Can I Say “Really?!?” to God?

IMG_7221Have you ever felt like the verse you just read, the devotional you just opened, or the thought someone just shared was…well…for lack of a better word…ugh?

My sister-in-law Debbie sent me a devotional this morning. She surprises me with really beautiful encouraging texts. Just when I need them. This morning the devotional included this verse:

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

But this morning, I responded, “Wow and ugh…”

And then I thought, when am I going to stop responding to God’s word with ugh?

When am I going to stop having such a negative view of His plans, will, and timing?

Because really, when I consider who He is and how He does things, shouldn’t I be really excited about His plan for my life?

He is perfect…His ways are perfect. His timing is perfect…who can’t get excited about perfect timing?

His plans are big picture plans like REALLY big picture…like eternity big picture plans. I have next 30 second picture plans. And even then my plans are still clouded by my not perfect thinking.

So when God says humble myself under Him and at the proper (just the right time) time, he will lift me up…why wouldn’t I humble myself?

What does that look like? Humble myself. I feel humbled a lot lately. But I think my definition of humbled is all screwy. My feeling like a failure is not me being humble. In fact, there is probably a little bit more pride than humility in that.

Humbling myself under God’s mighty hand is more about acknowledging that He is bigger, wiser, stronger, and better than me. In all the best ways.

Humbling myself under God’s mighty hand is me saying, “All yours, Lord. All of me. All my stuff. All my hopes, dreams, and even all my stress.”

Hence, the later verses… “…casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”

I can picture myself…loading all my stuff into a big old black trash bag…my stresses, feelings of failure, fears, insecurities, and even my hopes and dreams.

Struggling to sling it over my shoulder. Staggering under its weight – I have a lot of stuff to put in it.

Stumbling up to the throne of grace and laying it tentatively albeit awkwardly at His feet.

Stepping back embarrassed. My messy, sweaty self. Head down. Knees down.

I tentatively look up. The bag of burden is already gone.

And the only thing I see.   The only thing.     His eyes. Tender. Compassionate. Loving. Kind. Gracious. Smiling. Focused. Waiting for me to look.

Really look at Him. Really see.

See His love. See His forgiveness. See His strength.

And now my eyes adjust to the beauty of those eyes and now I see that His whole face is smiling at me.

He really loves me. Me.

Shaky, ashamed, red-faced me.

I’m still shocked that big ole ugly bag is gone. Doesn’t He want to pull it all out in front of me? Make me answer for it? Make me understand the great sacrifice dealing with it all is going to be? Doesn’t He want me to know what a mess I am?

I don’t understand. It must show in my face.

His smile softens more, if that is even possible. And He says to me, “Dearest child, it is finished. I finished it at the Cross. When I look at you, the apple of my eye, I only see my precious daughter.”

Is it okay to say “really?” to God?

Because sometimes when I realize His love for me…when I cannot deny what His word says about me, I want to say, “Really, Lord?” Do you really love me? Really? Because I’m so not who I think you want me to be. I want to be so much better.

And again, I cannot deny His word…He loves me.

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are! 1 John 3:1

The thing that really surprised me when I was looking at verses about love was how often love is paired with mercy and forgiveness.

The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin… Exodus 34:6-7

Just what I need – a lot of love and a lot of mercy and a lot of forgiveness.

When I drag my big ole bag of burden to my Savior, He greets me with mercy, forgiveness, and love.

Since 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. Hebrews 4:14-16

Now if I could just leave the bag there and not feel like I need to pick it all back up again.

Each day is a new day of mercy…a new day to begin again. A fresh start. Burden free.

Seems impossible right now. I pray and lay my burden down. I trust that God can handle it, but for some unknown reason I begin almost immediately to find things to stress about…and very often the very same things.

How do I lay it down and not pick it back up again? How do I trust when the answer isn’t there immediately or the situation still exists or the fear flairs again? How do I do it?

I guess that is another thing to pray about…that must be why God says to pray continually…without ceasing. Keep my mind focused on him…keep my thoughts centered on him….hold fast to the word of life.

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

I guess when God shows me something that’s what I REALLY need to do instead of just always feeling like ugh and “Really?!!”

