After a week’s worth of winter storms, sometimes you just need a table.
You need someone (someone with running water, heat, and power) to cook you a meal, set a table, pull out a chair, and invite you to sit down and eat. As adults taking care of everyone else, sometimes we just need to remember there is someone else taking care of us.
While God’s table isn’t one we can physically touch, taste, and see, it is a table we can see with our spiritual senses. Our hearts can be nourished through the meal of His Word and our souls comforted with the touch of His Spirit.
Psalm 78 has been that meal and table for me this week. The nourishment of its words have searched my conscience and also warmed my heart in the places I needed it the most.
The psalmist Asaph writes in Psalm 78:1-8,
“Give ear, O my people, to my teaching;
incline your ears to the words of my mouth!
I will open my mouth in a parable;
I will utter dark sayings from of old,
things that we have heard and known,
that our fathers have told us.
We will not hide them from their children,
but tell to the coming generation
the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might,
and the wonders that he has done.
He established a testimony in Jacob
and appointed a law in Israel,
which he commanded our fathers
to teach to their children,
that the next generation might know them,
the children yet unborn,
and arise and tell them to their children,
so that they should set their hope in God
and not forget the works of God,
but keep his commandments;
and that they should not be like their fathers,
a stubborn and rebellious generation,
a generation whose heart was not steadfast,
whose spirit was not faithful to God.”
The psalm opens with a reminder for the people of God to do exactly that – remember. Remember the wondrous acts of God, remember the power of God, and remember the character of God.
When they were slaves in Egypt, they cried out, God heard their cries, and moved heaven and earth to provide deliverance. Verses 9-16 and 42-55 describe how His deliverance was seen through the Exodus, through the parting of the Red Sea, and through God’s provision in 40 years of the Israelites’ wilderness wandering. He provided His people with food, water, shelter, and protection over and over and over again.
And yet the people of God still doubted the power of God to save, to deliver, to provide, and to lead them through the hardest, harshest places.
In verses 17-20, the psalmist writes these very convicting words,
“Yet they sinned still more against him,
rebelling against the Most High in the desert.
They tested God in their heart
by demanding the food they craved.
They spoke against God, saying,
‘Can God spread a table in the wilderness?
He struck the rock so that water gushed out
and streams overflowed.
Can he also give bread
or provide meat for his people?'”
Verse 19 is what jumped out to me in my morning reading; it bears repeating here again: “They spoke against God, saying, ‘Can God spread a table in the wilderness?'”
Isn’t that the question my heart has asked God every time a storm has hit these past few years? Here God, in this wilderness, are Your really able to provide a table? In this wilderness, in this hurricane, in this pandemic, in this election, in this arctic ice blast, in this marriage, in this friendship, in this relationship, in this season of my life, can You really provide a table? Do You really know what You are doing? Have You remained in control? Are Your promises still really enough? Is my place at Your table still secure? Is Your protection sufficient? Is Your “No” really for my good and is there behind it eventually, at some point, a “Yes”?
I have seen You provide once, and I’ve heard stories of Your faithfulness passed down from generation to generation, but really, Lord, here, in this season, in this pandemic, in this storm, in this ice blast, can you really provide a table?
When I put it like that, all my questions seem so vain, my doubts so foolish. I have walked with the Lord long enough in my life to know that in each and every wilderness, there is a table. And each and every time I come to the end of my rope, my resources, my sufficiency, and myself, the table remains.
Every single time I make a mess of things with my own sin or failures or every time others around or the sin-cursed world around me makes a mess with its own set of brokenness and failures, the table remains.
Verses 21-24 say this,
“Therefore, when the Lord heard, he was full of wrath;
a fire was kindled against Jacob;
his anger rose against Israel,
because they did not believe in God
and did not trust his saving power.
Yet he commanded the skies above
and opened the doors of heaven,
and he rained down on them manna to eat
and gave them the grain of heaven.”
Do you see that word “yet” in verse 23? Even when I do not trust, God’s mercy never runs out. Even when I forget, the meal on the table never changes. Every single time, because of God’s covenantal love and faithfulness, I sit down to the bread of God’s Presence and the cup of God’s kindness. I sip on mercy and I feast on grace. And every single time I sit down, I never eat alone. I eat with a Host who is good, strong, powerful, merciful and kind. I am always amazed to look up and instead of wrath, see mercy. Instead of punishing anger, see forgiveness. Instead of wrathful shame, see covering love.
When I can’t taste mercy or feel the tension rising in my shoulders and miss out on grace, it’s not that the table is ever missing or withheld because of punitive measures. It’s that I choose to forget that it’s there. I forget through complaints. I forget through becoming a task master, ticking things off of my list instead of feasting at the table of God’s Word, being nourished by the bread of His Presence. I forget through staying up late and watching shows instead of ending my day in gratitude, prayer, or reading words that remind me of the table that stands ready to serve me even as I sleep. I forget by ignoring my kids or tolerating my kids or griping at my kids instead of gathering my kids and sitting down at the table of God’s Word and Presence together as a family.
