Fire from Heaven

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I’m praying for some serious fire from heaven, but not for the reason you might think.

In the past several years there have been moments I’ve been tempted to pray that God would rain down fire on someone or a couple of someones, but thankfully God has brought me past that phase of this journey.

The other day I was blessed to hear one of the teachers at my school recount the story of Elijah and the prophets of Baal.  It’s kind of a cool story.  The kind of story I’d like to be told of me…how I took on 450 bad guys and let God show beyond a shadow of a doubt that He is God.  

Just some background… the Israelite people had been, as Elijah put it, “limping between two different opinions.”  They were trying to serve two gods, God and Baal.  Elijah presents a contest of sorts.  The priest of Baal would be given a bull to cut up and put on the altar. And Elijah would do the same.  Only they would not light the sacrifice, instead they would each pray to their gods.  The god that answered would be the true god…the champion god!

The Baal priests go first.  All night until morning they desperately called for their god to answer them.  By noon on the next day Elijah was less than impressed and a bit snarky.  He said, “Cry aloud, for he is a god.  Either he is musing, or he is relieving himself , or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep, and must be awakened.”  The priests continued to cry out and even cut themselves in an attempt to get Baal’s attention.

But to no avail.  The Bible says, “No one answered; no one paid attention”  (1 Kings 18:29)

Elijah’s turn.  Or rather God’s.

Elijah doesn’t just want to rain down fire on some ole dried up wood.  He wants to show that his God is The God…his God is the One and Only…his God is powerful.

So he has them pour buckets of water on and around his sacrifice three times.  Lots and lots of buckets so there is no doubt it is wet…definitely soaked.  Clothes left on the line in a torrential downpour soaked.

And then he prays.  

“O LORD, God of Abraham, Issac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word.  Answer me, O LORD, answer me that this people may know that you, O LORD, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.” (18:36-37)

And then God answers.  

“The fire of the LORD fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench.”  (18:38)

And then the people responded.

“And when the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, “The LORD, he is God; the LORD, he is God.” (18:39)

Four verses.  Bam. Bam. Bam. Bam.

And what God designed all along…not only for His glory but for the good of His people…happened.

How I long for fire from heaven like that…for God to move in amazing ways.

That’s not a bad thing…wanting some big fire from heaven burning up my altar…but as I sit here I’m realizing that I often miss the fact that God does move in amazing ways all. the. time.

This week my youngest daughters started school.  Between before-school care and the bus ride home, it is 9 ½ hours.  9 ½ hours that begins with us leaving the house at 6:45 am. That’s just so very long for my littlest ones.  

And I was praying for fire from heaven to consume my fears and frustrations and worries.

Today we met at home – me from work and them from school and it was a beautiful reunion.  Lots of smiles.  Things went well today.  

Thank you Lord.

Last week my high schooler was overwhelmed with the workload he has at school (it is truly stunningly huge) and the two soccer teams he plays on…he was tired and terrified. We prayed and talked and I prayed some more.  

I prayed fire from heaven to consume our anxious thoughts.

And this week, so much better.  Things seem manageable.  We have a plan and we have made adjustments and it looks like he is going to have a great year (lots of work, but a great year!)

Thank you Lord.

Last month my oldest daughter began her journey away from home.  She moved in with a friend and is attending college.  Sophomore year.  Wow.  She has a lot of responsibility and adjustments.  Who am I kidding?  I have a lot of adjustments.  

And I have been praying fire from heaven to fan the flame of her faith and grow her into an even more godly young woman!  (And maybe even some protective fire raining around her 24/7!)

Her calls and texts are full of positive things that bless me to hear.

Thank you Lord.

And these past few years, I have watched my oldest son exceed my expectations.  He has worked hard in school and at his job.  He is paying his way through college and providing for himself.  He is a young man growing into a good good man.  It is hard to let go and it is hard to not be in a position to really step in and help him.

