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Happy to Wait?

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Is there anyone in the whole wide world who is happy to wait? Anyone like the Psalmist who can truly say they waited patiently?

Let’s just say that I could absolutely not have written this Psalm unless you added the word kinda… I kinda waited patiently for the LORD.  I’m trying though…trying to wait patiently.

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 blog, and set my feet upon a 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

I had, as I prefer to refer to it, my stupid additional test last week.  But no results yet.  Still waiting.

I hate waiting.

And not knowing if I’m going to receive good or bad news is driving me crazy.

I wish I could just forget about it until they call.

I do forget…but then I remember and I’m awash with worry and anxious thoughts and my chest feels heavy and my eyes feel misty at the thought of being ill.

I know that God has me in the palm of His hand and that He loves me completely and totally and relentlessly.

Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hand; your walls are continually before me.  Isaiah 49:16

But I know sometimes the answer is “no”, sometimes “yes”, and sometimes “not yet”.

And honestly I’m worried that the answer will be “yes.”  Yes, you have to go through this.

He has said “yes” before.

He has said “no” before.

He has said “maybe” before.

And He has said “wait” a lot.

“Dearest, wait.  And trust me.”

Waiting and trusting produces perseverance.

Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.  More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.  For while we were still weak, at the right time, Christ died for the ungodly.  Romans 5:2-6

Suffering…endurance…character…hope.

Waiting…suffering.

Endurance…waiting.

Character and hope.

I really don’t want any more character…to be truthful.  I feel like I’m kind of doing the suffering – endurance – character – hope cycle often.

Living here on this planet has its fair share of suffering.   And there is need for endurance.

Then God puts that word character in there and I’m a little at a loss.  I would think this would work better

Suffering – Endurance – Peace – Hope

or

 

Suffering – Endurance – Faith – Hope

But God puts character in there.

A person of character is someone known for their integrity, kindness, generosity, and morals.  The things we think and do, the way we act and react, the hopes and desires we hold.

I want to be a woman of character…I do.  A woman after God’s own heart.  That sinner David…he was a man after God’s own heart.  I take great hope in that.  A man who had such big sin issues…a man who tried and failed but was given grace and forgiveness.  Just like me.

We suffer.

We endure.

We become people of character.

We have hope for the future.

The future.

Usually when I think of “the future” I’m thinking loooong term.  You know, the eternal future God has planned for us.

But today I’m thinking the future like 2-4 days from now.

I want hope for then.

I want to feel hope regardless of the answer I receive this week.

When my marriage ended, for a brief time I felt hopeless.  I felt there was no way in a million years I could be a single momma with my quiverful of children.  But God has enabled me to do it.

When my ex-husband lost his job, I felt there was no way in a million years I’d be able to provide for my family, but God has provided instead.

Those are big ones, but there are small ones too.  Things that happen any given day that make me wobbly…that make my hope wobbly.

But every single day, God provides and gives me hope.

And he will do it again.  He will do it tonight.  He will do it tomorrow.  He will do it every day this coming week and beyond.

He will provide and give me hope on the day my doctor calls… good news or bad news.

Of that I am confident.  Of that I have hope.

But I will hope continually and will praise you yet more and more.  My mouth will tell of your righteous acts, of your deeds of salvation all the day for their number is past my knowledge.  With the mighty deeds of the Lord GOD I will come; I will remind them of your righteousness, yours along.  Psalm 71:14-16

A Strengthening Struggle

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I’m in a season of blog starting. I start them and save them and kind of forget about them.  I think it is because I want so desperately to be encouraging and sometimes I’m just not.  Sometime I’m just an all out mess.

And my blogs can reflect that mess quite well.

And I have these voices in my head and outside of my head that keep telling me that I should be in a better place by now.  That maybe not sharing the struggle is best.

There are many, many good things in my life right now.  Many.  But there are also many, many challenges.

There just are.

Nothing unusual.  Nothing extraordinary.  Nothing crazy awful.

Really in the grand scheme of things my life is pretty good.

But daily I must grab my thoughts and say, “Thank you Lord for this day.  Thank you Lord for the tremendous blessings you graciously give just because You love me.  And I love You too!”

And that is what I want to focus on, but I’m struggling to find the words to share.

