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Devotional Living With Intention Peace Plan Roadtrip

What Life On The Road Has Taught Me About Balance In Life. And That There Is None.

September 14, 2017

It’s a funny thing, taking off on a two-month road trip with one of your greatest goals being to find deep rest–only to discover that living in a 208-square-foot space with your husband, three young boys, and pregnant self, is not exactly restful. Imagine that.

My perspective on “rest” has shifted in monumental ways over the past few weeks. I feel as though humankind is constantly in search of the “balanced life”. I have been, anyways–on pursuit of a balanced life for years now. Can we really find a balance, when the circumstances of life tip from one side to the next so constantly? Only now do I see that rest and balance depend not so much on our circumstances, but on the state of our heart. Rather, I am coming to believe that this “balance” is more about finding a right relationship between rest, play, and work.

Issaquah, Washington

September 1 – 6

 

We parked our camper in the yard of some (very gracious) friends. Grayson knew them years ago from Bible school. It was so good to fellowship, break bread, hike, and share stories together over the week.

“Zeke, there is so much that I want to tell you about here.” Four-year-old Ellis told his big brother from the back seat. The day before, Daddy had taken just Ellis out to Seattle for the afternoon. And now Ellis played tour guide as we all ventured into the city, telling us all the details of the Space Needle, the tour cars that go into water, and the bike shop where they had discovered vegan donuts that he could eat. He sounded as if he had always lived there, just like his Daddy did for three years, two decades ago.

We watched the boys learn about combustion, what plants astronauts grow in spaceships, and what butterflies eat while exploring the Pacific Science Center. Then had lunch at Gasworks Park, where Gray took me eight years ago on our honeymoon.

We woke up on our fifth morning to ash falling from the sky. The hills of the Columbia River Gorge, where we stayed two weeks ago, are ablaze in fire.

Learning:

Rest takes time.

When you are around someone who is doing something you want to do in life, ask them all the questions. Don’t waste time or shy into small talk. Interview them. Learn from them. And in so doing, make friends.

Apple crumble needs sugar. Not honey. That’s just how it is.

 

Started Reading:

For The Children’s Sake: Foundations of education for home and school, Susan Schaeffer, Macaulay

The Dark Tower And The Gunslinger, Stephen King

 

Eating:

Gluten Free Marionberry biscuits from Issaquah Coffee Shop

Breaking bread with friends: Grilled pork with potatoes and green beans. Instant pot minestrone with ceaser salad. Apple crisp with ice cream. Chicken and rice with vegetables–so thankful for friends feeding us.

Found gluten free, vegan cookies, local strawberries, blueberries, and peaches at the Issaquah farmers market.

As I observed our friends over the week, and how they homeschool and lead their children, I was humbled–and honestly amazed. This work, rest, play thing–they seem to get it. Their home was calm–well, as calm as it could be with three extra little boys running around!

I think that this trip is giving me the crash course I wanted on rest this year. I wrote it in my journal at the beginning of the year:  “Get really good at work, rest, and play.” Of course, back then I had no thought of this trip, or the opportunity I would have to learn deep rest through two months on the road. But here I am.

It doesn’t come from our surroundings. It comes from a deep understanding of when rest is most important, and a habit of placing work on hold for more lofty things. It comes from holding fast to Jesus’ promise in Matthew 11:28, “I will give you rest.” It comes also from a never-giving-up pursuit of that rest, as the author of Hebrews instructed, “Let us therefore strive to enter that rest”.

It comes from finding the most purposeful work, the kind that fills us up while serving others. It comes from knowing how to walk a trail in the woods long enough for tasks to fade from our minds, left behind with each step forward in the dirt. It comes from knowing when to untangle the mess of thoughts in our mind, and go play with our kids–Or that playing with our kids is exactly how we untangle that mess of thoughts.

It comes from time–rest does. Time practicing it, pursuing it, and never giving up on it.

 

Devotional Faith Life Seasons

Will We Trust Him When Life’s Pain Does Not Make Sense?

