Rest for the Weary

Standard

I loooove sleep.

I long for it. I crave it. I will do just about anything for it and I’ve always been that way. I’ll jump at any chance for sleep.

I discovered sleep is one of my biggest escapes from life. When I can sleep, I don’t have to think, feel or act.

I don’t have to make decisions or face life’s difficulties. It all goes away and I get a reprieve.

But lately, sleep hasn’t been the same for me. It doesn’t accomplish what it used to. I’ll still sleep whenever I can, but something has changed. I sleep…but now I rarely feel rested.

What used to be my escape, no longer works. I wake up feeling even more burdened than before and I’ve learned why.

Sleep can only give me the physical rest my body needs. I need to seek God to receive the proper rest my soul needs.

Jesus tells us in Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (NIV)

I’m in a challenging season of life right now. There have been major losses, constant stressors, and life changing events with even more on the horizon. Sometimes I can’t breathe because of the overwhelming circumstances and my “escape” (sleep) isn’t helping anymore.

Because I need Jesus.

I need His easy yoke and His light burden.

I need His comfort, peace, and strength.

I need to trade in my sorrows for His joy.

Amongst all of that, right now I need rest. The physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual rest that can only come through Him.

When I turn to Him, rather than my mere attempts for rejuvenation, my weary soul is renewed. The burdens impressed on my heart are lifted. My vision is clearer, my intentions are purer and I am truly a better person, because He has provided me with all that I need.

He shows me how to be like Him…gentle and humble in heart. When I’m rested, I can receive that instruction; that gift He so freely wants to give each of us.

When I let Him have control over my circumstances, I can rest in His plan for me.

When I allow Him into the depths of my heart, I can rest knowing He sees it all and still loves me.

When I confess and turn from my sin, I can rest in His forgiveness.

Rest is a loaded word with so many meanings for me right now and they all involve Jesus. Trying to do it on my own just plain tires me out. I can finally see through the fog enough to know I need more Jesus.

Although it’s one thing to come to this realization, it’s another to fully practice it. I wish I could say that once I realize I need Jesus, I immediately turn to Him. But I don’t. I still struggle with wanting to control areas of my life that are so difficult to surrender to Him. It’s a daily battle…sometimes an hourly battle. One that continues to make me weary and that I continuously need to work on. My soul needs rest.

How about you?

Have you been in this burdened, restless spot in your life?

 Have you wanted to hold on to some control over your life?

  Was it hard to surrender? Is it still hard to surrender?

 Do you know what is standing in your way?

Together, let’s go to Him…the Only One Who can give us rest.

“Follow Me”

Standard

I was heartbroken when we walked out those back doors. It seemed surreal at the moment, as if I couldn’t believe it was truly happening. Slowly, reality sunk in.

We had left our church for the last time. The church where my husband, our sons, and I were all baptized. Where my husband and I first participated in communion, confirmed our faith, and where we were married.

This was our home.

Our community of believers.

This was our history.

But it wouldn’t be from that moment forward.

Even though we had tough times before…extreme losses…hurt…pain and forgiveness, this felt completely different.

For the first time in my life, I had no idea where God wanted us to be.

I had no idea where He was going to lead us.

I took time away that afternoon to be alone….digest what had happened. I asked God for direction. I asked Him for the purpose in this. I asked “What next?” All I could see in front of me was darkness…the abyss…absolutely nothing.

I didn’t know where we were going. I didn’t know where our children would attend Sunday School or church services. I didn’t know who our new church family would be. It was a blank slate, but one I wasn’t excited about.

I was at a loss.

I grieved.

I cried until I couldn’t cry anymore.

I felt abandoned and alone that afternoon. Like I had been deceived my entire life and all that I had believed to be true, was a lie. It was an awful feeling and one I never want to relive.

So many questions…with no answers. So much hurt…but not sure where to turn. So much to think about…but I still didn’t know what to think.

