Write it Down.

100_2374In 2013, I started keeping a praise jar. It’s rather straightforward; every time there was something to praise God about, I tried to remember to write it down and put it in the jar. In January of 2014, it was so amazing to lay out all of God’s blessings (that I had noticed) month by month for the previous year. I spread them out on my kitchen table and just looked, in awe.

I never knew.

Never before had I kept such a meticulous record of every way God had blessed me and my family. And to be honest, I wasn’t all that meticulous about it. If I’d really written everything down, I’m sure my whole house couldn’t have contained all the sticky-notes.

Last year, I continued the tradition, but this time I included every answer to prayer — not only for us, but also answers to our prayers for friends, for relatives, for acquaintances, or for whomever else God had put on our hearts to pray. So this month as I looked back on 2014’s blessings, I also saw 52 specific answers to prayer.

Babies were a theme. We saw miracles for Ridgeley, Hunter, Caleb, Samuel, Deacon, Ethan, Emma, Abby, another Samuel, Josiah, Noah, and Graham. I tear up as I write these names, because some were “everyday” miracles of birth, but very many of them were miracle healings — babies who weren’t supposed to live; babies who were supposed to have extreme abnormalities; babies whose mommies had very high risk pregnancies; babies whose mommies’ doctors told them not to waste their time continuing gestation. All of these tiny people are alive today, healthy, loved, and a continual testimony of God’s mighty hand. We prayed fervently for these babies, and look! Look what God has done! Great is His name!

Oh, but I can’t forget baby Robert. We prayed fervently for him, too. We prayed; we begged; we wept; and God answered. God brought him Home as his mommy held him tight, whispering love.  I still cry over this beautiful baby; I cry for the loss his family feels. I remember May 12, knowing that when it comes again in a few months, and again next year, and again forever, his momma will feel a deep hurt resurface. But despite this pain, baby Robert is in my family’s praise journal because he is dancing with the King! Healthy, loved, alive, and not regretting a moment of his little life on earth. Look what God has done! Great is His name!

Friends were healed from cancer. Others were hopeless, then given hope. Missing, and then found. Hurting, and then comforted. Jobless, then employed. Addicted, and then freed. And so much more. Look what God has done! Great is His name!

I would have never remembered. Who remembers all of this? We may rejoice in the moment, at the news, but inevitably there’s dinner to cook and laundry to fold and butts to wipe. Life goes on, and we get right back to complaining about the dinner and the laundry and the butts.

We forget to notice the blessings. We forget to see the answers to prayer. We forget to recognize the miracles. We forget to praise God.

No wonder He seems so far away — we refuse to see Him. 

I was somewhat negligent in my attempt in 2014 to keep up with praises and answers to prayer. I forgot a lot. But even in the little bit I remembered, I recorded 52 specific answers to prayer and several more sweet blessings.

That’s because I wrote them down. This year, just like last year and the year before, I will see God.

Will you?

I will extol You, my God, O King,
And I will bless Your name forever and ever.
Every day I will bless You,
And I will praise Your name forever and ever.
Great is the Lord, and highly to be praised,
And His greatness is unsearchable.
One generation shall praise Your works to another,
And shall declare Your mighty acts.
On the glorious splendor of Your majesty
And on Your wonderful works, I will meditate.
Men shall speak of the power of Your awesome acts,
And I will tell of Your greatness.
They shall eagerly utter the memory of Your abundant goodness
And will shout joyfully of Your righteousness.

The Lord is gracious and merciful;
Slow to anger and great in lovingkindness.
The Lord is good to all,
And His mercies are over all His works.
All Your works shall give thanks to You, O Lord,
And Your godly ones shall bless You.
They shall speak of the glory of Your kingdom
And talk of Your power;
To make known to the sons of men Your mighty acts
And the glory of the majesty of Your kingdom.
Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
And Your dominion endures throughout all generations.

The Lord sustains all who fall
And raises up all who are bowed down.
The eyes of all look to You,
And You give them their food in due time.
You open Your hand
And satisfy the desire of every living thing.

The Lord is righteous in all His ways
And kind in all His deeds.
The Lord is near to all who call upon Him,
To all who call upon Him in truth.
He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him;
He will also hear their cry and will save them.
The Lord keeps all who love Him,
But all the wicked He will destroy.
My mouth will speak the praise of the Lord,
And all flesh will bless His holy name forever and ever.

–Psalm 145

 

 

 

 

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2015: Simplicity

Do not worry…for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
~Jesus

A few years ago at the turn of a new year, my first lady challenged our women’s group to make spiritual goals for the upcoming months. Kind of like resolutions, but not at all. New Year’s resolutions always rely on personal willpower to muscle through something that you’ve already proven yourself completely incapable of doing, and you generally set yourself up to prove that inability to yourself once again, this time more spectacularly. Making spiritual goals, on the other hand, involves you humbling your heart before the Lord and asking HIM what areas HE wants to address. He chooses, you submit; He works, you yield; He is glorified, you are blessed.

I love it. I’ve been seeking the Lord in this way every year since. This year, the Lord gave me one goal, in one word: Simplicity.

He answered me. Life was too much because I was trying to exert some effort, out of myself, to glorify Him. To serve, to shepherd, to shine. Good things, yes. Commanded things, certainly. But not THE thing. Not what is first. Rushing around, trying to get to this, go there, do that, say this — all, honestly, in an effort to honor Him and to create opportunities to serve, shepherd, and shine. But some of these goings and doings were not from Him, and thus they were useless. So useless, in fact, that God actually made what should not be too much to be too much, so that He might get my attention.

He did.

Seeking the Kingdom, then, “in a certain sense…is nothing I shall do. Yes, certainly, in a certain sense it is nothing, become nothing before God, learn to keep silent; in this silence is the beginning, which is, first to seek God’s Kingdom” (Søren Kierkegaard, as quoted in Foster’s Celebration of Discipline, p. 87).

This is Christian Simplicity. Everything grows from here. Welcome, 2015. Welcome, Lord. I’m listening.

2014: A Failure

I still contend that it’s not too much. Many people do much more and do it well; a younger self once did much more, too.

That is not me.

That is not now.

Apparently.

As Christmas drew near and the year began drawing its final, chilly breaths, I mustered my courage and whispered secret words to a dear Friend:

“I just feel like such a failure.”

The context was homeschooling, but the truth was deeper. It was everything. And I hadn’t told anybody.

I just couldn’t do it. It’s too much. It isn’t too much, but it’s too much. The last few months of 2014 left me desperately trying to hide this secret chaos that was growing in my spirit. Every evening I went to bed, glad that I had finally caught up on this, but fretting over that which had now been neglected. It became too much. Why was it too much? Why couldn’t I catch my breath or a break? I can show you my schedule — it is NOT too much! This is all perfectly within reason. Look at her. Look what all she does. What is wrong with me?!

The Lord has been answering me; that’s for a later post, if God gives me the words and the opening. For now, I want to ask you a question He asked me:

What are you doing that God has not specifically consecrated you for?

This question is revolutionary, if you weigh your response prayerfully.