ARE YOU STUCK IN ACQUAINTANCE OBEDIENCE?

During this time of social distancing, I’ve been doing some deep thinking. I’m a thinker, to begin with, so it’s not a huge leap that with more time, I’d think more. The idea of planting seeds, adjusting to a new normal, and stepping back from trying to do it all, I’ve been thinking about obedience in a new light.

Obedience is an interesting concept. In the Christian faith, it is often equated with “being good.” It can mean being kind and not taking the last piece of pie or chocolate. Out in public, it may be letting someone go in front of me in line. You know- walking in the fruit of the spirit – walking in love toward one another – putting the needs of others before yourself. It’s kindergarten Sunday school level obedience. I can imagine myself sitting at a circular table with other kiddos and the teacher leading us in simple recitation – We love because God loves us. I learned important foundational concepts there and acquaintance obedience.

Acquaintance Obedience

The sort of obedience I’m referring to is acquaintance obedience. It’s the kind of niceness we extend towards strangers or someone we just met. I think of it in terms of adoption (I think of everything in these terms). Adoptive families have what we term a “honeymoon” phase when we put our best foot forward and we Moms wear our makeup. Funny story -when we were in Poland living in the orphanage, the morning after we had “moved in,” there was an knock at our door. It was a caregiver with Gregory, who wanted to see his new Mama. I didn’t want Gregory to see me without my hair brushed and my makeup on. What craziness. Times have changed in our relationship, for sure. 

We can get stuck in acquaintance obedience with Christ. It’s like being nice and eating your veggies without complaining. It’s low-level obedience. Children are required to do that. Higher-level obedience means staying after class and asking the teacher (Jesus) exactly what He wants you to do with your gifts and talents. Then doing it, no matter how crazy it sounds. 

Jennifer Lee says it like this in It’s All Under Control:

“Nothing else on our to-do lists matters as much as knowing we were completely obedient to His.” 

I spoke of to-do lists the other day on the blog. They are my jam. I like to get it done. Sometimes, I find myself doing things, being nice, and then asking God to bless the things. 

Ask God what to do first

It’s not the best way to navigate my life. Obedience is asking God what to do first and then expecting Him to show up and guide me. When we are in a close relationship with Jesus, we are in conversation with Him. I think of the day when I die and meet Jesus face to face. I’ll literally be in the middle of a conversation. I won’t need an introduction because we weren’t just acquaintances when I was on earth. Someone won’t have to introduce me like this:

Here’s that freckle face girl who cried a lot and told everyone to adopt kids.

It will be more like:

Picking up a conversation where we left off.

My conversations with Jesus these days

My conversations now are along these lines –

Yep, Jesus, it was super scary when you told me to step out and buy that house in the mountains and then the world kind of went to pieces. You were there with me. We had fun listening to Jennifer Allwood and Joanna Penn podcasts, painting, hanging up pictures, moving furniture, and getting the house ready to be a respite. We did it together. 

And when you asked me to spend money on a course in the middle of our “What if” scenario of financial scariness? Yikes. I did it. Learning a lot. Bundles of scary stuff to do. You’re right here with me, helping me face new challenges creatively. 

More on obedience tomorrow!

In what ways are you moving from acquaintance obedience to close relationship obedience? 

Mistaken Goals for Adults During Quarantine

We’re living in a strange time. There seems to be an emptiness layered with anxiety, it’s a cake we would never order.

Looking for “Normal”

Yesterday when hubby and I got back from the Blackwater River, we did some yard and deck work, arranging furniture, raking the yard, picking up sticks, and it felt so normal.  We like the “normal” feeling so we came inside afterward and hung up some of my book wreaths. We were tempted to keep working after a late dinner. It was nearing 8pm ( my wind-down til bedtime). I think our reason was double fold. We both like to work and we want to get projects finished. Secondly, we like the “normal” feeling. I liked feeling as if all was right with the world as we picked up sticks in our new yard. I like the feeling of finishing a project. The problem? Only working is a mistaken goal. Time is a gift of this season. I’m tempted to squander it on projects instead of people. Squandering time is never satisfying.

Mistaken Goals

I’ve been doing a short series on Facebook and Instagram from How to Have Peace When Your Kids are in Chaos on mistaken goals. It’s easy for kiddos and adults alike to slip into a mistaken goal for this or any season. Since I don’t have anything in our lifetime to compare this COVID 19 season to,  I’m feeling my way through the tunnel. I bump into some walls along the way. I’ve bumped into a few physically, emotionally, and spiritually. 

