Busyness Business

Before we begin, I need to ask you a question, one that no one has probably ever asked you. How much do you like your toes? Yes, you read that right–there is no typo there. I’m asking you about those nasty little digits attached to your foot. You know, the ones that are beyond gross on like 90% of people? Your toes. Now that we’re clear, let me repeat my question: how much do you like your toes? If you REALLY love your toes and are rather sensitive in temperament, I’m going to tell you straight: you might want to find something else to read. The topic that I feel God has really laid on my heart lately is one that I can guarantee will stomp on several sets of toes. For some of you, I’m likely to step on only one or two toes (you’ll be fine. You have several others…probably.). For some others of you, though, there’s a chance I’m about to step–maybe even painfully–on nine or ten of those suckers. While I certainly don’t ever aim to upset anyone, I trust that what God says in the Bible is Truth. That means that I believe that all the lessons taught to us in the Bible are the ones we should follow, not this pick-and-choose-to-suit-yourself-and-what-you-want mess that we so often do. If you feel sore in the toes (or spirit) after reading this, I highly recommend that you spend some time with God, asking Him why, because I’d be willing to bet there’s something in this that He’d like to discuss with you. And better Him than me, am I right?

If you aren’t familiar with the story of Mary and Martha found in the book of Luke, I highly encourage you to check it out. It’s literally only five verses (Luke 10: 38-42), but there’s so much wisdom and guidance in it, especially for a world like the one we face today. I’ll give you a quick summary, but it’s only five verses to begin with. Come on, people, you can handle that!

While traveling with his disciples, Jesus came upon the village in which Martha and Mary lived. Martha welcomed him and his fellow travelers back to her home for a meal. At her home, Jesus meets Mary, Martha’s sister. While Martha hustles into the kitchen, focused on the task in front of her, Mary chooses to sit at Jesus’s feet in order to focus on Him and His teachings. So to clarify, Martha’s goal was to do; Mary’s goal was to listen and learn. (This is highly important. You’ll want to remember it for later.)

The Bible tells us, though, that things went wrong quickly. Martha, bothered and frustrated and stressed, essentially asks Jesus to scold her sister for choosing to sit instead of helping her in the kitchen. Verse 40 finds Martha approaching Jesus and saying, “Lord, is it nothing to You that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me!” Oh the variety of times I’ve thought this in my life…times when I thought Nathan wasn’t doing as much as I was around here, and I wanted my “greater contribution” recognized. Times that I thought other moms didn’t have kids as needy and high-maintenance as mine, and I wanted someone to recognize just how much work I was doing. Times at work when I thought other teachers were being recognized for hard work but whom I felt had much easier students than I did. And this list could go on and on, I’m sure.

Before we go forward and see Jesus’s reply to Martha’s demand, let’s take a minute to pay careful attention to Martha’s behavior. We know Martha was upset with her sister. We know Martha felt she was left doing all the work while Mary relaxed and enjoyed leisure time with Jesus. But let’s read between the lines for a moment, really look closely at our friend Martha. First, I feel it bears noting that this whole “come over and eat…I’ll cook for you and all your friends” idea was actually Martha’s. The Bible specifically tells us it was Martha who brought Jesus and his disciples into her home. Mary is never even mentioned until after Martha returns home with Jesus. Second, Martha gets upset with her sister for not helping her serve the food to their guests. Anybody been there before? Anybody ever gotten mad at someone for not doing something you never asked them to do, something you just sort felt they should intuitively know you wanted them to do? Hands up, wives! (Why are women so bad about expecting their men to just read their minds??) We’ve all been where Martha is, regardless of gender. We’ve all expected someone to help us without ever being straight-forward about our need. Let’s not stop at this little mini-lesson, however. Let’s look a tiny bit closer.

The true motivation behind Martha’s upset is unclear. Maybe she was very, very set on impressing Jesus (haven’t we all fallen into this trap?) and was distraught at the thought of trying to handle that task without her sister’s help. But maybe it was a true goodness that caused Martha’s upset. She knew about Jesus. She knew He was the Messiah, and I feel pretty safe assuming she was beyond honored to have Him in her house. Maybe, just maybe, the reason she was so upset with Mary was because she was jealous of that time Mary was getting with the Savior while she slaved away in the kitchen. While Martha’s behavior in this story isn’t the kind for us to emulate, I can certainly understand and admire her desire to be so near Jesus and to hear His teachings and His words that she’s irritated by the other demands on her time. So maybe a sincere desire for Jesus, when it’s not accompanied by judgment of or anger and bitterness toward someone else, isn’t such a bad things after all? You mull that one over, and we’ll continue on with our Bible story.

After Martha asks Jesus to scold Mary, we get a chance to see His reply to her. In verse 41 it says, “But the Lord replied to her by saying, Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things.” HOLD THE PHONE!!! I AM MARTHA! You take out Martha’s name and insert mine, and this exact statement of Jesus’s would apply to me and my life more than daily. You are anxious and troubled about many things. Wow. I feel certain that if I could take a poll and ask those of you who feel this description fits your life right this second, all the hands would raise. “Lindsey, Lindsey, you are anxious and troubled about many things.” Yep, no doubt Jesus has spoken exactly this so many times. Look closely at that response from our Lord, at the tender way He says her name twice before getting to the real issue: Martha, Martha. When I picture this exchange I see Martha red-faced, sweating, hair askew from all of her frazzled preparations in the hot kitchen. I see her, hands on hips, standing in front of Jesus with that accusatory index finger aimed straight for her lazy, unhelpful sister. And then I see Jesus. I see Him reach for her, taking her hot, damp hands in His while calmly saying, in an almost whisper, “Martha, Martha.” But Jesus doesn’t stop there, He explains to further help Martha see the error of her ways: “There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her” (vs. 42). The teachings of Jesus: the one thing worth being concerned about. Boy, do I get this one wrong so very often.

