uptomytoes

Hope & Humor for Single & Divorced Parents

Enough to be Happy and Healthy

dinner setting   Last evening I had the pleasure of sitting with an eighty-three year old gentleman at a church dinner in the fellowship hall of a lovely little Baptist church.  He was so sweet and kind.  A fellow that clearly had worked hard all his life.  He told me about his grandchildren and attending the dedication of his first grandchild recently.  Shared about losing his wife last February and how she had been sick for 10 years.  How the last 5 years had been very difficult after her stroke.  How he missed taking care of her.

Oh how blessed I was to hear this man’s story…told with gentleness, humor at times, an undercurrent of sorrow, and three (maybe four) helpings of dessert.  :)

He shared how one lady at church asked how he was doing – taking care of his wife, the house, and the big yard.  He said, “I keep it clean enough to be healthy, and dirty enough to be happy.”

I love that!

And something I find even more wonderful…this man meant it.  He didn’t just have a cute quip to share.  He understood living a full, busy, difficult life.  It encouraged me so much.

It was like a fresh breeze.  I didn’t realize how much I needed to be encouraged until I sat listening to this man share.  I didn’t realize how someone simply sharing their story could be such a blessing.  I don’t believe he shared with the intention of anything more than getting to know me.  He don’t think he even knows my circumstances.

It was delightful.

There haven’t been many people in my life who are willing to just take me as I am…who aren’t telling me what I should or shouldn’t be doing.  I’m weary of being advised.  I’m weary of feeling like I pretty much mostly disappoint people.

And that leads me to my second encounter at church this evening.  One of the most amazing women I’ve ever met approached me and apologized that she hadn’t reached out to me more.  I hadn’t expected it.

This woman…she has lost so much more than I can imagine.  Her young son went to be with the Lord last year.  It takes my breath away to even consider the loss.  And here she was apologizing to me!  But then she said something that struck me…something I needed to hear…she said that those feelings of always disappointing others were probably the lies of Satan.  I said, “Yes, I think you’re right.”

Do I?  Do I think she’s right?

I absolutely do.

I think that every time those thoughts come into my head I need to take them captive.  I need to recognize them for what they are…just like this dear lady did.

Those aren’t my only thoughts that need to be thrown way far away.

The thoughts like:

“No one will ever really and truly love me…just me.”

‘There is something wrong with me and I don’t know exactly what it is – no one will be faithful to me.”

“I’m an awful mother.”

“I haven’t made one good decision yet.”

“I’ll never get it all together…I’ll always be a mess.”  (Well, that one might be true. J)

I spend a lot of time thinking about all the things I’m not good at, all the things I do wrong, all the people I disappoint, all the times I could have made different decisions….I could go on and on and on.

But, I don’t need to…it’s bad for me.

I think right now I just want to remind myself that there are thoughts that aren’t worth having.

And just sitting with a friend – old or new – and sharing life is a blessing beyond compare.

Isn’t God amazing?  I would never have guessed that a simple lasagna dinner on Styrofoam plates at church could encourage me so much, but it did.  Totally God.

He knew that today I would need encouraging…today I would need to remember to take thoughts captive and that perfection isn’t possible.  That healthy and happy are great goals.

Lord, thank you for the reminder of your faithfulness, care, and love in these little things…these little moments of blessing.

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The Burden of Blessing

IMG_3433Today I am at my home and it is quiet and peaceful and I’m feeling blessed to be here.  The kids are sleeping soundly (and late woohoo!!)  I debated if I should enjoy this blissful quiet asleep or awake.  I opted for awake.  So rarely do I get a moment of solitude and quiet.  I’m so thankful!

For the past 4 months we have been staying with family and I cannot say how thankful I am for it.  But it would be a lie to say it hasn’t been difficult, stressful and exhausting on many levels. And it would definitely be a contradiction of all that I’ve been sharing for the past few months in my blog.  Sometimes blessings can be difficult.  The blessing of a place to stay during our transition is huge, the stress of that blessing is also huge.

Sometimes I wonder if a blessing can’t also be a burden.  I’m sure there are many that will disagree with me because it sounds wrong to say a blessing can be a burden, but I believe it’s true.

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.  1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

I think I’ve known for a long time that I can find a blessing even in my burdens, but I haven’t flipped it around before.  I haven’t realized that my blessings can sometimes be burdens as well.

But the more I’ve pondered, the more I’m thinking this is true.

Parenting is absolutely a blessing, but I cannot deny it is a burden to be sure.  Dealing with my children and the responsibility of raising them well can most definitely be a burden.  A welcome burden, but a burden nonetheless.

As a parent, I burden my children with chores to give them the blessing of understanding the value of work done well, of responsibility, and of being part of a family.  I’m fairly certain that none of them would refer to those things as blessings…well, at least most of the time.

A home is a blessing, but when there are issues it can most definitely be a burden.  Broken things, dripping things, creaky things, wobbly things…just lots of things that aren’t fun, but I’m sure thankful for the shelter.

Work is a blessing, but it seriously can be a burden.

It’s a bit embarrassing to think that at the moment I’m having to remind myself to be thankful for my blessings.

Shouldn’t that be a given?  Unfortunately,  I think it has been easier for me to focus on the burden aspect of the blessing than the blessing part of the blessing.

Maybe I’m throwing that blessing word around too much…but I can’t think of a good synonym for blessing.  Benediction doesn’t really work.  Approval and encouragement don’t really apply either.  Merriam-Webster defines blessing as “something that helps you or brings happiness.”  I suppose saying that something that brings me help or happiness is a burden is a bit odd.

But in God’s economy, maybe not.

