Featured Friday: What Everybody Ought to Know About Vacation

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Vacation is coming up for me and hubs soon. So, this post by Emily Freeman was much needed. Thought it may encourage you fellow vacationers, too. Originally posted here
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You’ve had the dates marked on the calendar for months by now. Maybe you’ve put down a deposit, bought plane tickets, or simply reserved a shelter at a campsite. No matter how fancy or regular your vacation is, chances are you intend to take one over the next few months.

While you google your way through Disney tips and take notes on how best to pack your suitcase, here are a few good reminders for your soul as you prepare for your vacation.

1. Vacation is more mindset than destination.

You know it’s true because you’ve heard moms yell at their kids on the beach. And also you’vebeen the mom yelling at your kids on the beach.

You’ve had a grumpy old man tell you off for taking his chair on the deck of a cruise ship in the middle of a Caribbean paradise. 

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If all we needed was a great destination in order to take a real vacation, then everyone on vacation would be happy, peaceful, and good.

But you’ve felt the deep sadness in the sunshine. You know the worries that follow you to the shore. No matter where you go, the list-making, future-looking, failure-rehearsing whir can follow you.

It isn’t the place that brings peace. Only Jesus can do that.

This can be a relief rather than a burden, because it means we don’t need fancy to take a real rest.

2. Vacation starts on Tuesday.

We tend to think vacation is like a week-long Saturday. And it kind of is. But the best vacations start on the regular Tuesday before you leave, the one you spend at home doing laundry, the one where you are packing your bag and preparing your heart for what’s to come.

Walk outside your front door and let the sun highlight your hair today.

Let the minutes pass as you sit and watch the little ones play.

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Stand with your feet in the grass and your face to the wind, close your eyes and breathe in deep. The gifts are waiting quiet in small places. Pause to see them. Pick them up and turn them over. Discover the beauty of slow right where you are.

Because if you can’t settle in to your real life, you won’t be able to settle in on vacation.

3. Maybe stop trying to take a vacation and instead, let your vacation take you.

In other words, let your vacation be what it wants to be rather than you forcing it to be something it isn’t.

Before I leave for vacation I tend to make big plans in my mind: we’ll see this, we’ll eat that, we’ll explore there. I even go beyond events and move into experience: the kids will love this, that meal will be romantic, this night we’ll connect. I will feel rested, lovely, and free!

And then I wonder why two days into vacation I’m grumpy, overly sensitive, and just want to be alone.

All vacations are not created equal. A weekend with girlfriends is different from a weekend with my extended family and all of our kids. It helps to hold all plans with an open hand and move to the relational rhythm of the group I’m with.

Low on expectations, high on love.

4. Your vacation wants you to know that rest takes courage.

Whether you are headed to the coast or if the only vacation you get this year is Saturday and Sunday at home, it’s good to remember that rest doesn’t always come easy. Sometimes it only comes after a fight. The fight isn’t against a person, but an idea — the idea you have in your head that to rest is lazy, useless, or a waste of your time.

You have to fight for rest, and sometimes the fight looks like sitting on the rug with a deck of cards or starting at the ocean for no good reason or sitting by the window without a to-do list in your hand.

Spend a little time letting the sea smooth out the jagged edges that have formed within and around you. Let the salt burn the wounds, let the sand rub off the dead skin, let the nighttime hold you still and quiet until the first light of morning shows up with all her promises.

Let your vacation be a gift, not an expectation. Open hands, light touch, kind heart.

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What About You Wednesday | My Mom

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Today is very special as we welcome someone very dear to my heart! In honor of this being her first week of retirement, and her 30th wedding anniversary being June 22nd, today we are welcome my mom to the blog. Let’s step into her season…  

What season of life do you currently find yourself in?

“Encounters generally begin with, “Hello!”   They end with “Good-Bye.”     In the past years, however, my experience has been the reverse: “Good-Bye….followed by “Hello.”

