“Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.” (1 Peter 1:13)
On December 31, 2012 I came across this verse as I was studying 1 Peter. At the time I had no idea what “prepare your minds for action” really meant. That idea perplexed me: What could it mean to prepare a mind for action?
This morning (Tuesday) I came across this verse again and revelation dawned upon me. Our first weeks together learning to embrace our new normal have all been about preparing our minds for action! We have looked at length at the fears we have in leaving behind our current “comfort zone.” We have searched our minds and hearts for God’s new direction. And, we have learned we are not alone. We have been preparing our minds to embrace (an action), to move forward (also an action), and to let go (another action).
Last week I shared with you the general life-positions you have shared with me. Did you notice that we are all in that place where we are thinking about picking up one foot from the place we have been standing and moving it toward where we believe God is calling us? Ladies, I believe it’s time to take that step. We are done looking back in preparation for action. Its’ time to look forward with the singular purpose of taking just ONE step. Not finishing the journey. Not reaching a destination we might describe as having “arrived.” No, just ONE step forward.
“Brothers I do not consider myself yet to have token hold of it (knowing Christ fully, see Philippians 3:10-12). But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead. I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14)
Moving forward is not as simple as it sounds. I know it’s scary. I get bombarded with worries such as: “Will I take a step in the right direction?” “Is this the right time to take a step?” I become fear-filled that I might make a mistake and so I begin to run through every scenario and create every contingency plan I can think of that allows me to move forward with the least amount of unknown, conflict, and fear possible. The result? All that noise crowded out the hope and excitement of moving forward and I got stuck. If the conversations I have been having with each of you are any indication, you got stuck in one way or another too.
I heard something recently, however, that has released me from all that fear of making a mistake. I cannot remember where or who or even the exact wording (that’s how overwhelmed I was when I heard it) but it went something like this: God allows mistakes into our lives to prove to us He can overcome them all. It’s not failure when things don’t go the way we planned or hope but rather God’s way of growing our strength, perseverance, and character. Having to head back to the proverbial drawing board and re-evaluate our thinking is NOT a sign of failure, but rather success! We now know what isn’t working!
When I view my fears of not choosing the right time or direction in these terms I see that these times are where God is glorified the most! I can look back (and I’m sure you can too) and name many times where God allowed me to move away from Him or ahead of His timing only to rescue me from it! How do I view those times today? In amazement! God sees me and He loves me so much that even when I move without Him He uses it to make me better anyway!
How can we NOT take that step forward now?
“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.” (Isaiah 43:18-19)
It’s these thoughts that have overpowered my mind this past week. I have felt released from having to do things right, released from the fear of making a mistake so big that somehow I will make God mad at me (the root of that particular fear for me). As those fears have subsided I have been able to see that even while I was preparing my mind for action, God has raised my foot: it is no longer on the step within my comfort zone, but raised—poised above the next step on my journey. I have already begun moving forward!
Since we are on this journey to embrace our new normal together I want to share with you what I have been up to. Maybe something I have been doing will help you.
- I have been working with a life coach. I needed someone to see my life from a different perspective and to give me small bites of action in order to break through the fears. It has been an incredible experience!
- I have been educating myself. While at the time I thought the leadership class I was selected to participate in would be helpful to improve my skills for running Peace of Mind Ministries, I have found that God is using the leadership books (as well as a few others I have picked up) to help sharpen my focus for leading my family. I am learning how to do what God is calling me to do.
- I have been having conversations. I have been telling friends (like you!) what I am experiencing and thinking. I have been asking my family about things I am thinking of doing. I have been much more transparent about ideas and thoughts and dreams, and inviting those I am talking with to keep me focused on the path God has for me.
These are just a few possible things we can do to help ourselves move forward. What have you been up to? Better yet, what nudges from God to move have you been ignoring? Why? Please leave a comment below and let us know what you have been up to!
