We all do it. We eat some incredibly, delicious food. Maybe it’s breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert… it doesn’t matter the type of food; we just eat it and we love every bit of it!
So, naturally, we go back for seconds…
Maybe it was our absolute favorite food ever, or perhaps it just looked really, really good when we first saw it. Regardless, we missed out on it the first go round, so we figure we will just get a little bit of it to see how we like it.
…then comes the regret.
“Ugh, I did NOT need that.”
“I am waaaay too full.”
“Whoops, I didn’t realize that (insert name) hadn’t even had any yet!”
“I can’t eat all of this. I was just worried it would all be taken!”
“It looked really good, but uhh not so much. What was I even thinking?!”
…Ashley, what are you talking about? Are you blogging while hungry? Yes, in fact I am (when am I not hungry?), but that’s not what I’m talking about!
…I’m talking about going back for seconds, in our individual lives, on our individual plates.
Our life plates.
You know, the ones we fill up every day, week, month, year, with tasks we need to accomplish, groups we want to join, or relationships we have.
I recently went to a women’s retreat and heard a speaker reference sitting down with God to evaluate her plate. “I’ve just got too much on my plate right now!” We have all said that phrase or heard someone we know use it. She went on to discuss how she evaluated her plate over the course of 30 days and prayed and asked God to show her what should either stay on or come off.
I thought to myself, “ohh I JUST went through this in my own life! What a great lesson for SOMEONE ELSE to hear. We all need to do this, and I am SO GLAD that I JUST did this!”
So after a full day of sessions, the retreat ended and I was super encouraged… until I wasn’t anymore.
I have been battling, and I mean battling, myself, the enemy, the ones I love, the media, the lady at the grocery store, the guy two lanes over from me, I mean literally EVERYONE lately! But the battlefield has not been one that anyone else could see. It has all been in. my. mind.
Irrational thoughts (check)
Negative self talk (check)
Self doubt (check)
Questioning the voice of God (check)
Raining down fiery darts like in the movie 300 (double check)
It has been a MONTH, if you know what I mean! I go to sleep, exhausted from a day of constant thinking, evaluating, and questioning, all of which is done in my very own head. I wake up and the mental battle starts again. Someone asks me how I am, and I’m like…hmm they probably don’t want to know all of the crazy that is happening inside of this head of mine!
So where did all of this come from, and why does it feel like I am stuck in a hurricane of my own thoughts and emotions?
…it’s because I went back for seconds.
So what does that mean? What does it mean to go back for seconds?
Last November, when I cleared off my plate, I quit my job, was kindly let go from helping my husband with his company (hah!), and then I put back on, in order of priority, God, husband, and children. Evidently, I wasn’t personally finished filling it yet, but I didn’t realize that then.
Within the course of a month while holding my newly cleared plate, I took on leading worship more frequently at my church, doing a few photography sessions here and there, and then was asked and decided to commit to FIVE volunteer teams at my church! Talk about a buffet!!! I mean, c’mon people, it was God’s work! All good things are ALWAYS good, right?
I had kept a little bit of worship on my plate, and a little bit of volunteering, but I had enjoyed them SO MUCH, that I went right back and grabbed myself some seconds, even though the Lord had distinctly told me to clear off my plate! I let that last all of 2 minutes before throwing stuff back on it. And I mean, it’s not unlike me to keep myself busy, or get ahead of God, but this time I really didn’t even see it. I was trying so hard to fill it with the good, Godly stuff, that it took me 3 1/2 months to see that it was making me spiritually sick!
Because here’s the thing… when we load up our plates, whether with 4 things or 14 things, we have got to take the time to properly digest all that we are trying to consume. Otherwise, we are just stuffing ourselves full of really wonderful things, that we just don’t have time or room for!
And how does it feel when you stuff yourself? When you have a gluttonous spirit? It’s awful! It becomes hard to even “feel” anything other than miserable. Sensing the discernment of the Spirit and the voice of God become almost impossible! Why? Because we are sick from all of the stuff on our plates, yet we keep adding more good, when really what we need is more God!
And when we do that, y’all, we take away those great things from someone else. We put too much extra on our plate, and we don’t leave any for the person that perhaps God intended it for in the first place.
