Suzy Lolley taught both middle school and high English for many years, and is currently an Instructional Technology Specialist for the public school system, a wife, and a workaholic. She loves nothing more than a clean, organized house, but her house is rarely that way. She enjoys being healthy but just can’t resist those mashed potatoes (with gravy) sometimes. When she cooks, she uses every dish in the house, and she adores a good tea party. She loves Jesus and is spending the next year documenting her journey to a less independent, more Jesus-dependent life on her blog.

To the Overburdened Woman: A Lesson in God’s Expectations

To the Overburdened Woman Wondering What God Expects of You

I am a church member, a wife, a daughter, a sister, an aunt, and a teacher. I’m sure you fit many of those roles as well, and the expectations we put on ourselves and expect from others to fulfill any of those positions is mind-boggling. I’m sure you don’t want to read paragraphs of what I do related to each of those, but you can read an article about being spread thin that I wrote for Beulah Girl earlier if you want the juicy details.

For now, let’s just focus on the last few weeks of my life as a teacher. Early this year, I added another credential to my resume. Mind you, it doesn’t pay anything, I already have a million badges on my signature line of my email, and I am not changing jobs any time soon. I signed up for this certification because I wanted to. As my husband says, I crave chaos.

The certification requires monthly webinars that are supplemented by an overwhelming group chat and social media involvement. The culminating activity of this certification is the ability to earn a trip. I earned that trip to Denver (yay!), but I volunteered (how shocking!) to develop a breakout session in addition to preparing for the trip itself and bringing materials to present a required science-fair-type board. That’s a lot, so my summer has consisted of one week of preparation for that trip and one week of being on the trip itself. The trip was a wonderful experience, but I am exhausted!

Don’t we do that to ourselves as women? We are asked to bring a dish to a party, so we have to bring the best dish. We need an outfit to attend a women’s event, and we have to nail every accessory just to impress other women. It’s VBS time, and even though we don’t have time to think, we volunteer for the biggest, best-decorated room. It’s time for the chaos to stop! God doesn’t expect all the things we put on ourselves. Despite all our ever-running, in Micah 6:8, God tells the prophet that He only has three expectations for him. Maybe we women would do well to take note of these three commandments and center our lives on them instead.

God’s Three Expectations Women Can Learn From Micah

Do justly. As compassionate women, it is easy for us to cry. Or at least it is for me. I can cry over a commercial, a movie, a dream, or a memory. But I don’t often act on that compassionate cry. The key word in this segment of God’s admonition to Micah is the word do. My favorite book in the Bible, James, says that we must be “doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving [ourselves].”

It’s only justice when we do it, not just think about it or cry over it. What is God calling your woman’s heart to do? Fight against human trafficking? Fight for the unborn? Fight for your marriage and honor the vows that you know are the right way? Whatever it is, God’s call for justice is an opportunity to align ourselves with the beat of His heart. Let’s do it, whatever it is.

Love mercy. I am currently reading almost a 20-year-old book by Philip Yancey, What’s So Amazing about Grace?, where the author gives outrageous examples of God’s grace and juxtaposes them with calls for humanity to show that same grace in the face of horrible evil. I’ve made the point that God doesn’t expect very much of us, but what He does expect can be really hard.

Grace has often been defined as God giving us something we didn’t deserve. Mercy works in tandem with such extravagant love — it is when the consequences we do deserve are withheld from us. I can only skim the surface of how many times I’ve broken God’s heart or spit in His face by my actions and yet how many times He has withheld his wrath. Yes, I’ve had to deal with the fallout of my sin, but not to the degree I could have.

Our response to God’s many acts of mercy are at the crux of what God expects of women. We are to be the embodiment of mercy. When our children disrespect us, we could yell and reject them, especially if the disrespect becomes a pattern. Mercy says to love them anyway. When friends fail on their end of a bargain, we might feel the need to find new friends. Mercy says to live the golden rule and love the way we wish they could. Will we ever need to dole out punishment? Certainly we will, but greater mercy should be our life’s aim, since it is what will draw people to the cross.

Walk humbly with your God. Oh my, so many times in my life I’ve shown false humility on the outside — refusing to pose for pictures, singing quietly or not at all when asked, or playing down my academic achievements. All the while, on the inside, I was fighting thoughts of my own pride, pride in my appearance, my talents, or my intelligence. God knows the difference. I wrote a whole post for Beulah Girl about humility that I encourage you to read, but let me sum it up with this. God wants all the glory, and He won’t share it with us.

If we are doing tasks “for God” but secretly doing them so that we can get approval from our husbands, our churches, or the PTA board, they don’t count. If God expects only the three items He outlines through Micah, He expects us to do them well. Let us fall prostrate at the feet of our King and ask Him to take those aspects of our personality or behavior that rise up as competitive idols and help us restore them to their rightful places, at the foot of His cross and recognized as gifts from Him.

Listen, ladies, if you are struggling with the busyness of life and overwhelmed by your own expectations, it’s time to pick up God’s goals for you instead. And you know what? I’ve heard He has a pretty easy burden, one that’s worth the trade for our impossible one. If we will just fall in love with Jesus, we will naturally embrace justice, adore mercy, and humble ourselves. Because we always become like the ones with whom we spend our time.

Would you like prayer about God’s expectations of you? Do you feel overwhelmed? Feel free to leave a comment below, and this team will hold you up to the Lord.

