How to have it all AND balance it all. (Maybe not.)

Greetings, Friends!

Much has happened since I last posted – joy and pain, rest and activity, visitors, weddings, Easter celebration, losses mourned, books read, sleepless nights, starting a new business (more on this to come!), and delightful moments with a quickly growing 10 month-old girl.

For a large chunk of this spring my heart has felt a little dry and a bit distracted. I’m still learning how to do life as a work from home mom. In the past few weeks several kind friends asked how the balance is possible – raising a kid at home while working.

The truth is that there isn’t much balance going on.

balance

photo by Crystal Morgan Photography.

(Do you remember the last time I blogged? I certainly don’t. Sometimes I feel guilty for my absence/silence. Other times it doesn’t cross my mind. At all.)

I’m LOVING this new stage my daughter has entered. I treasure being a mom and I’m thankful for the ability to be at home with her. I really don’t feel guilty for not producing material on my computer because I’m too busy trying to keep up with a baby. I want to work, but not as much as I want to play with Norah.

I don’t wake up early for creative or peaceful alone moments. I don’t sneak out of the house in the evenings to punch out writing pieces or prepare for upcoming engagements. I never find myself slaving away at 11pm. I don’t know whether I’m lazy or just adjusting to reality. Pinterest is full of pins that tell me about the realization of dreams. Those dreams don’t play out in your sleep. They play out and pay out when you are willing to work. So right now I hope to spend the baby’s naptimes well and try not to get frustrated when she wakes up too early.

The question in every women’s magazine seems to be how to have it all and balance it all. I even downloaded a few books on the very topic but stalled out on reading when I realized the author wanted me to pause and journal about all the thoughts and feelings going on. It just felt like too much effort. I barely have the time to READ the book.

I don’t really know how to balance so the scales rest evenly.

But here’s what I do know-

  1. Seek God’s Kingdom first.
  2. Come to Jesus and He gives rest.
  3. If I want wisdom in all of these areas I need to get wisdom.

”The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. Though it cost you all you have, get understanding.” Proverbs 4:7, NIV

“If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.” James 1:5-6 

I need time in the Word and in prayer. I need it daily. Even as an artist who feels compelled to create and dream, my first need is the most basic and nourishing. My soul is thirsty.

I started the year reading a daily devotional, Streams in the Desert. It’s a lovely book, a compilation of thoughts from L.B. Cowman, written in the early part of the last century. The thoughts are deep, enriching and succinct. I told myself the single verse at the start of each page was enough to see me through the day, but really, I was still thirsty. And then I started doing my Jillian Michaels 30-day Shred Workout DVD.

Hang with me.

It’s a 20-minute workout that is super intense. She talks throughout the sessions and about the fourth time I worked out, something she said shouted to my heart.

“No. You do not get to do a 20-minute workout and take a break in the middle. It doesn’t work like that. If you want to see results, you have to be willing to do the work. You’ve been told to just take the stairs. We are feeding a culture of lethargy. You can do a tough workout.”

I want wisdom. I need wisdom if I’m to make it through any sort of day, pre or post having a baby. Life is complicated, challenging, and sometimes exhausting. So if my aim is gaining wisdom, the process includes time devoted to God’s Word for my daily fuel. It takes a different kind of effort and work.

God used a workout DVD to remind me that my lifelong pursuit isn’t to achieve some euphoric balance in my day. If I desire to see heart results: growth in my relationships, change in my character, and passion for the art I’m wired to make, I have to be willing to put in the work. Rather than balance- I want the scales to tip heavily toward Him.

ideasgrow

So the morning after my workout realization, I opened my Bible to the book of Isaiah. I fed Norah strawberries and cheese, poured a cup of coffee, and started reading outloud to both of us. There’s nothing quiet about our morning time. :) We read with vigor: “The vision concerning Judah and Jerusalem that Isaiah son of Amoz saw during the reigns fo Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah…” (Isaiah 1:1)

Today we made it to chapter 37. I feel no more balanced than I did at chapter 1, but I feel as though my life is posed for a better alignment. (This post was super encouraging!)

Whether you are a student, employee, artist, spouse, single mom, working mom, retired dad, or volunteering grandmother- my encouragement for us all is to allign our hearts. Instead of worrying about balance, begin seeking after the Lord in His Word. “Open wide my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law.” Psalm 119:18

The beautiful result of quenching my soul thirst has been more peace, more quality time[!], and a stronger desire to create/dream than I’ve had in months. I don’t know if this means more blogging in the future or an extended “sabbatical” of sorts, all I know is what lies ahead of me today- and I’m at peace with it.

