Living Strong

I’ve been thinking about strength lately, mostly because I really need some. I’ve been praying about it a lot too. And I realized that I’ve been living under the assumption that at some point God will just zap me with strength so I can get busy doing all the things I think I need to do.  

Yeah. I know…that’s not how it works.

God doesn’t say that He will give us His strength so that we can do our things without Him.  He doesn’t give us strength so we can march away from Him with our to-do list in hand ready to do our stuff on our own.  

He gives us strength so we can lean on Him as we live the life He has given us.  So we can do all the things He has called us to in whatever place, circumstance or situation we find ourselves.

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.  I know how to be brought low and I know how to abound.  In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.  I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13

That verse gets applied to many situations as if God is going to give all the strength we need to accomplish our life to do list, be who we want to be right now, make life happen the way we want it to.  

It is more than that and maybe less than that in some ways.

I think it means that no matter what circumstance I find myself in, no matter how difficult or wonderful life is, God will give me the strength to live gracefully.  To make the difficult but godly choices.  To face temptations and not fall.  To overcome the past so that I can live in the present with purpose and joy.  To be content…not always longing for the perfect fix, the “thing” that is going to make everything better…the thing that is going to make me better.

I wonder if the phrase I utter the most is, “Lord, please give me strength.”  Sometimes it’s said in a quiet whisper, sometimes through clenched teeth, and even at times in a wail of desperation.

There are moments I feel that I have not one ounce of strength left and there are still so very many things to do… children to love one, papers to grade, lessons to plan, homework to help with, dinners to make, lunches to pack, activities to drive to, laundry to fold, dishes to scrub, and innumerable other things that cause weariness to crash over me like a tsunami.

I feel weary of parenting challenges like my little girl whose will could bend steel or a tweenager who can’t resist just one more snarky comment. I find myself fearful that I will be completely unprepared to address any parenting challenges with any discernment.

There are days when I believe I have nothing left…not enough energy to make wise decisions and stick by them. No strength to keep moving forward when things just refuse to be resolved easily. No strength to live the life for Christ I so desperately want to live.

And I wonder why do I still not feel strong?  It is one of those mysteries to me…how do I live strong in Christ when I feel so weak in me?

I keep thinking that God is going to give me strength to live the life I want to live.  I have to ask myself what is this life I want to live and why do I feel that I’m not living it?  

It is a vision I have.  And I realized today that I want God to give me the strength to make it happen.  And because I don’t seem to be able to do that, I sometimes feel weak, ineffective, and defeated.  Maybe I have this strength thing all wrong.  (I think that is a fair assumption at this point.)

So I decided to look up all the verses on strength and figure it out.  The first verse brought me to one of my favorite stories in the Old Testament.  When things were so difficult during my husband’s departure from our marriage, our family, and our daily lives, this passage brought me so much comfort.

The LORD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation.  Exodus 15:2

Moses makes it pretty clear that his strength is found in the Lord.  This is in reference to the Lord saving the people of Israel at the Red Sea.  I love love love that story.  I know that I have written about it before, but it always thrills me to remember the hopelessness of the situation and the amazing rescue of the Lord.  The reality was that the Israelites were surrounded on every side – mountains to the right and left, a sea in front, and the Egyptian army barreling down from behind.  Not an ideal situation.  Had the Lord saved them from slavery to place them in an impossible situation now?  Heavens, no!  He had already planned the glorious escape!  The mind-blowing thing for me was the east wind was blowing from across the sea, parting the water to them!  Moses didn’t raise his hands and the water parted before him…the water parted from the opposite shore and came to them!  God was already making a way out of the impossible before they knew they needed it!  I love our God!  Impossible situations are never impossible for God! So the strength Israel needed in that situation was the strength to trust that their God who had brought them out of Egypt with hands full of provisions…their God who had led by day and night with pillars of smoke and fire…their God who had saved them would indeed save them again.   The strength came from trusting the LORD.

The second time the Israelites crossed water – the Jordan River – into the Promised Land, the priests had to stick their toes in the overflowing water and stay there until the people all crossed safely to the other side. No easy task…it required bravery, trust, and strength to stick toes in frothy, foaming, rushing water…all while holding the Ark of the Covenant…and then to stand in the middle while the people crossed. Once everyone was on the other side, Joshua instructed a man from each of the twelve tribes to take a stone from the place where the priests’ feet had stood.  These stones which must have been quite large because they had to carry them out on their shoulders, were to be a remembrance of what God had done.

