Living Strong

I’ve been thinking about strength lately, mostly because I really need some. I’ve been praying about it a lot too. And I realized that I’ve been living under the assumption that at some point God will just zap me with strength so I can get busy doing all the things I think I need to do.  

Yeah. I know…that’s not how it works.

God doesn’t say that He will give us His strength so that we can do our things without Him.  He doesn’t give us strength so we can march away from Him with our to-do list in hand ready to do our stuff on our own.  

He gives us strength so we can lean on Him as we live the life He has given us.  So we can do all the things He has called us to in whatever place, circumstance or situation we find ourselves.

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.  I know how to be brought low and I know how to abound.  In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.  I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13

That verse gets applied to many situations as if God is going to give all the strength we need to accomplish our life to do list, be who we want to be right now, make life happen the way we want it to.  

It is more than that and maybe less than that in some ways.

I think it means that no matter what circumstance I find myself in, no matter how difficult or wonderful life is, God will give me the strength to live gracefully.  To make the difficult but godly choices.  To face temptations and not fall.  To overcome the past so that I can live in the present with purpose and joy.  To be content…not always longing for the perfect fix, the “thing” that is going to make everything better…the thing that is going to make me better.

I wonder if the phrase I utter the most is, “Lord, please give me strength.”  Sometimes it’s said in a quiet whisper, sometimes through clenched teeth, and even at times in a wail of desperation.

There are moments I feel that I have not one ounce of strength left and there are still so very many things to do… children to love one, papers to grade, lessons to plan, homework to help with, dinners to make, lunches to pack, activities to drive to, laundry to fold, dishes to scrub, and innumerable other things that cause weariness to crash over me like a tsunami.

I feel weary of parenting challenges like my little girl whose will could bend steel or a tweenager who can’t resist just one more snarky comment. I find myself fearful that I will be completely unprepared to address any parenting challenges with any discernment.

There are days when I believe I have nothing left…not enough energy to make wise decisions and stick by them. No strength to keep moving forward when things just refuse to be resolved easily. No strength to live the life for Christ I so desperately want to live.

And I wonder why do I still not feel strong?  It is one of those mysteries to me…how do I live strong in Christ when I feel so weak in me?

I keep thinking that God is going to give me strength to live the life I want to live.  I have to ask myself what is this life I want to live and why do I feel that I’m not living it?  

It is a vision I have.  And I realized today that I want God to give me the strength to make it happen.  And because I don’t seem to be able to do that, I sometimes feel weak, ineffective, and defeated.  Maybe I have this strength thing all wrong.  (I think that is a fair assumption at this point.)

So I decided to look up all the verses on strength and figure it out.  The first verse brought me to one of my favorite stories in the Old Testament.  When things were so difficult during my husband’s departure from our marriage, our family, and our daily lives, this passage brought me so much comfort.

The LORD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation.  Exodus 15:2

Moses makes it pretty clear that his strength is found in the Lord.  This is in reference to the Lord saving the people of Israel at the Red Sea.  I love love love that story.  I know that I have written about it before, but it always thrills me to remember the hopelessness of the situation and the amazing rescue of the Lord.  The reality was that the Israelites were surrounded on every side – mountains to the right and left, a sea in front, and the Egyptian army barreling down from behind.  Not an ideal situation.  Had the Lord saved them from slavery to place them in an impossible situation now?  Heavens, no!  He had already planned the glorious escape!  The mind-blowing thing for me was the east wind was blowing from across the sea, parting the water to them!  Moses didn’t raise his hands and the water parted before him…the water parted from the opposite shore and came to them!  God was already making a way out of the impossible before they knew they needed it!  I love our God!  Impossible situations are never impossible for God! So the strength Israel needed in that situation was the strength to trust that their God who had brought them out of Egypt with hands full of provisions…their God who had led by day and night with pillars of smoke and fire…their God who had saved them would indeed save them again.   The strength came from trusting the LORD.

