4.15.2014

When the Rescue of Jesus Is Different Than We Envision

Imagine the scene in real time.  Not like we understand it now with a complete picture…a succinct story we’ve made into books and movies.  But imagine it as it was. 

All the people had been following him, hearing him teach about the kingdom, the one reality that would make hundreds of years of oppression right.  Each person who bought into his teaching was eagerly expecting for him to bring justice and peace.  And then in a moment, he is seized and is sentenced to death.  He dies.  Right in their midst.   This revolutionary, their hoped for king…killed.  Right there.  Right as they were going along with him.  Dead. 

How could this even be?

Doubt.

Fear.

Questioning everything.

Days of confusion follow.

A few of them meet a stranger on the road and tell him their story:

…but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel.*

The stranger (who is actually him, their king, now fully alive again) explains it all to them, opening their minds to understand what had been talked about for so long. 

The making everything right was for far more than their singular moment in human history.  It was for far more than ushering in a tangible kingdom.  It was for the opportunity of rescue and redemption for all people of all time.  Rescue and redemption beyond the physical world and on into the spiritual.  Rescue and redemption of not just a nation in the tangible realm, but rescue and redemption of souls for all time and eternity. 

The stranger went on to tell them: “It is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in His name to all nations, beginning in Jerusalem.  You are witnesses of these things.” **

His rescue was for far more than their moment or their physical world.  His rescue was so much bigger than the earthly kingdom they were hoping He’d create.  Yet, for so many of his followers, the deep, eternal, and spiritual rescue and Kingdom He ushered looked so different than what they’d imagined.

They had imagined a world where the Messiah (Jesus) would come and start an earthly kingdom.  A kingdom where his followers would live a life that had been made right for them on this earth.  I imagine they envisioned a life with him as the ruling king and them free from oppression, struggle, and pain.  A life on this earth filled with peace and justice. 

But that’s not what he came to usher in.  He (Jesus) came to set people fully free.  Not just free for their short time on earth, but free for all eternity.  He set up an intangible Kingdom that can be seen in the lives of his followers even today.  People who truly follow Jesus, who have turned to him to rescue their very souls and engage with him to set them free…those people experience a level of freedom, transformation, hope, healing, and peace that is an expression of the reality of the spiritual Kingdom Jesus began that day when he came back to life. 

Only, so many of us who follow him find ourselves in very similar realities as his first followers. We come to Jesus and follow Him and begin to dream up how He’ll work out His restoration and healing in our lives.  It looks so nice and pretty and pain-free in our minds.  Yet, often, His greatest works of restoration and healing do not look anything like what we had in mind.  Our ideas of nice and pretty healing and restoration are often so incredibly inferior to his full healing and restoration. 

Just like his first followers who thought he’d come and sit on a throne here on earth, making this tangible existence right, we often think he’ll just touch a little part of our heart and we can have a nice little experience of healing.  Just as his actual plan for his Kingdom was so far beyond that picture of a physical kingdom, so it is in our lives that his plan for full healing and restoration is so far beyond our nice little self-made pictures of being restored. 

Much like his followers’ needed rescue from more than just their physical reality, we, too, need rescue from so much more than we realize.  Often the full picture of restoration is a result of Jesus changing so much more in our soul, digging down so much deeper to set free things we didn’t even know were there, sometimes causing struggle that we never planned on.  Struggle because we aren’t sure we want to hand it all over to him.  Struggle because we thought it would be so much easier than this.  Struggle because those deep places are familiar and we aren’t familiar with what his full healing and freedom will be like.  Yet, he continues to work in our hearts because he knows he has so much more for us than we what we would settle for on our own. 

Too often in our American churched culture, we get that idea that after we start following Jesus, everything should just work out great for us.  That we should be healthy, wealthy, and wise.  But what if instead of just making us happy, Jesus wanted to set us free.  What if instead of just giving us everything we ever wanted, he wanted to give us everything he has.  Freedom.  Life.  Healing.  Restoration.  Wholeness. 

