When You Don’t Know What to Do

pile of hardbound books with white and pink floral ceramic teacup and saucer

Photo by Ylanite Koppens on Pexels.com

I often think about my life and wonder why I haven’t been blessed with a Jane Austenish peaceful life. You know sitting in a quiet room reading Shakespeare sonnets, writing letters, or sewing doilies and such… waiting for my tea and cucumber sandwiches to be delivered.

Instead of sitting daintily on my lounging couch, I’m a harried single momma with five beautiful children, 2 lovable but messy dogs, 2 sweet but noisy guinea pigs, and a whole herd of little green frogs on my front porch. I work a full-time job teaching 5 different classes to middle and high schoolers, and work a small part-time job in the evenings to help offset expenses. There are, of course, sports practices and games, club and church activities, and my mom to consider. Not to forget, the many appointments that need to be tucked in the calendar as well. And lately, if it isn’t the car, it’s the house.  I’m tired. Really tired.

And amazingly enough, tired doesn’t necessarily equate with peaceful. In fact, my experience has been just the opposite. When I’m tired, I’m not peaceful. I’m anxious, fussy, easily irritated, overwhelmed by everything, and generally a not enjoyable human being. See, not peaceful. For me or anyone around me.

That leads me to consider peace for the thousandth time. And by consider I mean figure out how to get some. I always end up at this verse, “For He himself is our peace…” (Ephesians 2:14) That verse reminds me yet again that Jesus is the peace I long for with others, in my circumstances, but most importantly with God.

Reconciliation. It’s the gospel.

Honestly, I’m not surprised anymore that I every time I have a question or concern regarding my life (any part of it), I find the answer to be the Gospel. God spells it out quite clearly whenever I really look for it.

I want peace to look like…well…peaceful. You know…quiet, calm, relaxed, rested, happy, joyful, lovely.

I don’t think that is the peace God has for me…at least not for any extended amount of time each day. And I certainly am not living a life that feels peaceful…in fact, I feel anything but peaceful most of the time.

This past weekend, on top of many MANY other things, my shower door exploded and quite literally showered my daughter (who had just had her wisdom teeth out) with giant pieces of glass. My bathroom looked like a crime scene. She and I wept and laughed simultaneously as I tried to get her, all wet, soapy, and bloody, out of the glass filled shower and room. (She is fine by the way!) It felt very much like the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. As I walked downstairs to get the broom and dustpan (woefully inadequate for the job), my right arm started tingling and my head felt funny and I thought, “Great. Now I’m having a stroke.” I decided to sit down and breathe slowly. It helped. Clearly, I’m still here and cognizant so it was simply anxiety.

I think it’s because I felt like I couldn’t possibly handle one more thing…my cup runneth over with stuff. I wish I could say blessings overflow because it does run over with blessings. It’s just that sometimes I can’t see the blessings for all the burdens. Maybe it’s because my back is bent over with stuff I can’t seem to drop…my responsibilities, my stuff, my burdens. My eyes are down, not up.

I’m trying to get them back up, but I’m realizing that I can’t lift them well when my back is bent. I just gotta drop something. As the saying goes, “Something’s gotta give!” And again, I’m back to the question I’ve asked so often, what? What gets dropped? What kid? What class? What household thing? What job? What responsibility? None that I can think of.

The only thing that can change is my perspective and maybe some boundaries. Maybe I say no matter what I don’t work after a certain time. Maybe I say my family time is protected. Maybe I make time for exercise so maybe I can sleep better. Maybe…maybe I need to stop saying maybe and do it.

But you know what, just saying I need to do something more (or even not do something) makes me feel slightly more anxious. I can’t figure out what to let go…who to disappoint. It’s another thing to think about and I’m seriously beyond tired of thinking.

I just want to relax. Turn off my brain for a minute or more. Be peaceful…not just in what I am or am not doing, but in who I am…inside. How many times can God remind me that the answer to peace is fixing my eyes on Him…a steady gaze. Not distracted by glances at this issue or that thing, but laser like focus on Him. Not worried and anxious and fearful.

We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you. 2 Chronicles 20:12b

That little gem of a verse is one of my favorites because so often it is what I find myself saying. And the context makes it all the richer (and applicable). Jehoshaphat had just been told that a a vast army was heading his way.  “Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the Lord, and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah.” Jehoshaphat instantly goes to God when he received the bad news. The next thing that happened, ‘’The people of Judah came together to seek help from the LORD; indeed, they came from every town in Judah to seek him.” Bam. Every single person sought God! And they all prayed together with Jehoshaphat leading:

“Lord, the God of our ancestors, are you not the God who is in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. Power and might are in your hand, and no one can withstand you.”  

I want to put the whole prayer here, but I’ll paraphrase. Jehoshaphat reminds God (and himself and the people) of what He has done and says, “If calamity comes upon us, whether the sword of judgment, or plague or famine, we will stand in your presence before this temple that bears your Name and will cry out to you in our distress, and you will hear us and save us.” Basically, Jehoshaphat is saying that they know where their help comes from, their help comes from the Lord. (Psalm 121:2) Then he points out to God the predicament they are in…that vast army preparing to invade…and the fact that they have no power in and of themselves to face it.

