Planted to Prosper

Sunday We started a new Women’s Sunday School class this weekend where we will be studying some of the Psalms. First up: Psalm 1, with the study question for discussion: “Do you feel a gap (or chasm!) between “real life” (work, school, family) and your prayer life? Explain. Ask God to help you begin to make prayer a part of your life.”

Wow! Where do I start my list… Just last year I was a part of a wonderful Bible Study with some of these very same women. I worked hard at committing to having a stronger more fervent prayer life. For a good period of time, I did. But, then summer arrived with all its activities and busyness and I fell short. Really short. I was too busy…

Correction, I allowed myself to say I was too busy.

I’m ashamed to say, that beyond reading my daily devotional, I just didn’t make, or allow the time to spend even a quiet moment with the One who gives me breath.

So I am excited for this SS class, and the opportunity to study once again with these women. I really enjoyed this opening paragraph from our new book:

“Psalm 1 is the biblical preparation for a life of prayer. Step by step it detaches us from activities and words that distract us from God so that we can be attentive before him. Most of us can’t step immediately from the noisy, high-stimulus world into the quiet concentration of prayer. We need a way of transition. Psalm 1 provides a kind of entryway into the place of prayer.” (Introducing the Psalms)

I don’t know about you, but life continues to be crazy; it is obviously just the nature of the beast. Because, even with only one child to be directly responsible to, it seems that I have less time with that one child, than I did when I had all four kiddos still under one roof. As a mom, especially as a Christian mom, I want to make sure that I am modeling for my children what I expect of them as people (who I want them to be) as they step out into this crazy and unpredictable world.

Verse 3 really spoke to a lot of us, myself included:Psalm_1_3m

How firmly am I planted? Which in turn leads to additional questions like: How well am I feeding myself so that I can grow and yield good fruits? Am I strong enough to prosper in the depths of a storm or adversity?

Many of you who know me, or have followed this and my previous blog, know that life has not been an easy path for me. I have been tossed around in the wind, to say the least. Yet, because I learned to trust in the living God, I have been able to survive it all. Even with the few visible scars, I continue to move forward. I have learned how to prosper. Then, over the course of the last four years, our family had some moments where the trials were a little bigger that any of us could have ever planned.

June 2012, just one month before her wedding, my eldest daughter was fighting for her life and we were uncertain if she would even walk down the isle. Through much prayer and God’s gracious and healing hand… she did.

May 2015, just days after completing her first year of college, my middle daughter was in a near fatal car accident and survived. Once again, prayer and God’s grace brought us through this terrible storm.

Through each event, I watched our family grow in our trust in the Lord, creating an even more firmly planted foundation. I watched as both my daughters turned to God, in prayer; doing so with me, as well as individually; trusting Him, as they walked through each of these unthinkable storms. These incidents were overwhelming examples (to me) of not only the mighty power of prayer, but that God indeed hears our cries, and that He cares for us in each and every moment of our lives.

Which takes me back to verse 3.grow-bible_-tree_

When we stay firmly planted in the truth of His Word, when we spend purposeful quiet time with Him, we will then have all that is necessary to grow and prosper. He wants us to do just that. He wants us to do so much more. As we learn to trust that He is always with us, and when we spend those even brief, daily moments with Him; it strengthens us unlike anything we can imagine. We may be thrown into the biggest storm, with monumental winds tossing us to and fro… Yet, because we have a firm foundation in the living God, we are able to weather the storm.

Two of my three older kiddos were home for a short visit this weekend and I am still so amazed at the remarkable adults they (as well as their older sister) are becoming. They continue to care about others and make deliberate and sound decisions in most everything they do. All my children learned growing up in our single parent home, that it takes hard work to get where you are going. They also learned that it takes trusting in and loving a God who, “through all things is possible”. They never had it easy, they earned most everything they received. They watched and saw my trust in God; and over time, each one of my children has developed their own trust, their own relationship with the God who gives us breath.

That is my fruit… watching each of my children as they firmly grow in the Lord.

What a joy it has been watching my two older daughters find such wonderful, loving, and Godly men to share their lives with. I also hope and pray… that my son too will find a women who loves the Lord like he does. And a few years down the road, I wish the same for my youngest daughter.

My fruit is also found in my writing and being able to share it with others. When we spoke Sunday morning, we talked about what we enjoyed most about watching movies, or reading a book or poem. Why do we enjoy these sorts of activities? Because the majority of us want to step outside our own world and experience something different. We want to feel happiness when we are sad, to momentarily forget that we are angry or upset. We also want to, perhaps, learn from someone who has experienced something we can not imagine. Or to see that we are not alone, to see that someone else has experienced something similar and they too came through that same storm.

Which is why I write–I write to share my experiences, even the hard ones; the ones that may have left less visible scars. Because not only is it therapeutic to me… but maybe, just maybe it will help someone survive their own storm. Perhaps when I write, I can share the hope He gives me, even in my everyday life. I know that God guides my words and I pray that he will continue to do so as I reach out to share with family and friends, one moment at a time. I pray that I will continue doing so, while firmly planted in His truth and love.