“Lord, you establish peace for us; all that we have accomplished you have done for us.” Isaiah 26:12

Following,
Ginger

Fill it Up, Hold the Guilt

I signed up for a mentoring program at my church. I’ve been paired up with a mentor (hurray!!) and this week was our second time getting together. We’ve elected not to go through a book or create any additional homework. We are attempting “life on life” discipleship. This week we walked, next week we are making dessert together. During our quality time we share a little bit about our past, our present, and especially what God is teaching us.

About 45 minutes into our walk I made the remark that I just felt a little dry. Life has been filled with lots of great things, but lately has left little room for me to open up the Word each day. I explained,

“I wanted to pull out my Bible this morning, but every time I went to open it, my daughter just needed me. Diaper changes, naps, feeding, falling, teething, and then the laundry buzzer sounds.  I feel like it’s just out of my grasp today. I so need it to set my mind and heart each day or I just don’t think I can make it.”

My mentor shared about her past struggle with legalism. She felt guilty for years because she wasn’t a morning person and rarely pulled out her Bible until the evening.

But then she decided to stop feeling guilty and just start enjoying the time she did have to read. The important thing was to not get caught up in rote performance. Her words have replayed in my head for the past few days.

“You talk about filling up in the morning and getting set for the day. That’s great when that can happen, especially if it’s how you are wired. But don’t forget that you have the Holy Spirit – you ARE filled up.”

 filled

I’m the first person to tell you not to let guilt keep you from the gift of God’s presence, but I often forget that truth in my own life. This season of life makes me hunger for the Word like never before. That’s a good thing. But I cannot let myself feel guilty or defeated if I don’t have that thirty minutes to give. I can turn to the Lord and know that He is faithful to give His presence in so many ways, especially in prayer. Time in the Word is worth it, but I don’t have to live like my well has run dry. My cup runneth over because of a living, moving, and personal God. He provides streams in the desert.

Maybe I’m the only one who needed that reminder today. But just in case, I thought I’d share it here too.

 “… keep on being filled with the Spirit.” Ephesians 5:18, ISV

Following in freedom,

Ginger

Step #2: Today’s Manna

season

This scenario happens far too frequently in my life:

My husband I go out to dinner and can’t decide whether or not to order an appetizer or dessert with our meal. We usually cave and get both. And then we often forgo debating which dessert and simply order two of them. It’s fabulous and waaay too much food. We placate ourselves by talking about how rarely we go out or how much we deserve a treat. By the time we hit the car to drive home I usually remark, “I’m not going to eat ANYTHING tomorrow.”

It doesn’t matter the ridiculous amount of calories I consume in the evening, I’m still going to wake up hungry. I always wake up hungry. I’ve never been one of the lucky few who could just forget to eat lunch. I also know that if I don’t eat when I’m hungry, my hunger can quickly turn into hanger. Hunger + anger = Hanger. “Sorry I snapped. I’m hangry.” I try not to use it as an excuse, I simply acknowledge this fact and make sure to pack a Larabar with me at all times.

Hunger is an important driving force in the Bible. God provides food miraculously for the hungry time and again. Case in point, this story from Exodus.

The sons of Israel said to them, “Would that we had died by the Lord’s hand in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat, when we ate bread to the full; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether or not they will walk in My instruction. (Exodus:16:3-4, NASB)

God was making an important point with the Israelites. If they tried to utilize the manna from the day before, they discovered it rotted through. He wanted to be their source of provision each and every day. Layer that truth with Matthew 4:4 and you find our 2nd step to staying in tune this season.

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'”

stepSTEP #2. Collect Manna for Today.

I know how easy it can be to read the Word on Sunday and want that manna to be our fix for the whole week, but God desires to speak to us each and every day. The Bible is meant to be our fuel for the journey, the sustanance that will keep us graceful in the midst of the most trying times.

Jeremiah 15:16 is one of my all-time favorite verses and speaks to the precious nature of God’s Word.

When your words came, I ate them;
    they were my joy and my heart’s delight,
for I bear your name,
    Lord God Almighty.

If we want our hearts to remain in tune, we would be wise to fill up each and every day. My hope and prayer is that the Word of God would be our joy and delight, the source we turn to satisfy our hunger.

