Ready to Grow?

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“The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.” Isaiah 58:11 NIV

My mom was the Jedi master of cultivating plants.

Friends of mine would show up with dead sticks of once-beautiful orchids and beg, “can you please take this to your mom?” Plants in her care became almost unrecognizable with her tending. After weeks of classical music, constant nurturing, and lavish love, plants under her watch had no choice but to surrender to their full amazing glory.

My abilities with plants, while solid, aren’t quite as masterful. I love it because it reminds me of her, not because I’m particularly good at it. Now that we are knee-deep in the season of winter, growing something feels almost visceral. My heart aches to see something thriving. Right now, I absolutely crave the tiny green shoots of possibility, freshness, and resiliency.

On a recent particularly bad day, I desperately bought some seeds online. It felt like an act of defiance to buy the 8 tiny bags of heirloom greens and sugar snap peas. More importantly, it felt like me shaking an angry fist at winter to say, “you aren’t going to beat me down. Or at least not yet.”

Planting those seeds felt like a bold act of faith. As I placed a tiny speck of a seed into the growing material, producing anything appears highly improbable. Still, I plant those barely-there seeds anyway. I place my tray of hope in a sunny spot and I wait.

My heart longs for the tiny, elegant tendrils of baby growth. The delicate, seemingly impossible flowers of sugar snap peas are always one of the first spring crops. I usually forget about planting them until the moment has passed and I’ve missed my window. Not this year. This year I’m desperate to grow something, nurture something, tend something and watch it flourish. Even if it doesn’t, the hope rests in the trying and trusting, whatever happens, it is worth it.

What about you? What are you longing to nurture in your heart? What new bold seeds of opportunity are you ready to press into fresh soil? What new things need to be cultivated, watered, nourished, and placed in a sunny place to burst forth in showy wonder for you

Maybe you are like me and you need to plant something. Or perhaps you are like my friend Terrie who longs to begin a YouTube channel with jokes she is so perfect at telling. Maybe you are like my friend Laurie who wants to create a baby book for mothers who have lost babies and need a tool to grieve. Perhaps you are like my friend Dena who captures stop-in-your-tracks photography and longs to make her work more widely known. Or maybe you simply want to start exploring what dreams need to be awakened in you.

Whatever you long to plant, the world needs you to do it. Just like I needed sugar snap peas, the world needs Julie’s jokes and Laurie’s place to grieve. We need Dena’s photos to remind us that beauty is everywhere. We need you to plant that thing. The sooner the better.

More than anything, it feels true to hope in the possibilities.It feels right to be bold in dreaming and starting. With a wink to my mom in heaven, I play classical music for my sweet tiny baby seedlings. I whisper love over them as I pray for the day when they are strong and vibrant and bursting with life. I pray you will do the same.

No matter how ridiculous, no matter how impossible, under the great Gardener, there is a place for your tiny idea to grow.


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The Lovely Place of Hard-Fought Joy

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“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7 NIV)

If joy were a vitamin, I would be deficient this week.

Nothing felt right. No amount of carbs, scrolling on social media, chocolate or Instagram inspiration made me feel better. An anxious longing set up shop in my heart and wouldn’t go away. In desperation, I searched the scriptures for some encouragement, any encouragement I could find.

Of course, I happened to be studying Philippians, basically the Bible’s “joy letter” from Paul to the church.God is so clever. Reading through the verses, you would have thought Paul was the richest, luckiest, happiest guy in the world. Basically, the Bill Gates of the Bible. Digging deeper, I am reminded Paul wrote the letter from prison, probably chained to a Roman soldier, with no hope of being released anytime soon or the prospect of certain death. He had to rely on the kindness of his church to even have something to eat. Further, his future held strong chances of ending badly. How in the world could Paul be so happy?

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!”(Philippians 4:4 NIV)

Really Paul. Rejoice always? He even repeats it to be clear. I don’t even feel like pretend rejoicing. Paul was next-level good at keeping the joy flame going. He knew God had already worked things out, Paul knew his job was to stay joyful.

“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:12-13 NIV)

That last line might be one of the most quoted verses from the Bible, but I never grow tired of hearing it’s promises. I long for Paul’s confidence. I copy out his words in my journal in hopes they become part of me. I long for the ability to deeply get Paul’s secret. I don’t think this kind of joy comes from studying enough or praying enough, I think it takes time and fire to learn joy like that. Paul knew deep trust because he had faced deep trials. I can’t begin to understand all Paul faced, but I certainly want his resilient style of joy.

