Great is His Faithfulness

Earlier this year, after nearly 17 years of marriage, my husband and I separated. Whew! That was a hard sentence to write. There are a lot of people in my life that don’t know. It’s not that I’ve been trying to keep a secret or lying. But it’s really difficult to admit, out loud, such a huge failure.

From the beginning, I’ve told myself, “As soon as this resolves itself and God moves in our situation, then I’ll tell people. And what a testimony it will be!” But I’m learning that the testimony isn’t always when things are neatly resolved and put in a pretty package. Sometimes the miracle is in the process—in how a faithful God walks with me in the most difficult circumstances. As a friend aptly reminded me: “They overcame by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and did not love their lives to the death” (Revelations 12:11, emphasis mine).

Although we separated earlier this year, the whole process started nearly 18 months ago. It’s been a long season, filled with a lot of life-changing lessons—none of which have been particularly fun to walk through or learn. But there’s a passage of Scripture that God gave me early on that I remind myself of often:

“I will never forget this awful time, as I grieve over my loss. Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him!'” (Lamentations 3:20-24 NLT).

I love Jeremiah’s honesty here. He doesn’t sugar coat it. He doesn’t pretend his situation is better than it is. He actually says, “I will never forget this awful time, as I grieve over my loss” (v. 20, emphasis mine). That’s real life! That’s my life! There’s no pretty way to paint this. It’s just plain awful! But the rest of the passage is the kicker: “Yet I still dare to hope…” And that is what I’m learning. No matter how dark things get (and believe me, there have been plenty of dark times), there is still hope. Not hope in the situation itself, but in a faithful God who has promised He will never leave me or forsake me (Deuteronomy 31:6). It’s in a trustworthy God who also promised in Romans 8:28, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” That’s why I can say, with a confidence that only comes from experience, “Great is His faithfulness!”

Jesus Knows

Welcome back to my Incredible Faith Journey. I have not written in six years. So as you can imagine, a lot has changed. So here’s a brief update on the kids.

Journey is now nine years-old and in fourth grade. He is developing into a funny, warm, sensitive young man. Faith is a smart, bubbly seven-year-old. She reminds me of Buddy the Elf sometimes. She just can’t suppress her infectious smile.

We’ve had a rough go of things lately. And I may share more on that in future posts. But for now, I wanted to share what God is teaching me through my pain. Simply: Jesus knows! Hebrews 4:15 says, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” That’s just fancy Bible-speak for, “Jesus knows!”

Recently, I was reading the account, in the Gospel of John, of Lazarus being raised from the dead (John 11:1-44). If I’m honest, that is one of the most frustrating stories in the Bible for me. I just can’t understand why Jesus delayed going to Bethany. I feel like Martha and Mary who say plainly, “If you had been here, my brother would not have died” (John 11:21; 32). I don’t know how many times I’ve felt that same thing looking at my own circumstances.

But what stuck out to me when reading it this time was in verses 33 through 35:

“When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. And he said, ‘Where have you laid him?’ They said to him, ‘Lord, come and see.’ Jesus wept.”

Jesus knew he would raise Lazarus from the dead. But he was not impervious to the pain Mary was experiencing. He was moved by her pain. And he’s moved by mine and yours. I may not understand his “delay” in coming to rescue me. But I’m comforted to know that he is “deeply moved” by my pain. He weeps with me as he did with Mary and Martha. Psalm 56:8 says, “You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.”

I hope one day I can look back and say, “Oh that’s why!” But there’s no guarantee of that. I just have to continue to trust God in the midst and allow my heart to be comforted knowing that “Jesus knows!”

FROG (I need to die all over again today)

Do you remember those WWJD bracelets that were popular in the nineties? Several years ago, a friend of mine gave me a FROG bracelet. It was a joke because I loved frogs so much. But FROG stood for “Fully Relying on God.” I had forgotten about this silly little bracelet until recently. I was praying one morning and asking for God to help me with the day ahead and FROG came to my mind. But the thought that immediately followed was “I don’t think I know how to fully rely on God.