Then he says that line I love:  We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you. Might that not be exactly what God wanted them to do…the posture He wanted them in as they faced the impending battle? All of them, “All the men of Judah, with their wives and children and little ones” standing before the Lord with expectation.

And God answers!  “Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s”

Next, God gives them specific instructions of what to do and then he says, “You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the LORD will give you, Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the LORD will be with you.”

This is so rich with application, I can’t stand it!  

I love that God doesn’t say, “Stay in camp, I got this. Just hide in your tents, blow out your candles, and be super quiet.” God tells them to march down to the vast army and trust Him that they will not have to fight.  So Judah obeyed but not before they sang some praise songs and thanked God for his love that endures forever!

And while they worshiped, God did what He always does and handled it.  

Those vast armies ended up destroying each other so when Judah marched down to where God told them to go, they found only dead bodies. They didn’t have to throw a spear or clash a sword at all. God had it covered.

AND because God is so awesome (to Judah and me), this is the last verse in the passage:

And the kingdom of Jehoshaphat was at peace, for his God had given him rest on every side. (v. 30)

I wish I could adequately put into words how blessed I am at this very moment. When I began writing this blog, I really didn’t know what I was going to say or how God was going to answer this cry of my heart. God, there’s just too much. I don’t know what to do. I can’t figure out how to be peaceful because I feel so anxious about everything. Lord, you just have to have the answers.

And one little verse popped into my head and there was my answer – the reminder that God has my life handled even when I can’t figure out what to do, that worship changes things (mostly me), and that I can trust God to fight the battles for me. Just breathe girl and remember that God’s love endures forever! Forever.

This God who defeats armies. This God who calms storms. This God who loves sinners. This God who saves His people by dying Himself. This God who spoke words thousands of years ago knowing that at this moment this day I’d be blessed to read them. This God who is faithful to save, to love, to provide, and to fight for me every single day. This God…is my God.

What a blessed reminder…my God will fight the battles. Every big and little thing might feel like my responsibility, my burden, my battle, but it is the Lord’s – all of it, big and small – and He will handle it.

There’s my peace. No Pride and Prejudice moments needed. Just Jesus.

Have faith in the LORD your God and you will be upheld.  2 Chronicles 20:20

Advertisements

Waiting with Peaceful Expectation

pexels-photo-916405.jpeg

I’m a picture person.  A visual learner. I understand things better if I can get a picture of it in my head. Today God gave me quite a profound picture.

I was reading Matthew 4:18-22.  It’s the passage where Jesus invites Peter and Andrew to join Him.  The whole scene played out so vividly in my head. It says, “As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee”.  Peter and Andrew weren’t out in a boat. They were standing in the water, quietly waiting and watching for fish to swim by so they could throw out their nets to catch them.

And I thought about that picture.  These two men standing quietly watching.

I don’t often stand still.  I’m very rarely blessed with quiet. And who has time to watch and wait for something in this world?

Well, I was struck profoundly that maybe those are things I should start doing.

At first, I was thinking about the fish. Each fish caught would certainly be considered a blessing.  Peter and Andrew surely had an attitude of expectation and hope.  Their time, at that moment, was spent looking for the blessings.

Maybe I’m stretching this a bit…but this is what God impressed upon me this morning.  

There are blessings to be had…moments to be blessed…moments to stand still and acknowledge the blessings.

Too often I find myself rushing, racing, running, and rattling off my list of to-dos like there is no tomorrow. What about taking  a moment and standing still, breathing deeply, and thanking God. Watching for what He’s doing!

If you were to have a visual picture of me to juxtapose with Peter and Andrew…I’d be the frantic woman down the beach a bit, tossing my net willy-nilly into the water. Creating splashes and extra waves in my frenzied attempt to capture blessings that I think I need immediately. I’d be knee deep in the water splattered with sand and mud, damp all the way through. One pant leg slightly rolled up. One unraveled around my ankle, floating around me with each wave.  My hair would be half in a ponytail, half blowing over my eyes causing my efforts to be even more harried and ineffective (if that were possible). My net would be flying through the air in crazy arcs, landing in the water with a splash, crumpled and twisted. See, I tend to go at things with a gusto that is often not well thought-out. I race into possible solutions because I want to fix things. I try too hard…my intentions are all great, but my execution is often flawed.

What I realized this morning is sometimes its okay to relax and pursue solutions with calm and quiet.  To trust that God will handle things, provide the solutions, provision, and blessings in the perfect time.  I just need to be watching and waiting, prepared and ready to act when He shows me it is time.

I also noticed that Peter and Andrew were fishing together.  They had fellowship, companionship, and a common focus. How beautiful is that!  I love relationship. God has provided that for me and I’m grateful. Sometimes I forget that I wasn’t meant to be a lone survivor…that God has provided others to walk through this life with me.

It’s important that I stand peacefully beside them and they beside me as we expectantly wait to see what God provides.  