This is where we can get confused about what it means to follow Jesus if all we see is our idea of what he’ll do for us, when all he can do for us is so much more than we can ever imagine.  Just like his rescue of his followers 2,000 years ago was so much more than what they envisioned, his rescue of us still now is so much more than what we envision. 

What if you let go of your idea of what he’ll do for you and began to embrace the more that he possess and is actually offering you? 

* Luke 24:21

** Luke 24:46-48

4.07.2014

How to Cultivate Calling and Meaning in the Little Years of Motherhood

I wrote this in my last post:

I am convinced that part of why God is taking me through this process now is to dispel the myth that meaning and motherhood are mutually exclusive… For those of us who are moms, motherhood is definitely a substantial part of our calling and purpose, but it is not our entire calling and purpose

Let me begin today by clarifying some important points.  First, motherhood holds much meaning and purpose.  As a mom, you are nurturing, training, loving, protecting, encouraging, engaging, and guiding small people, young souls that have their own powerful place in this world.  You have profound purpose and meaning in motherhood.  Second, motherhood is not the sum of your purpose and meaning.  You are a uniquely designed person with gifts, abilities, callings, and purposes to both reflect God and to contribute to His Kingdom and the world around you.  Motherhood and meaning do not have a mutually exclusive relationship.  Meaning is neither absent from motherhood itself nor entirely wrapped up in it. 

In my last post, I wrote about how God is taking me through a process of re-revealing my gifts and callings and that in recent moments it has felt like a terribly inconvenient season to be rediscovering my purpose and design.  I wrote about trusting Him to fit the pieces of my life together (to read more, click here).

I am a mom to an almost four year old, a two and a half year old, and another little person not even born yet.  I am about to celebrate five years of being married to my husband.  And I stay home full-time.  I am right in this process with you, my fellow young moms.  I am wrestling with the same questions.  A necessary peace to just be present in this stage of life (and the limitations that come with this stage) combined with a Divine discontentment motivating me to not just put my gifts on a shelf to gather dust during these years. 

My hope in this post is to share a little of the practical pieces I’m walking through to engage my design during these little years of motherhood.  I hope that as you read, God will stir something in you that will take you on your own journey…one specific to your unique design, His specific purposes for you, and this season in your own family.  I am praying for you all who read this post, that this will be a divine moment, a movement toward Him and the purposes He is working out in and through your life. 

Jesus?

First and always first, take a moment to evaluate your connection with Jesus.  Do you know Him?  Do you talk with Him?  Does He change you at your core?  Is He the center of your existence?  Things will continue to be disjointed until He is the center.  If there is something lacking there, just start with that.  Look at your day, at your week.  When can you carve out time to connect with Him?  It may just be ten minutes a day.  It may just be prayer and meditation on one verse.  It may be buying a Bible study book and slowly working through it.  If you are not centered on Jesus, stop now and confess that to Him.  Ask Him to help you make a plan to re-center on Him.  And then walk it out.  Nothing else matters more than that.  And nothing else will come together in its fullest expression until He is central. 

All the planets of your life – your sexuality and desires, your commitments and beliefs, your aspirations and dreams, your attitudes and convictions, your habits and disciplines, your solitude and relationships, your labor and leisure, your thinking and feeling – all the planets of your life are held in orbit by the greatness and gravity and blazing brightness of the supremacy of Jesus at the center of your life.  If He ceases to be the blazing, bright, satisfying beauty at the center of your life, the planets will fly into confusion, a hundred things will be out of control, and sooner or later they will crash into destruction.  (John Piper, Sex and the Supremacy of Christ, pp. 37-38)

Your life’s deepest meaning and purpose will only be found in Him. 

Design?

One of the core ways we can understand our purpose and calling is to understand our design.  You were intentionally created by a loving God who designed you with a certain set of gifts, talents, abilities, and personality traits to be surrendered to Him and given to the world around you. He made you with your unique design to reflect His amazingness and to contribute to His Kingdom.

What do you love to do?  What makes your heart soar?  What is it that when you’re doing that thing, you lose track of time?  What do you dream about doing? 

