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Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Feeling Better, Feeling Worse (How women's events really make us feel!)

Have you ever noticed when you’re in a room full of women, everyone seems to be sizing up everyone else? Some women enter confidently, some approach with questions, and others slip in and slide into the corner unnoticed. The bold flaunt airs (whether overtly or subtly) while the insecure hope no one notices their inadequacies. Why do we as woman play this constant comparison game? She has it all together, so I must not measure up in some way. And when someone else is struggling, it just makes us feel all the better about ourselves.

We take extra time before going to meet with ladies to fix our hair, our clothes, our kids, our face, our attitudes. What mask do I need to wear today in order to feel good about myself? I wonder how many compliments I will get today (about my outfit, my kids, or the dish that I cooked)? We look for those don’t we? We walk away with a count, and if we didn’t get enough we try to change something for the next time so that our “approval meter” is filled.

Call it what you may, competing, comparing, judging, insecurity, longing – it all boils right back down to idolatry. God has been showing me recently that my competitive nature, my judgmental heart, my inclination to desire the applause of men, is really rooted in a desire to be worshiped. To be honest with you, this sickens me. For quite a while, I have been focused on uprooting causes of idolatry in my life (because if I am always worshiping, I am always worshiping something or someone). This one hits me a lot stronger…. What is this tendency to desire the praise of men? Where does it come from? And what can I do about it? Because in my deepest heart, I long to worship and glorify God alone!

1 Corinthians 4 – Paul addresses the judgmental attitudes of the Corinthians. He asks 3 rather rhetorical questions that I would like to look deeper into this morning. For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?

The Corinthian Church was primarily an outcropping of Paul’s ministry. After having left the region, he began to hear of divisions and sins that began creeping into the Church body. The country of Corinth was well to do – located on an isthmus between two bodies of water and two masses of land it was a crossroads for the Grecian culture. This city was fed by a constant water supply from a natural spring, “protected by” the patron saint of seamen, “blessed by” the goddess of love, booming economically, and for all intents and purposes was a rich, well established, deeply rooted in sin culture. Some of their falling back into old practices, I’m sure was ignorance, yet some of it was familiarity. (How often I am here – self focus is natural…) Paul found out that they were esteeming certain teachers over and above others, and they had the mentality that they had already arrived at their “kingdom.” So he admonishes their judging hearts, emphasizes that which is not seen (the hidden things in darkness that will be exposed by the light), and asks them the three questions to really get them thinking about their judgmental attitudes in a truthful way!

Question #1 - 1 Corinthians 4:7 – “For who sees anything different in you?”
Question #2 - 1 Corinthians 4:7 “What do you have that you did not receive?”
Question #3 - 1 Corinthians 4:7 – “And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?”

Question #1 – 1 Corinthians 4:7 – “For who sees anything different in you?”
 I found my answers to this question ironic. As I think back to my Jr. High and High School days, and even some in College, I found myself frequently trying to look like, act like, and talk like those kids that I thought were popular or well liked. I wanted the same approval they had. I wanted to “fit in.” The crazy thing about this is that I wanted to fit in so that I could stand out. My current struggle, however, is more defined: I want something unique to offer the world around me – something that no one else can. I want to be the best at one thing. Even if it’s a small thing, I want to be approved, I want to win – I want to be the best so that I can feel people giving me worth (AKA: Giving me worship)

Paul give us a reality check in this passage. "Therefore, judge nothing before the appointed time, wait until the Lord comes, He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time, each will receive their praise from God." I cannot judge the women around me because I can neither see nor know their hearts. And when we start talking about hearts, ultimately, we all wind up on a level Playing field from God’s view. Romans 3:23 states that all have sinned, and James 2:10 goes on to explain that even if we keep the law in every way except one, we are still guilty of breaking the entirety of the law. Being separated from God due to sin, we are all deserving of death. Praise be to God that the death he died, he died to sin, once for ALL (Romans 6:10).

Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior, but now Christ has reconciled you to himself through death to present you Holy in His sight, without blemish, and free from accusation! (Colossians 1:21-22)

So, Christ, who sees the heart, knows the thoughts, see our past, our present, and our future as the Great I AM, sees me, you, and our sisters in Christ as equals. Made in His image we sinned and fell short, we deserved death, and he came in order to reconcile us back to himself. Now, through His blood, we are holy. I am holy, you are holy, and we owe all worship to our Savior. In God’s eyes, we are saved, rescued, redeemed, clothed in the righteousness of his son, worthy, holy, and approved! When our vision begins to clear, and we can see ourselves and our sisters for who we really are, the comparison games can all step aside. We all reside on a level playing field!

These next two questions seem to address one of two perceptions we as women have of ourselves in relation to others: Superiority or Inferiority…

Question #2 - 1 Corinthians 4:7 “What do you have that you did not receive?” (Superiority)

Here, Paul is addressing believers here who are stuck in the pride of self-made righteousness. The “dos.” Many of the Corinthian believers resorted to a mentality of work hard and receive all the glory for your achievements – how often I find myself here too! Throughout my growing up years, I looked at the fruit of the spirit as actions that I needed to work harder at so that I could be more like God. If only I could make myself more patient, more kind, more joyful, more self-controlled, if I could just work hard enough, maybe I could finally be a “good Christian girl.”

But it just doesn’t work that way. Ephesians 2:8-9 tells us that our salvation is through grace, not by works that we have done – so that we cannot boast. Furthermore, if we look at the idea of a fruit producing plant, we see that it must be supported and fed by something (the roots). A plant can never bear fruit of its own effort or desire, but must remain connected to the main vine/root system.

When I think I have the power to produce my own fruit - I hate to call this what it is – it’s pride. I don’t like that word. I don’t like the people it compares me to – the sons of Noah at the tower of Babel, Ahab, the rich young ruler, the prodigal son’s brother. Pride is anything that has I at the center of it. Look what I have done, what my hands have made, the weight I lost, the kids I have, the dish I made, the gift I gave. It’s all about me, me, me.

Proverbs tells us that pride brings a man low and that it is an abomination to the Lord. 1 Peter 5:5 – God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Christ Himself, even though equal with God in all respects, did not take advantage of that equality, but humbled himself and became a servant – thinking of others before he thought of himself. Phil. 2

When my thinking about all that I have been given is redeemed, I can see myself in light of Christ and then learn to walk in humility as Christ did – no longer taking pride in something I did not even accomplish for myself, but learning to see myself in sober judgment and thinking of others as more important than myself, in turn, directing all worship back to God, to whom it is due!

Question #3 - 1 Corinthians 4:7 – “And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?” (Inferiority)

Here we see the pendulum swing is to the other extreme – the stereotypical Eeyore – “woe is me, I’m not gifted like anyone else, how could I ever be that good?” Sometimes, this mentality is a result of years of wounds, sometime it is misinformation, sometime it is lack of knowledge, and sometimes I swing to this side when once again, I am “trying” to humble myself – not realizing that this false humility puts me in the same place as my “pride”

True humility is knowing who God is, Knowing who you are, and knowing where they each properly belong. I think many Christians get the idea that Humility is an Eeyore sort of mentality. Unfortunately, this “woe is me” mentality is also pride in its own light – inward self-focus. “I” is once again at the center. When I find myself in this position, I’m still longing for my own worship, rather than turning my eyes toward Christ. I just get the feeling that it could never happen – but that doesn’t mean it’s not still what I am looking for.

Paul is urging the Corinthians to seek, know, understand, and admit all that they have been given. He goes on to say: Already you have all you want. (They had direct access to God, they had been given salvation, blessed with the holy Spirit, rescued, redeemed, reconciled) Already you have become rich. (They were blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, they were co-heirs with Christ.) You have become kings. (They were royalty, a chosen generation, a royal people – a people belonging to God).

Final Thoughts
Our judgmental attitudes will only disappear when we begin to humble ourselves as Jesus did. When we can look at the people we interact with and see that we all start on level playing fields, when we understand that our righteous standing in God’s eyes does not depend on our own works, and when we grasp the reality of how blessed we are in Christ, we too will be able to walk as Jesus walked – in humble surrender and in the Spirit’s power.

Lord, give us your grace and strength to uproot deep seeded pride in our lives and to walk in light of who we are because of your grace and how you want to use us to impact the world!

