By the end of the school year, I feel like a roast. As in, put a fork in me…I am DONE. Done with school work, homework, lesson plans, or get-in-the-car-and-go-anywhere-plans.
Since my girls finished school last week, I kicked off summer with a celebratory nap. I asked the girls if they would give me thirty minutes of quiet, thinking I would need to close my eyes for twenty minutes or so and then be good to go again. An hour and forty minutes later, I opened my eyes…and told my girls they had given me the best gift for which a mom could ask!
But while I started off summer on a good, restful note, the temptation for me is where there is margin to nap, or rest, or read, or simply do nothing, I start packing in more. Signing my kids up for one more camp. Inserting more activity into slow, lazy afternoons. Making more lists of what needs to be done instead of enjoying the fullness of what’s in front of me.
At our end of school assembly last week, our head of school, Neil Anderson, gave us permission to do less rather than more over the summer. Less activity. Less screens. Less hustle and less bustle. Because margin doesn’t just happen on its own. You have to plan for it, make room for it, and be willing to embrace it…even if it feels like missing out.
In my case, I needed someone to give me permission to make room for margin. I needed someone to stand up and tell me, “Woman, rest. Resist the temptation to fill up the margins and give God room to speak and your family the capacity to listen.”
So this summer, I am giving you the same gift that someone gave me – permission to rest and permission to insert margin instead of more activity. Yes, do some camps, kick some soccer balls, make a few popsicle stick projects at VBS. But at some point, give yourself permission to purposefully and thoughtfully slow down and listen to the One who is waiting to speak into the spaces we give Him.
Here are some ideas for creating margin in your summer:
Insert some margin into your time with the Lord.
I have found summer to be a great time to linger longer over my prayers. To really learn to pray and process through things with the Lord with a pen in one hand and a Bible in the other in a way I cannot often do during the school year when everyone has to be out the door by 7:30am. Resist the temptation to sign your kids up for too many camps where you have to be out the door every morning at an early hour. Give yourself margin to linger long with the Lord.
Here are some devotional ideas:
- I just finished an excellent study on 2 Corinthians by Kelly Minter called All Things New. I enjoyed every moment of digging into the pages of the study and the chapters in 2 Corinthians. I found great principles to help guide me navigate the realities of living real life alongside of real people.
- If you battle fear or anxiety, a friend of mine, Margaret Austin, who has guest written on this blog before, recommended a study called When I Am Afraid, by Ed Welch. Summer is a great time to allow the Lord to work on some those hard to reach places in our souls that often are pushed to the side during seasons of busyness.
- And here is my personal favorite: the second edition of Waiting on the Lord. You can pre-order your copy on Amazon now, and it is due to be released on June 11th, just in time for summer. Waiting on the Lord is not for the faint of heart. This is a study that helps peel back the layers of disappointments, hurts, and make-shift bandages in our lives and enables us to see there is a God standing in the shadows, waiting to heal and fulfill the deepest desires of the human heart. If you are in a place of needing to hear, see, and taste God in places you never thought you would see Him, then this study is for you. And summer gives you the margin you need to do it. What’s great about this second edition is that the teaching sessions are on video format and can be accessed at susannahbaker.com by June 11th as well. They are perfect to watch or share with a group if you would like to walk through the study with others.
Insert some margin into time with your family.
- Have one night a week where you all cook dinner together. Include even the youngest members of your family by letting them “help” by decorating the paper napkins with stickers or artwork or put a chair by the sink and let them pour water from one bowl to another while the rest of you prepare the meal. During the school year, dinner time is usually such a time of hustle that I look forward to making a meal together we can all enjoy without me saying, “Hurry up!” one time.
- This idea came from Neil Anderson as well, but after dinner, clear your plates off of the table (or, if you are like our family, throw your paper plates in the trash can), and make time to create together. Paint, color, draw, play the guitar or piano, write a poem, or a write a story. But use your time together to let each person’s creative juices flow in the way God has gifted him or her.
