“A bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench.” Isaiah 42:3
I sat down to write an inspirational reflection on resolutions for the new year. But within five minutes, my seven-year-old's head got slammed by a door (his sister needed PRIVACY), the one-year-old wanted to sit on my lap as I typed, the sixteen-year-old's basketball carpool left without him, and the timer started going off telling me dinner needed to be taken out of the oven. This lovely collection of events made me decide that my New Year's resolution is simply to keep my head above water.
How are you feeling as you head into this new year? Are you tired? Are you in greater need of encouragement than of someone raising the bar and encouraging you to try to reach it? If that's how you're feeling, I want to remind you of the gentleness of the Savior we love and serve. Centuries before Jesus's birth, the prophet Isaiah spoke prophetic words about the Rescuer who was going to come to save us all. “A bruised reed he will not break,” wrote Isaiah, “and a faintly burning wick he will not quench.” If your heart feels bruised, if your life feels like a “faintly burning wick,” then this promise is for you.
So many of us have an image of God as one who sets a high standard and gets disappointed and perhaps angry when we don't meet it. Is this really who God is? I don't believe so. God knows our limitations. He is very familiar with our weaknesses. While people in our lives may have unrealistic expectations of us, God sees the whole picture and the degree to which we are trying. And when we're weary, He comes to us with arms of comfort, eyes of understanding, and lips that speak encouragement. When we are weakest, He asks that we rest in His lap and lay our head on His strong shoulder. He doesn't want to see us broken; He came to restore us.
This is the heart of the gospel. God saw the chasm that sin created between us. He knew that no matter how hard we tried, we'd never be able to achieve the perfection required to be in His presence. Instead of telling us to jump higher or try harder, He stooped down, and said, “I'll do for you what you can't do for yourself.” Jesus, who had never sinned, allowed all the sins ever committed to be placed on His shoulders. He paid the price of sin so that we wouldn't have to.
Jesus's sacrifice cleared the way so we could have a personal relationship with God. This is a privilege offered to everyone, but enjoyed by relatively few people. Do you know about Jesus, or do you know Him, personally? I don't ask this question as a rebuke, but rather as an invitation. He's inviting you to draw closer.
Once we know Jesus personally, we never need to be lonely again. We no longer have to worry about being perceived as too emotional when we pour out our hearts. We don't have to worry that our private concerns will be gossiped about if we share them with Him. He is the most intimate, true friend, connecting with us—body, soul, and spirit.
Because of Jesus, we can let go of the “try hard life.” We can rest in His all-sufficiency. We can ask the Holy Spirit to run through us like sap in a tree, nourishing us and doing in and through us what we can't do for ourselves. Now that I think about it, that sounds like the best New Year's resolution of all.
“Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God…be glory…now and forever!” Jude 1:24
Happy New Year!
This post originally appeared on our blog on January 1, 2014.
Deep abiding joy—the kind that helps us to rejoice even when weary—wouldn’t that be the most amazing Christmas gift? This is what we long for, but for many, it’s difficult to hope because 2020 has held many disappointments. Plans haven’t gone the way they should. Words have been spoken that have pierced many hearts. Much is broken, and we aren’t sure how to put it all back together again. In the midst of a Christmas with more chaos and confusion than we’d like, does the night of our dear Savior’s birth still make a difference?
The ancient words of St. John Chrysostom give me food for thought…
“On this day of Christmas, the Word of God, being truly God, appeared in the form of a man, and turned all adoration to himself and away from competing claims for our attention. To him, then, who through the forest of lies has beaten a clear path for us, to Christ, to the Father, and to the Holy Spirit, we offer all praise, now and forever.”
Could it be that experiencing deep abiding joy is connected to what we adore? Is it possible that some competing claims for our attention have gained our primary focus this year? Has our gaze shifted, and have our bodies followed our eyes into a forest of lies?
I’ve discovered some things about myself this year. All the changes that COVID has brought have made it clear that I adore the following: My comfort. My well-laid plans. Experiences that give me something to look forward to and a burst of joy when I’m in the midst of them. These aren’t the only things that I adore, but when they are taken away, I wilt a little bit.
Since all three of those things have been hard to rely on this year, I can see competing claims for my attention at work. When I lose control on a macro level (hello, pandemic), I try to control things on a micro level. I do this without even thinking about it. I push the dig deeper button, get to work, and rely on grit. My ability to control something as small as my to-do list competes for my attention with “the better part” that God offers me—the invitation to come away and rest a while.
When I ignore His invitation to rest, I’m led into a forest of lies—lies like:
“It’s all up to me.”
“It doesn’t matter how I feel.”
“Things will never get better.”
