Maybe it’s because I’ve been reading the book Half The Sky as part of a journey I’m on to better educate myself on the global oppression of women. Or maybe it’s because I have a natural inclination… More
I became a Christian when I was 17 years old. In those early days I would take my Bible and my journal to coffee houses and press in, learning more about who this God is that I had fallen in love with; the God who was radically changing my life. Those first few years of following Jesus were like a greenhouse for me. I was changing and being transformed in big ways, and at light speed. For the first time in my life I was beginning to feel healthy and whole.
But at some point I started to feel numb. I started to get used to the Gospel. I started to subconsciously say, “Yeah, yeah, yeah. I’ve heard all of this. I know all of this.” I fell into believing that I have a relationship with Jesus, and He saved me (past tense), but I don’t still need saving.
It’s a dangerous road to have found myself believing that I had become too mature, too wise, too good to still need the Gospel.
I’m thankful that God loves me too much to leave me alone. Through some really difficult and painful circumstances I was reminded that it is only by His grace that I can even approach Him. It is His working in me that had changed me, His mercy that covers my sins.
I. Need. Saving. Yesterday. Today. Tomorrow. In this moment, and now this one…
I need saving when I lose my patience with my children and yell at them without restraint. I need saving when I say those ugly words to my husband just to hurt him. I need saving when I harbor unforgiveness and resentment towards a friend that has hurt me. I need saving when I get so angry at God and disbelieve that He is far more good than I could ever comprehend.
But the best news, and the power of God, is found in that through Jesus, I have the rescue that I need. Every season, every day, every moment.
Last weekend I heard one of the most powerful messages I have ever heard about shame. You NEED to watch this message. At one point Brad Tate says that as Christians we often say, “God takes our sins away,” and that while that is true, it’s deeper than that; God covers our sins through the blood of Jesus. Whether we are close to God and need 2% grace, or whether we are far from God and need 98%, the blood of Jesus fills the gap and makes us righteous.
I ended up drawing this rough sketch in my journal:
The idea here was that God’s holiness is like the horizon line when you are looking at the ocean. What you see from the shoreline looks like a straight, level line. Underneath the water, however, are mountains, valleys, and rough terrain with varied gaps between the peaks and the surface of the water. The water fills in the gaps to the surface, making it level.
Jesus’ blood fills in the deepest gaps of our souls to be made right with God. Jesus has made us perfect and we can live in awe and wonder of the Gospel TODAY because we are made right with God apart from anything we could ever do ourselves.
Oh, God, forgive me for neglecting the power of the Gospel in my day-to-day life. Would you help me to live in humble, awed gratitude? I need saving…today and everyday. Thank you for covering my shame. Thank you for making me new.
Run Hard. Love Strong.
The beginning of 2017 started with me praying a simple prayer, “God, teach me how to love. How to really love.”
Learning to love means learning to get low. Choosing to serve. Choosing anonymity. Choosing to stop evaluating the value of work based on applause or approval. Choosing to do small things with great love for the people around me.
All my life I have felt a tremendous amount of pressure to excel. I have spent my days striving to be acceptable and pleasing.
That life is exhausting, and has left my soul tired. In my search for the approval and adoration of others, I have been chasing after a mirage in a desert, never arriving, all the while getting thirstier and thirstier.
Chasing satisfaction in the praise of people will always leave us thirsty; we are wasting our energy chasing after something that isn’t even real! We buy into the lie that apart from the praise and adoration of people we are invaluable, unloveable, and invisible.
I place my identify far too often in what I do instead of whose I am. But I am learning that there is tremendous freedom when I let go of the need to earn my place.
The reality is that I am not enough. I will never be enough. But Jesus is enough for me. His enoughness is all I need, and in Him is the freedom to stop striving.
When we stop long enough to look to Jesus and ask Him to satisfy us with His enoughness, we can stop chasing desert mirages and experience rich satisfaction and healthy souls. It is in this place that we experience the freedom to embrace who we are simply because He calls us His.
