Up to My…Head

IMG_1614When I started this blog I wanted to offer hope with a dash of humor thrown in for good measure.  I can, at times, be a little funny.  My amusing side has been slipping a bit lately, and I’d like to find that voice again.

As I begin this new year, I’m thinking I want to make a slight change in my perspective…in my way of doing things and thinking about things.  Maybe I shouldn’t say a slight change…a complete 180 might be more like it.

Joy has been a bit illusive this past year.  Hard to grasp for me.

Peace that passes understanding?  Haven’t had it.  I’ve chosen anxious thoughts and ungratefulness.

It has been a bit of a miserable time for me (and my kids, unfortunately).

I don’t think that my life has been harder than most, or that I’ve been called to do something overly extreme in difficulty.  My life is just more challenging and exhausting than I  want.

My vision for my life was different. And sometimes the farther I get from the vision, the more I struggle to accept where I am.

It has been easy to focus on the stress of my circumstances, rather than anything positive.

So what are my circumstances, really?  That seems like a good place to start when I’m trying to figure out how I should approach life.  I’m hoping for some perspective on why I’m doing what I’m doing, living how I’m living, and thinking the way I’m thinking.  And maybe if I put it all in front of me in black and white I’ll see something differently.

Would you like to think through this with me?

What are the things that you are dealing with right now?  Not your emotions, but your circumstances. What does your life look like each day?

I have to remind myself as I go through analyzing my life that God is not at all surprised by my circumstances (or emotions).  They are the tools that God is going to use in my life to bring me good and Him glory.  And I’m confident that I will be stronger for the challenges.

The storms of life.

I once heard a pastor say that we are either heading into a storm, right in the middle of it, or drying off from it. When I first heard this I thought it was a rather dismal look at life, there have to be other times….don’t there?

Where are we now?

  • Hanging on for dear life in the hurricane.
  • Rocking on the waves but getting our sea legs
  • Working on storm clean-up – everything’s a little damp and musty, but thankful to be back on dry land
  • Floating in calm waters – an occasional wave swamps your boat but you are doing just fine
  • Sunning on the beach

In some ways I’m in clean up mode, but in others I think I’m still rocking a little bit on the waves.

Wherever I find myself (any given day), how do I respond to where I am…where God has me?

In all honesty, my responses have been mostly negative – BUT I’m determined to change that this year.

Part of the problem is that I tend to look at all my circumstances as only challenges rather than just the place God has me…a place God can still bless me.  That inclines me to respond mostly negatively to them.

Being a single working mom is challenging at times, but it is the place God has me.  It can be a beautiful place no matter how challenging.

Do I EVER have good responses to my circumstances?

Ummmmm…

Ok!  Think of three, Sue.  Three positive responses…(and the ability to say something sarcastic is not one of them).

Laughter – sometimes I can really get a good laugh at the ridiculousness of my circumstances

Joy – when I focus on the blessings and provision from God

Worship – when I take a moment to recognize how often God loves me when I’m decidedly unlovable

Getting tangled up in negative thinking and feelings has been all too easy for me.  Even when I’m studying the Word and praying, I can still struggle with negative emotions.  Unfortunately, it seems to be a natural response for me lately.

I know that I can trust God with my life and the lives of my children, and yet I struggle with feeling all those negative emotions.

I am thrashing about in the waves, gulping in tons of water while I grumble, complain, and wail – but there is this blessed undercurrent of peace – my feet are in it.

I’m in it up to my toes.  My goal is to get my whole body in that peaceful place – all the way over my head.

That is my quest this year.  To be not just up to my toes, but up to my head.

To build on those three possible positive responses to my circumstances.

To redefine my response to my life.

To evaluate from a different perspective.

To acknowledge where I am, accept it, trust God with it, and move forward.

To see my life as a blessing.

Want to join me on this journey?

I’d sure like the company.

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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

Whatever It Takes

IMG_1718I’ve become a late-night person…through no design of my own.

I desperately need more hours in the day…more days in the week…and more sleep in my bed.

Last night as I lay my head down on my crazy configuration of multiple fluffy pillows, I began to pray for friends and family, for my children and myself.

