Joyfully Enduring

Endurance:  n. 1. The act, quality, or power of withstanding hardship or stress.  2.  The state or fact of persevering: continuing survival.

MP900163580 (1)This past weekend I was blessed to hear a sermon about endurance. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to take notes because I’d left my purse, Bible and notebook in the car in my mad dash to be relatively close to on-time for the service. I do not understand why I can get all my kids to school on time, but can’t seem to make it to church before the first worship song.

    Anyway, notes or no notes, I want to share what God has been showing me.

Lately I’ve been in a tired and overwhelmed place…an unusual place for me. I’m usually the goofy one…the one who laughs too loud (which my children are constantly making fun of), the one who wears the rose-colored glasses, the one who can find something amusing about most things.

Not as much anymore. I think its life. I kinda got kicked in the fanny and sometimes it’s a bit more difficult to find anything really amusing in this place I find myself.
One friend recently asked if I was all right because my writing is so much more serious than it used to be. I was a bit bummed to hear that but replied that I’m okay, just dealing a little bit more seriously with things…things are a little bit more serious, after all. But this serious side of things and me is just no fun…I’d like to figure out how to do this with more joy.

I used to do the joy thing better. Even after my husband left I think I “got it” better than I do now. I believe it’s because life is hard and, as many pastors say, this life is not a sprint, it’s a marathon…I think it might be more of a triathlon…but with WAY more than 3 legs. Just when I finish one leg relatively successfully or even just barely, another one starts…ugh.

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

Joy in trials.

That seems impossible, but I can attest that God gives joy even in the midst of great suffering. I have seen it in my life and in the lives of others.

Joy – not a giddy happiness nor an absence of sorrow – but a peace which passes all understanding guarding our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7).

There is a grace to walking with joy. I believe when God tells us to walk in a manner worthy of our calling…it’s to walk with joy. To endure this life of sojourning…to wholeheartedly believe that God loves us, has a purpose in each moment of our lives, and that His plan is perfect…and to know the joy of trusting Him with our eternal future.

And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. May you be strengthened with all power according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. Colossians 1:9-14

Awesome verses. I hadn’t realized that there would be a reference to endurance and joy in them. I love how God brings us to just the right passage without us even knowing we are headed there.

What an interesting phrase – for all endurance and patience with joy – I’m intrigued by the word “all” – all endurance with joy…all patience with joy.

I think that all is similar to the all in count it all joy from James. Part of me wants to find some curious thing about the word all, but I’m pretty sure the word all means all. My thesaurus uses these words among others, “entire, whole, total, integral, any and every, each, nothing but, totally.” I guess that means that there isn’t a time when I shouldn’t have joy…every time I’m enduring something or patiently dealing with something I choose joy.

Joy beyond happiness.

Enduring adj. abiding, firm, never-failing, steadfast, steady, unfaltering, unqualified, unquestioning, wholehearted

Maybe that’s the secret to enduring? Joy.

Joy that I have the Lord. Joy that the Lord is all that I really need. Joy that there is freedom in Christ. Joy that I’m forgiven. Joy that my inheritance is secure. Joy that sorrow may last for a night, but more joy comes in the morning.

And somehow or another I believe peace is tied in there. Peace that God isn’t just letting my life fly willy-nilly wherever the wind takes me…He has a plan and it is good. Peace that He will never leave me nor forsake me. Peace that God is good, faithful and kind, slow to anger and abounding in love.

Peace makes me think of Philippians 4:6-7 which reminds me to not be anxious about anything but in everything give thanks.

I believe that is the other ticket to endurance…thankfulness.

I cannot deny I’m blessed when I begin looking for and focusing on the good things in my life. God is absolutely working in my life, and He is so very faithful and loving to me. I can even look back and find things that I wouldn’t necessarily have described as “good” that I can now be grateful for because of their part in making me who I am now. Maybe that’s the testing of my faith that produces steadfastness that leads to me lacking nothing? (James 1:2-4 again )

Once again, I’m reminded that my joy, my peace, my ability to give thanks, and my endurance are all because of my Savior. It is not because I can make myself joyful, peaceful, grateful or strong on my own…I know I can’t. But with Christ, I can be all those things and more. I know that God will bless me with the ability to endure.

