The Gift of Release

This . . . is my front closet.

game closet

 

And . . . it drives me crazy. This is the space where we keep all of the board games our family likes to play. (Along with gift wrap and batteries because those are all logical things to keep in the same closet, right?) The problem with my front closet? It is always in a state of chaos, and this state of chaos causes my blood pressure to rise every time I open the door.

Over Christmas, our kids received four new games that were added to this closet. When I took this picture, game number one was hanging precariously, ready to tumble to the floor at any moment having been shoved in front of another game that was already on the shelf. Game number two fell off of the shelf it was placed on and now was on the floor. Game number three was on our kitchen table because I didn’t know quite where to shove it. And lastly, game number four (which hadn’t even been removed from its wrapper) was MIA. It might have been in the closet, but I honestly cannot confirm that.

This closet. This closet can best be described as chaotic, and if I’m honest with you, this is sometimes how my life looks as well. When decisions come my way, I say yes. I say yes and add to an already overloaded schedule. I say yes before I consider the trade.

Consider the trade. What do I mean by that? To trade means to give up something in exchange for something else. With any decision we make, some type of trade is involved. With any decision we make, something is given up in exchange for something else. Let me explain further.

When faced with any decision, big or small, we have to first remember that we have a choice. We always have a choice. We can choose to take the path God has placed before us, or we can choose to go our own way. Matthew 7:13-14 (VOICE) tells us,

“ There are two paths before you; you may take only one path. One doorway is narrow. And one door is wide. Go through the narrow door. For the wide door leads to a wide path, and the wide path is broad; the wide, broad path is easy, and the wide, broad, easy path has many, many people on it; but the wide, broad, easy, crowded path leads to death. Now then that narrow door leads to a narrow road that in turn leads to life. It is hard to find that road. Not many people manage it.”

Whichever path we take, we need to remember that we always have a choice.

Secondly, we need to remember that with each choice we make, comes a consequence. These consequences can be good or bad, but each one has an effect on us in some way or another. Lysa Terkeurst says, “Choices and consequences come in package deals. When we make a choice, we ignite the consequences that can come along with it.” In Scripture, we see numerous examples of people who faced consequences based on the choices they made. In the book of Genesis, we find the story of Adam and Eve. Eve was faced with the decision to obey God or listen to Satan and eat the forbidden fruit. Her choice? She disobeyed God. Her consequence? She and Adam were cast out of the Garden and sin entered the world. In the book of Exodus, we find the story of Moses. A Hebrew baby raised in the home of the Egyptian Pharaoh whom God calls to lead the Israelites out of captivity. Despite his fear over this task, he chose to obey God. His consequence? He watched as God work wonders and released his people. In 2 Samuel, we find the story of King David. David chose to follow his lustful desires and slept with another man’s wife. When it was discovered that she was pregnant, David had her husband killed. His consequence? That child that was conceived would die. When facing a decision, it is important to consider the possible consequences before you say yes. 

Lastly, it is important to remember that with each decision we face, comes an opportunity for release. To release is to let go of something or to set something free. As women, we take on more than we can realistically handle. We say yes and add more and more to our already wearying schedules. We trade our time, our finances, our emotional health, and our peace in the names of our families, our homes, or the expectations of others. And then, we wonder why each additional yes leaves us feeling stressed and weary. Friend, with each decision we face, there is always an opportunity for release. Always. We need to become women that are in the habit of releasing things we have previously said yes to, to make room for our best yes assignments. We need to let go of those things that are no longer ours to do or those things that were never ours to begin with. Why don’t we do this?

I think it boils down to fear. We are afraid. We are afraid of the what ifs and the what could have beens. We are afraid to say no because it might mean we are missing out. Missing out on things that might be important down the road.

How many of you are like me and have a closet full of clothes that you literally cannot wear right now? I look at my closet and see plenty of clothes that fit me right now, but, I also have clothes that are too big for me. I’ve worn them in the past and might need them again if I continue to eat  Christmas cookies at the rate I have been these past few weeks.   I also have clothes that I have not worn since I first got pregnant with my first child. Since before I first got pregnant with my first child! Why do I have them? We both know that after you have a baby, things never go back to how they once were! Yet, I hang onto this hope that maybe, just maybe someday, I’ll be back to a size 10. Can you relate? Please tell me that I am not alone in this.

I think back to my front closet as well. Many of the games in there are ones that we haven’t played in years. Yet, I’m afraid to let them go because maybe, just maybe we will want to play it sometime. We are afraid. We are afraid of missing out. We are afraid that we may release something that might be important sometime down the road. 

Sometimes, however, it’s more than just the fear of missing out that keeps us from release. Sometimes we are stubborn and just plain out refuse to release something. We refuse to release it even though we know that harsh consequences are likely to follow. We refuse to release and as a result, we may miss out on some of the best things God has for us. We can see this in the examples I gave you earlier. Eve. She refused to release her desire for the forbidden fruit. Because of this, she and Adam missed out on Paradise. Moses. I shared how he obeyed God, but we also find in the book of Numbers that he disobeyed God as well. The Israelites were wandering in the desert and ran out of water. Now, this had happened before. The last time, God instructed Moses to strike a rock with his staff and water poured from it. This time however, God instructed Moses to just speak to a rock and water would come forth. Moses doubted God and struck the rock instead of speaking to it. Moses refused to release his fear and as a result, he missed out on entering the land God had promised his people. David. He refused to release his desire for Bathsheba. Because of this another man lost his life and David lost his son. He would miss out on watching his child grow up to be a man. Just like Eve, Moses, and David, we also will flat-out refuse to release things from our lives even though we know that there will likely be harsh consequences for us to follow. Have you ever done that?

