Hope Made Sight

When I was a little girl I marveled over the way sunbeams streak through the clouds at sunset. It looked heavenly, like a glorious staircase made for the Lord to return on. Riding in the car, I would gaze out the window, certain Jesus was coming back today! Well He didn’t come that particular day, but I still long for the actual Glorious Return. One thing I do know is today is closer to this reality than yesterday.

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Sometimes my faith wavers when I’m caught up in the weeds of this life so much. Doubt creeps in too, uncertain that the Bible will play out as God says it will. It all sounds too good to be true: an eternal life (my finite brain can’t even comprehend that); a sinless existence; a world without disappointment, hardship and suffering? And yet I still believe, no matter how small that belief is.

When fears fly in my soul, threatening to snuff out hope, I combat with remembering all the ways God has been faithful to me. Simply listing them, either mentally or on paper brings comfort that God always keeps His Promises. His character does not allow Him to contradict Himself. He is safe to trust. The times I question God’s plans are the moments I’m not fully trusting Him in the first place. Like Eve in the Garden, I began to lean my ear into Satan hissing, “Did God really say…?”

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We live between the already and the not yet portion of history. Christians today have a remarkable viewpoint to see how Christ has already fulfilled His promise of salvation. And yet I still struggle to picture how full redemption and justice unfolds.

This world is broken and heavy under the curse of sin. It’s easy to forget sometimes Who wins at the end of this Story. Believers and all of creation groan, waiting in eager expectation for Jesus Christ to return.

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One day redemption will be complete in glorified, sinless perfection.

One day God will restore everything as it should be, like returning back to the Garden of Eden.

One day we will gaze into the face of Christ, sit at His feet, see His scars that were meant for us.

Until that Glorious Day happens, we stay faithful and wait patiently in hope, that our faith will be made sight.

 

Grace upon grace,

April

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Insta-faith

I like Instagram. It’s my favorite form of social media because it gets to the point, along with posting a visual that ranges from inspiring, funny, or cute. We are wired in our culture to hustle, no time to waste, even in recreational things. Our society has transformed into an instantaneous one.

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The reason I know this goes no further than my own lack of patience. Whether it be corralling my son each morning, getting him ready for school, or waiting in line at the Starbucks drive-through, or impatiently tapping my foot for the Internet to load faster. I hate to wait. I’ve been trained for instant gratification. But this doesn’t follow the model for deep faith in the Christian life. On some level I know this, but I also want the fast track for spiritual maturity. There must be some corners to cut, right?

Last summer I decided to find an older woman in the faith to soak up all her Biblical knowledge like a sponge. There isn’t anything wrong with wanting to be mentored; in fact it’s a very good thing! I was just going about it the wrong way. Instead, it became a works based attitude (the more I know, the more I’m validated as a Christian) and a source of pride.

It seems that most of my sanctification does not happen mainly by acquiring facts about the Bible but through daily decisions, responses, thoughts, and people. People and situations are real sticklers for personal growth or failure. Honestly, sometimes I take one step forward and two steps back. Although new life in Christ IS instantaneous the moment we trust Him for our salvation, spiritual maturity takes an entire lifetime.

             For those of us who like to “get to the point” this is not great news, but it is gracious news. We learn to abide in His strength and remember once again that God is the Only One who makes things grow. So we wait. He reminds us to do this, as we trust in His limitless power.

We are limited beings and it isn’t until we realize this that humility can nourish faith. In Hannah Anderson’s book ‘Humble Roots’ she uncovers this wisdom with each chapter. She says,

“In God’s wisdom the very process of learning binds us to Him in a way that simply knowing the answers cannot. And so He asks you to trust Him. He asks you to live in dependence. He asks you to humble yourself to wait for Him.” (p. 130)

There isn’t an “Insta-faith” for deeper fellowship with the Lord. This is what makes it so beautiful and organic, something worth being patient for! Over time and trials, when we allow God’s Word to penetrate our hearts, our character is transformed to look more like Christ.

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It’s a little ironic that the more I seek communion with God, I see how deeply underground and twisted the vines of pride around my heart are. If we take Anderson’s analogy of gardening, the uprooting and pruning of our hearts is tedious and painful. But we also know that it is needed for spiritual health and abundant fruit one day. Weeds of pride, disease of instant gratification have to be dug up, pulled out and treated if we want to persevere in this life.

You and I don’t have to become discouraged and give up either. God is faithful to finish all He does, and that includes the good work He is doing in you and me. The Bible says we can be confident in knowing this (Philippians 1:6). And that is gracious news.

