Can I Say “Really?!?” to God?

IMG_7221Have you ever felt like the verse you just read, the devotional you just opened, or the thought someone just shared was…well…for lack of a better word…ugh?

My sister-in-law Debbie sent me a devotional this morning. She surprises me with really beautiful encouraging texts. Just when I need them. This morning the devotional included this verse:

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:6-7

But this morning, I responded, “Wow and ugh…”

And then I thought, when am I going to stop responding to God’s word with ugh?

When am I going to stop having such a negative view of His plans, will, and timing?

Because really, when I consider who He is and how He does things, shouldn’t I be really excited about His plan for my life?

He is perfect…His ways are perfect. His timing is perfect…who can’t get excited about perfect timing?

His plans are big picture plans like REALLY big picture…like eternity big picture plans. I have next 30 second picture plans. And even then my plans are still clouded by my not perfect thinking.

So when God says humble myself under Him and at the proper (just the right time) time, he will lift me up…why wouldn’t I humble myself?

What does that look like? Humble myself. I feel humbled a lot lately. But I think my definition of humbled is all screwy. My feeling like a failure is not me being humble. In fact, there is probably a little bit more pride than humility in that.

Humbling myself under God’s mighty hand is more about acknowledging that He is bigger, wiser, stronger, and better than me. In all the best ways.

Humbling myself under God’s mighty hand is me saying, “All yours, Lord. All of me. All my stuff. All my hopes, dreams, and even all my stress.”

Hence, the later verses… “…casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”

I can picture myself…loading all my stuff into a big old black trash bag…my stresses, feelings of failure, fears, insecurities, and even my hopes and dreams.

Struggling to sling it over my shoulder. Staggering under its weight – I have a lot of stuff to put in it.

Stumbling up to the throne of grace and laying it tentatively albeit awkwardly at His feet.

Stepping back embarrassed. My messy, sweaty self. Head down. Knees down.

I tentatively look up. The bag of burden is already gone.

And the only thing I see.   The only thing.     His eyes. Tender. Compassionate. Loving. Kind. Gracious. Smiling. Focused. Waiting for me to look.

Really look at Him. Really see.

See His love. See His forgiveness. See His strength.

And now my eyes adjust to the beauty of those eyes and now I see that His whole face is smiling at me.

He really loves me. Me.

Shaky, ashamed, red-faced me.

I’m still shocked that big ole ugly bag is gone. Doesn’t He want to pull it all out in front of me? Make me answer for it? Make me understand the great sacrifice dealing with it all is going to be? Doesn’t He want me to know what a mess I am?

I don’t understand. It must show in my face.

His smile softens more, if that is even possible. And He says to me, “Dearest child, it is finished. I finished it at the Cross. When I look at you, the apple of my eye, I only see my precious daughter.”

Is it okay to say “really?” to God?

Because sometimes when I realize His love for me…when I cannot deny what His word says about me, I want to say, “Really, Lord?” Do you really love me? Really? Because I’m so not who I think you want me to be. I want to be so much better.

And again, I cannot deny His word…He loves me.

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are! 1 John 3:1

The thing that really surprised me when I was looking at verses about love was how often love is paired with mercy and forgiveness.

The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin… Exodus 34:6-7

Just what I need – a lot of love and a lot of mercy and a lot of forgiveness.

When I drag my big ole bag of burden to my Savior, He greets me with mercy, forgiveness, and love.

Since 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

Now if I could just leave the bag there and not feel like I need to pick it all back up again.

Each day is a new day of mercy…a new day to begin again. A fresh start. Burden free.

Seems impossible right now. I pray and lay my burden down. I trust that God can handle it, but for some unknown reason I begin almost immediately to find things to stress about…and very often the very same things.

How do I lay it down and not pick it back up again? How do I trust when the answer isn’t there immediately or the situation still exists or the fear flairs again? How do I do it?

I guess that is another thing to pray about…that must be why God says to pray continually…without ceasing. Keep my mind focused on him…keep my thoughts centered on him….hold fast to the word of life.

“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock.” Isaiah 26:3-4

I guess when God shows me something that’s what I REALLY need to do instead of just always feeling like ugh and “Really?!!”

I think I’ll try  responding “Ok!” instead.

Maybe even a “Yes!”

