Content in Affliction

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Uncertainty unfortunately comes with the territory of being a widow, especially if you lost your husband suddenly like I did. In a moment, life goes from being certain and planned and normal to leaving a whole lot of questions in your future. Besides the questions, you deal with having to take on the responsibilities your husband once had. You now have to run all the errands and take the kids to all their activities. You have to handle the finances and the car maintenance. You also find that your children do not behave nearly as well as they did when your husband was alive.

The uncertainty in your future can be crushing and overwhelming. How will you make it without your spouse? How will your kids turn out with only you to raise them? How will you make it financially? Will you need to get a job/switch jobs? Will you have to move? Will you be alone the rest of your life? There is so much uncertainty looming in the future, and it’s hard to not have a restless soul in the midst of this difficult season. These questions often produce doubts about God and his plans for you. There are many stories in scripture of God’s children having to live with uncertainty. I want to share two of them with you.

First of all, there is the story of Esther. It took her years of being queen to realize the purpose God had in store for her when he made her queen. After Haman made his decree for the annihilation of the Jews, Esther went before the king and Haman was killed. Then, Mordecai had to issue a decree allowing the Jews to defend themselves. For months, God’s people lived with the weight of certain murder and plunder on their shoulders. In the end, it was they were who victorious, but it took a long time for that to happen.

The next story that comes to mind is of Paul in prison. By some estimates, he spent about 25% of his life after conversion in prison. I’ve been studying the book of Philippians, and Paul speaks numerous times of rejoicing. He was in Roman imprisonment (likely house arrest) at the time he wrote these words to the church in Philippi. He also wrote to them of being content, even though he didn’t know if he would live or die. At the time, he wasn’t sure if he would be executed or released from prison. Eventually, he would be released from prison, only to be rearrested later and subsequently executed. Don’t miss this: Paul wrote frequently of rejoicing even though his future was terribly uncertain. How did he rejoice? Because he counted “everything as loss compared to the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus”. (Phil. 3:8) By his words in the first chapter, we know that he could see past his present suffering to the greater purpose of his imprisonment – that the imperial guard and Caesar’s own household were hearing the gospel because of his imprisonment.

Sweet friend, you may not be able to see the purpose of your suffering, but you can be content even in the midst of great uncertainty in your future because of the cross of Christ. Since he loved us enough to die for us, we know that he is working for our good, even when life hurts. Like the Israelites, we too can find “grace in the wilderness.” (Jeremiah 31:2)

In the midst of our affliction, let this be our prayer. Lord, allow my pain and my children’s pain to mold us into the image of your Son so that we may be more like Him. Father, help us to trust you even when we don’t know how things will turn out, so that we may be a light to others in a dark world. May you be ever glorified in our life, no matter what happens. Amen.

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When the World is Falling Apart

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I haven’t said much about all of the stuff going on in our world today because, quite honestly, I have enough drama going on in my daily life without getting involved in all of these issues. However, I wanted to offer you some encouragement today.

This has been a difficult time. Having everything shut down and not knowing if we were fixing to face another bubonic plague was difficult. Finding toilet paper for the kids was difficult. Realizing this was not another plague but still having to be cooped up with the kids was difficult. Losing my sanity became a much bigger concern for me than getting corona. Add to this the rising cost of groceries, having to educate your children, having to entertain your children because you can’t go anywhere, and having to cook 15 meals a day for your kids…it was overwhelming. It may have made you miss your husband who would’ve been your rock during such a time. Some of you may have lost your income. Some of you may have still had to work but struggled to figure out what to do with your kids. It’s been a difficult time and a lonely time, especially for single moms.

Add to this all of the upheaval going on in our country today. Some of you may live in places where the danger from riots is very close to home. Others may simply be heartbroken watching these events unfold in the news. Regardless, it can make you feel lonely and isolated. Even though churches have opened back up, our’s has scaled back activities considerably, and all children’s and youth activities are still suspended. It’s hard.

