In the second grade, I discovered the American Girl books. I was utterly enthralled. I was so captivated, in fact, that I vividly recall sitting at my desk amongst my classmates and finally tearing my eyes away from the page only to notice that all of my classmates had their heads down on their desks.
Many of their eyes staring at my unintentional defiance, when really I had been fawning over Felicity and was entirely oblivious to the teacher’s instruction. The class had been rowdy earlier that day and the entire group had been sentenced to this punishment prior to recess. I was so super-focused, though, that Felicity and her antics held my entire attention and I was unconscious of anyone else’s actions or instructions.
While I certainly don’t want to take the analogy too far, I can’t help but wonder what life would be like if I were as super-focused on God, His Word, and His will for my life. We certainly need to submit to governing authorities and pay special attention to the needs of those around us, but how much more clearly could I learn and grow in my faith, and tune into His will for my life if I was entirely unconcerned with what the world thought I should be doing with my life.
Am I keeping up with the Jones's, ahead or behind in retirement planning, paying as much attention to my children's or my own academic, social, or physical development?
If I could super-focus on only exactly what God wanted me to be doing at every single moment, the most important thing right here, right now, how would my life change?
I don't think it has to mean career changes, possession purging, or other drastic measures. Sometimes, often even, it will be the most important thing and God's will for my moment that I change that diaper, fill a sippy cup, or get some sleep. But it may also mean giving more generously, taking more risks, and being a light to rather than a competitor of the Joneses.
Each new moment would be a fresh start, a firm step off the wide path and on a new adventure with no map and no crowd to follow.
When a new year is approaching I tend to find myself mentally planning for the journey of the year ahead. Sometimes I set goals and make plans, bracing myself for the busier seasons, and trying to remain optimistic while feeling pressure to live up to expectations I've set for myself. It can begin to feel heavy.
It can also tempt me to put both confidence and pressures on myself, as if it's my own efforts that will allow me to accomplish my goals, and my strengths, planning, and persistence that will be celebrated should I succeed.
How would I live each day differently if it were not a long, slow journey, but a race?
If I didn't have to pack, plan, prepare for the possibilities of the next year but could toe the line on each day, each moment as its own, free from worldly pressures and distractions and run the race marked out of me, focused singularly on God's will, eyes heavenward, how would my life change?
I could let go and shed so much of the unnecessary.
I don't want to discourage you from setting goals or laying plans, but if God places someone or something directly in front of you, presenting an opportunity in the here and now, don't push it aside or ignore it when it doesn't mesh with your long term plans and goals. Seize those opportunities and let God speak to your heart on a daily basis.
Tune in, super-focus on His Will for your life.
Bury yourself in The Book and run your race.
What are your plans?
It’s a seemingly simple question that we’ve asked and answered countless times throughout our lives, many times in a casual sense…
Friday afternoons, it’s the typical question among coworkers: “Got any plans tonight?”
Yes, and they include pizza and a movie that I’ll fall asleep halfway through watching.
When we’ve somehow survived another dark, frigid Wisconsin winter: “Got any plans for the summer?”
Yes, I have picture-perfect plans of long days in the sun, endless fun activities with the family and reading all the books I have on my list out on the patio. But wait, where did the summer go and what happened to getting through all the books on my nightstand? (Oh yeah, I kept falling asleep trying to read them.)
Sadly, even the low-hanging fruit, the casual plans, can be hard to grasp. Other things get in the way whether they are exhaustion from a long week or simply letting time slip away.
And then there are the big plans, the ones that can affect the course your life will take. What are your plans after college? What’s your 5-year plan? How do you plan to raise your child?
Once upon a time, I had an answer to all of these questions, or at least I thought I did. I thought I would graduate and land a solid job right off the bat. I thought that as committed as I was to searching for and applying to job after job, I wouldn’t have a problem. Thankfully a job came along, but it wasn’t the first one I applied to, or the third, or even the twentieth (hello, recession). It was a completely unexpected and out of the blue opportunity that came to me … almost like a reminder that I’m not actually in control of my own future, hmm. And now the temp job that I was happy to land, but nervous that I wouldn’t get to keep has turned into a fulfilling career.
There was a time that I was completely and utterly in love … with the absolute wrong man. When we broke up, it shattered all the expectations I had for my future because I thought he would be in it. All of a sudden, it seemed like such a big part of my life for the three years I was in that relationship was a total waste of time. And then one day I met a man who liked racecars and wrestling and wore his heart on his sleeve, and to be honest was nothing like the man I pictured myself falling for. But I did. And my life with him has turned out to be filled with more happiness and greater blessings than I possibly could have imagined for myself.
While pregnant with my son, I had visions of myself snuggling my little baby and nursing him at night, nourishing his little body and enjoying the incredible bond between mother and son. Well, two weeks of sleepless nights that saw me crying in frustration and my newborn son crying with hunger later, I had to let go of that perfect vision in my head. No matter what I tried, my baby wouldn’t latch and attempting to nurse him made me feel like a complete and utter failure. I didn’t expect to have to exclusively pump to feed my baby, but that’s what worked for me and that’s what kept my little boy happy and his belly full.
