Wanna Take a Look Back with Me?

IMG_6116The other night…can’t remember which one…I had the absolute best idea about a New Year’s blog.  I was so excited and completely sure that I’d wake with no problem remembering the topic.

No such luck…I only woke with a remembrance that I had something I was going to remember.

Bummer.

So I’m left trying to figure out what I want to write about as we begin 2014.

For the last several years I’ve ended each with a hope and prayer that the new year would be drama-free.

So far…not so much.

But I’ve decided that instead of writing about next year, I’m going to first write about this past year.

2013 was not without its share of drama, trauma, and sadness, but it also offered lots of hope, opportunities and joys.

The biggest thing to happen was the death of my Dad – which although it was most definitely exceedingly sad and difficult (still is), it also provided me which much to be thankful and joyful for.  There were moments this year with my Dad that I will cherish always.  And there is such a lovely comfort in knowing that my Dad is experiencing the peace and joy of being in God’s presence…something he desperately longed for near the end of his life.

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My Daddy on Father’s Day!

Being with my Dad in his final days and hours was challenging and at times a bit terrifying, but I found myself longing for heaven like I never have before.  Most definitely for him…and in God’s timing for all of us as well.  What a wonderful inheritance we have!!!

The second biggest thing was the publication of my book, When Happily Ever After Shatters.  I can’t thank Focus on the Family and Tyndale Publishing enough for taking a chance on me and my story.  I pray that it will continue to encourage, bless, and help readers for years to come.

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My book on the shelf!

And between those two big things, there were many things both big and small which caused me to struggle, to rejoice, and to grow.

Good golly!  There is no end to the opportunities for growth when you are a parent. I feel like each day I come face to face with a new facet of me that needs to be dealt with…usually its seeing my sin issues played out with near “perfection” in the behavior of my children.  At times I can get quite disheartened by it, but I believe God wants me see those discouraging displays as opportunities.

Those moments of revelation are also moments in which I can praise God…I can thank Him for showing me what I need to pray for in my life and the lives of my children.

Speaking of my children…they simply have to be at the top of my thankful list.

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My Best Blessings!

My oldest son is back home this year…saving money by going to community college and working.  I’m so proud of him.  And so very thankful for him.  He’s an absolutely stellar young man who also has a wonderfully witty way about him.  I’m praying that he will feel God’s leading and be given great wisdom and discernment as he looks and moves forward in life.
My oldest daughter is being homeschooled for high school this year and I’m so thankful to see the kind of young woman she is becoming.  It’s such an encouragement to see her mature.  She took on a job as the sole nursery provider for an area homeschool group and has gotten nothing but praise and thanks from the parents.  I continue to pray for her faith to grow and for her to be a compassionate and gracious woman.

My middle son is also homeschooled (junior high) and it has been such fun to spend time with him.  I’m thankful for his desire to grow to be a godly man and his kind and loving attitude towards others.  He is always willing to help out anyone who asks.  He’s also a kickin’ soccer player!   I’m praying that he will choose to spend his time in noble pursuits and that his desire will be for God.

My 2nd oldest daughter is in 1st grade and I’m so very grateful that she is beginning to show improvement at school!  God is so good! She has taken on some responsibilities at home and is eager to help (most of the time J!) I’m praying for her to have great academic success, but more importantly to have a greater understanding of how loved she is by God!

My youngest daughter is doing very well in school which is also a huge praise.  She is feisty and fun and I’m so thankful for her.  Her teacher says she is the star student – always helping, paying attention, and kind to her friends. I’m praying for her to feel God’s peace in her heart and to rest in His love for her.

As it has been for the past many, many years, I’m continually in awe of the friends and family God has blessed me with.  They continue to walk beside me, love me and put up with all my ridiculousness.

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And, proving that God is kinder than imaginable, He even blessed me with new friendships…friends who read my blogs, my articles or my book and reach out to encourage me.  I’m so thankful for the emails, messages, and comments.  They always seem to come at just the right time.

Even as I sit on the hallway floor outside two little girls’ rooms, listening to one weep out a strong-willed girls frustration and the other cough and sniffle from allergies, I’m reminded how blessed I am…despite the sniffles and sobs J.  I have a house.  I have beds for my children.  Their bellies are full and their clothes are comfy.  I have a laptop computer to write on wherever I want to.  I have children who help (with some cajoling) and I have friends who generously listen, support, and encourage.

I am so fortunate to have such a faithful God.

