The Rest of the Story…or Running Away

IMG_6011The other day I was reading the story of Elijah and the Baal priests.  How God rained down fire from heaven and burned up an altar saturated with water.  How Elijah prayed and God answered.  How Elijah was blessed to see the power of God first hand and to be a part of the display of God’s great glory!

And I thought how much I want to see God do amazing things in my life, and how I’m seeing now that He really does already do great things.  

Today…I feel like the Elijah that appears only a few verses later…the Elijah that ran away.

So God showed up BIG time and proved who is the one true God.  After the people respond positively, Elijah takes all the prophets of Baal down to a creek and kills them.  And then Jezebel, the queen over all those Baal prophets sent Elijah a message, “So may the gods do to me and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by this time tomorrow.”  (1 Kings 19:4)

And do you know what Elijah’s response was?  Just a few verses after the Lord did His “in your face” thing with the water and the altar and the fire…this is what the Bible says about Elijah:

“Then he was afraid, and he arose and ran for his life…”

As my students would say, “Wait, what?”     

Yup.  Ran for his life…afraid of Jezebel.  

As if the power of God was all used up in that last miraculous display and now there is no more to protect Elijah from Jezzy.  

And then Elijah does this…

“But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he asked that he might die, saying, “It is enough, now, O LORD, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.”

Elijah sounds like he is despairing…He sounds weary and tired and afraid.

And right now…honestly, I feel a little bit like that as well.

I’ve been trying ever so hard to focus on the good in my life…to see where God is working. And I do see it, like Elijah.

But this life looks like its not getting easier any day soon and I feel so tired already and so weary, and so afraid of not being able to do it well…and so alone in this battle.

This was the first full week of everyone and everything going a thousand miles an hour and I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed thinking about the coming years…how this pace isn’t going to change for a while yet.

And this weekend…Sunday is my dad’s birthday.  And then in a little more than a week it will be the anniversary of his death.  And I miss him so much.  I always miss him, but today I miss him a lot.  

He was an endearing, grumpy old man.  He was the kind of man who didn’t gush and who wasn’t terribly warm and fuzzy, but I never doubted that he loved me.  And somehow when he was here, I always knew that life would be okay.  He was an anchor of sorts.  My parents didn’t really walk with me through my husband leaving…I think sometimes it is too hard for family to understand how to unless they live next door.  It all seems too surreal unless you are right there.  But when my dad read my book, he talked to me about things and apologized for not being with me more.  It was okay, truly, because God provided in other ways.  And my dad cared for me in other ways too. He didn’t give me counsel or comfort like my friends did, but he provided me practical advice, security and protection.  I miss that.  I miss the security of knowing my dad would help me if I needed it.  

The night my dad died I held him up as he struggled to breath.  At one point I whispered, “I love you Daddy”  and he whispered even more quietly back, “I love you too.”  It is one of the moments of my whole life that I cherish the most.  A beautiful moment in the midst of one of the worst nights of my life.

I want my dad to be here…to help me figure things out, to help me fix things, to advise me on things.  He was never too busy for me.  He was always willing to help me figure things out.

I don’t know what to do right now.  I wish I could talk to him…to ask his advice.  I don’t want to live like this right now.  I feel like Elijah sometimes, “God please, it is enough now!”

It’s enough.  Stick a fork in me, I’m done.

I so wish I was stronger and more able to do this life gracefully.  I feel like I’m slogging.  Is that even a word?

But if we keep reading in 1 Kings, we see our gracious God’s response.  How I love Him!

God sent an angel to Elijah who gently woke him and gave him food and drink. Elijah ate and drank and then fell asleep.  Then the angel did it again, “Arise and eat, for the journey is too great for you.”

Golly, do I feel that the journey in front of me is too great.  I can’t even tell you…

But whatever God gave Elijah to eat sustained him for that journey.

“And he arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food for forty days and forty nights…”

If God’s angel woke me with something to eat and drink I wonder if it would be crusty bread and coke 🙂  Yum.  

