Making Room for What Truly Matters

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“I need a mason jar, three bouncy balls and a bag of rice.” My husband’s words should have puzzled me, but they didn’t. He was preparing a visual for his youth group- something he has done often the past several years.

My cabinets were full of mason jars; a bag of white rice lay buried in the pantry beneath my newly purchased quinoa; and our eight year old son had a growing collection of bouncy balls. So, I felt certain my husband’s request could be easily met. What I didn’t know was exactly where he was going with this illustration.

As it turned out, the mason jar represented the Christian life. The bouncy balls stood for the most important aspects of that life. First, our relationship with God – continually growing through Bible study (bouncy ball #1) and prayer (bouncy ball #2); and secondly, the relationships we forge with others (bouncy ball #3). The rice was indicative of everything else scrambling for our attention (work, school, household chores, hobbies, activities, church, exercise, and so on).

Initially, my husband used the jar to display a busy life – one in which time with God (and others) does not come to mind until all the small stuff has wiggled its way in. He did this by filling the jar with rice and then trying, unsuccessfully, to add the bouncy balls. It simply would not work. There was no room in the jar for the three balls.

He emptied the jar of its contents and began again.

This time, he depicted a life just as busy as the first, but one in which God was given first priority, followed by our relationships with others. All three bouncy balls fit easily into the jar. The same amount of rice added the first time around was poured, once again, into the jar. Can you guess what happened? The jar held every bit of it. All three balls. Every single piece of rice.

Two separate illustrations using the exact same items. Once, the jar held everything. Once, the jar did not. How is this so? I believe it goes back to what we’re told in Matthew 6:33 (NLT), “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.”

I don’t know about you, friend, but I’m always grappling to get things done. It seems I never have enough time to do everything that needs doing. But so often, I go at it backwards. Especially on those days when my routine is thrown off. When schedules and appointments and other commitments (rice, rice and more rice) cause me to feel rushed – to believe there’s no room for pausing, opening His word and spending a few unhurried moments in prayer with Him.

But how can I relax, expecting Him to give me all I need, when I continually withhold my heart from Him? When I speed through the day without once inviting Him into it? No wonder I feel stressed and overwhelmed when I’m choosing to carry the full weight of the day on my own two shoulders. It’s much too heavy a load for me to bear.

What about you friend, who’s carrying the pressures of your day? Are you also trying to go at it alone? If so, let’s halt this train we’re riding. Let’s stop it in its tracks. Let’s turn to our Savior and set this weight down at His feet. The feet of Jesus. There’s no better place to leave our burdens than with Him, for He’s the only One capable of carrying what we cannot – should not – carry alone.

 

Standing at the Crossroad

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Up until today, I would describe my journey-to-better as exciting. I’ve eaten better – and written more – this past couple of weeks than I have in a long while. It’s felt good knowing I am finally doing something to help myself get back on track with both my eating and my call to writing – the two areas I struggle with most.

But today? Today, I’m tired. I’m tired of cooking. Tired of avoiding sugar-free coffee creamers laden with artificial sweeteners. Tired of passing on concession food and quick, convenient fast-food meals. Tired of planning ahead and packing lunchboxes filled with healthy, precooked options.

Yes, I know. These are all good things for me to do. But I’m still tired of doing them.

Why? Because doing these good things – making these wise choices – requires effort on my part. And lots of it. Though I know – if continued – they’ll spur me on to victory, I still find myself growing weary of them. And because I’m growing weary, I’m also growing fearful.

As fear creeps in, I hear it whispering discouragement in my ear. You can’t do this! It’s too hard. It requires too much. You simply don’t have time.  As those untruths settle into my fatigued heart, fear punches me with the biggest lie yet. You’re about to blow this thing – again!

A few days ago, I fell short of reaching my daily writing goal of 500 words. I accepted a challenge to write 500 words a day for 30 days straight; twelve days in, I failed the challenge. I felt defeated. I had not done what I set out to do. Once again, I had allowed the urgencies of life to sidetrack me from matters of greater importance. And once again, I sensed fear nudging its way in.

So I stand before you today, facing a crossroad. Where do I go from here?

Boldly looking within myself, I acknowledge the magnitude of weakness staring back at me. But as daunting as it seems, I absolutely must not succumb to failure. Though I’m tired and weary and afraid, I must pick myself up, dust off my jeans, dig my heels in deeper and try again.

Yes, the honeymoon phase is over. The excitement is fading. The reality that this is real, hard work is setting in. Not only that, but the reality that this real, hard work isn’t short-term. This is something I desire for myself from here on out.

I’m holding out hope that sometime soon today’s difficult choices will become second nature – both to me and to those walking this road with me.  When that day arrives, each of us will joyfully look back, knowing it was worth the effort.

But until then, as we tackle the uphill leg of this journey, we need something to strengthen our resolve. Something to hold onto. Something to keep us moving in the right direction.

More than that, we need someONE. Someone who’ll walk with us. Someone who’ll walk ahead of us. Someone who’ll lead us on to victory.

Friend, if we want to pull through the muck, land in places of success and remain there, we absolutely must stick close to the One who’s capable of guiding us into those places.

That’s how we do it. Walking together. Walking with Him.

Always let him lead you, and he will clear the road for you to follow.” Proverbs 3:6 (CEV)

When Sticking Together Makes All The Difference

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We’re on a journey. A passage from one corner of life to another. Leaving behind the mindset of defeat in search of something better.

For me, this journey points to better health. To victory over that which has held me captive far too long. It’s also a journey to obedience. To following the call God placed on my heart so long ago  – the call to write.

Yes, this is my journey. But it’s also yours. This is our journey. The one transforming us into the women God called us to be; into living the life God set out for us to live.

Friend, I envision the two of us walking shoulder to shoulder down a well-worn path. Sometimes the ground beneath our feet is smooth and clear; other times it’s rocky and covered in debris.

Some days elegant rays of light dance through the treetops, lighting the trail in extraordinary ways. Other days the walkway is dark and dreary. Imposing shadows bend low, intent on steering us any way but the right way.

Though this trek is difficult at times, it’s okay – because we’re together. And together makes us brave. It boosts our confidence. It helps us find the will to stay.

Are we willing to join forces, completing that which we’ve been unable to do on our own? Are we willing to try again? No matter how difficult the journey. No matter how many the losses. No matter how great the failures.

Are we willing to pick one another up and set out again?

I hope so. You and me, along with this friend and that friend. A community of women walking side by side toward victory. One small win at a time.

Friend, will you join me on my journey? Will you invite others to join yours?

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Challenge: Name one or two areas of your life that need improving. (I shared two of mine with you in a previous post. Remember, yours may look completely different than mine, and that’s perfectly alright.)

Questions to consider: What bad habits have taken root in your life? What good habits can be implemented to spur you and others on to victory?

Scripture to ponder:  “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.” Psalm 32:8 NIV

Lord, we know we are loved by You just as we are. Yet, this life we’re living isn’t Your best for us. Somewhere along the way, we’ve settled for lesser things. We’ve chosen ways contrary to the life You had in mind for us. So many issues keep tripping us up, Lord. Help us to look to You. Show us and teach us the way we should go – and send us others willing to go with us.