Beyond Me

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Toby Mac is heard in my car a lot. I don’t enjoy much “kid’s music” besides some classic Disney, so I try to find music that both I and my kids can enjoy at the same time. Toby Mac happens to be a favorite of mine and of my kids. JP regularly asks for “Mac Daddy”–his name not just for the title of one of Toby Mac’s songs, but for Toby Mac himself. Therefore, it’s no surprise that “Beyond Me,” a song on Toby Mac’s latest cd was recently playing in my car. I wish I could quote it here, but I can’t without going on the wrong side of copyright laws.

In the song, though, he talks about how God calls him to tasks more difficult than he can handle, using lots of apt metaphors to describe the feeling. It makes me think of another song I love, Hillsong United’s “Oceans (Where Feet May Fail).” This last song is very popular, and I think I know why. Besides the fact that it is beautifully written and sung, I think the words hit us in a tender place, express a feeling we understand. God often does call us to places where we feel like we’re going to drown.

Can you picture Peter getting out of that boat in the middle of the staggering waves in the sea of Galilee, the contrary wind whipping his hair, walking toward Jesus–the Man who has just called him to do so in answer to his request? Peter does it for a few steps, but then takes his eyes off of Jesus and puts them instead on the effects of the wind and starts to sink, calling desperately out to Jesus for help (Matt. 14:23-33). Does this sound familiar to you?

It does to me. I sing songs like “Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)” in times of relative safety and comfort, sincerely asking Jesus to call me out on the water like He did with Peter. Then He does, and I step out, only to get frightened of what I’ve gotten myself into this time, and cry out to Jesus for help. Thankfully, despite my lack of faith, He does instantly reach out to help me as He helped Peter–He was there all along, after all.

Last August, after much prayer, Greg and I stepped out by moving to Texas, a place we felt God was leading us, at least for the time being. We moved into a house we felt led to after we prayed about it quite a bit. Although I miss Tennessee and my friends there, I’ve really enjoyed my new city, neighborhood, house, and friends here so far. However, it hasn’t been a perfectly calm sea. Waves have been splashing into our boat some. I took on an ESL teaching job a month ago to help with the unexpected higher cost of living, and I’ve just been hired for another ESL job I’ll be starting in a few weeks. It’s still part-time work, but with the full-time job of homeschooling on top of it and the fact that Greg is also overworked, it can feel overwhelming, like I will barely keep my head above water, much less walk freely on top of it all.

But isn’t this where He wants us to be…walking on the water with Him, our face to Him and calling out to Him?

When life feels fairly under control, I’m a lot less likely to fully depend on God. I start to think I’ve got it on my own. When I had one child, I thought, “Babies are easy! Let’s have another one right away!” Then I had my second and from that time on, I had to either turn to God for help daily or fail as a parent and drown in the waters.

We shouldn’t purposefully take something on that is way more than we can handle without consulting Him first, but God often calls us to tasks beyond ourselves in order for us to realize what we should have known even in the easier times…we need Him. He loves us dearly and wants us to realize this truth and trust Him in our deep waters.

We cry out, “”But I am afflicted and needy; Hasten to me, O God! You are my help and my deliverer; O LORD, do not delay” (Ps. 70:5).

And He answers, “ ‘So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand…For I am the LORD your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you’ ” (Isa. 41:10,13).

80’s Dance Parties and Rest

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Last week, I talked about what I think I need to do in order to get the weight of work off my shoulders so it doesn’t cause stress and anxiety to me and, of course, to all around me, since my attitude affects my whole family’s attitude (ever hear that great Southern platitude–“If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy!”). First, I need to commit my plans to God, ask Him for wisdom for what I really need to do and for the ability to do that work. Second, I need to get to work and choose to do that instead of something frivolous. However, the last one I feel God has shown me is somehow harder for me.

The last one is rest.

I do need to finish that work that God has asked me to do, but then stop. I think it’s hard to figure out with God what is needful, but once I’ve done it, I sometimes find it even harder not to go on to other work weighing on me. I’m one of those pendulums, swinging between not wanting to do any work to not wanting to stop doing work. I might be hard to set in motion, but once I get started, this train keeps thundering down the line. Someone’s got to pull hard on those air brakes. I need to rest.

By rest, I don’t mean doing the frivolity I mentioned while I’m supposed to be working, all the while giving that work a ride on my shoulders (an image I am very well familiar with, as I’ve given quite a few lately to my ever-growing-heavier children). I not only need to stop when I’ve finished all that is needed for that day or hour or moment, but then I need to surrender the false guilt of all that other unnecessary-for-now work that I let bother me.

