Posts tagged grace
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:

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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.   

Bringing Our Fish and Loaves to Jesus

Do you ever feel overwhelmed as a mom?  Oh, that is an understatement, right?!  Do you ever wonder how you are going to be enough for your kids who need so much from you?  From the first moment we meet our precious little one face to face we fall in love and instinctively want the very best for him or her.  We desire to nurture our little one physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  We begin to feel the weight of the responsibility of leading this child into its future.  All these emotions can happen to us in a matter of moments.  I shouldn’t speak this way for all moms, but those were exactly my feelings when I met each of my three babies.  The love that welled up in me and poured out was immeasurable, but along with those loving feelings came the feeling of inadequacy.  Will I be able to be enough, know enough and do enough to always provide exactly what my children will need? 

Maybe you too can relate?  Let’s look at a passage in Scripture that may help us with these feelings.  Check out John 6:1-14.  Take a moment to get out your Bible and read the passage.  It’s the well-known story when Jesus feeds the five thousand.  Picture the scene in your mind.  There were thousands of men, women and children gathering around Jesus that day.  He was meeting their needs spiritually with His words and His presence, but they also needed to be fed physically.  How could they even begin to feed thousands of people?  So, what did Jesus do?  He asked one of his disciples, Philip, to come up with a plan.  Another disciple, Andrew, chimed in and said, “There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are these for so many people?” (v 9)  Then the disciples went to retrieve the small portion of food available, all the boy had, and put it in the hands of Jesus.  We know the rest of the story…after giving thanks Jesus was able to feed the five thousand, with food left over.  Jesus met the physical needs of thousands of people with just two fish and five loaves of barley.  Amazing!

You might be thinking, yes that was one of Jesus’ great miracles, so how does this passage relate to an overwhelmed mom holding her newborn in her arms thinking about the future?  Or to a mom raising multiple children who is pondering if she is doing enough to pour into them physically, emotionally, and spiritually?  Or even to a mom who is in the thick of the teenage years doing her best, but questioning if her best is enough to prepare them for the real world?

Let’s address those thoughts.  There are many truths to take away from this passage, but there is one I have come to love and find rest in as a mom.  Let’s look at the boy with the obedient heart who was willing to give what he had to Jesus.  Then, what did Jesus do?  Jesus Himself filled in the gap between what was given and what was needed.  We, as moms, can learn a great deal from this passage.  God asks us to have an obedient heart, be willing to give what we have to our role as a mom and trust He will fill in the gap.  None of us can parent perfectly, do it all, be it all and ensure our kids will receive enough from us.  BUT, we can give our fish and loaves, what little we have, and watch Jesus make what we give, BIGGER, in His hands.  Bottom line, we need to parent WITH JESUS.  

God invites us as moms to parent with Jesus; to rely on Him, trust Him, walk with Him, day by day.  We can rest in God’s sovereign plan, take our daily marching orders from Jesus, and He will take what we give and make it enough for our kids for His plan and His glory.  He chose YOU before time began to be the mother of your specific children. He knew in advance they would need someone like YOU. (Ephesians 2:10, Psalm 139:13-16) And when you parent with Jesus with an obedient heart, He works through you to grow your children and you each day to be more like Him.  (Philippians 1:6) In the hands of Jesus, you are enough for your kids because you are a child of God, created with a godly purpose as a mother.  Let’s not allow the feelings of being overwhelmed to take over our minds and cripple us from taking what little we do have and putting it in the hands of the Almighty God. (Philippians 4:13,19) Invite Jesus into your mothering, give Him your fish and loaves, and rest in Him to make it into enough…with leftovers.

Becoming Truly You

Motherhood has been a wild journey for me as an individual. And honestly, I’m regularly surprised at my ability to even think of it as an individual’s journey. After all, motherhood is such a communal calling, sacred moments constantly shared (sometimes unintentionally). But somewhere in all of the beauty and chaos, there remains a single woman who used to be a normal human being with normal needs and desires, who communed with Jesus alone, who had deep passions that included having babies one day but wasn’t limited to that. And in a season of pregnancy, infants, and toddlerhood, it’s hard for me to think beyond simply desiring to thrive in motherhood. But that’s what I want to write about: how to thrive in motherhood by finding that individual woman again.

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There are layers to this journey of becoming Mama. For me, motherhood has been a constant cycle of death and rebirth; with every developmental period my son conquers, a new strength, understanding, and grace is birthed within me. And I don’t know if you’re imagining the golden-lit halo of mother Mary smiling serenely when you read this, but let me tell you: these rebirths are akin to actual labor and delivery. I remember, before I was even pregnant with my firstborn, Anchor, I made some pretty massive commitments to myself. I had babies smack in the midst of all of my friends (not the first to get pregnant and not the last). I watched as beautiful, passionate, talented, independent women began to disappear and drown- not in motherhood, but in society’s expectations of them, as if they had suddenly given up their rights to the life they lived before. It wasn’t a conscious transition, and every one of them experienced it to varying extremes; but I heard it in their conversation, in the way they spoke about the past and future, in the words of advice given to new mothers (advice that really sounded more like a warning of what was to come). I saw an incredibly selfless, strong, but beat down woman in front of me who legitimately didn’t see her youthful dreams as possibilities anymore. This was my unexperienced perspective before having children; and, to be honest, I was terrified of becoming that woman. So, I made a list of promises to myself. The top of this list was: “I will fight for myself.”

