I Can’t Do This!

My daughter brought home a doll that would be her “daughter” for the next three nights and two days. Her name was August. Things didn’t go well for either Maggie or August. Or for Maggie’s cat, Mickey. The poor guy was beside himself with worry whenever baby August cried, which was often enough.

Around two hours into her Child Development assignment, Maggie had lost some of the tenacity that makes her so amazing. She didn’t know what to do with the crying doll. She couldn’t figure it out and she couldn’t fix it. (To her credit, I should disclose right now that the baby hadn’t been programmed correctly.)

“I can’t do this!” she cried.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve cried those same words or something that sounds like them. I’m a grown woman who’s gone through a whole lot more than three hours of intermittent crying from a baby. I don’t say that to minimize Maggie’s anxiety but to say that – like most of us – I can completely empathize with her.

I remembered the fearless little toddler who had once wobbled and fallen her way to successful walking. This was the same girl who tested a single stair step one day and conquered the other 12 within two days like a boss. My heart broke for her, and I was a bit surprised. This girl is pretty fierce, yet she was buckling under the pressure to “fix” her baby.

My first instinct was to take the baby from her to make it better. That’s what a parent does, right?

ce0b26eb3b3971ff9ee63aa296fc3780Our Heavenly Father feels the same way towards His children as we feel toward our children. He wants so badly for us to let Him make things better for ourselves.

That’s why He invites us to cast all our cares on Him.

That’s why He sent His one and only Son to pay for our sins and secure a permanent home with Him.

That’s why there are so many verses in the Bible telling us to not be afraid.

That’s why He reminds us again and again that He will go before us to make a way where there seems to be no way. He knows the number of hairs on our head and every desire of our heart.

That’s why he keeps pouring out grace and forgiveness every single time we need it.

God doesn’t expect us to handle everything alone. Max Lucado illustrated puts it this way:

“When a father leads his four-year-old son down a crowded street, he takes him by the hand and says, ‘Hold on to me.’ He doesn’t say, ‘Memorize the map’ or ‘Take your chances dodging the traffic’ or ‘Let’s see if you can find your way home.’ The good father gives the child one responsibility: ‘Hold on to my hand.’God does the same with us.”

I3ec4b43543db428aef9763cbff0c0ecbn fact our weakness serves at least three valuable purposes:

God is a loving father, but we must recognize that the gospel is about His kingdom, His plans, His glory. God holds our hand and doesn’t abandon us; but He does so because He has a divine and perfect plan that has already been spoken into existence. It can not and will not fail – even if we might.

Does that mean that we’re merely simple-minded sheep? No. We’re valuable, beloved sheep. We’re the kind of sheep who are cared for, searched for, comforted and guided by the most loving Shepherd we could ever hope for. He knows each and every one of our needs and is never surprised by circumstances. But if we managed everything ourselves, having no need of Him, the glory would be ours, gained through our own strength and wisdom.

In The Hiding Place, Corrie ten Boom drew this powerful portrait of a caring father:

“Father sat down on the edge of the narrow bed. “Corrie,” he began gently, “when you and I go to Amsterdam-when do I give you your ticket?”
I sniffed a few times, considering this.
“Why, just before we get on the train.”
“Exactly. And our wise Father in heaven knows when we’re going to need things, too. Don’t run out ahead of Him, Corrie.”

So the next time you find yourself crying, “I can’t do this!” remember that you are not alone. Our Father already has the map and the ticket for our journey! Just trust Him to get you there safely. And try to relax and enjoy the trip!

father and child hand

AND STILL I RISE

Getting up can be a much bigger deal than we think, really. Essentially, the physical act of getting up is a matter of defying gravity, isn’t it? When I think of it that way, it seems like a really big deal! We seldom think of it, though, because we do it all day long – we rise from bed, from a chair, from the floor. Toddlers are forever getting back up!

So when do we become conscious of the mechanics of getting up, of rising?

When it gets hard and takes more strength than we think we have – in the way Andra Day sings about in “I’ll Rise Up.”

Age, long hours and illness can make it a physical challenge to get back up. Anxiety, depression, high expectations, loss, and disappointment can make it an emotional challenge.img_4464

But sometimes there is something especially inspirational and profound in getting back up again. Our lives aren’t always as dramatic as a boxer’s, where a win is dependent upon getting up after being knocked down for the count while “Eye of the Tiger” plays in the background, but rising can be just as challenging and every bit as vital. And equally powerful

Our story may not be as beautifully worded as Maya Angelou’s poem “Still I Rise”, but it’s inspiritational just the same. After all, it’s our story!