In those answers, there is something that you must pay attention to.  You will discover common themes among your answers.  These passions and dreams are not coincidence, but Divinely orchestrated in your design. 

Further down, I will name some resources that can help you further unearth your design, how to offer it back to God, and what specifically to do as next steps. 

How and Where?

This is probably our biggest question as moms of little ones.  How in the world would I find time to do anything but take care of these little people, my husband, and my home?!?!

I get it.  For sure.  That’s been one of my greatest struggles.  Sometimes I look at the calendar and want to throw in the towel to quit the journey I am on…feeling like it is pointless to continue unearthing my design when there just seems like there is no space to fully express that design.

The reality is that my expression of my gifts, calling, purpose, and design is most likely going to be smaller during these little years than it was in the past and than it will be in the future.  It is absolutely necessary, though, that I don’t put my gifts on the shelf during this season just because their expression may be small.  No, in fact, it is vital that I cultivate them in whatever way I can.

One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much…  Luke 16:10 (ESV)

If you know what you were gifted to do, called to do, designed to do, ask God to show you the spaces in your life and the ways in your life that you can begin expressing those things that He put in you.  He will show you.

I’ve always loved writing and teaching women practical truth about God and how it applies to everyday life.  For the first year and a half of marriage and motherhood, it seemed like the season of expressing that had ended.  Until I began to evaluate what time and space I did have available.  The reality was that I did have naptimes.  And a computer.  So, I began to blog during naptimes.  I was using the space and time I did have to express a gift and a call that God has placed in me.  It was smaller than what I had done before.  But it was more than letting those gifts collect dust on a shelf. 

What has God gifted and called you to do?  What space and time do you have? 

You will have to think creatively.  You may even have to move around some pieces of your life to create space. 

I would highly suggest inviting your husband into this part of the process, sharing what God is doing in you and asking your husband to help you work out time, spaces, and ways to express your design.  He has the potential to be your best ally in this process.  He actually has a Biblical calling to live with you in an understanding as a co-heir of Christ with him (1 Peter 3:7).  So, give him a chance to fulfill his calling by inviting him into the journey God has you on right now.  Invite him in as a friend and as a teammate on your pursuit of meaning both in motherhood and outside motherhood. 

(I use the word “invite” very intentionally in that last paragraph.  A conversation about any of this with your husband should feel just like that: an invitation to join you.  It should not feel like guilt, disrespect, nagging, or berating.  Just something to keep in mind.)

Action Plan

I would recommend taking a journey through three books as you pursue the mutuality of meaning and motherhood. I would recommend reading through these books in this exact order.

The first book I would recommend is Anything by Jennie Allen.  This will set your heart on track with God and His ultimate calling on all of us.

Second, pick up Freefall to Fly by Rebekah Lyons.  This will engage your heart to take the risk of pursuing your design…even now in these early years.

Last, grab a copy of Jennie Allen’s book Restless.  This book will take you through a process of understanding your design and how to engage who you are for God’s glory. 



3.31.2014

An Inconvenient Season to Cultivate Calling

In a previous post, I shared a glimpse into how God is leading me to more than managing my life (click here to read).  I shared that He’s brought resources, books, and people into my life during this process to shed light on this truth that managing my grown up responsibilities isn’t all there is, that there is a life connected to Him with increasing purpose that I am designed to live.  That life includes my husband, kids, and home, but is not summed up in them or that.

In the last few weeks, I was asked to do a reflective exercise sharing experiences that brought me life and energy.  This exercise was broken into two parts for me: childhood and adulthood (adulthood being from late teenage years to now).  I had plenty of experiences and memories from both parts of my life and was delighted to see all that God has already done.  Then I was asked to put my age next to the experiences.  My heart lurched as I looked at the list of adult experiences that brought me life, all but one dropping off at the age of twenty-six.  What happened that year?  I got married, quit my job, quit my ministry roles, moved halfway across the country, and got pregnant.  Aside from writing, the passions of my heart had ceased from existence in my life.  A sharp drop off. 