The things we already have on our plates can nourish us, grow us, fill us, but we won’t ever experience that if we just keep pilling things on top of what we already have!
And understand me on this, those things that you feel like you just HAVE to HAVE…the pan of brownies that NO ONE WILL EVER MAKE AGAIN…y’all, that’s just not true! There will be another pan of brownies. And if you live in my house, a weekly pan of brownies! But what I’m trying to say is, that good thing you feel like you aren’t getting a taste of quite yet…it won’t be gone forever. One day, when you least expect it, but when God most purposefully intends it, you’ll get your chance to try it…or maybe you won’t.
If I can digress for a moment, I’d like us to discuss a passage from Hebrews. In chapter 11 we read about great people of faith from the Old Testament. The verse above specifically pertains to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. These great men did bold things with patient faith, knowing that the Lord was working in and through their hardships. They took on JUST what the Lord told them to and then they waited in faith until He directed them. And the Lord did. He directed them and gave them people to share their faith with, but these men died never experiencing the best thing they could’ve ever experienced, and that was the promise of the coming Christ. Yet, they were long suffering. They kept believing and they kept doing EXACTLY what God had placed on their plates. Even when it wasn’t, perhaps, the things they wanted the most.
That’ll preach, y’all, cause it’s preaching to me! When you are walking in all of the good, but not the path that God has set for you, you might as well be behind enemy lines! That battlefield of the mind that I mentioned earlier, was my own doing, yet there I was giving the enemy all of the credit. I think he was likely relishing in how easy I was making it for him, but never the less, I was there because I wasn’t satisfied with what God had given me. Ouch! That hurt to type.
But God, through Jesus, gave us a way to ward off some of this “going back for seconds” nonsense. In Matthew 6 when Jesus is talking to His disciples (sermon on the mount), He instructs them on how they should pray. “Give us this day, our daily bread…” Jesus doesn’t say, “Give me this day, absolutely everything good that I want to have!” Negative. And aren’t we thankful for that?
“Give us this day, our daily bread…” don’t worry about tomorrow, and don’t try and get all you possibly can today, but instead, Lord, give us what we need that is sufficient for this day, and this day alone. Because really that’s all we can handle. And honestly, WE aren’t even handling that! It is only by the power of Christ and the grace of God given to us each day that allow us to handle what we have. We are also reminded of this in Proverbs 30:8, “Give me neither poverty nor riches; provide me only with the food I need.”
So let’s each take a good, long look at our plates. Let’s not keep adding all of the things, going back for seconds, to then never even try all that we’ve added… because, guess what? We end up throwing those things away, becoming spiritually sick, or going to battle against ourselves, when God is over on the sidelines with a kitchen sink and dish rag whispering, “just let me clean this up for you.”
It’ll be so good. And it’ll be so hard…but also, SO worth it!
…and for the love of Pete, don’t go find yourself a bigger plate! :)
With love & laughter,
In the book of Exodus we read about Moses and his great deliverance of the Israelites. After the Israelites left Egypt they wandered around in the wilderness for forty years waiting on God to lead them to the promised land. While they were in the wilderness, the Israelites started to complain about how Moses saved them. They were slaves back in Egypt but compared to just wandering around in the desert with no food, the slave life in Egypt was looking pretty good! We read in Exodus chapter 16 that the Israelites started grumbling and complained to Moses, “We had meat in Egypt but then you had to go and lead us out so that we could starve out here in the desert!”
Of course, there was no food in the desert. How were they to survive? Why would God lead them out of Egypt only to bring them to a desert? Don’t we feel like we’re in the wilderness sometimes? We feel like God leads us somewhere only to abandon us. I know this feeling quite well.
Media- you’re everywhere. You’re so loud that it’s deafening.
You’re deafening our ears to hear truth,
blinding our eyes to see direction,
yet somehow amplifying our mouths to speak opinion…
to speak our views or judgements we’ve formed from you, Media,
with our deafened ears and our blinded eyes.
We have become like overly pompous horses.
We appear grand, strong, powerful, galavanting the great wild world,
yet with bridle and bit in mouth, our stance is directed by someone else.
By something else.
It’s you, Media.
What is truth anymore?
We’ve taken this guiding light and altered it to fit our perception of reality.
But that’s not truth.