The second time the Israelites crossed water – the Jordan River – into the Promised Land, the priests had to stick their toes in the overflowing water and stay there until the people all crossed safely to the other side. No easy task…it required bravery, trust, and strength to stick toes in frothy, foaming, rushing water…all while holding the Ark of the Covenant…and then to stand in the middle while the people crossed. Once everyone was on the other side, Joshua instructed a man from each of the twelve tribes to take a stone from the place where the priests’ feet had stood.  These stones which must have been quite large because they had to carry them out on their shoulders, were to be a remembrance of what God had done.

Maybe I need some memorial stones to remind me of the strength the Lord has given me in the past, of the many miraculous and beautiful ways God has walked me through difficult things, of the times He has given me wisdom, discernment, and grace to live well for Him.  What would my memorial look like?  Probably my book, “When Happily Ever After Shatters” could be considered one because it is a true retelling of how God was with me throughout my husband’s abandonment and our divorce. Maybe the answer is another book of the past several years as a single parent. (Would you pray with me about that one?)

I know and I’m reminded by His word that the only way to tap into His strength is to be with Him.

Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his presence continually!  1 Chronicles 16:11

I do not believe it is possible to live in the Lord’s strength without living in His presence. Acknowledging Him.  True strength is found in the presence of God. And of course the beauty of the Lord is that He chooses to stay with us…to live with us.  It is part of the Covenant.  He truly does never leave us nor forsake us.  I am reminded of all the times I found solace in His word.  I could not hold God’s hands as I poured out my heart to Him, but I could open up that precious dog-eared book and find comfort in His words written for me.

But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. 2 Timothy 4:17

I almost took that verse and wrote only the first part because that was all I technically needed for what I want to convey.  But I believe that God’s word is richer for the context. Paul is sharing with Timothy that God was with him giving him strength in the life he was called to live.  God had called Paul to many difficult things and He stood beside him and strengthened him in every task…even the arduous ones. To say that Paul walked a challenging path is quite an understatement…beatings, imprisonments, shipwrecks…and yet, he is the writer who says,

Rejoice always, praying without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus in you.  1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

God’s will is for me to rejoice each step of this path…to continually be with Him…to be grateful, because He knows without a doubt that living a joy-filled life is living strong.

…for the joy of the LORD is your strength.  Nehemiah 8:10

This seems to go back to what Paul said about finding the secret to living in any circumstances.  Can I find joy even when things are decidedly different from what I’d have chosen?  Can I find joy in my weariness?  Can I find joy in my life?  The answer to those questions is yes.  But I must ask myself, “Will I find joy?”

It’s like that old teacher joke when a student asks, “Can I go to the bathroom?”  And the teacher asks back, “I don’t know, can you?”  There is no question that I can do something about living joyfully.  The tougher question is, “Will I?”

Will I seek strength in the Lord, or continue to search for it in myself?  Without the Lord, I do not have the strength I want to live well.  There is no joy to be found in and of myself.  All that I need is found in Him.  Will I seek Him?

You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the LORD… Jeremiah 29:13-14

I will find Him when I seek Him with ALL my heart.  In looking up verses on seeking God, I was brought to Hebrews 11 – the “By Faith” chapter.  And I was reminded that most if not all of those precious people mentioned were called out of comfort.  They were challenged to trust God.  To believe that He could do immeasurably more than all they asked or imagined…in whatever circumstances they found themselves.  To believe that their strength was in the Lord, not their abilities or their circumstances.  Oh to have that kind of faith…daily.

To believe that God is able to not just do the God-sized tasks, but the everyday pain in the rear overwhelming tasks of life as a single parent…as any parent, as any person for that matter…that is the blessing…that is the trusting…that is the strength.

Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees, say to those who have an anxious heart, “Be strong; fear not!”  Isaiah 35:3-4

There is an element to this strength thing of just doing it.  Just believing God to be faithful to provide.  I think sometimes I assume that strength is just going to pour over me like cool water on a hot day…reviving, energizing, and giving me what I need to keep keeping on.  But I believe strength is a decision to live for the Lord…to look beyond the struggle to the Savior.

