ARTICLES BY COLLEEN CHAO

Category: Rest

Category: Rest

Community

Dear Younger Self

Dear Younger Self—I know it’s cliché,But I would go back if I couldTo say: Make yourself small,Don’t resent being weak—Humility before GodWill set you free. Practice his presence:Listen and rest—A quieted heartHears his voice best. Don’t go it alone.Seek wisdom to knowWho to keep closeAnd who to let go. Gratitude strengthens.Counseling helps.Measure your beauty,Measure your wealth In joy,In friendshipIn laughterIn pain.In lossesIn crossesIn wakingAgain. Love as he loves you,Don’t fear what folks think.Forgive (you’re forgiven!),See what he sees. Don’t be surprised—More suffering’s to come.Grief will undo youAnd seem to have won…. But his Word will grow sweeter,His nearness will beYour joy and your good—Your everything. And when Death comes knockingYou’ll look back and seeLife had more purpose thanAll your first dreams. For each pain invitedYou into his LoveFurther and deeper And more than enough. (Written between March 2020 and Fall 2022)

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a person sitting on wooden planks across the lake scenery
Love

Everything my heart craves

Before the foundations of the world were laid, you saw me and knew me and knew my days. You had already determined the era of history, down to the very environment, I would live in. You knew that I would enter a toxic world, a world riddled with crisis and cruelty—but a world of breathtaking beauty and wonder too. You set me in an age of indoor plumbing and technology, overcrowded cities and racial strife, advanced health care and incurable cancer. You brought me into being though you knew I would be your enemy from the first day—born into sin, enslaved to Self, hating your ways. You knew my greatest suffering would come from within, not without. You foresaw the brokenness and the beauty (of myself and my world), and you tenderly, tenaciously placed me in the thick of it—to write a story of surpassing goodness. Even as you have allowed pain to have its wanton way with me these many years, even now as you have let rampant disease, racial division, and political upheaval change the shape of our days, I praise you for you have also—moreso— revealed the path of life to me (Psalm 16:11) made my heart glad (16:9) hemmed me in behind and before (139:5) helped me, sustained my life (54:4) rescued me from every trouble (54:7) fulfilled your purpose for me (57:2) upheld me and exalted me (18:35) delighted in me (18:19) hidden me in the shadow of your wings (17:8) increased strength within me (138:3) loosened my bonds (116:16) turned your ear to me (116:2) given me a confident heart that is not afraid of bad news (112:7) supported me with your faithful love (94:18) made me happy by disciplining and teaching me (94:12) never left me nor abandoned me (94:14) made me rejoice by what you have done (92:4) welcomed me into your house (5:7) been my refuge in times of trouble (9:9) listened carefully to me (10:17) seen my trouble and grief and taken it into your hands (10:14) provided safety for me (12:5) counseled me when my thoughts trouble me (16:7) given me a beautiful inheritance (16:6) satisfied me with your presence (17:15) led me along the right paths (23:3) guided me with your faithful love (26:3) God, you are Love itself, and in you I have found everything my heart craves. Teach me to love you more. (All quotes from the Book of Psalms, Christian Standard Bible)

