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. 

Walking a Hard Road

We’ve got a meeting at the end of this week to discuss the reunification of our foster daughter with her birth family. 

There are a lot of emotions going on right now. On the one hand, this morning as we drove to school, I prayed for each of our family members and for our foster daughter’s family as well. Which we have been doing for two years. And I had the thought, Why are you surprised that prayers are being answered? Except, if I’m being honest, those prayers were more for the benefit of my foster daughter than because I had any faith. Anger and unforgiveness has kind of made me only able to make a blanket prayer, God be with them. But at the same time, I’m proud of her birth family. It’s been a long hard road and they’ve worked hard to overcome some really big obstacles. 

When I’m dealing with some big tantrums and crazy behavior, I find myself thinking, Well, at least this will no longer be my responsibility. But then sweet moments happen and I think, what is our family going to look like without this child smack in the middle always stirring things up? And I worry about my other kids’ grief that they will have to process. 

And I wonder, how on earth are we going to come up with a smooth transition that will produce the least amount of trauma? How much assistance do I offer to make this easier for my daughter? How much assistance will hinder her bonding back with her family? How do I make sure she knows, beyond all doubt, that I will always love her and I am always going to be her mom, and I’ll always be here for her if she needs me? How do I step back from primary caregiver to friend of the family? 

I don’t know. 

I have no regrets. But I hate this. 

I’m sitting here in my living room while I write this and I looked out the window and saw a bunch of birds swooping through the early morning gray sky. This verse came to mind. 

Matthew 10:29-31  Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

This is what I have to cling to in faith. That Jesus loves my foster daughter even more than I do and he has his hand on her life. My job is to say yes to whatever love and care God needs me to offer this child, but I also have to let go when he says it’s time to let go. Though maybe not a complete release, just a loosening of my hold. 

I try to look forward into the future, and fear shows me all the things that could go wrong. But faith requires me to stay in the moment. Right now what am I required to do? I’m required to give her birth family another chance. And I’m required to walk with them through this process. I don’t know how it’s going to turn out, but I know what I have to do today. 

All prayers are appreciated as we walk this road. 

“Your Name is the Light in the Darkness”

This morning in church we were singing the Paul Baloche song, “Oh Our Lord”, and we sang the line, “Oh Your Name is the Light in the Darkness…” And I suddenly had a flashback of me, in my room, calling out to Jesus for help. On my knees in despair, unable to help myself, crying on the name of the Lord, and it wasn’t just one scene, it was many scenes going back for years and years. All the times I have called on the Name of the Lord for help. Lord, I don’t know what to do! Please help me! Desperate cries. And EVERY SINGLE TIME, he has helped me. EVERY SINGLE TIME. Oh Lord, how Majestic is Your Name! How powerful is your name! You have brought me out of the pit. Your name is a strong tower and the righteous run into it. Your name is the Light in the Darkness.

This weekend has been quite a roller coaster for me as I walked through a crisis with one of my kids. And I had that completely helpless, powerless feeling of, I don’t know what to do or say to help this child. And I love this child and I’ve got to help them. And I don’t know how… Jesus. Help us. Please. And he did. He did. Friday night was the pit of despair, and somehow Saturday and Sunday have been wonderful. 

People hear how many kids I have, and they shake their heads and they say, I don’t know how you do it! 

And I don’t know quite what to say. Cause really, I’m not doing it. It’s all God. But, any pat response I give will just sound light, frivolous. How do I communicate to a stranger that, There is no way I could ever parent this many kids on my own. I couldn’t even parent one kid on my own. This parenting journey involves me on my face regularly before God crying for help, mercy, wisdom, relief. And he is faithful to help. He listens and he answers. 

This past week I have been trying to make a conscientious effort to turn my thoughts to worship instead of worry. This week has given me a lot of things to worry about. We’ve even had some major crises. But, I have had an amazing amount of peace throughout.

You keep him in perfect peace

 whose mind is stayed on you,

 because he trusts in you. Isaiah 26:3

God’s name is trustworthy. 

for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Romans 10:13

I’m here to give my testimony, my witness, my story. Jesus has never let me down. Ever. And I’ve walked some crazy paths. I’m walking a crazy path right now as I try to raise this growing family of mine. Every time I have called on Jesus for help, he has helped me. And it’s not because I’m some amazing Saint. I’m as sinful and messed up as the next person. The only difference is God has saved me, and continues to save me. And I continue to call on his name. 

