uptomytoes

Hope & Humor for Single & Divorced Parents

Spaghetti Girl

supergirl My quiet time is happening rather late in the day, but I’m so very thankful for it whenever it happens.

Last night I was blessed to spend time with all 5 of my children to celebrate Peter’s 14th birthday!  My oldest drove down to spend the evening with us.  It was so nice to have all my chicks under one roof again.

Unfortunately, it also made me realize that I gave that up when we moved here.  Taking this job required us to be here, and his job and classes required him to stay there.  It was one of the most difficult parts of my decision.  Although he is turning 21 this year so I imagine it didn’t impact him nearly as much as it impacted me J.

The time went by so quickly and this morning when we parted to head to our different jobs – mine 15 minutes away and his 1 ½ hours away (I definitely had the better commute this morning) – a little bit of my heart broke.  It is hard being a momma.

I love my children so much.  Sometimes I’m just shocked at how much and how deeply I love them.

And I desperately want to make decisions that bless them, encourage them, build them up, and show how much I love them…

Sometimes I worry my decisions do none of those things.  I wonder if I make good decisions…I just feel like I’m always spinning…

This morning was one of those mornings where all I could think was, “Did I make the best decision for my family?”

I hate when I start second-guessing.  I’m so blasted good at it though.  I can second-third-fourth-fifth-sixth guess with no problem at all…it’s so easy for me.

So this morning I had to pray and remind myself AGAIN that this was a good decision.  I listed the good things AGAIN to myself.  I thanked God for the blessings AGAIN.

And I did start to feel better.

I just wonder if in this world any decision is going to feel like a slam dunk?

It is kinda funny (not ha-ha funny) but one of the times I felt absolutely sure I was following God’s will was when I married my ex-husband.  I’m not sure how to feel about that…

I believe part of the second-guessing I hear so many single parents or divorced people share is because one of our very biggest decisions (if not the biggest) didn’t end well.  There’s nothing like that to destroy any confidence in the ability to make decision.

Decision-making brings out all my “spaghetti-girl” issues.  Everything affects and impacts everything.  When I feel badly about one thing it oozes over into other areas and then it makes me feel badly about everything.  When I feel sad it spills all over everything.  When I’m worried, I’m worried about everything.

It is exhausting being Spaghetti Girl!

I don’t believe God called me to be like this…I am a girl so that part has to stay, and there are certain things about being a girl that lend themselves to feeling a lot like spaghetti.  BUT I don’t want to be all goofy.

I want to trust again…trust myself to make wise decisions because I have God and trust God that He will lead me to make right decisions.

I want to be a woman who loves the Lord not just with all my heart, but with all my mind.  I believe the theme of my week of Bible study continues to be taking my thoughts captive.  God keeps bringing me back to getting my thoughts straight.  It is so easy to get overwhelmed and feel hopeless, but this verse reminds me from where my relief comes:

If the LORD had not been my help, my soul would soon have lived in the land of silence.  When I thought, “My foot slips,” your steadfast love, O Lord, held me up.  When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul….the LORD has become my stronghold, and my God the rock of my refuge.

Psalm 94:17-19, 22

I looked up “consolations” – it wasn’t a word I was very familiar with – it means “comforts”.

God’s comforts cheer my soul.  I don’t think I reap the benefits of having my soul cheered if I don’t recognize God’s comforts in my life.

What are the comforts in my life?

Jesus

His Word

My children

Friends – dear, dear friends

Family

Within those are so many other comforts…how can simply stating the name Jesus adequately communicate the multitude of comforts I experience because I know Him.

His Word….I want to write verse after verse after verse…all my favorites.

My children…such sweet blessings

My friends…those who stay with me even in my worst Spaghetti days especially!

My family…who love me and help me in so many ways

Do you remember how often God told the Israelites to be sure to remember what He had done for them?

My favorite is Deuteronomy 6:4-9

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.  You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.  And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.  You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.  You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.  You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”

Put God’s words on your heart.

Teach them diligently to your children.

Talk about them all the time and everywhere.

Talk about them from the start of the day to the end of it.

Keep them in all that you do, think, see, and say!

Keep them in your home at all times!

A good list.  A plan to keep the comforts and blessings of God ever with us and before us and around us.