As I’ve mentioned before, I belong to two different Facebook groups – one for survivors of aortic dissections, which I joined after surviving my own ascending aortic dissection, and one for survivors of CPTSD/PTSD. I’ve been fascinated by how much they overlap. Those in the group dealing with health issues are also dealing with some serious emotional challenges,  and those in the group dealing with emotional issues are also dealing with their share of health issues. What they seem to share most is a sense being alone and feeling quite weary.

So many members of these two groups feel like no one really “gets” their struggle, and they are aware that their recovery, their moving forward, is in fact an individual effort. Others can sympathize, empathize, encourage and support, but the journey of getting back up is ultimately their own.

Still, I know those feelings aren’t unique to these groups. I don’t think any of us have gotten through life without getting knocked down a time or two. Some of us come from a long line of people who have been knocked down and have fought hard to rise up. Some of us have gone through seasons of challenge in spite of every privilege and benefit the world has afforded us. Difficulty is no respecter of wealth, beauty, education, age, gender or ethnicity.

The apostle Peter knew a bit about difficulties, and yet he passed on this promise:

And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.  1 Peter 5:10-11

How could he be so certain of God’s grace? Because he’d experienced it. Jesus still loved him and called him after Peter denied knowing him. Jesus pulled him from the roaring waves the moment Peter cried out for help.

Peter is telling us that, yes, we will suffer. But! By the grace of God, we can rise up…again and again and again.LBG2015Thrill-of-hope-01.jpg

But even before that, Jesus had been born Emmanuel, God with us. That was God’s descent. And how glorious His rising was! In His descent, the weary – like you and me – were given hope. In his rising, we were redeemed. It is by His grace and the strength it affords us that we can always rise again. God has plans for you, fighter. You may be down, but don’t you dare stay down!

img_4466

 

JESUS WEPT…TOO

01abaa8689658eaf373af1ec9b42b72cI was listening to MercyMe’s “Even If”, which gives voice to those times when we suspect that God may not be especially interested in helping us out of whatever trial we’re going through. We know He can. We believe that He is able. He just doesn’t seem willing.

This has always been a challenge for me to process. My example of grace and a willingness to help was not especially positive. Here’s an example: Several years ago, my car caught fire around 2:00 am. First, my step-father woke me up to tell me my car was on fire. When I asked him if he’d called the fire department, he said, “I thought you’d want to do that.” (The man didn’t have enough ambition to even register on the passivity scale!)

Over the next week, my mother was quite emphatic that the car needed to get off the street because it was an eyesore and she was worried about what the neighbors would think – which was ironic because it was likely one of the neighbors who set it on fire in the first place, such was the neighborhood. One day, she told me that one of the men I’d contacted had called to say he was actually interested in taking the eyesore off my hands. My delight was short-lived, however, when she refused to give me his phone number so I could call him to make arrangements. (Don’t ask…my brain is still locked up over that one!)

So, you can imagine how I felt about God when I thought he wasn’t willing to put an end to a bad situation or to give me hope when I felt there was none. I knew He could and believed He was able. The only conclusion for me was, naturally, that God didn’t want to help me. And that put a wedge between us, which left me feeling unlovable, which wasn’t fair to God.

I know better now, as I’ve been a parent for 26 years. If I tell one of my daughters “no”, I have sound, loving reasons.

Still, I think there are plenty of times when we say, as in the song, “it is well” with my soul, but with a hint of disappointment and even resentment in our voice. A sort of “Gee, thanks for nothin’, God.” Because it’s not really as well with my soul as I let on!

A little over five years ago, I survived an emergency eight-hour open-heart surgery to save my life from an ascending aortic dissection. My mind and body haven’t been the same since, and no one really knows why, which means no one knows how to “fix” me. Of all the issues I’ve had, chronic pain has been the most life-changing for me. I hurt most of the time, and it’s completely altered the way I do anything outside the house. So for five years, I’ve been at a loss as to why God left me so very different than I was before the surgery. As grateful as I am that I survived, the condition I’m in frustrates me!

