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.

Ceiling-hitters

If I asked you to make a list of sins off the top of your head, you’d likely list many of the larger, more recognizable sins: murder, theft, adultery. You might even hit a few of those sneakier ones like coveting, idol-worship, unforgiveness, and maybe even gossip. But one highly detrimental sin that would likely be left off of most lists would be worry. Maybe you’ve known for years that worry is a sin, but for me, I honestly didn’t really grasp that truth until just a few shorts years ago. It wasn’t until I became a mom and started an hourly/daily battle with {frequently overpowering} worry that I discovered I needed a better understanding of what God says about worry and the damage it causes.

If you’re reading this blog, I think I’m safe in assuming that if I were to walk up to you and ask, point blank, do you believe in God? your answer would be a solid yes. If I asked you, do you believe that the Bible is true? I bet I’d get another strong yes. It’s possible your answer to do you trust God? might be a little more wavering, especially if you’ve suffered rejection at the hands of others in your life, but I bet it’s still pretty close to yes. And finally, if I asked you, do you worry? an emphatic yes! would be what I’d get, wouldn’t it? Herein lies the rub, as Shakespeare would say. (What is up, English teachers?! Rejoice heartily at the Shakespearean reference!) As believers, we cannot both trust God and worry. Those two things aren’t friends. We either trust God–His Word, His promises, His goodness, His hand, His will–or we don’t. Again, I’m assuming, but I think I’m safe here when I say that we would NEVER verbally doubt God, especially in the presence of others, but don’t we do that ALL THE TIME and straight in the “face” of God when we choose to worry and fear over relaxing, being soulfully at peace, and trusting God?

If you are someone who struggles with worry, I highly recommend pretty much any resource by Joyce Meyer (especially Battlefield of the Mind). In a couple of her books, she has addressed the sin of worry in a way that has helped me really see it for what it is: doubt, mistrust, and disbelief in the power and goodness of God. The way she explains it is this: when we have a worry or concern, as a believer it is our job to take it to God in prayer. That prayerful petition between you and God is a positive action. It transforms your mind so that you’re focused on the positive power of God. Worry, on the other hand, is a negative action. It is in direct opposition to the positive power created by prayer. So, what this says to me is if I pray about my worries BUT I continue to worry about them instead of giving them over to God in exchange for peace, my negative worry actually cancels out that positive I had working for me because of my prayer. In other words, my power is essentially lost to the negative side because I’ve chosen worry over faith. My decision to worry soaks up all my spiritual energy and focus; therefore, there is none left for the faith required to allow my prayer to work.

The really good news here is that our human propensity for worry isn’t a surprise for God. He knows that we tend to worry, that we tend to stress, that we really struggle to hand our concerns and cares over to Him, without returning frequently to pick them back up again and worry over them some more. He was so prepared for our strong desire to handle things ourselves that He’s filled His Word with instruction after instruction to help us see worry as the sin that it is, and more importantly, make the decision to eliminate it from our lives permanently. There are multiple verses sprinkled throughout the Old Testament, but it’s in the books of the New Testament where we really see strong input from Jesus with regard to worry in the hearts and minds of His followers. In Matthew 6:31, Jesus cares for his stressed flock by telling them, “Therefore, do not worry or be anxious (perpetually uneasy),” and He follows these instructions only three verses later by expounding on His original words: “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of  its own” (vs. 34). The subject of worry gets even more attention in Mark 4:19 when we are told WHY worry is such a problem for the people of God: “…but the worries and cares of the world…creep in and choke out the Word, and it becomes unfruitful.” Wow, y’all. This is serious! If we let worry get ahold of us–in our minds and our spirits–it becomes so strong and forceful that it chokes out the truths and promises of the Word, forcing us to focus only on it. Worry turns our eyes from God and puts them onto our problem (or if you’re like me, your perceived problem…because frequently I’ll worry about a problem I don’t even have yet!).

