Christians are Not a Dying Breed: Full Article at TrueWoman.com

LauraAll Posts

I know people say things like “the younger generation is leaving the church,” and that “Christians are a shrinking minority.” I know that polls point to the sure disappearance of Christians, but I also know something to encourage our fainting hearts—Christianity is thriving in God’s hands, and Christians are not a dying breed.

We never will be.

Continue reading at TrueWoman.com…

 

How to Begin and Nurture a Mentoring Relationship: It’s a Blessing We Can’t Afford to Miss!

LauraAll Posts, Marriage, Ministry, Motherhood

To complement my post at Revive Our Hearts True Woman Blog today, I thought I’d write about a way in which God has used biblical mentoring in my life. Many, many women have enriched my life over the years – my own mother being at the very top of the list – but I thought that today, I’d share one specific story of how God has blessed me with an enduring friendship.  This is the story of how one “older woman” in the Church has encouraged and equipped me to live for God’s glory.

EVERY MENTORING RELATIONSHIP BEGINS SOMEWHERE…

I met Lois 11 years ago when Ryan and I moved into our first home. I was eager to meet people in the neighborhood, so when I discovered that our next-door neighbor sold Pampered Chef, I threw a Pampered Chef party and invited all of the ladies in the neighborhood. Lois attended with her two teenage daughters. I was immediately drawn to her friendliness and approachability. I was also quite impacted by the sweet interactions between Lois and her two daughters. I was pregnant with our first child and I was already thinking about the type of relationship I wanted to have with my children: I saw something beautiful in how Lois included her daughters in conversation and respected them, not to mention how they seemed to love and respect her in return. A week or two later, when the Pampered Chef items arrived at my door, I organized them into delivery bags and wrote a little note to each person as a means of continuing our budding relationships. On Lois’ note, I wrote something about how I appreciated her friendliness and was looking forward to spending more time with her.

Our friendship developed quite naturally after that. We’d take walks around the block, meet up at the park, or enjoy meals together. Because she lived right around the corner, I often stopped by for “neighborly visits” mid-day… I was clueless that I was interrupting a homeschool day. When Lois opened her door with a smile on her face and invited me in, I assumed that she had just been waiting for me to arrive!  (Little did I know at the time, homeschooling 4 children is an all-consuming task…) However, Lois consistently demonstrated that people are more important than tasks. She prioritized me over her to-do list. Now that I am homeschooling 4 children of my own, I deeply appreciate her compassionate and Christlike worldview.

Very early in our relationship, Lois would ask me for my prayer requests. She wrote them all down in her annual spiral notebook and faithfully prayed for me. Then, she’d follow-up on those requests over the days and weeks to come.

I experienced pre-term labor at 32 weeks of my pregnancy, putting me on bed-rest for several weeks. Lois and her children cleaned and cooked for us, and visited me often. Toward the end of my bed-rest, they organized a neighborhood baby shower for us. When Vivienne was born in May, they visited us in the hospital and took wonderful care of us at home. Lois led all of her children in loving Vivienne. When I returned to teaching a few days a week, they watched Vivienne for me and loved her like family. Even Lois’ 12 year-old son took a special interest in Vivienne and actually became dear friends with her. (He’s a very funny person and he’d undergo the wildest antics just to make her laugh. To this day, I attribute Jonny with Vivienne’s adorable sense of humor.)

WHY MENTORING RELATIONSHIPS ARE IMPORTANT… 

I didn’t realize that God was putting Lois in place to be a comfort and help during a very hard season of our lives.

When Vivienne was a few months old, Ryan and I experienced a major blow to our marriage. Deep, complicated issues surfaced that caused us to separate.  I thought we were heading toward a divorce, but God surrounded us with a team of 4 people who would not let us go until they saw God’s powerful redemption in our lives.