I shared about my concerns about health issues.  They are real.  And sometimes lately they have kept me up at night.  All the “what ifs” are terrifying to me.  But even without the “additional tests” thing, there are always “what ifs”…always.

I wish I could just let things go…place things in God’s hands and not worry.

I will say though that God has been so very, very kind to me this past week.  Two snow days, a half day of school and then two teacher workdays.  Blessed relief from some of the stress of work and the joy of getting things accomplished and planned and prepared for, both at work and at home.  That should provide a few more minutes of restful sleep.

That is a beautiful example of how God provides for me even in all my whirling dervish of anxiousness. He seems to understand my stuff…my constant battle with capturing anxious thoughts.  And when I say constant…I really mean it.

I have made a two part plan to peace.

  1. Pray for strength to take thoughts captive.
  2. Hide scripture in my heart so my life is a reflection of His grace, mercy, faithfulness, and forgiveness.

I feel like a broken record.  Pray! Pray! Pray!  And yet, I put my head on my pillow each night realizing I barely breathed a prayer to my Father.

I talked about Him, but not to Him.

I know prayer is the provider of peace I long for.  Why in the world do I not pray more?

When I was walking the beginning of this single parent path, that peace was so amazing…just really awe-inspiring.  There were days I didn’t understand how I could feel it so tangibly.  Please know that it wasn’t that I didn’t weep buckets at any given moment during any given day, but even during those very damp moments I knew His peace.

I have my sobby seconds now, but I’m trying not to fall into my pit of sorrow again.  I’m trying to move forward and see…really see the many, many blessings God continues to lavish on me.  And to thank Him daily.

Part two.  Hiding scripture in my heart…when I get God’s word in my head it seems to seep down into my heart.  And before I know it, my heart beats with the rhythm of His word.  My perspective changes and I can see beauty where before all I saw was burdens. My anxious thoughts are calmed and quieted as He reminds me that He is powerful, strong, and in control.  Things might feel like they are spinning hopelessly either in circles or out of control (or a little bit of both), but truly He has a plan in the midst of what feels like chaos.  His word whispers peace in my ear and stops the voices in my head.  Those words of fear and worry are drowned out by His words of hope and faith.

I have a lot to be thankful for…a lot to hope for (even if right now I’m just hoping for good news on Tuesday).

So maybe I’m not in such a bad place…maybe the struggle is strengthening me.

And maybe having some challenges doesn’t negate a good life…a good life always has some bit of difficulty.

The secret seems to be to find some wonderful in the worries, some awesome in the afflictions, some pleasant moments in the problems, some inspiration in the inconveniences, and just some plain ole blessings in the burdens.

Now I have to figure out how to open my eyes wide enough to see all the ways God is reaching in to my day with His love and peace.

Tomorrow is Monday.  Seems like a good day to start my plan!

I Believe

IMG_2390The other night I began another journal.  This one is just for scripture.  Words I want hidden in my heart and impressed on my mind.

The first scripture I wrote in there was Isaiah 43:1-2,4,7

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 the fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you…Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you…everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.

I love those words, but honestly at the time I wondered why God led me to them.  I didn’t feel like I was facing fear or walking through anymore fire than usually.  There are always a few burning coals at my feet, but I’m a bit of a ninja when it comes to walking on them.

Then the next day I got a call from the doctor’s office.  Have to go for additional tests. This is the second set of additional tests I’ve had.  The first set was for one thing…this is for another.  And honestly, the call kind of rocked my world.  Again.

It is a fear of mine (one of a few) that I will get sick and not be able to provide for my family…not be able to take care of my children.  Lose my job.  My house.  My life.  Sometimes it feels a bit irrational…well, a lot irrational.

But today, it feels a little too real for my tastes.  A little too in my face.  It still might be irrational.  It’s just additional tests.  Tests don’t always mean bad things.

Being a teacher, I know that giving a test is a lot easier than taking a test.  There is no dread with giving, but a fair amount with taking.

I know that the likelihood of my being seriously ill is not huge…well, maybe I shouldn’t say that.  I have no idea.   I know that I haven’t been the most diligent in caring for myself for the last few years.  Little exercise. Little sleep. Lotta stress.  And a few too many Coca-Colas.