My heart is overflowing today with praise. I’ll leave you the words to this Matt Redmon song, 

Worthy, You are Worthy

Worthy, You are worthy

Much more worthy than I know

I cannot imagine

Just how glorious You are

And I cannot begin to tell

How deep a love You bring

O Lord my ears have heard of You

But now my eyes have seen

Chorus

You’re worthy

You’re worthy

You’re worthy

You’re worthy to be praised

Forever and a day

You’re worthy

You’re worthy

You’re worthy

You’re worthy to be praised

Forever and a day

Glory, I give glory

To the One who saved my soul

You found me and You freed me

From the shame that was my own

And I cannot begin to tell

How merciful You’ve been

O Lord, my ears had heard of You

But now my eyes have seen

Anyone Else Worried?

Last night I checked my phone one more time and then crashed into bed at 9:30pm. It was a long day. The kids were off from school due to the election, I had several meetings and errands and house cleaning and chauffeuring and cooking and as a backdrop to all of that, the knowledge that it was election day. 

I woke up two times in the night, grabbed my phone, checked the election updates page, then went back to sleep. 

This morning my alarm went off and the normal, “I don’t want to get up.” went through my head. Then I remembered, election. Oh yeah. I grabbed my phone. Checked the updates again. Just as I suspected and had dreaded. Both sides claiming the victory is obviously their’s and no real conclusive results yet. 

And thus begins possibly the longest week of the year as we wait for all the “officials” to do their “official” stuff and give us the “official” answer. 

This is not designed to be a political post. This is an exploration of the question, “So, how does that make you feel?” 

Right now I feel frustrated (I hate delayed gratification, I want to know the results now!) Helpless (I’m not a government official, a poll worker, a lawyer, or anyone with a position to do something to make sure the votes get counted quickly and fairly.) Powerless (I have no control over how people are going to react to the end result and I’m worried about people making bad decisions in their anger.) A little angry (why on earth is our voting system so convoluted??) Lots of doubts and fears (how are we going to move forward as a nation after the results are declared?)

I find myself pacing around in a state of restlessness. I actually got on my elliptical today because I just needed to be moving. I’ve done more cleaning in the last two days. I haven’t been able to focus on my book and have felt distracted. 

I have seen several people give the good advice that we need to just get on with life. That this election doesn’t change anything of real significance and life goes on. Which I agree with in theory. But I haven’t quite convinced my mind and emotions to grab hold of that. 

I would say I am definitely guilty of being Worried. 

Philippians 4:6-7 says:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

So, here goes. Lord, I thank you for this nation that we live in. Thank you for the abundance that we enjoy. Thank you for the freedoms that we often take for granted. Thank you for all the good that we as a country have managed to do throughout our history. Please forgive us for all the bad that have also managed to do. Lord, I just ask for your will to be done right now through this election. I ask for your peace.  I ask that we as a country can reconcile our differences and learn to live in unity. And I ask that no matter what the results of the election, our response would be one of peace and joy. Knowing that you are still on your throne and your WILL will be done on earth as it is in heaven. I pray that during this time your church will rise up and be instruments of peace to our fellow citizens. 

I ask all of this in Jesus’ Name.

Amen. 

I’m going to put on some praise music and get on with my day. Hopefully a little less stressed. 

Peace to all of you. 

Peace is a Verb

It has been days since I’ve last written and I almost feel a craving to get back to my keyboard. Our family is on vacation at the moment. Staying in a family-owned, small, rustic cabin on a beautiful lake that has entertained generations of my husband’s family. Tucked away in rural America, far from home, it is a wonderful escape from daily life. I have been weathering the shock to my system that comes from suddenly disconnecting from everyday life. No agenda. No plans. No schedules. The kids have been living in the lake. They have turned into little minnows. My only job is to keep an eye on them, join them occasionally, when the whim hits, and prepare three meals a day. 

 

I’ll tell you what I have been thinking about the last couple days. 

 

Peace is not a place. It’s also not a lack of movement or busyness. It’s also not being in nature. Or having complete freedom in your schedule. 

 

Cause, if it was all those things? I’d be floating on a cloud of peace right now. 

 

Instead, I am finding that I am having to fight for peace just as hard as I was when I was home, surrounded by schedules and appointments and work and busyness. 

 

I am having to take my thoughts captive, train them to go in a better direction. I am having to be purposeful about being thankful and looking for the good all around me. I am having to mentally box up all the things that I can’t fix (world pandemic, crazy politics, the coming school year) and again say, Ok, God, I am leaving these things in your hands, my worry is not going to change or fix any of these problems. I am having to seek out scriptures, to remind myself of the goodness of God and strengthen my faith again. 

 

I am hoping that the fact that I am on vacation will mean that I can actually be more purposeful about seeking peace. I am hoping that simply sitting in nature will eventually help my tense muscles to relax. I am hoping that the change of pace will be a time of bonding for our family and a time to simply have fun together. I am hopeful that by the end of this time, I will be recharged, ready to tackle the coming school year. These are my hopes. But, these things are not going to happen automatically. I am going to have to seek them, chase after them, pursue them. If I don’t, I will just spend this entire time fretting and worrying and stressing. 

