Diapers and Depositions: Coping with a Legal Battle While Single Parenting as a Widow

It’s taken me a long time to be able to write about this journey.  First of all, let me say I wouldn’t wish this process on anyone.  It’s terrible.  However, after speaking with several sweet friends recently who were considering a suit, I wanted to describe what you’ll be getting in to.  Sometimes, it’s necessary to file legal action in today’s world to get what you and your children deserve.  Sometimes, it’s about justice.  If you get nothing else out of this post, remember this:  This will be the most difficult thing you’ve ever done.  God will never, ever leave you through the process. 

I was told it would take about 2-3 years to complete the whole process.  It took more than four.  There’s a whole lot of waiting in the journey.  Know that our judicial system is very broken and very frustrating.  Expect any hearing to not go your way.  Our system favors the wrongdoer and victimizes the victims over and over again.  You will constantly have to relive your husband’s death each and every hearing.  Each and every mediation.  Each and every Zoom call.  Also, judges don’t think about single moms.  After waiting for months, they may expect you to drop everything and show up at a hearing with just a few days’ notice.  I’ve had to scramble to find sitters and ways to get my kids to and from school so I could be at court. 

You will need a good Christian counselor.  I know I couldn’t have done it without mine.  I also had sweet friends that would help watch my kids or pray for me prior to hearings, depositions, etc.  My husband (who was then my boyfriend) would sometimes come and cook and take care of the kids when a stress migraine had me in bed.  (I started getting migraines during this process.)  Don’t ever, ever forsake your time with the Lord.  Believe me – you’re going to need to stay connected to him.  God and I had a lot of honest conversations during this time.  (Not in a weird way – he just spoke to me through his word.)  I’m so grateful that we have a Lord who cares deeply for us and is acquainted with our struggles.  He knows what it is to grieve and Scripture promises that he is “near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.”  Psalm 34:18

Know that it’s going to be a lot to juggle for a long while.  I had to have serious conversations with attorneys while in the car with my littles in the backseat and while in the pickup line at my kid’s school.  I would have to step out of children’s birthday parties to have conference calls.  I actually prepared for my deposition while at football practice, trying to watch my son on the field and keep an eye on my younger kids who were playing.  The juggling is not easy.  It’s not easy to go to court or meetings or hearings that don’t go your way, listen to strangers trying to downplay the significance of your husband’s life, and then come home and take care of your kids.  It’s exhausting.  It’s long.  It’s hard.  I have a good friend who would always tell me, “You can do hard things.”  I wish I could hold your hand, look you in the eyes, and tell you the very same thing: “You can do hard things.”  We do them because it’s the right thing to do.  We do them because our children are counting on us.  We do them because we have to.  When we are at the end of ourselves, Christ himself gives us the strength we need.  (Read Philippians 4:13.)

Here are some tips for the journey.  First, stay in community.  It’s tempting to isolate yourself when in deep pain, but don’t.  You need support during this time.  Give yourself lots of grace.  Imagine if a good friend of yours was going through the same thing.  Wouldn’t you give her a lot of grace during this time?  Give yourself that same amount of grace.  Next, find projects to keep yourself busy when you get particularly discouraged by something in the legal process (like having your trial date pushed out.  Again.)  One time, I rearranged all my décor and furniture in my living room.  I didn’t buy anything new, just moved stuff around.  Heaving heavy stuff around was a welcome distraction.  Another time, I bought a few new plants and planted them in the backyard.  This required digging fairly large holes in my yard.  By the end, I had bloody blisters on my hands, but I had successfully worked out my anger and frustration.  (Spoiler alert: none of those plants survived the Snowmageddon last year here in Texas.  They met a frozen end.)  Exercise regularly.  It helps get frustration out, and it’s a great way to naturally deal with anxiety and depression. 

Finally, instead of dwelling on what you can’t control; focus on what you can.  You can’t control how things will turn out, but you can control what you do each and every day with your kids.  Don’t lose the years with them while you’re struggling with this battle.  Play games with them.  Do fun stuff with them.  When you’re really tired and they are not, take them to a trampoline park.  It works like a charm.  They have fun and wear themselves out.

