Monthly Archives: March 2015

The cost of contentment

It was the second week of my very first bible study. Being a new member of our church, and the body of Christ, I was trying to learn and absorb as much as I possibly could. Last week, Judy, our bible teacher, asked us to write out our favorite verse. Mine was a no brainer.

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Phillipians 4:13
 
Apparently, I was not the only one. Four of us wrote that as our life verse. The problem, as a new believer, is that I believed that calling on that verse was a sure sign of prosperity and blessing upon whatever project I was working on. It was my cure all verse to conquering whatever ailed me. Fear in making sales calls. Guaranteed success on whatever business venture I put my mind to. The trick to making me an amazing wife and mom. A sure fired verse that would help me accomplish getting the home of my dreams and a life of accomplishment. My error was when I made this verse all about me and how Jesus would serve me. How Christ could help me achieve my dreams and ambitions. How Christ could take me from the struggles of being a young, insecure wife and mom and transform me into a confident woman who could handle anything with success and ease. A woman that other women longed to be. It was not about Christ at all, but about me and my own selfish desires to succeed. It was a few years later when I discovered the verse in context:
I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret to being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or living in want.
I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” (Phillipians 4:11-13)
 

You could say the Apostle Paul, then Saul, was on the fast track before Christ caught his attention. But on that road to Damascus, everything changed. Paul was willing to sacrifice everything to proclaim the name of Christ. His life work. His good name among peers. His comfort. And he did it all through Christ who strengthened him. He was humble in riches and peaceful in poverty. Oh, that I could achieve Paul’s belief that no matter what, Christ will give me strength.  I challenged myself to rewrite this verse in a way that applies to my own life.  Here is what I came up with:

I am not saying this because I am in need, because you have something I covet or envy. I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances, even when they don’t make sense to me, or line up with what I think should be the promises of God. I know what it is to be in need. To be empty and lonely in my deepest places. To not have enough to cover all the bills for the month. To be without the wisdom I need for the moment. To feel lacking and incomplete. And, I have known what it is to live in plenty. Moments when I can’t lose. Money in the bank. Time spent well. Everything rolling exactly as I would expect it. Perfection. I have learned the secret to being content in every situation. Whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. I used to think I could use that verse as a magic wand to pull out for a tough situation. Abracadabra- I closed that sale. Abracadabra- Super balanced Super Mom. Abracadabra- selfish plans and motives instantly transformed into God’s will and plan for my life. But that isn’t it at all. It’s a commitment to contentment. It’s me, surrendering my life like a blank page, handing the pen to God and saying, “It’s all yours.” It’s leaning on Christ to step out in faith, intentionally and passionately, to pursue the calling he has for me. Even if I’m stepping into places I don’t want to go. Seeking only God’s face. Letting go of my selfish pride and ambition. At times, making choices that don’t make a lick of sense to those around me. Trusting God to be there when I step. He promises to be the light in my darkness. He promises his power will be made perfect in my weakness. The cost for contentment is death to self and rebirth in the promise of my Savior. Lack of concern for my life, while passionately and intentionally pursuing his purpose in the time he has given me on this earth.
Lord, in this moment, may my life be an open book in which you can write my story. Lord, grant me the strength and courage to pursue my purpose passionately and intentionally. In Jesus name, Amen.

What just happened here?

It’s been a pretty good day! It’s lunchtime. My list of to do ‘s is almost complete. I’m even willing to overlook the fact that today’s prospective move in chose instead to go to glory. My bank account is parched but I have just enough to get my daughter’s PE uniform. It should be officially revived from unexpected car repairs this pay day-just two short days away. I feel like I can finally take a breath. Over the course of the last month, it feels as if the carpet has been pulled out from my feet more often than I can count. I’m seriously ready to catch a break. Physically, emotionally and financially.

(Incoming text): Mom, Mr. Jackley says I need a $20 bill for class tomorrow for my driving permit. I didn’t know about it until today but he says I have to bring it tomorrow.

This is it. The straw that breaks the camels back. I sit in my car drowning in hopelessness. Officially empty. Completely embarrassed and ashamed that I have to tell my kid that the $20 or the PE uniform would have to wait for Friday. And, to be honest, I’m angry. In that moment, I remember King David’s authenticity in his darkest and most desperate moments. David didn’t worry. He authentically went to God with desperate expectation and handed his problems fully to God. I remember my promise to go to God with the same authenticity.

