These 3 letters signify all we have. They signify husbands who hope to receive a smile. Children who simply want our presence. Parents who are eager just to hear our voice. Friends who deeply desire to be understood.
They signify the only thing we are guaranteed and the only place where it is possible to make change. They signify our present purpose. They signify the meeting ground for our heart and God’s – a God who stands waiting, hoping and eager to meet us.
You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. Ps. 16:11
Yet, what I also notice is that staying in “now” is just about as hard as staying in constant peace, which I figure may be almost one in the same. And, just this thought, this pressure of staying in peace, nearly sends me into a tailspin where that notorious hook comes to pull me off the stage of God’s purpose and peace.
Adios, bad girl! Where are the tomatoes?
As I step away from the faces, the eyes, the hope, the joy and the love longing for me in the here and now, I almost can’t help but dwell in the two places no human, known to man, has ever been able to ever control: the past and the future. I start to see all that I am not and all that God can’t possibly do for me: He can’t possibly be with a girl like me, he can’t possibly promise to help in this situation, he can’t possibly do good things here.
Feet that walk from the vibration of God’s
truth, love and presence walk into the trepidation of discord, doubt and defeat.
I’ve done it one too many times; I should know.
One too many times that makes me think one more time about my approach (And, yes, observant friend, I realize this is going to the past, but occasionally we go to the past, with the goal to move past the past) and something is stirring.
Living in the moment and living in striving
are mutually exclusive.
And he said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” Ex. 33:14
Notice God does the going and we do the resting. We just behold him and he holds us. We be with and he works in.
Simple stuff. And, that’s how it is to live in the “now,” it’s simple. It simple laughs, simple tears, simple words heard, simple hearts held, simple games played, simple words shared and simple love bestowed. But, what it all adds up to at the end of ones life, far surpasses simple and far beyond normal. It ends up nearly exceeding glorious, or perhaps being the sum of it – because what we see in our future, a day that will finally come to a close is that we really loved. We loved deeply and wildly and passionately and greatly and meaningfully.
But the greatest of these is love. 1 Cor. 13:13
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As I sat in a group of women chatting one-hundred miles/hour, all I could think was what I wanted to say next. All I could think was how my story was going to impress and bless – so much so that couldn’t pay attention or think about retention.
How do you share with others when your thoughts seem to cover the full parking lot of your mind?
Wow, God. I think about me a whole lot.
My emotions kind of make me want to throw myself up against the wall to say, “What is wrong with you, you selfish little girl,” yet my God would never approach me this way.
His love is patient, his love is kind, his love doesn’t seek to chastise, condemn or criticize my failings. His love stands to heal. Step-by-step, moment-by-moment, he reaches and teaches anew.
He pours out patience and gentleness as I move towards him.
So, today, with this idea in mind, this is why I am proud to introduce to you – International Stop and Share day! I am linking hands with Candice Blomeley for a day that is simply about small beginnings.
For me, it means less me and more love.
Perhaps you want to make a move towards selflessness today too.
It be as simple as sharing…
a cup of coffee
a parking space
your seat on the train
a kind word
your favorite shirt or pair of shoes
your time to help someone in need
a $5 Venmo to a friend
an extra tip on a receipt
your place in line
a tank of gas
your time to help someone move
a text or call to someone who would love to hear from you
Sometimes, changing over night seems impossible, but doing one small task, on one small day, looks entirely possible. This small movement makes all the difference.
Occasionally you meet a person you know is an instant friend. Location doesn’t matter, distance doesn’t care and methods of communication aren’t valid – what you know is that this one counts for something. This is how I feel about Rachel Macy Stafford. She shines all things pure and beautiful and it is my delight to know and love her.
In other exciting news, Rachel’s latest book, HANDS FREE LIFE, has permanently marked my heart with awe-inspiring and heartfelt life change. I feel my life going from bouncy ball crazy, to focused and intentional. I feel my attention moving from scattered to attentive. I feel my heart charging from empty to full again. I feel grace speaking, rather than condemnation. This book has reserved a permanent spot on my bookshelf of “keepers;” I will be referencing her words for my whole life, I know that. Thank you Rachel, just thank you. I feel your love in this book.
Welcome to Purposeful Faith as a guest contributor for a day.
Understandably, many people want to talk to me about distraction. More specifically, they want to tell me about the distraction incidents they witness in their neighborhoods, at restaurants, parks, and sporting events. They want to tell me about the texting drivers sitting next to them at stoplights. Many well-intentioned people want to tell me how sad it makes them feel to see distracted people oblivious to their loved ones.
I must admit, these comments make me uncomfortable.
My mission for sharing my Hands Free journey is not to bash the distracted people of the world. My mission for sharing this journey is to bring awareness … namely, self-awareness … the kind of self-awareness I was lacking a few years ago.
