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

In the Middle of the Night

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

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

No such luck.

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

Secondly, I’m anxious.

…do not be anxious about anything…

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

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

It’s this storm coming.

It’s feeling unprepared.

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

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

For three months.

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

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

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

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

Why did I buy a house close to water?

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

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

…but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving

let your requests be made known to God…

I am praying…now I need to start thanking.

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

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

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

What if…?

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

Too many times.

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

Deep breath.

Peace…peace I can’t even understand.

Seems illusive at the moment.

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

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

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

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

Do I make myself not anxious?

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

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

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

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

Right now it feels like my mind needs it most.

It’s whirling and I’m weary.

How do I grasp it God?

And again…I’m reminded.

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

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

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Ok…pray.

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

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

Storm is coming, but it’s okay.

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

Psalm 107:28-32

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

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

Love, Rest, and Sickness…In No Particular Order

IMG_2900Today is my first sick day for me in a few years.

I’ve done sick days for children and sick days for parents, but not for me.

I slept a lot and sat a lot…well, actually I was more lying down a lot.

And all the stillness…it was glorious.

I haven’t been still for….for forever.

Even this past Saturday when this whole illness thing began, I couldn’t seem to sit still except for a few minutes to regain some strength before I began another task.

I knew I should rest…had I rested I probably wouldn’t be lying here right now.  Who knows?

My room is a tad messy…actually my house is tad messy.  And my nightstand is littered with tissues, tea cups, glasses of water, an ibuprofen bottle, cold medicine bottles, and the usual pens, journals, and piles of books.

That’s quite an impressive list considering it isn’t that big a nightstand!

Although it was supposed to be a rainy day, the sun is shining through the clouds and into my bedroom.  I love it.

My classroom has no windows and I miss the sky so much during the day.

This is a beautiful treat.

I just wish I had some energy.

This is a weird sick for me.  Usually I can push through and still accomplish things…not happily or quickly, but nonetheless I’m still checking things off the list.

This thing…ugh.  This one has hit me like a truck…loaded with bricks…and maybe a few cinderblocks.

I guess it isn’t a shock.  I’ve been going at warp speed for so long – fuel is bound to run out at some point.

I keep thinking tomorrow I’ll feel better.  Tomorrow is the day when my head clears and my energy starts returning.

Yeah nope.

So what is God’s plan for me right now?  This day?

I’m always wondering that.

God, what do you want me to do right here?

Other than sleep.

Which I am happy to do by the way.

But I have only a few more minutes before my little minions arrive and all the quiet is gone and the activity begins whether I want it to or not.

I guess…maybe this is the opportunity I’ve wanted… to just be still with my people.

As much as I plan on that, I don’t ever EVER make the time for it.

I’ll sit down for like 5 minutes but then I’m jumping back up again for something…goodness knows what!

Today, I got nothing to jump up for.  In fact, I think I might just request a meal delivery and sit on the sofa with my littles.

Oh…I say that but it is going to be difficult.

Why is it so very difficult to rest?  Why is it so difficult to be still?

I think I have an issue with control.

I want things to be orderly, organized, peaceful, and controlled…by me.

Those are the words that trip me up …. By me

I’m pretty sure those aren’t the words I’m supposed to be relying on.

I just want things to be beautiful for us…you know?

Why can’t I just get things beautiful…for more than a few minutes?

I’m reading a book about idols in our lives…ugh.  I really like it, but ugh.

I mean I like that I feel like it is dealing with some serious stuff that I need to face…but ugh…the serious stuff is idols.

I hate idols.

One of mine is control.  A sweet young lady was sharing with me about how God has revealed her idols of comfort and control and I thought, “This woman is awesome!  I’m like 40-something 😊 and I’m still trying to figure out what makes me tick and tock and fall.”

I prayed fervently before my phone call with this dear one that I’d be an encouragement to her…and God turned it around and had her encourage me.

Not in the way that I imagined.  It’s never awesome to have idols revealed…but actually maybe it is…

It is why I’m reading this book.  To figure out what in the world I’m worshiping in my life other than God.

To figure out why I struggle with what I struggle with…you know?

And God in his infinite kindness has confirmed what he has been revealing slowly to me….I want comfort and I want control.

I want the comfort of others, the comfort of a peaceful, orderly space, and the comfort of knowing I have control of it all.