One thing is for sure—I’d better get out of that forest of lies if I want to have the kind of Christmas that includes rejoicing despite weariness. And here’s the good news: Jesus has beaten a clear path through the forest of lies to bring me to the Father. He’s cleared that path for you, too.
When I say, “It’s all up to me,” Jesus says, “No, my sweet sister. It was all up to me. And I did for you that which you couldn’t do for yourself. So lay down your burden (Psalm 55:22). The earthly work will never be done. I invite you to rest in my all-sufficiency and let me take care of the things that you didn’t finish.”
When I say, “It doesn’t matter how I feel,” Jesus says, “No, you’re wrong on that point. The heart of the Father is always turned toward you with tenderness, and He has put your tears in a bottle (Psalm 56:8). He cares deeply about what’s going on inside you. He is listening. He is paying attention. He neither slumbers nor sleeps (Psalm 121:4).”
When I say, “Things will never get better,” Jesus says, “Don’t you remember what I said in Revelation 21:5, ‘I make all things new?’ I am at work, I promise! Don’t forget the truth of Isaiah 43:19, ‘Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.’”
When we feel too weary to rejoice, we can receive God’s joy as a gift—as a present—delivered by the Word of God incarnate through the Word of God inspired. So let’s declare truth as we leave the forest of lies and journey to the manger in Bethlehem.
For I declare that God gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might He increases strength (Isaiah 40:29).
I declare that God will satisfy the weary soul, and every languishing soul He will replenish (Jeremiah 31:25).
I declare that those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint (Isaiah 40:31).
I declare that the Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit (Psalm 34:18).
I declare that my flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion for ever (Psalm 73:26).
I declare that God’s presence will go with me, and He will give me rest (Exodus 33:14).
I declare that I will lie down and sleep in peace; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety (Psalm 4:8).
I declare that weeping may last for the night, but joy comes with the morning (Psalm 30:5).
Oh that we would rejoice despite our weariness, celebrating the One who has led us out of the forest and into a place of true rest for our souls.
Praying for a merry and refreshing Christmas for you.
Last Sunday, my second daughter, Eliza, turned three. If you don’t already know this, it’s because you don’t live in my town. She told the whole town. And whoever may have missed the news undoubtedly heard it from her older sister, Penny, who was also shouting it from the rooftops. My three-year-old basked in the joy of her birthday all weekend. She listed off the presents she received at every chance she got, and her older sister did the same. One’s joy was the other’s as they soaked in the glory of this great celebration. As I watched them, it dawned on me that it is hard for adults to do this. It is hard for us to embrace joy, share joy, and celebrate with others. Joy takes courage.
It is so much easier to focus on all that goes wrong in our lives and the lives of other women. All too often, when women get together, it isn’t long before the conversation turns negative and stays negative. Someone starts to share about her struggles and before long, everyone has jumped in. It has become popular to label those conversations as “real” or “raw,” and while they can be genuine, they easily devolve into unnecessary complaining.
Please don’t misread this. We should not float along as if nothing ever goes wrong or hide a bad day by pushing our feelings under the rug. Life can be messy and difficult. We need to be able to share honestly with trusted friends for comfort and advice.
That being said, it is much more difficult and risky to focus on and share about the good things that happen to us. There is more at stake. For starters, focusing on the bad is normal. We expect things to go wrong and so when they go well, we don't know how to handle it. Vulnerability researcher Dr. Brené Brown claims that, “Joy is the most vulnerable emotion we experience.” Most of us have not been trained to live with a joyful disposition. Even if we find ourselves experiencing it, we dare not share it with others. Being positive, if we are honest, can be downright annoying. No one wants to be a Pollyanna in a Kill Bill world.
Sharing joy is not only risky because we might annoy someone. We also risk the possibility that we will magnify another woman’s pain. If we share that we received a raise at work, will we hurt the woman who just got laid off? If we share that we are connecting with Jesus in our prayer lives, will another woman feel like she is not enough because her prayer life is dry? What if our kids are behaving, and we are genuinely enjoying our time with them? Will this news twist a knife into the heart of the mother who is struggling to have a relationship with her kids? We are keenly aware that it may seem like we are bragging, and we are all too familiar with the jealousy we have felt at the good fortune of another. With these things in mind, we keep our joy to ourselves or downplay it when we are in a group of women. This is a mistake.
Joy is not a finite resource. God created each of us to share in His infinite joy and to celebrate when good things happen to others. For example, Elizabeth was joyful at Mary’s news that she was chosen to be the Mother of God. She was not jealous, but instead she celebrated with Mary as they glorified God together. Mary, in turn, celebrated with her the news that she was pregnant with John the Baptist against all odds. There is plenty of goodness to go around.
