Skip to main content

The Two Sides of Simple

Simplify

When I was in school, this word meant reducing a math problem to its lowest terms. Knowing how to simplify fractions helped me pass seventh grade and kept me on the honor roll for another year.

Many years later that word carries much more weight. In fact it can conjure up a variety of images depending on your personal circumstances. Perhaps you envision a stark white room with minimalist decor, a user-friendly monthly budget, or an organized system for your kids’ socks and shoes (where do they all come from?). A basic definition for simplify is:

to make less complex or complicated; make plainer or easier:

Simplicity and ease are marketed to us on a regular basis. Ever heard of the Staples “Easy” button? Channels like QVC share item after item designed for a more organized life even down to simpler bracelet clasps and robotic vacuums. Our culture runs after easy.

Does a time come for a follower of Jesus, though, when simplifying is not only nice for a more organized home and peaceful schedule, but necessary for the survival and health of a family? Is is vital to strive for simplicity because it’s essential to an abundant spiritual life? 

I have written before about the idol of busyness that so easily creeps into my life. I say “yes” to more responsibility not because I feel called, but because I feel conspicuous if I say “no.” I want to blend into the willing, hard-working Christian culture around me. The past year has revealed to me that all too often, I add more to my plate because I have convinced myself that I am the savior of my family, marriage, and ministry. Thinking that I am more invaluable than Christ himself inevitably spells trouble.

A few weeks ago, I was struggling with anxiety and emotional burnout from all the people and responsibilities that “needed” me. I shared with Adam that I just had to take something off of my plate, but I didn’t know what to address first! He lovingly pointed out that I do regularly take things off my to-do list to compensate for my exhaustion, however those things are often the hidden things of my life – the things that don’t affect my busy, booked-up image. For example, if given the choice between saying “no” to teaching a class at church or cutting back on our homeschool work, I would most likely choose the behind-the-scenes responsibility of school with the kids. It’s much easier for me to put my marriage, children, and ultimately my relationship with Christ on the backburner than to have an awkward conversation to turn down a public responsibility.

Ultimately, this issue stems from a misunderstanding of what God values in his followers.

Does God appreciate hard, faithful work? Yes.

Can a believer reflect the gospel through acts of love to the community around her? Yes!

Do we move higher up the spiritual ladder as the number of tasks on our lists increases? We know the answer is “no,” but Satan deceives us otherwise.

Jesus himself was very active during his years of ministry. He seemed to have a never ending line of those wanting healing, love, and attention. However, Jesus never experienced burnout or meltdown because he realized that the private, unseen areas of His life were essential to his public ministry. His habits of prayer with His Father, physical rest when he was weary, and fellowship with his disciples gave him a proper balance in service.

Those hidden habits are even more crucial for us as broken, sinful, selfish human beings.

There is another side to the simplicity coin, however. Scripture makes it clear that our hearts can make idols out of literally anything – even a simple life.

During His ministry, Jesus warned that life is filled with trouble and trial. Often our best laid plans are destroyed by an unexpected diagnosis or a needy visitor. Life’s circumstances are messy and hard. Because of this, it’s important that I don’t say “no” to potential ministry opportunities just because I want to keep my life simple and stress-free. As a follower of Jesus, I have been called to lay down my life for the gospel and to bring Him glory through the actions of each day. This could potentially mean that my homeschool schedule is interrupted because of a church need. It could also mean that a church need is unmet (by me) and I spend extra time with my children. Each responsibility should be filtered through the Holy Spirit’s calling for that day.

I pray that 2019 will bring more maturity in this area of busyness and over-commitment. I pray that I will not buy into Satan’s lies that I am the rescuer of my circumstances, and instead rest more and more heavily on the ability of my Rescuer to weave a life used for His glory.

Simply put, Jesus is the Savior, not me!

——-

Dear readers, 

In the spirit of simplifying, there will be a few transitions happening with my online spaces over the next few weeks. Many of you realize that I have been writing on a couple of different websites for over nine years now! I have been able to consolidate all of the posts from Dishes & Doctrine and A Steady Rain (minus a few hundred that were edited out) on one site: www.rachelpereira.me 

You will find a “Subscribe” button at the top left of the page above “Home.” In order to receive notifications of new posts, you will need to add your email there. 