Father, I praise You in Your infinite love for each of us. While we have allowed our fear of the unknown, our sadness about leaving something behind, and our worry of making a mistake overwhelm us, You have been up to greatness in our lives. You have been preparing our hearts and our minds to move forward. You have given us a direction and have strengthened our resolve to trust You. Please Father, remind each woman reading this that You are in control. That You will guide her step. That You love her so much that nothing she could ever do could turn You away from her. In Jesus’ name, AMEN!
I am praying for you!
If you haven’t already read Joanne Ellsion’s blog post for this week, you can do so by clicking here: Making Space for God Mondays: In Your Thoughts. It’s a great post! Don’t miss out!
Today I set eagerly out to paint the hallway that leads from our main floor living room down into our basement. This hallway has bugged me for a while, but until pressed with two upcoming parties in my home this weekend I wasn’t too jazzed about cleaning it up…entertaining has a way of motivating me to make improvements I would otherwise leave for another time. But, as I cut in the edges around the stairs and rolled the walls I found myself wandering through thoughts. Would it snow? When would the repairman get her to fix my ice maker? Would I make it on time to see Taylor swim this afternoon? What would we do for dinner between the swim meet and TaeKwonDo? Why was I so tired today? Would the paint color look ok? So many questions, and so few answers. Before I know it I had determined it wouldn’t snow (bummer), that the repairman would show up in the last 15 minutes of the 4-hour window making me miss Taylor swim her race (of course!) which would push me off to arriving just in time to pick her up, turn right back around and then head out for some quick dinner (I am so tired of eating out lately!) before sitting through an hour of waiting while my son complained about why he had to come with us in the evening to watch his sister do her TKD when he wanted to be home playing xbox (I loathe whining…) My eagerness turned sour and I grew impatient that it was taking so long, snapped when my son interrupted me to give me a hug (uugghh), and my anxiety level, which was fairly normal just a few hour before, skyrocketed.
Have you ever begun your day fairly relaxed only to end up stressed just a few hours later without anything ever really happening?
What happened? I allowed my thoughts to turn into determinations about what would happen, jumping ahead of God’s timing for any of it and buying into the lies the enemy so discreetly offered. I forgot to stop and think about what I was thinking about.
We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:5)
Our thought life is powerful. So powerful that it can dictate actions and/or reactions, which can then become behaviors, which can then become habits. Some of these are good, like when we think about our future and decide we want to be active and take steps to live a healthy lifestyle now. Others, however, are not so positive. Like those thoughts that tell us we are ugly, or stupid, or incompetent which cause us to decide we aren’t good enough. In my book, Cultivating Peace I call these types of thoughts weeds. Weeds are the lies that we believe that infect our perceptions of the work God is doing in our lives. When we do not take the time to make space in our thoughts for God and His Truth, we end up infected by weeds…overrun to the point where, as in my case, we are so stressed out that our health and the relationships we hold most dear are infected by them as well.
It doesn’t have to be this way though. We CAN defeat the enemy’s ability to plant the weeds in the first place. Joanne mentions three things we can do:
- Ask God to give us the mind of Christ so that we can look through each thought with His eyes instead of our own.
- Examine the struggle, looking to the root of the situation. When we find it we are to break the agreement we have made with the enemy (an agreement is made when we accept as truth the lie the enemy is telling us. Like when Eve believed the lie that Satan told her about eating the forbidden fruit (Genesis 3:1-6)
- Agree with God through accepting His Word as Truth over the thought we have in our heads.
- STOP allowing thoughts to just run through our minds. Philippians 4:8 says we are to focus on specific things in our thoughts: Finally,brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
- Seek God’s wisdom about who we are and believe Him: ”If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.” (James 1:5-6)
- Memorize Scripture. The ONLY way I have been to remember that my savior Jesus has defeated the enemy and that has no longer has any power in my life is to call to mind Scripture that has encouraged me, inspired me, opened my eyes and revealed lies.