And unfortunately I can be a mean, grumpy sinner in the process of pursing those idols.

I can also occasionally despair of ever overcoming.

One of my dearest friends wants to discuss the difference between victory and obedience.

I do understand that I’m called to a life of obedience, but I really do want victory…just saying.

I’m tired of the struggles.  I want to move on already.

Then there is a little part of me that wonders if the next thing I struggle with will be worse and I get all freaked out…I’m a mess.

Do I believe God is good or not?  I keep having to ask myself that when I get those crazy thoughts.

I do believe He is good.  And I do believe that He calls me to obedience.

He also calls me to repentance and rest.

I love this verse.

In returning and rest you shall be saved,

in quietness and in trust shall be your strength. 

Isaiah 30:15

Returning

Rest

Quietness

Trust

Returning…have I gone away and need to come back?  Yes.  Daily.

Daily I turn to my own thing, my own issues, my own solutions, and my own stress.

I’m the little girl who packed up her bags and stomped out the door ready to run away from papa and find a better life, only to see the darkness coming and the shadows lengthening.   I’m that same little girl hightailing it home to the welcoming arms of my loving father.

I’ve been the parent in that scenario…I’ve watched one of my sweet little babies pack a backpack and head out into the night – only to make it to the bottom of the driveway before running back home.   And how I longed for that embrace even though it was such a short trip down the driveway.

God longs for us to return to his embrace and rest there.  Rest in the arms of our Father.   It is quiet there.  We can trust His care.

Oh how I need that visual right now.  What a blessed reminder to me of the safety of His care.

Especially as I lie here feeling very weak, tired, and sick.

In each day, God has a plan.  It might be a plan for great productivity.  It might be a plan for rest.  It might be a plan just to be where He has me without complaint or concern or control.

My prayer is that wherever God has me, I’m resting in the knowledge that He loves me.

He loves me.

Me.

Sometimes that just hits me.  I say it a lot, but sometimes….sometimes it rocks my world.

It just did as I typed that.

He loves ME.

Me…with all my flaws, failures, faithlessness, frustrations, and fears.

Me…with all my control, complaints, crisis, and cares.

Me…just me.

No matter what…no matter where I am…no matter what I’m doing or not doing…no matter how I feel…no matter what I accomplish or don’t accomplish…no matter my successes or my failures…no matter how I love him back.

He loves me.

Thank you God…I needed that.

I need that.

I need to understand that deeper than I have in a long while.

How deep the Father’s love for us, how vast beyond all measure

that He should give His only Son to make a wretch His treasure.”

(Stuart Townend)

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.

In the Moment

IMG_2636It was one of those loooong work days. Ten and a half hours to be exact.  I was bone weary tired.

So when my little ones were dropped off at my school, I decided it sounded like a Chick Fila kinda day.

There was no argument from my littles.  It’s the favorite restaurant….they know us there.  Ally even has inside jokes with the manager…we bring the party…always have, always will.

Anyway…when we walked in I noticed a lady sitting at a booth.   She had her head in her hands and I instantly wanted to reach over and comfort her.  I wanted to put my hand on her shoulder and say, “I understand.”

Because I do.

I’ve been there.  It doesn’t matter the place…those head-in-the-hands moments happen regardless of location.

Those moments are better than the weep-curled-in-a-ball moments.

So much better.

This past weekend I experienced both as I struggled with realizations of some things my children were dealing with and how much I want to change situations for them.  I found myself wishing that things were oh so very different yet again.

One of my children spent the day with me…leaning heavily on me…physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  This child needed more than words…this child needed me to listen, pray, and just simply be there.

Oh how I have needed that too.  That has been one of the most difficult parts of this move…not having my closest friends here.  Not having friends that understand sometimes I need a shoulder and sometimes I need a kick in the butt and sometimes I just need a babysitter.

I miss them.

I miss the hands on my shoulder, the kind words, the comforting prayers, the encouragement, admonitions, accountability, and understanding.  I miss having someone to hang out with…I miss it a lot.

As I glanced at this woman and her little boys and the empty ring finger…I thought maybe she is a weary single parent like me.  Or maybe she just took it off to do the dishes and she’s exhausted from a day of chores.  I’ve been at that point too… 🙂

Whatever her story…it reminded me of the way we really need each other.  Not just for a coffee date or a phone conversation, but for the real life stuff.  The days when my head is in my hands more than anywhere else…the days when I have things to celebrate and the days when I have things to commiserate.