And God does provide.  Not only blessings, but Jesus.

How amazing that as they stood quietly watching for the blessing of fish in a net, the Savior of the world calmly walked up to them and said, “Come, follow me.”  

I’ve always been shocked at their response, “At once they left their nets and followed him.”  Wait, what?! Really? No questions. No discussions. No “let me get my stuff together. “ No “let us store these nets for later so no one takes them”.  No “and who are you exactly?” Nothing, just following. Crazy.

What was it about this moment that resulted in that response?  What was it about these men and that Man? How remarkable! I can only imagine that Jesus, being God, knew they were ready and willing.  That they were available. Men of courage, conviction, and commitment. Men willing to leave it all behind and follow Him.

Was it that they had learned to look for blessings?  Was it their attitude of waiting and watching expectantly that made them more available for their Savior to radically change their lives?  Was it Jesus just working supernaturally in the way only He can to soften their hearts to His calling?

Yes.  

Yes all those things…at least I think so.

God had prepared these men to be disciples and apostles of Jesus.  He had given them time to learn perseverance, patience, and peacefulness even as they battled storms, endured long waits for full nets, dealt with disappointingly small catches, enjoyed the bounty of boats overflowing, carefully repaired torn nets and dented boats, spent long nights at sea, celebrated beautiful sunrises, enjoyed the companionship and dealt with the irritation of working with others.

The day in and day out struggles and successes of our days are the places we learn and grow into the people God created us to be.

It is super easy for me to see my overwhelmingly busy days as just crazy chaos that distracts me from what I really want to be doing…the things I think are most important.

But, what if everything is important?  What if all the moments of the day are set into motion by my sovereign Lord and Savior to mold me into the woman God wants me to be?

What if the minutes of minutiae in a day are really minutes of meaning?  What if it is less about big defining things, and more about little details in the defining of me.  Defining of my character, my attitude, my perspective, my hopes and dreams and expectations?

What if the things I do everyday that might seem inconsequential, insignificant in the grand scheme of things, irritatingly repetitive, and just a tad (or a lot) boring, are the things that will make me who I am, who I am meant to be…  

The standing knee deep in the water, watching quietly for a school of fish to swim by so I can carefully and strategically throw out my net…maybe these moments are much more important than I thought.

Because the result is recognized blessings…is moments where I’m watching for God to provide and I grab that provision and thank Him for it.  And then, the beautiful then, is that I’m more than ever ready to follow Jesus. To go where he has called me…whether its another day of the mundane or a day full of magnificence.

But whatever He calls me too, I’m ready.  As Andrew Murray says, I expect great things from God.  

He is a great God after all!

So the visual now is not me casting my net in crazy contortions of desperation.  It’s me, quietly and expectantly waiting for God to show me His blessings…to be acutely aware that He is working and providing and blessing.  And because I am peacefully watching, He most certainly will be calling and leading.

I might not be able to stand still for very long, but I can certainly slow down a bit.  Slow down and watch what God is doing…expect Him to do things. Expect Him to show up.  Just like Jesus did.

And I pray that I will always choose to follow Him.

Let’s drop our nets and follow Him today!

Perfect…Just Perfect

IMG_6521A while ago I wrote a blog where I mentioned my expectations of perfection.  At the time it garnered a fair amount of conversation. Apparently, others see this propensity in me as well. And, although I now see it very clearly, I’m still unsure of how to change it because I’m not sure where to draw the line between reasonable and unreasonable expectations.

Because fairly often when one of my children is particularly difficult, I’m pretty sure I lose my marbles for a few minutes…or more. And my marbles can fly and hit other children with a ferocity that shocks me. In those moments, I think, “Well, you definitely aren’t striving for perfection today”…but then I have to ask, “What is the perfect response when things are crazy, chaotic, and overwhelming?  How do I act reasonable when I’m just plain ole worn out?  What is reasonable?”

I’m pretty confident that my words and facial expression and demeanor can seem by no means reasonable.  And I’m more than certain that I do some very imperfect things.

Okay, so I’m not perfect and my actions can be a big disappointment to me, what do I do now?  Because I think maybe this is one thing I need to consider.

When I fail – which is a reasonable expectation because I’m human and pretty tired – what next?  

Isaiah 30:15 For thus said the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel, “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.

I keep coming back to this verse so I’m camping here for a while.  I have the marshmallows, chocolate, and graham crackers, let’s sit around the campfire and consider this because it’s rich and practical and inspiring.

Israel was always struggling with trusting God…with living well for and with Him. And thankfully for them and us, God always pursues His people. Israel continually put their trust in other nations rather than God.  Always straying off the path. Seeking the answer away from the Answer. Responding in fear and anxiousness.

They needed to let go of their fear and grab hold of faith.  (Did I say “they”?…)

Oh, how I need to hear this myself.  LET GO OF FEAR AND GRAB HOLD OF FAITH. It’s not possible to hold both fear and faith.  

It’s interesting to me how often God assures us there is no reason to fear, that He loves us perfectly, and that He will never leave us nor forsake us, and yet it can be such a challenge to accept this.