So where do we start? How do we shift our focus and become courageous? How do we embrace joy in a cynical world? We start by sitting with the God who is joy. We start by allowing Him to renew our minds so that we can recognize His goodness, share His goodness, and celebrate when He reveals His goodness in the life of a friend.
In the new Walking with Purpose devotional, Rest: 31 Days of Peace, Lisa Brenninkmeyer shares how we are to renew our minds. “We saturate our minds with what is true—and that’s found in the Bible. This is God’s love letter to us. He is not silent. He speaks to us through His Word.” When we renew our minds by sitting with Him daily in His Word, He gives us the rest we need to discover the joy that He has reserved for us. He blesses us with a spirit of gratitude that enables us to be joyful for others.
Romans 12:15 implores us to “rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep.” There has been so much weeping this year. At every level of society, there is tragedy. Every morning we can wake up and be overtaken by the nastiest news cycle of our lifetime. We can look in the mirror and remember just how hard the last year has been. For honesty’s sake, we may need to do this, but where does it lead? Does it lead us into the spiral of despair, or does it lead us to our Savior who endured the very cross for the sake of the JOY set before Him (Hebrews 12:2)? Jesus did not wallow in His suffering for the sake of seeming “real” or “raw.” He endured it, honestly, and held on to the joy, the never-ending joy, that awaited Him. He offers the same to us. He celebrates His goodness with us. We need not be afraid to feel it. We need not be afraid to share it. What is going well in your life? Are you recognizing it with humble gratitude? With whom can you share it? How can you rejoice in the joy of another?
This, dear sister, is the attitude shift that could change the tone of your year and the years to come. Take courage. Take the risk, and reveal your joy.
 "Dr. Brené Brown on Joy: It's Terrifying," SuperSoul Sunday, Oprah Winfrey Network, (YouTube Video, March 17, 2013), 5:58.
 Lisa Brenninkmeyer, Rest: 31 Days of Peace, (Walking with Purpose, 2020), p 67.
“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us.” Ephesians 5:1
Before I leave the house, my husband always asks if I have my wallet. I forget it all the time, and he says it’s good to have your ID with you so you can identify yourself. He’s right—when I don’t have my wallet, I’m lost, in a sense. If someone asked, I couldn’t take proof out of my pocket and point to who I am.
The definition of beloved is “to be dearly loved” or “pleased with.” From the moment we were merely a thought in the mind of God, each of us were marked “beloved” as the very core of our identity. It’s not simply something about us—it’s our identity. There’s nothing we’ve done to earn it. There’s nothing we’ve done or that’s been done to us that can take it away. Beloved is who we are. And yet, how many of us live our lives out of that truth?
Five years ago, I was introduced to a book called Life of the Beloved by Henri Nouwen that changed my life. The book revolves around the idea that every day we’re surrounded by voices. The voices of society, negativity, lies we’ve believed, our peers, etc. What would it look like if we could silence the noise and listen to the voice, that at the center of our being, calls us “beloved”? While reading the book, I realized that instead of owning and living out of my belovedness, I was only owning my mistakes. My journey is far from over, but I work every day to own the truth of who I am.
The problem is, we can be our own worst enemy. Negative self-talk has plagued humanity since the beginning. Too often, all we see in our reflection are the things we’re not, rather than embracing all that we are. Anything can set it off. A bad hair day, how you reacted to a situation at work or school, accidentally snapping at your spouse or child, an interaction with a friend. We own our negative qualities far too quickly, and we allow those thoughts to control our actions and our beliefs about ourselves. Before we know it, we’re beating ourselves up without putting up a fight. If a friend said some of the things to us that we say to ourselves, she would no longer be our friend. And yet we allow our internal chatterbox to persist, often without even realizing it.
Our identity isn’t based on our accomplishments or failings, what people think about us, or how we view ourselves in the mirror. Our identity is that we are the beloved children of a relentless Father who loves us unconditionally.
I’m reminded of a stained-glass window in a chapel in which I used to spend a lot of time. The image was of Jesus holding a sheep close to his chest. This is the goal of a Christian. To be so close to the heart of the Shepherd that you hear His heartbeat and can conform your life to that rhythm. When you do this, you’ll go into each day knowing you are loved, not looking for ways to earn it. This is freedom.
I wrote the song “Belovedness” first and foremost because I needed to sing it. I needed to remind myself of these truths. When you sing truth over yourself, it releases something internally. My prayer for you when you listen to it, and what I hope you’ll pray for me, is that we see ourselves and others the way the Lord sees us. Beloved isn’t a badge to earn, a club to join, or a gift to withhold from others. It’s our identity, it’s our name, and it’s the strength we need for the journey.
