Hope for 2021

This year has been hard.  It’s been full of setbacks, disappointments, and obstacles.  People have lost jobs, businesses, or loved ones.  At the very least, it’s been full of craziness and uncertainty.  For many of us, it was full of challenges and struggles.  That’s why the words I came across in Philippians today are so meaningful; Paul wrote them while in prison.  He didn’t know how his life would turn out.  He didn’t know if he would be executed, yet he wrote about joy and strength. 

In Chapter 2, he recounts the story of Christ.  Verse 8 ends with the death of Jesus.  In the world’s eyes, this was the end of the story.  Evil had won.  The religious leaders had gotten what they wanted.  However, God had another plan.  Verse 9 begins with two amazing, impactful words, “Therefore God.”  What seemed like the end was really just the beginning.  God had a purpose in the death and suffering of Christ – to give him the name above every name and to raise him from the dead.  Friends, this is hope for us today and hope for us for the upcoming year.  When we feel like life is just hard for a really long time, and it doesn’t seem like things are getting any better, God always has a purpose.  At some point in our story, he will write these words into our lives, “Therefore God.” 

I don’t know what the new year holds.  I pray it’s better than 2020, but what I do know is this – God has a purpose in all of it.  God will redeem our pain and what we’ve been through and use it as part of our story to bring glory to himself and to further his kingdom.  When things seem difficult, know that God will strengthen you.  In Philippians 2:13, we are reminded that “it is God who works in you”, and the best reminder of all is in Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” 

Father, please strengthen us for whatever this new year holds.  I pray it’s better and less chaotic than this year.  Whatever comes, I pray you would help us persevere and rely on you and trust in your plan, no matter what.  I pray that you would be glorified in our lives and work all things for good.  In the name of your Son we pray, Amen. 

Merry Christmas, I’m Exhausted

Friends, I feel tired all the time.  Sometimes, it’s just a little fatigued.  Other times, I can barely get my kids to bed before I crash.  I’ve wondered, “Am I just a low energy person?  Why am I so tired all the time?”  Then, it occurred to me.  I’m not just taking care of four little (or not so little) people.  I’m fighting a war – a battle for their souls. 

Paul frequently refers to the Christian life as a fight.  In fact, he tells the Ephesians to put on the armor of God daily in order to fight the schemes of the devil.  Peter says that our adversary “prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”  (1 Peter 5:8b)  We’re exhausted because we are fighting for our children’s souls every single day.  We pray with them and for them.  We do Bible study with them.   Then, we have to make them be still and quiet while we do Bible study with them.  We teach them Scripture.  We take them to church.  If you homeschool, you also educate your children.  If your kids go to school, you help them with their homework.  You cook for them.  Then, you have to make them eat it while they complain.  We remind them to speak kindly and to share.  We tell them to make good choices.  We tell them to be diligent in all that they do.  Each of these is an act of war against the one who wants to derail them, take them out of the fight.  Satan doesn’t attack those who are already his. 

So what do we do when we’re bone-weary?  First of all, sweet friends, “fight the good fight of the faith.”  (1 Timothy 6:12a)  Next, remember you’re not in the fight alone.  God himself fights with us because he loves our children too.  In fact, we need to remember that they are his, not our’s.  He loans them to us to raise, but ultimately, they come from him and are his; like us, they were bought with the blood of his Son.  Even on the hard days, keep telling yourself that God is with you.  He still loves you.  He’s on your side, even when it doesn’t feel like it.  The holidays can be especially hard, but as I’ve said before, don’t trust your feelings.  Here’s some tips for getting through this time. 

  1. Get plenty of rest. 

After your kids go to bed, it’s tempting to stay up and watch TV.  Try to resist that urge and get plenty of sleep so you’re not tired and grumpy the following day. 

  • Eat healthy and exercise.

This one is difficult.  However, taking care of yourself makes you healthier, less likely to get sick, and you’ll just generally feel better. 

  • You don’t have to do it all. 

You don’t have to do all the stuff for Christmas you normally do.  Just because you did it last year doesn’t mean you have to do it this year.  Don’t wear yourself out trying to do a bunch of crafts with your kids or putting up all your decorations. 

  • Take a break.

Go to the grocery store, and buy some frozen pizzas.  Make those for dinner and have a family movie night.  You can also just put a movie on for your kids while you eat pizza in bed and watch your own movie.  With this one, you don’t have to stand up and cook a normal meal and you don’t have to listen to your kids complain about it. 

  • Go simple and minimal with gifts.

For extended family or friends, just buy one thing or nothing at all, if necessary.  This has been a hard year, but it’s been especially hard for single moms.  If they can’t understand that, then it’s their problem to deal with. 

