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How Is Your Heart?

“I’m struggling.”  I voice the words outoud that whine and entangle themselves in my soul in countless ways. 

“I don’t know.”  I shrug my shoulders heavily, my body echoing the heavy thoughts that swirl in my head.

Tears escape.  Seems I’m always crying.  Sometimes I can control them (barely).  Usually they just tumble out, and at that point I need the release of emotions, so I let them come, not caring how red my eyes get and yet deep down bothered that I’m bothered.

“Why is this so hard?”  I muse inwardly and often outloud into the dark night around me. Why indeed?  I know that God is Sovereign.  I know that God is good.  So why does this question bubble up so much in conversatons of my mind.  I know Truth.  So why does this curious question refuse to be silent, and why does the need for an answer torment me?  There is a reality that I won’t know the full answer here on this earth.

So I console myself with the words of Habakuk: “How long, oh Lord, will I call for help, and You will not hear?”

I repeat the words of the Psalmist: “Oh God, be not silent! Answer me quickly!”  “The Lord is an ever present help in time of troube.” “Why are you downcast oh my soul?  Put your hope in God!” (Ps. 83:1, 102:2, 46:1, 42:5)

I wonder why prayer and reading my Bible seems so hard lately.  I don’t even seem to know what to think about some things.  I feel I don’t know what to pray.  How can I pray if I don’t even understand my emotions and thoughts or wants?

And the words from Twila Paris’s song ring in my head, “Life is hard…” They repeat and repeat and repeat, stuck like a record player.

I wish I could say these days happen rarely, yet lately it seems far more frequent than I want to admit.  {Sigh.}

Life.

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Eph. 6:12

“I know how to get along with little, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need.   I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”  Phil. 4:12-13  —  True. I know this.  Yet I find myself having to confess discontentment.  Or I know that Christ is my strength, but I don’t feel strong or content. How long does it take to actually learn this?

“Life is hard —  but God is good.”  The Twila Paris song records again in my mind, this time the sentance finishing.  “God, you are good”  I say aloud.  Then I have to repeat it, because it doesn’t feel true.  In fact it feels not true.  I tell myself that feelings lie and God is good. I find my brain arguing back … well, what about _____?  That’s not good!  “God IS good,” I say louder.  The nagging doesn’t give up and resounds again, yeah, but not in this area of life.   Arrgh!  “God, You are good.”  I say it again.  The nagging whisper of doubt is silenced, but only briefly before coming back to bother me from a different angle on another day.

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son.”  I like the idea of things working for my good. But all things?  Even where I’m at right now, even what we are facing? Even certain things I’m facing.  Good?  They don’t “feel good” and actually it seems like they are not good.

And the battle continues.  Sins in my heart surface.  It is often easy to focus on the external sins, but to God the sins in my heart are also things he wants to change, to purify, and to redeem.   They are what He went to the cross for — to save me, but also to sanctify me.  Scantification — the process of becoming more like Jesus.  And Jesus knows the sins in me that keep me in bondage.  He knows the lies I’m listening to, and He wants to free me.

I know this in my head.  My heart is struggling.  And I blame.  I blame the circumstances around me (God knows the world, politics, and things in my home — and He wants to scanctify me in these circumstances).  I blame people around me.  I criticize.  And then I grumble.

Sometimes I’m just like the Israelites, grumbling when God rescued them from bondage and led them to the promised land… taking them the long way because they were not ready for what lay ahead.  They didn’t know this reason, but they grumbled none the less. They wanted to go back to the familiar bondage and troubles of Egypt rather than trust God. God let them wander extra long on the way to the promised land, partly because they grumbled against him.

The whispers in my soul say,”Good Christians don’t grumble against God.  Good Christians don’t sin.”  LIES!  We have an enemy of our soul who wants to separate us from God. His purpose is to kill, steal, and destroy.  And he is so subtle in his deceit.  He uses things and people, and shoots firey darts of dissapointment, discontentment, greed, feelings of deserving better, and so much more to keep us from turning to God and to keep us grumbling.  Sin on purpose — no, I’ve been rescued and redemeed!  But sometimes I choose to hold onto bitterness, I choose to disobey, I choose to wallow in self focus or self pity.  And sometimes I’m not trying to disobey at all, I’m simply, as the song says, “Prone to leave the God I love”.

And that is my heart.  How is your heart?  It has been such a challenging year.  I talk with my sister.  She has her own emotions and challenges in her own season of life.  God is good,  we tell each other.  He is gracious.

I listen to a podcast and hear, “No good thing does God withhold from them whose walk is blameless.” (Ps. 84:11)  So why does it seem God is withholding good in certain areas of my life?  Guilt rears an ugly head as I think: I am not blamesless (I know my sins and thoughts).  I find myself striving– and performance based theology is not of God. (Lies of Satan again!)