As far as social media, I will primarily be using Instagram to share glimpses of our life and gospel centered resources for you and your children. I would love to connect there.

I have closed down my writing Facebook page to simplify my online responsibilities there as well.

I have not made a final decision on the Dishes & Doctrine audio blog. All of those episodes are still available on iTunes for you.

Thank you for your support and understanding over the years. I have been able to step away once again from the part time church work I was doing for about half of the year. This has given me a little mental space to brainstorm about some upcoming posts and projects.

Rest in Him today, friends!

The One Thing

>>>Listen on iTunes<<<

I haven’t written much lately, and it’s not because of a lack of desire. It’s not because of a lack of time (most days). It’s not even an issue of writing material.

I think it’s because I am a Martha

I approach life with a sense of duty, purpose, and a to-do list. I struggle to rest if tasks are left incomplete. I work with pride both in my giftings and in the fact that I’m sure others don’t have nearly as much on their plates as I do. My haughty heart can get pretty ugly.

The thing is – writing is a work of rest. It may not be the same for all writers, but I need a quiet mind and a still soul to process my words before they ever arrive on the computer screen. This is hard for a Martha like me. The dishes that need to be washed and dried, the dog that needs a bath, and the bread that needs to be baked for the church dinner two days from now, demand all my brainpower. This afternoon, my husband literally took the sponge out of my hand and forced me out the door reminding me that every extra chore I completed was eating into my writing time.

I desperately want to be a Mary.

I want to approach life with a sense of reverence and awe at the hand of God. I want to take respite in His sufficiency even if the to-do list is missing some checks. I want to humbly listen to the voice of the Master, soaking in His wisdom and the hope of His sacrifice for me.

Hard work and faithful service is a good thing. Jesus’ followers ought to be marked by a desire to be diligent in the roles to which we are assigned. We are called to be living sacrifices. Our churches and homes would not function without the hands-on effort of the Marthas.  Those who tend to be laid-back or shy can even learn valuable lessons from the bold and assertive members of the body.

A Martha may simply have her priorities mixed up which leads to inevitable burnout and bitterness. Let me explain from an example in the Old Testament.

After the rebuilding of the wall in Jerusalem, Nehemiah and the Levites spent time reading and teaching the law to the Jews who had returned from exile. After hearing and understanding their grave sin, they mourned, ripping their clothes and covering themselves in dust. After their confession, the leaders encouraged them to “Stand up and bless the Lord your God from everlasting to everlasting.” What follows in Nehemiah 9, is a beautiful song, tracing God’s faithfulness to his people in spite of their failures over and over again. The next chapter, outlines the continued response of gratefulness from these rescued Jews. They committed their lives, finances, and resources to the care of their refocused, God-centered culture and the recently rebuilt Temple.

Isn’t it interesting that Nehemiah didn’t return to Jerusalem and immediately set up a Temple-serving schedule. He didn’t pass the offering plate or lecture those whose children had married pagan spouses. The people’s work and sacrificial living was fueled by repentance and worship after spending time with God’s Word.

Marthas (like me) have the tendency to rush to the final step. We serve and give from an empty well because duty trumps worship. The beauty of Mary’s heart though is her desire to know Jesus first. She was hearing the Word from the Word himself. Who would pass that up? The service of Martha was tiring and frustrating because she didn’t have the humility of Mary first.

This is more important than ever as I close out our homeschool year and take on some more duties at church again. I must prioritize God’s Word. I must allow the Holy Spirit to convict my soul leading me to repentance and then worship. The effort I put into all the obligations must be fueled by these heart attitudes first. It is only then that I can experience true rest even in a busy schedule.

Furniture will gather more dust. More church emails will need to be sent. One more meal will need to be prepared. But only one thing will last. Only one Person will empower me, satisfy me, and love me. May my Martha heart learn from Mary and choose the One thing that will never be taken away.

