person running on dirt road
Anxiety, Christian Living, Depression, Encouragement, Intentional, Mental Health

Ditch the ‘just’

person running on dirt road

For the last 10 years I have been training for and running half marathons. My husband and I always do a specific one every October, going back to the city where we first lived as newlyweds. I pretty much run 3 days a week year round.

Despite all that, I have a hard time calling myself a runner.

Since elementary I have loved to write. I would always get excited for any writing assignment that was given. While the rest of the class groaned, I grinned. As an adult, I have been writing on a blog for over a decade and even self-published an Advent devotional a couple years ago.

Despite all that, I have a hard time calling myself a writer.

Because I’m not the fastest, haven’t taken home any awards, and don’t really have a runner’s physique, I disqualify myself from the “runner” category. Because a large publishing house hasn’t taken an interest in my book, I lack confidence that my writing is good. It feels too self-serving to call myself a writer so I disqualify myself from that category as well.

And I’m not alone in this. We play the downgrade game all the time. If someone is doing it better, more efficiently, more profoundly, and being recognized for it, then we feel that we have lost the chance to take the title for ourselves as well. We often downplay it by putting the word “just” in front of it. Just part-time. Just a stay at home mom. Just a small business. Just a hobby.

We play the downgrade game all the time. If someone is doing it better, more efficiently, more profoundly, and being recognized for it, then we feel that we have lost the chance to take the title for ourselves as well. We often… Click To Tweet

Aren’t we thankful that God doesn’t do this to us?

When we come to Him with a repentant heart, desiring a change, and seeking Christ’s blood for our atonement, then we find mercy, forgiveness, and love. We become a child of God. Even when we stumble, lose trust, forget who is in charge, and do a poor job of representing Jesus, we are still a child of God. Even if someone is doing it better than us, yet we still remain His.

What word are you putting just in front of? Why do you downplay that in your life? Is this thing a gift that God has given you? Is this a way that you can glorify God?

Colossians 3:17 ESV says,”And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”


woman wearing white top

“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

— Colossians 3:17 ESV

Whether you work part-time, are a stay-at-home mom, run a small business, run races, or write blog posts. Each one is something that can bring glory to God. 

Satan wants to convince us that whatever work, hobby, or career we do is too little to matter for anyone. He wants to keep us thinking that we are insignificant to the Kingdom. He likes to keep putting that ‘just’ in front of things.

Satan wants to convince us that whatever work, hobby, or career we do is too little to matter for anyone. He wants to keep us thinking that we are insignificant to the Kingdom. He likes to keep putting that ‘just’ in front of things. Click To Tweet

Because when we continue to think that our lives are not helpful to others and aren’t significant to God, then we downplay it and keep the talents that God has given us hidden.

people walking

Paul encourages fellow believers in Corinth with these words, “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” I Corinthians 15:58 ESV

When the actions of our daily lives are for God’s glory and not our own, the ‘just’ part of the title is stripped away. Anything done for the Lord is never in vain. The world may not recognize it, but God does. You are a child of God. And there is no ‘just’ in front of that.

three people donating goods
Anxiety, Christian Living, Encouragement, Health, Love Your Neighbor, Mental Health, Relationships

When service has left you empty

The word “serve” can evoke many types of emotions – good and bad.

If I am at a restaurant: I am glad for that waiter who serves.  And I expect good service.

man and woman wearing black and white striped aprons cooking

But if I am doing the third load of laundry of the day and one of my children walks in with mud from toe to teeth – I then serve my family with clean laundry. Oddly enough, that type of service can sometimes rub the wrong way.

We can often find ourselves struggling with the day to day and trying to find joy in the work of the mundane. We often feel unseen. We know we are needed, because often some things don’t get done until we do them. But we wonder if anyone would miss us if we were gone, or they would just wonder where their clean clothes went to. Often those mundane task are also necessary. We are performing a service that is needed and maybe even appreciated, though never put into words.

photo of woman standing inside the laundromat

In Ann Voskamp’s book, One Thousand Gifts, she touches on a similar feeling:

Whenever man is made the center of things he becomes the storm-center of trouble.  The moment you think of serving people, you begin to have a notion that other people owe you something for your pains…You begin to bargain for reward, to angle for applause…When the laundry is for the dozen arms of children or the dozen legs, it’s true, I think I am due some appreciation. So comes a storm of trouble and lightning strikes joy.  But when Christ is at the center, when dishes, laundry, work, is my song of thanks for Him, joy rains.  Passionately serving Christ alone makes us the loving servant to all…the work becomes worship, a liturgy of thankfulness.

Ephesians 5:1-2 (The Message) gives us more:

Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that.

This is part of our problem – we are looking for something in return.

Life as a Christ-follower is servant focused. If we are walking as Jesus did we will serve and love, not in order to receive, but to give. Our days will be filled with service in one form or another. And we won’t necessarily get something in return for the work that we do.

Life as a Christ-follower is servant focused. If we are walking as Jesus did we will serve and love, not in order to receive, but to give. Click To Tweet

Sometimes we may even yearn for a simple thank you, but those may be lacking, as well.

But Jesus served.  He loved.  And he didn’t look for anything in return.

I’m reminded of the story in Luke 17 where he healed 10 lepers.