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Admire

Benediction

As the new year dawns, none of us has any idea what lies ahead. Many of our days will unfold quite differently from how we’ve planned them, and we will be reminded of how little we actually control in this life. But for the child of God, we are given precious promises that not only make sense of life’s interruptions and sorrows, but also fill us with greater joy and purpose than we can begin to imagine. A few of those precious promises are packed into two little verses at the end of the book of Hebrews—two verses that have beat a beautiful path in my mind over time and led me to a breathtaking view of my God and His goodness to me.  Now may the God of peace, who brought up from the dead our Lord Jesus—the great Shepherd of the sheep—through the blood of the everlasting covenant, equip you with everything good to do his will, working in us what is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. (Hebrews 13:20-21) As we look into the unknown before us, here are a few things we can count on according to this Scripture: God is a God of peace. We are not naturally a peaceful people. We are born into turmoil, all manner of anxiety, anger, and self-absorption. But with God, we can experience true shalom—a well-being of both body and soul. Ephesians 2:14 says, “He himself is our peace.” God, we pray that we would walk in the joy of your presence, which is perfect peace for our troubled souls.  God keeps His promises.He made gargantuanly good promises to us and then signed them with the blood of His only Son. Can we truly continue to doubt God’s goodness to us when He paid the highest price to fulfill such undeserved promises? We are so grateful, God, that you always keep your promises—and that you paid the highest price to fulfill them.  Jesus is our Great Shepherd, raised from the dead.This means that Jesus has the authority and power to perfectly protect us, provide for us, and guide us. Isaiah 40:11 says, “He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.” Jesus, we ask You to lead us as a new day dawns—and to give us hearts that are happy to follow You.  God gives us everything we need.He is not cheap, unfair, or full of unrealistic expectations. Have you ever had someone charge you with an impossible task? And then perhaps they grew impatient at your incompetence when you couldn’t fulfill their expectations? God is nothing like that. He beautifully equips us for what He calls us to do, giving us everything we need (and then some!) to do it. He always out-gives us. Thank you, God, that no matter what unfolds today, You are with me, providing everything I need to do Your will—whether it’s to wash another sink of dishes or to forgive a difficult person in my life or to suffer in hope.  God is pleased with us.Because God looks at us through Jesus, our position as his beloved child is secure. Permanent. Indestructible. We may fall flat on our face ten times today, feel like an utter failure, and suffer the deep disappointment of others—but because we are in Christ, God delights in us and our smallest acts of obedience! O Lord, our hearts swell with joy to know that You take pleasure in us and our broken efforts for Your kingdom. Today, no matter how we feel or how we fail, we believe that we are Your beloved children.   Jesus gets all the glory. All of this lavish love and goodness and provision doesn’t result in us getting a big name or a place in history or the praises of the masses. It all crescendos in glory to Jesus and in His name becoming famous, which is what our hearts truly long for. Jesus, we praise You! We say, “You are greater than all others! Your name is like no other name! We love You and want to live for You because You are so GOOD! We are happiest when You are glorified!” As we enter a brand-new year, may this power-packed benediction shape our hearts, our prayers, our joys, and our ambitions. And may these coming 365 days be spent in such a way that culminates in overflowing praise to our great God! This article also appears on True Woman.

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selective focus red baubles
Admire

Meditation for Advent

Think of that wonderful truth that God came here in human flesh and blood, and…died a cruel death upon the tree. Turn that over and over again… Think over all the details of it; accustom yourself to look towards God in Christ Jesus in your thoughts and contemplations. Set your face that way… —C.H. Spurgeon In the holiday hustle, I want to draw near to Christ, sit in his presence and reflect again on the way he happily made himself nothing—wholeheartedly surrendering to God’s grueling-but-glorious plan. What if the frenzy of this season could be overshadowed by our awe-filled thoughts of the Incarnation? Let’s “set our faces this way,” let’s look long at God Almighty who pushed himself down into flesh-and-bone, to love us to himself. . . . ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ The One who owns “every beast of the forest” and “the cattle on a thousand hills,” made his first bed in an animal’s feeding trough. (Psalm 50:10; Luke 2:7) The One whose voice “breaks the cedars, flashes forth flames of fire, and shakes the wilderness,” cried and cooed as a newborn. (Psalm 29; Job 38:34, 40:9; Revelation 1:15; Isaiah 53:7) The One who rides through the skies in his majesty, who binds the chains of the Pleiades and looses the cords of Orion, looked up into his star-studded sky through the wonder of a child’s eyes.  (Deuteronomy 33:26; Job 38:31) The One whose love for his children is “as high as the heavens are above the earth,” became the humble recipient of a mother’s imperfect love.  (Psalm 103:11) The One who treads the winepress of wrath, who has “walked in the recesses of the deep,” became a toddler whose feet faltered often as he learned to walk.  (Psalm 104:32) The One “who can number the clouds by wisdom” and numbers the hairs on our heads, and keeps count of our tossing and tears, learned to count from the beginning, “1… 2… 3.” (Job 38:37; Luke 12:7; Psalm 56:8) The One who adorns himself with majesty and dignity; who clothes himself with glory and splendor—he let himself be wrapped in swaddling cloths and “had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him.” (Job 40:10; Revelation 4; Isaiah 53:2-3; Luke 2:7) The One whose fame leaves men prostrate and speechless, became the child of scandal (a virgin mother, indeed!), the subject of hushed (and not-so-hushed) conversations and chastising sideways glances. (Habakkuk 3:2; Psalm 19; Daniel 7; Revelation 4) Let it leave us breathless all over again: our God became poor so that we could become rich in him. He was rejected so that we could be accepted. He set his gaze upon the cruel cross, “he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death”—so that we could live. {How can we imitate this humble, sacrificial love this Christmas? How does Jesus want to live his life through us to those who are hurting around us?} *Spurgeon quote from his sermon, “The Life Look,” January 21, 1904. Emphasis mine. **A version of this post was originally written in December 2014 and appears on True Woman. 

