This Not So Exaggerated Life

The past 6 days…ugh.
Here are the highlights:

  • 1 baby root canal
  • 2 dental appointments
  • 2 cars that both failed inspection
  • 4 new Suburban tires
  • 1 very rude car mechanic
  • 1 broken AC condensations thingy – wet basement
  • 1 dead cherry tree
  • 3 sick children
  • 2 unexpected massive medical bills
  • 1 unexpected doctor’s appointment
  • 2 sleepless nights because of back pain
  • 1 sleepless night because of anxious thoughts
  • 1 child with nightmares
  • 2 broken dresser drawers
  • 1 broken hall shoe trunk
  • 1 looming manuscript deadline
  • 1 broken dishwasher

(And a partridge in a pear tree…)

My life seems like an exaggeration.  Way too many things go wrong, way too many things are difficult, way too many things are complicated, and way too many things drive me bonkers!  But seriously…this really is my ridiculous life!

You wanna know what’s funny? The dishwasher was my undoing. Who knew a dishwasher could bring me to my emotional knees. Something about a sink full of dirty dishes and a counter full of drying dishes has simply knocked me down. I’m done.

I say that but earlier this week it was the snarky auto mechanic who made me weep all the way home. It was more the “one more thing” than the actual thing itself. You know what I mean? It was the one thing after another after another…thankfully, at this moment it’s kinda funny looking back over the week.

Kinda.

I have to admit I have a little attitude right now. I’m a bit put out that God would allow so much to invade my already overwhelmed life. Earlier this week I woke up at a very early hour practically having a panic attack about all the decisions I need to make in the next couple of days — huge decisions, life-altering decisions, piddley little pain in the tushy decisions, and regular everyday ugh decisions. I think the most difficult part of being a single parent lately has been the mental stuff. The one thing to decide, to think through, to consider, to deal with after another. I can’t seem to get a handle on all the things I need to deal with — and I feel like I’m dropping things left and right. Sometimes I feel like I should write a big “FAIL” over my to-do list at the end of the day. My house is still a wreck…I still forgot 5 phone calls I really needed to make…I didn’t mail that really important letter…I totally forgot that bill that was due today…I remembered too late to call and make that appointment…I left the wet laundry in the wash too long and it needs to be redone…the garden still needs to be weeded…the car didn’t get cleaned out…I forgot to get my son to write thank you notes for his birthday which was 3 months ago…that reminds me, I forgot to have my children write Christmas thank you notes too…I forget more than I remember lately. And then I beat myself up for things because I’m not teaching my children to be thankful, organized, tidy…FAIL!!!

When I get like this my dear friend and prayer partner reminds me that there is no condemnation in Christ. Romans 8:1 says, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” There is another verse I really like that kind of piggy backs on that… 1 John 3:19-23 says, “By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.” I love that God knows everything, knows my heart, and still doesn’t condemn me. Believe me! I know my heart and I definitely deserve to be condemned! How greatly He loves me! I’m in awe.

So as much as I want to condemn myself for my failure to live up to my expectations, God doesn’t. He loves me despite my failures…despite my response to all the crummy stuff happening in my world right now. I’m so thankful because I don’t feel terribly lovable. Just ask my kids…the dishwasher really does make me fussy. My bad attitude must be showing because all my kids are actually taking turns washing the dishes!

I’m praying next week won’t be so difficult. I’m praying that there will be no more broken things, no more sickness, no unexpected doctors or dentist appointments, and maybe a to do list that actually has a happy ending!

Oh…and maybe a massage!!!

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Peace Part Two

It will come as no surprise that since I wrote about peace my life has been anything but peaceful.  Seriously, why is that?  Whenever I lead a Bible study, I live the lesson.  Apparently, my blogging experience is going to be similar.

