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!

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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!

 

 

The Process of Forgiveness: Steps 1 to 70×7

steps Recently I’ve had a few people tell that if I’ve forgiven my husband I should be in a better place.  From what I’ve heard I shouldn’t be angry at him again.  The only problem with this idea is that I gotta deal with the man and he’s difficult so that’s gonna be real hard.

It isn’t so much how he treats me – honestly, whatever.  But I do have a hard time with how he treats my kids.  So being human, I’m pretty sure I’m gonna have to forgive him repeatedly and sometimes I’m gonna even get angry before I forgive.

I think there is this thought that once you forgive you forget and live happily ever after.  I wish that was the case.  It’s really more like this:

Forgive…move forward…something unpleasant happens…forgive again…move forward again…something difficult happens…forgive again…repeat until heaven…

I think if you are to a place that you don’t have to repeatedly forgive an unrepentant person for their continued rotten actions – you rock!  And I mean that! And I do truly wish I could be like you.

But I’m finding forgiveness to be a rather long and arduous process.  But God in his infinite wisdom, grace, love and faithfulness has some instructions and some encouragement for me (and you if you are like me).

I guess the first thing is this

Forgiveness takes time, effort, intentionality and God.

I don’t have it in myself to be a completely forgiving person, but God is utterly and infinitely forgiving and I have Him so that makes all the difference.

God can enable me to forgive anyone, but He also allows this whole forgiveness thing to be part of my sanctifying.  Do you remember how many times Jesus said you have to forgive?  70×7.  (Matthew 18:21-22) His point was that we need to forgive a lot.  Why would He say that we were gonna need to forgive so much if we weren’t gonna need to forgive so much?

I think that if Jesus was just talking about how much we forgive in general he wouldn’t have even needed to say 70×7.  I can absolutely forgive one person one time…it’s having to repeatedly forgive the same person that’s tricky.

In my situation with my ex – forgiveness must be offered without request or repentance.  In fact, I think we have been moving farther away from repentance rather than closer to it over these past few years.  So forgiveness is challenging – and continually choosing to forgive is also challenging (sometimes almost as much as the first time).

In marriage we must continually offer forgiveness.  It is the same in divorce.  But I’m kinda getting the impression from people that it is not okay to have to repeatedly forgive my ex.  That I should forgive and move on already.  (I think that is a message I’m getting about a lot of things, but I will hit that in another post.)

When I forgave my husband’s adultery and then his abandonment I didn’t’ understand the nature of forgiveness…at least not totally.  I kind of expected some warm fuzzies and some serious peace about things…a happily ever after of sorts.  Although I did experience that peace which passes all understanding, it came with a cost.  I had to and continue to have to lay aside my feelings in order to embrace the gospel as it relates to forgiveness.  And boy does it!

God has modeled forgiveness for us…and to us.

Forgiveness requires sacrifice on the part of the forgiver.

God sacrificed His son and Jesus sacrificed His life so that we could be forgiven.  God didn’t want to be separated from us so He made that sacrifice.  So that he could have a relationship with us.  That forgiveness offer is available to anyone who accepts it, but it only changes the nature of our relationship with Him when we accept it.  If someone doesn’t accept it – the relationship is not restored…in fact, there is no relationship.  And that sin still separates and grieves the Lord.  In fact, my sin still grieves the Lord even though I can ask for forgiveness and receive reconciliation.

Forgiveness is offered over and over again.

God continues to forgive me even when I sin repeatedly.  He accepts my repentance every single time.  He never says, “Sorry that is the 70×8 time you’ve done that…we are done.”  Oh my, I’m so thankful He doesn’t.

The difficulty we have…those of us who forgive because we are called to not because it was asked for by the offender…is that we must often deal with repeatedly being offended and continually having to offer forgiveness.

What has helped me immensely is understanding that I have truly been forgiven so very much and that, but for the grace of God, I could be that offender…that person who rebels.  I could be rotten…well rottener.  That gives me a measure of grace for my ex.

I see that often forgiveness is like love…it’s a choice I make, something I do even if I don’t feel it.  I decide I’m going to be gracious and kind and I act that way.  But that gracious kind way might have to come after a little bit of fussiness and anger.

But honestly, to think that the lousy things my ex-husband does are not gonna bug me?  Really.  (Please comment if you have no problem with that sort of thing and tell me how you do it!)

I love my kids and when they are hurting my mama bear comes out…can’t seem to help that.

And that brings me to my second point…

Anger isn’t bad.

It’s what we do with that anger that can be very bad.  Feeling a justified emotion is not a sin, but acting bitterly, unkindly, rudely, and punitively is.

