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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Are you ready to stop wrestling and start resting?

This was eye-opening for me. In the throes of a deep conversation with a dear friend, I was asked by him to stop and be thankful.  To spend the rest of the conversation thinking about things that we could be grateful for…instead of things that we struggle with…

Can I tell you…it wasn’t easy.  

And I was surprised.  No I was shocked.  

For a few moments I could think of nothing positive to say.

Not. One. Thing.

My eyes welled up with tears, not because I was frustrated with the conversation but because I had allowed myself to reach such a point that I could only see the struggle, only feel the fear, only know the challenges.  

What had happened to me?  How had I gone so terribly astray in my thinking.

Ironically, that very day I had responded to someone’s question about how to be thankful…how could I possibly have given someone else advice when I couldn’t figure out how to be thankful myself.

So I sat on the sofa staring at the floor wondering what I could possibly say.  Thankfully he jumped in and shared…just talked one thing after another…nothing earth-shattering, just daily stuff.

And I thought to myself, “Just start talking.  One little thing.”  It was like trying to change the direction of a freight train speeding forward…without stopping…just whipping that thing in reverse and going for it.  I truly felt that I was  wrestling to regain and turn around my thoughts and my emotions and my whole attitude and perspective.  Good gravy it was hard!

I said, “Well, I’m thankful it was a beautiful day…and for devotional time with Ally that was good this morning…and that my bangs were not cut too short when I got my haircut today…:”  

And then it all changed…

One step…a few words…a whole new perspective.

Fifteen minutes earlier I was frustrated, afraid, and even verging on angry.  Now?  Well, now I’m thankful.  I’m peaceful.  I’m hopeful.

All because he asked us to stop and be thankful.

In all things, give thanks.  1 Thessalonians 5:18

It was an end the madness moment.  And for me…it was more.  It revealed..no, it threw a spotlight on a way of living I have tiptoed around for years.

I talk about choosing joy.  I talk about being thankful.  I talk about peace.  But I keep having to remind myself that I can choose joy, be thankful, live peace, because I haven’t made a decision to do those things consistently for myself.  It’s like I say, “Look at this possibility!  Look at what we can do if we try!”  But then I never really try…I mean try hard.  I have spent so much time taking comfort in the possibility and haven’t experienced the lasting beauty of choosing joy, peace, and gratefulness as a lifestyle.

I realized…actually I remembered something I’ve known to be true for quite a while.  The fruit of the Spirit God talks about in Galatians are already mine.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.  Galatians 5:22-23

God has ALREADY given me joy and peace and a mess of things to be thankful for!  I truly need to choose to live it.

Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you:  not as the world gives do I give to you.  Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.  John 14:27

When I’m begging for joy and peace, I wonder if God smiles gently and whispers, “Dearest, I already gave those to you. You have all you need.”

And I still request them as if I’d never received them…ever.

Sitting on that sofa, I realized it truly is a choice.  I can choose to see the beauty around me  I can choose to be thankful.  I can choose to stop pouting and start praising.  I can choose to stop trying to be in control and start trusting that God already is.  

God has blessed me with all that I need to live this life joyfully, gratefully, and peacefully. He has given me the Holy Spirit and He has given me friends.  And He has given me this loving friend who is willing to risk my ire to say that we can choose gratefulness in the midst of challenges.

I like it.  I love it.

I can do all things through him who strengthens me.  Philippians 4:13

Let’s stop wrestling with things, and start resting in Him.  

I know now that choosing to be thankful is all within my power.  It isn’t easy…it can be super challenging to change the way we think, but God gives us all the strength we need to choose well.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Romans 15:13

A Serious Love of Honey at MomLifeToday

Just wanted to share this post with you from MomLifeToday.  I hope you are encouraged that no matter your struggle, Jesus will and can be your strength.  No reason to fear.  No reason to fuss.  No reason to sigh. Jesus will truly give us all we need to do all He has called us to do!

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.

I Should Have Hugged Her

Image         I was sitting here just finishing up my quiet time and it struck me.

I should have hugged her.

My 7-year old broke her toe last week.  We are gimpy together…same foot even! It would be comical if it weren’t so pathetic.

She won’t let me take a picture of our matching feet – no fun.

This morning she didn’t want to wear the special shoe or use her crutches.  She was in tears and since she has reached the sassy sevens, she was quite rude with her words.

PRAISE GOD (and seriously this is a BIG praise) I kept my voice and manner calm and I recognized what she was feeling…angry, frustrated, embarrassed…

And I tried to talk to her about my foot and compare the two…yeah…that didn’t work.  Sassiness just got sassier.

