Oh, How He Loves Us

So, you probably thought I just gave up on this whole blog thing.  Well, I didn’t plan on not writing for so long, but then you know, Summer.  Let’s just say I am not sure what happened.  The Summer flew by, and there were just so many things that happened that I wasn’t quite prepared for.  You know how it is, it’s just life.  We are in a tough season over here, but that’s okay, I am trusting in the Lord, and know by the end of it all, there will be so much I can tell you that the Lord did in me and in my family.

I have been reading quite a bit though, I just haven’t had anything to share with you lately.  I always want to encourage on this blog, but this Summer I had nothing encouraging to say, hence the silence.  In the last month or so, I have read a couple of books that have really changed me, and God really used them to encourage my sad, defeated self.  I read one about having the confidence in how much God loves you, and that He has made you for a specific purpose.  We know these things, right?  I’m pretty sure I have told you these things myself, but we all get discouraged, and we all forget.  Well, the book also talks about how God loves us not matter what, and His love is not based on performance.  There is nothing that can stop His love for me.  Pretty incredible, SO undeserved.

I realized that somehow I got caught up in trying to live up to God’s love in performance.  I am not sure when the shift happened, but it seems that I fall into this pattern after I feel I have failed God.  It has taken me 38 years to realize that I have been doing this over and over.  Then, I realize the truth, that I just repent, and then move forward.  It’s like I think I need to be punished for my failures, instead of asking for forgiveness, repenting, and moving forward.  I get stuck wallowing.  I don’t know why, I know better.  I feel frustrated at the time wasted, and the lies I believed from the enemy.  I hate it.  But you know what Paul says…

I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

Romans 7:15-20 NIV

So, here we are.  I’m done wallowing, and believing that God isn’t too happy with me.  He sees me through Jesus, so He is pleased with me, just based on that.  There is nothing I can do to earn or take away from that.  That just amazes me, and I will always fail to get my tiny brain around that fact.  His upside down love, that just doesn’t make any sense.  It’s upside down grace that gives us chance after chance to keep pressing toward that goal.  He wants that for us, for He knows who we are becoming, and who He is making us to be.

I am amazed by it all, and I am amazed that God would even love me.  That He would even use me.  I am in another season of humbling.  It has not been fun at all, but it is much needed, for I can struggle with pride, and there is no place for that when you want Christ to be seen in you.  I want it to be only Him, and Him alone.  What about you?  Do you know that God loves you, that’s it?  Nothing can separate you from that love!

Love Your Neighbor

With it being Summer and all, I’ve had a little more time to read books.  I don’t have any regularly scheduled Bible Studies and things like that during the Summer, so I end up reading a  lot more.  I just finished reading “Love Lives Here” by Maria Goff.  It was such a good book, and really got me thinking about loving my neighbors.

I think I mentioned in my last post that I had just heard Bob Goff speak at a conference not too long ago.  Bob and Maria are married, and I think they are such an interesting pair.  They are so different, so reading her book was interesting to me after seeing what Bob is like.  They both shared stories of loving their neighbors.  They have a parade in the neighborhood, and have relationships with their neighbors, and really love these people well.  Their stories inspired me, and just really made me think that’s what it looks like to love others like Jesus.

I, on the other hand, have found it difficult to even get to know my neighbors. I never see many of them out, and I am not one to just go knock on people’s doors.  I just don’t want to bother anyone.  They seem not to want to be bothered.  I don’t know if that’s really true, but it has taken four years of us living here to finally get to know at least a few of them.

For most of you, I’m guessing you may be in a similar situation.  If you are a mom, it’s difficult, because you are taking care of your own little ones at the moment, and you can’t always do much for others.  I have been in that place since we have moved in, but I am able to do a bit more now that my kids are older.  It is hard to find the balance, though.  There are many other areas in my life where there are relationships to maintain, sometimes it seems a bit overwhelming to add neighbors to the list.

I just think about how it used to be, neighbors were like family.  They were people you counted on for things, because, well, they are right there.  All of my neighbors are at different stages of life than me.  Most of the close neighbors have older kids, they are grown and out of their house.  So, it’s hard to find things in common at times.  I am trying to make sure I obey God about how I interact with the neighbors around me, and I know that we are not called to everyone, well, because there is only so much of us to go around.

I have gotten to know a couple of neighbors better, since God has opened my eyes to these people around me.  Some have been over little conversations here and there over the years, and I felt God call me to pursue a couple of them more intentionally.  Like, having them over for dinner or just taking time to help  them with something.  God is teaching me to not be afraid to invite people over for dinner, and to just be the one to make the first move.  Sometimes, I get caught up in where things are going with a new friendship, what it will turn out to be.  I just need to obey God in that moment, even if that’s all it ever is.  I tend to also judge where a person is at, and I just need to show them Christ’s love.  His beautiful, unconditional, selfless love. That is very hard at times, because you want people to be like you and think like you. As I have learned this year though, Jesus did not come to judge the world, but to save it.  My job is not to be the judge.  Jesus will do that next time around.  I have to love people where they are at, and God will do the rest.  He will show me what to say, and what to do.  I simply need to surrender my all to Him, and His Holy Spirit will give me all I need.