We seem to have lost what truth is.
We no longer seek it earnestly, instead we settle for being led by uncertainty.
What happened to education? Where have all of the books gone?
We no longer thumb through pages of factual information,
rather settle for a comment feed without any rationalization.
Where do our convictions lie? I can’t seem to find them.
What was once an internal voice of logical process
is now a methodical scroll thumbed thoughtless.
Our hearts seem to be led by self-righteousness, no longer led by love.
Our words led by “likes,” as if that were ever enough.
We are affirmed by our “friends” and motivated by a “follow,”
all of which returns void when what we post is hard to swallow.
So we settle in for hate and slander, all done through our words.
So gratified in our voice, finally being heard.
But what have we accomplished? What’s been made better?
We still live in a virtual world, filled with friends who are fair-weathered.
We have to put down our devices and stand up with our back bones.
Get out of this world’s vices and find our way back home.
Because home is where we left it, where we lost all of our hope.
Where we chose our own knowledge, our own truth, when He warned us, “No, don’t!”
Now we’ve let the enemy in, and he’s running all amok.
And we’re all just looking for hope again, with no such luck.
We’re crying out to leaders; we’re giving them the blame.
But they’ll never be able to hear our cries, because our hope has a name.
Jesus is our hope, the way, the truth, the life.
Watch as He’s running after us, His forever, eternal bride.
So Media, I’m using you now, to accomplish some good.
To remind a hopeless people, that their pain is understood.
I’m unplugging the deafened ears and removing bridle and bit.
To no longer be guided by the world and constantly listening to it.
For my hope, He has a name, and His father suffered great loss.
They both know our feelings of pain, for their pain involved a cross.
And right now ours does too, a crossroads of sorts.
Do we buy into this Hope? Or stand idle with abhor.
If we want to go to battle in this never ending strife,
We must make sure we are standing behind lines worthy of our lives.
The fight we choose will be costly, no matter which side.
So we must be sure we choose wisely and set aside our pride.
I have chosen to seek the Truth, while He may still be found.
I want to have eyes that see and ears that hear, when the trumpet sounds.
If curiosity has sparked, a twinkling in your eyes,
ask me all your questions but tell me no more lies.
This Truth for you is free, for the price has far been paid.
So rest assured you weary heart, do not be dismayed.
For what Hope did for me, He’s also done for you.
And where Media, you confuse us, our Hope, you will speak Truth.
Our Savior will come through.
Taking hold of that Hope,
Pain in this life is a given.
It is unavoidable.
It will happen.
It is a foolish endeavor to attempt to avoid it touching our lives. Seasons of pain come and go. Sometimes the season is short but sometimes those seasons seem endless. Sometimes the pain is of our own doing, a consequence of a rebellious spirit. Other times, we are blindsided by life and we find ourselves in the crosshairs of a fallen world.
What do we do when we find ourselves in a season of unrelenting pain and hardship? If pain is inevitable, then there must be some kind of help out there for the afflicted, some Divine provision for a hurting soul.
Maybe we need to change our understanding of pain and it’s purpose in our lives. Sometimes it just helps to know something has purpose.
What would happen if we saw pain as a tool? Then recognizing how that tool is used in our lives would be hugely significant.
Let me explain.
If pain is a tool, then we need to recognize whose hands hold the tool.
If the tool finds its way into the hands of the enemy, we can be sure that it will be used to cripple us, maybe even destroy us. We know the enemy wants to steal, kill, and destroy. John 10:10
But, if the tool finds itself in the hands of a loving Father, then we can be assured that the tool will be used to chisel and shape us into something beautiful. We could then claim Romans 8:28 with absolute certainty. We could know beyond any shadow of a doubt that, “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose.” Armed with that assurance, we could stand up under the weight of any pain.
We don’t often have a choice as to whether pain enters our lives or not, but when it does, we do get to choose whose hands will hold the tool.
Choose your carpenter wisely.
Have a great week,
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:2-4
A few months back, my friend, Julie, and I headed out to a sporting goods store to purchase kayaks. For some years now, our families have vacationed together at the beach and each year Julie and I rent kayaks. We love to paddle around in the creeks, and really, in our minds; we think that we are well on our way to becoming Master Kayakers. So at the end of last summer, we decided that it was time for us to save our money and buy our very own kayaks.
