Ordinary, down-to-earth living

What If the Key to Rest Is Ordinary, Down to Earth Faith?

At 7, my oldest grandson is already a contemplative, a fellow who asks a lot of questions and registers an opinion on just about everything. Maybe that’s a family trait (for better or for worse), but a recent reading of Psalm 131 has given me good reason to rethink the merits of over-thinking and the meaning of soul rest:

O Lord, my heart is not lifted up;
    my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things
    too great and too marvelous for me.”

Psalm 131:1
Down to earth living

Things Too Marvelous to Overthink

In my journal, I challenged myself to come up with a list of those things “too great and too marvelous for me.” It took shape quickly with entries like…
*the passing of time,
*God’s purpose in suffering,
*the internet.

Within minutes, it was clear that there are far too many things “too great and too marvelous” for me to list. And there are very few that I could honestly place on a list titled “Things I Understand.”

Ironically, this does NOT conflict with my commitment to a sturdy theology based on God’s self-revelation in Scripture. I’m taking my cues from trail-blazers like Elisabeth Elliot who said, “Faith has to be exercised in the midst of ordinary, down-to-earth living.” Eugene Peterson described this mindset in his rendering of Romans 12:2 as a faith-practice deeply rooted in our “sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life.”

Ordinary, down-to-earth living

Rest in the Present

There’s nothing quite like the diagnosis of a chronic illness to jar a person into doing business with “ordinary, down-to-earth living.” It was called “the palsy” in my rural Maine childhood but has since been labeled by the medical community as Parkinson’s Disease.

My orientation to time is always toward the future, so it’s been a challenge to resist Googling the dickens out of this diagnosis and projecting into what’s ahead. However, God’s curriculum seems to require that I rest in the present, paying attention to this moment on the clock, this day on the calendar. I am learning to give thanks for strength and motivation to do today’s exercises–the only thing medically proven to slow the advance of the disease.

I don’t pretend to know the reason behind this curve in the road, but I am beginning to see that my message here and in my speaking and writing everywherethat women can become confident Christ-followers and students of God’s Word–has been building a foundation. I’m learning along with my readers that confident faith happens through the formation of habits of holiness. Our minds need a place to go when anxiety threatens or hope seems like a remote possibility.

Rest as an Alternative to Anxiety

When I am tempted to project into a future of limitations, of not being able to DO-DO-DO, the expulsive power of faith over fear provides an alternative to panic. And so I sense that God is, at some point in the future, going to require that I become intentional about sharing my message of hope with others who have been diagnosed with chronic diseases, people who are living their way forward into unknown territory.

Would you pray along with me that I will have discernment for this? And if you know of someone who struggles with chronic illness, would you share this post with them?

The diagnosis I received in January has had a clarifying effect. I’ll be working hard on the discipline of rest as an alternative to anxiety. I’ll be paying attention to my family, the fourteen people of my inner circle, because I want to love and serve them well. I’ll continue to teach and lead at the church I call home.

For now, nothing will change here at Living Our Days. I’ve already cut back to posting once weekly, and I’ll continue sharing the books I’m reading and the grace I’m receiving. I’ll keep on sharing truth at other sites around the great wide web, and will still say yes to speaking engagements as long as I can.

The difference is that now I know with a little more certainty that there are things “too great and too marvelous for me” to comprehend, and those are God’s business. In the meantime, my business is to lean into this new curriculum called Parkinson’s Disease.

Are you managing life with a #chronicillness? When I am tempted to project into a future of limitations, the expulsive power of faith over fear provides an alternative to panic. #spiritualformation

And Now, Let’s Talk Books!

Feathers of Hope

Character-driven fiction tops my list of favorite genres. It enables an author to go deep with a theme or a cultural trend as it lands in the life of her characters. Throughout Sharon Garlough Brown’s writing, her characters have dug deep into spiritual formation practices and the accountability that community provides. Katherine Rhodes has served as true north for the other characters, faithfully pointing them toward hope in Christ.

Feathers of Hope chronicles Katherine’s confrontation with an unexpected blind spot in her thinking and in her ministry. As she moves toward retirement from her role as director of New Hope Center, she runs head-on into her dismissive reaction to issues around racial justice. Thanks be to God, we are never too old to experience transformation!

Readers of Shades of Light will welcome an update on Katherine’s niece, Wren Crawford, her healing process, and her efforts to stay in healthy space with her thinking and emotions. Together, aunt and niece draw inspiration from the crimson feathers of a cardinal and live out the discipline of stewarding affliction.

Without fail, teachers find themes from ordinary, down-to-earth living make their way into our teaching, a process that takes Katherine well beyond her comfort zone. Reigning in “the rush to judgment” may well be the prevailing challenge of spiritual formation for those of us approaching Katherine’s age bracket, and she models the discipline in ways that manage to be both convicting and empowering.

