Here we are, living in a travel trailer in an RV park in a new city. My husband and I, along with our three children, have been settled in Redding, California for about two and a half months now after traveling 2,900 miles from Anchorage, Alaska. God called us and, even though we didn’t know exactly why we were moving, the call was so strong that nothing could convince us that this is not what we are called to do.
It seems as though we have basically been fumbling around, trying to find our way for the past couple months. But one thing became very clear as soon as we arrived: God was telling us to rest. That sounds pretty good, right? How hard could it be to just sit back and relax? Well, for people like us who are used to drawing our identity from what we do, it was extremely difficult.
My husband and I both dealt with differing degrees of anxiety over not accomplishing anything, not pursuing income, and not contributing in any way to our new community. Some days were great as we felt the peace of God wash over us and were reminded that our identity is not in what we do but in what He has done for us. Then the very next day, I would be frantically searching for jobs online.
After more of an intensive rest (is that a thing?) in southern California where we were able to stay in my parents’ nice home and utilize the babysitting skills of my mom, I seemed to hit my groove and understand why God was calling us to rest. I suddenly was beginning to see the fruit of letting go of our endless list of duties and focusing on foundational responsibilities such as taking care of myself, focusing on my marriage, and investing in my children.
It was during this time that God spoke to me through an article that my friend sent me. I received an overwhelming feeling that I needed to pursue writing more. I’ve always thought of writing as just a fun thing to do on the side, but I want to start taking it more seriously and actually develop more as a writer. What you’re reading now is my “small beginnings”, so enjoy!
Another thing that came from my rest was a return to crafts I used to enjoy in childhood. As much as I love books and learning, I also have a creative side to me. Being able to find seashells on the beach with my 7-year-old daughter and then turn them into beautiful pieces of jewelry was so much fun. The fact that I can now enjoy these creative outlets with my daughter brings me immeasurable joy.
Now, a month later, God is revealing a little more about what this rest was all about. He brought to mind the concept of stewardship and getting back to basics. So, what does rest and stewardship have to do with each other? Well, when we were back in Anchorage, we had many responsibilities. We managed a 34-unit apartment complex. Josh had two other jobs on top of that. I was homeschooling. We were leaders at our church. Plus, there was added relational burdens that we didn’t have the capacity to carry.
It had been this way for years. Josh and I have been in church leadership way before we should have been allowed to. We’ve always been seen as the “mature ones” and no one really questioned whether we could handle the added responsibility these positions brought, including us. There is an unspoken understanding in our culture and in the church that says if you are relatively mature and well-behaved then you don’t need to be poured into through mentorship or discipleship and that you should just be expected to handle large responsibilities on your own.
My husband and I believed this for a long time, but we always knew something was missing in our lives. I guess we just always felt like we weren’t really qualified for the responsibility or capable of handling it. The main reason is that we lacked people pouring into our lives, which is sad when you think about this in the church where we should be modeling biblical discipleship. Anyway, I say this not to place blame, but to point out how Josh and I had a severe lack. We had a need that wasn’t being filled and we had always been expected to pour out more than we felt the ability to do.
So God brings us to a new place where no one knows us and no one needs us. I thought this would be such a great feeling to not be needed, but that brings out its own issues. When we went to our church for the first time, it was an overwhelming feeling of not being known and not being needed; therefore, if we were to get plugged in, it would have to be through genuine connection with people instead of the church needing our gifts and talents. Instead of Josh being pursued because the worship team needs a drummer, people are pursuing him out of genuine love. It’s hard getting used to the feeling of not being needed when we have both been needed in so many ways for so long.
This freedom of being unneeded has allowed us to focus on our foundational responsibilities for a time, a time that we are still currently in. Neither of us have a job or any other responsibilities other than taking care of ourselves, our marriage, our kids, and our home/travel trailer. We have invested much of our time in seeking God and receiving from Him. God is our Life Source. It’s in this relationship that we are nourished and filled up so that we can pour out to others.
After investing in our most important relationship, we have focused on ourselves. This may sound selfish, but this is one of our foundational gifts to steward. Our bodies, minds, and spirits have been given to us and no one else. No one can take care of these things but us. If we fail to steward ourselves well, we are essentially communicating to God that we are not thankful for what He’s given us and that we don’t believe Him when He says that we are valuable and fearfully and wonderfully made.
We are only able to effectively love others when we have first cared for ourselves and we are only able to effectively care for ourselves when we put God first. The goal of all of this is to have more to give to others. We are called to love, but we can only love when we have received the love of the Father and been nourished by being in His Presence.
I see the difference in my marriage and in the relationships with my children when I set the right priorities. When I put God first and make sure my needs are taken care of, I have so much love to pour into my husband and family. I mean, think about when you’re super tired and hungry (lacking basic needs). Are you really capable of loving well in that condition? I seriously doubt it. Yet, instead of getting our needs met to better love others, we pretend we don’t have any needs, which usually results in resentment or a martyrdom syndrome.
For me, this has been a time of learning to steward the most important gifts God has given me—myself (which includes my relationship with God and getting filled by Him), my marriage, and my children. God has shown me that if these are neglected, I have no business adding to my responsibilities. Just as in the parable of the talents in Matthew 25, God sees and rewards good stewardship by promoting us. He gives us more to be responsible for. But when we fail to steward well these foundational gifts and we choose instead to bury (neglect, ignore), what we have will be taken from us (I go over this more in my next blog, It’s Not Selfish: Why Personal Stewardship is One of the Most Loving Things You Can Do For Others).
That is one reason I am cherishing the go-ahead from God to begin pursuing writing more. It’s as if He’s saying, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things!” (Matthew 25:23).
Not only are we called to steward well these primary responsibilities, but the care we take to steward them will actually prepare us for what God is calling us to next. When we are receiving from God and our marriage and family is abounding in love, this will create a platform that supports us in further jobs, ministries, and responsibilities. If we have neglected our marriage, our jobs and our ministries will merely serve as an escape and it will feel like an uphill battle the entire way since we are not working out of the strength of a loving marriage.
On top of that, improper stewardship may lead to pursuing the wrong jobs and responsibilities, ones that you don’t necessarily enjoy or feel called to. But when we are patient for our God promotions while stewarding well what He has put before us, the call will be obvious.
I’m not calling anyone to quit their jobs and unload responsibilities. God has called me and my husband to this for a time, but soon I’m sure He’ll give us further direction. What I would like to challenge you with is to take a good look at your list of priorities. Where does the majority of your time, energy, affection, money, and resources go? Are there areas in your life that are unbalanced? Have you neglected your relationship with God? Have you neglected yourself or your family? Turn to God and trust Him to realign your priorities.
Stewardship is no small matter in the eyes of God. We have been given such precious gifts in this lifetime and our desire should be to steward them well for the glory of God. Perhaps through this journey of getting back to basics, you will again find the joy in the responsibilities that God has entrusted to you.