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.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Ant Spray

Philippians 2:14-16a
"Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life..."

Grumbling (or complaint), and the attitude behind it, can be hard not to catch. My newly four-year-old has been struggling with a whiney attitude this past year, and I have noticed my own attitude grow increasingly difficult to control. I'll give you an example. 

This morning found me washing the dishes, strainer, and counters in the wake of an ant invasion. Little black bodies littered my counters amid plates, cups, and silverware, telltale signs of where my husband had sprayed. Where were my thoughts? Making a mental list of all the things to complain about:


  • chronic back pain only dulled by the meds made worse by standing to wash the dishes;
  • whiney and disobedient son;
  • recognition of handling said whining poorly;
  • no dishwasher to take care of these dishes;
  • ant spray all over my kitchen;
  • ant spray too near my breast pump accessories (rewash - can't let that near the baby);
  • having to drain and refill the dishwater to try to keep the ant spray from building up on the washed dishes;
  • not pumping enough breast milk lately... 

...you get the idea. I was not exercising God's joy. Later in the day, I realized my error of looking for what to complain about rather than be thankful for. 

Begin internal dialogue:

"Okay, what should I be thankful for?"

"What annoyed you the most today?"

"The most? Well doing the dishes was the hardest part of my day because it took so long and my back hurting from it, and the ant spray precipitated that. So let's say ant spray."

"Then start there. How can you be thankful for this particular instance of ant spray?"

"Well, the Lord uses trials to make me more like Christ, so I can be thankful that He used the ant spray to continue working on that front."

"Mhmm. Would you rather still have ants swarming your kitchen?"

"Yeah, no. No ants is a good thing."

"Right, what else?"

"Well... He used this instance to point out that I haven't been pursuing thankfulness as much as I thought I was lately."

"Yeah, that's a good one!"

I smiled. I really was thankful for ant spray - this particular instance - and I hadn't even had to work that hard for it. I just had to turn my full intentions toward it, and let the truths I knew about God do the rest. 

I praise the Lord and thank Him for ant spray. Especially that He used it to show me where my heart and thoughts have been lately. It is even His grace that He opened my eyes to this before I sank into depression, which is inevitably where the road of complaint leads.  Now I have renewed my resolve (and intentionality) to pursue a thankful heart. Praise the Lord for His gentle reminders.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Lightning Show

Jeremiah 29:11
"'For I know the plans that I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.'"

The day I started writing this was a bit rough. As I waited three hours to see my doctor, I let the pain climb to six on my pain scale before I popped a couple Motrin. (I barely kept from crying.) I had my reasons, but it was my own fault for I waited so long. Of course, God was sovereign through it, and I can even see some of the good that came from it.

After the rest of the day's events, I started the drive home... to behold God's lightning show in a front row seat! Watching lightning makes me smile. I'm not arrogant enough to say God produced that show just for me (He's too efficient for that!), but I felt the real privilege of inclusion. The grace - the unmerited favor - of allowing me to watch as He puppeteered His creation into a beautiful display helped bring my mind around from the troubles of the day. It reminded me of His good and sovereign plan (Jeremiah 29:11); I could almost feel Him hold my hand as I beheld His glory in the night sky. 

In this amazing relationship with my Savior, I find many such moments - especially if I keep an eye out. What is a moment in which He shared His love and glory with you?

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Way of Escape

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."

My biggest temptation right now is impatience with my children. No parent can relate to that, right? The things that make me realize my impatience are when I hear my voice rise or grow hard, or when I start to roll my eyes with a heavy sigh. I have to stop and check my motive. Most of the time, I don't really want to do that right then. And yet... 1 Corinthians 10:13 comes to mind. God has provided a way of escape in my temptation. I have a choice each moment to sin and love myself first or my children first. I can put my own desires over how I treat them, or I can treat them like my neighbor, as the famous biblical commandment goes. ("...love your neighbor as yourself." Matthew 22:39) Love is always a choice first, with the feelings following your choices.

I am thankful for the choice not to sin; that God is sovereign and gracious enough to provide the way of escape when I am tempted. While I may not particularly care for the responsibility of the choice, I am glad for the freedom of choice. Isn't it interesting how God's sovereignty allows for my free will? So often, those two things seem to be in conflict, and yet, from God's "10,000-foot view" it all makes sense.

