When you just need to embrace the struggle….

It’s five days til Christmas.  One Christmas movie has been watched.  Our Advent calendar sits, lagging chronically three days behind.  So does our Ann Voskamp Greatest Gift book.  We haven’t baked a single Christmas cookie or even thought about a gingerbread house.  We’re probably skipping the church light show.  The presents are just now bought, wrapped, and under the tree.  And I’ve barely played any Christmas music.  Pinterest and the competitive moms would say I’ve failed.  Some days it feels that way.

For my whole life it seems, Christmas has been my favorite holiday.  The lights.  The joy.  The wonder.  The gifts.  (Gift receiving is a love language.  Just ask Gary Chapman.)  But the past three Christmases I have learned the beauty of the struggle that surrounds the season.  That all isn’t merry and bright, but Jesus came to bring light and be light in a dark and lonely world.

But there is part of me that wants to skip it.  Just skip the season all together, like I want to skip January every year.  To just keep rolling along with school and business and life.  To not stop and see how perfect everything could be and realize just how imperfect and broken it really is.  Because the imperfect and broken just hurt.  And who wants to hurt during the most wonderful time of the year?

But this tension, this struggle, if we yield to them, they can open our eyes up even more to Jesus and the reason we celebrate the season at all.  We can lean hard into Him and lay all of our burdens down.  And He will meet us where we are and whisper truth and hope and good news.

And as I sit here, five days before Christmas, alone in my kitchen quiet, I can dwell on the darkness that has been the past seven weeks. I can focus on the lies that Satan speaks in the dark and the truth he doesn’t want us to see.  I can look at all the things undone, unsaid, forgotten, because when do we ever get it all right.  I can dwell on how my heart aches some days or how far away God can feel.  Or I can fix my eyes on the soft glow of the lights, the lights that twinkle hope and point us to the Light of the world.  I can fix my eyes on the tree that reminds me of the wood that made a manger where my Jesus was laid and that one day made a cross where my Jesus died.  I can fix my eyes on the beauty of the gifts all around me.  Not just the ones under the tree, but everywhere, the gifts that He never stops giving, if only we will open our eyes to see them.  And I can remember that just as a baby is not born without struggle, without pain, Christmas brings its own tension to draw us closer to the Jesus that we struggle to celebrate.

For His Glory ~

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A Choice

She wrestles through the weekend with thoughts of inadequacy, fear, and restlessness.  Tears fall and doubts creep in.  And on a Tuesday she decides to call it what it is: a battle for her heart and mind.

Satan’s game is to make us want what we don’t have, to make what we have never look like enough, and to make us doubt everything we believe, so she calls him on his dirty tactics.  If we stay at home, we want to have a mission outside the home.  If we are out in the workforce, we wish we could be home with our families.  When our children are young we long for them to grow up and become more independent.  When they grow up we miss the simple days of early childhood and naps and Nick Jr.  When marriage is rocky we wish for the smooth everyday type days.  When marriage is mundane we wish for excitement.  When we are alone, we wish for more friends.  When we are surrounded by others, we long to be alone.  And it’s true what they say: Jealousy comes from counting someone else’s blessings instead of our own.

So she calls foul and she sets her eyes on Truth.  And she plays music and she puts words in her heart.  And she knows that Satan knows her weak spot and he will be back but she knows every time she fights and rises again, she rises a little stronger.

When Jesus sets me free, the freedom is also eternally done, for no chain can ever shackle me again.  Once the Master says to me, ‘Prisoner, I have freed you,’ it is done forever.  Satan may plot to enslave me, but ‘if God is for [me], who can be against [me]?’ (Romans 8:31) – ‘Whom shall I fear?’ (Psalm 27:1).  The world with its temptations may seek to ensnare me, but ‘greater is he’ (I John 4:4) who is for me than all those combined who are against me.  The scheming of my own deceitful heart may harass and annoy me, but ‘he who began a good work in [me] will carry it on to completion’ (Philippins 1:6).

Look Unto Me, Spurgeon, November 25

It’s not who you are that holds you back, it’s who you think you’re not.

For His Glory ~

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Wait

For two weeks she wrestles with insignificance and discontent and the desire for more out of life.  And she wonders where is the line between contentment and complacency, between feeling settled and feeling like you were made for more than menu plans and car pools?  On one hand she’s more than satisfied with this simple life and on the other she longs for adventure and creativity and a little bit of the unknown.  And she wonders what does God want for this one life He’s given?  What is His best?

