Changing Me

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What if something could change so that I wasn’t so very overwhelmed?

What would it be?

I’m not talking about the things that would make life easier like not having to work, having a nanny and a cook, or receiving a ton of money.  I’m talking about the realistic things.  The things that could actually happen.

Yesterday was one of those days when I wondered if I will ever get to a place where I don’t feel as though my head or my heart could explode at any minute.  My mind swirls and my heart pounds and I just want to get past it all.  I just want to get to a different place.  A peaceful place.

I don’t want to get rid of children, move (Ugh – no more moving!), or significantly change my life…I want to change myself.

I’m wondering if it is possible for me to change myself.  I mean really change myself.  I can make some changes to get healthier, set a better schedule, get organized, and make better choices in other areas…but can I really and truly change who I am?

My circumstances have impacted the woman I am.  After my husband left I became a more focused, peaceful woman even in the midst of the chaos that was my life.  Then I became a stressed-out single working mom.  I waffle between those two a lot.

Sometimes I feel like I’ve finally caught that perfect peace only to find that it has escaped my grasp again.  Once again I’m a jaw-clenching crazy woman .

This past weekend there was a difficult moment with one of my children (who will not be named).  I was angry, frustrated, and tired.  My middle son said, “Momma, your jaw is clenched.  You need to stop doing that.  It isn’t good for you.”

He was right.

It was clenched.

He is right.

It isn’t good for me.  Or anyone else in my vicinity.

It means I’ve let go of peace and grabbed hold of overwhelmed.

Why do I go there?  How do I not?  I honestly don’t know.  Well, I do know why I go there…I’m tired and for the life of me I can’t figure out how to get five things crossed off my to-do list before ten more things are added.

I keep saying, “This is the day!  This is the day I get all these things done!”

Inevitably, something comes up to ruin my plan.  Why, Lord?  Why can’t one day be SUPER productive?

Just. One. Day.

But there are other people in my mix…other people who have and need things…soccer practice, summer school, fitness training, job interviews, school preparations, dentists, doctors, chiropractors, ophthalmologists, house repairs, errands (I. Hate. Errands.), and enumerable other little things that disrupt my well-planned day.

But it really isn’t just about not getting things done.  It’s about me.  It’s about how I respond to disappointments and disappointing others.

Oh how I can’t stand to disappoint people…to let someone down…to make someone angry.  I know we would probably all like to avoid disappointing or angering others, but I wonder if this is way too big an issue for me.

Every dirty look from one of my teenagers makes my heart hurt.

I have friends who I have disappointed because I can’t find time to visit or I’m not doing things the way they think I should…and I hear their disappointment and frustration with me.  Sometimes I understand it, sometimes I don’t.  It almost makes me feel worse when I don’t.

I feel frantic to understand what I did wrong…because often I don’t even know.  I feel like I’m running in circles to please, take care of, and love on everyone…but it never seems to be enough.

And lately I feel like no matter how hard I try, I always have someone irritated, angry, or disappointed with me.

It’s exhausting.

People-pleasing is a bummer.

I want to be a God-pleaser.

I don’t want to worry about what other people think of me…and I don’t want to worry about other people leaving me…and I don’t want to worry about making everyone under the sun happy.

In the process of all that worry and work, I’m losing myself…wrecking myself.  Last night, I got all weird in the head and started worring that I might actually make myself pretty sick from all this craziness.

It can’t be good for my health…all this worry and anxiety.

So what is the thing or things that are going to change?  How am I going to become the woman of peace I want to be?

“He will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.  Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD, the LORD himself, is the Rock eternal.”  Isaiah 26:3-4

I come back to this verse a lot.  I believe God wants me to make it my life verse.

The Recipe for Peace:

A mind focused on Christ

Trust

A God who is my eternal Rock of refuge

A focused mind.  God continually reminds me that my eyes need to be fixed on Him.  How often I’m like Peter walking on the water…eyes on Jesus…then the lightening crashes and the thunder booms and a wave crashes over my toes and my eyes dart to the storm clouds…I look back to the boat and wonder how fast I can run back before I sink…

All the while, RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME, is the answer to my fear…the answer to my need.

Jesus.

He is there.  His eyes never leave me.  He never turns His gaze away from me.

I doubt life will calm down anytime soon – if it does, that’d be awesome! – but, again, doubtful.