God doesn’t say, “Don’t get angry.”  God says, “Don’t sin in your anger.”

It isn’t a bad emotion, it’s a valid emotion God gave us to signal that something is wrong…something needs to be dealt with.

God gets angry…and I am made in His image.

What about the Old Testament?  God has some righteous anger at Israel…it’s justified and often acted upon but always with the purpose of drawing His people back to Him.   Responding to my anger with the purpose of just simply punishing is wrong, but taking my anger to God and asking Him to give me wise ways to deal with it…that’s good.

I have read back through my blogs and I don’t see that I’m sinning in my anger at my ex-husband.  I admit I have anger towards him at times…again, human.  But I truly am trying to not sin in my anger.

The amazing thing is that God uses my anger to draw me closer to Him.  He’s cool that way.  He uses everything in our lives – if we will let Him – to draw us closer to Him.  He sanctifies us in the most amazing ways.

So despite what some people say or think, I do think I’m in a good place.  I’m forgiven and I’m learning to continually forgive…so far I think I’m on step 659… 🙂

Father, guard us against being prideful, bitter, and angry.  Soften our hearts, “renew a right spirit” within us, and give us compassion for our ex-spouses (Psalm 51:10).  Please help us be like Christ.  It seems impossible at times, but You tell us that we “can do all things through [Christ] who strengthens” us (Philippians 4:13), and we ask that You would give us strength to forgive 70×7 times because forgiveness gives us the ability to move forward and enables us to be used by You.  God, help us give our children the gift of a forgiving, loving parent.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

Prayer adapted from When Happily Ever After Shatters: Seeing God in the Midst of Divorce and Single Parenting by me 🙂

What Happens Afterwards?

ImageIt’s been a weird week or so.  Do you know what I mean?

I can’t put my finger on it, but it’s been a little off.

I think I know part of the reason and it’s quite surprising to me.  Particularly because I thought I was kinda past all this stuff.

You know all healed up and such.

But lately, I’m spittin’ mad…angry…frustrated….even a little bit bitter.

And even more than all of those…I’m surprised.

I thought I was over all those awful emotions.

I thought I was past that place

…outta that pit.

But I think there is still some climbing, crawling and running that needs to happen.

Still some growing

learning

and trusting…

I’ve had friends tell me that I need to not use my husband’s adultery, abandonment, and our subsequent divorce as such a huge reference point in my life.

My answer has always been, “????????”

‘Cause it’s pretty much feels like one of the biggest things to happen in my life…and it’s the most recent biggest thing…and it impacted so much and so many and so deeply.

You know those big events like salvation, marriage, children…those things you build upon.

They are all the beginning of something wonderful.

Divorce, it’s just the end.

There isn’t much to build upon there…

in fact, what IS there, is nothing you’d want to build upon anyway, right?

Sadness, regret, anger, betrayal, crisis, etc.

Someone recently said to me, “Divorce can be the beginning of something better.”

I guess so.

But it isn’t because divorce is a great beginning; it’s what God can do afterwards.

But after what?

After divorce?  After a while?  After the stages of grief have all been cycled through…again?

Please don’t get me wrong I’m not asking that in a rotten way…I’m pondering.

I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways.  Psalm 119:15

I guess I should tell you a bit more about my situation…well, my thoughts on my situation.

Those feelings of anger, frustration and bitterness are toward my ex-husband…and he absolutely deserves it BUT it isn’t right and it isn’t good and it isn’t what I want to be feeling.

 Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly.  Proverbs 14:29

I forgave him for what he did to me, to our children and to our family.  And although I know forgiveness is a process (sometimes a long process), I thought I had finished the process.  I thought I was on the other side.

There have been many things to forgive since the original hurt, and those things have indeed been forgiven.

  Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? 

As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.”  Matthew 18:21-22

But, honestly, I’ve been thinking all along that much of what I’ve struggled with in the past 5 plus years has been anger and frustration at those continued dumb things the man does.

Now, I’m not so sure.

Maybe I underestimated the whole forgiveness thing.  Maybe I didn’t understand completely how forgiveness needs to be a “completely” thing.

Forgiveness is definitely something I have offered and done.  I know I have…without a doubt.

I guess this is where the whole faith thing comes in.

The thing with forgiveness is…well, it doesn’t necessarily make all the hurt go away.  I forgave and I still hurt. ..a lot.

And maybe that hurt won’t ever completely go away…it’s pretty deep…but does that mean I haven’t really forgiven?

And if I have forgiven, can I still feel angry at the offending person?

Yes, yes I can.

But should I?

I don’t believe so.

The best thing I can do for ME is forgive and move forward.

The answer is to let go of the anger, frustration, and bitterness.