I’m trying to get healthy.  I’ve stopped soda.  I’ve cut down sugar.  The sugar isn’t hard because I don’t have a sweet-tooth.  I have a salt and grease tooth.  Give me a 5-Guys burger and fries and I’m a very happy camper.  Add a Coke and I’m pretty much in heaven.  But the dessert afterwards…ehhhh, I can take it or leave it.

My kids tease me that if I was a super hero I’d be “Saltina” – I guess my nemesis would have to be giant slugs.  (Well, I do have teenagers…)

Anywho, I digress.  Getting healthy.  Need to do it.

The whole fear thing.

I found a journal a few days ago that had an entry from a while back.  I was expressing my fear of never being loved or being able to trust again.  God has shown me that that isn’t true.  He lavishes love on me through others often.  And trust?  God continually shows me that I can trust Him.  Learning to trust again by trusting Him. That’s the way I can start.

Do I trust God with my health?  He’s shown me often that I can trust Him with so much, why not this?

The beauty of Isaiah 43 is

Who He says I am – His.  Called by His name.  Created for His glory.  Precious in His eyes.  Honored.  Loved.

Where He says I am – with Him

What He says will happen – I will not be overwhelmed.  I will not be burned.  I will not be consumed.

I think of how I feel about my children…selfish, flawed, and tired me.  I love them completely.  I would do anything for them.  And God?  Selfless, perfect, ever diligent God.  He loves me completely – lavishly.  He would do anything for me.  But only the best anything.

Ask and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.  Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone?  Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent?  If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!  Matthew 7:7-11

Maybe this is just the kick in my rear that is going to make me take better care of myself.  Maybe this is the “Girly, do you truly trust me with everything?” thing.                     Maybe this is the “watch me walk you through it” thing.

I can’t say that I’m still not heading into all this with great trepidation, but I do trust.  It might be a trembling trust, but it is trust nonetheless.

Again I’m like that father in Mark 9, “I believe, help my unbelief!”

I love that interchange between the father and Jesus.  The father says, “But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.”  Jesus responds, “If you can! All things are possible for one who believes.”  Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!”

It sounds funny but the exclamation points jump out at me!  I hear Jesus saying, “If you can!?!?”  Not in an unkind way, but rather an encouraging way.  It’s as if He is saying to this devastated father, “Dear one, if you can!  There is no “if” when it comes to my ability.  There is no “if” when it comes to my power.  It is all possible for one who believes.   Believe.”

So what do I believe?  I believe that God is able.  I believe that God will never leave me.  I believe that I can trust Him.  I believe.

So bring on stupid additional tests.  Bring on whatever.

He and I…we got this.

Taking 4 Steps Back

IMG_3911Once upon a time…

There was a little girl who dreamed of being married and raising beautiful little children who would love the Lord and each other.  There wasn’t a white picket fence, but there was a big oak tree with a tire swing, a creek with tadpoles, a kitchen counter with a fresh loaf of homemade bread, and a mommy and daddy who loved each other with abandon.

Not surprisingly, that little girl was me.

It seemed for a very long time that things were headed that way…I’d jumped into the chariot, married Prince Charming, and started making beautiful babies.  The house was full – joyfully chaotic and plentiful in love.

But underneath the calm beauty of a life built together, there were secrets and hurtful things.  Sin was stealing in to destroy and devastate.

After almost 18 years of family building, it became a marriage collapse.

It was easy to assume that this marriage collapse would spell the end of this precious family.

But because God can always make beauty from ashes, we would survive…me and my little band of beauties.

We wobbled, we swayed, but we didn’t fall.  In fact, in many ways we became stronger – closer and more determined to thrive, not just survive.

Picking up the pieces after divorce is no easy task.  In fact, it’s exhausting, but the pieces, with God’s help, do fit back together.  The picture isn’t the same, but it can still be beautiful.  It can still be joyful.

My picture hasn’t fallen back into place easily.  It’s taking time.  It’s taking a bunch of perseverance and patience…things I often don’t feel I have near enough of.

There are days I still mourn my “once upon a time no more”.  There are days I still feel a deep pain in my chest when I ponder what I’ve lost.