Because you see, there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about where I came from.
I was that distracted person oblivious to her loved ones.
I was that distracted person texting at stoplights.
I was that distracted person who made excuses as to why I was too busy to spend quality time with my family.
I was that distracted person who couldn’t see my beautiful life slipping right through my busy little fingers.
But I can assure you the judgment was harsh. The judgment was cruel. It was downright unbearable at times. But this condemnation didn’t come from an outside observer, well-meaning friend, or loving companion. Oh no, this ridicule came directly from me.
If you have read my “About Hands Free” page then you know that taking an honest look at the way I was living (or more accurately, not living) was a necessary step in my Hands Free life transformation. In fact, meaningful efforts to let go of distraction would have never happened (or lasted) without honestly evaluating the cost of my distraction.
But despite the fact that assessing my behavior was a vital step in changing my distracted ways, living in regret was not. I’ve come to realize that continually berating myself over what I missed is a waste of precious time. Self-forgiveness and healing have been just as much a part of this journey as my difficult truths.
But every now and then I get waves of remembrance—a taste of “life overwhelmed”, just enough to sting me, just enough to bring tears to my eyes.
It happened the other day. I’d stayed up too late working the night before. I had several deadlines to meet, and I was not as close as I hoped on any of them. I needed to get the kids to a swim meet. We were late. I was tired. The word “Mama” began every single sentence that came from my children’s lips whether I was actually needed or not.
And there I stood in front of the pantry, unable to remember what I came there to get. Part of me wanted to shut the door to that little space, huddle under the boxes of Fiber One cereal, and cry.
That’s when I heard it.
It didn’t use the exact phrase that originated in the years of my highly distracted life, but it came painfully close.
“You are a bad mom”was the token phrase my inner bully liked to hiss during my highly distracted years whenever I felt like I was falling short in the parenting department. I’d almost forgotten I used to say such hurtful things to myself.
But then again, I don’t think I will ever completely forget.
I gave up on whatever it was that I intended to get from the pantry and told my children I needed a moment. I went to my bedroom and turned on my fan for soothing white noise and began reminding myself.
I reminded myself that The One who loves me, The One who took my hand and placed me on this transformative journey, still loves me even when I fail miserably.
I reminded myself that I am not perfect and that even the “best” parents have their moments of self-doubt and frustration.
I reminded myself of how I reacted when a tornado came scarily close to our house. It was the day I realized the fierce love I have for my family outweighs my shortcomings, failures, and imperfections.
I would run through fire to spare them.
I would beg kidnappers to take me in order to free them.
I would offer my plasma, my organs, and every single one of my limbs to save them.
I would sacrifice my life without hesitation, without question, if it meant allowing my loved ones to live.
Even in my most distracted, overtired, stressed-out state, my fierce love for my family is always ready, willing, and able.
Once I was finished reminding myself of these important things, I said a prayer of thanks and released a heavy sigh. I centered my disheveled, puffy-eyed self directly in front of the bathroom mirror and said one word.
As in: Give yourself some, Rachel.
A few minutes later, my children and I were on our way to the swim meet. I turned on one of our favorite songs, which beautifully articulates the value of human scars and imperfections. I felt a slight smile come to my lips as I listened to my children belt out the chorus from the backseat:
“These bruises, Makes for better conversation Loses the vibe that separates
It’s good to let you in again You’re not alone in how you’ve been Everybody loses—we all got bruises.”
I suddenly feel better.
I just needed a moment.|
Don’t we all?
I think we all do—at some point in our day … our week … our life—need a moment.
And so when I hear someone describing the unbecoming behavior of a distracted person, I cannot join in the condemnation. I once was that person and remain a work-in-progress. And that is okay. That is human.
The other day, someone I love and respect as a parent and human being said something powerful to me. My mother said, “Rachel, even at your most distracted, you were always a good parent.”
With those words, the divine light of forgiveness shined like a beacon for my misdirected soul.
Even on days when I can’t tear myself away from my distractions …
Even on days when I overreact over something trivial …
Even on days that I obsess over bulges and wrinkles and things that don’t matter one bit in the end …
Even on days when I want to lock myself in the pantry and weep …
Even on days when I am at my worst,
I remain that person who would sacrifice her life
to spare her loved ones from pain and tragedy.
Perhaps you know someone who would make the same sacrifice. I bet you do.
So when you see that less-than-perfect woman or man staring back at you in the mirror … or the one at the restaurant who can’t quite seem to put down the phone and see the gifts in front of him or her … I ask that you extend grace, rather than judgment.
