As women, we are incredibly busy. Whether you stay at home, or work outside the home, have a husband and children, or are single, life is just fast paced. Our schedules are full of things to do – some we want to do, some we have to do, and some we feel obligated to do. We want it all, and to be it all. The best wife, the best mom, the best at our career, the best ... the list could go on and on. Being the best comes with a cost, though.
With all those things, it is easy to become overwhelmed. Ever been there? The kitchen full of dirty dishes is enough to bring you to tears because you just can’t figure out how to manage one more thing. The deadlines looming over you at work seem unattainable, and there is still dinner and bath time to face once you finish the long day. Life is hard – but being overwhelmed with it can steal your joy. Personally, I am on a mission to keep my joy and avoid that feeling of being overwhelmed.
I have tried to mold my to-do list around a very simple verse: “Let every detail of your lives – words, actions, whatever - be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way” (Colossians 3:17, The Message). For years, when I heard anyone talk about that verse, it was about your attitude. I was reminded to have a good attitude at work, at home, with others, because that glorified God. While I definitely do believe that our attitudes should be Christ-like (or attempt to be, because we are human), I think that it also applies to what we choose to do, or not do.
Last summer, I took on something new, adding to my to-do list: I started graduate school. This decision was one that I prayed over, and was sure was God’s will for me. So of course, I needed a good attitude about it, but I also needed to do it well. Doing something half-way definitely doesn’t bring glory to God, right?
So, I started my summer off from school (I’m an educator, so I technically have summers off), by taking two classes. I soon realized I was going to have to do some juggling – those two classes added about 25-30 hours of work into my schedule each week! I struggled to keep my four year old entertained, my house clean, laundry done, spend time with my husband and get the required work done well. I struggled with not meeting the expectations I had set for myself in all those areas of my life. I knew in August I would also be adding in work-related responsibilities, and I was overwhelmed. I could not do it all, or be it all. Not well, anyway. My joy was gone.
But then I realized something important. I do not have to be it all, or do it all. I need to do what I do for God’s glory and stop trying to be Superwoman. When I spread myself thin, I cannot do anything for God’s glory, and am overstepping the purpose He has for my life. I might even be doing tasks that God meant for someone else so they could fulfill their purpose. I am letting my joy be stolen and stealing opportunities from others. That is not the way I wanted to live any longer.
I decided to be who and what God wants me to be – that is more than enough! I began saying no to extras, let my family help me around the house, and tried to not accept guilt over what I did not do. I struggled with that last part the most – the guilt. It was hard to not meet the expectations of those around me, but not as hard as taking on the expected task when I couldn’t do it well. People do not define my purpose, God does.
I am sure this change in priorities has upset a few people around me. It may have inconvenienced someone who was expecting me to get a job done. But it has provided blessings, too. My husband has helped so much at home, and that has further deepened our relationship and appreciation for one another. My daughter has learned how to do some basic chores, and is learning to find joy in serving others. My load has lightened, and my joy has returned. I know that my life is less busy, but much more full. I am living on purpose, and it has brought joy and contentment. I am accomplishing the things on my list (even those “have to” things that no one likes) well.
We each have a purpose in life, and God-given responsibilities. But often, we take on other tasks beyond that. No one else is willing, we feel guilty saying no, we have always done that too ... but how often do we ask ourselves if by doing it we are bringing God glory? If you are too tired to do a task well, unhappy about it, or doing it out of obligations, it is likely not bringing God glory. This could mean two things. Maybe that task was never God’s purpose for you, and it was really meant for someone else. Let them fulfill their purpose, and focus on yours. Or, if it is what God has for you, something else needs to be let go so you can do it well for God’s glory. Keep your to-do list simple. Focus on what God has purposed for you, and leave the rest alone. Do whatever you do for His glory.
As we all face busy lives, I pray that you will find the courage to evaluate your to-do list, and to focus your energy on only what will glorify God. I pray you will be full of joy and peace knowing you’re right where He wants you, and let that be enough.
Keep living life on purpose,
I am in the middle of reading two amazing books. It is funny how God can use things like a book (one I chose to read, and one that was chosen for me to read with a group) to give me a new perspective. I guess He knew what I needed to learn before I did, and it seems as if the authors were writing specifically for me. Ever felt like that?
In A Million Little Ways by Emily P. Freeman and Becoming Myself by Stasi Eldridge, the same words keep being repeated over and over again. These two words have really gotten me thinking. They are the words “image bearer." Both authors use that term, and it is one I had not heard before. Yet, I love the perspective it gives.
