Light and Loveliness

Reflections of Emily Sue Allen

Date archives June 2016

Life & Faith

Rely on God

The questions came in the middle of the day, out of the blue, while I was tending multiple children and multiple tasks. My phone buzzed to alert me of the incoming text, and when I first read the questions over, I smiled to myself. These were such great questions to ask, and ones that I knew would require much more than a simple text response. Most of my good friends know that given the opportunity, I’ll take the long-winded route on most things, for good or for bad.

She asked me, “How do you rely on God daily, hourly, by minute and even seconds? I only rely on God and lift up prayers when its almost too late it seems. Do you have rituals that help you rely on Him regularly?”

I chewed on these questions for a few weeks, wanting to respond faithfully and honestly with encouraging but truthful words. Do I really rely on God daily? It’s always a struggle. I’m a DIY lady, and the process of surrendering to God has been a battle for me for a lot of years. Some successes, many failures. I am well aware of my tendency to rely on myself, my own resourcefulness, and my own strength to get through the day’s challenges.

One side-benefit of mothering is the total knack kids have for humbling even the most experienced moms. They remind me often that there is no way I can do this job without help. Little cherubs.

At one time, I compartmentalized parts of my life into separate spheres. One sphere contained everything physical about my day (feeding the children, folding the laundry, doing the dishes) and the other sphere was spiritual space, where I would set aside time to read my bible, pray, worship, and connect with God. In that season, I understood ‘devotional time’ to be something I thought God specifically required of me in order to be a ‘good’ Christian. Ideally, that looked like crawling inside an insulated bubble for an hour each day, eliminating all distractions, and trying as hard as I could to show God that I really loved Him by reading the bible and praying. There was always tension, because as much as I wanted to tend both spheres well, I could never make it happen quite like that, in the idyllic sense, and always felt a pang of inadequacy both as a mom and a follower of Jesus.

As we added children to our family, the basic list of household things that absolutely needed to be done daily for us to stay on the tracks only grew longer, and the time I had available for the expressly-spiritual sphere diminished. In the blur of sleepless nights and growing responsibilities, I started to see and do things differently. Maybe it was from the crossing of my eyes in the bleary-eyed seasons, but the physical and spiritual spheres slowly began overlapping each other and started occupying the same space. One sphere. I have grown to believe that the very physical tasks of motherhood are themselves, an invitation from God into a spiritual space where God is present with me in the hours and minutes and seconds that I pour myself out for my family.

What do these thoughts have to do with the original question? I think it is important to start with an understanding that relying on God does not require a leap to any other space than the one I am in…the nitty, gritty daily dirt of life. He is here with me, while my hands are in the soapy dishwater, while I endure a toddler tantrum, and while I sort out the challenges of motherhood (or life) in real time.

I looked up the definition of rely, and it means: to depend on with full trust or confidence, and in the context of this question, to depend on God specifically–fully trusting that He is present, He cares about the big and small details of my life, and that He can and will equip me to do the work He has put before me if I cooperate.

What does it mean to trust or have confidence? Again, definitions…Trust is: reliance on the integrity, strength, or ability of a person, confident expectation of something; hope. Confidence is: belief in the power, trustworthiness, or reliability of a person.

Relying on God means choosing to trust God in the midst of whatever is going on in my world at a given moment. I trust Him because I know Him. I know Him because I seek Him.

Relying on God is like breathing. Sometimes it is easy to breathe, and sometimes it is labored, but it is necessary all the time in order to live. At some level we all rely on God without thinking about it (breathing and other things) and the more I have learned about His love for me, the easier it has become to surrender more of myself to what He has called me to. In that process, I receive the blessings of the yielded life. Many of God’s gifts are easy to miss when I’m too busy, too worried, and too focused on myself to notice them.

How do I rely on God in practical ways?

