Posts tagged thriving
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.   

Desiring God's Presence

Exodus 33: 15 ‘If Your presence does not go with us, do not lead us up from here.’”

Having moved 2000 miles from VA to TX, I dove into the study of Moses and I assumed the Lord would ask me to stop my complaining.  I just survived a hot Houston summer, bugs the size of small rodents, and a record flood and hurricane season, but hey who is complaining? Of course the passages on the grumbling Israelites would put me in my place.  Much to my surprise, the Lord had a bigger issue in my heart, which needed tending to.

Week after week, I was continually drawn to Moses himself as so many aspects of his life and his walk I admired and desired to strive towards.  I spent many hours thinking about how desperately Moses desired the Lord’s presence above all and it was this very thing, his intimate face-to-face relationship with the Lord, which made the difference in his life.  The Lord promised Moses victory over his enemies, promised him land flowing with milk and honey BUT Moses knew the better choice. Moses was willing to give up all those things and stay camped in the desert if the Lord refused to go on with them.  Moses wanted the Lord’s presence!

This made me really think about where my heart truly was.  If I was promised victory over my battles or promised days filled with peace, joy, contentment, self-control, comfort, and security; however, I was given the caveat that the Lord’s presence would not be with me.  How would I respond?  Do I truly want Christ and only Christ?  Is He truly where my complete satisfaction lies?  Or deep in my heart do I desire more…  

The year started off very smoothly and I was feeling quite proud of myself, and how quickly I seemed to have settled into this new life as a Texan.   Then I encountered some rough waters and began to struggle, as I faced a depression, which seemed to come out of nowhere.  The Lord began showing me that in my impatience for the Lord to bring healing to my heart, I began to build my own boat to set sail in.  Needless to say, I’m not very good at building boats.  I was trying to re-create what I had before. Signing up for everything and anything where maybe I could meet a friend and hoping to try to fit in and feel apart of something.  I found myself decorating and re-decorating my house but with no one to entertain, working out until my knees gave way, serving my family beyond what I should and in all of this trying to feel purposeful once again.  One by one idols where being created, attempting to fill the void only God should fill.  So one by one God began taking apart this boat that I had built leaving me floating on the water with Him alone.  That’s exactly where He wanted me.

Like Moses desperately desiring the Lord’s presence, Christ wants me to desperately seek after Him.  He desires that I find my purpose and fulfillment in Him alone. Christ wants to be the boat that I climb into each day.  He will enable me to ride the tossing waves of adversity, to be still while floating on the tranquil waters of patiently waiting, to not fear when the storms clouds of uncertainty roll in and to be anchored firmly when my doubts want to pull me away.  Unlike all those other boats I try to construct, Christ is the only one who fills my heart with true satisfaction.  My circumstances will change but when I am finding fulfillment and purpose in my perfect redeemer, Jesus Christ, I am able to remain anchored securely.

What boat are you setting sail in today?

Guest Contributor:

Mary Fahenstock headshot.JPG

Mary and her college sweetheart, Matt, have been married 27 years, have lived in WI, VA, TX, and they currently live in Ann Arbor, MI.  She is learning to embrace the “empty nest” years along with the travel which goes along with having her three grown children on both the east and west coasts. Mary enjoys spending time with her family, wherever and whenever they can gather, as well as reading, studying the Word, and spending time soaking in the beauty of God’s creation.

 

Hope-Filled Brokenness

Romans 15:13 “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”  

When we had first moved to Houston, I was struggling to adjust to my new normal and the Lord gave me a word picture of how He wanted me to live my life. It was a very broken and cracked vase, which had definitely seen and experienced a lot of life.  It was so cracked that it could not hold water.  As water was poured into the vase, it would begin trickling out of some smaller cracks and gushing out of the larger cracks.  This vase appeared quite useless and without a real purpose, other than as a new décor piece for a mantle.  This was not really the look I was aiming for however at this point, I definitely felt like that broken vase.  I felt quite tired and useless being placed here in Houston far away from family and friends.  The easiest thing would be to stay on the mantle and reflect on all the wonderful memories but the Lord wanted me off the shelf to be used once again.  This is always easier said than done.  

So I allowed the Lord to take me off that shelf and begin to use me in little ways as I stepped out here and there.  The more the Lord chose to use me, the more water would leak from my cracks.  So I found myself beginning to try to patch the cracks in my vase with various things.  I felt like if I looked prettier on the outside, perhaps my cracks would not be noticed.  New hairstyles, new outfits and a newly decorated house only ended up making me fall deeper into a pit of comparison and broke my vase in additional places.  My increased insecurities welcomed in some emotional eating, where food became another coping mechanism to help distract me from the loneliness that was filling my heart.  The additional pounds that I added to my waistline only created more cracks in my shell of insecurity, causing me to want to jump right back onto that shelf and hide.  But the Lord kept pulling me off that shelf and showing me the things I had filled my life with in order to “fix my brokenness”.

Situation after situation came into my life, which brought additional brokenness into my heart.  Emotions, which I thought were placed behind me, came reeling back to me again.  A few dreams that I once held dear needed to be let go and grieved which required me to fully trust the Lord’s plans for me and my family.  The only thing I could really do was spend extra time really filling myself with His truths.  I prayed fervently, I read His Word voraciously and I cried out to the Lord for answers to how to walk in this brokenness, which I was feeling.  Over time as I sought Him, I began to sense that He was not asking me to walk in brokenness but instead was showing me that He wanted me to walk in HOPE FILLED brokenness!  Just two simple words with ten letters but that made all the difference.

When I walk in this type of brokenness, His hope is pouring out of me, rather than my emotions, my sadness or my despair.  Jesus is my true and lasting hope.  He is the One who shines in my life and enables me to love others despite how I may be feeling. I want my heart to overflow with the hope of His return, I want to cling loosely to the things of this world and I want to be filled with the hope of Christ and all that entails.  When this hope is filling my heart, my focus is on Christ and not on myself.  This is the hope He is asking to walk in and to be filled with so when He chooses to uses me, as I am … a broken and worn vase…. His hope would overflow from me by the power of His Holy Spirit.

Are you feeling broken and unable to be used by the Lord?  Know that Jesus desires to shine His light brightly through your cracks as you cling tightly to Him and choose to walk in His hope.  Christ is our lasting hope and He desires that we live our lives hope filled even on those days when we are feeling broken.

Guest Contributor:

Mary Fahenstock headshot.JPG

Mary and her college sweetheart, Matt, have been married 27 years, have lived in WI, VA, TX, and they currently live in Ann Arbor, MI.  She is learning to embrace the “empty nest” years along with the travel which goes along with having her three grown children on both the east and west coasts. Mary enjoys spending time with her family, wherever and whenever they can gather, as well as reading, studying the Word, and spending time soaking in the beauty of God’s creation.

 

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.