Day 7 – Where Have All the Snow Days Gone?

birthday cupcakeI have to admit being a little disappointed that I didn’t get a call for a snow day or a two-hour delay today…it is definitely a Monday  🙂

I’m ready though and willing to start the week off well.  A little sore from my weekend of skiing – no broken bones and I didn’t fall off the ski lift!  I loved it!  Really!!

Today is my middle son Peter’s 14th birthday!  I can’t believe it!  I’ve referred to this sweet boy as my tender warrior, because he always wants to protect and defend others.  And because he cares deeply, seeks answers to tough questions, and goes above and beyond what I ask many times.  He isn’t perfect – he is an 8th grade boy after all!

One of the things this wonderful boy has desperately sought throughout the past  6 years is a godly man to be his role model.  It isn’t even a subconscious quest – he longs for fellowship with a man who will encourage him, bless him, and challenge him.  It is one of the things we left in Fredericksburg – one of the reasons this move was difficult.  He had just begun a great friendship with a man from our church – they met for coffee which Peter loved!  It couldn’t happen a lot but when it did what a blessing!  And I cannot tell you how much I appreciated this man stepping into my son’s life even for a short season.

It is one of the difficulties of being a single parent…having to be a “dad” to our sons, or a “mom” to our daughters.  I know single fathers who struggle with knowing how to parent their daughters – it is so different from their sons.  And I’ve had the same difficulties with my sons.  It is just hard to do a job you really weren’t made to do.

I believe this is a wonderful place where the body of Christ can step in and do amazing things to help single parents.  Many churches really do it well!  It is difficult though…I know.

I have prayed for 6 years for someone to encourage my daughter. God did not provide it, so I must trust that all that she needed He provided in a different way.  That’s another part of single parenting…of parenting…that is difficult.  Trusting when things don’t go the way we are “certain” they should.

There is a verse in Isaiah that I know I have written about on this blog before because it is one of the verse I cling to for comfort.

All your children shall be taught by the LORD, and great shall be the peace of your children.  Isaiah 54:13

Isn’t that beautiful!  Once again God says to us, “I have this.”  Even this…even this parenting thing that feels like such a heavy burden at times.  God has it.  And not only will  HE teach our children but HE will give them peace.

What makes this verse even more profound are the verses leading up to it.  They speak to parents being in tough places.  Please bear with me as I share them:

O afflicted one, storm-tossed and not comforted, behold, I will set your stones in antimony and lay your foundations with sapphires.  

I will make your pinnacles of agate, and your gates of carbuncles, and all your walls of precious stones.”  Isaiah 54:11-12

And even before those:  For your Maker is your husband, the LORD of hosts is his name; and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer, the God of the whole earth he is called.  Isaiah 54:5

God really does have it all covered.  You and I have learned that things might not look the way we envisioned them, but God still holds it all in the palm of His hand…including our sweet children.  I trust Him with them.

And I trust Him with me…He is my husband and my Redeemer.  God! The God of the whole earth has made me promises in His word!  And those promises ring true always and forever.  He uses words like “shall” and “will” not “might” and “maybe”.  He knows where we are, all storm-tossed and hurt, and He promises to establish us in beautiful places.

It’s easy to imagine that that means it will happen here, but I believe this is another opportunity for us to have an eternal perspective…to understand that in this world we will have trouble! Jesus promises that, but He always promises the brightest of futures.

Sometimes in the yuck or busyness of the day I forget about what lies ahead. I can only see the next step, but God has established the path.  It leads right where He wants it to and the destination is glorious!

Today I’m going to celebrate 14 years of the privilege of parenting a fantastic young man and I’m going to take time to pray BIG prayers for him.  And again, I will be placing my boy in the hands of his Father…remembering that our Father will provide all that he needs to grow into a man after God’s own heart.

And this week, as I have so often forgotten to do, I’m going to pray for each of my children to love the Lord their God with all the heart, soul, mind and strength.  I’m going to pray that God will love and bless my children through me.  And that He will give me discernment to know how to encourage each of them.

