Friday, December 21, 2012

A Joyful and Loving Father

God is so purposeful in how He chooses to reveal His nature to us.  Recently I was reading a book in which the author described God as loving, joyful, and having a great sense of humor.  In that moment I had such an epiphany:  although I've previously said "amen" to those descriptors of God over the course of my life, that was not the God with whom I had walked.  (This, I now know was because of my view of Him, not because the descriptors were untrue.)  The God with whom I had walked was loving, yes.  But He was concerned--if not disappointed--in me.  He certainly was not looking at me through eyes of joy.  And although He may have often shaken His head at me because of my words or actions, He was not lovingly laughing with me.  That moment of realization was honest and raw for me, but it became even more so.  I closed my eyes and asked God to please, please reveal this part of His nature to me...personally.

From that moment it became almost comical what began to unfold.  We had one blessing after another. Some big.  Many small.  Each one significant.  I was thrilled with finally having in home wireless access for the same price we had been paying for our phone service alone.  Then, after three attempts (on my husband's part) we got a new van...well, new to us!  This van is better for us for many reasons and we are saving money!  We received a couple unexpected checks in the mail.  We are in the process of refinancing our rental property, which will in turn allow our profit to go from next to nothing--to three times that!  We received some insurance breaks as well as having one insurance bill completely canceled.  We received two unexpected gift cards in the mail for things we enjoy.  My husband has even had overtime opportunities on his job in a struggling economy.  (I am not insinuating that everything has been ideal, because we've had our share of plumbing issues over the past few months as well as other normal life setbacks.)  

One night I was thanking God for all of the recent blessings and I realized that God kept doing one thing after the next to prove Himself.  For us, it is very impacting that much of this has been in the area of finances....for more reasons than I can mention right now.  I started to wonder what would happen next--even if it was seemingly small--I knew God was answering a very specific prayer for me!  I suddenly had this picture of God smiling so big while He blessed us again and again.  In fact, I had a very real picture of God chuckling--getting a kick out of Himself!  Even when we experienced a very frustrating setback, God would turn around and prove Himself again!  The morning after I realized this I opened my inbox to find an email with the subject "you won!"  Seriously!  I had to laugh.  Again, I saw God chuckling:  happy with Himself...happy with me.  I won a giveaway from a blog writer whose writing I enjoy.  I was encouraged by her post the day before and simply wanted to tell her!  (As a fellow writer, I enjoy encouraging other writers!)  I had no idea she was doing a giveaway until after I submitted my comment.  So, to win one of the giveaways--no matter the prize--just made me smile.  

We went from wondering if we'd be able to buy our kids even one good present for Christmas--to having some creative ideas and being able to do some neat things for them.  We are never extravagant with them at Christmas, but it's so nice to put smiles on their faces.  Isn't that what God has been doing for us?  After work today, my husband informed me that he received a Christmas bonus!  This is especially significant because in the six Christmases he has been with this company, this is the very first one in which a bonus has been given...and it was a complete surprise to us!  Again, I see God chuckling!  I think He's just getting a kick out of revealing this part of Himself to me!  

Now, I am certainly not proposing that God will just start providing financial blessings abundantly to us simply because we ask if He's happy with us.  I had no idea that He would use this way to reveal His nature to me.  (We have been very purposeful and mindful in our giving during this holiday season as well because we believe that we are blessed to be a blessing.)  But, I had a very raw moment of honesty with God despite many, many years of loving Him, walking with Him, and believing that I knew His true nature.  This was definitely an area for me that despite the many nods of agreement, I didn't believe with complete conviction in my heart.  It wasn't personally true for me.  God chose to answer my heart's question at a most significant time in my life (but that's another story entirely).  By His love and grace, I am beginning to believe with absolute conviction of heart that God not only loves me, He is pleased with me.  He smiles and chuckles lovingly as I walk with Him--as I fumble and stumble, but desire to love, please, and reflect Him.  I am beginning to picture a loving God who isn't frowning at me in disapproval.  Rather, He is lovingly smiling at me.  And when I run into His arms, He chuckles warmly--just as my husband does when our children run into His.  He's a loving Father.  He is joyfully pleased with His children.  He is joyfully pleased with me!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Just Jump!