I shared with Val that night about this reflective exercise.  Tears flowing.  This all felt like a trick.  Why would God have me look back and see the amazing things He had done in my life, the places I had soared, only to also see the stark drop off?  I was frustrated.  In the last year or so, I had come to a place of peace and contentment in this life I have now.  This life as a stay-at-home wife and mom.  I had found myself satisfied, finding ways to enjoy my roles and not feeling trapped or limited in them, but finding a new life flow in these roles.  Val and I had been intentional to find ways to keep my heart alive…making space for me to write and Val even including me as a leader with him in the various retreats he leads throughout the year.  Yet it wasn’t the full picture.  So many of my gifts still lying dormant.  My deepest passions barely expressed. 

I was so frustrated.  What was the point of God showing me these dormant gifts when I had come to accept this season of my life?  It seemed like a mean trick.  I’d rather not see what I had lost, than to see it and not know how or where to express it. 

The next day in prayer, clarity began to dawn.  Yes, yes, I was called to accept this season, to find His peace in my roles of wife and mom and homebuilder.  Yes, that contentment had a purpose.  But that contentment was also being Divinely challenged now.  Not that I wasn’t meant to be content with or be at peace in my roles (I certainly was meant to find that peace there), but I wasn’t meant to be content with only that.  In prayer, it quickly became clear that He is wanting to show me that there is more.  That He has a plan and purpose that He has put me on the earth to fulfill.  This plan and purpose includes my roles as wife, mom, and homebuilder, as well as further expressions of my gifts. 

It will take creativity and intentionality at this stage of life.  It will take incorporating those gifts and passions in small increments that do not cost my children a fully present mom; however, my gifts and passions cannot be put on the shelf.  My gifts and calling were not meant to gather dust during this toddler and baby stage. 

Yet that’s how so many of us approach this stage of life, isn’t it?  Some of us know our passions and purpose and put them aside to be a good mama (or so we think that’s how we’re supposed to be a good mama).  Others of us have never even discovered our passions and purpose before motherhood, so we think motherhood must be it. 

For those of us who are moms, motherhood is definitely a substantial part of our calling and purpose, but it is not your entire calling and purpose.  God has created you with unique gifts, abilities, passions, and purpose.  And even now, in this "little" stage, He intends to flow through you in those places.  It may not look the same as it has in previous seasons (or even in future seasons); however, He has placed those gifts and callings in you for His purposes to be expressed in His Kingdom.  They were not meant to be placed on a shelf to collect dust during these "little" years.  

I have felt like this is a terribly inconvenient season to be rediscovering passion and purpose.  I have often felt as though this would be so much easier once the kids were off to school, giving me time and space to discover and put to use these passions and purpose.  Yes, it probably would be more convenient, sure.  But waiting ‘til then would only perpetuate the lie that purpose and meaning are after your kids get busier. 

I am convinced that part of why God is taking me through this process now is to dispel the myth that meaning and motherhood are mutually exclusive.

I am also convinced that if God is re-revealing gifts, passions, and callings in my heart, He will fit all the pieces together.  He will fit together the roles of mom, wife, homebuilder with the callings and gifts He is uncovering once again.  He is not leaving me with puzzle pieces that don’t fit together.  Rather, He is laying out the puzzle pieces and will even guide me in how to fit them together.* 

Why?  Because in the end it is for His Glory and for His Kingdom to be expressed on the earth.  So I pray and I ask and I trust for Him to fit my life together.  For Him. 

These past few weeks, I’ve read about others processing similar ideas.  If this post resonates with your heart, here are a few more posts by other bloggers that may also encourage you:

To read “Run Your Race” by Jen Hatmaker, click here.

To read “What Makes You Come Alive” by Tsh Oxenreider, click here.

To read “How Is Your Other Half” by Brooke McAlary, click here.


* This puzzle piece analogy is not my own, but was something Val shared with me as a result of a time he spent in prayer for me and all these pieces that seem challenging to fit together.  Thanks, Val, for praying for me.