A Season of Change and Rest

“Did she agree with his actions?  Campbell wasn’t sure.  The old law made her feel safe.  Protected…Yet her mother’s heart wanted her son happy…Given any other circumstances, she’d praise Nathaniel’s choice. So perhaps she should let go of fear and distrust.”   Rachel Hauck,  Once Upon a Prince p.320 Kindle edition

It’s that time of year.  Graduations and weddings fill up our weekends.   Year end banquets and assemblies fill our evenings.  An election is right around the corner here in our province.  The ending of one thing to start something new.  You can’t have a beginning without an end.  I think I read that somewhere.  What it amounts to is change.  

Do you have a love/hate relationship with change?  I do.  I like the thought of something new or different but at the same time, I get very comfortable in the old ruts, even if they aren’t always healthy or in any way good.

Change, however, can become our best friend, but we often treat it like our worst enemy.

Change can breed fear and distrust.  We fear the outcome of said change.  We fear God does not have our best at heart.  We fear disappointment and loss.  We distrust people.  Sometimes it is wise to do so if they have been abusive but many people are good yet we keep them at arms length.  We distrust the process of change.  I mean if it’s not broken, why fix it?

But it doesn’t have to be that way.  We may think the old ways protect us, like in the quote above, but do they really?  Maybe they need an overhaul too.  Just like us.  Just like me.

Part of me fears change because it means I have to examine the blackness of my heart.  Why resist so ardently?  Why fight so ferociously?  Honestly it’s easier to fight or hide than it is to face the hard truths about ourselves sometimes.  But change is a way God brings these things to our attention, doesn’t He?   

How?  Sometimes when change occurs, there is a stopping.  A rest.  It may be long or short but there is a break in the chaos, the milieu around us. There is a silence. Do we use it to root out the blackness or do we hide?  It’s up to us.

 

Is it going to be a pleasant experience?  I think not.  But it’s got to be better than the fear, the distrust, the anger that courses through our veins as we resist it, right?

It’s a time for healing not fighting.  To let God come near and do what needs to be done as we rest, and have time to reflect.

It’s a time to accept hard truths.  About ourselves. About others.  About circumstances.

It’s also a time to look at the lies and take them apart.  What have we believed that was not true?  About God?  About our circumstances?  About people? About ourselves?

It’s a time to gain strength as we stop and rest.  Because it’s not the end.  It’s the beginning of something new.  It’s a time to grow so we can enter into this new phase prepared for what God has planned not just for us, but for His glory. We forget, I forget, it’s not just about us.  God cares about each detail of our lives but there’s a bigger picture we conveniently forget about.  In the stopping, maybe we can get a new perspective too.

We have a choice as we enter a time of change or just the slower pace of summer.  We can stay in the fear and distrust.  We can remain stunted.  Or we can embrace the change, the stopping, and let go of it.  So we can continue to grow into the person God prepared us to be.  To be ready for the beginning of something new. 

Things We’ve Done Well As Moms

Once again it’s that awful Sunday in May knocking on our doors.  The knocking, at first, is soft but as the week goes on, it progressively gets louder, more insistent.  I don’t want to answer because when I do, the lies, the disappointment with myself, and the feelings of failure come pouring in.  Every single thing I regret as a mom, becomes starkly etched in my mind.  A highlight reel I don’t want to remember.

I look around and see the moms out there today and they seem so laid back, carefree.  As are their kids. Or so it seems.

I am not laid back and neither are my kids.  It’s one of those questions like the chicken before the egg.  Was it me or them?  And why do I feel like this is a bad thing?  It will drive me crazy before I will ever figure it out.  So let it go already, right?  But it’s these thoughts and doubts that drive us, as moms, to the edge isn’t it?   

I’m not sure if I’m the only one this happens to around this time of year, but I think I’m done with it.  I was reminded of something I read once by a woman who wrote some life-saving words about motherhood.  Julie Barnhill, in her book, Motherhood: The Guilt that Keeps On Giving, suggests remembering what we’ve done right as moms rather than focusing on the things we regret. She lists them.  

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I thought we could do the same.  Maybe for the next six days we can focus on what we’ve done well in the past and what we enjoy and are doing well today.  Replace the replays of mistakes with memories of good mom moments. Think of one for each day of the week, leading up to Sunday.

What did you do well as a mom?

Here’s a list of some things that maybe will help get you going:

One thing I did was I sat down on the floor and taught my kids to play.  I played with them even though I was dead tired and didn’t really feel like it.

Maybe for you it was baking and cooking with your kids…

Perhaps it was reading to them every night…

Maybe you let them play in the mud because why not?