Suzy Lolley

Suzy Lolley

Suzy Lolley taught both middle school and high English for many years, and is currently an Instructional Technology Specialist for the public school system, a wife, and a workaholic. She loves nothing more than a clean, organized house, but her house is rarely that way. She enjoys being healthy but just can’t resist those mashed potatoes (with gravy) sometimes. When she cooks, she uses every dish in the house, and she adores a good tea party. She loves Jesus and is spending the next year documenting her journey to a less independent, more Jesus-dependent life on her blog.

More Posts - Website - Twitter - Facebook

Why We Shouldn’t Let Rejection Define Us

Beulah Girl April May 2016 (12)I was a classroom teacher in middle and high school for eleven years. A few years ago, I arrived early to my school’s faculty meeting. That was very unusual because while I enjoy being up in the morning, I’m usually not an on-time-in-the-morning kind of person. I was the very first one there, so I had my pick of a seat.

I sat down, and as people came in, I asked if they wanted to sit with me. The first group that I asked said, “I’m sure someone will sit with you.” Another pair of teachers came in, and I offered them seats as well. They replied that they were sitting with each other. Mind you, they could’ve sat with each other and with me. The seats all around me were literally wide open. I have not felt so rejected since probably middle school.

I texted my husband with tears in my eyes, careful not to let anyone see them. I told him the story, and he could not believe that I was dealing with adult mean girls. I have never been one to sit and have a public pity party, and so I went and sat down with another group of teachers in the front.

Is rejection a new thing? Is it just something women experience? The obvious answer is no. In Chapter 53, the prophet Isaiah said that Jesus was acquainted with our sorrows and that He was despised and rejected. He suffered the ultimate rejection when His own people that He came to save nailed Him to a cross. Then, beyond that, all his disciples, the ones He knew intimately and walked with and loved for three years, pretended they didn’t even know Him. Every single one ran away in His most desperate hour.

My story is of course a lot less dramatic than the story of our Savior being rejected. Besides the rejection story I shared here, I could tell you others from middle school or from adulthood, but they never would compare to what Jesus went through. But what I love about Jesus is that He doesn’t make us feel silly when our problems aren’t as big as His or as big as others’.

He simply cradles us and helps us overcome them. As I told my husband the other day, I feel like I’ve lost a lot of my resilience, the ability to bounce back from rejection, but I don’t think it has to be that way. Let’s discuss some ways that you and I can overcome the pain of rejection and help others who are hurting as well.

Three Ways to Bounce Back from Rejection

1. We have to remember that in most cases of rejection, it’s not us the person is rejecting.

In my new job as a technology trainer, it is highly likely that the people that I’m training didn’t want to be trained to begin with. They are teachers who are overloaded, stressed, and trying to placate whoever is making the current demands. They may take that frustration out on me, but it’s not me they’re rejecting, and I have no right to take it personally. As a matter of fact, if I do, I’m only hurting myself.

John Bevere would call that opportunity to be offended “taking the bait,” in his book, The Bait of Satan. I have to make the same choice not to engage in offense when I’m rejected as a Christian. It’s really the message of Jesus that is being rejected, not me. I have to love people, as Jesus told us in Matthew 5:44, even when they “despitefully use me.” Those are the people to keep on praying for the most, not hold a grudge against the most.

2. We have to realize that in most cases people don’t want to be the way they are.

They are rejecting us because they are rejecting themselves as well. If I lash out and I’m hateful to you, it’s usually because there’s something I don’t like in me. I will probably write more about this later, but when I was in college, I went through a major depression. I talked to my future husband Dusty in some ways that would have made any lesser man run in the opposite direction.

It wasn’t him I was angry at; it was myself, but because I kept repeating a sin cycle that caused my depression to persist, and felt powerless to escape, I “had” to vent somewhere, and he was the recipient of that venting. I know I’m not the only one who has exploded on others because of her own self-loathing.

Ladies, if you’re in that boat, there is hope. But while we’re getting that hope for ourselves, let’s extend it to others as well. They may be hurting and need someone who won’t run away, even when they behave badly and reject you.

3. It is inevitable that we will all continue to feel rejection, but we do have to be resilient.

If we are rejected and we hide from the possibility of being turned away, it will tempt us to build up walls that will prevent us from ever really loving people. We can’t love people if we won’t let them in, and we also can’t reject new people as a punishment for those who have rejected us in our pasts.

I love this Scripture: “Little children, let us stop just saying we love people; let us really love them, and show it by our actions.” These were the words of the disciple John, and he knew what it felt to love Jesus, God in the flesh, but he also knew what it was to be rejected and persecuted in the most intense ways for his faith. If John could be boiled in oil, alive, and then be exiled to a lonely island and still love the Lord, I think we can find it in ourselves to get out of rejection’s pit and love again.

The story of the faculty meeting will always stay with me. So will those times I was picked last in gym class (who lets kids pick teams anyway?) or the many times I’ve discipled people who later rejected the truth and turned the other way. But just because I remember those stories doesn’t mean I have to be haunted by them.

I can embrace the cross of Calvary, and in all my receiving of forgiveness, receive deliverance from the pain of rejection as well. Oh, and I can do my utmost never to make another woman feel the pain of rejection at my hands, because I know all too well how it feels.

Beulah Girl April May 2016 (13)

Sweet Friend, are you feeling rejected? Have you been healed of rejection? The women on this site would love to hear from you and be encouraged or join you in prayer. Please leave a comment below or join us for a live Blab chat on rejection Monday, April 25, @ 9 or watch the replay.