I know, I know.  Sue, what do you mean?  How do you look beyond the piles of laundry, the stacks of bills, the teetering towers of dishes?  How do you hear His voice past the noise of children, the constant cell phone notifications, the emails that pile up in inboxes…

I don’t mean this in a condescending or rude way at all, but I believe it is quite simple really.  You take a moment and pray.  You make time to read His word.  You do it.  You seek Him.  Believe me, no….believe Him…He says when you seek Him, you WILL find Him.  

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.   Matthew 11:28-30

Live strong by living with Him…make time for Him in the busyness…listen to His love poured out for you in His Word, share your life with Him in prayer and trust that He loves you relentlessly, find strength in the joy of knowing Jesus.

Choose Him.  Live strong.

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Don’t Worry…Just Walk

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

That factor is just life.

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

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

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

But today everything seemed much closer.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where? What? When? How?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Hanging by a Thread

threadTonight was exceedingly rough.  I really dislike those nights.  So instead of sleeping I decided to write.  I can’t sleep anyway…don’t want to wake up any friends…and I’ve already poured out my heart to God face first in the carpet.

I’m back to those days.

My face in the carpet days.

I don’t have a closet to hide in anymore…oh how I miss my closet.

One of the many things that broke my heart tonight was all my interactions with my littlest girl.  The transitions our family has made have been really very difficult for her.  She is feisty anyway and put a change in the mix and she’s just…well, REALLY feisty.

Unfortunately I have about 2 minutes worth of patience left at the end of the day and I can’t seem to be the mommy I want to be.

I want so much to be kind, gentle, and patient mommy, but right now I’m so blasted tired after work and staying up late to finish coursework or classwork or planning or grading or just being plain sleepless like tonight.

So I get fussy about my daughter’s fussiness and then mommy guilt comes crashing down.

I’m gone more than I am with my children.  It is yet another huge change that has occurred in my life in the past 5 years.  And, honestly, I hate it.

In my short amount of time with my children I want to love on them…and yet, this little one and I can seem to do nothing but butt heads.  According to her, I’m the meanest mommy ever.  Of course that is her response to being in trouble.

Tonight I told her that it was her choice whether she got nice mommy or mean mommy.  It sounded good in theory…at least it did about 2 seconds before I spoke it aloud.

But something seemed off…I couldn’t put my finger on it until she and I talked later.  I told her, “You have to make better choices.”  She gave me the reasons for her bad choices and all involved other people.

To which I said, ‘You can’t let other people determine how you are going to act.  Your behavior is your choice.”

Ouch.

THAT’s why my good mommy/bad mommy comment didn’t feel right.

Why does my 7 year olds’ behavior determine mine?

I’ll tell you why…I’M HANGING BY A THREAD!

Tonight as I lie in bed trying desperately to fall asleep, feeling like I’m going to have a heart attack, and begging God for something…I don’t know what…I began to pray more than I have in days, weeks.

I realized that the things that have changed in my life lately have been very good in some ways, and just so very difficult in others.  I have such guilt for working…such guilt for not providing a better situation for my children…such guilt for being tired, impatient, easily angered, and overwhelmed.

And sometimes I just want desperately to go back to life before…not even life before divorce, but life right after.  Life when everything was awful but I had perspective and peace.

I want perspective and peace again.

I know why I don’t have it though.  I haven’t made any time to pray…just those “Hail Mary” prayers I make on a daily basis.

I don’t make time to be in the Word – that would make such a difference.  I really need to do that…forgo more sleep I suppose.  Ugh, how is that even possible?

I don’t really know but that will be my first prayer…that God would provide time in the Word.

My second will be that God would provide time with my children…good, fun time with my children.

My third will be that God will enable me to handle the responsibilities He has given me with more grace and peace.  (I’m too afraid to pray for patience).

My fourth will be that God gives me perspective on my life…that I will remember that He is sovereign and I am not.  Good gravy – I have control issues.

I made decisions based on the knowledge that I had.  I trusted that God was leading me.  I did that whole step out in faith thing.  And although tonight I’m a mess, I know that God led me.

I just need to keep reminding myself that just because things are hard doesn’t mean that they are wrong.

I need to handle things better. God has given me the tools to handle things…His word, His strength, His wisdom, His peace.

I need those things very much.

And God gives them…just need to ask.