You are beloved. Period. Full stop. There is nothing you’ve done, nothing that’s been done to you, nothing that’s been said to you, no lie you’ve believed, no mistake you’ve made, no sin you’ve committed, no past or future thing that can take away your identity as a beloved child of God. It’s time to silence the chatterbox and allow the truth to grow. It’s time to own our belovedness.
You've owned your fear and all your self-loathing
You've owned the voices inside of your head
You've owned the shame and reproach of your failure
It's time to own your belovedness
You've owned your past and how it's defined you
You've owned everything everybody else says
It's time to hear what your father has spoken
It's time to own your belovedness
He says, "You're mine, I smiled when I made you
I find you beautiful in every way
My love for you is fierce and unending
I'll come to find you, whatever it takes
No matter what is going on in our lives, we all want what Jesus offers in Matthew 11:28: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” But how often do we read those words and think they are beautiful but hard to experience? Does this type of rest seem intangible? The seeming disconnect between the truths of our faith and our everyday lives can leave us feeling bewildered and discouraged.
Henry Drummond, a Scottish evangelist from the 1800s, suggested that while many people don’t regret their religion, they are perhaps disappointed by it. He went on to write, “Men sigh for the wings of a dove, that they may fly away and be at rest. But flying away will not help us…We aspire to the top to look for rest; it lies at the bottom. Water rests only when it gets to the lowest place. So do men. Hence, be lowly.”
There is a lot of wisdom in Drummond’s words. First of all, yes, we all find the idea of escape very appealing. Man always has. Drummond is drawing from Psalm 55:6, penned by David, “O that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest.” While few of us “sigh for the wings of a dove,” we do seek to escape through excessive online shopping, another glass of wine, binge-watching shows, and other activities that take the edge off. We think they will leave us feeling rested, but we’re rarely satisfied by them. Why does escapism not help us? Because the solution isn’t somewhere “out there;” it’s found in the interior life. It’s located in the soul. This is where God meets us, in the present moment, and offers us rest.
Drummond says that rest isn’t located at the top, but lies at the bottom. If we think that hitting a certain goal or reaching a level of achievement will finally give us permission to rest, we’ll be sorely disappointed. Just when we think we’ve reached “the top,” we’re surprised to find that there’s another whole level to go. So what’s going on at the bottom? Is that where we go when we just give up and decide to stop trying? What does Drummond mean by getting to the lowest place and being lowly?
I believe he’s describing the virtue of humility. Humility isn’t thinking that you’re worth less or putting yourself down. It’s seeing yourself as God sees you. Changing the way you see yourself, seeing yourself through the eyes of God, doesn’t always come easy. For some of us, we think our past mistakes cause God to be disappointed in us. We feel that if we could just develop better coping mechanisms, get rid of our selfishness, and get our act together, He’d love us. But in the meantime, we figure we fall short of what God requires. We wonder how He could possibly love us.
If that’s where you are at, I wrote my latest devotional, Rest: 31 Days of Peace, for you.
It’s for those who have heard Bible verses or messages about God’s tenderness and whispered to themselves, “That may be true for other people, but not for me.” It’s for those whose impression of God is of someone who is indifferent, impotent, or disapproving. If you know with your head that Jesus loves you, but it doesn’t feel like it in your heart, this book is for you.
I wrote this devotional for those of us whose hearts have been hurt, who are experiencing weariness overload, who long to feel treasured but find it hurts too much to hope. It’s for those of us whose inner voice is unkind and who fall asleep at night while a litany of failures runs through our minds. It’s for those who have called out for God and found Him to be silent.
The Bible is full of assurances of God’s love for His people. But I know that believing those verses in theory and feeling that they are true for you personally are two different things. What I am hoping to do through this little book is close that gap.
So I am inviting you on a journey of the soul. I know that might feel scary or like a waste of time. But what if there is more than what you are currently experiencing? What if it is possible to come to a place of inner peace where you know who you are, and know beyond a doubt that you are seen, known, respected, and loved?
Going to the lowly place means bowing your head for God’s blessing and outpouring of grace. It’s accepting that you are loved beyond measure and longed for by your Savior. It’s seeing yourself through His eyes.
It’s my prayer that the message of Rest will be a balm to the heart during a time when we all desperately need hope, peace, and a good dose of kindness. Order Rest: 31 Days of Peace for yourself and anyone with a hurting heart.
May His perfect love drive your fear away,
 Henry Drummond, Pax Vobiscum (Palala Press, 2015), 30.
