Christian Living

Putting Out Fires… Before They Grow

Crazy fact: I didn’t even realize I hadn’t posted a blog last week until now. That’s how sick we’ve been. It’s amazing how everything falls to the wayside in the midst of illness. Both my husband and I are more than ready to return to our regular schedule.

I can’t tell you how happy that makes me 🙂 It means that our regular schedule is one that pushes us towards our goals, rather than our goals getting lost among the day-in, day-out reality of school, housekeeping, etc., etc.

How do we do that? Planning ahead and prioritizing the important–that’s the short answer. I really love the concept of risk management over crisis management. Risk management is when you take time to look at your schedule (or finances) and list out potential issues before they become issues. It allows you to take the stitch in time approach (you know, “a stitch in time saves nine”) where you solve the problem before it can get started. Crisis management, on the other hand, is when you live like a fire fighter, constantly putting out one fire after another. Problems are already full blown fires when they come to your attention.

For us, risk management means we sit down every Friday and talk about what expenses are coming up and how we want to budget for them. We also talk about our schedule for the upcoming week and what things need to get done–as well as what might potentially turn into a crisis. For instance, we make our own liver pills. It’s time-consuming, but it’s the only way I’ve gotten my kids to take liver 😉 So, I added making new liver pills onto our list before we ran out of the old ones. I didn’t want us to be out and then suddenly have something new added to the list (especially not something that takes extra time). We didn’t actually finish the new pills before we ran out, but the running out wasn’t a surprise. New pills were already on our radar.

Last week, on our podcast, Epic Every Day, Evan and I talked about how the holidays are coming. Thanksgiving is two weeks away!! TWO! I still can’t wrap my brain around that. Probably because we’ve been sick and out of our routine for the past two and a half weeks. My brain thinks it’s still October. But we’re preparing. We sat down with our kids last week to make a family holiday must-do list (stuff like making cookies and going to our favorite lights displays). Today we did more Christmas shopping and are having a gift wrapping party tonight.

A pinch of prevention is worth an ounce of cure. I’ve been wondering lately where else we can apply a pinch of prevention. I’m sure there are places I’m not seeing–time to ask God to show us where those places are! So how about you guys: any great ways you’ve found to consistently nip problems in the bud?

Copy of Copy of Blog_ Being the Right Tool for the Job

Christian Living

How to get a surplus

As a person with chronic fatigue, I am always looking for ways to find more energy, more time, etc., etc. I often feel like I pack my days from one end to the other. I recently made out an ideal schedule and realized that’s simultaneously true and not true. I do pack every minute of my day, but it’s because I make sure to prioritize self-care things too. I spend time with Jesus every day. I run and read my journal every day. The past few weeks I’ve been meditating every day. So my day is really full but it’s full of good things.

So when I reread Leviticus 25:20-22 it caught my eye. It’s in the context of giving the land a year-long Sabbath. It says, “You may ask, ‘What will we eat in the seventh year if we do not plant or harvest our crops?’ I will send you such a blessing in the sixth year that the land will yield enough for three years. While you plant during the eighth year, you will eat from the old crop and will continue to eat from it until the harvest of the ninth year comes in” (NIV)

Can you imagine? You’re a farmer, and your livelihood depends on growing enough food every year to last until the next harvest. And God tells you to take a year off farming. It makes me stressed just thinking about it. But instead of God giving them enough to last for the year they’re taking off, they have enough to last for two more years. The sixth year gives them enough they have a surplus that lasts beyond the seventh year and into the ninth year. How crazy go nuts is that??!

In her book on the Sabbath, Breathe, Priscilla Shirer talks about how God does the same thing when we take a weekly Sabbath. I have to confess that’s not often how I approach the Sabbath. I’m the kind of person who chafes at inactivity because I can think of a laundry list of things that I didn’t get done the week before. It feels counterintuitive to not work for a day, especially if the previous week has been rough.

