By Becca Christensen

 

Six months into my time as an employee at Grace I’m sitting across from one of our executive pastors and he says ‘You started out with two bosses over two departments each and now you have a third – how do you think things are going?’  Funny you should ask I thought.  Then I responded, ‘I feel overwhelmed.  Not that I can’t get the work done.  I can.  But I can’t remember the last time I had enough space to have an original idea or to think ahead more than 24 hours’.  He said, ‘that’s surprising coming from you.  You’re so good at managing a lot’.

 

I am.  Good at managing a lot.  In fact, I got so good at managing a lot that I made myself physically sick for two years at my previous job from all the stress I was internalizing.  That’s when I figured out the value of simplicity and the art of being honest when you’re overwhelmed.

 

UnknownI picked up Bill Hybels book ‘Simplify’ on the recommendation of a friend.  Honestly, I didn’t expect him to say anything I hadn’t already learned the hard way (ie. Two hours of sleep isn’t enough, you can multitask too much, and ‘I’ll rest when I’m dead’ isn’t a healthy motto).  What I instantly loved about the book is it wasn’t focused on doing less.  It was also really honest about when you can do a lot but you start to feel frustrated or bitter with the people requiring so much of you.  See, I like to be busy.  I want to be busy doing the right things. I do not want to be annoyed with people’s requests or offers. And I don’t want to feel like I am doing everything and no one is helping me.  Ever felt that way?

 

In Chapter One, he has you create a custom replenishment plan.  How do you recharge?  Now, force the time for those activities into your schedule.  For me – I need time alone.  Truly alone.  Since I don’t work Fridays anymore – those are my morning to recharge.  With coffee, extended quiet time, and usually a good library book.  Where I use to feel bad saying I was ‘unavailable’ on a Friday morning – now I don’t.  The time I schedule for me still counts.  It’s on my calendar and it’s written in pen.

 

Hybels encourages you to be purposeful.  He requires you to take a timeout to figure out if you’re in the right seat on the right bus.  How many of us wish we’d thought that through before too many years spent in educational fields we later hated or couldn’t find jobs in?  How many of us worked our way to the top in an industry or area only to look around and wonder, ‘how did I get here?’.  In fact, people tell me all the time they wish they’d traveled more, read more, or worked somewhere they were passionate about ‘when they were my age’.  Figuring out who you are and what life you want to live is crucial to living simplified.

 

Perhaps my favorite chapter would be yours.  In Chapter Four, ‘From Restless to Fulfilled’ Hybels addresses the balance of passion and provision.  How do you balance what you’re passionate about and using the gifts the Lord has put in you and providing for your family (which is a biblical principle as well).  He talks about how to fill your passions cup if your job is only meeting the provision side AND how to make up the slack in provision if you get the chance to pursue your passions but the paycheck doesn’t quite pan out.  This is so relevant for us as believers and he had great insight and shares his own personal experience.

 

There are even a few more surprising elements to Simplify that you might not expect.  He covers forgiveness and living a less offended life (oh, yes, that).  He talks about anxiety, which we know is becoming increasingly prevalent in our society and even in our kids!  He talks about deepening your relationships.  And for anyone still not feeling like they got hit between the eyes by the final two chapters – he covers getting out of ruts we get stuck in and moving forward.

 

I laugh when I share with people that it took reading a definition of fear that said ‘the need to be in control of all things’ to realize I had any fear struggles in my own life.  Simplicity is a bit of the same for me.  I always believed that if I could manage to get things done, that I was fine.  As long as the quality of my work was still excellent, does anyone really care that I’m sick every day trying to make this schedule work?  I care.

 

Pink_water_lilyFour years later I am not just surviving, I’m thriving.  I created space for original thoughts along with hopes, dreams, and rest.  I want that for you.  I still wake up at 4:30 in the morning but now it’s to go to the gym and to spend time reading because those are life giving for me.  Your simplified life won’t look like mine.  Deep down though, I think we all want that for ourselves.  To feel balanced, passionate, rested, and available for what the Lord has for us.

