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Why a good marriage isn’t our goal

You know when you read a book or hear a teaching, and it’s like everything inside you jumps for joy, “YES! Truth!”

That’s how I felt recently when we (finally) discovered Francis & Lisa Chan’s You and Me Forever marriage book/study, which we’re super excited to have as the materials for the first ever Renew marriage group.  It reminded of me of this, from a few years ago, so I thought I’d share again, and if you’re looking for a resource to strengthen your marriage: Check out Chan’s book!

If we only want our marriages to flourish so that we’ll be happy, or fulfilled, or satisfied, then as soon as our marriage is no longer making us feel happy, fulfilled, and satisfied, we’ll quickly give up and move onto something else. If we’re really going to have the energy, motivation, enthusiasm and perseverance  to tend and cultivate a healthy, thriving, flourishing marriage, we’ve got to have a greater reason why. And I would suggest this is the reason why:

Because your marriage is part of a far greater mission.

I believe that the reason our marriage has flourished (it’s not perfect, of course, but I love it!) is because “good marriage” isn’t the end goal. We didn’t enter into marriage for the purpose of marriage. Here’s what I mean:

Our marriages are less important and more important than we realize. By less important, I simply mean that nowhere in Scripture does it say that your sole purpose in life is to get married and be a “good wife”. We are certainly called to be a helpmeet (ezer) to our husband and to be fruitful and multiply, BUT the greatest purpose of all humankind in scripture is to glorify God, to go and make disciples, to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love our neighbor as ourselves. Our ultimate purpose—showing the love of Christ to a lost world—is not dependent on whether or not you are married.

 However, IF you are married, then our marriage is part of that mission, and it’s a far more important part than we may even realize. Here’s what I mean:

Our marriage was meant to nourish us and the world around us by its beauty and spiritual fruit.  Fruit that we can enjoy, that our children can enjoy, that the world can enjoy—and that most of all puts on display what God is like. So our marriages are more important than we realize because our marriages are a picture of what God is like. It’s a picture of Jesus Christ and His church (Ephesians 5).

God is for our marriages. God created us to thrive in our marriages. He created marriage to be a picture of Christ and the church, a picture of His extravagant love for us. He wants the world to look at our marriages and say, “Wow! Now that’s love.” Our marriages are actually God’s evangelistic tool. He wants our marriages to be so beautiful, so lovely and strong and enduring, that everyone will want to know the God of our marriage. They will want a love like that.

And personally, I believe that this is the scheme of our enemy who wants to do whatever he can to discredit followers of Jesus and tarnish the beautiful picture of God’s love, by making their marriages are weak, wilted, defeated, discouraged. In other words, the health of your marriage is even more important than you think.

But as long as our goal is merely to “have a good marriage” we’re aiming too low and missing out on the deeper motivation, the God-given drive that will fuel our devotion and inspire us to grow in selflessly loving, respecting, submitting to, and honoring our husbands.

What if your marriage was the only picture of God’s love someone ever saw? What would they think? I pray God would grant us strength and grace to grow such grace-filled and sacrificially-loving marriages that the world can look and see a picture of God’s love. That’s a lofty goal. There’s no way we can achieve that on our own. It would take a miracle, a supernatural work of God to achieve a marriage like that. Which is why it’s the goal we need.  He’ll get all the glory.

Praying God’s grace for a God-glorifying marriage that only His power can achieve. Praying for you! Thanks for reading.

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When He’s taking FOREVER to show up…

I shifted positions on the sand, looking over my shoulder again. Where was he?

The tops of my thighs were definitely red--that sad white space above the shorts-line exposed in early summer when we bravely (and a bit reluctantly) don bathing suits. I tried to hold my small paperback strategically to block the sun, glancing back again. Where WAS he? 

We were having a fabulous anniversary weekend. The book Touching Godliness had deeply stirred my heart, and I knew the word submit was to be my banner for the next season of life. But, I’d asked God, Submit to what? 

In a half-second He spoke to my heart:

  • Submit to embracing the role of wife and homeschooling mama.
  • Submit to serving the people right in front of you.
  • Submit to obedience in the small, silent stuff, where no one sees but God.
  • Submit to joyfully serve, honor, and respect Jeff, believing the best about him above all other human relationships.

Oh, that’s all? (ha!) Ok, ok, I get it. I’m taking notes.

And of course, every lecture needs a lab. God’s sanctification school is no different. So I figured this weekend was a good place to start practicing.