I was made for fellowship.  I was made for more than work and chores and stuff to do…I was made for fellowship with my Father and fellowship with my spiritual siblings.

I have discovered, not surprisingly, that there is a direct correlation between my peace, my perspective, and my level of fellowship with my Father.

The more time I spend with Him, the more I long to spend time with Him.

The more time I spend with Him, the more like Him I become.

Maybe that’s why the past year or so has been such a fretful, difficult, overwhelming kind of year?

I have lived in triage mode and neglected to go to the Medic that can really help me.

I’ve looked everywhere for healing from all my difficult moments…and I’ve looked for comfort and strength and peace in the things I can find myself.

My.

Self.

Sometimes I don’t understand myself.

Actually, a lot of times I don’t understand myself.

I’m so very much like Paul…doing what I don’t want to do and not doing what I want to do…over and over and over again.

And where has it gotten me?

Head-in-my-hands.

Insecure.  Fearful.  Scared.  And, sometimes, angry.

I don’t like that me.

This morning I was looking for a verse to share with a friend who is struggling and I remembered Isaiah 54:11-17:

“O afflicted one, storm-tossed and not comforted, behold, I will set your stones in antimony, and lay your foundations with sapphires.  I will make your pinnacles of agate, your gates of carbuncles, and all your walls of precious stones.  All your children shall be taught by the LORD, and great shall be the peace of your children.  In righteousness you shall be established; you shall be far from oppression, for you shall not fear; and from terror, for it shall not come near you.  If anyone stirs up strife, it is not from me; whoever stirs up strife with you shall fall because of you.  Behold I have created the smith who blows the fire of coals and produces a weapon for its purpose.  I have also created the ravager to destroy; no weapon that is fashioned against you shall succeed, and you shall refute every tongue that rises against you in judgment.  This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD and their vindication from me, declares the LORD.

When I read “O afflicted one, storm-tossed, and not comforted” I feel comforted.  Is that weird or what?  It is like someone – like the Someone saying, “Dear one, I know…I know how you are feeling and what you are going through.”

God knows just what I need to hear.  And then He follows it up with additional blessings.

He tells me the beautiful ways that He is going to work in my life.  Beautiful.  Even though I’m going to have to look up antimony, agate and carbuncles…it doesn’t sound like it but they are beautiful gems and minerals.

My NIV version uses the terms turquoise, lapis lazuli, and sparkling jewels.

The pictures are pretty.

I think being rebuilt into something beautiful would be wonderful.

What is my beauty going to look like?

Is it going to be the beauty of a woman whose face is raised to her Lord….confident, unafraid, and secure in the love of her Abba Father?

Is it going to be the beauty of a woman who finds her strength in Him?

Is it going to be the beauty of a woman who seeks His will above her own?

Is it going to be the beauty of a woman who finds all she needs in Him?

There are seasons when it is reasonable to place our head in our hands and weep.  There are weary season…there just are.

There are seasons when it is understandable to be curled in a ball in the corner of the closet.  There are seasons of sorrow.

It’s okay.  He is in those moments too.  He never leaves us or forsakes us.

When we find ourselves turned from Him…when we have sought solace, strength, and anything else we think we need from a source other than the One that truly can give us all we need…He never looks away from us.

I have to shake my head at the thought…how is that possible?

I know me…I know me in good and bad times…and very rarely am I the woman I want to be for Him.  And yet He loves me still.

Wow.

I wish I had been brave enough to share with that woman the hope I have found in Christ.

I could have given her a hug, but that would not have made a lasting difference.  Momentary comfort. I could offer so much more.

All that I have found to be true of my Father.

He meets me continually where I am…whether it’s a wonderful or a woeful place.

He pours love on me lavishly when I least deserve it.

He comforts me with His presence and peace.

He provides for me…above and beyond.

He is with me…always.

And you know what is a great comfort right now?  It doesn’t really matter what moment I’m in…He is with me.

Thank you Lord.

“Though the mountain be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the Lord, who has compassion on you.  Isaiah 54:10

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!

ImageTonight we dragged our tree out…well, I should say my oldest son and his friend dragged it out…leaving a trail of needles and water behind. Contributing to the messiness of my floor.

Today my floor has been an issue.