Maybe I need some memorial stones to remind me of the strength the Lord has given me in the past, of the many miraculous and beautiful ways God has walked me through difficult things, of the times He has given me wisdom, discernment, and grace to live well for Him.  What would my memorial look like?  Probably my book, “When Happily Ever After Shatters” could be considered one because it is a true retelling of how God was with me throughout my husband’s abandonment and our divorce. Maybe the answer is another book of the past several years as a single parent. (Would you pray with me about that one?)

I know and I’m reminded by His word that the only way to tap into His strength is to be with Him.

Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his presence continually!  1 Chronicles 16:11

I do not believe it is possible to live in the Lord’s strength without living in His presence. Acknowledging Him.  True strength is found in the presence of God. And of course the beauty of the Lord is that He chooses to stay with us…to live with us.  It is part of the Covenant.  He truly does never leave us nor forsake us.  I am reminded of all the times I found solace in His word.  I could not hold God’s hands as I poured out my heart to Him, but I could open up that precious dog-eared book and find comfort in His words written for me.

But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. 2 Timothy 4:17

I almost took that verse and wrote only the first part because that was all I technically needed for what I want to convey.  But I believe that God’s word is richer for the context. Paul is sharing with Timothy that God was with him giving him strength in the life he was called to live.  God had called Paul to many difficult things and He stood beside him and strengthened him in every task…even the arduous ones. To say that Paul walked a challenging path is quite an understatement…beatings, imprisonments, shipwrecks…and yet, he is the writer who says,

Rejoice always, praying without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus in you.  1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

God’s will is for me to rejoice each step of this path…to continually be with Him…to be grateful, because He knows without a doubt that living a joy-filled life is living strong.

…for the joy of the LORD is your strength.  Nehemiah 8:10

This seems to go back to what Paul said about finding the secret to living in any circumstances.  Can I find joy even when things are decidedly different from what I’d have chosen?  Can I find joy in my weariness?  Can I find joy in my life?  The answer to those questions is yes.  But I must ask myself, “Will I find joy?”

It’s like that old teacher joke when a student asks, “Can I go to the bathroom?”  And the teacher asks back, “I don’t know, can you?”  There is no question that I can do something about living joyfully.  The tougher question is, “Will I?”

Will I seek strength in the Lord, or continue to search for it in myself?  Without the Lord, I do not have the strength I want to live well.  There is no joy to be found in and of myself.  All that I need is found in Him.  Will I seek Him?

You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the LORD… Jeremiah 29:13-14

I will find Him when I seek Him with ALL my heart.  In looking up verses on seeking God, I was brought to Hebrews 11 – the “By Faith” chapter.  And I was reminded that most if not all of those precious people mentioned were called out of comfort.  They were challenged to trust God.  To believe that He could do immeasurably more than all they asked or imagined…in whatever circumstances they found themselves.  To believe that their strength was in the Lord, not their abilities or their circumstances.  Oh to have that kind of faith…daily.

To believe that God is able to not just do the God-sized tasks, but the everyday pain in the rear overwhelming tasks of life as a single parent…as any parent, as any person for that matter…that is the blessing…that is the trusting…that is the strength.

Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees, say to those who have an anxious heart, “Be strong; fear not!”  Isaiah 35:3-4

There is an element to this strength thing of just doing it.  Just believing God to be faithful to provide.  I think sometimes I assume that strength is just going to pour over me like cool water on a hot day…reviving, energizing, and giving me what I need to keep keeping on.  But I believe strength is a decision to live for the Lord…to look beyond the struggle to the Savior.

I know, I know.  Sue, what do you mean?  How do you look beyond the piles of laundry, the stacks of bills, the teetering towers of dishes?  How do you hear His voice past the noise of children, the constant cell phone notifications, the emails that pile up in inboxes…

I don’t mean this in a condescending or rude way at all, but I believe it is quite simple really.  You take a moment and pray.  You make time to read His word.  You do it.  You seek Him.  Believe me, no….believe Him…He says when you seek Him, you WILL find Him.  

