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

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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. 

Had You Known?

photo (32)It was about this time 6 years ago when my husband left.

And although in many ways I’m stronger and better…the repercussions still vibrate through my life.  In the midst of something wonderful, I can feel the stirrings of fear seeping into my thoughts, the beat of insecurity pulsing through me, and the blending of sorrow and hurt spilling over my heart.  Sometimes it comes at the oddest times…sometimes it almost makes perfect sense.

And although the hurt and sorrow are dulled, the insecurities and fear have not…if anything, at times, I think they have increased.  And it drives me crazy!!!  I don’t want to live with the repercussions of someone else’s actions…I have all the repercussions of my own actions to deal with! (thank you very much.)

If my ex-husband could have comprehended how much his actions would hurt me, would he still have left?  If he could have looked ahead and had any idea of the sorrow and fear that would plague me, would he still have had an affair?  If he could have felt the pain that washes over me so often, would he have abandoned our children?

I don’t know, but I can’t imagine causing anyone the pain he has caused us.  I can’t imagine being okay with any of this.

But then again, there are a lot of things I can’t imagine.

I can’t imagine this fear ever leaving…I pray it does though.

I can’t imagine ever being free of this pain…although I pray fervently I am.

There are moments…sweet, precious moments of freedom.  Moments when I forget.  Moments when I see clearly a bright and hopeful future.

The fight for those moments is daily.  It is a constant battle to take my thoughts captive.  I know that settling in that fear and insecurity is a miserable place…a not-God-honoring place…a hopeless place.

I know that God wants more than that for me.  He wants me to be more than a bruised and shattered woman…He wants me to live a life of confidence and hope.

Each morning is an opportunity to set my mind on things above, not on things of this earth.

Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.  For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.  Colossians 3:1-3

Every morning is the opportunity for something new…a new start, a new perspective, a new vision for my future…

Every morning provides me a fresh way to grab hold of hope.

The LORD’S loving-kindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.  “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I have hope in Him.”…  Jeremiah 3:22-24

What do I hope for?

I hope for peace.  I long for peace.  I have found that this world offers little peace.  It is a decidedly not peaceful place.  BUT Jesus is the author of my peace.

“Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful. John 14:27

I often pray for peace that passes all understanding to guard the hearts and minds of those who share with me…I should absolutely be praying that for myself as well.

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:6-7

I hope for the ability to truly trust again.

Trust others to know my heart…to take care of my heart…to treat me as precious and valuable.

Trust others to be faithful and honoring.

Trust others to love me.

But trust has to start with me trusting God.  Trusting that God has a good plan for my life…for this day.  Trusting God with my heart.

Yes, my soul, finds rest in God; my hope comes from him.  Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.  My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my might rock, my refuge.  Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.  Psalm 62:5-8

I hope for freedom from fear.

Freedom to love without fear.

Freedom to let go of the fear of pain.

I do not believe there is any freedom apart from Christ.  I will not find the peace, hope, and freedom I so long for from anyone but the Lord.

You whom I have taken from the ends of the earth, and called from its remotest parts And said to you, ‘You are My servant, I have chosen you and not rejected you. ‘Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, ‘Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’ Isaiah 41:9-10

I picture this woman with her hands outstretched…with a huge smile…welcoming all that God has into her life.

I picture a woman, healed and whole…a woman who loves others with abandon and without fear.

I picture a woman on her knees praying for strength to face tomorrow with hope.

Who Am I Going With?

photo (31)Again I’m faced with big decisions…

Again…

Do you hear the underlying groan in my writing?

I sat with my dear friend and prayer partner recently and said, “I’m tired of trying to discern God’s will.”

I felt so ungodly saying that…so grumpy, tired, and sinful.

I want to be better at it.

I feel like I must be doing something wrong…or not doing something right. 

Lord, why does it feel so difficult to know what to do?  Why can’t I figure things out?  Why is this so hard?  Am I doing something wrong?  Am I missing something?

I have prayed…and prayed…and prayed.

I have sought wisdom in Scripture.

I have asked way too many friends for advice…I think I just really really want someone to tell me what to do.

SOMEONE JUST TELL ME WHAT TO DO!

And yet, I know….I KNOW…I know that God wants me to just rest in Him.  

One of my friends reminded me that God wants me to remain constantly dependent on Him.  I’m not feeling dependent.  I’m feeling crazy, slightly insane, and very, very frustrated.