Looking to and at Him seems to be the answer to all the questions.

Me changing me?  Probably not going to happen without my focus changing from anxious, overwhelmed, fussy me looking at all the things and people in my life to calm, peaceful, content me looking at Jesus.

Do not be anxious about anything but in everything through prayer and petition with thanksgiving present your requests to God and the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:6-7

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Feeling a Little Less than Full?

empty gaugeDoes it ever feel like what you do is never enough?

Today I did something nice for one of my children and another child got exceedingly angry at me.  As if I have done nothing for them…as if I have only chosen to bestow blessings on one child and left the others with nothing.

I was so shocked by the behavior I didn’t know how to respond at first.  But after a moment, my response came full force.  I remained relatively calm…pretty calm.  I didn’t yell or accuse.  I just tried to state facts.

But facts and emotions don’t often mix.  Specifically my facts and my child’s emotions.

Sometimes the issue is life’s facts and my emotions.  And then I can be an awful lot like my child.  I can get my feelings all in a mess and mix up things more than I care to admit.

It’s difficult when all you can see is the hurt.

There are days when I just can’t bear the thought of dealing with what I just gotta deal with…you know what I mean?  It can be a child’s behavior, another person’s words, and another’s opinion of me, a friend’s situation, or my life in general…

There are times I feel like I can barely breathe in the face of my emotions.  There are times I want to scream or cry or both.

Today I disappointed a child by blessing another child.

Yesterday my littlest told me she wanted a different mommy because I told her it was bedtime.  That angry little line is something all my kids have said at one time or another, but this little one will often add something about her birth mother which makes me want to fall to my knees.

Tomorrow I will surely do something to aggravate another child, but I’m trying so hard to love them well.

Part of the problem is there is only one of me to meet all those needs…there is only one of me to deal with all the behaviors and temperaments and emotions.

Part of the problem is I have limited resources…I can’t always do what they’d like or what I’d like…just can’t.  And sometimes that gets held against me…sometimes no matter what I do seems to be enough.

I feel like I literally pour myself out each day for my children and sometimes I feel very empty…and sometimes I feel very weak…and sometimes I feel very tired….and sometime, like right now, I feel very hurt.

But I can think of so many ways God is nudging me right now…

When I’m looking at life through the haze of my emotions (like my child), I can’t see the blessings, the good things, the provision and faithfulness of my heavenly Father.

I forget about all the good He has done.  I forget about His sacrifices. I forget about His sacrifice to live down here instead of up there.  I forget about His sacrifice to give up His position in heaven to become a carpenter on earth.  I forget about His sacrifice of time and energy and sleep to bless people while He walked on this earth.  I forget about His sacrifice of being worshipped in heaven to come down here to be spit on, beaten, maligned, brutalized, and murdered.  I forget His sacrifice of separation from the Father so that I will never be separated from my Father.

I think Jesus understands better than I ever possibly could what it means to be poured out.  I can bring the hurt, emptiness and exhaustion to the Cross and He will take it and love me.  He knows.

And that leads me to the second thing that God is nudging me about…

How can I be empty when I have Him?

If’ I’m empty it’s because I’m doing things in my own strength…finding my fulfillment in the wrong things…looking to others not God.

And ya know…I’m thinking my kids aren’t necessarily gonna think to say the things I need or want to hear…but God’s word does.

God tells me all about how loved I am.  God tells me that His love isn’t contingent on me doing anything for Him.

God loves me when I succeed and when I fail.  Today I don’t think I failed my child – I just think this single parenting thing is hard.  Really hard.

And if I don’t find my fulfilling in Christ…if I don’t do this thing with Christ’s strength…if I don’t seek godly wisdom…I’m gonna feel pretty much overwhelmed.

I want to make things better with my child, but I’m not sure what to say.  Maybe I’ll just say, “I love you.”

Maybe that’ll be enough right now.  I think it will.  I know that when I’ve got my knickers twisted that’s all I need to hear God say.  I want answers, but I need His love more.

I can’t be the perfect parent, but I have the Perfect Parent.  And even though I’m going to disappoint and frustrate my children, I’m thinking that as long as I have my Father guiding me, we’ll be okay.

During times like these, instead of getting all goofy and hurt about things, I’m going to pray that God will enable me to share the gospel again and again and again with my children so that they will learn that Jesus is the answer to all the questions.  He is the filling of the emptiness and the comforting of the hurt and the calming of the heart.  Momma loves them, but Jesus loves them the most.

