Failure to Identify

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

I’m not being sarcastic…truly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But not for the good reason.

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

Every. Last. One.

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

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

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

Failures?

Seriously, finding our identity in our failures?

Oh my goodness.  That’s me.

I have been wallowing in my real and perceived failures.

I look at myself as a failure…every day.

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

Why can’t I grasp that?

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

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

And then…

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

And I lost my mind.

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

How had I gone from convicted to crazy?

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

I felt like even more of a failure.

If that was even possible.

Apparently, it was.

Oh Lord, why?  Why can’t I be better?

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

I can’t be better without Him.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RIDICULOUS.

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

Yeah, how can I forget?

I am where God wants me.

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

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

I’m to live here and now.

As is.

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

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

Yes…and no.

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

No, not if it is my identity.

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

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

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

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

I am not defined by my successes or my failures.

Say it again.

I am not defined by my failures.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

…and yet God…

God says I am.

I am precious.

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

Precious.

Honored.

Loved.

Those aren’t words that define a failure.

But they do define me.

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

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

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

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

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

I am His.

I am precious.

I am all that He says I am.

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

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.

Don’t Worry…Just Walk

footstepsThis weekend was such a blessing. It set me up for a good attitude Monday…even with the sleep deprivation factor.

That factor is just life.

I was joking with my daughter that I’d look so much younger if the past 6 years hadn’t happened.  I’d be less stressed and more rested…but alas, the wrinkles are here to stay and the sleep deprivation for a little longer too I suspect.

I’ve always been a big picture person…and lately I’ve been focusing on long term life planning.  Where do I want to be?  Where am I heading?

My retirement plan has been an RV parked in each of my children’s driveways. With five children I shouldn’t have to be there more than a few months at a time, right?  Here come’s grandma!  J

But today everything seemed much closer.

Where do I want to live when my house sells?  What do I want to do this summer?  Will I be able to write more someday?  Another book?  What is my ideal job?  Am I already in it?

I can ponder questions with the best them…it’s the answers that are problematic.

Today I had all kinds of ideas, but really no definitive leading.

I have been praying for days…Lord, just show me.

I’ve been in this place before.  Asking for answers.  I’m pretty much always asking for answers. (Wish answers would just fall in my lap.)

I used to say that I’d just like a lightning bolt with a memo attached…and maybe some updates along the way.  Just some posted notes with status reports.  Just a basic outline of the plan…where am I going to end up…where do I need to look…what do I need to do…???

Where? What? When? How?

Honestly, sometimes I don’t even think I need to know the why…just what to do.

But I’m learning to trust that answers don’t mean everything…they are certainly nice to have, but I think I’m finally understanding that trust doesn’t always mean answers.  Sometimes trust just means taking the next step.

God says He will direct my steps…no matter my plans.

A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.  Proverbs 16:9

I’m starting my day thinking of only today…it might not last more than an hour, but it’s the way I’m going to try to start it.  I’m going to focus on the tasks before me and not worry about the ones waaaaayyy before me.  Just what’s in front of me.  That’s all I need to worry about…actually I don’t even need to worry, just walk.

Big picture planning or little picture planning, I trust that God will lead me one step at a time.

Lord, thank you for today…for another day with You.  Even though it is my plan to just take one step at a time today, I know I will struggle with wanting more.  Wanting to see the whole path laid out before me.  Father, I know that I can trust you with everything.  I just sometimes really want to know…actually I always really want to know….where I’m going, what I need to do, how am I going to get there, how I can help you…as if you need my help.  Lord, I just really want to be in your will and I really want life to make more sense.  Please comfort me with your presence, bless me with your wisdom, and uphold me with your strength.  This path is exhausting.  Father, I trust that You have a plan and it is good.  I trust that you love me.  I trust that you will never leave me.  You have always been faithful to me.  Thank you.  In Jesus name I pray, Amen.  

 

Spaghetti Girl

supergirl My quiet time is happening rather late in the day, but I’m so very thankful for it whenever it happens.

Last night I was blessed to spend time with all 5 of my children to celebrate Peter’s 14th birthday!  My oldest drove down to spend the evening with us.  It was so nice to have all my chicks under one roof again.

Unfortunately, it also made me realize that I gave that up when we moved here.  Taking this job required us to be here, and his job and classes required him to stay there.  It was one of the most difficult parts of my decision.  Although he is turning 21 this year so I imagine it didn’t impact him nearly as much as it impacted me J.

The time went by so quickly and this morning when we parted to head to our different jobs – mine 15 minutes away and his 1 ½ hours away (I definitely had the better commute this morning) – a little bit of my heart broke.  It is hard being a momma.