- Be creative with your family devotions. Sometimes it feels like our devotions are about as dry as a mouthful of dirt. As parents, we are tired of talking, and I know our kids are tired of listening. So a few nights ago, instead of talking about a passage in scripture, we drew a passage of scripture. I read Psalm 37 about trusting in the Lord, spent a little time dialoguing about what that meant, and then let everyone get out paper and markers and go to down. Everyone created something that helped them process the Psalm. The results were so great, they have been hanging up on our book shelves ever since.
- Remember to enjoy simple, outside things with your family. I know we hear it a thousand times, but it’s true – kids don’t care what we do. They just want to be with mom and dad. So get outside. Take a walk together. Go swimming, and moms (myself included), get your hair wet. Sit down and just watch them play instead of responding to texts on your phone. Ride bikes together. But whatever you do, be fully present in the moment, in the margin, enjoying your children, and allowing them to enjoy you.
- Pick a book to read aloud together this summer. I saw this new edition of Hinds Feet in High Places, and it looks amazing. This might be our new read aloud book this summer.
- Go to the library…often. Visit used book stores and make it an adventure. There’s an amazing ice cream store right down from the Half-Price Books we like to go to, so they know if they pick a book, they also get to pick their favorite flavor ice cream.
So there. Permission given to rest. To make room and margin for less, not more. And the irony is, by the end of the summer, I have a feeling that in the “less,” we will have found more than we could ever imagine.
Last week I went on an early morning jog before my girls were up and before our day of homeschool began. As soon as I stepped out of our front door, I smelled the heavy, damp scent of rain in the air and thought to myself, “There is a good chance that at some point on this run, it’s going to rain.” And sure enough, it did. About fifteen minutes into my route, the rain began to fall and did not stop falling until I stopped running thirty minutes later. By the time my feet hit my front porch at the end of the run, I was soaking wet and my tennis shoes were soggy. I’m pretty sure you could have wrung out my shirt and filled a bucket with the water.
The funny thing is, the rain didn’t spoil my run; it actually encouraged me to keep running, thanks, in great part, to the verses I was thinking about from Hosea 6:
(1) “Come, let us return to the Lord;
for He has torn us, that He may heal us;
He has struck us down, and He will bind us up.
(2) After two days He will revive us;
on the third day He will raise us up,
that we may live before him.
(3) Let us know; let us press on to know the Lord;
His going out is sure as the dawn;
He will come to us as the showers,
as the spring rains that water the earth.”
I know that it’s September and the leaves are beginning to fall off the trees (well, in some places they are, even if they’re not in Houston), and the rain I experienced on my run wasn’t a spring rain. But it was a refreshing rain, like so many spring rains are. It wasn’t a cold, windy, miserable, wet winter kind of rain that cuts through your clothes and leaves your hands icy and numb. And it wasn’t the overpowering, drenching, rain-coming-in-sideways summer monsoon kind of rain. It was the steady, refreshing new life kind of rain that puts courage into you as you run and refreshes you as you go.
Just as in running, in seasons of waiting, we all need that new life, refreshing, restoring, encouraging kind of rain. It’s always easy to remember and quote that last verse of Hosea – “He will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth” – but it’s easy to forget about the first verse – “Come, let us return to the Lord; for He has torn us, that He may heal us; He has struck us down, and He will bind us up.” It’s always so easy to forget that the rain and refreshment only comes in the context of a God who has torn us to pieces so that He can put us back together again. It’s so easy to forget that the rain only comes in the context of someone who has been slain yet still gets up and presses on to know the One who wounded her, knowing that the only reason He wounds is so that He can heal.
Many of you may be asking (and honestly, should be asking), “What kind of God is this who tears His people apart so that He can put them back together again?” The answer is simple, even if it’s not easy.
It is the kind of God who loves His people enough to save them from themselves. It is the kind of God who hates it as He watches His beloved creation chain their wrists, crush their hearts, and enslave themselves to lesser gods who cannot and do not satisfy. So He does the only thing any good and loving God would do – He wounds us by taking away our lesser loves so that He can give us Himself, the only true love that can ever actually satisfy.