It’s a rare work of fiction that has me dog-earing pages so I can revisit them later alongside an open Bible, but I’ve discovered this is the best way to take in Sharon Garlough Brown’s work. Stories with an undercurrent of poured-out wisdom invite me into growth and a more intentional surrender to the work of the Spirit in my life and my ministry.

Holding You in the Light,

Throughout Sharon Garlough Brown’s writing, her characters dig deep into spiritual formation practices and the accountability that community provides. #FeathersofHope via @ivpress

Many thanks to InterVarsity Press for providing a copy of this book to facilitate my review which is, of course, offered freely and with honesty.

And One Last Thing…

Right now I’m offering two free gifts to NEW newsletter subscribers.

First, I’ve developed a free guided meditation to encourage you in a deep dive into the truth of Psalm 46:1: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” I’ve found that the surest antidote for the poison of the lies we tell ourselves is LARGE doses of truth, and I’m committed to the process of helping women to become confident Christ-followers and students of God’s Word.

Second, if you are a bookish individual, perhaps you’d appreciate some help in writing book reviews? I’ve created a resource sharing some tried and true tips that have come from writing hundreds of book reviews for Living Our Days and other sites. I have loved pointing my readers toward the good stuff that’s out there, and if that’s your goal, too, I want to help you.

Simply click on the button below to receive one or both of these free gifts…

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I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program and an affiliate of The Joyful Life Magazine, two advertising programs designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees. If you should decide to purchase any of the books or products I’ve shared, simply click on the image, and you’ll be taken directly to the seller. If you decide to buy, I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Photo by JJ Ying on Unsplash
Photo by Elisa Calvet B. on Unsplash

81 thoughts on “What If the Key to Rest Is Ordinary, Down to Earth Faith?”

  1. Oh Michelle, it is always so hard to get difficult news that catches our breath and shakes us. I am so glad you are surrounded by family and community that holds you close and dear. I believe the depth of your foundation of faith in Jesus will be the bedrock of allowing Jesus to build grace upon grace to you in this new journey. Thankful that you shared this so we can pray for you and (virtually) walk alongside you. Oh

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  2. Well, come sit over here with me and I’ll give you a big hug and then I’ll tell you something that might encourage you.

    All these years I’ve been repeatedly stunned by how closely we walk on the same path, even though we are of different generations and different life circumstances. Your posts often align with something I’ve been pondering or can relate to. I have to conclude that those who are here but not of here have a consciousness that is not of here as well.

    Friday, I posted what might be my final because this coming Wednesday I am having surgery in a last ditch effort to save my left eye. I have fought glaucoma for twenty years and now it is determined to blind me. So, I completely understand your angst over wondering about the things you might not be able to do anymore. But here’s the kicker – it doesn’t matter what the world throws at us, if we are for Him, God is with us and what the world sees as an obstacle, God sees as new way to get something done. I will pray for you to have peace about this and, btw, we have a friend who has had Parkinson’s for twenty five years. Not much stops him. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I will be praying for you on Wednesday, and I hope you let us know how it goes. It is such a temptation to catastrophize into the future. I am working hard at trusting for grace to live with today’s measure of trouble and grace.
      You are a continual encouragement and inspiration.

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  3. Michele, I admit this post stunned me.As I sat back to just take in your diagnosis, I realized it did not stun our God. He knew all about it eons ago. I will surely be praying for you, for your family, and for the days ahead. But one thing I do know for certain … somehow this will be for good, and for the greater glory of our God.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This post has touched my heart deeply and intersected with me on more than a few points. (Will be emailing you later). It seems so many I know have weathered through the last several years of the pandemic and now are facing new medical challenges that caught them off guard and left them battling with uncertainty that has fueled anxiety. All of them are facing the challenge of what it means to enter into rest with the Lord in deeper and new ways. Thank you so much for what yo have written here. You have been a priceless connection from hundreds of miles away since this website/blogging adventure began for me 7 years ago. You are in my prayers as we head out to church.♥️

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  5. Thank you for sharing this new journey of yours. What a piece of news to take in. You are already giving wisdom and hope to others by showing us your courage and faith in God. I will be praying for you and your family.

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  6. One day at a time. I had my wake up to this in August ’21 and again March 3. Am I that stubborn? Just do what you know to do and let The Master do the rest. xoxo SS

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  7. I’m so sorry to hear of this diagnosis. From those I know who have had it, there doesn’t seem to be a one-size-fits-all outplay of symptoms. Some do very well for years to come, and I hope and pray you’ll be one of those. Whatever limitations this may bring in the future, I’ve been encouraged with my own limitations by something else Elisabeth Elliot said–limitations don’t hinder our ministry, they define it.

