This World is Not My Home…And That Changes Everything

IMG_7707As I wrote recently in my 2015 recap, I did a lot of wrestling over the past year. Much of that wrestling continues as we are one month into 2016. It’s not necessarily a negative thing; wrestling is a necessary part of the Christian life. There was a time when I didn’t really wrestle the way I do now, and I know that I had nowhere near the relationship with Christ or the desire to make my life count for Him that I do now. With growth and sanctification has come more intense internal spiritual battle.

In reading Letters to Pastors’ Wives (which is SO good so far, by the way), I stumbled upon a quote that absolutely hit the nail on the head in articulating one of my biggest struggles. This quote is written of two godly Christian wives from years ago…

“They knew this world was not their home, and this knowledge gave them stability to enjoy good times without needing them and to endure hardship without despair.”

When I read that, my world was rocked. That is precisely where I so want my heart to land. I’m a pendulum, constantly swinging between being so caught up in not holding onto my gifts that then I don’t even enjoy them, to being crippled by fear that I might lose them because I’m idolizing them. But that simple sentence encapsulates the balance that I long to strike: applying the truth that this world is not my home by enjoying the good times, with a precious, healthy family and all my material needs met, while still having a heart that is prepared to see those blessings removed without sinking into despair.

This concept boiled down into one simple sentence hit me in such a profound way that I felt compelled to share it in case anyone out there wrestles with the same issue.

Believing by faith that this world is a fleeting journey taking me toward my eternal home with Christ has massive practical implications for how I live my life. I’m constantly begging the Lord to give me the discipline and vision to set my “mind on the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God” (Col. 3:2).

Because doing so changes everything.

{Mommy Journal} Where’s the Chocolate?

DSC_1763It’s been one of those long stay-at-home mom weeks, as my baby has had a drawn-out flu bug leading to restless nights and fussy days. My “tired” this week pales in comparison to most mothers’ tired, but I struggled with it nonetheless.

In many little moments of feeling emotionally and physically spent, I noticed thoughts like this skip across my head.

I need a few minutes to put my feet up and watch a grown-up show. Chocolate would make everything better right now. I really need a nap. I need a washing machine in my apartment. I need my mom. I need a husband who isn’t buried in homework. I need a break. 

But guess what? I didn’t need any of those things. We’re a little over halfway through Whole30 right now (a restrictive 30 day nutritional reset diet), and if nothing else, it has shown me how quickly when I’m feeling sad or at the end of my rope, I turn to food or something else for the comfort I’m craving, without even thinking about it! I didn’t eat any chocolate this week, and I said no to a lot of other desires as I realized that these small trials are meant to push me not to comfort food, a nap, or a break, but to Jesus Christ Himself. On good days and on bad days, Jesus and Jesus alone is what I need.

I long for my first impulse in the difficult moments not to be “Where’s the chocolate?” but a humble cry to my Savior. When life’s hard circumstances, big or small, have me down, I want to instinctively run to sit at His feet, by meditating on memorized Scripture, singing hymns in my head, or poring over an open Bible.

This week, as I’ve recognized my sinful tendency to skip Jesus and seek joy from material gifts, I have experienced the lasting benefits of instead denying my flesh and “seeking the things above, where Christ is” (Col 3:1b).

It takes surprising discipline to do this–to meditate on the gospel while I’m cleaning a sick little one, or praise God for Who He is when I’m getting up for the 10th time at night–but the reward of real peace and contentment is well worth the struggle to think heavenward.

One specific thought that has encouraged me this week came from a chapter I read from Here is Our God along with Revelation 4-5 a few days ago. I’ll leave you with this quote.

“Let’s never forget that this heavenly scene, with God’s throne at the center, is the center of the universe NOW, with this ongoing worship of our Creator God. There is a throne in heaven now, awesome and sovereign. Don’t doubt it. It’s right there right now as if just through a door. Let’s think of this throne when we wake up tomorrow morning… Let’s never think of our sufferings or our joys–or others’ sufferings and joys–without letting live in our imaginations the picture of this sovereign throne and our awesome holy God and this worship of Him ringing right now at the center of the universe.”

