Fervent_19_NotEveryGoodThing (1)

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Strategy 8: Your Pressures (pages 133-149)

The quote in that image above . . . We could just leave that up there by itself and it would speak volumes.

“Not every good thing is a God thing.”

Yet, how often have we confused the two? Twisted our agenda to fit what we hope is His story for us? Said ‘yes’ and failed miserably, or achieved miserably, because we should have said ‘no’ in the first place? This is where it gets raw and real, because in reading this chapter some ugly bubbled up to the surface of my heart.

When I first learned of this chapter’s topic, I thought “No problem!” Over the past couple years, I’ve spent intentional time creating margin in the life of my family. Some activities have been easier to leave behind than others, and at times there’s been a bit of push-and-pull to get people on board, but we’ve seen the results of a slightly quieter life. Honestly, it inspires me to carve even more time into our calendars, to fight for blank white squares in my planner.

But when I read Priscilla’s words on Sabbath, on idols, on motivation and agenda, my heart sank a bit as the truth rose to the surface.

My mind flashed to a scene that repeats itself far too often in my real life:

A cooing baby girl in her carseat placed on the stroller, a mischievous one-year-old plopped in the front seat of the stroller, and a four-year-old walking alongside, sulking because I confiscated the red marker threatening to stain his clean shirt. We stride into school/the meeting/gathering slightly winded. Someone kindly greets us and asks how I’m doing. “OK,” I huff. “Sweaty!” I reply, laughing. “Late,” I chide with a head tilted to my kids. Only after delivering each child to their classroom or settling in at my table am I able to breathe and take in my surroundings, which may include a meal, the promise of fun, and always include friends — certainly others who ‘get’ this season of life I’m living. As I pack up to leave, I sigh heavy again, ready to face our sweaty, loud, messy exit.

– end scene –

Do you see? I didn’t, not until Strategy 8 pointed it out.

I don’t flaunt how busy we are. I don’t base my worth on all the yeses I muster. But I wear stress like a badge of honor, instead of joy like a crown.

Now. Carting around two kids under 2 and their 4-year-old big brother is no picnic. Our life is sweaty and messy and loud. But instead of embracing it — responding to the “How are you’s” with “Good!” — I claim stress instead of joy. I make sure people know how stressed I am instead of how grateful I am. It brings to mind a former boss of mine. Each time someone asked him how he was doing, he responded with one word: grateful. Every, single, time he was asked, “grateful” was his reply.

What could our days look like as though we were living enough, living grateful? What could our lives reflect if our motivation was purely Kingdom-furthering, God-embracing, a response to gratitude? What would our hearts look like if we lived as freed heirs {Galatians 4:6-8}, as one whose yoke had been replaced with His {Galatians 5:1}? I tell you what — satan flees from scenes like those.

“If I were your enemy, I’d make everything seem urgent . . . Going and doing, guilty for ever saying no, trying to control it all, but just being controlled by it all instead.” (Fervent, page 133}

The subtitle of Strategy 8 is “Reclaiming Peace, Rest, and Contentment.” Friends, it’s time to take the reigns. To listen when God urges us to say ‘no’. To reclaim our calendars, our lives . . . our hearts.

What’s Next:

For Wednesday, read Strategy 9: Your Hurts (pages 151-167)

Subscribe to Friday’s live chat here!

Discuss

What good things in your life may not actually be God things? Where can you create margin and Sabbath in your calendar?

Anna Rendell Anna Rendell lives in Minnesota with her husband and three kids (Sam is 4, Josie is 1, and Clara is 4 months), and fits writing into the cracks of her day. She is the Social Media Coordinator at (in)courage, the author of A Moment of Christmas: a daily Advent devotional, and consumer of good books and great lattes. Anna loves speaking, sharing #realmomconfessions, and writing real encouragement for real women at GirlWithBlog.com.

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  • http://www.cunninghamtwo.wordpress.com Stephanie Cunningham

    Anna! This is good, good, from the Lord, stuff! “I claim stress instead of joy.” Yes. How true that is of me! It makes me think about a quote from Larry Crabb in his book “The Pressure is Off” when he says “My self-hatred is rooted in pride. I insist that someone see value in me, that I see value in myself. And when one or the other doesn’t happen I spin down into the abyss of wailing about life and loathing everything in it.”

