Staying Low, Being Above Reproach, and Believing the Best About Others

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My in-laws, Susan and Gary. They are two of the wisest, humblest, above reproach people I know.

Three years ago I was in a fog of temptation.

I was having a hard time in my marriage, and I started flirting with another man. By the grace of God, and by what I believe was Him providing a way out of the temptation, my husband asked me if I ever thought about cheating on him.

I told him I had thought about it.

It was his question, that had arisen after reading the book, Beyond Ordinary: When a Good Marriage Just Isn’t Good Enough, that led to us having one of the best, most honest conversations of our marriage. And after that conversation, it was as though I was shakin’ out of the fog. My eyes were opened and the temptation was gone. Light had pierced the dark.

But ya’ll, I could have fallen astonishingly.

“She did not consider her future. Therefore she has fallen astonishingly…” Lamentations 1:9

Now another story…

About four years ago I was slandered by someone who believed things about me that were not true. Instead of talking to me about her misconceptions, she talked to others. There are people out there now who believe what she said and will always have a bad view of me. At the time this was going on, I was angry, and confused, and completely taken off guard. I tried to contact the person to clarify; no response. This was a fellow believer, and yet she would not talk to me about the offenses she believed I committed. I considered taking to my blog to defend myself. I’m sure I got a little passive aggressive on Twitter. I did write a general post about slander. But at the end of the day, after much prayer and wise counsel I decided to keep quiet and let the Lord be my defender. Nothing came of it and life moved on.

“Do not say, “I will repay evil”; wait for the LORD, and he will deliver you.” Proverbs 20:22

Why am I telling you about these things? Because nearly every day I see the church being taken down in one form or another. I see leaders falling, and I see people accusing, and I see real offenses committed, and I see potential slander. But above all I see that there is a big target on the church, the people of God, by a real enemy who wants to take us down. And I know that sometimes we take ourselves down, because it almost happened to me. And I know that none of us gets a pass when it comes to temptation, and some of us have fallen astonishingly. I also know there are wicked people who do wicked things and call themselves Christians. If only there was no sin, so confusion, no falling, no hiding.

But there is something we can do. There are some things we can do. Here is a start…

Pray for Those in Leadership

I am sometimes guilty of pettiness, gossip, and jealousy. I see certain leaders, and instead of being for them, I take offense, I disagree on certain things, and I sometimes think and talk badly about them. Any choice morsel will do. But by the grace of God, no more. I will be for those who bear witness to Christ, especially those in leadership.

Together, we can pray for leaders and encourage them and believe the best about them. Let’s pray for them to stay low, to be humble, to be wise and to put that wisdom to action; and let’s pray that they will be delivered from temptation. We can pray that they will be encouraged daily to keep on, to keep their eyes on Him, and to live above reproach by faith, grace, humility, and the power of the Holy Spirit.

Give the Benefit of the Doubt

When we read or hear something about someone, let’s not automatically believe it. Let’s do our research, ask the Lord for clarity and wisdom, and give the person the benefit of the doubt until we find out if they are guilty. Let’s not gossip. And when we do, because we have untamable tongues, let’s ask for forgivingness and begin again.

“Treat others the way you want them to treat you.” Luke 6:31

Be Above Reproach

The enemy wants to take us down.

As believers, and particularly those of us in leadership, we must be above reproach. We must be on guard, on alert, and walking with our eyes wide open. The enemy is just waiting for an opportunity to devour us. And devour he will, and in this inter-connected age, nearly nothing will be kept hidden.

Begin Again

I always say this, and I’ll say it a million more times: we can begin again.

So you messed up. Okay, get up, ask forgiveness, get low, and move forward. It will be a waste of your life to stay in shackles because of your sin. Repent. Start over. Live a quiet life if need be. But again and again He gives us mornings and mercy to begin new.

It is never too late to make your fall a fall to the knees.

And friends, pray for me? Pray for me to be humble and wise and to resist temptation and to be above reproach? I always want to stay low.

Love, SM

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Slow and Steady

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If I let my house go for a few days, it becomes overwhelming to clean. I look around at the piles and the papers and I purpose in my heart that I am going to become a minimalist and just throw everything away.

When I’m feeling overwhelmed with my house and my to-do list, I think, “Slow and steady. One step at a time.” My friend Amy taught me that, and I’m learning…slow and steady. Pick that up. Put it away. Wash that dish, sweep, put on some music, fold clothes, do a little dance with my kids, keep on. Slow and steady.