I’ve been praying fire from heaven would consume my guilt and frustration and let me simply enjoy the man God is making my son to be.  And instead I’m focusing on praying for fire from heaven to light his path and lead him.  

Thank you Lord.

I know God is answering these prayers.  I might not be seeing actual flames answering…definitely not (probably wouldn’t want to in all honesty), but I see Him answering in sweet ways.  

Like the soft glow of a candle, I feel His joy when I hug, read a text from, hold hands with, snuggle with, or talk to one of my children.

Like the effervescent light from a sparkler, I feel His love in the eyes of my smiling children.

Like the beam of a flashlight, I sense His leading.

Like the warmth of a fire, I feel His presence and the peace that I need as I wrestle with my circumstances and how those impact my children.

I’d still like to call down some fire from heaven…to show everyone without a doubt that God answers prayers.  But maybe instead of calling down, I can speak about my God and how He cares for me and mine.

I know He can send some fire down, but right now I’m just so thankful He sent Himself down.

So thankful that no matter how I struggle or what I think or how I act, God loves me.  

And no matter what I may think or sense or wonder, I KNOW that He loves me and He is working in my life and the lives of my children.  

So Lord, if you’d like to send some fire down that would be amazing…light up the altar of my heart.  

But I’m okay God…whatever you decide.  

I know that if fire blazing down from heaven was best, you would send it my way.

I know you love me…and that’s a flashing lightning, flames from heaven, dry up all the water, light the logs on fire kinda love.

Pretty spectacular.

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Shake it UP

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I finally did what I’ve wanted to do for a long time.  I didn’t bring work home and I spent some beautiful moments thoroughly enjoying my kids.

We spent the evening together without homework, work, or chores. The best, most enjoyable thing was dancing.

Seeing my little girls’ faces light up while I danced like a goofball was the BEST thing I’ve seen in a long time!  Even my 15 year old son was happy to join in!

My favorite dancing song  was “Shake” by MercyMe.  The girls requested it because they sang it in Sunday school.  I love love love that song.

It was such a joy-filled time for us.

So often I’m so tired or have just simply too much to do and I can’t seem to find the time to do anything but what absolutely has to be done.

Absolutely. Has. To. Be. Done. Right. Now.

Not what I want to do.

Not what I would like to do.

Just the gotta-do-or-feel-like-I-might-die-things.

But that night of dancing brought it right in front of my eyes…I need to spend time doing fun things with my kids.

I just gotta.

I feel so convicted…so sure of it…and yet, it is something I rarely make time for…

It’s not because I’m not looking.  I just can’t seem to find it.

Last night was my fourth night in a row of 5 hours of interrupted sleep.  I’m seriously hanging by a thread.

This morning I woke up praying that God would show me what to let go of…but I honestly can’t think of one thing I’m doing that can not be done.

At church we are talking about transforming our lives. This week the pastor spoke about stress and rest.  I felt like crying through the whole sermon.

God has me HERE…in this stressful, sleepless, weary place and I don’t know what to do.

I want to just dance around the living room with my little girls, but I have papers to grade and household stuff to do and finances to figure out and children who need help with homework and life stuff.

I’m trying to look at the bright side of things…but I’m so tired I think my drooping eyelids are making it difficult to look up.

I want to write about happy, joyful things.  In fact, when I started writing this blog I was thinking how exciting to write about something fun.

Alas, I wandered…slid into the pit.

Is it just me?  Does life seem slippery right now?

I seem to have one foot always slipping perilously close to a pit, while the other is knee deep in mud…gosh, that’s a lovely picture.  Ok…maybe the other is just a bit muddy and it’s dry, caked on mud.

Where is my joy???

Where are the dancing moments?  Why not more?

I cherish every moment of joy, but I want more.

Count it all joy…

Count…(maybe the problem is I teach English…words not numbers).

I just want joy.

But joy comes with remembering…

Remembering that I am loved…that NO MATTER WHAT God loves me.  No matter how I feel…God loves me.  No matter how much of a failure I am (or think I am)…God loves me.

