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Does God celebrate our accomplishments too?

This is a full journal. For the past six years, I’ve recorded church sermons that “hit home,” written prayers when I felt so scattered I couldn’t pray the words in my head, and taped Mother’s Day cards from my boys. I’ve reread it more often than I’ve written it in, to simply be reminded of all the things that resonated with me, to see how God answers prayers, to be reminded of His presence when life feels full of distractions.

And just a couple weeks ago? It was full. No more blank pages. No more room.

It was FANTASTIC.

Hello?! I’m an achiever!

Then I realized: this is a perfect blend between my to-do list personality (fill the journal, get your writing in!) and God’s request of me to be in relationship with him. Holy crap. I found a “good” accomplishment in my relationship with God.

But I feel like accomplishments are not always well appreciated in the believing community. Unless it’s a mission trip – then “PRAISE JESUS for what you’ve done for the kingdom!”

You completed a Bible study book? That’s nice. How have you grown? How can you grow more? What’s next?

God answered your prayer? Great. What’s the next prayer you can focus on?

Are we ever allowed to just appreciate our accomplishment? Can we ever take a break from “the next thing?”

I’ve often felt church teaching pressing on me a negative association with God and production. Shoot – that’s what this whole blog is about! While service is an act of doing and is encouraged for all followers of Christ, there’s a polar opposite reminder to slow down and focus while reading the Word, praying, and growing in community with others.

The only next logical step was to see what God’s Word says about getting something done.

“But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded.” 2 Chronicles 15:7

Amen.

P.S. I’m totally taking this verse out of context. It’s totally not about finding purpose through accomplishment. Isn’t it interesting how we pluck one scripture out of a larger story and make it work to justify our current circumstance? It reminds me of this one…

“May he give you the desires of your heart and make all your plans succeed.” Psalm 20:4 …umm…can we talk about twisting that verse up pretty darn quick? Better remember Psalm 37:4 “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Because only when your heart is in alignment with God do you get what both you and God want. I hope God feels excited about my accomplishment of a full journal detailing my growing relationship with me. I like to think we’re “on the same page” (oh, yeah, you saw what I did there) in delighting in that together.

And I could not be more excited about my new journal (clean, fresh pages, amiright, Type A-ers?). 

Wanted: Women who wanna do this friendship thing FOR REAL

I recently had some alone time while on a walk. I typically love this alone time, but I was only about about two minutes in when suddenly…I was yearning for a companion with some real conversation.
Y’all. This is like a big stinkin’ deal. I’m not joking when I say I crave solo walks that give my brain and me a chance to get on the same wavelength. But I’ve actually been praying (miracle! I still haven’t given given up yet), and I’ve been fiercely praying for a few friends, and a few situations where I could develop some deeper friendships. And then I realized: Oh My God (seriously. God.) He is changing my heart. I’m desiring these intentional relationships. I want people to come over for dinner (ok, not all the time, but still). Normally, I’m an an introvert. And I’m not going to stop being an introvert (I need my alone time; it recharges me). But God is responding to my prayers and changing my heart for relationship with others.
I’ve especially been praying about fellow women. One young woman I could more intentionally mentor. Another woman new in her faith journey. A group of women who would want to grow in Bible study together. A sister-in-law and sister. Neighbors. And of course my bestie, who just gave birth again two weeks ago (Jesus, give that baby long stretches of sleep at night). I’m praying big things for these women’s lives. And I’m praying big things for my friendships with these women. And…I’m getting a teeny bit impatient, y’all.
“If you wanna make God laugh, tell him your plans.” Well, here it is, God.