Here are the new normals we are trying to embrace:
- Transitioning from one area of life focus to another
- A new job in a new location
- Having to step out of our comfort zone to be more publicly visible
- Moving forward with reconciliation when divorce seemed imminent
- Moving forward as a widowed woman/mom
- Moving into a new job/ministry area through resistance and turmoil
- Re-defining after a very draining time
- Re-defining after the kids are all gone
- Managing a family member’s emotional illness
- Determining how God might want to use gifts and talents
Apparently last week I somehow linked to the right words, but watched the video message that was for this week’s lesson! I have no idea how I did that! To rectify the situation I am writing this post based on what Joanne Ellsion shared in her video message LAST week. I am also including links to the other two posts I have written as follow-ups to her posts so that you can get all three of her Making Space for God Monday’s posts. I am so sorry for the confusion!
This week, I am focusing on what I should have written last week (:0) ) Here is the link to that particular post: Making Space for God Mondays: In Your Schedule
In this post Joanne uses an acronym that I think is really important to remember: B.U.S.Y Being Under Satan’s Yoke
Most of the women I know would describe their lives as busy without giving their answer a second thought. There is a lot going on in the world and since we are living in it we often have a lot going on too. However, there is B.U.S.Y and there is busy. The difference comes in our choices of what we are filling our days with.
I often speak to women about the importance of spending their time according to the priorities God has placed in their lives. Mine include seeking God’s will in developing my relationship with Him, my husband, my children, my family, keeping my home, and running Peace of Mind Ministries. You may have different priorities. Trying to manage all the areas of priority in our lives is the source of the busyness we experience. The key to discerning the difference between being B.U.S.Y and being busy however, is in our choice to seek God’s will for how to fill our days rather than following our own plans.
When we seek our own will for managing our priorities we inevitably follow our sinful natures. We really can’t help it. We say yes when we really want to say no because we don’t want to disappoint someone or we are afraid of looking a certain way. We add things to our schedules, from taking on extra activities for our kids to wanting to be the super-hostess, because by default we want to do it all (put another way, we really don’t want to let anyone down…) B.U.S.Y is how satan keeps us distracted. We get too busy to pray, rest, play, relax, and enjoy the life we have been given. We experience guilt, weariness, and hopelessness. We live under the yoke of drudgery, miserably continuing the overwhelming routine because either we don’t know how to change or we figure it’s just the way things are supposed to be.
BUT, Jesus tells us something different. He tells us that if we take His yoke upon us we will have a whole different kind of busy:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
He also tells us that he came so that we may have life to the full:
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)
Being busy under Jesus yoke does not drain us, leave us weary and bitter, or steal our peace. It does not cultivate guilt or despair or hopelessness either. There is no drudgery. Instead, there is peace amid the chaos, contentment with who we are and what we have, and joy in facing a challenge. There is strength to say “no” to the things that are not a part of God’s will for us and energy to say “yes” to His plans. This type of busy is living each day with hope, not matter what we face.
How do we change from being B.U.S.Y to being busy??
- Make time to pray and ask God to show you His will every day.
- Listen and do what He tells you.
This weeks post is designed to help you “Be still…”(Psalm 46:10) and let God speak to you. Before you read further, be sure to have some time and a pen and paper handy. I am praying the insights God provides may be just what you need to take the next step forward!
Have you ever considered the place we are in, this time of learning to embrace a new normal, as a place of tension where you are caught between two things? That is where I have been this past week. I imagine myself standing; arms outstretched, with my left hand holding a rope; holding on to the known, and my right hand reaching out to another rope, the unknown, just out of reach. My face is an image of confusion and frustration and worry. Looking back and forth between both arms I don’t want to let go of the left, but I know I must in order to grasp the right.
I think that’s what it is supposed to feel like when we are struggling to embrace a new normal though. On one side there is the life we have been leading with all its routines and comforts: the “known.” On the other side is what we feel we are moving into, maybe what we are drawn to, and it is filled with unknowns: change. I want to embrace the new normal, but letting go of what I am comfortable with is harder than I imagined it would be. Even though I know where I want to stay is not where God wants me to remain, I still struggle to move forward.
Can you relate?
