Count it all what?

Image     I’ve been working for over a week on a post about counting it all joy.  And honestly I’m still unsure that I truly understand it as much as I’d like, but I decided that maybe what I need to do is share and see where God takes us…

Today I have two meetings that I’m a little bit dreading.

The first is this morning…it’s a child study meeting for one of my daughters.  This isn’t the first one.  Unfortunately they never go as I hope.  The people at her school are always kind as they say no to the assistance she truly needs.  It is heartbreaking for me.

And adding insult to injury, I must sit beside my ex-husband who will sometimes come.  Today will probably be one of those days.  I could just not tell him about the meetings, but that seems wrong.  Good for me, but wrong.

The other day I even thought, “If he were home he’d already know about these meetings, I wouldn’t have to tell him.  Maybe I just won’t remind him.”  Then I realized I can’t spend the rest of ever so many years punishing him for his horrible, hurtful decision. I forgave him and must take those thoughts captive.

Having him there is annoying, frustrating, and infuriating at times.  His portrayal of his involvement with our daughter is exceedingly exaggerated.  It makes me want to holler, “But he doesn’t help at all!!!”  He’s a fake!!!”  But why?  Well first and foremost, because I’m a sinner and I want things my way…but also because I want him to either step up or hush up…because I want things to be different…I want things to not hurt, to not frustrate…because I want joy.

I’m thinking maybe the idea of count it all joy fits my situation…even this silly situation with my ex-husband.  I just gotta figure out how.

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

Today my Bible study asked me, “What does it mean to count it all joy?”

Boy, is that a verse I’ve memorized and thought about and referenced a lot without ever truly pondering what it means.

And like I said, I’m pondering as I write…I don’t have an answer.  A feeling, yes.  An answer, not so much.

I know the reality of counting it all joy…I think.

I have known joy that makes no sense…

joy that pours over even the hardest season.

joy that comforts and strengthens.

joy that brings peace when all else seems chaotic.

And yet, even though I know that joy…do I truly “count it all joy.”

Drat, I don’t think I do.

When I saw that question this morning, I didn’t have an immediate answer, but I can see that God is answering it for me.

Recently I read a chapter in Corrie ten Boom’s book The Hiding Place with my children.  I love that book – highly recommend it.  If you are unfamiliar with the story, Corrie and her family hid Jews in Holland during WWII and were arrested.  This is her story.  It has layer upon layer of beautiful examples of God’s provision, faithfulness, and love in the worst of circumstances.

In the chapter we read this morning Corrie and her sister Betsie have just been transferred to an extermination camp in Germany.

This is part of the dialogue between Corrie and Betsie:

I wailed, “Betsie, how can we live in such a place!” 

“Show us.  Show us how.” It was said so matter of factly it took me a second to realize she was praying.  More and more the distinction between prayer and the rest of life seemed to be vanishing for Betsie.

“Corrie!” she said excitedly. “He’s given us the answer!  Before we asked, as He always does!  In the Bible this morning.  Where was it? Read that part again!”

They were reading in 1st Thessalonians…

…encourage the faint-hearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.  Rejoice always,pray without ceasing, give thank in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.  

1 Thessalonians 5:14-18

Betsie excitedly shares with Corrie, “That’s it, Corrie! That’s His answer, “Give thanks in all circumstances!  That’s what we can do.  We can start right now to thank God for every single thing about this new barracks!”

Corrie is incredulous.  She initially cannot understand how to give thanks in “the dark, foul-aired room.”   Betsie points out the very many blessings even in their horrid situation.  And Corrie begins to see that there indeed is a God-given way to give thanks in all circumstances.

I feel like Corrie most of the time….”How can I find a way to rejoice here, Lord?”

But again and again, God reminds me of the wonderful ways He has blessed me.

A few days ago, as I walked past my youngest daughter’s room I noticed the sunlight streaming through the windows and I thought, “Lord, thank you!  Thank you for this house.  Thank you for beautiful sunlight!”

There are many things we can thank God for in any given day if we look. But even then I’m thanking God for the things, the circumstances in my life.  I don’t believe that is what God means by “count it all joy.”

What am I counting joy?  In the verse in James, it’s trials.