I want my people to know the Lord.

I’ve been praying “whatever it takes” off and on for someone.  Actually a few someones.

I began to utter that prayer again and the thought crossed my mind, “Gosh, I hope someone isn’t praying that prayer for me!”

I stopped praying.

Then I thought, “Wow. How you have changed Sue.”

What happened that I fear that prayer now?

Is it that I think God is a father who would say, “Ok, I accept that challenge!  Let’s see what it takes.”

That is not my Father…He is not willing to play with my faith or my life.  He loves me too much.

I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore, I have continued my faithfulness to you.  Jeremiah 31:3

Or is it that I know myself better today than 7 years ago when I was willing to pray that prayer for myself and anyone else I loved.

Back then I was the “righteous one” – I was the victim of someone else’s sin – or so I felt about myself.

Today, I am just me and my own sin…my own failures and fears….my own faithlessness.

God’s been opening my eyes to things in my life…I feel it’s just layers and layers and layers of stuff.

It is painful and difficult.

I’m tired of painful and difficult.

I think that might be why I’m struggling to pray that prayer.  I think I don’t want to go through anything else…I’m tired of doing hard things.

Living hard.

I’m tired of others struggling with hard too.

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.

In this world you will have trouble.  But fear not, for I have overcome the world. John 16:33

Well, that confirms what I already knew…Jesus is a man of His word.  I got trouble.

But if I do…God has to have a reason for allowing it.

God doesn’t mess with me.  He sometimes allows messy but not messing.

Lately, as God has been showing me my layers and layers of issues and sins, honestly, I’ve had some moments of despair.  I’ve felt that I must be the most hopeless case ever.

But then….God.

(There is that “But God” thing…)

Then God reminds me that as big as my sin is…the cross is so much bigger.

The gospel.

Sometimes I forget.

Sometimes I live at the foot of the cross rather than the door to the empty tomb.

Sometimes I forget that although my sins put Him there, His love took me from the cross to the throne of grace.

There is a place for self-reflection…for a moment.  A place for recognizing that I still need my Savior.  A place for seeing my sin and its effects, but my eyes aren’t supposed to be fixed there.

My eyes focus intensely on Christ.

The Author and Perfecter of my faith.

Sometimes I think that my faith is all about me…It’s my job to protect it, strengthen it, reveal it, and nurture it.

I was never given that job…my job is to have it.

Have faith.

Trust that God can bring me safely to my inheritance.

Trust that God knows me better than I know myself, and, amazingly, He still promises to never leave me nor forsake me.

Trust that God doesn’t play games with my life.

Trust that God knows what He is doing…and it is good.

He can’t do bad.

Sometimes I just need to remind myself of that…God can’t do wrong.

And if He can’t, then I can pray that prayer…even if I have flocks of butterflies in my stomach and bats in my chest while I utter the words, “Whatever it takes…”

Whatever it takes to strengthen my faith.

Whatever it takes to make me the mom my children need.

Whatever it takes to keep me walking with You.

Whatever it takes to grow me into the woman after Your own heart I so want to be.

Whatever it takes to have a life that You can use for your glory.

Hard prayers…and yet, not.

If I trust Him, I can pray for those things and know He loves me and whatever it takes is worth it.

I can’t say that I’m joyful or even excited about some prayers I feel called to pray, but I can say that I feel loved and peaceful in the care of my Father.

And maybe it doesn’t really matter if I pray those prayers or not…God is going to do what is best in my life…whatever brings me closest to Him…whatever it takes.

 

In the Middle of the Night

FullSizeRender (7)It is the middle of the night and I’m awake.  Wide awake.

Yesterday I stayed home from work because I’ve been fighting a wicked cold or flu thing and I slept most of the day.  I was actually thinking I might be well-rested for the next day.

No such luck.

Part of the problem is my house got quite warm and I just don’t sleep in warmth.

Secondly, I’m anxious.

…do not be anxious about anything…

Everytime I say the word anxious, those words pop into my head.

And yet, I’m having difficulty letting go of my fear.

It’s this storm coming.

It’s feeling unprepared.

