Thursday, January 24, 2013

A Little Jump Start

So lately, I have been fighting off some massive problems with discouragement.  Massive, I tell you.  I have felt like my prayers, my tears, my problems were falling on deaf ears.  My faith has started to slowly suffer.  You know the drill, you get motivation, you stay focused, you remain strong, until all of a sudden, you realize how deep the water is. 

I have known my water is deep, and have clung to the promise that God will not let me drown.  It is in those moments that I realize my faith feels tiny.  It feels almost nonexistent.  But it only takes faith as small as a mustard seed.  Today, I reached a milestone, an anniversary, and while a year ago, I felt defeat and failure, today I feel victory and freedom.  Two years ago, hopeless was my constant state of mind.  And, for some reason, I can't help but look back just a little tonight.  Not at the bad, not this set of mistakes in the corner, or the bad call hovering over my head, or even that other major setback. I look back and realize how far His faithfulness has brought me, and not because my faith has been so big, either. 

I received a short devotional this morning in my inbox.  And, wouldn't you know, it was exactly the reminder I needed.  It was about faith.  God has a funny sense of humor sometimes.  Anyway, the devotion made a short reference to Elijah, and I couldn't remember the story and just started reading back.  And it hit home. 

In the story, there was a drought across the land.  The drought had lasted for quite some time when God finally told Elijah the drought would be over soon.  Elijah called the Israelites on the fact that they were walking away from God and right into some statues.  He challenged them, asking them to just make up their minds who they were going to serve and serve whoever it was.  Elijah gave them a test, to see if their idol could start a fire, or if it was only the God he served.  Of course, he knew the answer, but had to prove the point.  They all agreed whoever ignited the fire is who they would serve.  After an entire morning, and part of an afternoon, Baal hadn't ignited the altar.  Nothing was happening, Elijah even going so far as to poke fun at Baal for ignoring their pleas.  After completely soaking the altar Elijah built with water, Elijah prayed to God, and fire came down upon the altar.  The story goes on to the celebration, the rains that came, and then his need for immediate escape. 

At this point, I found it so typical of all of us.  Elijah heard the promise, believed the promise, and told others of the promise.  It was going to rain.  He didn't know when or how, but that God was God and it was going to happen.  He even carried out God's plan.  He proved to all the people that God was the true God, and then suddenly realized his life was in danger.  His faith rocked to the core, he cried out, asking for death to take him.  Scared, running for his life and alone, and yet he still clung to the One he knew could calm it all. 

In my life right now, I have got a million things trying to take me down.  I even think I made the comment a few days ago that I was tired, ready to call it quits.  Not knowing what is ahead of me, only seeing the chaos I have left behind me.  I have been so discouraged, wondering if the promise God gave me was really God, wondering if God was listening, hearing my cries.  Feeling like the storm around me is so big and bold, so fierce I won't be able to make it out alive.  With the smallest amounts I have left, I keep praying.  I keep waiting.  I keep reading the scriptures that remind us God doesn't break his promises, doesn't change his mind.  I find myself in an almost constant battle to remain in control of my thoughts, resisting the urge to throw my hands up and surrender to whatever this is that is coming at me. 

When I am reading a really good book, I tend to not want to stop.  I want to just keep reading, find out the how's and when's of the characters story.  So, instead of shutting my Bible with God being victorious, and Elijah running off to the desert, I had to know a little more.  You see, once more, Elijah was promised something.  Elijah was promised God would pass by him on the mountain.  So, Elijah went to the mountain.  Once there, he experienced hurricane force winds, but no God.  Then, he experienced a mighty earthquake, but still, no God.  And on top of that, Elijah experienced fire.  And again, no God.  One thing after another tried to distract Elijah from his purpose on that mountain.  Meet with God.  He will pass by on the mountain. 

It wasn't loud.  It wasn't fierce winds.  It wasn't violent earth shattering shaking.  It wasn't hot burning fire.  Instead, God showed up after all of that in a gentle, small quiet whisper.  In that moment, Elijah, again, poured his heart out.  God told him to go back the way he came.