Give  Choices

A few days ago, I shared the mistaken goal – total control. 

“When a child has had no control over his life and no guarantee that he will be cared for, he will try to exercise control in any war he can. Even as an adult, I often fall into the trap of trying to control my circumstances, so it’s not surprising that kiddos from hard places do the same. 

What can you do to realign this goal? Give choices.”

In the past few days, I gave myself some choices. Are you giving yourself some? Or are you also (raising my hand) working to feel “normal” until you are exhausted and then feeling empty and unsatisfied. Don’t get me wrong. Work is good. Obedience is better. Obedience is gazillion times more satisfying than plain old work. 

I think of a vision of a mama saying, “I sacrificed all my energy and every second of my day so you can have a good meal and a clean home ( worthy of a magazine).”

 Then I hear the scripture echoing in my head:

“Has the Lord as great a delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices

As in obedience to the voice of the Lord?

Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,

And to heed [is better] than the fat of rams.”

I Samuel 15: 22

OUCH. Yep. Why is obedience better than sacrifice? Obedience is about relationship with God and unbroken companionship. Relationship with God without obedience is like saying, “I love you, I’m just not going to do what you ask me to.” Imagine our kiddos saying that to us.

The other day, I was talking to Marcy Holder*, and I shared with her how I keep working way too hard. It’s as if I can’t turn it off. I think I invented my own mistaken goal – I’m not valuable unless I’m working. I’m like a cartoon character who keeps running into a brick wall. Then I stop and say, okay, I’m feeling broken and exhausted. Then I get up and do it again the next day. 

A few weeks ago, I wrote down a to-do list in my Sunday coffee meeting with God. Then I proceeded to work straight through my list until, you guessed it, I hit the wall. I prayed and asked God to show me what was wrong, “God you told me to do all of this? What’s wrong?”

I could hear the whisper of the Holy Spirit say, “Not all in one day.” 

There are no quarantine metals

It’s tempting during this time to think we have to do all the things and do them perfectly. It’s tempting anytime, but more so now. Moms, there’s this invisible pressure to be the most grateful you have ever been, work harder on your home, make the best meals, play all the games, all with the heavy burden of trying to carry it all. We know in our hearts, God is in control. Let’s just be real here. Feelings and truth don’t always agree.  It’s as if I think I’m going to get some sort of prize or medal if I do everything perfectly during the quarantine. Will there be some sort of celebratory ceremony when this all ends? Will I get a medal for most walls painted? Books written? Online workout classes taken? (Asking for myself).

Plant Seeds

I’ve said this several times in the past few weeks, I feel as if this is seed planting time. With that said, we must decide what sorts of seeds we are planting. Obedience? Mistaken goals which will produce mistaken fruit. Pursuing “normal” feelings instead of resting and trusting God is in control? Which seeds are you planting? Apparently, I’m planting a variety pack. 

*Marcy is spiritually-focused personal coach, you can find her here plus she’s a guest on The Whole House Podcast releasing Monday, April 6th.

How will you grieve the quarantine?

How will you grieve the quarantine?

Yesterday, with the sky blue, sun shining, I set out for a walk down to the lake. I’d been outside spray painting a coat rack to repurpose as a purse rack – pink it’s the color I had on hand. I quickly decided my yoga pants weren’t going to be warm enough. The wind up here on the mountain is razor-sharp, it slices through pretty much anything. I changed into jeans (which I seem to wear more now instead of less) and added a few more layers. Then I took off on my walk. Away from our windbreak pines, the wind bit me down to bone. I thought about turning around and heading inside but I didn’t.

What I can control

My thoughts – 

  • Walking outside is something I CAN DO.
  •  It’s something I can control. 
  • I’m a bit uncomfortable but just think how wonderful it will feel to go into a warm house!
  •  My legs are moving. My arms are pumping. I’m listening to one of my favorite podcasts.

I love comfort

Yesterday, I talked about how we have become a society who seeks personal peace and comfort. I am totally raising my hand here. I love comfort. I’m like Goldilocks. I like things just right. Not too hot. Not too cold. Just right. 

