When You Don’t Know How Long You Can Keep This Up

Have you ever felt, about a relationship or circumstance or job, that you can’t see yourself going on like “this” for long? Every now and then, when you get really real with yourself, do you feel that?

The other night I was halfway asleep, but my mind and heart were busy trying to get to the bottom of   why I have been so tired…cranky…joy-less, perspective-less! And this question came to mind: “In what parts of your life would you say, ‘I don’t know how long I can keep this up’?” And I thought through each part, each category, of my daily life, assessing how I felt about each. I came to the conclusion that there were actually several things that I love, but that also held a certain dread and anxiety, a fear of how long I can last for the long haul.

For me, it is the daily-ness of it all, the doing & re-doing of Each.Bless-ed.Thing.One.Million.Times. It’s getting up, meeting needs, (remembering my own), quieting the soul to seek the heart of God, serving, exercising, cooking, cleaning, shopping, schooling, soothing insecure hearts, smoothing miscommunications, learning to tame the tongue and live loving and love living…

For others it may be caring for a special needs child or a parent whose health is failing. It may be a very difficult marriage or a particularly hard season in school or work. Maybe it’s months of looking for a job, trying to complete an adoption, losing weight, breaking free from an addiction, or even paying off debt.

Can we last for the long haul? How can we last for the long haul?

We are not 100% spiritual; God gave us bodies and minds to care for, too. Physically, mentally, emotionally and socially, we have to be adults (darn it) and see to it that we invest in ourselves. We’ll reap what we sow. We are free to make changes about a lot of things in our lives. That has been a beautiful thought to me lately–all the freedom the Lord has given us in this lifetime! It’s crazy how easily I forget the choices I do get to make, about my circumstances often and my attitude always.

But even in the most disciplined, or even in the people with the best perspective and sunniest disposition, I think that all of us are met with seasons, relationships, jobs, health issues, or circumstances, that make us put one foot in front of the other and we really don’t know when the day will come that we just can’t take one more step. We can keep our game face on for only so long.

The race is hard, the cross is heavy, and we just don’t wanna anymore. Sometimes.

And God knows it, and expects it, and He is so good to provide the answer in a way that benefits us so deeply…He answers it with Himself.

He answers our limits with His limitlessness. He meets our lack with His abundance.

His Word is full of reminders that He is a fountain that never runs dry, He is the Vine and we are the branches, and He is the Bread of Life, daily manna, who gives sustenance in our desert. He actually really is these things…and He says, “Come and abide.” Come and plug in, come and refuel, come and remember why you’re doing what you’re doing, come and be still and know that He is God and He is good and He is enough. Come and know that while this is our race, it’s not a race, and we can breathe and enjoy and receive…a lot more and more often than we do.

Just a few words from my reading in 2 Thessalonians 2 and 3 today, so fitting after journaling about this very thought right before opening my Bible:

2 Thess. 2:16 “May our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who loved us and by His grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good word and deed.”

2 Thess. 3:3-5 “But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one. We have confidence in the Lord that you are doing and will continue to do the things we command. May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.”

2 Thess. 3:13 “And as for you, brothers and sisters, never tire of doing what is right.”

2 Thess. 3:16 “Now may the Lord of peace Himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you.”

We can keep going like this, if HE has called us to, because HE will keep going like this. There will never be a morning we have to wake up and do life without Him, never. We have what it takes because He has what it takes, and He says ALL that is His is ours! It’s scary to not have reserves. I cannot preserve my energy or perspective or even love or hope for tomorrow. I can’t trust in myself. But I can put my trust in the One that never sleeps, never forgets, and never loses heart.

 

 

15 Years of Marriage…and the Lies That Add Up

(Ooh, I didn’t mean to make such a scandalous title but now that it’s there, I just can’t erase!) It’s okay, you’ll see where I’m heading as you read on…

Jack and I are celebrating our 15th Anniversary tomorrow, New Year’s Day! I can’t believe it’s been 15 years. I will never forget that snowy day in a packed church where we, with such hope in our eyes, said “I do.” No one could have told us what would come next, what trials we’d face, what mistakes we’d make…we just had to experience it for ourselves.

And along the way, along with the surprises, doesn’t the enemy of our souls just enjoy coming in and devouring that hope, those promises?

The lies do begin to add up as he whispers fears and blame…and after 15 years, I’ve finally learned to call him out and let him know I’m not afraid of these words. They have no hold on me. My choice is made because I bend my thoughts and will and desires to another whisper. Do these lies seem familiar at all to you?