I attend a great Bible study on Sunday nights.  The teacher said that when we pray for things, such as patience or courage, God is going to give us opportunities to exercise patience or be courageous. The blessings of patience and courage are going to come with the burden of experiencing situations that require us to be patient and courageous.  (That is one of those think-well-before-I-pray-this-prayer prayers!)  The blessing of being a patient, courageous, kind, or loving person comes with the burden of having to develop those traits.

We have all probably experienced the phenomenon that blessings don’t always come in the ways we expect them.  Many of the blessings I’ve experienced have come by way of difficulties and trials.  Those blessings are some of the most precious.  Just like labor and delivery – the pain and discomfort brings forth a great blessing!

Maybe the housing situation, although difficult, is not just a blessing of shelter, but a blessing of character-building, of refining, of eye-opening.

Maybe a job, although time-consuming and stressful, is not just a blessing of provision, but a blessing of purpose and ministry.

Maybe parenting, although exhausting and overwhelming at times, is not just a blessing of children, but a blessing of understanding the Father’s love for us.

Maybe all the things in our life are so much deeper and richer because God uses everything – those things we perceive as “good” and those things we perceive as “bad” – to bless us both in the present and the future.

I’m blown away right now.  I have been so easily frustrated and upset by things in my life and haven’t been able to see the good in much.  And if I do happen to notice it at all, I’m quickly overtaken by all the feelings of discouragement that keep me from focusing on the blessings for what they are….blessings.  It has been entirely too easy for me to see only the burden and miss the blessing.

I’m not sure that I know exactly how to “fix” myself, but God does.  He has definitely given me some great ideas in His word.

1.Take my thoughts captive.  (2 Corinthians 10:5)

2.Do not be anxious. (Philippians 4:6-7)

3.Hide His word in my heart. (Psalm 119:11)

4.Take heart. (John 16:33)

5.Trust God.  (Proverbs 3:5-6)

6.Keep an eternal perspective. (2 Corinthians 4:17)

And once again, I’m brought back to the word of God.  Back to the strength and perspective offered there.  Back to the power of His word…the power of Jesus.

I was reminded recently of one of Paul’s prayers in Ephesians 1:15-23  – maybe this is the prayer we can pray for ourselves and for each other.

15 For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, 16 I have not stopped giving thanks for you,remembering you in my prayers. 17 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit[f] of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. 18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength 20 he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.

You know, I just have to include the other prayer in Ephesians 3.

14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family[a] in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine…There really isn’t more to say is there?  What a mighty loving God we serve!

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I Need Therapy…of sorts.

photo (35)

This is gonna sound funny….but I feel like I’ve written all this before…its like deja vu in blogging – which is weird.   So if I have said this all before, word for word, forgive me please.   It totally is where I am apparently AGAIN.

Right now I should be preparing for my first formal observation or sleeping, but instead I find myself opening a new totally blank Word document.  It has been a long time since I’ve had a moment to jot down any thoughts, but I find myself needing some “writing therapy” badly.

Tonight was a difficult night…there are a lot of those lately…I think I know why.  I know that all these transitions have been very difficult on some of my children and they are acting out.  Unfortunately, all these transitions have been difficult on me and I’m acting out too.

There once was a time that I would consider myself a gentle and patient mother.  Although I’d be hard-pressed at this point to remember when that was.  It just seems like I’ve been living in a perpetual state of annoyance and frustration…which makes me anything but gentle.

I’m finding myself close to tears more than not.  I’m a dam ready to burst.  And I’m afraid of the day that it happens, because the occasional trickling and leaking is pretty discouraging and quite a sight to behold.

There are days I just want to holler, “I can’t do this anymore!”  Not even I don’t want to…I can’t.

Actually, I’ve said that a lot.  God has heard that refrain often over the past few months.  And yet each morning I get up and do what needs to be done…not necessarily with a good attitude and definitely without a lot of sleep, but I do it.  And the only reason that I can is because God enables me to…otherwise I’d be hiding under the covers, no, make that under the bed or in the closet or in the attic…somewhere where I’d be very hard to find.

I want desperately to do the mommy-thing well, the teacher-thing well, the student-thing well, the daughter, sister, friend things well.  I don’t think I’m doing any of them with much success, or consistent success.  I definitely feel like the fussy mommy, the scatterbrained teacher, and the pathetic student, and the nut job daughter, sister friend right now.

I hate to even write that – I feel like I should have a better attitude about myself.  I am God’s precious daughter – not a failure.  It just feels like I am.

But are my feelings accurate?  I don’t think so.  In fact, I know they aren’t.  Even if they aren’t accurate, I do know my feelings well…and they are all over the place sometimes.

I wish that I could figure out how to get out of this funk.  I just don’t see a way.  I don’t see a way for more sleep or rest or even quiet.  I don’t see a way for more time to study, prepare, or assess.  I don’t see a way to spend more time with my children…more calm, fun and less harried, less stressed time.  I don’t see how to get my house ready to sell so I can move into a better living situation.  I don’t see how to do anything easily or quickly.

We are in a difficult living situation right now and I don’t know how to change it yet.  My job is time-consuming (to put it mildly) and sometimes I feel so confused and behind and overwhelmed by all that needs to be done and all that I want to do.  My children all need me desperately and I want to give them so much more than I feel capable of giving right now…I’m running on empty.  (A description that doesn’t match with my dam bursting…how about empty of everything but tears.)

I believe this is a part of single parenting…the difficulty of doing it all.  And, unless you have been a single parent, it truly is hard to comprehend or understand.  Lately, a lot (A LOT) of people have given me advice, mostly unsolicited.  I really would prefer not to be told what I need to change or not change, to think or not think, to pray or not pray, to do or not do, to feel or not feel…honestly, I think I’d rather just pray and read the Word to get that information.  But, I think because I’m single and harried people feel they must help…sometimes that help is so hurtful though.  Just being honest.  (I digress…I believe that last paragraph should be a different blog – but here it is anyway!)

