Draw Near to God: A practical, not perfect, plan for abiding

I wake up every morning with my heart focused on myself instead of God. I continue in my self-centered mindset all day until I meet with God and the Holy Spirit renews my soul again. Even if I connect with God in the morning, my prone-to-wander heart continues to revert back to sin and self throughout my day. That’s why abiding is essential. My default will always be living for myself instead of God’s glory. I can't fix this wandering-heart problem by my own power, but only by staying plugged into God throughout my day.

I wrote about abiding in #unsupermommybook as staying connected to God the same way we are connected to our husbands, moms, or best friends throughout our day. When I wrote the book, I was in a season so intense that my need of God was always right in front of my face. I absolutely had to stay connected or I couldn't survive my day. But as my boys have grown older, I found myself abiding less, and I missed that intimacy with God that came in the face of adversity. I prayed for a method I could use to train my brain not to forget to abide with God in a simpler season without creating an unending list of rules for my day (a legalistic stumbling block for me as a recovering rule-aholic). I didn't want to get myself into a rules over relationship mindset with God again.

Instead of creating rules, I thought about the natural rhythms of my day. Rhythms that are already an integrated and necessary part of my day that can signal my heart to draw near to God through spiritual disciplines. I’m going to share my spiritual rhythms with you as examples, but I encourage you to make your own based on the regularly scheduled events of your life. This post will give you an overview of how I abide with God, but please recognize these four things as you read:

  1. I usually don’t manage to do all of these methods in one day
  2. This is a peek into my personal relationship with God, not a prescription for exactly what your relationship with God should look like
  3. I developed these rhythms over time, not all at once
  4. The purpose is not to create rules, but to foster relationship

Make my bed: As I make my bed, I say an adapted version of the prayer that Paul Tripp says every morning. The goal is to submit myself to God's sovereignty, reorient my thinking, and reestablish my relationship with God as I naturally wake up focused upon myself. Honestly, some mornings I don't make my bed (it's a habit I'm still trying to institute), but I always pray this prayer over my son on our way to school, so I pray it for myself then too if I haven't made my bed that morning.

The Prayer: Dear God, I need your help today. Please send your help my way, and give me the grace to recognize your help when it comes. Thank you for dying on the cross to free me from my sin and give me the power I need to live as a new creation. In Jesus' powerful name, amen.

First Things First: I try to read the Bible first, before my kids get up, or with a kid looking at books in the chair next to me if one gets up early. On the days I don't get out of bed on time, I listen to my Bible app as I get ready, read a little as I eat breakfast if I can, then study more after we get home from taking my oldest to school. I am not above letting my little boys watch a TV show if I haven't had the opportunity to read my Bible by mid-morning.

Shower: Let's get real here, silence/solitude are hard spiritual disciplines to institute--especially as a mom of young kids. Almost as hard as it is to get a shower in, am I right? On the few days a week that I do manage a shower (we won't talk about how often I wash my hair), I like to use that time for silence. It is amazing how the practice of silence helps me dig deeper into whatever spiritual truths I've been meditating on. It's also where I receive the most inspiration on what I should write next!

At the kitchen sink: Anytime I find myself at my kitchen sink for more than two minutes, I try to practice my scripture memorization. I use both the "press on mama" and "grief and sorrow" cards by Words Worth Noting, and keep them tucked on the window sill behind my sink so I can't miss them while I'm standing there. 

In the car:  We spend a lot of time in the car these days taking kids to and from two different schools, so I use my car time for a variety of ways to connect to God. Every morning I listen to the Jesus Storybook Bible on audible, discuss the story, and pray together with my boys. During the rest of the car rides I worship, meditate on the scripture I read during my morning devotions, pray, disciple/encourage friends (via voxer), and learn more about God through sermons and podcasts.

Laundry: Laundry is usually a time for podcasts that help me learn more about God or apply the gospel to life and ministry, but occasionally I just take this time for prayer and silence.

Disciplining and discipling my Kids: I know this is kind of strange one, but with three little boys, discipline and discipling is definitely a rhythm built-in to my day. Whenever I have the opportunity to share the gospel with them, I try to preach that same gospel to myself. When I ask them to confess, I consider what I may need to confess myself.

Cleaning: This is a time to serve, not with grumbling or disdain, but to love my family with a humble heart in the same way that Jesus loved his disciples by washing their feet.

Before bed: I find Christian non-fiction the perfect way to set my spirit at rest in God's provision before bed.

In the night watches: When I need to get up in the middle of the night with my boys (thankfully not that often anymore), I take that opportunity to pray over my child and preach to myself the gift it is to love them in such a straightforward way. 

If I can be vulnerable, I look at this list and it feels like both a lot and not enough. If I do all of this in a day, I still won't even begin to discover the fullness of our glorious God. Then there's the sinful, selfish part of me that recognizes that these practices of abiding will take up time that I would love to use for reading fiction or playing games on my phone (yep, I like phone games), and this list starts to feel like way too much. And there's still more I could do. I'd like to integrate prayer more, but I haven't figured out good rhythms for different kinds of prayer yet (I'll take your suggestions, I'm currently considering praying while going to the bathroom, lol), or found a prayer resource that works well for me.

But when I lean into God in these ways by the power and leading of the Holy Spirit, I never, ever regret it. I know that if you take the time to tie the practice of abiding with God into your daily rhythms, you won't regret it either. Abiding changes our lives, because it is by staying attached to the vine that we bear good fruit. Start small, just one discipline attached to one daily rhythm, and see how it draws you near to God. Once you experience intimacy with God, you can't help but want more. Remember, we're not after a list of rules, but a deeper relationship with our incredible Savior.

God didn't have to, but he did.