Maybe you stayed when you wanted to leave…

Or you put down your phone and listened to them talk…

Maybe you braided their hair every day…

Or maybe you showed up, which at the time, was a herculean effort for you…

Maybe you worked so you could feed and clothe them…

Maybe you took care of yourself first so you could take better care of them later…

Perhaps you said “No” because that was in their best interest…

Maybe you put in boundaries and routines so you all could survive…

Maybe you hugged them when you really wanted to tell them off…

Perhaps you believed in them when they didn’t believe in themselves…

Mom, there are so many things you’ve done right along with the things you didn’t. We’ve all messed up, even those seemingly perfect moms.  And that’s the lie.  None of us are perfect and we never will be.  And you know what, that’s okay because our Heavenly Father has got this.  He’s got your kiddos and He’s got you.  And some day His perfect plan will all come together.  Hang in there and tell the lies to get lost.  You’ve done some good work and will do some more because it’s never too late.  

It’s never too late to change, to grow, to love.  One of our pastor’s at a former church used to always quote this verse from 1 Peter 4:8:

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.

That verse has given me such comfort over the years.  I’ve tried to correct where I’ve erred but that doesn’t always feel like enough, does it?  But we love our kids, don’t we?  Knowing that’s what counts the most gives me hope in my unperfected mess.  So go on and think of the things you’ve done well as a mom!  Then go love on them today and every day.  You got this.

 

When It’s the Wrong Season!

It’s April 17th and it looks like blizzard out my window. Yesterday was the first snow day of the year for the kids…in April. We spent the weekend huddled inside while snow, rain and freezing rain pelted our house for two full days. Friday and Monday were just starter and finisher days. Four days of foul weather and now today, snowing like it’s January.

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April 17, 2018!!!

I’m not sure about you, but that’s how life feels lately. Like a never-ending winter season. Now I love winter, maybe not as much as I used to I’ll admit, but I still enjoy the winter season. January is my birth month so I’m a snow baby. But sometimes when you are expecting spring and winter shows up again, even the most avid lovers can feel a little discouraged. I’m not only talking about weather here.

How many times have we dreamed about something, only to get something else completely different?

How many times have we assumed this or that, only to find out that our assumptions were wrong?

How many times have we gotten the wrong season, when we expected, no desired, a totally different one?

My first instinct is to resist and complain about the unfairness of it all. I don’t want to make lemonade out of the lemons life hands me. Really I don’t.At.All.

I think I deserve a good pity party and indulge myself in it.

This really accomplishes nothing beneficial. For me or those around me.  All it really does is make me more narcissistic, bitter, and angry to name just a few. I hide more.

Maybe I need to find a different response. I’m not saying be a Polyanna. I think there is something to being authentic about the troubles we face in our lives. We don’t need to be fake or lie to ourselves and those around us. Perhaps instead, we can acknowledge those troubles but not let them define us. Not let them master us or our days. I’ve let that happen too much. You?

I’m learning that if I let my focus stay on Jesus, that this is a good defence against that type of reaction. I used to think Jesus deserted me in the struggles and hardness of life. I didn’t want to admit it but deep down that is what I believed. He’s been telling me otherwise over the last year. That actually in the suffering, he steps closer to us. He may allow the difficulties, the sorrow but he doesn’t abandon us. He walks us down those lonely, rough roads. But if we let the hardness of the situation blind us by keeping us so inward-focused, we lose sight of him and we think we are alone.

But we are not alone. Ever.  Sometimes we just need to lift our heads, open our eyes and take a look around. He’s there beside us, holding us if need be. He breathes hope into us and instead of hiding, we can take a step towards living.  This is beneficial for us and for those around us.

It sounds easy but it’s not. I know. But maybe, just perhaps, today, we can take one step and just look up, away from the snow, the circumstances, the mess we may be in and look for Him.  He’s there waiting for us to see Him.  To breath life back into us, to give us hope.

If your road is a good one right now, still look up and see His goodness. Wherever you are today, look up and out. Sometimes a different perspective makes all the difference.

When Easter Becomes an Afterthought

Has Easter crept up on you this year? Maybe it’s the fact that after several years of having Easter in April, it’s surprising us in March this year. It could be that, at least here in Canada, it’s still feeling pretty wintery for spring. The Easter bunny is still hibernating here.

Whatever the reason, Easter is almost upon us and I’m just now beginning to think about it. If I’m not careful, I’ll get wrapped up in the events of the week and Good Friday will be here and my heart won’t be ready. The holiday weekend will pass by and Easter will be only an afterthought. A blip on the calendar. This is not how I want it to go but quite often, it is.

I’ll try to squeeze some Easter things into an already crowded calendar. More of a check list that “I Did Easter 2018.” Maybe along with some photos to post. It still leaves me feeling empty.

Every year I’m left feeling this way and it’s occurred to me more than once that I don’t think that’s how it should be.

Are we just too busy? I think that’s part of it. Do we take the time to contemplate the week leading up to the cross? No I don’t. I’m left trying to get through the week, only to find myself sitting in church on Good Friday, trying to get my mind to stop.