I can only speak for myself, but I, like Israel, am continually looking away from God for the thing that will “make everything better”…well, seem better.  And God is continually saying, “Just Me.  All you need is me!”

I want to find the perfect things, be the perfect woman so I can have the perfect life so I can raise the perfect children and be the perfect teacher and have perfect relationships in my perfect little world.  

Yeah…don’t ask how’s that working for me…because clearly it is not.

Isaiah 30:15 uses the word returning.  Returning is a deliberate act of going back to something.  Usually it would be referring to something physical.  What does that look like for me?  Returning to things that encourage me to walk more closely with Him.  Letting go of things that don’t. Saying yes to things that I’m called to do, not just saying yes because there is a need. Taking time to be with Him.

But another version uses repentance instead.  Repentance which means a change of mind…it is a conscious decision to change direction.  To look a different direction.  It is interesting to study word meanings – this one is a bit tricky.  People who know a lot more than me disagree on the actual meaning of this word.  Some say it has to do with regret and shame, some say it is a military term which means “about face”, and some say it has nothing to do with negative feelings, but simply means to rethink something.  It’s fascinating. (English teacher…)

Whatever the word origin, the idea is simply that we change direction and in our case…we turn to God.  It isn’t simply an act of regret…turning in shame.  It is an act of faith…turning in hope. Trusting that God can handle both my mess and my life.

There is certainly the element of rest in that as we turn to Him…allow Him to lead…we can let go of the burden.

When I consider rest, I think about being somewhere quiet, peaceful, and calm.  A place where I can lay myself down, close my eyes, and sleep.  If I can do that, there is no fear involved.  It is a place of safety too.  Resting well involves trusting.  For me, that’s believing that God can handle whatever is going on and I can close my eyes and relax. Trusting that I’m safe..that my children are safe.

This morning I was woken up by one of those sounds that I couldn’t figure out if it was part of a dream or reality.  Unfortunately, the dog woke too (which probably meant he made the sound).  So he and I had a very early morning together – checking doors and such.  He also got a very early walk about the neighborhood (without me…I’m not that brave).  Following our brief very early morning adventure, I decided to try to sleep a bit longer.  I still was a bit concerned for a few reasons…my outside lights wouldn’t come on, I still didn’t know the origin of the noise, and my dog was restless. I tried to rest but it was challenging.  Thoughts swirled through my head….maybe I need a security system, should I put curtains on all the windows so you can’t see in at all, should I get a more solid door in the back, should there be more lights in the backyard???  There was no rest because I didn’t feel entirely safe.

I was definitely feeling a bit restless, like my dog.

When he is restless…he wanders as if he doesn’t know what he needs, what to do, or where to go.  He whimpers a bit and even occasionally will let out a bark.  He can’t sit or lie down for even a moment…he can’t be still.

That’s how I feel I live my life sometimes. Searching for something to fix everything. Unsure of what to do.  Whimpering a bit about my predicament.  Sometimes letting out a bark of annoyance at all the challenges. Unable to be still.  Unable to rest.

The answer to my restlessness, is turning my focus to Jesus.

“You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.  Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD, the LORD himself, is the Rock eternal.”  Isaiah 26:3

Repenting…turning to Him.

Resting…trusting Him.

My salvation in Him.

But God doesn’t leave me there. He says, “in quietness and trust is your strength.”

Quietness.  Oh that I was a quiet person.  I’m soft spoken (most of the time), but I’ve been told (by my children) I laugh too loud.  That’s probably just because almost everything I do is slightly or completely embarrassing to them…so laughing louder is now my goal LOL!  But I don’t believe that this quietness is the volume of our speaking or laughing, but the volume of our thinking…does that make sense?  Quietness means “undisturbed, calm”.  It is interesting because we use the word disturbed to refer to someone who is not thinking in a healthy way. Spiritually speaking, quietness is Christ-centered thinking.

When He is the center, everything else seems to calmly, gently fall into place.

Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes.  Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.  1 Peter 3:3-4

My inner self needs to chill.  My restlessness needs to cease.  My spirit needs to quiet down.

Rest in Jesus.  Rest in the knowledge that He loves me completely, relentlessly.  Be quiet in Him.

It would be very difficult to be quiet in the Lord without trusting Him.  How could quietness be a defining feature of my life without trusting Him?  Simple answer…it can’t. If I don’t trust Him I will be continually trying to turn back around (un-repent), I will be restless in my pursuit of control, I will be disturbed in my thinking and spirit because I have lost my focus, my peace of mind…my peace.

That to me is a weak place to be.  A place where I’m easily wearied, easily frustrated, easily angered, easily hurt, easily confused, easily prone to negative emotions…that is not a healthy, undisturbed, restful place.  

There is no strength without trusting God…without resting quietly in Him.  Without turning my life around to follow after Him.

Following Him, trusting Him, and resting in Him give me the strength I need to live without regret…to believe that each day is a gift, that each burden can be a blessing, that each moment is an opportunity to choose Christ…choose His perfection rather than mine (which clearly isn’t perfect anyway).

