Doubt

 

Doubt | thisgratefulmama.com

Last year, my daughter and I studied the book of John at Bible Study Fellowship. One theme that struck me was how John, a disciple and close friend of Jesus, identifies himself.

The one whom Jesus loved.

I was baffled by how it seemed to be new information even though I have studied John before. God’s timing is perfect – it took the entire year, but He finally revealed why this theme was so important to me.

To explain why, I need to first give you the backstory.

Our third child was born in May of 2016. She, like our firstborn son experienced silent reflux symptoms and spent her first months writhing and screaming in pain. It was gut-wrenching and we felt helpless.

Again.

Unlike the first time around, we had previous experience. We recognized the symptoms and assumed we knew what to do. Then our doctor agreed so she began reflux mediation.

But symptoms remained.

Long story short, we later learned she had a tongue and lip tie that was corrected by a pediatric dentist. Once healed, she was able to eat without choking or gulping air. Her reflux was controlled with medication.

Life settled down. She no longer writhed in pain.

And we put it behind us.

Well. Not quite.

My emotional distress over the issue lingered. I wrestled with why a child should endure such pain. And WHY it happened again to one of our children.

As feelings surfaced, I distracted myself. I reasoned – it was over, we had moved on. We had a healthy, thriving and now happy baby.

Lingering on what was felt like the opposite of gratitude. And I was grateful she was feeling better.

So I ignored it. Stuffed it. 

This was building to be more than just a little distress. Old, deep-seated emotions and pain from the first time when we watched our son struggle now mingled with the new these fresh new emotions. The old emotions had not lost their sharp, raw edge, even with the passage of time. (I’ve shared some about difficulties during my first year as a mom before. I’m not going to rehash it now but you can read about it here.)

The truth is, babies are born with all kinds of maladies and challenges – reflux is by far, not the worst. But when anything causes your child pain, it affects you deeply as a parent. This time around, our daughter’s pain also affected our other children.  They too coped with the stress of their sister’s pain and their parents’ attention being consumed by the baby.

Now, on to my doubt.

The last day of BSF is ‘sharing day’ – picture 500 women and an open microphone. Women share publicly what God has done in their lives through the study.

It’s amazing.

The morning was crazy and I was running late. As I slid into a row towards the back, I sighed with relief.

My plan was to just sit and listen to other women praise God for what He had done in their lives that year.

Then this funny thing happened. I kept having this strange thought that I needed to share. My heart started pounding and I thought – not in front of all these people.

Nope.

If the Holy Spirit has prompted you to share something before, then you know exactly what I’m talking about – whether to one person or before 500.

The heart pounding – it’s a THING.

Suddenly I’m scribbling notes with a pink sharpie on an old receipt – trying to get my thoughts in order before I head up front.

Several times in the study of John the topic of doubt came up. Each time, I quickly assessed myself (as in, not really) and pridefully said, of course I don’t doubt God!

He is who He says He is. Nothing is too hard for Him. His word is true and powerful. 

How could I doubt Him?

The most famous example of doubt is in John 20. ‘Doubting’ Thomas is not with the other disciples when Jesus appears to them after the resurrection. Thomas does not believe the disciples account and wants physical proof – to touch Jesus’ wounds.

You guys, Jesus is so kind.

He knew Thomas’ doubts and soon lovingly gave the opportunity to see and touch His wounds, without reprimand. Thomas believes and proclaims, ‘My Lord and My God!‘.

During the lecture the week we studied Thomas, we were challenged to ask God to show us our doubts and bring those doubts to Jesus. It was so compelling, I began praying before we even left the parking lot.

It wasn’t long before it was clear that I did have doubt.

I never doubted that Jesus was ABLE to prevent our children’s pain.

I never doubted He was ABLE to heal them at any time. 

We prayed and prayed. Both children were healed in His unique way, and in His time. But not in OUR Time.

So I doubted His love

For our son. For our daughter. For our family.

For ME. 

We placed our hope and faith in Him in our distress and didn’t get the response we desired. We prayed boldly. We trusted.

We pleaded and cried out before Him as we held our sweet hurting babies.

And for a time that seemed far too long, they kept on hurting.

And doubt creeped in.

Looking back, I see God’s faithfulness. He carried us, sending help and comfort, even when it felt He was far away and unresponsive.

If I had read Thomas’ story at the beginning of the year, I would have likely ignored what it challenged me to see – I wasn’t ready to face my doubt. 

But God’s loving kindness is so gentle. Before He revealed my doubt, He impressed upon me that my true identity is the one whom Jesus loves. And how the same is true for each of our children.

It is no accident that all these feelings from our firstborn were stirred up and relived with our daughter, just before starting the study of John – the gospel of love.

I will never fully comprehend on this side of heaven what God was doing when He allowed our babies to struggle. But He does show us glimpses of His work. I believe ONE reason He allowed this again in our life was to free me from the burden of doubt. 

Only after He had prepared me by showing me His steadfast love, did He reveal I doubted it. And carried around those feelings for the last 7 years.

