This past December was really enjoyable. It hasn’t always been this way. Years past, this was a crazy-busy time of year for our family and I hate to admit it, but Advent was the last thing on my mind. We loved Jesus (still do!), but there were ‘more pressing’ things that needed to be done, deadlines that needed to be met, and our lack of preparation for this month dictated our schedules and attention. And we were so surrounded by this type of rhythm and pace that we never really knew it could be different. It fell into the category of “that’s just what you do,” like a lot of things that go unexamined (car payments & credit cards being a way of life before Financial Peace University, anxiety and shame being accessories I had to carry before Celebrate Recovery, just to name a couple).
But in the Lord’s faithfulness and leadership, because we definitely wouldn’t have gotten here left to our own devices, no matter how smart they may be (see what I did there?), the Lord has been doing a new thing in us – over and over again. Gosh, I am so thankful for His faithfulness.
Since coming home, life has looked a lot different. Obviously without the actual job outside these four-walls, I don’t have the deadlines or demands that I used to face this time of year to compete for our time and attention. But for me – and maybe you can relate – it was still there internally, those rhythms and habits and defaults – “this is just what you do” in December – be crazy and spend more money than you would ever consider any other month or context, etc. Even though the context had changed, my heart hadn’t. And so His work continues.
After a recent hard season, the Lord has been bringing to my attention some things that really need to change for me – crucial things that will allow me to not just survive and try to get through the day, but to flourish.
He desires to renew our joy and hope, to inspire us and excite us and remind us of His intentional design and orchestration.
I had forgotten these things, and had been living without them for a while. But the Lord, in His goodness, doesn’t let me settle for less than Who He is. He desires to be glorified, and when I am most satisfied in Him, He gets the most glory. It’s a crazy dynamic that I don’t deserve, this grace.
Part of this for me personally was revealing to me how much I need to incorporate Praise and Worship into my time with Him each morning. Often I struggle (and often blame it on not being a morning person) that when I get into the Word first thing, my mind is still distracted, fuzzy, and disengaged. I have a hard time allowing what I am seeing to really seep into my heart. But when I worship, when I sit long enough in the Lord’s Presence for Him to still my heart and allow the truth of Who He is to come out of my mouth – to proclaim it -then I really engage with the Lord on a heart level and my heart is more prepared to hear from Him – in His Word, through prayer, or really whatever He chooses to reveal Himself to me through that day.
As I have put on my oxygen mask in the morning, it has done WONDERS for my family.
“I call on you, my God, for You will answer me; turn Your ear to me and hear my prayer. Show me the wonders of Your great love, You who save by your right hand those who take refuge in You.” Psalm 17:6-7
A few months earlier this year, I prayed these verses often, intrigued by the idea of the Lord showing me more of the wonder of Who He is and His great love for us. And He has done that, in more ways than one, but in a new way, I am seeing how in His Love, He calls me to Himself. He knows that I need time with Him each morning – more than a 5-minute Bible App reading or quick couple of verses. He knows that my heart needs His life, to drink and be refreshed and renewed. My spirit needs to be awakened again to His Presence and the truth of His invisible Kingdom. Otherwise I do walk around dry, surviving barely on the few morsels of His truth that I snag on the go through a minute in His Word or last week’s worship service or the last good sermon I’ve heard. And it leaves me with nothing refreshing to offer my kids, my husband, or anyone else.
There have been some really sweet times of worship, but NOT perfect. Often interrupted by littles, or squeezed into twenty minutes after breakfast while the kids are occupied, etc. There is often nothing ‘ideal’ about the appearance of this new priority in my day, but it has been so encouraging to see the Lord bring me back to life, to feel like I’m really ‘in’ my life again and engaged and excited about what He is doing.
And, although I won’t go into a lot details here – maybe a later post – the Lord is also leading me to drop my current plan for our homeschooling. Yes, we are still homeschooling, but some things needed to change. Part of this was the Holy Spirit confirming and challenging me that He desires to be my inspiration and where I look for ideas – not a curriculum plan, or pinterest, or anyone else. He desires to be my Source, and then He will provide whatever resources are needed to carry it out, in their proper place.
Whew – this was a hard blow, y’all. I love my plans. I love my structure and the idea of a schedule (although I have learned I will buck a schedule in ten seconds flat when it is left up to me), and I love the sense of security that it all seems to provide. Yep – that was the heart issue right there. SECURITY. Where am I finding my sense of stability and balance? From a plan that someone else made for the general masses? From someone else’s walk with the Lord for their family? Or am I really seeking my Creator, the One who designed me with all my eccentricities and weaknesses and desires and the One who composed my family with all their unique needs and gifts and abilities?
He alone knows what my family needs to fulfill our purpose.
And that is what I want, at the end of the day, when all the extraneous stuff is wiped away, for us to fulfill our purpose. Not just manage. Not just get through these years with littles as unscathed as I can, praying that things get easier and more manageable in the future. But I want to dig deep into my life and be in it. Really in it. And loving it and them and Him through it. (Which doesn’t mean all cherries and roses and rainbows, but that isn’t what love is all about, anyways. Sometimes it looks like a whole lot of hard work and sacrifice and dying to myself and repentance and confession and asking for forgiveness.) And us walking in the good works that He prepared in advance for us to walk in (Ephesians 2:10).
In this new revelation that we were throwing out The Plan, the Holy Spirit whispered to me that just as Jesus is the Author and Perfector of my faith, that He has Authored my days. He has written them all in His book before one of them came to pass (Psalm 139:16), and He wants to direct me and show me what He has placed in each one. He wants me to ask Him for ideas and inspiration, which has been equally as challenging and revealed my trust issues at their core.
And so that is what I have been doing. Like a child, I have been asking my Father for ideas, to inspire me and to renew my joy.
“Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” Psalm 51:12
And guess what?! He has. He has shown me intersection points where what I’m passionate about intersects with my time in ‘school’ with the kids, how He can use His Word to bring a fullness to our day, a sense of purpose and contentment that 3 hours worth of curriculum accomplished can’t provide.
He fulfills His promises and He fulfills His Word.
And He fills us to overflowing.
It has been really neat to see Him move, and how in the meantime, it has subsequently quieted down my heart and mind. It has allowed me to let go of a lot of the questioning and self-doubt in the decisions I was making, because The Plan is gone. I’m looking to Him, and reminded that this was His gig from the start. This was what He has called us to, and He will bring it to completion. He has everything we need, and so I’m looking to Him for it.
As ‘quiet’ and ’empty’ as our December has been compared to all the things I had cluttered up our days with, the Lord has brought about fullness and joy and purpose and life in our days. And isn’t that how He works? He came quietly and took up residence in this earth, and then again in my heart. And He has filled my empty spaces, but not with clutter and not to just fill for fullness sake, but with purpose and life and joy. Left to myself, I tend to overcrowd and overbook and pretty much overdo everything, using up whatever space and time and energy is available and then some. But the Lord knows my capacity for any given season, the optimal levels for each area of my life, the right amount of space and light for things to grow.
I could go on and on about the specific ways He has revealed Himself over the past month. But that is our story, mine and His. And often that is where I get snared – reading other people’s specifics and thinking that they need to be my own.
And they don’t. He has a specific story for me, and for you, and for that person that your mind tends to go to when you struggle with what you think your life should look like. There is no one pattern to follow, as much as I would LOVE that. But all of this leads us to dependence and a deeper relationship with Him. And that – now that is the point, to be reminded that He opens His hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing (Psalm 145:16). He determine where our boundary lines fall (if we are to be married, what our family is made up of – biological or adopted kids, where we work, where we live, how much money we make, what opportunities come our way) and they are in pleasant places (Psalm 16:5-6). But we need His perspective to recognize that. We need that close and personal walk with Him to see that how He is shaping our lives is really, really good, and for His purpose.
As I am praying for vision for what 2016 looks like for the Harwood Household, I am also praying for those that will read these words, that God will give you a greater vision for what He has in store for you this year, to know that is immeasurably more than you could imagine on your own, that we won’t settle for less than a greater intimacy with Jesus this year, and that you will discover the good plans He has for you.
Lord, please give us eyes to see things as You do, ears to hear Your voice, because You are speaking, so that we can follow You into those good works You have prepared in advance for us. Thank You that You go before us and light our path. You are so faithful. In Jesus’ Mighty Name I pray, Amen.