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woman sitting in front of macbook
Rest

Quiet, dear heart (God is with you)

If you’re like me, your calendar was hemorrhaging long before the holidays showed up. In fact, the pace we keep is a cultural phenomenon of sorts—one that most of us aren’t equipped to handle well. Our ever-present phones make us daily, instantaneously available to hundreds, even thousands, of people. Our “commuter-style community”—since friends and family no longer live together in the same village or neighborhood—demands Herculean time and effort. (You know that coffee date with your bestie? The one that took you 17 texts and 3 reschedules and a 45-minute drive? Case in point.) Electricity allows us to stay up long past sundown (when our bodies are naturally wired for sleep), and a stealth little lie tells us that the more we do, the more we’re worth. As if that’s not enough, our world is under the curse of sin, so our work is difficult, people expect more of us than we can deliver, and sudden crises make wreckage of our well-plotted calendars. In the past, I dealt with this reality in a variety of unhealthy ways—two of which were as Lady Failure (“Everyone expects so much of me, I can never measure up!”) and Self-sufficient Savior (“I’m their only hope! I have to save them!”). My attempts to satisfy endless expectations and demands only succeeded in making me anxious, resentful, or withdrawn. I was keeping a lot of people happy, I was getting a lot done, but I was regularly running on fumes emotionally and physically. But in recent years, I’ve been learning the skill of quieting myself in God’s presence, of perceiving him with me smack-dab in the middle of life’s pressures. This isn’t pie-in-the-sky talk. This is rubber-meets-the-road truth that is changing the way I think and feel and act. You’re already familiar with these, but take another look at a few of the Scriptures that talk about God’s “withness”— Even when I go through the darkest valley, I fear no danger, for you are with me…” Psalm 23:4 But as for me, God’s presence is my good. Psalm 73:28 So Joseph was there in prison. But the Lord was with Joseph and extended kindness to him. Genesis 39:20-21 The Lord your God is with you; he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you. He will quiet you with his love. He will rejoice over you with singing. Zephaniah 3:17 God-with-us is our good, our confidence, our peace, our salvation. We may not be able to slow life down to a snail’s pace; we may not be able to circumvent exhaustion or avoid pain—but we absolutely can keep a quiet heart when we live in the keen awareness of God’s presence. Let me give you an example of how I’m learning to do this on a daily basis. I typically wake in the morning with my mind racing through all the messages I haven’t returned, the work deadline ahead, the places we need to be today, the people we’ll be connecting with. Then there’s the inevitable, Do I have snacks for my son’s school event? What gift am I going to take to the shower? Did I fill out that paperwork for my next doctor’s appointment? Just as my stomach begins to tie itself into a nice little knot, I stop and remind myself that God is with me. I say to him, “God, thank you for being with me and giving me everything I need in order to do what YOU want me to do today.” Then I thank him for a few simple things: the time with sweet friends yesterday, my husband’s amazing forgiveness, the anticipation of my morning cup of coffee. Finally, I bring a Scripture to mind. This isn’t the deeper Bible study I’ll get to later today, but it’s still meaningful truth that directs my heart to God. And now? Now I can sense him with me, and the weight of today no longer rests on my shoulders—it’s on his, where it belongs. Inevitably, I’ll need to revisit this practice (prayer, gratitude, truth) many times throughout my day. But that in itself is a beautiful thing, is it not? We never stop needing him. And the more we go to him, the greater our peace and joy. Here’s another simple way I quiet myself: I follow Elisabeth Elliot’s advice to “do the next thing.” If I knew everything that the coming month will require of me, I’d probably just stay in bed with the sheets pulled over my head. But I’ve been given extraordinary provision to do what’s right in front of me, this very moment. I can wash another sink of dishes, have a difficult conversation, or drive through traffic to another doctor’s appointment—because God is with me, and he has everything I need. I love how Andrew Murray wrote of this in his book Humility: “The life God bestows is imparted not once for all but each moment by the unceasing operation of His mighty power. Humility, the place of entire dependence upon God, is from the very nature of things the first duty and the highest virtue of His creatures.” So when my day finally comes to a close, I can leave unfinished business at the feet of my Lord, trusting that he is God and I am not. Maybe I let someone down (someone I really wanted to care for). Maybe my phone is still full of unreturned messages. Maybe my to-do list is laughing at me. Can I rest in that? Do I trust that God can work out these tasks and these relationships far better than I can? How about you, dear one? Is someone deeply disappointed in you for not being available to them right now? Do you have more tasks than you do time? We are gloriously limited creatures—and it is a difficult but beautiful thing to be weak, to be utterly dependent upon the One who “bears our burdens day after day” (Psalm 68:19). Perhaps in our own

