uptomytoes

Hope & Humor for Single & Divorced Parents

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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Are You Feeling Toddlerish? I Have Some Fruit That Can Help.

Image

It’s official.  I’m 5 years old.

I’m fussy.  I’d like to stomp my feet.  I could plop down on my bum and cry.

And I definitely don’t feel like sharing.

I feel like I’ve shared quite enough already.

I’ve long said…well, 5 years long…that it’s important not to make our children feel badly about spending time with their other parent.  And for the better part of these 5 years I think I have succeeded.

But lately, I feel exceedingly irritated about sharing my children.

I think part of the problem is…well, actually there are a lot of parts to the problem.

One part is that I wanna be the fun parent.  Sometimes I don’t want to be the chores, homework, budget, real life living stuff parent.  It’s an age old divorce problem – invariably one of the parents is fun-parent.

But I wanna be a fun parent! (I think I’m digressing – I’m now 2)

And right now I just can’t pull it off.  I’m praying and trying to figure it out.  Honestly, up until just recently…very recently…I hadn’t even thought to ask God to help me find time to play with my kids.  Unfortunately I’m the mom on the culdesac that sits on the curb with a textbook or the laptop…or that takes advantage of them playing outside to get something done inside…or who is sometimes just too tired to race around like I used to L.  I don’t want to be the old tired busy mom…I wanna be fun mommy!

I love the way my children’s eyes light up when I actually stop what I’m doing and pay attention to them. When I get into their world and play.  Lord, please help me find time to do that!  Like today.

So back to my toddler issues…

Another part of the problem…you know what?  There’s no reason for me to go on and on about all the parts of a problem.  Because really it’s my choice to let things be a problem…let my emotions decide my reaction.

So how do I NOT do that?  ‘Cause emotions are very tricky things.  Very.  And I have a LOT of them!

I have emotions, but I also have the Holy Spirit.

I know the Holy Spirit is stronger than all those emotions I feel.  God has called me to love others…even the difficult ones…therefore I know I’m equipped and I suspect that the fruit of the Spirit is a big part of that.

So how do I apply this to my life…to my toddlerhood?

How about each fruit in turn…

Love      Kinda feel like this is an obvious one.  Love one another.  Love your enemies…so I suppose that means I’m supposed to love my children’s father.  The question is what does loving that man look like when I really don’t want to interact with him if possible?

As is so much of this life, it’s choosing to do the hard thing.  Choosing to love when it seems like the obvious choice is to dislike immensely.

For me, it’s being willing to talk when I want to avoid. It’s being willing to smile when I want to glare.  It’s being willing to overlook an offense…or many.  To turn the other cheek.  To speak kindly.  To love like Jesus loves…without condition.

Joy is totally dependent on my relationship with the Lord.  There is a direct correlation between my abiding in Christ and the fullness of my joy.

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you.  Abide in my love.  If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.  These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.  John 15:9-11

This joy isn’t because my circumstances are great now, but because my circumstances will be great when I’m with Him.  (John 16:22)  This joy isn’t because life is easy, but because He carries me through this life.  This joy isn’t because I’m happy, it’s because I’m loved.

Practically speaking, how much joy of the Lord am I displaying to my children or my ex if I can’t make the effort to be kind and smile at times?  I need God’s strength to do this joy thing…to love when I don’t wanna.  God says His joy is my strength.  In Him I have the strength to live a godly life…a life marked by joy.

Joy looks like me focusing on Christ not my circumstances.  It means being Christ-like in my attitude about sharing my children.  It means that I smile and thank God for my children being able to visit with their dad regardless of how it makes me feel.

I can’t tell you how often I pray that God will give someone His peace which passes all understanding.  (Philippians 4:6-7) There are so many life situations in which it seems like it would just be near impossible to feel any peace…but God gives peace regardless of situations, circumstances, and people.

He actually gives a formula for peace…two steps…thanksgiving and prayer.

The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your request be made known to God.  And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:5-7

I don’t think I’ve paid enough attention to the beginning of that first sentence – The Lord is at hand.  It’s that abiding thing!  AND it’s a reminder that Jesus is coming back!  How wonderful is that!  We have peace because we can be thankful for Him in our lives, for the hope of our future inheritance, and for the many blessings He has faithfully provided.