I listen further to the podcast.  “It is good that I am afflicted, that I might learn your statues.”  (Ps. 119:71) God, it’s good?  Affliction is good?  I don’t understand!  I keep listening because even though the speaker was talking about a challenge I’d never faced, I identified with the emotions.  My own challenges felt the same though vastly different.

“God’s ways are perfect.” (Ps.18:30)  I know this.  Again, my heart is lagging behind.  Oh God, you are my Helper! I need You!

So, where is your heart?  This is the cycle of my heart these last months.  It’s been hard.  I’m sure you can relate.  Sweet sister in Christ, press on with me.  I’m pressing on too, right here with you.

God is good. His ways are right.  (Say it outloud!  Say it again.  Tell yourself this.  It might not feel true.  But it is!)

 

It’s Valentine’s Day … Is Marriage All You Hoped For?

Hello!  How are you?  One of my goals in life is to be a mentor to the younger women out there. 

I want to be a godly woman and wife.  I want to become the older woman of Titus 2 that can teach the younger woman to love her husband. Not too long ago my pastor asked me: is marriage all you hoped?

Hmm. Interesting question!  Let’s talk!

No!  But sometimes, yes! How’s that!  That is truth that I think every married woman would state.  Listen up younger ladies! And older ladies — please teach me, and be role models for me and other younger women!  Keep teaching us to love our husbands and children at every age and stage!

We are so prone to the culture’s way of thinking — which comes from the deceiption of Satan, the master at subtle deceit.  We buy into lies of self focus, self-worth, happiness, feminism, greed, and so many others without even really knowing that we are doing so.  We believe in the romance of fairy tales.  We are little girls growning up with big dreams.  We want other’s opinions of us to be good based on what they see, so we think we need more, or have to have things that look nice, or post pictures that portray the perfect and good things only.  And, secrectly, we expect our husbands to be our heroes — perfect in every way from day one until day 21,900!

And oh, precious women — we listen to lies if we are not diligent to know the Truth.  Truth of God and His love and plans for us, for our marriage, and for our husbands as well as our children.  So is marriage all we hoped?  No it is not.  We get married, and it does not take too long to realize our husbands are sinners.  Sins of our own even suprprise us as they surface in ways they may not have in the past.  And while we might acknowledge our own sins a little bit, the tendency is to focus more on our discovery that this man we hold up as a hero, emerges with feet of clay.  Meaning, we see our husbands as who they really are — men made in God’s image but who wage war in this culture of lies too!  Men who have their own insecurities and sin struggles.  Men who are little boys at heart — just as we are little girls at heart. Men with big dreams and dissapointments — just like us.  Men whose masculinity is under attack by the same Attacker of our feminity. This is Satan, the Father of lies and disguise, who wants to see our marriages, our men, our children, and us destryed. We all long to be loved, noticed, accepted.  We expect our mate to do all this for us — perfectly.  And they might do some of this really well — but we don’t always notice the ways they love us well.  We tend to focus on their sins, the negatives, and our feelings.  We dwell on what we don’t have. We sin afresh with our own pride (ignore our sins and focus on theirs), covetness (comparison of our spouse or house or things others have or appear to have), and by creating idols of our husband and things rather than seeking God first.  And when we do this marraige feels less than what we hoped for.  And that marriage vow we all repeat:  “for better for worse, in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer,”   — we say these words believing on our wedding day that “for better, in health and in richness” will compromise 99.9% of our days.  All marriages have things, seasons, stressors, and inner and outer circumstances that require time, talking, growth, patience, tears, and even suffering.  All wives have sin issues to deal with, and so do all husbands. The majority of marriage is the same as the the majority of life for the single — days of mundane realities, chores, deadlines, work, stressors, challenges, feelings emotions, and busyness.

Coming to this understanding happens to all of us after we get married.  Guarenteed.  And then when life is the same as it was for us as singles — unmet expectaions, dissapointments, and daily living — we tend to dwell on things that are not true, not excellent, not admirable, and not praise worthy (opposites of what God instrutsts our minds to dwell on in Phillippians 4). We criticise and complain.  We think we need to have something else better — but where do we get the term better and less than from? We wonder what might have been if we made other choices relating to work, kids, spouses, or life in general.  And in all this, we are letting our feelings and flesh rule.  Satan loves to whisper these lies into married women’s souls.  He loves to get us to focus on feelings versus truth.  Well, here is truth: the heart is deceitful above all else (Jeremiah 17:9). Our culture thrives on being feeling oriented. But here is God’s truth: real love is patient, kind, does not evny, does not boast, keeps no records of wrongs, does not rejoice in evil but rejoices in truth, endures all things, and always perseveres. (2nd Corinthians 13).  And here is more truth: God’s type of love takes effort, takes ongoing choices, and takes forgiveness (again and again.)  It takes large doses of humility.  It takes God’s agape, selfless love in us. It takes God’s help and strength. It comes from understanding the cross of Christ, and allowing the cross of Christ to change us.   It goes against our natural, inner person.  It is hard!