So, we were lounging on the sandy beach beside the Deschutes River. It was hot. Really, really hot. Dozens of people were walking by with inner-tubes, putting in to float down the river to the Old Mill district. We thought it’d be fun to do the same, and Jeff knew his mom (in whose house we were staying) had tubes. So he, seeking to bless and serve me, said that he would take all our stuff to the car, leave me to relax on my towel, and he’d drive to her house, grab the tubes, then come back so we could float down river.

Perfect.  Even though he’d already run a half-marathon that morning he was still willing to run the errand so I could relax. Good man. So I handed him everything, including my phone.

It was 12:30pm, and she just lived a few miles away so it would be a quick trip.

“If I’m not back in an hour then I’m in wreck somewhere,” he jokingly added as he walked away.

I settled in on my towel, happy to relax. I wasn’t sure how much time went by but it seemed he was gone quite a while. I swam in the river to cool off. Then sat back down, glancing back periodically to see when he’d arrive.

People came. People went. No Jeff. I heard someone say it was 1:30pm as they packed their kids up to go home.

People came. People went. No Jeff. I heard someone hollar, “Hey, it’s 2pm, let’s get home!”

That’s when my thighs started getting red.  I shifted on my towel. Adjusted my book to shade different body parts on rotation, pulling corners of the small towel up and around my legs. The family next to me called to their kids, “It’s 2:30, we better get going.”

No Jeff.

I laid down and closed my eyes. Where WAS he? 

All of us wives are prone to react in different ways:

::Some assume catastophe: “He must be dead!”

::Some assume irresponsibility: “What is that idiot doing now?” 

::But some believe the best: “I bet whatever has happened, he must be doing something awesome on my behalf.”

By the grace of God, on this particular day, I believed the best. Though I couldn’t figure out what on earth would take him so long (and didn’t hear any sirens so I wasn’t concerned about safety), I figured something worthwhile was happening, and asked God to protect me from skin cancer.

So I sat and waited. And waited. And waited. And kept glancing back over my shoulder, looking for a glimpse of inner tubes.

And then, to my everlasting surprise, as I sat gazing out at the river, my eye caught something strange:

What? There’s a man kayaking UPstream, towing a paddleboard behind him!  I squinted and looked longer …

It was JEFF!

I stood up, and I must say, it was kind of “scene-from-a-movie-ish.” He was dripping sweat towing this paddle board upstream and I jumped off the beach and ran into the water.

I yelled, “What are you DOING?!” (But I was smiling when I said it.) He told me the story. He thought he’d surprise me with an awesome adventure–bringing a kayak and a paddleboard so we could each paddle our way up and down the river together. He loaded both huge items by himself, but when he arrived back at the beach, there were no parking spaces, and he couldn’t get close enough to leave the car and alert me. So he had to drive all the way to the end of the river run, downstream, haul both the kayak and the paddleboard himself, tie them together, and paddle all the way upstream hauling the paddleboard, in order to rescue me from the beach.

He finished his story, breathless, and handed me a water bottle, “And I made you a limeade slushy to drink.”

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I slurped the icy goodness and shook my head, smiling. “You’re amazing. Thank you so much.”

We pushed off from the shore, and paddled up and down the river in the slanting afternoon sun. In the quiet float downstream, I leaned back, reflecting:

When God is taking a long time to “show up” in my life, how do I respond?

::Do I assume catastrophe? God must not here! He must not be real! He must not love me! Everything must be falling apart!

::Do I assume irresponsibility? God must not know what He’s doing. I better take care of things. How dare He treat me like this? Poor me, having to wait all this time while God goofs off.

::Or do I believe best? I have no idea what’s taking so long, but I know the character of my God. I know His Word. And I know that whatever is going on, He must doing something awesome on my behalf.

With tears welling up in my eyes, I looked up into the blue sky, “Lord, when You’re taking forever to show up, help me to believe the best.”

{God loves you and is working up a crazy sweat doing awesome things on your behalf. Thank you for reading!}

*Originally published July 2013

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More than agreement: The real goal of communication

“I just don’t know how to connect with this person,” I confided to a friend. I wanted to, I wanted to build a bridge, to connect, to find common ground, but we were just so different. I honestly didn’t know where to begin, I felt like anything deeper than surface-level conversation would inevitably lead into the treacherous waters of areas where we sharply disagreed. Emphasis on sharply.  *sigh*

What should I do? 

So often in this situation, we stay in the shallow waters of Safe Communication: No politics, no religion. The challenge is, pretty much all of life — except, say, the weather — eventually ties into someone’s deeply held religious or political views. It is impossible for me to communicate deeply with someone without “my faith” spilling out over into it somewhere or another. How we parent, our consumer habits, our lifestyle choices, all of this stems from our deeply held religious or political beliefs.