Okay, so now I’ve shared all my fussiness with you, what do I do now?  How in the world do I move beyond this emotional, difficult, overwhelming, and frustrating place?

Honestly, I don’t think I can.

I don’t think that I can change much about my life and maybe I’d feel a whole lot better if I stopped thinking that I could.

I don’t believe that God wants me to spend my time trying to figure out how to get out of the life I’m living.  I believe He wants me to LIVE…live where He has me with His strength, peace, hope and love in my life.

This week I’m trying to remember that my God is sovereign.  Not only sovereign, but good and faithful.  That even though I’d really like to “fix” my situation, I’m beginning…just beginning…to get the fact that I don’t need to fret.  Oh, how I fret!  After all the many ways God has shown himself faithful, I find myself continually twisted up inside like a pretzel…worried, anxious, frustrated.  How and why is that even possible?

I’ve been trying and trying and trying to make things happen, but things don’t seem to be moving forward like I thought they would.  I keep having to wait on things…I hate waiting.  Really.

But tonight…I’m reminding myself that God will only call me to wait if it is best.  And I want best. Best is best.

So tonight, I’m going to bed in a few minutes and I’m determined to sleep more than 6 minutes.  In the morning I’m going to pray hard and trust God’s goodness and timing…but I’m also going to pray hard that things get better, easier, and less stressful.

I can trust Him.  My God is good all the time…all the time!

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My Life…Living It

autumn trailThank you so much for all your encouraging words and prayers.  I feel badly that I have used this blog so often to share my struggles, and lately not as much my blessings.

I kinda feel like I’m just plugging along waiting for God to “fix” some things.  He definitely doesn’t work on my schedule…at all…I mean….AT ALL!

But He has encouraged me this week, and for that I’m so very thankful.

I’ve been doing a study on the book of Hebrews…not an easy study, but very good.  This week I was asked to read about the Israelites, particularly the part where they are complaining. That is a BIG part of their history. And mine. I know that I have compared myself to the Israelites before…I’m a grumbler just like them, dang it.

Did you ever think about the fact that the Israelites who had to wander in the wilderness because of their unwillingness to trust God were the generation who had witnessed all of the signs and wonders of God?  That hit me this week.

Those people had lived through the plagues of Egypt….they’d witnessed God changing the hearts of the Egyptians so much so that they gave them jewelry and animals and stuff to take on their journey…they’d followed the pillar of smoke during the day and been comforted by the pillar of fire at night, they’d walked through a wall of water, they’d eaten manna, feasted on quail and seen water come from a rock…Good grief!  It seems like even one of those signs or wonders would be enough to convince someone to follow God forever.

And yet, they struggled.  They weren’t worse people than us…in fact, they were very much like we are now.

Lord, give me a sign.  Lord, this is too hard.  Lord, I know you promised, but I’d sure like it now.  Lord, that Promised Land looks scary.  Lord, are you sure?  Lord, this way looks so much better, easier, nicer, fun…  Lord, do you mind if I just do my own thing this one time?  Lord?

In my life…I really wish that things had already changed…that things had gotten better by now – better in my terms.

This place that I am…I wonder…Is it my Egypt?  My wilderness?  Or is it my walk into the Promised Land?

I don’t believe it is my Egypt…I’m no longer a slave.  Jesus made sure of that.

Is it my wilderness?  I guess I have to evaluate my life…my walk with the Lord.  Have I missed milk and honey for caffeine and sugar?  (Pretty much living on caffeine and sugar :) )

I don’t think I’m in a wilderness.  I think I’m where God wants me.  Oh gosh, I hope so.

Am I walking to the Promised Land?  I believe I am on that journey…maybe it’s not the journey to a promised land here on earth, maybe it’s THE Promised Land.

But maybe trying to match my walk with the Israelites isn’t exactly the walk I should be trying to match.  There are other stories…other people with unique walks.

Maybe my story is gonna be more like Joseph – lots of hard stuff before the great reveal.

Maybe my story is gonna be more like Ruth – sorrow, hard work, barley and Boaz.

Maybe my story is gonna be more like Esther – a season of service, preparation, fasting, then feasting.

Maybe my story is gonna be more like Peter – some dipping below the surface of the stormy sea, some denial, and some serious forgiveness.

Maybe I’m a little bit like all of them…a combination of chaos!  :)  Well, not chaos…just a little bit of crazy.

I wonder if I should stop trying to figure out whose life my life is like and just live the life God has given me to live.

My life.

Exhausting, but blessed.

I used to keep a list of thing I considered blessings.  Things like the colors of fall, playing the piano, the sound of tires driving on gravel, waves crashing on the beach, a breeze blowing the curtains, hot cocoa in coffee, a hug from one of my children, a text from a friend…there were (and are) so many things in any given day that were a blessing.  I’ve lost sight of that.  I’ve forgotten to count my blessings.

Again.

How often am I going to forget to count blessings?  (Don’t answer that.  I’m ashamed what your guess would be…especially based on my blogging.)

So this study in Hebrews has reminded me of some things to be thankful for.  I’ll share a few that have comforted and convicted me.

“…his works were finished from the foundation of the world.” 4:3  (Nothing left to do!)

“Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.  Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”  4:14-16

“Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.”  7:25

“For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.” 9:24

“…so Christ having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.” 9:28

“…let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.  Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.” 10:22-23

“Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward.  For you have need of endurance so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised…But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.” 10:35-36,39

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”  12:1-2

I know that’s a lot of verses, but I couldn’t figure out which one I’d want to leave out!  I love them all.  Studying scripture is so encouraging…so edifying.  God does still speak so strongly through His word.  I’m so thankful for His word!  There!! That’s the first thing I’ll add to my new thankful list I’m gonna restart tonight.