But maybe the key is not to focus on what I’ve lost, but to realize what I have gained…been blessed with…have.

And again God brings me back to Whose I am…who I am.

It’s so easy to forget in the busyness of the day…I just feel so much without thinking.

I feel so overwhelmed.  I feel so impatient.  I feel so much pressure.  I feel such failure.  I feel such hopelessness at times.

What.  In.  The.  World????

Hopeless.

How did I get here?

I honestly don’t know…one small step after another I guess.

One step toward thinking I can handle it all.

One step away from the strength of the Lord and into the illusion of my own strength.

One step away from moments of peace and rest and into the hurried and overwhelmed moments of a day without boundaries.

One step away from prayer and into thinking I should be able to do this.

One step away from the Word and into my own wisdom, my own knowledge, my own perspective.

Taking those steps over and over again…those have gotten me here.

To this place of stress and anxious thoughts and overwhelming emotions.

How do I get back to the start…to the better place?

One step at a time…

Step one…on my knees.  Prayer is my lifeline.

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

 Likewise, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knowns what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.  And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.  Romans 8:26-28

Step two…dive into the Word.  Knowing Him through His word gives me such abiding hope, often a new perspective, and the wisdom I need so desperately to lead my little band.

Behold you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.  Psalm 50:6

If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.  John 8:31-32

Sanctify them in the truth; your word is the truth.  As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.  And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.  John 17:17

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.  2 Timothy 3:16

Step three… sit down!!  Chill…relax…rest.  Rest in the knowledge that I am His daughter.  Rest in the knowledge that He has my life in the palm of His hand.  Rest in the knowledge that He will take care of me and my children.  Rest in the knowledge that He loves me.

For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on Spirit is life and peace.  Romans 8:6

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 26:3-4

Step four…gratitude.  I cannot have a good attitude without gratitude.  If I would but take a moment and think about the good things…the precious people and massive number of blessings God has lavished on me…I’d see that it is quite easy to count my blessings.  But even if God had not graciously blessed me with people and things and opportunities and provision, He has blessed me with Christ…with grace and mercy, with the joy of the Lord, with salvation, with life, with hope, with peace, with eternity.  How can my lips not praise and thank Him!

Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever.  Psalm 118:1

Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love, for his wonderous works to the children of man!  Psalm 107:8

Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. Colossians 2:6-7  

 I know there are more steps to take…but that will get me started moving forward with grace and peace.

Lord, thank you so much that you love me regardless of my attitude or actions.  Lord, thank you that I know that you will take care of me and my children.  Forgive me for so often trying to take control of my life.  Forgive me for not resting in the knowledge that I can trust you.  Thank you Father that you are faithful and kind even in the face of my unfaithfulness.  I am in awe of you!  In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Up to My…Head

IMG_1614When I started this blog I wanted to offer hope with a dash of humor thrown in for good measure.  I can, at times, be a little funny.  My amusing side has been slipping a bit lately, and I’d like to find that voice again.

As I begin this new year, I’m thinking I want to make a slight change in my perspective…in my way of doing things and thinking about things.  Maybe I shouldn’t say a slight change…a complete 180 might be more like it.

Joy has been a bit illusive this past year.  Hard to grasp for me.

Peace that passes understanding?  Haven’t had it.  I’ve chosen anxious thoughts and ungratefulness.

It has been a bit of a miserable time for me (and my kids, unfortunately).

I don’t think that my life has been harder than most, or that I’ve been called to do something overly extreme in difficulty.  My life is just more challenging and exhausting than I  want.

My vision for my life was different. And sometimes the farther I get from the vision, the more I struggle to accept where I am.

It has been easy to focus on the stress of my circumstances, rather than anything positive.

So what are my circumstances, really?  That seems like a good place to start when I’m trying to figure out how I should approach life.  I’m hoping for some perspective on why I’m doing what I’m doing, living how I’m living, and thinking the way I’m thinking.  And maybe if I put it all in front of me in black and white I’ll see something differently.

Would you like to think through this with me?

What are the things that you are dealing with right now?  Not your emotions, but your circumstances. What does your life look like each day?

I have to remind myself as I go through analyzing my life that God is not at all surprised by my circumstances (or emotions).  They are the tools that God is going to use in my life to bring me good and Him glory.  And I’m confident that I will be stronger for the challenges.