If you’ll remember just a few short weeks ago I was struggling with identifying HOW God wanted to change the direction of my life. I knew a change was coming but wasn’t sure what direction I was supposed to be headed. Well, I asked Him for a clear direction, and I got one: God has been clear that He wants me to place ministry work back at the bottom for a while (it was at the top as I was writing Cultivating Peace) and make a much more concerted effort to minister to my children and husband.
What change in direction are you facing? What do you have to let go of in order to follow God?
Change is emotional. My heart feels divided. I find myself fearful of somehow being a disappointment. I become overwhelmed because I do not know how to change. I feel a tiny bit of regret too: now that the season I have been in is shifting into a different one I find myself wishing I would have done some things differently.
What emotions are you facing?
But, God is so good. He knows my innermost being (Psalm 139:13) so He understands my struggle to trust Him enough to let go. In His grace-filled mercy with me He has started with small things; little tests if you will that have inconsequential meaning, but are readying me to let go of the rope on the left so I can embrace the one on the right. His big question for me has been will I put my priorities in order according to how He wants me to or how I want? Many of these tests have been small (like will I work on this blog post or do the laundry first? Hence, why this post didn’t arrive earlier today…), but the activities are not what are important: the order of doing these things was the test. I wanted to do what I felt comfortable doing first (the usual, the routine… the “known”) but God wanted me to do things His way.
What tests of obedience is God giving to you?
The past few days, as I have been praying and thinking over what I am experiencing in these tests, I have come to realize that much of the frustration I am feeling about this time of transition comes from the fact that I am taking too long staring at the rope I am holding on to, looking back at what I have to let go of. I am choosing to focus on the choice rather than the outcome. But this has gotten me nowhere. Why? Because when I focus on the choice I am trying to live by sight, not by faith.
“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1.)
Are you living by sight or by faith?
Here’s the thing. If we truly believe God is who He says He is, then we have to believe His Word as well. His word tells us that we are chosen, (1 Peter 2:9), that He will guide us (Psalm 48:14) and that He will never leave or forsake us (Psalm 9:10). Since that is true then letting go of the known and embracing the unknown does not need to be filled with confusion, worry, or frustration. Even though we may have no idea WHY He is orchestrating this shift in priorities, we can move confidently forward because of His everlasting love for us.
“The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.”(Jeremiah 31:3)
When you focus on God’s love for you, how does that impact the changes He’s asking you to make?
This time of transition can be peace-filled when we choose to look at it not as a letting go of something, but as a natural part of the growth process we must experience in order to become fully devoted followers of Christ Jesus. Every thing we have experienced is not being wiped away, but molded together into something new: Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!( 2 Corinthians 5:17). Letting go doesn’t have to mean never again…all we are being made into is made up of all we have been. Letting go isn’t about leaving behind either, it’s about allowing God to use it to further grow us into what He created us to be.
We have a choice before us. Will we stubbornly hold on to what we know or will we trust God enough to follow Him?
The words of a song I heard this past weekend come to mind here:
I have decided to follow Jesus;
No turning back, no turning back.
Though none go with me, I still will follow;
No turning back, no turning back.
The world behind me, the cross before me;
No turning back, no turning back. (Author: Sadhu Sundar Singh, edited repetitions are mine)
What will you choose?
I am praying for you!
PS: Please don’t forget you can comment here or send me an email with any prayer requests and/or AHA! moments. I would LOVE to hear from you!
Towards the end of last year I could readily identify with verse 5 of Psalm 43 : Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? (you’ll remember my year verse for 2013 is Psalm 43:3-5) I had just published Cultivating Peace and fully believed I would now dive into marketing the book and growing Peace of Mind Ministries. That seemed the logical next step, only I had no idea how to do what I thought needed to be done, and no money or time to figure it all out. At the same time, my kids’ and husband’s schedules and needs seemed to grow exponentially: from drive time for activities to emotional turmoil, I was overwhelmed with trying to manage them and figure out how to move forward for the book and ministry. For the first time in a long time I felt no peace in any area of my life, but I didn’t really understand why.