Kind of like that thankful list I make…which I haven’t done in a while.

Maybe if I focused more on the blessings (WHEN will I learn this lesson?) the decisions and second-guessing wouldn’t be such an issue.  I could see that things truly are in God’s hands.  I could see that God works everything, even all my decisions, for His good and my good!

I can trust God with my decisions and even my second-guessing.  I can trust Him with everything.  Maybe if I say that (write that) enough it will really stick and I will start acting like I KNOW it because I do know it!

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Day 7 – Where Have All the Snow Days Gone?

birthday cupcakeI have to admit being a little disappointed that I didn’t get a call for a snow day or a two-hour delay today…it is definitely a Monday  :)

I’m ready though and willing to start the week off well.  A little sore from my weekend of skiing – no broken bones and I didn’t fall off the ski lift!  I loved it!  Really!!

Today is my middle son Peter’s 14th birthday!  I can’t believe it!  I’ve referred to this sweet boy as my tender warrior, because he always wants to protect and defend others.  And because he cares deeply, seeks answers to tough questions, and goes above and beyond what I ask many times.  He isn’t perfect – he is an 8th grade boy after all!

One of the things this wonderful boy has desperately sought throughout the past  6 years is a godly man to be his role model.  It isn’t even a subconscious quest – he longs for fellowship with a man who will encourage him, bless him, and challenge him.  It is one of the things we left in Fredericksburg – one of the reasons this move was difficult.  He had just begun a great friendship with a man from our church – they met for coffee which Peter loved!  It couldn’t happen a lot but when it did what a blessing!  And I cannot tell you how much I appreciated this man stepping into my son’s life even for a short season.

It is one of the difficulties of being a single parent…having to be a “dad” to our sons, or a “mom” to our daughters.  I know single fathers who struggle with knowing how to parent their daughters – it is so different from their sons.  And I’ve had the same difficulties with my sons.  It is just hard to do a job you really weren’t made to do.

I believe this is a wonderful place where the body of Christ can step in and do amazing things to help single parents.  Many churches really do it well!  It is difficult though…I know.

I have prayed for 6 years for someone to encourage my daughter. God did not provide it, so I must trust that all that she needed He provided in a different way.  That’s another part of single parenting…of parenting…that is difficult.  Trusting when things don’t go the way we are “certain” they should.

There is a verse in Isaiah that I know I have written about on this blog before because it is one of the verse I cling to for comfort.

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

Isn’t that beautiful!  Once again God says to us, “I have this.”  Even this…even this parenting thing that feels like such a heavy burden at times.  God has it.  And not only will  HE teach our children but HE will give them peace.

What makes this verse even more profound are the verses leading up to it.  They speak to parents being in tough places.  Please bear with me as I share them:

O afflicted one, storm-tossed and not comforted, behold, I will set your stones in antimony and lay your foundations with sapphires.  

I will make your pinnacles of agate, and your gates of carbuncles, and all your walls of precious stones.”  Isaiah 54:11-12

And even before those:  For your Maker is your husband, the LORD of hosts is his name; and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer, the God of the whole earth he is called.  Isaiah 54:5

God really does have it all covered.  You and I have learned that things might not look the way we envisioned them, but God still holds it all in the palm of His hand…including our sweet children.  I trust Him with them.

And I trust Him with me…He is my husband and my Redeemer.  God! The God of the whole earth has made me promises in His word!  And those promises ring true always and forever.  He uses words like “shall” and “will” not “might” and “maybe”.  He knows where we are, all storm-tossed and hurt, and He promises to establish us in beautiful places.

It’s easy to imagine that that means it will happen here, but I believe this is another opportunity for us to have an eternal perspective…to understand that in this world we will have trouble! Jesus promises that, but He always promises the brightest of futures.

Sometimes in the yuck or busyness of the day I forget about what lies ahead. I can only see the next step, but God has established the path.  It leads right where He wants it to and the destination is glorious!

Today I’m going to celebrate 14 years of the privilege of parenting a fantastic young man and I’m going to take time to pray BIG prayers for him.  And again, I will be placing my boy in the hands of his Father…remembering that our Father will provide all that he needs to grow into a man after God’s own heart.