And maybe that He will let me know when to step back, get on my knees, and let Him handle it…well, that’s probably all the time, isn’t it? 🙂

 

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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

The Burden of Blessing

IMG_3433Today I am at my home and it is quiet and peaceful and I’m feeling blessed to be here.  The kids are sleeping soundly (and late woohoo!!)  I debated if I should enjoy this blissful quiet asleep or awake.  I opted for awake.  So rarely do I get a moment of solitude and quiet.  I’m so thankful!

For the past 4 months we have been staying with family and I cannot say how thankful I am for it.  But it would be a lie to say it hasn’t been difficult, stressful and exhausting on many levels. And it would definitely be a contradiction of all that I’ve been sharing for the past few months in my blog.  Sometimes blessings can be difficult.  The blessing of a place to stay during our transition is huge, the stress of that blessing is also huge.

Sometimes I wonder if a blessing can’t also be a burden.  I’m sure there are many that will disagree with me because it sounds wrong to say a blessing can be a burden, but I believe it’s true.

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.  1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

I think I’ve known for a long time that I can find a blessing even in my burdens, but I haven’t flipped it around before.  I haven’t realized that my blessings can sometimes be burdens as well.

But the more I’ve pondered, the more I’m thinking this is true.

Parenting is absolutely a blessing, but I cannot deny it is a burden to be sure.  Dealing with my children and the responsibility of raising them well can most definitely be a burden.  A welcome burden, but a burden nonetheless.

As a parent, I burden my children with chores to give them the blessing of understanding the value of work done well, of responsibility, and of being part of a family.  I’m fairly certain that none of them would refer to those things as blessings…well, at least most of the time.

A home is a blessing, but when there are issues it can most definitely be a burden.  Broken things, dripping things, creaky things, wobbly things…just lots of things that aren’t fun, but I’m sure thankful for the shelter.

Work is a blessing, but it seriously can be a burden.

It’s a bit embarrassing to think that at the moment I’m having to remind myself to be thankful for my blessings.

Shouldn’t that be a given?  Unfortunately,  I think it has been easier for me to focus on the burden aspect of the blessing than the blessing part of the blessing.

Maybe I’m throwing that blessing word around too much…but I can’t think of a good synonym for blessing.  Benediction doesn’t really work.  Approval and encouragement don’t really apply either.  Merriam-Webster defines blessing as “something that helps you or brings happiness.”  I suppose saying that something that brings me help or happiness is a burden is a bit odd.

But in God’s economy, maybe not.

I attend a great Bible study on Sunday nights.  The teacher said that when we pray for things, such as patience or courage, God is going to give us opportunities to exercise patience or be courageous. The blessings of patience and courage are going to come with the burden of experiencing situations that require us to be patient and courageous.  (That is one of those think-well-before-I-pray-this-prayer prayers!)  The blessing of being a patient, courageous, kind, or loving person comes with the burden of having to develop those traits.

We have all probably experienced the phenomenon that blessings don’t always come in the ways we expect them.  Many of the blessings I’ve experienced have come by way of difficulties and trials.  Those blessings are some of the most precious.  Just like labor and delivery – the pain and discomfort brings forth a great blessing!

Maybe the housing situation, although difficult, is not just a blessing of shelter, but a blessing of character-building, of refining, of eye-opening.

Maybe a job, although time-consuming and stressful, is not just a blessing of provision, but a blessing of purpose and ministry.

Maybe parenting, although exhausting and overwhelming at times, is not just a blessing of children, but a blessing of understanding the Father’s love for us.

Maybe all the things in our life are so much deeper and richer because God uses everything – those things we perceive as “good” and those things we perceive as “bad” – to bless us both in the present and the future.

I’m blown away right now.  I have been so easily frustrated and upset by things in my life and haven’t been able to see the good in much.  And if I do happen to notice it at all, I’m quickly overtaken by all the feelings of discouragement that keep me from focusing on the blessings for what they are….blessings.  It has been entirely too easy for me to see only the burden and miss the blessing.