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

To the Mom with the Puking Kid in the CFA Bathroom

Hi Friend! Can I call you friend? After all, we are all part of the same enormous family. To say I was a bit surprised when you rushed through the door cradling your daughter in your arms would be an accurate statement. But appalled? No. Bothered? Nope, not even really that. Though I’m sure the same mortified look that graced your face would have been plastered on my own as well had I been in your shoes last night.

But that’s how things are, aren’t they? When our own child does something that goes against the social norm – whether it’s puking in a restaurant, or throwing a tantrum in the middle of the grocery store – We look around wondering what the old man must think of us now, or how the other mom in the bathroom  must be chiding us for bringing our sick child out in public, and we feel just awful for what we put the employees through (whether cleaning up remnants of lunch or the shattered glass spaghetti sauce jar that the one year old threw to the ground – yes, that happened to me). And these moments are hard. Really hard! But they happen. Life happens. And we get caught in the middle of it sometimes.

I’m so sorry for any rude comments that came your way as a result of last night. To be honest, I’m glad for your sake it was at Chick-fil-A and not another restaurant as the grace of the employees covers nearly any offense in that place. I’m sorry if there were other customers that were more concerned about their own comfort than in assisting a struggling momma in her moment of need. I assure you, this wasn’t your fault.

As you think back over the events and decisions of your day, second guessing where you went wrong and wishing so desperately that you could go back and just change one thing to undo the embarrassment of the evening, don’t beat yourself up. There’s no way you could have known your daughter wasn’t up for a chicken sandwich. You made your decisions based on the information you had at the time. You did your best. You’re still a good momma!

Sometimes, we as women like to look at the mommas around us, convinced that they must have it all together – never aware that their insecurities run as deep as ours. And isn’t that why we judge and condemn one another anyhow? It makes us feel better to make someone else feel worse. It makes us feel bigger to make someone else feel smaller. I guarantee you that no mother makes it through life without embarrassment, frustration, and regret. Not one!

I’m proud of you, friend. The way you handled yourself, the way your cared for your daughter – I saw how you loved her. Thank you for not chiding or making her feel guilty for something she couldn’t control.

So when you think back to last night and rushing down the aisle to the bathroom, do me a favor, k? Give yourself a little grace! I’m willing to. And the next time you see me with a puking kid in the bathroom, you can pass it back my way.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Body Image and the Fear of God

What does the fear of God have to do with my body image anyhow? I rolled the question around my mind and wondered if that really was the key to the struggle that had been weighing on my mind so heavily recently.

Ever since my fourth little boy was born, I’ve bemoaned the ways my body has morphed into someone I don’t even recognize any longer. Pants are the worst! Finding a pair that is both modest and flattering seems nearly impossible. And who has money to buy a totally new wardrobe anyhow? Not to mention, I wasn’t about to spend money on clothing that was a size larger!

The struggle was real! After my third boy, I had a paradigm shift in my thinking about food. For so long, I had lived with the mentality of fad diets and/or depriving my body in order to lose weight. Not only did I realize that this was wreaking havoc on my metabolism, but it wasn’t glorifying God with my body. And that’s what I was called to – 1 Corinthians 6:19 – your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, therefore, honor God with your body. So I studied nutrition (extensively); I learned what God created my body to consume, my needs, and how to enjoy the foods God provided without guilt! I lost weight – lots. I also learned to move my body like it was meant to move, to rest, and to manage stress in a Spirit filled way. Viva Gloria – living the glorious life. Walking in the Spirit. It was beautiful!

Why wasn’t the weight coming off this time? I was so frustrated. I know that my stress level was higher. I was getting less sleep. And I was nursing an injury that was limiting my ability to move like I wanted to. But still – I wanted more.

The truth is (and it’s nasty): I wanted people to notice again. I wanted the compliments. And I wanted to feel good about myself. PRIDE. Yep. That’s what it is. I was at the center of my thinking. How quickly right motive morph into selfish desires. I started out with the purpose of walking in the Spirit and honoring God, I slide down the slope of self-image sin.

I was more concerned about what my friend was going to say the next time she saw me than how God could use me to minister to her heart.

