One Sunday when I was in my early teens, my mom and I sang a song together at church. I remember how nervous I was while I waited in the front pew for the end of the Scripture reading. Mom and I walked up together, stood behind the pulpit, placed our hymnal down, and waited for the introduction. We harmonized through our duet, “Count Your Blessings.” It’s a sweet memory of a special time with my mom.
“When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.”
I still sing that song sometimes to remind myself and my children to take a minute to think about the good things that have happened instead of just seeing the other not-so-awesome stuff.
Years ago I started a gratitude journal. I found it recently in my desk drawer. What a joy to look through it! I realized that when I started looking for things to be grateful for there was an abundance. I found joy in so many things…the sound of a car driving over gravel or the squeak of shoes on a basketball court, the cozy smell of coffee in the morning or the heavy sweetness right before a rain, the beauty of the sky after a storm or the moon on a clear night, the comfort of a soft quilt on a cold night or the breeze of a fan gently blowing on a hot day. The taste of a perfectly mixed soda fountain cola and melted butter on freshly baked bread. So many things to be thankful for, to find joy in, to focus on.
Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:18
It has been entirely too easy over the years to focus on all the difficulties because, honestly, there is a fair amount of them. Opening the mail and finding another medical bill. Watching the news and seeing the next infuriating or devastating thing that’s happening. Discovering another thing that needs to be repaired or replaced. Listening to the hurt your child is suffering or addressing the hurtful choices of others. But enough about that. THAT is not what I want to focus on…good gravy, the whole point is to not focus on those.
“Are you ever burdened with a load of care?
Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?
Count your many blessings, ev’ry doubt will fly,
And you will be singing as the days go by.”
I had a dear friend tell me I’m too much with the lists. Maybe. Probably. But some lists are good! Listing things that I’m thankful for seems like a wonderful idea!
“Count your many blessings, name them one by one
Count your many blessings, see what God has done.”
It’s something that I’m trying to get my children to do as well. It’s surprisingly easy to get into the complaining rut. I read somewhere that we create pathways in our brains by our thinking. If we continually think negatively we create a rut in our brain that our thoughts naturally take. I’m sure this is why we need to take our thoughts captive. If we don’t, our thoughts make ruts that we definitely don’t want to get stuck traveling.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve found myself traveling some well-worn paths in my brain. Definitely muddy. Certainly bumpy. Always uncomfortable. And, honestly, I’m sick to death of the paths my thoughts take. There is no positive outcome possible, no solutions presented, and no hopeful perspective. It’s time for a change. A U-turn of sorts. Maybe I go off the beaten path and onto one that is less well-worn. One that has been left untended, untraveled, and, maybe to some degree, unknown to me. One where I don’t get caught up in all the muck and mire. One where I pay attention to what is around me, what is ahead of me, and who is beside me. I know that God will reveal beauty in each moment, regardless of how difficult or frustrating, or heartbreaking it is.
The simple act of trying to find things to be grateful for is one way we can turn our thoughts around. One way we can even turn our life around…one thought, one moment, one day at a time.
Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, his love endures forever. 1 Chronicles 16:34
My phone was dinging with texts the other night from one of my dear ones who was dealing with some disappointment. I was writing essay-like texts to encourage and love on my sweet child.
At one point, I texted “Life isn’t about what we get to have or do or even who we get to be.” And then I typed the words, “Life is about…” and I stopped, put my phone down on my lap, and stared ahead wondering what to write.
And then I prayed…
Lord, what is life really about? I mean, really?
I thought the words would flow because surely I know what life is about…I’m half a century old-ish. Surely I know something, but I wasn’t sure for a minute. I mean, I know that Jesus is my life, that I want to live my life to glorify God…but, those weren’t the words I wanted to use in that moment.
And then, like a sweet wave of peace pouring over me, I realized what I wanted to write…
Life is about loving God and loving others and even loving ourselves!
It’s difficult for me to even type phrases like “loving ourselves” – it goes against everything in me to believe I’m supposed to love me…after all, isn’t that rather selfish and self-centered and self-righteous and all those other self words I don’t want used to describe me?
But God…(I love that phrase) God has been showing me my lovableness for days and days, and months, and years. I’ve been woefully slow learning this love thing because I’ve looked to others to show me my worth rather than the One who loves me best.
It’s much easier for me to love others than to love myself, but can I truly love others well if I don’t love who I am in Christ? I think sometimes I love others well in hopes that they will love me well in return. For too long, I’ve sought to be loved by being loving. But if I don’t find myself lovable then I love others from a place of need rather than plenty.
Love doesn’t overflow from me unless I understand how loved I am by God. When I do that, I can love who I am because of Whose I am, and I can love others out of that abundance.
