on money, and worrying, and finding rest for my soul

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I have to be honest, I worry about money.  I always have.  I worry about debt, and I worry about spending too much, and I worry about not giving enough, and — more than anything else — I worry about making mistakes.  What if I buy those shoes and I shouldn’t?  What if I give them money, and they waste it?  What if I save when I should have spent, or spend when I should have saved?

I came home to California in early August, hopeful to work as soon as possible, because, well, I was worried about money.  I just paid off my undergrad loans (praise God!), and now, of course, I’m looking toward a whole new world of grad school loans, hah.  And even though, of course, I know nothing about real financial crisis, and I’m blessed to be living with family, I still worry and calculate and anticipate.

So, I’m sure, you can just imagine what kind of impatience comes over me as I’ve hit so many roadblocks on my way to start working here.  I ask myself, should I just take any job?  Because we all know that making something always feels better than making nothing. And all this extra time and silence gives space for fear and doubt.

But inside my heart, I know that God is telling me to wait, to be still, to rest in Him.  Inside, I know that if I just keep with the course, all the paperwork and such will come through, and God will provide.

It reminds me of that time, when Jesus was talking to those people on a mountain, and he said that they can’t follow money if they want to follow God, and how treasures on earth are gonna rot away anyhow.  And then he says that we shouldn’t worry about how our needs will be met, because He’s got it.

“Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own,” He said.

And so, somehow, I just have to be faithful to God for today, and use my time or money in the best ways I can to honor Him. Maybe, for today, I’m supposed to sit in a coffee shop and spend time talking with God.  Maybe, all along, these past weeks were meant to be filled with family, and making new friends, and rest.

Jesus knew all about rest.  In fact, He was the one who said that if we just take His yoke upon us, and learn from Him, we will find rest for our souls.  And I don’t think it’s the lazy, complacent kind of rest He’s talking about.  I think it’s the deep-down rest that comes in submitting to His control, and letting what He gives us today be enough.

So God, help me to stop trying to make things happen on my own.  Help me to take up that easy yoke, to let You lead me and teach me, and to find that place of rest in You.

*Excepts are from Matthew 6 and Matthew 11

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the power of presence

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I used to think I had to “do” the right things if I wanted to keep relationships.  And whenever I loved people, it was always clouded over by the fear that it wasn’t enough.

A few years ago, I realized I couldn’t keep up with it all.  Maybe it’s because I loved so many people in so many places.  Or maybe it’s that life got so full, I didn’t have the space or time to attend every event, to remember every birthday, to make phone calls to those I loved.  I guess since I wanted to be wholehearted in every relationship — and I knew I couldn’t — I just sort of gave up.

In the silence of that season, I feared the worst.  For me, I always worry that people will think I don’t care, when I care so very, very much.  And I worried that the things I couldn’t give were the very things that kept those people in my life.

Yet, strangely enough, nothing really changed.  In fact, I think most people didn’t even notice that I was “giving less.”  And when all was said and done, I didn’t feel less loved.  I felt more loved.  I felt loved enough to just be.

I realized that, sure, people may love the gifts I give, or the things my personality can offer, but most of all…people who love me, love my presence.  Somehow, just knowing that someone you love is present in your life, is enough.

So as I write this, with so many goodbyes fresh on my heart, I know what I miss most.  I miss knowing those faraway people are there.  I miss knowing I could see them or call them in any moment.  I miss their presence in my life.  But with that, I have to say, I know what I love most too right now.  I love that I can just say my brother’s name, and he’ll hear me from the other room.  I love that I can fall asleep to the murmur of voices or late-night TV shows, little reminders that my family is here and so am I.

When I think about the power of presence, it gives me chills to remember what God has to say about all of that.  How He tells us that even in the heavens, and even in the depths, even in the darkness or across the farthest seas, He’s there.  How it’s His presence that gives us the fullest joy, and how just being, just resting in His presence is better than a thousand days anywhere else.

And just like with all those we love, there is no greater gift He could give, no sweeter thing, than to offer us His presence, forever and always.

Where shall I go from your Spirit?  Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me. [Psalm 139:7-10]

a turning of the tide: learning to embrace God’s sovereignty in every season

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I used to see the valleys of life as a challenge, like a mountain to be conquered. How mature can I be? How much can I endure? How strong is my faith? I used to think that once I finally learned the lesson God was teaching me, once I hit that mark of maturity or holiness, I’d find myself back on my feet again. I used to think it was up to me.

But several months ago, I found myself in a very dark, very empty season of life. And it totally leveled me. Even though I understood what God was teaching me, even though I knew in my heart that His promises are true, even though I knew it wouldn’t last forever, every day was a battle for joy and a fight to keep the faith.

And if you’ve ever found yourself in that place, it feels so defeating. You don’t even feel like yourself anymore. Lies speak louder than truth. Fears seem valid. Insecurities eat up confidence, while shame whispers deceit about how you’re not strong enough, or mature enough, or holy enough. And there’s nothing you can do.

I used to try to fix it, to change myself, or to understand why. But, now, dear friends, I have been humbled. I can’t fix it. I can’t change myself. And sometimes it’s simply impossible for our finite minds to fully understand. Is my own sin part of the problem? Certainly. Is it a spiritual attack by the enemy? For sure. Is it the result of a broken world and broken people? Absolutely.

But…is God still sovereign? You bet.

And that humbles me too. To believe that this great, big God knows exactly what will break me and allows it anyway. To know that with one word, He could change it all. To realize that He’s orchestrating the pages of history and directing the paths of my life…all at the same time. Wow, what do I know?

This school year, things are different again. He’s turning it all around. Failures have been forgotten, hurts have healed, and my joy is restored. He’s given me glimpses of why, and He’s revealing the fruit of faithfulness. But more than that, He’s helping me realize that maybe it’s not so much about me anyway. We are a part of something so much bigger than ourselves, and God will use it all to purify us, and speak to us, and change us, but that’s simply a by-product of our obedience as we pursue after Him and His eternal purposes. Our only calling is to trust Him and embrace what He brings.

So, phew. I can relax and just be, no matter the season. I can delight in the sunny days of God’s favor, knowing it’s only by His grace. And I can trust Him when the darkness enfolds again, knowing that He’s working it all out for my good and His glory.

“To love God is to love His will. That which He gives we receive. That which He takes we relinquish.” – Elisabeth Elliot