Lois and her husband Mark were two of those people. As if they had nothing else to do, they spent hours counseling us and praying for us. It was during this time that Lois and I truly became dear, dear friends. In the beginning of the separation, she was a prayerful support and listener. Once I was strong enough to consider my own responsibilities in our weak marriage, Lois spoke directly to me, “You need to stop acting like you are Ryan’s mother.” Because Lois so rarely corrected or advised me in this manner, her words went straight to my heart. I learned a great deal from her correction and God began to change me – and our marriage – from the inside, out.

After a 40-day separation, Ryan and I came back together. We were new people. And our marriage was new. The transformation that God had begun in each of our hearts was miraculous. To this day, Ryan and I often talk about how thankful and amazed we are by the great work God has done.

For the next 5 years, Lois faithfully mentored me, teaching me how to love my husband and children. My learning curve was gradual, but I was an eager student and Lois was a faithful, consistent teacher. (There was no reason I shouldn’t have known these things; my life had been saturated with wonderful examples and encouragement! But once I was actually married, I didn’t have a clue about how to actually be a wife or a mother. My sinfulness, immaturity, and the surrounding feminist culture had really taken a toll on my worldview.)

During every casual encounter, Lois shared the scripture and insights that she was learning in her marriage. She’d pass along favorite books and magazine articles and give me recordings of helpful sermons. She invited me to a homeschool conference and helped me to navigate the homeschooling world. My bookshelf is full of resources that Lois has given me… this doesn’t compare to how my heart, mind, and attitudes are full of instruction and encouragement that she has given to me over the years.

HOW MENTORING RELATIONSHIPS CHANGE OVER TIME…

Six years ago, we moved out of our beloved first home to Ryan’s family farm in the country. Though the move changed the frequency of my visits with Lois, it didn’t change the depth of our friendship. Shortly after we moved, Lois’ daughter was married at our farm. It was a beautiful and blessed day…  precisely what Ryan and I dreamed would happen on our property. We were so thankful to have something to offer our dear friends in return for their faithful love over the years. I treasure this memory.

Lois’ family has loved and cherished each one of our children – and we love them in return. Lois sends a personalized birthday card to each child. When she visits, our children think she has come to visit them personally. Without fail, she gives each one time and attention… and they love it! Art projects and musical instruments come out of hiding, games are suggested, bedrooms are shown, new “tricks” are demonstrated… I usually have to provide an interesting distraction for the kids just so I can have some time with her to myself. 

Despite the distance between us, Lois and I have maintained our relationship over recent years. She always seems undaunted by my tendency toward independence and introversion. She consistently overlooks my fear of rejection. (Like many women, I am very sensitive to resistance and I back down quickly if I think I’m a burden or obligation to someone.) Though we both have full lives, we try to connect with one another monthly. To tell you the truth, usually, our get-togethers are initiated or scheduled by Lois. Just when my little family is in the doldrums of “getting through life,” Lois will call and schedule a game night, saying, “I’ll bring the games AND the food!” She and her family come in the door with smiles and light hearts; we have a wonderful evening together, always ending in prayer for one another. Every Christmas, we try to get our families together for a Christmas party, complete with a feast, games, and the annual “Find the Christmas Pickle” game.

A few years ago, when we were still living at the farm, Lois invited me to a 12-week Bible study on being a godly wife. I said, “yes!” and made the weekly trip into town to meet with a handful of other young wives in Lois’ living room. We encouraged one another in our marriages and prayed for one another. I think that each and every one of us saw our marriages blossom because of that study. It had been 7 years since Ryan and I experienced our marital trauma… Seven years of God’s restoration and transformation in our lives! How wonderful it was to return to the same basic biblical principles and to continue to grow in my calling to love and honor Ryan.

THE SIGNIFICANCE OF GODLY MENTORSHIP…

I can’t begin to describe the impact that Lois has made on our lives, but I do know a few things:

  • God uses her to teach me His character, His ways, and His love for me.
  • God uses her to teach me how to love Ryan.
  • God uses her to teach me how to love my children.
  • God uses her to teach me how to love and celebrate people.
  • God uses her to teach me how to pray. (Instead of giving specific advice, Lois’ typical heartfelt response to my questions, problems, and trials is “God will show you what to do.” Though a pat answer with a prescribed formula would be easier, Lois consistently ushers me into God’s presence, reminding me that I do not live and work “unto man”, but “unto God”. I am deeply grateful for her confidence that God will personally care for and guide me.)

