Where is My Peace?

autumn trail

Where does the time go?  I can’t remember the last time I could sit down and put thoughts to paper.

Things are just too busy.  Each season seems to be busier than the last.  I keep thinking the next season will slowdown…..apparently it isn’t coming anytime soon.

God has blessed me with a wonderful job teaching and a part-time job helping a friend’s business and its been soccer season and there are gymnastic classes and dance classes and, well honestly, just a lot of driving.   

I’ve wanted to write probably more because I need it than anyone else wants to read it, but I’m determined to write something because there is so very much swirling around in my brain.

The other day my sweeties spent some time with their father which provided a great opportunity to get a lot done around the house and even clean out my purse and the car (my bigger purse).  It felt wonderful to cross some things off the to do list.

I took a little break from my organizing adventure to play the piano and sing a few tunes. I’d been humming “It is Well With My Soul” (Horatio Spafford) pretty much the whole day, so I turned to page 691 and sang the words to my very favorite hymn. I realized something as I sang.  It was profound and convicting and it grew with each verse I voiced.. 

“When peace like a river attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll; whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say, “It is well, it is well with my soul.”

I thought do I really believe that?  Do I feel that?  Do I know that?  

Right now, at this point in my not-peaceful-feeling life, I don’t know if I do.  I hate to admit that because I know with my head that God wants me to have peace, but I struggle to believe I deserve it.  And I know that it isn’t about deserving it, but it feels like it should be.  

Being a single parent is challenging, but sometimes I think I’ve made it worse by my decisions, struggles, and sins.  It feels like I should have to make up for all my mistakes and sins somehow in order to get peace.  Why should I have peace right now?  

Sometimes I feel like I’m just making the same mistakes again and again and again.  I’m embarrassed to ask for forgiveness because I kinda assume God is saying what I sometimes say to my children…

“Really?  Because I’m pretty sure we had this same conversation yesterday.  And you are still doing the same thing over and over and over again.”  

But He is a much better parent than me.  Much better.  Perfect.

I wish I could parent like Him…that MY mercies for my children were new every morning…sometimes they are…a little bit…

Maybe I don’t really get this whole grace thing as much as I should.  Maybe its because life hasn’t gotten easier as I’ve walked this single parent path, but in some ways it has gotten more difficult, exhausting, and just down right overwhelming.  

Do I doubt God’s goodness?  Do I doubt that He really cares?  Do I doubt that God is going to provide?  

I want to type, “Absolutely not!”  But I guess I really need to think about that.  

Me.  The “preach-the-gospel-to-yourself” girl is absolutely not saying a single word about the gospel to myself.

Instead I’ve been speaking, thinking, and whispering condemnation and hopelessness to myself.  It’s a shift in me that has happened ever so slowly.  I’ve gone from knowing that God is good, He loves me no matter what, and His peace is available to me…to this woman who barely feels like she is clinging to her faith.  

Clinging to my faith is good.  Clinging in desperation because it feels tenuous…is that good?

As I ponder what I’ve just written I realize I’ve said “I feel” an awful lot.  Probably not the best way to view life…through my feelings.  So let me remind myself what I know…

I know who I am…

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.  1 Peter 2:9-10

I know God forgives…

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse up from all unrighteousness.  1 John 1:9

I know there is no condemnation…

So I find this law at work:  Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me.  For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me.  What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body at work within me.  What a wretched man I am!  Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?  Thanks be to God who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!  So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.  Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.  Romans 7:21-8:2

I know there is hope for the future.

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.  Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it.  But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 3:12-14

There is more.  

There are more truths I know, but right now that is what I need to remind myself.

I may indeed have peace, not because I’m perfect, but because He is.

I might not feel that I deserve peace, but if I’m honest I don’t deserve anything God has given me.

Peace is not dependent on me or on my circumstances.  It is the peace of God that surpasses all understanding.. It is peace that guards our hearts and minds. (Philippians 4:6-7) It is the peace of knowing that we have nothing to fear…no worries worth fretting about…our present and our future are secure in the hands of God.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.  John 14:27

Because of Jesus, it IS well with my soul.