(Kathleen Nielson)

Clarification: Chocolate, washing machines, naps…they are all gifts from God that can be used and enjoyed. This post simply seeks to point out my tendency to start (and often end) with those things, rather than running to God with my troubles. 

 

2015: The Year of Wrestling

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I generally feel sad on New Year’s Eve. It’s a day when I can’t avoid how quickly time is passing by. Every time December 31 rolls around, I can remember the previous one like it was yesterday, and it weirds me out. It’s a day when my nostalgic, sentimental side threatens to overwhelm me with melancholy.

But I also embrace the opportunity to reflect on what God has done in the past year, and to start afresh with renewed energy and passion. This year, I’m especially grateful for the past 365 days.

While last year was certainly one of sweet, unmatched blessings with my precious little family, I am even more grateful for everything God did in my heart.

If I had to pick one word to describe my spiritual journey in 2015, it would be “wrestling”. I wrestled with intense fear like I had never known. I wrestled with assurance of salvation, and it was a hard, draining, fight. I wrestled with finding the balance of enjoying God’s good gifts while recognizing that He could remove them at anytime and that I am not entitled to anything.

I haven’t overcome all these struggles by any means, but I have seen God’s faithfulness to comfort, to speak truth, to hold onto me. He restored my confidence and trust that He has saved me, after some very agonizing months, and I am closer to Him and more thankful for His work on the cross than ever before. He used His Word and many wise believers in my life to teach me how to combat fear and anxiety Biblically, so that although I still struggle with it, I am equipped to conquer it in His strength. He is still teaching me how to enjoy His material blessings without finding my joy and stability in them.

It’s not something you can measure, but it feels like I grew more in my love for God and my understanding of the Christian walk in 2015 than I did in my whole life up to that point. It makes me excited for how He will continue to change and shape me in the years to come. What an awesome, powerful God we serve!

Yes, I wrestled in 2015. It was hard work and at times I was overcome by how far I had to go. But God was right there with me, every step of the way. So really, when I look at 2015, I see God. I see Him overshadowing all my failures and struggles and sin. And I trust Him to stay at my side for whatever 2016 will bring.

Do not fret because of evildoers,
Be not envious toward wrongdoers.
For they will wither quickly like the grass
And fade like the green herb.
Trust in the Lord and do good;
Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness.
Delight yourself in the Lord;
And He will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord,
Trust also in Him, and He will do it.
He will bring forth your righteousness as the light
And your judgment as the noonday.
(Psalm 37:1-6)

{Mommy Journal} Facing My Fear (Pt 2)

DSC_0034It seems a terrible oversight that I did not specifically share any of the Scripture verses that have become precious to me in my recent battle with fear and anxiety. Many of these are becoming treasured old friends and I am beginning to memorize them without effort. It is a wonderful gift to have rich passages of truth hidden in my heart! I have found it amazing how God has spoken directly to my situation through HIs Word whenever I have opened it, so I won’t be able to list even close to all the verses He has blessed me with, but here are just a few.

Matthew 6:25, 27

“For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?…And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?”

John 14:27

“Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.”

1 Peter 1:3-9

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.”

Psalm 46:1-2

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change and though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea.”

Psalm 37:1-3

“Do not fret because of evildoers, be not envious toward wrongdoers. For they will wither quickly like the grass and fade like the green herb. Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness.”

James 1:12

“Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.”

Psalm 61:2

“From the end of the earth I call to You when my heart is faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I.”

Philippians 4:6-7

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Psalm 34:4-8

I sought the LORD, and He answered me, and delivered me from all my fears. They looked to Him and were radiant, and their faces will never be ashamed. This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him and saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear Him, and rescues them. O taste and see that the LORD is good; how blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!

{Mommy Journal} Facing My Fear

11With the exciting new addition of Caleb back in November also came a lot of changes. Obviously, life takes a different turn when you add a little one who is entirely dependent on his parents for everything. But another new experience that I had not anticipated came from within myself. I discovered that I can very quickly fall into a pattern of fear and anxiety.

I am aware, of course, that one’s hormones can be crazy after a baby, so I know that some or much of this struggle could be hormone-related. But regardless, it is something I’ve had to learn how to address biblically.