Suzy Lolley

Suzy Lolley

Suzy Lolley taught both middle school and high English for many years, and is currently an Instructional Technology Specialist for the public school system, a wife, and a workaholic. She loves nothing more than a clean, organized house, but her house is rarely that way. She enjoys being healthy but just can’t resist those mashed potatoes (with gravy) sometimes. When she cooks, she uses every dish in the house, and she adores a good tea party. She loves Jesus and is spending the next year documenting her journey to a less independent, more Jesus-dependent life on her blog.

More Posts - Website - Twitter - Facebook

Why Should I Be Humble?

Why Should I Be Humble_

“Now, Suzy was a very humble woman.”

Can you imagine reading that in a blog post somewhere? Well, maybe, but what if the post were written by Suzy herself, as this one is? It wouldn’t seem very humble then. According to the Oxford Dictionaries, my understanding of humility can either be qualified as a person taking a low opinion of himself or having limited resources.

So you might be surprised to learn that in Numbers 12:3, which was written by Moses, it reads, “Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.” Again, it’s funny to read of someone who calls himself humble, especially because at certain intervals of his life, Moses didn’t seem to fit either definition that old Mr. Oxford presents for the term. He had all of God’s resources at his disposal, and he had been reared in a king’s palace, certainly not a circumstance which would warrant lowliness of self-opinion.

You know what’s even funnier, except not the ha-ha kind of funny? It’s the fact that we are losing our reward sometimes by becoming pharisaical and doing our good deeds for others to see, thus losing our humility. Or by showcasing our talents in a way that detracts from the glory of God.

Although I was disappointed with its follow-up novel, To Kill a Mockingbird will always been one of my favorite books, and it’s because of the character Atticus Finch. I can quote whole parts of the book from having taught it so many times; and this line, spoken by Miss Maudie of Atticus to his children, always stood out to me: “People in their right minds never take pride in their talents.”

Here, Miss Maudie was explaining why Atticus didn’t call attention to his shooting ability. Whether Moses was the one calling himself humble, or whether it’s that literary character whose children tried to bring undue attention to their father, humility will be a struggle when we see anything we have or are as coming from within.

Whatever we have, God has given it to us. Whoever we are is being conformed to the image of God as we allow him to do it. You will hear people say, “If you’ve got it, flaunt it.” They use that to justify everything from wearing revealing clothing to being a braggart. However, as is the way in Jesus’ upside-down kingdom, we find that He urges His followers to use discretion, secrecy, and humility as we do good, reminding us that all of our good comes from Him.

So why be humble? When we post the latest, greatest Instagram photos of ourselves, aren’t we just appreciating God’s creation? When we share our good deeds on Facebook, aren’t we just encouraging others? Your motive is between you and God, but if you find yourself questioning your intentions, keep these truths in mind:

1. Bragging may bring attention to the Christian, but it deflects that attention from God.

There are so many great churches in America, so this is not intended to be a knock on any of them; however, if we use advertising about our great band and our great preacher to get people in the door, will they stay when the church loses those things and there’s only Jesus? Bands and preachers aren’t bad, but I think we often miss the crux of what church is about. It’s about Jesus, not the cool stuff. Not the hipster people. Not the killer “worship.” Let’s humbly draw people to an altar where they can meet the Savior who happened to also call himself “gentle and humble in heart.”

2. People prefer a humble friend.  

I will admit that I have been the talked-too-much-about-myself friend. (Maybe I should change my past tense verb there to present … ) Anyway, although we are all annoyed by the friend who turns every one of our stories into a conversation about herself, admit it; we sometimes do it as well. In the name of Jesus, we ruin our chances of storing up treasure in Heaven by telling all the good things we’ve done. It’s almost like we’re high on the approval of others instead of trying to glorify the Most High. Expand your influence not by using the world’s method of selling ourselves but by drawing others through our low-key humility.

3. There are too many people in the world who need us to focus on them instead of ourselves.

I am convinced that focusing on others is a pretty good cure for what ails ‘ya. Now, I don’t mean that we run ourselves in the ground due to self-neglect, but if we look at most American lives, that’s really not what’s going on. We may be tired, but it’s because we’ve been focusing on our work, our friends, our family, and our good deeds. Humility urges us to serve “the least of these” and to perform kindnesses in such a stealthy way that not even our right hand knows what the left is doing. If we’re serving in that way, people who have felt invisible for so long will be lifted up and drawn to Christ, all because we have chosen to take none of the credit for ourselves but to point it to Him instead.

The message of this post is not that we should hold our heads down and act depressed about what God has blessed us with. That’s false humility, and it won’t attract anyone to us for us to tell them about the cross. Instead, let’s focus the attention where it’s due, and if “the whole world is a stage,” as Shakespeare claimed, let’s use our on-stage opportunities to glorify the Lord from our hearts, for real.

Suzy Lolley

Suzy Lolley

Suzy Lolley taught both middle school and high English for many years, and is currently an Instructional Technology Specialist for the public school system, a wife, and a workaholic. She loves nothing more than a clean, organized house, but her house is rarely that way. She enjoys being healthy but just can’t resist those mashed potatoes (with gravy) sometimes. When she cooks, she uses every dish in the house, and she adores a good tea party. She loves Jesus and is spending the next year documenting her journey to a less independent, more Jesus-dependent life on her blog.

