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When you just aren’t strong enough to bear the load…

It happened Friday night — the unraveling, crumbling, ugly-cry, loudly-sobbing, can’t-talk sort of breaking point that seems to come along once or twice a year. I could kind of see it coming, but couldn’t quite put my finger on it.  I didn’t know anything was wrong, but the littlest thing can send you over the edge when you’ve been teetering on the brink and didn’t know it.

The thing is, I don’t usually sit down and consider how little things affect me, until it all piles up and I’m officially crushed. Besides, there isn’t time. When I was a teenager, busy with sports and school and work, my mom would remark how I was aways healthy until a vacation, then I’d come down with a cold. It was like my body knew to “hang on” through the busy season and then when there was enough space I could go ahead and “let out” all the stress, in the form of a cold.

I find that I’m like that now, emotionally. I will automatically hold it all together, until everything quiets down and there’s enough space, then I’ll go ahead and “get sick” emotionally. This is not a conscious decision, it just happens.

Anyway, it happened. And for awhile I couldn’t talk, I just silently cried, and Jeff waited to patiently, wiping my tears and holding me, and eventually I choked out the words that came from down so deep it felt painful to speak them:

“I’m not … tough enough to be a leader.”

That was it.

I felt like a butterfly trying to carry a brick up into the sky, and no matter how well-intentioned, those wings weren’t meant to carry that weight. 

Then, as I began reflecting back on the small things that had compounded, I realized that SEVENTEEN difficult/challenging situations to navigate or lead through had surfaced in my life in the last two weeks.

Seventeen.

And none of them are bad or catastrophic, but each one weighed on my heart. They caused me to ache, in some way. They took prayer. Several left me at a loss for how to proceed, at least for a time. Some hurt. Some left me confused. Some just took time and energy to determine the best course. Some took weighing how others would react or respond. Some required taking into account many different factors at play. Some required forgiveness. And most of them were things that wouldn’t be appropriate to discuss with anyone else.

So while no one of them was a “big deal” so to speak, they all piled up, and as I crawled under a blanket, in the dark, I cried out all I could think to say,

“God, help me. Please encourage me. Please help me be humble. Please … I feel so alone.”

Alone? It sounds silly to say, right? Certainly if I’m facing seventeen different people-situations, my life is not lonely! 🙂

But loneliness comes from bearing a weight that can’t be shouldered by anyone else.

But then I heard it so clearly, there in the quiet:

“These are My sheep.”

Oh. Yes. There IS someone who can shoulder this burden. In fact, He must. Because HE is the Good Shepherd and He loves people more than I ever could and He is GOOD and and He is for me, and for them, and when I am tired and weary and fragile and weak, He has already promised me this:

Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.…

Wow. When the words of Scripture spring to life and speak to your soul, you are changed.

Suddenly, the hopelessness slipped away. The warped perspective cleared. The fears fled. The anxiety dissolved. Peace flooded in. Rest settled. Hope rose. He held. 

Interestingly enough, one of the things weighing on my heart was writing the material for an upcoming Pastor’s Wives conference. I so desperately want to bring words of hope and life to them. I want to help them thrive. Guess what the verse is for our time together?

“Come to Me, all you who are weary…”

Yes. He’s so good. And so I prayed for God to translate every challenge into wisdom, into more revelation of His love and guidance, to turn every situation into an opportunity to teach the goodness and wonder and wisdom of God, to encourage these precious pastor’s wives, and any others who might just happen to feel weary along the way sometimes too. My seventeen situations weren’t all church-related, they were life related.

I know I’m not unique in this, we all sometimes feel like we’re not strong enough to bear the load. And Jesus invitation reaches to you too.

“Come to Me…”

Thanks for reading. 

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Heidi, full of light.

Oh Heidi, where to even begin? Yesterday you turned eight, and the day was FULL of watching you shine and love and receive and give, and I just sat marveling at how God has grown you into a lovely little lady these past eight years.

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I was reflecting this week on how amazing it is to see prayer answered before my very eyes as I look at you. I went back and found this post from when you turned 2, and I was amazed to see that you have become exactly the things we prayed over your life all those years ago. I prayed that you would be:

  • Calm. This may not seem like the list-topper of an attribute, but a calm woman who keeps far from drama is a blessing indeed.  I pray that you will be able to minister to others, remain hopeful and steadfast in every circumstance.  I pray you will not be easily angered or upset, but steady and calm.  May you bring peace into every environment.

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  • Cheerful & Thankful.  I pray you will be a woman who is thankful for everything (1 Thess 5:18).  I pray that each and every day those in your sphere will find you a cheerful woman. I pray that you will know the secret of contentment, whether in plenty or in need–a thankful heart.  May your countenance always be pleasant, and may you bring joy into every environment.

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  • Modest & Gracious. I cannot lie, my love–you have the most beautiful face I have ever seen. (But I’m biased)  I am afraid that you might be in for a life of compliments.  It scares me.  I pray with every ounce of my being that you will be a modest and gracious woman.  Everything you have is a gift from God, offer it all back up as a sacrifice of praise. God will use all that He has given you for His glory. Remember Whose you are.  Remember Who is the King of Kings and the LORD of Lords. Remember our beautiful Savior. And bow daily at His feet. Remember grace.  Let Your life be all for His glory.