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man sitting in front of window
anxiety

God is with me in my panic attack

I was 25 years old when I scored my dream job—working as an editor on the outskirts of Washington, D.C. After growing up in California, I fell head-over-heels in love with the East Coast and decided I’d stay put. Until I landed in the ER at 3:00 a.m. one morning with what I thought was a heart attack. I hadn’t slept in three days and my heart was racing, burning, palpitating. Even when I lay motionless in bed, I felt like I was running a marathon. I gasped for breath. I was exhausted. Docs ran multiple tests and X-rays, but in the absence of anything conclusive they sent me on my way: “This can happen to people with long-and-thin frames like yours.” I left the ER that day with no idea how to slow my body long enough to get a few hours of sleep. Soon I had to quit my job and fly home to California. That was a dark season of my life, to be sure. And it was the beginning of a new reality for me. Eventually my “heart-attack–insomnia” bouts were diagnosed as panic attacks, and for the past sixteen years they have dotted the landscape of my life. Panic attacks have been a source of both grief and grace. Grief, because they are terrifying and painful and disorienting and exhausting. Grace, because through them God has humbled my proud heart and taught me to trust less in myself and more in Him. When Asaph says, “My flesh and my heart may fail me, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever,” I get it. Boy, do I get it. I’ve learned a lot along this broken way. I’ve been able to identify the biggest triggers for my panic attacks. I’ve come to understand the great need I have for healthy life habits. I’ve passionately pursued emotional and relational maturity in areas of my life where I’ve long been deficient. And I’ve learned that we are wholistic creatures—God made us both body and soul. Imagine sharing the gospel with a starving person without first meeting their physical needs. It would be unkind and ineffectual, to say the least. In a similar way, if you’re in the midst of panic and I tell you “Don’t be anxious for anything” before I address your physical symptoms—I ultimately fail to care for you. First let’s deal with the panic, then your heart will be calm enough to hear life-giving truth. Perhaps the most beautiful thing I’ve learned is that God is happy to be with me, even in the most terrifying moments of anxiety. He is here. He has everything I need for this. Some helpful handles God hasn’t given me a shortcut through panic. He cares more for my long-term growth than for quick-fixes that bring momentary relief but leave me unchanged. Along the way He has graciously equipped me with some very helpful handles—that minimize the frequency and severity of my panic attacks. I want to share some of these with you. I’m not a doctor, so I’ll leave issues of medication, exercise, and diet in the hands of the professionals. But these are simple means of turning to God (physically and emotionally) in order to not just survive anxiety, but to also know and love Him better through it. God is bringing much beauty out of my ashes, and if some of that beauty can spill over onto you, this 16-year journey would be well worth it. Life-giving friends Typically when I’m in the throes of panic there are layers of stressful people and circumstances in my life. Avoiding those circumstances and people may not be possible (nor even wise), but I can counterbalance them by spending extra time with joyful, life-giving friends. These are dear ones who are tender to my weaknesses and love me in all my mess. They lower their expectations. They light up when they see me. Time with them reminds me of who I am, who God is, and that there’s life beyond this panic. I notice that my heart rate slows, my shoulders relax, and my obsessive thoughts lose momentum. God has made us for joyful relationship, and the worst thing I can do when I’m navigating extreme anxiety is to isolate myself from those who love me. A thankful heart One of the greatest helps in dealing with panic has been practicing appreciation in three specific ways. I stole these from two must-read books: Joy Starts Here by Jim Wilder, and Transforming Fellowship by Chris Coursey. Appreciation memories.  