As a parent, releasing your children to college and beyond is one, big tearful “Good-Bye.” (It’s bigger than the tearful good-bye at the Kindergarten door!) Obviously, it is not a permanent departing, but the change of the parent/child relationship.   From the day of his/her birth, a parent’s objective is to prepare that child for adulthood, for that step into maturity, for that day of departure.   As they leave for college or career, it is time for letting go and saying good bye.   The next goodbye is far bigger and more permanent (because, somehow, once they leave for college or career, they always seem to find their way home again)!   When God brings that man or woman into your son or daughter’s life as a marriage partner, and you are sitting at the wedding listening to them repeat their vows of commitment for life, let me tell you, that’s one very HUGE good bye!

All of the good-byes have been followed by joyous hellos! HELLO to the new college friends and roommates. How enriching to share in the lives of godly young people who mean so much to your child.   HELLO to the wonderful man who loves your daughter and has chosen to care for and nurture her for the rest of her life. HELLO to the precious young woman who has brought out all the wonderful qualities you always knew were part of your son. Anticipating the joining of their lives in marriage is a great hello.

As a daughter I have said good-bye to my dear father. He waits in heaven for mom. Certainly it won’t be long until we say our earthly good-bye to her, too.   With those good-byes is the promise of the greatest HELLO imaginable when my Savior says to me as well, “Welcome Home!”

As a wife I say goodbye to 30 years of memories and experiences, and hello to the years ahead with the amazing man from Killyleagh, Northern Ireland, that God chose to be my husband.

As the student data specialist at an elementary school, I have said good-bye to students, their families, my colleagues and friends of twenty years. Walking through the cafeteria on that final day, it became so real. I was saying good-bye to the career and life I had known for so long.   Good-byes are so often accompanied by tears of joy and sadness.

However, I now say HELLO to opportunities that are yet unknown. There is a sense of great freedom and anticipation of the next years of my life. The possibilities for service and “hello” are endless.”

What is God teaching you/revealing to you during this season?

“God is faithful to His promises. He said there would always be summer, winter, spring and harvest. There would always be seasons.   Each season of the year is marked by very distinct qualities. The trees, the sun, the animals all have an inner sense that it is time for the change. (Don’t we sense it, too?) How boring if everything stayed the same! We would miss the breath-taking beauty of the spring blossoms, the warm healing of the summer sun, the crackle and rustling of brown and yellow and red leaves underfoot, and the awe-inspiring splendor of a winter storm.   I am grateful that we experience seasons in our individual lives. We need the changes that the years and circumstances bring. We grow and stretch and learn and serve in different ways.   We say good-bye…but then we say hello again!   God has shown me that we “know” when it is time for the season to change.”

How have you/are you changing in this season?

“I’m relaxing! It still seems just like “summer vacation” from school. I’m sure the season of “retirement” will be more definable when school starts again.   I’m not panicking about what I am going to do with my time.   I normally want it all planned out and organized, but I’m learning to slow down. “In His Time” the steps will be made clear.   I know that retirement is God’s will for now. I frequently remind my daughter of the truth of a song that says God has a will. Our need is to rest in it, nest in it, fully be blessed in it. I’m trying to take my own advice! I’m anticipating all those new hellos!”

What encouragement would you share with someone in a similar season?

“Say good-bye to your children with open arms!   They need to know that you have confidence in them and that you are always there for wisdom, advice and support. Empty nest is really not bad. It’s a good season!  (And for you children, don’t forget pa and ma! Include them in your texting and emailing and make a phone call to each of them once in a while. Introduce them to your friends. Ask their advice. It makes a parent still feel needed J)

Thinking of retirement. Everyone told me, “You will know when it is time.” And you will!   As you prayerfully ask God to show you His will, He will make it very evident to you and will confirm, “This is the way; walk in it.”