Count it all joy

…when I can’t find the support and answers I need for my little girl

…when I have to deal with a man who I really don’t want to have to even see

…when God calls me to love the unlovable

…when God doesn’t answer my prayers as I hoped

…when the struggles and complexities of life are overwhelming

 

Does counting it joy mean that I look for the blessings and the things to be thankful for?  To some degree I believe so.

But I’m beginning to see that really counting it all joy is about me looking to Jesus, my Savior, the author and perfecter of my faith.

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

The joy is the understanding that these troubles are nothing in comparison to the joy of eternity.

 

So we do not lose heart.  Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.  For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen.  For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.  2 Corinthians 4:16-18

 

The joy is the confidence that we have an eternal inheritance.

 

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!  According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.  In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith – more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire – may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.  1 Peter 1:3-7

 

So truly, the joy is the gospel.

 

I know this has already been a lot of words and now I’ve added a lot of verses….but please take the time to read them.  Remind yourself again of the great grace of the gospel…of the power of His resurrection in your life…and see how often God shows us the gospel’s strength to carry us through our struggles, trials and sufferings.

 

For while we were still weak, at just the right time, Christ died for the ungodly.  For one will scarcely die for a righteous person – though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die – but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.  Romans 5:6-8

 

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.  For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility.  Ephesians 2:13-14

 

But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet.  For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.  Hebrews 10:12-14

 

But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.  Titus 3:4-7

 

Therefore since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.  More than that we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.  Romans 5:1-5

 

As I read those verses again I was reminded of the gospel’s power to enable me to count it all joy in the struggles.  It’s an eternal perspective.  An “it will all be worth it” perspective.

Count our blessings, absolutely.

Think on those things that bless us…the way God provides…the source of our strength.  Cultivate gratitude.

Count it all joy, definitely.

Think again and again of the gospel.  Of what the gospel means for our lives….

 Grace

Salvation

Hope

Peace

A glorious eternal inheritance

The Holy Spirit and all His fruit

Jesus, my Savior

God, my Father

You could probably add more to that list.  I certainly could.

So this count it all joy thing…I think I’m beginning to understand it.

And again God has brought me back to the gospel.

We are blessed beyond measure because of Jesus…

 and that is all joy!

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Feeling a Little Less than Full?

empty gaugeDoes it ever feel like what you do is never enough?

Today I did something nice for one of my children and another child got exceedingly angry at me.  As if I have done nothing for them…as if I have only chosen to bestow blessings on one child and left the others with nothing.

I was so shocked by the behavior I didn’t know how to respond at first.  But after a moment, my response came full force.  I remained relatively calm…pretty calm.  I didn’t yell or accuse.  I just tried to state facts.

But facts and emotions don’t often mix.  Specifically my facts and my child’s emotions.

Sometimes the issue is life’s facts and my emotions.  And then I can be an awful lot like my child.  I can get my feelings all in a mess and mix up things more than I care to admit.

It’s difficult when all you can see is the hurt.

There are days when I just can’t bear the thought of dealing with what I just gotta deal with…you know what I mean?  It can be a child’s behavior, another person’s words, and another’s opinion of me, a friend’s situation, or my life in general…

There are times I feel like I can barely breathe in the face of my emotions.  There are times I want to scream or cry or both.

Today I disappointed a child by blessing another child.

Yesterday my littlest told me she wanted a different mommy because I told her it was bedtime.  That angry little line is something all my kids have said at one time or another, but this little one will often add something about her birth mother which makes me want to fall to my knees.

Tomorrow I will surely do something to aggravate another child, but I’m trying so hard to love them well.

Part of the problem is there is only one of me to meet all those needs…there is only one of me to deal with all the behaviors and temperaments and emotions.

Part of the problem is I have limited resources…I can’t always do what they’d like or what I’d like…just can’t.  And sometimes that gets held against me…sometimes no matter what I do seems to be enough.

I feel like I literally pour myself out each day for my children and sometimes I feel very empty…and sometimes I feel very weak…and sometimes I feel very tired….and sometime, like right now, I feel very hurt.

But I can think of so many ways God is nudging me right now…

When I’m looking at life through the haze of my emotions (like my child), I can’t see the blessings, the good things, the provision and faithfulness of my heavenly Father.