One of my favorite songs just started playing – How He Loves Me by David Crowder.

He is jealous for me,

Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree

Bending beneath the weight of his wind and mercy

When all of a sudden,

I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory,

And I realize just how beautiful You are

And how great Your affections are for me.

I love the line, “When all of a sudden, I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory…”

The Lord continually reminds me that my focus must be on Him.  And when it is, EVERYTHING else is diminished, faded, reduced, lessened, and…well…eclipsed.

God and all His glory outshines all.

All the fears, worries, sorrows, weariness, and frustrations which so often blind me to the truth of God’s love, mercy, and faithfulness, fade from my view.

And God is all I see.

I guess that is kind of what I’m trying to do with this New Year’s post.  I’m trying to remind myself of who He is and what He has done…not what hasn’t happened, or what happened that has broken my heart…I’m reminding myself of God’s faithfulness.

And as I look back and forward…and at the here and now…I’m seeing very clearly the glory that outshines all other things.

The beauty of God’s faithfulness, provisions, and love even though I have failed more often than not…or at least it feels that way sometimes…even though some things haven’t gone exactly as planned…even though there are many disappointments and sorrows in single parenting and this life…God continues to bring me beauty.

This new year I’m going to lay down at His feet all my hopes and dreams for my kids and for me.  Because after looking back over this past year, I’m confident He can handle it all.

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Whole Magazine – Longing for Home

Grand Teton National ParkI’ve been so blessed to have the opportunity to write for Whole Magazine.  I hope you enjoy the post.

Not to sound like a cheesy 70s song but I’ve had heaven on my mind.  In a beautiful way God has been reminding me of the wonderful future He has prepared for me – and you!

Just some thoughts about our glorious future!

Do You Transition Well?

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It’s been five years and still I struggle with transitions.

I would have thought by now there’d be no problem whatsoever when my ex-husband picked up our children.

And yet…there is

There is no conflict between him and me…no issues of arguing or glaring or anything…it’s just the transition.

It’s not like I even think about it.  It just IS awkward.

And tonight was no different.

My ex-husband is often late and no matter how hard I try to get my kids organized there is always a measure of chaos when he arrives.

Even though he’s late we can’t seem to be ready.

Tonight was no exception.

Let me set up the scene for the disaster.

It was our only night for my children and me to decorate our tree together because of school, work and bedtime schedules.  And because it was their night with their dad we had about an hour to do it.

I was ready.  Dinner was made.  All the boxes of decoration had been brought up.  The stage was set for a lovely hour of decorating.

And we had a lot of fun even though not all the children were excited to be decorating.  My 7 year old escaped outside to play with the neighbors, my 12 year old had a very difficult time getting his face away from his IPod, and my 16 year old lasted about 15 minutes before she needed food.  It ended up being my 6 year old and me decorating with my 19 year old keeping us entertained.  A tad goofy but still good!

As our hour to decorate became an hour and a half, my little girls worried they were going to miss a special math and science event at their school.  They’d been talking about it for weeks.  I should probably have just taken them on time, but we had so much to do and I thought they would enjoy doing it with their dad.

When their dad did arrive, it seemed like everything just fell apart…including me.

My oldest daughter was up in her room doing her hair and makeup.  A bit on the bad timing side of things and absolutely unnecessary – she’s beautiful.

My shoeless middle son was frantically looking for his IPod which my oldest son had hidden (with my blessing).

My 7 year old was ready and at her father’s car almost before it stopped.  She wanted to get to school fast!  They were already 45 minutes late.

My 6 year old was shoeless and decided to redo her hair…only she can’t redo her hair.  She’s at the age where she can mess it up really well but absolutely not fix it.

Then my 7 year old came back in because the tinfoil hat she needed to wear to the school event was tearing.  She was close to tears.

As I was searching for tape to fix the hat, I glanced around and realized that my teenagers hadn’t done any of the things I’d asked them to do.

It just seemed like everything went kablooey.

I know I’m probably not sufficiently portraying the level of chaos in those few moments, but I figure you can catch the “feel” of the house regardless of my poor description.

Everyone going in different directions, lots of emotions, and dad waiting in the driveway.

I just wish I could keep calm, cool, and collected.  (Well, cool might be a stretch…at least according to my teenagers! :)!!)

I got annoyed with my youngest pulling all her hair clippies out.  I was frustrated that the few things I’d asked my middle son and high school daughter to do had not been done.  I was disappointed that my daughter went to do her hair and watch Netflix in her bedroom instead of staying downstairs with us, and she still wasn’t ready! I was a little miffed that my ex-husband was late and that meant the girls had missed half of the school event.  I was just a hot mess.

