Endure

“And let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus…”

Hebrews 12: 1b-2a

I ran today. That is not unusual. Neither is the fact that God speaks to me while I exercise (it is one of the few quiet moments I get in a day). However, what is unusual is that I felt the need to come and write down these thoughts right away. Perhaps you need to hear this too?

I have exercised my entire life. I love to move. I do not always love exercising, especially running, but I love how I feel when I keep my body active. As a child, I loved to push myself constantly further, pushing the limits of what my body could do. Could I jump higher? Could I run faster? Could I hit the ball harder? I thrived on challenge. However, as an adult, I have established a “routine”, or mindless activity that has worked in the past so I continue going through the motions. I still run, but I just plod along, lost in my thoughts. I do exercises that require me to jump or move, but I rarely push myself.

Unfortunately, my time on earth, doing things for God can be like this too. I do the good things that worked in the past, but I do them out of habit, rarely examining to see if I am pushing myself. I start to wonder why I am not seeing any growth, or worse, why I am drifting away from God. Maybe you feel this way too?

As I was running today, I felt God telling me to pick my legs up more, move my arms with more intention and focus on my run. So, I did. A miraculous thing happened. I not only started moving faster, an nice thing when running, but my run was working more muscles than it typically did. Even more miraculous, I ran farther today than I have in more than two years! I felt strong. I felt motivated. I felt challenged!

God started whispering this week’s memory verse as I was running. Run with endurance the race that is set before you. I started to think about what that meant. I cannot run with endurance by shuffling along, doing what could barely be classified as a run. I must push myself, using all the muscles needed, challenging my body, so that I may be prepared for the long, arduous race called life. Endurance is not built coasting through following the same routine, but through trials, challenges, and pushing ourselves to be the best version of ourselves.

The spiritual connections are endless, but remember this. Christ said in Matthew 18:3: “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Children embrace the challenge with exuberance. They push themselves to bigger and better things. Adults thrive on routine. We must turn from that and embrace God throughout our life. We must push to achieve more and receive more of God, not do what we have always done.

Are you running your race with endurance?

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Rest and Quiet…

Isaiah 30:15 NIV

This is what the Sovereign Lord , the Holy One of Israel, says: “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.”

I have not written in quite some time. I almost fear to look when my last post was. I love writing. It brings me clarity and peace. I feel God’s presence in a way that is nearly incomparable. Life, however, has thrown me some curveballs of late, and time to sit and write was hard to come by. My time with God was reading, talking and trying desperately to be with others through a rash of sick kids and a recent health problem of my own. I am at peace with that. Truly, it has allowed me time to focus on those closest to me when they needed me most. As 2015 begins, it is time for me to renew focus on writing the thoughts God has put on my mind. It is time to experience His peace and clarity in big ways.

When I came upon Isaiah 30:15 in a recent devotional, I knew this was going to be my verse for 2015. While most focus on a word that God has given them, a worthy task, I generally focus on a verse. It allows me to memorize and apply more Scripture to my life: which is definitely a plus in my book. This verse comes in a passage that is stating Israel’s disobedience to God’s promises. Isaiah is restating God’s promises in the midst of highlighting Israel’s repeated cycle of disobedience. This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.” These words resonated with me in a big way.

First, God tells us (His promises are for you and me, too) repentance and rest is our salvation. That is it. We trust that Christ is our savior, we repent of our sin and then we trust in His forgiveness. We rest in His authority. We give our worries and our problems to God. We do not ruminate over why our children our disbedient, why our bodies are sick or unwell, why our friend or family member are dying. It is not that we cannot grieve, show concern, or address these issues, but so often we begin to worry in a way that is unhealthy to our body and soul. The verse makes it clear, we are to repent and rest.

