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  • Writer's pictureJubilee Lipsey

Gemstones in the Path

It hardly seems possible that we’re halfway through 2020.

Whatever the extent of our individual losses or stressors, we’ve all had to deal with some pretty frustrating realities and face some appalling situations. And while some things have shifted to provide measures of relief, other things have remained suspended, unanswered, and uncertain. We’ve been stretched and tested, encouraged to look at our lives more deeply and closely. I would venture to say we’re learning some weighty truths that make us realize just how real our faith has to be.

Whenever anyone asks me how I’m doing or what this season has been like for me, I’m tempted to complain, to focus on the clouds that have settled over different areas. But I’m continually distracted by the overall sunlight warming my life. I’ve mentioned before how I received this season as an invitation, feeling a prompting from God back in March to keep my eyes open and stay awake through whatever process would ensue. Despite the concerns and fears that threatened my peace early on, I’ve learned that God loves to use challenging seasons to uncover new revelations and reinforce what He’s placed in me.

God has been so gracious, faithful, and purposeful with me, teaching me to run to Him with new abandon, and pouring His sufficiency into every crack in my foundation until each one blooms with new life. He has broken up a bunch of fallow ground, digging deep to produce a softness in the soil of my heart, and planting fruits that will need to be carefully tended.

During this set-apart time of extra space and working at home, God has unfolded some pretty profound lessons that have opened my eyes and enhanced my life with subtle, gentle beauty.

Though we’re still in the trenches, still holding out for a miracle and praying for national breakthrough, I’d like to focus on the brighter side of things and share some of the gemstones that God has uncovered in my 2020 path. You may recognize some of them being revealed in your own life as well.

In 2020, I’m learning…

1. The importance of having a life you love outside your job/career.

Being able to work from home is a blessing that I never expected to experience at this point in my life and it’s been an exciting learning-curve. The extra distance between me and my workplace has challenged me to be more deliberate about my work—keeping my focus and motivation through disciplined, balanced routines and purposing to reach out proactively to help my coworkers and managers.

However, I’ve realized that even though our jobs are important and may come with several social and financial perks, they’re not the reason we’re alive. While most of us depend greatly on our paychecks, our social lives and daily disciplines should not fall apart if our jobs shift or change.

Until my routine was disrupted and I was compelled to adjust to a home-based schedule, I didn’t truly realize how much of my life was governed by work, even off the clock. More than ever, I’m realizing that even though our jobs are opportunities to excel and be faithful for God’s glory, they are not meant to be the centers of our existence or the reasons for our stability.

I am learning experientially the truth that I once kept in the filing cabinets of my mind. God knows what I need and He is the ultimate source of it all. He has a purpose for everything I undertake, but my existence is connected to something much greater than the daily tasks I do for a salary. Knowing this has expanded my vision and kept me upbeat, anticipating God’s movements and the steps I am uniquely designed to take alongside Him. With His encouragement, I’m dreaming again, connecting with God’s glorious designs for my life and future. “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which He prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10).

2. The value of being purposeful about togetherness.

When we first heard about the restrictions and began to uneasily settle into the corresponding unknowns, I felt trapped initially, even though I still had several of the same basic freedoms I’d enjoyed before. What intrigued me was how suddenly I wanted to get together with people. I started contacting family members more often, sending gifts, planning live chats instead of mere audio calls. But what had been stopping me before? I am learning that we don’t need to wait for a big vacation or holiday party to connect with our loved ones, and it shouldn’t take a crisis to remind us of how important people are. Add a bit of proactive strategizing and creativity to your connections and you’ll be surprised at how easily you can be uplifted while making a family member or friend feel valued.

3. The value of leaning into simple disciplines and pleasures for everyday refreshment.

One of the reasons we often feel restless and discontented in the midst of the daily grind is that we’re primarily waiting for a big, grand experience or a holiday to provide us with stimulation. But those things only come around a few times a year. We don’t need to wait for Christmas or a summer beach trip to celebrate life. In fact, we shouldn’t. So many small luxuries are waiting for us right at our fingertips. We just need to slow down enough to appreciate them.

Until this season, I didn’t really take time to process how much pleasure I get from drinking coffee at my dining room table, looking out over my backyard. Or sitting around the firepit watching lightning bugs at dusk. Or driving to the lake simply to stand there and breathe. I’m grateful for how the restrictions of this season have caused me to develop the habit of embracing simple pleasures without a major agenda. It has shown me how beautiful and luxurious my life actually is and how many little miracles are already within reach, just waiting to be marveled at and thankful for. I would say this practice actually saves lives. “He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul” (Psalm 23:2-3).

4. The importance of thanksgiving as a lifestyle.

I was raised to take pleasure in small things and to vocalize my wonder and joy in praise to God, but continual thanksgiving is a practice that needs to be cultivated daily if you want to continue to experience its harvest in your life. It’s easy to rejoice when everything is going your way, but opportunities for thankfulness and praise still exist when you have to look harder for them. It’s a crucial discipline because it’s connected to the real, abiding joy and peace that can exist in any situation. I’m learning that I cannot afford to let this fall by the wayside. And neither can you. “Address one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your hearts to God, giving thanks always and for everything…”(Ephesians 5:19-20).