I thank the Lord for "the way of escape," not only for the freedom to choose, but for the knowledge that I can do something about my sin. Each time I catch myself in an eye roll and sigh that shows where my focus is (myself), I also know that I can choose to shift my focus. To exercise 2 Corinthians 10:5 and take "...every thought captive to the obedience of Christ[.]" I'm not stuck; God has provided a way out. I need to look for it, and to choose God's love.

What do you do that warns you're headed down the wrong path? How can you change your thoughts or actions to align with Christ's will?

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Beyond the Trial

Proverbs 31:25
"Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she smiles at the future."

Before a known upcoming trial, I often struggle to smile at the future. It is, of course, much easier after the fact. I am thankful for the Lord's grace when I am between multiple trials of the same kind and am able to smile at the next one.

Ordinarily, I take the night shift with my four-month-old, but my husband will spell me if she won't go back to sleep. Not so, lately, as he has been needed more at work and church. Also, My babysitting is out of commission for the next four weeks due to surgery or vacation; my best friend is leaving; and I just had to bow out of a weekly game that I was planning to enjoy with my friends. All of this leaves me home alone with the kiddos without much way to get out or have me time. I am between these trials, looking at the future.

Through God's grace, I am smiling.

Not because I am looking forward to the trial, but because of where my focus is. God will see me through it. He has seen me through past trials and He will see me through this coming trial. God is faithful.

Each trial He allows in my life leaves me with more knowledge about how to deal with the next one in a way that would glorify God. Looking back, I remember the feelings of dread upon looking toward the future of more time without my hubby and with my little kiddos alone. The actual occurrence wasn't even as rough as I thought it would be.  I knew my focus was in the wrong place at the time, but I still found it hard to shift. 

Now, after a few of those trials, I have some "proof" of God's ability to get me through, with which I can soothe and turn my feelings. It is easier to see His light in their midst, to see what He has taught me through the trial, and to look ahead at more without dread. So, even though I wasn't thinking of what I should have been in the moment, God, in His grace, gave me "proof" of why I should shift my focus. And, for now, at least, I am smiling. (I'm still working on the strength and dignity part. It's a learning experience!)

What are you struggling with today? Has God proven His reliability to you? Can you use that to help you shift your focus - whether you're looking at this moment or the future?

Friday, July 31, 2015

Reminders

2 Peter 1:12
"Therefore, I will always be ready to remind you of these things, even though you already know them, and have been established in the truth which is present with you."

In my walk with God, it took me a rather long time before I realized the true importance of reminders. If I already knew something about God, I didn't see much point in going back over it unless there might be something more to be gleaned (it isn't called the Living Word for nothing). I noticed this most when my Biblical Counselor gave me an assignment to read a number of verses and write down the main point of each. As I worked through the list, I began to feel like I had just been given busywork. I didn't have time for busywork.

The epiphany didn't come until further into the counseling process, but the Lord convicted me of my pride of knowledge versus my forgetfulness. I don't have the greatest memory, but I'm referring more to when the Bible talks about how mankind is quick to forget. Israel did it time and again, and if we're honest with ourselves, we do it, too.  I may know a truth, but that doesn't mean I live it. 

Now, when I hear someone mention a truth they've just discovered, I don't just think, "Ah, so that's what they're learning right now."  I consider, "Is my life reflecting that truth?"

My son is three-and-a-half years and my daughter is just over four months old; I'm still dealing with some post-partum hormones and the rebellion of the threes. I'm also struggling with a pain in my rib that isn't subsiding with physical therapy, and my son wrecked the control to the fan in his room.  I cried.

As I sat there on the floor with his sweet voice reassuring me, I tried to pull myself back together. Then I heard, "It's okay, Mommy, you don't have to cry, because God is here." 

That got my attention. 

"You're right, buddy," I sniffed. "You're absolutely right."  I knew it was God's grace that my little man was reminding me of God's presence. I felt His love in that moment, and several truths came flooding to mind.  God works all things together for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28); God gives me the strength to carry out His righteousness (Philippians 4:13); I'm not alone in my temptation and I don't have to give in to it (1 Corinthians 10:13); God's grace is sufficient for me (2 Corinthians 12:9).  With these under my belt, I was able to continue the day as a mother through God's strength, rather than my own. 

Which of His truths do you need to be reminded of today?

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Not in Vain

Romans 8:28
"And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those that love God, to those who are called according to His purpose."

