Ezra 3:8-11: "When the builders laid the foundation...with thanksgiving they sang to the Lord: '...his love...endures forever'" (vv.10-11).
"I wonder if I've done permanent damage to my mind and body," admitted a friend who had just left a destructive career environment. "As I begin this journey out of workaholism and burnout, sometimes I'm hopeful, other times I'm racked with doubt. I guess I'd better wait before I count my blessings."
At one time I too was frightened that total restoration was not possible. After all, I had "fried" my brain and soul.
Perhaps the Israelites experienced similar feelings. They had been freed from the oppressive chains of the Babylonians. Restoring the temple in Jerusalem was their goal, but many obstacles remained. The destruction was massive. Could they ever recover what they once had?
With such a huge task ahead, one might expect the Israelites to hold their praise until the temple reconstruction was completed. Yet as the foundation was being laid, they shouted, "God is good."
Learning new ways to live is risky. There is much work to be done and many obstacles to overcome. At first glance, it might seem like an unlikely time for Thanksgiving. However, even in our confusion and doubt, we can be grateful for evidence of growth and praise God.
Lord, your love endures forever -- before, during, and after the restorative process.
Can you think of a time when being grateful seemed like a strange or even ridiculous thing to do, but you found ways to thank God, anyway?
WIN A FREE BOOK! The Bible text (in the photo I took of the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem) and this blog post remind me of my devotional book, It's a Wonderful (Imperfect) Life. I'd like to give you an autographed copy. Make a comment here and I'll enter your name for a drawing on THANKSGIVING DAY.
I’m amazed by Jesus. His work on the cross makes me right with God, and His life example in the midst of imperfection and disappointment shows me how to live. For instance, many loved Jesus; others loathed Him.* But that didn’t stop Jesus from fulfilling His purpose in life. He seemed unsurprised by it all. Although He cared about others, their opinions didn’t alter his plans.
I’ve discovered a misbelief guaranteed to make me (and you!) miserable: In order to be happy, I must be loved and accepted by everybody--or at least most people. Obviously, this isn’t a belief that Jesus espoused. When adhering to this misconception:
Not everyone loved and agreed with Jesus; not all will love and agree with us. This isn’t surprising. But by living out our God-given dream, purposes, and convictions, we can live satisfying and significant lives, regardless of the reactions of those around us. We don’t have to be loved and appreciated by everyone to be happy, content, and blessed.
Lord, it’s a relief to know that I can be who You made me to be and do what you've asked me to do even though others may disagree with me. Please help me to be courageous and consistent, even in the face of opposition from those I care about.
What do you do when others don't agree with your ideas, dreams, plans, beliefs or convictions?
* Thus the people were divided because of Jesus. Some wanted to seize him. (John 7:43-44)
Recently I talked with two lovely Christian women about the epidemic of body dissatisfaction in our country--and the world.
“I want to lose weight,” Lori said, “but I keep sabotaging myself. I’m tired of stressing about it. I always believed my body was merely the container for my brain and soul, yet after learning 1 Corinthians 6:19-20*, I understand that my body itself is important to God. I’m going to stop shaming myself and look for good ways to treat my body.”
Jeanne said, “When I’m frustrated with aging or my lack of physical attractiveness, I remember how God has gifted me with functional beauty. For example, I feel healthy when exercising and running a marathon. Four babies received life and nourishment from my body. I love and support my husband. My hands prepare meals; my smile and listening ear comfort hurting friends. These flow from the inner beauty I truly desire” (see 1 Peter 3:4).
Each woman approaches this topic from a slightly different paradigm, yet both agree: I’m God’s creation, housed in the only body I’ll ever have. He cares about every part of me, and I’ll join Him in honoring and taking care of my body.
Lord, I don’t understand exactly why I’m made like I am. Yet I know that You’re on my side and
Making It Personal: Think of several ways God shows you that He’s on your side. What's one way you will honor God with your unique body during these summer months?
(This devotion was adapted from my book, It's a Wonderful (Imperfect) Life.)
* Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you,
whom you have received from God? . . . Therefore honor God with your body. (1 Cor. 6:19-20)
(I changed the women's names to protect their privacy.)
Mom, your life has changed! (You're probably saying under your breath, NO KIDDING!) You have a lot to manage. Your situation is not exactly like your best friend’s circumstances. You have unique needs and so does your family. You don't have to do your mothering like anyone else -- even those you admire greatly.
You can STOP the Mom-Comparison-Game and set grace-filled goals that match YOU and your family. It's okay with God to slow it down and do what fits you.
“Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. . . . Don’t compare yourself with others. "Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life” (Galatians 6:4–5 MSG).
You’re the Mom; God’s Your Helper. The following suggestions are designed to assist you in discovering your unique motherhood needs:
Which of these suggestions will YOU try this week?
Adapted from an excerpt in Nourishment for New Moms by Joan C. Webb.
GIVE YOURSELF OR ANOTHER MOTHER THIS SPECIAL GIFT FOR MOTHER'S DAY!
Find the answers and encouragement you need to tackle this life-altering transition in the sage advice, practical strategies, and biblically based pointers in my book Nourishment for New Moms. It's sure to help you survive the challenges of motherhood--with grace, poise and humor intact.
Awe-titude (Where Awe and Gratitude Merge!)
I'm going to seminary! The word "excited" doesn't even begin to explain what I think about this. All words seem inadequate. While journaling recently, the coined word "Awe-titude" popped into my mind. It's where AWE and GRATITUDE merge. That's how I feel.
Classes at Phoenix Seminary start next week. My life-long dream is coming true! Am I exaggerating about that "life-long dream" thing? Well, only a little bit. I didn't come out of the womb longing to go to seminary. Yet the dream has been hiding in my heart for many decades.
Here's how it happened--My Journey to Seminary in Bullet Points:
At the end of 2012, I sensed God by His Spirit whispering to me words that I found shocking. "Joan, ENOUGH! It is enough. You've done enough. I'm not asking for more." (For a continuing-to-recover perfectionist and workaholic, this was nearly unbelievable news! Actually, it still causes a tug of war within me.)
Then to assure me that I wasn't going to spend the rest of my days in a rocking chair knitting scarves, God encouraged me with this message: "Joan, the rest will be icing, so sweet. If you go to seminary, it will take a miracle."
And here I am at the beginning of 2014: living out the miracle. I'm going to seminary! My life-long dream. 54 years after that 12 year-old YES prayer to God. And Richard is part of my dream come true. He's delighted for me. See why I'm feeling such "awe-titude"?
Please join me in the celebration. When have you experienced a kind of "AWE-TITUDE" in your life? I'd love to hear. Leave me a comment and tell me what you're thinking.
During a business dinner, an associate asked me about the book I was writing (The Relief of Imperfection.) When I mentioned the topic of perfectionistic thinking, workaholic behavior and burnout, he nodded and said, "Well, those things are not worth dying for!"
Soon after this I read an article about a trend called "downshifting." Downshifters are men and women who choose to leave all-consuming jobs for a little slower pace so they can experience more enjoyment in their lives. I don't know about you, but I admit this sounds really good.
Happy Labor Day weekend 2013! Perhaps you're really grateful that you get an extra day off. Or maybe you're one of the many who work through the holiday weekend. Before I write/say anything else, I want to acknowledge that I'm grateful for the opportunity and ability to work. You probably are, also (whether its work for ministry, volunteer service, an income-producing job, home schooling or taking care of your babies.)
More and more I talk with people in my coaching, mentoring, and every day life who are realizing that striving and working all the time (to be the best parent, to constantly reach for full potential for yourself and your family, to get more clients and make more money, to help others with very little time to refuel) is not what God had in mind when we made us with the capability to work. There is more to life.
LIFE is worth living for. So this weekend, how about STOPPING the work for a little while to focus on one of the life's enjoyments listed above. What do you choose? Whatever it is, have fun!
