Broken-hearted Thankfulness

I know, I know. You’re busy. You have a house to clean, children to entertain, food to buy and prep and cook. You have presents to purchase (for the holiday that’s not even here yet) and Black Friday deals to procure. As Thanksgiving arrives, you will undoubtedly have, both figuratively and literally, a lot on your plate (you see what I did there?!). But setting aside all the hurry and worry for just a second won’t kill you. So go ahead, take just a second to read something that, perhaps, might just help you enjoy your Thanksgiving a tiny bit more.

Before we get into the meat of the discussion (look at all these genius food-related metaphors!), take a second to read the section below. Thanks!

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Thankful: (adj) feeling or expressing gratitude; appreciative.

Hebrews 13:15, “Through Him, therefore, let us constantly and at all times offer up to God a sacrifice of praise, which is the fruit of lips that thankfully acknowledge and confess and glorify His name.”

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Despite one of these being taken from a secular dictionary and the other coming straight from the Bible, they have much in common. Let’s start with the verse in Hebrew. Many of us aren’t hearing for the first time this concept of being thankful to God at all times and in all circumstances. If you’re like me, you’ve read verses like this before, and after realizing it’s another verse telling you to do something you know you’re currently not doing very well, you sort of mumble “Sorry, God, I’ll do better,” and move on to the next verse. Don’t get me wrong, I think the type of attitude and mindset described in this verse is the key to living the kind of life that God intends for us. However, I don’t think the first part is the most important within this verse. I want us to really stop and look at the intentional reference to this mindset as “a sacrifice of praise.” A sacrifice. By definition, a sacrifice is something you choose to do, something that costs you something to carry out, but it’s something you do anyway because you believe it to be the right thing. Y’all, we cannot sit around waiting until our mood allows us to praise God, waiting until we feel like praising God. We must adopt a mindset that, no matter what we have going on, we are going to glorify the name of Jesus.

Notice the idea that thankfulness (like joy…see previous blog post!) is not a “when you feel like it” thing according to the dictionary definition either. Yes, there are many, many times in our lives when we feel deeply, deeply grateful, but there are many others when we don’t. Being thankful, according to Webster, might be a feeling you feel, but it might also be a decision you make to express gratitude.

I don’t know what you’re going through, I don’t know what you’ve been through, and I don’t know what you’ve lost this year. I do know, however, that the examples set for us in the Bible show people at their weakest, facing their greatest adversity, and coming through it successfully–blessed abundantly!–because they chose to praise God through each miserable step. Even when the devil is trying his best to help me remember every single upset in my life, I want to keep this song in my heart: I will enter His gates with thanksgiving in my heart. I will enter His courts with praise. I will say this is the day that the Lord has made. I will rejoice for He has made me glad. I want to value my relationship with my Heavenly Father enough that I purposefully use my time to simply be in His presence. To say thank you. To worship Him. I want to be so undone by His generosity that I have nothing but my love and my overwhelming, broken-hearted thankfulness to offer Him.

God is teaching me that for His children to live with Him in their hearts and minds all day each day isn’t convenient. It’s not natural for us, and it’s not easy. It’s hard, it’s frustrating, it’s even uneventful sometimes. And because I’m a sinner by nature, it’s sacrificial. John 4:24 says that “God is a Spirit (a spiritual Being) and those who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth (reality).” Guys, just being thankful when it’s easy, just praising God for His innate goodness on Sunday mornings, that’s not enough. That’s nowhere near making a sacrifice of praise. It should be the first item on our “To Do” lists EVERY SINGLE DAY, not just when a holiday forces us to do it: “Give to the Lord the glory due to His name; worship the Lord…” (Psalm 29:2).

In my Bible reading this morning, the children of God were called “blessed.” Because I use an Amplified version of the Bible, it gave me deeper insight into what this term meant when applied to Christians. Blessed people = people who are happy, to be envied, spiritually prosperous, with life-joy and satisfaction in God’s favor and salvation, regardless of their outward conditions. With all my heart, I want this description to apply to me. Spiritually prosperous? Yes, please! Possessing life-joy? Absolutely! (I love that term, by the way…life-joy) Being joyful and satisfied regardless of what my outward condition is simply because I have a God who loves me enough to favor me and who rescued me from my sinful nature out of the goodness of His own heart? One million times yes! We serve an AMAZINGLY good God, y’all. He’s FOR us. He LOVES you. No matter what your heart feels like during this Thanksgiving holiday and the Christmas season to follow, be thankful. Choose to offer that wonderful God you serve your sacrifice of praise. You can never out-give God. Whatever it costs you to choose to set aside your sorrows and your worries and your upsets to white-knuckle your praise to God, DO IT. You will be repaid so very, very richly.

(Before the closing prayer, I’d like to take a minute and let you guys know how beyond-words thankful I am for you. I feel like I’d so often like to offer you an apology for the quality that you get here, but you don’t seem to mind. I will never be able to express my gratitude for your time and your feedback. Thank you for reading, thank you for sharing, thank you for sticking around. God is teaching me SOOO MUCH through you, and I’m forever grateful to Him and you. Big hugs to you all, and may everyone have a blessed Thanksgiving.)

Dear Lord, thank you so much. Thank you for every single thing in my life that you so continually provide. Father, I love you, and I ask that you help me to a more worshipful and grateful attitude regardless of my outward condition. In Psalm 25:12 it states that the person who worships You “shall dwell at ease,” and Father, this is what I want for my life. Please teach me to lay aside myself so that I can choose to offer You the sacrifice of praise that You so greatly deserve. Lord, I am incredibly thankful to be Your child. In Jesus’s name. Amen.

 

Abraca-NOPE!

Our local Chick-Fil-A hosts a wonderful (FREE!!) event each year called Prince and Princess Night. The location varies, but the concept never does: boys and girls dress up as their favorite princes and princesses and attend a super-charged meet-and-greet with various Disney favorites. There is a main stage with performances by each prince and princess that the kids get to participate in, games and prizes, and more photo opportunities than you can imagine. It’s something we look forward to every year! I guess because of this impending event, during a recent conversation with a friend who was struggling with a long-running issue, I started thinking about my approach to prayer, specifically how I thought about prayer (how I treated it). Sadly, it turns out I have a much more “Disney” than Jesus approach often times.

This might be kind of tricky to explain, so stick with me.

You see, often times I use prayer as a means to an end. I have a problem or a challenge. I don’t know how to handle this problem or challenge or, more likely, I just want it to go away. So I pray about it. Then, I expect God to wave His Disney-esque magic wand and simply remove my problem or challenge because “I did my part” and said my one prayer about it. I mean, isn’t that how this works? God sees poor, stressed Lindsey and breaks out His magic and all my problems melt away? Abraca-NOPE! It turns out, prayer is a lot more powerful and foundational than that.

I do want to make sure I’m clear about one thing right off the bat: I ONE-HUNDRED PERCENT believe that God can answer a prayer either before we ever offer it up, or the second the words leave our hearts. He is mighty and able to do more than we could ever even dream. I don’t doubt His ability, but as I’ve learned more about the heart of God, about His desire for a real, deep, binding relationship with His children, I’ve started to see that God uses prayer as a bridge, and not one that He’s willing to quickly discard. Think about it this way. What if every time we had a problem, we prayed about it once, God moved immediately, and our problem vanished. Where would this leave us as Christians? Where would this leave us in our relationship with God?