Years ago, Lois and I were sitting on her front step when she encouraged me to smile at my family members throughout the day.  I thought about how my own mother’s cheerful disposition deeply blessed my childhood and decided to give it a try. To this day, I believe that besides prayer, smiling is the single-most important thing I do to build a happy home.

Lois has helped me to consider home life as a stimulating area of study and lifestyle. Over the past 10 years, she has encouraged me to read and study extensively about nutrition, exercise, childhood development, education, gender roles, communication, conflict-resolution, prayer, marriage, and theology.

The wealth of study, apprenticeship, experience, and trial-and-error that I have gained in the context of mentorship are far greater than any college degree I could have received in any of those subjects.  

I’m convinced that the time and energy we invest in our homes will not result in “empty nests”.  God intends for a woman’s heart and home to be full and always becoming fuller… with the help of many mentors.

I love this about God’s design.

I am continually blessed by women of all ages who love me and offer their attention and wisdom to me… I don’t know who I’d be or how I’d be living if it weren’t for other women teaching me how to live for God’s glory.  

The Titus 2 model is one of God’s greatest blessings to His daughters.

What would I do without older women?

And now, my prayer is to become one myself.

(Take a Summer’s Challenge! Invite another woman to work through these 100 Questions to Fuel a Mentoring Relationship. This could be one of the best things you add to your Summer 2016 Bucket List! Click over to the True Woman Blog to get started.)

 

Look for the Shining Moments: My Shot at “Chicken Soup for the Soccer Mom’s Soul”

LauraAll Posts, Motherhood

In the middle of the winter, we needed to get our boy running around. So, we signed him up for Soccer Shots at a church around the bend. It was a wonderful experience and exactly what he needed: an honest and helpful coach, lots of exercise, and a first-time exposure to playing on a team. The first day, I felt like weeping for the entire hour: Malachi is a sporty little guy and he was in his element. During the scrimmage, he ran ahead of the ball to defend his team’s goal. He was in that goal when the opposing team came up for the shot. And he deflected it. After he did this a couple of times, the coach said, “You’re a good defender, Malachi!” My mother’s heart welled up with emotion as I longed for that statement to be true of him… not simply on the soccer field but in life. I even wrote the quote on big sheet of white butcher paper and hung it in Malachi’s room. I added Proverbs 31:8-9 and we often read it together in the morning.

“Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.”

In my opinion, this was a defining and shining moment for our son.

Throughout the 2-month season, I noticed that some of the children were more inclined to athletics than others: some were strong, fast, and coordinated, while others simply were not. One little boy, in particular, seemed to have no interest in soccer at all. He was often day-dreaming or pretending he was a superhero. His father would yell guidance from the sidelines, “Get the ball, Stevie!” “Kick the ball, Stevie!” “Pay attention, Stevie!”

I could tell his dad wanted his son to excel in soccer, but things were not going his way.

On the final day of lessons, one of the more athletic boys accidentally knocked over his own younger brother in pursuit of a goal. The younger brother – maybe 3 years old – fell over in a precarious way and seriously injured himself. The coach and the father immediately ran to the rescue and decided that he should be brought to the hospital asap. The atmosphere was tense as the father picked his tender 3-year-old up and walked him to the door. The rest of us sat for several minutes in stunned silence – the kids seemed frozen in place on the field – as the father and the coach worked things out and made plans to get the older brother home safely.

