I’m tired.

It’s been a long week. I’m at the beach with my mom, my sister, and my two babies, and I’m exhausted.

I was hoping this would be a somewhat relaxing week, that I could be refreshed in mind, body, and spirit by the warm weather and beautiful surroundings. But gosh, as I sit in our condo listening to the ocean right outside our window, all I am right now is tired.

And then all I can think to myself is wow, Wesley, you are a spoiled brat. Here you are in the middle of February in 70 degree weather within steps of the beach, and you’re complaining because you’re tired? Come on.

It’s times like these that I realize how truly weak I am. I like to consider myself a fairly strong, capable person. I’m smart, I can be a hard worker when I need to be, I’m level-headed, I take life as it comes and try not to complain much. But when I’m honest with myself, my heart is spoiled.

I read something the other day by Paul David Tripp about envy. There were two phrases that really stuck out to me. The first was, “Envy denies grace. The assumption of envy is that we deserve what another has been given, when, in fact, you and I deserve nothing.” And the second was, “Envy forgets who you are, forgets who God is, and is confused about what life is about.”

I think the same can be said for almost any sort of complaining. When I whine about my circumstances, what I’m really saying is that I expected, that I deserve, something better than what I have. I should be able to go to the beach and enjoy myself and have my children behave and get a break from the hard work of being a mother for a little bit. My child should sleep through the night for me. My toddler shouldn’t be so whiny. I shouldn’t have to work so hard. I shouldn’t be tired.

Who ever told me these things should be so? Where did I get the idea that I deserved any of this?

I read another passage yesterday out of the same book, this time about the idea of success. Tripp writes, “Everyone wants to think that his or her life is or will be successful. But what is success? Is it judged by the size of your house, the prominence of your friends…or the list of your achievements? The problem with all of these things is that they quickly pass away, and because they do, if you have lived for these things, you will eventually come up empty. Contrast that view of success with the success of God’s work in and through you. God offers you things of supreme value (his forgiveness, his presence, welcome into his kingdom, a clean conscience, and a pure heart). These things will never pass away…This leaves you with the question: ‘What do I really want in life: the success of God’s agenda of grace or the fulfillment of my catalog of desires?’ At the end of the day, what do you long for: for God’s grace to do its work or for more of the stuff that this physical created world has to offer?”

Without God, I am weak, and driven by my “catalog of desires,” as Tripp calls them. I want comfort. I want rest. I want luxury. I want not to feel pain, discomfort, displeasure, exhaustion. But these are earthly desires, and they have only earthly implications. They are fleeting pleasures that in the end will always come up empty.

Last week I wrote about the promises of God. As I remind myself of those promises, I have to ask myself, as Tripp suggests, what do I really want in life? At the end of the day, shouldn’t my greatest desire be for God’s grace, and the promises He gives me, and not these fleeting worldly comforts? I can only pray that my heart would be more inclined toward the right desires, toward the desires that will truly fill my heart.

W


I don’t know what it is about me, but I’m always gathering information. I’m always looking to find the next big thing to improve my life, to learn how to do things better. I currently have about ten books on my nightstand: one or two baby books, a book on parenting, an organization book, a theology book, my Kindle, and of course Real Simple Magazine, the true source of all great information on how to live life. I’m an information gatherer, a learner, and maybe (I’ve suspected recently) a bit of a self-help junkie. 

I took a strengths test a while back (I actually highly recommend it! I think it’s only 20 bucks), and my top three strengths were Input, Ideation and Intellect. Here are the first lines from each description:

“People who are especially talented in the Input theme have a craving to know more. Often they like to collect and archive all kinds of information.”

“People who are especially talented in the Ideation theme are fascinated by ideas. They are able to find connections between seemingly disparate phenomena.”

“People who are especially talented in the Intellection theme are characterized by their intellectual activity. They are introspective and appreciate intellectual discussions.”

Obviously there is a theme here. And that’s great. It’s helpful as a writer, since writing is basically all about gathering information, distilling it, and distributing it to others. And it’s helpful for when I have a problem I want to solve, because I know how to gather information on just about any subject.

The other day, however, I was thinking about all of these information-gathering quests I’m on, and I started to wonder whether I’m using my time wisely in these pursuits. I tend to get caught up in the little things I can do to make my life better, believing that if I can just be good enough at everything, or know enough about everything, my life will improve.