It’s the fact that I delayed something I shouldn’t have.  Been on my to-do list for 3 months.  Since I bought this house.

And I haven’t done it…just kept moving it to the next day.

For three months.

So many things are like that for me…there is just so much to do.  What other really important things have I missed, forgotten, or put too far down the list?

I’m watching the rain drizzle right now, and fearing the deluge that is predicted.

I keep praying…placing my fear in God’s hands…and then picking it back up again…then repeating the process until I can’t sleep.

I have thought about walking around my home praying.  I began my walk and then decided that I want to write some verses down and place them around my house.  I’ve wanted to do that for a while as well.

Why did I buy a house close to water?

Water and me…well, we have a history.  Wet basement over and over again. Wet yard…rivers running through it over and over again. Wet. Wet. Wet.

Even my kids have joked that we will just have to accept that we are destined to own a water park at some point in our lives…I’m just hoping it isn’t my first floor.

…but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving

let your requests be made known to God…

I am praying…now I need to start thanking.

I am so very thankful for this wonderful house.  So thankful for the dreamy yard.  So thankful for the beautiful wood floors.  So thankful for the bedrooms for children.  So thankful for a washer and dryer that work.  So thankful for air conditioning.  So thankful for my relaxing backporch.  So thankful for kind neighbors.  So thankful for my little kitchen.  So thankful for a place to live.

Oh but even as I pray and know know know that I can trust my God who gave this all to me…I’m fearful.

I know it is because sometimes things still go horribly awry.  Sometimes prayers aren’t answered the way I hoped…the way that seemed best.

What if…?

How often have I uttered that phrase, if not aloud at least in my head…and even my heart?

Too many times.

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:6-7

Deep breath.

Peace…peace I can’t even understand.

Seems illusive at the moment.

I feel desperate for it.  I can almost taste it, but…why am I struggling?

God says present my request with thanksgiving…let God know what I’m feeling, thinking, worrying about, thanking Him for…and the peace will come.

It doesn’t seem like I have to do anything but give it to Him…and not be anxious.

Is it in the process of praying that the peace comes?  Do I just pray until it pours over me like syrup?  Soft and smooth…stick-to-me peace?

Do I make myself not anxious?

I don’t think so, because if I could I wouldn’t need to pray and it would be my own peace not His.

So…how do I give up this little bit of panic that is clawing at my chest?

Back to my knees…Lord, how do I have peace?

I’m desperate for a few more minute of sleep, but I want to feel that peace that surpasses all understanding…for both my heart and my mind.

Right now it feels like my mind needs it most.

It’s whirling and I’m weary.

How do I grasp it God?

And again…I’m reminded.

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances;

 for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Ok…pray.

Father, for me right now, it is the fear of losing my home in a storm.  This precious home you have given to me and my children.  This lovely home that I long to grow old in with people I love nearby.  This dear place you provided my little family with…this house.  Lord, you know me…you know my fears and my anxious thoughts.  And you know that sometimes I worry about dumb stuff, but Lord this feels huge.  This house, in the 3 months we have been here, has had some little hiccups…and even those have felt discouraging to me.  Oh Father, I’m so afraid.  I’m so afraid of losing more.  This past week you have revealed to me that I have an idol of control in my life.  This is definitely not something I can control…at all.  I can’t even begin to control the weather or the water or even the insurance company, but Lord I can trust You.  I know I can.  So why am I so afraid?  I think I know why.  It is because I know sometimes you use difficult things to bring us closer to you…and I do want to be closer to you Lord.  I’m just so afraid of more difficult things.  More struggles.  More heartache.  Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.  I believe you are good.  I believe you love me.  I believe you have a plan.  I believe you will provide.  I believe I can trust you.  I believe you know me and know what is best.  There is not one thing that happens in my life that has not first gone through your hands.  Lord, I trust that your hands hold only good for me and my children.  Lord, I have to grab hold of your peace and say, “your will be done” and rest in that.  Lord, I know you are good and wise and loving and faithful and kind.   Lord, practically speaking, could you allow me to get flood insurance tomorrow?  Please.  If I do, I know it is all you.  If I don’t, I know that it is your plan that I trust you without it.  Either way, I trust that you are working.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

P.S.  I have no insurance until the end of the month, BUT I have peace.  I’ll take that peace any day!  God is so good.  I didn’t believe I could feel peace about all this, but I do.  And that, my dear friends, is totally a Holy Spirit thing!  God is so gracious to me.  I laid it before Him, left it there, and He gave me peace in return!  I’m so thankful!  More than I can say.