So how do you keep on going when the world around you is falling apart? By looking to the Lord who is still on the throne. He’s still in control, even though the world is still broken. We can claim the words of Habbakuk 3 – “though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places.” (v. 17-19)

We have to get to a place with God where we trust his plan, even when our circumstances are uncertain or lacking. I love that these verses say that God will make me tread on “my high places.” This is a gradual thing. He gradually helps us climb up the mountain, step by step. He gradually, through trials and tears, modifies our feet so that we can tread on our high places. Note that our high places are not the same as everyone else’s. Don’t be looking to someone else’s mountaintop. You’re liable to slip and fall off your cliff. Dear friend, just focus on your mountain and your journey. Trust that God will make your path straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6) He will. Even during these crazy, chaotic, and uncertain times.

 

P.S. Here’s a link to a book that’s sweet and encouraging.

How Do I Trust?

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Psalm 23 tells us that God is with us even when we walk through the valley of the shadow of death. Shadow of death can also be translated as “deep darkness”. Not everyone has known this kind of darkness, but for those who have, we understand it all too well. We can be comforted by the fact that Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, suffered alone so we never will have to. He willingly allowed himself to take on the sins of mankind, severing him from his eternal Father temporarily, so that we never have to experience that same aloneness.

It sure may feel like you’re alone. These days, more than ever, you may feel alone, but we have to constantly remind ourselves of God’s promises that he will never leave us or forsake us. Joshua 1:9. Isaiah 43:5. Over and over again in Scripture, we’re reminded that he is with us. Sometimes, we must simply preach truth to our hurting hearts.

Psalm 139 tells us that “even the darkness is not dark to you.” (v. 12) Here lies our hope. God will be with us even in deep darkness, but the darkness is not dark to him. Why does the darkness feel so dark to us but not to Him? 1) Because he’s an infinite, all-knowing, all-seeing God, and 2) Because he knows He’s doing something in the darkness. It is accomplishing something for us.

In the story of Joseph, we’re reminded that God uses even evil for our good. While darkness is terrible and painful at the time, God uses it to make us more like him. He uses the periods of deep darkness in our lives to teach us to rely more fully on him. Like Paul learned, the thorns in our life teach us that his grace is indeed sufficient for whatever trials we bear in this world.

We’re told over and over to trust him. Proverbs 3:5-6. Psalm 37:3. Psalm 62. Isaiah 50:10. Why are we told to trust him so many times in Scripture? Because it’s difficult. It requires faith. We are reminded that we must trust in what we cannot see, and that makes no sense. Even when we hurt, we must trust that God is still there, He still loves us, and He is still working, even when we can’t see it. It is during these times that we must trust him the most, and that is what he desires because it builds our faith. James 1 reminds us that trials are what develop our character because they force us to persevere. We would be severely lacking in character and faith if we never encountered trials. It is these times of darkness when our faith truly develops. Why? Because it’s not hard to trust him when things are good.

Keep trusting. Keep reminding yourself that God is doing something. Remember that suffering is not your final destination. “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” (Romans 15:13) How do we find joy and peace in darkness? In believing, and with the help of the Holy Spirit.

How to Preserve Your Sanity

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These are some crazy times. I never thought I’d live to see the government shut down private businesses, schools, museums, etc. But yet here we are. You may be working from home. Your kids are now home. How do you manage this with your sanity intact? Here’s some ideas. I would love to hear ideas from you too!

When managing school for your kids, give one child independent work to do while you work one-on-one with another kid. You can also work with one kid while the others are on break. When the child you’re working with needs a break, call another kid to the table to do their work. (And make sure, when you feel your anxiety and stress rising to take a break for yourself too!)

Be creative with meals since you’re not going to find everything you need at the grocery store. Remember, kids don’t mind pancakes for dinner. I saw a meme online that said this week was like an episode from Chopped. Buying what you can and then figuring out what you can make with it. Thank goodness for online recipes! Luckily, stores don’t seem to be out of fruits and veggies, so you can feed plenty of those to your kids.