I totally didn’t follow the sermon I heard on Sunday…see what happens when I don’t take notes!! Stream of consciousness writing…yikes!

Lord, I pray we will know your peace, that thankfulness will be nurtured in our hearts and you will give us the grace to live joyfully no matter the circumstances of our lives.
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Thessalonians 5:16-18

Definitions taken from:
Webster’s Collegiate Thesaurus (1976) and The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (1973)

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Repeat Offender…Me

sunset

Isn’t it just the way…when you start talking a lot about something, it becomes something big in your life?  Even if it already was a big thing.

I’ve been really blessed to share a lot about my story lately.  And a big part of my story is forgiveness.  I can’t overemphasis its importance in my life.

Apparently, God doesn’t want me to forget it…forgiveness for me and forgiveness for others.

Today I woke up feeling such a burden to pray…to ask for forgiveness.  I have struggled with many things over the past several years.  I seem to continually struggle with the same dumb things over and over and over again.  I do the same thing repeatedly and feel like God must be getting tired of my requests for forgiveness.  I don’t understand how He couldn’t weary of me.  And yet, I know that He never tires of my repentance even if it is for the same repeated offense.

I wonder…

Do I offer that kind of forgiveness…ever? 

There are 5 other people in my family.  Five people to forgive and be forgiven by.  What do I teach my children about forgiveness?

I know they know that it’s important.  But what about when it’s a repeated offense?  I don’t think I’ve taught that one well.

I have a child that tends toward lying.  Absolutely heartbreaking.  This child, who I’ll call Repeat Offender, is quick to ask forgiveness when there’s no way around it.  A few days ago Repeat Offender said, “I’m sorry Mom. Please forgive me.”  And I said, “Yeah, I forgive you, but seriously how many times are you gonna do this?  It’s kinda hard to believe your repentance is real when I know you are just gonna do it again.”

Did I seriously say that to my child?

I mean I know it’s a valid question to some degree…but not a valid SPOKEN question to a child!  I said out loud to Repeat Offender what I pray God never says to me, an absolute repeat offender.  At 40-something (ahem) I find myself still struggling with so much I thought I’d be past by now.  I’m so disappointed with myself. 

How could I deny forgiveness to anyone?  I need so much of it myself.

The Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him?  As many as seven times?’  Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.”  Matthew 18:21-22

I’m so Peter. 

“So Jesus, let’s be serious here.  How many times do I really need to forgive someone?  You know when they keep doing the same thing over and over, it’s like 7 times right?  That’s pretty generous.”

And Jesus, He just basically says, “As many times as it takes.”

Drat.  Really?  Because sometimes that is sooooo difficult.  I mentioned Repeat Offender, but seriously, my ex-husband challenges me the most.  The residual of his original offense makes forgiveness a constant battle.  I keep having to practice forgiveness.  I keep having to say, “I forgive” even when I KNOW that tomorrow there is likely going to be another thing to forgive. 

 And yet, that’s me too.  Like Peter, Repeat Offender, and my ex-husband, I need to receive a healthy dose of forgiveness daily.  I think I’m realizing I also need to offer it. 

I’m so thankful that God isn’t like me.  I’m so glad He keeps no record of wrong.

For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.  As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him.  Psalm 103:11-13

That measurement…as far as the east is from the west…that’s not even a measurement.  How do you measure that? 

God is so good.  I wish I was worthy of His love the way I want to be.  I know that I don’t have to be worthy of it or earn it.  I know that it is free.  I know that He died for me before I could even request saving…before I even knew I needed saving. 

“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.”  Romans 5:6

He loves us with more compassion and grace than I can comprehend.

Relentlessly.

God forgives me so much every day.  May I be able to offer that blessed gift to all who ask for it and even those who don’t.

“… for I will forgive their iniquity and I will remember their sin no more.”  Jeremiah 31:34

Not the List I Wanted to Make

list pic

I’ve been feeling all twisted up in knots.  If I could attach a video (which I probably can but honestly the thought of trying to figure out how and trying to look good enough in it kinda twists me up in more knots) you’d see me waving my hands all over the place to symbolize how my chest feels inside – all frenetic.