The reason I have any true, real, and honest love to share is because I’ve accepted the perfect love of my Savior.
The other day I wrote about climbing into the lap of Jesus, of hearing his heartbeat, and being at peace. And then, this morning I read John 13:23-25, “One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him…Leaning back against Jesus, he asked him…?”
Not unfamiliar verses but today I was impacted so deeply in a huge, heart altering way. John, the writer, is talking about himself. He is the disciple whom Jesus loved. How stunningly wonderful that he refers to himself that way. There is a beautiful audacity to it. He knows he is loved, no doubt in his mind. He doesn’t just accept it as fact, which it is, but he embraces it and revels in it! He leans into it as he leans into His Savior. He is not ashamed to say it out loud. To declare the truth of it to all the world. Oh how I want to live like that. To speak that truth over myself and others.
John invaded Jesus’ space. He is physically leaning on Him. In one version, it says, “leaning back on Jesus’ breast.” He’s not just near Him, John is on Him. There is a sweet intimacy to it.
John must have looked into Jesus’ eyes and known the depth of the love felt. As they walked and served together, he knew he was loved. And, God had John share so we would know it too. God wants us to know that we are deeply, completely, unrelentingly, unconditionally loved. He invites us to lean in and hear the beat of His heart for us. To lean further into Him to ask our questions, seek our rest and solace, and feel completely and utterly undone by His love.
He calls me “Daughter, whom I love” and assures me that there is no other love that can compare to His. In His love, there is peace and hope and joy. From that place of being loved, I will be able to love others even better.
So, yes, I do believe that our life is about love. Both the big “L” Love and the little “L” love. The “God is love” Love and the “love one another as you love yourself” love.
I grabbed a whole row because my sweethearts were coming in behind me. I laid down my jacket, my purse, my Bible, my journal, and a few bulletins throughout the row to make sure I had enough seats. As they all filed in, I felt my smile grow bigger and bigger. These beautiful young people are my dearest blessings and I could barely contain my joy. They would have been embarrassed if I’d shown all the emotion I was feeling as we stood worshiping God. All I could think was how incredibly loving God is and how thankful I am for what He has done in our family.
“Let the redeemed of the LORD tell their story – those he redeemed from the hand of the foe” Psalm 107:2
Last year could be described as the quintessential dumpster fire year. And I’ve had some real doozy years so that’s saying a lot. It was emotionally-draining, exceptionally disappointing, heartbreaking, foundation-shaking, and I think I’d go as far as saying a bit soul-crushing…well, you get the idea. Not a stellar year.
BUT oh how God has redeemed it! I’m in awe.
At the end of the summer, after a lot of drama and even more prayer, I felt strongly that God was leading me to quit my job and home-school my youngest daughters for one year. It made absolutely no sense on every single level except that both God and I knew that something needed to change. And this was a huge change for us.
This hasn’t been without its bumps and bruises, but I’ve learned that even when I follow His leading it doesn’t necessarily mean smooth sailing. There are rocks on every path, even the good ones, and sometimes it can get rather narrow and dark.
God has worked mightily in our family not just through happy home-school days on the porch, but through down in the dirt difficult days, hurts, lies, and betrayals, exhaustion and sickness, smart and dumb decisions, tight budgets, unexpected issues, challenges, and circumstances, and hard conversations. He has changed our hearts, opened our eyes, strengthened our relationships and our faith, and given us time to reevaluate our direction as individuals and a family.
“Put your hope in the LORD, for with the LORD is unfailing love and with him is full redemption” Psalm 130:7
This home-school plan seemed crazy, but I knew that it was what I was supposed to do. And, for once, I obeyed without hesitation. Desperate times called for desperate faith.
It’s been filled with wonderfully deep and faith-filled conversations, tears and laughter, great literature and that awful math stuff, sitting by the river and just a lot of blessings that sometimes, at first, don’t even look like blessings..
This calling meant I turned down two jobs last year that would have been great all the way around, but I knew that I was supposed to do this. I knew I was supposed to trust and obey. I needed to trust like I did the year my husband left. I hadn’t really done that in a while. I’ve been so busy trying to control the details of life that I haven’t really leaned on Jesus. Maybe a little shoulder lean like when you lean over and whisper in someone’s ear, “Hey Lord, can you help me get this done?” Now I’m climbing into His lap saying, “Jesus, I’m exhausted by trying to figure all of this out on my own. May I just sit with you for a while until you show me what to do next?”
It reminds me of climbing into my dad’s lap on Sunday evenings when he was watching football. Even when I was far too big, he would just let me rest there, close my eyes, and listen. The sound of a TV football game is still so comforting to me. Every once in a while I would open my eyes and ask how much longer. He would say something about “5 minutes left in the quarter” and, of course, 5 minutes in a quarter is not an actual five minutes. An early lesson in patience! But it was absolutely okay because it was peaceful there with him.
