My First Book Review

A few months ago I had the privilege of being asked to write a review for a book by Shannon Upton entitled, Building Your Home:  A Faithful Mom’s Guide to Organizing Home and Family.

I love a good book on organization.  I feel like it has been my life’s goal since my first born took his first step and started mixing things up!  Five children later I’m hopelessly entangled in the never-ending endeavor of organization.

Prior to having my sweeties I was a conference planner, a profession that requires a high level of organization.  Now, I can’t seem to even give the illusion of being organized.

I have read so many organizing books that it’s highly likely I’ve read almost every one out there!  And I’ve tried many of the techniques involved.  Most recently I went through all my clothes as directed and made instant decisions.  It was so effective that I can fit every season of my wardrobe in one small closet and my dresser.  The only down side is I find I have very few things to wear!  On top of that, I did not, as the book suggested, thank my clothes for their service to me.  Apparently, I am a very ungrateful clothes wearer!

But none of these books have been quite as inspiring as this one.  This one has made me think…made me what to be what Shannon Upton calls a “Jesus Mom.”

One of the first things she wrote that grabbed me and made me want to sit down for tea with her was her story of dealing with postpartum depression (PPAD).  She tells how, during her struggle, someone shared their story of dealing with PPAD.  This is what she says, “I knew she was trying to help me feel better by letting me know that I wasn’t alone, but all it did was make my burden seem heavier-more real somehow.  She was bringing up feelings that I was trying so hard to keep under control.”

I instantly felt connected to her because I have had those moments, those interactions.  I loved her honestly.

Throughout her book, Shannon shares openly about her life while encouraging us to reevaluate and find peace in our own.  I love that she didn’t present herself as the perfect homemaker, but as someone working through all of life’s complexities and busyness…sharing the successes and struggles along the way.

Her book is about choosing to focus on Jesus first, to clear out the spiritual clutter of our lives.  “The point isn’t ‘having it all’ or even having it all together – it’s settling our spirits so we can dwell in the Lord’s peace” (p. 15).  Peace that isn’t based on perfection, but on building our homes in a way that will bring peace to our families.

Shannon warns against giving ourselves more spiritual clutter by stressing about getting organized.  Putting pressure on ourselves only takes away the peace we are hoping to choose daily.

There’s no pressure here, no hurry.  Don’t go giving yourselves even more spiritual clutter over “getting organized.”  In fact, I don’t even like that phrase.  It implies that “organized” is a place we can get to, a thing we can achieve, but it’s not.

Your home isn’t a problem to solve, it’s a set of systems to be managed.  As a Jesus Mom, you don’t want to organize your household so you can “feel at peace.”  Instead, you can choose to feel peaceful while you organize.”  (p. 25)

What a great idea!  Choosing peace.  God’s been encouraging me to choose peace a lot lately.

I’m choosing it with varying degrees of success, but success nonetheless.

What I took from this book was that managing my home is about creating a peaceful refuge for my family that exudes Christlikness.  My goal is for my home to provide me with opportunities to love the Lord well, to love my family well, and to love others well.

Shannon recommends starting with prayer.  What a wonderful way to begin – praying over our home.

Dedicating it to the Lord.  Asking for wisdom as we begin the process of organization.  Asking for a godly perspective and a spirit of contentment.  Giving thanks for all the blessings.

Then beginning.

Shannon provides some practical advice on the process and throughout encourages, inspires, and entertains with her engaging writing style.  I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and have already begun the processes Shannon recommends.

I’m taking my time and praying my way through my home. And God willing, my home will be a place of ministry, not only to my family, but to my friends, neighbors, and acquaintances.

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Failure to Identify

IMG_3121Don’t you just LOVE it when God hits you right between the eyes with truth?

I’m not being sarcastic…truly.

The other night at my Bible study we were talking about finding our identity in Christ.

A topic I have explored often and tried to grasp continually.

I have spent the last several years pretty consistently reminding myself of who I am in Christ.

Apparently, I need A LOT of reminding.  I seem to always be forgetting…losing sight of it.