So as the people of God, here is what we are to remember: we are to remember the character of God and the power of God to save – in the events of world history and in the events of our own personal lives.
We are to remember that His deliverance of us from our sin, guilt, shame, and failures through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, His Son, stands as a pledge that He will deliver us again…and again…and again. “He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32)
As long as we are living and breathing on this earth, ice storms and wind storms, financial storm and relational storms, are going to come.
We are not promised safety from difficult and demanding circumstances. But we are promised safety in the difficult circumstances through the table of the body and blood of Christ. And we are promised full deliverance of even our worst circumstances one day when we live forever with Him. The table that is set before us now stands as a promise of the table that is to come.
So this week, don’t forget. Don’t forget to sit down at the table of mercy, grace, provision, presence, shelter, and eat. Don’t forget to talk about it with your children. Don’t forget to rest. Don’t forget that time at His feet is more important than checking tasks off a list. And don’t forget that whatever you eat at the table here and now is only a foretaste of the meal to come.
“Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will dress himself for service and have them recline at table, and he will come and serve them. If he comes in the second watch, or in the third, and finds them awake, blessed are those servants!” Luke 12:37-38
If your soul is in need of a good meal at a nourishing table, consider downloading my FREE prayer guide that walks you through the process of restoring your heart through prayer and sitting down at the table that will satisfy every need of your soul.
For more encouragement throughout the week, you can find me on Instagram @baker.susannah.
This week’s post is coming a little early – usually I post on Mondays, but I wanted to offer up these words this morning.
Valentine’s Day can bring a certain ache for many people.
Deep down within us is a fierce longing and ache to be known, to be cherished, and to matter.
We don’t just want to belong; we want to be someone’s beloved. We want to be the apple of someone’s eye, the delight of someone’s day, the joy of someone’s thought, and the needed part of someone’s embrace.
There is nothing wrong with that – it is how we were created. You and I were created to be someone’s beloved.
The problem is many of us look for that ache to be fulfilled in the here and now – we want to be a boyfriend’s beloved, a girlfriend’s beloved, a husband’s beloved, a wife’s beloved, a parent’s beloved, even a friend’s beloved. Some of us do find that ache fulfilled, in part, in the here and now. We are a spouse’s beloved partner, a parent’s beloved child, a friend’s beloved safe place. But none of us are the beloved in every single category in our lives in a way that fills our deepest desires.
That’s because being the beloved from someone here on planet earth only goes so deep. It only fills the surface of a crack that runs down to the depths of our soul.
And can I make this clarification: you can be someone’s spouse but still not be their beloved. Sadly, there can be a vast difference between being married and being beloved.
So no matter how it seems, married or single, most of us stand on the fringes of circles wondering why it seems like we are the only one who does not fit in or is not someone’s beloved in a certain category of our lives.
If this is you today, I want you to hear something: You are not alone, no matter how on the fringes you feel. You need to know that most people feel exactly like you do – wondering where they belong, where they fit in, and why it feels like they are the only one who doesn’t.
But I want you to hear something else today: You are the beloved.
You are God’s beloved. You are the apple of His eye, caught up in the warmth of His embrace.
You may not be the beloved in the way you wanted. But you are the beloved in the way that is needed.
Because being God’s beloved means that His love fills the ache down to the deepest places in your soul that He alone knows how to fill.
In fact, the very lack you feel is the opening He needs and looks for to get in. The wound in your life, the hole you want some other person to fill is the God-made hole He is wanting to fill. As the saying goes, the wound is not only where the light gets in, the wound is where God gets in.
So today, don’t focus on why you are not so and so’s beloved – because let me tell you something – spouses fail you, friends fail you, parents fail you, children fail you, and you fail others in every single category of your life as well. We can’t help it. With sin’s deep stain and curse, failure is who we are and it’s what we do.
But God will never fail you. Never. In fact, the deepest, darkest holes in your life are there so you will look up to Him.
You are His beloved.
YOU are His beloved.
You ARE His beloved.
You are HIS beloved.
You are His BELOVED.
Turn it over every which way. Soak in the nuances of every single word. And let His love fill your cup today, no matter who you are or whose you are. For you are God’s beloved, and His love is enough.
“I am my beloved’s, and His desire is for me.” Song of Solomon 7:10
The winter season isn’t usually my favorite. It seems to be covered in a long dreariness where everything is colored in grey. Even school seems to take longer during the winter months of the year.
Winter isn’t usually other people’s favorite season either. When asked what their favorite season of the year is, “spring” or “fall” are the more common answers.
