Are you ready to stop wrestling and start resting?

This was eye-opening for me. In the throes of a deep conversation with a dear friend, I was asked by him to stop and be thankful.  To spend the rest of the conversation thinking about things that we could be grateful for…instead of things that we struggle with…

Can I tell you…it wasn’t easy.  

And I was surprised.  No I was shocked.  

For a few moments I could think of nothing positive to say.

Not. One. Thing.

My eyes welled up with tears, not because I was frustrated with the conversation but because I had allowed myself to reach such a point that I could only see the struggle, only feel the fear, only know the challenges.  

What had happened to me?  How had I gone so terribly astray in my thinking.

Ironically, that very day I had responded to someone’s question about how to be thankful…how could I possibly have given someone else advice when I couldn’t figure out how to be thankful myself.

So I sat on the sofa staring at the floor wondering what I could possibly say.  Thankfully he jumped in and shared…just talked one thing after another…nothing earth-shattering, just daily stuff.

And I thought to myself, “Just start talking.  One little thing.”  It was like trying to change the direction of a freight train speeding forward…without stopping…just whipping that thing in reverse and going for it.  I truly felt that I was  wrestling to regain and turn around my thoughts and my emotions and my whole attitude and perspective.  Good gravy it was hard!

I said, “Well, I’m thankful it was a beautiful day…and for devotional time with Ally that was good this morning…and that my bangs were not cut too short when I got my haircut today…:”  

And then it all changed…

One step…a few words…a whole new perspective.

Fifteen minutes earlier I was frustrated, afraid, and even verging on angry.  Now?  Well, now I’m thankful.  I’m peaceful.  I’m hopeful.

All because he asked us to stop and be thankful.

In all things, give thanks.  1 Thessalonians 5:18

It was an end the madness moment.  And for me…it was more.  It revealed..no, it threw a spotlight on a way of living I have tiptoed around for years.

I talk about choosing joy.  I talk about being thankful.  I talk about peace.  But I keep having to remind myself that I can choose joy, be thankful, live peace, because I haven’t made a decision to do those things consistently for myself.  It’s like I say, “Look at this possibility!  Look at what we can do if we try!”  But then I never really try…I mean try hard.  I have spent so much time taking comfort in the possibility and haven’t experienced the lasting beauty of choosing joy, peace, and gratefulness as a lifestyle.

I realized…actually I remembered something I’ve known to be true for quite a while.  The fruit of the Spirit God talks about in Galatians are already mine.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.  Galatians 5:22-23

God has ALREADY given me joy and peace and a mess of things to be thankful for!  I truly need to choose to live it.

Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you:  not as the world gives do I give to you.  Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.  John 14:27

When I’m begging for joy and peace, I wonder if God smiles gently and whispers, “Dearest, I already gave those to you. You have all you need.”

And I still request them as if I’d never received them…ever.

Sitting on that sofa, I realized it truly is a choice.  I can choose to see the beauty around me  I can choose to be thankful.  I can choose to stop pouting and start praising.  I can choose to stop trying to be in control and start trusting that God already is.  

God has blessed me with all that I need to live this life joyfully, gratefully, and peacefully. He has given me the Holy Spirit and He has given me friends.  And He has given me this loving friend who is willing to risk my ire to say that we can choose gratefulness in the midst of challenges.

I like it.  I love it.

I can do all things through him who strengthens me.  Philippians 4:13

Let’s stop wrestling with things, and start resting in Him.  

I know now that choosing to be thankful is all within my power.  It isn’t easy…it can be super challenging to change the way we think, but God gives us all the strength we need to choose well.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Romans 15:13

In the Moment

IMG_2636It was one of those loooong work days. Ten and a half hours to be exact.  I was bone weary tired.

So when my little ones were dropped off at my school, I decided it sounded like a Chick Fila kinda day.

There was no argument from my littles.  It’s the favorite restaurant….they know us there.  Ally even has inside jokes with the manager…we bring the party…always have, always will.

Anyway…when we walked in I noticed a lady sitting at a booth.   She had her head in her hands and I instantly wanted to reach over and comfort her.  I wanted to put my hand on her shoulder and say, “I understand.”

Because I do.

I’ve been there.  It doesn’t matter the place…those head-in-the-hands moments happen regardless of location.

Those moments are better than the weep-curled-in-a-ball moments.

So much better.

This past weekend I experienced both as I struggled with realizations of some things my children were dealing with and how much I want to change situations for them.  I found myself wishing that things were oh so very different yet again.

One of my children spent the day with me…leaning heavily on me…physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  This child needed more than words…this child needed me to listen, pray, and just simply be there.