I’m not sure that I know exactly how to “fix” myself, but God does.  He has definitely given me some great ideas in His word.

1.Take my thoughts captive.  (2 Corinthians 10:5)

2.Do not be anxious. (Philippians 4:6-7)

3.Hide His word in my heart. (Psalm 119:11)

4.Take heart. (John 16:33)

5.Trust God.  (Proverbs 3:5-6)

6.Keep an eternal perspective. (2 Corinthians 4:17)

And once again, I’m brought back to the word of God.  Back to the strength and perspective offered there.  Back to the power of His word…the power of Jesus.

I was reminded recently of one of Paul’s prayers in Ephesians 1:15-23  – maybe this is the prayer we can pray for ourselves and for each other.

15 For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, 16 I have not stopped giving thanks for you,remembering you in my prayers. 17 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit[f] of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. 18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength 20 he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.

You know, I just have to include the other prayer in Ephesians 3.

14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family[a] in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine…There really isn’t more to say is there?  What a mighty loving God we serve!

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!

Count it all what?

Image     I’ve been working for over a week on a post about counting it all joy.  And honestly I’m still unsure that I truly understand it as much as I’d like, but I decided that maybe what I need to do is share and see where God takes us…

Today I have two meetings that I’m a little bit dreading.

The first is this morning…it’s a child study meeting for one of my daughters.  This isn’t the first one.  Unfortunately they never go as I hope.  The people at her school are always kind as they say no to the assistance she truly needs.  It is heartbreaking for me.

And adding insult to injury, I must sit beside my ex-husband who will sometimes come.  Today will probably be one of those days.  I could just not tell him about the meetings, but that seems wrong.  Good for me, but wrong.

The other day I even thought, “If he were home he’d already know about these meetings, I wouldn’t have to tell him.  Maybe I just won’t remind him.”  Then I realized I can’t spend the rest of ever so many years punishing him for his horrible, hurtful decision. I forgave him and must take those thoughts captive.

Having him there is annoying, frustrating, and infuriating at times.  His portrayal of his involvement with our daughter is exceedingly exaggerated.  It makes me want to holler, “But he doesn’t help at all!!!”  He’s a fake!!!”  But why?  Well first and foremost, because I’m a sinner and I want things my way…but also because I want him to either step up or hush up…because I want things to be different…I want things to not hurt, to not frustrate…because I want joy.

I’m thinking maybe the idea of count it all joy fits my situation…even this silly situation with my ex-husband.  I just gotta figure out how.

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

Today my Bible study asked me, “What does it mean to count it all joy?”

Boy, is that a verse I’ve memorized and thought about and referenced a lot without ever truly pondering what it means.

And like I said, I’m pondering as I write…I don’t have an answer.  A feeling, yes.  An answer, not so much.

I know the reality of counting it all joy…I think.

I have known joy that makes no sense…

joy that pours over even the hardest season.

joy that comforts and strengthens.

joy that brings peace when all else seems chaotic.

And yet, even though I know that joy…do I truly “count it all joy.”

Drat, I don’t think I do.

When I saw that question this morning, I didn’t have an immediate answer, but I can see that God is answering it for me.

Recently I read a chapter in Corrie ten Boom’s book The Hiding Place with my children.  I love that book – highly recommend it.  If you are unfamiliar with the story, Corrie and her family hid Jews in Holland during WWII and were arrested.  This is her story.  It has layer upon layer of beautiful examples of God’s provision, faithfulness, and love in the worst of circumstances.

In the chapter we read this morning Corrie and her sister Betsie have just been transferred to an extermination camp in Germany.

This is part of the dialogue between Corrie and Betsie:

I wailed, “Betsie, how can we live in such a place!” 

“Show us.  Show us how.” It was said so matter of factly it took me a second to realize she was praying.  More and more the distinction between prayer and the rest of life seemed to be vanishing for Betsie.

“Corrie!” she said excitedly. “He’s given us the answer!  Before we asked, as He always does!  In the Bible this morning.  Where was it? Read that part again!”