I’m humming a few bars that go something like this…

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come, Let this blest assurance control, That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate, And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

My sin—oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!—My sin, not in part but the whole, Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more, Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live: If Jordan above me shall roll, No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul. 

But, Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait, The sky, not the grave, is our goal; Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord! Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul!

And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight, The clouds be rolled back as a scroll; The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend, Even so, it is well with my soul. 

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Those Things and Thankfulness

sunset picture (wburg)There is this thing I keep talking about.  This thing called thankfulness.  I keep coming back to it in my life and in my writing.

I think it is because God keeps bringing me back to it. Over and over and over again.

Today my devotional time included the verse I often use to deal with anxiety in my life (another common theme).

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by 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 (NIV)

But what struck me was the thanksgiving part.

I know that the antidote to anxiety is gallons of gratefulness, but I have missed one significant aspect of this in my life.

And maybe this is just me, but I think that God is calling me not to just find something for which I can be thankful just to be thankful (although that is not bad), BUT to find something in the challenge, crisis, difficulty, stress for which I can thank God.

Right now my job feels very stressful and sometimes I find myself struggling to have a positive attitude about it.  So, in my effort to have a better attitude I say, “But I’m so thankful for my house.  I love the home God has provided for my children and me.  I love the yard and the blooming gardens.”  It definitely gives me a better attitude (at times), but it doesn’t necessarily change my attitude about work.

I think what God wants me to do is thank him for this job.  This job that wrings the life out of me…that robs me of sleep, time, and my emotional and mental stability.  (See…my attitude stinks.)

Yesterday as I was driving home I was pondering the joy and gratefulness I felt upon hearing I had received this job.  How thrilled and thankful I was at that moment!  Now, I keep asking, “God, what was your plan in this?  Because I was already pretty weary and exhausted before this job…I got nothin’ left to give.”

Tonight I prayed, “Father, I know that this is the place you have me right now.  Please show me the things I can thank you for in it.  Please change my attitude, change my mind about this job. Please open my heart up to what you are doing.  And Father, please please show me how to not be so very overwhelmed with all I have to do, all the insurmountable challenges, all the things that cause me to have anxious thoughts and fussy feelings.   Lord, please be glorified in even this.”

Even as I pray that prayer, I’m thinking, but Lord please change my circumstances for the better.  Please make being a single working mom less difficult.

And then I think, but why should it be easier for me?  Why should I deserve better?

How many single working parents feel overwhelmed?  How many single working parents are exhausted, weary, and desperate for a change of circumstances?  I daresay, a fair number.

Maybe the answer won’t be a change of circumstances, or maybe it will and those won’t be much better…yikes.  (way to think positively…Lord, I’m thankful for the ability to think…please let it be positive.)

Our prayer could be, “Lord, if this is where you have me, please give me your peace.”

You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on you, because he trust in you.  Isaiah 26:3

How often have I quoted that verse?  Times without number I have grabbed hold of that verse and begged for that perfect peace.  I have thought, Lord I’m trying to keep my mind on you, but it wanders often because there is so much to do and so little time and I feel like such a failure.  I can’t figure out how to get on top of things.  I can’t figure out how to do this life well.  I want relief.  I want peace.  Perfect peace.

Lord, help me stay my mind on you.

And then, I looked up this verse and I thought, “Yes!  I get part of this!”

Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and perform your vows to the Most High, and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.  Psalm 50:14-15

Did you see the word? The word that just jumped off the beautifully well-worn and underlined pages of my beloved Bible?

Sacrifice.

Thanksgiving can be sacrificial.

Sometimes my gratefulness seems forced.  Thanking God in the challenges and disappointments of my life can be difficult.  Sometimes I do it out of obedience.

In my little notebook, I make lists of things I love and am thankful for…silly stuff like the sound of a car driving over gravel, the squeak of shoes on a basketball court, the smell of dinner in the oven, the feel and potential of a completely blank page in front of me, the smiling eyes of my children, still reading with my 15 year old son at night, laughter, a lesson plan completed and successful, a quiet classroom, and even pulling weeds in my lovely gardens (at least I hope they are weeds!).