But that’s the kind of God we have–He’s all about creating rest. Rest isn’t the sort of thing that shows up on its own. We have to create it, to carve out time and maintain boundaries around it.

You can see the same principle in Malachi 3:8-12. If you’ve ever heard a sermon preached on this passage, you’ve probably been taught that if you tithe, God will give you extra. It says, “Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing Me! But you say, ‘How have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings.“You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing Me, the whole nation of you! Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this,” says the LORD of hosts, “if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows. Then I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of the ground; nor will your vine in the field cast its grapes,” says the LORD of hosts. “All the nations will call you blessed, for you shall be a delightful land,” says the LORD of hosts” (NIV).

I firmly believe that when we tithe, God blesses us. But there’s a flip side: if we don’t tithe, we don’t get that blessing. Just like if we don’t Sabbath, we don’t get that blessing. Our time, money, etc., etc. goes to other things–broken cars, a hailstorm on your roof, a long line at the grocery store… the list goes on and on. And I’m not trying to say that if you have that stuff, it’s a symptom of God not blessing you. We live in a broken world. Stuff breaks. But we’ve definitely seen that when we tithe, we have enough to tithe and when we don’t tithe, the money isn’t available to tithe. Like Jesus said, “I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what they have will be taken away” (Lk 19:26, NIV).

I was also challenged to reframe how I view Sabbath. Instead of chafing at the bit, what if I saw it as a sort of planting time? Taking a Sabbath is like planting a seed so we can reap God’s blessing. If I really believed that observing the Sabbath would give me extra resources, I would be eager to celebrate it.

My life is way too busy to leave surplus resources laying around. I can’t afford not to align with God’s blessing for Sabbath. Sabbath creates surplus. We can’t wait until we have surplus to do Sabbath.

Christian Living

what about faith?

Last week, I talked about when prayer doesn’t work and how that’s an indicator to look at ourselves, rather than prayer itself. One of the things I’ve struggled with over the years is whether I have enough faith. For some reason, it often comes up when people find out that I have a chronic illness and PTSD. Either revelation is enough to prompt them to ask about my faith. Do I just not believe God enough to be healed?

If you have someone in your life with a chronic illness or PTSD, pray earnestly before you ask them that. Chances are, they’ve heard it a million times before and it’s just as hurtful each time.

Ok! Off the soapbox now 🙂  So what about faith? Matt. 13:58 says that Jesus didn’t do many miracles in His hometown because of their unbelief. As we talked about last week, Jesus puts belief as a prerequisite for having your prayers answered. The Greek word He uses for “belief” in those verses (Mark 11:24; Matt. 21:22; Mark 9:23) is “pisteuo” which is also used for “faith.” Clearly, faith matters.

I was reminded this week that there’s a difference between biblical faith and belief of the grit-your-teeth and muster up feelings sort. Sometimes I don’t feel like I have faith. I do what I believe God’s calling me to do but I’m not all excited about it. Jennifer Kennedy Dean connected faith to action (Live a Praying Life, 154). It’s the way we respond to what God’s taught us, not how we feel about it. Feelings are fickle. Some days I am thrilled with what I get to do–but it’s not that way every day. I was reminded of that old quote (I have no idea who said it) about how you can tell me about your beliefs but if I look at how you spend your time and money, I’ll know what you actually believe. Actions speak louder than words and, thankfully, than our feelings.

I also really loved Jennifer Dean’s reminder that we have faith in someone, not something (Praying Life, 164). We can pray for specific outcomes, but ultimately, faith is about believing God is working our best–and the best for everyone who loves Him (Rom. 8:28). It’s not about specific outcomes or certain rituals (e.g., praying a specific way).

Faith in someone frees us up to truly surrender our circumstances. I mean, if I really believe that God is going to do more than I can ask or imagine, and that that more is in my best interest (vs. more in the direction of a nightmare), then I can let go. I don’t have to hang onto my life with white-knuckled, clutching fingers. I want God’s best, and I’m willing to give Him room to work His best, even if that means taking a different road than the one that looks best to me in this moment.

