Posts tagged choice
Forced Rest

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

Take my yoke on you and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.   Matthew 11:28-29 (NET)

I’m learning a lot about rest lately.  

Rest:  repose, freedom from activity or labor.  Peace of mind or spirit.  A place for resting or lodging.  Something used for support. 

In July the Lord moved our little family to North Dallas, Texas.  This after seven years in the Northern, Virginia/Washington DC area.  It was a massive change for all of us.  We were fully “over-programed” in our big city life.  My hubs was driving a 3 hour round trip commute plus an 11 hour work day.  I was driving the kids 3 hours a day to and from their special school that could help teach them Jesus and accommodate their learning needs.  Our sweet kiddos had some activities, but not as many as most of the children of the land in which we lived.  Mine are kids whose time is spent in therapy and with special doctors, typically a city away.  I was a busy Bible study teacher in our church. It was the joy of my heart, but our life had outgrown us.  As a family we were weary and burdened. 

There was no doubt God called us to Texas.  To a softer life.  A life with a smaller geographical radius, with closer grandparents and helpful schools for our kiddos. And, without notice, He called us to a serious season of rest.   Some stuff we were happy to let go of…we skipped away.  Others we released slowly, sadly.  

To leave my Bible study teaching felt like leaving a piece of my heart in Virginia.  We knew, really deeply knew, God had said, “it’s time to go.”  But it wasn’t easy.  I also knew God was calling me to wait before I jumped into ministry here in Texas.   “One year…”  Kept reverberating in my spirit.  “One year…”  And then, like an exclamation point, I broke my ankle.  

I broke my ankle in two places in November 2017 and it took nearly a year for complete healing.   I started out with a non-walking cast for four weeks, then a boot for six more weeks, followed by three months of physical therapy.   At first, I was in a respectable amount of pain so I didn’t do a lot of moving around.  I thank Jesus profoundly for my bathtub.  And for my husband who did EVERYTHING while I was laid up.  Oh, and my sweet neighbors.  Y’all, Texans line up to bring the food.  Bless them. 

I expected to “work” while I was forced to sit.  I expected to write my Opus Maximus.  Friends said, “I can’t wait to see what God does with this time!”  And I felt the pressure to do something important…at least at first.  But to tell you the truth, after a while I settled into it.  I grew to like certain aspects of my forced rest.  My days were smaller, simpler, cleaner and quieter.  My pain distracted my mind and required a lot of actual physical downtime.  If I were standing up for more than 10 minutes my foot would swell and the toes peeking out of my cast would turn purple.  I had no choice but to sit, foot up, ice on.  I read a lot.  I listened to audio books.  I colored in my daughters “adult” coloring book.  I ordered all of our Christmas presents and most of our groceries online.  I was a late adaptor to Downton Abbey so I caught the first two seasons.  I learned binge watching could be delicious!  Did I mention my bathtub?  

During this season Jesus was speaking to me, asking me to reframe how I see my life.  I see life as a full plate.  Busy, loaded.  If something new comes, I just shuffle things around so everything can fit.  I bet you do too.  I see rest taking up a very small space on that plate.  Like an olive.  Or a pickle.  It’s a garnish, not a main component of my day.  And when I indulge in it, I tend to feel a little extravagant, wasteful even guilty.  

My full plate got tipped over.  During my recuperation life was not a full plate with moments of rest.  Life was full rest with moments of activity.  It flipped.  I lived the inverse of my previous existence.  Of course it was situational, temporary.  We can’t live on the couch and we aren’t called to.  But it taught me something.  I am not the sum of my activities.  I simply am.  To Jesus that is enough.  It’s enough.  This is the starting point.  Add to your life carefully from here. 