Suddenly, with a child whom I loved more than breath itself in my care, I was easily given to imagining tragic scenarios involving Caleb’s wellbeing. News of turmoil around the globe could start me physically shaking within moments of considering the possible threats to our family’s safety. I can go from zero to sixty in a matter of seconds if I let my thoughts carry me into a pit of despair. It’s a short trip.

As we often say jokingly about trivial matters, “the struggle is real.” And a struggle, it has been. I’ve had to “respond” to each fearful thought with truth and often, direct Scripture quotes. I’ve had to cry out to my God on a regular basis, desperate for His power to remove my anxiety and replace it with peace. And what is exciting is, He has been faithful to do that as I have established a habit of running to Him and His Word.

For quite some time, I had been asking God to give me a deeper desire for the Bible. I wanted to experience the longing and thirst for it spoken of in the Psalms. If I missed spending time in it one day, I wanted to feel as if I had gone without a meal. I was discouraged with my often lukewarm love for Scripture.

In an unexpected way, God has used my fight with fear to grant that request and rekindle in me a deeper love for the Bible. I find myself truly, passionately yearning for it throughout the day. When I run into something that triggers my fear, I am almost immediately desperate for God’s Word. The verses that I have memorized have become like gold, and I am eager to commit more to memory as I stumble upon nugget after nugget hidden in that precious Book.

Although the newness of this struggle is likely largely postpartum-related, the Holy Spirit has proven more than a match for the thoughts and emotions I have experienced over the past seven months. Hormones may increase my tendency toward anxiety, but the Word of God is powerful enough to subdue my worries and impart peace. It has not been easy, but it has been sanctifying.

Praise God for the sufficiency and relevancy of His Word, His faithfulness to answer when I call, and His unchanging love for me even in my moments of doubting. I serve an incredible Savior.

If this is something you are dealing with, I would love to pray for you and share some of the Scripture passages that have become precious to me during this time. 

{Mommy/Life/Wife Journal} A Few March & April Highlights

I know I’ve been so quiet here on the blog! I hope nobody has jumped to the conclusion that motherhood has swallowed up my life or that I’m fighting with Andrew and don’t have anything happy to share or that I’ve died. ;) None of the above are true. But, life is very busy these days and I’ve purposely allowed blogging to take a back burner. Here are a few quick highlights from the past month or so…

– Caleb is growing and changing so quickly and I can’t get enough of it! He’s had his first few tastes of solids (avocado and applesauce). He’s scooting around now…on the verge of legitimate crawling! I’m thinking I’ll be able to say he’s crawling before his 5 month mark, but we’ll see. I’m trying not to be the stereotypical first-time mom who thinks her child does everything six weeks before he actually does. ;) Trust me, it’s easy to do. My child is amazing. ;)

– Andrew helped me get back on track with regular, substantial quiet times by printing a Bible reading schedule for us to follow together. We still read separately but then it’s great to have been in the same place and discuss it! It’s a Bible-in-a-year plan but it’s chronological. I have two chapters left in Genesis and I’m finished with Job. Exodus is next!

– Spring break has been such a welcome respite from Andrew’s regular class schedule. We had a wonderful visit from two of my brothers and then from two cousins over Easter. Tomorrow, Andrew’s brother rolls into town to finish off the break with us. And in between, Andrew, Caleb, and I have gotten some quality time. I’m very thankful for each one of these precious memories.

– Backing up further, my mom came and stayed with us for five days last month. I ended up sick for most of the trip, and felt terrible that we mostly stayed home all week, but it was a huge blessing to have her help out around the house while I didn’t feel well, and we still got lots of sweet conversations in. We love Caleb’s grandmas! =)

– God was so gracious in helping us to pre-rent the vacancy we had in March, which meant no tours or open houses!!! We have two apartments vacating at the beginning of May. I’d really appreciate prayer that we’d get those filled quickly, as well. Vacancies can be a ton of work and stress, something we’ve yet to try with Caleb here.

– God’s mercies are new every morning. I feel like I’m in a constant battle with fear and anxiety these days, and needing to speak God’s truth to myself 24/7 to keep my heart focused on the right place. It’s crazy how quickly worry can take over, and I’ve got so much more that I can fret over now that I’m a mom. It’s an opportunity to continue growing in trusting the Lord and truly believing that He is sovereign and good in every situation.