We researched and talked about it for the next year, and then we were ready. When we got to the store, according to Julie, we had to choose the correct length of the paddle by comparing it to the length of our arm expanse. So we would take a paddle off the rack, stand it up on end, and see if we could touch the top. If we could, it was the right length. Of course, there was also the concern of finding the right color paddle so that it wouldn’t clash with our kayaks. We took down paddle after paddle looking for the right length and color. That in itself made us look like two idiots who thought they knew what they were doing but clearly did not. Then we confirmed our idiot status by knocking the entire display down. THE ENTIRE DISPLAY.
There is no way to discreetly knock down a paddle display.
I guess, truth be known, we aren’t Master Kayakers either.
Really, if you had been with us on our last excursion, you would probably be completely and utterly dumbfounded as to why we would ever want to continue with this as a hobby.
Last year we stayed at a different beach, which had both creeks and man made canals. So the way it was laid out was like this: the ocean flowed into the inlet, which flowed into the creek, which then flowed into the canal. Basically the canals gave the houses access to the creek. Because of their location, the water was much calmer in the canals.
You need to keep that in mind.
We decided to head out late one afternoon because the tide was almost all the way in, and we knew that it was the best time to go and not get sucked out into the ocean where there are waves and big sharks. I have this fear of being adrift in the middle of the ocean with no diet Pepsi or boiled peanuts while the sun is blistering my skin and Jaws is circling my Kayak.
What we didn’t take into account was the wind. When we turned the corner that led out of the canal and into the creek, the water turned really choppy and the wind was blowing, oh, I’d say about 40-50 mph. Listen, if fisherman can make a story respectable by exaggerating the size of the fish, then a kayaker should be able to make her story exciting by exaggerating the speed of the wind.
At first it was really great fun. The wind was at our backs and we were coasting down the creek nicely. The only thing we had to use our paddles for was to steer. The wind did the rest. As the wind continued to pick up, we started moving faster and faster. We were having the best time ever until we realized two things. First, even though the tide was coming in we were going out – quickly. Second, as much fun as we were having with the wind at our backs, we probably were not going to experience that same fun when we turned around. Basically, the coasting would be over.
We decided to turn around and head back to the canal. That’s what we decided to do; unfortunately that’s not what actually happened. We paddled and paddled and paddled. Water was splashing into our faces. I needed windshield wipers for my sunglasses. I began to wonder how much further we had to go because all the docks were beginning to look the same. Then I realized that the reason the dock to my left looked like the one that had been to my left just 5 minutes earlier was because IT WAS THE SAME DOCK. We were not moving. And let me tell you, if we stopped paddling for even a second, we would fall back at least two kayak lengths.
I turned to say something to Julie but she wasn’t behind me. Some kind of way she had made it to a dock and was hanging on for dear life. I couldn’t bring myself to stop paddling because I knew if I did, I would lose all that ground that I had fought so hard for. I could see the bend that lead back into the canal up ahead, way up ahead, but I just couldn’t get there. I was about to give up when I saw a boat round the bend with our boys in it. They sized up the situation and through my fogged up, water spotted sunglasses, I could see the big grins on their faces. Of course, they had several smart-alecky things to say. I promise you I would have smacked one of them with my paddle, but I was too afraid to stop paddling.
They picked up Julie first then came up beside me. When the boat pulled up beside me, hands reached out and grabbed my kayak. It was a beautiful sight! The boys held onto our kayaks and towed us back to the canal. It was still a rough ride and salt water was still splashing all in my face, but the paddling was done and my aching arms were finally able to rest.
Paddling a kayak in a storm is a lot like maneuvering through the storms of life. If we allow God to, He will teach us and perfect two important spiritual disciplines in our lives: endurance and perseverance.
Sometimes, like Julie, we have to hang on – ride the storm out. That’s endurance. We have to be still and wait, and while we wait, we hang on to Jesus with all our strength. In the end, we learn to undergo hardships with out giving in and without losing hope. We learn to trust and our faith increases (James 1:2-4).