So, this week….peace did not transcend all understanding at all.  There have been emergency visits to dentists which ended with both mother and child in tears.  There have been rashes, splinters, stings, and headaches.  There has been a broken dishwasher, a twice flooded basement, and countless household tasks piling up around me.  There have been unexpected bills (but also some unexpected checks too!)  There have been exceedingly difficult parenting situations and extended bedtimes because of bad attitudes. There are looming deadlines, forgotten phone calls and appointments, and college forms needing to be completed ASAP.

I’ve struggled with fear of the future, health issues and extended family concerns.  It’s not just that I have a stressful life, it’s that I feel stressed.  The phrase “twisted in knots” makes perfect sense to me. But those verses in Philippians say to pray and be thankful and not to be anxious…I’m determined to live this verse.  Determined.

In a couple of weeks I will be leading the music for our church’s VBS.  One of the songs has the refrain, “Everything is possible with God.  Anything is possible with God.”  We will sing it over and over and over…and I love it.  It’s like preaching the gospel to myself.  The more I say it the more I believe it.  By the end of the song I’m so hopeful of what God is going to do in our family and in each of our lives that I can’t help but sense His peace in my heart.  Maybe I need to record it on my phone and have it ring every 30 seconds.

So this peace thing…the whole guarding our hearts and minds thing…is actually quite simple but also exceedingly beautiful.  I was looking for some amazingly complex definition or translation of the word “guard” – alas it is quite what you would think.    My Expository Dictionary of Bible Words says “to protect as something precious.”  But what my ESV Bible study notes said regarding the peace of God really touched me, “This is the direct answer to the prayer of anxiety.  Things that cannot be fully comprehended can nonetheless be peacefully experienced by those who are “in Christ.””  I think that says it all.  My heart and my mind are precious to God.  He makes sure that my heart is safe and secure and my mind is stable and focused through His peace.  That peace is a direct result of knowing who I am and whose I am because of Jesus.

I’m thankful for the reminder that my peace is NOT based on my circumstances. Unfortunately this week I have very much allowed it to be and in the process I have been grumpy, fussy and downright rotten.  Isn’t that funny — I’ve become like one of my children when they are disobedient!  I probably perpetuaded the lack of peace because I completely forgot that my peace is in Christ not a clean home, a dry basement, healthy & happy children, and a good night’s rest.  All those things are lovely, but ultimately the “peace which passes all understanding” will fill me when I trust Jesus with the good and the bad days.

I pray that our good days will outnumber our bad days…and that regardless of the ratio we will find our peace in Christ!

Recently I took my 5 sweeties out to dinner.  It was an unexpectedly delightful evening.  I even had a lady come up to the table and comment that my children were very well behaved!  Wow! Did the earth stop rotating for a second?

Usually when all of us go anywhere there is a fair amount of noise, confusion and general bedlam.  I have one child in particular that knows how to bring the “party” – and by that I mean the chaos. Her parties completely stress me out.  How can someone so small cause such mayhem?

She is challenging and sometimes a bit rotten.  And I love her fiercely.  God has put a very special affection for her in my heart.  I know that He made me specifically to be her Mommy.  I’m comforted and blessed by that because sometimes I feel inadequate to the task.

Tonight I had an epiphany.  I was praying for my youngest daughters at bedtime.  Just moments earlier she was having a fit – being openly defiant and talking back.  I was remaining calm (praise God!) and praying that I was responding appropriately.  I finally convinced her to be still and I got on my knees between my little girls’ beds and began to pray.  I was praying for God’s peace which passes all understanding to guard her heart and her mind in Christ Jesus and then I remembered that the first part of that passage of scripture applied just as much to the current situation.  Philippians 4:6-7 ‘”Do not be anxious about anything but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

The last couple of days have been very difficult ones especially with this beautiful little person.  She has challenged all that I thought I knew about parenting.  And I’m pretty sure she enjoys every minute of it!  Sometimes I can become very anxious about our future – hers and mine.  I worry what the teenage years are going to be like if I don’t figure out how to deal with some of her stuff…and my stuff.  Tonight when I was praying for peace those words about not being anxious came back to me.  It struck me that I was allowing fear to get a foothold. I was holding tightly to my anxious thoughts instead of praying about them.