Lastly, sometimes it isn’t the fear that we’ll be missing out or the flat-out refusal to let something go that keeps us from release. It’s our inability to make a decision. Sometimes I can’t let things go because I’m unsure of what decision will be best. I put off the decision in hopes that my circumstances will improve or the direction I should take will become clearer. I tell others that I’ll pray on it for a bit. Have you been there? Have you ever known deep within you the decision that must be made, but simply put it off? You put it off because you are uncertain which direction to take or are afraid of the consequences that will come with that decision. Lysa Terkeurst says, “Not making a decision is actually a decision. It’s the decision to stay the same.” She’s right. She’s absolutely right. My decision to put off a decision is me choosing to stay right where I am. And often, right where I am is filled with uncertainty and chaos.

To close, I want to share with you a book that I stumbled upon a few years ago. It’s called The Little Yellow Leaf by Carin Berger. It tells the story of a small yellow oak leaf. Though fall is nearing to an end, the leaf refuses to join the other leaves as they fall from the tree. He keeps telling us, “I’m not ready yet.” Because he refuses to release himself, he misses out on dancing in the air with the other leaves. He misses out on experiencing the fun that is found in being piled up with other leaves and having children jump on you. He finds himself feeling very alone. Alone because he chose not to release. How often are we just like that little leaf?

Friend, we have to let go. We have to release so that we can move forward in the plans God has for us. Lysa Terkeurst shares a story in her book, The Best Yes about a time that she visited a friend in Connecticut. Upon her arrival, she discovered that they had just received twenty inches of snow . . .  in the middle of the fall. As they left the airport, they passed pile after pile of not just snow, but broken trees as well. You see, the leaves had not yet had an opportunity to release themselves from their branches. The snow clung to the leaf filled branches, and they broke under its weight. Lysa says, “The trees weren’t designed to face snow before releasing their leaves. They weren’t made to carry more than they should. And neither are we.”

 She goes on to tell us that this process of release . . . it’s a gift. Just like those trees in that fall snowstorm, we cannot carry the weight of two seasons at the same time. We were not created to carry so much. Lysa says, “In the violent struggle of trying, (we’ll) miss every bit of joy each season promises to bring.” This process of release is a gift my friend. A gift from our Father. When we have the courage to release those things in our lives that are no longer ours to do, it opens us up to being in a place ready to receive what God has for us next . . . what God has for us in this current season. Isn’t that our desire? To be right where God wants us right now? 

Going back to my front closet. This is what it looks like now.

closet 2

I made the decision to release some of the things that I had been holding on to. I released some of the old to make way for the new.

Is there something in your life, something in your closet that you’ve been holding onto so tightly? Have the courage to release it, friend. Release it to our Father. You can trust Him with it. Isaiah 26:3-4 (VOICE) tells us,

“You will keep the peace, a perfect peace, for all who trust in You, for those who dedicate their hearts and minds to You. So trust in the Eternal One forever, for He is like a great Rock—strong, stable, trustworthy, and lasting.”

Whatever you are holding on to, whatever you are afraid to let go of, release it. Release it, lift your eyes to Him, and then step onto the path He places before you. You can trust Him. You can trust Him. 

 

 

References:

Bergin, Carin. The Little Yellow Leaf. New York, Greenwillow Books, 2008.

Biblegateway. www.biblegateway.com. Accessed 31 Dec. 2018.

“Why Was Moses Not Allowed to Enter the Promised Land?” Got Questions. https://www.gotquestions.org/Moses-promised-land.html. Accessed 31 Dec. 2018. 

Merriam-Webster.  https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/trade#synonyms. Accessed 31 Dec. 2018.

Terkeurst, Lysa. The Best Yes, Making Wise Decisions in the Midst of Endless Demands. Nashville, Nelson Books, 2014.

You Need to Evaluate It

Making wise decisions . . . are you still struggling with that like I am? Even though I do my best to apply wisdom, insight, and discernment to my decision making, sometimes there are decisions to be made that are still really hard. Sometimes I am asked to do things, and I’m unsure what the wisest decision will be. Sometimes, I feel that I am expected to say yes, but the thought of moving forward leaves me feeling conflicted, anxious, or overwhelmed. Can you relate to this at all? Some decisions, require us to step back and take some time to process and evaluate them. Not fret and stew over them, but process and evaluate them. How do we do this? Let me share what I’ve been learning.

First, when faced with a decision, it is important to identify the expectations and responsibilities that will come with saying yes. Remember my story from a few weeks ago about my daughter’s desire for a horse? As my husband and I wrestled with that decision, we talked about the expectations and responsibilities that would come with the purchase of a horse. 

First, we talked about the financial expectations. A horse was going to cost money. Feed costs, vet and farrier costs, the actual purchase price of the animal, and the tack we would need were all things to consider. 

We also had to think about where we would put the horse. We have a bit of land, but it’s mainly wooded. Building a barn would require the clearing of a number of trees, and we would have a financial commitment in the form of materials and labor for its construction. We had to weigh the pros and cons of building a barn or boarding our horse somewhere else. 