More Posts - Website - Twitter - Facebook

How to Worship in the Waiting

11

I remember going on trips with my family as a little girl. I was always in the middle seat in the back, with one brother asleep on my lap and one on my shoulder. Even today, it’s hard for me to fall asleep when someone else is driving, in case my lack of vigilance is the cause of our plunging down a ravine. (Or maybe I’m just a control freak?)

Anyway, when you can’t sleep and have two people lying on you, all there is to do, besides play the alphabet billboard game with yourself, is wonder that quintessential childhood question: “Are we there yet?” Such a question drives every parent to drink (sweet tea) as the answer is clearly that if we were there, we would have already stopped. Obvious enough?

Not to a child, apparently.

Not to us adults either. God makes us so many promises, and He is always so faithful, but all we seem to want is the fulfillment of the next promise — and now. We ask our Heavenly Father the same question I used to ask my earthly one so many times: “Are we there yet?” And with that question, we show that doubt has taken root in our hearts.

I ask Him if we’re there yet on our finances. Our bills are paid, but that beautiful budget that my husband and I never seem to actually implement stares us in the face.

I ask Him if we’re there yet on this fix-Suzy’s-personality-thing. I remind Him that I called a whole blog “The Beam in My Eye” and have drawn attention to every flaw I can think of about myself, but yet, my issues are still there.

I ask Him if we’re there yet on Dusty’s and my future. Kids or no kids? Leadership or no leadership? World change or television-channel-change? Is this it for us?

In all of my searching and asking and nagging and are-we-there-yetting, I forget that God is the King of all this “stuff,” and He wants my worship even if my proverbial car in the game of life stops right where it is and I never get the answer to anything I’ve asked.

Because I don’t deserve these answers. What I deserved, Jesus took on the cross, and thank God for that. However, I know that because God is gracious, all the important wonders of my life are going to be resolved by a loving Father. I just have to embrace His time and remember to worship in the waiting.

12

I feel like God has made some huge promises to me in my lifetime, and He will fulfill everything He’s said. However, in the day-to-day, I often struggle to actively believe the promises, thinking instead that maybe I conjured them up or misunderstood God. Even so, I am comforted that I’m not the only one who has ever felt this way. Two Bible men, David and Elijah, had incredible lives and ministries; however, they both also went so far as to shrink from God’s promises by hiding in caves.

In 1 Samuel 22, David has already been anointed king, as I shared in another post on this blog. However, he finds himself in the Cave of Adullum, a fortified cavern usually populated by a different clientele — criminals. God proved His love to David when He allowed the young shepherd boy to kill a lion, a bear, and an inhuman giant. He proved it again when He had Samuel choose David from out of a stock of what the world would consider superior brothers.

Most recently, he had proven it when he allowed David to form a covenant with his enemy king’s son. Didn’t David believe that God would provide victory for him over that same king, Saul, whom God had rejected? Why, then, was he hiding in a cave? Because he found that to trust while he waited on a promise he considered unlikely just was too risky. David was so very human that he doubted the fulfillment of God’s promise.

And what of Elijah’s doubt in the downtime? He is truly one of the biblical greats, a prophet whose amazing life is recorded in 2 Kings. A man who would later perform more than double Elijah’s miracles, young Elisha thought so much of his hero that he followed him around even to his catching away by the Lord in a chariot of fire.

Elijah was known for stopping the rain, raising the dead, multiplying food in a famine, and even calling fire from Heaven, just to name a few. Did you catch those? Despite all these displays of God’s power, though, Elijah succumbed to depression and found his own cave. Wanting to rest from his seemingly solo task of taking on evil personified in King Ahab, Elijah came to a point where he was ready to give up and even die.

But God appeared to Elijah in that cave in 1 Kings 19:12: “And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice” (KJV).

At that moment, He showed up to prove a point to Elijah that He also proves to us today. God is very faithful and very present. He has not said one thing He will not do. When He said David would be king, king he was, and no Saul could stop him. No adultery could stop him. Not even the death and rebellion of his children could deter him.

Psalm 119:89 assures us that God’s word, whatever it is, is “forever … settled in heaven” (KJV). Doubting God’s promises may not falsify them, but doubting will certainly delay the sure word’s fulfillment and discourage us too. Had King David known what an example he would be of knowing the Father’s heart to us living in the new covenant, he would have come out of the cave of hiding to wait confidently on the Lord’s provision for his kingdom.

And had Elijah only realized that God’s promise for him was more than death by the way of other prophets, maybe he could have seen that chariot of fire in his mind before it came in reality to translate him straight from this world to the next.

I have many unfulfilled promises in my life, but I don’t want to just hide in a cave and wait for them to come to pass. I want to believe God in the waiting stage. I want those who see the fulfillment of the promises to know that they were birthed out of seasons of trust and hope from a woman of faith who chose to embrace God in her weakness and seek Him until her strength came.

And as I ask God many more times in my life, “Are we there yet?” I want to trust that for each and every promise, we will reach there just in time.

Suzy Lolley

Suzy Lolley

Suzy Lolley taught both middle school and high English for many years, and is currently an Instructional Technology Specialist for the public school system, a wife, and a workaholic. She loves nothing more than a clean, organized house, but her house is rarely that way. She enjoys being healthy but just can’t resist those mashed potatoes (with gravy) sometimes. When she cooks, she uses every dish in the house, and she adores a good tea party. She loves Jesus and is spending the next year documenting her journey to a less independent, more Jesus-dependent life on her blog.

