Awful weeks…beware.

winter treeWe have all had those weeks.

You know the ones…where not a single thing goes well.  Where awful seems to be the word that describes most things, if not all things.

Last week would qualify as one of those weeks.  Awful, awful, awful.

But in just a few short days God has provided some relief…some peace in the storm.

I’m afraid I might be struggling a bit more than I ever have.  I’m finding a sense of hopelessness invading at times, and it is disarming.

Even as my head knows that I serve a loving and faithful God who will indeed make good out of everything, I struggle.

After 6 years of this nutty life, I’m just tired.

The last several months have been very difficult…in some ways more difficult than anything else in the past several years.

I’ve mentioned all the changes before so I won’t bore you with a litany of my challenges.

One of the biggest thing has been feeling so very alone.

I’m surprised how alone I can feel surrounded by people.

I continually remind myself of the good that has come from our move here.  How having this job is wonderful.  How my children being in great schools is wonderful.  How having a new beginning is wonderful…I think.

But…there are so many buts.

The other night I spoke with a friend and poured out my heart.  How deeply unhappy I feel right now…how alone and hopeless.

How I desperately want to be near my dear friends who now are far away.  How I desperately want to make new friends but cannot find the time to spend a moment away from work or family or school.  How things I thought would be blessings, safe places, and peace of mind seem like anything but.

There is that dang but again.

This friend told me that I need to figure this out  with God – that no one else can help me.  I know that’s right…getting my head and heart in the best place can only happen with God.  But I have to be honest and say that I really want people in my life… I had that. I left that.

This is a hard place and sometimes I wonder if I have made a huge mistake.

But I just have to believe God led me here.

Usually, if not always, the reason is to bring me closer to Him.

How I desperately want to be closer to Him.  But I can’t seem to find the time like I used to.  When life changed 6 years ago, I stayed up late and got up early to spend time in the Word.  I was so much more on top of things.

I just feel almost frantic for sleep…which is always in short supply.  I can’t seem to get everything done in a day.  Sleep deprivation is merely a time thing.  There just isn’t enough time for sleep.

In the past I would have advised someone to just forego a little of that precious sleep for time in the Word.  I would still say that is ideal, but now that I’m here in this place…this sleep deprived, overwhelmed, way-too-busy, frustrated single working old mom place…I don’t know how to do it myself.

I’m at a loss.

A few weeks ago I managed to get to bed at 9:30, mostly because I was sick, but I woke up at 5 and had an hour to study and pray.  It was a great day.  I had that peace that passes understanding thing.

I know that if I get time in the Word I do life better.  If I pray, I have perspective.

I have to figure it out.  I just have to.

I know I’m going to come back to that place of just do it.  Just pray already!  Pray and ask God for His leading, His provision, and His strength.

Golly, it’s easy to say that…easy to say I’m just gonna pray more and get in the Word more.

I think if I look back at my other blogs, I’d find myself saying that A LOT!

It’s my life lesson – pray, seek God and rest in Him.

I’m finding it difficult, but God can help me.

And what has come to mind are all those verses with the phrase, “But God…”

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

What a blessed reminder that even though I struggle so in my life, God still shows me His love.  He loves me.  Flawed, sinful me.  How thankful I am that I can repent of my sins…of my wallowing and wailing and whining.  Recently, I heard about 4 different people in various venues discuss repentance.  I think I need to consider it more.  I’m praying that God will open my eyes to areas in my life in need of repentance.  I’m praying that God will give me strength to stand firmly against temptation and to withstand trials with a steadfast spirit and a gentle heart.

I’m praying for change…godly change.

As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.  Genesis 50:20

What a glorious reminder that somewhere in this mixed-up mess of a life, God is going to bring about good.  I have to keep reminding myself that that promise doesn’t mean that I will see the good right away…or maybe even ever.

I haven’t been in a good place to receive this anywhere but God’s word.  You know what I mean?  I don’t always graciously accept the comment, “God has a plan in all this…”  I think because I know it already…I just sometimes don’t get it or feel it.  Sometimes I just want someone to say, “Man, your life is not awesome!”  And then I can say, “I know, right!?”

But God, He can say it.  He can remind me a thousand times and it is always welcomed and comforting.

I have to get back to trusting Him for the good I can’t see.

I’m still going to pray for glimpses of the good for my kids and me, and that our faith will be encouraged by the way God uses this difficult time in our lives.

