Taking 4 Steps Back

IMG_3911Once upon a time…

There was a little girl who dreamed of being married and raising beautiful little children who would love the Lord and each other.  There wasn’t a white picket fence, but there was a big oak tree with a tire swing, a creek with tadpoles, a kitchen counter with a fresh loaf of homemade bread, and a mommy and daddy who loved each other with abandon.

Not surprisingly, that little girl was me.

It seemed for a very long time that things were headed that way…I’d jumped into the chariot, married Prince Charming, and started making beautiful babies.  The house was full – joyfully chaotic and plentiful in love.

But underneath the calm beauty of a life built together, there were secrets and hurtful things.  Sin was stealing in to destroy and devastate.

After almost 18 years of family building, it became a marriage collapse.

It was easy to assume that this marriage collapse would spell the end of this precious family.

But because God can always make beauty from ashes, we would survive…me and my little band of beauties.

We wobbled, we swayed, but we didn’t fall.  In fact, in many ways we became stronger – closer and more determined to thrive, not just survive.

Picking up the pieces after divorce is no easy task.  In fact, it’s exhausting, but the pieces, with God’s help, do fit back together.  The picture isn’t the same, but it can still be beautiful.  It can still be joyful.

My picture hasn’t fallen back into place easily.  It’s taking time.  It’s taking a bunch of perseverance and patience…things I often don’t feel I have near enough of.

There are days I still mourn my “once upon a time no more”.  There are days I still feel a deep pain in my chest when I ponder what I’ve lost.

But maybe the key is not to focus on what I’ve lost, but to realize what I have gained…been blessed with…have.

And again God brings me back to Whose I am…who I am.

It’s so easy to forget in the busyness of the day…I just feel so much without thinking.

I feel so overwhelmed.  I feel so impatient.  I feel so much pressure.  I feel such failure.  I feel such hopelessness at times.

What.  In.  The.  World????

Hopeless.

How did I get here?

I honestly don’t know…one small step after another I guess.

One step toward thinking I can handle it all.

One step away from the strength of the Lord and into the illusion of my own strength.

One step away from moments of peace and rest and into the hurried and overwhelmed moments of a day without boundaries.

One step away from prayer and into thinking I should be able to do this.

One step away from the Word and into my own wisdom, my own knowledge, my own perspective.

Taking those steps over and over again…those have gotten me here.

To this place of stress and anxious thoughts and overwhelming emotions.

How do I get back to the start…to the better place?

One step at a time…

Step one…on my knees.  Prayer is my lifeline.

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.  Romans 12:12

 Likewise, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knowns what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.  And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.  Romans 8:26-28

Step two…dive into the Word.  Knowing Him through His word gives me such abiding hope, often a new perspective, and the wisdom I need so desperately to lead my little band.

Behold you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.  Psalm 50:6

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

Sanctify them in the truth; your word is the truth.  As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.  And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.  John 17:17

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.  2 Timothy 3:16

Step three… sit down!!  Chill…relax…rest.  Rest in the knowledge that I am His daughter.  Rest in the knowledge that He has my life in the palm of His hand.  Rest in the knowledge that He will take care of me and my children.  Rest in the knowledge that He loves me.

For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on Spirit is life and peace.  Romans 8:6

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

Step four…gratitude.  I cannot have a good attitude without gratitude.  If I would but take a moment and think about the good things…the precious people and massive number of blessings God has lavished on me…I’d see that it is quite easy to count my blessings.  But even if God had not graciously blessed me with people and things and opportunities and provision, He has blessed me with Christ…with grace and mercy, with the joy of the Lord, with salvation, with life, with hope, with peace, with eternity.  How can my lips not praise and thank Him!

Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever.  Psalm 118:1

Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love, for his wonderous works to the children of man!  Psalm 107:8

Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. Colossians 2:6-7  

 I know there are more steps to take…but that will get me started moving forward with grace and peace.

