Tag Archive for ministry

A Little Encouragement For When Life Isn’t What You Expected

Some people like surprises and some don’t. I like good surprises like flowers or a card, but I don’t generally like surprises, especially when it comes to “life.” I like to know the ground rules. I like to know what I can expect, and of course, life isn’t like that at all. We don’t have a crystal ball and we don’t know what tomorrow will bring.

So when life unfolds differently than we expected, we can be thrown for a loop. We can begin to fear and become discontent.

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Over the years I’ve learned that being in control is NOT something we get to be. God is in control. So, the secret to being content is to know your God and to really believe His Word.

I know this sounds simple, like Christianity Lite 101, but as I’ve talked to women and have experienced my own fears and reactions to life, I see that this is often hard stuff. Knowing words and head knowledge does not always translate into actual belief. And we see this by our expectations and our reactions.

Oh, those expectations! We hold on to them don’t we? And they can really do a number on us if we don’t let them go!

We expect things to go smoothly. We don’t expect trials. We hate suffering. We get mad when we’re treated like a servant.

Our expectations are deflated when real life sets in.

  • We want a perfectly understanding husband.
  • We want kids who have the wisdom of parents so that we don’t have to spend so much time and energy parenting.
  • We want a home that is self-cleaning.
  • We expect people to be kind and considerate and get mad or even when they aren’t.

We get frustrated with the bumps and set-backs that come with inefficiency, sinful interaction, messes, and timetables that don’t run smoothly.

It’s in these times that we have to ask, “What is the truth about my God right now?” and “Do I really believe the Scripture?”

If you are an idealist like I am, you are easily annoyed by the seeming contradictions of this life. You know how things should be, and you’re irritated when they’re not that way. This can be good, when it leads to helping those who are unjustly treated, but it can also be a curse, when you have ideals about what your own life should look like and be, and you disappoint yourself.

These are the grounding truths you need to meditate on when life is disappointing:

I am a most beloved daughter of the God of Heaven.

I’ve signed up to be His servant and to do His will because I believe He is God of the Universe and in control, and I trust Him.

Did you skip over the servant part when you read that sentence? If so, let me encourage you to let that sink in and take root in your spirit. Those who follow Jesus Christ are here to do His will. Servants.

So, yeah…

A few questions about servant hood.

  • Do I get really upset and mad when I’m treated like a servant?
  • When my husband leaves his socks on the ground, do I have the mindset of a servant?
  • When my toddler presses play doh into the rug, do I see myself as a servant?
  • When I am in ministry, “serving others” do I get ruffled when I am treated as a servant?
  • When God brings the “needy” to me, do I get exasperated that there are always people who need my help?

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I’m thinking that our irritability and impatience show that we don’t really have a servant’s mindset but a master’s mindset.

A master wants his will obeyed. He expects things to be his way. He wants others to respect him and honor him. He doesn’t want to be crossed EVER.

So, recognizing our servant status and thinking in terms of picking up a towel and basin for the sake of others will help us accept the will of our Master.

Because, isn’t that what a servant does–the the will of his master? He expects things to be the master’s way. He expects that people will see him as little and sends all “respect” and “glory” to his master. He doesn’t expect anything but to serve.

We’d all verbally affirm that we’d like to be like Jesus, so let’s look at Philippians 2, to see our example:

Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.

Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.

Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:

Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:

But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:

And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.

If we want to live as Jesus lived, it involves extreme humility.

Humility means dying to self.

Moms, do we really have the mind of Christ? Would your kids say that you are humble? Are we putting others first for the sake of the gospel instead of acting like our kids are distractions and hindrances from the grander duties of life?

Wives, do we have a “mind of our own” or the mind of Christ? Do our interactions with our husband show humility? Do we consider his needs? Help him? Pride ends (and contention) where humility begins, doesn’t it?

Ministry wives, do we get our knickers in a knot when people exclude us, talk badly about us, expect the unreasonable from us, and use us? Do our reactions reveal a servant’s mindset or a master’s mindset? Would the last congregant who hurt you say you reacted with humility?

Another way we can be like Jesus is to value God’s will over our own:

““Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” Luke 22:42

Jesus, the man, was submissive to God’s laws. He treasured the law. He never crossed God’s law. We also need to value, treasure, and obey God’s Word. This is not legalism, or bondage. God’s Words and ways bring freedom and life. They’re our guidebook for living.

When you are disappointed in your situation,

or you feel that you’re not getting your fair share,

I’d encourage you to take another look into Scripture.

It’s clarifying. It’s hopeful. It reorients your expectations. It fills you with gratitude and hope and most importantly,

it points you to the Savior and shows you once again what it means to live a Christian life. You’ll see the suffering Christ. You’ll see the merciful Lord. You’ll see the Sovereign One. You’ll see the satisfaction He offers to those who are destitute and thirsty. You’ll see that the suffering is only temporary, and that God is good eternally.

You are loved, dear friend. What verse encourages you to think God’s way during times of trials? What do you to put those things in the forefront of your mind? I’d love for you to share in the comments or on FB.

Have a great weekend, friends!

 

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A Blog About Nothing In Particular

A blog about nothing in particular?

