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Hope & Humor for Single & Divorced Parents

Day 3 – Armed and Ready

sword and shieldI have been so excited to get into God’s word that last night I almost just stayed up past midnight getting started.  I probably should have…might have been divine prompting…because this morning has been one mishap after another.  I’m on outfit number 3.  I apparently have 6 single socks with no partner…I searched with that silly IPhone flashlight everywhere I could think of and managed to knock more things over in my attempt to be quiet than you could possibly imagine.  Making coffee has proven problematic but I have prevailed and it is almost ready…so in about 15 minutes this writing might actually make sense!

Yesterday my class began a new vocab list.  I had forgotten what most of the words were due to our extended snow vacation (yay!) last week.  One of the words was rejoice!  How cool is that! I felt that it was God confirming His call to rejoice!

One of the other words was sentinel…a guard, watchman, or protector.  I thought how in all my angst at this life I have forgotten about my calling as a watchman at the gate for my family.

I have always loved the picture of the Israelites rebuilding the wall in Nehemiah.

When our enemies heard that it was known to us and that God had frustrated their plan, we all returned to the wall, each to his work.  From that day on, half of my servants worked on construction, and half held the spears, shields, bows, and coats of mail.  And the leaders stood behind the whole house of Judah, who were building on the wall.  Those who carried burdens were loaded in such a way that each labored on the work with one hand and held his weapon with the other.  And each of the builders had his sword strapped at his side while he built.  Nehemiah 4:18

What a great reminder that as we work to rebuild our families, we are to be prepared for battle. We are to have our weapons handy.  We are to be armed with the word of God.  We are to be ready to wield that sword of the Spirit with gusto!

But I know me…and maybe some of you…I tend to take that picture and imagine myself slaying dragons and winning battles for my family…forgetting that a little farther down in that passage is the sentence:

Our God will fight for us.  (4:20b)

You know what?  That sounds great to me!  I’m pretty weary…a weary warrior to be sure.  And God, the creator of all things, has all the power and strength I need and some.

So what am I supposed to do?  What is my role in this battle for my family…for the heart and soul of myself and my children?

Being armed for battle means I’m ready to fight.  I’m in a position to stand strong in the face of adversity.  I’m ready and willing to follow the order of my Commander and Chief.  I’m aware of the struggle, the temptations, the trials, the tests…the arrows of the evil one.

And I don’t run ahead into the battle without my Father’s leading…and my Father’s protection.

For too long I have continued to wage this war for peace in my life without taking a moment to consult with the author and perfecter of my faith.  For too long I have run into battle without armor…without my sword.  For too long I have relied on my own battle plans, my own strategies, my own strength…I have come to the point of exhaustion…I am wounded, weary, and worn…Medic!

In just a few short days I have felt the reviving of my soul, the calming of my heart, and the joy of the Lord infusing me with a new hope.  Yesterday wasn’t amazing in any other way, except that I was ready for it.  It was not easier or less stressful, but I had my weapon in hand…I had God’s word in the front of my brain.  I had put it before my eyes and started the day with His perspective, not my own.

I was working armed with the knowledge that God is always with me.  And when those arrows flew my way yesterday, I was able to deflect them with that knowledge.  I was able to say, “I am precious, honored and loved…nothing can separate me from the love of God (not even me)…He will never (not ever) leave me nor forsake me…in all these things I can rejoice!”

And in rejoicing, I find the joy of the Lord truly is my strength (Nehemiah 8:10).

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It’s Monday…A good time to rejoice

joy in the morningDay 2 (woohoo!)

Last night I attended a Bible study on Deuteronomy – I’m loving that book!  I wouldn’t have ever thought that I could get so much out of that book – but Jesus is everywhere in Scripture!  It is such a cool thing to seek and find Him!

Last night we talked about Deuteronomy 31:8:

It is the LORD who goes before you. 

He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. 

Do not fear or be dismayed. 

 I’m quite familiar with those verses…they have been a source of comfort like many others.  And last night as I sat there I thought, “Now, THAT is something to rejoice about!”

It was like the big picture for me.  I thought about 2 Corinthians 6:3-10

We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited.  Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way, in great endurance, in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience, and kindness; in the Holy spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying and yet we live on; beaten and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.  2 Corinthians 6:3-10

 

In all those things – good and bad – God is with Paul…God is with us.  And reading that list puts some perspective on my struggles.  Reading or watching the news does too.  But I don’t think that God ever says, “Have you seen those other people?  What they are going through?  Seriously, you are going to stress about your little problems!?”  In fact I’m positive it’s not in there.

