uptomytoes

Hope & Humor for Single & Divorced Parents

And Then There’s Me…

ImageThis single parenting thing is so difficult.   I get confused by all the different situations, personalities, struggles, and issues of my children.  I can’t seem to get my feet under me on any of them!

And then there’s me.

I think I might actually be more confused by my issues, struggles, emotions, and stresses than I am by any of my children’s.

I’m a mess.

Sometimes people are offended when I say that.  They want to correct me and say I shouldn’t say that.

That I shouldn’t be that.

That I should get my act together.

That I should be past the emotions…that’ll be a God-sized task!

That I should get out of the pit, but I’m not in a pit…life is just challenging right now.

That I should just put my big girl pants on already…Yeah…well, my big girl pants are on, believe me.

They don’t fit comfortably…they are sometimes too tight, sometimes too loose, sometimes too itchy, sometimes too stiff, sometimes too soft, sometimes the tag rubs wrong, sometimes they are on backwards and sometimes they are inside-out.  But they are on.  Dang it.

I think I’d like to say this…ITS OKAY TO BE A LITTLE BIT OF A MESS!!!

God didn’t say that I’d be perfect here…God didn’t say that life would be all neat and tidy…God didn’t say that people would act properly and not be mean…God didn’t say that everything would work out if I followed a certain set of rules or criteria…actually God said kinda the opposite…

“These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

I looked up trials, tribulation and trouble in the back of my Bible and they pretty much seem like a given.  BUT God does not leave us in these troubles.

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, thought the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling.  Psalm 46:1-3

 And these trials have a purpose.  A good purpose…

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trails of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.  James 1:2-4

Perfect, complete, lacking nothing…sounds pretty good.  Perfect is a pretty daunting word, but in this verse it does not mean being sinless.  It refers to our spiritual maturity.

“The testing of our faith drives believers to deeper communion and great trust in Christ – qualities that in turn produce a stable, godly, and righteous character.”  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur Bible Commentary)

That’s totally who I want to be…stable, godly, righteous, not wobbly, messy, and self-centered.

And then I read about Paul…Paul who suffered mightily on this earth and begged God to take away his thorn, shared openly about his struggles…Paul, who had a passion for the Lord that I long for, shared how He wrestled with things…like sin and  circumstances that were by no means ideal.

For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.  Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.  So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand.  For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that swells in my members.  Wretched man that I am!  Who will deliver me from this body of death?  Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!  So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.  Romans 7:19-25

BUT THE NEXT VERSE IS AWESOME!!!

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  Romans 8:1

After Paul shares of his struggles with sin, he reminds us and himself, that because of Jesus we are not condemned!  How beautiful!

When I share my struggles, like Paul I want to point me (and you) back to Jesus.  Because let’s face it, we all struggle with something.  How much better if we could share our struggles and our victories in order to encourage and bless one another without receiving any condemnation!

It would be such a monumental thing if we as the Body of Christ could be open and share without condemnation.  If we could choose to walk alongside one another through our struggles and the battles we fight in order to share the victories!

And there will be victories because the battle is the Lord’s!

Although I’m okay with sharing it, I’d really like to not be a mess.  I’d really like to get my act together.

But God is showing me that getting my act together isn’t really what I think it is.

I tend to think if I could just get a full-night sleep that would help, maybe some exercise, a well-ordered house, some children that actually do what I ask/tell them to do…you know, basically the perfect life…then I wouldn’t be a mess.

But life is messy.  And people are messy.  And relationships are messy.  And circumstances are messy.

And God tells us we will have trouble in this world…but He also says that we aren’t to fear it.

He has never been nor will he ever be surprised or overwhelmed by trouble, trials or messiness.

He isn’t done with me because I’m a mess.  He loves me always, completely, relentlessly.

When God looks at me He doesn’t see my mess (thankfully!), He sees Jesus’ perfection.

And maybe something positive we could do is remind ourselves again of who we are in Christ.  I’ve not done this before, but I’m going to share a bit from my book.  This morning I prayed and asked God to show me what to write today…there is so much I long to share.  And He has laid it heavily on my heart to share:

“Next, I want you to really take a look at yourself, your amazing survivor self.  Remind yourself of who you are or can be in Christ.  When my oldest was a little boy, I taught his Sunday school class, and we memorized this verse:  “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!  And that is what we are!”  (1 John 3:1)

I always thought that was one of the best verses to memorize.  That word lavished is such a wonderful description of how God pours His love on us.  It isn’t a small amount, just enough to get us through the day.  It isn’t a decent amount that comforts us when things go badly.  He gives us limitless love.  There is no end to His love for us.