And she comes to the end of two weeks and has no answers, only more questions, more wrestling.  Her husband encourages her to find what she’s passionate about and invest in it.  But that takes time and energy, neither of which are found in abundance these days.

So she reads.  She reads Found and has thoughts on prayer and drawing closer to God, but is most struck by the one line “Maybe….I want God to like me most.”  And maybe that cuts to the heart of it a bit?  Wanting to be liked the most….by God, by others.  It’s a disease called people pleasing and it’s a hard one to reconcile with that second-born nature of also needing to be a little bit different from those around you.  She finds herself in constant paradox.

And she thinks on the words of The Nester.  Words on contentment and that “it doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful”.  And those words spoke peace to her domestic side over the summer but now maybe they are speaking on a deeper level.  Perhaps this imperfect, obscure life that feels so small is a place to learn contentment, patience, trust, faith.

And she knows that it’s in the hidden places God grows us, deepens our roots to make us strong for the future, and like winter for trees, dormant seasons give us rest.  But she longs for spring and life and productivity.  She longs to see fruit and abundance and growth.

She has no answers and so she waits in the silence.  She waits for the rain.

For His Glory ~

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A Letter to My Daughters {God’s Love}

Girls,

Two weeks ago I turned thirty-seven.  I wanted to write then, but as you know, there hasn’t been much margin in our house for several weeks (years?).  And the words, they often come slow for me, until they come like a flood, and then they pour out on paper or screen but rarely out loud.  I wanted to write on my birthday because I write on yours, not to sing my own praises, but to stop and reflect and start to share.  To share some of the things that I want to say but just never find the words in day-to-day life when the conversations often stay on the surface and focused on survival.  And there are so many things I want to say that I can’t say them all today, so they will come slowly, with time, as the Lord brings the words.  And I want to post them here, though maybe not all of them, at least not publicly, because I want you to be able to find them later and I want your younger sisters to have them too. And so, here we go.

As I turned thirty-seven this year, I realized there is nothing significant about this birthday.  I’m not entering a new decade of life.  I’m not halfway between any either.  It’s just an ordinary birthday.  But this life we live is nothing ordinary at all and every year, every day, is a gift.  And as I look back on my life so far, my one great take away that I want you all to take away as well is that you are loved.  Deeply.  Wildly.  Madly.  Passionately.  Not only by your parents, your family, your friends.  But by the one great God of the universe.  The God who made you, who knitted you together and placed you in this family.  The God who names the stars loves you, rejoices over you, delights in you, died for you.  And there is nothing more important I can teach you than this.

But you have to do more than know of His love, you have to experience it.  You have to claim it as your own by faith and walk in relationship with Him.  You cannot just cognitively know of His love, you have to live in His love.  Rest in it, abide in it.  You have to spend time with Him, talk to Him, read the Word He has left for you.  A relationship can’t grow if it’s not nourished by time and attention.

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You will be let down in life.  People will disappoint you.  Heck, I probably disappoint you daily.  You will feel hurt, neglected, abandoned, ignored.  But you are not.  You are loved more than you will ever know or understand.  One day, if the Lord wills, you will have children of your own and you will have an understanding of the depths of my love for you and (hopefully) have a better appreciation for some of the “crazy” things we do (like having rules and stuff).  But you will also realize that your love for your child is only a fragile reflection of God’s love for you, and it will break your heart to know how loved you are by a God who doesn’t need to love us.

Each of you girls has given an expression of saving faith.  I know you know Jesus in your heart, but it’s up to you to know Jesus in your life.  It took me a long time to let Jesus find me and even longer to fully fall in love with Him.  And He’s allowed some dark times in my life, times of incredible hurt and pain, but He’s never left me.  Never forsaken me.  And He’s always making beauty from ashes.  He will do that for you too.

Sometimes I pray your road will be easier, lighter.  But sometimes I hope it isn’t.  The kind of love that walks through the darkness with you can soften you, make you real, like the Velveteen Rabbit, if you will only trust the One who lights your path.  We never know what God is up to, but we always know it’s something good.

I love you girls.  But God loves you more.  I want nothing more than for you to know His love, His grace, His mercy.  For Jesus to be real in your lives and for you to know how desperately we all need Him.  I pray that you will choose to grow in Him and follow hard after Him and that your path will be smooth and light, but that’s rarely the way in this broken world.  So as hard and as scary as it is, I pray He takes you down whatever path is necessary to truly know the depths of His great love.  I know He will walk with you all the way.