“Like an addiction, a compulsion that can’t stop its seeking, do I always want to see more beauty–more of the glory of God? Because that is what I am made for–to give Him more glory. More eucharisteo, more. And not only yesterday. But today– manna today or I starve.” (Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts)

“Come, thou Fount of every blessing,
tune my heart to sing thy grace;
streams of mercy, never ceasing,
call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I’m fixed upon it,
mount of thy redeeming love.”

– Robert Robinson, 1735-1790

 

Following,
Ginger

Awake, My Soul

dawn

That’s the verse I’m memorizing this week. Psalm 57:8. The reason I am claiming this verse today isn’t because I pulled out my harp when I got out of bed. I identify with this verse because I don’t always awake full of the courage or desire to live out the joy of the Cross. Heck, I very rarely wake up with desire to do much of anything except plot when I can next take a nap or go to sleep.

If you open your Bible and turn to Psalm 57 you will see  inscription that preceeds the song. My Bible says: “Of David.  A miktam. When he had fled from Saul into the cave.”

A miktam was most likely a musical notation or title for psalms of penance for sin. (Jennifer Rothschild – Me, Myself & Lies) David was running for his life when this Psalm was written. He had likely been on the run for years. He spends the first portion of the passage asking for mercy and crying out to God. I picture him poring out these words on the verge of tears:

Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me, for in you my soul takes refuge.  I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed. (Psalm 57:1)

The passage continues as David anguishes over His situation. He lists his worries to the Lord. And then, starting in verse 7, the tone of the passage begins to make a shift.

“My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast; I will sing and make music. Awake, my soul! Awake, harp and lyre!  I will awaken the dawn. I will praise you, O Lord, among the nations; I will sing of you among the peoples. For great is your love, reaching to the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies. Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let your glory be over all the earth.” (Psalm 57:7-11)

David is in real danger. He probably hasn’t slept, bathed, or had a regular meal in days. He is lonely and probably feeling anything but courageous.

I know that when I become overwhelmed I want to crawl up into a ball and have a good long cry until everything has blown over. I want God to swoop in and just fix it.

David demonstrates reliance upon God, but he also makes a choice when it comes to his emotions. David chooses to praise God in the midst of terror. He commands himself, “Don’t sleep through this!Don’t trust your heart, trust God!  Get up and get moving!”  David’s heart might have been telling him to hide, to distrust God (after all, wasn’t David SUPPOSED to be the King?), and to even check out for a while. Instead, David knew how important it was to be awake and alert.

The Hebrew word translated awake means “wake, life up (self), stir up (self).” (Rotschild)

I’m not saying it’s easy, and I’m certainly not saying that this is my usual behavior. I just want to point out the example of David. He’s worn out from the fight and yet he commands his soul to praise the Lord. His attitude and response are his choice. Your attitude and response in the midst of exhaustion are your choice.

Living wide awake is a choice.

Following,
Ginger

Dear Ginger: Book It

dear ginger

Ginger –

You read A LOT of books! How do you recommend getting started reading books? I have such a huge bookshelf with so many I want to read when really I feel like the Bible is the one I should be opening for the few moments I have each day to read. Do you set book reading goals? I sometimes think I’m just not a reader. But I feel like that’s like someone saying “I’m just not a runner.”

-L

Dear L,

As soon as you compared reading to running I totally understood where you were coming from. For years I was the non-runner in a world of race-loving friends. I strongly felt bibs were for eating and NOT for exercise. But there’s something about a goal that can get me to do the most unexpected things. I have to say it, declare it, and then just go for it. Thus this non-runner came home with her 13.1 medal.

run run

I love that you are setting a goal for reading. I think the “Book It” reading program in elementary school might have fostered some of my early page-turning. Winning prizes really appealed to me, and then the love for literature soon followed. I don’t enjoy all types of reading, some books make me want to poke my eyes out. I need stories throughout even a non-fiction book to stay engaged and interested. But I suppose I also just enjoy learning. I prefer to read paper books, although I do enjoy my Kindle while on vacation. I love to mark up my books with underlining, highlighting and lots of notes. I think it keeps me engaged and helps me to find passages that I want to refer to at a later time.

The list that your question came from just happened to contain a lot of Spiritual Growth material. I talk about a lot of books, but the list has been growing since I was about 13 years old. I also happen to have attended a ton of Bible studies that went through books and also have a degree in theatre ministry from College. Much of my required reading from school still sits on my shelves. But aside from that, here’s how I usually approach reading.

