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 5 – What Will the Neighbors Think?

house

I have often joked that wherever we go, we are kind of like the Beverly Hillbillies.  I should just blare that music from our car when we enter the neighborhood.

I’m looking for a house right now.  I think maybe we should move out into the country!

We are loud and busy and just a lot…

My cul-de-sac in Fredericksburg knew us and loved us still…thank goodness!  I can’t tell you how blessed I was to have understanding neighbors…although I can’t imagine they didn’t shake their heads behind closed doors 🙂

The year that my husband left I had to learn a lot about the house and there were many days of decluttering, organizing, and projects…lots of throwing away and fixing.  One unintended project was a toilet bowl issues.

I had misplaced a set of keys…a big set of keys.  My friend Darcey and I tore the house apart looking for them.  No luck.  Finally, we had to figure the slow flushing powder room potty was the keys’ location.  My littlest daughter was two at the time, and we believed she was the culprit. We tried desperately to remove the keys with coat hangers, plungers, and gloved hands.  I won’t go into too much detail, but it was a very dirty job.  We finally ended up having to drag the nasty, dripping toilet through the foyer and out into the front yard so we could hose it out and recover the keys.

By this time, my friend Laurie had arrived to assist.  My friends are awesome!  Darcey, who in her first trimester, was amazing even in her nausea.  My friend Laurie was great too.  We could barely work for all the laughing.  My life had definitely become a really bad sitcom.  Darcey stated, “All your neighbors are in their houses calling their realtors right now.”  It was probably true.

After having a neighbor be front page news for adultery, watching massive amounts of stuff pile up at the curb, witnessing the craziness and noise of a big family daily, and now a toilet in the front yard…who wouldn’t second guess being neighbors with me?

But they didn’t move and instead they have laughed along with me, helped me more than I can say, welcomed my children into their homes so I could work, taken girls to AWANA, fed my children on crazy days, loaned me tools and ladders and supplies, answered questions, and prayed for me.

Now I’m moving and my heart is breaking for the loss of these neighbors.  They cannot be replaced…ever.

Right now, we are guests in my mom’s house and her neighbors don’t know us.  But they have heard us, and watched us, and probably been annoyed by us.  And I don’t have time for them to really know us.  And I wish I could.

I imagine they think I’m crazy.  Sometimes I worry what they think of me.  I wish it was summer and I could go outside and chat, but I can’t right now.  Life is just too busy.

I wonder when we move if we will have the time to invest in our neighbors like I want to.   How do single parents make friends? Build relationships.  Seriously?

I don’t know how to find time to meet people and even if I did, I wouldn’t have time to spend with them.  I know this is a season, but it is a season that I’d like to have the encouragement of friends close by.

I’m not complaining…well, maybe a little…:)  I’m ever so thankful for a job, and how could I not feel beyond blessed by my children.  It is another opportunity to focus on the positive and pray for answers to the negative.

And maybe I just need to make time to say “hi” to someone, even if I don’t have time.  And maybe I just need to call a coworker to sneak away for coffee.

I think it will be easier when I have my own home and leaving isn’t imposing on someone else…because my children rock and are happy to babysit….well maybe not happy, but willing. 🙂

There has to be a reason I’m in this place now…really trying to figure out what it could be.  Could it be to spend time building my relationship with the Lord and realizing that He is enough?

It usually, if not always, is that, right?  God wants to spend time with us. With me! Sometimes I’m so shocked by that.  Why in the world does He want to spend time with me?  That’s nuts!  But He isn’t nuts…He is loving.

I love spending time with my children.  I love hanging out and doing things.  I really do love them even when they are rotten.  I’d still choose them.

I’m so grateful that even when I’m rotten, God still chooses me.  That when my house is a mess…when my children are difficult…when our family is noisy and chaotic…when the yard is decorated with a  toilet…when our family falls apart in front of the world…God still loves us!  He wants to be with us.

He’d always choose to be our neighbor!

Are You Feeling Toddlerish? I Have Some Fruit That Can Help.

