And Peace on Earth

It is early in the morning. I am the only one awake. I’m sitting out in my living room, all the lights off except my Christmas Tree which is glowing softly. I had been lying in bed, wide awake, my mind fretting on a million things, so I finally decided to just get up. 

Right now I have one of the pieces from Handel’s Messiah running through my head. “Glory to God, Glory to God, Glory to God in the Highest…….And Peace, On earth……Good will toward men, toward men, Good will toward men, toward men…” which of course comes straight from Luke 2:14. 

Thinking back, this year has been insane. We have weathered some really hard things. I think about the violence our neighborhood and schools have seen this year. I think about the crazy ups and downs we’ve had with our foster daughter. I think about the stressful medical situations we’ve gone through with different family members. Loved ones who passed away. A lot of uncertainty in our country and the news always blasting gloom and hopelessness. 

It’s been a hard year. 

1 Thessolonians 4:13 Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope.

This verse talks about grieving death. But I think it is appropriate to say that we don’t grieve, in general, without hope. Whether it is over the death of a loved one, over loss, over enduring trauma, or anything else that hits us hard. We don’t grieve without hope. 

The next verses in Thessolonians 4 go on to say that Jesus died on the cross for us and he will return one day and take all of us up to be with him. And so we know that this time on earth is just a chapter. Not the final credits. The story is just beginning. We look forward to eternity with Jesus. And that is our hope. 

And this brings me back to the angels singing Glory to God in the Highest and Peace on Earth, Good will toward men. 

It’s been a hard year. I’m sitting up early because my mind is worried about a lot of things. But, I don’t worry or grieve or live life as someone without hope. I know that I am at peace with God. Jesus made the way for me to be at peace with God. Before Jesus, all my sins made it impossible for me to come close to God at all. After Jesus, well here I am. I’ve endured a crazy year. I am looking at more craziness right now. But I have peace. I feel God’s good will toward me. I feel surrounded by his blessings and mercy. I am overwhelmed with thankfulness. 

I’m not sure how to spell this out clearly enough. I could make you a giant list of things I’m worried about. Legitimate things. Legal issues we have to look into concerning our foster child. Problems with the inner city schools our children are attending. Financial worries. The normal worries of, “Are my kids going to turn out ok??” The everyday worries, “This family is eating way too much junk over the holidays, how do we get back to eating healthy again??” Nagging worries like, “It’s only ten days to Christmas and I haven’t bought any Christmas gifts yet.” So many things that try to steal our peace. And yet, I am at peace. And Jesus is the one that did that for me. 

And so I sit up early and hum to myself, “Glory to God in the Highest”, and I hand my worries back over to God, get ready for another busy day, and know that I have Peace. 

Fat Fridays: Fighting Stress with Exercise

Good morning everyone. It is an early Friday morning here. My kids are just getting up, grabbing their breakfast, getting ready for a virtual day of school. We have been in-person this year, but have had to move to virtual occasionally for covid, weather, and now, this week, gun violence in our neighborhood that has been taking the lives of our school kids. On Tuesday, there was an incident of someone shooting a gun in the parking lot of our elementary school, while children were playing on the playground. On Wednesday, we learned that the fourth high school student in six weeks had died of gunshot wounds. On Thursday, my body kind of shut down from all the stress, and in between doing life: helping kids with virtual school, doing my daily exercise, preparing meals, I climbed into bed and just slept. I think I took three separate naps. All of  them interrupted, none of them long enough. But I just couldn’t stay awake. 

Last night I went out on date night with my husband and we took a long brisk walk in the woods. It was nice to get physically tired instead of just mentally. 

This is one thing I have found as I’ve done my new exercise and diet program, I am finding myself starting to crave physical exercise.  

I especially like walking. There is something very therapeutic about being outside, breathing fresh air, getting out of your house. 

Almost every day my trainer has me doing some kind of weight/body resistance kind of workout and then she gives me twenty to thirty minutes on the elliptical. Sometimes I go on the elliptical, but sometimes I just go walk outside. The elliptical gives a better workout, but walking outside is more rejuvenating. 

You know, 2020 was crazy for everyone. But, I had high hopes that 2021 was going to be a lot better. So far this year, I haven’t had a normal week yet. Each week has had something big and crazy in it. And the stress of that can really pull you down. So, I am very thankful for exercise and the role it has been playing to keep me sane. 

My Word for the Year

I have seen several people, in talking about this new year that we are in, talk about how they have a Word for this year. There have been some pretty good words that people have picked. I’ve been impressed. 

I have never had a Word for a year, something that I am focusing on, an area I am hoping to grow in. I decided that I wanted to get a Word too. The one that came almost immediately to mind was “Discernment”. And since January 1st, I have been thinking more and more that this is the exact right Word for me. 

dis·cern·ment

/dəˈsərnmənt/

noun

  1. 1.
    the ability to judge well. 

(google dictionary)

As I read the news, watch the conversations on social media, listen to the people around me, I am overwhelmed with how desperate I am for good discernment. The ability to sift the wheat from the chaff. To be able to tell truth from fiction. Wisdom. I need this. Desperately. 