So our very dear leader gave each of us a visual about where we find our identity.  Listed around the edges were possibilities of things that we might find our identity in rather than Christ.

The usual…family, accomplishments, job, home, etc.

I looked at the options and realized I don’t find my identity in any of those things…I don’t want to.

But not for the good reason.

Rather because I feel like I’m failing in everything….all of them.

Every. Last. One.

It sunk in deeply.  All of sudden, I realized my struggle.

I realized why I simply can’t seem to get myself to a better place.  Why no matter how much I stick my face in scripture and pray…I’m still holding on to my false identity.

And then my sweet leader said that she struggled with finding her identity in her failures.

Failures?

Seriously, finding our identity in our failures?

Oh my goodness.  That’s me.

I have been wallowing in my real and perceived failures.

I look at myself as a failure…every day.

God looks at me as His dear daughter…every day.

Why can’t I grasp that?

I was so impacted by the lesson…I didn’t say a whole lot because I was trying to process what this all meant.  How was I going to change this identity crisis?

I was really excited when I got home.  I shared with my kids how the Bible study had so deeply impacted me.

And then…

Then I went upstairs to get little girls ready for bed…

And I lost my mind.

I was my feeling-like-a-failure, fussy, frustrated self.  I was impatient, unkind, irritated, and spoke words that I regret.  My tone was not kind.  My mood was not good.

How had I gone from convicted to crazy?

How had my heart-searching, mind-opening experience at Bible study worn off so fast?

I felt like even more of a failure.

If that was even possible.

Apparently, it was.

Oh Lord, why?  Why can’t I be better?

Then it hit me…well, it’s still hitting me.

I can’t be better without Him.

As long as I’m focusing on my own issues, I can’t find my identity in anything but me…and I’m a mess.

It is all about my righteousness…my ability to live right, to be right, to speak right, to act right, to know right.

Unfortunately, I can’t seem to do any of those.  Maybe it is because when I say “right” I really mean “perfectly”.

I know I can’t be perfect.  I am oh so aware of that.

Why must I constantly set myself up for failure by assuming that I can be perfect?  It’s not like I really believe I can be.  I just want to be.  I expect myself to be.

I want to be the best mom for my kids.  I believe right now I’m barely passable as a mom.

I want to do my job well, inspire my students and have great relationships with my coworkers.  I’m so tired, overwhelmed, and disappointed that I find myself struggling to be a positive and encouraging person at work.

I want to be a good friend, daughter, and sister, but I don’t seem to have time to invest or bless.

I want to have a perfectly ordered home.  At this point I’d settle for not tripping over something everyday.

I long to have time to rest, write, read, and simply hang out and watch TV or play a game.  I barely have time to brush my teeth before I fall asleep at night.

I feel like my lack of time, lack of patience, lack of sleep, lack of joy in work, lack of fellowship, lack of order is all and completely my fault.

BUT when I take a step back…look at things from a different perspective.  I see that my expectations are ridiculous.

RIDICULOUS.

The other day someone said, “But you are single working mom…you remember that right?”

Yeah, how can I forget?

I am where God wants me.

How I wish he wanted me in a cabin somewhere…with a roaring fire, a good book, and some good friends surrounding me.

But that isn’t where I’m to be right now.

I’m to live here and now.

As is.

I’m to focus on life with Him…life as His daughter.  Life as the woman he has made me to be…not the woman I think I should be.

Even as I type that I wonder…but isn’t there a woman I should be…shouldn’t I aspire for more?

Yes…and no.

Yes, it is a good thing to aspire to be better…to live better.

No, not if it is my identity.

My identity rests securely in the fact that God has redeemed me…called me by name…I’m HIS (Isaiah 43:1).

Sometimes I look at this list I made a few years ago and remind myself again…who I am.

