Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Finding Rest


This starting of the school year has rocked my world, y'all. I'm not sure if it's that I now have a kindergartener in addition to a third grader or if it's really that my toddler is apparently hitting the terrible two's a bit early - but nevertheless, I am struggling to find a rhythm that feels good.

That allows for margin. That allows for grace. That allows for rest.  

What does rest look like for you? Is it binge watching TV or is it working in the yard? Is it spending time alone or is it having a night out with girl friends? Is it a date night with your husband or is it reading a good book in a hot bath tub?

What brings your weary soul to life again?

I’m asking because I realized this summer that I’m not quite sure what rest looks like for me.

I’ve started the new book by the beautiful Shauna Niequist titled, Present Over Perfect. I LOVED her book, Bread & Wine, which had a chapter with that title. Present Over Perfect.

I’m barely into the book and there has already been a part that is marinating in the deepest part of my heart as I wrestle with things that bring chaos into my life vs. things that bring my life joy.

She writes, “This is what I call fake-resting. I’m wearing pajamas. The kids are watching cartoons, snuggling under blankets, eating waffles. Aaron’s reading or sleeping. It looks like I’m resting, too. But I’m not. I’m ticking down an endless list, sometimes written, always mental, getting things back into their right spots, changing the laundry, wiping down the countertops.”

I don’t know about you, but I fake-rest all. the. time.

I stay in my jam jams all day, scroll through instagram, let the t.v. go on and on, and say yes to endless snacks and caprisuns. I might be switching the laundry, unloading the dishwasher and taking out the trash - but that’s really just to cross something off my daily to-do list.

And at the end of days like that, I feel empty - usually less-rested than I did before the day even began.

Why is that, I wonder?

Maybe it has something to do with where my heart is during the times of 'rest'.

Maybe if my heart is turned toward laziness, in a vain attempt to escape the stress of everyday life, I won’t actually attain the rest and peace that I seek. Instead, I am filled with the same sense of exhaustion at the end of the day, compounded by the guilt of not ticking down my list of things to get done for the week.

I wonder if life would be different if instead of having days set apart to “take off”, I intentionally set down my to-do list and decided that these moments are fleeting and instead of escaping, so I will live them to their fullest. I wonder if my exhaustion would feel different if I was exhausted from days of laughter and adventures instead of task-mastering and tidying up and spic-and-spanning my house fast and furiously before Jeff arrives home. I wonder if my exhaustion would feel different if we sat around a table - even if it has to be 5:00 - and turned the noise off to eat a home-cooked meal and talked about the highs and lows of our day.
I bet it would. I bet my exhaustion wouldn’t feel as exhausted. I bet it would be the kind where you hit the pillow at night and go to sleep quick with a full heart and sound mind. Where instead of being anxious about the things on my to-do list for tomorrow, I am instead focused on the moments that God had before me and filled with beautiful memories of our everyday life.

There is a difference between escaping life with rest and living a life of rest. I want to live a life of rest.

The PTA activities, bible study lessons and lunches to be made will still be there, of course. They won’t magically finish themselves, but I think that if my heart is turned more toward eternity, the importance of those activities, lessons and lunches might change.

I was sharing with Jeff yesterday all of the meetings, work duties and household preparations I have to take care of this week and then finally said I feel endlessly stressed out. I know he gets exacerbated with this comment, because he actually said so. He told me he couldn’t remember the last time I wasn’t anxious on a Sunday night.

That did not feel good to hear. But unfortunately, I know it's true.

I don’t want to be anxious. I want to be still.

The Bible says to "Be still + know that I am God". Ps 46:10.

There are two parts here. Being still and knowing that He is God. Knowing that it isn't about us, but it's about Him. That He is in control - whether we are still or not. I imagine the stillness talked about here might be talking about the mind instead of the body. Stillness in the mind. Even when we are doing the mom thing. And the PTA thing. And the lunch thing. And the work thing. 

That is my prayer for all of us this week. That we would find the stillness in our mind, even when our hands are busy. That we would find contentedness in today, plan for tomorrow but leave it there. That there would be a calm that settles down deep in our hearts so that we might rest even in this back to school season. Have a wonderful day, my friends. Thank you for reading my words - you will never know how special that is to me. 



Thursday, September 1, 2016

Loaded Queso // A Recipe



I have two words for you.

