people walking on spacious concrete square
Anxiety, Christian Living, Encouragement, Intentional, Rest

Rest from the endless-effort life

We buy into the lie that we are only worth what we produce.

Without even realizing it, we live this out in our day to day existence.

We create, we produce, we make more. We share it with the world and then wait with expectation, hoping for acknowledgment, desiring someone to tell us they like what we do. Because if someone likes our work, then we matter.

Then we project that same thought process on our relationship with God, telling ourselves that each thing we do will make us better in His sight.

woman sitting in front of macbook
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We keep striving, doing more, producing more – believing it will fulfill us and define our worth.

But instead of fulfillment, we are exhausted. Instead of worthy, we continue to feel like we fall short.

We’ve taken the lie that we are only worth what we produce and have made it our mantra. And it has left us tired and weary.

How do we fight back? What is the cure for the endless-effort life?

turned off laptop computer
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Do the opposite.

Whenever you feel the need rising up in you to have to prove your worth, or the voice in your head starts telling you that if you aren’t moving ahead then you’re falling behind – then fight the urge and do the opposite.

Do nothing. Rest. Set your work on the shelf. Do something that no one else can acknowledge or see or know. Take a nap. Journal. Go for a walk. Bake muffins and then sit on your porch and eat one warm.

Hebrews 4:9+10 (ESV) is a beautiful invitation to cease from the endless-effort life: So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God. For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His.

Fight against the endless-effort life —> Whenever you feel the need rising up in you to have to prove your worth, or the voice in your head starts telling you that if you aren’t moving ahead then you’re falling behind – then fight… Click To Tweet
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When we seek Christ as our Savior, then we can cease from the endless-effort life. We have nothing to prove and no worth to claim. Christ has sacrificed his life for ours and in Him we have our purpose and our worth.

Any work we do and any thing we create are just embellishments. They aren’t needed, but they are welcomed. They are beautiful works that can point back to Jesus.

We are invited into this Sabbath rest, not just on Sundays, but every day. We are invited to rest from our striving in life and instead rest and trust in God to give us our worth and fulfillment.

What part of your endless-effort life can you set aside for a life of Sabbath rest?

Fight against the endless-effort life —> When we seek Christ as our Savior, then we can cease from the endless-effort life. We have nothing to prove and no worth to claim. Christ has sacrificed his life for ours and in Him we have… Click To Tweet

Are you also tired of the endless-effort life? Click for your free download – a guide to Quitting the Endless-Effort Life.

photo of vegetable salad in bowls
Anxiety, Encouragement, Intentional, Money

Is it time to address that grocery budget?

A 2-step plan to tackle anxiety

A few years ago, ‘the grocery store,’ would not have been a place that I would have named as one that caused me anxiety.

At one point in time, in order to save-more-to-give-more, we kept ourselves at a weekly grocery budget of $50 – for a family of 5. We had to get pretty creative, but there was always enough food to eat. And trying to make it all work out was more of a fun game than stressful.

assorted vegetable lot
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But the conditions of the last few years has made that $50 goal a distant memory. For one, our 3 children are no longer elementary kids with sizable appetites, they are 3 teenagers with bottomless pits. And I don’t have to tell you about the rising food prices.

Lately, as I walk the aisles of the store, I can feel the anxiety creep in. Between an entire type of food no longer being available (yogurt?!) or some things causing twice as much as they used to (potatoes?!) I start to feel the cloud of doom and gloom and wonder how we’re going to make this all work.


One morning in the grocery store, as my panic started to rise, I stood still in the cereal aisle. My heart and mind needed a reboot. So, I stood there and prayed silently to God. Asking Him to calm my anxious heart and to also remind me that He is the provider of all things – back when we paid $50 and even now when we have to pick and choose what to get to make it all fit in the budget.

I have found, when it comes to anxiety, that being still and being active go hand in hand. First, we need to make ourselves ‘be still’ because it’s the exact opposite of what our body feels like it should do. But being still and remembering our God is in control is paramount. Once we have centered our mind on this thought, then we can move forward with the doing, the ‘being active.’

The same is the case when it comes to our money. Maybe you, too, feel the anxiety when it comes to your money and the food budget. When I feel the anxiety rising, I tackle it with the “be still and be active” approach.