I think I’ll try  responding “Ok!” instead.

Maybe even a “Yes!”

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 that was set before him endured the cross despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2

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Be Encouraged

IMG_1866Everyone has something.

You know that thing. That thing that you feel will never go away. Never be easy. Never be uncomplicated. Never be what you want it to be. Never be overcome.

I have a few somethings.

Some things I can’t figure out what to do about. Some things that baffle me. Some things that trip me up continually. Some things that I can’t figure out how to overcome.

Sometimes I feel like the somethings are not some things but rather my whole life.

Sometimes I feel like it is all one hopeless mess and there is simply no way to get on the other side.

And sometimes the other side scares me too. What if the other side is even more complicated and challenging? This side, albeit not always fun, is comfortable in a weird, familiar slightly twisted sort of way.

It sure is easy to get comfortable in uncomfortableness…why is that?

I’m not talking about content in my circumstances, I’m talking about comfortable in challenging, tempting, and maybe even sinful situations. It can feel like it is easier just to stay…easier to just hunker down in my unhealthiness. It’s hard to be strong.

Recently I found myself saying to a friend, “What does it mean to be strong in the Lord? What does that look like? What is my responsibility in that? Clearly I need to be doing something because nothing is happening right now that looks anything like me living in the strength of the Lord.”

That’s me being a bit of a petulant child and feeling a little hopeless.

That was Friday.

On Sunday, God answered me.

1 John 2:14 I write to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.

I know that I am neither a father nor a young man, but I am a mother (who sometimes needs to be the father) and I am a relatively young woman (LOL!) so I’m thinking that God had John write that verse for such a time as this, for me.

It reminded me that there is strength in remembering what God has done for me. How He has stepped into my world in ways I couldn’t imagine. Even saying that He stepped in doesn’t do it justice, because that implies that He wasn’t there from the start. He has always been with me. But occasionally His presence is so real and comforting I’m in awe of His love for me.

Strength and comfort come from remembering…from thankfulness and praise for His faithfulness in the past and the understanding that that faithfulness never ends.

And then there are John’s comforting words to the young men (and women),

1. You are strong.

2. The word of God abides in you

3. You have overcome the evil one.

It seems the key to strength lies in His word. In continually abiding in it and it in you. There are a few verses in the Bible that are testimonies to this truth…that the Word of God is power and strength and hope. Things I really would like to have when dealing with some things…well, every thing.

John 8:31-32  If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

2 Timothy 2:15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.

Psalm 119:11 I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.

Psalm 119: 28 My soul melts away for sorrow, strengthen me according to your word.

Psalm 119:92 If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction.

Psalm 119:165 Great peace have those who love your law; nothing can make them stumble.

“Nothing can make them stumble.”

Nothing.

How lovely, comforting, strengthening.

There are other verses about peace that God brings me to a bunch…

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

I love those verses. How comforting it is to read the Word of God. To see the layers, the depth, the thoughtfulness of God in His word. To know that God loves me so much…that His mercy is beyond simply a judge offering mercy to an offender…it is the tender mercy of a Father offered to his child. A child who justly deserves no mercy, but receives it every time.

Every single time I come to God asking a questions…every single time…His answer is the gospel.

And every single time He uses His word to remind me.

I am strong.

I am strong because I have the Word of God and I have overcome evil because of Jesus…because of the Gospel.

(So this is the English teacher in me – but it is so cool!)  That sentence in 1 John 2:14 is written in the perfect indicative which means that these things have already happened and that’s a fact. That there is assurance that these are not just things that could happen, but that they are facts, that they have already been accomplished.

So you and I are strong already.

The word of God abides in us already.

We have overcome the evil one already.

And not because of any great accomplishment or strength on our part, but because of the great accomplishment of Christ on the cross and because of the strength of the Lord in our lives.

Jesus is the Overcomer so that I can overcome.

John 16:33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart, I have overcome the world.

There is the assurance of trouble BUT there is also the assurance of peace and overcoming. Yup. That’s pretty much what I need to hear… Trouble will come…don’t be surprised or disheartened by it. Instead, turn to Him who is your peace and be encouraged.

Be encouraged that no matter how crazy this world may be, He has got it.