Storm is coming, but it’s okay.

A dear friend sent me a passage this morning that TOTALLY blessed me:

Psalm 107:28-32

Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress.  He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed.  Then they were glad that the waters were quiet, and he brought them to their desired haven.  Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man!  Let them extol him in the congregation of the people, and praise him in the assembly of the elders. 

God is good all the time…with floods and no floods.  All the time God is good!

A Deep Breath

IMG_2803There is a place I find myself…sometimes…it is no longer a place of deep grief, but of deep sighing.

A place where I find myself needing  the strengthing of a deep breath, the focus of a whispered prayer, and the hope of an all-powerful God.

In the past, this place has been about me…about my very own pain and sorrow.

But now I find it mostly about others…dear ones.

I am having difficulty taking that deep breath at the moment because I can’t bear the thoughts that keep crowding in.

I’m overwhelmed by fears and hurt for another.

So instead of steadying deep breaths, I’m whispering my prayers with short breaths of hope, pleas for peace, and requests for grace.

I’m trusting that regardless of what I can see before me…the issues of this life, the pain of another, the loss of things that weren’t supposed to be lost…I’m trusting that God sees more.  God sees beyond me.

He sees what He can do to redeem, restore, and reconcile.  He sees what He can do to love another whole.

My prayers are not about whys or whens.  They are about Who.

Who holds all the broken together in infinite, lavish love.

Who brings life out of death.

Who speaks truth into lies.

Who binds up the brokenhearted.

Who restores the lost.

Who redeems the bound.

Who heals the sick.

Who loves the unlovely.

Who forgives the fallen.

Who comforts the heartbroken.

Who is faithful to the faithless.

Who is my Father…my Savior…my Comforter.

I have found these prayers to the One Who Is…the One Who Listens…the One Who Loves…these prayers surround me like the comfort of a soft blanket gently layed on my shoulders.

I have felt hope wash over my hopelessness with a few well-spoken words of a friend.

“Overwhelming for us but not our Lord.”

I have felt peace as I emotionally, spiritually, and mentally hand over my burden to Him.

I have felt strength as I turn to His word…as I find truth and hope and healing in the letters and words and sentences of my God’s love letter to me.

Today I have hope even as last night I went to bed with tears in my eyes for one I love deeply who is struggling.  And one I love deeply who is lost to me.  And one I love deeply who is hurting.  And all the ones I love deeply who are going through things I can’t fix.

But this morning, even though my head is slightly foggy with sickness, and my eyes are rough with dried tears, and my body is weary…I feel hopeful.

I feel the power of my God…the strength of His hand…in the prayers I and others have prayed.

I feel peace and even great expectation of what He will do in these lives.

I feel great expectation of what He will do in my life.

My chest has finally risen with a deep breath of joy in the hope and strength of my Lord.

Changing Me

FullSizeRender (3)

What if something could change so that I wasn’t so very overwhelmed?

What would it be?

I’m not talking about the things that would make life easier like not having to work, having a nanny and a cook, or receiving a ton of money.  I’m talking about the realistic things.  The things that could actually happen.

Yesterday was one of those days when I wondered if I will ever get to a place where I don’t feel as though my head or my heart could explode at any minute.  My mind swirls and my heart pounds and I just want to get past it all.  I just want to get to a different place.  A peaceful place.

I don’t want to get rid of children, move (Ugh – no more moving!), or significantly change my life…I want to change myself.

I’m wondering if it is possible for me to change myself.  I mean really change myself.  I can make some changes to get healthier, set a better schedule, get organized, and make better choices in other areas…but can I really and truly change who I am?