This is what hit me.  Sometimes we gotta go back the way we came to see what faith can do.  Sometimes, we gotta go back the way we came to make it up the mountain we are on.  Sometimes, we gotta go back.  Not to stay, not to regret, not to wish things were different.  We just have to go back so we can see what God has done, and what He continues to do. 

Tonight, I keep going back the way I came.  A really really angry teenager, set on doing things her own way.  Refusing to listen to anyone who might have something important to say.  I go back to the days of early motherhood, wondering if the night would ever end.  I go back to the start of my college education, full of hope and excitement for the next few years.  I go back to those days of waiting for God to move, and move BIG.  I keep going back.  It is in these moments my hope, my faith, my courage is renewed. 

God's hand took me out of a bad situation.  God had a plan bigger than right now, or tomorrow.  He had a plan that had to be set in place years ago, so that I could get to this place right now.  I can look forward, with hopes and dreams, because I can see what God has brought me through already.  I look back over my life, and realize I shouldn't be where I am today.  I shouldn't have three amazing little girls right now.  I shouldn't be just a handful of classes away from graduating.  In these moments, I almost want to laugh at how crazy it all sounds.  I shouldn't be thriving.  I shouldn't be so excited about what the next year will hold.  But, I can't help but know if God can get me through the junk in my trunk, He can most definitely get me through today and tomorrow.  He promised me something, and while I can't see the clouds on the horizon just yet, I gotta keep waiting and watching, cause I know they are coming. 

Monday, January 21, 2013

Deep Water

As a young girl, I loved to swim.  I seriously think that was one of my absolute favorite things to do.  I loved to pretend to be a mermaid, sitting on the bottom of the pool, seeing how long I could stay under without coming up.  As an adult, though I love to swim, I am terrified to be where I can't touch or see the bottom.  I love to swim, but I am just not as brave as I was as a young girl. 

One of my favorite scriptures is Isaiah 43.  This morning, the part of the chapter that says, "When you go through deep waters, I will be with you.  When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown," just holds a special place.  It made me think over the course of my life, and how such a simple promise holds completely true. 

Several years ago, I found myself in a situation that was beyond my control.  While not being physically in danger, I realized I was between a rock and a hard place.  Life situations continued to escalate, and at the time, I did go to church more to escape my house than to search for God.  Almost four years ago, I realized that while church was my sanctuary, it was also so much more.  I could pour out my heart, my fears, my failures, my whole life to God and actually know He could help me with it.  At that point in my life, I didn't see how it was possible, but began seeking him fervently for what I needed to do for my entire family.  The waters I was in were so deep, not only could I not touch bottom, I couldn't even see the bottom.  Or the shoreline.  Or any lifeboats.  And I was scared senseless.  Over the course of the the following two years, God became my foundation.  My life preserver.  You see, He didn't allow me to get to the shore, but He kept me from drowning. 

The last few days have been difficult, to say the least.  I had some health scares that pretty much stopped me in my tracks.  And while I had a few hours of afraid, I didn't drown.  I knew I had people behind me praying, not because they knew the situation could be bad, but because they knew I was standing in the middle of a river full of difficulty.  This week has been one trial after another.  Part of me knew it was because God is moving big in my life.  The other part of me thought it was time to let go of my firm footing and just let the water overtake me. 

Isn't it like us to just wish the current could just carry us someplace calmer, quieter, where we can just lean back and float a bit?  Again, it made me think about my life.  The quiet, calm moments and the crazy, overwhelemd drowning moments.  While I love calm, quiet and serene, in those moments, I am not dependent on God to keep me up.  I can honestly say those are the times I am hit or miss with my Bible reading.  Those are the times when I am confident in myself, and my abilities.  While self-confidence is good, feeling independent of God is not. 