At first I believed I had done something wrong. I wasn’t managing my time well enough. I wasn’t crafting the right messages to secure donations for the ministry. I wasn’t paying enough attention to my kids. I grew angry at the slightest interruption (a big red light for me), stopped eating well (read: dove into chocolate and sweets) and stopped working out. When I cried out to God to fix it, I felt nothing. Depression set in and I got stuck.
Is that where you are today in the process of embracing your new normal? Feeling stuck? Not sure where you need to go next, but definitely wanting to leave where you are right now behind?
Well, after several conversations with honest friends, (Thank you! You know who you are!!) it became clear that my stuck-ness in embracing a new normal was rooted in the fact that I was trying to force an agenda that was mine, not God’s.
First, PRIDE had grown in my heart. While I believe with all my heart that God gave me the message of peace to freely share with any woman who would listen, a focus on money had taken root and I had begun to associate my success with things like book sales, blog followers, Facebook reach, and calls for speaking engagements (all money-generating avenues). God knew before I did that I was heading down a dark path, and so He stopped me before it got too ugly by drying up this area of my life so that I would stop what I was doing, turn to Him, and ask “Why?” How do I know this was a sinful area for me? I tested it out. I decided that instead of worrying about how to get the money I needed to do what I wanted, I would give away all the copies of the book that I had (about 50), give away the supplemental videos I am creating for the new book on my website, and placed my trust in God to provide the funds when His timing for the next project occurred. From that moment on, my peace in this area of my life has been restored.
The second thing was that I wasn’t paying attention to the priorities in my life properly. Once I removed the priority of my success, it became clear that God was leading me to focus more on the growth and development of my family. At first I did not want to make them my total focus. It’s important to note that because I believe many times we experience chaos in our lives because we try to fight God in re-organizing our priorities. Once I stopped making it a priority to grow book sales, followers, and the ministry, and instead used that time to focus more on my family, I had peace in this area of my life as well.
Two shifts of priorities: one less, and one more. That’s all it took to restore my peace. It has been a few weeks since I made these changes and I have the benefit of looking back on it, but I believe there are some key indicators in our stuck-ness that once focused on will help us to get un-stuck and on track faster.
- When areas of our life that were once blessed (read, moving forward smoothly…falling into place naturally…) become dry I believe we need to ask ourselves this question: “Is anything I am doing in this area based on a sinful thought, behavior or action?” If our answer is “yes,” STOP, repent, and turn away from it. If our answer is “no,” STOP and look for other areas in our lives that are being blessed, are growing in how much time they require, or are more emotionally involved than they had been. Taking the time to evaluate why areas of our lives are drying up gives us the opportunity to place our HOPE in God’s plans rather than frustrate ourselves trying to make God fit into our plans.
- For both answers to question one, the next step is to begin a conversation with God about balancing our priorities by asking Him “How do my priorities need to be re-arranged?” This is a KEY question to getting un-stuck because it forces us to look at the priorities in our lives and evaluate their needs, rather than focus on our own wants. When we do this we look at our lives from God’s perspective and can seem more clearly where he is guiding us. Embracing our new normal requires a shift in the balance of the priorities in our lives. It does not mean we have messed up, but rather that what once worked in our lives for the season we were in, will not work for the season we are entering.
I know last Friday I said I would do this link-up on Friday’s but I feel compelled not to wait. I hope this encourages you and gives you HOPE! Here’s the link to Joanne Ellison’s latest post on Making Space for God: “Making Space in our Schedules” Don’t forget to read it!
This week Joanne said something that pierced my heart: “In order to become a better Martha, we have to become a better Mary.”
If you do not know the story of Mary and Martha, you can find it here: Luke 10:38-42
Long story short, Martha is a do-er and Mary knows how to be still. When Martha complains to Jesus that Mary isn’t helping her prepare all the food for the guests, Jesus corrects Martha and reminds her that what Mary is doing is too important not to do.
Hmmm… how many of us prefer to “do” in order to prepare for God rather than just be with Him!
