Finding Quality Time in Every Season

During the season of Lent, many people choose to give up some luxury or unhealthy habit. Our refraining from something we want reminds us of Jesus setting aside his power and dying on a cross for us. It leads us to repent of our sin- all our sin that Jesus paid for by willingly giving up his life.

 

Instead of giving something up, other people might choose to start doing some good thing. Some plan to read their Bibles or do an act of kindness every day. 

 

Even if you don't do something intentional "for Lent," it's still a time of the year where we might naturally reflect on our relationship with God. It's now officially spring, and at least in Minnesota, we're hoping the weather stays that way. (I'm done with snow and scraping ice off my car every morning.) Seasons change, and we thank God for getting us through the winter. We enter a new season and think of the hopes it may hold: exercising outside, getting more done now that the sun's up longer, planning summer trips, looking forward to graduations and weddings.

 

Spring may have sprung, but what if we're still in a season of cold, and worry, and wondering? What if nothing is changing in our lives when we want it to?

 

Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.
— Hebrews 10:22-23

 

We may be in a tough season, but God is with us through them all. We pray. We read his word, and he will grow our relationship with him. 

 

Sometimes it's hard to do the very thing that will help us most. I enjoy reading blogs like this one or books on Christian living, but I admit I find myself shying away from reading the Bible with the same sort of enthusiasm. Or I maybe I do read the Bible, but then stop short of having a real conversation with God. I say quick prayers asking for help for the hurting around me, but so rarely for the hurting within me. I want a change of circumstances, not a change of heart.

 

The devil is so sneaky that he keeps us comfortable doing what we're doing. He makes me think I'm being a good Christian girl when I'm hardly turning to God at all. I can go to church every Sunday, help out with youth group, or even listen to extra sermons during the week, but God doesn't just want my volunteer hours. He actually wants me. The devil keeps me too busy (even with Godly pursuits) to realize how I'm doing things for God or about God, but not with God. 

 

I want to talk to God all the time, feel that Jesus is my best friend, and know that he will reveal to me whatever I need to know at the proper time. I don't need to read the Bible more often so that God will reward me with some special insight into what path my life should take, I should read his word to be closer to him. To crave that relationship. To daily be reminded of his power and love for me. 

 

The Bible may seem daunting at times, but when we pick a place to start, we see how God lives in relationship with his people. In the Old Testament, every time God's people leave him, God continues to work in their hearts and bring them back. The people repent and enjoy a season of living with God and the joy and blessings that brings. 

 

The Psalms are our fellow Christians' cries of sorrow and despair, but also of thankfulness and praise.  We see how God redeems us and brings us back to a place of contentment and confidence.

 

He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.
— Psalm 40:2

 

The Gospels are perhaps the easiest place to start reading and also the most important. The whole Bible points to Jesus and God's ultimate plan of salvation carried out by his Son as recorded in the books Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. They are true accounts that not only point out a moral way to live, but also the reason for living at all. 

 

There's nothing like reading the words of Jesus himself. 

 

Because I live, you also will live.
— John 14:19

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
— Matthew 11:28

Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.
— John 13:7

I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me.
— John 10:14




God wants relationship with us. He's given us direct access to him through the Bible and in prayer. 500 years ago, people could not read the Bible themselves in their own language, and church services were taught mostly in Latin, which the average person did not understand. Martin Luther saw this struggle and felt the call to translate the Bible into his native German language, with more Bible scholars later following his lead throughout the world.  We also don't need to go through a priest or any other means to talk to God. Jesus broke down that curtain the day he died. We can go to the source with all our prayers and praise.

 

So as we reflect on Jesus love for us this Lenten season, we learn little by little how God calls us to draw near. It's a beautiful relationship, but like all relationships, it takes effort - in this case only from us. God will be there with open arms even when we have seasons of drifting away. God doesn't have to try to love us or purposely put time into our relationship. He is love and already has things figured out for us.

 

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. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord.
— Jeremiah 29:11-14

 

A good relationship makes you feel safe, and with a perfect God in control, we can relax and just enjoy his presence. Let's draw near and have some quality time with our Father.

 

How do you make quality time with our Father? What do you do during that time? Let us know below! 

 

When Does it Get Easier?

I slumped into my favorite Northwoods chair with a thud and my now cold coffee and glanced at the clock on the mantle: 10:45am.

Where had the morning gone?