I spend the morning reading my Bible, usually over breakfast. I am a “MUST HAVE BREAKFAST” gal so it’s an easy way to make sure I get fed in every way possible. I typically read one page from “The Valley of Vision” prayer-book or “My Utmost for His Highest.” Then I start an entry in my journal and read anywhere from 1-4 chapters of whatever book of the Bible I’m currently reading. (I do set some goals in Bible reading. This year I’m reading through the Gospels over and over. There’s not a number of times I’m hoping to hit all four, I simply wanted to focus on the words of Jesus. So I suppose you could say it’s a theme rather than a goal.)

Since I eat lunch alone, (or dinner when I lived by myself) that’s when I spend a good portion of time reading whatever book is next on my list. I usually ask for books on my Birthday or for Christmas after keeping a running list of suggestions from others in the front of my journal all year long. I don’t have a “finish this by this time” goal – I just read a book until it’s done. Some slower books can take me 2-3 months on my lunch pace… but if a story or theme catches me I will usually make my lunch last a little longer each day.

I used to read fiction in the evenings until I realized I was reading more Harry Potter than anything else. (Not joking.) I needed some veggies and protein in my high-carb reading diet! I now typically only read fiction on vacation. It gives me something to look forward to and a good reason to load up my Kindle.

I’ve also learned that it’s ok not to read every page of a book. I’m not in school any more. If I’m struggling through a chapter for too long, I just move on. That’s really hard for my personality to allow, but I started considering that option after perusing these posts from “Following to Lead.” (How Do Leaders Read So Much? and To Read A Book in An Hour)

Like running, there are days when you pull out the book and do the work even if you aren’t feeling it. But don’t let a missed day keep you from jumping back in after a break.

Hope this helps! Does anyone else have any other suggestions for L?

Following,

Ginger

Choking on Worry

Did you know that the English term for worry comes from an old German word meaning to struggle or to choke? 

That sounds super appealing.

And yet, I could easily be labled a worrier. There is so much content to work with: the state of the country, Syria, North Korea, baby prep, finishing a manuscript, labor and delivery, saving for the future, the health of family members… and on and on.

We are good at worrying.  Stop for one second, could you write at least one thing down that you are currently worried about? How about five?

Does worrying actually accomplish anything?

The average person’s worry will be spent on-
40% on things that will never happen
30% on things about the past that can never be changed
12% on criticism from others
10% on health
8% about real problems that will actually be faced

I know I shouldn’t worry!  I know the Bible says not to. But sometimes I feel SO PRODUCTIVE.  I love my lists – I’ve always made worry lists.

So what’s the big problem with worry? Worry is admitting or uncovering that I can’t trust the Lord enough to believe that He has everything under control, that my life doesn’t surprise him!

In Paul’s letter to the Philippians his overarching point is to remind them to be like-minded by having the same attitude as Christ – striving forward – taking hold of what has already been attained for us. Chapter 4 is where I want to camp for a little while.

“Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, dear friends!

I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you, my true companion, help these women since they have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life.

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:1-7, NIV)

Euodia and Syndeche are fighting – these leaders of the church – obviously not being of the same love and purpose.  So Paul asks others to step in. Rejoice!  Be gentle with how you handle this situation and don’t be anxious. Turn your requests to the Lord. (For me, any type of confrontation is cause for worry!)

ANXIOUS: extreme uneasiness of mind-brooding fear.

This use of ANXIOUS in this passage is the same greek word used by Jesus in Matthew chapter 6 when he commands “Do Not Worry”.  MER-IM-NAH-O.

This is a clear command – and yet since it was not written on stone like some others, we often disregard it.  Jesus desires this to be a law written on our hearts, transforming us into people who trust Him enough to obey him even when we can’t see what the end result might be. The struggle to give this up is huge for me!

Why do we worry? It’s all about control!

How do we try and deal with it?

  1. Medicate
  2. Ignore/distract ourselves
  3. Over control the situation

But what are some biblical solutions to this challenge?

Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.

God knew what he was doing from the very beginning. He decided from the outset to shape the lives of those who love him along the same lines as the life of his Son. The Son stands first in the line of humanity he restored. We see the original and intended shape of our lives there in him. After God made that decision of what his children should be like, he followed it up by calling people by name. After he called them by name, he set them on a solid basis with himself. And then, after getting them established, he stayed with them to the end, gloriously completing what he had begun. (Romans 8:26-30, MSG)

He has a plan and purpose for our lives. Let your gentleness be evident to all – the Lord is NEAR!  Paul is communicating what Christ wanted us to get all along.  Worry denies God’s strength, sovereignty, and presence in our everyday lives.

worry

  1. Remind yourself that HE IS NEAR!
  2. He loves you and longs for the very best for you.  Whose are you?
  3. Hide His word in your heart.  Take every thought captive.
  4. Pray, Pray, Pray.

