Enough

I won’t ever forget standing in the darkness of the catacombs in Kiev, Ukraine, my thin wax candle flickering. I felt something in my coat pocket. Looking down, a child of 3 or 4 stood with a jacket several sizes too big. I barely caught sight of the dirty face under the toboggan and am still uncertain whether the child was a boy or girl.

Asking questions, I learned this child lived in the streets and was probably looking for food or something of value. A junior in high school at the time, I had relegated situations like this to Charles Dickens’ novels of long past.

In the United States, my family was not well off. At the time, I was living in a second-hand single wide trailer in Mississippi. Neighborhood families had often brought us their cast-off clothing, and to me this was just normal life. I had my first steak at age 18 when I visited my aunt, and she was appalled when I tried to slather ketchup on it because that is just what we did to make meat palatable.

But I had never faced starvation. I certainly knew that if you did not eat the food you had you would not get more, and I had forced down my share of canned vegetables to get better things. Leftovers were to be eaten until they were gone, and nothing was to be wasted.

But this small child had no one to provide meals. Scrounging on your own as a toddler? How could that be?

At that moment, my heart for orphans took root. Whether girl or boy, that face will forever be etched in my memory.

In college, I studied International Business and Economics. At the time I was learning the GDPs of countries worldwide I ended up in an expensive formal shop on the coast. I couldn’t help but notice that the dresses cost more than an average person made a year in many of these places.

When I think about things like this, it’s tempting for me to numb myself to it. It’s tempting to turn back to the world around me and deal with the things I can handle, knowing that I can’t fix this.

But I hope I never do.

Yes, it’s painful to look at the brokenness in this world head-on. This weekend, I feel assaulted by it. Reminded of the plight of orphans, the poverty in the world, the wars our veterans have fought, the incivility of politics, not to mention the hurts of those near me it can be tempting to harden yourself from it all.

But I refuse to do it.

I keep reading the messages online from various places that, “I am enough.” I look at all that I just mentioned, and I admit quite honestly, “I am not enough. I will never be enough.”

So, how do I keep standing, keep walking, keep eating, keep breathing each day? How do I keep going seeing the deep need of our world?

I take it all—all the pains near and far to the God who is enough. I don’t pretend it doesn’t exist. I don’t look away. I don’t pretend I can handle it. I look at it and I let it drive me to Him.

I cry on my bed and I intercede for the orphans, those treated unjustly, those who are persecuted, and the persecutors.

I put my trust in God, and believe he is at work.

I don’t always understand his timing. Why does he sometimes answer quickly, and at other times help seems so slow? His ways are beyond me, but he is at work.

I saw babies packed in cribs, but I have also seen some brought into a loving home.

I have seen girls left unattended in an orphanage, but I have also heard reports of 70 being adopted by their heavenly father.

Joseph never knew why he was hurt and abandoned by his family, enslaved, betrayed and imprisoned—until years later when he could say:

You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.
Genesis 50:20

I am so thankful I am not in charge, and that I can confess my own inadequacy. It leaves me free to be used in the hands of my maker in the capacity he has for me. The burden of the world is not on my shoulders—in fact my own burden has been lifted by the one who can bear it all.

I can’t do everything, but I can do something. I can give, write, encourage, teach, love. Not everyone. Not as well as I would like to. But when the needs of the world and the people of my own home face me, I am so glad that I haven’t left them thinking I am the one who can satisfy all their needs. I can give a drink of water, but you will be thirsty again. Thankfully, I know where you can find the never-ending spring of life.

cropped-img_38711.jpg

In addition to blogging, Stefani Carmichael is an author, counselor, daughter, wife, mom, and houseparent to teenage girls.

Justice

Sitting in the middle of a congregation of Africans, Asians, and other Americans, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia I could not help but think of how our worship of God in heaven would consist of every tribe worldwide. The pastor taught on the parable of the talents, a text I had taught to my own children so many times. I have always believed it important to be a good steward of my time, money, and talents.

But today, as the sermon ended we sang the hymn “Take My Life and Let It Be” by Frances Havergal, I couldn’t help but notice that in addition to the usual verses, a verse had been added that began, “Take my intellect.” As I sang those words, tears streamed down my face.