He says to not be anxious about ANYTHING and to pray to Him about EVERYTHING.  The cool thing about God is that He doesn’t exaggerate ever. He tells it like it is…always.  He can use words like anything, everything, always and never with abandon because He means it.  I can’t say “always” or “never” because I don’t know what’s going to happen in the next 30 seconds much less beyond that!  God doesn’t want me to worry about anything in my life. He wants me to let Him handle everything and that includes my littlest girl, my two teenagers, my middle schooler, my kindergartener…and me.

Then God makes it interesting – He doesn’t just say to pray about everything – He says to be thankful about it all too.  I’ve shared before that God has shown me the beauty of being grateful.  It’s amazing how I can find things to thank Him for when I actually look.  So tonight instead of complaining about how difficult it is to parent my children, I thanked Him for each one.  I thanked Him for my children individually and for how they had changed my life for the better.  It was such a refreshing time of rediscovery.  Sometimes I get so mired down in the day to day living and dealing with things, that I forget to really look at my children for the blessings that they are to me.

The final part is the best — “and the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” — it isn’t just going to cover you or fill you, it’s going to guard your heart and your mind.  Wow!   I never thought about that before.  Those two parts of me – my heart and my mind – need some serious peace.  One is broken and one is questionable in is functionability.  I think I’m going to take some time to check out exactly what all that implies for my life, but this post is already way too long.  So tomorrow (or someday soon when I have a minute or two) I’ll share what God shows me about His peace and what guarding my heart and mind really means for me – and you!

I pray that tonight God’s peace will pour over you completely, fill you to overflowing and guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus!

thinking thankfully

ImageI’m sitting on the deck of a beach house in the Outer Banks.  It is simply beautiful.  I have a deadline for a writing project and I thought this would be an ideal location to work.  Alas, it is not.  Everytime I sneak out to the balcony to work, children follow.  At the moment two children just joined me.  Here are the things they have asked, “Mom, if we went straight out acoss the ocean where would we end up?”  I guessed the South of France, but I’m severly geographically challenged so I could be way off.  The second child asked me, “Why the water looked blue from  here and green up close.”  I didn’t really have the scientific answer for that one either…I said something like, “It’s cool, isn’t it!”  

Now there are four children out here and I’ve had to stop because of an injury and some serious wailing.  Honestly, every time I put this silly laptop on my lap someone wants to join it!  And regardless of deadlines, my children have to be my top priority.  I just can’t tell weeping children to wait.  Unfortunately, at this point, I’m ready to because the interuptions have been extreme and I’m seriously sleep deprived and a tad annoyed.  I should just figure out how to work under all conditions, especially sleepy and frustrated because I think as a working mom that is my lot in life.  Lot in life…that sounds kinda negative.  I don’t think of being a single mom as being such a horrid existence..it’s just not ideal and it is definitely difficult. 

And sometimes I must remind myself that I am blessed…why do I need to remind myself?  It should be second nature…thinking thankfully.  Especially considering the view that stretches out before me right at this moment. I know that God has called me to write so I will trust that He will provide the time to do it.  And maybe I just need to rise before the sun and write while it rises.  That certainly would be inspirational!  And maybe I can sit by the little pool we brought,avoid the splashes, and edit some pages.  And maybe I’ll work to enjoy my children instead of viewing them as a distraction.  They are such a lovely distraction…most of the time. 🙂

Lord, thank you for the beautiful view that is right before me.  Thank you for generous parents who will splurge on a week at the beach with my crazy crew — generous and brave!  Thank you for my teenagers who will help me when I really need it!  Thank you that I have children who come to me when they need comfort, answers to silly and serious questions, and just to share the view.  Thank you Father that you have given me the opportunity and privilege of sharing with others what you have done and are doing in my life.  I am truly blessed Lord…blessed because of you!

Now Grandma has joined me…I think I’ll stop writing and start visiting…at least Grandma doesn’t want to sit on my lap!