Faith comes from God, it’s not something we muster up (Acts 3:16; Rom. 12:3; Eph. 2:8). It’s something we experience as we grow with God. There’s no fast-track to faith. It’s all those moments of seeing God work that give us more faith.

I really love 2 Kings 6:8-23. The king of Aram keeps trying to attack the king of Israel and every time he sets up an attack, the king of Israel knows about it ahead of time. The king of Aram summons all his officers and asks which of them is on Israel’s side. They tell him that their “leak” is the prophet Elisha who knows what the king says in his bedroom. 😀 Of course the king decides to take care of Elisha so he sends an army that surrounds Elisha and his servant during the night. The next morning, the servant freaks out. He asks Elisha what they’re going to do now.

“Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them” (NIV). Then Elisha prays for his eyes to be opened and suddenly, the servant can see the hills full of horses and chariots of fire.

The situation didn’t change: The human army was still there. The heavenly army was still there. What changed was the servant’s perspective. Suddenly, the need melted away in light of God’s lavish provision. That’s what faith does. It can “see” God’s lavish provision because we know who God is. Again, it’s not about seeing the “how,” but the “who.”

So often we live our lives in light of the visible. We stress over what we see. But the unseen is what we should be focusing on. Heb. 11:3 talks about how the world was made out of what is unseen–God’s command. The unseen is what determines how my life will go, not the seen. Just this past week we had another unexpected car expense but God provided with a bonus to my husband’s paycheck. He actually provided a week ahead of the bill, but we’ve often gotten bills and then gotten the finances to pay them.

Our needs melt away in light of God’s lavish provision. Faith in the who is what transforms a life of stress into one of joyful surrender.

Christian Living

Waiting for More

Waiting is not one of my top skills–I get antsy and cranky. I don’t like having to wait. It feels like I’m wasting time that I don’t have. I especially hate when I’m waiting without knowing why or without being able to see the end coming. I mean, it’s one thing to stand in line somewhere and to know exactly how many people are in front of you. I think our DMV decided to switch things up for that very reason. Now, you get a different sort of number dependent on what you’re there to get. Each reason has its own letter and then a number afterwards so you never really know how many people are in front of you. There could be 15, but since you’re the only G#, you sit there listening to A#’s and C#’s, waiting for the next G# to be called. Shockingly enough, it’s actually shortened everyone’s wait time 🙂

Bible study this week has been about waiting and how God builds wait times into our lives. In John 11, Mary and Martha send for Jesus because Lazarus is sick. Verses 5 and 6 say, “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days” (NIV). Pretty counterintuitive, right? Jesus loves them so he doesn’t rush to Lazarus and heal him. He follows that up in verse 14-15 by telling the disciples that Lazarus had died and that He was glad for their sakes that He hadn’t been there.

I needed to hear that this week. I feel like I’ve been doing a lot of waiting. Sometimes my health issues and the minuscule progress is enough to drive me nuts. I hate not having any sense of how close the end of the line is. I’m tired of praying over and over for different relationship issues without seeing progress. I’m tired of praying for my husband to have a less stressful job. I’m just tired of waiting.

And it’s easy to equate waiting for God’s answer with Him not caring or not working

Jesus loved Martha, Mary, and Lazarus so He waited. He could have healed Lazarus–faith was not the issue. In verse 21, Martha tells Jesus that Lazarus wouldn’t have died if He had been there. Mary says the same thing in verse 32. The disciples had seen Jesus heal many people. They all had faith that He could heal Lazarus.

Jesus wanted more for them. As Jennifer Kennedy Dean says, “If Jesus had come to Bethany and healed Lazarus before he died, Mary’s and Martha’s prayer would have been answered. Their faith in Jesus would have been affirmed. They would have been more certain than ever that Jesus is Lord over illness. But they would never have known that Jesus is Lord over death” (Live a Praying Life, 96).