I don’t believe that Mary had nothing to do but sit there. I don’t believe that Mary was oblivious that her decision was one that irked her sister. I do believe, however, that Mary chose quality over quantity. I believe that she weighed it all out and determined that no matter what was expected of her socially, her first and foremost priority was Jesus Christ.

(PSA: Hide those toes…here we go!) Y’all, we are messing this up BIG TIME. This busyness business that we all have going has got to stop! We are all Marthas. We are all overstressed and overworked and overscheduled and overdrawn and over it. Why are we constantly doing this? What are we giving up so that we can put our kids in 17 different sports each season WHEN THEY’RE FOUR?! What are we giving up so that we can checklist to our friends and post pictures on social media of all the things we do with our kids throughout the year? What are we giving up when we say yes to every single offer made on our time? I’ll answer these questions for you because they all share the same answer: Jesus. People, we are literally giving up Jesus–the presence of Jesus, the Spirit of Jesus, the peace of Jesus, the Word of Jesus–so that we can put more of NOTHING eternal on our plates. This busyness that we so idolize, these full-to-bursting schedules that have us eating out every night and exhausting ourselves, our kids, and our marriages, these things are NOT the things of Jesus. Being still, listening, resting in the presence of God…these are the things of Jesus. Don’t believe me? Do that thing you never have time to do anymore because you have no free time: read your Bible. You’ll be surprised at what you find in there that instructs us to settle ourselves so that we don’t miss God moving and speaking in our lives. Maybe you can’t give 30 minutes or an hour a day to reading your Bible right now, and you know what, that’s okay. God can speak to you in less time than that. BUT. It’s important that we get really honest about our time and our priorities before determining what we can and can’t do. Isn’t 5 or 10 minutes spent with God far better and infinitely more beneficial to you and your family than those 5 or 10 minutes you spend on social media? (And let’s not pretend you’re only spending 5-10 minutes on social media daily.)

Be a Mary, not a Martha. Don’t give Jesus reason to say your name over and over again, concerned because you are so stressed, so distracted, so distant from Him and such a stranger to His Word. I know I haven’t been a parent for very long, but I can promise you this anyway: nothing you enroll your kids in, nothing you haul them all over creation to participate in, nothing that you yourself volunteer your time for will impact them and the rest of their lives like watching their mom and dad carve out precious, necessary time with Jesus. Be a Mary. Stop the hustle and the excess of everything, and decide daily to sit at the feet of Jesus. You won’t miss out on anything. I promise.

Dear Lord, thank you so much that you give of yourself so that I can spend time in your peace, your presence, your Word, and your wisdom. Help me, please, Lord, to re-prioritize my busy life so that instead of an afterthought, you are my main priority. I want to spend time with You and then fit other things into my schedule when/if time allows. This is not easy for me, God. Please help me to heed the Holy Spirit’s guiding so that I can rearrange my life and become more like Mary. Thank you, Lord, for helping me and for hearing me. When it’s all said and done, Lord, I want to desire you and time with you more than anything else. Help me to slow down. In Jesus’s name I pray, Amen.

 

 

Philippians 2:3–Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility, value others above yourself.

Jehovah-jireh

I admitted it openly with my first post, and I’m continuing to admit it now: I have NO IDEA what I’m doing with this blog. My formula for deciding what to write about each week is uncomplicated to say the least. I consider all of the various aspects that a relationship with God entails, I pay attention to the struggles in my own life in those areas, and I pray (alone and with Nathan), asking God to guide me not only to the topic He’d most like me to address, but also that He’d speak through me. After a day or two, I usually find myself clearly directed to a new topic. This past week, however, has been very different. While the reception of that last post, “Aggressively Patient,” was luke-warm, I felt like God never really moved me past the topic it discussed: patience and faithful expectation while praying for something long-term. I did feel, however, that maybe God was suggesting I add on to what we’d already discussed. In praying about His plan, I kept coming back to the story of Abraham and Sarah. Theirs is a story that’s been so precious to me for many years, and it’s one that’s served to teach me a multitude of lessons. Hopefully it’s one that for you, does exactly the same.

In October of 2006, Nathan and I decided that it was time to start our family. We’d been praying about it, and we felt like God had helped us get our marriage back on track (see  my post “This Means War” for details on that), and now it was time for us to go forth and multiply. Fast forward to October 1, 2012, the day our sweet baby girl was born, and we saw God’s promise fulfilled to us. Hopefully you caught those date discrepancies. The date that Mission: Make A Baby began–October 2006. The date that Mission: Make A Baby completed: October 2012. Um, hello. That’s SIX YEARS. And you don’t even need your cell phone calculator for that math. So what happened during those six years? A nasty little word that far too many people are experiencing for themselves: infertility.

To put it in a nutshell, our infertility struggle consisted of the following: more doctor’s appointments than we could even begin to count, lots of ultrasounds, lots of tests, a doctor change, lots of medicines, additional doctors added to the “team,” one surgery after an endometriosis diagnosis, lots of confusion, more new doctors, a diagnosis of “unexplained infertility,” lots of shots, LOTS of prayer from us (years!), LOTS of prayer from our families and friends (years!), three unsuccessful IUI procedures, and finally one successful IUI on our fourth–and final–attempt. So that, that’s what we were doing during those six years while we waited on God to fulfill His promise.