It’s come to my attention that my little blog is not easily classified. When people ask me what I write about, I don’t really know what to tell them. Just this past week a lady asked me, “I hear you have a blog. What do you write about?”

“Well, you know, whatever I’m learning or interested in. Kinda about life… Err…” {crickets}

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When I read about social media growth strategies and “growing your brand” by surrounding yourself with people who are writing and talking about similar things, I realize that my my little blog is kinda in no-man’s land.

How do you market a blog with no clear focus? {“Market” would imply a “business model” which I don’t have. HA.}

Who are my people–my “tribe”? Moms? Wives? Ministry Wives? Home schoolers? Artists? Christians? Foster parents? Really, I’m kinda all over the place.

This week I was re-reading Kisses from Katie and she helped me realize why I’ve never been able to quite nail this down.

She says, “Today I am living the desires of my heart and I cannot imagine being happier; I cannot imagine living any other life than the one that unfolds before me day by day. But believe me, I am by no means living my plan…I am watching God work, and as I delight myself in the Lord by doing what He asks of me and saying yes to the needs He places in front of me, He is changing the desires of my heart and aligning them with the desires of His heart.” Kisses from Katie.

I write about life and the way it unfolds and what I am learning and I’m not sure you can map that out ahead of time. At least, I can’t.

This is not the same as being directionless, although it feels that way. I do recognize common themes here: grace, God’s sovereignty, God’s goodness, and love. Oh, and coffee. 😉

I’ve never been one to make big plans for my life. It’s not that I’m directionless or have no goals, or that I’m lazy. I’m always busy, but I’ve learned to be okay with whatever God wants. I guess you’d call that “following.” This blog is about following God on a daily basis in the everyday moments.

I’m still floored when people show up to read here. (6K of you? WHAT??)

But I think that people show up because maybe their life is similar. Maybe your days are a bit unpredictable with kids or school. Maybe you can relate with the mundane jobs that need to be done by “someone.” Maybe you fight to choose joy in the midst of it, like me. Maybe you want can relate to the cooking, cleaning, laundry, decorating posts. Or maybe you just like to read what God is teaching me every day. Maybe you have dry spells when you don’t desire God like you should and it’s comforting to know that other people struggle with that as well.

Maybe you, like me, are just trying to follow God with whatever He gives you today. Trying to steward your moments well, depending on Him for the outcomes. Maybe you’re handing him your 5 small loaves and 2 fishes in faith and you’re hoping He’ll see your desire to give and serve and use it to feed someone else.

If you feel a little directionless like I do sometimes, or if you’ve been sidelined from your plans by kids or health or circumstances, that’s not always a bad thing. In all these things, God is leading you and your life is unfolding according to His plan.  It’s really an adventure. Every day you wake up and ask, “Lord, what today? Who will you send me? What can I for you? Who can I love for your glory?”

Some days we don’t recognize it as much. On the down days it looks very much like nursing sick kids to health or training and retraining toddlers. Sometimes our mission looks like serving nutritious meals to a husband or cheering up the people who reside in your own walls.

I am in good company. My mom, one of the women I admire most, taught me by her example to pray for whatever God has for the day and then trust Him to lead you.

It’s all holy work when God is in it. God is the focus. It’s all for Him. Our job is to follow and be faithful.

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Are You Accomplishing Anything For God?

Maybe you’re discouraged today, dear friend.

Maybe you’re wondering if what you’re doing matters in the long run.

Last week I wondered, too.

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I was reading over a list of New Year’s questions (meant for personal reflection and growth) from a sweet friend in a writing group. It was a wonderfully thorough list, meant to prompt confession, repentance, acceptance.  Questions like:

  • “If the last year could be summed up in a word, what would it be?”
  • “What are the two or three themes that kept occurring.”
  • “What are some major life lessons I learned this year.”
  • “What’s one thing I can do this year to increase my enjoyment of God?”

I breezed through them until I came to this one:

What did I accomplish this year that I am most proud of?”

I sat and thought. What one thing did I accomplish that I was most proud of?

Honestly, I couldn’t think of one. I sat on this for a few days, thinking about it. Still nothing. This really bothered me.

It wasn’t that I hadn’t done anything. We live a busy life. But to not be able to think of one thing? This bothered me enough to write a dear friend to see if she could think it through with me. (THIS is the benefit of having iron-sharpening-iron friends.) We hashed it out a little and she helped me gain perspective.

Some seasons of life cannot be measured by accomplishments.

There are times when life happens so fast and people need you so intensely that what you accomplished hardly makes the highlight reel. (Think sickness, death, new baby, foster child, new adoption, moving, etc…)

This Christmas I planted a lovely amaryllis bulb that a sweet reader, Becky, gave to me. I’ve been watching it grow and bloom against the backdrop of the grey bare trees outside my window. It started as a brown bulb, a stump really, not very pretty but full of potential. I planted it, put it on the windowsill, and gave it water. Things must have happened underground, because now it’s in full crimson bloom. The flower was alive and accomplishing its task underground before any of us had any clue it was accomplishing anything. The growing season was an accomplishment that allowed the flower to blossom.

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I believe our mundane days are the same–underground work, unseen, undetected, un-celebrated, but vital.