I am a new creation (Colossians 3:9-10); God’s workmanship (Ephesians 2:10); loved (Ephesians 2:4, 1 Thessalonians 1:4); precious in God’s eyes, honored and loved (Isaiah 43:4); redeemed (Isaiah 43:1); Called by name (Isaiah 43:1); free from condemnation (Romans 8:2); forgiven (Ephesians 1:7, Colossians 2:12); a child of God (1 Peter 1:23)  Christ lives in me (Galatians 2:20), a friend of God (John 15:15), blessed with every spiritual blessing (Ephesians 1:3); chosen (Ephesians 1:4, Colossians 3:12); holy and beloved (Colossians 3:12, Ephesians 5:1); righteous (2 Corinthians 5:21); have a reason to be joyful, prayerful and thankful (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18); filled with the Holy Spirit and all His fruit (Galatians 5:22); saved by grace (Ephesians 2:8-9); reconciled to God (Romans 5:6-11); more than a conqueror (Romans 8:37); free (John 8:36, Galatians 5:1 an ambassador (2 Corinthians 5:20); holy and blameless before Him (Colossians 1:22); called out of darkness into His glorious light (1 Peter 2:9, Colossians 1:13); an overcomer (Revelation 12:11); a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19-20); the light of the world (Matthew 5:14); not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls. (Hebrews 10:39).  And even if I am afflicted in every way, I am not crushed; perplexed, I will not be driven to despair; persecuted, I will not be forsaken; struck down, I will not destroyed (2 Corinthians 4:7-10).

Sometimes it helps to remind myself that I am so much more than I think I am.

I am not defined by my successes or my failures.

Say it again.

I am not defined by my failures.

I am not defined by what I accomplish, what I say, what I don’t say, how I parent, how I teach, how I take care of my home, how much I read or pray or study or speak or write, how many friends I have, how much time I spend doing anything or everything…I am defined ONLY BY HIM.

I think right now my favorite definition of me is precious.  That has been my favorite for a long time.

Maybe it is because I felt so “unprecious” when my husband left.  In his eyes I was not an excellent wife.

She is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with her. Proverbs 3:15

An excellent wife who can find.  She is far more precious than jewels. Proverbs 31:10

Maybe it is because I feel unworthy of being precious to anyone.

Not that God hasn’t put people in my life who treat me as precious.  He has.  Definitely.

Why do I feel so unworthy of being considered anything good?  Why does it feel like a sham?

…and yet God…

God says I am.

I am precious.

Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you.  Isaiah 43:4

Precious.

Honored.

Loved.

Those aren’t words that define a failure.

But they do define me.

Logically, that must mean I’m not a failure.

I am defined by who I am in Christ…not who I am in my mind.

Yet another area that I need to focus on Christ not myself.

I’m so thankful for the 2×4 of truth that God gave me the other night.  I’m so thankful that He never seems to tire of telling me again and again and again who I am…that I am His.

I’m so thankful that I am not defined by what or how I feel, but rather by who He is.

I am His.

I am precious.

I am all that He says I am.

 “I will greatly rejoice in the LORD; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness…” Isaiah 61: 10

Love, Rest, and Sickness…In No Particular Order

IMG_2900Today is my first sick day for me in a few years.

I’ve done sick days for children and sick days for parents, but not for me.

I slept a lot and sat a lot…well, actually I was more lying down a lot.

And all the stillness…it was glorious.

I haven’t been still for….for forever.

Even this past Saturday when this whole illness thing began, I couldn’t seem to sit still except for a few minutes to regain some strength before I began another task.

I knew I should rest…had I rested I probably wouldn’t be lying here right now.  Who knows?

My room is a tad messy…actually my house is tad messy.  And my nightstand is littered with tissues, tea cups, glasses of water, an ibuprofen bottle, cold medicine bottles, and the usual pens, journals, and piles of books.

That’s quite an impressive list considering it isn’t that big a nightstand!

Although it was supposed to be a rainy day, the sun is shining through the clouds and into my bedroom.  I love it.

My classroom has no windows and I miss the sky so much during the day.

This is a beautiful treat.

I just wish I had some energy.

This is a weird sick for me.  Usually I can push through and still accomplish things…not happily or quickly, but nonetheless I’m still checking things off the list.

This thing…ugh.  This one has hit me like a truck…loaded with bricks…and maybe a few cinderblocks.

I guess it isn’t a shock.  I’ve been going at warp speed for so long – fuel is bound to run out at some point.