By waiting, Jesus showed them more about Himself–that He’s not only Lord over illness but also Lord over death. I can’t even imagine what a comfort that would have been to know that prior to His crucifixion. I know it’s a comfort to me now. I love Psalm 116:15–“Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his faithful servants” (NIV). Every time someone is dying in our lives, I’m comforted that God is right there because their deaths are precious to Him.

God has a reason for waiting, and it’s not because He doesn’t care. He loves us. Jesus died for us while we were still sinners (Rom. 5:8). A wait equals more, not less. Whatever you’re waiting for, it’s because God wants to give you more, to show you more about His lordship.

So, rather than getting cranky or railing at God for taking so long, I’m working on thanking Him for wanting to give me more and asking for the grace to wait for His best. I want that more, which means I have to wait for it.

Christian Living

The Cycle of Burnout

The past week or so has been pretty brutal. I had a busy day on Friday and then, on Saturday, I went to something that was important, but that I knew I didn’t have energy for. The result: a two-day migraine and four nights of insomnia. Good times.

My husband, Evan, and I have been talking a lot about margin lately. And as I was reading through my journal this morning, I was reminded that Sabbath is created rather than attained via circumstances or avoidance of circumstances. It’s proactive rather than reactive.

Burnout is the opposite. If your time, talents, resources, etc. are a garden and boundaries are what make sure you have enough fruit in your garden to feed yourself and your family and to share with others, then burnout begins with a garden of scarcity. From my personal experience, burnout comes when I start from a place of exhaustion and lack in my own life and then try to use my scanty resources on others (my kids, my friends, my Church, etc.) instead of making sure I’m fed.

I’m not trying to say that we shouldn’t give sacrificially for others–we should. But there’s a difference between sacrificing and putting yourself in burnout. Sacrificing is when you choose to give something that is a stretch. However, part of that whole loving ourselves as we love others equation means that we shouldn’t give to the point that we’re starving. It’s still sacrificial giving to give away your time, energy, talents, etc. even if you can survive without that particular resource.

I’ve been thinking about 2 Cor. 9:7 which says, “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (NIV).  It’s impossible to be a cheerful giver when you’re in burnout–just like it’s impossible to think creatively, problem-solve, or any of those other things your brain shuts off when you’re in survival mode. You end up giving reluctantly or because it’s the “right” thing to do instead of something you want to give. It may feel spiritual, but it’s actually not. It doesn’t reflect who God is. It doesn’t make for healthier relationships or a healthier Church.

See, here’s the thing: when we give out of lack, we ourselves then have to be taken care of. When we’re full of the Holy Spirit and all Sabbathed-up, we’re giving from a place of abundance. That doesn’t mean we don’t need God to refill us daily or that we don’t need a weekly Sabbath. Burnout begins with lack and leads to more and more lack. It’s a vicious cycle. True, healthy giving begins with abundance. It starts with being full and then reaches out.

What about you guys? Any helpful tips on avoiding burnout?

Uncategorized

True Positivity

Sometimes it’s hard to stay positive, isn’t it? I’ve been thinking about that this past week–partly because I’ve had high pain levels but partly because of an appointment I had with my doctor.

It was just my yearly check in with her. Get my letters of medical necessity signed. Update her on how my health is going. The usual. But it really underscored again that nobody has answers for me in the health department. The type of auto-immune I’ve got is a category of illness–one that can have hundreds of causes. Therefore, there’s no one way to treat it.

Sometimes I get really cranky being told that doctors can’t solve my health problems. I get tired of being told that they don’t know why certain treatments aren’t working, that they have no idea what to try next. I just want someone to swoop in with some perfect treatment, some magical pill that takes away the pain and exhaustion.

I was reminded though that God is our healer. I firmly believe that when we align with the way God designed our bodies to work, we get healthier. We’re designed to need sleep and enough calories to run our bodies and the right sort of nutrients and to have good probiotics in our guts and to not live under chronic stress. The Bible says a lot about health.

