No Longer a Dragon

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Sometimes it amazes me how often God gently confronts me with His word. Lately it seems every time I open the Bible or work on my Bible study or talk to a friend, He is there prodding and prompting and loving me.

This past week was one of the most difficult at my job. Sometimes it feels as though God is continually letting me taste failure and I’m weary of it.

I’m identifying with Eustace in “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader” by C.S. Lewis. His greed had turned him into a dragon and he longed to be a boy again. The scene is Eustace recounting how Aslan, the Christ-figure in Narnia, helps him become a boy again.

“I was just going to say that I couldn’t undress because I hadn’t any clothes on when I suddenly thought that dragons are snaky sort of things and snakes can cast their skins. Oh, of course, thought I, that’s what the lion means. So I started scratching myself and my scales began coming off all over the place. And then I scratched a little deeper and, instead of scales coming off here and there, my whole skin started peeling off beautifully, like it does after an illness, or as if I was a banana. In a minute or two I just stepped out of it. I could see it lying there beside me, looking rather nasty. It was a most lovely feeling. So I started to go down into the well for my bathe.

But just as I was going to put my feet into the water I looked down and saw that they were all hard and rough and wrinkled and scaly just as they had been before. Oh, that’s all right, said I, it only means I had another smaller suit on underneath the first one, and I’ll have to get out of it too. So I scratched and tore again and this underskin peeled off beautifully and out I stepped and left it lying beside the other one and went down to the well for my bathe.

Well, exactly the same thing happened again. And I thought to myself, oh dear, how ever many skins have I got to take off?…So I scratched away for the third time and got off a third skin, just like the two others, and stepped out of it. But as soon as I look at myself in the water I knew it had been no good.

Then the lion said – but I don’t know if it spoke – ‘You will have to let me undress you.’ I was afraid of his claws, I can tell you, but I was pretty nearly desperate now. So I just lay flat down on my back to let him do it.

The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off….

Well, he peeled the beastly stuff right off – just as I thought I’d done it myself the other three times, only they hadn’t hurt – and there it was lying on the grass: only ever so much thicker, and darker, and more knobbly-looking than the others had been. And there was I as smooth and soft as a peeled switch and smaller than I had been.” (pp. 107-109)

I feel like I’ve been trying to strip off the scales of my life and there are just so many layers…and God is continually peeling off more and more of me.

I’m trying to lie still and let him do it…it is difficult. It has been hard to let go of so much of what I think defines me. Hard doesn’t seem to do it justice.

“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, lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather healed. Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.” Hebrews 12:11-14

I’ve always thought of discipline as more like a spanking, but this is more like the discipline of an athlete in training. I’m trying to get back into running and I’m still in the training phase where I feel like I’m trudging through 2 feet deep mud when I run…but I know when I get past this phase I’ll love running again. I’ll love the benefits, the fruit, of being healthy and fit too.

But in my spiritual life, I have some training to do as well. Some painful discipline is happening as I am realizing how my definitions of me have become idols in many ways.

God is showing me that I have focused so much on the wrong things. I’ve been trying to figure out how to be perfect…a very frustrating endeavor. I’ve been striving to seem perfect…a ridiculous pursuit and highly stressful. I’ve been seeking affirmation for anyone…everyone…an exceedingly insecure way to live. I’ve been defining myself by how well I do things, how people think about me, and how “perfect” I can be in my own head.

Whenever anyone says that I’m doing fine, I want to holler, “But you don’t really know me! I’m awful.” And in my head I’m listing all the things I’ve failed at…all the ways I’m a failure.

I have so many fail voices in my head. I hate them. And I’m pretty sure they don’t like me either because they are not at all nice.

And then when someone doesn’t like me…a situation I currently have at work (at least I think so)…I want to say, “Why don’t you like me? I’m super nice!”

What?!?! How can I be so negative AND so positive about myself? You know how? Because my emphasis is all on me! ALL.

I’m all about me. All about MY failures. All about what people think about ME. All about what I’m doing. All about what I’m feeling. All about how I want things to go. All about what I think should happen. All about my time table, my plans, my hopes, my dreams….ME, MY, I….ugh.

Oh I have some idols to be striped away. I’m finding it to be quite painful. More painful than I think I can bear at times. But I want to “fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which I was called” (1 Timothy 6:12). I don’t want to fail at this endeavor.

There is a beautiful verse at the end of 1 Timothy where Paul calls Timothy to take care of the gospel entrusted to him. I read it and thought it for myself, “O Sue, guard the deposit entrusted to you. Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called “knowledge” for by professing it some have swerved from the faith.” (6:20)

I know that Paul is talking about the babble of the false teachers, but today I was thinking of how much babble I have in my head. Irreverent and contradicting. How this “knowledge” I allow to take hold in my head keeps me from living out the gospel in my life. This babble of who I am and how I should live.

Who am I? Am I a failure? God says, “No, you are my child…beloved, precious, the apple of my eye.”

“In fact, dearest, you are a masterpiece! My masterpiece. I created the universe, the magnificent sunsets you so often photograph, the ocean waves you long to sit beside, the flowers you delight in, the people you love…and I created you. You who I consider magnificent. You who I long to sit beside. You who I delight in. You who I love.”

Why can’t I grasp that?

And again God peels the layers back…not just to make me better but to show me how very much He loves me. For He does not want to leave me a wretched dragon…but wants me to be the beautiful daughter He made me to be.

I might end up smaller in some ways, but I think I’m okay with that. Maybe ME being smaller isn’t a bad thing. Smaller in my own mind so that Christ can be bigger.

“He must increase, but I must decrease.” John 3:30

I believe that when life becomes less about me and more about Him the insecurities and struggles I have will pale in comparison to the great love He has for me. And those idols I’ve put on will be peeled away as I repent and recognize who the true God of my life is.