This morning, I had a really, really, really bad Mommy moment.  No, I do not need to add any change to therapy jars, but I realized I have got a long ways to go before I can be happy with where I am.  One of the girls has been sick this week, and add really tired to the mix, she was unhappy, grouchy and overy rude to every person in the house.  I snapped.  I am so weary of hearing how bad I am, how ugly her sister is, and how no one in this house loves her.  Yes, I know.  Exhaustion and crankiness meant her words were not true.  I get it.  However, I also know she cannot be mean to people to make herself feel bigger or better.  After the issue was somewhat resolved, I laid down with her on her bed and started praying over her.  I have never felt such peace and love between the two of us.  This little girl has the same strong, independent, leading qualities I have.  While that makes me happy, it makes me sad, too.  I know we butt heads because we are so much alike.  Especially because we both haven't been sleeping well.  Because, like I said, we are seriously alike.  No sleep, no caffeine, and we should probably quarantine ourselves away from each other and every other person in the house.  :)

Anyway, after leaving her room, I wanted desperately to pick up the phone and get confirmation that I was still a good mom, just having a rough moment, just as she is a great girl, just having a bad morning.  I wanted to cry on someone's shoulders about the difficulties I am having as a single parent, trying to maintain consistency, but still be liked because I am not the "fun weekend" parent. I wanted to be told I could do this, not really because I could, but because I have no alternative.  Pride kept me from picking up the phone, and instead putting praise and worship on.  The last thing I wanted was to have to verbally talk this one out.  I started praying, instead, and immediately felt such piece and strength surround me. 

A song came on about being in deep water, and wanting to go deeper.  Dig deeper, and jump in.  It made me realize only when I am surrounded by deep water do I know who holds me up.  When I am floating calmly, I forget that it still isn't in my ability.  When I keep finding myself in water rushing around me, threatening to make me slip and fall, and maybe go under for a few seconds, those are the moments I realize how important a solid rock to stand on is.  I want to be in deep water, because there I experience trust.  I experience faith.  I experience an invisible life preserver, giving me confidence not that I can do this on my own, but instead that I will not go down.  I might not do it as well as others, I might only barely make it out.  But, His promise remains, I will not go down. 

I won't go so far as to say I have loved every moment of my life.  Many times, laying in bed at night, I wish I could re-do parts.  I wish I could erase some of the weakness, and stand firm for the things in my life I knew weren't right.  However, it was in those deep water moments that I can see how amazingly big God is.

Middle of the nights when I was afraid to fall asleep, middle of the day moments when I don't know how I kept my kids fed and clean, not to mention the house and the laundry.  The second that I realized I had a monstrous problem that I could do nothing about, but knew something had to be done.  Those seconds when I realized how worthless I truly was to one of the most important people in my life.  Those long months waiting for babies to arrive, safe and sound and alive.  In those enormously terrifying moments, He held me up, even though I couldn't see it.  I didn't feel like I wasn't going to drown, but I didn't.  Looking forward to a future unknown is often scary and terrifying, with so many questions about how it is all going to happen, or if this or that will work, or any number of the any other things going around in my head.  But the amazing thing?  The peace I have about it.  I know God is in control and working for my good, even if I can't see it all the time.  Even when I totally mess it all up, He will restore it and use it towards His purpose for my life.

Ok, so apparently, I did a total blonde thing...  Wrote the whole thing out and never pushed the button.  Gotta love Saturday afternoon distractions.  :)

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Procrastinating at its Finest