Peace for me looks like this…”Lord, thank you so much that my children have a father, however imperfect he is. Lord, please give me the strength to live in such a way that you are glorified even in my relationship with him.”

Patience…I’d almost like to skip this one…

So in looking up verses on patience I found one that applies…ugh.

And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness.  God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.  2 Timothy 2:24-26

Patiently enduring…I’m pretty sure that phrase says it all.  I believe a big part of patiently enduring is also trusting that God will indeed work through this whole difficult situation.

Along with that phrase I see kind and gentle…those are Spirit fruit as well.

Kindness – The verse above in 2 Timothy says to be “kind to everyone”.  Not just the people who we enjoy being kind to, but those who don’t necessarily deserve kindness from us.

The one thing I will say is that God doesn’t call us to suffer abuse from others…please don’t put yourself in an abusive position.  Sometimes the kindest thing you can do is stay away.

When I first thought of kindness I thought of Romans 12:18-20

If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.  Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”  To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink, for you will heap burning coals on his head.”

Might be the wrong motivation but heaping some burning coals sounds like fun…just kidding (sorta).  Although the idea is that there is a possibility your kindness will bring them to repentance…God’s goal is always salvation.

And that should be ours as well…it is not ours to avenge or judge, but rather to allow God to use us.

Goodness – So seriously, this has been the neatest study for me.  I keep seeing the connectedness of Scripture.  If you read the next verse in Romans 12, it is,

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.  Romans 12:21

God calls us to live an honorable life so that those who would speak against us will see the good we do and glorify God.  (1 Peter 2:11-12).  The goal of goodness is the gospel.

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.  Galatians 6:9-10

This verse reminds me of love and kindness…they are offered to EVERYONE.  There is just no getting around it.  I guess we all have to pray about what that means for us and our ex-spouses.  I think we can all come up with a way that we can do good without putting ourselves in painful situations.  Maybe doing good just means holding our tongues.  Maybe doing good means praying for that person.  Maybe doing good means acting just as we would want our children to act toward a school chum who is less than stellar.  Maybe doing good requires some thinking outside of the box…

Faithfulness – One of the things that has most profoundly impacted me is God’s faithfulness even when I’ve been anything but faithful.  The struggles I’ve had have been real and difficult and I have fallen many more times than I thought possible.  And everytime…everytime…God has faithfully picked me up again…and again…and again.  He has offered me love over and over and over.  Do you see the pattern?  God doesn’t give up on us!  I’m so thankful for that.  And you know what, God hasn’t given up on my ex either.  His choices haven’t excluded him from experiencing God’s grace.

As I ponder God’s faithfulness to me, I feel compassion for my ex and that makes me want to pray for him…for him for his sake and the sake of my children.

Gentleness – I found that most of the verses dealing with gentleness were about how we deal with people who are not walking with the Lord.  Again, God’s goal is restoration.  He set the example.  Jesus was gentle and humble in heart.

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.  Matthew 11:28-30

As I read that verse, I’m reminded that the burdens I carry, both the ones put on me by others and the ones I heap on myself, can be given to Him.  I can let Him deal with this situation and I can trust that as I strive to be like Him, He will work in this for my good and His glory.

…walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.  Ephesians 4:1-3

Self-Control – Yet another one I’d like to avoid…self-control is something I do not want to be tested on!  I feel like daily I mess this one up! Especially if it is measured by the words that escape my lips.

The one thing that jumped out at me from the following verse in Titus was the word “training”.  God’s grace is training us to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives…it is a process of faith and trust.  It is the gospel.  I desire to live this way…to be trained to live this way…because I’m so very thankful for what Jesus has done for me and what He continues to do for me.  And my future hope is my motivation to hang on through the training.

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.  Titus 2:11-14

I think self-control looks like me not acting as the world would see fit, but rather as God has called me to walk – in the fruit of the Spirit.

This blog was waaaaayyyy longer than I planned, but  I hope it blesses you.  I’ve been so thankful to go through these verses and see how God has worked them all together.  And I’m going to continue to think through how to practically apply the fruit of the Spirit to all aspects of my life, but particularly my “toddlerish” attitude toward sharing. :)

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A Father’s Love…

 

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Tomorrow is Father’s Day.

It’ll be my first Father’s Day without my dad.  He passed away in September.

Dad was an amazingly humble man.  Generous.  Honorable.  Loyal.  Sacrificial.