Long time no post!  Some breaks are refreshing, rewarding, and necessary.  Other breaks make you realize just how much you miss, love, and need that something in your life.  That's writing--and blogging in particular--for me.  My life has been in transition for months in more ways than one.  It's a good thing and I'm more thankful than I have words to express.  (That sounds strange, huh?)  Nevertheless, I'm ready to get back to this business of writing!

Recently I heard a message in regard to faith.  Often, making a decision of faith feels like standing on the edge of a cliff and knowing you just have to jump.  Wooey!  Scary thought, huh?  One thing I'd like to do someday is to parachute from a plane.  My husband thinks I'm nuts, but I'd really like to....with a guide, of course.  Parachuting, jumping, or propelling off the side of a cliff on my way!!  However, this is often how we feel when we face certain areas in our life that require great faith, or as the pastor said, unusual faith.

Every now and then our faith has to be exercised in a most unusual or unexpected way.  We are often prompted to pray unusual prayers or reach out to unusual people.  What I'm learning is that the blessing is found--and our trust in God is deeply strengthened--when we take those leaps.  We must remind ourselves that it probably won't feel good at first.  It will most likely be scary.  In fact, sometimes it is so scary at first--or for a while--that we doubt ourselves.  We may question why we ever jumped in the first place.  We may question our instincts (and everything else about ourselves) during that first few hundred feet of free-falling.  During that time, we have absolutely no one and nothing to lean on or trust in but God.  He promises to catch us when we fall.  Yes.  But He is also the one who occasionally asks jump.  Thankfully He's very patient because most of us stand there frozen in fear, or asking questions in which the answers aren't necessary, before we get up the courage to jump.  (The unknown can be so scary!)

I needed to jump back into my blog.  The dilemma I had faced with blogging over the last eight months is that we moved to a different community.  In doing this, we lost the ability to enjoy high speed internet through our local cable company.  The move and renovations alone have been pricey!  Every time I looked into new options for high speed internet, I became discouraged as it would cost us quite a bit more monthly than we had been paying.  We just have not had that extra wiggle room.  Without in-home internet, however, I have not had the ease of blogging the way I used to. was put on hold.

At church last Sunday, when the pastor encouraged us to envision our cliff, all I could think of was my writing aspirations.  So, I prayed a quiet, simple prayer:  Lord, somehow make a way for this again.  Shortly after we got our routine Sunday coffee treats, I realized that the calendar on my phone was completely wiped out...gone!  I use my calendar function more than anything else.  I keep track of our family schedule, my kids' school events, birthdays, anniversaries, everything!  My husband suggested we stop at the nearby Verizon store, but we had already stopped at the grocery store so I declined.  Shortly after we passed the street, I mentioned it again.  He turned around and said, "Let's just go see if we can have them look at it real quick."  No other customers were at the store.  After my husband was in the store for five minutes, he ran out to the car and told me he was going to get me "hooked up with some wireless at home!"  Sure enough, within minutes, we had a new plan for both of our phones and wireless at home for the exact price that we had been paying for our phone service alone!  Additionally, we will receive a small discount through my husband's employer since they use Verizon also!  Couldn't get my calendar fixed at that moment.  But, within an hour after saying a simple prayer for provision (based on a conviction that I needed to jump off a faith), God had winked at me and made a way.  He does that often when we are open to it!

I'm learning to jump.  How about you?  I'm not certain that I'll soar gracefully at first--or at all!  I may cry to be caught.  I may land very awkwardly.  Or maybe I will think I can land on my own, but instead fall and experience some hurt.  I can trust that even then, He will be right there with me!  And, past leaps of faith have taught me that God will join me as soon as I decide to jump.  He will never leave nor forsake me!  The fantastic thing about jumping--or even declaring that it's time to jump--is that God starts sending little reminders that He's right with you.  He will give peace even in the unknown.  Much like a father watching his child climb the ladder to jump off the high-dive for the first time, He is so proud of us for trying.  He will love us no matter how we end up in the water...or how fearfully we jump off that cliff.  When we take unusual risks, He is right there with us.  This is the comforting, reassuring truth that I'm learning.  He will pave a way.  He will wink in approval.  He will quiet our soul as we lean in and just trust.  