A neighbor stopped by unexpectedly.  As we stood in my kitchen all I could think about was all the stuff out, the general disarray of our home at that moment, and all the crumbs and such all over the floor,

I desperately wanted to ask her to leave and come back in 20 minutes.

I didn’t.

But oh did I want to.

I was trying to pick up things unobtrusively…sneak things off the counter, put things in the sink, push things into drawers, pick up a larger crumb on the floor.  I’m sure she could see my furtive attempts to clear the clutter.

I don’t know this neighbor well so she rarely sees the inside of my house.  But I believe I can safely say that EVERY time she stops by some sort of tornado has struck…well, 6 tornados – me included.

Today was one of those days.  It was back to school for my kids – both homeschooled and public schooled – and educational paraphernalia was strewn all over the counter, table, and foyer.

I began a new program to become certified to teach and earn my Masters in education so I have to admit that I contributed to the school stuff everywhere.

Calendars, bills, and other documents were stacked on a stool near the kitchen table because there was no room on the table.

My son had started a drawing project in the family room and paper had slid off the sofa onto the floor.

My youngest daughter had laid out Candy Land for us to play after dinner.  (She beat me! 3 times!!!)

Oven buzzers were sounding and pots were bubbling on the stovetop.

Sitting between the pantry and laundry room doors were 2 baskets of clean laundry waiting to be taken upstairs.

The only good thing about my house was there were no dishes in the sink – and that, my friends, is a miracle!

This unexpected visit was not one of my finer examples of hospitality…at least in the sense of my home being ready.

I love having people over and enjoy welcoming them into our pandemonium.  But sometimes… sometimes I want a little fair warning!

It’s okay though.  Just my pride being a bit wounded.

Why I think my sticky counters, cluttered tables, or messy floors would shock anyone, especially my neighbors, is beyond me.  Honestly, we are kind of like the Beverly Hillbillies of the neighborhood.  I feel like we should have their theme song blaring when we drive down the street.   (Hey!  I bet my teenagers would love that!)

When I pull into the driveway I have children climbing out of windows and/or falling over each other to get out of the same door.  And the number of odds and ends that tumble out of my car at any given stopping point is staggering.  My car is a giant purse…full of children, paper, shoes and goodness knows what else!

Where am I going with this blog?

Actually when I started this blog I was going to write about sweeping the floor – specifically the tree needles and some grapes that were dropped.

I was thinking how the needles, although everywhere, were quite easy to sweep up…kind of like all the mundane issues of life.  Those things that aren’t surprising or particularly difficult, but they seem to be everywhere.  They take up time and energy, but they are doable.

Then there are the things like grapes.  Grapes…ugh.  I can’t tell you how frustrating it was to try to sweep up those silly grapes.  They went everywhere but where I wanted them to go.

Those little buggers can roll fast and far!

I could have leaned over and picked them up individually, but I didn’t have the energy to do it.  (long, long day)  I just wanted them to go nicely into the dustpan.

But nope.  They went every which way.  Unfortunately I couldn’t leave them lying about because grapes are magnets for feet.  And squashed grapes are even more work…sticky work.  My house is sticky enough thank you very much!

I don’t know why I thought about the needles and the grapes…or why it struck me that it was so much like my life.  Maybe I’m over thinking things…totally possible.  I’m pretty tired.

But what I realized is that God equips me to handle both things.

Those needles are like the plethora of monotonous things that occur in any given day…like dirty dishes, cluttered counters, messy floors, loads and loads of laundry, and neighbors that stop by unexpectedly on a particularly messy day.  But they are all things that God gives me the grace to handle if I will rest in Him each day.

Part of that resting is finding my identity in Him rather than the state of me, my home, my children, my finances, my education, my work, my relationships, my marriage/divorce, my health…all of that is not defining.

I am defined by Christ!

And then there are the grapes…the things that roll around your life and cause trouble.

They roll in with things like dealing with our ex-spouses or struggles with our children’s behaviors, financial worries or household issues, health crises or work concerns…you can probably add your own grapes to that list.

And there are bigger grapes that spin everywhere, are impossible to catch, and often just end up squashed on the floor.  These things are bigger things…heart issues, agonies that bring us to our knees, struggles and sorrows that linger, hurts that seem to take forever to heal…I’m sure you know what I mean.

Those are some whopping big grapes.  But thankfully our God is bigger than any grape…large or small.