My circumstances have impacted the woman I am.  After my husband left I became a more focused, peaceful woman even in the midst of the chaos that was my life.  Then I became a stressed-out single working mom.  I waffle between those two a lot.

Sometimes I feel like I’ve finally caught that perfect peace only to find that it has escaped my grasp again.  Once again I’m a jaw-clenching crazy woman .

This past weekend there was a difficult moment with one of my children (who will not be named).  I was angry, frustrated, and tired.  My middle son said, “Momma, your jaw is clenched.  You need to stop doing that.  It isn’t good for you.”

He was right.

It was clenched.

He is right.

It isn’t good for me.  Or anyone else in my vicinity.

It means I’ve let go of peace and grabbed hold of overwhelmed.

Why do I go there?  How do I not?  I honestly don’t know.  Well, I do know why I go there…I’m tired and for the life of me I can’t figure out how to get five things crossed off my to-do list before ten more things are added.

I keep saying, “This is the day!  This is the day I get all these things done!”

Inevitably, something comes up to ruin my plan.  Why, Lord?  Why can’t one day be SUPER productive?

Just. One. Day.

But there are other people in my mix…other people who have and need things…soccer practice, summer school, fitness training, job interviews, school preparations, dentists, doctors, chiropractors, ophthalmologists, house repairs, errands (I. Hate. Errands.), and enumerable other little things that disrupt my well-planned day.

But it really isn’t just about not getting things done.  It’s about me.  It’s about how I respond to disappointments and disappointing others.

Oh how I can’t stand to disappoint people…to let someone down…to make someone angry.  I know we would probably all like to avoid disappointing or angering others, but I wonder if this is way too big an issue for me.

Every dirty look from one of my teenagers makes my heart hurt.

I have friends who I have disappointed because I can’t find time to visit or I’m not doing things the way they think I should…and I hear their disappointment and frustration with me.  Sometimes I understand it, sometimes I don’t.  It almost makes me feel worse when I don’t.

I feel frantic to understand what I did wrong…because often I don’t even know.  I feel like I’m running in circles to please, take care of, and love on everyone…but it never seems to be enough.

And lately I feel like no matter how hard I try, I always have someone irritated, angry, or disappointed with me.

It’s exhausting.

People-pleasing is a bummer.

I want to be a God-pleaser.

I don’t want to worry about what other people think of me…and I don’t want to worry about other people leaving me…and I don’t want to worry about making everyone under the sun happy.

In the process of all that worry and work, I’m losing myself…wrecking myself.  Last night, I got all weird in the head and started worring that I might actually make myself pretty sick from all this craziness.

It can’t be good for my health…all this worry and anxiety.

So what is the thing or things that are going to change?  How am I going to become the woman of peace I want to be?

“He will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.  Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD, the LORD himself, is the Rock eternal.”  Isaiah 26:3-4

I come back to this verse a lot.  I believe God wants me to make it my life verse.

The Recipe for Peace:

A mind focused on Christ

Trust

A God who is my eternal Rock of refuge

A focused mind.  God continually reminds me that my eyes need to be fixed on Him.  How often I’m like Peter walking on the water…eyes on Jesus…then the lightening crashes and the thunder booms and a wave crashes over my toes and my eyes dart to the storm clouds…I look back to the boat and wonder how fast I can run back before I sink…

All the while, RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME, is the answer to my fear…the answer to my need.

Jesus.

He is there.  His eyes never leave me.  He never turns His gaze away from me.

I doubt life will calm down anytime soon – if it does, that’d be awesome! – but, again, doubtful.

Looking to and at Him seems to be the answer to all the questions.

Me changing me?  Probably not going to happen without my focus changing from anxious, overwhelmed, fussy me looking at all the things and people in my life to calm, peaceful, content me looking at Jesus.

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

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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.

Day 3 – All About Me

winter

How is it possible we have another snow day?  Not that I’m complaining, but I kind of would like a summer break!  And I feel like we are getting farther and farther behind at school…which, of course, we are.

I do see this as God’s provision for me.  I have caught up on my teacher certification classes, caught up on my planning, and caught up on some sleep!  Catching up is a beautiful thing!