Love,  Mom

For When You Wear Regret Like a Robe…..

While on vacation Matt told me about an article he had read, written by someone who regretted saving herself, her virginity, for marriage.  And I laughed and said that was the dumbest thing I’d ever heard. I read her article.  And my heart breaks for the bad theology she was raised in and for the broken religion she was taught because, based on her post, so much of it is so far from the gospel of grace that Jesus lived.   And as a church we have so far to go to teach our young people that purity matters but it does not define us and that we stay pure because we trust that the God who made us really does know what is best for us, not because of pride or fear or shame.  And this morning I read Ann’s words on why to wait and they were beauty and grace.

On that same vacation I read Just 18 Summers and pondered the caricatured pressure, anxiety, and regret these families lived with and how they were an over-stated reflection of what so many of us feel and it seems to me that Satan has two primary tactics in which he wages war – pride and regret.  And while the book and the article are unrelated, the messages of pride and regret go hand-in-hand.

We wear our pride and think we could never make those bad choices, do those awful things – never have sex outside of marriage, never drink too much, smoke, do drugs, yell at our parents / spouse / children.  Because we’re good people, rule followers, righteous, and we just.don’t.do.that.  Until we do.  We fall and we stumble and we sin and we wake up in the dirt and mess of our own choices.  And while all can be forgiven, none can be undone.  And regret climbs on like a weight we can’t put down and it follows everywhere like an ugly shadow.

Or our pride keeps us on edge, trying to put forth an image, make us something we know we’re really not – pulled together, controlled, prepared, practically perfect in every way.  Until we realize we’re not.  And we see the time that was wasted pretending when we could have been living real. And our heart breaks for the relationships lost and broken while chasing the wind.

And I know regret well.  I can’t fathom regretting saving oneself for marriage.  It just doesn’t register.  But I can I understand the feelings of how is this suddenly okay, when it’s never been okay before.  I get that.  But giving away pieces of one’s soul in the name of being more at ease on your wedding night seems counter-productive.  But I know Satan will use any method to keep us from experiencing the fullness of God’s love, even to the point of making someone regret trusting His word.  And I have bags full of stuff I could carry around and regret from my pre-marriage life, but I’ve never been a big fan of living with regret and I see how those things shaped me and changed me and life carries on because God is bigger than all of it.  And while my pride was totally stripped, regret never really haunted me.

Until I became a mother.  And the thought of how my singular influence could so shape a life and that latent perfectionist within has never been able to handle the pressure and Satan found a way to saddle me with that burden of regret early and I daily have to lay it down.  The things that should have been said differently, or not said, or should have been said that weren’t.  The time that should have been used more wisely.  The snuggles I skipped, the stories we didn’t read, the encouragement I didn’t give to my husband or children.  And the hours I could spend focusing on what didn’t happen…..that’s when Satan wins a victory.  Oh, I could invest so much time and energy into what could have been but what would be the point?  I cannot go back.  I don’t intend to have more babies just so I can try again.  God has given me this one marriage and these five girls.  He’s given me eyes to see where we need to go, not just what we missed in the past.  I can’t go back and re-do any of it.  But I can make the most of now – being present, being available, being real.

And I think this concept of regret is a fairly Western, 21st century problem.  I don’t imagine my grandparents or great-grandparents or yours sitting around the fire at night lamenting all the “quality time” and “experiences” their children didn’t get.  They didn’t feel pressured to provide swimming pools or elaborate fire pits or elite sports teams or study abroad opportunities to make their lives full.  They lived their one life the best they could.  They loved, cared, and provided for their families the best they knew how.  Our generation has the luxury of worrying about the quality of time we spend with each other  or activities we are involved in and we’re killing ourselves because of it.