In Pain and Providence, Joni Eareckson Tada wrote: “God uses chronic pain and a146a1b41e18c40cad6493ade0abef21 (1)weakness, along with other afflictions, as his chisel for sculpting our lives. Felt weakness deepens dependency on Christ for strength each day. The weaker we feel, the harder we lean. And the harder we lean, the stronger we grow spiritually, even while our bodies waste away.” Don’t doubt for a moment that I’d prefer to come to the same end without the chronic pain! But she’s right.

Paul came to the same conclusion when he wrote: Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it (the thorn in his side) away from 69628e65940954f9ad4d517b8ca2d026me.  But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:8-10, NIV)

Here’s the thing, though: I forget that at all times, God loves me and wants what’s best for me. I have to remember and be confident that I am the way I am – and not the way I want to be – because God wants me this way right now. I mistakenly assume that because I don’t like it, it’s “wrong” or “bad” or, worse, “punishment.”

The key, I’m learning, is to get on board with God’s new game plan for me. The best thing I can do is to trust that God loves me and will give me the grace and strength to get through whatever situation He chooses to leave me in. It would help if I could resist the temptation to label my situation as “good” or “bad”. And it would serve me well to to just roll with it and be open to God’s guidance. It’s that surrender, that acquiescence, that God wants.

It’s important for us to remember that Jesus understands this anxiety and frustration f6769b615b03aefe414a06588ec985d5that we often have with a situation we’d like to change. He wept when he felt deep compassion for those who loved Lazarus and had buried him. It pained him to know that it had been necessary for Him to allow for that grief in order that He demonstrate His power by bringing him back to life. And certainly, he cried desperately for God to find another way to redeem humanity that would be so much less painful than crucifixion on the cross and bearing the weight of so many sins. But we know that God did not permit that cup to pass from Him.

0a3740da8ee7b33774b18b574de649de

God knows and Jesus understands. It’s up to us to trust, accept and allow God to use us for His kingdom the way He chooses to.

“The truth is, in this world it’s a 100 percent guarantee that we will suffer. But at the same time, Jesus Christ is 100 percent certain to meet us, encourage us, comfort us, grace us with strength and perseverance, and yes, even restore joy in our lives. Your Savior is 100 percent certain to be with you through every challenge.” 

― Joni Eareckson Tada, A Place of Healing: Wrestling with the Mysteries of Suffering, Pain, and God’s Sovereignty

LET’S BE HONEST

46488338_2265254926818596_7267338720737492992_n

I’m beginning to think that whoever came up with the phrase, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” was never required to put that confidence to the test. In fact, I’d be willing to bet they knew the guy who first said, “Buck up, little camper!”

Don’t get me wrong. I know adversity can lead to great strength. The Bible is full of examples of that – Paul, Job, Joseph. Tough lives created tough guys. And historically, some of our greatest entrepreneurs, leaders and athletes have risen from the ashes of adversity. I’m confident that each of us have that same potential. I know we each have that opportunity.

However, I also believe that life can really kick you in the butt and wear you down to nothing first. But the nice thing about being that low is that there’s nowhere to go but up, right? Very few successful people are transparent about the times they were down for the count; the moments right before they started to get back up.

One of my favorite quotes about being knocked down is from J. K. Rowling:

“Rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.”

As I’ve mentioned before here and there, I belong to two wonderful Facebook groups. One is for survivors of C/PTSD and the other is for survivors of Aortic Dissections. More and more, the line between the two – one emotional and psychological, the other primarily physical – is beginning to blur for me.

I have one friend who survived necrotizing faciitis (flesh-eating disease) and another who survived a staph infection that was so rare his doctor told the intern to not even bother taking notes on it because they’d probably never see it again. When I gave birth to my first daughter at 28 weeks gestation, weighing one-and-a-half pounds, measuring 13 inches, I stayed at a Ronald McDonald House, where families were staying to be close to their very sick children. Some knew their child was going to die. Others were hoping their child would live. Watch the news and you’ll witness people losing everything they have to natural disasters.

And…?

And I’ve come to the conclusion that there are whole lot of us out here who have been through “stuff”!

And I’m noticing some common denominators:

We’re dealing with something that happened to us. Most fiction is about man vs. man or man vs. nature. Sometimes, what happens is a result of our own sequence of choices, although for the sake of this post I’m not going to address that.

