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WOMEN LIVING WELL
Finding Your Joy in God, Your Husband, Your Kids, and Your Home
By COURTNEY JOSEPH
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2013 Women Living Well, LLC
All rights reserved.
I WANT THE SPA, BUT I NEED SOLITUDE WITH GOD
God pictures himself as a mountain spring of clean, cool, life-giving water. The way to glorify a fountain like this is to enjoy the water, and praise the water, and keep coming back to the water, and point other people to the water, and get strength for love from the water, and never, never, never prefer any drink in the world over this water.
—John Piper, When I Don't Desire God
I pulled back the curtain to unveil the breathtaking landscape of New York City. As I peered out the window from my thirty-seventh-floor hotel room, I had flashbacks of Chicago. Fifteen years earlier I had lived in that city while attending Moody Bible Institute. Many times I had looked out the window at the urban landscape of that Midwestern metropolis and prayed, "God, use me."
As a teenager, I dreamed of becoming a missionary, of taking the love of Jesus somewhere on the other side of the globe. However, upon graduation from college I married my high school sweetheart and moved back home to Ohio.
For years I led women's Bible studies, retreats, and workshops, until one day I decided to move my ministry online by starting a blog. Before long, receiving e-mails from ladies in Egypt, Croatia, Germany, Brazil, or Japan became the norm. I was reaching the other side of the globe as I'd hoped, but instead of dwelling in a foreign land, I was doing it from my kitchen computer. God had truly given me the desires of my heart!
As I stood in New York City, looking out my hotel room, I realized I was having a full-circle moment. My prayer had not changed. Soon to appear with my husband before thousands of television viewers, I gathered my courage and whispered again, "God, use me."
An hour later, I was in the green room, getting stage makeup and being drilled with questions by producers to prepare Keith and me for our interview with the nationally syndicated, daytime talk show host Rachael Ray. I clenched my husband's hand tightly as the cameras began to roll.
Five days earlier, cameras had invaded our home, catching me doing what I do best and most—cooking, cleaning, and taking care of my husband and children. It sure didn't feel television-worthy, but to Rachael Ray my lifestyle was an anomaly! She placed the title on me of "Time-Warp Wife," and Keith and I proceeded into our interview.
Right out of the gate Rachael asked, "Is this always the way you envisioned your life growing up?"
I answered with a nervous smile. "Yes, I went to college. I graduated with honors. I could have chosen to have a career, but once I married my husband, he became my career. I love taking care of him. I find fulfillment in that."
Rachael replied, "So this works for you. It was a conscious choice."
I answered, "It's hard work to take care of the home. It is a job, and I do it full-time."
A minute later Rachael called out to the audience, "Show of hands. Is there anyone here who finds this a little offensive?"
There was a pause as the audience responded with a raise of hands.
Voices. These are the voices to which I choose not to listen. They don't have the right to speak into my life.
Rachael went on, seeming slightly baffled that I would choose to live this way. "It's a different concept. Now, do you actually schedule time for yourself each day? Because I think that's something every woman should do."
"Oh yes!" I replied. "I think women need to get their rest. We need to take care of ourselves emotionally, physically, spiritually ..."
Cut! When the show aired, the word "spiritually" was edited out.
I went on, "We need to take care of ourselves so we have more to give."
Rachael interrupted, "You literally schedule some time for yourself each day?"
"Yes, every evening I head to the treadmill, and in the morning I have a quiet time where I meet with God to prepare for my day."
Cut! When the show aired, they ended the sentence after I said "quiet time."
My walk with God was literally edited right out of my life.
What viewers saw on the show that day was not the full story. If only I could have explained more—more about my climb, more about the journey through dark valleys, through green pastures, beside quiet waters. If only viewers could have heard about the Shepherd who has been with me every step of the way, how His rod and staff have comforted me.
There I sat on the mountaintop—in the national spotlight—but the audience had no desire to hear about the long climb that had brought me there.
Walk with the King
In 2010, I spoke at a bloggers' conference. After one of the sessions, a girl sat down beside me. She told me she noticed that I sign every blog post "Walk with the King." Then she explained that she prefers to refer to her walk with God as a hike.
Yes—a hike! My walk with God often feels more like a hike than a leisurely stroll. I have hiked with God through many seasons of life: attending public school, falling in love, going to college, getting married, having children, choosing homeschooling, and now leading an online ministry. Along the way, I have encountered both valleys of despair and mountaintop experiences.