I won’t ever be enough, but Jesus is.

 

Just a little PS – my sweet child came and apologized before I even had a chance to do what I planned to do! I’m blessed beyond measure by how God is working in the hearts of my children.  It ain’t always pretty…but God’s workin!

 

When You’ve Got Nothing Left to Give…and need some help and some hope

Image  About three months ago I began a program to get my teaching license and eventually my Masters in Education.  At the time it seemed like a really good thing…even though I don’t have the money to pay for the program nor is the time to do it clearly evident.  In fact when I was interviewing with the head of the program, he questioned whether it was possible for a single mother of 5 to do the program much less teach full time.  I assured him it was possible – I had actually already done it…totally a miracle by the way.

And I need another miracle.  I need help!!!

O God, be not far from me; O my God, make haste to help me.  Psalm 71:12

In every form available.

I lift up my eyes to the hills.  From where does my help come? 

My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.  Psalm 121:1 

I have to be honest I’m having one of those days when it just seems like nothing is going to be doable.  And getting my children to seriously put some effort into helping is more than frustrating.  And the house seems to be crashing around me at the same time everything I have to do is crashing as well.

And today I have a fever, a wicked bad sore throat, body aches, and I just want to lie down and sleep…well, actually at the moment I want to lie down and cry.

I didn’t use to be prone to tears, but lately I feel like I’m on the verge at all times.  It just seems like I can’t possibly handle everything God has given me.  And the future just looks harder and harder…

Today my Bible study was on Philippians 4:6-7.  I’ve been studying Philippians for months so I knew these verses were going to show up sooner or later.  They used to be my mantra, but then I decided to put my big girl pants on and actually live by them not just chant them to myself.

Apparently I’ve forgotten how to do that of late.  I’m just an absolute mess of fear, worry, anxiety, sorrow, and frustration.  I don’t want to be this girl.

Just now I was downstairs trying to get my children to do something, anything, to help…I was tripping over dogs, cars, toys and clothes (which is hazardous with a broken foot).  There are dishes in the sink and more laundry than you can comprehend.  Even though today my little girls are outside without jackets, in two days we are expecting more snow and sleet so I can’t put all those blasted coats, scarves, boots, and gloves away.  And they are all over the place.  I finally just designated a room for them to be everywhere…the foyer was embarrassing.  I know taxes are going to be due about the same time as tuition…that is another God sized task…huge.  (There is actually a part of me that is excited to see how God provides for them!  The other part of me is terrified.)  The other day I met with a school official about one of my children and the learning issues she has – I drove home in tears (shocking…tears).  In the next few weeks I have to fit in practicum hours and I can’t even figure out where they are going to magically appear.  What is going to drop so I can do that?  Something’s gotta give.

I kinda feel like I’m just the one giving lately.  I don’t think I have much more to give.

Unfortunately at this moment I feel like giving up.  I feel like just crawling under the covers and forgetting about deadlines, appointments, assignments, finances, houses, issues, illnesses, learning issues, and everything else.

I hate being like this.  I don’t like using that word “hate” but it fits.  I really don’t want to be this way.  I want to live in victory.  How can I feel so defeated when I have God?  It is so hard to keep my focus on Him.

I started today with Him and tonight I will end with time with Him.   But somewhere in between I keep getting sidetracked by all the minutia of the day…who am I kidding it isn’t just the day…it’s everything all the time.

It’s so much.  I can’t keep up mentally, physically or emotionally.  I just can’t.

I’m crying UNCLE!

So now what?

I don’t know.  I can’t really call uncle…just because I give up doesn’t mean things stop or go away.  I’m still a single momma.  I still have 5 children.  I still need to take care of them and our home and our finances and our future.  I still need to get up and live this life.

Lord, how?

How do I move forward when I feel so overwhelmed?

You say that I can trade burdens with you – that yours is easy and light.  I want that.  I want easy and light.  Lord, what does that look like…I mean practically?  When there is just so much to do and so many emotions and thoughts rolling around inside of me?  How do I untangle the mess of me?

Lord, I think I can’t just give you a burden…I think I need to give you me.  I want to jump in your arms and rest…sleep.  I want you to handle everything for me.  I can’t hide though Lord.  I have to DO something?  What do I do?

We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.

Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God’s. 

You will not need to fight in this battle.  Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the LORD on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem.  Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed.  Tomorrow go out against them, and the LORD will be with you. 

2 Chronicles 20:12, 15, 17

I’m really praying about this.

I think what I do is just do this day…just take this day and its mess and do it…and rest in the fact that God has my tomorrows.

Do what I can…honestly, right now there just seems to be too much to do…too much for one person with limited resources.

I think the thing I need most is time.  Time to do all the things that need to be done so there isn’t so much to do.  Do you know what I mean?

If I could just get rid of some things, de-clutter, organize, and take care of all the house projects that stare at me daily, maybe that would help me get past some of the stress.  Maybe.  I hate to use the “if I could just…” phrase, because part of me thinks that I just have to learn to let go and let God.  Just not sure what that means…you know, what does that look like?

I have a basement that should be dealt using a shovel and dumpster…a car that needs to be power washed on the inside…an office that has way too many papers all over the place…and children’s rooms that have been taken over by clothing and damp towels…honestly…it’s enough to drive me bonkers.  I think I’m pretty close to bonkers.  And that’s just annoying little stuff.  Why does that stuff make me so nuts?

The other day there was a tornado warning and I thought for a moment, “Hmmmm….”

Like that’s a viable options!?!  I could just take my kids, the dogs and a very few precious things and the wind could have the rest.

We’ll cram into a little apartment and just be us and a few things.  That sounds lovely…it’d probably only be lovely for about 2 hours and then I’d regret it.

I know from emails and messages that many of us are feeling overwhelmed by our circumstances…and those circumstances include all the pain and sadness of divorce and single parenting.

That pain and sadness get better…I don’t think I’ll ever not have sadness at what my children have lost, but God is healing me and He is showing me His love and faithfulness in amazing and beautiful ways.

I know that it’s so difficult to see past the situation now.  I’m struggling with that very thing.  I’m overwhelmed by my circumstances and my fears.  And honestly it baffles me.  I know better.  I know the God who I love and who loves me.  Why in the world am I struggling?  Why can I not just rest in his presence?  Why do I get all wound up?

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 will tell you that as I have been writing God has brought to mind so many scripture passages.  The one I shared earlier, 2 Chronicles 20…do you know what happens after God answers the people by saying do not be afraid?  People are appointed to sing to the Lord and praise Him!

“Give thanks to the LORD, for his steadfast love endures forever.”  And when they began to sing and praise, the LORD set an ambush against the men of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah, so they were routed.   2 Chronicles 20:21

Oh my goodness!  I’m so excited how God has used His word to show me His love again!  So as I’m typing that verse out I’m remembering that this morning I was studying Philippians 4:6-7

“do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and yours minds in Christ Jesus.”

THANKFULNESS.

Could that be the answer to our current states of distress?  Could it be that simple…and difficult?

Could I choose thankfulness?  If I cannot find anything to be thankful for in this world, could I focus on the next?  Could I focus on Christ? Could I focus on my new identity in Christ – not this discouraged divorced, single mama, but that beautiful child of the King…loved, cherished, precious, chosen, forgiven, and redeemed?   I think if I truly grasped how amazing that is, I wouldn’t be able to become discouraged by this world…I could live within a different paradigm.  I could find my strength – emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually – in the Lord.

Oh friends, the answer is there.  It’s Him.  Find Him in His word.

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

Say His words back to Him – say those promises out loud.  Pray and find Him in the chaos and the quiet.

I cannot begin to tell you how just in this time of writing God has calmed and quieted my heart through His word.  There are so many more verses I want to share but I’ve already gone way past the word limit I set for myself.

But here’s two more to encourage you…

I waited patiently for the LORD; he inclined to me and heard my cry.  He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon the rock, making my steps secure.  He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God.  Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the LORD.  Psalm 40:1-3

He is faithful…He is good…He is kind…He loves you.  Rest assured He will walk you through this…

Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire, you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior…Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you.  Isaiah 43:1-4

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!

Grief Upon Grief Upon Grace Upon Grace

Pier Along IslamoradaI wrote this blog last week and hadn’t posted it yet because I can’t seem to catch up with school, work, and house…well pretty much anything. I was sharing with a friend some of things that I’ve been thinking about and writing about lately. This dear friend challenged me to share a happy post I’d written…I couldn’t find one happy enough! So now I’ve been challenged to write happier blogs at least every once in a while. But I had already written this one and I’m praying that it will bless someone even if it isn’t as cheerful as I’d like! I pray you are encouraged…

This week has been a little rough.

