Running with Endurance

path through the forestA few weeks ago I was frustrated by my lack of time to do some things. Things like exercise, serious Bible study, sleep…

My how things have changed and not in the way I imagined…I don’t know what I imagined but this wasn’t it.

So a few weeks ago, I decided to just do it…just get up an hour earlier and have a truly quiet Quiet Time. Novel concept, quiet. But can I tell you? After the first morning I was hooked. I’d missed it so much. Uninterrupted, focused time with God and His word.

The first morning, my study was wonderful. Unfortunately, the rest of the morning…not so much. I cannot sugarcoat it at all. I woke the girls up with kisses, hugs and “I love yous”. I made them pancakes and got them all set for school and then, I don’t know, but something happened from the front door to before-school care…all heck broke loose. The car ride was terrible. Fighting and yelling and grumpiness and on and on and on…and did I maintain my quiet and gentle spirit in the midst of the fray. Ohhhhh no! With no plan and no parachute, I jumped in and joined the chaos. When the battle began to die down, my eyes filled with tears and I thought, “God, really? We had such a lovely morning and this is where we are now?” I was so disappointed, so frustrated, and so angry. My image of how things “should be” just fell apart in less than a mile.

Thankfully, by the time we got to our respective morning places, all was a bit better. I wondered, “Is this warfare? Is this the enemy trying to destroy my joy?” Because boy oh boy, it was effective. My joy deflated like our front porch pumpkin in December. I decided while trudging up to my classroom that I was not going to give up my morning time with God…period. And I was going to add some time in the Word with my kids too. (So there!)

Here I am a few weeks later, not only has that 5am time with God become my most favorite time of the day, but God has blessed the rest of my days in lovely ways.

For example, I’ve had time to exercise! I’m up to 2.5 miles running…well, maybe trudging with great difficulty would be a better description. It’s not a marathon, nor is it particularly pretty, but it is a start.

And I’ve been able to go to bed at a reasonable hour almost every night. Work seems to be getting completed without me having to do the midnight bedtime. Girls are in bed earlier AND we’ve had time to read and snuggle. It’s like this one act of obedience, which doesn’t even feel like obedience, but rather blessing, has changed the whole tenor of my days.

And if you faithfully obey the voice of the LORD your God, being careful to do all his commandments that I command you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you.” Deuteronomy 28:1-2

I don’t particularly feel the need to be set high above all the nations of the earth. I’d just like to handle my little household well. But being overtaken by blessings…that I’ll gladly take!

As I’ve thought about the little changes and the way God has blessed me, I’m overwhelmed. I think that is the overtaking God is talking about. Realizing that God does indeed bless. I don’t know that God is asking all of us to wake up early, I just know He was asking me. And I don’t know if time to exercise and sleep is everyone’s desired blessings, I just know it was mine.

There are other things that require my obedience that I’m struggling with daily. Things I know I need to do but don’t know how to and some I fear the results. I know the blessing will follow, but what will the process be like? Those are things I’m praying fervently about…seeking God’s help, direction, timing, etc.

These times in the Word, talking with God, have been eye-opening and convicting and comforting (but not always comfortable). He’s walking me through some growth that is a bit painful. Dealing with some things that are tricky.

My walk with God through these things resembles my running efforts. I want to do it. I know I need to do it. And I am willing to do it. BUT I don’t enjoy it. I feel awkward, lumbering, and I can’t catch my breath. It is difficult. It leaves me stiff and sore. I ache in places I forgot about. And sometimes I’d just rather not do it.

My Father and I are walking through my past and my present together. Finding the things that need to be dealt with so I can make healthy, God-honoring decisions and have a bright future. We are finding things that the Holy Spirit and I need to tackle together…needs that aren’t quite right, ideas that are a little off kilter, ways of relating that are leaning, expectations that just seem skewed.

It appears that I’m lopsided in many ways. Thankfully, my Father is allowing me to lean on Him as we figure these things out. He is strong and stable and able.

For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

Therefore, lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed. Hebrews 12:11-14

Discipline has such a negative connotation, but it really isn’t. It’s the idea of learning, training, instructing, and even nurturing. Sometimes it involves things that aren’t all wonderful or enjoyable, but the results are good. Truly.

Running requires discipline. Almost everything does. Work. Parenting. Finances. Health. Everything. I’m finding that getting up for Bible study when the alarm goes off, requires a measure of discipline. Sometimes it’s easy, sometimes it’s horribly difficulty. Running…well, that’s still not at all easy, but hopefully, in time, it will be because I’ve disciplined myself to just do it. My legs will be stronger and my chest won’t ache and my breathing won’t be labored. I won’t want to sit down on the side of the road for “just a minute”. I will be ready, able, and strong enough to run forward.

This past week in my Bible study I read another verse in Hebrews:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2

I liked the running with endurance analogy. And the fact that Jesus understands the struggle of running this race. That He ran it. I also love that the saints are cheering us on.