I’m asking.

Still hanging by a thread….but I’m thinking now it might be changing to a thread of hope.

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.  Romans 12:12

Why not talk to God?

photo 1 (3)I shared recently about the big decisions I need to make and how much I was struggling to make them.

It has been a season of tremendous confusion for me…no easy answers, no straight, lighted path before me, nothing uncomplicated.

I kept asking God to just make things clear to me.  I kept telling Him that I would go or be wherever He wanted me to go or be…just please tell me!

But as I have shared before, I kept looking to others to help me decide…to wrestle through decisions with me.

I wanted friends willing to listen to me say or ask the same thing 15 times in 15 different ways.  I needed to grapple and ponder and brainstorm.  And I didn’t want to do it alone.

This single parent decision-making thing can be a lonely business.

And for someone who likes to think out loud, it is torturous…unfortunately I think I’ve been torturing everyone around me.  I put my friends and family in the position of having to hear me think out loud a lot.

I spent a lot time trying to find someone…anyone…that would tell me what to do!  I’m surprised they all didn’t run away from me.

I felt such a burden to figure things out…just to make a decision already.

I wanted to talk (and talk and talk…)

And it struck me

Why not talk to God?

Maybe that desire to think out loud is really more about a desire to pray.  I just hadn’t thought of it that way before.

I’d been so busy looking for someone to lead me that I’d missed talking to the One who is my Leader.  I’m truly like a silly little sheep.  I have The Good Shepherd as my guide and I’m not looking to Him.  I’m looking around to anyone and everyone to give me answers, direction, and guidance.

He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.  Isaiah 40:11

But God in His graciousness did indeed provide.

First it was a dear friend who, while in the midst of her own health crisis, willingly listened to my life circumstances and shared her thoughts.  I’m in of God’s provision.

She asked me where I wanted to be in 5 years.   She said, “Focus on where you want to be, rather than all the little things that need to happen to get there.”

At first I thought, “How in the world do I do THAT?  There are things that need to be done…decisions that need to be made and actions that need to be taken!”

But the more I thought about it the more I realized that if I trust God’s leading, I must also trust that He will provide a way.

I kept thinking of the priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant who had to step into the river before it parted.  Maybe I need to be willing to do that as well…take a step of faith.

So when the people set out from their tents to pass over the Jordan with the priests bearing the ark of the covenant before the people, and as soon as those bearing the ark had come as far as the Jordan, and the feet of the priests bearing the ark were dipped in the brink of the water (now the Jordan overflows all its banks throughout the time of harvest), the waters coming down from above stood and rose up in a heap very far away… Joshua 3:14-16

A lot grabs me in those verses…but one thing that stuck out was that the Lord wants us know that this was not an easy wade in the water…this was an overflowing river.  Probably seemed a bit daunting to those priests, but they trusted that God was going to make a way for them to follow His leading and they took a step of faith.

God gave direction and then provided the way.

I want that.

I want direction…clear direction…obvious direction…a well-lit straight path ahead.  I’m finding that God doesn’t often choose that path for me.  My path is more often than not a little dark so I can only see a step or two in front of me.  I cannot even see a bit up the path.  It is always, and I mean always, a bit curvy and rocky.  I’m walking slowly, deliberately and with anxiety in my heart for what lies ahead.  I want to make decisions that I know will turn out well…decisions that have a happy ending.

I know I can trust God.  I also know I can trust that God’s word is true.  And His word says that I will have trouble.  I’ve been living in the trouble times…I long for peaceful.  I’m always worried that my decisions will lead to more troubled times. Lord, forgive me for my fear and anxious thoughts.

But I also know that there is peace in making a decision and trusting God with the outcome.  I want to make a decision and have the outcome guaranteed…guaranteed to end the way I want.  But God says that He guarantees the outcome to be for His glory and my good…not that it will be my “perfect” outcome.

As I was wresting with my hope for perfection, God continued to bless me.  My one sister, who loves me and all my goofiness, was willing to listen, brainstorm and pray with me until the wee hours of the morning.  My sister, the one I grew up with, is also my sister in Christ.  And what a blessing she is to me!