Maybe it’s a little like that when we wait on God. I so desperately want God to tell me what is going on…when is this going to end? Instead of being my squirmy and impatient toddler self, I want to close my eyes and lean into His strong arms. I imagine I can hear His heartbeat, like my dad’s, calm and steady. I doubt he would smell like pipe tobacco like my dad, but maybe, for me, He would.
“As for God, His way is perfect; the word of the LORD is flawless. He is a shield to all who take refuge in Him.” Psalm 18:30
I find myself seeking the shelter of His arms more and more as I learn to let Him lead. As I lean into Him with questions and concerns, fears and anxious thoughts, sorrow and joy…He has become my True Love. This past year of stepping out in faith when common sense and logic shouted something completely different was life-changing.
I’ve seen God provide in ways I haven’t since the first years of single parenting. Not that He hasn’t constantly provided but in my feeble efforts to make things happen and take care of everything, I’ve missed experiencing it. I have often taken my eyes off of Jesus and looked for my help from other sources, mainly myself.
I’m beginning to understand that God has a plan even when I can’t see it. Sometimes life is so busy I miss that God is working around me. I can get so overwhelmed by how poorly things seem to be going and not realize the good that God is doing even through the hard stuff. I think “the plan” should be one thing and God knows it has to be another. It is amazingly difficult to surrender to God, but If I would just remember how gracious He is to provide, how lovingly He looks after us, and how kind He is to make a way even when there seems to be no way, I could just close my eyes, lean into His strength, and rest.
“Rest in the LORD and wait patiently for him…” Psalm 37:17
There is a stump where a big beautiful oak tree used to stand tall over the river. We called it “Grandpa’s Tree” because my dad used to like to sit under it and quietly look out at the water. It’s a special spot for our family. We miss my dad and now we miss the tree too, but the stump provides a wonderful place to sit and even though it is no longer a glorious tree, it is still a lovely place to think, watch the horizon, and wait.
I’m sitting, legs crossed, waiting. I’m ready whenever God wants to show me what to do. It’s my daily pose. Nothing mystical, just comfortable and quiet while I wait for God to reveal the plan…the way to go…the next step.
I’m a little anxious for something, but I’m not sure what. I’m ready for the next things because I’m tired of this thing. God hasn’t shown me that He’s tired of this place. Actually the exact opposite. He seems to be quite content with me here. Waiting. I’m trying to wait patiently. But that word kind of feels like a curse word sometimes. Patiently. How many times has someone joked, “Whatever you do, don’t pray for patience”?
I wouldn’t necessarily say I’m sitting patiently, but I believe I could say that my attitude is one of expectancy. I’m expecting God to do something. How could He not? There has to be more to life than this feeling of constant tumult. I’m sure there is because at times I catch glimpses of it. Sometimes there is a quiet moment where suddenly, and without understanding how or why, I feel peace.
I read in Brennan Manning’s book Abba Father, “When we accept the truth of what we really are and surrender it to Jesus Christ, we are enveloped in peace, whether or not we feel ourselves to be at peace. By that I mean the peace that passes understanding is not a subjective sensation of peace; if we are in Christ, we are in peace even when we feel no peace.” (Manning, 2015, p. 27)
My life is peace, because Jesus is my life. (Col. 3:4).
I know that Jesus is my peace, but sometimes I just really truly want peaceful circumstances. If I listed the number of things that have been wonky and/or costly in the past two weeks, you’d understand my longing. You’d understand why I ask God, “Why?”
I asked it the other night and all of a sudden I realized, “It’s okay. Everything is okay even when every thing is not.” To my deepest parts I felt it, it’s all okay. Things break and need fixing. All. The. Time. And I mean that in the strictest sense of the word…continually, always, repeatedly, without ceasing, all the time. BUT I’m still here. I am still blessed. God still provides. God still takes care of things. God stays even in my life of broken things.
When the repairman comes and the fix is unexpectedly everything I wouldn’t want it to be, God is neither absent nor surprised. He is there…”Sweet daughter, we got this! You don’t need to worry.”
When parenting brings me to my knees, He is there…”Dearest, I love them even more than you do. Don’t be afraid.”
When questions tear around my brain without ceasing, He is there…”Precious child, rest in my love. Spend time with me instead of all those thoughts.”
There is a theme in my life of me looking for things to be different and God staying the same.
There is a longing in my life for calm and God offering me peace.
There are difficult thoughts and God’s words giving me strength.