And I’m thinking I need to go read the chapter on anger and bitterness in my book, because maybe I can remind myself of how I got through this before…  I wish I was kidding.

I definitely don’t want to feel fussy forever.

I want to be able to move forward without anger and bitterness.  I want to not give that burden to my children.  I just want to give my burdens to the Lord – He can handle them.

Cast your burden on the LORD, and he will sustain you, He will never permit the righteous to be moved.  Psalm 55:22

Part of being in this funky place has been that I haven’t been able to hide from my children my thoughts and feelings about their dad.  I apologized to my oldest daughter the other night.

She said, “Yeah, it’s been weird.  But it’s ok Mom.”

Well, I guess I can take one positive think from that – I have done pretty well with it for over 5 years!

But I don’t want to be a mom who weighs down my children with my baggage.

So what am I going to do about it?

1st I’m going to pray.  (I’m noticing a theme in my life – pray first!!!)

Pray for God to give me His perspective on things.

What is His perspective on things?  Well, one thing that has helped in the past is to see my husband as a broken, sinful man in need of a Savior…just like I’m a sinful woman in need of my Savior.  To recognize where he is…and that like David in Psalm 51, his sin is against God.  God will handle it.  I don’t need to.

Pray for God to give me the strength to control my tongue..

Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil

and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good;

let him seek peace and pursue it.  1 Peter 3:10-11

Oh golly, is this gonna be a big prayer request!  I’ve struggled so much lately with my comments and my facial expressions.  I can’t seem to keep my thoughts to myself…my angry thoughts that is.  And the sad part is that those angry thoughts don’t serve any purpose but to wound innocent people around me, particularly my children.

That’s the dumb part about anger and bitterness – it really doesn’t impact the offender very much, if at all.  It just hurts you…and me.  It just hurts the people we most want to protect from further hurt.  Our beautiful children.

So, friends, I’m gonna do something about this angry, bitter woman I see sometimes in the mirror.

She is not welcome anymore.

I don’t think I can just make a decision in this post and change myself instantaneously, but I can start the process…golly another process…maybe I should rephrase that…I can pray and ask the Holy Spirit to start the process in me.

I know that only God can make this better in me.  I know that only God can change the hurt, anger, and bitterness into something much better.

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion – to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified.  Isaiah 61:1-3

My part…my part is to pray, to seek Him, to read His love letter to me, to counsel with friends, and to fight for a better attitude.

Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually.  Psalm 105:4

 

I lift my eyes to the hills.  From where does my help come? 

My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth. 

He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber.  

Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. 

The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade on your right hand. 

The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. 

The LORD will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. 

The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in

from this time forth and forevermore.  Psalm 121

 

 

I Should Have Hugged Her

Image         I was sitting here just finishing up my quiet time and it struck me.

I should have hugged her.

My 7-year old broke her toe last week.  We are gimpy together…same foot even! It would be comical if it weren’t so pathetic.

She won’t let me take a picture of our matching feet – no fun.

This morning she didn’t want to wear the special shoe or use her crutches.  She was in tears and since she has reached the sassy sevens, she was quite rude with her words.

PRAISE GOD (and seriously this is a BIG praise) I kept my voice and manner calm and I recognized what she was feeling…angry, frustrated, embarrassed…

And I tried to talk to her about my foot and compare the two…yeah…that didn’t work.  Sassiness just got sassier.

She looked so sorrowful about the whole thing.   I convinced her to put on the boot and got her a super fun sock that matched the skirt she was wearing and even let her bring her pretty sparkly black shoe in her backpack.  Not sure what I was thinking on that one because I’m pretty sure she’s gonna sneak it on her foot as soon as she steps into school.   🙂

Anywho, we got in the car, still with a bit of an attitude, but I, by the grace of God, kept my calm.  I can struggle with getting frustrated particularly as we are trying to get out the door to school.  We had already missed the bus — well, we really didn’t miss it, it was a conscious decision to miss.  I didn’t sleep well and I decided to push snooze…many, many times.

After about 2 minutes in the car, Lizzie was her usual sweet self.  She apologized and we had a lovely little ride to school.

And as I sat here, foot propped up, with Bible, journal, books and homework surrounding me, I thought for a minute that I really really wished I’d taken the time to hold my daughter.

I was so intent on getting out the door that I didn’t take the time to hold my precious, hurting little girl.  I didn’t add to her hurt this morning, but I wish I had comforted it.  I wish I had loved on her.

There are a thousand things I wish I had done or done differently in any given hour, day, week, month, year…  I carry guilt around like a scarf around my neck…sometimes it seems to choke the life out of me.

