March 25, 2015

FEAR: It's Eating Me for Lunch...and Breakfast...and Dinner

I would have to say that, normally, I am not a fearful person. I'm not brave, but not fearful, either.

Man, oh, man, has the enemy been having a blast these last few weeks filling my heart and mind with fear. Many of the fears are irrational and have no basis. I know this. Yet, I still find myself giving in to these fears.

Fear that I am not the wife that my husband needs.
Fear that I am not the mother my kids need.
Fear that I am not teaching my kids all they need to know.
Fear that other people's kids will be better prepared for life than mine.
Fear that by choosing to be a wife and mom I may have missed out on some amazing opportunities to see the world, serve God, and do some really cool things I would have really loved.
Fear that my husband will die first and I will have to live on without him.
Fear that I will have to watch my children die.
Fear that people will notice I am not nearly as brave or put together as I want them to think I am.
Fear that by choosing to give up working outside the home I am becoming more and more useless and unnecessary with each passing day.
Fear that I am the weakest link everywhere I go.
Fear that I'll never get caught up on the laundry.
Fear that the dust bunnies will soon take over the house.
Fear that the kids will one day hate me for the chicken nuggets and PBJ sandwiches they ate when I was too lazy to fix a real meal.
Fear that my kids will never learn to serve others before themselves.
Fear that my kids will not love God and His word.
Fear that, when death comes, I will do it badly.
Fear that I've somehow wasted this life.

But the biggest fear lately, that my children will never know God's salvation. Though it's offered to all, not all will follow in obedience. Not all will live for Him. Not all will love Him. Not all will know new life with Christ as their Lord and Master. Fear that no matter what I do, they will choose to live life for themselves, ignore God, and spend eternity separated from Him (and me.) It's almost paralyzing. It keeps me up at nights. The tears drench my pillow. I have no control over the state of their souls. All I can do is obey the command to love them, teach them His word, display a godly life before them, and pray diligently for their souls. The rest is out of my hands. I fear that which I cannot control.

Father, remind me that fear is not from You. Remind me that Your perfect love casts out fear. Remind me that You do not give us a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and sound mind (good judgment, instruction, self-discipline, etc). Remind me that You love my kids and my husband and my friends more than I ever could. Remind me that You are evident in everything around me..and around my kids. Remind me to run to You, the source of all love and power, when I am doubt and fear. Remind me that Satan is the father of lies and You alone are truth. Remind me that praying for my kids changes me, whether they are ever changed or not. Father, mold me, shape me, enbolden me to become more like You every day!

March 08, 2015

What I am Learning from Lent This Year

I know that Lent isn't something that Southern Baptists generally do. And I'll admit that I haven't studied the history and dug into all that is Lent. However, I have still chosen to participate in Lent the last few years. For me, it's a great way to spend some time focusing on the gift and sacrifice of the cross, as well as prepare to rejoice and celebrate the truth of the resurrection. For me, it's not so much about denying myself, but refocusing and living for more than myself.

This year I decided to drink only water during Lent and donate money to the well project that our church is doing (find out more here: Water for Africa) I am also taking specific time once a day to pray for the persecuted church. I did something similar last year, but this time it has been different. Maybe it's because I'm at a different place in my life, maybe because I have been sick for the last week, I'm not sure, but it's definitely been different this year.

For one thing, I keep finding myself wanting to sneak little sips here and there of other things. I mean, it's just a sip, not a full gulp (or glass), so what's the harm, right? Then, WHAM! God really hit me with the thought that I am the same way about sin. Just a little sin can't hurt, right? I mean, if I live well most of the time, one little sin can't hurt. WRONG! Sin will always be the wrong choice for the believer and no matter how good it feels at the time, it will always bring guilt and shame. Praise the Lord that He offers forgiveness when we make the wrong choice!

Another thing I have found is that sometimes I forgot this fast doesn't include food. I start to eat something then think, "Oh, wait! It's Lent. Oh wait, I'm fasting from all drinks but water, not food! What am I doing?!?!" It's like my brain thinks that means I can't have anything. How crazy is that? But don't we sometimes make our Christian lives about our list of don'ts instead of the freedoms we have in Christ? It's like we think that because there are some things that God has commanded we not do, that it means we can't do anything that might be considered fun to the rest of the world. We build this bubble and keep ourselves in it and don't ever see the joy and life in the freedom of living under Christ.