There is hope for a better future and God reminding me that it’s all good, I don’t need to worry.
I’m the little girl frantically searching for all the things my Father has already given me. If I can just sit still and be with Him, I’ll find them all. So I’m just going to sit here…listen, pray and wait…somewhat patiently…for my Abba Father to show me His great and beautiful plan for my life.
Manning, B. (2015) Abba’s Child: the cry of the heart for intimate belonging. NavPress.
A few weeks ago I felt convicted that I needed to share more – write more. And I knew that to some degree it would be a humbling experience because my life is messy, crisis-prone, exhausting, and somewhat embarrassing.
Last night something happened that tends to happen a bit more than I’d like lately, and I prayed, “Lord, how honest do I really need to be? Do I need to share this?”
I believe I know the answer although I’m typing this with no real intention of posting… if this gets posted, you’ll know that God absolutely, without a doubt, showed me clearly that I needed to.
Days are busy and nights…well, the moment I slow down everything crowds in. Every failure, whether real or perceived, weighs heavy on my heart and mind. I’m crushed by emotions and questions and just all the things.
As I climb onto my bed, moving pillows and blankets so I don’t melt in my mid-life sleeping, I can feel my eyes begin to water. Soundless tears begin to fall. An ache forms in my chest and my breath catches. My mind races with all the questions no one but God knows the answer to and I don’t know if He’ll ever tell me the reasons I long to know…if He’ll speak the truth to my heart because maybe that will break it more, which honestly is a bit inconceivable.
But the truth is…the truth I need to know..the truth He wants me to know…the truth that will hold all my tears and listen patiently and compassionately to my questions and laments…the truth is that He loves me.
I’m weary to my core…like no weary I’ve known before…but I also feel that God is carrying me closer to Himself than I have felt in so long. I almost can’t explain it.
Maybe it’s a little what Elijah felt when he ran for his life from Jezebel. God had used Elijah in mighty ways, but something happened and Elijah despaired. He felt like a failure. He sat down under a bush and begged to die. Elijah says words I’ve spoken many times (not the kill me words though, the other ones), “I’ve had enough Lord. I’m no better than all the other people who sinned and failed before me.” Elijah succinctly pours out his heart to God and then falls asleep. That’s pretty much me every night.
Father, I can’t do it anymore. I feel like an utter failure.
Just a moment later, at least it seems that way, an angel touches him and instructs him to wake up and eat. Elijah sees that there is bread and water. He eats, drinks, and then goes back to sleep. Again, the angel of the Lord touches him and says, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.”
Father, I do feel like Elijah.Lord, what you have called me to feels like too much; please strengthen and sustain me.
Elijah was strengthened by the food and then traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached a cave and there he spent the night. Then the Lord spoke to Elijah and asked him what he was doing there. I think the question was more like, “What is going on dear one? Why are you here?” God already knew, but maybe He wanted Elijah to admit and face his fears. Elijah answers with what he has done for God, the disappointments and probably what feels like failures, and how he thinks he is the last one left following God.
Father, I have tried to follow you and do what I believe you have called me to and yet nothing seems to work the way I thought it would. I feel so alone in this struggle.
Boy, is it easy to feel alone in our battles, particularly when we feel like a failure. This is one of my biggest struggles. I sometimes don’t want to ask for help because I need so much of it. Sometimes I look at things and just feel like an absolute and complete failure. If I was good at things we wouldn’t be in this place dealing with these issues, facing these crises. The phrase I fight the hardest in my head is “I’m such a failure.” And I know that is not from God because He does not see me as a failure, just as He didn’t see Elijah as one.
God tells Elijah to “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.” (1 Kings 19:11) As Elijah was standing there first a “powerful wind tore the mountain apart and shattered the rocks,” but that wasn’t the Lord. Then the earth quaked and fire blazed, but neither of those was the Lord either. Finally, a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he moved to the mouth of the cave to hear God better.
Lord, I want to hear you better.
Have you ever had someone whisper to you? Your natural inclination is to lean in to hear better. I believe this is what God wanted Elijah to do. I think it is also what He wants us to do. Lean in closer.
“Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” James 4:8
God didn’t get angry at Elijah for being afraid, feeling like a failure, and despairing. He met him where he was with comfort (and food which is always comforting). God prepared Elijah for what was ahead. It wasn’t easy, but God was with him. God spent time with Elijah. Spoke to Elijah. Showed Himself to Elijah.
My time sitting on my bed quietly weeping is not always a bad thing…actually I don’t know if it ever is. Sometimes it’s freeing. It’s quiet, solitary time with God. And I believe it’s healing. I’m finally dealing with some deep hurts and sorrows, grieving losses and betrayals, laying my heart bare before God.