Our synod had made some changes that my husband and I, along with others, didn’t believe were biblical. This led to more research, more questions, more unveiling of beliefs I didn’t know our church/synod believed. No one had come out and told us these things. It was as if they were “unspoken”, in a way.

Many fellow congregants didn’t have problems with any of the issues we were feeling convicted of. There were many who were angry we brought these issues to light. But the studying and praying and utter conviction on our hearts wasn’t something we felt we could ignore. We couldn’t stay in a church we knew didn’t believe the bible was the infallible, inerrant Word of our Almighty God.

It was ironic timing, as my husband and family had recently had the biggest growth in our faith to date. We were diving into scripture, relying on His promises and truths to get us through the hardest times of our lives. And when we were solidified and grounded deeply in our faith, this happens.

I don’t believe in coincidences…I believe God chose that moment to reveal that information after our roots had been so established in His Word and in Him. That was a time when we didn’t doubt God at all.

So, we felt we God wanted us to leave and follow Him. The only problem was we didn’t know where we were going. Where was He going to lead us? That church? Or that church? Or maybe that one? Which church? The only thing we were certain of was that God was still on the throne.

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Hebrews 11:1

That’s what we were ultimately being called to do. Have faith…be sure and certain…even though we could not see our hands being held right in front of our faces.

Blind faith.

Complete and utter surrender to His will for our lives.

Yes, we had a choice…but we chose to follow Him and His lead, wherever that might be.

At times I admit I was a little scared. Probably because I was out of control and couldn’t see the future. But most of the time, I felt peace knowing we followed our hearts…we followed the Word…we followed what we believed God was telling us to do. I knew at some point, He would bring us to the church that would feel like home again.

And He did. Not right away…and not after some tears and sweat and frustration and a lot of discussions….but with time, patience and faith, I believe we have found where we belong. At least I hope so.

There’s been so much uncertainty in my life, especially this past year. So much I could bring up…so much I don’t understand. Yet, this story was the one that kept coming to mind.

I don’t know what tomorrow might bring, but I know Who holds tomorrow.

I don’t know where our lives are taking us at this moment, but I know Who already has it planned out.

I don’t know how I’m going to get through this winter, but I know Who will help me.

I can’t see the future. I can’t see the answers to the many, many questions I have about life right now. But God has proven faithful over and over and over again, so how can I doubt He has the answers and is just waiting to reveal them to me? That He is telling me to be patient, yet again?

I did finally figure a bit of this out. It took me awhile (I’m blonde)…but I know all of these uncertainties…all of these black holes in my life…are only meant to bring me closer to God.

They’re meant to bring me closer to my husband and children, who I hope will turn to God along with me.

They’re meant to help my marriage thrive with God in the center, as long as we obey.

You see, walking with blind faith is actually a gift. A precious gift our Jesus gives us. He gives us moment after moment to draw close to Him…to come to Him with our questions and desires…our impatience…our dreams and desires…our fears.  Everything.

How can that be bad? A closer relationship with Jesus?

My study bible says, “When we believe that God will fulfill his promises even though we don’t see those promises materializing yet, we demonstrate true faith.” (regarding Hebrews 11:1)

Is God asking you to have blind faith? Are you resisting? It can be a scary step and I can’t promise all roses without the thorns. But I do know that God wants us to follow Him more than ever.

It can be a very good thing. The places He can take you (and me) are limitless. The gifts He can bestow on us are priceless. The life He offers us can be all we could hope for…and more.

Take His out-stretched hand and accept His invitation with blind faith…take the risk and revel in what He does with your life.

I can’t wait to hear what happens!

Why Did You Doubt?

Standard

“Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. ‘You of little faith,’ he said, ‘why did you doubt?'”  Matthew 14:31

Oh, how I can relate with Peter in this story. It’s the story of when Jesus walked on water. When the disciples saw someone coming to them at night…walking on top of water, they were afraid. They thought He was a ghost and they cried out in fear.