I believe that God, in His infinite wisdom, has created prayer to be, not as a magic wand, but as a door that we, His children, can use to gain access to His voice, His guidance, His wisdom, and His love. Prayer is not a last ditch effort to restore our earthly calm, uttered only at the apex of our need. Prayer is a way for God to guide us small step by small step through our challenges and trials and temptations until at last (sometimes at loooong last), we are on the other side. If the purpose of our struggles is to teach us to be more like Jesus, what good would a magic-wand response from God do us anyway? We know from watching Jesus’s actions and hearing His words that He exhibited a variety of character traits: grit, determination, faith, forbearance (self-control), patience, grace, love, long-suffering, tolerance…and that’s just to name a few. These qualities were the tools Jesus used to persevere through His trials and tribulations. It’s these qualities (plus a few others) that made Him Jesus! There was no magic wand. There was no immediate relief. There was, however, prayer.

In researching some biblical truths about prayer, I came across a verse that I don’t remember ever really paying attention to before, but it really emphasized the importance of prayer in our personal relationships with God. Job 22:27 states powerfully, “You will pray to Him, and He will hear you, and you will fulfill your vows to Him.” Did you catch that? Prayer is such a significant vehicle for solidifying our personal relationships with God that Job refers to it as vow fulfillment. When a couple gets married, isn’t it the ceremonial vows that set the foundation for how their relationship should go? Aren’t the vows what dictate the sanctification of a marriage, the unbreakable bond that marriage creates between those two people? Hopefully now we’re beginning to understand why God lets that trial linger longer than we’d prefer, why He allows us to develop a prayer life that involves our repetitive return to Him for guidance and strength instead of simply taking that magic-wand approach we so often hope for.

If we were meant to deal with our struggles by reaching out to God once and only once, if God wasn’t interested in using our prayer life as a doorway into close relationship with Him, we wouldn’t need verses like 1 Thessalonians 5:17: “Be unceasing in prayer [praying perseveringly].” We wouldn’t need to be encouraged BY JESUS HIMSELF “…always to pray and not to turn coward (faint, lose heart, and give up)” (Luke 18:1). If prayer isn’t something that helps us develop long-suffering like Jesus and an ability to persevere like Jesus, there’d be no need for these scriptures. Take a second to look closely at Psalms 145:18, “The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him sincerely and in truth.” Let that sink in…the Lord is near to all who call upon Him. So how, again, do we draw near to Jesus? Prayer. How do we put ourselves into the very presence of the Lord? Prayer. Friends, this is proof that God’s purpose for prayer is far greater, far more important really, than simply answering our requests. Sure, He does that, too. He’s a loving God who wants only the very, very best for His children. He wants to bless them and show them how mightily He can move on their behalf. However, for Him, prayer is so much more than that. It’s His line to us.

So often we come to God with our needs and we feel unheard and unimportant when instant gratification isn’t granted. Instead of getting upset and maybe even angry with God over what we perceive to be His distance, let’s choose instead to remember what the Bible says about Him. He loves us. He longs to be in close relationship with us, and prayer is the cord the binds us to God. I think it’s worth our time to consider a change in our prayer lives, also. Before you disagree, hear me out. In James 4:8, the Bible states, “Come close to God and He will come close to you.” (Sounds really similar to Psalms 145:18, doesn’t it? Wonder if we should pay close attention when God repeats Himself in the Bible? <–SARCASM!) Look carefully at the order of the actions mentioned in this verse. Which comes first, does God draw near to us and then we reciprocate only AFTER He’s made Himself known? Nope. It’s our move. We must reach out to Him FIRST. We draw near to God, and THEN God is near to us. Prayer first, for however long it takes, then God moves on our behalf. But there’s even more good news written between the lines here. You know that in-between time, when you’re still praying over your struggles but God’s not moved visibly yet? Guess what…He’s still right beside you.

Going back to that change in our prayer lives that I mentioned above, let me just throw this idea out there. What if we didn’t want until we needed something serious (and immediately) to tighten our bond with God? What if we fulfilled our vows to Him by praying on a regular basis, about all things? I can only speak for myself and as I go through life I might find this isn’t necessarily always true, but for me personally, I’ve found that when I’m strengthening my relationship with God regularly, in other words, when my prayers are prayers of only thanksgiving or simply conversations with God instead of a litany of requests thrown down at peak urgency, God seems not to need to use trials and tribulations to get my attention and my time. Life just seems a little easier, a little calmer. It’s certainly not magic and I certainly don’t profess to know what God does or why, but sometimes common sense wins out. If God is determined to have a relationship with us and prayer is that relationship’s foundation, God will encourage us to pray by whatever means necessary. In that case, what would it hurt to try praying regularly and in ALL circumstances instead of waiting until you desperately need God’s assistance to speak with Him? Maybe, just maybe, those trials and tribulations that force you into the presence of God wouldn’t be quite so necessary. Just sayin’….

Dear Lord, thank you so much for creating a way for me to speak directly to You. Thank you for ALWAYS hearing me and for ALWAYS working on my behalf to bring the most good into my life. Help me, Lord, to trust Your presence and to believe Your hand is moving even when I cannot see it or sense it. Help me, also, Father, to commit myself to a close relationship with you, one that doesn’t have me running to you only when I need something. Teach me to be patient in my prayers and steadfast in my commitment to my relationship with You. Help me to spend time with you daily so that I’m not reliant on difficult seasons of life before ever reaching out to You. Thank you for the example Jesus set for me with regard to prayer, and I ask you to help me to be more like Him in that regard. I love you, Father, and I thank you for all my many, many blessings. In Jesus’s name I pray. Amen.

“Is prayer your steering wheel or your spare tire?” ~Corrie Ten Boom

 

Keeping the Peace (of Jesus)

IT’S FALL, Y’ALL!!!! Finally! Fall is my absolute favorite season. I love everything about it. I love the decorations; I love the weather; I love the pumpkin patch; I love Thanksgiving, and I love the clothes. Ah, the clothes. I love the cozy socks and the oversized sweatshirts and the scarves and the boots and….well, you get my point. I just feel better snuggled down into something warm and roomy. (Shut your mouth, it does NOT have anything to do with these such clothes being the kind to hide all manner of bodily imperfections, like the food-baby I sport for a large portion of the fall season.) But you know what? Some of us wear our emotions like cozy fall clothes. For me, I feel most comfortable in a state of worry. I can slip on my worry, and it feels comforting, familiar, like being in the presence of an old friend. However, for others, maybe it’s not worry you wear like that oversized sweatshirt. For you, maybe it’s bitterness. Maybe it’s rejection. Maybe it’s self-pity. Maybe it’s anger. I don’t know about you, but just like I’ll feel about those fluffy socks come warmer spring weather, I’m ready to shed those unhealthy emotions, no matter how comforting the devil might convince me they feel.

Shortly after becoming a mom, I noticed a SUBSTANTIAL decline in my inner peace (my daughter was born at 7:08 pm, and this happened about 7:09pm). At the time, I believed it was just because motherhood and its vast responsibilities were so new to me, but three months, six months, 18 months later, my peace had not returned. It was around this time that God really placed a deep, sincere craving for His peace within my spirit, unlike anything I’d ever longed for before. It was such a strong desire that I immediately began to actively seek that peace. During this search, the Lord started making it clear to me just how absolutely necessary peace is for the life of the believer. As I’ve stated so very many times, worry was my biggest peace-stealer, my biggest hurdle. But despite my own area of difficulty, lately, while praying for God’s guidance with my next blog topic, God really placed a burden on my heart to spend some time discussing the importance of trading not worry this time, but anger and strife for His peace.

So before we get into the thick of it, let me ask you this: is this you? Do you, my friend, have leftover anger and/or resentment toward someone (even years-old anger) that keeps you from feeling content and at peace? Does it affect your relationships? Does it keep you just unhappy enough, just on edge enough, that your household suffers? That your health suffers? That potential relationships suffer? Does it keep you just angry enough that your relationship with God suffers?