My heart had become ugly. Workouts took priority (for a while) over my time with God and my time with my sons and cost me energy reserves that both were more worthy of. I would eat healthy (for a time) until I got emotional and needed a quick chocolate fix or something more. Eventually, I gave way to eating whatever I felt like again (and this definitely didn’t help the body image cycle).
So I’ve experienced both sides of this coin. . . really walking in step with God and being in tune with His Spirit and seeing results, morphing into prideful body image, self-made ideals of weight loss, and shame when results didn’t happen (and easily falling back into an “I don’t care” mentality). –Maybe there’s more than two sides of this coin. ;)

I never really thought I had an issue with fear of man when it came to my body. I mean, I wasn’t really scared of how other people saw me. I’ve never been really hurt by comments or teasing. But I see now that fear doesn’t have to mean fear in a way I understand it. When I put more value on how others perceive me and less on what God sees in my heart at that moment (whether it is concern for another woman or the third cookie I want to put in my mouth), I am fearing man more than I fear God.

Father, teach me to fear you only with my body – what I eat, how I sleep, how I move, and how I relate to those around me. And may I live this glorious life that you’ve prepared for me – for your glory alone!

Friday, May 6, 2016

To Nannah, on Her Birthday: What I Remember and What I Learned

Dear Nannah,

Happy first birthday in heaven. I didn’t anticipate that you wouldn’t be spending this one with us, though I expect that heaven throws better parties that we ever could. I wanted to take a few minutes to write you this birthday and express how grateful I am for your life and your impact on mine. I only regret I never took the opportunity to do this while you were here.

I struggle to find the right words to express the depths of my love and appreciation for your life. And in some ways, it would be easier emotionally to stay busy today and now allow my heart to linger. The memories, precious, cherished, yet hard to revisit since you are no longer here to share them with. The lessons you taught me over the 31 years that I knew you were invaluable in shaping who I am today. You truly were a woman who left a legacy!

What I remember and cherish . . .
  • -          Yearly tree trimming parties at your house, antique ornaments, shortbread cookies, and how you showed such grace when I broke one of your glass bells.
  • -          Yearly trips to the mall to buy Easter shoes to go with our Easter dresses – and they had to be white! J
  • -          How you cooked big dinners on Sunday afternoons because you relished the time with family.
  • -          Dancing silly to Richard Simmons or Jazzercise in your living room while you kept up until you got tired then sat down on the couch to watch.
  • -         How you taught me to tenderly care for African Violets – your favorite flowers.

  • -          Dressing up as a ballerina and dancing shows for you where you always praised and applauded.
  • -          My four-year-old Disney vacation with you, Mickey mouse ice cream all over my face, a giant lightbulb on the ship, and how we woke up before dawn to take pictures of the sunrise.
  • -          Tiddlywinks tournaments
  • -          How you dreamed of what your yard and your creek could be a place of rest, and your random chair set down the steep hill by the brook. I’m sorry you never saw that dream realized!
  • -          Bedtime snacks and Brother Rabbit stories!
  • -          Jergens lotion on our hands and bactine for bug bites.
  • -          Your presence at our milestones – how you never missed a piano recital, gymnastics meet, or Awana awards.
  • -          Walking at the mall with your friends.
  • -          Awana games and the night you broke your wrist jumping over a ball in dodge ball.
  • -          The Fox Theater for Little Women and several times to see the Nutcracker.
  • -          Yearly Christmas ornaments.
  • -          Your “catnaps” during movies.
  • -          Another Disney trip where it rained all day, you bought Rachel and I yellow ponchos and rubbed our cold, wet feet warm once we got back to the hotel.
  • -          Weathering the storm at St. George’s Island.
  • -          How you braved our sled track that first winter in Michigan.
  • -          Stories of Walter Sr. and how you cried when I found “your song.”
  • -          Thanksgivings in Kentucky at the hotel and annual “surprise parties” that we always knew were coming.
  • -          How you never forgot a birthday or anniversary – you loved celebrating people!
  • -          Coca-Cola cake.
  • -          How you surprised me by flying up for my college graduation.
  • -          How you fell in love with Jared from the start.
  • -          Your beauty and serenity on my wedding day.
  • -          How you proudly carried your brag book of your grandchildren.
  • -          How you patiently explained to two-year-old Eli how your watch worked when he asked.

