Building Relationships When You Have No Bandwidth

Building Relationships When You Have No Bandwidth |

The older I get, the more I realize that when it comes to relationships, leisure is a luxury, but intentional is something all of us can afford. 

Perhaps you can relate...hear me out:

Family, friends, and fellowship take time -- time that seems most elusive during the very seasons we need them most. Child-rearing, career-building, purpose-finding, needs-meeting, faith-building, life-managing, and marriage-investing all seem to pile into the same (roughly) decade-long season that leaves us with almost zero percent bandwidth and, yet, 100% need for support. Personally, with a 14 year old and a 3 year old as bookends, plus over a decade of ministry work, Troy and I feel like the season has been close on to 15 years now. 

Building Relationships When You Have No Bandwidth |

It doesn't mean that we don't have dear friends. It doesn't mean we don't find meaningful fellowship at church. It doesn't mean we don't have family dinners with extended family. It simply means that building relationships doesn't look or feel quite like we thought it would. 

There are not as many dinners that go long into the night as we imagined. There aren't as many family reunions or vacations on the calendar. We don't sit around strumming guitars on a Tuesday night and tell our life stories as regularly as we did back in college. (Wait, do you?) We have to fight for leisure, and even more so to be intentional. 

Building Relationships When You Have No Bandwidth |

We are 40-somethings now, and more than ever, we have to consciously choose being intentional over leisure. I'm making peace with it...and maybe I'm a slow learner:

  • I'm making peace with the fact that I don't get to see extended and out of town family as often as I'd like, but I can be intentional and not superficial when we do spend time together.
  • I'm making peace with how difficult it is to counsel others when I'm counseling my own children, but I can pray about specific relationships that come my way.
  • I'm making peace with not making it to all the fun social functions in favor of the ones that feed my soul with good conversation.
  • I'm making peace with taking time for strangers for the sake of widening my circle, in lieu of only surrounding myself with the comfort of the familiar.
  • I'm making peace with how much time it takes to grow a thriving - not just surviving - family; my family is a mission field as significant as the one across the ocean.
  • I'm making peace with not pleasing all who have expectations of me and not expecting other to please me either; relationships are not built on guilt but giving. 

On the one hand, I'm making peace with how relationship take intention when leisure is rare, and on the other: how much grace I can give and receive while figuring it out.

Friend, don't close the shutters or bring in the welcome mat; let's just change our expectations and focus. 

Building Relationships When You Have No Bandwidth |

Maybe we can offer ourselves and others a bit more grace while navigating these seasons where what we need and what we can offer are sometimes juxtaposing. 

And maybe while we all learn how to be more intentional, we can start by remembering that the most deliberate relationship secured for us on the Cross of Christ is the most satisfying relationship we can have. Family, friends, and fellowship were all meant to mirror horizontally what we discover vertically. Amazingly, when we grow more intentional to know Christ, we grow more intentional to love others. No wonder these are summed up as the greatest commandments:

And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.
— Mark 12:30-31

Praise Him for the tension: the lack of leisure that makes us more intentional, the hunger for relationship that makes us press into our God and those He provides for fellowship, the inability to juggle it all...that teaches us that He alone can make "all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose." (Romans 8:28) 

He's still at and through each relationship in our lives,  in whatever season we find ourselves.

Because of grace,


Worry, Replaced.

I've been a worrier my whole life. Biting nails, thinking too long into the night...and at times, feeling that all too familiar weight upon my chest. And while there are all sorts of enjoyable ways to shake off our struggles and distract us from our worries, the fight is not easily won. I don't know about you, but I can't simply apply "Don't worry, be happy!" or "Shake it off!" or "Believe in yourself!" to the inner beast of worry. You see, the root of worry is rarely a simple rearranging of circumstances or fixing of others' perceptions of you; worry is rooted in idols of the heart. 

do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. (Phil. 4:6)

Worry, a sinful trusting in ourselves over a mighty God, stands guard at the doorway of our heart idols: fear, approval, pride, justice, self-sufficiency, comfort, ease. I'm familiar with them all. 