Dad was a West Point grad, an Army officer who served his country with distinction, a loving husband for over 60 years, and a father to 4 children.

He didn’t brag of his awards or achievement – in fact, many I didn’t find out about until after his death.

I have many fond memories of my dad…the time he called me up during college and sang, “I just called to say I love you!”  The summer we spent together performing with a summer stock company.  Watching him putter around in the garden or garage.  His affection for the beauty of a clock.  Playing a game of tennis with him…and him always yelling to me over the net, “Don’t forget your follow-thru!” or “Stronger wrist!”

At various times in my life I would walk with him and talk about things.  He was a good listener.

His last few years of life here on earth were rough for this man’s man.  He struggled a lot.  And although he had accepted the Lord in his 70s, he wrestled with his faith during his last year.  He wanted more answers than we could give.

He finally came to the place where he just wanted peace…God’s peace.  He longed to be in His presence.  There was a moment when my sister and I were sitting on either side of him, praying, laughing, and crying a bit.  When both of us were longing for God to allow Him to come home….to truly be in His presence…to know complete peace.  That was not the moment though.

I was blessed to be with my mom and dad on my father’s last night here on earth.  I am at a loss as to how to describe the night.  Death is not natural…it is awful.  Watching my dad struggle…being unable to truly help him was devastating.  I desperately did not want him to die…and yet, desperately wanted him free of that painful, failing body of his.

There was a moment that night when I was holding him and trying to comfort him that is more precious than I can say.  My Dad couldn’t talk well…could barely whisper. (Although he could still utter a quite firm “No!” when he didn’t want us to do something – must have been the military officer in him J)  I said, “Daddy, I love you so much.”  And he whispered, “I love you too.”  It isn’t like my dad hadn’t said it a thousand times before because he had.  But in that moment when I knew every word was a tremendous labor, it meant the world to me.  I would have understood a nod, but I cherished completely those whispered words.

Those were the last words my Dad said to me.  How awesome is that?  I’m so honored that I got to be with him that night.  So thankful that God provided that opportunity.

But as I look forward to Father’s Day tomorrow…I don’t know what to do.  I can tell that it has affected me more than I thought it would.  Today I was invited to a graduation party, a wedding, and a birthday party.  And I feel like all I want to do is hide.  I just want time to think quietly.  To spend with God.

That’s part of this single parent life that is challenging.  Finding the time to be still, to be in God’s presence without interruption, to feel things…with 5 children around all the time, I find it hard to allow myself to truly feel things.  I don’t think my children need to see the depth of my emotions.  That is between God and me.  Today my kids are with their Dad and I’m trying to spend the day with my Heavenly Father.

Sometimes I feel closest to Him when I write…it feels like often He is sitting right beside me.  Reminding me of things.  Opening my eyes to His truths.  Revealing things I need to face.  Soothing my heart.

I’m comfortable in His presence because I know He loves me just the way I am.

 

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God loves me just like my dad.   He speaks that love to me in a million ways.  There is so much to be thankful for…my children who bring me to my knees daily in prayer, petition and thanksgiving, my family who loves me, my friends who stand by me, my home, my garden which is thriving despite my black thumb, the beautiful sky which my kids tell me I take way too many pictures of, this sunny, spring day, the sounds of spring outside – lawns being mowed, dogs barking, and birds chirping,  the ice cold Coke right next to me (it’s my fav), the Bible that comforts and convicts me…so many things.

 

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I look forward to the day when I can see my Dad again…and I look forward to the day when I will see my Savior face to face and hear His voice say, “I love you!”  And I will hug Him tightly and say, “I LOVE YOU TOO!”

But I can say that now.  In fact, I feel like I should live the day responding to His loving care by saying, “Father, I love you too.”

I’m so thankful that my dad is now with his and my Heavenly Father…and tomorrow when I might be tempted to be sad, I’m going to choose to instead thank my Heavenly Father for loving me so well!

And for giving me a dad here on earth who loved me too.

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The Process of Forgiveness: Steps 1 to 70×7

steps Recently I’ve had a few people tell that if I’ve forgiven my husband I should be in a better place.  From what I’ve heard I shouldn’t be angry at him again.  The only problem with this idea is that I gotta deal with the man and he’s difficult so that’s gonna be real hard.

