When You’re Hungry For Accomplishment

Sometimes the Spirit brings a face to my mind during the day—the man who broke his leg, the girl going off to college for the first time, the family packing to spend another term overseas.

Other times, the person is right in front of me, quietly sharing a need (or shouting it at the top of their lungs if they are under 3 feet tall).

I often respond to a little people need without giving it much thought.

Or I’ll spend a moment praying for the person God brought to mind, and possibly shoot them a text.


But other times, when caring about someone takes more time than I’d planned—a phone conversation, a time of instruction and discipline, or trying everything from celery to teething rings to calm a fussy baby–I find myself wanting to argue with God.

It’s as if the Father is saying, “My daughter, will you do this for me?”

And I respond, “But Father, look at all these other good things that I’d like to do for you. Can’t you just change my circumstances so that I can do them instead? What happened to serving from my gifts or trying to work efficiently and effectively?”

If I’m lucky, the Spirit’s truth gently pushes through my other thoughts with something like, “Who’s in charge over every scrap of the universe anyway? Who works all things together for your benefit and my glorious before-time-began rescue plan? Who gives people the gift of faith and draws them through life until their sure hope becomes a reality on my eternal New Earth?”

Pretty much all I can say to that is, “Oh. Right.”

Otherwise, I just keep trying to work hard in my own strength, forgetting the beauty of the gospel and the God who ordained it.

I forget what success means in His kingdom as I snatch at significance and results I can measure on this earth.

I forget the importance of taking time to enjoy Jesus and letting His Word change my thoughts that stubbornly want to keep slogging through the same trenches of worldly success.


I look to my accomplishments to bring the satisfaction that only Jesus can.

Instead,  I need saints of old like Charles Spurgeon to remind me of truths like, “Remember this: had any other condition been better for you than the one in which you are, Divine Love would have put you there.”

Send Them

At our conference of Mennonite churches this year, the speaker and his wife shared stories of what God is doing in churches all around the world. They encouraged us to echo the words of the prophet Isaiah, “Here I am. Send me.”

But they also shared the story from the book of Acts, about Cornelius going to the home of the apostle Peter, and bringing Peter back to his family to share the good news of the gospel. God didn’t just send Peter out to preach the good news. He sent people to Peter (Acts 10).

The theme of the conference was Discipleship, and the speaker challenged us to not only say, “Here I am. Send me,” but also, “Here I am. Send them (to me.)”

As my heart continues to struggle with desiring earthly recognition and success, here are two things that the Spirit has used to refocus my mind on His perspective.

  1. Asking God to help me recognize who He is sending to me.

I often have my own ideas about who I want God to send me—people ready to ask, “Can you show me how to surrender my life to Jesus?” I need to be reminded that when Jesus was on earth, He met people’s needs, sharing the truth as He listened and loved.

  1. Asking God who He wants to love through me today.

When I’m concerned with the tasks I think God wants me to do for Him, my work can feel like one long to-do list. Joy dissolves, and people are added to the list of laundry, meals, and diapers.

But when I take time to receive the Father’s love and ask for His love to flow through me onto others, it takes the pressure off having something tangible to show for my time. It allows me to relax and enjoy the reflections of His image all around me.


When the work becomes all about people, the household tasks and life details become a way to love my family and those He’s placed in my life.

Surrendered Goals

So what do I do with my goals and dreams?

First, as my mentor Natalie reminded me, I need to recognize that what I think is hunger for accomplishment really is hunger for God.

When I’m concerned with trusting God in what He wants to do through me, rather than focusing on pleasing God through my actions, it opens the way for God to graciously change my motives.

Maybe I won’t have the chance to publish a novel while my kids are still young.

But as I was reminded by Betsy Childs Howard in her talk on Walking By Faith When Dreams Are Delayed, God hasn’t given us the grace to face everything that could happen in the future. He gives grace for today.

And today, it’s okay that the potty training, grocery list, nursing, and time to email a friend filled up the 24 hour slot of today, rather than my writing.

Who has the Spirit placed right in front of you to share His love?

What circumstance is He inviting you to receive today as part of His gracious plan?

When Your Husband’s Desires Don’t Match Your Own

I recently pulled out the workbook Christopher and I used during our pre-marital counseling six years ago.

The section that caught my eye dealt with the ideas each of us had for our new life together.


How would the housework be divided?

Who would pay the bills?

How many children did we want to have?

How would we discipline them?

How much time would we spend in the bedroom together?

While we laughed again about Christopher’s “the more the merrier” answer to how many children we would have (which wasn’t so funny when I thought he was serious), it made me realize how our desires are constantly changing and how dangerous it can be not to address them.

Sometimes I’ve felt frustrated with myself for having expectations at all, pushing them down along with my feelings.

Wouldn’t it be more loving to ignore a Saturday afternoon task that didn’t get done?

At other times, it’s sounded too exhausting to take the time to talk through them.

What if I couldn’t express my desires in a clear way?