I could say I am too busy but is that the truth?  I heard author and pastor, Carey Nieuwhof say something to the effect, that we say we are too busy but what we are really saying is we didn’t make the time.   I didn’t make the time to step back 2000 years ago and walk that journey of the disciples, the many Marys, including Jesus’ mother and witness the horrific crucifixion.

I didn’t make the time for Jesus, prioritizing so many other things ahead of Him. The consequences of that choice is I’m left with Easter as an afterthought.

Obviously I need to change my priorities. How about you?

 

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I need to make time for Jesus first, not cleaning the house, writing or baking. I need to be more a Mary this week than a Martha. I need to chose the good thing, the better thing. I need to sit at His feet. Travel back 2000 years and read the scriptures with new eyes. Instead of whispering to myself that I know all that already. Maybe starting today, I need to pray and ask the Holy Spirit to do a new work in my heart. To show me new truths and insights into the Easter story. To remember it’s not just a story but a grace fulfilled, a love that stood in for all of us. A priceless gift that none of us ever deserved it but we are loved. That.Much.

What about you?

Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me. Rev 3:20 NIV

Maybe this Easter, He’s standing at the door knocking. He already has our hearts, but now He’s asking for our time. Our attention. For every part of our being.

It’s not too late for Easter to be anything but an afterthought.

A little tale about when things get hard…

Many of you have read the book, If You Give A Mouse A Cookie… to your kids or grandchildren or nieces and nephews.  It’s one of my personal favourites.

The title keeps rolling around in my head as I think about the last few weeks. In the spirit of that style, I came up with my own loose version; If You Start to Pray Then You Will Get Hammered. (You can insert any spiritual discipline in place of prayer.)

If you start to pray, you will get hammered.

Because if you start to pray (read your bible, memorize scripture) the enemy is not going to like it. In fact he’s going to zero in on your efforts.

You’ll start out excited and enthusiastic and then you’ll realize the enormity of the task you’ve taken on. He’ll make sure you see only that side of it and make sure you are so overwhelmed that you forget that I AM is on your side.

You’ll pray hard and then someone will get sick. Or two or three. The whole family is down for the count.

You’ll start again the next day, only to get distracted with all the chores that are now on your plate because everyone else is sick.

After much pep talking and earnestly praying again, things, not people, in your house will break down. Multiple times.

You’ll forget about your quiet time because now you are in crisis mode. I don’t have time to think about stopping to pray, you tell yourself.

But as the days turn to weeks, you whisper prayers as you run, then stop because what’s the point? Everything’s tanked since you started to pray! This isn’t how it’s supposed to be, the enemy will whisper in your ear. You’re doing it wrong. Your prayers are worthless. Give up.

You’ll listen for a while to that slippery snake. And then you’ll realize that even though it feels like the house is crashing down around you and all the balls you’ve been juggling have been dropped and smacked you on the head, in fact you are still standing. And so is your house.

Truth pushes it’s way to the front of your chaotic thoughts. You must be doing something right because it got hard. The enemy didn’t like it so he went after you. Stay the course. You are not alone, I AM with you, says the voice of Truth.

As you look around, you realize that this is indeed true. You see His handprints throughout the chaos, the brokenness and the crazy. They can’t be wiped away. Instead a glimmer of hope cracks through the darkness.

If you start to pray, then you will get hammered. But I AM is with you and He has placed you in the winner’s circle.    The end (but not really as it’s just the beginning!)

Prayer To Change

Prayer Warrior. Do you know one? I know several. Unfortunately those words don’t describe me. I’d like to change that.

Prayer is a discipline that has never been a strength of mine. It should be as important as talking to our family or friends. It’s not. At least for me.

I get bored easily and sometimes the thought of praying turns me off. It’s something I have, in the past, dreaded rather than looked forward to.

I think my problem is two-fold. First; I haven’t been very disciplined about it. Second; I’ve looked at it as too much of a discipline.

Yeah you read that right. I think my problem with prayer lies in who I think I’m praying to. My thinking has been all wrong. It’s been about me rather than Him. It’s been about performance rather than relationship. It’s been about one more To Do or get punished, rather than about grace and love.

Sometimes I treat God as my personal Genie in a Bottle.

That’s not I AM. Almighty God. Heavenly Father. I find I don’t know God, like I should after all this time. Instead I find I easily believe in the lies that the enemy whispers in my ear. I’m not okay with that anymore.

As I mentioned in my previous blog, we’ve been reading Craig Groeschel’s book, Daily Power. I mentioned about picking just one discipline to work on this year to get you where you want to be by December.

