Lean on Me

I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” Psalm 91:2 NIV  

When you hit rock bottom and have nothing to cling to but the Creator alone, that is when you learn how to trust God.  When life seems so impossible and you cannot figure out how to breath your next breath, that is when you learn how to trust God.  When you have never studied the bible, never opened it up aside from church, but that is where you are drawn and the only thing that will bring you comfort and hope, that is when you trust God.  When your world is upside down and you realize that you have control over nothing, that is when you trust God.

Losing my son almost 7 years ago put me in all of those situations, at once.  As devastating as his death was, what followed was unbearable at times.  Life went on for the world around us, but we were still stuck in this abyss of grief.  Friends and family went back to work, back to activities with their kids, back to the grind of daily living.  We were still.  We couldn’t move or breath.  

When we tried, we were punched in the gut.  For instance, I vividly remember the first time I went to Target after losing my son.  I went to grab the diaper bag…. expect I no longer needed it.  (Punched in the gut.)  I remember trying to set the table each night and seeing the place where my son’s booster seat was.  (Punched in the gut.)  I remember glancing back in my rear-view mirror in the “family van” we bought after I found out I was pregnant with my son.  I saw my beautiful daughter, but my son’s seat was empty.  (Punched in the gut.)  I could literally go on and on.  Everyday for years this feeling happened.

The other part of this journey was the feeling of being out of control.  When you are a person who feels like they have everything under control and you can handle whatever comes at you, and then your son is diagnosed with cancer, you learn quickly that you have no control over anything.  I was terrified.  Before he was sick, I would look at families suffering illness or tragedy and feel sorry for them, then I would think, “That could never happen to us.”  That was my security blanket of control that kept me sane.  When my son got sick, my security blanket was ripped out from under me and thrown away.  After he died, I had no control, no sense of security.  

I thought my husband would die in a car crash on the way to work.  I was afraid to send my daughter to school in case she fell off the playground and cracked her head open, etc.  The only fear I didn’t have was if I died.  (I probably would have welcomed that!) 

Over time, I learned that I still don’t have control.  (Not feeling warm and fuzzy yet, I know!) However, I learned to not fear as much.  I learned to let go of my fear and trust in God.  I started reading Scripture more and really digging deep into the meaning.  I started attending church regularly and reading books to learn more.  I couldn’t stop leaning on God.  I couldn’t stop hearing his messages and promises.  I needed more than ever to keep learning.  

As I began this spiritual journey, my grip on controlling my fears loosened.  Not all at once, but slowly.  My pain numbed, not all at once, but slowly.  My heart grew and my mind opened.  My trust in God blossomed and my faith exploded!

I realize more than ever that control is not something I was ever meant to have.  I also realize that fear is also something I was never meant to have.  These things I have given to God.  I am living a much more peaceful life since I have released these things to Him.  

“The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.” Psalm 28:7

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6

Those who know your name trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you. Psalm 9:10

But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. Psalm 13:5

 

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Whatever!

Everything has its wonders, even darkness and silence, and I learn, whatever state I may be in, therein to be content. – Helen Keller

So many people in today’s day and age want, want, want.  They want the better job, the bigger house, the better behaved children, the newest gaming system, the fancier car, the newest i-gadget, etc, etc, etc.  It is so much a “want hungry” society that it can make a person sick!  Greed is sinful and working to obtain that greed is sinful.  Whatever happened to contentment?  “Content literally means to be satisfied to the point where I am no longer disturbed or disquieted.” (Karen Ehman, Let it Go)

How often do you see  contented people around you?  We live in an “I want… I need…” society.  Turn on the television and it will tell you exactly what you want and need.  Drive down the parkway and you will find billboards telling you exactly what you want and need.  

As a first grade teacher and a mother, I try to teach my children to pray and be thankful.  We thank God everyday for the blessings he has given us.  It is on the most basic, primary level.  “Thank you God for the blessing you give to us each and everyday.  Thank you for my family, my home and for the food I have to eat.”  If each one of us went back to that simple, primary prayer, we might realize we have more than we need.  

“True contentment isn’t merely having what we want; it’s wanting nothing more than what we already have.” (Karen Ehman, Let it Go)

I feel completely blessed in every way.  I have a loving husband who works hard for our family and gives everything he has to give.  I have two beautiful girls who sometimes fight and argue, but they both have good hearts and are sweet girls learning to gain independence.  I have a son with the Lord whom I miss terribly, but I am so grateful that he is at peace and not suffering anymore.  I have a small, beautiful house and two reliable cars.  We have enough money to put food on the table everyday and even head out to dinner once in a while.  We are not rich.  We don’t take extravagant vacations.  We sometimes wonder how we will get a bill paid.  

We are just like so many others.  However, we have decided, a long time ago, not to keep up with the Joneses.  This decision has consequences.  Because of this, we are not bothered when someone gets a new car or a new house.  We don’t feel pressure to have a “better” vacation or to join every soccer, book or bunko club.  On the other hand, we don’t get invited to many functions because we sometimes say no.  When it is not a good fit for our family, we say no.  Some people can understand this and some people are offended.  