What a perfect time to get back to thanking God for things!

I don’t know that it’ll fix my life, but an attitude, outlook, and perspective fix will definitely be a good thing…actually, it’ll be a great thing!

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Hanging by a Thread

threadTonight was exceedingly rough.  I really dislike those nights.  So instead of sleeping I decided to write.  I can’t sleep anyway…don’t want to wake up any friends…and I’ve already poured out my heart to God face first in the carpet.

I’m back to those days.

My face in the carpet days.

I don’t have a closet to hide in anymore…oh how I miss my closet.

One of the many things that broke my heart tonight was all my interactions with my littlest girl.  The transitions our family has made have been really very difficult for her.  She is feisty anyway and put a change in the mix and she’s just…well, REALLY feisty.

Unfortunately I have about 2 minutes worth of patience left at the end of the day and I can’t seem to be the mommy I want to be.

I want so much to be kind, gentle, and patient mommy, but right now I’m so blasted tired after work and staying up late to finish coursework or classwork or planning or grading or just being plain sleepless like tonight.

So I get fussy about my daughter’s fussiness and then mommy guilt comes crashing down.

I’m gone more than I am with my children.  It is yet another huge change that has occurred in my life in the past 5 years.  And, honestly, I hate it.

In my short amount of time with my children I want to love on them…and yet, this little one and I can seem to do nothing but butt heads.  According to her, I’m the meanest mommy ever.  Of course that is her response to being in trouble.

Tonight I told her that it was her choice whether she got nice mommy or mean mommy.  It sounded good in theory…at least it did about 2 seconds before I spoke it aloud.

But something seemed off…I couldn’t put my finger on it until she and I talked later.  I told her, “You have to make better choices.”  She gave me the reasons for her bad choices and all involved other people.

To which I said, ‘You can’t let other people determine how you are going to act.  Your behavior is your choice.”

Ouch.

THAT’s why my good mommy/bad mommy comment didn’t feel right.

Why does my 7 year olds’ behavior determine mine?

I’ll tell you why…I’M HANGING BY A THREAD!

Tonight as I lie in bed trying desperately to fall asleep, feeling like I’m going to have a heart attack, and begging God for something…I don’t know what…I began to pray more than I have in days, weeks.

I realized that the things that have changed in my life lately have been very good in some ways, and just so very difficult in others.  I have such guilt for working…such guilt for not providing a better situation for my children…such guilt for being tired, impatient, easily angered, and overwhelmed.

And sometimes I just want desperately to go back to life before…not even life before divorce, but life right after.  Life when everything was awful but I had perspective and peace.

I want perspective and peace again.

I know why I don’t have it though.  I haven’t made any time to pray…just those “Hail Mary” prayers I make on a daily basis.

I don’t make time to be in the Word – that would make such a difference.  I really need to do that…forgo more sleep I suppose.  Ugh, how is that even possible?

I don’t really know but that will be my first prayer…that God would provide time in the Word.

My second will be that God would provide time with my children…good, fun time with my children.

My third will be that God will enable me to handle the responsibilities He has given me with more grace and peace.  (I’m too afraid to pray for patience).

My fourth will be that God gives me perspective on my life…that I will remember that He is sovereign and I am not.  Good gravy – I have control issues.

I made decisions based on the knowledge that I had.  I trusted that God was leading me.  I did that whole step out in faith thing.  And although tonight I’m a mess, I know that God led me.

I just need to keep reminding myself that just because things are hard doesn’t mean that they are wrong.

I need to handle things better. God has given me the tools to handle things…His word, His strength, His wisdom, His peace.

I need those things very much.

And God gives them…just need to ask.

I’m asking.

Still hanging by a thread….but I’m thinking now it might be changing to a thread of hope.

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.  Romans 12:12

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Strength for the Weary Warrior

silly knightYears ago I lead a women’s retreat called “How to Dress Like a Warrior.”

Lately I have felt anything but warrior-like.  If I am a warrior, I’m definitely a weary warrior.

Today I reread Ephesians 6:10-11

Finally be strong in the LORD and in his mighty power. 

Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.

I thought I’d look up the word might in my mighty big concordance.  It pretty much means strength, might, and power.   So I decided to look up other verses about God’s might…I’m in awe.

 The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. 

He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. 

He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases his strength. 

Isaiah 40:28-31

 

WOW!!!! Did I need to read those verses right this very minute!  I can’t even begin to tell you how weary and faint and NOT mighty I am right now.

There is just no way around the tired…believe me, I’ve looked.  I’ve tried to get rest… get on top of things…have less going on…take charge…let go…hang on…release…you know, everything that is supposed to make life easier, but nothing really changes the crux of the matter.

I’m a single working mom with a bunch of sweeties…throw in trying to sell a house, find a house, prepare lessons, grade papers, deal with family issues, financial issues, and continuing ex-husband issues…well, there is no way to avoid the tired.

And sometimes when I consider the armor of God, I wonder if I’m even wearing it.   Sometimes it feels like I’m in a battle wearing my pjs and my only weapon is a feather pillow.

I was thinking about that verse – Be strong in the Lord and the power of His might.  I’m thinking that means that before the armor goes on I need to have the Lord’s strength working in my life.  Otherwise I’m just putting on my own armor – my own righteousness, my own truth, my own salvation, my own everything.

And honestly, I’ve got cruddy armor.

My breastplate is dented.  My shoes are Dollar Tree flip flops.  My shield is made of cardboard.  My helmet is an old baseball cap.  My sword…well, it’s more like a toothpick.  You get the idea.