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Ever Feel Like You're Drowning?

If you met me at a social gathering or party, you would most likely think I'm a pretty happy, contented person...and I am.  I'd like to think that most of my friends and family think I'm a fun person to be around...and I usually am.  What people don't always know or see in me is the internal struggles.  I don't think that's all too strange.  I am pretty sure that we all have internal struggles whether or not they are ever revealed to another.  I remember hearing a good friend tell me that she was a "crier" and I was totally shocked; in all the years that we'd been friends, I had never seen her cry.  I heard a quote today on the radio, and although I missed the reference, the quote impacted me immediately and deeply:  "If you could see where your enemy weeps, he would no longer be your enemy."  Wow...tears even now as I type those words!  I guess this speaks volumes to me because deep down, we human beings are so alike.  We have feelings, needs, dreams, fears, challenges, insecurities, and struggles.  No matter how a person may come across in your presence, there is a place where he weeps.  

Now, I know that not every person reacts to life in the same way, but we all struggle in some capacity...don't we?  One of my deepest struggles is directly related to one of my deepest desires.  I don't think that is all too strange either.  I am choosing to reveal a part of me to anyone who reads this because I hope that it gives freedom and strength to someone else.  I think we strengthen others when we allow ourselves to be be seen.  One of my deepest desires is to be a wonderful mom--not just a good mom, but a wonderful mom.  I have desired to be a wonderful mom for as long as I can even remember.  It's not that I have no other aspirations; I do!  But, this one stands so far above and in front of all the rest and it has all of my life!  I truly cannot remember a time in my life when I didn't dream of motherhood; I have always had a desire to raise children--to love, nurture, and teach them.  Well, what person who wants to be a doctor, lawyer, or teacher hopes to be just average?  We want to be really good at what we choose to do!  And, being a mom is not just something that I have chosen to do.  It's a part of who I am.  I don't clock out at the end of the day!  Heck, even if I tried to, someone would have a bad dream or throw up at midnight and that notion would be out the window!  I am a mom and I want to be an absolutely wonderful mom to my children.  I'm sure most moms reading this are saying, "Me too!".  

So what is the struggle?  What's the problem?  The struggle for me is that I continually feel the burden and heaviness of the realization that I am not a wonderful mom.  At best, I am a good mom...sometimes.  I am not sharing this for pity or sympathy.  I am simply sharing this because it's my internal struggle--probably one of my deepest internal struggles.  I don't go to bed nightly crying about my failures, but at times, I am unable to shake them off.  I am my own worst critic.  I am a deep thinker and a very deep feeler.  I've often wondered what specific purpose God had in mind when He made me so sensitive and emotional.  I hope I understand that in time.  Every now and then, I get a glimpse, but the rest of the time it just feels like a thorn in my side.  I take so much to heart:  I weigh every word, examine every expression.  I take it all to God, but oh so often I take it right back from Him.  

One of the biggest battles for me to overcome is that I judge my own success as a mom on how I see my kids behaving and how I think other people perceive me as a mom.  I know, I know...we should not do this!  I fully know how wrong this is on so many levels, but this is my battle!  It happens inside of me without my conscious knowledge sometimes.  I find my emotions stirring so strongly in a negative direction and wonder what happened.  When I take time to reflect, I might recall a brief comment made by someone about my child's words or actions...or my discipline...or lack thereof.  I feel criticized.  I judge myself and determine that I'm guilty of being a poor, average, or (on a good day) good mom....but certainly not a wonderful mom.  And those negative traits that my children have, all too often I feel that they are solely my fault.

When I am thinking rationally, when my emotions are in tact, I fully understand that they are children and that they are walking out this life with very young eyes, hearts, and minds.  They're learning things for the first time.  I realize this and am okay with this.  I just wish I could silence all of my enemies.  What I mean is that I wish others' words and opinions about me and my children didn't carry so much weight with me!  People will always have opinions about my children, my parenting, and how we run our home.  I don't want another person's perception of my children or my parenting to cause me undue stress.  When a family member mutters under her breath that my son has had to be corrected 100 times, I want to consider the source rather than to feel hurt.  I want to take it lightly rather than to feel criticized.  I also want to learn from situations that which God wants me to learn.  I don't want to draw my own conclusions.