Image

It’s official.  I’m 5 years old.

I’m fussy.  I’d like to stomp my feet.  I could plop down on my bum and cry.

And I definitely don’t feel like sharing.

I feel like I’ve shared quite enough already.

I’ve long said…well, 5 years long…that it’s important not to make our children feel badly about spending time with their other parent.  And for the better part of these 5 years I think I have succeeded.

But lately, I feel exceedingly irritated about sharing my children.

I think part of the problem is…well, actually there are a lot of parts to the problem.

One part is that I wanna be the fun parent.  Sometimes I don’t want to be the chores, homework, budget, real life living stuff parent.  It’s an age old divorce problem – invariably one of the parents is fun-parent.

But I wanna be a fun parent! (I think I’m digressing – I’m now 2)

And right now I just can’t pull it off.  I’m praying and trying to figure it out.  Honestly, up until just recently…very recently…I hadn’t even thought to ask God to help me find time to play with my kids.  Unfortunately I’m the mom on the culdesac that sits on the curb with a textbook or the laptop…or that takes advantage of them playing outside to get something done inside…or who is sometimes just too tired to race around like I used to L.  I don’t want to be the old tired busy mom…I wanna be fun mommy!

I love the way my children’s eyes light up when I actually stop what I’m doing and pay attention to them. When I get into their world and play.  Lord, please help me find time to do that!  Like today.

So back to my toddler issues…

Another part of the problem…you know what?  There’s no reason for me to go on and on about all the parts of a problem.  Because really it’s my choice to let things be a problem…let my emotions decide my reaction.

So how do I NOT do that?  ‘Cause emotions are very tricky things.  Very.  And I have a LOT of them!

I have emotions, but I also have the Holy Spirit.

I know the Holy Spirit is stronger than all those emotions I feel.  God has called me to love others…even the difficult ones…therefore I know I’m equipped and I suspect that the fruit of the Spirit is a big part of that.

So how do I apply this to my life…to my toddlerhood?

How about each fruit in turn…

Love      Kinda feel like this is an obvious one.  Love one another.  Love your enemies…so I suppose that means I’m supposed to love my children’s father.  The question is what does loving that man look like when I really don’t want to interact with him if possible?

As is so much of this life, it’s choosing to do the hard thing.  Choosing to love when it seems like the obvious choice is to dislike immensely.

For me, it’s being willing to talk when I want to avoid. It’s being willing to smile when I want to glare.  It’s being willing to overlook an offense…or many.  To turn the other cheek.  To speak kindly.  To love like Jesus loves…without condition.

Joy is totally dependent on my relationship with the Lord.  There is a direct correlation between my abiding in Christ and the fullness of my joy.

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you.  Abide in my love.  If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.  These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.  John 15:9-11

This joy isn’t because my circumstances are great now, but because my circumstances will be great when I’m with Him.  (John 16:22)  This joy isn’t because life is easy, but because He carries me through this life.  This joy isn’t because I’m happy, it’s because I’m loved.

Practically speaking, how much joy of the Lord am I displaying to my children or my ex if I can’t make the effort to be kind and smile at times?  I need God’s strength to do this joy thing…to love when I don’t wanna.  God says His joy is my strength.  In Him I have the strength to live a godly life…a life marked by joy.

Joy looks like me focusing on Christ not my circumstances.  It means being Christ-like in my attitude about sharing my children.  It means that I smile and thank God for my children being able to visit with their dad regardless of how it makes me feel.

I can’t tell you how often I pray that God will give someone His peace which passes all understanding.  (Philippians 4:6-7) There are so many life situations in which it seems like it would just be near impossible to feel any peace…but God gives peace regardless of situations, circumstances, and people.

He actually gives a formula for peace…two steps…thanksgiving and prayer.

The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your request be made known to God.  And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:5-7

I don’t think I’ve paid enough attention to the beginning of that first sentence – The Lord is at hand.  It’s that abiding thing!  AND it’s a reminder that Jesus is coming back!  How wonderful is that!  We have peace because we can be thankful for Him in our lives, for the hope of our future inheritance, and for the many blessings He has faithfully provided.