And I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but political and religious issues are pretty much front-and-center these days!

So how do we really connect with someone with whom we sharply disagree on critical issues?

“What do we even talk about??” 

My friend, after listening to my lament, answered so plainly and simply:

“Why don’t you ask questions to try to understand where she’s coming from? Maybe you could better understand her point of view if you asked her more questions about it?”

Ha!

Well, then. Yes. Yes, that would be a good idea. The problem was, the idea of asking this person to openly divulge all her reasons for believing a certain way, for basically unloading her truckload of data for why she chose a certain lifestyle, it made my blood pressure rise just thinking about it. I could feel my heart start to race. I was physically responding to the stress of having to hear strong opinions that go directly against the life we’ve chosen to lead.

Whoa, then. There’s another issue going on, right?

See, what my friend helped me to understand was that the reason this situation was troubling to me, was that deep-down I had some insecurity, or felt threatened in some way. The reason I wasn’t willing to enter into the dangerous waters of discussing areas of disagreement was that I felt a need to defend my way. I didn’t see that there would be any way we’d ever agree, so why talk about it?

Isn’t the goal of communication to come to agreement? Isn’t that the whole point? To connect by finding common ground?

No. Actually it isn’t.

Forgive me for being so remedial, seriously I’m telling you some days I’m like, “How on earth did I get to be 36 years old and never learn this? Good grief.” But anyway, yesterday at church a seasoned saint Paul Hunter said something that about knocked me out of my chair with its simplicity and piercing truth:

The goal of communication isn’t agreement. The goal of communication is understanding

My goal, in reaching out to someone and communicating with them for the sake of connecting with them, isn’t for the sake of agreeing. That isn’t the goal. It isn’t so that I can go to her side or she can come to mine. It isn’t even that we necessarily find “common ground.” We may not.

The goal is that I can better understand her. Understand him. 

Right now I’m reading How to Talk so Kids Can Learn. I’m only a little ways in but wow, it’s so good! It’s basically saying the same thing — we must communicate in ways that we are truly seeking to understand and empathize with how our children are feeling, before we can lead them effectively into learning, obeying, etc. The goal is not compliance, it’s reaching into their hearts and carefully leading them out of selfishness, despair, immaturity, overwhelm, and into courage, obedience, excellence, love.

Easier said than done. The question was, “Did I love this person enough to put my whole heart and soul into seeking to understand her?” Did I care enough to do that, or did I just want the so-called peace of finding agreement on certain issues.

Are we willing to do the hard work of understanding the other side? Understanding others? Or do we just want to “speak our mind” or stay in the safe zone, content with surface-waters of weather when there’s so much more to be known.

Do I really want to understand my child or do I just want them to comply so I can get on with my day.

This stuff is so much simpler on paper than in life. It’s messy. We try it and fail and try it again. But it’s a noble goal, and a necessary one, especially if we are to love one another through difficult days. And even though I sometimes feel hopelessly remedial in this area, I want to learn.

I want to understand. 

{Perhaps this idea will come in handy this week… Thanks for reading.}

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A cause for celebration today

I had to laugh when I looked back at my prayer journal from five years ago.  I was praying for Jeff, that he would:

  • Get up early
  • Exercise

I would have never imagined that now he’d be waking at 4am so he can get his triathlon training in before the kids and I wake up. Ha! I never would have dreamed that we’d be planning our annual family road-trip around the dates for the Arizona half-ironman, that he’d be racing with Team World Vision and the result would be thousands of dollars raised to provide clean water for kids in Africa.

It wasn’t that he was lazy back then, he was just in a slump, a hard season. We all have them. But it’s been amazing for me to watch a true transformation in my man’s life over the last 4.5 years. It’s not just about early-rising and exercise, it’s about the inside-out transformation God does, often through physical discipline. It’s been such a joy to see him not only enjoy the physical and spiritual benefits of exercise, but to now partner with Team World Vision, getting to do what he loves to help those in need.

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I share this for a few reasons.

  1. People can change. Sure, we might not all be elite athletes, but it’s such a load of lies to believe that “we’ll always be this way” or “he’ll always be this way.” God-inspired baby-steps can lead to total transformation over the long haul.
  2. Prayer is our most powerful weapon. Pretty sure we know this, but nagging never works. Nobody ever got nagged into greatness. Praying fervently for those we love is the best idea. Always.
  3. It’s Jeff’s birthday today (woohoo!) and in honor of his 38th, he’s chosen to do a 38.3-mile triathlon tomorrow, to raise more money for those kiddos in Africa.

