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spiritual growth

why I created a rule of life

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Two good friends sat across our living room, having just asked how they could pray for me.

“I want to be a deeper person.”

In typical external processing fashion, words of explanation tumbled out: I crave simplicity of passion, sweeter clarity in my life with God and others, ruthlessly eliminating distractions and noise. I long to dig deeper into myself, the shadows and the bright colors, what is whole and what is broken, and uncover every possible layer than can be re-formed to image Christ. I need depth in my knowledge of God through the Bible, and learn to put on and pour out His truth instead of my own. I want depth in my Spiritual fruit orchard, instead of living parched and reaching for habits of patience or joy I don’t have.

All of this sounds marvelous, wouldn’t you agree? Too bad my default way is to live emotionally and mentally small and “spread-thin.” (insert exasperated emoji here)

It makes sense… I’m a Two on the Enneagram. In a run on sentence, this means I tend to give of myself, hoping my Chelsea-ness isn’t too much, to meet as many known or perceived needs as within my power, without considering the consequences.

 

+++++

 

Enter: creating a rule of life.

A rule of life “serves as a gentle guide that keeps you trained toward God.” Sacred Ordinary Days

My landing pad is a prayer of Paul’s:

“For this reason I kneel before the Father… I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge — that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” Ephesians 3:14-21

Filled to the measure of all the fullness of God? Yes, please!

No one else lives my quirky, God-ordained, unique ‘two space’ life. And I don’t want to waste the days. I can’t expect to grow and be the best made-in-the-image-of-God Chelsea I can be without intentional effort.

Creating a rule of life has helped me prayerfully and practically make decisions that expand my capacity to experience more of Him and who He created me to be.

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chronic pain: exchanging my brokenness for God’s wholeness

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There is something about suffering. For those of you who read this not near me on a daily basis, a little context: for 2+ years, I experienced constant pain in my neck. What began as a (surprising) pinched nerve after a 10k race resulted in a variety of doctors’ appointments, physical therapy sessions, x-rays, dietary changes, a steroid injection, and lifestyle changes, with no relief.

I have, however, become quite educated on the spine. (If you aren’t interested in the anatomical explanation, feel free to skip down.) Hereditarily, I have a more ‘upright’ neck where most are curved. I also have disc degeneration (which is not uncommon) and a bone spur on the C5 disc. The facet joints, in between each disc, are primarily long and flat, but with my neck’s lack of curve, around the lower discs, those joints are shorter and steeper, causing sharp pain and stiffness. (Let it be noted with joy that I am now seeing a chiropractor and experiencing genuine relief.)

After two years with no real change, I was in a pit and needed new vision.

My feelings and knowledge were at odds with each other, and the battle was exhausting me.

When we choose Jesus, a desire is permanently implanted in us to glorify God with our lives. But when suffering walks in and decides to stay for a while, weariness, discouragement, self-absorption, and a lack of glorying can mark the days. I’m sure everyone can relate to this.

How do I magnify God when I would rather stay hidden from the world and distract myself from the pain? How do I glorify God when my body isn’t what I think it should be, when every other movement hurts, restful sleep is a struggle, and giving of myself feels impossible?

My injury wasn’t debilitating, and didn’t call for surgery (for both I am deeply thankful), but managing daily chronic pain was new territory for me.

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releasing more of me to receive more of God

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I need a daily intervention for this reality: choosing Jesus means you live entirely for Someone else.

Choosing Jesus changes the game from “you’re the best, you can do this!” to “God is the best. You can’t, but He can.”

Choosing Jesus replaces self-promoting tendencies with God-exalting habits.

Choosing Jesus fills you with durable hope, compassion, and generosity that you wouldn’t otherwise have.

Choosing Jesus gives a posture of upward and outward affections, in contrast to the life-imploding desires we have without His rescuing.

Choosing Jesus challenges you not to settle for immediate gratification and worldly successes, but aim for the smile of Heaven.

Choosing Jesus means that your passion, beauty, confidence, and purpose in this life is grounded in Someone else.

Have you experienced these fruits of choosing Jesus?

I certainly have, but they didn’t start blooming until I honestly found, and decided, that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are better than every single joy, ability, decision, achievement, relationship, skill, and activity. Having an active relationship with God deepens everything, but what it has done for me most is shift my heart, soul, and mind’s energy from myself to an open-handed, joyful, adventurous journey towards Him.

And something incredible, He knew I would be terminally imperfect at living this way, but He loved so dearly He sent Jesus to die in my place, bearing all of my sin, my lack, my imperfection. Because of Jesus’ death on the cross, because of Almighty God’s perfect plan, nothing separates us. Not my weak ways of loving Him, not the sinful choices I willfully and unintentionally make, not my inescapable humanness.

Choosing this Jesus in our daily life — this Creator, Sustainer, and King — is what gives eternal color to everything we do.

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