Shaped by Faithfulness

Shaped by Faithfulness // Leslie Ann Jones

Last week on Instagram, I posted a quote from Katie Davis Majors' new book Daring to Hope (releases Oct. 3), and I just can't seem to stop thinking about it.

"Surely, faithfulness is not a one-time act, not a decision or a destination, not something to eventually be attained. Faithfulness is what we repeatedly do. It is a habit formed of long, hard obedience in the quiet. Faithfulness is dropping milk through a syringe for hours into a mouth that could barely swallow in the middle of the night. Faithfulness is pursuing that resistant teenager again (and again and again) even though she yells and hurls ugly words. Faithfulness is in chopping carrots and folding laundry and all the things that go unseen and unnoticed. Faithfulness is in a million tiny decisions and a million small surrenderings—submitting with a simple, 'yes, Lord,'—that create a lifetime of obedience in the extraordinary and in the mundane...⠀

...Faithfulness is what we repeatedly do, whether or not we are seeing the results. Faithfulness is when we repeatedly pour into hard people, when we continue to serve in hard situations, when we intentionally choose to lean into Him in our difficulties as well as our joys. Faithfulness is a habit formed in our hearts when no one is looking, when the day is done and the stars creep out and our call isn't easy, but we don't turn away.⠀

And ultimately, faithfulness is truly and fully found in the One who pursues us though we thrash against Him, who sits with us as we wait in the silence, who fulfills all His promises with a Yes and Amen in life everlasting."

—Katie Davis Majors, Daring to Hope

As I mull over Katie's words and consider how very unfaithful I can be at times, I'm learning that faithfulness is hard because it's a long-haul kind of process. We don't always see the results immediately, and the rewards aren't always tangible.

But that doesn't mean it's not worth it.

It's the faithfulness itself that shapes us. The repeated action that becomes a habit that becomes a way of life. Before we know it, that thing that we've been doing every day is part of us, and we are different because of it.

When it comes to Bible study and prayer and church, we may not feel warm and fuzzy, or anything at all for that matter, in the moment. We may not always experience a spiritual high, gain a life-altering insight, or feel especially close to God. But He is there, nevertheless, using our attempts at faithfulness to make us more like Him day by day. He is, after all, as faithful as it gets.

As we come, morning by morning opening the Word and sitting for just a few minutes in the stillness, Truth sinks in. It becomes the background music in the soundtrack of our lives, and it comes to mind throughout the day—as we wash dishes or drive to yet another soccer practice—and in that simple way, we are transformed. It's not exciting. It's not flashy. But it's good.

For the past month or so, I've been faithfully washing one load of laundry each morning. The girls get on the bus. I finish my first cup of coffee. Sometimes I pray, but, let's be real here, sometimes I just catch up on Instagram. Either way, when the coffee is finished, I get up, collect the previous day's clothes, and toss them in the wash before I head to the office with my second cup of coffee, Bible, and journal. When the clothes are all done, I fold them and put them away (well, usually, anyway), and that's it.

I'm not even kidding when I say that it has changed my life.

I used to spend weekends buried beneath mountains of laundry. It always seemed like a daunting task because there was just so much of it to tackle at one time. But when I do a little bit every day, it only takes a few minutes, and I actually enjoy the process. It gives me a feeling of accomplishment and makes me feel that even if nothing else gets done for the day, I've at least accomplished this one small thing. It's not exciting. It's not flashy. But it's good.

It's the same way with matters of faith. When we go for a long time without opening our Bibles or spending time in prayer or going to church, it becomes a thing. The longer we stay out of it, the harder it is to get back into it.

We think we need to somehow make up for the time we've lost or that we have to have the perfect conditions (a quiet house, worship music playing softly in the background, candle flickering gently nearby) to come near once more. But because we're busy and life is crazy, that perfect moment never comes. We put it off and put it off and put it off just like I used to put off the laundry. And it never gets done.

