Sunday, January 29, 2017

Sufficient Grace

2 Corinthians 12:9
"And He has said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.' Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me."

We all go through difficult times. In fact, the Bible makes no bones about the fact that we will suffer. But the amazing thing? God not only uses that suffering to perfect us, but also gives us His grace and power - sufficient for each moment - to live, and to live for Him.

I have a lot going on right now. We all know the place, whatever it may look like for you. Excluding my hobbies and other goals, I'm struggling with an unknown chronic pain, am a homeschooling mom of two children (five and two) who works two days a week, and am in escrow on my old home while renovating my new one. (It sounds to me like so much less all summed up!) Yet in the midst of those moments of pain in the night, moments of frustration learning to teach, moments of indecision and realizing what won't be done in time, moments of exhaustion through it all, God is with me.

I may not know the specific reason for any given trial, but I can rest in Romans 8:28-29, James 1:2-4, and 2 Corinthians 12:9.

Romans 8:28-29
"And we know that God causes all things to work for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren..."

James 1:2-4
"Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing."

2 Corinthians 12:9
"And He has said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.' Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me."

God is working all things for my good and His glory, perfecting me among my trials to be more like Him, and He is right there with me among them - in my weakness. Whether my weakness is the physical pain, the emotional frustration, the mental anxiety, or exhaustion as a whole, God will rise to the "challenge" when I rely on Him. When I shift my focus to realize I can't do it - and don't want to do without Him even if I could - I see the whole world differently. It isn't about what I can or can't do, it's about what God is doing.

God doesn't send the evil in this world, but He isn't powerless about it, either. My physical pain is a result of sin, but God is using it to teach me how to be weak. I don't do that very well. It seems to be my personal 2 Corinthians 12:7 "thorn in the flesh... to keep me from exalting myself." Rather, as I boast about what God is doing in my weakness, then He gets the glory, and I learn to be more like Christ.

Is it easy? No. Does remembering the above make it easier to deal with? Yes. Our suffering is not in vain, friend! Remind yourself of God's promises and granted power - be thankful for them. Rely on Him in humble prayer and He will keep you. Live in His keeping and rejoice!

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Almost There


1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
"Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."

I love that feeling of anticipation when you're approaching the climax and you can feel the excitement build. I've been creating a Bible Study on thankfulness and it's in its final stages of completion! One more little step and I can upload it for self-publishing - quite possibly in time for Christmas! This study has been on my heart and mind for awhile now, and I'm excited to see how God will use it.

I am thankful to be "almost there." It's so easy to let projects fall by the wayside, but I've felt His gentle prodding to make sure I finish this one. That alone feels special. I have no idea what He'll do with it - and it will be Him, because my marketing skills are nil - but it has been more important to me to be faithful to complete it. By His grace... I almost have.

The journey to complete it has also done a work in me. I haven't been writing my thankful things down lately, as I attend to other things, and I've noticed my walk with God grow harder to deal with. However, every time I've sat down and taken the time to work on the study, God has blessed me. The idea behind the study is to show the participant how to apply thankfulness to all aspects of her walk with God. This has served as such a blessed reminder to me of the same.

If you're interested, the study is called How Do I "Give Thanks in Everything?" based off 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 with emphasis on verse 18: "...in everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." As evidenced by my blog, I have found the practice of thankfulness to fuel my joy in the Lord. It has helped in so many areas in which I've faltered. Paul's call to action in these verses isn't idle, and this journey of learning to apply it to my life has transformed me; I want to share it with all of you.

See my Journals page to find out more - I hope to have it available to purchase in time for Christmas! May God reveal His grace to you through it as much as He has me!

Monday, November 21, 2016

This, Too, Shall Pass

James 4:14b
"...You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away."

Life hurts. Whether you struggle with physical or emotional pain (or both), there will be times in life when it seems unbearable. In the midst of tonight's rise in my chronic pain, I found comfort in the knowledge God has taught my heart that is so commonly phrased, "This, too, shall pass." My hope doesn't stop there, though. Not only will this moment of pain pass, but there will be moments of joy, as well. Those will pass, too, until we breathe our last breath and join Christ in heaven. Then we will have joy everlasting!