Lord, thank you so much that you love me regardless of my attitude or actions.  Lord, thank you that I know that you will take care of me and my children.  Forgive me for so often trying to take control of my life.  Forgive me for not resting in the knowledge that I can trust you.  Thank you Father that you are faithful and kind even in the face of my unfaithfulness.  I am in awe of you!  In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Do You Know How to Live Grace?

ImageHave you ever gotten a continual message from God…over and over and over again in as many different ways as you can imagine?

Lately that has been my experience with the gospel.  Every book I pick up, every sermon I hear, every quote I find, and every verse I read points me to the gospel…or at least it seems that way.

And although I’ve heard the concept of preaching the gospel to myself daily and understood it to some degree, I haven’t got it as profoundly as I’d like.

I’m praying for understanding, for application and for ability to live out the gospel daily.

I just read these verses and again what struck me was the gospel!

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever.  Amen.  Galatians 1:3-6

God truly has been reminding me over and over again about His relentless, passionate, and unconditional love for me… for all of us.

The first word GRACE (love that word BTW) is defined as “an undeserved act of kindness”.  It represents all that we have received as a result of Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross.

And then that other lovely word, PEACE is a result of the grace we have received because of Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross.

That sounds a little bit repetitive, but I’m trying to get that gospel message into my head and heart more deeply than ever – that the grace and peace that God gives us is because of Jesus, not us.

Isn’t that freeing?

It was God’s will for Jesus to die for our sins so that we wouldn’t have to, so that we could have a relationship with Him, so that we would know that He loves us more than we could ever imagine.

I don’t know about you, but I need to know that…I mean really and truly know that.

I have recognized lately that I really struggle with thinking I’m worthy of anything.  I wonder if everything happened because I really am a complete mess…because a lot of times I really feel like one.

Sometimes I feel like I’m such a failure. I wonder if I’ll ever get things right with parenting, home management and with my career (whatever that may be).  I wonder if anyone would truly be able to deal with my life…really.  I wonder if I could ever truly be a blessing of a wife to someone…my first time around didn’t end so well.

The funny thing about my fears and my feelings…I know they are bogus.  They don’t reflect who I am in Christ.  And I know who I am so why do I struggle so? 

Why is it so difficult to see my value as a child of the King?  Why am I so impacted by my successes or failures in this sin-ridden world?

I think the key word is “sin-ridden”.  Stuff is just gonna be a struggle here.

Fear is gonna assail us, but it doesn’t have to defeat us.

Doubts are gonna rain down on us, but they don’t have to drown us.

Failure is gonna happen, but it doesn’t have to define us.

What then shall we say to these things?  If God is for us, who can be against us?  He would did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?  Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect?  It is God who justifies.  Who is to condemn?  Christ Jesus is the one who died – more than that, who was raised – who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.  Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?…

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Romans 8:31-35, 37-39

More than conquerors!  Seriously, how can we be more than conquerors? That’s crazy!

Crazy good though.

God didn’t send Jesus to live and die for me, so that I could live a life of defeat.  He’s not even content with me living a life of mediocre.  I’m free from the power of sin and death…I’ll struggle to be sure, but God has already given me all I need to live a life of freedom and victory.

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.  Galatians 5:1

I’m free to live without fear of condemnation.  Free to live without fear of failure.  Free to live without fear period.

I’m not a slave to sin, to fear, to anxiety, to past mistakes, to expectations, to failures, to successes, to anything.

I don’t have to fear because God loves me perfectly.

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.  1 John 4:18

But that love…that perfect love…that is God.  That is the gospel.  That is what Paul is talking about…the source of our grace and peace.

I want grace to impact me daily – to speak to the way I think about myself, others, and life.  But how…

How do I make grace, not just something I know about, but something I live for and by and with constantly?

Is it as simple as waking up and reminding myself of who I am and who He is?  Is that it?  I guess that’s a definitely step in the right direction!