In Matthew 11:28-29 Jesus is talking to the crowds.  Folks who were burdened with guilt and laboring hard under pharisaical laws.  Many laws, requiring strict observance, and impossible to follow.  These people were hamstrung, trapped.  There was no real path to rest for them.  In Jesus’ time the oxen’s yoke had become a metaphor for Jewish law.  It was heavy hard work to carry this yoke.  Everyone knew what you meant when you talked about the yoke of the law. In Bible times, it was the chief work of a carpenter to craft yokes.  Jesus knew about yokes.  And here He is, the gentle carpenter, with a message of rest.  

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28

The words spoken here are ours to claim.  He beckons us to come to Him.  That is the initial action we must take.  To come means to put our trust in him.  To give Him our strained and swollen lives.  To open our hands and drop our burdens at his feet and trust him for what’s next.  

What’s next? He gives rest.  Physical rest?  Maybe.  Most of us need that.  Spiritual rest?  Definitely.   We trust - Jesus gives.  It’s His eternal exchange.  Don’t you love Him for it? 

Take my yoke on you and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  Matthew 11:29

First we come, next we take His yoke.  His will for our lives.  His path for our days.  After our initial moment of trust we pursue Him through life.  Yoked to Him, seeking him, letting Him guide the easy days and the hard ones.  Life with Christ becomes, not easy, but easier than doing life on our own.  Now, our rest isn’t given…it’s found.  We find rest in living a life close to Jesus.  Why?  Because a life close to Jesus is a life covered in grace.  Trust and grace lived out, that’s rest.  That’s peace.  

In Expositions of Holy Scripture, Alexander Maclaren phrases it this way, “The 'coming' is an initial act which makes a man Christ's companion. And the 'Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me,' is the continuous act by which that companionship is manifested and preserved.” 

Initial then continual. A friendship holy, intimate, and blessed. 

Let’s not miss this, Jesus makes Himself gentle and humble in heart voluntarily.  He bends low to share this yoke of life with us.  It’s not his divine nature to be lowly.  He does it for us.  

So what does this look like practically?  To live a life yoked with Jesus?  To find pockets of rest and grace among the clatter of our lives?  How do we get there?  

We go to Him. 

Here’s an idea.  Spend some time alone with the Lord in prayer.  

“Lord, I come to you trusting.  I’m tired.  I need rest.  Your rest.  I long for the assurance that you are with me, guiding my days.  I take your yoke upon me.  Teach me how to be gentle and humble like you.  Show me the path of grace.  Help me find rest for my soul.”

Now sit in silence. (Keep a notepad and pen handy to write down and dismiss all distracting thoughts that come your way.  Use shorthand.  Ex: swch laundry,  p.u. kids)   

Ask the Lord:

1) Where do I need to trust you more?
2) What is my heart longing to do for you?  
3) What is one next step I can take? 

That’s it my sister.  Put time in your schedule and come back to this often.  Block it off in your smart phone.   

Amy Carmichael, the amazing missionary to India in the 1900s, said, “Blessed are the single-hearted, for they shall enjoy much peace. If you refuse to be hurried and pressed, if you stay your soul on God, nothing can keep you from that clearness of spirit, which is life and peace. In that stillness you will know what His will is.”

Know that great things come from resting.  You are not wasting your time.  God uses rest to prime our hearts for the next good thing.  Those things left on your plate, some of them won’t be so important anymore, they’ll fall off.  Others will get the time and attention they need.  

Yesterday, I had a hard day.  My ankle hurt and so did everything else.  I felt sore and stiff.  It’s ok.  It’s what comes from months of limping.  So, I took a rest day.  I stayed home.  Took a slow walk.  Got back in my bath.  And Jesus, my yokefellow, was there saying, “Remember what you learned on the couch.  Come to me.  Trust me.  I’ve got this.” 

*Forced Rest first appeared on Daughters of the Deep

Guest Contributor:

Julianna Mathers.jpg

Julianna Mathers is a writer, speaker and ladies Bible study teacher who is passionate about encouraging women.  She has instructed little girls, teens, and adult women for the past 20 years through discipleship, Sunday school, and in-depth ladies Bible study. Along with her husband, she has co-taught couples and hosted a life group in her home for years. She's had the privilege of sharing her miracle adoption and mothering stories with hundreds of women through speaking events. 

