There is Hope to Conquer Your Mountain

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today’s post is by Jennifer Kindle

Whispers behind the closed door proved the mess I thought I was in.  My husband’s words are always full of wisdom.  I’m not always thankful for his wise words in the moment but gratefulness does come once I’ve settled.  Deb’s recent post on the beauty of marriage bubbled up in my heart a new love and appreciate for my own sweet, gentle man.

I held back tears and poured out my heart, but only in pieces, not the whole.  The stubborn part of me didn’t want to throw my bare heart out in the open, the selfish part of me wanted to feel sorry for myself and find fault in everyone else, the wise  part of me knew I just needed sweet fellowship with Jesus, but prideful me wouldn’t run into his arms. My flesh is rather ridiculous and I love that my husband trusts the Lord in my life enough to say just a handful of words, offer a gentle kiss, leave me hanging with them, and walk away.

In my pity party about life, people, relationships, to-do lists, overwhelming feelings, mountains too high to climb, impossible obstacles, even simple feats, I finally surrendered to the gentle nudging of Jesus saying, “Come to me, I will give you rest.”  What he gave me was the same thing he had already taught me before.  Why had I forgotten?  What derailed my focus?  Like Peter walking on the water, I took my eyes off of Jesus and gazed instead at the raging storms that encompassed me.

Apparently I’m a slow learner and need to be taught time and time again. I’m still in training, wise instruction is continually needed, so I will remember to make righteous choices, choices that honor my Lord.

I’m so thankful that he has kept nothing from me in this ridiculous moment of falling apart.  I was able to run into his arms, hear his comforting words, be renewed in the hope of his promises and fall asleep in peace, waking to his mercies that are new for me every morning. The thing is, I am victorious when Christ lives through me.  I am a conqueror of great feats when the Lord is my guide.  I can accomplish the impossible when I simply ask the Lord to show me the path.  He is so faithful to say, “Here is the path, now walk in it.” 

The Lord is the strength of his people, he is the saving refuge of his anointed.

The impossible has a different name day to day.  We all have diverse mountains to climb.  We may stand feeling helpless at the bottom looking up at our to-do list, our mounds of laundry, full calendars, books calling to be read, character to be instilled, finances to be managed, relationships to be healed or …..insert your own mountain.

Take courage today.  

One day at a time.

One action at a time.

One obedience at a time.

In my own family we say, “How do you eat an elephant?”  Of course, one bite at a time. Life can pile on and overwhelm us so.  Tomorrow always seems to creep in to today’s thoughts when they have no place there.  The Lord provided for the Israelites with manna, which lasted only for the day.  Believers have everything they need for life AND godliness.  I play these words in my mind and the Lord has to gently scrape off the rough spots on that bare heart of mine I don’t like out in the open. He reminds me that my job description as a Jesus follower is just that…….follow Jesus.

“Okay, Lord.  Where you go, I’ll go, lead me, I will follow.  Where?”

Follow me.

“But where, Lord?  What do you want me to do about this and that and tomorrow and next week, next year, on and on and on.  I’m willing to be obedient but to what?”  I must exhaust him, really.

Follow me.  Follow me in this moment.  Follow me today.  Wait to hear me before you speak.  Ask me before you act.  Hear me before committing to that activity.  Sit with me so I can show you how to pray.  Be obedient moment by moment.  Do not worry about tomorrow, I’ll guide you anew tomorrow.  Worry about following me today. 

The Lord comforted me in my desperate need to hear his voice and the following morning I purposed my day to follow him.  I don’t have any new clarity on the things that overwhelmed my heart yesterday but I trust that they aren’t my concerns.  He wants me to follow him today and how can I keep my eyes on him if I’m gazing at tomorrow or future anxieties?  Once again, like Peter, I will sink.

We shouldn’t survive, we should thrive.  The abundant life he desires for us to have is available when we follow him.  Simply and wholeheartedly, just today, follow him. I can very easily get caught up in my plans and ministry opportunities and school schedules and every single time I do, I feel my eyes gazing and my feet sinking.  When I purpose to hear God’s voice and ask him to show me the way, he gives me his vision, his creativity and his strength to walk in the path he puts before us that day.

I can still dream big because as I’m following him, he puts his dreams on my heart.  I can still make plans because as I’m following him, he puts ideas into my heart. The difference is that I offer them all back to him.  Take my dreams, Lord, and bring them to fruition but show me how to follow you today so you can get me there.  Take this creative idea and plan Lord, that I trust is straight from your heart, and work out the details for me because I can’t take my eyes off of you and work on that.  Here is my yes Lord, I will do that when you say to do it but until you bring it in front of me to act upon it, I will wait and keep following you today.  I will follow today.  I will choose righteousness today.  I will obey today.