I’ve been intentionally looking for ways to build up my fellow women warriors. A note of encouragement to someone I haven’t talked to in years. A simple compliment – not related to physical appearance. Extra time in conversation to really hear her. And I’m craving more.
I’m looking for women who want to take their prayers to the next level. Women who laugh at the “I Mom So Hard” duo. Women who want to grow in Bible study together (like once every 2-3 weeks, y’all. I’m not that crazy. Remember? In-tro-vert.). A woman who doesn’t say she’s “fine” when, let’s be honest, we are NOT fine. (Emotions. Ugh.) Women who encourage me and push me in my relationship with Jesus, and want me to do the same for them. Women who want to do more than just talk about Jesus, like go on a walk or do a Yoga with Adriene video in the basement. Women who talk crap about their husbands driving them bananas, then bragging on what incredible men they are, just two short minutes later (it’s normal and healthy).
I wanna get some intentional friendships FOR REAL. Our lives are too full of superficial to not say yes.

Get Mature in Your Prayers

I’ve really been focusing on improving my prayer life (see my post about the prayer wall I made for our bedroom last fall). I’ve really felt God speaking to me about how to pray and what to pray about in the last several months.

I started with stumbling back upon a book I read a number of years ago: “The Power of a Praying Wife” by Stormie Omartian. Then found her companion book, “The Power of a Praying Parent” (less awesome than the wife one, but still meaningful). And those helped guide the content of prayers as I sought to reconnect with God. My two guys are the most important parts of my world, so this Martha felt like I was being productive and making progress with my prayers. (Funny how, with my two guys, “productive” is never an aim of how I grow in relationship with them; but it’s my default in relationship with God. Hmm.)

Then, while I was reviewing my personal journal entries over the course of 2017, I stumbled upon some words that stuck with me from famous pastor Andy Stanley: “All our projects, dreams, and visions are merely potential opportunities for the Father to draw attention and people to himself. When you pray for your family, don’t limit your request to ‘protection’ and ‘blessing.’ Pray that God would establish your family as a light in your community.” He also spoke similarly on praying about work. Focus less on the success of the current project (although you certainly can pray about it, and should – God wants to hear it all), but pray for people to take notice of how God is a part of you and working in you to accomplish these projects.

Finally, right now, I’m listening to the audiobook “Sacred Parenting” by Gary Thomas. He said that when parents pray, we tend to focus on requests for protection and for our child to change in some way (seriously, Gary?! It’s like you know me! All I do is pray protection. Hence, the reason 2 Timothy 1:7 is my mantra). But he suggests considering your child’s current attributes and thanking God for how He has designed that child. And – it made me think of praying for things bigger than our circumstances.

Most days I get caught up in the day-to-day challenges and blessings. But who doesn’t? We’re human. It’s normal. But to truly be in alignment with Him, we need to consider His desires too.

Craig Dennison said it well: “Jesus’s model for prayer is abiding in his presence, abiding in his words, and then asking God for our heart’s desires. God desires that we would be so in tune with His heartbeat and so saturated with His Word that our desires would be transformed into His desires.”

Am I new to this understanding? Doesn’t that just blow your mind? I already feel more mature in my prayer life. Well – I mean, I understand it. Practicing it is another story… All I can think about is how selfish I sound in my current prayers. But what God is asking us to do is basically look outside ourself and consider what the Creator wants for us – and for His Kingdom. Basically, I’m 14 years old again and only thinking about what I want to do this weekend, instead of wondering what my mother (my creator) needs to continue taking care of me. Whoa – when you think about it that way, it gets real pretty quick.

Ok, God. I hear ya. Thanks for continuing to nag at me ’til I get it. And here’s to me opening my ears a bit more to your leading, your desires, and my maturity deepening with you.

Discipleship is not a big dang deal: My Best 2017

In February 2017, I had the opportunity to attend my local IF Gathering and hear from Godly women over the course of a 24-hour conference. It’s similar to a Women of Faith setting, but smaller in the local videoconference places, and with opportunities for small group conversation (I love talking/reflecting with others about what I just heard). The focus was on the book of Acts and discipleship. Here’s what impacted me:

The infamous Jeremiah 29:11 tells us: “I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper and not to harm you, plans to bring you a hope and a future.” I have clung to this scripture since college. It’s pretty much the Christian’s best answer to coping with the unknown. But I learned this verse tends to be overrated.