In God’s eyes we are valuable and precious and loved.

…Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you.  Isaiah 43:4

And every one of our challenges and difficulties is important to Him.  Every one.

All this is not something new to me…I know that God doesn’t leave me or forsake me, but I think often I feel that God must be tired of me…tired of my struggles, sadness, and sins….maybe He is annoyed with me not being in a better place…maybe He is frustrated that I can’t just seem to be happy about things.

Not true!  Not true at all!

He doesn’t think those things at all!  He loves me with an everlasting love…an unconditional love.  He sees all our struggles, hears all our prayers and pleading, knows all the hurts and fears, and still He loves us unconditionally…that means that He doesn’t get tired of us ever.

When God says that He will never leave us or forsake us, that he really means it!  He really means that He isn’t going to leave our side…He doesn’t begrudgingly stay with us.

I have only to look at the cross to know that.

Who would sacrifice so much to be near me?  Who would die so that I might live with Him?  Who would bear such scorn and sorrow, so I can find joy and hope?  Noone but Jesus!

And THAT is definitely something to rejoice about!

I’m rejoicing this Monday morning that my God is going before me today and every day.  I’m rejoicing that He is with me.  I’m rejoicing that no matter what – no matter what – God will never leave me nor forsake me!  And because of that, I have no need to be afraid or discouraged by what life holds.

Lord, thank you so much for the reminder that I am never alone because you are ALWAYS with me.  Thank you Father that I don’t have to be afraid or discouraged because you go before me.  Nothing happens in my life that has not first passed through your hands.  I can trust that You will use it for good, no matter how it feels.  Thank you Father that even when it feels like everything is wonky, You are still in control.  Thank you Father for another day (even if it is a Monday!) and for loving me.  Thank you for the tremendous comfort of knowing I’m precious to You.

In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

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Do I ever have a good week?

winter sunset  I was asked this morning. “Do I ever have a good week?”  And my answer is, “Absolutely!”

I absolutely have good weeks…but not easy weeks.  I have no easy weeks at this point in my life.  And, to be honest, these past several months have been the hardest of my life in many ways. Unexpectedly so.  And from the emails and messages I receive, I know that many other single parents (and people in general) are going through challenging seasons.  If I can encourage by sharing my struggle and where God continues to bring me…back to Him…I will continue to do so.

I think often as Christians we want others to “get over it already!”  I have often thought to myself, “Shouldn’t this be easier by now?”  And I know others have felt the same way…about their lives and mine!  The reality is that my life hasn’t gotten easier, and I haven’t gotten happier about my situation.  BUT GOD has met me right where I am…right where He has me.  I have felt His leading, His provision, His peace, and His joy.

It is easy for me to harp on the one comment that is less than positive, that questions me and my walk.  But you know what?  Those comments are fine!  In fact, I appreciate them because they make me think.

I have wondered if people think I’m just a whiny person…I have wondered how I have become such an Eeyore, when I’ve always been such a Tigger.  Life can change us a little bit…or a lot.  Deep down I know I’m still a Tigger. :)  I’m growing and maturing and that’s a good thing…the process isn’t fast or without issues…and maybe that’s no fun at times to live (or read about).

But I feel like God has given me a great idea…at least I hope so!

In fact, this morning I planned on blogging about my new idea!  I’ve been praying about it and I’m so excited!  It seems rather presumptuous of me and I feel funny saying this but I’m going to write everyday and share what God is showing me in my quiet time.  It is not that I think I’m some great spiritual woman who has tons of wisdom to share, but I know I need accountability and I pray God will use me to encourage someone, even if it is just one day a month.

I can’t wait to see where God takes me…takes us!

I was actually thinking how appropriate for a single parent to be starting a new year’s devotional on February 22nd!  Only 53 days late! LOL!

So today I was thinking about rejoicing.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.  Philippians 4:4

Rejoice always.  1 Thessalonians 5:16

We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited.  Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships, and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, in sleepless nights and slumber; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as important, known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich, having nothing, and yet possessing everything. 2 Corinthians 6:3-10

I decided to look up some of the verses about rejoicing.  I was immediately struck by 2 Corinthians 6:3-10…I know I have read that verse before but it seemed completely new to me today.  Like I’d never read it before.

