Yes, I CAN!

After a wonderful family vacation on the east coast last summer, we reluctantly said our goodbyes. Still euphoric after a glorious three weeks of travel from Pacific islands to Atlantic seacoasts, life brought us back to reality.MauiObviously we love water. Ironically we returned home to about an inch and a half of it flooding our basement. While we were having fun in the sun on the beach, an eroded water heater slowly leaked out hundreds of gallons of water, leaving a stagnant mess. The water had wicked up the walls and furniture, leaving black marks and stale odors everywhere.

The first thing I noticed was an unusual waft of stale air when we entered our home. Next was a soggy shoe as my foot landed on the carpeting at the bottom of the stairs. Last was the splashing of my footsteps as I moved toward the center of the room. No longer could I deny that we had a problem. No longer could I ignore the fact that vacation was over and we had a long night of clean up ahead. How I wished that I could just walk away and leave the mess for someone else to clean up!

A few hours later we were exhausted and the glow of the much needed vacation had waned a bit. Little did we know that this event would start a year-long remodel of the basement space with foundation, electrical, cement and carpentry work. It would be expensive and disruptive.

However, the disruption has been a learning experience (ahem!) as well. We found out that we have been moved into another stage of our lives. We needed to downsize. We needed to get rid of so much stuff that has been a part of our lives for so long. We needed to move on and just get the remodeling done. We needed to… Aughhhhhhh!

OK, stop! I tell myself. Stop for the reality check!

If I am honest with myself, my human nature is very much like the stale water we found in our basement that afternoon. The water invaded at a time when I was relaxed and not ready to deal with a problem. In the same way, my human nature wants to lay back when I need to be more open to God's will. The water was stinky and smelly, a hotbed of mold and mildew. It wanted to sneak in while the real me was gone on vacation. It entered my life when I least welcomed it, and it hung around way too long. It created an unhealthy state.

Not only did my basement need a new interior design, so did my heart.

This is not a pleasant thought, and yet after diving into God's Word, I have the answer to any of the unwanted and hard things that confront us in this life. I was reminded of the secret to handling life, no matter what the stage.

I can do all things through him [Christ] who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13

When you are in the Lord, it really is that simple. Water in the basement? I can do all things. Husband taking a new job in another state? I can do all things. New baby in the house? I can do all things. Lost my job, my status, my health, my family member? It may not be easy; even so, in Christ I can do all things.

Skeptics label this attitude naive and unrealistic. The truth is, without the Lord, I cannot do anything well. Name something that has you cranked up and weary. There’s a reason it came into your life. Ask me why I say this and my answer will be the same, “I don’t know why this happened, but I do know that God has a holy purpose for your life and he will turn this [insert problem/trouble/issue/trial] into a good thing for you.”

My heart gets so centered on things of this life at times. It takes an event to wake me up. While my focus is looking down, the Lord permits something that gets me looking up. After a lifetime of "disruptions", I no longer question the Lord’s wisdom. He does all things well. He gives me strength to handle anything. Yes, I can!

A year later, not only do we have a beautifully remodeled basement nearly finished; I have had an opportunity to get a different perspective on what is important. It is not about the exterior design around me. It is about the interior design of my heart’s response while I am in the moment.

How about you? What redesign opportunities have been sent your way lately?

Dearest Savior, thank you for times of relaxing and times to seek your will. Forgive the times when I see life's trials as expensive and disruptive instead of opportunities to see your strength at work in me. Guard my heart and keep it focused on you. In your precious name, Amen.

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You Live, You Learn

Not quite a month ago my (then) 8 month old caught an especially unfriendly virus. It was so unfriendly that when I brought the poor guy into the emergency room, the doctor told me he was much worse than most cases of dehydration that she sees. After nursing and Pedialyte, an anti-nausea tablet prescription, 8 unsuccessful IV pokes,  and too many hours in what should have been less ER visits, we were home to just stick it out. MilesSick

I felt terrible. My instincts were broken.  I continually kept making the wrong call and my little man was the one suffering the consequences. I doubted every aspect of my abilities as a parent. I regretted worrying that I would be that over-protective mom who brings their kid into the hospital for every sneeze or sniffle. I decided that any hope to become an adoptive or foster parent in the future would be selfish and unfair to just about any child. I found a thousand reasons to blame myself for every step of his illness. After a couple days he got better. After a couple more days I decided I maybe didn't actually deserve to have my children taken from me by Social Services.

Last week he got sick again. It started the same way. Same symptoms. Same progression.

Not everything, though, was the same. I was better equipped because of my experience. I knew what was coming, what to watch for, and how to best prevent the worst of it. I also knew he would get through it just like he had the last time.