What I’m learning is joy isn’t smiley-faced all the time. Joy can be known deeply through tear-stained cheeks and aching lonely hearts. Joy isn’t reserved for summertime sunsets but found in wintertime storms that remind me of the comfort of home. I know it’s perfectly okay to miss those feel-good times. But the joy found in the depths is the true joy I think Paul talks about.

Joy in my mind looked like an always happy, weekend attitude. But quiet, resilient joy looks like pressing into what is, resting in our boredom, holding close the anxiety and the unanswered questions. It’s found from sitting with our brokenness and enduring. It’s pressing into the difficult wilderness side of ourselves to fully get that God is still with us and for us. Those hard-fought joy days are the ones that invite us to steep ourselves into the authenticity of who God has called us to be. Deeply confident, pressing in, resilient, Paul-style joyful.

Through the difficult days, God invites us into deeper waters. I’m learning His joy isn’t finite. It isn’t only found in a book, or a building or when things are going well in our lives. Joy is a hard-fought confidence. It is sure and fiery. It is still there waiting for us even when we don’t feel like it.

I know my joy will return. I trust that God is sending it my way, I just have to wait for it. In the meantime, I pray, I rest, I press into what is and trust that this is the kind of joy Paul knew so well.

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What’s Good?

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“… always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect…”1 Peter 3:15

I have a friend who always greets me with the expression, “what’s good?” Never, “how are you?” or “we are fine and you?” But always, “what’s good?”

What’s funny is I never know what to say. Fumbling over my words, there is an awkwardness to his question. I mentally search my life like I’m on some sort of Jeopardy-style quiz show where the right answer wins me a prize. His question made me pause to consider why this question was a stumper.

I want my words to shine easily as in 1 Peter 3:15, “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.” I don’t get why coming up with an answer to “what’s good?” is so hard.

As a Christian, I want to be bursting with what’s good. There are so many good blessings to celebrate: a loving spouse, good health, a cozy home, a vibrant family, and an abundance of resources. I get to live side by side with a Savior who loves me in ways that are hard to understand. I am living in a light-filled relationship with Christ and then I get to spend eternity in heaven. There are truckloads of good things to share.

Instead of those words, I stumble over what to say. I search my day for the most interesting thing I think he wants to hear. I point out any recent accomplishments or good news activities. In my striving to please, my words reflect my ego and my pride. I’m ashamed that the best thing I can think of amounts to what restaurant I ate at recently.

Even though I’m disappointed with myself, I know Christ understands. He knows my heart and if He were hanging out over pizza with me, I think He would encourage me to remember I am still a work in progress. He would give me armfuls of grace and invite me to kindly consider a more interesting response.

Yet I don’t think our responses are the ultimate point. I think Christ calls us to live out overflow mode so people can’t help but see Him in all we are and all we do. As Christ-followers it’s not entirely about the words we speak, but how we live our lives and the light it produces as a result. Am I a light shiner? Can people tell He is in me? More than the words I speak, does the life I live reflect Him?

That’s where I want to go to work. Jesus calls me to a higher standard. I’m ready with my response. I’ve given it a lot of thought for the next time my friend asks me, “what’s good?”

My response will be simple: “Everything is good in Him.”

How to Love Well

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“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogantor rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” 3 Corinthians 13:4-7

Love the ones you’re with.

Not only are these cool song lyrics, but also definitely a catchy notion. For me, singing those words is far easier than doing the hard thing of loving well. More than Valentine’s cards and candy, I’ve been thinking about how I can love my family better.

Some days I’m pretty good at it, especially on Saturday mornings. It’s easy to encourage my family on days when I feel good, am well-rested, and have the energy to pour into them. It’s not so easy on wintry days when I haven’t slept well, have a million things on my plate, and mountains of mundane to do. Those grays days are when I’m reacting to the overwhelm and responding with a harsh attitude to the people I claim to care about most. Love the ones you’re with? Maybe tomorrow.

Full disclosure – there have been some grumpy folks around our home lately. I’m not naming any names, but let’s just say it’s not the dog. I know I can be a jerk too, so I’m not passing the buck. Truly, I want my default setting to love as Christ loves me. Loving no matter what. Even when I have every reason not to, I want to choose love anyway. I know this requires more of me, requiring me to love big and forgive big.