The storms of life.

I once heard a pastor say that we are either heading into a storm, right in the middle of it, or drying off from it. When I first heard this I thought it was a rather dismal look at life, there have to be other times….don’t there?

Where are we now?

  • Hanging on for dear life in the hurricane.
  • Rocking on the waves but getting our sea legs
  • Working on storm clean-up – everything’s a little damp and musty, but thankful to be back on dry land
  • Floating in calm waters – an occasional wave swamps your boat but you are doing just fine
  • Sunning on the beach

In some ways I’m in clean up mode, but in others I think I’m still rocking a little bit on the waves.

Wherever I find myself (any given day), how do I respond to where I am…where God has me?

In all honesty, my responses have been mostly negative – BUT I’m determined to change that this year.

Part of the problem is that I tend to look at all my circumstances as only challenges rather than just the place God has me…a place God can still bless me.  That inclines me to respond mostly negatively to them.

Being a single working mom is challenging at times, but it is the place God has me.  It can be a beautiful place no matter how challenging.

Do I EVER have good responses to my circumstances?

Ummmmm…

Ok!  Think of three, Sue.  Three positive responses…(and the ability to say something sarcastic is not one of them).

Laughter – sometimes I can really get a good laugh at the ridiculousness of my circumstances

Joy – when I focus on the blessings and provision from God

Worship – when I take a moment to recognize how often God loves me when I’m decidedly unlovable

Getting tangled up in negative thinking and feelings has been all too easy for me.  Even when I’m studying the Word and praying, I can still struggle with negative emotions.  Unfortunately, it seems to be a natural response for me lately.

I know that I can trust God with my life and the lives of my children, and yet I struggle with feeling all those negative emotions.

I am thrashing about in the waves, gulping in tons of water while I grumble, complain, and wail – but there is this blessed undercurrent of peace – my feet are in it.

I’m in it up to my toes.  My goal is to get my whole body in that peaceful place – all the way over my head.

That is my quest this year.  To be not just up to my toes, but up to my head.

To build on those three possible positive responses to my circumstances.

To redefine my response to my life.

To evaluate from a different perspective.

To acknowledge where I am, accept it, trust God with it, and move forward.

To see my life as a blessing.

Want to join me on this journey?

I’d sure like the company.

More Than a Conqueror Mentality or Starting The Year as NOT a Failure

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You know how sometimes our children show us a lot about ourselves…usually the stuff we don’t want to see displayed for all the world to see.  My kids are really good at it.  I can be sure if there is something I don’t want repeated, it will get said.  If there is a behavior I don’t want passed on, it will be mastered.  If there is an attitude I’d prefer never to see, I’ll see it daily.

Lately I’ve been seeing a bit of my own off-the-mark mindset displayed by one of my children.  Two of my children are adopted, and my youngest daughter, when in trouble, will often say, “Why did you even adopt me?”

I have declared that a forbidden phrase in our family.  In fact, no one is allowed to say anything even resembling that phrase.

Afterwards, she will often say, “Mommy, I’m sorry I didn’t mean it.”

Her words come out easily and without thought a lot…just like her momma.  Many times she will ask me why she can’t control what she says.  We talk about it and pray about it…for both of us, because it is an issue for me too.

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But even more important than those words that can spew out so easily, is the heart of my daughter…and the heart of me.

It is easy, very easy, to forget who we are…to even think we are something that we are not.

Lately, I feel like there is a constant blaring from the devil’s megaphone into my already aching head and heart, “YOU ARE SUCH A FAILURE!  SHAM! FAKE!!”

This demanding, defeating, and despairing voice barrages me with lies.

Lies that I’m a huge, disappointing, utter and complete, painfully obvious, absolute failure.

And honestly, even as I write that it is shaking me with its force…hollering how dare I write that it is a lie.

It screams, “You know it is all true.  Admit it.”

And the listing begins…looong lists of every part of my life that has a mistake, misstep, misdeed, misspoken word, missed opportunity… misery.

My list goes on and on…I hate that list.

And doggone it, I know that it isn’t true.  I know that.  I just can’t seem to figure out how to alleviate the heaviness in my chest.