Earlier this week I made a point to use naptime to read the Bible. Of course this was the day that Shook never actually went to sleep and started screaming “I wanna wake up!” after thirty minutes and head-butted me when I went into his room to get him to go to sleep, but I did get a good twenty minutes of study in before it all broke down. And I thought to myself gosh, if I could just channel all of my “learner” energy into my relationship with God, what would my return on that investment be?

All of my books promise big results, life changing even. If I can just get my baby to sleep through the night, teach my toddler to obey my every command, organize my spices alphabetically and only have thirteen items of clothing in my closet. Even if I could accomplish those things, which I can’t, where would I be? Would my life really be any better, would I really be any happier?

The Bible makes promises too. Throughout the Bible, God makes promises to his people, to those who follow Him and seek Him.

“Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. 13 You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you, declares the Lord…” (Jeremiah 29:12-14)

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. 9 Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? 11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:7-11)

“Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done.” (Matthew 12:24-27)

This is just a small sampling of the promises God makes to us throughout his word. And the difference in these promises is that they won’t come up empty. Why do I seek after worldly promises, when these promises are so much better, and actually true? What if I threw away all of those books on my nightstand and replaced them with the Bible? I wonder what changes I would see in my life, and more importantly, in my heart.

Thankfully there’s grace, and God meets me every time I come to Him, no matter how long it has been, and no matter how many other things I have been chasing before seeking Him. But I know He wants me to seek Him first. I know He knows how much better off I will be if I start with that.

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:25-33)

 W

 


This Christmas was all about Santa Claus for Shook. It was the first year we could explain it to him and have him somewhat understand the concept, and it was pretty exciting. We had a great time telling him about the presents Santa would bring, where he lived, how he would come down the chimney, how he would get lumps of coal if he was bad (just kidding, that comes later).

But you know what I realized in the midst of all of this Santa stuff? It was really easy to tell Shook about Santa. He was everywhere, and everyone wanted to make sure he knew all about him. It was not nearly as easy to tell him about Jesus.

Santa is easy. Hey buddy, do you like presents? Well, Santa is a big guy in a red suit who brings you lots of presents on Christmas. Do you want to meet Santa? Well, he’ll be at every event and shopping center we attend over the next month, so you’ll be seeing a lot of him. They talk about him at school, they talk about him on TV shows, he’s everywhere.

Not so easy with Jesus. He doesn’t bring you presents, he isn’t at the mall, they don’t talk about him at school, Daniel Tiger doesn’t mention him. Christmas, this holiday that was begun to celebrate Jesus, has started to overshadow Jesus himself. Even in Christian homes, it’s all too easy to focus on family and decorating the Christmas tree and getting and giving presents, adding in Jesus almost as an afterthought.

A couple of days before Christmas, I tried to explain Jesus to my two year old. We were sitting on the back porch, and I told Shook that Christmas was Jesus’ birthday, and that he was God’s son, and he was sent here to save us. But when I tried to explain to my toddler what Jesus came to save us from, I got stuck. He doesn’t know what sin is. I started to try to think of some analogy from his life that would make sense, but I was at a loss. So I kind of gave up.

Then my husband, the pastor, came outside, and I asked him to try to explain Jesus to our two year old. And HE got stuck too! He started trying to analogize it to getting in trouble and going to time out and Jesus taking away time out…he was close, closer than I was, but by that point my son was way more interested in his Thomas the Train than whatever his crazy parents were trying to explain to him.

And there it was. Jesus is hard to explain. And not just to two year olds. I can barely wrap my head around Him at times, so why would it be easy to explain Him to our children?

So what do I do? Well, I could keep trying, which I have been. The other day in the car he asked me “Where’s Jesus?” and after some hemming and hawing I finally said something along the lines of “Well, He’s everywhere…He’s with us all the time, He keeps us safe, and He loves us…” I later asked Marshall what he would have said and his response, in classic pastor form, was a (jokingly) self-righteous “Um…sitting at the right hand of God the Father Almighty? Obviously.” As you can see we still have some work to do.

But you know what else I’m going to do? I’m going to ask other mothers. I don’t think we were made to parent in a vacuum, and we certainly weren’t meant to teach the gospel in a vacuum. So I’m going to reach out. I’m a learner, I love gathering knowledge. This is what I did with pregnancy, childbirth, sleep training (the myth, the legend…), you name it, I’ve read about it, asked about it, read about it some more.