I’m going to be honest – it’s hard to serve a God like that. It’s hard to look back over the trajectory of your life and see the death of dreams, knowing that they were God’s hard answers to prayers for good things you really wanted. It’s hard to watch friends suffer from sickness and pray to a God who you know can heal but has chosen not to. It’s hard to hear about suffering and Syria and refugees and war-torn hearts and war-torn countries and look at the God you know you could fix it all yet seems to give His people perseverance and hard fought for peace on the inside instead of the peace on the outside for which so many are longing. It’s. Hard.
But just when you feel like your heart is about to fail, just when you feel like you can’t do one more day of sickness, one more day of suffering, one more day of hurting, or one more day of weariness, you still get up in the morning, you still put on your running shoes on, you still open your front door, step outside, and start to run, even if, and especially if, it smells like rain. Because, as Oswald Chambers says, “God doesn’t give us overcoming life; He gives us life as we overcome” (My Utmost for His Highest, August 2nd).
And isn’t that what Hosea 6:3 is saying? The refreshing rain is promised to fall on those who are running, pressing on, pursuing, persevering, even chasing God down to know Him more and be known, despite the fact that they are running with broken bones.
And that’s what my heart needed to hear last week on my run. The rain doesn’t fall when you stop running. The rain falls when you start running and keep on running, straight into the arms of the God who has run down the road to meet you (Luke 15:20).
I want to know and run to and trust and believe and live life with a God like that. Because when it comes down to it, I don’t want to worship a God I can control with my own two hands on my own terms on my own turf. I don’t want to worship a God who fulfills my every whim and desire, especially when I know the real condition of my heart and know just how shallow and awful and unsatisfying and small so many of my desires really are. And I really don’t want to worship a God who only encourages perfect people who have it all together to pursue Him.
I want to worship a God who loves broken people, who sometimes even makes broken people because He knows their dreams and idols of perfection and all lesser things will end up breaking them, and who knows how to put broken people back together better than they ever could on our own.
I want to worship a God who knows how to help us persevere through the brokenness and the pain to find refreshment in healing, restorative relationship with Himself, no matter what the circumstances in life may be.
I don’t know where you are this Monday morning. Maybe you are running, refreshed and encouraged, out in the rain. Maybe you are torn, bloodied, bruised and in need of bandaging on the side of the road. Maybe you are emotionally, spiritually, or even physically close to death and are in need of flat out resurrection.
But wherever you are, I encourage you to put on your running shoes, open your front door, and start running the broken but beautiful route of pressing in to the Lord. Because as soon as you do, you will be found by Him. His finding is as certain as the dawn that broke out of blackest night this morning, and it’s as certain as the rain that poured down on me last week. He comes to us. And He binds up our wounds. And He tends to our broken hearts. And He loves us back to life…all as we run and press in to Him, the only God who tore His Son so that He could tend to our wounds with resurrection life in His Hands.
For more encouragement throughout the week, consider connecting with me on FaceBook. On Tuesdays, I will be posting Scripture that continues to offer encouragement along the same lines as the weekly blog, and on Thursdays, I will post an article or helpful resource for encouragement in the same area as well. My hope is to provide food for women’s soul throughout the week through the most powerful tool I know – God’s Word.
To learn more about pursuing God in the midst of running and waiting throughout all different seasons in life, walk through the pages of Waiting on the Lord with a pen in one hand and God’s Word in the other. My hope and prayer is that you find refreshing rain through the message of healing and hope it brings. To order your copy, click here.
Drum roll, please!….Waiting on the Lord is ready for presale today! Click on this link to order your copy from Barnes and Noble, and don’t forget to share the link with your family and friends as well! The link is also available on the Bible Studies page of this website.
Consider hosting a small group at your house this Fall and going through Waiting on the Lord together. Or use it as your personal devotional material and go through the study on your own.
Remember that when you purchase a copy, you will have access to a code in the back of book to download all of the audio sessions that go with the study for free. Click here to check out the audio sessions that are available with the purchase of the book.
