Grateful and (a little) Stressed

photo of trees at golden hour
Photo by Elias Tigiser on Pexels.com

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.  Romans 15:13

This morning barking dogs disturbed my semi-peaceful slumber…at 4:15 am. 

Sometimes I wonder why sleep remains so elusive for me. I found myself asking God, “Really Father? 4:15?”

I know God created me to need sleep so why can’t I have some? 

This morning after trying to ignore the noise, I decided to just get up, take a shower, make some coffee, and have my quiet time. 

I grabbed my journal and unfortunately my first thought was to begin to list my complaints, and just a few in I felt this overwhelming sense of God saying, “Trust me.”  

I stopped writing, looked up, and thought, “God, do I trust you even in this? Not getting sleep? Feeling unhealthy, exhausted, and overworked?”  

I had to say, “Oh Father, I’m so sorry…not completely.”

I trust God with a lot, but there is a fair amount I keep in the “really God?!?” pile. It’s full of the things that seem so unfair, so frustrating, so out-of-my control, so relentlessly difficult and complicated…does anyone else have this pile? And I think maybe I’ve given up a bit on that pile..resigned myself.

On top of the difficulties and struggles is this knowledge that God could easily make everything better. It would take nothing for the Creator of the world to let me sleep all night, to bless my children in all the ways I desperately want them to be blessed,  to let my house not have one more issue, to let life calm down ever so slightly so I could take a breath and get healthy…I have so many “I just don’t understand why, God” moments.

Years ago while discussing challenges in life and the questions that come with them, one of my friends asked, “Why not us? Why do we deserve a life of no difficulties?”

I get it. I even agree. But ugh. It doesn’t seem to help in the thick of things to recognize  that I don’t deserve anything or that I am blessed so much or I should be thankful for where I am, not always longing for where I want to be…I truly do believe that, but I have to live this life…survive this life. And sometimes those truths are just hard.

Recently while discussing the stress in my life, I was challenged to list what I am thankful for…it’s a challenge I’ve accepted many times, but this time I wanted to say, “That isn’t the same thing!” Having stress and being thankful for blessings are not two opposing teams. I can be grateful for many things and still stressed by my circumstances. Can’t they exist together?…if I don’t allow my stress to overwhelm my thankfulness?

I guess in truth it is easy to get overwhelmed right out of thankfulness…particularly at 4:30 a.m. I’m tired, but part of the reason I’m tired this morning is because, just as I was going to sleep last night, my 17 year old son came up to chat. We stayed up having a great conversation for over an hour. I am so very thankful for that…blessed and grateful…and also sleepy.

Do I trust that God has a plan even when I’m beyond tired? Do I trust God when things just refuse to go smoothly? Do I trust God when my children are hurting? Do I trust God when I know He could alleviate the stress, hurts, fears, and challenges, but He doesn’t? I’m asking myself again…Do I trust Him?

Honestly, it’s too easy to say yes. After all, I know it is the correct answer.

I’m just not sure.

But oh how I want to say yes. Yes, Father, I trust you! I do. I do. I do.

In my head I do trust. I trust He loves me. I trust He will do what is best.

Maybe where I’m struggling is I know that trusting Him doesn’t mean that my prayers for rest will be answered. That things might not get better even though I know He could very easily make them so.

That old standby – Philippians 4:6-7 – Do not be anxious…couldn’t it be rephrased, “Do not be stressed”? Anxious means “to be troubled with cares” – sounds like stressed to me, but lack of sleep and difficult challenges add an element of stress that isn’t necessarily anxiety…it’s just stress. Nevertheless, I know that the answer lies in this verse…because the answer is always to involve God.

God’s advice – pray, ask, be grateful – lay it all before Him and let Him give you peace that you can’t even understand. I know most of you probably already realized this, but it doesn’t say that He will fix the situation that made you anxious. It says that He will give you peace that you can’t comprehend. That kind of infers that your peace will be despite your circumstances and struggles. So I can further infer that I’m supposed to pray, ask God for what I need, be grateful for what I have, and trust Him that He will do what is best…hard truth.

There are a few other things in Philippians that speak to this…right after this exhortation, Paul says, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (4:8) And if that wasn’t enough, Paul shares this, “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

Two things I take from that…

  1. What I think about makes a difference.
  2. A peaceful life comes from trusting God to give me strength to be content in my circumstances.