Peace for me looks like this…”Lord, thank you so much that my children have a father, however imperfect he is. Lord, please give me the strength to live in such a way that you are glorified even in my relationship with him.”

Patience…I’d almost like to skip this one…

So in looking up verses on patience I found one that applies…ugh.

And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness.  God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.  2 Timothy 2:24-26

Patiently enduring…I’m pretty sure that phrase says it all.  I believe a big part of patiently enduring is also trusting that God will indeed work through this whole difficult situation.

Along with that phrase I see kind and gentle…those are Spirit fruit as well.

Kindness – The verse above in 2 Timothy says to be “kind to everyone”.  Not just the people who we enjoy being kind to, but those who don’t necessarily deserve kindness from us.

The one thing I will say is that God doesn’t call us to suffer abuse from others…please don’t put yourself in an abusive position.  Sometimes the kindest thing you can do is stay away.

When I first thought of kindness I thought of Romans 12:18-20

If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.  Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”  To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink, for you will heap burning coals on his head.”

Might be the wrong motivation but heaping some burning coals sounds like fun…just kidding (sorta).  Although the idea is that there is a possibility your kindness will bring them to repentance…God’s goal is always salvation.

And that should be ours as well…it is not ours to avenge or judge, but rather to allow God to use us.

Goodness – So seriously, this has been the neatest study for me.  I keep seeing the connectedness of Scripture.  If you read the next verse in Romans 12, it is,

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.  Romans 12:21

God calls us to live an honorable life so that those who would speak against us will see the good we do and glorify God.  (1 Peter 2:11-12).  The goal of goodness is the gospel.

And 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

This verse reminds me of love and kindness…they are offered to EVERYONE.  There is just no getting around it.  I guess we all have to pray about what that means for us and our ex-spouses.  I think we can all come up with a way that we can do good without putting ourselves in painful situations.  Maybe doing good just means holding our tongues.  Maybe doing good means praying for that person.  Maybe doing good means acting just as we would want our children to act toward a school chum who is less than stellar.  Maybe doing good requires some thinking outside of the box…

Faithfulness – One of the things that has most profoundly impacted me is God’s faithfulness even when I’ve been anything but faithful.  The struggles I’ve had have been real and difficult and I have fallen many more times than I thought possible.  And everytime…everytime…God has faithfully picked me up again…and again…and again.  He has offered me love over and over and over.  Do you see the pattern?  God doesn’t give up on us!  I’m so thankful for that.  And you know what, God hasn’t given up on my ex either.  His choices haven’t excluded him from experiencing God’s grace.

As I ponder God’s faithfulness to me, I feel compassion for my ex and that makes me want to pray for him…for him for his sake and the sake of my children.

Gentleness – I found that most of the verses dealing with gentleness were about how we deal with people who are not walking with the Lord.  Again, God’s goal is restoration.  He set the example.  Jesus was gentle and humble in heart.

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 11:28-30

As I read that verse, I’m reminded that the burdens I carry, both the ones put on me by others and the ones I heap on myself, can be given to Him.  I can let Him deal with this situation and I can trust that as I strive to be like Him, He will work in this for my good and His glory.

…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

Self-Control – Yet another one I’d like to avoid…self-control is something I do not want to be tested on!  I feel like daily I mess this one up! Especially if it is measured by the words that escape my lips.

The one thing that jumped out at me from the following verse in Titus was the word “training”.  God’s grace is training us to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives…it is a process of faith and trust.  It is the gospel.  I desire to live this way…to be trained to live this way…because I’m so very thankful for what Jesus has done for me and what He continues to do for me.  And my future hope is my motivation to hang on through the training.

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.  Titus 2:11-14

I think self-control looks like me not acting as the world would see fit, but rather as God has called me to walk – in the fruit of the Spirit.