Proof

>>>Listen on iTunes<<<

It only takes a few moments into any episode of the Great British Baking Show (you have watched it, right?!) to hear the contestants explain the length of time they expect for their dough to “prove.” Some recipes even require a double proof to ensure a proper rise and each baker even has a separate proving drawer to safely place their rising creation. While it may seem like an insignificant part of baking when compared to the ratio of flour and water, the time in the oven, and the creative use of flavors, the time waiting for the dough to rise is absolutely critical. In the most refined way, Paul and Mary often explain that the doughy bite of Victorian Raised Game Pie they just enjoyed was a bit “under proved.”

The wait is an indispensable step to a glorious final product. 

Adam told me shortly after the start of this year that this word kept coming to mind as a description for this upcoming year. Proof. God would need to prove His faithfulness in the situations we would soon face. Our trust in his sovereign control over those situations would be proved as we choose to rely on His character.

He is right.

We are almost 13 years into marriage, 10 years into our current ministry, and 9 years into parenthood. On the timeline of our whole life, we find ourselves directly in the middle. The newness has worn off, but the end isn’t quite near.

He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.

I have been begging God for steadfastness in this season of ministry and motherhood. The majority of the time, I want to give up. I want to find an shortcut that is less painful and less tiring. I need His strength to press on, to wait, and to flourish in spite of my emptiness.

Each frustrating and difficult issue forces me to lean once again on the One who is faithful and each one is reminding me that waiting is an unavoidable step to the glorious future that awaits us as believers.

He alone is trustworthy and unchangeable even in the most shaky circumstances.

Of his never ending faithfulness, I have proof.

 

Everyday Hope {a guest post}

I’m particularly drawn to instructions. I long for someone to tell me what to do when in order to achieve my desired outcome. Whether it be how to put a savory, yet nutritious meal on the table in less than an hour cooking time, or the best way to maximize my time as a work-at-home mom, I’m especially drawn to the how-to’s in the areas I feel weak.

 

I think many people are this way, and our spiritual life is no different. It only takes a quick stroll down the self-help book aisle to see what we all crave: something more than what we have now. It’s easy to feel depleted and defeated emotionally, relationally, and spiritually.

 

As a Christian, the pressure’s on to be a beacon of light to the lost world around me, yet sometimes I can’t seem to shake the feeling I should be doing or experiencing something I’m not. Scripture tells us that Christ came to earth to provide a living hope (1 Peter 1:3). It’s one thing to read these words on a paper and say, “Amen.” It’s quite another to experience this living hope in our everyday lives.

 

Maybe you feel this dissonance as well?

You and I are on a voyage. A journey toward this living hope and abundant life our Creator and Savior has promised. However, our travels can often feel more like we’re aimlessly tossing in a storming sea of hopelessness. You may desire to better navigate the trip ahead. You may find yourself looking for a way out of the chaos, for a ladder that will lead to the lifeboat that promises rescue from the storm. Or, maybe you’ve given up altogether, and all you have left is a weak cry for help from the bottom of the boat.

 

You may have heard from others: “Keep your chin up. Don’t lose hope!” It’s easy to see hope as a verb — something we need to do. An action we need to take. Though there are actions we can and should take when our soul is in despair, trying to conjure up the strength to be hopeful is not helpful.

 

It’s impossible.

 

Hope is a noun, not a verb. It’s not something we do to escape the storm. Hope is what we hold fast to, as we endure each wave.

 

Hope is a treasured possession, not an action.

Hope is a guiding light, not a ladder to climb.

Hope is a steadfast anchor, not a search for more.

Hope is a harbor of promise, not a way of escape.

 

Our hope is found in the Gospel of Christ alone. This good news of Jesus is not a one-time experience; it’s a moment-by-moment need.

 

 

PRAY THIS WITH ME: God, we are desperate to experience the hope of Christ in our everyday. We look forward in anticipation to all You have planned for us through Your Word. Open our eyes to see the truths the Bible holds about our gospel-hope. Soften our hearts to receive them. Enable our souls and minds to follow you in obedience as we respond to all You will speak to us.  

———–

This is an excerpt from Everyday Hope, an easy to use, four-week study. Designed for women who are pressed for time, yet crave depth from their Bible study, Everyday Hope offers a relevant and lasting approach for reading and understanding Scripture. In as few as 15 minutes a day, explore hope that fills the Scriptures and the same hope God intends to fill your life. Everyday Hope, will help you discover how to hold fast to His promises amidst feelings of hopelessness. Purchase your copy today at your favorite retail bookstore. Also available online at these online stores.  