Will you obey today?

photo credit

When We Face The Battle of Comforts

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By Katy Rose

As our class sings, “Head, shoulders, knees and toes!” my eyes go to the tiny toes poking through threadbare socks. My little friend isn’t without shoes because she is a stubborn three year old; she just doesn’t have any.

I mistakenly call a boy “she” for over an hour because his tattered, mislead by his pink floral clothing. But the lack of boyish clothes is the least of his mother’s concerns when they’ve spent years fleeing genocide and persecution.

It was his mom, in fact, who communicated in broken English that they had lived “like pigs” in the refugee camps, herded around in deplorable conditions. That was her reality for nearly 20 years.

I see bleak hints from their past everywhere: the young legless mother sitting in a wheelchair with a baby on her lap, the men with missing limbs and eyes.

I’m not on a trip to a third-world country. It’s just another day at our preschool.

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It all started a few months ago. Word began to spread of refugee families in desperate need in our city.

Though safely distanced from the genocide of their homeland and the squalor of the camps, these people faced a new onslaught of severe obstacles. Groups were rallying to help, searching for ways to provide comfort. Recognizing a few acute needs, a couple of ladies formed ESL and business classes.

My season of life doesn’t afford free mornings alone to go teach classes and minister to women. My little ones are with me full time – my primary “ministry” – so if we are going to serve outside the home during the week, we’re going to do it together. That’s not everyone’s story or season, but it happens to be mine currently, and I’m grateful for that.

The aching need in front of me called out with a haunting question: “How will you respond?”

The answer rested in the children. The student-refugees attending the classes were also mothers, and they had children running around a bit chaotically while they tried to absorb lessons on acquiring a new language and starting a small business. That circumstance understandably complicated their already herculean task.

To take the little ones aside for their own class could be an immense gift to their mothers.

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For a moment I was daunted by the thought of taking on childcare. I didn’t necessarily feel qualified and it would require organization and commitment. But then this came… My strength is made perfect in your weakness.

Ah, yes. Of course. But is it safe for my children? What about sickness, or lice? And we’ll miss naptime and it’s a long drive and a lot of gas money and I don’t know how all these details will fall into place.

But then… Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

Was my scripture study on “Trust” last year without reason? Doesn’t every great story in the Bible begin when God urges his people to step into the daunting, the seemingly impossible, and lean into his comfort – the true kind of comfort that’s not man made?

Don’t we often face the Battle of Comforts? We forfeit the profound life-changing experience of witnessing God’s provision through us, and to us, when we are focused on pursuing our own worldly comfort.

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So what began with a long, nervous drive to our first visit, which felt a little crazy, has transformed into a natural rhythm of our days and weeks. It’s now just “preschool,” and of course my boys simply see the children in our class as friends, as it should be.

We sing and dance around the room with instruments. We read books aloud, color, write our alphabet, and paint. Snack time is always a highlight. And there are lots of hugs.

Our family is learning more with each visit. I’m floored with gratitude for the opportunity to meet some small but immediate needs in the hurting world, while at the same time nurturing and teaching my own sons in the process.

God is using these refugees to display his breathtaking love to me. I don’t know why I’m so taken by joy on the cold floor singing silly song with kids.  I can’t explain why I tear up almost every time I talk about them. I’m desperate for more ways to help, because when it’s our friends who are “the poor,” we don’t mind getting our hands dirty, do we?

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Meeting needs will look different for all of us. For some it must be done within the walls of the home, where often the most sacrificial living takes place. For others it will be at the office. For a friend of mine, it’s the hospital where her daughter is undergoing chemo and she interacts with anxious parents daily.  And another friend and her family have devoted years to troubled youth in the inner city.

But the common chord we can all cling to is this: The Comforter is on the move, for our joy, and for the good of others.

The Father of mercies comforts us, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction.

But to receive that life-changing comfort often means stepping into the uncomfortable. And that’s where I’m prone to pull up short.

When we respond to Jesus’ call act mercifully, it brings with it a beautiful symbiosis. The Spirit, our comforter, allows us to exchange our fleeting, self-made comforts of safety and savings for the profoundly life-changing comfort of resting in the sovereign care of our God. And in so doing, we actually get the privilege of sharing that same comfort with those we serve.

May God give us the vision and courage to make that trade when presented with the opportunity.

When Motherhood Includes Grief

 

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Motherhood.  The word conjures up a host of emotions and experiences that we long for and dream of for years.

Planning.  Expectations.  Anticipation.  Celebration.  Embracing.

Millions of women have experienced the miracle of motherhood.  The transition from a woman with a whole heart into a woman with a capacity to have her heart live both inside and outside of her body is a beautiful and miraculous process.