More Posts - Website - Twitter - Facebook

How to Follow God’s Will

how-to-follow-gods-will

I remember sitting in Adams Park in Kennesaw, Georgia, with my husband back when we were teenagers and telling him that I knew I would have a hard life. I knew that I would never have the white-picket-fence life or be the soccer mom, because God had another plan for me. Let me stop here and say that I am not criticizing those who do have a comfortable life — I just have always known I wouldn’t.

But that’s about where the life-plan clarity ended. None of the specifics of my life — having children, making ministry decisions, and seeking job direction — have seemed to follow such a defined path. They’ve been hard for sure, and yet I haven’t had that moment where the sky opens up and God gives me clarity on a specific issue.

In all of my recent seeking for the Lord’s will, I’ve come across two schools of thought about finding it. One of them, proposed in the book What Am I Supposed to Do with My Life? by Johnnie Moore, says that we should, when faced with two equally good decisions and no clear word from God, choose what we feel and trust that God will bless it. The other school of thought, which I find myself leaning toward, says that we should hear a clear direction from God before we act. I may not be quite as specific as Gideon was when he laid out the fleece before God in Judges 6, but I am still looking for big and small signs of God’s will in the world around me and wondering if each one is God’s divine voice of direction.

Lately in our lives, Dusty and I have been trying to make a major decision. I wish I could say more, but then I wouldn’t be the woman of mystique and mystery that I am. It’s not that we haven’t tried to figure out the Lord’s will. Of course we have. We have, in fact, spent thousands of dollars and have taken some special adventures to try to figure out what God’s will is.

We’ve prayed and we’ve fasted, we’ve listened to podcasts and sermons, and we’ve gotten advice from wise and well-meaning friends. However, we both know what it is to hear clearly from the Lord for ourselves. I don’t mean that we are waiting for His audible voice, but we want to feel a down-deep assurance of what we’re supposed to do. In this situation, we don’t feel clear about one way or the other, but we feel like we need to make a decision soon. We don’t want to bang on a closed door, but we don’t feel like it’s totally closed either.

Anytime I don’t know what to do, I feel that there’s only one place to go, and that’s God’s Word. If anyone knew what it was like to have to wait for a really long time, it was Abraham and Sarah, and so their story really inspires me not to give up hope that I will hear from the Lord. Let me share with you three lessons I learn from their waiting story.

Three Lessons on Following God’s Will

1. Sometimes we have to follow without knowing our destination.

We first read Abram’s story in Genesis 12. The very first recorded word from God to him is to leave his country and everything he knows and go to a country that God will show him — as in, show him after Abraham starts walking toward it. That is so scary! I can’t imagine getting up and going without knowing the destination, but maybe that’s exactly what God is asking me to do with my spiritual journey. He is asking all of us to trust Him when we can’t see what He’s gotten us into.

2. God is merciful even when we get sidetracked from His perfect will.

When we read about biblical people, we have the tendency to think of them as characters, and not only that, but we think of them as heroes who always made the right decisions and saw the supernatural. Abram seems like such a hero because he was willing to make a journey into the unknown, guided by only a word from God, and an incomplete word at that.

However, he missed God’s will at times. In a later section of Genesis 12, Abram pretends that Sarah is his sister and almost causes her to be violated by Pharoah, thus bringing disaster upon the people who are offering him refuge during a famine. In chapter 16, he listens to his wife’s poor advice to try to conceive his promised heir through a servant instead of his own wife.

Like the plagues that came because of Abram’s earlier deception, heartbreak came when Abram had to send his son Ishmael away. However, like is always the case with our great God, Abram’s promise of inheritance did come, despite his missteps. I don’t want to miss a step in God’s plan for me, but I am happy to know that we serve a God of mercy who will see our destiny through to completion when we trust Him to get us back on track.

beulah girl august september 1000x600 (1)

3. We will be blessed when we obey God’s will.

One of my favorite songs to sing in worship a few years ago was Hillsong’s “None but Jesus,” specifically because of the line that says, “When you call, I won’t delay.” It’s one thing to say okay to God’s call, but it’s another to go with it when He asks. Immediately. Without overthinking it. Abram followed God’s call way back in Genesis 12. However, it’s Genesis 17 when God appears to reconfirm his covenant of Abram having children, through renaming him Abraham and asking him to be circumcised.

By this point, Abraham is 99 years old, and to his wife Sarah, having a child is literally a laughing matter. But a year later, as God had promised, Abraham and Sarah give birth to Isaac. God may have seemed to delay the response they were waiting for, but they never delayed their obedience to His will, and for that, they were rewarded with the child of promise in God’s time.

I think I’ve come to this conclusion: some decisions are OK to just go with if God doesn’t speak, but others are such that we need to make sure we hear clearly.

When Abram went, it was because God told him to. He didn’t just have an unction or a feeling; he knew that God had spoken. By using Abram’s story as the template for my upcoming life decisions, I will do this — seek God actively, listen to what He says, obey without delay, and try not to get sidetracked. And because I believe what He says in Galations 6:9, I know that His promises for me and my husband will come to pass in every way.

Even if we have to wait 99 years.

Are you trying to make a difficult decision? Do you feel like you can’t hear God’s voice? Have you been waiting forever? Are you paralyzed with inaction? Please leave a comment below so that we can pray together. God wants us to know His will, and there is wisdom in a multitude of counselors.