I love my children so much.  Sometimes I’m just shocked at how much and how deeply I love them.

And I desperately want to make decisions that bless them, encourage them, build them up, and show how much I love them…

Sometimes I worry my decisions do none of those things.  I wonder if I make good decisions…I just feel like I’m always spinning…

This morning was one of those mornings where all I could think was, “Did I make the best decision for my family?”

I hate when I start second-guessing.  I’m so blasted good at it though.  I can second-third-fourth-fifth-sixth guess with no problem at all…it’s so easy for me.

So this morning I had to pray and remind myself AGAIN that this was a good decision.  I listed the good things AGAIN to myself.  I thanked God for the blessings AGAIN.

And I did start to feel better.

I just wonder if in this world any decision is going to feel like a slam dunk?

It is kinda funny (not ha-ha funny) but one of the times I felt absolutely sure I was following God’s will was when I married my ex-husband.  I’m not sure how to feel about that…

I believe part of the second-guessing I hear so many single parents or divorced people share is because one of our very biggest decisions (if not the biggest) didn’t end well.  There’s nothing like that to destroy any confidence in the ability to make decision.

Decision-making brings out all my “spaghetti-girl” issues.  Everything affects and impacts everything.  When I feel badly about one thing it oozes over into other areas and then it makes me feel badly about everything.  When I feel sad it spills all over everything.  When I’m worried, I’m worried about everything.

It is exhausting being Spaghetti Girl!

I don’t believe God called me to be like this…I am a girl so that part has to stay, and there are certain things about being a girl that lend themselves to feeling a lot like spaghetti.  BUT I don’t want to be all goofy.

I want to trust again…trust myself to make wise decisions because I have God and trust God that He will lead me to make right decisions.

I want to be a woman who loves the Lord not just with all my heart, but with all my mind.  I believe the theme of my week of Bible study continues to be taking my thoughts captive.  God keeps bringing me back to getting my thoughts straight.  It is so easy to get overwhelmed and feel hopeless, but this verse reminds me from where my relief comes:

If the LORD had not been my help, my soul would soon have lived in the land of silence.  When I thought, “My foot slips,” your steadfast love, O Lord, held me up.  When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul….the LORD has become my stronghold, and my God the rock of my refuge.

Psalm 94:17-19, 22

I looked up “consolations” – it wasn’t a word I was very familiar with – it means “comforts”.

God’s comforts cheer my soul.  I don’t think I reap the benefits of having my soul cheered if I don’t recognize God’s comforts in my life.

What are the comforts in my life?

Jesus

His Word

My children

Friends – dear, dear friends

Family

Within those are so many other comforts…how can simply stating the name Jesus adequately communicate the multitude of comforts I experience because I know Him.

His Word….I want to write verse after verse after verse…all my favorites.

My children…such sweet blessings

My friends…those who stay with me even in my worst Spaghetti days especially!

My family…who love me and help me in so many ways

Do you remember how often God told the Israelites to be sure to remember what He had done for them?

My favorite is Deuteronomy 6:4-9

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.  You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.  And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.  You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.  You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.  You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”

Put God’s words on your heart.

Teach them diligently to your children.

Talk about them all the time and everywhere.

Talk about them from the start of the day to the end of it.

Keep them in all that you do, think, see, and say!

Keep them in your home at all times!

A good list.  A plan to keep the comforts and blessings of God ever with us and before us and around us.

Kind of like that thankful list I make…which I haven’t done in a while.

Maybe if I focused more on the blessings (WHEN will I learn this lesson?) the decisions and second-guessing wouldn’t be such an issue.  I could see that things truly are in God’s hands.  I could see that God works everything, even all my decisions, for His good and my good!

I can trust God with my decisions and even my second-guessing.  I can trust Him with everything.  Maybe if I say that (write that) enough it will really stick and I will start acting like I KNOW it because I do know it!

The Burden of Blessing

IMG_3433Today I am at my home and it is quiet and peaceful and I’m feeling blessed to be here.  The kids are sleeping soundly (and late woohoo!!)  I debated if I should enjoy this blissful quiet asleep or awake.  I opted for awake.  So rarely do I get a moment of solitude and quiet.  I’m so thankful!

For the past 4 months we have been staying with family and I cannot say how thankful I am for it.  But it would be a lie to say it hasn’t been difficult, stressful and exhausting on many levels. And it would definitely be a contradiction of all that I’ve been sharing for the past few months in my blog.  Sometimes blessings can be difficult.  The blessing of a place to stay during our transition is huge, the stress of that blessing is also huge.