And the peace of God – not necessarily the immediate answer you desire, but the peace of God will flood your hearts and mind.

Following and learning,
Ginger

Dear Ginger: Bullying

dear ginger

Dear M,

Thank you again for your willingness to write in and share the struggles you are currently facing. Last week we took some time to talk about a large portion of your letter: what to do when you don’t like how you feel or how you look. I hope you’ve been encouraged by that discussion.

I wanted to take additional time this week to address the other component in your letter. Specifically these sentences:

There is a girl who called me a “fat seal” this year and that really hurt me. She’s bullied me since the 5th grade and this year I started cutting. I told my parents but I really need someone’s advice who has also struggled with not liking yourself. The very first night when you talked about how I’m God’s masterpiece. But I still haven’t figured out to deal with her because she constantly likes to bully me.“

You aren’t the first to bring up this dilemma, nor will you be the last. It deeply saddens me to know that bullying of any kind takes place in our schools, much less between two girls. Navigating middle and high school is tough enough without the added emotional stress of a bully. I am so sorry that you are experiencing so much hurt. I want you to know that I care about your pain. I can understand why the words of someone else have the power to keep you in self-worth limbo. I experience some similar comments when I was younger… and they still hurt.

I was also a child (and teen) who was very insecure about how I was perceived by others. It doesn’t take much for your confidence to be stripped away, does it? I can vividly recall the words of the unkind boy at my grandmother’s swim club and the girl I overheard in passing at camp. I don’t remember what I wore on the first day of fourth grade but I can clearly picture a boy walking up to me quite candidly and declaring, “My dad said you got fat this summer.

Not, “How was your summer?” or “I wonder what 4th grade will be like?” or even “I don’t know what to think of Mrs. So-and-so.” Not only do I wonder what compelled the boy to share this information, but I also wonder what made his father decide to proclaim that message to his son. One sentence and I carry it always. Isn’t it amazing how hearing from others can affect how we feel about ourselves?

Sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never hurt me.

That’s a joke, right?

Words sting. They can scar. But rather than just accept the negativity and hide those thoughts in the back of our minds, I want to encourage us all with this verse.

The weapons we use in our fight are not the world’s weapons but God’s powerful weapons, which we use to destroy strongholds. We destroy false arguments; we pull down every proud obstacle that is raised against the knowledge of God; we take every thought captive and make it obey Christ.” (2 Corinthians 1:4-5, GNT)

Why start a discussion about bullying with a verse from the Bible? I believe the Bible holds the answers for some of our most challenging situations. When a bully comes with harsh words this verse reminds us that we destroy the false arguments and instead choose to believe what our Creator says about us.

1. Take those hurtful thoughts captive and replace them with truth from the Bible. “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” What usually causes a bully to act out? Insecurity. Don’t let this girl’s insecurity rob you of the worth and confidence you have from your Maker. God has a unique and special plan for your life, so don’t let the words of another keep you from remembering that!

“When you choose to believe God’s Word, your emotions may not follow immediately. Does that mean you aren’t trusting God? No. Faith is often exercised in the context of a struggle, in the midst of conflicting thoughts and emotions… When we trust in God, we will experience many obstacles to faith, but placing our trust in His Word- not our feelings- will see us through.” (Robert S. McGee, The Search for Significance)

2. Talk to your parents, a teacher, or a trusted adult if the bullying continues or escalates. I know you mentioned that you had spoken to your parents at least one occasion. Be sure to keep them updated and apprised of the situation. I realize no one wants to be a tattletale, but if this situation is causing you as much pain as you say, it’s worth doing whatever you can to make it stop.

And you’ve likely tried this, but I still want to mention it. Firmly look this girl in the eye and tell her to please stop. Use a clear and confident voice. If it seems as though she is going to lash out again, simply walk away and remove yourself from the situation.

3. Pray for this girl. What?! I know you might think I’m crazy, but here me out. We already discussed the fact that this young woman is likely struggling with a large dose of insecurity. Things could be really difficult at her home. Perhaps she’s been bullied before and this is her way of making sure she’s the biggest fish in the pond. Whatever the case, chances are she’s wounded and hurting on the inside.

Here’s the thing, there are several of Jesus’ words that I’d prefer not to practice. I don’t want to love my enemies; I’d rather be cold and distant to them. It’s hard to forgive.