I forget about all the good He has done.  I forget about His sacrifices. I forget about His sacrifice to live down here instead of up there.  I forget about His sacrifice to give up His position in heaven to become a carpenter on earth.  I forget about His sacrifice of time and energy and sleep to bless people while He walked on this earth.  I forget about His sacrifice of being worshipped in heaven to come down here to be spit on, beaten, maligned, brutalized, and murdered.  I forget His sacrifice of separation from the Father so that I will never be separated from my Father.

I think Jesus understands better than I ever possibly could what it means to be poured out.  I can bring the hurt, emptiness and exhaustion to the Cross and He will take it and love me.  He knows.

And that leads me to the second thing that God is nudging me about…

How can I be empty when I have Him?

If’ I’m empty it’s because I’m doing things in my own strength…finding my fulfillment in the wrong things…looking to others not God.

And ya know…I’m thinking my kids aren’t necessarily gonna think to say the things I need or want to hear…but God’s word does.

God tells me all about how loved I am.  God tells me that His love isn’t contingent on me doing anything for Him.

God loves me when I succeed and when I fail.  Today I don’t think I failed my child – I just think this single parenting thing is hard.  Really hard.

And if I don’t find my fulfilling in Christ…if I don’t do this thing with Christ’s strength…if I don’t seek godly wisdom…I’m gonna feel pretty much overwhelmed.

I want to make things better with my child, but I’m not sure what to say.  Maybe I’ll just say, “I love you.”

Maybe that’ll be enough right now.  I think it will.  I know that when I’ve got my knickers twisted that’s all I need to hear God say.  I want answers, but I need His love more.

I can’t be the perfect parent, but I have the Perfect Parent.  And even though I’m going to disappoint and frustrate my children, I’m thinking that as long as I have my Father guiding me, we’ll be okay.

During times like these, instead of getting all goofy and hurt about things, I’m going to pray that God will enable me to share the gospel again and again and again with my children so that they will learn that Jesus is the answer to all the questions.  He is the filling of the emptiness and the comforting of the hurt and the calming of the heart.  Momma loves them, but Jesus loves them the most.

I won’t ever be enough, but Jesus is.

 

Just a little PS – my sweet child came and apologized before I even had a chance to do what I planned to do! I’m blessed beyond measure by how God is working in the hearts of my children.  It ain’t always pretty…but God’s workin!

 

A Serious Love of Honey at MomLifeToday

Just wanted to share this post with you from MomLifeToday.  I hope you are encouraged that no matter your struggle, Jesus will and can be your strength.  No reason to fear.  No reason to fuss.  No reason to sigh. Jesus will truly give us all we need to do all He has called us to do!

And Then There’s Me…

ImageThis single parenting thing is so difficult.   I get confused by all the different situations, personalities, struggles, and issues of my children.  I can’t seem to get my feet under me on any of them!

And then there’s me.

I think I might actually be more confused by my issues, struggles, emotions, and stresses than I am by any of my children’s.

I’m a mess.

Sometimes people are offended when I say that.  They want to correct me and say I shouldn’t say that.

That I shouldn’t be that.

That I should get my act together.

That I should be past the emotions…that’ll be a God-sized task!

That I should get out of the pit, but I’m not in a pit…life is just challenging right now.

That I should just put my big girl pants on already…Yeah…well, my big girl pants are on, believe me.

They don’t fit comfortably…they are sometimes too tight, sometimes too loose, sometimes too itchy, sometimes too stiff, sometimes too soft, sometimes the tag rubs wrong, sometimes they are on backwards and sometimes they are inside-out.  But they are on.  Dang it.

I think I’d like to say this…ITS OKAY TO BE A LITTLE BIT OF A MESS!!!

God didn’t say that I’d be perfect here…God didn’t say that life would be all neat and tidy…God didn’t say that people would act properly and not be mean…God didn’t say that everything would work out if I followed a certain set of rules or criteria…actually God said kinda the opposite…

“These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

I looked up trials, tribulation and trouble in the back of my Bible and they pretty much seem like a given.  BUT God does not leave us in these troubles.