There’ve been many things in the last four years that I’ve felt more acutely than I thought possible – physical reactions to emotional things.  A broken heart really does feel broken.  A lump in my throat really does make it difficult to swallow.  And stress really can feel crushing on the chest. 

Lately, I’ve felt a heavy chest burden pressing down on me.  I’ve felt on the edge of tears often…and have even hidden in my closet and jumped over that edge a few times.  I was trying to explain it to a friend. I just couldn’t say exactly why…all I could say was that the last four years have made me very tired and I feel like a just want to hide – preferably in a nice house on the ocean.

I began listing a few of the things that are doing me in – individually a fair number of them seemed absurd while others seemed ridiculously overwhelming.  My friend struggled to understand…asked questions I had no answers for. I just couldn’t figure out what to say.  I was beginning to feel like I was losing my ever-loving mind.  My poor dear friend.

When I got off the phone I decided that it might help to take the time to write everything out….to make a list of everything that causes me stress.  Definitely not the list I wanted to make.  It was a lot longer than I thought it would be.  And I’d left off lots of things that drive me bonkers…wet towels on the floor, never-ending laundry, things opened and not closed, those potential science experiments developing in the cup holders in the backseat of the car, the food left out on the counter, the rust stain streaking down and the green stuff growing up the side of my house, the giant crack in my front steps, the river that occasionally runs through my backyard, contacts that rip, crockpots that crack…oh and taxes.  Golly, I just made another list! 

The list that I made was a bit unusual as lists go, but it really helped to see it all in front of me and I realized that I’m not crazy.  I actually do have a lot on my plate…and there are a lot of issues in my life. 

At a Bible study in college, we did an exercise that impacted me greatly.  We wrote some of the things we struggled with or regrets we had on little slips of paper.  We then put all the slips of paper in a flowerpot, put the flowerpot in a towel, and smashed it to smithereens.  It was cathartic.  In a very visual way, it demonstrated that when we give things to God they are dealt with…our sins are forgiven and our issues resolved. 

I believe that idea works well with things that cause stress in our lives.  In a sense, I had to write mine down so that I could recognize that I wasn’t being irrational and overemotional.  It also helped me to understand that I’m at a point where I really and truly can’t handle all that God has allowed in my life.  I just can’t.  So if I can’t handle things, what do I do?  It’s easy to SAY just let God handle it…beware of any sentence that includes the word “just”…it’s always a doozey.  I’m trying to let God handle things, but I’d really like to know what His plan is… you know, where we are headed, when we are going to get there, who is going to be involved, and our mode of transportation. He does not often share those insights with me.  I believe I’m supposed to move forward with a small flashlight and trust that He’s guiding the beam. 

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.  Psalm 119:105

Oh that I was better at that trust thing. 

Mentally I get it…I KNOW I can trust God with the big and little things, but I still FEEL like I should be doing something to make things better, to make things work out properly.  I guess the point is that I don’t know how to fix most things and I don’t know what “fixed” really looks like anyway.  Even as I write this I can’t seem to let go of my desire to get things where I think they should be.  Let me give you an example:

I’ve got children who are struggling with things.  Things I feel like I should have been able to help them avoid.  There are things I can’t seem to be consistent on.  Boundaries I can’t seem to keep hard and fast…I’m sorta soft and slow on things.  I’m fearful I will lose my most important battles if I don’t get tougher.  That stresses me out.  Why can’t I trust that God loves my children more than me…that He will completely take care of things? I carry a burden I shouldn’t – I need to carry His not mine.  His is easy and light…mine is suffocating me.

And yet, I have a responsibility to raise my children well.  I can’t just throw my hands up and do a “Jesus take the wheel” thing.  I actually have to do something!  It’s the something that’s getting me.  I know that God is teaching me to not base my self-worth on what I accomplish or how well I do what He has called me to do.  He wants me to love Him and love others.  I believe if I could just stop trying to change everything and everyone, I might actually end up loving God and others much better.  

Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.  1 Peter 4:8

I wish I had some final words of wisdom…some grand revelation I could share that would untie my knots and yet tie this post up with a lovely little bow.  I don’t have one right now.  I’ve been trying to figure one out and I think I’m realizing that this is part of the process of healing and growing and learning.  And it’s okay not to have the answer or the pretty bow right now.  But I promise as soon as I do, I’ll share!