Time was something else we had to consider. Once a horse is bought, there is a great amount of time required in caring for it. If we chose to board, the stable would take care of the feeding, watering, turning out, and cleaning of stalls, but, it would still be necessary for us to go over to the stable to ride. In addition, our daughter expressed interest in showing. Joining 4H and attending horse shows would be another time commitment to add to an already busy schedule. We had to identify the expectations and responsibilities that would come with saying yes to that decision. When you are faced with a difficult decision, it is important to identify all of the expectations and responsibilities that will come with saying yes.

It’s also important to identify if those expectations and responsibilities are realistic for you in your current season of life. First, think about your time. Do you have the time in your current schedule to devote to the demands saying yes to this decision will bring? When it came to buying a horse, we understood that it would be a time commitment. We also felt that it was manageable with our current schedules. 

Secondly, think about your abilities. Do you have the necessary skills needed for this commitment? I’ll be honest and tell you this was the one area that concerned me most with this decision about buying a horse. I grew up on a dairy farm. I know nothing about horses. But, at the same time, I knew we would get our daughter into a 4H club and that we had a fantastic trainer who would answer all of my questions. I was confident that we could move forward knowing the support we already had or would have in place. 

Thirdly, you need to consider your finances. Can you afford the financial responsibilities that come along with this commitment? 

Fourth, think about your passion. Do the responsibilities of this opportunity excite you or fill you with a sense of dread? As much as I feared getting a horse for my daughter, I was excited about it as well. Ask yourself if this opportunity before you fits in with your passions? 

Lastly, take a hard look your current season of life. Does this opportunity fit in with this season? Is this opportunity doable in the season of life you are walking through now? For us, buying a horse now seemed to fit. Grace is still young and still has much to learn when it comes to horseback riding. Now seemed to be an opportune time for her to get a horse that can grow with her in the coming years. The timing . . . seemed right. Getting a horse now, worked with our current season of life. When facing a difficult decision, identify if the expectations and responsibilities are realistic for your current season of life. 

In addition to identifying if an opportunity fits into your current season, you must also identify if you have the resources an opportunity needs or deserves. It is wise to do this. Luke 14:28-32 (MSG) says,

“Is there anyone here who, planning to build a new house, doesn’t first sit down and figure the cost so you’ll know if you can complete it? If you only get the foundation laid and then run out of money, you’re going to look pretty foolish. Everyone passing by will poke fun at you: ‘He started something he couldn’t finish.’ Or can you imagine a king going into battle against another king without first deciding whether it is possible with his ten thousand troops to face the twenty-thousand troops of the other? And if he decides he can’t, won’t he send an emissary and work out a truce?”

It is wise to think about the resources that are needed before saying yes to a decision. Think about a decision you have to make, and ask yourself if you have the physical, financial, spiritual, and emotional resources available to say yes to that decision. 

As we thought about buying a horse, we first asked ourselves if we had the physical resources needed. The answer was no, not right now. We would need to either clear land and build a barn or spend the money to board a horse elsewhere. What about financial resources? Yes. We would need to cut back in some areas, but financially we could make this work as long as we were careful with our spending. 

Spiritual resources? Would the purchase of a horse prevent me from getting my quiet time in every day or keep me from growing in my walk with God?  Unlikely. Would participation in horse shows prevent us from getting our kids to church? Possibly. We would have to set some firm ground rules in this area if we proceeded. 

Emotionally? Would the purchase of a horse and the extra time requirements needed for it add stress to my days? Maybe some days. Would purchasing a horse add unneeded stress for my daughter? Unlikely. When facing a difficult decision, identify if you have the physical, financial, spiritual, and emotional resources saying yes to that decision would require. 

I want to close by encouraging you to do one thing before you commit to another opportunity. Yes, I want you to evaluate the expectations and responsibilities and see if they match with your current season of life. Yes, I want you to see if you have the resources available that this opportunity needs or deserves. But, I also want you to think about your approach.  What do I mean by that?  In God’s Word, our approach to activities, our approach to people, our approach to life must always be loving and it must always . . .  honor Him. Colossians 3:17 (VOICE) says,

“Surely, no matter what you are doing (speaking, writing, or working), do it all in the name of Jesus our Master, sending thanks through Him to God our Father.”

The Street Bible (by the way if you haven’t checked out this translation yet, you must!) says,

“Whatever you’re up to, thinking or doing, act like a rep of our Boss Jesus – getting your thanks to God through him.”

Everything we do must honor Him. Lysa Terkeurst says, “If the activity we’re considering is in line with God’s Word, but our approach to that activity isn’t, we will overdraw ourselves and bankrupt this part of our lives. A good approach to something requires enough resources to handle the demands of the activity . . . If someone or something demands attention that I don’t have the emotional space to handle, my actions start betraying my intentions. I will start slipping at reflecting Jesus in my words and deeds. When we slip at living out the Word of God, we slip at living in the will of God.” And there, friend, lies our answer to whether saying yes to an opportunity is wise or not. Before taking on an opportunity, ask yourself these questions: “It feels thrilling to say yes to this now. But how will this yes feel two weeks, two months, and six months from now? Do any of the expectations that will come from this yes feel forced or frantic? Could any part of this yes be tied to people pleasing and allowing that desire to skew my judgment of what’s realistic and unrealistic? Which wise (older, grounded in God’s Word, more experienced, and more mature) people in my life think this is a good idea? Are there any facts I try to avoid or hide when discussing this with my wise advisors?” Lysa Terkeurst.