If the armor must be God’s, I’m thinking the strength must be His as well.

In the New Testament that strength is often equated with the resurrection of Jesus.  Everything truly does go back to Jesus and the gospel.  I can live a life of victory and strength because of Jesus’ victory and strength on the Cross.

There’s a quote by Matthew Henry which basically says that no matter how good your armor is on the outside, if you don’t have a good heart on the inside, it’s useless.

“Let a solider be ever so well-armed without, if he have not within a good heart, his armour will stand him in little stead.”  Matthew Henry

I could have all that righteousness, faith, salvation, truth, and even the gospel, but if it all hasn’t reached my heart…it’s not of much use to me.  And if the foundation of my faith is not God’s strength, but my own…well, let’s just say that’s not much of a firm foundation.

Maybe things have been so difficult lately because I’m trying to do all this in my own might? Unfortunately I’m not sure how to do it any other way.  How do I not do everything that needs to be done…and what does it look like to do things in God’s strength, not my own?

In each ridiculously busy day, what do I give to God?  What do I let go of?  I wish I knew right now…I wish the next paragraph in this blog would hold the key to letting go and letting God.

But maybe it isn’t so much about me doing anything more or less.  Maybe it is more about me having a shift in my mindset.  Maybe I need to re-evaluate what is causing me to feel so weary.  Could it be my own expectations?  My wish and hope to have a different life?  Discontentment?  Fear?  Insecurities?  Anxiety?  Anger? Bitterness? Frustration?  Probably some of those, maybe all…depending on the day.

I keep trying to figure out how to make this life easier…get off the battlefield.  I don’t think that is God’s plan for me yet.  I think the plan is to teach me to trust despite the battle…to smile despite the frustrations…to be thankful despite the weariness…to praise despite the problems.

And as I’m listing some of what causes me angst, I’m thinking that part of the change in perspective might be stopping all the focusing on the battles, frustrations, weariness, and problems.

Good gravy!  There are good things in my life too!  The blessing of children.  The love of friends.  The provision of a place to stay, a car, a job, and food on the table.  There’s even things like beautiful clothes to wear, inspiring music to listen to, and wonderful books to read (if I had time to read).

Most morning on my way to work, I see gorgeous sunrises.  I’m also blessed to drive through a park that is often filled with deer walking quietly through the morning mist.  It is exquisite and peaceful.  A truly wonderful way to start my day!

In the evening, I can step outside and look up at thousands of twinkling stars…again exquisite and peaceful.  God does offer me peace, rest, and opportunities for thankfulness and praise.  If I would but open my eyes and take a minute away from the stress of my circumstances, I think I’d see so many more things to inspire and bless!

There will always be things that distract us…things that cause us to take our eyes off of Christ…things that sap our strength…BUT nothing can sap God’s strength!  And if God is the source of our strength, we do not need to fear the frustrations of life, we can rest assured He will provide all that we need…even the armor to get us through the battle.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine,

according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church

and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen!  Ephesians 3:20-21

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Leaps of Faith or Waiting on the Lord?

Sometimes life comes at ya kinda fast, doesn’t it?photo (32)

I feel like for the last 4 weeks I’ve done nothing but rush and run and rush some more.

I made decisions…took leaps of faith…and God opened doors just when I thought I was going to hit another wall.

My journal has been full of questions like, “Am I moving forward when I should be standing still?”

“Should I be stepping out in faith or should I be waiting on the Lord?”  “Should I be seeking more counsel or searching more Scripture?”  “Am I discontent or being moved by the Spirit?”

And honestly, a lot of the counsel I got was contradictory…like those questions. 

I decided to take steps forward and pray, “What now, Lord?”

And the Lord answered. 

Just when I thought that time was up God flung open a door and I grabbed my children’s hands and jumped through it.

About 3 weeks ago I saw an ad for an English teacher position in a great school district.  On Wednesday I applied for it, on Friday I interviewed for it, on Monday I accept it and on Wednesday I started it.  It was the craziest 7 days!

So now my children and I have moved (sorta) and I have started teaching 6th grade English.  It has been exciting but absolutely and thoroughly exhausting! 

There doesn’t seem to be time to do anything but work, drive children around, be with my children, and do the regular everyday stuff of living.

I’m ever so grateful though.  God is so good.  I, once again, feel like David who was in awe of God’s goodness to him and his family.

Then King David went in and sat before the LORD and said, “Who am I, O Lord GOD, and what is my house, that you have brought me thus far?  And yet this was a small thing in your eyes, O Lord GOD.  You have spoken also of your servant’s house for a great while to come, and this is instruction for mankind, O Lord God!  And what more can David say to you?  For you know your servant, O Lord God!  Because of your promise, and according to your own heart, you have brought about all this greatness, to make your servant know it.  Therefore you are great, O Lord GOD.  For there is none like you, and there is no God besides you, according to all that we have heard with our ears.

2 Samuel 7:18-22

I so often feel overwhelmed by God’s goodness.  I’m thankful that even when I struggle with trusting Him about things…when I feel afraid, anxious, and frustrated…He doesn’t fold His arms, shake His head, and say, “Well, if you aren’t going to trust Me, then you can just sit there and I’m not gonna do a thing for you.” 

Instead He looks on me “according to [his] own heart” and does what He does best…loves me and takes care of me and all my stuff.

It is in these moments when I wonder why I struggle so…why were the last few months so full of difficulties…why can’t I just trust Him? 