Out of our satisfaction we begin to learn what real love and service are.
We can rest when we stop trying to earn our place. We can experience the fullness of peace God promises when we accept that He really does mean it when He says that we don’t have to earn His favor or love. We can start to enjoy our work when we don’t tie our worth to it.
Living low allows us to find tremendous fulfillment and joy in both the mundane and the extraordinary. Whether scrubbing dishes, changing diapers, working in a cubicle, or speaking in front of thousands, we can fully embrace our moments with gratitude and a heart full of love because our activity does not define our value or worth.
We can be free to serve without recognition, and we can accept recognition with humility.
I’m learning that living low is the only real way to be satisfied. On my own I will never be enough, but Jesus is enough for me. He is enough for you. He is enough for us.
Get low. Live low. Stay low. That is where rich life, and soul satisfaction are found.
Run Hard. Love Strong.
Old man winter has started knocking on the door. While the full-on-cold hasn’t quite hit, my family has pulled out our winter coats, and added extra blankets to our bedding.
We have one blanket that was given to us as a gift a few years ago. It’s big, and ridiculously soft. It’s heavy, and the best blanket to snuggle up with on a cold day with a good cup of dark roast coffee. Every single person in my household loves this blanket. My toddler often calls “Toddler Property Law” when it is in use by someone else (read: “If I want it, it’s mine). He affectionately refers to this blanket as “Bee Bee.”
When said toddler was a little younger one of his favorite things was being wrapped up in this blanket to nurse. He was warm, and felt secure. All was right with the world when he was in his mama’s arms being nurtured while wrapped in the cozy goodness this particular blanket offers.
But many mothers and babies throughout the world suffer lack of basic needs, and have no such blanket to keep them warm during cold seasons. Imagine giving birth, and being unable to shield your newborn child from the cold. Many mothers worldwide helplessly struggle to keep their babies healthy, and often lose the battle as their infants succumb to diseases like pneumonia.
If you know me at all you know that I am passionate about the work that World Vision is doing globally to combat dire poverty and injustice. One of the ways that World Vision is working is by aiding mothers and babies by providing essential items such as blankets, diapers, soap, and baby-care education classes and support. Mothers and babies being helped by World Vision are overcoming odds, and are surviving and thriving because of items we so often take for granted.
How many of you out there own a Thirty-One bag? I have two that I LOVE: a utility tote that I use when I travel, and a computer bag that I use every single day. Maybe a few of you reading this are Thirty-One consultants. If that’s you, then you already know your company has a great product.
But did you know that last year, Thirty-One Gifts generously matched $1,000,000 of Giving Tuesday donations to World Vision with product to be used in their programs? Items like blankets are being provided to mothers and babies in some of the neediest areas of the world. Even in warmer places, keeping infants warm is essential to keeping them healthy, and can prevent pneumonia and other diseases.
Even better, this year on Giving Tuesday (November 29, 2016), any gift given to World Vision will be generously matched with a product donation from Thirty-One Gifts up to $2,000,000! That means that any donation you make will have TWICE the impact for helping families in need around the world.
By contributing generously to World Vision, you are helping real mothers like Margaret in Uganda. Margaret is nursing her nine-month-old daughter, Esther, who is sick with pneumonia. Esther has been sick for two weeks, having spent one week in the hospital.
Apart from the medication that Esther is receiving, this swaddling blanket has become one of Margaret’s treasured possessions. “Whenever it gets cold, I wrap her in it so that she feels warm. Even after bathing her I put it around her so that the cold does not get through to her,” Margaret says. She explains that the nurse at the hospital told her that although pneumonia is caused by bacteria, it is exacerbated by exposure to the cold. She explains that it has been really cold lately because of the rainy season.
You’re also helping young mothers like Anxhela. At the age of 17, she was one Albanian mother who longed for help as she prepared for the cold winter weather. Her family had recently been displaced from where they had set up their makeshift shelters. The land was not theirs so when the owner returned, they were forced to abandon their shelters, their possessions, their jobs, their routines, and everything familiar.