Idols are so dumb. Just saying.

Is there any comfort in my insecurities, struggles, conflicts, and fears? Is there any hope offered or strength gained in them? Not at all.

And yet…here I find myself.

Lord, you are gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love…thank you so much. (Psalm 103:8) Thank you that you throw my sins as far as the east is from the west when I confess and repent. (Psalm 103:12) I’m confessing to you that I have sinned in my heart and mind by putting myself on the throne of my life, by seeking my identity and security in things other than you, by choosing to focus on myself to the exclusion of You. Lord, please forgive and cleanse me all of this unrighteousness. Thank you that it is all grace, a gift from You. Thank you that you saved me totally without me doing anything. (Ephesians 2:8-9) Thank you that my life isn’t about me doing anything but loving you. And out of that love, I want to obey you and bless you and praise you and glorify you. Like Paul wrote, I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20) Thank you Father that we live under grace and there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus! (Romans 6:14, 8:1) Lord, please keep taking the scales off! In Jesus name, I pray. Amen.

God said No and That’s a Good Thing

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I just have to begin by saying thank you for all the prayers and kind words of encouragement.

Yesterday I finally called to find out test results.  I was twisted in knots waiting and decided that it was time to just find out already.

When I called the nurse took a minute and then came back and said some medical stuff I don’t remember (and frankly couldn’t understand) and then she said, “So the doctor would like you to retest at your next appointment at the end of the year!”

Now THAT I did understand.

That meant that God had said, “No, precious daughter, I’m not asking you to walk that path right now.”

Thank you Father.

I have a few friends walking very difficult paths right now.  I was speaking with one dear friend recently and the thought struck me that it is both comforting and difficult that God is in control.

When I said it, I thought how true that statement felt.   It is both comforting and difficult that God is in control.

But trying to unpack that…it’s hard to explain.  I just know it to be true.

What is comforting about God’s sovereignty?  

Is it knowing that my Creator is always with me?  That I’m loved and cared for in ways and to depths I can’t even comprehend?

And yet, what do I do with this element of difficult?

I find it difficult to let go…even though I don’t really know what I’d do if I was truly in charge.

Difficult to understand…the whys? And whens?  And what nows?

Sometimes I think I choose to live in the difficult.

Living in the difficult…that can be like living in a pit.

And I keep going back to my pit…instead of focusing on the Lord’s goodness and love and faithfulness.

My pit dwelling appears to be based on my circumstances…shocking I know.

And because my circumstances don’t seem to be changing anytime soon, I best figure out how to get out and stay out of the pit.

But how do I not slide back in anytime soon…or ever?

This past week, waiting for results, I felt like I was scrambling desperately to get out and I couldn’t quite do it.  Every “what if” thought had my feet skidding down the slippery, steep side.  I felt covered in the mud of fear.  Nothing I could do seemed to totally get that horrible slimy crud off of me.  I just couldn’t figure out how to stop feeling the anxious feelings I was feeling.

Anxiety.  It’s an awful thing.  And it pushes me into pits faster than almost anything else.

I kept trying to pour scripture into my head and think thankful thoughts.  I prayed for peace – begged for it.

And then I realized that I’m looking for God to do something that He has already done.

He has already given me peace…the Fruit of the Spirit – love, joy, PEACE, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

I remember a speaker once sharing the truth that we have already been given the fruit of the Spirit – we already have it all.  I don’t need to keep asking for it (not that I’m prone to ask for patience or self-control often – no matter how desperately I need them!  That prayer always seems to get me into a pickle!).

Maybe the key is asking for God to reveal how to tap into it?

But then again, why does it matter exactly what I pray when God knows my needs, my wants, my hopes, my longings?

I have heard that prayer is more about building a relationship with the Lord…connecting with Him, casting our cares on Him, learning about Him, leaning on Him, and in some ways reminding ourselves that He is in control. I believe that to be true. 

When I pray I’m acknowledging the One who really does hold me and everything else in the palm of His hand.

When I pray I’m reminded again that the Creator of All Things cares about me…listens to me and acts on my behalf.

As much as I speak (write) about prayer…about longing to be a prayer warrior…lately, I find it difficult.  My prayers have seemed to fall flat…to be “unpassionate”, kind of weary.

My youngest daughter feels like God doesn’t hear her prayers.  She has voiced repeatedly that she wants to believe in God, but she doesn’t feel like He is listening…or even there.  She bursts into tears every time we talk about it.

Dear Lord, what have I not done…or done…that my precious little girl doesn’t feel like she knows You?

And yet, Lord sometimes lately I feel that way too.  Sometimes I feel like my faith maybe isn’t as genuine as I thought it was.  Maybe it is way more wobbly than I ever thought it could or would be.

It hurts to type that.  To say that I don’t feel strong in my faith.  It probably makes you think twice about reading what I write.

I wonder if others go through seasons in their faith like this…where faith is just based on the past, not something happening right now?  

Remembering the joy of believing and trusting and knowing…it is a blessing in the midst of doubt, anxious thoughts, and questions.

Today while I was driving I was thinking about my faith and about gratefulness. How the two really do go together.  I was thinking that when I ponder the huge number of things I could thank God for, I feel a spark of my old faith coming back.

Tonight while walking upstairs to get something, I looked down at my beautiful hardwood floors and thought how kind God was to provide them.  Wood floors.  Who would have thought something so not amazing could remind me of God’s love.

My house is a big blessing.  It isn’t perfect, but it is near perfect for us.  And I can’t begin to understand how God could bless me in such a wonderful way, I feel so unworthy of it.

I’m comforted by the knowledge that God cared about so many little things when He choose and blessed me with this home.