    In some ways I connect what you shared “claiming stress instead of joy” to that cry for attention and worth, which is rooted in pride, which is some sort of idolatry.

    How I would much rather wear joy as a crown.

    Thanks for these words to help shape my prayers that God would help me lay down my “badge of stress” and pick up my crown of joy.

    • http://www.girlwithblog.com/ Anna R.

      Thank you Stephanie! Seriously – how much better would joy fit as an adornment than stress?? Let’s do it. Let’s wear joy proudly, yeah?

  • Amy

    Wow! I heard this message loud and clear! There’s a part of my that often thinks I don’t do enough, especially if I look on social media and see what everyone else shares about their lives. Yet just as often, I start my day filled with stress because of all of the things that I know must be done today. There’s that part of me that takes pride in knowing I have all of these commitments or to-do’s listed on my calendar. And I never really thought about any of that as idolatry, as taking pride in all that I am doing or think I have to do. What an eye-opening chapter! And thank you from a fellow Minnesotan, Anna. I, too, don’t want to wear stress like a badge of honor. I pray that joy and gratefulness will always be my crown!

    • http://www.girlwithblog.com/ Anna R.

      Oh gosh, social media can be a day-breaker. Praying joy and gratefulness as your crown, Amy! ps – LOVE that you’re a Minnesota girl!!

  • Graham

    I can relate. There are times when I let stress replace joy as I go about doing my daily to-do-list. I cram so much into one day that I forget to take the time to just rest. I was letting those commitments control me, & as a result I was stressed. So, I had to learn to remove or shuffle around a few tasks. I intentionally set aside time for devotion, family, & work. Thanks for the positive reinforcement: “Not every good thing is a God thing.”

    • http://www.girlwithblog.com/ Anna R.

      Good for you, Graham! I loved this especially: “I was letting those commitments control me…” YES. And that’s the hard thing we can so easily slip into. Good on you for making those intentional shuffles!

  • kristy

    I’ve been working on creating margin for about 2 years. This year, I’ve been cutting out the good things I was clinging to in an effort to convince myself –and God — that they were God things. Between that and the health struggles I’ve had, as a result of too much stress for too many years, I’m worn out and restless. It’s taken me 2 years to realize that it’s mostly my stressed out attitude not my schedule. So that’s why I’ve chosen “breathe ” as my word for this year. Loved this chapter and this post.

    • http://www.girlwithblog.com/ Anna R.

      Isn’t it incredible how stress can literally make us sick?? Love your word for the year – it’s perfect for one who needs to slow down, to be intentional, to focus on attitude, as you are. Thanks for being here, Kristy.

  • Anna Smit

    Ouch: “But I wear stress like a badge of honor, instead of joy like a crown.” All too often! It hit home recently when my husband asked me how I was doing and gave a response for me, based on my facial expression…as in “Terrible, as usual, huh?” Last night, for the first time in a while, I put worship music on, when I felt a complaining spirit coming up in me…Taste and See: it was AMAZING how it changed my mood, as I suddenly reflected on the honor of caring for my family by doing the dishes and tidying up as my girls lay sleeping (my husband’s been gone for a week for work: we usually do this together).

    It’s made me realize again how powerful praise and thankfulness is in breaking the hold of a complaining spirit. The JOY of the Lord truly is our strength! Thank you for this encouragement.

    • http://www.girlwithblog.com/ Anna R.

      GAH. Yes. I’m not happy that you get it, but you GET IT. Thanks for bravely sharing that story. I love how you chose to change your heart with worship! Stealing that idea and praying for you, Anna :)

  • Janet Whisenhunt

    Incredible how God directed me to your blog and conversation this morning. How timely your words are for me today and the current season of my life.

    The busy young mom life of raising kids has passed for me; however, I’m now the caregiver for both of my parents each living with a degenerative disease (Parkinson’s & Alzheimers). Turning my stress of caregiving in to joy and gratitude is just what I needed to read to refocus my mind and heart. I’m guilty of wearing the medal of being overwhelmed with their daily care proudly for all to see and react appropriately with words of “How do you do it every day? You’re such a good daughter, etc.” Wrong. Wrong thinking. Wrong priorities. Idolatry and pride at its finest. Change me.

