Authenticity · COVID-19 · Faith · Health

Taking Small Steps Forward

Often I’m amazed at how many parallels there are in our natural world and our spiritual one.

For the past two weeks I’ve been trying to get my body into a healthier state, and it’s caused me to realize that not only have I been neglecting my physical body, but my spiritual one as well. It’s so easy to fall into a state of being physically unfit: Skip a workout here, eat a bit more junk there. It takes far more effort and intentionality to stay healthy.

It was almost exactly one year ago when I first heard the term “Covid-19″… that was just before it hit my world. At first, it was the distant “coronavirus” that seemed like nothing more than another repeat of the “SARS” or “H1N1″scare. I never expected it to effect me. I never thought that it would reach my country. And never in my wildest dreams would I have expected it to be here to stay.

None of us did.

As I look back over the past year, I realize that it took over so much of my emotional, mental and physical capacity and head space. I noticed my motivation to keep myself healthy – physically and spiritually – completely tanked as I became fixated on all the changes around me. Eventually, expecting change and disappointment became normal. Being adaptable was essential – and it’s where I put most of my energy into: Returning to homeschooling five kids overnight, cancelling all future plans, learning to meet with and lead my small group over Zoom.

Adaptable we’ve become, but it seems like all I’ve been doing for the past year. I find myself tired; burnt out, even. I’ve been physically trying to compensate for this fatigue by filling much of my extra time with unproductive activities, stuff that requires little to no effort. Logically this doesn’t make sense, of course, because if I’m going to run a marathon and do well, I have to take care of myself.

But here I find myself in that place where I’ve been running so hard for so long that I am in survival mode. In my few moments of free head space, I’m filling my mind and body with so much junk that I just find myself too full to eat a decent meal.

Something has to go.

I am hitting a wall and I just can’t run off of this cheap fuel anymore. I need the good stuff. I need the protein, the veggies; the word of God, prayer and fellowship with believers. I can’t keep grabbing for the granola bar to tie me over anymore, my body won’t let me.

So, I take small steps:

First Step: Two weeks ago I decided to give up processed sugar/junk food for 40 days during the Lent season.

Second step: Making wiser choses in what I eat… choosing a salad instead of a pizza. Grabbing fruit instead of chips.

Third step: Picking up my Bible instead of my phone when I wake up. Praying instead of complaining or worrying.

Fourth Step: This past week I decided to get back into running; just three days a week for half an hour.

Small steps I can handle, one choice at a time.

And today, I got pushed to take another small, but important step for accountability on how I’m spending my time: Being present with my family, instead of hiding away in my room to be alone. I need to learn how to be in community again, instead of pushing people away.

Today was a day I’ve been waiting for for a long time. It was the first time I’ve been to church since November 1st and even in my current exhausted state, I was ecstatic! Online “church” isn’t church to me. It’s watching a sermon.

Church is the people. My spiritual family. My second home.

Today marks the beginning of another step towards health: Meeting with other believers to worship our incredible God. It’s just one more step of healing from the isolation of this year… Fellowship. We need each other. If anything has shown us that, it has had to be this past year. As my community begins to heal and take small steps to open up, I want to heal personally and open up as well.

One small step at a time.

Have you been taking any steps lately?

Faith

The Testimony that Forever Transformed my Devotional Life

I hear it all the time: I don’t do devotions.

Guilt ridden people share about their struggles, giving every excuse from lack of time, to distraction and even to doubt that it is necessary.

I was once one of them. My devotions were mindless prayers before the table as my thoughts were a hundred miles away. My time spent with God was non-existent.

But in 2014, I heard a testimony that changed everything. Being with God was no longer a list on my things to do, it was the first thing I wanted to do. In fact, I was so radically changed that I believed I was better off spending time with God than eating or sleeping. This meant in a very real way that if I had to chose between spending time with God and sleep, it wasn’t even a question in my mind – I chose God.