 

Scavenger Hunts and How Can It Be?

>>>>>Listen on iTunes<<<<<

It sounded like a great idea at first. We could purchase the $1 scavenger hunt map, find the interesting memorabilia displayed in the two small museums, and become experts of the history of Winter Garden, Florida. It would be a chance for family bonding and count as an educational outing for our homeschool year.

It wasn’t that simple.

The twelve treasures were located in small boxes both inside and outside the historic buildings across the downtown. Each required reading a few paragraphs of historical information, answering a question based on the reading, and stamping the map with unique labels. I mapped the locations with the gps coordinates provided and dragged the family on a wild goose chase around the city. Although my inlaws had some knowledge of Winter Garden’s history, many of the locations were almost impossible to find or missing key elements like the stamp for our map. What should have been a fifteen to twenty minute search around a museum, turned into a couple hour process.

As I waited for the waitress at the local pizza shop to find the treasure box hiding behind the menus on the hostess stand, it hit me that I was holding the maps. I had been writing in the difficult answers. And there was not a child to be found. They had found a sidewalk bench and were waiting somewhat patiently for me to finish the work.

To complete the task, we headed back to the main museum to turn in our maps in exchange for a unique Winter Garden Historical Society patch. The museum guide congratulated my three children on a job well done as he took the maps with my work written all over them.

My work had earned their reward.

As I stood outside on that gorgeous December day, I was struck with the visual illustration I had unintentionally acted out with my family.

 

Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel,

2 Timothy 1:8-9

His work is my reward!

The task was insurmountable. Generations of humans had tried and failed. The work was complete and perfect. He “redeemed the curse of the law” and tasted the sting of death. He was victorious.

Instead of a scavenger hunt map, I turn in His record of righteousness and instead of a patch, I receive rescue from my sin and everlasting life.

As Charles Wesley so beautifully put it hundreds of years ago…

And can it be that I should gain
An interest in the Savior’s blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain—
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in Him, is mine;
Alive in Him, my living Head,
And clothed in righteousness divine,
Bold I approach the eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.

Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

May my daily duties and tasks be done today with the realization that I am walking in victory through Jesus. May the amazement of His unconditional love for me be the motivation to love and serve others in my path today! How can it be?

Remembering to Stop

>>>Listen on iTunes<<<

She barely braked as she sped through the stop sign.

I could smell the cigarette smoke wafting out of her slightly opened window as she zoomed down the road.

I was immediately offended as I huffed under my breath, “Way to slow down for a pedestrian, lady!”

It shocked me because most members of our small community would have stopped at the stop sign, waved me across the intersection, and then proceeded on their way.

Her disregard left me insulted.

It didn’t take many steps down the sidewalk, however to feel a conviction in my soul. How many times do I ignore others in my path on a daily basis?

I’m too busy with my to-do list to notice their need for help. I’m too consumed with my own problems and trials that I forget that others are struggling nearby.

So I stopped and prayed for her.

Prayer is probably one of my weakest spiritual disciplines.

I’m not sure why, but I can consistently read and study God’s word and forget to ever talk to Him about it.

I can offer a listening ear and counsel to a friend, but disregard the opportunity to pray with her.

I rattle off gospel facts and theological truths to my children, but often hurry back to my household duties without approaching the throne of grace with them.

This video caused me to pause.

Prayer is a beautiful thing. It is a gift earned through Jesus’ death and resurrection for me. Even as a broken, prideful human being, I can approach my Father freely. How can I take it so flippantly?

I spiritually speed through the stop sign of prayer moving on to the “more important” things of my day. I ask the Lord to forgive me for my disregard for communing with Him and am overwhelmed that unlike my offense at the speeding driver, He offers mercy after my wayward heart once again fails Him.

At the start of a new year, I know that this area of prayer needs my attention. My desire for 2018 is to echo the words of David in Psalm 63….

You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water.

I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory. Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you.

I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands. I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you.

On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night. Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings. I cling to you; your right hand upholds me.

Amen.

