Hope Against All Hope

Not to sound like a broken record, but there are days where this motherhood life can get discouraging.  I know, I know, I talk about this too much. But let’s be honest, this is where I’m at. Day in. Day out.

I’ve been battling with this feeling of being “stuck” in my body. Did you experience this when pregnant? My husband has pointed out to me that I often say I feel stuck, whether it be where I’m at emotionally, in physical situation or relationships. But there is nothing like feeling stuck in your own skin.

Not being able to escape your growing belly, achy back, or moving baby for one moment sometimes overwhelms me. There is no “honey, I’m tired tonight, you carry the baby”, or “I really need an afternoon off, Grandma will you hold this growing child?”

While wrestling without a lot of discouraging thoughts (and let’s face it – hormones) I was reading in Romans 4, where Paul talks about the faith of Abraham.

It is during the challenging days of caring for or carrying babies that I can lose focus on the big picture. These are the days where the land God has promised me that I will conquer, is no where in sight. The vision is dead, the well seems dry.

I was deeply challenged by the beginning words in Romans 4:18

“Even when there was no reason for hope, Abraham kept hoping”

God promised that Abraham and his wife would have a son, even though they were 100 years old and she was labeled barren! And here is the INCREDIBLE part of Abraham’s faith: as time went on, even though he couldn’t see anything happening, his faith grew because he believed he was daily closer to seeing God’s promises fulfilled.bible-faith

Abraham never wavered in believing God’s promise. In fact, his faith grew stronger, and in this he brought glory to God. He was fully convinced that God is able to do whatever he promises. And because of Abraham’s faith, God counted him as righteous.

Romans 4:20-22

Having assurance that the Lord our God does what he says he will do, can increase my faith daily regardless of circumstance.

Even if the day seems to have been completely unproductive and I basically just “survived” to the end, I am one day closer to God’s promises.

When I should be out of hope, I can keep hoping.

Lord Jesus, may we keep hoping and clinging to your promises, no matter what we can or cannot see. Every day takes us closer to you. Strengthen our faith, and may it bring glory to you, as Abraham’s did!

 

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Running Away

At the age of twelve my home life was getting a little rocky. The group of kids I was hanging around with in our community of townhouses were starting to lose their innocence. Tennis, basketball and biking were becoming old activities.

I remember the day distinctively when an older guy approached our group with information on drugs. The other kids were intrigued and stood up from the grass to follow the guy.

Time seemed to stand still around me as I was faced with a decision. I had always told myself I’d say no to drugs. I would not waste my life.

One of the kids looked back and asked “aren’t you coming?”.

“No,” I replied, “I, umm, I need to go home.”

And then I ran.

I ran as hard and as fast as I could.

I would not turn back.

I never saw any of those kids again. That afternoon changed a lot of their paths and they didn’t hang around the same places I did anymore, and I decided not to seek them out.

Giving up my friends in that moment was tough, and lonely. I had one Christian friend, and she lived in Richmond, I lived at the University of BC.

That year before we moved to Saskatchewan was a real challenge, but I have never regretted my decision to run in that moment.

A new friend and I have been talking about the verses where Jesus speaks about losing your life to find it.

If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?

Matthew 16:24-25

When we try to hang on to the things we think are important, we end up losing the most precious gifts of eternal love, joy and peace. Courageously surrendering to God, even if he asks us to give up things we don’t want to, will only result in good things long-term.

While I have found the “big” issues like drugs, alcohol and harmful relationships easy to stay away from, I have found the “smaller” ones to be more challenging.

Like gossip.

Or jealousy.

Galatians 5:19-21 has a lengthy list of sins.

When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these.

God’s list throws all these sins out on the same playing field.

I was able to run from drugs, can I run from unhealthy conversations? I hope I am strong enough now to not have to cut off relationships, but can I be bold enough to speak counter-culture?

Can I let go of music that is bringing me down? Even if I think I’ll miss it?