Part of my struggle is that the things that give me stress are all around me…I can’t really get away from them no matter how much I try. I’m surrounded! Maybe that is why God says to pray without ceasing…just continually give it to God.

Lord, I just desperately need sleep and it seems so impossible to get…thank you for time with you in the morning and for your sustaining even when I’m exhausted. Lord, you are always with us, I know that. And Father, I know that you love my children and me. Please Lord, would you work mightily in our lives? Show us that you care. I know you do.

Maybe that’s where I start…remind myself that God cares.

“Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.” Luke 12:6-7

He cares about it all.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-5

Through Christ, I am comforted. Lord, please help me understand what that looks like. Please allow me to feel comfort even in my stressed and grateful state.

 

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. 

Fire from Heaven

lightning-bolt

I’m praying for some serious fire from heaven, but not for the reason you might think.

In the past several years there have been moments I’ve been tempted to pray that God would rain down fire on someone or a couple of someones, but thankfully God has brought me past that phase of this journey.

The other day I was blessed to hear one of the teachers at my school recount the story of Elijah and the prophets of Baal.  It’s kind of a cool story.  The kind of story I’d like to be told of me…how I took on 450 bad guys and let God show beyond a shadow of a doubt that He is God.  

Just some background… the Israelite people had been, as Elijah put it, “limping between two different opinions.”  They were trying to serve two gods, God and Baal.  Elijah presents a contest of sorts.  The priest of Baal would be given a bull to cut up and put on the altar. And Elijah would do the same.  Only they would not light the sacrifice, instead they would each pray to their gods.  The god that answered would be the true god…the champion god!

The Baal priests go first.  All night until morning they desperately called for their god to answer them.  By noon on the next day Elijah was less than impressed and a bit snarky.  He said, “Cry aloud, for he is a god.  Either he is musing, or he is relieving himself , or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep, and must be awakened.”  The priests continued to cry out and even cut themselves in an attempt to get Baal’s attention.

But to no avail.  The Bible says, “No one answered; no one paid attention”  (1 Kings 18:29)

Elijah’s turn.  Or rather God’s.

Elijah doesn’t just want to rain down fire on some ole dried up wood.  He wants to show that his God is The God…his God is the One and Only…his God is powerful.

So he has them pour buckets of water on and around his sacrifice three times.  Lots and lots of buckets so there is no doubt it is wet…definitely soaked.  Clothes left on the line in a torrential downpour soaked.

And then he prays.  

“O LORD, God of Abraham, Issac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word.  Answer me, O LORD, answer me that this people may know that you, O LORD, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.” (18:36-37)

And then God answers.  

“The fire of the LORD fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench.”  (18:38)

And then the people responded.

“And when the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, “The LORD, he is God; the LORD, he is God.” (18:39)

Four verses.  Bam. Bam. Bam. Bam.

And what God designed all along…not only for His glory but for the good of His people…happened.

How I long for fire from heaven like that…for God to move in amazing ways.

That’s not a bad thing…wanting some big fire from heaven burning up my altar…but as I sit here I’m realizing that I often miss the fact that God does move in amazing ways all. the. time.

This week my youngest daughters started school.  Between before-school care and the bus ride home, it is 9 ½ hours.  9 ½ hours that begins with us leaving the house at 6:45 am. That’s just so very long for my littlest ones.  

And I was praying for fire from heaven to consume my fears and frustrations and worries.

Today we met at home – me from work and them from school and it was a beautiful reunion.  Lots of smiles.  Things went well today.  

Thank you Lord.

Last week my high schooler was overwhelmed with the workload he has at school (it is truly stunningly huge) and the two soccer teams he plays on…he was tired and terrified. We prayed and talked and I prayed some more.  

I prayed fire from heaven to consume our anxious thoughts.

And this week, so much better.  Things seem manageable.  We have a plan and we have made adjustments and it looks like he is going to have a great year (lots of work, but a great year!)

Thank you Lord.

Last month my oldest daughter began her journey away from home.  She moved in with a friend and is attending college.  Sophomore year.  Wow.  She has a lot of responsibility and adjustments.  Who am I kidding?  I have a lot of adjustments.  