It isn’t so much how he treats me – honestly, whatever.  But I do have a hard time with how he treats my kids.  So being human, I’m pretty sure I’m gonna have to forgive him repeatedly and sometimes I’m gonna even get angry before I forgive.

I think there is this thought that once you forgive you forget and live happily ever after.  I wish that was the case.  It’s really more like this:

Forgive…move forward…something unpleasant happens…forgive again…move forward again…something difficult happens…forgive again…repeat until heaven…

I think if you are to a place that you don’t have to repeatedly forgive an unrepentant person for their continued rotten actions – you rock!  And I mean that! And I do truly wish I could be like you.

But I’m finding forgiveness to be a rather long and arduous process.  But God in his infinite wisdom, grace, love and faithfulness has some instructions and some encouragement for me (and you if you are like me).

I guess the first thing is this

Forgiveness takes time, effort, intentionality and God.

I don’t have it in myself to be a completely forgiving person, but God is utterly and infinitely forgiving and I have Him so that makes all the difference.

God can enable me to forgive anyone, but He also allows this whole forgiveness thing to be part of my sanctifying.  Do you remember how many times Jesus said you have to forgive?  70×7.  (Matthew 18:21-22) His point was that we need to forgive a lot.  Why would He say that we were gonna need to forgive so much if we weren’t gonna need to forgive so much?

I think that if Jesus was just talking about how much we forgive in general he wouldn’t have even needed to say 70×7.  I can absolutely forgive one person one time…it’s having to repeatedly forgive the same person that’s tricky.

In my situation with my ex – forgiveness must be offered without request or repentance.  In fact, I think we have been moving farther away from repentance rather than closer to it over these past few years.  So forgiveness is challenging – and continually choosing to forgive is also challenging (sometimes almost as much as the first time).

In marriage we must continually offer forgiveness.  It is the same in divorce.  But I’m kinda getting the impression from people that it is not okay to have to repeatedly forgive my ex.  That I should forgive and move on already.  (I think that is a message I’m getting about a lot of things, but I will hit that in another post.)

When I forgave my husband’s adultery and then his abandonment I didn’t’ understand the nature of forgiveness…at least not totally.  I kind of expected some warm fuzzies and some serious peace about things…a happily ever after of sorts.  Although I did experience that peace which passes all understanding, it came with a cost.  I had to and continue to have to lay aside my feelings in order to embrace the gospel as it relates to forgiveness.  And boy does it!

God has modeled forgiveness for us…and to us.

Forgiveness requires sacrifice on the part of the forgiver.

God sacrificed His son and Jesus sacrificed His life so that we could be forgiven.  God didn’t want to be separated from us so He made that sacrifice.  So that he could have a relationship with us.  That forgiveness offer is available to anyone who accepts it, but it only changes the nature of our relationship with Him when we accept it.  If someone doesn’t accept it – the relationship is not restored…in fact, there is no relationship.  And that sin still separates and grieves the Lord.  In fact, my sin still grieves the Lord even though I can ask for forgiveness and receive reconciliation.

Forgiveness is offered over and over again.

God continues to forgive me even when I sin repeatedly.  He accepts my repentance every single time.  He never says, “Sorry that is the 70×8 time you’ve done that…we are done.”  Oh my, I’m so thankful He doesn’t.

The difficulty we have…those of us who forgive because we are called to not because it was asked for by the offender…is that we must often deal with repeatedly being offended and continually having to offer forgiveness.

What has helped me immensely is understanding that I have truly been forgiven so very much and that, but for the grace of God, I could be that offender…that person who rebels.  I could be rotten…well rottener.  That gives me a measure of grace for my ex.

I see that often forgiveness is like love…it’s a choice I make, something I do even if I don’t feel it.  I decide I’m going to be gracious and kind and I act that way.  But that gracious kind way might have to come after a little bit of fussiness and anger.

But honestly, to think that the lousy things my ex-husband does are not gonna bug me?  Really.  (Please comment if you have no problem with that sort of thing and tell me how you do it!)

I love my kids and when they are hurting my mama bear comes out…can’t seem to help that.

And that brings me to my second point…

Anger isn’t bad.

It’s what we do with that anger that can be very bad.  Feeling a justified emotion is not a sin, but acting bitterly, unkindly, rudely, and punitively is.

