Spilling Guilt

pool pictureI’m sitting at the pool feeling guilty because I’m not in the pool playing with my daughters, but we can only stay a few minutes before I have to leave to take my son to a school function.  I have spent the majority of my summer in the car and I’m sooooo tired of driving.  I went to bed late and woke up early and I’m tired tired tired.  And I want to rest so very badly but for the life of me (which it actually feels like…I need to sleep to save the life of me) I can’t figure out how to get more than a few hours.

But as I grumpily drove my sweet girls (well kinda sweet girls) to the pool, I realized that I’m forcing my family to live in a state of constant guilt simply because I feel such huge guilt.

I’m tired and overwhelmed (hate that word) and ready to throw my hands up in the air in defeat.  I can’t do it all.  In fact, at the moment, I don’t want to do it all.  I don’t even want to do half of it.

But I want to do whatever I need to do to bless and love and encourage and raise my children well.

I think I have equated that too much with what I do with and for them.  Having 5 kids is a little bit much when it comes to doing things with each of them every day.  The other night my oldest daughter came in to talk at 11:45pm and my middle daughter woke me up at 5am with a tummy ache and my youngest son checked on me at 7am because we needed to leave for soccer at 7:30am.  That’s just the time supposed to be spent sleeping!  The day is full to overflowing with things and people and errands and such…too much stuff.

Enough complaining!

(YOU:  OK Sue, you’re tired, overwhelmed, and too busy.  We got it.)

Driving here I thought about how I’ve done nothing but moan, grown and guilt trip myself and my kids about the circumstances of each day.

My little girls LOVE the pool and I love to take them.  Today though, I just wanted to sit down for a minute with my eyes closed before I made another drive to school.  But I told them I’d take them and I should have happily.  If not happily, at least without making them feel badly about it.

I was already feeling horrible about acting grumpy and fussy (spilling my guilt) when my daughter said, “Momma, I’m sorry for whatever I did that’s making you so unhappy.”

Seriously?

I want to spend time with my children so they feel loved and instead I’m spending time with them and making them feel guilty.

That does not make any sense at all.

I hear people say that we have to take care of ourselves so we can take care of our children…I get it but what does that look like when you live in triage mode ALL. THE. TIME.

I want so badly to do this parenting thing well, but after 6 years of single parenting I’m still baffled by some of the struggles.

I feel the weight of the world on my shoulders lately.  I feel like I can’t possibly do it all and yet God has placed me here so it must be possible.

With man it is impossible, but not with God.  For all things are possible with God. Mark 10:27

With God.

I used to have a magnet that said, “God’s plan will not take you where His grace will not sustain you.”

Maybe it is that I have stepped a bit out of the plan?  Or maybe I’m not believing enough about the grace, or maybe I’m just so tired I can’t see the forest of His grace through the trees of my guilt and exhaustion.

Yeah, it’s probably the forest and trees one.

He’s there.  And I’m kinda way over here…here in my pity party pool.  Drowning.

Lord, help!

Help me find rest.

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.   Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.  Matthew 11:28-30

Help me follow you.

Thus says the LORD:  “Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths,

where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls.  Jeremiah 6:16

Help me – please quiet my soul.

Fear not, O Zion; let not your hands grow weak.  The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love, he will exult over you with loud singing.  Zephaniah 3:17

Help me focus on you.

But my eyes are toward you, O God, my Lord; in you I seek refuge; leave me not defenseless! Psalm 141:8

Help me not worry.

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

Help me trust you with my children.  Help me trust you with myself

Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.  Psalm 62: 8

This guilt thing is for the birds. I have tried hard not to be a guilt giver but in my own guilt I’ve made myself a guilt spiller.  Ugh.

I don’t want to be a guilt spiller.  Guilt is NOT something I want to share or give or spill.

How much more do I want to share, give and spill grace?

I feel like I throw that word around a lot.  Grace.  I know it well.  Why in the world can’t I live it?

I started looking up verses on grace and was struck with something I probably have known but never really thought about – grace is so much more than just something we receive from God.  It’s the place we stand, the place we are under, the means of our justification and our salvation, and the way we act, speak, and think.