That is long time to carry around doubt laced with pain.

So, tearfully but with unexpected boldness, I found myself speaking into an open microphone before 500 women proclaiming God’s love and confessing my doubt.

The God of restoration revealed my doubt, not to shame me, but to free me. He did it to redeem the part of my soul I had shut off from Him because it was shrouded in the fear that God didn’t really love us as I desperately needed Him to.

What a wonderful God we serve – who doesn’t leave us in our broken condition and continues to actively capture and heal our hearts! 

And He will continue to help us break free from the broken we harbor and carry around inside.

Today I stand in that freedom, knowing there will be other difficulties and hard things in my life and in the lives of our family that will challenge my faith and the truth of God’s word.

Without a doubt, there will be other doubts. 

This experience has shown me how in the past I’ve judged Thomas for his doubt.

You know what? ‘Doubting’ Thomas gets a bad-rap.

We all encounter doubts. Walking with Jesus in the midst of a broken world means we are imperfect and incapable of imperfect faith. Doubt is reality. There’s a little Thomas in all of us – when we claim to never doubt, we are deceived by pride.

As with every Bible character, their examples of imperfection and God’s loving response is left there for people just like me. And you. I’m so grateful God included Thomas’ story in the Bible to encourage us in our doubt. God wisely let us know that even one of the 12 disciples, who walked side by side with Jesus here on earth, had doubts too.

Today I stand better equipped to handle new doubts because I have experienced firsthand how Jesus knows my doubts, before I do. He does not waste them. Instead, He gently uses doubts to strengthen and embolden our faith. He draws us closer to Him and will continue to do so until we are with Him and like Him in eternity.

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. Philippians 1:6 (ESV)

Amen.

 

Doubt | thisgratefulmama.com

PS: If you aren’t familiar with BSF, you may want to be! It’s an international organization providing FREE, true to God’s word, Bible studies to men, women and children. Next year’s study is Romans and starts in September – check it out!

To The Weary Mama of Sick Kids

Hello mama of sick kids.

I woke up this morning weary after getting very little sleep. Our 8 month old has an ear infection and pneumonia. After trying to rock, cradle, nurse and soothe her to sleep for hours, I gave up around midnight. In all honesty, I was getting frustrated with the situation, and with her.

I mean, just GO TO SLEEP already.

But being frustrated was not good for either of us. What she needed was her mama to help her feel better and just be there. I needed to stop trying to force sleep and just accept we were doing the best we could. So, we just got up. At midnight.

We came downstairs where she was happy to just crawl around on the floor. With her content, I did prayed and my bible study homework (although my answers sure needed some help in the morning – a little jumbled and scribbled with bleary eyes). She finally went to sleep after 3 am and slept for a couple of hours. Then she was up for 2 more and back down just when the big kids were getting up.

Some days, there just isn’t enough rest to go around. Are you in this place too?

You are not alone. I am walking through this season right along with you. Every time one child gets sick, it sets off a chain reaction and the others get sick too. One by one. Sometimes it is hard to tell when the first sickness ended and the next one began.

These winter months can feel incredibly long.

And isolating.

I am sorry you’ve had to cancel play dates, volunteering, your own doctor appointments and so much more. I know you were counting on these activities to break up your week. I know you needed a change of pace from just being at home with the kids all day, every day. Missing these activities leaves a void for your children and for you. It is hard when you have little adult interaction for days (or weeks).

I also know how cancelling over and over can make you – a responsible and good friend – feel flaky. Parenting little ones sometimes makes you feel like you have no control over your schedule – because the sickness and these little people control the schedule instead.

Although you may feel that way, as I’ve experienced in my own life, your friends and family DO understand. Many experienced the same with their kids and are happy to extend grace and encouragement to you. They also appreciate you not sharing your illness when you do show up. Be honest and just reach out when you can. Then, extend grace when this happens the other way around.

Because we’re all in this thing together.

This morning I was greeted by a now-healthy child who brought the plague home in the first place. He was ready for breakfast and all I could do was muster a smile and grunt as I rolled out of bed.

So. Very. Tired.

I sent him downstairs so I could take a few minutes to myself before jumping into the day. My main thought was sleep. In moments like this, I must confess I may be worshiping sleep – as if I will never, ever get any more again. I speak from experience when I say being mad about sleep is not helpful. With three kids, a nap for me will not happen. So I decided to just pray for help to survive the day.

But as I prayed, I gained some perspective and realized sleep will come, as it did with all other sicknesses, and with the other two babies. Then the following came to mind:

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

~2 Corinthians 12:9-10 ESV

Today it will not be my power but God’s as He equips me to serve Him and my family well. For His power is perfect in my weakness. And it is certainly enough for my tiredness.

It is no coincidence that my daily devotion later this morning just ‘happened’ to be based on this same scripture. Apparently God really wanted me to hang onto this truth today. I’m so glad He did. It’s a lifeline I desperately need today (and every day).

Now I am passing it along to you.