At the end of my first 5K a few years ago, I was coming down the homestretch and was thinking I’d just really, really like to walk the final few feet, but there were all these people cheering and ugh I had to run it. I was so glad I did. And amazingly, I found that I could!

I want to finish this faith race well. Fortunately, I have a great Running Partner, a crowd to cheer me on, and the best prize at the end!

Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air.   1 Corinthians 9:25-26

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Trust and the Consequences

IMG_6521You know how you think you know stuff and then you realize all of a sudden that you really don’t?  That has been my experience this past week.

A dear friend of mine is working through some books and studies with me to figure out how to get to a healthier place in the whole love and trust thing.  She and I have these gut-wrenchingly honest conversations about life, love, past, families, relationships… you name it.  

And oh my goodness!  It’s as if God is opening up a floodgate of revelation  I can barely figure out where to start in my pondering!

This week I have focused on trust.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not on your own understanding in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.  Proverbs 3:5-6

Trusting God.  Needing to trust God better…more…completely.  Kind of the stuff I have been working on it seems like forever.  But then God said, “Dearest, there is more to this trust thing than you thought.”

During my weekly Bible study, we were talking about trusting God with things in our lives. I shared that sometimes I have a more difficult time trusting God with the little things than with the big things.  You know, I don’t want to bother God with stuff I should be able to handle. (Argh.  As if He is too busy and can’t be bothered.)  How can I know so much and still think like that?  I can’t tell you how many times I have told my children that nothing is too small to bring to the throne of grace…and yet, do I?  Nope.

…do not be anxious about anything, but in everything through prayer and petition with thanksgiving present your request to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

But the bigger thing…the a-ha moment or oh dear moment (not sure which is more appropriate)…was when God revealed that I withhold things in my life that I struggle with if I consider them natural consequences of my decisions.  As if when I make mistakes God says, “Sorry, Sue. You broke it, you fix it. You messed it up, you clean it up. Your decision, your deal.”  

Somehow that doesn’t seem like my Father.

My Father who says things like:

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock and it will be opened for you.  For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.  Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone?  Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent?  If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”  Matthew 7:7-11

Time for some brutal honesty.  

Three years ago I moved to Williamsburg to be near my mom and because I had a good job offer.  Preparing my house to sell was expensive.  Moving was expensive. Closing costs were expensive unexpectedly both to sell and to buy – I got a double whammy I wasn’t counting on.  And then I stupidly paid for my daughter’s first year college tuition when I had no business…and no money…because I thought I could pay it off fast.  Well, then things happen like massive car repairs, house issues, and doctor’s bills.  So I have slipped into a financial pit of debt.  And it feels like I will never make it out.  I feel like when I get a good plan…something else happens and I receive another bill I wasn’t expecting.  It is so frustrating!  And at times it feels hopeless.  

I have prayed that God would give me wisdom about what to do, but I really truly haven’t given it to God.  It is my mess, the consequences of my poor planning and decision-making. I made this mess and I have to clean it up.

Had I known more.  Made better plans.  Thought through things more effectively. Just been smarter all the way around…

This week God (and a few good friends) reminded me that God loves me and loves to be kind to me and wants the best for me and my children.  That His plan for my life isn’t about punishment, but about hope

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

I don’t expect that God is going to zap a tremendous amount of money into my life and solve all those problems, although I’d certainly welcome it.  LOL!  And I’d definitely give Him all the glory!  But I do believe that God wants to walk with me through it.  

All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.  John 6:37

He does not expect me to solve it apart from Him.  He does not want me to beat myself up continually about it, but rather to move forward trusting that He will not leave my side…and that He will even guide me forward.

Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths.  Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.  Psalm 25:4-5

So that is what I am going to do.  One day at a time.  I’ve changed my prayers. I need God for many things…I need God for everything…even for the messes I’ve made…especially for the messes I’ve made.

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

I’m praying, “Father, I need you TODAY. Would you help me TODAY?  Father, would you show me what I need to do TODAY so that you will be glorified, so that I can improve my life, make wise decisions, raise my children well, do what you want me to do, and stay in your will.  Father, please lead me forward every second of every minute.  And Father, I know you know that my heart’s desire is to honor you with everything I have and do and say…please help me get in a better place financially, emotionally, spiritually, and physically.  Please show me ways to honor you with my finances, my time, and my life.  

Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth; Unite my heart to fear your name. Psalm 86:11

Lord, the messes I’m in, whether my own doing or not, would you please take them Lord? Make something good out of them…help me through them.  Show me what you would have me do, how you want me to think, and even what you want me to pray. Lord, I am yours.  Lord, my life, all messy and complicated and frustrating, is yours.  Lord, my life, all beautiful and chaotic and joy-filled is yours.  You are my hope, Lord.  Being debt free is not my hope.  Being organized is not my hope.  Being rested is not my hope.  You and you alone are my hope

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.  Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.  Hebrews 4:14-16  

Lord, I pray all this in the name of Jesus, who is my hope.  Amen.

