One Sunday when I was in my early teens, my mom and I sang a song together at church. I remember how nervous I was while I waited in the front pew for the end of the Scripture reading. Mom and I walked up together, stood behind the pulpit, placed our hymnal down, and waited for the introduction. We harmonized through our duet, “Count Your Blessings.” It’s a sweet memory of a special time with my mom.
“When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.”
I still sing that song sometimes to remind myself and my children to take a minute to think about the good things that have happened instead of just seeing the other not-so-awesome stuff.
Years ago I started a gratitude journal. I found it recently in my desk drawer. What a joy to look through it! I realized that when I started looking for things to be grateful for there was an abundance. I found joy in so many things…the sound of a car driving over gravel or the squeak of shoes on a basketball court, the cozy smell of coffee in the morning or the heavy sweetness right before a rain, the beauty of the sky after a storm or the moon on a clear night, the comfort of a soft quilt on a cold night or the breeze of a fan gently blowing on a hot day. The taste of a perfectly mixed soda fountain cola and melted butter on freshly baked bread. So many things to be thankful for, to find joy in, to focus on.
Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:18
It has been entirely too easy over the years to focus on all the difficulties because, honestly, there is a fair amount of them. Opening the mail and finding another medical bill. Watching the news and seeing the next infuriating or devastating thing that’s happening. Discovering another thing that needs to be repaired or replaced. Listening to the hurt your child is suffering or addressing the hurtful choices of others. But enough about that. THAT is not what I want to focus on…good gravy, the whole point is to not focus on those.
“Are you ever burdened with a load of care?
Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?
Count your many blessings, ev’ry doubt will fly,
And you will be singing as the days go by.”
I had a dear friend tell me I’m too much with the lists. Maybe. Probably. But some lists are good! Listing things that I’m thankful for seems like a wonderful idea!
“Count your many blessings, name them one by one
Count your many blessings, see what God has done.”
It’s something that I’m trying to get my children to do as well. It’s surprisingly easy to get into the complaining rut. I read somewhere that we create pathways in our brains by our thinking. If we continually think negatively we create a rut in our brain that our thoughts naturally take. I’m sure this is why we need to take our thoughts captive. If we don’t, our thoughts make ruts that we definitely don’t want to get stuck traveling.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve found myself traveling some well-worn paths in my brain. Definitely muddy. Certainly bumpy. Always uncomfortable. And, honestly, I’m sick to death of the paths my thoughts take. There is no positive outcome possible, no solutions presented, and no hopeful perspective. It’s time for a change. A U-turn of sorts. Maybe I go off the beaten path and onto one that is less well-worn. One that has been left untended, untraveled, and, maybe to some degree, unknown to me. One where I don’t get caught up in all the muck and mire. One where I pay attention to what is around me, what is ahead of me, and who is beside me. I know that God will reveal beauty in each moment, regardless of how difficult or frustrating, or heartbreaking it is.
The simple act of trying to find things to be grateful for is one way we can turn our thoughts around. One way we can even turn our life around…one thought, one moment, one day at a time.
Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, his love endures forever. 1 Chronicles 16:34
I have fond memories of my dad singing little ditties as he went about his day. Most were a little tongue and cheek, and all made me laugh. One he often sang, I’m sure to my mom’s delight, was “Don’t Fence Me In”…
“Oh, give me land, lots of land Under starry skies above Don’t fence me in”
It came to mind as I was writing this morning about my two golden retrievers and some fences…although I think they are singing “Don’t Fence Me Out.”
I was unaware that golden retrievers are notorious diggers.
I know now.
My backyard is a minefield of break-your-ankle holes that become mud pits when it rains.
My oldest son came two weekends ago to help fence in the worst area so we could fill in holes, regrow grass, and possibly avoid the dust and mud that gets tracked into my home.
It’s completely enclosed with no entry point, except somehow, my dogs keep getting into it when I’m not looking. Never when I stand there and watch to see what they are doing, they won’t even go near it when I stand in it and invite them in. It’s like they don’t want me to know their secret and, for the life of me, I can’t figure it out. I’m debating throwing some treats in there and seeing if they will give up their secret entrance. I’m baffled. And I’m disappointed in myself that my golden retrievers (who aren’t the brightest bulbs in the bunch) have gotten one over on me.
This morning I was throwing the ball for Gunner, our ball-retrieving machine. Several times the ball bounced into the enclosed area. He stood outside it, panting, pawing the fence, and jumping back as if electrified. I’m not buying it.
The fourth time I went to retrieve the ball (who is the retriever in this scenario again?), I thought, surely there’s a spiritual application to this, right? I don’t have it yet. I’m thinking. Waiting for the epiphany.
