Day 3 – All About Me

winter

How is it possible we have another snow day?  Not that I’m complaining, but I kind of would like a summer break!  And I feel like we are getting farther and farther behind at school…which, of course, we are.

I do see this as God’s provision for me.  I have caught up on my teacher certification classes, caught up on my planning, and caught up on some sleep!  Catching up is a beautiful thing!

And as an added benefit I’ve been blessed to write…and more importantly, get my face in the Word!

Today I plan on making appointments…pediatricians, dentists, veterinarians, optometrists, and hair.  I dread some of these appointments, especially the dentist.

I have a friend who can feed her children Laffy Taffy and nothing else, never brush their teeth, definitely not floss, and still nary a cavity will appear.

My children have only to utter the words “gummy bears” and cavities dig deep, root canals are requested, and crowns are ordered.

It is a source of frustration and embarrassment for me. I dread going because dentists tend to look at me like a failure.  I don’t even want to write the comments that are directed my way.  Even that’s too embarrassing.

It is one of the things that just gets to me.  A hundred huge things could be happening in my life, but the stress and dread of visiting the dentist will swallow up all others.  It can be the thing that truly knocks me down.

It’s kind of a ridiculous one – at least in relation to all the other things that have happened and are happening in my life.  I mean really…the dentist?

And in thinking about it, I realized that a large portion of my angst is because I’m thinking about ME.  Me. My. Myself. I.

Ouch.  That’s embarrassing too.

So much of my struggles are in my head and about me.  My thoughts go to unhealthy, critical, negative, harsh places about me.

If I allow myself to go to those places – which I have A LOT in the past several months – I’m a mess.

I’m impatient because things aren’t going my way.  I’m frustrated because things are so difficult for me and my children.  I’m tired of all the things I have to do.  I’m angry about the situations I find myself in. I’m saddened by the circumstances of my children’s lives.

And when I go to all those “I” places, I’m grumpy, miserable, and no fun to be around (at all).

It isn’t that I’m not thinking about others, especially my children.  It isn’t that I’m not doing for others.  It isn’t that I’m too busy in my own world to care about others.

I’m a great multi-tasker!  I can beat myself up, mentally complain about my situation, AND love and care for a multitude of others.

I just excel at the beat-myself-up part which makes the others part not as effective (or enjoyable for anyone).

Ok I know the problem – what’s the solution?

Immediately this verse from Isaiah popped into my head –

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.  Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock.  Isaiah 26:3-4

It’s one of my verses – the ones that I cling to when I need encouragement.  Unfortunately, I’m searching for peace of mind in what I do, what I accomplish, what my circumstances are, in what I think…  needless to say, I’m not getting it from any of those things.  My mind is a hot mess.

It is a constant struggle to stay my mind on Christ…so much vies for my attention, my focus.  Maybe that’s the whole “take your thoughts captive” thing.

For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.  We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ…”  2 Corinthians 10:4-5

Isn’t that what we need to do…get rid of all those thoughts that are not the truth of who we are in Christ?

I’m not what happens in my life…I’m not my circumstances, my job, my children, my house, my anything.

I’m so much more than those things…so much more than anything I’ve been concerning myself with lately.

This world places our value in so many untruths.  We are counted worthy of esteem because of our looks, profession, finances, friendships…pretty much outward anything and everything…BUT GOD, he values us simply because we are His.  Nothing I’ve done…everything He has done.

Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.  Colossians 3:2

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.  Romans 12:2

Lately I’ve been comforting myself with the thought that if I could just get more sleep, just sell my house and have my own home again, if we just weren’t guests, if I could just figure out next year, if I could find time to do all that I have to do…you know, if pretty much everything could just change and get fixed already…I’d be better.  Things would be better, life would be easier, I’d be calm, cool, and collected.  I’d be better at everything!  I’d have peace.

Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.  1 Peter 1:13

There’s the hope I should have…the true hope.

Maybe when I set my mind on Christ…I’m setting my mind on the hope of Christ…all that beautiful grace that will bring me safely into His arms!  And my mind, stayed on Christ, can’t help but love the Lord with all that I am.

And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the great and first commandment.”  Matthew 22:37-38

I’m not sure how I’ve come to this place in this blog…I’ll have to go back to the start and see the path I’ve taken LOL!  I have to be honest though – I’m so very thankful for the reminder of where my thoughts need to be…I’m hopeful for my future, both for this day and for eternity.  God is so very good!

Search me, O God, and know my heart!  Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!  Psalm 139:24

It’s Monday…A good time to rejoice

joy in the morningDay 2 (woohoo!)

Last night I attended a Bible study on Deuteronomy – I’m loving that book!  I wouldn’t have ever thought that I could get so much out of that book – but Jesus is everywhere in Scripture!  It is such a cool thing to seek and find Him!

Last night we talked about Deuteronomy 31:8:

It is the LORD who goes before you. 

He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. 

Do not fear or be dismayed. 

 I’m quite familiar with those verses…they have been a source of comfort like many others.  And last night as I sat there I thought, “Now, THAT is something to rejoice about!”

It was like the big picture for me.  I thought about 2 Corinthians 6:3-10

We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited.  Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way, in great endurance, in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience, and kindness; in the Holy spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying and yet we live on; beaten and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.  2 Corinthians 6:3-10

 

In all those things – good and bad – God is with Paul…God is with us.  And reading that list puts some perspective on my struggles.  Reading or watching the news does too.  But I don’t think that God ever says, “Have you seen those other people?  What they are going through?  Seriously, you are going to stress about your little problems!?”  In fact I’m positive it’s not in there.