Suzy Lolley

Suzy Lolley

Suzy Lolley taught both middle school and high English for many years, and is currently an Instructional Technology Specialist for the public school system, a wife, and a workaholic. She loves nothing more than a clean, organized house, but her house is rarely that way. She enjoys being healthy but just can’t resist those mashed potatoes (with gravy) sometimes. When she cooks, she uses every dish in the house, and she adores a good tea party. She loves Jesus and is spending the next year documenting her journey to a less independent, more Jesus-dependent life on her blog.

More Posts - Website - Twitter - Facebook

How to Finish Well

finish-well

I often think about my own funeral. As morbid as that may be, I have the whole thing planned out. I want people to bawl their eyes out and dive in the casket. (A former student, LB, has already called that role.) I want the saddest songs played, and I want it to be standing room only, even if the people in the room had to be compelled to come.

I’m totally teasing about this funeral of course. My main desire is really that people give their hearts to Jesus there. Why? I want to leave a legacy that people will miss when I’m gone. I want to finish well. To accomplish this is to start in one direction that is God-ordained and to end up there, despite obstacles, with fruit to show for it.

That’s why it was so hard for me to leave my teaching job after eleven years. I left feeling like a failure. Two of my favorite movies are Mr. Holland’s Opus and Sister Act II, probably because the teachers in both persevere against seemingly-impossible odds. They affect their students beyond the sphere of the classroom and help them rise to meet school challenges as well.

In my class, on the other hand, I usually had the highest failure rate. Though I loved my students and prayed for them daily, I was told that I was “leading the league on parent complaints.” And though I always looked forward to the last day of school when I would sing “I Hope You Dance” (yes, it’s cheesy!) for each of my classes with tears, the behavior in one class last year was so bad that I couldn’t muster up the good will necessary to sing them my best wishes.

My whole teaching journey started, like that of so many others, with a desire to change the world, and it ended with what felt like escaping to another job instead. In my mind, I did not finish well.

7

In the book of I Samuel, Saul was a perfect example of someone who started very well and finished, um, not so well at all. When God’s people didn’t trust Him enough to be their king, they asked for another. And what they got, from the outside, looked like the perfect fit. He was tall and handsome, the obvious choice. In spite of his attractive physical traits, he still was humble, a beneficial combination to start a rulership. That humility was what caused him to hide among the baggage when it was time for him to be anointed, because he was scared to death and certainly not seeking any kind of attention (1 Samuel 10:22-23).

Saul not only started humble, but he started holy. After he was anointed king in private, he was given the power to prophesy with some prophets on the road. Once he became king, he warred for God’s name, adding bravery to his strong start. His men followed him, and they won the victory time after time.

Saul seemed to have such a strong start, but a start means nothing if the finish is weak. Three examples from his life might show us how NOT to fall into the same trap.

Three Ways to Finish Well

1. We must stay focused on whom we’re following.

Samuel was the one who poured out his heart and his oil to anoint Saul king. Thus, Saul should have been following this spiritual father. But one day when Saul grew impatient waiting for Samuel to offer the priestly fire in battle, he kindled it himself and lost the Lord’s anointing hand in the self-same moment. In this New Testament life, we are following Jesus as our great high priest (Hebrews 7:15-17). Should we then try to take the reins from Him? If we are to finish well, I think that following the one who knows the way is a much wiser decision.

2. We must let God be our defense in trouble.

As the bitterness of Saul’s lost anointing grew in his heart, the forsaken king even turned his back on his son’s best friend David, his rival to the throne. There was probably no way that Saul could have reversed God’s decision on choosing another, but did he have to focus on revenge and hatred? Couldn’t he have run to his Father for help in living the rest of his days well?

We read this story and judge Saul, but we also try to defend ourselves and get revenge, even if in our thoughts. Instead, we have to do what the old song says and begin “learning to lean on Jesus.” Psalm 46 calls him our “very present help in trouble” and a “fortress of strength.” He knows how crazy and full of sin this world is, and He’s the only one who, in us, can help us finish well despite the trouble around us.

3. We must remember that someone else’s abundance is not our lack.

Jealousy robs us all of peace, and such jealousy had the same effect on Saul. When torments came on him, a young harp player named David was able to soothe them with his playing. If Saul could have accepted the peace of a gentle musician, his life wouldn’t have been in torment. However, once David was called to strip Saul’s kingdom from him, envy blinded Saul to any possible peace. God had enough to give both Saul and David blessed lives, but Saul couldn’t see that.

If we are to finish well, we can’t run someone else’s race. That’s why I want to follow Paul’s example and run hard, getting back up when I fall, and crossing the finish line to hear my Jesus say the most precious words I’ll ever hear: His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord’ “(Matthew 25:23 — NKJV).

Remember that I said I did not finish my teaching journey well? I think that’s only partially true. When I moved from one high school to another, I received emails from a handful of students to tell me that they missed me, that they remembered my birthday, or that I had secretly been their favorite teacher. Another student that I taught in eighth grade ran into me in the Dollar Tree and called his friend over to tell her that I had changed his life. Yet another introduced me to his wife and daughter (I’m old!) and apologized for his behavior in my class.

However, there were many days that I walked the halls of a public school and was just like Saul. I lost my focus on the largest mission field I could have possibly had at a job. I cried and called my husband to tell him I was quitting on the spot instead of running to the strong tower of my Savior. And I looked at other teachers, who seemed to have the love of the students and the good grades, with doubt that God could ever use me the same way. I was a Saul, and that convoluted my race and made my finish line seem impossible.

