A Time to Rest


Grace, leaping off the dock. So proud of my sweet girl for conquering her fears and leaping.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. Matthew 11:28

We just went on a big family vacation with my parents, my brother and his family, and my sister and her boyfriend to Lake Martin, a beautiful lake in Alabama. It was a week at a beautiful place, with my favorite people in the world, and everything in me needed to disconnect and refresh and relax. Since we moved to Houston seven months ago, and even the months leading up to the move, we have been sprinting. Our world, and our children’s worlds, were turned upside down (in the best possible ways), and we haven’t had time to really catch our breath. So we go on vacation knowing we need it, that God has ordained rest for us, and that we are ready to receive that rest and renewal and enjoy one another. I, in particular, had several goals in mind as we left Houston:

1. A rest from being me-centered. Fifty one weeks a year our girls have to comply with our schedule, getting up at a certain time, following certain rules, being places sometimes for hours on end while Justin and I work and serve our church. Although they are not deprived (#firstworldproblems), and they love COF and get our mission here, we also know they deserve a week off to relax and enjoy us. So we try, for these times on vacation, to turn our normal paradigm on its head. They can wake up and go swimming at 7:40 in the morning. They can have ice cream sandwiches at 8:30 pm. We bought fireworks for them to shoot off the bow of the boat. If I had just sat down for the first time that day, but they needed something, I tried to not sigh and make it a big deal, but to get up with joy and let them see that they were more important to me than my rest. I don’t believe in a kid-centered home, and I don’t believe in making our children happy at the expense of making them holy, but for this one week, this fantastic week, I determined to do everything in my power to give them magical childhood memories and make it all about them.


The cousins.

2. A rest from fears. I am a creative mind, and one of the manifestations of that is that I imagine every possible horrific scenario that can occur at any given time, so I can somehow prepare for it. I do this more when I am stressed or tired or feeling out of control, so I went on vacation at an eleven in the freakout category, to be really honest with you. I was having visions of car accidents, drowning, secondary drowning, heat stroke, boating accidents, critters, brain eating amoebas, furniture falling on children, all of it. So this week I asked the Lord for a rest from that nonsense.  I decided to not give those voices an audience in my mind, to pray when I felt fear, and to not be that mom keeping my kids from having fun because of a Facebook posting of a crazy scenario that is designed to perpetuate fear-based news cycles, that could keep a mother and her children curled up in the fetal position forever. So we swam in lakes, let the kids shoot off fireworks, went tubing, let the kids run around with freedom. And guess what? No nightmare scenarios happened, even without my watchful worrying guard.

The three girls were going to hold hands and jump, and Bekah just couldn't do it. It was so funny watching her let go and just stand there.

The three girls were going to hold hands and jump, and Bekah just couldn’t do it. It was so funny watching her let go and just stand there.

3. A rest from ingratitude. Vacationing with kids is hard, as a mom, and a few times I let myself slip into a pity mentality where I felt tired and wanted a break, but I was continually countering that state of mind with the truth that I am blessed, and that this trip was evidence of how blessed I am. I asked the Lord over and over for the gift of gratitude. One morning I was on a kayak in the middle of the quiet cove where our lake house sat, looking back on the dock where our kids were swimming and laughing, with tears in my eyes. This was my dream for our kids, this idyllic childhood moment, and I was not going to miss the chance to be grateful for it. To be grateful to serve at a place where we have not only the vacation time, but the extra funds to pull off a week like this with our kids. To be grateful for a family who loves us and who wants to travel with us. To be grateful for a mom who conquered her fear of lakes to swim with my kids everyday, and a dad who is the best grandfather I could ever have wished for. To be grateful for the relationships with my siblings that are healthy and affirming, full of life and peace. To be grateful for all the Lord has done in our family’s lives this past year, and how He has carried us. Something about my heart needs beauty and quiet to give God the due He always deserves, and in that moment, on that lake, all I could do was cry with gratitude for where we are in life, all by His design.

It was a great vacation, and was the rest my spirit needed. I met God there, in the squeal of my daughter as she jumped off the dock, and the quiet moments alone, and the love of my sister-in-law as she made a meal for our kids, and the laughter of my family. I am grateful for every moment of it.