Perhaps the greatest vision of loving well is found in 2 Corinthians 13:4-7. You probably have heard this scripture at every wedding or anytime a sermon is shared about love. I find when I know a passage well, I don’t truly read it thinking I can’t learn anything new. Yet when I take my time, I always see something fresh. Reading slowly over these words reminds me of the kind of love I long to create for my family. My hope is reading these familiar words inspires you to consider them for your family too.

“Love is patient and kind;” (2 Corinthians 13:4)I’m grateful this verse starts out with the best reminder of all, patience. Loving unconditionally starts with being patient and kind to myself first, so I can radiate that to my family. I know when people show patience with me, it gives me comfort. I want to be this patient comfort to my loved ones.

“Love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude.” (2 Corinthians 13:5)My tendency is to repay bad behavior with more bad behavior. True love requires more. It requires me to be better than that. I am learning to trust that God is a big enough God to bless us all specifically in the way He decides. I don’t have to make someone else feel bad when I feel bad. God redeems all of it.

“It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.” (2 Corinthians 13:5-6)This passage invites me into a deep breath moment. There’s a whole lot of freedom in not having to have my way all the time. I don’t have to be right to feel right. I can let go of the need to have it all figured out, to demand life is fair, or claim the victim if I’ve been wronged. God defends me. I can rest in His promises and His care. I can hold things lightly to allow room for those I love to be who they are. There’s room to breathe for everyone.

“Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (2 Corinthians 13:7) This last line gives me such comfort to know that love will always remain. What I’m angry or fired up about right now will be forgotten in a year. Probably by next week I won’t remember that thing that made me so upset. The people I care about are where my heart comes to rest. Love will endure if I tend to those important relationships. Love always wins.

When in doubt, love. Because love never fails. Diving deeper into these scriptures reminds me of a vast love that never fails. In His great wisdom, God paints a picture of what loving well looks like. We don’t have to do more research or sit at the feet of another wise academic to tell us how to love. We can read three sentences from scripture and get it. I want to love my family in ways to inspire and encourage their hearts. I know there are a lot of things I get wrong every day. Yet, loving my family well is what truly matters. They are worth the kind of love this scripture invites us to live. They are worth my dedication to get it right.

Loving my family well is a worthy pursuit.

What’s Saving Your Life?

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Hey February. Not super excited to see you. Truth be told, the only good thing about February is Super Bowl and March 1st.

Like the relative you hope won’t stay too long, the most depressing month of the year is here. January is the shiny, Type A, over-achiever, with all of its celebration, newness, and clean slate appeal. Then there’s February. Pretty much no one likes February unless you live in Florida.

Every year at this time, one of my favorite bloggers, Anne Bogel from Modern Mrs. Darcy asks the question, “what is saving your life right now?” She shares her list and then invites her readers to share their list. I love this question. Although we have every reason to be dreary, this question shifts my thinking to, “let’s see where we can find some joy.”

Here’s my list of what’s saving me below — I hope you will share yours, too.

1. Walking Dates.

Making plans to walk with friends outdoors has been lifegiving. No matter the weather, I walk weekly with my friend Pam. She has a heavy job of working in an ICU unit of a hospital right. No matter what sort of week I’ve had, her week makes mine look like a Disney vacation. She reminds me never to take the gift of health for granted and I love being able to encourage her.

2. What’s App!

I know it’s cheesy to be in love with an app. But after my dad died this year, I longed for regular, ongoing connection with my family. We set up a What’s App group named after my dad. It included every family member, siblings, nieces, nephews, and cousins. We share funny pictures of our dogs, what we are cooking, favorite memories, jokes, new baby photos, and recipes. It has been lifegiving to be reminded of loved ones through the regular fabric of our ordinary days.

3. Really Good Socks.

When my feet are happy, the rest of me has a better chance of being happy.Thank you Duluth Trading for socks that actually make my feet stay warm. I know it’s sort of silly to talk about socks saving your life, but truly, their socks make my feet feel fabulous.

