abiding under pressure

Crushing pressure and intense heat are beautifying us. They are what softens our rough edges. They help create the beautiful facets of our lives that allow us to brilliantly display Christ’s glory.

Diamonds. They are precious and rare.  They require time and intense conditions to form. There was a process.

The Natural History Museum states: “Diamonds are crystals of pure carbon that form under crushing pressures and intense heat.”  It didn’t happen overnight. Pressure, heat, and waiting years upon years for someone to unearth them had to occur. Of course when found they are in their rough form. A dull rock with rough edges, dirty from hundreds of years hidden in the dark depths of the earth.

A process.

Crushing pressure and intense heat.

A process that requires uncomfortable conditions to beautify and create the finished product.

So much like us.

I often put such high standards on myself each day. Comparison is where I seem to struggle most. Holding my life up to others around me, believing the lies that I am not enough. My talents, my looks, my home… Oh, the list could go on and on.

It is tiring to always look to others to gauge my success or my worth. I look at Proverbs 31 and sigh. This woman is the epitome of having it all together. Or I look at the mommy blogs. Woman who create amazing crafts while keeping their home impeccably clean.  Or whose kids are all well-behaved and who is able to juggle work, home, and relationships. The woman who is healthy, fit, and well-dressed. The woman who is praised.

Do you struggle with comparing yourself to others?

Crushing pressures and intense heat.

Or there may be difficulties and stressors that you are facing that really just knock the wind out of you. Finances, a lost job, or a child that is struggling emotionally.  Your marriage perhaps is hanging by a thread. Infidelity, betrayal, and lies are the norm.

Each second, each minute feels like an eternity. The pressure weighing down on your chest. You want to run. You desperately want out from under it. Sleep eludes you. Your thoughts consume you to the point of exhaustion. You feel as if you are crawling on your knees through the day, hoping to just make it through.  Yearning for heaven so the striving and pain will cease.

I get it. I’ve been there. I’m there now.

Crushing pressures and intense heat.

I read something recently that hit me right between the eyes. It floored me because it was so simple, yet so profound. It is from Oswald Chambers, My Utmost For His Highest.

Chamber says:
“We have an idea that God is leading us to a particular end, a desired goal; He is not. The question of getting to a particular end is a mere incident. What we call the process, God calls the end….If I can stay in the middle of the turmoil calm and unperplexed, that is the end of the purpose of God. God is not working toward a particular finish; His end is the process- that I see Him walking on the waves, no shore in sight, no success, no goal, just the absolute certainty that it is all right because I see Him walking on the sea. It is the process, not the end, which is glorifying to God. God’s training is for now, not presently. His purpose is for this minute, not for something in the future.”

When we shift our gaze from looking for the end of the “crushing pressure and intense heat” and we look directly to Jesus, we can’t help but be changed.

We may still have fear, or doubt, or confusion…but the Lord Jesus is there in the midst of it.  He is holding his arms out wide to not only to help us through it, but to ride the storm out to the end.

Oswald Chambers continues:
God’s end is to enable me to see that He can walk on water on the chaos of my life just now. If we have a further end in view, we do not pay sufficient attention to the immediate present: if we realize that obedience is the end, then each moment as it comes is precious.”

So how are you doing?

Are you able to see Christ walking beside you in the chaos of your life? Are you allowing this crushing pressure and intense heat to change you? Or are you avoiding difficulties, pretending they are not there.  Are you wrestling for control? Are these trials precious or are they burdens? Are you embracing them with quiet hope for God’s goodness or are you wishing and yearning that the Lord would take them away?

I’ve been learning this recently…

We are the bearers of light in this dark world. We need to reflect the Lord daily to the world that is crying out for help. Can you imagine what it would be like to be in the midst of the storms of life alone without the Lord? We need to show this hurting world that there is hope. They need to see the refining process at work in us.

We aren’t finished.

We aren’t complete and we don’t have it all together. We need to stop trying to project that to those around us. We need to be transparent in the process. The wrestling, the questions, and the tears. We have to stop creating a tidied version of what we think we should be on the outside when we really are a hot mess on the inside.

Fear, doubt, confusion, and weakness aren’t bad in and of themselves. It’s what we do with them that makes all the difference. When we surrender those weaknesses at the cross, we are laying down the right to ourselves. We need to strive each day to be more like Christ, but he needs to change us. We need to lay down our control to self, lay down our expectations of what we think we need to become, and let the Creator of heaven and earth chisel and refine us. It isn’t our job. We will fail every time if we try to do that work ourselves.

“Being strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might” is to not show the world we are strong, but that the Lord is our refuge and strength. In the process, who we turn to speaks louder than anything else.