This is my view tonight.  I sit here, struggling beyond belief with two stupid assignments of a class that is so over my head.  I have cancelled this course twice (yeah, you did read that right.  TWICE.) because it is just hard and overwhelming and scary and the list goes on quite a ways.  I am not allowed to postpone it, change it, or drop it.  Or I get dropped.  Pretty plain and simple.  So, eventually tonight, I am going to have to bite the bullet and get the stupid assignments done and go to bed.  My thoughts just overtake every ounce of me tonight.  All day, I couldn't put my finger on it.  About dinner, I realized about a million reasons why I should be allowed a really really good cry.  Except I can't let myself.  I am terrified if I start, I might not stop for a while.
I know you are wondering why in the world I posted a picture of a slightly cluttered but inspirational workplace in a very public setting.  First, because it inspires me.  Second, because I am feeling the need to put off my homework for just a little longer.  I am so not looking forward to doing it and know I will not allow myself to be dropped, so...  Third, because when I write I feel better and why not write about things and people who push me harder and believe in me more than I do myself?  I always feel better after processing a little bit, anyway.  And typing is so much easier than grabbing a pen, so a public place it must be...
Ok, so quickly glancing...  My monkey sings "The Fireman Song" and does this silly dance.  Except it's batteries are dead because I couldn't help but push the button.  All.  The.  Time.  Almost two years ago, I ran the Princess Half Marathon at Disney World.  My sister and I were somewhere between miles 6 and 8, and let me just say, we were too far to stop, but way too far from the end for my liking, well, until we rounded the corner and saw firemen.  Amazingly handsome, hunky fireman.  Dancing on the roof of their truck.  Oh my, yes.  :)  Disclaimer: Previously mentioned firemen were in broad daylight, fully clothed.  On Disney property, people.  So, the song they were dancing to (which was "Dynamite," for anyone wondering) has become know in my house as the fireman song.  So, I can't help but laugh at finishing what felt almost impossible every time I push the button.  Probably one of my favorite things is this big red heart, from one of my awesome kiddos from last year.  He struggled all year to write his name and cut with scissors.  And, not only did he cut that heart out all by himself, he also wrote my name and his name on it.  And, he told me I was the prettiest teacher at the school.  So, yeah, that heart reminds me I do at least one thing in life right.  I give my all to those kiddos.  And I love every (ok, almost every) second of it.  I find myself giggling at Toy Story Lego magnets that I would probably go off the deep end if someone stole from me.  They are just way too fun.  I love that my to-do list from last March is still hanging, waiting for me to buy wipes and food and all sorts of stuff.  I look around to Jessie's artwork, to Sara's homemade Mother's Day card, to Cassie's heart magnets, all their hard work and creativity in front of me.  Happy little girls, with brightly colored pictures.  It brightens up one of the most stressful spots I have.  I look at a card from one of my sisters that reminds me how much better I am here instead of where I used to be, and that I just gotta keep smiling through it all.  I have at least four pairs of headphones, reminding me I should be running more.  I am not even gonna go there.  I so want to run.  I really need someone to just tell me to get my butt up and get out there.  I have one of my favorite quotes within a hands reach, "Sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage.  Twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery, and something great will come of it."  Don't even know where I heard it or where I can hear it again, but I love it.  I have my favorite kiddos all with Mickey ears and princess tiaras, reminding me of my best Disney trip yet, and that I am sure there will be more.  Most importantly, I am surrounded with some of my favorite scriptures, and the reminder that even in this dark place I am in tonight, God is here.  Reminding me that in order to reach the prize, I gotta keep pushing on.  Reminding me that every single step I make needs to be with God-centered purpose.  No random strolls.  That His strong Hand holds me and keeps me from drowning, this very second when I am so tired of trying. The reminder that my weakness provides Him the perfect opportunity to remind me of His strength and grace.  That I need nothing more than that. 
Come January, I can't seem to escape from where I could still be.  For so long, I have looked at this month as this place of inner turmoil, sadness of past hurts, disappointments and lack of caring.  I hate that I allowed myself to be in such a position to feel so desperate, so alone, and so weary of just taking the next breath.  I hate that I allowed myself to hope for so much more.  I hate that I expected anyone to be a better person, especially because I wanted that person healthy, whole and happy.  I hate that I have an amazing story to share with people, because sharing is so difficult.  I hate that I know part of who I am going to be now and forever is because of what I experienced every day of my past.
However, amidst all those I hates, I have a lot more I loves.  I love that though my past is painful, and this month reminds me again and again how many times I was let down and hurt, this amazing relationship and bond I have with my Creator takes the sting out of it, and replaces it with this promise and hope I cannot explain.  I know that I am worth far more than any bottle of beer or picture of a naked woman on the computer.  My value is far above either.  I love that God can take this cracked vessel of a person and mold it into the most amazing, intricate piece of art.  There is this scripture in Ephesians (I think it might be 2:10?) that talks about each of us being God's masterpiece.  Not one more valued than the other, but each of us equally loved and treasured, priceless in the eyes of the Artist.  And, you know, I love that God saw and is creating a purpose through my pain.  I love that God has given me a promise that I can stand firmly on, even in the middle of these rough nights.  I love that God will give me the strength and grace I need to fulfill His plan and purpose for my life. 
I guess in all of this, I just have to remember, I could be sitting in the same place I was two years ago.  And, sadly, I remember exactly where I was two years ago right now, and I never want to go back.  I gotta remember to keep my eyes focused on where God's redeeming love has taken me from so that I can see and do the amazing things He has in store for me.  He has not forgotten me, nor have I forgotten what He promised to do for me.  Regardless of the dark, regardless of the weary, regardless of it all, His word remains true.  For that I am thankful, for that I can say I am blessed.  He hasn't changed His mind, and the adversities being thrown my way will not make me doubt the good things He has promised for those who wait.  I will wait.  And His promises will come.    