It’s just not realistic. Take it from a mama of seven kiddos. Life is not comfortable all the time. Plus we appreciate comfort so much after uncomfortable circumstances. For instance, after my walk, a hot cup of tea, a bowl of chili, and fresh hot cornbread were the ticket.  

The Real Discomfort

Let’s talk about the real discomfort we’re feeling – not just being cold on a walk. The discomfort of putting some projects on the shelf, canceled birthday parties and celebrations, coffee at the local coffee shop, not hugging people, changing the patterns of our days. It’s just darn-right uncomfortable. It’s okay to grieve what we thought our lives would look like at this moment. Or what we thought it would look like in a few months and probably won’t.

Right now I’m sitting in an orange camping chair on the banks of the Blackwater river while my son and husband fish. It’s chilly but the sun is shining. I’m wearing a winter hat, a coat, sweater, flannel shirt, and a tee underneath. I’m pretty comfortable. It’s the first time I’ve been out of my compound, I mean neighborhood, in a few weeks. It’s a fishing trip for the guys and a mental health day for us all.

Confession

Want to know what I did this morning? I sat in my bathroom and cried at the helplessness and lack of control I feel.

  • Not being able to go to Target with my daughter and grandkids.
  • Not being able to “work” at Joe n Throw with my other daughter (our coffee office).
  • Not being able to host family dinners.

I won’t give you the whole list of things I’m grieving. I’m sure you have your own list. Even when we have a list of items and comforts to be grateful for, it’s okay to grieve the loss of things we miss. It’s a season of light and darkness at the same time. 

We should grieve the loss of human connection. It’s what we are created for!

What are you grieving today? What comforts are you looking forward to?

What to do When Your Circumstances aren’t Perfect

This week on The Whole House Podcast I spoke of what do when your circumstances aren’t perfect. Obviously, we have imperfect circumstances right now due to COVID 19 and all economic, physical, emotional, and other side effects. Let’s face it, life is imperfect and it was before all of this happened.

This is a great pivotal point for all of us, we can pivot towards the Lord and wait expectantly for Him to show up or we can shut down, let fear win out, and seek only our personal comfort. I know. There are days I want to hunker down with a book and coffee and just tune out the world. That’s okay for a short while, but God is asking us to trust Him. We need to trust Him to be our strength when we are exhausted with carrying the weight (and the wait) of the world on our shoulders. If you are a creative with a burden bearing personality, you know what I’m talking about. We feel as if we are carrying the burdens of our family, friends, and sometimes the whole world. It’s just to heavy. We can’t expect ourselves to carry the circumstances. We can expect God. Just EXPECT Him.

On the podcast I break down Isaiah 30: 18:

And therefore the Lord [earnestly] waits [expecting, looking, and longing] to be gracious to you; and therefore He lifts Himself up, that He may have mercy on you and show loving-kindness to you. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed (happy, fortunate, to be envied) are all those who [earnestly] wait for Him, who expect and look and long for Him [for His victory, His favor, His love, His peace, His joy, and His matchless, unbroken companionship.”

PERSONAL PEACE AND COMFORT

Our society is big on personal peace. I’m not talking about not engaging in a war or conflict. Frances Schaeffer speaks of this concept in How Should We Then Live? It’s the ideology of peace and affluence for oneself. We live in an age when many of us have every earthly item we need to make us comfortable. We can hunker down with our Netflix, our Keurig, some chocolate, and all the toilet paper we have (if we were lucky enough to get any). All of our comforts give us a false sense of sufficiency. Of course, for many of us, the foundation of sufficiency is tottering like an old dead tree, ready to fall in the slightest gust of wind.

WHAT DO WE DO?

Our circumstances aren’t perfect. We don’t have complete control. How do we handle things when things feel out of control? The truth is much of our life isn’t in our control, to begin with. We practice a sort of pseudo control, making lists, planning our days, checking items off our list, and taking credit for it along the way. Some days that works just fine, but what about the days that we have no say. We don’t know how to move forward and we are stuck in survival mode.

I share many more tips on the podcast, you can listen below, but let me leave you with this – if you are a control freak (like me), there is something in your control – your expectations. When you expect God to intervene, to guide you, to comfort you, and you seek relationship instead of personal comfort, He promises to show up. Not only does He promise to show up, but He’s also been expecting, waiting, longing,  to be gracious to you. He wants to give you grace!