I have struggled with chronic pain since I was a child. Over the years, I have had my good phrases and bad phases, the moments of asking "why?" and the moments of sharing God's goodness in the midst of the pain. The phrase, "This, too, shall pass" used to be my mantra - especially during the worst of the pain. That precise phrase isn't in the Bible, though it says something similar: "...weeping may last for the night, but a shout of joy comes in the morning" (Psalm 30:5) and "For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal." (2 Corinthians 4:17-18) What these verses have over the phrase is a specific hope of WHAT (or Who) is in the future, rather than a simple focus on this moment passing. "This, too, shall pass" seems to place its hope in the fact that the moment will pass rather than on our eternal hope in Christ. 

That eternal hope in Christ is what brings me to thankfulness for my pain, because God wastes nothing; my pain is not in vain. Christ uses my pain not only in my life, but also in the lives of others. He is growing me, and more and more I am learning how to give Him the glory He is due. It can be difficult to be thankful for pain, but the more I focus on Christ and His truths, the easier it becomes. In today's society, we are taught to avoid pain if at all possible, but sometimes, pain is worth it and can even be good. Christ knows this better than anyone - it is why He chose to take our punishment upon Himself. 

I rejoice, not in the fact that it hurts, but in Christ's Victory - that He will use the pain for His glory and the good of His children. May the Lord's will be first in my life, as it was in Christ's!

Friday, July 17, 2015

Life on Earth

2 Thessalonians 2:16-17
"Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us eternal comfort and good hope by grace, comfort and strengthen your hearts in every good work and word."

The Bible often refers to the world in regard to the sinful people who live in it. "And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind..." (Romans 12:2a). As christians, I think we (or at least I) have a tendency to take this a little far: the world is a horrible place to be. Granted, we are to "be in the world, not of the world," but that doesn't mean that life here is drudgery. Part of the beauty of a life of following Christ is - because of His grace - we can be joyful despite our circumstances.

I long to be with Christ in heaven, and I hate this world in comparison, but God still gives "good things" and "perfect gifts" (James 1:17) on this earth. It is here on earth where He chose to create the living, here where He put me, and here where He uses me now. It is here that He has given me a three-year-old son to jet out of the house to tell me goodbye with a hug and a kiss before I go. Here that I have a four-month-old daughter who often smiles at me with a coy little grin. God has given me a life here, and as much as I long to be serving sinlessly in His more tangible presence, I enjoy the life He has given me on earth.

May I be cognizant to show that joy in His grace and good gifts, that others, too, might know of His goodness - even in this life.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Ordinary Mountain Tops

1 Chronicles 16:8-11
"Oh give thanks to the Lord, call upon His name; Make known His deeds among the peoples. Sing to Him, sing praises to Him; Speak of all His wonders. Glory in His holy name; Let the heart of those who seek the Lord be glad. Seek the Lord and His strength; Seek His face continually."

Have you ever been to a christian camp (Hume Lake, for instance) and had one of those mountain top experiences? Emotions are high, you're pumped for the Lord, perhaps even overwhelmed by His awesome presence. A lot of people don't know that this is possible - sometimes even commonplace - without going to some sort of camp or missions trip. The "ordinary mountain top" can catch you by surprise, but its frequency is usually in direct correlation to an intentional everyday focus on God. 

Have you ever been driving in your car and a great song comes on the radio, and you just start praising and singing to God? Have you found yourself overwhelmed by His love while meditating on His grace (or another of His attributes)? Have you been working along and found that you have just enough soap left to finish your dishes, and you feel tears well up that He saw fit to provide for such a Small Desire? This is the "ordinary mountain top." It's all part of our everyday relationship with our Savior. 

He is incredibly personal with us, providing for our needs and cares, and the more we focus and meditate on Him and our relationship with Him, the more often we feel close to Him on that ordinary mountain top. Talk to Him all the time - "...pray without ceasing." (1 Thessalonians 5:17) The more you seek Him, the more you will recognize His influence - and the more thankful you will be. 

I thank the Lord for the ordinary mountain top I had with Him in my car the other day. Being able not only to know that God is close, but to really feel it, is a true blessing. His grace not only allows this, it often precipitates it. Thank You, Lord, for Your grace of the ordinary mountain top. 

Friday, July 10, 2015

Reason to Breathe

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."

My playlist pulled up "Reason" by Shawn McDonald on my drive to work this morning. As I listened to the lyrics "Please give me a reason to breathe," my eyes welled up with tears at the realization that I no longer live in that place of depression where I constantly and urgently wish I was no longer on earth. For many many years, life was just something to get through until I finally died and could go be with Christ. I was so ready to die. 