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

What Do I Really Know?

So, today, in the midst of keeping track of kids, doing a little housework, and trying to get homework behind me, I found myself really seriously questioning myself.  Seems I've been doing that a lot lately.  No doubt, no regret, just wondering about stuff., my mind racing from one thing to another and back again.  Then I get a random text that just reminds me to be still.  All this time, I pray, I search, I seek high and low. But I can't seem to shut up long enough to get that second half of the conversation that is so much more important than my half.  At what point in life do you finally get so fed up with the craziness that you just turn it all off?  Not sure that it ever happens, but if it does, I am close.  I am so weary of junk.  All the time, junk.  Unimportant junk filling my thoughts, filling my prayers, making me want for more than I deserve. 

All day Saturday I had quiet.  Oh my goodness, I had quiet.  No kids fighting back and forth over Barbies or pajamas or Lego's or the list could really go on all night...  No TV conversations filling up the background noise.  A quiet drizzle.  No phones ringing.  Even the dog was quiet.  Nothing.  Totally eerie.  And I tried for over an hour to shut my mind down.  To just sit and be still and be quiet.  And I realized that two word command is almost impossible.  Somewhere in all of that, I reminded myself how many moms would absolutely love an entire day of silence.  I reminded myself that silence meant no fighting, no worry about drama happening later, just silence.  Towards the end of all the silence, I started to lose it.  Seriously.  It was just too much.  Too many questions, too many wishes, too many distant dreams.  Too much past, too much future, and altogether too much present.  It all was just too much.  Silent on the outside, and a circus on the inside probably would've fit me perfectly. 

Then, tonight, while writing my final (Oh yeah, one more class behind me, almost down to one handful left, too!!) I heard a song come on that fit my sentiments perfectly.  It talked about trying to hear, but talking the whole time.  Seriously, that is what caught my attention.  And, then, instead of thinking about the ways that poverty rates effect education, all I could think about was what God was trying to tell me, and why I am so afraid of stopping to hear it.  Kinda makes me wonder how many times He has answered me, and I have just been too busy, too loud, too involved in everything else to hear His voice.  The song continued to play, pondering the same things I have been pondering.  I trust, I believe, I try to listen.  But, if God walked up to me, would I know it was Him?  Do I really believe He is as big as He is? 

I have been so impressed with who God is, with what He is capable of doing, but I am still stuck.  It all means so much to me, and yet it is so overwhelming I don't even know what to do with it.  I read about this miracle or that miracle and I feel so small and insignificant.  I know God hears me.  But on nights like this, it is hard to remember this journey will not be for nothing.  It is hard to keep wearing fun jewelry and bright colors, hoping no one sees through it all, but knowing there is at least one who does. 

And then the gentle reassurances flow in...

       "Don't be afraid.  Stand firm and watch God do his work of salvation in you today.  Take a good look at the Egyptians today for you're never going to see them again.  God will fight the battle for you.  And you? You keep your mouths shut."      ~Exodus 14:13-14

       "I pulled you in from all over the world, called you in from every dark corner of the earth, telling you, 'You're my servant, serving on my side.  I've picked you.  I haven't dropped you.'  Don't panic.  I'm with you.  There's no need to fear for I'm your God.  I'll give you strength. I'll help you.  I'll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you."      ~Isaiah 41:8(ish)-10 

       "Don't fret or worry.  Instead of worrying, pray.  Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns.  Before you know it, a sense of God's wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down.  It's wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life."   ~Philippians 4:6-7

Just when I think my brokenness is too much to bear, I am reminded his wholeness is way bigger and way better and completely consumes my brokenness.  He's got me.  Even if I can't hear Him loud and clear, I know He hears me.  And, eventually, the dawn is going to break. 

