uptomytoes

Hope & Humor for Single & Divorced Parents

Are You Giving UP?

 

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I was talking with a friend lately about how it feels like for the past 5+ years God has asked me to give up A LOT!

Sometimes it feels like all I’m doing is giving up people, things, hopes, and dreams…

Sometimes it has felt unbearable and sometimes it has been relatively easy.

Sometimes the outcome has been good right from the start and other times…well, I’m still waiting to see the good.

Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?

Hope in God: for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.  Psalm 42:5

I don’t doubt it will come…eventually.  I understand that sometimes the good isn’t something I’ll be able to see, feel, touch, or even understand.  The good is going to have to be something I trust will happen because I trust God.

But I have to be honest and say that on one hand I’m tired of giving up things and on the other hand I kinda just wanna give up.

Even as I write that…I don’t think I really mean it.  I definitely have those “Good grief!  I give up!” or “Lord, I just can’t take this anymore, please please make it better…I feel like giving up.” Or “God, I trust you.  I’m giving this up to you.”  The last one would be the best one to utter most definitely.

So when I feel like giving up, how do I give my stuff UP to God?

How do I actively trust God enough to not only give up something, but give UP the resulting pain and sorrow and disappointment?

Do you know what I mean?

What does giving Up my stuff to God look like?

I tend to give my things to God and then asking for them back.

God I trust you with my kids, but…

God you can have my finances, but…

God I understand your commands, but…

God I know you’re there to listen, but…

God, I need your grace, but…

God I believe you have a plan, but…

Does anyone else struggle with this?  Am I the only one who takes everything back and heaps it onto my own back again and again and again?

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart,

and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. Matthew 11:28-30

Honest to goodness, I have no idea why I take stuff back.  It doesn’t make sense…really.  I know that God’s plan is best.  I know that His way is best.  I know that His timing is best.  I know that His care is best.

I know that He is the best at carrying my burden…and yet, I take it back.  As if…

As if, I have all the answers.

As if, I have all the power and strength.

As if, I have all the energy.

As If, I can do all things.

As if, I know what the heck I’m doing.

It really is a matter of trust.  Do I trust God to handle my life?  My emotions?  My future?  My children?

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not on your own understanding.

In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.  Proverbs 3:5-6

Has God called me to do the impossible?  To continue to give up and give UP when not much makes sense…to continue to trust Him when I can’t see the good…yet?

No, He has not.

God says I can do all things…all the things He has called me to do (and not to do).

So if God has called me to give up some things and to give some things UP…then He is going to enable me to do it.

I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13

Reading that verse made me ask, “Why does Christ give me strength?”

That’s one of those questions that seems easy at first and then as I consider it, definitely not.

Maybe it is a simple answer.  Because we need it.

Because He knows we need it.

Because we are weak.

Because we are burdened.

Because we carry grief and sorrow and pain.

Because He understands the giving up and the giving UP…because He gave up an awful lot for me…for us.

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,

who, though he was in the form Of God,

did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,

but made himself nothing, taking the

Form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 

And being found in human form, he humbled himself by

becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Philippians 2:5-8

 

In comparison, I have not given up much.  It feels like very much…very, very much…but I cannot forget that I have also been given very, very much.

God might ask for things, but He is exceedingly generous in things too.

And some of that generosity is that He is willing to show us His love and care by taking things…things we more than willingly would give Him.

All this sorrow, grief, pain, suffering, frustration, fear, and just plain aggravation…all that yuck, God says He’ll take it.  He’ll handle it.  I don’t have to.

I don’t exactly know how to get rid of it…I mean really.  I keep giving it to God but grief has a funny way of coming back into my life uninvited.

God, how do I make grief go away?

Can I?

Is this grief, this sorrow, my cross to bear?  And, if so, how do I do it without letting it define me.  How do I carry it, without it becoming unbearable?  How do I even begin to have new adventures when the pain

of the past and even the present lies so heavily on me?

I don’t exactly have the answer, I mean I know the answer, but it isn’t an easy ten step plan.

I believe it is in Christ’s strength.  I believe it is in a constant recognition that I need Him. Desperately.

He is everything.  He will help me.  He says He will.  He says He will carry the burden with me.  I don’t have to do this alone.

This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life.  Psalm 119:50

The yoke He speaks of in Matthew 11 – His yoke…how does that work?  How is it easier and lighter?  And how do I give up my stuff and take His yoke?  I can barely lift my stuff off my shoulders.

God brought me to these verses – I just know it – to remind me of the gospel.  I believe those verses are about the gospel.  Honestly, I’m seeing that all of God’s word is about the gospel.

The rest Christ promises is from all the things we do to make things better…to make us better.

John MacArthur says it like this, “Rest speaks of a permanent respite in the grace of God completely apart from works.”

I think what I’m seeing is God’s answer is the gospel.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves,

it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. 

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, 

which God prepared in advance for us to do.  Ephesians 2:8-10

God has done it all and He is doing it all.  I’m just blessed to be part of the plan.

The gospel is all about what Christ has done…not what I’ve done or do or will do.  Thank goodness!

I can’t fix things here.  I’ve tried.  No luck.

I can’t even “fix” me.

And I certainly can’t “fix” anyone else.

So what can I do?  I can rest in God’s grace.

I can know without a doubt that I’m saved…that I’m loved…that I’m cherished, precious, chosen, beloved, strengthened, protected, secure, never alone, and never forsaken by the One who knows me best.

Whatever the sorrow or pain you bear, He will bear it with you.

Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him.

I will protect him, because he knows my name.

When he calls to me, I will answer him;

I will be with him in trouble;

I will rescue him and honor him.

With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.  Psalm 91:14-16

 When you just feel like giving up, remember the great love God has for you.  Immerse yourself in His word.

 My soul melts away for sorrow; strengthen me according to your word!  Psalm 119:28

When you just can’t bear the thought of giving up anything or anyone else, know that He is enough to fill the void…He will take the empty place and make it full again.  He will.  It might not look like you thought or even like you want it to, but He knows best.  Trust.

I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth

of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.  Philippians 3:8

Can I be brave and give you an example from my life?  Well, it’s not like I don’t blather it all to y’all anyway…but here goes…

I would love to get married again…to be a helpmate to a godly man.  I would love to have the opportunity to love again within the covenant of marriage…deeply, richly, passionately.

And it seems like God keeps asking me to give that hope up to Him…lately, it has been painful to think about and I want to “fix” my situation…

and at the same time I’m afraid of feeling all the pain of betrayal again.  I can’t bear the thought of it.

But I’m willing to be brave if God opens the door.  If God allows it.  I trust Him.

So one night I decided that I would do what I used to…spend my time with Jesus.  Instead being poor pitiful Sue, I’m putting my face in His word as often as I need to in order to adjust my attitude, comfort my

heart, bring peace to my thoughts, or remind myself of His love for me.    (And He’s even blessing me with the groundwork for a 2nd book that I’m prayerfully starting!)

And it’s working!  It is helping me so very much.  I’m remembering how God got me through 5 years ago…how He comforted and quieted my heart with His word.