They were reading in 1st Thessalonians…

…encourage the faint-hearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.  Rejoice always,pray without ceasing, give thank in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.  

1 Thessalonians 5:14-18

Betsie excitedly shares with Corrie, “That’s it, Corrie! That’s His answer, “Give thanks in all circumstances!  That’s what we can do.  We can start right now to thank God for every single thing about this new barracks!”

Corrie is incredulous.  She initially cannot understand how to give thanks in “the dark, foul-aired room.”   Betsie points out the very many blessings even in their horrid situation.  And Corrie begins to see that there indeed is a God-given way to give thanks in all circumstances.

I feel like Corrie most of the time….”How can I find a way to rejoice here, Lord?”

But again and again, God reminds me of the wonderful ways He has blessed me.

A few days ago, as I walked past my youngest daughter’s room I noticed the sunlight streaming through the windows and I thought, “Lord, thank you!  Thank you for this house.  Thank you for beautiful sunlight!”

There are many things we can thank God for in any given day if we look. But even then I’m thanking God for the things, the circumstances in my life.  I don’t believe that is what God means by “count it all joy.”

What am I counting joy?  In the verse in James, it’s trials.

Count it all joy

…when I can’t find the support and answers I need for my little girl

…when I have to deal with a man who I really don’t want to have to even see

…when God calls me to love the unlovable

…when God doesn’t answer my prayers as I hoped

…when the struggles and complexities of life are overwhelming

 

Does counting it joy mean that I look for the blessings and the things to be thankful for?  To some degree I believe so.

But I’m beginning to see that really counting it all joy is about me looking to Jesus, my Savior, the author and perfecter of my faith.

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

The joy is the understanding that these troubles are nothing in comparison to the joy of eternity.

 

So we do not lose heart.  Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.  For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen.  For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.  2 Corinthians 4:16-18

 

The joy is the confidence that we have an eternal inheritance.

 

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!  According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.  In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith – more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire – may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.  1 Peter 1:3-7

 

So truly, the joy is the gospel.

 

I know this has already been a lot of words and now I’ve added a lot of verses….but please take the time to read them.  Remind yourself again of the great grace of the gospel…of the power of His resurrection in your life…and see how often God shows us the gospel’s strength to carry us through our struggles, trials and sufferings.

 

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

 

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, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility.  Ephesians 2:13-14

 

But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet.  For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.  Hebrews 10:12-14

 

But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.  Titus 3:4-7

 

Therefore since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.  More than that we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.  Romans 5:1-5

 

As I read those verses again I was reminded of the gospel’s power to enable me to count it all joy in the struggles.  It’s an eternal perspective.  An “it will all be worth it” perspective.

Count our blessings, absolutely.

Think on those things that bless us…the way God provides…the source of our strength.  Cultivate gratitude.

Count it all joy, definitely.

Think again and again of the gospel.  Of what the gospel means for our lives….

 Grace

Salvation

Hope

Peace

A glorious eternal inheritance

The Holy Spirit and all His fruit

Jesus, my Savior

God, my Father

You could probably add more to that list.  I certainly could.

So this count it all joy thing…I think I’m beginning to understand it.

And again God has brought me back to the gospel.

We are blessed beyond measure because of Jesus…

 and that is all joy!

What does God have for us?

photo (6)I’m trying to get papers filed.  Trying being the optimum word.  One of my best friends says, “The difference between trying and doing is actually getting something done.”  I don’t think I quoted that exactly, but you get the idea.

I’ve gotten a lot done, but sometimes I feel like I just shuffle things around.  Usually when I’m organizing I feel like I’m just moving things from one floor or room of my house to another.  I’m working on it though.  I really am.

So, I decided I was going to go through a bunch of boxes and get some order back.  And I found a plastic box full of pages I’d ripped out of magazines – mostly Country Living.  Pictures of rooms, furniture, arrangements, and anything else I loved.  I think I’d planned on making a binder of my favorite things because I found page protectors in the box as well.  Sounds like a good project for one of my creative kids :)!

