Peace and gratefulness

It’s so much easier to hear God’s word when I am silent.

It’s so much easier to be grateful when my lips are closed to complaint.

There is a link there.  The one between listening to God’s words and being grateful.  I’m not too good at being subtle, so I tried to make it obvious above there.  Just in case you might have missed it–because I miss this often in my daily chores.  Amid the chaos of washing one more set of sheets, returinng calls after a long weekend gone, running in to pay the lunch bill at school.  I miss the chance to be grateful when my mouth and mind are running a million miles a minute.

Perhaps you see the same in your life.  I have gone to bed pondering John 14:27 lately

“My peace I leave with you.  My peace I give you to.  Peace not as the world gives, but as I give.  So do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” 

Our world around us promises peace when the kids are gone, when the house is quiet, and when our chores are done.  I think Jesus meant something else entirely.  The peace amidst our chores; amidst the day-to-day grind that comes from our deep and intimate relationship with Him.  It’s the sigh of contentment at the sink when I realize how grateful I am for the hot water and warm house on this November morning of falling temperatures.

Being grateful reminds me that Jesus has left his peace with me in this world–during the day, with my kids, in the middle of a moment of discipline.

What are you grateful for today?

21.  A clean house when I come home from a long road trip

22.  The giving heart of a 9-year old beautiful girl

23.  A cup of hot chocolate

24.  Sharing the shower

25.  Friends who call to see how the morning is going

26.  Memorizing scripture

27.  Silly children’s songs that come up when the moment is stressed

28.  Expressing feelings; writing thoughts

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Grateful anyway

I have a great pastor.  He is truly gifted in the way he presents God’s word day after day, between Sundays, and especially on quiet Sunday mornings.  Sitting in the pew is a weekly gift.

His sermons, of late, have focused on the call of forgiveness in our lives.  Such an easy word to throw around, yet difficult to do.  In fact, the more he preached on it, the farther I realized I was from forgiving the most precious person on this earth to me–my husband. 

I have spent the last three weeks wondering what, exactly, is my problem here?  I know I want my relationship with my husband to be full, alive, and vibrant.  But, without basic forgiveness, we chip away at what can be.  And, all those little pieces we’ve chipped away somehow end up bound together in our hearts, forming balls of bitterness and anger.  Isn’t it funny how easy it is for these to surface in the hard moments?

I think God must see me in much the same way.  He must see the bitterness in my heart over issues that are almost trivial to Him.  The daily frustrations of picking up toys underfoot, cleaning up spilled drinks in the car, trying to get them all in bed after a day that ended much later than it should have.  My cry inside that THIS isn’t what mothering should be, or should feel like.  Being a good wife SHOULD be so much easier than this.

*sigh*

And this bring me back to forgiveness.  When we turn to our heavenly Father and ask for forgiveness, he restores our relationship completely through the healing act of His son, Jesus.  Our sins are removed from us “as far as the east is from the west.”  (Ps. 103:12)  My human mind cannot figure out how to remove transgressions committed against me in my life so completely.  And, perhaps I am not supposed to know.  Perhaps I, again, have to turn to God for His divine help.

One thing, surprisingly, has come to light more and more in the last few weeks.  If I focus on the gifts He has given me, the moments of grace, my mindset is so much more open to forgiveness; to allowing the daily moments to overshadow the stressful hours.  And, my list of 1,000 gifts continues for me . . .

11.  Little boy kisses

12.  Giant sunflowers nodding their heads to the end of the garden

13.  Afternoon calls just to say “I love you”

14.  Rays of sun coming through the church window straight onto my pew

15.  Warm arms in the middle of the night to cuddle into

16.  Cooler fall mornings hinting of warm sweaters and blankets to come

17.  Laughter between sisters

18.  Releasing anger over issues that cannot be controlled

19.  Finding just the right book for the moment

20.  Friends who call just to see how you’re doing

Forgiveness

I know I am married to a wonderful man whom I love very much.  I know I am loved in return.  And he’s an amazing father, great provider, all that we look for in our mate.

I also know I’ve not felt this alone in our marriage in some time.  I am hurting.   I suppose I could say this stems from the argument that was had in silence last night.  And, in reality, that certainly has something to do with it.  But it’s more than that.  It’s the pattern of anger that he’s been showing lately, and the inability I have to cope with it.  The peacemaker in me wants to smooth things over, and make it better.  But, ignoring the problem does not make it go away.