Regardless of how I react or act, God still calls to me.  He still reaches across my messiness and pulls me close.  He still offers me rest…security…peace.

I know that I struggle with unreasonable expectations for myself.  I know that I tend to beat myself up…I have the bruises (and blogs) to prove it.  But I want to be different because I certainly don’t want to raise children who place unreasonable expectations on themselves (or others for that matter).  

Feeling like a failure has an element of fear involved.  And a big bit of perfectionism is a tragic attempt to control things that aren’t very controllable. Letting go of those things is hard, but I have hope in my Savior.  His love is relentless.  

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. Hebrews 10:23

My propensity to seeking and expecting perfection cannot be satisfied in my own efforts.  It can only be satisfied in Christ, who is perfection.

His propensity to faithfulness, gentleness, and love is unending even when I fail…He doesn’t beat me up so maybe it’s time I stop too.

He is enough perfect for me.

A Common Theme

IMG_9244

Around 9 years ago I became a single parent to my five beautiful children.  About the same time, I started writing.  Although I’ve always been a writer in my own way – journaling, making notes, jotting down thoughts here and there. As a teenager, I even wrote a few poems although those might never see the light of day or the internet.  🙂

A few weeks ago as I was praying about writing another book. I decided to do something I’d never done before and read over all my blogs.  I wanted to see common themes and also how God had answered my prayers and shown His love to me.  

Boy oh boy!  Was I surprised at my common themes!  Surprised and a little dismayed.  For although by the end of each blog I always saw a decided upswing in my thinking..my “But God” or “And yet God” moments as I like to call them…I also saw that I often refer to myself as a mess or a failure.  

Friends have mentioned this to me, and I’ve always replied, “Well, I feel like one. And, isn’t that something most women struggle with at least a little bit?”  

But as I read through my blogs, all I could think was “Oh dear. That is not the mother I want to be…that is not the woman I want to be.” Not that life should always be cupcakes and Twizzlers, but shouldn’t it be more than always feeling like things should be better or different?

No doubt there will always be times when we feel like we can’t do things well. Times when we feel more defeated than victorious.  Times when we don’t do things as well as we had hoped – when the easy thing to do isn’t always the right thing to do.  Times when we should be the one in time-out, the one getting our mouth washed out with soap, the one having to hand over the cell phone, or the one being grounded  

But being a single parent, there is no one to step in and say, “Hey sweetie, ummmm, how about you just take some time alone for a second…you know, so everyone survives tonight…” It is often just me saying to myself, “Woman, what in the world!?!  Settle yourself down!” Unfortunately, that is usually after I’ve already poured my frustration all over my children.

But God..but God doesn’t say to me, “Susan, how dare you be so sinful.”  In fact, today I read this:

Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion.  Isaiah 30:18

I was floored by that.  The idea that God longs to be gracious to me!  Wow.

And I realized that maybe the thing He is waiting for is me.  The thing in the way of the fulfillment of His longing is me.  Because when you go back to verse 15, God says, “For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.”  

My strength is found in quietness and trust.  The big billboard I’m seeing in my head is this

GIRLFRIEND, YOUR STRENGTH IS NOT FOUND IN YOU.

YOUR STRENGTH IS NOT SOMETHING YOU GET BY DOING EVERYTHING PERFECTLY.  

YOUR STRENGTH IS FOUND IN CHRIST ALONE.  

My expectations for myself are ridiculous.  I know that and most of my friends have told me that.  I’m not sure how to lower them, but maybe that isn’t the first step.  

I think the first step is changing how I look at myself (again). Seriously, this seems to be a constant theme in my life as well.  Not viewing myself through the eyes of  Jesus. How do I see myself?  As a daughter of the King or as a slave girl in the kitchen of the King?  Do I believe that I’m loved or do I believe that I still need to earn it?  Do I trust that He will take care of us or do I believe it is up to me?  

I’m afraid I don’t really want to answer those questions…at least not honestly.  Because I know that my answers will most likely be the wrong ones  I know with what I struggle.

And I don’t want to struggle anymore.  I truly want to live in Christ’s strength not my own.  Very clearly, doing things in my own strength only makes me feel messy and a bit like a failure…sometimes a lot like a failure.  

So what is God calling me to do at this point?  1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 popped into my head:

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

Been at this verse before, but God has changed my perspective a bit on these commands as well.  He’s grown me up.

Rejoice. Pray. Thank.

In the past I have thought of rejoicing as more about praising or having a positive attitude.   Philippians 4:6 says “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.” I’m no Biblical scholar, but I believe that means in some way – rejoicing is about preaching the gospel to myself.  Reminding myself of the blessedness of my salvation.  It’s not about joy in my circumstances or hope that things will get better…I have a blessed assurance that not only will my future be better, but as I walk the path to that future, I have Christ with me.  That is worthy of rejoicing!  Christ makes rejoicing always possible.

