How I Learned to be Content

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My Problem

In my haste to satisfy the pride of life, I have diligently fed my flesh by trying to be one step ahead of my season. What I found, instead of joy & contentment, was feelings of failure, frustration, unmet/unrealistic expectations, & a restless spirit that settled so deep in my heart I couldn’t see my way out for trying to fix the way I was approaching life.

The gentle nudge I started to hear echoed Psalm 51:10 “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”

I quickly clung to my abilities, meek as they are, and hoped to do better. I can be steadfast, I thought. I can work on a pure heart.



What I Didn’t Do

As I didn’t do much struggling or wrestling (that would have required actual effort, and unfortunately, I trying to just do better weren’t going to work for me), I settled with trying to rest on the areas of my life that seemed natural. Once I was working out of my strengths, and even comforts, I could hear the whispers that could only be heard in a stillness.

I cannot, after He has clearly spoken to me about how my outset is not working, continue to work so fervently to be a step ahead of where I am in my life as a woman, wife, mom, or any other aspect of my roles.

Then it presented itself like a blooming plant that is emerging from the blossom that has rested, filled with nutrients and all the perfect setting up for a beautiful, bountiful expression of nature. Contentment. I knew the minute my soul was filled with this, alluring to some, actual manifestation of the Spirit.

It’s not an emotion. It’s not a feeling. It is the culmination of hope, mercy, grace, and trust.

I began thinking “this is so good…I need to write this down.” That pride of life crept back in and then I exclaimed in my heart “this IS good, thank you LORD for getting my soul to a place of understanding, rest, movement, and finally the acquisition of contentment.

Finally, A Looking Glass

It began with anxiety and panic that I wanted so desperately to be ahead of my season, onto the next step, planned/prepared/ready, and without a shred of help from others. The deep sorrow I felt after not feeling prepared and ready when a new phase of discipline was necessary in the heart of one of my children, left me feeling the way I mentioned in the introduction. The trepidation was almost more than my person could handle.

With the newfound contentment, I could almost hear “this is the next step…look at this Scripture….look how God led His people here….look at Paul’s admonishment here….who are you right here…..what the goal for this season…..what is hard right now in your heart….” questions that I haven’t left lurking like I used to when I thought I could move forward and fix the questions with my approach instead of listening to His guidance.

Moving Forward in Understanding

The joy and contentment found in resting in His guidance for where I am now, ABSOLUTELY does prepare me for the NEXT season.

If I am not walking so closely with His guidance, direction, hope, and correction right now, then I will surely suffer more when His planned suffering/trials/chastisement enters because I haven’t absorbed the gentle preparation He was providing all along.

The discipline of the Lord is love. An example from my life would be when He tells me to slow down. Before, I would have rebuked that thought that I don’t have time to slow down because I need to be ahead of my children’s needs (discipline, health, homeschool, etc) or that I need to be working diligently throughout the day to make sure we are ready for dad to get home to a peaceful place (which never happened when I was pushing out the Spirit’s prompting and pushing hard at home). The result of my efforts was stress, anxiety, discontment, and anger. Meeting the words “slow down” with obedience, speaking gently to those around me, opening my heart to the needs of others, always works in great motion towards whatever my future holds.

The sufferings and trials are not big and small in His divine wisdom. They are specific to the days ordained of OUR individual lives and He is faithful and just to give us all of Himself to walk through them.

I learned to be content, by recognizing His ability. That ties up so much in my heart that is lacking trust, faith, hope, and an acknowledgement that He’s in control.

1 Thessalonians 5:24 “The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.”

Busy Mind, Deceptive Heart week 5 review

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adapted from “Lady In Waiting”

Busy Mind, Deceptive Heart

Melissa Sharp

October 3, 2013

 

the alabaster box.

 

  1. History of the alabaster box & it’s meaning
    1. A young woman’s dowry. The size & amount was parallel to her family’s wealth.
    2. When a man asked for her hand in marriage, she would break it at his feet to show her response & honor. This anointed his feet.
  2. Mark 14:3-9 and Luke 7:37
    1. She found Jesus as worthy of such a sacrifice & honor.
    2. Jesus memorializes her actions in Matthew 26:13
    3. She gave her all to a heavenly Bridegroom, the only One who can truly make her dreams come true.

 

What is in your alabaster box? What are you dreams? What do you envision for your future? What are you holding so tightly to because you fear it being taken away?

 

If you have truly broken your alabaster box before the feet of Jesus, it will be reflected in the appearance of His Lordship. Mary’s response in Luke 1:38 gives us an example of an attitude of submission.