 

Grace upon grace,

April

For the Overwhelmed Christian

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I sat next to a woman in my Bible study group that spoke words of freedom to me. She was addressing our entire small group, but what I heard was permission to live guilt-free as a Christian. A lot of my life as a believer I have felt the need to serve whenever the church doors were open.

Being a Christian meant serving at all times.

While there is truth in this, it isn’t the full truth. We as Christ followers must serve others because we are the hands and feet of Jesus to a hurting world. However, when we read about Jesus’ earthly ministry, He did only what was right in front of Him. Jesus didn’t multi-task, healing every single person with disease and sickness. He stayed on the tasks that were given to Him, doing the Father’s work at all times, perfectly obeying.

The woman in my group talked about how she and her husband intentionally prioritize their service to others. Each New Year, they write down a list of responsibilities first that are non-negotiable, like being a wife and mother to young children. Then she lists a few passion and gifts, and together they pair down realistically what works within both of their schedules. If it can’t fit inside the square calendar box, it’s thrown out for that year.

What a genius idea, I thought, because honestly I can often become over-zealous in my desire to do everything, wanting to “save the world”. I forget that Jesus already did that, and I’m merely called to participate in service right in my little suburban neighborhood.

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So I went home that day after Bible study and wrote a small list of areas I can practically serve in. The first two are my husband and son because I believe the family God has given me is my first priority. Then I left room for 3 other things that I can do, some of which I am already doing but never really viewed them as ministry opportunities.

The point is that the list shouldn’t be immense but instead focus your service. Sometimes we place false guilt on ourselves, or unfortunately sometimes the Church does. There are endless needs around us and it can feel overwhelming. When I try to do it all I end up fragmented and depleted. I forget that there is no output of eternal value without input as well.

Service first starts with my own heart seeking the Lord, growing deeper in knowledge, faith, and love. When I expend all my energy and time in service production mode I leave no room for God to teach and speak in the quiet.

Believers end up doing ourselves a disservice when we think we can fill every opportunity.

It is a privilege to participate with the Spirit in His work but God doesn’t need me or you. He wants our obedience not our guilt to love in His Name. This was so freeing for me to realize. I’m called to be faithful in the place, the responsibilities and the gifts God has given me. My tasks won’t look like yours and yours won’t look like the next woman’s.

Still feel overwhelmed?

Think about where you spend your time each day and how you could make an impact. Are you already in a Bible study? Maybe start investing in some of those relationships or perhaps they need a greeter at the door in the mornings. It doesn’t have to be big to be life changing. We can encourage through writing notes to people who may feel forgotten, or mentor the young woman on the brink of marriage or teach the 3 & 4 year old Sunday school class.

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Also leave room for the small, one-time opportunities to obey. Those acts of kindness are just as sweet to the Lord; a bottle of water for the over-heated air conditioning guy in the middle of August, opening the door for a mom juggling a baby stroller and toddler in tow, greeting a stranger with a smile.

We do the next thing right in front of us. Not everything is Tweet-worthy and that’s just fine because the One who sees it all is the only One worth pleasing.

God is always at work and we get to join Him, but He hasn’t called us to “save the world”. The Lord desires for you and me to live out of the unique personality, circumstances, and calling He has given us. Our concentrated list might even change over our lifetime. What matters is how we love, how we are faithful with what is right in front of us. Only then does our joyful obedience blossom into fruitful obedience. And that aroma is very sweet to our precious Savior.

 

 

Grace upon grace,

April

 

 

 

 

 

 

When I don’t desire God (and 8 ways to help)

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When I lack the desire to pray or read the Bible there’s a problem. My mind turns into a thick fog, unable to hold firm to the truth I profess. My spirit becomes dry so I fill cracked cisterns with other things – distractions.

Studies show that the average adult attention span is less than a goldfish, eight seconds. The rest of modern society and I whip out our electronic devices jumping from one thing to the next. I am restless and unable to focus.

There is something unique in the current era that generations before us did not fight against. We now have the ability to be in constant communication, literally at our fingertips, with every form of entertainment seeping through our lives. There is no room for quiet, so we slowly distract ourselves to death.

I don’t want to paint a broad picture that all of modern technology is evil and we should just retreat like monks. What I am saying is that I think my lack of desire to be still before the Lord has a lot to do with the bombardment of ways to get my focus off of God and onto lesser things. Sometimes these dry spiritual seasons echo the state of my heart. Sometimes God uses these lessons to teach me something about Him, that only He can quench my thirst.

There needs to be a wake-up call in the heart of believers who fall into this trap like me. I noted eight helpful ways to stir our spirit toward God again:

 

  1. Moderation, narrow your search, turn it off.

Eliminate digital clutter by being intentional with how much time you decide to spend online. Stick to it. Time is a precious gift and it would be a shame if you realize at the end of your life how much of it was wasted on social media, Internet surfing, or a Netflix binge.

