Monday Mindset and Links :: Vol. 2

I found a new friend. Many new friends actually. And I’ve needed them. Each one has been an answer to specific prayer.

I’ve been gathering answered prayers around myself like pillows on a soft cozy bed.

One of these such friends {Holley Gerth}, doesn’t know me very well yet, but I’ve been joining her for her Coffee for the Heart writing prompts. Two weeks ago, I was too sick to even contemplate writing. But her prompt was “What Brings You Joy?

My first response to that prompt? Pain.

Yes, pain. Hear me :: I am not a masochist. And I do not by any means seek out pain, but I’ve learned {and am continuing to learn} to be patient with pain. To lean into the Spirit who dwells within me while in pain. And what I’ve experienced for a while now is the reality that when “bad things” happen, I’m drawn closer to the Spirit of the living God than when I coast through life without a catch.

So for my Monday Mindset this week, I’m going to be tying these two thoughts together. When pain presents itself in my life {emotional, physical, relational, etc.} I can breathe in joy and exhale fear because I know that just like physical exercise strengthens the muscles, so too spiritual exercise strengthens the faith.

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Goal: Perseverance and mature faith. Process: trials of many kinds. Mindset: Pure joy knowing that this process is directed by a Sovereign, Good God {who is a gentle, compassionate Teacher} and will work it all out for my good.

And that’s how I know that pain is what brings me joy because it draws me closer to Him.

Now for Links:

I would love to hear from you in the comments! If any of these thoughts or resources met you right where you are today, please let me know, or Follow me for more Monday Mindsets. Thanks for reading!

Monday Mindset and Links :: Vol. 1

Romans 12 12

Tribulation: trib·u·la·tion \ˌtri-byə-ˈlā-shən\ Anyway you look at it, life’s pain and trouble aren’t pretty. There’s almost never a road map for the season when sickness, suffering, or sadness present themselves. It isn’t easy to face hardship with joy. And that’s why this week’s Monday Mindset is to take Romans 12:12 and set my mind on each word. What am I to rejoice in? It’s easy to be confused by the current main stream and think that to be growing in godliness I must will myself to see joy in all of life’s pains. Does anyone else ever feel a bit morbid trying to feel joyful because of suffering? I think of the life of Christ as he was often moved with compassion, even to weeping, over death and suffering. So it isn’t the hardship that I find joy in, but rather, my ultimate Hope is where the joy and source of rejoicing is found. And my Hope is in Jesus, the Gospel, faith birthed by the Spirit.

That first part was a bonus for this week, but where I really need to rest is in the middle of that verse. Patience. Patient in tribulation. Isn’t it interesting that Paul says patient, because my flesh says push through tribulation, distract yourself in tribulation, wish yourself out of tribulation, or even ignore tribulation. So as I struggle through being sick again (in RL) I am breathing this verse in and settling my spirit with the truth and hope of Be Patient.

Finally, I just love Paul’s heart for believers to pray. Constant in prayerPray without ceasing. In every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to GodContinue steadfastly in prayer. At first, in my life of faith, I was overwhelmed by his exhortation. It seemed “super spiritual.” But then slowly the Spirit taught me to direct my self talk to Him rather than to myself. You know those internal thoughts we all have. Yes, those. Changing them from circular, where the start and end is me, to vertical where it starts with me but its hopeful end is Him.

I don’t know what this week may hold for me or you, but I’m resting in this Mindset.

Link Love:

Have you heard of the IF:Gathering? I’m okay with being behind the times. :: Christianity Today

Reading inspiration. I love this non-fiction list for kids. I needed a little boost in my reading world. :: Simple Homeschool

If you’ve ever felt this tension:  parenting is not a technique to master, but a day-by-day trek toward greater patience, deeper love, and gutsier faith :: Poem: Book Learning on TheArtofSimple.net

Do you have a link you’ve loved recently? Please share it with me in the comments!

A garden redeemed.

My inner life had potential. One could describe it as dirt, another a garden. But I wasn’t too concerned when I was younger. I thought more about the world, people, and things around me than on what to do with this plot I’d been given.

Little by little, the outside came in too far. The world has a way of getting pushy when there aren’t boundaries. And people aren’t always considerate.