What do you need an extra measure of today? (Besides the obvious need for sleep and healthy kids – lets just trust He will cover those in His perfect timing). Maybe you need more love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness or self-control? I sure do. I believe He delights in being generous to us when we ask Him for more fruit of the Spirit.

Ask Him to shine through your tired eyes and work with those worn out arms and hands. And He will. Just surrender – you’re too tired to stifle His power, and that is to your benefit.

He is strong. He is capable. He is full of energy and joy when we feel depleted. And He has compassion on us and our children when we are struggling.

Tap into His strength and power today. He will carry all of you to easier, healthy days.

Hang in there mama, you’re not alone. These kids are worth it and you are exactly the mama they need today.

sick-baby

She may be sick, but she has amazing hair 🙂

Goodbye sickness, we’re over you. Go away.

 

Infant Silent Reflux is NOT Silent – God is faithful, still.

Infant Silent Reflux Is NOT Silent: 5 Ways To Help Older Children Cope | thisgratefulmama.com

Watching our third baby suffer in pain from silent reflux is not any easier than with the first or second child.

A tiny baby writhing in pain, arching their back and screaming, red-faced until they have no more breath, is gut-wrenching for even the seasoned reflux parent.

Silent reflux is still awful.

While this time around we were more proactive in asking for and accepting help, daily, we were in the trenches, trying to soothe our hurting child. And, as I shared before, this time around, we also struggled to help our older children cope.

It was not easy for our children to watch their baby sister suffer either.

Many days, I sat back and observed how our entire family was affected by our baby’s pain. I often wonder why? Now when I say why, I don’t mean the science behind it – I actually understand that quite well by now.

No, I mean WHY?

Why would God allow a baby to suffer this way?

Why our children?

Why is this so hard?

Why isn’t He answering my prayers NOW?

My emotional response is to ask why, neglecting to go any deeper. Asking why only allows me to dwell in a dark place of mourning and frustration. It is not wrong to come to this place on occasion, but staying there long does only damage. There is no hope there, and as your little one suffers, trust me, you need all the hope you can get.

Like many injustices and suffering, we may never know why on this side of heaven, so dwelling there is not a fruitful endeavor.

Instead of asking why, I should be asking where God is as we walk through it.

I don’t know why He allowed this again, but I do know where God IS.

Right here.

With me. With my husband. With our baby. With our older kids.

He has not looked away even for even one second, even thought there were times we took our eyes off of Him.

God is not surprised that our baby has reflux.

He made her. Carefully. Without mistake.

God is allowing reflux to happen for a reason, even though I want it to be over without all the suffering.

I also need to ask WHAT is God doing?  

What is He teaching our family?

What is He working out in me?

What is He equipping me to do?

For now, it is evident He is teaching each member of our family to be more dependent on Him. He is teaching my husband and I to trust Him with each child He has given us, and to parent with His strength.

And to trust His perfect timing.

I am grateful that we have already seen Him work in this situation twice before – and He has an excellent track record. God never changes. I am confident He will work here too. I have already seen how He has used these experiences already to encourage other reflux families, just like I have seen Him work for good in our family’s life because of our son’s food allergies.

I expect Him to show up big here too.

God walks through all suffering with us – comforting, supporting, equipping, and carrying us through the worst of circumstances. He gently, lovingly guides us freely offering peace, kindness, love and forgiveness along the way.

From day one.

I admit, I do not agree with our baby suffering, but God’s character is good, regardless of our circumstance.

I trust Him and believe He will use this suffering for good. The countless hours spent fervently praying over our babies for relief have not been spent in vain, although I do wish He would answer those prayers now.

He answers all prayers in His timing. And I do trust His perfect timing and care. And that His ways are higher than my ways.

He knows the entire plan for my life, my family’s life, and this sweet baby. He is working for good, in something that feels only bad. The Bible is clear that God works for the good in ALL things of those who love Him – And I believe Him. And so I cling to this truth.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

He has shown Himself faithful to me and to each of our children.

So, while we walk through this, we keep our eyes fixed on Him. We expectantly wait for Him to make His presence known.

And every day, He does.

Because He is faithful, still.

 

*I CANNOT wait to share how God has worked in this situation already – our daughter has improved SO much since I started writing this in July. In the craziness of those days, I never published this – so here it is (With a few more posts to come explaining new lessons learned about infant reflux the third time around, and just how God’s timing was perfect in this situation).

It is Well With My Soul.

picmonkey-sample

I woke up this morning surprised at the election results. I really had no idea who would win, and to be honest, I would have felt surprised no matter who won.

Regardless of how you voted yesterday or of how weary you feel after this political season – the wounds revealed and created during this election must be addressed. This election was heartbreakingly divisive. My heart hurts – although today the presidency has been won, the path to get here makes it feel like no one really won.

There is no easy fix – the pain in our nation simply cannot be erased just because the votes have been counted.

I think moving on is going to be difficult for many on both sides of the vote.  Throughout the election, my eyes were opened as the band-aids were ripped off old wounds and as new wounds formed and festered in the issues that divide us all.