I have never been one to be swayed by emotionalism and that is certainly not the case this morning. No one else had an emotional response to this sermon, but it convicted me. I may be giving in many ways, but this hymn reminded me of the way God had gifted me and how I should be using that gift.

I saw great things happen because of that trip. In less than a year through connections from that trip, he has provided money to help an amazing ministry to orphans, a grant to help build a new home to bring children out of extreme neglect and into a loving environment and partnered with an organization that will bring continued help to this ministry.

God is at work.

His work in me during that trip encouraged me to restart my blog and use everything I have at my disposal for his glory. God has gifted me with words and my job is to speak.

Returning home, desiring to share the great need of these orphans, I re-entered blogging in the middle of a Christian conversation on social justice. Who knew helping those in need and loving others was such an issue?

I am not going to define social justice and argue for or against it. I see that those concerned with this term are looking at how it has been used historically and ways they may fear that movements around the term are headed. Some people are wrestling with the idea of a social gospel that is replacing the gospel.

Let me be as clear as possible: I am 100 percent pro-gospel. I am also 100 percent pro-loving others.

If we ever hope for real justice in society it will come through the gospel. We are all sinners, in need of a savior, Jesus Christ. Without his atonement, none of us could ever hope to stand before a Holy God.

I hope that none of us who proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ will get lost in arguments that would detract us from following Christ in obedience. My concern is that those who are against the term social justice would leave Christians confused, and perhaps lead some to be less concerned about loving our neighbors as we ought.

If we look at Acts chapter six, we see that the widows in the church were not receiving the food they should be receiving. Men were chosen to serve these women, so that other men could remain focused on teaching the Word of God. From the very beginning of the church, we see that there was a focus on both physical and spiritual needs. The elders focused on the teaching of the word, while the deacons focused on acts of service.

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom and continues in it-not forgetting what they have heard but doing it-they will be blessed in what they do. Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. James 1:22-27

While the gospel does show that what we do will never earn our salvation, we see in this passage in James and in countless other places in scripture that obedience to the word is of utmost importance, and obedience to the word means loving God and others, since that is the summary of the law that Jesus gives. In this passage, it shows that love ought to include caring for the orphans and widows—those who were vulnerable in society. We see countless places in the Bible where we learn that our God cares about those who are vulnerable (Psalm 68:5, 82:3, 146:9, Exodus 22:2, Isaiah 58:7) In addition to the orphan and widow, these and other passages also include foreigners and the poor. As Christians, we are certainly called to look at the distress of others and act accordingly in love.

Jesus himself repeatedly showed his concern with the whole individual. His miracles included providing food on multiple occasions, healing from a fever, lepers, the paralyzed, the blind, deaf, and mute, the demon-possessed and the dead. Jesus cared about others physical needs, as well as their spiritual needs. He preached the sermon on the mount, but he also fed the 5000. In fact, in the sermon on the mount, he warns against practicing righteousness for others to see, and the example he uses is about giving to the needy. He instructs to do it privately rather than publicly, but he certainly does not say it does not matter.

In fact, in the well-known passage on suffering in Romans 8, we learn that God is using everything to conform us to the image of Christ. If his goal is to sanctify us, shouldn’t we like Jesus be concerned with the physical and spiritual well-being of those around us as Christ was?

And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”  He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”

But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”  Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii[a] and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”
Luke 10:25-37

Obviously, we know we cannot love perfectly like this parable describes. This is why we need the gospel. This man could not be justified by loving God and his neighbor perfectly. None of us can be. And yet, while we cannot be saved by our good works because we all fall short, God has not saved us for us to continue living sinful lives. Our hearts are to be transformed by the gospel so that more and more, this is the way we live.

We have all failed at God’s justice. We all have failed in our task of loving God and others. We all need Christ’s perfect atonement. We all need him to stand in our place, so we can stand at all. And once he has rescued us, we should all cherish his justice so that we increasingly love others as Jesus did.

So my plea to my brothers and sisters in Christ is, please don’t pass others by out of confusion. Please don’t use arguments as an excuse. Our world is full of both physical and spiritual needs. Jesus ministered to both, and Christians are to minister to both as well.