So at an early age, I laid the first brick down around the edge of the dirt. Fear. There, I thought, that will show them to back off. But it wasn’t enough to keep me in, and the next thing I knew, I was the one inviting things in and setting my hopes on the next excitement to keep me satisfied. Let down. After only a few days of marriage, I realized quickly that my husband couldn’t understand the mental wave lengths I was sending him. Bitterness. While postpartum, I rode the first roller coaster of hormones and came down in a crash. Anxiety. Realizing that there are little people within my care but not under my control and knowing that I am limited by both time and strength hurts deeply. Anger.

Up and up and up. The bricks grew higher, and I wasn’t safe like I thought I would be. Each brick carried a memory, a name, a feeling. You’ve been forgotten. You’re not that big of a deal. Why can’t you just be more like…

Finally I crouched down on my knees. I dug my hands into the soil and longed for the plot to be clear again. Immediately the Gardener put His hand on my shoulder, and together we reached for the first brick. Brick by brick we faced each memory together, and He traded me a seed for every brick. This one will be joy. This one will be faithfulness. This one will be love. Trust me. Don’t give up. Wait for spring. 

This process of removing bricks and planting a garden became our daily routine. The wall wasn’t built in a day; it couldn’t come down that way either. Healing that lasts takes time.

And as I was beginning to enjoy the work and look forward to the bittersweet process, He brought me our first fruit. Then He showed me that the wall was all down. I looked around and saw for the first time new growth in places that had once been so pressed down that the soil seemed too hard to ever produce a good fruit.

I’ll never forget His smile. My gratitude. Our deep bond. This space He created for us was so beautiful. Intimate.

But He warned me, whenever pain reenters your heart, you will have to make a choice. Pick up a brick and destroy a part of what we’ve worked for or come to Me for a new seed and grow more of what is lacking. Remember, do not grow weary of doing good for in due season you will reap, if you do not give up

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This post has been linked to Lisa-Jo Baker’s Five Minute Friday and Jennifer Dukes Lee’s Tell His Story. Thanks for visiting!

No matter what happens…

A few weeks ago, I was having coffee with a friend when the topic of conversation turned. We covered family, friends, jobs, and the like when she shared that she still felt dry spiritually. I could relate. We had talked over the course of the year about how seasons of dryness and being in the valley can be frustrating and confusing. But no matter the amount of internal positive thinking or external encouragement, the scenery of life wasn’t changing. The season of her spiritual life seemed stuck.

What do you do if the season refuses to change? When it seems like winter is going to last forever.

She said that she found herself reading Ecclesiastes and agreeing with everything the Preacher wrote. That everything is a cycle, there is a time for everything, and nothing new under the sun.

But knowing these proverbial truths and feeling at peace with them are two totally different things. Her mind seemed to be nagging at her heart for the lack of feeling. And that’s exactly what I praised God for. Right there in the front window of the cafe. The presence of the nag actually proves Ecclesiastes 3:11 to be true.

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That nagging feeling says that you were made for more than this season of dryness. You were given an imprint of your Creator that longs for more. So even while not feeling what you know to be the right spiritual feelings, it is still proof that God has a plan for you because He has put eternity within you.

And in His time He will make everything beautiful. E-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g. So no matter what season of life you are in: dry or well watered, rejoicing or weeping, at ease or in pain, you’re going to be okay. No matter what happens, today, tomorrow, or in 30 years, you’re going to be okay because God makes all things beautiful in His time.

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Five Minute Friday: Write

I write.

I write because what is sacred leaks. And the moments that matter pass. Memories fade. I write when it all feels like it’s falling apart and when something I’ve worked hard for is starting to come together. I write because it’s the beat of my heart and a function of my mind. And it’s where my mind and heart meet. I write in response to life. And I’ve been created to respond.

I write because each prompt is a call to action. A call to live full of grace again. I write when I feel weak and I learn through writing that my weakness can be redeemed when I answer His call to write.

I write and keep on writing because words move. The letters and syllables translate into thoughts and feelings which lead to reactions and new actions. I write to inspire and I write out of inspiration. I write when no one is reading or listening or noticing. And I write when I hope everyone is.