And here was Jesus. Once again, doing the impossible.

Isn’t that just like Him?

Just when we think something could never be accomplished, Jesus does it.

Like when the scans come back and the cancer is gone…yet no doctor can explain it.

Or when we don’t know where the money will come from for groceries this week…and somehow a check arrives in the mail.

Or when we don’t think a pregnancy is ever going to happen…and it does when we least expect it.

I can see Jesus all over my impossible situations.

However, like Peter, I still doubt.

I think I can control my life, my situations, my dreams. There a ton of books out there, as well as speakers, who will tell you that all of your dreams will come true. Your life will be full of happiness, if you just believe. Or maybe you’ve heard that this will be your best year yet!

And then the unexpected arrives. The floor falls out from beneath you when the diagnosis comes. You get the phone call in the middle of the night. Your family is falling apart. You sink deeper into depression, or anxiety, or worse yet…both.

Where is Jesus in these situations?

He’s all over them. He’s in control. He’s waiting to do the impossible. With you, your life, your marriage, your illness, your worries. Everything.

But…there’s a secret I want to share with you, just in case you don’t know it already.

Fix your eyes on Jesus. Don’t lose sight of Him. Don’t take your eyes off of Him, because He is the way.

Not because then all of your dreams will come true, or only good will come your way, but because He is Jesus.  He’s the One Who can do the impossible. However, when we doubt…when we take our eyes off of Him…it’s so much easier to fall, or to fear, or to panic.

Jesus asks Peter to step out of the boat and come to Him on the water. So, Peter does. But the second Peter takes his eyes off of Jesus, he begins to sink.

Like us sinking to the pit of despair or discouragement when our eyes aren’t on Jesus, but are on our situations, our problems, our fears.

Peter cries out, “Lord, save me!”

If that would only be our daily cry to Him. “Jesus, save me!”

We don’t see His work behind the scenes. We don’t always see how He will work things out for good to bring Him glory. Sometimes…all we see are the pain and trials. For me, in this season of life, it’s hard not to constantly stare in wonder at the pain and hurt. I don’t understand how God could possibly be using all of these things in my life right now…for His glory.

But if I claim to believe the Word, then I have to believe He will work it out.

I need to stop doubting and resume trusting.

I do want people to one day look at the rollercoaster of my life and see Jesus’ hands all over it. Just as the disciples watched what unfolded and worshiped Him saying, “Truly, you are the Son of God”, I want others to see the Son of God in my life.

I want everyone to see how He has held me up, even when I doubt, even when I falter, even when I fail.

In this hard season of life, I am a faltering sinner saved by grace.

Where are you in all of this? Just hearing the story for the first time? Just learning to look to and trust Jesus? Maybe you’ve been a believer all of your life, but at this moment you’re doubting God can bring good to your situation.

Whatever the case may be, He is with you. He is with me. Our Savior can help us stay above our circumstances and not fall into despair.

But we need to keep our eyes fixed on Him. I’m trying…I hope you are, too.

Narrow Is The Path

Standard

This year has been a horrible one for me and my family. Mostly losses, but also strained relationships, heartaches, broken dreams, health issues, and on and on. It’s like I could list a “record of wrongs”, but in a different way than 1 Corinthians 13 speaks of.

As I sit and think about Thursday’s theme, Walking Into My New Adventure, I’m not all that thrilled. There’s a quote I heard awhile back that keeps coming to mind.

We’re not afraid of the future, but of the past repeating itself.

Yep. Right on. Hit the nail on the head. I am afraid of reliving the nightmares that have come this past year (and years before).

Who will be diagnosed with cancer this year?

What dreams will fail this year?

What will I do wrong to make someone block my calls this year?

Who am I going to lose in my life this year?

Shall I go on? Let’s not. Rehashing it just makes it worse.