There are so many many things that could have been done differently.  I don’t want to spend this one life looking back wishing for  a do-over.  I want to look ahead with hope and joyful anticipation of all that God can make out of the ashes of a messed up past.  He makes beautiful things….
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For His Glory ~

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*image source – Pinterest; original source unknown

Things to Remember

On Saturday there were tears, and maybe some gnashing of teeth, as worries over children and their character overwhelmed.  As some problems were brought to light and as the new school year looms ever-closer, this mama’s heart was heavy and discouraged.  Every fault, every failure, every short-coming, it seemed, could be traced right back to me and I felt, once again, I could never be enough. And Sunday dawned with much needed heart-felt worship and a sermon kicked off with Pharrel Williams’ “Happy”.  And the day ended with a LeCrae concert and an unexpectedly amazing time of worship and encouragement and just plain fun. Some things were remembered that Sunday that need to be remembered again and again.  Things like God’s faithfulness and His promise and that these children are His and as parents we must do our best, but it’s not about us. Some thoughts from the past couple of weeks that my soul has been holding tightly to:

  • Why aren’t we more enthusiastic? (All of the following is from Pastor Jim’s current sermon series, until noted otherwise):
    • we forget how good we have it
    • we have unrealistic expectations
    • we have a grumpy gene (heh 🙂 )
  • Colossians 3:12-17 (ESV) – Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another,forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.  And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
  • Choose to set your mind on the things of Christ.
    • Oh my mind has not been here.  I have been distracted by so many things; many good things even, but not Christ.  But my prayer of late has been that Jesus would make Himself first in my heart again.
  • How do we become more enthusiastic?
    • Let the peace of the Messiah control your heart.
    • Be thankful.
    • Let the message dwell richly.
  • On parenting:
    • Know your child.  Know yourself.  Know Christ. (oh yes!)
    • Some people are just runners.  They will run from law and they will run from grace.  Law (legalism) does not draw anyone back.  Grace draws its own back home.  Hold fast to the gospel of grace.
  • Romans 12:11 (NLT) – Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically.

And then there was that LeCrae concert, with speakers like Tyrone Flowers and Phil Davis and that oft needed reminder that this world is more than what we see and that there is a daily battle for our hearts and minds.  And fresh off my own emotional wrestling over kids and choices and hearts, Tyrone Flowers pulls out Jeremiah 29:11, that verse that has given me hope for over twenty years, and God quietly reminded me that not only does He have a plan for me, He has a plan for them too.  Each of those girls sitting to my right was created by Him – on purpose and for a purpose.  And while I definitely have a job to do with them, their ultimate outcome is not up to me.  He has a plan.  I can trust that plan.  It may not look like I want it to look, but He has a plan and it is good.  

For His Glory ~

 

 

 

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Learning to roll….

A sure sign of the presence of idolatry is inordinate anxiety, anger, or discouragement when our idols are thwarted.  So if we lose a good thing, it makes us sad, but if we lose an idol, it devastates us.

~ Tim Keller

God’s been working on  my idols lately.  Idols I didn’t even realize were idols.  Good things like to do lists, productivity, passions, dreams, and the warm summer sun.  All of these He’s been working to lay bare the past six weeks.  And I have fought hard, but tonight I surrender.  I surrender my idea of summer accomplishment and summer relaxation.  I realize that, at least right now, our summer looks a lot like our school year – time behind the wheel.  And this is life with five active children.  And we could say “no” to activities for them.  And we have.  But these things are good for them and this surrender is good for my heart.  And I lean harder on Jesus now, trusting in Him for the things that will or won’t get done over the next several weeks.  As I do I feel freedom mounting like wings as I release myself from the pressure to do every.little.thing. before school begins again.

And, oh, I am still hard-wired to be task-oriented; that is how I was made, but I can lay down that idol and focus on the tasks God gives me each day, not the ones I make for myself.  I am still driven to do what I can, but tonight I rest in His timing and I choose to let Him stretch me and teach me patience, even in this.  And I choose to roll with the waves that life brings.  Because what else is there to do but count it all a gift and give thanks?  He is good.

For HIs Glory ~

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The Day After Mother’s Day….For When You Don’t Feel Like Mom of the Year

While it’s welcome and appreciated, if you’re honest there are some days, most days maybe, you don’t feel like you deserve the praise or recognition that comes on Mother’s Day.  You feel like most days are a total crap shoot and in spite of your best laid plans, you have no idea what today is going to bring, and it makes you crazy sometimes.  And some days you look in the mirror and wonder what happened to the woman who used to know about fashion or business or politics and when did she disappear exactly and will you ever see her again?  And you look at the gifts and talents God has given you and this deep drive to be excellent at something, anything, all while feeling like you’re flailing through each day just hoping to raise children who don’t end up in prison.  And sometimes you wonder what on earth God was thinking when He gave you these children.

Do not resist or run from the difficulties in your life. These problems are not random mistakes; they are hand-tailored blessings designed for your benefit and growth. Embrace all the circumstances that I allow in your life, trusting Me to bring good out of them. View problems as opportunities to rely more fully on Me.