I think I could say that I’m a lot like the father with the sick child who pleaded with Jesus, “I believe, help my unbelief!” (Mark 8:24)

I believe God answers prayer and I believe God has absolutely only our best in His plan and I believe God loves me more than I can imagine, but I know, from experience, that sometimes the plan hurts.  The plan can be quite difficult….excruciatingly difficult.  I know that sometimes the answer is no or not yet.  I know that sometimes God lets us wait so we learn patience and trust…so our faith can be strengthened in the process.

And here I am…I want quick solutions, fast answers, easy plans, and some peace and rest in the process.

Who doesn’t want those things, right?

But God desires us…not necessarily us doing something better or different or faster or quicker or more patiently or more kindly…although all those things can be very good…God wants ME.  He wants all of me. 

Me…the stressed single mom.

Me…the worried woman.

Me…the tense new teacher.

Me…the exhausted one. :)

I kept thinking while I was waiting for direction that I must have been doing something wrong…that I was too much of a mess, too anxious, focused on the wrong thing…that I was missing something.  It was something I was or wasn’t doing. 

But God has reminded me once again that it is ME He wants.  Me…in whatever goofy state I’m in.

There is so much beauty in that.

I don’t have to worry or stress or fuss.  I don’t have to do or not do something.  I don’t have to think or be or say or not think or not be or not say something. 

My life is not defined by me…it is defined by Him. 

He is my life.

Set your mind 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 3:2-4

I’m praying that I will remember these days of provision…that I will build a little place of remembrance in my heart and mind so I won’t forget that even though I had to wait a bit and things were uncertain, God was faithful…as always.

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Why not talk to God?

photo 1 (3)I shared recently about the big decisions I need to make and how much I was struggling to make them.

It has been a season of tremendous confusion for me…no easy answers, no straight, lighted path before me, nothing uncomplicated.

I kept asking God to just make things clear to me.  I kept telling Him that I would go or be wherever He wanted me to go or be…just please tell me!

But as I have shared before, I kept looking to others to help me decide…to wrestle through decisions with me.

I wanted friends willing to listen to me say or ask the same thing 15 times in 15 different ways.  I needed to grapple and ponder and brainstorm.  And I didn’t want to do it alone.

This single parent decision-making thing can be a lonely business.

And for someone who likes to think out loud, it is torturous…unfortunately I think I’ve been torturing everyone around me.  I put my friends and family in the position of having to hear me think out loud a lot.

I spent a lot time trying to find someone…anyone…that would tell me what to do!  I’m surprised they all didn’t run away from me.

I felt such a burden to figure things out…just to make a decision already.

I wanted to talk (and talk and talk…)

And it struck me

Why not talk to God?

Maybe that desire to think out loud is really more about a desire to pray.  I just hadn’t thought of it that way before.

I’d been so busy looking for someone to lead me that I’d missed talking to the One who is my Leader.  I’m truly like a silly little sheep.  I have The Good Shepherd as my guide and I’m not looking to Him.  I’m looking around to anyone and everyone to give me answers, direction, and guidance.

He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.  Isaiah 40:11

But God in His graciousness did indeed provide.

First it was a dear friend who, while in the midst of her own health crisis, willingly listened to my life circumstances and shared her thoughts.  I’m in of God’s provision.

She asked me where I wanted to be in 5 years.   She said, “Focus on where you want to be, rather than all the little things that need to happen to get there.”

At first I thought, “How in the world do I do THAT?  There are things that need to be done…decisions that need to be made and actions that need to be taken!”

But the more I thought about it the more I realized that if I trust God’s leading, I must also trust that He will provide a way.

I kept thinking of the priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant who had to step into the river before it parted.  Maybe I need to be willing to do that as well…take a step of faith.

So when the people set out from their tents to pass over the Jordan with the priests bearing the ark of the covenant before the people, and as soon as those bearing the ark had come as far as the Jordan, and the feet of the priests bearing the ark were dipped in the brink of the water (now the Jordan overflows all its banks throughout the time of harvest), the waters coming down from above stood and rose up in a heap very far away… Joshua 3:14-16

A lot grabs me in those verses…but one thing that stuck out was that the Lord wants us know that this was not an easy wade in the water…this was an overflowing river.  Probably seemed a bit daunting to those priests, but they trusted that God was going to make a way for them to follow His leading and they took a step of faith.

God gave direction and then provided the way.

I want that.

I want direction…clear direction…obvious direction…a well-lit straight path ahead.  I’m finding that God doesn’t often choose that path for me.  My path is more often than not a little dark so I can only see a step or two in front of me.  I cannot even see a bit up the path.  It is always, and I mean always, a bit curvy and rocky.  I’m walking slowly, deliberately and with anxiety in my heart for what lies ahead.  I want to make decisions that I know will turn out well…decisions that have a happy ending.

I know I can trust God.  I also know I can trust that God’s word is true.  And His word says that I will have trouble.  I’ve been living in the trouble times…I long for peaceful.  I’m always worried that my decisions will lead to more troubled times. Lord, forgive me for my fear and anxious thoughts.

But I also know that there is peace in making a decision and trusting God with the outcome.  I want to make a decision and have the outcome guaranteed…guaranteed to end the way I want.  But God says that He guarantees the outcome to be for His glory and my good…not that it will be my “perfect” outcome.

As I was wresting with my hope for perfection, God continued to bless me.  My one sister, who loves me and all my goofiness, was willing to listen, brainstorm and pray with me until the wee hours of the morning.  My sister, the one I grew up with, is also my sister in Christ.  And what a blessing she is to me!

I shared with her all my thoughts, concerns, fears, and ideas…and she listened patiently, and even laughed at all my jokes! (That is definitely a blessed thing J!)

As we talked through my situation, she said some things that really struck me:

If I love Christ and live my life for Him, He WILL lead me.

