Where is My Peace?

autumn trail

Where does the time go?  I can’t remember the last time I could sit down and put thoughts to paper.

Things are just too busy.  Each season seems to be busier than the last.  I keep thinking the next season will slowdown…..apparently it isn’t coming anytime soon.

God has blessed me with a wonderful job teaching and a part-time job helping a friend’s business and its been soccer season and there are gymnastic classes and dance classes and, well honestly, just a lot of driving.   

I’ve wanted to write probably more because I need it than anyone else wants to read it, but I’m determined to write something because there is so very much swirling around in my brain.

The other day my sweeties spent some time with their father which provided a great opportunity to get a lot done around the house and even clean out my purse and the car (my bigger purse).  It felt wonderful to cross some things off the to do list.

I took a little break from my organizing adventure to play the piano and sing a few tunes. I’d been humming “It is Well With My Soul” (Horatio Spafford) pretty much the whole day, so I turned to page 691 and sang the words to my very favorite hymn. I realized something as I sang.  It was profound and convicting and it grew with each verse I voiced.. 

“When peace like a river attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll; whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say, “It is well, it is well with my soul.”

I thought do I really believe that?  Do I feel that?  Do I know that?  

Right now, at this point in my not-peaceful-feeling life, I don’t know if I do.  I hate to admit that because I know with my head that God wants me to have peace, but I struggle to believe I deserve it.  And I know that it isn’t about deserving it, but it feels like it should be.  

Being a single parent is challenging, but sometimes I think I’ve made it worse by my decisions, struggles, and sins.  It feels like I should have to make up for all my mistakes and sins somehow in order to get peace.  Why should I have peace right now?  

Sometimes I feel like I’m just making the same mistakes again and again and again.  I’m embarrassed to ask for forgiveness because I kinda assume God is saying what I sometimes say to my children…

“Really?  Because I’m pretty sure we had this same conversation yesterday.  And you are still doing the same thing over and over and over again.”  

But He is a much better parent than me.  Much better.  Perfect.

I wish I could parent like Him…that MY mercies for my children were new every morning…sometimes they are…a little bit…

Maybe I don’t really get this whole grace thing as much as I should.  Maybe its because life hasn’t gotten easier as I’ve walked this single parent path, but in some ways it has gotten more difficult, exhausting, and just down right overwhelming.  

Do I doubt God’s goodness?  Do I doubt that He really cares?  Do I doubt that God is going to provide?  

I want to type, “Absolutely not!”  But I guess I really need to think about that.  

Me.  The “preach-the-gospel-to-yourself” girl is absolutely not saying a single word about the gospel to myself.

Instead I’ve been speaking, thinking, and whispering condemnation and hopelessness to myself.  It’s a shift in me that has happened ever so slowly.  I’ve gone from knowing that God is good, He loves me no matter what, and His peace is available to me…to this woman who barely feels like she is clinging to her faith.  

Clinging to my faith is good.  Clinging in desperation because it feels tenuous…is that good?

As I ponder what I’ve just written I realize I’ve said “I feel” an awful lot.  Probably not the best way to view life…through my feelings.  So let me remind myself what I know…

I know who I am…

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.  1 Peter 2:9-10

I know God forgives…

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

I know there is no condemnation…

So I find this law at work:  Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me.  For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me.  What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body at work within me.  What a wretched man I am!  Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?  Thanks be to God who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!  So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.  Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.  Romans 7:21-8:2

I know there is hope for the future.

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.  Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it.  But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 3:12-14

There is more.  

There are more truths I know, but right now that is what I need to remind myself.

I may indeed have peace, not because I’m perfect, but because He is.

I might not feel that I deserve peace, but if I’m honest I don’t deserve anything God has given me.

Peace is not dependent on me or on my circumstances.  It is the peace of God that surpasses all understanding.. It is peace that guards our hearts and minds. (Philippians 4:6-7) It is the peace of knowing that we have nothing to fear…no worries worth fretting about…our present and our future are secure in the hands of God.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.  John 14:27

Because of Jesus, it IS well with my soul.