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Questions Unanswered

I have been really impressed with God and how amazingly huge he is the last few days.  It is so strange that when you really try and discover who God is and what He is capable of, you can't help but trust.  I feel like my life is at this crossroads lately.  It isn't really a crossroads, more of a turning point maybe.  I have been fighting off feelings of unimportance and inadequacy the last few weeks and I am realizing I am either going to allow those feelings to determine my steps, or I can fight them off and remind myself constantly who I am and what I am doing, and that inadequate and unimportant is NOT who God called me to be. 

I firmly believe my feelings do not come from God, nor are they capable of ruling over His plans or ways for me.  These feelings have made me really question myself and how I view God, though.  And not really in the ways I would have expected them to.  All my life, I have struggled with being accepted and being the way everyone else wanted me to be.  Growing up, I wanted to be just like everyone else, with dreams of marriage and happily ever after in my future.  Being a girl, I think it was just my natural inclination to lean towards those dreams and thoughts.  I have fought with myself on who I really am and what my real purpose is in life.  Not to say that I have figured it out, because I haven't.  At all.  But, I am learning who God is and just how amazing He really is. 

It is so simple.  I don't have to tell anyone exactly how many times blessings, abundance, prosperity, victory, and success are promised to those who believe.  But, I do wonder, how many of us really believe?  It is so easy to say I believe in God.  But do you?  In Exodus, God sent Moses to tell the people I am sent him.  It just makes me wonder, challenge myself and allow myself to contemplate just how fully I trust and know who God is.  He is I am.  So, what does that mean to me?  What do I allow him to be?  Do I allow Him to be my everything, or do I just allow my everything to decide what He can be for me?

We are taught that God is our provider.  God will see to every single one of our needs, but do we allow him?  How many times have I prayed for something, but not accepted His answer to me?  I constantly fight myself, because I know without a doubt God will provide for me.  But, the part I struggle with is that God provides in ways that only God can provide.  Sometimes, the lesson isn't that He will provide, but the lesson is how he will provide.  God simply asks that we obey him.  Sometimes the obedience is easy.  Sometimes it rocks us to our core, challenges our beliefs, and quite possibly makes us doubt whether or not we really trust God to provide.  Sometimes it is easier to accept life without what we need or want because we don't want to accept the answer in God's order and timing.  Nevertheless, He will provide.  From the beginning of time to the end of days, He will be our provider, providing we accept his help.  How often do I remind myself He is my provider?  He is the I am seeing to it.  He knows my needs, my thoughts, and my hopes.  And He will see to them. 

We are taught that God is our victory.  In no one else can we experience victory in the midst of defeat.  Think back to the story in Exodus, where God's chosen people are enslaved to cruel rulers.  Finally, when God decides to release them, they experience victory and release from Pharaoh, only to be filled with defeat when they experience one heartache and struggle after another.  And yet, God continued to remind them of who He was in the situation.  Crossing the Red Sea on dry ground, water from rocks, and victory over enemies with an act of simple obedience.  So, your simple act of obedience might sound silly or stupid to some, and yet, He is the I am going to win this battle for you.  He knows our enemies are coming long before we can see them, and the amazing part is that He already knows how He is going to win the battle.  And He always does, because He is victory. 

We are taught that God is the ultimate source of peace.  Where He is, peace is.  In this crazy world we live in, God still remains to be peace.  Why is it that we allow ourselves to be so carried away with simple problems, irritations and stupidity that we lose every ounce of peace we possess?  A little over a year ago, I was struggling with nightmares and panic attacks that were beyond anything I have ever experienced.  I lived in a state of absolutely no peace.  No rest from the disturbing memories, fears and experiences that I went through firsthand.  I knew I had peace over certain situations, but I allowed myself to remain chained to words spoken over me.  I allowed my peace, my joy, my faith and my trust to be stolen piece by piece, because I didn't know how powerful God's peace truly could be.  I will never forget the night I spoke peace instead of disaster into a nightmare.  It was the night I realized God was truly bigger than my situation.  And peace flooded in.  Every situation I have been facing, I can still remember His peace prevailing.  God telling me, "I am peace over you. Trust me." 