You know how I mentioned that God’s not surprised by our worry and fear? He’s SO not surprised that He’s included a Biblical reminder for every single day of the year! Check this out: did you know that God instructs His children to “fear not” (that counts for worry, too) 365 times in the Bible? Are you also aware that there are 365 days in a year? Ta-da! God knows. What we seem to forget is that we have an instruction manual at our fingertips that guides us through this sometimes-harrowing thing we call life. It gives us detailed steps for handling the worry and fear and dread and upset that comes with being a human being on planet Earth. It’s really pretty simple: 1. Choose to trust God. 2. Continually pray, taking all of your cares and concerns to God while believing He will handle them for you (1 Peter 5:7). 3. Do not be anxious about anything. Be thankful. Be prayerful. Don’t let yourself worry (Phil. 4:6). As difficult as it seems, the good news is that we do have a choice about worry. We can wallow around in our worried thoughts, telling ourselves that we’re just “being prepared” or “being a good parent.” We can think situations through over and over and over and over and over and…you get my point. But you know what? WE ARE STILL SINNING! God is in control. God has always been in control. A favorite Joyce Meyer quote says, “The truth is we’ve never been in control when it comes to life’s crucial elements. We’ve always been dependent on the grace of God to carry us through.” We have never been in control. Gracious. If we could just get over ourselves (“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” Prov. 3:5-6) . If we could just remember that worry does NOTHING for us (“And who of you by worrying can add one hour to his life?” Matt. 6:27). If we could just decide that maybe our being in control isn’t really best for us or our families or our kids anyway.  I mean, if given the choice, wouldn’t you really rather God be in control?

A few months ago, while I was getting my hair done, my hairdresser Jill and I were having a conversation about this very topic: worry. I had recently been reading about it in both the Bible and Joyce Meyer’s works, and I was sharing with her the analogy that a prayer is a positive and a worry is a negative that completely cancels out the power of that prayer. Jill helped me see this in an even clearer manner when she said that it’s her belief that those prayers we issue while still worrying or attempting to control the situation ourselves just hit the ceiling, falling right back down. I thought this was such an excellent visual for me, given I was struggling to let go of the worry despite my full understanding that it was sinful. I came home from that haircut with a new way of thinking about what worry does to the power I possess as a believer. The power that Jesus DIED to give me. Those prayers that hit the ceiling because our faith is so limited and our worry is so prevalent simply fall right back down on us, on our backs, where we struggle not to buckle under their pressure and weight. Because we refuse (or fail) to turn those cares over to God (His plan, His timing, His methods), we lug those burdensome cares around with us: the heaviness of the responsibility, the discontentment, the anger, the jealousy, etc. The weight of whatever it is that we’re not trading to God in return for His peace, “the peace that transcends all understanding” (Phil. 4:7).

Real prayers release things. They release our gratitude, our worries, our stresses, and they release God’s power because we bow before Him, humbling ourselves to His power, His plan, and His solutions for our problems. Real prayers don’t fall back on us. They don’t weigh us down. They lighten our load, lifting our spirits and our faces to the glory of God. Those prayers that come back on us? Those aren’t real prayers. Those are simply disguised complaints. Adult-style fussing. Because if we talk to God about our worries only to turn around and wear the weight of them anyway, aren’t we really just talking to ourselves?

Dear Lord, I am so grateful that as your child, I don’t have to walk through life controlling every detail and leaning on my own abilities. I ask you, Father, to please help me bring my worries and concerns to you and leave them there with you. Help me to no longer pray, then worry, then pray, then worry. Lord, I want to break this cycle of taking back my prayers and believing I’m more competent than You. Thank you for loving me and for being my helper in all aspects of life. I give you my life, Lord. I give you my marriage. I give you my kid(s). I do not want to run the show. I want to simply love you, honor you, and trust you with EVERYTHING. Help me to recognize when I’m choosing worry because it feels safe and familiar so that I might change direction and choose faith. Thank you for hearing my prayer. In Jesus’s name. Amen.