Remembering the God of “New” in the New Year {a guest post}

The online world can be a beautiful place. Over the years, I have encountered women with a deep passion for the gospel, a desire for growth in scriptural understanding, and an embrace of the high calling of motherhood. Emily Jensen is one of those women. Her online ministry, both in writing and her podcast, have often encouraged and challenged my heart. That’s why I was thrilled when she agreed to write a special post for the new year here at Dishes & Doctrine. I know you will be blessed with her thoughts for 2018…..
——————

On my bookshelf sits a deep-emerald green textural prayer journal, waiting to be filled with my hopes for 2018. Next to it, you’ll find a growing pile of books I plan to read, which will hopefully incite life-changes that actually last. And although I haven’t gotten around to it yet, the white walls of our mudroom are empty and ready for some printables with goals for every member of the family so we can track the great things we’ll do in the new year. With the turning of a simple calendar day, it feels like the white snow in our yard lets out a big breath and fills the air with the magical aroma of change. Like Lucy walking through the wardrobe into Narnia, greeting a new world that feels more exciting than scary, we tentatively explore the possibilities and hope again for the promise of new.

 

Particularly, I like to think that new means I’m suddenly going to be good at all the things. Instead of picking a very small-sampling of life areas to consider changing, I imagine this year will make me a new and better wife, mom, cook, gym member, church member and neighbor. But the thing about newness is that it’s not magic, it’s not produced by flipping a calendar page, and it’s not a direct result of our own savvy efforts. Newness ultimately belongs to God, and we get a chance to image him as we enter into the new good things he is doing. So as we consider the fresh feeling of 2018, let’s remember these truths about newness.

Only God can Truly Do Something New

God was the first and the only one to truly do something brand-spanking-new. Because he has existed for all of time, he is the only source of all new and created things (Psalm 90:2). When we think of our goals and our fresh ideas, it’s important to remember that there is really nothing new under the sun as far as God is concerned (Ecclesiastes 1:9). Our goals and ideas might be different from last year, and we might have added some Pinterest-sourced tips and tricks, but no one is really doing something completely new. We struggle with the same sins, setbacks, and limitations as every other human since the fall (Romans 3:23). In fact, humans are only attributed with inventing new ways to do evil (Romans 1:30). So we don’t exactly have an awesome track record when it comes to doing new things. The only new good works we do come from the God who is in the process of making all things new (Revelation 21:5).

 

Only God can Produce New Good Fruit

So if true “newness” belongs to God alone, can we be hopeful for new things in our own lives this year? Yes! As long as we remember that the new, good works we walk in and the new good fruit we produce isn’t really a direct result of our own SMART goals. Sure, we can do some behavior modification here and there (actually, I’m embarrassingly bad at that), and we can occasionally keep some rules for a while, but only God can write his law on our hearts, giving us a heart of flesh where it was once stone (Jeremiah 31:33, Ezekiel 36:26). Only his power within us can cause us to will and to work according to his good pleasure (Philippians 2:13). He is the God of new, and he renews us as we fix our minds on his word, standing in awe of the work he’s done on our behalf (Romans 12:2).

 

The Good News:

We don’t have to have it all figured out this year when it comes to starting something new, because we trust a God who does.

Remember, this is the God who made the heavens and the earth, the animals, the people on the earth, and who created the science that orders it all together.

This is the God who gave a New Covenant when the old one was a hovering cloud of death.

This is the God who promises to renew and restore all things at the return of Christ.

He can certainly handle our sanctification in the new year!

 

So as we crack open our prayer journals, our stacks of books, our crisp notepads, and our organizational apps, let’s rest knowing that it’s not up to us to make ourselves new. We’ve already been washed as white as snow in Christ, and the best “new” we will ever experience is still yet to come (Isaiah 1:18, Revelation 21:5). Eternity, 2018’s got nothing on you.

 

About the author: 

Emily Jensen is the Co-Founder of Risen Motherhood, and the Co-Host of the weekly podcast. Risen Motherhood is a ministry which encourages and equips moms to apply the gospel in their everyday moments. She lives with her husband and five young children amidst the cornfields of central Iowa. You can find her microblogging @risenmotherhood on Instagram and all podcast archives at RisenMotherhood.com.

 

How Long?

>>>Listen on iTunes<<<

When will it snow, Mommy? Can we watch a Christmas movie and drink hot chocolate tonight? Is that package for me? How many days left until we open presents?