Second, we are told our strength is in quietness and trust. This is completely opposed to what society demonstrates. The loudest gets heard, whether it is truth or not. We yell and scream to try to get others to do what we want. We are loud to show our power and strength, yet that is not what our Lord tells us here. Our strength, which comes from the Holy Spirit within us, comes when we are quiet and listen for the still voice of the Lord. We trust that He is good. We trust that He is leading us to our own good. We trust that we will be refined in this fire. Here we are, friends, in the midst of overwhelming lives. We are drowning in too much to do yet we combat it by adding more to our schedules, because it is a “good” thing to do. The truth is, we need to stop, quietly listen and trust that our good will become apparent. And, while there may be times in our lives where we feel like we simply struggle to get through our day, we will be doing only what the Lord calls us to do. We will focus on those people God wants us to show His love. We will renew our souls in quiet time and prayer. We will serve others in glory to God.

This verse will be my reminder that God does not expect more from me in terms of what I accomplish. He simply wants more of me. He wants my trust. He wants my love. He wants me to share this with others. Will you join me in serving God in 2015? Will you turn to quietness and trust for your strength instead of yelling for control? May God’s peace live in each of us.

My Spot

Since time was short and energy in short supply, I decided I would share a picture of where I do most of my Bible Study work, as well as blogging. The picture is of my living room couch and me, tired, sporting a pony tail and no makeup. (Just in case any of you thought I had it all together.)

Snapshot_20140612_2

My life is one where days are exhausting and I am left with very little energy at the end of the day, but I know that if I do not find the time for quiet communion with God (I try to converse with God throughout the day), my life will be much more chaotic and stressful. I hope you enjoy my short post and find encouragement that whatever your life situation, plop your behind down and take some time for quiet time with God. <Smile>

 

 

A God Without Limits

I am doing an Online Bible Study on the book Limitless Life by Derwin Gray. Throughout the book, he offers the reader things to think about. One of these, under the heading The God Without Limits, dealt with “a fatherless generation.” He was linking this to our need for our heavenly Father, but the statistics shared in this section are staggering! While I am not trying to take a position on the individual reasons for single parent families, there are some things that need to be tackled here. Tough things.  Here are some of the issues Gray identifies:

Drug and Alcohol Abuse – fatherless children are at a greater risk for drug and alcohol abuse.

Behavioral Disorders – Eighty-five percent of all children who display behavioral disorders come from fatherless homes.

High School Dropout – Seventy-one percent of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes.

Prison – Eighty-five percent of all youths locked up in prisons grew up in fatherless homes.

Teen Pregnancy – Seventy-one percent of teenage pregnancies are to children of single parents. Daughters of single parents are 2.1 times more likely to have children during their teenage years than are daughters from intact families.

Youth Suicides – Sixty-three percent of youth suicides are from fatherless homes.

Gender Confusion – Boys who grow up in fatherless homes are more likely to have trouble establishing appropriate sex roles and gender identity.

Poverty – Children in fatherless homes are five times more likely to live in poverty.

Derwin Gray, Limitless Life

Again, these statistics are not presented to pass judgment on others for their decisions, but rather, as a call to action. All too often these problems are identified and there is a call for someone to fix it. This is an understandable reaction, but there is something missing: action. In general, we have become so accustomed to keeping to ourselves and looking to others to take care of problems, we lack the knowledge and/or courage to act on circumstances within our sphere of influence.

Derwin Gray credits the positive influence of coaches as father figures in his life. He notes the huge impact each person had on making positive decisions. God placed each person in Gray’s life and each person acted upon the call to be there for this young man. Do you react when God calls? Did you act when God tugged on your heart to help feed the family whose husband lost his job? Did you act when God urged you to converse with a young woman, not knowing this girl was on the verge of taking her own life? How about when God called you to help a city devastated by natural disaster? Maybe God has been calling you to foster or adopt a child in need? None of us is called to care for all of this, but all of us are called to care for something.

Galatians 5:13-14 says “ For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love. 14 For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself”‘ (NLT). God gives us a new birth of freedom when we believe, and this should cause us not to continue to gratify our sinful nature, but instead, we should be sharing the love that Christ gives so freely. We should not sit around in judgment of why someone is in their current situation, rather God calls us to simply help. We are called to use our blessings and gifts to serve others. Each person possesses unique gifts, so we can help others in unique ways. Do not use this as an excuse to avoid responsibility. Rather, embrace this as glorifying God with the gifts he bestowed upon you.