 

 

For the Love of God

Vile. Disgusting. Evil. Anti-Christian. These are just some of the words Nathan and I have used this past week while discussing the horrific events and mindsets on display in Charlottesville, Virginia. It is unconscionable that in this day and age people still have so much hatred toward another person simply because of the color of his/her skin. It is truly shocking. The part that messes me up the most, though, is that there’s an incredibly likely chance that at least one of those torch-wielding venom-spewers is a church-goer who calls himself/herself a Christian. Utterly mind-blowing. Let’s not spend time beating around the bush: hatred is in DIRECT OPPOSITION to all that is godly and all that involves Jesus. How do I know? Because I spent some time this past week researching what the Bible says to us, as people made in the image of Jesus, about our responsibility toward and capacity for sharing the love of God with others. And it doesn’t require that we be waving a Nazi flag at a rally to be in need of a reminder about our job as Christians, especially during trying times such as these.

First of all, it’s important to acknowledge that there are so very many scriptures throughout the Bible, especially in the New Testament, that discuss the love of God and the ways in which we are expected to share that love that I could never fit them all into this post. I found verse after verse describing how GREAT and unfailing the love of our Father is, and how it supersedes anything we could ever do or say, no matter how awful we allow ourselves to become. One thing we’d be remiss to overlook is God’s purposeful repetition of this topic. Why so many repeated instructions to His children about loving each other? Because, by nature, we are haters. We point fingers, we judge, we tear down, we shun, we hate. But for those who are TRUE Christians, who believe in our hearts that Jesus is the Son of God, who was crucified, only to be resurrected three days later, the following scriptures should be our daily manual for how to live our lives, no matter our circumstances or the beliefs and attitudes of those around us.

“If I [can] speak in the tongues of men and [even] angels, but have not love (that reasoning, intentional, spiritual devotion such as is inspired by God’s love for and in us), I am only a noisy gong or a clanging symbol. If I have [sufficient] faith so that I can remove mountains, but have not love (God’s love in me) I am nothing (a useless nobody). Even if I dole out all that I have [to the poor in providing] food…but have not love (God’s love in me), I gain nothing. Love endures long and is patient and kind; love never is envious nor boils over with jealousy, is not boastful or vainglorious, does not display itself haughtily. It is not conceited; it is not rude and does not act unbecomingly. Love (God’s love in us) does not insist on its own rights or its own way, for it is not self-seeking; it is not touchy or fretful or resentful; it takes no account of the evil done to it. It does not rejoice at injustice and unrighteousness, but rejoices when right and truth prevail. Love bears up under anything and everything that comes, is ever ready to believe the best of every person…it endures everything without weakening…And so faith, hope, love abide…but the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13: 1-7, 13).

“For the love of Christ controls and urges and impels us…And He died for all…” (2 Corinthians 5:14, 15).

“This is My commandment: that you love one another [just] as I have loved you” (John 15:12).

If anyone says, I love God, and hates (detests, abominates) his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, Whom he has not seen. He who loves God shall love his brother also” (1 John 4:20, 21).

Y’all, I could list out the scriptures for you for at least another page or so. The bottom line is this: “God is love” (1 John 4:8), and anything that’s not exemplary of love is not exemplary of God. If you and I declare to be Christians, if we parade through life conveniently tossing about that title, then we must understand something: we are telling others that our hearts are full of Jesus. Jesus was and is love. Pure and simple. If what we put out there isn’t love–ACTIVELY loving our neighbors, no matter what they look like or sound like–we aren’t Christians. We don’t deserve and haven’t earned that title. In the above verses, God does not mince words. It’s clear that He feels very strongly about those of us using His name while displaying oppositional behavior. Take time to notice what He says: Are you so outwardly religious/spiritual that you can speak in tongue, yet you don’t have the love of God within you? God calls you a noisy gong or clanging symbol, two things that irritate others, grate on others’ nerves, and cause people to turn quickly from you. Nothing you say is of value; you simply make noise. Are you full of faith but without the love of God within you? God calls you a useless nobody. Despite all that faith, because you’re missing the crucial element of God (hint: it’s LOVE!) you cannot be used to further His kingdom. Do you give your money and possessions to the poor, but you do so without the love of God within you? You will gain nothing…no blessings, no heavenly rewards. Your deeds are without merit. And lastly, do you claim to love God while simultaneously speaking (or feeling) hatred toward someone else (for any reason)? God Himself calls you a liar. God Himself has deemed your declared love for Him a complete and total lie. While you hopefully don’t need it, let me sum this up for you: NO MATTER WHAT YOU CLAIM OR DO OR GIVE IN THE NAME OF GOD, IF YOU ARE WITHOUT HIS LOVE IN YOUR HEART, YOU CANNOT BE BLESSED BY OR USED BY GOD.

