uptomytoes

Hope & Humor for Single & Divorced Parents

A Moment of Still

photo (35)A long wooden farm table, enough to seat a quiverful and some friends, tea in the cup my oldest daughter chose for me while at the beach with friends, a highlighted, underlined and well-loved Bible open before me, and quiet…my perfect morning.

God has blessed me this morning with this beautiful moment of still.

A moment of reflection of all that He has done for me.  Today my heart overflows with gratitude for a new home which has already become filled with laughter and joy.

I feel like David when he knelt before the altar and prayed these words:

“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 greatnesss, 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

Indeed, who am I Lord?  How have you blessed me so?  And yet, it was no giant thing for you because you are so wonderful, loving, faithful, and kind.  Nothing is too great for you, Lord.  Your power is beyond my understanding.  You have been faithful to me and my house.  You have promised to never leave me nor forsake me, and I believe you will not.  You love me Lord – despite my failures and sins.  You are the source of all that is good in my life, Father.  And I know it!  There is no God like my God.

The second night we were in our new home amist hastily packed boxes of odds and ends (those dreaded odds and ends), I stepped outside to take clothes off the clothesline (I had specifically prayed for that clothesline and God even provided that little detail!  How sweet is my Father!).  As I walked across my beautiful yard I was overwhelmed with gratitude and awe of how deeply I am loved by my Creator.  How kind He is to me and my children.

In this blessing of a home  –  which we prayed mighty hard for – God has shown us His love in not only the provision of a home but in a hundred little things too.  Sometimes it’s the little things that speak loudest to me.  The hoped for clothesline, the bountiful berry bushes, the precious nests of baby birds on the porch, the porch swing, the pretty mailbox, the lovely window treatments left behind…there are so many little blessings all around us.  Each room holds a treasure…something that reminds me how my great God takes care of not just the big things but the little things as well.  That He is not a God of just the big prayers answered, but little wishes and hopes fulfilled.

It reminds me of the verses about God taking care of the sparrows and the flowers.  (Matthew 6:25-34).  It is a beautiful reminder that God provides.  My new yard is full of flowers, which I am fervently hoping I can nurture because I most certainly do not have a green thumb!  It feels like each day I find another glorious bloom somewhere in the yard.  It is awe-inspiring to me.  Such beauty and grace simply growing in my yard.  I’m so thankful.

I keep having to pinch myself.  This house, this yard, these children…all my blessings?  Truly?  How kind and loving is my Father!

My Father is beyond generous to me…I always know that no matter what He will provide, help, and love me.

And boy oh boy!  Have I been blessed!  Provided for!  Helped!  And loved!!!

As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy.

 1Timothy 6:17

I have never noticed that verse before…it says “enjoy” – not need, but enjoy!  Wow!  How cool is that!

I know that God supplies all my needs, and I see that in the house He has provided for us.

I know that He also richly supplies things to enjoy as well, and I see that in the home He has given us full of reminders of a God of loving details.

I’m so excited to share God’s blessing and provision – how He has begun turning my mourning to dancing; and loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness!  (Psalm 30:11-12)  How my joy has come this morning!  (Psalm 30:5)

The past 10 months have been some of the most challenging of my life…I have felt overwhelmed, exhausted, sorrowful, and even a bit hopeless at times.  Although I struggled, I knew deep down that I could trust God…I didn’t always feel it, but I did know it.  I described it as my feet firmly planted in the peaceful current of belief in a faithful and loving God even while the storm raged around me.  Living in a hurricane.

Now I feel a respite from the storm…a peaceful moment of blessing.  Oh how I have needed this…how my childen have needed this.

And right now, I want to encourage you that God is working in your life…even while things are difficult and it seems like He has forgotten you and your circumstances.  He has not.  He is working mightily on your behalf.
It reminds me of the verses in Jeremiah when God tells Israel that He has a plan for them, a plan to prosper them and not to harm them. (Jeremiah 29:11-14) That plan was shared during their captivity.  In fact God was telling Israel that at the same time He was informing them that they were going to be in captivity for another 70 years.

“For thus says the LORD: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place.  For I know the plans I  have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and hope.  Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you.  You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.  I will be found by you, declares the LORD, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the LORD, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.”  Jeremiah 29:10-14

During those 40 years God told them to “build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce.”  Have families, work hard, and make lives, and pray!  Pray for not only themselves but the very place they found themselves.  They weren’t just to sit in their captivity and wait for the good to happen, they were to live their lives and see God’s provision, grow from His preparation, and learn perseverance and trust.

Right not, I can look back and see what God did to get me to this place.  I cannot honestly say that I’m thankful for what I’ve been through, but I am thankful for where God has brought me.  In a several weeks I will head back to work and the children will head back to school and life will be nuts again.  And I pray that I will remember to pray, to live, to worship, to be thankful…that I will trust that on difficult days and in challenging moments God is working on my behalf.  He is always looking to my best interest.  At no point does God sit back and let things go willy-nilly on their way.  He has a plan, a good plan, and I’m part of that plan.

So today, I sit quietly reflecting on what He has brought us through and where He has brought us.  I sit gratefully praising my Father for His kind and loving provision.  And I sit expectantly of all that He will do in our lives…how He will enable me to use this home for His glory.