fruits on glass top display counter
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  1. Be still. Remind yourself that God is the provider. There is an old hymn we sing at church, some of the lines include, “This one thing assures us, whatever betide, the heart cheering promise, the Lord will provide.” Whether it’s scripture or song lyrics, have a line that you can repeat to yourself when you start to feel anxious about the grocery budget. Force yourself to be still, remember the promise that God will provide, and thank Him for the provision He has already provided.
  2. Be active. Make a menu. This one is actually hard for me. I would prefer to just cook off what I feel for that day. But, to really stick with a budget and not over-buy, creating a weekly dinner menu is crucial. Often I have themes for different days of the week to help me when I’m not feel creative (which is more often than not!) Meatless Monday, Sandwich Wednesday, and Noodle Thursday are just a few.
  3. Be active. Stick to the plan. No matter how great the deal is, if it’s not on your list, don’t get it. If you feel like you absolutely have to, then swap out for something else on the list.
  4. Be active. Go meatless. No, you don’t need to be a vegetarian! But, one night a week, cook with beans or some other protein instead. Just one night a week will help whittle the expenses down. When you do cook with meat, cut the amount in half. Throw half the sausage in your marinara and put the other half in the freezer for the next week. You’ll still get the flavor and help stretch the food further.
  5. Be still. Respond in gratitude. Once the groceries are loaded, before you even turn on your car, be still and thank God. Every good and perfect gift comes down from the Father (James 1:17), including the milk and eggs. Stop and respond in gratitude, acknowledging your Provider and rejoicing in His goodness.

Your turn! I’d love to hear your tricks and tips for helping your food costs go further. How do you handle the anxiety that comes with budgeting?


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what sunflowers can teach us

I’m out for a morning run. Though the sun has been up for at least an hour, it doesn’t feel like it. The clouds are heavy and hang low. There is a slight mist in the air and the everything looks gray. There aren’t even shadows on the ground as there is no sunshine to make them.

bed of sunflower
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As I head down my familiar path, I run past a field of sunflowers. As it is late July, the flowers are in full bloom. I know their heads are bright yellow but I can’t see any of them. I am running past the field on the west side and all I can see is the backside of the flowers.

The entire field of sunflowers is facing towards the east. Towards the sun.

We know sunflowers do that, follow the sun’s path. It’s how they got their name after all. But, what intrigues me today about this fact is that there is no sunshine this morning to follow. The clouds are so thick and dark I can’t even pinpoint where the sun is in the sky.

And yet the flowers are turned in the sun’s direction. Even though they can’t see it, they know it is there. Even though the sun is blocked by clouds, they still know where to turn.

sunflower in field

In Psalm 27:7+8, David writes these words, “Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud; be gracious to me and answer me! 

You have said,

 “Seek my face.”

My heart says to you, 

“Your face, Lord, do I seek.”

David knew what it was like to have a bad day. King Saul, with an army at his disposal, was openly seeking David to kill him. Though David had been anointed as king, he sure wasn’t living the life of one. Then, when he was king, there were people trying to throw him from his throne, even his own son. David had some hard times, yet, during those times, he wrote beautiful songs to God. A heart cry that we, too, can relate to.

When hard circumstances come, it can be easy to wallow in our grief and self-pity. But God has a better plan for us than that. We can do as David did and seek God’s face. When the road gets rough we can turn to worldly comforts and explanations or we can intentionally turn to God’s word, approach Him in prayer, and seek His face. 

Just like a sunflower that turns towards the sun, even on the cloudiest of days, we can pursue our Father, even when it feels like He isn’t there. The clouds may be blocking the sun, but it’s still shining. Our hard circumstances may be large and overwhelming, but God is still working and in control.

If you are in the middle of one of those cloudy seasons right now, take encouragement from Psalm 27. The last two verses of the Psalm can be a daily reminder as you wait for the clouds to disperse and the sun to shine again: 

I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living! Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord! (vs 13+14)

Isn’t that a spark of hope?! We don’t have all the answers and there isn’t any magic phrase that will suddenly make everything alright. But even when the sun is hidden behind clouds, even when we’re beaten down and our soul feels wilted and weary, we can still turn towards the Son. We can seek out His truth, His promise, His hope. It doesn’t make the hard go away, but it helps us to be able to endure.

So, friend, if you’re feeling bent and weary, if your soul is floundering as it tries to find the sun amidst the clouds, please, hold on. Keep those roots grounded in the Truth, turn your soul to the Son, and seek His hope and promise for your hurting heart. And if you see another who is broken in this way, be the one who reminds them that the sun is still shining. And remind them to turn towards the Son.

more resources
https://livewithintent.org/resources/
Depression, Encouragement, Intentional

a message to Jeremiah is one for us, too

You may be familiar with Jeremiah, also known as the weeping prophet. At around 20 years of age, Jeremiah was called into service by God, prophesying the coming exile of Israel and Judah. The Israelites were wandering away from God and God was trying to call them back. Jeremiah was faithful when God gave him a strong word and challenged him to execute that word. 

If you’ve read through the book of Jeremiah, you know it’s heavy reading. There is a lot of warning and devastation. Jeremiah didn’t have light-hearted things to say, but he was faithful to the task that God had called him to. However, Jeremiah had to have had low points, especially when everyone around him despised him for his words and doubted what he had to say.