What people don’t realize is that while it gives God’s promise for a hope, a future, etc., you have to understand the role God asks of you – to be in relationship with Him. Consider…do you read your Bible or pray more than you are on social media on a daily basis? (Umm…of course not is my honest answer to this. And a real slap in the face – it’s something I know, but definitely do not practice.) Do you initiate God-focused conversation with others? How are you building your relationship with him – both inwardly and outwardly?

We must be disciplined in following God. When we get too involved in this world, we become lonely, discontent, and compare ourselves to others. In Acts 4:13, the men following Jesus weren’t specially educated. However, they had power because they had been with Jesus. Intimacy is needed before we can go out and take Jesus to others.

At the time of this conference, being asked to be involved in discipleship was honestly not a desire of mine because I felt exhausted. And I fear I felt that way because I wasn’t spending time deepening my relationship with God – therefore resulting in a lack of desire. I wanted to shut down everything that was being spoken to me.

But then the focus shifted to considering who and how we can pour into others – simply as seeing our “mission field” or sphere of influence as the ones who live in our same home and who we see everyday at work. Basically, stop making this “discipleship” phrase an overwhelming, big dang deal. One mother spoke of her children being a manageable mission field. And shared this nugget that helped me cope with the never-ending guilt factor of not being a “perfect” mother. This mother told her teen girl: “Child, don’t put your trust in me because I will always fail you. Put your trust in Jesus because He is powerful and will never fail you.”

He will never fail any of us. Our everyday habits are our everyday idolatries. You are what you love. Are you living for the weekend or the next vacation day? Or is everyday enjoyable because you experience Jesus’s joy in every task and conversation? (Jeez, talk about a perspective giver for me…) I felt emboldened to seek out God more and give myself a break when it comes to being a “good” Christian.

Finally, I always need clear next steps to help me take action. I challenged myself to do the following. (And as I review this list I wrote in Feb 2017 to today, Jan 2018, I realize I’ve really sucked at doing most of this. But that’s why we review, people!!)

  1. Act. Be a Disciple. Love Him. Have a passion for Him. Read about Him. Be like Him. Live for Him.
  2. Be intentional about community. The disciples ate together and shared needs – including physical items. Find people unlike you (a big conversation on racial relations ensued – an important topic I’m learning so much about) to include in your community too.
  3. Continually live “on mission” – at work, with family, at the store.
  4. Pray about who you can invest in.

In 2017, I’ve also spent a lot of time praying about who I can invite to IF 2018. A couple offers have been declined, but one was accepted (yea, JB!). I’m so looking forward to the experience again. This year’s IF Gathering is in Lincoln on February 9-10. Come with me! It’ll be worth the 24 hours. I know there is one in Papillion, York, and Auburn for you Nebraskans. Check out more sites around the world on the IF Gathering webpage.

P.S. As I reflect on my 2017, I’m also identifying photos from these times and remembering fun adventures with my people. Enjoy my February 2017 photo with my little co-pilot. When other cars drive slow and don’t take risks, we tell them to “Be Bold!” (It’s better than the alternative: my foul mouth.)

Peace in this Season: My Best 2017

As a reminder…I’m reviewing my faith journal entries from 2017. And rather than end the year with these reflections, I’ve decided to begin the year with them as a promise for what God has to come.

In May of 2017, I was feeling at peace. Here’s a bit of what I was thinking…

Lord, I haven’t connected with you in a couple weeks and normally I would feel super guilty – but for some reason, I’m feeling mild peace about just being in my current season. Help me process this feeling – it’s not ok to just give up trying to Bible read or prayer (and I don’t think I’ll ever feel ok with not making an effort). But sometimes it’s ok to draw on past Bible knowledge/scripture to do your best in living a current life situation. Help me to not allow that to be my excuse.

