Rest for Your Soul

My little family of 3 frequently takes a 20 minute drive into the country to visit my in-laws. Some visits we remain until well after dark. That means a 20 minute drive home beneath the stars. 

When we pull up in our driveway we kick into our “out too late” bedtime routine. First, my husband scoops up our sleeping daughter from her carseat and gently deposits her in her bed. I then change my sleeping girl into her pajamas. Sometimes, this evokes a sweet smile from her, and feeling tenderly cared for, she nestles down into her blanket and drifts off to dreaming. 

I remember the exact feeling when I was a little girl, of being half asleep and my mom changing me into my pajamas. I recall the strange relief of having fallen asleep in one place, waking up in another, and finding yourself secure in the arms of your parent making you comfortable for bed. 

Recently, the Lord brought this to my heart and spoke that in this season, where many are experiencing fear, panic, and unrest, we can rest like my little girl, in and through Him.

In Matthew 11:28-29 Jesus says, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

The rest that God gives is more than physical rest, although physical rest is included. God also provides rest for our souls. As you meditate on Him, our good Shepherd, and His provisions for you, you can experience what it is to be tenderly cared for in times of trouble, and as you do, He will “make [you] to lie down in green pastures” (Psalm 23:2). 

Confessions of An Overcomer

Recently, I found myself in a new ministry atmosphere in which I knew without a doubt, I was in over my head. It was an opportunity I had waited and prepared for for years but actually being in that room, surrounded by leaders I’d looked up to for over a decade was surreal.

And do you know what I heard, “who do you think you are?”

That same old voice, using that same old strategy, “hath God said?”

The thoughts begun to rush in like a flood.

“Who are you to speak to God’s people? You’ve failed too big and too often to ever be of any use to the Kingdom. You’re a woman. You’re too young. This isn’t worth the risk. Life was easier being quiet. What do you hope to gain by this?”

I’ll admit, I listened to the voice of the enemy for about 5 minutes on the car ride home, then, my husband and Jesus slapped some sense into me.

The Lord said, “give me leaders who have been through some stuff.  Leaders that have walked through fire but don’t smell of smoke. Who have overcome lack, loss, rejection, sin, and sickness. People that know what it is to apply the blood of Jesus to their lives and see His power released. People that have trained their eyes to look at their suffering through the veil of his unfailing love. People who boast in their weakness, their losses, their embarrassments, and their failures. These are the more-than-overcomers in Christ, that will set captives free.

The enemy is scared to Hell that instead of identifying with all you are not, you will begin to identify with all that you have been made in Christ. When we identify with the finished work of Jesus, putting on Christ, we share in His victory.  He’s going to bring you into rooms in which you feel in over your head. Get ready! You are right where you belong, overcomer. 

Stewarding Kingdom Influence

John’s encounter with Jesus at the Jordan River in Matthew 4 teaches us what it is to healthily steward Kingdom influence. 

John has been preaching to the multitudes, “Heaven is about to appear! Turn from evil and turn to God!” (Matthew 3:2)  And thousands are responding to his message of freedom by confessing their sin and being baptized in the Jordan River. John knows his life’s message and is owning it with bold conviction in front of believers and non-believers alike. 

THEN Jesus comes to Galilee to be baptized by John. Matthew 3:13 says, “when Jesus waded into the water John RESISTED him saying, ‘why are you doing this?’ John the Baptist, the prophesied voice crying out in the wilderness (see Isaiah 40:3, Mal. 3:1) RESISTED Jesus! John’s been telling the multitudes that the Messiah is coming, who will baptize his people in fire (see Acts 2), and whose shoes John is not worthy to touch. Yet, the moment Jesus shows up with new instruction, John resists him.

I believe we all too often find ourselves as taken aback by Jesus as John is in this moment. We’re running our race, others’ lives are being impacted by our ministry, and we’re feeling fully capable of carrying out the assignment exactly as planned. BUT THEN Jesus steps into our situation with a new direction and we find ourselves at odds with the King. Put yourself in John’s shoes. “Surely you’ve got this wrong Jesus. I’m not really supposed to baptize you? Surely not now, in front of all of these people? After all that I’ve told them? What would they think?”

Isn’t it funny how often we as believers value a good presentation over the presence of Jesus? Jesus is right there! He’s telling John what must be done but because it doesn’t compliment his idea of a well executed plan, John is stopped in his tracks. He is resistant to the very thing he’s been expectant of, Jesus’ coming. Even if John felt unworthy of what he was being asked to do, who was he to argue with Jesus?