In God’s eyes we are valuable and precious and loved.

…Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you.  Isaiah 43:4

And every one of our challenges and difficulties is important to Him.  Every one.

All this is not something new to me…I know that God doesn’t leave me or forsake me, but I think often I feel that God must be tired of me…tired of my struggles, sadness, and sins….maybe He is annoyed with me not being in a better place…maybe He is frustrated that I can’t just seem to be happy about things.

Not true!  Not true at all!

He doesn’t think those things at all!  He loves me with an everlasting love…an unconditional love.  He sees all our struggles, hears all our prayers and pleading, knows all the hurts and fears, and still He loves us unconditionally…that means that He doesn’t get tired of us ever.

When God says that He will never leave us or forsake us, that he really means it!  He really means that He isn’t going to leave our side…He doesn’t begrudgingly stay with us.

I have only to look at the cross to know that.

Who would sacrifice so much to be near me?  Who would die so that I might live with Him?  Who would bear such scorn and sorrow, so I can find joy and hope?  Noone but Jesus!

And THAT is definitely something to rejoice about!

I’m rejoicing this Monday morning that my God is going before me today and every day.  I’m rejoicing that He is with me.  I’m rejoicing that no matter what – no matter what – God will never leave me nor forsake me!  And because of that, I have no need to be afraid or discouraged by what life holds.

Lord, thank you so much for the reminder that I am never alone because you are ALWAYS with me.  Thank you Father that I don’t have to be afraid or discouraged because you go before me.  Nothing happens in my life that has not first passed through your hands.  I can trust that You will use it for good, no matter how it feels.  Thank you Father that even when it feels like everything is wonky, You are still in control.  Thank you Father for another day (even if it is a Monday!) and for loving me.  Thank you for the tremendous comfort of knowing I’m precious to You.

In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

Got Direction?

photo (23)Does anyone else have a pile of book on or around their nightstand?  Mine is getting to the point of ridiculous.

Not only that but there are books on the chest at the foot of my bed, stacked in bookshelves throughout my house, and in various bags I carry around in the off chance I’ll have a moment to read.

I joke that my house is combustible.

The other day I had a moment to pick up a book, but I couldn’t figure out which one I should read…

The book to help me discern how best to raise my sons to be godly young men?

The book about helping my teenage daughter makes good and healthy decisions?

The book about learning issues for my 1st grade daughter?

The book about parenting strong-willed children for my youngest daughter?

The book about dealing with emotions for me?

The book about believing God’s word in an age of skepticism for my brain?

The books about trust or grace or peace or hope or relationships?

Or the mystery novel hidden beneath them all just waiting to be enjoyed?

I can’t even say I have a preference at this moment.  I just want to have read them all so I can already know what I need to do!

A few months ago I decided that I didn’t want to read another parenting book…ever.  And yet I have a stack of books on my nightstand that in one way or another could be considered parenting books.

I guess I just gotta admit it…I want answers.  I’m searching for direction.  I need help!!  photo 1 (2)

Right now everything is up in the air.  Literally everything.  I have no idea where God is going to lead me…how my kids are going to be educated….what I’m going to be doing…where we will be living…

It seems that all my perfect scenarios are on hold…everything is in someone else’s hands  And it would be easy for me to think that that someone else is the administrator or principal at a school, or the potential buyer of my house, or a book publisher, or any number of people in my life…

But the reality is…the REALITY is that Someone else’s hand is in control.  God’s.

And I am at once thankful for the realization and also struggling to rest in that knowledge.  It seems that God has not often done things the way I would have liked…or in the way I think would be best for us.  And I get all twisted up in knots because I want so desperately for things to go one way and I have a feeling that isn’t the way they are going to go.

photo 2 (2)

I keep having to remind myself that I TRUST GOD!  Because I do.  I do trust Him. I know I can trust Him…and I know He is going to handle all this stuff in the perfect way.  It’s just so much stuff and it is so difficult to give up control of all of it.  And yet, I don’t really want to be in charge…I hate making decisions.  I just want God to show me what to do and I’ll do it.

I think my problem is with His timing.  It seems to take Him forever to show me.  I joke that He usually reveals it to me in the 11th hour and 59th minute.  Apparently the Lord REALLY wants me to trust Him.

So I’m excited to see how my life is going to come together. I’m so very curious about where God is going to have us this fall.  I’m intrigued by how He is going to address the issues…resolve the difficulties…meet me in the struggles.

I know that He will.   He always has before.  Right now though, I just want an update.  I just want Him to reveal something…a glimpse of the plan.  But I don’t think that’s gonna happen.

I’m learning to live these verses:

I waited patiently for the LORD; he inclined to me and heard my cry. Psalm 40:1

Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD! Psalm 27:14

Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act.  He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday.  Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices!  Psalm 37:5-7

Have you not know?  Have you not heard?  The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.  He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.  He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength.  Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.  Isaiah 40:28-31

I see a theme of patience.  Ugh.

Just to be honest, I have NOT prayed for patience.  (I know better. 🙂 )

Patience is not one of my virtues.  I know I have the Holy Spirit so I have that fruit in my life.  I just don’t often take bites of it.  I’m probably more likely to wing that piece of fruit at a problem rather than apply it gently.