Praying – something so powerful but I seem to always forget to do it.  I guess if I was praying continually it would just be happening and I wouldn’t have to question why I don’t pray about things more diligently.  Prayer would become my habit, my way of life.  I like that idea.

Give thanks in all circumstances. I’ve thought about thankfulness a lot because it seems like it is the key to joyful living.   I keep thinking that I need to find things in my life to add to my thankful list. Not that that is at all a bad idea, but giving thanks for things is still that.  Giving thanks for things.  For circumstances I consider good. I think that giving thanks in all circumstances is more about the beauty of my salvation and my life lived with Christ. Being grateful is all about Jesus. All. About. Jesus. Giving thanks for Christ in all circumstances.

So how in the world does this all relate to my feeling like a mess and a failure.  Because God is showing me that the key is taking my eyes off me.  Fixing my eyes on Him. Because He is the author and perfecter of my faith….not me.  He is my life… not me.  He is my hope…not me.  Because rejoicing and praying and thanking are all about Him. He is my strength…not me.  

It is not about me.  Not about me succeeding or failing…having it all together or being a complete mess.  It is all about Jesus.

Rejoice because Jesus has given me hope.  Pray because God holds me and my life.   Be thankful for Jesus and my life in Him.

I’m not a mess or a failure because I’m not defined by what I do or don’t do.  I’m His and I’m defined by what Jesus did. And that is something to rejoice about!

Hope?

img_8377Hope.

Such a beautiful word.  In it is bound up all that is good in our perspective and all that we have to look forward to in our lives.

It is spoken concerning the smallest of things, “I hope I remember where I put that”, to the big life-changing desires we hold, “I hope I find someone who will love me well.”

There is not a morning that I don’t wake up hoping that the day will go well, that I’ll be patient with and encouraging to my children, that I’ll accomplish many things, and that good things will happen for us all.

But when my hope is not met with success, what then?  Is all hope lost?

Is my hope dependent on things going well as I define it? Or is my hope something more, something much more?

There is a song out right now called “Even If” by Mercy Me.  The chorus has a line that says, “I know You’re able and I know You can save through the fire with Your mighty hand, but even if You don’t, my hope is You alone.”  

Not my hope is IN You, but my hope IS YOU.

It isn’t a concept I’m unfamiliar with – I’ve heard it before.  That Jesus is our hope.  But much more often I’ve heard that my hope is IN Jesus, which it is, but for me, the reminder that my hope is Him has been a blessing.

There is something about this Hope that calms me…maybe it’s because scripture also tells me that Jesus IS my life.

Christ who is your life….  Colossians 3:4

Kind of big concepts to wrap your brain around…Jesus is my life and my hope.  It is easier for me to understand that Jesus is my Savior,  is the Son of God, is fully man and fully God…big concepts but not too difficult for me to “get”.

How is Jesus my life?  And how is He my hope?

Christ Jesus our hope.  I Timothy 1:1

I’m sitting in my big comfy chair with my coffee, Bible and laptop.  Unfortunately, I’m also leaning up against a heating pad because my back is killing me. And honestly, I have very little hope of completing most of the tasks on my to do list because they require movement. I don’t want to be, but I feel a bit discouraged  

If I believe that God is sovereign there is a reason for me to be sitting here with an achin’ back, a laptop in front of me, and Bible open beside me. There has to be a reason that this morning God brought to mind that He is my hope.  

There is something more to it than me putting my hope IN Him.  I think it is because regardless of what I do or don’t do, He is still my hope.  It isn’t about me DOING anything.

Even if I don’t have the right perspective, Jesus is still my hope.

Even if I’m feeling hopeless about things, Jesus is still my hope.  

Even if nothing seems to go as planned, Jesus is still my hope.

Even if my world is incredibly messy, Jesus is still my hope.

God is who He is.  I have absolutely no bearing on who He is.  He is always the same.  He is always my hope.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.  Hebrews 13:8

No matter how faithless, confused, sinful, hopeless, angry, frustrated, exhausted, weary, overwhelmed I am, He never changes.

He is always sovereign, faithful, loving, gracious, forgiving, and, thankfully, no matter what I do, He is always with me.  

My hope is not just in Him, which in and of itself is a very, very powerful thing…my hope is Him.

In you, O LORD, do I take refuge; let me never be put to shame!

In your righteousness deliver me and rescue me; incline your ear to me, and save me!

Be to me a rock of refuge, to which I may continually come;

You have given the command to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress.

Rescue me, O my God, from the hand of the wicked,

from the grasp of the unjust and cruel man.

For you, O Lord, are my hope, my trust, O LORD, from my youth.

Psalm 71:1-5

Something interesting about this passage is the use of God’s names.  Lord with no caps means “Adonia” which denotes God’s sovereignty, omnipotence and lordship.  So when the Psalmist says, “For you, O Lord, are my hope”, he is saying that the sovereign, omnipotent Lord is his hope.

Lord in all caps was used to bring to mind God’s covenant faithfulness.  That means when the psalmist says, “my trust, O LORD”, he is saying that he trusts in the covenant-keeping God. I just love how the Word of God is so rich and deep and has layers and layers to explore!