The chapter goes on to say that we know this is love because “Jesus Christ laid down his life for us” (verse 16).  My friend, God doesn’t just say He loves you; He demonstrated that love when, on the cross, He rescued you from your sin:  “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8 ESV).  How valuable you are in His sight!

God knows you and loves you.  “Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. [So] fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows” (Luke 12:7 ESV).  To all of us who believe in His name, “he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12).  You are chosen, rescued, and forgiven because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross (Galatians 3:13; 1 Peter 2:9-10).

I long for all of us to understand what Jesus has done for us.  We didn’t do anything worthy of His good opinion.  And yet Christ still died for us.  He knew our tendencies, our temptations, and our sins, and He still loved us enough to die for us.  He still loves us enough to die for us.  And He didn’t choose us just because we were all cute and adorable.  He chose us when we were all dirty, smelly, and rebellious.  He loves us even when we feel unlovable. 

Allow Him to “quiet you with his love” (Zephaniah 3:17), to calm your anxious thought, and to assure you that regardless of how you’re feeling or what you’re going through at this moment, you are dearly loved.

(“When Happily Ever After Shatters: Seeing God in the Midst of Divorce and Single Parenting, 112-113)

We might feel like messes, but when God looks at us He sees His precious child.  We might be uncomfortable with our mess, our children’s messes and the messes of others, but God isn’t.

He is willing and able to walk us through the mess.  He will stick with us.  All that He asks is that we trust Him.

Trust Him with our hurting, exhausted selves.  Trust Him with our children.  Trust Him with our circumstances.  Trust Him with our messiness.

I have known God to be faithful.  Another quote (sorry):

“Practically speaking, God obviously wasn’t doing my dishes for me or dealing with my sticky counters, but His presence gave me strength to face each task, whether tedious or terrifying. 

There are particularly difficult times in our lives when we completely understand that God is our strength.  We realize that it isn’t about coping with a situation; it’s about living in God’s strength.  It’s a surprisingly exquisite and painful place to be.”  (p. 24)

Dearest, trust God to take care of you.  You will be amazed at what wonderful stuff He can bring out of our messes!

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Got Direction?

photo (23)Does anyone else have a pile of book on or around their nightstand?  Mine is getting to the point of ridiculous.

Not only that but there are books on the chest at the foot of my bed, stacked in bookshelves throughout my house, and in various bags I carry around in the off chance I’ll have a moment to read.

I joke that my house is combustible.

The other day I had a moment to pick up a book, but I couldn’t figure out which one I should read…

The book to help me discern how best to raise my sons to be godly young men?

The book about helping my teenage daughter makes good and healthy decisions?

The book about learning issues for my 1st grade daughter?

The book about parenting strong-willed children for my youngest daughter?

The book about dealing with emotions for me?

The book about believing God’s word in an age of skepticism for my brain?

The books about trust or grace or peace or hope or relationships?

Or the mystery novel hidden beneath them all just waiting to be enjoyed?

I can’t even say I have a preference at this moment.  I just want to have read them all so I can already know what I need to do!

A few months ago I decided that I didn’t want to read another parenting book…ever.  And yet I have a stack of books on my nightstand that in one way or another could be considered parenting books.

I guess I just gotta admit it…I want answers.  I’m searching for direction.  I need help!!  photo 1 (2)

Right now everything is up in the air.  Literally everything.  I have no idea where God is going to lead me…how my kids are going to be educated….what I’m going to be doing…where we will be living…

It seems that all my perfect scenarios are on hold…everything is in someone else’s hands  And it would be easy for me to think that that someone else is the administrator or principal at a school, or the potential buyer of my house, or a book publisher, or any number of people in my life…

But the reality is…the REALITY is that Someone else’s hand is in control.  God’s.

And I am at once thankful for the realization and also struggling to rest in that knowledge.  It seems that God has not often done things the way I would have liked…or in the way I think would be best for us.  And I get all twisted up in knots because I want so desperately for things to go one way and I have a feeling that isn’t the way they are going to go.

photo 2 (2)

I keep having to remind myself that I TRUST GOD!  Because I do.  I do trust Him. I know I can trust Him…and I know He is going to handle all this stuff in the perfect way.  It’s just so much stuff and it is so difficult to give up control of all of it.  And yet, I don’t really want to be in charge…I hate making decisions.  I just want God to show me what to do and I’ll do it.