When John asks, “why are you doing this?” I love Jesus’ reply. He says, “it’s only right that we do all that the Father requires.” In other words, “because I said so.” When Jesus wades into your situation, that one you’ve got all figured out, (the 5 year plan, the chosen college, the ministry, the blog, the child rearing, the career) and he speaks your next move to you, take a page from John’s story. Don’t try to figure it out. Don’t expect a theological dispensation on why this and not that. Simply obey.

John baptizes Jesus. “And as Jesus rose up out of the water, the heavenly realm opened up over him and he saw the Holy Spirit descend out of the heavens and rest upon him…the Father shouted from the sky, saying, ‘This is the Son I love, and my greatest delight is in him” (Matthew 3:16-17) Think of how affirming and fulfilling this moment was for John! His quick obedience to the instruction of Jesus solidified him forever in the story of the unfolding Kingdom and the arrival of its King. Each well-stewarded moment of resistance in your life, each opportunity to obey, solidifies you in that story as well.

On the other side of obedience is always breakthrough. If you are waiting for breakthrough in any area of your life, I am willing to wager there is an opportunity to obey attached to it. We don’t know what manifest glory we release in our lives when we simply take Jesus at his word and say yes. It wasn’t sin for John to resist, to not understand, or to even question Jesus’ plan. But he didn’t allow it to cause him to disobey.

In John 5:35 Jesus calls John “a lamp that burned and gave light.” I believe John was a man of fire not because he spoke loudly and wore wild clothing but because he chose obedience to Christ over the convenience of being luke-warm and in charge. Living in the delight of agreement with Jesus far surpasses the brief satisfaction of a well-executed plan. We must remember that we are citizens of a Kingdom in which we are not the King. As John’s life demonstrates, simple obedience to Jesus is a mark of true Kingdom influence. 

Freedom

I’ve been processing with the Lord my expectations of what freedom looks like in a congregation, an entire congregation free of fear and shame. I’ve come to the conclusion that a lot of the picture of freedom I had painted in my mind is desperately lacking, at least fundamentally.

Freedom is often thought of as this explosive expression, a kind of spontaneous combustion. I think of a congregation fully free and I imagine radical worship, demonstrative praise, services rich in emotion and bravado. I suppose I find that really attractive because I belong to a culture of hype seekers. Don’t get me wrong, I believe freedom looks like something. It surely doesn’t look like nothing, but I am beginning to consider that freedom looks like the woman of faith gently laying her hand on the broken and seeing them healed. Or that it looks like tears streaming down the face of the man of God experiencing the love of Jesus so deeply in prayer with a brother, he can’t even utter a sound as he weeps.

As a worship leader, there have been seasons in my life I have struggled to understand what it is to behave free, in order that I might encourage freedom in others. It occurred to me today that freedom isn’t necessarily loud, in your face, shouting “let me show you how free I am!” And I’m so relieved because I was never very good at that.

Jesus was the freest man to walk the earth. ALL the fullness of God dwelt in Him. Understanding that, how could I set my expectation on a demonstrative display of a manifestation only, and not upon the calm invitation he utters to Lazurus when he says, “come forth,” or when he says to the Canaanite woman, “your faith has made you whole,” or when he promised the man who hung beside him on the cross, “today you will be with me in paradise.” Or better yet, when he came toward his disciples unannounced, walking across the surface of the water toward them, inviting Peter to join him. No hype. No bravado. Just authority released.

I think sometimes we as Christ followers invite noise into our gatherings because we are afraid to speak only, to lay our hands on, to cast out, to bind and to loose, to let the word produce life. We are afraid because these acts require our cooperation. These acts require a step of faith & we fear mustard seed faith will be inadequate. It is a fear that would never utter the words and yet agrees, “I’d rather shout than come face to face with my sister in need of healing, in need of prayer.”

I’m still processing all of this but I believe the Lord is saying, come up higher. He is giving me a new perspective. He is redefining what a “win” looks like when I step off of the stage after leading worship. He is inviting me to expect more of our services and to value the seemingly uneventful encounters happening across the room more than I ever have before.

I believe a wave is coming, sweeping across the Body of Christ, the likes of which the global Church has not known. Some things released will be loud, some things will be subtle. I don’t want to miss seeing what the Lord is doing because I would not value the subtle expressions of Heaven’s outpouring as highly as I value the earth shaking ones. More than something that is seen, I am beginning to believe that freedom is something that is known intimately, in the heart of man. It is the very nature of the Lion of Judah being released in us–sometimes roaring, sometimes resting in his strength, but always seated in authority. I believe freedom looks like that.