If taking on that opportunity means saying yes to one or more of those questions, then let me ask you this . . . . Are you the right person for that assignment? Is that opportunity a Best Yes for you? Lysa says, “Whatever attitude we bring into a situation will be multiplied.” Will you bring a heart fixed on Jesus ready to move in His will or will you bring a heart that is reluctant and fixed on this world.  Our activities must honor Him, yes. But our attitude and our approach are just as important.

Saying yes is about truly understanding those assignments God has just for us. Carefully evaluate and process the opportunities that come before you; measure them against what you know is true, what you know is right. Look for the invitations God has before you. When you see them, say yes. Say yes, and bring honor to His name.

 

Lacey, Rob. The Street Bible. Grand Rapids, MI. Zondervan, 2003.

Terkeurst, Lysa. The Best Yes, Making Wise Decisions in the Midst of Endless Demands. Nashville, Nelson Books, 2014.

Gathering

Question for you. When faced with a decision, how do you know what is the best decision to make? How do you know what God has for you?  How do you know if God is presenting you with a Best Yes assignment?

My daughter has been taken horse back riding lessons since she was six. Now, I know, that many young girls go through a stage where they absolutely love horses. When we started lessons, I thought that’s all it was. I thought it was a stage and something that she would probably grow out of. Within the past year, however, my husband and I both realized, that for our daughter, it was more than a stage. 

She had one particular pony that she rode every week. He was old, but still had a lot of spunk to him. He loved to run, and so did she. Very few things could light up her face like galloping on that pony could. A couple of months ago, we learned that he was really sick and didn’t have much time left. I’ll never forget the day we told her. She sobbed in my arms, completely broken. His passing was one of the most difficult times that we have walked through with our daughter. In the weeks that followed, she continued to grieve, and shared with me as she had done numerous times before that she really wished she had a pony of her own. 

Decisions. Daily, we are faced with decisions. Some are quite easy as to whether or not to do laundry today or tomorrow: whether to make homemade pizza or order in: whether to allow your child to wear a princess dress or batman costume, mask included, to the grocery store. Others though, are harder: like what to tell your daughter when her tear filled eyes look into yours. When we are faced with decisions, how do we know what is the right path to take? How do we know that we are making a wise decision?

It starts . . . by gathering wisdom. Wisdom is gained by acquiring knowledge, insight, and discernment. Knowledge: it’s understanding what is true, and is found by reading and praying through God’s Word. His Word is absolute truth. Insight: it’s taking that knowledge, taking that truth that we know and living it out in our lives. It’s applying what we learn to our mothering, our marriages, our relationships, and to ourselves. Discernment: it’s the ability to make those wise choices. Discernment is that gentle nudge within you from the Holy Spirit that reminds you of that truth you know and how you should be applying it. It’s also found in seeking out godly counsel and insight from wise people who know you and want only what is best for you.

Now, sometimes in life, we find that there are places where we can easily gather wisdom. There are also places though, where wisdom can easily be scattered. Studying God’s Word: we gather wisdom there. Drowning ourselves in the bottle of wine to forget the troubles from the day: wisdom scatters. Taking time to connect with other believes: wisdom is gathered there. Wisdom scatters when you completely withdraw from those who support you and love you deeply. Wisdom gathers in conversations that are honoring. Wisdom scatters in conversations filled with gossip. Wisdom gathers when we honor God with our time. Wisdom scatters when we mindlessly browse social media or tv for hours on end. Choose to place your heart and mind in places where wisdom gathers. 

Wisdom will come as we work to acquire knowledge and insight. We will be able to discern what the best choice is, and we can be confident in those decisions. Too often, we make decision making too complicated. We think about all of the what-ifs, the but thens, and the maybes. Yes, some decisions need more processing time than others, but sometimes, we can simply say yes or no and then move on. Decisions that are wise today, will still be wise decisions tomorrow (Lysa Terkeurst)

To close, let me share something that Lysa Teukeurst said. She said, “That daily stuff – those responsibilities that seem more like distractions – those things we want to rush and just get through to get on with the better and bigger assignments of life- those things that are unnoticed places of service? (Think about all you do as a mom. Much of what you do goes unnoticed) They are the very experiences from which we unlock the riches of wisdom. We’ve got to practice wisdom in the everyday places of our lives. Never despise the mundane. Embrace it. Unwrap it like a gift. And be one of the rare few who looks deeper than just the surface. See something more in the everyday. It’s there. We can learn right here, right now, in the midst of all that’s daily how to become wise.”

Friend, we are completely capable of making wise decisions. Choose to place your heart and mind in places where wisdom gathers, and look for God in the midst of it all. He is there, and if you seek Him, He will show you the way to go.

My daughter’s request for a pony . . . we welcomed Sadie Rose into our family a few weeks ago.

Sadie Rose

That decision was hard. I know very little about caring for horses. Yet, when I see the spark within my daughter’s heart come alive when she climbs on that pony’s back, I know. I know we made a wise decision. You can make them too.

 

Terkeurst, Lysa. The Best Yes, Making Wise Decisions in the Midst of Endless Demands. Nashville, Nelson Books, 2014.

