In What Season Does a Soul Thrive?

Nature Bells Grass Summer Green Flowers BlueBy Stacey Kuszak

If I were to attach a season to thriving, it would be easy to choose summer. After all, it’s the season when things are homegrown, the time when people are more apt to slow down and exhale, when everything looks good and tastes good. Yes, it’s easier to thrive in summer than it is in winter.

Or is it?

In what season does a soul thrive?

In the bible, thriving is tied to perseverance. I don’t usually need perseverance in seasons of the soul that feel like summer.

I think a lot about the life of Joseph. Nobody would really look at his life and say he was thriving. It seems to me, that every good thing that happened to Joseph was followed by a heap of bad things. One step forward, ten steps back. Yet when I look at the whole of Joseph’s life, I am stunned by the constancy of God and His work to make every moment of Joseph’s life count.

In what season does a soul thrive?

Joseph thrived in situations where most would fail. His life was molded by pain and hardships. Yet he tells us time and again, “The Lord was with me.” In season and out, Joseph stayed connected to God, whether he was serving in the palace or surviving in the prison.

In my own seasons of perseverance, I’m tempted to strive and hustle my way through. At the first sign of trouble I go looking for God as if He has left me. I search for answers to why life is painful. I think surely this isn’t the story God wants to write.

Joseph didn’t spend much time asking why the series of unfortunate events happened to him. His general response was, “What should I do now?” Joseph was at peace with letting God write his story. The result? Joseph thrived.

In what season does a soul thrive?

If Joseph’s life is a testimony, a soul can thrive in any season if it is connected to God–if God is the one writing the story. Romans 5:3-5 reminds us of this promise:

We also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our heart through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

Certainly summer can be good for the soul, but the next time you find yourself in winter, don’t be dismayed. Hold on to the promise that God will use it all. Stay connected to Him and thrive.

5 Ways to THRIVE This Summer

leaf-141494_1920My dream for summer is sunshine, rest, and lazy days (or at least a more relaxed schedule). I crave extra time to connect with family and friends and neighbors, to travel, to invest in the things that matter to me most.

Glory!

But too often my summer dreams fall short of reality. Faced with more free time and the idea that I have all day to get things done . . . I get nothing done. When I release myself from the schedule required in the fall, winter & spring, I also tend to release the habits and routines that help me to thrive.

2 weeks into summer, surely I am not the only one already sliding into this trap?

Maybe summer brings a drastic change in routine for you. Or perhaps you’re a stay-at-home mom with small children, and the only change summer brings is heat. Or you have a job that doesn’t change or flex when summer rolls around.

Whether or not the season changes our weekly routines, we can ask:

How can I thrive this summer?

I’m focusing on 5 things as my prescription for thriving this summer.

#1 Make space, find quiet

During the year, I fight hard for quiet moments with God–time to read God’s Word, time to pray, time to sit and listen and be still. Often there is more time and space in summer, but because I’m not fighting for it, I miss it. For me, the key is to find quiet and space first thing, when possible.

My summers offer the freedom of sleeping in past my normal 6:30AM wake up. But I’ve found life works better for me when I wake up before my day, rather than being woken up into it. I’ll set the alarm for a little later, but I’m still going to set it. And I want the first thing on my list (when possible) to be a date with Jesus and peace and quiet, hopefully on my back porch with my coffee, journal, Bible, and maybe a good book.

#2 Have a plan

One of the best parts of being involved in EquipHer, besides getting to study the Bible with other women, is knowing exactly what I want to do in my time with Jesus. Summers offer more freedom, which I love. But I’ve learned that if I show up to my time in the Bible not knowing what to do . . . I end up not doing anything. So I know I need a plan.

Were there any portions of the EquipHer studies you did this year you were unable to finish, that you could go back and spend more time on? Is there a book of the Bible you’ve been curious about, that you could read through paragraph by paragraph over the summer?

A few things I’ve tried in past summers: Read and pray through the Psalms, a Psalm a day. Read through the book of Proverbs, a chapter (or half chapter) at a time, thinking about wisdom. Choose a gospel to read through over the summer, looking at how Jesus lived and interacted with people (This would mesh nicely with the EquipHer study this summer, covering the gospel of Mark.)