Maybe you are in a mundane season right now. Maybe all your hard work is unseen because it’s undone the very next day– the clean house dirtied, the once shiny sink now full of grimy water.

Moms, we feed hungry bellies. We wash clothes and remove stains. We wipe tears and console hurt feelings. We listen to little hearts. We make meals for others and host people in our home. We bake cakes to mark milestones for family parties and church fellowships. We bathe dirty bodies and change messy diapers. We stir stew and kneed bread. We watch our neighbor’s kids. We calm irrational fears and keep toddlers on our hip when they are whiny. We make sure our kids do their homework, get to their appointments, and make their beds. We sit with hurting women. We stay behind so that our husband can minister to others.

It’s not hollywood stuff and it may not be memorable, but it’s important. This is the stuff of life and it’s where God has called us to bloom. It may not feel like an accomplishment. Nobody’s going to celebrate that you made your bed and got tangles out of the two year old’s hair.

But it’s our sacred work. It’s our reasonable service.

My friend sent me this wonderful verse:

Ps. 37:3 Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.

God doesn’t require accomplishments. God just wants us to be faithful right where we are. He wants us to take joy as we serve others in hidden ways that no one will ever know about except God.

My friend also sent me these lovely lines from Robert Louis Stevenson that I hope encourage you as much as they encouraged me!

“The best things are nearest: breath in your nostrils, light in your eyes, flowers at your feet, duties at your hand, the path of God just before you. Then do not grasp at the stars, but do life’s plain common work as it comes certain that daily duties and daily bread are the sweetest things of life.”

and

“Everyday courage has few witnesses. But yours is no less noble because no drum beats for you and no crowds shout your name.”

And from Elisabeth Elliot:

This job has been given to me to do. Therefore, it is a gift. Therefore, it is a privilege. Therefore, it is an offering I may make to God. Therefore, it is to be done gladly, if it is done for Him. Here, not somewhere else, I may learn God’s way. In this job, not in some other, God looks for faithfulness.”

5 Lessons I’ve Learned in 2015 {AKA Seasons Change}

I’d like to pretend I’ve put a great deal of time into planning for 2016. Although I do have a few goals for 2016, the truth is that I am in a season of adjustment and some days I feel like I am barely keeping my head above water. It’s not because I am running myself ragged or that I am just so incredibly busy that I can’t keep up. It’s more like I’m in a season that I didn’t expect.

Many of you know that I’m caring for a toddler boy right now. We are absolutely in love with him, but, as with all foster care, there are so many unknowns that it can be exhausting and overwhelming. I’ve told my closest friends this, and I guess it’s common in fostering, but I worry more about this little guy than I ever did with my own children. Everything’s fluid, nothing set in stone.

12390965_10153233382060785_5542351305404369267_nThere’s a great deal of unsettle-ness that comes with the fostering territory and I don’t even know if I could explain it if I try. You try to make things “feel” permanent when you know they aren’t. You make every effort to assimilate them into your family and make them feel attached, when you know that it could all change at any moment. Sometimes it feels fraudulent and like a big social experiment. You worry that it will end in hurt for this little guy and it breaks your heart.

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On a day-to-day basis, I’ve come to the conclusion that all I can do is love this little one the best I can. God ordained for Him to be here and what God ordains is always good. I can’t worry about tomorrow even though I find myself daily fighting with the “what ifs” that pop into my mind. We’re all better off for having had this little boy in our life, if only for a season.

I’ve learned several lessons in the last 8 months, all totally unexpected ones.

  1. Acceptance. Most of them include the concept of accepting God’s will when it feels awkward or unstable. Submitting to God’s plan when I wonder if it will ultimately end up hurting my children’s hearts.
  2. Surrender. I think we confuse commitment to God with surrender and they are two totally different animals. I can commit to what I want: the ministries, the priorities, the activities. Commitment puts me in the driver’s seat. Surrender is completely letting go of my own ideals and plans and accepting the path God has laid out for me. It puts God in the driver’s seat.
  3. Time. You never know how God will rearrange your life, so spending time in God’s Word in BULK when you can is an imperative. For the last 8 or so years, I’ve had the luxury of lots of time in the Word. I could sit at my leisure and study because my kids were older and more self-governed. During these years, I went through 2 Journaling Bibles, studied numerous books of the Bible in-depth, took detailed notes that I can return to during this season. I can see now that God was “growing me” and driving down “roots” for the stability I’d need for this season.
  4. Love and do good–no strings attached. It’s easy to love those who love us back, and harder to love those who are unkind or rude, yet God’s love benefits the just and the unjust. Fostering has taught me an aspect of God’s love that I needed to learn again: selfless love. Love that gives time and sacrifices energy for the benefit of another who might never remember you at all. Love that desperately wants to keep the child but prays earnestly for the recovery of the child’s bio-mom at the same time.
  5. Serving. I’ve said this before but serving God doesn’t always look the way you think it will and that’s what’s so exciting about the Christian life. Hospitality and “kitchen table counseling” continue to be the ministries God ordains for me mostly. For those of you who are serving God by caring for toddlers or the elderly and wonder if your service is small compared to what others are doing, ask yourself this question: “If Jesus walked into my home today, would I:
    1. offer him a drink?
    2. cook a meal for Him?
    3. serve Him a snack?
    4. care for Him if He were sick?
    5. comfort Him if He were discouraged?
    6. wash His laundry and press His shirts?

“Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” Matthew 25:40

Any service, however menial or insignificant, done with a mind toward’s God is like doing it for Him. This mindset changes you!

Next month on the blog I’ll be referencing a book that will help you study the Bible for yourself:  How to Study Your Bible: Discover the Life-Changing Approach to God’s Word by Kay Arthur. It’s so important that you learn to study God’s word on your own. I know that sounds cliché, but from what I see, most people rely on second-hand knowledge to learn. They read a passage and then “study” the Bible by pouring over the ideas of Matthew Henry or John MacArthur or John Piper. This is not the same as studying the Bible. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good commentary and appreciate all of the wonderful study aids we have at our disposal, but not if they become a crutch so that you don’t have to do the slow, hard, work of studying the Bible for yourself. Anyway, we’ll talk about that more next month.

For now, what are some of the lessons you’ve learned this year? How has God changed you? Share in the comments.

Unfair Ministry: Ministry Wives Edition

Last week I wrote about hard times in ministry. I received more email about totally ridiculous stuff that goes on in ministry, much of it unfair, and it’s horrible and hurtful and my heart goes out to you. A also received several inboxes saying that this series is not just applicable to the ministry but to all women, and I do agree.

But I specifically wrote to my fellow ministry wives because ministry wives often suffer alone and there are certain types of temptations that, although not “uncommon to man”, are often very commonly found lurking in the hearts of good, ministry-minded folks.

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And in order to lead from a position of grace, we need to be aware of the pitfalls that are common in ministry.For instance, because you are a leader, the desire to be respected can morph into a campaign to dominate, demand to be consulted, or to get your own way. Or perhaps, since you end up making many of the decisions about church matters, humility takes a back seat and you no longer consider the needs, sensitivities, or quirks of other congregants, taking the my way or the highway approach, when care and consideration would have been the prudent, others-minded way. And there are too many other temptations associated with ministry to even list.

Ministry wives, life is “unfair” and ministry life is often messy and wisdom would dictate that we keep ourselves in check. We are 100% responsible for our own actions and nobody elses. I suggest that we really *believe* that sin is harmful and that we are blind to our own sin, and we want to avoid it, we need to step back, take heed, lest we fall and “go our own way” becoming a law unto ourselves. Especially in the context of trials. Our hearts are deceitful and desperately wicked. Do we believe this or do we believe that we’re a in a higher class of sinners than the people we serve?

On top of blindness to our own sin, we are often given opportunities or preference that other congregants might not receive, simply because we married a ministry guy. Of course, there is nothing wrong with this. God does assign us our portion and lot.

The trouble comes when we accept opportunities that we are not in any spiritual condition to perform or when we expect preferential treatment and get bent out of shape when overlooked.(pride)

Example: I’ve been offered speaking opportunities or other ministry related opportunities over the years simply because I am married to Peter and because of the blog and there are times when I’ve had just plain said “NO.”

Why? Well, sometimes it’s due to seasons of life or schedules, but other times its because I know the condition of my own heart. I know that life has been busy and I should be learning not teaching. I know that I have been unholy and stubborn and I need to learn submission to God before I step out again. Sometimes I forgo writing here because I need to obey more so that my words have meaning when I speak. Anyone can get up and speak, right? But if your life is not matching up, ladies, what’s the point? Anyone can open their home to strangers and serve, but if you’ve been mistreating your own kids and husband, where’s the authenticity and uprightness in that?

This ministry life is not a show or our stage. If you want to impact your home/church/sphere, let the words you speak and claim to love match your actions. That’s the best contribution/legacy/testimony we can give to our families, children, and church.

During trials, the Lord is concerned about my heart and this should my highest concern as well.

“Search me, Oh God” and inspect my heart, and don’t let me dare run ahead of you in speech, ministry.

Let’s face it, if you’ve been in ministry you know that all people are sinful, like the pastor who views pornography and brushes it under the carpet then gets up and preaches, or the ministry wife who makes jabs about one member and then is quick to get up and praise the Lord out of the other side of her mouth. Sin abounds in all of us and the church is not exempt.

Because sin can so easily go undetected, it’s helpful to ask, “If I were not the pastors’/evangelists’/youth pastors’/missionarys’ wife, would I be asked to do this ministry based on my godly reputation, humble interactions, faithful service, consistent testimony? If not, say no.

If you were not a leadership wife…if you were a lay person in the church…would people–

  • ask you for wise counsel based on your knowledge and application of God’s Word in your own life?
  • confide their troubles and assume that you wouldn’t gossip?
  • say that you know how to control your tongue and are consistent to use it to bless bless and not curse? Am I gushing fresh water one day and brackish the next? (James 3:10-12)
  • say my life is described as “moderate”–my appetites under control. AKA… I can say no to myself. Or do I swing the pendulum with my words,moods, weight, hobbies, spending, time, etc…Is moderation a defining quality or do I swing from one extreme or the other?