Looking back I’m hard pressed to say that I’ve made any truly successful decisions on my own in the past 5 years…I know I’m probably being hard on myself, but that’s how I’m feeling right now.  I can’t think of one thing I haven’t looked back on and said, “If only…”

What a lousy way to live.

I’m pretty certain that that is not what God wants me to be thinking…after all, do I trust Him, or not?

Seriously, do I trust Him? 

Because this stress cannot be from Him…and these anxious thoughts and overwhelming fears can’t be from Him.

But how do I stop them?  How do I get past the fear…the anxious thoughts…the exhaustion?

I often pray that God will help me focus on Him…keep to the path…not go to the right or the left when I should be heading forward.

Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you. Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure. Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil.  Proverbs 4:25-27

I think I get hung up on the “ponder the path of your feet” part.  I ponder…and ponder…and ponder.  Oh my golly I’m so sick of pondering!

I think about everything and how it is going to impact everything else…how things might turn out…how things might impact or affect each of my children…I wonder about how the decisions of the past will impact the decisions I need to make…I wonder what will become of me and my children…will this decision grow their faith…will bad things happen….will good things happen?  Am I ever going to make a decision I’m truly comfortable with?

Once again, for the 40-somethingth year, I’m focusing on my circumstances rather than my Savior….WHEN will I learn this lesson?

I’m looking at my feet rather than directly forward…I’m not looking at Jesus. 

I’m so focused on where I’m going that I forget Who I’m going with. 

I’m so worried about the future that I’m forgetting the Father.

If I truly believe that the Father holds my future…WHY do I worry so?  Why do I get all wiggy about things?

If I believe that He does work all things together for good for those who love Him and who He has called, then I know that no matter what decision I make He will work good. 

So maybe the issue is that I want things to get “fixed” – I want a different situation…an easier life…less complication, more calm. 

I’m not so sure that God’s good is always easier…peaceful yes, but not necessarily easier.

Drat…I wanted easier.

I’m tired of being tired…exhausted by exhaustion…frustrated by frustration…

BUT isn’t that MY issue? 

God doesn’t say I need to do something or live a certain way without providing a way to do it.  There has to be a way to live like more than a conqueror even in this place I am.  A way to count it all joy…

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

I never noticed the words “full effect” before…I mean I never really thought about them.  I think maybe what that is saying is to let life happen and grow from it.  That makes sense because steadfastness also means patience, perseverance, endurance and fidelity. 

Maybe part of counting it all joy is allowing the trials to happen…living the life of trials without trying to fix something that is not within our power to truly fix. 

Maybe we are to patiently allow it to work in our lives…allow the trials to mold us…to make us complete.

That really wasn’t the answer I was looking for…I was hoping for something more like: “Count it all joy my brothers when you meet trials of various kinds, because God’s got the quick fix.”

So I’m back to…do I trust Him?

Do I trust His timing?  His provision?  His care of my children?  His plan for my life?

Do I trust that He can work through any decision I make? 

Do I trust that He can do immeasurably more than all I ask or imagine…but that might mean it doesn’t look at all like I’d hoped but it will still be good?

Do I trust Him to love me regardless of my mistakes and missteps?                                        

Do I trust that He will lead me?

Do I trust Him?

I do trust Him even though at times I don’t understand what He is allowing or doing or not doing at all.

I do trust Him even when I desperately what Him to fix things for us and His timing is very slow in my estimation.

I do trust Him even when I feel like I can’t bear one more decision…one more heartache…one more difficulty…one more broken anything.

I do trust Him when I can’t provide for my children like I’d like to.

I do trust Him when things don’t go the way I thought they would…and my way seems soo much better.

I do trust Him that He is leading even though I haven’t gotten any lightning bolts with memos attached…no GPS from God…no heavenly updates on the plan.

I do trust that He loves my children and is working in their lives.

I do trust that He will always love me.

I do.

Wow!  That really helped.  Listing all those things…that gives me some perspective.  It is much easier to rest in that trust when I remind myself of it.

Actually the best thing was reminding myself of the object of my trust…

Trust in the Lord with all of your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths.  Proverbs 3:5-6

So the decisions I need to make…particularly the biggest one…I will pray, seek Scripture, seek some counsel…but I’m going to trust that my Father has prepared me to make wise decisions.  I’m going to trust that He will work in my life whatever I decide.  I’m going to trust that I cannot step outside of His sovereignty. 

Now THAT gives me some peace.

 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