Loaded. Queso.

Do I hear the whispers of "You had me at hello"?

Yes, it is true, queso has had my heart for quite a long time. So early on (I'm thinking college) that I set out to find the perfect queso recipe.


It was a magnificent combo, one that can't be beat and is perfect for all things football and fall ::

Velveeta cheese + Rotel + No Bean Chili.

Simple. Delicious. Perfect.


However, as I have grown older, so have my queso tastes and sometimes the simple stuff just doesn't do it for me anymore.

So our new favorite - Loaded Queso - was born.

The thing about the basic queso recipe is that YOU can all the cheesy and loaded goodness that YOU want to add to it. Here is my version - let us know if you enjoy it! My crazy talented sister made this sweet recipe card just for you to print out!

 

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Moving Forward


We walked her into the school as she held her big brother's hand rather tightly. He hugged her and kissed her face before Jeff and I took her to sit down at her desk. Having a big brother at school really does make the transition so much easier for her - God knew what He was doing when He ordered those two.

I held her tightly and Jeff whispered to her the two things that He says every morning.

Be a leader.

It's always right to do the right thing.

As I watched them, I felt the tears welling up in my eyes. Yes, she is the middle child, but she is also our baby girl. She's the one who has a sweet heart that is untainted by the world. The one who is innocent and loving (and bossy). The one who never wants to miss out, but also has a healthy fear of dangerous things (praise Jesus).

The thought runs through my mind : She will thrive. The thought is there, but the wave of emotion that breathed "this is it" hit me all of a sudden and I just had to get out of that room.

I kissed her quickly, squeezed her tightly and went outside to do the easier thing + take Brady to his third grade room. (Third grade drop off is WAY less dramatic than a kindergarten one.) But once I hit the hallway I heard all of the "how are you"s with the sad, understanding look on people's faces and I nearly lost it.

It was silly. I'm not that mom, y'all. I'm not. Or at least that's what I kept telling myself.

Of course, we are beyond thrilled she is in Kindergarten. We are thrilled she is at this school with this teacher this year. THRILLED. So where was all of this emotion coming from?

This is when I realized that the mix of sadness and joy really stems from what this moment - this day - means for me.

It means I'm getting older. Which isn't bad in and of itself - I mean it wasn't too long ago that I couldn't wait to be older. It just means that the days are long, but yes, new and very weary mom, the years are indeed short.

It means that my baby girl is going to be exposed to new things. Things outside of my control and outside of Jesus. This has happened before, of course, but this is going to be a pretty permanent change.

But what it really means - where the deep down emotion was coming from - is this feeling that it's time for me to get with the program.


School activities, buying school supplies, registering for programs and signing up for sports... this is a huge neon flashing sign that says : "SUMMER IS OVER, AND ONWARD YOU GO..." I guess it would be a good time to get back in the swing of things here, right?

On the blog. In my shop. In life.

This summer the Lord enabled me to hit the pause button... to stop and rest. To lean into Him and ask Him to mold my dreams. This was for the best. I learned so much about God the Father, about myself and about all that He wants for me. (Not all He has planned for me, but what He wants for me - to trust Him fully, to live in a peaceful state of mind and to love my family before all other earthly things).

With school starting, summer ending and new dreams brewing, I know it's time to move forward from this place of rest into a space of growth and doing.

But how do I do that? What is the secret formula for trusting Him but also doing the work? Where in the Bible does it tell me how much I am expected to make stuff happen and how much I am to expect God to direct the stuff happening?

Does anyone else struggle with that?

I am reminded, when I wrestle with all of this in my mind, of a phrase someone said at She Speaks in July. I can't force a door open that He doesn't want to open for me. God is certainly a God of details, we see that with the genealogy in the Bible, with creation and with the physical human traits that we carry. But are there details that He just simply leaves up to us?

I tend to get stuck, wanting to strike the perfect balance of planning a way but letting Him direct my steps. As I reflect on this, I am overcome with the greatness that is His grace, reminded that He uses all for His good - even the stuff that may have been stepping out on my own, without asking God first.

As I dream and make plans to move forward, grow and expand, I want to ask for the Lord to expand my territory. To begin taking the land that He has promised to me. That He would stay with me every step of the way and that He would whisper gently in my ear when I step - even slightly - off of the path He has for me to take.

