What’s Wrong with Happy?

flowers for joyLast week I had the most wonderful time sitting at a picnic table studying God’s word, journaling, and writing some.  It was quiet and peaceful. I felt inspired.

I had such a blessed time writing more than I have in months, and guess what?  Not one document was saved…not one.  Technology and me….ugh.

I was wondering if maybe the Lord wasn’t keen on what I had written?  Or maybe I needed to consider it more…delve deeper into what God is revealing to me before I write.

I’m not sure the reason, but I’m starting over nonetheless.

This summer has been one of regrets.  I’ve made some decisions that I thought would be good, but weren’t.  My intentions were good, but the outcome was bad.  And, I wish I could change things, but I can’t.  I can only look back and learn…move forward wiser.

I’ve spent the last several days looking back…considering things and praying that God would help me see what needs to be seen.

He is faithful.  

I’m seeing how desperate I am for affirmation, security, and love.  

Desperate.

In my quest to fill these needs (wrongly), I’ve sought them all by trying to make others happy at any cost.  My children, my family, my friends.  

For the past few years friends have admonished me about this issue of trying to make everyone happy.  I have scoffed at them.  What could possibly be wrong with wanting others to be happy?  

Well, I’ve discovered a fair amount.  Because, honestly, I don’t want other people to be happy because I love them so much, I want them to be happy because I want them to like/love me.  I want them to value me.  I want them to be pleased with me.  I want them to affirm me.  

That was a lightning bolt to my heart.  

It hurts and reverberates through my whole self.  

Lord, really?  I’m like THAT?

And then I consider how annoyed I get with my children after I’ve done a thousand things for them in a day.  How frustrated and angry I can feel at not being helped in my quest for their happiness.

My motives are all wrong.

And the results are all wrong.

You’d think after all this time I’d have figured out that my efforts at making people happy often have the opposite effect.

Probably because I’m doing it not out of love or a true desire to make life better, but out of my own need and want and fear and insecurity.

My need.

Not theirs.

I saw it even yesterday with my youngest daughter.  

I get so frustrated with her asking for things (constantly) and instead of dealing with her heart issue, I spew forth evidence of mine.  I give her lists of what I’ve done for her, what I’ve given her, and tell her how ungrateful she is.

Wow.  Way to ruin any thing at all I’ve done to love her well.  

I just made it all about me.  Again.

So now that I know this about myself…what do I do?  How do I change?  I mean really.  

It’s so easy to be resolved sitting here on my sofa when everyone is asleep…but in a few minutes the chaos begins and my efforts to please will be in full swing.  And I’ll do it happily for most of the day, but then, as I do every single day, I’ll hit the wall of weariness and feel tired, taken advantage of and testy.  And I’ll stop being a mom that cares about anyone else’s happiness…honestly, not even my own.  Because at that point, I just want peace at any cost…which very rarely is a result of my words and facial expressions and actions.

Oh dear.  

Lord, what’s the first step?

There are practical things I could do…like a plan for the day, a chore chart (‘cause those have always worked great, said me never), eking out time for me to relax (alone or with my kids)…

There are spiritual things I could do…like pray, study Scripture, and seek counsel, but I kind of want more, Lord…is that wrong?  

I’ve read so many books about prayer lately…formulas, cards, closets, strategies…they have all left me feeling more confused and ineffective in my prayer life.  

How do I become the prayer warrior I’ve always wanted to be?  I think maybe this is the first area I figure out in my happiness quest.  Because I’m always trying to figure out the magic formula for prayer that will make God (and me) happy.  I want Him to be very pleased with my prayers.  

I know those strategies and such work for others, but I can’t wrap my brain around them. In some ways, they are an hindrance to my prayer life.  I get so caught up in doing it just the right way, that I barely do it.

So I’m just going to start praying.

Just going to pray throughout the day…as I begin each new task or start any project or do anything at all…that God will reveal the attitude of my heart, my motivation.  That He will remind me of who I am so I am not so desperate for affirmation apart from Him.  And that He will show me how to truly love my family and friends, and even myself.  

My hope is that I will no longer be seeking to make everyone happy, but rather that I will be seeking to love others well.  

And sometimes loving someone well doesn’t have anything at all to do with making them happy.  

Nothing is wrong with happy, but maybe happy just needs to be a result of being loved well.

And maybe reminding myself that I am indeed loved very well by my Father will make me the happiest…and that can spill over my children, family, and friends. 

Just 10 Facts and 6 To-Dos

IMG_2045There is no two ways about it.  I’ve become an anxious woman…again. I struggled with this years ago, and here I am again. Fearful, concerned, worried…anxious.