I had a meaningful conversation recently with a mom who I adore and respect wholeheartedly.  Her children are older than mine so she has experiences and wisdom from which I can glean.  She referenced the days when her children were toddlers and said, "I so often felt like I was drowning."  When she said those words, I had such peace on the inside of me.  Strange, huh?  Here's why:  I have told my husband those exact words several times over the past year, especially while home schooling my two sons.  I have cried out to God in the middle of the day or in the midnight hour, "God, I feel like I am drowning!"  I look around at so many friends, family members, and acquaintances who all seem to be doing so much better than me at this job of being a wonderful mom.  Some of them just take everything in stride and never let ya see them sweat.  Some have the most gentle, kind, thoughtful, well-mannered kids.  Some are so creative and resourceful and full of wisdom that it takes my breath away.  Then there's me.  I am trying, and yet...sometimes I feel like I'm drowning.  I feel like I mess up so often that it's all I can do to keep my head above water, just enough, as my friend said, "to reach for Jesus."  Well, to hear someone who I respect so immensely, who is a fantastic mom, say that she felt as I so often feel...brought peace to my soul.

At least I can see Him!  I know who to grab for!  I'm thankful that I can see Him.  And, I may never be or feel like a wonderful mom, but I will never stop trying.  Neither will I ever cease reaching for the only one who can lift me up out of every pit, out of every raging sea.  Sometimes He doesn't lift us up as fast as we wish He would.  Sometimes, for reasons that I often do not understand, He allows us to deeply feel wounds and to experience regret or criticism.  He often allows our failures and weaknesses to be magnified.  If we always felt confident and sure, then we may never reach for Him.  If we think we can do this thing on our own, then we might miss out on His plan and His help.  I don't want to miss out on His help for me as a mom or on His plan for my children's lives.  So, if I must feel weak, then in weakness I'll seek Him.  If I must struggle, then in struggle I'll look for Him.  If I must sometimes feel like I'm drowning, then in drowning I'll reach for His hand.  And in His time, He will pull me up!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Not Losing--I'm Gaining!

My husband and I were having a heart-to-heart talk during a long car drive back from visiting family in Cincinnati recently.  I was confiding in him how I felt about this past year of home schooling my two boys.  It has been a really difficult school year for me.  I hesitate to even admit that because there are some aspects of home school that I absolutely love.  I am certain that I will greatly miss the parts that I love.  We are moving very soon and will finally be in a great school district.  Currently, I have one who attends preschool three mornings a week and three children at home with me all the time.  The plan is that we will send the children to public school.  So, next school year I will suddenly have three children attending school during the day and only one at home with me.

There have been numerous challenges for me home schooling my boys this year.  I suppose the  biggest challenges have been in finding balance and exercising patience.  They go hand in hand.  When I have struggled to find balance between school-time and mom-time, I sometimes become impatient.  When circumstances have made it completely impossible for me to accomplish anything besides sitting at the table with my boys the entire morning, I feel impatient with those circumstances.  When it seems unlikely that I can devote any time and attention to my daughters or to other responsibilities, I become impatient.  Once I recognize my impatience, I struggle with discouragement.  I feel discouraged because I want to do better.  I feel discouraged because I believe that I should do better.  Mostly, I become discouraged wondering if I've done more harm than good.

On the good days, I know that much has been learned and accomplished.  On the good days, I see what a good reader my kindergarten son has become with my help, day after day.  On the good days, I see that my second grader can get through several pages of multiplication and fractions without ending in tears.  On the good days, we have a nice time reading the Bible around the breakfast table...and everyone wants to listen!  On the good days, my girls play nicely and stay occupied the entire time we are busy with school work.  On the good days, I have at least 15 minutes after we are finished with our afternoon reading and before my girls wake up from naps.  On the good days, my girls actually take naps!  On the good days, I can change out of workout clothes and shower before 11 in the morning!  Ah, but sometimes it seems as if the good days are few and far between.