When you start to feel stressed, let those feelings alert you to your need for Me. Thus, your needs become doorways to deep dependence on Me and increasing intimacy between us. Although self-sufficiency is acclaimed in the world, reliance on Me produces abundant living in My kingdom. Thank Me for the difficulties in your life, since they provide protection from the idolatry of self-reliance.

from Jesus Calling, May 10

Oh, how great the temptation is to despair at times!  Our soul becomes depressed and disheartened and our faith staggers under the severe trials and testing that come into our lives… We may come to the place where we say, ‘I cannot bear this any longer.’

What have you done in the past when you felt weak physically?  You could not do anything.  You ceased from doing.  In your weakness, you leaned on the shoulder of a strong loved one.  You leaned completely on someone else and rested, becoming still, and trusting in another’s strength.

It is the same when you are tempted to despair under spiritual afflictions.  Once you have come close to the point of despair, God’s message is not, ‘Be strong and courageous.’ He knows your strength and courage have run away.  Instead, He says sweetly, ‘Be still and know that I am God.’

That is all God asks of you as His dear child.  When you become weak through the fierce fires of affliction, do not try to ‘be strong’.  Just ‘be still and know’ that He is God.  And know that He will sustain you and bring you through the fire.

from Streams in the Desert, May 10

And sometimes you fall on your face and you cry out and you realize that God often calls us to serve in obscurity and that He doesn’t always call the qualified, but He qualifies the called, and that all of this is a preparation for something else, something we can’t see yet, maybe even something eternal.  And so you put your head down and you push through, and you choose hope and you choose joy. And the labor pains continue long after the child is born, but it’s all becoming something glorious.

I would have despaired unless I had believed I would see the goodness of the Lord….Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage.

~ Psalm 27:13-14

For His Glory ~

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Adoption – One Year Later

A week ago we quietly celebrated the one year anniversary of Amania’s homecoming.  And when I say quietly, I mean by cleaning out the garage and going to soccer and otherwise living normal life.  Because it was needed.

Fifty-four weeks ago we were making plans and preparations for our quick trip to Haiti to bring our girl home.  Fifty-four weeks ago we were worried about parasites, language barriers, bed wetting, night terrors, RAD, food hoarding, and a dozen other worst-case-scenarios we had read or heard about along the way.  Fifty-four weeks ago, we had no idea what the next few days would look like, let alone the next year.  And a one year anniversary seemed a million years away.

We came home and she settled right in and all those things we worried about turned out to be nothing.  Parasites were treated.  Her English skills grew overnight it seemed.  Bed wetting, night terrors, RAD….all those things were non-issues, needless fear.  Praise. The. Lord.

And yet the past year hasn’t been without struggles and tears and wrestling.  And there were struggles we didn’t expect.  Struggles not directly related to our new addition, and yet connected.

There were the unexpected opinions of others who suddenly felt they could (and should) weigh in on how we run our family and our lives.  There was the Mama Bear reaction in me as I watched the world swarm around our newest family member (for months after she came home), all the while ignoring all of our other children who are all old enough and smart enough to know what was going on.  There were the struggles of our bio girls as they adapted and accepted this new family member – helping them feel valued and loved, while helping her assimilate.

And then there were my own struggles.  Some I’ve shared here, some I haven’t.  And those I haven’t are simply because I just haven’t had words. I do not understand my own struggle to connect with this child, how she has what appears to be a perfectly natural and healthy relationship with everyone else in our family circle, except me.  How our relationship is still so stiff and forced and awkward.  How I’m not a kid-friendly mama.  I love love love my kids, don’t get me wrong, but I’m very German and we are utilitarian, functional, efficient, not particularly cuddly (at least that’s my impression of us).  Unless of course you like cuddling with porcupines, which is what I often feel like around small children.  (True confessions, right here, friends!)  And the level of guilt and shame that I feel admitting all of this because Godly Christian women are all supposed to think young children are the best things since Jesus Himself, or so it would seem.

There has also been the unexpected toll taken on our marriage because of my unexpected and unexplainable reaction to Amania’s home coming – the depression, the disconnect.  And I feel like our marriage has been through the ringer and there are days I wonder if it will ever be the same.