As James says, this life is but a vapor. It seems to go on and on at times, but in the face of eternity, it's a bare blip on the heartbeat monitor. My hope rests in Christ who paid the ultimate price for me to be with Him in eternity where "He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away." (Revelation 21:4) 

I long for that day, but as Paul notes in Philippians 1:22: "But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose." (See more relevant text here: Philippians 1:21-24). God uses my time on this earth for the good of His children (me included) and for His glory. (Romans 8:28-29) He is, as James says, teaching me endurance, which is perfecting me (James 1:2-4).

I am thankful this pain shall pass, and that there will be a day when I shall be with Him in eternity. I praise Him for the work He has done to make that possible, and I relinquish my pride that says I deserve any better than what His only perfect Son endured. I thank Him that I don't have to pay that price, and for His Holy Spirit through whom He grants me strength to face the pain. Praise Him from whom all blessings flow!

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Encouragement

1 Thessalonians 5:11
"Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing."

My coworkers have a tradition: the staff goes out to lunch in celebration of one of its members' birthdays, during which each person says a couple things about the birthday person they appreciate. Today was one such lunch for my birthday. Often, the appreciation can be a bit generic, with a few meaningful things here and there. Today, God blessed me with an outpouring of heartfelt appreciation from every one of my coworkers in areas I regard with high value: character, growth in the Lord, growth in being a mother, trustworthiness, and even being on top of things. I nearly cried.

You see, lately I have acutely seen and felt the areas in my life in which I'm not doing so well... many of which overlap the very areas in which my coworkers complimented me. 

I have a lot on my plate right now with: new software implementation and designing new offices at work; supporting my family in readying our current house to sell; co-orchestrating the purchase of a new house along with my in-laws (and our subsequent move); learning about a homeschool co-op and working with a charter to help fund school for my oldest son who starts this fall; trying to rehash my work schedule to coordinate with my son's school schedule; and working with doctors and trying new treatments for my severe chronic pain as I care for our two kiddos as a part-time stay-at-home-mom (to highlight a few). 

Motherhood, though a definite calling in my life, is not my talent, and I have watched with dismay, my selfishness in dealing with my kids - especially in the midst of these challenges. I'm easily irritable, put them off, and sometimes outright ignore them. The problem is that I'm not looking at the bigger picture. Do I fall short of perfect on a daily basis? Certainly! Yet there is growth on my part.

I honestly dislike it when others (who don't really know me) see what I'm facing and say, "You're doing a great job!" because they have no idea with just the superficial picture before them... but I think I finally understand why they do it. Motherhood is a difficult thing on its own, because it is ever-present amidst all the beautiful catastrophe of life. It never truly ends, and we all need encouragement through it. Even if you aren't a mother, encouragement is huge. We simply need it, because we lose sight of the bigger picture. We get bogged down in day-to-day battles, and don't look back to realize that - through God's amazing grace and sovereign power - we're slowly but surely winning the war.

I love the verses just before the one quoted above: "But since we are of the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salivation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep, we will live together with Him. Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing." 1 Thessalonians 5:8-11

What a great reminder of the bigger picture of eternity and where our hope truly lies: Christ! These days and their suffering will pass, but Christ and our unmerited inheritance in and with Him, will not. I thank God for the encouragement He sent me today to help shift my focus toward Him, and I hope this serves as an encouraging reminder for you!

Friday, July 1, 2016

Staying Longer

Philippians 2:8b, 12-13 (with omissions)
"...He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. ... So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure."

Fridays I get to bring my kiddos to meet with another mom or two with their kids in the park for a couple hours. It's a great time for me and the kiddos, because it affords a measure of rest. I get to fellowship with the moms, and the kids get to play. Some interaction is required, naturally, but it's easier than being alone with them at home.

As a mom who deals with chronic pain, works part-time, is in the middle of a house remodel, and cares for two kids four and under, I can see my time with the kids as something to be weathered. I can look toward a day with them and just wonder how I'm going to manage. I can grow anxious about it, or about the length of time things will be this way, and how long I can take it. Yet time and again, the Lord has proven to me His faithfulness.