And maybe the scariest part of the whole thing is that our children are watching. They’re watching and they’re waiting for our reactions and our guidance. Silence is acceptance in many ways, so let your kids hear you tell them that while you can’t control everybody, your household serves the Lord. Your household embodies His love and believes in its purpose to share that love and not Satan’s hate. Choose to make your Christian stance on the hatred being displayed around our country very clear to your children. But you know what? They didn’t just start watching. They’ve been watching us. They watch us closely every single day: at restaurants, inside grocery stores, at the movies, etc. They’re listening to how we talk about others, especially those people who are different, in any way, than we are. Parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles, let’s all agree today to stop giving the kids in our lives “Biblical lip-service.” Let’s put those scriptures we so love to quote and share on social media into actual action. Let’s show our sweet babies what Jesus really looks like.

And before closing, I want to be clear: this is not a political post. This is a post (I hope) to remind us of our responsibilities as REAL Christians in the world today. It’s a post to remind us of what it means to serve a God who also goes by the name of Healer and Father, and, most importantly, Love. Look back at those scriptures. Our Father has made abundantly clear what He expects of His children, especially with regard to how we treat all our “siblings.” Those frequently communicated expectations aren’t just for times when it’s not too much trouble to show love, or when we’re dealing with the people most like us. The truth is this: we are all alike. We were all created by the same God who made us ALL in His image. We are all sinners in desperate need of the free-for-everyone saving power of Jesus Christ. Racism, sexism, ageism–all the negative -isms– have ZERO room in a heart that’s supposedly inhabited by Jesus. Our hearts should be so filled with the Holy Spirit that there’s simply no room for anything else. So, friends, for the literal love of God, let’s start doing a better job of exemplifying Jesus in this hate-infested world. Let’s use this divisive time to better ourselves and our families. The Bible tells us that God can use all things to our good, so let Him. It might be uncomfortable; it might even hurt a little. But I encourage you to pray the following prayer with me so that God can mature our walks with Him in a way that glorifies Him daily, showing others just how loving He truly is and what it really means to be honored with that title of Christian.

Dear Lord, thank you so much for sending your Son to this world in order to save me from the hate and sin that threaten my very life. Father, I know that I am a sinner, and I know that without Your help and guidance I will never rid my life of prejudice and hate. I ask, Lord, that you please gently show me these ugly areas so that I can work with You–through prayer and reading my Bible–to eradicate them from my spirit. I love you, Lord, and I want others to feel Your love for them through me. Help me to be the best example of what it means to be a Christian. Thank you for hearing me and for the honor of calling myself Your child. I want to treat all of Your children exactly as You would. In Jesus’s name, Amen.

 

 

 

The Joy of the Lord

You ever been in one of those situations, be it big or small, where you have plans solidly in place, only for God to speak up and tell you to do something else or go in a different direction? Well, that’s what happened with this post. I had something else completely in mind, until I read a devotional a few days ago and felt God press on me a need to share and discuss a couple of verses in Nehemiah. But before we jump straight in, let’s take a moment to consider the time of the year in which we currently find ourselves . Trust me, it’s important.