4. Neighbor Love.

Living out the greatest commandment in the Bible is probably one of the hardest things for me to actually do. This season, I have made a point to take Mark 12:31 seriously. When I get down on the world, caring for others changes my mind and as a result, me. I’m not doing great acts of service. I am doing simple things like calling, texting, and sharing leftovers. I’m asking others if they need anything while I’m at the store and how folks are doing. As a result, I’m getting to know my neighbors more and they are getting to know me. This week the grocery store had bouquets of flowers on sale. I secretly left them for neighbors that were having a hard time. Being able to do something kind in secret was more fun than I have had in a long time.

5. Going Deeper in Prayer.

Prayer is the secret sauce of faith. Before this year, I was a checkbox prayer. Read the Bible, check. Go to church, check. Pray, check. But this year, I have decided to slow down and listen more. I am intentionally working on making my faith less about the disciplines (which are wonderful too), more about my relationship with Christ. While the disciplines are good and important, listening for Christ is where the faith journey gets good.

What is saving your life right now? We all need to notice and spread a little joy – I’d love to know what’s saving your life too.

What’s Your Holy Longing?

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“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us,” Ephesians 3:20

As a child, I loved stowing things away in an old-fashioned rolltop desk. If you have never experienced one, it’s an antique style of desk with small drawers and perfectly-sized compartments for tucking away life’s treasures. When done working for the day, a slatted wooden topper rolled down to cover your work in progress. The desk’s tiny cubbies were sized to stow my childhood drawings, diaries and treasured scraps of paper, hidden beneath the smooth protective cover.

Exactly as I stored away treasures in that old desk, I imagine all of us carry this same stowaway spot for the longings in our hearts. These are the dreams that stay with us no matter how much time and life has passed. Despite how unrealistic or outlandish, these holy longings never go away. The tucked-away hopes stay in the secret cupboards of your soul, where only you and God have access.

Some of my holy longings are more superficial than holy. Things like finally learning to surf, living in a cottage in the South of France, driving down Highway One in California in a convertible, and becoming a modern-day Nancy Drew mysteries writer. While these holy longings are good, they are not great.

I think this is precisely why they remain as holy longings. They are placed by God for a reason. No amount of covering them up or pushing them deeper in the recesses of your soul can ever make them go away. The holy longings will remain until we are ready to do something with them or finally find enough reasons to believe they are significant.

I believe other holy longings are universal for everyone. Longings to be loved, to be significant, to belong, to make a difference, to believe we have a purpose that is meant for us alone. These longings are more about who we are versus what we accomplish or have. I think these holy thoughts are how God sees us putting our gifts into the fullness of our days. These are the very best sort of holy longings.

More than surfing or writing a good fiction novel, my holy longing is to be on purpose for God. My hope is to encourage others, to write interesting words that spur others on and to see more of Him. I still do have the self-indulgent longings like to take exotic trips and to have more adventures in life. I think God loves those too. We serve a big God who wants us to have a life in abundance, filled with joys and things that are life-giving. Those whimsical, outlandish, and crazy ideas are also God’s hopes too.

Perhaps it’s a perfect season to consider Isaiah 43:19, “Behold, I am doing a new thing;now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?I will make a way in the wildernessand rivers in the desert.”

What new thing is God up to in you? My hope this year is to nurture more of the holy longings into the light. To first acknowledge they are there and consider how I can put more of them into action. I believe those longings are meant to spur us on to how God can use us in greater ways than we can imagine.

What has God tucked away in you? What’s your holy longing? Are you ready to bring it into the light and see what God might do with it? Are you ready to open the cupboard and take a risk for God?

The holy longing there for a reason. God intended you to use your gifts for Him. Not because it’s self-indulgent. Not because it’s about achieving or accomplishing more. It’s there because it’s the way God made you and it’s the holy longing He placed personally in you.

Those holy longings are His tucked away hopes, meant to bring forth to shine for His glory.

Tuning Your Heart to “God Whisper Mode” — 3 Ideas for Hearing More From Him

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“Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love, for in you I trust. Make me know the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.” Psalm 143:8

I find it hard to listen. I mean really listen. I’m thinking of the kind of listening which stirs you up, moves you, and inspires you to know deeply that God is speaking to your heart.

I long for God’s words, yet can’t shut up long enough to hear them.
In the blank spaces of my striving, the chatter comes rushing in. Thoughts parade themselves like an assembly line one after the other, never ending in their demands for attention.

What should I make for dinner? Did I remember to call back the service repair man? I should do laundry today so I can wear my favorite shirt tomorrow.