The crushing pressures and intense heat of life are beautifying us. They are what soften our rough edges. They create the beautiful facets of our lives that allow us to brilliantly display Christ’s glory.

This is what TRUE beauty looks like. That is what draws the world to Jesus, seeing what he can do through ordinary, broken people. His love in the midst of our sin, his forgiveness, his grace, his guidance. Right now, with the pressures of this life swirling around us is exactly where the Lord wants you to be.

Life is hard. It is so easy to get discouraged and weighted down.

He will refine you, purifying your life so the world will behold his glory. You are his treasure and he is not ashamed to show the world how much he loves you. You are chosen for his purpose. Let this crushing pressure and intense heat be a time where you are expectant to see what he does in your life through it.

Don’t be afraid to let others into your process. They need to see what the Lord can do in their lives through what he is doing in yours.

In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls. // I Peter 1: 5-9 

{come to me – bethel music}

campfire talk

There is something about releasing our wrestling struggles out in the open- airing them out knowing that your people aren't judging that brings healing. The campfire has always been a place where I've loved hearing the Lord move afresh in the lives of His people. Campfire circles at summer camp, high mountain backpacking trips in the wilderness, and even in the little corner of our backyard. Whispered dreams, hushed fears, shame-shrouded worries, and powerful moments of victory all tossed upon the burning fire- thrown out in the open, exposing what was held in fear, onto the flames.

 

Our family had a moment of impromptu sharing around the campfire tonight. It has been a hard season for the Campbell family. Friendships fractured, disappointing losses, weariness, unanswered questions, waiting for direction, feeling invisible… Each of us sharing raw, complicated, messy moments.

There is something about releasing our wrestling struggles out in the open, airing them out knowing that your people aren’t judging. The campfire has always been a place where I’ve loved hearing the Lord move afresh in the lives of His people. Campfire circles at summer camp, high mountain backpacking trips in the wilderness, and even in the little corner of our backyard. Whispered dreams, hushed fears, shame-shrouded worries, and powerful moments of victory all tossed upon the burning fire, thrown out in the open, exposing what was held in fear, onto the flames.

Our little, young family is learning to trust our Heavenly Father in the midst of trials. Learning to praise even when it hurts knowing He is still good. He is still full of love.

community around the campfire

Our kids wanted to veg out, not understanding that making room for community requires a little initiative and a bit of preparation. We wanted them to see that opening up your life to others requires a bit of joyful sacrifice. Not aiming for perfection, but creating a space where one cannot help but feel welcomed and at ease.  So we made sure the toilets were flushed, toys were off the floors, and there were enough pieces of chocolate for everyone to have three s'mores.

This weekend, my husband and I decided to teach our kids the importance of hospitality and community. It looks completely different for everyone- but to us it means slowing our lives down enough to have time for people. It means buying stuff for s’mores, picking flowers from our yard, prepackaged cookies, and making a pot of coffee. Simple, easy, and ready for fellowship.

Our kids wanted to veg out, not understanding that making room for community requires a little initiative and a bit of preparation. We wanted them to see that opening up your life to others requires a bit of joyful sacrifice. Not aiming for perfection, but creating a space where one cannot help but feel welcomed and at ease.  So we flushed all the toilets, toys were off the floors, and there were enough pieces of chocolate for everyone to have three s’mores.

We had a wonderful evening full of laughter, games, and gooey treats. Our kids ran around the backyard well into the night. The dads pulled up chairs out in the yard while the kids played around them. Us moms gathered in the warm sunroom with the fireplace roaring. After a while, the conversation changed from small talk to deeper, authentic sharing. What a wonderful evening. I received a text the next morning from one of the families saying that they left with full hearts.

There is a  sign on the wall in our little sunroom that says ‘Campfire Tonight’. We bought it after we watched Rend Collective’s video called The Campfire Story (click here for the link to the video)confirming our passion for developing a rich community of “friends that are like family”.  Reminding us to stop hiding behind the glowing blue screens of our devices, behind the closing garage doors, and the tall fences we build around our lives.

Here is an excerpt of what they shared:

‘We so desperately need the breath of God to bring us to life and light. Jesus wants to set the church on fire so the world can warm themselves around us in light and safety. We are here on earth to be a home and a refuge to the lost and broken. But first we must learn the art of togetherness and celebration. To welcome people into the party of truth and freedom found in Jesus we must first be students of that very way of life. We need to learn to celebrate. We need to choose his joy. To be on a journey as God’s family – going through the highs and lows of life suffering and laughing together. That’s what I want. Not some holy huddle where we all pretend that everything is okay, but a real community who believes in the God of the miracles as well as the God of the trials. That’s what the world need too. So lets give out the invites, put aside our selfish ways, and celebrate Jesus around the campfire.’ // Rend Collective from The Campfire Story

gather around the campfire

So this summer we will be celebrating around the campfire with people we meet along the way. Making sure that we put aside our agenda and filling up our calendar with busyness to slow down enough to savor sweet moments with friends and neighbors. It is our prayer that our home is a light in our community.