Oh how I have needed that too.  That has been one of the most difficult parts of this move…not having my closest friends here.  Not having friends that understand sometimes I need a shoulder and sometimes I need a kick in the butt and sometimes I just need a babysitter.

I miss them.

I miss the hands on my shoulder, the kind words, the comforting prayers, the encouragement, admonitions, accountability, and understanding.  I miss having someone to hang out with…I miss it a lot.

As I glanced at this woman and her little boys and the empty ring finger…I thought maybe she is a weary single parent like me.  Or maybe she just took it off to do the dishes and she’s exhausted from a day of chores.  I’ve been at that point too… 🙂

Whatever her story…it reminded me of the way we really need each other.  Not just for a coffee date or a phone conversation, but for the real life stuff.  The days when my head is in my hands more than anywhere else…the days when I have things to celebrate and the days when I have things to commiserate.

I was made for fellowship.  I was made for more than work and chores and stuff to do…I was made for fellowship with my Father and fellowship with my spiritual siblings.

I have discovered, not surprisingly, that there is a direct correlation between my peace, my perspective, and my level of fellowship with my Father.

The more time I spend with Him, the more I long to spend time with Him.

The more time I spend with Him, the more like Him I become.

Maybe that’s why the past year or so has been such a fretful, difficult, overwhelming kind of year?

I have lived in triage mode and neglected to go to the Medic that can really help me.

I’ve looked everywhere for healing from all my difficult moments…and I’ve looked for comfort and strength and peace in the things I can find myself.

My.

Self.

Sometimes I don’t understand myself.

Actually, a lot of times I don’t understand myself.

I’m so very much like Paul…doing what I don’t want to do and not doing what I want to do…over and over and over again.

And where has it gotten me?

Head-in-my-hands.

Insecure.  Fearful.  Scared.  And, sometimes, angry.

I don’t like that me.

This morning I was looking for a verse to share with a friend who is struggling and I remembered Isaiah 54:11-17:

“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, your gates of carbuncles, and all your walls of precious stones.  All your children shall be taught by the LORD, and great shall be the peace of your children.  In righteousness you shall be established; you shall be far from oppression, for you shall not fear; and from terror, for it shall not come near you.  If anyone stirs up strife, it is not from me; whoever stirs up strife with you shall fall because of you.  Behold I have created the smith who blows the fire of coals and produces a weapon for its purpose.  I have also created the ravager to destroy; no weapon that is fashioned against you shall succeed, and you shall refute every tongue that rises against you in judgment.  This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD and their vindication from me, declares the LORD.

When I read “O afflicted one, storm-tossed, and not comforted” I feel comforted.  Is that weird or what?  It is like someone – like the Someone saying, “Dear one, I know…I know how you are feeling and what you are going through.”

God knows just what I need to hear.  And then He follows it up with additional blessings.

He tells me the beautiful ways that He is going to work in my life.  Beautiful.  Even though I’m going to have to look up antimony, agate and carbuncles…it doesn’t sound like it but they are beautiful gems and minerals.

My NIV version uses the terms turquoise, lapis lazuli, and sparkling jewels.

The pictures are pretty.

I think being rebuilt into something beautiful would be wonderful.

What is my beauty going to look like?

Is it going to be the beauty of a woman whose face is raised to her Lord….confident, unafraid, and secure in the love of her Abba Father?

Is it going to be the beauty of a woman who finds her strength in Him?

Is it going to be the beauty of a woman who seeks His will above her own?

Is it going to be the beauty of a woman who finds all she needs in Him?

There are seasons when it is reasonable to place our head in our hands and weep.  There are weary season…there just are.

There are seasons when it is understandable to be curled in a ball in the corner of the closet.  There are seasons of sorrow.

It’s okay.  He is in those moments too.  He never leaves us or forsakes us.

When we find ourselves turned from Him…when we have sought solace, strength, and anything else we think we need from a source other than the One that truly can give us all we need…He never looks away from us.

I have to shake my head at the thought…how is that possible?

I know me…I know me in good and bad times…and very rarely am I the woman I want to be for Him.  And yet He loves me still.

Wow.

I wish I had been brave enough to share with that woman the hope I have found in Christ.

I could have given her a hug, but that would not have made a lasting difference.  Momentary comfort. I could offer so much more.

All that I have found to be true of my Father.

He meets me continually where I am…whether it’s a wonderful or a woeful place.

He pours love on me lavishly when I least deserve it.

He comforts me with His presence and peace.

He provides for me…above and beyond.

He is with me…always.

And you know what is a great comfort right now?  It doesn’t really matter what moment I’m in…He is with me.

