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.

tree-river-300x199

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.

psalm63_1

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,

 

Jesus, Friend of Sinners

*Beginning note, please forgive my absence for these past three months, I am still getting adjusted to work and school even when I only have the one child at home! 🙂

As I began my devotion time this morning, continuing to study the word #JOY as it can be found in scripture, I came across a really wonderful verse in Acts. Acts 14:17, here it is in context of the moment being expressed by Paul, insisting that he and Barnabas were mere men just as the people they were reaching out to through their acts of healing and serving the Lord. He told them “We are only men with feelings like yours. We preach the Good News that you should turn from these empty things to the living God.

16 In the past, he let all nations go their own way. 17 Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy. 18 Even with these words, they had difficulty keeping the crowd from sacrificing to them.

Shortly after some neighboring Jews showed up and quickly filled the minds of these same people with the idea to stone them! They did and Paul was drug out of the city believed to be dead. Crazy right? One moment they want to worship these mere men and the next they are stoning them to death!

Then I got distracted.

I often look through my fb news feed before I start my prayer time, so that I can be mindful of my friends and family, those in my community who might be in need of prayer. As I filtered through this morning, I came across a link shared by a mother of an old classmate. It was to a blog, the entry entitled “When she became a he – Walking in love”. My friends reaction was what I might have expected so I too read the entry.

It is written by a woman, a Christian woman, mother of four (I feel her pain ;P) who was shopping with her husband. While in a particular store, she recognized the sales associate as someone she knew from many years before only something had changed. The young man that she had known so many years before, attended church with – was now a woman.

She went on to share the encounter; it was uncomfortable at first. The friend visibly shaken, certainly inwardly thinking about what she must have been thinking about them. Wondering if she was inwardly judging them. The woman recognized this and put him at ease, smiling and expressing genuine excitement about seeing an old friend and they proceeded to reminisce about old childhood friends and shared pictures of their families. She shared that they talked for quite some time and when she left the store how sad she felt for this friend and why. She reminded us that if we are who we say we are. If we are indeed Christians, followers of the Living God; then shouldn’t we love like He did? Shouldn’t our actions be a reflection of Him?

And she’s right, Jesus didn’t stay away from the sinners, he spent time with them; teaching them about the truth in His Father’s Word. He healed the sick, ate with tax collectors and  even had an in depth conversation with an adulterous woman. I often remind my children that we can certainly not approve of someones actions (especially when we understand it to be sin) but if we are truly Christians and want to “be like Jesus” then we still need to love those friends, the sinners, the lost souls who have undoubtedly been deceived by the lies that Satan quietly whispers into our ears. If we stopped talking to the people we know who make these sorts of drastic life changes, openly displaying behavior that we disapprove of, that is considered to be, by definition sin- who would we talk to? Where would our friends be?

Her post made me think of a friend of my own. I dear friend who helped me get through a lot when I first moved back to Nebraska so many years ago. We were neighbors, both single moms with little ones. I had my three oldest, all under 5 at the time and she had two, both under 6. We babysat for one another so we didn’t have to miss work or school, or if we just needed a night to ourselves! We went shopping together, took our kids to the park together. I shared my deepest hurts with her, and she did the same. I moved to my current hometown and she move out of state causing us to loose track of one another. Then thanks to good ole facebook I found her again a few years ago. But she had changed, she was in a relationship and ultimately married another woman. I was shocked initially and I won’t lie, it made me sad for her. Because in my eyes, her lifestyle is something that will keep her from the same eternity that I wanted to share with her. Yet, my God, the loving God He is wants me to love her still. We chat occasionally, laugh about old times and marvel at the amazing young men and women our children have become. She reached out to me with kind words and her own prayers when both of my daughters were in life threatening situations. I pray for her and her family as well, that they have good health and that they are happy. I pray that she will find Him once again.

Prayer, it is the only tool I have.

I try to use it often.

I hope I use it well.

Then there was an article about the very much heated transgender bathroom issue with Target. Simply put, it reminds us as Christians that we are not in this battle with the people who consider themselves transgender, or even Target. We are in battle with the ultimate enemy, Satan himself! I just finished reading Paradise Lost this past week for my literature class. I had always heard so many mixed things about reading it as a Christian, I think that as Christians, we need to read it! I have to believed that just as the Bible was God directed, God breathed; that Milton, who indeed professed a strong faith was directed by God in the images he creates as he tells the story of the fall of man, once again reminding us that we are all sinners. I enjoyed how he walks us through so many pivotal moments in the Bible, both old and new testaments. It almost seemed as if time intertwined in such a manner that it leads me to wonder if our years here on earth will be but a millisecond in heaven.

Oh the #JOY we will know then.

So whatever your initial thinking on many of the tough issues, we can’t control much in this world beyond our own actions. We need to hold our swords and not in haste cut off someone’s ear just because we don’t agree with their lifestyle. We need to love them like Jesus would. Remember WWJD? We need to reach out to them and without condemnation try to show them what the Word tells us to be true. Pray for them. Pray with them if they allow, asking God to show them His way, to draw them near to Him. How we react or don’t react is important because as we all know we have young eyes watching our every movement. Our children our our future. Let me repeat: Our children are our future! I don’t mean the children you gave life to or raised, but any child you may come into contact with as you work or serve in your church or community. They watch us, as our actions are far louder than our words… In showing compassion, they will learn compassion and our world needs a lot more love and compassion in it.

I’m not saying, that we teach them that the behaviors we understand and believe to be wrong are acceptable. I’m saying we remind them that everyone, even those whose actions we disapprove of should be treated with kindness. Once again asking ourselves:

“What Would Jesus Do?”

luke5_31

Luke 5:31-32 Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”

Luke 19:10 “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

saveSinners

Until the next moment,