So, is marriage all I hoped? No!  But also yes in many ways! I have a man who shares my belief in God.  I have a man who loves me, is incredibly tender to me, and is genuinely affectionate. I have a man who wants to provide for me.  I have a man who smiles easily and maintains peace. He talks with me about dreams as well as things like the insignificant items I want to shop for.  He even listens to me tell long, detailed, stories — half of which don’t matter to him!  I have a man who blesses me with words of love.  I have a man who turns on the porch light for me at night because he knows I like it, even though the dark doorway or house doesn’t bother him.  I have a man who puts gas in my car for me often, just so I don’t have to on a cold morning drive.  I have a man who backs the car into the driveway so I can drive out forward, because he knows it’s hard for me to back it out.  I have a man who can make me laugh over silly little comments, and if he ends up in giggles I get them too just watching him! I have a man who goes to the zoo with me, because I enjoy it.  I have a very special man for a husband.  He is a gift to me! And I have a man who, like Elisabeth Elliot states, is the only kind of man to marry — a normal, everyday man, a sinner.

And then, many woman are married to non-believers, or men who are not good to them. They find themselves married to men whos sins seem “bigger than the normal average man.”   And if we women who have good and normal husbands get trapped in feelings and lies and seasons where we don’t find marriage all we hoped … well then I expect there are some women whose marriages and situations are very difficult and they feel marriage is not anything like they dreamed.  They say marriage is never what they had hoped for.  Is there hope?  Always! Jesus changes lives — yours and your spouse’s.  May I encourage your own growth in intimacy with God; may I encourage talking with your pastor or a mature older Christian woman; may I encouarge counseling from a counselor who will point you to God and His ways and truth.  Mostly, please talk to God about your specific situation.  He will give you the advice you need for your life. I pray all women in every mariatal season will learn to dig into their Bibles and turn to God in prayer.  In Him is everthing we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3).  He will tell you what is right.  He will — He promises to.  His love is what marriage is supposed to model.  But again, we have an enemy named Satan who is like a roaring lion, looking for someone and some marriage to devour.  I believe God designed marriage to portray a picture of Himself and his love for His people, it is a gospel picture.  Not all marriages do this well — even in Christian marriages, and Satan loves to pollute anything that points to the gospel.

I believe divorce is not God’s plan or original intent. But as we all know, this whole world system is broken.  There is not one area of humanity that is unscathed by the damages of sin.  So today on Valentine’s day, a day the culture tries to define love and romance, I’d like to encourage women of all ages and stages in life to study God’s Word and what He says on marriage, divorce, remarriage, covenants, love, romance, and relationships in general. He has wisdom for all of these areas.  I believe all women, married or single, need to pray and seek God’s wisdom, and ask the Holy Spirit what to do in whatever circumstance they find themselves in.  I believe that decisions are best made regarding any relationship when we learn to find His heart, determine to obey what He says, repent if need, and humble ourselves before Him.   Growing in godliness in whatever way you need to in your marriage (or in singlenss) is your calling.  And, precious women, may I also honestly say: sometimes suffering is what He has for us in order to grow us.  His plan for us is not just ease and comfort and circumstances going great and happiness based on feelings, and a “perfect” marriage or life.  His goal is our holiness and His glory, whether married or single. (And, when necessary, the church and proper authorities are in place to assist a woman who needs.)

So all that to say — is marriage all I hoped? Well, it has some really great parts and is a wonderful gift that God will use to shape and refine us.  But at the same time it does have some really hard parts and things that can hurt us.  However, it is part of God’s plan — family is His idea and institution!  This Valentine’s Day, may those of us who are married be reminded afresh of God’s love, and may we seek to love our husbands with God’s vision and love!  And may those of you not married, who want to be, never give up praying for a man that is from God at God’s time.  And may those of you who are widows have good memories of former times with your spouse. May those older women among us teach the younger women to love their husbands and children. May the youner women among us determine to be teachable.  And may those of you who know the pain of divorce or the rejection of a man know a powerful sense of God’s love for you, and that He is faithful in all situations. Precious women of God — God is for you, no matter your past or present circumstances or story!

Press on! Happy Valentine’s Day!

 

Learning about Love

 

November 7, 2020.  Today is my 38th birthday.  Today is my 5th wedding anniversary.

I have learned much about love in the last few years of life.  I’d like to take you on my journey, in part.