I always seem to be waiting for something…directions, epiphanies, mechanics, repairmen, children to finish activities, phone calls, appointments, kids to carry laundry upstairs, the grass to grow in my little enclosed space…
Sometimes it seems that waiting is the theme of my life. Surprisingly, I’m finding myself okay with it. Well, at least right this minute. I might not be tomorrow. Probably not. I know that there is a season for everything, a time ordained by God, there is a plan…not my plan, but there is one nonetheless.
The other day I attempted to try to move something in a different direction, and God shut the door… not a slam, but definitely a closing. It wasn’t completely shocking, but I found myself blinking, stepping back a bit, and rethinking things yet again.
I can be like Gunner and Trapper, though. I can search for the way into the place I shouldn’t be just because it looks like that’s where I should be, and I’m pretty sure I’ll like it there.
I had such a strong epiphany that as much as I want to be just where God wants me, I keep trying to manipulate my life into something different. I’ve said I like to be in control before…probably a million times…but I think I haven’t understood until recently how very much I try to manipulate things into being the way I want them to be. Like my dumb dogs, I am determined to get where I want to be, with or without permission, through fences or blockades. I will make this happen.
The thing is, I’m absolutely certain that His way is better than mine, but I cannot deny that, at times, I really struggle to let Him be in control. It feels like I’m in a physical tug-of-war with Him. I can’t seem to let go of my grip and let Him handle things… at least not completely. I hold on with a pinky’s worth of strength, imagining that I’ve got things handled…it’s silly, really. I need to unclench my sweaty little palms and hold them open for what God has for me.
I’m a little like Jacob wrestling God in his fear and loneliness. (Golly, I hope I don’t wrestle until my hip is broken. Enough is broken in my life without that too!) I will wrestle with Him over the timing and the way things happen. I think sometimes I just want something to happen. Let’s get this party started. This nothing changing thing is for the birds. Sometimes I can almost believe something is better than nothing, but life has made it abundantly clear that that is absolutely not true. Something is sometimes nothing I want to happen, and sitting still and trusting God would have been a much better option.
Like my pooches, I can forget that what I have is great. They have a big beautiful yard, and they want to sneak into the little enclosed space full of holes. I wish I weren’t like them. I wish I could see the blessings right where I am and trust God to lead me where He wants me.
Sometimes I wish there was an actual fence blocking my way to places I shouldn’t go or places that just aren’t the best for me. I have decisions to make, and I really and truly struggle to discern God’s will for me and mine. Do I step out in faith and do plan A? Or do I step out in faith and do plan B? I cannot think back over the past ever so many years when one was more obviously right than the other. I always have to step out in faith and pray that the wisdom God promises me is indeed at work within me.
Ultimately, I believe God is more than able to get me where He wants me to be regardless of me. I just need to keep my eyes on Him. Look for what He is doing around me and join Him. Pray with the expectation that God is going to answer. Trust Him that He will lead me. Pay attention. Listen. Be still.
I need to stop trying to get somewhere. I’m where God wants me to be for this moment. And until He clearly shows me to take the next step in any particular direction, I’m staying here. I will resist the urge to get into that fenced-off area and dig holes…because I’m done digging holes that I eventually trip in.
I want to walk with Jesus and trust Him even when I long for something other than what He has given me. I want to trust that His way is best. He wants me to follow Him. He isn’t playing hide and seek with me. He says He will lead me, so I must trust He will.
Okay, that’s not where I thought this blog would go…at all. But, you know, I’m pretty sure I need to be reminded that waiting means I don’t sneak into places I shouldn’t be and that I trust God has prepared a place and plan for me that is just what I need. Maybe He isn’t opening up something because the grass still needs to grow there, and the holes must be filled before I go so I don’t fall in them. Or maybe things in me need to grow stronger and be filled.
My heart is a little like my backyard mud pit. It has some patches that need to be healed and some areas that need to grow stronger so they can trust and love well. I’m happy to stay where the Lord has placed me…well, maybe not always happy, but I’ll choose to trust Him and wait for the next step to be revealed or the fence to come down.
Fletcher, R. & Porter, C. (1934) “Don’t fence me in”.
My phone was dinging with texts the other night from one of my dear ones who was dealing with some disappointment. I was writing essay-like texts to encourage and love on my sweet child.
At one point, I texted “Life isn’t about what we get to have or do or even who we get to be.” And then I typed the words, “Life is about…” and I stopped, put my phone down on my lap, and stared ahead wondering what to write.
And then I prayed…
Lord, what is life really about? I mean, really?
I thought the words would flow because surely I know what life is about…I’m half a century old-ish. Surely I know something, but I wasn’t sure for a minute. I mean, I know that Jesus is my life, that I want to live my life to glorify God…but, those weren’t the words I wanted to use in that moment.
And then, like a sweet wave of peace pouring over me, I realized what I wanted to write…
Life is about loving God and loving others and even loving ourselves!