O LORD, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high;

I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me.

But I have calmed and quieted my soul,

like a weaned child with its mother,

like a weaned child is my soul within me.

O Israel, hope in the LORD from this time forth and forevermore.  Psalm 131

He’s doing that again.  He’s reminding me that He is worthy of my praise – He is worthy of my trust.

I can have hope because God is my hope.

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope…  Psalm 130:5

God has indeed asked me to give up much.  He has asked me to trust Him with the giving up.  And He has asked me to give UP some things to Him – to entrust Him with some things I hold very dear.

It isn’t easy, but I’m willing.  I’m willing because I know that His ways are ALWAYS best.

I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.  Job 42:2

God allows difficult things to happen in our lives because He knows that through those things we will know and we will show that He is trustworthy.  He knows beforehand that He is going to equip us to walk

through whatever path He lays before us.  He knows beforehand that He is going to give us the strength we need to do what He has called me to do…to fulfill His purpose for us.

His purpose for me right now is to walk a path that is a bit rocky…but He hasn’t asked me to do something that He hasn’t prepared me to do.  He’s prepared me and is equipping me to live where He has me.

And He has done the same for you.

And we can certainly thank God , no matter how sad and sorrowful, no matter how angry and frustrated, no matter how disappointed and grumpy we are, He will NEVER give up on us.

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What Happens Afterwards?

ImageIt’s been a weird week or so.  Do you know what I mean?

I can’t put my finger on it, but it’s been a little off.

I think I know part of the reason and it’s quite surprising to me.  Particularly because I thought I was kinda past all this stuff.

You know all healed up and such.

But lately, I’m spittin’ mad…angry…frustrated….even a little bit bitter.

And even more than all of those…I’m surprised.

I thought I was over all those awful emotions.

I thought I was past that place

…outta that pit.

But I think there is still some climbing, crawling and running that needs to happen.

Still some growing

learning

and trusting…

I’ve had friends tell me that I need to not use my husband’s adultery, abandonment, and our subsequent divorce as such a huge reference point in my life.

My answer has always been, “????????”

‘Cause it’s pretty much feels like one of the biggest things to happen in my life…and it’s the most recent biggest thing…and it impacted so much and so many and so deeply.

You know those big events like salvation, marriage, children…those things you build upon.

They are all the beginning of something wonderful.

Divorce, it’s just the end.

There isn’t much to build upon there…

in fact, what IS there, is nothing you’d want to build upon anyway, right?

Sadness, regret, anger, betrayal, crisis, etc.

Someone recently said to me, “Divorce can be the beginning of something better.”

I guess so.

But it isn’t because divorce is a great beginning; it’s what God can do afterwards.

But after what?

After divorce?  After a while?  After the stages of grief have all been cycled through…again?

Please don’t get me wrong I’m not asking that in a rotten way…I’m pondering.

I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways.  Psalm 119:15

I guess I should tell you a bit more about my situation…well, my thoughts on my situation.

Those feelings of anger, frustration and bitterness are toward my ex-husband…and he absolutely deserves it BUT it isn’t right and it isn’t good and it isn’t what I want to be feeling.

 Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly.  Proverbs 14:29

I forgave him for what he did to me, to our children and to our family.  And although I know forgiveness is a process (sometimes a long process), I thought I had finished the process.  I thought I was on the other side.

There have been many things to forgive since the original hurt, and those things have indeed been forgiven.

  Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? 

As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.”  Matthew 18:21-22

But, honestly, I’ve been thinking all along that much of what I’ve struggled with in the past 5 plus years has been anger and frustration at those continued dumb things the man does.

Now, I’m not so sure.

Maybe I underestimated the whole forgiveness thing.  Maybe I didn’t understand completely how forgiveness needs to be a “completely” thing.

Forgiveness is definitely something I have offered and done.  I know I have…without a doubt.

I guess this is where the whole faith thing comes in.

The thing with forgiveness is…well, it doesn’t necessarily make all the hurt go away.  I forgave and I still hurt. ..a lot.

And maybe that hurt won’t ever completely go away…it’s pretty deep…but does that mean I haven’t really forgiven?

And if I have forgiven, can I still feel angry at the offending person?

Yes, yes I can.

But should I?

I don’t believe so.

The best thing I can do for ME is forgive and move forward.

The answer is to let go of the anger, frustration, and bitterness.

And I’m thinking I need to go read the chapter on anger and bitterness in my book, because maybe I can remind myself of how I got through this before…  I wish I was kidding.

I definitely don’t want to feel fussy forever.

I want to be able to move forward without anger and bitterness.  I want to not give that burden to my children.  I just want to give my burdens to the Lord – He can handle them.

Cast your burden on the LORD, and he will sustain you, He will never permit the righteous to be moved.  Psalm 55:22

Part of being in this funky place has been that I haven’t been able to hide from my children my thoughts and feelings about their dad.  I apologized to my oldest daughter the other night.

She said, “Yeah, it’s been weird.  But it’s ok Mom.”

Well, I guess I can take one positive think from that – I have done pretty well with it for over 5 years!

But I don’t want to be a mom who weighs down my children with my baggage.

So what am I going to do about it?

1st I’m going to pray.  (I’m noticing a theme in my life – pray first!!!)

Pray for God to give me His perspective on things.

What is His perspective on things?  Well, one thing that has helped in the past is to see my husband as a broken, sinful man in need of a Savior…just like I’m a sinful woman in need of my Savior.  To recognize where he is…and that like David in Psalm 51, his sin is against God.  God will handle it.  I don’t need to.

Pray for God to give me the strength to control my tongue..

Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil

and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good;

let him seek peace and pursue it.  1 Peter 3:10-11

Oh golly, is this gonna be a big prayer request!  I’ve struggled so much lately with my comments and my facial expressions.  I can’t seem to keep my thoughts to myself…my angry thoughts that is.  And the sad part is that those angry thoughts don’t serve any purpose but to wound innocent people around me, particularly my children.

That’s the dumb part about anger and bitterness – it really doesn’t impact the offender very much, if at all.  It just hurts you…and me.  It just hurts the people we most want to protect from further hurt.  Our beautiful children.

So, friends, I’m gonna do something about this angry, bitter woman I see sometimes in the mirror.

She is not welcome anymore.

I don’t think I can just make a decision in this post and change myself instantaneously, but I can start the process…golly another process…maybe I should rephrase that…I can pray and ask the Holy Spirit to start the process in me.

I know that only God can make this better in me.  I know that only God can change the hurt, anger, and bitterness into something much better.

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion – to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified.  Isaiah 61:1-3

My part…my part is to pray, to seek Him, to read His love letter to me, to counsel with friends, and to fight for a better attitude.

Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually.  Psalm 105:4

 

I lift my eyes to the hills.  From where does my help come? 

My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth. 

He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber.  

Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. 

The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade on your right hand. 

The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. 

The LORD will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. 

The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in

from this time forth and forevermore.  Psalm 121

 

 

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Help Me Beez Good

Image  This past Sunday morning, my kids and I were sitting around the living room sharing prayer requests and talking.  As we prepared to bow our heads, my youngest daughter asked if she could pray.   I said, “Sure, sweetie!”