I shared with her all my thoughts, concerns, fears, and ideas…and she listened patiently, and even laughed at all my jokes! (That is definitely a blessed thing J!)

As we talked through my situation, she said some things that really struck me:

If I love Christ and live my life for Him, He WILL lead me.

If my desire is to glorify Him and bless others, He will work in my situation to those ends.

Sometimes a decision just needs to be made and God will take care of the rest.

And finally, she reminded me of Philippians 4:7, “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

That term guard was what she wanted me to notice. It’s actually a military term.  Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance says that to guard means: “‘a sentinel, guard’ – to guard (keep watch) like a military sentinel; (figuratively) to actively display whatever defensive and offensive means are necessary to guard.”

God’s peace guards our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus.  He is willing to do whatever is necessary to protect our hearts and our minds.

So if that is true…why do I so often feel so little peace?

I don’t believe it is because God is doing anything wrong…I believe that it is because I’m seeking that peace in my circumstances…in my decisions.

My sister pointed out that God’s peace is something I have regardless of my circumstances, my decisions and their outcomes.

It is my decision to live in that peace that God does and will always guard.  I’m blessed by that realization…that reminder.

And I’m grabbing hold of that reminder…no, I’m grabbing hold of that peace.

My big decision is one of the biggest of my single mom life…and one of the top ten of my life to this point.

I know that regardless of my decision, God will not leave me nor forsake me.

And regardless of my decision, God’s peace is mine.

Oh how desperately I want that peace.  It seems so “christianeze-ish”  (my word) for me to say I will live in God’s peace regardless of things going on…and it also seems a bit sketchy that I would say that after all I’ve written about struggle and anxiety and fear…BUT….

That peace is God’s…not mine. It’s a God thing.  And I will grab hold of it and I will focus on it and I will study it and I will live it because God is guarding me with it.

I’m so thankful for my Lord, for my friend and for my sister.

God will lead me even if it isn’t with lightning bolts and neon signs…it might be a late night talk or a quiet morning studying His the Word or a little bit of both or He might just guide me to make a decision and trust Him.

My decision right now is to take a big step of faith. I’m moving forward without a definite plan, but with hope and peace that as I step out God will guide.  I’m taking a big step and praying fervently that God will make clear paths where I see none right now.

I’m trusting God will lead me…and I’m excited to see what He shows me.

In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.  Proverbs 16:9

The steps of a man are established by the LORD, when he delights in his way; though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong, for the LORD upholds his hand.  Psalm 37:23-24

Who Am I Going With?

photo (31)Again I’m faced with big decisions…

Again…

Do you hear the underlying groan in my writing?

I sat with my dear friend and prayer partner recently and said, “I’m tired of trying to discern God’s will.”

I felt so ungodly saying that…so grumpy, tired, and sinful.

I want to be better at it.

I feel like I must be doing something wrong…or not doing something right. 

Lord, why does it feel so difficult to know what to do?  Why can’t I figure things out?  Why is this so hard?  Am I doing something wrong?  Am I missing something?

I have prayed…and prayed…and prayed.

I have sought wisdom in Scripture.

I have asked way too many friends for advice…I think I just really really want someone to tell me what to do.

SOMEONE JUST TELL ME WHAT TO DO!

And yet, I know….I KNOW…I know that God wants me to just rest in Him.  

One of my friends reminded me that God wants me to remain constantly dependent on Him.  I’m not feeling dependent.  I’m feeling crazy, slightly insane, and very, very frustrated.

Looking back I’m hard pressed to say that I’ve made any truly successful decisions on my own in the past 5 years…I know I’m probably being hard on myself, but that’s how I’m feeling right now.  I can’t think of one thing I haven’t looked back on and said, “If only…”

What a lousy way to live.

I’m pretty certain that that is not what God wants me to be thinking…after all, do I trust Him, or not?

Seriously, do I trust Him? 

Because this stress cannot be from Him…and these anxious thoughts and overwhelming fears can’t be from Him.

But how do I stop them?  How do I get past the fear…the anxious thoughts…the exhaustion?