Get them off of screens occasionally. I’m having mandatory read-aloud time. You can read picture books to your littles, and you can read classic literature as well. (Like Charlotte’s Web or Little House on the Prairie, for example) This is also a great time to read Christian biographies to your kids. I’m reading them God’s Smuggler, the true story of Brother Andrew. You can also find YouTube videos of authors reading their own books aloud for kids. I haven’t investigated it yet, but I saw that Audible has also made some titles available for free.

Play board games with your kids.  For littles, we love Memory or Charades.  For the family, we enjoy Clue, Sushi Go, and Cranium.

Let your kids do crafts. You don’t have to get on Pinterest and find all the perfect activities. Just get some art supplies from the dollar store or Target and let them have at it. Kids don’t need instructions to be creative.

Do Bible study daily with your kids. Not Consumed is doing a free video series this week on loving your siblings, complete with homework. It’s a timely study since siblings find themselves cooped up together. It’s bound to lead to some disagreements. You can also pick a book of the Bible and read through it together. If you have older kids, encourage (or make) them to journal after each reading. The SOAP method is great for this. Littles can even journal by drawing pictures. Practice Scripture memory too.

Drink coffee. If necessary, lots of it.

My kids’ favorite hobby has become eating. I swear there is always at least one kid eating in my house. Quit buying them snacks. It’s a great way to save money. They kept sneaking crackers and chips, so I quit buying them. I bought them fruit this week and made Chex Mix. That’s their only options.

There’s more housework to do because everyone’s home. Make the kids pitch in. It’s a great time to teach kids additional chores since there’s additional housework to do.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed and stressed, remember that this will pass. None of this is a surprise to our Lord. We can still rest in Him. If you have any extra time, use it to learn something new or read a book or watch a new TV show. I’ve had a couple books on the shelf for a long time that I haven’t had the time to read. I still haven’t had time to read them, but I may get to read part of at least one this week. It’s a goal.

Get outdoors with your kids if it’s not raining. It quit for awhile yesterday, so I got out with my daughter and we went jogging/walking for 25 minutes. It was a great way to get some exercise and spend time together. I sent my 10-year-old to run around the block, and he took his 4-year-old brother with him. My older two boys went out in the backyard and threw the baseball back and forth for a few minutes. They used their 4-year-old brother to retrieve their baseballs. They all got some time together and energy out.

Utilize this time with your kids. Before we know it, they will be grown. Maybe we could thank God we get a little extra time with them right now. Hang in there, friends. We can do this.

In Uncertain Times

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We are living in uncertain, fearful times without precedent. It’s like the world has gone mad. When asked by a friend what I thought about it all, I told her it didn’t bother me. It didn’t phase me. Why? I’ve had a crash course in uncertainty and chaos for almost three years. When you lose the person closest to you in this world suddenly, your whole future becomes uncertain. Unfortunately, those questions don’t get worked out quickly. It feels a lot like the Israelites wandering aimlessly in the desert, wondering when they will be able to enter the Promised Land. So what do we do in these times?

We remember what God promised the Israelites – he would be with them and he would never forsake them. He wanted them to understand this promise so much that he sent his Son – Emmanuel, God with us. Before Christ returned to the Father, he promised his disciples the same thing. He would be with them always, to the very end of the age. In the midst of uncertain, fearful times, God does not promise us an easy road or one without pain and loss. What does He offer us? Himself. His very presence. He traveled with the Israelites – a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. For those of us who love Christ, He dwells with us as well – inside us through His spirit.

This is what we must remember and cling to. We will have difficulty. We will struggle. We will lose, but He is always with us, and He will never, ever leave us. Satan would have us concentrate on the thorns. He wants us to be so fearful that we forget to trust. He wants us to fear and tremble and forget that the end of the story’s already been written. God wins. No matter what happens, no matter what or who we lose in this world – God wins, and He’s making all things new. No matter what pain we face today, because of our faith in Christ, we will one day be in eternity where there is no more loss or uncertainty or pain. And that’s a promise we can cling to in uncertain, chaotic times.