I’m comforted by the blessing of dear ones in my life…people who love me, pray for me, and care about me.

I’m comforted by the knowledge that no matter how wonky I feel about anything and everything, God is always decidedly loving and faithful in His care of me and mine.

I think I’m seeing it…the precious comfort of knowing my loving Father is in control.

And I’m understanding the difficulties of letting God BE in control…of letting go of my struggle to make things work out the way I think they should.

How much more peaceful my life would be if I would let go of the struggle and embrace the peace of Christ.

This past week I struggled very much and even with the good news I still struggled…I was still out of sorts.  It seemed like I had residual anxiety…I maintained the fear even when the problem was resolved.   I’m not sure why I did that…seems weird to me.

The weight of worry needed to lift off and the power of His peace should have been clearly there.  Instead I held on to the anxious thoughts…grasped them like a crazy person.  Why in the world???

Is my new normal to be anxious rather than peaceful?  I shudder to think I’ve chosen that as my normal.

I wonder though…

I wonder what my deal is.

I don’t totally understand myself, but God is revealing to me in little snippets and encouragements that maybe my faith has been quite a bit academic lately.  I know the Word and how it is to be applied and I know God and His love for me and I understand and am thankful for the Gospel.

But do I love God?  Do I love Jesus?  Do I love the Holy Spirit?

Do I really and truly LOVE them?

Is my relationship with more like a teacher and student relationship, than a Father and daughter relationship?

I think it has become that…in some ways it is easier to just do my faith using words rather than emotions.  (Which is kind of ironic considering how emotional I have been lately.)  It has been easier to just study Scripture than delve into a really truly deep relationship with my Lord.   I wonder why that is?

Maybe words are just easier for me.  Relationships involve trust…that’s not always easy.

I’m ready for a change though…to go beyond a student of the Scripture and embrace my true identity as a daughter of the King.

To once again know that my faith is indeed genuine.

To trust Jesus, who is my peace,  truly does love me. 

To trust that my God will never leave me nor forsake me.

And to know more deeply the wonderful mystery and blessing of a God who is loving, faithful, kind, and totally and completely in control.

Happy to Wait?

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Is there anyone in the whole wide world who is happy to wait? Anyone like the Psalmist who can truly say they waited patiently?

Let’s just say that I could absolutely not have written this Psalm unless you added the word kinda… I kinda waited patiently for the LORD.  I’m trying though…trying to wait patiently.

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 blog, and set my feet upon a 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

I had, as I prefer to refer to it, my stupid additional test last week.  But no results yet.  Still waiting.

I hate waiting.

And not knowing if I’m going to receive good or bad news is driving me crazy.

I wish I could just forget about it until they call.

I do forget…but then I remember and I’m awash with worry and anxious thoughts and my chest feels heavy and my eyes feel misty at the thought of being ill.

I know that God has me in the palm of His hand and that He loves me completely and totally and relentlessly.

Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hand; your walls are continually before me.  Isaiah 49:16

But I know sometimes the answer is “no”, sometimes “yes”, and sometimes “not yet”.

And honestly I’m worried that the answer will be “yes.”  Yes, you have to go through this.

He has said “yes” before.

He has said “no” before.

He has said “maybe” before.

And He has said “wait” a lot.

“Dearest, wait.  And trust me.”

Waiting and trusting produces perseverance.

Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.  More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.  For while we were still weak, at the right time, Christ died for the ungodly.  Romans 5:2-6

Suffering…endurance…character…hope.

Waiting…suffering.

Endurance…waiting.

Character and hope.

I really don’t want any more character…to be truthful.  I feel like I’m kind of doing the suffering – endurance – character – hope cycle often.

Living here on this planet has its fair share of suffering.   And there is need for endurance.

Then God puts that word character in there and I’m a little at a loss.  I would think this would work better

Suffering – Endurance – Peace – Hope

or

 

Suffering – Endurance – Faith – Hope

But God puts character in there.

A person of character is someone known for their integrity, kindness, generosity, and morals.  The things we think and do, the way we act and react, the hopes and desires we hold.

I want to be a woman of character…I do.  A woman after God’s own heart.  That sinner David…he was a man after God’s own heart.  I take great hope in that.  A man who had such big sin issues…a man who tried and failed but was given grace and forgiveness.  Just like me.

We suffer.

We endure.

We become people of character.

We have hope for the future.

The future.

Usually when I think of “the future” I’m thinking loooong term.  You know, the eternal future God has planned for us.

But today I’m thinking the future like 2-4 days from now.

I want hope for then.

I want to feel hope regardless of the answer I receive this week.

When my marriage ended, for a brief time I felt hopeless.  I felt there was no way in a million years I could be a single momma with my quiverful of children.  But God has enabled me to do it.

When my ex-husband lost his job, I felt there was no way in a million years I’d be able to provide for my family, but God has provided instead.

Those are big ones, but there are small ones too.  Things that happen any given day that make me wobbly…that make my hope wobbly.

But every single day, God provides and gives me hope.

And he will do it again.  He will do it tonight.  He will do it tomorrow.  He will do it every day this coming week and beyond.

He will provide and give me hope on the day my doctor calls… good news or bad news.

Of that I am confident.  Of that I have hope.

But I will hope continually and will praise you yet more and more.  My mouth will tell of your righteous acts, of your deeds of salvation all the day for their number is past my knowledge.  With the mighty deeds of the Lord GOD I will come; I will remind them of your righteousness, yours along.  Psalm 71:14-16

A Strengthening Struggle

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I’m in a season of blog starting. I start them and save them and kind of forget about them.  I think it is because I want so desperately to be encouraging and sometimes I’m just not.  Sometime I’m just an all out mess.

And my blogs can reflect that mess quite well.