My lists can put me in a better place for a moment, but the big difficult thing still looms over me and I can’t seem to find a good word to utter about it.  And it takes mere moments for the big difficult thing to stomp out all my joy and pour stress, anxiety, and irritation all over me.

I think that big difficult thing needs to be stopped, but God hasn’t stopped it yet.  So what do I do with it?

I think I can make that big difficult thing smaller by finding something about it that isn’t terrible…something that is relatively good…maybe something that I can genuinely thank God for.

Maybe this is the solution for all my big difficult things!  I have a fair number of them right now…imagine all the thankfulness I could have if I threw a little the way of each big difficult thing!

Truly.  That would be a fair amount of thankfulness.

I believe when I shut off this computer and pull out my journal later tonight, I will not just list my thankful thoughts.  I will list my big difficult things and make some notes of things I can find to thank God for even regarding those big difficult things.

Then my focus won’t be on how big those things are, but on God and how even in those things that I can’t figure out, can’t stand, can’t bear, can’t beat, God is there blessing me.

That sounds like some staying of my mind on God.

And I’m sure that as I do that God will give me peace…perfect peace that passes all understanding.

In the Middle of the Night

FullSizeRender (7)It is the middle of the night and I’m awake.  Wide awake.

Yesterday I stayed home from work because I’ve been fighting a wicked cold or flu thing and I slept most of the day.  I was actually thinking I might be well-rested for the next day.

No such luck.

Part of the problem is my house got quite warm and I just don’t sleep in warmth.

Secondly, I’m anxious.

…do not be anxious about anything…

Everytime I say the word anxious, those words pop into my head.

And yet, I’m having difficulty letting go of my fear.

It’s this storm coming.

It’s feeling unprepared.

It’s the fact that I delayed something I shouldn’t have.  Been on my to-do list for 3 months.  Since I bought this house.

And I haven’t done it…just kept moving it to the next day.

For three months.

So many things are like that for me…there is just so much to do.  What other really important things have I missed, forgotten, or put too far down the list?

I’m watching the rain drizzle right now, and fearing the deluge that is predicted.

I keep praying…placing my fear in God’s hands…and then picking it back up again…then repeating the process until I can’t sleep.

I have thought about walking around my home praying.  I began my walk and then decided that I want to write some verses down and place them around my house.  I’ve wanted to do that for a while as well.

Why did I buy a house close to water?

Water and me…well, we have a history.  Wet basement over and over again. Wet yard…rivers running through it over and over again. Wet. Wet. Wet.

Even my kids have joked that we will just have to accept that we are destined to own a water park at some point in our lives…I’m just hoping it isn’t my first floor.

…but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving

let your requests be made known to God…

I am praying…now I need to start thanking.

I am so very thankful for this wonderful house.  So thankful for the dreamy yard.  So thankful for the beautiful wood floors.  So thankful for the bedrooms for children.  So thankful for a washer and dryer that work.  So thankful for air conditioning.  So thankful for my relaxing backporch.  So thankful for kind neighbors.  So thankful for my little kitchen.  So thankful for a place to live.

Oh but even as I pray and know know know that I can trust my God who gave this all to me…I’m fearful.

I know it is because sometimes things still go horribly awry.  Sometimes prayers aren’t answered the way I hoped…the way that seemed best.

What if…?

How often have I uttered that phrase, if not aloud at least in my head…and even my heart?

Too many times.

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:6-7

Deep breath.

Peace…peace I can’t even understand.

Seems illusive at the moment.

I feel desperate for it.  I can almost taste it, but…why am I struggling?

God says present my request with thanksgiving…let God know what I’m feeling, thinking, worrying about, thanking Him for…and the peace will come.

It doesn’t seem like I have to do anything but give it to Him…and not be anxious.