“I trust in you, O LORD…My times are in your hands.” (Psalm 31:14-15)
These words were written by King David at a time when he was experiencing deep distress. Earlier in Psalm 31 he wrote, “My strength fails because of my misery” (Psalm 31:10). His circumstances were not what he wanted. He was bone-weary. Yet somehow, he was able to trust God.
I wonder how you are doing right now, if you are weary, too. What circumstances are you facing that makes it difficult for you to trust that “your times” are in God’s capable hands? Are you struggling to be content with what “your times” presently hold?
Is it possible to be content when your finances go up and down? Does a family crisis negate the possibility of contentment? Can you be content when you aren’t achieving very much? Does contentment depend on whether you are married or single? Can you be content regardless of how schools will operate this fall? Does your contentment depend on whether or not the pandemic continues to rage? Is it tied to your health, wealth, comfort, or safety?
Trust in God and contentment go hand in hand. When I think it’s all up to me, I feel I need to hustle. I’m discontent if any of my circumstances are not what I had been working for. But when I recognize my littleness and see that I am not the ruler of the universe and am actually in the palm of God’s hand, I can rest. When I rest, I realize that God has not failed me. I am still standing. He is sustaining me. I am able to pray, “You are my rock and my fortress…into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God” (Psalm 31:3, 5).
Because God is who He says He is, and does what He says He’ll do, “even now, there is hope” (Ezra 10:2). This is a truth you can count on—there is always reason to hope. God was not surprised this morning by what popped up in your news feed. He isn’t wringing His hands as He looks down from heaven at the chaos below. God isn’t playing around with your life, dispassionately seeing what you are made of. He is utterly in control, completely interested in the details of your life, and timelessly working in the future so that even the worst things today can be redeemed down the road.
God loves you with a level of purity that you can’t even fathom. In a time when you might wonder which news, data, and people you can trust, God remains “the same, yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). He is unchanging, unfailing, and unflinching in His commitment to father you faithfully.
Allow yourself to become little—like a child. Let the pressure roll off. Picture yourself in the palm of God’s hands, because that is where you are. Remember what those hands have done. They are the same hands that stretched out the heavens (Isaiah 45:12), told the sea it could go no further (Job 38:11), and healed with a touch (Matthew 8:3).
Psalm 31:15 says, “My times are in your hand.” This doesn’t mean that God doesn’t hold the whole world in His hands. But it’s undoubtedly sweeter when you see that this is a truth meant for you, personally. Jesus loves you and gave Himself up for you, and your life is in the hands of the one whose hands were nailed to the cross for your sake. May you embrace this truth and allow this reality to be the source of your hope, strength, and security.
“Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.” (Isaiah 49:16)
I had stopped feeling joy. That was the first sign for me that something needed to change- that something was wrong and that I didn't know how to fix it. Things were happening in my life that should have been getting me excited, that should have been touching my heart, that should have sent me reaching for my camera or my journal or someone's hand- to squeeze it and to say, “this is it”- but instead, I just felt kind of numb and very, very tired. I was starting to not care about any of it. That detachment terrified me.
These were some of my journal entries those days:
“I don't feel I'm doing anything well, which means perfect. I wish I had more time to give in almost every area of my life.”
“The weight of the work is pressing on my chest. It is just too much work and not enough hours.”
“How do I fall asleep at night? By listing every single thing I've accomplished that day. It's as if I am giving myself permission to rest.”
I wonder where you are at today. Where are you at in terms of joy, freedom and contentment?
I look around, and I know I am not alone in what I've been feeling. So many of us have been placing our hope in all sorts of things that have frankly not delivered.
We were raised being told that we can be anyone we want to be, that there is nothing out of reach, that we can have it all. So we've been trying. Really, really hard. We're trying to live out that promise where we can have a solid marriage, raise good kids, pursue our passions, and push through the glass ceiling. We've not just been promised that we can do it, we've been told that when we get there, it'll all be worth it. Is it? I'm not so sure.
This reality made me feel really scared that I was missing my life. In the midst of the whirlwind, I determined that somehow, I was going to find it again. And once I found it, I was going to live it.
After a couple of years of deep soul work, I have found that there is another way. There is a different path. There is some new territory that's a little uncharted, but at the same time is an adventure that can bring the change that we are after.
Fearless and Free, an eleven-week Bible study on the book of Ephesians, is the result of that journey. It contains my most personal writing, and offering it to you feels a bit like handing you my heart. I don't like to feel that vulnerable and exposed, to be honest. But I believe it is time for us to face our brokenness and need for inner healing, and I know that it can be scary to peel back the layers around our hearts. So I offer you my brokenness, my honesty, and the truth that I have found to be life-giving and transforming. I offer you my hand on this journey, with the steady assurance that you are not alone.