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

No Longer a Dragon

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Sometimes it amazes me how often God gently confronts me with His word. Lately it seems every time I open the Bible or work on my Bible study or talk to a friend, He is there prodding and prompting and loving me.

This past week was one of the most difficult at my job. Sometimes it feels as though God is continually letting me taste failure and I’m weary of it.

I’m identifying with Eustace in “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader” by C.S. Lewis. His greed had turned him into a dragon and he longed to be a boy again. The scene is Eustace recounting how Aslan, the Christ-figure in Narnia, helps him become a boy again.

“I was just going to say that I couldn’t undress because I hadn’t any clothes on when I suddenly thought that dragons are snaky sort of things and snakes can cast their skins. Oh, of course, thought I, that’s what the lion means. So I started scratching myself and my scales began coming off all over the place. And then I scratched a little deeper and, instead of scales coming off here and there, my whole skin started peeling off beautifully, like it does after an illness, or as if I was a banana. In a minute or two I just stepped out of it. I could see it lying there beside me, looking rather nasty. It was a most lovely feeling. So I started to go down into the well for my bathe.

But just as I was going to put my feet into the water I looked down and saw that they were all hard and rough and wrinkled and scaly just as they had been before. Oh, that’s all right, said I, it only means I had another smaller suit on underneath the first one, and I’ll have to get out of it too. So I scratched and tore again and this underskin peeled off beautifully and out I stepped and left it lying beside the other one and went down to the well for my bathe.

Well, exactly the same thing happened again. And I thought to myself, oh dear, how ever many skins have I got to take off?…So I scratched away for the third time and got off a third skin, just like the two others, and stepped out of it. But as soon as I look at myself in the water I knew it had been no good.

Then the lion said – but I don’t know if it spoke – ‘You will have to let me undress you.’ I was afraid of his claws, I can tell you, but I was pretty nearly desperate now. So I just lay flat down on my back to let him do it.

The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off….

Well, he peeled the beastly stuff right off – just as I thought I’d done it myself the other three times, only they hadn’t hurt – and there it was lying on the grass: only ever so much thicker, and darker, and more knobbly-looking than the others had been. And there was I as smooth and soft as a peeled switch and smaller than I had been.” (pp. 107-109)

I feel like I’ve been trying to strip off the scales of my life and there are just so many layers…and God is continually peeling off more and more of me.

I’m trying to lie still and let him do it…it is difficult. It has been hard to let go of so much of what I think defines me. Hard doesn’t seem to do it justice.

“For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Therefore, lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather healed. Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.” Hebrews 12:11-14

I’ve always thought of discipline as more like a spanking, but this is more like the discipline of an athlete in training. I’m trying to get back into running and I’m still in the training phase where I feel like I’m trudging through 2 feet deep mud when I run…but I know when I get past this phase I’ll love running again. I’ll love the benefits, the fruit, of being healthy and fit too.

But in my spiritual life, I have some training to do as well. Some painful discipline is happening as I am realizing how my definitions of me have become idols in many ways.

God is showing me that I have focused so much on the wrong things. I’ve been trying to figure out how to be perfect…a very frustrating endeavor. I’ve been striving to seem perfect…a ridiculous pursuit and highly stressful. I’ve been seeking affirmation for anyone…everyone…an exceedingly insecure way to live. I’ve been defining myself by how well I do things, how people think about me, and how “perfect” I can be in my own head.

Whenever anyone says that I’m doing fine, I want to holler, “But you don’t really know me! I’m awful.” And in my head I’m listing all the things I’ve failed at…all the ways I’m a failure.

I have so many fail voices in my head. I hate them. And I’m pretty sure they don’t like me either because they are not at all nice.

And then when someone doesn’t like me…a situation I currently have at work (at least I think so)…I want to say, “Why don’t you like me? I’m super nice!”

What?!?! How can I be so negative AND so positive about myself? You know how? Because my emphasis is all on me! ALL.

I’m all about me. All about MY failures. All about what people think about ME. All about what I’m doing. All about what I’m feeling. All about how I want things to go. All about what I think should happen. All about my time table, my plans, my hopes, my dreams….ME, MY, I….ugh.

Oh I have some idols to be striped away. I’m finding it to be quite painful. More painful than I think I can bear at times. But I want to “fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which I was called” (1 Timothy 6:12). I don’t want to fail at this endeavor.