And I have been praying fire from heaven to fan the flame of her faith and grow her into an even more godly young woman!  (And maybe even some protective fire raining around her 24/7!)

Her calls and texts are full of positive things that bless me to hear.

Thank you Lord.

And these past few years, I have watched my oldest son exceed my expectations.  He has worked hard in school and at his job.  He is paying his way through college and providing for himself.  He is a young man growing into a good good man.  It is hard to let go and it is hard to not be in a position to really step in and help him.

I’ve been praying fire from heaven would consume my guilt and frustration and let me simply enjoy the man God is making my son to be.  And instead I’m focusing on praying for fire from heaven to light his path and lead him.  

Thank you Lord.

I know God is answering these prayers.  I might not be seeing actual flames answering…definitely not (probably wouldn’t want to in all honesty), but I see Him answering in sweet ways.  

Like the soft glow of a candle, I feel His joy when I hug, read a text from, hold hands with, snuggle with, or talk to one of my children.

Like the effervescent light from a sparkler, I feel His love in the eyes of my smiling children.

Like the beam of a flashlight, I sense His leading.

Like the warmth of a fire, I feel His presence and the peace that I need as I wrestle with my circumstances and how those impact my children.

I’d still like to call down some fire from heaven…to show everyone without a doubt that God answers prayers.  But maybe instead of calling down, I can speak about my God and how He cares for me and mine.

I know He can send some fire down, but right now I’m just so thankful He sent Himself down.

So thankful that no matter how I struggle or what I think or how I act, God loves me.  

And no matter what I may think or sense or wonder, I KNOW that He loves me and He is working in my life and the lives of my children.  

So Lord, if you’d like to send some fire down that would be amazing…light up the altar of my heart.  

But I’m okay God…whatever you decide.  

I know that if fire blazing down from heaven was best, you would send it my way.

I know you love me…and that’s a flashing lightning, flames from heaven, dry up all the water, light the logs on fire kinda love.

Pretty spectacular.

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.

Count it all what?

Image     I’ve been working for over a week on a post about counting it all joy.  And honestly I’m still unsure that I truly understand it as much as I’d like, but I decided that maybe what I need to do is share and see where God takes us…

Today I have two meetings that I’m a little bit dreading.

The first is this morning…it’s a child study meeting for one of my daughters.  This isn’t the first one.  Unfortunately they never go as I hope.  The people at her school are always kind as they say no to the assistance she truly needs.  It is heartbreaking for me.

And adding insult to injury, I must sit beside my ex-husband who will sometimes come.  Today will probably be one of those days.  I could just not tell him about the meetings, but that seems wrong.  Good for me, but wrong.

The other day I even thought, “If he were home he’d already know about these meetings, I wouldn’t have to tell him.  Maybe I just won’t remind him.”  Then I realized I can’t spend the rest of ever so many years punishing him for his horrible, hurtful decision. I forgave him and must take those thoughts captive.

Having him there is annoying, frustrating, and infuriating at times.  His portrayal of his involvement with our daughter is exceedingly exaggerated.  It makes me want to holler, “But he doesn’t help at all!!!”  He’s a fake!!!”  But why?  Well first and foremost, because I’m a sinner and I want things my way…but also because I want him to either step up or hush up…because I want things to be different…I want things to not hurt, to not frustrate…because I want joy.

I’m thinking maybe the idea of count it all joy fits my situation…even this silly situation with my ex-husband.  I just gotta figure out how.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.  James 1:2-4

Today my Bible study asked me, “What does it mean to count it all joy?”

Boy, is that a verse I’ve memorized and thought about and referenced a lot without ever truly pondering what it means.

And like I said, I’m pondering as I write…I don’t have an answer.  A feeling, yes.  An answer, not so much.

I know the reality of counting it all joy…I think.

I have known joy that makes no sense…

joy that pours over even the hardest season.

joy that comforts and strengthens.

joy that brings peace when all else seems chaotic.

And yet, even though I know that joy…do I truly “count it all joy.”

Drat, I don’t think I do.

When I saw that question this morning, I didn’t have an immediate answer, but I can see that God is answering it for me.

Recently I read a chapter in Corrie ten Boom’s book The Hiding Place with my children.  I love that book – highly recommend it.  If you are unfamiliar with the story, Corrie and her family hid Jews in Holland during WWII and were arrested.  This is her story.  It has layer upon layer of beautiful examples of God’s provision, faithfulness, and love in the worst of circumstances.