It’s a chest-crushing fear.  A wake up in the middle of the night worry.  An Oh my goodness!  Am I having a heart-attack? anxious.

And for the life of me, which it actually does feel like, I can’t figure out how to alleviate the pressure.  Sometimes a good cry does it, but that’s hardly a practical approach.  

It doesn’t matter what my anxious thoughts are…they just are.  And I’m trying to figure out how do I get past them…get rid of them?  Stop feeling this way already!

I know that I can trust God and I know that He is good and I know that His ways are always best – and yet, I still feel this way.

(Feelings are a pain.)

Why?

What am I doing wrong?  I think I’m focused on the right things, but I must not be.

I used to grab hold of Philippians 4:6-7 like it was my only lifeline.  

“The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Today I’m grabbing hold of 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.”

I think my mind is fixed on Christ, but maybe I don’t truly understand what that looks like practically.   

What does that look like when there is so much to do and I don’t even know where to start?  When there are five beautiful people who need me to have more energy, patience, or wisdom and I just don’t?  When I’m scared about my health?  When as soon as I get a plan, something happens to bust it to pieces?  When I’m 110% tired and I still have hours of work?  When I want to be with a friend but I simply can’t figure out how to make the time to do it?  When I just want some rest?

Lord, I’m seriously asking.  Please give me wisdom.

Because I’m doing the morning quiet time, working hard throughout the day, loving on my children whenever I can, and I’m trying to be smart about health, finances, and household stuff, but I still feel crushed.

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.  We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in  the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.”  2 Cor. 4:7-10

Maybe the reality is that even though I feel this way, it isn’t the truth.  I am not crushed, I am not failing, I am not hopeless, I am not alone, I am not desperate…

Those are just feelings, not fact.  What are the facts?

  1. The fact is I’m loved in spite of all my struggles.
  2. The fact is I’m blessed by the very things that stress me out the most.  My children, my job, my house, my finances, my ministry.  
  3. The fact is my children are gifts from God and HE holds them in the palm of His hand, not me.
  4. The fact is God will enable me to do the job He has called me to regardless of whether or not everything is perfectly organized and beautifully delivered.
  5. The fact is loving others is more important than doing everything perfectly.
  6. The fact is Jesus is my life.  My life, my hope, my peace is all found in Him, not in trying, doing, working, or accomplishing.
  7. The fact is my money is God’s and if He wants it all, that’s ok.  He will provide.
  8. The fact is I can only do everything I can to be healthy and pray that God takes care of this raggedy old body.  And if tests come back telling me scary things, then the fact is He will take care of me and my children.
  9. The fact is I am forgiven for all my anxious, terrified thoughts and all my frustrated, angry outbursts, and all my mistakes and sins.
  10. The fact is I am a Child of God.  I am never alone, never forsaken, never dismissed, and never unloved.

I’m sure I could go on and on…because there are a lot of facts.  Comforting facts. Blessed facts.

Could it be as simple as reminding myself of the facts of my life?  God kind of gives a formula in Philippians for fighting anxiety.

* Remember that God is right here.

* Do not worry about anything.

* Pray about everything.

* Be thankful…for everything.

* Pray more.

* Let peace guard.

God’s mind-blowing peace will not just be in your life but it will actively impact you.

It will guard your heart and your mind.

Guard: “secure; shield; defend; watch over in order to protect or control; a person who keeps watch, formally assigned to protect a person or to control access to a place; protect against damage or harm”

Sometimes looking up the definition of a word, even a well-known one, gives me a deeper appreciation for its applications.

I’ve always just thought of peace as something that is, not something that does anything. But peace does do something. It protects my heart and mind from the damages of worry.  It can control my heart and mind – instead of anxiety and fear controlling me.

In the middle of the night when I often have my most anxious thoughts and I’m praying hard.  Sometimes I forget to pray about what’s really bothering me, I’m just requesting peace. “Please Lord, help my heart to settle down.  Please Lord, calm my anxious thoughts.”  Good prayers, but I believe God wants me to pray specifically about things and even thank Him for them (ugh).

“Lord, I’m afraid of the future.  I’m afraid of not being able to take care of my children.  Father, I know you love my children (and me) even more than I can comprehend.  Thank you for that fact and thank you for my children and thank you for this body of mine.  Thank you that you have placed people in my life who can help me.  Thank you that you will show me the steps I need to take.  Thank you that you will be all that I need no matter what happens.  Thank you that I know that your peace is actively guarding my heart and mind and that I need only to trust you.  Please Father, help me trust.  Help me lay these burdens down and not pick them back up again.  Please let Your peace reign in my heart and mind, not anxiety.  Thank you Father for loving me even when I’m a big mess of fear.  I love you Lord.  Amen.”