Here I was in one of the most astoundingly beautiful, serene places on earth, the sun lighting up the golden tamaracks like a harvest across the river and all I could think of was how amazing it would be to go back to bed. Feeding and dressing my four kids every morning was enough of an undertaking at home, let alone in a new place with new distractions and new places to sit at breakfast and new arguments to be had about who sat in which new place.

When does it get easier?

This was a question I had asked myself countless times before. In the midst of those twilight feedings. While scrubbing blue marker from my freshly-painted living room wall. When feeling the hard floor press against my back as I struggled to get comfortable on the floor of my daughters' room during yet another thunderstorm. As I played referee in yet another argument over who last sat behind me in the van (just when and why did that become a "thing"?).

When I was a new parent and my girls were still babies (less than 6 months old), many of my thoughts began, "I'm sure it will get easier when _____________." Whether it was a coping mechanism to get me through some tough days or I actually believed it to be true, I cannot say for sure. Perhaps it was a little bit of both. But I mean, c'mon, isn't it the truth? It'll definitely be easier when they can walk on their own and I don't have to carry them everywhere. (Translate: They can run incredibly fast in opposite directions, especially when in an incredibly busy parking lot.) Or...it'll certainly be easier when they can feed themselves and I don't have to constantly think about nursing or preparing and packing bottles. (Translate: Food will be everywhere which will result in the need for more frequent baths and much more frequent vacuuming or the acquisition of an incredibly hungry pooch.) Or...it'll feel so much easier when the older ones go to school and my amount of "free-time" increases. (Translate: An exorbitant amount of paperwork, permission slips, book orders, lunch tickets, homework and over-tired attitudes are brought home on a daily basis, requiring enough organization to constitute a full-time job.) Or perhaps my favorite: it'll be so much easier when my children can talk and just tell me what they need or feel. (Translate: Lots of unasked for opinions and unpleasant whines can be heard when decisions are made without first consulting said children.)  

In my short six years as a mother (short years, long days), I've learned that the illusion that the journey of parenthood somehow gets less intense as your children grow is a farce. Don't fall for it.

I hate to tell you this, any "new mom" readers out there: it doesn't get easier.

The challenges just change.

As a fellow mom, I never want to sound like the one who's "been there done that" and knows so much better than you. I've heard too many times moms of older children say to those of little kids "Oh, just wait! You wish for them to get older but let me tell you, I'd much rather deal with tantrums and sleepless nights than curfews and teenage mood swings." I've also found myself wanting to tell the brand new mom with her single baby, sleeping soundlessly in her carseat "Don't you dare tell me how tired you are! Do you see these four monkeys I run after all day?" But why do we do this? Don't we remember how it felt to be at that stage of parenthood, how the days stretched before us and the thought of going to the bathroom uninterrupted seemed like an unattainable dream? None of us have it harder than the other simply because of the stage we and our children are in -- we all have our own challenges and struggles regardless.

As I watched from the window that day, sipping lukewarm coffee, I breathed a silent prayer. I asked God to help me see my children for the blessing that they are. I asked Him to show me the joy in the current stages of my kids and help me not to "wish away" the day we were given in hopes of an easier tomorrow. And that's when He reminded me: I'd only been woken up once the night before by one of my son's because he needed to use the bathroom (a habit we'd been working on quite diligently). I'd given my kids breakfast that morning which they fed to themselves and didn't come from me or a bottle. I was currently sitting in a way-too-comfy chair, still in my pajamas, watching them play at the wood's edge. Sure, there were a whole new set of challenges before me which I felt completely unprepared to handle... but there were also many others which had gotten easier over the years.

And God had equipped me for them all.

Right Where God Wants Me

I sometimes have an embarrassingly competitive nature. I say sometimes because the competitiveness really only comes out when I think I have some kind of a chance. For example, I’m not competitive when it comes to mini golf… at all. In fact, I’ll be your tee-side entertainment as you experience a whole new level of horrible golfing. On the other hand, get me started in a game of scrabble (or practically any board/card game) and you won’t know what hit you. I don’t really know where this trait came from. I mean, my family and two siblings aren’t and never have been super-competitive, even amongst each other. The only sport any of us have ever played on some sort of competitive team was basketball. It’s also not much of a stretch to say that we weren’t what you would consider the “star players.” But goodness, when I’m in that competitive mode, you can bet your bottom dollar my laser-like focus will be on coming out on top.