My husband and I have learned to be grateful and content in our current living situation.  We feel very blessed with what we have.  We want for no more.  When another blessing finds itself in our midst, we accept it graciously.  We do not expect anything.  

“Learn to be thankful in the midst of your unique “whatever” rather than trying to control something you were never meant to control in the first place.  God is more concerned with your attitude and obedience in the role in which he has cast you than he is about giving you a starring role.” (Karen Ehman, Let it Go)

When you learn to be content in your current living situation, truly content, a peace will find your heart.  That peace is God.  You are finally “making room” for Him.  Once God is in your peaceful, content heart, you won’t ever want to let Him go!  Missing the next bunko club won’t seem like such a big deal anymore!

 

 

 

 

 

Mothering through the Years

“But we behaved gently when we were among you, like a devoted mother nursing and cherishing her own children. So, being thus tenderly and affectionately desirous of you, we continued to share with you not only God’s good news (the Gospel) but also our own lives as well, for you had become so very dear to us.” ~ 1 Thessalonians 2:7-8 AMP

Do you recall bringing your babies home from the hospital?  Or even moments after birth?  The world was perfect.  You nursed them or fed them, cuddled them and you were content within the limits of the bed and the room.  Nothing happening on the outside of those 4 walls mattered at that moment.  God was gloriously showing you His miracle and you were drinking it in, thinking, it doesn’t get better than this!  Thinking, life is grand and it is going to be so wonderful to help this little being grow up!

And then they started to grow up!  BAMM!  That threw you for a loop, right?  That once reliant, dependent, non-verbal, snuggly being is now challenging your words, making choices you wouldn’t, and really trying your every bit of patience.   Which is exactly what children should be doing.  I mean, really, if they were to be compliant, dependent beings forever, they would never know how to live on their own.  And our ultimate goal is to prepare our children for life outside of our secure home.

So, how do we handle all of these changes?  Just when we find a balance in the constant struggle, another struggle emerges.

I like to take myself back to those early moments in the hospital.  I like to think about my hopes and dreams on my child’s birthday.  My hopes and dreams for my child, not for myself.  I try to put my mind back to that place and pray.  I pray that God will help me to see how to guide this situation immediately so that the dreams and hopes I have for my child can develop properly.  I must also remember that my dreams and hopes for my child may not be their dreams and hopes.  This really will come into play as they are teens and older. (I am not there yet!)  However, I am prayerful that both of our dreams and hopes will merge together.

I pray for my children first and foremost that they will know God.  That they will develop a relationship with Him and turn to Him and lean on Him often.  I pray that they will find loving and caring spouses who will protect them and be a friend to them as well as a husband to them.  I pray that they will find happiness in whatever career path they choose.  And I pray that after all of these child-rearing years that they will still love me and respect me for all of the choices I made, right or wrong.

So, life in the moment is hard.  Raising children in difficult.  Everyday choices are endless and disagreements are inevitable.  But, in the quiet of the night, with a newborn in your arms, you relished the opportunity.  Don’t waste it with empty threats.  Don’t waste it with angry words that cut.  Don’t waste it with tired responses. Don’t waste it with not enough hours in the day for your child.  Embrace this opportunity.  It is 18 short years that pass in the blink of an eye.

Control you ask?  Who should have it?  Parents or kids?  Neither.  Give it to God and enjoy each other.

Stand By Your Man

Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.  Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.” Colossians 3:18-19 NIV

“Wives, understand and support your husbands by submitting to them in ways that honor the Master.  Husbands, go all out in love for your wives. Don’t take advantage of them.” Colossians 3:18-19 The Message

When I got married, our deacon and family friend told us that a marriage is not 50/50, it is 100/100.  Each of us needs to give 100% to make it work.  Well, he was right, but he left out a very important piece that I have since learned and I’d like to add to it.  The husband needs to lead 100% and the wife needs to submit 100%.

I know, it’s the 21st century.  Do wives even do that anymore?  Submit to their husbands?  Well, I think the vernacular idea of submit and the biblical definition of submit might be two different ideas.  In our day, submit might mean being weak or indecisive.  It might mean beckoning to his every call and it might also look like the husband is a big bully!  However, in biblical terms, submission is respect and honor.  It means stepping back so your husband can lead and standing beside him, not arguing with him.  It means talking things out that you disagree with, not manipulating the facts to get your way.  It means having an open, honest relationship where roles are distinctly defined and respected by both husband and wife.

I am a head strong girl.  I think I was born that way, right from day one!  I know I gave my parents a hard time and I had my own ideas about everything!  It is part of who I am.  My husband is extremely mellow and laid back.  He is content in almost any situation.  He has opinions and shares them when he wants to, but he is really easy going for the most part.  Our relationship was strong from the start, although I can’t say that it started out with hubby as the “leader” and me being “submissive”.  We didn’t fight, we worked fine and were happy.  But, I definitely took control in situations.