We can be so silly sometimes.

You don't have to have a perfect moment to return to the Lord. It's as effortless as letting your eyes drift shut and whispering a prayer. It's as easy as opening your Bible and quietly allowing it sink in to do its work. It's as simple as getting in the car and driving to church on Sunday morning. And then doing it again, and again, and again until it becomes second nature. We're shaped by faithfulness. It's not exciting. It's not flashy. But it's good.

Faithfulness is a choice that we repeatedly make. It's not a one and done kind of thing. It's choosing day by day, moment by moment, to do what's best, even when we don't feel like it. It requires tending. It must be cultivated and babied and nurtured. But if you keep at it long enough, it will grow stronger, and it will end up changing you into the person that God intended for you to be all along.

And the best part is that when we choose faithfulness, we show the world what God is like. He gets all the glory. And that's what it's all about.

My prayer today is that the Lord would cultivate a spirit of faithfulness in us. That He would grant us grace in our endeavors and that at the end of our days, He would find us faithful.

Until next time, grace and peace.

Win a Copy of Daring to Hope

I'm giving away a copy of Katie's book on Instagram! Daring to Hope is a sweet, sweet message of choosing hope and practicing faithfulness when life doesn't go the way you planned and God doesn't answer prayers the way you expected. It was good for my heart, and I'm certain it would be good for yours as well. You NEED to read this book. Click through to enter. Good luck!

Seasons of Waiting: An Interview and Giveaway

You know I love to read. And you know that I love to share what I'm reading with others. But do you know what's even better than that? Sharing a book written by a friend!

Betsy Childs Howard and I studied together at Beeson Divinity School several years ago. These days, she's an editor at The Gospel Coalition, and she's written the most thoughtful book on practicing faithfulness when dreams are delayed. Her book, Seasons of Waiting, was inspired by her own wait for a spouse. In it, she offers a theological perspective and purpose for various seasons of waiting, whether it be for a spouse, a child, healing, or a home. I found Betsy's words to be both comforting and encouraging, and I think you will too. 

I reconnected with Betsy at TGC's women's conference this summer, and she graciously agreed to a little Q&A for you. Because everyone loves a giveaway, and also because I found it so helpful, I'm giving away a free copy of Seasons of Waiting to one lucky reader. Details follow the Q&A with Betsy, at the bottom of this post. But before we get to all of that, here's a little video to give you a taste of what you'll find in the book.


Q: Tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from? Where did you go to school? What does life look like now?

I’m from Birmingham, AL. I went to Wheaton College. I also earned a Masters of Theology at Beeson Divinity School during the time that I worked there. I now live in New York City where my husband and I are planting a new Anglican church on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.

Q: Share a bit about your writing journey. When did you first feel the Lord prompting you to the writing life? How did Seasons of Waiting come to be?

I am not someone who writes all the time. I really enjoy writing, but I went many years without writing anything. Several factors converged through personal connections to give me some online writing opportunities, which I took advantage of. This led to a publisher approaching me about writing a book. I was excited and flattered, but I didn’t want to write a book if I didn’t have something that needed to be said. It took me about four months to think and pray about it and decide that all that God had been teaching me about waiting might be something that others could benefit from.

Q:  What are the top three things you would share with women who are stuck in a season of waiting?

  1. Don’t worry about whether you can make it for the rest of your life. Just ask God for what you need to make it through today.
  2. Remember that, even if your season of waiting ends, you will always be waiting on something. Seek now to draw near to God and learn more about his character. This will benefit you in the future no matter what you are waiting on.
  3. Keep an eternal perspective. If you are a believer, this life is not your only shot at happiness. That realization helps waiting not feel quite so desperate.

Q: One of your key points is that each of our stories are parables that point to a larger truth. How did this realization affect you in the midst of your waiting?

It made my waiting seem personal rather than wasted time. It helped me feel like God was using my waiting to point me and others to his salvation story. Seeing my wait for a spouse as a parable of the Church waiting for her Bridegroom increased my longing for his return.