Count on Him. Count the blessings.

I remember when I was young, my mom and I sang “Count Your Many Blessings” for a Sunday service.

I love that song.  Catchy and true.

When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed, When you are discouraged thinking all is lost, Count your many blessings – name them one by one, And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.  Count your blessings-name them one by one; Count your blessings-see what God has done; Count your blessings-name them one by one; Count your many blessings-see what God has done.

Are you ever burdened with a load of care?  Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?  Count your many blessings- every doubt will fly, And you will be singing as the days go by, Count your blessings –name them one by one; Count your blessings-see what God has done; Count your blessings-name them one by one; Count your many blessings-see what God has done.

I believe that counting our blessings is very similar to counting it all joy.  Within every moment is a blessing.  I know that…so how do I forget it?

I know how…it just simply doesn’t feel that way.  It doesn’t feel like I’m living blessings…I’m surviving burdens right now.

So I guess that leads me back to some shaking it up.

I need to shake up my perspective.  I need to shake up my life.

I honestly don’t know what that looks like, but I believe I’m going to start with another grateful journal.

It’s been a while since I wrote down things in my little journal of thankful thoughts.

I’ve even said I was going to in the not so distant past and promptly forgot to do it.

So, I guess I’ll pull it out and start tonight.  I know what I’m going to write first:

I’m thankful for…

  1. Time to dance with my children.

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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.

Advent for the Overwhelmed

IMG_3568For a little bit longer….today is December 12th – I am officially 12 days behind.  I’m always behind when it comes to Advent.  It’s not like December 1st surprises me or that I haven’t thought about Advent in November.  I just all of sudden get overwhelmed by the days and nights and before I know it…it’s the 12th!  The 12th!!!!

We have barely spoken about Christmas…about Christ in Christmas.

So today…the first day of the rest of our Christmas…wish I could say it was my plan all along to start Advent as our 12 days of Christmas!  Alas, I cannot, but it will work nonetheless!

What do I want to share?  What do I want to be reminded of this Christmas season?

One of the things that God has been continually showing me lately has been the reality of His love for me.

I’ve been wondering a lot if I understand love…if I have ever truly gotten it.  I know it in my head…can articulate it and share it and even give it.  BUT do I get it?  Do I comprehend Love?

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

Rooted and grounded in love.

The Greek means “being rooted” and “being found.”

Found.  Found in Christ’s love.

So often I feel lost…like a failure, like a mess, like a crazy person…unlovable, valueless, un-precious.

How do I get it through my thick skull that I’m loved…even, dare I say it, lovable?

How do I impart the joy of that realization to my children this Christmas season and every other day of the year?

At this moment, I want to tie it into Christmas.  Easy.

The birth of Christ…can we even comprehend the magnitude of the love God showed that day?

It was the beginning of a life of extreme love and sacrifice…for me.  For you.

For us.

And yet, I struggle to remember.  I’m overcome by my own failures and fears so often.

Do you have the same struggle?  Do you feel the same way?  Is it just me?

I fear that I’m modeling insecurity and fear to my children without realizing it or maybe I should say without acknowledging it.

When I spend more time worrying than worshiping, I’m teaching my children a very ineffective and frustrating way to respond to life’s challenges.

What do I want my children to know about love and how it helps us live?

I’m praying that God will use me to bless my children with the strength and power to comprehend how high, wide, deep, and long the love of God is for them…how He wishes to lavish that love on them.

See what kind of love the Father has lavished on us that we should be called the children of God, and so we are.  1 John 3:1

 How do I do that?  I mean practically.  I don’t want to just sit them down and have yet another conversation with them…that’s wonderful, but what can I do that means more?  That truly captures the depth of the love God has for them…

God says that His word does not come back void…that it is powerful and effective.

I’m going to use His word.

All my children like notes…I’m going to write each one of them a love letter using the very words of God…and every day up until Christmas they are going to receive a personalized letter from me and our Father.