Being gone all last week was difficult…I missed a week of being with my children. I missed walking my children through the grief of their grandfather’s death. I missed day to day. I missed bedtimes. I missed packing lunches. I missed A LOT of laundry (which was all waiting when I arrived home). I missed my little girls’ Back to School night. I missed the book fair at school. I missed chatting with children. I missed my Bible study. I missed piano lessons. I missed a lot.

Right now though, I miss my Dad.

And I’m not sure how missing him should impact my day.

I have a sweet friend who reminded me that I should give myself and my children the opportunity to grieve…that I shouldn’t just jump back into life. I totally understand and agree.
I just don’t know how to do that.

When I arrived home my children had done an amazing job of holding down the fort — everyone had been well-cared for and our home looked pretty darn good! Except for the mountain (and I do mean mountain) of laundry by the washing machine….and the fact that schoolwork had been put aside for other pursuits.

This week began with sweet time with my children, a tremendous amount of washing, drying and sorting of laundry, grocery shopping, and massive amount of catching up on school work along with all the other craziness of a normal week. I haven’t found a moment to sit down or really contemplate anything deeply. There are brief moments while driving alone when grief washes over me, but really I don’t have time to allow myself to feel anything profoundly for more than that brief moment.

I’m not sure how to walk my children through this grief. It feels like grief upon grief for us. One big and little and then big thing after another.

“Grief upon grief” reminds me of a verse I keep seeing lately…on Facebook, in a book, and on a church sign…

For from his fullness we have all received grace upon grace. John 1:16

In the past several years God has shown me nothing but grace upon grace. And even this week as I deal with the loss of my father and just simply living the life of a single parent, God continues to show me grace upon grace.

Grace for responding to difficult moments.

Grace for single parenting even when I’m exhausted and emotionally drained.

Grace for being content when the day doesn’t go as planned…pretty much ever.

Grace for myself…forgiveness and mercy when I fail.

Grace for others who disappoint and hurt me or my children.

Grace for my children when they mess up.

Grace for knowing that God loves messy me and my chaotic crew.

There is no doubt in my mind that God loves us and that God feels acutely the pain we feel. Jesus felt grief…He understands.

We have all suffered grief at one point or another in our lives. I was thinking of Paul’s 2nd letter to the Corinthians where he shared about his thorn…the thing that he pleaded God to remove from his life…it was his grief-giver. And God’s response was:

My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. (2 Cor. 12:9)

And oh that my response to that could be like Paul’s:

Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Cor. 12:9-10)

Sometimes in my weakness…I just feel weak. Sometimes in my grief I don’t truly feel content.
How do I get contentment in sorrow?

I don’t know any particular thing to do, but I do know that God offers contentment…Paul wouldn’t have had it if God didn’t give it!

Once again I’m brought back to prayer. Once again the answer is prayer.

I know that God wants me to be content in my circumstances actually according to 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 God says to:

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances;
for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

I’m of the firm opinion that God doesn’t call us to anything He will not also enable us to do. So if I’m to continually be rejoicing that must mean I rejoice in all my circumstances whether they are good or bad. If God tells me to give thanks in all circumstances, I must be able to find something to be grateful for no matter the way things are going. And in the middle of all that God says to pray without ceasing.

So I’m going to pray…constantly…for the ability to rejoice and be grateful no matter how wonky things are. I’m also going to pray that I will be better about praying without ceasing…I want to be a prayer warrior so I believe I will pray that God will help me be one.

And I’m going to pray that God will give me His peace so that no matter what happens – whether its grief upon grief, joy upon joy, or grace upon grace – I’ll be content.

Where Did She Go?

goofy pic

My daughter Elizabeth was complaining the other night at bedtime about a bunch of stuff. 

I said, “Let’s pray about it.

To which she replied with a wail, “But that never works!  I pray and God doesn’t answer.”

Oh dear! I thought.

I put my hand gently on her forehead and rubbed her eyebrow with my thumb, “Honey, what have you prayed about that you feel God hasn’t answered?”

“Moooom! I don’t wanna talk about it,” she wailed and turned her head away.