I particularly like Proverbs 3–there’s a lot in there about how to stay healthy. Verse eight says, “This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones” (NIV). I recently heard a sermon where the speaker glossed over how awesome the bones bit is. I have to admit I did the same thing until I got an auto-immune disease; a huge part of our immune system is in our bones. For example, white blood cells (the guys who fight off infection and disease–basically any foreign thing in our bodies) are produced in our bones. We want healthy bones for way more than just not breaking them.

Anyway! When you have a chronic illness, it’s way too easy to get caught up in trying to find the right information on how to treat it. I believe that God could heal me in an instant–I mean just look at Ps. 103:3 or any of the healings in the New Testament. But I’ve also learned that I didn’t know the first thing about taking care of my own body. I’ve learned a lot since I got sick and have seen how God has used my illness for my benefit.

Last week, when I was stewing over the lack of information my doctor provided, I was reminded of all the times when God has given me the right information at the right time–99% of the time it hasn’t been through a healthcare professional. So I don’t need to stew. I don’t need to fret over whether I know the right things. I just have to trust that God is my healer. He knows how to get me healthy. He knows the cause of my illness. And He knows what information I need and when I need it. That’s where true positivity comes from–knowing who God is and that He’s going to work in my life–not from having great circumstances.

Uncategorized

Choosing Joy

So this week I sat down and actually wrote down what my ideal would look like six months from now. I’m trying to make my goals SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-Sensitive)–although some goals are hard to do that with. “Get Healthy” is pretty nebulous 😉

Life is hard, isn’t it? Trying to figure out what I would like changed and what’s realistic to change–it really brings into focus some of the things I’m tired of in my life. Don’t get me wrong, I adore the things I get to do. I never thought I could ever have a life I love this much, especially with my background, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t hard things.

As I’ve told y’all, I’m working my way back through Beth Moore’s James study. It’s really good, in case you haven’t done it yet–I highly recommend doing it! I think most of us in the church are familiar with James 1:2-4: Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (NIV)

The thing that I really love about Beth’s study on this passage is that she talks about the choice we have. Joy isn’t something you feel–it’s something you choose. I’ve talked before about how joy is being present in our moments because we believe there’s something good there. The exercise she has you do is to write down three different things you could do with the trials you’re facing and compare where you’d be in five years if you choose something other than joy (anger, bitterness, apathy, despair, etc., etc.) and then to write down where you’d be in five years if you choose joy.

The crazy thing is that even though it is a lot harder to choose joy in the short-term, you get a lot further in the long run. I had an appointment with my doctor last week that was simultaneously encouraging and discouraging. She told me that she’s seen people work on fixing their nutritional deficiencies and then suddenly heal after years of work. It’s something that I’m working on fixing in my own life, and sometimes, I’m just tired of being sick and tired. I’m worn out with trying to be faithful in things that don’t have immediate results.

When I was doing this lesson, that was the first thing I thought of. So, for instance, if I choose despair with my health problems, I would probably give up. I’d stop doing the things that will help long-term because they’re not helping short-term. My stress levels would go up. I’d probably have fallout in my relationship with God. I’d be less able to take care of my kids and to be a true ally to my husband.

Or I could choose bitterness–after all, a lot of these health problems didn’t start with something I chose. And God allowed them. So, I could get bitter, which would make me more toxic, which would make me less healthy (physically and emotionally). And I’d be back to being a poor mother/wife. Plus, I’d most likely be miserable with my life.

But if I choose joy, right off the bat my toxicity levels will be better, even if nothing else changes. I’ll be able to continue being faithful with my health therapies. I have more emotional margin to handle stress, which in turn creates greater margin in other areas of my life. And long-term, I’ll be growing closer to God–because frankly, I don’t see any other way to choose joy without the power of the Holy Spirit.

Anyway, you get the point. If you have time, consider writing out your own scenarios and how they’d play out. Choosing joy may not be the easy thing, but I want the benefits of having my trials produce perseverance and maturity.