If my desire is to glorify Him and bless others, He will work in my situation to those ends.

Sometimes a decision just needs to be made and God will take care of the rest.

And finally, she reminded me of Philippians 4:7, “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

That term guard was what she wanted me to notice. It’s actually a military term.  Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance says that to guard means: “‘a sentinel, guard’ – to guard (keep watch) like a military sentinel; (figuratively) to actively display whatever defensive and offensive means are necessary to guard.”

God’s peace guards our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus.  He is willing to do whatever is necessary to protect our hearts and our minds.

So if that is true…why do I so often feel so little peace?

I don’t believe it is because God is doing anything wrong…I believe that it is because I’m seeking that peace in my circumstances…in my decisions.

My sister pointed out that God’s peace is something I have regardless of my circumstances, my decisions and their outcomes.

It is my decision to live in that peace that God does and will always guard.  I’m blessed by that realization…that reminder.

And I’m grabbing hold of that reminder…no, I’m grabbing hold of that peace.

My big decision is one of the biggest of my single mom life…and one of the top ten of my life to this point.

I know that regardless of my decision, God will not leave me nor forsake me.

And regardless of my decision, God’s peace is mine.

Oh how desperately I want that peace.  It seems so “christianeze-ish”  (my word) for me to say I will live in God’s peace regardless of things going on…and it also seems a bit sketchy that I would say that after all I’ve written about struggle and anxiety and fear…BUT….

That peace is God’s…not mine. It’s a God thing.  And I will grab hold of it and I will focus on it and I will study it and I will live it because God is guarding me with it.

I’m so thankful for my Lord, for my friend and for my sister.

God will lead me even if it isn’t with lightning bolts and neon signs…it might be a late night talk or a quiet morning studying His the Word or a little bit of both or He might just guide me to make a decision and trust Him.

My decision right now is to take a big step of faith. I’m moving forward without a definite plan, but with hope and peace that as I step out God will guide.  I’m taking a big step and praying fervently that God will make clear paths where I see none right now.

I’m trusting God will lead me…and I’m excited to see what He shows me.

In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.  Proverbs 16:9

The steps of a man are established by the LORD, when he delights in his way; though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong, for the LORD upholds his hand.  Psalm 37:23-24

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Who Am I Going With?

photo (31)Again I’m faced with big decisions…

Again…

Do you hear the underlying groan in my writing?

I sat with my dear friend and prayer partner recently and said, “I’m tired of trying to discern God’s will.”

I felt so ungodly saying that…so grumpy, tired, and sinful.

I want to be better at it.

I feel like I must be doing something wrong…or not doing something right. 

Lord, why does it feel so difficult to know what to do?  Why can’t I figure things out?  Why is this so hard?  Am I doing something wrong?  Am I missing something?

I have prayed…and prayed…and prayed.

I have sought wisdom in Scripture.

I have asked way too many friends for advice…I think I just really really want someone to tell me what to do.

SOMEONE JUST TELL ME WHAT TO DO!

And yet, I know….I KNOW…I know that God wants me to just rest in Him.  

One of my friends reminded me that God wants me to remain constantly dependent on Him.  I’m not feeling dependent.  I’m feeling crazy, slightly insane, and very, very frustrated.

Looking back I’m hard pressed to say that I’ve made any truly successful decisions on my own in the past 5 years…I know I’m probably being hard on myself, but that’s how I’m feeling right now.  I can’t think of one thing I haven’t looked back on and said, “If only…”

What a lousy way to live.

I’m pretty certain that that is not what God wants me to be thinking…after all, do I trust Him, or not?

Seriously, do I trust Him? 

Because this stress cannot be from Him…and these anxious thoughts and overwhelming fears can’t be from Him.

But how do I stop them?  How do I get past the fear…the anxious thoughts…the exhaustion?

I often pray that God will help me focus on Him…keep to the path…not go to the right or the left when I should be heading forward.

Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you. Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure. Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil.  Proverbs 4:25-27

I think I get hung up on the “ponder the path of your feet” part.  I ponder…and ponder…and ponder.  Oh my golly I’m so sick of pondering!

I think about everything and how it is going to impact everything else…how things might turn out…how things might impact or affect each of my children…I wonder about how the decisions of the past will impact the decisions I need to make…I wonder what will become of me and my children…will this decision grow their faith…will bad things happen….will good things happen?  Am I ever going to make a decision I’m truly comfortable with?

Once again, for the 40-somethingth year, I’m focusing on my circumstances rather than my Savior….WHEN will I learn this lesson?

I’m looking at my feet rather than directly forward…I’m not looking at Jesus. 

I’m so focused on where I’m going that I forget Who I’m going with. 

I’m so worried about the future that I’m forgetting the Father.

If I truly believe that the Father holds my future…WHY do I worry so?  Why do I get all wiggy about things?

If I believe that He does work all things together for good for those who love Him and who He has called, then I know that no matter what decision I make He will work good. 

So maybe the issue is that I want things to get “fixed” – I want a different situation…an easier life…less complication, more calm. 

I’m not so sure that God’s good is always easier…peaceful yes, but not necessarily easier.

Drat…I wanted easier.

I’m tired of being tired…exhausted by exhaustion…frustrated by frustration…

BUT isn’t that MY issue? 

God doesn’t say I need to do something or live a certain way without providing a way to do it.  There has to be a way to live like more than a conqueror even in this place I am.  A way to 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

I never noticed the words “full effect” before…I mean I never really thought about them.  I think maybe what that is saying is to let life happen and grow from it.  That makes sense because steadfastness also means patience, perseverance, endurance and fidelity. 

Maybe part of counting it all joy is allowing the trials to happen…living the life of trials without trying to fix something that is not within our power to truly fix. 