I can’t speak for Nathan, but I spent some time during those six years doing some other things, too: doubting, questioning, hurting, believing, doubting again, listening to Satan’s lies, deafening myself to Satan’s lies, worrying…I think you get the picture. Shortly into our infertility process, I came across the story of Abraham and Sarah again. It was a story I’d read before, but reading it as someone praying for a child, as someone who’d been praying long-term without seeing God move, it changed my relationship with God. It changed how I saw God and the power He held to bring about what I was beginning to think was an impossibility.

Before we go forward, I want you to take just a second (play along, friends!) and call to mind that one thing you’ve been praying for and wishing for for the longest. Think about that one request that you’ve found yourself making over and over and over. Keep that long-running prayer in the forefront of your mind; focus on it while we discuss Abraham and Sarah so that you can learn from their mistakes and their example, and apply it to your own attitude toward this seemingly unheard prayer.

We begin learning about these two Biblical giants when their names are still Abram and Sarai. At this time, Abram has been visited by God, who promised him an heir via his wife, Sarai. Despite their advanced age, we see Abram and Sarai fully believing in and trusting God, maybe even to the point of readying their home for the baby that God promised them. Unfortunately, though, this was not quick promise fulfillment. In fact, ten years later, God still has not given them a baby. So, Sarai does what you and I have likely done several times ourselves: she takes matters into her own hands. You see, Sarai’s faith had started to wane. She began to feel doubtful that God would ever do what He’d said He would. She decided that He probably needed her help. How many times have you and I decided that God just really can’t do whatever it is we need Him to do, so we’ll need to step in and do it ourselves? Exactly how well has this gone for you, because for me, it’s NEVER worked out well. No plot twist here–it didn’t go well for Sarai either.

Sarai decided that no matter what, there WOULD be a baby, so she convinced Abram to impregnate her handmaid, Hagar. Her plan worked. Abram became a father, Hagar became a mother, and Sarai became a jealous, bitter woman. Think back to that prayer request you’re still praying over. Have you considered going down a road that God didn’t direct you toward, just because you, too, are feeling uncertain that God can/will show up? Are you currently mid self-fix? Look closely at this part of the story–read it for yourself. Do whatever you have to to remind yourself that God’s solution is the only one that doesn’t result in negative consequences for you, with more problems afterward than those you had when you began. Instead of that baby that Sarai so longed for, she birthed resentment, bitterness, jealousy and heartache. That’s NOT what you’ve been praying for, I feel certain.

{Side note: But you know our God and how He works. He doesn’t get angry with Sarai and snatch away the blessing of a promised child. He doesn’t blame her and condemn her. He loves her, He has mercy on her. So if you’re all too familiar with finding your own solutions instead of waiting on the hand of God, know that you, too, are offered grace from a loving Father who is still very anxious to bless you and answer your prayer request.}

God fully intended to keep His promise to Abram and Sarai, so 25 years after making his first promise to them, He shows up yet again to reaffirm to both Sarai and Abram His promise of an heir. Let me repeat that just in case you missed it–TWENTY-FIVE DADGUM YEARS LATER THEIR PRAYER STILL HASN’T BEEN ANSWERED!!! I don’t know about your timeline, but I felt very impatient and very uncertain after only 6 years! Although their years of waiting weren’t perfect, Abram and Sarai should be commended for simply maintaining their determination as they grew very old waiting on God’s promise to come to fruition.

And that’s what God did…He commended them. Twenty-five years later after initially promising them a child, God not only reaffirms it, but He blesses them both with new names, names that will usher them into their season of receiving and answered prayer. For their continued faith, Abram became Abraham, meaning “father of a multitude,” and Sarai, the very old barren woman became Sarah, “mother of nations.” If you’re unfamiliar with this story, I’m sure its ending won’t surprise you: after 25 years of waiting, Abraham (age 99!) and Sarah (only slightly younger) became parents to that long-awaited heir, Isaac.

So let’s go back to that prayer you’ve been praying for a long time now. Let’s think about what this Biblical story teaches us regarding those hard seasons of waiting.

  1. Nothing is impossible for God. Nothing. Abraham was almost 100 year old. Sarah, who would be expected to carry a child, breastfeed a child, was not much younger. It’s safe to assume that their reproductive systems were long past ripe. But what difference does that make for the One who created those bodies in the first place? Whatever you think is supposedly making your request impossible, whatever you see as the largest roadblock to your answered prayer, remind it who’s boss. Nothing in this world, nothing at all, is too big for its Creator to overcome.
  2. God doesn’t work on our timeline. Second Peter 3:8-9 explains to us that “With God, one day is as good as a thousand years, a thousand years as a day. God isn’t late with his promise as some measure lateness” (MSG). This is SUCH a hard concept for us to grasp because we work on such a limited, human time-table. Those six years I waited for God to bless me with a baby were mere moments to Him. He wasn’t late with His response–He was right on time. Right on His time. And His answer to your prayer will be perfectly timed as well.
  3. God will provide. Not God might provide or God could provide. God WILL provide. During their incredibly long season of waiting, after Sarah had attempted to end their waiting of her own accord, Abraham and Sarah renewed their faith. They began to refer to God as “Jehovah-jireh,” a name that means “the Lord who provides.” That same Lord who provided for them exactly what they needed when they needed it is the Lord you’re praying to today. The Lord who showed up so HUGE for Abraham and Sarah–and throughout the many, many stories of the Bible–is the EXACT. SAME. LORD who is soon going to show up big for you, too. Your Lord is Jehovah-jireh; your Lord WILL provide.