I’m pretty confident I’ve shared my propensity to hold on to mommy guilt.  In fact, I have plenty, enough to share if you need any.  But I doubt any parent needs extra guilt.  Most of us carry around a fair amount.  And if you don’t feel guilt, that is a blessing and I won’t share any of mine with you!

This past week I heard a snippet from an interview with Desmond Tutu.  He answered a question regarding parents being able to forgive themselves for mistakes they made with their children.  Among other things, he said something that really struck me.  He reminded the interviewer that parents are not omniscient.  And that parents make decisions with good will towards their children.  I’m completely paraphrasing…he said it much more eloquently.

What blessed me was the reminder that all those things I’m second-guessing now, I did with the belief that I was doing the right thing by my children.

I’m not talking about the choices I sometimes make to yell, or fuss, or say things I wish I hadn’t.  I’m talking about choices and decisions we make that aren’t made in anger, frustration or selfishness.

This morning was a minor moment in the life of my daughter, and I made the decision to keep the ball rolling towards the car and school.  I just wish I had taken a moment to stop the ball and hug my girl.

Will that harm my little girl?  Doubtful.  I didn’t withhold affection or rebuff her, I just showed my affection and love through words.  So do I really need to beat myself up about it like I tend to do?

Nope.  Definitely not.

And when she gets home from school today, I will greet her with a huge hug, ask her about her day and love on her.

God has not called me to live a life of guilt.  It is not His plan for us as parents…and we certainly don’t want to model guilt for our children.

I remember years ago doing a Bible study entitled Sonship.    One of the most amusing and profound quotes from the study was, “Cheer up!  You are worse off than you think!”

The point was that our sin is much worse than we think, BUT God’s love, forgiveness, mercy and grace is much bigger than we think too!  Tim Keller says it something like this – we are much more sinful and flawed than we ever dared believe, but more loved and welcomed than we ever dared hope.

Do you see it?  There is no place for guilt – mommy or any other – in this Christian life.  God has blessed us with grace.  Grace.

I’m trying so hard to understand that word.  To truly grasp its meaning for my life.  I don’t think I will ever plumb the depths of its meaning like I want to.  I want to immerse myself in it, drown in it, be swallowed up in grace.  I want it to be the defining feature of my life.  To be something that I live – something that I breath in and out.  Something that my children see…see as clearly as they see the kitchen table.

And yet, I constantly struggle with my sin and my focus again and again is back on me.  Me. Me. Me.

Grace calls me to focus on Jesus!  Jesus, only Jesus.

Jesus.  Grace.

What does that look like to this mommy plagued by guilt?  This momma that wants to drop everything and run over to the elementary school and give my 7-year old sweetheart a hug?  This momma that second-guesses everything a thousand times and more?  This momma who wants the best but can’t seem to provide it?  This momma that loves her children passionately?

What does living grace look like Lord?

Well, I know one thing…it’s not about how well I do anything.

I can’t earn grace…neither can you.

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.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.  Ephesians 2:8-10

And I know that it’s not about what I think about me.

God loves me period.  When God looks at me he sees his perfect Son and the way He lived His life.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us

in him before the foundations of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.  In love, he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ

according to the purpose of his will to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.   Ephesians 1:3-6

And it’ not about how I do or don’t do this parenting things well.

God is the perfect parent who loves my children perfectly and will work in their lives regardless of me.

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

And really grace isn’t about me – I want everything to be about me – But grace is about Christ.

The only way I can get my head in the right place is to recognize my need for Christ – to understand that I am a sinner (…a big fat sinner) in need of a Savior (…a gigantic loving Savior), who loves me (…that same ole big fat sinner) despite all my flaws and guilt and sins.

I cannot be the woman or mother I want to be without Christ…and when I try, that’s when that blasted guilt comes creeping in…actually it doesn’t creep in, it crashes in and falls on top of me.

I guess I have to ask the question, “Do I trust God?  Do I trust His grace?”

Because if I do, I want to rest in it.

I have to allow the reality of God’s grace to seep into every part of me.  And I must grab hold of my new identity in Christ and not allow the old guilt-ridden self to have any place in my home.

Do I trust that God’s grace is enough to enable me to raise my children…to do this life?  YES!

So live like it, Sue!

Simple and not so simple

I think to some degree it is simple.  If I’m in the Word of God and praying and seeking Him and praising Him and thanking Him.  If I’m living a life of praise and thanksgiving, then the focus of my heart is on Him, not me.

Not focusing on me is a very good thing.  I never like what I see when I look at me.

When I look at Christ – I like what I see….I LOVE what I see.  And what I see is now what is ME!

I’m defined by Christ…by the life He lived!  Not by the life I’m living.

 I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength!  Philippians 4:13

It’s not about what I do well or better or even what I fail to do.  It is simply and completely about what Christ has done.

I have to stop second-guessing because that is not the focus God wants me to have.  I want to stop looking behind and start looking ahead – God has a great plan for us after all.  I’d like to watch it unfold!

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 4:12-14

What do I pray…really?

Road Through ForestThis past week I received a Facebook message which asked me what I pray…really.

It was an interesting question.

Have to admit being a bit taken aback because I tend to write a lot about what I’m praying.

But maybe the question needs some further thought.

What do I really pray about?

I remember in college someone sharing the idea of praying ACTS.

Adoration. Praising God and Reminds me how great my God really is.
Contrition. Asking forgiveness puts me in the right place to worship Him.
Thanksgiving. Reminds me of all the blessings I have in my life.
Supplication Allows me to lay all my burdens and concerns at His feet.

That’s a pretty cool way of praying.

I have to be honest and say that I have not often used this prayer pattern. My style has been more about praying in moments of duress, with a child about a specific thing, with my head on the pillow, or when I’m asked to by a friend.

Maybe what I should share is what I want to pray about and need to pray about more.

I want to pray these prayers:

Lord, I so often spend my time lamenting things rather than recognizing how very blessed I am. Thank you for so much for all the ways you provide for and love on me and my children

Lord, I’m so grateful for your grace. I know I don’t deserve it, but I’m so very thankful for it.

Lord, no matter how hard I try I don’t seem to be able to do this parenting thing as well as I want to. Father, please love my children through me and cover my mistakes with your mercy and grace.

Lord, I fail so often. Father, my thoughts are so not holy sometimes. My actions are not pleasing to you. My mouth can say the worst things. Father, please forgive me.

Lord, I long for my children to know you well…to love you and that the desire of their hearts is to live for you. Please give my children a passion for You. Please bless them with strength for the day and hope for tomorrow.

Lord, you know me. You know I absolutely hate to make decisions. And I second-guess myself so much. P lease guide me. Give me your wisdom and discernment.

Praying is a beautiful privilege and blessing. I wish I’d remember to do it more often. To trust God with everything in my life…to not hold anything back. I wish I’d rest more in His presence then rush around in the present.

Those prayers I listed above…I just prayed them. So I guess I can say that is what I pray…really.

Loving the Unlovable…Seriously Unlovable

flashing heart

A few weeks ago I posted about being done.   These past several weeks have been a bit difficult with regard to my attitude about my ex-husband. 

I forgave him 3 years ago, but sometimes I still get annoyed with him.  Sometimes I just want him to be nice. And sometimes I want him to just go away already! 

I’ve been pondering the whole response to an ex that ain’t perfect.  And I’m acknowledging right here and now that neither am I.  Sometimes he just seems a lot less perfect than me…but then again, I know that isn’t exactly accurate either.  I have my own issues and only by the grace of God do I live.

And although at this time in my life I’m writing as it relates to my ex-husband, I believe that God is showing me this is the way I’m to live period…in an attitude of love, goodness, blessing and prayer.  My eyes focused not on my life, not on my circumstances, and not on the wrongs done to me, but rather focused with laser intensity on Jesus!

The verse that God is continually bringing me to is Luke 6:27-28

But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 

It seems harsh to refer to my ex-husband as my enemy…although sometimes it feels that way.  I believe that he isn’t my enemy.  I think I feel like I’m in a battle with him, but maybe we are more like opponents in a tennis match…but there’s definitely no love in the score.

“Love your enemies” 

Awww Lord, really?

Love…do good…bless…pray…

Love him?  Love him.  Really?

What does that even look like?  ‘Cause I did that for a long time and it didn’t end so well.  So I’m praying as I write because I really don’t know what that looks like. 

Talking about love always reminds me of 1 Corinthians 13:4-7.  Love is:

Patient, Kind, Does not envy or boast, Not arrogant or rude, Does not insist on its own way, Is not irritable or resentful, Does not rejoice in wrongdoing, Rejoices in the truth, BEARS ALL THINGS, BELIEVES ALL THINGS, HOPES ALL THINGS, ENDURES ALL THINGS

Ok, I’m seriously convicted. 

Am I patient with God’s dealing with my situation and my ex?  Am I kind in the face of my ex’s attitudes, accusations, and actions?  Am I rude when I could choose to be kind?  Do I insist that things go my way regardless of God’s plan?  Am I irritable and resentful?  (ugh…definitely)  I do not believe I rejoice in my ex’s wrongdoings but maybe I do a bit when it’s me trying to justify my angry response to him.  Do I rejoice in the truth?  Golly, I hope so. 