This blog was waaaaayyyy longer than I planned, but  I hope it blesses you.  I’ve been so thankful to go through these verses and see how God has worked them all together.  And I’m going to continue to think through how to practically apply the fruit of the Spirit to all aspects of my life, but particularly my “toddlerish” attitude toward sharing. 🙂

When You Just Need to See Him…

snowy trees and sky

While standing in the line at the grocery store yesterday, my phone rang.  It was a friend from church.  She said, “Hey, I’m bringing dinner to you tonight – you gonna be there in 30 minutes?”

I’m sure the lady at the register thought I was a little nuts (yeah that happens a lot) because my eyes welled up with tears. 

It’s been one of those couple of weeks where I’ve been blessed to see God provide again and again and again.  I’m not talking about huge things…it’s a bunch of little things that just speak such tender love to me from my Father.

Its meals that are provided at just the right time.  Its 2 hour delays when I could really use a little more sleep.  Its people doing unexpectedly kind things for me when I least expect it,

A few weeks ago when I broke my foot I was placed in a pretty purple cast.  We’ll apparently my leg is claustrophobic because in the middle of the night it was just desperate to be out of that blasted cast.  During the day all was fine, but come 3am…not so good.  I’d end up getting up because otherwise I’d just be lying in bed thinking about it and feeling like I was gonna go bonkers. 

And sleep, being such a precious commodity, lost for a silly claustrophobic leg is completely unacceptable.  So after a sleepless week, I made an appointment to go back to the doctor and beg him to take it off. 

I’d researched online and found out that a boot is an acceptable alternative.  The doctor was very kind, but he said my break is a difficult one to heal and the cast was preferable.  When I shared that I had been up since 3 am and a little bit about my life, he immediately said, “Let’s get that cast off and see how well your foot is healing and if all is good you can use the boot.”

Alleluia!  I prayed fervently that my bone looked okay so I wouldn’t leave with another colorful cast.  Praise God no new cast was necessary. 

As I was preparing to leave, the doctor said, “I don’t want you to have a copay – please tell the ladies up front to refund you.”  I practically burst into tears.  I’d been lamenting the cost of my claustrophobia and here God loved me again through a very kind and thoughtful doctor.  It was especially nice because it was absolutely an unnecessary appointment in the grand scheme of things. 

I wish I could remember all the little things that have happened to encourage me in a day – but they are hidden in my heart. 

 The gracious love of my Savior extends even to the smallest detail of my day.

How He loves me. 

There is such comfort in those little blessings – sometimes more than the big stuff. 

It’s a precious reminder that God walks with me every minute of every day – He doesn’t just show up for the big stuff.  I’ve seen Him during the storms, felt Him during the pain, heard Him during the questions, and known Him during the trauma. He is showing me that He is there every moment, whether big or small. 

I want to encourage you to find Him in your day…look for Him in those small moments…seek Him in the seconds…listen for Him as you live each day. 

Write down those moments, those reminders of His love for you, so you can look back and be blessed.

You can remember that He’s there. 

He’s here.

Oh how He loves you.

final diagram verse

More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.  Romans 5:3-5

This morning my Bible study was on suffering.  I had a few thoughts as I realized what the day’s topic was:

Ugh.  Really? Suffering? 

What a minute…isn’t this Bible study on the book of Philippians – shouldn’t it be mostly about joy!?

Oh no!  I don’t want to study suffering…whenever I study something my life seems to mirror the topic. 

Can I opt out?

I don’t want any more character…

But I diligently went through all the verses on suffering.  They were familiar verses like Romans 8:28-30 “…for those who love God, all things work together for good…” and 2 Corinthians 4:11-18 “…this light and momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” and 1 Peter 1:6-9 “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith – more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire – may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

I really like the verses in 1 Peter.  Being a past grammar teacher (please don’t judge my grammar now…many many brain cells have died since then), I had the fleeting thought of diagramming the verses to see what modified what and all that English major geeky stuff.  Instead I decided to diagram 1 Peter 1:6-9 my own way.

It was interesting to see it all laid out visually.  I’m a consummate visual learning.  Big pictures are good for me.