Seriously though, I know God wants me to understand that He will sustain me…He will uphold me….He will provide for me.  He will be my refuge, peace, and strength.

I was thinking that maybe something that would help is just taking one day at a time…I can do that for some things…not sure how to do it for others.

I guess that’s where I plop myself down and pray.

But not like Elijah.  Because I don’t want to end my life, I just want to make it better.  Lord, help.  I’m done and weary and overwhelmed.  

And what I need to be okay with is that God’s plan might be that it stays this difficult and tiring.  That it isn’t going to be significantly different for a while.  And I need to be okay with that.  Not because it’s “the right” thing to do, but because I want to be healthy and peaceful and content for my children.  I don’t want to always be seeking a way out or a quick fix or a perfect situation.  I want to trust that God can work even in the midst of great struggling and great exhaustion.  

I definitely don’t understand so much of this life and this week has shown me that I have limits, but it has also shown me that God has given me strength and resources and I just need to trust that He will continue to strengthen me…to trust that He will continue doing amazing things in my life.  

My dad might not be here, but my Father is and I know that He offers the ultimate security, protection, and love.  

Trust God.  Pray.  Trust Him some more. That’s what I need to do.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

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Love, Rest, and Sickness…In No Particular Order

IMG_2900Today is my first sick day for me in a few years.

I’ve done sick days for children and sick days for parents, but not for me.

I slept a lot and sat a lot…well, actually I was more lying down a lot.

And all the stillness…it was glorious.

I haven’t been still for….for forever.

Even this past Saturday when this whole illness thing began, I couldn’t seem to sit still except for a few minutes to regain some strength before I began another task.

I knew I should rest…had I rested I probably wouldn’t be lying here right now.  Who knows?

My room is a tad messy…actually my house is tad messy.  And my nightstand is littered with tissues, tea cups, glasses of water, an ibuprofen bottle, cold medicine bottles, and the usual pens, journals, and piles of books.

That’s quite an impressive list considering it isn’t that big a nightstand!

Although it was supposed to be a rainy day, the sun is shining through the clouds and into my bedroom.  I love it.

My classroom has no windows and I miss the sky so much during the day.

This is a beautiful treat.

I just wish I had some energy.

This is a weird sick for me.  Usually I can push through and still accomplish things…not happily or quickly, but nonetheless I’m still checking things off the list.

This thing…ugh.  This one has hit me like a truck…loaded with bricks…and maybe a few cinderblocks.

I guess it isn’t a shock.  I’ve been going at warp speed for so long – fuel is bound to run out at some point.

I keep thinking tomorrow I’ll feel better.  Tomorrow is the day when my head clears and my energy starts returning.

Yeah nope.

So what is God’s plan for me right now?  This day?

I’m always wondering that.

God, what do you want me to do right here?

Other than sleep.

Which I am happy to do by the way.

But I have only a few more minutes before my little minions arrive and all the quiet is gone and the activity begins whether I want it to or not.

I guess…maybe this is the opportunity I’ve wanted… to just be still with my people.

As much as I plan on that, I don’t ever EVER make the time for it.

I’ll sit down for like 5 minutes but then I’m jumping back up again for something…goodness knows what!

Today, I got nothing to jump up for.  In fact, I think I might just request a meal delivery and sit on the sofa with my littles.

Oh…I say that but it is going to be difficult.

Why is it so very difficult to rest?  Why is it so difficult to be still?

I think I have an issue with control.

I want things to be orderly, organized, peaceful, and controlled…by me.

Those are the words that trip me up …. By me

I’m pretty sure those aren’t the words I’m supposed to be relying on.

I just want things to be beautiful for us…you know?

Why can’t I just get things beautiful…for more than a few minutes?

I’m reading a book about idols in our lives…ugh.  I really like it, but ugh.

I mean I like that I feel like it is dealing with some serious stuff that I need to face…but ugh…the serious stuff is idols.

I hate idols.