I’m humming a few bars that go something like this…

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come, Let this blest assurance control, That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate, And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

My sin—oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!—My sin, not in part but the whole, Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more, Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live: If Jordan above me shall roll, No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul. 

But, Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait, The sky, not the grave, is our goal; Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord! Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul!

And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight, The clouds be rolled back as a scroll; The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend, Even so, it is well with my soul. 

The Rest of the Story…or Running Away

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yup.  Ran for his life…afraid of Jezebel.  

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

And then Elijah does this…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

What’s Wrong with Happy?

flowers for joyLast week I had the most wonderful time sitting at a picnic table studying God’s word, journaling, and writing some.  It was quiet and peaceful. I felt inspired.

I had such a blessed time writing more than I have in months, and guess what?  Not one document was saved…not one.  Technology and me….ugh.

I was wondering if maybe the Lord wasn’t keen on what I had written?  Or maybe I needed to consider it more…delve deeper into what God is revealing to me before I write.

I’m not sure the reason, but I’m starting over nonetheless.

This summer has been one of regrets.  I’ve made some decisions that I thought would be good, but weren’t.  My intentions were good, but the outcome was bad.  And, I wish I could change things, but I can’t.  I can only look back and learn…move forward wiser.

I’ve spent the last several days looking back…considering things and praying that God would help me see what needs to be seen.

He is faithful.  

I’m seeing how desperate I am for affirmation, security, and love.  

Desperate.

In my quest to fill these needs (wrongly), I’ve sought them all by trying to make others happy at any cost.  My children, my family, my friends.  

For the past few years friends have admonished me about this issue of trying to make everyone happy.  I have scoffed at them.  What could possibly be wrong with wanting others to be happy?  

Well, I’ve discovered a fair amount.  Because, honestly, I don’t want other people to be happy because I love them so much, I want them to be happy because I want them to like/love me.  I want them to value me.  I want them to be pleased with me.  I want them to affirm me.  

That was a lightning bolt to my heart.  

It hurts and reverberates through my whole self.  

Lord, really?  I’m like THAT?

And then I consider how annoyed I get with my children after I’ve done a thousand things for them in a day.  How frustrated and angry I can feel at not being helped in my quest for their happiness.

My motives are all wrong.

And the results are all wrong.

You’d think after all this time I’d have figured out that my efforts at making people happy often have the opposite effect.

Probably because I’m doing it not out of love or a true desire to make life better, but out of my own need and want and fear and insecurity.

My need.

Not theirs.

I saw it even yesterday with my youngest daughter.  

I get so frustrated with her asking for things (constantly) and instead of dealing with her heart issue, I spew forth evidence of mine.  I give her lists of what I’ve done for her, what I’ve given her, and tell her how ungrateful she is.

Wow.  Way to ruin any thing at all I’ve done to love her well.  

I just made it all about me.  Again.

So now that I know this about myself…what do I do?  How do I change?  I mean really.  

It’s so easy to be resolved sitting here on my sofa when everyone is asleep…but in a few minutes the chaos begins and my efforts to please will be in full swing.  And I’ll do it happily for most of the day, but then, as I do every single day, I’ll hit the wall of weariness and feel tired, taken advantage of and testy.  And I’ll stop being a mom that cares about anyone else’s happiness…honestly, not even my own.  Because at that point, I just want peace at any cost…which very rarely is a result of my words and facial expressions and actions.

Oh dear.  

Lord, what’s the first step?

There are practical things I could do…like a plan for the day, a chore chart (‘cause those have always worked great, said me never), eking out time for me to relax (alone or with my kids)…

There are spiritual things I could do…like pray, study Scripture, and seek counsel, but I kind of want more, Lord…is that wrong?  