A lot of times this means putting all aside once a day to spend a good chunk of time alone with God, worshiping Him, reading about Him in His Word, and praying to Him. Sometimes rest comes in the form of reading a good book. Other times, this rest looks like what happened tonight: an impromptu 80’s dance party in the kitchen with my kids (and husband, for one song!) instead of doing dishes that would (and did) wait. My body wasn’t as rested after that, but my soul was!

Sometimes God will call us to hard work, during which time we might not have much time to physically rest. However, Jesus promised, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, 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. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matt. 11:28-30). This obviously doesn’t mean He won’t give us much work to do. If you think that, then take a look at Paul’s life, a man who followed God’s leading very well and yet led a life full of hard work. I think the key here is “rest for your souls.” I might have had a taste of rest for my soul when I danced with my children, but I have true rest even while I work when I look to Jesus for help and when I trust Him.

I have a lot to learn about rest, and I hope God keeps helping me grow in this area.

I would love if you’d comment below if you would share anything God has taught you about rest in your life. May you and I take up His easy and light yoke today!

When I Die, My Inbox Will Be Full

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It’s the second full week of January, and I still haven’t started on my New Year’s resolutions. I can’t even bemoan that I’ve already broken my New Year’s resolutions because, as I just said, I haven’t even begun them. Of course, my list is much longer than it should be. I remember giving advice to a friend a few years back that her New Year’s resolution list shouldn’t be so long, that it would be hard to work on so many areas at once. Do I listen to my own advice? No, because how can I narrow it down when all of them are so important? More exercise, more water, fewer sweets, more sleep, more…hmmm…I had so many, I don’t remember them all. I’ll have to go check my list.

Speaking of lists, I’ve got a lengthy to-do one, as most Americans do. On top of the regular cleaning, writing, cooking (ok, Greg does some of this), tidying up after a long Christmas trip, preparing for homeschooling, hanging pictures and putting up decorations in our new house, planning field trips, and doing other miscellaneous work that goes along with life, I recently added another level of teaching to my list–teaching ESL at UT Tyler. It’s definitely not a big job–I’ll only work 3 hours a week to start–but it does entail lesson planning, and it’s a daunting job, as I’ll be teaching college students for the first time in ten years, and the last time I did it (for only a month), I team taught with Greg, the experienced college instructor. Don’t think I’m dreading this job; I’m actually excited to teach ESL again for several reasons, but it does add another layer to my already busy week.

As I lay in bed last night thinking of all I need to do, I started thinking, What could I complete that would make me feel satisfied? What can I finish so I can get rid of the feeling that something is (or many things are) sitting heavily on my shoulders? That’s when I realized that I really wouldn’t be satisfied unless I had my to-do list completely checked off, my email inbox absolutely empty, and my house utterly and spotlessly clutter-free and clean. Oh, and I can’t forget to add a daily quiet time with God, a daily shower, and the whole resolution list, including exercise, etc. I do remember once in my life working on my inbox until it was completely cleared out. That lasted all of fifteen minutes. I might obtain something close to this when I’m retired, if my husband tragically dies before me so that I live alone, and if I have housekeeping help. But really, as a part-time (very small part of the time) working mom of three young homeschooled kids, I don’t stand a chance to get this weight off me by completing all I want to do. I can’t even satisfy myself by staying up late to finish everything because then I feel guilty about not getting enough sleep (one of the resolutions, see?).

So, what do I do?

I think there are three things I need to do.

First, I have no chance of completing all I want to do, but I do have the ability to complete all I need to do. God wouldn’t give me more than I can handle in the amount of time He’s given me. So when I start to stress out about one of my lists or piles or messes, I’ve been asking God for help to complete all I need to complete that day and to give me wisdom to know what that is. I’ve been thinking about Psalm 37:5: “Commit your way to the LORD, trust also in Him, and He will do it.” I looked up the word for “will do it” in the Strong’s concordance, and found these synonyms (among many others): to do, accomplish, be at, bear, bring forth, be busy, have the charge of, deal (with), finish, furnish, grant, be industrious, labour, perform, provide, serve, and work. I can’t do it, but if I commit my work to God, if I ask for His help, trusting Him, He will surely do it.

Second, I need to get to work. Sometimes, in my anxiety over all I need to do, I get stress paralyzed (introduced to me by that fantastic movie, Mom’s Night Out). I look at it all and can’t do a thing. Sometimes, I hide from it by doing something I definitely don’t need to be doing, like reading a favorite book during my set-apart time for God. Sometimes I do work that I want to get done instead of what needs to be done because I haven’t committed my plans to God, asking Him what I need to complete. Besides, who wouldn’t rather organize photos on the computer than scrub the grime off the shower floor? However, once I’ve seen what I need to do, I just need to do it, a little at a time.

The last thing I need to do is counter-intuitive to me. The last one is hard for me to do. Next week, I’ll explain the last thing I need to do in order to get this weight of work off my shoulders. I hope you’ll come back and explore it with me.