There is a beautiful verse at the end of 1 Timothy where Paul calls Timothy to take care of the gospel entrusted to him. I read it and thought it for myself, “O Sue, guard the deposit entrusted to you. Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called “knowledge” for by professing it some have swerved from the faith.” (6:20)

I know that Paul is talking about the babble of the false teachers, but today I was thinking of how much babble I have in my head. Irreverent and contradicting. How this “knowledge” I allow to take hold in my head keeps me from living out the gospel in my life. This babble of who I am and how I should live.

Who am I? Am I a failure? God says, “No, you are my child…beloved, precious, the apple of my eye.”

“In fact, dearest, you are a masterpiece! My masterpiece. I created the universe, the magnificent sunsets you so often photograph, the ocean waves you long to sit beside, the flowers you delight in, the people you love…and I created you. You who I consider magnificent. You who I long to sit beside. You who I delight in. You who I love.”

Why can’t I grasp that?

And again God peels the layers back…not just to make me better but to show me how very much He loves me. For He does not want to leave me a wretched dragon…but wants me to be the beautiful daughter He made me to be.

I might end up smaller in some ways, but I think I’m okay with that. Maybe ME being smaller isn’t a bad thing. Smaller in my own mind so that Christ can be bigger.

“He must increase, but I must decrease.” John 3:30

I believe that when life becomes less about me and more about Him the insecurities and struggles I have will pale in comparison to the great love He has for me. And those idols I’ve put on will be peeled away as I repent and recognize who the true God of my life is.

Idols are so dumb. Just saying.

Is there any comfort in my insecurities, struggles, conflicts, and fears? Is there any hope offered or strength gained in them? Not at all.

And yet…here I find myself.

Lord, you are gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love…thank you so much. (Psalm 103:8) Thank you that you throw my sins as far as the east is from the west when I confess and repent. (Psalm 103:12) I’m confessing to you that I have sinned in my heart and mind by putting myself on the throne of my life, by seeking my identity and security in things other than you, by choosing to focus on myself to the exclusion of You. Lord, please forgive and cleanse me all of this unrighteousness. Thank you that it is all grace, a gift from You. Thank you that you saved me totally without me doing anything. (Ephesians 2:8-9) Thank you that my life isn’t about me doing anything but loving you. And out of that love, I want to obey you and bless you and praise you and glorify you. Like Paul wrote, I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20) Thank you Father that we live under grace and there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus! (Romans 6:14, 8:1) Lord, please keep taking the scales off! In Jesus name, I pray. Amen.

Are You More than Just Living?

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I’ve been studying 1 John this past week.  There are a lot of verses that grab me in that little book.  And there are a lot of verses I want to grab hold of too.  

God has used those words to convict, confirm, and mostly comfort me this past week.

My study has brought me back to some of the verses in the Gospel of John as well.  One of the phrases that grabbed me and held me tightly was:

In Him was life.  (John 1:4)

To me, the word life is more about living than just being alive.  I’m not just alive because of Christ, but I can live – really live.  Not just exist.  Not just survive.

But how do I do that when life feels very much about surviving?  It seems that today

Today two people shared with me about the power of thankfulness.  How being thankful even for the problems and challenges is powerful.  How giving thanks opens us up for blessing.

Usually I shy away from adopting a prescription for blessing…the idea that if I do something I will get something from God goes against all I believe about grace.  I can tend towards works-righteousness and I certainly want to be careful of choosing words that imply that if we do something we will be guaranteed a blessing.

But I cannot deny that there is blessing in thankfulness.  It might not be that God opens the floodgates of prosperity in our lives as the world describes it, but I believe recognizing that God is worthy of praise and thankfulness is healing and comforting and strengthening for us.  

The blessing is in remembering.  When I cannot see what He is doing and I don’t understand what His plan could possibly be, I can remember that He was and is faithful. That He has proven Himself trustworthy throughout my life.  

Difficulties come and go, but God remains the same.

My circumstances change.  My attitude changes.  My faith falters.  My fear creeps in.  My thoughts waver.  Temptation wins.  My obedience turns to disobedience.  But my Savior remains constant.

Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.  Hebrews 13:8

I will never leave you nor forsake you.  Joshua 1:5  

That is something to say a big thanks for…no matter where I am, He is there loving me. No matter how good or bad or indifferent I am, He never leaves me or disowns me.

