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

Idols and Weeds

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I know I haven’t posted in a while, I just haven’t felt led to share anything.  I’ve been thinking and praying, and plenty is going on in my life to write about, but I just didn’t feel led to write about any of it.  At least, not yet!  I was sitting in church Sunday, and our pastor started talking about idols.  My mind just starts going, and I knew what I would blog about.

Idols are one of those things that aren’t really seen any more.  In the Old Testament, there were statues, large and small.  It’s easy to write off the whole idol thing as a Christian, because we don’t pysically bow down, or burn incense to an actual statue.  We can just write that whole idol thing off.  Or can we?  I feel like in my experience, the idols that we can’t see are even trickier.  The things that are good things in life, but can become consuming.  It would almost be easier if it were a physical idol, that we could actually destroy with a hammer.  We could destroy it once and for all.  Many things in our lives, we have to keep at bay, always keeping those boundaries, that those good things stay in their right place.

As I was listening on Sunday, I of course, started to become convicted about some things in my life that I have let become overgrown.  These little weeds growing here and there, and new growth has begun.  It’s not the kind of growing I want in my life though.  These weeds need to be pulled, and I need to get some weed killer on these things!  I’ve done quite a bit of weeding this Summer, and it looks so much better once the weeding is done!  The weeds cover so much of the beauty of the flowers, and start to take away life from the flowers as well.  It’s one of those things that you have to stay on top of.  You can’t just weed once, and never do it again.  I’m super sad about that.  But, it’s the same in our walk with Christ.  We have to stay on top of those weeds, and pull our those roots as soon as they start.  Otherwise, we all know what happens when these weeds take over our faith.  It’s a very ugly thing, and it takes so long to get them cleaned out.

I don’t want these ugly idols in control of my life, choking out the growth Christ is doing in my heart.  I’m guessing you don’t either.  One of the questions our pastor asked to help identify idols was “What are you most disappointed with?”. Well, that’s a lot to think about, isn’t it?  For me, it seems it depends on the day.  I realized while listening to him, that I have a bunch of starts of idols growing.  God has given me victory over food, but it tempts me at times, even still.  Also, I use to bow to the idol of entertainment, which that can still tug on me as well.  But, when I answered that question, I realized that what usually disappointed me was the behavior of my children, and the unrealistic expectations I put on my husband.  So, my family.  Ouch.  I wasn’t expecting that.  I think that happens to a lot of us as moms.  My happiness depends on everyone else at times.  That seems pretty silly, especially since my kids are so inconsistent, and well, not even rational!  I’m glad to know that I have something to ask myself, though, to kind of see where I’m at in this idol thing.  What dissappoints YOU the most?

The next question was “Where do you turn when it hurts?”.  Hmm, that took a bit to think about, but it’s not usually food anymore.  I’ve noticed a new pattern now.  I tend to buy things.  That’s frustrating, because I thought that idol was dead and buried in my youth.  Well, it’s trying to grow again, and I’m so glad God has been opening my eyes to it!  I don’t want to run my family’s finances in the ground for something that never satisfies.  Where do YOU turn when it hurts?

The next one was “What do your dream of/are passionate about?”.   I can be passionate about many things.  The thing lately though, that I’ve really been enjoying is cooking.  I just enjoy trying new recipes, and finding really great ones.  I love looking at cooking magazines, and of course Pinterest.  These things are not bad, but God reminds me, well, to keep them in their place.  It’s hard when that’s part of your job when you are raising a family, but God wants to do the work for me.  He always is reminding me to just do my part.  My part is to keep things in their place, and to completely surrender to Him every moment of every day.  What are YOU passionate about that has maybe gotten out of hand?

Finally, the last question was “What do you think will make you truly happy?”.  In other parts of my life, I would have said, “to be thin”, “to get out of debt”, “to have great kids”.  At this point of my life, and coming to the end of myself so many times, I can honestly say, I know the only thing that can make me truly happy, is to be completely surrendered to my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  He is the only master worth serving. I can tell you that, because I have served so many other masters.  They only bring death, but Christ, well, He brings us life:

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.  John 10:10

I don’t know about you, but I want that full life!  I don’t want emptiness, that’s what these idols bring.  They only take, and they will take until there is nothing left of you.  That’s how Satan works, he wants to destroy us, and to try to destroy our relationship with Christ.  What’s the thing that messes with our relationship with Christ the most?  Idols.  Let’s not give in to them!  When you see a root starting, yank it out with me!  Let’s keep our eyes open, stay alert, and keep pulling those weeds!  I know it’s tiring, but like we have talked about so many times, God does not says it’s going to be easy.  We need Him, and without Him, we’d be covered in weeds.