Looking at all the pictures brought a smile to my face.  I enjoy dreaming about, looking forward to and planning for the future.  Imagining wonderful things.

Recently I was sharing with a friend how when I found out about my husband’s affair and knew the potential of him leaving, I imagined what our life would be like if we reconciled.  I thought about how our relationship could be better than ever, how our love could be stronger, and how we could have a vital ministry to others who were struggling. When reconciliation didn’t happen, God refined my vision.

Now I look forward to what God is going to do in my life in a different way.  I look forward to what God is going to do in the lives of my children.  I have great hopes and dreams for us all!

“Expect great things from God. Attempt great things for God.”  – William Carey

I think it is part of the forgetting what lies behind and straining towards what is ahead.

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.  Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own.  But one thing I do:  forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 

Philippians 3:12-14

Catching the vision of what God has for us.

What does God have for us?

Whatever it is, God uses some interesting words to describe our journey to get it.

Pressing and straining.

Pressing.  During my brief running career a few years ago, I recall at the beginning of my “training” (it is in quotes because I didn’t really train well – hence the brevity of my running career) I would run increasingly longer distances but always the first mile or so was absolute torture and the final ½ mile would seem like slogging through mud.  During both of those times I’d have to keep my focus ahead and press with my whole body to move forward.  It was a pressing of feet on pavement, a pressing of body into the momentum forward, a pressing of breath in and out…pressing onward…

Straining.  That one isn’t difficult to imagine – especially with my running analogy.  There was always an element of straining…and panting, plodding, trudging, and wooziness…I’m not a good runner (especially with the broken foot!)

In thinking about pressing and straining in my walking (or running) out my faith, I believe having a vision is helpful.

When I have something to strive for, I do better.  Although with running I don’t need a stop sign or a set tree to run to – in fact, I’d prefer not to have a visual because sometimes I just feel like I’ll NEVER get there.  But if I have a vision of the end, then I enjoy running more.  I imagine how I’ll feel at the end, the sense of accomplishment, the joy of being done!

I think I might be a little bit like that in my spiritual life as well.

I don’t need to actually see where I’m going…

Hey! That sounds a little like faith!

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.  Hebrews 11:1

I think what I need is a very clear vision of what I have to look forward to…and that gets me back to the question, “What does God have for us?”

“Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance…”  Hebrews 9:15

So we do not lose heart.  Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.  For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen.  For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.  2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Let not your heart be troubled.  Believe in God; believe also in me.  In my Father’s house are many rooms.  If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.   John 14:1-3

And this is the promise that he made to us – eternal life.  1 John 2:25

Thinking about eternal life is all well in good.  But does eternal life necessarily mean good life?

I say, “YES!”  A whole-hearted yes!

I believe eternal life is all things wonderful!  John describes it like this:

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man.  He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.  He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.  Revelation 21:3-4

 I don’t imagine heaven is a place of clouds, harps, and wings.  I believe heaven is very much like what we are familiar with in terms of earth – He does refer to it as the new heaven and the new earth.  I tell my kids we will get to enjoy all the wonderful things this earth has to offer but it will be perfect! No fear, no worries, no violence, no pain.  What’s not to like about that!?

Recognizing what I have to look forward to helps me press on through sorrow, pain, trouble, challenges, and even things that are pretty good by this world’s standards to strive to live a life of peace, joy and service here.

“When the Bible speaks of the new heaven and the new earth, it is not speaking of an alternative to this world; it is speaking of the healing and restoration of this world. This gives Christians a reason to participate in restoring this fallen world. Furthermore, because Christians know that there is a perfect world coming, they don’t put all their hope in the current world. Christians can sacrificially serve others because they value the things of the coming world more than the things of this world.”  – Tim Keller

And the most important part of heaven is Jesus.

Oh my goodness!  Epiphany!  The vision – the goal, the hope, the joy, the thing to look forward to is JESUS!

