God’s Grace is Sufficient

I recently went back to work after being home with the kids for nearly 10 years. It’s been an interesting transition. It’s been a boost to my self-esteem to feel like a contributing member of society again. But it’s also been really hard being mom and employee, and the million other roles that I fulfill on a daily basis. I find I’m less patient than I’d like to be and more tired than I’ve been since the kids were waking up in the middle of the night. I also have less time to do things I love, like writing this blog. I have frequently complained to God about it, essentially asking how I’m supposed to do this. Then I read 2 Corinthians 12:8-10:

“Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong”  (ESV).

I know it should, but it doesn’t exactly fill me with warm, fuzzy feelings. It frustrates me. I don’t want to boast in my weaknesses. I don’t want to be content with hardships. I want God to say, “Oh honey, I understand. You don’t have to do that anymore. Let me just handle that for you.” And sometimes He does that, for which I am eternally grateful. But this ain’t one of those times. This is a “put-on-my-big-girl-pants-and-trust-God-to-give-me-what-I-need” time.

“God gives grace to people and He is faithful.”
– Faith Tyler, age 7

When I sat down to write today, my sweet daughter, Faith, decided she would “help” me. She started giving me ideas of what to write. I humored her as she gave me different ideas, not really expecting her to say anything profound (she is, after all only seven years old). But without knowing what I was planning to write, she said: “God gives grace to people and He is faithful!” It’s so funny how God will drive His point home, if I allow myself to be tuned in.

I’m no more thrilled than I was before with the idea of being weak. But being reminded of God’s grace and faithfulness by my precious child, is just another way He shows His grace is truly all I need.

Be Faithful with the Small Things

A couple of weeks ago I wrote how details are important to God. But just as it is important for me to follow God’s instructions, it’s equally important that I’m faithful in my obedience.

Through out this challenging season, there have been “small” points of obedience that God has asked of me. Sometimes they’ve made sense. I could see how one “little” act would impact a bigger situation. But other times, they haven’t made sense, at least in my very limited perspective. In those times, I’ve been pretty compliant. My side of the conversation with God usually goes something like this, “Okay, Father. I’ll do this. I don’t understand, but I’ll do it.” And I do! I follow through with full commitment…at first. Then I get discouraged and start thinking about how much it really doesn’t make sense. It’s not changing anything or mattering to anyone. So why am I doing this?! I actually had a one-sided conversation like this with God recently: “Yeah, so I’m not going to do that anymore because it doesn’t make sense and I don’t really like doing it. I’m tired of doing senseless things.” Let me tell you, God is a much more patient Father than I am a mother. If one of my kids came to me with such a bratty pronouncement, it would not have been a one-sided conversation. But God just let me say my piece.

However, as I was praying for a friend recently, God reminded me of Matthew 25:23 which says, “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'” (ESV). In my piety, I thought, “Oh this is perfect for her! She needs to remember that her little acts of obedience matter to God.” Then God finally responded to me: “This is not just for her, but for you too!” Oops! For my friend, it was an encouragement for her to continue doing the things she deemed as “small.” For me, it was a correction of my refusal to do the things I counted as insignificant.

I realize that I’m not always going to understand why God asks me to do certain things. I’d like to think at some point it will all make sense. But there is no promise of that. So I have to decide if I’m going to be faithful to do the “small” things He’s asked of me. To quote my wise friend, “I don’t have to worry about the success…of a matter. I just need to be faithful in doing it.” And that’s really what it comes down to! “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life” (Revelation 2:10b KJV).

Details Matter

Details matter to God. You only have to read Exodus 25 through 30 to see how important they are to Him. In these chapters, God gives Moses the instructions for the tabernacle and its furnishings. God was very specific about every aspect of the tabernacle. He didn’t miss one detail. And at no point was Moses scratching his head at something vague God had told him. It was all spelled out clearly, in such intricate detail–down to the type of raw material that should be used.

For me, the details in these chapters can be overwhelming. Do I really need to know that the ephod “shall have two shoulder pieces attached to its two edges, so that it may be joined together” (Exodus 28:7)? Part of me wants to skip this whole section, wishing it simply said, “God gave Moses the plan for the tabernacle and he built it.” But one of the things I love about the Old Testament is how it shows God’s character. And what this shows me about God is how much He really cares about details.

But why is it important for me to know that details are essential to Him? First, when I know that He was that specific about the manufacturing of inanimate objects, I can only fathom how much He cares about the details of my life. There’s not one aspect of my life that He’s forgotten or not made plans for.