I think my problem is with His timing.  It seems to take Him forever to show me.  I joke that He usually reveals it to me in the 11th hour and 59th minute.  Apparently the Lord REALLY wants me to trust Him.

So I’m excited to see how my life is going to come together. I’m so very curious about where God is going to have us this fall.  I’m intrigued by how He is going to address the issues…resolve the difficulties…meet me in the struggles.

I know that He will.   He always has before.  Right now though, I just want an update.  I just want Him to reveal something…a glimpse of the plan.  But I don’t think that’s gonna happen.

I’m learning to live these verses:

I waited patiently for the LORD; he inclined to me and heard my cry. Psalm 40:1

Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD! Psalm 27:14

Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act.  He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday.  Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices!  Psalm 37:5-7

Have you not know?  Have you not heard?  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 strength.  Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.  Isaiah 40:28-31

I see a theme of patience.  Ugh.

Just to be honest, I have NOT prayed for patience.  (I know better. :) )

Patience is not one of my virtues.  I know I have the Holy Spirit so I have that fruit in my life.  I just don’t often take bites of it.  I’m probably more likely to wing that piece of fruit at a problem rather than apply it gently.

But I believe that God is asking me to trust patiently.  And even though I know I can absolutely trust my Father…I gotta be honest that I want answers now…in fact, I wanted answers yesterday, last week, long before now.  I’ve got things to do, decisions to make, and places to go (or not go)…I need direction.

I keep thinking I’ll find it somewhere, but unfortunately I don’t believe any of the massive number of books I own are going to tell me what to do or exactly what God is going to do. photo 3 (2) I can read them though and many will remind me of how great is my God and how worthy of my trust He is!

I’ve said it before and I’m saying it again, God has a plan, it’s already in motion, and it is good!

Maybe I won’t worry about which book on my nightstand I’ll read, but rather I’ll pick up my Bible.  I’ll remind myself of my great God who has orchestrated amazing things throughout history and who will beautifully orchestrate my life and the lives of my children.  I just need to BE STILL and BE QUIET and BE READY!

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Life in the Back Row

ImageThere are things that bring back very vivid memories for me…some painful some not.

This evening I was playing through some praise music I found in my organizing spree and I began to play “Mighty to Save.”

Everyone needs compassion

Love that’s never failing

Let mercy fall on me

Everyone needs forgiveness

The kindness of a Savior

The hope of nations

 

Savior He can move the mountains

My God is mighty to save

He is mighty to save

Forever Author of salvation

He rose and conquered the grave

Jesus conquered the grave

 

So take me as You find me

All my fears and failures

Fill my life again

I give my life to follow

Everything I believe in

Now I surrender

(Ben Fielding & Reuben Morgan, Hillsong Publishing, 2006)

It brought me back to the last Sunday I stood next to my husband in church.  We were on the last row.  That was an unusual place for us to be, way in the back.  It was okay, I wanted to be back there too.

It was a weird Sunday all the way around.

Standing back there with a clear view of all the people I’d worshiped with for years, I found myself feeling like I no longer belonged.  Only a handful of people knew the tragedy that was occurring in my family.  Most of these dear people had no idea. I felt like a sham.

A friend commented on my weight loss – she asked how I was doing it like she wanted to do it too.  I stood speechless…what could I say?  “It’s a very effective diet but I absolutely don’t recommend it.  It’s called the adultery diet…you are so full of pain there is no place for food.”

As worship began, I stood barely touching my husband.  He very clearly did not want to be there…did not want to be next to me either.  I felt helpless and hopeless.

“Mighty to Save” started.  I knew these words by heart.  This song had to be for us.  For both of us.

I inched closer to my husband and slipped my hand in his.  Although he allowed me to hold his hand, he did not hold mine back.

That summed up our marriage at that point.  I was holding tightly…with fingers grasping for any sign of warmth.  Even while I held firmly to his cold hand, I felt my palms sweating from fear of the future alone.

I sang those words begging God to make those words ours.  Love that never fails…mercy, forgiveness, kindness, hope…

Oh God please, please move mountains in my husband’s heart.  God you are mighty to save.  You are the author of my salvation.  You are the author of his salvation…please remind him of the joy of his salvation.  Jesus, you conquered the grave…Jesus, please conquer the death of my marriage.  God, take me as you find me.  Please God, I have more fears than I thought possible and the failure of my marriage is devastating me.  I give you my life, Jesus.  I give you everything I believe in…everything I have hoped in and hoped for…I surrender God.  God, please.