No person, place or thing is worth me desperately trying to hang on to what God is asking me to let go of. It might hurt in the short-term, but we will reap a harvest of joy.

What is God asking you to run from?

Run from anything that stimulates youthful lusts. Instead, pursue righteous living, faithfulness, love, and peace. Enjoy the companionship of those who call on the Lord with pure hearts.

2 Timothy 2:22

 

One Of Those Days

We had a lovely sprinkle of freezing rain and then a dump of snow last night. Today was not the day to go anywhere, but I happened to be basically out of every single thing that we need to survive – or at least anything my son would eat!

After my wonderful husband dug the car out, scraped it and heated it up for us, I bundled my boy up and we conquered the snow to the store.

My faithful loonie that stays in my car for shopping carts had disappeared, and I had no other change. I walked to customer service to see if I could take out a loonie on my debit, or if they would be gracious and just unlock a cart for me.

The lady was quite miserable as I tried to hold my toddler prisoner with my legs as I negotiated with her. She said there was no way that I could get a loonie for a cart without buying one of their reusable bags, and there was CERTAINLY no way she could get me a cart to use.

On normal days I would just think of something. Today, I literally burst into uncontrollable tears. Like, crying so hard, I can’t think, I can’t see, and I can’t speak. I pull out my phone to call my husband to see if he can help me, as my 18 month old runs away.

Long story short, I end up getting a loonie for a cart that ends up being full of snow, has a wheel that doesn’t work and no seat belt. Caleb doesn’t want to stay in the cart, and in a split second is standing up jumping into my unsuspecting arms. My cart is full of groceries, and he starts trying to convince me in a baby-jibber-jabber to buy chips.

Cue more uncontrollable tears.

We get to the till and my groceries end up being way more than I thought they were going to be, which catches me off guard, and the tears begin to flow again…while Caleb is throwing items at the man behind us in line.

I finally get him and all the items in the cart, and in my arms and walk out into more falling snow (without a coat because my son is sitting on it since the car was full on snow). The cart begins to drift and rolls into a snow bank. In a desperate attempt to save the life of my child, and my groceries, I use everyone ounce of strength to lift the cart out of the snow and back onto the path.

By this point, I’m not functioning anymore. I thought I was out of tears, but apparently not. After begging Andrew to come home for an early lunch to help me unload the groceries and simultaneously spilling coffee all over myself, we leave the parking lot, Caleb screaming every minute of the home.

Walking into the house, I was hit with this peace that goes beyond my understanding. We have prayed in every house we’ve lived in that the Lord’s peace would fill our home in a supernaturally wonderful way.

Today I felt it. Grace, peace, love and joy, all at once in an overwhelming wave. My heart calmed down, and I read this verse:

Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

Matthew 11:29

I’m so thankful for a gentle and humble saviour today. He extends to me undeserved love and grace. He provides rest in chaos. He blesses our homes with peace.

Invite the Lord to fill your home with peace today. Our world is crazy, but may our homes be a sanctuary.

 

 

Messy Room

On the outside I will always try to appear like my house is put together. We’ll speed clean, rush clean, slow clean, whatever kind of clean needs to happen, before people come over, and every day. I can’t stand it if my kitchen or main area stay dirty for long.

For some reason, I have always struggled with a clean room. Well even a somewhat controlled room. It seems to become my last priority. In fact, I have very little drive to deal with it, until it starts to become an overwhelming issue in the my mind.

My husband has joked that he should have been allowed to see my bedroom before we got married to have an accurate balance to the nicely clean apartment. (Although he says he still would have married me…just had an extra bedroom for his stuff!)

So is this an issue?

This is unfortunately reflective of how I can be in life. I am quick to work on, fix up and clean the parts of my life that everyone sees. But it’s the hidden areas of my heart, my closets, bedroom, and even laundry room that become out of control.

Jesus had some hard words for people who were in this place.