In the chapter we read this morning Corrie and her sister Betsie have just been transferred to an extermination camp in Germany.

This is part of the dialogue between Corrie and Betsie:

I wailed, “Betsie, how can we live in such a place!” 

“Show us.  Show us how.” It was said so matter of factly it took me a second to realize she was praying.  More and more the distinction between prayer and the rest of life seemed to be vanishing for Betsie.

“Corrie!” she said excitedly. “He’s given us the answer!  Before we asked, as He always does!  In the Bible this morning.  Where was it? Read that part again!”

They were reading in 1st Thessalonians…

…encourage the faint-hearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.  Rejoice always,pray without ceasing, give thank in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.  

1 Thessalonians 5:14-18

Betsie excitedly shares with Corrie, “That’s it, Corrie! That’s His answer, “Give thanks in all circumstances!  That’s what we can do.  We can start right now to thank God for every single thing about this new barracks!”

Corrie is incredulous.  She initially cannot understand how to give thanks in “the dark, foul-aired room.”   Betsie points out the very many blessings even in their horrid situation.  And Corrie begins to see that there indeed is a God-given way to give thanks in all circumstances.

I feel like Corrie most of the time….”How can I find a way to rejoice here, Lord?”

But again and again, God reminds me of the wonderful ways He has blessed me.

A few days ago, as I walked past my youngest daughter’s room I noticed the sunlight streaming through the windows and I thought, “Lord, thank you!  Thank you for this house.  Thank you for beautiful sunlight!”

There are many things we can thank God for in any given day if we look. But even then I’m thanking God for the things, the circumstances in my life.  I don’t believe that is what God means by “count it all joy.”

What am I counting joy?  In the verse in James, it’s trials.

Count it all joy

…when I can’t find the support and answers I need for my little girl

…when I have to deal with a man who I really don’t want to have to even see

…when God calls me to love the unlovable

…when God doesn’t answer my prayers as I hoped

…when the struggles and complexities of life are overwhelming

 

Does counting it joy mean that I look for the blessings and the things to be thankful for?  To some degree I believe so.

But I’m beginning to see that really counting it all joy is about me looking to Jesus, my Savior, the author and perfecter of my faith.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.  Hebrews 12:1-2

The joy is the understanding that these troubles are nothing in comparison to the joy of eternity.

 

So we do not lose heart.  Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.  For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen.  For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.  2 Corinthians 4:16-18

 

The joy is the confidence that we have an eternal inheritance.

 

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!  According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.  In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith – more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire – may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.  1 Peter 1:3-7

 

So truly, the joy is the gospel.

 

I know this has already been a lot of words and now I’ve added a lot of verses….but please take the time to read them.  Remind yourself again of the great grace of the gospel…of the power of His resurrection in your life…and see how often God shows us the gospel’s strength to carry us through our struggles, trials and sufferings.

 

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

 

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.  For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility.  Ephesians 2:13-14

 

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

 

But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.  Titus 3:4-7

 

Therefore since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.  More than that we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.  Romans 5:1-5

 

As I read those verses again I was reminded of the gospel’s power to enable me to count it all joy in the struggles.  It’s an eternal perspective.  An “it will all be worth it” perspective.

Count our blessings, absolutely.

Think on those things that bless us…the way God provides…the source of our strength.  Cultivate gratitude.

Count it all joy, definitely.

Think again and again of the gospel.  Of what the gospel means for our lives….

 Grace

Salvation

Hope

Peace

A glorious eternal inheritance

The Holy Spirit and all His fruit

Jesus, my Savior

God, my Father

You could probably add more to that list.  I certainly could.

So this count it all joy thing…I think I’m beginning to understand it.

And again God has brought me back to the gospel.

We are blessed beyond measure because of Jesus…

 and that is all joy!

stormy skySanity in the Storm
Why is it that I’m most productive, energetic, and awake after eleven pm?  Seriously.  Why can’t I be a morning person?  Actually I think I would be if I would just GO TO SLEEP ALREADY!  I know if I put my head on my pillow I’d be sound asleep in seconds and yet I’m sitting here typing…goofball.