Lie #1…”We have nothing in common.” For me and Jack, this “lie” has lots of truth in it. We are hilariously opposite in truly almost every way. Extrovert, introvert. Hot all the time, cold all the time. Owns seven screens, happy with one. Steak, salad. Small talk, heart talk. Jokes, blogs. Midnight, 9:30. So guess what? This doesn’t have to be a problem. It’s all about perspective. 1 Corinthians 12 reminds us there are different kinds of gifts, and that the Body of Christ is made up of many parts–and no one could do their part well without the other members doing their part well. That’s how it can be in a marriage, too. We can appreciate the way our spouse thinks whether we understand it or not. They are an individual first before they can be a member of a partnership. I like myself, and I like being an individual first. I have every intention of hanging onto what makes me ME. So, in the same spirit, I have been learning to value Jack and his opinions, strengths, and even weaknesses, as I want mine to be considered and accepted. I don’t want to put my convictions on anyone anymore. I get my one life, and so does everyone else! The only thing we need in common is loving Jesus, each other, and our family. That’s the truth to cancel out this lie!

Lie #2…”He’s changed.” Well…yeah. That happens to people over a decade and a half. The only way I could recognize Princess Leia in the most recent Star Wars movie was by her eyes. And she’s just as beautiful…but obviously she’s changed through the years. Someday that’ll be us. And not just our physical appearances, but we all evolve through time mentally, emotionally, spiritually, socially. We aren’t always going to like what we’ve become or what our spouse has become. But here are three things I’m learning to do to combat this lie.

First, we go to God’s Word, which reminds: “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Bear with each other and forgive what grievances you may have…” (Colossians 3:12-13) We are MUTUALLY accepting, having compassion, being patient, with ONE ANOTHER. Do I really think he’s the only one who has changed, who has built up a mound of grievances and idiosyncrasies? Whether I see it or not, I am being loved and accepted as I myself work to love and accept. As we love and accept even things we don’t like (I’m obviously not talking about sin, evil, abuse, etc) people tend to unfold, and their layers come off. They let go of defenses and you connect. It’s a beautiful thing to see someone free to become who they really were meant to be, and they will never become that if someone is pressing them. It’s scary, it feels risky, but it’s really good. It’s offering to someone what you would hope they would offer you as you grow into the best version of yourself.

Second, we pray! When we pray for our spouses, no matter how long it takes for fruition, our perspective and heart toward them changes very quickly. I have seen so many times where I chose to not start a difficult conversation, but prayed for several days or weeks instead, only to see my husband’s countenance change and he himself bring up the problem for us to discuss. We can trust the Lord, He’s a good Father! He knows what we need, and He loves our spouses and is quite capable of speaking to them! (I love and recommend the book The Power of a Praying Wife by Stormie Omartian!!)

Third, we set our hearts to serve and obey the Lord with our own lives first. I can’t live Jack’s life for him and I’m not supposed to. He has duties that are not mine to perform. I can support him by doing what is on my plate faithfully and joyfully, and trust him and the Lord with what is really not mine to worry about or accomplish.

And last but not least, Lie #3…”If I had married so-n-so, I’d have…” Ugh. This one’s really a sad and desperate attempt of the enemy to get us when we’re down, because we rationally know there’s no way to know what would have happened if we had chosen a different path. We never know what someone else’s home life is truly like either. This thought, this lie, is a mirage in the desert. I think I could have been happy with several different guys that I liked in college and Jack could have been happy with several different girls he liked, too. Why? Because we CHOOSE to be happy. “God’s will” for our lives wasn’t one choice 15 years ago, His will for our lives is right now, every single day. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 tells us what God’s will is for us: “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” This is God’s will for us. In what we chose, or in whatever situation we find ourselves in somehow, this is God’s will for us. Our active stance is to take joy, pray, and give thanks.

 

The lies have a way of adding up if we listen to them, but so does God’s Word. We can go from strength to strength, building precept upon precept, living out the love He gives, without condition.

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#HowToBuild: Why We Fast

A couple of months ago, I wrote a short blog series called #HowToBuild, about building ourselves up in our most holy faith. I wrote about being in the Word, prayer, worship, and about the enemy. I cannot even tell you how attacked I was after writing that blog about the enemy! The Lord really did allow Satan to sift me, like I wrote in the most recent blog, about Jesus and Peter. I felt dazed and confused for awhile, knocked down and not knowing what hit me. I came to the Lord and His Word but in every way I just felt unable to concentrate and get anywhere. And because I saw how valuable fasting can be in times like this, when things in the physical realm are unbearable and life in the spiritual realm doesn’t feel like it’s going to be enough, I want to tag on another blog to that series…

Why We Fast.

I went through a time where I didn’t fast often at all, because I couldn’t really remember why it mattered. Honestly! I had this idea in my head that fasting was pretty much like holding my breath until God gave me what I was asking for, like “I’m not going to eat until that person is healed!” Um…I didn’t think that was quite right.

But in the sifting, in the disappointment and fear, it began to be really clear to me by God’s grace that I had to find a way to get more of His truth and power in me. Not only could I not be the wife and mom and witness I wanted to be if I did not have more of His Word and truth and love in me, but I could not survive on the inside, in the place where joy and peace was so desperately needed.