I’ve read so many books about prayer lately…formulas, cards, closets, strategies…they have all left me feeling more confused and ineffective in my prayer life.  

How do I become the prayer warrior I’ve always wanted to be?  I think maybe this is the first area I figure out in my happiness quest.  Because I’m always trying to figure out the magic formula for prayer that will make God (and me) happy.  I want Him to be very pleased with my prayers.  

I know those strategies and such work for others, but I can’t wrap my brain around them. In some ways, they are an hindrance to my prayer life.  I get so caught up in doing it just the right way, that I barely do it.

So I’m just going to start praying.

Just going to pray throughout the day…as I begin each new task or start any project or do anything at all…that God will reveal the attitude of my heart, my motivation.  That He will remind me of who I am so I am not so desperate for affirmation apart from Him.  And that He will show me how to truly love my family and friends, and even myself.  

My hope is that I will no longer be seeking to make everyone happy, but rather that I will be seeking to love others well.  

And sometimes loving someone well doesn’t have anything at all to do with making them happy.  

Nothing is wrong with happy, but maybe happy just needs to be a result of being loved well.

And maybe reminding myself that I am indeed loved very well by my Father will make me the happiest…and that can spill over my children, family, and friends. 

What Sized Task Are You Dealing With?

IMG_0485

Do any of you feel like you are living in a world of God-sized tasks?

I feel like I am.

In fact, recently while dealing with a rather big issue in my life, I was again reminded of the God-sized task world that seems to be mine.

Unfortunately, right now the biggest God-sized task is a financial one. I hate financial things. That’s why I majored in English – I was sure to not have to work with numbers. Seriously, financial stuff is apparently not my gifting, but oh how I want it to be.

My financial situation hit me full in the face a few weeks ago.  That night, I had a mini-nervous breakdown  and a few days later figured out a plan that seemed like the answer to prayer. It was going to work beautifully. I was thrilled, excited, beyond blessed.

But…

why is there always a but?

A mere week later something happened that changed my financial plan significantly. My great plan went up in smoke…poof. And with it went my hope to ever be in a better place. So frustrating.

Money is one of the things in my life that cause the most fear and anxiety.   I feel like I should be able to do this financial thing better. I should be able to make this work. In fact, I’m horribly embarrassed to share this with you. I have shared the intimate details with only a few and that hasn’t come without regrets.  I’m praying that sharing what God is showing me through this will be a blessing to someone and I will have no regrets.

Its difficult to share something you feel like a failure at…something that is such a ridiculous challenge. I feel like it shouldn’t be such a challenge. Why is it Lord?

Today I was speaking to my sweet sister, sharing my struggle and praying with her. And I realized something – I had put my hope in my own ability to figure it out, develop and implement a plan.  I had given myself a sense of peace because I saw that I had the ability to fix things. I didn’t need anyone or anything…all me! I was going to get this done. I wasn’t going to ask for nothing from nobody! And someday I could say to anyone who asked that I had overcome this huge Sue-sized task.

But

(there it is again)

But God wants me to see Him do it. God wants me to know that it is Him and only Him. It is indeed a God-sized task.

Writing this now reminds me of the story of Gideon in Judges 7. “The Lord said to Gideon, “The people with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand, lest Israel boast over me, saying, “My own hand has saved me.” (v. 2)

Oh dear…that does sound a bit like me. I have all of a sudden realized that I really want to say that I have done it. The I have successfully navigated this mess of a financial situation. I have figured it, conquered it, overcome it.

I don’t need anyone to help me, thank you very much.

All me. All amazing, smart, savy Sue.

Yeah…not so much.

Not that a plan and a vision are bad…I think it is the heart in which it is developed and implemented. My heart was all pride.

God again is showing me that my life is about Him…about relying on Him, about trusting Him, about watching Him work, provide and love me in ways I never imagined. My God is able to do far more abundantly than all that I ask or imagine, according to the power at work within me. (Ephesians 3:20)

Recently I heard someone say that all the money in the world is God’s. It’s not like He can’t provide for me and mine…and you and yours.