In Genesis 1:27, the Bible says that we (human beings) were created in the image of God. We bear his image. I have known that truth, but when I think of myself as an image bearer, it seems a bit different. It seems more real, weightier, but is also freeing. It leaves me free to be the person God intended me to be when He created me.
The word bear, when used as a verb, means to hold up, or to support. But it can also mean to bring forth, to produce. It is an ACTIVE word. It denotes some work on my part. And a bit of responsibility. I carry His image. I am bringing it forth, producing it for the world to see. Emily Freeman makes the point that we, like Adam and Eve, were “made to be image bearers first and to do their good work out of their image bearing identity” (p. 24). She also says that “we all bear the image of a creative God” (p. 20).
I LOVE that truth! We are all so very different, and so very unique. No one is the same – and that is the way it was meant to be. His creativeness shows in each of us through our differences just as artists can show creativity through multiple, very different pieces of art. Each of us is unique, and that uniqueness is a direct reflection of the creative heart of God. That means that my life, my passions, my dreams, my struggles, my failings, my strengths, my scope of influence … they are all specific to me. And the best part? God made it that way ON PURPOSE! He specifically made me who I am to bear His image. To be an image bearer. To reflect His heart and His glory.
Yet, the bearing does not have to weigh me down, pressure me, or stifle me. It liberates me because it means by being myself – embracing my own unique personality, life circumstances, gifts and struggles - I am bringing glory to Him. Just by being me.
God has been walking with me on this journey of acceptance. It is a journey of learning to love and be myself rather than feeling an urge to be like someone else, or like someone might expect me to be. Stasi Eldrige says it well. “It is a beautiful paradox that the more God’s we become, the more ourselves we become – the “self” He had in mind when he thought of you before the creation of the world.“ It is a journey of me, living my life – all the ups, downs, quirks, and craziness - yet finding small little ways to bear His image as I do it. I just have to simply let Him in to those little parts of my life. Be more His, and I am more me.
Understanding this has been life-changing for me. I can bear His image by being me. I bear His image as I am a wife, a mother, a daughter, a friend. I bear His image as I work, grocery shop, drive, in every moment of my life. Just by being me, I am bearing the image of Christ – showing His love and His creativity to the world around me. Just by living my regular old life. And that … well, that seems possible. I may not be a missionary, or have this amazing life story. But I can live MY life, and live it for Him. And in the twists and turns of my life journey, I am becoming an image bearer. Every day the image seems a bit more clear, and the work of bearing is a bit easier and full of joy.
What about you? Who are you, really? What is unique about you, about your life, your circumstances? What are your strengths, your weaknesses? What makes you ... well, you? Invite God into the very depths of who you are – who He created you to be. Then suddenly, you will be an image bearer too. Be more His, and become more YOU!
Enjoy the journey!
“So God created human beings in His Own Image. In the Image of God he created them....He breathed the breath of Life in to the man’s nostrils, and the man became a living person.” Genesis1:27, 2:7
“You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in Your book. Every moment was laid out, before a single day passed. How precious are Your thoughts about me, O God.” Psalm 139:16-17
As an educator, I get to work with kids from all walks of life. Some kids come to school ready to soak it all in and learn. It is obvious that they have been invested in. You can tell from their conversations that the adults in their lives have taken the time to love them, play with them, teach them, read to them, and ensure their environment is safe and appropriate. You can also tell which kids don’t spend quality time with the adults in their life, haven’t been read to as much, don’t feel as loved, and who have not had someone safeguarding their environment and what they are exposed to. Both types of kids are FULL OF POTENTIAL, but those whose homes have not been so great often face much greater challenges in realizing their potential. The greatest challenge I face in my job relates to loving that kid that is “unlovable” and encouraging him (or her) to rise and succeed despite the odds. The greatest moments of joy come when that kid truly reaches that potential!
But really, is the same true of us as adults? Can the outsider observing us see that we are loved? That we spend time with our families? That we spend time with our Heavenly Father? That we are being taught by Him? That we expose ourselves to things that will build up our character, not tear it down?
Here’s the catch: as an adult, we have much more power to choose the influences in our lives than a child does. Plus, we have a Heavenly Father who is ready and willing to invest in us, to spend time with us, to teach us. We just have to let Him into our lives.
So today, I want to encourage you to reach your full potential. Intentionally make time to spend with the Lord and with those He has placed you closest to. Be wrapped up in His Love, letting it overflow to others. Surround yourself with influences that will help lift you up, not distract you from living a godly life. Choose joy, not anger and bitterness. Rise above all you have been and grasp all you can be in Christ. Allow His influence on your life to shine through and be easily seen. As you do this, you will succeed. Despite the odds, despite your past, you will become all He has created you to be. The world around you will notice and be encouraged. Your influence will be great and will spark the greatness in others.