 

Peace is a verb. A state of being. Sometimes, it’s a gift that is simply handed to me, but usually, it is a purposeful pursuing. A conscious choice. And in my experience, what I’m pursuing is Jesus. More of him, less of me, that is how I get peace. It is an acknowledgment of his sovereignty, his goodness, his love. A moving of my thoughts so that they line up with what the Bible says about my life. 

 

The good news is that you don’t have to be on vacation to have peace. While I’m going to treat this time off as the lovely treasure that it is, I know that the peace I look for during this time is something I can take home with me. It is always close at hand, whenever I’m willing to seek it. 

 

You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You. 

Isaiah 26:3 (NKJV)

This is your 5 Minute Reminder to Stop Worrying

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I saw this today and thought, yep, that about sums up where I am right now. 

 

Now, I’m not sure if my theology quite  puts me at the place where I think God is deliberately setting me up, but I definitely think he allows me to get into places where I am not in control and all I can do is trust him. 

 

I have to tell you, I don’t like this place. When a problem presents itself, I am one of those people that wants to come up with a plan right away and then implement that plan right away, whether I have given it enough thought, prayer, counsel etc…I just want to be moving…forward…sideways…any direction, as long as I’m moving and not in a standstill. 

 

I am fortunate to have married the man I did. He is a great balance to me. His inner rhythm is at about half my tempo. Where I rush and scurry, he slowly ambers along. Where I finish the job quickly, though a bit messily, and perhaps not quite the way it was supposed to be, But it’s done! He methodically takes one step at a time, takes a lot longer than me, but ends up with a perfectly finished product that doesn’t need any tweaking. We balance each other well, because he can come to a complete standstill and sometimes needs a bit of nudging, while I need someone to rein me back a bit, hold on, let’s think about this a bit longer.

 

Right now we have two major areas in our life that need some solutions. Right now. Like, maybe yesterday. Or last month. 

 

And I am very impatient to see these areas fixed. Very impatient. It interrupts my sleep. It messes with my peace. I feel like I am on edge, unable to relax because these things are looming. 

 

In both situations, we can do nothing. We are waiting on other people to do their part, and we have no way of hurrying up the process. Though I am tempted to suggest some ideas, maybe if we did this, this, and this it would hurry it up? But really, that’s just me fretting. 

 

This past week, everywhere I turn, whether it be my daily bible reading, a church service, memes on Facebook…everywhere…the message says, over and over again. Trust God. Have Faith. Don’t Worry. And so, I say, yes, I am just going to give this to God and stop worrying. And then five minutes later I find my mind stuck in the same rut. Oh, yeah. Wait. I’m giving this over to God. Ok. 

 

This has not been one of those sunbeam-through-the-clouds situations where I say, Oh! I get it! I just need to trust that God is taking care of this, now I am going to stop worrying! No. It’s been more of a daily, every hour, turning it back over to God. Forgetting. Worrying. Turning it back over to God. Forgetting. Worrying. Turning it back over to God. If you get what I’m saying. 

 

Does this make me an imperfect Christian? Lacking in Faith? I don’t think so. No, I have not been an example of calm, unshakeable faith…but I have consistently been calling on God for help. God and I have had a lot of conversations about this. I feel an urgency to stay close and connected to him right now as my worries try to overwhelm me. I feel his hand on me, I know that not only is he working in the physical realm, but he’s also working on my heart, wanting to grow me in this area of faith. And that’s a good place to be. 

 

Last night I suddenly remembered that I hadn’t picked out our new Bible Memory Passage for the new school semester. This last semester we covered some of the basics with Psalm 23 and the Lord’s Prayer. We’ve already done my two other favorite Bible passages, Psalm 139 and 1 Corinthians 13. What should we memorize now? I flipped through my Bible and hit on the book of John. I love John. Especially the passages where Jesus prays for his disciples, and talks about the vine. I scanned a couple chapters and decided, lets do John 14: 1-6. 

 

So, this morning, I quickly looked at the first verse again, so I could memorize it and teach it to the kids while we were driving to school. 

 

It says,
“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.” (John 14:1)

 

And there you have it. My daily reminder to stop worrying, believe God is who he says he is, and he can do what he says he can do. 

 

I will continue to remind myself of this. Every five minutes if necessary.

 

Don’t Worry

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to not worry? About anything? I know the Bible tells us not to worry, and we pay lip service to that. But deep down, if you are anything like me, you have a running list of things that you can drag up at a moments notice to worry about. I’ve been reading more about the sovereignty of God. And it strikes me really hard, how foolish worry is. Either God is in control or he isn’t. If he is, then why are we worrying? If he isn’t then yes, we should definitely live our lives in fear and trembling. My reading of the Bible seems to say that actually, Yes, he is in control. So, why the heck am I worrying about everything? 