Will you help me celebrate him by contributing to the cause?

I don’t mean to make this a brag-on-my-man post but I just can’t help saying: If you could see how hard this man works. He rises before dawn to discipline his body by running, biking, lifting, then spending time in the Word and prayer, laboring over the scriptures and praying for us and so many others. He leads with humility. He gives himself selflessly, over and over and over, in order to free me up to pursue what God’s called me to do. He loves others faithfully. He serves our family tirelessly. He lives frugally, often going without. He thinks of others before himself. He never demands his own way. He’s eternally patient with my ups and downs. He constantly invests in our kids.

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And all he wants for his birthday is a whole bunch of contributions to World Vision for water projects in South Sudan. So, would you consider blessing him (me!) by doing just that? It’s easy peasy, click here and follow the instructions. Oh and you can read more about this adventure here. I think it’ll be worth your time. http://www.renewjeff.com/loneliman-38pt3-preview/

Thank you for helping me celebrate my man, and praise God for His good work in his life. Happy weekend. Thanks for reading. 

Look both ways before crossing the year

I finished writing the little devotional on fear and sent it to Jeff.

“Great,” He replied. “Let’s each write up some discussion questions to go with it.” Super.  I scratched out some thoughts, but before I clicked send his own set of questions popped up in my inbox. His questions were these:

1. Can you think of a time this past year when you were afraid? How did you respond and how did it turn out?

2. How can you see ways that God is delivered you from fear? What is one area where you used to be afraid and now are not?

Fair enough, right? However, my questions were these:

1. What unknown in the future is making you afraid of right now? Is there anything looming ahead that’s causing you anxiety?

2. How can you take that thing and go to God in prayer? What would it look like, practically, to trust Him with your future in this area?

See the difference? So small, yet so profound.

My man is a past-oriented person. I, a future-oriented.

He actually pointed this out to me several months ago. I narrowed my eyes and listened, skeptical. Now I see it everywhere; we’re really ridiculous creatures.

  • He loves to hold onto things. He keeps old clothes, pictures, books. For him they hold memories of the past.
  • I’m a ruthless purger. Haven’t worn it in a year? How about 6-weeks? Close enough. Toss it out. Kids haven’t played with it? Toss it out. Keep moving forward. Make room for new things we’ll inevitably get in the future.
  • He takes pictures. Remember the past.
  • I rarely take pictures.  Keep moving forward!
  • He never finishes the carton/bottle/box/bag/plate. Leave a little bit in there and keep it in the fridge/cupboard.
  • I drink/eat whatever little bit is left just so I can toss out the container and move on!
  • Jeff keeps receipts for decades.
  • I throw them away as soon as I get home.
  • Jeff loves studying history.
  • I love studying things that motivate me toward a better tomorrow.
  • The kicker? I have a dry-erase calendar on my fridge. I realized that I would erase every single day as soon as it was over, and would start over writing the next month in the blank spaces, so that at all times the calendar was all future dates. No record of what I’d done. Only un-lived days.
  • He doesn’t have a dry-erase calendar because he’d never erase it. 🙂

Do you see? We really are all wired a little differently. Neither is better, but certainly very different. Thankfully, we’re learning from each other. Jeff is learning to throw away the ratty gym shorts and I’m learning to reflect, look back and bit and learn from yesterday before moving onto tomorrow.

And that’s what we need as we cross into 2016. 

Some of us, perhaps, are prone to gaze intently at the future. We’re ready, excited, climbed on board and racing toward another new year. Some of us, on the other hand, want to ride backwards on the train. can we just look behind and remember all the good. Reflect. Review?

We need both. So as we cross the year, perhaps we’d be blessed by setting aside some time for looking both ways? I’m looking forward to doing this tomorrow (haha! I even write with future-oriented language!), with Jeff, as we drive to Corvallis for the day. We’ll be asking ourselves these:

  • What was your greatest victory this past year?
  • What surprised you about the direction of your life this past year?
  • What was harder than you thought it’d be?
  • What was way better than you’d ever imagined?
  • In what way have you changed from January 2015 to December 2015?
and…
  • What are you hoping to see God do in you this year?
  • If you could choose one thing to change about yourself or your habits this year what would it be? 
  • What fruit of the Spirit will you focus on this year?
  • What spiritual discipline (prayer, reading Word, fasting, fellowship, service) would you like to grow in this year?
  • What current relationship would you like to invest in this year?