I often pray that God will help me focus on Him…keep to the path…not go to the right or the left when I should be heading forward.

Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you. Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure. Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil.  Proverbs 4:25-27

I think I get hung up on the “ponder the path of your feet” part.  I ponder…and ponder…and ponder.  Oh my golly I’m so sick of pondering!

I think about everything and how it is going to impact everything else…how things might turn out…how things might impact or affect each of my children…I wonder about how the decisions of the past will impact the decisions I need to make…I wonder what will become of me and my children…will this decision grow their faith…will bad things happen….will good things happen?  Am I ever going to make a decision I’m truly comfortable with?

Once again, for the 40-somethingth year, I’m focusing on my circumstances rather than my Savior….WHEN will I learn this lesson?

I’m looking at my feet rather than directly forward…I’m not looking at Jesus. 

I’m so focused on where I’m going that I forget Who I’m going with. 

I’m so worried about the future that I’m forgetting the Father.

If I truly believe that the Father holds my future…WHY do I worry so?  Why do I get all wiggy about things?

If I believe that He does work all things together for good for those who love Him and who He has called, then I know that no matter what decision I make He will work good. 

So maybe the issue is that I want things to get “fixed” – I want a different situation…an easier life…less complication, more calm. 

I’m not so sure that God’s good is always easier…peaceful yes, but not necessarily easier.

Drat…I wanted easier.

I’m tired of being tired…exhausted by exhaustion…frustrated by frustration…

BUT isn’t that MY issue? 

God doesn’t say I need to do something or live a certain way without providing a way to do it.  There has to be a way to live like more than a conqueror even in this place I am.  A way to count it all joy…

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.  James 1:2-4

I never noticed the words “full effect” before…I mean I never really thought about them.  I think maybe what that is saying is to let life happen and grow from it.  That makes sense because steadfastness also means patience, perseverance, endurance and fidelity. 

Maybe part of counting it all joy is allowing the trials to happen…living the life of trials without trying to fix something that is not within our power to truly fix. 

Maybe we are to patiently allow it to work in our lives…allow the trials to mold us…to make us complete.

That really wasn’t the answer I was looking for…I was hoping for something more like: “Count it all joy my brothers when you meet trials of various kinds, because God’s got the quick fix.”

So I’m back to…do I trust Him?

Do I trust His timing?  His provision?  His care of my children?  His plan for my life?

Do I trust that He can work through any decision I make? 

Do I trust that He can do immeasurably more than all I ask or imagine…but that might mean it doesn’t look at all like I’d hoped but it will still be good?

Do I trust Him to love me regardless of my mistakes and missteps?                                        

Do I trust that He will lead me?

Do I trust Him?

I do trust Him even though at times I don’t understand what He is allowing or doing or not doing at all.

I do trust Him even when I desperately what Him to fix things for us and His timing is very slow in my estimation.

I do trust Him even when I feel like I can’t bear one more decision…one more heartache…one more difficulty…one more broken anything.

I do trust Him when I can’t provide for my children like I’d like to.

I do trust Him when things don’t go the way I thought they would…and my way seems soo much better.

I do trust Him that He is leading even though I haven’t gotten any lightning bolts with memos attached…no GPS from God…no heavenly updates on the plan.

I do trust that He loves my children and is working in their lives.

I do trust that He will always love me.

I do.

Wow!  That really helped.  Listing all those things…that gives me some perspective.  It is much easier to rest in that trust when I remind myself of it.

Actually the best thing was reminding myself of the object of my trust…

Trust in the Lord with all of your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths.  Proverbs 3:5-6

So the decisions I need to make…particularly the biggest one…I will pray, seek Scripture, seek some counsel…but I’m going to trust that my Father has prepared me to make wise decisions.  I’m going to trust that He will work in my life whatever I decide.  I’m going to trust that I cannot step outside of His sovereignty. 

Now THAT gives me some peace.

 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.  Not as the world gives do I give to you.  Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.  John 14:27

Got Direction?

photo (23)Does anyone else have a pile of book on or around their nightstand?  Mine is getting to the point of ridiculous.

