A Personal Update, 3 Invitations, & A Thank You

photo of smiling woman with invitation

Y’all! I have some happy news to share in this short post. I’ll do that in a minute. But first I’ve got a quick update.

Update #1

I’m nearly done with the draft for the Meek Not Weak (or A Taming Grace?) Bible study guide. Across five summers, 175 pages and a 25-page book proposal to boot, I learned that having real readers motivates me. Because in the last couple weeks, glory to God, I’ve condensed material into an actual-factual Bible study guide.

So this Thursday, Lord willing, my kind Bible study friends will begin a journey through the 12-week meekness study guide. I’ll edit and revise as we go. Then, DV, by November at the Empowered Women’s Retreat, there will be a table laden with a pile of meekness books.

Invitation to Action: Which title below would make you take a second look? Would you let me know with a comment below or an email reply?

  1. A Taming Grace: How Meekness Frees Us To Rest In God’s Hand 
  2. Meek Not Weak: Reclaiming the Gentle Strength of Meekness 
  3. A Taming Grace: How Meekness Frees Us to Rest in Christ When Life is Hard

I’d be grateful for your feedback and your prayers.

Update #2

In 2022, I resolved to submit articles for publication. I was inspired by a Hope*Writer friend who said her resolutions was to get 100 rejections. I didn’t go that far, but I did resolve to submit an article a month. That is up 1200% from the one piece I submitted last year.

The rejections have come. They start the same old way: “We received an overwhelming number of submissions and truly enjoyed reading through all of them.”

I knew the next line well, “We’re sorry that your submission doesn’t fit our needs at this time.”

But last week it said,

“I am delighted to inform you that we have accepted the following devotions to be included in the book. Congratulations on this incredible milestone of being published! We are celebrating with you.”

That’s update #2. The book will be released this fall.

Alert For Idols & Thanking My God For You

Mind you, I am trying to take my own advice and be on the alert for my idols. I’m on my guard for inordinate sorrow—and joy. I want to sit loose, open palms, rejoicing when I abound and when I am brought low. I want to be content in the highs and the lows.

But I admit, with this turn I am both humbled and delighted.

I am also grateful. Thank you for opening “your weekly doses of JoyPrO.” Thank you for investing your precious time in them. To you who share, comment, or send a note, please know you encourage my heart.

Invitation to Action: Is there a “tough topic in the Bible” or a practical “faith meets real life” topic you’d like me to take up?

A quick aside on this “invitation to action” business: the experts content creators must have a compelling call for action to increase engagement. Mine are usually not so explicit. But they’re there: obey, take God at his word, keep on.

Which reminds me. At the suggestion of two friends who mentioned they’d rather listen rather than read, I started a podcast. It’s called Keep On. For now, it’s just me alone with my phone in the closet and hopefully no Milky meows.

But one can never tell how a thing might grow. I’d like to branch out and do some seriously funny interviews and maybe some book reviews. Speaking of which, did you know I’m posting each month’s book club questions?

Invitation to Action: Subscribe to the KEEP ON WITH ABIGAIL WALLACE podcast or send a link to someone who’d enjoy 5-15 minutes of strong grace. Drop a line if someone you know (including you) can make us think and laugh in an interview.

Christ Exalting Is Why I Write

I promised this would be short. But I must add this bit, because this post feels a self-promotional and I don’t like that.

So I share now my deepest desire is that the words of my mouth will magnify my Lord. In other words, I write to make God look big. My earnest prayer is that you, friend, would be built up in your most holy faith as you see how in my struggles God is my refuge and strength. I write to show you that knowing Jesus Christ is the greatest treasure.

All this feeble, fumbling, typo-laden writing is my joyfullypressingon way to do that.

I’ll leave you with Kate Wilkinson’s prayer. It sums up my heart. Him exalting, self abasing, this is victory.

May the mind of Christ, my Savior, live in me from day to day,

By His love and pow’r controlling all I do and say.

May the Word of God dwell richly in my heart from hour to hour,

So that all may see I triumph only through His pow’r.

May the love of Jesus fill me as the waters fill the sea;

Him exalting, self abasing, this is victory.

May I run the race before me, strong and brave to face the foe,

Looking only unto Jesus as I onward go.