And when my heart hurts and the waves of discouragement come full on, I have to slow and steady myself. Slow, seek Him in the still place. Steady, lean on the firm One. Slow and steady is how I make it through some days.

Whatever it is today, your home, your seemingly out-of-control child, your work, your marriage, your soul, think, “Slow and steady.

One step a time, one day at a time, slow and steady, you’ll make it.

Love, SM

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Choosing to Wake Up to My Own Life

I remember the morning I sat up in my bed and thought, “If something doesn’t change, I’m not going to make it.” Life had become like water. I couldn’t catch it; it just kept slipping through my fingers. I felt so behind, so robotic, so stuck. Why couldn’t I change? Why couldn’t I get myself together? Why couldn’t I do the things I wanted to do? I just felt tired and overwhelmed, and many days, defeated...

A hotel room, pizza, and my girl. Great choice.

I remember the morning I sat up in my bed and thought, “If something doesn’t change, I’m not going to make it.”

Life had become like water. I couldn’t catch it; it just kept slipping through my fingers. I felt so behind, so robotic, so stuck. Why couldn’t I change? Why couldn’t I get myself together? Why couldn’t I do the things I wanted to do?

I just felt tired and overwhelmed, and many days, defeated.

But that morning in my bed, I decided I wanted to live; I didn’t just want to go through the motions.

And it was that day I purposed to wake up to my own life and choose it. No one was going to do it for me. Whatever it was that clicked in me that morning made me see that I didn’t want to regret my life. I didn’t want to look back one day and see that I missed it.

It’s such a funny thing when you become a mom. You lose yourself to it in the most beautiful way. You give of yourself, you sacrifice, and it’s good and you wouldn’t change it. But then one day you wake up and you think, “Who am I now?” You have to figure out a new normal. You’re you, but you’re different. So this waking up I was doing was more then just getting out of a funk; it was figuring out a new way to live in this mother-self-skin.

“Daily life is very seductive. Weeks go by and we forget who we are.”

Natalie Goldberg, Writing Down the Bones

I committed to making small changes over a period of several months in order to wake up to my life. I experimented with myself, trying all sorts of things having to do with self-discipline, diet, mothering, spiritual depth, figuring out who I was (and accepting myself), and learning to serve out of who God created me to be. I basically boot-camped my own life. And it worked. It woke me up.

I haven’t shared too much about here, but overtime I will. But what I want to share with you today are the two initial things that changed the course of my life: 1.) I chose to live, and 2.) I fought for it.

Choosing to Live

I literally had to say out loud, “I’m going to choose to live my life.”

It was a light bulb moment for me to awaken to the fact that I could choose my life. That God, in His kindness, gave us minds and hearts and guts and bodies to be able to choose how we want to live; He gave us the ability to think and make decisions and act on them. It seems so obvious, right? But life does this thing to you sometimes where you just feel like you have no choice, like you just have to roll where the waves take you.

I know now that’s not entirely true.

We might not be able to change our personalities or our circumstances, but we can make daily decisions that affect our whole life. We can choose to say and believe that we were made for more than a mediocre, just-get-by existence. We are made to live and live fully; a half-dead people cannot be effective in the Kingdom, but a fully-alive people? Watch out. Life calls forth life, and if you are alive, you can call forth life in others. (Tweet.)

I am choosing to live because it matters. It matters to God, it matters to my family, and it matters to me. I want to enjoy life, and God, and His people, and the glory all around me. And when I do that, I am in a soul-alive place where I can help others. Yea, it matters.

But you have to choose it or life will pull you under.

Choosing to Fight

Once I chose, I had to face the reality that it wasn’t going to come easy. I was going to have to fight. I had to make plans, and begin again and again.

And again.

Because my plans fail and because my body sometimes fails, and my hormones course through me and make me crazy. But I keep on. I’m fighting. I have a vision to live and enjoy and be delighted in and bring God’s Kingdom to bear on this earth in creative ways. So yea, it’s imperfect, but it’s faithful. It’s something. It’s slow and steady, one day at a time. I will live today.

And when I can’t fight, when I’m feeling battle worn, He fights for me. And He will fight for you.

He sees our broken places; He doesn’t forget.

You are not alone, and I am not alone. We are in a sisterhood, together, and together we can make it.

“It is nothing to die. It is frightful not to live.”