I swat away the busy thoughts like pesky flies and chastise myself for my inability to focus on God. In the darkness of my closet, I ask, “God what do you have for me today?” The moment I ask it, my mind immediately shifts back to my to-do list.

I pretend I’m listening to God, yet I can’t stay present long enough to hear Him. The hurry-up clock in my head starts ticking. I find myself anxiously pressing, almost rushing God with His response.

Again, I shake off the naggy thoughts and desperately plead, “God, I really want to hear from you! Please tell me what I need to hear today!”

Seriously. Over the noise of my life, I am not listening at all. I’m not even close. In truth, God is speaking to me all day long and I’m not hearing any of it. I soon realize not only am I not listening to God, but I’m truly not listening to anyone I love at all.

If God is speaking to me all day, then listening to the audiobook of my life is a good place to start. I believe God doesn’t speak to us only in the dark, prayer closet times. He doesn’t only speak when our minds are serene, empty and peaceful. I’m learning that He whispers to us all day, every day. So do our loved ones. That is if we can become present enough to hear them.

Try this out. Pay attention to the soul whispers of everyone who comes across your path. Set your heart to “God whisper mode” and see where He is speaking to you. Here’s what I found:

-When I deeply listen to my friends, they reveal where they need encouragement and more of Christ’s love.

-When I make space to listen to my spouse, he shares where he most needs my help and most importantly, my love.

-When I purposefully listen to my child, I hear where his voice catches, how he holds hurts from our last conversations and where I need to give more love and grace.-When I listen for God in all circumstances, I hear more of Him.

Here are three ways I’m listening for more of God in my day:

1. What’s Your Life Audiobook? Consider what your life is saying about you right now. Are you available for listening? If your life were an audiobook, would Jesus be a central character? My overfull mind and racing thoughts showed me I needed to slow down.

2. Put on Your God Goggles. Invite God to speak to you in a deeper way. Invite Him to quiet you, calm you and give you awareness to hear Him.

3. Expect God to Show Up. Be ready to hear from Him. Listen with an expectant heart. When we seek wisdom in Him, He will give it.

Be on the lookout for God’s whispers. He can use anything and any circumstance to speak to you. Set your heart dial to “God Whisper Mode” and get ready to hear more from Him all day, every day.

Creating Loving Traditions for Your Homeschool

An excerpt from Nourish, Encouragement for Parents Homeschooling Through High School releasing Winter 2021.

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“Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” Ephesians 5:1-2

What do you want your child to remember about the days of homeschooling?

When you are knee-deep in hard academics, transcripts, standardized testing, college/career choices, and meaningful extracurricular activities, it can be challenging to think beyond the moment. Yet the reality is one day your child will graduate and leave home. They will look back on these days you are walking through right now. What will you want them to remember?

I wanted my child to develop a rich faith with tiny deposits made over the long haul. I hoped for meaningful, thoughtful conversations to be the fabric of our days, whether it was woven by seeing God in scripture or in physics. My desire was to raise a thinking, curious, virtuous young man who wasn’t afraid to learn anything and would follow God all the days of his life.

Your vision for what your student takes away from high school may look different from mine. However, my guess is we share the ambition of cultivating hearts and minds in the best possible way. How do you do that?

I think it starts by modeling it for them. We begin by being curious ourselves, reading interesting things, asking good questions, and creating space for our student to wonder about life. I think it starts with being intentional with your conversations and experiences on a daily basis.

High schoolers don’t have a lot of time. If they do, they typically don’t want to spend all of it with their parents. You have to be a bit sneaky with weaving in times of connection. Simple, intentional acts of care might be the loveliest things they will remember ten years from now.

My hope was to create memories as part of our days with seasonal rituals. Traditions to support your school year do not have to be expensive or complicated. It could be as simple as making homemade bread in a bread machine together and letting its aroma fill your home on a rainy fall day. It could mean spreading out a 1,000-piece puzzle on the table to work together as a family after dinner. Maybe it’s a favorite seasonal movie and hot cocoa with popcorn. Traditions are about being intentional with how you connect as a family and may look different in every season. Find ways to nurture your child’s heart as part of the journey.

As Christ loved us, we pour out this same love on a daily basis to put our faith in action. These small loving acts are what will create memories lasting long after graduation. They may feel like ordinary things, but they are the things that will make extraordinary memories for years to come.

Think

What simple, loving experiences can you weave into your homeschool week to bring your family joy?