    It seems so often, God keeps bringing me back to the place you mention–of trusting Him and obeying Him in this moment, in these circumstances. That’s truly where the rubber meets the road.

    I am not familiar with this author, but her books sound very good.

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  8. I’m so glad you shared this here, Michele. I’ll be praying that God will sustain you and make the way forward clear—in your writing/speaking as well as your health. I’m still in awe that the God who goes before us gave you “rest” as your word for this year. Hugs, friend.

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  9. Sorry to read about your diagnosis. Seems those do knock the wind out of us, but thankfully God picks us back up and as you already know will calmly lead you through this. ~hugs~

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  10. Wow, Michele! I’m surprised and saddened at your diagnosis; but I know from years of reading your words that you know what to do. You’ll be pressing in to your Creator like never before. Thank you for your honesty which actually is an invitation to journey with you and see how God enables, equips and provides for you in this next season of life. I know your story is going to touch so many people! I will be praying for your discernment, your leaning in to exercise and rest, and for your inner circle of fourteen who are going to be your encouragers. Love you, my sister in Christ!

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  11. Michele take heart!
    My dear Dad has lived with Parkinson’s for the past twenty years & over the last seven years was the primary & sole carer for my mother with her terminal illness before she needed full time hospital care! Amazing!

    There are amazing medications (as my Dad says, ‘true blessings from God’) that really help all aspects/symptoms of this disease along the way, as it progresses.

    Get yourself a good Neurologist/ Parkinson’s Specialist who can journey with you & be up on all that they can do for you.

    My Dad has lead a full life (within his capabilities, with medications along the way & a wonderful positive mindset) with Parkinson’s & continues to do so even though he is now in the advanced stages.

    He still lives in his own home surrounded by his beautiful garden (he was a horticulturalist) & walks daily in it, just with a little more support now.

    I too live with Chronic disease (17 years now) & the greatest thing we can do is to focus upon the Lord & accept His rest while we rearrange our schedule to His, rather than our own (not an easy task for us women!). 😉
    God has this Michele!
    Bless you my friend,
    Jennifer

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    1. This is all so encouraging and so helpful. And I am definitely learning that bit about the scheduling…
      I appreciate your sharing your dad’s story, and I do hear such good reports from so many.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Oh yes, I think that list of things too great to understand would be rather huge for most of us! So sorry to hear of your recent diagnosis and while I am sure you will be going back and forth between contentment and fear/ anxiety as is our human nature, leaning into your faith is a great way to relieve that.

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  13. Keep your eyes focused and fixed on Jesus, something I’m sure you already know but often we need to hear it afresh when the waters start to roll. Be encouraged just as you are an encouragement to so many! And, even in this, your candid truth, so many will be lifted up…

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  14. Michelle, your post was (especially) encouraging this morning. Definitely not what I was expecting when you made such a practical application of those things are “too great to be understood” but what a powerful testimony….knowing that God’s ways are precious and wonderful. And how much our faith is strengthened during the ordinary days – preparing us for “the other” days ahead!! Please know I will be praying often for you! Thank you for sharing some of your journey with us!

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    1. Jennifer, I’m so glad you were encouraged by the twists and turns of my story. I think we all sort of imagine that the “big work” of faith happens in the banner moments. What a surprise it is to find God at work in our daily faithfulness!

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  15. Keeping you in my prayers Michele as you rest in God and move forward with your diagnosis. My dad suffered with Parkinsons and although the journey was very difficult at times, his sense of humour often helped him get through. It’s good to be reminded that our faith is rooted in the ordinary everyday moments of life and to accept that there are many things simply too big for us to be able to understand. God has you in the palm of his hand and I know that he will help guide you through the days ahead. I hope that you can find rest in him and strength for the journey. All the best.#DreamTeam

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    1. It’s so helpful to hear from readers with experience and insight from the school of hard knocks. Thanks for the reminder that I’m held in God’s hand and this is all subject to his will and his guidance.

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  16. Oh, Michele, this breaks my heart. But with others who have commented here, I have great hope that your future will be minimally impacted by your diagnosis as treatments and medications have improved greatly in recent years. I’m confident God still has plenty for you to do, as a woman of strong faith and determination, with gifts and talents that bless all who know you! I’ll be praying . . .

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  17. I am so sorry to hear of your diagnosis. I’m sure, being human, that you have your moments, but you appear to be handling it with the grace and faith I’ve seen you exhibit for years now. You have given me a ton to think about with that verse, since my word for the year is rest. Thank you.

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  18. It sounds like you are handling this already with grace and wisdom, Michele. I can’t imagine how you feel. Blessings to you as you walk this journey out, one day at a time. It’s all any of us can really do; we’re just not all as aware of it as you are. Thanks for trusting us with this piece of your story.

