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.

 

If Eve Were Here

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Some days I’m known as the one who messed up. Usually I place this label on myself, feeling heartbroken over harsh words I’ve spoken or insensitive actions I’ve taken.

But what if my mistake is a really big one? One that people will remember? One that will go along with me into each new relationship or situation I face? One that others will talk about, maybe even read about years from now?

Can you imagine the shame, regret, and pain accompanying such a mistake?

Eve could. She lived it.

Eve was the very first woman. The first wife. The first mother.  And she was also the very first person to ever mess up. Ouch!

I often wonder how Eve would feel about her big mess-up being recorded for all the world to see. Though I’m sure she was embarrassed over her mistake, would she be bothered that we know, or would she gladly share it with us herself if given the chance?

I like to picture her sitting next to me on the sofa, her hand tenderly placed over mine, reliving that moment in time. The confusion, the pride, the discontent – sharing all that led up to her poor choice and all that followed.

Of course, instead of listening and learning, we could point fingers at Eve. We could shame her for falling for Satan’s tactics. We could tell her all she should have done differently and point out exactly where she went wrong. But if we’re wise, we’ll take a step back and see Eve for who she is … a woman just like you, just like me.

Eve was a woman who loved God and walked with Him. A woman who looked a little too closely at the glitz and glitter Satan held out before her.  A woman who knew God, who knew better, but still chose poorly. A brokenhearted woman living out the consequences of that poor choice. We are all that woman. Every last one of us.

But there is something else Eve experienced that we don’t want to miss. God didn’t leave Eve to pick up all the pieces by herself. He sought her out. He talked to her. He listened. He discussed the consequences of her disobedience. But then He lovingly clothed her and removed her from the garden before more harm could come to her.

God blessed Eve with a second chance. A second chance to live in obedience, to be the godly woman, the wife, the mother He created her to be.

Friend, He does the same for you and me.

Remember those words you spoke carelessly, wounding your friend’s heart? Remember the parenting mistakes you made – the ones you wish your kids couldn’t recall? Remember the marriage vows you broke? The promises you failed to keep? The task you only performed half-heartedly?

Regardless of what “big” mistakes we’ve made, God is there — seeking a relationship with us — desiring to grant us forgiveness, to saturate us in His love, and to extend to us that second chance we so desperately need.

Don’t hide from Him. Eve would tell you to step into His presence, just as you are.

Don’t keep secrets from Him.  Eve would tell you He is able to handle every last bit of it.

Don’t refuse to leave your mistakes with Him. Eve would tell you to lay them at His feet, accept His forgiveness, and walk with Him into your new life — one filled with second chances.

Handling the Hard Times

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I’ve been mostly silent these past few months. Pulling back, withdrawing, keeping to myself more than usual. That’s what I do when life gets hard, and right now, life is hard.

My grandson, Elijah, has been in the hospital nearly three months. This precious blonde headed, blue-eyed, energetic two year old boy needs a new heart, and he can’t come home until he gets one.  The wait is hard – not just because waiting in general is hard, but because each new day brings with it the risk of something going wrong.  It has been a roller coaster of a ride, to say the least.

Though my faith is strong, my words have been few. I’ve struggled with processing my thoughts, my emotions, my pain. I’ve done what so many of us do in seasons such as this …  I’ve lunged into each new day, doing what must be done, carrying on as best I can, keeping my body busy, my mind occupied.

Survival mode.

A quick glance at my facebook newsfeed, church prayer list, or local news app confirms I am not alone. Many others are living with adversity, brokenness, and heartache. Everyone facing their own tough battles. None of us exempt.

Wounded, hurting people trying desperately to navigate the difficult paths of this life. Earnestly attempting to meet the needs of our families. Loving them deeply, serving them well, supporting them daily. Appearing strong, all the while trying not to come undone.

One foot in front of the other.

Holding down fear, shaking off its grip. Stepping into the unknown. Praying for strength to endure. Hoping what lies ahead brings joy rather than sorrow.

How do we make it through?

I’ve learned the best way to handle hardship is to cling tightly to the words of scripture. Searching verse after verse, seeking guidance, comfort, and peace. Yet sometimes in my discouragement, I struggle. I find myself sitting blankly, open bible in hand, unable to read, unable to pray, unable to reach out.

Helpless.

But praise God, even when I feel helpless, I am not without hope.

It is there in that state of helplessness, I realize my greatest need for God. It is also there that I begin to understand the importance of community … others walking with me on this journey.

Those dear friends who patiently remind me God is always with me, loving me through every single tear I cry. Those who encourage me with scripture at just the right time. Those who pray for me when I have no words of  my own.  Those who faithfully lift up my family, carrying our hurting hearts to Jesus, petitioning God for Elijah’s miracle.

I’m so thankful God placed these prayer warriors in my life. Their presence reminds me of His presence, and His presence reminds me of His great love for us all.

Because of this truth, I am able to once again dive into His Word, searching out scripture for myself. I am able to sit at His feet, casting all my cares upon Him, knowing without a doubt —

He cares for me. Just as He cares for you.

Even when life is hard.