 

Dropping Plates

4:30 AM. I was wide awake at 4:30 AM on Thanksgiving day. Why? It wasn’t because I needed to put a turkey in the oven or put finishing touches on a homemade apple pie. (My responsibilities for dinner that day were store bought rolls, a pan of sweet potatoes that might take a whole five minutes to pull together, and a bowl of broccoli salad that might take six.) No, it wasn’t meal preparation that caused me to rise so early. It . . .  was me. It was me and the realization I had early that morning that another Christmas season is upon us.

Christmas has always been my favorite holiday. I have so many wonderful memories from my childhood that include: putting up a real tree, making homemade ornaments, digging though my stocking as we waited for my dad to finish up chores, and getting together with family. I loved it all, and now, as an adult, I am desperately trying to recreate my childhood Christmases for my own kids. I want them to have that one special gift under the tree. I want them to have memories of us decorating the entire house. I want them to remember the time spent with family. I want them to cherish the Christmas season as much as I do. Yet, in my desire to create the “perfect” Christmas, I find myself adding extra tasks to my already full to-do-list. I take more on than I realistically can handle, and it turns my “perfect” Christmas into one that is full of rushing and stress . . . the exact opposite of what I was hoping for. Can you relate?

We do that sometimes. We take on more than we can realistically handle. We fill our schedules so full, leaving little room for rest and little room for those Best Yes assignments that God has for us. How do we balance it all?

Take a moment and check out Kristina Kuzmic’s video entitled “Screw Balance” at http://kristinakuzmic.com/tv-and-videos/.  What can we learn from what she shares?

Simply put, many of us are carrying too many plates.

Finding balance in our lives is not about us figuring out how to efficiently carry all of the plates we have chosen to carry. Friend, we can’t do it all. We weren’t created to do it all. Remember what Ephesians 2:10 tells us? It says, “For we are God’s masterpiece, created in the Messiah Jesus to perform good actions that God prepared long ago to be our way of life.” God prepared things just for us: things that would be our way of life. We were not created to do it all. Give yourself a break. Have the courage to let go of those things that aren’t yours to do. Let go of those things that don’t have to be done. Have the courage to . . . drop some plates.

 

www.kristinakuzmic.com 

Interruptions Welcome

I almost missed it.

I was rushing. I was rushing home to tackle another item on my seemingly never ending to-do-list. I was rushing . . . and that’s when I saw him. An older gentleman was mulching leaves in his front yard. As I drove past, I noticed that his mower appeared to be stuck on a steep slope next to the road.  His back tires spun futilely in the soft earth beneath him. I felt my breath catch for a moment and clearly heard God say, “Stop.” But, I didn’t. I continued down the road telling myself that the gentleman would eventually get himself unstuck or someone else, with the time, would stop to help him. I turned onto my road and was almost to my driveway when I felt a tug on my heart. Again, I heard Him speak. “Go back.” With a sigh of complete frustration, I turned my car around and heading back down the road. I prayed that somehow he had miraculously freed himself or someone else had been gracious enough to stop.  Yet, as I neared his house, I saw that he had not moved. And now, there was a look a pure desperation on his face. I pulled my car over to the side of the road and climbed out. As I walked over to him, I quickly noticed that the back tires of his mower were almost completely submerged in the mud. I also realized that he was physically unable to get himself off of the machine and was desperately clinging to the steering wheel. I carefully leaned my body into the mower to keep it upright and offered my hand to steady the man as he painfully and slowly climbed down. Once he was safely on level ground, I was able to push the mower off of the slope. As I climbed back into my car, I started thinking.

What if I hadn’t stopped? What if I hadn’t listened? What might have happened?

Sometimes God chooses to interrupt us. Sometimes God chooses to interrupt our plans. God interrupts because He sees the bigger picture. God interrupts because He has a specific purpose for me . . . and He has one for you. God interrupts because His plans for us are far bigger than the ones we have for ourselves.

Yet, how do we often respond? How do we respond when God interrupts our lives: when He takes us from the path we had set before ourselves?  We throw fits. We complain. We whine about how inconvenient it all is.

But, you know what I’m learning? There is a world out there that is desperate to see Him. There is a world out there that is desperate for His love. And those times that He interrupts my plans . . . it’s because there is someone that needs Him. God calls us to be open to His interruptions and more importantly to be . . . obedient. To be obedient when He takes us down a path that is uncomfortable, a path that is inconvenient, and a path that is sometimes hard. He asks that we trust Him and obey when He chooses to interrupt our lives.

Today, ask Him to open your eyes. Ask Him to help you see the world as He does: a world full of broken people that desperately need to see Him. Be obedient and step back and watch Him move.

th-15

Underwhelming My Schedule So He Can Overwhelm My Soul

Purpose. I’ve still been pondering that word and the overwhelming thoughts that rush to my brain as I consider what it means. For so long, I’ve been striving to accomplish one big thing that I was sure God had for me to do. The thought that my purpose may be something big, but that it could also be found in the small moments that fill my days has really challenged me. What if today, all God wants me to do is say yes? What if God just wants me to say yes to the things He has for me today? Am I open to that?

In Ephesians 2:10 (ISV) we are told that, 

“ . . . we are God’s masterpiece, created in the Messiah  Jesus to perform good actions that God prepared long ago to be our way of life.” 

Did you catch that? First of all, you are a masterpiece. A masterpiece is a work of outstanding artistry, skill, or workmanship.  It is one’s best work. One’s magnum opus. You  are God’s magnum opus. Secondly, you were created to do good things: good things that God prepared long ago to be your way of life. Think about that for a moment. How are you living your life? Do you think you are currently living in the way that God planned for you? Are you living your life in a way that you can say yes to the things God has for you? Are you open to His Best Yes assignments; the things He created you to do?