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    1. It’s a bit out of character for me to OUT something so personal, but I do sense that Gos wants this folded into my writing and teaching, so it’s a matter of obedience.

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  19. Oh, Michele, I’m so sorry! My mom was diagnosed with Parkinson’s about a week before I was diagnosed with Lupus. May God continue to use your gentle wisdom to help those who suffer from chronic illnesses (or who need good book recommendations). Sending hugs and prayers your way!

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  20. Ahhh, Michele, you’ve had a lot to grapple with over the past few months. I just said a prayer for you, and I will continue to pray as God brings you to mind. I’m so thankful for your words. I know God will work His plan in and through you. He will use you in the lives of many. Thank you for sharing this curve in your road. Sending hugs, friend.

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  21. Praying with you & for you!
    I so am in awe of your faith – I know I am googling on my phone before I even leave a doctor’s office & getting freaked out at what words can do… I love your direction is upwards instead. The reminder that focusing on TODAY is all we should be doing – getting through each day with our Savior helping us along.
    Keep strong in your faith & prayers for healing & leading in your journey.

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    1. It is a VERY intentional choice, for sure, because I love the future and my brain goes there first, but I also know that all I have “control” (my favorite illusion) over is the present moment, so I’m on a learning curve. I appreciate your encouragement as I know it comes from a place of knowledge and experience in managing chronic stuff.

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  22. Michele, I’m so sorry to hear about your diagnosis. It must have come as a shock, but I’m encouraged by your faith in the midst of this and I love the sense that God has gone before you in leading you to “rest” as your word for the year. Thanks for sharing this with us so that we can pray for you as you move forward. I’m glad you enjoyed “Feathers of Hope” – I loved it too!

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  23. You are in my thoughts Michele. It’s hard to understand the why’s, but I believe you are bold, brave, strong minded and your faith will help guide you through. My Grandad had this diagnosis and I think there is great truth in focusing on being present and rested in the right now. Sending love. #DreamTeam x

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  24. This reminds me of the serenity prayer to accept the things we cannot change. We should focus on the things we can make a difference with and leave the rest to those wiser than us. Thanks for linking up with #DreamTeam

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  25. I’m sorry to hear about your Parkinson’s diagnosis, Michelle. My dad suffers from this, along with a subset knows as Lewy Body. The Parkinson’s makes is hard for him to get around and do the things he once enjoyed so well, like playing his guitar. But he has found other things that bring him joy, and listens to a bunch of audio books. He is still the same jolly person he always was, just in a slower pace.

    Praying that you’ll find peace and a way to deal with things in a way that still works for you and your family.
    Blessings and thank you for sharing this on the Sunday Sunshine Blog Hop 14

    Laurie
    Ridge Haven Homestead

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  26. praying that you find rest and peace as you face this new diagnosis. It’s always hard to know how much to research and how much to wait and see when faced with difficult news like this. I appreciate the wisdom that you always share in this space, and the transparency to share this with your readers. God is good and He has you in his hands.

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  27. Michelle, by sharing your diagnosis you are giving strength to others facing similar circumstances. Life can be challenging, but with God all is possible. Prayers

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  28. Michele. Oh, my friend. I am so very glad you shared this news with us so that we can be praying for you. I am so sorry that you’ve been given this particular road to walk, but I know that you’ll walk it with grace, and in so doing you will inspire us all. There’s no way around it: chronic illness is hard. But there can be great joy even in this journey. God bless you, my friend.

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  29. I have anxiety, it rushes over me when I have to do things, thankfully now we’re back in the UK, there is less for me to manage and we are selling our holiday flat which has caused me anxiety as we do it, but I know I will feel so much better when the burden of it is over.
    Thanks for joining in with #pocolo hope you had a great Easter and hope to see you back on April 29th

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  30. I pray the Lord will continue to guard your heart and mind with His peace, Michele. I’m glad you are proactively choosing to rest and to slow the disease down as much is humanly possible through daily exercises. May the Lord continue to give you grace, strength and wisdom regarding the future. I appreciate this truth, “Women can become confident Christ-followers and students of God’s Word. I’m learning that confident faith happens through the formation of habits of holiness. Our minds need a place to go when anxiety threatens, or hope seems like a remote possibility.”

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  31. Michele, I am so sorry for what must feel like a kick in the stomach; but at the same time I praise God for His grace which is sufficient for even this. I praise God for all He will do in and through you as you walk the uncertain steps ahead. Thank you for the reminder of REST, not only for body, but for soul and spirit as we lean into Him Living Our Days. Dear Friend please know I am praying for you, and honored to walk along your courageous journey.

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  32. I’m praying that your deep faith will help you cope with this devastating diagnosis, Michele. May the Lord continue to lead you to rest and allow others to serve you as you need. Hugs.

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