I moved in closer and took her in my arms.  I insisted gently that I really wanted to know.  And the answer was a bit shocking.

“I’ve been praying for a nice mommy, “ she sniffled. “You haven’t changed.”

Ouch.

I kept her in my arms.  Stunned.   I was prepared for a boo-boo not healed, or playmate issue at recess, or a gift not received…but it was me?!?

Apparently I used to be a nice mommy.  Now…not so much. 

I’ve thought about it a lot since then because I’ve been known to write that I used to be a nice mommy.  What changed?

Certainly there is a measure of me changing.  And there is a bit of change going on in our lives – children growing older and hopefully more responsible, more stresses with school and work, etc.

I think Elizabeth is feeling bummed that growing up a bit makes you have to be more responsible.  You know, do chores…pick up your room…do dishes…clear your plate from the table, etc.  I also expect her to be respectful and obedient.  That’s hard stuff when your 6.  When you want to play with your dolls and Mom wants you to clean up for dinner!  That is simply unacceptable circumstances for a 6 year old ….well, at least my 6 year old.

On the other hand, I think I’m having a bit of a fussy season.  It isn’t constant or even daily, it’s just that sometimes this single mama thing is no fun.  Not that life should always be fun…well…personally I’d like it to be…wish it was…but it isn’t.  J 

I think that this life sometimes just overtakes me with worries, concerns, to-do lists and chores (and maybe even some hormones…but don’t tell anyone.)  And when those overwhelming moments hit, I can be slightly irritated and maybe a smidge cross.  When I was little my Mama used to say, “Susie, don’t get your knickers twisted.”  Well, my knickers are definitely twisted, tangled, knotted, and snarled at times.

I suspect my children are all too aware of my knickers situation.  I believe my little girl would appreciate me getting myself untwisted, untangled, unknotted and unsnarled.  I believe I would as well.

Practically speaking there are some steps I could take…the biggest being SLEEP.  But since that’s unlikely what else can I do? 

Pray.  Read His words of comfort and peace to me.  Be thankful.  Get organized.  Ask for help. 

Oh and take a loooooong bubble bath. 

All You Need to Do is Just…

Recently one of my dearest friends called to tell me she had my next blog topic.  She’d been at a women’s Bible study where they were discussing their crazy busy lives.  After the moms in the group had lamented their situations, one of the ladies shared her “simple” solution which began with the phrase,

“All you need to do is just…”

In this case, the solution was prepare freezer meals.  My friend is practically a gourmet cook and couldn’t think of how that would be an appropriate solution for her problem.  She is one of the most accomplished women I know – a very successful attorney with her own practice and also the mother of a toddler and an infant.  She also finds time to minister to others at her church, help people organize their houses and lives, as well as just simply be a good friend and encourager.  I’m sure there are thousands of other things she does…oh and she and her husband built a 2nd story addition on their home…themselves…while she was pregnant with number 2.  So, yeah…I don’t know if freezer meals are the answer to her already busy life.  The amazing thing about this friend is that she is more than able to handle all that she has allowed to be placed on her plate…if she doesn’t shower daily.  I’m kidding…sorta.

She and I talked about how women really do expect that we can do it all.  I am here to tell you in big bold faced letter

I CAN’T DO IT ALL…

IN FACT, I CAN’T DO MOST OF IT.

There I said it.

Even this exceedingly amazing friend of mine admits she can’t.  Oh, we can give it a try, but really it isn’t very pretty most, if not all, of the time.

I’m sure the lady that suggested freezer meals had the best of intentions.  We all do, don’t we?  We all want to help each other to discover the next best thing.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve put my hope in some product or idea or chart or book that was going to finally make me organized, patient, or thin.

I’m always exceedingly disappointed, because the answer doesn’t lie in my doing something differently, more efficiently, or even better…although all those things would be phenomenal!  I believe as the saying goes it is more about being than doing.

What if when we were all sitting around the coffee table sharing our struggles, frustrations and fears, we offered each other the hope of the gospel?  What if we listened, comforted and empathized, but didn’t try and provide yet another thing to add to our ridiculous to do lists…the ones written down with all the phone calls, emails, chores, and projects we need to accomplish or the ones we keep in our heads that include all our hopes as well as all our failings…you know the lists I’m referring to right?