I think the prayer portion is teaching me the value and importance of persistence in prayer. There are a few things that I feel like I've been praying about forever and I had pretty much just given up praying for them. I had no more words and it seemed I was getting no answers, so why bother. In praying for the persecuted church every day I am finding that God provides the words. He is softening my heart to pray for those persecuting Christians, as well as those they are persecuting. I have been reminded many times of the parable of the widow who continued to go to the judge day after day until he ruled in favor of what she wanted. She knew the judge had the power to do what she was asking and she persisted, day after day, until he used that power. You know what, my God has the power to do all I ask. I can pour out my heart, day after day, even with the same requests, and He will hear every cry. He can heal each heart, wound, ache. He can protect lives and open hearts to His salvation. He is I AM! Oh Father, help me to believe in all You can do, ask You to show Yourself mighty in my life and the lives of others, and still choose to praise and rejoice when You choose not to answer in the way that I hope You will!

I know that Lent isn't in the Bible (of course, neither is Christmas), but over and over His people are commanded to remember Him. Remember what He's done. Draw near to Him, focus on Him, and rejoice in Him. Lent is really helping me do that this year. The Sundays during Lent are feast days. They are days to rest from the self-discipline you've been practicing all week, stop looking at the gravity of the cross, and rejoice in the glory and triumph of the risen Lord. I have found Sundays so much sweeter during this season. They truly have been feasts and celebrations (though not overdone!)  Lord, continue to soften and change my heart. Make me one who is bold in Your name. Help me to love all I see with You love.

March 02, 2015

...To those who only see the Pinterest perfect FaceBook mom they'll never be-we speak God's Truth to You...

I wrote those words last week as part of a script for our Mother's Day service at church this year. I cried when I wrote them. My heart was screaming them. Well, the first part, anyway. But it wasn't until today I realized how much I need the last part. I need His truth to overwhelm and renew my mind DAILY. Today I am tired and I don't feel well, which only leads to comparison and bitterness and loneliness and the list could go on and on and on and on! It's not healthy and it's not from God. I am so thankful I have friends who will pray for me, text me scripture, and speak encouraging words to me.

I want to do the same for you. I keep typing words and erasing them, trying to find just the right thing to say. It's been a long year, full of so many ups and downs in our house. We've battled disobedient children, health issues, depression, frustration, bitterness, laziness, pride, and so much more (sounds like your year, too, huh?) I am tired. I am weary of the fight. This winter is lasting forever and many days I can't see spring at the end. Some days are so full of joy and laughter I could burst and some days are so full of tears and despair I don't want to get out of bed. I want to wallow in despair, crying "Poor me!" I want to act like nothing bad ever happens to anyone else and I am the only victim in this world. There have been days I've cried to God, "Why can't I just send my kids to public school so I can go back to bed and ignore this day?!?" (I am not implying that is what moms with kiddos in public school do, just what I would like to do some days!) I've had days full of praise for being able to spend so much time with my kids and being able to watch them learn and grow. I've had days when all I can do is go through the motions and hope the kids don't see me crying. I've had other days that were so full of laughter and hugs that I can't hardly stand it! I've had days where I've been paralyzed by fear and doubt. Other days I have been bold and courageous.Haven't we all? Isn't this just life? There will always be good days and bad days. But, no matter how many good days there are, my mind always wanders to the bad ones. I linger on the hard days. I pull out the negative and set up camp. Rather than resting in the loving arms of my Savior, I choose to dwell in the pit of the Father of Lies. I don't want to do that anymore. I want to remember His truth, cling to His promises, and serve Him with all that I have, regardless of my circumstance. I no longer want to be held captive by my feelings. Oh, Father, speak Your truth to me every day! Give me a hunger for Your word that surpasses any whim I may have for anything else. Help me to memorize Your word so that I can have it with me at all times. Lord, help me dwell on Your word, regardless of the circumstance. Here are just a few of the verses bringing me encouragement, comfort, and the reminder to to turn everything back to Him in praise:

Psalm 30:5 His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for life. Weeping may endure for the night, but JOY* comes in the morning.
Lamentations 3:24 I say to myself, "The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for Him."
Psalm 42:5 Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God.
Psalm 43:3-4 Send me Your light and Your faithful care, let them lead me; let them bring me to Your holy mountain, to the place where You dwell. Then I will go to the altar of God, to God, my joy and my delight. I will praise You with the lyre, oh God my God.
Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your path.
Psalm 20:7 Some trust in chariots, and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.
Psalm 119:105 Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

What verses are an encouragement to you on the hard days? Let's share some encouragement with one another today! Let's speak God's truth to one another and whisper songs of God's JOY* and love to each other today!