  • -      How you made Kaleb giggle.
  • -          The rapid, deep connection you made with Gabriel on our last trip to see you.
  • -          Your faithfulness in praying for me.
  • -          How you always cried when we left, but tried to cover it up.
  • -          How Gabriel walked you back to your car, and somehow I knew that was the last time we would see you.

Your life has ingrained principles into mine. You taught me . . .
  • -          Love covers a multitude of sins. When you were offended, you never took it personally, and you let things go very quickly. You knew that God loved you, and you offered that same love and grace to both your family and your friends.
  • -          The art of distraction. When my kids would squabble, you would quickly separate them and move on to something new. Changing the subject was an art form. J
  • -          A gentle answer turns away wrath. I hold no memories of you ever raising your voice. Your tone was one of gentleness and peace.
  • -          Prayer is powerful and changes things. You prayed Ephesians 3:14-18 for your children and grandchildren daily. You told me. And I never doubted it as I saw the fruit of this prayer bud and flourish in my and my siblings lives.
  • -          Giving is better than receiving. You servants heart and love for giving were evident from when you would argue over who was covering the dinner bill or serving by washing dishes or prepping food because you couldn’t stand not to be involved. Thank you for setting the example of servanthood!
Nannah, I would give anything to hug you one more time. I am beyond grateful that God blessed me with a woman as wonderful as you for my grandmother. And well, I guess since I couldn’t say “grandmother” as a toddler “Nannah” had to do. And I have to say, it fit you well.
Thank you for loving so well. Thank you for living so well. Thank you for being all of the woman God called you to be. I pray that I too may leave a legacy for generations to come.


Hannah Elizabeth

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Continuing the Conversation: Silence

Last week I was sitting in my garden gazing into the woods. The birds were singing, but it still wasn’t quite spring. All the forest was still bare and brown. But then over the weekend, we got rain; and nearly overnight, color appeared. My coral bells puckered up, purple phlox lush and healthy, tulips opened their buds to the sun, hosta bunches poked up from the dirt revealing baby leaves. And not just my garden, the forest had blossomed. Green vines wrapped around trees, budded leaves now open, berries appeared in the brush and the canopy and underbrush teemed with life. Spring was finally here.

It’s funny to me that a little rain is all it took to go from winter’s end to spring’s beginning. And I wonder how our souls are very much the same way.

The rain provided an essential nutrient that could not be obtained by the plants on their own. Those one or two evenings of downpour that caused a hush over creation, a pause of sorts, gave sustaining, beautifying life. 

Sometimes the rain is frustrating. Sometimes, I don’t understand it. The unsuspecting drizzle can hamper and dampen (no pun intended) the best laid plans for my day. 

Isaiah 55:8-11 says. . .
"For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways," declares the LORD. "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts. "For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, And do not return there without watering the earth And making it bear and sprout, And furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.…

So as much as it may foil and frustrate me, the rain is necessary. Not only for the ground, but for my soul. God’s ways are higher than mine. His thoughts I cannot comprehend. Rain creates a natural pause, an opportunity to reflect. Am I allowing for pauses in my life? For showers of refreshment? For his Word to saturate my soul? Or am I fighting the change of plans, the interference with my control? Filling my life with busyness so that I am unable to pause when the opportunity arises?  It’s only when I allow the crusty dirt of my heart to accept the replenishing streams that I will begin to see growth of fruit in my life. 

Hebrews 6:7
For ground that drinks the rain which often falls on it and brings forth vegetation useful to those for whose sake it is also tilled, receives a blessing from God;

Lord, keep my heart supple. Help me not to run from the rain, but to joyfully accept the moments of pause in my life in order to turn to you and be refreshed.

How have you seen God water you during moments of pause, rain, or silence in your soul? How have you created moments to welcome the pause?

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Continuing the Conversation: Chaos Costs . . .

My husband and I kept having these discussions of how it felt like life should be easier than it was. Transition from one thing/event/activity to another seemed to take three times the amount of time that it should. Where was all our margin going? It wasn’t like we scheduled everything down to the second. This problem was becoming a monster that was eating all our time and decreasing the possibility of white space in our lives in order to be still before God, rest in his presence, and quiet our hearts and our souls.