And if you’re like me now, I smile fondly and I kiss that younger naive me on the forehead and promise to be there for her when the $#!@ hits the fan a couple years from then. Looking back, I love that me; the me that was determined, passionate, and not remotely ready for motherhood. But isn’t that how we all enter into this new role and season of life? None of us has any clue of the total rebirth and revolution of motherhood. 

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A couple years later, I gave birth to my firstborn son, Anchor Joshua, in Thailand, and my world exploded in a trillion colors and emotions and melodies. I cannot even begin to list the encounters of Heaven I have in that boy; he is God’s goodness on earth, hope incarnate. He is the product of years of prayers and tears as we walked the road of miscarriage and infertility for three years waiting for him to come earthside. He came exactly opposite of what I had planned (non-emergent cesarean), and was born screaming so loud that the nurses were startled. Everything about his birth went against my ideal, and I grieved the experience I had lost; all the while, guilting myself for not feeling only bliss at having a healthy baby boy. I started motherhood feeling like a failure. I struggled coming off of morphine and took a steep downward turn into postpartum anxiety for months. I faulted myself for everything, tried to manhandle my heart and emotions; motherhood was kicking my butt and I began to question my determination, my ideals, my passions. I lived to survive those first weeks, panicking at sundown every day as anxiety crept up my throat to suffocate me. 

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Now, this is where grace saved me. And let me tell you, I needed a Savior. God met me in that season in such unexpected ways. I remember someone telling me once that motherhood revealed to her how selfish she truly was…But for me, motherhood has revealed how capable I am of immense sacrificial love without limit. I feel like I’ve gone from being a fresh, plump, grape to wine in just a matter of two years. The process has been both painful and extraordinarily wonderful. Many times, still, I feel I’m under insane pressure, like pressing a flower to draw out its fragrance. Seeing someone become a mother is a miraculous, glorious, excruciatingly beautiful sight; it’s one of Heaven’s hidden gifts to the world. We celebrate the new life of a child, but often we overlook the new life of the woman who bore him. She is radiant with life and love, clothed in the fragrance of her entire being poured out. 

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God began to remind me of my promises I had made to myself. I had made them in secret, I thought, never uttered aloud to a soul outside myself. He began to show me how he chose Mary to mother Jesus. Can you imagine the life of this young, dear girl who had literally no clue how to be a mother or even a wife? This girl went through intense social pressure and persecution, had no intimate connection with her husband, took a long trip on a donkey to have her baby in a barn because there were no hotel rooms left in the city… Plus, hello, she was giving birth to God’s son (no pressure, Mary, you’re just raising the Messiah). But the Father knew she was the perfect person to mother his son. She (in spite of her imperfections and mistakes) could raise him into understanding his identity and destiny by simply being Mary. God didn’t choose Anna who spent the majority of her life in the temple praying… He chose the young virgin with no life experience, the one most likely to be in over her head. He chose Mary to mother Jesus.

He chose me to mother Anchor and our little 32-week baby boy. He chose you to mother YOURS. It was in the middle of my drowning that I realized, I was given Anchor because God knew Anchor needed me and my husband in order to become who he is. It was only in being myself that I would raise the boy into the man he needed to be. Before he was born, God told me Anchor needed to be raised in the wild and dangerous places to grow into his own destiny. God didn’t make a mistake in placing this babe in my arms; he didn’t make a guess either. Our children are purposefully born to us. God is an intentional Father. 

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That revelation is what caused me to finally resurface. In the midst of my fighting this newfound anxiety, intense exhaustion, and my complete lack of experience with things like umbilical cord stumps and breastfeeding, God began to present invitations to find myself again. I honestly didn’t even see myself in this mother of a newborn. But she was in there, still alive and wanting to be heard. It started with small steps towards the things I previously loved. We took a short weekend away to rock climb on a neighboring island. And I have to be honest: I cried packing my bags because I genuinely thought there was no way I could do this. I legitimately thought I wasn’t able to do it and that I should stay home and send my husband without me. It took extraordinary courage and effort to take my four-week-old baby on a wooden long tail boat across the bay to stay in a hotel for a weekend (which, in the context of our current life, is fairly normal and easy to do). But that trip was powerful and life-giving for me. After arriving, I found it was exactly what I needed at a deeply personal level. That first risk revealed to me that my biggest enemies are my own limitations of myself; the war is largely in my own mind. We often don’t try because we don’t believe we are capable of success. I learned I can do a lot more than even the world around me expects of me! That trip was just the beginning, and two weeks later we took our 6-week-old to a conflict area in the desert, where he breastfed on horse-drawn carts and slept through camel rides down sand dunes. And this is the story of our wild Anchor boy, living his life on the road, in the jungles, in the distant mountain towns. This is a part of him and who he’ll grow up to be. 

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We have reached a rhythm now, still often disrupted by some new change or development, but the lessons learned in the first months of mothering have carried me through every new season with my kids. And while that naive and inexperienced non-mama Laci made some pretty radical promises to herself before having babies, God knew that those promises would actually come full circle to make her into the Mama she was always born to be. Because, for God, there are no accidents in making you Mama to your babies. 

So, I ask you: What does it look like for YOU to be yourself in motherhood?  What have you allowed to hold you back from fully living and thriving in your role as a mother, what lies have you believed about yourself? Ask the Father why he gave you the children he gave you, and why he chose you to Mama them. Receive from him the grace that is sufficient, the strength perfected in your weakness. You were made for this!

Guest Contributor:

Laci Hill is a Mom, wife, adventurer, missionary and fiery lover of Jesus. She travels the world sharing her heart, life and the love of Jesus with anyone and everyone she meets and is currently based in Thailand.