And as an added benefit I’ve been blessed to write…and more importantly, get my face in the Word!

Today I plan on making appointments…pediatricians, dentists, veterinarians, optometrists, and hair.  I dread some of these appointments, especially the dentist.

I have a friend who can feed her children Laffy Taffy and nothing else, never brush their teeth, definitely not floss, and still nary a cavity will appear.

My children have only to utter the words “gummy bears” and cavities dig deep, root canals are requested, and crowns are ordered.

It is a source of frustration and embarrassment for me. I dread going because dentists tend to look at me like a failure.  I don’t even want to write the comments that are directed my way.  Even that’s too embarrassing.

It is one of the things that just gets to me.  A hundred huge things could be happening in my life, but the stress and dread of visiting the dentist will swallow up all others.  It can be the thing that truly knocks me down.

It’s kind of a ridiculous one – at least in relation to all the other things that have happened and are happening in my life.  I mean really…the dentist?

And in thinking about it, I realized that a large portion of my angst is because I’m thinking about ME.  Me. My. Myself. I.

Ouch.  That’s embarrassing too.

So much of my struggles are in my head and about me.  My thoughts go to unhealthy, critical, negative, harsh places about me.

If I allow myself to go to those places – which I have A LOT in the past several months – I’m a mess.

I’m impatient because things aren’t going my way.  I’m frustrated because things are so difficult for me and my children.  I’m tired of all the things I have to do.  I’m angry about the situations I find myself in. I’m saddened by the circumstances of my children’s lives.

And when I go to all those “I” places, I’m grumpy, miserable, and no fun to be around (at all).

It isn’t that I’m not thinking about others, especially my children.  It isn’t that I’m not doing for others.  It isn’t that I’m too busy in my own world to care about others.

I’m a great multi-tasker!  I can beat myself up, mentally complain about my situation, AND love and care for a multitude of others.

I just excel at the beat-myself-up part which makes the others part not as effective (or enjoyable for anyone).

Ok I know the problem – what’s the solution?

Immediately this verse from Isaiah popped into my head –

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.  Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock.  Isaiah 26:3-4

It’s one of my verses – the ones that I cling to when I need encouragement.  Unfortunately, I’m searching for peace of mind in what I do, what I accomplish, what my circumstances are, in what I think…  needless to say, I’m not getting it from any of those things.  My mind is a hot mess.

It is a constant struggle to stay my mind on Christ…so much vies for my attention, my focus.  Maybe that’s the whole “take your thoughts captive” thing.

For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.  We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ…”  2 Corinthians 10:4-5

Isn’t that what we need to do…get rid of all those thoughts that are not the truth of who we are in Christ?

I’m not what happens in my life…I’m not my circumstances, my job, my children, my house, my anything.

I’m so much more than those things…so much more than anything I’ve been concerning myself with lately.

This world places our value in so many untruths.  We are counted worthy of esteem because of our looks, profession, finances, friendships…pretty much outward anything and everything…BUT GOD, he values us simply because we are His.  Nothing I’ve done…everything He has done.

Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.  Colossians 3:2

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.  Romans 12:2

Lately I’ve been comforting myself with the thought that if I could just get more sleep, just sell my house and have my own home again, if we just weren’t guests, if I could just figure out next year, if I could find time to do all that I have to do…you know, if pretty much everything could just change and get fixed already…I’d be better.  Things would be better, life would be easier, I’d be calm, cool, and collected.  I’d be better at everything!  I’d have peace.

Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.  1 Peter 1:13

There’s the hope I should have…the true hope.

Maybe when I set my mind on Christ…I’m setting my mind on the hope of Christ…all that beautiful grace that will bring me safely into His arms!  And my mind, stayed on Christ, can’t help but love the Lord with all that I am.

And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the great and first commandment.”  Matthew 22:37-38

I’m not sure how I’ve come to this place in this blog…I’ll have to go back to the start and see the path I’ve taken LOL!  I have to be honest though – I’m so very thankful for the reminder of where my thoughts need to be…I’m hopeful for my future, both for this day and for eternity.  God is so very good!

