Whatever It Takes

IMG_1718I’ve become a late-night person…through no design of my own.

I desperately need more hours in the day…more days in the week…and more sleep in my bed.

Last night as I lay my head down on my crazy configuration of multiple fluffy pillows, I began to pray for friends and family, for my children and myself.

I want my people to know the Lord.

I’ve been praying “whatever it takes” off and on for someone.  Actually a few someones.

I began to utter that prayer again and the thought crossed my mind, “Gosh, I hope someone isn’t praying that prayer for me!”

I stopped praying.

Then I thought, “Wow. How you have changed Sue.”

What happened that I fear that prayer now?

Is it that I think God is a father who would say, “Ok, I accept that challenge!  Let’s see what it takes.”

That is not my Father…He is not willing to play with my faith or my life.  He loves me too much.

I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore, I have continued my faithfulness to you.  Jeremiah 31:3

Or is it that I know myself better today than 7 years ago when I was willing to pray that prayer for myself and anyone else I loved.

Back then I was the “righteous one” – I was the victim of someone else’s sin – or so I felt about myself.

Today, I am just me and my own sin…my own failures and fears….my own faithlessness.

God’s been opening my eyes to things in my life…I feel it’s just layers and layers and layers of stuff.

It is painful and difficult.

I’m tired of painful and difficult.

I think that might be why I’m struggling to pray that prayer.  I think I don’t want to go through anything else…I’m tired of doing hard things.

Living hard.

I’m tired of others struggling with hard too.

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.

In this world you will have trouble.  But fear not, for I have overcome the world. John 16:33

Well, that confirms what I already knew…Jesus is a man of His word.  I got trouble.

But if I do…God has to have a reason for allowing it.

God doesn’t mess with me.  He sometimes allows messy but not messing.

Lately, as God has been showing me my layers and layers of issues and sins, honestly, I’ve had some moments of despair.  I’ve felt that I must be the most hopeless case ever.

But then….God.

(There is that “But God” thing…)

Then God reminds me that as big as my sin is…the cross is so much bigger.

The gospel.

Sometimes I forget.

Sometimes I live at the foot of the cross rather than the door to the empty tomb.

Sometimes I forget that although my sins put Him there, His love took me from the cross to the throne of grace.

There is a place for self-reflection…for a moment.  A place for recognizing that I still need my Savior.  A place for seeing my sin and its effects, but my eyes aren’t supposed to be fixed there.

My eyes focus intensely on Christ.

The Author and Perfecter of my faith.

Sometimes I think that my faith is all about me…It’s my job to protect it, strengthen it, reveal it, and nurture it.

I was never given that job…my job is to have it.

Have faith.

Trust that God can bring me safely to my inheritance.

Trust that God knows me better than I know myself, and, amazingly, He still promises to never leave me nor forsake me.

Trust that God doesn’t play games with my life.

Trust that God knows what He is doing…and it is good.

He can’t do bad.

Sometimes I just need to remind myself of that…God can’t do wrong.

And if He can’t, then I can pray that prayer…even if I have flocks of butterflies in my stomach and bats in my chest while I utter the words, “Whatever it takes…”

Whatever it takes to strengthen my faith.

Whatever it takes to make me the mom my children need.

Whatever it takes to keep me walking with You.

Whatever it takes to grow me into the woman after Your own heart I so want to be.

Whatever it takes to have a life that You can use for your glory.

Hard prayers…and yet, not.

If I trust Him, I can pray for those things and know He loves me and whatever it takes is worth it.

I can’t say that I’m joyful or even excited about some prayers I feel called to pray, but I can say that I feel loved and peaceful in the care of my Father.

And maybe it doesn’t really matter if I pray those prayers or not…God is going to do what is best in my life…whatever brings me closest to Him…whatever it takes.

 

Colorful Aspen Pines Against Deep Blue SkyStruggle

I think I use that word too much.  I think I should use a different word more often. Maybe…conquering.

 Don’t feel much like a conqueror.

 And yet, God tells me I am.

 “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”  Romans 9:37

 More?  More than conquerors?  Mind-boggling. 

 Sometimes I feel like all I do is struggle.  Struggle with fear.  Struggle with worry.  Struggle with anger.  Struggle with frustration.  Struggle with weariness.  Struggle with being overwhelmed.  Struggle with feeling like a failure or that failure is imminent. Struggle with not being the godly woman I desperately want to be. 

Lately I’ve felt like I just have got to get this struggle thing under control.  I just have to…I keep struggling with the same blasted things over and over again.  My sins are so annoying.

Things I thought I’d dealt with…I’d determined to overcome…have snuck up on me again.   How is that possible?  I honestly don’t understand how I can be so convicted and seek forgiveness and restoration and then slide right back into them.  Really?  Am I serious??

Last night I prayed and wept to God again at my continual slipping and sliding in my relationship with Him.  I love Him so much.  I want my life to honor Him…I mean really honor Him.  Not just a little bit…not just when I sing at church or write an article full of Scriptural references, but when life is challenging and overwhelming and frightening and just not what I planned, I want it to glorify Him.

Today was a no school day. Also known as a “no-get-anything-done” day. 

So I got nothing done. 

Well, I mean nothing I planned on doing.  And on top of that, it was a lovely day, and did I take my kids outside to play?  Nope.  I fussed at them for making messes inside and spent the day cleaning up after them without offering a better alternative.  Poor planning.  Poor attitude.  Poor children.  Instead of facing an unplanned day with a smile and some spontaneity, I tried to do it all and pleased no one!  I wish I’d taken advantage of the day with my kids – done something together…something fun.  Ugh.  Fail.