Be encouraged that no matter how much you struggle and fail, He loves you and He’s got you.

Be encouraged that no matter how hopeless it might seem, He loves you and He’s got a plan.

Be encouraged that no matter how weak you feel, He can handle your life for you. He’s got your strength…it’s there for you.

Be encouraged dear one.

The God who offers his tender mercies to you, the God who calls you his precious child, the God who assures you that you are his treasured possession, bought at great price and dearly loved…this all powerful, all loving, all hope-filled, all merciful, all faithful, all everything God…this Father of ours…He loves you.

He loves you. You…in your messiness, your hopelessness, your weakness, your sinfulness, your doubt, your fear, your anxious thoughts… He loves you.

He. Loves. YOU.

He isn’t waiting for you to do some great, noble, brave task to earn his peace, or his strength, or his love. He just loves you.

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

1 John 3:10; 19 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins…We love because he first loved us.

Psalm 103:8 The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

I keep looking for ways to overcome, to change, to fix, to redo this life of mine. I keep looking for ways to be comforted, to be strengthened, to be assured…and I’ve very often not looked to the right place. God reminded me today.

This place in His word…this is the place I want to stay. This is the place where my strength is renewed and my hope is restored.

Failure to Identify

IMG_3121Don’t you just LOVE it when God hits you right between the eyes with truth?

I’m not being sarcastic…truly.

The other night at my Bible study we were talking about finding our identity in Christ.

A topic I have explored often and tried to grasp continually.

I have spent the last several years pretty consistently reminding myself of who I am in Christ.

Apparently, I need A LOT of reminding.  I seem to always be forgetting…losing sight of it.

So our very dear leader gave each of us a visual about where we find our identity.  Listed around the edges were possibilities of things that we might find our identity in rather than Christ.

The usual…family, accomplishments, job, home, etc.

I looked at the options and realized I don’t find my identity in any of those things…I don’t want to.

But not for the good reason.

Rather because I feel like I’m failing in everything….all of them.

Every. Last. One.

It sunk in deeply.  All of sudden, I realized my struggle.

I realized why I simply can’t seem to get myself to a better place.  Why no matter how much I stick my face in scripture and pray…I’m still holding on to my false identity.

And then my sweet leader said that she struggled with finding her identity in her failures.

Failures?

Seriously, finding our identity in our failures?

Oh my goodness.  That’s me.

I have been wallowing in my real and perceived failures.

I look at myself as a failure…every day.

God looks at me as His dear daughter…every day.

Why can’t I grasp that?

I was so impacted by the lesson…I didn’t say a whole lot because I was trying to process what this all meant.  How was I going to change this identity crisis?

I was really excited when I got home.  I shared with my kids how the Bible study had so deeply impacted me.

And then…

Then I went upstairs to get little girls ready for bed…

And I lost my mind.

I was my feeling-like-a-failure, fussy, frustrated self.  I was impatient, unkind, irritated, and spoke words that I regret.  My tone was not kind.  My mood was not good.

How had I gone from convicted to crazy?

How had my heart-searching, mind-opening experience at Bible study worn off so fast?

I felt like even more of a failure.

If that was even possible.

Apparently, it was.

Oh Lord, why?  Why can’t I be better?

Then it hit me…well, it’s still hitting me.

I can’t be better without Him.

As long as I’m focusing on my own issues, I can’t find my identity in anything but me…and I’m a mess.

It is all about my righteousness…my ability to live right, to be right, to speak right, to act right, to know right.

Unfortunately, I can’t seem to do any of those.  Maybe it is because when I say “right” I really mean “perfectly”.

I know I can’t be perfect.  I am oh so aware of that.

Why must I constantly set myself up for failure by assuming that I can be perfect?  It’s not like I really believe I can be.  I just want to be.  I expect myself to be.

I want to be the best mom for my kids.  I believe right now I’m barely passable as a mom.

I want to do my job well, inspire my students and have great relationships with my coworkers.  I’m so tired, overwhelmed, and disappointed that I find myself struggling to be a positive and encouraging person at work.

I want to be a good friend, daughter, and sister, but I don’t seem to have time to invest or bless.