I think that’s because while spring represents new growth, and fall represents harvest, winter represents no growth at all.
At least, that’s what I thought until I visited Yellowstone National Park several weeks ago.
Jason’s youngest brother, his wife, and their two darling daughters live on a cattle ranch in Montana. Breathtaking mountains are the backdrop to their backyard, feeding chickens and collecting eggs are part of their normal everyday routine, and words like “hurry up,” “go faster,” and “we’re going to be late,” don’t seem to exist in their everyday vocabulary. And to top it off, the northern entrance to Yellowstone is just a forty-five minute drive from their front door.
My brother-in-law Josh had the idea that we should rent snow mobiles and take a winter tour through the park. I signed us up as quickly as I could, and then realized – wait. Montana, in January, has the potential to be COLD.
And let me tell you – it was. By the time we made it to the entrance to the park, the thermometer in the car measured -14 degrees Farenheit.
NEGATIVE FOURTEEN DEGREES. I thought I was going to die that day in Yellowstone.
But miraculously, not all did we all survive, but we all thrived and marveled at the park’s winter beauty.
In fact, I might even go so far as to say, winter might be my new favorite season.
That’s because I had mistakenly thought that winter seasons were barren seasons without growth. But winter in Yellowstone proved me wrong. Winter is bare, but it’s not barren. The season simply fosters underground growth.
While a white blanket of ice and snow covers summer’s abundance and fall’s brilliance, growth doesn’t disappear; it just hibernates under the surface where no one can see. And the outer bareness prepares the trees and landscape for the weight of summer’s abundance once again.
In her book, Anonymous, Alicia Britt Chole observes the tree outside her window, and writes,
Through the window I watch as birds pick her branches clean. Cardinals, blue jays, sparrows, finches, and chickadees…strip away whatever remains of summer’s bountiful memory from the silver maple. Bare, her lean limbs can support the coming snow and ice. But that weight would be too much for her frame in all its fullness. Lighter is better for the deep work of winter.
So she bows. She bends. She surrenders to thinning and in doing so thickens her foundation for an even more glorious summer to come.
In the same way, submission to God’s seasons will be our saving strength. To resist thinning is to risk collapse. The future is weighty, capable of crushing the unprepared.
What she is saying is this: To resist the thinning of winter is to hurt no one but ourselves. The tree’s “submission to the season is her saving strength.” We must learn that when bare seasons come, they are not meant for our punishment. Instead, they push us into underground growth and prepare for abundance that is ahead.
Many of us are emerging or are still knee-deep in a winter season. God has stripped so much from us this past year. Some of the stripping has been in the visible realm, but much of it has been invisible, in the hidden ground of the heart.
Can I ask you something? Have you submitted to the rhythm of the winter season in your life? Have you allowed God to strip summer’s abundance from you with a willing heart? Or have you fought back, clinging tightly to what you cannot keep, your heart weighed down with anger, bitterness, weariness, frustration, anxiety, fear and doubt?
Friend, I have a few simple words for you learned from the beauty of Yellowstone: surrender to the season. Surrender to the stripping of winter, knowing it is so that you can be prepared for whatever season of summer and abundance and fall and harvest is up ahead. And as you submit, I think you might be surprised at the beauty that comes with the covering of winter.
For God never strips away without covering us as well. It might be a covering of snow or white or cold we are not used to, but it is beautiful nonetheless. It is a covering that strips away everything that is unnecessary except for Him.
Winter does not last forever. No season ever does. So if you are still wading through winter, rejoice. Rejoice that there will be an end to the stripping. To the bareness. To the cold. And rejoice that although winter is bare, it is not barren. Deep, underground work is taking place in the hearts of those who are fully surrendered and fully trusting in Him. He makes everything beautiful in its time (Ecclesiastes 3:11) – even in the dead of winter.
Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. John 12:24-25
For more encouragement throughout the week, you can find me on Instagram, @baker.susannah.
A long time ago, my friend, Leigh Kohler, said this: “In the physical realm, we eat to get full. But in the spiritual realm, we eat to get hungry.” Many times through the years, I’ve thought long and hard about those words.
Sometimes we mistake lack of spiritual appetite for lack of spiritual need. We stop reading our Bibles; we stop spending regular time with God’s people and in God’s Word; time for prayer is given over to to-do lists and activities. And before long, we aren’t even hungry for spiritual things.
When I get that way, I’m tempted to think my activities or to-do lists are more important and necessary for whatever season of life I am in than fostering hunger for God.
But it’s simply not true. It’s not that my kids’ sports, or cleared inbox, or volunteer duties, or even Biblestudies – good things with good people – are more important. It’s that I’ve become full on lesser things.