 “There will be little else we shall want of heaven besides Jesus Christ.  He will be our bread, our food, our beauty, and our glorious dress.  The atmosphere of heaven will be Christ; everything in heaven will be Christ-like: yes, Christ is the heaven of His people.  – C.H. Spurgeon

 I guess there is something…I mean Someone I want to keep as my focus, my focal point as I run this faith race.

“A continual looking forward to the eternal world is not a form of escapism or wishful thinking, but one of the things a Christian is meant to do.” 

– C.S. Lewis

I pray as we all run this race we will keep our eyes on the prize, on Jesus.

So the answer to the question, “What does God have for us?” is JESUS.

Hope and a Pipe Stand

pipe #2It was just a very full pipe stand.

My first thought was how much they reminded me of my Dad…my second was, “Ewwww…that’s kinda gross…think of the mouths that have been on those!” (ever the mother)

Recently I went antique shopping with a friend.  I love looking at all the beautiful things, the knick-knacks, and the oddities of by-gone eras.  It’s very much a treasure hunt.

It’s a joy to meander through packed little shops filled with old jugs that remind me of the hillbilly band The Darlings on The Andy Griffith Show, teacups and pots that make me want to host a tea party as soon as possible, furniture that I know would look lovely in my home, and musty, yellowed books that are just begging to be read again.

Shopping this time seemed more somber.  Every shop offered a reminder of my dad.  A pipe, some Army paraphernalia, an antique clock ticking and donging, a toy car, history books, and it seemed like a hundred other things.

I didn’t feel like sitting down and weeping.  I just felt a little bit heavy-hearted.

Until the past couple of years I wouldn’t have ever used the word melancholy to describe myself.

I think I would now.

At least this particular definition:  “Sober thoughtfulness; pensiveness” (Dictionary.com)

That’s better than the few months after my husband left when I could be found weeping at stoplights and crying in my closet.

Now it’s more of a sigh.  It’s healing from deep sorrow.

The loss of my husband and my father…of my marriage and life as I knew it has been so so so difficult.

There was a time when I just wanted to replace the missing piece in my family.  Just find a godly man and plug him in!  That’d be the perfect solution to my problem.  Insta-fix.

There is no instant fix to this life.  We cannot always regain what was lost.  In divorce or death there is no going back to life before sorrow and its effects.

But there is moving forward.

There is hope.

Hope is a funny word.

Sometimes my hope is lacking.

Hopeless hope.  Know what I mean?

Hoping but not believing.

I thought maybe that was a crazy thing until I looked up hope in Lawrence O. Richards, Expository Dictionary of Bible Words.  The author said that when we use the word hope we usually mean something wavering and doubtful.  That’s exactly what I mean!

But the Bible doesn’t ever use the word hope in an uncertain way.  Our hope is not in things here but the certainty of future things.  We can be encouraged, blessed, and comforted by the beautiful life to come.

But meanwhile there’s this life…pipe #1

I believe maybe the problem is that I’m not hoping in the right thing?

I’m hoping that my circumstances will change.  Hoping that I will change.  Hoping that my kids will change.  Hoping that people who have disappointed me will change.

Hoping in restoration.  Hoping in a fix.

I’m thinking my definition of hope is not exactly right so I looked up hope.

There are a fair number of verses with the word hope in them and reading them was convicting.

I wrote down most of them, all but 2 I think.  God has shown me some things about hope.

He is my hope and the focus of my hope.

For you, O Lord, are my hope, my trust, O LORD, from my youth  Psalm 71:5

Are there any among the false gods of the nations that can bring rain?  Or can the heavens give showers?  Are you not he, O LORD our God?  We set our hope on you, for you do all these things.  Jeremiah 14:22

For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.  1 Timothy 4:10

 Though he slay me, I will hope in him; yet I will argue my ways to his face.”  Job 13:15

I just had to include that last part…because it’s me.  Right now I’m a big arguer with God.  Job was a mess and Job’s life was a mess – and even though he understood God could be trusted he still struggled with the way things were…with his circumstances.

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering for he who promised is faithful.  Hebrew 10:23

My hope is for now and later.