I know that I certainly prefer to “do” rather than be still. It seems more productive, more time-worthy, than just sitting. Maybe you are like that too? Preferring to continually move throughout your day doing rather than sitting and listening? I wonder if that lifestyle is having the same effect on you as it did on me: short on patience, rushing everywhere, freaking out if something on the schedule fell-through or went longer than planned for…living each day trying to control the chaos.
Does this mean we have to stop doing? NO! I believe Joanne hits it on the head with her statement. In order to be the most effective in what we do, in order to do what really needs to be done, we have to make the time to be still at the feet of Jesus and listen for His direction. When we do He gives us a clarity of focus, freedom from worry, order to the to-do list chaos, and balance of the priorities in our lives.
How do I know all this? Because doing without being still almost ruined my life. It wasn’t until I understood the importance of being still with the purpose of listening for and following the direction of Jesus that I was able to recover from the chaos my life was in. Daily I must make the choice to follow Him over taking on more than He has planned. That’s the choice we all have. When we begin our day focused on God (as in how Joanne suggested in her first post of this series) and then commit to learning to listen at least as much (some seasons of life will require more listening and less doing) as we try to do, I believe we will find the peace in our to-do list madness that we long for.
How to Be Still:
- We have to plan for it! Put a time to be with God in your schedule FIRST, before you plan out the rest of the day. It works like tithing does: when you commit to God before anything else, He does honor it!
- Use the right tools. I use a calendar that has what I call a Schedule Tracker and Tracker To-Do list (free tool download!). Each week (or each day) I list what I would like to do and then plan it out according to the structure of my day. When I run out of spaces I know I cannot do anymore.
- Create a margin. When we back up things to do one after another we live without having space to breathe. We also create added potential chaos: If we have so much to do that we cannot stop for fear of not getting it all done we miss out on the opportunity to be present in the moment. Leave breathing room in your day! I promise that if you commit your day to God first, take time to be still, what needs to get done WILL get done!
PS: If you would like to know how I learned to balance my Martha with more Mary, check out my book: Cultivating Peace:Revealing God’s Peace within Your Chaos.
A couple of weeks ago I received a post from Joanne Ellison announcing that she was inviting fellow women to link their blogs to her upcoming blog series: Making Space for God. Since one of the main pathways to peace that I share is making time for God every day, I though this would be a good fit. This past Monday was her first post called “Making Space Each Morning.” In it Joanne challenged all of us busy women to make three things our first priority every morning:
- Begin your day before getting out of bed by looking heavenward and saying: “Here I am, (your name) the one that you love.” This serves as a reminder for us that God is near and that He loves us.
- Then, add “Here’s my schedule for the day. Have your way with it. Keep off what doesn’t belong, and add in what You want there.” I don’t think it really matters if we have our physical calendars in front of us. What’s important here is that we focus on letting God lead us through our days.
- Last, add “Please open up my spiritual eyes and my spiritual ears so I may see You and hear You all day long.”
One little 30 second prayer can change everything. Will you try it out and see for yourself?
Father, please help us to remember to think of You first each morning. Help us to put in place the filter that helps us see our world through your perspective. Keep us from fear, anxiety, and doubt. Help us to trust Your timing, Your plan for each day, one day at a time. Amen
Joanne will doing a new blog every Monday. I will post my follow-up links on Fridays. If you would like to receive her blog posts directly in your email in-box each Monday, click HERE and sign up on the right-hand margin of her blog site.
As I begin to write today I have a huge smile on my face and it’s all because of YOU. I am greatly encouraged by the FACT that I know I am not alone in this. Thank you for your comments letting me know you are in on this with me! Know that I am praying daily for you while we are on this journey together for the next 8 weeks!
One of the strongest battles I believe I face in a time of transition is remembering that God has a plan. In my head I can tell you that (and once safely through the transition I can look back and see the path of His plan), but my heart is often filled with fear at the thought of unknown changes to the routine I have become comfortable with. I do not like when the status-quo changes. I am reminded of the words of a Nicole Nordman song called Brave that goes like this: “So long status-quo, I think I just let go, You make me want to be brave, I want to be brave.” Appropriate, don’t you think? Isn’t it courage that we need when faced with the unknown? Isn’t courage the result of bravery…that choice to face head-on whatever is coming next? How though do we get the strength to make the choice to be brave?