The chances that you’re in the midst of a similar infertility battle as what I faced, what Sarai faced, is pretty slim. But this story isn’t really about infertility–don’t get caught up in that. This story is a warning. It’s a warning about what consequences you can inadvertently bring on yourself and others by choosing to answer your own prayers. That’s not your job. Our job is taking those prayer requests to God, praying sincere, scripture-based prayers, and laying our needs at the feet of a Lord who WILL provide. That’s what this story is about. No, it might not be tomorrow. And, no, it might not be next year. But God is not late. He has an enormous blessing for you, and I promise you, it will be RIGHT ON TIME.

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you” (Isaiah 26:3).

“We are waiting for something we do not have yet, and we are waiting for it patiently” (Romans 8:25).

“Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint” (Isaiah 40:31).
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Dear Lord, thank you so very much for all of the prayers you’ve answered for me. Thank you for all of the blessings you’ve given. I ask, Lord, that you help me to be patient and faithful during this season of waiting. I believe, God, that you ARE working and that although I can’t see the results just yet, they are coming. Help me, please, to keep my mind stayed on you so that I can rest in your peace while I await my answer from you. You are faithful, Lord. You are good, and I am so grateful for what all you’re doing in my life. You are my God, and because of that, I expect good things. In Jesus’s Name–Amen.

 

Aggressively Patient

I am going to go ahead and say this, despite the frowns I know it’s bound to elicit from some of you: there are times when I get very frustrated with and by the Word and its instructions. I just have so many questions! Do I only need a little faith (like a mustard seed), or must I believe anything is possible? Do I pray about something once, trusting God to handle it, or do I pray about my need(s) without ceasing? Do I go boldly before the throne with high expectation, or do I humble myself, acknowledging that I have no power in and of myself? And don’t even get me started about the confusion that frequently swirls around praying for something that hasn’t yet come to pass. Did God say no? Do I need to just keep praying? Do I need to pray about it in a different way? Is my faith not strong enough to get me that “yes” I keep asking for? Should I pray about it with someone else or keep it between me and God? HEEEELLLLLPP!!!

Before we get started, let me ask you this: have you prayed about your confusion? God isn’t bothered by our confusion, by our questions, by our struggles to fully understand. He knows we are human and that we have limitations. He is bothered, however, by our reluctance or even flat-out refusal to take our confusions and questions to Him. Proverbs 2:6 tells us very clearly that God gives wisdom to those who ask for it. So, ask for it. It’s that simple. When I found myself very confused about praying, specifically prayers that weren’t answered clearly or quickly, I asked God to help me understand.  He soon began to shed light on my questions, helping me to understand more about my relationship with Him where fruitful, patient, expectant prayer was concerned.

We’ve all heard that age-old saying, “The Lord works in mysterious ways.” Sometimes, I’m downright shocked at how God can use everyday life situations to impart His wisdom to me. I kid you not, He literally used NASCAR (do what?!) to help me once (and Nathan has never been more delighted).

If you know my husband, you likely know his love of all things NASCAR. Old NASCAR? Yep. New NASCAR? Of course. Do you ever find yourself wondering, hmmm, I wonder who won the NASCAR race at Richmond in the spring of 1997? If so, my husband could answer this question for you faster than Google. Truly, NASCAR is his love language. And it’s not just NASCAR races he loves. He”ll watch just about any NASCAR show available, especially those broadcast specials where they take a trip down memory lane and feature every single minute detail about some racer’s first win at a popular track. It was while we were watching just such a show about Jeff Gordon’s first win at Daytona that God helped me understand His instructions regarding praying while being patient and expectant. (Does this not sound totally nuts??)

While discussing that first win and the final laps leading up to it, Jeff Gordon was being interviewed about what he was thinking while trying to keep his car in first place. He talked about not allowing himself to get too nervous or too excited prematurely. The interviewer asked him if he was just being patient, and Gordon laughed and said, “Yeah, kind of aggressively patient.” It was at that moment, when I heard that phrase “aggressively patient” that God whispered to me, That right there is how I want you to be in your long-running prayers. Aggressively patient. Seems oxymoronic, doesn’t it? I felt that way, too, but the more I thought about it, especially applying it to what the Bible says about our attitudes during prayer and waiting, I saw its accuracy, its value and its truth. (Would you look at that…God was right!)

Before we get into the scriptural truths that God showed me regarding our topic, let’s first do something very old-school and archaic; let’s actually look up the definitions of these two seemingly opposing concepts.

Aggressive: making an all-out effort; being boldly assertive

Patient: bearing delay with fortitude and calm and without complaint or anger; quietly and steadily persevering; showing the capacity for endurance.

Not quite as opposing after all, actually. Being “aggressively patient” is actually possible, as long as we stay focused, keeping our heads down and our attitudes positive. And wouldn’t you know it, there’s actually scripture that supports this…like God knew ahead of time that we’d need some help with our prayer lives!

While there are many, many scriptures regarding prayer and patience and waiting, Psalm 31:24 wraps it all into one and instructs us on how to proceed when the prayers we’re praying seemly go unanswered. The Amplified version states, “Be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for and hope for and expect the Lord!” So when you’re praying about something so important to you, only to be met with what seems like radio silence, there are three things we must do.