Even typing that right now…I feel better.  Speaking God’s truth to myself is good.  

I’m pouring His words into my head.  My words don’t have the power of His…power fo change, heal, and help.  I’ve also written up some verses to post on my walls and doors and even in my car.

I’m determined.  I’m hopeful.  I’m praying.

I’m praying for us all. That we will know that the Lord is our strength and shield.  That our hearts can trust him.  That He will help us.  I’m praying that we will know His peace that surpasses all understanding and that it will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  That with all that we are, we will give thanks to Him. (Psalm 28:7, Phil. 4:6-7)  In Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

My Prayer for You

IMG_1600I love letters.  Not the actual letters…like “a, b, c, d…” although they certainly are handy…but I love hand-written letters.  It’s been a disappointment of my busy life.  That I can’t write long letters. I’m relegated to short texts with massive amounts of typos.  

I suppose I could say each blog is a long rambling letter sent to many friends.  But there’s a difference.  I’m not quite as personal or vulnerable as in a letter.  Someone is thinking, “More personal?!?  Sharing more vulnerably?!?  Woman, you share a lot!”

I’ve been reading Paul’s beautiful letter to the Ephesians, rich with imagery and encouragement, praise and prayer.

Prior to becoming a single parent I’d been studying the extraordinary armor of God with the hope of someday writing about it.  But things happened and I see how God has deepened my understanding of that armor.  The ponderings of that younger, less-overwhelmed-by-life me, although not wrong, are not as insightful or even to some degree applicable as I’d like.  

To prepare to study what that armor is, why I’d want to wear it, and how to put it on, I’ve turned back again to the beginning of Ephesians eager to see how the letter is a preparation for the introduction of the armor of God.  

The first chapter is a powerful presentation of the gospel, but this morning I am particularly impacted by Paul’s prayer in chapter 1.  A godly man’s ceaseless prayer for awesome things for his siblings in Christ.

What powerful things to pray for those we love…

That they may have a spirit of wisdom

If you could read my journal, you’d see that my #1 prayer is, ‘Lord, please give me wisdom.”  I pray that prayer for my children… occasionally.  I am convicted.  

Sometimes when I pray for wisdom, it’s more like a “Hail Mary” prayer thrown out in desperation.  ‘Lord, help!  I need wisdom!”  And often I think I doubt that I’ll get it in time. I forget that God gives generously to those who ask.  It’s His desire as well as mine that I live wisely.  He will give me wisdom to walk well with Him. And He has given me His word, an imperative part of getting wisdom.  I just need to ASK.

As a parent with children reaching their adult years, I can’t begin to tell you how desperately I pray my children will live and act wisely for their sake.  But I want to pray more that through wisdom they will know and love God more deeply, passionately, and fully.

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who give generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.  But let him ask in faith, without doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.  For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. James 1:5-8

That they may have a spirit of revelation in the knowledge of Him.

I looked up revelation – it means “uncovering”.  I’m trying to figure out what a spirit of uncovering means.  Feels like there is some deeper meaning to it.  But maybe it’s like an “aha” moment.  Like uncovering a gift and seeing it, possibly for the first time.  This gift is the knowledge – the understanding – of Him.  The wonder of this gift is I can continue to uncover it more and more….each uncovering revealing another beautiful understanding of who He is…and who I am.  

And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ.  He is the true God and eternal life.  1 John 5:20

That the eyes of their hearts will be enlightened

The eyes of my heart…rather an odd phrase really.  But when God says to fix my gaze on Him isn’t He also saying to fix my heart on Him?  A fervent prayer is that my heart be toward Him…my affection be directed to my Lord. It’s my wish for all my children’s hearts to be God’s.  That they will love the Lord with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength. (Deuteronomy 6:5) That because their hearts are toward Him they will not just know of Him, but truly know Him.  

That they may know the hope to which he has called them, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints.

HOPE.  There is something wonderful about that word.  Who doesn’t want hope?  And our hope, well it’s pretty amazing.  The expectation of things to come.  The assurance of something better.  The beauty of our hope – it isn’t some far-off hope that someday we get to have or do something.  It is the promise of our salvation.  The guarantee of a heavenly party, a heavenly feast, a heavenly mansion and, most wonderfully, Him for eternity.

