Tuesday, March 26, 2013

When my faith becomes small

As I'm hurriedly fixing my hair, running behind already for an Easter party, I say out loud, "Please Lord Jesus make this work."   My three year old who is standing under me watching my every move looks up at me with a puzzled look and says, "Mama, are you talking to me?"  I say "No actually I was taking to Jesus."  She thinks about it a second and says, "But Mama, He's not here. It's just me and you."

Do I forget that just because I can't see Him doesn't mean He's not here?  Do I lose faith too often? 

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To be very honest, the answer is yes.  I do lose faith.  Quickly.  I forget that He is able to do exceedingly above what I can even imagine.  And I forget that I have the greatest priveledge in the world.  I can come before the throne of grace boldly in prayer and He is always there.  I forget that He promises to give us the desires of our heart.

I give up so easily.  When I can't see a change in someone/something when I think I should, I lose faith that He will answer my prayers.  When I am hurt by someone I get angry and give up.  I stop praying.  I become bitter.  When I don't get the answer I want, I am frustrated and question His plan.  "God will bring His word to pass but we have to wait on Him to complete other work as a part of that puzzle He is putting into place."  I believe that nothing and no one can keep God's plan from coming to pass in my life.  There is always an appointed time for everything. 

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When I try my best to live in a way to honor Christ, I sometimes become weary.  I get tired.  I forget that God sees me and knows my heart.  "Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him; on those who hope for His loving-kindness." ~ Psalms 33:18

I must die to self daily.  Over and over and over and over and.....

I'm so thankful for people that God places in our lives to remind us of the goodness of God.

I am on a journey, and tests are a part of that journey.  God is a promise-keeping God.

"I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.  Wait for the Lord.  Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord." ~ Psalms 27:13-14


Sunday, March 17, 2013

Stuffed with small things

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"If we don’t feel strong desires for the manifestation of the glory of God, it is not because you have drunk deeply and are satisfied. It is because we have nibbled so long at the table of the world. Our soul is stuffed with small things, and there is no room for the great." (A Hunger for God, Crossway Books, 1997)

I hear myself so often say, "I'm so frustrated with life.  I just wish it were easy.  Why is there always something/someone to deal with?"

Lately, God has started to put a new perspective on things.  The truths of his Word make the answer so clear.
Maybe not always easier, but better in ways that I really don't know how to explain.

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"This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope, It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. The LORD is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him. The LORD is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him." ~ Lam. 2:21-25

"The LORD thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing." ~ Zephaniah 3:17

"And I will bring them through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried; they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people: and they shall say, The LORD is my God." ~ Zechariah 13:9

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Whether it be health issues of your own, sick children, trouble in your marriage, financial struggles, opposition with your family or friends, or whatever your 'thing' my be.  Life can be tough.

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For me, one of the best ways to fight back against all the 'life stuff', is to find some quiet moments doing something that I enjoy which usually involves music and sunlight.
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And around this time of year, flowers!
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There's something about the sunlight that lifts my spirits and gives me hope and encouragement.  It's funny how the weather really can determine my outlook on things.  I'm so thankful for Spring and the hope of new life that it brings.

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I know so many of us are struggling through the day in and day outs of life.  And the truth is it's not going to change as long as we live here on this Earth. "These things I have told you, that in me you might have peace.  In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world." ~ John 16:33

We have reason for joy.  He has overcome the world {and all the 'stuff'}.

When I can direct my thoughts in a positive direction, I will always be better for it.  And literally counting my blessings is a good way to start.  When I deliberately thank God for blessings his has graciously given us, it changes my attitude.  I have so much to be thankful for!
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And because He has so abundantly blessed our lives, I think He would be delighted for us to step out of the ordinary.  The ordinary of just living life.  Doing the comfortable.  The easy.  Never looking outside of our little box.  What that means for your family, I'm not sure.  But my heart is being pricked in lots of ways.  I just need to be obedient.  Simply obedient.  I don't want to 'nibble on the small things of this world' and fill up so full that I don't have room for the great.

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The small things of insecurity, needing so desperately the approval of others.  Spending my time and money on earthly things instead of eternal.  "Keeping up with the Joneses."  Teaching my kids about God's love and grace for all instead of creating little people who think 'it's all about ME'.

God has blessed us all too much not to do something extra-ordinary with our time here!  To store up our treasures in heaven and not on earth.

I pray that you are able to look through the yuck to the other side and see the love of Christ.  To press on inspite of the world's 'stuff'.  To know that God is refining you through the fire.  Making you a better you.  Forming new life and new hope .  Giving you the courage to step out of the ordinary and do something extra-ordinary. And strengthening you for the unseen battles ahead.