1.Wait for the Lord. We all know that God’s timing is not our own, and in today’s world where instant gratification reigns supreme, we’re going to have to work even harder, dig even deeper within ourselves to ensure that we’re allowing God’s timing in our lives. Nothing worthwhile ever happens instantly, and God’s more interested in creating long-term change within our lives than immediately giving us whatever our greedy little hearts desire. Throughout the Bible we’re reminded just how crucial it is that we wait (patiently) for the Lord, for His movement, for His timing, for His guidance. James 5:7 tells us to be patient while we wait; Psalm 38:15 says, “For I am waiting for you, O Lord…” We must do the same. But. We must do the same while keeping a good attitude. Look back at that dictionary definition of patience. We must offer our prayers to God, we must decide to wait on His timing, and we must keep a good attitude (a good heart-itude, as Joyce Meyer puts it), free of anger and complaint, while waiting.

2.We must also keep hold of hope while we wait and continue to pray about our as yet unanswered request(s). Remember, just because it hasn’t come to pass yet, it doesn’t mean it won’t. In fact, scriptures throughout the Word give us instructions about exactly this type of concern. So what do we do when we pray and pray, praying maybe even for YEARS, without seeing God move? According to Luke 18:1, we “…pray and [don’t] turn coward ([grow] faint, lose heart, and give up).” John 16:24 expounds on that even further by telling us to “…ask and keep on asking,” but it doesn’t stop there. What happens when we stay faithful and hopeful in our prayers? “…Ask and keep on asking and YOU WILL RECEIVE”! Praise the Lord for his faithfulness! He doesn’t guarantee it’ll be immediately. He doesn’t guarantee a time frame at all. God does, however, guarantee that He’ll show up, as long as we’re patient and remain hopeful.

3.And last but certainly not least, we must remain expectant. Whether you approach your prayer with faith that’s confident or whether you approach it with just that tiny grain of mustard seed sized faith, you must expect God to show up. We must keep our eyes and hearts attuned to the lies that the devil will try to tell us in those days or months or even years while we pray and wait expectantly for God. He’ll try to convince us that God’s not listening, that our prayers are falling on deaf ears, but we must not agree. He might even move on and try to convince us that while all of these other people are getting their blessings and their prayers answered, we must be doing something wrong because our wishes aren’t being granted. We must not listen to those lies either. God isn’t a genie. He doesn’t show up and grant us a wish or two here or there. He LOVES us. He wants ONLY GOOD for us. And you know what? Sometimes those things we think we want or need, they’re just not right for us…or they’re not right for us and where our lives or hearts are right this minute. And Satan knows that. But instead of seeing that as God caring for us and parenting us in the most loving way, Satan tells us that maybe it’s our fault our prayer didn’t get answered. Maybe it’s because God isn’t really even able to grant what we’re asking. But we know the TRUTH. We know that NOTHING is impossible with God. No prayer request gets a no because God can’t make it happen. Maybe God actually is saying no to your request. That does happen. But because God is good and because He loves us so much and literally seeks to bless us abundantly, God doesn’t just say no; He says no because He has something so much better in store for us.

Be bold in your prayers, no matter how long they take to be answered. “So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive His mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.” (Hebrews 4:16 NLT) Come boldly…find God. And in the meantime, wait on Him, hope in Him, and expect Him at every turn. Desire God’s timing, God’s hand, and God’s plan over your own. Trust in Him. Have faith (even tiny baby faith), and watch God work in your life in BIG ways that bring glory to Him and His kingdom. Isn’t that our purpose? More than getting what we want, when we want it, and how we want it, let’s decide to be aggressively patient with our praying…keeping an expectant, joyful attitude in the midst of our waiting.

Dear Lord, thank you so much that I can come to you with my prayer requests and KNOW that you hear me. Help me, God, to trust your plan and your hand instead of getting impatient or bitter. I pray that you would help me to stay calm and patient, especially while praying for important things that take time. Help me, Lord, to sense Your Presence even when the answers haven’t come yet. I know that you love me. I know that you care about me. I know that you hear me, and I am so very grateful. Thank you for Your Word, which strengthens my resolve while I wait patiently and expectantly on you. In Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.

 

 

Philippians 2:3–Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility, value others above yourself.

 

The Disease of Comparison

We’ve all been there. We’re bored, we have extra time, we’re trapped in a germ-coated waiting room, so we click that social media app. Sometimes what we get is the greatest of all the Internet gifts: baby goats in pajamas. (Google this IMMEDIATELY if you’ve never seen it. It will make your whole life!) Other times, however, by the time we close out of Instagram or Facebook (or whatever app we’re currently trying to learn because the young folks think it’s cool), we’re left with a different feeling.

Given I use it to {shamelessly} promote this blog, it might surprise you to learn that I have a love-hate relationship with social media. While I LOVE being able to keep up with current events, friends, favorite Christian speakers, and especially former students, I frequently experience that feeling I mentioned above. You see, I have a disease that is fed by social media. What disease you ask? The disease of comparison.

Right or wrong, good or bad, I compare pretty much every aspect of my life to others’. Before social media (that existed right? A time when our whole lives weren’t shared and monitored by others. Did I dream that?), my ability to compare was limited. I could compare myself and my life to my friends and their lives, but only if they told me what was going on with them. Now, however, the game has totally changed, and for me personally, not for the better.

I told you guys from the start that I’d be totally honest with each blog post. Hopefully, if you read the last one, you realized that I wasn’t exaggerating. In keeping with that, I want to be very upfront with this topic: I am not posting from a “healed” perspective with this one. I am right in the midst of the struggle, trying to make sure that it’s God’s glory I seek and obtain, instead of worldly glorification.