This post is not meant to pass blame or create guilt. It is my prayer that it will confirm God’s call upon you. I hope it encourages you that you are capable with God’s strength. I pray it reminds you that you are not called to do everything, only what God calls you to do. After Jesus ascended into heaven and the disciples were charged with spreading the Gospel, Acts 1:14 tells us first “they all met together and were constantly united in prayer, along with Mary the mother of Jesus, several other women, and the brothers of Jesus.” Should we not do the same? We should be in prayer looking for God’s call on our own lives, and in communion with other believers in order to gain strength and wisdom. God has given each of us the ability to know him and be in communion with him: through the Bible, through prayer, through interaction with other believers, through His creation and much more. Do not shy from the task in front of you.

I know that God has continually challenged me to step out of my comfort zone and help those in need. I would like to say I have stepped up eagerly in each circumstance, but that would be a lie. The truth is, I have become better at responding, but I still need to be more faithful. I must face the reality that I must be in communication with God more frequently and be even more mindful of the needs of those around me and more prayerful about my response. Surrounding myself with other Christians who take the command to love others seriously has made a huge impact! Going out of my comfort zone in my blessed life is hard. Most things worth doing are. I pray that you will take that step out and love others fully, if you are not already.

This is one of my favorite songs, and I hope it will inspire and encourage you too!

Tending Sheep

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It had finally happened. After an extended period of trying to conceive, the word “pregnant” showed up on the pregnancy test.  It was very early the morning after our cross country move from Texas to North Carolina, but I woke everyone anyway.  The excitement bubbled over and I could not contain it.  My prayers had been answered and I wanted to share the news with the world.  My dream of being a mother was going to come true.  Fast forward about ten months, and while I was still head over heels in love with this baby boy, something felt like it was missing.  I could not shake this feeling of having no real purpose.  Sure, I had planned to stay home with our children and was blessed to be able to afford it, even if it was rather frugal living at that point, but my purpose in life had completely shifted, and somehow I felt like I wasn’t doing enough.  I kept reminding myself what a noble job motherhood was, but I had no idea what to do with myself in this period of change. My brain cells felt unused, and I felt as if many of my talents were being wasted. I thought there had to be more than this. I faithfully put in my time, and I did find joy in being home with my son, but it definitely took much longer for me to understand the purpose behind my job as mother.

Have you ever felt that way, useless, or at least under-utilized?  I imagine many of us feel that way for a variety of reasons.  However, I do not think this is a feeling given to us by God. Let’s take a look at the story of David and Goliath for an example of God’s perception of these “useless” times, or times of preparation.  I am only going to focus on the verses dealing with David telling Saul why he knows he can slay Goliath, but the entirety of chapter 17 is worth reading.  1 Samuel 17:33-37 tells us:

33 Saul replied, “You are not able to go out against this Philistine and fight him; you are only a young man, and he has been a warrior from his youth.”

34 But David said to Saul, “Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, 35 I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. 36 Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. 37 The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.”

Saul said to David, “Go, and the Lord be with you.”

Saul looked at David and saw a young shepherd boy who played the lyre.  David, however, knew that his time as a shepherd and his reliance on God had prepared him for just this moment.  Having defeated a lion and a bear with his bear hands in protection of his flock, he knew God would grant him victory over Goliath so that God’s power might be displayed.  This is an amazing perspective, and one I have to work hard at during the long years of raising young children.  While times have been difficult and the work seems endless, God has been preparing me for his service.