Now Allison can be a little spicy…you never know how much spice is gonna hitcha, but hitcha it will.  So I was expecting something if not surprising, at least amusing, to come out of her beautiful little lips.

I opened us in prayer and then she shared her prayer…

“God help me beez good…”

It was followed by a request that others of the family would beez good as well…we all smiled.

My sweetheart struggles with anger, frustration, and acting out.  Just like the rest of us.

We all needed that prayer.

I definitely need to pray that prayer too.

I just finished reading The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom.  It’s a beautiful story…a challenging story…a story that puts my struggles in perspective.

It’s beautiful because of God in these people…in Corrie and her family and their friends.

Its’ challenging because I want so much to be like them…like Corrie ten Boom’s mother who graciously gives even when they have so little, who takes the time to reach out to those in need even though she herself is in need, who steadfastly loves God and her family and everyone around her.

I want to be like that.

I want to be good like that…not just for the sake of being good though.  I don’t just want to appear good, I want to actually do good…be good for God.

How many people’s lives were touched because of the simple, loving faith of that beautiful woman?

I know sometimes stories don’t share the rough days when tempers flared or frustrations were evident, but even so, the beauty of a woman willing to love others despite her own poverty and pain…that’s glorious.  That’s good.

Writing about being or doing good is always tricky…especially because I’m all about grace.  I don’t want to live without grace and I want to be overflowing with it toward others.

But God does call us to do good…

And let us not grow weary in 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

Paul’s description of good, I think, is laid out in the verses before these.  Verses were he shares the fruit of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control – and in verses where he reminds us to “walk by the Spirit.”  He calls us to do good, but it is with the strength of the Holy Spirit and the realization that it is not within our power to do much of anything truly good without God.

I think the good comes in…when I love well, when I speak words that encourage and edify, when I don’t sin in my anger, when I offer hospitality no matter the inconvenience, when I forgive for the millionth time…those are good things…exquisitely good.  And those things…those things offered as sacrifices of praise to God…that is us loving God.  That is us thanking God.  That is us loving others.  That is us doing good.

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 

Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. 

Each of you should use whatever gift you have

to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.

If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. 

If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength

God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. 

To him be the glory and power for ever and ever. Amen.  1 Peter 4:8-11

Not good for good’s sake…or good so others can see that we are good…it’s good for God.

As a parent, I don’t want my children to think that they have to be good to earn love…not from me or from God.  But sometimes I think that is the message I give without meaning to.  But God NEVER gives that message to us.

He says, “When you were at your worst, at just the right time, I died for you.”

He says, “I love you and you are precious period.”

He says, “I forgive you.”  There is no “again” at the end of that sentence, because God doesn’t keep count…I do, but He doesn’t.

My heart just leapt in my chest at that realization.

The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever.

He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities.

For as high as the heavens are above the earth,

so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;

As far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.

As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to his children,

So the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him.

For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.

Psalm 103:8-14

I can’t be good.  Just can’t do it.  I can pray for it, but really I don’t think I can do it.  But the Holy Spirit working through me can do it!  He can give me the ability to love others well, to serve well, to be all those things I want to be that constitute good.

I think an appropriate list of what it means to be good is 1 Corinthians 13:1-8…how cool that those verse describe God…and God, who is love, is good is He not!

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love,

I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.

And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge,

and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains,

but have not love, I am nothing.

If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned,

but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast;

it is not arrogant or rude.

It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;

It does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends.

Today when my sweet little Allison gets home from school I’m going to talk to her about being good.  But not the usual talk.  You know the one, “Sweetie, can you choose to be good today?  To be kind?”

I’m going to talk to her about how Jesus is the only one who can truly help us to be or do good.  That I’m so proud of her for asking Him to help her.  And I’m going to ask if she’ll pray with me – that we can both beez good!

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What are feelings anyway?

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On the way to church recently my 7 year old daughter asked, “Momma, what are feelings?”

I started to say, “They’re how you feel.  I mean they are what you feel…I mean…ahhh!!!”

I couldn’t figure out how to define it without using the word “feel.”  I thought if I used the word emotion it would open up another definition discussion which I was ill-prepared to have.

Feelings.

(Just saying that word makes me think of that song…”Feelings, nothing more than feelings…”  Great. Now it’s stuck in my head.  And I apologize because now it’s probably stuck in your head too.)

I ended up saying, “Sweetie, feelings are the way you feel – like happy, sad, scared, excited…”  I think she understood.

I wish I understood feelings…those dreaded emotions.

Lately emotions have come up a lot.  I don’t even know if I should use the word lately in this sentence…I have emotions and they come up a lot (sometimes that’s an unfortunate thing).

I’ve been studying Philippians for the past couple of months.  This past week I was in the 4th chapter – Paul says, “rejoice in the Lord always.”

I had to ask, “What does rejoicing in the Lord always look like in my life?”

I think, for me, right now it is trusting despite my circumstances and my feelings and emotions.

I can really struggle with my emotions based on my circumstances.  Lately I seem to have tears in my eyes at odd times throughout any given day.

Yesterday my youngest daughter had a really bad day.  She was angry all day – slamming things and saying words like, “I wish you weren’t my mommy.”  She is a very difficult little person sometimes…there aren’t many things I can do to convince her to choose to be good.

She needs love and affirmation a lot.  Sometimes it’s exactly what she needs and exactly what I don’t believe she deserves and it isn’t what I really want to do either…I want the time out to end all time out! (for her and me)

But my little girl was a ragged mess yesterday and I decided to love on her instead or endless timeouts and taking-tos.  She wasn’t perfect afterwards but she was oh so much better.  We were both better.

Instead of being crushed by her behavior and my fears about parenting her, I focused on the good in my daughter.  And there is a lot of good under the feisty little girl she so often shows me.

But without any warning, while I was holding her, I felt overcome by the massive amount of things in my life that are stealing my joy.

Can something steal my joy?

I think something can definitely try to mess with my joy – but my joy isn’t about my circumstances or the people in my lives…or even my feelings.  Ultimately, my joy is about Christ.

Right before Paul says to rejoice in the Lord, he addresses an issue between two women in the church.  I believe maybe Paul’s point it to remind them that Jesus is more important than any issues they have in their lives, or difficult people they have to deal with daily.

So if God commands we rejoice, we have to be able to do it right?  God doesn’t call us to do anything that He will not enable us to do.

But when tears spring to my eyes and I feel completely overcome by all the unknowns, the struggles and the fears, I’m not close to rejoicing…I’m close to crumbling. It’s such a struggle to rejoice.  I don’t feel like rejoicing…I feel like crying, wallowing, complaining, moaning, and woe-is-me-ing.  I feel afraid, concerned, frustrated and anxious.

It’s those fears and anxieties that keep me up at night.  I’m in a season of sleeplessness – which I have to say has arrived at an incredibly inconvenient time.  I have a lot to do.