Ah yes, 2014. The year I had a 7 year old, 5 year old, 4 year old, 2 year old and a colicky newborn.

I remember it well, well meaning folks telling me as a young mom that seeking God is unimportant in those years… God understands, they say.

The truth is yes, he understands. It’s true. He’s not angry with anyone for not spending time with him.

But the thing is, that’s not the point!

Our entire existence was never meant to be about trying to avoid angering God – what a terrible way to live! What a false and warped view of God!

The point is that overtired, overworked and unappreciated Mother’s need him desperately, and devotions were never meant to be spending time with God out of some religious guilt.

It becoming so convinced that your faith is the only thing you have of value, that you actually begin to live like it is.

So 2014… I was going through depression, I was physically in the worst shape of my life, I had five kids and very little help with them. I was constantly overwhelmed. I couldn’t fit in five minutes to pray.

And I went to a conference that changed me forever.

A young woman came on stage to tell her testimony. She spoke of her years getting a masters degree in a difficult field (I forget what it was) and how much time a day she had to herself… which was NO time. She literally went to school, did homework, went to work, did homework and then maybe got four hours of sleep in before she had to repeat the exhausting cycle all over again. She was almost burnt out.

But then one day, she happened to cry out to God and she felt him telling her to tithe.

“But how God,” she responded, “I have no money!”

God responded simply: “I’m not talking about your money child, I’m asking for your time. Give me 10% of your time and I will multiply it.”

She obeyed. And slowly, she began spending more and more time with God, because she desired him so much! She eventually spent from 3-4 hours a day with him and had more time than ever before! Where it came from was a mystery to her. The rest of her story was remarkable. Her time was literally multiplied. She began getting six or more hours of sleep a night. Her grades went up.

Just from being with Jesus. The Creator.

He knows how we are formed. He knows how life works. The question was not, did I have time, rather, did I really believe that being with God was important? That it could change my life?

Now six years later…I’ve been asked by many people how I manage my time with five kids. How I get everything done, how we seem to be on time for the most part, how everything – from cooking, to cleaning, to sports, to homework and music lessons – how everything gets done… and I often just smile and say I don’t know.

But you know what it really is?

God has multiplied my time.

By spending time with God each day, he has taught me, slowly, step by step how to manage life. How to stretch my money to make ends meet. How to survive under the most difficult situations. How to organize chaos.

You see, it was never me! It’s my time with a God! Read my journal and you will see the difficult questions I ask him each day. I don’t have the answers!

But he does.

And learning this truth, that life just works so much better when it’s walked by his side, changed everything for me.

I challenge my readers to take this testimony to heart. You don’t have time? Then I’m definitely talking to you! Give God an hour, wake up early if you have to just to sit with him, listen to him. Pour out your thoughts and troubles, allowing him show you a better way. It will transform you.

I promise.

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Devotions? Or Devotion?

I used to think New Years Resolutions were pointless – that they were nothing more than another attempt by the world to become the best we could be…only to fail three weeks in. You hear it all the time – the gyms are full come January 1st, but by the end of February, membership has returned to normal.

We’re funny that way, us human beings.  So desperate to be great that we jump on any bandwagon of change, only to jump right back off when life gets too hard. Some of us feel like failures when we give up, but most of us don’t even think twice about it. After all, we do it time and time again.

In the year 2015 all of that changed for me.

I decided to attend a Christian conference at the end of the year. The conference runs right after Christmas and goes until New Year’s Eve, ending with “praying in” the New Year. It was the first time in years that I was going somewhere without a baby or toddler in-tow. Me and my husband went with the older two kids, leaving the younger three kids with their grandparents.

To my great shock, the first two days were incredibly difficult for me to sit through the long messages. It had been years since I had sat through a message without my kids beside me crying, or needing a diaper change or nap. I had expected to just soak in the atmosphere and love it without my usual distractions.