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, thought the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling.  Psalm 46:1-3

 And these trials have a purpose.  A good purpose…

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trails 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

Perfect, complete, lacking nothing…sounds pretty good.  Perfect is a pretty daunting word, but in this verse it does not mean being sinless.  It refers to our spiritual maturity.

“The testing of our faith drives believers to deeper communion and great trust in Christ – qualities that in turn produce a stable, godly, and righteous character.”  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur Bible Commentary)

That’s totally who I want to be…stable, godly, righteous, not wobbly, messy, and self-centered.

And then I read about Paul…Paul who suffered mightily on this earth and begged God to take away his thorn, shared openly about his struggles…Paul, who had a passion for the Lord that I long for, shared how He wrestled with things…like sin and  circumstances that were by no means ideal.

For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.  Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.  So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand.  For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that swells in my members.  Wretched man that I am!  Who will deliver me from this body of death?  Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!  So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.  Romans 7:19-25

BUT THE NEXT VERSE IS AWESOME!!!

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  Romans 8:1

After Paul shares of his struggles with sin, he reminds us and himself, that because of Jesus we are not condemned!  How beautiful!

When I share my struggles, like Paul I want to point me (and you) back to Jesus.  Because let’s face it, we all struggle with something.  How much better if we could share our struggles and our victories in order to encourage and bless one another without receiving any condemnation!

It would be such a monumental thing if we as the Body of Christ could be open and share without condemnation.  If we could choose to walk alongside one another through our struggles and the battles we fight in order to share the victories!

And there will be victories because the battle is the Lord’s!

Although I’m okay with sharing it, I’d really like to not be a mess.  I’d really like to get my act together.

But God is showing me that getting my act together isn’t really what I think it is.

I tend to think if I could just get a full-night sleep that would help, maybe some exercise, a well-ordered house, some children that actually do what I ask/tell them to do…you know, basically the perfect life…then I wouldn’t be a mess.

But life is messy.  And people are messy.  And relationships are messy.  And circumstances are messy.

And God tells us we will have trouble in this world…but He also says that we aren’t to fear it.

He has never been nor will he ever be surprised or overwhelmed by trouble, trials or messiness.

He isn’t done with me because I’m a mess.  He loves me always, completely, relentlessly.

When God looks at me He doesn’t see my mess (thankfully!), He sees Jesus’ perfection.

And maybe something positive we could do is remind ourselves again of who we are in Christ.  I’ve not done this before, but I’m going to share a bit from my book.  This morning I prayed and asked God to show me what to write today…there is so much I long to share.  And He has laid it heavily on my heart to share:

“Next, I want you to really take a look at yourself, your amazing survivor self.  Remind yourself of who you are or can be in Christ.  When my oldest was a little boy, I taught his Sunday school class, and we memorized this verse:  “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!  And that is what we are!”  (1 John 3:1)

I always thought that was one of the best verses to memorize.  That word lavished is such a wonderful description of how God pours His love on us.  It isn’t a small amount, just enough to get us through the day.  It isn’t a decent amount that comforts us when things go badly.  He gives us limitless love.  There is no end to His love for us.

The chapter goes on to say that we know this is love because “Jesus Christ laid down his life for us” (verse 16).  My friend, God doesn’t just say He loves you; He demonstrated that love when, on the cross, He rescued you from your sin:  “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8 ESV).  How valuable you are in His sight!

God knows you and loves you.  “Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. [So] fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows” (Luke 12:7 ESV).  To all of us who believe in His name, “he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12).  You are chosen, rescued, and forgiven because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross (Galatians 3:13; 1 Peter 2:9-10).

I long for all of us to understand what Jesus has done for us.  We didn’t do anything worthy of His good opinion.  And yet Christ still died for us.  He knew our tendencies, our temptations, and our sins, and He still loved us enough to die for us.  He still loves us enough to die for us.  And He didn’t choose us just because we were all cute and adorable.  He chose us when we were all dirty, smelly, and rebellious.  He loves us even when we feel unlovable. 

Allow Him to “quiet you with his love” (Zephaniah 3:17), to calm your anxious thought, and to assure you that regardless of how you’re feeling or what you’re going through at this moment, you are dearly loved.