Sometimes I wonder if a blessing can’t also be a burden.  I’m sure there are many that will disagree with me because it sounds wrong to say a blessing can be a burden, but I believe it’s true.

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.  1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

I think I’ve known for a long time that I can find a blessing even in my burdens, but I haven’t flipped it around before.  I haven’t realized that my blessings can sometimes be burdens as well.

But the more I’ve pondered, the more I’m thinking this is true.

Parenting is absolutely a blessing, but I cannot deny it is a burden to be sure.  Dealing with my children and the responsibility of raising them well can most definitely be a burden.  A welcome burden, but a burden nonetheless.

As a parent, I burden my children with chores to give them the blessing of understanding the value of work done well, of responsibility, and of being part of a family.  I’m fairly certain that none of them would refer to those things as blessings…well, at least most of the time.

A home is a blessing, but when there are issues it can most definitely be a burden.  Broken things, dripping things, creaky things, wobbly things…just lots of things that aren’t fun, but I’m sure thankful for the shelter.

Work is a blessing, but it seriously can be a burden.

It’s a bit embarrassing to think that at the moment I’m having to remind myself to be thankful for my blessings.

Shouldn’t that be a given?  Unfortunately,  I think it has been easier for me to focus on the burden aspect of the blessing than the blessing part of the blessing.

Maybe I’m throwing that blessing word around too much…but I can’t think of a good synonym for blessing.  Benediction doesn’t really work.  Approval and encouragement don’t really apply either.  Merriam-Webster defines blessing as “something that helps you or brings happiness.”  I suppose saying that something that brings me help or happiness is a burden is a bit odd.

But in God’s economy, maybe not.

I attend a great Bible study on Sunday nights.  The teacher said that when we pray for things, such as patience or courage, God is going to give us opportunities to exercise patience or be courageous. The blessings of patience and courage are going to come with the burden of experiencing situations that require us to be patient and courageous.  (That is one of those think-well-before-I-pray-this-prayer prayers!)  The blessing of being a patient, courageous, kind, or loving person comes with the burden of having to develop those traits.

We have all probably experienced the phenomenon that blessings don’t always come in the ways we expect them.  Many of the blessings I’ve experienced have come by way of difficulties and trials.  Those blessings are some of the most precious.  Just like labor and delivery – the pain and discomfort brings forth a great blessing!

Maybe the housing situation, although difficult, is not just a blessing of shelter, but a blessing of character-building, of refining, of eye-opening.

Maybe a job, although time-consuming and stressful, is not just a blessing of provision, but a blessing of purpose and ministry.

Maybe parenting, although exhausting and overwhelming at times, is not just a blessing of children, but a blessing of understanding the Father’s love for us.

Maybe all the things in our life are so much deeper and richer because God uses everything – those things we perceive as “good” and those things we perceive as “bad” – to bless us both in the present and the future.

I’m blown away right now.  I have been so easily frustrated and upset by things in my life and haven’t been able to see the good in much.  And if I do happen to notice it at all, I’m quickly overtaken by all the feelings of discouragement that keep me from focusing on the blessings for what they are….blessings.  It has been entirely too easy for me to see only the burden and miss the blessing.

I’m not sure that I know exactly how to “fix” myself, but God does.  He has definitely given me some great ideas in His word.

1.Take my thoughts captive.  (2 Corinthians 10:5)

2.Do not be anxious. (Philippians 4:6-7)

3.Hide His word in my heart. (Psalm 119:11)

4.Take heart. (John 16:33)

5.Trust God.  (Proverbs 3:5-6)

6.Keep an eternal perspective. (2 Corinthians 4:17)

And once again, I’m brought back to the word of God.  Back to the strength and perspective offered there.  Back to the power of His word…the power of Jesus.

I was reminded recently of one of Paul’s prayers in Ephesians 1:15-23  – maybe this is the prayer we can pray for ourselves and for each other.

15 For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, 16 I have not stopped giving thanks for you,remembering you in my prayers. 17 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit[f] of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. 18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength 20 he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.

You know, I just have to include the other prayer in Ephesians 3.

14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family[a] in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine…There really isn’t more to say is there?  What a mighty loving God we serve!

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!

Strength for the Weary Warrior

silly knightYears ago I lead a women’s retreat called “How to Dress Like a Warrior.”

Lately I have felt anything but warrior-like.  If I am a warrior, I’m definitely a weary warrior.

Today I reread Ephesians 6:10-11

Finally be strong in the LORD and in his mighty power. 

Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.