It’s difficult for me to even type phrases like “loving ourselves” – it goes against everything in me to believe I’m supposed to love me…after all, isn’t that rather selfish and self-centered and self-righteous and all those other self words I don’t want used to describe me?
But God…(I love that phrase) God has been showing me my lovableness for days and days, and months, and years. I’ve been woefully slow learning this love thing because I’ve looked to others to show me my worth rather than the One who loves me best.
It’s much easier for me to love others than to love myself, but can I truly love others well if I don’t love who I am in Christ? I think sometimes I love others well in hopes that they will love me well in return. For too long, I’ve sought to be loved by being loving. But if I don’t find myself lovable then I love others from a place of need rather than plenty.
Love doesn’t overflow from me unless I understand how loved I am by God. When I do that, I can love who I am because of Whose I am, and I can love others out of that abundance.
The reason I have any true, real, and honest love to share is because I’ve accepted the perfect love of my Savior.
The other day I wrote about climbing into the lap of Jesus, of hearing his heartbeat, and being at peace. And then, this morning I read John 13:23-25, “One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him…Leaning back against Jesus, he asked him…?”
Not unfamiliar verses but today I was impacted so deeply in a huge, heart altering way. John, the writer, is talking about himself. He is the disciple whom Jesus loved. How stunningly wonderful that he refers to himself that way. There is a beautiful audacity to it. He knows he is loved, no doubt in his mind. He doesn’t just accept it as fact, which it is, but he embraces it and revels in it! He leans into it as he leans into His Savior. He is not ashamed to say it out loud. To declare the truth of it to all the world. Oh how I want to live like that. To speak that truth over myself and others.
John invaded Jesus’ space. He is physically leaning on Him. In one version, it says, “leaning back on Jesus’ breast.” He’s not just near Him, John is on Him. There is a sweet intimacy to it.
John must have looked into Jesus’ eyes and known the depth of the love felt. As they walked and served together, he knew he was loved. And, God had John share so we would know it too. God wants us to know that we are deeply, completely, unrelentingly, unconditionally loved. He invites us to lean in and hear the beat of His heart for us. To lean further into Him to ask our questions, seek our rest and solace, and feel completely and utterly undone by His love.
He calls me “Daughter, whom I love” and assures me that there is no other love that can compare to His. In His love, there is peace and hope and joy. From that place of being loved, I will be able to love others even better.
So, yes, I do believe that our life is about love. Both the big “L” Love and the little “L” love. The “God is love” Love and the “love one another as you love yourself” love.
I grabbed a whole row because my sweethearts were coming in behind me. I laid down my jacket, my purse, my Bible, my journal, and a few bulletins throughout the row to make sure I had enough seats. As they all filed in, I felt my smile grow bigger and bigger. These beautiful young people are my dearest blessings and I could barely contain my joy. They would have been embarrassed if I’d shown all the emotion I was feeling as we stood worshiping God. All I could think was how incredibly loving God is and how thankful I am for what He has done in our family.
“Let the redeemed of the LORD tell their story – those he redeemed from the hand of the foe” Psalm 107:2
Last year could be described as the quintessential dumpster fire year. And I’ve had some real doozy years so that’s saying a lot. It was emotionally-draining, exceptionally disappointing, heartbreaking, foundation-shaking, and I think I’d go as far as saying a bit soul-crushing…well, you get the idea. Not a stellar year.
BUT oh how God has redeemed it! I’m in awe.
At the end of the summer, after a lot of drama and even more prayer, I felt strongly that God was leading me to quit my job and home-school my youngest daughters for one year. It made absolutely no sense on every single level except that both God and I knew that something needed to change. And this was a huge change for us.
This hasn’t been without its bumps and bruises, but I’ve learned that even when I follow His leading it doesn’t necessarily mean smooth sailing. There are rocks on every path, even the good ones, and sometimes it can get rather narrow and dark.
God has worked mightily in our family not just through happy home-school days on the porch, but through down in the dirt difficult days, hurts, lies, and betrayals, exhaustion and sickness, smart and dumb decisions, tight budgets, unexpected issues, challenges, and circumstances, and hard conversations. He has changed our hearts, opened our eyes, strengthened our relationships and our faith, and given us time to reevaluate our direction as individuals and a family.
“Put your hope in the LORD, for with the LORD is unfailing love and with him is full redemption” Psalm 130:7
This home-school plan seemed crazy, but I knew that it was what I was supposed to do. And, for once, I obeyed without hesitation. Desperate times called for desperate faith.
It’s been filled with wonderfully deep and faith-filled conversations, tears and laughter, great literature and that awful math stuff, sitting by the river and just a lot of blessings that sometimes, at first, don’t even look like blessings..