With her relatable, poignant and funny style, she loves to challenge, dream with and draw women into a deeper knowledge of scripture and a more intimate relationship with the Lord.   

Julianna graduated from the University of Virginia and spent 11 years working in corporate America before becoming a wife and mom.  She is married to Dwight Mathers, a retired U.S. Coast Guard Captain and is the mother of two wonderful adopted children.  In her free time she loves decorating and re-decorating her home, cooking big messy meals, writing about God’s lavish grace, and exploring blogging.  Julianna and her family have recently relocated to Dallas, TX from the Northern Virginia area.  They are members of Prestonwood Baptist Church.  Julianna and her husband Dwight are both active in Bible studies with Riverstone Ministries, a ministry centered in her neighborhood.   

A New Creation

There are so many facets to this small but meaningful piece of my story I’m about to try to share, that I say try because I don’t even know where to start.

A little over a year ago, God led my husband and I to a new town, in a new state, just a few hours away from the place we had spent much of our childhood and called home for the past 7 years.

So many things were at play with this move, which I will begin to share more of later…I started to write them out but they’re not all directly relevant to the point I’m trying to get to here so, I copy/pasted them into a different draft for a different time — you’re welcome 😉

One of the biggest things God pressed on me in this new season was to really study the Bible, independently, {meaning not as part of a devotional or a sermon series, but just for the sake of reading His Word, with fluidity, and seeing what He had to speak to me personally}, and to begin to discern for myself what true faith looked like, what being a follower of Jesus really meant, and what He intended for the church to be about.

You see, I grew up in church, with all of the traditional stories and hymns, and I thought I knew what my faith was based on, thought I knew the Bible, thought I was “doing it right”… {you can read more of my testimony here}. I had faithfully attended and served the church since college {there was an interesting familial turn of events in my high school years that resulted in me getting a weekend job rather than attending church, thus the gap until college}, and I was even on staff for a few years at the church we moved away from last year. It was at that church that I began to face some of my demons, that my perspective was shifted on some important issues, that I worked through some fresh wounds, that I was for the first time a part of true biblical community, and that I grew exponentially in my faith and in my understanding of both biblical truths and church design. As a result, I believed that *this* was what church was supposed to look like.

Church — literally, a movement of God.

As if you can put God in a box labeled {name of church} and determine this is how He moves best, anywhere and everywhere. Naive I know — but I think there are many who have struggled with this misunderstanding, coming to and falling away from their relationship with God in direct correlation to their perceptions of a particular Local Church — a group of people meeting in a building, under the leadership of a smaller group of people.

I had a large amount of trust for the leadership of our home church, and I still do, despite some hiccups in our journey. They are laser focused on reaching people far from God, have a heart to really hear from Him and to be fully obedient, and they’re not lacking in wisdom and discernment. However, they’re still people. Not Jesus. Not God. Not perfect.

As God’s humor would have it, we ended up finding a church here in our new home state that was basically the exact opposite of the church we came from — not in their quality but in their strengths and weaknesses as an organization. They are still laser focused on reaching people far from God, have a heart to really hear from Him and to be fully obedient, and they’re not lacking in wisdom and discernment. They just have a much different method for accomplishing the same goals. As they should — they’re in a different community, with different needs. However, the needs of ours that had been met in our previous church were left wanting here, while the needs that had been left wanting in our previous church, are being met here. And I certainly think that’s intentional on God’s part because He’s teaching us to lean into Him more than we lean into a church. Ouch. But we were {at least I was} absolutely guilty of that previously. I leaned harder into the work of/for God than I did into God Himself.

So here — He challenged me to really get to know HIM. Not just His church. Not just the perspectives of the teachers and shepherds He’s appointed. But first and foremost, HIM.

