Growth: Slow and Steady Progress

Here we are at the bright, shiny (and very cold!) beginning of the new year–2018. I cannot begin to describe the ups and downs that our family experienced in 2017, but I can say with certainty that we are happy we came through it all. We are stronger, closer, and I pray, more faithful now than we were when the year began. It was a year of hardship and testing, of waiting, of uncertainty, and of more waiting. We received many blessings and many of our prayers were answered in amazing ways. Other prayers still wait for answers, but that gives us something to look forward to in the year to come, does it not?!

I have been away from the blog for a couple of weeks, not intentionally, but because I have been spending a lot of my free time thinking and planning and writing in my journal. My thoughts have needed time to sit and soak before I could put them into words. Even now as I sit down to write this post, I am hesitant to put my thoughts into print because I am still in the process of sorting things out in my mind. Still, I wanted to begin writing some things here, partly for accountability, partly just so you all would know I am still alive over here!

If you happen to have come to Tuning Hearts from my old blog, then you may remember that a couple of years ago I jumped on the “Word of the Year” bandwagon. I don’t actually remember if I chose a word for 2017, though. And if I did, it probably should have just been “Survive” because that pretty well sums up what I felt like I did all year! But this year is going to be different. This year we are going to thrive!

Recently, through various social media channels, I found out about Lara Casey’s Goal Setting blog series. Even though I had already started planning and sketching out some goals for 2018, I decided to try her steps as outlined in the series. Can I just tell you how glad I am that I did this? Lara’s posts have inspired and challenged me to think even more deeply about the changes I hope to see in my life and in the life of our family in the future. And the best part of all her steps (for me, at least) has been the forward-thinking nature of goal setting. She challenges her readers not just to think about what they want to accomplish in 2018, but who they want to be when they are 80 years old. When you frame your plans and goals in light of who you want to be when you come to the end of your life, it really changes your perspective! Now instead of thinking just about how my goals and desires can help me “do better” in certain areas of my life,  I am thinking about what I should pursue to become the person that God wants me to be and how that will affect my family, friends, church and community as well!

The hopes that I have for 2018, the changes I want to make, all point to this one theme: growing what I have already been given. The Lord has been good to me. He has set me on a path, and I am moving forward. He has given me a strong foundation. Now I need to keep on track and grow in the things that He has set before me to do. I need personal growth, relational growth, growth in my work and in my habits and in my recreation. I never want to stop learning and growing and becoming more of who God wants me to be. I do not want to stagnate.

I know there is hard work ahead.  A lot of my goals are going to require a good deal of self-control and discipline to accomplish. But I also know that it will be well worth it if I keep moving steadily forward. I am not expecting or chasing after perfection here. I am just looking for progress. I am aiming for small improvements over the course of each day, each week and each month, until at the end of year I can look back and see a track record of steady growth.

In another post, I will talk more in depth about some or all of my goals. At this point, I am still fleshing some of them out, so I am not ready to write about them yet. So be looking for that post later this week! Until then, I would love to hear if you have a word or phrase that you are going to focus on in 2018. What do you want to see God do in your life this year? Tell me about it in the comments below! Let’s cheer each other on and keep each other accountable to keep moving forward and doing the next right thing!

Heart Work: Letting God Perform Spiritual Surgery

Has God ever invited you to undergo spiritual surgery? Maybe you were listening to a sermon on an average Sunday morning, when a certain word or phrase the pastor spoke struck you. Then later on you read something in a book or on a blog that addressed the same idea and kept you thinking about it the rest of the day. A few days later, you were driving around listening to a favorite podcast, when the guest mentioned dealing with the same thing that you have been mulling over all week. I am sure I am not the only one who has experiences like this, when it becomes abundantly clear that the Lord is speaking to you about a specific issue or area of your life. The question is, what do we do when we feel the Lord prompting us to listen?

I have had some recent experience like this, and as tempting as it is to just say, “Oh, yes, Lord, I know I need to think about that, but I’m pretty busy right now,” I know that cannot be my response. God has been speaking to me about some deeply significant heart issues that need healing and transformation. If I want true change, I am going to have to do the work alongside Him. I need to deal with the sin, the pain, and the ugliness so that I can experience the sanctification, the healing, and the joy on the other side.

The thing is, it is hard to open up, even to my loving God, and let Him shine the light on my darkest parts. It would be easier to just put a spiritual bandaid on it and pretend I’m doing fine. Listen to some upbeat worship music, commit to more Bible memory or more service at church, any busy work to keep from dealing with what is really wrong. But then the cancer of my sin and Satan’s lies are just going to keep growing and taking deeper root. No, I can’t let that happen. Not this time. The Lord has been speaking to me, and I am going to take the time to listen, to seek His will. It will hurt, I know, but I am willing to let Him do some serious spiritual surgery. I need His Truth to cut through those lies that have taken up residence in my mind and heart. I need the water of the Word to wash my heart and refresh my weary soul. I am ready for Him to do some deep heart work so I can experience deep healing. How about you?

