anonymous” and sign your first name in the body of the message.

Savoring Truth Today

On Monday, we sang this at my Bible study meeting.  It is one of my favorites and I am overcome each time I sing it. I am amazed.  I am grieved.  I am grateful.

Can I tell you a bit about what goes through my head?

In Christ Alone

 (Getty, Townsend)

In Christ alone, my hope is found, He is my light, my strength, my song;
This Cornerstone, this solid Ground, firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace, when fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My Comforter, my All in All, here in the love of Christ I stand.

Jesus is my ONLY hope.  Because of Him I can look forward to a beautiful eternity–no matter how bad it gets, I don’t have to despair.  One day all will be made right and new and perfect.  I can actively hope as I wait for that day.  This isn’t a “wish,” as in “I wish that things turn out for the best.”  It is a firm trust because I KNOW it is certain.

Jesus sheds light on the world around me and even in my own soul.  He gives me strength for each moment of my day.  His love is wide and deep.  I can rest in Him and be still.  He comforts me.  All of this causes my soul to SING.  What a gift from God music is!

In Christ alone, who took on flesh, Fullness of God in helpless babe!
This gift of love and righteousness, scorned by the ones He came to save.
Till on that cross as Jesus died, the wrath of God was satisfied.
For ev’ry sin on Him was laid; Here in the death of Christ I live.

It’s Christmas, y’all!  The Almighty Creator of the Universe poured Himself into a tiny human baby.  Infants are totally vulnerable because EVERYTHING has to be done for them.  He chose to do that!  For us!  What love!  And yet, He was rejected and persecuted by those He came to rescue.  He was executed as a criminal, to die a horrid death.  Crucifixion has been reported as the most cruel way to administer capital punishment.  And this is how Jesus took the wrath of God.

The eternal and unending God paid for all the sin of all humans for all time, past, present, future–all on Him. Good Friday.  Not good for Jesus in that the wrath of God that was meant for me, for you, for the entire world.  He put on our sin and gave us His righteousness.  What an exchange!  And because of His death, I can live.  What mercy!  What grace!

There in the ground His body lay, Light of the world by darkness slain;
Then bursting forth in glorious Day, Up from the grave He rose again!
And as He stands in victory, sin’s curse has lost its grip on me;
For I am His and He is mine, bought with the precious blood of Christ.

They took Him down off that cross and laid Him in a rich man’s tomb.  I wonder how Satan celebrated since he thought he’d won.  Poor devil, had no clue Sunday was coming.  Easter!!!  The amazing power of God brought Jesus back to life.  And not just gave breath to that beaten and mutilated body that had been put in the tomb days before, but glorified Him.  The power of God transformed Jesus’ body to a new and perfect one that would never see death again!

He is victorious over death and because I am His, that enemy has been defeated, de-fanged.  I don’t have to fear–it has NOTHING on me!  I belong to Jesus, His blood bought me from the marketplace of sin.

No guilt in life, no fear in death, This is the  pow’r of Christ in me;
From life’s first cry to final breath, Jesus commands my destiny.
No pow/r of hell, no scheme of man, can ever pluck me from His hand;
Till He returns of calls me home, Here in the pow’r of Christ I’ll stand.

And NOW, there is no condemnation, nor will there ever be for any one who belongs to Jesus.  The enemy can’t accuse us of owing anything–Jesus paid that debt in full!  So I can live and not be afraid of anything, not even death.  Because the power that raised Jesus from the dead lives in me.  Whoa!
He is in charge of my life until my time on this earth is done.  NOTHING can thwart His will for me–not even me!  I cannot screw up the plans God has.  So until He calls me home or comes back for me and I meet Him in the air, I will STAND firm in the power of the Spirit of God, who is the author of salvation.

I mean, who would have thought this up?  The HERO created people.  They screwed up.  The HERO knew that the only way to make things right was for Him to come and live on earth as a human.  He would live a perfect life, and die in the worst way possible–so that He could be the perfect substitute, a spotless Lamb that takes away the sin of the world.

What MERCY–we don’t get what we deserve.  We deserve to suffer the consequences of not being able to pay our debt.  He paid our debt.  But not just that.  GRACE–He lavishes on us grace upon grace because of His resurrection.  He shows us favor and gives us all that we need for this life, to live it for Him.

He doesn’t promise us ease and comfort–don’t be fooled to believe your life will be “fixed” and you’ll be healthy and wealthy.  He promises Himself and the riches and glory of eternity with Him.

While we’re on this earth, we live with God’s power in us.  We are part of His Forever Family!

Only because of Jesus.

Thank you, Lord!