Last night was particularly difficult. I was feeling completely undone.  Thousands of thoughts, fears and feelings tumbled through my head and heart.  Sleep was elusive.  I got up at 3 am and did school work…I wish instead that I had put my face in the Word.  Had I done that I’m sure I’d have had a better chance of resting.

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Instead I read about assessing student achievement – 10 pages on how to construct a multiple-choice test…seriously how was I NOT asleep after that!?!  And when I finally decided to try the sleep thing again my 6 year old was ready to start her day…with me.

While she colored, I did more homework. Until I received a text from a dear friend which reminded me that God wants me in the Word.  Duh.

So I opened up my Bible study and let me share the verses God gave me.

Psalm 55:22 Cast all your burden on the LORD, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.

Isaiah 26:3-4 You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you because he trusts in you.  Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock.

Isaiah 41:10   fear not, for I am with you, be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Isaiah 43:1-2 Fear not for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.  When you pass through the waters, I will be with you, and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire, you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.

Hebrews 13:5-6 …be content with what I have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.  So we can confidently say, “The LORD is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?”

1 Peter 5:6-7 Humble yourself, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.

It was a soothing balm to my weary heart.  I couldn’t help but be amazed at God’s love for me.  He asks me to do these things that are all wonderful things – do you know what I mean?  It’s like a parent saying, “Hey, your bag looks heavy, sweetheart.  May I carry it for you?  Let me have that and you just follow me.  Don’t be afraid.  Let me lead you. I love you and I will take care of you.”

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And not only does He say all those things, He promises these:

He will sustain me…strengthen, provide for, prepare, direct and establish me.

He will not permit me to be moved.

He will keep me in perfect peace.

He will be with me.

He will be my God.

He will strengthen me.

He will help me.

He will uphold me with his righteous right hand.

He has redeemed me.

He has called me by name.

He has made me his own.

He will be with me.

He is my helper.

He will never leave me

He will never forsake me.

He will exalt me.

He cares for me.

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So which one of those stood out to you?  I’m hard pressed to pick one. Throughout any day I need to remind myself of at least one of these promises of God.

In the middle of the night when I can’t sleep or in the middle of the day when I feel on the verge of tears or a nervous breakdown (or both), I get so frustrated that I’m struggling with fear or anxious thoughts.  I know better.  I know the Truth. Why do I struggle so?

Lord, why?  I know you.  I’m in your Word.  I’m seeking godly counsel.  I’m trusting you for the day…or am I?

How do I live in the reality of what those verses tell me…those things that I believe but can’t seem to live?

I don’t know yet.  Although I will say that right now there is just so much and I find myself feeling similarly to days following my ex-husband’s abandonment.  That beautifully awful place where I feel such sorrow and fear but I see God meeting me at every turn.

I know Him better in these moments.

I’m at a place where I understand the living today idea.  I can only live today – I can’t live tomorrow or a month or a year or 10 down the road.  Just today.  That is all God asks me to do.

So I’m trying to live faithfully in today.  It’s challenging, but there’s a relief in it.

I’m trying to figure out how to put it into words.  It’s definitely a way of thinking for me.  I’m purposefully keeping my head in today…just trying to work on the massive amount of stuff that today has for me.  Honestly there is plenty there to keep me occupied…mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually.

So how in the world did I get from the feelings question in the car to this?  Feelings…they do take us to interesting and unexpected places. J

I think this is a topic we will all be coming back to a lot.  How to really trust God.

I think He has given us the answer already —

  • cast my burden on Him,
  • keep my mind fixed on him,
  • trust him,
  • be unafraid,
  • don’t be dismayed, discouraged, distressed, or troubled
  • be content, and
  • say confidently, “The LORD is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?”

“I will not leave you or forsake you.  Be strong and courageous…”  Joshua 1:5-6

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Lord, I don’t presume to have the answers to life’s struggles, but I do have You.  And I know that that is always enough.  Father, my feelings cause me such angst sometimes and I don’t know how to handle them or all that You have allowed in my life.  I want to cast my burdens and cares on you.  I want to throw them at your feet and leave them there.  I have such a hard time leaving them there Lord.  Maybe if I could just keep my eyes on You and not look down at them again, they would stay put at your feet.  Lord, like the father begging Jesus for healing for his child, I’m crying out to you, “I believe, help my unbelief!”  (Mark 9: 14-24)  I trust You Father.  I want to face my future unafraid and untroubled.  Please Lord, help me be strong and bold and courageous.  You are my helper!  I will not fear!  In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

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When You’ve Got Nothing Left to Give…and need some help and some hope

Image  About three months ago I began a program to get my teaching license and eventually my Masters in Education.  At the time it seemed like a really good thing…even though I don’t have the money to pay for the program nor is the time to do it clearly evident.  In fact when I was interviewing with the head of the program, he questioned whether it was possible for a single mother of 5 to do the program much less teach full time.  I assured him it was possible – I had actually already done it…totally a miracle by the way.

And I need another miracle.  I need help!!!

O God, be not far from me; O my God, make haste to help me.  Psalm 71:12

In every form available.

I lift up my eyes to the hills.  From where does my help come? 

My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.  Psalm 121:1 

I have to be honest I’m having one of those days when it just seems like nothing is going to be doable.  And getting my children to seriously put some effort into helping is more than frustrating.  And the house seems to be crashing around me at the same time everything I have to do is crashing as well.

And today I have a fever, a wicked bad sore throat, body aches, and I just want to lie down and sleep…well, actually at the moment I want to lie down and cry.

I didn’t use to be prone to tears, but lately I feel like I’m on the verge at all times.  It just seems like I can’t possibly handle everything God has given me.  And the future just looks harder and harder…

Today my Bible study was on Philippians 4:6-7.  I’ve been studying Philippians for months so I knew these verses were going to show up sooner or later.  They used to be my mantra, but then I decided to put my big girl pants on and actually live by them not just chant them to myself.

Apparently I’ve forgotten how to do that of late.  I’m just an absolute mess of fear, worry, anxiety, sorrow, and frustration.  I don’t want to be this girl.

Just now I was downstairs trying to get my children to do something, anything, to help…I was tripping over dogs, cars, toys and clothes (which is hazardous with a broken foot).  There are dishes in the sink and more laundry than you can comprehend.  Even though today my little girls are outside without jackets, in two days we are expecting more snow and sleet so I can’t put all those blasted coats, scarves, boots, and gloves away.  And they are all over the place.  I finally just designated a room for them to be everywhere…the foyer was embarrassing.  I know taxes are going to be due about the same time as tuition…that is another God sized task…huge.  (There is actually a part of me that is excited to see how God provides for them!  The other part of me is terrified.)  The other day I met with a school official about one of my children and the learning issues she has – I drove home in tears (shocking…tears).  In the next few weeks I have to fit in practicum hours and I can’t even figure out where they are going to magically appear.  What is going to drop so I can do that?  Something’s gotta give.

I kinda feel like I’m just the one giving lately.  I don’t think I have much more to give.

Unfortunately at this moment I feel like giving up.  I feel like just crawling under the covers and forgetting about deadlines, appointments, assignments, finances, houses, issues, illnesses, learning issues, and everything else.