I keep thinking tomorrow I’ll feel better.  Tomorrow is the day when my head clears and my energy starts returning.

Yeah nope.

So what is God’s plan for me right now?  This day?

I’m always wondering that.

God, what do you want me to do right here?

Other than sleep.

Which I am happy to do by the way.

But I have only a few more minutes before my little minions arrive and all the quiet is gone and the activity begins whether I want it to or not.

I guess…maybe this is the opportunity I’ve wanted… to just be still with my people.

As much as I plan on that, I don’t ever EVER make the time for it.

I’ll sit down for like 5 minutes but then I’m jumping back up again for something…goodness knows what!

Today, I got nothing to jump up for.  In fact, I think I might just request a meal delivery and sit on the sofa with my littles.

Oh…I say that but it is going to be difficult.

Why is it so very difficult to rest?  Why is it so difficult to be still?

I think I have an issue with control.

I want things to be orderly, organized, peaceful, and controlled…by me.

Those are the words that trip me up …. By me

I’m pretty sure those aren’t the words I’m supposed to be relying on.

I just want things to be beautiful for us…you know?

Why can’t I just get things beautiful…for more than a few minutes?

I’m reading a book about idols in our lives…ugh.  I really like it, but ugh.

I mean I like that I feel like it is dealing with some serious stuff that I need to face…but ugh…the serious stuff is idols.

I hate idols.

One of mine is control.  A sweet young lady was sharing with me about how God has revealed her idols of comfort and control and I thought, “This woman is awesome!  I’m like 40-something 😊 and I’m still trying to figure out what makes me tick and tock and fall.”

I prayed fervently before my phone call with this dear one that I’d be an encouragement to her…and God turned it around and had her encourage me.

Not in the way that I imagined.  It’s never awesome to have idols revealed…but actually maybe it is…

It is why I’m reading this book.  To figure out what in the world I’m worshiping in my life other than God.

To figure out why I struggle with what I struggle with…you know?

And God in his infinite kindness has confirmed what he has been revealing slowly to me….I want comfort and I want control.

I want the comfort of others, the comfort of a peaceful, orderly space, and the comfort of knowing I have control of it all.

And unfortunately I can be a mean, grumpy sinner in the process of pursing those idols.

I can also occasionally despair of ever overcoming.

One of my dearest friends wants to discuss the difference between victory and obedience.

I do understand that I’m called to a life of obedience, but I really do want victory…just saying.

I’m tired of the struggles.  I want to move on already.

Then there is a little part of me that wonders if the next thing I struggle with will be worse and I get all freaked out…I’m a mess.

Do I believe God is good or not?  I keep having to ask myself that when I get those crazy thoughts.

I do believe He is good.  And I do believe that He calls me to obedience.

He also calls me to repentance and rest.

I love this verse.

In returning and rest you shall be saved,

in quietness and in trust shall be your strength. 

Isaiah 30:15

Returning

Rest

Quietness

Trust

Returning…have I gone away and need to come back?  Yes.  Daily.

Daily I turn to my own thing, my own issues, my own solutions, and my own stress.

I’m the little girl who packed up her bags and stomped out the door ready to run away from papa and find a better life, only to see the darkness coming and the shadows lengthening.   I’m that same little girl hightailing it home to the welcoming arms of my loving father.

I’ve been the parent in that scenario…I’ve watched one of my sweet little babies pack a backpack and head out into the night – only to make it to the bottom of the driveway before running back home.   And how I longed for that embrace even though it was such a short trip down the driveway.

God longs for us to return to his embrace and rest there.  Rest in the arms of our Father.   It is quiet there.  We can trust His care.

Oh how I need that visual right now.  What a blessed reminder to me of the safety of His care.

Especially as I lie here feeling very weak, tired, and sick.

In each day, God has a plan.  It might be a plan for great productivity.  It might be a plan for rest.  It might be a plan just to be where He has me without complaint or concern or control.

My prayer is that wherever God has me, I’m resting in the knowledge that He loves me.

He loves me.

Me.