A Lesson in Encouragement

I work as an Inclusion Aide in Special Education in an Elementary school,  which just means I get paid to laugh. I love the kids I work with. I love that they teach me to laugh at myself and daily give me a lighter view of the world. Throughout my short career,  I’ve had the privilege of spending hours and hours observing and engaging in relationship with children.  I especially glean from their interactions with one another.

One little girl, Savannah, is so enthusiastic. The books her teacher reads, the videos her class watches, her teachers instructions, her peer’s stick figure drawing, all blow her away, evoking her most expressive “Wow!” “Woah!” “That’s awesome!” “Did you see that?!”

She’s a fount of encouragement. She’s the voice you’d want cheering in your congregation as you preached. What I like most about Savannah is not simply that she is innately encouraging, but I see working within her, a recognition of quality and sensitivity to the efforts of others. When her peers, or her teacher for that matter, present quality to her, she applauds it. “Good job Ms. S!,” she shouts to her teacher.

Today Savannah was coloring in her fire station workbook. She pulled out a freshly sharpened color pencil and brought it within inches of my nose. “What color is this Mrs. Weatherly?”

“Aqua!” I replied. Her eyes lit up and she let out a screechy giggle.

Immediately, she went to coloring her fire station dalmatian pup, aqua. When she had finished she was immensely proud of the work she’d done. I told her it was fabulous and she beamed, but sometimes approval means more from your peers. So, she showed her work to those at her table.

“Dogs are black or brown, not aqua!” the first girl said. Disappointed, but not deterred Savannah took her masterpiece to the neighboring table.

“That’s wrooooong!” another girl declared. Savannah sunk.

“It’s pretty,” I heard her say under her breath.

I wanted to scoop her up and explain that sometimes people don’t recognize the beauty that is so obviously within in you. That you have to receive approval from God alone. I wanted to shield her, to protect her. She couldn’t understand why she wasn’t shown the same courtesy she so readily bestows to everyone else. I sat there feeling as deflated as she. I told her again what a great job she had done and then it was time to clean up.

There are times in my life I have been guilty of the same treatment those little girls showed Savannah. And there are times I have been Savannah, eager to please and to celebrate a job well done but swiftly rejected by those with whom I thought to celebrate. We all have to learn the hard way that approval comes from the Father. We have to know in our heart of hearts that we are “accepted in the Beloved,” Ephesians 1:6.

At the same time, I wonder. Can I, in my day to day be more like Savannah, quick to recognize the quality in others and eager to applaud it? Can I be sensitive to other’s efforts and join them in their celebration of a job well done? I understand that the gift of encouragement may not come so easily to us as it does to Savannah, but my prayer is that we not allow any excuse or insecurity within ourselves keep us from learning love.

One of my favorite passages says in Romans 12:10-15 “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord…Rejoice with those who rejoice.”

In other words, be like Savannah.

Room for Earth-Shakers

“I don’t want to be just one thing.”

Can you relate to that statement?

I don’t want to be just a worship leader, or just a mom, or just a graduate. I’m more than the sum of my achievements and I refuse to live in a box. I need room.

You are more than the sum of your achievements too. Did you know that? Have you lived aware of that today? It’s so very easy to forget. To forget that you’re not on this planet to impress anyone.

Isn’t that so freeing?! You don’t have to hide behind your resume! You don’t have to hide behind or desperately grope for a title! I say, if you want to label me, label me God’s girl. Being His is the only shoe that fits. It’s the only one big enough.

You are His too. Wear it proudly and forget to care about the labels, the titles, and the recognition. Do what you do because you’re heart beats wildly for it. Love because your heart burns with God Presence. Labels don’t stick to wildfires and peer recognition doesn’t satisfy an earth shaker.

Tending Your Dreams

This summer I was encouraged to invest in myself. After years of dreaming big and still seeing so little fruit in certain areas of my life, disappointment was beginning to contaminate my thoughts of the future. Invest in myself? What, like get a pedicure?

I realized in my tunnel vision I’d allowed my heart to neglect other dreams while in pursuit of this one. Because my heart was broken over the one, I’d found myself distancing myself from people and from my passions. I could sense the distance from my heart and home increasing and knew something had to be done immediately. After all, what of the dream I’d held for so long of family? Was I going to let this one assault on my career keep me from pouring into and enjoying the loves of my life?

I began to simplify my schedule and become intentional about my time with my daughter and with my husband. Saying “no” to others has never been my strong suit but when there is something as  precious as family on the line, you rally the courage. Since doing so, I’ve felt my daughter’s little heart beam in the knowledge that she’s captured my attention. And the response in my husband has been similar.