While all of that was going on, I noticed that the day-dreaming superhero came over and placed a strong hand on the older brother’s shoulder. He looked him in the eye to make sure he was alright and he stood by his side until the father left, the coach returned, and the tension dissipated. He was just four years old, and yet he showed stunning maturity: he recognized that the older brother was feeling guilty, lonely, and confused and he immediately come to his rescue with a strong arm of friendship and support. No one had to yell instructions from the sidelines, “Comfort him, Stevie!” He just knew what to do, when to do it. I’m telling you, it was a magnificent sight.  I don’t think he ever got a goal… all season long. I don’t even know if he kicked the ball in a scrimmage! But, suddenly he was the most valuable player on the team.

I wish I would have had the whereabouts to say, “You’re a good comforter, Stevie!”

 

The Best Assurance of Your Salvation: Nothing Can Separate You From Christ

LauraResources, The Book of Esther

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When your child lays in bed at night and wonders again and again if her confession of faith really counted, have you ever pointed her to the story of the Flood? Or the Exodus?

When you have doubts about your own salvation, do you look for comfort in the Exile? Or the Diaspora?

These Old Testament stories are more than Sunday School lessons in Christian behavior; they are a collection of evidence that God is faithful to His promises – to His people – through every circumstance and every generation. When we read them, we learn that He will never abandon His beloved, no matter what. These are the accounts that sooth the sin-weary soul.

These are the accounts that build our faith in God.

Consider the time of the Exile and the ensuing Diaspora. After the Jewish people were exiled from Jerusalem, they wondered if God’s covenant with them was still “on”. They probably lay in their beds and doubted their salvation, just as we do ours at times. They had every reason to wonder: God had continually beckoned them to repent of idolatry and disobedience, but they didn’t. They were very much just like us.

They were facing circumstances that shook their faith.

God allowed the terrible suffering of attack, exile, slavery, and dispersal to correct, heal, and win His people back. Their beloved Jerusalem was destroyed along with the city wall and the temple. Their families were torn apart, and their culture, land, and community were completely uprooted.

The safety nets that had given them a sense of peace with God – the temple, priests, prophets, land, and community – were all gone.

All that remained was God himself.

Years after the exile, when King Cyrus the Great allowed the Jews to return to Jerusalem, some returned only to discover that the land was in disarray and the rebuilding project was difficult to jumpstart. Though they were back home, they wondered, “Are we still God’s people?”

Countless others chose to stay in Persia where they struggled with the same question.

For Jewish people living in the Diaspora – after the exile – the big, theological question was, “Are we still God’s people?”  

The books of Ezra, Nehemiah, and 2 Chronicles answer the Jewish people who returned to Jerusalem.

The book of Esther answers those who stayed in Persia.

In every case, the resounding answer is, “Yes. You are still God’s people. Count on Him to keep His covenant.”

When we read Scripture, one day at a time, our faith in our covenant-keeping God grows. For example, we can look for His persistence and faithfulness in the book of Esther: just when everything tangible about God has disappeared, He’s still there orchestrating events and directing hearts because He tenaciously loves His people.

Look for His faithfulness in every Old Testament story you know: notice again and again that His love does not depend on our merit or perfection, but upon His just, faithful, and loving character. Then look at the Cross, where every Old Testament story finds its home and rest: there we see the one person full of merit and perfection – Jesus Christ – who embodies God’s love for us all along.

Usually, when we doubt our salvation, we are actually doubting our own merit, doubting our ability to live up to God’s standards. In such doubting, we are spot-on. However, we must remember that the truth of our inadequacy is only part of salvation. Our salvation does not rest in our recognition of our own failures, weaknesses, and sins.  Our salvation rests in Christ alone, who loves us and gave His life for us.

The essence of salvation is trusting this God who keeps His promises, soothes our doubts, and saves the day every time we cannot.

“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: 38-39

“Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. For Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that the person who does the commandments shall live by them. But the righteousness based on faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) “or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); 9because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” from Romans 10

My Blog’s Make-Over: Thanks to Ryan, Andy, and Janet

LauraAll Posts

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If blogs could turn sepia at the edges, I’m pretty sure mine was.  As much as I loved it, 10MillionMiles.com was beginning to look a bit… vintage. It needed a fresh coat of paint, a new url, and some wind in its sails! So for Christmas, Ryan gave me the gift of an upgrade. He hired our dear friends, Andy and Janet Mylin to design the header and offer advice about the template.  Janet (Instagram “j.mylin”) painted the lilies-and-asters and Andy (andymylin.com) designed the font and style.