What if he thought my ideas were ridiculous?

Sometimes I’ve wanted to force my husband to understand things from my perspective before making any effort to consider his own.

If only I felt like I was being heard, then I could be more loving and respectful when it was his turn.


Jesus Love

But Jesus didn’t put qualifications on others. The Scripture doesn’t say, “Consider others better than yourselves if you feel like you’ve been listened to and appreciated.”

Jesus died for us when we were still stained by sin, ignoring the abundant life He longed to give.

Grace is only grace when it has nothing to do with our behavior and everything to do with accepting and extending His gift of mercy (Ephesians 2:8-9).

That’s the kind of communication He invites us into—gracious, loving, forgiving—all empowered by the Spirit.

Here are a few things that have helped me when conflict seems to build like a pressure cooker.


  1. Tell Jesus how I’m feeling.

We have access to a friend who knows our inmost being, sympathizes with our weakness, showers us with grace, and has the power to help us change. Would we rather trade that for Facebook sympathy?

2. Listen.

Emotions can feel like cotton balls stuffed in our ears, preventing us from hearing what our husbands are really trying to express. But God’s Spirit has the power to hold us as we press our lips tight or ask questions that will prompt him into sharing. It might surprise us what things he values over getting dinner on the table on time.

3. Be honest about my struggle.

I’m amazed by the gracious response Christopher gives me when I admit to what I’m struggling with and confess the anger and resentment that I’ve allowed to grow.

And when I’m able to state my failed hopes in a non-hormone-charged way, it gives him a chance to process what I’m saying.

A few years ago, a counselor encouraged us to consider the trust we’d built up from resolving past disagreements as we allow ourselves to vulnerably share our feelings with each other.

4. Pray together.

Sometimes I ask Christopher to pray for me right in the moment if I begin to feel condemnation and lies running through my thoughts. Sometimes he suggests we pray together if the disagreement doesn’t seem like it can be easily resolved.

Because asking for wisdom is a request God delights to answer. (James 1:5)

So often I try to find a solution to our problems by relying on my own understanding, (even if I’ve just prayed for God’s wisdom), which is a kind of spiritual schizophrenia as Jen Wilkin said in her Biblestudy on James.

Something Christopher has said many times to encourage me is, “I’m on your side.” We are in this together as we fight against sin and selfish desires.

5. Evaluate the expectations I have for myself.

When I feel frustrated by how little I accomplished during the day, it’s easy to want to try to make up for it in the evening. I find myself going into squirrel-mode, grabbing as many acorns as I can and trying to make others around me do the same.


“Here—take this acorn and put it in the dishwasher.”

“Put all your acorns back in your toybox this instant.”

“Did you call the guy about reimbursing our acorns yet?”

But sometimes, a few of my acorns need to be left strewn across the floor in favor of helping with my husband and son’s acorns.

Often, they are better at showing me how to love them than if I try to love them how I think they should be loved. (They’re also really good at loving and enjoying me without any thought to how many acorns they have to step around).

When we make the effort to work through conflict, we have the chance to catch glimpses of the perfect relationships we will have in Heaven in the Jesus-filled way they were meant to be.

Will you ask for the Spirit’s power, living in the hope of the gospel as you work through the messes of today?

He is ready to help.

When Ordinary is Not Wrong

When Ordinary is Not WrongWhen I was nine years old, I told anyone who asked that I was planning to be a missionary orphanage worker. I toted my American girl doll Addy to school for career day (pretending she was an African orphan).

I decided that I was going to adopt twin girls from Africa (since I’d heard that in some of the tribes twin babies were left to die because one supposedly had an evil spirit), and also adopt a little girl from China (since boys were preferred in the one-child policy).

I supposed it would be okay to give birth to a boy, since I hadn’t heard of any bad stories about them.

When I started college, my career aspirations shifted to becoming a public school teacher, shining the light of Jesus among the other teachers and students.

After Christopher and I got married, I ended up teaching for a year at a Christian school and prepared for yet another change in plans.

Since the time we’d started dating, Christopher and I had decided to move overseas and share the gospel with those who hadn’t heard. We spent six weeks in Iraq and made plans to join the team preparing to go long-term.

When we felt the Lord’s redirection to delight in Him and share Him in Delaware, it felt so small.

It was a lot more exciting to share plans of adventure with people than stories about Isaiah calling out for his daddy at the top of his lungs in Walmart (even though Daddy had already been at work for a few hours).

When Ordinary is Not WrongAt times a fearful thought would fill my head with the pressure of a fire hose. What if I’m not doing what’s right? What if God wants me to be doing something else?

What if the mornings lingering over devotions and other reading, the time spent reading books to my son or making his stuffed animals talk to him would be better spent doing something else?

What if I should be fulfilling this or that need in the community? Someone has to, after all.

How could my life be pleasing to the Lord when everything feels so—ordinary?

What if I’m doing something that is keeping God from using me like He wants to?

