Where is My Peace?

autumn trail

Where does the time go?  I can’t remember the last time I could sit down and put thoughts to paper.

Things are just too busy.  Each season seems to be busier than the last.  I keep thinking the next season will slowdown…..apparently it isn’t coming anytime soon.

God has blessed me with a wonderful job teaching and a part-time job helping a friend’s business and its been soccer season and there are gymnastic classes and dance classes and, well honestly, just a lot of driving.   

I’ve wanted to write probably more because I need it than anyone else wants to read it, but I’m determined to write something because there is so very much swirling around in my brain.

The other day my sweeties spent some time with their father which provided a great opportunity to get a lot done around the house and even clean out my purse and the car (my bigger purse).  It felt wonderful to cross some things off the to do list.

I took a little break from my organizing adventure to play the piano and sing a few tunes. I’d been humming “It is Well With My Soul” (Horatio Spafford) pretty much the whole day, so I turned to page 691 and sang the words to my very favorite hymn. I realized something as I sang.  It was profound and convicting and it grew with each verse I voiced.. 

“When peace like a river attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll; whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say, “It is well, it is well with my soul.”

I thought do I really believe that?  Do I feel that?  Do I know that?  

Right now, at this point in my not-peaceful-feeling life, I don’t know if I do.  I hate to admit that because I know with my head that God wants me to have peace, but I struggle to believe I deserve it.  And I know that it isn’t about deserving it, but it feels like it should be.  

Being a single parent is challenging, but sometimes I think I’ve made it worse by my decisions, struggles, and sins.  It feels like I should have to make up for all my mistakes and sins somehow in order to get peace.  Why should I have peace right now?  

Sometimes I feel like I’m just making the same mistakes again and again and again.  I’m embarrassed to ask for forgiveness because I kinda assume God is saying what I sometimes say to my children…

“Really?  Because I’m pretty sure we had this same conversation yesterday.  And you are still doing the same thing over and over and over again.”  

But He is a much better parent than me.  Much better.  Perfect.

I wish I could parent like Him…that MY mercies for my children were new every morning…sometimes they are…a little bit…

Maybe I don’t really get this whole grace thing as much as I should.  Maybe its because life hasn’t gotten easier as I’ve walked this single parent path, but in some ways it has gotten more difficult, exhausting, and just down right overwhelming.  

Do I doubt God’s goodness?  Do I doubt that He really cares?  Do I doubt that God is going to provide?  

I want to type, “Absolutely not!”  But I guess I really need to think about that.  

Me.  The “preach-the-gospel-to-yourself” girl is absolutely not saying a single word about the gospel to myself.

Instead I’ve been speaking, thinking, and whispering condemnation and hopelessness to myself.  It’s a shift in me that has happened ever so slowly.  I’ve gone from knowing that God is good, He loves me no matter what, and His peace is available to me…to this woman who barely feels like she is clinging to her faith.  

Clinging to my faith is good.  Clinging in desperation because it feels tenuous…is that good?

As I ponder what I’ve just written I realize I’ve said “I feel” an awful lot.  Probably not the best way to view life…through my feelings.  So let me remind myself what I know…

I know who I am…

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.  1 Peter 2:9-10

I know God forgives…

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse up from all unrighteousness.  1 John 1:9

I know there is no condemnation…

So I find this law at work:  Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me.  For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me.  What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body at work within me.  What a wretched man I am!  Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?  Thanks be to God who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!  So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.  Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.  Romans 7:21-8:2

I know there is hope for the future.

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.  Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it.  But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 3:12-14

There is more.  

There are more truths I know, but right now that is what I need to remind myself.

I may indeed have peace, not because I’m perfect, but because He is.

I might not feel that I deserve peace, but if I’m honest I don’t deserve anything God has given me.

Peace is not dependent on me or on my circumstances.  It is the peace of God that surpasses all understanding.. It is peace that guards our hearts and minds. (Philippians 4:6-7) It is the peace of knowing that we have nothing to fear…no worries worth fretting about…our present and our future are secure in the hands of God.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.  John 14:27

Because of Jesus, it IS well with my soul.

I’m humming a few bars that go something like this…

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come, Let this blest assurance control, That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate, And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

My sin—oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!—My sin, not in part but the whole, Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more, Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live: If Jordan above me shall roll, No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul. 

But, Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait, The sky, not the grave, is our goal; Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord! Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul!

And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight, The clouds be rolled back as a scroll; The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend, Even so, it is well with my soul. 

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Got Direction?

photo (23)Does anyone else have a pile of book on or around their nightstand?  Mine is getting to the point of ridiculous.

Not only that but there are books on the chest at the foot of my bed, stacked in bookshelves throughout my house, and in various bags I carry around in the off chance I’ll have a moment to read.

I joke that my house is combustible.

The other day I had a moment to pick up a book, but I couldn’t figure out which one I should read…

The book to help me discern how best to raise my sons to be godly young men?