Time in the Word – as always that’s part of the answer, it just is!  When I look for it, I see the gospel everywhere in Scripture.  God’s relentless and loving pursuit of His people is all throughout the Bible.

Prayer – yup, prayer…who’d a thunk it…J

I’m asking God to show me how the gospel of grace should impact me and my children.  And God is showing me in little ways…in my parenting adventures, in my interaction with friends, in my attitude about things, in how I do what He’s called me to do…in everything.

I’m getting it…slowly.  I don’t get things easily.  I gotta work for it…but God is working with me!

I believe that God is showing me the huge amount of grace I need so that I can be a grace-filled person toward others.

My prayer is that grace would spill out of me all over everyone around me.

As God shows me how to live this grace-filled life…this gospel-centered life…I will share and we can grow together in our walk with the Lord!

sensory issues, socks, and serious stuff

socksSo the other morning, my youngest daughter decided to completely fall apart about socks.

To say it was a disaster is putting it mildly.

About 5 minutes into the exchange, I realized that I was acting more immature than my 6 year old.

I wasn’t sure how to stop the spiral, so unfortunately….I didn’t.  I just went with it…spinning in nauseating circles to the bottom of the pit of momma fail.

And I did it with gusto.

I’ve been thinking about it for days.

What caused me to respond so poorly to my little girl’s sensory issues?  I mean, it’s not like they are a surprise.

Okay, well the socks were exactly the same as the ones that were fine the previous day…so that was annoying, but really, she’s 6 and she’s got stuff she’s dealing with…and, honestly, I do too.

But being that I’m approximately 39 years older, wouldn’t it seem like I could hold it together better than her?

Yeah…well…apparently not.

I think the issue might be that I simply want things to go my way.

Everyone just do things my way, ok?

And don’t get in my way.

I mean I am the momma after all.

I’m the boss.

But I’d like to be a benevolent dictator!

I think I was more like a really, really mean drill sergeant.

Thankfully I don’t have these meltdowns often, but when they happen they are spectacular. And I don’t mean that in a positive way…

Ugh…Why do they happen again?

Oh yeah…it’s all about me.

I’ve been studying the book of Philippians.  Chapter 2 to be exact.

Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.  Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (3-8) 

I believe I could read the verse about putting other’s interests above my own and apply it to this situation, but most of the time, I probably put my children ahead of me even when I shouldn’t.

Although I believe I should always put my children’s well-being above my temper tantrums…above my emotions.

My emotional craziness that morning can’t really be justified…even though I was frustrated and nothing was going as I had planned.  I had stuff I needed to get done…they needed to get on the bus already!

Truly that seems to be what my life is about right now…getting stuff done.

Getting stuff done even if it means not being patient, kind, or gracious.

Getting stuff done even if it means less sleep…and a fussy momma.

Getting stuff done even if it means no time for relationships.

Getting stuff done even if it means oodles and oodles of stress…for everyone.

Do I really need to get so much stuff done?  Yes. I do.  But there has to be a way to do it gracefully.

Before I can figure that one out, I want to consider my emotions a bit….just a bit, because as I heard someone say once, “I don’t like the way emotions make me feel.”  I’m all over that.  (And I have to be honest, I’m not particularly fond of hormones either.)

When my ex- husband left 5 years ago, I wrote in my journal, “Remember it’s not what you feel, it’s what you know.”

That was written when I was feeling completely beaten down and I was trying to remind myself of my identity in Christ.  I wanted to be sure to make decisions and act based on what I knew to be true from God’s Word, rather than what I was feeling, especially the feelings based on my husband’s actions.

I think this situation with my daughter was another opportunity to remind myself that my actions must not be based on what I feel, but on what I know to be true.

I know that God has a plan even for my day and if things go awry He can help me handle it.

I know that my little girl needs encouragement, patience, and understanding, not the words I offered her.

I know that my actions impact my daughter and all my other children…that my thoughtless, frustrated words hurt.

I know that I have the Holy Spirit to help me control this blasted tongue.