I have spent time feeling sorry for myself.  I have spent time wishing I had a different daily routine.  I have spent time feeling sad because I haven't had the kind of play-time with my young girls as I would have liked to have this year.  I have felt sad that I have missed out on other opportunities due to our schedule.  I have felt frustrated that, at times, I have had to be a strict school teacher to my boys...and not just a mom!  During our heart-to-heart chat, I was telling my husband all of this, although he has already known how I felt about this year.  I suppose that my prevailing tone was how many things I felt that I had lost or missed out on due to our decision for me to home school, as well as not feeling very graced to do it.  My husband then gently said to me, "But look at all that you have gained."  

Wow!  How truly distorted my view can be at times!  I have never considered myself a glass-half-empty gal, but in this scenario I guess I had become just that!  I was even feeling sorry for myself that I would have to adjust to just one child at home next year rather than continually being thankful that my kids will have a great school to attend.  I realized during our conversation how desperately I needed to flip the switch on my outlook!  I needed to go from feeling sorry for myself to feeling ever thankful for the extra time and opportunities I have had with my children.  I wish that I was someone who felt a strong love for and desire to home school my children until graduation...but that is not me.  I am convinced that I don't have this desire because it is not God's intention for our children and family specifically.  I think God has other plans for us and I'm excited about that!  But, how blessed I have been these last two years to have my children with me most of the time.  God has given me the grace and has provided for us every day despite how I feel!  He has provided resources and has given me something to be thankful for each and every day of this journey!  My boys have learned and grown!  My girls have developed a pretty close friendship with each other while spending so much time together.  I have been able to enjoy some relaxing moments around the breakfast and lunch table with ALL of my children.  I have seen many times when my older son has helped my younger son with some learning process.  We've read some pretty great books together; we have learned and grown together!  

I am realizing that this is how life is.  Most of us have heard it said--have learned and re-learned--that our outlook makes or breaks us!  But in certain situations, it really can be difficult or seemingly impossible to maintain the right outlook even when we know that's what we need.  For instance, I have been attempting to write this for the past two and a half hours; I have had more interruptions than I care to mention.  However, during most of the time I've been writing, my kids have been playing games together:  indoor soccer (feel free to gasp!), musical chairs, button-button, and indoor hurdles (that one was pretty hilarious...until Luke got hurt).  None of these games have been without occasional disagreements, but my kids are playing together by choice!  I never said they needed to play together.  I realize that I could have children who would be happier in their separate areas of the house playing video games solo.  I realize that I could have two boys who come home from school with homework that usurps most of the afternoon hours.  Instead, even amidst the bickering and distractions, I am happy to see my children playing together.  And, I'm thankful that I have a computer which allows me to easily compose my thoughts.  Heck, I'm thankful that I can still compose coherent thoughts with four children between the ages of 2 and 8 in my house!  I have so much to be thankful for!  Sometimes, we just need someone to remind us of what we are gaining rather than what we feel we are losing!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Seeing Through the Eyes of Hope

I've been doing a lot of thinking about the concept of vision lately.  In some very personal areas of my life, I've seen some of my visions become--or begin to become--reality.  I began reflecting deeply on vision last week when I read a poignant truth quoted by one of my Pastor's.  Pastor Jeffrey Smith said, "Fear is vision with NO HOPE!  No expectation of good paralyzes progress and stifles productivity.  Expect the great.  What you look for you find!"  This quote just kept resonating in me all day after I read it.  At first, I focused on the second half of the quote:  "Expect the great.  What you look for you find!"  I was having the kind of morning with my children in which I wondered just where I had gone wrong.  They were doing and saying things that caused me to feel as if I had failed completely.  I was astonished at their behavior!  And...discouraged!  When I read this quote, I regained some peace.  Yes, they are children and their words and actions just may disappoint me time and time again, but if I choose to look for the good--the great--then I will see it!  When I changed my focus on that particular day, I began to see all kinds of good!