April 25, 2017

It felt ruthless. Anything but caring, tender, or nurturing. It felt like taking life rather than giving it. But this is where my five minutes of research and a YouTube video had landed me.

“Boys, come here. I want to show you how we do this.” They stood on the opposite edge of the hole I had just dug in our front yard. Curiosity shone in their eyes. Carefully I pressed the blade up and out of the X-ACTO knife and began slicing through roots of the Dappled Willow. I could picture it a year from now, hues of white, green, and pink splashed across its leaves, dancing outside of our kitchen window.

And yet there I was, severing the life system it had worked hard to web together over its short life. My knife snagged itself on a thick root. I pressed the blade in deeper.

“We have to score its roots,” the boys’ eyes were locked on my task, “that way they can stretch out and grow into the new dirt.” They nodded. Yes, they understood. But not fully.

They could see the torn roots, the hole in the earth, and the potting soil ready to encourage our tree’s new life system. They could piece it together. But could they piece together that this was exactly what their Daddy and I had done to them a year ago? Could they look at this tree and connect it to how we had cut away at their own roots when we moved them away from all they knew, all the while asking ourselves whether this was the best for them?

Maybe they can see it, just as we will witness it in our Dappled Willow a year from now. That sometimes the cutting away, the letting go, the transplanting is all a part of sinking our roots down deep where we are given the most promise to thrive.

I feel it myself every day. The severing, the cutting, the pruning. I feel it deep as God redirects my roots away from shallow soil. He cuts, and I am sure that He feels my pain. But wait, He promises, I have so much more for you. Such richer soil. Life fullest. I know it hurts now, but just wait. Sink your roots down deep where they will thrive.

I feel it every day as He teaches me of marriage, motherhood, ministry, and following Him. He slices those misguided roots–sometimes a whole tangled web of them, and graciously He plunges them into richer soil. And right where I was left bleeding, I begin to thrive.

What roots of yours is He cutting away at today? Trust His hand. He wants us to thrive, to stretch out our roots beyond that tiny web that we once counted sufficient. He has more. So much more beyond that tiny tangle we’ve been clinging to. He wants us to dig our roots down deep and thick and forever where we will not be moved–not be shaken. And He wants us to trust in who He is when we don’t understand what He is doing. Then, with time’s passing, we can look back and see it–that we thrived. Roots cut and scored and sliced away at. We thrived.

Devotional Faith Writing

Six Important Questions About That Dream On Your Heart

January 19, 2017

I placed the lens close to the dark, dry, rutted skin. Focus, shutter, snap. I came in near from another angle, focus, shutter, snap. Repeat. I set the camera down, and gently rearranged the avocados; placed the onion in a new position; picked the camera back up. I had no idea what I was doing.

Slipping the camera card into the card reader, I downloaded the photos, and acquainted my fingers with the laptop keyboard. It felt foreign, despite its daily use. This was new territory, and it felt strange. I was uncertain at that point what I would do with this. And I had no idea that day when I sat down at the computer that I was chasing a dream.

It was a dream that would take seven years to take seed, root down, unearth many parts of me, sprout, and flourish. Seven years comes next spring, when a book I never could have anticipated on that day that I created a tiny little food blog, will sit on bookstore shelves.

Dreams are funny like that, they seem to take on a whole new life apart from us; melding and twisting and transforming and becoming their fullest nature, but only when we show up. Everyday. Often unaware of what we are doing, or what we will become.

Maybe you feel a little bit of that today. There is this thing on your heart that you just cannot let go. It’s constantly on your mind, and when it resurfaces, your heart beats a little bit faster. It brings with it a vision; perhaps of people being helped, of words moving others toward good, of products thoughtfully composed and sent out into the world marked with your name.

And maybe you are wondering, at the dawn of this new year, if now is the time to chase that dream.

Mine took two and a half years for me to realize what was taking place; that this dream was much bigger than I am; much larger than what I could have ever known back when it was in its seedling stage. But when I saw it, I knew. And that, right there, changed everything. There was no hemming and hawing. There was just clear evidence, set up in advance, waiting for me to arrive at its threshold and see that it was time.