Just a few ideas to get started. Are you more past-oriented or future oriented in your thinking? I’m curious … Enjoy looking both ways as you cross into 2016, and I pray for God-inspired and God-initiated ideas, dreams, and reflections.

{Thanks for reading.}

*Originally from 2011

 

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A Weekend to Remember

It already felt like trudging through invisible mud, just to get there.

Last fall I’d sat with a long-time friend, and was surprised when she mentioned it: A Weekend to Remember? It sounded like more mushy marriage motivational mumbo jumbo. Was she really recommending a canned commercialized Christian couples’ retreat? Why yes, she was. Quite enthusiastically, in fact.

And, she added, it’s free for pastors. (She knows the secret word to pique my interest!)

I made a note to self. I even checked our calendar to see about the next available conference, but alas–I had a retreat already scheduled that weekend. Oh well.

But a few months later, that retreat was mysteriously cancelled. Hmm… I now had one free weekend between January and Memorial Day and it happened to be the weekend of the conference.

Jeff signed us up. Nana was more than willing to do kid duty, and our dear church fam covered all the bases to free us up to go.

Now, to GET there

I got sick the week before. Sweet. Nothing like a sneezy-snotty-sleepless start to our special weekend away. Hey baby, wanna come blow my nose?

*sigh*

And on the drive over, JUST as I’m reflecting on how hard marriage is and how it’s the hardest thing in the world just to get away to even WORK on your marriage (let alone how hard you have to work once you get there), and I’m gazing out at the mountains, looking for hope in the grandeur of God’s creation, this lovely billboard blocks my view:

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And I just want to cry. Really? When love is already so hard, do we need BILLBOARDS coaxing us to quit? Really? When was the last time you saw a sign that read: “Quit working out! Quit exercising! Just quit! Quit dreaming! Quit trying! Don’t go after your dreams! Don’t work hard! Just quit!” Of course not.

We’re never encouraged to give up on ourselves, only on each other

Finally we got the kids settled at Nana’s and I realized I’d forgotten a swimsuit. (The place we were staying had a pool/spa.) No problem, Jeff says, we’ll just go get you one. Now, we’d left early in the morn so I figured I’d just wear sweats for the long drive to Bend and then shower and get cute when we arrived (Read: I’m a greasy-haired, sweats-wearing, no-makeup, nose-blowing mess).

I figure Old Navy was the cheapest option so we swing by.

Now, what could be BETTER than trying on a dozen teeny-bopper bikinis apparently made for MANNEQUINS, in the middle of WINTER under the most horrific fluorescent lights?? Each one is worse than the last.  It’s like a bad joke. There must be cameras hidden somewhere.

I’m a hot mess by the end and I want to take all the blasted bundle of lycra and shake it in the face of the fitting room attendant, “Who WEARS this stuff?! Certainly not WOMEN, who have GIVEN BIRTH to children, who have LIVED more than 15 years of life?”  I come out spitting mad and swear to Jeff that the gravitational pull on our planet must be WAY stronger now than it was ten years ago. There’s no other explanation for how far south everything has drifted.

ANYWAY.

You can see I was in rare form by the time we arrived at the conference. Weekend to Remember? That’s for sure! I sent a venting text to my best friend and she managed to help me laugh my way back to sanity and I was even smiling by the time we sat down for the first session. We made it!

The first session topic? There are thousands of threats to our marriages. Constantly. There are forces at work against us that we have no idea about. We looked at the 5 main threats and it was eye-opening to say the least. I saw threats at work from the inside and from the outside. It was just scary enough to be fabulous. Nothing has impacted our marriage, for good, as much as this weekend away. And while I won’t give away all the fabulous content of Family Life’s Weekend to Remember, I would say RUN, don’t walk, and sign up for whatever one they offer next. [NOV 20-22 in Portland, OR here!]  It’s life-changing, marriage-changing. Your marriage is worth every cent, every effort, every ridiculous obstacle you meet along the way.

But save yourself some grief: don’t forget to pack your swimsuit.

Thanks for reading.

*From March 2014, but CLICK HERE FOR A CURRENT SCHEDULE

 

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Freedom from the toxic comparison game

“I just find the greatest joy and freedom when I hold up my life and compare it to someone else’s.”

“It helped me feel content in my heart when I started really focusing on the faults of others and how I measure up.”

“I became a great mom by comparing my children with other kids around us.”

“I find such peace when I keep my eyes on the victories and failures of those around me.”

“When I’m discouraged I find the best long-lasting remedy is imagining the ways that others are probably not measuring up either.”

SAID NO ONE EVER.

Right?