I can't even begin to describe who God is without getting completely awestruck by His power over me and my world.  I think about the God who redeemed my situation, giving me hope for the first time in almost 10 years.  I think about the God who continues to heal my brokenness.  I think about the God who is my protector, the author of my story, the planner of my days.  And I am amazed.  I am amazed that I can fully place my trust in someone I cannot touch, I cannot see and I cannot begin to understand.  I read countless stories of victory and healing and abundance in times of famine and I just begin to understand how big He is. 

The question still pops up.  Why do we not believe without question?  Why do we not fully trust when our minds know what He has done for others and ourselves?  Why do we struggle to realize His plan for us includes prosperity, our deepest desires and blessings more than we can ask or think, when we believe, trust and obey His simple commands?  It is simple.  We are human.  He is God.  He knows we are going to mess it up.  And He loves us anyway.  Tonight, I am so, so, so thankful for a God who loves me, even though He knows the thoughts going through my head tonight haven't all been nice ones.  I am so thankful for a God who provides for me, even when I am caught being selfish and unwilling to be kind.  I am so thankful for a God who will wipe my slate clean, time and time again, because He loves me and desires to pour blessings over me. 

Kinda makes me wonder how anyone of us, myself totally included, can ever be unwilling to obey, step out and just do what He has asked.  He wants to be the "I am" over every situation causing you pain.  He wants to be everything to us, the question really remains, why aren't we letting Him?

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Strong and Courageous

For as long as I can remember, I have been one of the most competitive people I know.  This works both for me and against me.  Mostly, it pushes me to my edge, so that I know I am doing my absolute best.  Whether it be playing a mad game of Scrabble when I was little, to being a band geek as a teenager, to being a good mom and wife as an adult.  Whatever my task, I wanted perfection.  I wanted the best.  I wanted to be able to say that no one makes a better meatloaf than me.  No one plays that solo like Cil does.  No one knows her girls better than Cil.  She is just amazing, that is seriously what I wanted more than anything.  To be known for excellence. Then, my walls started shaking, and after a long bit of this shaking, my foundation gave way.  My competitive edge was fatally wounded, requiring me to admit defeat and failure.  This rocked me to my core, because the only thing I don't do is fail.  I just don't.  That is, until I did. 

When someone gets married, or rather when I got married, it is supposed to be for life. You know, the whole grow old together, with each other, praying you die first so you never have to live without the other.  I went into my marriage with those goals in mind.  Honestly.  Yeah, I know you all know how that ended for me, but bear with me.  The commitment wasn't just a short term game, or a starter marriage.  I wanted forever.  A lifetime.  You know, happily ever after.  And, when my walls started shaking, I fought harder.  I dug my feet in and held on for life.  I prayed and I waited, I prayed and I waited.  I tried harder, I cooked better, I cleaned better.  I did every thing I possibly could to make wants be satisfied, to know I had fought my hardest fight and won it.  And, the competitive edge failed me.  I failed me.  Looking back now, I realize that failure is only failure when you learn nothing.  When you leave a situation with no pointers, with no mistakes recognized, with no lessons learned, no empathy to be handed to someone in the same situation.  That is failure.