And I haven’t said much here about our journey with her home because I honestly haven’t known what to say about the emotional places we’ve been.  As someone in our family reminds me, she is doing so much better than we ever expected and things could be so much worse.  But the fact is, this is my reality. This is where we live.  And while I’m thankful we don’t live in “worse”, this is by no means easy.

I have been praying about this post for weeks, maybe months.  Because I don’t want it to be about me, but I am, without a doubt, the one who has struggled most since Amania came home.  And right now, I don’t know if I will even hit publish, because I feel so vain, so shallow, so dysfunctional for these struggles I’ve had.  But as I prayed this morning, asking God for words that were transparent yet redemptive, He reminded me that this too is redemption.  This process is His continued refining of all of us.  This struggle has been a struggle for our whole family and He is working out something good.  I don’t know how long it will take for Amania and I to have a “normal” relationship, but I do believe with all of my heart that one day we will because our God is a God that redeems the broken.  He makes beauty from ashes.  He restores the years the locust has eaten.  And I think about how our adoption, my adoption, cost Him everything and why should I expect that this adoption would not also cost me more than money, time, and energy, but also a greater breaking of my heart, that I would know Him more and be more like His Son.

And I don’t know how long this process will take, but I will wait quietly on the Lord to restore and renew and make us all whole again.

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So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten….
You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied,
And praise the name of the Lord your God,
Who has dealt wondrously with you;
And My people shall never be put to shame.

Joel 2: 25-26

For His Glory ~

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Throwback Thursday Post – Reflecting on a Hard Season and a God in the Details

So, I busted out my spring purse today.  And I couldn’t help but think back on the storied life of this little bag and how thankful I am to have a God who cares about our small stuff and our big stuff.  Reposting from the archives, these two stories on His faithfulness in the hard times and how sometimes He loves to surprise and delight us just because He can.

Post 1, from September 24, 2010:

Downer Warning:  It’s been a week, and I am just starting to really “feel” the events today.  This could be a very crabby post.  Feel free to flee now, or read on at your own risk.  😮

On Wednesday of this week, I had my SUV broken into and my purse stolen.  My brand new purse and wallet that I had only had for one month.  Exactly.one.month.  On a day that started out well and in the middle of what I hoped was going to be a drama-free week, everything was turned on its side.  I tried to do school with the girls, but they were clearly disturbed by what had happened and I was so distracted by phone calls to be made and trying to find somewhere to take my window-missing truck before it started to rain, we ended up only getting about half of our stuff done.  I spent most of the day numb and somewhat disoriented.  Thursday felt about the same.

Today I’m just mad.  I’m mad that my whole week got jacked up by someone’s selfishness.  I’m mad that everything cost just enough to be a giant nuisance, but probably not enough to make it worth submitting to insurance.  I’m mad that we haven’t even gotten the credit card bill for the dang purse yet and it’s already gone.  I’m mad that Matt had to take money out of savings so that I could go get groceries (because I was trying to be “good” and use cash and that was stolen).  I’m mad that I had to put groceries back today because I had to save money to go replace my driver’s license.  I’m mad that I have to make a bunch of phone calls this afternoon to change our auto-pay information from our checking account, because we had to open a new one.  I’m mad  that when I went to order new checks today, I got all the way through and realized I had no way to pay for them online.  I’m mad at the inconvenience it is causing Matt to be without any of his business credit cards for the next couple of weeks.

None of this is a big deal.  It really isn’t.  But it’s been an entire summer of this.kind.of.stuff.  Unplanned, unbudgeted inconveniences.  Matt and I laid in bed on Wednesday night and began to count up how many unexpected expenses we’ve had just this summer:

  • my truck window
  • my purse, wallet, and cash
  • his truck totaled
  • flat tire on his truck led to getting four new tires
  • two weed whips gone
  • one lawn mower dead
  • tool theft
  • roof repairs
  • broken rear hatch handle on my truck
  • broken antenna (not a cheap fix)
  • both air conditioning units at the house needing repairs
  • two speeding tickets

There were a few more, but they’re not coming to mind.  Needless to say, we’re worn down by the financial blood bath that this summer has been.

On the other hand, God has been more than generous with us this year.  It’s been a good year for the business and He’s been prompting Matt to work hard on saving money.  It’s just that Matt thought he was saving for the future, not for right now to just replace all our broken or stolen stuff.

I know God hasn’t changed.  I know He is still good.  I cling to His faithfulness and His promise to carry me.  There is still much to be thankful for and at least one beautiful story has come out of this, which I will share on Monday.  But today I feel a little like I’m going insane.  I told a friend today that I’m not even sure if this is Biblical, but I’m just going to go ahead and start “claiming” a drama-free week next week.  In Jesus name.