Today’s Prayer

Father,

I am so thankful that you reign over the heavens and the earth. That you are in control of all situations, great and small. You are holy and perfect in every way. The perfection of your reign will come in culmination, even as now the battle is being waged. One day, you will be proclaimed throughout the earth as the king you are, even as the angels in heaven already proclaim your majesty.

Meet the needs of your children today. Give us the strength to sustain us both physically and spiritually. Give us encouragement to accomplish your will. Give us the ability to love you and each other.

I confess that we as your people fail at loving you and others the way that we should. Our love falls short each day. We often live with walls of division rather than the unity of Christ. Help us to love as Jesus did. Help us to love the prostitutes and tax collectors and even Pharisees. As Jesus rescued Paul, the self-proclaimed chief of sinners, the Pharisee of Pharisee, help us to love all forms of sinners even as you have loved us.

Make us merciful. Remind us of the mercies you show us every day and help us not to hold grudges against anyone. When someone treats us as an enemy, remind us of how Jesus prayed for those who put you on the cross, “Forgive them for they know not what they do.”

Protect us from temptation and deliver us from its clutches.

Your kingdom will prevail!
Your power will overcome!
Your glory will be displayed!

In Jesus’ Name,
Amen.

Homecoming

About a month ago the principal announced the homecoming maids on the loudspeaker as I sat listening. I smiled as I heard one of my girl’s names announced as senior maid, and I did not even have time to be surprised before the second was announced. Two senior maids living in my house! I knew a busy month lay ahead.

That night I gathered them together to begin the planning, knowing how little time we had to find dresses, cars and signs for the parade, hair stylists, and makeup artists. It’s been a month of dress shopping and appointment making.

It has certainly been busy, but it’s a joyful busyness. The physical reality of all these preparations points me to the preparations God is currently working in us.

“And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” Revelation 21:2

These girls are not yet brides, but their preparations for homecoming remind me of the preparations of a bride for her wedding day.

The exciting thing is, we the church, are currently in this process. We are in the busy stage of preparation as the bride of Christ.

“Let us rejoice and exult and give him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure—for the fine linen is the righteous deed of the saints.” Revelation 19:7-8

What a beautiful gown we are privileged to wear—the righteous deeds of the saints.

This month in addition to Homecoming, I have been busy. We have had college visits for seniors, cross country meets, choir performances, and an all-day Harvest Festival among other things. It could be tempting to get bogged down and stressed and lose the joy of the beautifully busy phase of life I am in.

The same is true as God molds and shapes us into his holy bride. This is the time of life we are in! We are in the preparation phase. Growing in holiness isn’t always easy, pleasant, or stress-free—but what a purpose it serves. God is making us righteous. One day we, his bride, will be clothed in a perfectly white gown and he will see us as beautiful.

As people test your patience, as you face life’s difficulties don’t forget that these are the things that God uses to help prepare you. Praise the Lord this day will come!
And as he prepares you, he is also preparing our new home. Our school’s homecoming festivities will end the night of the game, but the joys we will experience will only begin at our heavenly homecoming.

“And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” John 14:3

We will be experiencing a homecoming unlike anything we can imagine!

“But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” Colossians 3:20

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:4

All our time in this earth, we have been longing for our true home. At our homecoming, we will finally be prepared to enter it. All the times we have felt adrift, as if we did not quite fit will come to an end. All the times we grieved over things that we knew were not as they should be will be over. We will finally be sanctified and fit for a place of perfection.

A Matter of Perspective

I don’t know about you, but some days (every day) I need to grab a breath of fresh air and gain some perspective. Some days facing the world, political drama, rubbing against the lives of those nearby and hearing the unkind words of those far away jumbles together into a giant mess that can be a bit disheartening.

Fortunately, it is only disheartening from my limited perspective, which is why it is so important to stop and look at life from a different frame of reference regularly. From my perspective, I see a lot of corrupt people. I often wonder who is telling the truth. I see a lot of hurt, and a lot of hurt people hurting other people whether they want to or not.

This often mixes together with good things. Blessings abound in my life, to be sure. The more I enter relationships with others, the more I see both beauty and pain, joy and chaos.

Alongside others, this can be far too much. It can make you want to retreat even though you know you should not. At these times, I realize I do need to retreat, but just long enough to be replenished and to love again. My source of love is the God who is love, and if I am not filled with his Spirit, I have little joy and nothing to offer.