Victor Hugo

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

John 10:10

Love, SM

Related: 

My new book (releasing in August), Longing for Paris: One Woman’s Search for Joy, Beauty, and Adventure – Right Where She Is

Longing for Paris

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Burn-Out Messes With Your Kingdom Work (Plus, What You Can Expect Here Going Forward)

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The thing about burn out is that it messes with you.

It messes with who you are and it messes with your Kingdom work. Here’s why.

When you are burned out, your vision begins to blur and you don’t have the clarity you once did. You’re tired and you’re not sure if what you’re doing is of God or the devil or your own sin nature. You begin to lose your footing, and those balls you’re juggling begin to fall.

You fall with them.

You hit the ground hard and you’re hurting, but you think, “I’ve got to get up and keep going because I have commitments and deadlines and promises and…” an endless list of reasons why you shouldn’t, why you can’t get a break.

You are dying for rest and clarity and Lord am I doing what you want?

You feel stuck. You’re not sure what to do. But whatever this is, isn’t working.

This is burn out.

And it is here that you choose your path.

Will you stay with the jugglers and the doers and the limping-out-of-exhaustion ones, or will you reclaim your life? We don’t reclaim our lives for only for ourselves; we reclaim our lives in order to live free and available and ALIVE so that we can be effective in the Kingdom.

I haven’t read it yet, but I image there are some wise strategies in The Best Yes for helping you to say no in order to say yes to the good things, the life-giving things, and your people. No one else is going to tell you what to do; here and now you decide whether or not you are going to own your life.

Friends, I have learned the hard way. I have not only been burned out, but it has taken me YEARS to learn how to own my life so that I can live well and happy. I’m happy. I know “happy” isn’t always the Christian thing to say, but I am happy; I am joy-filled because I am free.

Finally.

And moving forward I am going to try and stay free by counting the cost and trusting God with how He made me.

With that said, I bring you what gives me life and what you can expect from me in the future…

What Gives Me Life

Being in the quiet with God and His Word, a cup of coffee in hand, and a journal on my lap

Being intentional as a mother, doing things that I know build into my children

Making a home (NOT synonymous with cleaning)

Time and good conversation with dear friends

Writing and speaking for the JOY of it and to encourage other women to keep on. Life is hard enough, we shouldn’t go it alone and we all need as much encouragement as we can get! “But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” (Hebrews 3:13)

What You Can Look Forward to at SarahMae.com

First of all, let me just invite you to pull up a chair and kick your shoes off. {Exhale}

WELCOME.

I have found such freedom over the past year as I’ve learned to see God for who He is and see myself as His daughter who He delights in. I believe God takes pleasure when we let ourselves be loved by Him. It’s a really lovely thing when you can be happy with who you are. There have been times in the past when I was very neurotic with my writing. What if it’s not good enough? What if I’m a fraud? I should blog more. I should know more. I wish I wrote like her. I’m no good. Maybe I should just quit.

No more of that.

I mean, maybe sometimes those things will creep in, but I don’t want to be anyone else. I love God and I love that He loves me and intimately made me who I am, weaving me together with purpose and love. With that said, I’m going to do things on this blog that bring me life. For instance…

Prettiness! I’m going be re-designing my blog so that I like seeing it and it brings beauty to you all. Like a journal or a book, I want to be writing and reading in a space that feels warm and inviting and also invigorating. I also want you all to have a good experience while you’re hanging out with me, so I will try and make things as simple as possible as far as navigation and such goes. The design should be in effect sometime in February.

Sporadic writing. Because I’m writing here for the joy of it and to encourage you, I will only write when I feel inspired to write. Maybe that will be every day. I don’t know yet. But I can tell you this, I won’t write just to make words, because that kind of writing is filler and it doesn’t bring relief to people. I want to be a writer that brings an offering of relief and encouragement to the soul, and I can only do that when I’m writing from my own well (more on that later). In addition to these things, I am taking on Emily Freeman’s fantastic list on how she plans on staying sane on the Internet (bravo Emily!). Here it is:

  • I will tell stories.
  • I will be myself.
  • I will remember it’s “better to write for yourself and have no public than write for the public and have no self.” (Cyril Connolly)
  • I will refuse to romanticize the writing life.
  • I will write to connect, not compete.
  • I will remember fear is a normal part of the process, but courage gets the final say.
  • I will remember how ego feels pushy and afraid but calling feels kind and free. Most of the time.
  • I will remember people write online for a million little reasons and I will respect them theirs.
  • I will practice writing words I can’t take back.
  • I will refuse to write from a frantic place of hurry.
  • I will be gentle with myself when I choose to hurry anyway.
  • I will be relentlessly helpful to the souls of others.
  • I will write as a kind companion rather than a truth machine.
  • I will let love lead.
  • I will not be a jerk.