This calling meant I turned down two jobs last year that would have been great all the way around, but I knew that I was supposed to do this. I knew I was supposed to trust and obey. I needed to trust like I did the year my husband left. I hadn’t really done that in a while. I’ve been so busy trying to control the details of life that I haven’t really leaned on Jesus. Maybe a little shoulder lean like when you lean over and whisper in someone’s ear, “Hey Lord, can you help me get this done?” Now I’m climbing into His lap saying, “Jesus, I’m exhausted by trying to figure all of this out on my own. May I just sit with you for a while until you show me what to do next?”
It reminds me of climbing into my dad’s lap on Sunday evenings when he was watching football. Even when I was far too big, he would just let me rest there, close my eyes, and listen. The sound of a TV football game is still so comforting to me. Every once in a while I would open my eyes and ask how much longer. He would say something about “5 minutes left in the quarter” and, of course, 5 minutes in a quarter is not an actual five minutes. An early lesson in patience! But it was absolutely okay because it was peaceful there with him.
Maybe it’s a little like that when we wait on God. I so desperately want God to tell me what is going on…when is this going to end? Instead of being my squirmy and impatient toddler self, I want to close my eyes and lean into His strong arms. I imagine I can hear His heartbeat, like my dad’s, calm and steady. I doubt he would smell like pipe tobacco like my dad, but maybe, for me, He would.
“As for God, His way is perfect; the word of the LORD is flawless. He is a shield to all who take refuge in Him.” Psalm 18:30
I find myself seeking the shelter of His arms more and more as I learn to let Him lead. As I lean into Him with questions and concerns, fears and anxious thoughts, sorrow and joy…He has become my True Love. This past year of stepping out in faith when common sense and logic shouted something completely different was life-changing.
I’ve seen God provide in ways I haven’t since the first years of single parenting. Not that He hasn’t constantly provided but in my feeble efforts to make things happen and take care of everything, I’ve missed experiencing it. I have often taken my eyes off of Jesus and looked for my help from other sources, mainly myself.
I’m beginning to understand that God has a plan even when I can’t see it. Sometimes life is so busy I miss that God is working around me. I can get so overwhelmed by how poorly things seem to be going and not realize the good that God is doing even through the hard stuff. I think “the plan” should be one thing and God knows it has to be another. It is amazingly difficult to surrender to God, but If I would just remember how gracious He is to provide, how lovingly He looks after us, and how kind He is to make a way even when there seems to be no way, I could just close my eyes, lean into His strength, and rest.
“Rest in the LORD and wait patiently for him…” Psalm 37:17
There is a stump where a big beautiful oak tree used to stand tall over the river. We called it “Grandpa’s Tree” because my dad used to like to sit under it and quietly look out at the water. It’s a special spot for our family. We miss my dad and now we miss the tree too, but the stump provides a wonderful place to sit and even though it is no longer a glorious tree, it is still a lovely place to think, watch the horizon, and wait.
I’m sitting, legs crossed, waiting. I’m ready whenever God wants to show me what to do. It’s my daily pose. Nothing mystical, just comfortable and quiet while I wait for God to reveal the plan…the way to go…the next step.
I’m a little anxious for something, but I’m not sure what. I’m ready for the next things because I’m tired of this thing. God hasn’t shown me that He’s tired of this place. Actually the exact opposite. He seems to be quite content with me here. Waiting. I’m trying to wait patiently. But that word kind of feels like a curse word sometimes. Patiently. How many times has someone joked, “Whatever you do, don’t pray for patience”?
I wouldn’t necessarily say I’m sitting patiently, but I believe I could say that my attitude is one of expectancy. I’m expecting God to do something. How could He not? There has to be more to life than this feeling of constant tumult. I’m sure there is because at times I catch glimpses of it. Sometimes there is a quiet moment where suddenly, and without understanding how or why, I feel peace.
I read in Brennan Manning’s book Abba Father, “When we accept the truth of what we really are and surrender it to Jesus Christ, we are enveloped in peace, whether or not we feel ourselves to be at peace. By that I mean the peace that passes understanding is not a subjective sensation of peace; if we are in Christ, we are in peace even when we feel no peace.” (Manning, 2015, p. 27)
My life is peace, because Jesus is my life. (Col. 3:4).
I know that Jesus is my peace, but sometimes I just really truly want peaceful circumstances. If I listed the number of things that have been wonky and/or costly in the past two weeks, you’d understand my longing. You’d understand why I ask God, “Why?”
I asked it the other night and all of a sudden I realized, “It’s okay. Everything is okay even when every thing is not.” To my deepest parts I felt it, it’s all okay. Things break and need fixing. All. The. Time. And I mean that in the strictest sense of the word…continually, always, repeatedly, without ceasing, all the time. BUT I’m still here. I am still blessed. God still provides. God still takes care of things. God stays even in my life of broken things.