#3 Read good books

Summer is the best reading season, and I’m always on the lookout for great beachy reads and chunky paperbacks I can take with me to the pool or read on a blanket in the front yard while the kids play. But I also try to choose a few non-fiction books to feed my soul, Christian Living, or spiritual memoirs. I’d recommend anything by Ann Voskamp or Shauna Neiquist, and the best book I read this spring was Deidra Riggs’ ONE: Unity in a Divided World. I’m in the middle of Falling Free by Shannan Martin, a beautifully written story blending encouragement and challenge.

#4 Get outside

Winter in Nebraska finds me fantasizing about the summer, freedom to be out in the sun, to feel a warm breeze on my face, to exercise somewhere besides looking at a screen. But it’s easy to let the summer blaze by without taking advantage of any of these things, even though I know how genuinely good they are for my soul. This summer, I want long walks, eating on the back porch, grilling out, enjoying Nebraska’s “Good Life.”

#5 Invite others in

I’ve learned that one of the keys to my own feeling of happiness and fulfillment is connectedness with family, friends, and neighbors. What a delight to move out of the season for pulling straight into our garages and closing our homes up tight, when our main interaction with our neighbors is bundled up waves while scooping snow.

This summer, I want to live with open doors and a full table. Summer offers freedom to make a new friend, deepen an existing friendship, or reconnect with those you rarely see during the year. You don’t have to throw a party every week, but is there someone you’ve wished you could get to know or connect with on a deeper level? Pick up the phone, throw some burgers and dogs on the grill, and forget about the pressure to scrub your house from top to bottom. You’ll be glad you did.

Before we know it, cool breezes will be blowing and the leaves will begin to turn. What are you going to do to thrive this summer?

Find more from Renee at her blog, More Than Eyes Can See.

The Secret of Being Content

Season Summer Green Maple Leaves Leaf Tree

By Sheryl Murray

Thriving . . . quite an appropriate summer blog theme–a time of plants sprouting and reaching for the sky and young animals newly born and developing. That’s how I want my faith to be each day. I really want to be thriving–growing daily and reaching for the Son. But sometimes I find myself striving or just plain barely surviving. My heart’s desire is to be thriving while being content–with my circumstances and with the growth that the Lord is doing in me. What’s the secret?

“I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”      Philippians 4:11

I cannot tell you the number of times I have read and re-read this verse looking for the secret. For years I thought there needed to be a colon, not a period after the word want, i.e., to say, “I’ve learned the secret of being content and here is the secret:” but that isn’t the way it is written. I puzzled over the verse for years until one day it finally hit me–the secret of being content is contained in verses 4-9 above.

 Rejoice! (v. 4) God loves and cares for us. He wants the best for us. His ways bring life. We can trust Him. Express your love for Him with praise.

Do not be anxious. (v. 6) God is sovereign. Nothing takes Him by surprise. Live your life today; He takes care of your tomorrows.

Ask God for what you need, in thanksgiving. (v. 6b) God is our Father. He wants a relationship with us. Although He already knows everything, He wants to hear from us. It is difficult to be discontented with our circumstances while we are thanking our Lord for all that He has provided for us

Think on things which are good and right and true (v. 8)- Focus on Jesus–the way, the truth, the life. Peter could walk on water while he kept his eyes on the Lord but started to sink when he looked around to see the storming wind and waves (Matthew 14:22-33).

Put into practice what you already know (v. 9) Don’t fret over things you don’t understand. Rather, put into practice what you do know about trusting and obeying God. Keep reading His Word which transforms our minds and keeps us in His will.

These are the principles, the “secret,” to being content. You and I need to allow the Holy Spirit to give us the power to follow these principles. And the result? Peace which transcends all understanding (v. 7) and an ability to do all things that the Lord has asked of us (v. 13).

That sounds like thriving to me!

 

 

Thrive!

year wordWhen you think of the word “thrive” what image comes to mind? For me it’s always been a tree in summer. I can see its sturdy trunk and dark green leaves dancing in the sunlight. Birds flit in and out of its branches. It’s strong . . . solid . . . alive.

When God gave me “thrive” as my word for 2017 late last December, the verses from Psalm 1 came to mind.

” . . . like trees planted along the riverbank,
    bearing fruit each season.
Their leaves never wither,
    and they prosper in all they do.”

That’s what a person who follows God’s way, who delights in his Word, is like. That’s what I would love my spiritual life to model.

A tree.

Firmly planted.

Strong.

Solid.

Alive.

Summer is a great season for growth. We see it all around us–flowers blooming, trees thriving, new birth bursting forth in the fields and gardens, birds and wildlife bringing forth their young. Life is teeming all around us, and I love it.