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.   Matthew 11:28-30

Live strong by living with Him…make time for Him in the busyness…listen to His love poured out for you in His Word, share your life with Him in prayer and trust that He loves you relentlessly, find strength in the joy of knowing Jesus.

Choose Him.  Live strong.

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Let Him Have It!

relax beach picRecently someone asked me what God is doing in my life.  What big things has God done? And I had to think…

Sometimes it feels like I’m in a perpetual state of weary and I can’t see beyond the next moment…and other times I’m so desperate for a change that I look ahead with either dread or longing…depending on the day.

But really, God is always working, so the problem is I’m not looking.  I’m not paying attention to Him working in my life.

No wonder I feel overwhelmed and sometimes alone in the struggle.

Many nights I lay in bed pondering things.  It inevitably leads to anxious thoughts. There are things I can’t figure out, decisions I’m afraid to make, and situations I can’t fix.  I tumble them all around in my head and wonder if I’ve missed God’s plan.  If I took a wrong turn…

But I believe that God is sovereign so is there really ever a turn made that God can’t use for good?  Is there a turn I’ve made that He did not already see coming?  Nope and nope.  I am where He knew I would be all along.  This struggle is no surprise to Him, even if it is shockingly surprising to me.

Many, many times God has reminded me of the value of being thankful.  And I am thankful, so thankful for my children, my home, my job, my friends, my family, my life. For love.

It does seem that those very things I am most thankful for sometimes are also the very things that cause the most angst in my life.  I wrestle with feelings of fear and failure.  I struggle with loneliness even when I am so very not alone.

Sometimes it feels that I stand on a battlefield alone.  Arms too tired to raise.  Weapons dull and shield cracked.  Armor missing.  And I wonder why?

I am not alone.  How often has God reminded me that He will never leave me nor forsake me?  A lot.

In fact, this past week someone anonymously paid a bill I had…a big bill.  I cannot begin to tell you how blessed, surprised, and thankful I was.  I wish I could find that person and hug them tightly.  It was as if God said, “See sweetheart, I am going to take care of you…even when you forget to ask.”

I forget to ask.

I forget to say thank you.  I forget to drop the burdens at His feet.  I’ll talk to Him and share my struggles and study His word and worship in song, but then I return to the day with the burden still solely on my shoulders.

Sometimes I so want a husband to walk up beside me and put his shoulder under the burden with me, grab my hand, and say, “Dearest, we will fix this together.  You are not alone in this.”

It isn’t a ridiculous desire, but I believe that God wants me to truly understand that Jesus is the one who will bear my burdens.

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”  1 Peter 5:6-7

Humble myself under the mighty hand of God?  The hand of God could mean discipline or deliverance.  In my suffering am I willing to place my trust, my life, my heart under the mighty hand of God?  Am I willing to trust that He will do the best for me?  Am I willing to let Him be in control?  Am I willing to drop my burden and let him take care of me and mine?  Can I let go of my control (imagined control) and my concerns and my cares and let Him have it all?

These past several years have been a continual struggle between trusting God and trying myself.  Of thinking I should be able to handle this without so much anxiety, worry, fear, and sin.  Of wondering why God hasn’t stepped in and made this all easier by now.  And yet, God.

God who blesses in unexpected ways.

God who provides when I forget to ask.

God who makes ways where none seem to be.

God who loves me no matter what.

I have thought a lot about things to thank God for…in fact it is something I repeatedly have to remind myself to do.  Today, I want to think about God. I want to know Him better. I want to understand the love of the Father.  I want to learn from Jesus how to live gentle and lowly in heart.  I want to be filled with the fruit of the Holy Spirit…no, I want to overflow with it.

I want to stop worrying and start living.  I want to stop thinking about being thankful, and start living thankfully.  I want to stop looking for answers and help from others, and start trusting in Him for the answers and the provisions and the courage. I want to stop living struggle, and live strength.

Father, You are enough.  You are more than enough.  And because of You, I can live a victorious life.  No longer a victim of my circumstances, but rather a victor in my circumstances.

I don’t need someone to step in and rescue me.  I just need to trust that Jesus already did!

If that isn’t an hallelujah I don’t know what is!

So, I guess even though my circumstances aren’t considerably better than three years ago, God is working in them to strength me and love on me.