But I believe that God is asking me to trust patiently.  And even though I know I can absolutely trust my Father…I gotta be honest that I want answers now…in fact, I wanted answers yesterday, last week, long before now.  I’ve got things to do, decisions to make, and places to go (or not go)…I need direction.

I keep thinking I’ll find it somewhere, but unfortunately I don’t believe any of the massive number of books I own are going to tell me what to do or exactly what God is going to do. photo 3 (2) I can read them though and many will remind me of how great is my God and how worthy of my trust He is!

I’ve said it before and I’m saying it again, God has a plan, it’s already in motion, and it is good!

Maybe I won’t worry about which book on my nightstand I’ll read, but rather I’ll pick up my Bible.  I’ll remind myself of my great God who has orchestrated amazing things throughout history and who will beautifully orchestrate my life and the lives of my children.  I just need to BE STILL and BE QUIET and BE READY!

Life in the Back Row

ImageThere are things that bring back very vivid memories for me…some painful some not.

This evening I was playing through some praise music I found in my organizing spree and I began to play “Mighty to Save.”

Everyone needs compassion

Love that’s never failing

Let mercy fall on me

Everyone needs forgiveness

The kindness of a Savior

The hope of nations

 

Savior He can move the mountains

My God is mighty to save

He is mighty to save

Forever Author of salvation

He rose and conquered the grave

Jesus conquered the grave

 

So take me as You find me

All my fears and failures

Fill my life again

I give my life to follow

Everything I believe in

Now I surrender

(Ben Fielding & Reuben Morgan, Hillsong Publishing, 2006)

It brought me back to the last Sunday I stood next to my husband in church.  We were on the last row.  That was an unusual place for us to be, way in the back.  It was okay, I wanted to be back there too.

It was a weird Sunday all the way around.

Standing back there with a clear view of all the people I’d worshiped with for years, I found myself feeling like I no longer belonged.  Only a handful of people knew the tragedy that was occurring in my family.  Most of these dear people had no idea. I felt like a sham.

A friend commented on my weight loss – she asked how I was doing it like she wanted to do it too.  I stood speechless…what could I say?  “It’s a very effective diet but I absolutely don’t recommend it.  It’s called the adultery diet…you are so full of pain there is no place for food.”

As worship began, I stood barely touching my husband.  He very clearly did not want to be there…did not want to be next to me either.  I felt helpless and hopeless.

“Mighty to Save” started.  I knew these words by heart.  This song had to be for us.  For both of us.

I inched closer to my husband and slipped my hand in his.  Although he allowed me to hold his hand, he did not hold mine back.

That summed up our marriage at that point.  I was holding tightly…with fingers grasping for any sign of warmth.  Even while I held firmly to his cold hand, I felt my palms sweating from fear of the future alone.

I sang those words begging God to make those words ours.  Love that never fails…mercy, forgiveness, kindness, hope…

Oh God please, please move mountains in my husband’s heart.  God you are mighty to save.  You are the author of my salvation.  You are the author of his salvation…please remind him of the joy of his salvation.  Jesus, you conquered the grave…Jesus, please conquer the death of my marriage.  God, take me as you find me.  Please God, I have more fears than I thought possible and the failure of my marriage is devastating me.  I give you my life, Jesus.  I give you everything I believe in…everything I have hoped in and hoped for…I surrender God.  God, please.

It would be easy to say that God did not answer that prayer, because well, He kinda didn’t.  But I surrendered to Him.  I put my trust in Him as I sang those words.

I understood that the love that never fails is His…it’s Him.  He never fails.  He had offered me mercy, kindness, forgiveness and hope in my Savior.  He did move mountains, just not the mountain in my husband’s heart.  He could have, but for some reason He chose not to…and I trust Him.  He took me as He found me – broken, hurt, bleeding, and terrified…and He filled my life again.

He has filled my life with more beauty than I could imagine.  I will not pretend that this life He has called me to is at all easy, but it is blessed.

Each day I see the blessings…each day I know the beauty of His provision…each day I sense His power sustaining me…each day I feel the depth of His love.

I wouldn’t trade where God has brought me.  I wouldn’t trade what He has done in my life.  I wouldn’t trade knowing His faithfulness for anything.

There are days when I complain and moan and groan and wail, but ultimately I know that He loves me.   He will take care of me and my children.

He is indeed mighty to save.

Do You Know How to Count?

photo (5)   I discovered today that a broken foot has one odd benefit.  I can wear socks out of the box under my bed.  It’s a box full of socks with no match, but they are ones I really like so I keep holding out hope the match will miraculously appear.  So far no luck.  (and truly I believe this is misplaced hope – it’s been years)

Today I pulled out my favorite sock and smiled at this whole box of fun socks I haven’t worn in forever. But now I get to!

Simple pleasures.

Other than the socks I’m hard-pressed to think of a benefit to this silly broken foot.

The first night I was trying to fall asleep with my cast on and pity partying with the best of them.  I pouted for a bit, but I realized I needed to pull myself together.  So I started to count my blessings…

I broke my left not my right foot so I can drive – although my oldest daughter just got her learners permit so I don’t really get to drive anymore…ever.

I didn’t break my hand so I can still work and do school.

I don’t have to have surgery.

I have great kids who help when I need it…granted I do need to holler most of the time, but I’m good at that!

And a Mama who shows up when I need her…THAT is sacrificial love to come to this nutty place!

And now, I’ve had the blessing of sweet friends who have been making me dinners for a week!  And friends who have helped with my house.  And friends who have picked up and delivered my children different places.  And friends who call and check on me. I truly am blessed.