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

That they may know what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe…

Sometimes doesn’t it just feel like we are at the mercy of our circumstances, the decisions of others, our emotions (dare I say it, hormones?) and the dictates of life?  It does to me. Sometimes I completely forget that God is all-powerful.  The power that created the universe, that designed and made each delicate feature of the smallest creature, that made me fearfully and wonderfully, that created me with a purpose, that loved me to the Cross…that same power that raised Jesus from the dead…that power is at work within me! And for some reason today, that phrase ‘his power toward us who believe” is particularly poignant.  It comforts me to know that not only do I have His power working in me, it is working on my behalf.  Always has been working for me.  The same power that saves me, sustains me.  I want my children to know that power…to understand the strength that God gives not just for salvation, but for every day.  

So today, I will pray for my children, my family, my friends…for you and even for me.  That God will bless all of us with wisdom, revelation, knowledge, enlightenment, hope, and the comfort of knowing that God’s power is in you and toward you.

In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Can I Say “Really?!?” to God?

IMG_7221Have you ever felt like the verse you just read, the devotional you just opened, or the thought someone just shared was…well…for lack of a better word…ugh?

My sister-in-law Debbie sent me a devotional this morning. She surprises me with really beautiful encouraging texts. Just when I need them. This morning the devotional included this verse:

Humble yourselves, 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. 1 Peter 5:6-7

But this morning, I responded, “Wow and ugh…”

And then I thought, when am I going to stop responding to God’s word with ugh?

When am I going to stop having such a negative view of His plans, will, and timing?

Because really, when I consider who He is and how He does things, shouldn’t I be really excited about His plan for my life?

He is perfect…His ways are perfect. His timing is perfect…who can’t get excited about perfect timing?

His plans are big picture plans like REALLY big picture…like eternity big picture plans. I have next 30 second picture plans. And even then my plans are still clouded by my not perfect thinking.

So when God says humble myself under Him and at the proper (just the right time) time, he will lift me up…why wouldn’t I humble myself?

What does that look like? Humble myself. I feel humbled a lot lately. But I think my definition of humbled is all screwy. My feeling like a failure is not me being humble. In fact, there is probably a little bit more pride than humility in that.

Humbling myself under God’s mighty hand is more about acknowledging that He is bigger, wiser, stronger, and better than me. In all the best ways.

Humbling myself under God’s mighty hand is me saying, “All yours, Lord. All of me. All my stuff. All my hopes, dreams, and even all my stress.”

Hence, the later verses… “…casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”

I can picture myself…loading all my stuff into a big old black trash bag…my stresses, feelings of failure, fears, insecurities, and even my hopes and dreams.

Struggling to sling it over my shoulder. Staggering under its weight – I have a lot of stuff to put in it.

Stumbling up to the throne of grace and laying it tentatively albeit awkwardly at His feet.

Stepping back embarrassed. My messy, sweaty self. Head down. Knees down.

I tentatively look up. The bag of burden is already gone.

And the only thing I see.   The only thing.     His eyes. Tender. Compassionate. Loving. Kind. Gracious. Smiling. Focused. Waiting for me to look.

Really look at Him. Really see.

See His love. See His forgiveness. See His strength.

And now my eyes adjust to the beauty of those eyes and now I see that His whole face is smiling at me.

He really loves me. Me.

Shaky, ashamed, red-faced me.

I’m still shocked that big ole ugly bag is gone. Doesn’t He want to pull it all out in front of me? Make me answer for it? Make me understand the great sacrifice dealing with it all is going to be? Doesn’t He want me to know what a mess I am?

I don’t understand. It must show in my face.

His smile softens more, if that is even possible. And He says to me, “Dearest child, it is finished. I finished it at the Cross. When I look at you, the apple of my eye, I only see my precious daughter.”

Is it okay to say “really?” to God?

Because sometimes when I realize His love for me…when I cannot deny what His word says about me, I want to say, “Really, Lord?” Do you really love me? Really? Because I’m so not who I think you want me to be. I want to be so much better.

And again, I cannot deny His word…He loves me.

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are! 1 John 3:1

The thing that really surprised me when I was looking at verses about love was how often love is paired with mercy and forgiveness.

The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin… Exodus 34:6-7

Just what I need – a lot of love and a lot of mercy and a lot of forgiveness.

When I drag my big ole bag of burden to my Savior, He greets me with mercy, forgiveness, and love.

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

Now if I could just leave the bag there and not feel like I need to pick it all back up again.

Each day is a new day of mercy…a new day to begin again. A fresh start. Burden free.

Seems impossible right now. I pray and lay my burden down. I trust that God can handle it, but for some unknown reason I begin almost immediately to find things to stress about…and very often the very same things.

How do I lay it down and not pick it back up again? How do I trust when the answer isn’t there immediately or the situation still exists or the fear flairs again? How do I do it?

I guess that is another thing to pray about…that must be why God says to pray continually…without ceasing. Keep my mind focused on him…keep my thoughts centered on him….hold fast to the word of life.