I have decided to cling to a verse that a sweet friend prayed over me last year. When I feel overwhelmed with the journey that may (or may not) be ahead, when I question whether or not His plans for me are indeed good, when I compare myself to what everyone else seems to be doing better and bigger and stronger than me, may I remember that "The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance."(Psalm 16:5-6)

The lines have fallen for us in pleasant places, my friends. We aren't meant to do it all, but we are meant to do our own assignments with Him.  May we all be reminded of this today. It doesn't really matter to Him if we took baby steps, gigantic steps or stood still in our assignments today. He is after our hearts and when our hearts are after Him, He takes care of the steps. Even the still ones. 


Monday, August 15, 2016

A Few Thoughts on Signifcance // A Devotional



“Becky, maybe God just doesn’t want to use me?” She asked. We were at the pool, getting interrupted a few dozen times by a screaming toddler needing the ball and big kids arguing over who’s turn it was to get the boogie board. Even through all of the interruptions, I could tell her heart was heavy with a burning desire to get uncomfortable for the sake of Christ.

I was dangling my feet in the pool, listening to one of my oldest and dearest friends share her heart about desiring discomfort and just flat-out more Jesus. She feels ready to say yes to scary things, but frustrated there aren’t any coming her way.

Have you felt that way? Have you felt a desire to be used but have whispers in the back of your head that you aren’t ready, aren’t good enough or not worthy?

I just got back from a writing + speaking conference, which was awesome and overwhelming all at the same time, and ever since then it has been easy to feel that my story is insignificant. When I brought my little book proposal into meeting with publishers - my heart written out on paper - they asked the same questions & said the same things ::

What makes you unique?

You really need to work on your “platform”.

Whoooooooooosh.

The air had just been sucked out of my sails.

I walked out of one meeting feeling encouraged and the next feeling like I was as insignificant as one ant on an ant hill. And I’m guessing that if you’re still reading this, you’ve felt same way a time or two in your life.

You’re desperately trying to keep your hands open on your life. At the same time you are wondering why God hasn’t moved in anything significant with all your blatant willingness to serve Him. You find yourself - like me with my book proposal - with your heart raw and open but with no takers.

My frustration boils down to this one word :: Significance.

Let’s put it into context though. When I find my thoughts lingering on that word, it often turns out to mean “self-importance”. I find myself thinking that my role, my job, my kids, my call is less important than that of someone else - or, sometimes, visa versa. (Being real.)

Significant actually has no value in God’s Kingdom, however. He uses everything - big, small and in between - for His purposes. I actually wanted to write “if we let Him” right there, but that’s not really the case, is it? He really uses it whether or not we let Him.

I’m sick and tired of telling myself that I need to get more followers, grow my readership and "market" myself. Does a bigger platform reach more people for His name? Sure. But do I need that to reach people for His name? Absolutely not.

“Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.” Colossians 3:17

Whatever you do. In other words, anything we find ourselves doing is significant when we do it in the name of Jesus.

I don’t need to be a sought after speaker, a for-profit blogger or a making-millions sign shop to be worthy of sharing the story. And neither do you. If there is one thing I’ve learned in studying the old testament, it’s that God cares about the ONE person. Jesus cares about the one. Why do you think He listed all of those tribe names and all of those people by name? Son of____ son of ___ son of ____? Because He sees them. He knows them. Each and every one of them. wrote a story for each of them, and He wove it into the story of Jesus.

And that’s what He does for us. He has given each of us a story. He has given YOU a story. Do you need a platform to share it? No. Do you need followers to share it? No. Do you need an audience to share it? No. All you need is open hands and a “send me” attitude.

My goal has changed from growing my platform to growing my walk. Instead of trying to spread joy over my social media feeds, I will try to spread joy in my home, in my neighborhood and on my weekly (daily) target run.

My job isn’t to build a platform. My job is to seek Him and tell His story. Period.

After much reflection over the past few weeks, I’m now convinced that our service doesn’t need to start with a platform, an audience or a calling. It starts with a daily surrender, letting God take us where He wants us that day. It has nothing to do with significant service, but everything to do with contented presence wherever we are at any given moment.