My mentor Natalie asked me a question once that made me almost drop the phone in surprise. “Is God there to catch you and accept you regardless?”

She reminded me that our problems are so much more than we realize.

If God were to point out all my faults, sinful tendencies, and weaknesses, I’d probably want to hide in a cave and never come out.

If He condemned me for them, I would go to hell. (Romans 6:23)

Natalie said that God knows the true problems in our hearts and wants to meet our deepest and greatest needs with Himself.

When Ordinary is Not WrongBecause of Jesus’ death on the cross, our past, present, and future sins are paid for. (John 3:16)

I believe Satan is satisfied with anything we let tear our focus away from God, even if it’s the fear of being too ordinary.

Here are three questions I try to consider when I can’t tell the difference between my own concocted good deeds and God works:

1. Am I spending time with God?
If I’m not setting aside time to read God’s Word, pray, and find times of Sabbath rest, it will be much harder to seek His direction, delight in my relationship with Him, and be open to His conviction.

If my mind isn’t being filled with truth, condemnation and lies can weasel their way in until they bully out all the good thoughts.

2. Am I valuing the roles He’s placed me in?
Our culture values individuals. We rejoice when we see one man move up the ladder of success by sheer grit and determination. It can be exhausting if we’re trying to do the same thing with a toddler hanging off our waist and a husband who wants a hug and a listening ear after work.

It can be easy to resent the people God’s given us the most access to love.

When Ordinary is Not Wrong3. Am I talking to God about my activities so that if He redirects, I’m available for the good works He’s prepared for me to do? (not the good opportunities that seem to come at me from all sides like balloons in a waterballoon fight.)

Most people in the Bible didn’t convince God to use them a certain way. In fact, they were doing pretty ordinary things.

  • Joseph was babbling his dreams to his brothers and checking up on them for his father. (Genesis 37)
  • Moses was taking care of sheep in the wilderness. (Exodus 3)
  • Gideon was hiding from Midianite enemies while threshing wheat in a winepress. (Judges 6)
  • Mary was probably helping her mom in her household, preparing for her marriage to Joseph. (Luke 1)
  • Peter, Andrew, James, and John were fishing. (Mark 1)

And when the people in the Bible did try to do awesome things, they usually forgot God in the process.

  • Samson got his eyes plucked out and was obsessed with revenge even at the end of his life when he pushed the pillars down to kill a bunch of Philistines. (Judges 16) (Click here for some excellent Bible study podcasts on the book of Judges by Jen Wilkin.)
  • Gideon refused to be king, but instead made a golden ephod, which the people worshiped. (Judges 8)
  • Saul got scared when the prophet Samuel didn’t come before a battle and offered an unauthorized sacrifice. (1 Samuel 13)

Some short prayers I try to remember to pray (especially in times of confusion or false guilt) are:

“Jesus, would you help me to enjoy you today?”

“Father, I invite you into this day. Would you go before me and show me where You would have me love and serve?”

“I surrender my plans to You, Holy Spirit, and trust You to lead me.”

“Thank you for loving me even when I do sin. I ask for your conviction and freedom from any condemnation.”

“Would you make me more like you today, Jesus?”

I don’t know what my life will look like tomorrow, much less ten years from now. (Maybe He will bring those twins from Africa.) But I don’t want to live in shame or resent the ordinary tasks God is entrusting me with.

Because is any work God does really ordinary?

Is there a “good work” that needs surrendering? Is there a less noticeable one God is leading you to do instead?

Why You Don’t Have To Be an Extrovert To Be Brave

Why You Don't Have To Be an Extrovert To Be BraveI was in 8th grade, and our family had just moved to a new state. In the past, my gym experience had consisted of making sure the teachers knew I was trying, and not looking too relieved when I got hit with the dodgeball and could sit on the sidelines.

In most team sports, I could run around and still become translucent enough for the other kids to forget to pass me the ball.

But this new school implemented a torture program called skills tests. The teacher would grab her clipboard and check our names off if we bumped the volleyball in the air 100 times in a row. (Okay, maybe it was only 10 times).

I had enough coordination to play a Mozart Minuet on my violin, but could not, for the life of me, get that volleyball to return to my clutched hands when I bumped it into the air.

The other kids stood around watching me (or maybe they’d already started to head to the locker room to change), and there I was, chasing after my renegade volleyball with the gym teacher telling me to try again.

I concluded that I’d be able to save myself a lot of pain and embarrassment if I avoided these situations as much as possible. Since my parents wouldn’t let me homeschool gym class, I had to continue risking my GPA and dignity.

But there were plenty of other chances I could put my theory to work.

The youth group was getting together to play soccer? Offer to take pictures instead.

The summer camp was doing a relay involving shaving cream and wet thrift store clothes?
Find some other girls who wanted to be cheerleaders on the sidelines with me. (And who were also equally disgusted with the idea of jumping in a mud pit for fun)

It seemed to work fairly well, pretending everyone else was on some reality show that I couldn’t join even if I’d tried. (I’d even whisper jokes into my friend’s ear sometimes, because I knew she’d be brave enough to say them out loud and make people laugh.)