And I have these voices in my head and outside of my head that keep telling me that I should be in a better place by now.  That maybe not sharing the struggle is best.

There are many, many good things in my life right now.  Many.  But there are also many, many challenges.

There just are.

Nothing unusual.  Nothing extraordinary.  Nothing crazy awful.

Really in the grand scheme of things my life is pretty good.

But daily I must grab my thoughts and say, “Thank you Lord for this day.  Thank you Lord for the tremendous blessings you graciously give just because You love me.  And I love You too!”

And that is what I want to focus on, but I’m struggling to find the words to share.

I shared about my concerns about health issues.  They are real.  And sometimes lately they have kept me up at night.  All the “what ifs” are terrifying to me.  But even without the “additional tests” thing, there are always “what ifs”…always.

I wish I could just let things go…place things in God’s hands and not worry.

I will say though that God has been so very, very kind to me this past week.  Two snow days, a half day of school and then two teacher workdays.  Blessed relief from some of the stress of work and the joy of getting things accomplished and planned and prepared for, both at work and at home.  That should provide a few more minutes of restful sleep.

That is a beautiful example of how God provides for me even in all my whirling dervish of anxiousness. He seems to understand my stuff…my constant battle with capturing anxious thoughts.  And when I say constant…I really mean it.

I have made a two part plan to peace.

  1. Pray for strength to take thoughts captive.
  2. Hide scripture in my heart so my life is a reflection of His grace, mercy, faithfulness, and forgiveness.

I feel like a broken record.  Pray! Pray! Pray!  And yet, I put my head on my pillow each night realizing I barely breathed a prayer to my Father.

I talked about Him, but not to Him.

I know prayer is the provider of peace I long for.  Why in the world do I not pray more?

When I was walking the beginning of this single parent path, that peace was so amazing…just really awe-inspiring.  There were days I didn’t understand how I could feel it so tangibly.  Please know that it wasn’t that I didn’t weep buckets at any given moment during any given day, but even during those very damp moments I knew His peace.

I have my sobby seconds now, but I’m trying not to fall into my pit of sorrow again.  I’m trying to move forward and see…really see the many, many blessings God continues to lavish on me.  And to thank Him daily.

Part two.  Hiding scripture in my heart…when I get God’s word in my head it seems to seep down into my heart.  And before I know it, my heart beats with the rhythm of His word.  My perspective changes and I can see beauty where before all I saw was burdens. My anxious thoughts are calmed and quieted as He reminds me that He is powerful, strong, and in control.  Things might feel like they are spinning hopelessly either in circles or out of control (or a little bit of both), but truly He has a plan in the midst of what feels like chaos.  His word whispers peace in my ear and stops the voices in my head.  Those words of fear and worry are drowned out by His words of hope and faith.

I have a lot to be thankful for…a lot to hope for (even if right now I’m just hoping for good news on Tuesday).

So maybe I’m not in such a bad place…maybe the struggle is strengthening me.

And maybe having some challenges doesn’t negate a good life…a good life always has some bit of difficulty.

The secret seems to be to find some wonderful in the worries, some awesome in the afflictions, some pleasant moments in the problems, some inspiration in the inconveniences, and just some plain ole blessings in the burdens.

Now I have to figure out how to open my eyes wide enough to see all the ways God is reaching in to my day with His love and peace.

Tomorrow is Monday.  Seems like a good day to start my plan!

Up to My…Head

IMG_1614When I started this blog I wanted to offer hope with a dash of humor thrown in for good measure.  I can, at times, be a little funny.  My amusing side has been slipping a bit lately, and I’d like to find that voice again.

As I begin this new year, I’m thinking I want to make a slight change in my perspective…in my way of doing things and thinking about things.  Maybe I shouldn’t say a slight change…a complete 180 might be more like it.

Joy has been a bit illusive this past year.  Hard to grasp for me.

Peace that passes understanding?  Haven’t had it.  I’ve chosen anxious thoughts and ungratefulness.

It has been a bit of a miserable time for me (and my kids, unfortunately).

I don’t think that my life has been harder than most, or that I’ve been called to do something overly extreme in difficulty.  My life is just more challenging and exhausting than I  want.

My vision for my life was different. And sometimes the farther I get from the vision, the more I struggle to accept where I am.

It has been easy to focus on the stress of my circumstances, rather than anything positive.

So what are my circumstances, really?  That seems like a good place to start when I’m trying to figure out how I should approach life.  I’m hoping for some perspective on why I’m doing what I’m doing, living how I’m living, and thinking the way I’m thinking.  And maybe if I put it all in front of me in black and white I’ll see something differently.

Would you like to think through this with me?

What are the things that you are dealing with right now?  Not your emotions, but your circumstances. What does your life look like each day?

I have to remind myself as I go through analyzing my life that God is not at all surprised by my circumstances (or emotions).  They are the tools that God is going to use in my life to bring me good and Him glory.  And I’m confident that I will be stronger for the challenges.

The storms of life.

I once heard a pastor say that we are either heading into a storm, right in the middle of it, or drying off from it. When I first heard this I thought it was a rather dismal look at life, there have to be other times….don’t there?

Where are we now?

  • Hanging on for dear life in the hurricane.
  • Rocking on the waves but getting our sea legs
  • Working on storm clean-up – everything’s a little damp and musty, but thankful to be back on dry land
  • Floating in calm waters – an occasional wave swamps your boat but you are doing just fine
  • Sunning on the beach

In some ways I’m in clean up mode, but in others I think I’m still rocking a little bit on the waves.

Wherever I find myself (any given day), how do I respond to where I am…where God has me?

In all honesty, my responses have been mostly negative – BUT I’m determined to change that this year.