The next part is hard to say.  Through this journey, you may never get justice.  I clung to Deuteronomy 10:18 for years.  “He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow…”  I remember clearly praying after the end of my battle, and asking God, “What happened?”  I distinctly felt like God opened my eyes to see that this verse doesn’t promise justice in this world.  This side of heaven, we may not get justice.  I’ve learned a lot about trusting God through this process.  I’ve come to realize we have to trust him for the outcome as well as the timetable.  If we are going to trust Him, we have to trust Him completely.  God has a plan.  His plan is perfect.  He knows things we don’t know. 

Recently, I was shopping at Target and a new devotional by Lysa Terkeurst caught my eye.  I flipped it open, and the page I was on said that when she was struggling, she reminded herself of three things.

  1. God is good. 
  2. God is good to me. 
  3. God is good at being God.

I think her words are perfect reminders to everyone, especially if you find yourself in this crazy and difficult journey of legal nightmares and parenting.  God is good.  He’s not just good to everyone else; He’s good to you, even in the midst of darkness.  We don’t have to take matters into your own hands; God can handle it. 

I’ll conclude with this.  In 2 Chronicles 20, a great enemy army is coming up against the nation of Judah.  The king assembles everyone and prays.  He admits, in front of everyone, that he doesn’t know what to do.  God prompts a man in the crowd to declare, “Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God’s…You will not need to fight in this battle.  Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the Lord on your behalf…Tomorrow go out against them, and the Lord will be with you.”  Friends, you may have to fight, but the Lord will be with you. 

Hope Pierces the Darkness

green christmas tree with string lights
Photo by Jeswin Thomas on Pexels.com

“But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.  And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God, for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.”  Luke 2:19-20

Can you feel it?  Sometimes the dark lies so thick around us, it’s hard to see any light beyond.  Like a fog, we don’t know when the darkness will lift.  Perhaps during this holiday season though, we can feel a hope that pierces even our thickest darkness. 

During the holidays, our culture tells us to be in a rush and to be ever joyful.  However, for many people, the holidays are full of grief as we are reminded of who or what we don’t have.  We recall holidays past when our loved one was still with us.  We see other families, happy and whole, and are reminded of those we are estranged from or won’t be happily attending our holiday gatherings.  Maybe you view the love other families have for each other, and you’ve never experienced that yourself.  Maybe you desperately need some hope and comfort this holiday season. 

Our Savior was born into the world he created, but that world had no room for him.  Those who should have supported and encouraged him most, rejected him.  He knew what it was like to lose someone close – most likely his earthly father, then his cousin due to execution, then a dear friend.  He lived a life of suffering so that we would never have to suffer alone.  He left the grave behind so that pain would never have the final word. 

Think back to what that first Christmas must have been like.  Two young, first-time parents, tucked away in a place fit for animals, but God was there.  He was there with them, and he saw them.  Then a ragtag bunch of shepherds breathlessly arrive – the lowliest of the low.  Yet they have an amazing story.  A whole host of angels told them where to find the Lord, the one who would save them from their sins.  Allow yourself to feel the wonder and awe of that moment.  This is what Christmas is all about.  A miraculous, incredulous story of hope that pierced the darkness of that night.  A story for the lonely, the broken, the sinner, the lost…that God’s with you and he has a plan for you.  A plan to include you in his supremely perfect, eternal plan.  To fold you into his arms, the arms of love and grace. 

God sees you, right where you’re at.  We are called to walk the path that he has placed us on and faithfully keep walking.  Keep spending time in prayer and in the Word, and continually point your kids toward the only one who truly offers hope in this world.  As we prepare our hearts for Christmas, I pray that the hope of Christ would shine into your life and your home, now and always. 

Favorite Christmas Devotionals

I’m a huge fan of Christmas devotionals and any tradition that helps remind me and my family of what we really celebrate at Christmas.  Last year, we celebrated the night before advent with a poem written by Ann Voskamp and a hot chocolate party.  (She had that idea on her site as well as free printables.)  Here are some other devotionals we’ve enjoyed. 

  1. The Way to the Manger – this family devotional has bright and colorful pictures and includes Bible verses with a devotional to read as well as questions to discuss. 
  • The Greatest Gift – this is a wonderful devotional that I enjoy reading.  I did it one year with the kids and just summarized each section. 
  • God is in the Manger – phenomenal devotional based on excerpts from Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s writings.  I tried this with the kids, and it was a little over their heads.  I think it is a powerful and moving read for adults though.
  • The Light Gift – this picture book is an advent story written by the Voskamp family.  We are currently reading it and got the Messiah Manger to go with it.  (Note: You can only purchase this book from the Keeping Company’s website.) 
  • Unwrapping the Greatest Gift – I have this one on my shelf but have not read it yet.  I will definitely try it at some point since I’m a huge fan of Ann Voskamp. 