In Luke 10:41-42, Jesus told Martha this: “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
Friend, can I suggest something? Everything you can spend time on today, everything, can be taken away from you – however many emails you clear will be back tenfold in your inbox tomorrow. Whatever money you put in your bank account could be here today but gone tomorrow. Whatever time you put into exercise could be null and void in the blink of an eye with an unexpected accident or diagnosis. Whatever errands you run will multiply for the next week.
But can I suggest something else? Whatever time you spend investing in the Word of God will not ever grow null or void in your life. It will be the one thing that is needed to leave your heart full, content, eternally focused and prepared, no matter what your circumstances may be.
But we don’t just develop spiritual appetite overnight – the more we eat, the hungrier we grow. So if you have little to no desire to spend time eating God’s Word and fellowshipping with God through prayer, it’s not that it’s not important or that you don’t need it. It’s that you haven’t been developing a spiritual appetite by hungering for spiritual things.
So this week, here’s my challenge to you and to me: eat the Word of God. Spend focused time in prayer daily. Even if it’s just for five to ten minutes. And by the end of the week, let’s see if our appetite has grown for spiritual tings by eating the one thing that is needed: time at Jesus’ feet, listening to His voice through His Word and prayer.
If you need help getting started in developing spiritual hunger, consider using this devotional book and prayer guide for the month of February. It’s a meal that will leave you fully satisfied at you sit down, hungry, at the Table of the Lord.
For more encouragement throughout the week, you can find me on Instagram, @baker.susannah.
Monday mornings crowd in on us like a rush. A rush of thoughts, responsibilities, commitments made and to-do’s to be checked off.
If I’m honest, sometimes I’m afraid to even get out of bed. The demands of the day and the week seem to be too much for my heart to handle.
But then I read this:
“Being in the world without being of the world.” These words summarize well the way Jesus speaks of the spiritual life. It is a life in which we are totally transformed by the Spirit of Love. Yet it is a life in which everything seems to remain the same….What is new is that we have moved from the many things to the Kingdom of God. What is new is that we are set free from the compulsions of our world and have set our hearts on the only necessary thing. What is new is that we no longer experience the many things, people, and events as endless causes for worry, but begin to experience them as the rich variety of ways in which God makes his presence known to us.” Henri Nouwen, You are the Beloved
When the rush and demands of a Monday morning crash in upon my head and heart, vying for my peace, for my trust, for my confidence that God is enough and will be enough for all that is ahead, I am free to focus on just one thing: the Kingdom of God.
I am free to set aside the compulsions of my culture – compulsions to be enough, do enough, and have enough – and to focus on the one thing that matters and that cannot be taken away from me – the nearness of God in my life.
He isn’t my Father; He is my Father-with-me. He isn’t just an all powerful God; He is God-with-me. For me. Strengthening me. Guiding me. Leading me. Holding me. Steadying me. Focusing and directing me to look only at Him, allowing all other things to fade away.
Does anyone else need to hear this on a Monday morning at the beginning of a new year, a new season, a new day?
God is with you, and He is enough. You are free to set down the burdens of the day and shoulder the one thing that is needed – His presence.
May we have the confidence and courage to set our compulsions down and take up Jesus, the only one and the only thing who really matters, and who is necessary for all that we need.
For more encouragement throughout the week, you can find me on Instagram, @baker.susannah.
In the pause between Christmas and New Year’s, when things slow down long enough to think about what the new year could look like, don’t forget to make room to do the good and necessary work of tending to the unseen, hidden places of your heart and soul.
Although it is work that is often not seen by others, it serves as a foundation on which to build all the rest.
Happy New Year!
To help you with the work of maintaining a quiet, steady heart, consider taking the month of January to establish a rhythm of prayer with Secure, my prayer guide and 31 day prayer journal.
For more encouragement throughout the week, you can find me on Instagram @baker.susannah.
Advent, the four weeks leading up to Christmas, is time for Christians to prepare our hearts for Christ’s coming. Celebrating Advent is one of my favorite things we do a family all year. For ideas on how your family can celebrate Advent this year, take five minutes to watch the video below.
To order your copy of Asheritah Ciuciu’s Advent family devotional, Unwrapping the Names of Jesus, click here.
For daily encouragement through Alicia Britt Chloe’s Instagram posts on the book of Luke this Advent season, click here.
Enjoy celebrating this Advent season and preparing your hearts for Christ’s coming! I would love to hear about ideas and traditions you and your family and friends share as well.
For more encouragement throughout the week, you can find me on Instagram, @baker.susannah.
Two weeks ago, I shared a new tool I created called How to Turn Loss Into Gain. If you haven’t already seen it, click HERE to download.
I would encourage you over the next several weeks as the year draws to a close that you take some time to pause in a few moments of quiet and use this tool to help you process all of your losses that have accumulated throughout the year.
Because let’s face it: we have all endured loss this year. Lots of it. But hoping and praying for a new year to start and all of our loss to be erased isn’t realistic or even possible.