A Prayer for My Mom…

 “Heavenly Father, thank You so much for giving me the perfect mom for me. Thank You that I can also call her my sister in Christ. Thank You for the season You have her in. Thank You for being aware of her and with her in this season. Thank You for the example she has been to me of a woman who fears You, seeks You, knows Your Word, and finds her strength in You. Thank You for the wisdom, support, unconditional love, patience, encouragement, and sacrifice she has shown me over the years. Thank You that when I had no friends and felt like I didn’t fit in, for giving me a friend in my mom. Thank You for giving her the perseverance to never give up on her children. Thank You for revealing Yourself to me through my mom. Thank You for the many lives she has touched in the many roles she has played. Thank You for the way she has honored her mother and father. Thank You for giving her the gift of hospitality and administration, things she has passed along to me. Thank You for enabling her to let me go. God, I pray that You would continue to reveal Yourself to my mom in new ways. I pray that her relationship with You would continue to flourish. I pray that as she slows down and seeks what You would have next for her, that she will be willing to do whatever You may have her do to further Your Kingdom. I pray that you will continue to help her release control and her desire to always to know the plan, and increase her trust, as she rests and nests in Your blessed plan. I pray that her and my dad would enjoy this new, sweet season of marriage, and learn even more of Your love through it. I pray that You would give my mom sweet friendships in this season. I pray that You would provide women younger than her for her to invest in. I pray that as she lets go, she will continue to hold onto Your promises. God, as our family grows, may my mom (and the rest of us) embrace new memories and traditions, while still treasuring the past. May my mom continue to see hellos and goodbyes as gifts of grace. May my mom never forget how much I love her, and that You love her even more. In Your Faithful Name, Amen.”

What About You Wednesday | Brittney

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Today we welcome Brittney to the blog! Let’s step into her season…

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Describe the season you currently find yourself in.

“The only phrase that seems to suffice the past two years and where I currently am is “The Assurance of Christ within the Change”. Of course a season and attitude of change is a constant and very necessary thing, but what I didn’t expect was that it would be so painfully beautiful. I began full blown vocational ministry right out of college, and through many joys and trials I have seen God move in crazy ways in the lives of myself and my faith family. From grieving hurts that come along with the progress of immense change in a church body, to seeing God have to remove people from positions to deal with sins or simply because He has another plan for them, the Lord has shown me so much about finding my assurance in Him.”

What is God teaching you/revealing to you during this season?

“It has been a long process in seeing what God has been teaching me in this season. Mainly because of my stubbornness. I don’t know if others do this, but this past couple of years, it felt like I just needed to keep my head above water. “Don’t sink Brittney, you have to keep going even when the waters around you seem to be crashing everywhere.” This was the mindset for a while and it was exhausting. The sweetness of God and His consistent character is that He doesn’t stop pursuing us and He deals with us with so much patience. In the book, “A Dangerous Calling,” Paul David Tripp sums up exactly what God has been revealing and teaching me during this season. “Either you will be getting your identity vertically, from who you are in Christ, or you will be shopping for it horizontally in the situations, experiences, and relationships of your daily life.” and “If you are not requiring yourself to get your deepest sense of well-being vertically, you will shop for it horizontally, and you will always come up empty.” I quickly became weary due to this “horizontal search for identity” and I finally recognized because the idol I had made to replace the perfect Savior was hope in myself and hope in other people. I found assurance in people’s approval, assurance in my morality, and assurance in my abilities, when all the while Christ was patiently guiding me to assurance in Himself.”

How have you/are you changing during this season?

“God has been moving me from the fracturing assurance in self to abiding in the joy-filled assurance of Christ. Even though I knew Christ was who I needed to abide in, I definitely wasn’t living out or understanding John 15:5 – “I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, it is he who will bear much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.” God has shown me that the gospel frees me to obey and serve Him because He has first accepted me. My obedience and service is not a way to earn His acceptance. The way of working hard to keep my head above water, performing well, not screwing up, and gaining people’s approval is NOT the gospel. Honestly it’s pride. God has been breaking down that pride, making me dependent upon Him by allowing me to walk through a season of change filled with fear to make me realize that Christ is my only assurance. He is the only one who brings joy, peace, endurance and to the fact that I need Him in all I do. That seems like a “DUH” moment, but it’s huge. I am not sufficient! Brittney isn’t capable of holding her head above water. In the past two years I have felt like Peter in the passage in Matthew when he went to go meet Jesus by walking on water but was so quick to take his eyes off of Jesus, became afraid, and quickly began to sink. But in Christ’s sweet sweet grace He has reached out, caught me and spoke softly, “You of little faith” and then carried me in His security to show me truly who He is. That He is able and I am not. That He loves me enough to give me the strength and capability, things I sought in people who were incapable of supplying those things (myself included), to continue in what He has called me to do.”