Through the guidance of Jesus, I’ve come to believe that there are four steps to ridding our minds, bodies, homes, and lives of the stronghold of anger and strife. Let’s trade in that damaging anger and resentment for the peace of Jesus, shall we?

*Know God’s love for yourself so that you’re able to show it to others

In order to let go of anger and irritation at the moment they arise, to prevent their taking root and festering, we must be able to replace those undesirable emotions with something worthwhile, with fruit of the Spirit. If you don’t know God’s love for you, if you’re not 100% convinced He’s your #1 fan, how can you, when faced with the hard choices of life, choose love as the Bible instructs? My friends, it is the love of Jesus within us, and that ALONE, that allows us to excuse someone else’s words or behavior and opt for love toward him/her instead of upset. Think of it this way: it’s impossible to give away something you yourself don’t possess. How, then, can you give the love of Jesus to others if you don’t accept it for yourself? It is only once we each personally accept God’s unearned love for us that we can show that same unearned love to someone else when the moment of truth comes. What is it that you believe keeps God from loving and accepting you? Whatever it is, I can promise you He’s over it. It’s not an issue for Him. “…Fear not, for I have redeemed you [ransomed you by paying a price instead of leaving you captives]; I have called you by your name; you are Mine” (Isaiah 43:1). You. Are. His. Still believe that whatever you have in your past is awful enough that God can’t possibly love you? Look no further than Jesus Christ. Fact: His blood was shed. Fact: your sins were forgiven. The end. No disclaimers, no tiny legal print. God knew exactly what He was doing when He made you. He knew you before you were in your mother’s womb, He knows everything about you, He believes you are wonderfully and beautifully made, He knows you are sinful and flawed, and He knows you were so very worth the sacrifice of His Son. God loves you. Say it. Accept it. Embrace it. Believe it. Then, go show it to others.

*Be (intentionally) slow to anger and quick to forgive

In the book of James, we are told directly that anger is not what God has intended for us to settle down into and walk around in. In chapter one it states that EVERY person should be “slow to speak and become angry because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires” (vs. 19-20). WARNING: time to watch your toes again…stepping is about to commence! Have you ever justified your attitude, your decision to hold onto your anger, your choice to actively hold a grudge against someone because that’s just how you are? That’s just how your personality is? Or maybe that’s just how you were raised? Well, stop that mess. Deep down, you know those are nothing but excuses to be mad because it’s that “cozy sweatshirt” emotion for you, and it’s way easier than getting unmad and forgiving. “But you don’t know what so-and-so did to me!!” You’re exactly right, but God does and I’ve yet to find a verse that gives a little loophole for those of you who’ve met a certain level of hurt/rejection/wrong-doing. Choosing peace over anger IS NOT NATURAL. We were not made to do this automatically. If we had been, there’d be no need for verse after verse instructing us on the hows and whys of letting anger go and being quick to forgive. Just look at Proverbs 29:11. “Fools give full vent to their rage, but the wise bring calm in the end.” Notice it says “in the end” is where the calm is. It’s okay to get mad. It’s okay to feel angry about something. That’s normal and human and just part of life. But to settle down and live in that emotion is NOT. It’s detrimental to your spiritual walk, and it puts up a barrier between you and God. Maybe it’s just me and maybe I’m crazy (hush!), but fool is NOT one of the titles I want associated with my my name.

And don’t forget that second part, forgiveness. Maybe you’re not too bad about letting go of your anger. Maybe you’ve mastered the art of getting mad, deep breathing or counting to 10 or whatever, but you can’t quite forgive. Maybe you’re a cataloguer, someone who never forgets the ways others have wronged you. Please, be so very careful about this dangerous tight-rope walk. In Colossians 3:13, we as believers are instructed to “…forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” But our Bible doesn’t just stop there. God wanted to make sure that you and I fully understood the danger of walking around with that unforgiveness, that anger in our hearts. “But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:15). Whoa! Read that one more time. Carefully. Out loud maybe even. Listen to what God is saying to us: if we don’t let go of our anger, if we don’t go that one step further to forgive the person or people who’ve wronged us, until we do, we will not be forgiven of our own sins. YIKES! I don’t know about y’all, but I screw up a lot. I desperately need God’s forgiveness on a daily basis (who am I kidding, it’s more like an hourly basis some days…can I get an amen?!). We must be so careful about this. We MUST let that love of God shine through us so that we can dismiss our anger and forgive those who trespass against us as we’re instructed.

Before we move forward to the next point, I do want to take a second for those people who might fall into yet another column with their unforgiveness. So maybe forgiving others you can do, but your struggle has been forgiving yourself for something you did/didn’t do/mishandled in your past. The Bible has you covered, too! Remember what Jesus did for you, how fully He’s seen your sin and how quickly He’s forgiven it: “Come now, and let us reason together, says the Lord. Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow” (Isaiah 1:18). Or maybe this helps you see just how forgiven you truly are: “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12). The message is this, my friend. Peace isn’t possible until you let Jesus do what He gave His life to do: save yours, forgive yours, empower yours. Believe in His complete forgiveness so that you can do what He’s instructed you to do: forgive yourself, forgive others, and live peacefully.

*Mind your own business

Shout out to all you nosy social media drama queens! 🙂 Y’all, what are we doing with this social media bit? Are we improving our lives? I just don’t know. For every uplifting Beth Moore or Joyce Meyer post that helps me feel safe and secure, there are 753,000 that bring me crashing back to the disaster that is our world. And wouldn’t it be interesting if we could all be in a room together and honestly respond if I asked for you to raise your hand if you’ve ever felt your blood pressure skyrocket over something you’ve seen on social media? {slowly raises hand} Again, what are we doing? We are allowing our peace to be stolen so that we get three and a half minutes of entertainment while looking at the silly Internet (which just might be the anti-Christ, anyway). And don’t even get me started on people who’ve allowed social media to ruin family relationships and friendships! As is His usual, God knew what was coming. He knew what we were facing and the temptations and faults we’d cave to. So guess what He did…He covered this topic in His Word, too. First Thessalonians explains how we are to approach such behavior. In verse 11, God’s Word tells each of us “to make it your ambition and definitely endeavor to live quietly and peacefully, to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands.” Let me translate: mind your own dadgum business, stay busy with your own life, and make a continuous, determined effort to keep the peace of Jesus. As that grossly overused expression goes, enough said.

*Purposefully avoid strife

Most of us would probably agree quickly that anger within our hearts and homes is dangerous and far from what God intends for us. But what about strife? Strife is a word used within the Bible to describe an atmosphere of bickering or a confrontational attitude people take on. You know those days when you don’t feel good or are tired or just over it completely and you meet every single statement from your spouse or children or coworkers as a challenge? That’s strife. It’s that unsettled feeling where no one’s full-out fighting necessarily (although that’s frequently present in strife-filled households too), but you can feel in the atmosphere that peace is not prevailing. It hardly takes a rocket scientist to determine that a house or heart full of strife cannot simultaneously be one of peace and calm. Quarrelsome behavior doesn’t allow for peaceful interactions, and the presence of such behavior is something we are strongly cautioned against in II Timothy: “And the servant of the Lord must not be quarrelsome (fighting and contending). Instead, he must be kindly to everyone and mild-tempered [preserving the bond of peace]” (vs. 24). It is our JOB, as followers of Jesus, as people of the Church, to purposefully walk in peace. When that person behind you in the checkout line is stepping straight on your last, worn-out nerve….choose to remain in peace. When your child misplaces his/her shoe for the 7,000th time on the morning you’re running late…choose to remain in peace. When your coworker will NOT stop asking tedious questions about whatever dumb new thing your company is attempting to implement…choose to remain in peace. When it would be so easy to make that cutting remark to your spouse’s question…choose to remain in peace. I’m sure some of you recognize yourself in these descriptions of quarrelsome behavior, and maybe you even think that it’s not really that big of a deal. I’m sure some of you think it’s not like you’re really fighting with your wife or your husband or your kids, and who did bickering ever hurt anyway. If you feel this way, I strongly encourage you to take a minute to read Galatians 5, especially around verse 20. Just how serious is strife? Our Bible puts it in the same category as adultery, witchcraft, murder, hatred, and idolatry. Did you catch that?? Something as “simple” as strife is so potentially damaging and so dangerous that it’s grouped with the “biggest sins” one could think of. I guess it kind of makes sense, since after all, it certainly is murderous on our inner and outer peace.