So often I need big pictures, hand-written notes, and some serious concentration to understand.  Sometimes a friend will say that I’m a deep thinker…really I’m not.  Occasionally I’ll have a profound thought but if I don’t write it down immediately it’s gone…forever.

So as I’m studying today I thought I’d write down what God is showing me about suffering.

I’m in an interesting place right now.  There is no big thing causing me to suffer great amounts of pain or sorrow.  I’m living a life that is just simply challenging.  I don’t believe it’s more difficult than most nor is it easier than most.  It’s just my life.

I used be a judgmental kinda gal…in my head. I recall sitting at a Bible study listening to ladies share their prayer requests thinking, “You’ve got to be kidding?  Really, THAT’s your prayer request?!  Just wait til I share mine!”

Oh my goodness! I’m so ashamed of those thoughts.

I distinctly remember the last time I thought that.  It was during the second year of my single parenting adventure.  I was working full-time, trying to raise two toddlers, two teenagers and a middle child J and I was fried.  A sweet, sweet lady shared a prayer request that seemed so ridiculous to me…and those thoughts started.  Almost immediately I thought, “Who am I to judge how this dear friend feels about things in her life.  Just because they seem minor to me does not in any way discount how major they seem to her.”

I’m not sure what was different at that point except that God was softening my heart with all the love and grace He was pouring into my life.  I’d received so much of it that I was able to offer it…not out of the goodness of my heart but out of the overflow of His.

The suffering in my life has produced something good.  Something wonderful.  I believe that I’m becoming a more compassionate, kinder, more grace-filled woman.  It doesn’t always show but God’s working with me.  Becoming more and more that godly woman has become the desire of my heart.  I have a vision for it…for her…that woman, mother, friend, daughter, Christian I want to be.

It sounds an awful lot like the character thing that Paul mentions in Romans 5:3-5! Maybe I was wrong about wanting more character…well, I think I should probably take the word maybe out of this sentence.  I can always use more character.

Suffering = Endurance = Character = Hope

And hope.  Who doesn’t want more hope!?  I most certainly do.  Each day I’m beginning to understand more and more the hope that is mine in Christ.

In the days, months, years since my family shattered, I’ve been particularly blessed by many of the Psalms.  I especially love how they pour out their anguish, anger, and anxieties to God and then will often say things like this:

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

How beautiful that God continues to bring us back to Him.  What a blessing to know that in the midst of great suffering there is hope.  Not only can we bring all the difficulties of our suffering to God, but we can trust Him to bring us through it all.

It brings to mind another verse I read this morning:

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness.  We do not know what to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.  And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.  And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.  Romans 8:26-28

Those Psalmists probably were groaning to the Lord and the Spirit was interceding for them…searching their hearts.  He interceded for them just as He does for us.  And the confidence of that intercession brought them to the same place those verses in Romans can bring us…a place of understanding that God will always work things together for good.  Thank you Father!

It isn’t just in our suffering that the Holy Spirit intercedes for us though.  I have always loved this verse:

Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.  Hebrews 7:25

Jesus LIVES to make intercession for us!  Lives to do it!  What!?!

Dictionary.com defines intercession like this:  “an interposing or pleading on behalf of another person; a prayer to God on behalf of another.”

Jesus lives to plead on my behalf.

Doesn’t that just blow your mind?  Not only did He live the sinless life I couldn’t, die the death I should’ve, and be raised to life again with power I can’t comprehend…He NOW lives for me!

Jesus is so all about me!

Why can’t I be all about Him?  (Argh.)

A lot of the verses I read this morning were about sharing in the sufferings of Christ, having a desire to know Christ better through His sufferings, following the example He set while suffering, and glorifying Him through our suffering.

I think being all about Christ means that I’m willing to suffer for Him, with Him, like Him.  I don’t think it means that I have a desire to suffer but rather a willingness to because it is a “gracious thing in the sight of God” (1 Peter 2:18-25) and it brings Him glory and me growth in my faith.