Maybe if I’m extra organized I can add a gift…something little to encourage and bless, but really I just want to share His love with them through the power of His Word.

I started looking up verses on His Word.  And look what I found!!

Love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God: for “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass.  The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever.”  And this word is the good news that was preached to you.  1 Peter 1:22-25

This verse just opened up like a flower in front of me…love and the gospel.  I’m searching for the meaning of love…an understanding of it…and AGAIN!!! Again God reminds me of the gospel.

The Good News.

The Good News that began with a baby.  Does that sometimes just blow your mind?  How did Jesus feel becoming a baby?  A little totally dependent baby.

His willingness to be born…and to die.   The Gospel.

LOVE.  BIG LOVE.

Oh that’s the story I want to share with my kids.  Maybe a conversation isn’t such a bad idea.  Maybe a snuggle and a reminder of love.  Not little “l” love, but BIG “L” love.

The Big L Love that says YOU ARE WORTH IT.

The Big L Love that says YOU ARE PRECIOUS.

The Big L Love that says LIVE AND ABIDE IN THIS LOVE …ALWAYS.

Don’t just live there on those days when you feel worthy…live in it on those days when you don’t understand how in the world it could be offered to you.  Live in it in those seasons when life is messy and you get messy with it.  Live in it when you feel desperate, despairing, and down-trodden.

Maybe 1 Peter 1:22-25 is the verse that will go in that first Love letter to my sweet children.

Yes, I think I like that idea!  (Especially since sometimes we have a decided lack of earnest love among siblings.)  And maybe in that conversation and that letter a gentle reminder of the fact that we all need a Savior – that we are all a little bit wonky and weary – that no matter how badly we feel or act or think or speak, we are loved.

God reached down while we were still all messy and loved us enough to be born and to die…for us.

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.  For one will scarcely die for a righteous person – though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die – but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Romans 5:6-8

One of my Bible versions says, “at just the right time Christ died” for us.  At just the right time.  Not a moment too soon or too late.  When we most need Him, He is always there.

He arrived at just the right time…and He died at just the right time.  And it was always the plan…from the beginning.  The plan was always sacrifice. The plan was always saving.  The plan was always sure.

It doesn’t matter how we feel, the reality is the gospel shouts LOVE.  It doesn’t matter how overwhelmed by life we are, Jesus will always overwhelm life and us with Love.  It doesn’t matter if we think we are unworthy, the gospel says we are worth it. We are worth it to Him.

That’s what I want my children to know.  They are worth it.  They are valuable.  They are precious.  They are loved.

The love with the big L.

Happy 1st day of Advent/Christmas in my house at least!

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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.

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.  

 

Day 5 – What Will the Neighbors Think?

house

I have often joked that wherever we go, we are kind of like the Beverly Hillbillies.  I should just blare that music from our car when we enter the neighborhood.

I’m looking for a house right now.  I think maybe we should move out into the country!

We are loud and busy and just a lot…

My cul-de-sac in Fredericksburg knew us and loved us still…thank goodness!  I can’t tell you how blessed I was to have understanding neighbors…although I can’t imagine they didn’t shake their heads behind closed doors 🙂

The year that my husband left I had to learn a lot about the house and there were many days of decluttering, organizing, and projects…lots of throwing away and fixing.  One unintended project was a toilet bowl issues.

I had misplaced a set of keys…a big set of keys.  My friend Darcey and I tore the house apart looking for them.  No luck.  Finally, we had to figure the slow flushing powder room potty was the keys’ location.  My littlest daughter was two at the time, and we believed she was the culprit. We tried desperately to remove the keys with coat hangers, plungers, and gloved hands.  I won’t go into too much detail, but it was a very dirty job.  We finally ended up having to drag the nasty, dripping toilet through the foyer and out into the front yard so we could hose it out and recover the keys.