Loss doesn’t go away when we bury it, ignore it, or wish it away.
Loss is transformed as we honestly process it before the presence of a good God and a faithful Father.
And as we think, pray, and process through all of the loss, one thing remains clear. If 2020 has taught us one thing, it has taught us this: God alone is our stable, secure, all-satisfying treasure.
Period. That’s it.
The economy, money, and job security? Nope.
The reliability of our rhythms, routines, and schedules? Not a chance.
Our school systems and educational opportunities? Not that either.
Our kids’ after-school activities? Hah.
Face-to-face encounters with family members, friends, and people we hold dear? No way.
Oh, wait, our ability to meet on Sundays and gather together for worship? Not that either.
It’s crazy. In one single year, through one single pandemic, every single source of stability and security went up in flames and left many of us floundering in the process.
But through it all, God has remained stable. Every morning when I’ve woken up, He’s still been there. Every time I’ve opened His Word, poured over His promises, prayed and asked for His Presence, He’s come. Without a mask, without conditions, without social distancing, God has been there through it all.
God hasn’t secured all of my circumstances; in fact, some of them still remain pretty shaky. But God Himself has remained secure even when my circumstances have not.
And isn’t that the real treasure? Isn’t that the goodness and the gift we have all been hungering and aching for?
Deep down, buried underneath our desire for stable circumstances is our desire for a stable God who uses all of our circumstances for our good and His glory.
You can’t beat that kind of a deal.
But here’s where I get stuck.
I still want my treasure and my security to be the thing I’m holding onto so tightly rather than God.
I try to demand security and success from things that just aren’t stable. Things like people and friendships and job security and bank statements and my hormonal teenage daughters’ attitudes and outlooks on life. Things like school schedules and school days and after-school-sports and activities. Things like church services and ministry opportunities and gatherings for worship and prayer.
While many of the things on my list are good things, they aren’t things that are fault-proof and immune from instability.
There is a deep crack that runs through everything, whether we can see it or not. Sometimes it takes an earthquake to realize the fault line is there buried beneath the surface as the structures you always thought were stable come tumbling down around you. But it wasn’t that the structures were ever really that stable; the fault line was always there. We just couldn’t see it.
The only stable one is God.
That’s because He is the only thing and the only one in this world without the fault. Without the crack. He alone stands apart from the curse and the crevice of sin that shook the foundation of this world in Genesis 3 when everything fell apart.
That’s why in Matthew 11:28, Jesus says, “Come to Me.” Come to Me. Because coming or going to anything else is like building your house on the San Andreas Fault and just crossing your fingers and hoping like crazy when an earthquake comes, your house will be the only thing left standing.
Spoiler alert: it won’t.
2020 has shown us that.
But 2020 has also shown us a God who, in His severe mercy, sometimes allows the earthquakes to come. He allows us to tremble, crack, and even fall so that we will move the foundation of our hearts from a fault line to Him, our only stable, secure source.
A process that has sustained me through this year is a way of praying I started when we brought our youngest daughter home from China. During those first few years we had her home, every morning, I woke up a wreck. And every morning, I would sit down with my cup of coffee, my journal, and my Bible, and start writing and praying my way through the Psalms. During that season, I was forced to deal with places in my heart where I had built on a fault line instead of the steady, secure presence of the Lord.
Over the course of several years, God moved from me from insecure to secure. From unstable to stable. Not because I changed. But because where I went to for my security changed.
I stopped going to my people, my parents, my friends, my kids, and spouse, and most significantly, I stopped going to myself, and I started going to God.
Because I couldn’t hold it together anymore, I started going to the One who held me. And once I did, He started building my broken heart back together.
If you are in the same position today, I am holding out hope for you. This is not hope or healing that comes quickly, easily, or magically. It comes slowly, quietly, purposefully, and deliberately as you commit to praying and processing your life before the face of God.
There are six steps in processing and prayer I used and still use to this day:
- Get Real.
- Root It Out.
Get Real – I set my timer for five minutes, and I get real before the face of God. During those five minutes (and sometimes it stretches to ten), I word vomit everything that I have been holding in from the day before. I admit who I really am, what I really feel like, who has hurt me, and how I have hurt others. Sometimes my pen doesn’t even lift off of the page. My sentences are strung together word after word and line after line and the only one who can really understand or know my thoughts is God alone.
Repent – Once I’ve gotten everything off of my chest, I repent. I name my sin as sin and I call the evil in my life for what it is. I cry out to God and ask Him to deliver me and heal me from the separation and hurt my sin has caused in myself and others. If someone has sinned against me, I use this time to name that sin as well but then to forgive and leave the person and the offense in the hands of God, hands much more capable than mine.