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Trusting God 

Family Matters

I’m hopefully attaching my newest blog to FamilyMatters.net…I’m never quite sure when it comes to technology! 

God has been working so much on strengthening my understanding of trust.  I’m still learning and growing in it.  Pretty sure I need to learn and grow more and faster would be good too! 

I hope God encourages you!

In Him,

Sue

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Wanna Stop Swerving?

DSC_0253It’s a bit earlier than I planned to get up, but up I am.  Thanks to one pain in the rear Labrador Retriever….and, I think, thanks to the Lord.

As I lay on the sofa trying to get my mind to stop moving so I could fall back to sleep, I decided maybe this was an answer to prayer.  I’ve missed writing so much.  Missed looking more deeply at my life…my thoughts….my Savior.

It’s been a whirlwind lately.  Although, I can’t think of an extended amount of time that it’s been anything but a whirlwind…and I guess to some extent I’m okay with that…for a little bit.

I’m kinda tired right now.  Sick and tired.  No, actually sick.  Strep throat.  Can’t kick it.  Probably a key factor is a significant lack of sleep.  My mom is concerned I’m going to have a heart attack.  I’m just worried I’m going to pass out.

Right now, 2 hours before my alarm will sound, I feel quite good (except of course the sandpaper that is my throat.)

So this dark and early morning…what does God want me to learn about Him?

Lately I’ve been studying Hebrews…one of my favorite books.

I have a new Bible and nothing is underlined…I feel like everything is new.  It is funny, but part of me is embarrassed by my perfect new Bible without anything written in it…looks like I don’t study it.  I believe that’s called pride. Ugh.  The other part of me loves that it’s a new start…a chance to look at things in a new way.

I’ve been studying faith.  It’s made me think about my own faith…how sometimes I have such great confidence and other times I make choices that prove I don’t.  I live my life in fear…fear of what?  You know, I don’t know that I can even answer that question, really.  I mean, what do I fear?  Nothing…and maybe everything.

That lovely verse, “Perfect love casts out fear” comes to mind.  God loves me perfectly there is no need to fear…anything.

And yet…

I fear.

I’m anxious.

I’m twisted in knots.

Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is his body, since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.  Hebrews 10:19-23

How do I hold unswervingly to hope?

What does that look like?  Practically speaking.

I love the words God uses to encourage us, but often I’m unsure of what it looks like as I’m dealing with my children, my students, my friends, my family, myself.

What does holding hope look like?

I think maybe the answer is in some of the verses that follow those:

So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.  For, “In just a little while, he who is coming will come and will not delay.” And, “But my righteous one will live by faith.  And I take no pleasure in the one who shrinks back.”  But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.” Hebrews 10:36-39

And…

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.  And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.  For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.  Hebrews 12:1-3

It’s easy for me to look at those verses and see the do’s and don’ts…but I think, at least for me, what God is showing me…again…that it isn’t about ME.

What God is revealing to me is that it isn’t about what I do or don’t do, it’s about Him.

Both of those passages begin with imperatives…”Do not throw away your confidence” and “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles” and “run with perseverance” and “fix our eyes on Jesus.”

The key is that last one…

I’ve tried to be confident in many things…without fixing my eyes on Jesus.  I either stumble from pride or fear.

I’ve tried to throw off things that cause me to stumble and sin…without fixing my eyes on Jesus.  I can only walk forward a few steps before I find myself stumbling and falling yet again.

I’ve tried to run with perseverance…to live hopefully and faithfully and graciously…without fixing my eyes on Jesus.  I fail at it every time.  Every. Time.

I’m unable to be the woman I was made to be without fixing my eyes on Jesus.

I just can’t seem to do it.

Holding unswervingly to hope seems very similar to fixing my eyes on Jesus.

When things get wonky in my world (which they are A LOT), do I choose to have hope?

Maybe I’m looking too much for the seven steps to holding onto hope…when maybe there is just one.

  1. Choose hope.

I know that sounds trite…maybe a little naïve on my part.  But believe me, I am not naïve of the difficulties of life.  Been there, done that.

So much of survival…of thriving survival…is where I focus.  Choosing to take my thoughts captive to Christ.

For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does.  The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.  We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.  2 Corinthians 10:3-5

On what am I focusing?

Lately, if I’m honest, it’s how difficult this place God has me in…this place that is decidedly lacking in joy and grace.

And instead of choosing to bring the joy and grace to the situation, I’ve chosen to focus on the difficulties and what’s lacking.  Ugh.

I can see it in my children.  They are beginning to show the signs of strain…the joylessness of a life that doesn’t look for the things to be grateful for in the midst of difficulties.

I’ve not modeled well.

It’s a war for hope.

It’s a battle to choose hope over heartache.  But IT CAN BE DONE!

God wouldn’t tell us to hold unswervingly to hope if it wasn’t possible.

On the darkest days of my life, there was always hope.  Sometimes those days seem easier than these…these days of hectic, harried, stressful busyness.  These days of just wishing I could be still for a minute.  Still and quiet.