Search me, O God, and know my heart!  Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!  Psalm 139:24

Do I ever have a good week?

winter sunset  I was asked this morning. “Do I ever have a good week?”  And my answer is, “Absolutely!”

I absolutely have good weeks…but not easy weeks.  I have no easy weeks at this point in my life.  And, to be honest, these past several months have been the hardest of my life in many ways. Unexpectedly so.  And from the emails and messages I receive, I know that many other single parents (and people in general) are going through challenging seasons.  If I can encourage by sharing my struggle and where God continues to bring me…back to Him…I will continue to do so.

I think often as Christians we want others to “get over it already!”  I have often thought to myself, “Shouldn’t this be easier by now?”  And I know others have felt the same way…about their lives and mine!  The reality is that my life hasn’t gotten easier, and I haven’t gotten happier about my situation.  BUT GOD has met me right where I am…right where He has me.  I have felt His leading, His provision, His peace, and His joy.

It is easy for me to harp on the one comment that is less than positive, that questions me and my walk.  But you know what?  Those comments are fine!  In fact, I appreciate them because they make me think.

I have wondered if people think I’m just a whiny person…I have wondered how I have become such an Eeyore, when I’ve always been such a Tigger.  Life can change us a little bit…or a lot.  Deep down I know I’m still a Tigger. 🙂  I’m growing and maturing and that’s a good thing…the process isn’t fast or without issues…and maybe that’s no fun at times to live (or read about).

But I feel like God has given me a great idea…at least I hope so!

In fact, this morning I planned on blogging about my new idea!  I’ve been praying about it and I’m so excited!  It seems rather presumptuous of me and I feel funny saying this but I’m going to write everyday and share what God is showing me in my quiet time.  It is not that I think I’m some great spiritual woman who has tons of wisdom to share, but I know I need accountability and I pray God will use me to encourage someone, even if it is just one day a month.

I can’t wait to see where God takes me…takes us!

I was actually thinking how appropriate for a single parent to be starting a new year’s devotional on February 22nd!  Only 53 days late! LOL!

So today I was thinking about rejoicing.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.  Philippians 4:4

Rejoice always.  1 Thessalonians 5:16

We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited.  Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships, and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, in sleepless nights and slumber; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as important, known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich, having nothing, and yet possessing everything. 2 Corinthians 6:3-10

I decided to look up some of the verses about rejoicing.  I was immediately struck by 2 Corinthians 6:3-10…I know I have read that verse before but it seemed completely new to me today.  Like I’d never read it before.

There is so much to it.

First of all I want to figure out what commend means…and to whom am I commending myself…what does that look like?

John MacArthur says that commend means, “to introduce with the intention of proving oneself.”   And Paul then goes on to present the reasons that he can commend himself.

1.  Because of his patient endurance in suffering

2. The integrity of his ministry based on God’s righteousness given through the Holy Spirit.

One is about Paul’s response to life and the other about God’s provision for life.

And those two things are great ways to start off the year – even if we are a bit late in the starting.

I wish I could say that I was more like Paul in his patient endurance in suffering…unfortunately I am not.  I’m probably more like a little fussy 2 year old…I’m the stomping my feet sufferer.  The weeping sufferer.  The sorrowful sufferer.  BUT God is helping me daily.  I have moments of patience and even patient endurance!

Seriously, how do I respond to this life?  How did Paul?

Paul didn’t ignore his sufferings – he pointed them out fairly often.  He opened up about what was challenging him…about what he struggled with…and how he prayed about it.  PLEASE KNOW THAT I DO NOT CONSIDER MYSELF ANYTHING LIKE PAUL…I’m so NOT Paul.  I will not be referring to myself as Paulette.  I wish I could.  BUT I am learning from his example.

God has allowed this difficult life for a reason, and maybe that reason is to share with others how hard it is, but even more importantly what God is revealing to me through it all.  I can attest to God’s strength in my weakness and God’s joy in my sorrow and about a hundred other things God gives me.

I hope you will walk this journey with me…learning to rejoice always, among many other things!

And I’m excited to delve into these verses and many others with you!

I hope that we can grow together in wisdom, encourage one another through our struggles, and rejoice together always!

 

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!