I may not be able to fix all that is wrong in our nation, but beginning to move on starts with me. 

Today, I step back and focus on TRUTH.

We have much to be grateful for. Today, the TV will stay off and social media can take a hike. My house is full of the best medicine I know – piano hymns, a baby babbling, and a little girl playing dress up. I thank God I live in a democratic country, and have the privilege to vote that many fought and died for. My focus is on the people I love, and the God I serve. Why not take time to be grateful every day? It is November 9. Today is a great day to begin th HABIT of practicing gratitude with your family as you prepare for Thanksgiving. Start a family gratitude journal or set up a gratitude tree.

There are no perfect voters or candidates. See me. See you. See Donald. See Hillary. Need I say more? Each is imperfect, and we pull from an imperfect pool of candidates for leadership. We make decisions based on carefully calculated glimpses of who candidates are. Then our voting decisions are clouded by our own imperfection and sin. The only true judge is Jesus Christ who knows all things, and who examines the heart and mind. And to this measure, we all fall short.

The only future we know for certain is in Jesus Christ. Just as we cannot ever truly know the hearts of those we seek to elect, we cannot foresee the future repercussions of our choices. We choose the candidate who best suits us and our own vision for our future.  Only God, the Beginning and the End, can see all of eternity. Thankfully, the Bible tells us that eternity has already been won, even if it doesn’t detail everything that will happen between now than then. We don’t know exactly how, but we know the victor is Jesus Christ and He mercifully invites each of us to join Him.

No leader can stop the plan of the perfect God. He is sovereign over ALL creation, knows all things, and has already won eternity. No matter our circumstance, He has overcome the world. If you are disheartened today, step back and look UP.

O LORD, the God of our fathers, are You not God in the heavens? And are You not ruler over all the kingdoms of the nations? Power and might are in Your hand so that no one can stand against You. 2 Chronicles 20:6.

One nation, under God. Many in our nation have tried to eliminate God from society. But the truth is, we are a Nation Under God whether we like it or not. He is still sovereign, even when we ignore, disrespect, or don’t believe it. Jesus is King, no matter who our president is. And He can and will use any leader to bring about His purposes on earth. Trying to stifle God’s presence has not done much to improve our nation has it? Instead we are more divided than ever. Instead of pushing God out, we need to cry out to Him and ask Him to heal our nation as only He can.

Our nation needs healing and love. Let it start with you as you love your friends, family and neighbors. Now is not the time for ‘I told you so’ or to tell others they got it wrong. What is done is done. Reserve judgement, offer encouragement, hope and practical help. Start listening more than talking. Freely extend forgiveness, love and respect. Since there are no perfect people, this means we need to give respect even if you don’t think a person has earned it – even those in leadership. Choose to treat all people as God’s beloved. Stop comparing – we are all in need of a savior. Here is a good place to start:

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:32

There is peace that transcends all understanding. The Bible has a lot to say about peace offered by Jesus Christ. Months ago in the mess of the election, I chose to fix my eyes on Jesus. It wasn’t easy keeping them locked there with everything going on around me – only by His strength. Last night, I went to bed early with the firm trust that no election result can pluck me from God’s good, sovereign hand. I slept well. Have you ever felt such peace? It is more valuable and more powerful than any assurance a world leader can offer.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27.

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

Prayer keeps us grounded in Him. We can not be in line with the will of God if we are not spending time in His presence in study and prayer. He will give you direction and where to go from here. Focusing on WHO God is and WHAT He has already done in a time that seems hopeless gives joy and peace that transcends comprehension. Spend time now in His presence and ask for His view of our situation and practical ways to extend love and grace to others.

In this day of seeming uncertainty, I pray we can claim peace, cling to the certainty of God’s promises and let the healing of our nation begin with us.

This is the day the LORD has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:24

It is well with my soul. How is yours?

Thirty shmirty. Wrinkle shmrinkle. 10 Reasons I Like 34.

At 7 months pregnant with our third child, the belly began getting in the way of leaning over the counter to put on mascara. Pregnant problems serious.

The solution? A small stand mirror. For ten bucks, it was just a bonus that it had both 1x and 3x magnification.

Well, maybe not.

I’m not sure how many years have passed since I looked at my face under 3x magnification, but lets just say it is a little different (wrinkles).

AND, under that 3x magnification – I noticed something extra shiny in my hair. Curiosity got the best of me and soon I held my very first, 4 inch long, white-gray hair. And a second. A week later, my sister noticed a plethora of gray hairs when she was coloring and cutting my hair. Higher magnification sure does open our eyes to reality.

In addition to the wrinkles and gray hairs, last month marked another birthday.

So, this is where I confess my sadness about aging, right?  

Nope.

I can honestly say that the overnight increase from 33 to 34 doesn’t feel any different. Neither does the discovery of gray hair or wrinkles (although they certainly did surprise me – I am either very unobservant, or they came out of nowhere!).