These are questions we should ask ourselves because others may not ask or enforce them upon us. Most people assume that you’ve got it all together and that makes it even more dangerous.

We know from God’s Word that true wisdom is seen by living out the gospel humbly, without mean-spirited ambition, boasting, or lashing out with the tongue. Passions and desires under the Lordship of Christ.

That’s why TRIALS are so invaluable to our lives. In my experience, it’s during trials when my guard is down that I can see the true nature of my heart. I get a glimpse of what’s ruling underneath and what motives are moving me to action.

How do you respond when someone says no to you or tells you to wait? How do you respond when confronted with your own sin? Are you still able to answer to/submit to other people or do you believe yourself above that? These are the MINISTRY MOMENTS when God is trying to draw you closer to Himself. He’s asking you to throw off your pride, stop demanding your rights, and humbly follow Him.

God uses UNFAIR ministry, ladies, for our good and His glory.

He allows that woman to give you the cold shoulder to test your humility. He allows that callous remark to see whether you’ll love that unlovely one or no. He wants us to obey His Word through it all of the hurt and unfairness.

Or we can respond by running ahead doing what we think will give us momentary satisfaction and, ultimately, happiness, or by running our mouth, causing a “wildfire” of trouble.

Let’s remember Sarah, Abraham’s wife, when we are tempted to run ahead of God and take matters into our own hands. Although Sarah had faith in God, we see that she doubted God’s ability to keep His promise to give her a son in her old age. That one thing she wanted so badly…and she allowed discouragement to linger and unhappiness to blossom until she took matters into her own hands.

That’s why we CAN’T look at our circumstances. To focus on our trials is to look away from our Faithful God.

Looking to our circumstances too long breeds doubt, despair, discouragement, depression, cynicism, and a sour spirit. Have you ever blurted something and realized how SOUR it was!? I have!

When we look to the Lord, and remember that HE IS OUR PRIZE AND GOAL, we experience the joyful anticipation of His PROMISES.

Scripture is full of examples of people in serious trials who reacted in a godly manner and God’s answers are always the same:

“Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for Me?” Jeremiah 32:27 and

“Has the Lord’s arm been shortened?” (Numbers 11:23)

“Is anything too hard for the Lord?” (Gen. 18:14)

“O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matt. 14:31)

Sarai took matters into her own hands and ran ahead of God because she ultimately doubted God and despised His timing.

We all know the disastrous result of that decision and can all take a lesson from her disobedience:

  • Whenever we take control of our circumstance in a way that is outside of the bounds of scripture, we are headed for trouble.
  • When we attempt to get what we want using sinful means, we’re showing that we are no longer hoping in God.
  • When we try to escape our problems, we’re saying that God put us here mistakenly and that we must master our own fate.

God’s timing and ways are good. “His way is perfect.”

When God is ready to act, He will.

Your job is to watch your attitude and heart.

Are you living out the gospel in joyful anticipation of what the Savior will do?

Are you trusting and obeying God’s word, staying inside the bounds of Scripture?

Do you see your gifts in life as coming from God or do you demand them for yourself, living life as though God’s short changed you somehow.

Ministry friends, this is the life of faith. Let’s not copy the “take it into your own hands” method of Sara. Let’s leave it in God’s capable hands.

“Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised.” Heb. 11:11

When life’s not fair and ministry is hard, let’s choose to trust and obey!

Your God-ordained Job for Today

“What does God want me to do?” or “What is God’s will for my life?”

These are two common questions women ask. They flounder: “I feel like I should be doing more…maybe I’m missing the boat somewhere.”

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Have you ever felt this way?

I’ve come to believe that most women struggle with “God’s will” because they are comparing their life to others.

This mindset is especially tempting when we forget that God values what He calls us to do, whether we think it’s significant or not. 

Cleaning the house, changing diapers, making meals, running errands, caring for the sick–these unimpressive, mundane tasks bring glory to God when we do them with a heart towards Him.

We look around and compare our life to that woman over there who is thin, beautiful, rich, has a doting husband, cooperative kids, never-ending energy, and always has it all together.

We believe that we need to be remarkable and the comparison begins:

  • The younger mother whose days are full of caring for young children feels guilty for not getting out and visiting the sick more.
  • The daughter who is caring for an elderly parent and barely gets out of the house longs to start a ministry of encouragement to younger moms.
  • The financially struggling woman wonders if she should be entertaining more.
  • The single mom feels guilty that she can’t cart her kids around to every activity because of her hectic work schedule.
  • The older woman feels guilty that her arthritis won’t allow her to be out and about serving others like she once did.

Here’s the thing: Wherever you are today, the most remarkable thing you can do is to do good and serve the people right in front of you now, because the truth is that there are not many who are willing to embrace the mundane and obscure for the glory of God. So if this is where you find yourself, take heart and jump in:

  • If you find yourself with kids today, serve them.
  • If you are with your husband all day, encourage him.
  • If you are caring for the sick, do it with cheerfulness.
  • If you come face to face with a cashier, bless her.
  • If you have any human interaction, represent Christ well.

Be the hands and feet of Christ right where you are.