It would be easy to say that God did not answer that prayer, because well, He kinda didn’t.  But I surrendered to Him.  I put my trust in Him as I sang those words.

I understood that the love that never fails is His…it’s Him.  He never fails.  He had offered me mercy, kindness, forgiveness and hope in my Savior.  He did move mountains, just not the mountain in my husband’s heart.  He could have, but for some reason He chose not to…and I trust Him.  He took me as He found me – broken, hurt, bleeding, and terrified…and He filled my life again.

He has filled my life with more beauty than I could imagine.  I will not pretend that this life He has called me to is at all easy, but it is blessed.

Each day I see the blessings…each day I know the beauty of His provision…each day I sense His power sustaining me…each day I feel the depth of His love.

I wouldn’t trade where God has brought me.  I wouldn’t trade what He has done in my life.  I wouldn’t trade knowing His faithfulness for anything.

There are days when I complain and moan and groan and wail, but ultimately I know that He loves me.   He will take care of me and my children.

He is indeed mighty to save.

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My State of Constant Emotion

photo (21)An empty white page.  Beautiful. I love it…the potential, the wonder at what God is going to show me…open up to me as I write. Often I sit down at my computer with the intention of sharing a difficulty or struggle that God is bringing me through, but today I decided I just want to write.  To share life.

This past weekend I started an organization project.  I thought it would take about 4 hours…oh my goodness did I underestimate!  I’m on hour 47 and there is more to be done…how is that possible?

My projects always ooze into other things and before I know it I’ve created complete chaos. I once saw a t-shirt that said, “Chaos, Madness, Mayhem…My Work Here Is Done” – I should have that t-shirt.  Actually I think I should get that shirt for me and my children…we are excellent mess-makers.

I need to finish this project.  I can’t work in mess…I need clutter-free zones.  Clutter takes me to bad places…like duck and cover mama’s gonna blow places. But I found a corner that is uncluttered and my children are all busy or sleeping, so I decided to ponder things…not sure what things yet.  This is kind of stream of consciousness blogging…might be disastrous.

I’m sitting in my favorite chair, Bible and laptop beside me, with a cooling down cup of coffee and hot cocoa (Yum!) on the windowsill next to me and praise music filling my ears.  And I’m realizing how much I need this moment.  This clutter-free, no to-do list moment.

Be still and know that I am God.  Psalm 46:10

Life is cluttered in my head, in my heart, and in my home. There is so much to think about, feel, and do.  If I just had more time to work through my thoughts, quietly ponder the Word, finish my projects… Sometimes the lack of time in my day is astonishing to me.  I wake up with such hope for what I will accomplish, only to go to bed disappointed by a day spent in constant motion with very little to show for it.

Wanna know something funny?  When I typed that last sentence I typed “constant emotion”

Hmmmm,  I wonder…

I wonder if I might want to consider that a bit more. Constant emotion. I feel like that might describe me well.  I do feel like I’m in constant emotion. I’m always feeling something…well, I guess we all are always feeling something. God made us in His image…He feels therefore we do too!

And these emotions aren’t bad, necessarily. It’s just that mine tend to swing all over the place and I tend to be ruled by them. I range from feelings of peace and acceptance to anxiety and confusion, anger to forgiveness, frustration to understanding, loneliness to longing for solitude, regret to trust, hope to fear…the list could go on and on…and amazingly I could probably feel all those emotions in a day…any day.

Oh my goodness I AM in a state of constant emotion… I’d like these God-given emotions to display Christ’s character…not my craziness.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control; against such things there is no law.  Galatians 5:22-23

This week I’m waiting to hear about a job I’ve applied for…I thought I would have known by now, but I trust God’s timing.  It’s been interesting how the waiting process has gone for me.  At first I felt such desperation to get the job…it seemed like the perfect fit for our family.  Then I decided maybe it wouldn’t be as easy a transition as I thought and I was okay if it didn’t happen.  And then I went back to the hoping hoping hoping I’d get it.  And each day for the past month or more has been a variation on the theme of hoping, desperately wishing, indifference, fear, or any other number of emotions. Today, I feel such peace as I wait.  It would be a nice fit to be sure, but if it isn’t God’s perfect fit why would I want it?  It is in His hands, not mine.  Thankfully.  And as I ponder not getting it I wonder what God’s perfect plan is…how in the world are the needs of my children going to be met?  I know He is aware and cares about each of them more than I can even comprehend so I’m sure the plan will be good.  (But oh do I wanna know what the plan is!)