The first part of this quote then began to speak very strongly to me for other reasons.  I had made a recent decision to do something new and I was experiencing fear when I thought about it.  The decision was in relation to something that a friend, whom I greatly admire, thought that I should do.  She asked me if I wanted to make this commitment.  My husband also believed, wholeheartedly, that I should take on this new challenge.  The interesting thing is that this commitment involved strengths, talents, and abilities that others saw in me.  I could partially agree with what they saw, but more than that...I feared.  I feared that I would not be good enough!  I feared that I would fail and disappoint my friend and others.  Yet, while I was facing fear, I also felt very much excited at the thought of this new commitment.  In fact, in a way it was something that I had envisioned doing before.  Whenever I had previously envisioned it, I saw success.  But, when I was faced with this possibility becoming a reality, I feared failure.  So, when I read this quote, you can imagine how it changed my viewpoint.

"Fear is vision with no hope."  Well, I had never really considered it in quite this way.  We generally only have fear in areas of our lives that truly matter to us.  I have never feared whether or not I would be a good police officer, because I've never had the slightest desire to become a police officer.  Do you know what I mean?  We usually encounter fear in areas of our lives that matter immensely to us.  We sometimes face fear about things that we're called on to do, but that fear is simply having vision with no hope!  If we stand on what our Creator has said about us--rather than how we feel--we will have hope!  We will begin to see the full vision that we are able to obtain.  The main reason that I had faced fear in this area is because it is something that I'd very much like to enjoy doing successfully.  I can see this as part of my future.  I can envision it!  So, if I am allowing fear to pervade my thoughts, it is only because I am not allowing myself to hope--to hope that I will succeed and possibly surprise myself.

Finally, I have been freshly reminded to write down and speak (or pray) about the visions for my life and the lives of my family members.  Habakkuk 2:2 says, "Write the vision and make it plain."  There is something powerful that happens when we give words to our dreams.  When we speak life to our dreams, we begin to see them coming to pass.  As I thought about this, I was inspired to look back at a journal entry I had written almost 2 years ago.  I had listed many personal and family goals.  I knew even before I looked back at this, that I was going to be encouraged at how many of those goals I had accomplished--or how many dreams (visions) had begun to unfold for our family.  Yep!  As I turned open the page, I began to feel so encouraged at what I read.  I saw that God had been at work in my life and in our family partly because I put words to those visions.  The very act of writing down those goals had caused me to frequently think about them; pray concerning those areas; and make decisions in line with those prayers.  And, of course, without the grace of God, I would see none of it!

We all have visions for our lives, our families, and our future!  What good are those visions if we don't have hope that they will indeed come to pass?  What good are those visions if we do not see them come to pass?  What good are our prayers and our words if we don't remember to speak life to the visions that are God-inspired?  What good is hope if we don't allow ourselves to stand on it concerning our own lives?  What good are our expectations if we expect the worst rather than the best?  We must have hope!  We must give life and breath to our visions!  We must encourage ourselves and expect great things to happen!  We must trust that God has given us visions for a divine purpose!  We must stand on His truth only!  When we do, will will surely see His hand at work all around us!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Stick With It! Be Faithful!

There is something to be said for faithfulness, isn't there?  It sure isn't always easy to remain faithful, but in due time we see how truly beneficial and right, faithfulness is.  "Stick with it--you'll get it!"  "If at first you don't succeed:  try, try again!"  "Practice makes perfect!"  All of these are common sayings that most of us have heard growing up.  In fact, as a mom, I've used these occasionally with my children.  Most often, I use these if I note any type of discouragement in my children about something complex they're trying to achieve or something new they're trying to learn.  We all need to be reminded to "stick with it" from time to time!

I could relay a thousand examples of times Ron or I have encouraged our children to keep working at not give up.  I can look back and see how much progress has been made in certain areas.  I can also get a glimpse, so to speak, of the future in many of these same areas; I can see that progress and growth will undoubtedly continue.  

I think of my second grader who has made such progress on his reading.  He was behind when he tested at the end of last year.  I'm not positive that he's exactly where he is supposed to be, but I've seen leaps and bounds in his reading this year.  This definitely is not because I'm a fantastic home school teacher!  This is simply because he has been faithful to continue trying and I've remained faithful in reading with him daily (even when it was on the verge of being downright frustrating).  He continues to make progress.  More importantly, he is learning the value of faithfulness and a stick-with-it attitude!  