I can remember during those two months at Craig Hospital in 2013, my competitive side was certainly present. You see, spinal cord injuries are pretty male dominated. In practically every one of the group classes I was in (especially the physical ones) I was always the only lady in the crew. On those long pushes to the Safe Way grocery store a few blocks away in wheelchair skills class and some of the CrossFit style weightlifting, there was no way this 21-year old female was gonna be in the bottom of the pack.

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I think it’s natural to want to win. To succeed. To triumph. To overcome any and every obstacle. To be the first to the finish line that can be so easily envisioned in one’s mind. To want to push forward into the future, looking towards tomorrow, to the week after that, to the month after that, to the year after that.

Preparing for the future is awesome, but it causes me to forget that my present contains many of the moments I was once looking forward to. I’m one of those people who struggles with being content. It’s like I’m constantly seeking more; competing against myself and my situation to achieve even greater things.

I’m in a season of my life right now that I certainly hadn’t imagined. I’m living at home as a woman in my mid 20’s. I’m single after having been engaged and expecting to get married. I’m entering into the slow and arduous application cycle for medical school for the entering class of fall 2017. I’m in a season of transition and waiting. Transition is hard, waiting is even harder.

But now, O LORD, You are our Father, We are the clay, and You our potter; And all of us are the work of Your hand. ~Isaiah 64:8

It’s really hard to let go, to surrender that fighting and competitive spirit and realize I’m right where God wants me to be. This season, this season of trial, pause, and singleness is an important part of His beautiful plan for my life. I know and need to trust that God is using this time to mold and shape me both as a person and in my faith. Now I will be the first to say that waving the white flag of surrender is anything less than a challenge. I don’t “give-up” easily and when I hear of surrendering, I assume that that is exactly what is going on. Yet, I don’t think that is really the case here.

Surrendering to this season, to these moments, and to this present, I’m able to see some pretty amazing things. When I was in the hospital, I looked forward to the day I could get out of bed without a nurse’s assistance. I dreamed of being able to dress myself without any kind of help. After being discharged, I just wanted to regain my independence as a driver. To be able to go and sit at a coffee shop by myself and not have to call someone for a ride back home.

You know, I’m there now. I’m there and even further beyond.

I’ve never been very good at art so I imagine my pottery skills would leave something to be desired. It sure doesn’t appear to be that way with God. Submitting to Him in any and all times, allowing Him to work His callused and practiced potter hands on this lowly lump of clay sure does yield some remarkable results.

Sometimes there is no need to compete.

Sometimes surrender is the best and most beautiful option.

embracing winter

winter1 Winter stretches long into a string of gray and bitter cold days and leaves us all feeling a bit weary. It can be oh so easy to slip low into the blues and when they hit, it is hard to turn that frown upside down.

Believe me, I get it. I live in Michigan. (*smile*) Thanks to the lake-effect, it snows here nearly every day. The white stuff piled high on each side of our driveway towers over my husband’s tall frame. School cancellations are in the double digits. We are cooped up for days at a time.

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While the bleak skies and slick roads can really do a number on my mood, I’ve been thinking more and more about the wonders of winter. The beauty that it holds. This season, created and made lovely by our kind, gracious Lord, has so much to offer. I don’t want to miss it. Any of it. Wishing away this season is not an option.

Winter invites us to give into the pull to linger and enjoy this time of rest and calm. So I embrace it. Full on. All of it. With a thankful heart.

I cozy up under a heavy blanket, a stack of reads beside me and a warm cup in my hands. Candles are lit and green life in little pots is placed here and there. I pull on thick sweaters and socks, twirl scarves around my neck to take walks with my boys. Breathing in deep, the fresh air fills my lungs and clears my mind. We follow deer tracks through the backyard and look in awe at the blue sky contrast against the glimmering white snow. The giggles and squeals of sledders reaches my window. I stand at the stove and stir, the steam rising high and then I putter around the house in slippers, creating this and organizing that. Fluffing our little nest brings me joy and I’m grateful for these long days at home to do just that.

Winter is seen with new eyes and it is wonder full.

winter

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So friends, I know that this cold season is loooong, but let’s chase those blues far, far away and chat right now only about the good stuff. What are your very favorite things about winter? What about it makes your heart sing? We’d all love to hear and be encouraged. Share away!

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