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

I guess when God shows me something that’s what I REALLY need to do instead of just always feeling like ugh and “Really?!!”

I think I’ll try  responding “Ok!” instead.

Maybe even a “Yes!”

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

No Longer a Dragon

IMG_1866

Sometimes it amazes me how often God gently confronts me with His word. Lately it seems every time I open the Bible or work on my Bible study or talk to a friend, He is there prodding and prompting and loving me.

This past week was one of the most difficult at my job. Sometimes it feels as though God is continually letting me taste failure and I’m weary of it.

I’m identifying with Eustace in “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader” by C.S. Lewis. His greed had turned him into a dragon and he longed to be a boy again. The scene is Eustace recounting how Aslan, the Christ-figure in Narnia, helps him become a boy again.

“I was just going to say that I couldn’t undress because I hadn’t any clothes on when I suddenly thought that dragons are snaky sort of things and snakes can cast their skins. Oh, of course, thought I, that’s what the lion means. So I started scratching myself and my scales began coming off all over the place. And then I scratched a little deeper and, instead of scales coming off here and there, my whole skin started peeling off beautifully, like it does after an illness, or as if I was a banana. In a minute or two I just stepped out of it. I could see it lying there beside me, looking rather nasty. It was a most lovely feeling. So I started to go down into the well for my bathe.

But just as I was going to put my feet into the water I looked down and saw that they were all hard and rough and wrinkled and scaly just as they had been before. Oh, that’s all right, said I, it only means I had another smaller suit on underneath the first one, and I’ll have to get out of it too. So I scratched and tore again and this underskin peeled off beautifully and out I stepped and left it lying beside the other one and went down to the well for my bathe.

Well, exactly the same thing happened again. And I thought to myself, oh dear, how ever many skins have I got to take off?…So I scratched away for the third time and got off a third skin, just like the two others, and stepped out of it. But as soon as I look at myself in the water I knew it had been no good.

Then the lion said – but I don’t know if it spoke – ‘You will have to let me undress you.’ I was afraid of his claws, I can tell you, but I was pretty nearly desperate now. So I just lay flat down on my back to let him do it.

The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off….

Well, he peeled the beastly stuff right off – just as I thought I’d done it myself the other three times, only they hadn’t hurt – and there it was lying on the grass: only ever so much thicker, and darker, and more knobbly-looking than the others had been. And there was I as smooth and soft as a peeled switch and smaller than I had been.” (pp. 107-109)

I feel like I’ve been trying to strip off the scales of my life and there are just so many layers…and God is continually peeling off more and more of me.

I’m trying to lie still and let him do it…it is difficult. It has been hard to let go of so much of what I think defines me. Hard doesn’t seem to do it justice.

“For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Therefore, lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather healed. Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.” Hebrews 12:11-14

I’ve always thought of discipline as more like a spanking, but this is more like the discipline of an athlete in training. I’m trying to get back into running and I’m still in the training phase where I feel like I’m trudging through 2 feet deep mud when I run…but I know when I get past this phase I’ll love running again. I’ll love the benefits, the fruit, of being healthy and fit too.

But in my spiritual life, I have some training to do as well. Some painful discipline is happening as I am realizing how my definitions of me have become idols in many ways.

God is showing me that I have focused so much on the wrong things. I’ve been trying to figure out how to be perfect…a very frustrating endeavor. I’ve been striving to seem perfect…a ridiculous pursuit and highly stressful. I’ve been seeking affirmation for anyone…everyone…an exceedingly insecure way to live. I’ve been defining myself by how well I do things, how people think about me, and how “perfect” I can be in my own head.

Whenever anyone says that I’m doing fine, I want to holler, “But you don’t really know me! I’m awful.” And in my head I’m listing all the things I’ve failed at…all the ways I’m a failure.

I have so many fail voices in my head. I hate them. And I’m pretty sure they don’t like me either because they are not at all nice.

And then when someone doesn’t like me…a situation I currently have at work (at least I think so)…I want to say, “Why don’t you like me? I’m super nice!”

What?!?! How can I be so negative AND so positive about myself? You know how? Because my emphasis is all on me! ALL.

I’m all about me. All about MY failures. All about what people think about ME. All about what I’m doing. All about what I’m feeling. All about how I want things to go. All about what I think should happen. All about my time table, my plans, my hopes, my dreams….ME, MY, I….ugh.

Oh I have some idols to be striped away. I’m finding it to be quite painful. More painful than I think I can bear at times. But I want to “fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which I was called” (1 Timothy 6:12). I don’t want to fail at this endeavor.