Be to me a rock of refuge, to which I may continually come.  Psalm 71:3

No Longer a Dragon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why can’t I grasp that?

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

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

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

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

Idols are so dumb. Just saying.

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

And yet…here I find myself.

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

Just One Day at a Time

IMG_1866I tend to be a “nervous Nelly”…a second guesser…a wring-my-hands in worry woman…a twisted up in knots decision-maker…

That probably isn’t a surprise if you’ve read my blogs.

I’m currently doing a Bible study about discerning God’s will.  It has been great.  Nothing earth-shattering, but still convicting as I seek His will on other decisions.

And, God has done something miraculous in my heart. My ever kind Father.

I was talking with one of my dearest friends on the way to Bible study last week and I shared how I felt that maybe I wasn’t supposed to feel such a burden to figure things out or worry about things.  (Well, I know i’m not supposed to worry about things, but sometimes it happens….LOL.)

I felt a strong prompting to just live the day before me.  Just wake up ready to obey, honor, and love God.  Just wake up ready to do the tasks He puts before me today.

It hasn’t revolutionized the amount I get done (sure wish it would increase it), nor has it meant answers to decisions that I still need to make, but it has given me a sense of peace and even a sense of purpose as I seek to follow my Savior.

I wish I could say that each day I have woken up and obeyed from start to finish…honored through joy and difficulty….yeah, unfortunately not so much.  I am undeniably just way too human.

My dreaded to-do list is ridiculously long and complicated.  And my days are packed with errands and activities.  Today hasn’t ended and I’ve already driven over 60 miles!  That’s nuts!

I had planned to check off all the phone calls I need to make. Alas, I have not been able to, but I am sitting blissfully at one of my favorite places…the library.  Surrounded by stacks of books because my daughters have the same love of books that I do.  I’m not sure who has the largest stack.  I’ve been considering in what miraculous way we are going to get all the books to the car!

Although I can’t make phone calls, I can write.  Something I’ve wanted to do for a long time.

I’ve never had writer’s block, but I’ve felt writer’s hesitancy (my own special condition).  I have felt wary to share good things and hesitant to share difficulties.  I’ve received some interesting comments about my need to be more positive about things, as well as some about how blessed someone is because I share my challenges.

I think God has me in a place of trying to discern what my voice will be at this point in my life.  In this season…am I ready to mix things up a bit.  To flip my very challenging life on its ear?  Am I up for sharing things from a more positive point of view…and what in the world does that look like?  Will it be a blessing to others?  Will it offend?

My prayer is that others will be encouraged that there is some light at the end of the tunnel.  I don’t think I’m completely out of my tunnel yet, and I’m sure there will be other tunnels, but I think the key to walking this sometimes dark path is hope.

And hope is what I have.

As I face each day, just this day, I have hope that God will meet me in it.  He will walk with me.  Stay beside me.

If this journey has taught me anything, anything at all, it is that God never leaves me nor forsakes me.  Even when I leave and forsake Him.  He is continually faithful and loving, even when I am faithless and unloving to Him.  He is infinitely grace-filled, even when I seem to be unendingly sin-filled.

Throughtout these 6 years I have struggled in many, many ways.  I have sinned in many, many ways as well.  I’d prefer not to share them with you, to be honest.  I pray God never requires that of me.  Just suffice it to say, I’m a big, fat sinner.

BUT God (oh how I love that phrase).  But GOD!  He loves me like no other.  He forgives me so many times…so many times for the same blasted things.

And that love and grace and mercy and faithfulness repeatedly is the story of my life…the story in my storm.

BUT GOD…

So today (and tomorrow, and the next day)….I might get overwhelmed realizing how much there is to do and the dwindling days of summer that remain…BUT GOD…God has called me to live today.  Live today well.

I cannot live today well, if I’m twisted in knots about tomorrow.  I cannot live today for His glory if I’m focused on my not messing up the future.  I cannot love Him well, if I don’t trust Him enough to rest in what He has placed before me today.

Today…this day is almost over, but it has been a good day.  Tomorrow, I hope to be even better.  I could worry about it, BUT GOD…I’m choosing to trust.

So Loved

lillyI feel kind of silly because I so wanted to write daily and that lasted about a week.  Best laid plans… I’m determined to get in the habit because it helps my focus.  Hopefully, tomorrow?!?

This week is my last of graduate class homework!  Yippee!  I really don’t even have time to write right this minute, BUT I just had to give God a shout out!

Last week was one of those weeks…you know the ones so I don’t have to go into great detail, but discouraging would be a good adjective to describe it.  Enough said.

Anywho.

I’ve been part of a women’s Bible study since the fall.  I’ve been able to go only a handful of times because of family issues.  It has been a very discouraging thing to me.

I NEED FELLOWSHIP!

Tonight is Bible study, and I texted all the ladies about 2 hours ago and asked them to pray that everything would go smoothly so I can join them.

They’ve all been praying.  I so appreciate it.

