Thursday, December 8, 2016

Almost There



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.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Weakness

2 Corinthians 12:9-10
"And He 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."

Let me be candid. I cringe at the thought of showing weakness in the face of my pain (the irony isn't lost on me). It is not in my nature to show the severity of my trials, and I work to "shield" those around me from it. While there is some good intent (adding to the world's list of complaints is a disservice to my companions), I think the true issue lies with my pride. God has been convicting me lately about not showing my struggles to those around me. Complaint may not serve my companions, but neither can Christ's light shine through me as a living testimony if I hide the very trials through which He works in my life. 

I see people respond to the salutation, "How are you?" with an enthusiastic, "Fantastic!" I understand the importance of living in the knowledge of the reality of Christ's amazing work for us, and I congratulate those people on their ability to testify of that... but I have (almost) never been able to truthfully say, "I'm living the dream!"  

Isaiah 26:3 says, "The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, because he trusts in You." When I keep my mind focused on God, His goodness and sovereignty, and thankfulness for it, I am content and in perfect peace. That peace is only marred by my chronic pain and various trials if I let it. There are, in fact, times when that peace can be enhanced by this physical pain God permitted within my body. 

But how can people see the good that the Lord does in my life through my weakness if I don't show my weakness? How can they understand the depth of His work, or the height of the mountain, so-to-speak, if they do not see the valley? There is also the flip side: how is God served when I'm not dealing well with the pain? In those moments that I lose patience with my child who is complaining about something far less difficult than my own suffering? In those moments when the peace of Christ escapes me because my mind in centered on myself rather than Him?

The truth is, I've reached my limit. My reservoir is empty, my strength spent. God has already taught me I should be relying upon His strength before I get to this point - and I think I am! - only to discover my level of reliance was elementary.  I've reached this point numerous times, but it always amazes me how little I actually tap into His Holy Spirit.  When my strength is completely spent, only then do I rely fully on Him. Only when I am too weak to put up the puny fight I have in me compared to His omnipotent power, will He supercede my boundaries and pour forth His power, His testimony, His grace through my frail form. 

It is a recognition of the power of the Holy Spirit in me to do what God has commanded of me: love.  I am too tired to help others, but the Holy Spirit has new life.  I have more love for myself than others, but the Holy Spirit can overcome my selfishness and sacrifice for others.  I have nothing left to give, but the Holy Spirit has everything to give.  It is only in the knowledge that I have nothing to offer that I can recognize the omnipotent power of the Holy Spirit to work through me anyway.

As I struggle to understand what it looks like to live in humble weakness - not just before God, but before others - I am thankful for my weakness. I thank God for His sufficient grace to work His good will through my weakness, and His wisdom to teach me through it. What area are you weak in right now? How can your weakness testify of God's strength?

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