Grace – The gift received

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not for yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.  Ephesians 2:8-9

Grace – The place we stand

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.  And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.  Romans 5:1-2

Grace – The place we are under

For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.  Romans 6:14

Grace – The means of our justification

…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.  Romans 3:23-24

Grace – The means of our salvation

It is by grace you have been saved…For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith -and this not for yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.    Ephesians 2:5, 8-9

(I think God wants me to read Ephesians 2:8-9 a bunch…)

Grace – The way we speak

Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.  Colossians 4:6

One who loves a pure heart and who speaks with grace will have the king for a friend.  Proverbs 22:11

That last one is getting to me today.  It is just what I need to hear…what I want to apply to my parenting.  I want to speak with grace…have all my conversations with my children always full of grace.

I really like the part about seasoned with salt.

Matthew Henry says this about seasoned with salt:

“Grace is the salt which seasons our discourse, makes it savory, and keeps it from corrupting.”

It goes with those verses about our words always building up and encouraging others.  Our words, even the ones that are meant to hold someone accountable or call someone out (something we often have to do as parents), being gentle.  (Galatians 6:1)

Our words – our grace-filled words – should encourage, edify, enlighten, and embolden our children’s faith…even when they are words of admonition and accountability.

Our words – every word – should not be ones that tear down, but rather build our children up.

Our words should not spill guilt, but should overflow with grace!

I’m praying God will help me be a grace spiller!

And Then There’s Me…

ImageThis single parenting thing is so difficult.   I get confused by all the different situations, personalities, struggles, and issues of my children.  I can’t seem to get my feet under me on any of them!

And then there’s me.

I think I might actually be more confused by my issues, struggles, emotions, and stresses than I am by any of my children’s.

I’m a mess.

Sometimes people are offended when I say that.  They want to correct me and say I shouldn’t say that.

That I shouldn’t be that.

That I should get my act together.

That I should be past the emotions…that’ll be a God-sized task!

That I should get out of the pit, but I’m not in a pit…life is just challenging right now.

That I should just put my big girl pants on already…Yeah…well, my big girl pants are on, believe me.

They don’t fit comfortably…they are sometimes too tight, sometimes too loose, sometimes too itchy, sometimes too stiff, sometimes too soft, sometimes the tag rubs wrong, sometimes they are on backwards and sometimes they are inside-out.  But they are on.  Dang it.

I think I’d like to say this…ITS OKAY TO BE A LITTLE BIT OF A MESS!!!

God didn’t say that I’d be perfect here…God didn’t say that life would be all neat and tidy…God didn’t say that people would act properly and not be mean…God didn’t say that everything would work out if I followed a certain set of rules or criteria…actually God said kinda the opposite…

“These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

I looked up trials, tribulation and trouble in the back of my Bible and they pretty much seem like a given.  BUT God does not leave us in these troubles.

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, thought the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling.  Psalm 46:1-3

 And these trials have a purpose.  A good purpose…

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trails 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

Perfect, complete, lacking nothing…sounds pretty good.  Perfect is a pretty daunting word, but in this verse it does not mean being sinless.  It refers to our spiritual maturity.

“The testing of our faith drives believers to deeper communion and great trust in Christ – qualities that in turn produce a stable, godly, and righteous character.”  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur Bible Commentary)

That’s totally who I want to be…stable, godly, righteous, not wobbly, messy, and self-centered.

And then I read about Paul…Paul who suffered mightily on this earth and begged God to take away his thorn, shared openly about his struggles…Paul, who had a passion for the Lord that I long for, shared how He wrestled with things…like sin and  circumstances that were by no means ideal.

For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.  Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.  So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand.  For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that swells in my members.  Wretched man that I am!  Who will deliver me from this body of death?  Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!  So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.  Romans 7:19-25

BUT THE NEXT VERSE IS AWESOME!!!

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  Romans 8:1

After Paul shares of his struggles with sin, he reminds us and himself, that because of Jesus we are not condemned!  How beautiful!