Considering Gentleness – 3 Good Questions

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”Colossians 3:12 (NIV)

Photo by Deborah Hudson, Hudson Crafted

This week, the word “gentleness” has been on my heart.

Thinking of gentleness evokes sweet images of kittens, babies, and cozy blankets. But looking deeper into scripture, gentleness can also be vibrantly strong. After spending some time considering gentleness, I share three questions that bubbled up in hopes they are an encouragement to you.

“Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.” Philippians 4:5 (NIV) These words reminded me that by displaying our gentleness, we radiate the power of His nearness.

Question One: When people see me, do they see my gentleness first?

When you compare this same passage in other translations, God reveals His creativity in how He speaks to us. Here is Philippians 4:5 from The Message:

“Celebrate God all day, every day. I mean, revel in him! Make it as clear as you can to all you meet that you’re on their side, working with them and not against them. Help them see that the Master is about to arrive. He could show up any minute!” (MSG)

Here we see gentleness can be about celebration too, reveling in God’s goodness. Gentleness is showing others how you, along with God, are on their side. Gentleness means you are setting the tone of working with them and not against them.

Question Two: Does my attitude of gentleness celebrate God and demonstrate I am for those around me?

Lastly, I compared Philippians 4:5 in the English Standard Version:

“Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand;” (ESV)

Here gentleness is equated to reasonableness. Grounded in this idea, gentleness feels sure-footed, solid and foundational as Christ is our firm ground to stand. I love the idea that being gentle with ourselves and others is the most reasonable thing we can do.

Question Three: Is my reasonable gentle approach apparent to everyone?

Marinating on these three versions of the same verse showed me there is more to the idea of gentleness than soft-spoken words and heartfelt notions. Embracing gentleness means we can have confidence in God’s nearness. Gentleness is a reasonable, foundational approach. Gentleness means we celebrate His presence.

Despite the stormy times, I can still count on the gentleness of Christ. I can still approach the crazy swirl of life with an attitude of gentleness. I can celebrate God is still on the throne. None of this life surprises Him. The chaos can rule the world, but the chaos doesn’t have to rule me. I can choose gentleness.

Imagining a Year of Contentment

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.” Psalm 23:1-2

Photo by Deborah Hudson, Hudson Crafted

Imagine starting off 2021 with the notion that all you already are is everything you could ever want.

I wonder what it would feel like to live in a state of contentment rather than a state of craving. I like new shiny things and goals and working towards my best self as much as the next person. Yet when I begin imagining what 2021 might look like, my tendency is to consider what’s missing.

As the clean fresh calendar of 2021 stretches out before me, I find myself falling into old habits of not enough. An empty longing falls over me to be thinner, smarter, more traveled, more, more, more.

Instead of what’s missing, this year I’m considering with newfound eyes what is already there.

Instead of cramming my month with plans, activities, and to-dos based on where I see myself lacking, I’m considering abundance. The new year always tricks me into thinking this will finally be the year where I accomplish my dreams, find contentment, become more, happier, better. What if it’s already there?

As a child, my favorite scripture was the 23rd Psalm. In my sweet children’s Bible with warm, watercolor images of Jesus in lush fields, I would recite it aloud to myself. It became a soothing ritual to imagine Christ walking alongside me near living waters and watching over me as I slumbered.

I look at my life and I consider Psalm 23.

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He has given me everything I could ever want or need in Him. He has clothed me, fed me, cared for me, inspired me.

He leads me beside still waters. Despite the crazy, chaotic, upsetting, and frantic world, Jesus is still leading me beside still waters.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. This year we have faced the shadow of death, yet Christ was with us. He still comforts us.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. My cup has overflowed with deeper connections everywhere with family, neighbors, friends, and my faith this year. I can’t wait to build on those good things in the year ahead.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. God remains unchanged despite all the turmoil, hardship, and loss. God is still faithful. He is still with us and He is still for us.

This year, I’m imagining contentment in Him. Instead of ambition, I choose abundance. Instead of insufficient, I choose overflow. Gazing over the simple pure words of Psalm 23, I can rest in the knowledge of the worth I already possess in Christ.

Goals are good. Plans are great. Still, they are not our worth. The abundance is here right now. The blessings of Christ’s good gifts are already in my hands to treasure. The gift of a new year is ours in abundant love for what we already have in Him.