I want to have a perfectly ordered home.  At this point I’d settle for not tripping over something everyday.

I long to have time to rest, write, read, and simply hang out and watch TV or play a game.  I barely have time to brush my teeth before I fall asleep at night.

I feel like my lack of time, lack of patience, lack of sleep, lack of joy in work, lack of fellowship, lack of order is all and completely my fault.

BUT when I take a step back…look at things from a different perspective.  I see that my expectations are ridiculous.

RIDICULOUS.

The other day someone said, “But you are single working mom…you remember that right?”

Yeah, how can I forget?

I am where God wants me.

How I wish he wanted me in a cabin somewhere…with a roaring fire, a good book, and some good friends surrounding me.

But that isn’t where I’m to be right now.

I’m to live here and now.

As is.

I’m to focus on life with Him…life as His daughter.  Life as the woman he has made me to be…not the woman I think I should be.

Even as I type that I wonder…but isn’t there a woman I should be…shouldn’t I aspire for more?

Yes…and no.

Yes, it is a good thing to aspire to be better…to live better.

No, not if it is my identity.

My identity rests securely in the fact that God has redeemed me…called me by name…I’m HIS (Isaiah 43:1).

Sometimes I look at this list I made a few years ago and remind myself again…who I am.

I am a new creation (Colossians 3:9-10); God’s workmanship (Ephesians 2:10); loved (Ephesians 2:4, 1 Thessalonians 1:4); precious in God’s eyes, honored and loved (Isaiah 43:4); redeemed (Isaiah 43:1); Called by name (Isaiah 43:1); free from condemnation (Romans 8:2); forgiven (Ephesians 1:7, Colossians 2:12); a child of God (1 Peter 1:23)  Christ lives in me (Galatians 2:20), a friend of God (John 15:15), blessed with every spiritual blessing (Ephesians 1:3); chosen (Ephesians 1:4, Colossians 3:12); holy and beloved (Colossians 3:12, Ephesians 5:1); righteous (2 Corinthians 5:21); have a reason to be joyful, prayerful and thankful (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18); filled with the Holy Spirit and all His fruit (Galatians 5:22); saved by grace (Ephesians 2:8-9); reconciled to God (Romans 5:6-11); more than a conqueror (Romans 8:37); free (John 8:36, Galatians 5:1 an ambassador (2 Corinthians 5:20); holy and blameless before Him (Colossians 1:22); called out of darkness into His glorious light (1 Peter 2:9, Colossians 1:13); an overcomer (Revelation 12:11); a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19-20); the light of the world (Matthew 5:14); not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls. (Hebrews 10:39).  And even if I am afflicted in every way, I am not crushed; perplexed, I will not be driven to despair; persecuted, I will not be forsaken; struck down, I will not destroyed (2 Corinthians 4:7-10).

Sometimes it helps to remind myself that I am so much more than I think I am.

I am not defined by my successes or my failures.

Say it again.

I am not defined by my failures.

I am not defined by what I accomplish, what I say, what I don’t say, how I parent, how I teach, how I take care of my home, how much I read or pray or study or speak or write, how many friends I have, how much time I spend doing anything or everything…I am defined ONLY BY HIM.

I think right now my favorite definition of me is precious.  That has been my favorite for a long time.

Maybe it is because I felt so “unprecious” when my husband left.  In his eyes I was not an excellent wife.

She is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with her. Proverbs 3:15

An excellent wife who can find.  She is far more precious than jewels. Proverbs 31:10

Maybe it is because I feel unworthy of being precious to anyone.

Not that God hasn’t put people in my life who treat me as precious.  He has.  Definitely.

Why do I feel so unworthy of being considered anything good?  Why does it feel like a sham?

…and yet God…

God says I am.

I am precious.

Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you.  Isaiah 43:4

Precious.

Honored.

Loved.

Those aren’t words that define a failure.

But they do define me.

Logically, that must mean I’m not a failure.

I am defined by who I am in Christ…not who I am in my mind.

Yet another area that I need to focus on Christ not myself.

I’m so thankful for the 2×4 of truth that God gave me the other night.  I’m so thankful that He never seems to tire of telling me again and again and again who I am…that I am His.

I’m so thankful that I am not defined by what or how I feel, but rather by who He is.