I couldn’t be happier.

I’m so grateful to them! And I’m deeply grateful to my husband for believing in my craft, investing in it, and rigging up the technical side of my life – transferring my domain from 10MillionMiles.com to LauraBooz.com and figuring everything else out, too.

Here’s to talented and generous people who make me stronger every day.

 

Will Today’s Headlines Shape Civilization?

LauraMinistry, Resources, The Book of Esther

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Do you ever wonder if God is truly attentive to the world’s affairs?

Does He care about politics?

Does He care where we live and what we do with our time?

Are our concerns His concerns?

The book of Esther sheds light on these age-old questions. We’ve been studying Esther in our local women’s Bible study and I was blown away by the historical background of the book. I want to share it with you because I think it will charge you up. (Even if you hated history in high school, read on! I think there’s a treat in here for you.)

History 101: The Persian Empire in 3 Paragraphs

So, the whole story of Esther begins with a banquet hosted by The King of Persia, King Xerxes (a.k.a King Ahasuerus). He was a real, historical king who ruled the Persian Empire that stretched across most of the known world at the time. King Xerxes had extravagant wealth, unlimited power, and unrivaled pretension. Historians report that he made himself known as “King of Persia and Media“, “Great King”, “King of Kings” and “King of Nations”. He was a big shot.

Xerxes inherited the kingdom from his father, King Darius, who, like every carnal king wasn’t content with his vast empire: he wanted more land and more power. Darius had his eye on acquiring Greece. He led Persia into the First Persian War (492 – 490 B.C.) that included the Battle of Marathon. Surprisingly, Persia lost. (Legend has it that a Greek messenger named Pheidippides ran the 26.1 miles from the coast to Athens with news of Greece’s victory. This inspired the athletic feat that makes it onto countless Bucket Lists today.) At any rate, this battle was extremely significant because it indicated to the Greeks that Persia could be beaten.

King Darius came home from the battle hoping to return to Greece to reverse the embarrassing loss. But, homeland trouble arose and he died before he could teach Greece a lesson.  His son, King Xerxes, inherited the responsibility of finishing the job.

How this connects to the book of Esther:

When we open the book of Esther and read about the lavish feast for the “armies of Persia and Media and the nobles and governors of the provinces”, we are entering history around 483 BC when King Xerxes was preparing to return to Greece. He was sharing his riches and glory in order to gather support, build an unbeatable army, and prepare his expedition.

That’s the famous scene in which Queen Vashti refuses the King’s command that she parade in front of his drunken friends.

Shortly after these martial feasts, we meet a Jewish orphan girl named Esther who is taken into the King’s harem and eventually selected as the new queen.

The rest of the book of Esther records the surprising and significant way God used Esther to preserve His people from annihilation, ultimately keeping His promise to provide a Messiah, the Savior of the World.

The story of Esther is an unforgettable demonstration of God’s undeniable involvement in our lives, even when we cannot see Him in obvious ways.

What’s NOT in the book of Esther:

At the same time that Esther is becoming Queen, King Xerxes is leading his massive army back to Greece to fight the Battle at Salamis. He set his throne up on the cliffs by the sea in order to watch his impressive ships and record the heroic deeds of his generals. He was bound to win. But, in an unexpected turn of events, Persia lost to Greece. Again.

Historians call The Battle of Salamis, “The Battle that Saved Western Civilization” and “one of the most significant battles in human history” because it stopped the Persian advance. This demoralized Persia and made a way for Greece to grow in power. Eventually, Alexander the Great rose to power in Greece and swept over the entire Persian Empire, changing civilization forever.

