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

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

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

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

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

In every form available.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m crying UNCLE!

So now what?

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

Lord, how?

How do I move forward when I feel so overwhelmed?

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

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

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

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

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

2 Chronicles 20:12, 15, 17

I’m really praying about this.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THANKFULNESS.

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

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

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

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

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

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

But here’s two more to encourage you…

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

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

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