I thought I’d look up the word might in my mighty big concordance.  It pretty much means strength, might, and power.   So I decided to look up other verses about God’s might…I’m in awe.

 The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. 

He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. 

He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases his strength. 

Isaiah 40:28-31

 

WOW!!!! Did I need to read those verses right this very minute!  I can’t even begin to tell you how weary and faint and NOT mighty I am right now.

There is just no way around the tired…believe me, I’ve looked.  I’ve tried to get rest… get on top of things…have less going on…take charge…let go…hang on…release…you know, everything that is supposed to make life easier, but nothing really changes the crux of the matter.

I’m a single working mom with a bunch of sweeties…throw in trying to sell a house, find a house, prepare lessons, grade papers, deal with family issues, financial issues, and continuing ex-husband issues…well, there is no way to avoid the tired.

And sometimes when I consider the armor of God, I wonder if I’m even wearing it.   Sometimes it feels like I’m in a battle wearing my pjs and my only weapon is a feather pillow.

I was thinking about that verse – Be strong in the Lord and the power of His might.  I’m thinking that means that before the armor goes on I need to have the Lord’s strength working in my life.  Otherwise I’m just putting on my own armor – my own righteousness, my own truth, my own salvation, my own everything.

And honestly, I’ve got cruddy armor.

My breastplate is dented.  My shoes are Dollar Tree flip flops.  My shield is made of cardboard.  My helmet is an old baseball cap.  My sword…well, it’s more like a toothpick.  You get the idea.

If the armor must be God’s, I’m thinking the strength must be His as well.

In the New Testament that strength is often equated with the resurrection of Jesus.  Everything truly does go back to Jesus and the gospel.  I can live a life of victory and strength because of Jesus’ victory and strength on the Cross.

There’s a quote by Matthew Henry which basically says that no matter how good your armor is on the outside, if you don’t have a good heart on the inside, it’s useless.

“Let a solider be ever so well-armed without, if he have not within a good heart, his armour will stand him in little stead.”  Matthew Henry

I could have all that righteousness, faith, salvation, truth, and even the gospel, but if it all hasn’t reached my heart…it’s not of much use to me.  And if the foundation of my faith is not God’s strength, but my own…well, let’s just say that’s not much of a firm foundation.

Maybe things have been so difficult lately because I’m trying to do all this in my own might? Unfortunately I’m not sure how to do it any other way.  How do I not do everything that needs to be done…and what does it look like to do things in God’s strength, not my own?

In each ridiculously busy day, what do I give to God?  What do I let go of?  I wish I knew right now…I wish the next paragraph in this blog would hold the key to letting go and letting God.

But maybe it isn’t so much about me doing anything more or less.  Maybe it is more about me having a shift in my mindset.  Maybe I need to re-evaluate what is causing me to feel so weary.  Could it be my own expectations?  My wish and hope to have a different life?  Discontentment?  Fear?  Insecurities?  Anxiety?  Anger? Bitterness? Frustration?  Probably some of those, maybe all…depending on the day.

I keep trying to figure out how to make this life easier…get off the battlefield.  I don’t think that is God’s plan for me yet.  I think the plan is to teach me to trust despite the battle…to smile despite the frustrations…to be thankful despite the weariness…to praise despite the problems.

And as I’m listing some of what causes me angst, I’m thinking that part of the change in perspective might be stopping all the focusing on the battles, frustrations, weariness, and problems.

Good gravy!  There are good things in my life too!  The blessing of children.  The love of friends.  The provision of a place to stay, a car, a job, and food on the table.  There’s even things like beautiful clothes to wear, inspiring music to listen to, and wonderful books to read (if I had time to read).

Most morning on my way to work, I see gorgeous sunrises.  I’m also blessed to drive through a park that is often filled with deer walking quietly through the morning mist.  It is exquisite and peaceful.  A truly wonderful way to start my day!

In the evening, I can step outside and look up at thousands of twinkling stars…again exquisite and peaceful.  God does offer me peace, rest, and opportunities for thankfulness and praise.  If I would but open my eyes and take a minute away from the stress of my circumstances, I think I’d see so many more things to inspire and bless!

There will always be things that distract us…things that cause us to take our eyes off of Christ…things that sap our strength…BUT nothing can sap God’s strength!  And if God is the source of our strength, we do not need to fear the frustrations of life, we can rest assured He will provide all that we need…even the armor to get us through the battle.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine,

according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church

and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen!  Ephesians 3:20-21

Life in the Back Row

ImageThere are things that bring back very vivid memories for me…some painful some not.

This evening I was playing through some praise music I found in my organizing spree and I began to play “Mighty to Save.”