I hate being like this.  I don’t like using that word “hate” but it fits.  I really don’t want to be this way.  I want to live in victory.  How can I feel so defeated when I have God?  It is so hard to keep my focus on Him.

I started today with Him and tonight I will end with time with Him.   But somewhere in between I keep getting sidetracked by all the minutia of the day…who am I kidding it isn’t just the day…it’s everything all the time.

It’s so much.  I can’t keep up mentally, physically or emotionally.  I just can’t.

I’m crying UNCLE!

So now what?

I don’t know.  I can’t really call uncle…just because I give up doesn’t mean things stop or go away.  I’m still a single momma.  I still have 5 children.  I still need to take care of them and our home and our finances and our future.  I still need to get up and live this life.

Lord, how?

How do I move forward when I feel so overwhelmed?

You say that I can trade burdens with you – that yours is easy and light.  I want that.  I want easy and light.  Lord, what does that look like…I mean practically?  When there is just so much to do and so many emotions and thoughts rolling around inside of me?  How do I untangle the mess of me?

Lord, I think I can’t just give you a burden…I think I need to give you me.  I want to jump in your arms and rest…sleep.  I want you to handle everything for me.  I can’t hide though Lord.  I have to DO something?  What do I do?

We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.

Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God’s. 

You will not need to fight in this battle.  Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the LORD on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem.  Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed.  Tomorrow go out against them, and the LORD will be with you. 

2 Chronicles 20:12, 15, 17

I’m really praying about this.

I think what I do is just do this day…just take this day and its mess and do it…and rest in the fact that God has my tomorrows.

Do what I can…honestly, right now there just seems to be too much to do…too much for one person with limited resources.

I think the thing I need most is time.  Time to do all the things that need to be done so there isn’t so much to do.  Do you know what I mean?

If I could just get rid of some things, de-clutter, organize, and take care of all the house projects that stare at me daily, maybe that would help me get past some of the stress.  Maybe.  I hate to use the “if I could just…” phrase, because part of me thinks that I just have to learn to let go and let God.  Just not sure what that means…you know, what does that look like?

I have a basement that should be dealt using a shovel and dumpster…a car that needs to be power washed on the inside…an office that has way too many papers all over the place…and children’s rooms that have been taken over by clothing and damp towels…honestly…it’s enough to drive me bonkers.  I think I’m pretty close to bonkers.  And that’s just annoying little stuff.  Why does that stuff make me so nuts?

The other day there was a tornado warning and I thought for a moment, “Hmmmm….”

Like that’s a viable options!?!  I could just take my kids, the dogs and a very few precious things and the wind could have the rest.

We’ll cram into a little apartment and just be us and a few things.  That sounds lovely…it’d probably only be lovely for about 2 hours and then I’d regret it.

I know from emails and messages that many of us are feeling overwhelmed by our circumstances…and those circumstances include all the pain and sadness of divorce and single parenting.

That pain and sadness get better…I don’t think I’ll ever not have sadness at what my children have lost, but God is healing me and He is showing me His love and faithfulness in amazing and beautiful ways.

I know that it’s so difficult to see past the situation now.  I’m struggling with that very thing.  I’m overwhelmed by my circumstances and my fears.  And honestly it baffles me.  I know better.  I know the God who I love and who loves me.  Why in the world am I struggling?  Why can I not just rest in his presence?  Why do I get all wound up?

Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?  Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.  Psalm 42:5

I will tell you that as I have been writing God has brought to mind so many scripture passages.  The one I shared earlier, 2 Chronicles 20…do you know what happens after God answers the people by saying do not be afraid?  People are appointed to sing to the Lord and praise Him!

“Give thanks to the LORD, for his steadfast love endures forever.”  And when they began to sing and praise, the LORD set an ambush against the men of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah, so they were routed.   2 Chronicles 20:21

Oh my goodness!  I’m so excited how God has used His word to show me His love again!  So as I’m typing that verse out I’m remembering that this morning I was studying Philippians 4:6-7

“do not be anxious about anything, 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 understanding, will guard your hearts and yours minds in Christ Jesus.”

THANKFULNESS.

Could that be the answer to our current states of distress?  Could it be that simple…and difficult?

Could I choose thankfulness?  If I cannot find anything to be thankful for in this world, could I focus on the next?  Could I focus on Christ? Could I focus on my new identity in Christ – not this discouraged divorced, single mama, but that beautiful child of the King…loved, cherished, precious, chosen, forgiven, and redeemed?   I think if I truly grasped how amazing that is, I wouldn’t be able to become discouraged by this world…I could live within a different paradigm.  I could find my strength – emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually – in the Lord.

Oh friends, the answer is there.  It’s Him.  Find Him in His word.

My soul melts away for sorrow; strengthen me according to your word!  Psalm 119:28

Say His words back to Him – say those promises out loud.  Pray and find Him in the chaos and the quiet.

I cannot begin to tell you how just in this time of writing God has calmed and quieted my heart through His word.  There are so many more verses I want to share but I’ve already gone way past the word limit I set for myself.

But here’s two more to encourage you…

I waited patiently for the LORD; he inclined to me and heard my cry.  He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon the rock, making my steps secure.  He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God.  Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the LORD.  Psalm 40:1-3

He is faithful…He is good…He is kind…He loves you.  Rest assured He will walk you through this…

Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire, you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior…Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you.  Isaiah 43:1-4

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I Should Have Hugged Her

Image         I was sitting here just finishing up my quiet time and it struck me.

I should have hugged her.

My 7-year old broke her toe last week.  We are gimpy together…same foot even! It would be comical if it weren’t so pathetic.

She won’t let me take a picture of our matching feet – no fun.

This morning she didn’t want to wear the special shoe or use her crutches.  She was in tears and since she has reached the sassy sevens, she was quite rude with her words.

PRAISE GOD (and seriously this is a BIG praise) I kept my voice and manner calm and I recognized what she was feeling…angry, frustrated, embarrassed…

And I tried to talk to her about my foot and compare the two…yeah…that didn’t work.  Sassiness just got sassier.

She looked so sorrowful about the whole thing.   I convinced her to put on the boot and got her a super fun sock that matched the skirt she was wearing and even let her bring her pretty sparkly black shoe in her backpack.  Not sure what I was thinking on that one because I’m pretty sure she’s gonna sneak it on her foot as soon as she steps into school.   :)

Anywho, we got in the car, still with a bit of an attitude, but I, by the grace of God, kept my calm.  I can struggle with getting frustrated particularly as we are trying to get out the door to school.  We had already missed the bus — well, we really didn’t miss it, it was a conscious decision to miss.  I didn’t sleep well and I decided to push snooze…many, many times.

After about 2 minutes in the car, Lizzie was her usual sweet self.  She apologized and we had a lovely little ride to school.

And as I sat here, foot propped up, with Bible, journal, books and homework surrounding me, I thought for a minute that I really really wished I’d taken the time to hold my daughter.

I was so intent on getting out the door that I didn’t take the time to hold my precious, hurting little girl.  I didn’t add to her hurt this morning, but I wish I had comforted it.  I wish I had loved on her.