I am His.

I am precious.

I am all that He says I am.

 “I will greatly rejoice in the LORD; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness…” Isaiah 61: 10

A Deep Breath

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

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

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

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

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

I’m overwhelmed by fears and hurt for another.

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

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

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

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

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

Who brings life out of death.

Who speaks truth into lies.

Who binds up the brokenhearted.

Who restores the lost.

Who redeems the bound.

Who heals the sick.

Who loves the unlovely.

Who forgives the fallen.

Who comforts the heartbroken.

Who is faithful to the faithless.

Who is my Father…my Savior…my Comforter.

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

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

“Overwhelming for us but not our Lord.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Before…and After

IMG_2778God has brought me far.

Some may think I need to be farther along on this path of healing and hoping and growing.

But I believe I am.

I’m much farther along than I was before my life changed quickly and irrevocably.

I’m much farther along than the days before…

Before  …            after

So much is measured by those words.

Before

After

It’s the “…” that shook me to the core, but it’s the words that sometimes seem to define me.

It’s okay I think.

To be here…in the after place still pondering the before at times.

It’s okay to not think a whole lot about the “…” at this point.

That has been done and dealt with and forgiven and it is now in the healing stages.

But now I’m looking at the me before and the me after.

And, although there is so very much I would change about me, there are some ways that God has done beautiful things in me and in my life.

This morning God brought it to mind in a rather odd way.

Last night I hit my head so hard and caused such damage a woman near me actually yelled out…it made me laugh in my pain.  It was one of those head wounds that swells to the size of a golf ball immediately and pours blood all over the place.  It was quite dramatic…I mean if you are gonna do something, do it well, right?

Anywho.

It made for completely changed evening plans as I decided to sit still on the sofa…me and my throbbing head.

But God was so gracious and I had a wonderful conversation with my oldest daughter into the wee hours of the morning.  Totally worth the lost sleep.

What I didn’t know was that my silly old lab would need me in the middle of the night and my littlest girls would each have bad dreams, and every time I rolled over my head would feel like I was rolling on a cinderblock rather than a pillow.

Not a restful night at all, but amazingly I feel okay this morning.  God is gracious.

Right after I turned off my alarm, I saw that I had a comment on my blog.  I hit the button and read it.

Ouch.

Double ouch.

I have often felt compelled to accept those difficult comments…put them up and try to respond graciously.

But today I don’t know if I want to…not because I’m angry or hurt, but because I don’t believe it is edifying to anyone or helpful or even kind.

It did bring to mind something God has been doing in my life over the past several years though.  Even something that He has revealed to me recently.

This comment was about comparison and name-calling…or maybe I should say “negative categorizing.”

I haven’t had a problem with calling others names, but oh have I had a problem with comparison.

Both comparisons that make me feel worse and comparisons that make me feel better…at least for a bit.

Recently I heard someone say that he was going to be out of town for the weekend and his wife was going to be a single parent for the weekend.

I instantly wanted to say, “Really?”

Umm…no.

Single parenting is more than just not having another parent around for the day…it is a thousand decisions, actions, reactions, activities, and sleepless nights. It is more than just having to deal with children alone…it is doing it ALL alone.

And then I had to stop and think.

(Something I should really do a lot more.)

So what?  So what if this dear husband wanted to say that about his sweet wife?  That was wonderful that he recognized it was going to be a challenging weekend for her…and I’m sure it was.

Does my struggle lessen her struggle in any way?

NO!

God has continually reminded me over the last several years…ironically during the most difficult part of my life…that other people’s struggles are no less valid just because they don’t seem THAT bad to me.

Sometimes I can even own my suffering and struggles a little too much for my own good. They become my defining feature…

Does that even make sense?

There have been times in a Bible study when I have listened to prayer requests from others and wanted to say, “Really, that’s all you got?!?!”

What!?!?!

What would possess me to be so judgmental?  So prideful?  So unkind?

I honestly don’t know apart from the obvious…sin.

And that is what God has been dealing with in my life.  The sin of comparison – which is probably the sin of pride or discontent or both.

I can look at other women and think, “Gosh, I’m such a mess. Why can’t I have it all together like them?” or “Why do they get it so “easy”?”