Anxhela delivered her first son, Gersi, only three months before she and her husband lost their home and were forced to move to the Transitional Emergency Center. “It was chilly and the room we live in is very humid,” she explains. “The clothes I received, for my son, for me, [for] my husband, and the blanket for the baby really helped,” she says.
I recently wrote out my Christmas shopping list. I get so excited about shopping for the people I love. I love to give gifts that tell someone, “I love you, and I’m glad that you’re in my life.” But as I analyze and evaluate the gifts I want to purchase for people, none of them are really necessities. I give gifts as tokens of my love, but nothing that I give to the people on my list is going to help them survive another day.
Buy by adding a New Mother and Baby Kit to the gift-buying list this year, gift giving can become life giving.
I’d like to invite you into a bigger story; a story of great compassion, justice, and joy. Consider partnering with me to invest in the well-being and survival of mothers and babies across the globe. While many items we give and receive this year will one day rust, break, wear out, or be forgotten, the lives changed by our willingness to step in the gap for these women and their babies will leave a lasting legacy.
I love words. Writing words. Reading words. Speaking words. Sharing words.
We can’t touch words. We can’t taste or smell them. Words are intangible, and yet they are so powerful that books have been burned for the words written in them, and people have been burned for the words they have spoken.
Words are dangerous.
Lately I’ve been thinking about Jesus’ words.
I’ve said it before, but it’s worth saying again: as a writer I pray that my words move people. But Jesus’ words move oceans.
In the early moments of my morning today I sat down at my desk with my coffee, and opened my Bible to the book of John. John was a friend of Jesus, and wrote an eye-witness account of what he had seen. In John 18 we read that Jesus had been betrayed, and soldiers came to take him away. Jesus asked them who they were looking for, and when they told him, Jesus said, “I am he.” Anyone within earshot of Jesus’ words would have instantly recognized that he wasn’t just saying, “I’m the guy you’re looking for,” but was actually saying, “I am the God of the universe. I am the maker of the sea, and the giver of the breath you are breathing.”
Three words spoken by Jesus literally knocked the soldiers off of their feet. When they regained their composure Jesus calmly asked again, “Who are you looking for?” They again told him, and Jesus said, “I am he, so leave these men alone.”
As much as we sometimes prefer the docile version of Jesus (read: Jesus looking angelically to the sky, and snuggling lambs), Jesus is not weak. When He speaks it is powerful and authoritative.
In his newest book Chase The Lion, Mark Batterson puts it this way:
If you reverse-engineer the history of time, every atom in the universe can trace its origin back to the four words by which God spoke everything into existence: “Let there be light.” According to the Doppler effect, those four words are still creating galaxies at the outer edges of the universe.
My life has been wrecked in the best possible ways as I’ve poured over words spoken by The Logos Himself. 13 years ago I made a decision to follow Jesus and to be baptized. That is when everything changed. God spoke into my darkness and said, “Let there be light.” Since that day His words are still creating newness in the farthest reaches of my soul.
That God loves you, my friend. Whether or not you know or believe that right now does not negate the truth of it. And while I do not pretend to know all of the answers, one thing I do know is that I am undeniably and eternally changed by the Word of God. There is beautiful power in His word.
So that Bible that is sitting on a shelf collecting dust…open it today. If you really want your life to be changed. If you really want the answers to the questions you are asking, start digging in. Ask God to show up and reveal Himself to you. Start with just a few verses if you must. Journal. Ask questions. Join a small group to hash out your thoughts with. The promise is this: God’s word will accomplish powerful things in the hearts of those who are bent on receiving it.
Run Hard. Love Strong.
I enjoy having a clean living environment. It’s borderline compulsive. I’m sure a psychologist could have a field day analyzing my affinity for neatness, maybe tying it down to a need for structure resulting from a chaotic childhood, blah, blah, blah…whatever the reason the fact remains that I am the epitome of a neat freak.