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives:  love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  There is no law against these things!    Gal. 5:22-23

To the Moms of Little Ones

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But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles;  they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.  Isaiah 40:31

That is such an encouraging verse, isn’t it?  How many times in mothering these little ones do we feel like we are just going to collapse from how exhausted we are?  Mothering little ones is a never ending task, and it takes all we have to keep going.  Here’s what I’ve learned though.  I don’t have what it takes to be an awesome mom.  I can’t do it all.  I can’t teach my kids how to follow Jesus.  I can’t do this mom thing…apart from Christ.  He has to be my strength, my all.  I have to keep surrendering fully to Him every moment of every day, for His word reminds us:

I am the vine;  you are the branches.  If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit;  apart from me you can do nothing.  John 15:5

Boy, is it hard, though.  When your temper reaches to the point of no return.  When you are trying to write something to encourage other moms, and your three year old WILL NOT nap.  WILL NOT!  When you look at their face of pure exhaustion, but they just sit in their room and play, but then cry over every little thing.  Oh my word.  Olivia is in that phase right now, she is completely exhausting.  Many times, I just don’t know what to do with her.  When I try to teach her or correct her, it’s like talking to a wall many times.  She really doesn’t seem to get it.  It’s like talking to someone who has the hearing aids off.  I know it will be better in a while.  She will develop, she will grow, she will change.  How do I know?  Because I’ve seen it with my oldest Jacob, who’s five now.

Jacob was awful at three.  He bit other kids, hit them for no reason.  He hit and bit Olivia as a little baby, it was so awful.  I would just cry out to God at nap time, because I literally had no idea how to parent him.  No idea what to do next.  But God would show me moment by moment, day by day, and now I have quite a son.  He obeys most of the time, and most importantly has quite a passion for Jesus.  He’s sensitive to the Holy Spirit, and the stuff he says sometimes can only come from God, in its wisdom.  He truly astounds me sometimes.  He still has his moments, but he is so much more fun to be around.

I share these two examples, especially for those of you that may have one, and you might not be that far on your parenting journey.  Your just not sure that it could ever get better.  Being a mom is hard, it is the hardest job I’ve ever done, and I’ve worked in many different areas.  It’s mind numbing and overwhelming, but, it’s gets easier.  I promise.  It’s still not easy, but easier.  I’m only to five, so I can only share wisdom from that viewpoint.  I’m out of the baby stage with both kids, so I’m not so foggy anymore.  I can usually think clearly, and I get to sleep through the night most of the time.  That’s how I know.  That’s why I want to encourage you to keep going.  Cling to Christ with all your might.  Cry in the bathroom for a bit, lock the door.  Take the deep breath you need and ignore the fingers under the door.  Let it go.  Pray.  God’s got you, like you have those kiddos.  Keep trusting.  Pray through that tantrum, put that kid in their room, or just walk away, and talk to them when they are calm.  Sing in that fussy baby’s ear songs about Jesus to calm the both of you.  You are doing it, you just keep clinging, this bad moment won’t last forever, He is there with you, and He won’t leave you to deal with it alone.

Something else I’d like to talk about is this mom guilt thing.  My friend Mandy helped me with some ideas for this post, and the mom guilt thing was on her list.  Man, guilt is ugly, ugly as sin.  Don’t listen to the mom guilt!  It’s Satan whispering in your ears telling you straight up lies.  Like you are a horrible mother, and you can never get it right.  You and I have NEVER been horrible mothers.  That would be pretty hard to accomplish.  Even if it were true, God’s grace is there to help you change, and to forgive you.  Also, the not getting it right thing.  I’ve learned that there is not really very many black and white things about parenting, so it’s pretty hard to get it wrong.  Satan and lies work in extremes, so most of these lies, if we can see them for what they are, are certainly ridiculous.  We need to fight back with truth always.  Fight back with the word of God.  Satan hates to hear God’s word.  When you feel like you are failing as a mother, think of all that you HAVE done in a day, not what you haven’t.  You got your kid up, fed them, dressed them, and talked to them.  You got yourself up, dressed, and tried to look somewhat presentable.  You got out of bed, lady!!  You made some coffee, and maybe ate something.  These are great achievements in the world of motherhood, and if you managed to go somewhere with the kids, well, hallelujah, that is truly a miracle.  These things all count!  If you have a newborn, and you fed them, and took care of them, and did nothing else.  Well, that’s enough, that is a beautiful, wonderful thing.  You are all doing it, the kids are all alive, and so are you!!