Thankfully, God wisely created time go slow enough that we don’t feel age changes overnight. However, I am older, and now have gray hair and laugh lines prove it. This third pregnancy also confirms my age increase with more aches and pains, blood sugar issues, and weight that is harder to control. Oh, and those gray hairs – I’m fairly sure they are the direct result of pregnancy hormones since they are all exactly the same length.

But is all this evidence such a bad thing?

It may be taboo to ask a woman’s age, but some women don’t tell the truth anyway. Instead, many pick an age and claim it in perpetuity – forever 21…or 29…or 39…

By refusing to acknowledge and gracefully accept our age, we put way too much stock into those numbers. We allow a number to offend us while we wonder what others will think of it.

We cover up outward aging signs by dying our hair (my sister was adding highlights while discovering those grays, so I’m not judging!). And we use expensive skin creams to reduce and slow wrinkles in an attempt to hide outward signs of aging.

Some of us look older than we are. Some of us look younger than we are. And yet, ALL of us are exactly the age that we ARE. But so often, we want to ignore it. Pretend it isn’t happening.

But why?

The accumulation of days and years lived on this earth is unavoidable. Instead of avoiding the issue, or putting too much stock in it, I say we embrace it.

I don’t know about you, but I am enjoying my 30’s. I plan to love my 40’s too. Do you love your age?

Thirty shmirty. Wrinkle shmrinkle. 10 Reasons I Like 34.

  1. Children: These little people did not even exist in my 20’s. I love how they fill my days with new challenges and joy. They give me a greater understanding of how God loves ME, our children, and others. These years are BUSY, but I am in no rush to get past them.
  2. Body Image: Having babies has forever changed my perspective on body-image. This body has carried and fed 3 babies.This work does leave a mark. My body is different and won’t ever be the same again. But I am grateful God equipped my body to do such rewarding and beautiful things.
  3. Self Esteem: I spent much of my 20’s unsure of myself and uncomfortable in social situations. I was nervous in groups, especially groups of women. I would second-guess every word, if I was brave enough to speak up. Many (not all) of my relational insecurities have faded as I’ve begun to better understand how God sees me and how to humbly view myself.
  4. Wisdom: 30 is the new 20, right? I hope not – I was pretty dumb when I was 20. I was poor at managing friendships, wasteful with my time, had a narrow world-view and a much-too-small and low understanding of God and His character. The lessons learned in my 20’s are invaluable. I’m still makin mistakes but I’m learning more now that I can take into my 40s.
  5. Authentic Friendships: Gone are the days of trying to be someone I am not. And with less free time for friends and meaningful conversations, friendships have become very real. We don’t waste time with small talk. Conversations express what we’re struggling with, celebrating, and hoping for. And some of my deepest friendships are with family, which was not true in my 20’s. With age, friendships continue to become deeper, more authentic, and thankful.
  6. Priorities: With increased responsibility comes the need for prioritization. I’ve had to become more and more intentional with my time and energy. Our time is spent on what we need and want to do, and with the people we want to spend it with.
  7. Marriage: How I love looking back on what God has done in our marriage over the past 11 years. We are not the same and neither is our marriage – we’ve both grown up a lot. We know each other better and have acknowledged many of our own weaknesses. We’ve let go of most of those petty things that used to drive us crazy when we were first married. Disagreements and conflicts still happen but are resolved quicker, with fewer tears, and with more respect. We enjoy greater commitment, deeper love, sweeter moments, quick forgiveness, and the depth of trust and respect that can only develop over time. He’s still my favorite – more so each day.
  8. Peace: Much of my 20s was spent worrying – finances, work, relationships, current events…you name it. God has taught me some very important lessons about fear in my 30s, especially when it comes to our children. Although fear still rises sometimes, I am better equipped to turn it over to God and to rest and trust in His peace.
  9. Gratitude: I’ve focused more in recent years on gratitude. With each passing year, I am more grateful for the people in my life. I am much more aware of just how sinful I am and how much God has saved me from through Jesus’ work on the cross – gratitude is the natural response! There is less sense of entitlement, and less frustration with what I do not have. We have so much to be grateful for and I am hoping to only grow in the practice of gratitude.
  10. Faith: All our days and years tell our unique story – challenges, sadness, joy, pain, lessons learned, successes and failures. Combined, they make us who we are today. God has used our circumstances to refine us – sometimes by fire. I have found Him to be trustworthy and faithful. He has walked through each year with me and isn’t about to stop. He is the good, good Father. I see how His Spirit and the study of His word have changed me over the years and cling to the promise that He is not done with me yet. I’m not the same as I once was. And I don’t want to go back. Even if I could.

Thirty shmirty. Wrinkle shmrinkle. I like 34.

Surrender

Surrender is not a natural thing.

We want control. We want OUR plans. We want our way.

My way.

This week presented two ‘possibilities’ that I basically have no control over. Sure, we have choices to make, but overall, these things are out of my control.

These things surfaced at once, just as our family starts the fall schedule we’ve been counting on, and waiting for.

They threaten to alter MY plans.