For those of you who are teachers or parents of school-aged children (or both–bless them!), this time of the year is most likely consumed with back to school. Whether it’s prepping a classroom or prepping your kids (um, where’s the app that weans children off summer schedules and back onto school schedules? Hop to it, Mark Zuckerberg!), there’s a good chance that the upcoming school year and all the chaos it brings with it is foremost in your mind these days. I don’t know exactly how to explain it, but as a former teacher, I’m all too aware that this back-to-school season is its own thing. It’s not the freedom of summer, it’s not the coolness of fall, but it’s definitely something that warrants its own title. If you’re anything like me, this back-to-school season served as a very clear-cut line in the sand (oh, sand. A moment of silent for the beach memories, please……..thank you. You may continue.) between a more weightless, easy-going time period and a more chaotic, stressful, hectic period. When I was teaching, with the onset of these first few days of August, I could feel an internal bracing for the stress that I was anticipating with the rapidly approaching school season. Even five years of stay-at-home-mommery later, and I can still feel it; things are about to be a-changing, and my spirit knows it.

With this feeling in mind, and with my teacher friends in the forefront of my mind, I read Nehemiah 8:10-11 very differently this time around. In these verses, Ezra and the Levites are speaking to the Israelites, and Ezra says to them: “Go your way…for this day is holy to our Lord. And be not grieved and depressed, for the joy of the Lord is your strength and stronghold (vs 10). So the Levites quieted all the people, saying, Be still, for the day is holy. And do not be grieved and sad (vs 11).” Y’all, this back to school business is no joke. It is hard and it is tiring and it is stressful and it is draining. And it feels that way to parents and kids alike. But you know what? God’s joy is just as available to us in the midst of all this new schedule mumbo-jumbo as it was when we were lying blissfully relaxed on the beach in late June. Here’s the kicker, though: this time of the year, we are going to have to get REAL intentional about choosing it.

In those verses above, it takes Ezra AND the Levites to calm the people because they are so bothered. They were so attuned to their upset that joy was nowhere to be found. I don’t know about you, but when I’m upset, I don’t tend to do a great job at taking that exact moment to actively seek the joy of the Lord. But look at what Ezra tells the “Lindseys” of the Bible: be not grieved  and depressed, for the joy of the Lord is your strength and stronghold. Praise the Lord! It doesn’t even have to be my joy–which is great news, because stress and joy are NOT buddies in this girl’s world. They do not ever seem to coexist. But Ezra tells me that I can stop my upset. I can stop feeling overwhelmed and stressed and irritated and bothered and whatever other negative emotion tends to rear their ugly heads when I feel chaos like what occurs during this back-to-school season. But I have to CHOOSE JOY ON PURPOSE. It will not manifest accidentally in the midst of school strife. It will not manifest itself without your choosing it when it’s 5:30, no one’s adjusted yet to the newness of the school feeding schedules (WHERE ARE THE SNACKS?!), and you’ve been so wrapped up in making sure everyone got dropped off and picked up that you’ve forgotten they have to be fed tonight. In those moments, joy will not abound (shocker, I know!). But. It. Can. God has the power to settle our hearts and minds and replace that hectivity (that’s hectic activity, FYI. I just made it up, I like it, and I will use it again.) with HIS joy. The six-million dollar question: how do I get that joy?

I think we have to look at not only what Ezra says–which we just did–but what the Levites reiterate and instruct. They, too, tell the people not to be bothered and upset; in fact, in the NLT translation, the Levites literally tell the people to Hush! Then they continue with how to go about calming themselves and easing their minds in the midst of their upset: Be still… While there is a chance they meant for them to still their bodies, I think it’s far more likely that the people were being instructed to still their minds. To take a deep breath and regroup. To really focus on what they were allowing themselves to feel and how they were allowing themselves to behave. I think this is God’s direction for us in the middle of these hectic afternoons when no one has yet adjusted to this new back-to-school season: Be Still. And moms, here’s the honest truth: this is not something we can expect our tired, immature kids to do. This is something WE must do, something we must model for them so that they see how they, too, can gather their emotions up and choose to be happy and thankful in the middle of feeling everything but.