Before now life has to some degree been too busy to feel things deeply. Being a single parent doesn’t allow for a lot of self-reflection or feeling deep emotions for more than a minute. I’ve spoken with enough single parents to know that we all walk a path of self-sacrifice and our focus is usually on others…the to-dos are never ending – work, home, school, sports, activities, appointments, and broken things (not just hearts and homes, but appliances, cars, plumbing, etc.) can make life move at a ridiculous pace. You wake early and go to bed late and can’t figure out when exactly you took a breath or sat down for a minute before you needed to do something else.
Please know that in any given day, in fact most days, the good far outweighs the bad…but that doesn’t negate the overall effect of running on empty for years and years. My empty tank is bone dry and I’m finally finding time to fill it back up…some of the filling is with tears. I’ve cried my share of them over the years, but I would never have called myself a weeper. Now is a different story. Tonight someone came to pick up my dead car from my driveway and I almost cried in front of him. Two weeks ago in my small group someone said, “Hey, you know there are people in church who will help you with your house”…I cried the whole way home. (Now if I could just humble myself and call…so embarrassed about all that needs fixing.) The first time I loaded the new dishwasher after being without one for about four years…tears welled up in my eyes. Silly, I know, but I was just so thankful and blessed by it. Other times, it’s a thought that crushes me, a feeling that stabs my heart, a hard memory that I feel deeply…it’s okay though. I believe it’s important for us to work through those things and lay them at the foot of the Cross with all the other junk in our lives. It’s a process. Sometimes I lay it down and pick it back up again…only to repeat the process several times…sometimes all in one day.
I think maybe I’m supposed to share this with you because I don’t believe I’m alone in it. This mourning what was lost that can never be again. Grieving the pain and hurt caused by someone I loved deeply, faithfully, and completely. Processing the thoughts that besiege me at my weakest moments. I can’t stop thoughts yet, but I’m learning to replace them. To trust that as I continue to replace them eventually God will erase them to a distant memory that no longer stings.
There is hope even in the end-of-day fall apart time. God meets me there. He sustains me with His love. He asks me questions that reveal my heart and mind in that moment. His word holds healing truths for me. His willingness to listen to me assuages my loneliness. And when I lean in to listen, He speaks love over me.
You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in your word. Psalm 119:114
One of my daughters gently opened my door in the middle of the night and said, “Momma, may I sleep in your bed?” I’m a super light sleeper so I instantly woke up, threw back the covers, and welcomed her into my embrace. It’s been a hard year for her and the past week has been particularly so. We have found that in the middle of the night, those thoughts in our heads can get particularly loud and insistent. Sometimes even when you are a teenager, you just need someone to be near you, to be held, to know you are not alone. Sometimes when you are an adult too.
The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe. Proverbs 18:10
I used to feel sorry for my little ones when they were learning to sleep through the night. There they were all alone and probably a bit scared, and there I was with the comfort of another human beside me. I think that is one of the things I miss most about being married. All those feelings of security, warmth, and love you have when you let your guard completely down and sleep beside the one you’ve chosen to love for life. Oh how I miss that.
But I will sing of your strength; I will sing aloud of your steadfast love in the morning.For you have been to me a fortress and a refuge in the day of my distress. Psalm 59:16
When I have my sleepless nights and thoughts are bouncing around my brain like ping-pong balls in a metal room, I miss having the comfort of scrunching up to that special someone. So, when that happens to my daughters (who are all bigger than me at this point), I welcome the opportunity to offer them some comfort, a refuge from the storm raging in their hearts and minds, and a safe place.
The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him. Nahum 1:7
I’ve had my fair share of sleepless nights where my thoughts race and my heart follows suit. And in those moments, which more often than not, happen in the middle of the night, I’ve found God to be my safe place too. Some days and nights I’m better at letting Him be my refuge and strength than others. But I’m learning and I’m trying to teach my children too as well.
In the fear of the Lord one has strong confidence, and his children will have a refuge. Proverbs 14:26
One thing God has shown me is the blessing of praying scripture back to God. I’ve been encouraging my children to turn verses into prayers. It’s a step toward peace when chaos seems to be reigning in our hearts and minds. The book of Isaiah has profoundly spoken to me over the years so I decided to speak it back to God as a reminder to me and Him of what He has said about me and to me. Here is one of my favorite ones:
Scripture Prayer – Isaiah 43:1-4
Father, you say you created and formed me. I don’t need to fear for you have redeemed me. You have called me by name; I am yours. When I pass through waters you will be with me, and when I pass through the rivers they will not sweep over me. When I walk through the fire, I will not be burned and the flames will not touch me. You are the LORD my God, the Holy One, my Savior. You have ransomed me because I am precious and honored in your sight and because you love me. You have redeemed my life. I will not be afraid for you are with me.