Each year, I tend to understand God’s grace a bit more. While the day-to-day living in America judges you based on your performance, that is not how God has designed us to live. It is so difficult to give yourself (and others) a break when what we see day-to-day is focused on what’ve you accomplished and how good you are at it. Shoot, my #1 StrengthsFinder skill is “achiever.” (Talk about having a long way to go to find peace from a grace-filled God.)

A certain Bible verse repeated itself to me in the last few months of 2017.

“The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Exodus 14:14

I pray in 2018 that I will be continually reminded to simply be still in my current season – because that’s how God designed our relationship to be too.

Beginning 2018 with my Best 2017

I’m usually not a huge journal person when it comes to my faith journey. But whenever I run across something that really makes me think about God in a new way, or when I feel completely scattered and can’t even process where to begin with God, I have a journal that I’ll wipe the dust off of and start processing. I’ve taken some time over the past week to review what made an impact on me in 2017. And rather than end the year with these reflections, I’ve decided to begin the year – because clearly there is something about looking to the promise of a the future that makes us feel a whole lot better about the coming unknown.

Here’s what I processed in early June 2017 (and a photo from that same time). It’s important to note that I spent significant time reading and watching news of the Trump administration during this time. I could tell it was impacting my mental well-being, and I knew I had to get grounded in something else.  I was looking online for a women’s-focused Bible reading plan. I landed on rachelwojo.com “Perfect Peace Bible Reading Plan.” I began with reading Psalm 29:1-11. I simply read and reflected…

This psalm focuses on God’s great power. I love how it continually uses the greatest analogies of weather – something totally out of our control, still not entirely predictable, and something with great power – by describing: over the waters, thunder, and strikes of lightning.

This passage describes God’s power with His voice. His voice does all these great things – like control the weather, shake the desert, twist the oaks and strip the forests bare. This passage is focused on God proving He is Lord over all the earth. He is our forever King. He’s got it all under control.

Lord, thank you for this passage and the reminder that in these horrifying days of ungodly political leadership, I can be assured that this life is insignificant compared to eternity with You. It doesn’t mean I’m not engaged in participating in godly activities on earth, but I can take a break from that anxiety. I’ve got to learn to be better about walking away from social media and the constant news cycle. I have to cultivate my relationship with God by choosing calming, reflective time with Him.

Check back in tomorrow for another reflection as we start 2018 with an encouraging God-focused beginning.

Is there ever an appropriate way for an adult to tell other adults it’s their birthday?

When the hubs celebrated his birthday this past year, he shared with me about a new co-worker asking him, “Why didn’t you tell me it was your birthday?”

Bubble thought: Um, well, because that’s really weird.

My sister also celebrated her birthday – consequently on the second day of training at a brand new job. And no one knew it was her birthday. But, like…how do you appropriately bring that up?

Kids will let know straight up when their birthday is – whether it is 7 days or 7 months from now. Birthdays are all fun and games (literally) when you’re 6. And some still really live it up at age 27 (and 43 and…well, maybe you’re that person – totally cool. No judgment), but I feel like after age 30, it’s…just…well, there’s a dinner and dessert. But most are pretty content being low-key. And I think I know why.

Me, center, celebrating a birthday in college…I think…

Because we’re tired.

Honestly, when J asks what I want for my birthday, I tell him: quiet, alone time.

Ok, maybe that’s just the introverts?

I’m not trying to be all scrooge-y, but seriously: I kinda want to take a really long shower, read a book, have meals delivered to me (no cooking!), and take a nap.

So when people know it’s my birthday, we have that whole: “Oh! Fun! What’re you doing?” Thankfully, my answer is not: fighting a dinner crowd at The Olive Garden while we try to convince the three year old to stop dropping spaghetti on the floor. And no alone time.

On the contrary, I like a simple dinner at home.

Each birthday I get to, I’m grateful for gathering a bit more wisdom that year and simply having time with my family. We all slow down a bit on the big day (no other obligations allowed!) and get to enjoy time together.

Oh, and by the way, my birthday is at the end of this month. I like chocolate, wine, and gummy bears.

 

And THAT’S how you appropriately tell other adults it’s your birthday.