The impact was huge…

“If the Greeks had lost at Salamis, the ensuing conquest of Greece by the Persians would have effectively stifled the growth of Western Civilization as we know it.[140] This view is based on the premise that much of modern Western society, such as philosophy, science, personal freedom and democracy are rooted in the legacy of Ancient Greece.[4] Thus, this school of thought argues that, given the domination of much of modern history by Western Civilization, Persian domination of Greece might have changed the whole trajectory of human history.[2] It is also worth mentioning that the celebrated blossoming of hugely influential Athenian culture occurred only after the Persian wars were won.”

Why This Applies to You and Me, Today:

When you google “King Xerxes” or “The Persian Empire”, you’ll read about The Battle of Marathon and The Battle of Salamis. What a significant time in history! Entire kingdoms were shifting. Civilization as we know it was being shaped. The details of these battles are the big headlines of ancient times.

The story of Queen Esther is a mere subplot on history’s timeline – if it’s mentioned at all.

Yet, when you read the book of Esther, the kings and battles that historians call “the major pivot point of human history” are merely a subplot to God’s record of history.

While the battles were raging and the kings were struggling for power, God was quietly – yet profoundly – at work to preserve a small, insignificant people group and to save the world in His own way.

How much more did this affect civilization?

God’s ways are different than our own.

The headlines that we believe are newsworthy may not be as big of a deal in the grand scheme of things.

Instead, the people and circumstances that we overlook – the small and the ordinary  – may be the ways in which God is shaping history, influencing civilization, and changing the world one kingdom at a time.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.
9For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9   

Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.” Revelation 11: 15

The #1 Thing We Can Learn from Mommy-Guilt

LauraMotherhood

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When our children make mistakes, we encourage them to learn from those mistakes, don’t we?

When their limited abilities disappoint them, we encourage them to try again, to try another way, or to wait patiently for a time when they are stronger. We look for opportunities to engrave the phrase, “You can learn from that!” in their hearts and minds. We see childhood as a beautiful journey of development, an educational wonderland in which everything – from success to failure – is an opportunity to reflect and grow.

And yet, we don’t always apply the same mentality to motherhood. But we should, shouldn’t we?

What if we chose to see ourselves as women who are ever growing in our abilities to mother?

What if we simply learned from our mistakes instead of beating ourselves up?

What if we tried again, tried another way, or waited patiently until a time when we were stronger?

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we considered motherhood to be a beautiful journey of development, an educational wonderland in which everything – from success to failure – is an opportunity to reflect and grow?

Let’s hide this in our hearts and let it encourage us from day to day:

Motherhood is a woman’s continual growth in relationship and skill, it is not an impossible standard of perfection reserved for an elite few.

When you suffer from pangs of mommy-guilt, let it be a signal for you to think better about motherhood. Guilt may threaten to shut you down, but don’t let it. Instead, bravely consider if the guilt is legitimate: is there some way you could grow, change, or learn? Consider if the guilt is misplaced: is there some way you could surrender, let go, or rest in God’s sovereignty and goodness?

When we feel like we’ve failed our children (oh, I know this feeling well), the best thing we can say is, “I can learn from that”.  God’s grace extends to us, as mothers, especially in our weakness and limitation. This humble habit of receiving grace and growing in it will be a beacon of light for our children, far outshining our mistakes.

Failure is never the end of the story… even for mothers. One hundred failures today are one hundred stepping stones to a stronger tomorrow.

(Remember what the Apostle Paul learned in his weakness? He wrote that God taught him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9)

 

It’s Hard to Change the Things Which Should be Changed

LauraAll Posts, Motherhood

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Our two-year-old had that 5-day stomach virus last week.

I’m grateful that she is feeling well again, but I’m completely wiped out.  Five days of vomit and diarrhea, crankiness and clinginess, laundry and love took its toll on me. (I must say, though, that the major gushing episode at Trader Joe’s was an unexpected blessing. The management ran to my rescue, cleaned everything up, and covered our grocery bill. It was a bright spot in our week.)

When I’m down and out, I often add to my misery by identifying terrible things about myself. I’ve been doing this all week. Apparently, I like to fall asleep by counting all of the ways I’m failing at practically everything and need to improve in every area of life.