If you are like me, you are living from one crazy day to another. My days are packed full with managing our household, caring for children, and working part time. I add to that grocery shopping, volunteering at the school, taking kids to appointments, keeping up on social media, keeping up on current events, play dates, coffee dates, date nights . . . every moment of my day is full. What about you? What types of things do you do in a typical day? I would encourage you to think about that for a moment. Take some time to think about all of the things you do in a one day.

Do your days look as crazy as mine? Our days are full . . .completely full, and we wonder why we feel stressed and beyond exhausted.  Why do we live life at such a fast pace and desperately try to squeeze as much as we can into a day? I recently read an article entitled: 9 Hidden Lies that Keep Our Schedules Overwhelmed that I felt was worth sharing. The author, Josh Becker, says, “The speed of our world is increasing. Technology and communication continue to improve. Information moves faster. And social media rewards those who never turn it off. Expectations, demands, and accessibility continue to expand, but the number of hours in a week do not. As a result, our lives get busier and busier. This approach to life rarely benefits us in the long-run because a busy life is an unreflective life. In fact, often times, we are so busy scurrying from one thing to another we don’t even have the space to realize our schedules have become overwhelmed. We don’t recognize how our overcommitted lives are harming us.” Ouch. He goes on to share the nine lies he feel contribute to our overwhelming schedules. 

  1. Accolades (praise) will bring fulfillment. The thinking goes like this: The busier we are, the more we can accomplish and the more respect we can earn. And the more respect and accolades we receive, the more we can surely prove our worth and value to others. Unfortunately, if you are trying to find fulfillment in someone else’s opinion of you, you will never find it. You will always be left searching (and working) for more.
  2. Money will bring happiness. We often get caught up in needless busyness because of our desire to earn and secure more money. Ever notice how often we are offered money (or the chance to win money) for our time? While it is important to work hard and provide for the needs of your family, it is foolish to think money is the quickest shortcut to better living.
  3. I don’t have a choice. Many of us live over-busy lives because of the expectations and demands of others. In these cases, it is important to remember you always have a choice. Sure, there are seasons of life that require more of you and your time than others, but seasons always change. If yours hasn’t changed recently, you may need to revisit who is making the decisions in your life and where you can regain some of your control.
  4. I’m more productive if I’m busy. Maybe you can be more productive for a short while, but human beings are not designed to work relentlessly without periods of rest. Countless studies confirm the importance of rest for productivity. Eventually, a lifestyle of busyness will detract from our productivity. And more importantly, your health and well-being. There are no exceptions.
  5. I am needed. Pride is defined as holding an excessively high opinion of oneself or one’s importance. And it leads to overwhelmed schedules because of the foolish thinking that follows it: “Nobody else can do what I do.” This pride affects the way we view our business, our work, our family, and our personal relationships. Left unchecked, it leads to a busy life and in the end, a fall.
  6. Everything is important. Our world has a tendency to make everything appear urgent, important, and beneficial to our lives. As the speed of information increases, our minds are seemingly less equipped to filter all the information and opportunities. But the most productive among us realize nobody can accomplish everything. They are relentless in their understanding of mission and the reality that very few things are truly important. And they never sacrifice the important for the trivial.
  7. I need to be busy to keep up with everyone else. It may seem, at times, the only way to get ahead in life is to outwork everyone else. But just because everyone else appears busy does not mean they are busy about the right things. Nor does it mean they are finding joy in their pursuits. Frank Clark perhaps said it best, “Modern man is frantically trying to earn enough to buy things he’s too busy to enjoy.”
  8. Busy makes me look more important. Busy, in and of itself, is not a badge of honor. In fact, being busy doing the wrong things is actually quite unattractive. Just remember, in a society rushing to keep up with everyone else, those who find peace, contentment, and rest are the ones admired…and envied.
  9. Quietness is laziness. Often times, people avoid dealing with life’s deeper issues by packing their schedule tight. Someone who is discontent with their life’s choices can escape the difficult work of addressing them by masking them with busyness. Quietness is not laziness. Quietness is hard, but always worth the effort.

He’s right. As a society, we are too busy. We’re too busy and we don’t always like to admit that fact. We don’t like to admit that we can’t do it all. Lysa Terkeurst said something that I found really interesting. She said,  “In this great day when most women wave banners of authenticity about our pasts, we crouch back from honesty about our presents. We’ll tell you all about our broken places of yesterday, but don’t dare admit the limitations of our today.” We don’t dare admit  . . . the limitations of our today. We try to do it all. We rush. We say yes to too much. And in doing so, we miss our best assignments. We sometimes miss the Best Yeses that God places before us.

So how do we change this? How do we adjust our schedule to make room for those Best Yes assignments that God has for us? First, and this is important, we need to be spending time with Him. If we are spending time with God daily in prayer and study of the Scripture, the other aspects of our lives will fall into place. With our focus on Him, we will more clearly be able to see what is really important in life. Now, you may be saying, “I don’t have time to spend with God! Have you seen how busy I am? Look at my schedule!” You have to make time for Him. You need to intentionally schedule Him in.  If you need to write it on your calendar, do it. The more time we spend with Him and digging into His Word, the easier it will be for us to hear Him: to hear how He wants us to be spending our time. Isaiah 30:21 (VOICE) says, 

“Your ears will hear sweet words behind you: ‘Go this way. There is your path; this is how you should go’ whenever you must decide whether to turn to the right or the left.” 