My sovereign God is my hope and my trust is the God who keeps the covenant faithfully for both of us!  

The God who hold up the universe is my hope and the God who holds up the covenant is my trust.

That’s pretty awesome!

Why do I feel hopeless or struggle with trust when my Father, who is the Maker of all things, who made me, who loves me, who will never leave me nor forsake me, says He is my hope and trust and life.  

There is very little about this single parent life that isn’t at least a tiny bit challenging, exhausting, and sometimes so very frustrating.  All the burdens of raising children without a partner, all the decisions, fears and practical things we have to muddle through can be daunting.  I’m encouraged though…blessed by the knowledge, the reminder, that God is my life.  

My life is not my children, my accomplishments, my to do lists, my work, my writing, my home, my relationships…my life is Him.  And He is all good.

Good gravy!  Think about it!  If He is my life and He is my hope, then both of those things are MORE than secure.  It isn’t dependent on me keeping my life and hope in Him.  It is Him – ALL Him.  

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering,

for he who promised is faithful.  Hebrews 10:23

I trust Him.  I trust that He holds my life and my hope safely.  That no matter what this world throws at me, no matter what I do or don’t do, no matter what my circumstances are, no matter where this single mom journey takes me, He is my hope.  

Even if all else fails (including me), He will not.

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 had of the throne of God.  Hebrews 12:1-2

Are you ready to stop wrestling and start resting?

This was eye-opening for me. In the throes of a deep conversation with a dear friend, I was asked by him to stop and be thankful.  To spend the rest of the conversation thinking about things that we could be grateful for…instead of things that we struggle with…

Can I tell you…it wasn’t easy.  

And I was surprised.  No I was shocked.  

For a few moments I could think of nothing positive to say.

Not. One. Thing.

My eyes welled up with tears, not because I was frustrated with the conversation but because I had allowed myself to reach such a point that I could only see the struggle, only feel the fear, only know the challenges.  

What had happened to me?  How had I gone so terribly astray in my thinking.

Ironically, that very day I had responded to someone’s question about how to be thankful…how could I possibly have given someone else advice when I couldn’t figure out how to be thankful myself.

So I sat on the sofa staring at the floor wondering what I could possibly say.  Thankfully he jumped in and shared…just talked one thing after another…nothing earth-shattering, just daily stuff.

And I thought to myself, “Just start talking.  One little thing.”  It was like trying to change the direction of a freight train speeding forward…without stopping…just whipping that thing in reverse and going for it.  I truly felt that I was  wrestling to regain and turn around my thoughts and my emotions and my whole attitude and perspective.  Good gravy it was hard!

I said, “Well, I’m thankful it was a beautiful day…and for devotional time with Ally that was good this morning…and that my bangs were not cut too short when I got my haircut today…:”  

And then it all changed…

One step…a few words…a whole new perspective.

Fifteen minutes earlier I was frustrated, afraid, and even verging on angry.  Now?  Well, now I’m thankful.  I’m peaceful.  I’m hopeful.

All because he asked us to stop and be thankful.

In all things, give thanks.  1 Thessalonians 5:18

It was an end the madness moment.  And for me…it was more.  It revealed..no, it threw a spotlight on a way of living I have tiptoed around for years.

I talk about choosing joy.  I talk about being thankful.  I talk about peace.  But I keep having to remind myself that I can choose joy, be thankful, live peace, because I haven’t made a decision to do those things consistently for myself.  It’s like I say, “Look at this possibility!  Look at what we can do if we try!”  But then I never really try…I mean try hard.  I have spent so much time taking comfort in the possibility and haven’t experienced the lasting beauty of choosing joy, peace, and gratefulness as a lifestyle.

I realized…actually I remembered something I’ve known to be true for quite a while.  The fruit of the Spirit God talks about in Galatians are already mine.

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

God has ALREADY given me joy and peace and a mess of things to be thankful for!  I truly need to choose to live it.

Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you:  not as the world gives do I give to you.  Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.  John 14:27

When I’m begging for joy and peace, I wonder if God smiles gently and whispers, “Dearest, I already gave those to you. You have all you need.”

And I still request them as if I’d never received them…ever.

Sitting on that sofa, I realized it truly is a choice.  I can choose to see the beauty around me  I can choose to be thankful.  I can choose to stop pouting and start praising.  I can choose to stop trying to be in control and start trusting that God already is.  

God has blessed me with all that I need to live this life joyfully, gratefully, and peacefully. He has given me the Holy Spirit and He has given me friends.  And He has given me this loving friend who is willing to risk my ire to say that we can choose gratefulness in the midst of challenges.

I like it.  I love it.

I can do all things through him who strengthens me.  Philippians 4:13

Let’s stop wrestling with things, and start resting in Him.  

I know now that choosing to be thankful is all within my power.  It isn’t easy…it can be super challenging to change the way we think, but God gives us all the strength we need to choose well.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Romans 15:13

Grab the Robe with Me

IMG_6929There was this song at my old church …it was a solo I sang on worship team sometimes. It was called “I See the Lord” and I loved it.