Everyone needs compassion

Love that’s never failing

Let mercy fall on me

Everyone needs forgiveness

The kindness of a Savior

The hope of nations

 

Savior He can move the mountains

My God is mighty to save

He is mighty to save

Forever Author of salvation

He rose and conquered the grave

Jesus conquered the grave

 

So take me as You find me

All my fears and failures

Fill my life again

I give my life to follow

Everything I believe in

Now I surrender

(Ben Fielding & Reuben Morgan, Hillsong Publishing, 2006)

It brought me back to the last Sunday I stood next to my husband in church.  We were on the last row.  That was an unusual place for us to be, way in the back.  It was okay, I wanted to be back there too.

It was a weird Sunday all the way around.

Standing back there with a clear view of all the people I’d worshiped with for years, I found myself feeling like I no longer belonged.  Only a handful of people knew the tragedy that was occurring in my family.  Most of these dear people had no idea. I felt like a sham.

A friend commented on my weight loss – she asked how I was doing it like she wanted to do it too.  I stood speechless…what could I say?  “It’s a very effective diet but I absolutely don’t recommend it.  It’s called the adultery diet…you are so full of pain there is no place for food.”

As worship began, I stood barely touching my husband.  He very clearly did not want to be there…did not want to be next to me either.  I felt helpless and hopeless.

“Mighty to Save” started.  I knew these words by heart.  This song had to be for us.  For both of us.

I inched closer to my husband and slipped my hand in his.  Although he allowed me to hold his hand, he did not hold mine back.

That summed up our marriage at that point.  I was holding tightly…with fingers grasping for any sign of warmth.  Even while I held firmly to his cold hand, I felt my palms sweating from fear of the future alone.

I sang those words begging God to make those words ours.  Love that never fails…mercy, forgiveness, kindness, hope…

Oh God please, please move mountains in my husband’s heart.  God you are mighty to save.  You are the author of my salvation.  You are the author of his salvation…please remind him of the joy of his salvation.  Jesus, you conquered the grave…Jesus, please conquer the death of my marriage.  God, take me as you find me.  Please God, I have more fears than I thought possible and the failure of my marriage is devastating me.  I give you my life, Jesus.  I give you everything I believe in…everything I have hoped in and hoped for…I surrender God.  God, please.

It would be easy to say that God did not answer that prayer, because well, He kinda didn’t.  But I surrendered to Him.  I put my trust in Him as I sang those words.

I understood that the love that never fails is His…it’s Him.  He never fails.  He had offered me mercy, kindness, forgiveness and hope in my Savior.  He did move mountains, just not the mountain in my husband’s heart.  He could have, but for some reason He chose not to…and I trust Him.  He took me as He found me – broken, hurt, bleeding, and terrified…and He filled my life again.

He has filled my life with more beauty than I could imagine.  I will not pretend that this life He has called me to is at all easy, but it is blessed.

Each day I see the blessings…each day I know the beauty of His provision…each day I sense His power sustaining me…each day I feel the depth of His love.

I wouldn’t trade where God has brought me.  I wouldn’t trade what He has done in my life.  I wouldn’t trade knowing His faithfulness for anything.

There are days when I complain and moan and groan and wail, but ultimately I know that He loves me.   He will take care of me and my children.

He is indeed mighty to save.

photo (21)An empty white page.  Beautiful. I love it…the potential, the wonder at what God is going to show me…open up to me as I write. Often I sit down at my computer with the intention of sharing a difficulty or struggle that God is bringing me through, but today I decided I just want to write.  To share life.

This past weekend I started an organization project.  I thought it would take about 4 hours…oh my goodness did I underestimate!  I’m on hour 47 and there is more to be done…how is that possible?

My projects always ooze into other things and before I know it I’ve created complete chaos. I once saw a t-shirt that said, “Chaos, Madness, Mayhem…My Work Here Is Done” – I should have that t-shirt.  Actually I think I should get that shirt for me and my children…we are excellent mess-makers.

I need to finish this project.  I can’t work in mess…I need clutter-free zones.  Clutter takes me to bad places…like duck and cover mama’s gonna blow places. But I found a corner that is uncluttered and my children are all busy or sleeping, so I decided to ponder things…not sure what things yet.  This is kind of stream of consciousness blogging…might be disastrous.

I’m sitting in my favorite chair, Bible and laptop beside me, with a cooling down cup of coffee and hot cocoa (Yum!) on the windowsill next to me and praise music filling my ears.  And I’m realizing how much I need this moment.  This clutter-free, no to-do list moment.