5. The value and price of freedom and how much we are involved in preserving it.

I know, I promised to stay positive. But the fact of the matter is, most of us drift through life enjoying liberties we didn’t fight for without ever stopping to think if they’ll be there for our children. I’d be lying if I said it hasn’t been greatly disturbing to see how quickly things can change. Several of our most basic freedoms were called into question almost overnight and most of the country simply fell in line without considering the wisdom or verifying the constitutional legality of the restrictions.

Though we should not succumb to panic or paranoia, God’s people should not be the ones sleepwalking through life. We should be seeking the welfare of our cities, praying for our country, and researching our rights, making sure that our decisions are made in light of God’s specific, revealed will for our families. Do you know what “inalienable rights” you have been endowed with by your Creator and do you know how they work? If not, now is the time to find out. “You, brethren, were called to freedom, but do not use your freedom as a coverup for evil” (Galatians 5:13).

6. How real our faith has to be and how much we are involved in reinforcing and building it.

In the frantic flutter of the everyday, it’s easy to allow our faith to shift into autopilot. But we won’t get much out of it if we allow this to happen, only shifting a gear when a decision or a trial forces us to cry out to God. We can actually enter into each season better equipped and stronger than before if we remain alert and engaged with God every day.

One of the topics that has dominated my writing and my study during this season is how deliberately we were created—mind, body, soul, spirit—to function in this way, aligning our free will with God’s and delighting in Him daily, creating a life of abundant fruit and established plans. It’s not beyond us. We belong to the God who can do immeasurably more than we could ask or think. Even the smallest engagement with Him produces dividends that will blow our minds. “Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained (Philippians 3:15-16).

7. The importance of appreciating and celebrating our own wins without external recognition.

This has been a hidden season for many people. Wedding receptions have had to be trimmed in the most challenging ways, resulting in online ceremonies and staycation honeymoons. Babies have been born in relative isolation. School children and their parents have had to find motivation for their work inside themselves. Graduates have missed out on parties, sendoff ceremonies, internships, and other forms of campus participation. In many cases, employees have had to forgo raises, bonuses, benefits, and company trips. And even if none of these apply to you, chances are you’ve still accomplished things in the past few months that no one has seen or congratulated you for. No one but God.

It can be painful, but it’s imperative to learn how to receive motivation and drive from the Lord, focus on a task that is important to you, and celebrate the completion of it, even if it’s a lonely road. Every milestone is worth celebrating, even in private. And those hidden celebrations will do more for your character than you’d ever imagine. “Your Father, who sees in secret will reward you” (Matthew 6:4).

8. How much responsibility we have to pray though our decisions and emotions.

Again, rushing became a way of life for me and the pandemic caused me to crash-land into a place where I needed to weigh every thought, reaction, and decision carefully before God. With all the fake news, anxiety-inducing headlines, and false starts, I’ve melted down one too many times and finally realized that I’m tired of it.

My body and mind were not created to be dragged through this kind of punishment—not when I have the Mind of Christ, the Prince of Peace, and every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places at my disposal. Every thought and emotion simply needs to be lifted before the One who already knows everything. You may think you’re doing that, but if you’re living in anxiety, trust me—you’re not waiting before God long enough to receive what He’s giving. Look at what you’re actually doing with your time, where you’re spending your mental energy, and make a change. (Philippians 1:27)

9. How much we depend on the grace and mercy of God.

Most of my meltdowns in this season have been triggered by my own helplessness to change the current events on my own. Even groups of people can’t really make lasting change without a solid source of power and wisdom uniting and propelling them. In the wake of my emotional agony over the needless torture inflicted on humanity by godless agendas, I’m always left stunned and amazed by God’s Goodness. God’s faithfulness. God’s steadfast love. He is the Answer and the Hope and everything. Him and only Him. And this isn’t a cop-out or a denial or a naïve hope. This is the most purposeful realization any of us can have, because connected to Him, we can actually bring lasting solutions to our dying world. Philippians 1:9

10. The importance of pursuing God and His agenda, not our own.

If I wasn’t convinced of mankind’s futility already, this season definitely made it clearer for me. But this isn’t meant to be a realization of despair. Rather, it’s a relief knowing that all the schemes and plots of man to impose their agenda on the world will eventually come to nothing, that all our personal fears and doubts and insecurities will be swept away in the avalanche of God Himself. And this can begin now. Take any and every opportunity in the coming weeks to fill your gaze with the Eternal One, the One who has caused you to inherit a lasting city and equipped you to live for that Kingdom now.

Our connection with Him is what we were made for. It’s what gives us something worth celebrating; it’s what gives us purpose and identity and a firm foundation of Truth. It’s the reason we’re alive. And it will truly change the world. “Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all His energy that He powerfully works within me” Colossians 1:28-29.

What has God been teaching as a result of this season?

Share it here and allow yourself to be amazed and encouraged by it. There is purpose to this path. It’s not a throw-away year. It’s a critical one. Ask Him how.

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