God doesn’t say, “Don’t get angry.”  God says, “Don’t sin in your anger.”

It isn’t a bad emotion, it’s a valid emotion God gave us to signal that something is wrong…something needs to be dealt with.

God gets angry…and I am made in His image.

What about the Old Testament?  God has some righteous anger at Israel…it’s justified and often acted upon but always with the purpose of drawing His people back to Him.   Responding to my anger with the purpose of just simply punishing is wrong, but taking my anger to God and asking Him to give me wise ways to deal with it…that’s good.

I have read back through my blogs and I don’t see that I’m sinning in my anger at my ex-husband.  I admit I have anger towards him at times…again, human.  But I truly am trying to not sin in my anger.

The amazing thing is that God uses my anger to draw me closer to Him.  He’s cool that way.  He uses everything in our lives – if we will let Him – to draw us closer to Him.  He sanctifies us in the most amazing ways.

So despite what some people say or think, I do think I’m in a good place.  I’m forgiven and I’m learning to continually forgive…so far I think I’m on step 659… :)

Father, guard us against being prideful, bitter, and angry.  Soften our hearts, “renew a right spirit” within us, and give us compassion for our ex-spouses (Psalm 51:10).  Please help us be like Christ.  It seems impossible at times, but You tell us that we “can do all things through [Christ] who strengthens” us (Philippians 4:13), and we ask that You would give us strength to forgive 70×7 times because forgiveness gives us the ability to move forward and enables us to be used by You.  God, help us give our children the gift of a forgiving, loving parent.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

Prayer adapted from When Happily Ever After Shatters: Seeing God in the Midst of Divorce and Single Parenting by me :)

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Am I Lovable?

ImageI’ve caught the spring cleaning bug…unfortunately at the moment I’ve always actually caught some other bug so I don’t have the energy to do all that I planned to do today. L

But I did have enough energy to organize some shelves in my bedroom.  I found a journal from a while back and read through much of it.  I found something that I thought I’d share:

                Tonight I realized that I really don’t believe anyone REALLY loves me.  That’s a problem.  A big problem.  No wonder I struggle with anything negative that happens – I’m not at all secure in being loved.  I suppose that means I’m probably not that secure in God’s love either.  Everything…EVERYTHING…in my life speaks to the reality of that love and yet I question it?  What’s wrong with me?  Seriously.

                I can’t keep going back to the past to define myself – I’ve got to define myself by the present.  Is that right though?  The present?  Or is it more than that?  Defining myself as a Daughter of the King who is faithfully and constantly loved by Him.

                I know God’s love is completely unconditional.  But it has seemed like everyone else’s is so conditional.  Some of those feelings and fears are irrational…some are based in fact, but is it THE fact I want to base my life on?  No!  I want to base my life on the real and true fact that Jesus loves me without condition.  I’m lovable because He loves me. 

                Maybe I need to believe that better…that I’m lovable…that someone might possibly love me just for me…just as I am.  God has shown that to be true…He loves me just as I am.  That reminds me of that beautiful hymn…I used to sing it for my kids at bedtime.  Maybe I should start again. 

“Just as I am without a plea, but that thy blood was shed for me.  And that thou bidst me come to thee, O Lamb of God, I come…I come.”  I bet I would love others better if I grasped how loved I truly am.

That was over a year ago and I believe that God has worked mightily in my life regarding this, but I still struggle at times.  Still want to be assured that I’m worth the whole “love you” thing.  I suppose it is kind of understandable based on my ex-husband’s actions, but certainly not a place I want to remain.  And I definitely think God doesn’t want me there either.  And probably everyone else in my life would prefer I leave this place as well.

When I think of love, one of the first verses that pops into my mind is:

And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the great and first commandment.  And a second is like it:  You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  Matthew 22:37-39

That’s a whole lot of lovin’!  Loving God, loving others, loving myself.  Isn’t it interesting that it sometimes is most difficult to love ourselves….to believe we are worth loving.

And love…it isn’t something I do because I feel like it.  I love because I choose to, because God made me to love.

When I found out about my husband’s adultery, I had to make a deliberate and crazy choice to love the man anyway.  I now understand choosing to love someone.  I know the sacrifice and challenges of that decision.  I believe in this case it was a God-honoring decision and He most definitely gave me the grace to do it.  Absolutely not in my own strength, but God’s!