The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.  Proverbs 16:9

And I again I come back to what God keeps reminding me…His good might not look like my good.  His good might be more challenges and more struggles…but in His hands those challenges and struggles would be just what we need to grow in our faith and in our love of Him and each other.  I know that, but oh how I pray that is not God’s plan for us.

Sometimes I can really “get” things in my head, but my heart struggles.  You know…those dang emotions. I wrestle with feeling like I need to fix things…I need to make things happen…I just need this and I’ll feel better…my child just needs this and they’ll feel better…

Most of the time my emotions are centered on my circumstances, my situation, my environment…I’m easily swayed emotionally by things not going as I planned…my house not looking as I hoped…my children not doing what I asked…wow, it is all about me isn’t it?

But you know, sometimes life seems really hard. There hasn’t been a time in the past few years without some struggle going on. My prayer partner and I pray each year for an uneventful year.  So far, not so much.  We seem to go from one crisis, tragedy, and struggle to the next.

But I can see that those difficult things, although overwhelming at times, do not represent my life. Just as my state of constant emotions does not need to be my identity.  My identity is in Christ.  I want to be defined by Christ.

Remember that story of Jesus calming the storm?  He was asleep in the boat while the disciples freaked out.  In the past, I’ve wondered why He was asleep…it seems odd, maybe even a bit callous to the fear of the disciples. But I wonder if the reason might be to show us how much we can trust the Lord in the storm.  Jesus was so confident in the Father’s care, he slept through the raging winds and crashing waves.  He rested in the care of the Father while the storm raged on.

I wanna be like that.  I want to calmly be with my Lord as the storm rages on around me.

I know I’m blessed even in the storm.  I can see it as clearly as I can see the clutter in my office.  The blessing of time spent with my children around the fire pit reading a great novel together.  The blessing of dinner out with my girlfriends to celebrate a birthday.  The blessing of a neighbor dropping off cookies just to love on us.  The blessing of neighbors who invite my little girls over for dinner just for fun.  The blessing of a sister who laughs at all my jokes.  The blessing of hot coffee and cocoa in the morning.  The blessing of a comfortable house.  The blessing of family and friends who love me. The blessing of His word spread before me each day.

This week we had more rain than I can ever remember and my backyard became a rippling creek or I might even call it a small river…there was water everywhere in pools up to 6 inches deep.  Our little English basement drain decided it was done draining and I feared a wet basement episode.  I went out in my daughter’s rain boots and tried to figure out how to divert some of the water cascading through my yard…honestly, I was laughing most of the time.  It was nuts!

Sometimes those moments when things are just ridiculously awful, I can smile more than at the little annoyances of life.  photo (20)

I even laughed when I slipped holding the bucket my kids had filled with “puppy presents” and forgotten to put in the trash…it was the most disgusting bucket of “water” you can imagine.  I was carrying it back to the woods and unfortunately I slipped.  The bucket and I had a face to face experience I would prefer never reliving!  After my initial holler of “YUCK!!!!”  I ran laughing to the sink to pour the hottest water possible all over my face…I seriously wanted to dip myself in bleach or Purell or something!  Icky!

Splashing poop water all over myself kinda put the whole backyard experience in perspective for me.  I could angrily stomp around in the pools and puddles and fuss about the mess (and the poop water), or I could splash around laughing at the absurdity of it all.

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.  1 Thessalonians 5:16

Adding to the silliness of the afternoon, my littlest daughter was outside sledding (yes sledding) down the muddy hill into the huge puddles.  She was covered in mud…just like our two labs (so you can imagine what my house looks like…).  It was pure joy!  Pure muddy, filthy joy!

Sometimes I miss participating in the joy-filled moments because I’m so busy doing…dare I say, so busy fussing.  I wish I could remember that I NEVER regret stopping work to enjoy my children.  NEVER.

Today I’m determined to finish my project so that I can spend time tonight playing…maybe we’ll even splash in the mud again.  I foresee it still being there. The trick is going to be letting myself look past the clutter in my house – to put aside the clutter of thoughts in my head – to overlook the clutter of feelings that overwhelm…and focus on the simplicity of time spent with my children.

That is easier said than done, but I believe God will honor my desire to serve Him through loving my children…investing in them not just their surroundings.