But whether you work through Waiting on the Lord by yourself or in a group, my prayer is that God uses it in each of you to draw you to Himself and to show you that He is worth the wait, whatever it is that you are waiting for.
“My soul waits in silence for God only; from Him is my salvation.” Psalm 62:1
Staying green in summertime can be difficult, especially when you live in a place like Houston, Texas. By the end of July, early August, once verdant, green lawns are burned brown and once beautiful spring flowers are shriveled, scorched from the heat of the sun. Everyone’s lawn looks like it needs a healthy dose of Miracle Grow.
But as tough a chore as keeping your lawn green can be in times of intense heat, it can be even tougher to keep your soul green. When the sun blazes down from the circumstances of life and scorches dreams, hopes, and contentment, at some point you realize the green growth that once existed has turned to brown, crackling blades underneath your feet. Instead of reflecting beauty, joy, rest, and refreshment, the parched soul starts to shrivel, in desperate need of a deep drink of water.
To be honest, summer time is usually a time where it is easier for my soul to stay green. The circumstances that normally drain my water supply are alleviated, and I can take a deep breath in and relax. No homeschool, no carpool, no after-school activities, playdates or appointments. No teaching commitments. Just. Rest.
The real challenge isn’t staying green in the summer; it’s staying green come mid-August when the beginning of school and fall commitments commence once again. And if I’m not careful, I can begin to be anxious, hoping and praying for a good dose of Miracle Grow that will somehow sustain me until Thanksgiving.
But as believers in Christ, there’s a way to stay green, even in the driest of seasons, as long as you know where to find water.
My mom gave me a book to read this summer called Green Leaf in Drought-Time by Isobel Kuhn. The book is out of print, but she heard about it on Nancy Leigh DeMoss’ radio program called Revive Our Hearts. It’s a short, slim book, not a heavy read. But it’s pages are full of life-sustaining truth. The book is the true story of Wilda and Arthur Mathews, the last missionaries from the China Inland Mission to escape from China when the Communists took over in the 1950’s. Their journey of escape took several years, and this committed couple and their toddler experienced set back after set back in trying to get out, but after years of waiting in drought, they not only escaped with their lives, but escaped with their souls still in full bloom, still green. And that is the point of the biography. The author examines how under extreme stress, in conditions of severe drought, when to every apparent eye there was no water, the Mathews “leaves were green and were not anxious in a year of drought and did not cease to yield fruit” (Jeremiah 17:8). Not a popular topic to write about or examine today.
Today, most books and sermons and self-help talks are about how to get out of drought, rather than learning how to stay green within it.
But here’s the thing: God does not promise us drought-free circumstances. But He does promise us drought-free hearts when we “extend our roots by a stream,” a stream of living water that never dries up, and never ceases to give the supernatural refreshment for our souls we so desperately need.
The book Green Leaf in Drought-Time opens with a quote in the Foreword by J. Oswald Sanders: “God does not waste suffering, nor does He discipline out of caprice. If He plow, it is because He purposes a crop.”
Can I ask you something? The same two questions I asked myself when I read the first sentence of the book. Have you accepted the fact that God allows suffering and discipline and seasons of drought in your life? And if so, in those seasons, are you disciplined enough to go in search of water?
As Americans, we spend so much of our time refusing to accept or even acknowledge God’s sovereignly ordained seasons of discipline in our lives, trying to dull or explain away the pain or troubles with every known remedy under the sun. But what if you and I, instead of trying to explain the season away, or search for a ten-step-formula out from underneath the circumstances, submitted to God’s Hand over the circumstances, learned to trust Him in the lessons He is wanting us to learn, and then went hard after water?
Jeremiah 17:5-8 says this: “Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind and makes flesh his strength, and whose heart turns away from the Lord. For he will be like a bush in the desert and will not see when prosperity comes, but will Iive in stony wastes in the wilderness, a land of salt without inhabitant. Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord and whose trust is the Lord. For he will be like a tree planted by the water, that extends its roots by a stream and will not fear when the heat comes; but its leaves will be green, and it will not be anxious in a year of drought nor cease to yield fruit.”
