It All Depends on Where You Look

Recently I went on a walk through a beautiful park.  It was almost a spring day…chilly, but still warm enough to skip the jacket.  The trees were still bare, the flowers still asleep, and the air still a little crisp.

At one point, there was an overlook which provided a lovely view of the marsh and the river in the distance.  The contrast between the tall yellow grass of the marsh and the beautiful blue of the water beyond was stunnings.

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I loved the view.

But when I glanced down, I found that the view close up was rather unappealing.  It was muddy, dirty looking water full of  branches and old, wet grass.

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And it struck me that from this one vantage point there were two decidedly different views.  And how, in my life, there are definitely two views offered…two views ahead of me.

I can look at what is right before me and the view is kind of disappointing, definitely a bit muddy, and far from the view I was hoping to have.  While taking in the scenery of this view, I can only see the situations I find myself in…the difficulties, challenges, and disappointments.  I don’t seem able to see beyond the troubles of the day. And, oh boy, are there a lot of those I can see from this vantage point.

BUT, if I can lift my eyes, even just a bit, I can see beauty in the beyond.  Beyond my circumstances.  Beyond my setbacks.  Beyond my troubles.  Beyond my exhaustion.  Beyond my disappointments.

It, apparently, is the lesson of my life.  The lesson I must continually learn.

If my view is only of my circumstances, they will overwhelm me.

If my view is of my Savior, He will overwhelm me.

I guess I have to decide what I want to be overwhelmed by…been saying this forever.  When am I going to get my rear in gear and live as I know I should?

Part of the problem is that I make choices that aren’t great.  I’m not talking about decisions…all those life decision I need to make…I’m talking about choices each day.

I choose to worry when I just need to wait.

I choose fear over faith.

I choose to seek comfort apart from God.

I choose to disobey, when I need to (I must) obey.

I choose to question instead of trust.

I choose the struggle instead of the peace.

I choose it all instead of Jesus.

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.  For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.  And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near.  Ephesians 2:13-17

I choose the things of this world…the things right in front of me…and somehow expect them to heal my broken heart, to fill the empty spaces, to comfort me completely.

They don’t.

Nothing does, but Jesus.

I’ve said it before, but in some ways, I almost want to go back to the place when everything fell apart.  When everything was truly out of my hands…when all I could do was rely on God.

Since then I’ve been under the false impression that there are things in my control…that somethings need me…that I can rely on myself…good golly!  That is so not true.

I no longer want to be in control of my life…it’s too stressful.  I want to let God have it all…so why don’t I?

Because for some silly reason I continually think this little thing…this thing before me…this one thing I can handle.  I can handle this thing.  No worries.

Thanks God…but I got this.

Ahhhh…why do I insist on this silly way of living?

Does anyone else have this struggle?  This insistence on self-reliance?

How do we win against it?

What’s the secret?

Focus.

Focus? Is it really that simple?

Simple….might not be the best word to use to describe anything in our lives.  At least in mine.

Even focus is not simple.  I’m a mess of focuses…kids, house, meals, schoolwork, classwork, homework, work work, teenagers, college student, college admission process, church, health, sleep, family, friends, car, stuff, and stuff, and stuff…

I just want to focus on Jesus alone, but all the other things in life seem to edge into my vision.

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.  Hebrews 12: 1-2

It sometimes feels that I can’t really get my focus on Him alone because there is just so much to do…how in the world do I do it?

Maybe the problem isn’t the focus point (Jesus) as much as what I think focusing means…what does focusing look like?

I usually envision it as something akin to prayer on my knees, Bible study, and time spent fellowshipping with others.

That can’t be what focusing on Christ means because I can’t stop everything else in my life to do that and that alone.  We would be the most ragamuffin family ever…not to mention we’d probably starve!

Alright, so what does it look like?

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18:4 came to mind:

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

It made sense to me that that would be a way to focus – rejoicing, praying, thanking.

If I’m rejoicing, I must be focusing on Christ, who is my Savior.

If I’m praying, I must be focusing on Jesus, who is working in my life.

If I’m thanking, I must be focusing on Jesus, the source of all things in my life.