So regardless of where you fall in the tendency to get angry and act upon that anger, I think it’s safe to say that we all need more peace in our lives. We know we can’t expect others to create that peace for us. It is up to us to choose that lifestyle and attitude for ourselves, but we also know that we don’t have to go it alone. Not only do we have a great, tried-and-true instruction manual at our fingertips that teaches us how to behave so as to encourage more peacefulness (um, hello…it’s the Bible!), but we also have a Teacher who is more than happy to meet us right where we are. He’s more than happy to help us in big ways and small ways until reacting with love, forgiveness and peace feels way more cozy and snug than anger and resentment and upset ever have.

Dear Lord, thank you so much that I don’t have to rely on myself alone when it comes to making big changes in my life, especially in my behavior and attitudes. Father, I ask that you help prompt me when my behavior doesn’t glorify You. Help me to recognize areas which need improvement, especially those involving my tendency toward anger, upset, and strife. I want to be at peace, and I ask that You help me to desire the peace that comes from You, Jesus, above anything else. Help me to crave the peace that surpasses all understanding more than I crave the temporary satisfaction that human emotion gives. Thank you, Lord, for hearing my prayer and for walking with me into this new way of being. Help me to be patient with others and patient with myself. Thank you for Your Word and guidance. In Jesus’s name I pray this prayer. Amen.

 

 

Just ride your bike

My initial plan was for this post to be written and published Thursday or Friday of last week. I wanted to use this post to discuss a prayer on my heart, a lesson God was teaching me. However, while praying about and thinking about my post’s content, I felt God guide me toward waiting so that I might also include the BIG way He was planning to show up and answer my prayer (i.e. show His power and love). So, I waited…because I’m smart like that.

Before I get into the aforementioned lesson, let me ask you a question which God has really been pressing upon my heart lately: do you only believe in God, or do you actually believe Him, too? In other words, do you truly believe, deep down, that He not only can but WILL fulfill His biblical promises in your life, just like He did for Mary or Moses or Joshua, or even Jesus? After some careful, honest self-reflection, I found that I leaned way more toward believing in God, but when it came to believing God, believing He will do for me what He says He’ll do, I doubted His promise fulfillment in my own life. It wasn’t that I thought He couldn’t do what He said He could do, it was just that I doubted He’d do those things for little ole insignificant me. I mean, I totally understand why God parted oceans for Moses…he’s Moses for crying out loud! But Lindsey? Who am I that God would move mountains, part oceans, burn bushes for me?

As I’ve told you before, I struggle with a negative outlook at times, especially during challenging times, which unfortunately dampens my faith and hinders my trusting in God’s plan and hand. This is something I’ve recognized about myself for many years, and it’s something I’ve longed to correct but felt unable to do. I recently began reading Believing God by Beth Moore, and if you struggle in this same area, I HIGHLY recommend it (even if you don’t struggle with trusting that God will do what He says He’ll do, it’s a fabulous resource). In this book, Ms. Moore posits the question I asked you earlier about whether you’ve stopped at believing in God or matured enough spiritually to believe God and His promises. Because I was spending time reflecting on where my belief truly fell, I started noticing how I approached God’s promises, and to be perfectly honest, I wasn’t liking what I saw.  At all.

Back to that lesson I told you about earlier. In order to really up the celebration factor for our daughter’s recent fifth birthday, my husband and I decided to surprise her with a weekend trip to Branson this past weekend. For most of you, this will seem like no big deal. Branson is only a little over two hours away, and we were only planning to stay two nights. But for us, for our little family, this was a BIG, stress-inducing deal (especially for me). Not only does our sweet girl’s food allergy situation present a really big challenge when eating out (and when eating in an unfamiliar town), but she’s never really slept away from home. She’s a HUGE fan of her own bed, and even in it, sleep it not always her friend. (Just so you understand the magnitude of this, she’s now five and we’ve slept solidly through the night maybe 15-20 times…total. In her whole life. Help me, Jesus.) My gut reaction was to give in to the fear that this trip might be exhausting and difficult and just cancel the whole thing. However, God’s really been showing me the danger of living a life where my decisions are based on my human fears and limitations, so we kept the trip on the calendar and pressed forward.

Fast forward a couple of days, past days devoted to praying my burdens over to God instead of trying to plan out every single movement myself (“Do not rely on your own insight or understanding. In all your ways know, recognize, and acknowledge Him and He will direct and make straight and plain your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes.” Proverbs 3:5-7). Fast forward a couple of days where I had to remind myself literally as often as eight to ten times a day that God was in control and I wasn’t. That He was planning each minute, each circumstance, and not me. Fast forward a couple of days so that you’re in the midst of a trip that turned out far better than we could have ever expected. Did I know exactly how we were going to get our daughter to sleep each night before we got there? No, I did not. But God did. Did I know exactly what she was going to eat for each meal while we were there? No, I did not. But God did. And, friends, hear this: not only did He make sure her needs were met, but He went above and beyond (because that’s how He rolls, if you’ve not noticed). Where, besides Chick-Fil-A, was the only other place in Branson that we found where it was safe for her to eat? AT OUR FAVORITE RESTAURANT IN THAT WHOLE CITY!! Are you hearing this? Not only did we find a restaurant with menu items (plural…itemS!!) that would feed our child, but we found them at the restaurant that is our go-to, can’t-miss stop each time we’re in Branson!! God is so good! And do you know what else? We slept. Was it the most peaceful, uninterrupted sleep of all time? No, but it was fine. It wasn’t perfect, but it was progress. It was progress that was, without a doubt, God-ordered and constructed. As it turns out, I don’t have to have it all figured out ahead of time. God was right. If we trust Him, if we put our faith in Him and His promises, He. Will. Deliver.

During this time of trip prep and a mentally tiring cycle of feeling worried, turning that worry over to God, and blocking it from my mind, I revisited the story of Abraham in Genesis 12. In the first verse of that chapter, God instructs Abraham (Abram), saying, “Go for yourself [for your own advancement] away from your country, from your relatives and your father’s house, to the land that I will show you.” After promising to bless Abraham and protect him and his future descendants, verse four tells us that “…Abram departed, as the Lord had directed him.” Think about that for just a minute, what this exchange really entails. 1. God visits Abraham. 2. God tells Abraham to leave every single thing (He even lists them!) that he’s familiar with and go where God directs. 3. Abraham does as he’s instructed. Okay, hold the phone. I don’t know about you, but if this happened to me, I can PROMISE YOU that I’d need a little something extra between 2 and 3 that included the tiny detail of WHERE I AM GOING!!! What in the actual world?! Look at the faith and trust displayed by Abraham in just these verses. God doesn’t tell Abraham each step to take. God doesn’t tell Abraham the game plan or the big picture or even a tiny hint toward what He has in mind. But does that stop Abraham from trusting God and stepping out? Not one bit. Unlike me, Abraham’s faith and trust exist stronger and bigger than his desire for understanding or planning. He (again, unlike me) didn’t need to know the next step or where he’d be one week later. He didn’t ask God why. He just went. Without question and with nothing but trust. He believed God.