When I speak His scripture over me and my children, it helps. It means I have to take my eyes off of my circumstances and put them on Christ. For someone like me that always feels the need to do something, make something happen, fix things, it seems that “just” speaking scripture over a situation isn’t enough. How could that make a difference? Shouldn’t I have to do something more?
No, the answer is no There is power in the Word of God. It changes things. It changes me.
My trust grows and my peace increases. My fears become smaller and my courage strengthens. Things are re-framed. My vision is refocused on Him. My heart and my mind are settled.
When I speak scripture I’m speaking Jesus over my situation. Jesus who is the Word of God, who is peace, who is hope, who is the author and perfecter of my faith. Jesus who is my strength, my Savior, my friend. Jesus who loves me more than anyone.
He sent out his word and healed them, and delivered them from their destruction. Psalm 107:20
No matter what is going on in life…no matter how many difficult things are happening that discourage, hurt, baffle, and anger us…all the stupid stuff of life…in all of it, God is our refuge. He is our safe place to let go.
Scripture Prayer – Isaiah 41:10
Father, you say I do not need to be afraid because you are with me. I do not need to be dismayed because you are my God. You will strengthen me and help me. You will uphold me with your righteous right hand.
This past weekend I planted 7 large bushes. Digging the holes ‘bout killed me. I was determined to get through all the roots, rocks, and clay. I jumped on that shovel like my life depended on it. Wrestled those shrubs out of their buckets and into my hard-fought holes. Filled back in the edges with dirt and made it look relatively pretty.
Sometimes I can live life in the same way. Digging through those dang roots in hopes I can plant something beautiful.
But its just really hard (life and planting bushes) and honestly I’m pretty tired and even a bit embarrassed by how hard.
Sometimes I want to hide parts of my life…not lay bear the burdens because of how ridiculous it all is. (I was going to say seems but I need to own it…it IS ridiculous.) So much feels like failure…I should get it together already. As if I could stop failing transmissions, water leaking through ceilings, scary health issues, or people I love making choices I wish they wouldn’t. If I share it all people will probably think I’m pathetic. After all, I kind of do.
“But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation.” Psalm 13:5
So I’m holding and hiding things.
I believe I’m wrong about holding all this…maybe I should say jumping on my shovel to get through things without letting anyone know how desperately difficult it is sometimes. I might share some, but not all…because that’s just insanity.
Heavy things don’t get lighter the longer we carry them…they get heavier. Even if I don’t decide to lay them down, at some point I’m going to drop them…whether its in utter defeat or in surrender to God is up to me.
I know I’m supposed to lay things down…before God and for others.
Letting go of my perceived control and humbling myself sure is hard though. I think, “God allowed this in my life. I must need to carry it, deal with, handle it, overcome it, push through it, make it work.” And all in my own strength (thank you very much).
“But you, LORD, do not be far from me. You are my strength; come quickly to help me.” Psalm 22:19
I know that in all this hard there is hope. God has a plan. But it feels like I’ve messed things up too much. That I’ve dug too many holes in the wrong places too many times. I can look back at innumerable decisions and wish I’d taken the other option because then maybe, just maybe, things would have been different…less hard, less hurt, less heartbreak.
Last night, my daughter and I talked about regret. We both have regrets. Her regrets are just beginning. Mine have been building and strengthening over time. Sometimes the weight of them steals my breath and threatens to throw me into a hole bigger than the ones I dug in the backyard..
Regret is useless. That’s what I told her. Nothing good comes of it. What is done, is done. God still love us. He forgives the mistakes, even the willfully in-your-face mistakes that break His heart and ours too. It’s still hard. The if only’s and what if’s are devastating if we mull them over too often or at all.
“You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent. LORD my God, I will praise you forever. Psalm 30:11-12
Recently while sitting on my bed preparing for the next day, I had the joy of listening to one of my daughters sing praise songs in the shower…this same girl who wept tears of regret and sorrow the night before. Maybe that’s why the leak in the kitchen ceiling happened. It made me shut down the girls’ shower and ask everyone to use mine until I figured things out. Because of that, I heard worship from one of my dear ones who needs desperately to know the Father’s love and peace. To accept forgiveness for herself.
Don’t we all? Desperately need the Father’s love and peace. I do. Sometimes the hard and heartbreaking makes me question how much He loves me…if He loves me truly.
Sometimes I just feel so very really and truly broken. Do I work anymore? Does my heart work? Can broken hopes be restored? Do broken homes ever stop being broken? Does He care about houses with broken bits? Or broken cars that inconveniently stop moving? What do you do with all the broken? I don’t know. It can feel like I’m buried under the broken pieces. The question stumbles around in my brain, “Does God really love this broken me?”