There is so much to it.

First of all I want to figure out what commend means…and to whom am I commending myself…what does that look like?

John MacArthur says that commend means, “to introduce with the intention of proving oneself.”   And Paul then goes on to present the reasons that he can commend himself.

1.  Because of his patient endurance in suffering

2. The integrity of his ministry based on God’s righteousness given through the Holy Spirit.

One is about Paul’s response to life and the other about God’s provision for life.

And those two things are great ways to start off the year – even if we are a bit late in the starting.

I wish I could say that I was more like Paul in his patient endurance in suffering…unfortunately I am not.  I’m probably more like a little fussy 2 year old…I’m the stomping my feet sufferer.  The weeping sufferer.  The sorrowful sufferer.  BUT God is helping me daily.  I have moments of patience and even patient endurance!

Seriously, how do I respond to this life?  How did Paul?

Paul didn’t ignore his sufferings – he pointed them out fairly often.  He opened up about what was challenging him…about what he struggled with…and how he prayed about it.  PLEASE KNOW THAT I DO NOT CONSIDER MYSELF ANYTHING LIKE PAUL…I’m so NOT Paul.  I will not be referring to myself as Paulette.  I wish I could.  BUT I am learning from his example.

God has allowed this difficult life for a reason, and maybe that reason is to share with others how hard it is, but even more importantly what God is revealing to me through it all.  I can attest to God’s strength in my weakness and God’s joy in my sorrow and about a hundred other things God gives me.

I hope you will walk this journey with me…learning to rejoice always, among many other things!

And I’m excited to delve into these verses and many others with you!

I hope that we can grow together in wisdom, encourage one another through our struggles, and rejoice together always!

 

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Awful weeks…beware.

winter treeWe have all had those weeks.

You know the ones…where not a single thing goes well.  Where awful seems to be the word that describes most things, if not all things.

Last week would qualify as one of those weeks.  Awful, awful, awful.

But in just a few short days God has provided some relief…some peace in the storm.

I’m afraid I might be struggling a bit more than I ever have.  I’m finding a sense of hopelessness invading at times, and it is disarming.

Even as my head knows that I serve a loving and faithful God who will indeed make good out of everything, I struggle.

After 6 years of this nutty life, I’m just tired.

The last several months have been very difficult…in some ways more difficult than anything else in the past several years.

I’ve mentioned all the changes before so I won’t bore you with a litany of my challenges.

One of the biggest thing has been feeling so very alone.

I’m surprised how alone I can feel surrounded by people.

I continually remind myself of the good that has come from our move here.  How having this job is wonderful.  How my children being in great schools is wonderful.  How having a new beginning is wonderful…I think.

But…there are so many buts.

The other night I spoke with a friend and poured out my heart.  How deeply unhappy I feel right now…how alone and hopeless.

How I desperately want to be near my dear friends who now are far away.  How I desperately want to make new friends but cannot find the time to spend a moment away from work or family or school.  How things I thought would be blessings, safe places, and peace of mind seem like anything but.

There is that dang but again.

This friend told me that I need to figure this out  with God – that no one else can help me.  I know that’s right…getting my head and heart in the best place can only happen with God.  But I have to be honest and say that I really want people in my life… I had that. I left that.

This is a hard place and sometimes I wonder if I have made a huge mistake.

But I just have to believe God led me here.

Usually, if not always, the reason is to bring me closer to Him.

How I desperately want to be closer to Him.  But I can’t seem to find the time like I used to.  When life changed 6 years ago, I stayed up late and got up early to spend time in the Word.  I was so much more on top of things.

I just feel almost frantic for sleep…which is always in short supply.  I can’t seem to get everything done in a day.  Sleep deprivation is merely a time thing.  There just isn’t enough time for sleep.

In the past I would have advised someone to just forego a little of that precious sleep for time in the Word.  I would still say that is ideal, but now that I’m here in this place…this sleep deprived, overwhelmed, way-too-busy, frustrated single working old mom place…I don’t know how to do it myself.

I’m at a loss.

A few weeks ago I managed to get to bed at 9:30, mostly because I was sick, but I woke up at 5 and had an hour to study and pray.  It was a great day.  I had that peace that passes understanding thing.

I know that if I get time in the Word I do life better.  If I pray, I have perspective.

I have to figure it out.  I just have to.

I know I’m going to come back to that place of just do it.  Just pray already!  Pray and ask God for His leading, His provision, and His strength.