Not only that but there are books on the chest at the foot of my bed, stacked in bookshelves throughout my house, and in various bags I carry around in the off chance I’ll have a moment to read.

I joke that my house is combustible.

The other day I had a moment to pick up a book, but I couldn’t figure out which one I should read…

The book to help me discern how best to raise my sons to be godly young men?

The book about helping my teenage daughter makes good and healthy decisions?

The book about learning issues for my 1st grade daughter?

The book about parenting strong-willed children for my youngest daughter?

The book about dealing with emotions for me?

The book about believing God’s word in an age of skepticism for my brain?

The books about trust or grace or peace or hope or relationships?

Or the mystery novel hidden beneath them all just waiting to be enjoyed?

I can’t even say I have a preference at this moment.  I just want to have read them all so I can already know what I need to do!

A few months ago I decided that I didn’t want to read another parenting book…ever.  And yet I have a stack of books on my nightstand that in one way or another could be considered parenting books.

I guess I just gotta admit it…I want answers.  I’m searching for direction.  I need help!!  photo 1 (2)

Right now everything is up in the air.  Literally everything.  I have no idea where God is going to lead me…how my kids are going to be educated….what I’m going to be doing…where we will be living…

It seems that all my perfect scenarios are on hold…everything is in someone else’s hands  And it would be easy for me to think that that someone else is the administrator or principal at a school, or the potential buyer of my house, or a book publisher, or any number of people in my life…

But the reality is…the REALITY is that Someone else’s hand is in control.  God’s.

And I am at once thankful for the realization and also struggling to rest in that knowledge.  It seems that God has not often done things the way I would have liked…or in the way I think would be best for us.  And I get all twisted up in knots because I want so desperately for things to go one way and I have a feeling that isn’t the way they are going to go.

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I keep having to remind myself that I TRUST GOD!  Because I do.  I do trust Him. I know I can trust Him…and I know He is going to handle all this stuff in the perfect way.  It’s just so much stuff and it is so difficult to give up control of all of it.  And yet, I don’t really want to be in charge…I hate making decisions.  I just want God to show me what to do and I’ll do it.

I think my problem is with His timing.  It seems to take Him forever to show me.  I joke that He usually reveals it to me in the 11th hour and 59th minute.  Apparently the Lord REALLY wants me to trust Him.

So I’m excited to see how my life is going to come together. I’m so very curious about where God is going to have us this fall.  I’m intrigued by how He is going to address the issues…resolve the difficulties…meet me in the struggles.

I know that He will.   He always has before.  Right now though, I just want an update.  I just want Him to reveal something…a glimpse of the plan.  But I don’t think that’s gonna happen.

I’m learning to live these verses:

I waited patiently for the LORD; he inclined to me and heard my cry. Psalm 40:1

Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD! Psalm 27:14

Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act.  He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday.  Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices!  Psalm 37:5-7

Have you not know?  Have you not heard?  The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.  He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.  He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength.  Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.  Isaiah 40:28-31

I see a theme of patience.  Ugh.

Just to be honest, I have NOT prayed for patience.  (I know better. 🙂 )

Patience is not one of my virtues.  I know I have the Holy Spirit so I have that fruit in my life.  I just don’t often take bites of it.  I’m probably more likely to wing that piece of fruit at a problem rather than apply it gently.

But I believe that God is asking me to trust patiently.  And even though I know I can absolutely trust my Father…I gotta be honest that I want answers now…in fact, I wanted answers yesterday, last week, long before now.  I’ve got things to do, decisions to make, and places to go (or not go)…I need direction.

I keep thinking I’ll find it somewhere, but unfortunately I don’t believe any of the massive number of books I own are going to tell me what to do or exactly what God is going to do. photo 3 (2) I can read them though and many will remind me of how great is my God and how worthy of my trust He is!

I’ve said it before and I’m saying it again, God has a plan, it’s already in motion, and it is good!

Maybe I won’t worry about which book on my nightstand I’ll read, but rather I’ll pick up my Bible.  I’ll remind myself of my great God who has orchestrated amazing things throughout history and who will beautifully orchestrate my life and the lives of my children.  I just need to BE STILL and BE QUIET and BE READY!