Or I can look at another woman and think, “You think THAT is challenging…let me share challenging.”

I cringe to even typing those words, because I know that we all struggle in different ways and for different causes.  Life is challenging for all of us.

I will say it again…just because I find my life challenging doesn’t mean that your life isn’t.  And just because my situation doesn’t look challenging to you, doesn’t mean it isn’t challenging to me.

And you know what?  No matter where we are in life, someone has it worse off.  We pretty much just need to turn on the news and see that fact.

I guess where I’m going with all this is that there really isn’t any place for us to start comparing, condemning, and criticizing each other.  There just isn’t.

Here is what we are called to do for one another:

Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him.  1 Corinthians 7:17

Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.  Let all that you do be done in love. 1 Corinthians 16:13

…let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.  So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.  Galatians 6:9-10

…walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Ephesians 4:1-3

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving on another, as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4:32

Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.  Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Philippians 2:3-4

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.  And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.  And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body.  And be thankful.  Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singling psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.  And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:12-17

 

Let’s be gracious and kind to one another…let’s not devour each other over the perception of the good or bad in someone else’s life.

Really when it comes down to it…the focus of our lives should be thankfulness…because the focus of our lives should be the Gospel.

When I have the perspective of grace I cannot be dragged down by comparisons, either ones others make or the ones I make.

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.  For he himself is our peace…Ephesians 2:13-14

I believe I’m still growing…still learning how to be the woman God has created me to be…still measuring my life, to some extent, by the before and after…but I’m learning how to be more graceful.

I’m offering grace to me more.  And offering grace to others more.  At least I’m trying to – not always easy.

God has called us to it, so let’s do it.

Let’s love one another.

Let’s cheer for one another.

Let’s encourage one another.

Let’s be glad for one another.

Let’s weep with one another.

Let’s laugh with one another.

Let’s help one another.

Let’s be about grace to one another!

Day 3 – All About Me

winter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ouch.  That’s embarrassing too.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Immediately this verse from Isaiah popped into my head –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Life…Living It

autumn trailThank you so much for all your encouraging words and prayers.  I feel badly that I have used this blog so often to share my struggles, and lately not as much my blessings.

I kinda feel like I’m just plugging along waiting for God to “fix” some things.  He definitely doesn’t work on my schedule…at all…I mean….AT ALL!

But He has encouraged me this week, and for that I’m so very thankful.

I’ve been doing a study on the book of Hebrews…not an easy study, but very good.  This week I was asked to read about the Israelites, particularly the part where they are complaining. That is a BIG part of their history. And mine. I know that I have compared myself to the Israelites before…I’m a grumbler just like them, dang it.

Did you ever think about the fact that the Israelites who had to wander in the wilderness because of their unwillingness to trust God were the generation who had witnessed all of the signs and wonders of God?  That hit me this week.

Those people had lived through the plagues of Egypt….they’d witnessed God changing the hearts of the Egyptians so much so that they gave them jewelry and animals and stuff to take on their journey…they’d followed the pillar of smoke during the day and been comforted by the pillar of fire at night, they’d walked through a wall of water, they’d eaten manna, feasted on quail and seen water come from a rock…Good grief!  It seems like even one of those signs or wonders would be enough to convince someone to follow God forever.

And yet, they struggled.  They weren’t worse people than us…in fact, they were very much like we are now.

Lord, give me a sign.  Lord, this is too hard.  Lord, I know you promised, but I’d sure like it now.  Lord, that Promised Land looks scary.  Lord, are you sure?  Lord, this way looks so much better, easier, nicer, fun…  Lord, do you mind if I just do my own thing this one time?  Lord?

In my life…I really wish that things had already changed…that things had gotten better by now – better in my terms.

This place that I am…I wonder…Is it my Egypt?  My wilderness?  Or is it my walk into the Promised Land?

I don’t believe it is my Egypt…I’m no longer a slave.  Jesus made sure of that.

Is it my wilderness?  I guess I have to evaluate my life…my walk with the Lord.  Have I missed milk and honey for caffeine and sugar?  (Pretty much living on caffeine and sugar 🙂 )

I don’t think I’m in a wilderness.  I think I’m where God wants me.  Oh gosh, I hope so.

