Saturday, November 23, 2013

Martha Martha and how I choose JOY

 “Martha Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed.” – Luke 10:41-42

I feel like this post has been brewing, so to speak, for quite some time. I have spewed bits and pieces of it in passing and hopefully lived some of it out, but in the past few days I have felt the desire to work it into a cohesive thought. As I sit at my computer I’m not yet sure its ready to be written, but if you’re reading this then I suppose the Spirit must have worked his magic {grin}.

stress  /strƐs/

    1.       a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from (adverse or) demanding  circumstances.

    3.       to cause mental or emotional strain or tension in.
·         informal : become tense or anxious; worry

My name is Amanda. I am twenty five years old. I am married and my husband and I have a 4 year old son, a 2 year old daughter, and a 2 month old daughter. We are blessed to be more involved in our church and serving than we ever have before in our lives (in fact we are excited to get more involved as opportunities present themselves) and I have never been LESS stressed.

That being said I would like to make two big BOLD disclaimers here.

1.     I do NOT have this perfected. Genetically (thanks Mom and Dad {wink}) I am a stress case waiting to happen. I have said before that I am a recovering OCD-perfectionist-control freak (how’s that for a mouthful), and by recovering I mean “still in recovery”.

2.     I am not in any way boasting in my ability to live stress free. I am not more “enlightened” than you. I don’t wake up at 5 in the morning every day and spend 2 hours reading my Bible before my kids wake up. I have a 2 month old for goodness sake. If she is still sleeping at 5 am you better believe I am too.

A while ago I posted to Facebook a great quote by Francis Chan:

“Worry implies that we don’t quiet trust God is big enough, powerful enough, or loving enough to take care of what’s happening in our lives. Stress says the things we are involved in are important enough to merit our impatience, our lack of grace towards others, or our tight grip of control. Basically, these two behaviours communicate that it’s okay to sin and not trust God because somehow the stuff in my life is exceptional.”

Bold words, offensive words (?), definitely counter-cultural words, but more importantly Biblically sound words. In Luke 12:22 Jesus says to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry” Jesus doesn’t command much of us, so when he says DO NOT, I feel like our ears should perk up. Then later in Philippians 4:6 Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, exorts the church in Philippi saying “Do not be anxious about anything” So why is this so hard to live by? How has being busy and burnt-out become a badge of honour? How has not being stressed out become equated with laziness? When did it become acceptable in “Christian” circles to be worried and stressed as long as we are worried and stressed because we are serving the Lord? The Bible is pretty clear: DO NOT WORRY.             

 but SURELY this doesn’t apply to stressing about my job

..."Martha Martha," the Lord answered.
but my children, I HAVE to worry about my children

..."Martha Martha," the Lord answered.

                   but this is a GOOD ministry,  an IMPORTANT ministry!                                                             
.."Martha Martha," the Lord answered. 

I picked up a book a couple weeks ago called “Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World” by Joanna Weaver. I actually picked it up quite by accident. Not because I had read good reviews or because it had been recommended to me; it was in a large box of books I’d been given by my grandparents and the title and the description of “finding intimacy with God in the busyness of life” jumped out at me. In her book the author writes this:

“ “We live in constant tension between the urgent and the important,” Hummel writes. “The problem is that the important task rarely must be done today or even this week. Extra hours of prayer and Bible study can wait. But the urgent tasks call for instant action – endless demands pressure every hour and day.” Does that sound familiar? It does to me. So where do we find the time to follow Mary to the feet of Jesus? Where do we find the energy to serve him? How do we choose the Better Part and still get done what really has to get done?

Jesus is our supreme example. He was never in a hurry. He knew who he was and where he was going. He wasn’t held hostage to the world’s demands or even its desperate needs. “I only do what the Father tells me to do,” Jesus told his disciples. Someone has said that Jesus went from place of prayer to place of prayer and did miracles in between. How incredible to be so in tune with God that not one action is wasted, not one word falls to the ground!

This is the intimacy that Jesus invites us to share. He invites us to know him, to see him so clearly that when we look upon him, we see the face of God as well.

Just as he welcomed Mary to sit at his feet in the living room, just as he invited Martha to leave the kitchen for a while and share in the Better Part, Jesus bids us to come.