I just received a text from a lady in the study who barely knows me, and this is what she said,

“Praying that we will see you tonight.  Do you have a favorite tea?  I’ll pick some up for you.”

I read that and tears sprung to my eyes.

Just a simple act of loving friendship, but what an indication of faith that God will provide a way for me to be there!

I love it.

I’m afraid lately I’ve been less than stellar in my faith.  It used to be that I felt faith for the big things, and faltered with the little.  Now it’s just everything.

I think after a while it’s easy to assume that nothing is going to go smoothly…mostly because the record of smoothness has been pretty abysmal.

My life has gone more like a ride through a ravine full of rocks that jolt and branches that whack.

And yet, God IS faithful.  I do know it to be true.

I think I have always taken fellowship for granted.  I’ve always had friends nearby.  I’ve always had support, encouragement, and love from people around me.

Now, not so much.

And those precious few who live in my vicinity…poor ones…they get to be near the neediest of women.  I could probably suck the life out of anyone at this point.

I have found that in the moments when I feel desperate or just down, the One I must turn to is God.  As much as I want a friend to listen, encourage, help, and hug…God really does answer the needs of my heart better than anyone I have ever met, near or far.

Interesting.

I think I have had all these same feelings with regard to a husband.  The longings to be a wife again…the missing of daily care and love of a husband…real things.

Real things that can be answered by a real God.

Amazing as that sounds.  It is true.

I do not need to be afraid of loneliness, because my God understands.

In fact, He knows sorrow, grief, and loneliness much better than I ever could, or ever want to know.

He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.  Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.  Isaiah 53:3-4

Sometimes (although I wish all the time…

All

The

Time)

I am in awe of what Christ did for us…for me.  I cannot wrap my brain around it.  This perfect man…this loving, kind, gentle, wise man…

But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.  Isaiah 53:5

And this is how awesome God is….

We have been studying Hebrews in our Bible study and tonight’s lesson is on Hebrews 9-10.  These chapters are beautiful reminders of why the Cross matters.

But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet.  For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.  Hebrews 10:12-14

When you compare the old covenant with the new, the differences are amazing!  The one that really stuck out to me was that the old sacrifices purified the flesh, but Jesus’ sacrifice of Himself purifies our conscience.  Our sins are forgiven…completely.  Our sins are forgotten…completely.  And that knowledge is almost too wonderful to comprehend.  And in only grasping it a bit, we can approach our God and Father with confidence, trust, and faith.

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.  Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.  Hebrews 10:19-23

When I read those verses I think, why does my faith waver so?  Where is my full assurance?

And AGAIN, for the millionth time, God brings the gospel of grace RIGHT IN FRONT OF MY FACE!

This seems like a great time to preach the gospel to myself…those times when my faith is not the firmest and my fear is taking hold…that is the time to remind myself that God is with me…that God chooses to be with me…that my mess can be meaningful in God’s hands…that the struggles, setback, and sorrows are not wasted when I have a God who loves me faithfully and perfectly…that Jesus’ sacrifice on that beautiful, scandalous Cross was so that I would be forgiven, so that I would be His forever.  His love is amazing…His grace is overwhelming.

So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.  By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgement, because as he is so also are we in this world.  There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.  For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not be perfected in love.  We love because he first loved us.  1 John 4:16-19

I can’t even remember what my point was when I started this blog…nothing new…my brain is a little mushy by the end of the day…and sometimes it is so fun to see where the Holy Spirit leads…well, actually it is pretty awesome!

And I feel so refreshed by the Scripture He put before me…so blessed by the reminder of His sacrifice…and so comforted by the knowledge of His love.

My Life…Living It

autumn trailThank you so much for all your encouraging words and prayers.  I feel badly that I have used this blog so often to share my struggles, and lately not as much my blessings.

I kinda feel like I’m just plugging along waiting for God to “fix” some things.  He definitely doesn’t work on my schedule…at all…I mean….AT ALL!

But He has encouraged me this week, and for that I’m so very thankful.

I’ve been doing a study on the book of Hebrews…not an easy study, but very good.  This week I was asked to read about the Israelites, particularly the part where they are complaining. That is a BIG part of their history. And mine. I know that I have compared myself to the Israelites before…I’m a grumbler just like them, dang it.

Did you ever think about the fact that the Israelites who had to wander in the wilderness because of their unwillingness to trust God were the generation who had witnessed all of the signs and wonders of God?  That hit me this week.

Those people had lived through the plagues of Egypt….they’d witnessed God changing the hearts of the Egyptians so much so that they gave them jewelry and animals and stuff to take on their journey…they’d followed the pillar of smoke during the day and been comforted by the pillar of fire at night, they’d walked through a wall of water, they’d eaten manna, feasted on quail and seen water come from a rock…Good grief!  It seems like even one of those signs or wonders would be enough to convince someone to follow God forever.

And yet, they struggled.  They weren’t worse people than us…in fact, they were very much like we are now.