First, he has been preparing me to be a better servant to my family. I find much greater joy knowing the effects my service has on them. I show them love and find joy with each load of laundry done.  Each time I help others, my children get to witness love. While I am being prepared to be a better servant, so are my children. Second, he is preparing me for interaction with others. I cannot count the number of times I have had a conversation with someone where God has urged me to share something I have learned from my own journey to give that person comfort and encouragement.  I hope that I will continue to be faithful to sharing my life and my story so that God may be shown in it.  Finally, God has a plan for my future. I am not sure exactly what that will look like, but I can see the pieces start to unfold before me.  Patience and obedience to my current task are required, but the rewards have already begun. The joy I now find in motherhood is ten times greater than when I first began, and while I am still grumpy about it from time to time, my perspective has allowed me to be angry and annoyed much less. (I struggle with getting upset when things continually deviate from my plan. That is a bad trait to have as a mother.  <Smile>)

Chapter2LLGod prepared David while tending sheep, and God is preparing me while raising children. I will not be king, but my job is important. Yours is too. God has given you the tools for victory and will continue to provide for you. According to Ephesians 2:22, “in him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.” If that is my only purpose in life, I cannot think of anything more meaningful.  Because of this, my past sins no longer define me and I am holy and loved. God gives me the strength to share his love and serve him fully. In my current season of life, sharing that with my children is one of my greatest joys. I hope they see the joy and strength God’s love and forgiveness has given me, and I hope they feel it for themselves as they face challenges in their own lives.

If you are looking at your life and feeling worthless or without purpose, remember God has purpose in all things. While I may not be able to understand, we can take comfort in knowing God knows us intimately and fully. He is with us always. May you feel God’s blessings and purpose on your life in the coming week.

Community

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds…”
Hebrews 10:24

As yet another Online Bible Study begins, we were asked to reflect on the topic of community. What does community mean to you? What do you need from community? What can you give to community?  All of this brought to mind how thankful I am for those who have been part of my community and how blessed I am to be able to encourage others along the way.  In Hebrews 10:24 we are told: “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.”  This verse embodies my vision of community.  Let’s break this verse down to see the various aspects of community mentioned.

And let us consider…

This tells us we should be thinking of how we can be in community with others.  This is intentional.  This is an important truth for me.  Left to my own devices, I might curl up in my house with a good book, avoiding others.  History has shown this to be a bad move.  When I am on my own, the voices in my head that cause discouragement and dissension take over.  I begin to see only the negative and it is difficult to get a grasp on the reality of each situation.  I lose some of my empathy for others, and I lose the joy that comes from serving others.

how we may spur one another on…

This is the essence of community.  We must spur each other on.  In order to further understand what this means, let’s take a look at the meaning of spur: “to prick with or as if with a spur or spurs; incite or urge on” (from dictionary.com).  This is not a call to just lead by example, this is a time to incite each other to action, to urge each other to move forward.  This is active and personal.  This is a call to community in the most loving sense.  I would be amiss if I did not note the verb spur, as used here, is derived from the use of spurs, as an object, to provoke a horse to movement.  The spurs cause pain for the horse, which causes the horse to move forward.  Is this not true of us? We need to hear truth, which is sometimes painful, to move us forward.  We are responsible to help each other move forward, even if sometimes it is painful.  This is not to be confused with saying hurtful words simply because they may be true.  Remember that our words must be carefully thought out, not simply spewed out according to our own perception of the situation.  Which brings us to the last part of this verse…

toward love and good deeds…

We are not simply inciting each other toward any action, but toward love and good deeds.  This goes back to what Jesus identified as the greatest commandment in Matthew 22:37-40. “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Every commandment hinges on loving God with all of ourselves, and as an extension, loving our neighbor as ourselves.  This love leads to good deeds.  The love that God lavishly bestowed upon us with the birth, death and resurrection of Christ should cause us to want to share that love with others!  When be believe in Christ, our actions become loving toward God, one’s self and others.  As humans, we tend to step away from this perspective now and again, so being surrounded by a community of believers is important in order to bring each other back to Christ. 

I am in need of community rather frequently in this stage of life.  While I cherish being able to stay home with my children, talking to my children all day can be a bit frustrating.  I use the different communities to continually bring perspective to my life and to help me keep my life ordered according to my priorities.  They show me love so that it is easier for me to show love to others. They remind me of the joy in all things. These communities have helped to make me a better Christian, mother, wife, friend, and so much more.