In the middle of life’s challenges, navigating in love is so essential if we don’t want those things to get worse. But in the middle of these days, we are also in need of wisdom. Wisdom seems a bit sparse at times, but we have been told where to find it.

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” Proverbs 9:10

Often when people discuss the fear of the Lord they explain that the fear of the Lord is not terror but reverence and awe. Or conversely, they might do the opposite as a reaction, reminding people that we do really have reason to fear God in the way we generally think.

The truth is, when we look up the original word in the Hebrew lexicon , it includes all these forms of fear, and adds respect, reverence and piety.

Proverbs come in distinct forms, and this one has two parallel parts. We understand the first better as we look to the second. If we do that, we see that “fear of the LORD” is parallel with “knowledge of the Holy One.” Basically, we learn from this that this fear of the Lord has to do with knowing who God is.

Do you want to be wise? Know God.

In his word, we learn of a God who is holy. This passage itself parallels the name of the LORD with the “Holy One.” The only reason we will ever be able to stand before God at all is because of Christ. If we stand in rebellion against him, we should fear in the most common modern usage of the term.

Yet, we also learn of a God that is deserving of awe. He created all things. Do the mountains fill you with wonder? Does the immensity of the universe humble you? Then marvel at the God who created them. If we can delight in a wonderful book, painting or movie, how much more can we delight in the creator of creative people? How much more can we delight in the One who made everything out of nothing. Our creativity is but a reflection of His.

We can marvel at His creation because it is beautiful, diverse, and detailed beyond our comprehension. Yet, we can also stand amazed at his power to create. A God who can create all of this deserves this kind of fear.

We learn of a God who is both just and merciful. In a world where justice sometimes seems completely illusive, we see stories of those who cried out over injustice and were heard by the God of the universe. As our nation questions who is telling the truth in the highest matters of justice in the land, I am thankful for the God who knows and sees all things, even the hearts of men. His justice is impartial in a world where partiality and partisan politics seems to rule.

And yet, justice itself can be a frightening thing when we sit in the seat of the accused and guilty. When we ourselves deserve wrath due to justice, he found a way to save us. When we, his creation, rebelled, he pursued us in love. He found a way to satisfy his justice and free us.

We learn of a patient God who perseveres throughout centuries, and yet a God who knows every hair on our head and every tear we have cried.

We learn of a God who can laugh at rulers who plot against him. The mightiest rulers in the world are as nothing to him. Fear God, and you don’t have to fear principalities or powers.

What kind of knowledge do we need to have of God to gain this wisdom? Learning about Him through reading His word is great, but if we know about Him in the same way we know about Gandalf it does not lead to the wisdom mentioned. We may think Gandalf is a great character, but we also know he is not real. The wisdom of knowing God comes from a belief in him. This knowledge is a relational knowledge, that differs from knowing about something.

When you trust in God and know him relationally as your Father, that knowledge grows and deepens with time through his word and prayer. When you first experience the fear of a real and holy God, followed by the awe and reverence of his grandeur and love… that’s just the beginning of wisdom.

Today, if you are struggling and in need of perspective, take a step back and spend time with God in prayer. From His perspective, our concerns are small, and He can handle them. From His perspective, the time is short, and our difficulties are light and momentary compared to eternity.

Little Black Lies

I am not sure when the lie creeped inside my mind. I had committed my life to mothering by choice. I have been a home school, public school and private school mom. I was a mommy-blogger for years. I have a full-time job parenting children that are not my own. I did this not begrudgingly, but intentionally because I saw the need and I had a passion for parenting.

Then one day, subtly, the serpent hissed in my ear, “No one hears a word you say.” That day I began seeing myself as the teacher on Charlie Brown. Constantly talking, and never anyone hearing the message I am trying to communicate. Telling children things that I believe will bless their lives and realizing they did not get the message. “Waah, waah, waah…”

Of course, this was a partial truth. Children (and adults for that matter) don’t always listen well. The more people you try to communicate with, the easier it is to see the times that the message didn’t penetrate than the times it hit the mark. You begin feeling like a broken record that needs to be thrown in the garbage.