Maybe you are looking for that kind of evidence today, that “Go ahead, it’s time”. Maybe you have been waiting a long while for it. And it feels like a desert land, dry and endless and wanting. The waiting can be excruciating, when you have such a dream on your hands.

Perhaps with the days passing by at merciless speed, and half of January gone, one twenty-fourth of our year, you hear that familiar taunting. This is not the time. This is not the year to chase that dream.

But maybe it is.

And maybe you need some clear-cut guidelines for figuring out if that “Go ahead” is now. Perhaps you have prayed and kept silent and ran numbers and dreamed your dream at a low volume where no one can hear or see or poke fun or question. And now is the time to measure it up to some real conditions. Perhaps now is the time to sit down with a pen and paper, and ask the hard questions, the ones that sift out dreams and sort them into “Ready” or “Wait” categories. Questions like these:

  • Have you been in God’s Word lately, exposing yourself to His truth, which sheds light on the way we should go? Does your dream contradict anything you see in God’s Word? “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Psalm 119:105)
  • If you are married, have you sat down and discussed all of the details of this dream with your spouse? Have you chased it down to its end, talked of its worst-case-scenarios, and shared with them your passion behind it? Are they on board? Your dreams are part of their story too. “But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh.” (Mark 10:6-8)
  • Have you talked of this dream with someone you admire, who shares the same beliefs as you? A mentor or sister or dear friend, who you know will tell you as it is, and help you discern the validity of this dream? “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” (Proverbs 15:22)
  • If this dream is one that will produce an income, have you decided how much, and to what cause, you will give a portion of that income to? “A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.” (Proverbs 11:25)
  • If you have a family, have you thought through the impact it will have on them? How much time will it take, and where will that time come from? Our time is one of our most limited, valuable resources. Is this dream a good investment of it? “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12)
  • Are there 3 Red Flags? Each of the above questions can raise red flags that need to be heeded and addressed before moving forward. However, smaller red flags, that often go unseen or overlooked if we are not paying attention, can also serve as a compass when we are deciding whether to pursue a certain dream. My husband has a “3 Red Flag” rule. If three smaller red flags arise during the decision process, that is enough for us to step back and put the idea on hold until we can gain more clarity on it with a spirit of discernment. “For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God.” (Colossians 1:9-10)

Answering these questions might take you a couple of hours at the coffee shop, or months of revising your answers as you dig deeper into your own heart. Give them the time they are due. The thing that I have learned about dream chasing is that these dreams take time to develop. Even when we do not realize it, these ideas and aspirations and passions are rooting themselves down, and preparing to bloom—when the time and conditions are right. There have been several times that, when my husband and I have decided it was time to pursue a dream, we could look back and see how God had been preparing us for that decision; equipping us with certain skills and knowledge and friendships that we would need.

Trust that the Lord is working in the details of your life, behind the scenes, even now. Trust that He has great plans for you. And trust that He will lead you in those plans and purposes, when you are attuning your heart to His. And then, when the time is right, walk forward confidently in this command and promise: “Commit your works to the Lord, and your plans will be established.” (Proverbs 16:3)

Devotional Faith

How Will You Show Up Today?

January 25, 2016

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The words interrupted my quick scanning, and persuaded me to slow my reading, take it in again, read it aloud to my husband, and dwell on it long enough as to stitch it into my memory. I am helping a friend who happens to be a writer with her website, and it was a quote she had shared that stopped me.

I don’t always like to write, but I love to ‘have written.’ 

(Jim Weate)

It was a sentiment that my soul knew well. I feel it as I write these words, a struggle against the difficulty. Writing is not easy, but to have written is life-giving.

I think we all know this, in one sense or another.

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I felt it a few days ago as I ran alongside of a glassy-river pocketed with thin ice caps. It was more miles than I had run in a long while. My legs stiffened, willing me to stop. My mind fought against the physical resistance, and when I climbed that final hill and glanced down at my tracker to see my distance, it was life-giving.