  • On the hard days, do something for yourself. 

Go buy yourself a new sweater or a new color of nail polish.  If you’re feeling extravagant, get someone to watch your kids and go get a massage.  Just do a little something to refresh your spirits so you can keep fighting this fight and taking care of all the little people who depend on you. 

  • This season is not forever.

This is one I struggle with.  When the hits keep on coming, it’s so hard to believe things will get better.  I don’t want to get my hopes up only to have them dashed against the rocks of difficulty.  However, without hope, we lose joy.  Without joy, we lose strength.  Without strength, it’s really hard to fight the war.  So keep on hoping. 

Take a moment and just breathe deeply.  Remember that this season is about the God of the universe, who created you with a special purpose, folding himself into flesh so that he could be Immanuel, God with us.  He’s with us today through his Holy Spirit.  He will never leave you, and someday, through faith in Christ, we will be with him face-to-face forever

“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”  Romans 12:12

Accepting What You Cannot Change

True contentment lies not in liking our circumstances but rather in accepting the life God has given us, trusting that He is good and sovereign and that all seasons of life work for our good.  However, this is easier said than done, especially when our life looks nothing like we expected.  It is difficult when life is painful and hard.  It’s excruciating when we feel like God is silent, distant, and uncaring about our situation.  We start believing the enemy’s lies that we are alone, that God isn’t for us, and that things will not get better.  We begin losing hope.  That is when despair creeps in, depression and loneliness too. 

I look at the negative all around me instead of the positive.  I see my oldest one pinning down his younger brother for going into his room without knocking.  I hear my youngest pulling a fit because he didn’t get his way.  I feel like banging my head on the wall because a certain child still forgets some of her sight words when she’s reading.  I listen to the enemy’s lies that I’m not good enough.  I feel like a failure.  Maybe you have too.  I tell God that he overestimated my abilities to parent my children and to do this life he handed me. 

How do we change this?  By looking to the cross.  Jesus displays the best, most submissive example of acceptance.  The night before he was crucified, he begged God, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”  (Matthew 26:39b)  Jesus asked God to change his circumstances, but he trusted God, no matter the outcome.  Friends, that is what we must do.  We pray and ask God to relieve our pain and to make life better, but we trust Him even if he doesn’t. 

This brings to my mind the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.  They acknowledged that God could save them from the fiery furnace, but they diligently trusted God even if He didn’t.  (Daniel 3)  What would this look like for us?  It means trusting God even when we don’t know how our story ends.  It means choosing to find the joy in today rather than hoping you will find it in the future.  We resolve to praise God for the things that are going right in our life rather than dwelling on what is not.  Do not listen to the voices of criticism in your head or from others.  Listen to the words and promises God declares over you. 

            He will exult over you with loud singing.  (Zephaniah 3:17)

            He chose you before the foundation of the world.  (Ephesians 1:4)

            He has a plan for you.  (Jeremiah 29:11)

            He will not leave you or forsake you.   (Deuteronomy 31:6)

            You are precious in his eyes, and honored, and He loves you.  (Isaiah 43:4)

When life is hard and not what we wanted, we must choose daily (and sometimes minute by minute) to not give in to the voice of the evil one but rather preach truth to our heart from the heart of God as displayed in his living and active Word. 

I have a little wooden sign in my living room that says, “God is faithful in every season.”  He is good in all seasons of life, not just the good ones.  We trust that He is doing something in our lives, even in the winters, and we know that no suffering is without purpose in the plan of God. 

black and white cold fog forest
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

When Life Doesn’t Get Easier

bread and fish 2

What do you do when pain is your constant companion?  How do you keep on going when life stays hard and uncertain?  It’s then that our faith kicks in.  When life gets really tough, I’ve asked God, “Why?  Why me?  Why did you decide to take my husband?  Why did you look at my children and decide they didn’t need their father?”  I also tend to beg God to remove my difficulties.  However, there’s a much different example in Scripture of how to deal with difficulty.  In Acts 16, Paul and Silas were beaten ruthlessly for helping a slave girl.  After being fastened in stocks in a jail cell, they didn’t complain.  They didn’t question God’s love for them.  They didn’t ask God why.  Do you know what they did?  Verse 25 says they were praying and singing praises to God.  Later on, we discover that as a result of their faith, the foundations of the prison were shaken.  Other prisoners heard the gospel and the jailer’s family became believers.  God had a purpose in their suffering.