I consider myself a pretty smart person. I can problem-solve with the best of them. I’m pretty self-reliant and I think that gets in the way of “fully relying on God.” I tend to go to God as a last resort. If I can’t figure it out on my own, then I consult God. Typing it out here, it sounds like a really stupid way to do things. But it’s my usual pattern. Guess I’m not as smart as I think I am. However, lately, I’ve been running into more and more challenges that have left me feeling completely out of my depth. I’ve shared my many challenges with potty training Journey. But beyond that, there are things that crop up daily that leave me scratching my head.

I need to die all over again today (Courtesy of @JimmyNeedham via Twitter). “Dying to self” has come up a lot recently “…I die daily [I face death every day and die to self]” 1 Corinthians 15:31 AMP. That’s a hard pill to swallow. Dying to myself, my rights, my way is not something that comes naturally. I like things my way. But for me to “fully rely on God” I need to let go of my way of doing things so that I can be open to God’s way. So my prayer recently has been: “Less of me, Lord. More of You!” It hasn’t been easy to break the pattern of self-reliance. I have to constantly “die all over again.” But I’m finding that the more that I rely less on me and more on God, the challenges are getting easier the manage.

The thing I hate about being a mom

I love being a mom, much more than I ever thought I would. But there is one thing that I hate. No, it’s not the poopy diapers, although I could do with a few less of those. And it’s not the so-called “terrible twos,” after all that does pass (or so I’ve been told). It’s not even the late-night feedings that feel interminable in those early months. What I hate the most is the constant worry that comes with being responsible for another human life.

I wouldn’t have considered myself a worrier before children. Sure, there were things that nagged at me from time-to-time. But generally, I didn’t worry. But once I had children, I became this person I didn’t recognize. I suppose it’s pretty common for a first-time-mom to worry over every little thing. But I felt frantic. I think what gets me the most is the feeling of being out of control. There are so many things, when it comes to kids, that are completely out of my control.

When Journey was nine-months-old, we discovered that he was losing weight. That was a frightening time for me. I felt so helpless! I was doing my best and, once again, it wasn’t enough. I constantly had to prop myself up and say all the right things: “I trust God with my child”; “God is in control, even when I’m not;” etc. I sort of adopted a “fake-it-till-you-make-it” mentality (1 Samuel 30:6 Amplified).

I’ve grown a lot since those early days. But one thing remains–I still worry, a lot, about my kids. I try to keep it together on the outside. But deep down, I’m biting my nails and wringing my hands at the slightest abnormality. But even though I’m freaking out on the inside, I still keep saying the “right things.” And I remind myself of all the worries of the past and how each issue has resolved itself. When I’m in the middle of a challenge, it feels so overwhelming. But when I step back, I remember the last thing that kept me up at night and how that too felt so overwhelming. Then I also remember how we made it through. “Even when I walk through the darkest valley I will not be afraid for you are close beside me…” Psalm 23:4 (NLT).

I doubt the worry will ever truly go away. And I’ll probably still have my secret freak-out moments. But I know that regardless of what I face with my kids, God will always see us through.

Remembering who I am

I’m a pretty typical introvert. It’s not that I don’t like or enjoy being around people; I just require time to myself to recharge. I know this about myself. I’ve known this for a while. But when it comes to my children, I seem to forget this aspect of my personality. So I give and give and give some more. Then I wonder why I’m short-tempered and frayed around edges.

I never wanted to be that mom. You know, the one who sacrifices herself on the altar of her children. But sometimes I feel like that’s who I’ve become. My mom was not that mom. And I never felt less cared for or valued because she cared for and valued herself.

Recently, I’ve been doing little things to “reclaim” myself, like finally losing the baby weight and making an effort with my appearance before leaving the house. It’s amazing what you have the energy to do once you start sleeping again. And although those are wonderful, even necessary things, I can’t help feeling that they are superficial. Those things are not going to refill me when I’m empty.

We are often defined by the roles we play. It’s true, I am a wife and a mother. But is that my true identity? Is it what defines me and who I am? Until I know that, I will always get lost in my roles. It’s not about wanting more out of life. I’m fulfilled as a wife and mother–I’m where I’m supposed to be. But I can’t let it be what defines me.