By this time, my friend Laurie had arrived to assist.  My friends are awesome!  Darcey, who in her first trimester, was amazing even in her nausea.  My friend Laurie was great too.  We could barely work for all the laughing.  My life had definitely become a really bad sitcom.  Darcey stated, “All your neighbors are in their houses calling their realtors right now.”  It was probably true.

After having a neighbor be front page news for adultery, watching massive amounts of stuff pile up at the curb, witnessing the craziness and noise of a big family daily, and now a toilet in the front yard…who wouldn’t second guess being neighbors with me?

But they didn’t move and instead they have laughed along with me, helped me more than I can say, welcomed my children into their homes so I could work, taken girls to AWANA, fed my children on crazy days, loaned me tools and ladders and supplies, answered questions, and prayed for me.

Now I’m moving and my heart is breaking for the loss of these neighbors.  They cannot be replaced…ever.

Right now, we are guests in my mom’s house and her neighbors don’t know us.  But they have heard us, and watched us, and probably been annoyed by us.  And I don’t have time for them to really know us.  And I wish I could.

I imagine they think I’m crazy.  Sometimes I worry what they think of me.  I wish it was summer and I could go outside and chat, but I can’t right now.  Life is just too busy.

I wonder when we move if we will have the time to invest in our neighbors like I want to.   How do single parents make friends? Build relationships.  Seriously?

I don’t know how to find time to meet people and even if I did, I wouldn’t have time to spend with them.  I know this is a season, but it is a season that I’d like to have the encouragement of friends close by.

I’m not complaining…well, maybe a little…:)  I’m ever so thankful for a job, and how could I not feel beyond blessed by my children.  It is another opportunity to focus on the positive and pray for answers to the negative.

And maybe I just need to make time to say “hi” to someone, even if I don’t have time.  And maybe I just need to call a coworker to sneak away for coffee.

I think it will be easier when I have my own home and leaving isn’t imposing on someone else…because my children rock and are happy to babysit….well maybe not happy, but willing. 🙂

There has to be a reason I’m in this place now…really trying to figure out what it could be.  Could it be to spend time building my relationship with the Lord and realizing that He is enough?

It usually, if not always, is that, right?  God wants to spend time with us. With me! Sometimes I’m so shocked by that.  Why in the world does He want to spend time with me?  That’s nuts!  But He isn’t nuts…He is loving.

I love spending time with my children.  I love hanging out and doing things.  I really do love them even when they are rotten.  I’d still choose them.

I’m so grateful that even when I’m rotten, God still chooses me.  That when my house is a mess…when my children are difficult…when our family is noisy and chaotic…when the yard is decorated with a  toilet…when our family falls apart in front of the world…God still loves us!  He wants to be with us.

He’d always choose to be our neighbor!

I Need Therapy…of sorts.

photo (35)

This is gonna sound funny….but I feel like I’ve written all this before…its like deja vu in blogging – which is weird.   So if I have said this all before, word for word, forgive me please.   It totally is where I am apparently AGAIN.

Right now I should be preparing for my first formal observation or sleeping, but instead I find myself opening a new totally blank Word document.  It has been a long time since I’ve had a moment to jot down any thoughts, but I find myself needing some “writing therapy” badly.

Tonight was a difficult night…there are a lot of those lately…I think I know why.  I know that all these transitions have been very difficult on some of my children and they are acting out.  Unfortunately, all these transitions have been difficult on me and I’m acting out too.

There once was a time that I would consider myself a gentle and patient mother.  Although I’d be hard-pressed at this point to remember when that was.  It just seems like I’ve been living in a perpetual state of annoyance and frustration…which makes me anything but gentle.

I’m finding myself close to tears more than not.  I’m a dam ready to burst.  And I’m afraid of the day that it happens, because the occasional trickling and leaking is pretty discouraging and quite a sight to behold.

There are days I just want to holler, “I can’t do this anymore!”  Not even I don’t want to…I can’t.