(“When Happily Ever After Shatters: Seeing God in the Midst of Divorce and Single Parenting, 112-113)

We might feel like messes, but when God looks at us He sees His precious child.  We might be uncomfortable with our mess, our children’s messes and the messes of others, but God isn’t.

He is willing and able to walk us through the mess.  He will stick with us.  All that He asks is that we trust Him.

Trust Him with our hurting, exhausted selves.  Trust Him with our children.  Trust Him with our circumstances.  Trust Him with our messiness.

I have known God to be faithful.  Another quote (sorry):

“Practically speaking, God obviously wasn’t doing my dishes for me or dealing with my sticky counters, but His presence gave me strength to face each task, whether tedious or terrifying. 

There are particularly difficult times in our lives when we completely understand that God is our strength.  We realize that it isn’t about coping with a situation; it’s about living in God’s strength.  It’s a surprisingly exquisite and painful place to be.”  (p. 24)

Dearest, trust God to take care of you.  You will be amazed at what wonderful stuff He can bring out of our messes!

Got Direction?

photo (23)Does anyone else have a pile of book on or around their nightstand?  Mine is getting to the point of ridiculous.

Not only that but there are books on the chest at the foot of my bed, stacked in bookshelves throughout my house, and in various bags I carry around in the off chance I’ll have a moment to read.

I joke that my house is combustible.

The other day I had a moment to pick up a book, but I couldn’t figure out which one I should read…

The book to help me discern how best to raise my sons to be godly young men?

The book about helping my teenage daughter makes good and healthy decisions?

The book about learning issues for my 1st grade daughter?

The book about parenting strong-willed children for my youngest daughter?

The book about dealing with emotions for me?

The book about believing God’s word in an age of skepticism for my brain?

The books about trust or grace or peace or hope or relationships?

Or the mystery novel hidden beneath them all just waiting to be enjoyed?

I can’t even say I have a preference at this moment.  I just want to have read them all so I can already know what I need to do!

A few months ago I decided that I didn’t want to read another parenting book…ever.  And yet I have a stack of books on my nightstand that in one way or another could be considered parenting books.

I guess I just gotta admit it…I want answers.  I’m searching for direction.  I need help!!  photo 1 (2)

Right now everything is up in the air.  Literally everything.  I have no idea where God is going to lead me…how my kids are going to be educated….what I’m going to be doing…where we will be living…

It seems that all my perfect scenarios are on hold…everything is in someone else’s hands  And it would be easy for me to think that that someone else is the administrator or principal at a school, or the potential buyer of my house, or a book publisher, or any number of people in my life…

But the reality is…the REALITY is that Someone else’s hand is in control.  God’s.

And I am at once thankful for the realization and also struggling to rest in that knowledge.  It seems that God has not often done things the way I would have liked…or in the way I think would be best for us.  And I get all twisted up in knots because I want so desperately for things to go one way and I have a feeling that isn’t the way they are going to go.

photo 2 (2)

I keep having to remind myself that I TRUST GOD!  Because I do.  I do trust Him. I know I can trust Him…and I know He is going to handle all this stuff in the perfect way.  It’s just so much stuff and it is so difficult to give up control of all of it.  And yet, I don’t really want to be in charge…I hate making decisions.  I just want God to show me what to do and I’ll do it.

I think my problem is with His timing.  It seems to take Him forever to show me.  I joke that He usually reveals it to me in the 11th hour and 59th minute.  Apparently the Lord REALLY wants me to trust Him.

So I’m excited to see how my life is going to come together. I’m so very curious about where God is going to have us this fall.  I’m intrigued by how He is going to address the issues…resolve the difficulties…meet me in the struggles.

I know that He will.   He always has before.  Right now though, I just want an update.  I just want Him to reveal something…a glimpse of the plan.  But I don’t think that’s gonna happen.

I’m learning to live these verses:

I waited patiently for the LORD; he inclined to me and heard my cry. Psalm 40:1

Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD! Psalm 27:14

Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act.  He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday.  Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices!  Psalm 37:5-7

Have you not know?  Have you not heard?  The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.  He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.  He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength.  Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.  Isaiah 40:28-31

I see a theme of patience.  Ugh.