When the repairman comes and the fix is unexpectedly everything I wouldn’t want it to be, God is neither absent nor surprised. He is there…”Sweet daughter, we got this! You don’t need to worry.”
When parenting brings me to my knees, He is there…”Dearest, I love them even more than you do. Don’t be afraid.”
When questions tear around my brain without ceasing, He is there…”Precious child, rest in my love. Spend time with me instead of all those thoughts.”
There is a theme in my life of me looking for things to be different and God staying the same.
There is a longing in my life for calm and God offering me peace.
There are difficult thoughts and God’s words giving me strength.
There is hope for a better future and God reminding me that it’s all good, I don’t need to worry.
I’m the little girl frantically searching for all the things my Father has already given me. If I can just sit still and be with Him, I’ll find them all. So I’m just going to sit here…listen, pray and wait…somewhat patiently…for my Abba Father to show me His great and beautiful plan for my life.
Manning, B. (2015) Abba’s Child: the cry of the heart for intimate belonging. NavPress.
A few weeks ago I felt convicted that I needed to share more – write more. And I knew that to some degree it would be a humbling experience because my life is messy, crisis-prone, exhausting, and somewhat embarrassing.
Last night something happened that tends to happen a bit more than I’d like lately, and I prayed, “Lord, how honest do I really need to be? Do I need to share this?”
I believe I know the answer although I’m typing this with no real intention of posting… if this gets posted, you’ll know that God absolutely, without a doubt, showed me clearly that I needed to.
Days are busy and nights…well, the moment I slow down everything crowds in. Every failure, whether real or perceived, weighs heavy on my heart and mind. I’m crushed by emotions and questions and just all the things.
As I climb onto my bed, moving pillows and blankets so I don’t melt in my mid-life sleeping, I can feel my eyes begin to water. Soundless tears begin to fall. An ache forms in my chest and my breath catches. My mind races with all the questions no one but God knows the answer to and I don’t know if He’ll ever tell me the reasons I long to know…if He’ll speak the truth to my heart because maybe that will break it more, which honestly is a bit inconceivable.
But the truth is…the truth I need to know..the truth He wants me to know…the truth that will hold all my tears and listen patiently and compassionately to my questions and laments…the truth is that He loves me.
I’m weary to my core…like no weary I’ve known before…but I also feel that God is carrying me closer to Himself than I have felt in so long. I almost can’t explain it.
Maybe it’s a little what Elijah felt when he ran for his life from Jezebel. God had used Elijah in mighty ways, but something happened and Elijah despaired. He felt like a failure. He sat down under a bush and begged to die. Elijah says words I’ve spoken many times (not the kill me words though, the other ones), “I’ve had enough Lord. I’m no better than all the other people who sinned and failed before me.” Elijah succinctly pours out his heart to God and then falls asleep. That’s pretty much me every night.
Father, I can’t do it anymore. I feel like an utter failure.
Just a moment later, at least it seems that way, an angel touches him and instructs him to wake up and eat. Elijah sees that there is bread and water. He eats, drinks, and then goes back to sleep. Again, the angel of the Lord touches him and says, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.”
Father, I do feel like Elijah.Lord, what you have called me to feels like too much; please strengthen and sustain me.
Elijah was strengthened by the food and then traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached a cave and there he spent the night. Then the Lord spoke to Elijah and asked him what he was doing there. I think the question was more like, “What is going on dear one? Why are you here?” God already knew, but maybe He wanted Elijah to admit and face his fears. Elijah answers with what he has done for God, the disappointments and probably what feels like failures, and how he thinks he is the last one left following God.
Father, I have tried to follow you and do what I believe you have called me to and yet nothing seems to work the way I thought it would. I feel so alone in this struggle.
Boy, is it easy to feel alone in our battles, particularly when we feel like a failure. This is one of my biggest struggles. I sometimes don’t want to ask for help because I need so much of it. Sometimes I look at things and just feel like an absolute and complete failure. If I was good at things we wouldn’t be in this place dealing with these issues, facing these crises. The phrase I fight the hardest in my head is “I’m such a failure.” And I know that is not from God because He does not see me as a failure, just as He didn’t see Elijah as one.
God tells Elijah to “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.” (1 Kings 19:11) As Elijah was standing there first a “powerful wind tore the mountain apart and shattered the rocks,” but that wasn’t the Lord. Then the earth quaked and fire blazed, but neither of those was the Lord either. Finally, a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he moved to the mouth of the cave to hear God better.
Lord, I want to hear you better.
Have you ever had someone whisper to you? Your natural inclination is to lean in to hear better. I believe this is what God wanted Elijah to do. I think it is also what He wants us to do. Lean in closer.
“Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” James 4:8
God didn’t get angry at Elijah for being afraid, feeling like a failure, and despairing. He met him where he was with comfort (and food which is always comforting). God prepared Elijah for what was ahead. It wasn’t easy, but God was with him. God spent time with Elijah. Spoke to Elijah. Showed Himself to Elijah.
My time sitting on my bed quietly weeping is not always a bad thing…actually I don’t know if it ever is. Sometimes it’s freeing. It’s quiet, solitary time with God. And I believe it’s healing. I’m finally dealing with some deep hurts and sorrows, grieving losses and betrayals, laying my heart bare before God.
Before now life has to some degree been too busy to feel things deeply. Being a single parent doesn’t allow for a lot of self-reflection or feeling deep emotions for more than a minute. I’ve spoken with enough single parents to know that we all walk a path of self-sacrifice and our focus is usually on others…the to-dos are never ending – work, home, school, sports, activities, appointments, and broken things (not just hearts and homes, but appliances, cars, plumbing, etc.) can make life move at a ridiculous pace. You wake early and go to bed late and can’t figure out when exactly you took a breath or sat down for a minute before you needed to do something else.
Please know that in any given day, in fact most days, the good far outweighs the bad…but that doesn’t negate the overall effect of running on empty for years and years. My empty tank is bone dry and I’m finally finding time to fill it back up…some of the filling is with tears. I’ve cried my share of them over the years, but I would never have called myself a weeper. Now is a different story. Tonight someone came to pick up my dead car from my driveway and I almost cried in front of him. Two weeks ago in my small group someone said, “Hey, you know there are people in church who will help you with your house”…I cried the whole way home. (Now if I could just humble myself and call…so embarrassed about all that needs fixing.) The first time I loaded the new dishwasher after being without one for about four years…tears welled up in my eyes. Silly, I know, but I was just so thankful and blessed by it. Other times, it’s a thought that crushes me, a feeling that stabs my heart, a hard memory that I feel deeply…it’s okay though. I believe it’s important for us to work through those things and lay them at the foot of the Cross with all the other junk in our lives. It’s a process. Sometimes I lay it down and pick it back up again…only to repeat the process several times…sometimes all in one day.
I think maybe I’m supposed to share this with you because I don’t believe I’m alone in it. This mourning what was lost that can never be again. Grieving the pain and hurt caused by someone I loved deeply, faithfully, and completely. Processing the thoughts that besiege me at my weakest moments. I can’t stop thoughts yet, but I’m learning to replace them. To trust that as I continue to replace them eventually God will erase them to a distant memory that no longer stings.
There is hope even in the end-of-day fall apart time. God meets me there. He sustains me with His love. He asks me questions that reveal my heart and mind in that moment. His word holds healing truths for me. His willingness to listen to me assuages my loneliness. And when I lean in to listen, He speaks love over me.
You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in your word. Psalm 119:114
One of my daughters gently opened my door in the middle of the night and said, “Momma, may I sleep in your bed?” I’m a super light sleeper so I instantly woke up, threw back the covers, and welcomed her into my embrace. It’s been a hard year for her and the past week has been particularly so. We have found that in the middle of the night, those thoughts in our heads can get particularly loud and insistent. Sometimes even when you are a teenager, you just need someone to be near you, to be held, to know you are not alone. Sometimes when you are an adult too.
The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe. Proverbs 18:10
I used to feel sorry for my little ones when they were learning to sleep through the night. There they were all alone and probably a bit scared, and there I was with the comfort of another human beside me. I think that is one of the things I miss most about being married. All those feelings of security, warmth, and love you have when you let your guard completely down and sleep beside the one you’ve chosen to love for life. Oh how I miss that.
But I will sing of your strength; I will sing aloud of your steadfast love in the morning.For you have been to me a fortress and a refuge in the day of my distress. Psalm 59:16
When I have my sleepless nights and thoughts are bouncing around my brain like ping-pong balls in a metal room, I miss having the comfort of scrunching up to that special someone. So, when that happens to my daughters (who are all bigger than me at this point), I welcome the opportunity to offer them some comfort, a refuge from the storm raging in their hearts and minds, and a safe place.
The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him. Nahum 1:7
I’ve had my fair share of sleepless nights where my thoughts race and my heart follows suit. And in those moments, which more often than not, happen in the middle of the night, I’ve found God to be my safe place too. Some days and nights I’m better at letting Him be my refuge and strength than others. But I’m learning and I’m trying to teach my children too as well.