But soon these ideas bled into almost all of my relationships and thoughts.

Introduce myself to the new kid at church? What if I don’t know what to say?

Speak up in Sunday School class? I’ll probably stumble over my words, and people will be wishing the whole time that I’d be quiet so someone more capable could vibrate their vocal cords.

Play my violin on the youth worship team? Worship teams don’t have violins, and I might ruin the song with wrong notes.

Pray out loud with someone? What if I get so nervous I say something heretical or there is a long five-second silence?

Over the years, Jesus has used mentors, friends, and His Word to open my fist enough for some of the fears to slip away.

Here are three things I learned (and am learning) in the process:

Why You Don't Have To Be an Extrovert To Be Brave1. It takes practice.
Once I started introducing myself to a few people, it became less finger-numbing and sweaty. I found myself asking similar questions to find out about their lives.

I’d steal my husband’s question and ask what they did for fun. I’d volunteer some information about myself and my interests. Each time it got a little easier, (with a few awkward moments still sprinkled in there to keep me on my toes).

When I’d make a comment in a class, sometimes no one would grab onto it as I silently reeled in my empty fishing line of thoughts. I’d go home and replay the scenes in my head, wishing I’d said something different. Sometimes, I’d ask for Jesus’ help to not think about it anymore.

He caused me to realize that before I started contributing my thoughts, I would always wish I’d been brave enough to say something.

One summer in high school, I shared with my camp counselor about being afraid to speak up. She challenged me to think about what I would be selfishly keeping from the Body of Christ by not sharing the insight I’d learned.

When I was finally brave enough to join the worship team, I got to use the classical musical knowledge I had gained in a new way, adding harmonies to the guitar chords like sprinkles on a cup cake. And I even made some friends in the process.

Praying out loud became easier when I “practiced” praying in my private devotions, asking myself what I really wanted God to do in people’s lives, how I wanted them to feel His grace and love in their pain, and look to Him when they were struggling. (An exciting added dimension in this stage of life has been praying with someone while keeping an eye on my toddler who likes to soak himself at the drinking fountain.)

Why You Don't Have To Be an Extrovert To Be Brave2. It takes focusing more on the other person than on myself.
Sometimes, if someone asks me a question in front of a group, I feel like I have a personal court stenographer who’s going to write down everything I say and read it back so everyone can laugh at how un-eloquent I am.

But when those fears threaten to tie a gag around my mouth, I have to remember where my identity comes from. It’s not about what I say and do. It’s about finding my confidence in Christ’s finished work on the cross.

Only when I know my identity is secure can I invite others to delight in Him as well. I can risk some awkward silences and miscommunications.

If it’s more about showing others God’s glory than looking good ourselves, it doesn’t really matter whether we could have been more witty or intellectual-sounding.

In fact, maybe our fancy words would have just gotten in the way, like trying to convince someone how delicious a souffle is before letting them taste it for themselves.

3. It takes grace. Lots of it.
It’s not easy to admit to being wrong or have someone disagree with me. It’s scary to feel misunderstood. But I’m reminded that I’m not alone when I read the gospels and see how many people disagreed with and misunderstood Jesus, who was perfect. It might not be me they are rejecting.

And when I do say something I wish I hadn’t, I can always ask for forgiveness and accept the grace Jesus offers every second of every day.

Sometimes I still like to just listen and observe. I don’t want to try to become an extrovert. But I also don’t want to miss the chances that God wants to love someone through me.

Jesus, show us how to bravely love like you this week. We are yours.

When Your Weakness is Beautiful

When Your Weakness is BeautifulThe pain crept in slowly, but by the time I laid my head on the pillow, I was nearly in tears. It wasn’t only the stiff throbbing that had settled again in my neck and shoulders.

It was the fear that I would be forced to go back in time and relive the ten years of daily chronic pain and thought patterns that accompanied it.

Christopher prayed for me, and the next day I felt so much better. But when the pain started to sneak back the following day, I was ready to start paying more attention to my limitations and take the physical, mental, and spiritual rest that I needed to find relief from the pain.

Why would God want to use someone so. . . weak?

When Your Weakness is BeautifulIn our culture, women are supposed to be able to do it all–hold a job, raise children, work out at the gym, cook and eat healthy meals (from their own garden), and still find time for relationships.

As believers, we don’t only want to keep our children alive, but we want to shepherd their hearts. We want to respect and bless our husbands. We want to serve as members of the Body of Christ. We want to engage with people on a heart level and pray for their needs.

If we were stronger and had more stamina, wouldn’t we be able to do more for God?

Boasting About Weakness
In 2 Corinthians 11:16-12:10, Paul talks about all the hardships he endured for the sake of the gospel. (think prison, floggings, stonings, and shipwrecks)

He could have gone around telling people how he’d stood strong in his suffering and was still doing the Lord’s work.