It’s clear to me now that when I am inconsistent in patience and love with my family, really the problem behind this is my inconsistency of coming and being filled by the living Lord Jesus and all His goodness.

That requires time. That requires attention. That requires setting aside escapes. That requires setting aside distractions. So for me, that requires fasting, and personally I fast from things like social media and Netflix because I know that’s where I go when I can’t handle things going on in my life. But what do I really need when I can’t handle things going on in my life, when I’m really hurting? I need Jesus, the same Jesus Mary and Martha cried to when their brother died, the same Jesus who looked with compassion on the masses. I need fellowship with Him and understanding of His parables. I need to know what I can expect from God, what happens when I pray, how to pray! I need to know He loves me, that others have suffered and made it through, and what faith really is! Sure, I’ve heard a lot of it before, but yesterday’s manna is stale. I have to gather, today, my portion.

Fasting is not about getting what we want in our prayer life.

Fasting is not about holding our breath, thinking if we take this drastic measure, He will do what we ask. He’s going to do what we ask if He wants to, I don’t think we have to fast to make it happen. (Maybe I’m wrong?)

Fasting is about prioritizing our spiritual nourishment for the marathon we are in, with great expectation that our inner and outer man will reflect the strength, wisdom, and peace we gain from Him.

Fasting is about feeding the spirit, which sometimes requires starving the flesh. It’s about focusing on the invisible, when we would normally choose the easier route: focusing on what we can see and touch and be quickly comforted by.

I’m at a place in my walk with God where I don’t have exact time frames of fasting, exact goals or beginning or ends, because then it becomes about the outer man, and my own self control. I want fasting to be about gaining a heart of wisdom, a life that chooses Him because I see the bounty there as opposed to what I would end up with if I spent that free time in another way. He wants to set our feet on higher ground, to look at our problems from a platform set up outside of the situation, rather than drowning in waves we can’t get our heads above.

Whatever it takes to get to that place, and stay at that place, oh, Jesus, give us grace to do it!

That Our Faith Would Not Fail

Jesus told Peter that Satan had asked permission to sift him like wheat but that He was going to be praying for him, that his faith would not fail. (Luke 22:31-32) Then Jesus gave Peter a picture of what it would look like to follow Him. He said: You’ll be taken places you do not want to go. You’ll have zero control. When Peter asked if the others would have it that bad, Jesus answered: None of your business and not your problem! You must follow Me. (John 21:18-22) Whew. Those must have been some life altering moments for Peter. And like a few other life altering moments for Peter that I can call to mind from Scripture, I fit in his shoes quite well. Stepping out, sinking. Demanding, head lowering. Zealous, unfaithful.

What can we take from these encounters of Jesus with Peter when we ourselves have a crisis of faith, a mountain ahead we just don’t want to have to climb?

1) We can take from these conversations a realization that we ourselves may be in the process of being “sifted”, meaning when it’s over (this particular circumstance and this earthly life), some of who we are will be left and some of who we are will be gone, thrown out, dead. Satan intends the sifting for our pain, in hopes our faith will fail, but Jesus intends the sifting for our benefit, so that we are refined like gold. It hurts. There are cancers being cut out of us. He sees what we cannot, and if we are to be His vessels here to show His Kingdom to the world, there are things in us that simply cannot remain.

2) We can see this unbelievable truth right along with the first: Jesus Himself is interceding for us. And He is interceding to the Father on our behalf, praying that our faith would not fail. He is the leader of that great cloud of witnesses cheering us on! Is He praying we will get everything we’re wanting? Is He praying our answers would come quickly and easily? I don’t see that here. I see His concern is our perseverance and character. I see His concern is our encouragement and an ability to keep going even when our plans fail and our hearts break.

3) We can see while our relationship with the Lord is incredibly enriched by community, there is an element of this relationship that is naked, alone, face to face, “just you and me here now”. We can’t worry about the size of other people’s mountains, callings, or pain. We can’t worry about the magnitude of other people’s success, riches, or ease. If we have given our lives to the Lord, they are just that: His.

It’s a death, a real death, to realize these things. We’re dying to self, to immaturity, to trying to make things true just because we want them to be true, not because they’re scripturally sound. It’s not taking on bitterness or apathy, it’s taking on the yoke that we chose in accepting Christ, the yoke that is only easy and light once we lose our strong opinions and absolute need to be in charge.

By His Spirit, we have joy in the journey, yes, even this leg of the journey. By His Blood, we have peace and friendship with God. By His dwelling in us, we have resurrection life that is the very breath in our lungs. Friends, in whatever mountain you’re climbing, whether you chose that mountain and now see how impossible it is to climb, or whether you are going through a trial you did not choose at all, I want to tell you this:

Whatever you have lost and whatever you feel you lack, you do have what you need to make it through.

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: ‘For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, angels nor demons, present nor the future, any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in ALL creation, will be able to separate us from the LOVE OF GOD THAT IS IN CHRIST JESUS OUR LORD.” (Romans 8:35-39)