I remember it during that labor, the one that would last longer then an entire rotation of the earth on its axis, the pain and the wait and the fear; and then, the life-giving sound of my son’s first cry.

I see it on that Calvary hill, sun setting and blood spilling, as my Jesus hung on that tree heaving last breaths. The pain was anguishing, His heart was splitting. And yet, as He whispered, “It is finished”, it was life-giving.

lifegiving3

Often what we desire most in life is not easy to come by. Goals demand perseverance, success requires hard work, a life well lived is built of intentional choices and sweat. Temptation to throw in the towel, to give in, and to give up lurks around every corner. The opposition looms large.

What kind of resistance are you facing today? Is it that first step? The tying on of your gym shoes? The picking up of the pen or paint brush? The silencing of those inner doubts? The phone call to that potential new client? The next piece of paperwork in the adoption journey? That letter of apology?

The most daunting resistance that you are facing right now—it might just be your biggest opportunity to move forward today. It might be your next greatest step.

For me, it was sitting down to write these words.

It was the “just showing up” to what I know God has called me to.

What is He calling you to, and what is your next move in that direction?

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Today, just show up. Hands open, feet ready, ears listening, knees on the ground, heart willing and unafraid.

Stop looking at that next move as a task to get done or a burden, and begin seeing it as an opportunity to practice obedience, remembering that, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters,” (Coloassians 3:23)

The showing up, the walking, the doing—this is the hard stuff. But the path of least resistance is not the one that will lead you to what you want most in life. Rather, perhaps it is time to chase the resistance, to chase the hard, to chase the scary—when you know that what is waiting at the end of the path is Life-Giving.

Whatever you do today, don’t settle because of fear or doubt. Don’t “eat the bread of idleness”. Instead, know that “The Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” (2 Timothy 1:7) and that, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence,” (2 Peter1:3)

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That thing He is calling you to? He has given you absolutely everything you need for the task—because he has given you Himself. He calls us to greater things than we can see, and sometimes the path to those things is not easy. But the way of the cross was not easy, either.

Pursue what is lovely today, what is pure, what is good, what is His. Chase what you want most in life; chase the life-giving. Chase after His great plan.

Begin by answering this simple question: How will you show up today?

 


Friends, if you are looking for a great tool to help you dig into Scripture, consider Biblegateway.com. I have found their passage lookup (and tools for finding similar passages), as well as their keyword search tool very helpful for my own Bible study.

936Pennies Devotional Faith Family

7 Phrases That Will Change Your Child’s Life

January 12, 2016

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We know it at the outset; rubbing that first swollen belly, that the precious one inside that we can hardly wait to hold, caress, kiss – we know that we will pain their tiny, precious heart. Our actions, reactions, and words hold the potential to leave scars. Our love is fallible. Moms and dads are superhumans, but they’re still humans: fallible and finite.

The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life.

{Proverbs 10:11}

We know these things, but we can’t understand it until we rock the broken child, wipe his salty tears, and whisper apologies. With the slip of the tongue we fall very, very short of passing onto them the love of Christ.

fountainoflife2

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only as much as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.

{Ephesians 4:29}

The years we have with our children are so very short; far too short for empty words. We are called to pack into these years all of the words of life that we can.

What we say absolutely has the potential of tearing our children down. One quick word, one harsh reaction, one slip of the tongue can undo days, weeks, even years of relationship building. It is both terrifying and sobering to hold this power, especially when we so often fail to wield it well.

Yet it is also in the power of our words that we can gift our children with the most abundant kind of life.

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Our words can impart to our children the very life of Christ, and all because Christ has bestowed His very own righteousness on us.

2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “For our sake He (God) made Him (Jesus) to be sin who knew no sin, that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.”

God looks beyond our fallibilities and regrets, and He sees only the blood of Christ. He sees us as whole, clean, and in completely right standing before Him. He calls us righteous, and I fall to my knees in absolute gratitude. It is this righteousness, a righteousness not of our own but only by His gift, that we have full power in Christ to speak life straight into our child’s spirit.