While I’ve been careful to avoid rabbit trail daydreams during the day, last night I made the mistake of letting my mind wander…imagining crazy ‘what ifs’, and worst-case scenarios.

Then I made the even bigger mistake of investigating one of the ‘possibilities’ on Google. Are you cringing as you read this? Of COURSE that was not a good idea! Google may offer information, but it does not offer peace. Unfortunately, the new wealth of information and lack of peace resulted in tears and a somewhat one-sided conversation with at my husband.

All my angst came flowing out in one…BIG…Bleh. Not my best moment (sorry honey).

The silly thing is, none of these possibilities are a sure thing. We have decisions to make. Nothing is locked in stone, and we have choices. None of these things are emergencies.

But I do not have control over them. And I don’t like it.

This week I’ve been praying myself to sleep while pondering the attributes of God. Mercifully, He has granted sleep every night. What a faithful God we serve! There is much peace and rest in knowing and remembering WHO God IS and what He has DONE.

On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night. Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings. I cling to you; your right hand upholds me. -Psalm 63:6-8 (NIV)

God IS good.

He has a plan.

God loves families and made them. He loves unity. Whatever He is calling ONE of us to do, He is calling the rest of us to support and help in.

His will IS perfect, even when we don’t understand it.

He works in ALL things for the GOOD of those who love Him – such a profound promise!

With these truths, I was baffled as to why I was still lacking peace. What I’ve come to realize today is that I cannot find true peace until I fully surrender to His will for me and our family. While I’ve surrendered these things to God before, the possibility of change distracted me and I lost sight of His face.

Instead of focusing on God, I’ve been focused on what might be…I refuse to persist this way. I choose to seek His face regardless of our circumstance. And to step into a deeper faith as I trust Him with more and more of our present and future.

I may not be in control – but HE is.

These ‘possibilities’ must be intentionally surrendered to His will. It is time to quit dwelling in my own self-pity and worst-case daydreams and it is time to trust the God who is LORD over ALL. Over me. Over our family. Over our circumstances. Come what may…He is still LORD.

All to Jesus, I surrender;
All to Him I freely give;
I will ever love and trust Him,
In His presence daily live.

I surrender all, I surrender all,
All to Thee, my blessèd Savior,
I surrender all. – “I Surrender All” Judson W. Van DeVenter, 1896.

I surrender…even if the answer He chooses for our family isn’t what I want. Even if it doesn’t match MY plans. God does not make mistakes.

God HAS called me to do things for Him this fall. His peace and assurance as I have stepped into those roles is unmistakable. But He may be calling our family to stretch and change more than we ever imagined in the coming year.

If so, HE will guide us through it. HIS will is never accompanied by asking us to flail about on our own.

HE equips.

HE loves.

HE goes with us and before us.

Today I seek my peace in the capable arms of Jesus, instead of the bottomless pit of Google and daydreams.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. –Mathew 11:28-30 (NIV)

Surrender | thisgratefulmama.com

He is Risen! – But We Must Have Faith To Claim Victory In Our Everyday Lives

John 1633

This Easter, the best way to celebrate the gift of Jesus is to share what God has been doing in my life this past year. Last year, Easter exposed a void in my faith that I ddin’t even know was there. Deeply painful at the time and very personal even today, I wasn’t sure I would ever share this here – but the work of God and His victories in our lives is always worth sharing, even when it is beyond our comfort level. Sorry, this is going to be a long one…Here goes…

Last spring, the women’s bible study studied the book ‘Fearless” by Max Lucado. After the first session, I arrogantly (and ignorantly) told my husband, “The book seems good, but I really don’t struggle with fear”.

Somehow, I thought that learning what God’s word has to say about fear didn’t apply to me –  a grievous mistake. We completed one chapter of the book before Easter.

You know how some years Easter seems to creep up on you? I’ve had plenty of years when I’ve neglected time with the Lord and haven’t been in His Word as much as I should have been. But, last year, I had been studying the book of Matthew in BSF. For months, I studied Jesus’ life and ministry. Last year I felt ready for Easter with the study of Jesus’ life and death fresh in my mind. I anticipated an Easter with family, filled with gratitude, joy and peace.

I entered the weekend on a perceived spiritual high, having no idea what was about to hit me. I was woefully unprepared.

With family visiting, we were invited to join the rest of my husband’s family at his mom’s church on Easter morning. The idea of those we love, standing together and worshipping the Lord is a joyful one.

What could go wrong?

We walked into the church (which is not our home church), and joined our family. As we took our kids to children’s programming, I noticed tables with donuts and pastries, a treat for the special day.

It took just one child running by me, carrying a pastry, dropping bits of almond on the floor for paralyzing fear to seize me. Our son has a nut allergy, and I had forgotten the Epi-Pens and Benedryl at home – an hour away. It isn’t that an Epi-Pen means safety. It does not! But not having it with me was negligent. It showed my lack of preparation and foresight that I usually have before walking into any unknown environment with our son.