Maybe we are to patiently allow it to work in our lives…allow the trials to mold us…to make us complete.

That really wasn’t the answer I was looking for…I was hoping for something more like: “Count it all joy my brothers when you meet trials of various kinds, because God’s got the quick fix.”

So I’m back to…do I trust Him?

Do I trust His timing?  His provision?  His care of my children?  His plan for my life?

Do I trust that He can work through any decision I make? 

Do I trust that He can do immeasurably more than all I ask or imagine…but that might mean it doesn’t look at all like I’d hoped but it will still be good?

Do I trust Him to love me regardless of my mistakes and missteps?                                        

Do I trust that He will lead me?

Do I trust Him?

I do trust Him even though at times I don’t understand what He is allowing or doing or not doing at all.

I do trust Him even when I desperately what Him to fix things for us and His timing is very slow in my estimation.

I do trust Him even when I feel like I can’t bear one more decision…one more heartache…one more difficulty…one more broken anything.

I do trust Him when I can’t provide for my children like I’d like to.

I do trust Him when things don’t go the way I thought they would…and my way seems soo much better.

I do trust Him that He is leading even though I haven’t gotten any lightning bolts with memos attached…no GPS from God…no heavenly updates on the plan.

I do trust that He loves my children and is working in their lives.

I do trust that He will always love me.

I do.

Wow!  That really helped.  Listing all those things…that gives me some perspective.  It is much easier to rest in that trust when I remind myself of it.

Actually the best thing was reminding myself of the object of my trust…

Trust in the Lord with all of your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths.  Proverbs 3:5-6

So the decisions I need to make…particularly the biggest one…I will pray, seek Scripture, seek some counsel…but I’m going to trust that my Father has prepared me to make wise decisions.  I’m going to trust that He will work in my life whatever I decide.  I’m going to trust that I cannot step outside of His sovereignty. 

Now THAT gives me some peace.

 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.  Not as the world gives do I give to you.  Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.  John 14:27

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Did I Get This Right?

I’ve been longing to write for weeks…feels like months…

stack of books in a library
About 7 months ago I began taking classes in order to get my teaching license and hopefully a Masters in education (I don’t even know how to write it – Masters, masters, Master’s or master’s – and is education capitalized?). I’m enjoying the classes, but I absolutely haven’t mastered the workload.

These past few weeks it’s been way too much and I’m feeling it. I kinda just realized that I added a HUGE thing without taking away anything…I shouldn’t have done that. And now all I can seem to do is 2nd guess every decision I’ve made.

I think things like:

“Did I run ahead of God’s plan for me?”
“Have I missed the opportunity to write a 2nd book?”
“Am I giving up the ministry God gave me for this?”
“Am I not trusting God to provide for us?”
“Am I doing the right thing for my children?”

My children.

I have one sweetheart that hates the fact I’m going back to school. The rest are okay – definitely not ecstatic, just okay.

I’m trying to get on top of things, but I’ve been in front of the computer screen or with my nose in a book and highlighter in hand more often than not.

I’m getting up before the crack of dawn and going to bed long after the sun has set and I still find myself feeling like I’m behind. Why is it taking so much out of me?

I just wonder sometimes.

I made this decision in order to be able to provide for my family. I also really want to get the tutoring one of my children needs and help them with college if I can. It’d also be awesome to have retirement and benefits.

I just don’t know if I’ve done this right.

Sometimes I wonder what in the world I’m doing…in everything.

Am I making any good decisions?

Even my daily decisions seem suspect at times. How come I can’t get things done or manage my household well? Rarely do I feel successful at the whole house manager thing…and I’m dreadfully tired of survival mode.

I never imagined how difficult it would be to live this single parent life. It is a million decisions, big and small, and there just isn’t any one to share the responsibilities or lighten the mental, physical, emotional and spiritual load. But God has allowed me to be here.  He hasn’t called me to something He will not give me the grace to do. So what do I see as my calling in this season?

It’s kinda obvious I guess – it’s being Mom.

So how do all the other things fit into my Mama calling?

Taking care of my home is a never-ending chore, but this house provides a refuge for us. And within these walls my children are loved, trained and nurtured.

Writing is my “free” therapy! And it provides me with an outlet, some great blessings, and the opportunity to comfort with the comfort I’ve been given.

My classes…ugh. Other than providing me with the opportunity to accumulate stress and sleeplessness, they have the potential to help me better provide financially for my children and myself both now and in the future.

I guess those classes aren’t so bad – they have promise for the long range, but I’ll tell you, in the day to day my fanny is getting kicked.

Honestly, I’m just overwhelmed and fussy…I know I’m blessed to be taking classes. I’m blessed to have the opportunity to provide for my family. I’m blessed to occasionally get to write.

I am blessed.

Maybe instead of fretting, I will pray that God will enable me to do all that He has called me to do. That He will give me wisdom on what can slide so I can focus on the most important 5 things in my life. That He will give me some rest…some much needed rest.

I think during this season, I’d also like to ask God to shine His love and peace through me to my children. Today I wasn’t so much about peace…I was so much about panic.

What am I doing? How in the world am I going to get all this done? Will my children ever notice the mess around them and help? Have I made the right decisions? How many things have I forgotten to do today?

But I do trust God…I guess the problem is I don’t trust myself. But I have the Holy Spirit to guide me so what am I worried about? God will use my decisions in some way for His glory and my good…no matter how goofy they are.

I trust Him. I trust that sinful me is loved by Holy Him.

I trust that He will always, always love, forgive, provide for, and be with me.

I trust that He is going to take care of my children.

I feel a deep, deep sigh at that.

I’m so thankful…yup, even this 2nd guessing self is feeling some peace. God is good.

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