I’m sure I’ll also be sharing more about that journey {that’s lifelong and has really only just begun} but the primary, and I know obvious, ways of going about this were through reading His Word and surrounding that, and other facets of my life, in prayer, while staying active in our local church.

He speaks.
I just have to be an active listener.

I also read a couple of books {namely Radical and The Explicit Gospel} that really rattled what I thought I knew — and I found them {sometimes to my disappointment} to be backed soundly by scripture as I continued to study God’s Word.

And so I found myself faced with this question — do I really want to be a follower of Jesus?
When I really begin to understand what that looks like, when I dig into scripture while also expanding my world view beyond American Christianity, it’s astounding how much more there was to what I thought I knew, and how much heavier it weighed.

To be completely honest, for a moment in time, I really wasn’t sure.
I wrestled with the whys and the hows and the what ifs of it all. I struggled with feeling like I really didn’t understand what I was getting myself into when I declared myself a Christian however many years ago and I wasn’t sure I wanted everything that actually came with it.

But through the grace of God, I realized that even if somehow it ended up being all wrong, if at the end of the day, at the end of the universe, we really are just one big cosmic accident and all of the miracles and life change and beautiful design we see as evidence of a living and loving God are fabricated in our coincidental minds, the effort and the sacrifice and the fulfillment of trying to honor Him and display His glory is all worth it. That this is what I want from my life, more than anything else I could dream up. That I’m willing to trade in a feel-good, self-centered, ego-driven, culturally-relevant worldview for what I believe to be a universal truth — regardless of what anyone around me believes or supports. That I don’t have to have all the answers. That I don’t want to serve a God I can understand. And that the risk is worth the potential reward. Yes, even just the possibility of one day kneeling before this God I have come to love and know that I am loved by, Who has shown Himself true so many times in my beautiful mess of a life, is worth giving up all other ground for.

Once upon a time, I thought I knew what I was doing. As a  seven year old seeking approval and “fire insurance” {and I’m pretty sure church membership}, I went before a congregation and was baptized in a white robe signifying a choice to believe in Jesus. And that experience told me that I had made the decision to be a Christ follower. Not that being baptized had saved me but that in a way, if I followed through with baptism, then God must believe that I really meant that prayer I desperately prayed over and over again as a child — that prayer that was supposed to save me.
That’s what I held onto until it unraveled. That’s what I stumbled over as it fell apart.

A few weeks ago, after having spent several years falling in love with the character of God, and several months questioning and studying it, I surrendered to the redesign of what had formerly unraveled and allowed Him to pick up the pieces and begin weaving a new tapestry that’s beyond what I can imagine. I reconciled in my heart being okay with not knowing what He’s doing but just wanting to be a part of it, and went out into the bay with my husband, before just our 2 daughters, to be baptized in murky, cold water, solidifying my decision to strive daily to die to myself and rise in Him. For Him.
This time, the experience was the result of having made a fully aware decision to follow Jesus, no holding back, no turning back. This was the snapshot in time when I declared that I really believe in the God I pray to over and over again as His child — that He has done so much more than save me,  that He continues to redeem me, and that He is what I will choose to hold onto, no matter what unravels around me, no matter how I stumble or what falls apart. He alone is worthy.

I always considered baptism to be like a wedding band, an outward symbol of an inward decision, meant to show the world that we’re bold enough to display what we believe. But in this decision, I called forth the example of the Ethiopian Eunuch in Acts 8, who didn’t have a congregation to stand before or a camera crew there to record his symbolism, send photos to his loved ones, and upload this evidence of life change to Facebook.
This moment wasn’t for anyone else.
{Though, yes, I do hope that our daughters can look back on it and it will help them on some level in their own walk to know Jesus, and I do pray that sharing my story somehow helps others along their journey}.
But this moment.

