Finding Peace

Love Note

I had just settled into the driver’s seat and was pulling the seat belt across my shoulder when my phone buzzed.  Before backing out of my garage, I glanced down at the screen.  It showed a text from a friend who lived in a different city.  We didn’t talk that often, so I was immediately intrigued.

The message said “God put you on my heart this morning and led me to pray….”  I smiled but stopped there thinking I would read the rest later.  My youngest daughter and I were hurrying to an appointment, and my focus was consumed with arriving on time.

It’s certainly nice that she’s praying.  She has no idea what is going on today with me, but I’m feeling pretty good right now.  I can’t wait to get this over with.  I wonder, do I need extra prayer right now?  Does she know something I don’t know?

Then I quickly shoved it all to the back of my mind for future contemplation.

You see, we were on our way to a local elementary school for a comprehensive assessment and evaluation by the school’s psychologist.  This is something that my husband and I had known was coming for the last several months.  We had delayed it once, trying to give our daughter time undergo and recover from a minor surgery.  Then it had been delayed a 2nd time due to an unexpected school closing (due to illness) a few weeks ago.

The time for this event had FINALLY arrived.  And our youngest daughter was ready to be evaluated… I hoped.  Certainly, I was ready to know what issues we might be dealing with concerning her apparent learning delays and struggles.

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Fast forward to a little over an hour later, and I found myself feeling rather differently.  I had just completed a verbal questionnaire with what seemed like a gazillion questions that seemed to clarify the fact that my daughter was truly struggling in some areas.

These same feelings of grief, sorrow, and complete vulnerability had hit me at her annual speech/language IEP meeting back in the fall of last year.

It’s really hard to describe the intensity of this environment.  The rawest of maternal emotions are triggered when you are asked numerous, exhaustive questions by almost-strangers concerning the areas of your child’s weaknesses.

When you answer these questions OUT LOUD, the difficulties become concrete.  Declaring with your mouth has an imitable effect.  It takes the knowledge from your mind and brings it into the deepest places of your heart and being.

The professionals who conduct these meetings aren’t mean or cruel.  They are polite, kind, even sympathetic, and thank goodness they are thorough.  The process itself is just brutal.

So as I sat in that swivel chair waiting for my daughter’s portion to finish, I felt wrung out.  In an effort to quiet my swirling emotions and stifle the tears that threatened to spill over, I dug my phone out of my purse.  I began to sort through my unread texts when I saw the one from my friend.  I clicked to open the whole message.  It said:

“God put you on my heart this morning and led me to pray Matthew 11:25-30.  Be childlike and in rest dear friend.”

Childlike.  It instantly struck a chord within me.

During that evaluation, I had let the weight of my youngest daughter’s future press down on me.  I had been analyzing and thinking about all the things I could have and should have been doing differently.  I didn’t even have the evaluation results or a diagnosis, yet I was immediately jumping to the worst case scenarios and trying to mentally work out my next 5 action steps.

Instead of Simple, Innocent, Trusting and Uncomplicated, I had defaulted to Anxious, Pessimistic, Doubting, and Worried.

I opened the bible app on my phone to the verses she mentioned.  They were not new to me.  I had read and studied them many times over.

At that time Jesus prayed this prayer: “O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, thank you for hiding these things from those who think themselves wise and clever, and for revealing them to the childlike. Yes, Father, it pleased you to do it this way!

“My Father has entrusted everything to me. No one truly knows the Son except the Father, and no one truly knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”

Despite the familiarity of the passage, its words connected with me instantly.  I felt like I was reading a love note from my Heavenly Father.  It was so timely, so personal, and  precisely what I needed.

How could my friend have known this?  She didn’t.  She couldn’t have.  But God knew, and she listened to Him.   

My mental gymnastics halted.  I began relaxing into God’s gentle care of my youngest daughter.  I let Him lift the burdens from my heart and mind.  I placed this entire situation back into His hands, and I immediately felt secure, cared for, loved, and protected.

I read the verses again.  I noticed that He was also reminding me that our human powers of intellect could be detrimental to success in God’s kingdom.  The Father reveals things to those who are childlike- meaning trusting, enthusiastic, unsophisticated, uncomplicated.  It was like He was saying to me:

Jennifer, your daughter can and will be effective in MY kingdom.  It’s the one that really matters and will never pass away.  Isn’t that what is important to you, after all? 

Yes, Abba Daddy, you’re right.  You’re so right.

A few silent tears rolled down my cheeks, not from grief and sorrow, but instead from thankfulness and joy.

My perspective had done a 180-degree turn in just a few short minutes.  I sent my friend a text saying how much I appreciated her prayers.  I thanked her for listening to the Holy Spirit and sending me that message.  What a blessing she had been in that moment!

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So let me ask you, what situation are you facing today that could be entrusted to our loving Heavenly Father?  Could you benefit from releasing your worries, fears, and doubts?  Would you be willing to take those steps of trust necessary to find rest for your soul?