When I’m riddled with anxiety, I recall two specific memories of when I experienced amazing peace and joy (I’ve named them “Panera Bread” and “D.C. Trip”) and I relive them in as much detail as I can: where I was; what I smelled, heard, saw, tasted; who I was with, and so on. Doing this reminds me (1) what it feels like to be calm, (2) that God has been so good to me before, and (3) that this momentary panic is not the end of the story. List of 10.  I keep a list of 10 things I’m grateful for. It includes my morning cup of coffee, the beautiful view from my bedroom window, the daily routines I enjoy with my family, and the grace I receive from my husband every day. I rehearse it when my thoughts feel panicky. The goal is to practice gratitude with such frequency (some suggest 5 minutes, 3 times a day) that my brain learns a new normal, and my body can begin to return to an appreciative and calm state more quickly over time, with practice. 3X3X3.  When I’m ramped up and just can’t seem to slow down (and I’m dreading a sleepless, anxious night), just before bed I recall aloud 3 things I’m thankful for about that day, 3 things I’m thankful for about my husband, and 3 things I’m thankful for about God. This sounds ridiculously simple, but it has an immediate effect on me. A relaxed body Sometimes a full-body massage can work wonders in the midst of panic. (On a side note, Chinese reflexology offers much more affordable versions of fancy spa

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close up photo of coffee on table
Love

Date at dawn

I penned this almost eight years ago in the midst of a desperate season, when I was hungry for the Word and a quiet space to process my hurting heart. A small booth in the back corner of Panera Bread became my sweet refuge that Spring. This journal entry is a beautiful reminder to me that God knows just how to pursue us, woo us, in every season of our life. (How are you experiencing Him in this unique season of yours, dear one?) April 3, 2009 It’s 6:01 on Friday morning, and I’m at my neighborhood Panera Bread. These days I get up between 4:30 and 5:00 to make it here by the time the doors open. My Bible and C.S. Lewis’ The Problem of Pain sit beside my cup of coffee. There’s a group of old men that beats me to the door every morning. (One of them dresses as if he’ll be attending the Santa Anita horse races later this afternoon.) They take up two tables by the door and talk for hours on end. Another old man sits by himself a few tables away and reads through his Coke-bottle glasses. He carries a manila folder with a big superman-like S drawn on the front. I’d like to know what’s in that folder. Then there’s a quiet Asian woman whose hair is always pulled back into a ponytail and who reads her Bible and journals—then slips out quietly around 6:45. Once or twice a week, six medical doctors convene at the big conference table in the middle of the restaurant. They eat bagels and talk about important stuff. The classical music doesn’t start playing until about 6:15, just about the time one of the Panera employees drags the cafe umbrellas outside. But I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone sitting outside this early in the morning. It’s too cold. Too dark. Of all the Panera regulars, my two favorites are about to walk through the door: two Redlands High School girls who I became friends with in this corner of the restaurant last Monday morning. I wonder if any of the students at our school would, of their own volition, get up and go sit at a coffee shop at 6:30 in the morning? The periwinkle sky has just caught my eye, and it looks like the midnight’s lighthearted storm left behind some billowy remains. It’s beautiful. Everything is wet and cloudy and peaceful. Just what my heart needs before my day full of responsibilities that far exceed my capabilities. Which is why my favorite part of Panera is the part that’s unseen and indescribable. Unbeknownst to everyone around me, there’s someone else at my table with me. I walk in here every morning in desperate need of more than just coffee. (Although that’s important, too.) I need Him. His words. His truth. His hope. His wisdom. I need to lay my day before Him and ask Him for His strength and joy. And He gives it in abundance. He’s not stingy or tired or grumpy. He’s here with me, eager to accomplish His purposes in and through me today. I want to be a regular with Jesus. I want to know what He’s like and what He’s up to each day. I want to sit and observe and listen and learn. And then do. I want to go from here and obey what He’s spoken to my heart. Thank You, Lord, for this little corner. This healing place. This daily cup of joy…