We do need to love our neighbors, really love them, in a radical, selfless way.  We can not do this in our own strength, though.  Take the pressure off of yourself.  We can not do it ourselves, I repeat, WE CAN NOT do it at all without Jesus living through us.  Just let Him lead you to love your neighbor, that can be someone next door, it can be your husband, it can be your kid, or it can be your crazy co-worker.  God had placed these people in our lives for a reason.  Let’s love them like crazy in a majorly unloving world.

‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’  The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  There is no commandment greater than these.        Mark 12:30-31  NIV

Don’t Stay There

I know it’s been a while AGAIN!  April has been a crazy month, so there just has been so much going on.  One thing that I got to do this month that was a huge blessing is the mom’s conference I go to every year.  It’s called Hearts at Home, and I highly recommend it to you moms out there.  It’s just like other people who get to go and learn how to be better at their jobs, and boy do we need help with being a mom!  Well, at least I do!

So, at this conference, we learned about a book called The Kindness Challenge, by Shaunti Feldhahn.  She spoke there and pointed out that we are not as kind as we think we are.  She also said that just doing something kind for someone would change how they act towards us as well.  You may see some results right away, or you may see some pretty quickly.  It was really interesting to hear some of her research, and something I guess I hadn’t thought too much on.  I mean, I try to be kind every day, and I ask the Lord to help me be who He is asking me to be.  Some days that is super hard, and others days, not too bad.

The thing is, kindness is a fruit of the Spirit, which just kind of occurred to me.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control.   Gal. 5:22-23  NIV

So, right there it is.  For me, that means that quality, kindness is not attainable without the Lord’s strength, without the Holy Spirit living inside of us!  Are you with me on this?  I am not naturally that kind of a person on my own, like in my flesh, you know?  I am kind of naturally nice, but kind is a whole ‘nother level people.  It’s Christlike.  It’s what we can’t do without His strength.  It shows other people around us, that we are truly His followers, and makes them feel loved.  When we are kind, it sticks out in this world.

I am doing the actual kindness challenge with some amazing ladies from my moms group that went to the conference as well.  We have been sharing what we are learning, and it’s blowing my mind.  It’s amazing to see how God works when we obey Him.  You choose a person, and you do a generous act for them, then say something nice to them, and about them to someone else.  Also, you may not say anything negative about them.  This is all for 30 days.  This ain’t for the faint of heart!  I chose my husband at first, but then God showed my that my daughter Olivia is someone I need to choose.  She is at a difficult stage right now, and it is very hard to be patient with her at times.  She can be illogical, and just super exhausting.  She has been hard to deal with since she turned three, three is a very bad stage in our home.  I don’t know why, I guess we are just blessed!  Since she turned four, it’s a whole new level of drama, disobeying, and overall rudeness.  Just note that this isn’t negative, I am just telling the truth!!

I started Tuesday, because, well, I forgot Monday.  I just started being more patient, being intentional about asking God for the strength, and praying for what I needed in that moment.  It just has made me more conscious of my actions and words.  I have held back critical and sarcastic comments, and have been able to stay calm with her.  I have not been perfect by any means, but knowing you have a whole group of ladies to keep you accountable, you sure don’t want to tell them how much you screwed up!  I have seen changes pretty quickly in Olivia.  She has obeyed me faster, said “thanks” without prompting.  She is quicker to compromise, and just has been kinder as well.  I have been trying to do the things she’d like to do, within reason.  I’m just seeing how selfish and lazy I can be with her.  I’m also becoming very aware of how much I still struggle with being in control.  Through this challenge, I have really let go of a lot of that, and it has been very freeing.

The thing that has been hard, is that watching how kind God is making me, it really makes how I have been lately seem really unkind.  I mean, it makes me feel really awful.  I feel so guilty for not being a better mom to my kids, and for the times I just have not been patient, or I just let my agenda trump them.  I am so bad at putting tasks first, and hurrying along the parenting stuff, because frankly, I don’t always know what to do.  It’s just hard dealing with two little, sinful humans.

My point is this, I can’t stay there in those feelings.  This fruit that God is cultivating in me is showing me how sinful and selfish I can be when I try to do things in my own power.  It’s showing me how far I have to go, and it is humbling me.  This is exactly where God wants us.  It takes courage to move forward, a lot of it.  We want to wallow sometimes in those bad feelings.  I feel like if I beat myself up enough, then I’ll beat others to it.  It know that’s dysfunctional, but I know I’m not alone in this.  I know sharing this with you will help at least one of you!

