When You Need Rest that a Nap Can’t Give

When You Need Rest that a Nap Can’t Give

The fence outside my window drips wet. Beyond it is a cold, gray sky. What happens when the walls you’ve built up start to crumble? When the plans you’ve made start cracking? When the tired isn’t the kind a nap can cure?

Isaiah 49:16 Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are continually before me.

Jerusalem was surrounded by walls. These walls offered protection, boundaries, limits. They protected the people, and they protected the temple within. But at the time of this message from Isaiah, the walls have been destroyed by Israel’s enemy. When His people feel forsaken and defeated, their God is reminding them that even in the midst of very dark days, He has not forgotten them. Bricks and mortar can crumble, but His children are still engraved on the palms of His hands. El Roi still sees them.

Divine rest doesn’t mean that situational circumstances are good. It doesn’t mean happy-go-lucky all the time. And it doesn’t mean a week-long vacation to the Caribbean. Pain splits us. Dreams shatter. Things don’t work out like we hoped they would. And right there in the middle of that rubble, He is whispering to them and to us that we are still in the palm of His hand. No matter what our circumstances, our unmet desires, our prayers that seem unanswered—our names are still engraved on the palms of His hands.

What does it look like to be temple-building, to have divine rest, to Sabbath? It’s not laziness because the Bible is clear that we are supposed to persevere, to press on. No, temple-building is our caring about one thing—being in His Presence.

“One thing have I asked of the Lordthat will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple.” Psalm 27:4

God gave the regulations around Sabbath in the Old Testament to help His people carve out time to be in His presence. In the New Testament, God came to dwell with His people in Jesus Christ, thus making Jesus the Lord of the Sabbath. His Presence walked among us. He ate and drank, walked and talked, bled and died. And then at Pentecost, the promised Holy Spirit came to dwell within those who believed. From beginning to end, it was about His Presence. It was about God Almighty dwelling among His people. Our Sabbath comes when we rest in His presence. Temple-building happens when we spend time in God’s Word, when we pray Scripture, when we worship alone and worship together, when we gather and break bread with people, when we remember how He broke and poured.

Remember Martha and Mary?

“Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:38-42, emphasis mine

Mary chose the good portion. Mary could rest with a contentment that came not from what she had done but what the One she worshiped had done. 

“The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.” Psalm 16:5, emphasis mine

Every day we have a million choices for how to spend our time and where to place our attention. When the Lord is our chosen portion, we can choose to get off the rat race and stop keeping up with the Joneses. We can be content in who we are because of Who we worship.

God’s Word isn’t about a self-help book. It isn’t a new diet, a new organization strategy, or a new way to declutter. The gospel isn’t about self-help at all. In fact, it’s the opposite. The gospel is about Jesus doing what we could NEVER do. And that’s where our rest comes from. He did what we could never do. Now, God invites us to sit before Him and bask in Who He is. To open His Word and allow Him to do His work within us.

Jesus Christ came to dwell with my rubble self. I will never be able to do anything good enough to earn His Presence. He knew that, and He bled grace. Sabbath is my thank you. Sabbath is my rest from performing, from achieving, from striving. Sabbath is my invitation to be a dwelling place for God Almighty. To build the temple for His Presence.

*This is part 2 of a series on rest and Sabbath. Part 1 can be found here. 

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Divine Rest

Divine Rest

For a long time, I’ve wrestled to reconcile the laws and regulations of Sabbath in the Old Testament with the freedom Jesus, the Lord of the Sabbath, describes in the New Testament. While preparing for a talk several weeks ago, the Holy Spirit showed me some things that brought clarity to my wrestling. It seemed like too much for one blog, so I split it into two parts, each part focusing on one half of Isaiah 49:16. Part 2 will be posted Wednesday, February 24th. 

I spent my childhood summers on my grandparents’ farm. I remember my grandfather and I would climb up onto the seat of the tractor and ride out into the pasture to check on his cows. I loved going by the salt lick. (And I admit to tasting it once or twice.) I loved dragging the hose over and filling up the old cast iron bathtub the cows used as a watering trough. Often, we moved the cows from one part of the pasture to another so they could graze on fresh grass. One day while we were out there, I noticed the brand on one of the cows and asked my grandfather about it. He told me how the branding iron was heated up until it was red hot then placed on the hide of the cow until it seared its permanent mark onto the animal.