This was a declaration before the Lord that I am willing to forsake all else. That I choose Him. That I was drawing a line in the sand of my own personal shore. That I don’t desire the option to turn back. I have fully activated my free will and determined I don’t need worldly balance. That my greatest joy comes from belonging to Him. That He is greater than all of my fears. That He is greater than all of my blessings. That He is my beginning and that my end is safe with Him, and but a beautiful new beginning. ❤

Hear me — I don’t believe that this baptism {or my first} saved me — any more than I believe that there’s a magical prayer one can pray to secure eternity. I don’t even consider this a ‘rededication’ of my life, as I have been seeking to follow Christ, and growing in my relationship with Him, for many years now. But there is a world of difference between that little girl in a baptist church, and the woman who today proclaims Jesus as her Savior. My understanding of what it means to be a Christian has completely shifted, over the course of several new revelations from college through this year. And though I know I’ll continue to grow and learn and struggle and overcome, I also realized that what I thought I knew when I was baptized as a child was nothing of the Jesus I know now, the one I have surrendered my life to — and I want to be obedient to the call of the gospel in being baptized as a result of choosing to follow Him, now that I truly know Him.
Then, I was checking a box. Now, I’ve stepped outside of the box. ❤

If I’ve stirred up questions in you with what I’ve written, I would love to talk to you about it. I don’t have all the answers but I also know it’s so hard to put into one post every bit of what I mean, and the last thing I want to do is leave someone confused. I’m also lucky enough to be connected to a lot of people with more wisdom and knowledge than myself if you have complex questions I’m not able to answer personally 🙂

xoxo

Guest Contributor:

Andie Fair.jpg

Andie Fair is the starry-eyed wife of her high school sweetheart, Executive Creative Director of Chaos to their kiddos, a quirky, open-door homemaker with a soul wired to explore the unknown, a heart crafted to lead with love, and a second mug of coffee forever in the microwave. She’s a certified health coach, aiming to make healthy living easier for families and a volunteer disciple maker who gets her thrills guiding others to engage in an active relationship with their Redeemer. She writes randomly and strives to live intentionally. 

Adoption: Welcoming Sons and Daughters

I remember sitting on my couch during a 6-week recovery from major surgery.  It was summer of 2003 and there was no Facebook, so I was limited to daytime TV since I could not drive or keep my eyes open to read a book due to the pain medications.  I soon filled my mornings by watching 2 back-to- back shows on TLC:  “Birth Days” and “Adoption Stories”.  I was drawn in by the emotional and happy moments these reality TV families experienced; tales of how they came to love the babies they bore the first hour and adopted the next.  I cried happy tears for those families I did not know, but I also knew deep down that they were tears for my own longing to get married and have children of my own.  

I was 37 at the time and had always wanted to be a wife and a mother.  I had a successful career as a medical social worker for 15 years, and for many of those years I enjoyed the perks of being single.   As I started to close in on my 40’s however, worry set in that marriage and becoming a mother would never happen for me.  The medical world backed up my fears, telling me that I was running out of time for motherhood.  Sometimes it was difficult to see so many of my friends get married and then welcome all the new babies that soon followed.  My weekend social calendar was full of both bridal and baby showers for years.  During my quiet times with God, I sensed Him telling me He would work it out, that I just needed to wait a little bit longer.  Walking closely with God during those times gave me hope.  

As I thought about it years later, those TV reality shows were a part of the hope He gave me and they left a lasting impression on me.  I believe they were placed in my life at that time to prepare me for what God had planned to come.  I remember loving these 2 reality shows because either way those babies joined their families, biologically or through adoption, both were wonderful and special.  Those reality families loved their babies whether they birthed them naturally or adopted them.  I also realized that it was then, during my recovery from surgery, that God planted the desire in me to experience both a “Birth Day” and an “Adoption Story” of my own.  

At ages 41 and 38, Karl and I were married and we knew that since we both wanted at least 2 children, we needed to get started right away.  I was a little sad that we would not have some carefree time as newlyweds, but I also knew the urgency of our situation.  The road to having our children was relatively short, but rocky.  Our daughter, Emily, was born after the heartache and anticipation of 4 back-to-back IVF cycles.  After a spontaneous miscarriage and some more infertility treatments a year later, we knew the final chapter of our Birth Story was written and we were ready to start our Adoption Story.  