Seriously blessed.

When I was young, my Mom and I sang a duet at church – Count Your Blessings.

“Count your blessings name them one by one and you’ll be surprised to see what God has done…”

Recently someone sent me those lyrics too!  I love that song.

I think it’s a beautiful thing – because we absolutely see God’s love, provisions, and protection when we start paying attention.

Today in my Bible study I saw a slightly different use of the word count.  I was reading Philippians 3 and I was so struck by these verses:

But whatever gain I had I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.  Indeed I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.  For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness form God that depends on faith – that I may know him and the power of his resurrection and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.  Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.  Philippians 3:7-12

In some ways it is more a count the cost thing… not a count the blessings.  But the cool thing is that in counting the cost Paul recognizes that the cost is nothing compared to Christ – the ultimate Blessing.  Oh I love that!

I wish I lived like that!  I wish I was more like Paul… more like Paul in things like this, not the thorn in the side (got that), not in the doing what I don’t want to do (yup got that) and not doing what I want to do (got that too).  I want the “to live is Christ, to die is gain” thing.  I want to live like a truly know, believe, get, want, have the understanding that everything fades in comparison to Christ.

I’m getting there.  Gosh, I think sometimes I’m 10 steps back 8 steps forward 14 steps back 9 steps forward.  I think the good thing is that I’m still moving forward – I believe that is wholly a God thing.  God pursues me and loves me back again and again and again…and each time I’m even more grateful, even more in awe of Him.

There are things that I can count as blessings and there are things I can count as costs of following Christ.  Some blessings are surprisingly good and some costs are significantly painful, but I know that Christ is worth it all.  He always has been and always will be.

ImageTonight we dragged our tree out…well, I should say my oldest son and his friend dragged it out…leaving a trail of needles and water behind. Contributing to the messiness of my floor.

Today my floor has been an issue.

A neighbor stopped by unexpectedly.  As we stood in my kitchen all I could think about was all the stuff out, the general disarray of our home at that moment, and all the crumbs and such all over the floor,

I desperately wanted to ask her to leave and come back in 20 minutes.

I didn’t.

But oh did I want to.

I was trying to pick up things unobtrusively…sneak things off the counter, put things in the sink, push things into drawers, pick up a larger crumb on the floor.  I’m sure she could see my furtive attempts to clear the clutter.

I don’t know this neighbor well so she rarely sees the inside of my house.  But I believe I can safely say that EVERY time she stops by some sort of tornado has struck…well, 6 tornados – me included.

Today was one of those days.  It was back to school for my kids – both homeschooled and public schooled – and educational paraphernalia was strewn all over the counter, table, and foyer.

I began a new program to become certified to teach and earn my Masters in education so I have to admit that I contributed to the school stuff everywhere.

Calendars, bills, and other documents were stacked on a stool near the kitchen table because there was no room on the table.

My son had started a drawing project in the family room and paper had slid off the sofa onto the floor.

My youngest daughter had laid out Candy Land for us to play after dinner.  (She beat me! 3 times!!!)

Oven buzzers were sounding and pots were bubbling on the stovetop.

Sitting between the pantry and laundry room doors were 2 baskets of clean laundry waiting to be taken upstairs.

The only good thing about my house was there were no dishes in the sink – and that, my friends, is a miracle!

This unexpected visit was not one of my finer examples of hospitality…at least in the sense of my home being ready.

I love having people over and enjoy welcoming them into our pandemonium.  But sometimes… sometimes I want a little fair warning!

It’s okay though.  Just my pride being a bit wounded.

Why I think my sticky counters, cluttered tables, or messy floors would shock anyone, especially my neighbors, is beyond me.  Honestly, we are kind of like the Beverly Hillbillies of the neighborhood.  I feel like we should have their theme song blaring when we drive down the street.   (Hey!  I bet my teenagers would love that!)

When I pull into the driveway I have children climbing out of windows and/or falling over each other to get out of the same door.  And the number of odds and ends that tumble out of my car at any given stopping point is staggering.  My car is a giant purse…full of children, paper, shoes and goodness knows what else!

Where am I going with this blog?

Actually when I started this blog I was going to write about sweeping the floor – specifically the tree needles and some grapes that were dropped.

I was thinking how the needles, although everywhere, were quite easy to sweep up…kind of like all the mundane issues of life.  Those things that aren’t surprising or particularly difficult, but they seem to be everywhere.  They take up time and energy, but they are doable.

Then there are the things like grapes.  Grapes…ugh.  I can’t tell you how frustrating it was to try to sweep up those silly grapes.  They went everywhere but where I wanted them to go.

Those little buggers can roll fast and far!

I could have leaned over and picked them up individually, but I didn’t have the energy to do it.  (long, long day)  I just wanted them to go nicely into the dustpan.

But nope.  They went every which way.  Unfortunately I couldn’t leave them lying about because grapes are magnets for feet.  And squashed grapes are even more work…sticky work.  My house is sticky enough thank you very much!

I don’t know why I thought about the needles and the grapes…or why it struck me that it was so much like my life.  Maybe I’m over thinking things…totally possible.  I’m pretty tired.

But what I realized is that God equips me to handle both things.

Those needles are like the plethora of monotonous things that occur in any given day…like dirty dishes, cluttered counters, messy floors, loads and loads of laundry, and neighbors that stop by unexpectedly on a particularly messy day.  But they are all things that God gives me the grace to handle if I will rest in Him each day.