Is it in the process of praying that the peace comes?  Do I just pray until it pours over me like syrup?  Soft and smooth…stick-to-me peace?

Do I make myself not anxious?

I don’t think so, because if I could I wouldn’t need to pray and it would be my own peace not His.

So…how do I give up this little bit of panic that is clawing at my chest?

Back to my knees…Lord, how do I have peace?

I’m desperate for a few more minute of sleep, but I want to feel that peace that surpasses all understanding…for both my heart and my mind.

Right now it feels like my mind needs it most.

It’s whirling and I’m weary.

How do I grasp it God?

And again…I’m reminded.

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances;

 for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Ok…pray.

Father, for me right now, it is the fear of losing my home in a storm.  This precious home you have given to me and my children.  This lovely home that I long to grow old in with people I love nearby.  This dear place you provided my little family with…this house.  Lord, you know me…you know my fears and my anxious thoughts.  And you know that sometimes I worry about dumb stuff, but Lord this feels huge.  This house, in the 3 months we have been here, has had some little hiccups…and even those have felt discouraging to me.  Oh Father, I’m so afraid.  I’m so afraid of losing more.  This past week you have revealed to me that I have an idol of control in my life.  This is definitely not something I can control…at all.  I can’t even begin to control the weather or the water or even the insurance company, but Lord I can trust You.  I know I can.  So why am I so afraid?  I think I know why.  It is because I know sometimes you use difficult things to bring us closer to you…and I do want to be closer to you Lord.  I’m just so afraid of more difficult things.  More struggles.  More heartache.  Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.  I believe you are good.  I believe you love me.  I believe you have a plan.  I believe you will provide.  I believe I can trust you.  I believe you know me and know what is best.  There is not one thing that happens in my life that has not first gone through your hands.  Lord, I trust that your hands hold only good for me and my children.  Lord, I have to grab hold of your peace and say, “your will be done” and rest in that.  Lord, I know you are good and wise and loving and faithful and kind.   Lord, practically speaking, could you allow me to get flood insurance tomorrow?  Please.  If I do, I know it is all you.  If I don’t, I know that it is your plan that I trust you without it.  Either way, I trust that you are working.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

P.S.  I have no insurance until the end of the month, BUT I have peace.  I’ll take that peace any day!  God is so good.  I didn’t believe I could feel peace about all this, but I do.  And that, my dear friends, is totally a Holy Spirit thing!  God is so gracious to me.  I laid it before Him, left it there, and He gave me peace in return!  I’m so thankful!  More than I can say.

Storm is coming, but it’s okay.

A dear friend sent me a passage this morning that TOTALLY blessed me:

Psalm 107:28-32

Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress.  He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed.  Then they were glad that the waters were quiet, and he brought them to their desired haven.  Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man!  Let them extol him in the congregation of the people, and praise him in the assembly of the elders. 

God is good all the time…with floods and no floods.  All the time God is good!

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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Had You Known?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do I hope for?

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

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

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

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

I hope for the ability to truly trust again.

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

Trust others to be faithful and honoring.

Trust others to love me.

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

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

I hope for freedom from fear.

Freedom to love without fear.

Freedom to let go of the fear of pain.

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

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

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

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

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

The Burden of Blessing

IMG_3433Today I am at my home and it is quiet and peaceful and I’m feeling blessed to be here.  The kids are sleeping soundly (and late woohoo!!)  I debated if I should enjoy this blissful quiet asleep or awake.  I opted for awake.  So rarely do I get a moment of solitude and quiet.  I’m so thankful!

For the past 4 months we have been staying with family and I cannot say how thankful I am for it.  But it would be a lie to say it hasn’t been difficult, stressful and exhausting on many levels. And it would definitely be a contradiction of all that I’ve been sharing for the past few months in my blog.  Sometimes blessings can be difficult.  The blessing of a place to stay during our transition is huge, the stress of that blessing is also huge.

Sometimes I wonder if a blessing can’t also be a burden.  I’m sure there are many that will disagree with me because it sounds wrong to say a blessing can be a burden, but I believe it’s true.