And I think focusing on the beautiful blessing of my children will really help with my mess of emotions…maybe I can change my constant state of emotion into something positive…something that is more a reflection of Christ than me.

Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice!  Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his presence continually!  

Remember the wondrous works that he has done, his miracles and the judgments he uttered.  1 Chronicles 16:10-12

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Do You Know How to Live Grace?

ImageHave you ever gotten a continual message from God…over and over and over again in as many different ways as you can imagine?

Lately that has been my experience with the gospel.  Every book I pick up, every sermon I hear, every quote I find, and every verse I read points me to the gospel…or at least it seems that way.

And although I’ve heard the concept of preaching the gospel to myself daily and understood it to some degree, I haven’t got it as profoundly as I’d like.

I’m praying for understanding, for application and for ability to live out the gospel daily.

I just read these verses and again what struck me was the gospel!

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever.  Amen.  Galatians 1:3-6

God truly has been reminding me over and over again about His relentless, passionate, and unconditional love for me… for all of us.

The first word GRACE (love that word BTW) is defined as “an undeserved act of kindness”.  It represents all that we have received as a result of Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross.

And then that other lovely word, PEACE is a result of the grace we have received because of Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross.

That sounds a little bit repetitive, but I’m trying to get that gospel message into my head and heart more deeply than ever – that the grace and peace that God gives us is because of Jesus, not us.

Isn’t that freeing?

It was God’s will for Jesus to die for our sins so that we wouldn’t have to, so that we could have a relationship with Him, so that we would know that He loves us more than we could ever imagine.

I don’t know about you, but I need to know that…I mean really and truly know that.

I have recognized lately that I really struggle with thinking I’m worthy of anything.  I wonder if everything happened because I really am a complete mess…because a lot of times I really feel like one.

Sometimes I feel like I’m such a failure. I wonder if I’ll ever get things right with parenting, home management and with my career (whatever that may be).  I wonder if anyone would truly be able to deal with my life…really.  I wonder if I could ever truly be a blessing of a wife to someone…my first time around didn’t end so well.

The funny thing about my fears and my feelings…I know they are bogus.  They don’t reflect who I am in Christ.  And I know who I am so why do I struggle so? 

Why is it so difficult to see my value as a child of the King?  Why am I so impacted by my successes or failures in this sin-ridden world?

I think the key word is “sin-ridden”.  Stuff is just gonna be a struggle here.

Fear is gonna assail us, but it doesn’t have to defeat us.

Doubts are gonna rain down on us, but they don’t have to drown us.

Failure is gonna happen, but it doesn’t have to define us.

What then shall we say to these things?  If God is for us, who can be against us?  He would did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?  Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect?  It is God who justifies.  Who is to condemn?  Christ Jesus is the one who died – more than that, who was raised – who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.  Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?…

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Romans 8:31-35, 37-39

More than conquerors!  Seriously, how can we be more than conquerors? That’s crazy!

Crazy good though.

God didn’t send Jesus to live and die for me, so that I could live a life of defeat.  He’s not even content with me living a life of mediocre.  I’m free from the power of sin and death…I’ll struggle to be sure, but God has already given me all I need to live a life of freedom and victory.

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.  Galatians 5:1

I’m free to live without fear of condemnation.  Free to live without fear of failure.  Free to live without fear period.

I’m not a slave to sin, to fear, to anxiety, to past mistakes, to expectations, to failures, to successes, to anything.

I don’t have to fear because God loves me perfectly.

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.  1 John 4:18

But that love…that perfect love…that is God.  That is the gospel.  That is what Paul is talking about…the source of our grace and peace.

I want grace to impact me daily – to speak to the way I think about myself, others, and life.  But how…

How do I make grace, not just something I know about, but something I live for and by and with constantly?

Is it as simple as waking up and reminding myself of who I am and who He is?  Is that it?  I guess that’s a definitely step in the right direction!

Time in the Word – as always that’s part of the answer, it just is!  When I look for it, I see the gospel everywhere in Scripture.  God’s relentless and loving pursuit of His people is all throughout the Bible.

Prayer – yup, prayer…who’d a thunk it…J

I’m asking God to show me how the gospel of grace should impact me and my children.  And God is showing me in little ways…in my parenting adventures, in my interaction with friends, in my attitude about things, in how I do what He’s called me to do…in everything.

I’m getting it…slowly.  I don’t get things easily.  I gotta work for it…but God is working with me!