I’ve been pouring Scripture into my head and uttering prayers over and over again.  But I feel like there is something more I’m supposed to be doing.  That there is a reason for this place I’m in.

This funky, uncomfortable, rotten place.

I know that my issue is a heart issue.  I have the knowledge of who I am.  I know it.  I just don’t embrace it wholeheartedly, because my life doesn’t seem to testify to it like I want it to.

My heart and my life seem broken at times, but are they?  My heart has been broken, but it is healing.  My life might feel broken because it isn’t as I’d like it or as I’d imagined it.

I keep trying to get fixed by my own efforts and by the efforts of others.  No one is really able to do it for me.  Least of all myself.

I have sought strength from my own reserves…which are decidedly depleted and I’m afraid in many ways it has only made the problem worse.

I have sought rest and refuge in my own idea of what life should look like…you know organized home, well-behaved children, wonderful work, and effective ministry…oh, and sleep.  All of those things have been a lot of work with very little effect…mostly because none of them have happened.

A lot of effort. Not a lot of results.

I want to begin this year with the understanding and conviction that I am not a failure…or at least I want to be on the way to that understanding and conviction.

I fail sometimes, but I am not a failure.

One of my very favorite passages in scripture is Romans 8:31-39.  I know it is kind of long (and I’m the reader who often skips the scripture passages because I think I already know them so I’ll just get to the next part of the article or book or whatever), but please read it and peel back the layers of truth in these words.

What then shall we say to these things?  If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?  Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect?  It is God who justifies.  Who is to condemn?  Christ Jesus is the one who died – more than that, who was raised – who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.  Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?  As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”  No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.   Romans 8:31-39

I wanted to bold every word in that passage, but I chose the things I want to remember…the things I want to pour into my heart.

God is FOR ME.  (He is not against me at all.)

God justifies me.  (I do not need to justify myself.)

God doesn’t condemn me.  (And neither should I.)

Nothing can separate me from the love of Christ.  (Not even my own thoughts.)

I am more than a conqueror.   (Not a failure.)

That one always gets me.  MORE than a conqueror!?!  More than the winner?  Seriously?  How is that even possible?

It reminds me of when God rescued Israel from Egypt.  Not only where they able to leave, but God put it in the minds of the Egyptians to load them up with stuff.  They were given freedom and provisions.  More than conquerors.

How about us?  We not only get to spend eternity in heaven, but we get to know the Lord here.  We are blessed to have the fruit of the Spirit all the time now – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control.  We not only have a God, but also a Savior, a Father, a Friend, a Comforter, a  Counselor, a Deliverer, a Great Shepherd, a Great Physician, a Mediator, a Messiah, a Refuge, a Shepherd of our Souls, a Shield, and a Teacher, among many other things.  More than conquerors.

When I think of the blessings of God, I can completely see the “more than a conqueror” mentality I want to have.

My first step…recognizing that I’m blessed.

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My home.  That is a more than a conqueror thing to be sure.  God could have given me any ole home, but He blessed me with one that is all I had hoped for and more.  Every single day I am in awe and thank Him for it.

Yesterday, I was blessed.  Completely and totally blessed by the best Christmas day ever!  Really….ever.

My sons set their alarms so their little sisters wouldn’t have to wait to open presents.  The funny thing was the boys ended up being the first ones up awake and woke all of us up.  We opened presents, and let me just say I rocked the gifts this year!  Everyone was so happy with their presents!  Then we played games, made gingerbread houses, took naps, played more games, ate dinner, played more games, and watched a movie.  Blessed!

I can’t tell you how many times I looked around at my smiling, happy children and felt a flood of blessing pour all over me.  Such a grateful heart.

And for a day, I didn’t feel like a failure at anything.  I didn’t feel like a mess.  I felt peaceful.

Why?

Because of my circumstances?  Maybe.

But I think it was more that for a day, I stepped outside of myself and the rush of my ridiculous life, and enjoyed being.

I didn’t worry about a single thing.  Just enjoyed my children.  Enjoyed the day.  Enjoyed Christmas.

The blessing of the gift of Christmas.

I was telling my children what an amazing thing it is that on Jesus’ birthday WE get to exchange presents!  How gracious is our God!