It isn't about how much I can handle; Christ is the one weaving the world, and He weaves with an eye for the good of His children (some of the strings in the tapestry) and for His glory (the picture it paints). Part of what Christ died for, was to be the atoning sacrifice that we might be granted access to the perfect Holy Spirit. He is the source of our strength. It's about our relationship with Him, learning to recognize our Weakness and turn to Him in faith to see His work accomplished.

I am too weak to deal with all these circumstances, and I have a tendency to make matters worse with my thoughts. Yet Christ is working all things (including these circumstances) for my good, and I can rest in His grace and have faith in His plan. Rest and faith may not seem like strength, but God's strength takes care of the rest from there in order for me to obey His good an perfect will.

Today, not only did I have a reprieve in getting to be with the other moms and kids, but we stayed an extra two hours with them, prolonging the fellowship and break time. God is so good! Some moms might cringe at the consequences of staying longer... but for us, this meant a nap for the 1-year-old right after, and the 4-year-old playing by himself for awhile. Mommy can take her meds, write on the computer while they kick in (yes, that's this part!), then do a chore or two. Daddy might even be home by then!

I praise and thank God for staying longer today. His provision often amazes me even though it "shouldn't." Even on days when His plan includes more obstacles, He always provides the strength (again, often through rest in His grace and faith in His goodness and plan) to deal with them. Praise the Lord!

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Hope in Christ

1 Peter 1:13
"Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ."

This world is full of things we hope for. 

My husband and I are currently preparing our house to sell - it's a lot of work, and the list continues to grow. We were hoping to be done by the end of May... and then the end of June... and now we're just trusting the Lord for His timing as to when it will be completed. 

I've struggled with chronic pain since I was about nine years old. I've been through so many ups and downs with hoping doctors could determine what the issue was in order to treat it. I've tried so many supplements and ideas, it's exhausting. With each new idea, it's tempting to raise my hopes of healing, only to be disappointed and depressed.

Yet the things of this world are not where our hope truly lies. When the Bible talks about hope, it doesn't use or describe it as something we desire will happen. It's something we know and expect will happen. Hope is a result of faith.

If I "...fix [my] hope completely on the grace to be brought to [me] at the revelation of Jesus Christ" it totally changes my perspective. My hope is not in getting the house sold by the end of this month - the house selling has little consequence in the face of the day Christ declares me His righteous daughter. My hope is not in healing my chronic pain - God's sovereign grace is over my chronic pain, and He uses it as a tool to mold me into the image of His Son (Romans 8:29) and to grow my relationship with Him. 

I may wish for things here on earth, but I'm so thankful to hope in Christ. I don't have to be depressed by disappointed hope in timelines or suffering. All is in God's hands. His unchanging grace, love, and purpose for me are a rock to stand on, a refuge of protection, and a stronghold in our spiritual battle. Wishes and desires come and go, but God is the I AM. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Our Daughter's Demeanor

1 Corinthians 10:13
"No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it."

The newest addition to our family, our easy-going daughter, has been nicknamed Sunshine. She is full of smiles, amazingly patient, and all around good-natured. When most kids would be bored to tears, she is patiently waiting and watching. That is her favorite thing to do: people watch. She is thoroughly entertained by this activity and it is adorable to watch. One little smile from Sunshine can turn the low tide blues of my moment to a sunny high tide on the beach.

When I meditate on the verse above, it is useful to remember that no sin I have committed is new. While my situation may be unique, all men (which, of course, means women, too) have encountered the temptation within the situation. I am not alone in my sin - others do understand those temptations. Yet God - our gracious, sovereign, loving Father - will always provide the way of escape. He will always give us a way to choose not to sin.


Sometimes, I think He uses our daughter's demeanor as my way of escape. Her sudden broad smile, her random dance break-outs, her excited sounds, and infectious giggles can all remind me of God's grace in my current situation. Just remembering His grace helps me to choose more wisely - to take a step back and look at the situation through His eyes (if I do so choose). I struggle with the temptation - and often fail - but that sweet little demeanor often stops my thought process just long enough to recognize the choice of what I do next.

I thank God for this reminder of His grace in our daughter's demeanor.