Stay connected to Him, and enjoy the journey of becoming!
Hi, I’m Claire. But really, who am I? That question is not answered as easily as it seems. I am a wife, a mom, a daughter, a friend, an educator. But that list seems to not really define me fully.
To me, life is all about being connected to others. Relationships are a top priority in my life. Nurturing relationships takes time, and I try to purposely spend as much time as possible on that. I’m more likely to be coloring with my four year old daughter than cleaning the kitchen. The time with her is more valuable than a clean house. I’ll go shopping with my mom rather than get work done, even with a deadline looming. She’s more important. If my husband wants to do a project together, we’ll do it – no matter what my plans were for the day. He deserves the best of me and my time. Being connected to others is a vital part of my makeup and something I choose to be intentional about.
This sense of connectedness is also central to my spiritual life and my ministry in TWU. I am really passionate about discipleship – not just going to church, but truly knowing God, being connected to Him, and having a relationship with Him. Really digging deep into God’s Word is the best way I have found to nurture that relationship. I did my first “real” Bible study the summer after my 6th grade year. My mom and I, along with some of my friends and their mothers, did a mother/daughter study of Genesis by Kay Arthur. It was life-changing for me, and I was hooked! Ever since then I have searched for ways to learn more and help others learn more about how to connect with God. This desire brought me into TWU. I serve as the Marketing & Advertising Director, but I also have taught at many events, and teach Bible Studies throughout the year with my friend, Suzanne Pichon. Seeing other women learn how to truly know God in a more personal way brings me great joy and excitement.
I love spending time with my family. My mom, my husband Danny, and our daughter Riley are very close, and they are definitely my very top priority. We love to go camping, bike riding, and work in our garden. It’s not really about what we do together, but that we are together. I feel the same way about my friends. With busy lives, we have to be intentional about nurturing those relationships. Simple moments with those I love are key to me – they are what life is all about!
Professionally, my life is all about connections, too. For the past ten years, I have taught at Bonne Ecole Elementary. I love working with kids – not just helping them make academic connections, but also helping to mold and shape their character. This year, I am the school librarian, which means I will likely be headed back to school soon to pursue a Masters in Library Science. I love the chance this has given me to use a good story to get the kids thinking about a social/moral issue. Through literature, we have so many discussions about good vs. evil, empathy, making good choices, and what justice really is. Hearing their thoughts and seeing their character unfold is an awesome privilege. At Bonne Ecole, I chair the Sunshine Committee, which works to basically encourage staff members in a variety of ways throughout the year. I have also worked with Suzanne Pichon to start the SHINE Club (Serve, Honor, Inspire, Nurture, Encourage). It has been so cool to have that opportunity to intentionally model and teach character traits to a group of kids. Seeing them search for ways to serve, to want to make the world a better place, brings such a sense of accomplishment and hope.
Right now, I am working to organize ways for our school and SHINE to be involved in Relay for Life. Relay For Life means a lot to me, because I have lost my father, my sister, and my father-in-law to cancer in the last 5 years. It gives us a chance to honor those who are no longer with us, but also the fighters and survivors. Seeing so many walk the survivor lap every year is an amazing thing – and it is amazing to cheer them on! I am really drawn to find ways to help those who are sick, to bring encouragement, and to find little ways to overcome a disease that to so many seems insurmountable. For me, it is fighting back, connecting to and honoring those we have loved and lost. It helps me see a purpose through the pain and know that Hope is still there.
And now, I am excited about this opportunity to connect with others – to share a bit of my life and what God is teaching me, and to hopefully help you connect to Him a bit better. God has big plans for you, me, this blog, and TWU!
During the Expect a Challenge Lab, Suzanne and I shared many people who were amazing examples of how we all hope to face challenges: my precious sister Leslie who allowed God to use her challenge to show His grace and love, sweet Henry and his mother Jessie who clung to the hope of Jesus and heaven in the face of a crisis, and Michelle, who chose to praise God on her flute even though she was suffering from immense loss and grief. It is so easy to hear those stories and be moved to tears, and maybe even be inspired to want to face challenges with that much grace. But how did they do it? How did their faith get to that point? What did they do to get past the anger, grief, fear, or frustration?
Though I cannot speak for them, nor do I know the exact details of their faith-walks, I can share a few things I have observed as I watch them and others face challenges . The principles I see are simple, but living them has to be intentional.