I find community in a variety of places.  I find community on the internet through social media and online Bible Study.  I have a number of people who have affected my life who I have never met face to face.  These people encourage me with their words and inspire me with their actions.  I find community in my church and Bible Study.  These people are a physical presence in my life who can physically care for me in ways that I cannot get through online communities.  Probably the most important community to me are my friends and family, some of which fit in the previous two categories.  These are the people who are involved in my every day life.  They know the good, bad and ugly of my life and continue to show me love.  They have shared in my joy and my sorrow in ways for which I am so grateful.  I am blessed by each person who has been a part of my community.

I have made it my goal over the past several years to love others and encourage them more intentionally.  Given connections through social media as well as physical connections throughout life, I come into contact with many people.  By being intentional, I have better been able to encourage others through God’s grace.  I am more dedicated to my relationship with Christ, so I am better able to see how He wants me to help others.  I share the good and the bad of my life in a way that brings God glory and spurs others toward love and good deeds.  I want to continue to discern God’s voice in my life so that I obey that voice more frequently and mutual encouragement could become even greater!

I thank each of you for being a part of my community and I pray that God uses me to be a faithful part of yours as well!

Spur one another

What does community mean to you? What do you need from community? What can you give to community? – See more at: http://proverbs31.org/online-bible-studies/current-study/#sthash.W5ZmXnNC.dpuf
What does community mean to you? What do you need from community? What can you give to community? – See more at: http://proverbs31.org/online-bible-studies/current-study/#sthash.W5ZmXnNC.dpuf

God’s Superheroes?

God’s Armor

10 Finally, let the Lord make you strong. Depend on his mighty power. 11 Put on all of God’s armor. Then you can stand firm against the devil’s evil plans. 12 Our fight is not against human beings. It is against the rulers, the authorities and the powers of this dark world. It is against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly world.

13 So put on all of God’s armor. Evil days will come. But you will be able to stand up to anything. And after you have done everything you can, you will still be standing.

14 So stand firm. Put the belt of truth around your waist. Put the armor of godliness on your chest. 15 Wear on your feet what will prepare you to tell the good news of peace. 16 Also, pick up the shield of faith. With it you can put out all of the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Put on the helmet of salvation. And take the sword of the Holy Spirit. The sword is God’s word.

18 At all times, pray by the power of the Spirit. Pray all kinds of prayers. Be watchful, so that you can pray. Always keep on praying for all of God’s people.

Ephesians 6:10-18 (NIVR)

I am always trying to think of ways to make God’s Word more accessible to my young children.  Yes, they know of God’s love and we talk about Jesus, but how do I begin to teach them about the character traits of a godly person and how to attempt to follow Christ’s example?  As I lay in bed last night (bed time is when I come up with my best ideas), it struck me how I might share part of God’s message with them: God’s superheroes (or even the knights of God).  My three oldest children are boys, and they act out situations with good guys and bad guys frequently, so this would be language they can understand.

Introduction to the passage:

Superheroes have tools or strengths that allow them to fight evil.  Think of your favorite super hero.  What strengths does he use to fight the bad guys?  Can he fly?  Does he run really fast?  Perhaps he shoots something to thwart the bad guy.  Maybe the superhero has a tool to help him fight evil.  A rope?  Or maybe a car or plane that has really cool features!  If you were a superhero, what would your super powers be?  What tools might you use?  Draw me a picture of you as a superhero and tell me about each super power or tool.

God also gives us tools so that we might do what is right and fight off evil and sin.  These tools are described as the armor of God. (See Ephesians 6:10-18 above.)

God knows we will fight the devil’s evil plans in our life, and we will constantly struggle against sin, so he provided some tools to give us strength in the fight.