By Robin Walls

 

Have you ever thought of keeping a journal? I have kept journals my whole life. I have composition books from as far back as my teenage years filled with random thoughts, poems, dreams, stories, words of gratitude and struggles. These journals have been a cross between an outlet to express myself and a diary of sorts. Well, this year I started a different kind of journal…I guess you could call it a faith journal. It’s my way of documenting my faith walk.

 

The reason I started keeping this new journal is simple~ I want to draw closer to God! That’s the goal, the bottom line. I’m trying to be really intentional about growing in my faith. For me, that means Praying more, definitely surrendering to Him more, taking my serving up a notch and being in my Bible more as I document my faith journey in this journal.

 

“Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.” Psalm 119:105

 

I take notes during Bible study in it. I write in it if something jumps out at me during church service. If scripture shows up in front of me and speaks to me in a special way, I write it in the journal. If words from a song touch my heart, I write in it. I write things I’m grateful for in it. I write my prayer requests as well as requests for my friends and family in the journal. Sometimes I cut out uplifting quotes, pictures or articles and tape them onto the pages.

 

It’s my way of expressing myself through my faith and I often feel it drawing me closer to God. Writing in this new journal feels like having a conversation with Him. Sometimes, I can hear Him answering my questions, soothing my fears and assuring me that I am not alone. One of my favorite things about keeping a journal is being able to go back to it later in life and reflect on where I was at the time.

 

I love to pull out my old composition books and see how passionate I was about the things that have been important to me in different stages of my life. I think the best part of pulling out this faith journal down the road will be seeing the way God is speaking to me and how I am drawing closer to Him. It’s always encouraging to read about former times when I was struggling or going through a hard season and be able to see how prayer, study, gratitude and the Word of God pulled me through!

 

image1-3

By Julie Jaunese

 

This week, actually March 18th, I will be 66 years old!  That brings new things and a new season to my life.  Even though I can begin collecting Social Security, things won’t change for me. I have worked since I was 14.   I love my job so I plan to continue working for a long time.  I grew up in Michigan and everyone in my family looked forward to turning 65, retiring and moving to Florida for the winters.  EVERY ONE!  Then God blessed me when I 32 years old and he moved us to Florida.

4609811405_d3b17e35c5_b

 

My Mom soon followed; then, over the years,  3 of my 4 sisters.  I began to work full time and increase my skills at several different types of jobs.  Now I will be 66 and really want to keep learning.  Is that so bad?  Must we slow down when we reach a certain age?  The Bible talks about age coming with wisdom and older women should share with the younger women and pass on their wisdom.

 

This is what I would like to pass on to you.  Psalm 111:10 says in the KJV “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom:  a good understanding have all they that do his commandments:  His praise endureth forever.”  In the Living Bible it says “How can men (women) be wise? The only way to begin is by reverence for God.  For growth in wisdom comes from obeying his laws.  Praise his name forever.”  How do you obey His Laws?  You must study HIS LAWS and open God’s word yourself.

 

We live in a time when people are telling us what “God would do” and “God won’t mind” or “God wouldn’t have invented it if he didn’t mean for you to use it.”  You see it every day in what you choose watch on TV.  Sometimes you see it in what you read on the internet and sometimes people just don’t care what God says, they do what they want to do, using the “God forgives” for their philosophy.  Even other Christian’s can be sheep in wolves clothing taking an opportunity to lead others astray, sometimes because they were led astray.

 

We are to do our homework and check to see if what we are being told aligns with God’s word.  With our actions come consequences, as you see in both the Old and New Testaments.  This is globally, as well as in the church and in our private lives. We are vulnerable to being deceived by others.   This happens in the young and the seasoned person, like me!  We may be misled in any area because we don’t know enough about what GOD says.

 

We can change that by knowing God ourselves and knowing His Word.  We can change from being a listener of others to being a seeker and reader of God’s Word. Even at 66 years old, I want to seek wisdom from God’s Word.  We all have that choice, will you take the challenge?

By Sue Nichols

 

Recently, I started a new job. This was a very special time of my life because I didn’t go on a job search. In May, I told God I wanted to stop manipulating and controlling my career. I truly wanted to follow where he wanted me to be, however, I didn’t know where to start other than to pray.