Ten mean were healed … and only one came back to thank him.  It makes one pause to consider how often thank yous were actually said to Jesus.

a man greeting an elderly woman

But as the verse in Ephesians says, love by giving everything.  When we envision a life of serving and giving without expectation, then we will be to a point that at the end of the day we will be empty.

Emptied – so that He can fill us back up.

When we give of ourselves completely, everyday, our life may look like this at the end of the day:

  • worn out body
  • messy living room
  • laundry still needing to be folded
  • dirty dishes stacked by the sink

Your first thought may be that nothing was actually completed. But look at what was accomplished:

  • quality conversations made with the 13-year-old
  • snuggle on the couch with the 3-year-old
  • meaningful time with the husband
  • heart warmed from relationships built just a bit stronger

The world tells us to look out for, and save time for, ourselves. That is a valid point. We can’t serve if we are worn out, empty, and unhealthy.

But to be filled up, our “me time” needs to be more “God time” – time we spend with Him to fill us up when our tank is running on empty. God is the owner of unlimited resources, He has the power to give you the stamina you need to live out the calling He has led you to. When we pull our energy from the true source, instead of what the world tells us we need, we can find the stamina we didn’t think we had.

back view of a person walking on a forest path

When we take this perspective on service and how we use our time, it can soften our hearts towards those we are asked to serve. When some one disrupts our plans, throws off our schedule, or makes us have to redo what we just completed, we can remind ourselves that Jesus’s love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. We can love like that.

Because when we serve others we are ultimately serving God and not man – when we are serving without looking for anything in return.

And that kind of service can make all the difference.

Looking for a short devotional that will help center your heart on the true reason for the season?

Purchase the digital download of Prepare Him Room: an Intentional Advent devotional and also receive the free devotional Intentional Heart.

handwritten thank you on craft paper
Encouragement, Health, Mental Health, Relationships

Rewiring your brain with gratitude

Growing up, my mom made us sit down and write thank you notes to family members for birthday and Christmas gifts. As a young kid, I found it a chore. It seemed silly, writing a thank you note when I had already thanked them for the gift in person! But, I’d do it anyway. 

handwritten thank you on craft paper

And, though I found the exercise tedious, I must admit I felt an uplift in my spirit as I sealed the envelope and dropped the letter in the mailbox. It seemed the act of thinking back on something, and showing gratitude for it, made my heart feel a little lighter.

Though my mom hadn’t read the research, she was on to something. 

A few years back, a study was conducted at U of C, Berkeley. They followed the mental health path of 300 adults as they sought counseling for depression. The group was split up into three parts. The first part, along with counseling, was assigned to write a note of gratitude to a different individual each week for 3 weeks. The second group was asked to list their deepest complaints and grievances. The third attended counseling without either assignment (Brown & Wong, 2017).

It was discovered that the group who expressed gratitude through their writing practice, reported better mental health at 4 and 12 weeks, over the other two groups. So, not only did expressing gratitude help them feel better in the moment, it also had effects long afterwards as well (Brown & Wong, 2017).

They continued the research further and found some more surprising things about gratitude.

To read the full article, visit Kingdom Edge Magazine, who featured my article.

Rewiring your brain with gratitude –> read more here. Click To Tweet
Depression, Encouragement, Mental Health

For the times when doubt and shame creep in

For the last couple years I have been working on writing a devotional. I figured writing a 60,000 word manuscript would be difficult. It takes time and space to get it put all together.

 

What I didn’t anticipate was the level of difficulty that has come with the editing process. Grammar and punctuation haven’t been much of a stumbling block. Plus, there are even applications these days that can help with that type of thing. What has been hard to get past is the critical voice in my head.

As I read back through my writing, I have this voice that keeps berating me, telling me the words are awful, pointless, already been written better by someone else, and that they will never help anyone. I know it’s not true. If God calls us to something, He will equip us for it. Still, the doubts come and slow me down.

mountains with hikers and quote

 

 

 

Maybe you struggle with those voices of fear and doubt, too? Thankfully, it doesn’t have to stay this way.

 

In Psalm 34: 4-5, 8 the psalmist writes:

I sought the LORD, and He answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to Him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed. Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!

When you start to have the voices of shame and doubt speak louder than words of grace and hope, seek after God. He promises to answer you and bring you through. 

I love the word picture of a radiant face that is pointed upward, unashamed. It gives me an image of going outside after days of rainy weather to finally see the sunshine, to turn your face towards it’s warmth with a smile on your face. You bask in the radiance that the sun gives, it’s rays beckoning you to lift your face upwards. 

 

God’s word can do that for our soul, too.

When we have days on end of rainy weather in our lives, we don’t have to let it stay that way. This psalm calls us to taste and see that the Lord is good and that we are blessed when we seek after Him for our refuge. Find a psalm today that echos how your heart is feeling and pray it out loud to God.

psalm 34

 

 

 

My prayer for you is that God would silence the thoughts of fear, doubt, and shame. 

 

Instead, may we only hear the direction of His voice. 

Even if His words are ones of admonishment, they are encouraging, because they lead to a closer, better, higher walk with Him.

You can pray this prayer, too. For when those discouraging voices try to shame you. May you hear only His voice and find comfort and love that only He can give.

Keep pressing on, friend.