In the fear of the Lord one has strong confidence, and his children will have a refuge. Proverbs 14:26
One thing God has shown me is the blessing of praying scripture back to God. I’ve been encouraging my children to turn verses into prayers. It’s a step toward peace when chaos seems to be reigning in our hearts and minds. The book of Isaiah has profoundly spoken to me over the years so I decided to speak it back to God as a reminder to me and Him of what He has said about me and to me. Here is one of my favorite ones:
Scripture Prayer – Isaiah 43:1-4
Father, you say you created and formed me. I don’t need to fear for you have redeemed me. You have called me by name; I am yours. When I pass through waters you will be with me, and when I pass through the rivers they will not sweep over me. When I walk through the fire, I will not be burned and the flames will not touch me. You are the LORD my God, the Holy One, my Savior. You have ransomed me because I am precious and honored in your sight and because you love me. You have redeemed my life. I will not be afraid for you are with me.
When I speak His scripture over me and my children, it helps. It means I have to take my eyes off of my circumstances and put them on Christ. For someone like me that always feels the need to do something, make something happen, fix things, it seems that “just” speaking scripture over a situation isn’t enough. How could that make a difference? Shouldn’t I have to do something more?
No, the answer is no There is power in the Word of God. It changes things. It changes me.
My trust grows and my peace increases. My fears become smaller and my courage strengthens. Things are re-framed. My vision is refocused on Him. My heart and my mind are settled.
When I speak scripture I’m speaking Jesus over my situation. Jesus who is the Word of God, who is peace, who is hope, who is the author and perfecter of my faith. Jesus who is my strength, my Savior, my friend. Jesus who loves me more than anyone.
He sent out his word and healed them, and delivered them from their destruction. Psalm 107:20
No matter what is going on in life…no matter how many difficult things are happening that discourage, hurt, baffle, and anger us…all the stupid stuff of life…in all of it, God is our refuge. He is our safe place to let go.
Scripture Prayer – Isaiah 41:10
Father, you say I do not need to be afraid because you are with me. I do not need to be dismayed because you are my God. You will strengthen me and help me. You will uphold me with your righteous right hand.
For the past few nights my girls and I have been watching the 6 hour BBC “Pride and Prejudice”. It’s probably the 83rd time. We looooove it.
Last night, the episode we were watching was one where Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth look at each other for a prolonged moment over the piano-forte. Let’s just say we rewound it twice to watch and sighed both times. Who doesn’t want to be looked at like Mr. Darcy looks at Elizabeth? I mean…seriously.
Almost the very next scene, Mr. Darcy finds Elizabeth visibly upset after having just received dreadful news. He sits her down, leans in to listen, and appears desperate to figure out how to help her. When she bursts into tears, the actor playing Mr. Darcy puts the back of his hand up to his mouth in a gesture of care and frustration. He’s at a loss as to what to do.
I don’t know why, but I love that little moment. There’s just something about the way Mr. Darcy cares about Elizabeth. Oh to be loved and cared for like that…to have someone almost in anguish at your anguish. At that moment, he shares in her sorrows. How beautiful is that?
We are a house full of females and other than windows pulsating with hormones sometimes, we are also a house of sighs and squeals and laughter. We are a house of women – both young and old – who want to be wooed and loved and protected and found precious. The longing of a woman’s heart…particularly one whose heart has been broken as all of ours have been.
Questioning whether a broken heart will ever truly heal…if eyes will ever behold you as utterly beautiful and precious…if hands will hold you when you’re hurting and choose to feel your pain with you…if you’ll ever know what it means to be loved tenderly, compassionately, and faithfully.
Those are difficult questioning thoughts and painful to consider at times…being loved without conditions, agendas, deceit, or hurt…what is that like?
And yet, I do know that ultimately the love of my life (and my daughters’) is Jesus.
I feel a little bit guilty saying this but I still want to be romanced by a real live godly man…someone who isn’t going to break my dang heart again. Don’t know if that is God’s plan at this point, but oh how I pray for that for my daughters. I so want them to be cherished and loved.
It’s important that they know who they are in Christ first though. I want them to find their strength, identity, and value in Jesus. No man can be who Jesus can be for them…or me.
I believe that romance is more than a man holding my hand and looking intently into my eyes like Mr. Darcy. The Lord says He will be my Husband. He will romance me in other ways. Not by sitting beside me watching a sunset, but by creating one for me. He doesn’t love me with quiet conversations in the evening but with peace in the middle of the night when thoughts begin to swirl and churn.
I’m safe in His love. All the ways I have been hurt (and my children too) are things Jesus would never do. He would never bring chaos, because He is my peace. He would never break my heart, because He is perfect love. He would never betray me, because He cannot lie. He would never un-choose me because He made me just as I am. He would never leave me. He simply can’t. And, even if I do all that is ugly and unkind, He never stops loving me.
There is nothing scary about being loved by God, but being loved by another person can be a whole ‘nother story. I’ve got to be brutally honest and say that trusting another person with your whole self and believing they will be honest and faithful is frightening. And yet…God says that His perfect love should make me fearless.
Fearless to live in the love He has for me.