What I Learned From a Tree

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This winter has been particularly tough. After months of my oldest playing basketball, my second also started playing. It was crazy busy. Right smack in the middle of both of them playing, I got sick. One illness morphed into another and then antibiotics didn’t work. I ended up with still hanging on to a sinus infection and developing pneumonia. I could hardly get out of bed, but you know how this goes. Moms don’t get sick days, especially single moms. I still had to do laundry, run kids to practices, teach kids, cook, etc. It was so hard.

When we get stuck in the winters of our life while the people around us are in spring or summer, it can be very difficult and overwhelming. We get discouraged. We start questioning ourselves. We start questioning God. We wonder if he sees us, if he cares. There was a woman in the Old Testament who wondered the very same thing. She ended up, through no choice of her own, pregnant with Abraham’s son. However, she was mistreated so she fled. She ended up alone and in the middle of the wilderness. In the midst of her despair, an angel appeared to her and promised to multiply her offspring. Notice he didn’t promise to relieve her suffering, but he did promise that the Lord would see her through. Hagar called God “a God who sees me.” When we feel all alone and in the desert of life, God is a God of seeing. He is not oblivious to our suffering. A.W. Tozer said, “It is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly until He has hurt him deeply.” Our suffering achieves something in our hearts and lives that the springs and summers of life simply can’t.

When we moved into our house a couple of years ago, I noticed there was poison ivy growing around our tree. I pulled it up and sprayed the area with Roundup because I didn’t want my kids getting into poison ivy. There was something I did not consider though: the tree. The poison ivy came back despite the Roundup, but my poor tree started shedding its leaves in the middle of spring. I learned a valuable lesson. The next spring, a few leaves sprouted and that was it. My tree was so sad. In fact, I had a man stop by my house and give me a quote on uprooting it because it was “obviously dead.” I politely declined. I had other things to worry about besides the tree. However, this week, as I was pulling in my driveway, my daughter cried out, “Look, Mom. Look at the tree!” It was budding with beautiful, white blossoms.

I feel like God was speaking directly to my heart. Sometimes, we write off things in this world as dead, but they really just need time to heal. When trees are in winter, they don’t feel ashamed because they have no leaves. They know that spring is coming, and they just do what God made them to do. In the same way, when we are going through the winters of our life, we need to stop comparing ourselves to others who are in spring and summer (ie. having an easier time), and instead, just keep doing what God wants us to do. We trust him to bring about a spring in our lives. He will eventually; He just doesn’t always act on our timetable. It may take much, much longer than we want, but he will work on our behalf. Heartache and loss never get the final say in our lives. They’re not the end of our story. Because of Christ’s work on the cross, we know that a day is coming when all our suffering will be removed. Until then, we keep on trusting, keep on hoping.

“Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act.” Psalm 37:5

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Dear Tired Mama…

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I’ve had a rough winter. It has rained more here in Texas this winter than I ever remember it raining. There’s also two things you need to know about me: 1) I hate the rain. 2) I hate the cold. Needless to say, it’s been a long winter. As a mom, it’s tough when it rains. You have to get out in the rain to drop off and pick up kids from all sorts of activities, and you also have to get all of your littles out in the rain. Plus, they can’t go outside and get any energy out, so my house has been a mess full of forts, wrestling matches, and just general dumping out of toys everywhere.