I don’t know yet what this will look like, but I hope to find some way to translate what I learn to you, through the blog.

Tell me what you think – is this something that is hard for you, teaching your children about Jesus? Something you are interested in learning more about? Something you have been successful at? What resources have you found about this subject? I would love to know your thoughts as I begin this little research project!

W


“Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher,

vanity of vanities! All is vanity.

What does man gain by all the toil

at which he toils under the sun?

A generation goes, and a generation comes,

but the earth remains forever.

The sun rises, and the sun goes down,

and hastens to the place where it rises.

The wind blows to the south

and goes around to the north;

around and around goes the wind,

and on its circuits the wind returns.

All streams run to the sea,

but the sea is not full;

to the place where the streams flow,

there they flow again.

All things are full of weariness;

a man cannot utter it;

the eye is not satisfied with seeing,

nor the ear filled with hearing.

What has been is what will be,

and what has been done is what will be done,

and there is nothing new under the sun.” – Ecclesiastes 1:1-9

 I don’t know about you, but I have the constant feeling that nothing in my life is ever truly “finished.” I’ve heard of people making to-do lists and feeling such gratification when everything is crossed off of them, and to me this is about as realistic as seeing a unicorn. Do people REALLY cross off everything on their to-do lists? REALLY? It seems impossible to me. Before I can even get through half of one, I’m already writing another. I have them in all forms – notes on my phone, physical notepads, post-its, phone reminders, calendars…they’re everywhere.

I’ll be the first to admit I’m not great at tackling tasks. I’m a procrastinator, I’m distractible, I give myself WAY too many tasks. I would give anything to be better at completing my to-do lists.

But part of me knows that no matter how productive I become, no matter how hard I try to get everything finished that needs to be finished, it will never be enough. There will always be something else to do. There will always be more laundry. The floor will always need sweeping (How?! I mean honestly. Can I just have one day of clean floors?). My toddler will always pull all of his toys out of all of their places all of the time, always.

Every day is a new day of to-dos, a new day of lists, a new day of tasks to be completed, or to be left incomplete.

I think it’s particularly hard as a stay-at-home mom, when my workplace is also my home. There is no escaping my to-dos. There’s no “okay let’s call it a day, pack it up and lock up the ole office and leave it for tomorrow.” I wake up in my office, and I go to sleep in my office. It’s hard to feel like I ever have a break.

So what do I do about this?

I’ll tell you what I do most of the time. I stress. I get anxious. I go on freak-out cleaning sprees, or I collapse into myself and say “forget it” for a whole day, making the next day exponentially worse. I’m a roller coaster of emotions, the most common one being low-grade stress. I long for just one day when everything is done, when I can truly relax.

But you know what? That’s not reality. Our days, our lives, entire generations, they come and go, we toil and toil, there is nothing new under the sun. That’s just life.

So I’ve got to find a way to be okay. To be at peace with my ever-evolving to-do list, with my never-ending laundry pile. I’ve got to find a way to manage my life, and to manage my expectations, so I’m not a constant ball of stress.

I am nowhere near conquering this (Alas! Another task to complete). I don’t know what the answer is. All I know is I’m not doing myself or anyone else any favors by constantly lamenting the fact that there’s always something else that needs to be done.

I do think the desire for completion, for rest, and for order is a Godly one. God loves beauty and order, it’s obvious from the way he created the world, from the way things were in the Garden. But I also know that we can never expect these things to be fully realized in this world. So we must find a way to cope, but we must also always be looking ahead for what is to come in the next life, when we finally reach glory, and everything is as it should be. 

So maybe what I need to do is allow this tension to fuel my desire and my longing for heaven. God wants us to be joyful, but He doesn’t want us to be of the world, even as we are in it. Our treasure is in heaven, and we should always be longing for that. With the little frustrations of day-to-day life, maybe He is trying to remind me that this is not the world I was made for. As C.S. Lewis so eloquently puts it, “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”

 


“In peace I will both lie down and sleep, for You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.” Psalm 4:8 

I’m generally an anxious person. You might not know it looking at me, but I’ve struggled with anxiety basically my whole life. I’m all up in my head, I have crazy thoughts, I’m a doubter, I’m a worrier…I’m a bottle of emotions. 