Lord, give me a sign.  Lord, this is too hard.  Lord, I know you promised, but I’d sure like it now.  Lord, that Promised Land looks scary.  Lord, are you sure?  Lord, this way looks so much better, easier, nicer, fun…  Lord, do you mind if I just do my own thing this one time?  Lord?

In my life…I really wish that things had already changed…that things had gotten better by now – better in my terms.

This place that I am…I wonder…Is it my Egypt?  My wilderness?  Or is it my walk into the Promised Land?

I don’t believe it is my Egypt…I’m no longer a slave.  Jesus made sure of that.

Is it my wilderness?  I guess I have to evaluate my life…my walk with the Lord.  Have I missed milk and honey for caffeine and sugar?  (Pretty much living on caffeine and sugar 🙂 )

I don’t think I’m in a wilderness.  I think I’m where God wants me.  Oh gosh, I hope so.

Am I walking to the Promised Land?  I believe I am on that journey…maybe it’s not the journey to a promised land here on earth, maybe it’s THE Promised Land.

But maybe trying to match my walk with the Israelites isn’t exactly the walk I should be trying to match.  There are other stories…other people with unique walks.

Maybe my story is gonna be more like Joseph – lots of hard stuff before the great reveal.

Maybe my story is gonna be more like Ruth – sorrow, hard work, barley and Boaz.

Maybe my story is gonna be more like Esther – a season of service, preparation, fasting, then feasting.

Maybe my story is gonna be more like Peter – some dipping below the surface of the stormy sea, some denial, and some serious forgiveness.

Maybe I’m a little bit like all of them…a combination of chaos!  🙂  Well, not chaos…just a little bit of crazy.

I wonder if I should stop trying to figure out whose life my life is like and just live the life God has given me to live.

My life.

Exhausting, but blessed.

I used to keep a list of thing I considered blessings.  Things like the colors of fall, playing the piano, the sound of tires driving on gravel, waves crashing on the beach, a breeze blowing the curtains, hot cocoa in coffee, a hug from one of my children, a text from a friend…there were (and are) so many things in any given day that were a blessing.  I’ve lost sight of that.  I’ve forgotten to count my blessings.

Again.

How often am I going to forget to count blessings?  (Don’t answer that.  I’m ashamed what your guess would be…especially based on my blogging.)

So this study in Hebrews has reminded me of some things to be thankful for.  I’ll share a few that have comforted and convicted me.

“…his works were finished from the foundation of the world.” 4:3  (Nothing left to do!)

“Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.  Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”  4:14-16

“Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.”  7:25

“For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.” 9:24

“…so Christ having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.” 9:28

“…let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.  Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.” 10:22-23

“Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward.  For you have need of endurance so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised…But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.” 10:35-36,39

“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 set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”  12:1-2

I know that’s a lot of verses, but I couldn’t figure out which one I’d want to leave out!  I love them all.  Studying scripture is so encouraging…so edifying.  God does still speak so strongly through His word.  I’m so thankful for His word!  There!! That’s the first thing I’ll add to my new thankful list I’m gonna restart tonight.

What a perfect time to get back to thanking God for things!

I don’t know that it’ll fix my life, but an attitude, outlook, and perspective fix will definitely be a good thing…actually, it’ll be a great thing!

Do You Feel Loved?

Yellow loveToday I feel loved.

Lately it’s been difficult to grasp that I’m lovable…that anyone could really and truly love me.

And yes I know that God loves me…perfectly, relentlessly, beautifully, unconditionally, and passionately…all the ways I want to be loved. But I guess after my husband left, I’ve wanted someone to love me – to be willing to fight for me. To love me enough to do this life with me no matter what God calls us to.

But today, God loved me so tangibly I really and truly got it. I felt it to my core that God loves me.

I have to stop here and say God has loved me in this way before, often. Especially after my husband left…golly, did He love me! It’s just that I got my eyes off of Him and started getting all insecure in my life rather than recognizing that God knows me and loves me completely!

This morning I had my ladies’ Bible study and I was practically skipping afterwards. God just loved on me through those ladies and His word. How blessed I was to be reminded that He does indeed work all things together for good to those who are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28) He turns all that sorrow into joy…He gives us beauty for ashes.
My Bible study this week was actually on Isaiah 61:1-3

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion – to give them a beautiful headdress, instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the plantings of the LORD, that he may be glorified.


God has sent Jesus to bring us good news, bind up our broken hearts, free us from the things that hold us captive like fear, insecurities, anxiety, sorrow, and sin, to comfort us and give us beauty instead of ashes.

That passage has so much in it. I just want to pull it apart and ponder it all. But today God just poured beauty all over me.

The ashes of sorrow and shame and sadness were replaced with a crown of beauty. A crown because I am a daughter of the King. A beautiful crown because I’m a dearly loved daughter of the King.

What a wonder!

It’s God and me…no matter what happens in my life…He will never leave me nor forsake me.

Forsake means “to quit or leave entirely; abandon; desert.” Those things have been my experience with the most important person in my life. And yet, although I struggle with much because of his decision to leave, there is a greater love I have found.