As much as I have to fight this thought - my value doesn’t come from how many likes I get on Instagram, how many signs I sell every week or how many comments I get on a blog post. It comes directly from being a daughter of the King of Kings and allowing the Holy Spirit to guide every word, every step, every moment.

So today, let’s stop thinking of how significant we are - or aren’t - and instead, start praying to the One Who has plans higher than we could ever think or imagine. Instead of getting down because we haven’t been taken anywhere yet, we can start being present where we are - because tomorrow just might turn out to be a crazy day.

Lord, thank you for creating me with specific bents and talents that are uniquely mine. Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to use them for Your glory today. Forgive me when I covet someone else’s talents or when I disregard my own blessings. I believe that You have placed me here for today - and I want to live it to it’s fullest.  Stay close to me today and let me press into You with every step I take. I love You and am so grateful to be Your daughter. Help me to find my significance in that. Amen.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Lessons from the Wilderness :: The Final Chapter



Welcome back to my wilderness story. If you are just joining us, you can catch part one here, and part two here. If you're in the middle of the valley - in the wilderness - I pray that the story He is building in me gives you hope for today!

Let's do a quick recap - we've discussed what a wilderness season might look like in your life. We've seen how the Isrealites (like myself) tend to turn back to Egypt while walking through the dry seasons. Today we are going to end with the HOPE that comes from deciding to stop turning around when it gets hard, but keep going!

Today we are going to pick up in Isaiah right after God tells the people He will break them like a potter's jar where not one shard will be recognizable. (Isaiah 30:12-14)

"For thus the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, has said: 
In repentance and rest you will be saved,
In quietness and trust is your strength.”
But you were not willing,
And you said, “No, for we will flee on horses,”
Therefore you shall flee!" (Isaiah 30:15, 16)

Did you catch that???? Repentance and rest will be our saving grace. Our strength will come from quietness and trusting in Him. I had not been willing! So often I am not willing, y'all.

This has me thinking, why is rest and quiet so hard? Perhaps it's because I idolize busy. People who are busy seem to be important or at least have a lot to offer. I tend to think I need to say yes to everything because that might make me a “good Christian”, anybody there with me? I don’t trust Him to choose the best for us, so I choose all of the good things, hoping one might be the best thing. But then when the BEST thing finally comes along, I don’t have time - or I can’t even hear the call because my mind is cluttered and chaotic.

Verse 18.

“Therefore the Lord longs to be gracious to you, and therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you. For the Lord is a God of justice; How blessed are all those who long for Him. O people in Zion, inhabitant in Jerusalem, you will weep no longer. He will surely be gracious to you at the sound o four cry; when he hears it, He will answer you. Although the Lord has given you bread of privation and water of oppression, He, our Teacher will no longer hide Himself, but your eyes will behold your Teacher. Your ears will hear a word behind you, ‘This is the way, walk in it’ whenever you turn to the right or to the left. And you will defile your graven images overlaid with silver and your molten images plated with gold. You will scatter them as an impure things and say to them, “Be gone!”

Reading this passage is like taking a deep exhale, right? If you find yourself in this wilderness season of life, looking back toward Egypt - please feel this message of hope today.

This has become my promised land, y’all. I want so badly to hear a voice behind me saying, “this is the way, walk in it.” This is my ultimate goal.This is purpose.

But what is required from me to accomplish that? Repentance. Rest. Quietness & Trust.

God wants my compassion, my obedience, my trust… not just my sacrifice. He wants my heart, not my check in the box. He desires me to, like Mary, choose the better part - Him.

He doesn’t need our service. He simply wants us.

The wilderness is our opportunity - welcomed or not - to be still before Him. It’s our chance to press into Him, to depend on Him ALONE. It is the place He brings us to so we have no other choice. Think about all of the miracles that the Israelites saw because of the wilderness:

The parting of the Red Sea which included walking on DRY LAND and the drowning of all of Pharoah’s chariots, horses and men.

Being led by a pillar of fire and a cloud.

Bread raining from heaven. (Can we stop right there and talk about this? Eventually they begin complaining about the bread and begging for quail. Who, in their right mind, would ever complain about eating bread every single day???? I WISH I could eat bread that rained from heaven every day, y’all. They’re crazy!!!)

Sweet water from a rock.

The supernatural writing of the ten commandments.

And that's just a few.

Miracles, y’all. Because of the wilderness, not just in spite of the wilderness.