Part of that resting is finding my identity in Him rather than the state of me, my home, my children, my finances, my education, my work, my relationships, my marriage/divorce, my health…all of that is not defining.

I am defined by Christ!

And then there are the grapes…the things that roll around your life and cause trouble.

They roll in with things like dealing with our ex-spouses or struggles with our children’s behaviors, financial worries or household issues, health crises or work concerns…you can probably add your own grapes to that list.

And there are bigger grapes that spin everywhere, are impossible to catch, and often just end up squashed on the floor.  These things are bigger things…heart issues, agonies that bring us to our knees, struggles and sorrows that linger, hurts that seem to take forever to heal…I’m sure you know what I mean.

Those are some whopping big grapes.  But thankfully our God is bigger than any grape…large or small.

Needles or grapes all need to end up in the same place…and so do all our troubles and struggles and annoyances.

It’s a little hard at this point to continue my analogy perfectly because I’m going to have to equate a dustpan to the Lord, so maybe I’ll mix it up a bit and say this:

All our stuff needs to end up in the dustpan of faith and handed over to our Heavenly Father.

There is no amount of life messiness that God can’t handle.  And He’s willing to handle it all.

I’m more than happy to hand the broom and dustpan to Him…I’m tired of cleaning anyway.

If I trust Him to take care of all those things, I can be peaceful no matter the state of my home.  And that means that when people stop by I can rest assured that even if my house seems a bit muddled, I will not.  I will be calm and able to focus not on my house, but my guest.

If I trust Him, when the pains and sorrows of this life seem too much to bear I can find solace in His Word, peace in His presence, and comfort with His people.

So sweep those needles and grapes toward Jesus and let Him deal with them all!  His dustpan is big enough.

I don’t know if that string of thoughts exactly works, but I hope that it blesses you in some way – even if it’s just a smile at my attempt to spiritualize a messy floor.

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

No 3-2-1…Our Missing 3 Seconds

Image

For the past several years my kids and I have celebrated New Year’s Eve with snacks, sparkling cider, and movies.  We always have a great time hanging out together and New Year’s Eve is no different!

This past year (all of 3 days ago!) we rang in the New Year in the same way.  Although I was also busy baking cookies for a get together on New Year’s Day and we were dog sitting two large, rambunctious chocolate labs…so it was a little bit rowdier than usual.  🙂

My oldest son picked the movie, I popped the popcorn, and we all snuggled down for a good laugh.  It ended with 15 minutes til midnight.  We poured our sparkling cider…actually this year we did Italian soda…and prepared to countdown to 2014!

10 – 9 – 8 – 7 – 6 – 5 – 4…

And then our TV gave the message that the DVR was set to record two programs at once and which did we want to cancel.  We all gasped and two of my kids raced to fix it.

Unfortunately their fixes cancelled each other out and the TV switched to a totally different show.

By the time we were back to the right channel all we saw lots of strangers smooching!

Instantly there were sighs and groans and blaming…it was Zach’s fault for messing with the remote, it was Peter’s fault for jumping up and pressing buttons on the box, it was Emma’s fault for scheduling her show…thankfully I remained unscathed by the guilt-throwing!

This whole missing the last 3 numbers in the countdown was pretty funny.  I have to admit.  We laughed a lot about it.  The idea that we missed those 3 seconds…of all seconds to miss.  I mean we didn’t actually miss them because we lived through them, but we did miss the acknowledgement of them and it was certainly anti-climactic to not say, “Happy New Year!!!” at just the right time!

I’m trying to figure out what the lesson for the New Year is in this wacky start?  Maybe be ready for the unexpected?  Or don’t take things too seriously?  Or don’t schedule so much at one time?  Or be kind to one another?  Or blaming is banned?  Or don’t sweat the small stuff…like 3 seconds?  Or enjoy every second?

I guess I’d say, ENJOY EVERY SECOND…the ones you acknowledge and the ones you just live!

Be there…be where you are.

Be with your children…not worrying about them or how they are going to get through the day (or the next 3 seconds)…but trusting that God can handle these next 3 seconds and the next 3 million as well.

Be with yourself…that sounds a little wonky, but I mean that we take time to rest, to care for ourselves, to spend time with friends and family, and to do those things that bless us (like reading, running, sewing, writing, or playing an instrument…whatever you enjoy!)  That we take 3 minutes to be by ourselves.

Be with God…talking to Him, reading His word, and praising Him.  It’s easy at this place in our lives to spend more time wrestling with Him about everything, rather than trusting that He’s going to handle it all in His perfect way and perfect timing and with the perfect love He has for us.

So right now…I’m going to stop being with my computer and instead I’m going to go be with my kids!  It’s freezing cold outside and there is ice everywhere but they want to play in the snow and I best put on my mittens and join them! Brrrr…..

God bless you this New Year and may every second be filled with an awareness of how loved you are!

Do You Transition Well?

christmas tree

It’s been five years and still I struggle with transitions.

I would have thought by now there’d be no problem whatsoever when my ex-husband picked up our children.

And yet…there is

There is no conflict between him and me…no issues of arguing or glaring or anything…it’s just the transition.

It’s not like I even think about it.  It just IS awkward.

And tonight was no different.

My ex-husband is often late and no matter how hard I try to get my kids organized there is always a measure of chaos when he arrives.

Even though he’s late we can’t seem to be ready.

Tonight was no exception.

Let me set up the scene for the disaster.