Christian, you and I never need to fear drought, because we always know where to find water.
On the last day of the Feast of Booths in Jerusalem, Jesus stood up before the masses of people and cried out: “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water'” (John 7:37-38).
One translation says Jesus’ words this way: “Let him keep coming to Me and let him keep drinking.”
Our drink from the water of life isn’t a one time stop when we go forward or bend the knee to make a decision to submit to the Lordship of Christ. It is a perpetual posture of the soul. We are to keep coming and keep drinking on a day-by-day, sometimes moment-by-moment basis. The state of your soul absolutely depends on how much water you’ve been drinking. Wilted soul – no water. No Words of Christ. Vibrant soul, even in conditions of drought – well-watered soul. A soul that stops to drink on a regular basis, receiving Jesus’ Words, believing Jesus’ Words, letting Him in.
When Arthur Mathew was tricked into signing a letter from a Communist authority, putting his life and his wife and child’s life at risk, with the very real possibility of being led to the execution wall the next morning along with hundreds of others, he was in the “‘midnight of fear.’…And can you imagine the despair. Drought had brought the forest fire and the flames were licking toward these two young trees of the Lord’s planting. What chance was there for survival?….that spreadeth out its roots by the river. Water is the thing that conquers fire. So down on their knees by the little old trunk in the kitchen corner went the two [Arthur and Wilda Mathews], and they read the Scripture. Psalms 140 to 144 fell open before them….and their heated fears were cooled and they were helped.”
In conditions of extreme drought, time and time again, it wasn’t a magic formula that saved Arthur and Wilda Mathews, it wasn’t a committee from the China Inland Mission working to get them out (although they tried), it wasn’t a conversation with friends (they had no friends in their remote corner of China), and it wasn’t a meal out or the comforts of home or the luxuries money can buy (there were no luxuries to be had). It was, time after time, the Word of God, applied to their hearts and minds through prayer and thoughtful meditation.
When I think about the Fall, as far as I know, I do not have to face the drought of a Communist Party takeover, or the threat of execution, or the daily basic needs of survival. My worries about drought are much less severe. But I have the privilege of knowing where to go to find water and how to spread my roots out before the presence of the Lord in His life-giving stream, just as the Mathews did.
Whatever season the Lord has you or me in, let’s embrace it. Let’s not fear the scorching heat of summer or the withering power of the sun. Rather, let’s renew our commitment to keep coming and keep drinking the water whose source never fails and who never ceases to enable us not only to stay green, but to bear fruit, even in the driest of times.
For more on learning to bear fruit and drink from the water whose source never fails, read “Waiting on the Lord: Waiting for Fruitfulness” or listen to the talk “Waiting for Fruitfulness,” coming in September 2016.
Sometimes life looks like a stump. Sometimes death seems so dominant, the brown looks so barren, the wood looks so withered that it seems like life in no way can sprout.
And every single one of us has situations or circumstances in our lives that cause us to look like stumps. Those circumstances can be anything from a barren marriage, to a barren womb, to a barren friendship, to barren finances, to a withered wallet. Those situations can be sickness, surgery, depression, or a diagnosis of cancer. But whatever the stump is, it is in area where we say, “Here, way down deep in this part of my heart, my family, my sickness, my past, my present, or my future, there is no possible way life can ever sprout.”
But here’s the thing: stumps are God’s specialty. In God’s economy, stumps are only platforms for real life to sprout. Whenever something looks barren in the physical realm, you can be sure that God is doing work underneath the surface to give life in the spiritual realm.
Several months ago, we drove out to my in-laws’ ranch with some family friends. We had a full day of eating great meals, riding horses, looking at cows, going off of rope swings, and doing all sorts of things you can’t do in the city.
The whole day was full of great memories, but the best memory for me came in the moment I walked by the stump.
I’ve walked by this one particular stump for years. And it’s been exactly that. A brown, dead, dry stump. But it was the strangest thing – this stump had shoots of green, thin branches, and even green leaves sticking out from it. It was so unusual I stopped to take a picture of it.
