Overwhelmed?

Man, what a whirlwind life I seem to be living! For this season I feel like I am in a constant head-above-water battle, but I know that as all things do, this too shall pass. Since writing last I have experienced emotions of sheer joy, relief, anxiety, worry, anticipation, and happiness.

Over the span of 3 months Aaron and I have reunited with estranged family members, got engaged, got in a wreck and totaled his truck, watched our dog have puppies, began the planning for remodeling our future home, dealt with the looming threat of me being unable to have children, and been involved in court proceedings to help ensure our niece remains in a thriving environment. Put that on top of me personally playing the piano at church every week, about to finish grad school in a few weeks, beginning my internship, maintaining my “real” job, planning a wedding, helping friends with babies and showers and moving…

It’s a lot. And I will admit, while I am living it, it seems like normal because it is my life. But writing it all down, no wonder I feel tired in the mornings!

I often wonder why I don’t feel overwhelmed. Tired, extremely, but rarely overwhelmed.

I truly believe that my main source of strength and perseverance comes from God. Aaron and I have been reading Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Life. We are truly living our life, the best we can, according to God’s Word. And it’s showing throughout our lives. As Perry Noble says, “As our view of God increases, our worry and stress decrease, because it’s only then that we begin to believe that all the things that are over our heads are under His feet.”

Perry Noble also points out some key ways of thinking that create such overwhelming feelings. I’ll outline some for you here.

Thinking you are in control. I don’t believe there is ever a time that God laughs harder at you than when you kid yourself into thinking you have complete control over your life and the things around you. It says in Proverbs 19:21 “You can make many plans, but the Lord’s purpose will prevail.”

Thinking things are totally out of your control. If you are a Christian, and you were born after Christ died on the cross, you have the Holy Spirit living inside you. This Spirit could be characterized as many things such as your conscience or the angel on your shoulder but ultimately, it is God inside your body giving you the power of discernment and courage to overcome trials of the world. The Bible says in 1 John 4:4, “You belong to God, my dear children. You have already won a victory over those people, because the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world.” We have the power to relax and let go of our worldly troubles if we just choose to do so!

Expecting to live an easy life surrounded by good people. Because we live in a fallen world, the world is full of fallen people. We are not much unlike these people, as we all sin every day. However, even if we surround ourselves with people who are only good, Christians and go to church every time the doors open and pray religiously….the world around us is still fallen, and we are guaranteed to feel the effects. Perry Noble says, “When we meet Christ, we are saved from the penalty of sin, but we do not escape the effects of sin – whether that’s our own or other people’s sin or simply the broken world we live in.” No matter how good we try to be, we will still feel the backlash effects of sin.

Expecting to have the energy and time to do it all. I once heard a professor say, “The Bible calls those who will not work lazy, but it calls those who will not rest disobedient.” Wow. Self-care is truly important. In your profession and your personal life. There is no way one person can do everything there is to do. We must learn to let go of some things and delegate them to others.

Accepting sin as a way of life. Now I am just as guilty of this as the next person, but it’s true. We are contributing to our negative feelings by not omitting the sin in our life and just dismissing it. Perry Noble says, “In today’s culture, the temptation is to look at sins and refer to them as issues, mistakes, or problems. And as long as we see sin as something that we need to learn to cope with rather than something that needs to be removed, we will never take the cation necessary to peel the cap off the bottle so we can be spiritually refreshed.” He makes a good and valid point. Some things we are unwilling and reluctant to give up, but we may be amazed at how much more at peace we would be if we did so.

We refuse to forgive others. Another hard one. Maybe the hardest. I’m a grudge-holder by nature. But what I have come to learn is that my “nature” doesn’t matter because I am in Christ and should put Him on display each day. There are those who say, “if that person would just apologize I would forgive them”. And yeah, that’s nice when it happens. But that’s not the example that was set before us. Jesus is our example. and the people who were murdering Him never even asked for forgiveness…He just gave it to them. The example for us is that we must forgive freely – even to those who don’t deserve it. We can’t put stipulations on forgiveness and keep score of rights and wrongs. That’s not up to me. I’m going to be a therapist, not a judge. Besides the fact that not forgiving breaks up families and causes strife, it also is just stressful keeping tabs on all those tally marks for each side! LET IT GO!!!! Please. For your own sake.