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Until the next moment,

 

Fighting the Darkness with His Light

I have been silent again these past few weeks, not intentionally; it has once again been more often than not, nearly impossible to beat the dark pull that keeps me nearly motionless on those days that I don’t have to walk out the door for work. It’s hard to explain, this odd battle I still have with depression. How the darkness can surround me and act like an anchor, leaving me immovable. It has been like this for as long as I can remember. As long as I am busy with work or activities, I can move and function. But when I have nothing to do, or let me rephrase… nothing outside of my home to do; I just don’t. I don’t do a single thing. I make these grand plans, create projects; but it is rare that I am able to follow through.

When it gets really bad, when the darkness is most suffocating, I also loose my ability to spend those quiet moments with the Lord. On the days that I do… the days that I do spend time in His Word, spend time in conversation with Him; on those days the darkness looses its hold and my day is a whole lot more eventful. It’s a battle, a daily battle that I am afraid I don’t fight to win nearly as much as I should. I allow the darkness win and just fall deeper into the pit.

My years in recovery reminds me: One Day at a Time

So, this morning I opened my devotion notebook. I was deeply saddened that it had been two weeks since I had written in it, since I had opened my Jesus Calling devotion and studied the passages at the end of the page. Two weeks since I had spent more than 2-3 minutes in prayer that didn’t take place before my feet even hit the floor.

Last night I attended a Ladies Supper at our church with my daughter. We were blessed to hear from a young woman who grew up in our church and is now a missionary working in Africa. She has been home for a few months of furlough and was sharing with the woman of our church her life in the mission field. She will soon be returning to the mission field, to her little village; once again living among people who live in real darkness because they do not understand the Light of Jesus.

Choose to live in the Light

It made me think, made me remember the joy I find when I sit at my kitchen table and allow myself to get lost in the Word, allowing His love and light to fill my spirit and give me the strength to get through another day. Encouraging me, empowering me… making me a better me. Giving me the strength to be the best example I can be to me to my daughter, to all my children. To be a good mom, teaching her the simple things that are important in our lives. To do what needs to be done, and to do so with a loving and joyful spirit. Most importantly, getting my lazy self up off the couch and doing what needs to be done, even when I don’t want to do it.

But the silence is so loud…

I have to admit that this summer has been harder than any before. It has been much more quiet that previous summers…too quiet. My oldest and her husband are busy with work and school. For the first summer ever, my middle children stayed in their perspective college towns; my son taking some summer classes and working a bit. My daughter is working full time at a job she really loves. I miss them and the busyness that comes from having them home. The laughter and conversations. The late night movie marathons or binging on our fave TV show via Netflix. I am trying to adjust, to really get used to my nearly empty nest, but there are days when that is so much more difficult to do. Sometimes, I  wish they were all little again. Those days when I would be running around in circles trying to get it all done. Running from one event or activity to another. Piles (and piles) of laundry, tripping over toys, books, clothes… I miss those crazy moments of our lives. Yet, in the same instance I am so insanely proud of the adults they have become. The direction they are heading in their lives… the love and respect they have and show to others on a daily basis.

In less than six months it will mark the 20th year I have been a single mother. I think that is why this whole “empty nest” thing is so much harder. Because in roughly five years my nest really is going to be empty. Even now, as my youngest daughter is older and continues to become more involved in things that will take her out of the house to pursue her own dreams; I perceive the impending quiet, sense the void as it is slowly being created by the absence of the four people who have brought me the greatest joy in my life.

I have made many career changes in my life, never really knowing what I was meant to do, who I was meant to be in this world. Yet, after my initial doubts those early years in my adjusting to single motherhood… I know with all my heart and soul. I believe with every ounce of my being that I am meant to be a mother. Not just any mother, but the mother to the four children that God so graciously gave to me to care for on this earth, for this moment in time. These four amazing and inspiring children, who love me unconditionally even through all our struggles and failures. The four beautiful children He gave just to me. If I never accomplish anything else, I will have accomplished more than I could have dreamed; as I watch them grow and succeed on their own in this world. Stepping out in faith and trusting God to guide them along the way. Seeing this, knowing this, allows my mama heart to be full… no, it allows my heart to burst with joy!

Start children off on the way they should go,
    and even when they are old they will not turn from it.

The darkness will always be a part of my life, of all our lives.. because the darkness is real and surrounds us all. The difference will be, what am I going to do about it? Am I going to fall into the inviting and temporary warmth that darkness sometimes creates? Or will I turn to the light, His Light and allow the deepest parts of me to be surrounded by His love and warmth? Will I hear, listen for, his wee small voice and allow it to comfort me through the hard times, through those dark moments. As I was reading and writing this this morning, I felt that comfort; His comfort as my soul was refreshed with His light and the joy that it brings.