Hypocrites! For you are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy—full of greed and self-indulgence! You blind Pharisee! First wash the inside of the cup and the dish, and then the outside will become clean, too.

Matthew 23:25b-26

It is human nature to want to keep up appearances. I am not the first person in history to struggle with this.

There is a little piece of wisdom held in these verses that applies not just to ourselves as people, but even to my issue of dealing with the hidden places in my house.

If these areas are organized, the main areas will automatically be more clean. There will be more places for everything, so that everything has a place!

Over the last two and a half years, sharing a bedroom with someone has definitely brought out some anxiety in myself when I look at the floor and realize a lot of the problem is ME!

These were the moments that I felt attacked as to who I was. I can’t cope. I’m failing. I’m a mess. I’ll never be able to keep an actually clean house. I’ll never be free. 

Then I read in Lysa TerKeurst’s book, Unglued, her struggled with closet organization. (What?! A successful wife, mom and ministry woman struggled with something?? Thank the Lord for her honesty).

A light bulb went on. A messy closet does not make me a mess. It makes me a child of God with a messy closet.

Or a child of God with a messy room. A child of God with a messy laundry room. A child of God still working on some heart stuff.

I have to say the intensity of it all went way down. I said:

“God, I need your help getting these unseen areas under control. I know it’s important to my husband, and it’s important to myself. I don’t want to live trapped by anything.”

And by his grace he gave me strength. I tackled more in a couple of hours than I had in a long time. I have more to do, but it isn’t controlling me, or crowding out my mind.

And…by his grace…I will continue to deal with the unseen issues of my heart. Piece by piece, day by day.

 

 

 

Unglued, Part 2

Do you ever find when there is an area of your life that you are trying to work on, you seem to just get slapped with it in every direction?

Since starting to read the book Unglued, I have felt like I am constantly in situations where I want to completely fall apart. The biggest test this past week was my son getting up for 2 or 3 hours in the night and not wanting to go back to sleep. The first night it happened was extremely frustrating and he just screamed, threw things out of his crib, and was inconsolable for over three hours.

That night I was overcome with feeling trapped. Sitting in the rocking chair, all I could think of was how I wanted to run out of the room and beat a wall, scream or leave the house and not come back til he was asleep. I don’t think I have ever been so tempted to run away as I was in that moment.

I mustered up all my self-control and prayed, prayed, prayed for God to help me not lose it, not fall apart, and not do something that I would regret the next day.

By God’s grace I made it through that. Then the next night came.

Same thing, only now every time I had him just about asleep again, he’d suddenly stand up, barking like a dog or making monkey sounds! The first time was sort of cute, but by hour number two, I was exhausted.

The temptation to run had weakened a bit, but again I begged the Lord to help me not fall apart at the seams.

Third night came, same thing. I thought he was asleep, I went to leave and heard “mama? mama? Woof-woof-woof!”.

This time, I couldn’t contain my laughter! He started laughing then we had a little talk about going to bed and letting mama sleep. Miraculously, he let me leave the room without throwing a temper tantrum, and he put himself to sleep.

It was a small victory for me. My anger was slowly turning to joy.

Each night I have prayed and asked the Lord to please make Caleb sleep again. And so far he hasn’t. Then at LifeGroup we were reading in 2 Corinthians 12. Paul was talking about his mysterious “thorn in the flesh”, something that tormented him.

Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 

2 Corinthians 12:8-9

In time, Caleb will sleep through the night again, so I know I haven’t been handed a life long sentence. However, for this little while God has chosen to not answer my request. I think I see a glimpse of why now.

He is teaching me about his grace, his strength, and his power.

He is helping me overcome some of my greatest temptations towards uncontrollable emotions.

His power is at work in my weakness.

 

 

 

Anger Hangover

Ladies, don’t go to bed angry. For some reason it just inflicts more pain on ourselves. Do you know what I’m talking about? That anger hangover?