You see, they were my first and dearest dream. It’s funny how once we’ve attained a dream, we tend to neglect investing in it with the same fervor we did before it was in our possession. I realized that investing in my family was an investment in myself. A human being pouring into their dream is deeply fulfilling, whatever that dream may be, but especially if it is fulfilling for others.

On this journey of investing in myself I also began to search out those passions which had laid dormant, allowing myself to engage with and revive them. I’ve found a new vocal instructor and am taking lessons again.  I’m drawing, and decorating, and taking care of myself. And I’m doing these things for no one’s benefit but my own. And it feels good. And unsurprisingly everyone around me benefits from the change in my attitude and the releasing of my gifts.

Don’t be afraid of investing in yourself on your journey. It will not detract from your destination. As long as you know who you are in Him and what you are about, no time invested in growing yourself and tending your dreams is wasted time. Even if they do not seem to pertain to the end you have in mind, every element of who the Father has created you to be, is valuable and worthy of attendance.

So, in the waiting, release your gifts and explore your dreams. Leave no rock un-turned in the quarry of your passions. You may be surprised at what you find there. You certainly won’t be disappointed.

Laying Down

Last year I was determined to cultivate a space for worshiping in my home. For me, that meant purchasing a new rug.  I wanted to be intentional about designating this rug as my special place before that Lord. It’d represent for me, a season of intentionality. Now, when I sit down on that rug, the Father and I both know it’s a sanctified and special time between us. Much like going on a date with your spouse, sitting down on my living room floor, Bible in hand and heart open, has become my space for practicing intentional intimacy with the Father. It’s what I call learning the art of laying down.

Now, I don’t mean physically laying down, though I highly recommend it during moments of worship. I’m talking about the laying down of your heart and life before the Father on a regular basis.

At the beginning of my semester at Charis Bible College, we were worshiping when I had a vision. In it, I saw myself falling face-first at the feet of Jesus. Falling. In slow motion. And even though I knew that the impact of my face to the floor was coming, there was no hesitancy, or fear, or struggle. I simply fell. In fact, there was an overwhelming sense of peace.

Then, I heard the Holy Spirit say, “naturally, when falling, you’d do whatever necessary to avoid hitting your face. You’d lean toward either side, backward, or you’d catch yourself if possible.” As He spoke these words, I watched as at the very moment my face hit the ground before Jesus’ feet, the ground gave in like a pillow. Then He spoke, “[falling face-first] won’t hurt like you think it will. The only pain will be in wishing you had fallen sooner.”

I realized in that moment the Lord was issuing an invitation into greater intimacy, as His words so often do. He was inviting me to lay down those vulnerable places, the places in my life I often try to protect from the impact of His grace, out of fear, a lack of understanding, and a resistance to discomfort. But vulnerability is uncomfortable. If it weren’t, we’d be better at it. Opening up before the Lord, relinquishing our plans, being honest with Him about our thoughts and motivations is a painful and uncertain process. But it is the process that releases His victory in our lives and it requires practice. Laying everything down until you’re so in love you’d do whatever he says do, and go where ever he says go, is a process.

Often times we want to do what God says and go where he says because we want God-results in our lives. That’s an excellent desire! But we can easily begin to desire the benefits of sonship apart from relationship with the One who’s made us sons. We simply don’t have the time or patience enough to figure out how to hear from and interact with God, so we settle for what He can do for us, missing out entirely on our inheritance, which is God Himself. However, this too, is an empty pursuit. Life is found in knowing and being known by the Father, and this begins at the feet of Jesus.

There is an art to laying down, to falling in love with the Lord’s feet. It is what John the Baptist understood when he spoke the words, “I am not fit to untie his sandals. ” And yet, at the word of Jesus, John baptized the Son of Man.  It is what the woman with the alabaster jar understood when she washed the Lord’s feet with her hair and tears. It is what compelled her to pour upon his feet that perfume of great price, even in the face of those who would scoff and accuse her of wastefulness.

If you will pursue a place at Jesus’ feet, beyond your own hang-ups and the hang-ups of others, with less regard to time spent than love exchanged, and if you will pour out the perfume of praise and adoration (especially when it’s costly), you will come to know true and lasting fulfillment. You’ll wish you’d fallen sooner. Your life will be a testimony akin to Isaiah’s, proclaiming, “beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of those who bring the good news.” Let’s be a people that practice surrender, and like Mary, find our home at the feet of the Teacher.