We try to force love on others and on ourselves. Love is strong. And it’s a strong action, not an emotion like we’ve been taught. Love is doing, actively pursuing, proving day in and day out the commitment to the other person. Perry Noble says, “Love is determined by what we’re willing to seek out and what we’re willing to sacrifice for.” Knowing that, also know that God loves you. And his love and grace are sufficient. You need no one else’s. It’s nice to have. It makes life more enjoyable. But it’s not necessary. Don’t try to push love on those who don’t want it. Just lay it out there for them to pick up. It’s not hard, though it is work. It should be one of the most awesome jobs you have, loving others.

We expect instant gratification. Guilty! I want it, and I want it now! Yes, please. NOW! Though that’s my thought process most of the time, God laughs again. We must be vigilant, persistent, and enduring on our quest and towards our goals. That shows dedication and love. The Bible gives us one for this in Galations 6:9, “Let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.” Good is coming, but it may not be today. Rest in that knowledge.

Ultimately, these things are all things I have or continue to struggle with. Overwhelming feelings come and go. However, if we refuse to allow our circumstances to shape what we believe about God, we will walk in freedom from fear, knowing that the One who holds tomorrow is good and is in complete control. In writing this post I have utilized Perry Noble’s book Overwhelmed a lot. I encourage you to read it!

Also, please be in prayer for me and my family. We have been going through a lot and are still waiting on answers and concreteness of things. Pray that God’s will be done in all areas of our lives and that his healing hands will be upon my body. Love to you all!

Future Promises

I just rounded out another year with a birthday…the big 24 now….with that comes continued comments of “when ya gonna get married?” or “any babies coming soon?” The answer to those questions are “God willing and in his time, but not today.” I may only be a year shy of half-way-to-thirty…but I am mature for my age (judging by the actions of my peers and elders). In my seemingly short time here on earth so far, I have experienced a lot. Seen a lot. Been a lot of places. And got some education.

That being said, it irks me to no end when a middle-aged mom or dad says to me “Oh, you wait until you have kids. You’ll change your tune.” Or “just because you have all these child degrees, you think you’re smarter than me.”

Is it naïve of me to think that I won’t change my tune? Furthermore, is it stubborn of me to be determined that I won’t?  Now I know that some of the irrelevant practices may change, but I can promise you there are some things that will remain the same regardless of the age I am when I have children. I can promise you this because I will not change, and my values will certainly not waiver.

A few promises to my children:

I promise to love you unconditionally. This means without a single stipulation attached. If I am your mother, the Lord has blessed me far beyond what I deserve or could ever dream of. He has entrusted me with your wellbeing and I intend to do my very best to raise you right. Nothing you could ever do could make me love you more or less. There will be times when I dislike you, I am certain of that, but loving is never in question.

I promise not only to love you unconditionally, but to show you that love unconditionally. This means that even if you make a decision I disagree with, I will do everything in my power to respond with love. If you happen to be gay. If you choose to date outside our race. If you become a teen parent. If you choose to ruin your health with drugs and alcohol. Through all of these things I will love you. And I will try my best to show that love to you, as Christ would. Your life choices are not my decision, once you hit a certain age. And I may have to show you tough love, but it will be love. I promise.

I promise to spank you. Not because I want to. Not because I feel like it. But to be used as a form of discipline. I will not harm you, but I may hurt your feelings. You will ask me why do I spank, and your friends parents may not do the same. But that’s okay. Everyone is different. Your grandparents spanked me, and I learned lessons easier for it. You will get similar treatment.

I promise not to sweat the small stuff. There are things that matter and things that don’t. I promise to determine the difference appropriately. You’re going to get dirty. You’re going to break things. You’ll color the walls and shave the dog and knock out your own tooth. But that’s okay. You’re a kid and you’re learning to be a good one. Love us, respect us, love Jesus, and respect yourself….the rest is small stuff.

I promise to teach you about the love of Jesus. As a child, your imagination will run wild and the stories in the Bible will come alive to you. That is amazing. That is wonderful. And the sooner you learn about the importance of Jesus, the better. Growing up in church will allow your faith to grow and mature with your body. How special is that?! The sooner you realize that you were put on this earth for a purpose, the sooner you can start figuring out what that purpose is.

I promise to let you be a kid. You will get to play and have fun. That’s what being young is all about. Computer screens and cell phones are for adults, and they hurt your eyes and probably contain carcinogens. Those things are not for you. Sorry, I’m not sorry. Go play. Outside. Inside. With friends and neighbors and cousins. Get dirty.