And, friends, this is exactly how God wants us to be, too. In Isaiah 42: 16, God promises His guidance: “I will lead them in paths that they have not known. I will make darkness into light before them, and make uneven places into a plain. These things I have determined to do [for them]; and I will not leave them forsaken.” Put yourself into God’s shoes for a second. Can you imagine our reactions if He were to tell us each bump in the road we’ll face between now and heaven? We’d freeze up. We’d be so overwhelmed and disheartened we’d miss every single blessing lying in our path. So instead, God does for us what He did for Abraham: He encourages us to trust Him; He promises to be with us continuously; and He guarantees that He’ll never forget to guide us to that next blessing and through that current/next hardship.

As another surprise for our daughter’s birthday, we got her a new “big girl” bike. The morning she got it, we took her to a nearby trail so that she could ride it. People, you do not know patience at the level it took to survive this jaunt on the new bike. Without training wheels, she would have literally fallen slap-dab over from the utter lack of speed. For someone like myself who really values getting things done quickly, this was less than enjoyable. However, with some practice and after seeing that her dad really was going to be able to keep up with her (good grief!), she finally began to pedal at a decent speed. When it was all said and done, that little birthday girl rode over three miles! And she did all of that with only one fall. Her mistake was in failing to trust that her dad was by her side, like he said he’d be. Instead of keeping her eyes on the trail in front of her, she turned her head to search for him because she’d gotten worried and started to doubt that he was right with her. Then, when she turned her head, she turned her wheel, and suddenly her success turned to accident. After we got her tears dried and got her back up on her bike, I said to her, “Just ride your bike. Dad is going to be right where you are. He’s not going to forget to guide you. You look where you’re going and don’t worry about what he’s doing.” As soon as those words were out of my mouth, I heard God say to me, “How about doing the same thing yourself.” Here I was fussing at her because she wasn’t believing what her dad said, and that’s exactly what I was doing. I was planning a surprise trip and stressing over things I had no way of controlling when all I had to do was take that one step forward like Abraham and trust God to come through with the rest. Friends, our Dad is right there. He’s not going to forsake us or forget to guide us. He’s not going to let us be misled. But we have to trust Him. We have to make that forward progress, even over the bumps and uneven patches, and trust that He’s still right there with us.

I know that right now, some of you are facing something you don’t understand. You’re up against something that has you confused and worried. You don’t know what to do next or where to go from here. The good news is that God does. Take it from me, a major planner and someone who needs desperately to have figured out every detail before anything even happens. That’s not faith. Reasoning and self-reliance aren’t faith. The Bible doesn’t tell us that our reasoning and ability to solve our problems is what activates God’s power. It tell us, instead, that it’s our faith–our trust–that allows God to work most in our lives. And yes, sometimes that’s really scary because it means we don’t get to control it all. But you know what I think the future holds for me, now that I’m making every effort to let God lead? I think the future holds a lot more joy and a lot less worry and stress, and that sounds amazing. “But what joy for all who take refuge in Him!” Psalm 2:12.

Dear Lord, thank You so much for bearing my burdens for me and for creating a relationship in which trust is rewarded and valued. Help me, Lord, to trust You more. Help me to rely less on myself and to choose to put aside my worry and just take one small step at a time in faith. Second Samuel 22 tells me, Father, that Your ways are perfect, Your promises are true, and You are my shield and my protection. Press these truths onto my heart and mind, Lord, so that I desire closeness with You more than I desire to reason out and rationalize my life. Like Your Word promises, Lord, I know you will make me “sure footed as a deer” and that You will make a wide path for my feet. Thank You, God. Help me to believe You so that in the midst of the trials of life, I step back and give You the reigns. You are a loving God, and I thank You so much for loving me enough to be my Guide, my Protector, my Shield, and my Refuge. Help my trust in You to be seen by others so that they, too, might glorify You with their lives. Thank you, God, for hearing my prayer. It’s in Jesus’s name that I pray. Amen.

 

Positively Negative

Okay, let’s play a little game. Mentally, I want you to raise your hand if you’re guilty of ever having said or thought any of the following statements.

  • “That’s just my luck.”
  • “I don’t know why I expected anything but…”
  • “Well of course that happened.”
  • “I’m not gonna get my hopes up…”/ “I won’t hold my breath…”
  • “I’m worried about_____”
  • “I’m scared that________”
  • “That’s impossible.”
  • “If the way things go in my life is any indication…”

{mentally raising my hand on ALL of them}

For most of my life, especially my adult life, I have had a mindset that included some of these exact phrases or ones like them any time something was disappointing or aggravating. In just the right mood, I was learning to be a supreme pity-party thrower. However, despite all of this evidence, I still did NOT consider myself to be a negative person. I was generally in a good mood; I didn’t get mad easily; I liked almost everybody; I didn’t complain frequently or often…while at work. Seems pretty positive, right? Wrong! As it turns out, just uttering simple statements like those above can have a devastating impact on both our mindsets and our blessings.

I first began realizing my attitude was definitely more negative than positive when I heard this dreaded phrase come out of my mouth: “I’m not a pessimist, I’m a realist.” Yikes! Nothing says I’m a pessimist louder. After that utterance, it was no longer deniable, I was positively negative. In my own defense (and I recognize that it’s a shoddy one), I wasn’t a doomsday-er or a continual Negative Nancy, but I certainly felt most comfortable preparing for worst-case scenarios just in case they happened. I felt more at ease expecting less because I thought that protected me from disappointment and hurt feelings. I would pray to God about things I needed or wanted, but I kept a “well, if this doesn’t work out, I’ll just do_____” mindset throughout my waiting periods.

It wasn’t until I read Battlefield of the Mind by Joyce Meyer that I began to understand that I was limiting, often even negating, my prayers with my decision to “protect myself” by expecting minimal/zero results. This might sound ridiculous, but until I read her book, it had NEVER dawned on me that I could push negative thoughts out of my head and actively replace those with positive ones. I felt like thinking that way was just who I was.  Through reading Joyce’s teachings and listening to as many of her sermons as I could on purposefully choosing what we think about (I love her phrase Think about what you’re thinking about!), I began to realize that just like any other new skill, I was going to have to learn to rewire my brain so that I could think expectantly and positively about the circumstances in my life. With Joyce’s help, and with the help of my husband who’s known this little secret for years, I slowly (and oh my goodness is it slooooow!) began retraining my mind to allow for more positive thinking, to allow for more blessings to be released in my life, and to allow God to work in me and my life in a way in which I’d previously been shutting Him out.

As with any lesson I’m led to by the Holy Spirit, I find it sticks with me better and transforms me more fully if I take time to study what the Bible says about this concept for myself. One portion of scripture that really stuck with me, and to which I’ve returned numerous times since, is the story of Moses, Aaron, Joshua, and Caleb. While continuing to lead the Israelites to the Promised Land, Moses sent ten men into the land of the Caananites to see what that land possessed. Upon returning from their scouting trip, all of the men reported that the land was good, saying, “…surely it flows with milk and honey” (Numbers 13:27). That was the good news. The bad news? The land was populated with large, strong residents (basically giants), and the city itself was highly fortified. Those Israelites were a bunch of Grumbling Gusses (takes one to know one!), so of course, that bit about the giants and the well-armed city caught their attention way more than that milk and honey part. The Bible tells us, though, that Caleb spoke up, encouraging with his positive attitude: “Caleb quieted the people before Moses, and said, Let us go up at once and possess it; we are well able to conquer it” (13:30). Hear that again, what positive thoughts allow you to declare: we are well able to conquer it. But his co-scouts–Joshua not included–didn’t share in his positive thinking. Instead, they allowed the negativity to consume them. “So they brought the Israelites an evil report of the land…saying, The land through which we went to spy it out is a land that devours its inhabitants. And all the people that we say in it are men of great stature…and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight” (vs. 32, 33).