I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety. Psalm 4:8

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.  He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters,  he restores my soul. Psalm 23:1

Take a rest, my friends, sometime this summer, doing what your soul needs. You deserve it, and the Lord will use it.
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The Remedy

Courtesy longwood.edu

Courtesy longwood.edu

I read an article in a Worship Leader magazine today that really impacted me. It was a story about a woman in her late 60s who was diagnosed with Congestive Heart Failure after several months of shortness of breath, weakness, and feeling shaky. Her doctor explained to her the function of the heart: that the ventricles which are responsible for pumping blood throughout the body must also relax in order to be refilled after each pump. For her, disease had hardened her ventricles and her heart was no longer able to relax and receive the quantity of blood she needed to pump out. So fluid was getting backed up in her body and her life was in jeopardy even though her heart was technically pumping with strength. The magazine used her story to illustrate the need for rest and silence in our spiritual life, and it hit home with me.

I am a wife, mom of three, a student finishing my degree, and a very part-time producer. I have been proud of myself for my ability to juggle all of these balls and get it all done. I have started cooking more, and am breastfeeding my baby girl – both things I had longed to do. Tasks and projects keep getting added to my agenda and I am getting a good portion of them done (and doing a decent job at squashing the guilt from the things I just can’t get to).  It’s not pretty – but I’m working hard and accomplishing quite a bit more than I ever thought I could. So I should feel really accomplished. But I feel tired, out of breath, weak, and shaky. My eyes fill with tears at the strangest times.

I keep looking to my husband to help make me feel better. Maybe he can take me on more dates, or bring me flowers, or write me a sweet note. But he’s busy (his task-list each week rivals or surpasses mine), and I still need more. So I go to church, thinking that just one more worship service, a chance to raise my hands in praise, a sermon that will inspire and convict will get me back on track. But so often I leave church in tears. I still feel crummy. It was exhausting getting our kids up and getting them there, the baby was restless in service so I heard about a fourth of it, and it just didn’t do the trick.

Today when I read the article it hit me. I am a girl in congestive heart failure. I am pumping out as fast and furious as I can, but I’m not filling up. I can’t get a deep breath. I am shaky.

When you are diagnosed with CHF, the goal is to get the blood efficiently moving through the heart again. This means, if possible, reversing the damage to the ventricle so that it can relax and fill normally.  You need to get the blood pressure down, the heart rate stabilized, and the fluid balance of the body back to a healthy set point.

But for people like us, in spiritual congestive heart failure? What is the remedy?

Be still and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself…  Psalm 37:7

The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent. Exodus 14:14

And the effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever. Isaiah 32:17

There are good reasons why Justin and I do all of the things we do. We think each one is necessary for our family’s survival and right now I can’t think of one thing that I can drop without serious consequences. But I think we need to look to Jesus as our example. There was nobody in history with a more vital purpose on earth. He literally came to seek and save that which was lost. His mission was to redeem humanity yet the Bible is clear He took time away to pray and sit in silence. He slept. He rested. He is never portrayed in Scripture as panicked or frantic. In fact, He was almost always infuriatingly calm.

The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught. And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” Mark 6:30 (When Jesus said this people were literally chasing after them – this wasn’t a down time or a break in the schedule.)

How can I think that the things on my list are so important that I don’t have time to rest when I have a Savior with tasks infinitely more important who modeled rest for me? And how have I forgotten the truth that Jesus is all I need so much that I am relying on my husband and church to fill me up when I feel empty? I’ve clearly lost my way here.

Somehow, I have to start receiving from the Lord the rest I need to do the important stuff in my life with health and not just efficiency. I’m not sure exactly what that will look like. I’m not sure what things we need to extricate ourselves from. I’m not sure what balls I need to just let fall to the ground despite the consequences. But I’m planning to sit here for a bit in silence until the Lord reveals it. Because I feel like I can’t take a deep breath, and I know living in spiritual CHF is not God’s best for me, my husband, or my kids.

The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. Lamentations 3:24-25


I came home from out of town late last night so I got to go wake up the girls and surprise them this morning.  Grace gave me a big hug with a beautiful smile on her face and with total joy said “Mommy’s home!  Did you have fun coming home?”  Then when Bekah saw me, she started kicking and laughing and quickly climbed up on me like a spider monkey where she held on tight for about 20 minutes, hugging me and laughing.

I am adored by my girls.

In a way that I don’t deserve, in a way that is precious and humbling to me, in a way that brings tears to my eyes.  It is wonderful to be loved.