Sometimes that just hits me.  I say it a lot, but sometimes….sometimes it rocks my world.

It just did as I typed that.

He loves ME.

Me…with all my flaws, failures, faithlessness, frustrations, and fears.

Me…with all my control, complaints, crisis, and cares.

Me…just me.

No matter what…no matter where I am…no matter what I’m doing or not doing…no matter how I feel…no matter what I accomplish or don’t accomplish…no matter my successes or my failures…no matter how I love him back.

He loves me.

Thank you God…I needed that.

I need that.

I need to understand that deeper than I have in a long while.

How deep the Father’s love for us, how vast beyond all measure

that He should give His only Son to make a wretch His treasure.”

(Stuart Townend)

It’s In A Box…Somewhere

IMG_8315My mom ’s garage is packed almost to the ceiling with all my belongings.  I thought when we were loading them in that there was some sort of organizational plan.

Yeah…nope.

There might have been, but I’ve messed it up with all my digging and moving and climbing around the mounds of stuff!

And I can’t find anything!

The most frustrating thing has been all my tax documents.  I was so sure I had labeled it and placed it carefully on the outside of the piles. Apparently I did not…drat!

Now I’m looking for my spring/summer clothes…that one might require emptying the whole place, because I don’t want to buy another thing that might end up in a box.

But one thing I think I might have inadvertently packed away is my sense of humor.  THAT I might need to find sooner.

I used to be a funny person…light-hearted and occasionally witty…now I’m just a bit sarcastic.  That’s no fun.

I’ve gotten so bogged down by heavy life things that I haven’t had time to just laugh about things.  I occasionally chuckle, but it’s more so I don’t cry than that I truly am laughing hard.

My kids used to tease me about how loud I laughed…that hasn’t happened in a while. Now they comment on how lame and fake my laugh sounds.  Lame?  Fake? Argh.  I need to laugh!

A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit.  Proverbs 15:13

I don’t want to be crushed anymore…heartache schmartache.  My heartache might have crushed my spirit a bit…well, a lot…but I am not crushed.   In fact, God says I’m not crushed.

Be we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.  We are hard-pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.  2 Corinthians 4:7-9

So a happy heart and a cheerful face is my goal.

I think this is one way I might actually be able to model the Proverbs 31 woman.

She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.  Proverbs 31:25

I don’t often laugh at the days ahead.  I very often think I’m more dreading…fearing…scared out of my wits than anything resembling laughter.

But I love to laugh!  Why not choose that instead of dread?  Why not find the joy in things?  Why not grab hold of hope?  Why not expect great things?  Seriously, why not?

Laughter gives us the opportunity to change our outlook.  The opportunity to release some stress, defuse the tension, and smile instead of sigh.

Maybe when I look at all those boxes, I can think of something to smile about…well, maybe, but I can’t think of what it would be.

How about my kids…there is ample fodder for fun with them.  I’ve been so busy I’ve missed out on it.

How about a night out with a friend or two…a funny movie…a good book (I can at least get a smile from a good book)…how about laughing about things instead of fussing about them.  Maybe a tickling fight instead of another kind of fight.

I could get a good laugh from most things if I flipped my perspective a bit.  If instead of looking at our housing situation as just a nightmare, I could have fun with the closeness of my kids.

I used to joke that the 800 square foot house we lived in for a few years was my children’s favorite house.  They could never be more than 3 feet from me at any given time.  They LOVED that!  Most of the time I did too. 🙂

When I couldn’t eat after I found out about my husband’s adultery, I had waaay too many adultery diet jokes. I think I might have joked about that one too much.

When my car made noises that no car should ever make, my kids and I would laugh and make jokes I shouldn’t share in this blog.  Let’s just say my sense of humor is perfect for someone who works with 11 year olds!

Sitting in the ICU with my mom could be incredibly depressing, but we have had fun joking about my mom mooning all the nurses, as well as some other jokes, which again, I best keep to myself.

Hey!  I might not need to find the sense of humor box!

I just need to start looking for the joy…even the funny…in my circumstances.