Thank you Lord.

“Though the mountain be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the Lord, who has compassion on you.  Isaiah 54:10

Why not talk to God?

photo 1 (3)I shared recently about the big decisions I need to make and how much I was struggling to make them.

It has been a season of tremendous confusion for me…no easy answers, no straight, lighted path before me, nothing uncomplicated.

I kept asking God to just make things clear to me.  I kept telling Him that I would go or be wherever He wanted me to go or be…just please tell me!

But as I have shared before, I kept looking to others to help me decide…to wrestle through decisions with me.

I wanted friends willing to listen to me say or ask the same thing 15 times in 15 different ways.  I needed to grapple and ponder and brainstorm.  And I didn’t want to do it alone.

This single parent decision-making thing can be a lonely business.

And for someone who likes to think out loud, it is torturous…unfortunately I think I’ve been torturing everyone around me.  I put my friends and family in the position of having to hear me think out loud a lot.

I spent a lot time trying to find someone…anyone…that would tell me what to do!  I’m surprised they all didn’t run away from me.

I felt such a burden to figure things out…just to make a decision already.

I wanted to talk (and talk and talk…)

And it struck me

Why not talk to God?

Maybe that desire to think out loud is really more about a desire to pray.  I just hadn’t thought of it that way before.

I’d been so busy looking for someone to lead me that I’d missed talking to the One who is my Leader.  I’m truly like a silly little sheep.  I have The Good Shepherd as my guide and I’m not looking to Him.  I’m looking around to anyone and everyone to give me answers, direction, and guidance.

He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.  Isaiah 40:11

But God in His graciousness did indeed provide.

First it was a dear friend who, while in the midst of her own health crisis, willingly listened to my life circumstances and shared her thoughts.  I’m in of God’s provision.

She asked me where I wanted to be in 5 years.   She said, “Focus on where you want to be, rather than all the little things that need to happen to get there.”

At first I thought, “How in the world do I do THAT?  There are things that need to be done…decisions that need to be made and actions that need to be taken!”

But the more I thought about it the more I realized that if I trust God’s leading, I must also trust that He will provide a way.

I kept thinking of the priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant who had to step into the river before it parted.  Maybe I need to be willing to do that as well…take a step of faith.

So when the people set out from their tents to pass over the Jordan with the priests bearing the ark of the covenant before the people, and as soon as those bearing the ark had come as far as the Jordan, and the feet of the priests bearing the ark were dipped in the brink of the water (now the Jordan overflows all its banks throughout the time of harvest), the waters coming down from above stood and rose up in a heap very far away… Joshua 3:14-16

A lot grabs me in those verses…but one thing that stuck out was that the Lord wants us know that this was not an easy wade in the water…this was an overflowing river.  Probably seemed a bit daunting to those priests, but they trusted that God was going to make a way for them to follow His leading and they took a step of faith.

God gave direction and then provided the way.

I want that.

I want direction…clear direction…obvious direction…a well-lit straight path ahead.  I’m finding that God doesn’t often choose that path for me.  My path is more often than not a little dark so I can only see a step or two in front of me.  I cannot even see a bit up the path.  It is always, and I mean always, a bit curvy and rocky.  I’m walking slowly, deliberately and with anxiety in my heart for what lies ahead.  I want to make decisions that I know will turn out well…decisions that have a happy ending.

I know I can trust God.  I also know I can trust that God’s word is true.  And His word says that I will have trouble.  I’ve been living in the trouble times…I long for peaceful.  I’m always worried that my decisions will lead to more troubled times. Lord, forgive me for my fear and anxious thoughts.

But I also know that there is peace in making a decision and trusting God with the outcome.  I want to make a decision and have the outcome guaranteed…guaranteed to end the way I want.  But God says that He guarantees the outcome to be for His glory and my good…not that it will be my “perfect” outcome.

As I was wresting with my hope for perfection, God continued to bless me.  My one sister, who loves me and all my goofiness, was willing to listen, brainstorm and pray with me until the wee hours of the morning.  My sister, the one I grew up with, is also my sister in Christ.  And what a blessing she is to me!

I shared with her all my thoughts, concerns, fears, and ideas…and she listened patiently, and even laughed at all my jokes! (That is definitely a blessed thing J!)

As we talked through my situation, she said some things that really struck me:

If I love Christ and live my life for Him, He WILL lead me.

If my desire is to glorify Him and bless others, He will work in my situation to those ends.

Sometimes a decision just needs to be made and God will take care of the rest.