I’ve just gotta get on a better schedule…it’s probably going to mean that I don’t get much done for at least a day…or a night. But golly it would be a good thing to do!

I’m highly motivated to get things done. I’ve started writing down a lot of to-do lists and I’m thoroughly enjoying checking things off.  I feel much better about things…although there are definitely days when I don’t have the pleasure of checking off many things on my list.  Days when things just don’t go as planned and everything goes wonky on me.  

I’m finding that much of my success depends on my attitude. A positive attitude seems to enable me to accomplish more. I think it’s because I’m not allowing myself to feel or be defeated by the day. 

I trust God even when things go kablooey. I know that God will use even the craziest of days to help me be the woman He designed me to be. 

The blog I’m sharing from MomLifeToday.com, Sanity in the Storm, is one a wrote about a totally different kind of list…my list of things that overwhelm.  Unfortunately I seem to be able to check everything on that list almost daily.  I do definitely struggle with the whole overwhelmed thing…entirely too much if you ask me.  Especially considering I KNOW that God loves me and will not give me more than I can handle with Him.

The problem is that I keep trying to handle everything without Him.  Again…goofball. 

I do know without a doubt that God did not make me to be overwhelmed nor did He make me to do my life without Him.  I’m made for so much more…I’m made for love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, self-control…all those fruit of the Spirit…and I’m made for relationship with my Lord and Savior!  I’m made to do this life with Him.

And I’m so thankful because I can’t imagine any other way to do it!

Do You Really Want to be Where I Am?

butterfly landing on flower

“I wish I could get to where you are…I still feel so hopeless, sad, or angry.”

Whenever I hear that I want to say, “Trust me, you DO NOT want to be where I am!”

I struggle a lot with things. I have moments where I feel like disaster is imminent…where I can’t possibly do this life successfully…when my sins seem too awful…when I can’t see anything good happening.

Days filled with many more tears than laughter.

But then God shows me that He indeed has it all under control…He is working and He is loving us. And I’m reminded that this life is not about me knowing the answers, it’s about me knowing Him. And it’s about my kids knowing Him too.

Today has been a roller coaster…and it’s only noon.

There are times when curling up in a ball seems like the best position to approach the day. If only I were like an armadillo with some outer armor so I’d be safe and protected.

Today is one of those days.

I woke with such hope for the day but heartache found me fast. It’s a thousand things and nothing at all…it’s the past, the present, and the future…it’s people and things, occurrences and utterances…it’s calls and texts and emails…it’s my thoughts and sometimes my actions and words…it’s just this life.

I can’t tell you what made the curling begin, but I can tell you when I decided that I wasn’t going to curl up in a ball and cry no matter how much I wanted to.

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


Let me go to the beginning or at least close to it.

My youngest daughter, Jane, is almost 6. She is beautiful, fun, and feisty. She is also angry, defiant, and disobedient. The past two weeks have been very difficult for her…and therefore for me too.

Even at such a young age my little girl thinks deep things and asks hard questions. She is dearer to me than I can express. I was blessed to become her momma when she was 24 hours old. I loved her the moment I heard about her.

One of the hardest things for me since my husband left is the fact that my two youngest adopted daughters have now had two father’s abandon them. My ex-husband contends that he did not abandon us, but I don’t know another word that fits the situation better. That’s certainly how we all feel.

Both girls know they are adopted. They ask lots of questions and I try and answer well. Last night Allison asked me why the lady who had her in her tummy gave her to me. I answered, “She wasn’t able to take care of you and she loved you so much she wanted you to have a mommy and a…” and I thought, “Oh Lord! Oh Lord! Why????”

While in my head I questioned God, I whispered out loud to my sweet little girl how thankful I was that God chose me to be her mommy – that God grew her in my heart – that she is a blessing. I told her how I had chosen the name Jane because it means “God’s gracious gift” and I consider her exactly that. She seemed satisfied and we cuddled close. But the ache in her heart – and mine – remains.

The LORD is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek you. Psalm 9:9-10

Two of my closest neighbors have shared that my sweet little girl has asked their husbands if they will be her daddy. The other night she and I sat on the front porch weeping because her best little friend has a daddy at home and she doesn’t. She is desperately sorrowful about it. I keep telling her she has a daddy, but she maintains it is not the same. Which it isn’t.
I don’t know what to do. I can’t fix it. And it hurts.