What are your plans? Overwhelming uncertainty? Heartache? Unforeseen obstacles? I’m guessing that none of these top your list; they certainly didn’t top mine.
The Bible itself is full of examples of believers and unbelievers alike experiencing the unexpected in their lives.
- Mary was planning to marry Joseph and live a quiet life with him, I’m sure she didn’t expect to give birth to the Son of God.
- David planned to live the simple life of a shepherd, but he turned out to be a most unexpected king to his people.
- Paul once planned on hunting down and killing every follower of Christ he could find, but God turned him into the Apostle Paul who made it his mission to spread God’s word.
And yet for all of the wonderful examples of God’s perfect plan in the Bible and even in my own life, I still find myself having to learn the same lesson over and over, to trust Him.
He will make your path straight … somehow we imagine a straight path to be one that is free from bumps, hills and rough terrain.
The truth is that the road we have to traverse in this life as followers of Christ will have its ups and downs and we might get stuck in a rut or two that will take us completely by surprise. But in keeping our hearts focused, that path, no matter how uncertain it is at times, will always lead us straight to Him.
The life I thought I would be leading 10 years ago, even 5 years ago, looks nothing like the life I’m living now. Some things have turned out far better than expected. Some things have turned out to be far more difficult to achieve and sustain than I would have thought. But it’s the life God had planned for me even back when I thought I had it all figured out. My future will most certainly be full of the unexpected, but as long as I walk that path with Him, I’m happy to let my own imperfect plans fall by the wayside.
I’m not typically one to set a New Year’s resolution but for 2017 I decided to give it a shot. I made it easy on myself, or so I thought, when I decided that I was going to set the simple goal of loving God and others more. You see, ever since having children I’ve felt a little clouded about what my mission is.
Sure, I’m a mother and a wife but one thing I’ve learned about motherhood is that it’s really easy to neglect your relationships with anyone other your children. It’s easy to get caught up in the routine of daily tasks that I snap at my husband, forget to call a friend back and say no to social invitations (if I'm lucky enough to still get them!) because I'm just plain tired by the end of each day.
While I was making and cleaning up from three meals a day, folding laundry and trying to get the grocery shopping done (with a toddler who no longer likes to be constrained to a cart), I was beginning to wonder how I could possibly serve God and others better. Motherhood can feel all-consuming and more often than not I feel as though I’m barely surviving each day; it’s hard to see how these daily chores can be opportunities to glorify Christ and show his love through my actions toward others.
God has placed it on my heart this year to find ways to love more, and while I’m still (very) far off from where I’d like to be, I recognize that this isn’t a year-long resolution but more like a lifelong opportunity to grow. Here are three things I’m working toward during this mission of motherhood, and I hope you’ll be able to apply them to whatever mission you’ve been called to:
- Stop complaining. I probably need to work on this one the most as it’s easy to get frustrated with never-ending chores and clingy toddlers who won’t let you get done what you set out to do at the beginning of each day.
“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” Colossians 3: 23-24
Whatever you do - not just the fun things I do, but the mundane as well. This season of life has brought me from the workforce back to my home, serving the ones I love; rather than complaining through my day I’m trying to have an attitude of worship. I don’t have to do these things I get to do these things in service to God and others. That small change in attitude can have a significant impact. (I’m definitely a work in progress – just ask my husband!)
- Look to the Word. In order to love more I need to spend more time with the one who showed us what true love is. My time with the Lord varies; some days it’s spent reading a child’s bible story or one of the many index cards or post-it notes stuck around my house with simple prayers and bible verses. Some mornings I take a longer time and really dive into 3 or 4 chapters of the bible; other days I read a devotion that was sent to my email while I’m nursing my toddler back to sleep.
“These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates.” Deuteronomy 6:6-9
It’s easy to feel like I’m not giving enough of myself to God, but this season is hard enough; God knows that and meets me where I am. He doesn’t want me to come to Him out of guilt or feel badly if I don’t read x-amount of chapters in the bible (only to fall asleep or not remember a word I read). If right now my time with Him means a back-to- the-basics bible story or a passage I can recite a few times in my head, the Holy Spirit finds ways to work with those simple messages. The more I’m able to blend my daily life with small but intimate moments with God, the more He allows kindness and compassion to spill over into my interactions with others.
- Recognize opportunities to love more. Serving the Lord overseas in a foreign country is a big calling and staying home, wiping messy hands every day, can seem like a small calling. The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that we don’t all get called to the same missions; sometimes God brings the mission to us. Being a stay-at-home mom presents many unique opportunities for me to share the love of Christ with others.
“About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them.” Acts 16:25
Whether it be at the grocery store, an indoor playground or through this blog, the Lord has proven that I don’t need to be serving him halfway around the world for him to have a profound impact on my life and the way I interact with others. I can be calm, kind and generous in all situations. Giving glory to God through the every day allows others to see what He is capable of.
Thankfully for me there is still quite a bit of 2017 left – because I’m just getting started! My attitude toward the people I know and love, or the stranger God places in my path that day says a lot about who I am. And I am a child of God. My sweet friend (whose name happens to be Love) said it best, and I think we can all fill in the blank no matter the mission: “may (motherhood) be my mission field with my LIFE, not just my LIPS.”