Unfortunately my neat freak nature clashes—hard—with the sticky fingers and muddy shoes that are my two sons. Mamas everywhere are sighing as they read this. You get it, right? What’s the point in even trying to clean when three seconds after you wipe the smudged glass on the sliding door five more hand prints appear with bonus chunks of who-knows-what leftovers from lunch.
Last week I lost my mind over it. Friends, I freaked out. I blew a gasket. I fell apart, tears and all, because I just couldn’t do it. I felt so tired from the battle of trying to balance enjoying motherhood with enjoying a clean house. Keep laughing, all you well-seasoned mamas. You told me that I could either have a clean house or a happy one, but that both are darn near impossible. Did I believe you? Nope. I embraced it as a challenge, silently shouting a battle cry in my head: “Tawanda! Don’t say never to me!” (Fried Green Tomatoes, anyone?)
My husband saw (and heard) that I was losing it. God bless that patient man. He swooped the kids out the door to go play and get takeout for dinner. I was left alone to clean. And clean I did. I scrubbed, and sprayed, and wiped…I pulled out an old toothbrush to get into the bathroom vents and everything. I mopped, and dusted, and exhausted myself from the exertion.
When I finally sat down it hit me how much my clean house cost me. My house was clean; no sign of life anywhere. And I was alone. And I was sad because of it. I wasn’t anyone that my boys wanted to be around, and I chose rage-cleaning over them. I essentially communicated to them that they were ruining my–not our–environment. My house. My rooms. My stuff.
That’s not the home I really want. I want the “our.” I want the memories, and the laughter, and the music, and the conversation that comes from being in relationship with my husband and children. But that night I forfeited it all. I made it pointedly clear that I would rather have a museum than have them.
That’s not the dream. That’s not what I’ve longed for. I dream of a family that plays games together, and builds blanket forts, and has movie nights, and laughs, and cries…together. But together exists with fingerprints and muddy shoe prints, and who-knows-what in the powder room sink (guess I’ll be cleaning that up later).
There’s nothing wrong with cleanliness. I’m not planning on letting entropy reign supreme. But in my freak out moment I believed a huge lie, and I allowed my motives to be obsessively selfish. I bought into the lie that I clean for myself. The truth is that I clean for us. I clean for our family, not my comfort.
So I’m presented with opportunity cost. I can either choose to pay the price of an immaculate home at the cost of a safe relational environment, or I can pay the price of a healthy family at the cost of less-than-pinterest cleanliness.
I’ll choose the latter. I want to choose them over spotless glass. I want to choose the “us and ours” over the “me and mine.” I want to choose the beautifully chaotic mess of family over the pristine loneliness of isolation.
Help me, Jesus.
Run Hard. Love Strong.
Hello, friends. The summer is over, and I’m sure that you are like me: trying to get back into the swing of fall routines.
The summer was so beautiful in many ways. I tried my darnedest to relish the minutes, days, and weeks that I got to spend with both of my boys. We went (lived) outside, we rode bikes, we planted a vegetable garden, we went to the ocean, we read books, we played games, and laughed, and snuggled up close.
But this summer was also painful and full of need and loss and defeat. Adam and I have felt like our heads have been spinning from all that happened in just a single month. Emergency home repairs, vehicles breaking down, savings accounts being drained, and excruciating situations with my mother who is very sick left us looking to Jesus and asking Him to multiply resources, strength, and healing.
This summer has been a reminder that God owes us nothing, but has given us everything. He’s not a “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” type of God. He’s far too good for that; instead He’s interested in who we are becoming, and our knowledge of who He already is (and if you don’t already know Him, He is so good that I just can’t breathe when I really think about it). Just like I want my own kids to grow up to be men of character, integrity, honor, and faithfulness God cultivates character in us as His kids.
But the hard seasons of tilling the soil of hearts, ripping out dead roots, and pruning away diseased parts hurt. This season has sure hurt for me and my husband. We just have to keep reminding ourselves that without doubt, or the possibility of sinking, there is no such thing as trust. Without questions or needs bigger than we can meet ourselves we have no reason to look to God for what only He can provide.