God is always with me, always working, always blessing, always loving, always faithful.

I am blessed.  I am loved.

I am His.

“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

 

Somebody Save Me Please

IMG_1600What if this life is about more than surviving?  Have you ever heard that saying about thriving instead of just surviving?  I don’t know what I think about that quote right now.

What is thriving anyway?

Is that even possible?

I don’t use the word thrive very often…I don’t even use the word survive very often.  I’m kind of in triage mode – that’s the phrase I use a lot.

Just living in triage mode…the most immediate disaster gets my attention first…the loudest complaint, the biggest boo-boo, the nearest deadline, and sometimes the easiest fix…if I’m honest.

And sometimes, living in triage mode means that the most important stuff doesn’t get met…it isn’t a good place to live.

Believe me.

I’ve been trying to figure out how to get out of it, but it appears to me right now that the only way is to walk through it…sometimes it seems like it’s getting darker rather than lighter though.

Darker?  I don’t want to do darker….bring on the spotlight!  Goodness, I’d take a flashlight…the little $1 one from Walmart.  Just a little light for the path again…

I’m tripping over angry, falling over frustrated, crashing into overwhelmed, and washing out over weariness.

Honestly, if I stub my toe one more time…

But what if…what if I’m called to something more than thriving or surviving?

What if I’m called to something not even in the same category?  Something radical?

Something like blessing?

What if my life is about blessing?

Blessing God….glorifying God and enjoying Him forever.

How do I do that in this?

This messy life.  This life full of tumult and tears.  This sleepless, exhausting life.  This life full of endless to-dos, responsibilities, expectations, and needs.  This life…

This life full of children…noisy, scruffy, feisty children who I love desperately.

This life full of home…untidy, laundry-full, dishes-full, wonky-floored home that I’m ever so thankful for.

This life of work…stressful, endless demands, difficult situation work that provides for my family.

This life of finances…busted budgets, fearful feelings, and exorbitant expenses that God always seems to work through.

This life of family…missing, needing, and loving family.

This life of friends….missing, needing and loving friends too.

This life of busyness…frantic, never-ceasing activity that blesses my children with fellowship, encouragement, and strength.

This life…this life is full of blessings.  It’s how I look at them that seems to make the difference.  It’s what I pay attention to…lately, I’ve pretty much only paid attention to my troubles.

Even my blessings have often seemed like HUGE burdens more than anything else lately.  Ever felt that way?

No wonder I can’t get my head in the game.

No wonder I’m always feeling on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

I keep trying to do all this stuff in my own strength…as if to prove that I can.  Maybe to show myself worthy of…I don’t even know what.  Worthy of love? Worthy of admiration?  Just plain worthy?

Maybe I just want to be strong.  So often I feel so weak, but honestly if someone wanted to step in and “save” me from all this stress I’d take it.

Wait a minute…

There are some verses about that…

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.  1 Peter 5:7

Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.  Psalm 55:22

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.  Matthew 11:28-30

I have a Savior and He says to give it all to Him and the burden I get back is easy and light.

Oh my goodness!  How awesome does easy and light sound right now?!?

So practically speaking, how do I do easy and light when all heck seems to be breaking loose every other day in some area of my life…(wish I was exaggerating.)

All I can say is that I think it all has to do with my focus and my attitude.

If I can please remember that the Lord loves me and that HE DOES HAVE A PLAN in all of this and HE does want to help, provide, and care for me.

If I can please acknowledge with my attitude that Jesus is my Savior in all areas of my life.  He cares about everything.  He didn’t just check off the Savior box when He died on the cross.  He is the Savior of every second of my day.

Why can’t I live like I know that?  The gospel isn’t just for getting me into heaven…it’s for me every day.  It’s not just for life after death…it’s for life before death.  It’s for a life of thriving not just surviving (there I said it) not just hanging by a thread until heaven.

It’s a life of blessings because I have a big God and wonderful Savior.

Lord, show me how to live that way.  Show me how to step out of this triage mode into faith mode.  Please open my eyes to the blessings around me and help me to stop just focusing on what I see as the mess of my world.  Thank you Jesus for being the Savior of my soul and my situation.  I love you Lord.