Finances can seem to me like the thing that God can’t do. The thing God has to do in a natural, not supernatural, way…doesn’t He have to work within the confines of what my income is and what my expenses are? Can He do something differently? Can He provide in ways I can’t imagine?

You betcha!

So today, I’m sitting here thinking…Okay God, I’m ready to give this to you. I’m ready to let you have this…I’m ready to see what you can do to fix the mess I’m in…the mess I’ve made.

Please show me what you would have me do. What opportunities should I grab hold of to help me provide for my family? Where should I focus? What is the plan?  Lord, please show me what to do.  Father, please provide a way to get out of this mess.

And even as I pray that, I wonder am I being selfish to ask? Do I deserve to be able to pray a prayer like that?

Sometimes I don’t think I even remotely grasp how much my Father loves me.  And yet, I struggle.  I wonder is this the thing that God wants me to do…to be a better steward of things? Should I just suck it up and deal with things the way they are?  Accept that this is going to be very, very difficult, but I made the mess and I have to clean it up.

No. That can’t be the way God wants me to handle this. It has to be about trusting Him to provide. It has to be about knowing that God can handle this. It has to be that He wants to show me what my Father can do to make things better…my Father specializes in God-sized tasks.

My earthly father, who is now with my Heavenly Father, was always willing to help me. I had but to ask and he was there. I miss him. I miss his advice, his wisdom, and the way he cared about me.  I know that my father would always do whatever he could to help me because he loved me. My Heavenly Father is no different. He loves me. He has the world at His fingertips…it is all His. He will take care of, provide for, and love on me.

“If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:11)

It is just something He does. He loves perfectly.

I don’t know if God will jump in to this mess with me and fix it tomorrow, or if it will be a longer process that requires patience on my part. (Oh please, please don’t let it be the patience one…please, please, please.)

There are decisions that I have to make that are dependent upon those silly financial issues. Not only do I need provision, but I need wisdom and discernment. I feel excited about this.

No longer is trepidation trampling my emotions. At least not at this moment. God has given me a fresh perspective – a hope when things look rather hopeless. A peace when a glance at my budget does anything but create peace.

Believe me, that hope and peace make no sense at all in lieu of the facts. That’s what I love about God…that and a thousand other things…that when everything seems beyond hopeless, He pours on the peace.

This overwhelmingly big God-sized task ?  I’m giving it to my Father…it’s all His.

Be Encouraged

IMG_1866Everyone has something.

You know that thing. That thing that you feel will never go away. Never be easy. Never be uncomplicated. Never be what you want it to be. Never be overcome.

I have a few somethings.

Some things I can’t figure out what to do about. Some things that baffle me. Some things that trip me up continually. Some things that I can’t figure out how to overcome.

Sometimes I feel like the somethings are not some things but rather my whole life.

Sometimes I feel like it is all one hopeless mess and there is simply no way to get on the other side.

And sometimes the other side scares me too. What if the other side is even more complicated and challenging? This side, albeit not always fun, is comfortable in a weird, familiar slightly twisted sort of way.

It sure is easy to get comfortable in uncomfortableness…why is that?

I’m not talking about content in my circumstances, I’m talking about comfortable in challenging, tempting, and maybe even sinful situations. It can feel like it is easier just to stay…easier to just hunker down in my unhealthiness. It’s hard to be strong.

Recently I found myself saying to a friend, “What does it mean to be strong in the Lord? What does that look like? What is my responsibility in that? Clearly I need to be doing something because nothing is happening right now that looks anything like me living in the strength of the Lord.”

That’s me being a bit of a petulant child and feeling a little hopeless.

That was Friday.

On Sunday, God answered me.