1. Remind yourself of Who God IS: the Lover of Your Soul, Protector, Redeemer, All-Sufficient One, God Most High (in control of ALL), the Beginning and End, Shepherd, Companion, Wonderful Counselor, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace, Creator, Provider, God Who Sees, and Immanuel, God With Us. Reminding yourself of the hugeness of God can often help counteract the hugeness of circumstances.
2. Remind yourself of who you are: God’s Beloved Child, a child of the King, Servant of the Master (Jesus), heir to a Heavenly Inheritance, an Amabassador of Christ, a Representation of the Savior, Holy, Set Apart for Good Works, In the Palm of His Hand. Remembering how precious you are to God can bring comfort and peace.
3. Remind yourself of your purpose: set apart, with a purpose for good works, God has plans for you – for good, hope, and a future, for HIS glory, to bring HIM praise. God has a purpose and plan for you IN THE MIDDLE of this challenge.
4. Intentionally Choose Trust. Trust Him with your future, with your life, with your plans, your hopes and dreams. Trust Him when things appear hopeless and bleak. Trust Him when everyone else fails. Then, ACT OUT that trust in responses (after all, our actions are what really show our beliefs). Live your life based on that trust. At first this can be scary, but the more you truly trust, the easier and more freely that trust comes.
5. Remember Who Has Won!! Jesus said it best: “In this world, you will have troubles, but take heart! I have overcome the world!” (John 16:33). The battle is won, victory has come, and nothing can change that. In your challenge, claim God’s victory, and set your mind on how he overcame. He overcame through suffering, forgiving those who hurt him, and living solely for others. In the most unexpected, most marvelous way, He overcame. And you can too.
As you read this, I hope that you will be reminded of the amazing power we have when we choose to follow Jesus. I pray that you will choose Him when all else fails, when life is hard, when no one else does. I pray that you will be grounded in the knowledge of our Savior so that the storms of life cannot move you. I pray that through your challenges, He will shine bright, and that you will be blessed by peace even in the midst of life’s messes.
Live With Purpose!
“And we know that God causes all things to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them.” (Romans 8:28) I love this verse! But I really only began to understand it in the past few years as circumstances that in no way were “good” came into my life.
There was a point during the toughest times when I hated that verse. How could good come from what has happened to me? This is just NOT GOOD, God! I can’t ever imagine seeing good in the things that my family has had to go through. Those words became a part of my prayer life at that time, and sometimes I was ashamed to say those things to God. But, as I was honest with Him, He showed me something in that verse I had never noticed before.
It does not say all things ARE good. They just aren’t. To pretend so would be to believe a lie. But when I really listened to the words, I learned that though the circumstance was not good, it just might work together FOR MY GOOD as I choose to love Him and follow His Purpose for me. And, when faced with a challenge, we can respond in a way that shows His good to the world.
How does the good happen? Who does it happen to? Well, second half of the verse is clear: “those who love God and are called according to His purpose." Recognizing the good and fully receiving it are directly tied to loving and following Him. So, even though life was NOT GOOD, I had to choose to love the ONE WHO IS GOOD and focus on HIS GOOD PURPOSES. Easier said than done, and I have not always gotten it right, but progress is progress, imperfect though it may be. As I purposely and intentionally made the choice to love and follow regardless of how I felt, amazingly enough, the good did come! Not by a change in my circumstances, but because of those circumstances. So many people – family, friends, even total strangers became the arms of Jesus as they wrapped me and my family in hugs and spoke words of encouragement. Being loved like that is an amazing feeling.
But even then, the greatest good came during the time when I felt all alone, when I had no one else but God to turn to. HE WAS THERE, right beside me. Walking through it all with me. I think God knew that in some way, I needed to “lose it all” to truly find Him. I needed to be in a place where He was my only source of hope, peace, comfort and JOY. Joy in the midst of my challenges and suffering, not joy in their absence. Joy in Who He Was, not in what I was going through. The struggles brought me to a place of utter dependence on God, and that has been good, VERY GOOD. Without the struggles, I would have never been in that place to trust so fully and completely. Looking back, I know that it was not that things were good, but that God used those things to bring good to me, to grow my faith and character in ways nothing else could. To make me who I am today.
This is the epitome of God’s amazing mercy – making good come from the bad, making beauty from our ashes, trading our mourning for joy, giving a garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness (see Isaiah 61:3). I love how my daughter's Bible, the Jesus Storybook Bible, puts it: “Jesus makes sad things come undone, and death come untrue." Mercy brings hope, and hope brings a new perspective and attitude.
The song “Fall Apart” by Josh Williams is easy for me to identify with. The chorus says: “My whole world is caving in, but I feel You now more than I did then. How can I come to the end of me and somehow still have all I need? God I want to know you more! Maybe this is where I start. I find You when I fall apart.”