We didn’t ask for it to happen to us. So whether you’ve faced the possibility that you’ll lose your life to cancer or had a fender bender with a rotten driver; whether you’ve lost a child or lost your job; spent most of your life under the dehumanizing  abuse of a  parent or been treated as “less than” because of your size, your gender or the amount of pigmentation in your skin, no one asked if you’d be OK with it. And yet, like the family whose home and all their belongings have been destroyed by a tornado, it’s left to you to clear the debris.

We think we’re alone. Either shame or misinformation has isolated us into thinking no one would understand. And you’d be partially right. If you’ve been raped, not even another rape victim can understand how you translated and processed your own violation. If your spouse tells you they think you’re unlovable, no one else has the same life as you to enable them to truly empathize with your sense of unlovability. (It’s a word now.)

And, finally, we aren’t handed manuals or PowerPoint presentations to tell us what to do next. You, my friend, are on your own. Your friends, family and therapists can support you, but ultimately the true work is up to you.

Now there are plenty of scriptures to address everything I just said, and a few sermons that could be preached about challenges. And, yes, I will insist that God loves us and will never leave us or forsake us. I know that I can cast all my care on Him because He loves me. I believe He will make a way when there seems to be no way. And I am confident that he is able “to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.” (Ephesians 3:20) However, since this post is already around 1,000 words long, I’ll save these for other posts.

Today, the thing I want you to understand is this: None of us are the only ones and we are not c553a748a7656e370d73d8dab054b6f0alone! I may not have gone through what my friend Jeff endured, but I’ve had my own “stuff”. You may not have had a mother who punished you by not acknowledging your existence for 2-3 days like I did, but I know you’ve had your own “stuff”. Can we agree on that much? Can we be compassionate and patient with each other without judging who’s had the worst “stuff”?

So if someone tells you that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger or “You were given this life because you were strong enough to live it.” don’t feel bad if you think it’s hot air. Don’t let those words shame you into thinking you should be doing better than you are doing. We may become strong from our trials, but I don’t believe that God is sitting on a heavenly throne passing out painful things and saying, “Yeah, give it to him. He can take it.” I think those statements, while being well meaning, actually invalidate your pain.

When I started this blog, I wanted to share things that would give others a sort of permission to embrace their own challenges and pain, as well as to provide some encouragement and validation. I’ve come to believe that one of the things people need to move on or move through their struggle is to have someone look at you and say, “I see you! What you went through was rough. You didn’t do anything to deserve it. But it can be better than this.”

It’s time we shared our stories.5734bd36c0aa8d7f59f5d6e7cc395e25

 

IN CELEBRATION OF GOOD NOODLES

My 17-year-old daughter was home sick with a nasty stomach flu. She was having some chicken noodle soup she’d made the night before. She grew pensive for a moment, then suddenly giggled. Apparently, this thought lodged itself in her brain and found it’s way out of her mouth: “Hmmm…that was a good noodle!” Not a good bowl of noodles. Not a good spoonful of noodles. Just one single noodle. She felt silly, but I get how she felt.

26cf209bf41c0dc7d197a2762e960feeMost of us have had those tiny moments when something very small gave us tremendous joy – the smell of fresh-baked bread, the sound of a child’s giggle, the way the sun lights up the autumn leaves at that one particular hour of the day, the smell of rain, crawling into fresh sheets at the end of a long day, a quick whiff of a long-forgotten perfume in a crowd, a new word. It’s a fleeting moment that you manage to absolutely absorb. It makes you pause long enough to not just enjoy, but to appreciate.

It reminds me of Luke 2:19:

“But Mary kept all these things like a secret treasure in her heart. She thought about them over and over.”

For any young mother, this would have been a memorable moment – the time when what you had carried under your heart for nine months was now there for all the world to enjoy and coo over. But this young mother had just given birth to the Son of God.

As Mary looked around at the meager surroundings and the unusual visitors, she would remember that the One who had come to save the world was being adored by a handful of those for whom He had come. They loved Him. And He would love them. History was being made in the most significant way in all of eternity. And yet, here was a young mother simply taking in the beauty and perfection of her child and enjoying the opportunity to share this moment with others.

e3b2af24ddd85f671bcb1b929de7278d-e1542409805839.jpgIn spite of how small, how fleeting or how simple they are, some things can be purely and profoundly wonderful. And God has surrounded us with so, so many of these things. Take the time to recognize and enjoy them!