My biggest problem right now is communicating the problem.  How do you communicate when the other party simply walks away and says, “I’m not going to fight with you”?  Or when my hurt runs so deep I simply want to lash back at him to make sure he’s hurting just as badly?  How do you explain what you know is the problem when the symptoms of reality overshadow?

I should make clear that my husband is not abusive in any way, shape, or form.  He’s never hit or hurt a single one of us.  Simply put, his standards are so high, I feel as though I will never reach them.

Part of my aloneness comes from feeling that God isn’t really ready to answer my prayers right now.  How many years I have been praying for my husband’s ability to forgive, heal, and move forward?  Suffice it to say that his childhood was less than 5-star.

And so I know I see why he loses his temper easily.  I can see it coming a few weeks away when the stress of life puts our marriage in a pressure cooker.  He can’t see it though.  And, hence the communication issue.  This is how he saw life dealt with, and how he continues to deal with his own life during high stress times.

I’m rambling.  I know it can be hard to follow.  But I think we’ve all had these issues in our marriage; times when we have forgiven an issue so often that we feel entitled to NOT forgive this time.  Times when we believe our anger is justified and forgiveness may actually hinder honest communication about a hard issue.

These are the moments I want God to touch his heart–make my  husband see what’s happening without me having to say something.  And I want God to search my heart; help me to see where I have been wrong in the situation so I can be right again with my husband.

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”  Ps. 139:23-24

Perhaps you struggle with forgiveness today as well?  This is what God commands of us–to seek Him and allow him to search our hearts for our stubborness, our wrongs.  And allow Him to do His work with my husband without my help.

The apology is going to start with me.

Giving thanks every day

Ah, these mornings, when even a cup of coffee hasn’t helped pry my eyes open fully yet.  When my seasonal allergies have kept me up for many nights now, and the kids have started off the morning arguing.  These mornings–when I have yet to find my way to the shower or know what my direction for such a day is yet.

How do I glorify you today, Lord?  Please open my eyes to see the gift you have brought me in today . . .

And so I begin my list of 1000 gifts.  It’s all very new to me, but I’ve been reading Ann Voskamp’s list for 6 months running.  Don’t misunderstand me; I know I have gifts in my daily life.  I often whisper a thanks when my eyes are truly open. 

But sometimes it takes a little more looking to actually see them.  Being intentional even when the morning looks like this.  He leaves us gifts every day; seeing them is part of the framing of our outlook.

1.  A husband who works hard for our family

2.  A sunny morning to wake up to

3.  Safe, comfortable community

4.  Three beautiful daughters

5.  One rambunctious son

6.  Baby eggs from our new chickens

7.  Renewing a friendship I thought might be gone

8.  Hearing and loving God’s word from a gifted pastor

9.  Hot coffee

10.  Fresh vegetables to put up from the garden

Just a cup of coffee

Really all I wanted this week was a cup of coffee.  Amazingly enough, on the first week of school, the very first day actually, we ran out of coffee.  And, I simply didn’t have time to go to the store and get another bag until today.  My husband would make fun of me for this–the “all I want is a cup of coffee.”  And, I surprise myself saying it.

What I was really saying was the I wanted the atmosphere my cup of coffee brings me in the morning.  I wanted to sit down, digest the day, plan my steps, and have the soothing effect of warm liquid in my cup.  I wanted to absorb all the moments that come with the first week of school, all the volunteering, all the requirements, etc.  It just didn’t happen. 

I can feel the building of my anxiety as the week progressed; the slow spiral downward that was sucking me into believing every obsessive thought that managed to run through my head.  And I knew I was contributing to making it worse by not meeting my own need for peace, silence, and a cup of coffee.

It’s so easy to immerse ourselves in the crazy busy-ness that we push off meeting our own needs; in fact, it almost is a form of recognition in itself.  I get the awed comments from other moms, “How do you get it all done?” or “Where did you find time for all that?”, or my ultimate favorite, “You’re a better mom than me because you . .  .”

And in the meantime I’ve managed to ignore God’s call to my soul.  The cry from my heart to sit, spend time with Him in peace and silence.  I’ve replaced the truth of His Word, His image, with the lie of busy-ness.