This past weekend I had the joy of gathering with women to learn about ONENESS, about Christlike unity in our relationships that provides a powerful witness to the love of God.

And hearing the comments, the feedback, the stories, I’ve just been floored all over again by how much toxic comparison we women willingly do on a regular basis.

It’s never helpful.

Let’s look for a moment at what is helpful:

Learning from others.

For example, I always enjoy posts that Jamie Martin shares on Simple Homeschool. Although I have never met her in person, I love Jamie. She’s been an informal friend and mentor over the years, and I know I can ask her advice. She puts her family first. She earnestly wants to help me and other moms. She’s spoken truth to me on more than one occasion when I really needed her perspective. Now, when I read through her posts, I’m inspired. I jot down ideas. I love her recommendations. I decide to try a few of her suggestions.

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I’m not beating myself up because her kids do way more chores than mine. I’m not discouraged because she has 5 acres and I have a city lot. I’m not puffed up by the fact that I wake up earlier than she does. The same is true of friends in person. I’m constantly learning from my lifelong friend Janae.  I’ve followed her example in many things. 

This is healthy!

Jesus Himself said to follow His example. Paul said to follow His example. The reason we have stories of godly men and women in Scripture is so that we can learn from their example. And that, of necessity, must include some form of healthy comparison. Right?

So how to do we engage in helpful comparison (learning from others) without the toxic game of competition?

Remove pride.

Healthy, helpful, godly comparison becomes toxic, debilitating competition when you insert the element of pride.

Without pride, comparisons are just data. They are the study of life in order to gain wisdom.  They are objective ways of determining the wisest course of action at any given time.

The difference between a learner and a competitor is humility.

One is trying to grow, the other is trying to win.

CS Lewis says this:

Pride is essentially competitive – is competitive by its very nature … Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man … Once the element of competition has gone, pride has gone.

When we are discouraged, what we need most is not the assurance that everyone else is discouraged too. We need humility. We need Jesus.We need to surround ourselves with those who will help us turn our eyes to Jesus, learn from godly examples, and set the wisest course for the future.

The secret to freedom from the toxic comparison game: Humility.

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit,

but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Phil. 2:3

{Thanks for reading.}

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From Bad Math to True Worth

 

So, I about lost my mind this week, and that was just from doing math. I homeschool my kids and this week, math had me at my wit’s end. Not calculous or trigonometry. Simple sums. And while I love math and I love my son, but there are days that the combination is highly flammable and everything goes grease-fire and math gets bad.

I have noticed this so often in my own life too. There are some days I get this bad math stuck in my mind and things can go downhill so quickly. And the thing is, this bad math isn’t just the root of our moodiness, or our discouragement, it can actually sabotage our efforts to know and love and follow Jesus Christ. Everything’s related.

Here’s what I mean:

Types of bad math:

My child’s behavior +

The Pinterest-worthy status of my home +

How successful my husband is +

My number of FB friends (or how many people liked the last thing I posted) +

My weight +

Our income =

My worth as a woman.

Clearly, this is bad math. Toxic math. But then, what is our worth? And who gets to decide it?  What exactly is the equation that helps us determine our worth as women?

Proverbs 31:10 says, An excellent wife, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels.

An “excellent” wife is worth a lot. How do we achieve that? What is “excellent”?

In some ways, I feel like that is the lifelong journey of every woman–to discover the answer to this question. To discover the equation, the sums, that will add up to measure her worth, to deem her worthy.

Now, we live in a world that’s constantly offering us equations.  And so we end up making mental evaluations like that all the time. We live in a world that thrives on that sort of evaluation, right?

Basically every single person on the planet with a pulse has a FB account now. You know how Facebook was created, right? It began as a computer program in Oct. 2003, whichused photos compiled from the online facebooks of nine college houses, placing two photos of females next to each other at a time and asking users to choose the ‘hotter.‘”

The entire premise of the site, was to evaluate and RATE the beauty of assorted college girls.

To vote on their worth.

No wonder FB can make me feel so worthless.

Because even though it has changed and grown, the root of it is still the same–I’m going to put myself out there for the world, and they will vote on my worth. However many friends, however many likes, however many shares, however many people notice me or love me or laugh at me or approve of me–there’s my worth.

It’s toxic. Now, I get it, we have to live in this world, right? I have a FB account too–I’m not trying to demonize social media, but we must be WISE and understand we live in a world that is not our friend. We are surrounded by CONSTANT evaluation seeking to tell us our worth. But you know what?

But they all use bad math.

They ALL use bad math.

They all use some variation of the equation I mentioned earlier: My looks, children’s behavior, income, husband’s success, we add it all up to be the sum total of our worth. 