Trusting the Author: #Write31Days Day 6

I have have been keeping up with the 31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes, but not all of them have been worthy of posting for various reasons. I am also writing them all out long hand, which means they are all pretty short. I could probably type faster and write more. But I feel like it is a good exercise for me to have to be very concise since my time is so limited. This post is from yesterday’s prompt, but I only got around to doing it today. We will see if I get any better at staying on schedule next week! 

When I read this prompt, Francesca Battistelli’s song “Write Your Story” immediately came to mind. But then quickly following that thought came the question, “What if I don’t like the plot twists in this story He is writing, this story of my life?” Truth be told, I sometimes have a hard time accepting my role in this story. So how can I learn to accept His plans and trust that it fits into His greater anthology of human history and eternal destiny? It doesn’t do me any good to fight it. He is the Author, after all. I only make myself (and everyone around me) miserable when I try to fight against Him.

I must remember that the Author loves me. He takes delight in me. He is for me. He even says He “works for the good of this who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28, NIV) I know He has called me to be used by Him, so I believe He can use even the hard, broken parts of my story, not just the easy, lovely ones, for His purposes. All I have to do is surrender to Him and let Him write the healing, too.

This post is part of the annual 31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes Challenge, part of the Write 31 Days challenge with prompts from Five Minute Fridays. Find all my other challenge posts under the tag #Write31Days

This post is also part of the Five Minute Friday Link-up

How Can We Tell Them? #Write31Days Day 2

Yesterday my son wondered why there was a police officer on duty at the church we attended. Today he overheard a video on Instagram referring to the tragedy in Las Vegas last night. On both occasions I had to tell my son that there are some bad people doing bad things in our world today. We are not even safe at church, perhaps less so, actually. It is so hard to have these conversations with my children. I want to shield them from the hard, scary realities of these times in which we live. But they need to know the truth.

Even more, they need to know the truth that we can still trust God to take care of us, that we can have hope in Him. They need me to tell them the stories of faithful ones gone before us who stood firm in their faith amidst trials. They need me to tell them about the God who parted the Red Sea, who stopped the sun, who raised the dead to life. They need me to tell them about the hope we have in the saving grace of Jesus Christ. Because when hard times come, when evil seems to be winning, that hope is all they will have. And then they can in turn, tell others about that Hope as well.

This post is part of the annual 31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes Challenge, part of the Write 31 Days challenge with prompts from Five Minute Fridays. Find all my other challenge posts under the tag #Write31Days.

Faithful with the Small Things

 

Do you ever wonder if what you are doing really matters, if the mundane tasks of everyday motherhood and married life are really of any eternal consequence? I do. Sometimes I get to looking around at women who have big, visible ministries with nation, even international platforms. I see them making a big impact on the lives of thousands of women through speaking, writing, singing, teaching, etc. Then I look at the sink full of dishes and hear my toddler dumping a bin of legos in the other room while her brother yells at her to stop, and I think, “Is this it? Does this repetitive, monotonous work of child training and housework and homeschooling really make much of a difference at all in the world?”

A radical life for Christ is not always visible to outside eyes.  ~Sally Clarkson, Own Your Life

Yes, I have chosen this role as a wife and mother, and I do feel called to stay at home and teach my children full time, but there is still that nagging little voice that tells me that this is not enough, that I should be doing more, or doing better, at the very least. After all, I have a Bible college training and a degree. I could be teaching more than basic math facts and proper table manners. But then, there is another small voice that speaks to my hearts, this time gently and softly, and He says, “This is what I have for you to do right now. Do it well. Love these children. Teach them with humility and diligence. Love and support your husband, encouraging him daily. Be faithful in these seemingly small things, my child. They matter to me.”

His master said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.”  ~‭‭Matthew‬ ‭25:23‬ ‭ESV‬‬

I am reminded then that it is not about what the world sees, or what even the modern church sees, as successful ministry. It is about being obedient and faithful in what He gives me to do today, and every day. It is about being willing to do whatever He leads me to do, great or small. It is not about being seen or being recognized for what I do.

It’s not about the size of the serve. It’s the willingness to do what he asks.  ~Suzanne Eller, Come With Me

My role as a wife and mother is about being Jesus’ hands and feet to my family. My ministry is like that of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet. It is not glamorous or even well-respected in society. It is dirty and tiring and mundane. But I have the opportunity to show my children the love and grace of God in how I discipline and serve and teach them each day. And if these two precious little souls are the only two I ever can reach with the gospel of Christ, then so be it. I am following the Shepherd who went looking for the one that was lost and rejoiced greatly when it was found.

In God’s economy, the thousands are just as important as the few.
The few are just as important as the one.
The one is why He came.
Because He cares.
~Suzanne Eller, Come With Me

Maybe someday the Lord will add to my ministry and enlarge my circle of influence to extend beyond my family or even my local church. But for now I need to learn to be faithful in the small things, so that when He wants to give me bigger things, I will be strong and prepared to handle them well. I pray I will learn to be His obedient and gracious servant, to be a reflection of Christ in both the monotonous and the monumental tasks He sends my way.

For more information on authors mentioned in this post, see Sally Clarkson’s website, her book Own Your Life, or Suzanne Eller’s website and her book Come With Me. (Amazon links are affiliate links, so if you click through them and make a purchase, I will receive a small commision, at no extra expense to you. This helps support the blog, so thank you for your help!)