Actually, I’ve said that a lot.  God has heard that refrain often over the past few months.  And yet each morning I get up and do what needs to be done…not necessarily with a good attitude and definitely without a lot of sleep, but I do it.  And the only reason that I can is because God enables me to…otherwise I’d be hiding under the covers, no, make that under the bed or in the closet or in the attic…somewhere where I’d be very hard to find.

I want desperately to do the mommy-thing well, the teacher-thing well, the student-thing well, the daughter, sister, friend things well.  I don’t think I’m doing any of them with much success, or consistent success.  I definitely feel like the fussy mommy, the scatterbrained teacher, and the pathetic student, and the nut job daughter, sister friend right now.

I hate to even write that – I feel like I should have a better attitude about myself.  I am God’s precious daughter – not a failure.  It just feels like I am.

But are my feelings accurate?  I don’t think so.  In fact, I know they aren’t.  Even if they aren’t accurate, I do know my feelings well…and they are all over the place sometimes.

I wish that I could figure out how to get out of this funk.  I just don’t see a way.  I don’t see a way for more sleep or rest or even quiet.  I don’t see a way for more time to study, prepare, or assess.  I don’t see a way to spend more time with my children…more calm, fun and less harried, less stressed time.  I don’t see how to get my house ready to sell so I can move into a better living situation.  I don’t see how to do anything easily or quickly.

We are in a difficult living situation right now and I don’t know how to change it yet.  My job is time-consuming (to put it mildly) and sometimes I feel so confused and behind and overwhelmed by all that needs to be done and all that I want to do.  My children all need me desperately and I want to give them so much more than I feel capable of giving right now…I’m running on empty.  (A description that doesn’t match with my dam bursting…how about empty of everything but tears.)

I believe this is a part of single parenting…the difficulty of doing it all.  And, unless you have been a single parent, it truly is hard to comprehend or understand.  Lately, a lot (A LOT) of people have given me advice, mostly unsolicited.  I really would prefer not to be told what I need to change or not change, to think or not think, to pray or not pray, to do or not do, to feel or not feel…honestly, I think I’d rather just pray and read the Word to get that information.  But, I think because I’m single and harried people feel they must help…sometimes that help is so hurtful though.  Just being honest.  (I digress…I believe that last paragraph should be a different blog – but here it is anyway!)

Okay, so now I’ve shared all my fussiness with you, what do I do now?  How in the world do I move beyond this emotional, difficult, overwhelming, and frustrating place?

Honestly, I don’t think I can.

I don’t think that I can change much about my life and maybe I’d feel a whole lot better if I stopped thinking that I could.

I don’t believe that God wants me to spend my time trying to figure out how to get out of the life I’m living.  I believe He wants me to LIVE…live where He has me with His strength, peace, hope and love in my life.

This week I’m trying to remember that my God is sovereign.  Not only sovereign, but good and faithful.  That even though I’d really like to “fix” my situation, I’m beginning…just beginning…to get the fact that I don’t need to fret.  Oh, how I fret!  After all the many ways God has shown himself faithful, I find myself continually twisted up inside like a pretzel…worried, anxious, frustrated.  How and why is that even possible?

I’ve been trying and trying and trying to make things happen, but things don’t seem to be moving forward like I thought they would.  I keep having to wait on things…I hate waiting.  Really.

But tonight…I’m reminding myself that God will only call me to wait if it is best.  And I want best. Best is best.

So tonight, I’m going to bed in a few minutes and I’m determined to sleep more than 6 minutes.  In the morning I’m going to pray hard and trust God’s goodness and timing…but I’m also going to pray hard that things get better, easier, and less stressful.

I can trust Him.  My God is good all the time…all the time!

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!

Feeling a Little Less than Full?

empty gaugeDoes it ever feel like what you do is never enough?

Today I did something nice for one of my children and another child got exceedingly angry at me.  As if I have done nothing for them…as if I have only chosen to bestow blessings on one child and left the others with nothing.

I was so shocked by the behavior I didn’t know how to respond at first.  But after a moment, my response came full force.  I remained relatively calm…pretty calm.  I didn’t yell or accuse.  I just tried to state facts.