Will God resurrect my teaching career? Will hundreds of students attend my funeral? I don’t know, but I do know that whatever I do from here on out, it has to be led by God if I am to accomplish His purpose. And He will accomplish it, because this verse is true: “For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day” (2 Timothy 1:12 — NKJV).

My teaching journey is not over because my legacy has been planted in the more than one thousand students that I taught, and those seeds just might germinate after all.

He will keep us, Friend, and everything we commit to Him. Let’s run the race so that we will win the crown of life He has stored up for us (James 1:12). Would you be bold enough to leave a comment here and ask us to pray for you if you’re struggling to finish well? We are here to help each other up, so don’t stay down a moment longer.

Suzy Lolley

Suzy Lolley

Suzy Lolley taught both middle school and high English for many years, and is currently an Instructional Technology Specialist for the public school system, a wife, and a workaholic. She loves nothing more than a clean, organized house, but her house is rarely that way. She enjoys being healthy but just can’t resist those mashed potatoes (with gravy) sometimes. When she cooks, she uses every dish in the house, and she adores a good tea party. She loves Jesus and is spending the next year documenting her journey to a less independent, more Jesus-dependent life on her blog.

More Posts - Website - Twitter - Facebook

When It’s Not Wrong to Be the Center of Attention

I often find myself in a state of metacognition, a time of thinking about my own thinking.

My dad and I were in a tea house last year (yes, I’m a con-artist to get my dad to go to tea!), and there was a party of ladies sitting near us. The whole time we were there, I noticed that one woman totally dominated the conversation. She sat in the middle of the table and chimed in her own perspective on every topic. I didn’t know the woman, but I couldn’t help but think how obnoxious she was in comparison to her friends. Maybe I felt that because I recognized myself in the middle of that circle.

She was me, and the vision of that time in the tea house has haunted my memory since then.

May Beulah Girl 1000x600 (2)

I have no desire to be an introvert. I enjoy the fact that I can be bold. I like being the life of the party. I like being the center of attention. However, at the end of the day, I find myself replaying every word I’ve said and asking, “What crossed the line? What did people think of how I said that?” It’s not a cocky thing — it’s an insecure thing, an I-will-never-fit-in thing. Who would think that an extrovert who willingly draws so much attention to herself would regret most of the words she so carelessly tosses out? I wouldn’t believe it myself if I weren’t my own eyewitness.

Maybe you know me in real life, or maybe you just know me through the written word. Whether you’ve heard me say it or not, my life’s mission is to change the world. No, really. Some people just say that, but I will live and die by it—live abundantly as in John 10:10 or “die many times before [my] death” in the manner of Shakespeare’s cowards. I can’t rest (really I can’t) unless I feel like I’m accomplishing my mission, and for the task facing me, I need all the bold extroversion I can muster.

So how do I take what can be a vice and make it a virtue? If you’re in the same boat as me, with a personality too big for the room and the self-chastisement that follows, may I give both of us some advice?

Using the Center of Attention for Good

1. Let’s be slow to speak, and let’s make that speech important.

James is my favorite book of the Bible, and his words in the first chapter inspire me on this point: “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry” (v.19). As long as what I have to say is carefully thought out, I don’t need to worry about it. That’s not to say that there won’t be consequences when someone takes me the wrong way, but I will be able to rest easily knowing that I planned what I meant for them to hear.

2. Let’s develop a group of protégés.

Surely we are not to be the only audience of our own wisdom. God has called all of us to do what author John C. Maxwell, author of The 360° Leader, refers to as leading up, leading across, and leading down. It’s in that leading down that we can really make an impact with our words.

Let’s call together a group that we can “do life with” and then regularly meet with them. I lead worship for eight years—maybe an upcoming leader needs something less painful than the school of hard knocks to bolster her own journey. Perhaps young women need to know that they don’t have to go through sexual impurity or depression; they can benefit from what I have to share instead and choose a different direction.

3. We have to translate speech into action.

No one wants to hear a ranty windbag go on and on about the way the world should be without ever seeing those ideas come to life and change the culture. To quote my brother John, I don’t want to be “a serial notrepreneur” for the kingdom. Ideas worth saying are worth doing, or we should keep our mouths shut.

4. We must seek humility as a lifestyle.

We are not the only ones with important things to say; that’s what the whole tea house scenario taught me. If I love an introvert, like my sister-in-law Rachel, I will give her time to think about what she’s going to say (which no doubt will be very profound) without running my own mental to-do list of what I’ll say next.

True love really cares about what the listener (aka victim) thinks and feels. We can’t think so much of our own opinions that we don’t remember what Paul says about love in 1 Corinthians 13:4: “Love does not brag, it is not puffed up.”

5. I must be OK with me.

That means that we have to be OK with we as well.* The Bible proves the value of a bold lion’s heart time and again. After her idiot husband Nabal treated David’s men with contempt, Abigail’s boldness in restitution not only prevented death but also garnered her a future spot as a king’s wife. Peter walked on water, preached to thousands, and commanded a lame man to walk — these acts of boldness redeemed the times his brash personality got him in trouble even with His Lord.

John the Baptist didn’t hold his tongue to religious or secular leadership, even when it meant his head would be served on a platter, and by such boldness became the forerunner for Jesus. If you and I are in such good company with those who “loved not their lives unto the death” and who “overcame [Satan] by the blood of the lamb and the word of their testimony” (Revelation 12:11), maybe our big mouths aren’t such a bad thing. *That’s not bad grammar. That’s Babyface reference. 90’s music anyone?