Secondly, it helps me to understand why it’s important for me to follow His instructions. He told Moses, “Make this tabernacle and all its furnishings exactly like the pattern I will show you” (Exodus 25:9 NIV, emphasis mine).

There have been so many times in my life when I’ve been frustrated by my assumption that God isn’t giving me direction. I had one of those moments this week. One of my biggest challenges with Journey is getting him to stay focused on a task. It’s been a source of much consternation and a frequent point of prayer. So when I read Exodus 25:9, I plainly asked God, “Why haven’t you shown me exactly how to help my son?” But in His loving way, God used this same verse to correct me. He reminded me that He’d given me instructions, but I hadn’t followed them exactly.

I have heard it said, “If you’re not hearing from God, go back to the last thing He told you to do and do it.” And I think there is such wisdom in that. I know in my own life, it has often been the case that when I’m not hearing from God, it’s because I’ve chosen to ignore something He’s instructed me to do. Just as He told Moses to make the tabernacle and furnishings precisely as He had directed him, God expects me to obey His instructions without compromising.

So I’ve been doing a lot of backtracking this week–seeing where I’ve missed God’s instructions. It’s a humbling process. But if I’m going to be serious about being His disciple, I need to make sure I’m following His directions exactly.

Happy Thanksgiving

Have you noticed how difficult it is to remain thankful when things aren’t quite going according to plan? Or is that just me?! I often find myself telling my daughter to find something to be thankful for no matter what, after all, 1 Thessalonians 5:18 NLT says, “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.”
But when the rubber meets the road, I’m not always very good at following my own advice. So what better time than Thanksgiving to take a moment to be thankful? So here are some of the things for which I’m grateful:
  • God’s presence
  • Joy
  • The refining process (not always fun, but definitely worth it in the end)
  • God’s protection of my kids’ hearts
  • His protection of my heart
  • God’s love shown to me through those He’s sent to support and encourage me
  • Peace
  • Strength
  • Comfort
  • God’s direction
I’m sure if I sat here for a while longer, I could continue to find things for which to be thankful. But just taking these few moments to be grateful has refocused my heart and helped me to be ready to enjoy a festive Thanksgiving with my wonderful family.
Happy Thanksgiving!

Losing Control

“All your children shall be taught by the Lord, and great shall be the peace of your children.” – Isaiah 54:13

When my kids were infants, we brought them to church and dedicated them to the Lord. I remember this beautiful ceremony so well. We committed to raise them in the “fear and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). We recognized them as the gifts they were from God. And we acknowledged they were on temporary loan to us from Him. But somewhere along the way I forgot these babies were not really mine.

I’ve always struggled with fully releasing my kids to God’s care. Being in control is how I’ve dealt with the inevitable fear and worry that comes with parenting. Unfortunately, I’ve had to learn, very painfully, that not even this super mama can insulate them from the pain of this broken world.

As I’m realizing my inability to shield my kids from all pain and disappointment, I’m being stripped of the delusion that I’m in control. I think that’s a good place to be. It’s not comfortable or easy. But it is good.

Isaiah 54:13 says, “All your children shall be taught by the Lord, and great shall be the peace of your children” (ESV). This verse reminds me who is the ultimate caretaker of my kids. I can’t control every detail of their lives, but I can entrust them to One who can.

Hope for the Future

“Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.”
– Corrie Ten Boom

I used to feel so secure in my future. I had things planned out so far in advance–to the point that I stopped asking God what His thoughts were. Then my future became uncertain, and I was forced to trust God with it. Or at least that’s what I’ve told myself. I use Matthew 6:34 almost as an excuse for why I’m not planning anything beyond the next few minutes: “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today” (NLT).

The truth is, the future frightens me. From one day to the next, I honestly don’t know what new pain or challenge I will face. I’ve told myself that by not planning for tomorrow I’m not worrying about it. But the reality is, I am so worried about tomorrow that I refuse to think about or plan for it. I’ve even trained my kids not to ask about anything beyond today. “Mom, can I have carrots in my lunch tomorrow?” Journey would ask. Then I’d hear Faith reply, “Remember Journey, don’t worry about tomorrow!” It sounds so spiritually stupid now as I write it. But I thought I was protecting them, along with myself, from unmet expectations of the future. If I don’t plan for it or hope for it, I won’t be disappointed.

But the other day, as I was dropping the kids off to school, Journey asked about plans for next summer. My first inclination was to give my usual caution: “We’re not going to worry about things that far in advance.” But I stopped myself before I said it. I felt so strongly that instead of shutting it down, I should encourage a hope for the future, not only for him and his sister, but for me too.