Just to be honest, I have NOT prayed for patience.  (I know better. 🙂 )

Patience is not one of my virtues.  I know I have the Holy Spirit so I have that fruit in my life.  I just don’t often take bites of it.  I’m probably more likely to wing that piece of fruit at a problem rather than apply it gently.

But I believe that God is asking me to trust patiently.  And even though I know I can absolutely trust my Father…I gotta be honest that I want answers now…in fact, I wanted answers yesterday, last week, long before now.  I’ve got things to do, decisions to make, and places to go (or not go)…I need direction.

I keep thinking I’ll find it somewhere, but unfortunately I don’t believe any of the massive number of books I own are going to tell me what to do or exactly what God is going to do. photo 3 (2) I can read them though and many will remind me of how great is my God and how worthy of my trust He is!

I’ve said it before and I’m saying it again, God has a plan, it’s already in motion, and it is good!

Maybe I won’t worry about which book on my nightstand I’ll read, but rather I’ll pick up my Bible.  I’ll remind myself of my great God who has orchestrated amazing things throughout history and who will beautifully orchestrate my life and the lives of my children.  I just need to BE STILL and BE QUIET and BE READY!

Life in the Back Row

ImageThere are things that bring back very vivid memories for me…some painful some not.

This evening I was playing through some praise music I found in my organizing spree and I began to play “Mighty to Save.”

Everyone needs compassion

Love that’s never failing

Let mercy fall on me

Everyone needs forgiveness

The kindness of a Savior

The hope of nations

 

Savior He can move the mountains

My God is mighty to save

He is mighty to save

Forever Author of salvation

He rose and conquered the grave

Jesus conquered the grave

 

So take me as You find me

All my fears and failures

Fill my life again

I give my life to follow

Everything I believe in

Now I surrender

(Ben Fielding & Reuben Morgan, Hillsong Publishing, 2006)

It brought me back to the last Sunday I stood next to my husband in church.  We were on the last row.  That was an unusual place for us to be, way in the back.  It was okay, I wanted to be back there too.

It was a weird Sunday all the way around.

Standing back there with a clear view of all the people I’d worshiped with for years, I found myself feeling like I no longer belonged.  Only a handful of people knew the tragedy that was occurring in my family.  Most of these dear people had no idea. I felt like a sham.

A friend commented on my weight loss – she asked how I was doing it like she wanted to do it too.  I stood speechless…what could I say?  “It’s a very effective diet but I absolutely don’t recommend it.  It’s called the adultery diet…you are so full of pain there is no place for food.”

As worship began, I stood barely touching my husband.  He very clearly did not want to be there…did not want to be next to me either.  I felt helpless and hopeless.

“Mighty to Save” started.  I knew these words by heart.  This song had to be for us.  For both of us.

I inched closer to my husband and slipped my hand in his.  Although he allowed me to hold his hand, he did not hold mine back.

That summed up our marriage at that point.  I was holding tightly…with fingers grasping for any sign of warmth.  Even while I held firmly to his cold hand, I felt my palms sweating from fear of the future alone.

I sang those words begging God to make those words ours.  Love that never fails…mercy, forgiveness, kindness, hope…

Oh God please, please move mountains in my husband’s heart.  God you are mighty to save.  You are the author of my salvation.  You are the author of his salvation…please remind him of the joy of his salvation.  Jesus, you conquered the grave…Jesus, please conquer the death of my marriage.  God, take me as you find me.  Please God, I have more fears than I thought possible and the failure of my marriage is devastating me.  I give you my life, Jesus.  I give you everything I believe in…everything I have hoped in and hoped for…I surrender God.  God, please.

It would be easy to say that God did not answer that prayer, because well, He kinda didn’t.  But I surrendered to Him.  I put my trust in Him as I sang those words.

I understood that the love that never fails is His…it’s Him.  He never fails.  He had offered me mercy, kindness, forgiveness and hope in my Savior.  He did move mountains, just not the mountain in my husband’s heart.  He could have, but for some reason He chose not to…and I trust Him.  He took me as He found me – broken, hurt, bleeding, and terrified…and He filled my life again.

He has filled my life with more beauty than I could imagine.  I will not pretend that this life He has called me to is at all easy, but it is blessed.