It was based on Isaiah 6:1

…I saw the LORD sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple.”

The morning after my husband said he was thinking of leaving, I was scheduled to sing “I See the Lord” at church.  I went early for practice and cried through the whole thing. I think my sweet worship leader thought I was particularly moved by the song.  Although I always was to some degree, it was not the cause of my tears that morning.  I don’t believe I have sung it since.  

Nor really have I thought about it until this past week when I was listening to a talk about the woman with the bleeding issue who reached out and touched the robe of Christ in order to be healed.

And I was thinking about that woman and how desperate she was…how she had tried everything and nothing had worked.  She thought, “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.”  (Mark 5:28)

At this point, Jesus was on the way to heal Jarius’ daughter.  Jarius had said, “My little daughter is at the point of death.  Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well and live.”  (Mark 5:23)

Jesus is on the way to heal a little girl who is as old as this woman’s health problem.  Both are desperate for healing.  One just wanted to touch Him and one just needs to be touched by Him.  

Jesus.  The Great Physician.  

For the woman, her ailment has meant that she is constantly considered unclean…impure  She can’t even touch another person without making them unclean along with her.  And yet, in her desperation, she is pushing through a crowd to touch the Savior.  To just grab hold of the hem of His robe.  She doesn’t even really touch Him.  She touches His robe…probably the tassels that hang down from the hem.  And instantly… instantly… she is healed.  

The years of pain and shame are over.  

And with that brief encounter…that willingness to push through the obstacles and grab hold of Him….she is healed.  And Jesus…Jesus feels it.

“And Jesus perceiving in himself that power had gone out from him, immediately turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my garments?”  (Mark 5: 30)

Good gravy!  The Man was surrounded with people all probably touching him with hands, elbows, shoulders and even an occasional stomped toe.  And yet, He recognized this touch as different.  This Faith Touch.  This Needing Healing Hand.  

And He knew.  It isn’t as if He couldn’t turn around and identify her.  He could, but He asks.  Maybe so she can acknowledge that something amazing has happened… that she can say, “I’m healed!  I can touch you just like I touched Him – only this time it’s all okay!  I’m clean!”  Maybe it’s so she can know that He knows.  He felt it just like her.  

Sometimes I forget that when God helps me, shows me something, heals me, provides for me, and just simply loves me well….it blesses me and Him and others, if I acknowledge it publicly.  

I reached out to God and He healed me! I reached out to God and He provided for me.  I reached out to God and He made a way where there was no way.

That robe…it’s huge.  It fills the temple.  There is plenty of space for all of us to grab hold of it.  To grab a tassel or a handful of fabric.  Whether we are pushing through the obstacles or not, whether we are crawling on hands and knees in desperation, or running to Him in fear and anxiety, God’s robe is there.  God is there.

But maybe we are like Jarius and his daughter.  Maybe we need Jesus to show up.  Maybe there isn’t anything left  and we are weary and sick and tired and we are saying, “Lord Jesus, please come to me and help me.”

The beauty is either way, He is enough.  He is there.  

He is here.

Sometimes I forget that.  I feel so weary…so, so, so weary.  And sometimes it seems that there isn’t a soul in the whole wide world who can really truly understand it…and sometimes in the depths of decisions and difficulties, it can feel overwhelmingly lonely. It is in those moments, those lonely weary worrisome moments, when I need that touch. That divine touch.

I imagine His robe not just big enough to fill the temple, but big enough to cover us all.

When Jesus stopped to talk to the woman, I’m sure Jarius was anxiously impatient.  I’d have been like “Excuse me, Jesus?  Please remember my daughter.  She’s dying….Jesus, I asked first.”

But Jesus stops.  And Jarius’ daughter dies.  

While he was still speaking, there came from the ruler’s house some who said, “Your daughter is dead.  Why trouble the Teacher any further?”

NO!  Jesus, you were coming with me!  If you hadn’t stopped…

What must Jarius have felt, thought…how must he have looked.  The worst news possible…

But God….

“But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue (Jarius), “Do not fear, only believe.”

In the worst moment, Jesus is there.  He was in the moment with Jarius even while talking to the woman.  

He is never absent.  He is always with us.  

And in our worst moments, He says, “Do not fear, only believe.”

Believe I am good.  Believe I am love.  Believe I am able.

Believe I am enough.

That robe…

Ever so gently flowing over me, covering, protecting, comforting.

Peace flowing over me.

When I make my bed sometimes I hold the edges of my sheet firmly and lift it up high to let it float down gently on my bed, covering the mattress.  That is how I imagine Jesus’ robe.  

Healing floating down over me.

I might be all goofy on this one…wouldn’t be surprising…but I’m comforted by this image, blessed by the comfort of knowing that He is big enough to cover me and all my life…He is big enough to cover all of us and all our lives.

And, when I need Him (which is always) I only need to reach out for Jesus and He is there.  

He is here.  

Just reach out and touch Him.

Grab hold of Him.  Be touched.