Good stuff, right? You should read the whole thing here.

Video courses. NOW WAIT. I know that courses are all the rage and some people are so pushy about their courses that you feel like stabbing them in the eye. No, that’s just me? Kidding. I don’t want to stab anyone in the eye. But just like you I get frustrated with anything bombarding me. BUT I don’t think that means that the medium should be to blame. Just like blogging, courses are a way to communicate, and for me it’s a way to communicate through video that is focused on a particular topic. I will only do courses when I have something from my own “well” to pass on to you. Be not afraid. When I have a course, I’ll tell you about it but I will not bombard you with emails. :)

I think that’s it for now. Sound good to you? Sounds good to me!

Here’s to a BEAUTIFUL, wonderful, INSPIRING, pleasurable, WIDE-AWAKE, freedom-filled, NEW YEAR!

“O taste and see that the LORD is good; How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!” Psalm 34:8

Love, SM

What I Learned From My Year Off:

Part 1: We are Not the Providers, God Is

Part 2: Counting the Cost

Part 3: I’m Still Me

Part 4: If You Are Burned Out, You Will Not Be As Effective in the Kingdom

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What I Learned From My Year Off, Part 3: I’m Still Me!

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Here I am (with the lovely and talented Allison Vesterfelt) getting to be a part of something that will help so many release the color in their souls! (I’ll be telling you all more about this soon!)

I had this idea in my head that if I quit for a year I would not only be happy and content as a homemaker and homeschoolin’ mama, but that I would excel at it.

Turns out, I don’t excel at homemaking (understatement of the year if we’re talking about cleaning), and I while I love homeschooling my kiddos, I’m not awesome at it. Or maybe I am. You’ll have to ask my kids in a few years.

As for happy and content? Mostly. But only mostly.

Because it turns out, there is this color that God put in me that I can’t stuff away or make black and white. This color in my soul that lights me up (and Lord willing, glorifies Him) when I let it out. What is this color? It is the color of my personality and my gifts and what God put inside me before the creation of the world so that I would be a part of bringing God’s Kingdom to bear on this earth.

That’s right, good works given to me to do in advance, which I can only assume correlate with how He made me because I am compelled to do them. Or, said in another way, how He made me can be used in the good works He’s planned for me. And since I’m clay and He’s the potter, I’m going with it!

I’m accepting who I am and the color God gave me because I believe when I am fully me He is fully glorified.

What does this mean practically?

It means that I will have anchors in place to help me keep focused on my time with God, my home and my family and living out of who God made me to be (which, incidentally, fills my soul. God is so kind). Some of my anchors include: Journaling, praying, and scripture reading sometime in the morning before the day gets carried away. Bible reading with my kiddos (curled up on the couch all snugly), chores and school, and then COLOR (soul-time!), and then life and then tea time with reading (comfy pillows and snacks; my kids love this), more life and daily living and COLOR and then dinner and life and bedtime reading in my bed with the babes cozied up around me. Then, BEDTIME, which equals (once the babes are actually in bed) COLOR!

Mostly, I am just living life by holding on tight to grace and begging God for Holy Spirit power to help me get the days done well and with fun (fun is so good for souls). When I get the anchors in, there is so much more freedom in my heart to do other things, like write and speak.

And so I don’t forget, I have to say that one of the good works that God prepared in advance for me to do is to mother my children! That is a good work! And I am thankful to have the opportunity to use the color God gave me to do just that: love and raise my babies. Isn’t that encouraging knowing that our good works are sometimes right in front of us?

There is, of course, so much to say about all of this, and I do! I say it in my new book, which doesn’t come out until August! Ha! Sorry. More on that later. :)

So here I am, doing my best to trust God with all of it, make wise decisions, and just enjoy who I am. Probably what most of you are trying to do as well. So glad for that. It’s wonderful not go at this life alone.

“Listen to the rhythm of your own timing.”

-Tales of the Kingdom

Love, SM

What I Learned From My Year Off:

Part 1: We are Not the Providers, God Is

Part 2: Counting the Cost

Part 3: I’m Still Me

Part 4: If You Are Burned Out, You Will Not Be As Effective in the Kingdom

 

P.S. The Own Your Life Webcast replay is available to watch now! Just head HERE.

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