Early last year, amid a lot of feelings of unworthiness and people-pleasing tendencies, I wrote a little verse on a sticky and stuck it to my bathroom mirror.

Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are continually before me. Isaiah 49:16

It’s that searing mark I saw in the pasture that I think of when I read this verse. Except with God, He took the searing. He took the mark. God uses His messenger Isaiah to remind His people, His children who feel forgotten and defeated, lost and afflicted, that He cannot forget them because they are engraved on His hands. We are seared into His hands. He doesn’t just hold us. We have left a permanent mark on Him.

The metaphorical mark described by Isaiah would become a literal mark on the day God Incarnate, Jesus Christ, went to the cross for us. It would be Thomas who said he needed to see with his own eyes the mark of the nails in his hands, and eight days later, Jesus showed him. “Put your finger here, and see my hands…” John 20:26.

Our worth, our being engraved on the palms of His hands is not determined by what we do. Our worth was determined the day Jesus Christ, the perfect Lamb of God, willingly chose to die for us. Our worth was demonstrated the day God willingly watched His Only Son pay the ransom for us. Our worth is not determined by what we do. Our worth is determined by what He did.

When we live life from a place of knowing our worth because of what He did, we can let go of the performance-driven life, the perfectionist life, the control-freak life. We can surrender to rest, divine rest. 

Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation. Genesis 2:1-3

The ESV Study Bible says this about chapter 2, “The repeated comment that God rested does not imply that he was weary from labor. The effortless ease with which everything is done in Ch. 1 suggests otherwise. Rather, the motif of God’s resting hints at the purpose of creation. As reflected in various ancient Near Eastern accounts, divine rest is associated with temple building. God’s purpose for the earth is that it should become His dwelling place; it is not simply made to house his creatures. God’s activities on this day all fit this delightful pattern. The concept of the earth as a divine sanctuary, which is developed further in 2:4-25, runs throughout the whole Bible, coming to a climax in the future reality that the apostle John sees in his vision of a ‘new heaven and a new earth’ in Rev 21:1-22:5.”

Divine Rest = Temple Building

God’s purpose for the earth is that it should become His dwelling place. When I read that, I flipped over to the page in my prayer journal and looked at some of the verses I’ve gathered for my word of the year, dwell. 

Psalm 23:6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Psalm 16:9 Therefore, my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure.

1 Chronicles 17:9 And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, that they may dwell in their own place and be disturbed no more.

The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein. Psalm 24:1 

One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple. Psalm 27:4 

God’s purpose for the earth is that it should become His dwelling place. We know that as believers the Holy Spirit dwells within us. This is why we are here, and this is why Sabbath is so important. Sabbath is divine rest. And divine rest means remembering our worth doesn’t come from a title or an address or an income. Our worth comes from being engraved on His palms, from the marks He bore while He hung on a cross because of His Great Love for us. Divine rest means carving out time and space to build the temple, to be God’s dwelling place.

If It Didn’t Happen on Instagram, Did It Really Happen?

If It Didn’t Happen on Instagram, Did It Really Happen?

I love Instagram. Truth be told, I hate Facebook. Too much bickering and links to articles that scare me. {These foods kill you! Silent drowning! Sunscreen is evil!} I can’t take it. Twitter cramps my penchant for wordiness. But Instagram with all its beautiful pictures of sunsets and squishy babies and delicious eats–that is right up my alley. I love beauty, and I love finding it everywhere, especially in the unexpected. Little glimpses into the messy beautiful of my village and a few I admire from afar is fun for me.

I have to be careful because, just like my own feed, all those beautiful pics are just a tiny slice of a life. One moment captured by the confines of a lens. And I can’t let myself go to it when I’m bored or in a bad place because then it isn’t about slivers of beauty. It’s about jealousy and discontent. I wish I was doing that, going there, eating that. Suddenly, the every day beauty that surrounds me isn’t enough anymore, and my heart turns from gratitude to greed. During Lent a couple years ago, I gave up social media, and that time without still echoes in my heart. I learned how I use social media as a crutch, a medicine when my heart is hurting. Since that Lent, I’ve taken a sabbath from social media on Sundays, and every week I’m reminded of the beauty in quiet. Be still and know that I am God. 