Teach me good judgment and knowledge, for I believe in your commandments. Psalm 119:66


This morning we were having a relatively good morning when things just fell apart with a mean action towards her 7 year old sister, Marie…there were mean words and angry outbursts, discipline and prayer…but she is still so angry. I can see it. She is stealing herself inside and I don’t know how to stop it. I can’t seem to figure out how to parent my dear daughter. I feel like I do everything wrong.

Jane is angry at me. She asked this week, “Why doesn’t anyone like you Mom?” Ouch.

She feels I should have already remarried. And in her mind the fault lies with me. After all her daddy is remarried. I don’t have an answer for that except God’s way, God’s will, God’s timing and God’s man…but she’s 5 and that’s not something she grasps. JUST FIX IT MOMMY!

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

As I sat this morning in her room while she sat angrily on the floor, I couldn’t help but ask God, “Why? God, why are you allowing my little girl to go through this?” I was angry, very angry, at God. I was ready to have words with Him…

I do not understand His plan. I do not understand why my children have to suffer.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. Proverbs 3:5

I’m realizing that I don’t struggle as much when difficult things happen to me. I trust Him. But I am struggling to trust His plan for my children as I watch Him allow things to happen and not to happen in their lives.

Earlier this week something didn’t happen for my oldest daughter, Caroline, that again had me a little annoyed with God. I don’t understand why things just can’t seem to work out for her. She is a wonderful, wonderful young woman who is consistently being disappointed by people and events. I DON’T UNDERSTAND. I don’t understand why God’s plan is to allow things to mess with her confidence. I just want one thing to go her way…one thing.

BUT I know that I can trust God. I know that the things He allows He will use for good in my children’s lives. I just don’t understand how and I feel a desperate need to catch a glimpse of how this is going to work out for them. I’m twisted in knots about it.

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, 11

Even as I write God is reminding me of things that are going well. Things that are blessing my children. Ways He is working visibly.
For example, I have godly neighbors who love and pray for my children. The men Jane is asking to be her daddy are godly men who God will use to love and bless her. And my prayer partner and dear friend’s husband is going to take my Jane on a date next week. Another kind friend from church has asked about mentoring Caroline. I’ve been praying for someone to come alongside her for 5 years! I’m so excited I could bust. Those are good things! I forget those when I’m in the middle of things.

I forget a lot in the middle of my emotions.

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


I forget that God has been faithful…God has loved us in innumerable ways…God has provided for us over and over again. I hate that I forget and get all mixed up with my emotions.

When Caroline and I were working through her sorrow and disappointment earlier this week, I reminded her of all the good things we have and we were comforted that God loves us and takes care of us.

So at the beginning-ish of this post I mentioned that I remember the moment when I decided I wasn’t going to have a curl-up-and-cry kinda day.

It was the moment right after I was sitting with my angry little girl and I was mentally yelling at God. I looked at my little girl and I realized that I want her to run to God and love Him with all her heart, soul, mind, and strength…I want her to trust Him. He is the ONLY answer to all our struggles. Where else would we go?

You know that difficult place of questioning God and not trusting His goodness? Well I’m not going to go there.

I’m just not.

At least I’m going to try hard not to.

I want to show my children what it looks like to run to God rather than curling up in a ball. I want to show them that God will bless us through our difficulties…that He will provide hope for us.

He will take care of our children and be all that they need. He will give us the protection we need as we stand firm…no need to curl up in a ball! He will lead us and love us.

Make me to know your ways, O LORD; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long. Psalm 24:4-5

Colorful Aspen Pines Against Deep Blue SkyStruggle

I think I use that word too much.  I think I should use a different word more often. Maybe…conquering.

 Don’t feel much like a conqueror.

 And yet, God tells me I am.

 “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”  Romans 9:37

 More?  More than conquerors?  Mind-boggling. 

 Sometimes I feel like all I do is struggle.  Struggle with fear.  Struggle with worry.  Struggle with anger.  Struggle with frustration.  Struggle with weariness.  Struggle with being overwhelmed.  Struggle with feeling like a failure or that failure is imminent. Struggle with not being the godly woman I desperately want to be. 