Looking for Peace in all the Wrong Places

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I believe I’m carrying burdens I wasn’t meant to, but I don’t know how to let them go.

People are always advising me to just trust God and let go of the worry.  I’m trying to…I truly am.

I know I can trust God.

I think I can let go of the worry.

But somewhere in all that trust and letting go, I’ve got decisions to make.

And decisions stress me out so much…soooo much.

I really struggle with the whole process.

Especially the 2nd guessing part of the process – which is definitely a part of my processing process.

When my husband left and I became a single parent, one of the first things I really really found challenging was all the decisions I had to make.

I’m not good at decisions.

I have a very clear memory of a conversation with God during my first year of single parenting, “Lord, really?  (all my prayers seemed to start with that phrase) I felt like I finally understood the whole submission thing…the whole let my husband lead thing…and now I’m the leader of the family?  Honestly God, I prefer the helpmate role much better.”

God reminded me that He would equip me for whatever He called me to and apparently He had called me to single parenting.

Ugh.

I was and still am up to the challenge…but I don’t like the challenge.

For me the biggest part of this challenge is that my thought processes truly are like mental spaghetti.

Everything gets all tangled up together in my head.  I mean I just don’t know what to do…everything impacts everything else, at least in my head.  And every decision has a thousand repercussions – and each child is impacted differently by each decisions…some for the better, some not.  And every decision makes me bonkers…and even after I finally make a decisions, I second-guess like a crazy woman.

I want to make decisions and find peace. But is decision-making just about being at peace?

Peace.  Oh how I want peace all the time.

A friend recently shared that maybe I need to not worry about making the right decisions and instead make decisions with the purpose of doing something to glorify God…doing something for God.

That thought has rocked my world.

I’m still pondering but I thought I’d share because maybe you’ll share your thoughts with me.

I have to trust that God is going to work in all my decisions.  When my oldest was choosing a college I told him that it didn’t matter where he went because God would use him wherever he was.  As long as he didn’t go to The Cult College (which doesn’t exist to my knowledge) he should be just fine.

I think that’s true.  If my desire is to honor God wherever I am, does it matter where I go?  Or what I choose to do? As long as whatever I do or wherever I go honor God and His word.

This reminds me of Jeremiah 29:4-7

Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon:  Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce.  Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease.  But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.

The Israelites were in captivity when God said this to them.  They were absolutely NOT in the perfect situation by any stretch of the imagination.  Except…except that it was where God had them and where God told them to make lives!  They weren’t to wait for perfect.

I think I’m looking for the perfect situation and it just doesn’t exist.  That is the stress in my decisions.  I’m assuming that there is a perfect situation, a best answer.  I’m forgetting that we live on this planet…which is decidedly not perfect.  I will not find perfection.

I just have to make decisions based on the God’s guidance in His word, a lot of prayer, the facts I have, the best things I know how to do, and godly counsel.  But sometimes the Word of God doesn’t exactly address my situation.

Like right now the biggest decision I need to make isn’t covered by Scripture.  So what do I do?  Pray, seek counsel, make an informed decision, and trust God!

I almost put the word “just” before that last sentence.  I know I’ve used it already in this post, but “just” seems like a word that signifies something easy and the whole decision-making process is not at all easy!  At least not for me.

But I’m pretty sure I’ve established that point already!

I guess what God is showing me is that the burden I’m carrying is to provide the perfect scenario for all my children, to choose the perfect employment situation for me and the perfect education situation for my children, to give my children the perfect opportunities, the perfect home, and the perfect single parent family I can.  But I can’t make things perfect – never have been, never will be.

And my decisions don’t have the power to provide perfection.

My decisions can honor God though.

My decisions can glorify Him.

My decisions can bless us.

I’m going to try to develop a whole new way of approaching decisions.  There is a lot of stress I can leave behind when I realize there isn’t going to be a perfect answer, and there might not even be a best answer.

Unless the questions is, “How and where do I want to glorify God?”

And that question isn’t a burden at all.  The answer is however I can and wherever I am.

So I will plan and dream and pray, and I will let God lead the way.

 Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.  Proverbs 19:21