Then there are times when we are called to keep pushing forward, no matter how fierce the opposition or how weary and discouraged we are tempted to become. We refuse to give up. That’s called perseverance. We keep paddling because we know there is hope; we know the storm will end or we will make it to calmer waters. We know God is watching carefully, He knows our weariness, and He knows what we are capable of. And when it’s time, His hands will reach out and steady us, and though the wind is still blowing and the waves are still battering us, we will be able to rest as he leads us to still waters. We are stronger for having persevered because we get a glimpse of the real strength, His strength, in our lives (Psalm 28:7).
When we keep our eyes on Jesus, storms will not destroy
us; they will make us stronger. And when He leads us into
still waters, He will restore our souls (Psalm 23).
Have a great week!
A little over a week ago, we had to make the agonizing decision to put our 14-year-old lab, Hunter, to sleep. For those of you who have four legged family members, you understand the heartache. It’s hard to say goodbye, especially under those circumstances. We really didn’t think she would make it through the night last Wednesday night. Truthful, we were hoping that maybe she wouldn’t because we knew that if she did; we were going to be faced with a gut wrenching decision.
She perked up a little bit Thursday, but our Vet gently confirmed what we already knew in our hearts needed to be done. Drew, my oldest held her head in his lap as the preparations were made. It was fitting that he be the one to hold her, after all, she was his. Sam, my youngest, climbed into the back of my Yukon so he could be beside her and the doctor made room for me to be next to Her, too. We all held onto her and cried as she slipped away.
Gosh, another year has come and gone. I just learned to write 2015 on my checks – just in time to have to start over learning to write 2016. It’s crazy.
The older I get the faster time seems to move. Really, the faster changes come. For example, not too many years ago I was smarter and wiser than my children. Obviously, as time has marched forward, they have become much wiser than me in many things, one being how to properly raise children.
This fact has come to light due to the careless way they perceive that I am rearing their youngest sibling. They recently felt the need to correct my parenting or lack of parenting skills by bringing my woeful parenting ways to my attention. It seems that I am way too lax with the youngest. He is allowed to get away with way more things than they were ever allowed to get away with.
Because I am not one to turn down a good argument, I decided to present them with a brief rebuttal:
1. He has perfected his “badness” by watching and learning from his older siblings.
2. If the older siblings had not been so difficult, I would not be so tired and would be better able to keep up with his antics – which as you will remember he has learned from them.
This is an awesome music video by Shane and Shane with an excerpt from John Piper's message, "The Glory of God in the Sight of Eternity." It encourages us to not lose heart in the face of suffering and it reminds us that our suffering is never meaningless. If you could use some encouragement, listen and be renewed.
The last few weeks have been very difficult for my friend, Grace. She and her family found out that her dad was in the final stages of pancreatic cancer. They brought him home to care for him. Tonight he went home to be with Jesus.
When she first learned that her dad had cancer, there was shock, confusion, fear, and lots of questions, some with no definitive answers. There was heartbreak and sadness.
But then God reached down and began showing her his hand. She became clearly aware of His attention, even His attention to the small things. The more aware of His attentiveness, the calmer she became, the stronger she became. It has been truly amazing to watch.
What do you do when the pain is so deep or the fear is completely overwhelming?
Do you shut down?
Do you pray?
What if the prayer isn’t answered quickly and the circumstance that you find yourself in drags on?
What if the answer is “No”?
And when you pray, do you pray out of fear or trust? Do you pray that the circumstance changes or do you pray that you change?
Certainly, we should ask God to intervene - Jesus did. Three times He ask His Father to change the circumstances. Three times He asked that He not have to walk the path that was before Him.
But then, He surrendered His will to the will of His Father.
We find the account in Luke. “Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me. Yet not my will but yours be done.”
Jesus didn’t want to walk the path before Him. He was in agony as He pleaded with His Father in the garden that night. But even more than wanting to be released from the fearful road ahead, He wanted to obey. He wanted His Father to be glorified more than He wanted to be spared the pain before Him.
Luke goes on to say that after Jesus surrender there in the garden, an angel from heaven appeared and strengthened Him.
When we pray, with a surrendered heart, God will do no less for us. We will be strengthened. We will receive courage for the road ahead. There is tremendous power in prayer that seeks God’s will and His glory. A greater work in our lives is done, not when the circumstance changes, but when we are changed.
Have a blessed week,
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