 

When I was single and dateless, love eluded me.  I thought love was evasive.

When I started dating seriously, love flowed around me.  I thought love was effortless.

When I became engaged, love overwhelmed me. I thought love was perfect.

When I got married, love surprised me.  I thought love was beautiful.

When selfishness and mundane reality intruded, love started fighting.  I’ve found love is fierce.

When anniversaries started accumulating, love started changing.  I’ve found love is adaptable.

When Satan whispered lies to my married soul, love started coaching. I’ve found love is truth.

When flesh started battling for me first, love corrected me.  I’ve found love is disciplining.

Love is patient, love is kind, love does not envy, love does not boast, love keeps no record of wrongs.

When I struggled, love rescued me. I’ve found love is gracious.

When differing opinions offended me, love calmed me. I’ve found love is gentle.

When distance separates me from him, love calls.  I’ve found love is bonding.

When I think I have figured marriage out, love laughs.  I’ve found love is marvelous.

Love always hopes.

Love always trusts.

Love always perseveres.

Love never ends.

 

(And some of you have been hurt, and love has felt hard, and marriages have ended.  Take heart, the love of God that is pure is for you, and His love is your and my ultimate story. Earthly love is to mirror God’s love — yet we live in a fallen world.  As the song says, “The love of God is greater far than tongue or man can ever tell.  It goes beyond the highest star and reaches to the lowest hell.  Oh love of God, how rich and pure, it shall forever more endure.”  May God’s love fill you in an unending, pure, truth-giving way.  No matter your story, no matter your marital status, no matter your past: You are loved with an everlasting love!)

SUBSCRIBE BUTTON!

Hello all of my patient friends!  A long time ago I tried to get a subscribe button for this blog, and couldn’t figure it out.  And I forgot about it.  Recently, I had another question about it, and tried again, and now have a subscribe button!  YAY!  (Double yay for you-tube how to videos and free sites like mail-chimp!) So… if you want an email stating that I’ve posted new content (usually about 1/month), this button is for you!  It is on the right side at the bottom.

Thanks for continuing to read my thoughts and encourage me along the way!

Happy Summer!

 

Hello friends!

I am on my 10th week of furlough.  Summer is here.  And I’m taking some time to be thankful for lots of little things! While I find myself not always with enough to do (productively at least), I’m finding myself enjoying the slow pace of living and the ability to rest.  Today I’m listening to birds sing outside.  I’m mowing the yard. And I’m watering flowers.  Ahh — summer!  I love it! (Although I admit I like the look of a freshly mowed yard — the actual work of mowing is hard!  My husband normally does this task, and I’m grateful he does!)

Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! (Ps. 34:8)  Yesterday my mom and I shared flower pictures. It’s fun to watch our plantings fill in and grow.  It’s fun to see perennials come up year after year, just because that is how God made them!  We mentioned that they make our yards look pretty, and bring joy!  Oh, see that the Lord is good!  Look around at the beauty of creation!  My husband and I have taken several walks along a lake in the last couple of weeks.  We sometimes just stop and sit and watch out the on water for awhile.  It’s refreshing!  Look at the gift of colors and variety as seen in flowers!

 

 

 

 

 

Oh taste that the Lord is good!  As a kid we had several rhubarb plants.  As a kid I didn’t appreciate rhubarb to the full extent!  Now, I miss rhubarb!  I have been craving it this season, as it seems to be a seasonal treat for the most part.  The other week my husband and I were going to make a run to Bakers Square, just to satisfy my craving of rhubarb — a piece of their pie should do!  However, due to the riots in our city they were closing extra early, and when I called to ask about picking up some pie they let me know their modified hours for the day, and we couldn’t make it there in time.  Oh well!  I did not want to buy rhubarb (why is it so expensive for something most growers give away with abandon!), and mom is too far away (I think she still has a plant!).  But then later when I was at my sister-in-law’s she had some to share!  I came home and the following day went to pick up some juicy strawberries, and the next day –pie!  Isn’t God gracious and good to give taste-buds and flavors in so many varieties!  Since my husband is not a fan of rhubarb, and since I do not want to tempt my lack of self control with a whole pie, I cut the recipe and used these cute little pie plates we got for our wedding! (Please don’t feel bad my husband won’t get any!  I already am planning another dessert that he does like! Plus, I’m the one who craves baked goods.  He doesn’t tend to!)  I heard a lady say the other day, “I don’t know why but it gives me great joy that it is cute!”  I agree!  For some reason I really like these cute pie plates!  It is just another gift from a good God — little cute things that bring enjoyment!

Oh ladies, God is so good to us!  Little blessings abound!  Color, taste, pleasures, and so many more!  May you take some time to delight in little gifts — in the normal mundane of each day where we take so much for granted.  Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.  Praise the Lord! (Ps. 150:6)  (And if you want this classic summer pie recipe – here it is from one of my favorite cooking blogs!)