Needles or grapes all need to end up in the same place…and so do all our troubles and struggles and annoyances.

It’s a little hard at this point to continue my analogy perfectly because I’m going to have to equate a dustpan to the Lord, so maybe I’ll mix it up a bit and say this:

All our stuff needs to end up in the dustpan of faith and handed over to our Heavenly Father.

There is no amount of life messiness that God can’t handle.  And He’s willing to handle it all.

I’m more than happy to hand the broom and dustpan to Him…I’m tired of cleaning anyway.

If I trust Him to take care of all those things, I can be peaceful no matter the state of my home.  And that means that when people stop by I can rest assured that even if my house seems a bit muddled, I will not.  I will be calm and able to focus not on my house, but my guest.

If I trust Him, when the pains and sorrows of this life seem too much to bear I can find solace in His Word, peace in His presence, and comfort with His people.

So sweep those needles and grapes toward Jesus and let Him deal with them all!  His dustpan is big enough.

I don’t know if that string of thoughts exactly works, but I hope that it blesses you in some way – even if it’s just a smile at my attempt to spiritualize a messy floor.

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

Recently I took my 5 sweeties out to dinner.  It was an unexpectedly delightful evening.  I even had a lady come up to the table and comment that my children were very well behaved!  Wow! Did the earth stop rotating for a second?

Usually when all of us go anywhere there is a fair amount of noise, confusion and general bedlam.  I have one child in particular that knows how to bring the “party” – and by that I mean the chaos. Her parties completely stress me out.  How can someone so small cause such mayhem?

She is challenging and sometimes a bit rotten.  And I love her fiercely.  God has put a very special affection for her in my heart.  I know that He made me specifically to be her Mommy.  I’m comforted and blessed by that because sometimes I feel inadequate to the task.

Tonight I had an epiphany.  I was praying for my youngest daughters at bedtime.  Just moments earlier she was having a fit – being openly defiant and talking back.  I was remaining calm (praise God!) and praying that I was responding appropriately.  I finally convinced her to be still and I got on my knees between my little girls’ beds and began to pray.  I was praying for God’s peace which passes all understanding to guard her heart and her mind in Christ Jesus and then I remembered that the first part of that passage of scripture applied just as much to the current situation.  Philippians 4:6-7 ‘”Do not be anxious about anything but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

The last couple of days have been very difficult ones especially with this beautiful little person.  She has challenged all that I thought I knew about parenting.  And I’m pretty sure she enjoys every minute of it!  Sometimes I can become very anxious about our future – hers and mine.  I worry what the teenage years are going to be like if I don’t figure out how to deal with some of her stuff…and my stuff.  Tonight when I was praying for peace those words about not being anxious came back to me.  It struck me that I was allowing fear to get a foothold. I was holding tightly to my anxious thoughts instead of praying about them.

He says to not be anxious about ANYTHING and to pray to Him about EVERYTHING.  The cool thing about God is that He doesn’t exaggerate ever. He tells it like it is…always.  He can use words like anything, everything, always and never with abandon because He means it.  I can’t say “always” or “never” because I don’t know what’s going to happen in the next 30 seconds much less beyond that!  God doesn’t want me to worry about anything in my life. He wants me to let Him handle everything and that includes my littlest girl, my two teenagers, my middle schooler, my kindergartener…and me.

Then God makes it interesting – He doesn’t just say to pray about everything – He says to be thankful about it all too.  I’ve shared before that God has shown me the beauty of being grateful.  It’s amazing how I can find things to thank Him for when I actually look.  So tonight instead of complaining about how difficult it is to parent my children, I thanked Him for each one.  I thanked Him for my children individually and for how they had changed my life for the better.  It was such a refreshing time of rediscovery.  Sometimes I get so mired down in the day to day living and dealing with things, that I forget to really look at my children for the blessings that they are to me.

The final part is the best — “and the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” — it isn’t just going to cover you or fill you, it’s going to guard your heart and your mind.  Wow!   I never thought about that before.  Those two parts of me – my heart and my mind – need some serious peace.  One is broken and one is questionable in is functionability.  I think I’m going to take some time to check out exactly what all that implies for my life, but this post is already way too long.  So tomorrow (or someday soon when I have a minute or two) I’ll share what God shows me about His peace and what guarding my heart and mind really means for me – and you!

I pray that tonight God’s peace will pour over you completely, fill you to overflowing and guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus!