Trust and the Consequences

IMG_6521You know how you think you know stuff and then you realize all of a sudden that you really don’t?  That has been my experience this past week.

A dear friend of mine is working through some books and studies with me to figure out how to get to a healthier place in the whole love and trust thing.  She and I have these gut-wrenchingly honest conversations about life, love, past, families, relationships… you name it.  

And oh my goodness!  It’s as if God is opening up a floodgate of revelation  I can barely figure out where to start in my pondering!

This week I have focused on trust.

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

Trusting God.  Needing to trust God better…more…completely.  Kind of the stuff I have been working on it seems like forever.  But then God said, “Dearest, there is more to this trust thing than you thought.”

During my weekly Bible study, we were talking about trusting God with things in our lives. I shared that sometimes I have a more difficult time trusting God with the little things than with the big things.  You know, I don’t want to bother God with stuff I should be able to handle. (Argh.  As if He is too busy and can’t be bothered.)  How can I know so much and still think like that?  I can’t tell you how many times I have told my children that nothing is too small to bring to the throne of grace…and yet, do I?  Nope.

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

But the bigger thing…the a-ha moment or oh dear moment (not sure which is more appropriate)…was when God revealed that I withhold things in my life that I struggle with if I consider them natural consequences of my decisions.  As if when I make mistakes God says, “Sorry, Sue. You broke it, you fix it. You messed it up, you clean it up. Your decision, your deal.”  

Somehow that doesn’t seem like my Father.

My Father who says things like:

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock and it will be opened for you.  For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.  Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone?  Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent?  If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”  Matthew 7:7-11

Time for some brutal honesty.  

Three years ago I moved to Williamsburg to be near my mom and because I had a good job offer.  Preparing my house to sell was expensive.  Moving was expensive. Closing costs were expensive unexpectedly both to sell and to buy – I got a double whammy I wasn’t counting on.  And then I stupidly paid for my daughter’s first year college tuition when I had no business…and no money…because I thought I could pay it off fast.  Well, then things happen like massive car repairs, house issues, and doctor’s bills.  So I have slipped into a financial pit of debt.  And it feels like I will never make it out.  I feel like when I get a good plan…something else happens and I receive another bill I wasn’t expecting.  It is so frustrating!  And at times it feels hopeless.  

I have prayed that God would give me wisdom about what to do, but I really truly haven’t given it to God.  It is my mess, the consequences of my poor planning and decision-making. I made this mess and I have to clean it up.

Had I known more.  Made better plans.  Thought through things more effectively. Just been smarter all the way around…

This week God (and a few good friends) reminded me that God loves me and loves to be kind to me and wants the best for me and my children.  That His plan for my life isn’t about punishment, but about hope

The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin…  Exodus 34:6-7

I don’t expect that God is going to zap a tremendous amount of money into my life and solve all those problems, although I’d certainly welcome it.  LOL!  And I’d definitely give Him all the glory!  But I do believe that God wants to walk with me through it.  

All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.  John 6:37

He does not expect me to solve it apart from Him.  He does not want me to beat myself up continually about it, but rather to move forward trusting that He will not leave my side…and that He will even guide me forward.

Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths.  Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.  Psalm 25:4-5

So that is what I am going to do.  One day at a time.  I’ve changed my prayers. I need God for many things…I need God for everything…even for the messes I’ve made…especially for the messes I’ve made.

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

I’m praying, “Father, I need you TODAY. Would you help me TODAY?  Father, would you show me what I need to do TODAY so that you will be glorified, so that I can improve my life, make wise decisions, raise my children well, do what you want me to do, and stay in your will.  Father, please lead me forward every second of every minute.  And Father, I know you know that my heart’s desire is to honor you with everything I have and do and say…please help me get in a better place financially, emotionally, spiritually, and physically.  Please show me ways to honor you with my finances, my time, and my life.  

Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth; Unite my heart to fear your name. Psalm 86:11

Lord, the messes I’m in, whether my own doing or not, would you please take them Lord? Make something good out of them…help me through them.  Show me what you would have me do, how you want me to think, and even what you want me to pray. Lord, I am yours.  Lord, my life, all messy and complicated and frustrating, is yours.  Lord, my life, all beautiful and chaotic and joy-filled is yours.  You are my hope, Lord.  Being debt free is not my hope.  Being organized is not my hope.  Being rested is not my hope.  You and you alone are my hope

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.  Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.  Hebrews 4:14-16  

Lord, I pray all this in the name of Jesus, who is my hope.  Amen.

Be to me a rock of refuge, to which I may continually come.  Psalm 71:3

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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!

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!

Who Am I Going With?

photo (31)Again I’m faced with big decisions…

Again…

Do you hear the underlying groan in my writing?

I sat with my dear friend and prayer partner recently and said, “I’m tired of trying to discern God’s will.”

I felt so ungodly saying that…so grumpy, tired, and sinful.

I want to be better at it.

I feel like I must be doing something wrong…or not doing something right. 

Lord, why does it feel so difficult to know what to do?  Why can’t I figure things out?  Why is this so hard?  Am I doing something wrong?  Am I missing something?

I have prayed…and prayed…and prayed.

I have sought wisdom in Scripture.

I have asked way too many friends for advice…I think I just really really want someone to tell me what to do.

SOMEONE JUST TELL ME WHAT TO DO!

And yet, I know….I KNOW…I know that God wants me to just rest in Him.  

One of my friends reminded me that God wants me to remain constantly dependent on Him.  I’m not feeling dependent.  I’m feeling crazy, slightly insane, and very, very frustrated.

Looking back I’m hard pressed to say that I’ve made any truly successful decisions on my own in the past 5 years…I know I’m probably being hard on myself, but that’s how I’m feeling right now.  I can’t think of one thing I haven’t looked back on and said, “If only…”

What a lousy way to live.

I’m pretty certain that that is not what God wants me to be thinking…after all, do I trust Him, or not?

Seriously, do I trust Him? 

Because this stress cannot be from Him…and these anxious thoughts and overwhelming fears can’t be from Him.

But how do I stop them?  How do I get past the fear…the anxious thoughts…the exhaustion?

I often pray that God will help me focus on Him…keep to the path…not go to the right or the left when I should be heading forward.

Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you. Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure. Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil.  Proverbs 4:25-27

I think I get hung up on the “ponder the path of your feet” part.  I ponder…and ponder…and ponder.  Oh my golly I’m so sick of pondering!

I think about everything and how it is going to impact everything else…how things might turn out…how things might impact or affect each of my children…I wonder about how the decisions of the past will impact the decisions I need to make…I wonder what will become of me and my children…will this decision grow their faith…will bad things happen….will good things happen?  Am I ever going to make a decision I’m truly comfortable with?

Once again, for the 40-somethingth year, I’m focusing on my circumstances rather than my Savior….WHEN will I learn this lesson?

I’m looking at my feet rather than directly forward…I’m not looking at Jesus. 

I’m so focused on where I’m going that I forget Who I’m going with. 

I’m so worried about the future that I’m forgetting the Father.

If I truly believe that the Father holds my future…WHY do I worry so?  Why do I get all wiggy about things?

If I believe that He does work all things together for good for those who love Him and who He has called, then I know that no matter what decision I make He will work good. 

So maybe the issue is that I want things to get “fixed” – I want a different situation…an easier life…less complication, more calm. 

I’m not so sure that God’s good is always easier…peaceful yes, but not necessarily easier.

Drat…I wanted easier.

I’m tired of being tired…exhausted by exhaustion…frustrated by frustration…

BUT isn’t that MY issue? 

God doesn’t say I need to do something or live a certain way without providing a way to do it.  There has to be a way to live like more than a conqueror even in this place I am.  A way to count it all joy…

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.  James 1:2-4

I never noticed the words “full effect” before…I mean I never really thought about them.  I think maybe what that is saying is to let life happen and grow from it.  That makes sense because steadfastness also means patience, perseverance, endurance and fidelity. 

Maybe part of counting it all joy is allowing the trials to happen…living the life of trials without trying to fix something that is not within our power to truly fix. 

Maybe we are to patiently allow it to work in our lives…allow the trials to mold us…to make us complete.

That really wasn’t the answer I was looking for…I was hoping for something more like: “Count it all joy my brothers when you meet trials of various kinds, because God’s got the quick fix.”

So I’m back to…do I trust Him?

Do I trust His timing?  His provision?  His care of my children?  His plan for my life?

Do I trust that He can work through any decision I make? 

Do I trust that He can do immeasurably more than all I ask or imagine…but that might mean it doesn’t look at all like I’d hoped but it will still be good?

Do I trust Him to love me regardless of my mistakes and missteps?                                        

Do I trust that He will lead me?

Do I trust Him?

I do trust Him even though at times I don’t understand what He is allowing or doing or not doing at all.

I do trust Him even when I desperately what Him to fix things for us and His timing is very slow in my estimation.

I do trust Him even when I feel like I can’t bear one more decision…one more heartache…one more difficulty…one more broken anything.

I do trust Him when I can’t provide for my children like I’d like to.

I do trust Him when things don’t go the way I thought they would…and my way seems soo much better.

I do trust Him that He is leading even though I haven’t gotten any lightning bolts with memos attached…no GPS from God…no heavenly updates on the plan.

I do trust that He loves my children and is working in their lives.

I do trust that He will always love me.

I do.

Wow!  That really helped.  Listing all those things…that gives me some perspective.  It is much easier to rest in that trust when I remind myself of it.

Actually the best thing was reminding myself of the object of my trust…

Trust in the Lord with all of 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

So the decisions I need to make…particularly the biggest one…I will pray, seek Scripture, seek some counsel…but I’m going to trust that my Father has prepared me to make wise decisions.  I’m going to trust that He will work in my life whatever I decide.  I’m going to trust that I cannot step outside of His sovereignty. 

Now THAT gives me some peace.

 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