I might have said in the past, “Although I bet he might want to…” maybe a bit as a joke, but I will not joke about that now because I know that no matter what, God will not abandon me because His love for me is not at all – AT ALL – contingent on anything about me.  

Oh the relief that floods my heart as I sit here.  The blessed assurance that Jesus is mine…my Savior, my Friend, my Life.

…Christ who is your life… Colossians 3:4

I love that little phrase.  That little phrase with a HUGE implication.  My life is not just in Christ but is Christ.  I’m in awe of that.  My head wobbles a bit as I ponder the marvelousness of it.  

Hear the rest of the passage:

If then you have been raised with Christ seek the things that are above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.  For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.  Colossians 3:1-4

How can I live when I have died?  How can my life be hidden with Christ in God and Christ be my life both at the same time?  

I love how God gives us these things to think about…to realize how rich and wonderful our lives are because of Him…and He blessedly gives us the answer if we will but read further into his word :).

I have died to my sin…I have died to the old me. (vs. 5-9) The verses seem to be saying that I have to continually put these earthly things to death as I seek to put on the new me, “which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.”  (v. 10)

So now my life…this new life…is full of Christ.   “Christ is all, and in all.” (v. 11)

I’m identified as His and He as mine.  I’m His chosen one, holy and beloved… (v. 12)  

God tells me to put on a compassionate heart, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.  He commands me to bear with one another and forgive as I have been forgiven. “And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.  And let the peace of Christ rule in my heart.”  And be thankful.  (v. 12-15)

Back to thankful.

What can I be thankful for?

Love.  Forgiveness.  Peace.  Compassion.  Kindness.  Humility.  Meekness.  Patience.  

My children.  Zachary.  Emma.  Peter.  Elizabeth.  Allison.

Practically thinking…My family.  My friends.  My neighbors.  My coworkers.  My home.  My yard.  My car.  My job.

Really within each of those there are many things to be thankful for.  Many.  Even just realizing that the love, forgiveness, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience he calls me to are the very same things He calls us all too.  What a lovely thing it would be if we all answered that call.

My children.  Where do I begin?  I cannot imagine my life without each of them.  They each enrich my life in more ways than I can fathom.  I’m blessed beyond measure by these people.

You see where I’m going right?  In every big thing I am thankful for there are many smaller, precious things to be thankful for as well.

My job…well, let’s just say, I’m weary.  BUT I work with some of the best, funniest, kindest, most generous people I know.  And those students God placed in my classroom…there are moments I’m acutely aware of the privilege I’ve been given to play a small role in their lives during the tumultuous awkward drama-filled middle school years.  

My home…the other day I was walking through my yard just praising God for this dream house of a home for my family.  It isn’t a mansion by any stretch, there is so much to do, we have been rooming with a few hundred ants lately, and summer is approaching so the dog is molting all over the house…BUT I love this place.  I love that this weekend I get to finally have my neighbors over and I can’t wait.  Although I haven’t figured out when I’m going to get it all ready, but I am excited nonetheless.  

Oh I’ve listed my grateful list before…I know.  I know I’m repeating myself.  BUT again God keeps showing me the powerful role thankfulness plays in my life.

For the past several years as my life has changed repeatedly – sometimes for the better, sometimes not – I have had moments of desperation and hopelessness as I look at all that I dislike about my life.  But if I will only take a moment to remember…remember how God has answered my prayers in the past, how He has continued to love me in unexpected ways, how He has provided for me when I thought there was simply no way, how He is faithful regardless of how faithful or faith-filled I am?

I need to remember.

I need to remember that this life is not about this earth…it is about Him.  

At times, my circumstances might feel hopelessly difficult.  I might see no way to change things for the better as I’d like to, but Jesus.  

Jesus is not just better.  Jesus is best.    Jesus, who is my life, is ready to bring me back to life…out of the darkness and into the light!

My life is Christ.  All I have to do is go to Him and living is mine.

John says he is sharing all this so that our joy may be complete.  (1 John 1:4)  

That my joy may be complete.  

Try wrapping your brain around that one.  I can’t seem to, but I don’t know if I need to.  I just want to accept it and live it.

Because I think that is what God is calling us to.  

And it begins with Jesus, our life.  It begins with Him and the gospel.