Fearless and Free leads us on a three-part excursion: the Wakening, the Wrestling and the Warrior.
In the Wakening, we'll wake up to the reality of who we are in Christ. Our true identity has been stolen and messed with, and we need to get it back in order to walk in freedom. Once we have it clear in our heads, we need to live out of that reality.
In the Wrestling, we'll learn to “Be renewed in the Spirit of our minds and clothe ourselves with the new self” (Eph. 4:23-24). This is talking about a totally different mindset. A completely different way to think and deal with our emotions. It's the part of the journey where we learn to recognize our Father's voice. We'll become strengthened from within, as we learn to wield the tools and weapons that have been at our disposal all along.
In the Warrior, we are going to recognize that we are in a battle. It's a battle for our hearts. It's a war on our freedom. And by God's grace- that unearned, unmerited favor and strength- we are going to take back what the enemy has stolen from us.
We are going to allow our loving Father access to our hearts.
We're going to experience healing, and joy, and the high of being fully alive.
No more numbing.
No more hustling for our worth.
No more proving.
We are going to awaken to something totally new, different and free.
Will you join me?
P.S. With an emphasis on healing and wholeness, Fearless and Free is the most personal and transformative study that Walking with Purpose has offered so far. A Leader's Guide is included, to help leaders run group study effectively. Start your journey and share it with a friend here!
This is an updated version of a post that appeared on the WWP website in 2018.
Before beginning this post, I said a prayer, paused for a moment and ate a Dove chocolate. The little note on the inside of the wrapper read, “Things have to fall apart in order for them to fall together.” Sure, it's a bit cheesy, cliché, and understated (which is usually true of all messages found attached to chocolate), but nevertheless it spoke to what I learned in the newest Walking With Purpose study, Fearless and Free; sometimes we have to let things fall apart in order to see how they fall together.
Usually we, as women, don't like to do this. We don't like to see things fall apart. Most of us try to avoid this and instead, expend massive amounts of energy holding everything together for as long as we can. And when it finally falls apart, we usually pretend that it has not.
I'm just as guilty of this as the next woman. When I stepped into Fearless and Free (FAF), I was standing in what felt like an absolute ocean of hurt. Meanwhile, I claimed that I was fine.
When I stepped out of FAF, I stepped into counseling. Why? Because I had let things fall apart. I had acknowledged my pain. And letting things fall apart was the greatest gift I could give to myself. Letting things fall apart made me vulnerable. It made me realize that I am not the Savior and it made me recognize my need for our Savior.
But, Lisa was wise in her writing of FAF. She does not force women to immediately jump into this place of “falling apart.” Instead, she begins with what she titles “The Wakening.” She begins by reminding women who they are in Christ; that they are beloved daughters of God.
The goal of this first part of FAF is to wake up to who we really are and what we are worth. It is to know that we are chosen.
While I think the wrestling, the “falling apart” may seem scarier, I think that for a lot of women, this knowing our identity and worth in Christ is actually harder. It was for me and here's why:
We are vulnerable when we're in pain. The enemy knows this, and so he whispers lies about our identity, causing us to question whether we are truly God's beloved daughters. His absolute favorite lies are those that our tied to our identity, because he knows that if he can mess with us here, he is messing with us at the core of who are.
Forgetting your belovedness is harder than falling apart because this identity is foundational.
And when you forget that you are the beloved, your falling apart can be detrimental. You can't wrestle. You can't become a warrior. You can't live fearless and free.
This wakening is essential.
I know this to be true because when I began FAF in this ocean of pain which I was attempting to numb, I had forgotten that I was the beloved. I didn't believe it. Without even being aware of it, through my pain, the enemy had taken me out at the knees by taking away the core of my heart.
You see, as women, we often base our identity on exterior circumstances rather than interior truths. We hear our identity better from other people than we do from God within the silence of our hearts. And above all, I think that most of us base our identities on a feeling.
Which is why my FAF small group spent nearly fifteen minutes on this question: How do we feel like the beloved when we don't feel like the beloved?
I'm honestly still not entirely sure, but I think it has something to do with faith.
It's similar to the age-old, how can I believe that Jesus is really present in the Eucharist if I can't actually see Him question.
We must embrace an I-believe-Lord-help-my-unbelief-mentality.
Despite our lack of feeling, we must have faith in the reality that we are God's beloved. That He has chosen us.
God has promised us all of this. He has promised us that He has claimed us as His own and that He will fight for us and that He uses everything for our good. And, to sit in our belovedness is to sit in “confident expectation” of the fulfillment of this promise.