How Do I Believe God is for me When Life Really Hurts?

Naomi’s husband took her and their sons to a foreign land due to a famine in Israel.  She had to leave her home, family, and everything she’d known.  Eventually, her husband died.  Then a son died.  Then her other son died.  When she returned to Israel, she couldn’t even see the blessing of her daughter-in-law because of her grief.  In fact, she told them, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me.”  (Ruth 1:20) The older I get, the more I understand where Naomi was coming from and the less I judge her.  (Note: I’m not validating her viewpoint; I’m just saying I understand why she felt this way.) 

After losing my first husband, I was involved in a legal battle that drug on for years.  During that time, I was constantly reminded of my husband’s death and the fact that he shouldn’t have died.  My pain was always before me, and it was really difficult for those wounds to heal.  Recently, I started a new chapter in life.  I thought it would be a better, happier chapter.  But God.  He had other plans.  Another loss.  More pain.  More tears.  I confessed to God that I’m just so very tired of hardship.  Maybe you’ve been there. 

This brings me to my original question.  How do I believe God is for me and really loves me when life hurts so much or for so long?  The answer’s pretty simple really.  We have to look no further than the cross.  We are not alone in our suffering; Christ himself was well acquainted with suffering and grief.  In the catechism questions my kids do, one of the questions is, “What kind of life did Christ live on earth?”  The answer is, “A life of poverty and suffering.”  He knows what it’s like to suffer, but he didn’t just live a life of suffering.  He suffered in his death too, so that he could pay the price for our sins.  When we look to the cross, we have a vivid reminder of how much God loves us. 

How do we feel this truth though?  How do we let it transfer from our minds to sink into our soul?  First of all, we have to take every thought captive.  We have to continually remind ourselves that God is for us and loves us because the enemy tries to tell us otherwise.  The next thing we do is stay in the Word.  We remind ourselves of the truth of Scripture.  The final thing we do is pray.  And we pray.  And we pray.  And we pray.  We pray that the Lord would remind us of his love for us.  We pray that he would give us comfort and peace when life is hard.  We pray that he would help us to rely on his truth, not our emotions.  Sweet friends, even when life is painful, God is for us and loves us with an everlasting love. (Jeremiah 31:3) We are never alone. 

P.S. I was doing morning drop-off while I was writing this post in my head.  It was lightly raining, and as I was turning, I saw a rainbow.  It wasn’t really bright; just a faint splash of color against the gray sky.  God gives us these beautiful and obvious reminders of his goodness; we just have to be open to seeing them. 

Psalm 23 (I Am Not Alone) [Live at Linger Conference] People & Songs ft Josh Sherman – YouTube

New Beginnings

It was a chapter that I never would’ve written for myself.  The chapter in which I suddenly became a single mom and entered into a long season of indescribable grief and pain.  The chapter where I shed more tears than I thought humanly possible.  A chapter where I often found it difficult to see hope in the future and I wondered if things would ever get better.  A chapter that lasted far too long. 

However, even in the midst of my deep darkness, God never left my side.  Psalm 139:9-12 says,

               If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.  If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,” even the darkness is not dark to you, the night is bright as the day; for darkness is as light with you.” 

Even in those dark days, God’s light shone through.  Sometimes, it was a moment where all of the kids were playing and getting along.  Sometimes, it was the laughter of a child or an impromptu, unsolicited “I love you” from one of them.  Sometimes, it was something life-altering. 

Three years ago, I met an amazing man.  He didn’t run away when he learned I had four kids.  He didn’t run away when I kept struggling with depression.  He didn’t run away when my kids were terrible or threw fits or were exhausting.  Our dating relationship was unconventional to say the least.  (But then again, when does dating a widow with kids ever look normal?)  We got to know each other over the phone and at soccer practices and baseball games and ballet classes.  We were able to take the kids to do fun things that I wouldn’t have been able to manage on my own.  After a long journey, we were finally able to get married last month.  I walked down the aisle to the hymn, Great is Thy Faithfulness.  We had Lamentations 3:22-23 framed at our wedding.  Don’t miss this – this profound declaration of God’s steadfast love and faithfulness is found in a book of mourning and lament.  It’s in the dark seasons of our life where we can often see God’s faithfulness more clearly than in the seasons of abundance. 