Love sincerely. Hate evil. Hold on to what is good. Be devoted to each other like a loving family. Excel in showing respect for each other. Don’t be lazy in showing your devotion. Use your energy to serve the Lord. Be happy in your confidence, be patient in trouble, and pray continually. Share what you have with God’s people who are in need. Be hospitable.

Bless those who persecute you. Bless them, and don’t curse them. Be happy with those who are happy. Be sad with those who are sad. Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be arrogant, but be friendly to humble people. // Romans 12:9-21

{build your kingdom here – rend collective}

focusing on little victories instead of my failure

 

When I stopped focusing on my perceived failures the Lord was able to celebrate with me the victories he was working on in my life. I definitely did not do it on my own strength- in fact, I was completely caught unaware with how the Lord was carrying me through it all until I was able to decompress and process it with him. He was so very faithful that morning. He took a jumbled, messy morning and made it a beautiful moment of grace. He was able to show me that he isn’t finished with me yet. he is working and moving and growing me. I was so very thankful that the Lord allowed me to have that tough morning. I was able to see the fruit of his work in my life.

Yesterday I did not want to go to my daughter’s last day of pre-school party. I REALLY didn’t want to go.  My fear and anxiety in social settings is a weakness of mine. (read here). “You Make Me Brave” was on repeat as I was getting ready. I prayed that the Lord would please, please, please help me move past my fear. I finished getting ready and looked at the clock, only 5 minutes until the party was going to start.

I had barely taken more than two steps out of my room when I realized I stepped in something that didn’t feel or smell right. While I was getting ready, my dog decided that she would use our hallway as her bathroom. Needless to say, my cute shoes that made my outfit were unwearable to the preschool party. Not only that, some of the poop I stepped in ended up my leg and my shorts. Discouragement flooded my heart. I sat on the carpet and began to cry.

“Lord, I’m trying so hard to step out in faith. I’m pushing past my fear, my feelings, and asking you for help to overcome this area of weakness. I simply wanted to get to the party on time. Why did this happen? Why is it that when I try to push through the hard things I get derailed? I don’t understand and I am so upset. Can you help me, please?” I felt a hint of peace settle my heart and I decided I needed to keep moving forward.

I had to clean myself up as best as I could. I grabbed in haste another outfit that lay rumpled on the floor on my closet. My simple rubber flip-flops would suffice. I pulled my hair back into a quick pony tail and sprayed some perfume on in hopes that it would at least make me feel fabulous when I looked and smelled far from it.

And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.  // 2 Corinthians 3:18

I was 45 minutes late. I walked into the room, all eyes on me.  I became painfully aware of my wrinkled shorts, chipped nail polish on my toes, and my wispy pony tail. I prayed that I didn’t smell like dog poop. At that moment, my sweet little girl ran up to me and gave me the biggest hug. She was so glad to see me. All my fears, all my worry, and all that transpired just 15 minutes before melted away for a moment. The party continued. I stood alone dreading the thought of having to make small talk with the other parents. I scanned the room, secretly wishing there were others like me in wrinkled shorts, rubber flip-flops, and a messy pony tail. Unfortunately, all dressed in outfits straight out of my Pinterest inspiration boards. Sigh.

I breathed in a small prayer of strength and made a feeble attempt at asking a mom next to me what their summer plans were. As she shared, I tried desperately not to over analyze her facial expressions to see if she could detect the faint scent of dog poop in the air. Thankfully, she was easy to talk with and after a few moment of pleasant conversation it was time to pray and close the party.

For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him. // Philippians 2:13

As we prayed, all of us moms standing in a circle around our children and teachers, the Lord knit our hearts together to a common focus. No one was looking around, no one was better than the other. Coming from so many places, different struggles. We all shared our love for our children, and our love for the Lord. I was a part of something bigger than myself. What a blessing to join my heart with those other women in thankfulness for our children and for a wonderful school year. A sweet moment of fellowship.

I saw my morning as a failure. I wanted to be on-time, looking my very best, and to (truthfully) get it over with as quickly as possible. I felt like I let my daughter down, that I looked (and smelled) horrible, and I stammered through small talk. God saw it differently.

  1.  I planned to show up to the party. In the past, my fear and anxiety were so debilitating at times that I never entertained the thought of attending a school function. Here I was, not only planning to attend, but I actively got ready to arrive and show up. Victory!