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I also found encouragement in Psalm 51

Let me hear joy and gladness, let the bones you have crushed rejoice. (vs8)    

Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. (vs12)

Until the next moment,

 

When the Silence is Deafening

Today has been the sort of day I have not had in a while. One where I feel lost and alone, overwhelmed. And to tell you the truth, I still can’t pinpoint what it really is. Those old recordings are once again playing in my head. Perpetually on “repeat”, only this time I can’t actually hear them. I know they’re playing however because of the sick and heavy feeling I had when I first woke up today. But instead there is just this sick silence; nearly as maddening as the recordings themselves. I got my daughter off to school, oblivious to my state of mind. As soon as she left I set at the table, took a quick peek at Facebook to see if I needed to add anyone to my prayer list and then settled into my time with the Lord. Or, I should say I tried…

I must have read my devotional at least three times, before its words even began to break through the barrier created by the silence in my head. One would think that if you mind is in such a quiet state, it would be free to absorb whatever information you try to put into it. Perhaps, if it’s truly empty and not just masquerading as such. Instead, in my case, “empty” is merely hiding behind a mask of silence. A silent facade, holding in dark moments from my past. My routine is that I read my devotional, look up the scripture with my You Version app and share on Twitter and Facebook. On Facebook, I select one of the scripture references and create an image with it. I then share an abridged version of the part of the devotional that spoke to me that morning. This morning it was Psalm 89:15-16, the devotional itself reminding us to stay close to His Presence. To relax in it, to allow our mind to be molded, our heart to be cleansed. To remember when we keep our focus on Him, every moment can be precious. I was not finding that peace this morning, my heart and mind were fighting with my dark and silent past.

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I then set here looking at the three sections of my Prayer Board, lost as to where to even start. Normally God just places on my heart a starting spot and I then just move around the board until everything is covered in prayer. I didn’t know where to start this morning, my mind could barely form whole thoughts. Broken fragments of nonsense were bubbling to the surface, finally forming tears. I immediately jumped back on Facebook and asked the women in my Bible Study to pray for me. Then I headed to the one place where I can talk to God when I feel this lost, where I can cry out, even sob to Him and pray that He could get me through this particular moment… my shower. And before you utter “TMI” understand that this has been my safe spot since I was a very young girl. When I was growing up and my father was abusing me, the bathroom was the only room in the house with a lock on it. I would come home after school and take my homework into our bathroom, lock the door and feel safe, at least for the moment.

As an adult, I still retreat to this small quiet room; to be alone, regain composure, to pray… Sometimes, it is in the shower, where the sound of the water can drown out my tears. Where the wall often holds me up as I sob uncontrollably. But just as the water washes away, falling down the drain. So do my tears, they are just gone. The ugliness, sadness, anger, fear, all of it; is gone too. I can step out, feeling a sense of calm, renewed, re-energized; suddenly able to take on the rest of my day. I promise you that the only reason I am able to do this is because He hears me as I cry out to Him in my desperation. He hears me as I cry out and ask Him “Why”? He listens as I repeat everything on my heart that He already knows. He listens and He gives me what I need to move forward. He provides me with my immediate needs and quietly whispers that He is taking care of things. As I was crying in the shower this morning, I realized that I am still worried about money and my finances. I do have a part-time job now, but how in the world am I going to take care of myself and my child on a part-time salary, not to mention catch up on months of unpaid bills, which include months of rent. He knows all that, He knew before I uttered one word, shed one tear.

I continue to read from Max Lucado’s “you’ll get through this”. The story of Joseph and all that he went through; sold into slavery (by his own brothers, mind you), thrown into prison, and all the ugliness and hurt that came along with it. He never gave up, because he knew God had something better planned for him, even as a young boy, he believe it. Today, after a good crying session, I once again believed it too. We are all His children, and He, only He is in control of our ultimate destiny.

You’ll get through this. It won’t be painless. God will use this mess for good.

As I write this my heart is good again, the silence has left my thoughts free to move around in my head, as they see fit. I can concentrate once again. I was able to read from the two books I am currently reading; including being led to some very appropriate and encouraging scripture. Thoughtfully reminded by 2 Corinthians that once we become a part of Christ, we are His, not just for a little while, but always His.

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Our past doesn’t matter any longer, even though the enemy wants you to think differently. We pinned them (our past sins) to the base of the cross when we trusted our life to Christ. His death on the cross paid for all our sins, the ones we have already done and those still to cause us to fall short. In the book FerVent, author Priscilla Shirer encourages us to use the following strategy when being harassed by Satan. When in prayer we can:

Praise: Thank Him completely for forgiving you, cleansing you, changing you.  –   Repentance: See the foolishness of anything that perpetuates old sin patterns, and by His Spirit walk away.  –  Asking: Ask for freedom, for release, for the ability to detect lies and embrace truth.  –  Yes: Because you, by His resurrection power, can now walk a new way of life.

Today, I end with a prayer. Lord Jesus, forgive me for my fear and uncertainty. Forgive me for allowing the enemy to build walls that keep me from you. Thank you Lord for giving me the tools to tear them down before they are fully built. Thank you Lord for loving me, my past imperfections and all; for easing my pain, ultimately healing it with your blood. I am a new creation, beautiful and perfect in you. Amen

Until the next moment,