What if we simply loved one another?  What if we shared our struggles but also the hope we found in Scripture.  Maybe it would look like this,

Me.        “I’m so overwhelmed.  I feel like I simply can’t keep one thing moving in the right direction.  I read books about parenting that convict me and condemn me all at the same time.  I feel hopeless.  I don’t think I’ll ever truly be the mom I’m supposed to be for these children.  How can I expect them to be kind, patient, loving and slow to anger when half the time I’m frustrated, impatient, unkind and angry?  I know I need more sleep…but how?  I know I need to exercise…but what do I stop doing?  I know I need to get my home in order…but these little people keep messing it up behind me.  I know I need to prepare healthy food and snacks…but how do I do that with the schedule we are keeping?  What do I give up?  Who do I say no to?  If I could I would…I’m down to bare minimum involvement in church, school and activities and still I’m crushed by our schedule.  There is no way around it with 1 parent and 5 children.”

A Friend.  “I can’t imagine what you are feeling.  I know it must be so difficult.  Please know that God gave you those sweet children because He knew you were the woman for the job.  God wanted you, with your personality, struggles and situation, to be their Momma.  You and those 5 children is not a mistake.  And God has a plan in the midst of this.  Remember that verse you love, “All your children shall be taught by the Lord, and great shall be the peace of your children.”  (Isaiah 54:13) God is the Father your children really need…and He is the husband you need.  He will help you, friend.  He won’t leave you or forsake you.  He’s got your back.  Lean on Him.  I will pray that the Holy Spirit will help you see Christ more clearly and that your circumstances will dim in comparison.  That you will find that peace which passes all understanding to guard your heart and your mind in Him.  That your heart will overflow with gratefulness for the children you have been entrusted with.  That you will know how very much you are loved by me and by Him.  Can I pray for you right now?”

That’s just an idea.  I mean sometimes it might be that you just say, “I’m so sorry.  I’ll pray for you.”  I always find it such a blessing when friends say what they are going to pray for me or even pray for me right then and there.  I love it!

I was talking with a friend at church recently about all the unsolicited advice she gets.  I believe we single moms get A LOT of advice we don’t ask for…or want.  It’s not always easy to receive it gracefully.  I told this friend that I think I’d like to get a t-shirt made up that says, “Just Shut Up and Pray for Me!”

I confess I can’t because my family is anti-shut-up, although you wouldn’t necessarily know that since we all say it and then instantly someone says, “Hey, you can’t say shut up!”  It’s a struggle.  I’m trying to decide if it is a hill I want to “die on.”  But that’s a conversation for another blog.

My point…after all this blathering…is that I want to encourage us all to offer each other some grace…or a lot of grace.  Let’s give each other the freedom to share without condemnation or recommendations.  Let’s extend encouragement and understanding instead of instructions and ideas.

Let’s be honest – most of us know exactly what we need to do practically in order to get our lives in order.  We just find it hard to do it.  Life is difficult.  Growth is a process.  Grace is continual.

What I’d like to add at the end of that phrase is this…  “All you need to do is just…

know you are loved unconditionally

regardless of what you accomplish in a day

regardless of the words that fall out of your mouth on a bad day

regardless of the state of your home

regardless of the behavior of your children

regardless of the comments of others

you are loved unconditionally.

 

“May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.” 

2 Thessalonians 3:5

 

 

“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith — that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”  Ephesians 3:14-19

Stating the Obvious (…well, maybe complaining a bit)

Shhhh…please don’t tell anyone, but I’m sitting on my bed at 11:38pm eating double stuffed Oreo cookies while I try to figure out what went wrong today.  I think I’ve figured it out and I’m not even through the first cookie.  EVERYTHING went wrong today.

I think my mascara left my eyes around 3 pm.  My eyes still feel that awful gritty been crying too much feeling.  I’m weary.

I had to run a quick errand after dinner – quick actually is not the best word considering I took all my children – so I will rephrase -I had to make a run to the store which was a bit more like one of those muddy marathon thingies complete with mudslinging, some yelling and exhaustion at the end.

At the store, my youngest had to use the potty – while standing in the bathroom waiting I stepped in front of the mirror and glanced at myself.  Oh my.  I went in public looking like that?!?! How badly did I need to run this errand???

Today I felt sorrow and maybe a little hopeless.  Seriously how can I possibly even be feeling hopelessness when I have Jesus?  He loves me.  I can trust Him. I have hope for the future.  But, what about hope for today…for this very minute?  What about hope that my children really are going to be okay?  Because I will tell you today…I’m anxious for my children.  I don’t think that I’m doing this single parenting thing as well as I’d like to…really, well at all.  I’m weary of single parenting.