One quiet morning a few weeks ago, before the sun was up, before little feet ran through the halls, I got up, snuck downstairs, poured a cup of dark-roast coffee, and sat down to pray, journal, and read my Bible. At the time I was studying the book of Matthew, and I came across a passage that might be familiar to you:
23 And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. 24 And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. 25 And they went and woke him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.” 26 And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. 27 And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?” -Matthew 8:23-27
I’ve read this passage so many times since I started following Jesus. It’s such a powerful reminder that when all seems lost, our God is Lord over the mighty waves. We can trust Him, even when our souls start to believe He is sleeping.
But this particular morning was different. Something new jumped out at me that I had never paid much attention to before: it was JESUS’ idea to get in the boat in the first place!
Did you catch that?!
Do you know what that means for you and for me?
It means that sometimes the problems of life, those things we fear the most, the stresses, the turmoils, the pain, the loss…sometimes we can be following Jesus and still end up in the middle of the raging sea!
It means that sometimes the storm is right where we need to be in order to see who Jesus really is–the able one. The One whose words are so mighty that the torrent of the sea obeys! As a writer, I hope my words move people. But Jesus’ words move oceans!
So, friend. Maybe you’re in the middle of a crisis. Maybe the days are long, the weeks are unending. There’s no light at the end of the proverbial tunnel, and you’re asking Jesus why He’s asleep in the boat while you are going under.
And maybe, just maybe, you’re right where you need to be in order to witness who God is in the middle of it all. Keep your eyes open. Stay watchful, and press into the truth of who He is.
Corrie Ten Boom, a Dutch Christian who helped Jews escape the Nazi Holocaust and was subsequently arrested for her actions, put it this way: “When a train goes through a tunnel and it gets dark, you don’t throw away the ticket and jump off. You sit still and trust the engineer.”
Wherever you are, I encourage you today to press in and trust the God that isn’t finished with your story yet.
Run Hard. Love Strong.
Did you ever play with Silly Putty when you were younger? The pinkish-beige putty that came in a red egg-shaped container? I always had high hopes that it would be like Play-Doh…soft, malleable. But Silly Putty is the black sheep of the putty family, and really no fun to mold at all. The most fun I had with Silly Putty was pressing it against the comic strips of newspapers to see it reprint on the the thick gummy goo.
The last month or so I have felt like most everything has been hard. It’s been a season of one-thing-after-another problems, stresses, and disappointments. I’ve felt like I’ve been trying to push forward, but I find myself tangled up in circumstantial Silly Putty.
Have you ever been there? Maybe you’re right there with me now. Solidarity, sister (or brother, as it may be).
I’ve been trying to process it all. My head feels like it’s spinning from some of the issues that have come up, some relational, some financial, some small but weighty in light of all of the other mess.
It’s those moments of loss, heartache, and disappointment that we are faced with the choice to hold onto what we believed when things were going well, or to forfeit belief and attempt to “go it alone.” It’s the hard seasons that make the difference in who we become as people of faith.
Do we really believe that God is good when life is hard?
Do we really believe that God is our rock and refuge when everything else falls apart?
Do we really believe that He is with us, that He hears us, that He has our best interest at heart?
Habakkuk reached this place. As his nation faced impending invasion and tremendous loss He had a choice to get angry with God, or cry out to Him. He chose the latter when he declared:
“Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.”
This morning I wrote my own little version. It went something like this:
“Though I forgot to prep the coffee pot, and my morning cup is empty.
Though our well holding tank has rusted out and needs replacing.
Though the baby is screaming, and I didn’t sleep last night.
Though the mini-van engine has gone kaput.
Though I can’t get caught up on chores to save my life.
Though a loved one said such hurtful words.
Though the blueprint of what I think my life should look like is far from what my life actually looks like.
I will rejoice in who God is. I will trust in His love for me, and that my security is found in Him alone.”