I’ve never drank before (well…except for that one time at a Lutheran church, that was surprisingly gross communion juice!) but if I go to bed angry I wake up with a hangover. I will be uncomfortable all night. The sheets will wrap around me in a suffocating way. My pajamas will be too tight, too loose, too scratchy. I’ll wake up randomly with annoying dreams, and hear my husband sleeping oblivious to my frustration and not be able to fall asleep again.

The next day will consist of swollen eyes, an achy body and a headache that no cup of coffee can cure. All you’ll want to do is cry your self into hours of sleep. It’s the worst. And your husband? No symptoms. Just a half-hearted joke to test whether your still mad. And you don’t want to still be mad and wreck another day…but you just feel so awful.

I guess that’s why we’re reminded in Ephesians 4:26-27 to not let our anger control us, and to not let the day finish out while you’re still angry.

And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil.

Trying to claim back a day that starts off with this anger hangover can be painful and exhausting. The enemy seems to have the head start on you unless you take back the joy that he has stolen.

The best remedy for this self-inflicted illness is to return to the Lord.

Return, O Israel, to the Lord your God, for your sins have brought you down. Bring your confessions, and return to the Lord. Say to him, “Forgive all our sins and graciously receive us, so that we may offer you our praises.”

Hosea 14:1-2

This attitude towards the Lord will eventually soften your heart, and you can have the same attitude towards your spouse. We don’t want to live separated by our sin, nor do we want to live in the despondency that it can bring. Forgiveness from the Lord, and our spouse can renew unity and joy.

Hopefully I learn my lesson and make the effort to not succumb to an anger filled night. But if I do fail to work it out, I’ll skip the Tylenol, and try to return quickly to the Lord, and to my husband.

 

At the Heart of a Challenge

It usually takes a fair amount of “hindsight” to see blessings in the midst of challenges. I was talking to an older mom recently whose kids are mostly grown up and moved away. She shared how different life and her involvement in ministry was back when her kids were little. Her husband was a pastor and so much of her wanted to be on the front lines of what he was doing. There were times she felt left out and exhausted, wondering if God was finished with her, or if one day she’d walk out some of her dreams again.

Over the years she learned to live with a contentment of her duties, realizing how quickly her children were growing. Her greatest delight now is getting to talk to her kids on the phone and hear about all that God is doing in their lives. She also gets to serve alongside her husband. She’s a great encouragement to young moms, and to me!

Over the years God spoke many things to her that she is now able to impart into others. I was reading in 2 Corinthians 1 today and was encouraged by Paul’s words.

God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.

2 Corinthians 1:3b-4

In the same way that hindsight can show us lessons we learned in the trials, foresight needs to be applied to fully learn all that we can from a trying situation.

When we know that God is speaking encouragement and hope to us, we need to take note of it so that we can provide that same comfort to someone who will be struggling with a similar problem one day.

Some of the greatest heartaches in my life have brought me the greatest joy as I’ve seen someone comforted, encouraged and freed from something similar. It seems to make all of the pain worth it when someone else can benefit. 

An example close to my heart is the terrifying car accident I was once in. It was a miraculous escape, and I have thanked God for my life many times since then. After that event, I have met many people who have had near death experiences, some of whom were locked in fear, instead of released into the joy of a second chance at life. Having the opportunity to share the positives with these people, and pray for them, makes my own car accident worth it every time.

I don’t always understand why we face the troubles that we do, but I cling to the words found further in 2 Corinthians that bring hope to what we’re dealing with.

We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it. In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead. And he did rescue us from mortal danger, and he will rescue us again. We have placed our confidence in him, and he will continue to rescue us.

2 Corinthians 1:8b-10

Lord, may our daily challenges and deepest heartaches cause us to rely on you fully. May we one day see others released from their chains because of the comfort that you extended to us. You are a gracious father, who comes to our rescue again and again.