I have to be honest and say I don’t imagine it will always be the easiest thing. There are times when I feel like humor is the farthest thing from my mind.  The farthest!

I believe a concentrated effort to smile and laugh more will make a big difference.

One more thing I’m going to try!  Add it to the list…

  1. Expect great things
  2. Smile more!

(And, maybe #3 should be to organize the garage!!)

 

Day 5 – What Will the Neighbors Think?

house

I have often joked that wherever we go, we are kind of like the Beverly Hillbillies.  I should just blare that music from our car when we enter the neighborhood.

I’m looking for a house right now.  I think maybe we should move out into the country!

We are loud and busy and just a lot…

My cul-de-sac in Fredericksburg knew us and loved us still…thank goodness!  I can’t tell you how blessed I was to have understanding neighbors…although I can’t imagine they didn’t shake their heads behind closed doors 🙂

The year that my husband left I had to learn a lot about the house and there were many days of decluttering, organizing, and projects…lots of throwing away and fixing.  One unintended project was a toilet bowl issues.

I had misplaced a set of keys…a big set of keys.  My friend Darcey and I tore the house apart looking for them.  No luck.  Finally, we had to figure the slow flushing powder room potty was the keys’ location.  My littlest daughter was two at the time, and we believed she was the culprit. We tried desperately to remove the keys with coat hangers, plungers, and gloved hands.  I won’t go into too much detail, but it was a very dirty job.  We finally ended up having to drag the nasty, dripping toilet through the foyer and out into the front yard so we could hose it out and recover the keys.

By this time, my friend Laurie had arrived to assist.  My friends are awesome!  Darcey, who in her first trimester, was amazing even in her nausea.  My friend Laurie was great too.  We could barely work for all the laughing.  My life had definitely become a really bad sitcom.  Darcey stated, “All your neighbors are in their houses calling their realtors right now.”  It was probably true.

After having a neighbor be front page news for adultery, watching massive amounts of stuff pile up at the curb, witnessing the craziness and noise of a big family daily, and now a toilet in the front yard…who wouldn’t second guess being neighbors with me?

But they didn’t move and instead they have laughed along with me, helped me more than I can say, welcomed my children into their homes so I could work, taken girls to AWANA, fed my children on crazy days, loaned me tools and ladders and supplies, answered questions, and prayed for me.

Now I’m moving and my heart is breaking for the loss of these neighbors.  They cannot be replaced…ever.

Right now, we are guests in my mom’s house and her neighbors don’t know us.  But they have heard us, and watched us, and probably been annoyed by us.  And I don’t have time for them to really know us.  And I wish I could.

I imagine they think I’m crazy.  Sometimes I worry what they think of me.  I wish it was summer and I could go outside and chat, but I can’t right now.  Life is just too busy.

I wonder when we move if we will have the time to invest in our neighbors like I want to.   How do single parents make friends? Build relationships.  Seriously?

I don’t know how to find time to meet people and even if I did, I wouldn’t have time to spend with them.  I know this is a season, but it is a season that I’d like to have the encouragement of friends close by.

I’m not complaining…well, maybe a little…:)  I’m ever so thankful for a job, and how could I not feel beyond blessed by my children.  It is another opportunity to focus on the positive and pray for answers to the negative.

And maybe I just need to make time to say “hi” to someone, even if I don’t have time.  And maybe I just need to call a coworker to sneak away for coffee.

I think it will be easier when I have my own home and leaving isn’t imposing on someone else…because my children rock and are happy to babysit….well maybe not happy, but willing. 🙂

There has to be a reason I’m in this place now…really trying to figure out what it could be.  Could it be to spend time building my relationship with the Lord and realizing that He is enough?

It usually, if not always, is that, right?  God wants to spend time with us. With me! Sometimes I’m so shocked by that.  Why in the world does He want to spend time with me?  That’s nuts!  But He isn’t nuts…He is loving.

I love spending time with my children.  I love hanging out and doing things.  I really do love them even when they are rotten.  I’d still choose them.

I’m so grateful that even when I’m rotten, God still chooses me.  That when my house is a mess…when my children are difficult…when our family is noisy and chaotic…when the yard is decorated with a  toilet…when our family falls apart in front of the world…God still loves us!  He wants to be with us.