Q: How have other women helped and encouraged you in your waiting seasons?

Sometimes it is hard to talk with others about the areas where we feel most vulnerable. We need to do it anyway. Those friends with whom who I’ve shared my deepest desires, who have prayed for me, are those that I’m closest to. And they’ve been able to rejoice with me when God has answered my prayers!

Q: What is the key to finding purpose and joy where you are rather than where you wish to be?

I think that we should seek to find contentment and joy in our relationship with God and seek his purpose for our lives rather than our own. That’s different than being completely content with your circumstances. You might have a terrible job situation—I don’t know that God is calling you to be content with that. But as long as you are in that terrible job situation, you can seek joy in the Lord, seek to be used by him where you are, and believe that he has a good purpose for you there. It doesn’t necessarily show a lack of godly contentment to be honest about the difficulties of whatever season you are in. But we must always seek to draw our deepest strength and joy from our all-sufficient Father. There is no lack in him, so there is no reason for us to lack contentment in him.

Q: How has the gift of hindsight changed the way you view the years you spent waiting for a spouse?

I’m grateful for all the relationships I had during my single years. I’m introverted and a homebody, but loneliness forced me to be more social and throw myself into church life. I’m glad that God used years of singleness to deepen my friendships. I also think that getting married at 34 rather than 24 has helped me view marriage as a gift rather than a reward for going about dating the right way.

Q: Is there anything else you would like to add? Please speak freely here.

Singleness ended my wait for marriage, but it began other waits. I’ve been waiting on a baby for what is starting to feel like a long time. We’ve had a lot of waiting to do with the church plant that we are working on. I’m now far from my family and living in a small, rented apartment, so I am experiencing the wait for a home in a way that I didn’t when I lived in my hometown. All of the truth God taught in my in my wait for marriage are applicable now. No wait is wasted if you press into God’s goodness.

Contest closes October 9 at 11:59 pm. Winner will be notified by e-mail within 48 hours of the contest closing. Good luck! Until next time, grace and peace.

Review: Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing

We've long been fans of Sally Lloyd-Jones' The Jesus Storybook Bible, so when I saw Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing, a children's devotional book by the same author, at TGC's Women's Conference, I snagged a copy for our oldest daughter.

Since she recently became a Christian, I wanted to give her something to help foster her growing relationship with the Lord. In the week and a half since her baptism, we've read an entry in this book every single day, and it has sparked lots of conversations about what God is like, who we are in relationship to him, how to pray, and what it means to be His person.

Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing is a beautifully written and illustrated book, and I love that it's simple enough for my almost-first-grader to understand without watering down profound spiritual truths. Lloyd-Jones is a master wordsmith. In a recent interview for Christianity Today, she said that she writes with her niece and nephew in mind, seeking the best way to describe spiritual truths honestly yet simply.

Here are just a few examples of her beautiful prose in action:

Describing Sin: "God made his children's hearts to join together in the wonderful Dance of Joy—orbiting and circling around him. But we put ourselves in the center instead of God. We put ourselves in God's place—which is what sin is."

On Praise: "God didn't create us so he could get joy—he already had it. He created us so he could share it. He knows it's the thing your heart most needs to be happy. When God says, 'Glorify me!', he's really saying, 'Be filled with Joy!' He's inviting us into his Forever Happiness."

God's Timing: "Does it seem like God has forgotten about you? If God is delaying, it's not to make things worse. It is always only so he can make things better."

I may or may not be finishing off my own quiet times with a page or two from the book. It's a keeper. I mean, just look at some of these pages.

Gorgeous, right? It's been a great tool for us to help teach our daughter some spiritual disciplines in this early stage of her walk with Christ. If you're looking for a child's devotional book, I can't recommend Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing highly enough. You won't be disappointed.

Until next time, grace and peace.