On the trip to the conference I had to drive, which isn’t my favorite.  I ended up going down a one way street with lovely ladies in my car, and another van followed me.  Thankfully, we are all just fine, and can laugh now about it.  It was so embarrassing for me.  I beat myself up and down, back and forth, and was having a hard time getting past it.  God showed me that if I didn’t move forward and let this go, I was really going to miss out on all He had for me that weekend.  I let it go right then, and it was so hard people.  I mean, really hard for me.  I don’t quite understand why, but I had to forgive myself.  I am really good with forgiving others, but myself, not so much.

There was a speaker there, Bob Goff.  He said something that really brought it all home for me.  He was sharing about how someone could be standing in front of a movie screen, that you can’t see the movie.  They are blocking it.  He said to not be like that, don’t block others from seeing Jesus.  I realized that by holding on to my past mistakes with my kids and with one ways, that I was blocking Jesus.  I was letting it block me, and others from seeing Jesus as well.  That’s why we can’t stay there.  Let the Lord convict your sweet heart, and let’s move on.  It takes so much bravery and courage, but that’s what Christ died for.  He doesn’t want you to stay like you are.

Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it.  But one thing I do:  Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.    Phil. 3:13-14 NIV

 

Jesus Prayed For US!

I’m no theologian, and there is so much about the Bible I still have to discover. I have learned so many new things this year by being a part of Bible Study Fellowship.  We have been studying John, and boy, it has been eye opening.  There is so much that I have not seen before.  So much new insight into Jesus’ life on earth.  It has been bringing everything together for me.  God has used everything I have been learning in John, sermons, and Bible studies, and made it one big lesson.  Only He can tie all of these seemingly random stories and pieces from His Word together.  He even does it in a beautiful, loving way. He wants me to draw close to Him, and has been drawing me all of my life.  I don’t deserve that, but I am so thankful He has never given up on me.

The thing that my mind can’t stop thinking about is the lesson from a few weeks ago.  We were in John 17.  This is the chapter right before He is arrested.  He prays the entire chapter.  He starts by praying about the fact that the hour has come, and that it is time for Him to finish the work God gave Him.

I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do.  And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.

John 17:4-5  NIV

Then, His focus turns towards the disciples.  He prays for them from verse 6 to verse 19.  Wow.  My favorite part of His prayer is this:

I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of joy within them.  I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world.  My prayer is not that you would take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.

John 17:13-15  NIV

What a prayer for other believers.  This is such an awesome example of how to pray for each other as we are out ministering to others, and doing our best to live for Him.  I want to have that full measure of joy, and I am betting you do too.  I also don’t want to be taken out of the world, if God is still using me, and to see how He prayed for protection from the evil one.  Not safety, but from the evil one.  I’m not saying it’s wrong to pray for safety, but as the Lord leads.  Following Christ is definitely not safe, nor do I want to be a comfortable Christian.  It does give me great comfort to see the prayer for protection from the evil one.  That is the eternal, and that is what is most important.  All of the disciples were martyred, except John.  So, they were not kept safe from the trials and hardships of following Christ, but were kept safe from the evil one.

Finally, the chapter closes out with Jesus praying for all believers.  Also, for future believers.  That includes us, ya’ll!  Seriously.  I could not believe what I was reading!  I’m guessing I have read this before, but I did not grasp that part.  It just overwhelmed my soul, and the thought that we have words written down, that we can read anytime of Jesus praying for us.  Crazy.  Also, it is again, another example of how to pray for one another.  Here is my favorite part of our prayer:

…May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.  I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one- I in them and you in me- so that they may be brought to complete unity.  Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

John 17:21-23  NIV

So, we get to be in complete unity with God, and then with each other as well. That is what God wants for us, to be in unity with Him, but then with each other as a body of Christ.  I love the part at the end of that verse that says that God loves us, even as He loved Jesus.  That is a lot of love from God. Jesus was completely obedient to Him, even unto death, the Bible tells us.  God loves me just as much.  Pretty incredible, and pretty incredible to know that He wants to be close to me, and that He sent His Son to pay the high, high price to save my life.  The only thing He asks is that I believe in and accept His Son.  These are things to really think about with Easter coming up.  The resurrection is of course the best part.  Let’s not forget all that Jesus did for us, and what God must have gone through watching His Son take our wrath. Jesus kept obeying in all of the events leading up to the crucifixion, and He never overlooked anyone needing salvation along the way.  Even in the agony He knew He was facing, He took time in John 17, to pray for His disciples, and then to pray for us.  He really could’ve taken up that whole chapter praying for Himself, and no one would have blamed Him.  Even in facing a horrible death, knowing that He would be separated from His Father, He prayed for us.

Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.