A woman’s heart is never again whole once she has children.  For each of her children carry a piece of her heart with them through life.  Our capacity for love grows with each new child.  We may think our hearts are full to capacity and yet with each new baby emotions shift and unexplainable reserves of love make their way into our hearts.

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Yet, because we live in a broken world suspended between the perfection of the Garden of Eden and Heaven, we understand that life is not always carefree.  Sometimes, life brings events that shake our foundation for a season.

Infertility.  Miscarriage.  Stillborn.  Pre-maturity.  Death.

Harsh, ugly words that no one wants to say much less experience as part of their journey in life.

Yet…too many of us do have one or more of those words as part of our life’s resume.  Known as grief, there is a process that we go through when our hearts are disappointed and we lose people or dreams that we had loved and held onto in our souls.

And when babies we carried beneath our breasts, those who lived and breathed and whose heart beat to its’ own cadence closer to ours than any other human being will ever be, leave us…part of our heart goes to Heaven with them and never resides again here on earth.

  • When we miscarry, hormones rage.  Ovaries and uterus contract and try to find their rhythm again leaving us with emotions that are often hard to control.
  • When death comes to a child, the word sorrow takes on a depth of unexplainable meaning.
  • When we long for a child and fertility alludes us, empty wombs and arms seem to betray our femininity.
  • Grief includes waves of sadness that suffocate us making breathing seem a difficult chore.
  • In our valley, words spoken by well-meaning and good intentioned friends seem shallow.
  • Maybe most painful of all is that human comfort is lost for a season.

But then…God

The One who created life and orders our steps, reaches through the clouds of grief and reminds us that He alone understands our pain and offers comfort that carries us through the storm.  Slowly, often painfully slowly, He shows us grace and strength and the only true comfort that exists that can penetrate the human soul.

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When healing begins, and it will, the next season is to find a way to remember and celebrate the life we embraced even if just in our dreams and in our womb for a few days or weeks.  The danger with grief is that it is so easy to get stuck somewhere in the process instead of moving through each phase toward healing.  We can get stuck in the stage of denial, anger, etc.  It will be that one season of life that becomes so commonly focused on that it emerges as that for which we are remembered if we are not careful.

All of those harsh, ugly words that we fear most about motherhood are just a few of the issues that the winds of life have blown my way.  And, while each event rocked me for a season (or more sometimes), no one event is the sum total of who I am.  I don’t want to be defined only as the mom of a premature baby, special needs child, mom of a stillborn son, the lady who lost four babies, or a number of other things.  While all of those statements are true, they are not the only part of the legacy I want to leave behind.  My goal for a legacy is to be remembered as a woman who loved God with all her heart and though she failed so many times, she claimed the grace of God and loved her family and friends with all her heart.

So, if that is my goal, then that must be the thing on which I focus every day.  I am not minimizing grief.  Please know that.  It is real, painful, and a life-altering process.  But it doesn’t have to define us.  Grief doesn’t have to overshadow everything else good and wonderful in our lives.  Oh, it will for a season, for sure, and that is healthy and wise.  Grief is painful, intense, hard, difficult, and sometimes the very act of taking the next breath is physically painful.  I understand that completely.

I also understand that God is bigger than grief.  His mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23) and His grace is abundant and sufficient (II Corinthians 12:9).  But please know that if you feel “stuck” in the grief process, there is help available.  Seek out Godly counsel and ask God to help you move “through” the stages of grief so that your legacy will not be that one traumatic experience.

There are some benefits when motherhood includes grief.  We are given a unique perspective on the true miracle of life.  We can celebrate on a grander stage those who call us mom.  We can embrace a little longer and relish the presence of those children who grace our homes.  And we can reach out to others who are newer to the journey of grief than we are and assure them that even when despair is fresh and pain is great, behind the clouds the sun truly is shining and it will break forth again in their lives.

Motherhood is a celebration.  An amazing gift God has granted the females of the human race.  It is an opportunity to nurture, embrace, train, love, disciple the next generation of human beings.  How blessed we are to be in that group of women who have held motherhood in our hearts and life in our arms.

Photo Credit: Terri King (Timberlake, NC) and Laurie Whitehouse (Lexington, KY)

These Few Sheep

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In the midst of raising little ones, a mother may find herself at odds with the future. Often, dreams and gifts are shelved in preference of little people with constant needs.

Conflict ensues between the privileged nature of motherhood and the long pause in what was a productive, somewhat predictable life.

How does a mother measure success?

Some say life is made up of defining moments. A typical Sunday revealed itself as one of those moments for me. While the speaker expounded on the life of David, I did not expect to be singled out by the Lord. No one around me suspected the arresting that took place that Sunday morning – of my mind, will and emotions – held captive by a thought which transformed into a desire to take the Lord at His word – at home.