Spilling Guilt

pool pictureI’m sitting at the pool feeling guilty because I’m not in the pool playing with my daughters, but we can only stay a few minutes before I have to leave to take my son to a school function.  I have spent the majority of my summer in the car and I’m sooooo tired of driving.  I went to bed late and woke up early and I’m tired tired tired.  And I want to rest so very badly but for the life of me (which it actually feels like…I need to sleep to save the life of me) I can’t figure out how to get more than a few hours.

But as I grumpily drove my sweet girls (well kinda sweet girls) to the pool, I realized that I’m forcing my family to live in a state of constant guilt simply because I feel such huge guilt.

I’m tired and overwhelmed (hate that word) and ready to throw my hands up in the air in defeat.  I can’t do it all.  In fact, at the moment, I don’t want to do it all.  I don’t even want to do half of it.

But I want to do whatever I need to do to bless and love and encourage and raise my children well.

I think I have equated that too much with what I do with and for them.  Having 5 kids is a little bit much when it comes to doing things with each of them every day.  The other night my oldest daughter came in to talk at 11:45pm and my middle daughter woke me up at 5am with a tummy ache and my youngest son checked on me at 7am because we needed to leave for soccer at 7:30am.  That’s just the time supposed to be spent sleeping!  The day is full to overflowing with things and people and errands and such…too much stuff.

Enough complaining!

(YOU:  OK Sue, you’re tired, overwhelmed, and too busy.  We got it.)

Driving here I thought about how I’ve done nothing but moan, grown and guilt trip myself and my kids about the circumstances of each day.

My little girls LOVE the pool and I love to take them.  Today though, I just wanted to sit down for a minute with my eyes closed before I made another drive to school.  But I told them I’d take them and I should have happily.  If not happily, at least without making them feel badly about it.

I was already feeling horrible about acting grumpy and fussy (spilling my guilt) when my daughter said, “Momma, I’m sorry for whatever I did that’s making you so unhappy.”

Seriously?

I want to spend time with my children so they feel loved and instead I’m spending time with them and making them feel guilty.

That does not make any sense at all.

I hear people say that we have to take care of ourselves so we can take care of our children…I get it but what does that look like when you live in triage mode ALL. THE. TIME.

I want so badly to do this parenting thing well, but after 6 years of single parenting I’m still baffled by some of the struggles.

I feel the weight of the world on my shoulders lately.  I feel like I can’t possibly do it all and yet God has placed me here so it must be possible.

With man it is impossible, but not with God.  For all things are possible with God. Mark 10:27

With God.

I used to have a magnet that said, “God’s plan will not take you where His grace will not sustain you.”

Maybe it is that I have stepped a bit out of the plan?  Or maybe I’m not believing enough about the grace, or maybe I’m just so tired I can’t see the forest of His grace through the trees of my guilt and exhaustion.

Yeah, it’s probably the forest and trees one.

He’s there.  And I’m kinda way over here…here in my pity party pool.  Drowning.

Lord, help!

Help me find rest.

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

Help me follow you.

Thus says the LORD:  “Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths,

where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls.  Jeremiah 6:16

Help me – please quiet my soul.

Fear not, O Zion; let not your hands grow weak.  The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love, he will exult over you with loud singing.  Zephaniah 3:17

Help me focus on you.

But my eyes are toward you, O God, my Lord; in you I seek refuge; leave me not defenseless! Psalm 141:8

Help me not worry.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:6-7

Help me trust you with my children.  Help me trust you with myself

Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.  Psalm 62: 8

This guilt thing is for the birds. I have tried hard not to be a guilt giver but in my own guilt I’ve made myself a guilt spiller.  Ugh.

I don’t want to be a guilt spiller.  Guilt is NOT something I want to share or give or spill.

How much more do I want to share, give and spill grace?

I feel like I throw that word around a lot.  Grace.  I know it well.  Why in the world can’t I live it?

I started looking up verses on grace and was struck with something I probably have known but never really thought about – grace is so much more than just something we receive from God.  It’s the place we stand, the place we are under, the means of our justification and our salvation, and the way we act, speak, and think.