Don’t wish you were doing something “more”–more important, more visible, more life-changing. The lie of “more” is a trap that keeps you from joyfully serving what you believe to be “less.”

The most remarkable women I know are the ones who don’t care who sees or applauds or appreciates—they just live a faithful life every step of the way, no matter where the path leads.

Where do you find yourself today? Do you believe that God ordains all of your days? What’s on your agenda today? No matter how un-glamorous, be faithful and diligent to God right there.

What resources do you have? Are they meager? Use them anyway. If you have a teapot, use it. If you only have the gift of gab, use your words to bless someone else. If you have social media, make it a blessing.

Be so busy doing the will of God and serving others that you don’t have time to notice what others are doing.

 

When Dreams For My Kids Fall Short

“The hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world.” That quote used to bring me comfort, on the days when I didn’t feel like much, rocking babies in my comfy pants and t-shirt. The idea of influencing a generation and changing the world for the better took the sting out of the late night feedings and spit up on my shoulder.

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In the early years of motherhood, despite exhaustion and repetition, I had dreams for my kids. I wanted them to be better than I was. I wanted them to be well rounded, happy, healthy, and I wanted to give them the tools and education they needed to change their own little corner of the world for better.

All good things, but my dreams were shallow and fell short and missed the grand goal of them savoring and cherishing Christ.

Oh, I wanted them to know Christ. I taught them to fold their little hands and say grace, we learned portions of scripture together, prayed for missionaries, sang songs, and went to all the church services. From the outside looking in, you would have called me ultra-faithful in the training department, but when Christ is not the “end all” in your own life, the truth is He’s just an “add on” –and that is always a confusing, strange, unstable mix. (You’ll know He’s an “add on” when your true god is rivaled or taken away. You still have Christ, but you’re pining away after the reigning god at the moment.)

Thank God that dreams change. When Christ is all-in-all, everything else is a nice add on, but not mandatory.

Now, I just want them to be whole in Christ.

I want them to be happy in the present, no matter where life that finds them. I want them to be able to look through the hardship and see the Source and count it a blessing.

I no longer try to keep things neat and safe for them, because I’ve learned that I can’t pass my faith on to them through my experiences or via a sterile environment. I can point them to Christ and trust the Holy Spirit to do a work in them. They have to walk the life of faith on their own, and without adversity, hardships, temptations, and trials, there would be no need for faith.

I want them to be content in the midst of crisis, because our happiness is not dependent on our circumstances and I want them to know first hand that God is more than enough comfort when trials come.

I want them to cultivate confidence in their own relationship with God, and I want them to recognize the voice of the Holy Spirit when He prompts them to pray or abstain from sin, or to evangelize.

When life is unmanageable and uncontrollable, I want them to grasp God’s promises with their own two hands and never let go. And they can’t do that void of trouble.

I’m not wishing hardship on them, don’t get me wrong. But if hardship is necessary to bring them closer and nearer to Christ, then that is okay, because this world is not the end all.

Christ is the end all, and He desires for His kids to see and know Him more than I do.

What can a mom do? You can faithfully teach and look for opportunities to point them to the good news of the gospel.

And you can pray along with Jesus for them–

John 17:9,15,17::  I pray for them… for they are thine. I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.

 “God is the highest good of the reasonable creature. The enjoyment of him is our proper; and is the only happiness with which our souls can be satisfied. To go to heaven, fully to enjoy God, is infinitely better than the most pleasant accommodations here. Better than fathers and mothers, husbands, wives, or children, or the company of any, or all earthly friends. These are but shadows; but the enjoyment of God is the substance. These are but scattered beams; but God is the sun. These are but streams; but God is the fountain. These are but drops, but God is the ocean.” 
― Jonathan Edwards,

 

Purpose for the Sidelined Mom

Nobody wants to live a sidelined life, especially young mothers who are full of energy and dreams. We want to make a difference and live with purpose, but frankly, life with little kids feels like being left out of the game all together.

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The rest of the world seems to be tackling life, moving ahead, and making progress, and we are very much stuck in the house. In fact, we haven’t made it out of the house in three days.

Do you ever wonder,

Lord, when am I actually going to do something of meaning for you? When will my life count? I’m home with these kids all day, every day. Everything I do is undone within 24 hours and nothing seems to last. I dreamed of serving others in your name. I long to share your mercy with others. I’m itching to encourage someone with your great love today.

I thought all these things when my kids were young. Especially on the bad days. You know the ones. On those days, I felt like I had missed my boat somewhere, somehow.

Those are exactly the times when my faith was tested. I wondered if God remembered me. Did He hear my prayer? Does He think that I am only qualified to wipe noses and break up toddler fights? (Which can be pretty scary, sometimes.)  I wondered if He realized all the lovely things I wanted to do for Him….if I wasn’t stuck in this house.

And then, one day, in the midst of my pity-party, God pulled back my blinders and showed me that He HAD in fact, answered my prayers. What I called “stuck”, God called “serving Him.” I wanted to go somewhere exciting to serve, but the Lord set up my base of ministry in my home. 

Perhaps you’re discouraged today. You thought that God would lead you to some exciting foreign mission, or to tend the sick in His name, or lead a Bible study, or to mentor women, or to have a ministry of encouraging hurting people, or feeding the poor. You thought you’d have this amazing calling.

