Day 4 – In Spite of Me

winter berries bestI few years ago I had the privilege of leading a women’s retreat for a church I used to attend.  The title was “In Spite of Me.”  (I cannot take the credit for the title because my friend Phoebe came up with it.)  I loved it.  I still do, because my salvation is totally in spite of me.

Actually so many good things happen in spite of me…probably some bad things too.

In spite of me…God loves me.

In spite of me…God is faithful to me.

In spite of me…God is kind to me.

In spite of me…God provides for me.

In spite of me…God blesses me.

I find myself thinking the wrong thing, doing the wrong thing, speaking the wrong thing, and feeling the wrong thing A LOT.  It is so easy to be wrong.

I can’t seem to get myself to be the woman I want to be…

Thankfully, God can.

I’m in awe of grace…overwhelmed.

“The gospel of justifying faith means that while Christians are, in themselves still sinful and sinning, yet in Christ, in God’s sight, they are accepted and righteous. So we can say that we are more wicked than we ever dared believe, but more loved and accepted in Christ than we ever dared hope — at the very same time. This creates a radical new dynamic for personal growth. It means that the more you see your own flaws and sins, the more precious, electrifying, and amazing God’s grace appears to you. But on the other hand, the more aware you are of God’s grace and acceptance in Christ, the more able you are to drop your denials and self-defenses and admit the true dimensions and character of your sin.”  Timothy Keller

Recently I heard someone tell my children if they weren’t good they weren’t going to go to heaven.  In fact, this person told my children they need to be perfect.

I don’t believe I’ve ever had such an emotional reaction to something someone said. I was shaking and wanted to scream, “NOOOO!!! Please don’t put that burden on my children!”

It has taken me what feels like forever to get grace…and, even now, I know there are many things I can’t even begin to grasp about grace.

But please don’t take grace from my family!

We need it so desperately.  In fact, so does the person that discounted the power of God’s grace and spoke such wrong words to my children.

For by grace you have been saved through faith.  And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.  Ephesians 2:8-9

Please don’t’ misunderstand…I want well-behaved children (desperately).  I want my children to be obedient, respectful, and kind because that is what honors God and me.  BUT, I also know that their behavior is not the determining factor in their salvation.

It certainly is easy to think that…if we are Christians shouldn’t we do the right thing, say the right thing, think the right thing, and feel the right thing?

I wish.  I wish I didn’t struggle so much with being good.

I disappoint myself often.  It is difficult to believe God doesn’t view me as a huge disappointment as well.  But He doesn’t.

I don’t know how deeply I believe that even though I know it to be true.  How could He not get tired of my failures?  I don’t understand.

I love my children more than I could ever convey…in fact, I cannot think of an adequate adjective to describe my love for them.  And boy do I get frustrated, annoyed, and angry with them…fairly regularly to be honest.

BUT God, is not at all like me (Alleluia!)

He is infinitely patient, unconditionally loving, relentlessly faithful, and forever forgiving.

He is my Advocate.

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin.  But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.  1 John 2:1

He is the Author 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 had of the throne of God.  Hebrews 12:1-2

He is my Mediator.

For there is one God and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.  1 Timothy 2:5-6

He is merciful.

The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever.  He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities.  For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.  As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him. Psalm 103:8-13

He is the Shepherd and Overseer of my soul.

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.  By his wounds you have been healed.  For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.  1 Peter 2:24-25

 

I could spend the rest of this snow day (yes, another snow day) looking up scripture about who God is and who He is to me…it is so encouraging.

What a blessed reminder of the God we serve and the grace He gives.  I’m blessed beyond measure.

In spite of me…in spite of me and all my sinfulness and goofiness…God loves me!  He forgive me again and again and again….

I just started to write “God is the BEST!” and I thought it sounded kinda silly, but you know what?  It’s true.  He absolutely is the Best.

And in spite of me, I’m forgiven and loved!

 

 

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Anyone Else Feel Done?

Young woman lying back on a couch talking on a mobile phone

Today I feel done.

I am done.

Done with disrespect and disobedience and difficulties.

Done with trying to reason with teenagers.

Done with trying to reign in kindergarteners.

Done with trying to make decisions.

Done with trying to get organized.

Done with cleaning up the mess my ex-husband has made. 

Done with trying to understand how to parent all these children alone.

Done with trying to figure out how to do this life with any sense of grace, composure, or patience.

Done.

There are so many things to think about and do…I’m tired.  I just wish I could take a timeout and have a replacement come in for a bit of this game.  Being a single parent is hard.

I had to confront a child today on cell phone usage and school issues.  Golly, you would have thought that cell phone was her only source of oxygen. 

I wanted to work with her and help her develop a plan to exercise responsible use of her phone and her schoolwork.  Instead I was met with all those stereotypical teenage responses.  Those responses which make my head close to exploding.  

Until about 4 months ago, my daughter was not stereotypical…and then boys entered the picture, and cheerleading, and that blasted cell phone. 

I hate technology.

I want my children to be able to contact me while they are with their dad, but…ugh…I hate cell phones. 

Unfortunately it has become, to some of my children, a right not a privilege.  And what a colossal waste of time this “right” offers!

She is avoiding responsibilities and school work.  My sweet, sweet daughter has become a very entitled, insecure young woman.  She does not believe she is smart and therefore has no vision for what her life can become.  At 15 that is a bit disconcerting.  I know that her self-esteem and image issues have a lot to do with our family’s situation, but it doesn’t help me know how to deal with them.

I have had the most wonderful relationship with her for so long I’m floored by this new turn of events.  I know my dear daughter is in there somewhere…Lord, please help me reach her.

I do know that some of her behavior is ordinary teenage angst, but I want my daughter to be extraordinary.  I believe she is.

Everything I say to build her up she calls a “mom lie.”  She says it’s like a mom telling her daughter she’s pretty even when she isn’t.   Ugh.  That so isn’t true.  My daughter is smart, talented, and beautiful inside and out.  She just doesn’t see it or feel it. 

I’m broken-hearted for my darling daughter.  I cannot be her father as much as I try to…I’m a miserable failure at it.  I cannot give to her what her dad was designed to provide. 

But even as I write in my despairing state, God has laid it on my heart that He is the perfect Father for my daughter.  Oh that she knew that to her core.  She does not.  Her faith is wobbly at best and I’m afraid I’ve failed miserably there as well.  I felt certain my children would be firm in their faith because of God’s faithfulness throughout our challenges…unfortunately, I think some of my children still only see the challenges.

I’ve not pointed out His care and provision often enough.  I’ve been praising Him to everyone but my children.  Father, forgive me and may your grace pour over my children and all my parenting mistakes.

A friend reminded me the other day how important prayer is…how it’s vital that we pray with our children and allow them the privilege of seeing God answer.  I’m sitting her realizing that although at this point my daughter and I have made up, we have not prayed together.  How is that even possible that I didn’t pray with her?

I think I best stop typing and go pray with my daughter…to show her that my strength and hers is from the Lord…that He cares about all these big and little issues…and He will answer.  And I think I’ll also remind her of who she is in Christ…beloved, precious, God’s workmanship, more than a conqueror, able to do all things in Christ, forgiven and saved.  She cannot say that is a “mom lie.”  God said it!

Before I go, thank you so very much for listening…for allowing me to process my thoughts through my fingers, and come, as always, back to my Faithful Father and His love for me and my dear children.