I called my Pediatrician just to confirm what I knew, and she told me to bring him into the emergency room anyway. I didn't want to because I knew exactly what they'd tell me. I knew he wasn't as bad, and I knew what to watch for. My husband asked that I just bring him in anyway to make sure, so I did.

When we finally saw the doctor it was the same one as our final visit just a few weeks prior. He told me everything I knew he would. He told me I was right about what to watch for, steps at prevention, the severity of his dehydration, and so on. He said, "You know the drill".

It was amazing to me how drastically different I felt the second time around. I was so much better equipped because of my experience.

 

Romans 5:3-5

Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

 

This section in Romans hit me pretty hard while my son was recovering the second time around.

Our whole lives are going to be one obstacle after another. In varying degrees of severity, dressed up as physical, emotional, or spiritual pain, the suffering is never going to stop. Because of sin we are destined to battle an endless stream of life's hardships in this world.

John 16:33
I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.

 

The war is won. You are not left to fight alone. Yes, you will struggle in this life. What an amazing blessing, then, to know that the glory that will be revealed in you in heaven!

Each obstacle we faces equips us. We rejoice in our sufferings because it helps us grow closer to Christ, see our need for him, and produces perseverance and character.

 

James 1:2-4

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

 

A silly little virus does not seem much in the scheme of what life can throw our way, but God certainly worked in my heart and grew me as a mother and a child of Him.

Take joy in knowing that each battle better equips you for the next. And when the battles are through, the victory feast will be glorious.

 

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Keep Running

Being a Christian is hard.

Oh, it’s not the salvation from our sins part of it. See, Jesus did all the heavy lifting when it comes to our salvation, so that part is surprisingly easy. “If you confess with your mouth and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” - Romans 10:9

No, I’m talking about the whole part after salvation, you know, the:  “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.” - Luke 9:23-24

When you start living your life according to God and the truths found in the Bible, life starts to feel a little different. Rather than sitting in an inner tube and floating down the river, you become one of the few crazy people swimming with all your might against the current. It’s tough. It’s challenging. It’s tiring, and it can be very discouraging when you feel like you are swimming with all your might and yet not making any progress.

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Somedays I wonder if Justin and I are crazy?! Why have we taken on this life we live? Why are our nights filled with ACTS (our youth group) planning? Why did we take on a third child so close in age to our daughter? Why do I choose to stay home with my kids when half the day seems like whining and I find myself repeatedly picking up the same toys I just put away an hour ago?

What I've discovered is the more we conform our lives to God’s Word, the more often I find myself on my knees in complete exhaustion crying out to God for renewal and strength. Living my life with abandon for God is hard. The more I have stepped out in faith and picked up that cross, the more visible it is that I can truly accomplish nothing without him. These days, I need His strength and His Word DAILY, and many times, even hourly.

Satan is good at sneaking selfish thoughts into my head: “Life could be so cushy, so easy, so comfortable if you just stopped doing _____, if you just gave up on _______, if you just allowed some time for yourself, if you just kept some money for _________."

We need to defeat those lies with the truth of the Bible. We don’t belong in this world and our goal isn’t to live as comfortably as we can here. We are called to service, for His Kingdom, for His Glory, for the eternity that awaits us in our true home!

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.” - John 15:18-19

Jesus gave up everything for us.

He persevered under every trial because He knew what He would accomplish was far greater than the pain of what He had to suffer.

He promises the same for us today. No matter what we give up, sacrifice, or lose; no matter what pain, suffering or burden we take on, it cannot compare to the glory that awaits us when we see Jesus face to face. We actually don’t lose at all! I love this quote by Jim Elliot:

"He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose." - Jim Elliot

(Jim Elliot was one of five missionaries killed while participating in Operation Auca, an attempt to evangelize the Huaorani people of Ecuador. To watch his story check out End of the Spear)

In Jesus, no matter what happens, even in death, there is no loss, there is only gain. Gain here in this life, and also in the life to come. So press into him. He knows what it is like to suffer, to be tired, to be fighting; to be alone. He will lift you, strengthen you and provide you with everything you need to persevere.

I don’t know what battle you are fighting, what huge challenge you face, what mission He has called you to, but I do know that it is not too big for God. So don’t let yourself get caught up in discouragement and exhaustion today. Go to Him, pray that He gives you strength to trust His promises; that He gives you the eyes to see that we don’t persevere in vain.

And finally, take heart, you are not the only crazy person swimming up the river! There are countless numbers of us across the world fighting the same battle as you! Be encouraged and keep running!

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus,the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. - Hebrews 12:1-3