Small Beginnings

I was putting away dishes this week when a revelation the Lord has been working to impart in my heart seized me and finally began to sink in. I’d been living in my home for the passed 2 1/2 years, just passing the days here until I can finally purchase my dream home and life really begin for my little family. But in that moment of putting those dishes into the cabinet I finally saw what the Lord has been trying to speak to me for weeks.

Home has always been high on my list of priorities. Cultivating a space in which my family feels inspired, at peace, and a sense of belonging has been a dream kept at the forefront of my mind since I was a little girl.

This time last year we were expecting our daughter, and I remember the nagging worry I felt about not being able to give her all that she’d need. We currently live in a one bedroom home. I can’t think of the square footage off the top of my head but I’m sitting on my couch in one corner of my house and with the bedroom door open, the corner furthest from this spot is not too far away. We live in a tiny home.

You can imagine the anxiety I felt at the thought of bringing a newborn into such a small place. It’s amazing though what love does. When she came into our lives, having space was the last thing on our minds. We wanted no space. Being as close as possible was the only appropriate response to having so much love placed in your arms. There is truly a multiplying power at work when the love between two people creates a little life. Love exponentially increases.

We have a sign above our stove that says, “love grows well in little houses.” Each home that Tuck and I have lived in has been tiny. There has never been room enough to escape during an argument. Never room enough to enjoy hobbies apart from each other. Never room enough to miss the little idiosyncrasies of the other. And because there has been so little space between us we have unearthed the trash and the treasure in one another.

I can’t imagine not having had this time of living close. I don’t know that Tuck and I could have made it this far if the space in which God placed us had allowed for distance between us. Every sigh, every word spoken under our breath, the sound my face makes when I smile (yeah it’s a thing), my attentiveness to the movements my very quiet husband makes, all became a part of an exchange between us that forced us to deal with one another. It’s the best thing I could hope for any couple willing to put in the life-long work it takes to cultivate a stellar marriage.

Though our daughter is about to be a year old and sleeps in the kitchen, I’m falling in love with our home all over again. I know we won’t always be here so I want to appreciate this house for the life that has unfolded here, the love that has grown well here, which seems to have been absorbed in the laminate floors I can never mop enough, and the walls we painted grey last year.

I’m finding the little nooks that have daily spoken “home” to me so that I can remember when we are in our 3 bedroom home one day, the conversation we had with this house, the life we lived within its dry-walled arms. I encourage you to treasure the small stuff in your life while they’re small.

“Do not despise small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin.” Zechariah 4:10

In Step with the Father

I took a bit of a sabbatical from blogging. I’d promised myself I wouldn’t miss a month of posting and yet, February breezed by with no posts. I was disappointed in myself for fizzing out so quickly. But the humbling process of getting on the same page as Holy Spirit has been so healthy and encouraging to my soul.

Last December I started conducting interviews with women whose stories I hoped to share on my blog site. I began mapping out future stories and was so pumped about all there was to glean from these amazing women, but as I sat down with my notes and interview recordings, I began to feel overwhelmed.

I realized I hadn’t structured my interviews in such a way that would allow me to easily share our conversations. I’d hoped to provide detailed Q&A’s with my readers and instead, heard such richly detailed stories that so stirred me, I got swept up in them. The impartation that took place in those meetings has changed my life, but when it came to my trying to culminate those interviews into bite-size blog posts, I was completely in over my head.

My 3-month blogging streak came to a screeching halt. I labored over those interviews for months trying to decide upon a template that would best present the information while honoring the women who shared their time and life experience with me. It’s funny how something so small, immobilized me. All writing ceased. I stepped on the Father’s toes, so to speak. I’d been experiencing a flow in my blog writing, like a dance. I felt led by the Holy Spirit and I was seeing fruit and then BAM! A single mis-step and I was on my face.

I’d already advertised the coming interviews on my social media accounts and now I couldn’t deliver the goods. I was disappointed to say the least. Have you ever been on a roll and then found yourself sunk? Have you ever taken a word from the Father and tried to make it happen prematurely? The Father breathed an idea in my mind and I took it and ran. There, I found myself in a sea of pressure to perform beyond my ability to perform. I jumped the gun. Ever been there?

This week the Lord sat me down and simply told me to breathe and try again. Getting in step with Him is not as hard as we sometimes make it. If you’ll only wait a moment and let Him lead, you’ll find yourself dancing again.

If you feel you’ve hit a wall in an creative or ministerial endeavor that you know the Lord placed upon your heart, then I encourage you to push pause. Wait a moment. Hear Him. And try again. Maybe it’s not time for some aspects of your vision to unfold but don’t allow a failure to stop the flow of your purpose being released in the lives of others. People need you to do what God has called you to do.