 

Is Jesus Enough This 2020 Easter?

Sweet sixteen and never been kissed. Sweet sixteen my heart full of dreams.

I had a plan for my life. I thought I wanted to be a marriage and family counselor.  I headed to college with this goal and a dream.  A dream to meet a guy, get married, have kids.  I wanted five boys! My prideful heart wanted to raise young men who were fun, gentlemen, and knew how to treat a girl – I didn’t always find this in the college boys I knew! I flirted with babies and cuddled them.  A stranger in an airport once commented that I must love children as I made friends with a baby across the aisle.  I nodded – of course!

I was 25 when I had my first date.  I was shy of 31 by two months when I had my first “real boyfriend” – I’d only gone on a handful of dates with a handful of men before that.  I married “my first real boyfriend” two years later on my 33rd birthday.  This man is nine years older.  God gave me cysts on my ovaries while in college, putting me on hormones for 13 years before I ever got married, causing doctors to not know what that would mean for having children later.  God gave me an older husband, and a wedding long after I thought He would. God allowed things that would make conceiving difficult.  And He took my desire for kids of my own and gave me peace even if I had none.  Complete peace.  No longings, no yearnings, no jealousy of others.  He gave me nieces and a nephew, and great nieces and nephews on my husband’s side.  He told me to love them, pray for them, and for their parents.  He took my baby flirting too… and now I can hold and cuddle them, but the desire within me to have my own is gone. I pass them back with utter peace. How strange! How different than my teenage plan!

I had thought long ago that I knew what I wanted.  Now I find myself unsure what I want.  College and grad school to become a counselor came and went. That didn’t seem right, and a counselor I’m not.  When dating my husband, we discussed children and thought we’d be fine either way. We discussed adoption and infertility before even getting married, and made choices against, regardless of whatever came.  I struggled with feeling like I “should” consider these options, until my pastor said that if that’s not what God has put on our hearts, that’s not His plan for us.

It is now four years later.  I’m not living the dream I had so long ago.  What am I living I sometimes ask?  Why am I in social services, I never thought I’d be doing this!  What do I want? I muse over and over.  This life is good, and yet it’s not what either I or my husband thought we’d be, me this close to 40, and he to 50! We thought we’d have more, be more, do more.  Hmmm.

My husband, my friend.  Our lives now one.  We can’t make decisions alone anymore.  My goals and dreams now encompass another. Being one with him becomes the plan.  Yet we are individuals too.  What is God’s plan for us?  For him?  For me?  I question this now over and over and pray that he and I become all we were meant to be – which in God’s plan includes unity between us, and following His plans, not just my dreams.  Hmmm.  I ponder this life, my old dreams, and who I am now.

And then, COVID 19.  Things we love stripped from us: socializing, hugging, connecting, church fellowshipping.  Easter weekend is here.  No church!  No family gathering! No Easter baskets or hunts!  (Which by the way, I’ve decided children really do promote some of the “fun” of holidays.)  No shopping just for fun. No eating out.  No going for a lazy drive just because – at least while we are under stay at home orders.  No friends in our home. Travel reduced.  Work cut off.  Finances less. Life in general right now.

I ponder all this.  I ask myself: Is Jesus enough?  Really enough?  Enough to be my everything, when everything around is different than the dream, or even the norm?  Enough when there is no other?  He says He is.  I say He is Lord over me.  But here I find myself wanting things this world gives or wanting my dreams to become reality! (Which dreams aren’t bad! But all thing are to be under the authority of Christ over me, even dreams and life as I know it.)

It’s Easter tomorrow.  Jesus died and rose again for my sin and yours.  He bought my life and the right to each day as He chooses to give it. He made a way for a relationship with Him both now and through eternity.  He is enough!  But praise be to God who gives so generously! He gives a world full of beauty and color and emotion and relationships and delight!  He gives work and meaning and purpose.  He gives blessing after blessing.  He allows us to choose.  And sadly, so many of us choose other loves over Him first and foremost.

Perhaps this strange Easter season, this season of social distancing, and quarantine, and a pandemic –new words to our ears — perhaps this is all to remind us that Jesus is enough, and to show us just how much hold all these other things have over us.  Perhaps?  Oh precious sisters in God — press on to know Him.  He promises to be more than enough for all we need, and to give us all we need for life and godliness!  Press on, and Happy Easter!

Valentines Day

Happy Valentine’s Day!   I like romance and flowers and pretty things too. I do. It’s true!  (And cheesy rhymes are good today – right?!)   And yet, lately I’ve been thinking of love and of how warped the world’s view of love is.  I’ve seen afresh just how easily my own heart and feelings have been shaped by the world’s concepts, rather than God’s concepts.  Some of this is because I’m now married, and I’ve learned quickly that dating and romance are not the same as marriage and love. Lust and love are different.

