black-and-brown-desk-globe-3994840When the world is shaken, your soul awakens.

For the last few months, the world has had a “closed” sign hanging on the front door. We’ve gone from traversing the globe to traversing only to the local grocery store. Forced togetherness means the relationships with the people under our roof are equal parts sanctifying and supportive. Relationships outside the home require even more intentional intentionality. The virtual reality of Zoom Bible studies and Facetime coffee dates with dear friends become necessities as we learn how to love and serve during an isolated season. A season of unknown and unexpected.

It’s a strange new world for sure. One that, at the time I’m writing, is beginning to cautiously find its way to something resembling (sort of) normal. These different days are not what we wanted, not what we anticipated. It feels as if someone hit the pause button. And here we are sitting somewhere between pause and play. In the waiting place. In a holding pattern. So many things put on hold or cancelled altogether. In our family alone, we’re waiting to formally celebrate a college graduation, the marriage of a dear cousin, and the arrival of a long-awaited niece.

close-up-photography-of-santa-claus-snow-globe-1684131In many ways, it feels like God picked up the earth like a snow globe and gave it a good shake. Here we are rumbling around in the fallout trying to adjust to a world that feels not quite right. It is the reality of life in a broken, fallen world. But what if it’s also a gift? A gift of grace from a loving Father who will not let us continue in conformity and comfort when He is a God of SO MUCH MORE.

For a follower of Christ, the trials we face are always purposeful, always for our good and His glory. When God shakes our world, if we let Him, He will mature us, grow us in ways we could not apart from a crisis. Difficulties allow God to open the eyes of our heart, to deepen our faith, to awaken our souls to how much we need Him and how much He loves us. During this still season, I’ve noticed four ways He is awakening my soul.

  • woman-holding-mirror-2460534I see myself more clearly. Just as Jesus turned the tables on the manipulative money changers in the temple (Matthew 21:12-14) He will often turn the tables of our lives over to remind us of who we are and who He is. Life behind cloistered walls causes an introspection. The lack of an expressway of pressing activities is causing sin I kept under the covering of busy-ness to come floating to the surface. I’m no longer able to escape from myself into the shallow waters of the “stuff” of life. My idols are quickly rearing their ugly heads and I have to look in the mirror and face the truth. And when I face the reality of my sinfulness, well, let’s just say the hardest person to live with during quarantine isn’t my husband, or my kids. It’s me.
  • woman-holding-her-head-2128817I see the brokenness of the world more vividly. Fairly soon after the quarantine started, I began taking regular breaks from social media and news media. I didn’t want to ignore the state and struggles of the world, but I found the fear that seemed the grip the world was overwhelming. It was heartbreaking to see that fear turn to anger and violence. But as I took time to pay attention, I recognized the enemy’s tactics to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). But I also know what the enemy meant to harm us, God can mean for God for the saving of many lives (Genesis 50:20). I knew before, but now I know to my bones, how deeply and desperately the world needs to know Christ, and how great the love of Christ is for us. He died for this broken, selfish world. He came to rescue us from ourselves. What kind of God would leave heaven to come to this fractured place? A God who loves us beyond description and beyond my feeble understanding. I need to let others know. The love of God COMPELS believers to go and make disciples (2 Corinthians 5:14-15). Without the world being shaken, the fierce reality of a broken world and our desperate need for Jesus, wouldn’t have invaded my mind and heart, and my heart may have continued to grow more complacent and even cold.
  • I see the small moments more gratefully. I don’t know that I understood God’s gifts of grace to the extent that I do after walking through this time of stillness. I’ve been overwhelmed by God’s goodness. Overcome by His love. I’m taking time to sit and enjoy the simple moments. A long overdue video call with a dear friend. An gardenia-2633393_1280unhurried morning sitting on my front porch on a beautiful, breezy, balmy day. The smell of gardenias wafting through the air, the sunlight streaming across the yard, the sound of my neighbors working in their garden or playing in their pool. The sounds of my boys singing, long walks with my daughter, restaurant pick up car dates with my hubby. No rushing to events. No schedules filled to the brim with obligations. Time to be bored. Time to just sit and pray and read and worship and just “be” with my Abba. Recognizing the miraculous and mundane moments are both a gift of His loving hand.
  • I keep my hands open more willingly. As the talk of quarantine began, my youngest daughter was in the middle of her freshmen year of college at a school four hours away. She was enjoying every moment of college life when she came home for Spring Break and never went back. After a few weeks and the initial shock wore off, she said one of the biggest lessons she is learning is Proverbs 16:9 “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” She is learning hands-1044882_1280at a young age to hold all things loosely before the Lord. When I hold things loosely, whether it’s plans, relationships, achievements, when my world gets shaken, those “things” will fall from my hands into the hands of the One who is holding me. And I can be fully confident that the One who is holding me is able to keep me from stumbling and present me blameless before the presence of His glory with great joy (Jude 24). That is a peace-filled place of surrender, and in that surrender my soul finds rest.

So when your world is shaken, let your soul be awakened to His goodness and His glory. Your heart will be stirred to His good purposes in a way they could not be if life went on as normal. That is grace. That is love. That is a rare and precious gift. That is an awakening.

What has the King been awakening in your soul during this shaking season?

My heart, O God, is steadfast, my heart is steadfast; I will sing and make music. Awake, my soul! Psalm 57:7-8


Keeping the Plates Spinning at Christmas

As I rounded the corner into the church parking lot on two wheels, I was feeling anything but full of the Christmas spirit. It was December 4th, and already I could sense the holiday season driving me. It had been a wild week. Husband out-of-town for 5 days on a project. Taking care of the grandkids each afternoon – one running a fever and feeling especially grumpy from the medication. Doing the Christmas parade alone with the 2 grandsons when that one was sick – what was I thinking?! Keeping a blog running during an intensely busy time. Carrying on consistently with my book writing project. Christmas shopping barely started. Last 2 months of preparations for a women’s conference – ordering, finalizing, securing the right people and equipment. Plus the daily necessary stuff to keep the house running.