Beyond that, try unsubscribing to a few email lists you’re on, limit the number of articles or blogs you read. There are a billion zillion things to find online and there just isn’t enough time in the day to take in everything. Be choosy.

When you set time aside to study the Bible, turn off your phone and the T.V. or whatever else might be a temptation for you. These devices are tools meant to serve us, not the other way around. We are losing our ability to be comfortable in silence. Exercising personal discipline in pursuit of our rich God is priceless, I promise you.

 

  1. Read the Psalms.

Read it aloud even. Speak the words back to God like David did, crying out to Him. Highlight verses that the Holy Spirit teaches you. Meditate on it.

 

  1. Seek God in each page of the Bible.

As you read the Bible, look for specific attributes of God. Where is He and what characteristics do you see? Is He Faithful? Creator? Lawgiver? Redeemer? Shepherd? Teacher? Remember that the Bible is first and foremost a book about God, not us, so find Him in each page you read.

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  1. Pray.

Ask God to help you see clearly again spiritual truth. He is faithful and hears the prayers of His own. Ask for prayer from another believer – a trusted friend or someone else mature in his or her faith.

 

  1. Memorization.

Memorizing a Bible verse to carry with you throughout the week might be the one thing that sustains you. Repeat it frequently and let God use that truth to work in your mind.

 

  1. Work it out.

Taking a walk outside or some form of exercise is a great way to clear my head. I can take that time to walk in prayer, or just slow down long enough to notice God’s beauty around me.

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  1. Worship through music.

When I can’t even find the words to pray, worship music speaks for me. I punch in Chris Tomlin’s station on Pandora and my spirit is lifted once again. The melody soothes my soul and the lyrics remind me to worship the Living God.

 

  1. Write out your blessings, big and small.

Developing a grateful heart naturally leads to praising the God of grace, the Perfect Giver. You’ll be surprised at how blessed you really are.

 

Then wait for God to move. We can’t force the rhythms of grace. We ask, we seek, and then we wait. Even when the tumbleweeds blow in the desert of your soul, hold on to what you know to be true. God is keeping His Beloved. Sometimes we wander away and the Lord uses those seasons to grow us up in maturity. I usually learn the hard way. However the Lord of all decides to work in our fellowship with Him it is always for our good and His Glory.

 

Grace upon grace,

April

Confessions of a childless stay-at-home mom

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I have floundered this first full week of school- what to do with myself, what I’m good for, that type of thing. I’m a stay-at-home mom without a child now from 8-2:30 roughly. Am I lazy? Do I have anything else to offer in society?  I start examining the world’s standards of what I’m supposed to be doing with my life and the toxic game of comparison begins.

Even stay-at-home moms with children ALL DAY find the time and/or desire to volunteer in the community, teach Sunday school, work part-time from home and attend a Bible study.

So here’s me the jellyfish just floating through life – well its how it feels anyway. What do you do when you feel like you don’t matter? Go out and get a job? Volunteer at a soup kitchen? Those are wonderful things, mind you, I just don’t feel the need to do them personally. Am I “just a mom”? Or can I be more than that? Is it enough and can I learn contentment in being at home even when I have no one to mother during the day?

My work seems small and meager.

Invisible, insignificant.

…And that’s okay.

Most of the inner workings of the world go on without any fanfare, recognition, or even so much as a “thank you”. My self-worth is not wrapped up in what I do, how many plates I can keep spinning at once, but who I am in Christ.

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Shortly after winning their silver medals in synchronized diving, Olympic athletes David Boudia and Steele Johnson were asked by a reporter about their mindset with each dive. They admitted the pressure was intense to compete well, but that their identity is in Christ and not what they accomplish on the diving board. These young Olympians are secure in their worth because it isn’t tied to this world.

We may not be remembered in history (or win medals) for washing a pile of laundry, cooking dinner, or picking up our kids from school, but what will remain is how we reflected God’s character toward others. Whether your audience is one million or one, how you live should ultimately please the Ultimate One.

No one else has your life.

God gave it to you and the people in it to make much of Him, not yourself. There is a season and a time for everything. Thank God for the really good, the really hard, the really lonely, and the really ordinary times. As we focus on Jesus Christ, He will lead us, and our lives will culminate into worshipful living. Go to the Source of Life when you feel meaningless (or at least your work) and ask the Spirit to bless the work of your hands.

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Because when it’s all said and done, the most important thing you can do with your life is to pursue God and live out the faith you’ve been given. So for today? Enjoy God and His good gifts, big and small. Simply trust that in our unworthiness, Christ made us worthy of our calling. You are loved by God, and He is faithful to sustain you wherever He has placed your feet.

