Been Awhile

leafless tree on grass field

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I love writing, but lately I’ve found it difficult to click on that post button.

I believe part of the reason, besides being too busy to put two coherent thoughts together, is that a few voices in my head have made it seem like I really should be in a better place by now.

Some of those voices are the echoes of others who have said as much in their comments and thoughts on my writing and my life, but I believe the loudest voice is my own.

The voice that repeats the refrain of “you are such a failure” more times in a day than I can count.

Those voices are not the ones to listen to and I know that, but I have allowed them to define my thinking and my writing and to some degree my talking.  My thoughts overflow my mouth sometimes. Those negative refrains about myself muttered too often. Those I’m sorrys that don’t need to be said. How easily they slip through my lips…and what little ears have heard those thoughts spoken and modeled?

There is not a person who doesn’t struggle with something, and anyone who says they don’t is struggling with denial or pride or both.

My struggles are no greater or lesser than anyone else’s…they are just different. Uniquely my own in some ways and common in others. And whether they are of my own making or things that have happened to me or circumstances I find myself in…they are all allowed by God to influence and impact me.

And there is the lesson God has been teaching me…that I cannot judge my life by my challenges and struggles or difficult circumstances. The only thing I can be judged on is my response to the life God has given me…allowed me to have.  And even then, judging isn’t the word I want to use. I don’t think that God judges us on our struggles. He simply loves us through them. Is that too mushy? Probably, but it is where I am right now. Being loved by God. Trusting that God loves me despite my struggles, in the midst of my failings, and relentlessly just because He does.

So how do I view my life?

Do I appreciate the blessings or only see the burdens?

Do I fight through the challenges or falter in my faith and find myself fearful?

Do I accept the circumstances I find myself in, or do I act as though I am despairing and desperate?

Do I choose an eternal perspective or can I only see the problems right in front of me?

I would have to say that I have been all the latter ones and not many of the formers. It’s very difficult to see beyond the endless to do lists, problems, decisions, and second-guesses. My life is a one-thing-after-another kinda life. One thing hasn’t been dealt with when another thing happens. 

Thankfully, God is continually reminding me that my faith is not determined by my circumstances…it is strengthened, resolved, and authenticated by them, but not determined by them. What I know about God is not based on my circumstances, but my experience…by my faith.

One of my favorite verses when things were nuts in life was

“In all this you greatly rejoice though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith – of greater worth than gold, which pershes even though refined by fire – may result in praise, glory, and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”  1 Peter 1:6-7

Sometimes I want to write down all the things in life that are struggles or stresses or perceived failures and I want to say, “See! This is hard stuff for a girl like me!”

This girl who just wants to do it all perfectly.

But that is NOT what God has called me to right now…smooth, uncomplicated, and easy. Nope. Not at all.

So if my life isn’t the way others want it to be, does that make my story less important? Less valuable? Less encouraging?  Believe me there are definitely things about my life that aren’t the way I want them to be either! When I consider my story I can be a bit discouraged, until I turn things around in my head and heart and consider what God IS doing, how he IS loving me, and the blessings He clearly has given me. Then I see the value in sharing my story and saying, “But God….”  

But God DOES love me! God does have a plan for me.  God has not left me in my distress.

I want to share my story – my story of what God is doing in my life…the honest truth about where I am, not where I want to be. This is where God has me…so this is where I need to be whether it is ideal or not.

The other day my daughter and I had a conversation about movies, particularly Christian movies, where everything is wrapped up with a little bow…all the loose ends are tied together on the most beautifully wrapped present. Everything ends “happily ever after.”  She and I agreed that it was not a great way to end a movie because that isn’t life. She said that, if we present that idea, we are wrong because following Jesus doesn’t mean pretty bows, it means we have Him and the pretty bow is promised, but not here. Wow. That was a blessing to hear from my daughter. She gets it.

Yes, there will be a big, beautiful bow, but it will be given to us after we have walked this long journey down here with all its tripping hazards, scraped knees, and twisting paths.

Jesus said we would have trouble here…so why can’t we share how He walks us through the trouble? Because He always does.

And maybe that’s the reason for them…that’s the answer to the whys…because when things just won’t let up, He won’t leave.

No matter what we are facing whether it be single parenting, financial troubles, work difficulties, bad decisions, health issues, or any other thing, big or small, God stays with us.

He has not left my side once. He hasn’t fixed everything…He hasn’t made life easier, but He has made it good.

My children… not perfect…but wonderful.

My home…serious issues…but cozy.

My work…too much…but a blessing.

My finances…a mess…but not desperate.

My health…shaky…but hanging in there.

Is it discouraging to hear that someone else’s life hasn’t reached paradise yet? I don’t think so. I gave up social media for the most part because “Facebook Perfection” was discouraging to me even though I know we often only share happy snapshots. Sometimes reading about other people’s perfection is boring. (OK, so I’d take boring perfection every once in a while.)

And I can’t name one person in the Bible who had a perfect life. Not one. Good gravy! Jesus had troubles! One of the people I most admire, other than Jesus, was Paul. That man had troubles and not the run of the mill troubles I have. He had more than one shipwreck, multiple beatings, scourgings, and prison…just to name a few things.

Paul who shared his life – the good, the bad, and the ugly (as the saying goes)

Paul who said he was content in any situation.

Paul with his eternal perspective.

Paul who reminded us that we are to give thanks in all circumstances, to pray with ceasing, and to rejoice continually.

Oh I love little words that change things. Paul said to give thanks IN all circumstance…not for them, in them. I have to admit that’s a bit easier!  

Praying continually – I think that’s acknowledging that Jesus is with me throughout my day. Taking a minute to re-order my thoughts.

Rejoicing always is recognizing all the promises that God has made, all the ways that He is working in my life, all the blessings, and worshiping Him for who He is and how He loves me.

No matter what, I want to share what Jesus is doing in my life. He might not be answering all my prayers in the way I want them answered. He might not be giving me the rest I long for, or making things easier at work, or fixing all my wonky house issues, but He is loving me.

I know it when I sit down and have a conversation filled with laughter with my children.  I know it when I sit across from someone I love at dinner. I know it when a friend encourages me unexpectedly. I know it when I have a moment when I don’t have to do anything. I know it when I read His words:

“I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.”   Jeremiah 31:3

“It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.”    Deuteronomy 31:8

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