The only way I've known to battle worry effectively is only by Grace: to slay the idols of my heart with the powerful love of Him displayed through redemption in Christ, and replace them with the truth of God's Word. Here's where we must preach truth to ourselves. Nothing else will do. Not friends, favor, sunshine, good food, travel, nor new shoes. They all lighten the burden, but only the gospel will throw the weight of our self-suffiency upon Christ, and set us free.

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28)

{While we're on the topic of worry, do any of you entrepreneurs, creatives, or writers ever worry over how to use social media, especially Instagram? How? How often? Why? Is it making a difference? 

Ruth with the Hope Writers Team

I'm over at the Hope Writers Podcast episode: Instagram For Writers. Find the full interview with me about Instagram at Hope Writers site (where you can do a trial membership to check it out!

Between book writing, personal circumstances, and the busy Mother's Day season at GraceLaced Shoppe, I've not yet found my rhythm with how to be more present here at the blog; but, I'm grateful that you show up. I'm grateful that you join me here to find GRACE - not self - as the beauty in our everyday.}

Because of grace,


On The Other Side Of Suffering

I'm not sure if today -- this Monday of Passion Week -- finds you going along your usual way, or if you, like so many, are walking through another day of suffering and trials of various kinds. Perhaps it's prolonged illness or persistent pain. Maybe you're facing financial strain or broken dreams. Perhaps it's a wayward child, an unbelieving husband, or an unforgiving friend. We feel alone in our own particular suffering, but at the start of Passion Week, we recognize: Jesus suffered and was rejected; He was a man of sorrows. (Isaiah 53:3)

On The Other Side Of Suffering |

The hardest part of suffering is not knowing why: Why these circumstances? Why this trouble? Why the pain? The disciples were faced with the same questions as they witnessed the betrayal, trial, and crucifixion of their Lord, Jesus. The darkness of their circumstances was even accompanied by an actual 3 hours of darkness at the cross, and they could see no viable way out.

What the disciples didn't know was that the outcome of their suffering, of Christ's own suffering, was for their ultimate good and God's glory. The other side of suffering wasn't an undetermined fate of hopelessness but a purposeful plan that rescued the hearts of men.

We are blind to hope but for faith to open our eyes. If it were easy to grasp, we wouldn't be told so many times, in so many ways, to rejoice in suffering...and to wait for His story to unfold in and through us:

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation.  (1 Peter 4:12-13)
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4)
For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. (1 Peter 2:21)

On Sunday, we will be celebrating the resurrection of Christ. We will be proclaiming that the grave cannot contain him, that we who trust to the blood of Christ for salvation are no longer enslaved to the pattern of this world, and that Jesus is victorious over all of sin and death. We will be praising Him for these truths then, but we can remember them now, even amidst our own roads of suffering. He meets us here in the same way that fear and doubt in the disciples were met with the living Christ, who on the third day made clear his declaration on the cross: "It is finished."

It is finished. |

Today, as we travel the sorrows and suffering of whatever circumstances we've been given to walk, we can look to the promise of those words Christ proclaimed, knowing full well that His sovereign plan prevailed there at the cross, and does so today in our very lives.

It is finished...

  • all the striving to fix our own foolish and sinful choices by our own righteousness
  • all the seeking to prove ourselves worthy, acceptable, and capable
  • all the guilt and hopelessness of making messes out of our blessings
  • all the bondage to the decay of this temporary life
  • all the separation and distance from our Father
  • all the emptiness of vain pursuits
  • all the useless worship of things, people, and ideas

It is finished, because Jesus crushed everything we could offer to better ourselves, and offered Himself instead, our only means of grace. 

With our eyes on Sunday, let us consider our sufferings in the light of His, and the glory that is revealed on the other side of it. Sunday's coming...and we know how the story ends. Now, Lord, enable us to walk as we believe.

(P.S. An archived post here on ideas for how to engage your kids during Passion Week.)

Because of grace,


Pressing In and Pressing On

I never meant to take a month-long hiatus from the blog here. It's hard to write when your heart breaks.