From where you sit {looking over the mounds of laundry and your toy strewn living room} life is pretty mundane, and you’re discontent, wondering if this is all there is for you. You fear God’s passed you by somehow and that everyone else is doing the important work.

BUT, what if God has answered your prayer and you just don’t know it yet. Consider this:

What if God’s special mission for you is to be the one to encourage your own husband in your own home? Imagine how wonderful it would be to have him come home to a smile and a hug, a warm meal, and a “you’re important to me” look that lets him know you care?

What if God sent you to cook for those little faces right in front of you?  To give them a cup of cold water, in Jesus name?

What if God put you there to nurse sick kids in kindness in the middle of the night? To dry their tears when they are having nightmares? Someone has to do it.

What if God sent you teach your own children the Bible? Your teaching will impact generations for Christ, including your own grandchildren. That’s a pretty big assignment. Did you talk to your kids about God today? Are you pouring your life into teaching them first? Perhaps you could start there.

What if God sent you to encourage anyone who entered your home with the wonderful message of mercy and forgiveness that you’ve received? Imagine the impact a heart full of gratitude and a mouth that spills forth praise and thanksgiving could make on a discouraged younger mom, mailman, or neighbor?

Perhaps the biggest ministry impact we can have is right here, in these four walls.

Now, I know you’re doing many of these things, because women get things done. But, we all know that we can serve willingly or grudgingly. Sometimes, we’re going through the motions but our joy is all gone.

Let me encourage you to do what you’re doing for Jesus sake, and the joy will return. 

“Whether therefore you eat, or drink, or whatsoever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

The location of your ministry doesn’t make it big, the Author of your ministry makes it big.

And if you are at home with little ones all day, praise God for such a ministry! Give them your best. Be the best example you can be. Show them how much Jesus loves them by being His hands and feet.

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That perspective changes everything, doesn’t it? :)

This, I can do Lord, for You!

Busy Serving God? Really?

If you are like me, you have goals for yourself. You’ve thought them through, prayed over them, and planned them out for your week, month and year.

I sit weekly and plan on paper so I can see visually, in blocks of time, any discrepancies between my ideal priorities and my daily life.

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Sometimes the best laid plans get waylaid by the urgent: a sick child, a broken pipe, a family emergency. But too often, my plans get sidetracked by my own tendency to say “Yes” without thinking through the ramifications of that.

Maybe you can relate because I know we’re all busy. We fill our calendars with good activities which sometimes keep us from pursuing the best.

I’ve learned the hard way, there are a lot of good things I can do. And they all require energy and time which are in limited supply.

JUST because an opportunity presents itself, does not mean that it is God’s assigned task for me that day.

Do you find yourself jumping into activity without consulting God?  Yes, I’m happy to watch your kids, Of course I’ll oversee that event, Yes, I’m happy to speak at your event, and for sure I’ll bake goodies for that activity.

Did it ever occur to you that you can run so far ahead of God that you MISS His best for you?

FACT: You can be so busy doing good things that you are too exhausted and overbooked to do the ministry that He had intended for you!

You don’t have to try to do everything.

If we jump in to ministry/service without praying about it, {ministry wives, I’m looking at you! ;))

or say yes to baking cookies,

or to overseeing a function,

or to speaking at this or that event,

we are actually leaving God out of the picture. 

We’re so busy serving God that we’ve forgotten about Him. Oh, He’s back there somewhere, I’m sure, but I’ve hit the floor running and He’ll have to catch up to me later. That’s how we act sometimes. Like we’ve forgotten Him.

How strange, huh?

Is it possible that we’re really self-serving when we approach service like that, because a true servant waits for his orders. A faithful servant does what the Master wants Him to do and not the other way around. A humble servant wouldn’t assume the position of Master.

What, Lord, can I do for you? Who can I serve? Your plans, your purposes are my goals today. 

So how does a people-pleasing do-gooder get a grip on her calendar and resist such temptation?

1. Write out your ideals. What are the primary jobs you believe you’re most answerable to God for? Mine are here and they start with things no one else can accomplish like caring for my own soul and my family. Then they work out from there.

2. Set limits for yourself and know your limits. We tend to be off kilter as a family if we are out of the house too many days in a row. We’ve always had “go” and “stay” days because of this. Plan to limit shopping to twice a week if your tempted to run out every day and it’s interfering with other ideals. Plan to say no to extra commitments if you are not faithfully meeting your primary ideals.

3. First things first. Secondary things, second. I know this sounds simple, but when you live out your priorities and take care of first things first, then secondary opportunities are easier.

For instance, one of my primary goals is a clean house. When I keep a clean house as a priority, opportunities for hospitality are not monumental tasks. When the house is basically cared for, then I can turn my focus toward outside ministry.

Another primary focus is my devotional life. It’s my job to make sure I’m connected to God, abiding in His word. When I do this as a primary thing, it’s easier to help other women when they ask me for advice because I have something to give them from the overflow of my own relationship. I know what to say because I know my God.