I write about suffering with great trepidation.  It’s not based on anything Biblical, just a fear of more suffering.  I wish I was braver.

I trust God and I know He uses it all for good, I just hate going through it.

I understand though and, like the Psalmist, I do believe that God is worthy of praise and trust even in the trials.

Studying suffering is going to be good for me.  Reminding me again that God is good even when life is bad.  That I can indeed rejoice in my suffering because I have Jesus.

Time to put the proverbial big girl pants on and get busy in the Word!

Be sober-minded; be watchful.  Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.  Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.  And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.  1 Peter 5:8-10


 

stormy skySanity in the Storm
Why is it that I’m most productive, energetic, and awake after eleven pm?  Seriously.  Why can’t I be a morning person?  Actually I think I would be if I would just GO TO SLEEP ALREADY!  I know if I put my head on my pillow I’d be sound asleep in seconds and yet I’m sitting here typing…goofball.

I’ve just gotta get on a better schedule…it’s probably going to mean that I don’t get much done for at least a day…or a night. But golly it would be a good thing to do!

I’m highly motivated to get things done. I’ve started writing down a lot of to-do lists and I’m thoroughly enjoying checking things off.  I feel much better about things…although there are definitely days when I don’t have the pleasure of checking off many things on my list.  Days when things just don’t go as planned and everything goes wonky on me.  

I’m finding that much of my success depends on my attitude. A positive attitude seems to enable me to accomplish more. I think it’s because I’m not allowing myself to feel or be defeated by the day. 

I trust God even when things go kablooey. I know that God will use even the craziest of days to help me be the woman He designed me to be. 

The blog I’m sharing from MomLifeToday.com, Sanity in the Storm, is one a wrote about a totally different kind of list…my list of things that overwhelm.  Unfortunately I seem to be able to check everything on that list almost daily.  I do definitely struggle with the whole overwhelmed thing…entirely too much if you ask me.  Especially considering I KNOW that God loves me and will not give me more than I can handle with Him.

The problem is that I keep trying to handle everything without Him.  Again…goofball. 

I do know without a doubt that God did not make me to be overwhelmed nor did He make me to do my life without Him.  I’m made for so much more…I’m made for love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, self-control…all those fruit of the Spirit…and I’m made for relationship with my Lord and Savior!  I’m made to do this life with Him.

And I’m so thankful because I can’t imagine any other way to do it!

Am I a minute from angry? Or a minute from peace?

iced tea photo“Momma! Look there’s a tea with the word Relax on it! You should get that!”

“Yes. Yes I should!” I replied.

And although the tea is very yummy and I’ve had several glasses, it has not helped me relax…or I’m just too stressed for words or tea or anything…

I hate being stressed.

I can feel it. It’s an air of impatience…an attitude of annoyance…and a minute from angry.
In the car today my 7 year old kept asking me questions. And each sentence started with “Mama?” And my response was not, “Yes sweetie?”
It was more like a very testy exasperated, “Whaaattt?!”

I’ll give myself a little bit of leeway being that I was driving in traffic on I-95, but really I don’t deserve much at all. I have darling children…even when they are being stinkers.

I have no excuse for being such a fusspot.

My poor children. Even when they were good today, I wasn’t the sweet momma I like to be. And when they were naughty…yikes!!! Everyone DUCK!!!!
And all this fussiness has made me think of how easily it is for me to apply scripture to other people and even to circumstances, but I sometimes forget to apply it to myself especially when I’m persnickety.

So I’m preaching some gospel to myself…

In the past I used to pray daily that God would fill me with the fruit of the Spirit
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to
Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit,
Let us also walk by the Spirit. Galatians 5:22-25

But then I realized that I already have the fruit of the Spirit in me because I already have the Holy Spirit and He comes with all those beautiful qualities. It’s my choice whether I live them out loud or not.

If I couldn’t do it God wouldn’t say to us through Paul:

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to 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

There are some words in there that really convict me…humility, gentleness, patience, love, unity, peace…all words I want to describe my parenting, my family, and my home.