And he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts.” Luke 15:15

Oooo, this verse got me.  Jesus was talking to the Pharisees who were lovers of money and were ridiculing Him.  I’m sure there are many ways to apply this verse, but today God has reminded me that He knows my heart.  That no matter how I try to justify my behavior, He knows what is really going on.  He always knows more about what’s going on in me than I do.  I very rarely understand what or why or when or whatever…I confuse myself.  But God knows me…and He loves me with an everlasting love.

How in the world is that possible?  Another thing I can’t grasp, but am so thankful to know.

God knows me and loves me still…I don’t know if I will ever truly grasp that, but I see it…I experience it.

This week started off as a continuation of last week which was one of THOSE weeks.  And I feared for my sanity, but God did a blessed thing for me.  THREE snow days!  Three days to catch up.  Three days to sleep as late as my little ones would allow me to sleep.  Three days to wear jeans and slippers.  Three days.  What a blessing!

And during these blessed snow days, I’ve had the opportunity to have conversations with friends from far away.  Friends who have encouraged me and even understood the depth of my emotions.  Friends who have offered prayers and comfort. I’m so thankful for godly women in my life.

And I’ve been blessed with time with my children…sledding, snowball fights, and Uno.   IMG_7875

And I’ve been blessed to spend time in the Word.  Much needed time in the Word.  I hope I can start good habits in these three days.  Sleep and study.

So awful weeks beware….I’m acutely aware you will come…probably more often than I’d like…and I’m not going to face you unprepared.

Those weeks…or even days…are opportunities to seek God.  And seek Him I will…sleep deprived or not.

Why not talk to God?

photo 1 (3)I shared recently about the big decisions I need to make and how much I was struggling to make them.

It has been a season of tremendous confusion for me…no easy answers, no straight, lighted path before me, nothing uncomplicated.

I kept asking God to just make things clear to me.  I kept telling Him that I would go or be wherever He wanted me to go or be…just please tell me!

But as I have shared before, I kept looking to others to help me decide…to wrestle through decisions with me.

I wanted friends willing to listen to me say or ask the same thing 15 times in 15 different ways.  I needed to grapple and ponder and brainstorm.  And I didn’t want to do it alone.

This single parent decision-making thing can be a lonely business.

And for someone who likes to think out loud, it is torturous…unfortunately I think I’ve been torturing everyone around me.  I put my friends and family in the position of having to hear me think out loud a lot.

I spent a lot time trying to find someone…anyone…that would tell me what to do!  I’m surprised they all didn’t run away from me.

I felt such a burden to figure things out…just to make a decision already.

I wanted to talk (and talk and talk…)

And it struck me

Why not talk to God?

Maybe that desire to think out loud is really more about a desire to pray.  I just hadn’t thought of it that way before.

I’d been so busy looking for someone to lead me that I’d missed talking to the One who is my Leader.  I’m truly like a silly little sheep.  I have The Good Shepherd as my guide and I’m not looking to Him.  I’m looking around to anyone and everyone to give me answers, direction, and guidance.

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

But God in His graciousness did indeed provide.

First it was a dear friend who, while in the midst of her own health crisis, willingly listened to my life circumstances and shared her thoughts.  I’m in of God’s provision.

She asked me where I wanted to be in 5 years.   She said, “Focus on where you want to be, rather than all the little things that need to happen to get there.”

At first I thought, “How in the world do I do THAT?  There are things that need to be done…decisions that need to be made and actions that need to be taken!”

But the more I thought about it the more I realized that if I trust God’s leading, I must also trust that He will provide a way.

I kept thinking of the priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant who had to step into the river before it parted.  Maybe I need to be willing to do that as well…take a step of faith.

So when the people set out from their tents to pass over the Jordan with the priests bearing the ark of the covenant before the people, and as soon as those bearing the ark had come as far as the Jordan, and the feet of the priests bearing the ark were dipped in the brink of the water (now the Jordan overflows all its banks throughout the time of harvest), the waters coming down from above stood and rose up in a heap very far away… Joshua 3:14-16

A lot grabs me in those verses…but one thing that stuck out was that the Lord wants us know that this was not an easy wade in the water…this was an overflowing river.  Probably seemed a bit daunting to those priests, but they trusted that God was going to make a way for them to follow His leading and they took a step of faith.

God gave direction and then provided the way.

I want that.