Let’s take just a second to evaluate their words in these two verses. First of all, I see nary a mention of the goodness of that land, the milk and honey they mentioned after returning (I think it’s even worth noting that, upon their immediate return, they mentioned the milk and honey before ever discussing the inhabitants). Instead, their entire focus is the challenges they face. I see no evidence of their faith, do you? I see no proof that they believe God is with them. I see no decisions being made to trust God’s sovereignty. (How very much like these negative naysayers I am when things aren’t sunny!) One thing I do see is how they described themselves, their own power, and their own ability: as grasshoppers. Powerless, tiny, completely inadequate creatures in the face of so very many things. But it’s not just that they thought themselves to be like grasshoppers; they got so consumed with negativity regarding their own insignificance that they transferred that vision onto the people of Canaan. Look at that verse, at the way that last line is written: “…we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight.” Did they go up and talk to these people? No. Did they get beaten down by them, mentally or physically? Nope. Did they have any encounter with the Canannites at all? Nuh-uh. But because they were so negatively minded and so focused on the perceived problem in front of them instead of the God whose hand was over them, their minds were altered. They created problems and false “truths” because of their negativity.

This story begs the question, how many times have we prevented our own entry into a land of great blessing, a land of milk and honey as it were, because we decided we KNEW what was going to happen instead of taking it to God, keeping our eyes and minds stayed on Him, and letting Him walk us through it? To be honest, it’s upsetting to me to think what I’ve likely missed out on in my past because of my negativity, but in greater measure I’m motivated not to EVER let this type of thinking control me anymore. Expecting the worst, preparing for the worst, limiting myself to mediocre faith…none of that protects me. It doesn’t protect me at all. What it does do is prevent me. It prevents me from receiving the abundant blessings that my faith earns. It prevents me from maintaining my joy. And, most importantly, it prevents me from being a good, useful witness for the Jesus who died to give me this incredible life that I live. Sure it’s hard sometimes, and sure, like Moses and Aaron and the other guys, we’re going to face some giant challenges in an effort to get to our Promised Land, but how much sweeter will that Promised Land be because of what we’ve come through to get there? And how much stronger will our faith be, how much closer will our relationship with God be, when we’ve walked through those hard times together?

So, what if you’re a Negative Nancy by nature, like me, and you don’t want to be? First of all, admitting it is the first step. (That expression is SO overused, but it’s overused for a reason. It’s right!) Second, don’t expect to change overnight. You can ask my husband, I have been diligently working on this within myself over the last 4+ years, and I’m just now starting to really have something to show for my work. Real progress takes time, and this is a mindset you’ve likely been cultivating for years. Be patient with yourself and don’t get frustrated when you don’t “snap out of it” right away. And most importantly, pray for God’s help with this area of your life. Imagine how pleased He’ll be that you want a better thought-life and a bigger faith! Read what He’s said to you in the Bible about this very topic. Before I started seeking God’s Word about my negative mind, I had no idea that so many biblical principles centered on the fact that the mind controls so much of our lives.

If you’ve been in church very long (or if you’ve been on the Internet for longer than two weeks), you’re probably familiar with Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me.” Just think what those Negative Ned Israelites could’ve accomplished had this verse been what came out of their mouths! How about you and I do better than they did. When we’re faced with adversity, let’s remember Who is really in charge and Whose strength is really at work.

Another great reminder of the importance of getting our minds right is Romans 12:2, “…be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” I don’t know about you, but I desperately want to be transformed. As I am, it’s not good. But with Jesus and the grace and power He brings to the table, I can be made more like Him every day. And where does that start? With the renewing of my mind. Inside my own head. It begins with taking “captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5) so that I can do what Paul instructs in Phil. 4:8, and fix my thoughts at all times and in all situations “on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely and admirable…think[ing] about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” Call me crazy, but that sure sounds a lot less like focusing on those giants and a lot more like centering on that milk and honey in our lives, don’t you think?

Dear Lord, thank you so very, very much for the wonderful life you’ve given me. Help me, Lord, not to be so negative in my thoughts that I create problems and fail to see You at work on my behalf. I pray today, God, that You would help me recognize these thoughts when I have them so that I can do as You’ve instructed and take them captive, exchanging them for positive, Christ-like thoughts until it’s these that become habit. Father, I trust You and I love you, and I so desire to have thoughts that please you, no matter the challenges I face. Help me to pay attention to the words that I think, the words that I say, and the focus of my mind. Thank you for helping me through each step of this important change in my life. Thank you for hearing me. In Jesus’s name I pray this prayer, Lord. Amen.

 

 

“Happiness is an attitude. We either make ourselves miserable, or happy and strong. The amount of work is the same.”  –Francesca Reigler

 

 

Healing Shmealing

I recently came across a quote online that I thought was hilarious, and, sadly, perfectly fitting for how I’ve been feeling lately. It said, “Welcome to adulthood, I hope you like ibuprofen.” The truth in this silly statement is too accurate. Who knew being this side of 40 could demand so much pain killer?! And those of you “more mature” readers who are tutting and saying things like just you wait, hush your mouths. I do not want to hear it.

In order for you to know where I’m coming from, you need a little background, but I honestly do NOT want to share it. It’s ridiculous. I’d love to tell you that my pain emanates forth from a chronic injury that I received whilst saving ill orphans from near death (they’d all be happy and healthy and flourishing right now, no doubt). But instead, I will tell the truth (booo!). One day, a little over a year ago, I got up off the couch after reading during my daughter’s nap-time and felt like I had taken a HUGE fall straight onto the hardest concrete on my tailbone. It’s never been the same since. (Did you catch that? I got a chronic injury SITTING ON THE COUCH AND READING!) After medical professionals (um, yep, more than one of those guys) determined it wasn’t technically my tailbone but apparently something else undetectable by two MRIs, at least one x-ray, six weeks of twice-a-week physical therapy, and some pretty uncomfortable examining, I decided that there was nothing to do but deal with it…and complain frequently, of course. I am a real person.

After a few months, the tailbone pain was gone, and it stayed gone for quite some time. Until a few weeks ago. Not sure what I did–apparently sitting is WAY more dangerous than I knew–but the exact same tricky pain was back. I knew that going to the doctor wasn’t an option. Not only are those little trips nutso-expensive, but what exactly were they going to tell me this time that they couldn’t tell me the times before? I felt really frustrated and definitely in a funk because the pain was such that it negatively affected my sleep because I couldn’t get comfortable. Plus, I remembered. I remembered what it was like when I had this pain before, and for some inexplicable reason, knowing I’d had it before, knowing I was option-free as far as medical care was concerned, and knowing how uncomfortable I was going to feel until it left of its own accord really snatched my joy away.

Friends, we’ve all been here before, haven’t we? We are hurting…physically, mentally, emotionally, or spiritually. We ache. We press on. We feel burdened. We feel helpless. We reach out to friends or family or doctors or therapists or pastors or even strangers. I was doing the same. I was reading things online. (Did you know that tailbone pain is a possible symptom for a multitude of nefarious diseases? Did you know that it’s possible to have what doctors call “unexplained tailbone pain” that lasts for years and has no real cause or treatment?! What is that mess?) I was complaining to my husband. We were praying about my issue, but with statements like Lord, please help Lindsey’s tailbone pain to go away. While those prayers are certainly better than no prayers, they’re not exactly what you’d call boldly approaching the throne of God. Then, after we prayed, I’d wake up the next morning mentally crossing my fingers that I’d suddenly be healed and all would be well. You’ve been there, too, right? You wake up each day so hopeful that your ailments from the night before are no longer. Then you realize they’re fully present. You still hurt…physically or mentally or emotionally (or all three). And now, because you feel like God’s not heard you, because you feel alone in your pain, you hurt spiritually. Your pain grows. And doubt and unbelief grow.