To know the path God has for us, we need to be listening to His voice. Start spending more time with Him. 

Secondly, we need to be more intentional about how we are spending our time. Think about an equal arm balance scale for a moment. On one side, we have all of the things that we currently do in a day. We have sleeping, we have eating, we have feeding the baby, going to work, watching TV, checking Facebook, checking Facebook, checking Facebook . . . Our days are really full so this side of the scale is really loaded down. Now, on the other side of the scale, we have the things that God actually has for us to do. For most of us, we find that this side isn’t filled quite as full as the first side. It’s not as heavy. It’s not as loaded down. When we compare the two, we see a huge imbalance between  what we are spending our time on and what God actually has for us. 

We need to start being more intentional about our time. Look at the things you do each day. Which of those things are actually priorities? Sleeping should be one. Going to work might be another. Changing the baby’s diaper, that too is a priority. Those things that are priorities throughout your day, need to stay. Some of them may not be things that you enjoy doing, but they are necessary in your current season of life. 

What about everything else that you fill your day with? Is there anything there that you can completely let go of or cut back the amount of time you spend doing it? For me, most mornings, I completely pick up our downstairs living space. I tidy everything up, and then my children come home from school and what happens? It gets messy again. For me, rather than completely picking everything up each morning, I could spend just ten minutes tidying some of it.  Then, once a week, I could give the space a good cleaning. By doing that, it would definitely free up some of my time for something else. Another thing that I spend a great deal of time doing each day is checking Facebook, and I know I’m not alone in this. What would it look like if I turned off my notifications (stay with me on this) and checked it only once a day? How much of my time would be free for other things by doing this? What about you? Is there something that you can let go of or cut back on? For each thing that we let go of or cut back the amount of time that we spend on it, our daily load becomes lighter and lighter. Get more intentional with how you spend your time.

Lastly, leave some white space in your day. What do I mean by that? I want you to intentionally set aside time each day or maybe just each week that you have nothing scheduled: no where to be, no demands, no expectations. Why? Remember a few weeks ago when I asked you to write down that one thing that stirs your soul? That one thing that you wish you had the time to do? What if you intentionally starting leaving time in your schedule to start taking small steps towards that? What if you gave yourself some white space and started honoring God with that time? Honoring Him by pursuing that spark He placed within you?Maybe, you’ve always wanted to write a book. What if you took a few minutes before bed each evening to start jotting down your thoughts? Maybe you want to go back to school. What would it look like to start thinking about the degree or classes you’d love to take? Remember the quote of Lysa TerKeurst that I shared with you? She said, “The decisions we make dictate the schedules we keep. The schedules we keep determine the lives we live. The lives we live determine how we spend our soul.” We need to get to a place where we are honoring God with the time we have. 

This isn’t being selfish. “It’s giving voice to what otherwise just stays a quiet whisper locked inside.” It’s doing that thing that you were created to do. That thing that doesn’t  just bless you, but reaches out to “touch others, help others, and bless them.”

I’ll close with this. Lysa Terkeurst says, “Don’t get so locked into your overwhelming schedule that you haphazardly spend your soul.” Let’s be women who choose to underwhelm our schedules so that God can overwhelm our soul. Let’s choose to honor Him with our time.

References:

Becker, Josh. “9 Lies That Keep Our Schedules Overwhelmed”. Becoming Minimalist. https://www.becomingminimalist.com/overcoming-overwhelmed/. Accessed 13 Oct. 2018.

Biblegateway. www.biblegateway.com. Accessed 15 Oct. 2018.

Moment. https://inthemoment.io. Accessed 16 Oct. 2018.

Terkeurst, Lysa. The Best Yes, Making Wise Decisions in the Midst of Endless Demands. Nashville, Nelson Books, 2014.

Playing My Part

As a young girl, I loved spending time dreaming about what I would be when I grew up.  Some days, I wanted to be a farmer just like my dad. I loved my time spent in the barn feeding calves, putting in hay, and throwing cow patties at my younger sister. (True story there. We would also dip our fingers in manure and write our names on the calf pens. Again, true story!) I could easily see myself working with the animals and farming the land. However, I also wanted to be a teacher like my mom. As a young girl, my sister and I would play school for hours in our basement. We’d line up our stuffed animals and read them stories, give them math problems to solve, and discipline as needed. I loved planning lessons for my “students”, grading their papers, and writing on the chalkboard. I saw myself as a teacher too.

As I grew older, however, my dreams changed a bit, and I thought perhaps that I wanted to go into medicine.  I began volunteering at our local hospital as a candy striper to get a little experience under my belt. (On a side note, I was curious about the history of the term “candy striper”. According to Merriam Webster, the uniforms originally worn by young volunteers were striped and looked like a piece of candy. My uniform was not that fancy, however, and consisted only of a pale yellow apron along with a name tag identifying me as a volunteer.) My responsibilities as a volunteer were fairly simple. I was to refill water pitchers and strip and remake beds. That . . . was it. However, I found that making beds was the most difficult task I could have been given. You see, in my training, I was given VERY specific instructions on how to make a hospital bed. Linens were to be pulled tight to avoid any wrinkles, and pillowcases were to be placed on a pillow without the actual pillowcase touching your body. Have you ever tried to put a pillowcase on a pillow without the case touching your body? It’s nearly impossible! Needless to say, as I struggled with the pillowcases and the realization that I really hated the smell of hospitals, I decided that I had better consider an alternative career choice. So . . . I chose physical therapy because that’s  an obvious next choice for someone who hates the smell of hospitals and who would go on to make her lab partners do most of the dissection of their cat in senior year biology because she hated looking at its insides. Physical therapy was an obvious next choice.