But in this circumstance do I bear, believe, hope and endure all things?  Nope, I wanna crawl in my closet and hide.  And when that doesn’t happen I want to yell and argue and fight with my ex.   

Who am I kidding…I can’t do those things?  Love like that?  That’s not logical.

But when has God called me to do something that He hasn’t enabled me to do?  Seriously never! 

Once again I’m gonna have to rely solely on Jesus.  After all He has given us “a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” (2 Timothy 1:7)

And I’m totally going to need that spirit in my life because not only am I called to love that man, but do good, bless and pray for him.

Do good too? 

Bless Him?!?! 

Pray for him…okay I can do that. 

I checked out Matthew 5:43-48 in The Message.  (That Bible phone app rocks!) 

You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that.  I’m telling you to love your enemies.  Let them bring out the best in you, not the worse.  When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves.  This is what God does.  He gives his best – the sun to warm and the rain to nourish – to everyone, regardless:  the good and bad, the nice and nasty.  If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus?  Anybody can do that… “In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up.  You’re kingdom subjects.  Now live like it.  Live out your God-created identity.  Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.”

Well that kinda puts it all in perspective. Let them bring out the best in you…respond with the energies of prayer.

Respond with prayer to someone who is a pain. 

God keeps reminding me of that prayer thing.  It IS the only answer.  I believe maybe I need to be putting my energies into prayer rather than thinking about how angry I am or even figuring out how not to be angry. 

And praying will certainly help me be my best…my God-created best.  And that will definitely help me live generously and graciously toward my ex-husband. 

I believe I will pray for God to enable me to live the way God lives toward me!

My Peace Symbol

fish symbol for car

Peace.

That peace symbol is all over the place.  I see it on everything.  It’s difficult to avoid sometimes.  I don’t particularly care for it to be honest.  It doesn’t really speak peace to me.

It reminds me more of a time when there wasn’t peace…when people stood less for true peace and more for fake peace.  

I’m looking for the real deal.  I want Jesus peace.

Lately I’ve had a lot of people ask is there any relief from all the emotions and feelings of adultery, abandonment and divorce.  My answer is yes.  Yes. 

But what I’m finding is that peace in a sense is something I have to fight for…I have to choose.  

Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it. Psalm 34:14

Sometimes I feel more like a whirling dervish (what is a whirling dervish anyway?)  I feel all twisted up in knots and a bit frantic inside. 

The most difficult part is the way I feel.  I feel deep sorrow at times.  Sorrow that I can’t change what has happened or its effects, especially on my children.  And when those crushing feelings come crashing in…maybe I should say, crushing in…I just want to run away.  Unfortunately, I’m pretty sure all those blasted feelings would run with me.  I’m not a terribly fast runner so I’m sure they’d catch up even if I had a head start. 

From the beginning of this nightmare, I’ve wanted to escape the emotional component.  I didn’t want to feel what I was feeling…the sorrow was so intense.  Betrayal is brutal.  Now I think I struggle more with a profound sadness at the loss of what I thought would never be lost and the injustice of the whole situation.  And believe me there is a fair amount of injustice.

And yet, I’m reminded of my Savior.  His willingness to suffer injustice for me.  To feel intense sorrow for me.  To know betrayal for me.  To allow Himself to be punished for me.  To turn the other cheek and forgive for me.  What He suffered for me…I can’t even grasp it.

In no way am I attempting to compare my suffering with Christ’s – there is no comparison.  I just take great comfort in knowing that He understands all that I feel.  He gets me.

I want to be Christ-like, but dang it, sometimes I just really want to kick something. 

Kicking things is bad.

That’s when I need peace…when I gotta seek peace and pursue it.  Find it and grab it.

I keep being brought back again and again to Philippians 4:6-7.  Do not be anxious about anything (my children, my future, my situation with my ex…life) but in everything (no matter how wonderful or absolutely NOT wonderful) through prayer and petition (on my knees, on my face, in the car, in the shower, at the kitchen sink…) with thanksgiving (for everything – the good, the bad, and the ugly) present your requests to God (all of ‘em).  And the peace of God (which comes from Him and only Him), which surpasses all understanding (it makes no sense to have peace when life is so complicated and challenging), will guard your hearts (all those funky emotions) and your minds (all those crazy thoughts) in Christ Jesus (as always, anything good that happens in life is from Jesus).

That peace I long for…it’s available.  It’s God’s peace in Christ Jesus.  And it comes when I focus on Him.