It was our only night for my children and me to decorate our tree together because of school, work and bedtime schedules.  And because it was their night with their dad we had about an hour to do it.

I was ready.  Dinner was made.  All the boxes of decoration had been brought up.  The stage was set for a lovely hour of decorating.

And we had a lot of fun even though not all the children were excited to be decorating.  My 7 year old escaped outside to play with the neighbors, my 12 year old had a very difficult time getting his face away from his IPod, and my 16 year old lasted about 15 minutes before she needed food.  It ended up being my 6 year old and me decorating with my 19 year old keeping us entertained.  A tad goofy but still good!

As our hour to decorate became an hour and a half, my little girls worried they were going to miss a special math and science event at their school.  They’d been talking about it for weeks.  I should probably have just taken them on time, but we had so much to do and I thought they would enjoy doing it with their dad.

When their dad did arrive, it seemed like everything just fell apart…including me.

My oldest daughter was up in her room doing her hair and makeup.  A bit on the bad timing side of things and absolutely unnecessary – she’s beautiful.

My shoeless middle son was frantically looking for his IPod which my oldest son had hidden (with my blessing).

My 7 year old was ready and at her father’s car almost before it stopped.  She wanted to get to school fast!  They were already 45 minutes late.

My 6 year old was shoeless and decided to redo her hair…only she can’t redo her hair.  She’s at the age where she can mess it up really well but absolutely not fix it.

Then my 7 year old came back in because the tinfoil hat she needed to wear to the school event was tearing.  She was close to tears.

As I was searching for tape to fix the hat, I glanced around and realized that my teenagers hadn’t done any of the things I’d asked them to do.

It just seemed like everything went kablooey.

I know I’m probably not sufficiently portraying the level of chaos in those few moments, but I figure you can catch the “feel” of the house regardless of my poor description.

Everyone going in different directions, lots of emotions, and dad waiting in the driveway.

I just wish I could keep calm, cool, and collected.  (Well, cool might be a stretch…at least according to my teenagers! :)!!)

I got annoyed with my youngest pulling all her hair clippies out.  I was frustrated that the few things I’d asked my middle son and high school daughter to do had not been done.  I was disappointed that my daughter went to do her hair and watch Netflix in her bedroom instead of staying downstairs with us, and she still wasn’t ready! I was a little miffed that my ex-husband was late and that meant the girls had missed half of the school event.  I was just a hot mess.

And I didn’t hide it. I oozed hot mess on everyone.

I don’t want to send my kids off with fussiness.  I hate that!

It isn’t always this way, but more often than I want, to be sure.

I just don’t know what exactly it is except that maybe it’s simply that I hate being divorced.  I hate sharing my children.

I miss evenings together.  I miss looking forward to my husband arriving home from work.  I miss family dinners and bedtimes together.  I miss going together to their school events and concerts.  I miss celebrating birthdays and holidays together. I miss so many things.

I hate that my children’s father isn’t here to decorate the tree with them.  To hold our youngest up to put ornaments on the highest branches.  To sip hot cocoa and eat cookies.  I miss Christmas shopping together for our children.  I miss Christmas Eve services and Christmas morning together.  I miss hosting a Christmas party together.  I miss caroling.  I miss it all.  All the togetherness.

Maybe the nights when he arrives in the driveway it’s just a reminder of all those things that are now gone.

And maybe we all get a little wonky because it just isn’t right.  The whole thing is just awfully wrong.

Children aren’t supposed to have to go back and forth between parents.  They are supposed to be with both of us!

I’m so grieved just thinking about it.

And yet here I sit, all pitiful and sad, looking at our beautiful tree and decorations, and I’m struck by how truly blessed I am.  Who every said life was going to be perfect…or even close to perfect?  Nobody.

It might just be that there will always be a little touch of sadness to everything even the joyful things.
mantle #1
And maybe that is also just life on earth…this world is not our home.

This world…hmmmm…that makes me think about Christ coming here…leaving perfection to come to this sinful, sorrowful place.  How He became a man of many sorrows, acquainted with grief (Isaiah 53:3) for us.

Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteem him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.  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 53:4-5

It’s so easy to get overwhelmed by this life, isn’t it?  To focus on all the things that are amiss.  I can so easily get caught up in the things that aren’t going my way, and I can stay there for quite a while.  But we have a great Savior who wants to walk this life with us…who wants to carry our burdens.

We have a savior that didn’t just come here to change our eternity.  He came here to change our daily.  He came to give us all that we need to live a life of hope and joy right here – to live each day with us.

He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.  Isaiah 40:11

The Lord offers us strength and guidance.

…fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.  Isaiah 41:10

Jesus doesn’t just want to help with the transitions, He wants to give us all that we need in every moment…and all that we need is Him!

Just as God delivered His people repeatedly, he has delivered us through the birth, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus! We have a blessed hope and reason for great joy!

For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth in singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.  Isaiah 55:12

Just reading those scriptures and all the others I glanced at while looking for them, has put my heart and mind in a completely different place.  I feel a great hope welling up in me.  A hope that even though this life is not and never will be exactly what I want it to be, God is going to make it something beautiful…even in the transitions.

Well this post didn’t go in the direction I thought it would.  I was just planning on saying that this season is a time to reflect on the hope and peace we have in Christ.  And God led me in a bit of a different direction!  I love when He does that.

I hope my stream-of-consciousness writing today blesses you.  And I pray that we will all have the perspective of peace and joy this day and everyday as we remind ourselves repeatedly of the beauty of the gospel!  Of the glorious intrusion of God into our world, our lives, our very selves.