Running with you, for our progress and joy in the faith,

Abigail

Learning To Count Right: Loss As Gain

Hot air balloon tethered with one rope to ground
Click here for the “Keep On“ podcast of this post.
Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.

Philippians 3:8a

If I’d Have Known

If you would have told me 10 years ago that this is where I’d be, I think I would have collapsed in a heap.

If you would have told me, as I gazed down at the beautiful rosy-cheeked, long-lashed baby feeding from me, that this child would be the first and last from my womb, I’d have wept.

If I had known how the sought-out son who came from God on a plane and wowed us with his memory and wit and thrilled us with his skillful hands would have this years-long fallow season, I’d have cried.

If I had known that the speaking gigs with the book deal, the bright, sunny home on the prairie, and the Sunday dinners with missionaries were mostly fantasy, I’d have crumbled.

I would have. But I’m not. Because my non-coddling, loves-me-to-the-end God is with me and in me and for me. So please know that I’m not looking for sympathy, nor, at least as I write, in a funk of self-pity.

I’m actually rejoicing.

I know that sounds a little crazy. But it’s not.

At least not once we start to count right.

Re-Learning To Count Loss

How can you possibly count the loss of a child, the death of a dream, the loss of wealth as gain?

Great question. That is why I’m writing. I want to show you the right way for a Christian to count. Let me hasten to add, I am learning to count. Learning. Sometimes I still count the old way. I count loss as loss, not as gain.

But Apostle Paul is teaching me. The syllabus is his life, condensed into a few verses in Philippians, chapter 3:

But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish in order that I may gain Christ, and may be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know him…

I bolded so you would notice how Paul is counting. He just finished recounting the things in his life that had given him purpose and meaning—his Jewish heritage, moral excellence and religious upper-crustness, for three. Then comes verse 7, quoted above, “But whatever things were gain to me…”

So what exactly is this new, right way to count?

Count, Consider, Think

First, we’ve got to know that in the Bible, counting means much more than simply numbering. It means considering and reckoning. Turns out, it’s an accountant’s term for balancing the books.

When James wrote, Count it all joy when you face trials of all kinds (James 1:2), Peter wrote, Count the patience of our Lord as salvation (2 Peter 3:15), and when Paul wrote, I count all things as loss (Philippians 3:8), they all used the same Greek word, hēgeomai.

The word can mean to deem or consider—to account, suppose, or think. To think. Christian growth demands we think rightly. We must train ourselves to frame the circumstances we face biblically. We must discipline our minds to think, to consider and count certain things as loss and a certain thing as gain.

In other words, we need to build new associations in our minds. Here’s a fitness example.

Retrain Your Brain to Reframe the Pain

We need to know that there is good pain and there is bad pain. To grow strong in our faith we must be able to differentiate between the two.

After decades of regular exercise, I have trained my brain to actually crave a certain kind of pain. After I do a squat and lunge workout, I want to feel sore. When I lift weights, I want my muscles to quiver. After 40 real push-ups, I want my biceps to sting.

When I train for a marathon, I want to feel the sore legs and lung burn that come from a fast(-ish) 10 mile run. If I get a cramp in my side, I don’t panic—I run through. In fact, if I don’t hurt, I’m not getting my money’s worth.

Over the years, I have trained my brain to know that these are good pains. They are pains I associate with endurance, speed and strength. You could say I’ve learned to connect this sort of “suffering” with growth.

Therefore, I welcome the pain. I don’t count it loss, but gain.

Build Up Useful Associations

Now let’s go beyond the realm of exercise. I love this bit from Oswald Chambers about making associations.

We have to build up useful associations in our minds, to learn to associate things for ourselves, and it can only be done by determination. For instance, learn to associate the chair you sit on with nothing else but study: associate a selected secret place with nothing but prayer […] If we learn to associate ideas that are worthy of God with all that happens […] our imagination will never be at the mercy of our impulses.