You keep 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

My mind stayed.  I looked up “stayed” in my thesaurus.  Similar words were:  resided, settled, lodged, dwelled, stopped, abided, inhabited, have your home.  And my favorite was “to stand firm” 

Recently I spoke at the MomLife Bootcamp about dressing like a warrior.  I focused on Ephesians 6:10-20.  I LOVE those verses. 

Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. Ephesians 6:13-15 (ESV)</p>

 I think those verses fit perfectly with my mind stayed on Christ.  The Amplified Bible says, “to stand (firmly in your place). Stand therefore (hold your ground).”  I envision it as planting my feet and being unwilling to move.  I want to plant my gaze firmly on Christ and not let it waver from Him.  That’s peace. 

It’s like Peter walking on the water during the storm.  As long as his gaze was fixed on Jesus, he actually walked on the water!  How cool is that! But as soon as he looked at the swirling waves he began sinking.  I’m the same way…if I focus on my circumstances they overwhelm me.  I want to focus on Christ so that He overwhelms me with His love and peace! Ahhh…the peace which passes all understanding…even in the midst of storms and trials.  He is so good to give it.

Maybe I need to figure out my own peace symbol.  Maybe that cool ancient fish symbol. (You know that one we stick to our cars and hope nobody notices when we drive like crazy people.)  I think that works.  When I see it maybe I’ll take a breath, say a prayer, thank my Savior, and let His peace wash all over me.  Sounds like a really good plan. 

Joyfully Enduring

Endurance:  n. 1. The act, quality, or power of withstanding hardship or stress.  2.  The state or fact of persevering: continuing survival.

MP900163580 (1)This past weekend I was blessed to hear a sermon about endurance. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to take notes because I’d left my purse, Bible and notebook in the car in my mad dash to be relatively close to on-time for the service. I do not understand why I can get all my kids to school on time, but can’t seem to make it to church before the first worship song.

    Anyway, notes or no notes, I want to share what God has been showing me.

Lately I’ve been in a tired and overwhelmed place…an unusual place for me. I’m usually the goofy one…the one who laughs too loud (which my children are constantly making fun of), the one who wears the rose-colored glasses, the one who can find something amusing about most things.

Not as much anymore. I think its life. I kinda got kicked in the fanny and sometimes it’s a bit more difficult to find anything really amusing in this place I find myself.
One friend recently asked if I was all right because my writing is so much more serious than it used to be. I was a bit bummed to hear that but replied that I’m okay, just dealing a little bit more seriously with things…things are a little bit more serious, after all. But this serious side of things and me is just no fun…I’d like to figure out how to do this with more joy.

I used to do the joy thing better. Even after my husband left I think I “got it” better than I do now. I believe it’s because life is hard and, as many pastors say, this life is not a sprint, it’s a marathon…I think it might be more of a triathlon…but with WAY more than 3 legs. Just when I finish one leg relatively successfully or even just barely, another one starts…ugh.

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

Joy in trials.

That seems impossible, but I can attest that God gives joy even in the midst of great suffering. I have seen it in my life and in the lives of others.

Joy – not a giddy happiness nor an absence of sorrow – but a peace which passes all understanding guarding our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7).

There is a grace to walking with joy. I believe when God tells us to walk in a manner worthy of our calling…it’s to walk with joy. To endure this life of sojourning…to wholeheartedly believe that God loves us, has a purpose in each moment of our lives, and that His plan is perfect…and to know the joy of trusting Him with our eternal future.

And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. May you be strengthened with all power according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. Colossians 1:9-14

Awesome verses. I hadn’t realized that there would be a reference to endurance and joy in them. I love how God brings us to just the right passage without us even knowing we are headed there.

What an interesting phrase – for all endurance and patience with joy – I’m intrigued by the word “all” – all endurance with joy…all patience with joy.

I think that all is similar to the all in count it all joy from James. Part of me wants to find some curious thing about the word all, but I’m pretty sure the word all means all. My thesaurus uses these words among others, “entire, whole, total, integral, any and every, each, nothing but, totally.” I guess that means that there isn’t a time when I shouldn’t have joy…every time I’m enduring something or patiently dealing with something I choose joy.

Joy beyond happiness.

Enduring adj. abiding, firm, never-failing, steadfast, steady, unfaltering, unqualified, unquestioning, wholehearted

Maybe that’s the secret to enduring? Joy.

Joy that I have the Lord. Joy that the Lord is all that I really need. Joy that there is freedom in Christ. Joy that I’m forgiven. Joy that my inheritance is secure. Joy that sorrow may last for a night, but more joy comes in the morning.

And somehow or another I believe peace is tied in there. Peace that God isn’t just letting my life fly willy-nilly wherever the wind takes me…He has a plan and it is good. Peace that He will never leave me nor forsake me. Peace that God is good, faithful and kind, slow to anger and abounding in love.