For me, the key to living in security, strength, and without sorrow and fear has been to focus on His love for me…to study His word, to get to know Him better, to know His character, and to find Him to be all that I need…even all that I want.

I wrote this a few years ago…God reminded me of it today:

“So here I am: single, divorced, and exhausted. I have to be brutally honest, this is so not where I thought I would be at this point in my life. Being single in my forties is not ideal. But even though my fairy-tale glass slipper was shattered before I got to the ball, my carriage turned into a pumpkin at 10:00 pm, and my prince was certainly no prince, I’m doing all right.
I have a better Prince who has truly rescued me. He might not hold me tight at night and whisper sweet words in my ear, but His presence is comforting and His words are encouraging and true. My fairy tale might not have followed the story line I had hoped for, but I know that the ending is going to be sweet! I’m excited to see what God is going to continue to do in my life and the lives of my children.” (When Happily Ever After Shatters, p125)

It’s Him and me.

I love Him and He loves me! I’m so thankful!

Not the List I Wanted to Make

list pic

I’ve been feeling all twisted up in knots.  If I could attach a video (which I probably can but honestly the thought of trying to figure out how and trying to look good enough in it kinda twists me up in more knots) you’d see me waving my hands all over the place to symbolize how my chest feels inside – all frenetic.

There’ve been many things in the last four years that I’ve felt more acutely than I thought possible – physical reactions to emotional things.  A broken heart really does feel broken.  A lump in my throat really does make it difficult to swallow.  And stress really can feel crushing on the chest. 

Lately, I’ve felt a heavy chest burden pressing down on me.  I’ve felt on the edge of tears often…and have even hidden in my closet and jumped over that edge a few times.  I was trying to explain it to a friend. I just couldn’t say exactly why…all I could say was that the last four years have made me very tired and I feel like a just want to hide – preferably in a nice house on the ocean.

I began listing a few of the things that are doing me in – individually a fair number of them seemed absurd while others seemed ridiculously overwhelming.  My friend struggled to understand…asked questions I had no answers for. I just couldn’t figure out what to say.  I was beginning to feel like I was losing my ever-loving mind.  My poor dear friend.

When I got off the phone I decided that it might help to take the time to write everything out….to make a list of everything that causes me stress.  Definitely not the list I wanted to make.  It was a lot longer than I thought it would be.  And I’d left off lots of things that drive me bonkers…wet towels on the floor, never-ending laundry, things opened and not closed, those potential science experiments developing in the cup holders in the backseat of the car, the food left out on the counter, the rust stain streaking down and the green stuff growing up the side of my house, the giant crack in my front steps, the river that occasionally runs through my backyard, contacts that rip, crockpots that crack…oh and taxes.  Golly, I just made another list! 

The list that I made was a bit unusual as lists go, but it really helped to see it all in front of me and I realized that I’m not crazy.  I actually do have a lot on my plate…and there are a lot of issues in my life. 

At a Bible study in college, we did an exercise that impacted me greatly.  We wrote some of the things we struggled with or regrets we had on little slips of paper.  We then put all the slips of paper in a flowerpot, put the flowerpot in a towel, and smashed it to smithereens.  It was cathartic.  In a very visual way, it demonstrated that when we give things to God they are dealt with…our sins are forgiven and our issues resolved. 

I believe that idea works well with things that cause stress in our lives.  In a sense, I had to write mine down so that I could recognize that I wasn’t being irrational and overemotional.  It also helped me to understand that I’m at a point where I really and truly can’t handle all that God has allowed in my life.  I just can’t.  So if I can’t handle things, what do I do?  It’s easy to SAY just let God handle it…beware of any sentence that includes the word “just”…it’s always a doozey.  I’m trying to let God handle things, but I’d really like to know what His plan is… you know, where we are headed, when we are going to get there, who is going to be involved, and our mode of transportation. He does not often share those insights with me.  I believe I’m supposed to move forward with a small flashlight and trust that He’s guiding the beam. 

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.  Psalm 119:105

Oh that I was better at that trust thing. 

Mentally I get it…I KNOW I can trust God with the big and little things, but I still FEEL like I should be doing something to make things better, to make things work out properly.  I guess the point is that I don’t know how to fix most things and I don’t know what “fixed” really looks like anyway.  Even as I write this I can’t seem to let go of my desire to get things where I think they should be.  Let me give you an example:

I’ve got children who are struggling with things.  Things I feel like I should have been able to help them avoid.  There are things I can’t seem to be consistent on.  Boundaries I can’t seem to keep hard and fast…I’m sorta soft and slow on things.  I’m fearful I will lose my most important battles if I don’t get tougher.  That stresses me out.  Why can’t I trust that God loves my children more than me…that He will completely take care of things? I carry a burden I shouldn’t – I need to carry His not mine.  His is easy and light…mine is suffocating me.