You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!” (Matthew 5:43-44, NLT)

Prayer for your enemies is one of the deepest forms of love, because it means that you have to really want that something good happen to them. You might do nice things for your enemy without any genuine desire that things go well with them. But prayer for them is in the presence of God who knows your heart. Prayer is interceding with God on their behalf, and the prayer Jesus has in mind here is always for their good. He is not talking about praying for our enemies to be run over by a truck. He’s not talking about praying for lightening to take them out.  We are to pray that their hearts and ours be softened, be changed, be reconciled. That may seem far-fetched and impossible right now, but I’ve witnessed firsthand how praying for someone who hurt me has actually released me from a lot of pain and anger.

4. Cultivate positive relationships. Some seasons of life can feel pretty challenging and lonely if we don’t have friends to turn to. I’m praying right now that you have girls in your class or at church who can love and encourage you for the beautiful young woman you are. If you feel like those kind of friendships are few and far between, then begin praying regularly that God would bring you a kindred friend.

When I moved a few years ago I began to pray a prayer that went something like this, “God, you know that I’m lonely. I would love to have a friend who will encourage me to grow, and will challenge me to be the best version of myself. Help me to be a kind and generous friend to whomever you bring into my life.” God has slowly and surely provided new relationships to fit the bill of kindred friends.

M- God is for you. He will give you the wisdom, strength, and encouragement you need each day. Don’t lose heart. I’m praying for you and here if you want to write again.

Following,
Ginger

Patiently

I learned about the Fruit of the Spirit when I was just a kid going to Sunday school.  I’m not sure I understood what they were, but I absolutely had them memorized thanks to a catchy tune.  Here’s the verse that addresses the fruit:

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23, NIV

Background info: Galatians is a letter written by Paul to a church in Galatia. In the paragraphs of chapter five, Paul is talking about having freedom through Jesus from sin and death and also how to live by the Spirit, rather than by the flesh… meaning my own selfish desires. He lists all sorts of behavior associated with living by the flesh, and it’s not a pretty picture: hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions… the list goes on and on and doesn’t get any better.

But… (there’s a but) Paul then says that the fruit that comes from the Spirit are these 9 great characteristics.  These are the FRUIT of the Spirit.  So how does one grow a specific trait… say patience?

 basil

Patience is one of nine traits listed in the Fruit of the Spirit. Plant yourself, connect yourself, abide with Jesus and the Bible says that the fruit produced will be these nine eye-catching things. (Don’t you notice when someone oozes kindness or patience?)

But what happens if you feel like one or some of these fruits aren’t defining character traits for you? Is this yet another time to throw up your hands and shift the blame elsewhere?

I don’t think so.

We were born with personality traits  I’m fairly outgoing but my husband tends to be more of an introvert. He can speak to a whole room of people if needed, but he won’t enjoy it as much as I will. The Fruit of the Spirit described in Galatians 5:22-23 aren’t personality traits. They are different aspects of godly character– and character is something that can be developed and grown. I don’t get to blame impatience on my personality, even though I certainly might like to!

You see, usually impatience comes because I have unmet expectations. (We’ve talked about these before!)  We had a plan for the day and it didn’t involve the printer jamming, our friend making us late, or the driver in front of us going 15 under the speed limit. It’s all about control and it is all about ME. Notice that none of the Fruit of the Spirit have to do with self-promotion. That’s just it… it’s not about ME.

Step #1 to cultivating fruit: Recognize that it’s not about me because it’s all about Him.

Check out 2nd Corinthians 5:17: “If anyone belongs to Christ, there is a new creation. The old things have gone; everything is made new!”

This passage talks about a definite change in our lives. When we recognize that we can’t hold it together, that we’ve made mistakes (yes, sinned), and that we need a rescuer… that’s when Jesus steps in to make us new. Notice it doesn’t say that we receive perfection in that moment. You and I are a work in progress for our entire lives.  Remember that God is FOR us. He’s not waiting for us to mess up, He is coming along-side us right where we are!

I recognize that sometimes impatience isn’t associated with irritability. Sometimes our impatience looks more like anxiety and worry. That’s still a problem because it’s basically saying that we distrust God and what He has for us.  God is head over heels crazy about us and (thankfully) He is in control. His timing is for His people.

Step #2 to cultivating fruit: Strengthen your muscles.