Did you know that most scholars suggest that the journey from Egypt to Canaan was 30 days - at most?!

Exodus 13: 17 says “Now when Pharaoh had led the people go, God did not lead them by the way of the land of the Philistines, even though it was near; for God said, ‘The people might change their minds when they see war and return to Egypt.’ Hence God led the people around by the way of the wilderness to the Red Sea”. (Emphasis mine).

God saw that they might change their minds when they see war! So he took them through the wilderness to protect them both mentally and physically. His desire wasn't to slow them down, but to build up their faith, preparing them for the war that was definitely coming, but in His timing which, unfortunately, is often not ours. 

In other words, He taught them things in the wilderness that He wouldn’t have been able to if they had simply gone from point A to point B. If we went straight from mountaintop to mountaintop there wouldn’t be much time for reflection, gratitude or refinement. But for some reason, I still find myself fighting the valley between instead of embracing it. Do you?

I have found that it takes a lot of discipline to be still and yield to the unwanted seasons of life. It takes a lot of faith to hang on and believe that God will do what He says He will. We are not alone in that struggle. Even after building up the Israelites' faith in the wilderness, only 2 out of 12 leaders ended up believing that God would do what He said that He would. Only two, y’all.

We have to remember that the wilderness wasn't the consequence. WANDERING in the wilderness was the consequence. The wilderness was the way taken out of protection, provision and preparation - all in Gods sovereignty.

We fight the wilderness like it is somewhere we shouldn't be. But God takes us that way to show us miracles that we otherwise wouldn't see. To still our hearts and provide for us the BEST parts of Himself. To prepare us to trust Him when we get to the banks of the Jordan when we can't see any way through, around or across.

The Israelites could have avoided 40 YEARS wandering around if they would have just trusted God to come through on His promises. If they would have simply remembered all that he had done for them and promised to do for them, they might have avoided it all. They gave up forty years in a land of milk and honey because they put God in a box and said that this fight was too big for Him.

So what is up ahead for you? What do you need to believe Him for today? What thing seems impossible for Him - the thing that you wonder if He even remembers you are waiting on?

Turn back to that page between the Old Testament and the New Testament and grab hold of it tightly.

Do you feel forgotten? Do you feel lonely? Do you seek God but feel silence? Think about those 400 years of silence and what that must have felt like. How dark and deserted it must have been. Perhaps that is how you're feeling now. Let the weight of that sink in for just a moment.

Now turn the page to Matthew 1:1.

“Now here is the genealogy  of the Messiah, Jesus Christ.”

Not only did He show up, He gave them JESUS.

He always shows up.

He showed up for the Israelites time and time again. Even in the wilderness, even in their disobedience, even in their complaining. He showed up. Even after 400 years of silence, when they felt like they had been completely abandoned and forgotten. He showed up and He sent the Messiah! That was a wait worth having!

“For the Lord your God has blessed you in all that you have done; He has known your wanderings through this great wilderness. These forty years the Lord you God has been with you; you have not lacked a thing.Deuteronomy 2:7 (emphasis mine)

We have not lacked one thing.

Even in the wilderness.

If you are in the wilderness with me today, let us all take time to look for the Manna that is raining from Heaven. We can decide to keep our focus on the promises, not just the Promised Land. Let's intentionally remember what He has done and is doing in the waiting.

It won’t be easy, but God never promises easy, does He? Or quick timing.

"Do not call to mind the former things,
Or ponder things of the past.
“Behold, I will do something new,
Now it will spring forth;
Will you not be aware of it?
I will even make a roadway in the wilderness,
Rivers in the desert. " (Isaiah 43:18,19)

Will you not BE AWARE OF IT?

I guarantee He’s showing up if you just look for His faithfulness. Trust Him to do it. To walk with you. To guide you. To be that sometimes still and small voice behind you saying THIS is the WAY.  

But we must be aware of it. 

What is your wilderness story? What is He doing for you in the deserted and dry places of your life? I pray that if you find yourself covered with the dust of the wilderness journey, that you'll find hope in His words today. Praying that we each walk well... baby step by baby step today. Thank you for allowing me to share with you!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Lessons from the Wilderness :: Part II



Welcome to the Wilderness Series. You can catch up with Part I here.