He could have told people that they should be able to do it all, too.

But in His infinite wisdom and love, God gave Paul a thorn in his flesh. He begged for God to take it away, but he received an answer better than healing.

He received a new perspective.

” But [God] said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” (2 Corinthians 12:8) 

When our strength, efficiency, and accomplishments are taken off like layers of a ball gown and we stand there shivering in our undergarments, there is still Someone who can never be removed because He lives inside of us.

When Your Weakness is BeautifulThe God who designed each galaxy and forms every one of the billions of cells in every person on the planet chose to send His Son to pay for our sins, so that He could dwell in us and do beautiful works through us.

After Job lost everything and was sitting in the dust, scraping at his sores, he said, “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him .” (Job 13:15) By the end of the book, he knew the power of the God he served. “My ears had heard of you
    but now my eyes have seen you.” (Job 42:5)

Maybe you were up all night with the baby, your husband came home from work discouraged, and when you finally sat down to read a novel, a friend called who needed encouragement.

Maybe you feel you have nothing left to give.

Or maybe it’s just a constant stream of daily tasks and responsibilities that seem manageable when you look at each day separately, but as the weeks go by, the water pressure keeps carving out a canyon in your heart.

The Shortest Prayer
If you look at God’s redemption story, woven from Genesis to Revelation, you can see that one of God’s deepest desires is for us to look to Him.

So when you don’t know what to say to yourself or others, try praying this: “Jesus.”

You can even whisper it if you’re in the middle of Walmart or holding a sleeping baby.

And then the Spirit may give you a few more words. Maybe just two: “Jesus, help!”

Maybe more.

When we let our Father take charge, we allow His power to work through us whenever He chooses. We don’t try to work ourselves to death trying to make it happen.

God used a barren woman to birth a nation.

God used a shy murderer to lead a people out of slavery in Egypt.

God used a teenage girl to raise the Messiah.

He didn’t have to use them. But when he did, there could be no doubt Who was doing the work.

So why does God bother to use humans at all?

Because He’s crazy about us. He created us in His image and calls us His children. (Romans 8)

When Your Weakness is BeautifulRight now, Christopher and I are celebrating each new word Isaiah learns. We can’t stop laughing when he sees a toy and shouts, “Awesome!” or drops something in his bib and says, “Oh, shoot.”

Don’t you think the Father who knit our bones and muscles together might feel the same way about us?

As we spend time in His Word and in prayer (including the one word ones), He’ll show us what to spend our energy on. As we let Him into all our weak areas, He may not fill us with strength. But it may open the way for something better–a deeper intimacy with Him.

Are you in?

5 Ways to Pray With Hope

Praying With HopeDo you ever feel like you’re praying on autopilot?

I try to pray with my son before his nap each afternoon. Often it sounds something like this: “Dear Jesus, please give Isaiah a good rest, so that he can wake up refreshed, (so he won’t be fussy and I can get lots of stuff done).”

One afternoon at the end of my prayer, as I left my son to continue playing with his toy smartphone in his crib, I felt God asking me what else I wanted Him to do in my son’s life.

Henri Nouwen, in his book, With Open Hands, says, “The prayer of little faith makes us cling to the concrete circumstances of the present situation in order to win a certain security. . . wishes which beg for immediate fulfillment.”

Sometimes, my days alternate between feeling sorry for myself (when there’s a huge pile of dishes to be washed, child throwing a tantrum, or my efficiency plans get tossed in the trash) and feeling sorry for others (when my brain stops long enough to realizes there are other people around me and around the world who are going through unimaginable hardships).

When I pray, I want to see God act. “Help the people affected by the earthquake in Nepal. Let things go smoothly with my friend’s delivery. Heal my mom’s foot pain.”

Praying With Hope
But what if God doesn’t seem to be answering? Part of living a life of faith involves praying with hope.

Praying With HopeNouwen says, “If you pray with hope, all those concrete requests are ways of expressing your unlimited trust in God, who fulfills all promises, who holds out for you nothing but good, and who wants to share goodness and love with you.”

He goes on to say that “Our numerous requests simply become the concrete way of saying that we trust in the fullness of God’s goodness. . . expressing an unlimited faith in the giver of all good things” (p. 46).

So how do we pray with that kind of hope? Dictionary.com uses words like believe, desire, trust and rely when defining the word hope.

Hope and faith go hand in hand. Hebrews 11:1 says that “faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”

According to Nouwen, “Hope includes an openness where you wait for the promise to be delivered., even though you never know when, where or how this might happen” (p. 43)

Praying With HopeIt’s easy to hope in things we feel are under our control–our home, children, work, even the reliability of our car. These securities can cause us to forget the One who is in charge of it all. When the roadblocks do come and our feelings of control are shattered, our loving Father is always there with His arms out to welcome us back to His peace.

When we practice praying with hope in God, the roadblocks we encounter can draw us into even deeper intimacy with Him.