But I am!  Right now.  I’m probably gonna be a bit tired later, but how very worth it!  How very much I’ve enjoyed this quiet time with my Bible and laptop open.

The focus on those darkest days was Jesus.  I didn’t have anything else to cling to…no person beside me, no inner strength reserve, no wisdom, no powerful perspective, no provisions, no nothing…all I had was Jesus.

Jesus, the author and perfecter of my faith…Jesus, my shepherd.

The complexity of who Jesus is in my life strikes me right now…He creates, sustains, strengthens, and guides my faith…He is my hope.

So if I’m fixing my eyes on Him…I have hope.

I have hope that I can indeed walk on the water while waves crash, thunder echoes, and lightening crashes…just like Peter did.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.  Be when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”  Immediately, Jesus reached out his hand and caught him.  “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” Matthew 14:29-30

I have hope that I can endure the challenges of life…just like Paul did.

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.  Romans 8:18

I have hope that I am forgiven…again…just like, well, everyone.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.  1 John 1:9

I have hope that God has a plan for my life…and my future is secure.

Do not let your heart envy sinners, but always be zealous for the fear of the LORD.  There is surely a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off.  Proverbs 23:17-18

Will you fix your eyes on Jesus with me?  Will you hold unswervingly to hope…even when everything seems a bit hopeless?

I’m going to pray that we can do it.  That God will enable each of us to hold firmly to hope…to focus intentionally and intently on Jesus.

Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. 

Hebrews 13:20-21

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Would you rather trust?

path through the forestThe other day at bed, my littlest girl and I prayed a bold prayer for a contract on our home…that night.  She doubts God right now.  She doesn’t see things changing…she doesn’t see God working. We all really need something to change soon, but God doesn’t seem to be changing anything right now.

I wanted God to do something amazing that night…I’d even have taken the next day.  In fact, I thought it probably would be the following day.

Unfortunately, it didn’t happen.  And the “somewhat interested” response from the people who looked at my house caused my faith to wobble a bit.

See I’ve been reading a book that has encouraged me to pray big prayers so I can see God answer in big ways…and I’m all for praying big prayers…but I’m wondering if I pray big prayers for big answers, am I also praying big prayers understanding that God might not answer in a big way?  His gentle and loving answer might be something like, “Not yet.”

But I will be honest and tell you that I am tired of the “not yet” answer…and the “no” answer…I’d like a “yes”.  But even as I say that I know that some of the nos and not yets have been the very best answers to my prayers.  And I do trust Him to answer perfectly.

Argh!  But I so want to get out of this situation…when I’ve used the word “desperately” to describe something in the past I don’t believe I’ve understood it as deeply as I do now…I desperately want to be released from this place God has me and my children.  I don’t want to be here anymore.  But I also don’t want to force it and end up in a place I’ll eventually desperately not want to be either.

I’d rather trust God.

That’s huge.  Because right now, I can tell you I’ve had some conversations with God…and they haven’t all be holy.

But when given the alternative of figuring things out without Him, I’d rather trust God.

Trust in the Lord with all 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

When faced with decisions and dilemmas in this life, I’d rather trust God.

For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.  Therefore for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed.  Hebrews 12:11-13

When I’m trying to raise my children to love and honor Him, I’d rather trust God.

All your children shall be taught by the LORD, and great shall be the peace of your children.  Isaiah 54:13

When I’m exhausted and weary with nothing left to give, I’d rather trust God.

My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.  2 Corinthians 12:9-10

When I have no idea which way to turn, I’d rather trust God.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.  He makes me lie down in green pastures.  He leads me beside still waters.  He restores my soul.  He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.  Psalm 23:1-3

No matter how strongly I feel that I know what would be best, I’d rather trust God.

May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.  2 Thessalonians 3:5

Oh, how I need my heart directed.  This has been an exceedingly difficult time…and sometimes I don’t think others can quite understand the challenges.  I don’t think I’m necessarily doing it with the grace I’d hoped, but the Lord continues to meet me where I am.  He continues to love me through my doubts, fears, and faltering faith.  He continues to be faithful.  I do trust that He will guide my family, that he is a shield about me, that he is my refuge and strength.

I do trust that He will enable me to do this life well…even when it feels anything but wonderful.

And I do trust Him for the sale of my house and the purchase of our next home.

But most importantly, I trust that He will reveal Himself to my littlest girl in just the right way at just the right time.  That I don’t need to orchestra things to convince my daughter of His love, faithfulness, and existence!  He will handle that…I just need to love on her and pray.

So tonight, as I lay my head down on my pillow, I will be praying for my children and their faith and for me to trust Him without hesitation….and for a buyer for my house!

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It’s In A Box…Somewhere

IMG_8315My mom ’s garage is packed almost to the ceiling with all my belongings.  I thought when we were loading them in that there was some sort of organizational plan.

Yeah…nope.

There might have been, but I’ve messed it up with all my digging and moving and climbing around the mounds of stuff!

And I can’t find anything!

The most frustrating thing has been all my tax documents.  I was so sure I had labeled it and placed it carefully on the outside of the piles. Apparently I did not…drat!

Now I’m looking for my spring/summer clothes…that one might require emptying the whole place, because I don’t want to buy another thing that might end up in a box.

