You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
Psalms 16:11 NKJV
Sitting here, listening to worship music, watching my children play, journaling my thoughts, prayers, and thanksgiving to the Lord.
This is it. This is peace. This is joy. To be able to soak in these moments and just be. No distractions. No worries. No racing thoughts.
This is what I pray for, what I look forward to, but as a mom it often seems impossible to achieve. Even when my circumstances allow it, my mind just won’t let me be.
For so long peace seems unattainable, but right here, right now, even for just a moment it is possible and I am grateful.
And it all started with thanksgiving.
Filling my heart with joy as I list every blessing the Lord has provided. The longer my list grows, the more my heart fills and the words to these songs have a deeper meaning in my life.
This is my worship. And it is not just something I do, but it brings me closer to my Father. My awareness of His presence grows and I am filled with Living Water once again.
These are the moments that I long for, the ones I’ve spent years chasing after, trying whatever formula I could find to make it happen. Yet all this time I was missing what was right in front of me, something so simple, but often overlooked.
“The practice of giving thanks…eucharisteo…this is the way we practice the presence of God, stay present to His presence, and it is always a practice of the eyes. We don’t have to change what we see. Only the way we see.”
Ann Voskamp (One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are)
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Hebrews 12:1-2 NIV
I’ve spent my whole life fighting the lie of “enough,” feeling the constant pressure to perform to a perceived standard. Despite knowing how impossible it is to live up to these expectations I still find myself repeatedly falling into the comparison trap, looking around to determine the way I should live.
Looking at neighbors to see how my house should be. Looking at other mothers to see how to raise my children. Looking at the achievements of coworkers to determine whether I was a good pharmacist.
But Jesus looked at them and said, “With people [as far as it depends on them] it is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
Matthew 19:26 AMP
I set my goals with every intention of meeting them.
I plan what days and times I would set aside to accomplish those goals.
I spend all week getting to this moment, to this time that I’ve set aside to honor the commitment I’ve made to God.
I prepare my space. Get all of my tools together. Put on calming music to allow myself to focus, making sure everything that could possiblly distract are taken care of before I begin.
Finally, I am here. Ready to write about all of the lessons that I have learned throughout my week.
Day-by-day I am changing and growing and my desire is to share with others what the Lord is doing in my life in the hopes that they too will experience this life-giving, life-changing relationship.
I take out my tablet, my notebook and a pen and I’m ready to let it all out.
But nothing happens. No words come. Everything that I’ve learned remains stuck in my brain and I’m struggling to find it.
Anxiety builds. I’m watching the clock. I only have this window to take all of the revelation and get it down, but nothing comes and the time is ticking.
The blank screen stares back at me. The cursor blinking rhythmically, reminding me of every passing second.
Frustration builds. My time will soon come to an end and another week will pass before I can try again.
I pull out my journal and begin to write out my thoughts, write out my prayers and I am reminded that I am not doing this on my own.
God is with me and we are on this writing journey together. I am just the vessel through which His message is released into the world.
Since I’ve begun writing. Since I’ve made the committment, setting aside this time to write, the Lord has been faithful, allowing me to accomplish my goals.
Despite all of the unexpected interruptions to my writing time and all of the times I’ve struggled to focus, as long as I’ve remained obedient to this calling, the Lord has come through.
When I give it to God. When I allow the pressure to come off of me and bring my writing to Him, reminding myself of His faithfulness, I relax.
When I rely on my own strength, it is a fight to write, but when I depend on God, suddenly all things are possible and the words begin to flow.
For it is [not your strength, but it is] God who is effectively at work in you, both to will and to work [that is, strengthening, energizing, and creating in you the longing and the ability to fulfill your purpose] for His good pleasure.
I was living on auto-pilot. Racing to keep up with the endless demands of life as a full-time working parent. I knew I was not living in peace, constantly fighting just to keep my head above water, yet helplessly unable to change my circumstances.
Then the world stopped.
Life as we knew it ceased.
Everything closed like an extended snow day.
All of the racing, rushing and distractions were taken away and at first there was anxiety and fear, but as time went on in our frozen state, I noticed something change.