I don’t know what the Lord has in store for us, but I’m excited to see what the future holds.  It’s a miracle to be loved again and to have someone to love and to have a partner in raising my kids to follow Christ.  I pray that you find some hope and encouragement from my story.  Life won’t be this hard forever.  The place where you are now is not where you will stay.  Our God is the God of hope and the God that will never ever leave you.  He is the God of new beginnings. 

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23

Reading this Summer – Picture Books

This is not a typical post, but one that I wanted to do for fun prior to the beginning of summer.  I love reading, and I love reading to my kids.  I keep hoping that someday, because of my avid reading, my kids will love to read.  I have most definitely surrounded them with lots of good books.  I have a read aloud time each day during homeschool with my littles.  I read to all but my oldest at bedtime.  

Starting a book collection doesn’t have to be costly.  I buy my books at secondhand stores, garage sales, and at abebooks.com.  Rarely, do I buy a new book.  These links are provided so you can see the book and its synopsis.  This is a random listing of some of our favorites.  Happy Reading!

Claymates: Petty, Dev, Eldridge, Lauren: 9780316303118: Amazon.com: Books

Meet the claymates: two balls of clay that can become anything–even best friends!

What can you do with two blobs of clay? Create something amazing! But don’t leave them alone for too long. Things might get a little crazy.

In this photographic friendship adventure, the claymates squish, smash, and sculpt themselves into the funniest shapes imaginable. But can they fix a giant mess before they’re caught in the act?

Brambly Hedge Collection Jill Barklem 8 Books Set (Autumn Story, Spring Story, Summer Story, Winter Story, Poppy’s Babies, Sea Story, The High Hills, The Secret Staircase): Jill Barklem, Autumn Story By Jill Barklem 978-0001837393, 0001837397, 9780001837393, Spring Story 978-0001839229, 0001839225, 9780001839229, Summer Story 978-0001839236, 0001839233, 9780001839236, Winter Story 978-0008241186, 000824118X, 9780008241186, Poppy’s Babies 978-0008282813, 0008282811, 9780008282813, Sea Story 978-0008252670, 000825267X, 9780008252670, The High Hills 978-0001840867, 000184086X, 9780001840867, The Secret Staircase 978-0008269142, 0008269149, 9780008269142: 9789123522330: Amazon.com: Books

These books remind me of Beatrix Potter, but we enjoy them more!  They have fun, whimsical pictures and are about the adventures of a little village of mice. 

The Pigeon Needs a Bath! (Pigeon, 9): Willems, Mo, Willems, Mo: 8601400583050: Amazon.com: Books

The Pigeon really needs a bath! Except, the Pigeon’s not so sure about that. Besides, he took a bath last month! Maybe. It’s going to take some serious convincing to try and get the Pigeon to take the plunge.

Mouse Says “Sorry” (Hello Genius): Dahl, Michael, Vidal, Oriol: 9781404867895: Amazon.com: Books

Mouse is late for supper. He has to hurry home, but he won’t get there without using his manners. This sturdy board book helps toddlers understand when and why to say sorry.

A Perfect Day: Smith, Lane, Smith, Lane: 9781626725362: Amazon.com: Books

Today is a perfect day for Cat, Dog, Chickadee, and Squirrel.

Cat is lounging among the daffodils. Dog is sitting in the wading pool, deep in the cool water. Chickadee is eating fresh seed from the birdfeeder. Squirrel is munching on his very own corncob. Today is a perfect day in Bert’s backyard.

Until Bear comes along, that is. Bear crushes the daffodils, drinks the pool water, and happily gobbles up the birdseed and corncob.

Today was a perfect day for Cat, Dog, Chickadee, and Squirrel. Now, it’s just a perfect day for Bear.

Lane Smith uses perfect pacing and vibrant illustrations to emphasize the power of perspective in this hilarious picture book about the goings-on in Bert’s backyard.

Touch the Art: Count Monet’s Lilies: aa: Amazon.com: Books

We have this book and one other in the series!  Each book contains famous paintings along with things that kids can touch, keeping children engaged.  There is also a simple, rhyming text in each book.  I love that it introduces kids to real art. 