If you are a teacher, you know the necessity of being prepared. If you are a mom (or a parent at all), you know the necessity of being prepared. It doesn’t do you any good–in fact, it increases your stress–if you wait until “the moment of” before you begin to prepare for something. Y’all, adopting the mindset of choosing joy is no different. I encourage you (and am working on this myself) not to wait until you’re frustrated and flustered and overwhelmed to change your thinking. Honestly, I don’t think that really works…or at least not well, anyway. Instead, do what you do with all the other things in your life: prepare. Take some time before that school day gets started or before you pick those kids up from their first days, and spend some time with God PREPARING yourself so that when those tough moments come, you’re ready. So that in those tough moments, you’re able to tap into that spirit that you’ve already {spiritually} fed and grab hold of that joy. The joy of the Lord will be your strength. Imagine what your afternoons and evenings can look like if you don’t let Satan wear down your spirit. If you refuse to exhibit those same emotions that your tired kid does, but instead, you get still, taking a moment to breathe and ask God to give you His joy. Will it be easy? Nope. It never is. But then again, if that was a easy thing, we wouldn’t need God’s joy, now would we?

And for those of you who aren’t parents of school-aged kids, those of you not impacted one bit by this back-to-school season (aside from the traffic and explosion of school-supply displays inside Walmart and Target), this works for you as well. I’d be willing to bet that there’s a season of life that you’re in right now that has real potential to be overwhelming and upsetting and stressful and bothersome. Whatever it is that you find increases your blood pressure when you think about it, apply that joy of the Lord to it, too. It doesn’t have to be an outward chaos; inward chaos needs that stillness and joy just as much. And you know what, preparing yourself for it works just as well as preparing for those hectic schedules and “hangry” schoolchildren.

Psalm 94:13 says, “That You would give him power to keep himself calm in the days of adversity…” and there is so much adversity awaiting the person who’s traded his/her joy for those emotions the enemy tells us are normal, and fine, and warranted. But we can do this. We can recognize what’s happening in the midst of it, take that deep breath that stills our spirit and mind and emotions, and offer up a quick call for help so that we can strengthen ourselves with the joy of the Lord.

And you know what, sometimes we are going to royally blow it. We are going to raise our voices and fuss and cry and absolutely lose our religion right there in the middle of our kitchen. (Why, hello there, personal experience.) Jesus gets that. He knows what we’re going through, and He’s got enough grace to help us through this current situation, to restore our spirits, and to help us avoid that pothole the next time. He’s been there; He, too, has felt the desire to lose His cool. “For we do not have a High Priest who is unable to understand and sympathize and have a shared feeling with our weaknesses and infirmities and liability to the assaults of temptation, but One who has been tempted in every respect as we are, yet without sinning” (Hebrews 4:15). So this school season (or in whatever distressing season you find yourself), when we feel that urge to give in to those negative emotions and further the upset and strife in our homes/lives, let’s do what Ezra and the Levites instructed. Let’s turn to the joy of the Lord. Let’s get ourselves still so that we can push past those emotions and reclaim what Satan is so excited about taking from us. Let’s deep-breathe and cut ourselves some slack when we don’t do such a good job. God knows we need His help. God knows we can’t do this alone. Prepare yourself beforehand, and when things go awry, call on Him as instructed in Hebrews 4:16: “Let us then fearlessly draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy [for our failures] and find grace to help in good time for every need [appropriate help and well-timed help, coming just when we need it]” (AMP). Come on, y’all. We’ve got this.

Dear Lord, thank you so much for the joy that you offer to me any time I can’t find some of my own. I know, God, that with this changing of seasons and schedules I will need your help to stay calm and still and focused on You instead of the chaos that can sometimes ensue. Lord, I ask that you please speak to my spirit during these moments of upset and stress so that I can actively attend to my attitude and choose joy over the negative emotions that rise to the surface. I ask that you please help everyone to have a wonderful school year full of blessings and deep breaths. And I ask that you bless those and comfort those whose current season of life requires a very purposeful attitude of joy and thanksgiving. Lord, you are so kind and so merciful, and I am so grateful. Thank you for having your favor and your hand over all of us, and thank you for hearing my prayer. In Jesus’s name I pray. Amen.

 

“The grammar isn’t important; it’s the message that matters. Don’t be a judgey-pants.” –Lindsey 1:1

Not Today, Satan!