And here I was, with no excuse at all, unable to consentrate for longer than 10 minutes without drifting off into lala land! With the busyness of my life, I hadn’t even realized how far I had been drifting from God. I hadn’t realized that my five minute a day devotional with God while kids jumped all around me and a quick read through of my prayer list wasn’t enough to sustain me. I realized that I was hungry – no, STARVING for God!

By the end of the conference, I was overwhelmed with a deep desire to be with God every single day. Not just reading the bible, I already did that. Not just reading through a prayer list, I did that too. But to encounter God daily – to KNOW the One true God.

My only problem was that I have five kids…How in the world could I possibly find time to spend with him? Certainly God didn’t expect me to find more time with him in my busy stage of life, could he?

It was as if God had known my thoughts ahead of time, and prepared this conference exactly for me. A woman got up on stage at this time and began sharing. The testimony she gave changed my life forever.

She was a top student at her university. Her schedule was packed and her workload was overwhelming. On an average day she was so busy that even without any social life she would only get four hours of sleep.  During this time she became overwhelmed and asked God to help her.  The very reason she has started going to university in the first place was to make a difference in the world. And now she felt like she couldn’t keep going.

During this time, God told her that he wanted her to start tithing. Of course, at this point she was thinking dollar amounts – but God made clear, “No I want you to start tithing what is most important to you – your time. 10 percent of your time.”

That’s precisely 2 hours and 24 minutes a day.

She, of course, responded like we all would – like I would: “No God, that’s not possible! I can’t possibly spare any time, never mind that much of it! I don’t get any sleep as it is!”

But she obeyed, waking up at wee hours of the night to be with her Maker.

Sacrificing what little sleep she had.

What happened as a result was an absolute miracle, for she began to find more and more time. She had time to do her work, she was more efficient in her studies, and she was even able to go to bed earlier. She found after just one week that she was getting more rest than she had since starting university! God had simply and miraculously multiplied her time.

Now until this moment, until this testimony, I had always believed that lack of time was unique to parents of young children only.

It’s laughable now, but really, I believed that singles and couples without children had no valid excuse to not be spending time with God…I, on the other hand had every excuse: the constant interruptions,  the lack of sleep, busyness of the days, the sacrifice of being depended on 24/7 – who has better excuses than that? My excuses weren’t even selfish!!

It was at this moment, this very moment, that I realized Satan has lied to us all.

We all have the time. 

In every stage of life, in every situation,  we all have the time because we are all given the same amount of it.

I began noticing all the excuses:

“Oh I work all day, if I was a stay at home mom I would have much more time! I’m just too tired after work to spend time with God.”

“Oh I can’t possibly do devotions daily, right now I’m in school, I constantly have homework!”

“My job demands so much of me, I don’t have any time for myself – never mind for God!”

On and on the excuses go, every single person believing that they have less time than the next.

This was crazy to me! Every single one of us believed that lie: I can’t find the time because my situation is unique. I’m more tired, more over worked, busier than most. 

It was only when I recognized that lie that I was able to overcome it.  Because the truth was that I had time for all sorts of things. I had time to scrapbook, time to cook, time to get together with friends, time to clean my house, time to sleep, time to be on Facebook, lots of time!

Therefore, the issue had never been time – the issue was desire. This changed devotions in my life changed forever.

I then made the first resolution I had ever made, and it lasted.

My resolution was to quit devotions as I knew them and to begin a life devoted to God. Devotions was never mentioned in God‘s word. Not once. What is mentioned are people who walked with God. Devotions are merely a tool to start off the day focused on a single task: devotion to God.

I no longer found it hard to spend time with God, because it wasn’t something on my checklist. It was my checklist. If I wasn’t walking with God all day, every day, I had gotten nothing done.

That is the essence of Christianity.

This year don’t get caught up in the meaningless resolutions. Rather, in desperation, resolve to do nothing but cling to Jesus. To abide in him. To walk with him.  If this is your heart’s desire, you’ll find the time.

I promise.