The Christmas season is packed with expectancy. From the moment the first scent of leftover holiday cheer is release from the storage box, everyone in the home looks forward to the culmination of these joyful few weeks. Christmas is coming!

As theologically-minded parents, we have the opportunity to use that feeling of anticipation to teach our children one of the most major themes of Scripture which is the presence of God with man.

In the beginning, the Creator designed a perfect garden, with perfect foliage, perfect animals, and perfect food in which He walked in perfect relationship with Adam and Eve. That communion was tragically broken with their sinful rebellion, but the story didn’t end there. Genesis 3:15 says, I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” Something was coming to resolve this curse, but it wouldn’t be as immediate as this first family may have suspected. 

The entire Old Testament traces the suspense surrounding the wait for a permanent resolution to this sin problem. God instructs his people to build the tabernacle and later the temple as dwelling places for His Presence. God’s relationship with his chosen people came at the price of sacrifice after sacrifice, year after year.

A small child may feel like the days leading up to Christmas are endless. Each seems to drag as she waits patiently for the hope promised to her. In a similar and even more significant way, Israel longed for the arrival of their Rescuer. How long would God wait to fulfill his long-standing promises?

“And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth.”

In His perfect, never early, never late timing, the Father set into motion the answer to His covenant with mankind.

“And the Word [Jesus] became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

God himself would now tabernacle with his Creation. Jesus would be both the High Priest and the Sacrifice necessary to complete the plan set in motion in Genesis. When He returned to Heaven, he would send the Holy Spirit to dwell in the hearts of the redeemed. The Church is now a living temple for the presence of God.

But, we’re still waiting. There’s more to come.

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

What a breaktaking description of the end of the story! We live in anticipation for all to be made new. We look around at our broken world and ask, “How long?” but we can wait with hope. Just as a small child confidently knows that there will be gifts under the tree on December 25, we as believers cling to the fulfillment and resolution that is surely coming with Jesus’ return.

The celebration of Jesus’ birth is a chance for our families to wonder at the greatest Gift ever given and prepare for the final chapter of God’s story yet to come!

Immanuel, God is with us!

 

 

 

The Work of Rest

“Turn off your phone tomorrow. Spend time with your family. It’s your day off, take advantage of the chance to rest,” she said.

My dear friend seemed to look right through my “I’m fine” mask as she diagnosed my exhausted state. It’s been this way for months now. The racing schedule, the too-short nights, the never-ending needs leave me craving rest. I thought I was hiding it well, until that conversation a few nights ago. My throat tightened as the suppressed emotions made a hasty appearance.

“I am tired,” I admitted and her hug caused the tears to come. She had noticed for a while, and firmly reminded me again to unplug – to rest. As I drove home, I thought about the other sweet friend who has sent me several encouraging cards and texts lately, the anonymous gift that was left at the church for me, and the letter of gratefulness from a church member to our whole family for the time we invest in them. Maybe our burnout isn’t so invisible.

We did turn off our phones and tablets that Monday. We enjoyed a day free from texts and email notifications. We sang kids’ songs in the van as we headed to pick up church supplies and stuffed ourselves at our favorite Chinese buffet. It was a tiny step forward in the refueling process.

As I put away the groceries that evening though, I was frustrated. Why did I still feel so tired? I had taken my friend’s advice. We had unplugged for at least twelve hours! Why was my heart still heavy with the burdens of the upcoming week? Why did I dread the next homeschooling day looming on the horizon? Wasn’t I supposed to feel light and refreshed after our family day?

I think I’m learning a difficult truth.

Rest is work. 

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

More specifically, rest is a gospel work.

Yes, my weekly calendar is packed with both expected and unexpected duties. Children alone can turn my well-laid plans on their heads in a moment. I desire to serve my husband well. I want to meet the needs of my church family in a timely manner. I want to be a productive member of my community.

I fear, though, that even if all of those responsibilities were miraculously fulfilled, I would still suffer from a unsettled heart. My lack of rest doesn’t ultimately stem from a busy life, but from a misplaced hope.

I have forgotten my neediness. I have been deceived by pride. I have convinced myself of my own strength when I have none.