Confident expectation. Only someone who believes that they are the beloved can truly sit in confident expectation. It is a full surrender to God in all of His goodness even in the falling apart.
Lucky for us, we see this modeled over and over again in Scripture.
Take a look at Noah. God said to him, “Hey, build an ark for your family and a bunch of animals and I will make it rain for 40 days and 40 nights.” That's it. That's all he told Noah. Implied in that was the promise that Noah and his family would get to come out of the ark at some point. But then we hear, “And the waters swelled on the earth for one hundred and fifty days.” That's a bit more than 40.
But Noah waited in confident expectation. He trusted in his belovedness enough to know that God would fulfill His promise. And God did. We learn in the very next verse that, “God remembered Noah.” God always remembers His people. Despite the falling apart, God remembers His people.
In the Bible we discover that in order for God's promise to be fulfilled, we must depend entirely on God and trust in His way. And then, we must simply embrace Him and all that He does, accepting the arrival of His promise as a gift.
This is what the Wakening is all about. It is about discovering (or rediscovering) our beloved identity and then trusting God and His way as things fall apart, knowing that the falling together will arrive as a pure gift.
I pray that you would allow yourself to fall apart believing always that God remembers you.
P.S. To hear more about Fearless and Free and “The Wakening,” please join me on Instagram Live this Thursday at 10 AM EST!
The best gift I have ever received is a pair of noise cancelling headphones. At the same time, I love my family with every fiber in my being, and am anxious to know all the details of their lives-what they are afraid of, dreaming about, and busy doing. For years, I felt that those two statements were paradoxical-that for one to be accepted, the other would need to be rejected. That was before I learned the importance of solitude.
As an extrovert, I have spent the majority of my life wanting more- more conversation, more interaction, more excitement, more activity. Entering my late-forties, I have found that what I want more of is quiet-sacred space where the cacophony of voices and opinions that swirl in my head are hushed-a place where I can hear God's whisper. This often has caused me to feel guilty- that somehow this longing is a rejection of people around me. As I've processed this change in me, I have been comforted by the words of C.S. Lewis in The Weight of Glory, “We live, in fact, in a world starved for solitude, silence, and private: and therefore starved for meditation and true friendship.”(1) What an interesting thought- that without solitude and silence, we'll have trouble experiencing true friendship with people and deep communion with God. So what happens in solitude that can be so beneficial to our relationships?
It takes time alone to get to the bottom of what we are feeling and why we do what we do. When we just keep going and allow distractions to shield us from what is stirring within, we live disconnected from our hearts. This greatly increases the likelihood that we will just go through the motions in our relationships, that we will react instead of respond, and that we will make assumptions about others' motives instead of digging deeper and asking clarifying questions.
For some of us, it takes being alone to even recognize what we need. We all know the airplane rule, “Put on your own oxygen mask before helping someone else.” I know this isn't true of everyone, but I can't figure out how to do that unless I am by myself. When someone asks me what I need, I actually have to take a few moments to be quiet, alone, to answer that question. Unless I am by myself, I am distracted by what I think the other person might need. Someone might think that makes me a constant helper and selfless, but the truth is, when I cannot figure out what I need and ask for it before I am desperate, I am prone to acting like a martyr. This has harmed my close relationships more times than I can count, and the only one who can bring change here is me.
Solitude is the place where God meets me, and He doesn't need anything. He is my hiding place (Psalm 32:7), my refuge and shield (Psalm 119:114). He holds me in a sacred space, and invites me to reflect on the thoughts running through my head. I write the emotions down, and allow it all to pour out on paper, an uninterrupted stream of consciousness. When it's all out of my system, the Holy Spirit leads me into truth (John 16:13), helping me to identify any hopelessness, lies, or exaggerations that have infiltrated my thinking.
So what gets in the way of my solitude? I could claim busyness is the culprit, and it certainly doesn't help matters. But the truth is, solitude can be painful. In his book, Making All Things New and Other Classics, Henri Nouwen wrote:
As soon as we are alone,...inner chaos opens up in us. This chaos can be so disturbing and so confusing that we can hardly wait to get busy again. Entering a private room and shutting the door, therefore, does not mean that we immediately shut out all our inner doubts, anxieties, fears, bad memories, unresolved conflicts, angry feelings and impulsive desires. On the contrary, when we have removed our outer distraction, we often find that our inner distractions manifest themselves to us in full force. We often use the outer distractions to shield ourselves from the interior noises. This makes the discipline of solitude all the more important.(2)
So that is the divine invitation-to seek out solitude, and then fill it with self-reflection in God's presence. This is the place where we will experience real spiritual growth. No one can accompany you in those hidden moments-you must be alone-but those closest to you will benefit from them.