The love I was able to offer my husband was because God’s love was spilling out of me.  I was not the source of it…it did not come from me.   I love because there is love in my life because I have Him.

After all, love is never apart from God.  How can it be when God is love?

…God is love, and whoever abides in love, abides in God, and God abides in him.  1 John 4:16

So if I have God in my life…if I abide in Him and He abides in me…how can I not be lovable?  And loving.

It isn’t about how someone loves me or doesn’t love me…although that certainly can make me feel wonderfully great or tragically awful.  I have certainly felt both ends of the spectrum. But I know…

Love is about God.  It really is.

Any and all the love in the world is only because of God. And amazingly He is loving and gracious enough to offer that same love to us without condition.

God’s love is ours simply because He loves us.

For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.  I give Egypt as your ransom, Cush and Seba in exchange for you.  Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you.   Isaiah 43:3-4

 I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.   Again I will build you, and you shall be built.  Jeremiah 31:3

We are the objects of His affection.

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.  1 John 3:1

We are lovable because we are loved deeply by God.

In this is love, not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.  1 John 4:10

We are lovable because we were made to love and be loved.

We love because he first loved us.  1 John 4:19

We are lovable because God says so.

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.  John 15:9

I believe God loves me…He has proven it.  How can I doubt my ability to be loved…lovable?

No matter what someone says or does to me that feeds my fear of being unlovable, God says nothing at all can separate me from His love.  Nothing.  That means nothing I do or say or think or have or don’t have, nothing anyone else does or thinks or says…nothing is going to impact the Father’s love for me.  It’s true.

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Romans 8:38-39

Some of us have been through a very difficult experience – and even that seems like an understatement.

Being betrayed and left by the one who promised to live life with you – the person who promised to love you no matter what life threw your way…that is a difficult thing to get over.  Things you never thought would change did.  The love you thought was a definite wasn’t…but God’s love stays the same because God stays the same.  He doesn’t ever stop loving and He doesn’t ever leave or forsake.  He will faithfully love us for eternity.

We can totally, completely, and confidently rest in the fact that we are loved.

We are indeed loveable.

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Count it all what?

Image     I’ve been working for over a week on a post about counting it all joy.  And honestly I’m still unsure that I truly understand it as much as I’d like, but I decided that maybe what I need to do is share and see where God takes us…

Today I have two meetings that I’m a little bit dreading.

The first is this morning…it’s a child study meeting for one of my daughters.  This isn’t the first one.  Unfortunately they never go as I hope.  The people at her school are always kind as they say no to the assistance she truly needs.  It is heartbreaking for me.

And adding insult to injury, I must sit beside my ex-husband who will sometimes come.  Today will probably be one of those days.  I could just not tell him about the meetings, but that seems wrong.  Good for me, but wrong.

The other day I even thought, “If he were home he’d already know about these meetings, I wouldn’t have to tell him.  Maybe I just won’t remind him.”  Then I realized I can’t spend the rest of ever so many years punishing him for his horrible, hurtful decision. I forgave him and must take those thoughts captive.

Having him there is annoying, frustrating, and infuriating at times.  His portrayal of his involvement with our daughter is exceedingly exaggerated.  It makes me want to holler, “But he doesn’t help at all!!!”  He’s a fake!!!”  But why?  Well first and foremost, because I’m a sinner and I want things my way…but also because I want him to either step up or hush up…because I want things to be different…I want things to not hurt, to not frustrate…because I want joy.

I’m thinking maybe the idea of count it all joy fits my situation…even this silly situation with my ex-husband.  I just gotta figure out how.

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

Today my Bible study asked me, “What does it mean to count it all joy?”

Boy, is that a verse I’ve memorized and thought about and referenced a lot without ever truly pondering what it means.

And like I said, I’m pondering as I write…I don’t have an answer.  A feeling, yes.  An answer, not so much.

I know the reality of counting it all joy…I think.

I have known joy that makes no sense…

joy that pours over even the hardest season.

joy that comforts and strengthens.

joy that brings peace when all else seems chaotic.

And yet, even though I know that joy…do I truly “count it all joy.”

Drat, I don’t think I do.

When I saw that question this morning, I didn’t have an immediate answer, but I can see that God is answering it for me.