Adopting was indeed, a very different story.  There was a mountain of paperwork, interviews, and fingerprints to be examined.  And then there was the waiting.  Throughout the whole experience there were a lot of questions, some that we did not see coming or know how to answer right away.  We had not anticipated the level of detail that the adoption application itself would entail.   Would we accept a child or any race or ethnic background?  If not, which ones?  What if the biological family had a history of cancer?  How about mental illness?  What if the mother smoked, drank alcohol, or took drugs while pregnant?  And if some drugs were ok, which ones weren’t?  What if the child was the “product” of a rape?  How about multiples?  Some of these questions were “easy”, and others stopped us in our tracks and caused us some considerable thought and discussion, as we wanted to make sure we were equipped to handle any situation that might come along—as if that’s even possible!  

Other  “interesting” questions came from the people around us.  Perhaps they meant well, but their questions indicated to us that they were leery of adoption.  “Do you think you will be able to love both the children the same even though one is yours and one isn’t?”  “Why would you want to raise someone else’s kid?”  Wow.  It was hard sometimes to not be defensive since we knew this was the plan for our family, and we had little doubt that we would love our adopted baby just as much as Emily.  

The reality is, we are ALL adopted by God, or at least have the opportunity to be adopted by God.  Galatians 4:4-5 says, “ But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under that law, that we might receive adoption to sonship”.   God walked with us in some amazing ways through our adoption of Abby because He reminded us that we are all adopted by Him and that was the whole purpose of sending His son, Jesus.  

God welcomes all of us who believe in Him to become his adopted sons and daughters.  There are no limits when He adopts us. He doesn’t require an adoption application and if He did, it wouldn’t matter which boxes we checked and which ones we didn’t.  He already knows all there is to know about each of us and He accepts us right where we are.  His love is unconditional.  He loves ALL and wants ALL to come to know Him and become part of His family.  His love is vast and beyond anything we can fully comprehend as humans.  He loves us fully and equally.  

Eight, almost nine, years later I can tell you with certainty that we love our Abby just as much as Emily.  She is ours, no matter how she came to complete our family.  We can’t imagine life without her and firmly believe that she is the child God planned for us.  We don’t even think about her being adopted, unless we are talking about adoption (which I love to do!)  I like to think of Emily as the gift God gave us, and Abby as the treasure He lead us to.  

Abby sometimes doubts that she is loved as much as Emily because she knows she is adopted.  When she expresses her doubt, we do our very best to convince her with hugs and every “love word” we can think of.  Still, sometimes she isn’t quite convinced.  In those times we tell her she needs to make a choice to believe us, even though her inner voice still tries to make her think otherwise.  It’s that way sometimes with us too; we wonder how God could love us enough to adopt us.  But that’s the whole reason Jesus came- so He could welcome each one of us into His family, in spite of our imperfections. Sometimes, in the midst of doubt, we just need to step out in faith and believe.  And when we accept His love for us, He will always be there to welcome us as His sons and daughters.

Sherry Fischer-HeadShot.JPG

Sherry Fischer grew up and still lives in Northern Virginia.  She obtained her Bachelors Degree (James Madison University) and Masters Degree (Virginia Commonwealth University), both in Social Work.  Sherry worked in a hospital setting as a Medical Social Worker/Case Manager for 20 years.   Sherry married Karl when she was 38 and is now a full time stay at home mom to Emily (12) and Abby (9).  When the girls were preschoolers, Sherry was an active participant and eventually served as a leader for Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS).  Once both girls were in school full time, Sherry joined the Passion4Moms team, where she is currently the Director of Hospitality and enjoys writing periodic blogs. For fun, Sherry enjoys making cherished memories with family and friends at Deep Creek Lake in Maryland.