One way God has guided me in prayers of hope is through focusing on what He’s already started doing in the world. Here are five areas we can pray with Him.

1. For unbelievers to know Him.
Tragedies occur every second of every day. Natural disasters and evil people make others suffer and die. We live in a broken, sin-stained world. But since the beginning of time, God’s desire has been for people to know Him. As we pray for deliverance, comfort and relief for those in pain, we can also pray that through it people would know Jesus. We can even pray for terrorists, dictators, and murderers to be brought to their knees in surrender to Christ.

2. For people to remember Him.
We are forgetful people, and pain can shock us into remembering who is really important. I don’t need to pray for my son’s life to be hard. It will be. But I can ask that God would use his hardships to draw him closer to Jesus.

Praying With HopeSome of my friends have recently had babies. I’ve prayed that the babies would sleep well at night and cry less. I’ve prayed for healing in the mothers and protection from depression. But nothing can prevent it from being a hard season, so I can also pray that in all the difficult moments, these moms would feel God’s presence with them. I can pray that as their babies need them constantly, they would be reminded of their need for Jesus.

3. For daily communion with Him.
Many times we can’t relieve people’s struggles. It’s impossible for life to be easy for my friends living overseas. Language, cultural blunders, and going from shop to shop just trying to find floss is exhausting. I pray for deliverance from their current struggles. But I can also pray that through the challenges, they would have a deeper communion with Jesus.

4. For Him to use us to shine His light and glory to the world.
We are jars of clay (2 Corinthians 4), and God often uses our broken places to shine His light. When we are vulnerable enough to share our struggles with other people, it gives us the chance to point to Jesus.

We serve a Savior who was perfect so we don’t have to pretend we are. Instead, we can pray that God would use our experiences in the daily grind of life to show others His greatness. And why not even thank God for how He’s going to display His glory through people we’re trusting Him to bring to the faith?

Praying With Hope5. For us to live in the hope of heaven.
No other religion can offer this sure hope to those who only see suffering ahead of them on earth. When my son cries, it seems like the world has been drained of all happiness. When I read the news, I often wish I hadn’t. The suffering is too much to imagine.

Whether the pain is slight or suffocating, God is always there, holding out the hope of eternity. It’s always within reach.

Nouwen reminds us that, “Prayer is a way of life which allows you to find a stillness in the midst of the world where you are open to God’s promises, and find hope for yourself, your neighbor, and your world” (p. 79).

Let’s ask God to guide us in that hope, so that we can delight in Him as we share it with others.

7 Things to Do When Your Husband is a Dreamer

When Your Husband is a DreamerI’m married to an external processor.

Whenever my husband proposes that we change something, I feel like tiny ants have burrowed under my skin and are trying to wriggle their way out.

Because staying the same feels so much safer.

If I come up with an idea, I usually think about it for a while before telling anyone, making sure my ideas and dreams make logical sense in my own mind. When I do spill my thought beans, I’ve already weighed a number of pros and cons. Basically, I’m secretly hoping for a stamp of approval when I present my idea, tied with a pretty red bow.

Now if I were a hermit, this plan would work perfectly, but relationships tend to throw a socket wrench in my thought-out plans.

I’m so thankful for the wrench called Christopher. He’s strong in a lot of areas I’m not. His passion for life and easy-going spirit are two qualities that first attracted me to him.

The trouble comes when he excitedly shares an idea with me and I think he’s thought through it the same way I would have. I go into panic mode, and as my face registers horrified shock, I see him begin to deflate.

Here are seven things I’ve tried to do when I feel the fear pushing out its ugly head.

When Your Husband is a Dreamer1. Listen
I don’t usually think of myself as someone who interrupts, but when I get scared and our future is involved, my tongue starts flapping with objections before my husband can even finish his sentence. As women, we long for security, so it’s a legitimate feeling, but one of the ways we can show respect to our husbands is to really listen (rather than spending most of the time figuring out what we’re going to say next). Like Jasmine, we can step onto our Aladdin’s magic carpet and try to enjoy the scenery of his dreams.

2. Remember
Do I really believe my husband is going to take the money out of our account tomorrow to buy a powered para-glider? It’s important to remember the trust that we’ve built up together over the past years of marriage. Warning flags may be popping up everywhere in your mind.

“This could never work.”

“What would we do about ____?”

“This is crazy!”

Remind yourself that you are in this together and that if he is a believer, you both serve a God who is able to direct each season of life.

3. Suggest an Alternate Time
Since our most focused time as a couple is before we go to sleep, Christopher would often share ideas and dreams for the future at night. I’d be so tired from the day that I couldn’t cope emotionally with listening to the ideas. My mentor Natalie suggested that if I felt I couldn’t handle a conversation, I could suggest another time to talk, (and prepare myself for it). It communicates that we value what our husbands are saying, but can listen and support them better by getting a little sleep first.