Recently, I’ve noticed something else during my sabbath. It’s this question rattling around like marbles in an old tin can. “If it didn’t happen on Instagram, did it really happen?” And really the question deep down is this, “Was that special moment special because of the moment or special because of the ‘likes’?” Deep slices through my heart. Do I share something because it’s funny or encouraging or beautiful? I think these are all great reasons to share, and I love the far-reaching community those things create. But if I’m being ugly honest, sometimes I share because I want to be liked. And loved. I want somebody to say, “You’re such a fun mom” or “You look so good.” And that’s a fast way into a dark hole. When I find myself interrupting something special thinking, “I’ve got to get a pic for Instagram,” I know something is off, and I have some soul-searching to do. A moment etched in my heart is just as meaningful as the one captured in a square on Instagram. 

The Holy Spirit and I have a regular conversation where He nudges me to look at my motives, and I get all defensive. But then I realize this is what I want, this refining, this stretching, this bringing my ugly into the light. And so I sit at my table with my prayer journal and splay it all out there because, of course, He already knows. And a few things creep up often like the stubborn weeds that persist in the cracks of my driveway. Discontent. Seeking approval from people. Wanting to be perfect. And the record that loves to live on repeat–control. 
The Holy Spirit nudges (sometimes shoves) me forward, and I have to examine my heart. Am I doing this, posting that, saying these words to get someone to like me? Am I being honest or just trying to look like I’ve got my act together? 

Or is this the pouring out of a heart secure in her relationship with Abba Father, confident telling the messy beautiful story of a sinner saved by grace? 

Friday Favorites

Friday Favorites

IMG_5189We have fallen right into our summer rhythm. Staying up late. Waking up late. (Except, no, just one of us does that. Apparently, five is the age to start sleeping in. Oh, what a glorious age.) Picking blackberries and hydrangeas and trying to keep the dogs from eating my sweet potato vines. The firecracker is usually in the sprinkler by 8:00, wet ringlets plastered beside her cornflower blue eyes by 8:02, and asking for her third “snack” by 8:06. There’s bike riding and scooter riding and weed pulling and baby giggling and late nights on the patio looking up at the patchwork of stars. There are tan lines on the girls’ backs and dirt under our fingernails and wet piles of clothes on the kitchen floor. These are my favorite kind of days.

A few recent favorites for summer…

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah: I love Hannah’s writing, and this one might be my favorite of all her books. WWII novels are my thing, and this one has it all–characters you believe and writing you just want to devour.

Nobody’s Cuter than You by Melanie Shankle: Jess gave me this book on our trip to Florida to see Heather. I read it once we got back home, and all I could think about were all our memories from the trip and the friendship those two have given me. So, there was a lot of laughter and maybe a few tears when I finished this one.

Secret Garden: An Inky Treasure Hunt and Coloring Book by Johanna Basford: We gave Lyd this coloring book and her other one Enchanted Forest for her birthday, and I’m not sure who enjoys them more–her or her daddy and me. These are beautiful and fun to work on together.

Perler Beads: Another birthday favorite, these are taking it back old school style. I have memories of doing these at camp as a kid. You put the little plastic beads on a form and then iron it to melt them together. These make a great rainy day activity! (Tip: Lyd does hers on a cookie sheet with a rim, and that helps the beads not get on the floor.)

SRT Hymns EP: I bought this EP the other day, and I love it. Peach and I like to listen to it when I’m feeding her in the rocker. And I love to listen to it on my short runs as I watch the sun turn the sky into cotton candy colors. Ellie Holcomb’s “Amazing Grace” is my favorite.

Essie Pret-a-surfer nail polish: The only way I can get my girls to sit still and let me trim their nails is the promise of a mani/pedi. Charlotte has been asking for blue, so I grabbed this one at Target the other day. My toes look very summery!