And this week, as I have so often forgotten to do, I’m going to pray for each of my children to love the Lord their God with all the heart, soul, mind and strength.  I’m going to pray that God will love and bless my children through me.  And that He will give me discernment to know how to encourage each of them.

And maybe that He will let me know when to step back, get on my knees, and let Him handle it…well, that’s probably all the time, isn’t it? :)

 

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Day 5 – What Will the Neighbors Think?

house

I have often joked that wherever we go, we are kind of like the Beverly Hillbillies.  I should just blare that music from our car when we enter the neighborhood.

I’m looking for a house right now.  I think maybe we should move out into the country!

We are loud and busy and just a lot…

My cul-de-sac in Fredericksburg knew us and loved us still…thank goodness!  I can’t tell you how blessed I was to have understanding neighbors…although I can’t imagine they didn’t shake their heads behind closed doors :)

The year that my husband left I had to learn a lot about the house and there were many days of decluttering, organizing, and projects…lots of throwing away and fixing.  One unintended project was a toilet bowl issues.

I had misplaced a set of keys…a big set of keys.  My friend Darcey and I tore the house apart looking for them.  No luck.  Finally, we had to figure the slow flushing powder room potty was the keys’ location.  My littlest daughter was two at the time, and we believed she was the culprit. We tried desperately to remove the keys with coat hangers, plungers, and gloved hands.  I won’t go into too much detail, but it was a very dirty job.  We finally ended up having to drag the nasty, dripping toilet through the foyer and out into the front yard so we could hose it out and recover the keys.

By this time, my friend Laurie had arrived to assist.  My friends are awesome!  Darcey, who in her first trimester, was amazing even in her nausea.  My friend Laurie was great too.  We could barely work for all the laughing.  My life had definitely become a really bad sitcom.  Darcey stated, “All your neighbors are in their houses calling their realtors right now.”  It was probably true.

After having a neighbor be front page news for adultery, watching massive amounts of stuff pile up at the curb, witnessing the craziness and noise of a big family daily, and now a toilet in the front yard…who wouldn’t second guess being neighbors with me?

But they didn’t move and instead they have laughed along with me, helped me more than I can say, welcomed my children into their homes so I could work, taken girls to AWANA, fed my children on crazy days, loaned me tools and ladders and supplies, answered questions, and prayed for me.

Now I’m moving and my heart is breaking for the loss of these neighbors.  They cannot be replaced…ever.

Right now, we are guests in my mom’s house and her neighbors don’t know us.  But they have heard us, and watched us, and probably been annoyed by us.  And I don’t have time for them to really know us.  And I wish I could.

I imagine they think I’m crazy.  Sometimes I worry what they think of me.  I wish it was summer and I could go outside and chat, but I can’t right now.  Life is just too busy.

I wonder when we move if we will have the time to invest in our neighbors like I want to.   How do single parents make friends? Build relationships.  Seriously?

I don’t know how to find time to meet people and even if I did, I wouldn’t have time to spend with them.  I know this is a season, but it is a season that I’d like to have the encouragement of friends close by.

I’m not complaining…well, maybe a little…:)  I’m ever so thankful for a job, and how could I not feel beyond blessed by my children.  It is another opportunity to focus on the positive and pray for answers to the negative.

And maybe I just need to make time to say “hi” to someone, even if I don’t have time.  And maybe I just need to call a coworker to sneak away for coffee.

I think it will be easier when I have my own home and leaving isn’t imposing on someone else…because my children rock and are happy to babysit….well maybe not happy, but willing. :)

There has to be a reason I’m in this place now…really trying to figure out what it could be.  Could it be to spend time building my relationship with the Lord and realizing that He is enough?

It usually, if not always, is that, right?  God wants to spend time with us. With me! Sometimes I’m so shocked by that.  Why in the world does He want to spend time with me?  That’s nuts!  But He isn’t nuts…He is loving.

I love spending time with my children.  I love hanging out and doing things.  I really do love them even when they are rotten.  I’d still choose them.

I’m so grateful that even when I’m rotten, God still chooses me.  That when my house is a mess…when my children are difficult…when our family is noisy and chaotic…when the yard is decorated with a  toilet…when our family falls apart in front of the world…God still loves us!  He wants to be with us.