John 17:24  NIV

PS. Please go and read the entire chapter, don’t just take my highlights.  See what God shows you when you read it!

Prayer

When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.                                    2 Chronicles 7:13-14

This passage comes in my head a lot.  I just remember the part about turning from our wicked ways, and how God will heal the land.  I remember it when I think about how many horrible things are going on around me, when I am seeing families fall apart, and when there is just so much hurt all around.  I think and wonder how much am I praying when these things are going on?  I am called by His name, I am one of His people.  Why am I not praying more?  Why am I not on my knees asking God to heal this land?

Maybe you wonder that too.  Why, as Christians, do we tend to sit around and whine about how bad the world is, and just talk about it like there is nothing we can do?  Maybe I am the only one who is guilty of it.  No?  Do I see a hand out there??  It is hard not to complain about this fallen world we live in.  It is hard at times not to live in fear about what can happen to us, but worse, what can happen to our kids.  Those things really get to me.  In those fearful moments, though, God reminds me that I am not to fear.

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you;  I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.  Isaiah 41:10

That is one of many verses about fear in the Bible, and how God is our strength.  He holds us in His hand.  That amazes me.  The God of the universe holds us in His own hand.

So, back to the sitting around and whining about this world.  There is something we can do.  Something that is so powerfully underestimated, it just blows my mind.  Prayer.  Telling our Father about what we are feeling, telling Him how amazing He is, and asking for things according to His will.  Most of my list, I am guessing yours is the same, is for others.  Friends going through trials in health, marriage, and finances.  There are so many ways to have trouble in this world.  There is so much to pray for that many times I get overwhelmed.  Thankfully, my God never does.

Prayer does change things, but guess who it changes first?  ME.  YOU.  It changes us.  By getting on our knees and humbly asking for the things in our lives, we are letting God know that He is in control.  We let Him know that we can not do it without Him.  When we pray for our friends, many times, our own sin is seen, and then we repent of that as well.  Prayer has amazed me, and I have learned so much about my relationship with God, and seen how much God is at work through the prayers we pray for each other.  I see prayers answered all of the time, and  it is a privilege to watch.  It is also so refreshing to see the bonds formed when we pray with each other.  We become less afraid to share, and let other people carry our burdens with us, and we share theirs.  That is how it’s meant to be, friends.  We were never meant to do life alone, and especially not praying alone.

I challenge you, that when you start talking about how bad things are, will you pray instead?  Instead of getting scared when you think of overwhelming things in your life, can you pray?  Replace fear, worry, and getting worked up with prayer.  Talking about our government, our sin, our divorce rates, and the decline of morality doesn’t do anything to change things.  Praying does.  We are asking the God of the universe to bend His ear to us, which He says He will.  He wants to hear from us.  He wants to see us become more like Jesus.  This is a discipline that I fear has gotten a bit lost in our day.  Can we be the generation that brings it back?  What can be better than going to the God in charge of it all, and who knows the whole picture?  We get to petition Him, according to His will, of course.  We get to ask the God of the universe for the answers to the problems in this life.  Then, we get to sit back and watch Him work.  Sometimes, we get to wait, and sometimes, our prayers are answered differently than we expect.  Like I said, He has the whole picture.  I do not, so I certainly have to trust that He has the best in mind for all of us.  I know, from experience, that He does.

I urge then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people-for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.  1 Timothy 2:1-2

Our Good Shepherd

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I know, it’s been awhile.  I think I might have started a few posts with that statement.  I’ve been struggling with getting back into life after the holidays, and time off. You too?  Trying to get my act together and get back into the swing of it all, but it’s been a rough transition.  Not sure why, but like I said above, you know it too.  The kids have been awful lately too, lots of crying from my three year old, and lots of attitude from my kindergartner.  At this moment of time, I am feeling very unsure of everything, especially my abilities as a parent.  I don’t understand my kids, and I don’t know what is behind their behaviors, which I have known in their younger years.  That has always helped me parent.  I’m feeling lost about everything, and I have no idea why.   I’m guessing some it may have to do with the hysterectomy and the adjustment of hormones, and some of the very hard and deep emotions I feel lately.  There is so much I can’t even verbalize or work through.  I feel these emotions are stuck, and I can’t figure out how to work on them.

With all of these things that are very hard to explain to you, I hope you can understand a little bit at least, so I can get to the encouraging part.  Right now, you are probably thinking, “Wow.  That Shannon really is depressing me, I thought this was a blog for encouragement!”.  Hold on, I am getting there, I promise.  Even with the intense emptiness I feel, I know where I am rooted.  I know my Savior is here.  Even with knowing that I can never have another child, which is still something I am grieving, and it hits me at the most unexpected times.  I know that God has His unbelievable best for me.  Even though my kids seem like they hate my guts, I know that my Father loves me wider and deeper than I can even fathom.  Even though I have nothing left to give and do not want to give anymore, I feel God’s strength pushing me towards faithfulness and consistency in my life.