It just makes sense.

So maybe in some ways it is simple.  It is simply living my life with my mind focused on who Christ is, what He has done and continues to do, and thanking Him for it all!

Good golly!  We are brought back again to the Gospel!

If our focus is on Christ, we cannot miss the gospel and its impact on our lives.  We cannot lose our focus, because our lives are so covered by the gospel of grace.

Each day begins with the knowledge that I am saved, that I am blessed with another day to serve, that I am loved beyond measure, that I am forgiven, that I am precious to my God.

Each day continues with the sustaining strength of the Holy Spirit working in and through me to bless others.  If I am praying and thanking Him throughout the day, I find myself more aware of how and where He is working.  My focus is on what He is doing through me, rather than what I am doing for me.

Each day is covered with the grace of God…how can I begin to thank Him for that?  How often do I just want to crawl into a corner and weep for my sinfulness?  For the way I spoke to my child, the facial expressions I used, the anger I showed, for the thoughts I had that were unkind, the muttering and complaining that spilled from my mouth, the temptations I gave in to, the judgment, pride, and arrogance that invades my heart sometimes…oh Lord, how is it possible you love me so much?  I’m so very unloveable.

And yet, I AM so very loved.

Crazy.

Unexpected.

Amazing.

The view I’m taking right now…and I pray it will continue into the next 5 minutes…even into the next day!

Is the view of Jesus my Savior.

Jesus, who is my life.

Jesus, who is my peace.

Jesus, who is the author and perfecter of my faith.

Jesus.

Hanging by a Thread

threadTonight was exceedingly rough.  I really dislike those nights.  So instead of sleeping I decided to write.  I can’t sleep anyway…don’t want to wake up any friends…and I’ve already poured out my heart to God face first in the carpet.

I’m back to those days.

My face in the carpet days.

I don’t have a closet to hide in anymore…oh how I miss my closet.

One of the many things that broke my heart tonight was all my interactions with my littlest girl.  The transitions our family has made have been really very difficult for her.  She is feisty anyway and put a change in the mix and she’s just…well, REALLY feisty.

Unfortunately I have about 2 minutes worth of patience left at the end of the day and I can’t seem to be the mommy I want to be.

I want so much to be kind, gentle, and patient mommy, but right now I’m so blasted tired after work and staying up late to finish coursework or classwork or planning or grading or just being plain sleepless like tonight.

So I get fussy about my daughter’s fussiness and then mommy guilt comes crashing down.

I’m gone more than I am with my children.  It is yet another huge change that has occurred in my life in the past 5 years.  And, honestly, I hate it.

In my short amount of time with my children I want to love on them…and yet, this little one and I can seem to do nothing but butt heads.  According to her, I’m the meanest mommy ever.  Of course that is her response to being in trouble.

Tonight I told her that it was her choice whether she got nice mommy or mean mommy.  It sounded good in theory…at least it did about 2 seconds before I spoke it aloud.

But something seemed off…I couldn’t put my finger on it until she and I talked later.  I told her, “You have to make better choices.”  She gave me the reasons for her bad choices and all involved other people.

To which I said, ‘You can’t let other people determine how you are going to act.  Your behavior is your choice.”

Ouch.

THAT’s why my good mommy/bad mommy comment didn’t feel right.

Why does my 7 year olds’ behavior determine mine?

I’ll tell you why…I’M HANGING BY A THREAD!

Tonight as I lie in bed trying desperately to fall asleep, feeling like I’m going to have a heart attack, and begging God for something…I don’t know what…I began to pray more than I have in days, weeks.

I realized that the things that have changed in my life lately have been very good in some ways, and just so very difficult in others.  I have such guilt for working…such guilt for not providing a better situation for my children…such guilt for being tired, impatient, easily angered, and overwhelmed.

And sometimes I just want desperately to go back to life before…not even life before divorce, but life right after.  Life when everything was awful but I had perspective and peace.

I want perspective and peace again.

I know why I don’t have it though.  I haven’t made any time to pray…just those “Hail Mary” prayers I make on a daily basis.