Part of the problem is that I tend to look at all my circumstances as only challenges rather than just the place God has me…a place God can still bless me.  That inclines me to respond mostly negatively to them.

Being a single working mom is challenging at times, but it is the place God has me.  It can be a beautiful place no matter how challenging.

Do I EVER have good responses to my circumstances?

Ummmmm…

Ok!  Think of three, Sue.  Three positive responses…(and the ability to say something sarcastic is not one of them).

Laughter – sometimes I can really get a good laugh at the ridiculousness of my circumstances

Joy – when I focus on the blessings and provision from God

Worship – when I take a moment to recognize how often God loves me when I’m decidedly unlovable

Getting tangled up in negative thinking and feelings has been all too easy for me.  Even when I’m studying the Word and praying, I can still struggle with negative emotions.  Unfortunately, it seems to be a natural response for me lately.

I know that I can trust God with my life and the lives of my children, and yet I struggle with feeling all those negative emotions.

I am thrashing about in the waves, gulping in tons of water while I grumble, complain, and wail – but there is this blessed undercurrent of peace – my feet are in it.

I’m in it up to my toes.  My goal is to get my whole body in that peaceful place – all the way over my head.

That is my quest this year.  To be not just up to my toes, but up to my head.

To build on those three possible positive responses to my circumstances.

To redefine my response to my life.

To evaluate from a different perspective.

To acknowledge where I am, accept it, trust God with it, and move forward.

To see my life as a blessing.

Want to join me on this journey?

I’d sure like the company.

Advent for the Overwhelmed

IMG_3568For a little bit longer….today is December 12th – I am officially 12 days behind.  I’m always behind when it comes to Advent.  It’s not like December 1st surprises me or that I haven’t thought about Advent in November.  I just all of sudden get overwhelmed by the days and nights and before I know it…it’s the 12th!  The 12th!!!!

We have barely spoken about Christmas…about Christ in Christmas.

So today…the first day of the rest of our Christmas…wish I could say it was my plan all along to start Advent as our 12 days of Christmas!  Alas, I cannot, but it will work nonetheless!

What do I want to share?  What do I want to be reminded of this Christmas season?

One of the things that God has been continually showing me lately has been the reality of His love for me.

I’ve been wondering a lot if I understand love…if I have ever truly gotten it.  I know it in my head…can articulate it and share it and even give it.  BUT do I get it?  Do I comprehend Love?

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, for whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith – that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.  Ephesians 3:14-19

Rooted and grounded in love.

The Greek means “being rooted” and “being found.”

Found.  Found in Christ’s love.

So often I feel lost…like a failure, like a mess, like a crazy person…unlovable, valueless, un-precious.

How do I get it through my thick skull that I’m loved…even, dare I say it, lovable?

How do I impart the joy of that realization to my children this Christmas season and every other day of the year?

At this moment, I want to tie it into Christmas.  Easy.

The birth of Christ…can we even comprehend the magnitude of the love God showed that day?

It was the beginning of a life of extreme love and sacrifice…for me.  For you.

For us.

And yet, I struggle to remember.  I’m overcome by my own failures and fears so often.

Do you have the same struggle?  Do you feel the same way?  Is it just me?

I fear that I’m modeling insecurity and fear to my children without realizing it or maybe I should say without acknowledging it.

When I spend more time worrying than worshiping, I’m teaching my children a very ineffective and frustrating way to respond to life’s challenges.

What do I want my children to know about love and how it helps us live?

I’m praying that God will use me to bless my children with the strength and power to comprehend how high, wide, deep, and long the love of God is for them…how He wishes to lavish that love on them.

See what kind of love the Father has lavished on us that we should be called the children of God, and so we are.  1 John 3:1

 How do I do that?  I mean practically.  I don’t want to just sit them down and have yet another conversation with them…that’s wonderful, but what can I do that means more?  That truly captures the depth of the love God has for them…

God says that His word does not come back void…that it is powerful and effective.

I’m going to use His word.

All my children like notes…I’m going to write each one of them a love letter using the very words of God…and every day up until Christmas they are going to receive a personalized letter from me and our Father.

Maybe if I’m extra organized I can add a gift…something little to encourage and bless, but really I just want to share His love with them through the power of His Word.

I started looking up verses on His Word.  And look what I found!!

Love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God: for “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass.  The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever.”  And this word is the good news that was preached to you.  1 Peter 1:22-25

This verse just opened up like a flower in front of me…love and the gospel.  I’m searching for the meaning of love…an understanding of it…and AGAIN!!! Again God reminds me of the gospel.

The Good News.

The Good News that began with a baby.  Does that sometimes just blow your mind?  How did Jesus feel becoming a baby?  A little totally dependent baby.

His willingness to be born…and to die.   The Gospel.

LOVE.  BIG LOVE.

Oh that’s the story I want to share with my kids.  Maybe a conversation isn’t such a bad idea.  Maybe a snuggle and a reminder of love.  Not little “l” love, but BIG “L” love.

The Big L Love that says YOU ARE WORTH IT.

The Big L Love that says YOU ARE PRECIOUS.

The Big L Love that says LIVE AND ABIDE IN THIS LOVE …ALWAYS.

Don’t just live there on those days when you feel worthy…live in it on those days when you don’t understand how in the world it could be offered to you.  Live in it in those seasons when life is messy and you get messy with it.  Live in it when you feel desperate, despairing, and down-trodden.

Maybe 1 Peter 1:22-25 is the verse that will go in that first Love letter to my sweet children.

Yes, I think I like that idea!  (Especially since sometimes we have a decided lack of earnest love among siblings.)  And maybe in that conversation and that letter a gentle reminder of the fact that we all need a Savior – that we are all a little bit wonky and weary – that no matter how badly we feel or act or think or speak, we are loved.