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Gratitude

Remember

My life is a story of God being with me. I can point to time after time when He broke in on my darkness, when He rescued me from my own stupidity, when He brought His words to a rolling boil to melt my hardened heart. I’ve brushed up against Glory through His Spirit, His Word, His people. And His world. He has met me in stars and sunsets and music and fire and water and color and dark and dawn and thunder and lightning and silence. My God—He has revealed Himself to me at every turn, in every season. But after all of this—after all the ways He has marked my life with His love—I forget He’s here. It is the worst form of amnesia, to forget the One who created me, rescued me from sin and its damnation, made me infinitely rich in His love. How can I be daughter of the King Most High, yet prone to live as a beggar’s child born into a generational cycle of poverty and despair? You were unmindful of the Rock that bore you, and you forgot the God who gave you birth. As someone else once confessed, I am often an atheist in practice. I’m prone to live as if there’s no God. Forgetfulness turns me faithless. I question and cower and complain. I wring my hands in worry. I drink the cup of discouragement to its dregs instead of quenching my thirst in His cup that runs over with joy. But He is not forgetful. He does not forget me. Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. God knows I am newborn-needy, and with greater tenderness than even a nursing mother, He tells me again and again in His Word to remember. Colleen, I know you’re forgetful, so bring to mind all the ways I’ve provided for you. Protected you. Rescued you. Loved you. Recall the greatness of Who I Am again and again and again till there’s a well-worn path in your brain—a neurological groove of gratitude and awe.  Is it strange that the cure for my amnesia is remembering? Like the cure for a couch potato is turning off the TV and exercising, it sounds simple but it screams against all that comes naturally to me. Funny thing is, I can remember a lot of things without even trying: the expectations I haven’t lived up to, my never-ending list of to-do’s, that catchy new song. And I’d never dare to forget my morning cup of coffee. But keep the God of the Universe at the forefront of my mind? Why is this so difficult? The God who has always been with me—He is with me still, even in my amnesia. He smiles at me in my need and pours Grace over my lack. He gives me the desire and obedience to remember Him, to think on His goodness—because He knows it is my good. So I hang Scriptures on the walls of my home, and I put verses to music so they get stuck on repeat in my head, and I open my mouth to tell the people around me how good God is to me (and I sidle up to those who talk about His goodness back to me). I carve out time alone with my Savior so He can reshape my thoughts and desires. I journal. I pour out my heart, I reflect, I answer questions like these: What am I grateful for today? How have I seen God’s kindness expressed to me through another person?  What does the cross tell me about God’s relentless love for me? Here, in the sweet quiet of my Father’s presence, reflecting on His past and continual goodness to me, I remember who He is and who I am in Him. My distracted, anxious thoughts (of Self and Circumstances and Others) are dwarfed by my magnified thoughts of Him. As St. Augustine said, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” Is my heart trying to find a resting place apart from Christ? We can be busy about a lot of good things, but if they’re keeping us from remembering The Best Thing, our hearts remain restless. Dear One, is your heart at rest? Or has rest been eluding you as of late (as it has been me)? Tonight let’s ask God to help us remember all that we have in Him. My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night; for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.  Psalm 63:5-7 Click here for a list of Scriptural commands to remember. Other Scriptures referenced: Deuteronomy 32:18; Isaiah 49:15, 54:5; Psalm 23:5, 16:2