Welcome back! So, yesterday we talked about what a wilderness season is and what it looks like. Just to review, by definition, a wilderness season is “a wild and natural area in which few people live. This could come in the form of a transition period, a waiting season or a tragedy, amongst many other scenarios in your life. 

We ended by pointing out that wilderness seasons tend to follow mountaintop experiences. Today, I want to share my personal story with you.  

My wilderness story goes a bit like this:

Several years ago, Jeff + I felt a calling on our life to run for office. It was crazy and we knew it but God was nonetheless calling BOTH of us on this journey. It was insane y’all. The way we saw God show up was just crazy miracle after crazy miracle. Nothing short of awesome. We had NEVER experienced Him so clearly before.

Coming off of the election year, we headed into session which was miraculous and hard all at the same time. Enormous battles were fought throughout that season - some we won, but I'd say more were lost. There were loads of tears but God’s strength and sovereignty provided for both Jeff and our little family during those 8 months that he was away.

That same year, we bought a house, God gave me the dream for Little Branches and took it to places I could never have imagined. The Lord then took me all the way to Africa and gave me a heart for leadership and women - which I couldn’t have made up if I tried. In fact, if you had told me five years ago that I would be sharing my story in front of any group of women, I would have run the other way. He is so good, y’all.

It was a truly an amazing season of our lives. We felt so full and blessed and ridiculously on fire for the Lord.

Unfortunately, we ended that year with a roller coaster of a miscarriage. It was a two month process of doctor appointments that would say, wait and see. The news would go from, “it doesn’t look normal” to “well, your levels look stronger”. Finally, a few days before Christmas, it was over. Satan knew that the climate of hormones, vulnerability and lack of time to process and heal would lead to a perfect storm for an attack on my faith.

We got pregnant almost immediately, which brings a new season all in and of itself and then right on the heels of Landry being born, Jeff entered into another session down in Austin. My closest friends tried extremely hard to walk with me through all of it, but there was only so much they could do. There was nothing that anyone could say that would make it feel better. And the feeling has lingered for years.

But the worst part was that I feared God had forgotten me. I was in the wilderness.

I started to go back and forth between two reasons I was here. Perhaps I did something to get to this place, but then again, maybe God was just done with my purpose. Maybe I had peaked at 33 and He was done. Maybe I had some huge sin in my life that I couldn’t place and this hard season was a punishment of some kind. I would be on my knees begging God to show me any unresolved sin that I needed to clear up with someone and then in the next moment I would be so angry with Him that I didn't even want to hear someone talk about Him.

For the last two years I’ve been on an emotional roller coaster of bitterness, forgiveness, seeking God and not getting direction but moving forward in things just because I feel like it’s what I’m supposed to do. That is key - moving forward just because I felt like it is what I was expected to do. For goodness sakes, I couldn't just be still for two years.... could I?

But a few weeks ago, when I finally determined to sit still before the Lord and actually LISTEN, He rocked my wilderness journey like a freight train coming through in the middle of the night.

“Woe to the rebellious children,” declares the Lord,
“Who execute a plan, but not Mine,
And make an alliance, but not of My Spirit,
In order to add sin to sin;
Who proceed down to Egypt
Without consulting Me,
To take refuge in the safety of Pharaoh
And to seek shelter in the shadow of Egypt! (Isaiah 30:1-2)
Do you see what He’s saying here? The Israelites who have been SAVED and brought into the promised land, keep turning back to Egypt for protection. They keep thinking that Pharaoh can protect them better than God can. They take their eyes of God and look around for something tangible to hold on to.

And does anyone else identify with this stuff about executing a plan that isn't His? Anybody?

When I started to let this sink in, I thought.... whoa, God. Keep talking.

I keep going back to what WAS working, hoping to MAKE. IT. WORK again. I proceed back to Egypt without even consulting Him. Why? Because it is hard to wait on His answer, y’all! And, if I’m being honest, because I want the comforts that the Egypt in my life promises to provide.

It sure seems like Egypt would have looked more promising than a wilderness journey where they had to set up and take down camp for years on end. They knew what was in Egypt, but didn’t know what was up ahead. 

Don’t you see? They weren’t trusting Him to provide for their needs AND their dreams. We do that too.