So, how do I come to Jesus with my unrest? How do I burden myself with His easy yoke, not my bulky one? John Bunyan describes this passage in Matthew like this:

“This coming to Christ is a running to him, a flying to him from the wrath to come. When all refuge fails, and a man is made to see that there is nothing left in him but sin, death, and damnation, unless he flies to Christ for life; then he flies, and not until then. There is a sense of absolute need of Jesus Christ:……….He who truly comes, must forsake all, cast all behind his back and cling to Christ alone.”

I haven’t been flying to Christ. I have been trudging to the cross, all the while convincing myself that I don’t really need to be there. I have forgotten that that good news of Jesus is only good news when I am convinced of the bad news. My uneasy, tired existence ultimately reflects the root of sinful self-dependence incurable by even the longest night’s sleep. No wonder I have been exhausted lately.

Maybe you’re overly tired too. I know a nap and a kid-free day seems like the best solution, but it may only be a short term one. Perhaps we can dig a little deeper together by confessing our tendency for self-reliance and disregard for the work Christ has already finished for us. I am convinced that it is possible to live a life of rest even on the craziest of weeks. It will take work, but not the human effort kind. The more we work to admit our weakness, the more the Spirit will work in our souls offering His incomparable rest.

“It is the grace of the new covenant, the grace of all graces, which comforts the soul when it is disturbed. The same love that brings you everlasting life will also give you daily bread.”

-Richard Sibbes

Rest well, my friends.

 

Free of Me {a review & giveaway}

“Parenting is not about you.”

I can still hear Paul David Tripp’s words ringing in my ears. A handful of us had gathered to watch a livestream of his parenting event. It was a like a balm to my weary heart. Tears sprang to my eyes as I reminded that my  job as mommy is not controller or commander of my children’s hearts, but ambassador of God’ authority in their little lives. When I make parenting all about me, my reputation, and my comfort, it is “neither Christian nor parenting and I am simply left with a punished rebel.”   A weight lifted off of my shoulders as I remembered that it is the Holy Spirit’s job to break, change, and mold my child’s heart.

On our way home, Adam and I discussed  the parallels between parenting and ministry in the local church context. The shepherding, ministry, and counsel that occurs on a regular basis can so easily overwhelm our hearts. It’s only when we realize that church is not about us and that it’s success is on the Spirit’s shoulders not ours, that true freedom is possible.

Ultimately, all of life is NOT about me. God must have needed to drive this point home to my heart this past weekend, because I also had the opportunity to read the brand new book by Sharon Hodde Miller, Free of Me: Why Life is Better when it’s NOT ABOUT YOU. Sharon, a “serial people-pleaser,” found herself bound by a self-focus and self-absorption that had seeped into virtually every area of her life. I was immediately convicted as she described our tendency to make life about ourselves when it’s not! We are trapped in the idolatry of self-image and can only be set free by a “reprogramming” of our hearts and minds.

I love how she addresses very specific areas of our daily lives. Self-focus can rear its ugly head in our relationships, calling, appearance, and even our approach to God Himself. I was especially encouraged by the Interlude where Sharon wisely reminds us that any change in our lives will not be automatically permanent and requires the power of the Holy Spirit.

“The human soul is a lot like that [out of tune musical instruments]. It drifts. Without deliberate retuning, it goes out of tune with the gospel…..Salvation unbends our souls and points us toward God and others, but left unchecked, our souls will always drift back to the inward position.”

The last half of the book focuses on four ways to be “free of me.” These are practical habits to implement into our lives to effectively live with an outward focus. She reminds us that in Christ we can find balance between self-sacrifice and the healing we so desperately need. The Spirit enables us to obey God’s call while still experiencing the incredible joy He offers His children.

I was left challenged, convicted, and encouraged by the words in this book. We all too often are handicapped by a constant over-awareness of self, and true freedom is only found in our Savior.

I would love for you to read it too! Grab a copy over at Amazon (it’s available now!) or leave a comment below for a chance to win a copy. Details below:

*Let me know a book you’ve been reading lately for your comment to count towards the giveaway! I will pick a winner on Sunday, 10/8/17.

UPDATE (10/9/17)

Congratulations, Suzette! You have won the book! Look in your email inbox for the details!