In obedience to his invitation, we find the key to our longings, the secret to living beyond the daily pressures that would otherwise tear us apart. For as we learn what it means to choose the Better Part of intimacy with Christ, we begin to be changed.

When we put work before worship, we put the cart before the horse. The cart is important; so is the horse. But the horse must come first, or we end up pulling the cart ourselves. Frustrated and weary, we can nearly break under the pressure of service, for there is always something that needs to be done.

When we first spend time in his presence- when we take time to hear his voice – God provides the horsepower we need to pull the heaviest load. He saddles up Grace and invites us to take a ride. “

Martha Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried
and upset about many things, but ONLY ONE THING IS NEEDED.
Mary has chosen what is better and it will not be taken away from her.”

I don’t know what the Spirit will do with the words that I am sharing today. Are you like me and have a tendency to put the cart before the horse? If you are serving, I am not saying to stop serving... and I am certainly not saying that serving should always be easy, or that the things you are involved in should make you happy. But if where you are serving is not bringing LIFE, is not bringing JOY, perhaps it is time to take a step back. And if stepping back is in order, my challenge to you is simply this: what are you going to fill the empty space with? Will you fill the space with more of Jesus or will a cleaner house satisfy your soul? Will time to watch your favourite TV show draw you closer to the Giver of Life or will you choose to walk in obedience to the invitation you are extended in Christ? C.S. Lewis, in his book The Weight of Glory, and Other Addresses says this:

It would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are halfhearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

I am praying for chains to be broken, I am praying that as you read these words the Spirit will whisper to your thirsty soul. And if he does if God whispers listen! Don’t wait, don’t say “tomorrow” listen (and obey!). In my battle against stress and worry, and discontent God, in his great grace, granted me ears to hear that He alone has what I need to walk in victory and not only in victory, but in JOY. Galations 6:7 says this: “Do not be deceived; God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.” I am choosing daily to answer the invitation, and somewhere between morning devos with my kiddos, daily VINE readings, a Bible in my bathroom, Charles Spurgeon on my coffee table, and Matt Chandler on my Ipad by my rocking chair, I’ve began to reap what I’ve sown and my life is changing.

In Joy and For His glory always,

Monday, October 7, 2013

for the new mom who can't

for the new mom who can't....

       - on motherhood and anxiety -


  YOU CAN'T . (period, end of sentence, no ifs ands or buts)

              ... these two words whispered at my weakest hour have held more freedom for me in the past few weeks than any other. You can't. You can't. You can't. Let me explain;

I wanted to write this post 2 weeks ago. But I was.       just.     so.    tired. (insert overly cheery smiley face here) Two weeks later I still feel just as convicted to write it so I am. However you will have to bear with me if my words are less than eloquent as sleep deprivation is still very much a reality. 

I wanted to write this post because even though the consensus from talking to many new moms is that most of us spend at least a good week post partum struggling through some form of anxiety, we don't really talk about it. And maybe for some people it passes quickly, and is easily handled... but for others, myself included, it can be overwhelming. And exhausting. And scary. And sometimes the simple knowledge that you are not alone, that you are not the first to struggle, can be enough encouragement to lift the curtain and allow the light to break into those dark places. So... this is my story :

     My beautiful healthy daughter was born 3 weeks ago today with a broken collarbone. Therefore I was sent home with a prescription to nurse her as often as she wanted to for a good week to combat any pain she might be dealing with. Oye. Enter one week of literally zero sleep. Then lets add normal new-baby worries + post partum hormones + a propensity towards anxiety to the mix and you have what I would call a perfect recipe for a breakdown (s) . 

   Now this was not a new experience for me. My son was born 4 years earlier and in many ways my experience with him was very similar. I couldn't sleep because I was worrying when I wasn't holding him. I worried about holding him and falling asleep with him in my arms because I was so tired and I couldn't sleep. Vicious cycle. Sleep deprivation + hormones equaled anxiety. LOTS of it. I think I cried for seven days, and that is not an exaggeration.  However the similarities in experience stops there; the difference? Four years ago I was not in a place in my faith walk to even consider the possibility that God was powerful enough to handle my anxiety. I ended up on an anti-anxiety med that allowed me to sleep and as the hormones leveled out and my son gradually started sleeping,  (as ALL infants eventually do.. believe me I know it might not feel like it right now but they do!) the moments of panic because fewer and farther between and I began to see a light at the end of the tunnel. 