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When we are walking in Christ’s righteousness, claiming it as our own and fully depending on Him to make it more of a reality in our life every day as we seek Him, then He will speak life through us. When our words are influenced by Christ’s righteousness, our children will find life, hope, kindness, and truth that will guide them into the most abundant life, a life with Christ.

 

Here are 7 simple phrases you can say to be a fountain of life to your child. Try them this week, and watch as it transforms their hearts– and your own.

  • A simple “I love you” as you look right into their eyes
  • “I love that God made you special in this way __________”
  • “I’m proud of you because ________”
  • “I saw you do this today ____________, and it made me so happy.”
  • “I saw you conquer this today _________, I was watching, and you did great!”
  • “I appreciate that you did this today ___________”
  • “I’m sorry I did this today ___________. Sometime’s moms sin too. Will you forgive me?”

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I don’t always get this right. My words have been the cause of tear-streaked cheeks and trembling lips. But during those times that I have sought out God’s grace and help as I intentionally speak life to my children, I’ve witnessed the great transformation that takes place in within them. These words change everything.

Confidence, security, and joy bubble out of them, and they begin to speak their own words of life. My son climbs into my lap, burrows deep into my side, looks up and smiles before speaking his own words of life to me.

“I’m going to give you a kiss because it makes you so happy. I’m always here for you. I’m always here to make you happy.”

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An incredible thing happens when we choose to intentionally pour words of life into the soul of our child—the same words begin to pour out from their own hearts. Begin today by claiming Christ’s promise of righteousness, allowing His words to transform you and your children.

Further Study: Proverbs 31:26, Prov. 12:18, Prov. 13:14, Prov. 15:4, Prov. 15:28, Prov. 16:24

This devotional is part of a free E-book gift for my subscribers. Get your copy of 7 Proverbs For The Weary Mom by filling out this form!

Artwork by Becki Campbell! Visit her blog and shop, here.

Devotional Faith Thanksgiving

Why We Can All Have A No-Excuse Thanksgiving

November 27, 2015

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The chaos carries itself throughout the room, giggles and laughter reverberating off of the walls. Five cousins ages four and under reunited for a week of fun, games, treats, together, and memories. Their excitement is contagious. And loud.

And yet over the commotion I hear my grandfather’s voice, proud and glad. “Look what we started.” He says to his wife. His smile speaks of generations, four of them in this room, and I can only imagine what they’ve witnessed throughout those years.

We have much to be thankful for this season.

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And yet–thankful can be a tricky thing to chase down.

But something holy transpires within us when we turn from thinking of thanksgiving as a response, and instead see it as command. Something we were created for, and called to. Kind of like prayer.

“Pray without ceasing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18) This puzzling command that begs the question, how are we always to be bowed in prayer?

A habit of prayer is a noble thing; an instinctual reaction to take all that is on our hearts and lay it at the feet of Jesus. But habit can also become tainted by monotony and thoughtlessness. A habit of prayer can so easily cross the line into a list of worries, or a game of bargaining, or a constant reminder to ourselves of our own dissatisfaction.

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Yet this command–Pray without ceasing–it is bookended by instruction. Its prelude and epilogue paint for us a complete picture, and it is a portrait of grace.

Before it, Rejoice always.

And after, Give thanks in all circumstances.

This is the pulse of Pray Always.

Only then, when fear overwhelms, can we give thanks to the One who steadies our soul.

And when our need seems so great and we cannot foresee provision, we thank Him for today’s bread. For manna in the wilderness. For clothing the grass of the field, and feeding the birds of the air. For meeting our need yesterday, and the day before that, and waiting for us in our every tomorrow.

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When uncertainty clouds our way, and our first thought is to ask for direction, let us push it aside, just for a moment, and first rejoice. Giving thanks to the One who levels the ground before us and establishes our steps.

When war and terror flood the headlines, let our first response be that of thanksgiving to the One who, “keeps him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee.” (Isaiah 26:3) May our instinct be to praise Him for, “The Lord is on my side, I will not fear, what can man do to me?” (Psalm 118:6)

Let fear always give way to praise, because we have not one thing to fear.