At one point, in chapter 15, Jeremiah cries out to God. Despite Jeremiah doing exactly what God had called him to, he was met with hatred from others and a life of isolation. He likened it to “pain unceasing, a wound incurable, refusing to be healed.” (vs 18)

mountains with author quote

You’ve most likely not been in the same spot as Jeremiah, crying out to a large, lost people group who refuse to listen. But you may have felt alone as a Christ follower in the middle of a world that seems to be getting increasingly troublesome. You may look around and see people who are not following God’s ways, prospering and seeming to have it all. You may be in the middle of a calling that feels hard, unending, and isolating. Jeremiah felt that, too.

God had an answer for him, and He has an answer for you:

If you return, I will restore you,

    and you shall stand before me.

If you utter what is precious, and not what is worthless,

    you shall be as my mouth.

They shall turn to you,

    but you shall not turn to them. (vs 19)

God’s reply is relevant for us today as well. Three things we can do when we feel overwhelmed by our pain, circumstance, or position:

  1. Return and be restored. Repent of any sin in your own life. Be restored so you can serve God with a pure heart.
  2. Speak good words, not worthless ones. When we speak the words of God, if we are immersed in His scripture, then the words that we speak to others will be truth-filled and loving.
  3. Be the influencer, don’t let them influence you. It can be easy to get swept up in the latest news, ideas, and fads. But we are called to be in this world, not of it. We are effective servants of Christ when we choose to be influenced by the Word, not the world.

And with this command comes a promise. God said that if Jeremiah would do those things, He would follow through.

And I will make you to this people

    a fortified wall of bronze;

they will fight against you,

    but they shall not prevail over you,

for I am with you

    to save you and deliver you, declares the Lord.

I will deliver you out of the hand of the wicked,

    and redeem you from the grasp of the ruthless. (vs 20-21)

A simple command and a beautiful promise.

Jeremiah 15 command with mountain image

Return to God, speak good words, and influence others. Your enemies will not prevail, you will be delivered, you will be redeemed.

Intentionally go to God with your heart, pour out your complaint as Jeremiah did. And trust Him to be the keeper of His promises. 

Encouragement

when you’re not the first choice

“I feel like I am never anyone’s first choice.”

Those words broke my heart. Not only because they came from the mouth of my own child, but because they were words that often echo in my own heart as well. Friendships can be hard to navigate. I thought by the time I was 40 that it would be simple and straightforward, not like the precarious friendships of middle school. Maturity and age do help, but it turns out that the trials that make friendships tricky are still there, it’s just looks different.

With the fast pace of life and the jammed-packed schedules of families, it’s easy to assume that everyone is just busy. But then you hear of other women getting together and you wonder, “what about me?” You may get asked occasionally, but usually it’s because everyone else was unavailable. You’re never the first choice. You’re on the B list.

There is an episode of Seinfeld where Jerry is competing with a step-mother for the first spot on a certain woman’s speed dial.  Certain actions and words puts them in this woman’s good graces and therefore, #1 spot on the phone list.  There’s jockeying and threats that go on between Jerry and the stepmom and a general unease that they know at any moment they could lose that spot to each other….or to another.

We can laugh through the silliness of the whole thing. I mean, who really cares if you are #1 on someone’s speed dial? And, to be honest, how many people these days even know what speed dial is? But, if we take a more serious look at it, when the laughter dies down, we realize that we may have fought, though inwardly, with a very similar kind of feeling.

Because you have never been #1 on anyone’s speed dial.

Many people can point out friendships that were pivotal for their young years. Those best friends who, when they had great news to share, were the first person they wanted to tell. Friends that they knew always had their back. Those besties that, if you found one, you always found the other. Either you were one of those, and didn’t realize how great you had it, or you were one who was watching from the sideline, wondering what you were doing wrong – the B-list friends.

The B-list friends were those who you would call your friends, but not best friends. They were nice and polite. They were good for an occasional sleepover or a birthday party. If you look at snapshots of a group hanging out in the bleachers, they were 2 rows above, a slight smile, trying to not look too awkward or out of place.

There are a lot of things about school that are far, far in the past, praise the Lord. But, shouldn’t mid-life friendships be easier? It seems we’re still hanging out in the back row, trying not to look awkward.

Because when the good news comes, we’re not #1 on the speed dial. We aren’t the first person anyone thinks of when they want to share good news. We aren’t the person that someone is calling because they finally have a free morning and they want to catch up. We aren’t the shoulder that someone is looking for when they need a good cry. But, we really would like to be.

This is a reality for many. It can feel isolating, as if you are the only one. As if everyone is hanging out without you.

What do we do? Do we wallow in self pity? Complain to our spouse? Scroll social media and feed our insecurities? Those are all natural responses that will breed only jealousy and contempt.

As I sat on the couch, trying to come up with the words to comfort my daughter after she uttered those jarring words above, I honestly felt at a loss. Because I needed comforting words spoken to me, too.