One biblical role model I've studied along my trek is a man who is mentioned just a few times in the Bible, yet he had the ultimate hike—all the way to heaven! His name was Enoch.
In Hebrew, the name Enoch means "dedicated," or "devoted." Genesis 5:24 tells us, "Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him." Hebrews 11:5 further explains, "By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God."
Enoch walked with God, and God was so pleased with His hiking companion that He took him off planet Earth to be with Him in heaven. Can you imagine? I marvel at this! How in the world did Enoch "walk with God"? I want to walk with God like that! Clearly, Enoch lived out the fullness of his name: he was devoted to God.
Slow Down to Connect with God
Have you ever thought about why we call our daily Bible readings devotions? I've heard people say, "The words quiet time and devotions are not in the Bible, so meeting with God daily is optional." Indeed they are correct. God does not command us in Scripture to have a set time to meet alone with Him each day. Walking with God means we live every minute devoted to God. This is a challenge in our fast-paced world.
Electricity has created an artificial day during our nights. Rather than sleeping like most of nature does, when the sun goes down we try to defy nature and keep going as if it is still daytime. We live in a world that runs 24/7. Computers, televisions, cell phones, the Internet, restaurants, grocery stores, and more are at our access around the clock. We try to keep pace with our hyperactive culture, and then we wonder why we, and some of our children, are so ... well ... hyperactive!
We must slow down and create calm moments. It is in our unhurried moments that we can see and hear clearly.
When we are on the go-go-go, we can't see the person who is hurting and needs a hug. We can't perceive our husbands' need for our tender affection. We don't have time to linger at the bedsides of our children to really listen. We don't write an encouraging note to a friend who is hurting. We can't enjoy the sunrise, a surprise game of hide-and-seek, or a spontaneous song of praise. And we certainly cannot hear God's voice clearly.
It is in our slow moments when we best connect with our Creator.
We women carry a long to-do list and heavy burdens. Consider Jesus for a moment. He carried with Him the burdens of the entire world. He knew every hurt and pain each man, woman, and child faced. The needs He was aware of were beyond what we can understand, yet He did not help everyone. He did not hurry in a speed of flurry to complete as much as He could before sunset. He took time along the way to stop and talk to people. Early in the morning He made time to be alone with His Father, the King. He even rested while a raging storm brewed all around Him at sea (Matt. 8:23–24).
Sweet reader, when we do not slow down and rest, we miss God's voice. We tend to feel overwhelmed, irritable, frustrated, and unappreciated. Emotionally we can lose our way. We have been deceived into thinking that more is better: more food, more clothes, more toys, and more decorations. "More, more, more" falsely promises to make us happy. Even when we are pursuing something noble, such as serving others or volunteering, the overactivity threatens to bring chaos to our homes and families.
This frantic pace most often means that we are also lacking in time alone with God to listen, gain strength, and glean wisdom. Sadly, we begin to act like the rest of the world, grasping for joy in things and activity. Eventually, we find a slow moment—but rather than hearing God's voice, we only hear the voice of guilt beckoning us to get moving again.
Maybe the solution is a spa day—a day away from the hustle and bustle to just relax and refresh. While I think spa days are a wonderful treat, I believe that what we need even more as women is solitude with Jesus. Solitude is powerful. Solitude brings perspective. And sadly, solitude is something most of us rarely get.
In the part of my life I like to call B.C. (before children), it was not difficult to find moments of solitude. Once I brought my first baby home from the hospital, however, my life was forever changed! I remember taking a shower with the bouncy seat right outside the shower curtain. I'd peek out to check on my little boy, and there he was sitting, happy as a lark, delighted by the sound of the water. He may have been content and cooing, but I was whining because my solitude was now gone!
As the children grew, so did their tactics to sabotage my solitude. We lived in an older home, where the floors were uneven and the cracks under the door were rather large. While I was in the bathroom, the kids would not only push notes under the door, but they would push actual toys, like Matchbox cars and Tinker Toys! Now I can laugh about it, but looking back at those days, I was overwhelmed. Mothering is an intense, around-the-clock job, and solitude is not something that just happens by chance. We have to create it.