Of a Savior who gladly gave up glory for grief to save his beloved children.

Oh Lord, please help us have the right perspective on this life.  There is so much to be joyful about.

Father, just look at those 5 beautiful children you’ve given me!  And I have a beautiful Christmas tree, a kitchen full of food, a pretty dependable car in the driveway, clothes for all my children, heat in my house, my house!, toys to trip over (could stand to have a few less of those) and friends and family who love us.

Not to mention this wonderful season of hope!  Thank you Father!  This is a time to remember the blessings – to not get all wiggy about the bad stuff…the difficult stuff…the challenging stuff…the disappointing stuff.

I do wiggy really well.  I need to do peaceful really well.

Lord, please help us find Your peace in the craziness and challenges and disappointments.  Father, you love us so much and we know that you are going to work through all this difficult stuff…even though at times we can’t imagine how.  Thank you that we can trust you.  And thank you for the hope of this Christmas season.  And thank you for our sweet Savior Jesus!

nativity #1

Hope and a Pipe Stand

pipe #2It was just a very full pipe stand.

My first thought was how much they reminded me of my Dad…my second was, “Ewwww…that’s kinda gross…think of the mouths that have been on those!” (ever the mother)

Recently I went antique shopping with a friend.  I love looking at all the beautiful things, the knick-knacks, and the oddities of by-gone eras.  It’s very much a treasure hunt.

It’s a joy to meander through packed little shops filled with old jugs that remind me of the hillbilly band The Darlings on The Andy Griffith Show, teacups and pots that make me want to host a tea party as soon as possible, furniture that I know would look lovely in my home, and musty, yellowed books that are just begging to be read again.

Shopping this time seemed more somber.  Every shop offered a reminder of my dad.  A pipe, some Army paraphernalia, an antique clock ticking and donging, a toy car, history books, and it seemed like a hundred other things.

I didn’t feel like sitting down and weeping.  I just felt a little bit heavy-hearted.

Until the past couple of years I wouldn’t have ever used the word melancholy to describe myself.

I think I would now.

At least this particular definition:  “Sober thoughtfulness; pensiveness” (Dictionary.com)

That’s better than the few months after my husband left when I could be found weeping at stoplights and crying in my closet.

Now it’s more of a sigh.  It’s healing from deep sorrow.

The loss of my husband and my father…of my marriage and life as I knew it has been so so so difficult.

There was a time when I just wanted to replace the missing piece in my family.  Just find a godly man and plug him in!  That’d be the perfect solution to my problem.  Insta-fix.

There is no instant fix to this life.  We cannot always regain what was lost.  In divorce or death there is no going back to life before sorrow and its effects.

But there is moving forward.

There is hope.

Hope is a funny word.

Sometimes my hope is lacking.

Hopeless hope.  Know what I mean?

Hoping but not believing.

I thought maybe that was a crazy thing until I looked up hope in Lawrence O. Richards, Expository Dictionary of Bible Words.  The author said that when we use the word hope we usually mean something wavering and doubtful.  That’s exactly what I mean!

But the Bible doesn’t ever use the word hope in an uncertain way.  Our hope is not in things here but the certainty of future things.  We can be encouraged, blessed, and comforted by the beautiful life to come.

But meanwhile there’s this life…pipe #1

I believe maybe the problem is that I’m not hoping in the right thing?

I’m hoping that my circumstances will change.  Hoping that I will change.  Hoping that my kids will change.  Hoping that people who have disappointed me will change.

Hoping in restoration.  Hoping in a fix.

I’m thinking my definition of hope is not exactly right so I looked up hope.

There are a fair number of verses with the word hope in them and reading them was convicting.

I wrote down most of them, all but 2 I think.  God has shown me some things about hope.

He is my hope and the focus of my hope.

For you, O Lord, are my hope, my trust, O LORD, from my youth  Psalm 71:5

Are there any among the false gods of the nations that can bring rain?  Or can the heavens give showers?  Are you not he, O LORD our God?  We set our hope on you, for you do all these things.  Jeremiah 14:22

For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.  1 Timothy 4:10

 Though he slay me, I will hope in him; yet I will argue my ways to his face.”  Job 13:15

I just had to include that last part…because it’s me.  Right now I’m a big arguer with God.  Job was a mess and Job’s life was a mess – and even though he understood God could be trusted he still struggled with the way things were…with his circumstances.

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering for he who promised is faithful.  Hebrew 10:23

My hope is for now and later.

 But I will hope continually and I 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.  Psalm 71:14-15

He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us.
On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again.  2 Corinthians 1:10

My hope is centered in Jesus

Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.  1 Peter 1:13

He who was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.  1 Peter 1:20-21

Even though hope is something I don’t think I’ve completely grasped, I sure love it!

Hope!!!

How can you not smile when you think of hope!?!

I pray that God will give us a vision of what we have in Him…what a hope we have for His strength to keep us, His wisdom to guide us, His love to comfort and heal us, and His blessings to well…bless us!

And of what a glorious inheritance He has for us and what a beautiful eternal home He is preparing us!

Now that’s something to hope in!

Next time I’m antiquing I’m going to think about the honorable life my father lived and the beautiful place he is now!

How we’ll share heaven together!

And when the circumstances of this life get me down, I’ll remind myself that there is hope…even if I don’t necessarily feel it, I KNOW it!

That’s hopeful hope!