 

True love is God’s love – agape love at it’s finest: selfless, pure, giving, sacrificing, a choice.  And it’s hard.  And it takes God’s love in me to be able to give it freely. It is costly.  It is constantly being shaped and refined in me.  It can not be demanded from anyone, least of all my spouse.  So it starts in my own heart, and it lets go of expectations from another.

For instance yesterday morning was Valentines Day.  I’d already discussed it earlier in the week with my husband.  We decided to go out to eat on the weekend, not Valentines Day.  He’d already said clearly that he didn’t need or want anything (even a card).  This stuff doesn’t matter to him.  I’d said I like something, something little.  Something.  This stuff matters much more to me. So yesterday morning he smiled at me and called me his Valentine and hugged me tight.  My heart swelled with feelings of being loved.  Then he said, “Is it ok then if I don’t get you flowers today, but wait until next week?”  My heart’s warm bubble burst in a second.  “Why?” I asked.  He looked at me and said slowly, “Well, to save a few bucks.”  I had an instant choice.  Love him, or demand from him.  If you know my husband, you’d know he loves me. He is generous to me, and good to me.  He also knows I like flowers, and wanted to give me some.  However, we are in a season where our income is lower than it was.  He once insisted on buying me a dress at full price, simply because I liked it.  Now he tries to limit unnecessary spending as our income has dropped, and in many ways it is him who has sacrificed the most in this area.  In an instant I decided to love him.  You see, Brad feels most loved when he feels my understanding and kindness to him.  My husband is always honest with me, and I know that Valentines day flowers are more expensive then any other day.  I know this. So I chose to respond in love.  And you know what– my heart swelled afresh with feelings of love and his heart did too! And I was fine, really fine, with just getting a sweet card from him later in the day.  I told him, “You know, if you bring me flowers, any flowers not just roses, as a surprise some day, that means more to me than 100 Valentine flowers.”  So we’ll see if some flowers are bought next week, or if they get forgotten in the manner of life.  But I’ve already determined that I love Brad regardless of if he remembers next week or not, and I’ve already determined to let it go if he forgets.

True love. God’s love.  That is what each day is for. Valentines Day is a fun day.  It’s good to remember to say we love those in our lives, and maybe give them an extra gift, or offer some exciting romance.  But it is not what makes for true love.  And when I was a single, I wanted the romance and the extra attention.  I know Valentines Day can be hard on singles, widows, those whose marriage is not good, or even those whose marriage is good and they want the extra attention but don’t get it.  Regardless, God’s love is true and was given on a cross freely.  His love can make any day, even Valentine’s Day, full of love.  But it will cost you — it will cost you the will to choose this, and that can be hard!  It helps if we are already developing the practice of being loved first by God, and giving His love away — without any demands from any other person.  Precious sisters, you are loved by God so much.  May you press on to learn to give love away everyday.

 

 

A Poem (an honest look at my heart)

 

Lord,

Teach me to pray, I plead.

He gives me a man,

Who according to plan,

Is different than me,

Submit to he.

 

He gives me a season

And tells me no reason.

Backwards I feel,

and sometimes cheated!

Life was a blast, but that is past.

I was growing and thriving,

But now I feel dying.

Lord! Who am I? Where are You?

What are You doing? I cry!

 

He asks me to trust

His plan is the best.

He changes my ways

By giving me trials.

He changes my habits

By revealing my madness.

 

Madness?

Yes, madness:

The things down inside

I try so to hide.

Things like pride,

And my selfish side.

 

Don’t get me started

On how life has parted

From child-like simplicity

To adult complexity.

Do I even like the me I see?

 

Sin in me.

God’s grace to me.

He reveals and prods,

My heart He pokes.

I don’t like it! I angrily balk!

 

Then talk! Responds He to me.

Tell Me your dreams and worries.

Tell Me your fears and joys.

Tell Me your sorrows

And whisper your secrets.

Confess your sins and ask My advice.

Ask Me about My promises,

And verbalize your praise.

 

Then read My Word,

Let Me tell you:

My plans not yours,

My will not yours,

My life for yours.

Your surrender a must

So therefore trust.

 

Teach me to pray, you say?

My Child,

This season is reason

To pull from your heart

The madness and confusion —

To set you apart

To make you who I want.

 

Trust Me, dear child,

I know what I’m doing.

A man, you his wife,

This season, your life,

Are but tools I use

To teach you to pray.