I want direction…clear direction…obvious direction…a well-lit straight path ahead.  I’m finding that God doesn’t often choose that path for me.  My path is more often than not a little dark so I can only see a step or two in front of me.  I cannot even see a bit up the path.  It is always, and I mean always, a bit curvy and rocky.  I’m walking slowly, deliberately and with anxiety in my heart for what lies ahead.  I want to make decisions that I know will turn out well…decisions that have a happy ending.

I know I can trust God.  I also know I can trust that God’s word is true.  And His word says that I will have trouble.  I’ve been living in the trouble times…I long for peaceful.  I’m always worried that my decisions will lead to more troubled times. Lord, forgive me for my fear and anxious thoughts.

But I also know that there is peace in making a decision and trusting God with the outcome.  I want to make a decision and have the outcome guaranteed…guaranteed to end the way I want.  But God says that He guarantees the outcome to be for His glory and my good…not that it will be my “perfect” outcome.

As I was wresting with my hope for perfection, God continued to bless me.  My one sister, who loves me and all my goofiness, was willing to listen, brainstorm and pray with me until the wee hours of the morning.  My sister, the one I grew up with, is also my sister in Christ.  And what a blessing she is to me!

I shared with her all my thoughts, concerns, fears, and ideas…and she listened patiently, and even laughed at all my jokes! (That is definitely a blessed thing J!)

As we talked through my situation, she said some things that really struck me:

If I love Christ and live my life for Him, He WILL lead me.

If my desire is to glorify Him and bless others, He will work in my situation to those ends.

Sometimes a decision just needs to be made and God will take care of the rest.

And finally, she reminded me of Philippians 4:7, “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

That term guard was what she wanted me to notice. It’s actually a military term.  Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance says that to guard means: “‘a sentinel, guard’ – to guard (keep watch) like a military sentinel; (figuratively) to actively display whatever defensive and offensive means are necessary to guard.”

God’s peace guards our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus.  He is willing to do whatever is necessary to protect our hearts and our minds.

So if that is true…why do I so often feel so little peace?

I don’t believe it is because God is doing anything wrong…I believe that it is because I’m seeking that peace in my circumstances…in my decisions.

My sister pointed out that God’s peace is something I have regardless of my circumstances, my decisions and their outcomes.

It is my decision to live in that peace that God does and will always guard.  I’m blessed by that realization…that reminder.

And I’m grabbing hold of that reminder…no, I’m grabbing hold of that peace.

My big decision is one of the biggest of my single mom life…and one of the top ten of my life to this point.

I know that regardless of my decision, God will not leave me nor forsake me.

And regardless of my decision, God’s peace is mine.

Oh how desperately I want that peace.  It seems so “christianeze-ish”  (my word) for me to say I will live in God’s peace regardless of things going on…and it also seems a bit sketchy that I would say that after all I’ve written about struggle and anxiety and fear…BUT….

That peace is God’s…not mine. It’s a God thing.  And I will grab hold of it and I will focus on it and I will study it and I will live it because God is guarding me with it.

I’m so thankful for my Lord, for my friend and for my sister.

God will lead me even if it isn’t with lightning bolts and neon signs…it might be a late night talk or a quiet morning studying His the Word or a little bit of both or He might just guide me to make a decision and trust Him.

My decision right now is to take a big step of faith. I’m moving forward without a definite plan, but with hope and peace that as I step out God will guide.  I’m taking a big step and praying fervently that God will make clear paths where I see none right now.

I’m trusting God will lead me…and I’m excited to see what He shows me.

In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.  Proverbs 16:9

The steps of a man are established by the LORD, when he delights in his way; though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong, for the LORD upholds his hand.  Psalm 37:23-24

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

Hope in the New Year

Happy 2013! 

I saw something funny online yesterday.  It said, “My New Year’s resolution is to remember to write 2013.”  Wouldn’t it be nice if that was all that we needed to resolve to do?  I have so much I want to change about my life that I shudder to think what my resolution list would look like if I was to write one!

It has been a little while since I’ve posted – pneumonia knocked me off my feet for quite a while.  Well, actually had I gotten off my feet I probably would’ve gotten better much faster.  After the third round of xrays in the 3rd month of my coughing and wheezing, the doctor again admonished me to get some rest.  The first few times I nodded my head and agreed to try.  I didn’t even bother with my whole life story.  You know the single mom with “100” kids thing…rest is not an option…at least not often.  Everyone has something that keeps them up at night or on their feet all day or running from thing to thing.