It is that “more than a conqueror” thing.  That thing that God does when He goes above and beyond to bless.

The week leading up to Christmas was tough in a ton of ways.  I found myself having more pity parties than any person should be allowed to have.  I was so busy feeling badly that I missed the blessings.

I was stuck in failure mode.

But today…today I have decided that I want the “more than a conqueror” mentality.  I want to live a life of victory.

I’m not a victim of my circumstances or my failures, I’m more than a conqueror.

That passage in Romans reminds me that NOTHING can separate me from the love of Christ – tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, hunger, death, life, angels, rulers, things now or things to come, powers, height, depth, nothing in all of creation…NOTHING can separate us.

He loves me. Period.

He is for me.

Regardless of how I think about myself, good or bad, God loves me.  Nothing I think about me changes that.

When my little girl asks me, “Why did you even adopt me?”  I have to say, “Because I was made to love you!”

And if I were to ask God, “Why did you even adopt me?”  He would say, “Because I made you to love!”

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He loved me from the beginning.  He will always love me…He has made me more than a conqueror because He loves me.

 

What Do You Think About Gifts?

IMG_3674I LOVE giving gifts.  Like really love it.

This year I’ve been careful though.  I’ve set a certain amount of gifts each child will receive and an amount I’m willing to spend.  So far, I’m doing pretty well with it.  Although I’ve been known to blow the whole budget in a minute so the jury is out whether I will make it to Christmas without splurging.  I’m determined not to.

There are a lot of articles and blogs out there talking about not being so focused on giving.  And I do understand that, but I think sometimes we can get so caught up in not being caught up we are kinda caught up in that….does that make sense?

I’m all for moderation, but I can’t deny loving giving gifts.  And after all,

Christmas is about a Gift.

A tremendous Gift of love.  A thought-about, thought-through, sacrificial, expensive Gift.

There is a place for giving gifts, maybe not gifts simply for the sake of giving and getting.

Gifts for the sake of blessing.

Right now, the gift that God is most blessedly giving me…repeatedly…is the reminder of the Gospel and all it means to my every day.  My every day needs for forgiveness, peace, and hope.

Oh how I need forgiveness.

How I long for peace.

How thankful I am for hope.

And even while God is presenting me again and again with the gift of His love in myriad ways, I am finding myself being unwrapped more and more for Him.

These past several months (and maybe even years) have been many moments filled with realization, some comforting and some quite appalling.  Moments that open my eyes to my great need for a Savior.  Moments that open my eyes to my value simply as His child.  Moments that give me a deeper affection for my Savior and the glorious grace that He continues to offer me… and even some that give me some fear of the beautiful justice of my God.

And, I find myself now…feeling as if I’m one of those little boxes wrapped in a bigger box and then in a bigger box and then in an even bigger box…and so on and so on… and I see that God is slowly and patiently unwrapping each layer of me.

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Each layer reveals another thing that God is going to refine…redeem…restore.   And I have to be honest, all this unwrapping hasn’t been the easiest for me.  I’d much prefer to be wrapped up in love and grace and peace and joy then unwrapped at all.  It has been quite difficult, even disheartening at times.  I have despaired of being the woman I want to be.

But this Christmas, I know with each unwrapping, God is revealing the woman He has made me to be.

It is kind of weird to think of myself as a gift…I know.  Especially considering so much of the time I feel like a complete and utter failure….who wants that under the tree?

Apparently God does.  God wants me just like I am.

Just as I am.

Maybe what I need to remember this Christmas is the gift of God loving me just as I am.

I don’t have to be anything better than I am…just be me.

God loving me with the gift of Jesus….so that my life could be a gift back to Him.

My life is a gift.

A gift to me.

And a gift to Him.

And Jesus….

There have been times lately when I have been so caught up in the challenges and the temptations of this life that I have lost sight of Him…I’ve missed Him.

I’ve missed the daily gift of Him.

I’ve missed enjoying His presence through prayer and His wisdom through the Word.

And in doing so, I’ve missed the sweet opportunity to make my life a gift back to Him.

I want my life to daily be a gift back to God…something beautiful wrapped in love just for Him.

I do so love to give gifts…I believe I’m going to try to give myself to Him every single day.

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