And this particular Sunday… Up and getting ready. Oversleeping grandkids. The unexpected message of the passing of a dear friend’s mother. Scheduled to teach LifeGroup that day so we had to go in 2 cars. Only time for two sips of coffee. Downpour of rain as I drive up to church. Books to get to a friend. Teach class. Worship – the one calm focused hour and a half of the day. Dash home to leftovers for lunch –  and whining because “I didn’t want that.” Last load of laundry to send the grands home with a bag full of clean clothes. Last minute edit on a document for a planning meeting. Out the door. Christmas open house at one of my dearest friend’s home. Trying to get the grandbabes to their parents. Planning meeting for the women’s conference at the same time Papa had deacon’s meeting. A message from our leader who needed something printed out for the meeting. Back home. Open the email – no file attached. Texts. New e-mail. Print 4 copies and staple. Back in the car to head to church and the “Low Fuel” light is on. When I finally wheeled into my parking space I was exhausted. My Fitbit said I already had 6,000 steps and it was only mid-afternoon.

Ok – enough of my whining…

This is just My story of the holidays this year. What’s yours? Are you feeling like the man at the circus with 14 plates spinning on various parts of his body? Feeling like you just can’t keep it all spinning and remain sane?

Well sweet friends, this is just the corner our enemy loves to back us into. We are in a season of great joy, yet we feel dry and tired. We are in a season of great giving, but it begins to feel like a chore instead of a joy to give. We are in the best season to share the perfect love of the Father with a desperate world, however, that enemy of our souls has a battle plan to keep us so busy that we have no time, energy, or even thought to spread the good news while hearts are open to hear it.

I’m ready to put on my warrior’s clothes and fight that nasty enemy! How about you? As I sit here in the calm after the storm at 11:47 p.m. – the rush over, the house quiet, the kitty purring at my feet, perspective comes. So as I type I am formulating my own battle plan.

  1. I choose not to do anything during the holidays just because some social structure says I ought too. I don’t have to bake Christmas cookies. I don’t have to spend a penny. I don’t have to send Christmas cards. I don’t have to have a perfect house, 71uz2b99eqsl-_sl1500_ready for a visitor at the drop of a hat at the expense of my family. I don’t have to do Elf on th Shelf just because I did it last year. I don’t have to go to every party I’m invited to. I don’t have to get a Hatchimal just because media is proclaiming it as THE hot toy of the year. And neither do you! What are you feeling you HAVE to do due to outside pressure? Let me free you – you don’t have to do anything. You really don’t. Those external pressures bring stress and frustration. Choose wisely and be intentional in what you want to do. Do whatever you choose because it fulfills your goals for your life and your aspirations to be a Godly woman – NOT because you’ve bought into a message that you should do it. Who gives someone else the power to tell you that you should do anything? And what are their credentials? The “wise” media? The competitive young mother you know? The well-meaning family member? “They”? Who are these “they” anyway that are always the ones telling us what to do? “You know, they say you should….”
  2. I choose Christ to be in my Christmas. I choose not to just tip my hat to Him and have token “Happy Birthday Jesus” cakes and ceramic manger scenes and rush on by those tokens ignoring the real Christ. Instead I choose to see the people rushing by
    me and to verbally testify of Him in little and big ways every moment He presents me with an opportunity. I choose to soak in His Word and to absorb the Biblical accounts of all things surrounding the birth of Christ, to study and learn, and seek to find new truths through them that I’ve never seen before. To become re-enamored with the Lover of My Soul. I choose to count my personal, intimate, passionate relationship with Christ as more important than any substitute the enemy dangles before me. What about you?
  3. I choose to start my mornings with worship of the Savior we are celebrating. Every morning. At least 10 minutes just singing praise, praying, and thanking Him. I choose to get my focus on Him first thing in the morning above all else because He is my love. AND I choose to end my day worshipping Him too. Meditating on His word in the precious quiet of twinkling lights and evergreen scent and praying, singing, celebrating, allowing my soul time to feel, time to long for Him above all the glittery things around me. How about you?
  4. I choose to carry on traditions that foster these things: joy in Him, growth in my relationship with Him, sharing Christ’s good news with those around me, strengthening bonds with family and friends, or magnifying and glorifying the Christ. Things like reading the Christmas story by candlelight with my kids on Christmas Eve and donating coats at my church for the homeless and Christmas caroling with songs that sing the story of the Christ-child and packing Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes. What traditions do you choose and why?
  5. I choose to live out the Golden Rule during these holidays: Do to others what you would have them do to you. I choose to be genuinely aware of needs around me, to slow down and take time to notice strangers and offer the love, help, and prayer our hungry world is starving for. I choose to treat my family well and not like they are a bother because I am busy. In short, I choose to give to those around me what I wish I was receiving (and I may), but even if I receive nothing.

So this Christmas are you ready to drop the plates? To give up? When we quit spinning the things that don’t matter we usher in peace, real joy, authentic love, time to relate to those we love, time to share Jesus, and time to meet needs we see. What better gifts can we give ourselves and those in our homes? What better gifts can we bring Christ than our full attention, wholehearted devotion, and empty schedules that He gets to fill in as He sees fit? So girls, grab a fresh calendar. Start off with what really matters and see what Christ does to reshape your Christmas chaos!