Humility to set aside how bad my day is going so that I can be a kind mom. Just because I’m the stressed out parent doesn’t mean I get to take it out on those precious children God gave me.
Gentleness in my speech and attitude with my children. I’m modeling behavior to my children. I’d love for them to treat each other with more gentleness. I believe that will start to happen more regularly when they see me speaking calmly, kindly, and tenderly.

Patience being my response to all those silly frustrating things that happen when you live with 5 other people. Probably should have taken a few deep breaths before I responded to my children’s disobedience or just plain childishness.

Loving my family even when they aren’t exactly the easiest people to love…goodness knows I needed some of that love today. That verse “bearing with one another in love” means accepting each other and loving one another even when we are not acting lovable.

Unity…being united in our love for one another and our love for the Lord. Being willing sometimes to put aside what we want or how we feel to bless someone else.

Peace is the tone I want to set for my home. Peace that God is with us always…that He will give us strength for the day and hope for tomorrow.

I feel a little better just having opened the Word and reminded myself that I’m not a victim of my emotions or feelings. I can choose to trust that God has equipped me to live a life that pleases Him even on my fussiest of days.

My Newest MomLife Today post!

This month at www.MomLifeToday.com we are dealing with that age-old mommy problem – anger.  Mom’s March MADness! 

I know that I struggle with this…it’s so easy to get overwhelmed and feel frustrated.  There are days when fire and smoke spew from my ears and words I’d rather keep to myself spill from my lips.  It’s definitely a huge prayer in my life…that God would give me the strength to rise about the frustrations. I would like to really show the fruit of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22).  After all God has already given them to me…why is it so difficult to use them, show them, and offer them? I believe this is another one of those things I do in God’s strength…with God’s perspective.  Let us join together and pray that God will give us an overflowing of the fruit of the Spirit in our lives so that we can bless our children.  And maybe stop the smoke and fire :)! 

Loved Me Even More

I wrote this poem when I was serving as a short term missionary at a women’s shelter in Maryland about 22 years ago. (Could I really be that old? That’s nuts!!) God had met me exactly where I was at that time…serving Him and yet struggling with so much. Now, I read it and find that it is still very much the relationship I have with God. He is still so very loving, gracious and merciful to me regardless of my struggling. The only thing that has changed is an understanding that there is nothing that I have done, am doing, or will do that will change how much God loves me. He loves me completely already…He cannot love me less or more than He does at this very moment! Thank you Father!

I brought my heart before the Lord
With hands outstretched
I began to lay it at His feet
He quickly moved and gently stopped my descending heart
He brought my heart up
Higher than I imagined it could go
And smiled with mercy in His eyes

I tried to bow my head in shame
For why did I deserve this
I only deserved my pain
But, He took His hands beneath my chin
And raised my face to feel His shining glory
How bright and warm it felt
On my dark, cold face

I dropped to my knees in amazement
Of His love and kindness
But nothing could prepare me
For the moment my knees hit the cold, hard floor
God dropped too
and offered me his hands
I felt His scars and knew He felt mine too
And loved me even more.

Bedtime Prayers

Okay.  Seriously when did bedtime go from a sweet time of books, prayers and song…to wailing and gnashing of teeth???  I can’t remember when the change happened this summer, but happen it did.  Summer is just the worst.  Last night my youngest daughters where unwilling to consider bed… “Why is it light outside?  Surely that means bedtime isn’t for hours yet!!!  You must be mistaken Mommy!”  Actually that was my English major translation of our conversation.  It was really more like, “WAHHHHHHHHH!!!!!”

I think the only thing I’m looking forward to about my children going back to school is a schedule.  And if you know me that might shock you.  I start summer loving the unstructured days and night, the opportunities to be spontaneous and I definitely like to play with my kids, so sometimes during the summer months we miss a bit more sleep than we should.  Maybe that’s the problem – lack of sleep makes for children who struggle to sleep which makes for a mommy who’s hanging by a ragged thread at 10 pm… well maybe 9pm… oh alright 8 pm.