Peace makes me think of Philippians 4:6-7 which reminds me to not be anxious about anything but in everything give thanks.

I believe that is the other ticket to endurance…thankfulness.

I cannot deny I’m blessed when I begin looking for and focusing on the good things in my life. God is absolutely working in my life, and He is so very faithful and loving to me. I can even look back and find things that I wouldn’t necessarily have described as “good” that I can now be grateful for because of their part in making me who I am now. Maybe that’s the testing of my faith that produces steadfastness that leads to me lacking nothing? (James 1:2-4 again )

Once again, I’m reminded that my joy, my peace, my ability to give thanks, and my endurance are all because of my Savior. It is not because I can make myself joyful, peaceful, grateful or strong on my own…I know I can’t. But with Christ, I can be all those things and more. I know that God will bless me with the ability to endure.

I totally didn’t follow the sermon I heard on Sunday…see what happens when I don’t take notes!! Stream of consciousness writing…yikes!

Lord, I pray we will know your peace, that thankfulness will be nurtured in our hearts and you will give us the grace to live joyfully no matter the circumstances of our lives.
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Thessalonians 5:16-18

Definitions taken from:
Webster’s Collegiate Thesaurus (1976) and The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (1973)

Repeat Offender…Me

sunset

Isn’t it just the way…when you start talking a lot about something, it becomes something big in your life?  Even if it already was a big thing.

I’ve been really blessed to share a lot about my story lately.  And a big part of my story is forgiveness.  I can’t overemphasis its importance in my life.

Apparently, God doesn’t want me to forget it…forgiveness for me and forgiveness for others.

Today I woke up feeling such a burden to pray…to ask for forgiveness.  I have struggled with many things over the past several years.  I seem to continually struggle with the same dumb things over and over and over again.  I do the same thing repeatedly and feel like God must be getting tired of my requests for forgiveness.  I don’t understand how He couldn’t weary of me.  And yet, I know that He never tires of my repentance even if it is for the same repeated offense.

I wonder…

Do I offer that kind of forgiveness…ever? 

There are 5 other people in my family.  Five people to forgive and be forgiven by.  What do I teach my children about forgiveness?

I know they know that it’s important.  But what about when it’s a repeated offense?  I don’t think I’ve taught that one well.

I have a child that tends toward lying.  Absolutely heartbreaking.  This child, who I’ll call Repeat Offender, is quick to ask forgiveness when there’s no way around it.  A few days ago Repeat Offender said, “I’m sorry Mom. Please forgive me.”  And I said, “Yeah, I forgive you, but seriously how many times are you gonna do this?  It’s kinda hard to believe your repentance is real when I know you are just gonna do it again.”

Did I seriously say that to my child?

I mean I know it’s a valid question to some degree…but not a valid SPOKEN question to a child!  I said out loud to Repeat Offender what I pray God never says to me, an absolute repeat offender.  At 40-something (ahem) I find myself still struggling with so much I thought I’d be past by now.  I’m so disappointed with myself. 

How could I deny forgiveness to anyone?  I need so much of it myself.

The Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him?  As many as seven times?’  Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.”  Matthew 18:21-22

I’m so Peter. 

“So Jesus, let’s be serious here.  How many times do I really need to forgive someone?  You know when they keep doing the same thing over and over, it’s like 7 times right?  That’s pretty generous.”

And Jesus, He just basically says, “As many times as it takes.”

Drat.  Really?  Because sometimes that is sooooo difficult.  I mentioned Repeat Offender, but seriously, my ex-husband challenges me the most.  The residual of his original offense makes forgiveness a constant battle.  I keep having to practice forgiveness.  I keep having to say, “I forgive” even when I KNOW that tomorrow there is likely going to be another thing to forgive. 

 And yet, that’s me too.  Like Peter, Repeat Offender, and my ex-husband, I need to receive a healthy dose of forgiveness daily.  I think I’m realizing I also need to offer it. 

I’m so thankful that God isn’t like me.  I’m so glad He keeps no record of wrong.

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 103:11-13

That measurement…as far as the east is from the west…that’s not even a measurement.  How do you measure that? 

God is so good.  I wish I was worthy of His love the way I want to be.  I know that I don’t have to be worthy of it or earn it.  I know that it is free.  I know that He died for me before I could even request saving…before I even knew I needed saving. 

“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.”  Romans 5:6

He loves us with more compassion and grace than I can comprehend.

Relentlessly.

God forgives me so much every day.  May I be able to offer that blessed gift to all who ask for it and even those who don’t.

“… for I will forgive their iniquity and I will remember their sin no more.”  Jeremiah 31:34