Now that I have written all of this down and looked back through it, I’m actually laughing.  It’s all just so ridiculous.  I wonder what could be next?!?!

Have a fabulous weekend, friends.  I’m sure going to try to here!

Only By His Grace ~

~ Sara

Post 2, from September 29, 2010

Last Friday, I was angry.  I was angry about my purse.  I was angry about how life was going.  Our insurance was willing to cover the loss, but it wasn’t worth filing the claim with what it would do to our rates.  I appealed to the buyer’s protection with our credit card; they wouldn’t cover theft from a car.  I felt like everything was going wrong.  And I was mad.  I worked my way through that anger, enjoyed a relaxing drive and laughing with my husband, and then danced the night away with friends.  By Saturday, my soul was at rest.  I had reached a point of accepting where things were at in life and was “claiming” a drama-free week for our family.  And I still had hope for my purse and wallet.  In the back of my mind my only thought was, maybe none of these other avenues are working because God is going to give it back to me.

In spite of my “claim” for a drama-free week, Monday morning started with one of our favorite red glass lamps being shattered while the children built a fort on the couch.  One of those mother moments when I looked and thought, This is a really bad idea.  And then I also thought, No, Sara, let them do this.  Say yes. So I let them and went upstairs for a bit.  And then I heard the shattering thud and knew instantly what had happened.  😦  So, before lunchtime I had given up my hopes for drama-free this week.

Tuesday morning, Matt found himself in a ditch in his truck.  *sigh*  I laughed.  I couldn’t help myself.  He was fine, just terribly inconvenienced, and I couldn’t help but laugh.  So, so ridiculous it was.

So Tuesday afternoon when the city services truck stopped in front of my house I honestly wondered what the next thing would be.  I wondered if something had happened with our payment and now our water was being turned off.  It just seemed like the next ridiculous occurrence in this series of unfortunate events.

The men in the truck sat out there a bit, so I went on and forgot about them, until one of them came to my door.  “I’m looking for Sara,” he said.  “I’m she,” I responded.  “Did you lose a purse?” he asked.

I gasped and my eyes had to be as large as saucers and I replied, “Did you find my purse?!!?”

He led me out to his truck and there it was sitting in the back, dirty and crumpled, but completely intact with my wallet inside.  I hugged him.  I couldn’t help it.  I told him I had been praying for it and that my friends had and that he had made my day.

I asked him where he found it.  He said it was in a trash can at a local park, about two miles north of where my purse was stolen.  He said they find them there all the time.

The smell on the purse is indescribable.  I took it to a local cleaner’s yesterday because I couldn’t even bear to have it on my front porch.  As best I can tell, the thief only took my money.  Every last penny was gone out of my wallet, but nearly everything else was there.  A few random items are missing from my purse, but my guess is that they fell out in the trash can because it’s silly things like lip gloss and fingernail clippers.

I knew my money was gone as soon as the purse went missing.  All I asked of the Lord was that I could have the purse and wallet back.  I didn’t care about any of the rest of it. I have seen God in so many little details throughout my seventeen year walk with Him that I never doubted His ability to bring that purse back, if He was willing.  (And after all this, I’m also confident He can get the smell out of it!  🙂 )

Matt and I have been asking ourselves for weeks, but especially the past several days, Is this God?  Is this Satan?  What are we supposed to be learning? And those thoughts continued to roll through my head as I processed the excitement of the afternoon.  What was God saying by giving this back?  Had we done something right?  What was it?

As I drove along, my soul knew it wasn’t anything we had done.  It was just God.  He gave it back because He’s God and He can and He chose to.  It’s grace. Simply grace.  And really it’s His grace that leads us through the trials that bring us to our knees.  For if grace means undeserved gift, then the trials of life that make us more like His Son are surely also grace.  It’s all grace.  Every moment.  Every breath.

And I’m so thankful for His endlessly abundant grace and His concern for the details of this day-to-day life.  Oh, how deep is His love for us!

For His Glory ~

~ Sara

 

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And so, even though this bag is really too small for this season of life, I keep it and I carry it as my very material, very first-world reminder of His goodness and that He delights in us as a father delights in his children and He loves to give us joy gifts and glimmers of hope in the midst of this crazy world.

For His Glory ~

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