And yet, I have a responsibility to raise my children well.  I can’t just throw my hands up and do a “Jesus take the wheel” thing.  I actually have to do something!  It’s the something that’s getting me.  I know that God is teaching me to not base my self-worth on what I accomplish or how well I do what He has called me to do.  He wants me to love Him and love others.  I believe if I could just stop trying to change everything and everyone, I might actually end up loving God and others much better.  

Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.  1 Peter 4:8

I wish I had some final words of wisdom…some grand revelation I could share that would untie my knots and yet tie this post up with a lovely little bow.  I don’t have one right now.  I’ve been trying to figure one out and I think I’m realizing that this is part of the process of healing and growing and learning.  And it’s okay not to have the answer or the pretty bow right now.  But I promise as soon as I do, I’ll share!

What I do know…God is faithful and He will provide all that I need to accomplish all He has called me to do. 

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

Worth

Lemonade Sitting on Arm RestRecently I began a Bible study with my oldest daughter and a few of her friends. At our first meeting all I had were Bibles and notebooks for the girls, but no Bible study book or even a topic.
My prayer going into this study was that God would reveal what these girls most need to build their faith, to understand that they are daughters of the King, and what it means to have God as their Heavenly Father
After our breakfast of pancakes, we took our PJ clad selves to the sofa. I began by saying, “I’d like this study to be more than just about the length of your skirts and dealing with boys. I’d like to really grapple with Scripture together. I’d like to grow in our faith together. So what do y’all want to study?”
Their answers blessed me. They said they wanted to understand
• Trust because they struggle with it
• What it means to be a quiet and gentle spirit.
• Modesty – not clothing but how it relates to their hearts
• Respect for themselves and others
• Words and how we handle our mouths being a reflection of what is in our hearts.
• Value – They asked about measuring their value…weren’t they worth something?
YES!!!
Aren’t we all trying to determine our worth?
As I begin to ponder our value in God’s eyes, I’m astounded how loved we are. I know I shouldn’t be…really, because I know the God I serve and love, but I am nonetheless taken aback by His tremendous love for me.
Today I kept thinking about the fact that God knows my name. The Creator of the universe, the Maker of all things, knows my name by heart. It is written on the palm of His hand.
Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb?
Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands… Isaiah 49:15-16
Not only does He know my name, He knows the number of hairs on my head…even as they collect on my shower floor.
Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. Matthew 10:29-30
He knows everything…absolutely everything…about me and loves me still.
The amazing fact that Jesus was willing to die for me while I was still a lost sinner is enough to confirm to me I’m valuable. Worth enough to die for.
You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:6-8
The conversations I’ve had with these precious girls has revealed a deep need in their hearts for real answers…for the ability to ask deep questions and seek difficult but honest answers. Each girl comes from a different life experience and situation. Each girl is different in her personality, her approach, and her needs. I’m ready for that. God has softened my heart through adversity. I understand more what it means to suffer, what it means to doubt, and what it means to struggle. I also understand the beauty of peace in the midst of challenges, joy in the midst of suffering, and hope in the midst of heartbreak.
My prayer is that God will speak through me…that He will open their hearts to the healing and hope that only Christ can offer. I’m so flawed…my poor daughter knows that intimately…and such a mess. Yesterday was our third meeting and my youngest daughters were just plain awful. I ended up dealing with them upstairs while the teenage girls waited downstairs. I was in tears…mostly frustrated and sad that my hopes for the morning were quickly deteriorating into a mess. But as is always the case, God redeemed the time. They were gracious as I tried to pull things together.
Again, I was reminded that, no matter what, God has the situation under His control. It might look terribly chaotic and hopeless to me, but some way or another He always makes delicious lemonade out of my lemons. Maybe that will be what I offer for drinks next time…lemonade to remind me to share that God does indeed always make good out of the difficult.
I’m honored to be able to go on this journey with these girls. How blessed to know that the waters run deep in their hearts. That they desire deeper knowledge and deeper faith. I’m excited to dive deep into the Word and into their worlds. I pray God will speak through me. That these girls will understand that they are worth far more than any costly jewel, that they are precious, and the apple of their Father’s eye.
Wondrously show your steadfast love, O Savior of those who seek refuge from their adversaries at your right hand. Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings… Psalm 17:7-8
And I’m thankful that as I seek out answers to their questions, God will be revealing Himself to me as my Husband and Father as well.

For your Maker is your husband, the LORD of hosts is his name; and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer, the God of the whole earth he is called. Isaiah 54:5

All You Need to Do is Just…

Recently one of my dearest friends called to tell me she had my next blog topic.  She’d been at a women’s Bible study where they were discussing their crazy busy lives.  After the moms in the group had lamented their situations, one of the ladies shared her “simple” solution which began with the phrase,

“All you need to do is just…”

In this case, the solution was prepare freezer meals.  My friend is practically a gourmet cook and couldn’t think of how that would be an appropriate solution for her problem.  She is one of the most accomplished women I know – a very successful attorney with her own practice and also the mother of a toddler and an infant.  She also finds time to minister to others at her church, help people organize their houses and lives, as well as just simply be a good friend and encourager.  I’m sure there are thousands of other things she does…oh and she and her husband built a 2nd story addition on their home…themselves…while she was pregnant with number 2.  So, yeah…I don’t know if freezer meals are the answer to her already busy life.  The amazing thing about this friend is that she is more than able to handle all that she has allowed to be placed on her plate…if she doesn’t shower daily.  I’m kidding…sorta.