What I do know…God is faithful and He will provide all that I need to accomplish all He has called me to do. 

I can do all things through him who strengthens me.  Philippians 4:13

so yeah…let’s pray

flat tire photoSo yeah… this week.
I’ll just give you the highlights otherwise it’ll seem like I’m writing my second book!
And I’ll try to keep it funny.
Monday – dental fillings….enough said.
Tuesday – locked my keys in my car. Oh but I didn’t just lock my keys in the car…nope. I locked my keys AND my spare keys in the car. So I called my dear friend and prayer partner, Anna, who was kind enough to come get me on her way to another appointment. As we and 4 of our children traveled up 95N we heard a funny noise and then an even funnier noise…and then we realized there was nothing funny about it. It was that disconcerting kerflump sound of a flat tire. We pulled over to the side of the road as far off as we could get which meant the car was leaning at quite an angle. As I opened my door to go have a look, I actually fell out of the car – which I gotta admit was pretty funny. What wasn’t funny, was Anna getting out of the car and having the door slam shut on her finger. It looked like she had broken her middle finger which I teased her was just an excuse to express her feelings about the day. My wonderful son and his friend came and got all the children, while Anna and I waited for roadside assistance. We laughed a lot. It might have been a bit more like hysterical laughter at times. Especially when a house on a trailer passed by us. I joked that that was exactly what I needed for my next blog…”and then a house hit us!”
I was so glad I was there when her tire blew. I was thankful that she wasn’t alone on a major highway with her three kids. I teased that I was such a sweet friend to sacrificially lock my keys in my car so I could be with her when her tire blew. She said I should be thankful for such a kind friend who gives me so much writing material! True…she speaks truth. I’m so very thankful for her. And I’m thankful that God uses the craziest things to meet our needs and bless us. I needed a ride and she needed company. I always need material and I will always need Anna.
Praise God it all worked out…My keys are no longer on the inside of my car, my friend’s tire is no longer wobbly, and although Anna’s finger is still very crooked and swollen, it is not broken!
But my day didn’t end there…that night as the children waited with anticipation for a big snowstorm to hit, the house became decidedly chillier – no heat. Yup. Nothing like good timing. Although I will say it was fine…just annoying.
And today, the dishwasher broke…again. And everything costs money…I’m no longer getting nickeled and dimed, I’m getting “hundredth’d” and “thousandth’d” to death!
BUT, and this is a big but, I have perspective. I have a dear friend fighting for her life unexpectedly. I can’t seem to complain about my life…well, I guess I just did…but seriously, I’m sorta just making fun of things. My friend is a fighter and so many people are praying for her. And once again I am reminded that we have an awesome God.
I wish I could do something for her, her husband, and their four children – the youngest is 1 week old. Everything is covered so I can’t really do anything practical for them. And then I remember that the thing that meant the most to me when I was going through our family’s implosion, was absolutely and positively prayer. Oh, I totally appreciated, more than I can say, all the help and love and encouragement, but the prayer! That was powerful.
And I can do that! I can pray. I can pray when I wake up and when I lie down. I can pray as I walk and as I work. I can pray all the time. I can pray without ceasing. I can live with an attitude of prayer. And I can do the very best thing for my friend by praying.
I prayed for keys to magically appear when I was standing in the parking lot. I prayed for safety as we sat on 95N with a flat tire. And I prayed for my friend’s hurt finger. And now I’m praying for my sweet sick friend and her dear family. I’m praying for healing, hope, and health. I’m praying for God’s peace which passes all understanding to guard their hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. And I’m praying that God will use me in some way to bless them. But I believe praying does indeed bless them. It is intangible, but powerful. It is invisible but strong. It is awesome and wonderful.
So this week…yeah…it’s been a bit of bear, but God once again has reminded me that He is all I need. He is all we all need. And He is ready and willing to listen to our prayers! Let’s pray!!
PS If you think of it, please pray for my friend , her husband and their 4 sweet children.

My Newest MomLife Today post!

This month at www.MomLifeToday.com we are dealing with that age-old mommy problem – anger.  Mom’s March MADness! 