  1. The Belt of Truth – God’s Word is Truth, and we should read God’s Word (the Bible) and talk to God (pray) often so that our Belt of Truth works at full capacity.
  2. The Armor of Godliness – God gave us many examples of those living a godly life, with Christ being at the front.  We should model our life after Christ so that our armor can deflect the arrows the devil throws our way.
  3. Super Shoes – God wants us to have shoes on our feet that will allow us to take his message of salvation to all the world.
  4. The Shield of Faith – Faith is the basis on which our salvation lies.  If we believe in Christ as our savior, he is with us through all our battles and he gives us all the tools we need to come out of the fight still standing.  We can ward off ALL of the arrows the devil throws at us with the shield of faith.
  5. The Helmet of Salvation – This helmet is a gift from God that all who have faith are given.  It protects our mind from the evil thoughts and helps to remind us that God has already won, and he promises we are with him.
  6. The Sword of the Holy Spirit – The sword is God’s Word (the Bible) and we can use it fight off evil and sin in our lives.  The Holy Spirit gives us the ability to figure out God’s plan for each of us and to read the Bible and know how it applies to me.

Application of the topic:

Given all these tools, we can be assured victory over evil.  It may not be easy, and our life may be filled with battles, but God promises to be with each of us.  I want you to think about any sin (things God does not want us to do) or any evil in your life right now.  What are they and what tools does God give us to fight?  Some examples might be your parents, friends who are Christians, the Bible and many other things.

Memory Verse:

10 Finally, let the Lord make you strong. Depend on his mighty power. 11 Put on all of God’s armor. Then you can stand firm against the devil’s evil plans.Ephesians 6:10-11 (Note: For younger children, you may want to only use verse 10 or verse 11.)

Closing Activity:

You are a superhero with God’s strengths!  He gives you strength to fight evil.  Design your superhero shield and determine what tools you will have and how it will help you fight off evil in your life.

Superhero Shield

Blank Superhero Shield

Blank Coat of Arms (Knight)

Blank Coat of Arms (Knight)

I love creating little lessons or devotionals that I know my children will enjoy.  I hope you find some inspiration behind it too.  You are welcome to use the lesson for your little ones, but please properly site this blog.  Thank you for taking the time to read this post.

 

 

So What or So That?

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

John 3:16

It feels like such a long time since I have put pen to paper, so to speak, so I am glad to be back, sharing my God-given reflections with  you once again.

I was particularly struck by a concept mentioned in a book I just began reading, Living “So That”: Making Faith-Filled Choices in the Midst of a Messy Life by Wendy Blight.  She said the phrase “so that” was not a random choice.  During a campaign to raise money, her church used the name “So That” for the project.  Their goal for the project was to challenge their church body to live a life that exemplified “so that” instead of “so what”.  In other words, instead of a life that is all about me with no impact on the world around me, I would live a life that is others-centered, making a difference in the world for God’s name.  Later, Wendy explains, the phrase “so that” has even further meaning when you look into the Greek behind it.  She explains that it is a purpose clause used in conjunction with a subjunctive participle.  A subjunctive participle tells how likely an event is to occur.  May and might are examples of subjunctive participles.  When so that is used, it signifies a purpose behind the previous statement, or an expected result.  In other words, it contains a promise of what is to come.  When I thought about these statements, it made me yearn for a life of promise; for a life of purpose and confidence in an expected result.  I want to live a life that exemplifies John 3:16.  God loves us so much that he sent his son, so that any who believe in him will not receive death, but eternal life.  Because God loves ME and sent his son for ME, I will believe and receive eternal life.  I want to live a life that demonstrates that promise to the fullest measure.

What would a life that is “so that” look like?  I think it takes all aspects of our life and uses it to bring glory to God.  We should take our everyday, mundane tasks and perform them as if we perform them for the Lord himself.  Colossians 3:23 tells us as much saying, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.” The endless pile of dishes. The never-ending pile of laundry. The errands that seem they will go on forever. Caring for your ailing family member for what seems like an eternity. While none of these things may bring us joy of themselves, when we change our perspective to see these as acts as bringing glory to God because we are serving others, we can find joy in our purpose.  Over the past several weeks, the demands of caring for a newborn on top of the normal demands of caring for my family at times seemed overwhelming.  Truth be told, there are times when I would cry because I felt as if I could not do it for one more minute.  I could not even imagine how everything that needed to be done would get accomplished.  I did one thing right, though: I called out to God in prayer.  I listened to His voice telling me he was with me, and I worked to use God’s strength to give me patience and wisdom as I cared for my family.  Is it always pretty?  Certainly not, but I can say with confidence that my life more closely resembles what God wants it to be.