What encouragement would you like to share with someone who is in a similar season?

“God cares about His people and He is a God of compassion. The idols we make out of people or our own abilities can never give you the assurance you desire or need. Only in Jesus and the giving of the Holy Spirit are we able to find assurance, strength, love, acceptance and joy within difficult situations. God is a good Father who never stops changing us into the image of His son. Let us all find sweet assurance in Him above all other tempting and sweetly-false things through every season of change.”

A Prayer for Brittney

Constant Father,

Thank You for Brittney. Thank You that You are aware of her and with her in this season. Thank You that You use change to change us. Thank You for using change to change Brittney, to make her look more like Jesus. Thank You for revealing to her the idols of others and self. Thank You for being the One who never fails us, never gets fed up with us, never needs time away from us. May the same gospel that saved Brittney continue to sustain her. May she continue to walk in freedom and do things out of adoration instead of obligation. May she continue to crave Your sweetness and long for more of You. Continue to help her to utterly depend on You. Instead of just doggie paddling to try and stay above water, may she sink into Your grace, may she drown in Your love, may she lose control only to rest in You. Help her to continue to abide in You and as she does May You bless the works of her hands. May her ministry, her life be fruitful because she knows you as the Vine. May Brittney rest in Your blessed assurance.

Amen.

What About You Wednesday | Krista

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Today we welcome Krista to the blog! Let’s step into her season…

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Describe the season you currently find yourself in.

“I currently find myself in a place of patient anticipation. Each year as winter comes to a close and spring is approaching, I get a bittersweet sense of excitement and discontentment. As the long, cold winter months come to an end and the spring bursts through with new life, warmth and hope, my heart always anticipates what a joy the next season will bring. And yet in the anticipation for the next season, my heart becomes weary in the waiting. I feel like that is my life right now. It has been a brutally cold and disheartening year, but I can see the springtime coming fast. I anticipate the Lord’s goodness in the time to come and CHOOSE DAILY to see Him working even now.”

(I just want to point out how symbolic Krista’s above picture is. The little white flowers look like the snow of the winter and the pink flowers shout spring.)

What is God teaching you/revealing to you during this season.

“The Lord has been so sweet to be patient in my doubting and untrusting heart. He shows me little bits and pieces of His plan and promises at the times that I need it most. He is gently teaching me to depend upon His grace and to trust that good works together for His children who faithfully love Him. A verse that I have been clinging to during this time is found in Lamentations 3:21-24 and it says, “But this I call to mind and therefore have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, His mercies are new each morning. Great is Your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion’, says my soul, ‘Therefore I will have hope in Him!

I have also been taught through the loss of loved ones within the last year that our hope and satisfaction can only be found in the fact that eternity will be spent in the perfect presence of Jesus. All things good or bad in this world are fleeting compared to the eternity we are promised as children of God. Therefore all things should be counted as temporary here on earth, held loosely, knowing that the eternity that awaits us is the most high honor and greatest gift we could ever receive. This has kept so much in perspective of the urgency of the Kingdom for me. For the first time in my life, dying and going to be with Jesus is something I look forward to not something that I fear.’”

How have you/are you changing during this season?

“I have become so aware of my need of time alone and away from busyness. It is so funny because all throughout college I was a people-person, constantly surrounded by and interacting with a ton of people. However, now I see the great importance of being alone, internally processing with Jesus and using the ‘pray about it more than you talk about it’ concept. I have found it to be so peaceful and encouraging to grow in my relationship with the Lord in this way. My dependence on Him has been strengthened and my friendships have continued beautifully. I have learned to not fear being alone, but embrace it as an opportunity to draw near to the Father. Although, this is most certainly not always my initial attitude, keeping this in mind has strengthened my ability to rest during this season.”