One of mine is control.  A sweet young lady was sharing with me about how God has revealed her idols of comfort and control and I thought, “This woman is awesome!  I’m like 40-something 😊 and I’m still trying to figure out what makes me tick and tock and fall.”

I prayed fervently before my phone call with this dear one that I’d be an encouragement to her…and God turned it around and had her encourage me.

Not in the way that I imagined.  It’s never awesome to have idols revealed…but actually maybe it is…

It is why I’m reading this book.  To figure out what in the world I’m worshiping in my life other than God.

To figure out why I struggle with what I struggle with…you know?

And God in his infinite kindness has confirmed what he has been revealing slowly to me….I want comfort and I want control.

I want the comfort of others, the comfort of a peaceful, orderly space, and the comfort of knowing I have control of it all.

And unfortunately I can be a mean, grumpy sinner in the process of pursing those idols.

I can also occasionally despair of ever overcoming.

One of my dearest friends wants to discuss the difference between victory and obedience.

I do understand that I’m called to a life of obedience, but I really do want victory…just saying.

I’m tired of the struggles.  I want to move on already.

Then there is a little part of me that wonders if the next thing I struggle with will be worse and I get all freaked out…I’m a mess.

Do I believe God is good or not?  I keep having to ask myself that when I get those crazy thoughts.

I do believe He is good.  And I do believe that He calls me to obedience.

He also calls me to repentance and rest.

I love this verse.

In returning and rest you shall be saved,

in quietness and in trust shall be your strength. 

Isaiah 30:15

Returning

Rest

Quietness

Trust

Returning…have I gone away and need to come back?  Yes.  Daily.

Daily I turn to my own thing, my own issues, my own solutions, and my own stress.

I’m the little girl who packed up her bags and stomped out the door ready to run away from papa and find a better life, only to see the darkness coming and the shadows lengthening.   I’m that same little girl hightailing it home to the welcoming arms of my loving father.

I’ve been the parent in that scenario…I’ve watched one of my sweet little babies pack a backpack and head out into the night – only to make it to the bottom of the driveway before running back home.   And how I longed for that embrace even though it was such a short trip down the driveway.

God longs for us to return to his embrace and rest there.  Rest in the arms of our Father.   It is quiet there.  We can trust His care.

Oh how I need that visual right now.  What a blessed reminder to me of the safety of His care.

Especially as I lie here feeling very weak, tired, and sick.

In each day, God has a plan.  It might be a plan for great productivity.  It might be a plan for rest.  It might be a plan just to be where He has me without complaint or concern or control.

My prayer is that wherever God has me, I’m resting in the knowledge that He loves me.

He loves me.

Me.

Sometimes that just hits me.  I say it a lot, but sometimes….sometimes it rocks my world.

It just did as I typed that.

He loves ME.

Me…with all my flaws, failures, faithlessness, frustrations, and fears.

Me…with all my control, complaints, crisis, and cares.

Me…just me.

No matter what…no matter where I am…no matter what I’m doing or not doing…no matter how I feel…no matter what I accomplish or don’t accomplish…no matter my successes or my failures…no matter how I love him back.

He loves me.

Thank you God…I needed that.

I need that.

I need to understand that deeper than I have in a long while.

How deep the Father’s love for us, how vast beyond all measure

that He should give His only Son to make a wretch His treasure.”

(Stuart Townend)

Ranting and Resting

Dear Friends,

I really want to share the following blog with you all not because it is so well-written or anything, but because I believe that it’s where so many of us, particularly single parents, find ourselves sometimes.  It isn’t pretty at first, but God, as usual, used my time typing on these keys to get my head properly in the “game.”  I was having a big old pity-party and God showed me how to praise my way through it.  If you are a friend or family member, fear not!  I’m just sharing my fussy little heart and hopefully touching someone else’s fussy little heart too!  I’m in awe of God and His faithfulness to stick with me and even light my way out of the darkness.  He is good!  He will do the same for you!

So here goes.

I’m falling apart…again.

Tonight has been a down on my knees, weep and beg God for help kinda night.