Recently I read a chapter in Corrie ten Boom’s book The Hiding Place with my children.  I love that book – highly recommend it.  If you are unfamiliar with the story, Corrie and her family hid Jews in Holland during WWII and were arrested.  This is her story.  It has layer upon layer of beautiful examples of God’s provision, faithfulness, and love in the worst of circumstances.

In the chapter we read this morning Corrie and her sister Betsie have just been transferred to an extermination camp in Germany.

This is part of the dialogue between Corrie and Betsie:

I wailed, “Betsie, how can we live in such a place!” 

“Show us.  Show us how.” It was said so matter of factly it took me a second to realize she was praying.  More and more the distinction between prayer and the rest of life seemed to be vanishing for Betsie.

“Corrie!” she said excitedly. “He’s given us the answer!  Before we asked, as He always does!  In the Bible this morning.  Where was it? Read that part again!”

They were reading in 1st Thessalonians…

…encourage the faint-hearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.  Rejoice always,pray without ceasing, give thank in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.  

1 Thessalonians 5:14-18

Betsie excitedly shares with Corrie, “That’s it, Corrie! That’s His answer, “Give thanks in all circumstances!  That’s what we can do.  We can start right now to thank God for every single thing about this new barracks!”

Corrie is incredulous.  She initially cannot understand how to give thanks in “the dark, foul-aired room.”   Betsie points out the very many blessings even in their horrid situation.  And Corrie begins to see that there indeed is a God-given way to give thanks in all circumstances.

I feel like Corrie most of the time….”How can I find a way to rejoice here, Lord?”

But again and again, God reminds me of the wonderful ways He has blessed me.

A few days ago, as I walked past my youngest daughter’s room I noticed the sunlight streaming through the windows and I thought, “Lord, thank you!  Thank you for this house.  Thank you for beautiful sunlight!”

There are many things we can thank God for in any given day if we look. But even then I’m thanking God for the things, the circumstances in my life.  I don’t believe that is what God means by “count it all joy.”

What am I counting joy?  In the verse in James, it’s trials.

Count it all joy

…when I can’t find the support and answers I need for my little girl

…when I have to deal with a man who I really don’t want to have to even see

…when God calls me to love the unlovable

…when God doesn’t answer my prayers as I hoped

…when the struggles and complexities of life are overwhelming

 

Does counting it joy mean that I look for the blessings and the things to be thankful for?  To some degree I believe so.

But I’m beginning to see that really counting it all joy is about me looking to Jesus, my Savior, the author and perfecter of my faith.

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 that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.  Hebrews 12:1-2

The joy is the understanding that these troubles are nothing in comparison to the joy of eternity.

 

So we do not lose heart.  Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.  For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen.  For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.  2 Corinthians 4:16-18

 

The joy is the confidence that we have an eternal inheritance.

 

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!  According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.  In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith – more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire – may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.  1 Peter 1:3-7

 

So truly, the joy is the gospel.

 

I know this has already been a lot of words and now I’ve added a lot of verses….but please take the time to read them.  Remind yourself again of the great grace of the gospel…of the power of His resurrection in your life…and see how often God shows us the gospel’s strength to carry us through our struggles, trials and sufferings.

 

For while we were still weak, at just the right time, Christ died for the ungodly.  For one will scarcely die for a righteous person – though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die – but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.  Romans 5:6-8

 

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.  For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility.  Ephesians 2:13-14

 

But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet.  For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.  Hebrews 10:12-14

 

But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.  Titus 3:4-7

 

Therefore since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.  More than that we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.  Romans 5:1-5

 

As I read those verses again I was reminded of the gospel’s power to enable me to count it all joy in the struggles.  It’s an eternal perspective.  An “it will all be worth it” perspective.

Count our blessings, absolutely.

Think on those things that bless us…the way God provides…the source of our strength.  Cultivate gratitude.

Count it all joy, definitely.

Think again and again of the gospel.  Of what the gospel means for our lives….

 Grace

Salvation

Hope

Peace

A glorious eternal inheritance

The Holy Spirit and all His fruit

Jesus, my Savior

God, my Father

You could probably add more to that list.  I certainly could.

So this count it all joy thing…I think I’m beginning to understand it.

And again God has brought me back to the gospel.

We are blessed beyond measure because of Jesus…

 and that is all joy!

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Feeling a Little Less than Full?

empty gaugeDoes it ever feel like what you do is never enough?