In Deuteronomy, the Israelites are beginning to conquer the promised land.  In Chapter 7, God tells them that he will help them conquer their enemies little by little.  They would end up spending years at war to defeat the peoples that lived there.  God tells them that he won’t let them conquer their enemies too quickly, “lest the wild beasts grow too numerous for you.”  (Deuteronomy 7:22b)  Ideally, they would’ve quickly defeated their enemies, but there was something more that God saw.  He could see the future repercussions of a quick victory – wild animals that would become too prevalent and pose a danger to them.  Sometimes, when we beg God to remove a trial in our life, we can’t see the other consequences.  We must trust that God has a reason to leave us in difficulty, just as He had a reason for not giving immediate victory to the Israelites.

One of the hardest things about being stuck in a trial is it sometimes leaves us feeling inadequate.  Have you ever felt like God overestimated your abilities when he decided to take your husband and leave you to raise your children alone?   I certainly have.  In the story of Jesus feeding the five thousand, a little boy offered Jesus his two fish and five loaves of bread.  Jesus didn’t criticize him for not having more to offer.  He just took what the little boy offered and made it enough.  God can do the same for us.  He knows he left us with a monumental task.  We need to do our best, but then instead of feeling shame for what we can’t do, know that God will take what you offer and make it enough.

Lord, please help us surrender our questions to you because, at the end of the day, no amount of answers can heal our hearts.  Only you can.  Help us to have the kind of faith that would shake the ground we’re standing on and bring honor and glory to you.  Help us to trust that you will take what we can offer and make it enough.  In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen. 

When we can’t change our life circumstances, it can help to change what we can change.  Buy a new dress.  Change your hairstyle.  Redecorate.  It’s not a long-term solution,  but it can help to give you something else to focus on for a little while.  Sometimes, that’s all we need to lift our spirits a little.  It also helps to just take a break.  Make an easy dinner and snuggle with your kids while you watch a family movie.  Purposefully plan a weekend where you don’t do much.  These little things can go a long way toward helping us keep on going.  Know that someday things will get easier.  In the meantime, trust that God has a plan for you.

mom snuggling with kids

Fight the Good Fight

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.  Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but to all who have loved his appearing.”  2 Timothy 4:7-8

Do your kids fight?  Mine sure do.  I know it’s normal because I can remember fighting frequently with my siblings.  As a mom, it’s exhausting and frustrating though to be the constant mediator of these fights, especially when I consider the reasons for the fights.  There have been fights because one child looked at another a certain way.  There have been fights because one child sat too close to another while they were watching TV.  There have been fights between two of my boys over Pokemon cards.  There have been fights because “he called me stupid” or “she said I looked ugly”.  Nothing causes the fights though like time together in the car.  For some reason, my children absolutely lose their mind when they get in the car and lose all self-control over their hands and feet.  I’m forced to say things from the driver’s seat like, “Don’t lick your brother” or “Put your feet in the floor” or “Don’t lay on your brother’s carseat.”  It’s lovely.

There’s other fights though.  It often feels like we’re in a war.  There’s a new song out that says “every choice is an act of war.”  It sure feels that way sometimes.  I’m currently reading through Deuteronomy, and here’s something I realized: God delivered the Israelites out of slavery, but he didn’t call them to a life of ease.  Sure, he gave them the promised land, but it didn’t come in a box with a bow.  They had to fight for it.  God was with them and gave them victory as long as they obeyed him.  However, they still had to go to each city and fight.  It took a long time, about 6-7 years.  That’s a lot of fighting.  That’s a long time to be at war.  It wasn’t easy for the female Israelites either.  While the men were off fighting, the women had to stay behind and take care of the kids and livestock.  For 6-7 years.

Fighting wasn’t just in the Old Testament either.  Paul frequently referred to the life of a believer as a struggle.  In fact, in Ephesians 6, he describes the armor we should wear to face life daily.  In verse 12, he says that our struggle is not “against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness…”  Our life can feel like a fight because we are most definitely engaged in one.  Satan is fighting to draw us away from our Lord.  He’s fighting for our children.  We must fight back.  How do we do that?  With the armor of God.  Ephesians 6:16 tells us that faith “can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one.”  Don’t give up.  Don’t lose hope or faith.  If you do, you let the enemy win.  And you know what?  If you persevere, there’s a pretty special reward.

“Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.”  James 1:12

 

If you’re struggling right now, and there are circumstances you face that seem impossible, remember our God is the God of miracles.  Here’s a song that I have found uplifting.  I pray you do too.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pV6-QqitjOc

 

Tips for the Upcoming Year

The beginning of a school year is always a good time to evaluate our schedules for the year ahead.  I want to encourage you to schedule time for some specific things to help you keep on going this year, even when things are hard.  Let’s face it: motherhood is exhausting.  I’ve been a full-time working mom.  I’ve been a stay-at-home mom.  I’m now a single mom.  They’re all tiring, but there’s some things we can be sure to do in order to take care of ourselves.