However, 6 1/2 years ago, our son died of cancer.  It was truly at the moment of his death that our roles reversed.  He stepped up as the leader God needed him to be and I fell back into submission as God created me to be.  We didn’t decide this, it was as natural as the Creation.  I couldn’t function and my husband needed to keep our family going, if for nothing else than our marriage and our little girl who was almost 4 at the time.   We completely switched roles.  I couldn’t make any decisions at all, even if I should answer the telephone or not.  He was now making every decision, breakfast, lunch, dinner, shopping, work, bills, etc.

As I came through the shock, grief, fear, and many emotions tied to our loss, we grew together as a couple.  We worked even better with him in control.  We shared more, talked more, and we were closer than we were before.  It is 6 1/2 years later and while I have taken back control of many daily tasks, I feel now more than ever that my husband is the leader in our home and I need to honor and respect him and his decisions.  If there are big decisions to be made, he is a part of them or he makes the decision.  When it comes to the children, we discuss, but often times he will step in and have the final say on a situation.  Purchases outside of our “needs” are always discussed, both ways.  Meals and shopping are usually planned together and whomever is free will go shopping for the week.

Our set up works.  It works well.  I will admit that I have never thought, “If only I’d waited a bit longer before I got married….” or ” I wonder if there is anyone else out there that would be more like Prince Charming…”  Never.  My husband is who I chose and we have been through many, many rocky roads together.  However, together is the key word.  We did not stray, we stayed side by side.  We supported each other so neither of us would fall and we continue to do this.

As I honor, respect and submit to my husband, he loves, cherishes and respects me as well.  I don’t wonder why our marriage works.  I know why.  It is because we won’t have it any other way.  For us, forever really meant forever.  There is no escape door in our marriage.  We are in it together, good times and bad.  So, we can travel bitter, angry and trying to control each other, or we can enjoy each other, talk things through and live together as God intended us to be.  We have chosen the latter and it is a beautiful creation!

Good Intentions Gone Sour

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.”
~ Colossians 3:23 NIV84

What a fantastic verse, isn’t it?  Have you ever paid attention to this verse, broken it apart and really let it sink in?  Whatever I do, anything and everything, from waking in the morning to sleeping at night.  Every single thing I do every single day I should do it with my entire heart.  Not half effort, not just to get through the day.  With all my heart.  But it doesn’t stop here.  As if working for the Lord, not for man.

WOW!  Imagine working for the Lord?  Seems strange, doesn’t it?  However, that is exactly what we do as Christians.  We are working for the Lord.  In everything we do, we are to bring glory to God and reflect His love through us to others.  It’s a tall task and it’s not always easy.

So, how do we accomplish this task?  How do we do the Lord’s work and not become overly controlling in the process?  How do we allow God to work through us without becoming a roadblock?

Allowing God to use us to reach others is a delicate balance of giving, receiving, questioning, answering and loving.  All completed without controlling others but allowing God to lead us and them.  It is a complete surrender to God.  It is easy to get caught up the day to day routines of life and become a bit controlling.  We do it everyday over meal planning, schedules, appointments, clothing choices for our kids, chores, disagreements with spouses or co-workers, etc.  The list can go on and on.  When we are faced with these decisions and challenges, it is important to step back and pray.  It is crucial to listen for God and to reflect on the situation.  Is what you are about to do for God’s glory or is it to “get through your task or your day”?  Is what you about to say a reflection of Jesus in you or is it out of frustration from not getting your way?

These are difficult questions and we all find our breaking point.  However, God forgives.  We always have another chance and we can always choose to do better next time.

The difference between a giving heart and a controlling heart can be a matter of one simple phrase or one act.  For example, you bring a plate of cookies to your child’s teacher.  It is a generous gesture.  Given freely it would be gracious and full of thanksgiving.  However, it is easy to deliver the cookies and say, “Can you please change my child’s seat?  He/She doesn’t really like sitting next to _____”.  Now you have attached a generous gift with a request to control a situation.  It is no longer Godly.  We are all victims of this behaviour at one time or another.

Another example for you – Your office coffee machine has one cup left.  You and a co-worker walk up at the same time.  (UH OH!)  You both realize that there is only enough left for one cup.  You say, “Go ahead and have it.  I’ll be fine.”  But then you sigh.  And you are boiling inside.  You weren’t being gracious.  You were trying to guilt her into giving you the coffee.  You were trying to control the situation with a comment that said slightly differently could have been a very gracious comment.

I could go on and on with examples of things we encounter everyday!  Good intentions gone sour!  Grace turned to control!  Sweetness turned to bitterness.

In the end, I think if we remember the verse at the start:

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.

If we remember this, we can’t go wrong.  We will have Jesus guiding our every step, our every action and our every choice.  Everything we do will be for God’s glory!  We won’t have that bitterness or nagging out of control feeling.  We will be content to Let it Go and it will feel good!  I am working on this now and I am hopeful that I can find the peace, the grace and the sweetness that comes with intentional, Godly actions!