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.

Hope from my Breastfeeding Failure Story

If you've already read Unsupermommy, you know that breastfeeding didn't work out for me. I told you that, but I never shared my story. I've been holding it close, because it isn't easy to say that you just plain old gave up. That sounds like the worst kind of motherhood failure in our culture.

I've never heard a woman tell me that she also became a bottle feeder without her expressing disappointment. In our culture, the easiest way to get an A+ at motherhood is to feed your baby right. It starts with breast feeding. Extra credit if you struggle with it but persevere through to 15 months. 15 months is better than 12 months--it demonstrates your true grit--but 18 months, that just makes people uncomfortable.

I wish we could abandon the term breast is best. We Christian women should know better. God is best. God provides best. God knows best. God loves best.

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Thankfulness for his Faithfulness

4 One generation shall commend your works to another,

    and shall declare your mighty acts.

5 On the glorious splendor of your majesty,

    and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.

6 They shall speak of the might of your awesome deeds,

    and I will declare your greatness.

7 They shall pour forth the fame of your abundant goodness

    and shall sing aloud of your righteousness.

Psalm 145:4-7

This past year looks nothing like I expected. Through all it's dramatic twists and unexpected blessings, I see the distinct handprints of God's faithfulness.

It's the time of year where we count our blessings. As Christians we think of Thanksgiving as a time to be grateful for what God has done for us. But that's not quite enough. We must proclaim God's abundance to others. Because Psalm 145 exhorts us to share God's works, mighty acts, awesome deeds, greatness, abundant goodness, and righteousness, I can't keep silent on the works of God's faithfulness to me and my family in the past year.

How God was Faithful in 2016 (an incomplete list):

  1. He enabled me to finish writing Unsupermommy. I was merely obedient to his calling; he was faithful to bring it to completion. When I needed physical help he provided baby sitters, grandmas, and a patient husband to support me. When I needed wisdom, his Word was a ready supply. When I needed encouragement, he moved in the hearts of others to speak. When I wanted to give up, he was persistent. He was faithful.
  2. He gave us the land. We're about to start building our farmhouse. My parent's technically gave us the land, but they were simply instruments of grace in our lives. Every piece of dividing off that land was met with a roadblock. We simply couldn't have made it through without God's amazing faithfulness. This blessing hasn't come in via the timeframe or plan we expected, but it is coming. He provided a winding path around the roadblocks of the county--one that was set in motion before my parents' even owned this property. He was faithful.
  3. When Wes was discontent and overworked at his previous job, God provided the unexpected gift of a career advancement close to home. We have already been so blessed by Wes' close proximity at Ridges so many times. When Wes did the first interview for that job, they were so honest in telling him they had two other internal candidates at the top of their list. But God had other plans for that position. He was faithful.
  4. We put our house on the market in May and sold it in two weeks to a buyer who didn't want to move in until September. Who has ever even heard of such a buyer? God was faithful.
  5. We moved in with my in-laws, and it has been so different than we expected. My MIL has only been at the house with us about 14 days in the 3 months we have been here, which means I've been shouldering a load of cooking, cleaning, and childcare that I did not expect. But he's been faithful in that too. He gave Wes the wisdom to insist on a Y membership where I can have some childcare and personal space. He has given me more patience and helped me establish a new routine for a quieter afternoon, even if it doesn't involve the alone quiet times we did at the old house. God has been faithful.
  6. I was so afraid to reach out and ask people to write endorsements for Unsupermommy, but God met me there again. I've been humbled by the caliber of people willing to read my words and put their approval behind mine. Unsupermommy will certainly reach more women with their endorsements. I was afraid, but God was faithful.

These six things are the big ones, friends, but there are so many more. All of God's faithfulness in every day moments could never be recounted. It would break the internet. That faithfulness must be whispered in the moment to our friends, spouses, and children. Don't let a chance to tell others about God's faithfulness pass you by. We are meant to proclaim it.

Do this today. Tell someone, tell the world. Speak boldly about God's blessing on your life. Proclaim his faithfulness.