I think of my six year old and how he's become such a little builder and creator (much like his father and his older brother).  He used to get out his Lego sets and end up in tears or worse--complete meltdowns--because he couldn't figure them out on his own.  He wanted to tackle the projects, just as his brother was doing, but he definitely needed guidance and help.  We were continually encouraging him to take his time, ask for help, and keep trying.  "You'll get it," we would tell him.  He may have felt utter frustration at times, but he never stopped trying.  Just tonight, he came downstairs shortly before bedtime with a set of Lego's and stated that he was going to create this new Lego man out of this bag full of Lego's.  Darned if he didn't do it without fits!  He was creative and patient.  He has really come a long way!  We see a good deal of artistic and creative gifts in him, so it is delightful to see him making progress in this area.

I think about certain areas in my own life when faithfulness has been the only way, even when met with frustration, discouragement, or adversity.  I'm learning that God rewards faithfulness.  Again, this is not because we deserve any kind of pat on the back for a job well done.  This is simply because faithfulness is an attribute of God and when we learn to function in faithfulness, we are becoming more like Him, and He is pleased!  The reward may likely come in a renewed sense of hope in our own lives.

I had a moment in time recently when I realized that my faithfulness in a certain area--to something I believe very strongly that I am supposed to do--is getting ready to work on my behalf.  I have not done anything great.  I have only remained faithful to that which was mine to do.  I've remained faithful in the face of many doubts, questions, and some frustrations.  I have remained faithful because for quite a while that was absolutely the only thing that I knew to do.  Now, I am beginning to see a light!  I know beyond all doubts that I've faced, that this light is only here because of two reasons:  God is faithful and good, and I have learned to be faithful in this area.  There's a well-known Bible story of a servant who was given some responsibility and proved his faithfulness.  "His master said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful servant.  You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much.  Enter into the joy of your master.' " (Matthew 25:23)  Oh, the joy!  I want to enter into the joy, don't you?  The joy of something great accomplished through God's divine help.  The joy of rest after completing your task.  The joy of the One who knows every side of the story...the One who wrote the story!  The complete joy of our master!  That's what I want.

We all have things over which we're called to be faithful.  Most of us have people whom we are called to be faithful with.  Our children, for example:  we must remain faithful to love, train, teach, pray for, encourage, spend time with, protect, and discipline them despite opposition or discouragement.  We should remain faithful to our spouse or others who God has given us to have relationship with--to walk through this life with.  It's necessary to remain faithful to other things that we may not love doing...or even like doing.  And always, we should be faithful to the things that are so deep on the inside of us that we know if we don't do them we won't fully live.  We all have things that resonate on the inside of us continually and won't let us go.  We all have passions! If they are God-given passions, we must remain faithful to them despite all odds!  They are there for a divine purpose.  If we do not remain faithful, we will not fulfill all that God desires for us to do.  I can't fulfill yours and you can't fulfill mine.  God has written a script on the inside of our hearts--each one of us--and it's ours to live!  Be faithful!  Do not give up!  Stick with it!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

My Lifeline

There is one verse that I find myself clinging to, time and time again:  "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up," Galatians 6:9.  This has been a lifeline to me in so many different seasons of my life.  I find myself encouraging others with this verse too.  And, even my husband reminded me last night of this truth.

You see, I really enjoy doing good; doing good towards other people and demonstrating God's love in all ways that I see I can.  However, I have a tendency to lose heart.  I have a tendency to become weary.  In small ways and in big ways, I can become disheartened, impatient, or just plain weary.  I know full well that I am not alone, but most of us do not wish to admit this to our peers.  