“We wait in hope for the LORD: he is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. May your unfailing love be with us, LORD, even as we put our hope in you.” Psalm 33:20-22
Do I have an answer to that question? I do, but do I believe it?
Do I trust even when everything feels broken? Even when things are heavy, hard, and hurtful? Even when one thing after another begins to feel like too much? Do I believe that I can entrust it all to Him? Will He really help…I mean not just give me peace in the midst of the struggle (a great thing to be sure), but practical and real help?
“The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:17-18
I’ve always loved the psalmists who are so willing to lay bear their heartbreaks, disappointments, questions, fears, and anger.
God isn’t disappointed, dismayed, or frustrated by our feelings. He just wants us to lay them down.In the laying down, God fills up.
Love. Joy. Peace… ours to have if we give the struggle to God.
“Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.” Psalm 55:22
There is no broken God can’t fix. No hope He can’t bring back. No hurt He can’t heal. No plan He can’t make perfect. No mess He can’t redeem. No shaking He can’t still. No peace He can’t restore. No broken bits He can’t rebuild.
All He needs from me is trust. Nothing more.
Doesn’t that just seem so simple? And yet so incredibly impossible too? Sometimes trust seems a huge thing to ask, especially when things can’t seem to go as planned or even remotely hoped for.
But God…do I believe His plan is perfect? His way is right? That He loves me? Yes. Yes. Yes.
So girl, what’s the deal?
Life. Life is the deal.
All those roots and rocks and things that make the digging hard. All the burdens that wrench my back like huge bushes wrestled into holes…
I don’t have to deal with them alone. Truly, I don’t.
Laying all of it down before God…handing the hard to the Heavenly. It works…if I do it. I know me…I’ll need to do it again and again and again.
And, I’ll need to share with others. Let them know the depth of the struggle so they can see God work in my life too. So I can comfort with the comfort I’ve been given. So the beauty – and there will be beauty – can be shared.
Give God the shovel, the hole, the roots. the rocks, and the bush. Let Him make it all beautiful…because He will.
“And provide for those who grieve in Zion – to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.” Isaiah 61:3
I was sharing with a dear friend some hard things that were happening and she texted me this, “God will provide abundantly and be your Bridegroom. He is King. Be His beloved.”
Gentle but powerful words that went straight to my heart.
In those words I heard, “Be who you already are.”
I am Beloved.
I will call those who were not my people, ‘My people’, and her who was not beloved, “Beloved“. Romans 9:25
The past few years have been filled with me facing the lies I’ve believed about myself. It’s awfully easy to rehearse falsehoods about myself based on what others have done or said to me. Even lies I believe about myself that have unknown origins but run deeply through me.
Sometimes they seem so firmly ingrained in who I am and how I think I wonder if I’ll ever be free. That is another lie. It’s time to start calling these thoughts what they are…lies. One of my friends would say, “Lies from the pit of hell.” Yup. I believe that is correct.
If I believe the lies that I’m unworthy of love, that I’ll never be enough, that I’m a failure, that God can’t do in my life what I hope He does because I’m not good enough, that I will never get my life in order, I’m denying the power of God in my life. I’m ignoring the value placed on me at the Cross. I’m actually devaluing Christ by saying that what He did for me wasn’t enough to make me enough.
Well, when you put it that way…yikes.
I looked up the word beloved and it’s definition is filled with all the words I want said about me…and the beautiful thing is God DOES say them about me and you!
I think my favorite is “loved thoroughly” because it reminds me of how God knows me intimately, at my core, better than I know myself, AND He still loves me relentlessly, unconditionally, without ceasing, perfectly. *sigh*
Thank you, Lord.
Without the love of Christ, true love is impossible. The world’s definition of love is really rather flimsy and fleeting. I want the strong and steady love of Christ.
If we know that we are beloved and loved by our Father – cherished, treasured, valued, dearly loved – then we can rest, trust, and believe that He will take care of us and we can live unafraid.
Perfect love casts out fear. 1 John 4:18
Breath in deeply the knowledge that you are loved…there is nothing to fear…
Nothing at all can separate you from the Father’s love…nothing can take away your belovedness.
Anything you can think of that you’ve done or said or didn’t do or didn’t say cannot change His love.
Something done to you or said about you cannot make you less lovable to Him.
What you think about yourself or what others think, makes no difference to Him and how much He loves you.
All those things that make you feel like a failure, they don’t impact His love at all. He is not disappointed in you.
He knew your past before it even happened and it didn’t change the fact that He loves you and died for you.
What you are going through right now, He is with you, loving you through it.