There are a thousand things I wish I had done or done differently in any given hour, day, week, month, year…  I carry guilt around like a scarf around my neck…sometimes it seems to choke the life out of me.

I’m pretty confident I’ve shared my propensity to hold on to mommy guilt.  In fact, I have plenty, enough to share if you need any.  But I doubt any parent needs extra guilt.  Most of us carry around a fair amount.  And if you don’t feel guilt, that is a blessing and I won’t share any of mine with you!

This past week I heard a snippet from an interview with Desmond Tutu.  He answered a question regarding parents being able to forgive themselves for mistakes they made with their children.  Among other things, he said something that really struck me.  He reminded the interviewer that parents are not omniscient.  And that parents make decisions with good will towards their children.  I’m completely paraphrasing…he said it much more eloquently.

What blessed me was the reminder that all those things I’m second-guessing now, I did with the belief that I was doing the right thing by my children.

I’m not talking about the choices I sometimes make to yell, or fuss, or say things I wish I hadn’t.  I’m talking about choices and decisions we make that aren’t made in anger, frustration or selfishness.

This morning was a minor moment in the life of my daughter, and I made the decision to keep the ball rolling towards the car and school.  I just wish I had taken a moment to stop the ball and hug my girl.

Will that harm my little girl?  Doubtful.  I didn’t withhold affection or rebuff her, I just showed my affection and love through words.  So do I really need to beat myself up about it like I tend to do?

Nope.  Definitely not.

And when she gets home from school today, I will greet her with a huge hug, ask her about her day and love on her.

God has not called me to live a life of guilt.  It is not His plan for us as parents…and we certainly don’t want to model guilt for our children.

I remember years ago doing a Bible study entitled Sonship.    One of the most amusing and profound quotes from the study was, “Cheer up!  You are worse off than you think!”

The point was that our sin is much worse than we think, BUT God’s love, forgiveness, mercy and grace is much bigger than we think too!  Tim Keller says it something like this – we are much more sinful and flawed than we ever dared believe, but more loved and welcomed than we ever dared hope.

Do you see it?  There is no place for guilt – mommy or any other – in this Christian life.  God has blessed us with grace.  Grace.

I’m trying so hard to understand that word.  To truly grasp its meaning for my life.  I don’t think I will ever plumb the depths of its meaning like I want to.  I want to immerse myself in it, drown in it, be swallowed up in grace.  I want it to be the defining feature of my life.  To be something that I live – something that I breath in and out.  Something that my children see…see as clearly as they see the kitchen table.

And yet, I constantly struggle with my sin and my focus again and again is back on me.  Me. Me. Me.

Grace calls me to focus on Jesus!  Jesus, only Jesus.

Jesus.  Grace.

What does that look like to this mommy plagued by guilt?  This momma that wants to drop everything and run over to the elementary school and give my 7-year old sweetheart a hug?  This momma that second-guesses everything a thousand times and more?  This momma who wants the best but can’t seem to provide it?  This momma that loves her children passionately?

What does living grace look like Lord?

Well, I know one thing…it’s not about how well I do anything.

I can’t earn grace…neither can you.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.  Ephesians 2:8-10

And I know that it’s not about what I think about me.

God loves me period.  When God looks at me he sees his perfect Son and the way He lived His life.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us

in him before the foundations of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.  In love, he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ

according to the purpose of his will to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.   Ephesians 1:3-6

And it’ not about how I do or don’t do this parenting things well.

God is the perfect parent who loves my children perfectly and will work in their lives regardless of me.

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

And really grace isn’t about me – I want everything to be about me – But grace is about Christ.

The only way I can get my head in the right place is to recognize my need for Christ – to understand that I am a sinner (…a big fat sinner) in need of a Savior (…a gigantic loving Savior), who loves me (…that same ole big fat sinner) despite all my flaws and guilt and sins.

I cannot be the woman or mother I want to be without Christ…and when I try, that’s when that blasted guilt comes creeping in…actually it doesn’t creep in, it crashes in and falls on top of me.

I guess I have to ask the question, “Do I trust God?  Do I trust His grace?”

Because if I do, I want to rest in it.

I have to allow the reality of God’s grace to seep into every part of me.  And I must grab hold of my new identity in Christ and not allow the old guilt-ridden self to have any place in my home.

Do I trust that God’s grace is enough to enable me to raise my children…to do this life?  YES!

So live like it, Sue!

Simple and not so simple

I think to some degree it is simple.  If I’m in the Word of God and praying and seeking Him and praising Him and thanking Him.  If I’m living a life of praise and thanksgiving, then the focus of my heart is on Him, not me.

Not focusing on me is a very good thing.  I never like what I see when I look at me.

When I look at Christ – I like what I see….I LOVE what I see.  And what I see is now what is ME!

I’m defined by Christ…by the life He lived!  Not by the life I’m living.

 I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength!  Philippians 4:13

It’s not about what I do well or better or even what I fail to do.  It is simply and completely about what Christ has done.

I have to stop second-guessing because that is not the focus God wants me to have.  I want to stop looking behind and start looking ahead – God has a great plan for us after all.  I’d like to watch it unfold!

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.  Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own.  But one thing I do:  forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 4:12-14

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Looking for Peace in all the Wrong Places

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I believe I’m carrying burdens I wasn’t meant to, but I don’t know how to let them go.

People are always advising me to just trust God and let go of the worry.  I’m trying to…I truly am.

I know I can trust God.

I think I can let go of the worry.

But somewhere in all that trust and letting go, I’ve got decisions to make.

And decisions stress me out so much…soooo much.

I really struggle with the whole process.

Especially the 2nd guessing part of the process – which is definitely a part of my processing process.

When my husband left and I became a single parent, one of the first things I really really found challenging was all the decisions I had to make.

I’m not good at decisions.

I have a very clear memory of a conversation with God during my first year of single parenting, “Lord, really?  (all my prayers seemed to start with that phrase) I felt like I finally understood the whole submission thing…the whole let my husband lead thing…and now I’m the leader of the family?  Honestly God, I prefer the helpmate role much better.”

God reminded me that He would equip me for whatever He called me to and apparently He had called me to single parenting.

Ugh.

I was and still am up to the challenge…but I don’t like the challenge.

For me the biggest part of this challenge is that my thought processes truly are like mental spaghetti.

Everything gets all tangled up together in my head.  I mean I just don’t know what to do…everything impacts everything else, at least in my head.  And every decision has a thousand repercussions – and each child is impacted differently by each decisions…some for the better, some not.  And every decision makes me bonkers…and even after I finally make a decisions, I second-guess like a crazy woman.

I want to make decisions and find peace. But is decision-making just about being at peace?

Peace.  Oh how I want peace all the time.

A friend recently shared that maybe I need to not worry about making the right decisions and instead make decisions with the purpose of doing something to glorify God…doing something for God.

That thought has rocked my world.

I’m still pondering but I thought I’d share because maybe you’ll share your thoughts with me.