I was running on fumes already with two of my boys playing basketball, and then I got sick. I have now had a cough and congestion for three straight weeks. Just as I was beginning to feel better, one of the kids got sick. Then, my little man got the flu. I am reminded just how high maintenance he can be. The nights are long. He’ll fuss and want a sip of juice. Then he’ll change his mind and want milk. Then he’ll want me to pat his belly. Ya’ll, I can’t make this stuff up. I feel like a zombie. I probably look like one too. My oldest gave me a hard time yesterday because I almost passed our house when I was bringing him home from baseball practice. I told him it had been a long day. What I really thought was, it’s been a long month. A long winter. A long couple years without his dad. Without help coming in the door at 5:30. Or ever. It’s been a long few years trying to balance all of my typical duties like dishes, laundry, homeschooling, and meal planning plus all of the things he took care of like finances, running boys to practices, and generally running the family. Can you relate?

Do you ever get tired of being tired? I have good news for you. Spring is coming. Today is the second straight day we’ve had sun here in Texas. Today, we will be going to our first baseball game, compliments of my oldest son. I’m still tired, but there’s hope. Maybe you need to hear that too. Maybe you can’t remember the last time you didn’t feel exhausted. The last time you had a break. God wants you to know that his mercies are new every morning. It may have been a long winter, but spring is coming. I can’t tell you when your life will get easier, but I want you to know that God will not abandon you in this season he’s placed you in. Someday, you will be able to look back and see how far God has brought you. Your life doesn’t look like you anticipated, but whose does? Everyone has struggles, your’s are just different than you expected.

What do you do in the meantime? How do you keep going when you’re exhausted? Concentrate on the important things, and let the other stuff go. Find ways, even little ones, to simplify your days. Give yourself grace and space to breathe. It’s OK to occasionally take a break. You can’t keep going nonstop; you must take care of yourself so that your train doesn’t come screeching to a halt. When time is at a minimum, it’s easy to neglect yourself. Believe me, I’ve skipped plenty of meals to save time. I end up tired, cranky, and not feeling well. Believe it or not, coffee is not a meal. I know. I’ve tried that too.

Focus on your accomplishments. It’s usually not good to toot our own horn, but as moms, I think we focus on our failures all too often. Make a list of things you’ve accomplished – even the seemingly insignificant ones. Have your kids bathed in the last week? Congratulations. Have you bathed in the last week? Good job. Do you feed your kids? Keep up the good work. Celebrate all of your accomplishments.

Take a moment to look around you. It’s easy to see only the negative when you look around, but if you take some time, I’m sure you’ll find plenty of things to be grateful for too. If they’re like mine, your kids probably like to complain and whine. They may have trouble getting along sometimes. However, when push comes to shove, my kids can be pretty great. On one of the days when I felt my worst, my ten-year-old, who usually tries his hardest to get out of work, actually offered to do the dishes for me. On another day, when I wasn’t feeling that great, and little guy’s fever came up crazy high despite Motrin, I had to cut out of dinner prep to take him to an urgent care clinic. My oldest got off of Fortnite without even complaining and finished up dinner. When I returned home two hours later, with a sickly, flu-ridden toddler, my oldest had cleaned the entire kitchen, done the dishes, and left dinner on the stove for me. Our kids can be pretty great when they want to be.

When you’re struggling with exhaustion, don’t allow Satan to steal your hope. The dark days of winter can sometimes leave us floundering to find the light at the end of the tunnel, but it’s hope that keeps our souls tethered to the Lord. It’s hope that gives us the strength we need to keep going, to keep trusting. Don’t give up, sweet friend. Spring is coming.

 

Side note: Sometimes, you just need a good laugh. Ask your kids to do a dance or put on a skit for you. If that fails, watch stupid videos on Facebook. I found one the other day of a mom who was trying her hardest to recreate supermodel commercials. I laughed so hard I cried.