Sometimes the sheer weight of this life is too much.  The pain is raw all over again.  The hopelessness washes over me and I think there is no way I’ll survive.  And there’s a good chance one or more of my children aren’t going to survive either at the rate I’m going.

There are too many issues.  I’ve said it again and again.  I feel like a broken record.  I list them all in my head and I can barely breathe… and part of me becomes exceedingly frustrated with God.  I don’t understand why nothing can be easy.  I just don’t.  No straight forward anything…just shadows, gut-feelings, questions, concerns, angst and some pretty obvious prayer requests.

I can’t seem to stop my own issues from resurfacing.   My issues make me a lousy parent…an impatient, frustrated, teeth-clenching parent.  And when I parent like that, I get impatient, frustrated, teeth-clenching children.  Not surprising.

I want a “not-complicated” existence, or maybe just one complication or maybe even just one complication at a time.  I want to be able to take a breath – one good long deep breath.

Tonight I ranted a lot in my prayer.  I told God exactly what I thought about the situation I had found myself in as well as the life I find myself living.  I told Him in no uncertain terms that I am not happy…in fact, I used the word “hate” a few times.   Not that I hate Him, because nothing could be farther from the truth.  I sometimes feel like I just hate so much of my life circumstances.

This single momma thing is HARD!  It’s exhausting…I need to make up a word that conveys the magnitude of the mental, physical, emotional, and even spiritual exhaustion.  I can’t think of one.

I realize that I’m focusing on the negative an awful lot.  My focus is all off.  I know I’m so overwhelmed because I’ve lost sight of Jesus.

I’ve been focusing on the behavior of my children, my fears for them, learning issues, school issues, anger issues, work issues, relationship issues, church issues, financial issues, and health issues.   I’m burdened by issues.   I don’t want to be weary and burdened.

Those words bring a verse to mind.

“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 11:29-30)

Oh please give me rest for my soul! 

If I could remember to focus on what He’s done rather than what I do or don’t do.

If I could remember that He’s the perfect parent in answer to my very imperfect parenting.

If I could rest in the understanding that He will never leave me nor forsake me – and that that promise is absolutely for my children as well.

If I could really get that God is for me,

that my life’s battles are the Lord’s,

that He will not call me to something He will not equip me to do,

that His grace is sufficient.

If I could understand that it truly is all about Jesus, I believe I would have that rest for my soul.

It’s mine for the taking…my arms are just so full of my own stuff that I don’t have the strength or space to take on anymore.

I believe that is why God calls us to take His yoke because when I take His, I gotta put mine down.

And, I’m thinking He’s gonna carry it all anyway…in fact, in the biggest way imaginable, He already did.  He carried it all the way to the cross.

It’s not me being better at anything – thank goodness!  It isn’t my children being better at anything – again, thank goodness!  It’s about God being best at everything – about God being my focus, my strength, my Savior.  He saves me every day.  Over and over again, I’m reminded that I need a Savior and over and over again I’m grateful for His sacrificial, unconditional, everlasting love for me.

I feel better just thinking about Him.  I’ve spent the majority of my time these last several days thinking about my issues rather than my Savior.  And although I’m thankful it brought me to my knees, I’d prefer to be on my knees praising rather than ranting.

So here is some praising!!

Father God, I’m so very thankful for my sweet children.  Thank you for the joy I find in being a mom – even a stressed out, overwhelmed, exhausted single mom.  Thank you for my life – for hope for the future, for joy in small moments, for peace that truly does surpass all understanding.  Thank you for loving me even when I’m clenching my jaw and slamming doors.  Father, please forgive me for losing sight of you.  Lord, please set my feet upon a rock, make my steps secure, and put a new song in my mouth – a song of praise to you Lord! (Psalm 40:2-3)  I pray that my life will bless others, my hope will encourage, and my mouth will praise!  In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I don’t know.

I was hoping you did.

Give me a minute and I’ll think…

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

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

The verses I’m praying through:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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