When we become accustomed to connecting things, every ordinary occurrence will serve to fructify our minds in godly thinking because we have developed our minds along the lines laid down by the Spirit of God. It is not done once for always; it is only done always. Never imagine that the difficulty of doing these things belongs peculiarly to you, it belongs to everyone. The character of a person is nothing more than the habitual form of his associations 

The Moral Foundations for Life

Don’t you love that? Even more than the word fructify, I love the idea that Chambers normalizes this mental training. It’s done always, for all believers who want to count right. When we learn to build useful associations, “our imagination will never be at the mercy of our impulses.” In the context of Philippians 3, that means that rather than wallow in self-pity’s mire when our life isn’t the life of our dreams, we press on to know Christ.

We look to him for comfort (2 Corinthians 1:3) and healing for our broken hearts (Psalm 147:3). In other words, we learn to associate our losses with deeper intimacy with Christ.

And that is gain.

The Intimacy Factor Prepares Us For Loss

In a message on Philippians 3, Pastor John Piper calls this “the intimacy factor.” When the saints suffer in faith, their relationship with God becomes less formal and distant, and more personal and deep. At least if they count right.

Becoming a Christian means discovering that Christ is a Treasure Chest of holy joy and writing “LOSS” over everything else in the world in order to gain him. “He sold all that he had to buy that field.”  (Matthew 13:44).

Then Piper asks, Why is writing “LOSS” across everything in your life but Christ a way of preparing to suffer?

His answer? “Suffering is nothing more than the taking away of bad things or good things that the world offers for our enjoyment—reputation, esteem among peers, job, money, spouse, sexual life, children, friends, health, strength, sight, hearing, success, etc. When these things are taken away (by force or by circumstance or by choice), we suffer.”

But if we’ve been learning from Paul, we are already counting our losses as gaining fellowship with Christ. This prepares us for life’s inevitable suffering and loss.

4 Ways to Count Loss as Gain

These four guidelines from Pastor John have been so helpful to me.

  1. It means that whenever I am called upon to choose between anything in this world and Christ, I choose Christ.
  2. It means that I will deal with the things of this world in ways that draw me nearer to Christ so that I gain more of Christ and enjoy more of him by the way I use the world.
  3. It means that I will always deal with the things of this world in ways that show that they are not my treasure, but rather show that Christ is my treasure.
  4. It means that if I lose any or all the things this world can offer, I will not lose my joy or my treasure or my life, because Christ is all.

That is what it means in practical terms to count all things loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. When my mama dreams, and wifely hopes, when my author aspirations and fall away, or are delayed, I’m learning to rejoice.

Because in their void Jesus Christ, the treasure that will never rust, fail or fall away. But that doesn’t mean we don’t grieve. Jesus wept. He sweated blood in Gethsemane.

But we grieve with a measure of hope. We cry with a twinge of joy. Jesus rose from the grave and he meets us in our loss and pain.

What’s Up With The Balloon?

We’ve seen that suffering is losing what gives us pleasure. Losing these things, even these relationships and people, is a very real loss. But when we learn to count them right, we gain. We gain freedom to be content whatever the circumstances.

Now, about that balloon up top. What in the world does a hot air balloon have to do with counting right?

It’s my visual for loss and gain. The ropes that tether the balloon represent earthly enjoyments my heart gets set on. Each rope released is a loss of a pleasure—a child, a spouse, my health or a dream.

But the ropes released are also gain. Because their release frees me to soar heaven-high.

I’m starting to make helpful, “fructifying” associations, to reframe the pain of loss, and to taste the sweetness of knowing Jesus Christ better as the ruins fall.

In sum, I’m learning how to count loss right.

Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 

For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 

When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Colossians 3:2-3

Graphic of counting loss as gain

Guest Post: Learning to Root My Joy in Christ

Woman seated beside potted plant

One of life’s highlights of late has been the budding kinship with “my Hope*Writer friends.” I’ve told you about comparing, scarcity and working our own little territory and described how so often joy comes when we choose what we didn’t (at first) choose.

Enter Allison, one of those new friends. She is young, fresh and from the Pacific Northwest. But what really drew me to Allison is her passion and zest for helping women become rooted in God’s Word. I trust you’ll be blessed by her post.

I can still feel the silence that rang in my ears as he shut the door behind him.

It was January 2020. My husband had left for a six-month deployment after a tearful and much-dreaded goodbye.

Home Alone

I couldn’t have imagined the quiet that would follow. Little did we know the world would soon shut down for the pandemic, leaving me home alone with only my feisty kitty Daisy for company. 