 

Does he love me or not? We sing the song “Yes Jesus love me…” and smile at our children when they sing it so sweetly. But do we believe it? If Jesus loves me, and he is God, then what on earth do I have to worry about? 

 

I think what scares me, is that we don’t have any promises in the Bible that say we are going to live a life without pain, without hardship, without trials. God doesn’t promise that. He does promise that he will be with us always, that he works all things to good, that he will never leave us or forsake us. But I worry…I don’t want trials and hardships. And I have a hard time seeing how God can be in control and love me when I am suffering. 

 

What if God is using those hardships and trials to change me? What if it’s more important to him that I grow to be more like him than that I stay in a state of constant ease and comfort? That seems very un-American. The American dream is to pursue wealth and happiness. Going through suffering that changes our character and strengthens us and makes us more like Jesus, just doesn’t seem right. Not very loving. God’s must have lost control somewhere along the way.

 

My dream is to live a life without worry. To be able to confidently say, God’s got this. He’s in control. I can trust him. He loves me. 

 

No matter what the circumstances, I want to walk in his perfect peace. 

 

Lord may it be so. 

 

Though I am secretly worried about what trials and hardships I will have to overcome before I finally get it! I guess it comes down to faith. And the Bible says that we can ask God to strengthen our faith…:”Lord I believe, help my unbelief!” 

 

I guess that’s my prayer tonight as I write this. Lord I believe. Help my unbelief! 

 

 

Car Trips, Sick Kids, and the Effects of Worry

This week has been a bit tough. My husband has been gone for a whole week (gets home tonight, yay!). He and my oldest son went on a road trip to Montana where my son is going to be at a Bible School for a year. They took a bit of time so they could visit Yellow Stone National Park and camp along the way. It was their “We Did It” trip that we are trying to have with each of our high school graduates, celebrating their success at graduating, and our success at keeping them alive for this long. They had a good time and I’m glad that they were able to take the trip. But, it’s been a long week. 

First of all…My son who just left has a driver’s license. I am now taking over all the driving that he did for our family. Yikes. I had no idea I had become so reliant on him to drive my other teenagers to all their events. It was usually not a big deal for him because he was attending the same events, but still, I had no idea. I am suddenly living in my car. 

Second…My two year old waited one day after his dad left, and then proceeded to get some kind of stomach problems that has had him throwing up every night and having crazy-crazy diarrhea. Also occurring at night. During the day, he runs around laughing and playing, eats ok, has a couple diapers that are bad, but then they become fine. Then night time hits and once again he is projecting body fluids everywhere. I finally took him to the doctor today and her opinion is the initial bout of stomach sickness messed up the balance of his guts and so now we’ve got to work on getting that back into order. 

In the meantime, I’m walking around half-dead because all night long I’ve been jerking awake wondering if he’s about to throw up on me. Because, of course, a sick baby’s place is with his mom, in her room, on her bed. The first couple nights I didn’t know he was going to get sick and he came and found me in the night in distress. After cleaning him up, I laid him down next to me in my bed. Watching over him. Making him feel safe and secure. Except that I was then a nervous twit all night. Every time he would cough or sneeze or moan or even roll over, I was leaping from the bed, ready to run him to the bathroom as fast as possible. I had special blankets laid out on my bed. Here, this is your blanket. If you throw up or your diaper leaks, it can all happen on this easy-to-wash blanket. Except, of course, he didn’t want to stay on his special blanket and he would keep rolling over and snuggling up to me and I would just lay there, eyes wide open, feeling like I was holding a ticking bomb. Needless to say, I am on the third day of having to strip my bedding and wash it. 

Third reason it’s been a rough week…Today I went down to the gas station to buy a container of Gatorade for the sick boy.  I opened the little fridge door at the gas station, reached in to grab the drink I wanted to buy, and something went POP in my neck and I was suddenly in very bad pain. Because, you know, reaching for a drink is very strenuous on the body. Good grief. So I then spent the morning heating and icing my shoulder as the pain continued to spread. It has eased up a bit as long as I don’t turn my neck to the right or the left. Who needs to turn their neck anyway? 

I’m trying to have a sense of humor about all this, but I’ll admit my stress levels have been a bit high. I find myself worrying a lot. It’s very possible that my neck popped because my muscles have been in a constant state of tension from trying to carry the weight of the world. 

As I sat here icing and heating my shoulder, God reminded me of something. This is his family. These are his kids. This is his house. He’s in control. He’s got this. Me getting all tense and stressed is not solving a single problem. He has helped us through all kinds of crazy problems in the past, and the current things I’ve been worrying about, he’s going to take care of those too. Right now, all I need to do is take it one moment at a time. It’s going to be ok. 

So, I’m going to sit here and rest my neck. Get my kids to help with the immediate chores and just try to relax for a bit. God is good. I can rest.