Perhaps you are facing a trial that brings you grief at this time in your life. Grief is a part of human life which the Bible deals with in many places. In Psalm 23:4, the psalmist reminds us: Even though I walk through the darkest valley,I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” God does not leave us alone in grief and fear.  He is with us, pulling us close, warding off enemies and disciplining us so that we might walk closer to him.  While those around you may see you grieve, this does not mean your life does not bring God glory.  When you pull close to Christ in times of sorrow, you exemplify a “so that” life, rather than a “so what” life.  Others will see and be comforted by your actions, thus making your life an example of God’s great love for us. I know some of the biggest impacts in my life have been seeing others demonstrate reliance on God’s strength through grief.

Maybe your life seems like endless frustration, or a string of bad luck that will not end.  You may wonder where God is or why he allows this to happen to you. You may be reading this and thinking, God cannot use my circumstances.  My life certainly resembles a “so what” life.  I have been there, but let me ask you this.  Do you think the Creator of the entire universe, who intricately designed every aspect down to the smallest detail cannot handle the difficulties of your life?  Psalm 55:22 reminds us “Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.” While we may not see the end, God is there.  He will keep his promises and the evil that seems to be attacking from all sides will not pull you from God’s hand.  How can your life become a life that is “so that”?  Live as if you believe the promises given us.  Get up each day and praise God for another day, not because of the trials, but because you know God has overcome this trial.  Our future is a promise of eternal life with him.  The Lord will sustain us, he will not let the righteous be shaken.  Find hope in these promises, and your life will resemble a “so that” life, not a life that says “so what”.

I do not anticipate a life without trials.  In fact, I expect quite the opposite, as the Bible tells us that these trials produce endurance which make in us a mature Christian (see James 1:2-4).  My belief in God the Father has certainly been strengthened as he shows his love and comfort towards me through various trials in my life.  And, while the sleepless nights, messy house, always running late and many other realities of having a newborn seem like they will persist forever, I know it will not.  So, I will continue to hold fast to the promises given me in the Bible.  I will try to be an example of Christ’s strength in me, of God’s unending hope and love towards others.  I will continue to encourage others in their journey as others have encouraged me.  I will accept the strength of God’s promises, rather than continue to look at my own weaknesses.  I will live a life of “so that” instead of “so what”.

Empowered

 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.

Romans 8:18

The last few weeks (even months) have been out of the ordinary for us.  There have been numerous incidents and setbacks that have occurred, as well as many joyous and exciting events.  It has been tiring, but there has been one continuous ray of light that keeps peaking through in the midst of it all: perseverance.  Now this may not seem like a big thing, but I hope my meaning becomes clear as we look at God’s work on me during this time.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I am also embarking on yet another online Bible study, this one on Made to Crave by Lysa TerKeurst.  I knew before beginning the book it would touch so much more than problems with healthy eating and exercising, and the first two chapters have shown this to be true already.  Our word for the week is empowered, and as I reflected on areas of my life I struggle in, I did begin to feel empowered.  Stick with me here.  Yes, I struggle, but I have also made an amazing amount of progress over the past several years.  I realized the events of the past months likely would have sent me into the pit and I would have complained the whole time.  Now, these periods of “poor me” are much shorter and I am able to regain peace in the midst of chaos much quicker.