4. Be thankful
Our husbands’ passions often flow into their dreams. If I’m shooting down every idea he shares with me, he’ll find someone else to share them with, and I’ll miss out. I believe God gives us gifts to bring Him glory, which can also give us a sense of fulfillment as we pursue Him. When I feel overwhelmed, I should take a moment to reflect on the man behind the idea.

5. Pray with him
I’m often amazed by what my husband says when I ask him what I can pray for. It opens a peephole into his soul, and helps in the process of joining together in what God is doing in and through us. And it might even reveal what parts of his dreams he’s really serious about and which involve striking gold in order to happen. Who knows? It might open up the way for him to invite you to share your dreams.

6. Pray for him
God is ready for you to pour all your emotions and fears. (Just page through a few of the psalms if you don’t believe me). He’s the only One who can bring true peace no matter the circumstance. And if you’ve arranged another time to talk about your husband’s dreams, by spending time before God first, you can be more emotionally prepared to hear him out. It may also be appropriate to share your feelings with a trusted friend or mentor, (while still speaking respectfully of your husband).

When Your Husband is a Dreamer7. Compromise
It’s a beautiful thing when we feel free to share our dreams with our partner and get to share in his. God has given my husband the authority to lead and protect our family, and if we’re both in it together, we can move forward confidently in the roles God has placed us in. It takes lots of grace and help from the Holy Spirit, and may look a lot like compromise. If you want to read my post on being selfless through compromise, click here.

Relationships take time, effort and a whole lot of love. It’s why the Father let His own Son be sacrificed–so that our relationship with Him could be possible. And whether we feel like we’re succeeding or failing, we can always call out for help. Because the Spirit is right there, cheering us on.

Evaluating Priorities (Part 1)

I used to wake up in the morning and try not to sigh.

The routine of the week was forecasted to look a lot like the routine of last week, which resembled the one before that. There were always jobs to do around the house–dishes, cleaning, laundry, food prep, bills, emails, keeping my son alive, etc.

evaluating priorities 2Each task felt like one more rock to dig out of the ditch I was walking down. Some moments I would peek above the edge and see the flowers poking up out of the ground, the trees blossoming, and the clouds dancing patterns in the sky. (I’d remind myself that life was filled with an abundance of blessings if I looked for them, right?)

But most of the time I was digging out the rocks, face so close to the dirt that washing the dishes seemed like a cruel joke as they magically reappeared by the sink, caked with tomato sauce.

Looking for More Rocks
But the worst part was finishing my tasks and feeling like I needed to be looking for more rocks to dig out.

An event needed baked goods?
Someone needed a babysitter?
An elderly person wanted visits?

And what about people’s spiritual needs?
Who did I need to tell about Jesus?
How could I find them?
Should I be jumping on a plane to share the gospel somewhere?

I’d feel guilty if I ignored the ideas that ran through my head.
The crisis pregnancy center could probably use supplies.
We should probably have more people over for dinner.

Having my “free” moments taken up by those thoughts zapped my motivation for my other responsibilities. It felt like a never-ending cycle of “have to’s,” “should’s,” and “ought-to’s.”

A number of people gave me a hand outside of the ditch of discouragement, and two women offered me tools to stay out.

Evaluating Priorities
My mentor Natalie helped me to step back and take a look at my priorities. Just making a list forced me past all the “ought-to” thoughts that filled my mind. My list looked like this:

1. My relationship with God
2. Husband
3. Baby Isaiah
4. Family and friends

Once I figured out what was most important, I was able to see how all the other “good things” I thought of could be preventing me from serving the people God has put directly into my life.

A Ministry of Prayer
When I started asking God to show me how to spend my time, I realized I could trust Him to lead me in blessing others and being a part of His kingdom work.

MEDION DIGITAL CAMERAOne of the ways God showed me how to reach out to others was through prayer. Even if I couldn’t be a part of physically meeting a need, I could always lift that person before God, asking for Him to work and acknowledging His sovereign care over the situation. I started to even do that with the tragedies I heard about in the news, praying that God would use the situation to draw people to Himself and to show people their need for the gospel.

God also led me to send notes and emails to encourage those serving in our community or involved in overseas ministry. And when I did interact with people in person, I started asking God for the courage to speak truth and life while listening to them.

The Body of Christ
In my quest to please God (and people, if I’m honest), I’d forgotten about the beautiful Body of Christ. In Romans 12:4-5 it says:

“For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.”

It’s not up to me to try to do all the prophesying, serving, teaching, encouraging, giving, leading and showing mercy. And that’s only the list from Romans 12!

When I admire the wonderful things God is doing through other people, I have two options:
1. Feel guilty that I’m not being used in that way
2. Praise the Father like crazy for using people like us to accomplish His plans and purposes.

evaluating priorities 5The daily tasks will always need to be done, (even if I don’t feel “gifted” to wash dishes). I can still do all the little chores for God’s glory, but how cool is it that God has given each of us unique ways to serve Him? Let’s look for ways we can praise Him as we do our piece and see others do theirs in the mosaic of God’s redemption masterpiece.