There is only one place I can find my true identity. Who I am has to be rooted in Christ: “For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on the character of Christ, like putting on new clothes” (Galatians 3:26-27 NLT).

But I need to be constantly reminded of who I am in Christ, otherwise I’ll get bogged down in the minutiae of my everyday life. For me, spending time reading the Bible and in prayer not only remind me of who I am, they recharge and restore me. But I’m not very good at carving out that time. So I’m going to make it a priority. That may mean that sometimes Faith and Journey will have to play in their room, while I take time to refuel and remember who I am. In the end, my prayer is that as I take time to fill up again, I will fulfill my role as wife and mother with more purpose and focus.

First-time obedience and other things I don’t do

I’m very big on first-time obedience when it comes to my kids. It’s kind of my thing. “Delayed obedience is disobedience!” (That’s a quote from my dad.)

But if I’m being honest with myself, I don’t exactly practice what I preach. I have a list of things God has told me to do that I still haven’t gotten around to yet–all for various and often well-thought-out reasons. But how is that any different from my children? When I tell Journey to clean up his toys, in his mind, continuing to play with his car is far more important than doing what mommy says. Or if I call Faith to come to me, going in the opposite direction not only seems like a better idea, it’s more fun–especially when mommy chases after her.

So why do I expect things of my kids that I don’t do myself? And why do I get so frustrated when they don’t do it? I wonder if God feels that same frustration with me.

This topic has been a particular source of frustration recently. And I’m beginning to wonder if God is trying to show me something in my children’s obedience–or lack of it, in this case.

I think he’s teaching me about perseverance. Galatians 6:9 says, “So let us not grow tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up” (NLT). I was reading to Journey earlier today–after a particularly challenging morning–and in his little innocent book on colors, there was this scripture. I knew right then that God was answering my earlier plea for guidance. No, it’ wasn’t “do this and this will happen.” But it was telling me to continue to do what I’m doing with Journey (and Faith)…because I will see a “harvest of blessing” if I don’t give up.

I also believe God is trying to get me out of my own complacency with delayed obedience. When Journey doesn’t obey right away, he misses opportunities–No, we’re not going to the park today, because you didn’t obey mommy. I think it’s the same with God–though he’s much more gracious to me than I am to Journey. It reminds me of the children of Israel. Because of their disobedience, they wandered the wilderness for 40 years and many of them missed the opportunity to see the land God had promised (Numbers 14). I don’t want to miss God’s promises and opportunities anymore. So now I’m going through my “list.”

Mirror, mirror…

I’m learning that Journey is my little mirror. No, he can’t show me if my hair is mussed or my makeup needs a touch-up. But he definitely reflects what’s really going on.

Sometimes I’m proud of what I see. Like when I hurt myself and he comes up to me, lays hands on me and says “Heavenly Father, in the name of Jesus [mumble, mumble, mumble] … in Jesus name, AMEN!” Or he walks up to his sister and says “I love you so very much!” You can imagine the quiet smile that washes over my face in those moments.

But there are other times that I don’t like what I see. When he looks at me with all seriousness, after I’ve fussed at him, and says “Don’t yell, Mommy!” Ouch! Or when he bangs his hand down, in frustration. Where did he learn that? In those moments, I wish it were simply a matter of a smudge on my face that needs to be wiped.

That’s when the self-doubt starts: I’m failing him! I’m not cut out for this!

But then I’m reminded that “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9 NKJV). This scripture has two points of comfort for me. First, God’s grace is sufficient for me. I’m not enough. On my own, I am failing my children. But in my weakness, God’s strength is perfected. Secondly, His grace is sufficient for Journey. I have to believe that God is covering my shortcomings. I will always do my best with my children. That doesn’t change. But when my best is insufficient, God’s grace is sufficient. I hold on to that. I hold on to the belief that God loves my kids so much more than I do.

My little mirror will not always reflect the best in me. But my prayer is that, in time, it will reflect the best in him and God.

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