I was as unequipped with his medications and planning, as I was in my own faith on a spiritual level.

I dropped him off in his room and had a sigh of relief as the staff asked me if he had allergies before I could tell them – even with it on the tip of my tongue in my now hyper-aware state. Initially they weren’t planning to provide a snack, so I felt comfortable that the room would be safe, even if the hallways were littered with nut-contaminated (albeit TINY) crumbs. I joined our family in the sanctuary and waited for the service to begin.

I tried to keep it together, but felt rattled. Unsettled.

A woman from the childcare came by and showed me a dixie cup of cookies and asked if my son could eat them. I told her without a label to read the answer was no. They came back later and asked about graham crackers, but again, no label. My anxiety climbed in the very room designated for the worship of the all-powerful God.

As the service began, I sang but the words came out hollow. I prayed for peace and protection. But I was preoccupied, fearful and frustrated with my own poor planning the entire service. My prayers pleaded but were powerless as fear exposed my unbelief.

It felt like both the longest and shortest Easter service I’ve ever been in. I longed for it to be done so I could hold our son, but I longed for it to continue so I could find peace and worship Him fully.

When it ended, people all around me were joyful. I felt defeated.

And still very afraid. I could not shake it. I was so ashamed that my faith was so weak. I was discouraged that it took so little to leave me feeling exposed and that I could not find peace. This was beyond anything I had ever felt or encountered before. It hurt.

I ran to our son and found him safe and sound. He had a wonderful time and told me all about how Jesus had risen. We met our family in the hallway. Many of them had donuts. I kept him close to me. As my son looked around, he asked for a donut. Squatting down, I told him that we were going to grandma’s to eat and had plenty of treats. I showed him how his mom, dad and sister didn’t have a donut either.  But as one might expect, he got upset. Tears welled up in his big brown eyes.

He lashed out, pushing me back and crying out in frustration. He was right. This wasn’t fair at all.

Now choking back my own tears, I signaled my husband we were leaving and scooped our son up as he wailed and ran to the parking lot. By the time I reached the car, we were both in tears. And now the poor child thought he was in trouble for pushing me. We were a mess. There was no way I was going to discipline him for being frustrated because yet again, he could not eat what everyone else was having. I was frustrated too, but grateful we were in the car, away from the crumbs.

I told him I was sorry he couldn’t have the donut and just hugged him until everyone else came out. I was afraid to say anything more because I didn’t want him to sense my fear. As we drove to my mother-in-law’s house, I tried to shake it off. I didn’t want to talk about being afraid in front of our son, so I didn’t talk to my husband about it.

The fear and startling lack of peace remained.  All day. As our children delighted in their lovingly and carefully prepared nut-free Easter eggs and baskets, as we laughed and talked, and as we celebrated the victory of Jesus Christ over death, and the sacrifice He made to save us from our sins.

Who would expect something as simple as a donut could bring me to my knees, shaking in fear on Easter Sunday? Certainly not me – I was on a spiritual high, remember?

Easter. The day that highlights the POWER of God and the sacrifice, love, grace and mercy of a willing savior. I was there to worship Jesus, who chose to come to earth, humbled in a human body, choosing to serve and forgive His own creation, even as they rejected Him – A creation that should have known He was their savior – A creation that scorned Him, plotted against Him, and ultimately killed Him although He had never sinned. Not once.

He chose to do it, and in doing so, He took upon Himself, not only my sins and but your sins if you believe, confess and call on His name. He died, willingly, not using His power to stop the pain, suffering, and injustice. Instead, He cried out asking the Father to forgive the very men who were crucifying Him. Then, of His own power, He died, and rose again 3 days later, conquering death and sin. He saved me. He chose me. Jesus is now in heaven, alive, mediating on my behalf, and God the Father now sees me through the lens of Jesus’ blood. Forgiven. Sinless. Holy.

If Jesus Christ is all this…how could I not believe that He could protect our son, whom HE created and loves, from a peanut?

As I wallowed in fear and sadness, Satan was momentarily victorious in my life on a day when I should have been joyously celebrating the victory of Jesus Christ. What more could Satan want than to steal the praise of God as I surrendered to fear? In doing so, I made the day about my own fear and lack of trust. A starling defeat in a season when I had been growing spiritually.

In the days that followed I felt shell-shocked. I downplayed my fear when I mentioned it my husband before bed that night, and then he left on a business trip in the morning. I couldn’t figure out why the fear remained and was so powerful. I decided not talking about it would make it go away.

I was wrong. Once you’ve experienced paralyzing fear, it is far too easy to let your mind wander to what could have happened. It is far too easy to let your mind dwell in dark places that only heighten the intensity of fear and fuel it with more power. I tried to ignore it, but instead it consumed my thoughts, running rampant.

Looking back, the entire situation caught me off guard for a few reasons. First, I had not yet experienced seizing fear about our son’s peanut allergy, even when he was diagnosed two years before. Why? I controlled his environment and food. I had never really had to trust Him because I was trusting myself. Second, my lack of preparation forced me to see my lack of control over our son’s safety. I never forget the Epi-Pen! Third, I tried to pretend I wasn’t afraid because I knew in my head I should trust God, but lacked the perspective and trust to surrender my son’s life.