Root It Out – This step is the game changer for me: I then take a few moments to process and think through what led me to my sinful or stressful behavior in the first place. Behind every sinful, fearful, angry, disdainful, lustful, hurtful thought, action, or attitude is a lie I have been believing about who God is or what He can do. Because of this, I have to root out the lies I have been believing about the character of God and people or things I have looked to secure my footing instead of God Himself. Many times, my sin is a recurring pattern in my life, not just a one time offense. So stopping to think through, Why did I say what I did? or Why am I so envious? or Why was I so quick to take offense? or Why can I not forgive? or Why did I react with so much anger? is huge. This is what moves me from staying stuck to freedom on the other side.
Replace – Next, I replace the lie I have believed with the truth. I diligently and actively search God’s Word and take the truth and the promises that He shows me and begin to apply them to the beliefs in my heart and head. I think through the implications for His goodness and character in my life, and I stop agreeing with the voice of the enemy who condemns and accuses me. I start to actively agree with the voice of the Lord Jesus Christ who speaks to me through His Spirit and His Word, who forgives me and pardons me, who loves me and covers me, and who restores and directs me down path of right relationship with Him and with others for His Name’s sake.
Release – Then I release my day into God’s capable hands. Sometimes this looks like sitting quietly for five minutes and thinking through a verse in Scripture word by word or line by line. While I pray and think through the words, I release worry, fear, or shame, and receive God’s forgiveness, mercy, and steadfast love. Sometimes this looks like getting down on my knees or sitting with my hands, palms facing down, to release or surrender specific people and events in my day to the Lord. If certain emotions of fear or stress pop back up during my day, I can go back to those few minutes in the morning and remember, “Stop. I don’t have to worry, I don’t have to stress, and I don’t have to fear. I have already released this into God’s capable hands and He’s got this. To try to pick it back up again is trying to carry something He alone can carry.”
Receive – Finally, I receive. I receive the reminder that the Spirit of God is with me for every step of the journey ahead. Sometimes I do a slow breathing exercise for 1-3 minutes of breathing in for four seconds and then exhaling slowly for eight seconds. While breathing, I focus on a particular word or verse God has used to speak to me during my time in prayer and His Word. Sometimes this looks like turning my palms up to receive the reminder that the Holy Spirit is with me, and I am not alone. The life I live is lived by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me (Galatians 2:20). I am not able to believe or live out His promises in my own strength. I am not able to build the foundation of my life on Him alone without the help of His Spirit. I do all those things through Another who lives in me. And I must continually remind myself of this and position my heart and body in such a way that receives the life and help He has to give.
Does this process take time in my day? Yes.
Does this process take time before I see consistent change in my own life? Yes.
But let me tell you something: it works.
It works not because I gradually become a better person but because the foundation of my heart is moved to rest upon the only stable, secure source that exists. I grow more stable, more secure, more confident, and more at peace because my heart is rooted in an unshakeable God.
Be on the lookout in the next two weeks for a new downloadable PDF to help you with this process. You can subscribe by clicking HERE to have this tool delivered straight to your inbox, or you can check back on my website under Free Tools in two weeks.
But for now, set a timer for five minutes each day, and give yourself permission to get real about your day, about your year, about your losses.
Start to immerse yourself in Scripture (the Psalms are a great place to start) and root out the lies you have been believing about who God is and what He can do.
Start by repenting of your sin and unstable ways as God shows them to you.
Start replacing the lies with the truth of God’s goodness, power, and desire to work on your behalf.
And finally, start to receive. Receive the power of the Holy Spirit in your life (John 20:22) to help you live out your identify as a fully loved, stable and secure child of God.
2020 is almost in the past, but God’s goodness, love, and power to redeem is what’s waiting in the future.
For more encouragement throughout the week, you can find me on Instagram, @baker.susannah.
I still remember the day I didn’t make the 7th grade girls volleyball team. I stood in a cluster of girls with bangs and braces around a bulletin board in the school hallway while looking up at the list of names pinned to the board. I still remember the flushed feeling of my face and the disappointed and embarrassed ache in my heart when I realized my name wasn’t on the list. It was as if the list bore confirmation to the subconscious thoughts always circling around in my head and heart – “Yep. This just shows you’re not enough – never have been, never will be.”
Rejection hurts, no matter if you are 13 or 43.
But while rejection usually has the first word in our ears when we miss the mark or miss the grade or don’t make the team, it doesn’t have to have the last word.
After you’ve been rejected (and let’s face it – who hasn’t been rejected? It’s part and parcel of living as a human on this earth), it takes a ton of work not to see all of life through the lens of “not enough,” shame, embarrassment, and failure. It’s hard not to make inner promises and vows of, “I don’t need them,” or “I’ll just show them later,” and walk off either stuffing our hurts or spewing our hurts in unhealthy ways.