She and I talked about how women really do expect that we can do it all.  I am here to tell you in big bold faced letter

I CAN’T DO IT ALL…

IN FACT, I CAN’T DO MOST OF IT.

There I said it.

Even this exceedingly amazing friend of mine admits she can’t.  Oh, we can give it a try, but really it isn’t very pretty most, if not all, of the time.

I’m sure the lady that suggested freezer meals had the best of intentions.  We all do, don’t we?  We all want to help each other to discover the next best thing.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve put my hope in some product or idea or chart or book that was going to finally make me organized, patient, or thin.

I’m always exceedingly disappointed, because the answer doesn’t lie in my doing something differently, more efficiently, or even better…although all those things would be phenomenal!  I believe as the saying goes it is more about being than doing.

What if when we were all sitting around the coffee table sharing our struggles, frustrations and fears, we offered each other the hope of the gospel?  What if we listened, comforted and empathized, but didn’t try and provide yet another thing to add to our ridiculous to do lists…the ones written down with all the phone calls, emails, chores, and projects we need to accomplish or the ones we keep in our heads that include all our hopes as well as all our failings…you know the lists I’m referring to right?

What if we simply loved one another?  What if we shared our struggles but also the hope we found in Scripture.  Maybe it would look like this,

Me.        “I’m so overwhelmed.  I feel like I simply can’t keep one thing moving in the right direction.  I read books about parenting that convict me and condemn me all at the same time.  I feel hopeless.  I don’t think I’ll ever truly be the mom I’m supposed to be for these children.  How can I expect them to be kind, patient, loving and slow to anger when half the time I’m frustrated, impatient, unkind and angry?  I know I need more sleep…but how?  I know I need to exercise…but what do I stop doing?  I know I need to get my home in order…but these little people keep messing it up behind me.  I know I need to prepare healthy food and snacks…but how do I do that with the schedule we are keeping?  What do I give up?  Who do I say no to?  If I could I would…I’m down to bare minimum involvement in church, school and activities and still I’m crushed by our schedule.  There is no way around it with 1 parent and 5 children.”

A Friend.  “I can’t imagine what you are feeling.  I know it must be so difficult.  Please know that God gave you those sweet children because He knew you were the woman for the job.  God wanted you, with your personality, struggles and situation, to be their Momma.  You and those 5 children is not a mistake.  And God has a plan in the midst of this.  Remember that verse you love, “All your children shall be taught by the Lord, and great shall be the peace of your children.”  (Isaiah 54:13) God is the Father your children really need…and He is the husband you need.  He will help you, friend.  He won’t leave you or forsake you.  He’s got your back.  Lean on Him.  I will pray that the Holy Spirit will help you see Christ more clearly and that your circumstances will dim in comparison.  That you will find that peace which passes all understanding to guard your heart and your mind in Him.  That your heart will overflow with gratefulness for the children you have been entrusted with.  That you will know how very much you are loved by me and by Him.  Can I pray for you right now?”

That’s just an idea.  I mean sometimes it might be that you just say, “I’m so sorry.  I’ll pray for you.”  I always find it such a blessing when friends say what they are going to pray for me or even pray for me right then and there.  I love it!

I was talking with a friend at church recently about all the unsolicited advice she gets.  I believe we single moms get A LOT of advice we don’t ask for…or want.  It’s not always easy to receive it gracefully.  I told this friend that I think I’d like to get a t-shirt made up that says, “Just Shut Up and Pray for Me!”

I confess I can’t because my family is anti-shut-up, although you wouldn’t necessarily know that since we all say it and then instantly someone says, “Hey, you can’t say shut up!”  It’s a struggle.  I’m trying to decide if it is a hill I want to “die on.”  But that’s a conversation for another blog.

My point…after all this blathering…is that I want to encourage us all to offer each other some grace…or a lot of grace.  Let’s give each other the freedom to share without condemnation or recommendations.  Let’s extend encouragement and understanding instead of instructions and ideas.

Let’s be honest – most of us know exactly what we need to do practically in order to get our lives in order.  We just find it hard to do it.  Life is difficult.  Growth is a process.  Grace is continual.

What I’d like to add at the end of that phrase is this…  “All you need to do is just…

know you are loved unconditionally

regardless of what you accomplish in a day

regardless of the words that fall out of your mouth on a bad day

regardless of the state of your home

regardless of the behavior of your children

regardless of the comments of others

you are loved unconditionally.

 

“May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.” 

2 Thessalonians 3:5

 

 

“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith — that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”  Ephesians 3:14-19