But one thing I think I might have inadvertently packed away is my sense of humor.  THAT I might need to find sooner.

I used to be a funny person…light-hearted and occasionally witty…now I’m just a bit sarcastic.  That’s no fun.

I’ve gotten so bogged down by heavy life things that I haven’t had time to just laugh about things.  I occasionally chuckle, but it’s more so I don’t cry than that I truly am laughing hard.

My kids used to tease me about how loud I laughed…that hasn’t happened in a while. Now they comment on how lame and fake my laugh sounds.  Lame?  Fake? Argh.  I need to laugh!

A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit.  Proverbs 15:13

I don’t want to be crushed anymore…heartache schmartache.  My heartache might have crushed my spirit a bit…well, a lot…but I am not crushed.   In fact, God says I’m not crushed.

Be we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.  We are hard-pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.  2 Corinthians 4:7-9

So a happy heart and a cheerful face is my goal.

I think this is one way I might actually be able to model the Proverbs 31 woman.

She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.  Proverbs 31:25

I don’t often laugh at the days ahead.  I very often think I’m more dreading…fearing…scared out of my wits than anything resembling laughter.

But I love to laugh!  Why not choose that instead of dread?  Why not find the joy in things?  Why not grab hold of hope?  Why not expect great things?  Seriously, why not?

Laughter gives us the opportunity to change our outlook.  The opportunity to release some stress, defuse the tension, and smile instead of sigh.

Maybe when I look at all those boxes, I can think of something to smile about…well, maybe, but I can’t think of what it would be.

How about my kids…there is ample fodder for fun with them.  I’ve been so busy I’ve missed out on it.

How about a night out with a friend or two…a funny movie…a good book (I can at least get a smile from a good book)…how about laughing about things instead of fussing about them.  Maybe a tickling fight instead of another kind of fight.

I could get a good laugh from most things if I flipped my perspective a bit.  If instead of looking at our housing situation as just a nightmare, I could have fun with the closeness of my kids.

I used to joke that the 800 square foot house we lived in for a few years was my children’s favorite house.  They could never be more than 3 feet from me at any given time.  They LOVED that!  Most of the time I did too. :)

When I couldn’t eat after I found out about my husband’s adultery, I had waaay too many adultery diet jokes. I think I might have joked about that one too much.

When my car made noises that no car should ever make, my kids and I would laugh and make jokes I shouldn’t share in this blog.  Let’s just say my sense of humor is perfect for someone who works with 11 year olds!

Sitting in the ICU with my mom could be incredibly depressing, but we have had fun joking about my mom mooning all the nurses, as well as some other jokes, which again, I best keep to myself.

Hey!  I might not need to find the sense of humor box!

I just need to start looking for the joy…even the funny…in my circumstances.

I have to be honest and say I don’t imagine it will always be the easiest thing. There are times when I feel like humor is the farthest thing from my mind.  The farthest!

I believe a concentrated effort to smile and laugh more will make a big difference.

One more thing I’m going to try!  Add it to the list…

  1. Expect great things
  2. Smile more!

(And, maybe #3 should be to organize the garage!!)

 

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Expecting Great Things

photo beachI have had a lot of time to sit these past few days.  I’ve been in ERs and ICUs for three days and although my tushy is tired, my heart is being moved continually by the time I’ ve had to ponder His word and to consider my life, my family, my hopes, my struggles, my decisions, and my circumstances.

I can’t say that I have answers yet…still waiting for some leading…but I’ve been convinced that although I write and speak often of prayer, I’ve not prayed often.  I’ve not approached the throne of grace with confidence.  I’ve not approached the throne of grace much at all.

I’ve glanced at it.

I’ve thought about it.

I’ve even studied it.

But I haven’t approached it.

And today, God has reminded me again and again that there is something for me at that throne…there is Someone for me at that throne.

Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.  Hebrews 7:25

Why I continue to wrestle with things when I have a Savior who already wrestled everything down to the ground baffles me.

Why do I choose torment over trust?

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.  And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith.  For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews 12:1-3

I’ve been reminded repeatedly today that I can bring everything to God.

The God who cares to number the hairs on my head surely cares about all the other little things in my life.

And even the very hairs on your head are numbered.  So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. Matthew 10:30-31

I haven’t modeled much praying for my children.  I think the only time they see me on my knees is when I’m sorting laundry in my daughters’ room.

There have been so many opportunities for prayer…so many…and I’ve been too tired or busy to take advantage of them.

I’ve been so busy not handling things well that I’ve forgotten to whom I can hand everything.

Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.  1 Peter 5:7

Today I have taken the time to pray.  In fact, I have prayed a lot.

My heart is still a bit heavy, but God is working.  I have a great anticipation of what He can do with my life and the lives of my children.  I have great hope for what awaits us!

I haven’t had this hope and expectancy in a long time.  In fact, I think I’ve been just plain worried and anxious about things.  And I’ve had the sense that nothing good will happen, difficult things won’t change, and life will remain what it is for a very long time…how different from the way God wants me to view my life.

I have settled in on fear and worry instead of settling down at the mercy seat.

I wonder sometimes if I have some things I need to take care of before I can move forward…before change will happen.