Lately, I’ve found that I need a refresher course on how to walk through rejection. Not just for myself, but for my kids. Because with the start of every new school year comes the start of new friend groups, new teams, and new tryouts. Everyone tries everything and everyone on for size to see if you fit the group and make the cut.
And it’s a funny thing – when your kids enter junior high, if you’re not careful and watching your heart and your step, you can feel like you’re entering junior high all over again as well.
So as I hugged a friend tight this week and prayed through a hurt her child had received from rejection, this is what I had to remember for myself, my friend, and our kids:
Rejection happens. That’s because life happens, and we live in a fallen world. I think my goal for so long was to rejection-proof my life. I thought if I could only be a good enough or if my kids could be good enough or take good enough lessons, make good enough grades, or be good enough friends, I could fool-proof our lives from rejection and its crippling effects.
But that just isn’t possible. Rejection is going to happen for ourselves and our kids. So at some point, I realized I could either continue to walk through life feeling continually hurt and offended, or I could change. And that meant my goals needed to change as well. Instead of trying to insulate my life from rejection, I needed to change the lens on my life.
What I mean is this: when we or our kids don’t make the cut, we automatically determine we are bad or there is something inherently bad or faulty in us or about us. But instead of the lens being rejection, what if the lens we had on our eyes was protection? When we don’t get what we want when we want it, what if we told ourselves and our kids the truth: “What looks like rejection is God’s protection.” And when hard things happen (and they will), if God is our Father, then everything that happens to us or touches us has first passed through His Hands of steadfast, unending love. We must learn to tell ourselves while meaning it and believing it with all of our hearts – “Everything is necessary that God sends our way; nothing can be necessary that He withholds” (John Newton).
“No, your name isn’t on the list for that particular team, but yes, God is working out in your soul an eternal weight of glory that will far outlast anything you could have gained by making the cut and making the team.”
“No, you weren’t included in that friend group or spend the night, but yes, God is protecting you from something you cannot see with your physical eyes and drawing you close to time with Himself that will shape your soul for much longer than a night spent with friends.”
“No, you didn’t get the job, but yes, it’s because God has a specific, tailor-made purpose for you that does not involve the path you thought you would take. He has other things in store.”
We must learn that behind every no is the sovereign yes of God. And learning to hear God’s “Yes” behind every “No,” learning to see protection instead of rejection, learning to see that nothing is withheld from us that we need and behind every “no” is a good Father’s steadfast love, takes a lifetime of following closely to Jesus.
But parents, let me warn you of something I have learned the hard way through personal experience: your child’s vision begins with yours. What your child sees behind the “No” begins with what you see. What your child hears behind the rejection hears begins with how you hear. And if all your child can see and hear on a regular, perpetual basis is rejection and failure and bitterness and anger and shame that life isn’t going the way they want it to or would chose for it to, the first person to look to change is yourself.
When your child hears or receives a “No” when all they wanted was “Yes,” STOP. PAUSE. PRAY. Before you start seeing the decision or rejection or relationship through your child’s negative lenses, stop long enough to put on lenses of your own. Lenses of the steadfast love of the Lord that never ceases and whose mercies never come to an end. They are there for the taking; you just have to choose to put them on. And parents, it takes a lot of self-control not to enter into the negative emotions of gossip or slander or bitterness or – let’s just be honest – envy that go along with rejection.
You and your kids are going to be sad. That’s ok. Feel the pain and sadness with your child, rub their back and dry their tears, but then speak words of life. Speak God’s “Yes” over them when all they can hear is “No.” Speak humility and submission to authority figures and obedience instead of helping them demand their way or the highway.
There is a time to speak up for your child when injustice has occurred, but those times are few and far between. Most of the time, we are to pause, humble ourselves under the mighty Hand of God, and let Him exalt us and our kids when and how He wants to do it.
WARNING LABEL: THIS IS NOT EASY. Your children will be mad at you, stalk away from you, and resist hearing you. They will want to demand their own way, stomp their own feet, and sulk in a corner.
STAND YOUR GROUND, MOMMA, AND DON’T LET THEM.
Because what’s at stake isn’t their place on the volleyball team; it’s the eternal state of their soul. What’s at stake isn’t their name on a list; it’s their names written in the Lamb’s book of Life.
And while I wish our kids learned depth of character, kindness, humility and the value of hard work and discipline through making the team, being in their friend group of choice, and getting what they want when they want it, the best character lessons are learned through suffering. The caverns of obedience are carved out through the “No’s” and their ability to remain present, moldable, and humble.
Next week, we have volleyball tryouts, musical auditions, and the start of school on the docket. There is going to be ample opportunity for me to practice what I preach in the days ahead.
So when you see me, feel free to ask me, “Are you seeing rejection as protection? Are you hearing God’s “Yes” behind every “No”? Are you agreeing with the negativity of rejection, or are you choosing to hear God’s words of life and love? And are you helping your kiddos do the same? Are you honoring the authority figures in their life, the parents in the grade who make mistakes just like you do, and are you choosing to be humble?”
