A Common Theme

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Around 9 years ago I became a single parent to my five beautiful children.  About the same time, I started writing.  Although I’ve always been a writer in my own way – journaling, making notes, jotting down thoughts here and there. As a teenager, I even wrote a few poems although those might never see the light of day or the internet.  🙂

A few weeks ago as I was praying about writing another book. I decided to do something I’d never done before and read over all my blogs.  I wanted to see common themes and also how God had answered my prayers and shown His love to me.  

Boy oh boy!  Was I surprised at my common themes!  Surprised and a little dismayed.  For although by the end of each blog I always saw a decided upswing in my thinking..my “But God” or “And yet God” moments as I like to call them…I also saw that I often refer to myself as a mess or a failure.  

Friends have mentioned this to me, and I’ve always replied, “Well, I feel like one. And, isn’t that something most women struggle with at least a little bit?”  

But as I read through my blogs, all I could think was “Oh dear. That is not the mother I want to be…that is not the woman I want to be.” Not that life should always be cupcakes and Twizzlers, but shouldn’t it be more than always feeling like things should be better or different?

No doubt there will always be times when we feel like we can’t do things well. Times when we feel more defeated than victorious.  Times when we don’t do things as well as we had hoped – when the easy thing to do isn’t always the right thing to do.  Times when we should be the one in time-out, the one getting our mouth washed out with soap, the one having to hand over the cell phone, or the one being grounded  

But being a single parent, there is no one to step in and say, “Hey sweetie, ummmm, how about you just take some time alone for a second…you know, so everyone survives tonight…” It is often just me saying to myself, “Woman, what in the world!?!  Settle yourself down!” Unfortunately, that is usually after I’ve already poured my frustration all over my children.

But God..but God doesn’t say to me, “Susan, how dare you be so sinful.”  In fact, today I read this:

Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion.  Isaiah 30:18

I was floored by that.  The idea that God longs to be gracious to me!  Wow.

And I realized that maybe the thing He is waiting for is me.  The thing in the way of the fulfillment of His longing is me.  Because when you go back to verse 15, God says, “For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.”  

My strength is found in quietness and trust.  The big billboard I’m seeing in my head is this

GIRLFRIEND, YOUR STRENGTH IS NOT FOUND IN YOU.

YOUR STRENGTH IS NOT SOMETHING YOU GET BY DOING EVERYTHING PERFECTLY.  

YOUR STRENGTH IS FOUND IN CHRIST ALONE.  

My expectations for myself are ridiculous.  I know that and most of my friends have told me that.  I’m not sure how to lower them, but maybe that isn’t the first step.  

I think the first step is changing how I look at myself (again). Seriously, this seems to be a constant theme in my life as well.  Not viewing myself through the eyes of  Jesus. How do I see myself?  As a daughter of the King or as a slave girl in the kitchen of the King?  Do I believe that I’m loved or do I believe that I still need to earn it?  Do I trust that He will take care of us or do I believe it is up to me?  

I’m afraid I don’t really want to answer those questions…at least not honestly.  Because I know that my answers will most likely be the wrong ones  I know with what I struggle.

And I don’t want to struggle anymore.  I truly want to live in Christ’s strength not my own.  Very clearly, doing things in my own strength only makes me feel messy and a bit like a failure…sometimes a lot like a failure.  

So what is God calling me to do at this point?  1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 popped into my head:

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

Been at this verse before, but God has changed my perspective a bit on these commands as well.  He’s grown me up.

Rejoice. Pray. Thank.

In the past I have thought of rejoicing as more about praising or having a positive attitude.   Philippians 4:6 says “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.” I’m no Biblical scholar, but I believe that means in some way – rejoicing is about preaching the gospel to myself.  Reminding myself of the blessedness of my salvation.  It’s not about joy in my circumstances or hope that things will get better…I have a blessed assurance that not only will my future be better, but as I walk the path to that future, I have Christ with me.  That is worthy of rejoicing!  Christ makes rejoicing always possible.

Praying – something so powerful but I seem to always forget to do it.  I guess if I was praying continually it would just be happening and I wouldn’t have to question why I don’t pray about things more diligently.  Prayer would become my habit, my way of life.  I like that idea.