There is a beautiful verse at the end of 1 Timothy where Paul calls Timothy to take care of the gospel entrusted to him. I read it and thought it for myself, “O Sue, guard the deposit entrusted to you. Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called “knowledge” for by professing it some have swerved from the faith.” (6:20)

I know that Paul is talking about the babble of the false teachers, but today I was thinking of how much babble I have in my head. Irreverent and contradicting. How this “knowledge” I allow to take hold in my head keeps me from living out the gospel in my life. This babble of who I am and how I should live.

Who am I? Am I a failure? God says, “No, you are my child…beloved, precious, the apple of my eye.”

“In fact, dearest, you are a masterpiece! My masterpiece. I created the universe, the magnificent sunsets you so often photograph, the ocean waves you long to sit beside, the flowers you delight in, the people you love…and I created you. You who I consider magnificent. You who I long to sit beside. You who I delight in. You who I love.”

Why can’t I grasp that?

And again God peels the layers back…not just to make me better but to show me how very much He loves me. For He does not want to leave me a wretched dragon…but wants me to be the beautiful daughter He made me to be.

I might end up smaller in some ways, but I think I’m okay with that. Maybe ME being smaller isn’t a bad thing. Smaller in my own mind so that Christ can be bigger.

“He must increase, but I must decrease.” John 3:30

I believe that when life becomes less about me and more about Him the insecurities and struggles I have will pale in comparison to the great love He has for me. And those idols I’ve put on will be peeled away as I repent and recognize who the true God of my life is.

Idols are so dumb. Just saying.

Is there any comfort in my insecurities, struggles, conflicts, and fears? Is there any hope offered or strength gained in them? Not at all.

And yet…here I find myself.

Lord, you are gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love…thank you so much. (Psalm 103:8) Thank you that you throw my sins as far as the east is from the west when I confess and repent. (Psalm 103:12) I’m confessing to you that I have sinned in my heart and mind by putting myself on the throne of my life, by seeking my identity and security in things other than you, by choosing to focus on myself to the exclusion of You. Lord, please forgive and cleanse me all of this unrighteousness. Thank you that it is all grace, a gift from You. Thank you that you saved me totally without me doing anything. (Ephesians 2:8-9) Thank you that my life isn’t about me doing anything but loving you. And out of that love, I want to obey you and bless you and praise you and glorify you. Like Paul wrote, I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20) Thank you Father that we live under grace and there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus! (Romans 6:14, 8:1) Lord, please keep taking the scales off! In Jesus name, I pray. Amen.

Are You More than Just Living?

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I’ve been studying 1 John this past week.  There are a lot of verses that grab me in that little book.  And there are a lot of verses I want to grab hold of too.  

God has used those words to convict, confirm, and mostly comfort me this past week.

My study has brought me back to some of the verses in the Gospel of John as well.  One of the phrases that grabbed me and held me tightly was:

In Him was life.  (John 1:4)

To me, the word life is more about living than just being alive.  I’m not just alive because of Christ, but I can live – really live.  Not just exist.  Not just survive.

But how do I do that when life feels very much about surviving?  It seems that today

Today two people shared with me about the power of thankfulness.  How being thankful even for the problems and challenges is powerful.  How giving thanks opens us up for blessing.

Usually I shy away from adopting a prescription for blessing…the idea that if I do something I will get something from God goes against all I believe about grace.  I can tend towards works-righteousness and I certainly want to be careful of choosing words that imply that if we do something we will be guaranteed a blessing.

But I cannot deny that there is blessing in thankfulness.  It might not be that God opens the floodgates of prosperity in our lives as the world describes it, but I believe recognizing that God is worthy of praise and thankfulness is healing and comforting and strengthening for us.  

The blessing is in remembering.  When I cannot see what He is doing and I don’t understand what His plan could possibly be, I can remember that He was and is faithful. That He has proven Himself trustworthy throughout my life.  

Difficulties come and go, but God remains the same.

My circumstances change.  My attitude changes.  My faith falters.  My fear creeps in.  My thoughts waver.  Temptation wins.  My obedience turns to disobedience.  But my Savior remains constant.

Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.  Hebrews 13:8

I will never leave you nor forsake you.  Joshua 1:5  

That is something to say a big thanks for…no matter where I am, He is there loving me. No matter how good or bad or indifferent I am, He never leaves me or disowns me.

I might have said in the past, “Although I bet he might want to…” maybe a bit as a joke, but I will not joke about that now because I know that no matter what, God will not abandon me because His love for me is not at all – AT ALL – contingent on anything about me.  

Oh the relief that floods my heart as I sit here.  The blessed assurance that Jesus is mine…my Savior, my Friend, my Life.