He’d always choose to be our neighbor!

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Day 4 – In Spite of Me

winter berries bestI few years ago I had the privilege of leading a women’s retreat for a church I used to attend.  The title was “In Spite of Me.”  (I cannot take the credit for the title because my friend Phoebe came up with it.)  I loved it.  I still do, because my salvation is totally in spite of me.

Actually so many good things happen in spite of me…probably some bad things too.

In spite of me…God loves me.

In spite of me…God is faithful to me.

In spite of me…God is kind to me.

In spite of me…God provides for me.

In spite of me…God blesses me.

I find myself thinking the wrong thing, doing the wrong thing, speaking the wrong thing, and feeling the wrong thing A LOT.  It is so easy to be wrong.

I can’t seem to get myself to be the woman I want to be…

Thankfully, God can.

I’m in awe of grace…overwhelmed.

“The gospel of justifying faith means that while Christians are, in themselves still sinful and sinning, yet in Christ, in God’s sight, they are accepted and righteous. So we can say that we are more wicked than we ever dared believe, but more loved and accepted in Christ than we ever dared hope — at the very same time. This creates a radical new dynamic for personal growth. It means that the more you see your own flaws and sins, the more precious, electrifying, and amazing God’s grace appears to you. But on the other hand, the more aware you are of God’s grace and acceptance in Christ, the more able you are to drop your denials and self-defenses and admit the true dimensions and character of your sin.”  Timothy Keller

Recently I heard someone tell my children if they weren’t good they weren’t going to go to heaven.  In fact, this person told my children they need to be perfect.

I don’t believe I’ve ever had such an emotional reaction to something someone said. I was shaking and wanted to scream, “NOOOO!!! Please don’t put that burden on my children!”

It has taken me what feels like forever to get grace…and, even now, I know there are many things I can’t even begin to grasp about grace.

But please don’t take grace from my family!

We need it so desperately.  In fact, so does the person that discounted the power of God’s grace and spoke such wrong words to my children.

For by grace you have been saved through faith.  And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.  Ephesians 2:8-9

Please don’t’ misunderstand…I want well-behaved children (desperately).  I want my children to be obedient, respectful, and kind because that is what honors God and me.  BUT, I also know that their behavior is not the determining factor in their salvation.

It certainly is easy to think that…if we are Christians shouldn’t we do the right thing, say the right thing, think the right thing, and feel the right thing?

I wish.  I wish I didn’t struggle so much with being good.

I disappoint myself often.  It is difficult to believe God doesn’t view me as a huge disappointment as well.  But He doesn’t.

I don’t know how deeply I believe that even though I know it to be true.  How could He not get tired of my failures?  I don’t understand.

I love my children more than I could ever convey…in fact, I cannot think of an adequate adjective to describe my love for them.  And boy do I get frustrated, annoyed, and angry with them…fairly regularly to be honest.

BUT God, is not at all like me (Alleluia!)

He is infinitely patient, unconditionally loving, relentlessly faithful, and forever forgiving.

He is my Advocate.

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin.  But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.  1 John 2:1

He is the Author of my Faith

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

He is my Mediator.

For there is one God and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.  1 Timothy 2:5-6

He is merciful.

The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever.  He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities.  For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.  As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him. Psalm 103:8-13

He is the Shepherd and Overseer of my soul.

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.  By his wounds you have been healed.  For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.  1 Peter 2:24-25

 

I could spend the rest of this snow day (yes, another snow day) looking up scripture about who God is and who He is to me…it is so encouraging.

What a blessed reminder of the God we serve and the grace He gives.  I’m blessed beyond measure.

In spite of me…in spite of me and all my sinfulness and goofiness…God loves me!  He forgive me again and again and again….

I just started to write “God is the BEST!” and I thought it sounded kinda silly, but you know what?  It’s true.  He absolutely is the Best.

And in spite of me, I’m forgiven and loved!

 

 

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Day 3 – All About Me

winter

How is it possible we have another snow day?  Not that I’m complaining, but I kind of would like a summer break!  And I feel like we are getting farther and farther behind at school…which, of course, we are.