And I’ve thought about that stump often over the past few months in light of circumstances in my life and in the lives of those I love around me.
Because it looked like the stump I’ve always imagined shooting straight out of Isaiah 11 – “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.” (Isaiah 11:1-2).
Jesus was the shoot that came straight from that stump. And His specialty is in the stump business. He brings beauty from ashes. Life from death. Resurrection from crucifixion. Healing from sickness. Redemption from failures. And healing from scars. Sometimes His answer comes in the form of a stump. And looks like a stump. But when Jesus makes His home in someone’s heart, the only option is for life to prevail.
While we are here on this earth, we often don’t get to choose what our circumstances look like on the outside. We don’t get to choose whether or not our sickness is healed, or our spouse remains faithful, or our children are always safe, happy, and secure.
But while we don’t get to choose our circumstances, what we do get to choose is the climate of our hearts. We can choose whether or not we will have hope in a God who promises us that He cause all things to work together for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). We can choose that we will trust even though God doesn’t always heal our circumstances, He always heals our hearts through great, deep, wide, long, and high love of Christ (Ephesians 3:17-19). We can choose to believe along with the long line of prophets and saints who have gone before us that “though the fig tree should not blossom, and there be no fruit on the vines, though the yield of the olive should fail, and the fields produce no food, though the flock should be cut off from the fold, and there be no cattle in the stalls, yet we will exult in the Lord and in the God of our salvation.” We can choose to trust that “He has made our feet like hinds’ feet and He makes us walk on our high places,” even if those places greatly resemble barren stumps (Habakkuk 3:17-19).
Sometimes when our circumstances don’t change and our spouse doesn’t listen, or our boss doesn’t listen, or our diagnosis doesn’t listen, it’s tempting to think that our God hasn’t listened. When God doesn’t choose to heal our circumstances, it comes dangerously close to looking like the stump has prevailed. It’s easy to think, “Really, God? What’s the good in this? Where’s the life in the stump?”
But that’s when we have to force ourselves to sit down, open the pages of our Bibles, and remember that we will not be wrestling with stumps forever. One day, we will be fully…alive. And what seemed to us to be such sorrow on this earth will be turned to stunning glory. And the green leaves we see beginning to unfurl out of our hearts and sometimes circumstances here on earth will one day be fruit, ripened to its full and greatest potential.
Stumps stink. But every stump here on this earth in the body of a believer in Christ is simply a holding place for life. And one day, one day, those shoots will burst forth and the stump will be remembered…no more.
“But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh…So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” II Corinthians 4:7-11, 16-18
(For more on the wait for healing and learning to choose hope in the midst of barren circumstances, look for the bible study Waiting on the Lord which will be released this fall!)
This past school year, I started a new thing with my three oldest girls. I got them each a devotional book and a journal and set up a place in the house for them to have their own time with the Lord in the mornings. I love reading the Bible and praying with my girls for morning devotions, but let’s face it, with four kids, four breakfasts to fix, four lunches to make, and four heads of hair to brush, morning devotions can be more idealistic than realistic when we are running behind (which was practically every Monday and Wednesday morning when the girls went to their on-campus school days).
A couple of weeks before school was out, my oldest, responsible, ruler-follower kind of daughter came in the kitchen and said, very seriously, “Mom, there is something you need to know. Caroline has NOT been having her quiet time in the mornings. Instead of looking at her Bible and drawing a picture about Jesus, she is drawing pictures of herself talking on a cell phone, and she is drawing pictures of hands she says are Jesus’ hands, but they’re not, mom. They are her hands and they have lots of rings and bracelets all over them.”
I am not sure what kind of reaction Lillian was expecting to get out of me (she was so darn serious), but I can assure you she was surprised when I started laughing – so hard, in fact, I started to cry.
And sure enough, I went into the living room where Caroline was sitting, and there she was, coloring a picture of herself talking on a cell phone. Does it count that she had on a cross necklace in the picture?? As I flipped through her journal, I saw picture after picture of hands modeling every kind or ring or bracelet or necklace you could imagine, and lots of self-portraits…all with a cell phone.