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Holidays

Finding rhythms of rest (even through the holidays)

I’m exhausted. To the marrow of my bones, I am spent and weary. A few days ago, I drove up a winding hill, fresh after fall’s first storm, alone in my car; and the tears started. They were longing to spill out before Him, to be seen by Him. Despite my daily Bible study, I felt like I hadn’t experienced Him in weeks. My soul was made for this One. Everything about me—my personality, my frailties, my history, my hurts, my hopes—it’s all meant to sing His song, to spill out the melody of His gospel on those around me. But a season of crisis and nonstop needs can dry up the soul until the only thing that seems to be spilling out is a monumental mess. Can you relate? These days I’m easily given to a heart that’s crabby, negative, and ungrateful. I often feel exhausted and numb, and I find myself shifting into autopilot in my marriage and motherhood. And yet, He’s still wooing me. He’s still calling me by name and whispering, “You are mine.” Dear one, I wasn’t made for this American pace of life. I wasn’t made to be a miracle wife and mom all while keeping a calendar that hemorrhages with busyness. I’m not hard-wired to press through another day on nothing but old fumes. I was made to know Life, to consider everything else a loss compared to the breathtaking beauty of knowing Him. Please hear my heart: I was absolutely made to work hard, to invest my time well, to lay down my life for those around me. I was meant to serve in such a way that requires supernatural strength and, at times, leaves me physically and emotionally exhausted. Jesus modeled this for us and commissioned us to do the same. WORK FLOWING FROM REST But that kind of meaningful work and eternal investing must flow from an abiding rest—the kind of rest I can find only in Him. He modeled this for us too. And squeezing in a “quiet time” during my son’s short nap each day just doesn’t cut it. I need to find rhythms of rest in my weeks and days: to say “no” to even the best of activities so that I can say “yes” to Him to savor thoughts of Christ, again and again throughout my day to post Scriptures on the walls of my home, so I can stop and read and believe what is true in the midst of a day that feels like “too much” to prioritize my calendar so that it points to His sufficiency, not mine I truly don’t know how to do this yet and may not for many years to come. But even my pursuit is precious in His eyes. And when I feel like no rest can be found in this season of nonstop needs and ministry, He continues to show up and say, “This is the way; walk in it.” As I keep His Word before me, it’s as if a little lamp lights my way and leads me into His rest. MAKING REST HAPPEN Are you weary and exhausted, dear one? Are you numb? Have you been in crisis mode for too long? May I encourage you in the same way I’m encouraging myself today? We are not victims of our circumstances—we can make space for rest, no matter what season of life we’re in. We can know Him in the most mundane or insane moments of our day. The holiday season is fast upon us, but He is even more important than the coming festivities. This month, what if we booked a few sessions of REST? What if we dared to clear our calendar—somewhere, anywhere—to make room for Him? What if the rhythm of our lives sang with the hymnist, Ever lift Thy face upon me, as I work and wait for Thee; Resting ‘neath Thy smile, Lord Jesus, earth’s dark shadows flee. Brightness of my Father’s glory, sunshine of my Father’s face, Keep me ever trusting, resting, fill me with Thy grace. Dear one, because Christ became our eternal Sabbath rest, we are no longer slaves to temporal weariness. Body and soul may grow exhausted, but as we rest in Him, we move from strength to strength. {I originally wrote this article in November 2014. It also appears on TrueWoman.com.}