I have to trust that God is going to work in all my decisions.  When my oldest was choosing a college I told him that it didn’t matter where he went because God would use him wherever he was.  As long as he didn’t go to The Cult College (which doesn’t exist to my knowledge) he should be just fine.

I think that’s true.  If my desire is to honor God wherever I am, does it matter where I go?  Or what I choose to do? As long as whatever I do or wherever I go honor God and His word.

This reminds me of Jeremiah 29:4-7

Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon:  Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce.  Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease.  But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.

The Israelites were in captivity when God said this to them.  They were absolutely NOT in the perfect situation by any stretch of the imagination.  Except…except that it was where God had them and where God told them to make lives!  They weren’t to wait for perfect.

I think I’m looking for the perfect situation and it just doesn’t exist.  That is the stress in my decisions.  I’m assuming that there is a perfect situation, a best answer.  I’m forgetting that we live on this planet…which is decidedly not perfect.  I will not find perfection.

I just have to make decisions based on the God’s guidance in His word, a lot of prayer, the facts I have, the best things I know how to do, and godly counsel.  But sometimes the Word of God doesn’t exactly address my situation.

Like right now the biggest decision I need to make isn’t covered by Scripture.  So what do I do?  Pray, seek counsel, make an informed decision, and trust God!

I almost put the word “just” before that last sentence.  I know I’ve used it already in this post, but “just” seems like a word that signifies something easy and the whole decision-making process is not at all easy!  At least not for me.

But I’m pretty sure I’ve established that point already!

I guess what God is showing me is that the burden I’m carrying is to provide the perfect scenario for all my children, to choose the perfect employment situation for me and the perfect education situation for my children, to give my children the perfect opportunities, the perfect home, and the perfect single parent family I can.  But I can’t make things perfect – never have been, never will be.

And my decisions don’t have the power to provide perfection.

My decisions can honor God though.

My decisions can glorify Him.

My decisions can bless us.

I’m going to try to develop a whole new way of approaching decisions.  There is a lot of stress I can leave behind when I realize there isn’t going to be a perfect answer, and there might not even be a best answer.

Unless the questions is, “How and where do I want to glorify God?”

And that question isn’t a burden at all.  The answer is however I can and wherever I am.

So I will plan and dream and pray, and I will let God lead the way.

 Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.  Proverbs 19:21

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Having a Difficult Day…

basketball closeupI had a really difficult day recently.

I’m not sure why but I reverted back to being very annoyed by my ex-husband.

My youngest daughters had games that day and my oldest daughter invited him to sit with us – which is a very normal thing – but that day I could barely stand it.

I just wanted him to stay as far away as possible.  And I absolutely didn’t want to talk to him.  Or even hear him.

I don’t know why I felt such revulsion today.  I just did.

And I just really really don’t want to be that woman.  I want to be gracious and kind, but today I struggled to be civil.

There have been things lately that have made me annoyed with him.  But I think it would be wrong for me to complain and list all those things.  It would be wrong for me to air our dirty laundry – well, his dirty laundry.

But don’t I ever want to…

I know it is wrong.  And I try hard to do this divorce thing right.

I have to say that I was surprised by how strongly I felt the negative stuff today.  I don’t usually.

Does anyone else have those things sneak up on them for no apparent reason?

Am I the only crazy person?

I know to some degree all the revulsion, annoyance and downright dislike is understandable, but God calls me to be more than someone who acts understandably.  I’m pretty positive He calls me to act “in a manner worthy of my calling.”

Okay.

So what does that mean exactly?  What is a manner worthy?  And what is my calling?  Those questions brought Micah 6:6 to mind:

He has shown you O Man what is good.  And what does the Lord require of you? 

To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

Act justly.  Acting with a clear understanding of right and wrong.  At first glance I feel like this one supports my desire for justice for my ex-husband, but further thought showed me something slightly different.  God expects me to let Him administer justice.  And maybe the right and wrong I should be concerned about isn’t my ex-husbands, but rather my right and wrong.  Am I acting justly in my own life?  Do I live a life that has clearly defined right and wrong?   

Love mercy.  Don’t just offer mercy, love it?!  Really, love it?  I love it when it’s applied to me, but do I love it when it’s applied to someone who has hurt me or offended me?  Not so much.

Mercy could also be translated “loving-kindness.” Kindness…honest I’m trying.  I really am.  I desire to be Christ-like in all my interactions – even with my ex-husband.  But sometimes it is soooooo hard!

Walk humbly with your God.  Humility. God wants me to walk beside Him, not in front.  He wants me to understand that everything is not about me, but rather about Him.  And when I think about it, even my ex-husband’s betrayal is more about his relationship with God, his sin against God.  Maybe that recognition could help me let God handle things.  Again I just gotta get out of the mindset that everything is about me, because then I can stop feeling so put upon by interactions with my ex-husband (and the innumerable other things in life which annoy).

It’s all stuff I could apply to other challenging relationships…could probably isn’t the appropriate word…should is the word…I should do that.

I’m hesitate to use that word – should – some people bristle at it.  Sometimes I bristle at it.  One of my friends calls it “shoulding” all over each other.  And I absolutely believe there are times when we shouldn’t say should (which I guess is kind of a “should” statement too) – but there are some that you just know are okay.

You should love God.  You should honor God.  You should obey His word.  You should love one another.  You should tell the truth.

You should because those things are good for you…in fact, they are great for you!  If I know something is the very best thing for you, am I wrong in saying you should do it?  If I say it sweetly, gently, and gracefully?  That’s the key – the tone and heart with which it is spoken.  Maybe a kind suggestion or encouraging word instead of a ‘You know, you should be…”

And that goes back to Micah 6:6 – can I step out of myself enough to truly act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with my God?  Can I not worry so much about everyone else and what they should be doing and instead focus on how I can live a life that honors God?  Can I not worry about anyone getting their due because I realize that I’ve experienced Jesus’ done?  Can I trust God with a difficult day?

Golly, I hope so.  I pray so.

Next week I go back to the basketball courts to watch my little girls play.  I’m not sure if their father will come, but if He does I am going to be praying that God will give me the ability to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with Him, so that I can smile, chat and even sit next to my ex-husband.

It’s something I should do for my children’s sake…and even for mine.  It’s miserable being fussy.

Difficult day or not, I’m choosing to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with my God.

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When You Just Need to See Him…

snowy trees and sky

While standing in the line at the grocery store yesterday, my phone rang.  It was a friend from church.  She said, “Hey, I’m bringing dinner to you tonight – you gonna be there in 30 minutes?”

I’m sure the lady at the register thought I was a little nuts (yeah that happens a lot) because my eyes welled up with tears. 

It’s been one of those couple of weeks where I’ve been blessed to see God provide again and again and again.  I’m not talking about huge things…it’s a bunch of little things that just speak such tender love to me from my Father.

Its meals that are provided at just the right time.  Its 2 hour delays when I could really use a little more sleep.  Its people doing unexpectedly kind things for me when I least expect it,

A few weeks ago when I broke my foot I was placed in a pretty purple cast.  We’ll apparently my leg is claustrophobic because in the middle of the night it was just desperate to be out of that blasted cast.  During the day all was fine, but come 3am…not so good.  I’d end up getting up because otherwise I’d just be lying in bed thinking about it and feeling like I was gonna go bonkers. 