It's been a month of unprecedented troubles, trials, wounds, and impossible circumstances. (Don't worry: God is gracious...Troy, the boys, and I are healthy and strong together.) But life is hard...and loss and love go hand in hand more often than not. There is so much to rejoice in, but grief is real and no one is exempt. The brokenness of this world stops us in our tracks and sometimes it's hard to keep moving. A few weeks ago, in the middle of a month of these heartaches, I launched a pre-scheduled release of my Press On series in the shoppe

Valley of Vision |

I could only smile weakly, as my fingers tapped out the newsletter and Instagram posts that accompanied the new prints, thinking: I serve a good Father that knew I would need these reminders in these very moments. I preach these prints and these truths to myself.

If the promises of God's Word are true on a sunny day, they are true when the darkest clouds form overhead. What we know, believe, trust, rehearse, and paint when the coast is clear prepares us for navigating chaos of any kind. I've known this to be true, but I'll be honest: I've simply struggled to press in to it in the last month.

But the Lord in his kindness, made it possible to do so nonetheless...even when I didn't want to, when the answers didn't seem to be "working," when I didn't feel in my heart what I knew in my head. But that's what pressing in and pressing on is: 

Pressing in and pressing on is pushing against the tide of sin and disbelief, and pushing towards what you've made a habit of clinging to in calmer waters: that Jesus is enough.

What we practice when waters are still determines how we respond when we're capsized.

He Will Cover You Psalm 91:4 |

And so, today, I'm popping in to proclaim what I hope you always find at my IG, and what you would hear me say if we could sit together for the afternoon with a cup of tea in hand.

I want to tell you:

I don't preach truth to myself because I'm so disciplined and so faithful; I do so because I'm not.

I don't have all the answers for why life is so hard and pain is around every corner; I'm just willing to tell the truth about what He's given us to combat the suffering we are promised.

I don't feel positive and confidant all the time; I have to rehearse my identity in Christ because I'm forgetful. 

I don't know how God will make all the wrongs right and how he will redeem all that's been lost in your life and mine; I simply know that He does what he promises.

I don't doubt there's comfort in food, friends, forgetfulness, but I will keep chasing what is chasing me: Christ's complete and sufficient love pursues, shelters, corrects, covers, and cancels out anything we might run to for love. 

If you're fighting for truth today, I'm with you. Don't stop pressing in, friends. Pressing in to the truth of God's Word is what makes it possible for us to press on. 

Don’t dig up in doubt what you planted in faith.
— Elizabeth Elliot

Because of grace,


The Means and The End {Compassion Bloggers Trip Ecuador 2016, Day 6}

It's another average start to another ordinary week. But something isn't quite the same today. My mind is here in New Mexico, but a piece of my heart is still in Ecuador

The Means and The End {Compassion Bloggers Trip Ecuador 2016, Day 6}

I cried a puddle of tears yesterday during church. I suppose it was one part exhaustion, and one part eager for the Lord to return...because the effects of this broken world is sometimes just too much. I'm talking about all the poverty and hurt I saw in Ecuador last week...but I also mean right here on our familiar turf...the poverty of a people who are depleted of joy and sacrifice in the running after other gods.

The Means and The End {Compassion Bloggers Trip Ecuador 2016, Day 6}

I'm not sure why I hadn't seen it before, but distractions are a luxury. I rarely saw any family we visited in Ecuador afford the time or energy to indulge what feels like the North American pastime of pursuing fortune, fame, fun, and forgetfulness,

To have so much glitter and gloss vying for our attention is a luxury that someone who clings to the Cross for life, simply can't afford.

The Means and The End {Compassion Bloggers Trip Ecuador 2016, Day 6}

For the ones who remember continually that they are needy, the gospel is bread, is living water, is all they really have and all their soul needs. I want more of that kind of need.

The Means and The End {Compassion Bloggers Trip Ecuador 2016, Day 6}

Friends, I'm not pointing fingers, I just want to ask honestly:

Are we apt to embrace the good news of the cross in a season of difficulty just to toss it aside again as we pursue self-sufficiency disguised as something much more noble? I'm sadly far too familiar with this tendency. Believing that the Cross is strong to save me from hell, but not quite good enough for everything else is to receive the gospel only to forget it's application every day after. When we stop rehearsing the good news of Jesus, we set ourselves up to believe it's not necessary for much beyond salvation. 