As many of my habits and patterns were interrupted, I found myself with more time on my hands than I had experienced in my adult life. The many distractions, some meaningful and some not, seemed to fall away. 

It was through small acts of imperfect obedience that I drew near to God. I chose to open up His Word rather than hit “next episode” on Netflix., chose worship music when I could have chosen pop music, chose to give thanks even as I cried tears of loneliness. 

My obedience was flawed and inconsistent, yet I could feel Him draw near to me when I drew near to Him, just as He promises in His word (James 4:8). More than ever, I craved His presence.

Joy Takes Root

As I drew nearer to Christ, I encountered a joy that wasn’t rooted in circumstance or temporary pleasure. Instead, it was a joy with a much firmer foundation. I experienced joy rooted in the everlasting faithfulness of a Savior who is always by my side.

This is a joy we can’t maintain on our own by willing ourselves a “can-do” attitude. Rather, we must humbly come before Christ each day asking Him to renew our joy in Him. When we do, we will find our joy doesn’t rely on something as shaky as our occupations, bank accounts, or physical appearance. 

We will find our joy is rooted in Christ. This is the only joy that will never fail and will bring about the only outcome worth living and dying for—experiencing the presence of our Lord.

Are you ready to draw near to Christ through studying His word?

Download Allison’s free Rooted Rhythm guide. Allison Mattson is passionate about encouraging and equipping women to be rooted in Christ. Connect with her by subscribing to her Rooted Writings blog and following along on Instagram @mrsallisonmattson.

On Eggs, Dregs and Choosing What You Did Not Choose

wine dregs

Only eight words.

Eight words I grasp with my mind. Eight words I pray grace to live till I die.

These eight words: Joy comes from choosing what you didn’t choose.

The TL; DR on this post: expect delays, remember that comfort is overrated, and think twice when you pray for smooth.

Choose what you didn’t choose is really just another way to say what James said 2000 years ago: “Count it all joy, my brothers and sisters when you meet trials of various kinds.Which starts with learning to welcome— not resent— life’s interruptions.

A lesson it may take a lifetime to learn.

Interruptions Are Real LIfe

The truth is of course that what one calls the interruptions are precisely one’s real life – the life God is sending day by day: what one calls one’s ‘real life’ is a phantom of one’s own imagination! —C.S. Lewis

That quote exploded my big-plan, little-margin life when I first read it years ago. Sometimes I still chafe when my plans are interrupted and I have to wait.

But He’s changing me. I know that because when the red line that suddenly popped up on my Google map had me praying just now, not grumbling, while our van crawled along for miles. And when my day-off plans were quick shortchanged by a call from the school nurse, I could count that “trial” right.

Because waiting for the green line and tending a sick son are precisely the “real” life God is sending me.

Count It All Joy

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4

We will be interrupted and we will be tried. Which is why James wrote when you meet trials, not if. And that means we need to commit before they hit to count our interruptions and trials as-you guessed it- joy.

So trials are inevitable and they often come on us suddenly, like interruptions.

Which explains why James used a word  that means “meet” or “fall into.” It’s the same  word used in the parable of the Good Samaritan when a man fell among robbers, and in Acts 27 when the ship Paul was on struck a reef. The word emphasizes the surprise nature of trials.

Trials can come on suddenly. But all trials- internal and external- are tests by God intended to make us strong, mature and complete.

Lacking nothing. 

Dregs

But you know what happens when we’re not tested?

There’s a striking illustration of that in Jeremiah 48.  “Moab has been at ease since his youth,” the prophet wrote. Moab was a neighboring people to Israel. They’d lived an easy life; undisturbed and at ease.

John MacArthur closed a sermon on James 1:2-4 with an explanation of that Jeremiah text.  It has to do with wine-making. With dregs. Verse 12 says, “Neither has he been emptied from vessel to vessel, nor has he gone into exile. Therefore he retains his flavor and his aroma has not changed.” 

When wine is fermented initially it is a combination of what is sweet and what is bitter. The liquid was poured into a skin and left for a long time. Eventually, the bitter part would fall to the bottom and become what we call the dregs.