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This season was made for thanks, and we have our work cut out for us. In a world filled with threats against our peace, may we be ever diligent and intentional to give thanks always. Before and after. Through and through.

When around every turn we encounter circumstances bent on derailing our thanks and unsettling our spirit, let us be the first to exclaim, “Return, O my soul, to your rest; for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you.” (Psalm 116:7)

After all, how can we not resound with thanksgiving to the One who, “did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32)

O soul, in every circumstance, your excuses are found wanting. Empty. Insufficient to stand against all of His bountiful dealings. So take heart. Give praise. Say thanks. Because you have no excuse not to.

givethanks5

 

Devotional Faith

A Shady Spot In Eden With Your Name On It

October 26, 2015

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He breaks away from the conversation before him and leans over towards my table, “Have you read that book before?”

I remove my earphone, “Yes, in Bible school, but I haven’t picked it up in years.”

He tells me that it changed his life. I agree that it has done the same for me. He then comments that he has never seen anyone else reading it before. I sip my coffee and explain that it was required reading at my Bible college back in Wisconsin.

“I’m in sales, and a client gave it to me.” He explains, “She was an older lady, and she handed it to me and said, ‘You’ve got to read this.’” I smile and listen, and he goes on, “I think she went to Bible college in Wisconsin.” And I feel connected to this stranger of the stranger, a woman who likely sat under the same Bible teaching as I did.

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The man turns back to his friend across the table from him. I place my earphone back in and return to the quote I am copying down in my journal.

“In the creation God worked from the first to the sixth day and rested on the seventh. We may truthfully say that of those first six days he was very busy. Then, the task he had set himself completed, he ceased to work. The seventh day became the sabbath of God; it was God’s rest.

But what of Adam? Where did he stand in relation to that rest of God? Adam, we are told, was created on the sixth day. Clearly, then, he had no part in those first six days of work, for he came into being only at their end.

God’s seventh day was, in fact, Adam’s first.

Whereas God worked six days and then enjoyed his sabbath rest, Adam began his life with the sabbath; for God works before he rests, while man must first enter into God’s rest, and then alone can he work.

(Watchman Nee, Sit Walk Stand, emphasis mine)

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It is not the first time I have inscribed this quote into a journal. Years ago they struck me at the core, and they still do today. Back then I wondered what this work might entail. I could hardly begin to imagine what God had in store for little me. I am still unsure, really. Yet He has been faithful to illuminate the path before me, one little bit at a time.

Sometimes He gives us only enough light to make that one next step forward.

With each consecutive step, He has made this one thing ever so clear, this promise woven throughout His Word: “There remains therefore a sabbath rest for the people of God.” (Hebrews 4:9)

Rest is His gift to us. When once He calls—when once He places within our soul a work for the glory of His kingdom—He first calls us to sit at His feet and rest. This is the only place where we will find the strength we need for the task ahead. After all, “He who calls you is faithful; He will surely do it.” (1 Thessalonians 5:24)

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Rest is not only His gift to us, but His calling for us. He calls us to the Sabbath. Just as He summoned Adam, fresh from the dust of the earth and the breath of God’s lungs, to sit and rest with Him in the midst of Eden, He is calling us to the same.

He has a shady spot in Eden with your name on it.

I imagine our Lord sitting with Adam in the garden. I can picture Him pointing out to Adam all of His creation, all of His magnificent work from the preceding six days. And how after seeing these things could Adam be anything but confident that the Lord would also equip him for a great work?

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That shady spot in Eden, it waits for you every single day. Sabbath is not a once-a-week invitation, it is an every-day promise. It is a place to sit and rest with the Lord; to think upon all the marvelous work He has done, and be renewed in His strength for whatever work He is calling you to.

Before the work calls, He does. He beckons us to come and sit, because it ends up that He Himself is our sabbath. “Come to me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28) So go ahead. Take a seat. Breathe. Because that shady spot in Eden is exactly where your calling begins.