I believe that God is showing me the huge amount of grace I need so that I can be a grace-filled person toward others.

My prayer is that grace would spill out of me all over everyone around me.

As God shows me how to live this grace-filled life…this gospel-centered life…I will share and we can grow together in our walk with the Lord!

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A Near Perfect Day

ImageIt was a near perfect day.

I was very tired the night before and I didn’t set my alarm. After all, I have two alarm clocks ages 6 and 7.  They are relentless in their early morning wake ups.  And although, they did wake me up briefly,  they just went and played.  Beautiful!

I woke later than I’ve slept in years.  I thanked God for rest and began what was to be a great day.

My oldest daughter was downstairs with the dogs watching TV – and yes, the dogs were watching TV too.  Honestly – all the “children” in my house are enamored by any kind of screen!

As soon as I entered the kitchen, she shut off the TV and we planned breakfast.  We discussed making breakfast in bed for the boys, but decided we just wanted to get the day started!  The boys dragged themselves downstairs shortly thereafter and we got our day moving…with chocolate chip pancakes and oatmeal with all the fixings.

Emma and I ran out to pick up a couple of things including a soda for everyone.  Soda is a treat now.  We have been trying to lessen our sugar intake – no easy feat.

The rest of our day was spent outside working on the yard together.  Music blaring, sun shining, and dogs romping.  It was just perfect…except for 1 snake, 2 black widows, 1 brown recluse, lots of doggie landmines, and the task of filling 28 bags with leaves!

But the yard looks great!  And the soda tasted wonderful…although we all ended the day with headaches – either from dehydration or sugar…or both.

We enjoyed dinner on the patio and a family devotional around the fire pit roasting marshmallows.  (When we go back to sugar, we go back big!)

This day was such a blessing especially in light of previous week which had been a little challenging at times.  It included but was not limited to sick children and an overflowing toilet which poured nasty water down into the kitchen.  (I will say that my house is now very well disinfected, but yuck!!!)

This near perfect day reminded me of how I’m so easily impacted by my circumstances…whether they are good or bad.

My kids noticed my happy attitude that lovely day.  My son asked if I could sleep in everyday because I was so much less stressed.  My oldest daughter said, “Well, maybe it was because we were actually really helping mom today.”  I laughed and said, “I think it was a little bit of both.”

But I don’t want my emotions and attitude to be dependent on my children’s obedience or my sleep habits or anything else for that matter.

Lately God keeps bringing me to the book of Colossians – particularly 3:12-15

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgive you, so you also must forgive.  And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.  And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body.  And be thankful. 

Those verses don’t only describe who I am, but how I want to be.

I am – chosen, holy, beloved.

I want to be – compassionate, kind, humble, meek, patient, forbearing, forgiving, loving, peaceful and thankful.

So how do I do that?  Even on a bad day?

It struck me that Colossians is a letter written by Paul, a prisoner, to share the secret of contentment and fulfillment with the church at Colossae – people who were in a much better situation than he was.  Isn’t that amazing!

I really love Paul’s perspective on things.  I love that he doesn’t offer Christian platitudes or a “name-it-claim-it” mentality or even a “do-good–or-else” mindset.

He shares often how difficult life can be.  In fact in 2 Corinthians 1:8-10 he shares how he was to the point of giving up.

For we do not want you to be ignorant brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia.  For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself.  Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death.  But that was to make us rely not on ourselves, but on God who raises the dead.  He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us.  On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again.  2 Corinthians 1:8-10

He doesn’t sugar coat the challenge of living a life of commitment to Christ.

BUT….

he also tells what is possible in this life of being a Christ follower… what we are called to…

I’d say the one word Paul uses a lot…the word he calls us to is JOY

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

As I typed that verse do you know what hit me?  That it wasn’t “Rejoice!!!”   That’s how I would have written it.  But my teenage daughter tells me I use too many exclamation points – so maybe it’s just me?!

It’s one of those words which begs for exclamation points, especially when it’s an imperative.  But maybe the reason he doesn’t add the excitement is because it is supposed to be a way of life not a cheer leading competition.

After all, in 1 Thessalonians 5:16 he says, “Rejoice always”.  Amazingly, this joy thing is supposed to be an all-the-time thing.  Imagine that?  Honestly, I can’t…but then again, I can.

I can because like I said before – there is a lot to be joyful about isn’t there!

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Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances,for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.                1 Thessalonians 5:16

That day was a joyful day.  I think every day should be a joyful day.

