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?

Friday, January 15, 2016

Writing

Ephesians 3:20-21
"Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen."

I enjoy writing, and I believe I communicate better in writing than in any other form. During this process of writing thankful things, God has transformed my heart. I am, of course, still an unfinished mold in the Potter's hands, but this stage in my walk with Him has been pivotal. 

Thinking of something I'm thankful for is helpful, but writing about why takes more thought - even a bit of research - and generates more opportunity to dwell on Christ and what He has done for me. I can't tell you the number of times that taking the time to write about a thankful thing has shifted my focus to prevent depression, nor how many times it has lifted me out of it when I have fallen. It is such a blessing to be able to use my gift not only to draw nearer to Him, but also to help others draw nearer to Him. It is the utmost honor and privilege granted by His overwhelming grace.

To God be the glory! 

Friday, December 4, 2015

No Option

Proverbs 3:5-6
"Trust the Lord your God with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight."

There are times in life when we realize there is no other option but to keep going. No one else can swoop in and rescue you and you're just going to have to pick yourself up and keep moving - whether for your sake, the sake of your children, family, or friends. It may sound a bit strange to be thankful for this, but perhaps it makes sense to those who have been there. You see, once in that place of no option, even depression isn't an option, because you can't keep going if you're depressed. The only option is to keep moving, keep relying on the strength God always provides, keep praying, keep taking the next step. Determination - and sometimes desperation - drive you onward with your head focused only straight ahead on what must be done. 

I may not know how things will turn out, or even the step after the one I'm taking right now, but God does, and I can take comfort from that. I have to focus on what is true, and what the Lord requires of me. It reminds me of Proverbs 4:25-27: "Let your eyes look directly ahead and let your gaze be fixed straight in front of you. Watch the path of your feet and all your ways will be established. Do not turn to the right nor to the left; turn your foot from evil."

I must keep my gaze straight ahead on God's truth and trust Him with all my heart, as it says in Proverbs 3:5, and "In all your ways acknowledge Him" (Proverbs 3:6a). I must keep the knowledge of His presence and His work at the fore of my mind to remember my humble place, and be thankful. Lately, I have felt "tested" or even "attacked" in most areas of my life. It is difficult to keep my eyes fixed ahead on the "prize of the upward call" (Philippians 3:14), but if I turn my head toward complaint, I turn it away from Christ - away from hope - and suddenly I seem more important than those around me. I become bigger than even God's will... and while that fool's gold is tempting, if I look closer I can see that fake glitter is anxiety born of a desire to impose my own will upon the world - as if I were as powerful and knowing and wise as God.

Yes, I am thankful for those times when I recognize there is no other option. It is during these times that Christ truly grips me and moves me forward. It is, amazingly, His grace - His unmerited favor - to me to allow these trials in my life. It isn't easy by any means, but most things of worth aren't. Thank you, Lord, for your strength to continue, and please keep flicking my head forward when I glance away, so I focus on You. You are my true joy.

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