One of the things I’ve always struggled with is sleep. Nighttime is when my anxiety hits. All of the stresses from the day that have been piling up are finally able to come crashing down, and my brain starts to freak out. Needless to say, it’s not very compatible with sleep.

I came across this verse around the time Shook was born, and I was immediately drawn to it. I wanted this for my son. I wanted him to know peaceful sleep, to be able to rest easy.

The thing I love about this verse is the reason behind the Psalmist’s peaceful sleep. It’s something I struggle with constantly, and probably one of the main reasons I am so anxious is that I have a hard time believing it. But I do everything in my power to believe this truth. That “You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.”  

Before I became a mother, I worried about safety. I’ve always had this irrational fear of catastrophes, particularly as it relates to my family. I remember when my parents would go out of town when I was little, imagining all sorts of scenarios where they didn’t make it back because something terrible happened to them. I was maybe a little bit crazy.

When I became a mother, oh gosh did those fears multiply. I don’t think I’ve made it through a whole day since I found out I was pregnant without fearing for my children’s lives. It’s a constant battle for me.

What I’ve had to remind myself continually is that no matter how much I worry, no matter how many times I check on my children while they are sleeping (we all do it), no matter how tight I buckle that car seat, none of it is truly in my control. I am not the keeper of my children’s souls, the protector of their lives. It is impossible for me to keep them from pain, from suffering, even from death.  

What a terrifying reality.  

Unless.

Unless God is in control. Unless He is in charge of my children’s lives. Unless He is the one who protects them, who makes them dwell in safety. How much better, in fact, for Him to be in control than me? I am so limited in my abilities to keep my children safe. God is not. He is not only in control of my children’s lives; He is in control of everything that happens in the world. And He is good. He is loving. He is powerful and mighty to save.

So how can I give my children the gift of peaceful sleep? By teaching them, and by believing in my own heart, that “You, alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.” I want to instill in my children the belief, the knowledge, that God is with them.

As the ever-quoted Psalm reminds us,

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures.

He leads me beside still waters.

He restores my soul.

He leads me in paths of righteousness

for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

I will fear no evil,

for you are with me;

your rod and your staff,

they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;

you anoint my head with oil;

my cup overflows.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me

all the days of my life,

and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” (Psalm 23)

 W

 


I had a bad parenting day a couple of days ago. My baby hadn’t slept the previous night, and my toddler woke up early and was in rare (or I should say not so rare) form. I woke up irritable, and I couldn’t shake the sensation all day.

I was mean to Shook. I was tired, he was whiny, all I wanted to do was get the house somewhat clean, and all he wanted to do was throw toys everywhere. I yelled at him, I put him in his room, I took toys from him, I refused to laugh at his antics. It was a bad day, and I was a bad mom.

Last week I talked about the “various trials” I face daily as a mother. This day definitely held trials of various kinds. And let me tell you, there was no joy involved in my response to it.

As I lay in bed that night, finally able to sleep but not capable of actually sleeping, I asked God for forgiveness. For being impatient, for being mean, for being a bad mom. I asked Him, as I do often these days, for grace. I asked that He would give me grace, and that I would be able to give my child grace. I prayed for patience for the following day. I prayed for sleep for all of us.

And you know what happened? We didn’t all sleep a solid twelve hours, but we slept pretty well. I woke up less than exhausted, and the kiddos slept until 7:30. There was nothing categorically different about the day, aside from fewer meltdowns and a decent nap. But I felt different. I was patient, the toys all over the place didn’t make my heart race, and I actually sat on the floor and played with my son.

I forget sometimes that prayer works. God’s not Santa or my Fairy Godmother, just sitting there waiting to grant me my every wish, but He’s listening. And He’s faithful. He’s capable of changing circumstances, but more importantly, He’s capable of changing hearts. And while He might have changed the circumstances the other day, He definitely changed my heart.

I wish my first instinct, before anything went wrong, were to pray. I wish I could start and end each day with prayer, and not just the kind where I ask for forgiveness and for my toddler to stop being a toddler. I wish I were more inclined to turn my heart toward Jesus, to spend time in His presence, no matter how my day went. I wish it didn’t take a wreck of a day to bring me to my knees in front of his throne. But maybe, after enough days like this one, I’ll be a little bit better at remembering how much I need prayer, and how much I need Jesus.