I found myself able to catch my breath, the fresh oxygen making it’s way to my brain and my vision began to clear. As I eased into this new way of life, without the rushing and the distractions, a new awareness surfaced.
What truly mattered, my relationship with God, my husband, my children, my family and quality time spent with all of them finally took it’s rightful place in my heart. The 20/20 vision that I was praying for took place in the midst of a pandemic.
COVID-19 took away many good things and 2020 was a tough year for all, some much more than others, but it also took away the distractions, forcing us to focus on what mattered most.
Now as life has taken on a new normal, I find myself being pulled back into the busy rush that I know all too well and I catch myself longing for that extended snow day once again, but the Lord has opened my eyes once again.
I no longer have to rely on external forces to slow down and catch my breath. I have the power to live that way right here, right now by living with an observant heart, taking note of all that He has placed in front of me.
It is time to stop.
Stop the racing, stop the rushing.
Turn off the news, get off of social media.
Leave the laundry in the dryer, the dirty dishes in the sink.
Stop focusing on the negative circumstances and the parts of my life that are out of my control.
Tune out all of the noise and refocus my attention.
It is time to take note of what I have, saying it out loud or taking out a pen and making a list.
Thank you, Lord.
It is time to count my blessings. One by one. The ones that are obvious and the ones that I may need to search a little harder for.
Thank you, Lord
It is time to recalibrate my heart, slowing down long enough to thank God for everything He has given me so that I may once again dwell in His presence.
It took a pandemic to get me there, but now it’s up to me to stay.
You can pass through his open gates with the password of praise. Come right into his presence with thanksgiving. Come bring your thank offering to him and affectionately bless his beautiful name!
My daughter recently discovered Minecraft. It has become somewhat of an obsession for her and I can understand why she likes it so much. Like me, my daughter is drawn to activities that allow her to create, whether it is coloring, drawing or more recently building things in Minecraft.
One thing that drives me crazy when watching her play is she has this habit of aiming the camera down. I insist repeatedly that she look up in order to see what is around her and I realize that it is a lesson for my own life.
If you had to describe the year 2020 with one word, what would it be?
For me, that word would be…ANXIETY.
The year started out just as any other, full of hope for what a new year would bring and this year was extra special as it was the beginning of a new decade. My husband and I were overjoyed with the news that we would be expecting our third child in the fall and we were full of excitement and anticipation of what was to come, but then life as we knew it ceased to exist.
The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned… For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Isaiah 9:2, 6 NIV
I have my calendar marked for December 21st at sunset. I’m hoping to catch a glimpse of what is being described as the “Christmas Star of 2020.” It’s not actually a star but Jupiter and Saturn so close together in the sky that it will look like a giant star.
Normally these things are just something cool to witness, but I believe this one phenomenon, on this particular day of this year has an extra special significance.
Many are ready for this year to be over. Ready to ring in the new year and get a fresh start in 2021.
And while I am hopeful that 2021 will bring an end to this COVID season, I am excited to see something happening during 2020 that I believe is much needed.
This year has been filled with so much darkness and so much loss.
The loss of freedom. The loss of traditions and milestones. The loss of income. The loss of family members and friends. The loss of trust. The loss of hope.
But at the end of a year filled with darkness, on the darkest night of that year, days before the celebration of the birth of our Savior, I believe the Lord is providing us with a gift, a symbol of hope.
After hearing the king, they went their way; and behold, the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them [continually leading the way] until it came and stood over the place where the young Child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.
Matthew 2:9-10 AMP
In the midst of uncertainty of the future. In the midst of difficult circumstances we too can choose to behold the star. Like the Magi, we can rejoice because the star reminds us that as followers of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the light of the world, we have the light of life (John 8:12). We do not have to fear darkness because it will not overcome the light (John 1:5).
Though we may not know what is going to happen in the immediate future, we know the end of the story. God wins. The enemy loses. There will come a time when there will be no more darkness because the light of God will shine on us forever and ever (Revelation 22:5).
This “Christmas Star” is a reminder that there is hope in a world filled with hopelessness. And that hope is Jesus, the hope of the world (Matthew 12:21).