But it’s true. Just because my mom had cancer, didn’t mean my father-in-law was immune to it, because he was diagnosed, too.

Just because my brother survived a car accident, didn’t mean my cousin would…because didn’t.

Just because our business was going well, didn’t mean something would come in and wreck havoc on it all…because it did.

There’s a whole lot of grief going on in this household right now and I can only imagine how many of you are experiencing it, too.

What kept coming to mind were The Beatitudes. Our pastor had a series of sermons on these and he picked them apart for us which was a big eye opener. I now see them and read them in a whole new light.  Here’s what I mean…

Jesus didn’t say “Blessed are those who are happy all the time, because they will get everything they desire.”

No, He said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Jesus didn’t say “Blessed are those who never experience loss or sadness, because they will won’t ever need Me to comfort them.”

No, He said, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”

Just picking out another one, out of order…

Jesus didn’t say “Blessed are the ones who cause heartache and chaos, for they will be called sons of God.”

No, He said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.”

You see…our lives aren’t supposed to be perfect. Our lives aren’t supposed to be filled with only  happiness. If they were, why would we need God?  Why would we develop a relationship with Him? What would lead us to Him?

I’d love to say that at all times, I only go to God when great things happen. I do thank Him, but sometimes it’s in the wrong order.  (Yes, I did just confess to that…)  Sometimes I thank people before Him. Sometimes I praise others before Jesus when I am blessed.  Saying this makes me cringe.  But, in all honesty, it’s true.

Oh, here’s another good one….

Jesus didn’t say “Blessed are the ones whose motives and hearts are selfish and full of vain, for they will see God.”

He said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”

How my heart longs to see the face of Jesus….I can’t barely stand it!  I. Cannot. Wait. But that pure in heart thing? I think I need to work on that. Every single day. Every moment of every day.

My excuse is not simply that I’m not pure in heart because I’m a sinner and was born into sin.  No, this is something to really work on.

I mourn the loss of so many loved ones right now; I am poor in spirit almost more than I have ever been; my ability to make peace at this very moment is a huge struggle….and you already know how I feel about the pure in heart piece.

I’ve got a lot of work to do.

This is me…walking into a new adventure.

The adventure might not look all that exciting. In fact, thinking of dealing with these things kinda scares me. But, this is my adventure. Is it completely new? No. But am I willing to take a try at it again? Yes. Hopefully over and over and over again, taking up my cross daily.

I don’t know how your year has been. I don’t know if you’re mourning, or hurting, or poor in spirit, but I can tell you that you aren’t alone.

Do you hunger and thirst for righteousness? If so, you will be filled! That’s good news!

All of these “Beatitudes” come with a blessing–at least in my eyes. When we walk with God; when we lay it all at His feet and come boldly before the throne for help, He is there to help.

And the reward? Well, it may not be a perfect life and it may have it’s struggles like mine did this year, because our reward is in heaven. That’s when we receive the prize for taking this crazy adventure with Him!

Matthew 7:13-14 tells us in Jesus’ own words, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

Take Jesus’ hand and follow Him on that narrow road. The adventure He has for us awaits. While we’re being navigated on this road, He will lead us. He won’t leave us, He won’t forsake us, He will join us in this adventure of life….the life that leads to eternal life with Him.

I hope you’ll join me. I’d love to have you there…

 

Mary, Did You Know?

Standard

“Mary, Did You Know” by Kenny Rogers and Wynona Judd

Mary, did you know that your Baby Boy would one day walk on water?

Mary, did you know that your Baby Boy would save our sons and daughters?

Did you know that your Baby Boy has come to make you new?
This Child that you delivered will soon deliver you.

Mary, did you know that your Baby Boy will give sight to a blind man?

Mary, did you know that your baby boy will calm the storm with His hand?

Did you know that your Baby Boy has walked where angels trod?
And when you kiss your little Baby, you’ve kissed the face of God?

Mary did you know?

Mary did you know?