>>> fast forward 4 years <<<

    After an x-ray to confirm a fractured collarbone, we brought our beautiful baby girl home. Oh I was so in love, (still am, although the desire to hold her 24 hrs a day has waned as the desire for 2 hours of uninterrupted sleep as increased) and the post delivery endorphins were still going strong. But after one night at home I could feel the anxiety creeping in. It started small, and quiet; the occasional fluttering in my nerves when I would put her down in her crib or pass her off to her daddy (my wonderful husband)... and I would allow it to sit in my heart for just a second too long, excusing it as being a "good mom"... worrying just enough. However as soon as I gave it a foothold it became louder, and more frequent, until it had a good "roar" going. Irrational fears set in and it was all I could do to not just sit and feel like screaming. And the worst part? I didn't want to admit what I was dealing with. I knew from prior experience that the anxiety would get worse before it got better, and I didn't think I could handle it. In fact I was pretty confident that I couldn't handle it. And that was awful for me, because I thought I was stronger. I thought I had learned more in the past 2 years, and I didn't understand why I couldn't cope. The breaking point came around day 3 in the middle of the night in the form of a panic attack. I don't remember the exact sequence of events, but I'm pretty sure I woke my poor sleep-deprived husband out of a deep sleep... crying. I remember thinking and telling him "I can't". I can't handle this, I don't know what to do, I don't know how to deal. What I do remember vividly is him praying over me; I don't even remember the words that he prayed but I do know that God used him powerfully in that moment, and that admitting that I was struggling allowed enough quiet in my heart to hear the answer the Spirit had been whispering to my heart all along: 

"I know you can't. I can."  

And I was reminded then and there that I didn't have to keep heading down the path that I had stumbled back onto; that God was still at work in sanctification in my life and there was another way.

One of my favourite pastors recently said this about sanctification: (and I'm paraphrasing so go listen to the full sermon here : )

"Last October my family and I moved to a new house. All that really changed was when I leave the church... and I come to the stop light... I used to make a left to get to my house, and now I have to make a right. And there was a season of about six weeks where I was cognitively having to tell myself, "Don't make a left here. You don't live there anymore. The renewing of our minds is the idea of pulling up to the light and going, "I don't live there anymore; I live there." This is why the Bible is so unbelievably important for the children of God. It reminds us where our house is and it reminds us of the streets that lead to our home. It reminds us, "We don't take a left here anymore; we take a right here." It helps us take every thought captive, where we go, "That's not true; this is true." "

So for the past 2 weeks I have been "cognitively having to tell myself" to make a right instead of a left. I have been leaning heavily on God, immersing myself in His word in every form I can get my hands on; daily devotions, streaming podcasts, worship music, even things as small as carefully screening  the advice that I allow into my life. I have been making sure that I remember which street leads to my home. I have been fighting back,  not by my own strength but by the power of Him at work in me

So my encouragement to the new mom who "can't" is this: you're right... you can't. But God can.
 Anxiety can be crippling. Like... "brings your life to a halt" crippling; "wish you could sleep your days away because being unconscious is easier" crippling. But there IS another way. Our God is powerful and mighty, and more than able to walk the road out of anxiety with you if you will allow Him to.

And  to the mom who, like me, has come out on the other side of the tunnel but knows she has  a propensity towards anxiety... my encouragement is to keep turning right. And always keep your eyes fixed on the road that leads to home. 

For His glory, always. 


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Even when I cannot see

Occasionally people will encourage me to blog more, and I have to smile. Then I shrug my shoulders and proceed to explain that if I was to “try” to write, I know from experience exactly what would come of it…nothing; I would be stuck at one paragraph with a whole lot of nothing to say. So instead I write when inspiration strikes… and by that I mean when, by a “revelation” NOT of me, my thoughts seem to line up coherently and suddenly I can see things in a way that I have not seen them before. And then I know it is time to write… and I do so for myself, in the hopes that when trials come I will be able to look back at my life and be reminded again and again of God’s faithfulness… but I also write in the trust that what He allows me to see is not meant exclusively for me; because yes this IS my life, but in the words of Galations: “it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.”Gal. 2:20 NLT

So as you read this, know that my prayer is that in some way a heart will be touched for Him, and that through my coming to see Him more clearly, HE will be glorified.

"Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly
than all that we ask or think, according to the power
at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in
Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
 Ephesians 3

                I am writing today because I have been praying for understanding, for the big answer to the question WHY. Isaiah 55 stands out to me, not in answer to my question, but rather in a reminder of who holds my days:

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord,
And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.” Isaiah 55

When we packed up for Alberta four months ago we had such big dreams and plans: job stability, nursing school, international missions, financial independence, a place to call “home”… big plans… but not necessarily God’s plans. Then before we even left Langley things started to shift in directions different from what we had planned. Ray finding a job was exhausting, and discouraging. I will not be going to nursing school in September if all goes “well” (if you have not been privileged with the reason behind this, I’ll share more another time), and as for financial independence? : Ha! I resonated with a cartoon in the paper a month or so ago that read “it’s hard to save for a rainy day when it never stops raining.” And above all that, I know, Ray knows, even Braden knows… that this is not home. Don’t get me wrong… there is so much beauty here, and we will be thankful for whatever time we are given. We are living in a beautiful town, it is sunny here 90% of the time. We have abundant running trails, outdoor skating rinks, and sledding out our front door. We have been welcomed into an amazing church community, and are learning so much. But, appropriately, I find the church mission –focused. I find this appropriate not because I see God sending us into some foreign mission field in the next few years, but because I feel Him preparing us for when we leave. I don’t know what that timeline will look like, and maybe I’m wrong and we’ll be here for the rest of our lives here on earth – THAT is up to Him. But nonetheless I feel it. So with that awareness in mind, I have been brought back to the question of Why. Why are we here?

When speaking with a good friend before we left, I noted that there was something special about leaving all of my “people” behind. I said that it provides an opportunity to not be looking for anything for “me”, and rather to focus on finding ways that I can serve. In my head I imagined that serving to mean seeking out ways that I could be a blessing in our new church community or in our town community; and though this may come to fruition yet, (I pray that my eyes will be open to such opportunities) what I was struck with today was that I have opportunities to reach beyond me right here in my own home… I had a stark reminder that I am a “we”, and that had implications on the “why”.

Let me explain: in the short time that we have been in Alberta, I have watched my husband grow in so many ways. (Honey if you’re reading this… I’m just glad you don’t get embarrassed easily because the next paragraph is all about you… I love you!)

When we left Langley we were at a turning point in our lives; everything that God has brought us through in the past year was so new in our hearts and our minds… and in some ways so fragile. It can be challenging to experience such huge life and soul changes, and keep focused on them when life goes on exactly as it always had before those changes. There is something to be said for a fresh start. It is hard to be a new person, when everyone around you expects you to be someone else. It is hard to be who you feel God emboldening you to be when you are burdened with a stereotype based on who you have been, and who you can’t possibly be. So yeah, I left all my people behind. I left behind a group of good, God-fearing, encouraging women that have known me for years, and that I have relationships with that are deep, and real, and whole. But where we are now? Here? Here I see men who are building into my husband in a way that he has hasn’t experienced before. And yes he has changed, and the fact that he desires to be built into in that way is a big part of it; but regardless… it’s big. Actually it’s huge… and if that’s the only “because” that I’m given… that’s good enough for me, because having a strong, humble man of God as a husband and father has implications that reach further down the line than we can possibly see.

So how long will we be here? I don’t know. 6 months? A year? 20 years? I don’t know. But I do know that in the short time we have been in Alberta we have learned so much. By God’s grace we have established independence as a family, something I have longed for, for so long. We have learned how not to rush from one thing to another, or from one place to another. We have experienced what “family time” feels like, and become more fully aware of the mission field in our own home. And we’re not ready to leave yet.
But if in the near future we are blessed to be given a opportunity to go home to Langley, I know that we will leave stronger, and better prepared to stand firm in who God is raising us up to be. And if not… I love these words by Jeremy Camp: 

 Well I will walk by faith, even when I cannot see.

For His Glory,