While doing all I can to keep him safe is absolutely my job, there is simply no way I can control everything. Practically, I should have simply had him sit with us in church, because that would have been the safe and wise choice. And my lack of preparation was a problem I do not plan to repeat. But this was much more than just forgetting the Epi-Pen and being surprised by a donut. There was a much deeper heart issue. I had been so prepared up until that point that I had a false sense of security. By feeling like I had everything under my control, I didn’t have to face reality. I had never surrendered to or even considered the fact that I don’t have this all buttoned up. I never asked myself if I trusted God in this area.

Not having control and ability to keep our son safe was a new feeling – one I still don’t like. But it is the reality all parents face. We will all face fears; of allergies, strangers, accidents, bullies, and choices they will make. We will face the reality that we cannot possibly control everything in our children’s lives as they grow up. Whether we want to or not.

In the middle of the night, my husband out of town, I found myself seized by fear, and crying. Not just weeping, but I think I’ve heard it termed –ugly crying. That following Tuesday, still struggling, I shared with our bible study what had happened. In a rare show of public emotion, I not only teared up, but I sobbed. I choked on my words.  Women dug in their purses and handed me tissues, squeezed my shoulders and gave hugs. They offering wise and Godly advice. They prayed for me. I left encouraged instead of embarassed. They blessed my socks off

They changed my thinking by pointing me to a powerful God who can conquer all of my fears for me if I give surrender to Him and trust that He has them under control. This time, with the truth spilled and prayers of wise Godly women spoken on my behalf, when I then asked God to give me peace, I felt it. Tangible. Powerful. Real.

It wasn’t that the peace wasn’t available on Easter Sunday. It was. But I trusted what my eyes saw – nut covered pastry crumbs – and not what my faith and the Holy Spirit were shouting within me. I learned a very powerful lesson. Fear is a not to be underestimated. It cannot be ignored. It has to be addressed. It cannot be stuffed, or we will give it reign in our life. Delaying the admission of my fear was wrong, and at my detriment.

Fear must be named and brought into the light.

I know now that despite being deep in the study of God’s word, I had neglected to ask God what I was holding back. Self-reliance and thinking we are in control of anything is nothing but pride in disguise. It is dangerous. God was gracious to me by letting me experience the fear 2 years before I have to send our son to Kindergarten. Now I have time to learn to trust God all-the-more before that day. And as I gradually have to surrender my control of our son’s life as he grows up, I need to trust MORE and MORE in God’s control and sovereignty.

I still struggle with fear. As I’ve shared before, it rises often, and has surprised me time and time again this past year. In fact, I have struggled with fear this past year more than ever in my life. The situations I cannot control are not going anywhere and are increasing in frequency. They will continue without ceasing, until both of our children are adults and on their own.

But I refuse to give fear victory in my life. With every test of fear, with every prayer for peace and with every moment I surrender fear to God, the more powerful the light of Jesus shines and the less I dwell in the stifling darkness and oppression of fear. I am learning to turn to God rather than to allow rabbit trails of fearful daydreams. The greatest thing I have to report today is that I have consistently seen victory in the area of fear on a daily basis. It is not easy. Fear for me is an ongoing struggle but with daily struggle comes the opportunity for daily victory. And let me be clear – without the power of Jesus in my life, I am helpless against this fear. There is no victory without Him for me.

As I prepare for Easter this year, I look at Jesus’ victory over sin and death a little differently. Same Jesus. Same sacrifice. But I feel more victory in my life. I see how He has worked in me this past year to deepen my faith, to rely less on my own strength, and to strengthen and prepare me for new challenges. I have felt the peace and comfort that can only come from surrendering to His will and trusting that He will be with us. I know to my bones that no matter what I cannot control, He will still be God, He will still be good, and He IS faithful. I cannot hold onto anything too tight – even our children. I cling to the truth that they were HIS even before they were mine.  He loves them even more than I do.

This past year I have been given tangible evidence that He longs to carry our burdens, knowing I am ill-equipped to carry my own. He has shown me how thinking I don’t struggle with fear is an open door to let it consume me. I must be prepared and be willing to ask myself where I have not surrendered to God because I am controlling things and trusting myself instead of HIM. I find myself grateful for the struggle because the victory is so sweet. This fear is no joke. It rises up and it when it was exposed it felt like a wound ripped open that might never heal. But slowly, I’ve been equipped and althogh it rises up, the fear loses it’s power as I claim Jesus’ victory and promises in my life. I am grateful that instead of letting me dwell in fear, He redeems it and makes me stronger for the next time. At the cross, we become heirs to peace, and heirs to His victory.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” – John 16:33 (NIV)

He is risen! But we must walk in faith to share in His victory and we must let Him be God.

May He bless you richly as you consider His sacrifice this holy week.

Happy Easter.