Golly, it’s easy to say that…easy to say I’m just gonna pray more and get in the Word more.

I think if I look back at my other blogs, I’d find myself saying that A LOT!

It’s my life lesson – pray, seek God and rest in Him.

I’m finding it difficult, but God can help me.

And what has come to mind are all those verses with the phrase, “But God…”

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

What a blessed reminder that even though I struggle so in my life, God still shows me His love.  He loves me.  Flawed, sinful me.  How thankful I am that I can repent of my sins…of my wallowing and wailing and whining.  Recently, I heard about 4 different people in various venues discuss repentance.  I think I need to consider it more.  I’m praying that God will open my eyes to areas in my life in need of repentance.  I’m praying that God will give me strength to stand firmly against temptation and to withstand trials with a steadfast spirit and a gentle heart.

I’m praying for change…godly change.

As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.  Genesis 50:20

What a glorious reminder that somewhere in this mixed-up mess of a life, God is going to bring about good.  I have to keep reminding myself that that promise doesn’t mean that I will see the good right away…or maybe even ever.

I haven’t been in a good place to receive this anywhere but God’s word.  You know what I mean?  I don’t always graciously accept the comment, “God has a plan in all this…”  I think because I know it already…I just sometimes don’t get it or feel it.  Sometimes I just want someone to say, “Man, your life is not awesome!”  And then I can say, “I know, right!?”

But God, He can say it.  He can remind me a thousand times and it is always welcomed and comforting.

I have to get back to trusting Him for the good I can’t see.

I’m still going to pray for glimpses of the good for my kids and me, and that our faith will be encouraged by the way God uses this difficult time in our lives.

And he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts.” Luke 15:15

Oooo, this verse got me.  Jesus was talking to the Pharisees who were lovers of money and were ridiculing Him.  I’m sure there are many ways to apply this verse, but today God has reminded me that He knows my heart.  That no matter how I try to justify my behavior, He knows what is really going on.  He always knows more about what’s going on in me than I do.  I very rarely understand what or why or when or whatever…I confuse myself.  But God knows me…and He loves me with an everlasting love.

How in the world is that possible?  Another thing I can’t grasp, but am so thankful to know.

God knows me and loves me still…I don’t know if I will ever truly grasp that, but I see it…I experience it.

This week started off as a continuation of last week which was one of THOSE weeks.  And I feared for my sanity, but God did a blessed thing for me.  THREE snow days!  Three days to catch up.  Three days to sleep as late as my little ones would allow me to sleep.  Three days to wear jeans and slippers.  Three days.  What a blessing!

And during these blessed snow days, I’ve had the opportunity to have conversations with friends from far away.  Friends who have encouraged me and even understood the depth of my emotions.  Friends who have offered prayers and comfort. I’m so thankful for godly women in my life.

And I’ve been blessed with time with my children…sledding, snowball fights, and Uno.   IMG_7875

And I’ve been blessed to spend time in the Word.  Much needed time in the Word.  I hope I can start good habits in these three days.  Sleep and study.

So awful weeks beware….I’m acutely aware you will come…probably more often than I’d like…and I’m not going to face you unprepared.

Those weeks…or even days…are opportunities to seek God.  And seek Him I will…sleep deprived or not.

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Enough to be Happy and Healthy

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

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

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

I love that!

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

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

It was delightful.

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

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

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

Do I?  Do I think she’s right?

I absolutely do.

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

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

The thoughts like:

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

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

“I’m an awful mother.”

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

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

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

But, I don’t need to…it’s bad for me.

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

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

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

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

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

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The Burden of Blessing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But in God’s economy, maybe not.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4.Take heart. (John 16:33)

5.Trust God.  (Proverbs 3:5-6)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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I Need Therapy…of sorts.

photo (35)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Honestly, I don’t think I can.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

15 Comments »

My Life…Living It

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My life.

Exhausting, but blessed.

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

Again.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Hanging by a Thread

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

I’m back to those days.

My face in the carpet days.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ouch.

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

Why does my 7 year olds’ behavior determine mine?

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

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

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

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

I want perspective and peace again.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I need those things very much.

And God gives them…just need to ask.

I’m asking.

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

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

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Strength for the Weary Warrior

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

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

Today I reread Ephesians 6:10-11

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

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

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

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

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

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

Isaiah 40:28-31

 

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

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

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

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

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

And honestly, I’ve got cruddy armor.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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