I’m saddened that it took me until this point to realize I had consulted everyone but God (aside from a quick prayer for healing) regarding my need for pain relief. I knew that I needed to get real serious with my prayers, but I felt the Holy Spirit’s prompting me to see what the Bible said about healing first. So, I got my pen and my notebook and copied down all the verses that my Bible categorized as dealing with “Health and Healing.” (For those of you dealing with your own pain and interested in these scriptures, I’ll type them up for you at the bottom of this post, underneath our closing prayer.) What I found in these scriptures was a promise from God Himself to be with me, to renew my body so that I could rejoice in the glory of His healing.

Here’s what the first day of my newfound strategy for jump-starting my healing looked like: Wake up. Realize tailbone is not healed. Instead of getting bogged down in woe-is-me attitude, decide to read those scriptures out loud and believe for my healing. Read said scriptures. Wait 25 seconds. Do quick assessment in which I realize no angels visited and healed me, no bright lights shone, and nothing feels differently. Allow more negative thoughts to creep in while muttering such uplifting phrases as healing shmealing and yeah, right. I’m not a total dunce, so it didn’t take me long to figure out that this wasn’t going to work. I decided to keep doing what I was doing right, which was praying sincerely and speaking scripture out loud over my need. The attitude, however, had to go.

I had 11 verses that I used, but it was Isaiah 58:8 that I clung to most. It reads, “Then shall your light break forth like the morning, and your healing (your restoration…) shall spring forth speedily.” The speedily part was definitely what I liked best about this verse, but I realized with each reading that my biggest problem was that I fully expected God to work immediately, not speedily. I expected immediate gratification from a God whose timetable has never been our own. I’ve written past posts about what it means to wait on God, how important it is, because His timing isn’t ours and what’s lengthy to us is but a drop in the bucket for Him. Yet when hurting, no amount of relief mattered and no timetable mattered to me if it wasn’t full and immediate. Of all those 11 verses my Bible grouped for me, would you believe that not a single one said anything about healing coming immediately OR all at once?

I had gotten so selfish in my thinking, and I don’t even really know how or why or when it happened. I had somehow decided that healing only counted if it was instant and complete at the moment I prayed. I was giving no thought and no praise to God for that morning when I woke up and still hurt, but it hurt less than the day before. God literally had to say to me, just because you’re not 100% doesn’t mean I’m not working. Just because you’re not healed all at once doesn’t mean I’m not working on you and binding up those wounds you’re praying over (Psalm 147:3). Why did it take me so long to get that? Why was I shocked at this simple revelation? God is working. God is moving. I’m hurting, but that doesn’t mean God’s not in the process of fixing me. I asked; He’s mid-answer, but I’m so busy grumbling I don’t even notice or hear Him.

And this isn’t just the way it works for those of us suffering physical pain. Some of us are in the throes of gut-wrenching emotional pain. Some of us physically hurt because our mental anguish is so fierce. God is working, y’all. If you’ve come before Him and called on Him to heal your hurting spirit or your hurting heart, HE IS WORKING FOR YOU RIGHT THIS VERY SECOND. You may not feel better tomorrow, but He’s still at work within you. It might take a little bit, but don’t do what I’ve done and assume that because He doesn’t fix you the second you pray and your pain relief is only gradual that He’s busy doing other things. He’s not. He feels what you feel. He understands, and He’s actively involved in healing you. All of you. Aches and hurts and wounds you have carried for years or maybe didn’t even know you’ve had.

I felt the peace come over me, that glorious internal peace found only in walking alongside God and His will, as soon as I decided to quit trying to make God so “on or off,” when I quit pushing my pitiful, impatient timetable onto Him. When I simply kept up the Biblical strategies of bold prayer and speaking scripture but left everything else to Him. That was about two to three weeks ago. I’m not 100%, but I’m honestly 95% better than I was then. If you’re hurting, no matter what kind of pain you’re struggling with, hand it over. Seek those doctors and specialists (but only after praying for God’s guidance about what to do and where to go and who to see!), but don’t expect human healing before expecting supernatural healing from the ultimate Physician and Healer. And maybe our most important lesson of all, in anything really, is that feeling God working and believing God is working may not be mutually exclusive. It’s our job as His children to believe BEFORE we feel. Slow progress is still progress.

(Just a reminder that below the prayer are the scriptures my Bible listed under “Health and Healing” if you’re interested.)

Dear Lord, thank you so much for all the promises You’ve made to me within Your Word regarding healing. Thank you that when I come to You for healing, You WILL heal me. Help me to trust Your ways and not attempt to put human constraints around the ways in which You work. Help me to choose belief, even before I start feeling any better. Be with my pain, Lord, and take it away completely. Give me the strength and good countenance to endure it well while You work full healing in my life. I trust you, Lord. I know that You are at work. In advance, I thank you and praise You for my healing, which I know is right around the corner. In Jesus’s name I pray. Amen.

Health and Healing Scriptures

Psalm 30:2–O Lord my God, I cried to You and You have healed me.

Psalm 103:3–…Who heals [each one of] all your diseases

Psalm 107:20–He sends forth His Word and heals them and rescues them from the pit and destruction.

Psalm 147:3–He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds [curing their pains and their sorrows].

Proverbs 4:22–[My Words] are life to those who find them and health to all their flesh.

Isaiah 58:8–Then shall your light break forth like the morning, and your healing (your restoration…) shall spring forth speedily.

Jeremiah 17:14–Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved, for You are my praise.

Jeremiah 30:17–For I will restore health to you, and I will heal your wounds, says the Lord.

James 5:15–And the prayer [that is] of faith will save him who is sick, and the Lord will restore him

I Peter 2:24–By His wounds, you have been healed.

3 John 2–…that you may prosper in every way and that [your body] may keep well…

 

 

That Dreaded Dread

Since starting this blog, I’ve realized that the devil has a tendency to make me put my money where my mouth is by tempting me with whatever issue I’ve most recently discussed. He didn’t have to work too hard this past week, however, because worry is something I struggle with regularly. After the last post, I have tried to be very aware of slipping back into the “comfort” of worrying, but I’ve noticed that I’ve still not experienced the joy that I know God has in mind for me. And I know why. You see, this coming Tuesday my sweet, not-so-tiny-anymore girl starts Pre-K, and while I’m so excited to see her grow and learn, I am also aware that her tendency toward nervousness and anxiety might get high during this new season of our lives. I know myself, though, and I know that if I allow myself to worry, I’ll be irritable and grumpy come Tuesday morning, so I’ve been praying and asking God to just be with us as we begin this new chapter. I feel like, more than any time before, I’ve kept the worry under control. And apparently, this success isn’t a big favorite of Satan’s because he’s wormed his way in in a different way. I realized as the days passed I was very aware of each day and its nearness to Tuesday. I noticed that I was both clock-watching and calendar-watching, and neither was being done with a cheerful, positive heart and mind. I wasn’t worried, though, so I felt confused. Then it dawned on me–I was being visited by Worry’s equally thieving cousin, Dread. I wasn’t obsessing (per my usual) over possible issues that might arise come Tuesday. I wasn’t thinking and rethinking every single moment of Tuesday to make sure that no small detail slipped through the cracks and ruined our day. I did, however, simply dread the first day, and even the weeks until attending Pre-K no longer felt new. Needless to say, I took that dread straight to Jesus and asked Him to fill me with His peace and His grace so that I could enjoy each day, especially this long weekend, without Dread hanging over my shoulder.