Not all of the joys in our lives need to be huge or “miraculous”. But it’s important to appreciate a good noodle, too.

LET IT GO!

428368bb26a876d666296f845cea367b

Of all the four seasons, I enjoy Autumn most of all because it’s the season that welcomes everyone back into their home to spend longer evenings with family, friends or a good book.

Hal Borland was an American author, journalist and naturalist. (No, he’s is not the brother of Al Borland from “Tool Time.”) I like to think of him as a “season specialist.” He found a way of finding wonder and wisdom in the different seasons and the constant transformation of nature.

Now that we’re officially in Autumn, trees have been in a glorious survival mode for a few weeks already. But what a amazing show before Autumn is done!

20138874ce223d715ebff1dafaf933b7

Did you know that leaves don’t just fall off? Growing up, I assumed they did – I mean, it is FALL after all. Leaves, in fact, are actually pushed off by the tree. It’s the only way the tree will survive the winter. We could learn a lot from trees.

Right now, trees are letting go of anything that would make survival during winter harder. If they were to keep their leaves, the added weight of the snow would break their branches.

We don’t know what Winter will be like here in Minnesota this year – when it will start to snow, how much it will snow, how much snow will melt in between snowfalls, or when it will stop snowing for the season. That’s how seasons often are – we have some idea of what to expect, but we can never be certain, can we? The only two things we can be certain of is that Winter will begin and Winter will end. Although that sounds simplistic to the point of being condescending, we often seem surprised by its arrival and disappointed that it’s not over soon enough.

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.” Ecclesiastes 3:1 NIV

8f0ca2121e047e9f93401eea082fd846We each have seasons in our lives, as well – some easy, some challenging; some pleasant, some painful. I believe there are a few truths of seasons, whether in nature or in our personal lives.

They’re inevitable.

They’re temporary.

They’re transformational.

But most of all, they’re transitional. Just as Autumn is sandwiched in between Summer and Winter, the season you’re going through will pass in time. (True, it might pass like a kidney stone, but it will pass!)

The key to surviving your particular season is to let go of anything that doesn’t help you through it. What are you holding onto that you need to let go of in order to survive the challenging season ahead – a season of financial change, a season of poor health, a season of grief, a season of busyness, a season of disappointment?

Let go of habits that are robbing you of your time and energy. Release people from your unforgiveness. Delegate responsibility. Ask for help. Free yourself from unrealistic expectations. Use paper plates! (Not all changes need to be grand and philosophical, you know.)

Take time to find beauty in your season. It’s there somewhere! Even in the midst of death in Autumn, trees look like blazing flames atop a match, the leaves change color and fall to carpet the Earth in gold, red and orange.

Autumn also provides a new view. Hal Borland recognized that “October is the fallen leaf, but it is also a wider horizon more clearly seen. It is the distant hills once more in sight, and the enduring constellations above them once again.” The season in which everything seems to die also allows us to see everything that was obscured by foliage during the summer!

So while seasons are an inevitable part of nature and our lives, they can be survived. Beauty can be found in those changes. And, ultimately, what lies dormant will bring forth life in its time. All we need to do is prepare for it, be patient as we move through it and trust that this season may just be what we need to see God’s faithfulness in the next season.

6e6b8e4740f5002efba7b8e38324ce58

 

 

“One day you will look back on this season and know that you are truly blessed, and not because things were perfect but because you found perfect grace in the worst of it.”

~Morgan Harper Nichols

 

 

 

ARE YOU DISAPPOINTED IN GOD?

I wish my faith in God was more consistent. I struggle with putting my confidence in Him because I can’t seem to separate how I see Him and how I see other people.

When you’re in relationship with people, you need to trust them. And people can be so disappointing. We’re not perfect, we’re often selfish, and I think disappointment can be expected. But what do you do when you’re disappointed in God?

It seems so wrong to admit that I’m disappointed in my heavenly Father, but I am. I’ve been trusting Him to come through in spite of the failure of anyone else. I’ve believed that He could redeem what’s been lost. I’ve tried to trust that He could not only meet my needs, but exceed them. Yesterday, I was relieved to learn that He met my needs, but that was it.