As a Christian, I do have some direction on how to get this discernment that I need. In the book of James, God comes right out and says, If you lack wisdom, just ask me, and I’ll give it to you. (Just make sure you are asking in faith, not doubt.) (James 1:5). Jesus also says, “I am the way and the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father if not by me.” (John 14:6). Jesus is truth. If I am wanting to know what the truth is, it would make sense that I spend as much time as possible with THE TRUTH. 

My Dad often told a story when I was young about a goldsmith who gives only one job to his new apprentice. He must sit all day and hold a piece of gold in his hand. After weeks of this, the apprentice complains, he wants to learn how to work with the gold and make beautiful things. The goldsmith nods, throws a piece of gold to the apprentice and tells him he can make something with that piece of gold. The apprentice catches the gold in his hand and then exclaims, Hey! This isn’t real gold! The moral of the story being that if you want to tell the difference between real and counterfeit, you have to devote your time to knowing the Real. 

I have been thinking about that story this January as I have sought after discernment. If I truly want to know truth, to have discernment, wisdom, then I need to be spending as much time as I can with the Original Truth. Wisdom Incarnate. 

The more time you spend with the Real, the more obvious the counterfeit is. 

We are living in a time when we are being bombarded by everyone’s version of “truth”. And people are angry when others do not agree with them. When someone else pulls out a different theory and says, No, this is really what’s true. It is a shaky, uncertain place where you no longer know who is speaking the truth and who is lying and who is just speaking in ignorance. I, personally, just want it to all go away. I want peace. But, there is a niggling inside of me that says, one day I’m going to have to make a stand. There will come a time when neutrality is no longer an option. And when that time comes, I want to be standing on the side of truth. And in order to do that, I need discernment. And in order to get that, I need Jesus. 

I Don’t Have Any Answers

My mind has been reeling the past two days, watching the news, watching what everyone has to say about the news. And honestly, I don’t feel like talking about it. The press has covered it Ad Nauseum, almost everyone I know has voiced an opinion. (I’m not saying that’s a bad thing!) As I thought about writing my blog today, I thought, well, I should address what is happening in the country. Give my opinion. And I have finally realized that I really don’t want to do that. 

First, I feel like my opinion is half-baked at best. I am bewildered, torn, and kind of feel like I’m in the middle of a blizzard of information and ideas. I don’t know anything and I don’t have any good thoughts to share at the moment. 

Second, I really don’t feel like I have a finger on “What does the Bible say concerning these matters?” I am still searching and praying. I don’t know. 

So, let’s talk about how we’re doing with just life in general right now. 

Do you realize that we just finished a month and half of celebrating: Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years? And did you know that it’s a common phenomenom that when you have an emotional high, it’s followed by an emotional low? I for one am sitting nice and firm in that low. My kids went back to school this week and I started homeschooling again. The kindergartner was not happy to start homeschooling again. It’s taken me to Thursday to get him through a normal school day in a normal amount of time. And then this afternoon I got the news that “due to the possibility of inclement weather” all the kids will be home for virtual school tomorrow. 

Wonderful.

Tomorrow I also have to take my 7th grader to get a covid test because he is having surgery on Monday morning. Something that just got scheduled this week. (I’ve never had this doctor’s office move so fast in getting a surgery lined up.) It’s an old complaint. Fluid in his ear causing hearing loss. He already had six sets of PE tubes when he was little. We’ve had a good long stretch of no problems, but now it seems it’s back. 

Our family has managed to stay healthy through all this Covid junk, but it’s concerning to me to hear, every day it seems, of more people I know who are sick with it. My daughter is going to bed right now and told me that she is cold, even though she is wearing really warm pajamas, socks, gloves, hat and is under a blanket. All I can think is that she’s getting the chills that come before a fever. And I just feel tense, wondering if the three days back at school was enough for her to pick up something that will now spread through the whole family. Who knows. We’ll see. And, as I think about it, if this daughter ends up getting sick, it will probably affect the other child’s surgery. Uggh. 

Emotionally I’ve been struggling with feeling like a failure. The old voices are speaking loudly in my head. 

So, here I am, just hanging on, and then the news explodes and everyone’s social media explodes and I get all caught up in it. And I realize. I can’t do this. I can’t let the drama of this dysfunctional country keep me yo-yo-ing up and down. I’m already having a hard time without focusing on what’s happening in Washington D.C. 

Someone suggested on their Facebook that now was a good time to get off the social media and focus on Jesus and His Kingdom. And I have to agree. I need wisdom, discernment, love, patience, power. I’m not going to get any of that by focusing on the world. I will get that by turning my focus back on God. Repeatedly. Over and Over again. Habitually. 

I’m not saying that I’m going to just ignore everything that is happening in the world. I live in the world, my personal life is affected by what is going on out there. But, if I take a look at how much time I am devoting to every activity in my day, social media and the news should not be taking up the majority of my time. (And I can hear my husband in the background saying, AMEN!) 

So, that’s where I’m at. Post-holiday blues, regular stresses of taking care of lots of kids, trying to resolve to spend less time on the internet, more time in real life, more focus on the Real King. 