This morning I was thinking about how my feelings towards my kids often remind me of how the Lord must feel about me, and that it would therefore make sense that my kids’ feelings towards me should remind me of my feelings towards the Lord.  But I have to confess – I don’t know that I adore the Lord in the way my kids express adoration towards me.  I don’t know that I long for His presence when He seems far away, or delight when I am allowed to come into His presence, the way my kids delighted in me this morning.  It is a humbling thought.  He, after all, is deserving.  He has given me every good thing in my life.  He delights in me.  He created me.  He has rescued me.  He provides for me.  I see evidence of His goodness and His love everyday.  Only because of His grace do I exist.  Yet I don’t respond in adoration like I want to, or like I should.

So what do I do about that?  What happens when I want to love the Lord, want to respond in adoration, but find my heart cold?

This morning I went to the Psalms for answers.  The Psalms are often directly written to the Lord, and are full of praise and adoration.  Around that same time, a friend posted this on Facebook:

Mark 12:30 – Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.

Read John 8:44. Satan wants to deceive you about God. If he can distort your idea of God, then beyond the shadow of any doubt he has you in everything else.

What does it mean to love God with all your heart, soul, and mind? Start with focusing on who God is, not on what we want Him to be – we are HIS Creation.

I am so grateful my friend posted that – it was directly for me today.  So I look up these passages – and the entire passage of John 8 is a tough passage.  It is basically an argument between Jesus and the religious Jews in the temple about who is right.  Either Jesus is right and these people are whitewashed tombs, or the Pharisees are right and Jesus is a false teacher.  This falls into that “Jesus is either the Son of God, divinity in human form, or he is an evil, crazy, lying man” argument.  It really is true – there is no grey area with Jesus.  He can’t possibly be the “good teacher” so many people dismiss him to be.  Look at the passage in John 8.  Jesus uses some tough language with the Pharisees in this passage.  In verse 23 He says “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins.”

So what does this have to do with loving God?  Well, there are three things that I have found are key in loving God:

To love God we have to know who He is. I love Justin because I know the great man he is when nobody is looking.  I love my mom because I respect the woman she is and aspire to be like her.  I love my dad because I know his heart and it is tender and good.  Jesus is saying in John 8 who He is.  We have to be good with that.  He is who He is.  He is unchanging.  He is God and we are not.  He is in control and He does what He wants for His glory.

To love God we have to be granted faith. If you look at John 8, verse 30 says “Even as he spoke, many put their faith in him.” Jesus is not giving a warm and fluffy invitation like we so often hear in church today.  He is saying tough truths about who He is and who God is.  And yet people are trusting Him.  It is because their eyes are being opened – God is showing them favor by revealing His son.  In that same crowd, many people heard the exact same words and thought he was a crazy, demon possessed man.  Their hearts were actually hardened.  Jesus, in verse 42, talked about this.  Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now am here. I have not come on my own; but he sent me. Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.” Man this passage is hard to wrestle with.  We love Jesus because God is our Father.  It is a matter of revelation.  I really respect Billy and Cindy Foote, and I heard Billy Foote say one day that if we don’t love God, we better get on our face and beg Him to allow us to love Him, beg Him to grant us the faith and the love we desire.  We can’t conjure love, we can only be granted it, as a gift.

We can’t love ourselves, this world, or money and God at the same time. We only can serve one master.  Luke 16:13 says No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon (money). We are really simple people – we can only do one thing well at a time.  So we are either about God and His agenda, or we are about something else.

When I feel my heart is cold, I have to start examining what I do love.  Often for me – that is where the answer is.  I know God –  I know who He is and I love who He is.  I see Him at work around me.  I know I have been granted faith through no merit of my own but through His grace – I believe what others think is crazy and I base my decisions on an eternal focus and not an earthly one.  But I often will trade in my first love for something unworthy – I will often begin to serve the wrong master.

Revelation 2 describes where I am:  I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first.

So today I am repenting of the love of self and the love of money and security that has grown in me.  I am repenting of this desire to be in control.  I am repenting of my cold heart.  I am remembering the mercy of my Father.  I am dwelling on all He has done for me, and I am repositioning my focus and my adoration on my Father, where it belongs.  So many of you do this so well.  I see your faith and your love for Jesus and it inspires me.  Please pray for me – that my first love would be renewed.  That I would respond to my Father with the adoration that He deserves.  I want to bring joy to His heart the way my sweet girls brought joy to mine this morning.  I want to delight Him even as I delight in Him.