Each day I see the blessings…each day I know the beauty of His provision…each day I sense His power sustaining me…each day I feel the depth of His love.

I wouldn’t trade where God has brought me.  I wouldn’t trade what He has done in my life.  I wouldn’t trade knowing His faithfulness for anything.

There are days when I complain and moan and groan and wail, but ultimately I know that He loves me.   He will take care of me and my children.

He is indeed mighty to save.

photo (21)An empty white page.  Beautiful. I love it…the potential, the wonder at what God is going to show me…open up to me as I write. Often I sit down at my computer with the intention of sharing a difficulty or struggle that God is bringing me through, but today I decided I just want to write.  To share life.

This past weekend I started an organization project.  I thought it would take about 4 hours…oh my goodness did I underestimate!  I’m on hour 47 and there is more to be done…how is that possible?

My projects always ooze into other things and before I know it I’ve created complete chaos. I once saw a t-shirt that said, “Chaos, Madness, Mayhem…My Work Here Is Done” – I should have that t-shirt.  Actually I think I should get that shirt for me and my children…we are excellent mess-makers.

I need to finish this project.  I can’t work in mess…I need clutter-free zones.  Clutter takes me to bad places…like duck and cover mama’s gonna blow places. But I found a corner that is uncluttered and my children are all busy or sleeping, so I decided to ponder things…not sure what things yet.  This is kind of stream of consciousness blogging…might be disastrous.

I’m sitting in my favorite chair, Bible and laptop beside me, with a cooling down cup of coffee and hot cocoa (Yum!) on the windowsill next to me and praise music filling my ears.  And I’m realizing how much I need this moment.  This clutter-free, no to-do list moment.

Be still and know that I am God.  Psalm 46:10

Life is cluttered in my head, in my heart, and in my home. There is so much to think about, feel, and do.  If I just had more time to work through my thoughts, quietly ponder the Word, finish my projects… Sometimes the lack of time in my day is astonishing to me.  I wake up with such hope for what I will accomplish, only to go to bed disappointed by a day spent in constant motion with very little to show for it.

Wanna know something funny?  When I typed that last sentence I typed “constant emotion”

Hmmmm,  I wonder…

I wonder if I might want to consider that a bit more. Constant emotion. I feel like that might describe me well.  I do feel like I’m in constant emotion. I’m always feeling something…well, I guess we all are always feeling something. God made us in His image…He feels therefore we do too!

And these emotions aren’t bad, necessarily. It’s just that mine tend to swing all over the place and I tend to be ruled by them. I range from feelings of peace and acceptance to anxiety and confusion, anger to forgiveness, frustration to understanding, loneliness to longing for solitude, regret to trust, hope to fear…the list could go on and on…and amazingly I could probably feel all those emotions in a day…any day.

Oh my goodness I AM in a state of constant emotion… I’d like these God-given emotions to display Christ’s character…not my craziness.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control; against such things there is no law.  Galatians 5:22-23

This week I’m waiting to hear about a job I’ve applied for…I thought I would have known by now, but I trust God’s timing.  It’s been interesting how the waiting process has gone for me.  At first I felt such desperation to get the job…it seemed like the perfect fit for our family.  Then I decided maybe it wouldn’t be as easy a transition as I thought and I was okay if it didn’t happen.  And then I went back to the hoping hoping hoping I’d get it.  And each day for the past month or more has been a variation on the theme of hoping, desperately wishing, indifference, fear, or any other number of emotions. Today, I feel such peace as I wait.  It would be a nice fit to be sure, but if it isn’t God’s perfect fit why would I want it?  It is in His hands, not mine.  Thankfully.  And as I ponder not getting it I wonder what God’s perfect plan is…how in the world are the needs of my children going to be met?  I know He is aware and cares about each of them more than I can even comprehend so I’m sure the plan will be good.  (But oh do I wanna know what the plan is!)

The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.  Proverbs 16:9

And I again I come back to what God keeps reminding me…His good might not look like my good.  His good might be more challenges and more struggles…but in His hands those challenges and struggles would be just what we need to grow in our faith and in our love of Him and each other.  I know that, but oh how I pray that is not God’s plan for us.