You want to pray with me? God, teach me the meaning of life with its balance of labor, rest, and enjoyment. Slow me down to listen. I know "It’s useless to rise early and go to bed late, and work my worried fingers to the bone. I know You enjoy giving rest [and LIFE] to those You love. (Prayer based on Psalm 127:1-2 in The Message)
[It's Dad's Day! I just read this "Father's Day" article from the Presidential Prayer Team. I thought you might find it interesting as I did. Enjoy! And pray the prayer suggestions along with me.]
Poll Reveals Most Men Want To Be Dads
(Saturday, June 15, 2013)
More than eight out of ten men say they want to be fathers or think they’d like to be one someday.
That compares to seven out of ten mothers who said they always knew they wanted to have children. The Associated Press survey also found that 69 percent of men said their long-standing desire to have children was an important factor in their decision to have kids.
The poll also found that dads were more likely than moms to say they saw positive effects from fatherhood on both their love life and career. They also said they are just as likely as moms to say fatherhood improved their overall happiness, sense of accomplishment and sense of purpose. Men surveyed also were more skeptical than women that a single mother can do as good a job raising a child as two parents can.
(Sources: AP, ABC)
As the Lord leads, please pray:
To help you pray for our country, leaders and families, you can receive daily short prayer guides from the Presidential Prayer Team just as I do. Click here to sign up.
(My FUN: The photo is of my son Rich with 2 of his 3 sons!)
Lord, who are these people, Your created children, who suffer pain deeper than words?
A mommy who lost her precious 3rd grader in this devastating tornado-monster in Oklahoma yesterday?
That daddy who thought his child would be safe
learning at school?
A little boy who can’t imagine never playing ball with his best friend again?
A young couple who had just started out and now their carefully-planned future
lies in a flattened pile of rubble?
An elderly man and his wife who just wanted to live out their final days on earth in peace?
The OK firefighter who usually assists others, now facing his own need for help?
Those first-responders climbing and clawing through the jagged boards looking for a glimpse of life–their minds and bodies throbbing with compassion fatigue…yet they work on?
God, I lift up these men and women, boys and girls to You.
I only taste their pain, while they are drowning in it.
I’m removed; miles away. YOU are there. “You are close to the brokenhearted.”*
Hold their hurting hearts and may they sense Your presence.
Because of Jesus, I come to You knowing that you hear me
and the myriads of others who pray.
*Psalm 34:18 NIV
If you’re like many moms I know, you’re tired. Weary. Crying babies. Sassy Teens. You love your kids AND sometimes you just want a little relief. Maybe you can’t escape to your dream-get-away right now, but you could use an energy-break. Here’s four doable relief-tips for you:
1. Ask “What do I really want to do?” When you’re in a quandary about a decision, hopefully your response(s) will help you decipher which is your desire or need and not merely what someone else wants you to do. (Trying to make everyone happy and follow their advice can be truly exhausting.)
2. When you get into bed at night, instead of praying “Lord, what did I do wrong today?” and then ruminating about what you coulda- shoulda- woulda done, pray, “What did I do right, Lord?” Then listen to how God’s spirit prompts you, and praise Him for your blessings and His help. (Constant negative self-talk can rob your energy–and your joy.)
3. When you’re overly tired, lacking energy, or just plain overwhelmed with the mundaneness of mommy-hood, ask yourself “Since I’m going to do this activity or task anyway, how can I do it easier–or even with a little fun)? (Doing something you enjoy, like listening to your fav music while accomplishing an unpleasant task can actually revitalize you.)
4. Before you get out of bed and/or reach over to pick up your baby in the morning or greet your early-bird toddler, take thirty seconds to talk to God. Request His guidance and help for your day. Consider asking, “Lord, what do You want to show me today?” Then watch for evidence of His love and direction. (Anticipating good things can be an attitude and energy booster. And a way to get to know God more intimately.)
So…Happy Mother’s Day, Mommy!
Joan C. Webb
Writing, teaching, coaching to empower and set free.