Amazon.com: I Need a New Butt! (0800759787999): McMillan, Dawn, Kinnaird, Ross: Books

A young boy suddenly notices a big problem — his butt has a huge crack! So he sets off to find a new one. Will he choose an armor-plated butt? A rocket butt? A robot butt? Find out in this quirky tale of a tail, which features hilarious rhymes and delightful illustrations. Children and parents will love this book — no ifs, ands, or butts about it!

Note: this book is a little much since it does have drawings (obviously) of butt cracks and farts.  Despite that, my younger kids think it’s hilarious.  It’s probably not for everyone though. 

Good Night, Gorilla: Rathmann, Peggy: 9780399230035: Amazon.com: Books

Good night, Gorilla.
Good night, Elephant.

It’s bedtime at the zoo, and all the animals are going to sleep. Or are they? Who’s that short, furry guy with the key in his hand and the mischievous grin?

Good night, Giraffe.
Good night, Hyena.

Sneak along behind the zookeeper’s back, and see who gets the last laugh in this riotous good-night romp.

Amazon.com: We’re Going on a Bear Hunt (Classic Board Books) (9780689815812): Oxenbury, Helen, Michael Rosen: Books

Beloved for more than 30 years, this award-winning classic from Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury celebrates the joys of an afternoon outdoors with family.

We’re going on a bear hunt. We’re going to catch a big one.

Will you come too? Join a father and his four young children as they cross a field of tall, wavy grass, wade through a deep, cold river, struggle through swampy mud, find their way through a big, dark forest, fight through a whirling snowstorm, and enter finally enter a narrow, gloomy cave. What will they find there? You’ll have to read on to find out!

For more than thirty years readers have been swishy swashing and splash sploshing through this award-winning favorite. Now fans of this timeless story from Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury can treasure and share this Classic Board Book edition that has an updated, colorized cover.

Good Night Mountains (Good Night Our World): Gamble, Adam, Jasper, Mark: 9781602190900: Amazon.com: Books

Designed to soothe children before bedtime while instilling an early appreciation for natural and cultural wonders, this delightful story features a multicultural group of people visiting waterfalls, glaciers, alpine lakes, the Rocky Mountains, the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Ozark Mountains, the Sierra Nevadas, the Appalachian Mountains, volcanic Mount Saint Helen, and Mount Washington in New England. Guiding children through the passage of both a single day and the four seasons while saluting the iconic aspects of mountains, this board book also highlights the activities associated with such destinations, including skiing, hiking, camping, backpacking, fishing, and rock climbing.

Note: This is a series.  We have at least one other.  (Maybe the ocean/beach one?)  I like that it can help the kids remember a special vacation, and it’s also calming because it says “Good night” over and over.  I find this helpful with my youngest who is always difficult to calm down at bedtime. 

Audrey Bunny: Smith, Angie, Brookshire, Breezy: 9781433680458: Amazon.com: Books

From best-selling women’s author Angie Smith (I Will Carry You, Mended) comes this sweet children’s book about a stuffed animal named Audrey Bunny who fears her imperfections make her unworthy of a little girl’s love. She’ll learn the truth soon enough, and young readers will learn that everyone is special and wonderfully made by God.

Safety vs. Security

photo of woman sitting on cliff
Photo by Andre Moura on Pexels.com

For years, I have struggled with not feeling stable and secure anymore.  It’s caused me to struggle with both anxiety and depression at times.  I have struggled with the Lord even more though over the fact that he would take these things from my children.  It was our desire for our children to have the security of growing up in a two-parent home.  We wanted our kids to be shielded from the harsh realities of life when they were young.  That just wasn’t part of God’s plan for them though. 

I’ve just recently come to realize that I have been confusing safety with security.  They are not synonymous.  While my children lost the safety their father’s presence provided, they didn’t lose their security.  Of course, it felt like they did.  However, for those of us who love Christ, our future is eternally secure in the person of Jesus.  What a valuable lesson we can teach our kids – that even when it doesn’t feel like it, their security has been paid for by the blood of Jesus on the cross.  I recently attended a parenting seminar, and our pastor mentioned that while our children need security, they don’t need safety.  God never promised us safe lives.  In fact, he said quite the opposite.  Jesus said in John 16:33, “In the world you will have tribulation.  But take heart; I have overcome the world.”  When their dad died, my children no longer had “safe” lives, but their future will always be secure in Christ. 