Those are not my most stellar mom moments…I just want them to go to bed already.  I mean really…GO TO BED!!!  My nights get later and later because after those two…ahem..cuties go to bed, there are still 3 more people I’d like to hang with!  And thankfully they’d actually like to hang out with me!  So what to do?  I wish I knew.

Last night I actually started bed time at 6:30 – it began perfectly.  I must have shown my delight (i.e. weakness), because they sensed it.  My two sweeties turned into my two, for lack of an appropriate word, not-so-sweeties!

I’ve reached the point of being the bad cop mommy consistently when it comes to these issues.  They are both old enough to handle bedtime better.  Their stalling could actually be an Olympic sport – they have practiced it enough.  I’ve had to lay down laws I never imagined even considering.  Only one prayer.  Only one kiss (well, maybe two).  As the bedtime prolongs, the laws are laid down with increasing volume – both in number and tone.

Last night my 6 year old daughter said, “I want my nice mommy back.  I don’t like this mommy.  Wahhhhh!”  My heart would have melted just a tad if I wasn’t chuckling.  Chuckling on the inside because I can show no weakness – I have to be firmer than I’ve ever been.

I believe that the bedtime pickle I’m in is my own doing.  I’m old and tired. 🙂

Honestly, it is difficult being a single parent when your tired.  It is so difficult to be “on” all the time.  There are so many people to love on, encourage, and train well.  I get to the point where I think, “I’m just done, please go to bed.  What do you want? Chocolate?  Soda?  Ice cream?”  I’m just kidding to a point, but God has shown me something (as He is always doing!  Thank goodness)

I’m always saying that God gave me my two little girls to keep me on my knees!  I truly believe that He did – for many reasons.  One because I can tend to believe I have the ability to deal with everything on my own – “Got this God, thanks though.”  Then amazingly I get annoyed when things don’t go well – “Really God?  Could just ONE thing go easily?”  All the while I have only uttered those “hail Mary” prayers of  “God, paleaze!!! Could you fix this?”  “Lord, HELP!!”  and “Oh Father!?!”  I know God hears them.  I know He cares.  I also know that He wants more from me.  He wants me to talk with Him, give Him my worries, verbalize the struggle and in doing that share the burden and allow Him to enter into my life in more intimate and practical ways.  That prayer thing…it’s BIG.

I’ve written about it before.  I’ve shared that I feel called to pray mightily for my children and others…I’ve said I’m determined, convicted, and willing.  BUT, I haven’t been…really.  I pray a lot, but they aren’t thoughtful prayers.  They are same ole same ole prayers…Lord, please help this sweet child know Your love, feel Your presence and never doubt her identity is in You.”  Good prayers, but not really a dialogue.   I believe He wants me to share as  I would with my prayer partner…golly, doesn’t that sound silly?  The Person we are going to say our prayers to doesn’t get the same level of communication as the person I share my prayer requests with?  I think I’ve been missing something.

I love William Carey’s quote, “Expect great things from God!”  I believe that when I pray expecting great things, God will do great things.  I don’t believe that He is my vending machine, I believe that He is my Father who loves to be kind to me.  My Father who loves me beyond measure.  My Father who will always and only do what is absolutely best for me!  That, Dearest, is a great thing!  How can I not want God’s best?  How can God’s best not be great?

So as I prepare for bedtime — and any other time of day — I’m getting down on my knees, really on my knees.  And I’m going to share the struggle, allow Him to take my anxiety for the past, the present and the future, and I’m going to tell Him all about it.  And I know… I KNOW…that He is going to listen, love me and answer with great answers!  He always does.

And I would ask, if you know me or even if you don’t, please challenge me…if you see me or talk to me or want to email me, ask me if I’m being the prayer warrior I want to be…hold me accountable to all these things I write.  And if you’d like, I will do the same for you.

It’s time to fight the good fight of faith on our knees – for ourselves, for our children and for each other!

GOD IS GOOD ALL THE TIME!  ALL THE TIME GOD IS GOOD!!