Be still and know that I am God.  Psalm 46:10

Life is cluttered in my head, in my heart, and in my home. There is so much to think about, feel, and do.  If I just had more time to work through my thoughts, quietly ponder the Word, finish my projects… Sometimes the lack of time in my day is astonishing to me.  I wake up with such hope for what I will accomplish, only to go to bed disappointed by a day spent in constant motion with very little to show for it.

Wanna know something funny?  When I typed that last sentence I typed “constant emotion”

Hmmmm,  I wonder…

I wonder if I might want to consider that a bit more. Constant emotion. I feel like that might describe me well.  I do feel like I’m in constant emotion. I’m always feeling something…well, I guess we all are always feeling something. God made us in His image…He feels therefore we do too!

And these emotions aren’t bad, necessarily. It’s just that mine tend to swing all over the place and I tend to be ruled by them. I range from feelings of peace and acceptance to anxiety and confusion, anger to forgiveness, frustration to understanding, loneliness to longing for solitude, regret to trust, hope to fear…the list could go on and on…and amazingly I could probably feel all those emotions in a day…any day.

Oh my goodness I AM in a state of constant emotion… I’d like these God-given emotions to display Christ’s character…not my craziness.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control; against such things there is no law.  Galatians 5:22-23

This week I’m waiting to hear about a job I’ve applied for…I thought I would have known by now, but I trust God’s timing.  It’s been interesting how the waiting process has gone for me.  At first I felt such desperation to get the job…it seemed like the perfect fit for our family.  Then I decided maybe it wouldn’t be as easy a transition as I thought and I was okay if it didn’t happen.  And then I went back to the hoping hoping hoping I’d get it.  And each day for the past month or more has been a variation on the theme of hoping, desperately wishing, indifference, fear, or any other number of emotions. Today, I feel such peace as I wait.  It would be a nice fit to be sure, but if it isn’t God’s perfect fit why would I want it?  It is in His hands, not mine.  Thankfully.  And as I ponder not getting it I wonder what God’s perfect plan is…how in the world are the needs of my children going to be met?  I know He is aware and cares about each of them more than I can even comprehend so I’m sure the plan will be good.  (But oh do I wanna know what the plan is!)

The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.  Proverbs 16:9

And I again I come back to what God keeps reminding me…His good might not look like my good.  His good might be more challenges and more struggles…but in His hands those challenges and struggles would be just what we need to grow in our faith and in our love of Him and each other.  I know that, but oh how I pray that is not God’s plan for us.

Sometimes I can really “get” things in my head, but my heart struggles.  You know…those dang emotions. I wrestle with feeling like I need to fix things…I need to make things happen…I just need this and I’ll feel better…my child just needs this and they’ll feel better…

Most of the time my emotions are centered on my circumstances, my situation, my environment…I’m easily swayed emotionally by things not going as I planned…my house not looking as I hoped…my children not doing what I asked…wow, it is all about me isn’t it?

But you know, sometimes life seems really hard. There hasn’t been a time in the past few years without some struggle going on. My prayer partner and I pray each year for an uneventful year.  So far, not so much.  We seem to go from one crisis, tragedy, and struggle to the next.

But I can see that those difficult things, although overwhelming at times, do not represent my life. Just as my state of constant emotions does not need to be my identity.  My identity is in Christ.  I want to be defined by Christ.

Remember that story of Jesus calming the storm?  He was asleep in the boat while the disciples freaked out.  In the past, I’ve wondered why He was asleep…it seems odd, maybe even a bit callous to the fear of the disciples. But I wonder if the reason might be to show us how much we can trust the Lord in the storm.  Jesus was so confident in the Father’s care, he slept through the raging winds and crashing waves.  He rested in the care of the Father while the storm raged on.

I wanna be like that.  I want to calmly be with my Lord as the storm rages on around me.

I know I’m blessed even in the storm.  I can see it as clearly as I can see the clutter in my office.  The blessing of time spent with my children around the fire pit reading a great novel together.  The blessing of dinner out with my girlfriends to celebrate a birthday.  The blessing of a neighbor dropping off cookies just to love on us.  The blessing of neighbors who invite my little girls over for dinner just for fun.  The blessing of a sister who laughs at all my jokes.  The blessing of hot coffee and cocoa in the morning.  The blessing of a comfortable house.  The blessing of family and friends who love me. The blessing of His word spread before me each day.

This week we had more rain than I can ever remember and my backyard became a rippling creek or I might even call it a small river…there was water everywhere in pools up to 6 inches deep.  Our little English basement drain decided it was done draining and I feared a wet basement episode.  I went out in my daughter’s rain boots and tried to figure out how to divert some of the water cascading through my yard…honestly, I was laughing most of the time.  It was nuts!