Sweet friends, I wish I could hold your hands in mine and look into your eyes and tell you that it will be ok.  It is so hard to face an uncertain future.  The nights are most difficult when our thoughts catch up with us, and as sleep escapes us, we may worry about what the future does or doesn’t hold.  However, I want to squeeze your hands reassuringly and tell you that whatever God has in store for you will be ok.  We can rest in whatever He has for us because His plan is perfect, even when it doesn’t feel that way.  Romans 8:28 says “and we know that for those who love God all things work together for good.”  What a promise!  It doesn’t say that “we think” or “we believe.”  It says, “we know.”  We can know and rest in the comfort of the promise that God will work even the darkest, most heart-wrenching times in our lives for good.  The same is true for our children.  He will take the pain they have experienced and use it for good.  We cannot see it now, but just think of how God could use them someday to impact others.  We can relate so much better to others when we have been through pain.  It makes us more compassionate.  We understand better what someone else has been through.  Friends, God can use that in our children’s lives to be a light to others in a dark, broken world.  And that is something truly beautiful.  We do not know what the future holds for us or our kids, but we can be sure that he will redeem us and make “all things new.” (Revelation 21:5)

“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.”  (1 Peter 5:10)

When God Seems Silent

I never would’ve written this chapter of my life – the chapter where life is hard and I stay exhausted.  The chapter where I feel like I fail more often than not.  The chapter where chaos reigns and it takes every ounce of my strength to hold everything together.  Have you ever felt this way?  Have you ever wanted to grab the pen from God and rewrite your story? 

Have you been praying for something for a long time, and you still don’t see the answer?  Sometimes, I have felt like I’ve prayed continually for wisdom, claiming his promise in James 1, but then I still don’t know what to do.  What do we do when God seems silent even after our heartfelt, tear-filled prayers? 

First of all, we turn to His word.  The 400 years between the end of the Old Testament and the time Christ was born are often called “the silent years”.  The prophets wrote about the coming of a Messiah who would save God’s people.  However, the Jews kept waiting and waiting and waiting.  After a few generations, it must’ve been hard to know if a Messiah was really coming.  God seemed silent.  However, he had a plan all along.  He would send Christ at precisely the right time.  The Messiah they waited for did far more than they ever could have imagined.  Instead of just freeing them from earthly oppression, he saved them from their sins.  He saved their souls.  

There are other examples of God’s people waiting.  David was anointed king as a teenager, but he didn’t actually become king until he was about 30 years old.  During this time, he was often fighting for his life (against the current king Saul).  Joseph eventually became second in command to the Pharaoh of Egypt, but about 13 years passed between the time he was sold into slavery until this occurred.  Part of this time, he was a slave in Potiphar’s household.  Part of this time, he spent in prison for something he did not do. 

It had to have seemed like God was silent during these times, but he wasn’t.  He clearly had a plan for their lives, and by faith, we trust that He has a plan for our lives too.  Simply put, when God seems silent, He’s not.  He is simply waiting for the appointed time because his timeline is perfect.  There’s a song on the radio currently, and part of the lyrics state, “Even when I don’t see it, you’re working.  Even when I can’t feel it, you’re working.  You never stop, you never stop working.”  God is always working, whether we feel like it or not.  This is where faith comes in.  We believe in what we cannot see. 

Psalm 84:5a and 7a say, “Blessed are those whose strength is in you…they go from strength to strength.”  This is a beautiful picture.  As God’s children, we will have valleys, but we don’t dwell there.  We are just passing through the low spots in life on our way to the next strength. 

Philippians 4:13 says, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”  Again, we will have difficult periods in life, but God strengthens us to face these hard times, even when we’re exhausted.  Even when we don’t feel it. 

2 Corinthians 12:9 says, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  When we are going through tough times, our faith is tested.  Do we really believe that his grace is sufficient for us?  Do we really trust that He will empower us to do what He has called us to do?  During these times, we must trust and keep reminding ourselves of these promises.  Like the father in Mark 9:24, we must pray and ask God to help our unbelief.  If you come to him earnestly, seeking Him, He won’t turn you away.  He knows when we’re going through affliction, and He wants to comfort us.  He wants to strengthen us, as we depend on Him. 

“God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places.”  Habakkuk 3:19

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