So, I went into the end of my junior year of high school with my heart set on physical therapy. I began researching schools with PT programs and looking at my different options. But, I ran into a problem. You see, even though my head told me that physical therapy was the career path for me . . . my heart wasn’t so sure. My heart wasn’t at peace with the decision I had made. My heart . . .  wasn’t so sure that physical therapy was what God wanted me to do.

Have you ever been there?  Have you ever struggled with understanding what it is that God wants you to do? Have you struggled with understanding what your purpose is or maybe if your life even has a purpose? 

Growing up, I had gotten it into my head that God only had one purpose for my life. One. And it was going to be BIG! Like end world hunger BIG or bring about the ban of those biscuit tubes that pop open when you hit them against a counter BIG (By the way, I hate those tubes. They’re worse than a jack-in-the box).

I eagerly looked forward to the day that I would move into His plan for me and fulfill it. But, here I am, over twenty years later, and I still feel like I’m trying to figure out what His purpose is for me. And that got me to thinking. What if God doesn’t have just one BIG thing for me to do? What if our purpose isn’t some huge monumental thing that we spend our entire lives striving for? What if our purpose is found in the small things and in the small moments that fill our days? What if our purpose is just saying yes to those things that God has for us . . . today? 

In her book, The Best Yes, Lysa Terkeurst talks about this idea that we each have what she calls, a “Best Yes”. A “Best Yes” is simply each of us playing our own part. It’s intentionally saying yes to those things that God created us to do. It may be something big, yet it may be something small. 

If you are like me, you have no problem saying yes. Quite frankly, I’ve always been one who tended to say yes to everything. I say yes because I want to say yes. I love to help. I want to take part. Other times, I say yes because I feel that it is expected of me. To say no would disappoint others and maybe . . . even disappoint God. And that . . . is too much for my heart to handle. So, I keep on saying yes, to everything. 

But, what happens when we always say yes to everything that is asked of us? For me, each yes given is another item added to my to do list: a list that is already filled with the responsibilities of caring for my family, caring for our home, and caring for this MOPS group. Saying yes one more time only adds to the craziness of an already full schedule. And the craziness of that schedule leaves me feeling stressed, worn out, and defeated because I don’t have the time or energy that each item on that list deserves. Can you relate?

Lysa Terkeurst says, “A woman who lives with the stress of an overwhelmed schedule will often ache with the sadness of an underwhelmed soul.” A soul that is playing every part, but the part God meant her to. Too often, I think that we say yes to things that God never intended for us to do. They may be good things. They may be great things. They may be things we are absolutely capable of doing and doing well. But, are they things that God intended for us to do? Are they our “Best Yes”?

I want to explore what a “Best Yes” for each of us might look like. To get us started, I need you to ask yourself a few questions, and I want you to answer them honestly. Is there something that you’ve tucked deep within your heart, that you’ve always wished you could do? Is there something you long to do, but either finances, time, or resources, make it seem as though it’s impossible? What stirs your heart? What makes you feel alive just thinking about it?

I want you to write down what comes to mind even if it seems beyond impossible. Can I share mine with you in confidence? Over the past couple of years, I’ve had something that keeps coming to my mind. Repeatedly, I have envisioned myself sharing what God has been teaching me to a large crowd of women. The thought of doing that absolutely terrifies me, but at the same time, I can feel my heart beating excitedly. 

What about you? What stirs your heart? What are you passionate about? If you are stuck on this, here are some questions to help get you started:

  1. What makes you smile? (Activities, people, events, hobbies, projects, etc.)
  2. What were your favorite things to do in the past? What about now?
  3. What activities make you lose track of time?
  4. What makes you feel great about yourself?
  5. Who inspires you most? (Anyone you know or do not know. Family, friends, authors, artists, leaders, etc.) Which qualities inspire you, in each person?
  6. What are you naturally good at? (Skills, abilities, gifts etc.)
  7. What do people typically ask you for help in?
  8. If you had to teach something, what would you teach?
  9. What would you regret not fully doing, being or having in your life?
  10. What do you value most? 
  11. What were some challenges, difficulties and hardships you’ve overcome or are in the process of overcoming? How did you do it?
  12. What causes do you strongly believe in? Connect with?
  13. If you could get a message across to a large group of people. Who would those people be? What would your message be?
  14. Given your talents, passions and values. How could you use these resources to serve, to help, to contribute? ( to people, beings, causes, organization, environment, planet, etc.)

Now, what you’ve written down, I want you to keep it somewhere safe because we are going to come back to it. 

Too often, we say yes to things that God never intended for us to do. They may be good things. They may be great things. They may be things we are absolutely capable of doing and doing well. But, are they things that God intended for us to do? Are they our Best Yes?

 

 

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/candy%20striper 

http://thinksimplenow.com/happiness/life-on-purpose-15-questions-to-discover-your-personal-mission

Terkeurst, Lysa. The Best Yes, Making Wise Decisions in the Midst of Endless Demands. Nashville, Nelson Books, 2014.