– I’ve got a couple of maternity and newborn photo sessions coming up that I’m very excited about, and in the meantime I keep photographing my favorite little guy! =)

I guess that’s all for now…happy April, dear readers! =)

Loving Sacrificially as Jesus Loved Us

loveOn Monday night I shared this simple little devotional at our monthly Bible study Ladies Night. Posting it was easier than writing something new…so here ya go. =) 

Tonight I want to share a few thoughts about one aspect of Biblical love. In John 13:34 Jesus says, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” Since Jesus commands us to love each other just as He loves us, I started thinking about what that looks like. One of the most obvious aspects of His love for us is that it is a sacrificial love.

“But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5)

Jesus loved us so much that He sacrificed more than we could ever imagine for us. He left His home in Heaven, where everything was perfect. There was no sin, no sadness, no broken relationships, no suffering, no misery, no sickness, no hunger and thirst, and no pain. He came to earth and was born into a modest family in a stable. He went from the glory of Heaven, where everyone recognized Him as the King that He is, to growing up surrounded by sinners, most of whom did not know He was God, or refused to believe. He experienced 40 days of hunger and thirst, He fought temptation, and He spent His time ministering to unlovely, sick, disgraced, and poor people. He invested years of love into a man who betrayed Him for money. And finally, He suffered unbelievable physical pain and the emotional torment of separation from His Father, ultimately giving up His very life, all so that we could be reconciled to God and have our sins forgiven. He sacrificed in all these ways so that we could be saved.

“He who was delivered over because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification.” (Rom. 4:25)

In Jesus, we have an example of the kind of love we are called to show to one another.

“By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” (1 Jn 3:16-18)

The world tries to tell us that love is about romance and feelings. Even worse, our culture emphasizes the importance of loving ourselves and seeking our own happiness. Relationships according to the world are about what makes us feel good.

But the kind of love that Jesus calls us to is a sacrificial love that puts others’ needs and interests above our own.

Think about one of the relationships in your life. Perhaps someone hard to love, or someone you interact with regularly like your husband, parent, sibling, roommate, or friend. Take a moment to evaluate your love toward that person. Do you show more or less love to them depending on what they can do for you or how they make you feel? Does your behavior toward them change depending on theirs? Are you characterized by willingly and joyfully making sacrifices for them with no expectation of thanks or acknowledgement in return? Are you motivated to love because of what you will receive back?

I was asking myself these questions about my marriage it hit me that often the “sacrifices” I make for Andrew are done with unspoken stipulations. For example, I will be joyful in my sacrifice provided he acknowledges what I have done. If I do not receive thanks in return, I may pout and wonder why I bothered going out of my way for him. Because my husband is a thankful guy, I do not often have a chance to practice sacrificing for him without acknowledgement, but I think often I just subconsciously expect and feel like I deserve his praise.

1 Corinthians 13:5 says that love “it does not seek its own”.

If I am sacrificing in order to enjoy the praise or thanks of another, or to get some favor in return, or because it makes me look good of feel good about myself, it is not truly sacrificing at all. It is doing something with my best in mind, not that of the other person. That is not the love with which Jesus loves us. 

John Piper writes, “The highest act of love is the giving of the best gift, and, if necessary, at the greatest cost, to the least deserving. That’s what God did. At the loss of His Son’s life to the totally undeserving, God gave the best gift – the display of the glory of Christ who is the image of God.” 

It’s so easy to go through life with an entitlement mindset. It does not come naturally to us to love others sacrificially without thought for our own well being. But this sacrificial love is what we see modeled in our Savior, and it is the kind of love we are to practice.

Ironically, when we unselfishly sacrifice for others with Jesus’ love and in His strength, we are rewarded with the pleasure that comes from obeying and serving God. The satisfaction we might find in receiving praise or acknowledgement from people is fleeting. But there is lasting joy in pleasing the Lord!

This week, meditate on the sacrificial love that Jesus has shown to you. Thank Him for loving you with no consideration of what you could give back to Him, and ask Him to enable you to show that kind of love to the people in your life.

Image taken from fortalezadoguincho.com.