Thursday, April 27, 2017

Surrender Takes Time

"Surrender takes time."

I read these three precious words a couple years ago in the Bible study Brave, by Angela Thomas.

And boy, have I found that's true. As a matter of fact, I've discovered that since I've proclaimed to surrender everything to God, Satan has launched a full on attack and my flesh has weakly submitted to itself. While my mind says one thing (this is the better thing, the best thing, this is the path that glorifies God, who is holy), my body does the complete opposite.

I've lost count of wasted hours. I've given into unhealthy food, not-so-bad, but not-so good tv shows, playing, resting, wasting. I have not lived surrendered.

There are moments, by the grace of God, there are times I make the right choice. I sit down with His Word, I call out to Him in my need, I get up early and take that walk. But it's not every minute. Or every hour. Or even every day. Even today, I've done both - surrendered to God and surrendered to the flesh.

How comforting and encouraging it is to know that for others, too, surrender to God takes time. It's the next choice I need to focus on. Not the one tomorrow or next week. Not even the one five minutes ago. God is gracious and knows my heart.

Paul said it so well: I don't understand. What I want to do I don't do. What I hate, I do.

Amen, Paul!

In my heart and soul I know the benefits of living for the glory of God, but too long I have fed my flesh in living for it. Did I really think in a day all that would change?

Well, yes. The optimist in me did. But if that were so, I could take credit for it, and in doing so would move away from God, now draw closer to Him.

So, God, please continue to humble me and show me how I truly can do nothing good without You. Fill me with Your Spirit, give me the power to resist sin, and love through me. Help me to surrender to Your will. I love You. Help me to love you more.


Monday, April 24, 2017

A Simple Dinner Invitation

I have hesitated writing this post, despite it being in my mind for a few weeks. I don't want to be or seem whiny (that's my hope, that I'm not complaining or being petty). What I really desire is to share what little things we can do to impact others' lives.

Two years (and 26 days) ago, my husband, children and I moved into my in-laws house. The plan was for us to be here a year while we built a new home. As you can probably guess already, that plan didn't pan out as we had hoped. Oh, we're building our house, all right, but everything has taken exponentially longer than we anticipated. It will most likely be another three or four months before we move into our new home. During the last two years, I've learned a lot.

One of those lessons is how much of an impact a simple thing like a dinner invitation can mean. Unfortunately, I've learned this through not receiving such an invitation.

You see, when we had our own house, my husband and I invited people over all the time. Usually once a week, but minimally once a month, we had another family over for dinner, or out to dinner (usually on the boat we spend the majority of our summer weekends on). With 8 people living in a 3 bedroom house, there isn't a lot of extra space for hosting. Though we have, on occasion, when my in-laws have been out of town and seats opened up.

When we were newly out of our own living quarters, I hinted around (okay, I flat out said) how much we'd love an invitation to dinner.

As of yet, we have not received one.

Now, there have been times friends have hosted parties, celebrations, meetings, where we've attended with other families. There have also been out of town friends I've called up and invited ourselves to go visit for a day or two or three, and they've gladly hosted. But not once has our family been invited to join a single other family or couple for dinner.

This is where I really don't want to sound bitter, whiny, or disgruntled. I'm really not. Because what this has taught me is how much I want to be even more intentional about reaching out to others in small ways. And there have been friends who've reached out to us in other ways. Had our children over for play dates, listened when things got tough, shared encouragement and joined us to dedicate our house to the Lord.

For us, though, we've really missed that one-on-one connection with other families. For us, it would have meant so much to be invited over for dinner. nothing fancy, just good fellowship.

For you, it may not be a dinner invitation, but something else. There are so many ways to reach out and shower love and friendship on others.

How will you overflow God's love to another person or family?

Invite them to dinner?

Plan a playdate at a park?

Send an encouraging letter or card?

Call to see how someone's doing?

Offer to babysit?

Take them a meal?

Make a movie basket for another family?

Pray for them?

There are so many simple things we can do to bless others and add to their lives. We are all busy and don't want to add one more thing that will overwhelm us, but if we seek God's wisdom on how to love others best, He will not only show us how to do so, but provide us with the ability to do so.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10

If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. James 2:8

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Struggling through Surrender

I'm not sure why when I began to take my journey to live a surrendered life public I thought it'd automatically be easy. That my flesh wouldn't fight so hard against what I know I should do. Why did I imagine my body suddenly cooperating with surrendering every aspect of my life to God's will?

It didn't.

My flesh still calls out to do what is easy, comfortable, and momentarily pleasurable. And I often still give in.

That's not to say I've gorged myself on food, sat in front of the TV hours and hours a day, completely ignored reading my Bible and neglected praying. But, certainly, I give in enough to know that I often choose the good instead of the best.

So, how does change come?

First, it comes slowly. As I practice making the best choice in one situation, it will be easier the next time. Easier, not easy-breezy-dance-in-a-circle while making the right choice. But not as great as a struggle as it was last time.

I find that keeping myself in the Word and studying the Word most helpful. And I notice that I'm not in the habit as deeply right now as I have been in times of the past.

I'm not consistent.

This is a fact I've known about myself for a long time.

But God is.

And that's why I need to lean on Him and trust He has the best in store for me in everything.

