My Sin was Great, Your Love was Greater

I want to start by letting you know that my mammogram went fine, no problems. All is well. Thank you for your thoughts and prayers. 

This past week has been pretty crazy. My days were a lot more busy than I like. This month seems to be the month of Doctor Appointments. I just looked at my calendar, we have sixteen appointments scheduled for this month. Which is horrible. They are all check ups, dentist appointments, eye appointments etc. Which means that after this month, I shouldn’t have to take anyone anywhere for a long time. Getting it all done in one fell swoop. 

Except that it makes this month a lot more stressful. 

I had the whole having-to-get-a-mammogram thing which was also stressful, though it ended well. We’ve had some changes in our home life with our foster daughter slowly transitioning back to her birth parent. Which is great, but our schedule has gotten a lot more complicated. Even when she goes home completely, I will still be her full-time babysitter, which is a part-time job all by itself. Also a bit stressful.

So, here’s the crazy thing. All this stuff has been going on, and I have been stressed, but it’s not really these things that has been stressing me out. 

I have been mostly stressed about my inability to conquer and be victorious over my weight problems. Sins. Gluttony. Emotional Eating. Using food as the source of my peace and comfort. 

I have been feeling weighed down with condemnation. Surely God is sick and tired of me still struggling in this area. I am a disappointment. A failure. Weak. Not worthy. I’m pretty sure God really doesn’t want to have anything to do with me until I stop being this way. 

Yesterday I kind of hit rock bottom. I wrote a letter to God. 

It was helpful. Helpful for me to be very, very honest. Helpful for me to lay it all down. And then stand back and get some perspective. 

The perspective I got (I believe with the help of the Holy Spirit) was this. Perhaps my bigger sin is thinking that my own works is what saves me. Perhaps my bigger problem is not overcoming in this area, but truly trusting God at his word, that he has truly saved me and given me His Righteousness, and His Righteousness is enough. Maybe Pride is more the issue. Having to realize that Esther, in her own strength, has no power to overcome. She is completely dependent on God and his power to free her from her strongholds. And trying to remember that I am loved. As I am. I don’t have to get perfect first before God decides that he can love me. 

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

I think I have reached the place where I fully see my helplessness to free myself from sin. And I then also fully see my dependence on God to do the work necessary in my life. And so I cling to his goodness. His mercy. And once again I put my trust in Him. 

I have set aside today to be a day of rest. A day of staying home, not having to run a bunch of errands. A day of minimal housework. 

And I pray that it also is a day of spiritual rest. Sinking into the truth that I am forgiven. That he who began a good work in me will be faithful to complete it (Philippians 1:6).

And this line runs through my head:

My Sin Was Great, Your Love was Greater. (from the song, “What a Beautiful Name”)

Let’s Just Skip the Guilt

December is here, and for me that means full-blown Christmas Celebrating. We put up the tree after Thanksgiving, pull all the decorations out, and when we’re done it looks like an explosion of red and green, silver and gold. On December 1st we start doing Advent Readings. Not really a traditional advent. We have a collection of readings on the attributes of God. Each night we read Bible verses about how God is our Rock, our bridegroom, the Desire of All Nations…And we have a little tray on which we put a tangible object to remind us of each of these names. Like a fancy rock, a ring, a silver coin. And then, after we’ve done our Bible readings, I pull out a treat like rock candy, or lifesavers (a ring) or gold wrapped chocolate coins. It is one of our favorite Christmas traditions. We also have a yearly Christmas party where we invite a ton of people to come and eat goodies and just catch up with each other. Add on various recitals and concerts that the kids are in, and a Christmas Eve tradition of making Gingerbread houses, and that about rounds out our Christmas Holidays.

 

When one of my kids asked me, Mom, is Santa Coming? I was a little stunned. Santa? It has long been our tradition to teach our kids about the historical Saint Nicholas and explain where the legend of Santa came from, but then tell our kids that we focus on Christmas being a Celebration of Jesus’ birth. The question threw me off. Have I failed? Have I somehow forgotten to put emphasis on the story of Jesus and so my kids have just latched on to what the culture around them is talking about? 

 

As I paused to think this over, I tuned into the Christmas music we had playing in the background. Almost all the songs were about Jingle Bells, and Santa, and Winter Days. Not a whole lot about the Birth. I looked over at the piano. My Christmas Favorites Book was open and I had been fooling around with some Jazzy arrangements of “I’ll be Home for Christmas” . Yikes. Suddenly everything felt very secular and my guilt-o-meter started ticking. 