The book about helping my teenage daughter makes good and healthy decisions?

The book about learning issues for my 1st grade daughter?

The book about parenting strong-willed children for my youngest daughter?

The book about dealing with emotions for me?

The book about believing God’s word in an age of skepticism for my brain?

The books about trust or grace or peace or hope or relationships?

Or the mystery novel hidden beneath them all just waiting to be enjoyed?

I can’t even say I have a preference at this moment.  I just want to have read them all so I can already know what I need to do!

A few months ago I decided that I didn’t want to read another parenting book…ever.  And yet I have a stack of books on my nightstand that in one way or another could be considered parenting books.

I guess I just gotta admit it…I want answers.  I’m searching for direction.  I need help!!  photo 1 (2)

Right now everything is up in the air.  Literally everything.  I have no idea where God is going to lead me…how my kids are going to be educated….what I’m going to be doing…where we will be living…

It seems that all my perfect scenarios are on hold…everything is in someone else’s hands  And it would be easy for me to think that that someone else is the administrator or principal at a school, or the potential buyer of my house, or a book publisher, or any number of people in my life…

But the reality is…the REALITY is that Someone else’s hand is in control.  God’s.

And I am at once thankful for the realization and also struggling to rest in that knowledge.  It seems that God has not often done things the way I would have liked…or in the way I think would be best for us.  And I get all twisted up in knots because I want so desperately for things to go one way and I have a feeling that isn’t the way they are going to go.

photo 2 (2)

I keep having to remind myself that I TRUST GOD!  Because I do.  I do trust Him. I know I can trust Him…and I know He is going to handle all this stuff in the perfect way.  It’s just so much stuff and it is so difficult to give up control of all of it.  And yet, I don’t really want to be in charge…I hate making decisions.  I just want God to show me what to do and I’ll do it.

I think my problem is with His timing.  It seems to take Him forever to show me.  I joke that He usually reveals it to me in the 11th hour and 59th minute.  Apparently the Lord REALLY wants me to trust Him.

So I’m excited to see how my life is going to come together. I’m so very curious about where God is going to have us this fall.  I’m intrigued by how He is going to address the issues…resolve the difficulties…meet me in the struggles.

I know that He will.   He always has before.  Right now though, I just want an update.  I just want Him to reveal something…a glimpse of the plan.  But I don’t think that’s gonna happen.

I’m learning to live these verses:

I waited patiently for the LORD; he inclined to me and heard my cry. Psalm 40:1

Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD! Psalm 27:14

Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act.  He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday.  Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices!  Psalm 37:5-7

Have you not know?  Have you not heard?  The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.  He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.  He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength.  Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.  Isaiah 40:28-31

I see a theme of patience.  Ugh.

Just to be honest, I have NOT prayed for patience.  (I know better. 🙂 )

Patience is not one of my virtues.  I know I have the Holy Spirit so I have that fruit in my life.  I just don’t often take bites of it.  I’m probably more likely to wing that piece of fruit at a problem rather than apply it gently.

But I believe that God is asking me to trust patiently.  And even though I know I can absolutely trust my Father…I gotta be honest that I want answers now…in fact, I wanted answers yesterday, last week, long before now.  I’ve got things to do, decisions to make, and places to go (or not go)…I need direction.

I keep thinking I’ll find it somewhere, but unfortunately I don’t believe any of the massive number of books I own are going to tell me what to do or exactly what God is going to do. photo 3 (2) I can read them though and many will remind me of how great is my God and how worthy of my trust He is!

I’ve said it before and I’m saying it again, God has a plan, it’s already in motion, and it is good!

Maybe I won’t worry about which book on my nightstand I’ll read, but rather I’ll pick up my Bible.  I’ll remind myself of my great God who has orchestrated amazing things throughout history and who will beautifully orchestrate my life and the lives of my children.  I just need to BE STILL and BE QUIET and BE READY!

Hope and a Pipe Stand

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I think I would now.

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

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

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

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

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

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

But there is moving forward.

There is hope.

Hope is a funny word.

Sometimes my hope is lacking.

Hopeless hope.  Know what I mean?

Hoping but not believing.

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

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

But meanwhile there’s this life…pipe #1

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

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

Hoping in restoration.  Hoping in a fix.

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

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

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

He is my hope and the focus of my hope.

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

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

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

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

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

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

My hope is for now and later.

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

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

My hope is centered in Jesus

Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.  1 Peter 1:13

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

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

Hope!!!

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

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

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

Now that’s something to hope in!

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

How we’ll share heaven together!

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

That’s hopeful hope!

MY HOPE IS BUILT

by Edward Mote

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

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

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

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

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

Hope in the New Year

Happy 2013! 

I saw something funny online yesterday.  It said, “My New Year’s resolution is to remember to write 2013.”  Wouldn’t it be nice if that was all that we needed to resolve to do?  I have so much I want to change about my life that I shudder to think what my resolution list would look like if I was to write one!