 

  1. Ruth recklessly abandoned. She willingly broke her alabaster box & followed the Lord wherever He led her. Ruth 1:16
  2. High price for this investment. Matthew 19:29
  3. Do not make substitutions when get discontent. You will not be complete until you really understand that you are complete in Jesus. Colossians 2:9-10
    1. Completion is Jesus’ responsibility and complementing is a woman’s privilege.

 

“Marriage teaches us that even the most intimate human companionship cannot satisfy the deepest places of the heart. Our hearts are lonely ‘til they rest in Him” –Elisabeth Elliot in Lonliness

 

  1. Does your relationship with Jesus reflect reckless abandonment to Him? Or is it tokenism & superficial effort toward following Jesus?
    1. Are you content to offer Jesus that which cost you nothing? Are you influencing those around you to consider a life-changing commitment to Jesus Christ?
      1.                          i.   The Song of Solomon 6:1 example of the Shulammite
  2. As a single woman, now is the time to establish a relationship with Christ and remove the tokenism of church attendance, verse spouting without heart & belief, & really enter into intimacy with by drawing near to Him Psalm 73:28a

 

offerings::what do you need to walk away from? Why do you need to walk away? You will need help. How will you get help walking away? How will you stick with your abandonment?

 

remembrance::what Truth do you need to tuck deep inside of your heart? What did you hear tonight that resonates with you but is difficult for you to believe? How will you remind yourself of these Truths? Will you choose to believe God?

 

alabaster box::what is in your’s? Anything you would change? What will you replace? With what will you replace those things?

 

Are you in time out?

As I’ve walked with the Lord, there have been seasons in areas of my life where I spend more time than is comfortable in the wilderness. Praise the Lord our whole being isn’t in the wilderness like the Israelites experienced. It may feel like a total wilderness sometimes, but if we’re honest, most of us have more love, friends, family, belongings, and treasures than the majority and we can think on healthier things than our “this isn’t fair” attitude that steals our joy.

I’ve had a season of wilderness in my call to ministry. Or, so I perceived. In 2009 Brady and I both switched jobs, bought a house, I had a miscarriage, and I had gallbladder surgery.

Brady went from working with his dad and commuting to seminary, to full time college pastor at FBCWF. I went from teaching 6th grade self-contained at a Title 1 school to teaching 6th and 7th grade English/Language Arts at a Christian private school.

The home we bought needed to be gutted (basically) and remodeled. Oh my word at the transformation. My husband is absolutely gifted at developing and carrying out a vision…for life, for ministry, for creative purposes, whatever it is, he’s a genius with vision. We planned, prepared, shopped, stripped wallpaper, sheetrock, stripped popcorn texture, tore down walls, poured concrete into our living room, painted, painted, painted, shopped some more, all new light fixtures, wall plugs, switch plates, brand new hard wood floors (x3 after they came up), repairs, gutted an entire bathroom and did a designer job with the tile, I have gone on and on and I could go on some more! (All of this with help from both sets of parents and college students who are long gone, having moved on with their lives…we’ve been at First long enough to have students who are married, have children, and are in a career!).

After trying to get pregnant for 6 months, we found out we were going to have a baby (or so we THOUGHT). So excited, nervous, overwhelmed. After 6 weeks we found out we were not going to have this precious baby as he/she was already dancing with Jesus. What a blessed baby! Such a sweeter place for a baby, even though I think we have a pretty sweet place, that baby is not hurting or under the weight and oppression of this world that we cannot protect him/her from no matter how we would have tried.

Gallbladder attacks are no joke. Now that I’ve delivered 2 babies, I dare to say those attacks rank right up there in excruciating pain! SO thankful for His mercy and provision to not have those attacks when I was pregnant…no pain meds or surgery for a pregnant momma with gallbladder attacks. He knows best. He has a plan.

While all of this is going on, we are not even into college ministry at FBC for full year yet. I was called to ministry in college and spend the majority of 3 years pouring into other college women. I mean, spending time with 3-4 different girls a day, talking and praying and walking through life with them. It was a joy. It was pleasure. It was sifting and sanctifying for me. It was humbling. It was accountability. Now, I’m married. Now, I’m dealing with very personal, difficult life circumstances. I’m growing leaps and bounds in my understanding of true intimacy with the Lord and growing closer and closer to my husband. But, I felt so far away from my calling.

A new year! 2010! No baby, no gallbladder, and a new beginning! February–pregnant again! Pregnant and happy, but oh so terribly sick. For 9 months. I struggled to be involved, available, and connected with our college students. I’m being vulnerable to share here, that though my heart ached to be a sweet place of support and counsel for them, I struggled with the Lord that it just wasn’t His timing. I pleaded with Him for the ability to be the college pastor’s wife that was all they needed. I even tried to make it work and tried to do and be something that just didn’t fit His timing. Smart. Praise Him that He had women and college women in place to minister to them and love on them and support them. I had to be okay with that. I had to rejoice.