In another Bible study I am participating in, we are studying the book of Romans, and the verse from the past week was Romans 8:18: I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” Paul’s astonishing perspective given all that he suffered (see 2 Corinthians 11:24-27), reminded me of how we, as Christians, are supposed to approach suffering and trials.  This is a topic that is touched upon many times in the Bible (search Bible verses on suffering), and they tell us to rejoice, have joy, be glad, and be expectant of it.  I have to say, even as I type this, it sounds odd.  Who wants to be glad in suffering?  It is not fun.  It hurts.  Some of the suffering humans beings endure is incomprehensible, yet the Bible tells us to rejoice?  It really seems counter-intuitive.  However, the Bible is not asking us to take a sadistic view towards pain and suffering, rather it asks us to look beyond the suffering to the promises God has given us.  This is what makes me feel empowered.  I don’t have to live in the darkness of suffering, hopeless and grasping for anything to take away the pain.  I live in the promise of glory with Christ.  As Paul states, “our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”

So, in the midst of exhaustion, dealing with insurance claims, children being ill or injured, normal craziness of having three (soon to be four) young children, and anything else that happens to come my way, I try to quickly pull myself away from the moment and into God’s promises.  Life is much more peaceful that way; for me, for my family and those around me.  I also remember all the growth that has come from my suffering.  Growth from things I have experienced, but also things I have learned from others who experience much greater suffering than mine.  God’s truth empowers me to continue to seek growth and peace in all of life’s stages.  I stop looking for this stage to be over for a new start and learn how to live well in my current circumstances.  What a tremendous gift!

Going forward in this journey, not just for healthier eating, but in all things that cause me to pull away from God, I am going to remember this:

2 Corinthians 3:5 We take captive every thought and make them obedient to Christ.”

I am going to take captive every thought and make them obedient to Christ.

What a challenge, but what freedom that comes with the strength of Christ in me.

The God of Changes

But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.

~Lamentations 3:21-23

This coming week marks the beginning of yet another Online Bible Study and I am quite excited about the coming study: Made to Crave by Lysa TerKeurst.  This study comes just weeks before my fourth child is due to arrive in this world.  And, if prior experience is any indicator, I will once again fight to regain control over unhealthy eating habits.  Fatigue and stress surrounding adding another member to our family often leads me to make easy choices instead of good choices.  I am hoping that my examination of past mistakes will make my battle with food a bit easier this time around.  As I, and more than 35,000 other women embark on this study, we were asked to consider our testimony (how and when we met Jesus, how knowing Jesus has impacted my life, etc.), and I jumped at the opportunity.  God’s role in my life has been a nearly constant thought in the past weeks as I have faced some physically and mentally exhausting situations.  What I have begun to realize, is that the God I know and love is the God of change.  Each major turning point has highlighted different traits I needed to modify and His strength and grace in me to accomplish the task.

I have always been a Christian, although admittedly it has taken me a great amount of time to mature as a Christian.  Jesus has been a part of my life as long as I can remember.  This gave me a strong start to a life where God had much for me to learn about his true nature.  Even as an older teenager, when my choices and actions did not always show I was a Christian, a necessary thought process for a major transformation was beginning.  I had an awful self-image and belief in who I was in Christ, but I honestly think I had to struggle with myself a bit before I would recognize my need for God and his definition.

As a married adult, a slow transformation began to occur as my husband and I began our journey together.  I faced challenges, both physical and emotional, that my husband and I were only able to face with God’s truth at our side.  The biggest transformation (and the most difficult): motherhood.  Each child added to our family has added immeasurable joy, but also heartache, doubt, fear, sadness, and dozens of other emotions I never dreamed would hit me so forcefully.  Each child brought a change in our family dynamic and my outlook on life.  Each child has begun to make me a better person.  I anticipate more change (and challenges) to come with another child.  I also, however, anticipate less time for me to turn back to God when fatigue and stress cause me to slip away.  I anticipate grace and encouragement in the face of the seeming unending sleepless nights.  I anticipate the God of Change being right there with me, allowing me to experience more of the joy of raising children and less of the frustration.

My testimony is an ongoing one.  There is no one AHA moment for me, but rather a series of events that have led me to encounter God in a way I thought only “spiritual superstars” do.  Over the coming weeks, I will be further illuminating some of the struggles that have caused me to falter in the past and how God was there with me through it all.  I hope that you will join me and be encouraged by my story, as I know I am encouraged by so many of you.  If you would like to join in the online study, click here to sign up.

As I think on the nature of God, these verses from Lamentations 3:21-23 give me courage to face another day:

But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.