You see, I am not feeling it right now, like AT ALL.  I know there are some out there feeling this way, it happens a lot when you are a mother.  There are so many intense seasons of it, and they are so painful and hard.  This is the place I have been for a while.  I have stayed in the Word, and I have been praying, I have been doing the things that I know make me spiritually healthy.  I still feel empty.  I think God has me in the wildnerness.  That’s okay.  I am going to faithfully walk with God through it to the other side, and I am going to learn what He wants me to learn.  I am going to follow my dear Shepherd and listen closely to His voice, which is even more precious to me now.  The thing I read last week that gave me such great comfort was this verse:

My sheep listen to my voice;  I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish;  no one will snatch them out of my hand.  My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all;  no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.  I and the Father are one.  John 10:27-30 (NIV)

When you read that, what do you think?   How do you feel?  I felt this great sense of peace and safety come over me.  I have been feeling like I have been on such rocky ground lately, and this just brought me such a feeling of safety and comfort that I can’t remember ever feeling.  I can not be snatched from His hand.  Woah.  Incredible.  Thank  you, Lord.  Jesus and the Father both have me.  No matter what storms come in my life, no matter what swirls around me, I am planted in Him.  No matter how I feel, and what seems to all be going wrong, I am in the secure palm of His hand.  I may sway, I may bend, I may even be broken, but I am still there, and He will never let me go.

Therefore, Jesus said again, ‘Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep.  All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them.  I am the gate;  whoever enters through me will be saved.  They will come in and go out, and find pasture.  The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy;  I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.  I am the good shepherd.  The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.’  John 10:7-11

When You’ve Lost Your Way

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I don’t know about you, but it’s that time of year again.  The time of year to LOSE YOUR MIND!  I’m sort of joking.  Sort of.  It’s that time where for moms, things are just getting added to our already seemingly never ending list of things to do.  I am excited for Christmas, and I have no complaints about Thanksgiving.  It was relatively stress free, which for me is amazing!  It means I didn’t overwhelm myself by deciding to make a million recipes for one Holiday.  Well, ahem, I can’t be the only one that does that, can I?  Don’t answer that.

The thing is, though, I think things just kind of get away from us during this time of year.  We are trying to time everything right, trying to get all of our ducks in a row.  Maybe you are traveling, getting all of your shopping done, and all of your plans with family finalized.  There is a lot to do, and it seems like for some reason with Christmas, it can get really complicated.  It is really sad, too, because I know God never intended for the celebration of His Son’s birth to be like this.  I won’t get into the whole thing about how commercialized Christmas has become, and how it is all about shopping and greed.  This is a blog for encouragement, remember?

Well, things have gotten away from me.  I’ve made my list for the kiddos, nieces and nephews, and ordered the gifts at the best prices I could find.  I have no more things to buy for Christmas, but yet I still feel the need to shop and look at things.  It’s like I just can’t miss out on stuff, even if I don’t need it.  That is how I get sometimes with shopping.  I get into that mode of getting the things on my list, and getting things checked off. I just want to keep being oh so productive!  If you weren’t already thinking I was dysfunctional, I’m sure this post isn’t helping!  So, I have realized I need to chill out!  I am done with that part, and I can relax, and just take care of the many other things that need to be done.

This happens every year though.  I get into that mode of buying things, and it is hard to get out of it.  I should have been ready for it this time, I know better.  God reminded me of something yesterday morning at Bible study.  We are studying the book of John, and it has been absolutely amazing!  My mind has been blown by Jesus, and who He is.  The speaker challenged us to think of where we need to pray about something instead of pushing ahead with it.  Instead of just making it happen.  She also asked us how often we ask God to order our time, like in the morning, to order our day?  Those two things really hit home with me.  I’ve just gotten caught up in the busyness of the holidays, that I have forgotten to give all that I am doing to God.  I mean, the little stuff.  I am usually good with the big stuff, I have lived long enough to know that I stink at handling the big stuff, so I hand that right over.  No, it is the small things, like finding presents, making plans to see family, and just making sure everything is done.  Yes, Jesus wants to be in charge of that too.  You know why?  It is all about His perfect timing.  He knows exactly where you need to be every moment of every day.  He has places for you to be, people for you to talk to, or to encourage.  He may even have a lesson for you to learn in patience during a really long wait with your kids.  These are the little things, but this is where I see God do some really amazing things in my life.  Really.