(You knew I was going there, right?)

The gospel.

Love it.

Thankful for it.

Couldn’t LIVE without it.

Couldn’t LIVE without Him.

What Sized Task Are You Dealing With?

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Do any of you feel like you are living in a world of God-sized tasks?

I feel like I am.

In fact, recently while dealing with a rather big issue in my life, I was again reminded of the God-sized task world that seems to be mine.

Unfortunately, right now the biggest God-sized task is a financial one. I hate financial things. That’s why I majored in English – I was sure to not have to work with numbers. Seriously, financial stuff is apparently not my gifting, but oh how I want it to be.

My financial situation hit me full in the face a few weeks ago.  That night, I had a mini-nervous breakdown  and a few days later figured out a plan that seemed like the answer to prayer. It was going to work beautifully. I was thrilled, excited, beyond blessed.

But…

why is there always a but?

A mere week later something happened that changed my financial plan significantly. My great plan went up in smoke…poof. And with it went my hope to ever be in a better place. So frustrating.

Money is one of the things in my life that cause the most fear and anxiety.   I feel like I should be able to do this financial thing better. I should be able to make this work. In fact, I’m horribly embarrassed to share this with you. I have shared the intimate details with only a few and that hasn’t come without regrets.  I’m praying that sharing what God is showing me through this will be a blessing to someone and I will have no regrets.

Its difficult to share something you feel like a failure at…something that is such a ridiculous challenge. I feel like it shouldn’t be such a challenge. Why is it Lord?

Today I was speaking to my sweet sister, sharing my struggle and praying with her. And I realized something – I had put my hope in my own ability to figure it out, develop and implement a plan.  I had given myself a sense of peace because I saw that I had the ability to fix things. I didn’t need anyone or anything…all me! I was going to get this done. I wasn’t going to ask for nothing from nobody! And someday I could say to anyone who asked that I had overcome this huge Sue-sized task.

But

(there it is again)

But God wants me to see Him do it. God wants me to know that it is Him and only Him. It is indeed a God-sized task.

Writing this now reminds me of the story of Gideon in Judges 7. “The Lord said to Gideon, “The people with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand, lest Israel boast over me, saying, “My own hand has saved me.” (v. 2)

Oh dear…that does sound a bit like me. I have all of a sudden realized that I really want to say that I have done it. The I have successfully navigated this mess of a financial situation. I have figured it, conquered it, overcome it.

I don’t need anyone to help me, thank you very much.

All me. All amazing, smart, savy Sue.

Yeah…not so much.

Not that a plan and a vision are bad…I think it is the heart in which it is developed and implemented. My heart was all pride.

God again is showing me that my life is about Him…about relying on Him, about trusting Him, about watching Him work, provide and love me in ways I never imagined. My God is able to do far more abundantly than all that I ask or imagine, according to the power at work within me. (Ephesians 3:20)

Recently I heard someone say that all the money in the world is God’s. It’s not like He can’t provide for me and mine…and you and yours.

Finances can seem to me like the thing that God can’t do. The thing God has to do in a natural, not supernatural, way…doesn’t He have to work within the confines of what my income is and what my expenses are? Can He do something differently? Can He provide in ways I can’t imagine?

You betcha!

So today, I’m sitting here thinking…Okay God, I’m ready to give this to you. I’m ready to let you have this…I’m ready to see what you can do to fix the mess I’m in…the mess I’ve made.

Please show me what you would have me do. What opportunities should I grab hold of to help me provide for my family? Where should I focus? What is the plan?  Lord, please show me what to do.  Father, please provide a way to get out of this mess.

And even as I pray that, I wonder am I being selfish to ask? Do I deserve to be able to pray a prayer like that?

Sometimes I don’t think I even remotely grasp how much my Father loves me.  And yet, I struggle.  I wonder is this the thing that God wants me to do…to be a better steward of things? Should I just suck it up and deal with things the way they are?  Accept that this is going to be very, very difficult, but I made the mess and I have to clean it up.

No. That can’t be the way God wants me to handle this. It has to be about trusting Him to provide. It has to be about knowing that God can handle this. It has to be that He wants to show me what my Father can do to make things better…my Father specializes in God-sized tasks.