"The battle of life is, in most cases, fought uphill; and to win it without a struggle were perhaps to win it without honor. If there were no difficulties there would be no success; if there were nothing to struggle for, there would be nothing to be achieved."  ~Samuel Smiles

Linking up with:::


Sunday, March 3, 2013

Imperfect Progress

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Real life in between those smiling snapshots isn't always pretty.  I can admit that.

The scene replays itself over and over again.   I'm in a hurry.  Probably because I've tried to pack too many little tasks into too few minutes.  The kids are non-responsive to most of my questions and commands.  Shoes are lost.  Hair is not brushed.  And neither are teeth.  An arguement over clothes has occured at least 4 times already.  Both are whining every breath.  Beds are unmade.  Lunches are half packed.  We finally head to the car.  One is in full-blown tears, and the other frowning, mumbling something about how he doesn't like me under his breath.  I buckle the carseat while she screams and tells me her dress won't fit between the straps right and her shoes are too tight.  She wants her business, blanket and Cocoa. The other is demanding to have the DVD turned on.  And then we, I mean I, remember we, I mean he, had homework.  We have no letter "Ee" pictures, and I was supposed to provide snacks for the class party.  We are currently 8 minutes late and still sitting in the carport! 

Then it happens.  The Mama meltdown.  Words are said that most certainly don't 'give life' and that can never be taken back at a decibel level that even my deaf family members could here and most definitely the neighbors.  I apologize over and over and eventually find myself in a puddle of tears with both children wrapped in a hug tighter than a Boa Constricter and we finally arrive to our destination an hour later.  I feel guilty all day and wonder how-in-the-world-I'll-ever-learn.

The next day proves I haven't learned.  Same song, different verse.

"I know what it's like to praise God one minute and in the next minute yell and scream at my child."

 It's the ugly and the nasty, but it's the truth.

"I grabbed my purse, slammed the door, and screeched the tires as I angrily peeled out of the driveway on my way to a meeting.  A meeting for which I was now an hour late and in no mood to participate.  It was probably some meeting about being kind to your family...and now it's 2:08 a.m. and I can't sleep. I 'm sad because of the way I acted today.  I'm disappointed in my lack of self-control... I have to figure this out.  What is my problem?  Why can't I seem to control my reactions?  I stuff.  I explode.  And I don't know how to get a handle on this.  But God help me if I don't get a handle on this.  I will destroy the relationships I value most and weave into my life permanent threads of short-temperedness, shame, fear, and frustration.  Is that what I really want?  Do I want my headstone to read, "Well, on the days she was nice she was really nice.  But on the days she wasn't, rest assured, hell hath no fury like the woman who lies beneath the ground right here"?  No.  That's not what I want.  So, at 2:08 a.m., I vow to do better tomorrow.  But better proves elusive,and my vow wears thin in the face of daily annoyances and unpleasant realities.  Tears slip and I'm worn out from trying.  Always trying.  So who says emotions aren't bad? I feel broken.  Unglued, actually.  I have vowed to do better at 2:08 a.m. and 8:14 a.m. ad 3:37 p.m. and 9:49 p.m. and many other minutes in between." ~ Lysa Terkeurst

In her book, Unglued, Lysa writes about four different reactions to our emotions:::
  1. The exploder who shames herself
  2. The exploder who blames others
  3. The stuffer who builds barriers
  4. The stuffer who collects retaliation rocks
I haven't read far enough to give many details on each one, but I can just about tell you which one I am and which one my husband is just by reading the titles.

The one thing I have learned so far is that I'm not alone.  I'm not weird for having these emotions.  In fact, just this week I had this very conversation with my ladies prayer group and we are all in the same boat.  So my question is, "How can I be better?"  How can I make a lasting change?

Perspective.  Changing our perspective on things is crucial according to Lysa Terkeurst.  Perspective doesn't just help us see the current circumstance we're facing from a new vantage point---it also helps me process future things I face in a calmer, more grounded way.

Changing our thought patterns is another huge help.  I did a study by Chip Ingram a few years back called "Good to Great" and he took several days of his study discussing the topic of our thoughts.  It is amazing how much influence on who we actually are is controlled by our thought patterns.  "Renewing our minds with new thoughts is crucial.  New thoughts come from new perspectives." 

"I can face things that are out of my control and not act out of control." ~ Lysa Terkeurst

"Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is---his good, pleasing and perfect will." ~ Romans 12:2

We must take captive our every thought.  It's biblical and it's fitting to the way God designed our brains.

My prayer is that I will be sensitive to His voice in the moment.  In the moment of frustration, I can take captive my thoughts and therefore control my emotions and reactions. 

"The tongue is the only tool that grows sharper with every use." ~ Washington Irving

I haven't got it mastered.  In fact, I'm a long way from it.  But I know God is working.  There is a beautiful reality called imperfect progress. 

"Imperfect changes are slow steps of progress wrapped in grace...imperfect progress."