If we can’t keep going, our whole family falls apart.  It’s so easy to stay up late and deprive ourselves of sleep to get things done or skip meals because it just takes more time and energy.  However, the following tips are vital to our overall health.  If we suffer in one area, it will affect all of the other parts of our life.  These things can help us to feel our best and therefore be better at being moms and women for the glory of God.

  1. Eat 3 healthy meals a day. Skipping meals will make you feel tired.  When you’re tired, you’re more likely to eat junk food.  If you are making healthy meals, both you and your children will feel better (even if they complain.  They’ll thank you someday.)  This doesn’t mean you have to make gourmet meals.  There’s plenty of meals you can make that are relatively easy but use fresh ingredients.  You can also make extra of a meal so you can have the leftovers for another meal.  This is especially helpful if you’re going to be gone for a night because of kids’ activities.
  2. I know.  You don’t have the time or energy.  Look at your schedule and find a time, even if it’s just once or twice a week to exercise.  It will improve your immune system.  It naturally combats anxiety and depression.  It helps decrease stress levels.  It will actually give you more energy in the long run.  It also feels good to be in shape.  Plus, it shows your kids that fitness is important.  Pick times that work for you, and then stick to them.  Find something you enjoy doing – a fitness class at a local gym, doing an elliptical in your bedroom, jogging with a friend, doing an online workout video after your kids go to bed.  Just do something.
  3. Limit coffee and sodas, and drink more water.
  4. Spend time in the Word and in prayer every single day. Pick a time that works for you and stick to it.  I do mine first thing in the morning, but when I worked full-time, I did it in the evenings after my kids went to bed.  The important thing is to make this non-negotiable.  We can’t do any of this without the help and wisdom of the Lord.
  5. Make your kids help. It’s great for kids to take responsibility for things around the house.  If you’re feeling overwhelmed as school starts this year (whether your kids are going to school, doing school at home, or you’re homeschooling), make the kids do more.  They can pack their lunches or fold their laundry or load/unload the dishwasher.  Older kids can even help with meal prep.
  6. Give yourself grace. We’re often harder on ourselves than we’d ever be of someone else.  At the end of the day, know that you did your best and let the rest go.  It’s easy to look at what we didn’t get done or what we didn’t accomplish.  Instead, try thinking about all the things you did do.  Don’t underestimate the importance of the little things.  Playing a game with your kids or reading a book to them is valuable, even if the house is a mess at the end of the day.
  7. Remember that you are enough because Christ is enough, and he will give you the strength to do everything he’s called you to do. You may be exhausted by the end of the day.  You may not know what this school year will look like; I mean, who could’ve predicted the craziness that corona has caused?  You may not know about a lot of things in your life, but God will sustain you.  As we start this school year, know that He is always, always faithful.

 

“Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation.”  Psalm 68:5

“The Lord watches over the sojourners; he upholds the widow and the fatherless…”  Psalm 146:9

2 corinthians 12 9

Laughing Without Fear

me and Cana at rose garden

 

cana and bo laughing

“She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future.” Proverbs 31:25

 

Until recently, I didn’t really understand this verse. I had previously thought, “Oh, man. She’d better not laugh at the future. God’s going to give her something to laugh about.” I had been misreading the verse. The amazingly strong, godly, hardworking woman of this proverb isn’t laughing at the future. She’s laughing without fear of the future. She can laugh because she’s not worried about tomorrow. Explained another way, she can fully enjoy the present because she knows that God will be with her in the future.

This verse is timely for the world we live in currently. Everything is uncertain. Circumstances change daily. There are many that want you to live in fear. Don’t give in. Our God says that he will be with you even in the valley of the shadow of death. (Psalm 23) God says in Joshua 1, “Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” In 2 Timothy 1, God reminds Timothy that God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. God knows that our world is crazy. He wants us to remember that he is still in control. He is still sovereign. He can still be trusted. We need not fear the future because he will be with us. Like the woman of Proverbs 31, we can laugh today without fear of the future.

How do we do this? What are practical ways we can enjoy today? Try journaling gifts from God daily. Actually write them down. Take time to enjoy nature by walking outside, going to a lake, planting flowers, etc. Exercise. It naturally combats anxiety. Stay in the word. If there’s anything you do, continue to abide in Christ. Call a friend. Isolation can breed anxiety and depression. Take a minute for yourself. Christian meditation, yoga, or even a nap can help calm your soul. Remember that our faith is not dependent on our feelings or the circumstances in our world; it is dependent on the promises of God and the timeless truths found in Scripture. Pray. Pray for yourself. Pray for your children. Pray for our country.

May we be like the woman of Proverbs 31, choosing to be joyful today because we know that God will be with us for all of our tomorrows.