For me, that’s how it started, but it didn’t stop there. More subtle messages slid into my mind over time. “You were Valedictorian. You were President of multiple organizations. You received countless scholarships and studied abroad. What have you done with all that? What are you now?”

The serpent worked his deception subtly and gradually I began to lose passion, confidence, and direction in my mission. Gradually I began to wonder if someone would hear me if I had done another job. I began to wonder if I had completely missed my calling.

“Yes,” I thought, “Parenting must be a task for special people who know how to communicate so that their children always listen.”

Did I just type that?????

I did, because as ludicrous as it sounds I realize that this is close to the discouraging message I had been telling myself. I had forgotten all human nature and convinced myself I was ineffective.

And it didn’t end there… I think somewhere inside of me I slid back into the mentality that if you do something well you get recognition. Nowadays, people even get recognition when they don’t do things well. But, all my life before becoming a wife and mom, I had become accustomed to recognition.

As a young mom and wife, not receiving recognition did not bother me. I saw it as a sanctifying process in which God was humbling me and helping me to do the right things for the right reasons. But after over a decade, I confess, I started wondering….

“Maybe I’m just rotten at this parenting thing?”

Ten years in and I’ve read all the books and clocked in blood and sweat and tears. I’ve woken up in the middle of the nights, set an alarm for 4 a.m., cooked breakfasts, helped with homework, encouraged, prayed, cried, and begged. I’ve potty-trained. I’ve cleaned vomit out of car seats from three different children (I think that deserves some sort of medal). I’ve held hands through surgeries and broken arms.

But no… there are still no medals, plaques, awards, etc.

Maybe you are all more realistic moms than I am. Maybe you have never struggled with this. But just in case you ever have, let me tell you:

Just because there are no awards for parenting does not mean that your job is not important or significant.

Just because it seems like no one hears you doesn’t mean that the messages you deliver to your children each day aren’t incredibly important.

I know you know this. Even in my darkest days, I knew this, too. But just because I know something in my head, doesn’t mean lies can’t creep into my heart and sap the passion and joy of my parenting.

Today, if you are a fellow mom, I want to tell you the words you probably won’t hear very often:

Thank you.

Thank you for all the times you woke up in the middle of the night and continued to get up at the crack of dawn.

Thank you for all the meals prepared—no matter if they were Pinterest worthy or from a box.

Thank you for drying your children’s tears, for listening to them, for cleaning up after them, and for teaching them to clean up after themselves.

Thank you for encouraging them when they are down, and for disciplining them when they need it.

Thank you for helping them with Math and Spelling words.

Thank you for celebrating their birthdays.

Your character is shown when you do the hard things, and nobody notices. Your children may not thank you for everything you do for them now, but they will be blessed by your love their whole lives. Even if they drift from the path you thought would be best for them. Even if they don’t hear everything you say. They heard some things.

All these tiny moments, words, tasks combine to share the most important message you can send to anyone with your life:

“I love you.”

They may miss some notes along the way. They might not appreciate the intricacies of the arrangement. They will miss some parts. But you are privileged to share the most important message with them in a way no one else can.

On Sovereignty and Stewardship

IMG_3681

Overview of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

September 11, 2001 as planes crashed into the twin towers and the pentagon, I discovered just how much I had placed faith in the United States of America. After a year of searching I found my heart resting with more security than ever in the sovereignty of God, as it should.

At the same time, this newfound knowledge allowed my heart to rest enough to marry and pursue a family, without guilt at not being able to solve the economic struggles of the former Soviet Union (as I had once hoped to do).

The sovereignty of God is a true, sweet, and necessary doctrine if one is to live a life without anxiety, for which I will forever be grateful. It has brought me through many difficulties and upholds me in the darkest days.

Fast-forward fifteen years, and the Lord began placing on me a desire to pray that I would love him with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength and my neighbor as myself. I couldn’t get past this being the summary of what God desires for our lives, and so I began praying this daily.

Let me warn you, that praying this prayer may not look like what you expect. As I prayed this, I found God confronting me with my deepest fears and leading me to face them, because as it says in 1 John 4:18, “perfect love casts out fear.” Repeatedly I found myself crying out that God would help me love and forgive when I wanted desperately to run and not look back.