Not that I’m limiting God…because God is able to do immeasurably more than I can ask or imagine…He doesn’t NEED me to do anything before He works, but maybe He wants me to…maybe He wants me to recognize some things, learn some things, or let go of some things.

I have a hard time letting go.  I hold tightly to things, especially things I love.  God has asked me to give up a lot of things I’d prefer to keep.  That Frozen song “Let It Go” has become my theme song.  (Now you have that song running through your head…you’re welcome!)

I’m really looking forward to the day when God says, “Hold on, Sweetheart!  This is for you!”

Maybe it will be sooner rather than later.  Maybe He is simply going to ask me to hold on to Him.

Hold on to Him.

He is enough.  He is more than enough.

I know that, but I’m afraid of saying it.  Ashamed to admit it.  Scared He will want me to prove it. But I know that isn’t how my Father works.  He doesn’t wait for me to pray some prayer that enable Him to womp me with a lesson.  I hate that I fear that sometimes.

My God loves to be kind to me…loves to make me smile…loves to see me laugh…loves to bless me.

I know that and I want to pray for that perspective more than my gloomy gal perspective.

Like William Carey says, “Expect great things from God!”

I’m ready to do that!  I’m ready to see God work.  I’m ready to take a step of faith, pray a big prayer, and watch God do something amazing!

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All of It and More

IMG_5748I have started no less than three blogs this week.   I have thought of about fifteen I want to write.  Time has been limited so I had hoped yesterday would be the day to put words to page, but God had different plans.

I spent the day at the hospital with my mom.  It is so very reminiscent of my time at this very hospital with my dad 2 years ago.  Thankfully, I do not believe my mom is in a life threatening situation, but it is heart breaking to be here.

I’m back here again today and will be again tomorrow.

And I’m torn because while I’m here my children are home.  I’m so thankful for my big kids who continually step up and help.  This time it has been my oldest daughter who has been simply amazing.  She very rarely complains about helping me…in fact, I can’t think of a time she has.

For the past several months she has been sharing a room with her 7 and 8 year old sisters, and she hasn’t complained.  How is that possible?  What a wonderful young woman!

Actually all my children rock!  Truly.  They step up without complaint in so many situations.  I’m so very blessed.

This hospital visit has provided time to be still.  I’ve had so much on my heart and mind this week.

And God has brought me to Ephesians 3:20-21

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.

Sometimes God’s word just hits me…like a cool breeze on a hot day or a soft wave rushing over my feet at the beach.  There are other times when His word whacks me a bit more like the proverbial 2×4…but this time, it has been a gentle touch…a welcome hug.

What hits me most is the phrase “able to do immeasurably more” – that word immeasurably is one I can’t really wrap my brain around.

Immeasurably more.

It makes me wonder (again) why I can’t seem to rest in the knowledge that God is able.  GOD. IS. ABLE.

He isn’t just able…He is more than able.

I’m actually not sure what more than able means.  It’s like that phrase in Romans 8:37 more than conquerors – what does that even mean?

Although more than a conqueror I think I kind of understand…I think maybe it means that God doesn’t just make us the victor, He gives us the blessings of victory.  Like when the Israelites were freed from Egypt, He inclined the Egyptians to give them things so they began their journey with provisions.  They won freedom and provision.

Maybe more than able means that God is able and willing.

But that begs the questions, “Then why doesn’t He always fix things?”

Willing doesn’t seem like the right word, but I think it is.  It doesn’t seem right because when I think of willing I think that it means that if God is willing He should make it happen.  Just getterdone.

But I believe a better way to describe it is that God is willing to always do what is absolutely best.  Best based on His divine, omniscient, sovereign wisdom – not my limited, worldly wisdom (if that can even be called wisdom).

Good gravy!  I’ve ended up yet again at the issue of trust.

I have to trust that God’s ability and willingness to work in my life are always going to be based on what He knows, not what I know.

That’s a good thing, but hard to accept at times.  I feel like I know my situation so well.  I feel like I’m pretty sure I have a good idea of what would be best.

But then again, I take forever to make a decision and then spend most of the rest of the time second-guessing myself. So being confident in my understanding of my situation is kind of silly.  Thinking I have the ability to make the best decisions is not exactly my standard operating procedure.  Why in the world do I question God’s ability and willingness to work in my life…to work perfectly in my life?

I’ll tell you why…because it doesn’t look perfect to me.  Not perfect AT ALL!

My life feels so less than perfect…ugh.

Actually I don’t even need perfect, I would settle for uncomplicated.

Yes, uncomplicated…simple, straightforward, unfussy, easy.

Unfussy.  I love that word!  Man, can I be fussy!

Maybe the change I need is not an unfussy life, but an unfussy me?!

Maybe if I get my brain around “GOD IS ABLE” things will look  less complicated.  Maybe if I can begin to grasp that God is able to do immeasurably more…exceedingly abundantly, infinitely more, above and beyond, far exceedingly beyond all that we ask or imagine.  Those were just some of the versions I found.

What has all of a sudden struck me is that it isn’t just what we ask – it is what we don’t even ask…those things that I just think, dream, hope for, wish for, envision, and imagine.