So we’ve been on this journey of simplifying, and as I look back, I see several things we’ve learned through the process of eliminating chaos from our lives:

Chaos costs time

From finding the right shirt stuck on the bottom of ten others, digging through the closet for the right pair of shoes, and pulling out the skirt you want only to find it wrinkled, too many clothes cost time.

Lost keys, misplaced phone, the search for the book loaned from a friend. Lack of order and routine costs time.

Decide what to eat, decide what to wear, decide which activity to do with the kids. Lack of a plan costs time.

Chaos costs money

Buying duplicates because the food item was shoved in the back of the pantry, forgetting I bought those shorts for the boys on sale last summer and getting new ones this spring. Too much to keep organized costs money.

Bought too much food, or simply forgot it was there. Food goes bad before its eaten. Lack of a plan costs money.

So many toys neglected, ignored or broken. Too many to choose from, none of which are favorites. Quantity decreases the value of quality. Lack of value costs money.

Chaos costs energy

Little nick knacks on a shelf that have to be dusted around (that you may not even like or remember where they came from.) Stuffing those last few items into the dresser. Digging through the toolbox to find that screwdriver.  Managing stuff costs energy.

“What’s for dinner?” “What are we doing today?” “Can I play at Suzie’s house?” Questions constantly coming. Brain spinning. No idea how to answer. Unknowns costs energy.

Too much going on to stay on top of cleaning. Bathrooms that require extra elbow grease. Dishes piled in the sink. Mount Laundry. Busyness and not being able to stay on top of things costs energy.

Chaos cost us emotionally and physically and spiritually

No time for first things, priorities, time with God. No time for sleep. No time for workouts. No time to prepare nutritious meals. Not enough time for family or friends. Not having abilities to fill our bucket and live the abundant life. Life seems crazy and out of control. Emotions swing from anxiety to depression. Our hearts grow weak. Our bodies grow weary. Our souls shrivel. Big rocks not put in firsts costs us. Oh, it costs us so much!

Practical and Simple Ways we are Fighting Chaos
  • -          Scheduling time with God and with one another as priority (our big rocks)
  • -          Eliminating superfluous items from our home (disliked nick knacks, extra clothing, overabundance of toys, duplicate items in the kitchen or workshop)
  • -          Setting a routine for cleaning and maintenance (maybe not every week, but things happen in a rotation or loop so that they happen regularly)
  • -          Having a daily plan for eating (we eat the same thing for breakfast and lunch on each day of the week – and the boys know what to expect. I plan monthly for dinners with a five-week rotation of dinner menus. This simplifies my grocery shopping as well as I know exactly what I need.)

Overall, the thing that I’m learning most right now is that I cannot allow the mentality of “simplifying” to take the place of Christ in my life. Idolatry of the heart and mind can happen so subtly, and I could easily make this “lifestyle” my savior. I am being challenged as we make decisions about items to get rid of or changes to our schedule to make sure I am seeking Christ first and asking him to lead my heart in surrender.

What are some practical ways you are fighting chaos in your home and heart in order to regain the ability to be still before God?

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Continuing the Conversation: Simplicity

I heard him speaking quietly to my heart. You know, that still small voice that so easily gets lost among the chaos of everyday living.

My husband had lovingly sent me out for a few hours of processing time. Being just over 2 months postpartum from the birth of my fourth son, I was understandably overwhelmed. But I had gotten to a point that I couldn’t even think straight. I knew my heart had longings – longings to be more, to be enough actually – because I so often felt like I failed. But I wasn’t even sure what those were any more.

So I took the time, coffee, quiet, good music and my Bible. And I sought God. I asked questions. Lots. I was silent much of the time. And when it finally came through, His voice was crystal clear. “Be still and know, Hannah. Be still and know that I am God.” It seemed like such a simple answer – should be easy, right? But as a stay at home mom of four boys, I never. Stopped. Moving! How could I ever be still?