 But I will hope continually and I will praise you yet more and more.  My mouth will tell of your righteous acts, of your deeds of salvation all the day for their number is past my knowledge.  Psalm 71:14-15

He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us.
On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again.  2 Corinthians 1:10

My hope is centered in Jesus

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

He who was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.  1 Peter 1:20-21

Even though hope is something I don’t think I’ve completely grasped, I sure love it!

Hope!!!

How can you not smile when you think of hope!?!

I pray that God will give us a vision of what we have in Him…what a hope we have for His strength to keep us, His wisdom to guide us, His love to comfort and heal us, and His blessings to well…bless us!

And of what a glorious inheritance He has for us and what a beautiful eternal home He is preparing us!

Now that’s something to hope in!

Next time I’m antiquing I’m going to think about the honorable life my father lived and the beautiful place he is now!

How we’ll share heaven together!

And when the circumstances of this life get me down, I’ll remind myself that there is hope…even if I don’t necessarily feel it, I KNOW it!

That’s hopeful hope!

MY HOPE IS BUILT

by Edward Mote

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly trust in Jesus’ Name.

 On Christ the solid Rock I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand;
All other ground is sinking sand.

When darkness seems to hide His face,
I rest on His unchanging grace.
In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the veil.

His oath, His covenant, His blood,
Support me in the whelming flood.
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my Hope and Stay.

 When He shall come with trumpet sound,
Oh may I then in Him be found.
Dressed in His righteousness alone,
Faultless to stand before the throne.

hospice, hope and healing

Daisies on white

“Momma, I don’t want grandpa to die, but I know he will feel so much better in heaven.”

My sweet 12 year old son uttered those words as we sat in an Urgent Care waiting to see the doctor for the two of us, and while my father lay in a hospital bed waiting for word from his doctor.

Today we found out that those words were not the ones we hoped to hear.  Those words included “hospice.”  Earlier in the week I had said that word, but it was in a hopeful sentence, “At least they haven’t mentioned hospice.” 

Now they have and I don’t know what to do with that word.  It strikes a pain in my chest I can hardly bear.  It brings me to tears just thinking of my dear father facing death so imminently. 

My daddy accepted the Lord about 10 years ago, but has not truly grasped what it means to him.  Oh that he could grasp grace and not let go of it.  It breaks my heart in more pieces than I can say that he hasn’t.  I can see the fear and anxiety etched on his beloved gaunt face.  I can hear it in his frustrated, angry words. 

We have all talked with my dad.  Friends have too.  We’ve tried to encourage him in his faith, but it’s hard when death is staring back so relentlessly.  I long for my Dad to see life instead of death…Life!!! 

I’ve dealt with a lot of pain and sorrow since my family fell apart 4 years ago.  There is a large part of my heart that is already in heaven.  I want to be there so badly I can taste it sometimes.  I understand Paul’s statement, “To live is Christ, to die is gain.”  (Philippians 1:21)  But I am not faced with my death coming soon…at least that I know of.  I pray that my hope would not waver in the end. 

My Daddy’s hope is wavering…it’s wobbling all over the place.  I wish I knew exactly the right words so he could really grasp that peace which passes all understanding to guard his heart and his mind in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7), but once again, God is reminding me that I’m not the one in charge.

God loves my dad so very much.  He doesn’t want this man to die hopelessly, but rather with hope of eternal glory…of all the wonder that is heaven blissfully beckoning. 

We all selfishly want healing or even partial healing so that my dad will be around longer.  But like my little boy said, why would I want to have my dad suffer another day when he could know true and complete healing in heaven?  I know the answer but I can’t bring myself to write it because I want my dad around.  I want my children to know their grandpa even better…I want him to tell stories we haven’t heard or even ones we have. I want more time with him.

Tomorrow I will head back down to see my dad…to spend the day with him while things beep and swish around us and nurses come in and out and in and out and in out, and he tries to rest amid it all.  I will pray for the opportunity to encourage and bless my dad…and I will pray for peace for him and for all of us…and I will hope in the Lord for my dad’s eternal inheritance and mine as well.