But I confess, my spiritual life in summer does not always mirror the physical world around me. It’s often too easy to get off track . . . lose focus. Schedules turn upside down, vacations interrupt routine, and children demand more of my time and energy. So what’s the answer? How can we thrive in the midst of change and, at times, chaos?

That’s what we want to explore on the blog this summer. During the months of June, July and August we’ll be hearing from a variety of voices in our Equip Her community on this topic. I hope you will join us and that together we will be women who THRIVE!

 

 

Summer Activities for Women

hello-1281232_640It might feel a lot like spring today, but summer is coming. Here at Women’s Ministries we want to keep you informed on how you can stay involved this summer!

Summer Bible study – Mark: The Jesus We’re Aching For

Mark’s account of Jesus paints Him as a deeply personal and intimate God whose heart is moved by you – your cries for help, your shouts of joy, your silent fears. Join us for seven weeks of video study with Lisa Harper, small group discussion, and prayer.

Sunday morning – June 4 – July 23, 9-10:15am

Wednesday evening – June 7 – July 26, 7-8:30pm

MUM’s (Moms Uplifting Moms) Activities – there are various activities you can join throughout the summer! Updates and activities are posted here.

LifeGroups for Women – A simple gathering of friends where community takes place for support, spiritual growth, and encouragement. If you’re interested in joining one, contact Marlys at mburgett@lincolnberean.com.

Fitness

Boot camp // Cardio & Strength: Monday-Friday, June 5-July 28, 5:30-6:15am

Back to School Blast // Cardio & Strength: Monday-Friday, July 31-September 1, 5:30-6:15am

Clothing Exchange

Come and shop in the gym by the North Entry! All items are free and donations (only clothing) are accepted anytime at the drop off shed in the west parking lot.

  • Thursday, June 8, 12:30-7pm
  • Friday, June 9, 12:30-7pm
  • Thursday, July 20, 12:30-7pm
  • Friday, July 21, 12:30-7pm

For more details or to register for classes and activities, click here.

The Joy of the Lord

woman-2188033_1920I’m pleased to welcome a new voice to the blog this week. I know you will enjoy hearing from Sheryl Murray as she shares an attribute of God that has had great meaning in her life recently.

“This day is sacred to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”  Nehemiah 8:10b

It has been a difficult ten months–no deaths or serious illnesses, no divorce or wayward children, no great financial or spiritual crisis–just a huge change in geography and jobs, and what feels like a winding down of our lives.

But in the midst of intense changes and a seeking and searching for the Lord’s will for us here in Lincoln, He has shown me that each day is to be treasured–one day at a time.

In the midst of the sorrowful book of Lamentations, God reassures His people that His mercies are new every morning and that He is our portion and hope (Lamentations 3:23-24). So I awaken each day to life anew. Even those days when I do not feel like getting out of bed, He patiently nudges me to just begin. Out of bed, one foot in front of the other, I ask Him to open my eyes. I start with the basics–taking a shower, getting dressed, eating breakfast. Then I move on to the necessary–washing dishes, doing laundry, grocery shopping. Some days I have something scheduled; some days I do not. That’s OK. I try to go through the open doors and trust God for the closed ones.

But God knows my weakness and in asking me to live each day He also provides the strength to do so through His joy.

Joy through my precious husband of thirty-eight years who is on his own journey of resolving disappointments and a new job. God shows me the joy of ministering to him by making him meals or cheerfully greeting him whenever he returns from work. In turn he makes me laugh with his silly jokes and stories as well as including me in his puppet ministry.

My three young red-headed grandchildren are an ever source of joy. Seeing the excitement of life through their eyes fills me with long forgotten wonder at the majesty of God’s creation, whether it be an ant, or a dandelion, or a limestone pebble. Going to the park or the zoo or just being home is a joyful adventure with them.

God has showered me with the joy of friendship, both old and new. There’s nothing like an old friend who knows you well and still loves you. They are busy with their own lives and family but have carved out pieces for me. New friends have been an unexpected gift of joy at Bible study and life group.

Yes, as Nehemiah expresses, the joy of the LORD is my strength. He knows that I am having a difficult time. He knows that often I am frustrated for things not turning out as I thought they would. He knows that I need to heal. And so He offers me joy. I accept it gladly, with a thankful heart. Indeed, it is my strength!