Well, I don’t do it perfectly for sure, but I try to commit my day to Him. I try to commit my attentiveness to Him in the midst of all other commotion, knowing that He is present with me in everything, even the most mundane tasks…and sometimes especially in those tasks. I open my bible and find something true to hold on to for the day, or I turn on music that helps me turn my thoughts toward Jesus instead of dwelling on worry, insecurity, or a host of other things. I do whatever I have to do to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Cor. 10:5), meditate on what is true, lovely, and good, all in the midst of whatever is on my plate. There are children. There is chaos. There is Jesus with me in the middle of it.

I try to look for truth, beauty, and goodness wherever I go (and often seek to capture it in photos or words so I can revisit those sweet observations again later).

I try to pray every moment I possibly can. Out of necessity, I’ve had to reimagine/redefine prayer from what I once understood it to be. I pray while I do work. I do work while I pray. It’s not fancy.

I try to actively pursue relationship with God. Rituals themselves cannot make me more connected to Him…they can sometimes help me find His phone number when I’ve temporarily lost it, but it is prayer (both the offering and listening kind), obedience, gratitude, and surrender that establish my connection to Him, and ultimately, brings about His best in my life.

“By His divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life.” 2 Peter 1:3 

1241. sweet new babe of dear friends, 1242. theo chocolate bar I forgot was in my bag for a few weeks, still yummy! 1243. lovely fabric that inspired me, so I whimsically bought it, 1244. daughter’s crochet creations that continue to delight, 1245. first jumpy-jumps, 1246. first low key day in a while, 1247. blessedness of friendship, 1248. lovely sunshine, 1249. a near-sunburn that turned out to be not so bad, 1250. the growing deep and tall

Life & Faith / Motherhood

Digging Deep

My thoughts leap from one extreme to another. Meal plan for a week. Grocery list to accompany it. Unspeakable horrors going on around the world. Perishables stowed away in their nooks of the small refrigerator that somehow serves to sustain us through a week despite its tiny size. Tomorrow’s to-do list. Friend over 42 weeks pregnant with several failed attempts at natural induction methods, currently unresponsive to texts. I hope it is because she is currently (and safely) delivering, but I don’t know. I try not to be anxious for her, but I know the space of last days before receiving a baby in arms. The discomfort, the feelings, and the anxious thoughts are all so familiar to me. I turn on the music that got me through my own recent labor, and it plunges me deep into thought and prayer, which lands me here, a space I haven’t been able to visit for quite some time. The dishes need my attention, as they always do, but I am putting them off, as I often have to do in order to tend to more important things.

(from the first week in May)

The house has become still with little heads on their pillows and a round baby rocking in the swing. Our little home, a sanctuary and a greenhouse; the place where little seedlings get their start under shelter and a watchful eye. Heavy and light at once, I am tangled in a mess of joy and crushing responsibility to nurture and prune, to encourage and correct with love, to proactively intervene and simultaneously get myself out of the way. There is a lot of doing. The plate is over-full with bounty and goodness, and with it comes the task of helping everyone find their place, find their hearts, find their way, making room for and fiercely protecting childhood in a world that barely affords it to even the youngest ones.

The big picture is too much to see, so I do everything I can to put my mind on what is now, to turn my eyes square on Jesus. What are the must-do things right now? What are the real challenges before me after sifting through the busy noise? What are the true words I can turn over and over in my mind to remind me that in every moment of diligence and sacrifice, there is much to gain? It is easy to despair, but imperative to hold tight to hope, and essential to take hold of joy in the midst of the digging deep.

Why is it that the things that matter require everything I have to give? Because love means sacrifice. In giving everything, I learn to recognize beauty in places I previously missed it…in the small and ordinary, and sometimes even difficult things. In simplicity, static is shoved out of the way, and I can hear the distant, dangling wind chimes.

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“Forever, O Lord, Your word is settled in heaven. Your faithfulness continues throughout all generations; You established the earth, and it stands.” Psalm 119:89-90

1231. music for the heart, 1232. gentleness and companionship of my sweet husband, 1233. rhythms that make the engine run, 1234. the not-terrible part of twos, 1235. moderate weather and pnw beauty, 1236. when healing happens in achy places, 1237. new shoes for new miles, 1238. turning wheels, 1239. tight squeezes around the neck, 1240. moving forward