While there is no growth or change happening without the Lord, gaining strength in this area requires exercise.  I take the time to strengthen my arms with weights, and my spiritual life isn’t any different. I have to daily notate where I am living selfishly and not producing good fruit. Thankfully God seems to be totally aware of my blind spots and seems more than happy to keep giving me situations in which to recognize the lacking fruit. “I have the slow cashier again?!” Maybe that’s an opportunity to meet the cashier and show kindness… and in doing so you utilize vast amounts of patient strength you didn’t know you had! Growth is going to take some strength training, so don’t get frustrated if you feel like a lightweight when it comes to patience. The time devoted will pay off.

Cultivating good fruit in our lives is a process that will take a lifetime.  I will not arrive at a point where I am never impatient, but perhaps one day I will be thought of as a patient woman.

Oh would that day come sooner! ;)

Following,
Ginger

Heart Check

REVIVE: To regain consciousness of life: to become attractive or flourishing again.

1. To restore to consciousness [the quality or state of being aware – especially of something within oneself] or life
2. To restore from a depressed, inactive, or unused state: bring back
3. To renew the mind or memory

I read this definition and immediately thought about the revitalization of the human heart. I don’t know about you, but sometimes my heart just feels… dead. I want to be moved toward compassion, humility, and love, and yet too often I find myself too exhausted or unmoved. So how do we revive a tired heart or passionless living?

Assess your heart situation.

1. Ask for eyes to see the condition of your heart.

“God, examine me and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  See if there is any bad thing in me.  Lead me on the road to everlasting life.”  Psalm 139:23-24, NCV

The example is set before us over and over again in the Psalms. When in doubt, we ask the One who knows.

“Won’t you revive us again, so your people can rejoice in you?”  Psalm 85:6, NLT

2. Examine your treasure.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21, NIV                                                                                 

Jesus loves faith-filled risk for the glory of God. There aren’t rules on how to spend your money… but there is always a choice: good or best. Our joy should come from God – not from stuff!  The challenge is to live for experiences, not possessions!

3. Examine your foundation.

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.  The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” Matthew 7:24-27, NIV

Roof

I ask this question to almost every group that I address. “Is God your foundation, or is He your roof?” For most of my life I lived as if God were the roof over my life. He covered everything. He was at my private school, my church, in our family devotions, even in the music I listened to on the radio. He was a wonderful roof. But God longs to be our foundation. My life took a totally different trajectory when I consciously claimed Him as my foundation. He went from an after-thought to my first thought. That shift was brought real passion to my life and heart. So… “Is God your foundation, or is He your roof?” Big difference. The answer matters.

“Why are you so polite with me, always saying ‘Yes, sir,’ and ‘That’s right, sir,’ but never doing a thing I tell you? These words I speak to you are not mere additions to your life, homeowner improvements to your standard of living. They are foundation words, words to build a life on. If you work the words into your life, you are like a smart carpenter who dug deep and laid the foundation of his house on bedrock. When the river burst its banks and crashed against the house, nothing could shake it; it was built to last. But if you just use my words in Bible studies and don’t work them into your life, you are like a dumb carpenter who built a house but skipped the foundation. When the swollen river came crashing in, it collapsed like a house of cards. It was a total loss.” Luke 6:46-49, The Message

I know this list isn’t an all-encompassing answer… but it’s a start.

Examining,
Ginger

Dear Ginger: Apathy

dear ginger

Hi Ginger. Lately I have been struggling with the sin of apathy in my Christian life. It has become so bad that it has started to affect my prayer life and reading of the scriptures drastically. I feel like I have tried so hard for so long to climb out of this rut, and I simply don’t feel that I have any more strength left in me. I recognize that this is a problem, but I just don’t know how to deal with it anymore. I yearn for the passion and zeal that I used to have for the Lord and I want to get back to that place so badly, I just don’t know how. Please help me!

Sincerely,
Fallen and I can’t get up

Dear Fallen…

As I read your question, I thought to myself: From one “Fallen to another “Fallen.” That’s the truth of it. If only we stayed up for the whole journey, right? But this tug and give seems to be part of the human experience, even in the life of faith.

My first hope is that you aren’t living under the yolk of a “try-hard life.” Obviously God desires us to be walking toward Him, leaning forward, drawing near on a daily basis… but at times in my life I let the guilt of my own stagnation actually push me FURTHER from Him

Imagine you and I meet up for coffee regularly. We have a 4:00pm date each and every Monday. And say I missed one Monday, just totally forgot about it. You would expect me to be apologetic. I might buy your coffee the next time and beg profusely for your forgiveness. Not that ridiculous… but imagine if I did that EVERY time we met up for the following year. You couldn’t get a word in edge wise for the first half hour of every meeting because I was talking about the guilt I feel. Guilt has a way of keeping us from an intimate relationship. Because the truth of it is, you would likely grow tired of the routine and might eventually lament, “Would you please stop apologizing? I just want to spend time with you!” 