When I share my struggles, like Paul I want to point me (and you) back to Jesus.  Because let’s face it, we all struggle with something.  How much better if we could share our struggles and our victories in order to encourage and bless one another without receiving any condemnation!

It would be such a monumental thing if we as the Body of Christ could be open and share without condemnation.  If we could choose to walk alongside one another through our struggles and the battles we fight in order to share the victories!

And there will be victories because the battle is the Lord’s!

Although I’m okay with sharing it, I’d really like to not be a mess.  I’d really like to get my act together.

But God is showing me that getting my act together isn’t really what I think it is.

I tend to think if I could just get a full-night sleep that would help, maybe some exercise, a well-ordered house, some children that actually do what I ask/tell them to do…you know, basically the perfect life…then I wouldn’t be a mess.

But life is messy.  And people are messy.  And relationships are messy.  And circumstances are messy.

And God tells us we will have trouble in this world…but He also says that we aren’t to fear it.

He has never been nor will he ever be surprised or overwhelmed by trouble, trials or messiness.

He isn’t done with me because I’m a mess.  He loves me always, completely, relentlessly.

When God looks at me He doesn’t see my mess (thankfully!), He sees Jesus’ perfection.

And maybe something positive we could do is remind ourselves again of who we are in Christ.  I’ve not done this before, but I’m going to share a bit from my book.  This morning I prayed and asked God to show me what to write today…there is so much I long to share.  And He has laid it heavily on my heart to share:

“Next, I want you to really take a look at yourself, your amazing survivor self.  Remind yourself of who you are or can be in Christ.  When my oldest was a little boy, I taught his Sunday school class, and we memorized this verse:  “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!  And that is what we are!”  (1 John 3:1)

I always thought that was one of the best verses to memorize.  That word lavished is such a wonderful description of how God pours His love on us.  It isn’t a small amount, just enough to get us through the day.  It isn’t a decent amount that comforts us when things go badly.  He gives us limitless love.  There is no end to His love for us.

The chapter goes on to say that we know this is love because “Jesus Christ laid down his life for us” (verse 16).  My friend, God doesn’t just say He loves you; He demonstrated that love when, on the cross, He rescued you from your sin:  “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8 ESV).  How valuable you are in His sight!

God knows you and loves you.  “Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. [So] fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows” (Luke 12:7 ESV).  To all of us who believe in His name, “he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12).  You are chosen, rescued, and forgiven because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross (Galatians 3:13; 1 Peter 2:9-10).

I long for all of us to understand what Jesus has done for us.  We didn’t do anything worthy of His good opinion.  And yet Christ still died for us.  He knew our tendencies, our temptations, and our sins, and He still loved us enough to die for us.  He still loves us enough to die for us.  And He didn’t choose us just because we were all cute and adorable.  He chose us when we were all dirty, smelly, and rebellious.  He loves us even when we feel unlovable. 

Allow Him to “quiet you with his love” (Zephaniah 3:17), to calm your anxious thought, and to assure you that regardless of how you’re feeling or what you’re going through at this moment, you are dearly loved.

(“When Happily Ever After Shatters: Seeing God in the Midst of Divorce and Single Parenting, 112-113)

We might feel like messes, but when God looks at us He sees His precious child.  We might be uncomfortable with our mess, our children’s messes and the messes of others, but God isn’t.

He is willing and able to walk us through the mess.  He will stick with us.  All that He asks is that we trust Him.

Trust Him with our hurting, exhausted selves.  Trust Him with our children.  Trust Him with our circumstances.  Trust Him with our messiness.

I have known God to be faithful.  Another quote (sorry):

“Practically speaking, God obviously wasn’t doing my dishes for me or dealing with my sticky counters, but His presence gave me strength to face each task, whether tedious or terrifying. 

There are particularly difficult times in our lives when we completely understand that God is our strength.  We realize that it isn’t about coping with a situation; it’s about living in God’s strength.  It’s a surprisingly exquisite and painful place to be.”  (p. 24)

Dearest, trust God to take care of you.  You will be amazed at what wonderful stuff He can bring out of our messes!