God reached down while we were still all messy and loved us enough to be born and to die…for us.

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.  For one will scarcely die for a righteous person – though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die – but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Romans 5:6-8

One of my Bible versions says, “at just the right time Christ died” for us.  At just the right time.  Not a moment too soon or too late.  When we most need Him, He is always there.

He arrived at just the right time…and He died at just the right time.  And it was always the plan…from the beginning.  The plan was always sacrifice. The plan was always saving.  The plan was always sure.

It doesn’t matter how we feel, the reality is the gospel shouts LOVE.  It doesn’t matter how overwhelmed by life we are, Jesus will always overwhelm life and us with Love.  It doesn’t matter if we think we are unworthy, the gospel says we are worth it. We are worth it to Him.

That’s what I want my children to know.  They are worth it.  They are valuable.  They are precious.  They are loved.

The love with the big L.

Happy 1st day of Advent/Christmas in my house at least!

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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!

A Moment of Still

photo (35)A long wooden farm table, enough to seat a quiverful and some friends, tea in the cup my oldest daughter chose for me while at the beach with friends, a highlighted, underlined and well-loved Bible open before me, and quiet…my perfect morning.

God has blessed me this morning with this beautiful moment of still.

A moment of reflection of all that He has done for me.  Today my heart overflows with gratitude for a new home which has already become filled with laughter and joy.

I feel like David when he knelt before the altar and prayed these words:

“Who am I, O Lord GOD, and what is my house, that you have brought me thus far?  And yet, this was a small thing in your eyes, O Lord GOD.  You have spoken also of your servant’s house for a great while to come, and this is instruction for mankind, O Lord GOD! And what more can David say to you?  For you know your servant, O Lord GOD!  Because of your promise, and according to your own heart, you have brought about all this greatnesss, to make your servant know it.  Therefore you are great, O LORD God.  For there is none like you, and there is no God besides you, according to all that we have heard with our ears.” 2 Samuel 7:18-22

Indeed, who am I Lord?  How have you blessed me so?  And yet, it was no giant thing for you because you are so wonderful, loving, faithful, and kind.  Nothing is too great for you, Lord.  Your power is beyond my understanding.  You have been faithful to me and my house.  You have promised to never leave me nor forsake me, and I believe you will not.  You love me Lord – despite my failures and sins.  You are the source of all that is good in my life, Father.  And I know it!  There is no God like my God.

The second night we were in our new home amist hastily packed boxes of odds and ends (those dreaded odds and ends), I stepped outside to take clothes off the clothesline (I had specifically prayed for that clothesline and God even provided that little detail!  How sweet is my Father!).  As I walked across my beautiful yard I was overwhelmed with gratitude and awe of how deeply I am loved by my Creator.  How kind He is to me and my children.

In this blessing of a home  –  which we prayed mighty hard for – God has shown us His love in not only the provision of a home but in a hundred little things too.  Sometimes it’s the little things that speak loudest to me.  The hoped for clothesline, the bountiful berry bushes, the precious nests of baby birds on the porch, the porch swing, the pretty mailbox, the lovely window treatments left behind…there are so many little blessings all around us.  Each room holds a treasure…something that reminds me how my great God takes care of not just the big things but the little things as well.  That He is not a God of just the big prayers answered, but little wishes and hopes fulfilled.

It reminds me of the verses about God taking care of the sparrows and the flowers.  (Matthew 6:25-34).  It is a beautiful reminder that God provides.  My new yard is full of flowers, which I am fervently hoping I can nurture because I most certainly do not have a green thumb!  It feels like each day I find another glorious bloom somewhere in the yard.  It is awe-inspiring to me.  Such beauty and grace simply growing in my yard.  I’m so thankful.

I keep having to pinch myself.  This house, this yard, these children…all my blessings?  Truly?  How kind and loving is my Father!

My Father is beyond generous to me…I always know that no matter what He will provide, help, and love me.

And boy oh boy!  Have I been blessed!  Provided for!  Helped!  And loved!!!

As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy.

 1Timothy 6:17

I have never noticed that verse before…it says “enjoy” – not need, but enjoy!  Wow!  How cool is that!

I know that God supplies all my needs, and I see that in the house He has provided for us.

I know that He also richly supplies things to enjoy as well, and I see that in the home He has given us full of reminders of a God of loving details.

I’m so excited to share God’s blessing and provision – how He has begun turning my mourning to dancing; and loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness!  (Psalm 30:11-12)  How my joy has come this morning!  (Psalm 30:5)

The past 10 months have been some of the most challenging of my life…I have felt overwhelmed, exhausted, sorrowful, and even a bit hopeless at times.  Although I struggled, I knew deep down that I could trust God…I didn’t always feel it, but I did know it.  I described it as my feet firmly planted in the peaceful current of belief in a faithful and loving God even while the storm raged around me.  Living in a hurricane.

Now I feel a respite from the storm…a peaceful moment of blessing.  Oh how I have needed this…how my childen have needed this.

And right now, I want to encourage you that God is working in your life…even while things are difficult and it seems like He has forgotten you and your circumstances.  He has not.  He is working mightily on your behalf.
It reminds me of the verses in Jeremiah when God tells Israel that He has a plan for them, a plan to prosper them and not to harm them. (Jeremiah 29:11-14) That plan was shared during their captivity.  In fact God was telling Israel that at the same time He was informing them that they were going to be in captivity for another 70 years.

“For thus says the LORD: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place.  For I know the plans I  have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and hope.  Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you.  You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.  I will be found by you, declares the LORD, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the LORD, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.”  Jeremiah 29:10-14

During those 40 years God told them to “build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce.”  Have families, work hard, and make lives, and pray!  Pray for not only themselves but the very place they found themselves.  They weren’t just to sit in their captivity and wait for the good to happen, they were to live their lives and see God’s provision, grow from His preparation, and learn perseverance and trust.