Absolutely everything.

For a recovering control freak, though, that's not easy.
For a mom facing the challenges of parenting and homeschooling every day, that's not easy.
For a woman dealing with other imperfect people, that's not easy.

I snap at my husband. I lose my temper with my children. I make judgments on other peoples' decisions. I wear out. In my flesh I am human and I fail.

But in God's strength, I will be lifted up ~ something he's graciously reminded me lately.

And I say, "Thank you! I love you, help me love you more."

And God says, "My grace is sufficient. My strength made perfect in your weakness."

Boy, is His strength made perfect in my life!

Thursday, April 13, 2017

What is Surrendered Living?

Since I've started this journey of attempting a surrendered life publicly, I've had lots of time to mull over the question: What is surrendered living?

In my head, I think I know the answer, even though I've never been able to live it out day to day. Even in the three days since I began this journey.

This weekend, I did some of my Bible reading in the Amplified version, and God used these words to speak to me about surrender:

"But to as many as did receive and welcome Him, He gave the authority (power, privilege, right) to become the children of God, that is, to those who believe in (adhere to, trust in, and rely on) His name--" John 1:13

This gives me the picture of an infant, who is completely dependent on mom to be taken care of. As we grow, we separate from our parents and become more and more independent, which is the way it should be. However, as we become the person we are, if we children of God, we should then learn to depend on Him. This is how the Amplified Bible translates 'believe.' It's not just a head knowledge or a heart feeling, it's a lifestyle.

I can say I believe in God, yet make decisions every day that go against His character.

I can say I adhere to God, yet never slow down to spend real, quality time with Him.

I can say I trust in God, yet question the things that happen in my life that I don't like or understand.

I can say I rely on God, yet never stop to seek His guidance before making choices.

And these are the practices of surrendered living that I'm committing to. To live out a complete belief. To submit EVERYTHING in prayer. To be willing to give up things that are good (chocolate cake, fun TV shows, being a part of a dozen activities) for things that are better (fruit, time with God, focused work) -- if He calls me to. He may not lead me to give up some things I'm not wanting to give up, or He may. Living a surrendered life means I am willing to give those things up - even my birthday strawberry pie.

It is a constant battle - my want to and my want to - they are often at great odds. This morning, I started the day with prayer, but not with my Bible. I will commit to getting to it later, with a promise not to watch TV til I do. I've been eating better, but still compulsively. I have been exercising again, despite body aches and creaks.

I am the type of person who's willing to put a lot of effort in, but I know me: I won't maintain it. To maintain a surrendered life, I know I will have to rely on the Lord, trust in Him, adhere to Him, and give up all desires other than to love and live obediently to Him.

This is my prayer today.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Repost - Beginning the Journey - Still on the Journey

Today is not really the first day I've attempted at surrendered living, but it is the day I've dedicated to starting the journey publicly.

Today is my 36th birthday, the first day of the 37th year of my life. Looking back, I wonder how much of those years I've wasted. I don't think on it too long, because I know at least the better part of the first twenty were wasted. And seven of those were after I met Christ, but long before I truly began living for Him. Who didn't squander away the first two decades of their life, you might ask. I don't know. A lot of that era was me becoming who I am now. But a lot of that time also created a person in desperate need of God, His forgiveness, and His guidance.

For the last decade and a half, I've steadily drawn closer to God, and increased my desire for Him, to do His will and live for His glory. But submission and surrender don't come naturally to me. Not even close. My flesh fights it every day, and many days I give in. It's so much easier to live a comfortable, complacent life. To turn on the TV instead of open the Bible. To roll over and go back to sleep instead of spend time in prayer. To try harder instead of lean more. And messages we're assaulted with every day tell us we can do it: we can do it all, have it all and be it all, if we simply try harder or get the right tools. But God wants more.

He wants more for me.

He wants more for you.

I read biographies of men and women of great faith and am awed at what God does in their lives. They're blessed beyond measure, but often not in financial or other worldly ways. They're blessed in many other ways, more eternal way. The most important blessing, however, is the presence, guidance, and fulfillment of the Holy Spirit. That's what I want. That's what I want to want.

Now, I simply have to get myself to cooperate.

So today I began. I didn't completely succeed, but gratefully, God has taught me this is a journey. I only have to take a few more steps each day. My goal is to completely surrender every aspect of my life to Him. Everything. What I watch on TV. What I listen to on my ipod. What books I read. How much time I spend doing these things. The words that come out of my mouth. The thoughts I let stick around in my head. The things I write, cook, eat, play. Am I really willing to surrender these minute details to God's direction?

I want to be.

And that's what this journey's about. I invite you to join me, share with me, and (I'm always open to) encourage me.

I step through this door knowing that things won't suddenly be easy. My flesh will not suddenly give way and let my desires win out. But I also know that what God has in store for me is greater than I could ever work towards or even imagine myself.

Here I go.

Update: And I'm still going! I wish I could say the journey's been a delight and I've stayed focused on it. However, as anything in this life is, the road has been bumpy. One thing I'm even more sure of today than before is that God is always with me and He is always faithful. He has led me to tough places, but places I've needed to go to surrender more fully to Him. Place where I can recognize who He is and experience His great love.