And it’s toxic, debilitating, soul-killing math.

All these equations can be reduced down to this: Performance = Worth

Such Bad Math. So what is our true worth? How do we figure it?

It goes like this:

Created by God +

Chosen by God +

Loved by God =

Infinite worth

An excellent wife is one who knows who she is and whose she is. She isn’t wasting time working out ridiculous sums that shrink her soul down to a figure. She’s busy about worthwhile work because she knows she’s already loved.

She’s working from her identity not for her identity. 

This is also why we fight for the rights of unborn children, because they have worth even before they achieve anything. Before we know what they look like, how smart they’ll be, or what their earning-potential will be, we esteem them as having infinite worth because they were created, chosen, and loved by God.

Just like you. 

No matter where you are on performance hamster-wheel, whether you’ve already stepped off it or are still sweating and struggling on it, may you have a fresh revelation today of your infinite worth simply because you are created, chosen, and loved by God. 

{Have a blessed weekend, beloved ones! Thanks for reading.}

Morning Light

Create a Crisis for a Change

“Is it okay that I read your wife’s blog? Her writing challenges me every time I read.”
—recent comment from a man friend

Kari’s husband Jeff here. She’s off at another commitment and under my watch right now our kids are scurrying from the yard to driveway pretending to be a peregrine falcon and Thompson’s gazelle, respectively, so we’re safe to write for a few minutes. Until a playful predator comes. That would be a crisis to their uninterrupted play time.

That’s what I want to talk with you about: crisis. Crises in fact. Lots and lots of mini-crises, created from our own hands.

A crisis is when you need God to come through, because otherwise you’ll fail. You don’t have what it takes, so you take what He alone can give.

Of course, we cannot create anything ourselves, but all of our creative powers — our creativity — is on loan from the Creator, borrowed to be used well. Whether we steward these powers for good or spend them foolishly on self, we better know what kind of power we’re dealing with. Too many people use their supposed “power” to play it safe, seek comfort, take no risks. That’s some kind of tragedy. (Others create all sorts of drama for themselves and every moment seems like a crisis. That’s sad but not in view here.)

Humanity has been made in God’s image. We may not look like Him in outward appearance, or take a representative form too often, but our essence, our createdness, is in the similitude of God. Makes sense, since He’s our Father.

God has created us for crisis. We were made to shine brightly in dark situations. Yet a person will only know if he or she is ready to trust Him in the inevitable big, unplanned crisis, if they’ve first learned by experience to trust Him with many mini-crises.