Lately I’ve felt like I just have got to get this struggle thing under control.  I just have to…I keep struggling with the same blasted things over and over again.  My sins are so annoying.

Things I thought I’d dealt with…I’d determined to overcome…have snuck up on me again.   How is that possible?  I honestly don’t understand how I can be so convicted and seek forgiveness and restoration and then slide right back into them.  Really?  Am I serious??

Last night I prayed and wept to God again at my continual slipping and sliding in my relationship with Him.  I love Him so much.  I want my life to honor Him…I mean really honor Him.  Not just a little bit…not just when I sing at church or write an article full of Scriptural references, but when life is challenging and overwhelming and frightening and just not what I planned, I want it to glorify Him.

Today was a no school day. Also known as a “no-get-anything-done” day. 

So I got nothing done. 

Well, I mean nothing I planned on doing.  And on top of that, it was a lovely day, and did I take my kids outside to play?  Nope.  I fussed at them for making messes inside and spent the day cleaning up after them without offering a better alternative.  Poor planning.  Poor attitude.  Poor children.  Instead of facing an unplanned day with a smile and some spontaneity, I tried to do it all and pleased no one!  I wish I’d taken advantage of the day with my kids – done something together…something fun.  Ugh.  Fail.

Lest, I sound like I’m hopeless.  Let me share what God is showing me.  Let me show you the sweetness of my Savior.  O How He loves me!

It might be a familiar verse but how sweet it is to my ears and my heart:

Romans 8:1-4

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.  For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who did not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

Its so easy for me to focus on my mistakes and failures…there are enough of them!  But God does not desire that I live in defeat.  He does not condemn me…I keep being drawn back to 1 John 3:1,16, 18-24

See what kind of love the Father has given us that we should be called children of God; and so we are…. By this we know love that he laid down his life for us and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers…Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.  By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart and he knows everything. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him.  And this is his commandment that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.  Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him.  And by this we know that he abides in us, but the Spirit whom he has given us.

If God knows everything about me and yet does not condemn me, I don’t think I should do it either!

I believe my desire to live my life in a manner worthy of my calling (Ephesians 4:1) pleases God.  I believe that my sins are forgiven and thrown as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12) – that’s pretty far away.  I believe that God calls me to live a life of victory – “But thanks be to God, who gives us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:57) I believe God is making me into the woman He designed me to be…despite me. 

May we rest in the knowledge that

God is a “God ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love” (Nehemiah 9:17b)

Jesus knows.

“Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.  Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”  Hebrews 4:14-16

Jesus helps.

 “…for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” 2 Timothy 1:7

 Jesus does not leave us…ever.

 “Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who drawn near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.”  Hebrews 7:25

 Live by confident and courageous faith.

 “Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised.  For, “Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay; but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.”  But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.”  Hebrews 10:35-39

There is hope and a future for us.

 “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.  Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own.  But one thing I do:  forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 3:12-15

 Thanking God that even the struggle reminds me of how loving and faithful my God is to me.

 GOD IS GOOD ALL THE TIME!!!

ALL THE TIME GOD IS GOOD!!!

 

 

All You Need to Do is Just…

Recently one of my dearest friends called to tell me she had my next blog topic.  She’d been at a women’s Bible study where they were discussing their crazy busy lives.  After the moms in the group had lamented their situations, one of the ladies shared her “simple” solution which began with the phrase,

“All you need to do is just…”

In this case, the solution was prepare freezer meals.  My friend is practically a gourmet cook and couldn’t think of how that would be an appropriate solution for her problem.  She is one of the most accomplished women I know – a very successful attorney with her own practice and also the mother of a toddler and an infant.  She also finds time to minister to others at her church, help people organize their houses and lives, as well as just simply be a good friend and encourager.  I’m sure there are thousands of other things she does…oh and she and her husband built a 2nd story addition on their home…themselves…while she was pregnant with number 2.  So, yeah…I don’t know if freezer meals are the answer to her already busy life.  The amazing thing about this friend is that she is more than able to handle all that she has allowed to be placed on her plate…if she doesn’t shower daily.  I’m kidding…sorta.

She and I talked about how women really do expect that we can do it all.  I am here to tell you in big bold faced letter

I CAN’T DO IT ALL…

IN FACT, I CAN’T DO MOST OF IT.

There I said it.