So it looks like, once again, I get mom-of-the-year award: 1) for asking my five year old WHO CANNOT READ to lead herself through her own devotional time and 2) for not checking on her progress or even giving her instructions through the entire school year. Too bad I got this information in early May.
But I couldn’t exactly point the finger too far or be too upset with Caroline. Number one, Caroline is just so Caroline. She does what all of us wish we could do deep down on the inside and then looks at you like you are crazy if you ask her why she did it.
And number two, I can so relate. Talking on my cell phone when I should be focused and doing things that actually count. Listening and hearing God’s voice instead of thinking about what new jewelry I would like to wear or shoes I would like to buy. Creating and staring at my self-portrait when God’s portrait is the only one that will bring any significant, lasting, or necessary changes in my life.
Like we’ve talked about before, summer is a great time to add a little extra margin to your day-to-day schedule. When you and I actually have time to sit down and breathe for a moment, choose to do things that are actually helpful and restful. Choose to make a plan and execute it for taking time to be in God’s Word. Choose to think through your prayer life (or lack thereof) and be intentional about connecting with God and creating the time and space to do so. Choose to take a day or two and go away to retreat and rest with the Lord, thinking through the past school year, what you would do differently for this next year, and what you would keep the same. But whatever you are doing, however you are choosing to connect with the Lord, take a lesson from Caroline and learn to BE ALL THERE.
Focus on fixing your thoughts. Fight to resist all distractions. Because nothing, nothing in this world will help you or point you towards connection with the Lord or being fully present in the moments you have given Him. Everything pulls us away from the very thing and the only thing that gives us the life and peace and joy that we really need.
A friend of mine told me about a sign she saw in someone’s house. It read, “Be Present, Not Perfect.” That has become a mantra for me, a motto I think about frequently.
No one expects perfection from myself except myself – but what my husband, my children, my parents, my friends, and especially my God desire is for me to be all in, all there, all present, whatever moments we have together.
Instead of working on being perfect people, let’s work on being present people. Present moms. Presents wives. Present daughters. Present friends. Present women to a very present God.
I still remember the day my best friend looked at me from the back of her mom’s station wagon and said with wide open eyes, “You’re going to write books – lots of them!” We couldn’t have been more than seven or eight years old at the time, and to this day, I’m not exactly sure where that comment came from or why she said it. But it’s a comment I’ve carried with me in my heart through a lot of long years of waiting. Most of the time, I thought she misspoke. I’m turning 40 this year, and book writing isn’t something I have listed on my resume. It’s hard for me to sit down to write a blog much less a book. But more than time, I think it’s been fear that has held me back. What if I don’t have anything to say? What if no one wants to read it? What if I fail and this is a total flop? What if it’s not perfect? (That’s a statement I have to push past in my head many moment of many days.) But finally, this fall, I did it. I pulled the trigger, contacted a publishing company, and started the process of putting my book, Waiting on the Lord, into print. It’s been an exciting process, but it’s also been a tough process. I’ve had to face, head on, my fears about perfection, about writing in the margin of my life being enough, about my loathing and feelings of absolute intimidation of all things related to social media. It’s just one more avenue where I can fail, fall flat on my face, not keep up, stay up, or put up the right things or the right words or respond in a timely way. So on my desk, on top of my book edits, sits a sticky note with these words from GK Chesterton: “Anything worth doing is worth doing badly.” I’m still not totally sure it’s true, but it sure has helped when I want to avoid the computer because I don’t feel the “perfect” words coming on or the “perfect” time to write in front of me. And Waiting on the Lord certainly won’t be a perfect book or Biblestudy. The final manuscript is due on Monday, and I am still thinking in my head about all the things I would like to rewrite.
But I’ll tell you what helped me pull the trigger and finally just go for it. First of all, I’m not getting any younger. I know, I know. 40 isn’t old by any stretch of the imagination (in fact, the older I get the younger it seems :), but the fact is, time is running out. Every day, I am one day closer to when I have to stand before the Lord and give an account for the gifts He gave me and how they were used. Perfectly or imperfectly.