What encouragement would you like to share with someone who is in a similar season?

“Whether you are walking through a season post-grad or are just unsure of where the Lord is leading in the time to come, be comforted. The Lord is faithful to complete the work that He began in you and He will surely do it (Philippians 1:6). Walk each day with faith in trusting that everything that the Lord has equipped you with for that day is exactly what you need to serve Him (Hebrews 13:20-21). He is working in the midst of our doubt and anxiety and will reveal His will in His perfect and beautiful timing. Be STEADFAST and HOPE in the faithfulness of our Father. Remembering that in all things, our purpose is not to serve ourselves, but to glorify the Father who saves, loves, redeems and chooses us to be His own.”

A Prayer for Krista

God, You are good. We thank You for working all things for the good of those who love You. Thank You for Krista. Thank You that You are aware of her and with her in this season. Thank You for Your faithfulness to her in the past. May she cling to the truth that You will be faithful again and again. Thank You for how You are using the waiting to increase her longing and hope for You. Thank You for using death to birth truth in her life, an urgency for the gospel, and a peace about Home. Continue to comfort her grieving heart. Thank You for being a God who can handle our doubts and our questions. May Krista continue to bring those and lay them at Your feet. For someone once said, “faith does not eliminate questions, but faith knows where to take them.” Thank You for the many lives Krista has invested in. Thank You for her kind and giving heart. Thank You for this season where she’s been able to pull back and come away and rest with You, receiving after giving so much of herself. May she continue to be strengthened in her alone time with You. As spring approaches, and the buds begin to bloom, may she be thankful for winter, for the time when growth was happening under the surface. As things begin to shoot out from under the ground, may she burst with joy. Although winter was cold and brutal, may she also remember the quiet, the stillness, the calm which winter can bring. And may she continue to hold onto those things even as seasons change. Thanks for loving us, Lord. Amen.

Entering Dangerous Territory | Part Three

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Last week I began unpacking my journey through “Resisting Gossip: Winning the War of the Wagging Tongue,” by Matthew Mitchell. We looked at the first part of his one-sentence summary of the Bible’s teaching on gossip:

“Sinful gossip is bearing bad news behind someone’s back out of a bad heart.”

Today we pick up where we left off…


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(Photo Cred)

What does “behind someone’s back” mean?

We all know gossip happens when you are talking (or listening) about someone who is not there. We find it much easier to talk about someone else when they aren’t around don’t we? Not only is it easier, it’s more intriguing. This is the first red flag we should look for. This is the first sign that we are entering dangerous territory. This is our first check point.

Mitchell urges us to ask ourselves some questions before we talk or continue to talk about someone who is not present.

-Would I say this if he were here?

-Would I receive this bad news about her in the same way if she were present?

-Am I hiding this conversation from someone? (If you use the phrases “I shouldn’t be telling you this”, or “I know you won’t tell anyone else about this”, or “don’t tell anybody else I’m telling you this” to start off your conversation about another person, that is a good indicator that you shouldn’t be telling it, and if you hear those phrases you probably shouldn’t be listening to it).

-Would I want someone else to talk this way about me if I were out of the room?

Pretty convicting questions huh? But they are so practical. Such great weapons to keep close at hand as we engage in battle with gossip. I encourage you to write these down, or memorize them and try to apply them to your life this week. They will reveal your tendency to gossip and make you more aware of how much you engage in gossip (whether on the talking or listening side).

There is one more thing to be said here though, something that gets misunderstood. The Bible does not teach that we should never talk about people who are not present, rather it warns us to be careful what we say. Of course we should praise other people when they are not with us, we should turn gossip around and spread good news about people instead! Another time it is appropriate is under “the biblical principle of warning others…parents, teachers, elders and pastors, even friends, teammates, coworkers and neighbors all have to do that sometimes.” The biblical principle of warning others is also touched on later in the book, so once I get there I will unpack that a little more on the blog as well.

