Anxiously Waiting

It was time to sleep. The following day’s tasks loomed in the back of my mind, nagging, reminding me that I needed to rest; instead, I sat on the floor, head to toe in sweats, my back resting against the bedpost, desperately typing on the laptop resting in my criss-crossed legs. The annoying tickle of fresh salty tears trickled down my cheeks as I wiped my eyes with my gray hoodie’s sleeve. Writing out my thoughts - the bottled up feelings of stress, annoyance, jitteriness, and downright “craziness” - would make them disappear.

They didn’t.

In fact, they still haven’t, not completely anyways.

That night was a little over a year ago. It was the first time I realized I was letting anxiety consume me.

Ironically, I’ve been described as a “free bird” and someone who “goes where the wind blows,” yet I really don’t do well with the looming unknowns of the future. I’m capable of going with the flow, but my head is the clearest and my emotions the calmest when there’s a plan in front of me. It’s part of why I become antsy when I don’t have my next travel adventure planned or irritable if I don’t have an idea of what the weekend will look like. In college, daily checklists became my source of comfort, a concrete format for what was coming next. Now, it’s an unrealistic sense of certainty that I know exactly where I will finally settle down, how my career will unfold, and which special people will be a part of my life until it ends.

“Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”

James 4:13-15

Do you see how naive it is for me to have such confidence in my own plans, to find peace in worldly arrangements?

I don’t know what tomorrow will bring, yet I am left anxious when I feel that I am not the one controlling where my life is headed. As if fear of the unknown did not already show a lack of faith, it also produces sinful feelings of bitterness, sadness, and anger. My anxiety about the future ultimately is a distrust in my Father’s will for my life.

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I’m describing myself, but tell me, dear sister, is this not also you?

I’m not sharing this personal struggle because I want you to feel sorry for me. I’m not bringing it up because a large proportion (nearly 20%) of the U.S. population is affected by it, though that is reason enough for us to desire to be somewhat educated on the matter. I’m not asking that by the time you’re done reading this you become an active advocate for mental health.

However, I’m sharing this raw truth of my life because it ultimately shows our God’s great love for us. As with all of life’s hardships, anxiety is a struggle for which the Great Physician provides a cure. It’s a mental distress that can be lessened with spiritual medicine.

Sin makes us confident in ourselves, in our plans, in our “wisdom.” Yet, this selfish confidence fails over and over again. Then what? What are you left with when your plans fail you? When the world deceives you? When loved ones disappoint you? When life doesn’t turn out like it was “supposed to”?

James writes of people who planned to “carry on business and make money.'' These people were making plans to earn wealth and prosperity. They were seeking happiness and contentment in worldly riches. Yet, even if they found joy in those things, they never knew how long they would keep them; the final outcomes remained a mystery.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Jeremiah 29:11

God knows each and every one of our outcomes. What’s more, he has better outcomes planned for us than we could have ever conceived on our own. His plans for each believers’ life is to eternally hold them in His tender arms in heaven. He promises peace and joy unending once we are united with Him in the afterlife. And, on this side of heaven, He promises to walk with us all the way, to wipe the salty tears from our cheeks in moments of heartache and to guide us as we navigate unknown paths. He comforts us with the simple truth we hear children sing: “He’s got the whole world in his hands.”

Anxiety is something I struggle with in this corrupt world. Sometimes it feels as if it is controlling my life, and sometimes it feels as if it will never bother me again but simply be a piece of my past. However, when it does rise up and I feel as if my mind will never quiet again, that’s when God is calling me to Him. That’s when my Bible should be cracked open and my hands folded. That’s when my sinful flesh must let go of human reason and trust in a better, holy plan. That’s when I should humbly proclaim, “If it is the Lord’s will, I will do this.”

Sisters, we don’t know what tomorrow will bring, and thank goodness for that! As if our sinful hearts could handle all that the future holds! Rejoice in knowing that our God, one so much greater, wiser, and bigger than us, holds in His hands tomorrow and all of the days to come.

Be at peace in the unknown so that God may teach us to have joy in the waiting.

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Too Adventageous? My Advent Schedule

AdventFBcover Can something be too beneficial? too good for you? too perfect?

Let me break it down here... can too much of a good thing be harmful?

Advent did not catch me by surprise this year as it has in the past. Our Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram accounts have been swarmed with ideas to prepare my family for Christmas during this Advent season. There are so many good ideas! They seem promising (and fun!) for my family to focus on Jesus during this busy and materialistic season that our culture promotes. GOOD!

Most Advent ideas are countdown calendars. There are simple calendars with paper doors that open to bible passages or some mediocre chocolate that somehow tastes better because of its adorableness. Whoever came up with that idea is genius! Anyhow, there are other Advent countdown calendars that guide families to create ornaments for their Christmas tree with bible readings, paper link chains with bible passages to read on the inside, hymn sing togethers, daily advent devotions, Jesse Tree journeys, and even some that have a countdown list for good things to do for others. I have used some of these Advent activities and recommend them. GOOD!

So, how can good preparations for Christmas become bad for me? How can I become too "adventageous"?

When all of these good preparations for Christmas take my focus away from Jesus - the source and heart of Christmas.

And ladies, I sit here typing with only one hand while my other one is raised because I am guilty. I am SO guilty of over scheduling myself and my family. It is the first week of Advent goodness and already I have rushed to events, practices, and pulled an all nighter preparing for this coming Christmas. I want to echo Amber's words, "I Can(t) Do It All!" I have learned a lesson.