God knows me so well, He knows all that I hope for and all that I imagine…and He cares about it all.

I read this in the Matthew Henry’s Commentary
3:20, 21 It is proper always to end prayers with praises. Let us expect more, and ask for more, encouraged by what Christ has already done for our souls, being assured that the conversion of sinners, and the comfort of believers, will be to his glory, for ever and ever.

And all of a sudden, my perspective has changed, yet again.

I know that the words in Ephesians 3:20-21 are meant as more than just a comfort for me as an individual.  They are meant to encourage us that Jesus has already done more than all we can ask or think…who would have ever thought to ask God for Him to sacrifice His Son for their salvation?  Who would have imagined that God would be willing to do anything to save us?

And yet, He did.

He already did it!  I didn’t even have to think about it or imagine it.

While I was still a sinner, Christ died for me! (Romans 5:8)

Oh my goodness!  I think my lightbulb just went on!

I get it!  Again, God brings us back to the gospel.  That God is able thing…it’s not just about my life, my nitty-gritty, my fears, my dreams, my hopes, my prayers…it’s about it all!  It’s about life.  It’s about salvation!

It’s about Jesus!

He is so good!  To remind me again that the same power that raised Jesus from the dead…that the same God who created me and watches me do dumb stuff constantly…that same God decided on a rescue plan for me, for us all… He willingly put it into motion…He made it happen because HE IS ABLE!

He is able to save to the utmost!  He is able to completely save.  He is able to forgive and redeem and sanctify and perfect!

Sometimes I think I’m quite able to do what needs to be done, but Jesus has proven that some things (all things) are done better by Him.

He was able to save me when I couldn’t.

He is able to forgive me when I can’t.

He is able in all the ways I am not.

He is able in all the ways I think I am.

He is able in every way to do all that I can’t even imagine or think.

Our Savior is so good…so good!

I’m so thankful for this time, even if it is sitting in a hospital room.  I’m so thankful for a moment to ponder things.  I’m so thankful for my Lord.  I’m so thankful for hope.

Whenever God brings me back to the gospel, I have renewed hope wash over me.  If He is able to save me, He is able to do it all!

All of it and more!

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So Loved

lillyI feel kind of silly because I so wanted to write daily and that lasted about a week.  Best laid plans… I’m determined to get in the habit because it helps my focus.  Hopefully, tomorrow?!?

This week is my last of graduate class homework!  Yippee!  I really don’t even have time to write right this minute, BUT I just had to give God a shout out!

Last week was one of those weeks…you know the ones so I don’t have to go into great detail, but discouraging would be a good adjective to describe it.  Enough said.

Anywho.

I’ve been part of a women’s Bible study since the fall.  I’ve been able to go only a handful of times because of family issues.  It has been a very discouraging thing to me.

I NEED FELLOWSHIP!

Tonight is Bible study, and I texted all the ladies about 2 hours ago and asked them to pray that everything would go smoothly so I can join them.

They’ve all been praying.  I so appreciate it.

I just received a text from a lady in the study who barely knows me, and this is what she said,

“Praying that we will see you tonight.  Do you have a favorite tea?  I’ll pick some up for you.”

I read that and tears sprung to my eyes.

Just a simple act of loving friendship, but what an indication of faith that God will provide a way for me to be there!

I love it.

I’m afraid lately I’ve been less than stellar in my faith.  It used to be that I felt faith for the big things, and faltered with the little.  Now it’s just everything.

I think after a while it’s easy to assume that nothing is going to go smoothly…mostly because the record of smoothness has been pretty abysmal.

My life has gone more like a ride through a ravine full of rocks that jolt and branches that whack.

And yet, God IS faithful.  I do know it to be true.

I think I have always taken fellowship for granted.  I’ve always had friends nearby.  I’ve always had support, encouragement, and love from people around me.

Now, not so much.

And those precious few who live in my vicinity…poor ones…they get to be near the neediest of women.  I could probably suck the life out of anyone at this point.

I have found that in the moments when I feel desperate or just down, the One I must turn to is God.  As much as I want a friend to listen, encourage, help, and hug…God really does answer the needs of my heart better than anyone I have ever met, near or far.

Interesting.

I think I have had all these same feelings with regard to a husband.  The longings to be a wife again…the missing of daily care and love of a husband…real things.

Real things that can be answered by a real God.

Amazing as that sounds.  It is true.

I do not need to be afraid of loneliness, because my God understands.

In fact, He knows sorrow, grief, and loneliness much better than I ever could, or ever want to know.

He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.  Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.  Isaiah 53:3-4

Sometimes (although I wish all the time…

All

The

Time)

I am in awe of what Christ did for us…for me.  I cannot wrap my brain around it.  This perfect man…this loving, kind, gentle, wise man…

But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.  Isaiah 53:5

And this is how awesome God is….

We have been studying Hebrews in our Bible study and tonight’s lesson is on Hebrews 9-10.  These chapters are beautiful reminders of why the Cross matters.

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

When you compare the old covenant with the new, the differences are amazing!  The one that really stuck out to me was that the old sacrifices purified the flesh, but Jesus’ sacrifice of Himself purifies our conscience.  Our sins are forgiven…completely.  Our sins are forgotten…completely.  And that knowledge is almost too wonderful to comprehend.  And in only grasping it a bit, we can approach our God and Father with confidence, trust, and faith.