My prayer for you, dear reader, is that you would make that trade: Your heavy junk in exchange for His light and easy.  May God grant you the grace to entrust Him with the hard things.  Release that anxiety and receive His exquisite peace that saturates the deepest recesses of your mind and emotions.

It’s a good trade.

Finding True Purpose

Living Vibrantly

It’s that time of year when many of us go on diets, begin exercise plans, and set new health goals.  For some of us this new mindset will be the beautiful beginning of a lasting lifestyle, but for others it is rather short-lived.  Or maybe you’re like me, and you haven’t even started that dieting process yet.  Tomorrow is another day, right!?!  I know, I know, there’s no time like the present.  Arghhh.

Anyway, this is my VERY FIRST blog post (insert all the feels here: equal portions of excitement, terror, vulnerability, joy, and anticipation).  My blog title was chosen because I’m passionate about living not just well or healthfully, but VIBRANTLY.  Thank you for stopping by to read it, and I hope you visit again.

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Recently my husband was completing an annual health survey for his medical sharing plan when he encountered this surprising question: “I apply some of my talents and time in the voluntary service of others.”  The survey required him to mark 1 of the 3 multiple choice answers that indicated the extent to which the above statement described him.

You might be asking yourself why a medical sharing plan (which meets the same objectives as health insurance) would be concerned with whether its participants volunteer their time to serve others.  How could serving (or not serving) possibly impact one’s health and wellness?

For that answer let’s turn our attention to two geographical bodies of water in the Middle East:  The Dead Sea and the Sea of Galilee.   Found in the nation of Israel, both the Dead Sea and the Sea of Galilee are really lakes, and surprisingly, they are both fed by the same freshwater source, the Jordan River.  They both are very similar in elevation and have existed for many thousands of years.  They are also both referred to multiple times in the Bible, but that is pretty much where the similarities end.

The Dead Sea is known as a “hyper” saline body of water with percentages of sodium chloride and other salty minerals that far exceed those found in the ocean.  This salinity makes it completely uninhabitable for fish and other animals.  Even the banks of the Dead Sea are completely barren and resemble that of a desert.  There are no trees, grasses, or flowers that grow on the banks or naturally in the immediate areas surrounding it.  It is quite literally dead.

On the other hand, the Sea of Galilee is a freshwater body that absolutely teems with life.  Its various flora and fauna have supported a significant commercial fishery for over two thousand years now.  When you view pictures of the banks of the Galilee, you see an abundance of healthy trees, green grasses, brightly-colored flowers and other various types of plant life.  It’s absolutely gorgeous with splashes of green on its perimeter in stark contrast to the deep blue color of the water.

So, how is it possible that two lakes which are both fed by the same fresh water from the Jordan River could have such a vastly opposite ecology?  This is the difference.  The Jordan River flows into the Sea of Galilee from the north and then flows out the Sea of Galilee southward, continuing on as a river.  This Sea has an outlet of equal measure.  It receives and gives, and it lives.

The Dead Sea, however, has no outlet streams.  Every single drop that flows in from the Jordan River stays put.  Water flows in but not out.  It receives and keeps, and it is dead.

So back to the question on my husband’s health survey.  How can serving (or not serving) impact one’s health and well-being?  The answer is that we, as believers, are very similar to the two seas.  God himself is our source, and he has given us a generous measure of unique gifts, talents, abilities and passions.  When we use what He has given us in the service of others, we find joy, purpose, energy, and excitement, an abundant life.

But when we greedily hoard our God-given gifts, talents, and abilities, telling ourselves that we will wait to use them until we have the perfect set of conditions in our lives and schedules, our days will lack luster, and we will find ourselves consumed with trivial interests that don’t bring true fulfillment.

I remember a season of my life, 9 years ago, in which I was not serving anywhere.  I was in the throes of new motherhood, staying at home for the first time in my adult life with a very demanding infant.  My gifts and abilities had no other outlet, and I was desperately searching for significance.  When my firstborn was a little over a year old, I settled on a new fitness goal, thinking this would bring me the meaning and recognition I craved.  I worked hard, using self-control and gritty determination to reach it.

I keenly remember the short-lived feeling of satisfaction that came when I achieved that goal: running and finishing my very first half marathon.  It was a good goal.  Fitness is important for physical health.  But I also remember the vague and inexplicable feeling of disappointment that came so quickly on the heels of this achievement.  “What next?”, I thought.  The “high” of accomplishment only last a few days, and then I needed something else, bigger and better, to bring me that feeling again.

It would be a few more years before I began to realize that pouring into others is what would bring authentic and lasting fulfillment into my life. Proverbs 11:25 tells us, “The generous will prosper; those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed.”

Have you found true fulfillment in God’s purposes for your life?  Will you allow Him to stretch you to serve beyond your own capacity so that you can be refreshed in a lasting and significant way?  What can you do today to become more like the Sea of Galilee, with Christ’s gifts and blessings flowing in and out, in equal measure?

Pray:  Father God, I want to let you flow through me to serve others.  Please open my eyes to the opportunities around me.  Allow me to be stretched, so that I can be empowered by you to do things beyond my own capacity.

Note:  This post is an expanded version of my daily read, originally published here.