When life gets challenging, my prayer is that you will FIND HIM. Find the God who loves you, has good plans for you, and is always there. Find your Savior, the Friend of Sinners. Find peace knowing that even in the challenges, God has power to bring good. Allow Him to use the challenge to chisel away the things in your life that keep you from being a Masterpiece.
Rejoicing in His Goodness,
God amazes me with the way He orchestrates our lives and situations. Months before the opportunity to lead the session on Grace and Mercy at the Becoming Conference, God allowed circumstances to come into my life that required me to give, receive, and understand those ideas in a deeper way than ever before. It has been difficult and painful, but also humbling. I’m seeing that to give or receive true Mercy and Grace, we have to be humble enough to recognize where we stand in comparison to a Holy, Worthy God .
The need for mercy and grace, whether from God or man, comes from the fact that a wrong has been done. Romans 3:23 states it clearly: “For everyone has sinned, we all fall short of God’s glorious standard”. Yet I love the way it is put in the Message: “Since we’ve compiled this long and sorry record as sinner and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us, GOD DID IT FOR US. Out of sheer generosity He put us in right standing with Himself. A pure gift. He got us out of the mess we’re in and RESTORED US TO WHERE HE ALWAYS WANTED US TO BE. And He did it by means of Jesus Christ”. WOW! What I cannot do, God did for me. I am placed where He wants me to be, though I can’t get there myself, nor do I deserve it. I am nothing, and did nothing of merit. He did it all! There is no value in my actions, and immeasurable, eternal value in God’s actions.
My circumstances have shown me that before I can give mercy and grace, I must understand that it is not about what I do or do not deserve. Though someone may have wronged me, or done wrong, that is not truly the point. The point is what God has done FOR ME, and what He wants to do in the life of the other person. It is not about justice, judgment, or even the other person repenting or changing ways. It is about me following the example Christ set before me. Because if I really got what I deserved, where would I be? Humility and a clear picture of who I am and Who God Is quickly puts things in perspective.
But – that does not erase the consequences of actions. Sometimes God gives us Mercy and Grace, but we still face consequences. “…Don’t feel sorry for yourselves. Or have you forgotten how good parents treat children, and that God regards you as his children? My dear child, don’t shrug off discipline, but don’t be crushed by it either. It is the child He loves that He disciplines; the child he embraces, He also corrects. God is educating you, that’s why you must never drop out …God is doing what is best for us, training us to live God’s holy best” (from Hebrews 12, The Message).
I think of my little girl. Her Daddy and I love her, so we discipline her. She faces consequences so she can learn to live in a way that is better for her. To not discipline her would stunt her growth and maturation, keeping her from becoming a mature, kind, responsible adult. The same thing applies to our relationship to a Heavenly Father. Consequences come to help us grow, not in order to punish, humiliate us or harm us. The purpose lies in our greater good. Yet even then, Grace and Mercy are there – because truly our sin should bring death! (see Romans 6:23).
When I bring this back and apply it to my personal relationships, the understanding of humility is vital. Someone may wrong me, but I have a choice about whether or not to extend Mercy and Grace. The relationship may change because trust and safety are destroyed. That is often a consequence in relationships. It takes time to rebuild trust and safety with someone. I can give God’s mercy and grace, because I have been given a good beyond what I deserve. I can still humbly seek God and ask Him to make me wise as to how to best rebuild and restore that relationship into one that glorifies him and works for His purposes. These things are choices that require much humility, focused effort, and prayer.
I am also learning that pretending the wrong never happened and never dealing with it THROUGH THE FILTER OF GOD’S MERCY AND GRACE is a dangerous thing for all involved. True healing won’t come for either person in the relationship. Removing those God-given consequences might keep the other person from learning the lessons God intended for them. It could stunt his or her personal and spiritual growth. I just have to stay humble enough to constantly and prayerfully ask God how to proceed so that His discipline helps good come, rather than my discipline (or revenge) taking over. I need to seek His wisdom on how to rebuild and restore the relationship in a way that is better, and even healthier than before. Going back to what was there before is a recipe for disaster, and does not allow room for God to grow us through the difficult circumstance. Once again, I have to realize it is not about what I deserve, but about what God has done and is doing in the lives of everyone involved.
It all comes down to a few very simple questions – What do I truly deserve? Who am I truly living for? What do I want my life to be about – God’s ways or my own? Every day of this journey is a day of growth – becoming a bit more merciful, acting and reacting a bit more like Jesus. Yet, being Christ-like is something worth BECOMING!
Thanks for being part of the journey with me.
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