And so, I write.

accepting my pace :: just one race

“Running around.” That’s what I call living life outside our home. I need to run around. This is acceptable and code for errands, appointments, groceries, meetings, extra curricular activities, fueling up with coffee and/or sugar. But I’ve had to accept that my life – at least right now – includes none of this “running.” None of the surge of energy from tackling challenges and to-do’s. None of the difficult transitions. None of the pressure from thinking “if I don’t get this done then {fill in the blank}.”

None of the excuses for why life is busy right now. Instead, I’ve had to fully embrace being at rest. All. The. Time.

Before Emmett was conceived, I thought I was in a good groove. I felt like our life and routine was in order and had purpose. My mind went back and forth over the idea of adding another life into our home. I didn’t think I could handle all the busyness. And then after we conceived, I told myself that I could make a few simple adjustments to add a baby into the mix. That we could continue on in the same life direction. I assumed that was what God had in mind for us. I believed that after a month or two postpartum life and our routine would go back to normal, and that just a little while longer and I would be able to get my “running” shoes back on.

A little while after Emmett was born, I did get back to running around. I became an student of mega-speed-multitasking. I planned my days in 3 hour increments, down to the very minute. And about that time, I was feeling torn in two. I wanted to be and to do. I wanted to rest and to run. I wanted to wait and to have now. It was confusing. I know I muddled through many days, seemingly an emotional mess to those closest to me.

Praise God with me though, that the second shoe did drop. First shoe: bed rest. Second shoe: persistent illnesses.

So after facing a few health challenges with Emmett, I can see that I wasn’t meant to handle all the busyness. And through these challenges we’ve had to let most of them go. At least temporarily. And even though I wasn’t ready to know the plan before his life began, I am so grateful for how much he has been used to change my pace. Before, I lived first and loved second. Now, I love first and live second.

Sure, I miss running around, in big and small ways. I miss the people. I miss the fresh air, when it isn’t -30 degrees. I miss the spontaneity. I miss being able to say “I’ll be there.” But these things are simply outside of my ability to influence, let alone control. Health. Doctor’s orders. On one hand, I love the time to reflect, to listen to silence, to train little bodies and big minds, to be present consistently, and to pray. But on the other hand, I want a life out there, I want to prove my worth in relationships, I want to run around.

I was told to keep Emmett home. End of story. No more torn in two. Just whole at home. I spent three to five days in shock. I didn’t know how to keep going with our routine – the life that I thought was in order – seemed completely impossible now. And as only God can, He showed me how all of this has been for my good, to slow me down, to focus my heart on my one goal, and to inspire me to run the only race that truly matters.

Running to Jesus. Or to put it another way: Staying in His Presence every moment of every day.

Sure, I wanted to go out today. Yes, I felt like it was okay (permissible considering doctor’s orders), and it even felt good to wear make up. I put on my “running” shoes. But that wasn’t in His plan for today. I was met with a dead battery. After I shoveled the driveway, mind you.

But I was at rest. Even in the face of changed plans, unmet expectations, and hard work. I was able to accept that I only have one race in which I’ve been called to run. Only one word that is eternal, and it’s not mine. I may let people in this life down momentarily, but when I fix my eyes on Him and focus my running -

I don’t grow weary. 

My heart is enlarged. (Full to bursting!)

I run with purpose in every step.

I run to win.

Lasting Impressions :: Last Week’s Links

This is for you. Whether or not this year’s Super Bowl has gripped your attention or not, I recommend these links. The words, stories, and inspiration will stay with me for a lot longer than a final score.

But there are transitions in our lives: times for certain seasons and times when those seasons end.”  :: This is for every mama who has had to accept “no more babies for me.” {And um, I don’t remember how I found this blogger, but I’m SO grateful for the great find. Nice to “meet” you Sarah Bessey.}

Pastor Mark told my story today. Years 16 through 20. I think this series on Romans is going to make a mark on my soul that I will remember for eternity. :: Thank you College Park Church for sharing.

I’ll need to come back to this post when I’m freaked out by the craziness of riding on a helicopter :: way to go Tsh Oxenreider {and how am I j-u-s-t- founding out that you have a wonderful space outside of The Art of Simple?}

The New Church Lady :: Great perspective for anyone who has never been on the “outside.”

Worship On repeat :: Audrey Assad