W


“Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.” James 1:2-4

This is a pretty well known verse, one we pull out often during times of trial or suffering. And it’s easy for me to read it, ponder it, and immediately set it aside for sometime in the future when I really need it, when I’m going through trials.

In fact, it’s sort of easy for me to romanticize this verse, to look at it and say to myself, “Gosh, when I go through all of those great trials God will send my way (because I’m such an awesome Christian and awesome Christians go through great trials), God will test my faith and it will be amazing because I’ll come out of it so much more mature and complete.” Am I the only one who does this?

When I read this the other day, however, I looked at it differently. I got stuck on the “various trials” part, and suddenly it hit me. This verse isn’t just about certain types of trials, big ones or crazy ones or really obvious, out of the ordinary ones. This verse is about various trials, all sorts of trials, including the little, nagging, seemingly inconsequential trials I encounter every day.

I’ve been pretty tired recently (can I get an Amen?), so of course that means I’ve also been pretty irritable recently. My house is never clean, the laundry is never ending, and I swear my dog is shedding excessively just to spite me. I get in these moods where my heart starts to race and I clench my jaw and I go into rage-cleaning mode, where nothing or no one is safe in my path. Somehow this always happens at the same time my toddler wants me to play catch with him, so he follows me through the house with his baseball and glove screaming “You ready? You ready Mommy? You READY??” as I race around in an attempt to rid my house of any remnant of mess. Being a mom is full of little tasks, ever-changing duties, and an endless cycle of caring for and cleaning up after little ones.

What I realized when I read this verse the other day was that right now, these are my various trials. They may not seem like much, but they are constant, and it matters how I respond to them. God isn’t calling me to joy in some far off, hypothetical trial. He’s calling me to joy now, in the little trials I experience daily.

If I reserve my biblical response to trials for those big, crazy trials that I expect to come my way in the future, I’m really missing out on an opportunity for my heart to be transformed. It’s in the little things that God will test my faith, in the little things that He will produce endurance.

So how can I work to consider it a great joy when my house is a mess and my toddler is screaming at me and my baby hasn’t slept and my German Shepherd is molting? It definitely comes back to prayer for me. The only way I can allow my heart to be open to anything other than anxiety in these moments is to stop and pray. I don’t do it nearly enough, but when I do, He is faithful to respond, to calm my spirit, to let me breathe, to remind me that no, the world is not ending because I have to sweep for the third time in one day.

When I pray, I’m letting God in. I’m saying to Him, “Okay God, here I am. I’m here, and I know you’re here, and I need your help.” Sometimes I think that’s all He wants us to do, just admit that we need his help. It’s so easy to clench our jaws and try to do it all by ourselves, but then we miss the chance to let God in, to let Him test our faith, to let Him transform us.

W


“New Year, New You”

This was the title of the Real Simple Magazine issue I received in the mail mid-December. It was beautiful, and it held promises of this year being different, this year being about me, this year finally having an organized closet with one of those trendy capsule wardrobes where you only own five pieces of clothing, this year being the year of a “new me.”

New years are fun. They offer a sort of built-in reset button, a time to step back and look at your life and evaluate whether things are going the way you want them to. Christmas decorations come down (eventually), Christmas presents are set in place, and old and unused items are purged to make way for all things shiny and new.

But gosh, can I just admit that new years can also be really stressful?

 This year, our holidays consisted of a two-week break from school that started with a sickness that ended up lasting pretty much through the entire break. Amidst the sickness, we managed to still have lots of time with family (and I mean lots), events almost every other night, and a steady stream of presents coming in for about a week. Once Christmas was over and we were all feeling a little bit better, we had a couple days of rest before heading on a little mini-vacation with two other families over New Years. Relaxing? Maybe. Exhausting? Definitely.

 Despite the fact that it was exhausting, we had a great time with our friends and their kids, and it was an awesome way to start the new year. Not so awesome? Coming back to a house that had been largely neglected for two weeks and now had several piles of new stuff that was in desperate need of organizing, or worse, returning.

 And then there’s this magazine. New year, new you. Yes, it’s inspiring, but it’s also a little bit stress-inducing. I don’t know why this happens, maybe it’s a woman thing, but we are so good at turning potentially healthy advice and opportunities into crushing to-dos and must-haves.