Next week, I’ll share about the second tool that has helped me stay out of the ditch of discouragement. But until then, I’d love to hear about anything God has used to pull you out of the guilt-laden “ought-to” trap.

Devotion Interruptions

devotion interruptions

It’s 10:30am and I sink into the chair, grab my ESV study Bible, and check my reading plan. I find Isaiah 17 and read the first verse. I hear grunting, followed by sounds of protest as my son Isaiah wriggles himself onto the folding chair. I bring him a few books to look at while he’s at the table. I sit back down and reread the first verse, moving on to the second.

“Up, up!” I hear as Isaiah tries to get down from the chair, (of course he should be able to use the same word to mean “up” and “down,” right?) I help him down from the chair and he toddles into his room. I read a few more verses and hear a strange crash. I spend a few seconds trying to keep reading while simultaneously deciding whether to go check it out. I go back and see him sitting in a pile of Daddy’s board game pieces. I pray about whether to discipline him.

Closing the door to his room, I ask him to go find his ball. He gets distracted along the way with some other toys, and I rush back to finish my reading. As I try to concentrate on the last few verses, he comes over and tries to shut my Bible. I try not to get angry. A few years ago, I certainly didn’t picture spiritual warfare as a little person physically trying to keep me from reading the words on the page.

What does it look like to live a constantly interrupted life for God? When every household task seems to be half done, including putting on a pair of socks? When there are people to call and errands to run, and a husband to welcome home after work?

1I recently talked with a friend from college who became a new mama a few months ago. She asked about how devotional life has changed since having a baby. The word that leaped into my mind was “fragmented.” We reminisced past days of silently reading our Bibles when other interruptions could be ignored. But then she pointed me to 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 where it says, “16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

I used to think that my pre-baby devotional life would always be looked back on as “better.” But the Spirit is showing me that this season is bringing these verses to life.

Rejoice always. . . when the toys are dumped out right before the company comes.

Pray without ceasing. . . even if I have to take a break to look my son in the eyes and moo with him.

Give thanks in all circumstances. . . when the prayer for him to sleep in a little more isn’t granted.

For this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. . . to let my little boy hear my broken, sometimes half-finished prayers whispered throughout the day, (and trying to sprinkle in plenty of tickle breaks.)

But maybe it feels like just one more thing to remember.

On those days, I can ask the Spirit to help me:

Thank him for one thing, even if I don’t feel like rejoicing.

Tell Him I feel discouraged and ask Him to help my unbelief.

Confess that I’m not happy with my circumstances, but speaking a word of truth to myself.

For this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you–to accept His grace as His child and trust the Spirit to intercede on our behalf when we just can’t. (see Romans 8:26-27)

Let’s take moments to forget about everything that’s half-finished, and remember what has been finished–Christ’s death on the cross and resurrection for our sins so that we can live in relationship with Him today and forever.

What’s one way the Spirit has helped you to pray? I’d love to hear. You can click on “leave a comment” at the top of the post.

The Secret Life of Motherhood

How much of your life is lived in secret? Recently, I was reading through Matthew 6, when Jesus gives His sermon on the mount. Jesus repeats a phrase three times: “And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” The phrases are in reference to giving, praying and fasting in secret. 

As a stay-at-home mom, much of my life is observed only by my 16 month old. Many people work tirelessly in jobs or household tasks without any recognition at all. It feels good to be appreciated, but what happens when we aren’t?

What happens when the floors are swept and crumbs instantly appear out of nowhere?

What happens when the toys are picked up and systematically dumped out over the next five minutes?

What happens when the “Mama” demands stretch on forever?

I had to laugh when I read Matthew 6:6, about going into the room and closing the door to pray. At this season of life, closing any door to be alone feels like a luxury. However, I think the verse applies just as much to praying in the living room with only a toddler racing back and forth.

So what is the reward promised? God has promised that we can store up treasures in heaven (Matthew 6:20). But what if there are earthly rewards as well? What if living lives of faith in secret brings the reward of a deeper communion with Jesus? What if it allows Jesus to change our attitudes so that we can live in more joy?

Last year, my sister sent me a book called, “Glimpses of Grace” written by Gloria Furman, a mom of four who works in the Middle East with her husband. It’s about treasuring the gospel in your home amid all of life’s messiness. Gloria recently posted a short video on her blog based on her new book, “Treasuring Christ When Your Hands are Full: Gospel Meditations for Busy Moms.” You can check it out here.

We can’t magically make ourselves feel content to fill need after need in secret. We need Christ. He’s the only One who can bring the satisfaction when all I want is for everyone around me to say, “Wow, you’re really amazing to be doing all these self-less tasks. Thank you.” He is our lasting satisfaction, when all of people’s affirmation and compliments have faded away.

Are there Scriptures or books that have encouraged you in your secret life? Feel free to share by clicking on, “leave a comment” at the top of the post.