Right not, I can look back and see what God did to get me to this place.  I cannot honestly say that I’m thankful for what I’ve been through, but I am thankful for where God has brought me.  In a several weeks I will head back to work and the children will head back to school and life will be nuts again.  And I pray that I will remember to pray, to live, to worship, to be thankful…that I will trust that on difficult days and in challenging moments God is working on my behalf.  He is always looking to my best interest.  At no point does God sit back and let things go willy-nilly on their way.  He has a plan, a good plan, and I’m part of that plan.

So today, I sit quietly reflecting on what He has brought us through and where He has brought us.  I sit gratefully praising my Father for His kind and loving provision.  And I sit expectantly of all that He will do in our lives…how He will enable me to use this home for His glory.

Wanna Stop Swerving?

DSC_0253It’s a bit earlier than I planned to get up, but up I am.  Thanks to one pain in the rear Labrador Retriever….and, I think, thanks to the Lord.

As I lay on the sofa trying to get my mind to stop moving so I could fall back to sleep, I decided maybe this was an answer to prayer.  I’ve missed writing so much.  Missed looking more deeply at my life…my thoughts….my Savior.

It’s been a whirlwind lately.  Although, I can’t think of an extended amount of time that it’s been anything but a whirlwind…and I guess to some extent I’m okay with that…for a little bit.

I’m kinda tired right now.  Sick and tired.  No, actually sick.  Strep throat.  Can’t kick it.  Probably a key factor is a significant lack of sleep.  My mom is concerned I’m going to have a heart attack.  I’m just worried I’m going to pass out.

Right now, 2 hours before my alarm will sound, I feel quite good (except of course the sandpaper that is my throat.)

So this dark and early morning…what does God want me to learn about Him?

Lately I’ve been studying Hebrews…one of my favorite books.

I have a new Bible and nothing is underlined…I feel like everything is new.  It is funny, but part of me is embarrassed by my perfect new Bible without anything written in it…looks like I don’t study it.  I believe that’s called pride. Ugh.  The other part of me loves that it’s a new start…a chance to look at things in a new way.

I’ve been studying faith.  It’s made me think about my own faith…how sometimes I have such great confidence and other times I make choices that prove I don’t.  I live my life in fear…fear of what?  You know, I don’t know that I can even answer that question, really.  I mean, what do I fear?  Nothing…and maybe everything.

That lovely verse, “Perfect love casts out fear” comes to mind.  God loves me perfectly there is no need to fear…anything.

And yet…

I fear.

I’m anxious.

I’m twisted in knots.

Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is his body, since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.  Hebrews 10:19-23

How do I hold unswervingly to hope?

What does that look like?  Practically speaking.

I love the words God uses to encourage us, but often I’m unsure of what it looks like as I’m dealing with my children, my students, my friends, my family, myself.

What does holding hope look like?

I think maybe the answer is in some of the verses that follow those:

So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.  For, “In just a little while, he who is coming will come and will not delay.” And, “But my righteous one will live by faith.  And I take no pleasure in the one who shrinks back.”  But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.” Hebrews 10:36-39

And…

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.  And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.  For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.  Hebrews 12:1-3

It’s easy for me to look at those verses and see the do’s and don’ts…but I think, at least for me, what God is showing me…again…that it isn’t about ME.

What God is revealing to me is that it isn’t about what I do or don’t do, it’s about Him.

Both of those passages begin with imperatives…”Do not throw away your confidence” and “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles” and “run with perseverance” and “fix our eyes on Jesus.”

The key is that last one…

I’ve tried to be confident in many things…without fixing my eyes on Jesus.  I either stumble from pride or fear.

I’ve tried to throw off things that cause me to stumble and sin…without fixing my eyes on Jesus.  I can only walk forward a few steps before I find myself stumbling and falling yet again.

I’ve tried to run with perseverance…to live hopefully and faithfully and graciously…without fixing my eyes on Jesus.  I fail at it every time.  Every. Time.

I’m unable to be the woman I was made to be without fixing my eyes on Jesus.

I just can’t seem to do it.

Holding unswervingly to hope seems very similar to fixing my eyes on Jesus.

When things get wonky in my world (which they are A LOT), do I choose to have hope?

Maybe I’m looking too much for the seven steps to holding onto hope…when maybe there is just one.

  1. Choose hope.

I know that sounds trite…maybe a little naïve on my part.  But believe me, I am not naïve of the difficulties of life.  Been there, done that.

So much of survival…of thriving survival…is where I focus.  Choosing to take my thoughts captive to Christ.

For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does.  The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.  We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.  2 Corinthians 10:3-5

On what am I focusing?

Lately, if I’m honest, it’s how difficult this place God has me in…this place that is decidedly lacking in joy and grace.

And instead of choosing to bring the joy and grace to the situation, I’ve chosen to focus on the difficulties and what’s lacking.  Ugh.

I can see it in my children.  They are beginning to show the signs of strain…the joylessness of a life that doesn’t look for the things to be grateful for in the midst of difficulties.

I’ve not modeled well.

It’s a war for hope.

It’s a battle to choose hope over heartache.  But IT CAN BE DONE!

God wouldn’t tell us to hold unswervingly to hope if it wasn’t possible.

On the darkest days of my life, there was always hope.  Sometimes those days seem easier than these…these days of hectic, harried, stressful busyness.  These days of just wishing I could be still for a minute.  Still and quiet.

But I am!  Right now.  I’m probably gonna be a bit tired later, but how very worth it!  How very much I’ve enjoyed this quiet time with my Bible and laptop open.