After a period of time what was on the surface was then poured into another skin and another passage of time would yield more dregs. After some time it would be poured into another skin and a few more dregs until finally it could be poured into a skin and there would be no dregs at all because all of that had been removed in that process.

What you had at the end was the pure wine.

Pure Sweet Wine

We want to be pure wine.. We don’t want to retain a bitter flavor and musty aroma.

But without trials- trials counted joy- we’ll stay bitter and musty. Moab’s problem was that he was never poured from trial to trial to trial. Moab’s sinful, bitter dregs never went out.

That’s why maybe we don’t always pray for smooth and ease. Why, by grace, we don’t fall apart when trials and delays come our way.  Why we can sayIf God needs to pour me from vessel to vessel, and trial to trial to so the sinful dregs of my life can fall to the bottom and pure, sweet wine of righteousness remains, then bring on the trials.

And, somehow, to count them all joy. Which means we learn to choose what we didn’t choose.

Choose What You Didn’t Choose

Choose to see the interruptions as sent by God for our good. See the sickness that keeps us home and flat tires that slow us down, infertility that blocks a dream and relationships that break our hearts as for our good. That we might be mature and complete, lacking nothing.

Christian joy is grounded in our union with Jesus, and that union, not our plans coming to pass is the fountain for our joy, which sounds and is supernatural. Murray M’Cheyne’s words, “It is always been my ambition to have no plans as regards myself.”

But that sure grates against our 21st century plan-oriented sensibility, doesn’t it?

Despite the autonomy and self-determination we have, much of life consists of things we didn’t choose. And as one friend just reflected—most of her life’s greatest joys were unplanned. Is that true for you?

Control is an illusion anyway, but we can choose joy.

Eggs

Because saint’s trials are purposeful. They come to test our faith. The boot box says waterproof, but we don’t know till we hike in the rain. We say we trust God, but we don’t know till trials come our way. Alistair Begg makes it plain, Faith is a muscle. Test it and it grows. Leave it alone and it atrophies. 

The pressure builds endurance. Kind of like boiling eggs. But if we pull the egg out before the pressure’s done, the good won’t come. If you don’t leave the egg in hot water long enough, it’ll be a useless mess.

Let perseverance finish its work, James 1:4 says. Get ‘er done, mama says. Finish the work. Don’t pull out of the pot before the pressure’s done.

South African pastor Andrew Murray shares four truths that helped him to joyfully endure trials:

  1. I am here (in this trial) by God’s appointment. It’s not haphazard.
  2. I am in his keeping. He will hold me fast.
  3. In appointing my trials and keeping me, I am in his training program.
  4. I am in his training program as long as he wants me there.

Choose what you didn’t choose. Count it all joy.  If we’re going to be spiritual adults we can’t be dodging his purposes.

Let the egg boil already.

Choose Joy

Alistair Begg says, trials responded to properly are always fruitful. That’s Begg’s code, I think, for Joy comes from choosing what you didn’t choose. 

We accept that life is change and until the day day we die there will choices made for us that we did not choose. And we can resent the choices we didn’t make for ourselves or we can choose joy.

This is the day that the Lord has made. Don’t waste it. Choose what you didn’t choose. Choose joy. Because Someone who knows the beginning and the end sees it all and steers it all and loves you more than you can fully know, let those trials meet you.

They were traced upon our dial by the Sun of Love.

If You Knew Everything He Knows

Tim Keller said it this way, God will only give you what you would have asked for if you knew everything he knows. 

The fullness of the Christian life is available where you are now. You don’t need a dreamy husband or cuddly kids. You can be full and complete without a great church that sings the songs you like and work and ministry you crave. I can be full and complete without a bigger blog or a published book.

Which is not to say, don’t change your circumstances if you can (see 1 Corinthians 7:20-31). But it is to say, don’t buy the lie you can’t be full and complete until you do.  In Christ, you can (see Colossians 2:9-12).

Fullness and joy comes from being with Christ. In your presence is fullness of joy, David knew.

So choose His presence. Joy will come.

The Lord sees further than I do; I only see things at present but the Lord sees a great while from now. 

And how do I know but that had it not been for this affliction, I should have been undone.  

Jeremiah Burroughs

Props to Skye Jethani for the phrase: Joy comes from choosing what you didn’t choose. (Listen to the full interview with Skye, here.)