The bottom line: If you or I find ourselves the center of attention, let’s use that platform for good. What about you? Are you a spotlight person or more of a wallflower? I’d love to hear your answer in the comments below.

Photo Credit: The featured photo, “Tea Party,” is copyright (c) 2005 Jay Ryness and made available under an Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license. It has been modified for use on this blog.

Suzy Lolley

Suzy Lolley

Suzy Lolley taught both middle school and high English for many years, and is currently an Instructional Technology Specialist for the public school system, a wife, and a workaholic. She loves nothing more than a clean, organized house, but her house is rarely that way. She enjoys being healthy but just can’t resist those mashed potatoes (with gravy) sometimes. When she cooks, she uses every dish in the house, and she adores a good tea party. She loves Jesus and is spending the next year documenting her journey to a less independent, more Jesus-dependent life on her blog.

More Posts - Website - Twitter - Facebook

Spread Thin

Suzy Lolley

I taught public school for eleven years. During that time, these were just some of the jobs I had:

Relay for Life Team Captain. Who knew that volunteering to help meant you were the leader? Not a second-year-teacher, apparently. Reading Department Chair. Beta Club Sponsor. Academic Bowl Coach. Cheerleading Coach. Don’t you have to be able to at least do a cartwheel for this? Hospital-Homebound Tutor. Helen Ruffin Reading Bowl Coach.

I’ve been involved in the same small church for twenty years, and the story there is the same. Worship leader. When-there’s-a-choir director. Sunday school teacher. Missions advocate. Wedding and funeral singer. Camp and retreat director. There are a million more, but I’m getting tired even looking at my own list…

I can’t even count how many times people in my life have asked me, “Suzy, why don’t you slow down?” Ironically, they are the same ones who ask me to help and appreciate my volunteer spirit.

I’ve tried slowing down. It’s almost impossible for me. I told my brother that I must have four times the average number of thoughts in a single day. Even if I’m lying down, my mind is running a constant to-do list.

You can see it. They can see it. I can see it.

I’m spread thin.spread thin

No one could possibly do all the things I feel I must do and still do them well. As the old adage goes, I often find myself being “Jack of all trades but master of none.” There was a woman in the Bible who I’m sure could have related to me. Martha.

She always gets a bad rap from those who would say to be more like Mary.

I appreciate worship. I love it and have led it for years. But I’m sure I’m not the only one who has yelled at times, “Why am I the only one doing all the work?” Most times the rage has been pointed inward, but at other times, I’ve let it spill over onto those “Marys” sitting there hanging out while I cook or clean or break my back.

Maybe they’re worshipping or taking time for the important things, but all I see is one thing. Laziness. Was that too forward? No, hopefully you were hoping for some honesty and relatability in this post.

I’m not going to stop being Martha. My husband has earned the nickname “Crockpot” because it seems we can never leave the house for a function without my asking him to carry his namesake.

But if I am destined to be Martha, how can I use it to my good? What practical advice can I take away from the Martha vs. Mary saga? Let’s read their story first from Luke 10 (NKJV):

Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, ‘Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.’ And Jesus answered and said to her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.’ “

Here are some practical takeaways I get from the story.

1. There are two distinct types of people in the world. Don’t get me wrong. I have very worshipful moments. My sister-in-law Rachel is a Mary, but she has some powerful serving moments. But we are not the same person. It doesn’t matter how I try to be a reflective, thoughtful, even-tempered Mary. I’m not one.

I’m a doer on most days. I just have to learn to do what adds to the kingdom, and over-extended busyness is not it. I can work and work, but I don’t want to get to the judgment seat one day and see that all of it amounted to no souls being saved.

2. It’s OK to be a Martha; you just have to temper your gifts. Martha is not a curse word. If Jesus hadn’t appreciated His friend’s cooking and serving, He wouldn’t have been in her house. But she was treating her Lord and Savior rudely. She wasn’t paying attention to Him at all, and she was asking Him to break up a fight of all things. And we are left with a Bible story that makes her look like a witch.

I wish I could say I didn’t relate to a lack of hospitality or putting my guests in the crossfire of my agitated mood. I wish that, but I can’t. Martha teaches me that I don’t want either of those traits to be my legacy.

3. The third takeaway is this. There are many good things, and then there is the best thing. Cooking is good. Cleaning is good. Planning and organizing and working are good. But worship is better. Not just better — best. When you and I lay down the tendency to be spread thin and instead embrace the arms that were spread out on the cross, all our work and all our plans will start to mean something.

I don’t want to be spread thin. I want to be a Martha Suzy with a purpose. As Psalm 127 says:

Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain. In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat — for he grants sleep to those he loves.”

Accept the gift of rest today, beloved. Let’s not do our work in vain.

Want more Suzy? Stop by and visit her brand new blog where she is taking a year to write about her journey from independence to Jesus-dependence.

 

 

 

Suzy Lolley

Suzy Lolley

Suzy Lolley taught both middle school and high English for many years, and is currently an Instructional Technology Specialist for the public school system, a wife, and a workaholic. She loves nothing more than a clean, organized house, but her house is rarely that way. She enjoys being healthy but just can’t resist those mashed potatoes (with gravy) sometimes. When she cooks, she uses every dish in the house, and she adores a good tea party. She loves Jesus and is spending the next year documenting her journey to a less independent, more Jesus-dependent life on her blog.

More Posts - Website - Twitter - Facebook