I’ve been at a low point, needing to see God work in my life. I’ve prayed fervently for even a small hint that I could count on Him to take care of me when I felt no one else was. That’s the way it should work, right? Even if the world fails you, you can trust in God when you’re His child?

Consistently, His word tells us to take heart and be confident in Him. We’re told that He will never leave us or forsake us. Then why do I feel so disappointed in Him?

I think my disappointment comes from having a different idea of what I need than God has.

Isaiah 55:8-9 reminds me that “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.”

This requires me to make a shift from trusting in what God can do to trusting in who God is. For me, the two have been the same. If God loved me, I reasoned, He wouldn’t let me be uncomfortable, scared or depressed. He would meet the needs I believe I have – namely, financial.

a030ad799117b045b11a080a30748617

The needs I see for myself are physical – food, shelter, employment, clothing. I see bills that need to be paid. But God’s thoughts and plans are higher and longer-term than ours. My thoughts are also far more self-focused. I don’t know what His plans are, but I’m certain they’re far more extensive than mine. They may even require my discouragement in order to get me where He needs me to be – as opposed to where I want to be.

I also need to change how I see myself. I’ve been so focused on how entitled I was. And because I felt entitled, I was disappointed. I can’t let disappointment define me or someone else. God hasn’t called me to pass judgment or to sentence someone else for disappointing me. He has called me to have a heart after His own, one that requires love and forgiveness. And it requires that I trust in His plan even when I don’t understand it or it doesn’t seem to serve my needs.

7e5e1ef64cc03770de7e81ae620e3721

WHO FORGOT THE BREAD?!

I can’t tell you how I got there, but I ended up looking at Matthew 16. Take a look:

The Yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees

When they went across the lake, the disciples forgot to take bread. “Be careful,” Jesus said to them. “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” They discussed this among themselves and said, “It is because we didn’t bring any bread.”

Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked, “You of little faith, why are you talking among yourselves about having no bread? Do you still not understand? Don’t you remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? 10 Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered?

11 How is it you don’t understand that I was not talking to you about bread? But be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” 12 Then they understood that he was not telling them to guard against the yeast used in bread, but against the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

Now, here’s what I came away with: These disciples had lived with Jesus – at his side, day and night, day after day. They’d listened to His personal, intimate teachings, as well as the parables He’d shared with his audiences. And with each of His lessons, He was training and instructing the men who would carry on his ministry after His death. He wanted them to be prepared.

And they thought Jesus was worried that they hadn’t brought bread along for the trip!

He had to remind him of the miracles he’d just performed by providing enough bread to feed about 9,000 people (and their families), with leftovers. Those miracles displayed His ability to not only meet a need, but to do it in abundance. He wasn’t worried about having enough bread!

I can almost imagine Jesus thinking, “Seriously?!” But that’s all the further the disciples could see.

91548850328a0e0bf7a0f8dc9f14b65f

These were the men who would carry on his ministry. The time for Him to leave them was growing closer by the hour. No wonder Jesus prayed for them! No wonder he sent the Holy Spirit to help them.

No wonder we have a hard time “getting” the message. Jesus was patient with His disciples, though. Patient and compassionate. And He’s just as patient and compassionate with us as we work to understand what He’s trying to tell us or what He’s trying to do in our lives.

2ce7ffe89e53ab9a4eb18954774c0393

Jesus knows it can be difficult to understand him sometimes. As he was washing the feet of His disciples, they were taken aback. Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” (John 13:7 NIV) I think it’s safe to say that this is a constant state for most of us – we don’t understand now, but later we will.

Right now, God’s doing some things in my life that I really don’t understand. I want so desperately to trust Him because He says He loves me and has a good plan for me, but it’s really hard to hold onto that sometimes! It can be a little scary to wait on God.

It’s my prayer that those of us who are confused and/or discouraged trust in God to get us through our trials, that we will believe in His goodness and His timing – especially when we don’t know what He’s doing. I pray that while we wait, the Holy Spirit will comfort us and fill us with peace, wisdom and confidence in our Lord. Amen.

DROWNING IN DOUBT

I’m so glad the Gospel includes the disciples.  Especially Peter.

I had a “Peter” week last week, and what a roller coaster it was! My last post was bold and brave. The next evening, I cried in doubt and insecurity. Where I had been confident of God’s provision, I became anxious. Where I had felt strong, I became insecure.