Even this exceedingly amazing friend of mine admits she can’t.  Oh, we can give it a try, but really it isn’t very pretty most, if not all, of the time.

I’m sure the lady that suggested freezer meals had the best of intentions.  We all do, don’t we?  We all want to help each other to discover the next best thing.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve put my hope in some product or idea or chart or book that was going to finally make me organized, patient, or thin.

I’m always exceedingly disappointed, because the answer doesn’t lie in my doing something differently, more efficiently, or even better…although all those things would be phenomenal!  I believe as the saying goes it is more about being than doing.

What if when we were all sitting around the coffee table sharing our struggles, frustrations and fears, we offered each other the hope of the gospel?  What if we listened, comforted and empathized, but didn’t try and provide yet another thing to add to our ridiculous to do lists…the ones written down with all the phone calls, emails, chores, and projects we need to accomplish or the ones we keep in our heads that include all our hopes as well as all our failings…you know the lists I’m referring to right?

What if we simply loved one another?  What if we shared our struggles but also the hope we found in Scripture.  Maybe it would look like this,

Me.        “I’m so overwhelmed.  I feel like I simply can’t keep one thing moving in the right direction.  I read books about parenting that convict me and condemn me all at the same time.  I feel hopeless.  I don’t think I’ll ever truly be the mom I’m supposed to be for these children.  How can I expect them to be kind, patient, loving and slow to anger when half the time I’m frustrated, impatient, unkind and angry?  I know I need more sleep…but how?  I know I need to exercise…but what do I stop doing?  I know I need to get my home in order…but these little people keep messing it up behind me.  I know I need to prepare healthy food and snacks…but how do I do that with the schedule we are keeping?  What do I give up?  Who do I say no to?  If I could I would…I’m down to bare minimum involvement in church, school and activities and still I’m crushed by our schedule.  There is no way around it with 1 parent and 5 children.”

A Friend.  “I can’t imagine what you are feeling.  I know it must be so difficult.  Please know that God gave you those sweet children because He knew you were the woman for the job.  God wanted you, with your personality, struggles and situation, to be their Momma.  You and those 5 children is not a mistake.  And God has a plan in the midst of this.  Remember that verse you love, “All your children shall be taught by the Lord, and great shall be the peace of your children.”  (Isaiah 54:13) God is the Father your children really need…and He is the husband you need.  He will help you, friend.  He won’t leave you or forsake you.  He’s got your back.  Lean on Him.  I will pray that the Holy Spirit will help you see Christ more clearly and that your circumstances will dim in comparison.  That you will find that peace which passes all understanding to guard your heart and your mind in Him.  That your heart will overflow with gratefulness for the children you have been entrusted with.  That you will know how very much you are loved by me and by Him.  Can I pray for you right now?”

That’s just an idea.  I mean sometimes it might be that you just say, “I’m so sorry.  I’ll pray for you.”  I always find it such a blessing when friends say what they are going to pray for me or even pray for me right then and there.  I love it!

I was talking with a friend at church recently about all the unsolicited advice she gets.  I believe we single moms get A LOT of advice we don’t ask for…or want.  It’s not always easy to receive it gracefully.  I told this friend that I think I’d like to get a t-shirt made up that says, “Just Shut Up and Pray for Me!”

I confess I can’t because my family is anti-shut-up, although you wouldn’t necessarily know that since we all say it and then instantly someone says, “Hey, you can’t say shut up!”  It’s a struggle.  I’m trying to decide if it is a hill I want to “die on.”  But that’s a conversation for another blog.

My point…after all this blathering…is that I want to encourage us all to offer each other some grace…or a lot of grace.  Let’s give each other the freedom to share without condemnation or recommendations.  Let’s extend encouragement and understanding instead of instructions and ideas.

Let’s be honest – most of us know exactly what we need to do practically in order to get our lives in order.  We just find it hard to do it.  Life is difficult.  Growth is a process.  Grace is continual.

What I’d like to add at the end of that phrase is this…  “All you need to do is just…

know you are loved unconditionally

regardless of what you accomplish in a day

regardless of the words that fall out of your mouth on a bad day

regardless of the state of your home

regardless of the behavior of your children

regardless of the comments of others

you are loved unconditionally.

 

“May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.” 

2 Thessalonians 3:5

 

 

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