My checklists, Jesse tree ornaments, music performances, Advent by Candlelight, children's Christmas service plans, family get togethers and Christmas dreams have me burned out.

If Jesus came back today am I ready? Like Jesus' parable about the 10 virgins in Matthew 25, my oil lamp feels empty.

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Now, this post isn't written to make us feel stressed out or guilty but rather that we find peace. If we never miss a day on our Advent schedules, or if we skip a couple of days, or start with the best intentions and do not complete our tasks... we can find rest this Christmas.

A successful Christmas does not rely on how many things we prepare to do this time of year. Christmas was successful 2,000 years ago!

God prepared his Son to come to this earth at the exact time that was necessary for our salvation.

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. - Romans 5:6-8

Are we ready for Advent? Are we ready for Christmas? Is that really the important question?

I pray that above everything else during Advent we remember that God prepared FOR our salvation back then and is preparing FOR us even now.

Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe in me. My Father's house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going. - John 14:1-4

We don't know when Jesus will return, we can't see God's calendar, but we can always trust his schedule. God is perfectly "adventageous" for us.

Click here to print off the bible study that goes along with this blog post!

1. Share! How do you prepare for Christmas during Advent?

2. Discuss! How can good preparations for Christmas become bad for us? How can we become too "adventageous"? 3. Read Matthew 25:1-13! How can we be prepared for Jesus‘ second coming? Give specifics.

4. Discuss! How can we properly balance Advent to avoid burnout?

5. Read Romans 5:6-8! Where do you find peace in these passages? Where do you find hope?

6. Read John 14:1-7! In verse 4 Jesus says that the disciples knew the way to the place where he was going. What is the way to the Father? (vs. 6)

 

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*If you use the bible study in a group or share it with another please give source credit to me and the blog. Thank you!

The "Too Adventageous" series is made up of four bible studies: 1) My Advent Schedule 2) God's Advent Menu 3) God's Christmas Decor 4) God's Christmas Gift

During the rest of the week you can find me at our private online bible study Facebook group where we dive deeper into God’s word and talk about it. If you want to be a part of the bible study I highly recommend being a part of the Facebook group where we get to know you more and be mutually encouraged! The Facebook group is private so any information that you share will be seen only by those allowed in the group.

You can join the Facebook online bible study group by clicking here.

When Plans Take a Detour

Have you ever made big plans? Plans for a vacation? a renovation? your career? your family? your life goals? This is what my kitchen looks like right now.

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We've been planning our kitchen since before we even moved into our house. Two years and about four different plan ideas later, we have finally embarked on a crazy renovation of the entire center of our home involving raising the ceiling two feet, adding sky lights, and essentially moving our kitchen over to a new location. Oh yeah, we have two kids too-- a 6 month old and a 2 1/2 year old. I mentioned we were crazy, right? We thought with a good plan we could get it done easily enough. Being that this is our third remodel, my husband and I figured we had a good idea of what would need to happen. My husband made very detailed plans about what was to happen almost down to the day. Demolition for these two days. Framing everything the next week. You get the idea. We had big plans. Detailed plans. Seemingly perfect plans with even a little wiggle room for the things that inevitably come up whilst renovating.

The first week went really well. I had plans to stay at my parents while my husband and his dad tore apart our existing kitchen. There was excitement and energy in the air. We were smiling. Three weeks later, the smiles are starting to fade. Tension is mounting. There may or may not be a snarky comment under my breath to my husband while he frantically tries to get the floor placed while the babies are crying.

Things are not going according to the plans nearly as perfectly as we thought they would.

The drywall isn't going to be finished the week we planned for it. Okay, we will work around it. The drywall won't be finished the second week we planned for it. Okay, we'll work around it. The plumber has a vacation coming up. The floor took longer to place. The countertop took longer to order then we anticipated. I think you get the picture.

Isn't life like that sometimes (although usually much more serious than a kitchen renovation)? Don't we often think we have it all figured out? That we have the perfect plan.  And then life becomes difficult... You don't get your dream job. Your husband loses his job. You lose a very dear loved one. You can't make ends meet. You want a family, but don't have one. Your health is deteriorating.

Sometimes we forget God in all of our haste to perfectly plan. We think we can do it all on our own, but we can't. However, God knows what is best for us, and it just so happens he is a fabulous planner. After all, he planned and executed creating the entirety of the universe in just 7 days, right? (Talk about a crazy remodel!)

Jeremiah 29:11, "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

God has it all figured out. He has plans perfect for our lives. While this doesn't necessarily guarantee happy trails ahead, it does give us the guarantee that if our lives take a little detour, or even go the complete opposite direction of what we had planned, that our Heavenly Father is by our side throughout our journey. He will lead us through life and to our eventual home in heaven.

I leave you with the lyrics to a well known hymn to hopefully provide comfort for those of you who are currently in need of a little hope and direction.

 

Christian Worship #422:

Jesus, lead us on Till our rest is won; And although the way be cheerless, We will follow, calm and fearless. Guide us by your hand To our fatherland.

 

If the way be drear, If the foe be near, Let not faithless fears o'er take us; Let not faith and hope forsake us, For through many a woe To our home we go.

 

When we seek relief From a long felt grief, When temptations come alluring, Make us patient and enduring; Show us that bright shore Where we weep no more.

 

Jesus, still lead on Till our rest is won. Heavenly Leader, still direct us; Still support, console, protect us Till we safely stand In our fatherland.

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