Grace – The gift received

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not for yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.  Ephesians 2:8-9

Grace – The place we stand

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.  And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.  Romans 5:1-2

Grace – The place we are under

For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.  Romans 6:14

Grace – The means of our justification

…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.  Romans 3:23-24

Grace – The means of our salvation

It is by grace you have been saved…For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith -and this not for yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.    Ephesians 2:5, 8-9

(I think God wants me to read Ephesians 2:8-9 a bunch…)

Grace – The way we speak

Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.  Colossians 4:6

One who loves a pure heart and who speaks with grace will have the king for a friend.  Proverbs 22:11

That last one is getting to me today.  It is just what I need to hear…what I want to apply to my parenting.  I want to speak with grace…have all my conversations with my children always full of grace.

I really like the part about seasoned with salt.

Matthew Henry says this about seasoned with salt:

“Grace is the salt which seasons our discourse, makes it savory, and keeps it from corrupting.”

It goes with those verses about our words always building up and encouraging others.  Our words, even the ones that are meant to hold someone accountable or call someone out (something we often have to do as parents), being gentle.  (Galatians 6:1)

Our words – our grace-filled words – should encourage, edify, enlighten, and embolden our children’s faith…even when they are words of admonition and accountability.

Our words – every word – should not be ones that tear down, but rather build our children up.

Our words should not spill guilt, but should overflow with grace!

I’m praying God will help me be a grace spiller!

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. 🙂

Are You Giving UP?

 

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I was talking with a friend lately about how it feels like for the past 5+ years God has asked me to give up A LOT!

Sometimes it feels like all I’m doing is giving up people, things, hopes, and dreams…

Sometimes it has felt unbearable and sometimes it has been relatively easy.

Sometimes the outcome has been good right from the start and other times…well, I’m still waiting to see the good.

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

I don’t doubt it will come…eventually.  I understand that sometimes the good isn’t something I’ll be able to see, feel, touch, or even understand.  The good is going to have to be something I trust will happen because I trust God.

But I have to be honest and say that on one hand I’m tired of giving up things and on the other hand I kinda just wanna give up.

Even as I write that…I don’t think I really mean it.  I definitely have those “Good grief!  I give up!” or “Lord, I just can’t take this anymore, please please make it better…I feel like giving up.” Or “God, I trust you.  I’m giving this up to you.”  The last one would be the best one to utter most definitely.

So when I feel like giving up, how do I give my stuff UP to God?

How do I actively trust God enough to not only give up something, but give UP the resulting pain and sorrow and disappointment?

Do you know what I mean?

What does giving Up my stuff to God look like?

I tend to give my things to God and then asking for them back.

God I trust you with my kids, but…

God you can have my finances, but…

God I understand your commands, but…

God I know you’re there to listen, but…

God, I need your grace, but…

God I believe you have a plan, but…

Does anyone else struggle with this?  Am I the only one who takes everything back and heaps it onto my own back again and again and again?

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart,

and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. Matthew 11:28-30

Honest to goodness, I have no idea why I take stuff back.  It doesn’t make sense…really.  I know that God’s plan is best.  I know that His way is best.  I know that His timing is best.  I know that His care is best.

I know that He is the best at carrying my burden…and yet, I take it back.  As if…

As if, I have all the answers.

As if, I have all the power and strength.

As if, I have all the energy.

As If, I can do all things.

As if, I know what the heck I’m doing.

It really is a matter of trust.  Do I trust God to handle my life?  My emotions?  My future?  My children?

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not on your own understanding.

In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.  Proverbs 3:5-6

Has God called me to do the impossible?  To continue to give up and give UP when not much makes sense…to continue to trust Him when I can’t see the good…yet?

No, He has not.

God says I can do all things…all the things He has called me to do (and not to do).

So if God has called me to give up some things and to give some things UP…then He is going to enable me to do it.

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

Reading that verse made me ask, “Why does Christ give me strength?”

That’s one of those questions that seems easy at first and then as I consider it, definitely not.

Maybe it is a simple answer.  Because we need it.

Because He knows we need it.

Because we are weak.

Because we are burdened.

Because we carry grief and sorrow and pain.

Because He understands the giving up and the giving UP…because He gave up an awful lot for me…for us.

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,

who, though he was in the form Of God,

did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,

but made himself nothing, taking the

Form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 

And being found in human form, he humbled himself by

becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Philippians 2:5-8

 

In comparison, I have not given up much.  It feels like very much…very, very much…but I cannot forget that I have also been given very, very much.