During this time, a friend invited me on a mission trip to Ethiopia. God immediately began making this seemingly impossible trip happen. He provided over half the funds and childcare before I even agreed to go. Inside I wrestled with what we could do in a short-term mission trip, and God reminded us regularly that it was not about what we could do, but what He wanted to accomplish.

I confess to having been “on-the-fence” about short-term mission trips sometimes. I know there is a desperate need for missions, and yet I struggle with small questions like, “Is this the best way to do it?” I confess at times those questions have kept me from doing all that I should. This is but one area where my fear of not doing something well enough could keep me from doing anything. I must come to grips with the truth that I will never do anything well enough, but God does call me to do what I can.

As I prepared for this trip, I read about Ethiopia, and my heart opened as I read about the plight of orphans in that country. My former concerns about poverty in other countries resurfaced. I am ashamed to say, I had stuffed a lot of those concerns and numbed them with the “Sovereignty of God.” I had used a true doctrine in a wrong way to numb my heart rather than fuel God’s work.

As I wrote earlier, I fully believe in the sovereignty of God. He certainly doesn’t need me to help orphans in Ethiopia or to bring the gospel to all nations. And yet, God’s call on our lives is to love him first and others next. As I have sought to do that, I have noticed him reawakening long dormant desires in me.

I admit, that as an immature believer, I probably could not have handled seeing the things I did in Ethiopia. The overwhelming need would have been crushing, and I would not have been strong enough to share hope without being crippled by despair.
Instead, I have been blessed to see God shine a light in many ways while we were there, and since. I have been blessed to see what the Lord can do, and through the process my belief in God’s sovereignty has deepened.

At a church in Ethiopia, the pastor providentially shared a sermon on the parable of the talents. Amid great poverty, I was given a powerful reminder that I was a steward of all that I have. My time, my money, my intellect, my entire life is not my own to do with what I please.

Why did the man bury his talent in the sand?

FEAR

The God who reigns and pursued me with his love also asks me to love Him and others, not to live in fear doing nothing. God pressed me with another area of fear in my life and planted a seed in my heart that would birth this blog. Why should I not use the gift of writing the Lord has given me to encourage others?

I may not have time to blog as much as I would like, but one thing I know, is that I cannot let fear be the cause of dissuading me. If I don’t blog, let it be because I am too busy loving my husband, my children, my dorm girls, my church family, orphans…. Don’t let it be because I am burying any talent the Lord has given me in the sand.

Please understand that I am not advocating neglecting the responsibilities God has already given you. When you pursue loving God with everything, you will find priorities matter. In this journey, I have failed time and again at getting this balance right. In those moments, I thank God anew for his sovereignty. His plans will not be thwarted by my imperfections. I don’t want to encourage you to neglect your family or other God-given priorities to pursue something else. Sometimes in our efforts our call is to step back.

I think of David’s desire to build the temple.

“My father David had it in his heart to build a temple for the Name of the LORD, the God of Israel. But the LORD said to my father David, ‘You did well to have it in your heart to build a temple for my Name. Nevertheless, you are not the one to build the temple, but your son, your own flesh and blood—he is the one who will build the temple for my Name.’”

1 Kings 8:17-19

If you have a desire to do something that is outside of your realm to pursue at this time, be comforted by this passage. God saw David’s heart to build him a temple and commended him for it even though his sovereign plan entailed Solomon building it instead.

God’s sovereignty is a comfort to us at times when we cannot do what God has placed in our hearts. At those times, we can pray and entrust those desires to the God who sees our hearts.

At the same time, sometimes we have more than enough and fail to see it. Sometimes we have more that we can give. Sometimes we hold back rather than offer all. Our children, our churches, our ministries are blessed to a degree by pouring out our lives further as we do see just how greatly God has already provided for us. This is an intricate balance, and one that we must constantly bring before God.

Where are you in the balance today? Are you failing to trust God’s sovereignty by holding back out of fear? Are you failing to trust God’s sovereignty by not resting in an area that is outside your control? This is a tension to be wrestled with as we seek God’s heart. Sometimes we need to lay a situation at his feet, but sometimes He shows us ways He can use us. There will always be people using their talents for his glory, and his glory will always be displayed. But, which servant will you be?