I know that I struggle with this…it’s so easy to get overwhelmed and feel frustrated.  There are days when fire and smoke spew from my ears and words I’d rather keep to myself spill from my lips.  It’s definitely a huge prayer in my life…that God would give me the strength to rise about the frustrations. I would like to really show the fruit of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22).  After all God has already given them to me…why is it so difficult to use them, show them, and offer them? I believe this is another one of those things I do in God’s strength…with God’s perspective.  Let us join together and pray that God will give us an overflowing of the fruit of the Spirit in our lives so that we can bless our children.  And maybe stop the smoke and fire :)! 

Colorful Aspen Pines Against Deep Blue SkyStruggle

I think I use that word too much.  I think I should use a different word more often. Maybe…conquering.

 Don’t feel much like a conqueror.

 And yet, God tells me I am.

 “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”  Romans 9:37

 More?  More than conquerors?  Mind-boggling. 

 Sometimes I feel like all I do is struggle.  Struggle with fear.  Struggle with worry.  Struggle with anger.  Struggle with frustration.  Struggle with weariness.  Struggle with being overwhelmed.  Struggle with feeling like a failure or that failure is imminent. Struggle with not being the godly woman I desperately want to be. 

Lately I’ve felt like I just have got to get this struggle thing under control.  I just have to…I keep struggling with the same blasted things over and over again.  My sins are so annoying.

Things I thought I’d dealt with…I’d determined to overcome…have snuck up on me again.   How is that possible?  I honestly don’t understand how I can be so convicted and seek forgiveness and restoration and then slide right back into them.  Really?  Am I serious??

Last night I prayed and wept to God again at my continual slipping and sliding in my relationship with Him.  I love Him so much.  I want my life to honor Him…I mean really honor Him.  Not just a little bit…not just when I sing at church or write an article full of Scriptural references, but when life is challenging and overwhelming and frightening and just not what I planned, I want it to glorify Him.

Today was a no school day. Also known as a “no-get-anything-done” day. 

So I got nothing done. 

Well, I mean nothing I planned on doing.  And on top of that, it was a lovely day, and did I take my kids outside to play?  Nope.  I fussed at them for making messes inside and spent the day cleaning up after them without offering a better alternative.  Poor planning.  Poor attitude.  Poor children.  Instead of facing an unplanned day with a smile and some spontaneity, I tried to do it all and pleased no one!  I wish I’d taken advantage of the day with my kids – done something together…something fun.  Ugh.  Fail.

Lest, I sound like I’m hopeless.  Let me share what God is showing me.  Let me show you the sweetness of my Savior.  O How He loves me!

It might be a familiar verse but how sweet it is to my ears and my heart:

Romans 8:1-4

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.  For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who did not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

Its so easy for me to focus on my mistakes and failures…there are enough of them!  But God does not desire that I live in defeat.  He does not condemn me…I keep being drawn back to 1 John 3:1,16, 18-24

See what kind of love the Father has given us that we should be called children of God; and so we are…. By this we know love that he laid down his life for us and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers…Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.  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.  Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him.  And by this we know that he abides in us, but the Spirit whom he has given us.

If God knows everything about me and yet does not condemn me, I don’t think I should do it either!

I believe my desire to live my life in a manner worthy of my calling (Ephesians 4:1) pleases God.  I believe that my sins are forgiven and thrown as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12) – that’s pretty far away.  I believe that God calls me to live a life of victory – “But thanks be to God, who gives us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:57) I believe God is making me into the woman He designed me to be…despite me. 

May we rest in the knowledge that

God is a “God ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love” (Nehemiah 9:17b)

Jesus knows.

“Since then 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

Jesus helps.

 “…for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” 2 Timothy 1:7

 Jesus does not leave us…ever.

 “Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who drawn near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.”  Hebrews 7:25

 Live by confident and courageous faith.

 “Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised.  For, “Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay; but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.”  But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.”  Hebrews 10:35-39

There is hope and a future for us.

 “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.  Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own.  But one thing I do:  forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 3:12-15

 Thanking God that even the struggle reminds me of how loving and faithful my God is to me.

 GOD IS GOOD ALL THE TIME!!!

ALL THE TIME GOD IS GOOD!!!