I thought I should cut myself a break. I thought I should stop the never-ending self-abasing list of could-do’s and should-do’s. But then I had to go and remember those famous lines from The Serenity Prayer.

Do you know this one?

God, give me grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the Wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other.

Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next. Amen.

When I have prayed this in the past, I’ve focused on entrusting “things that cannot be changed” to God’s care. Trusting God with the unknown and unreachable has always been a point of conviction and comfort to me. This week, however, I can’t get away from the request for “courage to change the things which should be changed”.

This week, as I’ve listed the many things that are stressing me out and as I’ve counted the things that need improvement, I’ve realized that the things on my list are not all theoretical or impossible.

There are actually several items on my list that I can change.

Most of the things which should be changed are small things, seemingly not “Serenity Prayer caliber”, but they matter to me. Many of the things on my mind represent tiny, individual building blocks of the home I want to build and the legacy I want to leave. I can’t give up on these things even though this season of life is tough. These little areas of growth and improvement matter. But in order to change anything – even the smallest thing – I need gumption far beyond my natural supply.

So I’m asking God to give me the courage to keep going in the midst of exhaustion, sickness, and the discouraging winter blues.

I’ve had to tell myself that I could stop my whining and do something about most of things on my list.

I can play worship music in the morning as the kids come down for breakfast.

I can invest 30 minutes in researching Spelling Tips for my sweet struggling student.

I can tackle one tupperware bin of clothes at a time, even if it takes until July to get our kiddos out of sweaters and into short-sleeve shirts.

I can send a text to my husband, call my sister, and lend a book to a friend.

Here I am in the middle of March – not even a week after our toddler’s stomach virus, when I’m still washing down her carseat (from a gushing episode without free groceries), and her crib sheets, and my favorite leather satchel – and I feel the unexpected nudge to ask God for the courage (vast amounts of courage, please!) to tackle a few things…

…things which should be changed.

 

How to Get Your Life Back from Distraction, Depression, and Distance

LauraBlogger Behave, Blogging, Marriage, Ministry, Motherhood

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Travel back in time with me to my college days, when I was delighted to be the musical director for our campus’ only female a cappella group. Our concerts were always sold out, and we loved our work. Each year, dozens of starry-eyed freshmen auditioned while only two or three were accepted. We were a tightly knit group of talented young women who embraced each new member as if she were family. So, you can imagine, once a girl was accepted, she considered it a privilege and was committed. However, our illusion of the a capella dream burst one Thursday evening when Claire, a junior at the time, blurted out that she quit.

Our funky, book-loving, outdoorsy alto, just quit! This was unheard of. There was more to the shock as she explained that she was quitting everything: her promising business major, her sorority, the Christian club, the campus newspaper, everything. We stared at her in disbelief, as we collectively thought, She’s crazy!

Claire took a deep breath and explained that she needed to listen to God without the static of a packed agenda and obligations.

She said she was quitting the good things that were keeping her from the best thing.

Our little musical group was sobered that evening.

As Claire graciously answered our questions, I got the feeling that she had entered another universe. Like Lucy Pevensie walking past the fur coats into the magical world of Narnian snow, Claire had somehow stepped out of our competitive collegiate environment into a world where she was free to slow time down, to say “no” whenever she needed to. She was not just resisting the status quo; she was living without it entirely.

In time, her life became beautifully quiet. I?d stop by her apartment on my way to a meeting (juggling a stack of binders and a cardboard cup of mocha latte in hand), and she’d be sitting on the couch, a Bible on her lap, smiling up at me. She was available to spend the rest of the evening sharing what she had been learning. That is, if I didn?t have to run off to a meeting…

Though I too, at times, felt a tug at my heart to pursue a quieter lifestyle, my brain was so deeply ingrained with the virtues of “Commitment!” “Accomplishment!” and “Approval!” I could not entertain the possibility of quitting anything – let alone everything. The way I figured it, if God needed my time or attention, He would just have to keep up with me or shout louder to compete with my exhilarating schedule.