I know being a mom is so full of discouragement, and dare I say, hopelessness at times.  It’s almost suffocating.  You can’t always eat your dinner warm, as a friend and I were discussing the other night.  You just eat after they are in bed, because, well, it’s easier.  That’s normal.  That’s okay.  It’s a season, this too shall pass.  I know you are tired of all the dishes and the cleaning.  Try to use this mess as a reminder of the beautiful blessings we have in our homes.  Pray over their places at the table as you wipe them down.  Pray at the sink as you fill the dishwasher or scrub those pans.  This is the beautiful work God has given you at this time, and when He watches you, He is pleased.  Pour out all of yourself, and watch as Jesus lovingly fills you back up again, so that you can take care of all of those around you.  In ways you never thought you could.  This is where God is growing us.  He is stretching us, and pulling that selfishness right out.  It’s painful, it hurts.  It’s infuriating, and at times, too much to bear.  This is where our faith becomes real.  This is where we see how much we need Jesus.  If we want to show others how much we love Jesus, it’s by being the mothers He has called us to be.

Living out your faith is hard as a mom, the kids take almost everything, we feel there’s nothing left.  I know that there’s that little mustard seed inside you.  Keep watering it and growing it as you walk this bumpy road.  Don’t let it die.  Get a bible or bible study app, something you can do in a few minutes.  You can read it while nursing or when your kid is playing.  Fit it in where you can, keep filling your heart with His beautiful word.  He will take it and grow it!  He is so faithful, even when we give Him so little.  Write in your journal as you can, just jot things down.  Get those crazy thoughts out of that head of yours.  Lay all of those emotions and thoughts at His feet.  He is waiting to take your burden, He’s waiting to fill you up again.  Our kids need us, and the thing we must remember is that THEY are our ministry.  They are our work, and it is so rewarding.  There could never be more important work, making disciples.  You are doing it, momma.  Keep going, surrender all to Him, and He will sustain you for the work ahead.

Trust in the Lord with all of your heart and lean not on your own understanding;  in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight.  Proverbs 3:5-6

 

Do You Want to Be Holy or Happy?

imageWell, that’s quite a question, isn’t it?  Sometimes, I think I’d say happy instead.  Sometimes I get tired of this hard road that God calls me to, as I have been honest about in many of my posts.  Sorry, if I seem whiny.  I’m just sharing those feelings because I know I’m not the only one who’s tired, and who feels like giving up.  Sometimes, it’s just all too much, and we want to settle for second best, for happy.  Happy is so much easier, but it’s so short-sighted.  I’ve settled for happy so many times, and boy have I missed out.  We are so used to being comfortable, and having those little things that make us happy, that when those things are taken away, we just think we can’t cope with life.  Things like Facebook, coffee, nap time, me-time, a clean house, a schedule, a nice routine, fill in the blank.  Please notice the finger is pointed at me here, but just thought I’d throw out some examples, I’m sure you are thinking of your own.

Our pastor spoke about this on Sunday, and this is where most of my post stems from.  I’d been struggling with those feelings recently.  Just feeling overwhelmed and lost in life, and not sure if I was doing anything right, it sure didn’t feel like it.  (We all know where feelings get us).  I realized as I was listening to our pastor that somewhere along the way, I had traded happy for holy.  Holiness is something I really want, and I pray, asking God for it.  Well, I think He’s been answering, but not in the way I’d go about it!  I realized that because the things that I thought I needed to make me happy were mostly unattainable lately, that I allowed myself to lose my joy.  I lost my contentment, because normally this and that happened, but now no more.  Another life shift, routine shift, and I got lost in it, and also got lost in a bad attitude.  Sitting in church, God showed me the problem.  I started seeking happiness instead of holiness without even noticing when it shifted.  How sad.  How unbelievably frustrated I am with myself that here I am again.  I know I’m not perfect, none of us are, but I hate getting caught up in those same cycles.  Putting self on the throne instead staying in constant surrender.  I guess that’s just how it goes.  Now, God seems to show me sooner, and we are further down the journey of this Christian life.  I should be thankful for that, and just get back up and keep going. Let’s not wallow, let’s not dwell.  God tells us:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.  And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.  Hebrews 12:1-2