Just this morning I had a very small experience that was a perfect opportunity for me to "not lose heart."  I drove to a local store with my daughters for some bagels and smoothies (we like to get smoothies when it's just us girls).  I approached the drive-thru lane and saw that many cars were ahead, although most were approaching the lane through an alternate route, as opposed to the correct drive-thru lane.  I've done this myself occasionally, but I wait my turn if others are in line the correct way.  Anyway, several cars were in front of me (the alternate way) but I would wait patiently.  Meanwhile, another car approached the drive-thru lane through the alternate route clearly several minutes after I'd sat in line.  I can't give you an accurate picture of the set-up, but without me gunning it when it was my turn, I stood no chance of getting in front of this car....approaching the wrong way!  To my amazement, the person driving this car refused to even look my way; he got right in front of me!  Now I would wait longer!  I really struggled not to feel angry.  Okay, scratch that....I felt angry!  I try to always let others in front of me in line, whether in car or on foot.  At the grocery store, if I see the person behind me has only a few items (or a baby with them), I give them my spot in line.  To my knowledge and best recollection, I always seek to prefer others above myself in these situations--common courtesy, right?  This morning's incident really amazed me!  How often I find that what I sow is not what I get in return!  

Again, I am well aware I'm not alone in these feelings.  I am human!  I have even found myself, at rare moments, feeling this way as a mom.  Yesterday was the first time I'd ever heard myself saying, in my children's hearing, "Why am I the only one who picks up around here?"  Now, this isn't even a true statement, but at times I sure do feel that way.  I'm also fully aware that if I'm feeling this way, it's my responsibility as a mom to revisit how much help I'm expecting from my children.  Maybe in the clean-up department...not enough!  Nevertheless, I have found myself at times feeling as though I am serving, serving, serving, yet no one is looking out for me!  Ever felt that way?

Another very personal example (let me once again be vulnerable) is in the area of talents, vision, and realized dreams.  I am so often the first to encourage others' dreams and goals.  I may not have much else to offer them, but I can be a friend's biggest cheerleader.  When a friend starts a small business or creative venture, I encourage and cheer her along as loudly as I can.  I find myself weeping with joy as I watch people I know open businesses, publish books, begin ministries, record music projects, buy homes, or land their dream jobs.  I rejoice with others who are realizing their dreams and potential!  I genuinely feel happy for them!  And, if I can offer any further support, I will.  I'm not saying any of this to my credit; I think we should all celebrate with others who do well!  

However, occasionally I find myself wondering when my moment or special opportunity will come.  Do you know what I mean?  My husband and I have been wanting to move now for 4 years.  4 years of praying, looking, preparing, waiting, sowing, praying, preparing, waiting, looking....and more praying and waiting!  I really don't want to lose heart!  I am genuinely happy for others who have their moment arrive.  But what about me?  I am often the first to purchase books written by people I know.  I cheer them on as best as I can.  I celebrate their wonderful accomplishments.  But, every now and then I find myself wondering when I will accomplish this particular dream myself.  I hesitate to admit that because what if it's years before this happens?  Does all of this make me sound like a whiny child?  It just may!  I find myself thinking, as I write this, that it sounds like the ramblings of a selfish, complaining individual.  Well, this is probably true also.  I am human.  Therefore, I fall short all too often!  All too often!  I focus on me way too many times!  I fall into the trap of comparison more times than I care to admit.  Maybe you're embarrassed for me as you read this.  Or...maybe you can relate.  

My guess--though I could be wrong--is that I am not alone in these feelings.  Maybe your situation isn't quite the same, but I think most of us have had times when we wonder if we will ever reap what we sow.  We celebrate with the accomplishments of others, only to question when we'll accomplish anything worth celebrating.  We do our best to be patient, wondering if it will ever truly pay off.  We diligently aim to raise our children with consistent expectations, love, and discipline, wondering if we'll ever get through an entire family gathering without an incident that highlights our obvious failures as parents.  Whether or not you care to admit ever being in this place, I believe it is human.  I also think that is why God's word tells us to "not become weary in doing good."  "We will reap a harvest if we do not give up!"  I believe this!  I cling to this promise and to this truth, which is why I said it has been a lifeline for me.  When I find that I'm tempted to give up, or when I realize that I have grown weary, I remind myself of this truth.  The other encouragement to me is that God sees!  He sees my heart and He sees my efforts.  He sees my weaknesses and He has given me the strengths that others may see.  I can take no credit.  Apart from Him, I am nothing!  And, if I never felt weak or weary, I would not likely look to Him for strength or encouragement.  I'm thankful for those times when I am growing weary or when I feel discouraged, because that is when I am reminded that only He can fill those deep voids.  Only He can offer me true, deep, and lasting strength and encouragement!