The focus on those darkest days was Jesus.  I didn’t have anything else to cling to…no person beside me, no inner strength reserve, no wisdom, no powerful perspective, no provisions, no nothing…all I had was Jesus.

Jesus, the author and perfecter of my faith…Jesus, my shepherd.

The complexity of who Jesus is in my life strikes me right now…He creates, sustains, strengthens, and guides my faith…He is my hope.

So if I’m fixing my eyes on Him…I have hope.

I have hope that I can indeed walk on the water while waves crash, thunder echoes, and lightening crashes…just like Peter did.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.  Be when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”  Immediately, Jesus reached out his hand and caught him.  “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” Matthew 14:29-30

I have hope that I can endure the challenges of life…just like Paul did.

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.  Romans 8:18

I have hope that I am forgiven…again…just like, well, everyone.

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

I have hope that God has a plan for my life…and my future is secure.

Do not let your heart envy sinners, but always be zealous for the fear of the LORD.  There is surely a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off.  Proverbs 23:17-18

Will you fix your eyes on Jesus with me?  Will you hold unswervingly to hope…even when everything seems a bit hopeless?

I’m going to pray that we can do it.  That God will enable each of us to hold firmly to hope…to focus intentionally and intently on Jesus.

Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. 

Hebrews 13:20-21

So Loved

lillyI feel kind of silly because I so wanted to write daily and that lasted about a week.  Best laid plans… I’m determined to get in the habit because it helps my focus.  Hopefully, tomorrow?!?

This week is my last of graduate class homework!  Yippee!  I really don’t even have time to write right this minute, BUT I just had to give God a shout out!

Last week was one of those weeks…you know the ones so I don’t have to go into great detail, but discouraging would be a good adjective to describe it.  Enough said.

Anywho.

I’ve been part of a women’s Bible study since the fall.  I’ve been able to go only a handful of times because of family issues.  It has been a very discouraging thing to me.

I NEED FELLOWSHIP!

Tonight is Bible study, and I texted all the ladies about 2 hours ago and asked them to pray that everything would go smoothly so I can join them.

They’ve all been praying.  I so appreciate it.

I just received a text from a lady in the study who barely knows me, and this is what she said,

“Praying that we will see you tonight.  Do you have a favorite tea?  I’ll pick some up for you.”

I read that and tears sprung to my eyes.

Just a simple act of loving friendship, but what an indication of faith that God will provide a way for me to be there!

I love it.

I’m afraid lately I’ve been less than stellar in my faith.  It used to be that I felt faith for the big things, and faltered with the little.  Now it’s just everything.

I think after a while it’s easy to assume that nothing is going to go smoothly…mostly because the record of smoothness has been pretty abysmal.

My life has gone more like a ride through a ravine full of rocks that jolt and branches that whack.

And yet, God IS faithful.  I do know it to be true.

I think I have always taken fellowship for granted.  I’ve always had friends nearby.  I’ve always had support, encouragement, and love from people around me.

Now, not so much.

And those precious few who live in my vicinity…poor ones…they get to be near the neediest of women.  I could probably suck the life out of anyone at this point.

I have found that in the moments when I feel desperate or just down, the One I must turn to is God.  As much as I want a friend to listen, encourage, help, and hug…God really does answer the needs of my heart better than anyone I have ever met, near or far.

Interesting.

I think I have had all these same feelings with regard to a husband.  The longings to be a wife again…the missing of daily care and love of a husband…real things.

Real things that can be answered by a real God.

Amazing as that sounds.  It is true.

I do not need to be afraid of loneliness, because my God understands.

In fact, He knows sorrow, grief, and loneliness much better than I ever could, or ever want to know.

He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.  Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.  Isaiah 53:3-4

Sometimes (although I wish all the time…

All

The

Time)

I am in awe of what Christ did for us…for me.  I cannot wrap my brain around it.  This perfect man…this loving, kind, gentle, wise man…

But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.  Isaiah 53:5

And this is how awesome God is….

We have been studying Hebrews in our Bible study and tonight’s lesson is on Hebrews 9-10.  These chapters are beautiful reminders of why the Cross matters.

But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet.  For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.  Hebrews 10:12-14

When you compare the old covenant with the new, the differences are amazing!  The one that really stuck out to me was that the old sacrifices purified the flesh, but Jesus’ sacrifice of Himself purifies our conscience.  Our sins are forgiven…completely.  Our sins are forgotten…completely.  And that knowledge is almost too wonderful to comprehend.  And in only grasping it a bit, we can approach our God and Father with confidence, trust, and faith.

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.  Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.  Hebrews 10:19-23

When I read those verses I think, why does my faith waver so?  Where is my full assurance?

And AGAIN, for the millionth time, God brings the gospel of grace RIGHT IN FRONT OF MY FACE!

This seems like a great time to preach the gospel to myself…those times when my faith is not the firmest and my fear is taking hold…that is the time to remind myself that God is with me…that God chooses to be with me…that my mess can be meaningful in God’s hands…that the struggles, setback, and sorrows are not wasted when I have a God who loves me faithfully and perfectly…that Jesus’ sacrifice on that beautiful, scandalous Cross was so that I would be forgiven, so that I would be His forever.  His love is amazing…His grace is overwhelming.

So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.  By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgement, because as he is so also are we in this world.  There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.  For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not be perfected in love.  We love because he first loved us.  1 John 4:16-19

I can’t even remember what my point was when I started this blog…nothing new…my brain is a little mushy by the end of the day…and sometimes it is so fun to see where the Holy Spirit leads…well, actually it is pretty awesome!

And I feel so refreshed by the Scripture He put before me…so blessed by the reminder of His sacrifice…and so comforted by the knowledge of His love.