 

ephesians_3_20--close-800x800I prayed every day. Some days it was several times a day. There were days I just cried. Others I had great hope. The job I had been working had become unbearable and stressful but I was steadfast in my belief that God would show me the job he wanted for me. By July, I was given a raise. This was needed because money was tight. I thanked God and kept praying for my new job.

 

In September, I heard God tell me to be patient. I was getting excited now! Things were beginning to change within me. I started to feel a peace washing over me. This helped me to pray even more. I really did become more patient, not only with God but other areas in my life….like my job. By October, I was beginning to think maybe I was supposed to stay in this job and that was why God was telling me to be patient.

 

On a Monday toward the end of October, I was leaving my Bible Study at Grace Family Van Dyke when I clearly heard God say, “Call Shannon and ask her for a job.” I told God to please forgive me but I was going to send her a text first. I sent a text saying that we needed to catch up. Shannon wrote back that things were crazy busy but she would be in touch.

 

What happened next brought me to my knees. Shannon finally called me on Friday morning. She asked how I was doing. I said good but more importantly, I wanted to know why things were so crazy busy for her. Shannon went on to tell me how people had gotten fired or quit at her company. They wanted to make her a manager but there was no one for her to manage. My jaw dropped. Then Shannon asked how I was doing. All I could think to do was to ask if she thought I could do her job. It was amazing! I was hired in December and I am already seeing why God has me here at this point in time.

 

I learned so many lessons from this six month journey. God can do so much more for us than what our simple minds can imagine or allow Him to do. When we are obedient and seek Him, He can WOW us every time! God’s timing is so perfect. When you are obedient and see the miracle unfold before you, it causes you to desire to be more obedient. What are you waiting for? What area in your life do you need to stop obsessing over and give up to God? Let God WOW you!

By Xiomara Rivera

 

I was in my garden the other day, one of the many places that God speaks to me, and I suddenly noticed the beauty of this bougainvillea I planted a few years ago. An overwhelming sense of His presence came over me at that very moment. I felt God’s calm embrace me and my thoughts. It was like a warm hug and a breath of fresh air at the same time. I was assured at that very moment that God was always in control, He always provides and I’m never alone. He knows what I need or do not need and at the precise moment I need it. I immediately captured a still picture of this beautiful vine God used to speak to me. The very first image was perfect!

 

Through that image, I was reminded that the huge vine did not grow because I planted it perfectly nor watered it just right. It grew that beautifully becaupink-bougainvillease God provided the perfect scenario for this vine to grow and bear the beautiful flowers at that perfect time. Each branch intertwined perfectly and supported the other branch to create this massive vine with beautiful flowers. It made me think of my role in God’s divine plan and how I am called to in
tertwine with others in my community for His glory and purpose.

 

The beauty of God’s Word is that if we study it, we learn to apply his Word to our lives and discern his voice via the vehicle of his choice. That day he used my garden and the vine. I came back inside from my garden and smiled. I smiled because God knows me so well. He knows exactly how to reach me and open my eyes to what He is planting in my own life through his Word, His beautiful creations and the people divinely crossing my path. He managed to use this vine to communicate his word to me. I heard two scriptures very clearly that day.

 

So neither he who plants is anything nor he who waters, but (ONLY) God who makes it grow and become greater. 1 Corinthians 3:7

I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:5

 

Those words were confirmation for me that I am not alone. God will always provide and He is in control. God knows that I am in a season of uncertainty. Some days are rather frustrating and discouraging as I seek guidance and clarity in pursuing the next steps in this season in my life.

 

That morning in the garden, however, it felt a little different. I heard God explain to me that I must dig a little deeper so that He can plant the perfect seeds and set up the perfect lighting to help me grow into the new life He has in mind for me. I heard that I needed to have faith and patience in his ability to grow and prune the perfect vine. I heard that His plan is bigger and better and will bear the perfect bloom if I just focus on my part in the vine.

 

We all have a divine purpose and need each other to live out our Godly assignments and unless we are connected to the vine, we cannot thrive.  Wow, God is amazing! It was confirmed through this Word that we are not meant to be alone. We must remain in Him and allow Him to remain in us intertwining with one another to create the divine beauty He has in mind. We all have a specific purpose and all the branches will come together and grow into God’s beautiful vine baring amazing blessings.