  2.  When faced with a road block, I didn’t give up in discouragement. I prayed, asked for help, and pushed through. Had I given up in defeat I would have missed out in the sweet moment of fellowship with the other moms.  Victory!

  3.  The importance of my daughter’s request to attend her party superseded the unrealistic expectation of appearing all together. I pulled on the first thing I could find and didn’t change after looking in the mirror. I wanted my daughter to know how much I loved her. I didn’t let my fear of people-pleasing stop me from doing that. Victory!

  4.  I initiated small talk. This is a huge one for me. With people I know well, I feel at ease. With people I don’t know well, I am an introvert to a fault. Even though I stuttered and stumbled a bit, I was able to reach out and meet a wonderful mom I didn’t know before. Victory!

When I stopped focusing on my failures, the Lord was able to celebrate with me the victories he was working on in my life. I definitely did not do it on my own strength. In fact, I was completely caught unaware with how the Lord was carrying me through it all until I was able to decompress and process it with him. He was faithful that morning. He took a jumbled, messy morning and made it a beautiful moment of mercy and grace. He was able to show me that he isn’t finished with me yet. I was so very thankful that the Lord allowed me to have that tough morning. I was able to see the fruit of his work in my life.

 Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.  // James 1:2-4 MSG

{for king and country – shoulders}

live a full life

live a full life

My response is to get down on my knees before the Father, this magnificent Father who parcels out all heaven and earth. I ask him to strengthen you by his Spirit—not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength—that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in. And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights!

Live full lives, full in the fullness of God. 
//Ephesians 3:16-21 MSG

I want to live a full life. I want to wake up each morning ready to take on the world on my knees before the Lord. Asking him to use my gifts, talents, scars, and weaknesses to display his glory to a world so desperately craving for a love that can only be found in Christ. Spending time in his word, settling my heart in prayer. I want to choose to see his magnificent love shining forth each day even when it is grey and gloomy outside. I want resting in his presence, not spinning my wheels in exhaustion just trying to make it through the day. It is my prayer that my life would radiate God’s goodness. Shining hope and not discouragement. That all I come into contact with each day would be able to see the beautiful, tangible shining reflection of God at work in my life.

Lord, wake me up. Stir my heart to see your goodness. Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing to you each day. I want to wake up ready to see you at work in my life. To feel your presence, to be bold in loving others around me. I want to live alive, fully alive each day. Ready and expectant. Willing to move, give, serve, and love when you lead me. Amen and amen!!

the whisper of God

It is in the quiet, the stillness of my searching soul, where I will meet and commune with God. It is beyond the rushing, the chaos, and busyness. The striving, the white-noise that I fill in my loneliness. Like a dirty garment, they have to be cast aside. Sloughing off the distractions, the constant need to be connected to everything and everyone.  My soul yearns for this quiet place yet I sometimes do not know how to slow my pace. I expect the Lord to keep in step with my schedule. I expect him to meet me in the noise and clamor I stir up like dust as I rush through life. Yet he gently, lovingly leads me away from it all. Beckoning me to step away for just a moment and breathe in the grace of his goodness as the restlessness and churning settles. It is only here where true peace is found. To be still and know him more.

 

Then he was told, “Go, stand on the mountain at attention before God. God will pass by.” A hurricane wind ripped through the mountains and shattered the rocks before God, but God wasn’t to be found in the wind; after the wind an earthquake, but God wasn’t in the earthquake; and after the earthquake fire, but God wasn’t in the fire; and after the fire a gentle and quiet whisper. When Elijah heard the quiet voice, he muffled his face with his great cloak, went to the mouth of the cave, and stood there.  A quiet voice asked, “So Elijah, now tell me, what are you doing here?” //1 Kings 19:11-14

It is in the quiet, the stillness of my searching soul, where I will meet and commune with God. It is beyond the rushing, the chaos, and busyness. The striving, the white-noise that I fill in my loneliness. Casting them aside like a dirty garment. Sloughing off the distractions, the constant need for connecting with everything and everyone.  My soul yearns for this quiet place yet I sometimes do not know how to slow my pace. I expect the Lord to keep in step with my schedule. I expect him to meet me in the noise and clamor I stir up like dust as I rush through life. Yet he gently, lovingly leads me away from it all. Beckoning me to step away for just a moment and breathe in the grace of his goodness as the restlessness and churning settles. It is only here where true peace is found. To be still and know him more.

In the whisper, the hushed voice of the spirit, I hear him say, “So Becki, now tell me, what are you doing here?”

Oh Lord, I want to simply sit at your feet. To be near you. That is all.

His sweet presence alone speaks to the deepest corners of my soul. His direction and clarity revives my understanding of his purpose for me. His love emboldens and renews as he aligns my heart with his.