The second thing is, Jason and I have a friend, Ralph Borde, who heads up a ministry called As Our Own. As Our Own is in the business of rescuing little girls out of the red light district in a large city in India and raising them as their own daughters. The girls’ mothers are sex slaves in the booming sex slave industry and trapped in prostitution. But their little girls aren’t. Not until after the age of three anyway. So Ralph and his co-workers do everything they can to build relationships with the moms, let them know they have a safe place where their daughters can be raised, and those mommas do the bravest thing a momma on planet earth can do. They give their daughters to another so they can experience freedom in a way the mom herself never can. They trust the raising of their girls to someone who promises to raise them as their own. And Ralph makes good on that promise. His ministry provides one caretaker for every two or three children, hands on training for their caretakers at a Masters Degree level on how to love and connect to children from traumatic backgrounds and places, and gives the girls not only a loving, Christ-centered community in which they are raised but a stellar education in a country where education is everything. Basket weaving and jewelry making is not an option for these girls. But engineering, seminary, and medical school is. They are given the exact same opportunity as your very own children are. And Ralph’s heart is to transform orphan care not just in his community, his city, but all across India.
Three years ago, I had the opportunity to go to visit Faith Home and Grace Home in India where these little girls are growing up, and the fact is, some of these girls aren’t so little anymore. They are graduating from high school and going to college with high honors. And Ralph is a dad to over seventy girls, girls who have questions about waiting, about marriage, about healing, about becoming a parent one day. And he came to me and asked if I would please put into a published form that he and his staff could use with the girls to help them wait on the Lord.
Well…at that point, imperfections and objections and feelings of imminent failure fly out the window. Yes, I will give you what I have. Yes, I will publish Waiting on the Lord. Yes, I will get over myself. Yes, yes, and yes. Anything to help your beautiful girls.
So while I worked on edits in the fall, I actually taught the Biblestudy this past Spring. My friend, Jenny Venghaus, opened her home, and about forty of us packed into her living room on Wednesday mornings for nine weeks to learn about waiting on the Lord together. I was able to use audio equipment to record the lessons that Ralph will be able to use in India and will also be available on this website to go along with the book.
I’ve waited a long time for this to happen. Ever since Holly uttered those words in the back of her mom’s car so many years ago. But, as always, God’s timing is perfect. If I had published a book when I wanted to so many years ago, I would have been so full of self, so full of pride, of no use to anyone but myself, much less the Lord. And He waited until I was over myself, over thinking in order to be someone great, I had to be of great use to God. Oswald Chambers says it this way in My Utmost for His Highest: “We have to get rid of this notion – ‘Am I of any use?’ and make up our mind that we are not, and we may be near the truth. It is never a question of being of use, but of being of value to God Himself. When we are abandoned to God, He works through us all the time” (February 21st). Slowly, slowly, God worked on rounding out the rough, wounded places in my heart, showing me my value was in the fact that I was known by Him, not because I was of any great use to Him. And out of that process of rounding, smoothing, loving, and patiently waiting, the Lord transferred my significance from the things I accomplished or did to deep, satisfying relationship with Him. And out of the relationship, Waiting on the Lord was finally ready to be turned loose into the Hands of the One who holds it all.
Over the next few months, as Waiting on the Lord is in its final stages of the publishing process, please pray that this study is used to glorify God and heal many wounded hearts in India. Pray that God gets it into the hands and hearts of the women He wants it to encourage and heal here in the United States, and in other places around the world. Please pray for courage for me to face my imperfections and risk doing something badly if it means doing something obediently. And pray about doing the study yourself when it comes out in the fall. My heart is to see women’s hearts changed, healed, and transformed in some of the most painful places and paths we walk through so that we are equipped to go out into a broken, hurting world that needs the beauty of Jesus through the hands, heart, and feet of the women He loves. Thank you for waiting and patiently walking with me through this journey of Waiting on the Lord. I look so forward to walking the path ahead, wherever God leads.