 I read these things about organizing my closet and thing “oh my gosh look at my closet! It’s so unorganized and cluttered! I need to get this fixed!” Or I start reading this book and think “what am I doing with my life? I need a job! We need a budget! It’s the new year, we’ve got to get on this stat!” Every morning on the Today Show Matt and Natalie are talking about one more thing we can do to be healthier, happier, richer, fitter (okay, technically I think it’s “more fit,” but fitter sounds better), nicer, younger looking, better rested…oh my goodness, it’s exhausting.

 I’m seven days in to the new year, and I’ve already run myself ragged trying—no, merely thinking about trying—to revamp my entire life. And I’m thinking, surely this isn’t what God would want for me.

 Remember this post I wrote a while back about quietness? I certainly need to remember it. It’s so easy for me to fall back into striving, to pile on to-dos until my head spins when I look at my lists upon lists upon lists of things I’ll never get around to. I hate it. And you know what else? I’m pretty sure I’m not going to be a “new me” this year purely because I clean out my closet and start making my own baby food.

 No, I think, that’s not what God has for me. And then a verse pops into my head, “one degree of glory to another.” And I look it up, and I’m reminded. This is what God has for me.

 Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

 …But when oneturns to the Lord, the veil is removed. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord,5 are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:4-6, 16-18)

 The “new me” that God has for me is in Him, in the confidence that I have in Christ and what He has done and is doing for me. When I turn to Him, I can see clearly, and there is freedom. Freedom from the law, freedom from the striving, freedom from the claiming that anything comes from me and the feeling of never being enough. And He is transforming me, from one degree of glory to another, to become more and more like HIM. Not like the woman Real Simple wants me to be, not like the woman the Today Show says I can be, but like Christ.

 So if there is to be a “new me” this new year, I hope and pray that it will come from The Lord. Sure, I can clean out my closet and throw all of my kids’ toys away (kidding, sort of) and I’ll feel better, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But I know the one thing that will truly sustain me is the reconfiguring of my heart, the turning of my face toward Jesus.

 W

 


We’re going through 1 Corinthians in my Bible study, and a couple of weeks ago we studied the beginning of chapter 15. Paul has spent the previous several chapters talking about spiritual gifts and conduct in the church, lots of nitty gritty details about Christian life. And then all of a sudden, he switches gears.

The chapter starts out, “Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain” (v. 1-2).

I was struck by this sudden change of tune, this flip from the nitty gritty of church life to the straight up gospel. And it made me think that I don’t do that nearly enough in my own life.

It’s so easy for me to get caught up in the nitty gritty of life, even “Christian” life, and forget about the most important thing, which is, of course, the gospel. I underestimate how often I need to be reminded of it. I’m tempted to think “oh I’ve got that part down, let’s move on to bigger and better things!” when in fact there is nothing bigger or better than the simple truth of what Jesus has done for me.

Paul pretty clearly lines it out for the Corinthians, and as he says in the first sentence here, this is the most important thing:

“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 11 Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed” (v 3-11).

That’s it, right there. Christ died for our sins, and was raised from the dead, so that by his grace we can be made new in Him. Not by anything we have done or will do, not by the way we act or what we do for Him, but by his grace and what He has done for us.

It can be hard to rest in that truth. Not that we shouldn’t always strive to be more like Him, to get to know Him better, to get closer to Him and be sanctified by his grace. As Paul says, he worked harder than anyone once he was saved. But my tendency is to leave the most important truth behind as I strive to make my own way to “being a better person,” whatever I decide that looks like. No, Paul says, it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.

I think most of the time, if God could tell us what He really wants us to hear, when we are searching and trying and working and running around like chickens with our heads cut off, He would sit us down and remind us of the gospel. He would tell us “Hey, chill out Wesley, I know you think you can save the world if you just try hard enough, but guess what? I already did. You just follow Me. Stay with Me, stay by my side, and I’ll take you where you need to go.”

Can we just promise to remind each other of that? No matter what we do, no matter where we go, we will always need to be reminded of the gospel. It is the truth above all truths, the one thing that will stand when everything else is but a memory, a vapor.

W


“Better is a handful of quietness than two hands full of toil and a striving after wind.” – Ecclesiastes 4:6

Just reading that makes me breathe more easily. Gosh how I wish I could live my entire life under this mantra.