She looked so sorrowful about the whole thing.   I convinced her to put on the boot and got her a super fun sock that matched the skirt she was wearing and even let her bring her pretty sparkly black shoe in her backpack.  Not sure what I was thinking on that one because I’m pretty sure she’s gonna sneak it on her foot as soon as she steps into school.   🙂

Anywho, we got in the car, still with a bit of an attitude, but I, by the grace of God, kept my calm.  I can struggle with getting frustrated particularly as we are trying to get out the door to school.  We had already missed the bus — well, we really didn’t miss it, it was a conscious decision to miss.  I didn’t sleep well and I decided to push snooze…many, many times.

After about 2 minutes in the car, Lizzie was her usual sweet self.  She apologized and we had a lovely little ride to school.

And as I sat here, foot propped up, with Bible, journal, books and homework surrounding me, I thought for a minute that I really really wished I’d taken the time to hold my daughter.

I was so intent on getting out the door that I didn’t take the time to hold my precious, hurting little girl.  I didn’t add to her hurt this morning, but I wish I had comforted it.  I wish I had loved on her.

There are a thousand things I wish I had done or done differently in any given hour, day, week, month, year…  I carry guilt around like a scarf around my neck…sometimes it seems to choke the life out of me.

I’m pretty confident I’ve shared my propensity to hold on to mommy guilt.  In fact, I have plenty, enough to share if you need any.  But I doubt any parent needs extra guilt.  Most of us carry around a fair amount.  And if you don’t feel guilt, that is a blessing and I won’t share any of mine with you!

This past week I heard a snippet from an interview with Desmond Tutu.  He answered a question regarding parents being able to forgive themselves for mistakes they made with their children.  Among other things, he said something that really struck me.  He reminded the interviewer that parents are not omniscient.  And that parents make decisions with good will towards their children.  I’m completely paraphrasing…he said it much more eloquently.

What blessed me was the reminder that all those things I’m second-guessing now, I did with the belief that I was doing the right thing by my children.

I’m not talking about the choices I sometimes make to yell, or fuss, or say things I wish I hadn’t.  I’m talking about choices and decisions we make that aren’t made in anger, frustration or selfishness.

This morning was a minor moment in the life of my daughter, and I made the decision to keep the ball rolling towards the car and school.  I just wish I had taken a moment to stop the ball and hug my girl.

Will that harm my little girl?  Doubtful.  I didn’t withhold affection or rebuff her, I just showed my affection and love through words.  So do I really need to beat myself up about it like I tend to do?

Nope.  Definitely not.

And when she gets home from school today, I will greet her with a huge hug, ask her about her day and love on her.

God has not called me to live a life of guilt.  It is not His plan for us as parents…and we certainly don’t want to model guilt for our children.

I remember years ago doing a Bible study entitled Sonship.    One of the most amusing and profound quotes from the study was, “Cheer up!  You are worse off than you think!”

The point was that our sin is much worse than we think, BUT God’s love, forgiveness, mercy and grace is much bigger than we think too!  Tim Keller says it something like this – we are much more sinful and flawed than we ever dared believe, but more loved and welcomed than we ever dared hope.

Do you see it?  There is no place for guilt – mommy or any other – in this Christian life.  God has blessed us with grace.  Grace.

I’m trying so hard to understand that word.  To truly grasp its meaning for my life.  I don’t think I will ever plumb the depths of its meaning like I want to.  I want to immerse myself in it, drown in it, be swallowed up in grace.  I want it to be the defining feature of my life.  To be something that I live – something that I breath in and out.  Something that my children see…see as clearly as they see the kitchen table.

And yet, I constantly struggle with my sin and my focus again and again is back on me.  Me. Me. Me.

Grace calls me to focus on Jesus!  Jesus, only Jesus.

Jesus.  Grace.

What does that look like to this mommy plagued by guilt?  This momma that wants to drop everything and run over to the elementary school and give my 7-year old sweetheart a hug?  This momma that second-guesses everything a thousand times and more?  This momma who wants the best but can’t seem to provide it?  This momma that loves her children passionately?

What does living grace look like Lord?

Well, I know one thing…it’s not about how well I do anything.

I can’t earn grace…neither can you.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.  Ephesians 2:8-10

And I know that it’s not about what I think about me.

God loves me period.  When God looks at me he sees his perfect Son and the way He lived His life.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us

in him before the foundations of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.  In love, he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ

according to the purpose of his will to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.   Ephesians 1:3-6

And it’ not about how I do or don’t do this parenting things well.

God is the perfect parent who loves my children perfectly and will work in their lives regardless of me.