Mothers of young children can feel overlooked in the church setting. From the pulpit we hear of mission trips, service opportunities, small groups, worship bands and all sorts of public endeavors. But with a van full of car seats and nap times looming – I was in no place to serve in public. I knew it – but needed affirmation from above.

The speaker described in vivid detail the life of David. Not David the king, but David the shepherd. As the sermon unfolded – time stood still for me. I felt all alone – in a good way – personalizing the story.

David’s brothers mocked him for having such a small job – tending to his ‘few sheep’. They were fighting the big battles, had the upfront positions and represented little brother to the world. David had no voice for public ears. His thoughts were relegated to the mound of sheep off the beaten path of real life and no one expected more of him.

But David sought the Lord in his isolation. He used the years of serving and protecting his ‘few sheep’ as an opportunity to know God. He did have a voice – and an audience of ONE. On the backside of a mountain David learned to pray – not in the, ‘I’m asking for things’ kind of praying but in the, ‘Lord, I want to know your more ‘ fashion. He turned his thoughts into songs (Psalms) which soothed the sheep and brought heaven to earth.

David fought off lions and bears – archenemies poised to steal, kill and destroy his flock. His sheep knew his voice and he knew their limitations.

While David was being faithful in the little – God was training his hands for war and capturing the shepherd’s heart for His own. Culture would eventually be shaped and history rearranged by the actions of this unassuming sheep herder.

I remember the Sunday service, like it was yesterday. I left church with my pile of notes – and mulled over the facts, chewing on the hard truths of God’s ways.

Little becomes much – Up is down – The backside of the mountain is in the presence of the King.

My eyes were opened to the possibilities. What if?

What if I embraced this role of mom/shepherd tending to my ‘few sheep’ with everything I had? What if I learned to know God during these busy, quiet years? What if  I was all right with being misrepresented without a voice?

Fast forward a decade, or two, and this shepherd/mom is in a whole, new place. The little lambs are strapping men and lovely ladies. Some days I long for the season when life was simple, kids were little and God was so near.

I’m  thankful for a church leader who ministered the word of God in a timely fashion – fitly spoken for my hungry heart in need of a defining moment.

Young mom – use these tender days to watch over your little ones. Learn the dynamics of spiritual warfare by protecting them and get to know your God while in the quiet place on the backside of the world.

Psalm 23

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
    he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
    for his name’s sake.
 Even though I walk
    through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
    for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.
 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
 Surely your goodness and love will follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
    forever.

Keeping Sabbath Rest in our Daily Lives

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For a long time in my life, I neglected things that made me happy. Not by choice, but by neglect. My life was all about denying myself and pushing my own needs aside for others. Feeling tired and burnt-out, but still pushing on. I never stopped to think I was unhappy and unhealthy or suppressing who God made me to be. There is nothing in the world wrong with denying yourself, or even pushing your own needs aside for others; This is the life of a mother. This should be the life of a Christian. In fact, it should just be a natural way of life. It is a life that the Lord calls us to.

But the Lord did not give weeds for the work. He has given us many many pleasures along the path, and we should enjoy them for the glory of Him. When we are off-balance–not taking the time to care for ourselves, to do things for ourselves, then we will burn-out. We will die, we will shrivel into martyrdom and perhaps depression.

Think about who God made you to be. Are you starving for a break? Some people need more breaks than others. Our personalities are not all the same. But I do believe God made us ”for His own glory.”  If we, as mothers, are living a life tired, depressed, angry, burnt-out, unhappy, grouchy, guilty, ad nauseum, then are we truly glorifying Him?

It might take some time to refocus; to refocus your purpose in life and embrace joy. It truly is ok to take some time out to do things that make you happy. Stumped on what to do?

 1. Sleep. Make sleep a priority in your life. You are more productive and bring more quality to your work when you are well rested.

2. Schedule a two-minute break 2-3 times a day to spend time alone and just “be”.

3. Schedule time to exercise.

4. Do something “just for you”. This is not selfish, this is restorative. And again, ask yourself who God made you to be. Some people are fine without time alone. Some people need it more than others–(that is me!) I like to find that balance. If my life is full of “must-do’s and busyness, then I get burnt-out easily. I am sensitive that way. Making time to sit and breathe and do nothing is restorative for me.

5. Eliminate energy drainers in your life: energy-sapping relationships, unfinished projects, paperwork, clutter, negative images and information, news, depressing movies and books…

6. Dream. Take time out to dream. It’s healthy and restorative! It forces us to look inside and see what desires the Lord has put in us so we can give them to Him to do what He wills with them.

I pray that if you are struggling with burn out, that you will ultimately find rest in Him.

“God isn’t calling you to be exhausted, He’s calling you to rest.” ~Sally Clarkson

 

artist: Sybil Barham