Today I did something nice for one of my children and another child got exceedingly angry at me.  As if I have done nothing for them…as if I have only chosen to bestow blessings on one child and left the others with nothing.

I was so shocked by the behavior I didn’t know how to respond at first.  But after a moment, my response came full force.  I remained relatively calm…pretty calm.  I didn’t yell or accuse.  I just tried to state facts.

But facts and emotions don’t often mix.  Specifically my facts and my child’s emotions.

Sometimes the issue is life’s facts and my emotions.  And then I can be an awful lot like my child.  I can get my feelings all in a mess and mix up things more than I care to admit.

It’s difficult when all you can see is the hurt.

There are days when I just can’t bear the thought of dealing with what I just gotta deal with…you know what I mean?  It can be a child’s behavior, another person’s words, and another’s opinion of me, a friend’s situation, or my life in general…

There are times I feel like I can barely breathe in the face of my emotions.  There are times I want to scream or cry or both.

Today I disappointed a child by blessing another child.

Yesterday my littlest told me she wanted a different mommy because I told her it was bedtime.  That angry little line is something all my kids have said at one time or another, but this little one will often add something about her birth mother which makes me want to fall to my knees.

Tomorrow I will surely do something to aggravate another child, but I’m trying so hard to love them well.

Part of the problem is there is only one of me to meet all those needs…there is only one of me to deal with all the behaviors and temperaments and emotions.

Part of the problem is I have limited resources…I can’t always do what they’d like or what I’d like…just can’t.  And sometimes that gets held against me…sometimes no matter what I do seems to be enough.

I feel like I literally pour myself out each day for my children and sometimes I feel very empty…and sometimes I feel very weak…and sometimes I feel very tired….and sometime, like right now, I feel very hurt.

But I can think of so many ways God is nudging me right now…

When I’m looking at life through the haze of my emotions (like my child), I can’t see the blessings, the good things, the provision and faithfulness of my heavenly Father.

I forget about all the good He has done.  I forget about His sacrifices. I forget about His sacrifice to live down here instead of up there.  I forget about His sacrifice to give up His position in heaven to become a carpenter on earth.  I forget about His sacrifice of time and energy and sleep to bless people while He walked on this earth.  I forget about His sacrifice of being worshipped in heaven to come down here to be spit on, beaten, maligned, brutalized, and murdered.  I forget His sacrifice of separation from the Father so that I will never be separated from my Father.

I think Jesus understands better than I ever possibly could what it means to be poured out.  I can bring the hurt, emptiness and exhaustion to the Cross and He will take it and love me.  He knows.

And that leads me to the second thing that God is nudging me about…

How can I be empty when I have Him?

If’ I’m empty it’s because I’m doing things in my own strength…finding my fulfillment in the wrong things…looking to others not God.

And ya know…I’m thinking my kids aren’t necessarily gonna think to say the things I need or want to hear…but God’s word does.

God tells me all about how loved I am.  God tells me that His love isn’t contingent on me doing anything for Him.

God loves me when I succeed and when I fail.  Today I don’t think I failed my child – I just think this single parenting thing is hard.  Really hard.

And if I don’t find my fulfilling in Christ…if I don’t do this thing with Christ’s strength…if I don’t seek godly wisdom…I’m gonna feel pretty much overwhelmed.

I want to make things better with my child, but I’m not sure what to say.  Maybe I’ll just say, “I love you.”

Maybe that’ll be enough right now.  I think it will.  I know that when I’ve got my knickers twisted that’s all I need to hear God say.  I want answers, but I need His love more.

I can’t be the perfect parent, but I have the Perfect Parent.  And even though I’m going to disappoint and frustrate my children, I’m thinking that as long as I have my Father guiding me, we’ll be okay.

During times like these, instead of getting all goofy and hurt about things, I’m going to pray that God will enable me to share the gospel again and again and again with my children so that they will learn that Jesus is the answer to all the questions.  He is the filling of the emptiness and the comforting of the hurt and the calming of the heart.  Momma loves them, but Jesus loves them the most.

I won’t ever be enough, but Jesus is.

 

Just a little PS – my sweet child came and apologized before I even had a chance to do what I planned to do! I’m blessed beyond measure by how God is working in the hearts of my children.  It ain’t always pretty…but God’s workin!

 

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