I spent so many years in a sowing season, that sometimes I'm overwhelmed by the blessings of my current harvest season. When my sowing season felt like it would never end, I put a lot of hope in a future possibility of harvest. But what I've found is that harvest seasons aren't about sitting back and letting the blessings flow in. In fact, harvest season requires the most work of all. The diligence to keep working hard on something you've been working hard on for so long.  The harvest is an exciting, worshipful time, but it's also a time of rooting out the weeds that had crept in as the plants blossomed. Harvest time requires even more of the faith and obedience that was built during the sowing season. 

But here's the trickiest part of a harvest season: not focusing on the harvest, but delighting in the one who took that small seed of faithful work from practically insignificant to real fruit.

As I delight in how God is bringing about harvest in my life, I've developed a refrain to keep my heart focused on the best treasure of all: God didn't have to, but he did.

God didn't have to change my motherhood season from the utter exhaustion of the endless needs of my three boys in three years to watching my sons grow together in brotherhood and their ability to play together for hours without my help--BUT HE DID.

God didn't have to change Unsupermommy from a book I planned to self-publish and hopefully sell a couple hundred copies to close friends to a traditionally-published book that women in Australia, Nigeria, and South Africa are reading--BUT HE DID.

When God said no to my daughter-desire, he didn't have to give me the gift of living next door to my mom--BUT HE DID.

When I prayed for more friends, God didn't have to respond with renewed relationships with sisters, new relationships with writer-women around the country, and new friends at church--BUT HE DID.

I didn't deserve any of these gifts, but he gave them to me. But don't miss this part, dear one, don't miss this:

Not one of these good blessings is the point. Not one of these good blessings makes the hard work of sowing and harvest worthwhile. Not one of these good blessings will ever satisfy the depths of the longing in my soul.

Because what my soul needs is the foundational, primary, and essential He didn't have to, but he did, the very one that saves my soul, sanctifies my soul, satisfies my soul, and will one day glorify my soul.

"But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus." Ephesians 2:4-8

Jesus. God sent his only son (mommies, let's get a little weepy over that). His only son. To die for me, a terrible, unrepentant, wandering sinner. That I might not be satisfied with the any of the awesome blessings of this world, but that I might find soul-satisfaction in the beauty of this amazing love, this undeserved grace, this unexpected mercy.

HE DIDN'T HAVE TO DIE TO SAVE ME, BUT BECAUSE OF HIS GREAT LOVE FOR ME HE DID.

This is why I must faithfully, obediently sow what little I have. This is why I must work hard even in the harvest. This is why the glory for the harvest is all his. This is why, amid all of his good blessings, he is the best. It all flows from him and points to him.

Praise God, he didn't have to save unimportant, unrighteous me, but oh for the glory of his great name, HE DID.

Holy Discontent: Redeeming my Deep Daughter Desire, Part 3

"Heaven is not here, it's There. If we were given all we wanted here, our hearts would settle for this world rather than the next."

- Elisabeth Elliot, Keep a Quiet Heart, pg 28

 

[[You probably know I had 3 boys in 3 years. You may not have been hanging around my nook of the internet long enough to hear about my strong desire for a daughter. If you don't know the back story, start with Part 1 and Part 2 before reading this.]]

I didn't just want a daughter. I always assumed I would have one.  I have 3 boxes of barbies, two boxes of dress-up clothes, a mountain of favorite little girl clothes from my childhood, and more American Girl doll clothes than I can count just waiting for the daughter I knew I would have. Then I had three boys. The daughter I planned for never came.

I've done the Gollum thing. You know Gollum, the guy in Lord of the Rings who constantly obsesses over "his precious." He is so consumed by the desire that he completely loses his identity as the hobbit Smeagol and becomes the ring-obsessed Gollum. He values the ring so highly that it's all he can think or talk about. The desire for it destroys his life, because nothing seems to matter as much as having that ring. He thinks it's for his best, the ultimate prize, but it destroys him. I've had a ring, a good thing, a good desire that slowly took control of my thinking and living.

When I got pregnant with my third child while my second was only 5-months-old, I thought, "If God is going to make me go through the difficulty of having two babies 13 months apart, then surely he will give me my longed-for girl." I'll never forget that ultrasound. My husband sat down and cried as the tech finished, and as soon as she was done I gave into the grief myself. I couldn't stop weeping. I could barely speak to the doctor through my tears. I knew I should be thankful for another healthy boy, but I couldn't see past my desire for a girl.

I lived in that space for a long time. Where my head was happy to have three sweet boys and an amazing husband, but my heart was lost to the daughter I wouldn't have. 

Praise God, he wouldn't leave me there. Slowly, against my own will to wallow, God has how my heart experiences grief. I'm never going to not want a daughter, but in that constant state of always wanting, but never getting, I can still be fully satisfied in Jesus. This is a place of holy discontent, where I'm constantly aware that my circumstances are wholly insufficient to satisfy the desires of my heart.

When I feel the punch of unexpected pain, I now find the wholeness of a triune God. When the grief floods my soul, God is waiting. God the Father reminds me: I know the pain of letting go of a child. I know that it takes loss to create a redemption story. Jesus empathizes: I understand what its like to bend my will to the Father's, to walk through the shadows to achieve redemption. I sat in the darkness of my Father's wrath to achieve your freedom. The Holy Spirit whispers: May this sadness remind you that there is no satisfaction in the gifts of this world. Let this holy discontent point you to the only true source of contentment. Your family is not enough to make you whole, but I am.

I begged God for a daughter, but he answered with his Son, in whom all the promises of God are Yes. I can live like Gollum, holding so tightly to my unfulfilled desire that I lose myself in it, or I can make peace with my holy discontent. My daughter desire will never go away, but it can be redeemed from something that drives me to sin into God's tool that drives my wandering heart back to Jesus, in whom all of my desires will be satisfied.