…Christ who is your life… Colossians 3:4

I love that little phrase.  That little phrase with a HUGE implication.  My life is not just in Christ but is Christ.  I’m in awe of that.  My head wobbles a bit as I ponder the marvelousness of it.  

Hear the rest of the passage:

If then you have been raised with Christ seek the things that are above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.  For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.  Colossians 3:1-4

How can I live when I have died?  How can my life be hidden with Christ in God and Christ be my life both at the same time?  

I love how God gives us these things to think about…to realize how rich and wonderful our lives are because of Him…and He blessedly gives us the answer if we will but read further into his word🙂.

I have died to my sin…I have died to the old me. (vs. 5-9) The verses seem to be saying that I have to continually put these earthly things to death as I seek to put on the new me, “which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.”  (v. 10)

So now my life…this new life…is full of Christ.   “Christ is all, and in all.” (v. 11)

I’m identified as His and He as mine.  I’m His chosen one, holy and beloved… (v. 12)  

God tells me to put on a compassionate heart, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.  He commands me to bear with one another and forgive as I have been forgiven. “And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.  And let the peace of Christ rule in my heart.”  And be thankful.  (v. 12-15)

Back to thankful.

What can I be thankful for?

Love.  Forgiveness.  Peace.  Compassion.  Kindness.  Humility.  Meekness.  Patience.  

My children.  Zachary.  Emma.  Peter.  Elizabeth.  Allison.

Practically thinking…My family.  My friends.  My neighbors.  My coworkers.  My home.  My yard.  My car.  My job.

Really within each of those there are many things to be thankful for.  Many.  Even just realizing that the love, forgiveness, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience he calls me to are the very same things He calls us all too.  What a lovely thing it would be if we all answered that call.

My children.  Where do I begin?  I cannot imagine my life without each of them.  They each enrich my life in more ways than I can fathom.  I’m blessed beyond measure by these people.

You see where I’m going right?  In every big thing I am thankful for there are many smaller, precious things to be thankful for as well.

My job…well, let’s just say, I’m weary.  BUT I work with some of the best, funniest, kindest, most generous people I know.  And those students God placed in my classroom…there are moments I’m acutely aware of the privilege I’ve been given to play a small role in their lives during the tumultuous awkward drama-filled middle school years.  

My home…the other day I was walking through my yard just praising God for this dream house of a home for my family.  It isn’t a mansion by any stretch, there is so much to do, we have been rooming with a few hundred ants lately, and summer is approaching so the dog is molting all over the house…BUT I love this place.  I love that this weekend I get to finally have my neighbors over and I can’t wait.  Although I haven’t figured out when I’m going to get it all ready, but I am excited nonetheless.  

Oh I’ve listed my grateful list before…I know.  I know I’m repeating myself.  BUT again God keeps showing me the powerful role thankfulness plays in my life.

For the past several years as my life has changed repeatedly – sometimes for the better, sometimes not – I have had moments of desperation and hopelessness as I look at all that I dislike about my life.  But if I will only take a moment to remember…remember how God has answered my prayers in the past, how He has continued to love me in unexpected ways, how He has provided for me when I thought there was simply no way, how He is faithful regardless of how faithful or faith-filled I am?

I need to remember.

I need to remember that this life is not about this earth…it is about Him.  

At times, my circumstances might feel hopelessly difficult.  I might see no way to change things for the better as I’d like to, but Jesus.  

Jesus is not just better.  Jesus is best.    Jesus, who is my life, is ready to bring me back to life…out of the darkness and into the light!

My life is Christ.  All I have to do is go to Him and living is mine.

John says he is sharing all this so that our joy may be complete.  (1 John 1:4)  

That my joy may be complete.  

Try wrapping your brain around that one.  I can’t seem to, but I don’t know if I need to.  I just want to accept it and live it.

Because I think that is what God is calling us to.  

And it begins with Jesus, our life.  It begins with Him and the gospel.

(You knew I was going there, right?)

The gospel.

Love it.

Thankful for it.

Couldn’t LIVE without it.

Couldn’t LIVE without Him.

What Sized Task Are You Dealing With?

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Do any of you feel like you are living in a world of God-sized tasks?

I feel like I am.

In fact, recently while dealing with a rather big issue in my life, I was again reminded of the God-sized task world that seems to be mine.

Unfortunately, right now the biggest God-sized task is a financial one. I hate financial things. That’s why I majored in English – I was sure to not have to work with numbers. Seriously, financial stuff is apparently not my gifting, but oh how I want it to be.