We cannot create more time- the hours in the day are limited. But we can use the time we have far more wisely. I am challenged by Ralph Waldo Emerson's words, “Guard well your spare moments. They are like uncut diamonds. Discard them and their value will never be known. Improve them and they will become the brightest gems in a useful life.”
Praying for you in the quiet-
P.S. I'll be talking about my favorite sacred spaces and what I do when I'm there on the Walking with Purpose Instagram Stories (all week), Instagram Live (Thursday, April 12th at 12pm) and on Facebook Live (Friday, April 13th at 10am). Tune in if you want to hear more!
(1) C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory (New York, NY: Harper Collins Publishers, 2001), 161.
(2) Henri Nouwen, Making All Things New and Other Classics (London, England: Harper Collins Religious, 2000), 29.
Hello, my friend!
Today I'm welcoming one of my favorite people to the WWP blog: Laura Phelps. One of my favorite things about Laura is the way she makes me laugh. She also shares my love for Jesus and women, and I know you'll enjoy her writing. In addition to raising her four children and loving on her husband, she works for WWP as a phenomenal Regional Area Coordinator. Going forward, she'll blog for us once a month, and once a month you'll hear from me. With love, Lisa
Summer, you know, is just a different kind of busy, and as Lisa Brenninkmeyer has said in so many words, if you are not intentional about how you rest, you will most likely not get any rest at all.
I mentioned I was thinking about attending the 6:45AM daily Mass this summer, rather than the 9AM. Because every summer, it seems I need to drive someone somewhere at 9AM. And so I end up taking a vacation from daily Eucharist. Needless to say, this got many gasps. "But it is summer...that is soooo early. I don't think I could do that."
6:45AM is early.
Especially for what is supposed to be vacation.
But I keep thinking about time.
How it moves too quickly, and often what feels like too slowly, and how it is the one thing that everybody in the world gets equal amounts of. At least in a day. 24 hours. We all get it. Now, what we choose to do with it, is another story.
And so I have been thinking about this. As I pack those last lunches, while humming "it's the final countdown,” and as I help to return those missing school items that need to be collected or no cap and gown, time is a theme that plays in the background of it all.
After sending off to school an 11 year old boy, who over a short period of time, has grown in leaps and bounds, physically and more so, emotionally, I checked my Instagram, and read a post from Leticia Adams, a Catholic convert, who drinks and smokes and tells it like it is. She is also a mother who is grieving the son who recently took his own life. As she looks back to the dreadful night she lost him, she writes, "Every Wednesday I look at my clock and ask myself, ‘what was happening right now at this time,'....life is moving on and my son is still dead. Nothing will change that, not staying home, not cake, not vodka, not anything."
And she is right.
There is no going back, only pushing forward.
And that can be so hard.
Actually, not "can.” "Is." It is so hard.
Painfully and dreadfully hard.
Time has a mind of its own, and all we can do is be intentional about how we use the time we are given.
We can't get old time back.
For lots of us, that is one hard truth to swallow and accept.
Because I will bet, there is at least one time in each of our lives we wish we could go back, and change.
Maybe to mend a friendship. To give one more kiss. To take back choice words. To hold longer. To teach better. To see the warning signs. To be stricter. To be more fun. To be more careful. To have more dignity. To do over with grace. To say sorry. To stop the tragedy. To bring someone back to life. To set eyes on a face, just one last time.
Yes, summer is vacation. Vacation from packing lunches. Vacation from early school buses. Vacation from homework. But time is still time, and as I placed what very well might be one of the last brown paper lunch bags on the kitchen table for my high school senior boy, I am realizing that it is not more time that I need, but more gratitude for the time it is right now. Because already, this morning is gone.
You know, this is going to sound incredibly morbid. I warn you now. But since the day of the shooting at my children's elementary school, I have never assumed that when my loved ones leave the house, I will see them alive again. People, and time? They are given to me by God. I have zero control over either. That I learned and that I believe, and good grief, I appreciate them, as best as I can, knowing this mostly beautiful, but sometimes crappy, truth.
Life is moving on.
The lines on my face are proof.
And praise be to God for my aging body, because if that isn't an accurate and beautiful reminder that we are not ageless, timeless, or forever young gods of our own, than what is?
Today is here, ready or not, and yesterday will never return.
And so it is good to start thinking about how we can best use our time.
It is good to start planning to be more intentional with this gift of time we are given.
Because nothing will bring it back.
"Not cake, not vodka, not anything."
And when I do this, suddenly Mass at 6:45AM doesn't feel that early anymore.
Regional Area Coordinator
Walking with Purpose
Read Laura's blog here: http://www.lauramaryphelps.com/