Now that it’s summer and everyone’s off on their cruises and beach trips and glorious, argument-free family vacations (because isn’t this the image we try to project with our posts?), I find myself struggling more with this comparison disease. I watch my friends take their kids to fun water park after fun water park, beach after beach, day outing after day outing, and I compare. I compare myself as a mom: why am I not as much fun as they are? Are my priorities out of whack? Am I putting my child at a disadvantage because she’s not constantly being given new experiences? Could I possibly be teaching her an okay lesson by requiring that she find her own entertainment, or is that too old-school a style of parenting?

I also begin comparing lifestyles, especially financial lifestyles. I suddenly feel very impoverished compared to all of my friends, even some strangers whose lives I witness online. Suddenly I lose sight of the food in my fridge, my over-filled pantry, my ability to go to the store when a need arises, our air-conditioned house, our healthy family. I have perspective, I really do, but sometimes I see others doing what I wish to do, and it stings. I have even seen others doing what I have NO DESIRE TO DO, and I’ve still compared my life to theirs and felt lacking.

There’s a flip-side to comparison, too, and it’s just as dangerous. It’s called pride. Comparison can cause us to become judgmental as well. How many times have we seen a post, and regardless of what we’re feeling (jealousy mainly), we suddenly find ourselves comparing in a way that has us coming out on top. Maybe it’s regarding someone’s parenting. Or someone’s choices about how to spend their money. Or someone’s looks. I’ve done it. I’d be willing to bet you’ve done it.

I noticed my disease, my comparison disease, becoming much stronger once I became a parent and the more involved with social media I became. I wanted to share my life, especially my sweet girl, with my family and friends online, so I knew that I had to get my head and heart right. I knew that Satan had identified a serious weakness in my armor and was using it to his scheming advantage. I also knew, however, that I alone wouldn’t be able to win this battle. I began to pray specifically about my problem with comparison, and as God promised in His Word, He brought me insight and knowledge about this issue.

First of all, God showed me that this wasn’t something I was dealing with alone. Not only is it something that we all deal with (more often than we’d readily admit), but it’s something He knew we’d struggle with, hence this warning scripture from 2 Corinthians 10:12: “…when they measure themselves with themselves and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding and behave unwisely.” I’ll be honest, when I first saw this scripture I was shocked; as it’s done many times before, God’s relevancy just blew me away. It further proved that comparison and its negative side-effects need ridding from our lives.

God also showed me how much like a disease comparison truly can be when left untreated. It can show up at any time, and it attacks anyone, regardless of age, social status, marital status, race, gender, etc. No one is immune, and sadly, there’s no vaccine. Like any illness, comparison has symptoms. It wasn’t until I began to notice these symptoms in my own life/mind that I began to be able to put comparison in its place. Let’s see if you currently have any, or have ever exhibited any, symptoms of comparison.

  • Blurred vision with the possibility of blindness
  • Partial hearing loss with the possibility of total deafness
  • Depression, a feeling of defeat, and/or a lack of gratitude
  • In some rare but dangerous cases, death

Blurred vision/blindness: God is so good to us, and He gives each one of us a vision for our lives. But if we’re so busy watching everyone else’s lives, we will miss our own. In that same respect, focusing so much on what everyone else has, what everyone else is getting that you’re not, what everyone else is experiencing that you’re not, you become completely blind to God moving in your own life. We are each touched DAILY by the favor and hand of God, but how often do we notice? We might see it in someone else’s life, but when we’re so busy looking outward, we just become blind. We don’t see God, we don’t see His hand or His favor, and suddenly we become blind to anything else God might try to show us: others who we can help, others whose pain we can ease, others who need to hear about all the blessings God’s gifting us…all those blessings we’re no longer seeing because we’re so focused on how we don’t measure up when compared to someone else.

Loss of hearing/deafness: It’s no secret that when we pray to God, when we develop our relationship with Him, He responds to us. Some people even hear His literal voice (this has never happened to me, just FYI). But when we spend our time comparing ourselves to others, our heads fill up with noise, drowning out our ability to hear God direct our lives. Instead of hearing God’s direction or guidance for our lives, we hear the chatter of insecurity: why don’t I have a new house? Why do they get a new car and I drive this old one that breaks down constantly? How can they afford that vacation? Why am I not as good of a mom? Why aren’t my kids as smart/well-behaved/easy-going? Why does God constantly bless them while I’m over here riding the struggle-bus every day? The Bible tells us that God speaks in a still, quiet voice. Because He needs us to draw near to Him, because He wants us to quiet our internal noise in order to focus on Him, comparison robs us of our ability to hear God in many circumstances, often deafening us to His voice completely.

Depression/feelings of defeat/a lack of gratitude: It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that if you spend your time comparing yourself to others in every way and continually coming up empty, you’re not going to feel good about yourself, your life, your relationships, your past, your present, or your future. What you will feel, however, is defeated, depressed, and dejected. Who wants that? It seems like a simple enough question, but you and I both know you wouldn’t have made it this far into this blog post if you could just reason your way out of using comparison against yourself.  Those of you who are parents or aunt and uncles, imagine giving your child/niece/nephew gift after gift, only to have him/her constantly pointing at what another kid has, wanting something different, something you know isn’t even necessarily right for him/her. Isn’t this what we do to God, though? When we compare, we become instantly disenchanted with all of the many, many blessings God gives us (daily!), and instead, we stand there with our chubby little toddler fingers pointing at all those things the next person has that we don’t. Each time I find myself wishing or wanting because of something I see someone else getting, I try my best to turn that into gratitude for even the smallest blessings (a green light when I so desperately needed it) in MY life. I desire to be grateful, and the disease of comparison makes that impossible.