Somewhere in this journey of thankfulness, that changed. (See my testimony here.) Certainly, I still long to be with my Savior, and I have no qualms about dying, but it isn't this urgent desire that constantly sucks away at my soul. Now, the only way I can describe it, is that I'm content with serving my Savior in whatever capacity He chooses - which happens to be as a physically present being in this sinful world at the moment. 

I have a reason to breathe. As much as I love them, it isn't my family. It isn't my job, or hobbies, or talents. It is simply serving God. The One who saved my soul from the death penalty. The One who has been there with and for me during my whole life of depression, pain, worry, and pride, of happiness, feeling lithe, enjoying passions and talents. The One who has provided His Holy Spirit so that I can actually do good things. The One who opened my eyes to His everyday gifts and miracles. Christ is my hope, my contentment, and my reason to breathe.

This life is my privilege, given by my Savior. It is not a drudgery or a curse. Rather, "...to live is Christ and to die is gain." (Philippians 1:21)


Philippians 1:18f-21
"Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayers and the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, according to my earnest expectation and hope, that I will not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness, Christ will even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain."

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Each Day's Own Trouble

Matthew 6:32b-34
"...for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."

Praise the Lord for His bountiful grace! I deserve none of His good gifts, and yet He lavishes them freely. This passage holds two related gifts:  the lack of the need to worry about 1) tomorrow, or 2) my basic needs. I just need to focus on seeking His kingdom and His righteousness, and He'll take care of the rest. So what does that look like?

The greek word for "seek" in this verse is zeteo, and one of its sub-definitions is "to seek [in order to find out] by thinking, meditating, reasoning, to enquire into." So the more I think about, meditate on, and find out about His kingdom and righteousness, God Himself will see to my needs. How do I find out about them? How do I think and meditate upon them? By reading His Word.

God gave us His Living Word - the Bible and infallible Word of God - for our knowledge (among other things). If I seek after God and His kingdom and how to be like Him within the pages of that book, God will reveal Himself. Each time that I read it when I am truly seeking Him, I come away with a little something more. That's part of what makes it "living." Even if I find myself reading it without truly seeking, I fill my mind with its thoughts, and remind myself of some piece of His truth. It helps me to Meditate upon Him - even when I stop reading.

As with all things in the Bible, it isn't just about the academia. It isn't just about reading and learning about Him; it's about applying what I have learned. So to seek His kingdom and righteousness after I have set the Bible down, I am to live it. I am to live in Light of Eternity with Him, and  For His Glory. What, in this moment - not tomorrow - would glorify Him?

I thank the Lord for this grace of not needing to worry about tomorrow or my basic needs, and instead to have the ability to focus on and seek Him.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Unashamed Prayer

1 Peter 5:6-7
Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety upon Him, for He cares for you.

I have recognized something in myself that the Lord recently addressed with me:  we don’t have to be ashamed to ask God for something that we don’t know He will grant.  That’s just pride talking.  There is no harm in asking if He will heal small hurts or big hurts, save your friend or a stranger, or even give you enough paper clips to see a project through.  There is no shame in asking - or in receiving a "no" answer.  

Just pray.  He wants you to cast your cares on Him.  Wait to see what His answer is; He can’t answer if you don’t ask in the first place.  Don’t place your hope in a “yes” answer - your hope is in Christ, the very High Priest whose grace enabled you to speak with God directly - but God isn't too busy to be bothered with your petitions. 

Even if His answer is "no" or "wait," the time may come when the answer is "yes."  If asking is destroying your contentment in Christ, then perhaps it's time to stop asking. Otherwise, be thankful in your petition and leave it in God’s hands from there. It doesn't "reflect on you" if He says "no."

Monday, June 29, 2015

Easy Baby

1 Corinthians 10:13
"...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."

Our daughter is our second child, and I have found her to be much more easy-going than our son was. She's not as quick to wail, doesn't fuss as often, and - with the exception of riding in the car - is just all-around an easy baby. For this, I give thanks to God for His grace. 

I'm not a kid person by nature. I love my children, but I just don't understand how they work. They cannot be reasoned with; logic is not a concept in their magical little three-year-old and three-month-old worlds. There are new things every day, many of which must be taken on faith that they simply do what they do - or even exist. 

("Why, Mommy?" 
"Because that's the way it is," I flounder after the fourth successive why. 
"Peekaboo!" 
My daughter stares up at me with those big cute eyes, wondering where I went.
"I'm still here, Sweet Pea," I explain with a smile.)

My world is so much broader than theirs, and I think that I have lost my sense of simplicity. One thing, however, is simple in my world: God is powerful enough to be sovereign over my life so that anything I face is under His care. I am under His care. 