EOS coconut milk lip balm: My girls keep stealing mine, so I feel like I have to hide this one. I love anything that smells like coconut because it reminds me of the beach. I got this from Target too.

Sweet Sweet Sabbath print from Lindsay Letters: A much-needed reminder for me. And it’s pink.

The past year and a half has been one long, run-on lesson about pace and rest and Sabbath. I’m learning more and more each day that those quiet (well, quieter) moments–the ones in the morning while I do my Bible study to the sound of wet squeals in the backyard or in the afternoon when I’m feeding Peach in the rocker or at night when Matt and I sit under the twinkly lights on the patio–are the ones that most feed my soul.

To summer and Sabbath and sitting with our Maker . . .

Poured

Poured

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetAm I the only mom who feels like she should get a medal for letting her kids paint?

During breakfast Lydia asked if she and Charlotte could paint. I was feeling bold and adventurous (read: I had not had caffeine yet and my brain wasn’t fully processing) so I said yes. I laid out an old vinyl tablecloth to cover the floor, stripped the girls down to their diaper/underwear and let them go crazy. Meanwhile, I was a few feet away doing some dishes. I turned around a few minutes later to see Charlotte painting her leg and her foot blue. I pulled out the baby wipes and tried to get most of the paint off her foot. They went back to painting. A few minutes later Charlotte was painting the kitchen chair. Apparently, painting paper is far too predictable for my little artist. By the end of it, they were both covered in paint, so I hauled them to the bathtub to rinse off, glanced at the clock and realized it was only nine o’clock. Despite all that clean-up effort, she’ll ask me to paint again next week, and we’ll do it all over again. Because that’s what moms do. We pour out.

I know you. I see you. You pour out at your job, at the gym, at the parent-teacher conference. You pour out at the grocery story, at the oil-change place, at the classroom. Whether you work outside the home or stay at home or some combination of the two, you pour yourself out every single day. And it happens before they ever even hand you that sweet, screaming baby. I know brave women who pour themselves out every single day praying, waiting, begging God for a child to hold. Women who undergo tests and hormones and all sorts of things before they ever hear a heartbeat. Women who fill out mountains of paperwork, jump through a million hurdles and fight on their hands and knees for a child who needs a home. I know you. You pour out.

The first Sunday of Lent, we celebrated Communion as a family. Lydia and I baked unleavened bread together, rolling the dough into six little balls, one for each Sunday Sabbath during Lent. Lydia pressed the balls down and used a fork to prick tiny holes through the bread creating a cross in the center of each little loaf. After they baked, we gathered around the kitchen table with the warm bread and drinks while Matt read from Matthew. I had forgotten to get grape juice so we worked with what we had–coffee for Matt, tea for me and leftover McAlister’s lemonade for the girls. I imagine Jesus smiled.

Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”

As I ate the piece of bread and drank a sip of my drink, I realized every time I pour myself out for my family and those God has put in my path, I embody the very essence, the flesh and blood of my Savior.

I know what poured out looks like because I saw it lived out every single day of my childhood through my mom. Last week, the girls and I went to Mississippi to spend Spring Break with my parents and sister. While we were there, my mom did what she always does. She poured out. Through meals and gifts and hugs and time, she poured out. One day a little boy at her church was admitted to the hospital for a heart procedure. Mom called me as she was leaving the hospital and I could tell her heart was hurting for this child who had to go through things he couldn’t understand and for his mom who just wanted to know he would be okay. She left a trail of love all over that hospital wing.

I want to continue the legacy my parents gave me. My most-uttered prayer is that my girls will know and love the Lord with all their heart, soul, mind and strength, and I pray they love Him because they see me pour out love and grace every day. Just like the disciples, I won’t do it perfectly. Some days I’ll be confused or stubborn or impatient or selfish, but, gratefully, God can take my flawed yet willing heart and use it to reflect His Son.

Every sleepless night, every report card, every load of laundry, every meal, every paint-smeared mess is an opportunity to pour out. And every gray hair, every stretch mark, every moment spent in tears on our knees is a reflection of a life lived for a greater purpose.  A body broken. Love and grace poured out.

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