Possible death: We’ve all seen it happen: someone convinces him/herself that the grass is greener on the other side, and before most of us know what’s happening, a family is broken. My friends, no one can withstand constant comparison. If you find yourself constantly comparing your spouse to someone else’s, or just other spouses in general, please stop. He/she doesn’t deserve that. If you are one to frequently compare your child (speaking to myself here!!) to others, please stop. He/she doesn’t deserve that. Comparison might begin small and simple, but it doesn’t stay that way. It opens a door into which Satan can often slip undetected. If comparison is left untreated for long enough, it festers, rotting out marriages, relationships, joy, peace, contentment, even dreams for our futures.

As I stated at the beginning, I don’t have the answer on how to completely rid your life of comparison. I have asked God “what do I do?” several times, and so all I can do is share with you what medicine, if you will, that God has provided for me. Two scriptures have helped me gain and keep a little bit of perspective so that I am better prepared to win the war against comparison when it rears its ugly head. In 2 Timothy 2:22, God details a list of those things which we should aim for and actively pursue. They are faith, love, peace, fellowship with others, and a pure heart. Since all of these qualities can’t exist inside a heart filled with jealousy, something has to go. I choose jealousy. On the opposite side, since these qualities can’t exist inside a heart filled with pride, something has to go. I choose pride. When in the midst of a strong bout of comparison, I remove myself (i.e. turn off my silly phone), remind myself of all that God has given me, and I meditate on the scripture of 2 Timothy 2:20, “But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also [utensils] of wood and earthenware, and some for honorable and noble [use] and some for menial and ignoble [use].” We are all different; we are all special; we are all created by God on purpose and for a purpose. No one else has your purpose; therefore, no one else has your life, your circumstances, your challenges, or your victories.

I don’t know about you, but I want MY blessings…not someone else’s. I want MY life and MY husband and MY sweet baby girl…not someone else’s. I can’t tell you how to eliminate comparison, but I can tell you that it takes determination and intentional thinking and living. I have a unique and valuable daughter. I refuse for her to see me and hear me, and one day catch my disease of comparison.

Dear Lord, I am so incredibly grateful for every single blessing you’ve supplied in my life, be it big or small. God, I am determined to live my life, to accept my circumstances, and to be more aware of the beauty present in my day-to-day. Help me, Lord, to rid my heart and mind of comparison and its nasty side-effects. Help me to focus on my life and my relationship with you, and help me to know exactly what I need to do in order to stop Satan from being able to use this “disease” against me. Father, I ask that you heal me from it, and I ask that you open my eyes to MY life. You are so loving and so gracious and so kind, and I don’t want to miss a minute of all you’re doing in my world. Thank you for hearing me and for helping me. In Jesus’s name I pray. Amen.

 

 

Philippians 2:3–Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility, value others above yourself.

This Means War

The topic of marriage has been on my mind lately for a couple of reasons, one exciting, one disheartening. First, on Wednesday, June 21st, Nathan and I will celebrate 14 years of marriage (hopefully it’s clear this reason isn’t the disheartening one!). This is a milestone we almost didn’t reach (more on that in a minute), so each anniversary is super special. The other reason I’ve had marriage on my mind lately is due to the startling announcement made last week by Lysa TerKeurst, President of Proverbs 31 Ministries, that she and her husband of almost 25 years are divorcing because of his continued unfaithfulness and substance abuse. When something like this happens to people like them, it demands that we sit up, take notice, and reevaluate our own marriages (or our future marriages, for those who are unmarried).

It’s no secret that a solid, God-filled marriage gets targeted by Satan and his schemes more than anything else, because it’s marriages like these that are the biggest threats to him. So much goodness and kingdom building comes from a strong, God-centered marriage, and Satan–coward that he is–gets scared of the power that that kind of marriage holds. If your marriage is anything like mine, then at some point during it, you’ve likely discovered this fact for yourself. And I don’t mean this in a negative way at all, but if you haven’t discovered this yet, you will.

Despite the horror stories we’d heard about the transition into the first year of marriage, that was NOT our story. Our first year was full of excitement, newness, and fun. Lots of fun. And, maybe more importantly, it was naturally easy. Between getting our first apartment and then home, decorating for and celebrating each of the holidays for the first time as a newly married couple, and all the life in between, we were having a blast. By year two some of the newness and ease had worn off, but things were still going really well…mostly. Then, year three struck, its newness and the ease both having completely evaporated. Even to us it was almost surprising, because up to this point, our relationship had always been so easy, so effortless. We had never had to purposefully love and communicate with each other. Unfortunately, for us, it was through this unguarded door of poor communication and unintentional neglect of our relationship’s foundation that Satan found his way in. John 10:10 warned us, but apparently, we needed to learn this lesson for ourselves: “The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy.”

And destroy is exactly what he did…almost. Just a few months after our third wedding anniversary, Nathan and I separated. Shortly thereafter, we decided (with me leading the charge) that our marriage was too broken to repair. Here’s the nitty-gritty truth about Satan: he’s not just a thief, he’s a “replacer.” He had slithered his way into our once super-happy marriage, and instead of just stealing our joy, he replaced it. In place of joy, we got sadness, insecurity, and isolation. In place of the contentment that we once owned, we got discontentment, avoidance, and blame. In place of the love, we got Satan’s lies and hearts filled with resentment. So, after a couple of mid-separation talks, we planned one more face-to-face meeting, its purpose being to divide up our stuff prior to legally filing for divorce, a last-ditch effort to help ease the other’s hurt.