My earthly father, who is now with my Heavenly Father, was always willing to help me. I had but to ask and he was there. I miss him. I miss his advice, his wisdom, and the way he cared about me.  I know that my father would always do whatever he could to help me because he loved me. My Heavenly Father is no different. He loves me. He has the world at His fingertips…it is all His. He will take care of, provide for, and love on me.

“If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:11)

It is just something He does. He loves perfectly.

I don’t know if God will jump in to this mess with me and fix it tomorrow, or if it will be a longer process that requires patience on my part. (Oh please, please don’t let it be the patience one…please, please, please.)

There are decisions that I have to make that are dependent upon those silly financial issues. Not only do I need provision, but I need wisdom and discernment. I feel excited about this.

No longer is trepidation trampling my emotions. At least not at this moment. God has given me a fresh perspective – a hope when things look rather hopeless. A peace when a glance at my budget does anything but create peace.

Believe me, that hope and peace make no sense at all in lieu of the facts. That’s what I love about God…that and a thousand other things…that when everything seems beyond hopeless, He pours on the peace.

This overwhelmingly big God-sized task ?  I’m giving it to my Father…it’s all His.

Somebody Save Me Please

IMG_1600What if this life is about more than surviving?  Have you ever heard that saying about thriving instead of just surviving?  I don’t know what I think about that quote right now.

What is thriving anyway?

Is that even possible?

I don’t use the word thrive very often…I don’t even use the word survive very often.  I’m kind of in triage mode – that’s the phrase I use a lot.

Just living in triage mode…the most immediate disaster gets my attention first…the loudest complaint, the biggest boo-boo, the nearest deadline, and sometimes the easiest fix…if I’m honest.

And sometimes, living in triage mode means that the most important stuff doesn’t get met…it isn’t a good place to live.

Believe me.

I’ve been trying to figure out how to get out of it, but it appears to me right now that the only way is to walk through it…sometimes it seems like it’s getting darker rather than lighter though.

Darker?  I don’t want to do darker….bring on the spotlight!  Goodness, I’d take a flashlight…the little $1 one from Walmart.  Just a little light for the path again…

I’m tripping over angry, falling over frustrated, crashing into overwhelmed, and washing out over weariness.

Honestly, if I stub my toe one more time…

But what if…what if I’m called to something more than thriving or surviving?

What if I’m called to something not even in the same category?  Something radical?

Something like blessing?

What if my life is about blessing?

Blessing God….glorifying God and enjoying Him forever.

How do I do that in this?

This messy life.  This life full of tumult and tears.  This sleepless, exhausting life.  This life full of endless to-dos, responsibilities, expectations, and needs.  This life…

This life full of children…noisy, scruffy, feisty children who I love desperately.

This life full of home…untidy, laundry-full, dishes-full, wonky-floored home that I’m ever so thankful for.

This life of work…stressful, endless demands, difficult situation work that provides for my family.

This life of finances…busted budgets, fearful feelings, and exorbitant expenses that God always seems to work through.

This life of family…missing, needing, and loving family.

This life of friends….missing, needing and loving friends too.

This life of busyness…frantic, never-ceasing activity that blesses my children with fellowship, encouragement, and strength.

This life…this life is full of blessings.  It’s how I look at them that seems to make the difference.  It’s what I pay attention to…lately, I’ve pretty much only paid attention to my troubles.

Even my blessings have often seemed like HUGE burdens more than anything else lately.  Ever felt that way?

No wonder I can’t get my head in the game.

No wonder I’m always feeling on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

I keep trying to do all this stuff in my own strength…as if to prove that I can.  Maybe to show myself worthy of…I don’t even know what.  Worthy of love? Worthy of admiration?  Just plain worthy?

Maybe I just want to be strong.  So often I feel so weak, but honestly if someone wanted to step in and “save” me from all this stress I’d take it.

Wait a minute…

There are some verses about that…

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.  1 Peter 5:7

Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.  Psalm 55:22

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.  Matthew 11:28-30

I have a Savior and He says to give it all to Him and the burden I get back is easy and light.

Oh my goodness!  How awesome does easy and light sound right now?!?

So practically speaking, how do I do easy and light when all heck seems to be breaking loose every other day in some area of my life…(wish I was exaggerating.)

All I can say is that I think it all has to do with my focus and my attitude.

If I can please remember that the Lord loves me and that HE DOES HAVE A PLAN in all of this and HE does want to help, provide, and care for me.