Sometimes those moments when things are just ridiculously awful, I can smile more than at the little annoyances of life.  photo (20)

I even laughed when I slipped holding the bucket my kids had filled with “puppy presents” and forgotten to put in the trash…it was the most disgusting bucket of “water” you can imagine.  I was carrying it back to the woods and unfortunately I slipped.  The bucket and I had a face to face experience I would prefer never reliving!  After my initial holler of “YUCK!!!!”  I ran laughing to the sink to pour the hottest water possible all over my face…I seriously wanted to dip myself in bleach or Purell or something!  Icky!

Splashing poop water all over myself kinda put the whole backyard experience in perspective for me.  I could angrily stomp around in the pools and puddles and fuss about the mess (and the poop water), or I could splash around laughing at the absurdity of it all.

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.  1 Thessalonians 5:16

Adding to the silliness of the afternoon, my littlest daughter was outside sledding (yes sledding) down the muddy hill into the huge puddles.  She was covered in mud…just like our two labs (so you can imagine what my house looks like…).  It was pure joy!  Pure muddy, filthy joy!

Sometimes I miss participating in the joy-filled moments because I’m so busy doing…dare I say, so busy fussing.  I wish I could remember that I NEVER regret stopping work to enjoy my children.  NEVER.

Today I’m determined to finish my project so that I can spend time tonight playing…maybe we’ll even splash in the mud again.  I foresee it still being there. The trick is going to be letting myself look past the clutter in my house – to put aside the clutter of thoughts in my head – to overlook the clutter of feelings that overwhelm…and focus on the simplicity of time spent with my children.

That is easier said than done, but I believe God will honor my desire to serve Him through loving my children…investing in them not just their surroundings.

And I think focusing on the beautiful blessing of my children will really help with my mess of emotions…maybe I can change my constant state of emotion into something positive…something that is more a reflection of Christ than me.

Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice!  Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his presence continually!  

Remember the wondrous works that he has done, his miracles and the judgments he uttered.  1 Chronicles 16:10-12

I Should Have Hugged Her

Image         I was sitting here just finishing up my quiet time and it struck me.

I should have hugged her.

My 7-year old broke her toe last week.  We are gimpy together…same foot even! It would be comical if it weren’t so pathetic.

She won’t let me take a picture of our matching feet – no fun.

This morning she didn’t want to wear the special shoe or use her crutches.  She was in tears and since she has reached the sassy sevens, she was quite rude with her words.

PRAISE GOD (and seriously this is a BIG praise) I kept my voice and manner calm and I recognized what she was feeling…angry, frustrated, embarrassed…

And I tried to talk to her about my foot and compare the two…yeah…that didn’t work.  Sassiness just got sassier.

She looked so sorrowful about the whole thing.   I convinced her to put on the boot and got her a super fun sock that matched the skirt she was wearing and even let her bring her pretty sparkly black shoe in her backpack.  Not sure what I was thinking on that one because I’m pretty sure she’s gonna sneak it on her foot as soon as she steps into school.   🙂

Anywho, we got in the car, still with a bit of an attitude, but I, by the grace of God, kept my calm.  I can struggle with getting frustrated particularly as we are trying to get out the door to school.  We had already missed the bus — well, we really didn’t miss it, it was a conscious decision to miss.  I didn’t sleep well and I decided to push snooze…many, many times.

After about 2 minutes in the car, Lizzie was her usual sweet self.  She apologized and we had a lovely little ride to school.

And as I sat here, foot propped up, with Bible, journal, books and homework surrounding me, I thought for a minute that I really really wished I’d taken the time to hold my daughter.

I was so intent on getting out the door that I didn’t take the time to hold my precious, hurting little girl.  I didn’t add to her hurt this morning, but I wish I had comforted it.  I wish I had loved on her.

There are a thousand things I wish I had done or done differently in any given hour, day, week, month, year…  I carry guilt around like a scarf around my neck…sometimes it seems to choke the life out of me.

I’m pretty confident I’ve shared my propensity to hold on to mommy guilt.  In fact, I have plenty, enough to share if you need any.  But I doubt any parent needs extra guilt.  Most of us carry around a fair amount.  And if you don’t feel guilt, that is a blessing and I won’t share any of mine with you!

This past week I heard a snippet from an interview with Desmond Tutu.  He answered a question regarding parents being able to forgive themselves for mistakes they made with their children.  Among other things, he said something that really struck me.  He reminded the interviewer that parents are not omniscient.  And that parents make decisions with good will towards their children.  I’m completely paraphrasing…he said it much more eloquently.