So, I started with the first response I have whenever I’m stuck on how to act and what to do: follow Jesus’s example.

  1. If you want a friend, you need to be a friend. Jesus approached His friendships as a servant. He made Himself available to help others. Offer to make a meal for someone who’s struggling. Remember birthdays and send cards or texts. When you ask someone, “how’re you doing?” mean it and wait and listen for the answer. These aren’t done to manipulate people into liking you, but rather to show genuine love and caring for other human beings.
  2. Make a “U”, not an “O.” Be inclusive. If you happen to be standing with a group of people, be sure to leave room for more. Look around outside your circle and see if there is someone standing alone. Invite them in. They may refuse, but most appreciate the invite nonetheless. Though Jesus had his 12 disciples, He never turned away someone who wanted to be a part. In fact, He was constantly inviting.
  3. Be the initiator. We can wait around for someone to reach out to us, but in reality, there are a lot of others out there waiting for the same thing. It may take some courage and even a few false starts, but boldness in Christ’s grace has broken down many doors. If God has placed someone on your heart or mind, don’t hesitate. Offer the hand of friendship, praying as you go, seeking God’s glory in the relationship. Jesus invited many to be fishers of men for the Kingdom. We can’t ask people to follow us, we don’t have the glorified position or authority, but we can invite others into our lives, share the Light with them, and encourage them to walk after Jesus as well.
  4. Pray. Though this is listed last, it doesn’t mean it should be the last resort. If you are feeling lonely, left out, or forgotten, take it to Jesus first. He understands all those feelings because He has been there Himself. Ask God to reveal to you why you feel this way. Is your loneliness misplaced? Perhaps your eyes need opened to the friendships right in front of you that you aren’t even aware of. Pray that you may have a heart for those that also ache for friendship and that He would be the One to first fill that need in you so that you can go out and be a friend to others.

Father, I know you have made us for community. Our hearts long to be included, accepted, and loved by others. Help me to not misplace this desire. I pray that I long to be included, accepted, and loved by You first before all others. Give me a heart for the hurting and open my eyes to the needs of others around me. I know in order to have friends, I need to be a friend. Give me opportunities to be a friend to others. May it be a way for me to shine Your light and give you glory.

Free Download of the pdf version of the prayer HERE

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2 verses for when life is overwhelming

This past week our school community has suffered a great loss. Our head basketball coach, a man who exemplified Godly character, strength, and grace, passed away from cancer. It was a long, hard fight and he continued to tell the story of God’s salvation and the hope of heaven to every person he came in contact with, including on the basketball court.

His loss has left a huge void in our school. I pray that the example he left will live on in the lives of the students, faculty, and families that he touched. His message to not fear, find your strength in the Lord, and do all things for His glory.

As I process his passing, I think of many scripture verses from Psalm as comfort. Psalm 93:3-4 is just one of them. It’s applicable to this circumstance, but I believe it can be applicable to whatever circumstance you are going through as well.

Between work, family, personal obligations, medical diagnosis, and the daily news, there are countless things coming at us that can make it feel like the flood waters and waves are lifting up their voices and overtaking us. The constant barrage can be overwhelming.

The activity all around us can begin to seem like a roar, drowning out the calming voice of Peace. 

I love the contrast of Psalm 93:3 to Psalm 93:4. 

Verse 3 is the cry.

The floods have lifted up, O Lord,
    the floods have lifted up their voice;
    the floods lift up their roaring.

The soul is overwhelmed. The flood waters keep coming and there seems to be no end. The sound of the roaring waves is deafening, drowning out anything else that we are trying to tune our ears in to.

But verse 4 is the promise

Mightier than the thunders of many waters,
    mightier than the waves of the sea,
    the Lord on high is mighty!

Those waves may seem strong, but we have a God that is mightier. Life’s distractions and roar can be thundering, but we serve a God whose calm, peaceful voice can break through all that.

Are you feeling overwhelmed today? 

Most likely the roar of the waves of life are bearing down strong on you. Here is a gentle reminder to go to the One who is mightier than any wave. Just like He calms the stormy seas of Galilee, He can also speak peace to your heart when it feels like the waves are over taking it.

Take a moment in the middle of your storm to be still. Speak the promise of Psalm 93:4 out loud.

“Mightier than the thunders of the waters and mightier that the waves of the sea is our God on High!”

Be encouraged, friend. He is still calming waters today.

It feels fitting to end this with the reminder of the hope and power of our Lord, in the words of the late Coach Marc Davidson:“…Our hope has never been in a doctor’s report. My hope is set firmly on the finished work of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Whether in this life or in Heaven, because of Jesus, I am more than a conqueror! I remain steadfast in my commitment to honor Him with every breath He gives me. May the name of the Lord be praised!”