As I write this post, the noise level right outside the wall of this room is insane. We are having some home repairs done outside, and it apparently involves jet planes landing ON MY HOUSE and drilling through incredibly thick steel. I’m pretty certain that at any given minute this outer wall is going to cease to exist. Lord, help!

Despite all the noise distractions, let me start by being totally honest: this post isn’t actually for you. This topic isn’t actually for the purpose of public consumption. It’s 110% for me personally. God has really been working on me lately regarding the amount of security I place on the money in our savings account. I know that the Bible teaches us that God wants our all. He wants us to believe in Him, to trust in Him, and to rely on Him first and foremost and above all other things. In some ways, I do this; I get it right. However, where money is concerned, I absolutely do not. More often than not, my comfort and my security come straight from the dollars accumulated in my account. My tension eases any time that number increases. (Or at least I assume it would. That number never increases, so technically, I don’t know for sure.) What I do know is that when I stopped working five years ago, our savings account looked WAY healthier than it does now. And this latest hit to it, this home repair project that we’re currently undertaking, has got me feeling every single thing but joy and peace. I so desperately want that to change, and so today’s post is my attempt to remind myself of God’s promises and His plan, of His power and His presence, and to maybe help anyone else who finds himself/herself overwhelmed by the stresses of this world.

Just to give you some idea of how much God has been working on me about this, let me tell you what all we’ve had to have done to and around our house since we cut our income in half (literally) and went to one income:

  • new hot water heater
  • new thingamajig for the new hot water heater that helps it work better and brings it up to code (isn’t my knowledge remarkable?!)
  • new dishwasher
  • new roof
  • new garage door
  • new garage door opener/motor
  • replacement of various parts/plugs in the Trailblazer and truck, along with multiple sets of new tires
  • large medical bills, mostly from our sweet girl’s early years, including our two-night, multiple-tests-inclusive stay at Arkansas Children’s Hospital a couple of years ago

And this latest project involves siding removal and replacement, gutter removal and replacement, fascia board replacement and repair (don’t worry, you don’t need to know what this is. It’s expensive and labor intensive; that’s the gist of this story), new gutter downspouts (FIVE of those suckers!), and within the first hour and a half, 500 additional dollars were added to our overall cost because the problem was bigger than they initially thought, reaching all the way to the framing boards. What in the actual world?! Needless to say, the stress dreams, tension headaches, and stomach pains have arrived as expected.

Because I have felt my peace and sense of security evaporate over all this mess, I have spent some time trying to remind myself what God promises in His Word, about taking care of us and providing for us. I know, deep down, that I will NEVER feel at peace financially if my security comes from dollars, because life is really dadgum expensive. There will be continual bills and unexpected costs for as long as I live. I also understand that if I place my trust in things other than God, I will forever be disappointed and left with this aching stomach and clinched jaw. I don’t want to live in the “I’ll be happy as soon as we make _______ amount per year,” because as soon as we make that, we’ll find a need for just a little bit more. Life involves living, and as it turns out, living costs money. Scam!

It’s become clear to me over the last few years, thanks to the guidance and clarity of the Holy Spirit, that God has allowed these expenses in our lives because I must give up my grasp on the almighty dollar. If you know me, you likely know that I am a very, very frugal person. Large costs mess me up, especially now, when we’re all living on one income. But God has shown me that as soon as we add a second income, we’ll also have a kid who is older, who’s involved in costly activities, wearing costly clothes, and who will apparently expect to drive her own vehicle one day and attend that wallet-emptier called college. No matter where we are in life financially, if that bank account is where I turn for my peace and my security, IT WILL NEVER HAPPEN because there will ALWAYS be costs we can’t anticipate and plan for. And guess what else I’ve learned…Satan knows this! He is such a complete jerk that he knows and exploits just how much peace I derive from knowing my account is cushy. He sneaks around and as soon as we happen upon another repair or expense, he’s there whispering in my ear about how much this costs, how draining this will be on our savings. But he seldom stops there, deciding to up the fear factor by encouraging me to catalog every single thing around this house that might go wrong or that might stop working.