Rachel Macy Stafford is the founder of www.handsfreemama.com where she provides simple ways to let go of daily distraction and grasp what matters most in life. She is the New York Times bestselling author of HANDS FREE MAMA. Her highly anticipated book, HANDS FREE LIFE, releases in one week! It is a book about living life, not managing, stressing, screaming, or barely getting through life. Through truthful story-telling and life-giving Habit Builders, Rachel shows us how to live better and love more despite the daily distractions and pressures that try to pull us away.
Those who pre-order HANDS FREE LIFE from now
until September 7 receive the FREE e-book of HANDS FREE MAMA.
Click here to learn more about the book and pre-order bonus.
Bloggers, share this offer with your readers and with @handsfreemama!
Have you ever watched a movie in fast forward? Sometimes that is how I live my life. People are running like maniacs, cars are moving at high-speed chase speeds, words are mouthed wildly but not heard and people pass by each other, like ghosts in the night.
It’s a hectic place, a place full of to-do’s, will-do’s and should do’s.
It’s doesn’t run at a sit-down pace; it’s more of a you-better move-it-along place.
I can’t even tell you why I have made it into such a race – other than, that is my normal pace.
Yet, I am noticing, a busy heart,
doesn’t sit down so well with a still God.
Have you ever noticed this?
When our eyes are so busy watching the mayhem, the commotion, the movement, the loudness, the TV, the schedule, the hours, the children, the laundry, the job and the bills the small whispers from God tend to go, like a paper airplane right over our head. They were sent, they were apparent, but we were so in our own moment – we missed them – we missed him.
We can’t hear.
We don’t seek.
We won’t find.
If we do, it is often ushered away by lunchtime.
Mt:7:7: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.
Is someone at that door? I will complete this dishwasher job and then see who it was?
I am struck by the idea that we can’t find what we never looked for.
We can’t be touched by what frantic days block us from seeing.
We can’t be changed if we are running so fast gentle nudges of God fly by with the wind.
Sure, we think, “If we are in the Word, we will be of the Word.” Yes, but not always. Our mind may hold fast in the morning hour, but completely lose touch by lunch hour. The word sits on fresh soil only to be washed away by the mayhem of problems later. Our feet stand on the rock, only to move to quicksand at days end.
How do we get past this cycle of distraction,
this wheel that has no end,
this tiring race of life?
1. We follow this equation: Every minute + Every day = God First (always) If we seek God above all, all will be added onto us. Mt. 6:33 If every day is founded and set “in belief”, imagine what the structures of our day might look like?
2. We see God above iPhones, iPads, iBooks, me, myself and I. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. Jer. 29:13 If we truly open our eyes, God will stagger us with a vision of him.
3. We begin to see that not knowing or understanding does not equal:
– not having it together
– not having a way out
– not being smart
– not having a plan.
Not knowing = the way TO a straight path.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Prov. 3:5-6
When we realize we don’t understand, we are getting to the beginning of wisdom.
The posture of our heart, will predict the progress of our day. It will determine how much of Savior we funnel into our days.
Let’s funnel even more.
As we open the door of our heart in bigger ways to these 5 R’s, we will create more space for our big God to pass through:
1. Release. Let go to find he grabs hold. God is never a catch and release type, every time he catches and keeps. He understands that the best fisherman love to take home their catch. 2. Reliance. Choose to walk in humility instead of futility. Step over the cliff of safety, God will catch you. 3. Renewal. Ask, seek, knock (repeat). Then, find. 4. Reality. God is the only truth, not your perception of the world, not your summations, not others predictions. Soak in his presence, his life, and his love. 5. Recognition. Praise him in the sanctuary, which is your heart. Praise him continually.
Break through the white noise of these steps, breakthrough the normalcy, breakthrough the tendency to say, “I know those already.” The truth is – that mentality is what keeps you back – from him.
Think of these words and how they apply afresh to your day.
Then, when we breakthrough arrogance, busyness and complacency, we will find our first love, Jesus.
Then, we can offer our whole self for the one who already did.
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Lately, I have been running in mode chicken-with-her-head-cut-off.
And, yes, it is as unpretty as it sounds, my friend.
With activities, school, summer planning, the blog, other writing, my husband and everything else to be done, I feel like I am running a marathon of must-do’s. Surely, I can manage it. Surely things will calm down.
But will they?
What happens when the onslaught never appears to have an end in sight?
Just a couple days ago, one more HUGE item was loaded onto my already slumped shoulders.
“I don’t have time for this! I can’t do this and everything else!”
Well, that is something that most (smart) non-mighty women say, but it isn’t what I said. Instead, I said, this is a have-to-do for today.
The only way I could think of removing it’s power was by clearing it out. It’s like, I felt that by handling it, I could handle my feelings.
So, my eyes focused, my mind raced and my anxiety was set and loaded as I moved forward – all systems go!
And, I did. I accomplished this big action item. I did it.
I did it to meet the words of my husband, “You know, Kelly, I needed you today. You were so focused on you, you missed me.”