Lest, I sound like I’m hopeless.  Let me share what God is showing me.  Let me show you the sweetness of my Savior.  O How He loves me!

It might be a familiar verse but how sweet it is to my ears and my heart:

Romans 8:1-4

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.  For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who did not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

Its so easy for me to focus on my mistakes and failures…there are enough of them!  But God does not desire that I live in defeat.  He does not condemn me…I keep being drawn back to 1 John 3:1,16, 18-24

See what kind of love the Father has given us that we should be called children of God; and so we are…. By this we know love that he laid down his life for us and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers…Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.  By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart and he knows everything. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him.  And this is his commandment that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.  Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him.  And by this we know that he abides in us, but the Spirit whom he has given us.

If God knows everything about me and yet does not condemn me, I don’t think I should do it either!

I believe my desire to live my life in a manner worthy of my calling (Ephesians 4:1) pleases God.  I believe that my sins are forgiven and thrown as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12) – that’s pretty far away.  I believe that God calls me to live a life of victory – “But thanks be to God, who gives us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:57) I believe God is making me into the woman He designed me to be…despite me. 

May we rest in the knowledge that

God is a “God ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love” (Nehemiah 9:17b)

Jesus knows.

“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.”  Hebrews 4:14-16

Jesus helps.

 “…for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” 2 Timothy 1:7

 Jesus does not leave us…ever.

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

 Live by confident and courageous faith.

 “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.  For, “Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay; but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.”  But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.”  Hebrews 10:35-39

There is hope and a future for us.

 “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 3:12-15

 Thanking God that even the struggle reminds me of how loving and faithful my God is to me.

 GOD IS GOOD ALL THE TIME!!!

ALL THE TIME GOD IS GOOD!!!

 

 

This Not So Exaggerated Life

The past 6 days…ugh.
Here are the highlights:

  • 1 baby root canal
  • 2 dental appointments
  • 2 cars that both failed inspection
  • 4 new Suburban tires
  • 1 very rude car mechanic
  • 1 broken AC condensations thingy – wet basement
  • 1 dead cherry tree
  • 3 sick children
  • 2 unexpected massive medical bills
  • 1 unexpected doctor’s appointment
  • 2 sleepless nights because of back pain
  • 1 sleepless night because of anxious thoughts
  • 1 child with nightmares
  • 2 broken dresser drawers
  • 1 broken hall shoe trunk
  • 1 looming manuscript deadline
  • 1 broken dishwasher

(And a partridge in a pear tree…)

My life seems like an exaggeration.  Way too many things go wrong, way too many things are difficult, way too many things are complicated, and way too many things drive me bonkers!  But seriously…this really is my ridiculous life!

You wanna know what’s funny? The dishwasher was my undoing. Who knew a dishwasher could bring me to my emotional knees. Something about a sink full of dirty dishes and a counter full of drying dishes has simply knocked me down. I’m done.

I say that but earlier this week it was the snarky auto mechanic who made me weep all the way home. It was more the “one more thing” than the actual thing itself. You know what I mean? It was the one thing after another after another…thankfully, at this moment it’s kinda funny looking back over the week.

Kinda.

I have to admit I have a little attitude right now. I’m a bit put out that God would allow so much to invade my already overwhelmed life. Earlier this week I woke up at a very early hour practically having a panic attack about all the decisions I need to make in the next couple of days — huge decisions, life-altering decisions, piddley little pain in the tushy decisions, and regular everyday ugh decisions. I think the most difficult part of being a single parent lately has been the mental stuff. The one thing to decide, to think through, to consider, to deal with after another. I can’t seem to get a handle on all the things I need to deal with — and I feel like I’m dropping things left and right. Sometimes I feel like I should write a big “FAIL” over my to-do list at the end of the day. My house is still a wreck…I still forgot 5 phone calls I really needed to make…I didn’t mail that really important letter…I totally forgot that bill that was due today…I remembered too late to call and make that appointment…I left the wet laundry in the wash too long and it needs to be redone…the garden still needs to be weeded…the car didn’t get cleaned out…I forgot to get my son to write thank you notes for his birthday which was 3 months ago…that reminds me, I forgot to have my children write Christmas thank you notes too…I forget more than I remember lately. And then I beat myself up for things because I’m not teaching my children to be thankful, organized, tidy…FAIL!!!

When I get like this my dear friend and prayer partner reminds me that there is no condemnation in Christ. Romans 8:1 says, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” There is another verse I really like that kind of piggy backs on that… 1 John 3:19-23 says, “By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.” I love that God knows everything, knows my heart, and still doesn’t condemn me. Believe me! I know my heart and I definitely deserve to be condemned! How greatly He loves me! I’m in awe.

So as much as I want to condemn myself for my failure to live up to my expectations, God doesn’t. He loves me despite my failures…despite my response to all the crummy stuff happening in my world right now. I’m so thankful because I don’t feel terribly lovable. Just ask my kids…the dishwasher really does make me fussy. My bad attitude must be showing because all my kids are actually taking turns washing the dishes!

I’m praying next week won’t be so difficult. I’m praying that there will be no more broken things, no more sickness, no unexpected doctors or dentist appointments, and maybe a to do list that actually has a happy ending!

Oh…and maybe a massage!!!