God might ask for things, but He is exceedingly generous in things too.

And some of that generosity is that He is willing to show us His love and care by taking things…things we more than willingly would give Him.

All this sorrow, grief, pain, suffering, frustration, fear, and just plain aggravation…all that yuck, God says He’ll take it.  He’ll handle it.  I don’t have to.

I don’t exactly know how to get rid of it…I mean really.  I keep giving it to God but grief has a funny way of coming back into my life uninvited.

God, how do I make grief go away?

Can I?

Is this grief, this sorrow, my cross to bear?  And, if so, how do I do it without letting it define me.  How do I carry it, without it becoming unbearable?  How do I even begin to have new adventures when the pain

of the past and even the present lies so heavily on me?

I don’t exactly have the answer, I mean I know the answer, but it isn’t an easy ten step plan.

I believe it is in Christ’s strength.  I believe it is in a constant recognition that I need Him. Desperately.

He is everything.  He will help me.  He says He will.  He says He will carry the burden with me.  I don’t have to do this alone.

This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life.  Psalm 119:50

The yoke He speaks of in Matthew 11 – His yoke…how does that work?  How is it easier and lighter?  And how do I give up my stuff and take His yoke?  I can barely lift my stuff off my shoulders.

God brought me to these verses – I just know it – to remind me of the gospel.  I believe those verses are about the gospel.  Honestly, I’m seeing that all of God’s word is about the gospel.

The rest Christ promises is from all the things we do to make things better…to make us better.

John MacArthur says it like this, “Rest speaks of a permanent respite in the grace of God completely apart from works.”

I think what I’m seeing is God’s answer is the gospel.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves,

it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. 

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, 

which God prepared in advance for us to do.  Ephesians 2:8-10

God has done it all and He is doing it all.  I’m just blessed to be part of the plan.

The gospel is all about what Christ has done…not what I’ve done or do or will do.  Thank goodness!

I can’t fix things here.  I’ve tried.  No luck.

I can’t even “fix” me.

And I certainly can’t “fix” anyone else.

So what can I do?  I can rest in God’s grace.

I can know without a doubt that I’m saved…that I’m loved…that I’m cherished, precious, chosen, beloved, strengthened, protected, secure, never alone, and never forsaken by the One who knows me best.

Whatever the sorrow or pain you bear, He will bear it with you.

Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him.

I will protect him, because he knows my name.

When he calls to me, I will answer him;

I will be with him in trouble;

I will rescue him and honor him.

With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.  Psalm 91:14-16

 When you just feel like giving up, remember the great love God has for you.  Immerse yourself in His word.

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

When you just can’t bear the thought of giving up anything or anyone else, know that He is enough to fill the void…He will take the empty place and make it full again.  He will.  It might not look like you thought or even like you want it to, but He knows best.  Trust.

I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth

of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.  Philippians 3:8

Can I be brave and give you an example from my life?  Well, it’s not like I don’t blather it all to y’all anyway…but here goes…

I would love to get married again…to be a helpmate to a godly man.  I would love to have the opportunity to love again within the covenant of marriage…deeply, richly, passionately.

And it seems like God keeps asking me to give that hope up to Him…lately, it has been painful to think about and I want to “fix” my situation…

and at the same time I’m afraid of feeling all the pain of betrayal again.  I can’t bear the thought of it.

But I’m willing to be brave if God opens the door.  If God allows it.  I trust Him.

So one night I decided that I would do what I used to…spend my time with Jesus.  Instead being poor pitiful Sue, I’m putting my face in His word as often as I need to in order to adjust my attitude, comfort my

heart, bring peace to my thoughts, or remind myself of His love for me.    (And He’s even blessing me with the groundwork for a 2nd book that I’m prayerfully starting!)

And it’s working!  It is helping me so very much.  I’m remembering how God got me through 5 years ago…how He comforted and quieted my heart with His word.

O LORD, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high;

I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me.

But I have calmed and quieted my soul,

like a weaned child with its mother,

like a weaned child is my soul within me.

O Israel, hope in the LORD from this time forth and forevermore.  Psalm 131

He’s doing that again.  He’s reminding me that He is worthy of my praise – He is worthy of my trust.

I can have hope because God is my hope.