1 John 2:14 I write to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.

I know that I am neither a father nor a young man, but I am a mother (who sometimes needs to be the father) and I am a relatively young woman (LOL!) so I’m thinking that God had John write that verse for such a time as this, for me.

It reminded me that there is strength in remembering what God has done for me. How He has stepped into my world in ways I couldn’t imagine. Even saying that He stepped in doesn’t do it justice, because that implies that He wasn’t there from the start. He has always been with me. But occasionally His presence is so real and comforting I’m in awe of His love for me.

Strength and comfort come from remembering…from thankfulness and praise for His faithfulness in the past and the understanding that that faithfulness never ends.

And then there are John’s comforting words to the young men (and women),

1. You are strong.

2. The word of God abides in you

3. You have overcome the evil one.

It seems the key to strength lies in His word. In continually abiding in it and it in you. There are a few verses in the Bible that are testimonies to this truth…that the Word of God is power and strength and hope. Things I really would like to have when dealing with some things…well, every thing.

John 8:31-32  If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

2 Timothy 2:15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.

Psalm 119:11 I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.

Psalm 119: 28 My soul melts away for sorrow, strengthen me according to your word.

Psalm 119:92 If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction.

Psalm 119:165 Great peace have those who love your law; nothing can make them stumble.

“Nothing can make them stumble.”

Nothing.

How lovely, comforting, strengthening.

There are other verses about peace that God brings me to a bunch…

Isaiah 26:3 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.

I love those verses. How comforting it is to read the Word of God. To see the layers, the depth, the thoughtfulness of God in His word. To know that God loves me so much…that His mercy is beyond simply a judge offering mercy to an offender…it is the tender mercy of a Father offered to his child. A child who justly deserves no mercy, but receives it every time.

Every single time I come to God asking a questions…every single time…His answer is the gospel.

And every single time He uses His word to remind me.

I am strong.

I am strong because I have the Word of God and I have overcome evil because of Jesus…because of the Gospel.

(So this is the English teacher in me – but it is so cool!)  That sentence in 1 John 2:14 is written in the perfect indicative which means that these things have already happened and that’s a fact. That there is assurance that these are not just things that could happen, but that they are facts, that they have already been accomplished.

So you and I are strong already.

The word of God abides in us already.

We have overcome the evil one already.

And not because of any great accomplishment or strength on our part, but because of the great accomplishment of Christ on the cross and because of the strength of the Lord in our lives.

Jesus is the Overcomer so that I can overcome.

John 16:33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart, I have overcome the world.

There is the assurance of trouble BUT there is also the assurance of peace and overcoming. Yup. That’s pretty much what I need to hear… Trouble will come…don’t be surprised or disheartened by it. Instead, turn to Him who is your peace and be encouraged.

Be encouraged that no matter how crazy this world may be, He has got it.

Be encouraged that no matter how much you struggle and fail, He loves you and He’s got you.

Be encouraged that no matter how hopeless it might seem, He loves you and He’s got a plan.

Be encouraged that no matter how weak you feel, He can handle your life for you. He’s got your strength…it’s there for you.

Be encouraged dear one.

The God who offers his tender mercies to you, the God who calls you his precious child, the God who assures you that you are his treasured possession, bought at great price and dearly loved…this all powerful, all loving, all hope-filled, all merciful, all faithful, all everything God…this Father of ours…He loves you.

He loves you. You…in your messiness, your hopelessness, your weakness, your sinfulness, your doubt, your fear, your anxious thoughts… He loves you.

He. Loves. YOU.

He isn’t waiting for you to do some great, noble, brave task to earn his peace, or his strength, or his love. He just loves you.

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

1 John 3:10; 19 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins…We love because he first loved us.

Psalm 103:8 The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

I keep looking for ways to overcome, to change, to fix, to redo this life of mine. I keep looking for ways to be comforted, to be strengthened, to be assured…and I’ve very often not looked to the right place. God reminded me today.