All your children shall be taught by the LORD, and great shall be the peace of your children.  Isaiah 54:13

And really grace isn’t about me – I want everything to be about me – But grace is about Christ.

The only way I can get my head in the right place is to recognize my need for Christ – to understand that I am a sinner (…a big fat sinner) in need of a Savior (…a gigantic loving Savior), who loves me (…that same ole big fat sinner) despite all my flaws and guilt and sins.

I cannot be the woman or mother I want to be without Christ…and when I try, that’s when that blasted guilt comes creeping in…actually it doesn’t creep in, it crashes in and falls on top of me.

I guess I have to ask the question, “Do I trust God?  Do I trust His grace?”

Because if I do, I want to rest in it.

I have to allow the reality of God’s grace to seep into every part of me.  And I must grab hold of my new identity in Christ and not allow the old guilt-ridden self to have any place in my home.

Do I trust that God’s grace is enough to enable me to raise my children…to do this life?  YES!

So live like it, Sue!

Simple and not so simple

I think to some degree it is simple.  If I’m in the Word of God and praying and seeking Him and praising Him and thanking Him.  If I’m living a life of praise and thanksgiving, then the focus of my heart is on Him, not me.

Not focusing on me is a very good thing.  I never like what I see when I look at me.

When I look at Christ – I like what I see….I LOVE what I see.  And what I see is now what is ME!

I’m defined by Christ…by the life He lived!  Not by the life I’m living.

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

It’s not about what I do well or better or even what I fail to do.  It is simply and completely about what Christ has done.

I have to stop second-guessing because that is not the focus God wants me to have.  I want to stop looking behind and start looking ahead – God has a great plan for us after all.  I’d like to watch it unfold!

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.  Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own.  But one thing I do:  forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 4:12-14

Anybody Got The Trust Thing Down?

sky

“You’re not my mom, Mom.”

When my 6 year old said this we all chuckled a bit that while referring to me as Mom she declared me “not mom.”

Lately my sweet daughter has discovered that she can wield a pretty hefty weapon against me. Unfortunately, I still haven’t figure out the proper defense.

My two youngest daughters were adopted through foster care. Their adoption has never been a secret. We talk about it and I try and answer any questions I can…with a heaping load of discretion.

Lately though when my youngest daughter is in trouble, she has taken to saying, “I want my other mommy!”

She has been known to call for many people in her state of discipline distress…Poppy, Grandma, Zachary, Emma, Peter, the dog and even Santa…and thankfully Jesus.

Usually I have a good answer…or I just choose to say nothing.

Her wail for the “other mommy” is just a ploy. She and I both know it.

But there is something to the “other” mommy thing that just gets me. And I think it might also get her.
I know she doesn’t mean to hurt me to the depth she does. I know she is just trying to make me crazy…which she does do really well, but ugh…

I can’t help but run ahead years in my head and think about her as a hormonal teenager armed with her “get away from mom” free card.

And to be honest, I’m pretty sure I’ll be menopausal at the same time so beware! When you see the windows pulsating in my house, run!!

Anyway. I digress.

So, I need help! I don’t know how to help my little girl with this issue. AND I don’t know how to help me either.
Thankfully I haven’t been fussy with her…well not too much.…Oh dear, I have been fussy.
It is so difficult sometimes to be the mommy.

In my head and heart I’m making this a really big deal because I see what the potential issues could be.

And you know what? I’m NOT trusting God with this.

Remember when Jesus said, “Do NOT worry about tomorrow”?

Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.   Matthew 6:34

Yeah well…I’ve been worried a lot. And it has not done me any good at all.

As always, Jesus is right.

And I believe I’ve missed the beauty of this command.

What does worry take from me?

Well it definitely robs me of my joy that’s for sure. The joy of being in today and knowing God’s got tomorrow.

The joy of trusting.

Trusting God.

In this situation how do I need to trust God?

I need to trust that

  • God gave me this precious girl because it was His perfect plan that I be her mommy .
  • God knew when he entrusted this beautiful little person to me that my husband and her father would leave
  • God will never leave us nor forsake us.

Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you. Deuteronomy 31:6

  • God knew I’d be a single mamma with 5 kids – that I’d be overwhelmed, exhausted, and definitely not perfect at being mamma.
  • God will be the perfect husband and father to us

A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. Psalm 68:5

  • God knew this little one would be oh so spicey…and that I’d need Him to raise her
  • With God I can be the Mom my kids need – even to Miss Sassy-Pants

I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13

  • God loves us…unconditionally.

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. 1 Corinthians 13:7-8

Unconditionally.

That’s one of those words I take for granted. It’s huge in its application and beautiful in its practicality.