I also have to be honest – when people threatened that if I didn’t get rest I’d be hospitalized, I felt like saying, “Can I sleep there?  Do the dishes, laundry and kids come too?  Cause I’m thinking that doesn’t sound so bad!”   Just kidding of course!  It has been almost 4 months and I finally think I’ve beaten it.  And I’m ever so thankful.

Sickness and single parenting are not an ideal situation.   There are really no easy situations in single parenting…blessed and sweet situations but certainly not easy.  I have found a lovely peace in my single momma life.  We have found a rhythm and rhyme.  I’d say we have found balance, but I don’t believe we have.  I think that there will always be a bit of “unbalancedness” – a bit of awkwardness because our family is not exactly as it should be.  We have suffered a loss and will forever be affected by that…in bad and even good ways.  We have a missing piece.   But God has stepped in and filled our missing pieces.

I believe God’s light shines through our cracks.  He is seen most clearly through our brokenness.  His strength when we are weak.  His hope when all seems lost.  His grace when failure is reality.

I have a tremendous number of cracks and missing pieces – plenty of places for God’s love and grace to shine through.  I think it’s a beautiful thing that God takes the heartbreak and pain of our lives and turns them into beautiful testimonies of His faithfulness and love.  I have only to trust Him to do it and He will.

Lately, life has been challenging.  Sickness and sorrow have been a bit more than I can bear at times.  Sickness has been a companion I could certainly do without – my children have had their fair share as well.  The sorrow is a bit more difficult to deal with – I battle with sorrow especially over the things my children have lost.

Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.

Psalm 42:5

Fear has become a bit of a constant struggle for me…fears of failing, fears of disappointing, fears for my children.  I don’t know if I exactly fear the future…I fear not doing well now so that the future isn’t what I hope it will be.

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.

Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,

though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,

though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling.  Selah. 

Psalm 46:1-3

 

Sickness, sorrow and fear…ugh.

At least two of those I can work on…well, I guess if I were to go to bed at a reasonable hour and maybe not try and do so much the sickness could be something I worked on as well.  But the sorrow and the fear?  Those are two that I want to deal with in a more God honoring way.

What am I going to do with this blasted sorrow?  Dang it – I refuse to wallow, but I get this verse:

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

It’s a request God put in His word to show us how to deal with sorrow.   It’s a request we can make and receive a guaranteed answer.  If in my sorrow I ask for God to strengthen me, He will through His word.

When I read about the lives of the saints in the Bible and see how God did indeed turn their mourning into rejoicing, my hope is stirred.

I will turn their mourning into joy; I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow.

Jeremiah 31:13

Widowed, Moabitess Ruth who followed her bitter, mourning mother-in-law to a foreign land and worked as a beggar gathering barley,  married kind and godly Boaz and gave birth to Obed who became the grandfather of King David and in the lineage of Jesus.

The Israelites in captivity were released from slavery with not just the clothes on their back but the treasures of the Egyptians and set on a journey that led to the Promised  Land!

Barren Hannah had her prayers answered and gave birth to a beautiful baby boy named Samuel who became a prophet of God.

The Ninevites were lost in sin and violence until God reached out to them with grace, mercy and the hope of forgiveness and restoration.

King David who fell on his face in adultery and murder was forgiven and restored to fellowship with God.

The woman who had exhausted all her money and options to restore her health, simply touched a small portion of Jesus’ robe and was healed.

The leper who had been void of human contact was touched by Jesus and healed.

Peter who denied Christ three times at His crucifixion was forgiven in the most intentional and loving way by Christ Himself.

All the disciples of Christ who watched with great sorrow and fear as their Savior died and was buried, rejoiced and praised God 3 days later!

The Bible is full of stories of hope, redemption and restoration.  Our lives are no less filled with these characteristics.  This is a great big fallen world full of stuff that hurts, but God is a great big loving God who has overcome this world.  There is hope.  Hope for today and hope for the future.  I need not fear for myself or my children, God will never leave us nor forsake us. (Deut. 31:6)  He will not allow us to be snatched out of His hand (John 10:28-30).

No matter the circumstances of our lives…surprisingly good or shockingly not…God offers hope.  And it is that hope that I cling to as I begin another year…a new year…another year to experience God’s love and faithfulness!  I pray that you will be blessed beyond measure and in the most extraordinary ways this year!

For this reason because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places…

Ephesians 1:15-20