James 4:13-16 says, “Look here, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.’ How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog–it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. What you ought to say is, ‘If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.’ Otherwise you are boasting about your own pretentious plans, and all such boasting is evil” (NLT). This was another verse I used to keep myself safe. But the point of it isn’t to tell me not to plan for the future. It’s to warn me not to make my plans without God’s direct involvement. After all, He said in Jeremiah 29:11, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope'” (NLT).

Just as the Corrie Ten Boom quote above says, I can trust God with my future. I can remember that He’s the one in control and He has good things planned for me. And in my trust of God, I can teach my kids to embrace the future and not be afraid of it.

The Struggle for Joy

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23 ESV).

I’ve discovered the secret of living a life full of joy. Wanna know what it is? Thankfulness. Finding something for which to be thankful will always point me back to God and restore my joy. But here’s the problem: Most of the time I don’t want to be thankful. I want to complain and moan and cry and whine. Being thankful is just too much work. It’s just easier to complain, and frankly, sometimes it feels better–at least for a moment.

This weekend, my kids and I took a quick road trip to Legoland. What should’ve been a two-hour drive, stretched to nearly three hours. My kids, who are usually pretty good with long car drives, were becoming impatient. The traffic was cutting into their play time. But being the good, hypocritical mom that I am, I encouraged them to start looking for things about which they could be thankful. I even quoted scripture to them: “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18 ESV).

Then Monday rolled around and all I could see was what was going wrong in my life. I complained and whined and got a sinus headache from all the crying. Then Tuesday came and more of the same. What was wrong with me? Why couldn’t I shake this funk I had stumbled into? But this morning, as I took a step back, I realized that in all my complaining, not once had I really taken the time to offer worship or give thanks. I had spent the better part of two days feeling sorry for myself and telling God how He was failing me. No wonder I was in a funk.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s essential for me to be honest with God–to tell Him truthfully when I’m struggling. We all need those unfiltered moments. But even in those times of “realness” with Him, something productive and life-giving has to come out of it. The only way I know how to do that is to take the focus off myself and my problems and look to Him.

So that’s what I’m doing. It’s not easy. It requires me to be intentional about what I’m thinking and talking about. But I’m choosing thankfulness and joy today.

What about you? How do you pull yourself out of a joyless funk?

It’s Time to Let Go

As a parent, I’ve learned that life is a series of stages that we move in and out of. When my kids were younger, I was always a little slow catching up with them and their changing stages. I like consistency and I’m not a huge fan of change. So it’s difficult for me to let go of something, even if it’s not working anymore. I would fight for a week to get them to do what they had done before. It wasn’t until it dawned on me that maybe they’d outgrown it, that we were able to move on to something that worked better.

During this journey, letting go of what I thought I had in my marriage (even if it really wasn’t what it should have been) has been difficult. It felt too much like giving up. But I realized something the other day: No matter what happens in our future, no matter what miracle God does for us, we are never going back to our old life. That life is gone. And just like with my kids and their changing stages, if I’m unwilling to let go of the past and what doesn’t work anymore, I will never be able to grab hold of what God wants to do now.

“Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert” (Isaiah 43:18-19 ESV).

I love Isaiah 43:18-19, “Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” God isn’t asking me to let go of something without offering me something far better. I want the new life God has for me, whatever it looks like. And that is going to require that I let go of a life that is gone and doesn’t work anymore.

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!”

The miracle of “no nap”

I’ve long held a certain amount of guilt for not being able to give Journey the same one-on-one attention I was able to give before Faith was born. As blessed as we are to have Faith in our lives, I’ve always felt like something precious was lost between Journey and me. Of course, I was still “Mommy.” But the closeness we once shared had been diminished by the frayed nerves and lack of patience that came with caring for two kids. How do people with more than two do it?!

But recently, Journey has dropped nap time. This is a day I long feared was coming—I even put it off a couple of times. The only thing I could think of was all that lost “me time”! But it has turned out to be just what we needed. My “me time” has happily turned into “we time” (don’t worry, I still carve out some time just for myself). We read, play games, color, and more.

I can tell Journey loves this time with me as much as I do. He’s always rushing Faith off to her nap time—”Faithy’s gonna take a nap now!” I can also feel the closeness returning, which makes my heart so happy. There were times when I thought it was lost forever. But I’m realizing that there are seasons for everything—and for that I am very thankful. “For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven. A time to tear and a time to mend…” (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 7 NLT).

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