I started seeking, analyzing, and trying to understand the root of all the motion. The word “simplify” seemed to continue to surface throughout my studies. But what did I really have to simplify? We had a garage sale the year before, and I really felt like I had cleaned out well at that point. And even though my schedule felt “busy,” at that point, my kids had not ECA’s and other that Wednesday nights, we were home almost all the time. I fought the idea at first. I’m not a rich person. We don’t have the biggest house, and I sure don’t have too much stuff. But then why was I always feeling so suffocated and unable to focus?

My husband came home from work one day with a story of a couple who had a very nice couch they loved but had no place for in their home. So they rented a storage unit and paid monthly to have it stored there in case one day they may want to bring it back into their home. Years later, they went to retrieve it – and finding it moth eaten and unusable, they grieved the loss and realized their mistake of hanging on to something for “what if” had cost them more in money, time, thought, and energy than it had potentially benefited them.

God immediately began to bring to mind different items around my home that I had stashed or stored just in case I may need it sometime. He raised the question in my mind, “Hannah, because you are hanging onto that dress, that bedding, those dishes, the baby gear, are you trusting in your possessions more than you are trusting in me? Are you turning your stuff into your ‘savior’?”

Scripture is pretty clear that we should have no other gods (Exodus 20:3) and that we should love the Lord our God first and most (Matthew 22:37). In maintaining and finding storage for all these extras that I didn’t know if or when I would need again, I was not only taxing my management ability, my ability to focus, and my chaos meter, but I was also putting those items in place of God in certain parts of my life. When I found myself saying, “I cannot live without this.” I was saying that I was in control, and I had to stay in control to guarantee my future. My stuff and my own control were subtly seeping onto the throne of my heart.

As I began the slow process of weeding out these extras. These items of idolatry in my life, I found out my heart was more deceitful than I first thought. I uncovered areas of both pride and fear. I found myself constantly pendulum swinging from “contentment” (not godly contentment – prideful contentment in my possessions and how I compared to the world around me) or consumerism (aka: fear that if I didn’t have, didn’t buy, didn’t own certain things, I would be less than, undesirable, or not measure up in some way to the world around me.

No one can serve both God and money (Matthew 6:24). And that is exactly what I was doing. When I was emotional, I would shop. When I had free time, I would shop. I didn’t think it was a bad thing because I would find good bargains and stay within my budget, but what I had failed to see was that my heart was devoted to my money, to my possessions, to my appearance rather than trusting God to provide exactly what I need and direct my heart to what was best.

I started with my clothing. I knew that if simplicity was a change I wanted to see in my home as a whole, I had to start with myself. My dresser was overflowing, closet stuffed, buckets in the basement. How could one person ever use so many clothes? I was disgusted with where I had wound up. After tackling my clothing, I went on to my books, decor, kitchen, linens and continued to move throughout my house. I found so many things that I didn’t even like taking up space and time to maintain that I was hanging onto just because it had been given to us. I found myself even irritated with some of these items. Why not just get rid of them? They don’t serve a purpose…you don’t even like them. Yeah, but someone had spent some money or time on them, and if I got rid of them, I was afraid of what those people would think. And it made me feel guilty somehow. Then God whispered to my heart. “Hannah, are you fearing man more than you are fearing God? What if I asked you to get rid of it to make more space for me? Would you fear me more than them?”

Challenges, growth, and freedom have all come through this process of pursuing simplicity in order to make room to Be Still. One of the most freeing moments so far happened one day when I sat down with my to do list, overwhelmed at the amount of things left on it for the day. I brought it before God. I just don’t see how I’m going to get this all done. This is so overwhelming! “Hannah,” He quietly whispered back. “Your expectations of yourself are higher than my expectations are of you. Let it go.” A weight lifted as I looked back at my list and realized that of the nine things left there, only two were necessary for that day and four I could eliminate all together just by freeing myself of my own expectations and choosing to live within God’s expectations for my day.

Simplicity: this journey that God has had me on for the last twelve months has begun to free me to know who God is, to understand who I am as a result of it, to the interrelationship of how I interact with the world around me and the stillness or chaos of my own heart. This journey to simplify, to still my heart and to be. To Be here. Be still. And know. That HE IS GOD!

I would love to hear how God is directing your journey or any lessons you've been learning about who God is and who you are in the midst of learning to be still...