I believe it has a lot to do with how we perceive the transition. If we continue to see the time of transition, that space of days or weeks or months or years, with longing for the way things used to be we cut off our ability to see the new thing that God is doing in our lives as anything positive. Scripture tells us though that our times of struggle are meant to grow our perseverance, strengthen our character, and give us HOPE:
“…we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” (Romans 3:3-5)
Hope is a spiritual blessing in the midst of a trial. It doesn’t deny reality but instead comes from rejoicing in the fact that we have an ever-present help in our time of need, a refuge and external source of strength no matter what comes our way. (Psalm 46:1-3)
When I remember and focus on that fact more than on what’s going on around me I receive hope. The more I hope, the more I am grateful and thankful for what God has already done which allows me to see more clearly that what He is doing now will result in the same praise of thanksgiving once it has reached it’s completion. When I stop there I am resting in God’s provision, His plan, and His timing for whatever transition I am going through. That’s where I find the strength to take the next step into the unknown; to make the choice to be brave and let go of the status-quo in order to embrace a little more fully the new thing God is doing.
I have spoken with many of you over the past week about the transitions you are going through and my heart aches with a longing for the peace you are lacking to come, and for hope to flood your hearts. Despair is a great enemy. I know. A few weeks ago I shared that God was doing a new thing and that I was clueless about what it was.(link to post) That alone made me queasy, but when I felt God reveal His new path for me for now, I was downright nauseated. I believe that God is calling me to focus on strengthening my family as the primary source of all my attention, strength, energy, and focus. After hashing it out with God (Hadn’t I been giving my all? Wasn’t I balancing a home-school life with an in-school life and all the kids activities and my husbands crazy schedule? Couldn’t I keep my time for my self and the ministry? Had I messed up and ruined something?) I became convicted that while I was managing my family, I wasn’t leading it. At the moment, I have no idea what to do with that…another piece with no next step just yet, but I am HOPE-filled at God’s answer, finally (I DID have to hash it out with Him after all…). It’s that process though that I want to share with you so that you too can see this time of change with HOPE.
How to Cultivate HOPE in the Unknown during a Time of Transition:
1. Focus on Scripture. Daily reading God’s word is essential, as is daily prayer and surrender. This is where our year’s verse comes in. Having a particular scripture to focus our days, prayers, and reactions can help us rest in His strength and trust Him more. My verse for 2013 is Psalm 43:3-5. A couple others I have found helpful are: Job 2:10 “Shall we accept Good from God and not trouble?” and Psalm 46:1 and Romans 5:3-5 (included above).
2. Repent of your resistance to God’s direction. It’s an easy reaction to resist change, but as followers of Christ we are called to embrace God AND His plan, not stand in opposition to Him. What have you been doing to resist God? Me, I was dragging my feet in coming to him and actually listening to what He was telling me. I was fighting against Him to keep things the way I wanted. I was complaining and whining like a two-year-old who I wanted her own way. Once I recognized the sinfulness of those reactions, asked for God’s forgiveness, and determined to change I felt a huge weight lift and received not only the next step but also HOPE that He would help me understand and follow Him.
3. Remember His blessings in your life. Every time (not always immediately though) I begin to panic at the change that needs to be made in how I live the life He has given me, I try to stop and remember all the ways God has already walked me through all the other transitions in my life. At the time, each one seemed bigger than the one before it, but God walked me safely through them all. In that moment I can see how He has blessed my life, and the lives of those around me because of those times, and my HOPE is re-affirmed and strengthened.
This week’s “assignment” is for you to take time with each of the three steps above. Read your Bible daily or focus on the Scripture God has given you for this year intentionally: What is God trying to tell you? Where have you been trying to resist God? What sinful thoughts, attitudes and behaviors have you let in? What blessings has He bestowed on your life already? How can you praise God for what He has not only already done in your life but is also doing right now?