If I can please acknowledge with my attitude that Jesus is my Savior in all areas of my life.  He cares about everything.  He didn’t just check off the Savior box when He died on the cross.  He is the Savior of every second of my day.

Why can’t I live like I know that?  The gospel isn’t just for getting me into heaven…it’s for me every day.  It’s not just for life after death…it’s for life before death.  It’s for a life of thriving not just surviving (there I said it) not just hanging by a thread until heaven.

It’s a life of blessings because I have a big God and wonderful Savior.

Lord, show me how to live that way.  Show me how to step out of this triage mode into faith mode.  Please open my eyes to the blessings around me and help me to stop just focusing on what I see as the mess of my world.  Thank you Jesus for being the Savior of my soul and my situation.  I love you Lord.

Be Encouraged

IMG_1866Everyone has something.

You know that thing. That thing that you feel will never go away. Never be easy. Never be uncomplicated. Never be what you want it to be. Never be overcome.

I have a few somethings.

Some things I can’t figure out what to do about. Some things that baffle me. Some things that trip me up continually. Some things that I can’t figure out how to overcome.

Sometimes I feel like the somethings are not some things but rather my whole life.

Sometimes I feel like it is all one hopeless mess and there is simply no way to get on the other side.

And sometimes the other side scares me too. What if the other side is even more complicated and challenging? This side, albeit not always fun, is comfortable in a weird, familiar slightly twisted sort of way.

It sure is easy to get comfortable in uncomfortableness…why is that?

I’m not talking about content in my circumstances, I’m talking about comfortable in challenging, tempting, and maybe even sinful situations. It can feel like it is easier just to stay…easier to just hunker down in my unhealthiness. It’s hard to be strong.

Recently I found myself saying to a friend, “What does it mean to be strong in the Lord? What does that look like? What is my responsibility in that? Clearly I need to be doing something because nothing is happening right now that looks anything like me living in the strength of the Lord.”

That’s me being a bit of a petulant child and feeling a little hopeless.

That was Friday.

On Sunday, God answered me.

1 John 2:14 I write to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.

I know that I am neither a father nor a young man, but I am a mother (who sometimes needs to be the father) and I am a relatively young woman (LOL!) so I’m thinking that God had John write that verse for such a time as this, for me.

It reminded me that there is strength in remembering what God has done for me. How He has stepped into my world in ways I couldn’t imagine. Even saying that He stepped in doesn’t do it justice, because that implies that He wasn’t there from the start. He has always been with me. But occasionally His presence is so real and comforting I’m in awe of His love for me.

Strength and comfort come from remembering…from thankfulness and praise for His faithfulness in the past and the understanding that that faithfulness never ends.

And then there are John’s comforting words to the young men (and women),

1. You are strong.

2. The word of God abides in you

3. You have overcome the evil one.

It seems the key to strength lies in His word. In continually abiding in it and it in you. There are a few verses in the Bible that are testimonies to this truth…that the Word of God is power and strength and hope. Things I really would like to have when dealing with some things…well, every thing.

John 8:31-32  If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

2 Timothy 2:15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.

Psalm 119:11 I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.

Psalm 119: 28 My soul melts away for sorrow, strengthen me according to your word.

Psalm 119:92 If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction.

Psalm 119:165 Great peace have those who love your law; nothing can make them stumble.

“Nothing can make them stumble.”

Nothing.

How lovely, comforting, strengthening.

There are other verses about peace that God brings me to a bunch…

Isaiah 26:3 You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock.

I love those verses. How comforting it is to read the Word of God. To see the layers, the depth, the thoughtfulness of God in His word. To know that God loves me so much…that His mercy is beyond simply a judge offering mercy to an offender…it is the tender mercy of a Father offered to his child. A child who justly deserves no mercy, but receives it every time.

Every single time I come to God asking a questions…every single time…His answer is the gospel.

And every single time He uses His word to remind me.

I am strong.

I am strong because I have the Word of God and I have overcome evil because of Jesus…because of the Gospel.

(So this is the English teacher in me – but it is so cool!)  That sentence in 1 John 2:14 is written in the perfect indicative which means that these things have already happened and that’s a fact. That there is assurance that these are not just things that could happen, but that they are facts, that they have already been accomplished.