Am I walking to the Promised Land?  I believe I am on that journey…maybe it’s not the journey to a promised land here on earth, maybe it’s THE Promised Land.

But maybe trying to match my walk with the Israelites isn’t exactly the walk I should be trying to match.  There are other stories…other people with unique walks.

Maybe my story is gonna be more like Joseph – lots of hard stuff before the great reveal.

Maybe my story is gonna be more like Ruth – sorrow, hard work, barley and Boaz.

Maybe my story is gonna be more like Esther – a season of service, preparation, fasting, then feasting.

Maybe my story is gonna be more like Peter – some dipping below the surface of the stormy sea, some denial, and some serious forgiveness.

Maybe I’m a little bit like all of them…a combination of chaos!  🙂  Well, not chaos…just a little bit of crazy.

I wonder if I should stop trying to figure out whose life my life is like and just live the life God has given me to live.

My life.

Exhausting, but blessed.

I used to keep a list of thing I considered blessings.  Things like the colors of fall, playing the piano, the sound of tires driving on gravel, waves crashing on the beach, a breeze blowing the curtains, hot cocoa in coffee, a hug from one of my children, a text from a friend…there were (and are) so many things in any given day that were a blessing.  I’ve lost sight of that.  I’ve forgotten to count my blessings.

Again.

How often am I going to forget to count blessings?  (Don’t answer that.  I’m ashamed what your guess would be…especially based on my blogging.)

So this study in Hebrews has reminded me of some things to be thankful for.  I’ll share a few that have comforted and convicted me.

“…his works were finished from the foundation of the world.” 4:3  (Nothing left to do!)

“Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.  Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”  4:14-16

“Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.”  7:25

“For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.” 9:24

“…so Christ having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.” 9:28

“…let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.  Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.” 10:22-23

“Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward.  For you have need of endurance so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised…But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.” 10:35-36,39

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”  12:1-2

I know that’s a lot of verses, but I couldn’t figure out which one I’d want to leave out!  I love them all.  Studying scripture is so encouraging…so edifying.  God does still speak so strongly through His word.  I’m so thankful for His word!  There!! That’s the first thing I’ll add to my new thankful list I’m gonna restart tonight.

What a perfect time to get back to thanking God for things!

I don’t know that it’ll fix my life, but an attitude, outlook, and perspective fix will definitely be a good thing…actually, it’ll be a great thing!

When You Just Need to See Him…

snowy trees and sky

While standing in the line at the grocery store yesterday, my phone rang.  It was a friend from church.  She said, “Hey, I’m bringing dinner to you tonight – you gonna be there in 30 minutes?”

I’m sure the lady at the register thought I was a little nuts (yeah that happens a lot) because my eyes welled up with tears. 

It’s been one of those couple of weeks where I’ve been blessed to see God provide again and again and again.  I’m not talking about huge things…it’s a bunch of little things that just speak such tender love to me from my Father.

Its meals that are provided at just the right time.  Its 2 hour delays when I could really use a little more sleep.  Its people doing unexpectedly kind things for me when I least expect it,

A few weeks ago when I broke my foot I was placed in a pretty purple cast.  We’ll apparently my leg is claustrophobic because in the middle of the night it was just desperate to be out of that blasted cast.  During the day all was fine, but come 3am…not so good.  I’d end up getting up because otherwise I’d just be lying in bed thinking about it and feeling like I was gonna go bonkers. 

And sleep, being such a precious commodity, lost for a silly claustrophobic leg is completely unacceptable.  So after a sleepless week, I made an appointment to go back to the doctor and beg him to take it off. 

I’d researched online and found out that a boot is an acceptable alternative.  The doctor was very kind, but he said my break is a difficult one to heal and the cast was preferable.  When I shared that I had been up since 3 am and a little bit about my life, he immediately said, “Let’s get that cast off and see how well your foot is healing and if all is good you can use the boot.”

Alleluia!  I prayed fervently that my bone looked okay so I wouldn’t leave with another colorful cast.  Praise God no new cast was necessary. 