Father, please guide us this week in cultivating HOPE. Leaving behind the status-quo is scary. Help us to be brave. Help us to remember your blessings, leave behind sinful reactions, and step forward into whatever it is you have for us next with courage. Lord, You alone are our strength, our refuge when we are scared during the storms of our lives. Encourage us with Your word, and send your Holy Spirit to remind us of who we are in Christ: loved, protected, and safe no matter what comes our way. Amen.
Here’s a link to Nicole’s Song. Take a few minutes to listen and be encouraged to be brave!
P.S: Can you guess what my word for the year is???
Have you ever looked forward to something? The first day of a new school year, an incredible vacation, the birth of a child, a wedding day or…
Do you recall how you were feeling as you looked forward to that day? Do you remember focusing on all the details that needed to be tended to before the day arrived?
My wedding day was over 17 years ago, but I remember all the work I put in to preparing for it. I even have a binder full of lists, pictures, and ideas I wanted to incorporate into the big day. I was working full-time then, but I did not see the the added “work” of preparing for a wedding as a burden; I welcomed the additions to my already full schedule because I anticipated a positive outcome to the work I was doing.
It’s that frame of mind we need to shift into as we begin this journey together. Whatever changes are occurring in our life are there because God has something better in store for us than what we are currently experiencing. Changing our hearts and minds and yes, even schedules, to accommodate the changes He is making may seem overwhelming right now though, especially since we do not have a specific image of the outcome we are planning for. I don’t know about you, but when I feel overwhelmed I tend to put off thinking or focusing on that area and instead fill up on sweets and mindless TV or I go into a massive cleaning spree. What do you do? Do you avoid the situation? Do you shop, or eat or run or…? Rarely do I stop and focus on listening to what God may be trying to tell me. I wish that was my default reaction, but it isn’t (yet!).
I think it’s the unknown that causes me to drag my feet and put off the time I need to take to be quiet, listen, and reflect. I have found myself working through all manner of things this week: clearing out my email inbox, cleaning my house, setting up my calendar with the kid’s events, but none of this is part of what I KNOW I need to do: Be still and listen for God’s direction.
I wonder if that’s what’s going on with you too?
I don’t believe this is a healthy way to begin to anticipate the goodness God is doing in my life, so this weekend I am committing to spending one hour just sitting and focusing on God. My intent is to listen for His voice in order that my anxiousness about the changes He is working in my life may be quieted. I want to receive His love, to “Open my mind and heart –my entire being–to receive the love of Christ in full measure.” (Sarah Young, 40 Days with Jesus, day 28)
What will you do? Will you take the time to sit quietly and listen, to be filled to over-flowing with His love and peace?
On Wednesday, January 9, I will post again, sharing what God is telling me through the word and Scripture verse He has given me for this year. I will also share the changes I believe He is making in my life and what I feel about them. If you look HERE at the comments section you will see who is coming together on this journey (If you are reading this and have not commented yet, please do just to let us know you are here :0) ). It would be a good idea to check the box at the bottom of the comments section that says “notify me of new comments by email” for each post during this series so other’s comments make their way to you easily. It is my hope that you will share your word and/or verse next week as well as the changes you are facing so that we might commit to praying specifically for one another. You can be vague about your changes too, God knows what you need and will intercede for us on your behalf: “ In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.” Romans 6:26)
Until then, here is my prayer for us:
I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:16-19)
PS: Here’s a link to a blog by Jeanne Ellison about making space for God.
Looking for a dynamic, personable speaker for your next church retreat or ladies meeting ?
Look no further!
- No Leading Allowed
- The Next Book You Need to Read!
- Saying Good-by…for Now
- Making Space for God Link-Up: Worry-Free Parenting
- Already There
- Making Space for God Link-Up: Cultivating Wisdom
- Roller Coaster Faith
- Making Space for God Link-Up: Prioritizing Marriage
- Overcoming Doubt
- Making Space For God Link-Up: The Kindness Challenge
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