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Clarity and Focus for the New Year

“I will open rivers on the bare heights, and fountains in the midst of valleys. I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water.” Isaiah 41:18

It takes a very long time after you’ve lost your other half to get any sort of clarity about your situation. For so long, you’re just in pure survival mode. The way of life you had and the way you looked at life…it’s all stolen from you the moment your spouse dies. You have to evaluate everything because everything’s changed. In the middle of the dark valley, we can’t expect to have clarity. We wander around, trying to get out of the valley. Sometimes, we think we’re making progress only to find out we’re just stumbling in circles. Eventually, we do make it out of the valley, but we’re beaten, broken, and bruised from our journey. Why do I say this? To let you know that even once you’ve survived the loss of your heart, you will still hurt. Always. An actress in a recent TV show I watched said, “My dad always said that loss is the price you pay for love.” She didn’t know if the pain was worth it. It’s nice to know that there’s been multiple TV shows made about the plight of a young widow. There’s something sad yet humorous about the fact that your life has been made into multiple TV shows.

I used to be so angry with Trevor. I would yell at him, “I hope you’re enjoying sitting by the river of life while I’m dealing with your wayward, stubborn children down here!” I would also yell things like this at God and ask him to pass the message along to him. It seems a little ridiculous, a little disrespectful, but that’s the way I’ve felt at times, especially when my boys are displaying Trevor’s genes. It doesn’t seem fair that I should have to deal with his personality quirks. However, with time comes clarity. I can see a different perspective sometimes. When I see our son land a three-point shot in basketball or see our daughter dance so gracefully or watch my two youngest snuggling or hear our son recite a whole Bible passage from memory…at these times I am grateful. I feel sorry for Trevor because I get to see these things, and he doesn’t. I realize then that I am deeply blessed because he never got the opportunity to see these things. I will see the people our children become…and he won’t. There are still days I get angry; this life is exhausting and frustrating, but I can also clearly see now that I am also blessed.

Life is still really hard. However, I now have the clarity to look back and see that God has never left us. While others have let us down and left us on our own, God never has. He has carried us through the valley, and he will continue to carry us. Losing Trevor has also given me clarity on the things in life that are truly important and the things that aren’t. You can’t have your life turned upside down without gaining a completely new perspective.

In Hebrews, God tells us that hope is an anchor for our soul. It keeps us from drifting off-course. It keeps us grounded in the storms. With clarity, we gain hope because we can see what God has done for us and will continue to do for us. Cling to this hope. For this new year, hold fast to hope. Let it be the focus of your year.

There are going to be days that are rough. It’s hard to spend your days chauffeuring kids around to activities and cooking and cleaning and tucking in kids and waking them up and waking them up again and tucking them in again. It never ends. And children are not grateful people; they are selfish little creatures. After you’ve stood up and cooked a healthy meal for them, instead of thanking you, they will most likely complain. Instead of being grateful you drug your tired self to another practice, they will be upset because they weren’t there early enough to play with their friends before practice started. Just know that God sees everything you do. It’s not without purpose. God sees, and He knows. He will give you the strength you need to keep going.

This year, worry less. Give yourself grace. Some days, instead of cleaning or making a gourmet meal, you just need to snuggle with your kids and watch a movie. Allow yourself to have these moments. They are what keep you going. Do things that refresh your soul. Find joy in the little things and rest in the promises of God.

Lane and Bo fishing

Cana and Bo with masks

Cana and me at Nutcracker

Looking Forward…and Looking Back

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Starting a new decade makes me think of all kinds of things. This year will mark twenty years since I graduated from high school. (This makes me feel really old!) It makes me think of all that can happen in the timespan of a decade.

I started this past decade with moving to a rural town after a lifetime of being a city girl. I had two precious boys after years of trying to have a second child. The decade brought two more kids, a move abroad to the mission field, and a move back to Texas. In the time span of ten years, I went from being a full-time working mom to being a stay-at-home homeschool widow. In 2017, my life fell apart. In an instant, all of my plans, hopes, and dreams crashed to the ground. Quite literally.

Over the past two plus years, I’ve had to fight to pick up the pieces of my life and carry on. I had to learn to not only be on my own for the first time ever, but to be alone while caring for four children on my own. I’ve learned the true meaning of exhaustion and the true feeling of loneliness. I now know what it means to live through hell. I’ve been there.