Going back to what we know can become an idol in our life, amen? What might this look like in your life? What do you keep running back to in order to avoid your wilderness? Is it a relationship that you shouldn’t be pursuing, but is easy? Maybe it’s television shows or movies that you shouldn’t be watching, but have become an escape for you? Maybe it’s an addiction to food or alcohol? Maybe it’s social media? Maybe it’s even service?

There are so many things that aren’t inherently bad, but become forms of oppression when we use them as a means of escape instead of pressing into the present that we find ourselves in. Instead of trusting God to carry us through all of the hard feelings and scary decisions we might have to make, we do an about face and take ourselves out of the race all together.

In all of my humanness - when I put myself in their shoes - I completely understand why they might trust in Pharaoh. The horrid conditions in their memories had worn off - perhaps with the previous generation. They’re thinking “was it so bad there?” And in all honesty, they can physically see the ways in which Pharaoh would be protecting them, right? Chariots, horses, kings men, cities that were built of more than tents.  

But do you see what ISN’T happening when they turn around and look to Egypt? Not only are they remembering the past better than it actually was, they are also forgetting all of the miraculous things that God did in order to deliver them out of the hand of Pharaoh and into the promised land aren't they?

We do the same thing!

I happen to do this all the time. I turn around and look to our life before politics entered the scene and it becomes very easy for me to covet that. I romanticize the comfortable life we had been living before God jumped in and started to provide for us what we couldn't have possibly known we needed in the first place. 

But God will soon tell us in this passage that He HAS to break us in order for us to experience Him more!

So, the question today is, what is your Egypt? Mine is comfort that He has called me out of and success that He has specifically told me not to chase after.  Not even bad things, but things that had become a life of bondage for me. Your Egypt doesn't necessarily have to be a life of slavery or even sin, but it could simply represent a season of your life that God has determined is over for you. He has called you forward, but you keep looking back and longing for it anyway. 

What I didn't see throughout my time in the wilderness is that God has so much more that He wants to give me, show me and teach me. But I was prohibiting Him from doing that because instead of longing for Him, I longed for comfort. What comforts does He need to break you of today? I pray that He specifically shows you today, like He has for me, all that is in need of breaking so we can pursue hard after Him alone.

Because after all of this, that is the whole point of the wilderness... to see Him more clearly and depend on Him fully. But we can't do that if we keep running backward! Onward, we go!

Stay tuned - because tomorrow we get to the really good part, y'all!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Lessons from the Wilderness :: Part I



I've alluded to it before here on the blog along with my instagram account, but the Lord has very clearly pressed me to share more in depth about this wilderness season I've been walking through and all He's been teaching me. I don't want to say that He's brought me OUT of this season, but He's definitely started moving me through this season - now that I'm being obedient to His voice. 

But before I get into my wilderness story, could you do something for me?

Sometime today, in your bible, would you turn to that page between the Old Testament and the New Testament? The page that may simply say New Testament. I want you to hold on to that page for a second and just stare at it.

Now, think about this :: this page represents 400 years of silence. This page, in the story of God, is where the Israelites did not hear ONE WORD from God. They didn’t see a miracle, they didn’t hear His voice they didn’t hear anyone prophesy. There was nothing. They were waiting for the Messiah.
And when I think about it, I so often we find myself on this page of scripture. Wanting so bad to turn to the good stuff - the better, more active stuff - but God has me right here on this page for His plan and His purpose. Making a way even when I cannot see it.

Do you find yourself here with me today? Do you find yourself waiting to hear from God or feeling forgotten or maybe even a bit fed up?

Last year around this time, God brought a passage from Isaiah 30, along with Jeremiah 19 into my life through multiple sources - so much so that I couldn't chalk it up to coincidence. Both of these scriptures had to do with breaking pottery, which was interesting to say the least, but a little hard to figure out what it had to do with me. So instead of waiting to hear what He was trying to tell me, I decided to move on and forget that it happened.

Do you do that? Keep walking even when you know He has said “stop and wait?” All. The. Time.

Let's be honest - not that I'm ever not - but the last year has been hard. Not hard physically or even circumstantially, but mentally just hard. There has been transition but also lots of stillness. I have felt stagnant and dry. Honestly for really the last two years, but in the last year I’ve been earnestly seeking Him and feeling like He wasn’t hearing me.