    For this day, I’m grateful for the opportunities that await me to love and serve my parents generously in Christ’s strength and love. Not for my own glory, but His. Thank you for the reminder.
    Janet

    • Beth Williams

      Janet,
      Prayers for strength for you to get through each day. I know caring for aging parents is hard! Praise God you have the time to be with them and love on them. God is awesome and will get us through this time with His strength!! I get this because I’m assisting in the caregiving for my aging dad (90). It has been hard at times, but so grateful that I have this time to be there fully and not rush in to fix something, but give him time to handle all His issues and listen to him talk!

    • http://www.girlwithblog.com/ Anna R.

      Janet, I am so glad you ended up here. Caregiving is a ministry of the heart and an incredible act of service – truly. “Not for my own glory but His” – thank YOU for that reminder. Blessings.

  • Rebecca Jones

    Wearing stress like a badge of honor instead of a crown of joy? If we change that perspective saying look what God blessed me with and He helps me overcome today, it should kick stress off. I’ve worked with children and it’s stressful. I’ve found in teaching them, I end up learning lessons from God myself, and I love that someone would say grateful. I hardly ever ask people how they are, I just say, hi or have a nice day or something that won’t draw the bad response.

    • http://www.girlwithblog.com/ Anna R.

      These kiddos teach us SO much, especially about the Lord and His great love!!

  • Beth Williams

    Anna,

    To often women tend to say yes to many many activities. Oh they may be good things to do, but not necessarily God things. We need to understand that it is ok to say NO once in a while and give ourselves “spiritual whitespace”! God wants us to rest and relax with family. He commands us to rest.

    Genesis 2:2-3 2 By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. 3 Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.

    Exodus 20:8-10 8 8 “Remember the Sabbath by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you nor your sons, daughters, your male or female servants, your animals, or any foreigner residing in your towns.
    If Jesus had to get away to quiet places-what makes us think we don’t need to also?
    Blessings :)

    • http://www.girlwithblog.com/ Anna R.

      We absolutely do :)

  • http://michelemorin.wordpress.com Michele Morin

    Anna, I love your emphasis on “living grateful.”
    I think some of our tendency to over-fill our schedules is that we fail to believe that we ARE enough and we HAVE enough if we have Christ.

    • http://www.girlwithblog.com/ Anna R.

      Ooh Michele, yes. You nailed it here. We have enough – and we also are enough – because He is MORE than enough.

  • Beth Werner Lee

    You remind me of a client who always said “God bless you” when he answered the phone because once he said it to a bus driver and God impressed on my client that he would bless the driver because my client had said it.
    Another great man says “I’m blessed” quite often in response to the “How are you” question. Once when I was at Camp of the Woods and the speaker of the week was walking up the stairs next to me, he randomly asked me, “How are you?” and I fervently answered, “I’m blessed!” because of the work of God in my heart through his talks. He lit up and said, “Me too, sister!” (I probably won’t see him again this side of heaven but the deepest connection of eternity was made as we acknowledged God together, me receiving his ministry and he receiving the ministry from God for his people.)

    • http://www.girlwithblog.com/ Anna R.

      Isn’t that just the best kind of reply? Thanks so much for sharing this story!

  • Joyce Salwen

    Great article Anna! I struggle with my own pressures. Most days I’m just “OK” and things bog me down to the point where my daily chores run over into Sundays after church. I’ve found myself turning down fun invitations from my church family because ‘we need to get yard work done’ or ‘I have to catch up with laundry’ or a number of other stuff. I get so upset with myself, but now I know it’s the enemy trying to enslave me. I loved this chapter. It really helped me to prioritize my life and also develop a prayer strategy that will alleviate my stress and lead me to the joy that God has always wanted for me. Can’t wait for the Live chat on Friday!

    • http://www.girlwithblog.com/ Anna R.

      Totally. Totally. We get ensnared, trapped and enslaved – just like you said. Prayer strategy can serve as such an antidote to that!