And, thankfully I know that God forgives me for all my mistakes as a woman and a parent.

The other part of that verse that struck me was the humility of Christ.  He was GOD and He willingly took on the form of man to save me.  He humbled himself…humbled himself to death.

I need a minute to soak that in…

And I can’t humble myself to speak graciously to my child???

My little girl who wasn’t being disobedient (even though it felt that way), who wasn’t being defiant (even though it felt that way), who wasn’t being difficult on purpose (even though it felt that way)…she was just being a little girl with sensory issues who was completely undone by the toe seam on her socks.

And I was the momma who acted on how I felt, rather than what I knew.  I was the one in charge who instead of humbly and gently loving my daughter, chose to wield my big stick and verbally whack everything in sight.

Looking back I can see that if I had responded at first with graciousness, my little girl might have found what she needed sooner and we could have had a peaceful morning.  Unfortunately, I decided to disregard some of the other verses in Philippians 2:

Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.  (14-16)

Oh the grumbling and complaining…oh well…no sense continuing to beat myself up about this.

So I have to tell you after all our sock craziness, as we were heading out the door, my daughter sat down in the foyer and said, “Momma, I don’t think I want to wear socks.”  So 45 minutes and 15 pairs of socks later…she went to school without socks.

Seriously.photo (4)

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

Single Parenting by THE BOOK

Recently a sweet friend gave me a parenting book.  Thankfully I’m at a good place to receive it…I know I’m in over my head!  Single parenting five children is daunting, difficult, and downright exhausting.   There was a time when I’d have been appalled that someone thought I might need any professional assistance with my parenting.  Not anymore.

Help!!

It’s a good book – well-written, thoughtful, and scripturally based.  I’m sure it will inspire me, and hopefully help me become a better mom…I could sure use some inspiration and help.  The bigger issue might be finding time to read it.  There are, after all, a pile of books beside my bed waiting to be read.  Books on grace, books on prayer, books on everything from A to Z that might possibly help me live this life better.  Unfortunately every night I’m completely exhausted and unable to read more than a page without my eyes crossing.

The other day as I climbed into bed with my new parenting book, I happened to look over at my bookcase.  There, stacked nicely all together, were all my previously read parenting books.  I climbed out of bed, walked over and knelt down beside my bookcase.   I counted 10 books on parenting.  Ten!  Apparently I’ve been looking for help for quite a while!  Or else someone’s sneaking them onto my bookshelf in hopes that I’ll pick them up and read them and possibly apply what I learn effectively.

There was a time when I decided that parenting books were all well and good, but I was determined to simply study the Bible and pray diligently. I don’t think that was necessarily bad.  I’m sitting here remembering back to my first two years after my husband left.  There was absolutely never time to read a parenting book, any “free” time I had I tried to devote to Bible study and prayer.  I knew where my help and comfort was coming from – my help came from the Lord!!

Life was stressful.  Days were full and overwhelming.  My children ranged in ages from toddler to teen.  And there was only one parent to figure everything out.  I’m remembering how faithful God was to lead me.  How gracious He was to guide my parenting, to aid my decision-making, and to refresh me each morning.

I had forgotten. I remember how difficult it was, but I tend to forget how precious so much of that time was.  My kids and I were closer than ever, our conversations sweeter, our time spent more wisely, our issues less pronounced.  I believe that it was because I was praying fervently every night.  I was passionate in my approach to staying within God’s will.  I have lost that passion recently.  I don’t think I’m terribly passionate about anything anymore…just tired.

I think I will indeed finish the book my friend gave me, and I will apply any good principles, or at least try to.  But I think I most definitely will try to get back to my time with the Lord and my passion for Him more.  I think I will not just think about praying, I actually will.  I know it isn’t going to be easy…but now that I remember what it was like to do this life with my focus on Christ, I really want that again.  It was a blessed time.

Maybe someday I can write the parenting book on how to parent without a book.  Well, actually how to parent with THE BOOK.