He’d always choose to be our neighbor!

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

When You’ve Got Nothing Left to Give…and need some help and some hope

Image  About three months ago I began a program to get my teaching license and eventually my Masters in Education.  At the time it seemed like a really good thing…even though I don’t have the money to pay for the program nor is the time to do it clearly evident.  In fact when I was interviewing with the head of the program, he questioned whether it was possible for a single mother of 5 to do the program much less teach full time.  I assured him it was possible – I had actually already done it…totally a miracle by the way.

And I need another miracle.  I need help!!!

O God, be not far from me; O my God, make haste to help me.  Psalm 71:12

In every form available.

I lift up my eyes to the hills.  From where does my help come? 

My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.  Psalm 121:1 

I have to be honest I’m having one of those days when it just seems like nothing is going to be doable.  And getting my children to seriously put some effort into helping is more than frustrating.  And the house seems to be crashing around me at the same time everything I have to do is crashing as well.

And today I have a fever, a wicked bad sore throat, body aches, and I just want to lie down and sleep…well, actually at the moment I want to lie down and cry.

I didn’t use to be prone to tears, but lately I feel like I’m on the verge at all times.  It just seems like I can’t possibly handle everything God has given me.  And the future just looks harder and harder…

Today my Bible study was on Philippians 4:6-7.  I’ve been studying Philippians for months so I knew these verses were going to show up sooner or later.  They used to be my mantra, but then I decided to put my big girl pants on and actually live by them not just chant them to myself.

Apparently I’ve forgotten how to do that of late.  I’m just an absolute mess of fear, worry, anxiety, sorrow, and frustration.  I don’t want to be this girl.

Just now I was downstairs trying to get my children to do something, anything, to help…I was tripping over dogs, cars, toys and clothes (which is hazardous with a broken foot).  There are dishes in the sink and more laundry than you can comprehend.  Even though today my little girls are outside without jackets, in two days we are expecting more snow and sleet so I can’t put all those blasted coats, scarves, boots, and gloves away.  And they are all over the place.  I finally just designated a room for them to be everywhere…the foyer was embarrassing.  I know taxes are going to be due about the same time as tuition…that is another God sized task…huge.  (There is actually a part of me that is excited to see how God provides for them!  The other part of me is terrified.)  The other day I met with a school official about one of my children and the learning issues she has – I drove home in tears (shocking…tears).  In the next few weeks I have to fit in practicum hours and I can’t even figure out where they are going to magically appear.  What is going to drop so I can do that?  Something’s gotta give.

I kinda feel like I’m just the one giving lately.  I don’t think I have much more to give.

Unfortunately at this moment I feel like giving up.  I feel like just crawling under the covers and forgetting about deadlines, appointments, assignments, finances, houses, issues, illnesses, learning issues, and everything else.

I hate being like this.  I don’t like using that word “hate” but it fits.  I really don’t want to be this way.  I want to live in victory.  How can I feel so defeated when I have God?  It is so hard to keep my focus on Him.

I started today with Him and tonight I will end with time with Him.   But somewhere in between I keep getting sidetracked by all the minutia of the day…who am I kidding it isn’t just the day…it’s everything all the time.

It’s so much.  I can’t keep up mentally, physically or emotionally.  I just can’t.

I’m crying UNCLE!

So now what?

I don’t know.  I can’t really call uncle…just because I give up doesn’t mean things stop or go away.  I’m still a single momma.  I still have 5 children.  I still need to take care of them and our home and our finances and our future.  I still need to get up and live this life.

Lord, how?

How do I move forward when I feel so overwhelmed?

You say that I can trade burdens with you – that yours is easy and light.  I want that.  I want easy and light.  Lord, what does that look like…I mean practically?  When there is just so much to do and so many emotions and thoughts rolling around inside of me?  How do I untangle the mess of me?

Lord, I think I can’t just give you a burden…I think I need to give you me.  I want to jump in your arms and rest…sleep.  I want you to handle everything for me.  I can’t hide though Lord.  I have to DO something?  What do I do?