Sometimes I can really “get” things in my head, but my heart struggles.  You know…those dang emotions. I wrestle with feeling like I need to fix things…I need to make things happen…I just need this and I’ll feel better…my child just needs this and they’ll feel better…

Most of the time my emotions are centered on my circumstances, my situation, my environment…I’m easily swayed emotionally by things not going as I planned…my house not looking as I hoped…my children not doing what I asked…wow, it is all about me isn’t it?

But you know, sometimes life seems really hard. There hasn’t been a time in the past few years without some struggle going on. My prayer partner and I pray each year for an uneventful year.  So far, not so much.  We seem to go from one crisis, tragedy, and struggle to the next.

But I can see that those difficult things, although overwhelming at times, do not represent my life. Just as my state of constant emotions does not need to be my identity.  My identity is in Christ.  I want to be defined by Christ.

Remember that story of Jesus calming the storm?  He was asleep in the boat while the disciples freaked out.  In the past, I’ve wondered why He was asleep…it seems odd, maybe even a bit callous to the fear of the disciples. But I wonder if the reason might be to show us how much we can trust the Lord in the storm.  Jesus was so confident in the Father’s care, he slept through the raging winds and crashing waves.  He rested in the care of the Father while the storm raged on.

I wanna be like that.  I want to calmly be with my Lord as the storm rages on around me.

I know I’m blessed even in the storm.  I can see it as clearly as I can see the clutter in my office.  The blessing of time spent with my children around the fire pit reading a great novel together.  The blessing of dinner out with my girlfriends to celebrate a birthday.  The blessing of a neighbor dropping off cookies just to love on us.  The blessing of neighbors who invite my little girls over for dinner just for fun.  The blessing of a sister who laughs at all my jokes.  The blessing of hot coffee and cocoa in the morning.  The blessing of a comfortable house.  The blessing of family and friends who love me. The blessing of His word spread before me each day.

This week we had more rain than I can ever remember and my backyard became a rippling creek or I might even call it a small river…there was water everywhere in pools up to 6 inches deep.  Our little English basement drain decided it was done draining and I feared a wet basement episode.  I went out in my daughter’s rain boots and tried to figure out how to divert some of the water cascading through my yard…honestly, I was laughing most of the time.  It was nuts!

Sometimes those moments when things are just ridiculously awful, I can smile more than at the little annoyances of life.  photo (20)

I even laughed when I slipped holding the bucket my kids had filled with “puppy presents” and forgotten to put in the trash…it was the most disgusting bucket of “water” you can imagine.  I was carrying it back to the woods and unfortunately I slipped.  The bucket and I had a face to face experience I would prefer never reliving!  After my initial holler of “YUCK!!!!”  I ran laughing to the sink to pour the hottest water possible all over my face…I seriously wanted to dip myself in bleach or Purell or something!  Icky!

Splashing poop water all over myself kinda put the whole backyard experience in perspective for me.  I could angrily stomp around in the pools and puddles and fuss about the mess (and the poop water), or I could splash around laughing at the absurdity of it all.

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.  1 Thessalonians 5:16

Adding to the silliness of the afternoon, my littlest daughter was outside sledding (yes sledding) down the muddy hill into the huge puddles.  She was covered in mud…just like our two labs (so you can imagine what my house looks like…).  It was pure joy!  Pure muddy, filthy joy!

Sometimes I miss participating in the joy-filled moments because I’m so busy doing…dare I say, so busy fussing.  I wish I could remember that I NEVER regret stopping work to enjoy my children.  NEVER.

Today I’m determined to finish my project so that I can spend time tonight playing…maybe we’ll even splash in the mud again.  I foresee it still being there. The trick is going to be letting myself look past the clutter in my house – to put aside the clutter of thoughts in my head – to overlook the clutter of feelings that overwhelm…and focus on the simplicity of time spent with my children.

That is easier said than done, but I believe God will honor my desire to serve Him through loving my children…investing in them not just their surroundings.

And I think focusing on the beautiful blessing of my children will really help with my mess of emotions…maybe I can change my constant state of emotion into something positive…something that is more a reflection of Christ than me.

Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice!  Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his presence continually!  

Remember the wondrous works that he has done, his miracles and the judgments he uttered.  1 Chronicles 16:10-12