And finally, she reminded me of Philippians 4:7, “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

That term guard was what she wanted me to notice. It’s actually a military term.  Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance says that to guard means: “‘a sentinel, guard’ – to guard (keep watch) like a military sentinel; (figuratively) to actively display whatever defensive and offensive means are necessary to guard.”

God’s peace guards our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus.  He is willing to do whatever is necessary to protect our hearts and our minds.

So if that is true…why do I so often feel so little peace?

I don’t believe it is because God is doing anything wrong…I believe that it is because I’m seeking that peace in my circumstances…in my decisions.

My sister pointed out that God’s peace is something I have regardless of my circumstances, my decisions and their outcomes.

It is my decision to live in that peace that God does and will always guard.  I’m blessed by that realization…that reminder.

And I’m grabbing hold of that reminder…no, I’m grabbing hold of that peace.

My big decision is one of the biggest of my single mom life…and one of the top ten of my life to this point.

I know that regardless of my decision, God will not leave me nor forsake me.

And regardless of my decision, God’s peace is mine.

Oh how desperately I want that peace.  It seems so “christianeze-ish”  (my word) for me to say I will live in God’s peace regardless of things going on…and it also seems a bit sketchy that I would say that after all I’ve written about struggle and anxiety and fear…BUT….

That peace is God’s…not mine. It’s a God thing.  And I will grab hold of it and I will focus on it and I will study it and I will live it because God is guarding me with it.

I’m so thankful for my Lord, for my friend and for my sister.

God will lead me even if it isn’t with lightning bolts and neon signs…it might be a late night talk or a quiet morning studying His the Word or a little bit of both or He might just guide me to make a decision and trust Him.

My decision right now is to take a big step of faith. I’m moving forward without a definite plan, but with hope and peace that as I step out God will guide.  I’m taking a big step and praying fervently that God will make clear paths where I see none right now.

I’m trusting God will lead me…and I’m excited to see what He shows me.

In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.  Proverbs 16:9

The steps of a man are established by the LORD, when he delights in his way; though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong, for the LORD upholds his hand.  Psalm 37:23-24

Me, The Hermit, and a Molasses Cookie

Cookies Fresh Out of the Oven

I’ve become a hermit.

Hermit\ adj., living in the desert. 1 a: one that retires from society and lives in solitude esp. for religious reasons: RECLUSE 2 : a spiced molasses cookie

When I started this blog I was meaning more the recluse definition but I think I’m going to go with “a spiced molasses cookie”…I LOVE molasses cookies J!

Since the dictionary was open I decided to look up molasses too.

Molasses\ 1: the thick dark to light brown syrup that is separated from raw sugar in sugar manufacture 2: a syrup made from boiling down sweet vegetable or fruit juice

Something made from boiling. Hmmmm…I definitely feel like I’m in hot water a lot.  Maybe God is making me into something sweet and syrupy…

ehhh, probably not. 

Although I did have a friend say after 10 years of friendship, “You know when I first met you I thought you were too sweet. Now I know better.”

It was a compliment…of sorts.  Actually I know she meant it that way.  I’m drawn to strong, opinionated women who speak their mind…although I wouldn’t say that I’m one.  I mean in the traditional definition. 

I’m strong but in a mushy sorta way. I’m opinionated but not given to sharing my opinion…silently opinionated. 🙂 

Good grief…what was I talking about in the first place?

Oh yeah…being a hermit…or a cookie…or both.

In all seriousness I’ve been a bit of a recluse lately.  Or wanted to be. 

If I could be I’d be one.  I find myself not writing a lot, not texting a lot, not calling a lot, not answer phones a lot, not wanting to visit a lot…see, recluse.

Although I’m not lonely.  And that is a blessing.

When my husband left I didn’t feel this way.  In fact I was probably the exact opposite.  I mean, I didn’t feel like I wanted to hide away or miss phone calls or texts.  In fact, I had to work on NOT answering every phone call or text…I wanted to talk to people.  And I was terribly lonely.

What changed?

Honestly, I’m not sure.  But I think part of it is the complexity of life…and death.

My father passed away last month.  It wasn’t a surprise but it still rocked my world.  It hasn’t impacted how I live a normal day but it has impacted how I feel about some things.

I believe my father’s death was kind of like the straw that broke the camel’s back.  The past few years have been fanny kickers.  Seriously.  Fanny kickers. 

You know that hot water thing I mentioned…I think I got pushed into it.  And I’m having a heck of a time getting out of it.  I’m getting there…slowly but surely.

But it seems like the water temperature keeps increasing and sometimes the sides of the pool are a bit slippery.  But I have to admit that I‘ve not felt lonely…I’ve not felt abandoned or forsaken.  I know that God is with me even though my life feels overwhelming and difficult.