But, I felt like I was in time out. Isn’t it just like our flesh to look over the priceless joys we have (HAVING A BABY!) to the season we are hungry for that is actually just a vision we’re looking at through a past experience where we’re looking through rose colored glasses? That time I had enjoyed pouring into college girls’ lives was wonderful. But it’s in the past. It was hard! My rose colored glasses deceived me. I had forgotten what it was like to bear the burdens of others. I had forgotten the anger I received when a word spoken in truth and love wasn’t taken well. I had forgotten the humility and accountability when I had to lead them in areas where I had previously failed. By His grace, though, I remembered all of that as joy because of the deep relationships I had built and the way the growth permeated my whole being. (Isn’t He wonderful to let us remember all the good from seasons that were hard at the real life moment?)

I wasn’t in a time out. I wasn’t being punished. I was in a wilderness in my ache to minister to college and young married women. I was in a time of growing closer to the Lord. We can all always grow closer to Him and draw nearer to Him. I was in a time of pouring into my husband. Praise the Lord for that time, because at that time, He was the only other person in our home I had to pour into…I was able to grow in that part of my life before having to learn how to pour into him while caring for and discipling children. I was in a time of practically growing. Housekeeping, time managing, planning, and creating an atmosphere specific to our home were all on His agenda for this so-called wilderness where I wasn’t getting to do what I THOUGHT was the most important task of ministry. Oh, but I was ministering. My wise husband told me my ministry was to carrying this baby and ministering to him through our home and relationship. Wow. I had no idea how true that was then and would be in the future as I would be balancing wife and mom.

If you feel like you’re in a time out, talk to Him. Was Jesus always on His throne? He came to this filthy earth and took on flesh to walk among us. We are taken out of our element and we are taken out of seasons where we are the most comfortable and even where we may feel the most successful. This life and ministry aren’t about us “feeling” successful. Tell Him you hurt and ache for whatever it is you really want to be doing. He already knows your heart, the deep longings and the bites of selfishness. In your moments of weeping to Him, listen to what He’s whispering or yelling into your Spirit. There is a place and area in your being that He is refining. Think about all those creative and upcycling ideas you’ve seen on Pinterest or HGTV. That dresser that was sanded down to nothing. It wasn’t pretty. It took a lot of sanding, which was a lot of hard work for the Sander. But, the person sanding poured them self into that hard work, maybe got callouses, got tired and dirty. That’s what the Lord is doing for us in our seasons of wilderness. He knows our heart and our longings. He loves us so much He won’t let us walk into the Promise Land unprepared and not capable. He is equipping you, even in the midst of our selfish flesh who feels as though this season of sitting on the bench feels unfair. It’s actually a time of such closeness and dependence on Him. Soak up the time He’s pouring into you and investing in you. He does have great plans and worthy moments for you coming. Jeremiah 29:11 isn’t a feel good verse just to memorize in hopes that He will make our future great. It is a specific piece spoken to a hurting, yet hopeful group of people. Look at it’s context.

A letter which Jeremiah wrote to the captives in Babylon, against their prophets that they had there (Jer. 29:1-3), in which letter, 1. He endeavours to reconcile them to their captivity, to be easy under it and to make the best of it, Jer. 29:4-7. 2. He cautions them not to give any credit to their false prophets, who fed them with hopes of a speedy release, Jer. 29:8, 9. 3. He assures them that God would restore them in mercy to their own land again, at the end of 70 years, Jer. 29:10-14. 4. He foretels the destruction of those who yet continued, and that they should be persecuted with one judgment after another, and sent at last into captivity, Jer. 29:15-19. 5. He prophesies the destruction of two of their false prophets that they had in Babylon, that both soothed them up in their sins and set them bad examples (Jer. 29:20-23), and this is the purport of Jeremiah’s letter. II. Here is a letter which Shemaiah, a false prophet in Babylon, wrote to the priests at Jerusalem, to stir them up to persecute Jeremiah (Jer. 29:24-29), and a denunciation of God’s wrath against him for writing such a letter, Jer. 29:30-32. Such struggles as these have there always been between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent.—Matthew Henry’s Commentary

I think this is true exhortation for us all. Talk to Him. Trust Him. Seek counsel. Do the next thing even it doesn’t include a glamorous action that will effect the Kingdom in visible ways. You are always effecting Eternity. With every movement and decision. Will your movements and decisions be in line with the Gospel. Choose today what your heart will exude…contentment or dissatisfaction?  You’re not in a time out. You’re called to……