It has been a little while since I’ve posted – pneumonia knocked me off my feet for quite a while.  Well, actually had I gotten off my feet I probably would’ve gotten better much faster.  After the third round of xrays in the 3rd month of my coughing and wheezing, the doctor again admonished me to get some rest.  The first few times I nodded my head and agreed to try.  I didn’t even bother with my whole life story.  You know the single mom with “100” kids thing…rest is not an option…at least not often.  Everyone has something that keeps them up at night or on their feet all day or running from thing to thing.

I also have to be honest – when people threatened that if I didn’t get rest I’d be hospitalized, I felt like saying, “Can I sleep there?  Do the dishes, laundry and kids come too?  Cause I’m thinking that doesn’t sound so bad!”   Just kidding of course!  It has been almost 4 months and I finally think I’ve beaten it.  And I’m ever so thankful.

Sickness and single parenting are not an ideal situation.   There are really no easy situations in single parenting…blessed and sweet situations but certainly not easy.  I have found a lovely peace in my single momma life.  We have found a rhythm and rhyme.  I’d say we have found balance, but I don’t believe we have.  I think that there will always be a bit of “unbalancedness” – a bit of awkwardness because our family is not exactly as it should be.  We have suffered a loss and will forever be affected by that…in bad and even good ways.  We have a missing piece.   But God has stepped in and filled our missing pieces.

I believe God’s light shines through our cracks.  He is seen most clearly through our brokenness.  His strength when we are weak.  His hope when all seems lost.  His grace when failure is reality.

I have a tremendous number of cracks and missing pieces – plenty of places for God’s love and grace to shine through.  I think it’s a beautiful thing that God takes the heartbreak and pain of our lives and turns them into beautiful testimonies of His faithfulness and love.  I have only to trust Him to do it and He will.

Lately, life has been challenging.  Sickness and sorrow have been a bit more than I can bear at times.  Sickness has been a companion I could certainly do without – my children have had their fair share as well.  The sorrow is a bit more difficult to deal with – I battle with sorrow especially over the things my children have lost.

Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.

Psalm 42:5

Fear has become a bit of a constant struggle for me…fears of failing, fears of disappointing, fears for my children.  I don’t know if I exactly fear the future…I fear not doing well now so that the future isn’t what I hope it will be.

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.

Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,

though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,

though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling.  Selah. 

Psalm 46:1-3

 

Sickness, sorrow and fear…ugh.

At least two of those I can work on…well, I guess if I were to go to bed at a reasonable hour and maybe not try and do so much the sickness could be something I worked on as well.  But the sorrow and the fear?  Those are two that I want to deal with in a more God honoring way.

What am I going to do with this blasted sorrow?  Dang it – I refuse to wallow, but I get this verse:

My soul melts away for sorrow; strengthen me according to your word! Psalm 119:28   

It’s a request God put in His word to show us how to deal with sorrow.   It’s a request we can make and receive a guaranteed answer.  If in my sorrow I ask for God to strengthen me, He will through His word.

When I read about the lives of the saints in the Bible and see how God did indeed turn their mourning into rejoicing, my hope is stirred.

I will turn their mourning into joy; I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow.

Jeremiah 31:13

Widowed, Moabitess Ruth who followed her bitter, mourning mother-in-law to a foreign land and worked as a beggar gathering barley,  married kind and godly Boaz and gave birth to Obed who became the grandfather of King David and in the lineage of Jesus.

The Israelites in captivity were released from slavery with not just the clothes on their back but the treasures of the Egyptians and set on a journey that led to the Promised  Land!

Barren Hannah had her prayers answered and gave birth to a beautiful baby boy named Samuel who became a prophet of God.

The Ninevites were lost in sin and violence until God reached out to them with grace, mercy and the hope of forgiveness and restoration.

King David who fell on his face in adultery and murder was forgiven and restored to fellowship with God.

The woman who had exhausted all her money and options to restore her health, simply touched a small portion of Jesus’ robe and was healed.

The leper who had been void of human contact was touched by Jesus and healed.

Peter who denied Christ three times at His crucifixion was forgiven in the most intentional and loving way by Christ Himself.

All the disciples of Christ who watched with great sorrow and fear as their Savior died and was buried, rejoiced and praised God 3 days later!

The Bible is full of stories of hope, redemption and restoration.  Our lives are no less filled with these characteristics.  This is a great big fallen world full of stuff that hurts, but God is a great big loving God who has overcome this world.  There is hope.  Hope for today and hope for the future.  I need not fear for myself or my children, God will never leave us nor forsake us. (Deut. 31:6)  He will not allow us to be snatched out of His hand (John 10:28-30).

No matter the circumstances of our lives…surprisingly good or shockingly not…God offers hope.  And it is that hope that I cling to as I begin another year…a new year…another year to experience God’s love and faithfulness!  I pray that you will be blessed beyond measure and in the most extraordinary ways this year!

For this reason because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places…

Ephesians 1:15-20