So, maybe you are like me, and you have gotten a little swept away in your to-do list, and you are feeling a little lost.  You have lost your way with God a bit, and you need to realign things with Him.  Well, He is right here.  He knows all about it, and He was tugging at you this whole time.  He showed you in little ways, and now you see where you went wrong.  For me, it was slowly each day, taking back the control I surrendered to Him.  Just in the little things, but add them up, and it adds up to me being back in control.  I sure don’t want that.  I stink at being in charge of my life, and I want to be fully surrendered to Jesus, because that is the best, most beautiful place to be.

Do not love the world or anything in the world.  If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them.  For everything in the world-the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life-comes not from the Father but from the world.  The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.

1 John 2:15-17, NIV

 

Less of Me, More of Him

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He must become greater; I must become less.  John 3:30 NIV

Well, as usual, I’m coming to this whole blog posting thing pretty empty.  I don’t really feel like writing anything, and I don’t feel like I have the time.  As it is with God, though, that is where He usually has me when I write.  He has me at the end of myself, so that He can speak.  So that it’s His words, not mine.  I have nothing good to say anyway, I mean, apart from Him.  What would be the point of saying anything without my Lord and Savior?  I wouldn’t even want to try to live life without Him, He is my everything.

I have been praying and thinking about what to write about for this post, and as usual, I could go so many directions.  God is teaching me so much, and I feel I am really being tested, pressed, just pushed past my limits.  I know why this is happening, He wants it to be all Him.  He wants me to be completely surrendered, and obey even when it feels like there is no way I can do what He is asking of me.  I can’t, but He can.  He is teaching me to face temptations, not really big ones, but just showing me I don’t have to give in.  He wants me to face things head on, hard things that I’d usually ignore or just shy away from.

The one thing that I would normally shy away from writing about or talking about is pride.  I know we have discussed many issues in our Christian walk, and probably kind of mentioned pride here and there, and we know it can be a problem.  Here is my problem with it, I feel it way more often than I would like.

I was pretty shy when I was younger, but I still got in trouble for talking in class.  Surprising, right?  I was always the type of personality growing up that put myself down, and never really thought much of myself.  I played Clarinet starting in third grade, and majored in music in college.  During all of that, I rarely got prideful about the talent that God gave me.  It wasn’t until probably sometime in my adult life that I started to have some prideful attitudes.  Most of it was all in my head, I would never say half the things I thought, because I knew it wasn’t quite right.  I would also have a lot of judgmental thoughts as well.  I guess those both go hand in hand, don’t they?  Pride and judgment.

As my relationship with Jesus has deepened, I have lost some of that pride and judgment.  There were seasons in my life where I asked God to humble me, boy did he answer those prayers.  I didn’t know what I was asking for!  I was a little sorry at first, but now I am so glad He answered.  He is still humbling me, and it has been a painful and sometimes embarrassing process.  Parenting has humbled me more than I ever imagined it would, and having a hysterectomy is one of the most humbling experiences so far.

The place where pride has grown is in my voice of encouraging women.  At first, I wasn’t sure of my place, or my part in God’s body.  As I obeyed God, I saw it growing towards serving and encouraging other women in my life.  Over time, I have had the privilege of leading and co-leading Bible studies, or just being a discussion leader.  Through those opportunities, that’s where you hear how women are struggling, and you try your best to listen and encourage.  So, over time, I was better at encouraging, and had gained a lot of experiences through parenting, and just trials in life that I felt I could share with others.  I guess sometimes we can get lost in our own stories, and then somehow make them about us instead of Jesus.  I think I got lost in that for a while.  I didn’t mean to, that was never my intention, but sometimes attention and encouragement can go to your head.

I hate to talk about it here, and to really tell you these things, because well, you might think I am pretty awful.  Well, the truth is, I am.  Without Christ, I am truly a sinner, the worst of them all.  I hope that you know though, that we can have Christ.  He stood in our place, once and for all.  He has saved us, and we need only to believe in Him, and accept Him as Lord and Savior of our life.  I’m so thankful He saved mine!  I am so thankful that He loves me, and wants to use me for His glory.

So, back to pride, I just felt God laying this on my heart.  To confess that this is a sin that I have struggled with.  I have cared about other’s opinions above God’s.  I have cared about being important or known over being humble and less.  I have made it about me, when it should have been about Christ all along.  I want it to be all about Him, and I want this life of following and obeying Him without condition to be my life.  No matter how hard, and boy is it hard at times.  It can be so deeply lonely.  Sometimes, I don’t feel like even writing on this blog, because, well, I get tired of putting myself out there.  I get tired of putting my business and my struggles for all of whoever wants to criticize or judge me.  God reminds me though, that yet again, it is not about me.  It never has been, and it never will be.  He has asked me to write to encourage women,  in whatever way, I have to obey.

