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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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

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.

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

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!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hmmmm,  I wonder…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do You Know How to Count?

photo (5)   I discovered today that a broken foot has one odd benefit.  I can wear socks out of the box under my bed.  It’s a box full of socks with no match, but they are ones I really like so I keep holding out hope the match will miraculously appear.  So far no luck.  (and truly I believe this is misplaced hope – it’s been years)

Today I pulled out my favorite sock and smiled at this whole box of fun socks I haven’t worn in forever. But now I get to!

Simple pleasures.

Other than the socks I’m hard-pressed to think of a benefit to this silly broken foot.

The first night I was trying to fall asleep with my cast on and pity partying with the best of them.  I pouted for a bit, but I realized I needed to pull myself together.  So I started to count my blessings…

I broke my left not my right foot so I can drive – although my oldest daughter just got her learners permit so I don’t really get to drive anymore…ever.

I didn’t break my hand so I can still work and do school.

I don’t have to have surgery.

I have great kids who help when I need it…granted I do need to holler most of the time, but I’m good at that!

And a Mama who shows up when I need her…THAT is sacrificial love to come to this nutty place!

And now, I’ve had the blessing of sweet friends who have been making me dinners for a week!  And friends who have helped with my house.  And friends who have picked up and delivered my children different places.  And friends who call and check on me. I truly am blessed.

Seriously blessed.

When I was young, my Mom and I sang a duet at church – Count Your Blessings.

“Count your blessings name them one by one and you’ll be surprised to see what God has done…”

Recently someone sent me those lyrics too!  I love that song.

I think it’s a beautiful thing – because we absolutely see God’s love, provisions, and protection when we start paying attention.

Today in my Bible study I saw a slightly different use of the word count.  I was reading Philippians 3 and I was so struck by these verses:

But whatever gain I had I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.  Indeed I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.  For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness form God that depends on faith – that I may know him and the power of his resurrection and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.  Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.  Philippians 3:7-12

In some ways it is more a count the cost thing… not a count the blessings.  But the cool thing is that in counting the cost Paul recognizes that the cost is nothing compared to Christ – the ultimate Blessing.  Oh I love that!

I wish I lived like that!  I wish I was more like Paul… more like Paul in things like this, not the thorn in the side (got that), not in the doing what I don’t want to do (yup got that) and not doing what I want to do (got that too).  I want the “to live is Christ, to die is gain” thing.  I want to live like a truly know, believe, get, want, have the understanding that everything fades in comparison to Christ.

I’m getting there.  Gosh, I think sometimes I’m 10 steps back 8 steps forward 14 steps back 9 steps forward.  I think the good thing is that I’m still moving forward – I believe that is wholly a God thing.  God pursues me and loves me back again and again and again…and each time I’m even more grateful, even more in awe of Him.

There are things that I can count as blessings and there are things I can count as costs of following Christ.  Some blessings are surprisingly good and some costs are significantly painful, but I know that Christ is worth it all.  He always has been and always will be.