There are seasons in all of our lives when everything falls apart. The end is far from view, and we march on through what feels like endless Silly Putty. These are the times when God teaches us where our security truly lies. When everything starts crumbling, He is our steady foundation. When we are afraid of catastrophe, He is our fortress and hiding place. He doesn’t change even when our circumstances do. So while we can’t celebrate the brokenness, we can celebrate who He is in the middle of it all.
Psalm 46 is such a powerful chapter that calls for our rest in the middle of Silly Putty moments (worse, actually). You most likely are familiar with the verse that says, “Be still and know that I am God.” But what’s so powerful about that verse is that it’s a commandment in the middle of global catastrophe! The images used in the whole Psalm are ridiculously scary! (Did you see 90’s movie Deep Impact? Yeah…legit Armageddon stuff. Walls of water, mountains crumbling, and the like).
It’s right smack in the middle of chaos and catastrophe that God declares, “Be still and know that I am God.”
Drop. The. Mic.
Wherever you are. Whatever you are dealing with. Whatever chaos is surrounding you. Stop today and consider the bigness of God. Consider His promises that He never changes, and that He is very present with you (even when you can’t see, feel, or hear Him).
Take this moment right now and consider that in the middle of your Silly Putty He is powerfully moving. He is rock steady.
Be encouraged, dear friend. The story isn’t over. Our God is mighty, and the floods of life do not threaten or intimidate His position or authority.
Run Hard. Love Strong.
We often ask children the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Our intentions are good; we want to inspire dreams, encourage goal-setting, and cast vision for what their little lives can become. But sometimes we ask this question and inadvertently teach children to believe that until they are “grown ups” they have to wait to do anything significant.
As we seek to instill compassion into our children, the number 1 thing they need to hear from the adults in their lives is that they do not have to wait to make a difference. There is no “magic age” that a child needs to reach before they can impact the world.
C.S. Lewis once said, “Since it is so likely that [children] will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage.” Children perceive that the world is not as it should be; injustices exist, and needs are real. But children can also be equipped with a deep-seated belief system that tells them that heroes are also real, and they can be those heroes.
Last summer my then five-year-old son found me crying on our back porch. He asked what was wrong, and I tried to muster up words to explain the Iraqi and Syrian refugee crisis to him.
I will never forget his teary-eyed response to me: “Mom, I want to help them.”
He knocked on the door of compassion, and I could have chosen to say, “That’s so sweet of you, buddy. But the problem is too big, there’s not a lot we can do.” I saw the desperation in his eyes—the hurt he felt for kids like him who can’t go to school, who have no shoes or warm coats—and instead I invited him into the story.
My son spent weeks making beaded bracelets to sell to raise money for refugee relief efforts. He named the project, “The Green Refuge Project” and raised $150. That’s a drop in a bucket for such an incomprehensible social justice issue, but my little boy did something big before he even stepped foot into a kindergarten classroom.
Something miraculous happens in each of us, regardless of age, when we decide to act. Our hearts seem to somehow grow, our courage and resolve strengthen, and our belief that there are things worth fighting for is renewed. Imagine the possibilities if we invite the current generation of children into the bigger story now while their eyes are still bright-eyed and not yet jaded by the brokenness of the world.
Here are five ways that you can engage your children in acts of compassion:
- Invite your child to join you in sponsoring a World Vision child.
By sponsoring a child with World Vision, you not only make a huge impact in the life of a child in need, but your own child will be opened up to—literally—to a whole new world. Your child can draw pictures, and write letters to your sponsored child. They can also help you pick up little treats to send your sponsored child (stickers, pencils, notebooks, personal photos, etc.).
- Have your child help you pick out food items to donate to a food pantry.
1 out of every 5 children in America does not receive enough food to eat. Your children go to school with other children who may not know where their next meal will come from. Talk to your child about this, and then engage them in being a helper by going to the store to pick up nonperishable items that can be donated to your local food bank, or directly to your school to be distributed to other children in need.