He knows that I'm not best with kids and has given me the grace of an easy baby alongside the blessing of a not-so-easy three-year-old. The true grace? Even if He had given me a difficult baby, He would also have given me the resources (spiritual or otherwise) to deal with it.

If that truth doesn't comfort an anxious heart, I don't know what would. May I live content in the knowledge of God's sovereignty and grace in my every situation.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

To Approach Your Throne

Hebrews 4:16
"Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need."

Thank You, Lord, that I can approach Your throne with confidence, that I may make my requests known to You without the guilt of my sins looming or keeping me from You.

You lost Your Son to agony for a time so that my sins would be erased - and even such a weight of sin was no match for Your power. Your Son rose again to advocate for me and allow me in Your presence. Your comforting, loving, humbling, majestic and awesome presence. Thank You for that amazing grace.

I often forget what a privilege it is to approach Your throne, or even that my prayers and requests are presented to the Almighty God, Maker of Heaven and Earth. You gave me Your relationship, and its worth is beyond all my imagining. Make me mindful of the privilege, but also the confidence of Your welcome, as well as the power of Your love to grant our requests according to Your will, which is simultaneously Your glory and our good.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Common Temptations


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."

This verse is special to me because it means that I am not alone. So often, we think that our unique circumstances bar us from anyone who can understand. The truth is, though those around you might not have been through exactly the same situations, the temptations that you face because of them are common.



The best news? Christ doesn't leave His children to deal with our circumstances on our own. Christ will always give us the strength to follow Him. No matter what you're going through, Christ is with you, and has given you the other Christ followers in your life to identity with and support you. (This is, of course, a two-way street!) 

Do you surround yourself with Christians who will exhort you? Those who will "...restore one another in a spirit of gentleness..." and "bear one another's burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ" (Galatians 6:1b, 2)? It's paramount as a christian to "...encourage one another and build one another up..." (1 Thessalonians 5:11), because we all need to be reminded of our Joy and Hope in Christ, even during the "good" times. Else, not only do we become discouraged, but we lose sight of our devotion to Christ - the One who gave us eternal life!

I thank the Lord and praise Him for common temptations. In His grace, He has reached out to us sinners, and provided a way for us to shore up against temptations. (Beyond that, even if we don't have others to help, He still promises to provide a way of escape!) May I recall this truth when loneliness next threatens. 

Friday, May 29, 2015

Hold My Baby

Psalm 84:11-12
"For the Lord God is a sun and shield;
The Lord gives grace and glory;
No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.
1O Lor
How blessed is the man who trusts in You!"

In this journey of thanks based on Grace, I am learning more about how to live in thankfulness to God through times of trial. With a newborn and three-year-old, this mommy isn't getting much sleep. Fibromyalgia (or whatever chronic illness it is that I have) is also making its dastardly presence more poignant. It can be very difficult to press on in a perspective of God's joy. And so, during times like these, I am thankful for someone to hold my baby. 


It can be a moment of relief from the pain, or simply to catch a glimpse of rest from the constant needs of a little one. Even though I understand that it is by Christ's grace that I go through trials, it is a joy to experience moments of reprieve. These, too, are God's grace.

My battle with chronic illness may be on a small scale, lacking the grand concerted efforts of many people, but it requires the same level of individual effort. Even so, my heart is revived by the knowledge that God is orchestrating events on an even grander scale than a human battle. He interlaces time, events, circumstances, and others who minister into a beautiful pattern that glorifies Him. 

The moments of trial make the moments of reprieve all the sweeter. And those times of sweet reprieve can be a better reminder of the true reprieve of salvation. I cannot wait for the time when Christ recreates my body without sin and I can serve and glorify Him all the more in eternity.

Friday, May 22, 2015

The End of Myself

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."

Whether by circumstances or even my own attitude, I find it is God's grace that I come to the end of myself. Motherhood is no picnic, and I often find myself so frustrated, stressed, anxious, weary, or depressed that I just want to give up. It is there - in that weakness - that My God stretches me and molds me to make me stronger and more like Christ, His Son.

I am beginning to realize that it isn't just about relying on God; I still come to the end of myself. Rather, coming to the end of myself is not bad, but something that must occur before I can truly live in God's strength. I don't have to get frustrated, etc. to come to the end of myself and reach that strength. Instead, I should purpose to go straight to the end of myself - to my weakness and His strength - from the beginning. 