I would love to tell you that this is my first battle with Dread stealing my joy before I ever get the chance to experience it, but it’s not. Like everyone, I’ve had events and moments in life that I have spent the days and minutes leading up to them hanging out with Dread: God-ordained break-ups, college exams, job interviews, surgeries, the pain of childbirth, every. single. dentist appointment, funerals, social events of varying kinds, etc. The kind of dread I experienced at those times were fleeting–once the circumstances were over or once the waiting was over and the event began, other emotions took over and Dread was history. At the risk of sounding absolutely awful and like the worst mother on the planet, I’m going to say this: it wasn’t until I became the mom of an infant that I entered into a daily, intimate relationship with Dread. In our defense, brand new parenthood in the Thomas household wasn’t exactly what many experience. All of those new parent challenges were amped up tenfold. We NEVER slept (we figured it up, and I slept 10 1/2 hours for the first SEVEN DAYS of being a mom!), we NEVER relaxed, and we NEVER knew what to do to help our sleepless, bothered, hurting baby. During this time, when I got up somewhere around ten times every night and got up each morning around 5:00 a.m., I began to dread each day. I loved my sweet baby, but I did NOT love what we were all going through. Because of our own decision to wait and have kids, coupled with a six year infertility struggle, Nathan and I had been married for almost ten years before becoming parents. Ten years is plenty of time to get very comfortable with a particular way of life. It’s plenty of time to get very comfortable being self-serving. When this tiny human came into our lives and changed EVERY SINGLE THING while also presenting very atypical challenges, it was, to say the least, not easy. What was pretty easy was letting Dread camp out in my life. I dreaded the morning because it meant a whole day’s worth of challenges was just getting started. I dreaded each feeding because they always created problems, each one unique and without easy answers. I dreaded nap times because my baby never slept more than a few minutes at a time, and I spent those minutes feverishly trying to clean or shower or eat or do laundry. I dreaded the afternoon because it brought exhaustion–both mine and hers–and it meant dinnertime was nearing and I was going to have to try to get supper on the table while also attending to this baby who I could NOT soothe. I dreaded the night because it was so long and so challenging and so full of wakefulness with zero rest.

One morning around 5:30 am, while out for a walk with my refusing-to-sleep baby, I realized that if I continued to dread each moment of each day, I was going to open my eyes one day and she was going to be grown. I was going to spend so much time with Dread that I was going to miss each precious stage of her life. I remember praying right then, as I pushed that stroller, for God to help me get a handle on dread. He helped me see that if I dreaded teething, eventually it would stop and it would be replaced by something like potty-training. And if I dreaded potty-training, it would be over and I would replace that with whatever new challenge we were facing. I heard the Holy Spirit whisper to me, there will always be something to dread if you let yourself. I’d like to say that suddenly, at that magical, spiritual moment I was touched by God and delivered wholly from my sins of worry and dread, but I’m no liar. I began praying to God when I felt those emotions, asking Him to help me find His peace and loosen this stronghold over my life.

Aside from reading my Bible and focusing special attention to verses discussing God’s peace, I began paying careful attention to my thoughts and my attitudes—something I really wasn’t doing at all. I noticed that what started as dread was morphing quickly into depression. I was feeling sad and discontent and jealous of others who did normal things with their new babies…like sleep. I also noticed how often I revisited the “days of old” in my mind, especially when things were tough. It was with shocking frequency that I longed for how things used to be, before all of these new challenges began. Like I said, I loved my baby. I wanted that sweet girl. But I so badly wanted the sleeplessness, the fussiness, the belly troubles, the doctor visits, the teething, the fill-in-the-blank to stop, that my “refuge” was to spend so much time reliving the life I used to have that I began to literally ache for what my life used to be. It was during this time that God brought my attention to Isaiah 43:18-19: “Do not remember the former things; neither consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs forth; do you not perceive and know it and will you not give heed to it? I will even make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” Y’all!!! The salve that was this scripture! Not only did I feel like I was floundering utterly alone in the wilderness, but it was such a VERY dry time that terming it a desert was too oasis-y for what I was feeling. To have God speak directly to me in this way and remind me that no matter what it felt like, I could believe and KNOW that He was right there. To have God speak and tell me that all of what I was going through was His plan and had a purpose was knee-buckling. To be honest, it was at this very moment that I felt my life shifting and felt God moving more than ever before.

Again, I’d love to tell you that I was so anointed by God’s promises that Dread was eradicated from my life, that my spirit never again worried or dreaded the days and challenges before me. I struggled. I struggled big for a lot longer. (Psst, I still struggle) But each time when I thought I was literally at the end of my rope, God would direct me to scriptures like Philippians 3:13: “…but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead.” It was through little moments like these where I realized I was once again living in a past life, a season that was over, dead and buried. A season I’d never have again. And it wasn’t until I decided that I was going to do what Paul suggested and let go of that past that I began to make progress in my future. Only a few months after I began living in the here and now, trusting God for the future and His decision to move me out of that former life of comfort, things finally began to progress. We learned that our sweet girl had some previously undiagnosed food allergies, she had some food intolerances, but the biggest breakthrough was just before her third birthday when, after a two-night stay at Children’s Hospital, we discovered the FIFTEEN stomach ulcers that were living in her belly. Once that issue was addressed and medicines were put into place, there’s no describing the improvements that continue to arrive and amaze us.

There is no way to include the NUMEROUS ways in which God showed His hand over us during all of these circumstances, especially those few days leading up to our hospital stay and diagnosis. With distance from this painful, scary time, I’ve continued to watch God’s plan play out in our lives. We still face challenges that get to me sometimes (those food allergies are NO JOKE), but I have found that when compared to what many other moms and dads are facing, we have nary a thing to complain about or to dread. The me of three years ago would have slapped myself silly over the audacity to dread something so simple and trivial as the starting of Pre-K. I would have been so happy to have something so minor on my mind. Can you imagine how many parents out there feel the same?

Dread is a thief, and he’s the jerky first cousin of Worry, two feelings I seem to struggle with more than the others. Thankfully, though, I have a God who has enough grace and mercy to walk me carefully through those feelings so that I am filled up with faith and joy and peace. Now, when I feel that dreaded Dread (is that a thing? Can I say that and it make sense? ), instead of reaching for those memories of how things used to be, I reach for my Bible. I reach for scriptures like Luke 9:62, where my Savior speaks directly to me, carefully reminding me that my life is not in the rearview. It is not in the future. It is here, right in this moment, and if I spend my time and energy worry about or dreading the future or aching over the past, I will miss all of the blessings waiting right here in the now. “Jesus said to him, No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back [to the things behind] is fit for the kingdom of God. I don’t know about you, but I certainly want to be fit for the kingdom of God.

Dear Lord, thank you for my life. Thank you for all of the blessings, both big and small, that You put in my every day. I ask that you help me kick dread to the curb so that I can live abundantly as You have planned. Please help me not to let my past hamper my present or my future. Thank you for forgiving me for living in the past and for not trusting You with my future as I should. When I feel overwhelmed, help me to turn to You and Your Word, Lord, so that You can remind me of the ways in which I should go. I love you, and I am so grateful that You have put my past behind me–even the good parts–so that You can do a mighty work in my future. Thank you, Lord, for the challenges I face and the opportunities they present for my growing in You. I trust YOU, and I walk confidently into what You have in store for me. In Jesus’s name–Amen.