The blind will see.
The deaf will hear.
The dead will live again.
The lame will leap.
The dumb will speak
The praises of The Lamb.

Oh, Mary did you know that your Baby Boy is Lord of all creation?

Mary, did you know that your Baby Boy will one day rule the nations?

Did you know that your Baby Boy is heaven’s perfect Lamb?
The sleeping Child you’re holding is the Great, I Am.

Mary did you know?

I can only imagine the feelings this teenage girl felt when she found out she was with child–and that this child would be the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, the God of all creation. Can you imagine it?

I don’t know if anyone could comprehend what was about to happen. There were prophets who foretold of the Savior’s coming and his time on earth in His human form, but what really went through Mary’s mind?

As a mother, myself, I anticipated the births of our children.  I read the books, I listened to the stories, I went to the pre-birth classes, but in all honesty, it really didn’t prepare me for what I truly felt and experienced when each of our sons was placed into my arms and I saw them for the first time.

No words can describe the unconditional love you feel                                                             when you meet your baby face-to-face.

It is truly a miraculous experience.

Yet, I wasn’t carrying and delivering the Savior of the world.  I was carrying my child…that my husband and I would raise together. (Okay, to be politically correct, our children do belong to God…I really have learned that lesson…) We are responsible to teach them the ways of the worlds vs. the ways of the bible and compare-hoping when they are old enough, they would choose to follow Jesus.  Not to take anything away from our children’s births, but Mary’s birth was quite different.

Her son came to teach HER the ways of God.

Instead of us teaching our children, He came to deliver HER from sin and death.

It’s almost incomprehensible to me…

Mary was chosen out of every single woman on earth, to carry the Messiah.  What a privilege…what an honor!  I was chosen to carry my babies…and what an honor that was.  But you and I both know that isn’t even a comparison.

Each Christmas season, it seems a new song becomes my favorite.  This year it’s “Mary, Did You Know” and as you see, I wrote the lyrics out and added the song to this post.  Ironically, Isaiah’s high school choir sang it for this year’s Christmas Choir Concert.  I bawled the whole time…(and not just the “simple tear down the cheek” cry…the all out sobbing!  Good thing it was pretty dark in there.)

I sat wondering…did she know what was in store for Jesus?  The miracles He would perform?  The way the lame would speak praises to Him after being healed…the way the blind would see again just by Jesus touching a man’s eyes. Imagine being deaf and in a split second, you can hear…all because of this man a named Jesus.  Did Mary have that mother’s intuition?  Did she know this would all happen?

When the lyrics ask if Mary knew that when she kissed her little baby, she was kissing the face of God, I cried even harder.  I thought of my baby…being kissed by God now.  I thought of my mom whose face has very recently been cradled in Jesus’ hands and how He has looked right into her eyes and smiled.  I thought of the others who have passed and how they are truly seeing the face of God.

But did Mary know all of this?  Did she have doubts?  Did she wonder if it would really all happen like it was foretold, with the child she gave birth too?

All the questions that rise up because of the birth of one little boy.  I could go on and on.  How come He had to be born in a manger?  A trough?  Well, maybe it was a way to show how humble we all should be.  A hospital bed, a barn, an ambulance…does it matter?  Once the baby is born, it really doesn’t matter if it was a gold-plated nursery bed or a manger filled with straw.

The animals that surrounded Him…that gave Him comfort and warmth.  Think of the people who surround us and can’t give us nearly as much comfort and warmth that a simple animal could give Jesus. God gave them just what they needed.

This season of celebrating Christ’s birth can get so out of hand with “worldly” things and tasks.  That’s why I love the lyrics to this song and love the way it reminds us why we are celebrating.  It’s the miracle of a new-born babe so many years ago.

A simple birth of a mighty King.  One Who wants to rock our worlds…change our lives…bring us to freedom.  Will you let Him in this Christmas?  Do you have room in your busy schedule of shopping, wrapping, hosting or going to parties, making the perfect meal–whatever it is you’re working on–to just allow time to sit and celebrate this miracle birth? To really think about what happens those years ago?