The Means and The End {Compassion Bloggers Trip Ecuador 2016, Day 6}
The Means and The End {Compassion Bloggers Trip Ecuador 2016, Day 6}

Last week in Ecuador, we visited the country office for Compassion International. When the country director, Fernando Puga, said these words, I knew the ministry of Compassion was in good hands: "We know that ultimately, it's the good news of Jesus that makes a difference in the child's life." 

The model of one-to-one child sponsorship is working because discipleship and generously loving was Jesus' idea in the first place.

The gospel isn't a means to an end; it is the means and the end.

So, when our hearts beat for children to know love -- speak the love of Christ into their lives along with long hugs. 

So, when we long to see families released from poverty -- speak truth to them about their inheritance in Christ while lending a helping hand.

So, when we ache for young ones to have hope -- teach them about storing up Treasure in heaven while showing them how to take the next step.

The same thing that will truly transform the life of the beautiful people who awake this day near the equator and take to threshing quinoa, or cleaning fish, or preparing watery corn soup day after the same truth that will change mine. Jesus is our treasure, no matter the circumstance...and for that I am grateful that I'm closer to those I care about in Ecuador today than I think.

The Means and The End {Compassion Bloggers Trip Ecuador 2016, Day 6}

Bri told me on the bus that there have been marketing firms that have suggested that Compassion drop the "in Jesus' name" part of their motto, for better growth and relatability. Gladly, Compassion gave no thought to the suggestion, and have held faithfully to the belief that lives are transformed by Him, through Him, and for His glory...

...The gospel isn't merely a stepping stone; it is the cornerstone of releasing children and families from poverty. Jesus is the cornerstone upon whom every concern or need can rest this our busy Monday all the way to the highlands of Otavalo.

The Means and The End {Compassion Bloggers Trip Ecuador 2016, Day 6}

"And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ." (Philippians 1:6)

In the same way that the gospel doesn't just save to leave us on our own in growing and becoming, the work of releasing children from poverty will never simply be a mission of meals, supplies, and financial resources alone.

The Means and The End {Compassion Bloggers Trip Ecuador 2016, Day 6}
More than anything else could do, the gospel enables me to embrace my tribulations and thereby position myself to gain full benefit from them...When I view my circumstances in this light, I realize that the gospel is not just one piece of good news that fits into my life somewhere among all the bad. I realize instead that the gospel makes genuinely good news out of every other aspect of my life, including my severest trials.
— Milton Vincent, The Gospel Primer
The Means and The End {Compassion Bloggers Trip Ecuador 2016, Day 6}

On the day that I had to say good by to our sponsored son, Mathias, I said to him, "Maty, Madrina loves you and will be praying for you every day. This is what you can do for Madrina: Learn everything you can about Jesus and LOVE HIM. And secondly, obey your mama...she loves you and loves Jesus too." I will remind him always: All that he desires and hopes is first found in the finished work of Christ.

The Means and The End {Compassion Bloggers Trip Ecuador 2016, Day 6}

So here's this. When the ancient Roman philosopher Cicero said, "Everything I own, I carry with me," he may not have meant the treasure of the gospel but it surely applies. One day, everyone -- regardless of earthly treasure or belongings -- will leave behind all that they possessed on earth but for what was spiritually invested.

Friends, when we sow the seeds of truth and gospel into our own lives and the lives of others, we are giving ourselves and them the gift of the imperishable. Child sponsorship through Compassion is that gift. 

The Means and The End {Compassion Bloggers Trip Ecuador 2016, Day 6}

I'm so honored you joined this #compassionbloggers journey to Ecuador this past week. We are overwhelmed with thanksgiving to see over 200 children sponsored in one week. Thank you for praying, reading, and investing. (Thank you for all your sweet comments on Caleb's post as well...he was so blessed by each one!)

To Him be all glory and praise. It is NOT TOO LATE to invest wisely, and sponsor a child today.

(Photos by Mike Varel. Read Ashley's post that brought tears to my eyes.)

Because of grace,