And sleep, being such a precious commodity, lost for a silly claustrophobic leg is completely unacceptable.  So after a sleepless week, I made an appointment to go back to the doctor and beg him to take it off. 

I’d researched online and found out that a boot is an acceptable alternative.  The doctor was very kind, but he said my break is a difficult one to heal and the cast was preferable.  When I shared that I had been up since 3 am and a little bit about my life, he immediately said, “Let’s get that cast off and see how well your foot is healing and if all is good you can use the boot.”

Alleluia!  I prayed fervently that my bone looked okay so I wouldn’t leave with another colorful cast.  Praise God no new cast was necessary. 

As I was preparing to leave, the doctor said, “I don’t want you to have a copay – please tell the ladies up front to refund you.”  I practically burst into tears.  I’d been lamenting the cost of my claustrophobia and here God loved me again through a very kind and thoughtful doctor.  It was especially nice because it was absolutely an unnecessary appointment in the grand scheme of things. 

I wish I could remember all the little things that have happened to encourage me in a day – but they are hidden in my heart. 

 The gracious love of my Savior extends even to the smallest detail of my day.

How He loves me. 

There is such comfort in those little blessings – sometimes more than the big stuff. 

It’s a precious reminder that God walks with me every minute of every day – He doesn’t just show up for the big stuff.  I’ve seen Him during the storms, felt Him during the pain, heard Him during the questions, and known Him during the trauma. He is showing me that He is there every moment, whether big or small. 

I want to encourage you to find Him in your day…look for Him in those small moments…seek Him in the seconds…listen for Him as you live each day. 

Write down those moments, those reminders of His love for you, so you can look back and be blessed.

You can remember that He’s there. 

He’s here.

Oh how He loves you.

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What does God have for us?

photo (6)I’m trying to get papers filed.  Trying being the optimum word.  One of my best friends says, “The difference between trying and doing is actually getting something done.”  I don’t think I quoted that exactly, but you get the idea.

I’ve gotten a lot done, but sometimes I feel like I just shuffle things around.  Usually when I’m organizing I feel like I’m just moving things from one floor or room of my house to another.  I’m working on it though.  I really am.

So, I decided I was going to go through a bunch of boxes and get some order back.  And I found a plastic box full of pages I’d ripped out of magazines – mostly Country Living.  Pictures of rooms, furniture, arrangements, and anything else I loved.  I think I’d planned on making a binder of my favorite things because I found page protectors in the box as well.  Sounds like a good project for one of my creative kids :)!

Looking at all the pictures brought a smile to my face.  I enjoy dreaming about, looking forward to and planning for the future.  Imagining wonderful things.

Recently I was sharing with a friend how when I found out about my husband’s affair and knew the potential of him leaving, I imagined what our life would be like if we reconciled.  I thought about how our relationship could be better than ever, how our love could be stronger, and how we could have a vital ministry to others who were struggling. When reconciliation didn’t happen, God refined my vision.

Now I look forward to what God is going to do in my life in a different way.  I look forward to what God is going to do in the lives of my children.  I have great hopes and dreams for us all!

“Expect great things from God. Attempt great things for God.”  – William Carey

I think it is part of the forgetting what lies behind and straining towards what is ahead.

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.  Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own.  But one thing I do:  forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 

Philippians 3:12-14

Catching the vision of what God has for us.

What does God have for us?

Whatever it is, God uses some interesting words to describe our journey to get it.

Pressing and straining.

Pressing.  During my brief running career a few years ago, I recall at the beginning of my “training” (it is in quotes because I didn’t really train well – hence the brevity of my running career) I would run increasingly longer distances but always the first mile or so was absolute torture and the final ½ mile would seem like slogging through mud.  During both of those times I’d have to keep my focus ahead and press with my whole body to move forward.  It was a pressing of feet on pavement, a pressing of body into the momentum forward, a pressing of breath in and out…pressing onward…

Straining.  That one isn’t difficult to imagine – especially with my running analogy.  There was always an element of straining…and panting, plodding, trudging, and wooziness…I’m not a good runner (especially with the broken foot!)

In thinking about pressing and straining in my walking (or running) out my faith, I believe having a vision is helpful.

When I have something to strive for, I do better.  Although with running I don’t need a stop sign or a set tree to run to – in fact, I’d prefer not to have a visual because sometimes I just feel like I’ll NEVER get there.  But if I have a vision of the end, then I enjoy running more.  I imagine how I’ll feel at the end, the sense of accomplishment, the joy of being done!

I think I might be a little bit like that in my spiritual life as well.

I don’t need to actually see where I’m going…

Hey! That sounds a little like faith!

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.  Hebrews 11:1

I think what I need is a very clear vision of what I have to look forward to…and that gets me back to the question, “What does God have for us?”

“Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance…”  Hebrews 9:15

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

Let not your heart be troubled.  Believe in God; believe also in me.  In my Father’s house are many rooms.  If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.   John 14:1-3

And this is the promise that he made to us – eternal life.  1 John 2:25

Thinking about eternal life is all well in good.  But does eternal life necessarily mean good life?

I say, “YES!”  A whole-hearted yes!

I believe eternal life is all things wonderful!  John describes it like this:

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man.  He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.  He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.  Revelation 21:3-4

 I don’t imagine heaven is a place of clouds, harps, and wings.  I believe heaven is very much like what we are familiar with in terms of earth – He does refer to it as the new heaven and the new earth.  I tell my kids we will get to enjoy all the wonderful things this earth has to offer but it will be perfect! No fear, no worries, no violence, no pain.  What’s not to like about that!?

Recognizing what I have to look forward to helps me press on through sorrow, pain, trouble, challenges, and even things that are pretty good by this world’s standards to strive to live a life of peace, joy and service here.

“When the Bible speaks of the new heaven and the new earth, it is not speaking of an alternative to this world; it is speaking of the healing and restoration of this world. This gives Christians a reason to participate in restoring this fallen world. Furthermore, because Christians know that there is a perfect world coming, they don’t put all their hope in the current world. Christians can sacrificially serve others because they value the things of the coming world more than the things of this world.”  – Tim Keller

And the most important part of heaven is Jesus.

Oh my goodness!  Epiphany!  The vision – the goal, the hope, the joy, the thing to look forward to is JESUS!

 “There will be little else we shall want of heaven besides Jesus Christ.  He will be our bread, our food, our beauty, and our glorious dress.  The atmosphere of heaven will be Christ; everything in heaven will be Christ-like: yes, Christ is the heaven of His people.  – C.H. Spurgeon

 I guess there is something…I mean Someone I want to keep as my focus, my focal point as I run this faith race.

“A continual looking forward to the eternal world is not a form of escapism or wishful thinking, but one of the things a Christian is meant to do.” 

- C.S. Lewis

I pray as we all run this race we will keep our eyes on the prize, on Jesus.

So the answer to the question, “What does God have for us?” is JESUS.

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