“God”, I prayed aloud, “you want authenticity? Well here it is. I have nothing left. I’m spiritually and emotionally empty. I have no physical resources available and life just so happens to be nickel and diming me every chance it gets. I’m doing everything you have told me to do.  I’m tithing. I’m chasing hard after the dream of writing you have placed on my heart in the midst of my overwhelmed life. I’m taking care of my body-eating right and exercising. What more do you want from me? God, I have nothing left. I need you to meet me here and handle this. I don’t know what else to do. ”

(Incoming text:) Mom. Never mind. Mr. Jackley was confused. I don’t need the $20 since I’m not 15 yet.

Hmph. Well okay. Uh, Thanks? I’m still annoyed but I thank you for taking care of this for me.”

In the moments that follow as I drive back to work, peace about my circumstance begins to settle in. Confidence that God is piecing together each and every thing I need  between now and  pay day.  As I read my devotion this verse stood out as the psalmist describes God’s righteous people:

They will have no fear of bad news; their hopes are steadfast, trusting in the Lord.” (Psalm 113:7)

I prayed in that moment for God to help me build up my trust in him. To enhance my belief in his unlimited ability to provide  for my every need. To convince me of his unfailing love for me. An unconditional life changing love. That my focus would be removed  from my own worry and weakness and transferred to his mighty strength and power.  That when bad news comes, and it will, my heart would be steadfast and I would trust in him.

How refreshing!

“Mom!  My kindle free time is frozen and I need you to exit out of it!” Madi exclaimed.  She shoved the device in my hand as I was simultaneously peeling a potato.  I stopped what I was doing and realized that the entire device had frozen.  Madi, in her usual hurry, was ready to get on to her game.  Pronto!  “Madi, your kindle needs shut down.  You have to give it time to think.”  Just like mom, I thought in my head as I went back to finishing preparing our dinner.   How nice would it be to have a button I could push when I needed a break.  A quick little refresh to get me right back on track.

Much like every woman I know, I take on far too much in my day.  It’s like a badge of honor, having all those wonderful balls to juggle in the air.  Perfectly balance and in sync.  Just don’t try to throw anything else in the mix without prior approval or the whole show might come tumbling down!  As much as I hate to admit, my well orchestrated life is often an illusion.  And, like any good magician, only I know all of the tricks to making it appear seamlessly. To say I am overwhelmed would be an understatement.

The question I must stop to ask is how.

How do I get myself into this place of overwhelming exhaustion time and time again?

The first thing I have to consider is how much time I have allowed myself to get saturated in the word of God.  Like eating a healthy diet and daily exercise, time in God’s word is a daily essential requirement.  And, often the first thing to go in my routinely busy day.  Daily, I need to be reminded that his grace and mercy are new to me every morning.  Daily, I need to be reminded that God’s power is made perfect in my weakness.  Daily, I need to be reminded that I am a loved and cherished child of God.  An heir to his kingdom.  The crown on his head and the royal diadem in his hand.  A symbol of his living power, grace and mercy to a lost world that surrounds me.

Then, I need to trust him with every detail in my life.  Nothing is too minor.  Every worry and concern, every dark & unlovable feeling I am harboring, every circumstance and situation that seems impossible and out of my control need to be laid before the Father’s throne.  And left there! I need to trust that the God of the Universe can handle every detail of my life!

Last, I need to steal time away to sit and listen.  Quiet & uninterrupted.  To do that, I have to intentionally escape the realities of my life.  I personally love lake and pond areas.  However, my back patio will do in a fix.  This is time just to sit and listen for the still, small voice of God.  Time to allow his spirit to resonate my stress and anxiety that he may instead give me a peace that surpasses all understanding.  True refreshment to my parched soul.

I find that it is not the big things that most often overwhelm me.  It is the little day to day stuff.  Limited finances that crash into teens with endless pockets.  Broken car parts. Unmet expectations.  Broken dreams.  The responsibility of saying “yes” to one too many things.  But I have to remember that in these moments of overwhelming exhaustion, I am not alone.  In Psalm 3 it says that God is my glory and my shield.  He lifts my head high.  I picture a loving father, gently placing his hand under the chin of his beloved child.  Lifting gently until their eyes meet and he gently reassures her with the love and compassion in his gaze.   There is no refreshment quite like it.