Awakening

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

 

A Weary Mom’s Secret to Finding Rest

by Michele Mann

“Come to me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:28-29

beach-sand-girl-shore-53120Okay, my precious momma friend, I’m going to ask you an honest question. How are you? I don’t want the usual pat answer. I want an honest answer. How are you? If you’re anything like me, the answer (with a heavy sigh) is WEARY. As a wife and mom, we’re in demand. All. The. Time. Mommas wear so many hats it’s hard to remember exactly which hat we’re wearing at any given moment. During the course of one day, mommas find themselves serving as a Chef, Teacher, Nurse, Counselor, Event Planner, Peacemaker, Policewoman, Folder of laundry, Finder of lost things, Chauffeur, Encourager, Prayer Warrior, Crisis manager–the list could go on and on. In a word, it can be EXHAUSTING. No wonder so many mommas dream of being whisked away to a tropical island where no one will ask “What’s for lunch?” or “Have you seen my baseball cleats?” I’ve talked to so many women who are burned out, worn out, overwhelmed, and just plain tired. They are teetering on the ragged edge, and feel stretched so thin they’re at risk for ripping if any pressure is added. I know that feeling. I’ve been there.

 

Last Spring, as I was in the midst of ending a busy school year, and preparing for a busy summer ahead, I kept pondering and praying through my own demanding life, and I kept thinking about all those mommas I’d listened to and prayed with about their busy lives. I started feeling a heavy weight, and a stinging contradiction. Jesus said if I come to Him I can find rest. So, as a follower of Jesus, instead of haggard and harried, my countenance, my life, should reflect a deep rest of the soul. But too often my life reflected chaos and calamity, not peace and joy. I was stressed and spent and frustrated and angry. I felt like I was missing a perpetual deadline and I was never, ever going to get caught up. I began pleading with my Abba about my calling to serve my husband and children, and my community. I told Him I was willing to surrender whatever I needed to find the rest He promised. What surprised me as I journeyed with Jesus was He didn’t ask me to give up anything. But He did teach me the secret to finding rest. As He often does, God’s answer to my plea was unexpected and much needed. As I searched His heart, these were His instructions:

Press in to Jesus. In my search for rest, my Abba gently took me back to John 15. He reminded me, “Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” NOTHING. Those words resonated in my mind. Apart from the work of Christ, I can do nothing of eternal value; nothing that really matters. But in Him, my work will be fulfilling and fruitful. He gently whispered to me, “Press in, Michele. Press in to me.” Abiding in Christ is the only way to produce viable fruit and the only place I will find real rest. When I press in to Jesus, He becomes greater and I become less. When I press in to Jesus, my striving ends and my faith begins.

trees-countryside-green-chillRemember rest is not always external. Then He took me further in to Matthew 11: 28-29. Each word a balm for my soul. COME. WEARY. BURDENDED. I WILL. GIVE. REST. As I worked my way through the verse, the last phrase captured my attention, “You will find rest FOR YOUR SOULS.” The Lord gently whispered again, “You are called to serve. But you must quit serving in your own strength. Taking my yoke upon you means surrendering completely to my guidance. You must trust me to follow me. In trusting me, your SOUL will find rest.” God did not ask me to give up a commitment or activity. He did ask me to trust Him in the midst of busy days. Trusting Him even as I serve Him physically gives me soul rest. So even when the day is full, my heart is equally full of His truth and His love. That can only happen if I follow step one and ABIDE in Christ daily.

Be grateful. Paul exhorts the believers in Philippi to be anxious about nothing, but to bring all requests to God with thanksgiving. After bringing requests with a grateful heart, then we will find peace that surpasses understanding. If every day I lift up my concerns with an attitude of thanksgiving, then all I HAVE to do becomes all I GET to do. Paul says in Ephesians followers of Christ are created to do good works. As I walk in obedience to my calling, I am walking purposefully and intentionally in step with my King. Being thankful for each assignment, even in the hard places, even when I am stretched, refocuses my attention on the Giver of all good gifts (James 1:17). That, in turn, reminds me to abide in Jesus, which causes my soul to find rest.

So, the secret of finding complete rest is Jesus. Abide in Him. Take His yoke upon you. And be thankful. And there, my precious momma friend, you will indeed find rest for your soul.