I’m sure that you currently have lots of questions floating around in your head:

Why didn’t you try counseling?–Oh we did. We went before separating and during our separation. We went to joint counseling sessions and individual sessions.

What went so wrong?–Everything and nothing. There was no affair, no substance abuse problems, no monumental event that broke us. So my answer to what went so wrong? Satan. Plain and simple. He kept us withdrawn from each other, constantly resentful of the other’s distance and increasing solitude. He stole our intimacy and eroded our friendship. It never got ugly, and we always sincerely cared about the other’s happiness (in your nasty face, Satan!), but our marriage was in pieces.

What changed?–The person to whom we looked for answers and healing. Nathan and I both believe that those therapy sessions helped us tremendously. Those of you who know me personally won’t be shocked by my confession that I’m a talker (I know…jaw-dropping!). Nathan, however, not so much. I’ve heard him tell others, though, that because he knew he was expected to talk and share during our hour-long therapy sessions, he found himself beginning to open up about all sorts of things. There were things he mentioned in our sessions that I’d never heard before, feelings I didn’t even know he had. Thankfully, he’s kept this up in the years since; he talks to me about his thoughts and feelings and is an active contributor to the dialogue in our house. Even with all that good stuff happening at therapy, though, it wasn’t enough to save us. Why? We were trusting a human being, a flawed human being, and expecting him to say or do something magical that would heal us. Not surprisingly, that didn’t happen. It wasn’t until we stopped expecting our therapist to have the answers, stopped expecting the other person in this marriage to fix us, and started putting all our trust in God’s divine intervention that things turned around. I can literally remember saying to God, “Ok, fine. This is yours. I’m tapped out. I have no more solutions, no more avenues of cure. If this is going to get fixed, You’re going to have to do it.” And in that moment, God answered, “No problem. I’ll not only fix it, but I’ll heal you both completely and make it better than it’s ever been.”

And guess what–that is EXACTLY what He did. With the past 11 years, each one has brought us closer together. We’ve gone through some tough stuff (how’s six years of infertility struggles for tough?! But we’ll save that for another post). Throughout each year, though, God’s promise remained true: every single potential pothole has been smoothed over so that our marriage has grown stronger and our love deeper. God is good, y’all!!!

Now, having said all that, let me say this: since this near-divorce, we have not offered our marriage up to chance. As he always does, from the moment when we got our relationship back on track, Nathan has led by example. Because of that, we began and continue to live our relationship with purpose and on purpose. WE DO NOT EVER WANT TO GO DOWN THAT ROAD AGAIN, but we aren’t stupid enough to think we can’t/won’t. Want this same thing for yourself but not sure where to turn? Ephesians is a wonderful book that instructs Christians how to have the correct mental and spiritual attitudes; it even contains great scriptures full of proven marital advice. But of all the goodness you’ll find in it, chapter 4, verse 27 just might be the best. Want to know how to divorce-proof your marriage? Start here: “Leave no room or foothold for the devil [give no opportunity to him].” Man! So much easier said than done, but so VERY worth the time to make an effort to do.

Good marriages don’t happen by chance; they are intentional. They contain two people (and frequently just one really unwavering spouse) who are determined to wage war against Satan together, starting with their individual attitudes. So, ladies, you know that silent treatment you give your husband when he’s ticked you off and you WANT to be mad? Think that’s what earns blessings from God and strengthens your relationship? Nope. You know that bad-mouthing of him you do to all your friends and your mom and your sister and the mailman? Think that’s “just venting” and really isn’t a big deal? Still nope.

And, fellas, think that bottling up all your thoughts and feelings is “just how guys do it,” and won’t really cause you any relationship problems? Wrong. What about that lady at the office who’s just sooooo much easier to get along with than your wife, who thinks you’re smart and can do things right the first time? Think it’s ok if you just let your mind consider what it might be like to be married to her instead? Wrong again.

We are all failures–at relationships, at marriages, at life–without God. (Hopefully) We know this. While it’s admirable to ask God into your marriage and rely on Him to help you to be for your spouse the kind of support He designed you to be, we are foolish to stop there. We need to get angry at Satan’s infiltration into our marriages! We need to get fed up with his lies and destruction! We need to be DETERMINED not to let Satan’s schemes ruin our relationships! THIS MEANS WAR, SATAN!! And with God planted firmly in the center of our lives, individually and jointly, WE. WILL. WIN. Don’t wait for your spouse to get on board. Start it yourself. I feel pretty confident that God can take care of him/her if you’ll just take care of your heart, your mind, and your actions.

“Look carefully then how you walk! Live purposefully and worthily and accurately, not as the unwise and witless, but as wise [people]…” —Ephesians 5:15

“Therefore, be imitators of God [copy Him and follow His example]…and walk in love…”–Ephesians 5:1-2

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Please pray this with me:

Dear Lord, thank you so much for your blessings and for the gift of marriage in my life. Thank you for all the ways You continually bless me through my marriage and my spouse. Lord, I come to you today asking for Your guidance and protection. Help me to love my spouse in the way in which You so knowingly designed. Help me to be the vehicle through which Your love is best shown to him/her. Protect us, Lord, from every single scheme which Satan uses against us. Let each one fall uselessly to the floor, under our feet. I love you, God, and I expect blessings within my marriage because we choose to make you an integral part of it. Thank you for hearing me and for protecting, also, the marriages of all of my friends and family. It’s in Your Son’s name that I pray. Amen.

 

 

Philippians 2:3–“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather in humility value others above yourself.”