I don’t make time to be in the Word – that would make such a difference.  I really need to do that…forgo more sleep I suppose.  Ugh, how is that even possible?

I don’t really know but that will be my first prayer…that God would provide time in the Word.

My second will be that God would provide time with my children…good, fun time with my children.

My third will be that God will enable me to handle the responsibilities He has given me with more grace and peace.  (I’m too afraid to pray for patience).

My fourth will be that God gives me perspective on my life…that I will remember that He is sovereign and I am not.  Good gravy – I have control issues.

I made decisions based on the knowledge that I had.  I trusted that God was leading me.  I did that whole step out in faith thing.  And although tonight I’m a mess, I know that God led me.

I just need to keep reminding myself that just because things are hard doesn’t mean that they are wrong.

I need to handle things better. God has given me the tools to handle things…His word, His strength, His wisdom, His peace.

I need those things very much.

And God gives them…just need to ask.

I’m asking.

Still hanging by a thread….but I’m thinking now it might be changing to a thread of hope.

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.  Romans 12:12

A Quiver Full of Wonderful

family shot for churchRecently I was interviewed for an article in an absolutely beautiful Christian magazine. It was a pleasure to speak to the interviewer and I hoped that my message would be a blessing to anyone who read the article.

Unfortunately, I was not blessed by reading the article. I was distraught. I was so surprised by the things I was quoted as saying. I can’t imagine saying them. In fact, I’m pretty sure I didn’t. If I did, I need to apologize to every reader. I really truly hope I didn’t.

There were several quotes that frustrated me but one that simply pushed me over the edge.

“I don’t think I was a bad wife. We just had lots of kids,
and life got in the way of our marriage.”

WHAT????? I can’t believe those words would have come out of my mouth! Lots of kids…well…yeah, but they are a BLESSING!!!!!

And life got in the way of our marriage? Our life was part of our marriage…the choices we made together to raise children, adopt children, homeschool children, work a high-pressured job, and be involved in our church and community were things that together we decided would enrich our marriage, our family, and our life.

I NEVER EVER EVER want my children to think that they in ANY WAY had ANY PART in the divorce of their parents. THEY DID NOT!!!!

My husband leaving was solely his deal. His issue…not mine and most definitely NOT THEIRS!

I’m not sure if you can tell that I’m quite passionate about this…quite annoyed too.

This is exactly the message I hear so often – “Well, your life was really full…” as if full is a bad thing!?!

Full of what?

Children?

Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate. Psalm 127:3-5

God has a wonderful way of describing a house full of children – a heritage, a reward, arrows, a blessing…what’s not to like about that!

YES! Our life was full…it was full of…LIFE!

Meals shared, prayers uttered, stories read, games played, hugs and kisses given, bedtime snuggles, wrestling matches, workdays, school book studying, chores nagging, yard work doing, church services worshipping, Bible study learning, small group getting-together, pool splashing, bike riding, football throwing, soccer ball booting, basketball shooting, scraped knees and broken bone comforting, vacation loving, family visiting, being and growing and doing this whole living thing together!

It was not perfect, but it was beautiful. It was crazy. It was fun. It was frustrating. It was difficult. It was loving. It was a blessing. It was our life. And it was worth fighting for.

I guess I just want to say that I don’t believe that I was perfect nor do I believe that our life was perfect, but I do believe that it was just right for us. I believe that our children were and still are blessings…wonderful, silly, sometimes stinky blessings.

I believe that the challenges are worth it.

I believe that the day to day living of life as a family is exquisite.

I know I cannot go back and fix my family or that article…but I can tell you that it has given me a new resolve to enjoy my family…all the exhaustion, all the chaos, all the challenges… it has reminded me that this life is a blessing that I don’t want to miss.

Lately I’ve uttered words to God like, “I don’t want to do this anymore,” and “I can’t do this anymore.” But God is reminding me that I do really want to do this life…that I love this life. And He is showing me that I can do this because I have Him…and it is worth the fight.

I might have lost the fight for my marriage, but I did not lose the fight for my family. I have them right here with me and I’m proud to say that I have a full quiver of arrows! I will be the mighty warrior in this family and protect and fight for it!