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.  1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

I think I’ve known for a long time that I can find a blessing even in my burdens, but I haven’t flipped it around before.  I haven’t realized that my blessings can sometimes be burdens as well.

But the more I’ve pondered, the more I’m thinking this is true.

Parenting is absolutely a blessing, but I cannot deny it is a burden to be sure.  Dealing with my children and the responsibility of raising them well can most definitely be a burden.  A welcome burden, but a burden nonetheless.

As a parent, I burden my children with chores to give them the blessing of understanding the value of work done well, of responsibility, and of being part of a family.  I’m fairly certain that none of them would refer to those things as blessings…well, at least most of the time.

A home is a blessing, but when there are issues it can most definitely be a burden.  Broken things, dripping things, creaky things, wobbly things…just lots of things that aren’t fun, but I’m sure thankful for the shelter.

Work is a blessing, but it seriously can be a burden.

It’s a bit embarrassing to think that at the moment I’m having to remind myself to be thankful for my blessings.

Shouldn’t that be a given?  Unfortunately,  I think it has been easier for me to focus on the burden aspect of the blessing than the blessing part of the blessing.

Maybe I’m throwing that blessing word around too much…but I can’t think of a good synonym for blessing.  Benediction doesn’t really work.  Approval and encouragement don’t really apply either.  Merriam-Webster defines blessing as “something that helps you or brings happiness.”  I suppose saying that something that brings me help or happiness is a burden is a bit odd.

But in God’s economy, maybe not.

I attend a great Bible study on Sunday nights.  The teacher said that when we pray for things, such as patience or courage, God is going to give us opportunities to exercise patience or be courageous. The blessings of patience and courage are going to come with the burden of experiencing situations that require us to be patient and courageous.  (That is one of those think-well-before-I-pray-this-prayer prayers!)  The blessing of being a patient, courageous, kind, or loving person comes with the burden of having to develop those traits.

We have all probably experienced the phenomenon that blessings don’t always come in the ways we expect them.  Many of the blessings I’ve experienced have come by way of difficulties and trials.  Those blessings are some of the most precious.  Just like labor and delivery – the pain and discomfort brings forth a great blessing!

Maybe the housing situation, although difficult, is not just a blessing of shelter, but a blessing of character-building, of refining, of eye-opening.

Maybe a job, although time-consuming and stressful, is not just a blessing of provision, but a blessing of purpose and ministry.

Maybe parenting, although exhausting and overwhelming at times, is not just a blessing of children, but a blessing of understanding the Father’s love for us.

Maybe all the things in our life are so much deeper and richer because God uses everything – those things we perceive as “good” and those things we perceive as “bad” – to bless us both in the present and the future.

I’m blown away right now.  I have been so easily frustrated and upset by things in my life and haven’t been able to see the good in much.  And if I do happen to notice it at all, I’m quickly overtaken by all the feelings of discouragement that keep me from focusing on the blessings for what they are….blessings.  It has been entirely too easy for me to see only the burden and miss the blessing.

I’m not sure that I know exactly how to “fix” myself, but God does.  He has definitely given me some great ideas in His word.

1.Take my thoughts captive.  (2 Corinthians 10:5)

2.Do not be anxious. (Philippians 4:6-7)

3.Hide His word in my heart. (Psalm 119:11)

4.Take heart. (John 16:33)

5.Trust God.  (Proverbs 3:5-6)

6.Keep an eternal perspective. (2 Corinthians 4:17)

And once again, I’m brought back to the word of God.  Back to the strength and perspective offered there.  Back to the power of His word…the power of Jesus.

I was reminded recently of one of Paul’s prayers in Ephesians 1:15-23  – maybe this is the prayer we can pray for ourselves and for each other.

15 For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, 16 I have not stopped giving thanks for you,remembering you in my prayers. 17 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit[f] of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. 18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength 20 he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.

You know, I just have to include the other prayer in Ephesians 3.

14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family[a] in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine…There really isn’t more to say is there?  What a mighty loving God we serve!

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