Long after my work-week bedtime, I stayed up crying, frustrated with God and His timing. Long-story, short, our family is struggling financially. My husband has been unemployed for a little over two months and his unemployment funds haven’t been released to him yet. We’ve been relying on what little retirement funds he had to pay bills that were already mounting heavily for us. We have no savings. His retirement is the last of our financial resources, and finding employment suited for my husband has become a challenge.

I’ve been trusting God to help us,  believing that He will provide. I would love to say I have a steadfast faith, but I don’t yet. Although I’ve found that I’m far more resilient than I have been in the past.

So Wednesday I stepped out of the boat in faith. I decided to focus on Jesus and trust in his word to see us through this trial. I wouldn’t focus on my circumstances. My faith was strong, and I wanted to be used mightily by God to encourage other children of God to be strong, too. By Thursday night, I was frustrated and, honestly, a bit angry with God.

I had been trusting that not only would our needs be met. I even dared to believe that we might actually experience abundance. Now, I was simply hoping that we would get the unemployment funds that my husband was entitled to. What kind of God withholds what little is owed to us? Where’s the victory in that? How does our lacking provide a testimony to His greatness? Why wasn’t my faithfulness being rewarded? Does God even care?

And as I sat in the dark of my living room, crying, doubting God, I began to sink into despair just as Peter sank into the sea when he looked out on the intimidating waves. ‘This is ridiculous,’ I decided. ‘Who was I to think I could step out in faith and not drown? Look at all that surrounds me!’

Fortunately, Christ is patient with our doubt. He is patient and compassionate when we act like Peter. Peter was the first to acknowledge that Jesus was the Son of God, the messiah. He was bold and outspoken. He stepped out in faith and then sank. He vowed to never deny Christ, then denied him three times. He defended his Lord with a sword only to learn that Jesus didn’t approve of his methods. He believed in Christ’s divinity and then heard, ‘Get thee behind me, Satan.’

But! But Jesus knew Peter’s heart and saw his potential. In Luke 22, we find Christ understanding Peter in ways that Peter doesn’t even see himself:

“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”

But he replied, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death”

Jesus answered, “I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me.” (31 – 34)

What I love about this passage is not just that Jesus knows that Peter will fail him, but that he knows that Peter will “turn back” and strengthen his brothers. He knows that Peter will repent and return. And He knows that upon his return, Peter will be strong enough in his convictions and faith that he will encourage and strengthen his brothers. After he denies him. He doesn’t count Peter out for failing Him; he counts on Peter’s return.

I think our great Intercessor knows that we will fail Him. He knows we’ll step out in faith, only to step back in fear and self-preservation. He also knows that we have the potential to develop resilience and come back to Him stronger. And he never stops loving us. He always welcomes us back with compassion and forgiveness.

I think if Peter had had a second opportunity to walk to Jesus on top of turbulent waves, he would have given it another shot. I also think he would have started sinking again – although not as soon as he did the first time. So today I pick myself up, dry my tears and humbly repent and return to my Savior – still wet from the water, but a bit stronger in my faith as Christ reaches out to pull me up saying, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matthew 31)

And, like Peter, I am returning to my blog to encourage you to not give up faith. It is my prayer that each time we fail, we repent and return stronger in our faith. I pray that we allow God to work through our weaknesses and, by the power of the Holy Spirit, empower us to soldier on. Jesus is there to immediately reach out His hand to catch us. We have only to call out to Him.

WHEN YOU’RE ALREADY DISTURBED!

I love Pinterest! I think it’s great therapy. I can hoard all I want and not need more totes, and I can organize to my heart’s content. But I have two boards that are locked; no one but me can see them. One is Christmas gift ideas. The other is a combination of pins that talk about depression, poor self image, etc. They’re all things that I don’t want anyone to see because each is a part of that place in me that I don’t want anyone to know about.

610d9e7628baa2edc58785869595fda6

Some of you know what that place is like. It’s dark, sad, ugly, desolate and deliberately uninviting. It’s the “What Would People Think?” part of ourselves, and it’s the loneliest place in the world. As you can imagine, the only light is a single, naked bulb hanging in the middle of the room. (Ambience at it’s worst.)

But you know what I’m finding out? A lot of people have a room like this! Sure, some of them might be small closets while others are as large as a ballroom, but I think most of them are just about the same size as any other person’s. So I’m finding out that I’m really no more weird or damaged than the next person. (Although I have to respectfully acknowledge that there are people who have been through so much more than I have been.)