- Get crafty for a cause.
Make bracelets, sell lemonade, hold a bake sale, create greeting cards…whatever creative bug your child has, fan the flame and show them how they can use their interests to raise money for something they care about.
- Invite your child to join you for service projects.
Compassion, like most character traits, is caught rather than taught. Your children are watching your lead, and when you volunteer to serve you show them you mean what you say about the importance of taking action.
You can take this a step further by inviting your children to participate with you in service. You will not only bond closer to your child, but you will provide them with memories, and cultivate their heart for help and service.
- Pray together.
Prayer is critical to instilling compassion in the heart of a child. God is the author of justice and compassion, and it is He who equips us with His heart in order to be His hands in the world. Praying with our children is a powerful way to ask God to use our children to meet needs in the world, as well as a great way to model a life of faith for your children to follow.
As a practical bonus, World Vision has a fabulous new resource called the “Play It Forward Guide” that will help you leverage this summer with your child as an opportunity to change the world. Be sure to check it out, and watch your child flourish as their compassion for others grows.
The hearts of children are large, and full of dreams. Let them dream of who they will one day become, but teach them that they do not have to wait to be heroes in the bigger story. They are little people, but powerful forces in this world.
Run Hard. Love Strong.
What is it that you regret in your life? Maybe an opportunity you passed up? Maybe words you said in anger? Maybe the extra helping of Oreo Cheesecake at the 4th of July cookout you attended (yeah… I’m just going to fess up to that one)?
I regret the times in my life when I gave up too soon; the times when I threw in the towel because things got too hard and the excitement of a new adventure wore off. Those are the moments in my life that I look back on and wonder what would have happened if I had pushed past whatever discomfort I was experiencing. What “wins” have I missed out on because I gave up?
I regret those times when I failed simply because I forfeit.
This year I have set out to run my first half marathon with Team World Vision. I am aiming to raise $2500 in order to supply 50 children with a lifetime of clean water.
Today I wanted to quit. For a variety of reasons it’s been difficult to press on, whether it’s been a conflict registering for the race itself, personal injury, or otherwise frustrating circumstances I wanted to say, “Forget it. This just isn’t for me.”
I’ve made it my aim over the last few years to slow down on the decision making process when there are strong emotions involved. I’ve tried to stop and allow myself to feel the emotions without reacting to them. It’s definitely a work in progress, but progress has been made. When I have felt the monster of defeat and discouragement rear its ugly head I have given myself the space to feel those emotions, but then I pull back, breathe, and ask God for wisdom.
You know what I’ve found? God is speaking to us, and He wants to show us the way of life and wisdom. He wants to lead us often more than we want to follow Him. If we stop and ask for His breath of discernment through His Word (The Bible), and His Holy Spirit in us then we can determine a course of action that is not led by fickle emotions, but is led by a strong, faithful, and good God.
So today I did just that. I felt the weight of defeat, and the strong desire to quit. I allowed myself to feel the feelings, but I refused to make a decision in the middle of them. I opened my Bible, and listened to worship music. I took some time to think through a few things so that I could make a wise decision in the midst of raw emotions:
- Who Is God? What is His proven character?
- Who has He called me to be?
- Why did I initially set out to reach my goals?
As I dug into God’s word and prayed, Esther chapter 4 came to mind. Esther is positioned to be the deliverer of the Jews from a recently passed law that ordered their death and annihilation (no pressure, right?). Esther had her doubts about her role. She was scared, and she wanted out. Her calling was weighty, and there was much at stake. She wrote a letter to her adoptive father, Mordecai, about her feelings. His response was direct, to say the least:
“Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. 14For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” (Esther 4: 13-14)
Mordecai calls Esther to the carpet, lays out the consequences of her backing down, and then reminds her of her royal position. It was no accident that she was where she was, and it was up to her to step forward and own it. She would be the one to experience loss if she quit.