Several years marched by as I reveled in accomplishments, checked things off my extensive “to-do” lists, worked hard to please people and achieve the American Dream.

As the clamor of my life grew increasingly louder, the only thing that seemed to grow fainter was God’s voice.

Eventually I got married and had a baby. I tried enthusiastically to pull these two new people into my spinning, selfish lifestyle, but before I knew it, we crashed into a marital crisis so tragic that it would have ended in a divorce if God hadn?t graciously reordered our lives for us.

And that’s when we quit.

Everything.

We quit staying up late, going to bed at different times, watching television, bringing in two incomes, and trying to publish a book that just wasn’t happening. We quit competing with one other, and using the same old murderous words in every argument. We quit prioritizing bosses, friends, extended family, and strangers over each other. We quit not talking to each other, not knowing what the other one was looking at on the Internet, not reading aloud in the evenings, and not enjoying each other’s company. We quit not holding each other and saying, “thank you”.

And life. slowed. down.

And got wonderfully quiet.

And very, very small.

I learned that there is a time in every person’s life for peace and quiet.  It worked wonders for us in that season of life.

It gave us time to build a kind of “front porch” around our home – you know, like the lemonade-and-creaky-swing front porches that went extinct with the Waltons – on which we sat in the evenings, just rocking back and forth, appreciating the fruits of our labor, the glories of creation, and the beautiful humans who lived right there with us in our home.

I can’t begin to know all that God did to restructure our lives, but I do know that He had to tear down ugly addictions that had locked me into a distracted lifestyle. The demolition project looked something like this: in order to respect my husband, I had to get rid of selfishness, pride, and unhealthy independence. In order to stay home with our children, I had to surrender my love of accomplishment, compensation, and approval. In order to love God truly, I had to sacrifice my aspirations of “making it big for God”, because all He truly desires is for me to love mercy, do justly, and walk humbly by His side. At times, the sacrifices hurt: I turned down a book offer, speaking opportunities, teaching positions, friendships, and a favorite TV series.

The painful rebuilding process was worthwhile because through it, God gave us the freedom to appreciate the work He asks us to do and the courage to decline anything else.

We never want to lose what we learned from that experience. Ten years later, we still spend lots of time and attention on God himself and our family, believing that we’ll never regret the investment. These days, we’re figuring out how to protect the simplicity while giving ourselves fully to the ministry work that God wants us to do. We’ve taken on a few more commitments, but we try to do most things together, praying, and working side by side. We are learning what it means to be busy like Jesus was: with an eagerness to serve others, but with a quiet, devoted love for God.

Honestly, we’ll probably spend the rest of our lives learning how to do this the right way.

That’s okay: it’s worth the rigorous learning curve.

I guess I could say that over these past few years, God has broken down my heart – only to rebuild me through His Word – so that I could write to you today, utterly convinced that our walk with God and our Christian love for others is worth all of our attention for the rest of our lives.

If my sphere of influence only extends beyond the walls of our home by way of my well-respected husband, our well-loved children, and our cared-for neighbors, I will have lived a fulfilling life.

Here’s the mystery that I am counting on: by walking away from a busy, accomplishment-oriented lifestyle into a quiet world of deep relationships, service, and home-life, I will establish a far-reaching legacy that extends throughout many generations. I don’t want this conviction to fade from my daily choices. So, if I must quit or drastically change something in order to protect my relationship with God, I hope I will. At the same time, if I need to grow and increase my responsibilities in order to obey God, I hope I will.

I guess that’s the essence of blogging well. I hope I’m one of those bloggers who surrenders her time and abilities to the posts that God is writing. It’s His story, anyway, and for one sweet moment, we get to be the scribes who record His marvelous works.

(Recognize this post? I wrote it several years ago and included it in my eBook, Blogger Behave. I’m working on editing Blogger Behave – with a new title and everything. When I read this chapter recently, I needed the reminder! I hope it encourages you, too.)