I’ll talk to you all later. 

A Blessing for My Children

We have just finished a tough year. Last night, as I rang in the New Year with my family, I was genuinely glad that we were done with 2020. 

Last January, we had a special speaker come to our church, and he prophesied that this coming year was going to be a year of Lack. A year of Not Enough. And it would be a year where we would see that Jesus was enough. Words that turned out to be very true.

As I look back on this past year, I am still amazed that we made it through all the trials that were thrown in our path. And I start thinking about this year that we have just started. And I want to pray a blessing over my children.  

I pray that this year will be a year where you rely less on your own strength, and more on the strength that comes from God. 

I pray that this year will be a year where thankfulness becomes a habit.

I pray that this year will be a year where the entertainments of this world grow old and stale for you and instead you become captivated by the highly adventurous path of growing closer to God. 

I pray that your patience will become stronger, your kindness will become ingrained. I pray that you will gain an ability to see people through the eyes of love instead of judgement. 

I pray that your faith will grow exponentially. When problems rear their head, you will not be fazed. You will know that Your God is in control. 

I pray that Peace will be a defining part of your character. That you will seek peace with others and that God’s peace will be firmly in the center of who you are. 

I pray for Joy in the midst of hardship. I pray for love in an atmosphere of hate. I pray that God would put a passion for his Word in your hearts, that you would grow strong and firm in your knowledge of him. 

I pray that grace would lace your words and your actions. 

May this be a year, that no matter what happens in this world, on December 31st, 2021, you will look back and say, Wow, it was an amazing year. This is the year that I truly came to know that God is all that I need. 

 “May your love abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.” (Philippians 1:9-11, NIV)

With much love,

Mom

New Year’s Resolutions, Uncertainty, and God’s Sovereignty

Christmas is over. Yesterday marked my last day of festivities. This morning I took my daughter to get her ears pierced, one of her Christmas presents. As of 12:27pm today, I was officially done with celebrating Christmas. As far as taking down Christmas ornaments and cleaning up the debris from all the celebrating, well that falls more into New Year’s activities. And I am getting all geared up for New Years. 

Without fail, every year, I get excited about New Years. Every single year I think, this is the year. This is the year I will lose weight. This is the year I will become more disciplined. This is the year I will grow exponentially in my spiritual disciplines. This is the Year!!

I start making plans. This is the diet I’m going to try. This is the exercise plan I will attempt. These are the Good Habits I’m going to start. These are the Bad Habits I’m going to get rid of. 

RIght now, I’m pretty convinced that starting Jan 5th, I will be waking up at 6 am every day, getting on my elliptical with a sun lamp pointed at my face, working hard for thirty minutes while I listen to scripture being read out loud from my Bible App. Then I will go eat a small breakfast of vegetables and rice and maybe some fish thrown in. (And all these things will lead to inner peace, weight loss and lots of energy.) 

Hey, a woman can dream right? 

Interestingly, I was reading “The Atlantic” magazine today (a stocking-stuffer from my husband!) and the very first pages had an advertisement/article whose headline said, “Uncertain about the future?” and then at the end of the article, also in big letters, “Make a Plan”. The article of course had scientific evidence of how uncertainty stresses us out, and making a plan alleviates a lot of that stress. I think this is a coping skill I have been using for a long time. Making plans always makes me feel better. 

Uncertainty may be why we always face a new year with lots of New Year’s Resolutions. We have no idea what the New Year is going to bring, so we cope with that uncertainty by making all kinds of plans that should bring us health and prosperity. Almost like a good luck charm. If I just do A, B, and C, then I am guaranteed a good year. 

In the end, I know that I will not follow all my “plans” perfectly. I’m still hopeful. But, I know I will mess up. And even if I do succeed it will be a series of ups and downs. I also know that I have no way of predicting what is going to happen in this upcoming year. We still have election uncertainties, covid, vaccines, shaky economies, schools opening and shutting, lots of shifting in the world governments and systems. I have no guarantees that this upcoming year will be better than the one we just weathered. And yet, I am feeling hopeful. 

We had a very good Christmas. We ended up with a lot of snow, which for many people in our area ended up causing a lot of trouble, but for us, it was just pretty white stuff on the ground. Everything went smoothly. No sickness. (We’ve had several Christmases where we’ve been hit with the stomach bug.) The kids enjoyed each other’s company. My oldest daughter has been able to be with us. Everyone liked their presents. I have felt like this time has been a gift from God. A gift of Peace and Joy. And I really don’t know if I’m getting this gift because it will be a good memory to hang on to when things get rough again, or if it’s just the beginning of a better year. Only God knows. But, it made me feel seen. Made me feel like God was watching out for me. Made me remember that God is still in control. I’m in his hands. 

In the end, we live in uncertain times. All humanity has always lived in uncertain times. And we can make all the plans we want, but we have no guarantees that those plans will come to fruition. Psalm 20 verse 7 says, 

“Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.” 

God has our future in his hands. The great drama of world history that is playing out before our eyes is also in his hands. And that is our true source of hope. For those who have put their trust in God, his hands are the safest place to be.