  • http://www.undergraceandovercoffee.com Andrea Mitchell

    I’m usually pretty good about not over-booking our lives, although of course this month had to be the month everything had to happen and we are all totally exhausted. But your words really made me pause – because even with our best efforts, we are going to have those days, weeks that wear us out. But what is my attitude about it saying to the world? Thanks for giving me something to really think on today as I dig into this chapter.

    • http://www.girlwithblog.com/ Anna R.

      “But what is my attitude about it saying to the world?” <– yeouch. I'm not going to be able to get this phrase out of my head. Thanks so much for joining the conversation, Andrea!

  • Paula Wingler Cordero

    “Not every good thing is a God thing.” Oh boy! I keep asking God to show me if the things I’m involved in are what He wants for me. Even though they are good things I have to remind myself that I need to make sure it is what God really wants for me. Hard to do sometimes!

    • http://www.girlwithblog.com/ Anna R.

      Asking Him is the first – and sometimes hardest – step!

  • Gail Noe

    Thank you so much for sharing your response to this chapter. I have not been wearing grateful and full of joy as my badge. As my husband continues to have mental/memory challenges and more has been required of me, I have complained and worn the badge of overwhelmed far too many times. God has very graciously been there through every moment and poured out His grace which I desperately needed and welcomed. He has finally reached my heart with the truth of His great love for me and my husband and that He has a marvelous purpose in all of this. Soooooooooo thankful!!!

    • http://www.girlwithblog.com/ Anna R.

      Oh Gail, that is so difficult. I am so grateful that He is showing you the deep, unfailing, covering all love that He has for you and your husband! He adores you, God does. As a caregiver, you have my praise and admiration as you carry out true acts of service and love. Blessings, Gail.

  • @i_am_his_Eph1

    Gosh I have so many “good things” I am doing right now, and I know God is telling me to slow down and hit the breaks, lol. I have Fervent I am reading 3 days a week, Captivating Bible study I am doing with my two daughters once a week, a marriage study I am doing with my husband once a week, in addition to my “read the bible in a year” daily goals and daily morning devotions. Oh yes, and I just started a bible study, and I have joined a new bible study that is starting after I am done with Fervent !! LOL.. So yes, although they are all good things, they are definitely not all God things. Even though my goal is to get closer to God. When I arrange all that around my busy family life it gets exhausting. I really really receive this message about creating time to just breathe and be still in God’s presence. To actually LISTEN to what He is speaking to me about. I look at all the “good” things I have going on and it does stress me out a bit. I can honestly say I wear the stress on my face as you described in your message. Instead of reciprocating how absolutely blessed I am, people are likely to hear how busy I am instead. I’m pretty sure God does not want me wearing myself out in all my efforts to know Him deeper. I’m definitely going to pray and create a better balance!! Thanks for your message today, I really related to it..

    • http://www.girlwithblog.com/ Anna R.

      Hit the brakes, lady!! :) You are onto something here, I can feel it. All the activities you described are wonderful and lifegiving… until they’re draining instead. I just know He will lead and guide you and your schedule until both reflect His joy and earnest desires for you. He adores you, you know. Thanks for being here.

      • @i_am_his_Eph1

        Your so right! Thank you!!

  • Judy Morgan

    Hi Anna, thank you so much for your writing today. I live on stress overload myself. I never really thought about how it makes Satan happy when we do this. And that’s t the last thing I ever want to do. I remember a pastor from long ago saying this. “Never let the Urgent take the place of the Important”. We think a lot of things are Urgent when they’re really not. And from now on when someone ask me how I am, I will say, “thankful”. Because I truly am. Oh, and I love your name Anna. Reminds me of the prophetess who prayed day and night. If I could change my name, it would be Anna.

  • Kathy Pinkerton

    In reading this chapter, I am reminded of the quote from “The Last Lecture” by Randy Pausch, “Put on your own oxygen mask first before assisting others”. It is a phrase that I have been reminded of often as I struggle to be all present for my mother who has been a nursing home resident for the last 9 years. Time and patience seem to always be in short supply. I am grateful to be reminded that it is our adversary, the devil, aka: “the thief”, who comes only to kill, steal, and destroy (John 10:10). By learning to put my own oxygen mask on first, I have now resolved to no longer allow him to steal my peace by fooling me into believing that I am responsible for “controlling it all, all the time”. Thank you Priscilla for this reinforcement!!