 

Grace upon grace,

April

 

when you need to be reminded

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Recently I was reminded that I need to be reminded. Sometimes as a believer I forget who I am in Christ. Part of this problem is occupying my mind with what the world says, thinks and does. Worse, when I believe the lies about who I am, or rather, who I am not. The Bible talks about defending ourselves with the armor of God. So, what does that look like exactly? One active way is to memorize Bible verses.

“I have hidden Your Word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” (Psalm 119:11)

I have dipped my toe in memorizing Scripture in the past but not really pursued it. Most of the verses written on my heart are the fruits of years in Awanas growing up, an old cassette tape singing truth, and Bible class during the awkward years.

Lately there has been a gnawing in my spirit for more – more of God. The restless hunger prompted action. I find that when I commit His Word to my mind, the heart changes too. I begin to love the Bible all over again. God’s Word really is alive as it awakens parts of me I didn’t realize were dormant.

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Speaking Scripture aloud that flows from within is life giving. Slowly, like a bloom that just needs water, light, and time, I begin to spread out my petals little by little. Tight fists can’t receive anything. I open my hands wide and He starts the work of satisfying my soul. Day by day this process occurs. His blessing of filling is not a one-time act. No, in His extravagant love God gives us Himself every day. His mercies are fresh each moment.

So how is this done practically in a world that seeks to snuff out God altogether? Well, the Israelites used to write Scripture and bind them on their foreheads. God knows we are a forgetful bunch so He graciously tells us over and over to remember and do not forget. When we get caught up in the blessings or the trials of life our focus is shifted off of Him and onto the circumstances.

To help combat that, I have started writing out a verse each day to meditate on and try to memorize. I write the first letter of each word on my hand plus the Bible reference. It fades away throughout the day between hand washing and scrubbing pans in the sink. That’s kind of the point so hopefully at the end of the day I have memorized one verse.

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“He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy.” Titus 3:5

Personally this way is less intimidating than remembering whole chunks of Scripture at once. I still might memorize a passage, but it is one verse at a time. As the saying goes, how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time” (which forgive the example, because, gross). Somehow this way my goal seems realistic. I also secretly hope a stranger notices the scribbles on my hand and inquires about it. What a unique opportunity to quote Scripture huh?!

Is there something you dream of achieving but the obstacles look insurmountable? I’d like to gently encourage you that you do not have to master it all at once. Inch by inch, day by day; chip away at it, whatever it is. You’ll soon see progress, looking back over your shoulder at what was accomplished, and the mountain you climbed without even realizing it. Failure is not starting at all.

Maybe start a journey of committing Scripture to memory too. It helps us claim our identity when we feel lost in a sea of forgetfulness. Remember who you are, whose you are. You belong to Someone. We are a free people, redeemed by grace. We don’t have to listen to what the world says or even care about what they think about us. Use the truth filter God has given us in His Word. You have a place at His table, as His daughter or son, as His beloved.

 

Grace upon grace,

April

The Joy of Knowing

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Sometimes I’m not sure if I should write. I hesitate. My pen freezes and confidence wanes. “Who do you think you are?” I tell myself. I’m not a “spiritual giant” and have only 31 years of life experience. Not much. What could I possibly have to say? I’m a stay at home mom, picking up toys, giving piggyback rides, and feeding my people who live here.

It isn’t flashy or Instagram worthy. I’m not Ann Voskamp or John Piper or Beth Moore. But you know who I am? A daughter of the King. Not only that but loved and chosen.

When I am still and allow this truth to sink in, my spirit cannot even handle all the emotions. It’s like fireworks inside, feeling as if my heart just might actually burst. As His children God calls us to go and be a witness to the things He has done.

“Come and see what God has done, how awesome His works in man’s behalf!” (Psalm 66:5)

This calling is for every believer not just the ones with a big platform. Our identity is not wrapped up in how many “Likes” we get on social media. In fact in many ways that can chain us back to our flesh. We’re free, you and I, no longer bound to comparison or insecurity. We still do it, but it isn’t what Jesus intended. He has better things in store for His own.

When we rest in the knowledge of His grace toward us and have faith that we belong to God, the fruit of our lives will tell us who we are. So, who do you think you are? I know to whom I belong. I can speak and write and live with every confidence because my life has the ability to honor the Father when His Name is made famous.

You have a part too. All of God’s children play a role in adorning the Gospel. Wherever you live in the world is exactly the place you need to be, speaking the name of Jesus. The gifts He has given you also serve a purpose to showcase His love for others and His glory. Go and live and be whom the Lord purposes you to be with the joy of knowing you belong and you have a place here.

 

Grace upon grace,

April