Invite Him into your celebration.  Read the story of His birth.  Pray together…and I mean, really pray together. Make room for Him this Christmas.  Make room for him in your heart.  He’s standing at the door, waiting to be a part of your life.  Will you let Him in?

 

Mistake after Mistake

Standard

Boy, do I make mistakes.

Sometimes it feels like I make so many and will never be forgiven for them. My mind is like a movie reel that replays the mistakes over and over and over again.

“What did you do that for?”

 “Didn’t you learn last time?”

“Why do you keep screwing up?”

It’s almost as if each morning I wake up and plan to make so many mistakes even before the boys leave the house for school. Of course, I don’t plan on that, but it happens; and it happens way too often. And that movie reel just keeps playing…

“Again?  Really…again?”

Now, generally, when I make a mistake or do something unkind towards someone, I apologize and ask for their forgiveness.  Sometimes I get it, sometimes I don’t…at least not at that moment. And that pierces my heart. I guess I want their approval so I can forgive myself.

When I know I’ve messed up, I do try to live differently. But just like every single human on the face of this earth, I continue to screw up. Sometimes in big ways, sometimes just with myself.

I am imperfect and I am a sinner.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m in no way justifying what I do and what I continue to do. I actually feel like Paul writing to the Romans. Starting in chapter 7 verse 15:

I do not understand what I do. For what I WANT to do, I do not do–but what I HATE, I do. (Emphasis mine)

Verse 17 says:

 As it is, it is no longer I, myself, who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18) I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature.  For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19) For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.

Skipping to Verse 24:

What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?  25) Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! 

We are born into sin. We are not immune to it. We sin on purpose—we sin without knowing it—we are just plain and simple: sinners.

But the story doesn’t end there.

 Right after Paul speaks of the wretched man he is, he writes this in Romans 8:1-2:

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.

 Every single day, I need Jesus.

Every single moment I need His forgiveness.

I need Him to set me free from sin and death.

Not so life can be perfect; not so I can avoid trials; not so I won’t make any further mistakes; but so when I do screw up (and I will), I can repent, turn from my ways with God’s help, and be free. That’s my goal.

Repent. Turn from my sin. Change my ways. Be forgiven. Be free.

Free from eternity in hell—free from the bondage of sin—free from that movie reel that insists on playing in my mind. The list goes on…

Without Jesus, I am nothing. Absolutely nothing. But with Jesus, I am forgiven, saved, loved, accepted, and totally free.

“Utterly dependent, but totally free.”

I’m guessing many of you also struggle with your own sin and guilt. It seems easier to forgive others than it is to forgive ourselves at times. The Good News is that Jesus died for all of us to give us freedom from sin.

He knocks at our door waiting to be invited in. He’ll never push His way into our lives. He wants us to ask Him in. His invitation is beautiful…

“28) Come to me, all who weary and heavy burdened, and I will give you rest. 29) Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  30) For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  Matthew 11:28-30

What a precious gift! An invite to a life where we don’t have to carry the burden. We can lay it at His feet and walk away. Not to go simply go back to our sinful lifestyle, as if we’re given a license to sin; but for us to lay our burdens down, turn from them, and walk in freedom towards a better future.

Have you accepted that invitation from Him? Have you accepted the free gift of salvation and eternal life that only comes through accepting Him as your Lord and Savior? If not, I invite you to ask Him into your life today.  That is my prayer for each of you…to experience the beautiful forgiveness that comes from the sacrifice He made upon that cross.

Jesus doesn’t  want us tied up in the shackles of our sins and mistakes. He wants to give us freedom. We only need to accept it.

May you be blessed as you ponder these questions.  May you find the peace that passes all understanding…the complete peace that can only come from Him.

God bless you, my friends.