I don’t know about you, but I do NOT want to live like this. I am an adult. I own a home, some vehicles, and I have a child. There will NEVER EVER be a time that something isn’t costing me money. That’s literally all there is to it. I refuse to live in this up-and-down peace that fluctuates to the point of disappearing any time I have to pay money for something. Remember that phrase that Abraham and Sarah used to refer to God: Jehovah-jireh. It means “the Lord who provides,” and my Bible tells me that the same God who provided then is the same God who WILL provide for me now. But because I’m a headcase, I need to see those scriptures; I need to read those promises straight from God’s Word. I need to be able to yell, “NOT TODAY, SATAN!!” when he tries to steal my peace and joy via money, and be able to back it up with scripture that proves why I don’t have to stress and worry about a thing.

I found many verses in the Bible regarding what God promises about our prosperity and/or finances. There were several that helped me see just how involved in my monetary life God is. I couldn’t find room to embed them all in the post, but I thought that those of you struggling with something similar might appreciate seeing several of those promises for yourself. I encourage you to read them out loud. Read them multiple times even. Take a quiet minute to do this, and I know that you’ll feel God speaking to your stresses, just like I felt Him speaking to mine.

Deuteronomy 8:18–But you shall [earnestly] remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth…

Deuteronomy 28:8–The Lord shall command the blessing upon you in your storehouse and all that you undertake. And He will bless you…

Deuteronomy 28:11–And the Lord shall make you have a surplus of prosperity

Psalm 34:10–…they who seek [inquire of and require] the Lord, none of them shall lack any beneficial thing

Luke 6:38–Give, and [gifts] will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over…

2 Corinthians 9:6–He who sows generously will also reap generously and with blessings.

Philippians 4:18-19–I have everything I need and am amply supplied…And my God will liberally supply (fill to the full) your every need according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.

All of the aforementioned scriptures certainly got the message across, but it wasn’t until I read Matthew 6:25-27 again, in the midst of my stress and angst over money worries, that I really felt myself letting go of at least a little bit of my desire to control my money and my life. These words are straight out of the mouth of our Savior, so read them carefully: “Therefore I tell you, stop being perpetually uneasy (anxious and worried) about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink; or about your body, what you shall put on. Is not life greater [in quality] than food, and the body [far above and more excellent] than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father keeps feeding them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by worrying and being anxious can add one unit of measure to his stature or to the span of his life? (AMP). You know what? I am more important to God than a bird. You know what? I have never had to go without because God has always provided. You know what? God promises not to neglect us at any time in any way, and He is a promise keeper. You know what? Worry is a sin, and it cripples my faith. Worry doesn’t grow money; it doesn’t eliminate those unexpected costs and expenses; it doesn’t ease my mind. It is a deterrent, keeping me focused on my problems and the situations I’m facing instead of on God and His powers to provide exactly what I need when I need it.

In speaking with a friend about her own money worries recently, I told her to pray about it and let God have it. Needless to say, I also told her to do as I say and not as I do when it comes to this lesson. I encouraged her and her husband to do four things: 1– to pray specifically about their finances, 2–to tithe, 3– to spend their money wisely, and 4–to let God take care of the rest because HE WILL. Now, if I can just get this lesson into my own stubborn brain, I’ll be in much better shape for the rest of my life.

Dear Lord, thank you so very much for all that you continually do for me and all that you continually provide for me and my family. I am so grateful that you are a Provider and that I don’t have to worry about finances because you will lead me and safeguard me. Lord, I ask that you please help me to set aside my worries in all areas but especially right now regarding my finances, and I ask that you help me to focus on you and your promises instead of my anxieties and the lies of the enemy. I will not go without, God, and I know this because you have promised it. Also, Lord, I want a pure heart whose focus is You, not money. In Matthew 6:21 you tell me that wherever my treasure is, there my heart will be also. You, God. You are my treasure. You are my safety and security, and I ask you to please help me recognize this truth and live this truth more and more. You are kind and loving and a giving God, and I am so grateful to be Your child. Thank you for hearing me, for loving me, and providing for my every need. In Jesus’s name I pray. Amen.