I did it to meet the face of my children, “Mommy, we just wanted to play with you.”
I did it to hear my God whisper, “Kelly, what happened to your connection to me?
Sure I did it, but in the process I blew out all the people I loved.
Sometimes I feel that I have to run to a destination, but the greatest destination is always seeking and caring for the hearts the heart of those I love most.
I don’t want to miss that.
I don’t want to spend my life so set on to-dos that I miss the todays.
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Mt. 6:33
The reality is:
It’s not the action items that gets done first, it’s the kingdom of God. When we go after his heart and his purpose, we find true purpose. When we seek his face, he pours down on us abundant grace.
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest…For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Mt 11:28-30
The great answer to the list of work that never ends is not doing more, it is resting and praying more.
It is laying down to see up. It is seeing up, to see what he pours down. It is the decision to accept a moment of his peace.
Because aren’t we either rushing or resting?
And, if we are rushing how can we accept his rest?
His rest doesn’t necessarily mean we won’t get everything done,
but it does mean we will find a safe refuge and clear direction about how to go.
Who doesn’t need more of that?
It is as simple as saying, “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay.” Ruth 1:16
Then we start to believe, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Phil 4:13
Not the things that I want to do, but the things that he wants me to do.
Not the ways I think I should approach it, but the way he does.
Not with fear as my driver, but with Jesus as my chauffeur.
When I rest in God, I begin to see I don’t have to do it all to know he can take care of it all.
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#CompelTip – Avoid tired and typical writing. Use the 5 F’s to beat boredom!
Note: Bloggers – today is Part I of the Cheerleading Link up (We tweet encouragement using #RaRaLinkup). Tomorrow is the actual linkup day.
Christmas is that time of year when I mark off the calendar as “busy”. It’s that time of year where I continuously pull out my checkbook to “gift” and to “card”. Christmas is that time of year, where parties can just leave me tired. Where people can leave me drained. Where giving can feel not so gracious.
Why? Because I feel worn. I feel tired. It’s year-end and I have given and given and given myself.
It sometimes gets me feeling guilty too – like I am missing the point. And, it makes me wonder – where’s Jesus amidst Christmas busy? Where’s Jesus in this hustle and bustle? Does he look down on this kind of behavior?
See the True Gift
Yet, while pondering these questions, the Lord placed the most wonderful gift in my lap – a gift of truth. And, as I held this adorned box, staring at it’s meaning, I started to understand the beauty of Christmas busy. It’s not all about the wrapping paper, about the bows, about the act of wrapping, but it is about the heart – a receptive heart.
And, as I open God’s gift to me. The heart of the matter comes to light; I see the love of Christ. Authentic. Deep. Heartfelt love.
I admire the gift of Jesus – a gift I am called to share with others.
In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive. (Acts 20:35)
I realize, if I can’t find joy in the gift giving, I have entirely missed the gift-giver and the heart of the gift.
Because we have joy when our joy is derived from Christ. Suddenly, through the amazing gift of Christ, all we can do is give, sacrifice and love. Suddenly, all the Christmas busy isn’t seen as acts of drudgery, but as acts of service, of adoration, of worship.
What True Giving Is
Christ endlessly gave – not out of obligation, but out of love. There is no greater gift than to give. We are blessed when we give. We find meaning to life when we give from a cheerful heart.
Let’s let our busyness come from pure motivations not busy obligation. Because in many ways, busyness is the essence of Christmas. Busyness that relies on Christ. Busyness that feels overwhelmed but trusts God. Busyness that is fueled by the Spirit. Busyness that shines Christ. Busyness that extends grace. This is where the joy of Christmas is found.
Just as Christ served, preached and loved endlessly, we can give, host, serve and love endlessly too – through his power and strength at work within us.
Helpless we come in this world, and through the amazing gift of Christ – he helps us. He empowers us, he equips us and he calls us to his work.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God– (Eph. 2:8)
Truly, the greatest gift we ever received is the one that lies in a humble manger. The one who calls us to purify our hearts. The one who can never stop handing out grace. The one who reached others tirelessly with truth.
Behold the gift of Christ, his grace and his enduring love. Let go of striving and grab hold of the ultimate gift – who lays in a manger in a town called Bethlehem.
He lays ready to be embraced and adored.
In a little town of Bethlehem, lays a baby who was never afraid to sacrifice.
In a little town of Bethlehem, lays a baby who extends grace beyond compare.
In a little town of Bethlehem, lays a baby whose power is perfected in weakness.
In that little town of Bethlehem, lays the heart of Christmas giving.
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. (James 1:17)
As believers, we have a perfect gift. This perfect gift frees us through the covering of grace. And, through this gift, we can joyfully give it all and exalt Christ.
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