Christmas Musings

Merry Christmas!  I sometimes feel this is a phrase we say as a marker to the season, when sometimes in our hearts, merry and cheery are not actually how we feel at this season.  Sure there is beautiful snow, but unlike when I was a child and loved the snow, making snowmen, or sledding, this year as an adult who drives a lot for work I see ice and hard driving conditions.  I see cold.  Instead of delighting in the making of cookies, I see calories and all of them adding to my waist that I already feel is expanding.  Instead of a cozy fireplace and stockings hung with care, I see lack in what I have versus what I think I want.  I miss the carefree days of childhood, when Christmas lists, cookie making, shopping, wrapped presents under the tree and snow days called me with wonder.  As an adult I find myself more cynical, more hardened to the joys of the season.  In fact the other month I told my sister that I sometimes feel like a child playing an adult.  Really, I feel like I haven’t truly grown up yet.  And I’m not talking maturity or aging, I’m talking the feeling of not having arrived yet. It’s the feeling of “who am I?”

This adult longs for the delight and simplicity of childhood.  I want the innocence of not understanding the cares of life, of worries over jobs, or of not having what we thought we would by now.  I want the above picture when my life actually feels like the bottom picture.  You know what I’m getting at?  So is it a Merry Christmas?  Even this blog hasn’t been touched much in the last year.  Has God not been talking to me this year?  Well, not exactly.  I just think He’s doing a lot of inner work inside of me.  Hidden work, known to Him but to me it feels like a long and weary season of “not yet.”

In fact, today, Christmas Day 2018, I am at home, quieted by the flu that arrived suddenly the night before Christmas Eve day.  Our plans disrupted, my husband eating tv dinners while I huddle in bed, sleeping or hoping to sleep.  Today I’m better, but our plans are still down to none.  The little gifts we have for each other still sit under the tree, there is not a spread of delicious food, there is not family or friends, we didn’t go to church, and Christmas cookies lie unopened on the counter their allure all but gone.

Today I read again the Christmas story as told in Luke.  Familiar words, yet new today, another birthday of Christ to remember.  Just like our birthdays, every year a chance to remember.  I’ve had the phrase in my head: The Jesus whose birth we celebrate this season is the same Jesus who died on a cross to save us from all sins.  Yet in the first few stories of his life as told in Luke, we see him a baby born, and then a preteen who gets lost from his family.  He stays behind in the temple and his family looses him.  He responds he had to be “in my Father’s house,”  which his parents didn’t understand.  But then he returns home and submits to them, and grows in wisdom, stature, and in favor with God.  And all of this Mary, his mother, ponders in her heart.

Hmm.  In Luke 2, Jesus story is all about growing up, and we hear very little of all of it.  There is much that is untold, much that is silent.  Chapter 3 has Jesus baptized and beginning ministry.  Matthew starts much the same, the first chapter is the geneology of Jesus, the 2nd his birth, and the third chapter his baptism and start of ministry.  Mark and John skip telling anything of the birth of Jesus.

So here I am on Christmas, lounging at home, eating soda crackers, drinking 7-Up and feeling the mundaneness of a typically exciting holiday.  I guess it just goes to show that the people and traditions make the day, not the day itself!  But as I think over this past year, and the season of long waiting, and as I reread Jesus’s story, I’m beginning to wonder.  We are told little in the Bible of Jesus’s growing, life, or years before His ministry.  And much is left out from what we are told, as John notes, “There are also many other things which Jesus did, which if they were written in detail, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books that would be written.”

Am I in a season of silence? Yes.  Do I feel weary in waiting?  Yes.  What is it I’m waiting for?  I’m not sure exactly.  Who am I and what am I to do?  God knows, even if it feels I do not.  But this I know for sure, I am a child of God.  I am loved by Him.  He is at work in my life.  Perhaps this is just a season of learning to give up control, of learning to wait, and of learning more of God’s love despite this.  Jesus grew in stature and wisdom and in favor with God and man.  That’s all we know.  Perhaps that is my season as well: a time of learning, growing, and becoming.

Precious sisters, are you where I am too?  Are you wondering what God might be doing in you or through you?  May you find encouragement in the wait.  May you and I together press on in the mundane, silent, and uncertain seasons of life.  May we know God’s love, and His promises.  May we, like children, do our growing with unknown and uncaring attitudes!  As children we wanted baby teeth to fall out, drivers licenses, and priveleges that came with growing up.  But did we ever ponder how we’d grow.  No!  We just lived life each day, and looked in the mirror sometimes and saw new changes!  May we be that way as we go through a season of waiting, weariness, and feelings of “not yet.”  One day, we will be where God wants us to be, if for now we just focus on living one day at a time for Him and His glory!  Press on dear sisters!! For it really is a Merry Christmas, as Christ our Savior was born, and lives again, to one day return, and free us all from the weariness of life on earth! 