Practice Solitude in Season
I've lived in the Midwest my entire life. In the winter here, we have forced dormancy. We must stay inside while outside the plants and animals rest. Come springtime, these plants and animals display the majesty of their Creator. In the same way, we women need forced dormant moments where we come inside to be alone with God. We need quiet and unproductive moments in order to be women living well who are drinking deep from the living well—Jesus.
We need time alone to read God's Word.
We need time alone to pray.
It may feel unproductive to slow down and get alone with God, but come springtime, we will display the majesty of the Creator when we have rested with Jesus!
It is in times of solitude that God refuels us and we can hear His voice. In our restful times we can find order in the midst of chaos and connect with our Creator.
Are you getting enough solitude? If you are feeling inpatient, irritable, bitter, forgetful, disorganized, or disconnected from God—it's time to take care of your soul. Grab your Bible and get alone with God!
If Jesus needed solitude, then certainly we do too. When we forgo our own needs, including our own need for solitude, we not only shortchange ourselves but our families as well.
Rarely does anyone tell us to get alone and put our feet up, go read a good book, or take a warm bubble bath. We mistakenly believe that we can keep charging ahead like the Energizer bunny, without consequence. It seems our to-do lists are too long and the needs of our family are too great for us to ever take a break.
Drink from the Living Well
The Word of God is full of living water. We need to drink deeply from this living well so we can be women living well. Jesus said to the woman at the well in John 4:13–14, "Everyone who drinks of this water [physical water from the well] will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life."
The Bible is revolutionary, life-changing, extraordinary, eye-opening, jaw-dropping, and downright amazing. It is filled with romance, tragedy, heroes, good, and evil. There is suspense, drama, wisdom, and comfort. As you read, you will weep and you will jump for joy. Yet we women are too often drawn away by novels, self-help books, cookbooks, magazines, and social media. These are a poor substitute for the Bible and a relationship with God.
Other reading materials steal our time away from the one book that is most extraordinary on the planet—the Bible. Those books and magazines are inviting and enjoyable—and don't get me wrong: you may just see me reading one on the beach—but they lack the power of God's voice.
It's only in the Bible that we find direct words from God. There is no other place in this world where we can get a direct message from God, so why do we neglect reading Scripture? Don't we want to hear God's voice?
I charge my cell phone daily because without power it goes dead. Similarly, we need to plug into God's power daily. We need to be recharged by His words and His strength daily. Reading God's Word every day will change the entire course of our lives.
Just as we cannot charge our cell phone only once a week, being recharged in God's Word is not a once-a-week assignment. The Bible is not something we read in church on Sunday and then close and tuck away on a shelf until the following Sunday. God wants us to drink deeply of His living water every day. He wants us to find refreshment, comfort, and satisfaction through His Word. David used the analogy of a deer: "As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God" (Ps. 42:1).
Are we thirsting for Jesus, or have we made ourselves so busy that we don't even know our soul's greatest need—solitude with God?
Do you want to be a better wife? Study your Bible.
Do you want to be a better mother? Study your Bible.
Do you want to be a better homemaker? Study your Bible.
Do you want to be a better friend or coworker? Study your Bible.
So let's begin our hike toward being women living well by drinking from the living well of God.
Follow me through this heavenly hike together as we learn and discern how to walk with the King!
NO TIME FOR A QUIET TIME
The discipline to rise early is not as difficult as the discipline of going to bed. This did not used to be so. Before electricity and radio and television and the Internet, going to bed soon after dark was not so difficult. There was not much to do. Today the strongest allurements to stay up and be entertained are against us. Therefore, the battle against weariness, which makes us drowsy as soon as we open our Bible in the morning, has to be fought in the evening, not just in the morning.
—John Piper, When I Don't Desire God
When I was in the fourth grade, my mother taught me how to have a quiet time alone with God each day. I remember plopping down on my pink frilly bed in my pink frilly room and opening my Bible and my journal. The journal was marked with tabs for prayer requests, verses to memorize, and pages to write my daily reading and thoughts. I felt so grown-up studying my Bible just like my big sisters. Finally, I could do my quiet times grown-up style—no more children's Bibles with pictures! Recently, I found a journal from 1986. Inside the journal my mother had jotted notes to me—she encouraged me, corrected me, and helped point me toward holiness. Love is spilled all over those pages—the love of a mother for her daughter and the love of two sisters in Christ, striving to follow God.
Excerpted from WOMEN LIVING WELL by COURTNEY JOSEPH. Copyright © 2013 Women Living Well, LLC. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
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