EMBRACING UNKNOWNS

I start a new job this week.  I know where to go, what time to get there, what time to eat lunch and what time I leave – but that’s it.  Everything else is pretty much an unknown.  This normally might not sound like a big deal, but I’m a planner and unknowns to a planner communicates death (or at least disaster!).

I accepted this position two months ago and I’ve been dreading it ever since.  Until recently I’m not even sure why I said I would take it!  I just felt like I should… To help me deal with the anxiety I’ve been feeling about it, I started seeing a psychologist.  I learned a lot from my most recent session.

I saw a perplexed look come across my psychologist’s face as she listened to me answer to her question, “What are the thoughts that you’re having when you feel anxious about this?”  When I finished my tirade she said, “So, it sounds like unless you know every detail of how this job will look and what you are supposed to do each day, you feel anxious.”  I told her that she had about summed it up.

After explaining to me that it’s impossible for anyone to know every single thing that’s going to happen ahead of time, she said some words that I know were God speaking through her to me. She said, “I think this is a great opportunity for you to learn be okay with not knowing everything.”  

You see, even if I know everything there is to know about this job ahead of time, there will still be unknowns.  And I’m learning to thank God that there are unknowns.

Thank God there were unknown motives for why Joseph was hated by his brothers, or why he sold into slavery and thrown into jail.  Of course, reading the Joseph account now, I can see clearly that God had a bigger plan.  The gift of Joseph’s story is that because he lived his life with faith and assurance of what he couldn’t see, I can have faith and assurance as well that there is more God in every situation of my life than I know.  

For two months my faith and assurance were being smothered by thoughts of worry. I was swarmed by the fear of not being able to know my new job completely, fear of not doing it perfectly.  I was so paralyzed by these thought patterns that I completely lost the ability to see beyond myself.  Yet, even in that seemingly colorless black hole of anxiety and self-focus, God has been at work.  Using Joseph as a model, I am learning to not only be okay with the unknowns but be excited about them. And slowly, that black hole is becomingcolorful.


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Martha has been a wife for 17 years and is the mother of three children ages 10, 9 and 5.  When she’s not folding laundry, c
ooking meals, helping with homework, kissing boo-boos, grocery shopping, cleaning house and running errands; she loves to hold babies at Immanuel MOPS!

INTEGRITY IN THE SMALL STUFF

Years ago, I was camping with my in-laws. Like many campgrounds, the road connecting all the campsites was one big loop. Unfortunately, our particular campsite was just left of the entrance/exit on the one-way road, which meant that every time we had to drive up to the store to get ice or wood (which, I found, is every five minutes when you camp!) we had to veer right and go around the entire 10 mph loop when all we had to do was pull in the wrong way for a split second and we’d be there. Talk about annoying.

My father-in-law drove on one of the umpteen trips up to the store, and as we turned to the entrance to the loop my mother-in-law suggested he just turn left into the campsite since no one was coming from the other direction. A quick but technically rule-breaking maneuver. I wholeheartedly agreed with her suggestion but watched as he turned right to go around the loop the right way, the long way. I’ll admit, I totally rolled my eyes.  I’m not proud of that. I’m just being honest.

I’ve thought of that loop several times since it happened and what it said about me and my father-in-law.  Just as a little gray paint dilutes the brightness of a color, a little gray in our ethics dilutes our impact in this world, even when it’s as small as driving the 10mph loop the right way. Integrity matters, even in the small stuff.

Every time I choose to do what the Bible says is the right thing to do, there is more of a contrast between the life I live and world around me.  And each time I make a decision to be like the world, I blend in a little more.  If you asked me if I could choose any color to be there are many I would choose, but gray wouldn’t be one.

Join me in praying this prayer this week as we choose to stand on God’s word no matter how big or small the decision, no matter where we are, no matter what the cost and no matter who is watching:

Father, You know the true content of my heart though others may be fooled by my words and actions. So it is with You that I must keep a short account and pray from a genuine heart that I will act in accordance to Your revealed will and think upon those things which are honest, just, pure, lovely, and of good report. Thoughts form in my mind before they are spoken from my mouth, so I pray that You would purify my mind, keep my tongue from evil, and enable me to stand for that which is honorable in Your sight so that I pass the tests of life and hear you say, “I am pleased with your integrity.” In the name of Jesus I pray.  Amen.


 

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Martha has been a wife for 17 years and is the mother of three children ages 10, 9 and 5.  When she’s not folding laundry, c
ooking meals, helping with homework, kissing boo-boos, grocery shopping, cleaning house and running errands; she loves to hold babies at Immanuel MOPS!

THAT THEY MAY HAVE LIFE

The thing I love about Christianity is how it’s filled with paradoxes.  I love how it’s complex theological ideas keep brilliant minds debating and deliberating while at the same time Christianity’s message is so simple it is received, responded to and lived out even by children.

I love that it teaches that in order to gain life, one must give up their life.

I love that it teaches that only by admitting I am tainted by sin I can be washed clean.

Christianity is a religion that is rooted in one choice I must make. But this decision is not merely an idea I must choose to believe or a rule I must choose to follow.  Rather, it is a person, and that person is Jesus.

So really, the thing I love about Christianity isn’t the paradoxes.  It is Jesus, the ultimate paradox. He lived the perfect life so he could die as he took on our sins, giving up himself so that we can have new life.