Before I come to the end of myself, I rely on my plan, my physical strength, or my talents. Living in God's strength requires looking ahead at eternity, recognizing my humble position under God, and being ready for whatever way He would have this task accomplished. Certainly, I should have a plan, but I shouldn't rely on it. I shouldn't place my hope or my emotional balance on it. That just ruins my contentment if God has a different (and thus, better) plan for me. How tragic!

My God is greater than I, His power beyond my imagining. This is His world that I live in; how can I hope to navigate it in my own strength?  Why would I want to?

I thank God for the end of myself, for the place where I live in my humble weakness and the Victory of His strength. 

Sunday, May 10, 2015

The Thought of Eternity

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.”

As I try to soothe my 7-week-old daughter, I find myself searching for a way to live out Your joy. It is so easy to succumb to anxiety and stress in the face of her fussy cry, especially when compounded by pressing chores like dinner, or my 3-year-old son's need for attention. Now I perform the mother's nighttime dance of sway-bounce-pat as I spin a slow circle in my three-foot space, humming a made-up lullaby with her swaddled against my chest. Thankfully, it soothes her, but only so long as I continue; no going to sleep for Mama. 

It reminds me of a similar situation with my first baby. I held my son late at night as he screamed, and I found solace in Colossians 3:24b: "It is the Lord Christ whom you serve." I knew that my job was to serve God, which, at that moment, meant serving my son. All I could really do for him was hold him. And that was enough. God expected no more and no less of me. That I was fulfilling my purpose in that moment brought me a peace that, in turn, brought me a certain joy - even through his screams (and Mamas, you know that's saying something!).

In tonight's situation, God has added another of His truths to the solace of that verse in Colossians: the thought of eternity. 1 Peter is saturated with this theme. I can remember a fascinated awe at Peter's ability to stay his mind on the thought of eternity as I studied the first chapter. How could I live with a constant eye toward eternity?

I have struggled with - and asked God for - the answer to that question. Each moment seems to have a different answer or application. I have felt overwhelmed at the magnitude of different moments, let alone trying to apply the principle to each. I had to smile tonight as an application occurred to me.

You see, I'm musically oriented, and as I hummed my made-up lullaby to my daughter, there were pieces of it that I thought would be good enough to save and create an actual song from. Yet, right at that moment, I couldn't record it, or my daughter's soothing would be disrupted. I certainly wouldn't be able to remember it, so the tune would be lost.

Ordinarily, this would be a cause of frustration for me, since it's one more thing to put on hold while I care for my children. One more thing lost. Yet, with my mind on serving Christ instead of myself, and with the thought of eternity in mind, instead of frustration, I felt peace. Perhaps I won't get to it today, but God isn't calling me to write a song in this moment; this moment is my daughter's.

I have eternity to honor Christ with my voice and my songs. I am not my intended audience, and as my daughter slept restlessly in my arms, neither was she. I sang for God. And God heard it that moment. So I smiled with the joy of the Lord, knowing that capturing a song didn't matter, because it served its intended purpose as a sweet sound in God's ear. It was not, in fact, lost.

What skills do you have with which to serve Him? Are you letting the skill take precedence, or are you keeping it under the grace of eternity? God's grace allows me not only the joy of serving Him, but an eternity in which to do it. He hears me, sees me, knows me now, in this very moment - and I have an eternity to hone my skills for Him. What a blessing is the hope of what He has for us when He returns!

Friday, May 1, 2015

All-Pervasive Grace

Romans 11:36
“For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.”

God’s grace manifests itself in an infinite number of ways. One reason I have loved this thankful exercise, is because it has helped open my eyes to those many ways. With each thankful thing, I find another manifestation of His grace.

We often fall into the idea that the universe revolves around us. For example, if “…God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God…” (Romans 8:28) and I am one of those, then all things are for me, right? Not exactly. It’s more of an indirect thing. As it says in Romans 11:36, “…from Him and through Him and to Him are all things.” Everything is about God. It is to His glory and by His grace that He chooses to work all those things for our good.

I’ve had trouble lately staying thankful, as I now have a newborn and have been trying to care for her, my three-year-old son, myself, and my husband. It isn’t an easy transition, as mothers will tell you. I have to keep reminding myself each circumstance is by the grace of God. Yes, the baby’s crying, my son is whining, I need to go to the bathroom, and somehow manage to cook dinner. It is all to God’s glory as He uses this to stretch me, and that is His unmerited favor - His grace.

May I “rejoice always; pray without ceasing; [and] in everything give thanks…” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18a) because I know He is working all things for the good of His children.