But she didn’t quit. She felt the emotions, she sought counsel, she prayed, and then she obeyed. Feelings and all, she stepped out to finish what she was called to do. She rescued the Jews through wise obedience and follow through.
I want to be like that. I want to punch fear in the face and press on, one foot in front of the other, continuing to do each “next right thing” all the way to victory.
So what is it in your life that you are discouraged by? What is hard right now? What do you want to quit? Is it a job? Or your weight loss goal? Or that dream you’ve been trying to run down? Maybe it’s your marriage? Or maybe it’s a bad habit you’ve been trying to break, but can’t seem to get a handle on?
Dear friend, don’t give up! Keep going!
Feel the feelings, but don’t act out of them. Stop. Pray. Read God’s Word. Listen. Seek counsel. And keep your eyes open.
One foot in front of the other, one moment at a time. Your story is being written, and you are in the dark, hard parts. But just past the pain is victory if you press on.
I’m with you in the trenches. Let’s soldier on, fight for noble good, and press on together.
I leave you with a favorite passage from Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings:
Sam: It’s like in the great stories Mr. Frodo, the ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were, and sometimes you didn’t want to know the end because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end it’s only a passing thing this shadow, even darkness must pass. A new day will come, and when the sun shines it’ll shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you, that meant something even if you were too small to understand why. But I think Mr. Frodo, I do understand, I know now folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going because they were holding on to something.
Frodo: What are we holding onto, Sam?
Sam: That there’s some good in the world, Mr. Frodo, and it’s worth fighting for.
Run Hard. Love Strong.
I love my husband. One of my favorite things about him is his ability to keep going through adverse circumstances with focus and consistency. He feels discouraged sometimes like any of us, but you would never know it. He’s a “one foot in front of the other” kind of guy, and he is dependably steady.
I, on the other hand, can be a hot mess of emotional decision making (can I get a witness?) If I’m in a bad mood, by golly my husband is going to know about it, even if I can put on a pretty face for those outside of my house.
If I feel discouraged or defeated I can easily fall victim to quitting because of bad belief systems, poor self-talk, or otherwise discouraged feelings.
I’m a writer and a speaker. I also happen to be training for my first half-marathon. I’m fairly certain that the phrases, “Running is dumb; writing is stupid,” came out of my mouth more than once last week (sorry, Adam. I didn’t mean it. You already know that though.)
My husband is good for me. He challenges me in a way that I need to be challenged. It’s irritating how right he is most of the time (ha).
Adam says something to me on a regular basis when I’m not sure what to do next, whether it’s figuring out how to best structure a day’s to-do’s, or whether it’s monumental, life-changing decision making: “Do the next right thing.”
After being married to Adam for going on 8 years I now hear his voice in my head anytime I feel discouraged or stuck: “Do the next right thing.”
The next. right. thing.
When I don’t know what to do, when I’ve lost vision for the moment, the day, or the season of life, when I’ve lost vision, or feel discouraged by the goal(s) I have, what is the very next right thing?
Saturday morning at 6:15am the last thing I wanted to do was get up and run 5 miles. But as my husband snoozed on next to me, I once again heard his (loving, irritating, but oh-so-right) voice in my head, “Do the next right thing.” In that moment the next right thing was defying my feelings, and choosing to lace up my shoes.
I have never regretted following that advice. I’ve often regretted ignoring it.
Sometimes we use the phrase “don’t just go through the motions.” I agree that we don’t want to coast through life going through motions, or being disconnected from passion. But there are times when going through the motions is exactly what we need to do. Our hearts and feelings can so quickly deceive us, and we convince ourselves to do what our hearts tell us to do, when wisdom says to choose–not feel, choose–the next right thing.
We don’t have to know every step. We don’t have to give up. We simply need to show up, and choose the next words, the next attitudes, the next actions that are right, and then after that take the next right step, and so forth.
Next time you feel stuck–whether it’s stuck in a bad mood (ah hem…totally me on Saturday), stuck in reaching your goals, or stuck any where else in your life…what is your next right step?