Maybe being a bit hermit-ish isn’t so bad.  It’s given me some time to think.  It’s given me some time to focus.  I can’t say I’ve gotten a tremendous amount of things done apart from parenting and homeschooling and a tiny bit of writing, but I’ve been blessed to do some wonderful Bible studies, read a great book*, and hang out with some dear people in my life, especially my children. 

I guess what I want to write is that it’s okay to rest in our relationships a bit.   It’s okay to be still.  In fact as I was writing this a kind friend sent me an email reminding me of Psalm 46:10

Be still and know that I am God.

I love how God does stuff like that.

Being still.  Being quiet.  Those are good things.  In moderation of course.  It’s not like my life is ever truly still or quiet…unless I’m asleep and that’s rare in and of itself.  BUT I believe resting in God is good.  And allowing ourselves time to deal with all that life has thrown our way can be a very good thing too.

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.  Matthew 11:28

 

So to all my sweet friends who have suffered my lame-friendness…please forgive me.  I’m praying that God will renew my energy and heal all my broken places.

I’m praying for all of us to know that God is our peace, our strength, and our hope in our busy lives whether they are loud or quiet. 

Thus says the LORD:  “Stand by the roads, and look and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls.

Jeremiah 6:16    

*The great book is Jesus+Nothing=Everything by Tullian Tchividjian    

Do You Feel Loved?

Yellow loveToday I feel loved.

Lately it’s been difficult to grasp that I’m lovable…that anyone could really and truly love me.

And yes I know that God loves me…perfectly, relentlessly, beautifully, unconditionally, and passionately…all the ways I want to be loved. But I guess after my husband left, I’ve wanted someone to love me – to be willing to fight for me. To love me enough to do this life with me no matter what God calls us to.

But today, God loved me so tangibly I really and truly got it. I felt it to my core that God loves me.

I have to stop here and say God has loved me in this way before, often. Especially after my husband left…golly, did He love me! It’s just that I got my eyes off of Him and started getting all insecure in my life rather than recognizing that God knows me and loves me completely!

This morning I had my ladies’ Bible study and I was practically skipping afterwards. God just loved on me through those ladies and His word. How blessed I was to be reminded that He does indeed work all things together for good to those who are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28) He turns all that sorrow into joy…He gives us beauty for ashes.
My Bible study this week was actually on Isaiah 61:1-3

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 plantings of the LORD, that he may be glorified.


God has sent Jesus to bring us good news, bind up our broken hearts, free us from the things that hold us captive like fear, insecurities, anxiety, sorrow, and sin, to comfort us and give us beauty instead of ashes.

That passage has so much in it. I just want to pull it apart and ponder it all. But today God just poured beauty all over me.

The ashes of sorrow and shame and sadness were replaced with a crown of beauty. A crown because I am a daughter of the King. A beautiful crown because I’m a dearly loved daughter of the King.

What a wonder!

It’s God and me…no matter what happens in my life…He will never leave me nor forsake me.

Forsake means “to quit or leave entirely; abandon; desert.” Those things have been my experience with the most important person in my life. And yet, although I struggle with much because of his decision to leave, there is a greater love I have found.

For me, the key to living in security, strength, and without sorrow and fear has been to focus on His love for me…to study His word, to get to know Him better, to know His character, and to find Him to be all that I need…even all that I want.

I wrote this a few years ago…God reminded me of it today:

“So here I am: single, divorced, and exhausted. I have to be brutally honest, this is so not where I thought I would be at this point in my life. Being single in my forties is not ideal. But even though my fairy-tale glass slipper was shattered before I got to the ball, my carriage turned into a pumpkin at 10:00 pm, and my prince was certainly no prince, I’m doing all right.
I have a better Prince who has truly rescued me. He might not hold me tight at night and whisper sweet words in my ear, but His presence is comforting and His words are encouraging and true. My fairy tale might not have followed the story line I had hoped for, but I know that the ending is going to be sweet! I’m excited to see what God is going to continue to do in my life and the lives of my children.” (When Happily Ever After Shatters, p125)

It’s Him and me.

I love Him and He loves me! I’m so thankful!

Wading Into the Waves Holding My Savior’s Hand

Just saw that my newest blog is up at MomLifeToday.  I hope you enjoy it.

I’d also like to ask for prayer as I begin a new book proposal!  Working on Chapter 1…draft number 1,365,279…just kidding, it just feels that way! I’m so excited about the idea and I feel such a passion to share what God is showing me!  Can’t wait to see what God does with this!

Praying each of you has a wonderful, wonderful weekend filled with unexpected and beautiful blessings!

In His Care, Sue