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 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.  Hebrews 10:19-23

When I read those verses I think, why does my faith waver so?  Where is my full assurance?

And AGAIN, for the millionth time, God brings the gospel of grace RIGHT IN FRONT OF MY FACE!

This seems like a great time to preach the gospel to myself…those times when my faith is not the firmest and my fear is taking hold…that is the time to remind myself that God is with me…that God chooses to be with me…that my mess can be meaningful in God’s hands…that the struggles, setback, and sorrows are not wasted when I have a God who loves me faithfully and perfectly…that Jesus’ sacrifice on that beautiful, scandalous Cross was so that I would be forgiven, so that I would be His forever.  His love is amazing…His grace is overwhelming.

So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.  By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgement, because as he is so also are we in this world.  There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.  For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not be perfected in love.  We love because he first loved us.  1 John 4:16-19

I can’t even remember what my point was when I started this blog…nothing new…my brain is a little mushy by the end of the day…and sometimes it is so fun to see where the Holy Spirit leads…well, actually it is pretty awesome!

And I feel so refreshed by the Scripture He put before me…so blessed by the reminder of His sacrifice…and so comforted by the knowledge of His love.

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It All Depends on Where You Look

Recently I went on a walk through a beautiful park.  It was almost a spring day…chilly, but still warm enough to skip the jacket.  The trees were still bare, the flowers still asleep, and the air still a little crisp.

At one point, there was an overlook which provided a lovely view of the marsh and the river in the distance.  The contrast between the tall yellow grass of the marsh and the beautiful blue of the water beyond was stunnings.

IMG_0571

I loved the view.

But when I glanced down, I found that the view close up was rather unappealing.  It was muddy, dirty looking water full of  branches and old, wet grass.

IMG_0572

And it struck me that from this one vantage point there were two decidedly different views.  And how, in my life, there are definitely two views offered…two views ahead of me.

I can look at what is right before me and the view is kind of disappointing, definitely a bit muddy, and far from the view I was hoping to have.  While taking in the scenery of this view, I can only see the situations I find myself in…the difficulties, challenges, and disappointments.  I don’t seem able to see beyond the troubles of the day. And, oh boy, are there a lot of those I can see from this vantage point.

BUT, if I can lift my eyes, even just a bit, I can see beauty in the beyond.  Beyond my circumstances.  Beyond my setbacks.  Beyond my troubles.  Beyond my exhaustion.  Beyond my disappointments.

It, apparently, is the lesson of my life.  The lesson I must continually learn.

If my view is only of my circumstances, they will overwhelm me.

If my view is of my Savior, He will overwhelm me.

I guess I have to decide what I want to be overwhelmed by…been saying this forever.  When am I going to get my rear in gear and live as I know I should?

Part of the problem is that I make choices that aren’t great.  I’m not talking about decisions…all those life decision I need to make…I’m talking about choices each day.

I choose to worry when I just need to wait.

I choose fear over faith.

I choose to seek comfort apart from God.

I choose to disobey, when I need to (I must) obey.

I choose to question instead of trust.

I choose the struggle instead of the peace.

I choose it all instead of Jesus.

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 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.  And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near.  Ephesians 2:13-17

I choose the things of this world…the things right in front of me…and somehow expect them to heal my broken heart, to fill the empty spaces, to comfort me completely.

They don’t.

Nothing does, but Jesus.

I’ve said it before, but in some ways, I almost want to go back to the place when everything fell apart.  When everything was truly out of my hands…when all I could do was rely on God.

Since then I’ve been under the false impression that there are things in my control…that somethings need me…that I can rely on myself…good golly!  That is so not true.

I no longer want to be in control of my life…it’s too stressful.  I want to let God have it all…so why don’t I?

Because for some silly reason I continually think this little thing…this thing before me…this one thing I can handle.  I can handle this thing.  No worries.

Thanks God…but I got this.

Ahhhh…why do I insist on this silly way of living?

Does anyone else have this struggle?  This insistence on self-reliance?

How do we win against it?

What’s the secret?

Focus.

Focus? Is it really that simple?

Simple….might not be the best word to use to describe anything in our lives.  At least in mine.

Even focus is not simple.  I’m a mess of focuses…kids, house, meals, schoolwork, classwork, homework, work work, teenagers, college student, college admission process, church, health, sleep, family, friends, car, stuff, and stuff, and stuff…

I just want to focus on Jesus alone, but all the other things in life seem to edge into my vision.

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

It sometimes feels that I can’t really get my focus on Him alone because there is just so much to do…how in the world do I do it?

Maybe the problem isn’t the focus point (Jesus) as much as what I think focusing means…what does focusing look like?

I usually envision it as something akin to prayer on my knees, Bible study, and time spent fellowshipping with others.

That can’t be what focusing on Christ means because I can’t stop everything else in my life to do that and that alone.  We would be the most ragamuffin family ever…not to mention we’d probably starve!

Alright, so what does it look like?