I do see this as God’s provision for me.  I have caught up on my teacher certification classes, caught up on my planning, and caught up on some sleep!  Catching up is a beautiful thing!

And as an added benefit I’ve been blessed to write…and more importantly, get my face in the Word!

Today I plan on making appointments…pediatricians, dentists, veterinarians, optometrists, and hair.  I dread some of these appointments, especially the dentist.

I have a friend who can feed her children Laffy Taffy and nothing else, never brush their teeth, definitely not floss, and still nary a cavity will appear.

My children have only to utter the words “gummy bears” and cavities dig deep, root canals are requested, and crowns are ordered.

It is a source of frustration and embarrassment for me. I dread going because dentists tend to look at me like a failure.  I don’t even want to write the comments that are directed my way.  Even that’s too embarrassing.

It is one of the things that just gets to me.  A hundred huge things could be happening in my life, but the stress and dread of visiting the dentist will swallow up all others.  It can be the thing that truly knocks me down.

It’s kind of a ridiculous one – at least in relation to all the other things that have happened and are happening in my life.  I mean really…the dentist?

And in thinking about it, I realized that a large portion of my angst is because I’m thinking about ME.  Me. My. Myself. I.

Ouch.  That’s embarrassing too.

So much of my struggles are in my head and about me.  My thoughts go to unhealthy, critical, negative, harsh places about me.

If I allow myself to go to those places – which I have A LOT in the past several months – I’m a mess.

I’m impatient because things aren’t going my way.  I’m frustrated because things are so difficult for me and my children.  I’m tired of all the things I have to do.  I’m angry about the situations I find myself in. I’m saddened by the circumstances of my children’s lives.

And when I go to all those “I” places, I’m grumpy, miserable, and no fun to be around (at all).

It isn’t that I’m not thinking about others, especially my children.  It isn’t that I’m not doing for others.  It isn’t that I’m too busy in my own world to care about others.

I’m a great multi-tasker!  I can beat myself up, mentally complain about my situation, AND love and care for a multitude of others.

I just excel at the beat-myself-up part which makes the others part not as effective (or enjoyable for anyone).

Ok I know the problem – what’s the solution?

Immediately this verse from Isaiah popped into my head –

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

It’s one of my verses – the ones that I cling to when I need encouragement.  Unfortunately, I’m searching for peace of mind in what I do, what I accomplish, what my circumstances are, in what I think…  needless to say, I’m not getting it from any of those things.  My mind is a hot mess.

It is a constant struggle to stay my mind on Christ…so much vies for my attention, my focus.  Maybe that’s the whole “take your thoughts captive” thing.

For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.  We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ…”  2 Corinthians 10:4-5

Isn’t that what we need to do…get rid of all those thoughts that are not the truth of who we are in Christ?

I’m not what happens in my life…I’m not my circumstances, my job, my children, my house, my anything.

I’m so much more than those things…so much more than anything I’ve been concerning myself with lately.

This world places our value in so many untruths.  We are counted worthy of esteem because of our looks, profession, finances, friendships…pretty much outward anything and everything…BUT GOD, he values us simply because we are His.  Nothing I’ve done…everything He has done.

Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.  Colossians 3:2

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.  Romans 12:2

Lately I’ve been comforting myself with the thought that if I could just get more sleep, just sell my house and have my own home again, if we just weren’t guests, if I could just figure out next year, if I could find time to do all that I have to do…you know, if pretty much everything could just change and get fixed already…I’d be better.  Things would be better, life would be easier, I’d be calm, cool, and collected.  I’d be better at everything!  I’d have peace.

Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.  1 Peter 1:13

There’s the hope I should have…the true hope.

Maybe when I set my mind on Christ…I’m setting my mind on the hope of Christ…all that beautiful grace that will bring me safely into His arms!  And my mind, stayed on Christ, can’t help but love the Lord with all that I am.

And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the great and first commandment.”  Matthew 22:37-38

I’m not sure how I’ve come to this place in this blog…I’ll have to go back to the start and see the path I’ve taken LOL!  I have to be honest though – I’m so very thankful for the reminder of where my thoughts need to be…I’m hopeful for my future, both for this day and for eternity.  God is so very good!

Search me, O God, and know my heart!  Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!  Psalm 139:24

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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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