Finally, sometimes when we are seeking wise counsel from people about our conflicts, struggles, and problems we may need to share shameful things that someone else has done without them being present. This is not sinful gossip if you are truly seeking out help. But there is a fine line here. Often times we are tempted to mask our desire to gossip by labeling it “seeking counsel.” This is the area in which I have felt the most confused about gossip.

Since I was in elementary school I have found that people gravitate towards me to confide in and seek out wisdom and counsel, a gift I know is from the Lord. I so enjoy being that for people, but I can remember countless times when I have felt as though I know information about someone that I shouldn’t know, information that has tainted my view of someone because of what was shared by someone else. I know many times I have felt like “I don’t know what I’m supposed to do with this information.” Most of it over the years I have held it inside because I haven’t wanted to share it, because people don’t confide in you so you can go tell other people. But it wears on you at times, it’s something you really have to ask The Lord to help with, to help you see people through grace-filled eyes. We must remember that we are only hearing one side of the story at times. I’ve come to find the antidote to this is finding and focusing on one good thing about the person you’ve heard shameful things about. And of course, we must remember that there are shameful things about us too. The ground is even at the cross.

As I seek counsel, as I struggle in my relationships with others, I have always tried to make an effort to talk more about what I am struggling with and my wrongs in the situation than focusing on the wrongs of the other person. Sometimes I fail, I fall into gossip disguised as “seeking counsel.” But the more I make a conscious effort to seek out what I need to work on in my relationships, the sin in my heart, the reasons why I feel hurt or angry or jealous toward someone else, the easier it is to seek wise counsel in a healthy way, a way that leads away from gossip instead of close to the line.

When I got married (and even when I was dating my husband), one thing I vowed to myself was I would always strive to only talk positively about my husband in public. I never want to be the reason someone’s view of my husband is tainted. But the thing is, I struggle in my relationship with my husband. There are conflicts, there are hard things, there are things that annoy me and things that hurt me, there are things that breed tension, there are things that I need to seek wise counsel on. And in these moments I make a sincere effort to focus on the struggle at hand more than the one I struggle with, I make a conscious effort to paint my husband in a positive light, even when I am sitting across from a friend or mentor seeking wise counsel. It’s not easy to keep that vow to only talk positively about my husband all the time, but that doesn’t mean I stop striving towards it. So should it be with any person.

One final note on this: It is important to choose wisely who we seek wise counsel from. Honestly, there are people in my life that I will never talk to about my struggles with my husband or other relationships I have. There are people of mine that I will never talk to about certain relational sin struggles I have. Why? Because I have found that with certain people it is easier for me to veer off the “seeking counsel” road and end up on the gossip trail. Or if someone has shared gossip to me, I know they will share it about me. Also we can get counsel from anyone, but not everyone will give wise counsel. As a rule of thumb, when a situation arises that we need wise counsel in, there are three things the person should posses: a fear of God (for the fear of God is the begging of wisdom and God is the giver of wisdom), the view that Scripture is supreme, and in most cases (if not all) you should seek wisdom from someone who has experience in the same situation you are seeking counsel on. As much as your single friend would like to give you marriage advice, there are just some situations they cannot speak into like a seasoned married person can. As much as they would love to seek wise counsel on how to handle a conflict with your boss, your atheist friend from high school cannot speak into your life about the Biblical principles of confronting conflict.

“They key to sharing circumstances with people in a right way is to keep loving others even when we have to talk about them and even if they are our enemies…simply put, we just need to apply Jesus’ Golden Rule to any difficult situation. If you have to talk about someone when they are not present, make sure that you are treating them as you would want to be treated.”


Join me next time as we touch on the final part of the definition of gossip… “out of a bad heart” and sift through why we gossip.

And as you go through this week, here’s some questions to reflect on:

-Why do you think it’s easier to talk about someone behind their back?

-How are you going to implement the questions Mitchell gives in your conversations to help you fight against gossip?

-Are you masking your want to gossip by labeling it “seeking wise counsel?” Who can you seek out when you need wise counsel who will keep you from veering to the gossip trail?

-Do you believe Jesus is better than gossip?

-Do you believe God is powerful enough to overcome gossip in your life?