As I was preparing to leave, the doctor said, “I don’t want you to have a copay – please tell the ladies up front to refund you.”  I practically burst into tears.  I’d been lamenting the cost of my claustrophobia and here God loved me again through a very kind and thoughtful doctor.  It was especially nice because it was absolutely an unnecessary appointment in the grand scheme of things. 

I wish I could remember all the little things that have happened to encourage me in a day – but they are hidden in my heart. 

 The gracious love of my Savior extends even to the smallest detail of my day.

How He loves me. 

There is such comfort in those little blessings – sometimes more than the big stuff. 

It’s a precious reminder that God walks with me every minute of every day – He doesn’t just show up for the big stuff.  I’ve seen Him during the storms, felt Him during the pain, heard Him during the questions, and known Him during the trauma. He is showing me that He is there every moment, whether big or small. 

I want to encourage you to find Him in your day…look for Him in those small moments…seek Him in the seconds…listen for Him as you live each day. 

Write down those moments, those reminders of His love for you, so you can look back and be blessed.

You can remember that He’s there. 

He’s here.

Oh how He loves you.

Blissfully Aware

clutterSomeone shared with me recently that if a fire fighter trips and hurts himself while trying to save you from your burning house, you can be sued…for a lot of money.

I’m not sure why my friend shared that with me…well, maybe it was a subtle encouragement regarding the clutter in my home.

Golly, I hope my house doesn’t catch on fire ’cause I’d get sued for sure!

There’s just something about the hallway upstairs…it’s full of tripping hazards. Laundry, books, baskets of odds and ends, piles of dirty clothes, towels (damp and dry), an occasional doll, parts of games, sometime a pair of shoes or just one, and a basket of a ridiculous amount of odd socks.

The most confounding thing is that my children are oblivious! Honestly, I believe it’s all invisible to them. What is that?

And why don’t I have it?

What a blessing blissfully unaware would be!

Unfortunately I’m exceedingly aware of the messiness and all the tripping hazards…and it’s driving me bonkers.

Of course, being driven bonkers implies that it’s my destination…I think bonkers is the vehicle I’m riding in.

I just can’t figure out if I’m driving it or riding in it!

I’ve always wanted an organized, beautiful home. Who doesn’t?!
In the past I wanted order in my home for different reasons. I wanted our home to be a restful place for my husband when he returned from work and for my children to know the joy of a peaceful environment. I also wanted to be able to offer hospitality on a whim.

Now I want my house to be nice because I don’t want to lose any more of my mind….really.

This past week has been exceedingly busy and it culminated with the stomach bug hitting. Right now, our house is not as lovely as I’d like. And, to some degree, I’m okay with that.

But on another degree (is that even a saying?) it’s really stressing me out. And it isn’t because people are going to stop by – I’m pretty sure the flu has stopped anyone from dropping in!

It’s because this life is so crazy…I don’t want my house to be too.

A messy house = a terribly impatient mother.

It’s like I become as messy emotionally and mentally as my home.
I keep trying to point it out to my children but they aren’t getting it.

I’m not sure why because I can certainly tell I’m impatient and irritated easily.

Maybe this is another case of them being blissfully unaware.

Maybe I need to be a bit blissfully unaware too.

There was a season a few years ago right after my husband left when I was. I whittled life down to the essentials and the house being immaculate was not an essential….at all.

Essential was defined as loving my children with my actions, words, and time spent together.

In thinking back, I’m realizing it was a choice. I chose to focus on the people in my life instead of the things.

I want to choose that place again.

I don’t have to be blissfully unaware of my surroundings, but I’d like to be blissfully aware of my children.

My children are much more important than the clutter they create.

I could start by figuring out what absolutely needs to be done and working with my children in a gracious and organized way to get it done!

I could choose to spend time with them rather than spending all my time fussing about the house. Honestly I do feel like I spend all if not most of my time grumping about the house. My poor children!

I could pray that God would calm my mind and heart so I could hear His leading on this. I know He desires me to bring everything to Him and He truly does care about all my silly and not so silly stuff.

Lord, there’s so much to do and I don’t want to be only doing. Father, I want to be momma more than housekeeper. Please help me use my time wisely and efficiently so I can focus on the precious people in my life rather than the things that literally trip me up!