God has shown me that I can’t serve Him in the way that He is calling me, if I am prideful or concerned about what others think.  I can’t serve women and be humble if I am concerned about being important or known, or well, liked.  That is a hard one for me, I want everyone to like me.  God is really showing me that through these trials that I am facing now, and especially in the trying time I faced with my hysterectomy, that He is making me less.  There is so much less of me, but the beautiful thing is I can see there is beginning to be even more of Him.  He is making me into who He wants me to be to achieve His work on this earth, and for eternity.  Why wouldn’t I want that?  I think we let the hardness of our life circumstances get in the way.  I think we let our struggles or temptations get in the way.  Would you bring them out into the light with me?  I know it’s risky, I know you don’t want others to see where you are ugly.  Can you do it, so that God can work on it?  He can only work on it if you bring it out into the light.  When we see these things in the light, they aren’t as bad as we thought, because you see, God will start working on them immediately, to make them beautiful.  He wants to make all things new.  He wants to take those broken places inside of you, those things that are in the way of where He is taking you, and He wants to transform them.  If you let Him, He will take that private sin and turn it into something that connects you with others.  What do you have to lose?  God wants to use your story and mine of how He is changing us to lead others to His throne.

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.  Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord…But everything exposed by the light becomes visible-and everything that is illuminated becomes a light.   Ephesians 5:8-10, 13 NIV

 

 

Transitions

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I don’t know about you, but I feel like a hot mess at the moment.  I feel like crying at the strangest times, and I just feel so out of whack!  I know I can thank the hysterectomy partly, though I did get to keep my faithful ovary friends.  I guess part of it is just being a woman and dealing with the extra feelings we get to have.  I’ve been walking this journey of this whole hysterectomy thing, it’s just been something.  I can’t write about the whole thing tonight, because, well, it’d be a novel.  So, I’ll give bits here and there about how God has taught me so much through it.  I hope you don’t tire of hearing about it.

So, I’m to the point where I’m back in regular life pysically, but I was out of everything for about 6-7 weeks.  I didn’t do much socially, well, because I couldn’t, unless thy had a recliner!  So, I’ve just jumped back into my regular life, but I don’t feel like myself emotionally.  I’m trying to get my bearings, after not having to be responsible for much for a long time, and having nothing on the schedule.  Now there’s school, Bible studies and other things.  I just hit the ground running pysically, but I forgot to finish working through all of the things I need to deal with.

I’m the kind of person who will tell you anything, I love talking to ladies, and you don’t have to know me to be my friend.  There are certain feelings that I don’t know how to always talk about, or how to process.  I can tell you tons of mom feelings, but when it comes to deeper things, I don’t want people to know some of the ugly stuff, or just some things that seem silly.  Lately, when I’ve been around younger moms, and moms that I used to be right in the trenches with, I feel irrelevant to them.  I feel I’m not like them anymore, an imposter.  I cried to two of my sweet friends, I just told them how I felt, because, well, I couldn’t help it!  It just came out at the weirdest time.  I was just crying like a weirdo, but they hugged me, and encouraged me.  Through all of my outbursts, and weird emotions through this process, I’m realizing, it’s a transition.  Duh!  We go through these as moms of little ones about every week.  Why did it take me so long to see that?  Through all of the events that have happened since my surgery, God has been speaking to me, and pushing me, as He is changing me once again through things in life.

I don’t mind change, I kind of like it, but some of the mom transitions are hard.  You wake up one day, and you don’t have babies anymore.  You aren’t able to have more either, which is strange, because the younger years drag on in some ways, and it never seems to be over.  It seems like you’d always be able to have another child.  That isn’t the way life is, so I’m not sure why I didn’t realize that!  Now, I have one in kindergarten, and a three year old.  They don’t need me as much, which is great in some ways, but in others you feel, well, not needed.  Strange, something you’ve been wanting for awhile, now I have it, and it feels foreign.  Sometimes, I’m just not sure what I do now.  It’s weird to be here, but also good in many ways.

Dealing with the fact that my ability to have kids is gone is much harder than I would’ve thought.  We were pretty sure we were done, but then the decision was made for me, by having to have the surgery.  That was cruddy, and was not how I would’ve planned it.  I’m glad God is God, and He knows how it all fits into His big, big picture.  Through all of these emotions and realizations about what my life is like with older kids now, its just a transition.  Its shaky at first, figuring out this new mom I am now, and figuring out my new kids.  They are changing all of the time, and I’m trying to keep up!  I never thought about the emotions of slowly letting go as they grow, but that is what we do…we must.