That is one secret to Jesus’ life. He is the definition of true humanity, coming to recreate what has been broken lost in us. Yet He did not do it by Himself. Jesus the Son depended moment by moment on the love, approval, and power of God the Father. He imaged the Father well. Perfectly, in all manner of crises. Never hurried, ever-present, calm and collected to unleash the power of God on the situation of Their choosing.

~~~

I hope soon Kari can tell you about the many mini-crises she encounters each week, and as you can consider yours, each one can find perspective to keep on creating these crises and growing as people. It is because of her steadfastness in the face of these crises, forged in fact by each crisis itself, that each us gets to read on the Sacred Mundane. That’s why many men I know read her blog. There’s meat here, substance more than mere style. Using the mundane moments of each life, what seems at first so unspiritual, she makes connections to the Gospel. Every man, woman and child can benefit from that. Kari makes public many private details, though each is processed in prayer and with her husband (me), and together we sense the Spirit’s leading for her to share. Frankly, it would be easier to not share anything personal. Just “write about God,” but while the words would be true, they would not be real.

Realness is where the crises happen. Realness is what we’re after.

There is a gap for each of us between the ideal and real, between what we say we believe and how we really live it out.

Most men I know … scratch that: every man I know likes to do things he feels confidence about it. Some only do the things they feel confident about. It’s why some don’t search for a better job, and why others like to fish. Confidence makes one work on their own car, and for the same reason others take it to the dealer to get serviced. Confidence. One can have the appearance of confidence with mere talk, yet to truly reveal one’s confidence, a crisis has to do it’s work.

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When He’s taking FOREVER to show up…

I shifted positions on the sand, looking over my shoulder again. Where was he?

The tops of my thighs were definitely red--that sad white space above the shorts-line exposed in early summer when we bravely (and a bit reluctantly) don bathing suits. I tried to hold my small paperback strategically to block the sun, glancing back again. Where WAS he? 

We were having a fabulous anniversary weekend. The book Touching Godliness had deeply stirred my heart, and I knew the word submit was to be my banner for the next season of life. But, I’d asked God, Submit to what? 

In a half-second He spoke to my heart:

  • Submit to embracing the role of wife and homeschooling mama.
  • Submit to serving the people right in front of you.
  • Submit to obedience in the small, silent stuff, where no one sees but God.
  • Submit to joyfully serve, honor, and respect Jeff, believing the best about him above all other human relationships.

Oh, that’s all? (ha!) Ok, ok, I get it. I’m taking notes.

And of course, every lecture needs a lab. God’s sanctification school is no different. So I figured this weekend was a good place to start practicing.

So, we were lounging on the sandy beach beside the Deschutes River. It was hot. Really, really hot. Dozens of people were walking by with inner-tubes, putting in to float down the river to the Old Mill district. We thought it’d be fun to do the same, and Jeff knew his mom (in whose house we were staying) had tubes. So he, seeking to bless and serve me, said that he would take all our stuff to the car, leave me to relax on my towel, and he’d drive to her house, grab the tubes, then come back so we could float down river.

Perfect.  Even though he’d already run a half-marathon that morning he was still willing to run the errand so I could relax. Good man. So I handed him everything, including my phone.

It was 12:30pm, and she just lived a few miles away so it would be a quick trip.

“If I’m not back in an hour then I’m in wreck somewhere,” he jokingly added as he walked away.

I settled in on my towel, happy to relax. I wasn’t sure how much time went by but it seemed he was gone quite a while. I swam in the river to cool off. Then sat back down, glancing back periodically to see when he’d arrive.

People came. People went. No Jeff. I heard someone say it was 1:30pm as they packed their kids up to go home.

People came. People went. No Jeff. I heard someone hollar, “Hey, it’s 2pm, let’s get home!”

That’s when my thighs started getting red.  I shifted on my towel. Adjusted my book to shade different body parts on rotation, pulling corners of the small towel up and around my legs. The family next to me called to their kids, “It’s 2:30, we better get going.”

No Jeff.

I laid down and closed my eyes. Where WAS he? 

All of us wives are prone to react in different ways:

::Some assume catastophe: “He must be dead!”

::Some assume irresponsibility: “What is that idiot doing now?” 

::But some believe the best: “I bet whatever has happened, he must be doing something awesome on my behalf.”

By the grace of God, on this particular day, I believed the best. Though I couldn’t figure out what on earth would take him so long (and didn’t hear any sirens so I wasn’t concerned about safety), I figured something worthwhile was happening, and asked God to protect me from skin cancer.

So I sat and waited. And waited. And waited. And kept glancing back over my shoulder, looking for a glimpse of inner tubes.

And then, to my everlasting surprise, as I sat gazing out at the river, my eye caught something strange:

What? There’s a man kayaking UPstream, towing a paddleboard behind him!  I squinted and looked longer …

It was JEFF!

I stood up, and I must say, it was kind of “scene-from-a-movie-ish.” He was dripping sweat towing this paddle board upstream and I jumped off the beach and ran into the water.

I yelled, “What are you DOING?!” (But I was smiling when I said it.) He told me the story. He thought he’d surprise me with an awesome adventure–bringing a kayak and a paddleboard so we could each paddle our way up and down the river together. He loaded both huge items by himself, but when he arrived back at the beach, there were no parking spaces, and he couldn’t get close enough to leave the car and alert me. So he had to drive all the way to the end of the river run, downstream, haul both the kayak and the paddleboard himself, tie them together, and paddle all the way upstream hauling the paddleboard, in order to rescue me from the beach.

He finished his story, breathless, and handed me a water bottle, “And I made you a limeade slushy to drink.”

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I slurped the icy goodness and shook my head, smiling. “You’re amazing. Thank you so much.”

We pushed off from the shore, and paddled up and down the river in the slanting afternoon sun. In the quiet float downstream, I leaned back, reflecting:

When God is taking a long time to “show up” in my life, how do I respond?

::Do I assume catastrophe? God must not here! He must not be real! He must not love me! Everything must be falling apart!

::Do I assume irresponsibility? God must not know what He’s doing. I better take care of things. How dare He treat me like this? Poor me, having to wait all this time while God goofs off.

::Or do I believe best? I have no idea what’s taking so long, but I know the character of my God. I know His Word. And I know that whatever is going on, He must doing something awesome on my behalf.

With tears welling up in my eyes, I looked up into the blue sky, “Lord, when You’re taking forever to show up, help me to believe the best.”

{God loves you and is working up a crazy sweat doing awesome things on your behalf. Thank you for reading!}

*Originally published July 2013