Hear this truth in the following verses:

John 10:10 reads, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

John 10:28 reads,  “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me.”

John 14:6 reads,  “I am the way the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.”

By saying, “Yes!” to Jesus, I choose relationship over religion.  I choose freedom in Christ over bondage to self.  I choose life over death.

 


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Martha has been a wife for 17 years and is the mother of three children ages 10, 9 and 5.  When she’s not folding laundry, c
ooking meals, helping with homework, kissing boo-boos, grocery shopping, cleaning house and running errands; she loves to hold babies at Immanuel MOPS!

PAUSING TO SAY, “THANKS”

I still remember 11 years ago when a close friend found out the baby growing inside of her might have a rare chromosomal disorder which would result in death soon after being born.  Any attempt to thank God during that circumstance was choked out by cries to him to have mercy on my friend and her baby.  It was only after we received news the test results were negative that gratitude could again flow from my heart or my mouth.

In the day to day as well, when tasks, obligations and responsibilities send me into a stressed out flurry of activity I rarely pause long enough to consider the gift of each moment or the gifts in it.

Reading “One Thousand Gifts” by Ann Voskamp last year deepened my understanding of gratitude.  In her book, Ann speaks of a loss she endured early in her life rendering her and her parents incapable of feeling or giving gratitude to God.  As an adult Ann is challenged by a friend to begin the work of recovering her gratitude.  She does so with a list where she is to write down one thousand things for which she grateful.  Her list includes things large and small like “#526 New toothbrushes” and “#783 Forgiveness of a sister.”

As a reader I too was challenged to begin regularly writing down the things I am grateful for.  At first I was skeptical.  How does thanking God for a parking space or a flower make me more grateful?  I felt like it was making my relationship with God more of a business transaction. I couldn’t see how this would make me grateful in the hard stuff.  But as my list grew, so did my gratitude.  I never realized it before but gratitude is a practice just like Bible reading or prayer.  The more you do it, the better you get at it.  In thanking God for all the little things is the acknowledgement that everything is from Him and He is in control of everything.  Being mindful of all of the little things like a cardinal on a tree branch, my functioning washing machine or my children playing nicely together have become a mountain of evidence that God is good and He does love me.

Sometimes, it seems there is a mountain of evidence in the world that says otherwise.  We need the small, simple things as tangible reminders of the truth when the big, bad things come and we question God’s goodness.  So in this season and beyond, let’s be grateful in all things and pause to say, “Thanks.”

Yes, terrorists attacked Paris.

Thank you that you are a God of peace.

Yes, Christians are persecuted and killed around the world.

Thank You that You are a God of hope.

Yes, my friend is battling cancer.

Thank You that You are a God of strength.

Yes, my neighbor is out of work.

Thank you that you are a God of mercy and grace.

Thank You.


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Martha has been a wife for 17 years and is the mother of three children ages 10, 9 and 5.  When she’s not folding laundry, c
ooking meals, helping with homework, kissing boo-boos, grocery shopping, cleaning house and running errands; she loves to hold babies at Immanuel MOPS!

 

PLANTED, NOT BURIED

This came across my Facebook feed this week: “Sometimes when you’re in a dark place you think you’ve been buried, but you’ve actually been planted.” (Christine Cane)

The day that I read this I felt a bit buried myself. It’s not that there was anything major going on in my life, but the cumulation of just, well, everything began to weigh down on me. As all of the little things pile up, I often feel the reality that life here on this swirling sphere of sin can only be described as one thing: hard.

I find it interesting that when James writes about trials (James 1:2-4), he doesn’t define what exactly a trial is. I’d like to think it’s that feeling of being buried. Yet, he just writes, “Consider it pure joy when you face trials of many kinds.” James expands the definition to encompass anything that tests our faith (1:3). This means that even when my trials aren’t about physical burying, about life and death, they can still result in growth (1:4). Growth is found in the everyday, ordinary huff-and-puff of life.

Mary and Martha didn’t appear to consider it pure joy when Jesus took his sweet time responding to the news that their brother was on his deathbed (John 11). I find myself in their disappointed, frustrated responses. How often have you stood at the precipice of a life-changing trial, only to feel that God was taking his grand old time coming to your aid? Yet, there is so much to learn form these women. Rather than sitting in the disappointment, they took their circumstance to Jesus, even as they prepared to bury their brother in the uncertainty of what Jesus could or would do about it. Jesus himself flat out says, “Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe,” (11:14-15). Did you read that? Go ahead, take another look. Jesus was glad?! He was glad he wasn’t there, at the bedside of a beloved friend?

Yes, so that we may believe.

It’s during those times when we’re “buried” – whether literally like Lazarus, or in grief and sadness like Mary and Martha, or like me in the daily grind – that faith can make all the difference. Faith in Jesus, in his authority over our circumstances, and in his power to do something about our troubles, this faith is the thing that can change our focus from an earthly perspective to a heavenly perspective. Jesus brought life again to Lazarus and he can bring life again and again to us, especially during those times we feel buried by our circumstances. Because Jesus is true to his promise to bring life, I can have faith that I have been planted, not buried.


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Martha has been a wife for 17 years and is the mother of three children ages 10, 9 and 5.  When she’s not folding laundry, c
ooking meals, helping with homework, kissing boo-boos, grocery shopping, cleaning house and running errands; she loves to hold babies at Immanuel MOPS!