I finally understand why sometimes older moms don’t hang out with younger moms.  The older ones, well, feel old.  You don’t feel you have much to offer as well, the memories do fade, as someone said to me.  Things do fade, but as we transition to the different kind of mom, let us not forget the desperation of sleepless nights, and the constant crying. How we just wanted to talk to a grown up human, even if they just stared at us.  I don’t want to forget that, and I don’t want to fail at being there for the beautiful moms that are a bit behind me on my journey.  They need us that are ahead of them.  They need our listening ears, and our “I remember that, that was hard!”.  Moms in all stages, you are needed!  Who can you encourage that might be in a different stage?  It can be anyone, even if you can only offer an exhausted smile.  Ladies that are ahead of me, we need you too!  I need to know what’s ahead, how I can bring up my kids to know and serve the Lord!  I crave that wisdom only you have to offer, please share with us.  We are all relevant to one another in the body of Christ!  We need each other, your life and your stage, unique to you, has so much to offer to the people God has placed in your life.  Single, married, mothers, aunts, fathers, uncles, young and old.  God made you for a purpose, and He made you to love others, and glorify His name in a way only you can.  Don’t let these bumps in the road keep you from being who God made you to be, and lean into how He is growing you every day.

Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body.  And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.  If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body…Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.  1 Cor. 12:15-20, 27 NIV

Comparison is THE WORST

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Yeah, I know it’s been awhile. I bet you had Summers like I did, they just kind of slip through your fingers. A long road trip, preparing for a hysterectomy, and then actually having it has kept me away. I didn’t know that last one was going to happen, so I had definitely planned on blogging sooner. Well, as you know, God has plans of His own, and I still have so much to learn.

I haven’t struggled too much with comparison for a while. I’ve felt pretty content with me, and just who God has made me to be. I’ve felt pretty confident as a mom as well, overall. God has just taught me so much, and I am 37, nearing the age where these things like comparison just don’t get to me as much. I just don’t care most of the time what another mom is doing, as far as comparing it to what I’m doing. I’ve come to the truth that I’m the mom created exactly for my kids, and that’s why He made me the way He did.

So, you know where I’m going with this. After my hysterectomy, last month, once I woke up from like four days of sleeping, I started comparing. Actually, back up. It started in the hospital with my room mate. She had a broken ankle. I immediately was comparing her surgery to mine, and how mine was so much worse. I think mine was worse in many ways, but she had her own issues that were hard for her in her situation. I was just in so much pain, so I just started wishing I wasn’t me, or was like her. The funny thing was, the day I left, she says to me, “I’d rather have a hysterectomy than a broken ankle.” I couldn’t think of anything nice to say, so I didn’t say anything. She said what I was thinking to myself, but the opposite, and I was incredulous. Isn’t that crazy? I was thinking the same thing, so why was I so mad? Its that comparison thing. It makes us put two things next to each other that weren’t meant to be compared. She has her path, I have mine. In Galatians 6:4-5, I says,

Each one should test their own actions.  Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, for each one should carry their own load.

I think that says it pretty well. It is easier said than done, isn’t it? I started struggling again when I would watch a show, and see a character just doing ordinary things. I was stuck in bed, and couldn’t do anything. I was even envious of someone gardening. I’d watch Jim pick up Olivia, and be upset I couldn’t (even though before the surgery, I grew wearing of picking her up all of the time). I watched Olivia run and swing outside, and wished I could. I was comparing my ability to do nothing with normal people who didn’t just have major surgery. Now that I think about it, it was pretty crazy.

I knew, now that I wasn’t so drugged, and could start thinking a little more clearly, I needed to get back to God’s word. I knew I was believing lies. So, I got back to my routines of reading every morning. I was looking for something to add to those, since, well, I had a lot of just sitting around to do. I came upon the Comparison Trap by Sandra Stanley. Money Saving Mom mentioned it, and that the app was free. I like free! The videos are on there, and then I ended up getting the devotional for only $12.00. It’s totally worth it! I’ve been learning so much from it, and the study just reminds you of God’s truth, and how we are just awesome because we are His! He doesn’t compare us, and He doesn’t love one of us more than another, even though we act like it!

So, all of this to say, don’t get caught in the trap. That’s exactly what it is. It happens especially with women. We just tend to look around to see how we measure up. I think it’s just a weakness that comes with our gender. We think we need to know the most people in the room, be the most in style, or bake the best brownies. You name it, and we can figure out how to compare it. Just as I am learning so much about this, and trying to stay out of this trap, I did it so much this morning! I went to a new Bible study. It was full of women I didn’t know, so apparently, my mind thought I could just start labeling them, and knowing if I was less or more spiritual than them. Just for good measure, I also decided to judge based on appearance. I realized what I was doing, and asked God to take all of those thoughts. All of us in that room had Christ in common. As I got to know the girls in my group, we had more in common, than we had differences. It’s so easy to fall into that kind of thinking. It helps so much as a person becomes real and known to us. I want to stop it before that, though. I don’t even want to entertain those thoughts. I want to remember that we all have a story, and we are all trying to follow Christ the best we know how at the moment. I want to see that when I look around. To see that all of these people around me are made in the image of God. To remember that He has made each and every one of us for a unique purpose and calling. Will you practice this with me?

A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.   Proverbs 14:30