Did you catch that?  Keep our eyes on Jesus, that’s the key isn’t it?  He’s our goal, He’s what we get, more of Him.  That’s what I want, I may not always live that way, but I know for sure He is worth it.  I’ve already chased after most things this world has offered, and it’s left me feeling dry and empty.  When we keep our eyes on Jesus, we can live above our circumstances.  I can NOT lose it when my three year old does (which is constantly, by the way), because I’m fully surrendered to Him.  That’s the idea, that we are so focused on Him, we have tunnel vision, and holiness is the end result.  He is, after all, perfecting our faith.  The Bible is clear about perfecting and how God changes us and molds us, it’s painful.  The Bible tells us that this road will not be easy and “in this world you will have trouble.”  He then goes on to say, “But take heart!  I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

I am so glad that God never leaves it there, there is always a “but”, followed by some much needed encouragement.  He is refining us, He uses our relationships, especially kids, I can attest to that!  Becoming a mother, and being on this journey has been one of the most trying and stretching parts of my life.  We ALL have these trying and stretching things in life.  They are there for a reason, for our good.  For those of us who are following Christ, they are pushing us towards holiness.  Are you ready to throw away the myth of happy with me?  Let’s trade it for contentment and joy, let’s trade it for holiness, but most of all let’s trade it for more Jesus.

Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.        Hebrews 12:14

 

A Time for Everything

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There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens…   Ecclesiastes 4:12

I was trying to figure out what to write about this week, and I had so many pieces of thoughts, and so many starting points, but no complete ideas.  I’m sure your shocked, because I’m well a bit distracted most of the time.  There’s enough going on with just trying to take care of my own kids and trying to keep my house in order, and all that goes along with that.  You know how it is, though, you know there’s even more responsibility on top of my own.  We all have those things we do above and beyond, whether it’s a full time job and career, or just doing things to serve our friends, and the church.  There’s so much to do, and it seems that there are not enough workers to do it.  I can see that everyone is busy this month, and I’m not alone in that.  I wish I could do something to slow us all down, to just take a breath!   Sometimes I want my slower paced life back.  When I tell God that, this is what I hear:

Whoever tries to keep their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life will preserve it.      Luke 17:33

So, that’s something God has been reminding me.  This is not my life.  I gave it to Him many years ago, and told Him I was serious, and here we are.  We have hard seasons and easier ones, that’s the ebb and flow of life.  As I was reading to the kids last night before bed, God reminded me of this as I read a kids version of Ecclesiastes 3.  That’s when it hit me, this is what God wants me to share!  I wasn’t sure when I was supposed to write about this, but the kids are actually napping today, and I get to be home today, so I am doing my best to obey.

So, this is simple, but it gave me such peace, as God reminded me of this truth from His word, that there IS a time for everything.  A time to be busy, maybe busier than you’re comfortable with, because He is pushing you past your limits, so it’s Him people see serving.  A time to be sleep deprived, well, because you’re baby or three year old needs you in the middle of the night.  A time to rest, and just breathe, to just soak in God’s truth and His awesome presence.  A time to teach, a time to learn.  A time to tell your friends all about something, a time to listen to a friend’s grief and struggles.  A time to laugh as your child does a silly dance, and a time to cry in the bathroom, because don’t know how to parent your child.  A time to rejoice for all the Lord has done, and a time to get down on your knees and cry out to God.  A time to work your tail off, and a time to get down and play with your kids.  A time to love, and a time to let someone love you.  A time to give, a time to take. A time to serve, and a time to be served.  A time to clean, and a time to live life fully in the mess.  There is a time for everything God tells us!  I love that, it gives me such peace to remember that, to rest in the time I’m in.

So, remember that, as you pass through all of these times.  Each time is special, and I feel is God-appointed.  These times of growth, and times of just pure enjoyment.  These times all serve a purpose in our life, and in our relationship with Christ.  We can go through all of these times in a day, or they may be weekly or monthly.  Find ways to rest in your time, to just be in that moment with God, and see what He is saying to you, what’s He teaching you now?  The longer I’m alive, I’m finding there is not always balance to life, sometimes things are just more busy or more slow.  I think that’s because God wants us to completely rely on Him, to not put Him in a box, so He is always showing us that we need Him.  Trust Him with me with our “times”.

There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens…         Ecclesiastes 3:1