I’ve also learned I’m a lot stronger than I knew, not because of me but because the God I serve gives me strength. I’ve come to a deeper understanding of the truths of God. Now, I don’t just read the words of the psalmist David, I’ve experienced them. Scripture resonates with my soul like never before. My faith has kept me going, even when I was falling apart.

I’m starting a new decade, and I can see hope in our future. I also know there will still be hard days, and that’s Ok. There will always be hard days, but I will do what I do on the good days: just live them. I will do my best, and it won’t always be enough, but that’s OK too.

God has sent me blessings this past decade where I least expected to find them. He has overwhelmed me with difficulty and tragedy time and time again. It’s easy to ask why. It’s natural to ask why. However, we know why. Scripture tells us why: to make us more like him.

Losing the most important person in my world gives me a whole new perspective on life. It permeates my views on things and the way I live my life. I will never be the same. It taught me the things that really matter and the things that don’t. It taught me some important lessons about life and people. Hope and trust. Joy and sorrow.

I feel like I’ve aged 50 years in the last ten, but then again, I’ve gone through more changes in a decade than some people experience in a lifetime. I’ve learned how to live even when I feel like I’m dying inside. I’ve learned that living means trusting – trusting that God has a plan even for great pain. It means trusting him in deep darkness that he will provide a light and a way out. Eventually.

I’ve seen that the saying is true: the days are long, but the years are short. I’m watching my children grow up before my eyes. It happens so fast. One minute they’re in diapers, and the next, they’re teenagers. We must make the most of our days. We don’t know how many we have left. We have such a limited time with these precious little people that God has blessed us with. We must pour into them. Love them. Shower them with grace. Teach them right and wrong. Pour into them the word of God. Teach them. Remind them. Train them. We must find ways to cherish these days, even the long and exhausting ones.

We don’t know what the next decade holds. It may be full of joy or unspeakable pain. Either way, we know that our God will be with us, and He has a plan for our life. He has a plan for the good and the bad. We have the promise that he works all things for our good, and that’s a promise that can carry us through the next decade…and the rest of our lives.

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Don’t Miss Out on the Mystery of Christmas

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I have been so busy this last month. Christmas parties, decorating for Christmas, wrapping presents, keeping kids out of the presents, making gingerbread houses, etc. Sometimes we get so busy that we miss out on the true mystery enfolded into Christmas.

Christmas is about both joy and suffering. The joy of a Savior born, coupled with the knowledge that this Savior was born to die and bear the price of our sins. The Creator of the universe, willingly made human, to experience all the sorrows of a human life so he would be the perfect high priest and mediator for us.

Christ wasn’t born in a palace. Angels didn’t announce his birth to religious leaders or royalty. He came to the lowly, the humble, the unsuspecting. This is the mystery of Christmas.

God whispers to those forgotten by this world that he sees them. He uses those that feel they’re insignificant to turn the world upside down. If you feel like you’re just going through the motions this season, take heart. God sees you. He knows all you do for those you love. He knows when you’re weary or you feel like what you’re doing doesn’t matter. Let me remind you that what you’re doing with your precious little ones, day in and day out, has eternal significance.

Christmas is about redemption and restoration. If you’re having a hard time this Christmas, remember that God heals the broken and restores those who have lost big.

Mary may have felt alone when she gave birth to her first child far from home. She may have felt lonely when she and Joseph had to flee to Egypt, a foreign land with a foreign culture and religion, far from what she had always known. But guess what? God was always with her. Both her heavenly father and in the very tangible presence of her son Jesus. God is with you too. This is how we can celebrate at Christmas, no matter our circumstances. We can always have hope because we have a Savior who came at Christmas to give us just that – hope. If you feel defeated, remember that he’s already defeated sin and death. Through him, we’ve already won. Let the promises of God found in His word sink into your heart this Christmas (and everyday.) You are loved, and you are never ever alone.

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