A month or so ago, these scriptures started to pop up again. I’d wake up thinking about this Anthropologie mug… about breaking it just to put it back together. It’s a story I read about last year in Angie Smith’s book, Mended. It stuck with me, but I continued to tell myself I wasn't broken. (It sounds ridiculous event to me - of course I was broken.) She needed healing after tragically losing a daughter. It was meant to be therapeutic... her story was one of healing and I didn't feel that I necessarily needed to be healed, so how could this ever help me?

But, let’s be real, y’all. Even though there wasn’t ONE THING that I felt needed fixing, I was still finding myself deep in need of Him. And as women we just simply feel deeply. And I really feel deeply. (MY husband would be shouting an amen if he was reading this).

So this time I resolved to figure out what IT was. Something was going to have to change to get me out of this emotional black hole I felt like I was in. Battling the feelings of not enough, less than and so on. All things I’m sure most women identify with.

So I broke my mug. This beautiful mug that Jeff had bought me for Christmas.  There were no angels singing, no a-ha moment, no trumpets blowing from heaven. I was - in all honesty - a bit disapointed. I thought - here we go again, God not showing up.

But then as I began to read through the scripture passages over and over again, putting the mug back together, I determined to still myself until I heard a word from Him. (And then of course, my daughter walked in and said "mommy, can I help?! Let meeeeeeee help!)

Then God did something miraculous… He began to teach me through the Old Testament, y’all. It wasn't right then - like instantaneous or anything - but over the course of several days that turned into a couple of weeks. I’ve often wondered how the abstract Old Testament stories of genealogy and sacrifices could ever be applicable to my daily life. But as I began to read + pray, He began to show me how similar this season of life has been to the season the Israelites walked through immediately after they got rescued from Egypt.

A wilderness.

Do you feel like those Israelites who didn’t hear from God for 400 years? Or the ones that are wandering out in the middle of the desert with one option - to follow God for every step they were taking?

I found hope through there story - and there is hope for you today.

What is a wilderness season, you might ask. I’m a word person, so I love definitions and the Webster’s dictionary definition of wilderness is this: “a wild and natural area in which few people live”.

So think about it.

Have you ever walked through a season of life that no one - or very few people - could walk with you through? No friend could understand completely and no spouse could make you feel better? No one seemed to have the right words and no one could feel the same way except for you.

It could be a season of transition. I know there are a lot of y’all out there who are new moms and struggling with what that means for you as a women. Maybe you just married off your last child or maybe you’re an empty-nester. Maybe the roles have reversed and you are now taking care of your parents? A season of transition can feel very lonely and maybe a bit confusing.

What about a season of waiting? Are you waiting for a job change or direction in your marriage? Maybe you feel like you’re waiting for the right one to come along? Are you waiting for your kids to grow up and be more independent? Are you waiting for a man? Seasons of waiting can feel long and extremely unfruitful, can’t they?

Maybe you’re coming off of a tragedy in your life and you don’t even know where to start the healing process. Healing is often a road that we must walk alone. Even with great friends next to us to encourage, seasons of wilderness are times that we end up having to put one foot in front of another all by ourselves. With only God there to experience it with us and guide us through it.

In my experience, and from what I’ve read in scriputre, wilderness seasons tend to come right after spiritual highs. Even with the Israelites, who I’ll get to in a bit, they had just experienced a MASS Exodus from the bondage they had experienced for 400+ years in Egypt under Pharoah’s leadership. They had seen the 7 plagues take place and then miraculously, when all hope seemed lost, Pharaoh came to his senses and let God’s people go.

Paul experienced dramatic conversion on the road to Damascus and then retreated for a few years to get to know God before beginning his world-altering ministry. Even Jesus, right after he was baptized, retreated to the wilderness and was tempted for 40 days before returning and beginning his three years of radical ministry.

So let me ask one last time today - are you walking in a season of wilderness? I'll share more of my story throughout the rest of the week - but today, reflect on your season and all of the ways that God has shown up. If you're like me, your instant thought might be - "Becky, let me tell you all the ways He hasn't shown up." But if there is ONE lesson I've learned the past few weeks, it's that He has been feeding me manna DAILY that I wasn't seeing because I chose not to. 

Look for your manna today. Reflect on how He has shown up throughout this season and then let's chat again tomorrow. I'd love to hear your wilderness story below if you'd be willing to share.

 

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