I think genuinely depressed people try very hard to appear happy because if you asked them how they’re doing (in any way other than that socially appropriate, rhetorical way), they might be tempted to tell you. And if they tell you, they might start crying. And if they start crying, they might not stop. And if they can’t stop, you might find out just how broken and frightened they feel. (Kinda sounds like a depressed person’s version of If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, doesn’t it – but without the cookie, which in itself is depressing.)

b93374320808c392e99e91e03685948dI applaud Brene’ Brown for bringing shame out of the closet. I appreciate Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson for revealing his own bouts with depression. I believe it’s time for mental health to be treated with the same degree of importance as physical health. After all, poor mental health can be life-threatening, too.

It’s one thing to tell children (and adults) that bullying and abuse is wrong. But there are so many victims of abuse and bullying who don’t see the wrongness of being bullied and abused! They don’t see enough value in themselves to make a stand and say enough is enough.

What’s even sadder is that some of those people are born-again, church-attending Christians. They’re children of a mighty God, and they’re living in despair. I know there’s hope, and as long as there’s hope, there can be victory. Christ has secured the victory over sin and He holds the keys to Hell. As Christians, we do not glorify God if we live our lives defeated and hopeless.

We don’t have to wear a fake smile and act like that everything is just peachy. Sometimes it’s hard. Cancer is hard. Financial problems are hard. Unemployment is hard. Depression is hard. Recovery is hard. Life is hard! But we’re not alone, and we’re not without hope and help.

I’ve been giving a lot of thought to this blog and how I could use it to encourage others. God has put it on my heart to not waste my own experience and to use the talents he’s given me to help others. But I haven’t figured out how. Who knows? Maybe someone else is already doing a good enough job of it, and I am doing this out of boredom or pride.

But here’s what’s on my heart that I want to share:

We are valuable. While we may feel broken or damaged, we’re not – at least not so much that we can’t be put back together as something even more beautiful. We started out valuable simply by being born, and someone perverted our value into something ugly.

We are not alone, even if there’s not another soul in the world who treats us with respect and affection, there is the offer of relationship with God through the sacrificial death of his son, Jesus Christ. But I also know how empty that can sound when we’ve been rejected by people who we can touch and hear. How are we supposed to trust in God when he isn’t physically present?

We are lovable simply because the One who has created us has set us aside for a divine purpose – all of us. But I also know how hard it is to believe that when those who were supposed to love us, nurture us and keep us safe did anything but that.

We are deeply and unimaginably loved by that same God, but how does that love translate into something tangible? It can feel pretty futile to tell ourselves, “but God loves me” when we go home to an empty house and eat lunch alone every day.

Some of you may think I’m looking for pity when I reference my childhood. I can assure you, I’m past that. I believe I’m finally at a place where I can refer to my past without living in it. If it bothers you, this is your warning to walk away while you can. But if you want someone who understands, stay tuned. Sometimes, it doesn’t take much to send me right back to my mother’s house. I just don’t stay there as long as I used to!

I don’t want my experience wasted; I’ve wasted enough time with it and I’m done. I know that you can be a Christian and still be far from enjoying the love, approval and victory you signed up for when you gave your life to Christ. Christ didn’t just give you a Get Out of Hell Free card. You’ve been adopted into a whole new family where love and acceptance are abundant. You’ve been given the right to point to the Son of God and say, “I know I don’t deserve to be here, but I’m with Him.”

21dd1505a3e4fc6b166cb8c674474370

Too many of us are still living as a child of Judy, Bob, Maria, David – pick your adult’s name – and are failing to live as a child of God. We’re missing out on the blessing we could be to others. We’re missing out on a radical, abundant, joyful life because we can’t see ourselves the way our Creator sees us. Heck, even other people in our lives see us more favorably than we see ourselves and we can’t even manage to accept their version of us, much less God’s. My husband and girls love me like crazy, and I still don’t get it!

We were created to be glorious reflections of the God who created us and, in doing so, live amazing lives. But we’re not. And attending a church service or listening to a great preacher on television or reading an inspirational book just doesn’t cut it when you walk away thinking, “except for me.” Trust me, this includes you! This is one team for which you won’t get picked last.

So where do we go from here?