We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.

Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God’s. 

You will not need to fight in this battle.  Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the LORD on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem.  Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed.  Tomorrow go out against them, and the LORD will be with you. 

2 Chronicles 20:12, 15, 17

I’m really praying about this.

I think what I do is just do this day…just take this day and its mess and do it…and rest in the fact that God has my tomorrows.

Do what I can…honestly, right now there just seems to be too much to do…too much for one person with limited resources.

I think the thing I need most is time.  Time to do all the things that need to be done so there isn’t so much to do.  Do you know what I mean?

If I could just get rid of some things, de-clutter, organize, and take care of all the house projects that stare at me daily, maybe that would help me get past some of the stress.  Maybe.  I hate to use the “if I could just…” phrase, because part of me thinks that I just have to learn to let go and let God.  Just not sure what that means…you know, what does that look like?

I have a basement that should be dealt using a shovel and dumpster…a car that needs to be power washed on the inside…an office that has way too many papers all over the place…and children’s rooms that have been taken over by clothing and damp towels…honestly…it’s enough to drive me bonkers.  I think I’m pretty close to bonkers.  And that’s just annoying little stuff.  Why does that stuff make me so nuts?

The other day there was a tornado warning and I thought for a moment, “Hmmmm….”

Like that’s a viable options!?!  I could just take my kids, the dogs and a very few precious things and the wind could have the rest.

We’ll cram into a little apartment and just be us and a few things.  That sounds lovely…it’d probably only be lovely for about 2 hours and then I’d regret it.

I know from emails and messages that many of us are feeling overwhelmed by our circumstances…and those circumstances include all the pain and sadness of divorce and single parenting.

That pain and sadness get better…I don’t think I’ll ever not have sadness at what my children have lost, but God is healing me and He is showing me His love and faithfulness in amazing and beautiful ways.

I know that it’s so difficult to see past the situation now.  I’m struggling with that very thing.  I’m overwhelmed by my circumstances and my fears.  And honestly it baffles me.  I know better.  I know the God who I love and who loves me.  Why in the world am I struggling?  Why can I not just rest in his presence?  Why do I get all wound up?

Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?  Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.  Psalm 42:5

I will tell you that as I have been writing God has brought to mind so many scripture passages.  The one I shared earlier, 2 Chronicles 20…do you know what happens after God answers the people by saying do not be afraid?  People are appointed to sing to the Lord and praise Him!

“Give thanks to the LORD, for his steadfast love endures forever.”  And when they began to sing and praise, the LORD set an ambush against the men of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah, so they were routed.   2 Chronicles 20:21

Oh my goodness!  I’m so excited how God has used His word to show me His love again!  So as I’m typing that verse out I’m remembering that this morning I was studying Philippians 4:6-7

“do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and yours minds in Christ Jesus.”

THANKFULNESS.

Could that be the answer to our current states of distress?  Could it be that simple…and difficult?

Could I choose thankfulness?  If I cannot find anything to be thankful for in this world, could I focus on the next?  Could I focus on Christ? Could I focus on my new identity in Christ – not this discouraged divorced, single mama, but that beautiful child of the King…loved, cherished, precious, chosen, forgiven, and redeemed?   I think if I truly grasped how amazing that is, I wouldn’t be able to become discouraged by this world…I could live within a different paradigm.  I could find my strength – emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually – in the Lord.

Oh friends, the answer is there.  It’s Him.  Find Him in His word.

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

Say His words back to Him – say those promises out loud.  Pray and find Him in the chaos and the quiet.

I cannot begin to tell you how just in this time of writing God has calmed and quieted my heart through His word.  There are so many more verses I want to share but I’ve already gone way past the word limit I set for myself.

But here’s two more to encourage you…

I waited patiently for the LORD; he inclined to me and heard my cry.  He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon the rock, making my steps secure.  He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God.  Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the LORD.  Psalm 40:1-3

He is faithful…He is good…He is kind…He loves you.  Rest assured He will walk you through this…

Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire, you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior…Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you.  Isaiah 43:1-4