Give thanks in all circumstances. I’ve thought about thankfulness a lot because it seems like it is the key to joyful living.   I keep thinking that I need to find things in my life to add to my thankful list. Not that that is at all a bad idea, but giving thanks for things is still that.  Giving thanks for things.  For circumstances I consider good. I think that giving thanks in all circumstances is more about the beauty of my salvation and my life lived with Christ. Being grateful is all about Jesus. All. About. Jesus. Giving thanks for Christ in all circumstances.

So how in the world does this all relate to my feeling like a mess and a failure.  Because God is showing me that the key is taking my eyes off me.  Fixing my eyes on Him. Because He is the author and perfecter of my faith….not me.  He is my life… not me.  He is my hope…not me.  Because rejoicing and praying and thanking are all about Him. He is my strength…not me.  

It is not about me.  Not about me succeeding or failing…having it all together or being a complete mess.  It is all about Jesus.

Rejoice because Jesus has given me hope.  Pray because God holds me and my life.   Be thankful for Jesus and my life in Him.

I’m not a mess or a failure because I’m not defined by what I do or don’t do.  I’m His and I’m defined by what Jesus did. And that is something to rejoice about!

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Would you rather trust?

path through the forestThe other day at bed, my littlest girl and I prayed a bold prayer for a contract on our home…that night.  She doubts God right now.  She doesn’t see things changing…she doesn’t see God working. We all really need something to change soon, but God doesn’t seem to be changing anything right now.

I wanted God to do something amazing that night…I’d even have taken the next day.  In fact, I thought it probably would be the following day.

Unfortunately, it didn’t happen.  And the “somewhat interested” response from the people who looked at my house caused my faith to wobble a bit.

See I’ve been reading a book that has encouraged me to pray big prayers so I can see God answer in big ways…and I’m all for praying big prayers…but I’m wondering if I pray big prayers for big answers, am I also praying big prayers understanding that God might not answer in a big way?  His gentle and loving answer might be something like, “Not yet.”

But I will be honest and tell you that I am tired of the “not yet” answer…and the “no” answer…I’d like a “yes”.  But even as I say that I know that some of the nos and not yets have been the very best answers to my prayers.  And I do trust Him to answer perfectly.

Argh!  But I so want to get out of this situation…when I’ve used the word “desperately” to describe something in the past I don’t believe I’ve understood it as deeply as I do now…I desperately want to be released from this place God has me and my children.  I don’t want to be here anymore.  But I also don’t want to force it and end up in a place I’ll eventually desperately not want to be either.

I’d rather trust God.

That’s huge.  Because right now, I can tell you I’ve had some conversations with God…and they haven’t all be holy.

But when given the alternative of figuring things out without Him, I’d rather trust God.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6

When faced with decisions and dilemmas in this life, I’d rather trust God.

For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.  Therefore for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed.  Hebrews 12:11-13

When I’m trying to raise my children to love and honor Him, I’d rather trust God.

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

When I’m exhausted and weary with nothing left to give, I’d rather trust God.

My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.  2 Corinthians 12:9-10

When I have no idea which way to turn, I’d rather trust God.

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

No matter how strongly I feel that I know what would be best, I’d rather trust God.

May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.  2 Thessalonians 3:5

Oh, how I need my heart directed.  This has been an exceedingly difficult time…and sometimes I don’t think others can quite understand the challenges.  I don’t think I’m necessarily doing it with the grace I’d hoped, but the Lord continues to meet me where I am.  He continues to love me through my doubts, fears, and faltering faith.  He continues to be faithful.  I do trust that He will guide my family, that he is a shield about me, that he is my refuge and strength.

I do trust that He will enable me to do this life well…even when it feels anything but wonderful.

And I do trust Him for the sale of my house and the purchase of our next home.

But most importantly, I trust that He will reveal Himself to my littlest girl in just the right way at just the right time.  That I don’t need to orchestra things to convince my daughter of His love, faithfulness, and existence!  He will handle that…I just need to love on her and pray.

So tonight, as I lay my head down on my pillow, I will be praying for my children and their faith and for me to trust Him without hesitation….and for a buyer for my house!

Bedtime Prayers…Anytime!

Thank you so much for all YOUR prayers!  I’ve been blessed by all your sweet encouraging words and prayers as my family deals with my Dad’s failing health!  God has been so very gracious and kind to us all!  It’s very difficult but His faithfulness abounds! 

Thank you again!

I hope you enjoy this post for MomLifeToday.  🙂

In His Care,

Sue