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18:4 came to mind:

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 

It made sense to me that that would be a way to focus – rejoicing, praying, thanking.

If I’m rejoicing, I must be focusing on Christ, who is my Savior.

If I’m praying, I must be focusing on Jesus, who is working in my life.

If I’m thanking, I must be focusing on Jesus, the source of all things in my life.

It just makes sense.

So maybe in some ways it is simple.  It is simply living my life with my mind focused on who Christ is, what He has done and continues to do, and thanking Him for it all!

Good golly!  We are brought back again to the Gospel!

If our focus is on Christ, we cannot miss the gospel and its impact on our lives.  We cannot lose our focus, because our lives are so covered by the gospel of grace.

Each day begins with the knowledge that I am saved, that I am blessed with another day to serve, that I am loved beyond measure, that I am forgiven, that I am precious to my God.

Each day continues with the sustaining strength of the Holy Spirit working in and through me to bless others.  If I am praying and thanking Him throughout the day, I find myself more aware of how and where He is working.  My focus is on what He is doing through me, rather than what I am doing for me.

Each day is covered with the grace of God…how can I begin to thank Him for that?  How often do I just want to crawl into a corner and weep for my sinfulness?  For the way I spoke to my child, the facial expressions I used, the anger I showed, for the thoughts I had that were unkind, the muttering and complaining that spilled from my mouth, the temptations I gave in to, the judgment, pride, and arrogance that invades my heart sometimes…oh Lord, how is it possible you love me so much?  I’m so very unloveable.

And yet, I AM so very loved.

Crazy.

Unexpected.

Amazing.

The view I’m taking right now…and I pray it will continue into the next 5 minutes…even into the next day!

Is the view of Jesus my Savior.

Jesus, who is my life.

Jesus, who is my peace.

Jesus, who is the author and perfecter of my faith.

Jesus.

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Had You Known?

photo (32)It was about this time 6 years ago when my husband left.

And although in many ways I’m stronger and better…the repercussions still vibrate through my life.  In the midst of something wonderful, I can feel the stirrings of fear seeping into my thoughts, the beat of insecurity pulsing through me, and the blending of sorrow and hurt spilling over my heart.  Sometimes it comes at the oddest times…sometimes it almost makes perfect sense.

And although the hurt and sorrow are dulled, the insecurities and fear have not…if anything, at times, I think they have increased.  And it drives me crazy!!!  I don’t want to live with the repercussions of someone else’s actions…I have all the repercussions of my own actions to deal with! (thank you very much.)

If my ex-husband could have comprehended how much his actions would hurt me, would he still have left?  If he could have looked ahead and had any idea of the sorrow and fear that would plague me, would he still have had an affair?  If he could have felt the pain that washes over me so often, would he have abandoned our children?

I don’t know, but I can’t imagine causing anyone the pain he has caused us.  I can’t imagine being okay with any of this.

But then again, there are a lot of things I can’t imagine.

I can’t imagine this fear ever leaving…I pray it does though.

I can’t imagine ever being free of this pain…although I pray fervently I am.

There are moments…sweet, precious moments of freedom.  Moments when I forget.  Moments when I see clearly a bright and hopeful future.

The fight for those moments is daily.  It is a constant battle to take my thoughts captive.  I know that settling in that fear and insecurity is a miserable place…a not-God-honoring place…a hopeless place.

I know that God wants more than that for me.  He wants me to be more than a bruised and shattered woman…He wants me to live a life of confidence and hope.

Each morning is an opportunity to set my mind on things above, not on things of this earth.

Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.  For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.  Colossians 3:1-3

Every morning is the opportunity for something new…a new start, a new perspective, a new vision for my future…

Every morning provides me a fresh way to grab hold of hope.

The LORD’S loving-kindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.  “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I have hope in Him.”…  Jeremiah 3:22-24

What do I hope for?

I hope for peace.  I long for peace.  I have found that this world offers little peace.  It is a decidedly not peaceful place.  BUT Jesus is the author of my peace.

“Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful. John 14:27

I often pray for peace that passes all understanding to guard the hearts and minds of those who share with me…I should absolutely be praying that for myself as well.

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:6-7

I hope for the ability to truly trust again.

Trust others to know my heart…to take care of my heart…to treat me as precious and valuable.

Trust others to be faithful and honoring.

Trust others to love me.

But trust has to start with me trusting God.  Trusting that God has a good plan for my life…for this day.  Trusting God with my heart.

Yes, my soul, finds rest in God; my hope comes from him.  Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.  My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my might rock, my refuge.  Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.  Psalm 62:5-8

I hope for freedom from fear.

Freedom to love without fear.

Freedom to let go of the fear of pain.

I do not believe there is any freedom apart from Christ.  I will not find the peace, hope, and freedom I so long for from anyone but the Lord.

You whom I have taken from the ends of the earth, and called from its remotest parts And said to you, ‘You are My servant, I have chosen you and not rejected you. ‘Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, ‘Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’ Isaiah 41:9-10

I picture this woman with her hands outstretched…with a huge smile…welcoming all that God has into her life.

I picture a woman, healed and whole…a woman who loves others with abandon and without fear.

I picture a woman on her knees praying for strength to face tomorrow with hope.

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