This place in His word…this is the place I want to stay. This is the place where my strength is renewed and my hope is restored.

My First Book Review

A few months ago I had the privilege of being asked to write a review for a book by Shannon Upton entitled, Building Your Home:  A Faithful Mom’s Guide to Organizing Home and Family.

I love a good book on organization.  I feel like it has been my life’s goal since my first born took his first step and started mixing things up!  Five children later I’m hopelessly entangled in the never-ending endeavor of organization.

Prior to having my sweeties I was a conference planner, a profession that requires a high level of organization.  Now, I can’t seem to even give the illusion of being organized.

I have read so many organizing books that it’s highly likely I’ve read almost every one out there!  And I’ve tried many of the techniques involved.  Most recently I went through all my clothes as directed and made instant decisions.  It was so effective that I can fit every season of my wardrobe in one small closet and my dresser.  The only down side is I find I have very few things to wear!  On top of that, I did not, as the book suggested, thank my clothes for their service to me.  Apparently, I am a very ungrateful clothes wearer!

But none of these books have been quite as inspiring as this one.  This one has made me think…made me what to be what Shannon Upton calls a “Jesus Mom.”

One of the first things she wrote that grabbed me and made me want to sit down for tea with her was her story of dealing with postpartum depression (PPAD).  She tells how, during her struggle, someone shared their story of dealing with PPAD.  This is what she says, “I knew she was trying to help me feel better by letting me know that I wasn’t alone, but all it did was make my burden seem heavier-more real somehow.  She was bringing up feelings that I was trying so hard to keep under control.”

I instantly felt connected to her because I have had those moments, those interactions.  I loved her honestly.

Throughout her book, Shannon shares openly about her life while encouraging us to reevaluate and find peace in our own.  I love that she didn’t present herself as the perfect homemaker, but as someone working through all of life’s complexities and busyness…sharing the successes and struggles along the way.

Her book is about choosing to focus on Jesus first, to clear out the spiritual clutter of our lives.  “The point isn’t ‘having it all’ or even having it all together – it’s settling our spirits so we can dwell in the Lord’s peace” (p. 15).  Peace that isn’t based on perfection, but on building our homes in a way that will bring peace to our families.

Shannon warns against giving ourselves more spiritual clutter by stressing about getting organized.  Putting pressure on ourselves only takes away the peace we are hoping to choose daily.

There’s no pressure here, no hurry.  Don’t go giving yourselves even more spiritual clutter over “getting organized.”  In fact, I don’t even like that phrase.  It implies that “organized” is a place we can get to, a thing we can achieve, but it’s not.

Your home isn’t a problem to solve, it’s a set of systems to be managed.  As a Jesus Mom, you don’t want to organize your household so you can “feel at peace.”  Instead, you can choose to feel peaceful while you organize.”  (p. 25)

What a great idea!  Choosing peace.  God’s been encouraging me to choose peace a lot lately.

I’m choosing it with varying degrees of success, but success nonetheless.

What I took from this book was that managing my home is about creating a peaceful refuge for my family that exudes Christlikness.  My goal is for my home to provide me with opportunities to love the Lord well, to love my family well, and to love others well.

Shannon recommends starting with prayer.  What a wonderful way to begin – praying over our home.

Dedicating it to the Lord.  Asking for wisdom as we begin the process of organization.  Asking for a godly perspective and a spirit of contentment.  Giving thanks for all the blessings.

Then beginning.

Shannon provides some practical advice on the process and throughout encourages, inspires, and entertains with her engaging writing style.  I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and have already begun the processes Shannon recommends.

I’m taking my time and praying my way through my home. And God willing, my home will be a place of ministry, not only to my family, but to my friends, neighbors, and acquaintances.

Shake it UP

FullSizeRender (9)

I finally did what I’ve wanted to do for a long time.  I didn’t bring work home and I spent some beautiful moments thoroughly enjoying my kids.