I want to get to the point where no matter what another person says or does, I live unafraid in the love of God. That no matter how tenuous the future seems, I live peaceful in Jesus. That no matter the challenging circumstances of my life, I live boldly, bravely, and unashamedly trusting in Jesus.
Romance is fun, but being romanced by my Savior is forever.
Father, this seems a little like one of those things Christians say to make us feel better about being single. Well, actually it is one of those things they say, but, Lord, please help us know You as our True Love. Please help us feel your love in unexpected and beautiful ways like a prolonged stare across a piano-forte. Lord, strengthen us and enable us to be women who are unafraid of the future because we have a Savior who loves us completely. Please romance us in lovely ways we could never have imagined! In Your Dear Name, I pray.
I don’t know if you ever played this silly game when you were young, but my friends and I thought it was hysterical to pretend we were drowning. Usually in the shallow end. We would jump up above the water, put one finger up, take an exaggerated gulp of air, and dramatically go under. Then we’d do it again with two fingers up. On the third jump, with three fingers in the air, we’d holler something dumb like, “Good bye cruel world!” and pretend to drown. I’m sure the lifeguards loved us.
Sometimes as a single parent, I feel like I’m living in that game. In the past, I’ve had an idealized view of things. I was going to get really good at this single working mom thing. I was going to hold myself and five beautiful children above water with all my strength and wisdom. I was going to be an extraordinary spiritual leader and amazing single mom. I quickly found out that holding it all together without going under was more challenging than I could have imagined. Single parenting has felt like a near-drowning experience for many years. Unfortunately, this doesn’t really get easier…it’s not like you get “better” at drowning.
Or maybe you do…
Because God is gracious and I’ve learned some things…when to shut my mouth so I don’t gulp water, when to close my eyes and give things to God, when to kick hard and push through the obstacles, when to flip and change direction, when to spit in my goggles and clear my vision, when to take a breath, and when to rest on the side for a bit.
I pulled out my most recent journal to remind myself of the ways I’ve seen God working in my life and the lives of my children. To see how I’ve grown. To consider the places where drowning seemed imminent, but I didn’t. Where God opened a lane I hadn’t expected and I was able to move forward without obstacles. I feel like most of the time I’m swimming in a lane set up like an obstacle course. Swim a little. Take a breath. Face an obstacle. Almost drown. Flip turn. Swim a little. Take a breath. Dolphin dive under. Hold breath longer than expected. Race for a breath. Kick to the side. Rest.
But while I was looking at the journal, instantly my thoughts went to, ‘You might have learned things, but boy have you failed at a lot.” Why does my brain go there so easily? Those thoughts push me under like a bully of regret and sadness. I know that I have not failed at everything or even most things. I’m still swimming after all…even if occasionally it’s more like a dead man’s float rather than a strong freestyle stroke.. and definitely not a beautiful butterfly stroke.
It’s easy to get discouraged and want to climb out of the pool, just for a minute. Just to de-prune and dry off a bit. To no longer be working so hard to stay afloat. But Jesus, He doesn’t ever get out of the pool. He stays right there with me and, if I’d let Him, He’d let me and all my children climb on His back and rest or even just grab hold of His arm and float effortlessly for a bit. I feel like more often than not, I’m frantically doggy paddling and saying, “I’m good. I got this!” while also gradually sinking lower and lower. Oh how I wish I didn’t think sometimes I needed to handle everything on my own.
I’m like a toddler trying to take off her floaties and swim in the deep end. Determined to do my own thing all the while putting myself in more danger. I will move unawares or even blissfully into the deep water away from my Lifeguard until my exhaustion and fear overwhelm me and I search desperately for Him. Thankfully, God doesn’t throw His hands up and swim away. God doesn’t leave me or forsake me even when I leave and forsake Him. He might let me go my own way for a bit until I get smart enough to run back into His arms like the prodigal daughter I can be, but He never leaves me.
How grateful I am.
I hope I’m not taking this swimming and drowning analogy too far, but all of a sudden it made sense to me. How easy it is to be like Peter and take my eyes off my Savior and go under… nearly drown. Or to ignore His warnings, smile, and backstroke away from Him. I’m ever so grateful that Jesus is always right there. Right beside me. And the moment I turn my eyes back to Him, immediately He grabs hold of me, pulls me close, and keeps me above water.
No matter what, Jesus always always always saves me. No matter my unfaithfulness. No matter my willfulness. No matter my failures. No matter my mistakes. No matter my rebellion. No matter my circumstances. No matter my brokenness. No matter my intentions. No matter what.
I think maybe I’ve figured out how to do this without going under for the third time…I’m still gulping a bit of water, splashing, and occasionally calling for help…but I haven’t put up three fingers yet. I’m pretty positive I won’t ever because I have a Lifeguard prepared to grab hold of me any and every time I need Him.