My financial situation hit me full in the face a few weeks ago.  That night, I had a mini-nervous breakdown  and a few days later figured out a plan that seemed like the answer to prayer. It was going to work beautifully. I was thrilled, excited, beyond blessed.

But…

why is there always a but?

A mere week later something happened that changed my financial plan significantly. My great plan went up in smoke…poof. And with it went my hope to ever be in a better place. So frustrating.

Money is one of the things in my life that cause the most fear and anxiety.   I feel like I should be able to do this financial thing better. I should be able to make this work. In fact, I’m horribly embarrassed to share this with you. I have shared the intimate details with only a few and that hasn’t come without regrets.  I’m praying that sharing what God is showing me through this will be a blessing to someone and I will have no regrets.

Its difficult to share something you feel like a failure at…something that is such a ridiculous challenge. I feel like it shouldn’t be such a challenge. Why is it Lord?

Today I was speaking to my sweet sister, sharing my struggle and praying with her. And I realized something – I had put my hope in my own ability to figure it out, develop and implement a plan.  I had given myself a sense of peace because I saw that I had the ability to fix things. I didn’t need anyone or anything…all me! I was going to get this done. I wasn’t going to ask for nothing from nobody! And someday I could say to anyone who asked that I had overcome this huge Sue-sized task.

But

(there it is again)

But God wants me to see Him do it. God wants me to know that it is Him and only Him. It is indeed a God-sized task.

Writing this now reminds me of the story of Gideon in Judges 7. “The Lord said to Gideon, “The people with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand, lest Israel boast over me, saying, “My own hand has saved me.” (v. 2)

Oh dear…that does sound a bit like me. I have all of a sudden realized that I really want to say that I have done it. The I have successfully navigated this mess of a financial situation. I have figured it, conquered it, overcome it.

I don’t need anyone to help me, thank you very much.

All me. All amazing, smart, savy Sue.

Yeah…not so much.

Not that a plan and a vision are bad…I think it is the heart in which it is developed and implemented. My heart was all pride.

God again is showing me that my life is about Him…about relying on Him, about trusting Him, about watching Him work, provide and love me in ways I never imagined. My God is able to do far more abundantly than all that I ask or imagine, according to the power at work within me. (Ephesians 3:20)

Recently I heard someone say that all the money in the world is God’s. It’s not like He can’t provide for me and mine…and you and yours.

Finances can seem to me like the thing that God can’t do. The thing God has to do in a natural, not supernatural, way…doesn’t He have to work within the confines of what my income is and what my expenses are? Can He do something differently? Can He provide in ways I can’t imagine?

You betcha!

So today, I’m sitting here thinking…Okay God, I’m ready to give this to you. I’m ready to let you have this…I’m ready to see what you can do to fix the mess I’m in…the mess I’ve made.

Please show me what you would have me do. What opportunities should I grab hold of to help me provide for my family? Where should I focus? What is the plan?  Lord, please show me what to do.  Father, please provide a way to get out of this mess.

And even as I pray that, I wonder am I being selfish to ask? Do I deserve to be able to pray a prayer like that?

Sometimes I don’t think I even remotely grasp how much my Father loves me.  And yet, I struggle.  I wonder is this the thing that God wants me to do…to be a better steward of things? Should I just suck it up and deal with things the way they are?  Accept that this is going to be very, very difficult, but I made the mess and I have to clean it up.

No. That can’t be the way God wants me to handle this. It has to be about trusting Him to provide. It has to be about knowing that God can handle this. It has to be that He wants to show me what my Father can do to make things better…my Father specializes in God-sized tasks.

My earthly father, who is now with my Heavenly Father, was always willing to help me. I had but to ask and he was there. I miss him. I miss his advice, his wisdom, and the way he cared about me.  I know that my father would always do whatever he could to help me because he loved me. My Heavenly Father is no different. He loves me. He has the world at His fingertips…it is all His. He will take care of, provide for, and love on me.

“If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:11)

It is just something He does. He loves perfectly.

I don’t know if God will jump in to this mess with me and fix it tomorrow, or if it will be a longer process that requires patience on my part. (Oh please, please don’t let it be the patience one…please, please, please.)

There are decisions that I have to make that are dependent upon those silly financial issues. Not only do I need provision, but I need wisdom and discernment. I feel excited about this.

No longer is trepidation trampling my emotions. At least not at this moment. God has given me a fresh perspective – a hope when things look rather hopeless. A peace when a glance at my budget does anything but create peace.

Believe me, that hope and peace make no sense at all in lieu of the facts. That’s what I love about God…that and a thousand other things…that when everything seems beyond hopeless, He pours on the peace.

This overwhelmingly big God-sized task ?  I’m giving it to my Father…it’s all His.