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Motherhood

Parenting by faith {not formula}

Before my son was born, I had enough parenting ideals to create my own currency. I remember saying things like, “We’re not going to work our lives around our children; they’re going to work around us,” and “I will never let my child do that.” Some ideals have served me well because they are biblical principles; but many others have been fueled by both pride and fear. Pride and fear rob me of faith and make me crave methodologies and formulas. Oh, how badly I want step-by-step instructions for how to produce a godly, strong, mature man: What kind of education will ensure my son reaches academic, social, and spiritual maturity? What should I be teaching him at this age? Is he getting all of the nutrients he needs in his diet? What can I do to guarantee he becomes a great lover of God? While parenting methods and manuals can be helpful (especially for new moms like me), when I put my trust in them, when I start preaching their virtues to other parents, I just may be nurturing little idols in my heart. On the one hand, I don’t need to be ashamed of feeding my son organic, gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free food due to his health issues. On the other hand, do I take pride in it? Do I feel superior to moms who don’t have to work so hard to feed their kids? Is my value wrapped up in my healthy cooking so that I’m highly offended when someone takes a jab at “organic moms”? Dear one, I want to learn this deep down to the marrow of my soul: I want to walk by faith, not by formula. But faith looks (and sometimes feels) pretty darn foolish. It demands that I live with mystery and messiness and shades of gray, when in fact I would feel oh-so-much better if I could have money-back guarantees and one-size-fits-all answers. It would help if I could measure myself against other moms to see how I’m progressing. But faith doesn’t need a tape measure; it demands that I fix my eyes on Jesus and “dip my foot into the waters” before they part. Because isn’t it true that motherhood dabbles in the miraculous? I mean, think of what parenting requires: my husband and I are called to protect our son, provide for him, train him up in the way he should go, and teach him about God as we “sit, walk, lie down, and get up.” In many ways, we lay down our lives to make sure he gets the very best we can give him—everything from food and shelter to a deep and abiding knowledge of God. There’s nothing nonchalant or blase about what we do. But while we endeavor to give Jeremy our best, we also rest in God’s infinitely greater plans, protection, provision, revelation, and sovereign will for his life. Do you know how impossible it is for me to simultaneously work hard and rest? But faith walks into the impossible and says, “I can’t, but God can.” When my eyes are on Jesus, I can walk the fine line between working ambitiously for Jeremy’s good and still surrendering to a God who knows what is eternally best for Jeremy. I am called to work hard as a mom, but I’m also called to keep a quiet heart and not fear. So as I cook complicated meals around Jeremy’s allergies, teach him colors and numbers and ABC’s, memorize Scripture with him, and pray mighty prayers over him, I also relinquish my right to control his life and expect certain results. Maybe he’ll hate kale and sweet potatoes someday; maybe he’ll be mediocre academically; maybe his journey to know and love God will be long and painful. That stuff is not my responsibility. I get to plant and water alongside my husband, “but God gives the growth.” If Jeremy grows into a godly man, it will be God graciously using us, his parents, despite our many flaws and failures, to accomplish HIS purposes by HIS power for HIS glory. It won’t be because we chose a certain type of schooling, went to a certain church, held to a certain theology, or vigilantly observed family worship time. Yes, those are an integral part of our great responsibility as parents, and we discern those things through prayer and with a sober awareness of our high calling. But ultimately my parenting must flow from the Fountain of Life. When I take time to drink in my Abba’s words and worship Him in His greatness, I am changed. When I spend more time on my knees than I do listening to others’ advice, my motherhood is compelled by faith, not complicated by formulas. My fearful heart is quieted, my ravenous pride starved. And my very flawed motherhood becomes this beautiful and holy offering to the One who delighted to make me a mother in the first place. Dear one, where have you trusted in manmade methodologies instead of seeking the heart of God? Scriptures referenced: Hebrews 11:6, Hebrews 12:2, Joshua 3, Proverbs 22:6, Deuteronomy 6:7, Proverbs 31, 1 Peter 3:4, 1 Corinthians 3:7, Psalm 36:9, 1 Timothy 1:5-7

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Category: Rest