I promise to let you be independent. I’ve been there. I know you think you’re so smart, and maybe you are. But I can promise you one thing, you aren’t smarter than me. Now I will let you pick out your clothes, help around the house, and teach you to cook a meal. But never fool yourself into thinking that isn’t part of my plan. I am helping you grow up to be big and strong and not be dependent on anyone else.

I promise to always be honest with you. I don’t like secrets or surprises and if you’re a child on mine, you probably don’t either. I will tell you straight and you can trust me. Sometimes I may have to phrase things a little different in order for you to be able to understand, but I will do my best. I know you’ll ask me some hard ones….where do babies come from? What does it mean to pass away? Can I have a pony? How do I say “no” to my friends?….yes, these questions will come. And I will be patient with each one.

I promise to always be your Mama. This doesn’t mean I’ll always be your friend…because I know there will be times when we are not friends. But I promise that I will always be here, and one day, you’ll want to be my friend. And when that day comes, I’ll smile because I knew it was on the way. And I’ll be relieved that the tense times are behind us.

I promise to never take you for granted. You are a person, who was made in my body, given to me by our Lord. You are a blessing. Every moment that I have with you is one I will never have again. Each day is here and then gone. I promise to seize the day and cherish our time together. I promise to say thank you. For all you will ever do and help me with and give to me. You are special. You are beautiful. I will love you for as long as I am here.

These words are simple. These promises aren’t extravagant. But they are precious. And they are true. And I wish in my heart of hearts that each child born had these things promised and fulfilled throughout their lives. This is what each child deserves. I am not yet a mother, but the Lord willing, I will have a chance to put these thoughts into actions one day.

Manna is Mercy

In John 6:31 Jesus equates himself to manna to the crowd. Manna is the bread that was given from God when the people of Israel were complaining of hunger. Though the Lord provided this bread for the people, it only lasted one day. After 24 hours, the manna would spoil and was no longer edible.

                At first you might think, why would God only give them bread to last for one day? What’s the use in that? The purpose was so that the Israelites were made to trust God each day for food. They fully relied on God. There was no use trying to save some manna for later. They were forced to divide it up and devour it in a single day.

How does this correlate with modern times?

                Christians receive mercy, grace, and forgiveness from God. These things are given freely. All we have to do is ask. His forgiveness is not finite. Each day, if we repent our sins of the day, they are automatically forgiven. It doesn’t matter the size, big or small sin is the same in the eyes of The Lord.

                Lamentations 3:22 says, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning.”

                As humans, sometimes we default to trying to stockpile our mercy and forgiveness. We think it would be best to save it for a rainy day; a day when we might be extra sinful. We may need all the mercy and forgiveness that we can get.

                Because of this, we find it hard and sometimes even refuse to give that mercy and forgiveness away to others. This is not how it should be. If our Lord’s mercies are new each morning, we should give away each bit of it that we have for today. We can trust that more will come when we wake.

                As Christians, we serve the one true God. The one who selflessly sent his ONLY son to die. For you, me, and each individual that you are reluctant to give forgiveness and mercy to. He could have kept his son on his rightful place of the throne. But instead he sent him down to earth to live as a human, a man who would work with his hands for a living. A man who would receive the worst treatment imaginable, only for telling the truth and trying to help those in the world.

                Isaiah 53:5 says, “He was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.”

Our God gave it all. Christ gave it all.

                There is no other religion that I know of that can say such a thing. To have a leader so selfless and giving of himself. What a blessing that is.

                And all we are asked to do is to love the people we love, and the ones we don’t. Respect the people we already do, and those we don’t. Educate ourselves in His Word, and tell others so that they may receive the same gift we have.

We have it easy. So very easy. All we have to do is want it. The gift is there for the taking.

God never moves. He remains a constant help and presence within our lives. If you find yourself drifting away from God, or not as close as you should be, it is not because he moved. You need to bring yourself back to where you belong in your Father’s arms.

If you think your life is hard, when you have a bad day, when you know you have been treated unfairly and gotten the short end of the stick…think of Jesus. Think of all he went through. As unbareable and unimaginable as it is. He did it for you. And me. He did it for those who whipped him, beat him, spat on him. In his final breaths he forgave them.

When you think you can’t forgive, when you are holding a powerful grudge…remember Philippians 4:13 and know that Christ’s power is in you. You have the ability to forgive and show mercy. You may not want to think you do. You may deny them because they don’t deserve it. But remember, neither did you. You have the strength of Christ that allows you to forgive, just as he did. Therefore you must exercise that strength.