I’m not talking about being happy – I’m talking about joy.

Happy is hard…at least for me because it is based on my circumstances, what I feel.

Joy is another matter….joy is not about what I feel; it’s about what I know.

So what do I know…

 

I have an eternal inheritance and hope.

Nothing can separate me from Him.

I’m a new creature in Christ now.

I’m more than a conqueror.

I’m beloved and precious.

I’m forgiven and holy.

I’m redeemed.

I’m blessed.

I’m His.

 

I’m those things on a good day and a bad day.

I’m blessed no matter the circumstances of my day.

I was blessed the day we enjoyed sunshine and sleeping late.

And, although I can’t believe I’m saying it, I was blessed the day the toilet leaked all over the place.

Even though it was disgusting with a capital D, we did laugh, my bathroom and kitchen were cleaned…seriously cleaned, and we all worked together well.  Those are all good things.

But even  if we had not laughed but rather fought and yelled and despaired, I’d still be blessed because God is my God.

 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!  According to his great mercy, He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.  In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved with various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith – more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire – may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 1:3-7

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Are You Giving UP?

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do you know what I mean?

What does giving Up my stuff to God look like?

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

God I trust you with my kids, but…

God you can have my finances, but…

God I understand your commands, but…

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

God, I need your grace, but…

God I believe you have a plan, but…

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

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

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

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

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

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

As if, I have all the answers.

As if, I have all the power and strength.

As if, I have all the energy.

As If, I can do all things.

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

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

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

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

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

No, He has not.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Because He knows we need it.

Because we are weak.

Because we are burdened.

Because we carry grief and sorrow and pain.

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

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

who, though he was in the form Of God,

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

but made himself nothing, taking the

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

And being found in human form, he humbled himself by

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

Philippians 2:5-8

 

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

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

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

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

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

God, how do I make grief go away?

Can I?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I can’t even “fix” me.

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

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

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

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

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

I will protect him, because he knows my name.

When he calls to me, I will answer him;

I will be with him in trouble;

I will rescue him and honor him.

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

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

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

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

I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth

of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.  Philippians 3:8

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But I have calmed and quieted my soul,

like a weaned child with its mother,

like a weaned child is my soul within me.

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

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

I can have hope because God is my hope.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And He has done the same for you.

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

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What Happens Afterwards?

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

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

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

You know all healed up and such.

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

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

I thought I was over all those awful emotions.

I thought I was past that place

…outta that pit.

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

Still some growing

learning

and trusting…

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

My answer has always been, “????????”

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

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

They are all the beginning of something wonderful.

Divorce, it’s just the end.

There isn’t much to build upon there…

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

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

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

I guess so.

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

But after what?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now, I’m not so sure.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yes, yes I can.

But should I?

I don’t believe so.

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

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

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

I definitely don’t want to feel fussy forever.

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

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

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

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

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

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

So what am I going to do about it?

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

Pray for God to give me His perspective on things.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She is not welcome anymore.

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in

from this time forth and forevermore.  Psalm 121

 

 

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Help Me Beez Good

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

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

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

“God help me beez good…”

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

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

We all needed that prayer.

I definitely need to pray that prayer too.

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

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

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

I want to be like that.

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

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

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

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

But God does call us to do good…

And let us not grow weary in doing good, for in due season we will reap,

if we do not give up.  So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone,

and especially to those who are of the household of faith.  Galatians 6:9-10

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

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

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

Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. 

Each of you should use whatever gift you have

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

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

If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My heart just leapt in my chest at that realization.

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

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

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

For as high as the heavens are above the earth,

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

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

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

So the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him.

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

Psalm 103:8-14

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

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

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

I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.

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

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

but have not love, I am nothing.

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

but have not love, I gain nothing.

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

it is not arrogant or rude.

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

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

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

Love never ends.

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

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

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What are feelings anyway?

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

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

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

Feelings.

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

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

I wish I understood feelings…those dreaded emotions.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can something steal my joy?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He will not permit me to be moved.

He will keep me in perfect peace.

He will be with me.

He will be my God.

He will strengthen me.

He will help me.

He will uphold me with his righteous right hand.

He has redeemed me.

He has called me by name.

He has made me his own.

He will be with me.

He is my helper.

He will never leave me

He will never forsake me.

He will exalt me.

He cares for me.

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

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

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

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

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

I know Him better in these moments.

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

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

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

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

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

I think He has given us the answer already —

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

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

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

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