 

Record Snowfall, Blocked Drains, Cleaning Fish Tanks … and Marriage

Whew!  What a title!  But here is my question for you: What do record snowfalls, blocked drains, and cleaning out a fish tank have to do with marriage?  I’m about to tell you!

This past weekend we marveled at the large amount of snow that fell.  Today is April 16th.  April 16!  And we had a blizzard!  On Friday the weather forecasters were saying 6-12 inches.  After the second time of shoveling my husband groaned that it felt more like 18 inches.  And the snow kept coming. I’m not sure the actual snow accumulation of this past weekend, but the birds started singing again this morning and the squirrels and bunnies were out prancing through the snow while the sun cheerfully came from behind the gloomy skies of yesterday.

To make the weekend even more eventful our kitchen sink drain backed up.  This too made my husband groan.  Around Friday evening it was draining slowly.  He commented he’d have to clean the trap.  Sunday morning (no church due to weather) while he cleared snow again, I made cinnamon roll biscuits, a nice treat to welcome him back inside. But as I washed the dishes the sink filled higher and higher.  Uh oh!  I gave him the delicious breakfast treat and told him I hated to give him the news but the drain was very slow.  VERY SLOW!  He said he was beat and he’d deal with it the next day.  But by that night, the slow draining turned into complete blockage.  Gross!

Monday morning we awoke and snow had stopped, but the blowing had pushed snow into the driveway again and plows had filled in the end of the driveway.  Our double kitchen sinks were both half-full of nasty water.  And I received the unexpected and welcome news than my work was cancelling the daily routes due to the weather.  Knowing my husband’s back was sore, and he was beat from a weekend fighting weather, I suggested I help him shovel.  He said no need to get my back sore too!  He looked at the sinks and told me they’d have to be drained with a bucket and a sponge.  He went out to shovel telling me that he’d deal with that later.

I grabbed a bucket, a sponge, and a plastic cup.  I can help you, I said.  So while he was out shoveling, I was cupful by cupful emptying nasty water into a bucket, toting the bucket to another sink, and cleaning out the sink.  That was a slow process!  But as I dipped that cup into the water, I was reminded of a similar chore at a different time in my life.

Our house flooded when I was in junior high.  We packed up belongings as high as possible, we took some stuff, we moved into a small apartment for the summer.  Before the apartment was ready, we’d all gone to different houses.  Our dog had go to a shelter for a short time while we were all split up, and boy was that hard!  Our dog had never been to a kennel of any kind!  But we left behind our fish in the tank.  I’m sorry fish!  I honestly didn’t think a whit about them.  My dog on the other hand, that was a different story!  So one day when we are cleaning in our home, my dad gave my sister and I the nasty chore of cleaning out the fish tank.  You can use your imagination I’m sure.  The electricity had been off, the poor fish had therefore frozen, and the tank of water and fish had sat for at least a month before we got around to cleaning it.  Talk about gross!

My sister and I put masks over our nose (it stunk!!) and went about it (perhaps not very cheerfully).  We were about half way into it when one of us (I’ll give her credit) made up a silly little song about cleaning a nasty fish tank out. We sang that little song over and over, until the task was done!  And we smiled at the silliness of the song and the looks of us with masks on, and the disgusting job we had been given.

Today, I’m thankful for that nasty task.  The cleaning of the sink wasn’t half as gross, or tedious!  While I worked today, I listened to my husband work outside.  He consistently pushed the shovel back and forth; I consistently dipped the cup in and out.  I thought while I worked.  I remembered the disgusting fish tank.  I remembered the singing and how it helped my mood.

So this morning as I worked I thanked God for unpleasant tasks.  Unpleasant tasks that come around so rarely are great reminders of how good we actually have it!  I have indoor plumbing and sinks that I normally give little thought about.  I have a husband who does the brunt of all the outside (heavy) work.  And I thought also of the blog post I’d read recently.  I really appreciate this author’s work.  She was talking about the ideals of marriage verses the reality of marriage.  She notes that “the monsters of suffering and difficulty are the friends you must learn to love.”

Hmm…. love.  I’ve been pondering love a bit lately.  Agape love is God’s unconditional, unselfish, wanting the best for the other type of love.  It’s the opposite of the selfishness that can happen in a marriage.  When my husband and I gladly help each other with some of the unpleasant tasks, when we give up our desires for the other’s best at the moment, when we tackle life together in all the moments of difficulties — it’s in those times that we love each other best.  When my husband thanks me for helping him with cleaning out the sink, or I appreciate the hard work he put in to keep the driveway ready for me to drive out without doing any work myself, then I know that we are learning the secret to lasting love.  We are learning that romance and passion can not carry a marriage.  But suffering and working together and laying down self for the sake of the other go a long way to make me a happy wife and him a happy husband!