You’ve guessed by now, I chose prayer. I believe prayer leads the way to change because it takes you into the presence of God. Real prayer is letting go of the Genie factor, and surrendering to Him. In letting go of my lies and preconceived notions, I can begin to get to know God in a personal way. Communication is the best way to get to know someone, right? That’s where I want to be in December. I knew I needed some help in getting started.

A series of events, led to me the book, The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson. It has changed my thinking about prayer and how I pray. It has also challenged my lack of faith and frankly, my whining.

I recently read these words in The Circle Maker:

”…the will of God doesn’t get easier. The will of God gets harder. Here’s why: the harder it gets, the harder you have to pray.
God will keep putting you in situations that stretch your faith, and as your faith stretches, so do your dreams…And it won’t get easier; it’ll get harder. It won’t get less complicated; it’ll get more complicated. But complications are evidence of God’s blessing. And if it’s from God, then it’s a holy complication.” (p.111, The Circle Maker)

Ironically, this was encouraging to me. Why? We don’t need more complications, right? Shouldn’t God be making our lives more easy?

If that’s the case, I’m doing something drastically wrong. How about you? The more I obey God, the more complicated life gets. So Batterson’s words make a lot of sense and comfort me. I’m not going crazy. We think when things go awry or get complicated, we’ve done something wrong, right? But if we are following God’s will, the complications are holy and viewing them in that perspective changes everything. Maybe we are doing something right.

Up to now, this is where I usually give up. But Batterson says this is where you have to dig in.

“This is where many of us get stuck spiritually. We’re willing to pray right up to the point of discomfort, but no further. We’re willing to pray right up t the point of inconvenience, but no further. Praying hard is uncomfortable and inconvenient, but that is when you know you’re getting close to a miracle!” (p. 112, The Circle Maker)

One of the things that always put me off prayer was it was inconvenient. I didn’t want to get up earlier to pray. I didn’t want to stop and take time out of my day to pray. My agenda was too busy. My pride said I was more important. I didn’t really trust that prayer was going to do anything because I didn’t trust God.

I was having trouble praying because I was still working under the idea I had to earn everything, including answers to prayer. I knew I was a mess so why would He answer? I didn’t trust Him because I really didn’t know Him. Not like a daughter. Not like a friend. Or heir.

This is where I want to be, come December. Daughter, friend, heir. Making time to speak to God is key to getting there. It’s baby steps but already shifts are happening. That’s the power of prayer and I hope to not only discover that power but know deeply the one who wields it.

 

How to Get to December’s Destination

I didn’t set out this year to have a resolution or Word for the year. Like I said in an earlier post, I would rather a map. Surprisingly that desired map has morphed from the devotional book, Daily Power by Craig Groeschel.

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In the devotional for January 2, Groeschel writes, “One small decision today could have a big impact on tomorrow.” He encourages the reader to pick one discipline to work on this year. Something that will deepen our relationship with Christ, which ultimately puts us exactly where God desires.

Disciplines. Ugh. Can’t say I have a stellar record in that department lately. But Groeschel makes it sound simple which is good. Simple is about all I can manage right now. He says to pick one. I could pick several that need work but as Groeschel is firm on this, I pick only one.

January 2nd’s devotional was also a reminder that our decisions today, both good and bad, affect our tomorrows.

It’s a subject he touches on throughout the month of January. He writes on January 27th, “I’m a firm believer that the actions you take today sow the seeds of your future. Your daily habits will create a cumulative impact on what you do tomorrow, next week, and next year.”

As I read that, I realize how lazy I’ve gotten. I’ve let go of some good daily habits, some I had cultivated for years. At the present, I’m like a leaf in the wind, going wherever the wind blows. I don’t think it matters what I do, so why bother? Groeschel says just the opposite. He’s saying change is possible, one small habit or decision at a time. If I want to change then I need to look to my destination instead of my past. I may have to start making good decision to get me there. A map of sorts.

This came up the other day in conversation. Someone told me that a task they had to do “didn’t matter.” It wasn’t important in their minds. I thought about that and put it up against what I had been reading in Groeschel’s book.

I disagreed. Everything we do, it matters. Even the little inconsequential things. It may not be the task itself, but the attitude behind it. That smile at a stranger may be the only positive interaction they have that day. The course we thought was a waste of time, opened up a door to something else we loved. We just never know and so to some extent, yes, it matters. The key is looking at the bigger picture. Does our decision, our attitude get us closer to our purpose, our goal to be transformed?

What do we have to do to get to the place where God will work in our lives? Where do I want to be, come December?

It’s not a striving, or chasing either. A list of “To Do’s” that’s going to put me on the good girl list. This is having a living, breathing relationship with God.

Where I want to be in December is not where I am standing right now. So I will work on that one discipline, starting with those small daily habits that may seem mundane but pack a lot of punch when added up. I will use this not-what-I-was-expecting map to help me get to December’s destination.

How ‘bout you? Where do you want to be come December and how will you get there?