The last few months, I haven't written much.  Truth is, I have been too busy comparing and competing with those around me to sit down and hash it out in words.  The old Cil coming out, feeling the need to take it one notch above.  Competing to be the best.  At everything.  Instead of feeling like the best, I have been feeling like failure.  Putting every ounce of myself into everything around me, pouring and giving and trying so hard that I realize I am failing.  Stupidly, not even recognizing what I am doing to myself or those around me.  Comparing myself to the mom's I know who have it all together.  Most, I might add, are also married.  And not in school full time.  Comparing myself to people I can't keep up with, spiritually, financially, physically.  Luckily, I am not yelling at myself, ripping myself to shreds in the mirror, or ruining who I know I am, however, tonight, I feel defeated.  I feel weak.  I feel like sitting down and saying none of it matters.  Except, this time, none of it really does.  Who cares if I can buy a house this time next year?  No one but me.  The girls don't care.  My friends don't care if I own my own house.  The dog doesn't care.  Me pushing myself for something that is probably not reachable.  Who cares what kind of grades I make?  Me.  My grades will not change a single thing about my diploma.  It will not change the requirements for the job, nor will they determine my salary.  It does not determine my worth to friends, it definitely does not make or break my mothering skills.  So, does it really matter?  Who cares if I write a 2,000 word post every day?  I know most would say it was overkill.  Not because I don't rock, but because that's just a lot.  Truth is, I can't think of a single person in my exact shoes that I can compete with to reach the prize, whatever in the world that may be.  And still, I get frustrated.  I get tired.  I get hopeful, then sad when my hope runs dry.  I want my little girls to stay little so I can snuggle and answer their questions in ways they understand.  Sad thing is, I can't.  And, living with an 8-year-old is proving that I can't answer all the questions, know it all, or even understand it all.  Sometimes, all I can do is remind myself to put one foot in front of the other, and keep my head held high while doing it.  Standing tall and just being brave while the questions hammer my head like bullets, being shot rapid fire at me.  Remaining confident in my God while my daughters ask questions I can't even fake the answers to. 

This last Sunday, I was so impressed with Joshua 1:9.  "This is my command - be strong and courageous!  Do not be afraid or discouraged.  For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go." In my little fantasy world, I thought Joshua suddenly had all the power and strength he could possibly need.  Until I kept reading.  Then really starting looking and studying.  Joshua sounds like a strong, bold, brave sort of name.  Courageous, definitely.  And yet, he was given the exact same command 7 different times in just a few short chapters.  Technically 8, as Moses was given that message to give to Joshua at the end of Deuteronomy.  This seemingly strong command that we all know had to be given to this mighty man of God 8 times.  Fearless warrior, shaking in his boots, knowing what he had to do, what he was ordered to do, and still having to bow on his knees and be issued new strength, new fearlessness, new courage so many times in a short amount of time. 

Tonight, I am fighting my emotions.  I am fighting my head.  I am fighting an uncertain future.  And yet, aren't we all?  Aren't we all in something unseen, something we all feel alone in?  Fearful of what God is giving us the strength to fight for?  I just can't seem to get over it.  No one else in the whole Bible was given that command so many times.  Several men were given the command, Azariah, Hezekiah, David, finally to Solomon.  None of those men needed to be reminded eight times.  So, I can continue to sit and compare myself with beautiful women around me, I can sit and compare myself to these amazing cooks whose husbands adore them, I can sit and compare myself to energetic volunteers in the same ministry as me.  Or, I can sit and remind myself we don't all do it the same way.  Some of us need to be reminded "Be strong.  Be courageous.  Be fearless.  Be obedient.  Don't be afraid of me or where we are going.  And don't you ever, ever let go of my hand," only once, some twice, some of us eight times, and still others around us need 8,000 times before the message sinks in and faith and trust take over.  While I can sit and compare, I realize we are all given the same grace, the same mercy, the same future.  We who seek God will prosper.  We will be given those secret desires that we long for.  We will wake up each morning, with yesterday's sins already erased from our records, and when we do the same stupid things today, His grace, His blood, it covers those too.  So, yeah, I might compare.  And it might take 5 million times, but truth is, God is still God.  He is still Creator, Planner, Author of my story, He is my beginning, and He will be my end.  This junk in my path isn't gonna take me down.  It will not take anything more from me than it already has.  And His plan for me is still best.  Even if He chooses to keep it hidden for just a little while still, it will be best. 

I just feel the urge to say this...  Do whatever it is He is calling you to do.  Do it with the confidence only He can give you.  Be obedient and be strong.  Be courageous and know He is God.  He has promised to stand by our side, regardless of the fact He knows us better than we know ourselves.  He won't abandon you, forsake you or forget you.  Be fearless, because He has already gone ahead, He knows the battle, because He has already fought it for us.  Sometimes, though, we gotta get a little muddy.  We gotta get a little uncomfortable and afraid.  We wouldn't need Him if we could do it all on our own.  Not in our weakness, but in His strength...