I looked up the definition:

Unconditional: with no conditions or limitations: complete or guaranteed, with no conditions, limitations, or provisos attached.

My Father loves me without conditions or limitations. There is no limit to His perfect love! Oh my goodness…I’m overwhelmed (in a good way!)

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. 1 John 4:18

I can’t really comprehend it but oh how desperately I want to model that for my children. I don’t think it is possible…I get annoyed too easily and can be so unloving.
But God loves my children unconditionally…maybe I can’t model it perfectly but I can pray that God will love my children through me.

And as I answer hard and sometimes hurtful questions, God can give me kind, loving words. Words that soothe achy hearts and heal broken hearts.

God’s words…soothing, healing and loving.

Making that list of what I can trust God for really helped me. I think I might have to do that with some other issues in my life. It really blessed me to see them written out.

Golly, God is good!

I think heading into the fray of single parenting with a trusting heart is going to make a big difference in being able to love my children well.

God can handle them and me…God will love me and love my children in the best way possible!

Unconditionally!

Today and tomorrow.

The Most Important

trampoline picAs I’ve been preparing for my talk at the MomLife Bootcamp this weekend, I was once again reminded that my life is not conducive to completing projects in a timely and organized manner.

I used to be an organized person…or at least I used to be able to appear like an organized person.

In my pre-mommy life I was a conference planner, but that was before 5 other people could mess with my schedule, my to-do list, and my sanity.

I really am a planner at heart. I really want to be that organized, put together, getterdone, check things off my list kinda gal. But I always seem to be waylaid.

I’d like to be able to accomplish SOMETHING! Anything!!!

There is always something that sneaks up and changes the dynamics of my day. I’ve said before that I feel like I’m always flying by the seat of my pants because my best-laid plans are for naught most days.

Spontaneity is great for a night out but not as a way of life.

I’m wondering if maybe putting a little bit less on my to-do list would be helpful…then maybe I could end the day without feeling disappointed.
I have a friend who says, “Do a little, do it well.” I think I’m more “Do a lot, do it okay.” Or “Try to do a lot. Find you can’t. Then beat yourself up about it.”

Yeah that’s me.

My kids want me…just me. Not me and a perfect house…you can’t have any fun in a perfect house anyway.

There are a lot of sayings about a messy house being a happy home. I get the idea to a point but a little order is good…right? I think the key is finding balance, understanding my priorities, relaxing.

Maybe relaxing some of our expectations…the reasonable ones and the unreasonable ones.

Honestly, we all probably need to relax in general. I know…show me how, when and where and I’m there.

As much as I wish relaxing was a glass of sweet tea, a good book and a hammock…mine is more sitting on the grass watching my son’s soccer game, putting aside my work to enjoy my daughters riding bikes in the culdesac, or sharing the sofa with 3 or more children to watch a movie.

In some ways maybe it’s an attitude.

Choosing not to stress about the stuff we can’t fix and maybe even the stuff we can.

Now that’s a God-sized task to be sure! But I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Phil 4:13) There is also this lovely verse, ‘In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” (Isaiah 30:15)

I think it’s okay to be still and quiet and rest.

Okay, so how are we gonna do this rest thing?

I’ve been trying to figure it out for days, months…years.

When was the last time I felt rested, calm, and strong? Actually I do remember a time.

It was right after my husband announced he wanted to leave. Those months of anguish were also months of profound peace and calm. I believe it was solely because I was saturated with Scripture. I also had a clarity about what was important. And it wasn’t accomplishing great things nor was it a clean house or work completed. It was and always will be my children.

Tonight my children asked if they could all go jump on the trampoline. It was close to bedtime, but I wanted to work a little bit longer on my talk, so I said, “Ok, just 10 minutes.” As I sat near the window listening to my children laughing and playing, I couldn’t stop thinking that I wanted to be out there with them. I just had to put my stuff aside.

When I walked out barefoot ready to jump, my kids all asked, rather incredulously, “Momma, are you going to jump with us?” I cannot tell you how thankful I was that God had prompted me to put aside the important for the most important.

I guess it’s rather simple, isn’t it? Soaking up the scripture and pouring into our children. That’s not too much to organize! I might be able to do that!
I know that there is much more to it than that…living this single parent life is so difficult and overwhelming at times. But maybe we need to take our eyes off of all the craziness and focus on Christ and put aside the to-do list and focus on the people in our lives. Maybe we can stop trying so hard to do so much and we can just be for a bit.

Be in prayer. Be in the Word. Be with our people.

God’s got this. He’s got our. He’s got us.

He’s even got this silly talk I can’t seem to get my head around. I’m so thankful.

Still not organized…but thankful.