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope…  Psalm 130:5

God has indeed asked me to give up much.  He has asked me to trust Him with the giving up.  And He has asked me to give UP some things to Him – to entrust Him with some things I hold very dear.

It isn’t easy, but I’m willing.  I’m willing because I know that His ways are ALWAYS best.

I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.  Job 42:2

God allows difficult things to happen in our lives because He knows that through those things we will know and we will show that He is trustworthy.  He knows beforehand that He is going to equip us to walk

through whatever path He lays before us.  He knows beforehand that He is going to give us the strength we need to do what He has called me to do…to fulfill His purpose for us.

His purpose for me right now is to walk a path that is a bit rocky…but He hasn’t asked me to do something that He hasn’t prepared me to do.  He’s prepared me and is equipping me to live where He has me.

And He has done the same for you.

And we can certainly thank God , no matter how sad and sorrowful, no matter how angry and frustrated, no matter how disappointed and grumpy we are, He will NEVER give up on us.

Ducks in a Row? Nope…not even in the same pond.

little duck

You know that old saying about getting your ducks in a row? My ducks aren’t in a row…in fact, I’m sure my ducks aren’t even in the same pond.
I really want them to be…at least in the same pond. Golly, I don’t care about lines. I was never particularly fond of staying in the lines anyway.
But as a single mama I think I might need some lines drawn…some boundaries established.
Lately I’m recognizing a decidedly annoying trend with my children…stepping, no make that leaping across boundaries. My room, my bathroom, my closet, my clothes, my makeup, my socks, my shoes, my jewelry, my papers, my pens, my desk, my computer, my drinks, my snacks, my stuff…all seems to be fair game. No one bothers to ask…no one bothers to put back…no one bothers to thank…but it all sure bothers ME!!!
I got myself into this particular pond. I jumped in when my husband left. I allowed my children to sleep on my floor, my oldest daughter to share my bathroom, and my kids to use whatever they needed out of my stuff. I didn’t do much more than request that they take care of the things they borrowed and put them back properly, but I didn’t really offer consistent consequences unless you count my exasperated nagging as a viable consequence. I wouldn’t because it was a clearly ineffective consequence.
Unfortunately, it isn’t just the little things like borrowing without asking, it’s the big stuff like irresponsibility, disrespect, and laziness that need to be addressed more diligently by me. This is my opportunity to show my children that I take my responsibility as mom seriously, that I desire to respect the Lord by raising His children well, and that I will be persistent in my efforts to train them.
Being a single mom, it’s easy to make excuses for letting things slide…little things. Those silly little things become scary big things quite quickly. I’ve been experiencing that lately. In not training my children well in the little things, I have not equipped them well to deal with the big things.
So here I am…frustrated and a little bit fearful but ready to make some changes. Ready to jump into an altogether different pond and push all my kids in too…whether they want to or not. A friend of mine keeps reminding me that sometimes the best things we can do for our children are the things they least want to do. Amen to that.
Praise God that He is the God of second chances…in life and parenting. I’m praying more diligently, seeking wise counsel more conscientiously, and holding to my convictions more solidly. BUT I also know that my strength to do those things is totally and completely rooted in Christ. I know myself and I’m tired, weak and exhausted. That’s why God tells me:
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
Ahhh…rest, easy yoke, light burden…why would I not accept that offer?
With God I know I can make changes in my life and the lives of my children. With God I know that we can become a family that treats the blessing of each other and the material blessings we have with respect. I believe that God is going to do great things in my family…I know that He has faithfully shown me things that need to be dealt with not because He wants to crush me with regret, but because He wants to show me His love and grace as He restores our family.
That new pond…it’s beautiful. There’s even a Lifeguard who delights in watching us splash around together…in a line or not!

Lord, please give me the ability to lay my burden down and pick up Yours. I know I will be challenged daily, I will struggle, but Lord, You are faithful and loving and You will provide all that I need to meet each day with peace and joy. I’m thankful that You show me what I need to work on, what needs to be done, but Lord I’m even more thankful that because of You I am not measured or valued by what I accomplish in a day or how well I do anything. I am Your daughter and I am loved because You made me. Father, please help me raise my children well. Please enable me to be strong, consistent, gentle, loving and graceful with my children. Just like you are with me! In Jesus’ name, Amen.