So you and I are strong already.

The word of God abides in us already.

We have overcome the evil one already.

And not because of any great accomplishment or strength on our part, but because of the great accomplishment of Christ on the cross and because of the strength of the Lord in our lives.

Jesus is the Overcomer so that I can overcome.

John 16:33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart, I have overcome the world.

There is the assurance of trouble BUT there is also the assurance of peace and overcoming. Yup. That’s pretty much what I need to hear… Trouble will come…don’t be surprised or disheartened by it. Instead, turn to Him who is your peace and be encouraged.

Be encouraged that no matter how crazy this world may be, He has got it.

Be encouraged that no matter how much you struggle and fail, He loves you and He’s got you.

Be encouraged that no matter how hopeless it might seem, He loves you and He’s got a plan.

Be encouraged that no matter how weak you feel, He can handle your life for you. He’s got your strength…it’s there for you.

Be encouraged dear one.

The God who offers his tender mercies to you, the God who calls you his precious child, the God who assures you that you are his treasured possession, bought at great price and dearly loved…this all powerful, all loving, all hope-filled, all merciful, all faithful, all everything God…this Father of ours…He loves you.

He loves you. You…in your messiness, your hopelessness, your weakness, your sinfulness, your doubt, your fear, your anxious thoughts… He loves you.

He. Loves. YOU.

He isn’t waiting for you to do some great, noble, brave task to earn his peace, or his strength, or his love. He just loves you.

1 John 3:1 See what kind of love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.

1 John 3:10; 19 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins…We love because he first loved us.

Psalm 103:8 The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

I keep looking for ways to overcome, to change, to fix, to redo this life of mine. I keep looking for ways to be comforted, to be strengthened, to be assured…and I’ve very often not looked to the right place. God reminded me today.

This place in His word…this is the place I want to stay. This is the place where my strength is renewed and my hope is restored.

Love Like Crazy

sunset picture (wburg)

Oh am I having a pity-party today or what?!.

I’m all sad and lonely and feeling unchosen and unloved.

And I can’t for the life of me figure out how to get out of this funk I find myself in.

I’m trying to get into shape so I can’t sneak chocolate or drink a Coca-Cola (my usual mood enhancers).

I’m lactose-intolerant so the college years thing of eating ice cream as a way of dealing with drama is out.

I’m determined not to be a lush so I’m not gonna drown my sorrows alone with a glass of wine.

I have a houseful of children so wandering around wailing is definitely out, although highly likely if I don’t get myself together.

Woman, what is wrong with you?

Love in my house feels very conditional these days.

So many times I feel like if I don’t do what everyone wants, I’m not worthy of love…not valuable.

And the times I feel loved…well deep inside… I’m desperate to keep it.  Desperate to hold on to it like a crazy woman.

(I have the lyrics “love me like crazy” running through my head, and I don’t even know if that’s a real song.)

Oh Father, please love me…love me like crazy!

I know that He has chosen me, but lately it even feels that at times I can’t figure out how to really truly believe that He loves and chooses me. How could my Father love me so much?  Me?

I’m ashamed to even share how I look at myself.  How I view this woman I am.

I’m working to not define myself as a failure – because I do that a lot.

I live with some people who sometimes don’t seem to value me apart from what I can do for them – who can’t begin to understand how much it hurts to be treated the way they do.

I have raised some children who don’t help, don’t hear, don’t care.

I have raised some children who could care less if I’m tired, weary, overwhelmed, and overworked.

I have raised people who drain me of all I have to give.

And yet, I love them desperately.

I love them and I’d choose them and I want them in my life.

These people who crush my heart so often.

I choose them.

I love them relentlessly.

Wow.

Wait a minute.

I wasn’t planning on going here.

But God just totally opened my eyes.

THAT is how God loves me…only perfectly.

I was just writing to deal with my sorrow and God turned it around AGAIN.  My goodness!  He is amazing!

I might feel like no one chooses me, but God does.

God chooses me every time.  Every day.  Every moment.

Even when I’m unlovable, unkind, unfaithful, un–everything.  He chooses me – He loves me.

Just like I love all those difficult people God has given me.

Just like I’d choose my children over and over again regardless of how much they break my heart and drive me bonkers.

I love them like crazy!

God loves me like crazy!

I think I just started getting out of that funk…