But facts and emotions don’t often mix.  Specifically my facts and my child’s emotions.

Sometimes the issue is life’s facts and my emotions.  And then I can be an awful lot like my child.  I can get my feelings all in a mess and mix up things more than I care to admit.

It’s difficult when all you can see is the hurt.

There are days when I just can’t bear the thought of dealing with what I just gotta deal with…you know what I mean?  It can be a child’s behavior, another person’s words, and another’s opinion of me, a friend’s situation, or my life in general…

There are times I feel like I can barely breathe in the face of my emotions.  There are times I want to scream or cry or both.

Today I disappointed a child by blessing another child.

Yesterday my littlest told me she wanted a different mommy because I told her it was bedtime.  That angry little line is something all my kids have said at one time or another, but this little one will often add something about her birth mother which makes me want to fall to my knees.

Tomorrow I will surely do something to aggravate another child, but I’m trying so hard to love them well.

Part of the problem is there is only one of me to meet all those needs…there is only one of me to deal with all the behaviors and temperaments and emotions.

Part of the problem is I have limited resources…I can’t always do what they’d like or what I’d like…just can’t.  And sometimes that gets held against me…sometimes no matter what I do seems to be enough.

I feel like I literally pour myself out each day for my children and sometimes I feel very empty…and sometimes I feel very weak…and sometimes I feel very tired….and sometime, like right now, I feel very hurt.

But I can think of so many ways God is nudging me right now…

When I’m looking at life through the haze of my emotions (like my child), I can’t see the blessings, the good things, the provision and faithfulness of my heavenly Father.

I forget about all the good He has done.  I forget about His sacrifices. I forget about His sacrifice to live down here instead of up there.  I forget about His sacrifice to give up His position in heaven to become a carpenter on earth.  I forget about His sacrifice of time and energy and sleep to bless people while He walked on this earth.  I forget about His sacrifice of being worshipped in heaven to come down here to be spit on, beaten, maligned, brutalized, and murdered.  I forget His sacrifice of separation from the Father so that I will never be separated from my Father.

I think Jesus understands better than I ever possibly could what it means to be poured out.  I can bring the hurt, emptiness and exhaustion to the Cross and He will take it and love me.  He knows.

And that leads me to the second thing that God is nudging me about…

How can I be empty when I have Him?

If’ I’m empty it’s because I’m doing things in my own strength…finding my fulfillment in the wrong things…looking to others not God.

And ya know…I’m thinking my kids aren’t necessarily gonna think to say the things I need or want to hear…but God’s word does.

God tells me all about how loved I am.  God tells me that His love isn’t contingent on me doing anything for Him.

God loves me when I succeed and when I fail.  Today I don’t think I failed my child – I just think this single parenting thing is hard.  Really hard.

And if I don’t find my fulfilling in Christ…if I don’t do this thing with Christ’s strength…if I don’t seek godly wisdom…I’m gonna feel pretty much overwhelmed.

I want to make things better with my child, but I’m not sure what to say.  Maybe I’ll just say, “I love you.”

Maybe that’ll be enough right now.  I think it will.  I know that when I’ve got my knickers twisted that’s all I need to hear God say.  I want answers, but I need His love more.

I can’t be the perfect parent, but I have the Perfect Parent.  And even though I’m going to disappoint and frustrate my children, I’m thinking that as long as I have my Father guiding me, we’ll be okay.

During times like these, instead of getting all goofy and hurt about things, I’m going to pray that God will enable me to share the gospel again and again and again with my children so that they will learn that Jesus is the answer to all the questions.  He is the filling of the emptiness and the comforting of the hurt and the calming of the heart.  Momma loves them, but Jesus loves them the most.

I won’t ever be enough, but Jesus is.

 

Just a little PS – my sweet child came and apologized before I even had a chance to do what I planned to do! I’m blessed beyond measure by how God is working in the hearts of my children.  It ain’t always pretty…but God’s workin!