And I didn’t hide it. I oozed hot mess on everyone.

I don’t want to send my kids off with fussiness.  I hate that!

It isn’t always this way, but more often than I want, to be sure.

I just don’t know what exactly it is except that maybe it’s simply that I hate being divorced.  I hate sharing my children.

I miss evenings together.  I miss looking forward to my husband arriving home from work.  I miss family dinners and bedtimes together.  I miss going together to their school events and concerts.  I miss celebrating birthdays and holidays together. I miss so many things.

I hate that my children’s father isn’t here to decorate the tree with them.  To hold our youngest up to put ornaments on the highest branches.  To sip hot cocoa and eat cookies.  I miss Christmas shopping together for our children.  I miss Christmas Eve services and Christmas morning together.  I miss hosting a Christmas party together.  I miss caroling.  I miss it all.  All the togetherness.

Maybe the nights when he arrives in the driveway it’s just a reminder of all those things that are now gone.

And maybe we all get a little wonky because it just isn’t right.  The whole thing is just awfully wrong.

Children aren’t supposed to have to go back and forth between parents.  They are supposed to be with both of us!

I’m so grieved just thinking about it.

And yet here I sit, all pitiful and sad, looking at our beautiful tree and decorations, and I’m struck by how truly blessed I am.  Who every said life was going to be perfect…or even close to perfect?  Nobody.

It might just be that there will always be a little touch of sadness to everything even the joyful things.
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And maybe that is also just life on earth…this world is not our home.

This world…hmmmm…that makes me think about Christ coming here…leaving perfection to come to this sinful, sorrowful place.  How He became a man of many sorrows, acquainted with grief (Isaiah 53:3) for us.

Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteem him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.  But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.  Isaiah 53:4-5

It’s so easy to get overwhelmed by this life, isn’t it?  To focus on all the things that are amiss.  I can so easily get caught up in the things that aren’t going my way, and I can stay there for quite a while.  But we have a great Savior who wants to walk this life with us…who wants to carry our burdens.

We have a savior that didn’t just come here to change our eternity.  He came here to change our daily.  He came to give us all that we need to live a life of hope and joy right here – to live each day with us.

He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.  Isaiah 40:11

The Lord offers us strength and guidance.

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

Jesus doesn’t just want to help with the transitions, He wants to give us all that we need in every moment…and all that we need is Him!

Just as God delivered His people repeatedly, he has delivered us through the birth, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus! We have a blessed hope and reason for great joy!

For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth in singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.  Isaiah 55:12

Just reading those scriptures and all the others I glanced at while looking for them, has put my heart and mind in a completely different place.  I feel a great hope welling up in me.  A hope that even though this life is not and never will be exactly what I want it to be, God is going to make it something beautiful…even in the transitions.

Well this post didn’t go in the direction I thought it would.  I was just planning on saying that this season is a time to reflect on the hope and peace we have in Christ.  And God led me in a bit of a different direction!  I love when He does that.

I hope my stream-of-consciousness writing today blesses you.  And I pray that we will all have the perspective of peace and joy this day and everyday as we remind ourselves repeatedly of the beauty of the gospel!  Of the glorious intrusion of God into our world, our lives, our very selves.

Of a Savior who gladly gave up glory for grief to save his beloved children.

Oh Lord, please help us have the right perspective on this life.  There is so much to be joyful about.

Father, just look at those 5 beautiful children you’ve given me!  And I have a beautiful Christmas tree, a kitchen full of food, a pretty dependable car in the driveway, clothes for all my children, heat in my house, my house!, toys to trip over (could stand to have a few less of those) and friends and family who love us.

Not to mention this wonderful season of hope!  Thank you Father!  This is a time to remember the blessings – to not get all wiggy about the bad stuff…the difficult stuff…the challenging stuff…the disappointing stuff.

I do wiggy really well.  I need to do peaceful really well.

Lord, please help us find Your peace in the craziness and challenges and disappointments.  Father, you love us so much and we know that you are going to work through all this difficult stuff…even though at times we can’t imagine how.  Thank you that we can trust you.  And thank you for the hope of this Christmas season.  And thank you for our sweet Savior Jesus!

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Are You Under the Table Too?

Thanksgiving Feast

On a recent Sunday, my pastor spoke on Matthew 15:21-28. It’s an interesting passage.