I recently pulled out my prayer journals from high school and college and discovered a common theme at the start of every entry. I expressed so much guilt. All. the. time. 95% of my interaction with the Lord was just me apologizing. I wonder now if God ever wanted me to just enjoy my time with Him – to let Him speak to my heart and encourage me in my walk… even if it wasn’t perfect. Confession to the Lord is a beautiful thing, but I was living in the land of self-condemnation… and I just want to make sure you aren’t camped out there as well.

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For MANY years I spent most of my prayer time asking for forgiveness for not being focused or passionate. I began to feel burnt out and unsure of how to initiate the growth I desired. I know that I fall into thought patterns where I assume that I’m the only one who struggles. I’ve been a believer for as long as I can remember. I have lived in church all my life.  And yet, I sometimes worry that I’m the only one who’s thinking: “I don’t know how to do this… pray, fast, be spiritual, choose which way to go.  I should be better than this!”

And then I read a book that spoke right to the heart of my struggle: Messy Spirituality by Mike Yaconelli.

“Spirituality is anything but a straight line, it is a mixed-up, topsy-turvy, helter-skelter godliness that turns our lives into an upside-down toboggan ride full of unexpected turns, surprise bumps, and bone-shattering crashes.  In other words, messy spirituality is the delirious consequence of a life ruined by a Jesus who will love us right into his arms.” –Michael Yaconelli, Messy Spirituality

Amen to that.  I feel like I’m in a life-long journey of admitting my mess. I spent a large portion of my life being terrified that someone would figure out just how much of a mess I was. But the first step is admittance.

Hi, my name is Ginger and I am a spiritual mess. My time in the word is sometimes sporadic, my prayers distracted, and my heart selfish.

But thank God for grace that covers my fears… and mess. Thank God for grace that covers us both!

Now that we’ve covered that side of things, I wanted to tackle the rest of the question. How do we fan the flame in our relationship with the Lord?

Some ideas for you – as it seems like you already have some sort of a routine in place: 

  • Change up your routine from time to time.  (Sometimes I read from a different translation or at a different time in the day. Sometimes I read a book, and sometimes I take a walk outside while listening to a podcast. Watch the checklist – this is a relationship!)
  • Remember that walking is still moving! Just keep moving forward.  (Some days I can read a whole book of the Bible in one sitting and other days I only make it through a verse or two.)
  •  Don’t beat yourself up if you miss a day or if you’re just off your game. Pick it back up tomorrow.  (Don’t let guilt keep you away from a gift!)
  • Find exciting new ways to pray. Try writing out your prayers, doodling and drawing, praying with someone else, making a prayer box… write your requests on slips of paper and then draw 1-2 a day to specifically pray for. When they are answered, post them somewhere visible.
  • Volunteer/serve/encourage someone else! Write out Bible verses and send encouraging notes to friends and family who might need a pick me up. Maybe even try it anonymously. Joy comes from blessing and encouraging others, rather than focusing on our own needs. When life is “all about me” it leaves little room for the joy that emerges through loving people.

Remember, if a relationship is worth growing, it’s worth pursuing even on our lamest of days. Your efforts will be rewarded!

“But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded.” 2 Chronicles 15:7, NIV

I love this reminder from Grace for the Good Girl by Emily P. Freeman:

“Emotions don’t have a brain. They are reactors. They may respond to truth, but they may also respond to lies with the same passion and conviction, sometimes more so. You must decide if you will trust the feeling or if you will trust the truth.”  

It’s important to remember that your spiritual journey is a marathon, not a sprint. You will get tired, just like a runner. That’s why you need the nourishment of God’s Word, the encouragement of fellowship, and the care for your temple to see you through the tough days of training! Hang in there. Keep talking to God.  He is FOR you, and not against you!

Remember that He’s not holding out on you, waiting for you to get it together.

Remember that He sees you and He hears you. 

Remember that His promises are precious and great.

Remember that He loves you and He has given you everything that you need to live a great story and grow in His love and Word. Hang in there.

When your strength runs out – that’s when He goes to work! “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9, NIV)

Praying for freedom from guilt and the passion you so desire.

Following,
Ginger