I have a teenager dating. I’d elaborate but I’m assuming most can deduce my angst!

I have a middle-schooler who is just pushing boundaries and pushing buttons…on purpose.  This child pushes my buttons like someone waiting for a slow elevator…push, push, push…pause…push again.  Half the time I can respond with gentleness and not even be bothered by it. But the other half?  Not so much.  I feel like I could just bang my head against the wall, repeatedly.  I don’t know how to reach his heart.  I’m weary of the battle.

I have a child that has taken to wailing…not crying, not whining…wailing!  Ahhhhh….Wahhhh…it would be funny if it wasn’t so annoying.  This sweet child is also struggling with some very serious learning issues which I know are frustrating and discouraging.  I can’t figure out how to effectively help.  I’m weary of searching for answers

I have a preschooler who is openly defiant and can be quite mean.  This cutie seems impervious to discipline and actually, at times, seems to like being in trouble.  Very disconcerting.  Actually terrifying is a better word.  I don’t know how to get to this child’s heart.  I’m weary of fear.

My oldest is at college.  I had visions of weekly care packages, funny encouraging cards sent often, and skyping occasionally.  Thank goodness for texting or he would think I forgot about him.  Poor guy.  I’m weary of failure.

On top of all these parenting issues…I’m still drowning in house stuff, financial stuff, relationship stuff, friendship stuff, church stuff, health stuff, and “I-Don’t-Have-Time-To-Do-All-My Stuff” stuff.

I’m whining.  I’m sorry.  I’m trying to find humor in my situation, maybe this isn’t the right time of day for that endeavor.  I’m also acutely aware that I should not be grumbling or complaining.  I want to do everything without grumbling and complaining…I really do.  But, today…I’m done.  I don’t even want to complain or grumble.  I just want to state the obvious and move on.  But move on where??

I want to figure out what my proper response should be to all these things God has allowed in my life?  What does God want me to do with all the conflict?   What keeps running through my head is, “Be still.”  What does that look like?

I don’t know how to be still…there is just so much to do.  How do you really truly rest when you are a single parent?  How do you trust that anything is going to go well when everything has gone kablooey and keeps going kablooey?  How do you deal with the sheer magnitude of mental stuff to deal with in a day?

I don’t know.

I was hoping you did.

Give me a minute and I’ll think…

OK I’ve decided I can’t just be all defeated and such so here is plan A (which hopefully will work because at the moment it’s all I’ve got) –

I’m gonna pray.  I’m gonna get on my knees and I’m gonna pray.  I’m gonna pray that God will calm my anxious thoughts.   I’m gonna pray that God will give me wisdom.  I’m gonna pray that God will give me rest.  I’m gonna pour out my heart before him.  I’m gonna ask that God restore the joy of my salvation. I’m gonna thank Him and offer a sacrifice of praise and I’m gonna ask for that peace which passes all understanding to guard my heart and my mind in Christ Jesus.  And I’m gonna trust.  I’m gonna take those fearful, anxious, overwhelmed thoughts and approach the throne of grace with confidence.  I’m gonna lay those blasted things at the feet of my Lord, and I’m gonna leave them there!  And then I’m gonna take my eyes off that stuff and I’m gonna fix my gaze on Christ – the author and perfecter of my faith.  And I’m gonna let Him lead me beside those still waters and I’m gonna let Him restore my soul.  And I’m gonna stop grumbling and complaining…ahem…I mean stating the obvious.  I’m gonna “seek the Lord and his strength” and I’m gonna “seek his presence continually!”  (Psalm 105:4)

The verses I’m praying through:

Philippians 4:6-7 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

James 1:5-8 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.  But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.  For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

Psalm 51:12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.

Hebrews 13:15  Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. 

Psalm 25:1-5 To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.  O my God, in you I trust; let me not be put to shame; let not my enemies exult over me.  Indeed, none who what for you shall be put to shame; they shall be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous.  Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths.  Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.

Hebrews 4:16  Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Hebrews 12:1-2 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Matthew 11:28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

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

Psalm 23:1-3 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.  He makes me lie down in green pastures.  He leads me beside still waters.  He restores my soul.  He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.