 

And then, a quiet voice said, So do something about it!  Oh. Ok. I guess we could pull out some of our Bible Christmas Books and read through those. I can play my jazzy Christmas songs, but I can also pull out some of the old favorite carols. I can continue to remind my kids that Christmas is a Celebration of Jesus coming to earth. And instead of focusing on what gifts we’re going to get, I could get my kids working on some giving instead. Like making cookies for our neighbors, writing cards for their teachers, giving presents to friends. It’s never too late to change the focus. 

 

This is my normal pattern. I see a problem and I instantly get caught up in guilt and everything feels horrible and the world is going to end because I messed up. When really, most things just need a small fix. Ok. Here’s a problem. Let’s fix it. There is nothing wrong with all the trappings of Christmas. I love the lights and trees and gifts. I just don’t want that to be the main focus of our holidays. So, I can take steps to change the focus. 

 

So, here’s to having grace for myself. When I notice that things aren’t going the way I want them to, instead of getting all caught up in guilt and anxiety and anger…I can just make a change. Turn the direction back the way I want it and skip all the self-hate drama. 

May our holidays be filled with grace and peace! 

 

So, What’s the Big Deal About Today?

Good Morning Internet World! Here it is Easter Morning and as I sit here in my home, writing on my computer, I wonder how everyone’s morning is going, and what this day means to you. When I first started this blog I was pretty purposeful in my thoughts that this wasn’t going to be a “Christian Blog”. What I mean by that, was that I did not want to write out little sermonettes and discuss bible verses every day. Neither did I want it to be an “Advice Blog” where I could spell out how I do things and encourage you to copy all my neat tricks for living. I just wanted to write about my life and the stories I have to tell. As it turns out, since I spend my life trying to make Jesus the most important thing, he kind of crops up in my blogs. Pretty regularly. And I have ended up dispensing some advice here and there. It’s just happened, the inevitable result of writing about my life. Today though, I am just going to be blatant Christian. I want to share with you all why today is so important to me.

Today is Easter. The day we celebrate that Jesus rose from the dead. What is that all about? Well, he was God, in the flesh. He came down to earth and lived the perfect, sinless life, because I couldn’t. And then, even though he was perfect, he was killed: whipped and then nailed to a cross, dying a torturous death. Why? Well, the punishment for sin is death. All of us have sinned. We all deserve to die for our sins. There was nothing we could do to change that. So Jesus came and changed it for us. He died in our place. Took all of our sins on himself and paid the price for us. Now, if we repent of our sins, believe in Jesus, ask his forgiveness, he does forgive us and he “Makes us white as snow..” He declares us innocent, clean, forgiven. And he promises that he will be with us and never leave us. And when our earthly body dies, we will go and be with him for all eternity. Easter is the day we celebrate that I can now approach God and have a relationship with him, all the barriers have been removed.

So, what does Easter mean to me?

It means I am no longer alone. I have someone that I speak to all day long. Sometimes it reverent, “Lord, thank you for the beautiful sunshine!” Sometimes, not so much, “LORD! Help me! I am so tired!! I can’t deal with this messy house!!” Sometimes it’s just commenting on daily life, “Wow Lord, I cannot believe that driver just cut me off like that!!! Please help me to not start swearing!!” And often, it’s just the word, “help”. For me, it’s an all-day running commentary on my life. And I know he’s listening. And he answers. Not so much an audible voice, though I have heard his voice a couple times, but more like a redirection of my thoughts. I’m grumbling about what a lousy day I’m having, and suddenly I remember the bible verse, “This is the day the Lord has made, we will rejoice and be glad in it!” Or I find myself harboring a bunch of anger towards someone and the verse pops in my head, “For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” It’s a conversation of sorts…with someone who never goes away, always listens, and knows all your thoughts. Can’t really get more intimate than that.

What does Easter mean to me?

It means I have peace. When I do things wrong, I don’t have to walk around feeling guilty. I can ask for God’s forgiveness and then I can count on him to give me the strength to ask forgiveness from the person I wronged. And if things continue to remain tense, I can have peace knowing that he will be with me and give me wisdom to know how to proceed. The underlying guilt that I used to carry around with me is no longer there. I am forgiven.

What does Easter mean to me?

It means I am no longer afraid. What is the worst thing that can happen to me? Death? Well, if I die I know that I will be with Jesus…forever. Doesn’t sound too bad. When I am tempted to be afraid for my children, God reminds me that he loves my children more than I do. Their lives are in his hands. They might not get the fairy tale life that I envision for them, they may go through horrible things in their lives, I may even, Heaven Forbid, bury one of my children (Lord, may it not be so). But, I don’t have to live in fear of these things happening. In the end, I have no power to save my children or protect them, and God never promised us a pain-free, trouble-free life. But, he promises to never leave us, to take bad things and turn them into good. I can trust him.   

What does Easter mean to me?