What you are afraid about in the future, His love is already there waiting for you to arrive.
Nothing you do or say or think can change the Father’s love for you…it is unconditionally relentless.
You are loved as you are…not as you think He wants you to be.
Nothing you do surprises Him. Nothing you think shocks Him. Nothing you say distresses Him. His love is firmly fixed on you.
He knows you completely to your core (better than you know yourself) and He does not condemn you at all. His love is yours period.
You, Beloved, were bought with a price…you were and are valuable enough to be redeemed by the death of Jesus. You are more precious than you can comprehend.
The past is redeemed, the present is protected, and the future is prepared.
No past experience, sin, or pain is too much for Jesus to overcome.
No present circumstance, crisis, or concern is too much for the Holy Spirit to handle.
The future is secure in the Father’s hands.
Close your eyes for a moment and ponder His love. Whisper thanksgiving, “Lord, thank you that you say I am precious, honored in Your sight and You love me” (Isaiah 43:4).
Believe with your heart that you are beloved because you are – God declares it with His word and with His actions.
So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Colossians 3:12
There is a rhythm to life now. Although I’m still a tad awkward, I think I’m getting the hang of it. My life like a musical score with all its high notes and low notes and harmonies and minor clashes and key changes…it’s beautiful in its unpredictability and challenging in its complexity. Still, it is a masterpiece of God’s design, even with the many movements which don’t seem to get easier but flow with a different rhythm and more complicated harmonies.
Things go better when I allow God to sing the lead…it’s difficult not to jump in when it seems like the harmony isn’t exactly what I wanted to do, and the lead seems like a much easier line to take.
It never is though. God makes it sound…. look…. easy. Surely, I can handle this… how hard can it be?
It can be hard.
Or, how about…I can let God lead. Oh my, how many times have I heard someone say, “Let God lead you. Follow Him”? Well, let’s just say a lot. And how often in the past ever so many years or maybe the whole measure of my days, have I tried to lead only to stumble and fall when the music takes a turn from the expected…when measure after measure changes into something unrecognizable…I thought for sure I knew where the music was going when the resolution would come, when the key would change to one with fewer sharps and flats.
I was wrong.
Golly, I get tired of being wrong.
I know one thing I’m right about…God is better at leading than I am. He knows where the music is going…there is no warble, no wobble, no missed words, no wonky notes, no flats and sharps where there shouldn’t be…He wrote it after all. He should know it well.
When will I ever be satisfied just following His lead? Letting Him pick the next measure of my life. Allowing Him to conduct while I follow.
All the life music, all about Him, all written by Him, all sung beautifully by Him…that’s what I mean.
Do you know what I mean?
Lately, well, for quite a while, I’ve been trying to be more than just a voice in His music. I’ve wanted to be the soloist, conduct the orchestra, lead the choir, and sometimes even write the music as we go.
Cacophony might be the best word for it.
Or maybe caterwauling.
It’s a racket, that’s for sure, and not something I recommend adding to any playlist.
I must admit that I’m surrendering to God for the first time in a long time. I am letting Him take control of the melody, harmony, music, orchestration, and choir. He can have it all!
All of it.
In a sense, I’m giving up. The whole shebang. Not in a bad way. I’m not walking away. I’m not giving up any responsibility…just the idea that I can control things and make life better just by sheer effort. Maybe I’ve been putting in a bit more effort apart from God than I thought.
It sure is easy to start singing my own tune without His music in front of me. Skipping measures, avoiding repeats, ignoring diminuendos and decrescendos, moving from one song to the next willy-nilly as I please. God implores me to look at Him to lead me and conduct my life. It could be a masterpiece if I would keep my eyes on Him.
A few years back, I sang a solo in our city’s choral guild performance of “The Messiah.” It was a huge honor, and I was terrified. During the performance, I locked eyes with the conductor and followed her lead without hesitation. I trusted that she cared as much about my performance as I did. She knew the score even better than I did. She knew every instrument that needed to play and when. She knew everything about the musical score that required a response from the musicians and me. And she knew how to do her job to lead us through the music to create a beautiful experience.
I need to lock eyes with God, the conductor of my life. He wrote the score and knows it intimately. There is not a measure He has not prepared me for, not a note He is surprised by, not a pause in the music He doesn’t fill with Himself.
My life’s score has all the notations that I need. Rests when I need to be quiet and refreshed. Crescendos when I need to stand up and be brave. He changes the tempo of my life to match what He knows will bring me closer to Him.
I’m standing expectantly, straightening my back, taking a deep breath, and fixing my eyes on Jesus.
I’m ready to sing the song He has written for me.
Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth. Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Know that the LORD is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.” Psalm 100