4. Pray about it before you say you’ll do it. If your calendar is lacking white space, don’t assume because you are asked to do something that it must be God’s will for you. ASK God if it is His will for you or not. After you pray about it, check with your husband. He usually has a good idea of whether it’s necessary or not.

5. Be balanced. Check yourself often. Many younger women ask me how I balance ministry and motherhood. They sometimes feel stuck in the house with kids and sidelined. They wonder What can I do for God? I’ve also felt this way.

I can tell you from experience that opportunities for ministry WILL open up to you in God’s timing when you faithfully care for your children and home well first. It promotes the gospel and holy living and people notice this in such a fractured, unhappy world.

In my experience, being at home, caring for kids, nurturing my own spiritual walk has given me all kinds of opportunities, sometimes more than I could handle: helping younger mothers, encouraging teens, Bible studies and book studies, counseling women, praying with others, hospitality, bringing a meal to a sick friend, speaking opportunities and this blog.  I didn’t have to go searching for them–they came to me–sometimes more than I could handle!

One thing is for sure, if you are not connected to God through His Word and prayer on a daily basis, He can’t lead you and you can’t know His will. When we walk with an awareness of what God wants and what He is doing, we’re more apt to join Him in what He’s doing than to drag Him along behind us as we seek our own goals and plans.

Follow Him. He’ll lead you! It should never be the other way around.

 

Fear, Faith and Following {Ministry Wives Monday Guest Post}

I’m so excited to have a guest post submitted by a missionary wife and friend, Michelle.

Michelle has served as an assistant pastor’s wife and is currently serving overseas with her husband on the mission field.  They have three children, ages 8, 7, and 3, with a fourth one coming in one month!  She enjoys reading, quilting, hiking, and watching baseball with her husband.  I hope her words of faith and fear-less-ness encourage you as much as they did me!

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Fear, Faith, and Following

“I’m afraid, Mommy!”  is a common phrase spoken by my children.  Whether it is a wild animal, a bug, a scary movie, or just doing a new activity, my children voice their fear to me almost every day.  Each time my children express this feeling, I try to address their fear right away, and to use that moment to teach them to trust or depend on God even in little situations. Most of us as adults still struggle with responding in fear rather than in faith.  We further complicate matters by getting married to another sinful human being.   If our husband is in ministry, we face even more fearful challenges due to the uncertainty of ministry. As ministry wives, if we do not respond in faith to God while following our husbands, the end result can be devastating.  A fearful ministry wife can become discouraged and depressed, and if she does not turn to the Lord, she will ultimately destroy (or at the very least cripple) her husband’s ministry. So, how do we as ministry wives deal with fear as we follow our husbands to what God wants him to do?  1 Timothy 1:7 gives us three ways to fight fear with faith in our lives. It says “For God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”

First, notice that the verse says that GOD has not given us the spirit of fear, but rather GOD has given us three things instead.  Responding the right way to your husband’s leadership starts with your relationship with God.  Do you rely more on a human relationship for direction or guidance than you do on God and His Word?  If you have been married any length of time you know that your husband, no matter how godly he is, will not always be perfect, but God is omniscient, omnipresent, and all powerful!  He never makes a mistake or fails.  A great way to deal with fear is to start making a list of all the attributes of God, and to stop making a list of all the ways your husband can fail!

Secondly, God has given us the Holy Spirit that lives inside of us as believers. His Holy Spirit gives us power to defeat the fear.  Fear is a debilitating emotion that either wants us to freeze or run away from the problem.  Neither of these responses is based on faith in God.  This is our flesh’s response when something happens that we cannot deal with in our own strength. In Ephesians 6:10-18, Paul says, “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might.”  He then goes on to tell us how to defeat the fiery darts of the devil. As a ministry wife don’t give into the fiery dart of fear.  Remember, that the Holy Spirit has given us the power to fight fear with faith in the promises of God.

Thirdly, notice, that God has also given us the Holy Spirit so we can respond in love! A spirit of fear will respond in anger, revenge, discontentment, gossip, and pride, but it will never respond in love.  As ministry wives, we need to let our husbands know that we love them.  Are you unsure of how a loving response looks?  I Corinthians 13:4-7 lists the characteristics of love. They include: kindness, humility, prudence, sacrifice, truthfulness, and patience.  A ministry wife that has these characteristics is walking in the Spirit and will have no room for fear in her life.

The last thing mentioned that the Holy Spirit gives us is a sound mind.  I think that this is the most practical when dealing with ministry and following the leadership of our husbands. As women, fear is usually a reactionary, emotional response to a person or situation.  This is the opposite of a sound mind.  A sound mind is one that is under control and is putting to practice Philippians 4:8.     I, personally, have found it very helpful to tell my husband (or others) “Let me think about it,” whenever I feel the overwhelming emotion of fear taking over my thoughts.  Then I will spend time trying to think about his ideas when I am rested, fed, and spiritually recharged. (Sometimes a difficult combination to achieve as a mother of small children!)

God desires that we be women of faith not of fear.  He has given us the Holy Spirit so we have the power, love, and sound mind to defeat fear in our lives.  Following our husbands as they follow God is not easy, but with a deeper faith in God, we can be ministry wives who support and encourage our husbands to become all that God has for them!