MY HOPE IS BUILT

by Edward Mote

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly trust in Jesus’ Name.

 On Christ the solid Rock I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand;
All other ground is sinking sand.

When darkness seems to hide His face,
I rest on His unchanging grace.
In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the veil.

His oath, His covenant, His blood,
Support me in the whelming flood.
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my Hope and Stay.

 When He shall come with trumpet sound,
Oh may I then in Him be found.
Dressed in His righteousness alone,
Faultless to stand before the throne.

Me and My Stuff at His Feet

Harvest timeA few years ago I gave my testimony at church and sang the Casting Crown’s song, “At His Feet.” It fit so well with where God had brought me.

He had brought me to a good place.

But I’ve stepped away from that place many times carrying what I should have laid at His feet.

I tend to put things at His feet and then take them back again and again and again…

It’s not that I don’t trust Him…although sometimes it seems that way.
It’s not that I really believe I can do it better…although it seems that way at times too.
It’s not that I really want the burdens…although…well, it does seem that way too.

Honestly, I’m not sure what my deal is…but whatever my deal is it’s absolutely annoying.

Recently, I was reading the story of Ruth. What a beautiful story of redemption. I wish I could recount the whole thing here with all its glorious layers, but I’m just going to implore you to read it for yourself. It’s the 8th book in the Old Testament.

But just so you understand what God impressed upon me I’ll share a short version…Ruth’s story begins when she and her mother-in-law, Naomi, leave Moab to return to Bethlehem. Ruth and Naomi, both widows, are penniless and without protection. Naomi sends Ruth out to glean barley in the fields of Boaz, her relative. Boaz takes note of the hard-working, kind Ruth and makes sure she gathers plenty of food each day. At the end of the barley season, Naomi instructs Ruth to appeal to Boaz as her kinsman-redeemer. Naomi tells her to uncover his feet while he is sleeping and lay at them until he wakes. Ruth obeys Naomi’s wishes. And when Boaz awakes and finds her at his feet, she says, “Spread your wings over your servant, for you are a redeemer.” In the end, Boaz marries Ruth and they have a son, Obed, who becomes the grandfather of King David and in the lineage of Christ!

Boaz is Ruth’s kinsman-redeemer.

“The kinsman-redeemer is a male relative who, according to various laws of the Pentateuch, had the privilege or responsibility to act on behalf of a relative who was in trouble, danger, or in need. The Hebrew term (go el) for kinsman-redeemer designates one who delivers or rescues (Genesis 48:16; Exodus 6:6) or redeems property or person (Leviticus 27:9-25, 25:47-55). The kinsman who redeems or vindicates a relative is illustrated most clearly in the book of Ruth, where the kinsman-redeemer is Boaz.” (http://www.gotquestions.org/kinsman-redeemer.html#ixzz2blMt0Twr)

What I love, even more than the story of Ruth, is my story!

I have met my Kinsman-Redeemer. I have laid at His feet, in my poverty and trouble. I have asked that He cover me with His robe. And He lovingly has covered me with His righteous robe, released me from the bonds of poverty and death, and taken me as His bride.

Jesus is my Kinsman-Redeemer.

It’s so poignant to me…this story…this picture of His love.

God tells us the story of Ruth to show us how He wants to be to us. He wants us to lie down at His feet and allow Him to protect us, save us and redeem us. He wants us to trust that He will provide for us.

What struck me while reading Ruth was this…

God doesn’t just want me to lay down my issues, troubles, problems, challenges, and worries at His feet (although that is very good to do), God wants ME to lie down at His feet.

He doesn’t just want to take care of stuff in my life…He wants to take care of My Life…of ME!

I know it’s a bit of a “duh” thing…I mean I know that God wants me to give Him myself…but for some reason God powerfully reminded me of that truth.

I wonder what that looks like…laying down at His feet?

Is it as simple as waking up each morning and taking the time to pray to Him? To speak aloud all that He has done for me? To pray without ceasing?

Is it recognizing that I’m a living sacrifice to Him…living a life worthy of my calling as a Christian…a Christ follower?
Is it loving others? Is it trusting Him even when I don’t really know the answer or understand what’s happening?

Is it believing He is who He says He is…my Savior, Messiah, Redeemer, and Friend?

Yes…Yes…Yes…Yes…Yes…YES!!!

It’s really preaching the gospel to myself. I read this recently:

“Whatever progress we make in our Christian lives – whatever going onward, whatever pressing forward – the direction will always be deeper into the gospel, not apart from it, or aside from it. Growth in the Christian life is the process of receiving Christ’s “It is finished” into new and deeper parts of our being every day, and it happens as the Holy Spirit daily carries God’s good word of justification into our regions of unbelief – what one writer calls our “unevangelized territories.” Tullian Tchividjian “Jesus + Nothing = Everything”

I used to think that the preaching the gospel to myself thing was just reminding myself every day that I was saved…but it’s so much more.

It’s reminding myself everyday who I am because of who He is. It’s taking my thoughts captive for Christ because His thoughts of me are beautiful and holy and loving…mine often are not. It’s reminding myself that I’m a great sinner in need of a great Savior and He has got that covered! He’s done it all…there is nothing left for me to do except be all that I am in Him!

He is my Kinsman-Redeemer. He has bought me with Himself and for Himself. He has taken me away from the sin and death that threatened me and made me His beloved.

He’s my Redeemer…I’m His beloved.

Each day I will lay myself at His feet trusting that He has me covered … me and my life!