The interchange between Jesus and a Canaanite momma imploring Him to heal her daughter is quite challenging.

Jesus doesn’t respond how we would expect.  He seems a bit rude.  (I can’t believe I just wrote that Jesus appeared rude.  That seems exceedingly cheeky on my part.)

Although I have to admit not necessarily understanding Jesus’ way in dealing with this Mom, I trust that He knew what He was doing.  I trust that He had a plan to bring her and even His disciples to a deeper understanding of Him and themselves.

My pastor said, “Jesus intentionally reaches out to us in ways we don’t like or understand in order to show us what we really need.”

Jesus is always intentional in His interaction with us.  Always was always will be.  All that the Lord allows to happen in our lives is purposeful… and God will use it all for good.

What got my attention in this passage wasn’t necessarily Jesus’ response, but the momma’s response to Jesus.

She was desperate and willing to do anything to get her daughter healed.  I think I’d be the same way. Persistent and insistent.

At first Jesus doesn’t answer her pleading.  In fact, His first words are not directed to her.  He responds to the disciples when they ask him to send her away because she’s annoying them.

He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” (v. 24)

I wonder if that wasn’t for the disciples in a way.  Maybe to challenge them to see her as a person in need rather than just a Canaanite.  I don’t know…my pastor didn’t mention that.  🙂

Her response is what gets me though.

But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” (v. 25)

She is undeterred.  She isn’t bitter or angry at Jesus’ words.  She knows that He is the source of her daughter’s healing.  Maybe what Jesus wants her to grasp is that He is also the source of her healing…her spiritual healing.

And He answered, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” (v. 26)

Again, she doesn’t take offense.  I think at this point I might have.  But not her, she is single-minded.  Being desperate definitely gives clarity of what’s important and what isn’t.

She knows the source of her help.

I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come.
My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.
Psalm 121:1-2

I found this to be true for myself.  When my husband announced his plans to leave, I was desperate to save my marriage.  The word desperate doesn’t even seem to capture the way I felt.  I couldn’t imagine losing my husband and the father of my children.  It just couldn’t happen!

I had clarity.  I knew it was all a God-sized task.  And I trusted that God was going to take care of things.

And even though I kept expecting God to answer one way, He very clearly answered another way…over and over and over again.

His answers shocked me at times, BUT He didn’t leave me.  He was there all the time.  And I knew, I knew, I could trust Him.  I knew that He was the only source of hope I had…even as I watched my marriage end.

I think that Canaanite momma got it.  She got that Jesus was the answer…the only hope she had.

After Jesus speaks to her, she answers, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.”

Wow!  She is solid.  She definitely gets it!

She gets that even a crumb from the Lord’s table is enough.

It reminds me of the woman who knew if she only grabbed hold of a tassel on Jesus’ robe she’d be healed. (Matthew 9:18-26)  And the Centurion who knew Jesus only had to speak and his servant would be healed. (Matthew 8:5-13)

Just a touch…just a word…just crumb…just Jesus!

They each knew His power to be great and trusted that even the smallest bit of it would provide what they needed.

So I’m thinking about how I relate to my Lord.  And I’m disappointed in myself.

I keep living under the table when I’ve been invited to the feast.

I don’t have to settle for a crumb – I have it all.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places… Ephesians 1:3

…having the eyes of your hearts enlightened that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. Ephesians 1:18-21

The same power that raised Jesus from the dead and seated Him at the right hand of God…the same power that created everything…the same power that God uses to fulfill his good and perfect will…is the same power that is at work in my life…in me!

That blows my mind.

Which begs the question why I don’t act like I have the power of God working in my life?  Why do I feel so defeated at times?

This weekend I had such a feeling of imminent failure.

It’s not unusual for me.  There are moments when it seems that everything is going to be ruined that isn’t already ruined.

How is that living for God’s glory?  How is that living with the joy of the Lord?

It’s not.

At all.

God says I can confidently approach His throne of grace knowing He can and will handle my problems.  I know that I can and I know that He wants me to, and yet I choose the struggle instead of His strength.

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 4:16

Unlike the Canaanite woman I don’t have to think I must settle for crumbs…I get to partake of the full feast!

The full feast of God’s love, mercy, peace, strength, and grace.

No crumbs of grace for this girl!  Even though a crumb is enough when it comes to Jesus…

He offers me so much more!

So let’s sit at the table and enjoy the bounty of God!

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith – that you, being rooted and grounded in love may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:14-19