What blessed me was the reminder that all those things I’m second-guessing now, I did with the belief that I was doing the right thing by my children.

I’m not talking about the choices I sometimes make to yell, or fuss, or say things I wish I hadn’t.  I’m talking about choices and decisions we make that aren’t made in anger, frustration or selfishness.

This morning was a minor moment in the life of my daughter, and I made the decision to keep the ball rolling towards the car and school.  I just wish I had taken a moment to stop the ball and hug my girl.

Will that harm my little girl?  Doubtful.  I didn’t withhold affection or rebuff her, I just showed my affection and love through words.  So do I really need to beat myself up about it like I tend to do?

Nope.  Definitely not.

And when she gets home from school today, I will greet her with a huge hug, ask her about her day and love on her.

God has not called me to live a life of guilt.  It is not His plan for us as parents…and we certainly don’t want to model guilt for our children.

I remember years ago doing a Bible study entitled Sonship.    One of the most amusing and profound quotes from the study was, “Cheer up!  You are worse off than you think!”

The point was that our sin is much worse than we think, BUT God’s love, forgiveness, mercy and grace is much bigger than we think too!  Tim Keller says it something like this – we are much more sinful and flawed than we ever dared believe, but more loved and welcomed than we ever dared hope.

Do you see it?  There is no place for guilt – mommy or any other – in this Christian life.  God has blessed us with grace.  Grace.

I’m trying so hard to understand that word.  To truly grasp its meaning for my life.  I don’t think I will ever plumb the depths of its meaning like I want to.  I want to immerse myself in it, drown in it, be swallowed up in grace.  I want it to be the defining feature of my life.  To be something that I live – something that I breath in and out.  Something that my children see…see as clearly as they see the kitchen table.

And yet, I constantly struggle with my sin and my focus again and again is back on me.  Me. Me. Me.

Grace calls me to focus on Jesus!  Jesus, only Jesus.

Jesus.  Grace.

What does that look like to this mommy plagued by guilt?  This momma that wants to drop everything and run over to the elementary school and give my 7-year old sweetheart a hug?  This momma that second-guesses everything a thousand times and more?  This momma who wants the best but can’t seem to provide it?  This momma that loves her children passionately?

What does living grace look like Lord?

Well, I know one thing…it’s not about how well I do anything.

I can’t earn grace…neither can you.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.  Ephesians 2:8-10

And I know that it’s not about what I think about me.

God loves me period.  When God looks at me he sees his perfect Son and the way He lived His life.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us

in him before the foundations of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.  In love, he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ

according to the purpose of his will to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.   Ephesians 1:3-6

And it’ not about how I do or don’t do this parenting things well.

God is the perfect parent who loves my children perfectly and will work in their lives regardless of me.

All your children shall be taught by the LORD, and great shall be the peace of your children.  Isaiah 54:13

And really grace isn’t about me – I want everything to be about me – But grace is about Christ.

The only way I can get my head in the right place is to recognize my need for Christ – to understand that I am a sinner (…a big fat sinner) in need of a Savior (…a gigantic loving Savior), who loves me (…that same ole big fat sinner) despite all my flaws and guilt and sins.

I cannot be the woman or mother I want to be without Christ…and when I try, that’s when that blasted guilt comes creeping in…actually it doesn’t creep in, it crashes in and falls on top of me.

I guess I have to ask the question, “Do I trust God?  Do I trust His grace?”

Because if I do, I want to rest in it.

I have to allow the reality of God’s grace to seep into every part of me.  And I must grab hold of my new identity in Christ and not allow the old guilt-ridden self to have any place in my home.

Do I trust that God’s grace is enough to enable me to raise my children…to do this life?  YES!

So live like it, Sue!

Simple and not so simple

I think to some degree it is simple.  If I’m in the Word of God and praying and seeking Him and praising Him and thanking Him.  If I’m living a life of praise and thanksgiving, then the focus of my heart is on Him, not me.

Not focusing on me is a very good thing.  I never like what I see when I look at me.

When I look at Christ – I like what I see….I LOVE what I see.  And what I see is now what is ME!

I’m defined by Christ…by the life He lived!  Not by the life I’m living.

 I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength!  Philippians 4:13

It’s not about what I do well or better or even what I fail to do.  It is simply and completely about what Christ has done.

I have to stop second-guessing because that is not the focus God wants me to have.  I want to stop looking behind and start looking ahead – God has a great plan for us after all.  I’d like to watch it unfold!

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.  Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own.  But one thing I do:  forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 4:12-14