I need all the help I can get.
Because at the end of the day, what I want for myself and for my kids isn’t the perfect resume, but a humble heart. A heart that loves Jesus and has been shaped by the fires of suffering and obedience, just as His was (Hebrews 5:8), and comes forth loving God more than we ever thought possible. What I want is for my child’s life to go according to God’s way and not my way, even when His way involves the inevitable “No’s.”
And I know that you want that too; so let’s commit this year to putting on our lenses of God’s unfailing love and helping our kids to do the same.
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? …
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written,
“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:31-32, 35-39
It’s been a minute since I’ve posted a blog. Actually, it’s been a month. A long, hot, August month to be exact.
But I’ve found I need to pause in the middle of the summer in order to have enough breath in my lungs to exhale throughout the fall.
The odd thing has been when I stepped back into “normal” – normal schedule, normal fall, normal start-of-school, normal pace of after-school activities – nothing is “normal” anymore. And I’ve been left floundering, a little uncertain as to how to walk into this new season.
I know what “normal” fall looks like, but I don’t know what this fall looks like. This particular fall with school delays and the looming possibility of school closures. This particular fall with mask requirements and a fight-to-the-death presidential election ahead. This particular fall with some things open and some things still closed. This particular fall with so much uncertainty and waiting still fogging the air around us when all we want is “normal” again.
Or do we?
Last Sunday, I stepped back into our church to worship in person again for the first time since March. March. But while I was back in my normal worship setting, I wasn’t the same, normal person anymore. The person who stepped back into the worship center in August is different than the person who worshipped there in March. I’m humbled by my frailties, more aware of my needs, more hungry for authentic fellowship, more desirous of rest, deep rest, than constant, hurried busyness and striving. I’m more aware of my sin and tendencies towards sin, but I’m also more aware of God’s desire to give grace. I’m more confident of my place at His table; I’m more confident of the meal of His broken body and poured out blood that is consistently set before me; and I’m hungrier and more aware of wanting to offer the same meal of mercy and grace that I’ve tasted to others.
So the real answer is “No. I don’t ever want to go back to ‘normal’ again.” I deeply desire the new normal, the new sharpened vision of and taste for the Kingdom of God and my place at His table.
I know so many of us feel that same way. Going back to “normal” sounds unthinkable and undesirable (except for the normal of our kids going back to school and staying there – please, Lord). But the new normal has yet to unfold.
So how do we go back to restaurants and gyms, churches and schools, office buildings and after-school activities with us looking so differently than we did before? How do we go back with our security more firmly planted in the love of the Lord and His firm, unfailing faithfulness than before? And let’s be honest – why would we want to go back when our security in things we thought were unshakeable was ripped out in a moment? Why we would ever want to go back to planting ourselves in shakeable things?
If we all have learned one thing throughout COVID-19, we have learned this: the only unshakeable thing and the only shakeable one is God alone. Schools? Shakeable. Stable healthcare? An illusion. Wealth, bank accounts, portfolios, investments, our entire economic structure as a nation? Gone in a moment.
The only thing that holds us up is the unshakeable Hand of God. Period. End of story.
But please don’t hear this is an admonition; this is truly an admission and a request.
I don’t want to go back. But I also don’t know how to step into “normal” again while maintaining the changes God has worked from the inside out these last few months.
I so keenly want rhythm, routine, and a predictable schedule, and I really, really, really want, my kids to go to school and stay in school.
But more than that, I want my unfailing support to be God Himself. And He alone knows when our time of waiting needs to be finished. Until then, every moment we have in the uncertainty, in the fog, in the waiting, is a gift from Him.
So let’s not waste it.
Let’s press into it. Let’s make the most of it. Let’s allow God to do the work only God can do – uprooting our hearts from shakeable things and planting them in the only thing that lasts – Himself.
So don’t stop pressing into the goodness of God and faithful presence of God in this season of still waiting. Don’t stop seeking Him first and foremost in His Word. Don’t stop crying out and telling Him how you are really doing, not supposed to be doing. Don’t stop doing the work of digging, and seeking, and knocking, and asking, and listening that this season of waiting has given us pause to take.
Every moment of waiting, every week of uncertain pausing, every day of dependent searching, is a gift. Because as the people of God, we are promised the presence of God every time we ask, seek, and knock. And we are promised that door we have been knocking on all of our lives will be opened when we seek God with all of our hearts. And when it is, what we will find on the other side is God Himself, and we will not be disappointed. God alone is worth all of our waits.
“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened…If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!” Matthew 7:7-8, 11
For more encouragement on waiting, asking, seeking, and knocking throughout the week, consider going through my Biblestudy Waiting on the Lord, found HERE by clicking on this link.