“Be still and know that I am God.  I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”  Ps. 46:10

We cannot praise and lift Him up without first being still.  Digesting His presence, bringing Him glory at the beginning.  How much less my anxiety would be if I would bask in the stillness before immersing in the busy clamor of daily activities.

And I thought it was just a cup of coffee I was missing this week . . .

Memories I want to leave behind

I had a really long drive home last night.  And I got to do it all by myself.  I got to rest in blessing-full music from Fernando Ortega, and just process my day.

What kind of memories do you hope you leave for your children?  I hope that I leave a home where they remember fondly when “mom used to say (insert profound thought here)”.  I hope they catch me praying on a regular basis, and know that I trusted God in the little things as well as the big.  I hope that they saw real love between their father and I, and realized that marriage is beautiful.   I hope they fully understood the meaning of grace; that I wrapped it around them and showed them God’s grace daily.

And last night, I thought about the mom-threats I used 15 minutes after they got out of bed.  You know the tone of voice you use when the bickering has started already today?  That wasn’t very grace-full.  Their father is gone away right now on Navy duty, and so it was just me.  I had no profound thoughts, except a desperate wondering “how many hours until school starts?”.

Then Fernando Ortega reminded me, in a quiet song, that “Whatever is true, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is excellent and worthy of praise, think on these things.”  I did help my children get ready for Farmer’s market last night, and I did tell each of them I loved them at least a few times yesterday.  I made them breakfast and lunch, and did their laundry for the umpteenth time this summer. 

There’s so much more I wanted to do.  We get so caught up in the busy-ness of “today” that we run over the needs of us, our children, our family.  I cram the gaps in my day with more than I thought I could even handle, and then wonder when I can just sit and rest.  Leaving some of those gaps should be intentional–that’s where the memories are designed to be left.

Father, please help me to mother for You today.  Help me to show them who You are in my words and actions.  Give me Your words at the right moments to teach them about Your love.  And, give me the patience to extend grace even when the house is littered with toys and colored pencils, the counter is covered with dirty dishes, and all they want is me.

Where the anxiety starts

“Be anxious for nothing.  In everything, by prayer and petition, with thankgsgiving, present your requests to God . . .”

At a different stage of life, I would have heard this verse differently.  Today, I hear a whisper from God Himself.  Telling me to remember that He is in control, and is waiting for me to catch up.

I have been fighting a building anxiety for the past several months.  Over something so small, so silly, I’m almost embarrassed to admit it.  It’s all about my kids getting sick.  Not just sick.  Flu-stomach-vomiting-sick.  Every single time someone says “I don’t feel well,” or “My tummy hurts,” I have begun the next episode of anxiety. 

It starts with me thinking about whether they could really be sick.  Then I move onto when they’ll get sick.  From there, my thoughts take a steady progression all the way to how long we’ll all be going through this and what order the kids will get it in.  This can take anywhere from 5 minutes to 2 hours before it’s all I can think about.  And not just wondering about it.  I obsess.

I know better.  The logical side of me understands that kids simply feel icky sometimes because they ate too much, or they got too hot.  Whatever.  I’m a very logical person as far as all that goes.  It’s funny how your mind can think without your permission, though.

So, now I find myself turning to God with a plea for help each time these thoughts come.  And, I am surprised how often each day I have to do this; how often these thoughts come unbidden in the midst of our daily chaos.  It started with me begging Him to remove the thoughts entirely.  Hoping that I would be completely released from the tightening of my chest, the short breaths, and fearful waiting.  I know God’s ways are not mine.  I forgot the second part of this verse though–“by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” 

How do you thank Him for a challenge that seems so overwhelming?  I thank Him for His presence; for His call to me through the anxiety.  He uses the unexpected to get our attention.  So, while I was busy volunteering for yet another PTO event, and taking kids to the orthodontist, while I took control of our daily life, He quietly allowed anxiety to control me in a way I didn’t see coming. 

And my need for Him shouts itself through my soul each and every time I turn to Him.  My quieting of heart comes with the reminder to be thankful for what He has given, and petitioning Him for peace when my thoughts spiral out of control.

Philippians 4:6 is a powerful verse for me these days, and it is followed by an important promise:  Phil. 4:7 says, “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  He’s waiting for me every time.  The battle isn’t even close to over. 

I don’t know how long I’ll work with and through my anxiety issues.  I do know that Im’ turning to God more than I have in a long time, though.

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