It means my life gets a bit uncomfortable at times. God’s number one priority for me is not for me to be happy. His number one priority is that I learn how to be like him. And sometimes learning that is a bit painful. Awkward. Esther, I want you to love your neighbor as yourself. Esther, I want you to forgive those who hurt you. Esther, I want you to help those in need. Esther, I want you stop putting your selfish desires above the needs of your family. Esther, I want you to trust me with this problem instead of worrying about it. Yeah. It’s not all fun and games. This weekend, I had an old friend reach out to me for help. My very first thought was, No way. I can’t help you with this. It’s too much. It’s going to really inconvenience me. My husband and I prayed about it. The next day, I still wanted to say No, sorry, can’t help, but God very gently pointed out to me that all my reasons for saying No were selfish and rather petty. And so I found myself saying yes. I can help you. But here’s the thing. All this nudging to change, do things differently than I want to, in the end it’s slowly shaping me into the person that I have always wanted to be. I have no power in myself to turn Esther from a selfish, self-absorbed person into a selfless person who always puts others first and is always ready to forgive, ready to lend a helping hand. It’s a change that only comes from listening daily to the quiet nudges from God as he slowly chips away at all the rough edges of my character.

What does Easter mean to me?

Everything. It means everything. And this is why I tell my children, this is the biggest holiday of the entire year! Easter! The day that enabled me to pass from condemned sinner to beloved daughter of God. Oh yes, Easter means everything to me.

 

Elliptical Machines and the Kindle App

About two years ago our family got a membership at the YMCA. It was during a time when I was really struggling with depression. The gym became a life-saver for me. It was only a five minute drive away. I would tell my older kids they were babysitting, drive down to the gym, get on the elliptical machine for 30 minutes then quickly come back home, usually only being gone for 45 minutes. I felt better from the exercise and from having a short break from the house. I went as much as six times a week, usually no less than four.

Well, after we decided to stop homeschooling and my kids started going to public school, I no longer had a “big kid” to babysit, which meant I had to load up my little ones (there were three at home at the time) and take them to the gym with me and leave them at the daycare room. My trips to the gym now became long, drawn-out hassles that involved dressing little children, finding missing shoes, loading kids in and out of car seats, and then abandoning screaming children to a daycare worker. Just so I could get a 30 minutes workout. My trips to the gym quickly decreased. We were also still getting accustomed to everyone being gone all day at school and by the time the kids got home and I had a babysitter available again, I did not want to leave them to go do my own thing. I started only going on weekends. This past summer I finally pointed out to my husband that we simply were not using the gym to its full potential anymore and should probably cancel our membership. He asked me when I was going to exercise and I said something like, I’ll take a walk, or get a video workout or something.

So, around the time of my birthday, this fall, my husband informed me that he was going to buy me an elliptical machine with his bonus he had received. WOW! I was surprised, excited, and a little nervous. Elliptical machines have been my go-to because they have been the only form of exercise that has worked consistently with my various back problems. Having my very own at home would be a dream come true. Having my husband fork out a chunk of money so that I can exercise at home felt a little more dangerous. Especially when he calculated the cost of the machine (we found one on sale!) versus the cost of a gym membership and said I would need to exercise diligently for two years before having a machine at home could be considered cheaper than the gym. Yikes. To say I felt a bit of pressure to use my new machine would be putting it lightly.  

I am proud to say that I have, until Christmas time, been very faithful with using my machine. Christmas really threw me off, but I started back yesterday and I feel a renewed desire to keep exercising. Since I am not a particularly athletic or disciplined person, you may be surprised at this. So, here’s my little secret. I read when I exercise. I have a kindle app on my phone and I have a book at the ready, put it on the little shelf and just incorporate finger swipes to turn the page as part of my exercise routine. This is proof that if I am reading I can endure almost anything. The nice part about reading is if you get to a particularly intense part of the story, you automatically speed up and get an even better workout! 🙂 I guess this probably points to the fact that I am a bookworm, have been since second grade, and probably will be all my life. I average 4 books a week. Sometimes more. Rarely less. The library and I are good friends. All this to say, it is very exciting to find out I can make exercise (which can be boring!) into a time when I can read a book without any guilt. Long live elliptical machines, and long live the kindle app!

(Ok, I’m aware that people often watch TV or listen to podcasts while working out. I have found that I really don’t enjoy TV much, it doesn’t hold my attention, and I am not an auditory kind of person, so listening to someone speak into my ears through headphones is kind of stressful for me.) (Yes. I’m weird.)(Maybe there are more weird people out there like me though, so I’m sharing this amazing discovery with them!) (Ok, I also understand this is not exercise-guru type advice, I know, I need to do some other types of exercise as well, but, hey, something is better than nothing!)(I love parenthesis, they are so handy!) (And fun.) (I might just possibly over-use them.) (Maybe.) (Perhaps I should take a poll.)