We spent the evening together without homework, work, or chores. The best, most enjoyable thing was dancing.

Seeing my little girls’ faces light up while I danced like a goofball was the BEST thing I’ve seen in a long time!  Even my 15 year old son was happy to join in!

My favorite dancing song  was “Shake” by MercyMe.  The girls requested it because they sang it in Sunday school.  I love love love that song.

It was such a joy-filled time for us.

So often I’m so tired or have just simply too much to do and I can’t seem to find the time to do anything but what absolutely has to be done.

Absolutely. Has. To. Be. Done. Right. Now.

Not what I want to do.

Not what I would like to do.

Just the gotta-do-or-feel-like-I-might-die-things.

But that night of dancing brought it right in front of my eyes…I need to spend time doing fun things with my kids.

I just gotta.

I feel so convicted…so sure of it…and yet, it is something I rarely make time for…

It’s not because I’m not looking.  I just can’t seem to find it.

Last night was my fourth night in a row of 5 hours of interrupted sleep.  I’m seriously hanging by a thread.

This morning I woke up praying that God would show me what to let go of…but I honestly can’t think of one thing I’m doing that can not be done.

At church we are talking about transforming our lives. This week the pastor spoke about stress and rest.  I felt like crying through the whole sermon.

God has me HERE…in this stressful, sleepless, weary place and I don’t know what to do.

I want to just dance around the living room with my little girls, but I have papers to grade and household stuff to do and finances to figure out and children who need help with homework and life stuff.

I’m trying to look at the bright side of things…but I’m so tired I think my drooping eyelids are making it difficult to look up.

I want to write about happy, joyful things.  In fact, when I started writing this blog I was thinking how exciting to write about something fun.

Alas, I wandered…slid into the pit.

Is it just me?  Does life seem slippery right now?

I seem to have one foot always slipping perilously close to a pit, while the other is knee deep in mud…gosh, that’s a lovely picture.  Ok…maybe the other is just a bit muddy and it’s dry, caked on mud.

Where is my joy???

Where are the dancing moments?  Why not more?

I cherish every moment of joy, but I want more.

Count it all joy…

Count…(maybe the problem is I teach English…words not numbers).

I just want joy.

But joy comes with remembering…

Remembering that I am loved…that NO MATTER WHAT God loves me.  No matter how I feel…God loves me.  No matter how much of a failure I am (or think I am)…God loves me.

Count on Him. Count the blessings.

I remember when I was young, my mom and I sang “Count Your Many Blessings” for a Sunday service.

I love that song.  Catchy and true.

When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed, When you are discouraged thinking all is lost, Count your many blessings – name them one by one, And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.  Count your blessings-name them one by one; Count your blessings-see what God has done; Count your blessings-name them one by one; Count your many blessings-see what God has done.

Are you ever burdened with a load of care?  Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?  Count your many blessings- every doubt will fly, And you will be singing as the days go by, Count your blessings –name them one by one; Count your blessings-see what God has done; Count your blessings-name them one by one; Count your many blessings-see what God has done.

I believe that counting our blessings is very similar to counting it all joy.  Within every moment is a blessing.  I know that…so how do I forget it?

I know how…it just simply doesn’t feel that way.  It doesn’t feel like I’m living blessings…I’m surviving burdens right now.

So I guess that leads me back to some shaking it up.

I need to shake up my perspective.  I need to shake up my life.

I honestly don’t know what that looks like, but I believe I’m going to start with another grateful journal.

It’s been a while since I wrote down things in my little journal of thankful thoughts.

I’ve even said I was going to in the not so distant past and promptly forgot to do it.

So, I guess I’ll pull it out and start tonight.  I know what I’m going to write first:

I’m thankful for…

  1. Time to dance with my children.

IMG_4206

God said No and That’s a Good Thing

peace - beach photo

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.

A Strengthening Struggle

IMG_5748

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.