 We’ve slowly let quietness slip out of the routine of our day-to-day lives. Between busyness and technology, there’s just no room for this type of rest. Rest for us has gone from actual relaxation to activities like watching TV, scrolling Facebook, talking on the phone and working out. None of these things is inherently bad, but they aren’t really restful, and they certainly aren’t quiet.

 It’s cool to be busy. We wear sleeplessness, over-commitment and stress like badges of honor. The idea of a 9 to 5 job is so antiquated I feel like I can’t even use the phrase anymore. No one who wants to be anyone works 40-hour weeks. And then we add even more activities on top of our jobs. A calendar with nothing on the books is like an indictment on a life not lived to the fullest.

 How much toiling and striving after wind do I do in my life? I feel like I’m constantly toiling, hanging on tightly to what I have and reaching and grabbing for a little bit more. No matter what I achieve, how much I acquire, I’m always looking for the next thing.

 I lack quietness in my life. Part of it is that I have a toddler and a newborn, but part of it is definitely the way I go about my days and the way I think about life. Nothing is ever enough for me. I’m never satisfied with the status quo. There’s always one more part of the house I could decorate, one more errand I could run, one more hobby I could pick up.

 Hobbies. Don’t you feel like you’re nothing if you don’t have a hobby these days? And not just “I golf on the weekends.” I legitimately feel bad that I don’t brew my own coffee or sew handmade baby clothes or own an Etsy shop. And it’s because the world is telling me that I should be doing those things, that they should be just another part of my everyday life.

 I want to be creative. I want to have hobbies. I think there is great value in doing something you love. But I also have to know my limits, and right now my limit is taking care of my family, and doing a little bit of writing here and there, and that should be okay. When my desire for a hobby starts to seep into the quietness of my soul and turns into toiling and striving, it loses its value.

 We don’t value quietness and rest at all in our society, and I think it is killing us. I’m naturally an anxious person, and when I overfill my life, I become more anxious. That is not good for me. When I don’t get enough sleep because I’ve got too much to do, I get rundown. I also lose valuable time with my family and friends, time to relax and just be with people, which is what we were made for. We were made for communion, with God and with one another, and when we are busy we miss out on that beautiful and essential aspect of life.

 Recently a friend from Bible study asked if I wanted to start fasting with her once a week. I can’t do that right now because I’m nursing (read: starving all the time), but I decided to do a tech fast on the day she fasts. So every Tuesday, I limit my tech usage to texts and phone calls only when necessary. No Internet, no TV, no radio. And let me tell you, it’s quiet. Often too quiet for me. Inevitably I think of pressing issues that must be resolved immediately and can only be done online, or my toddler is a complete mess and all I want to do is veg out watching TV during his nap. But when those desires come up, I try to turn my attention instead to God. It’s actually been really convicting because even without the outside distractions, I’m still bad at turning my eyes to Jesus, at quieting the busyness in my soul in order to stop and meditate on Him. But it has also been freeing to know that no, I don’t need all of that noise, and yes, it is relaxing to have a break from it. I wish I could live more of my days like that.

 We don’t need all of this noise. We don’t need to keep toiling and striving. Jesus wants us to find rest in Him.

 1 For God alone my soul waits in silence;

   from him comes my salvation.

2 He alone is my rock and my salvation,

   my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken.

3 How long will all of you attack a man

   to batter him,

   like a leaning wall, a tottering fence?

4 They only plan to thrust him down from his high position.

   They take pleasure in falsehood.

They bless with their mouths,

   but inwardly they curse. Selah

5 For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence,

   for my hope is from him.

6 He only is my rock and my salvation,

   my fortress; I shall not be shaken.

7 On God rests my salvation and my glory;

   my mighty rock, my refuge is God.

8 Trust in him at all times, O people;

   pour out your heart before him;

   God is a refuge for us. Selah

9 Those of low estate are but a breath;

   those of high estate are a delusion;

in the balances they go up;

   they are together lighter than a breath.

10 Put no trust in extortion;

   set no vain hopes on robbery;

   if riches increase, set not your heart on them.

11 Once God has spoken;

   twice have I heard this:

that power belongs to God,

12     and that to you, O Lord, belongs steadfast love.

For you will render to a man

   according to his work. Psalm 62