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This week has reminded me, The things we pray over our kids MATTER. Sure, they’ll have their fair share of successes and failures. We don’t pray to keep them from trials or struggles. But we pray to see God work wondrously in their hearts, minds, character, lives, to shape them into godly, kind, humble, wise, brave, beautiful beacons of LIGHT to shine in this dark world.

I’m encouraged all over again — let us not grow weary in praying for our kids. God hears. God answers. So much is at stake in their little lives. Let’s pray! 

Thanks for reading.

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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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MANNA: First Sabbath

As I type these words I’m tucked under this quilt, snuggled up warmly with my Bible and books at my side. My stomach just growled so I ran downstairs and grabbed the already-prepared protein shake I’d mixed up last night. I feel downright giddy, curled up here in my happy place with time to think, pray, read, write.  Glory!

What a gift to have an accidental Sabbath.

Of course it’s no accident to God, He said Sabbath should be a thing. Right? But we don’t make it a thing and so then we have to stumble into Sabbath and go, “Ahh! What a great idea!”

See, today (Saturday), I had all-day plans. They were good plans. Godly plans. But then some things fell through and details changed, and next thing I knew I was needing to make a last-minute decision whether to go away for 11 hours (doing good things!), or to stay home. I sometimes panicked and paralyzed by having to make hurried decisions, so I asked Jeff to pray for me, and as we prayed I turned to my regular Bible-reading spot for the day.

It was Jesus saying, “The Sabbath was made or man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27). 

Ah, that’s right. Sabbath

In that moment, I felt God was giving me the impression that I was free. Just as the disciples were free to eat the heads of grain in the field, I was free to do what was best for the refreshing of my heart and soul.

My choice was clear: I stayed home. 

And now, I found myself facing an accidental Sabbath. See, I had already made-ahead my breakfast and lunch, to take with me. I had already prepared the food ahead for Jeff and the kids for the day. Thinking I’d be gone, I had already tidied the house, caught up on dishes, laundry, etc.

The whole day stretched out before me gloriously blank

Sabbath.

And as I sat down to read, pray, and write, the things that fill and refresh my  heart like nothing else, I was reminded of the MANNA story again, and realized with awe, something I’d never considered before:

Manna was the first Sabbath observation.

While we learn that God rested on the Sabbath in Genesis 3, and it could possibly be that Adam and Eve naturally followed His lead (especially before the fall), there is no Sabbath commandment given, and no mention of humans observing the Sabbath, anywhere in the Scriptures …

… until Manna.

Exodus 16 is the first human observation of Sabbath, and God goes to such great lengths to explain what Sabbath is and how it all works, that clearly they had never known to observe it before.

And how it worked was this: Each day they were to gather that day’s portion. No more, no less. But on the 6th day, they were to gather (and prepare), twice as much. God would miraculously provide exactly twice as much as they needed. Why?

Because on the 7th day, the Sabbath, there would be none

On the Sabbath day, they were not to go out to gather, because there would be no manna (it would be a completely fruitless endeavor, so don’t even try), and they were to rest and eat what had already been prepareby them the day before. So, one day did require a bit extra work, but the next day was sweet, supernatural Sabbath rest.

And of course, again, in classic Israelite fashion, just as some of them had tried to save some overnight and it stank, some folks went out to gather manna on the 7th day, and guess what?

They found none.

Trying to get ahead, trying to gather-up on the Sabbath is fruitless labor. Sure, you can do it, but it’s pointless.

You won’t have any more to show for yourself than if you stayed at home and slept. 😉 

God’s economics.

And, miraculously, even though before when they disobediently saved some overnight it got worms and stank, this time when they obediently left half of it over night, it did not stink and there were no worms.”

God says,

“By the way, my laws trump natural laws. My word wins over what you’ve seen before. No matter what your logical mind tells you about how things work, My way will always stand.”

God’s Word pleads with us: My plans for you are GOOD. My laws lead to LIFE. My restrictions REFRESH your soul. My child, listen to me. 

Granted, we aren’t part of a theocracy today. Religious rules don’t govern our work schedules. No one day is always off-limits for events. Thankfully, Jesus doesn’t seem overly concerned about that. He reminds us that Sabbath was made for man. So if your Sunday looks like mine and it’s the busiest day of the week, perhaps another day might be better for rest. Or if you have six kids in soccer every Saturday, perhaps a worshipful Sunday morning service, followed by a crockpot meal and quiet afternoon nap might be just the ticket to make sure that even Mama gets the holy rest that every soul requires. What a great habit to teach our kids, that ceasing from activity is just as sacred as the greatest social cause or religious work.

It is in the holy rest that we remember, “Ah yes, He is God. We are not.”

So Father, teach us your ways. Grant us the humility to pull away and rest, to require our families to rest, to recognize our limitations, to learn your easy yoke and your light burden and let You be the One who holds the world. 

{Thanks for reading.}