When the load feels heavy

There are seasons in life that feel carefree. Then there are others where I feel so weighted down.

I tend to be a person who carries loads that are not mine to carry, whether they belong to someone else or whether they are to be carried by my Savior. Either way, the weight of the world can rest on my shoulders and it makes me so very tired.

I have had a couple of sleepless nights. The kind where I can’t think of a specific worry, but find myself paging through a list of general worries that I can do nothing about (except lose sleep over). I pray, I try to release them, but often it’s hard for me to do. With each sleepless night, I face the following day with heavier shoulders. Today is one of those days.

Today is my youngest’s golden birthday. She is growing up quickly and every day I lose a bit of the “little girl” things–hand holding, cuddles, funny words and phrases. I want to celebrate her and cherish this moment! I’m doing my best, but my burdens feel extra heavy today.

We are in the midst of many changes, transitions, and unknowns. Both the hubby and I are wrapping up businesses that we have been running for many years. Our house is for sale and a big move is on the horizon. We are not in control of the timeline. We are not able to walk away from our obligations here yet. We are still in the phase of tying up lose ends and there is no firm date on when this phase will be done. We deliberate over every single decision we make for ourselves and our kids. How long will we be here? Do we commit to this? We have felt callings that seem to be done. We are feeling called to something new that is unknown. It’s scary, it’s exciting, it’s exhausting.

Feeling stretched in every direction, carefree is the last thing I have felt for awhile. We have felt called to this very place, this very moment, but as we sit in it, my faith begins to waver. I hear things that people say and start to claim them as my truth. “Maybe your house isn’t selling yet because God is closing a door on your move.” This isn’t what we’ve felt God saying to us and yet I’m starting to ask if it’s true. I dare not even speak the other things people have casually said that I have secretly wondered about as truth, though I really, truly believe deep down that they are not. Like Job’s friends, people around us often have good intentions but which are not true to God’s will in our lives.

Am I going through something harder than what others face? Absolutely not. I am thankful every day for life, for health, for stability, for a roof over my head and food on my table. I do not take these things for granted. I am not in the desperate situation that Job found himself in when he cried out to God, asking Him what the heck was going on. And yet, I wonder. I waver. I worry. Job’s words to the Lord reminded me of my place. Job 42:2:

I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted. You asked, “Who is this that obscures my plan without knowledge?” Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.

Today I am going to let myself sit still in this place of tiredness, both physical, mental, and spiritual. I want to rest fully in God and let Jesus carry the burdens that I am just too worn out to carry today. I want to embrace today and feel carefree in the place I am.

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Whisper of Hope, Expecting Great Things

In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning, I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.

Psalm 5:3

For any parent who has raised a strong-willed child (look to my parents and my in-laws), there are days where the battle feels relentless and hopeless. Add to a strong-will things like high sensitivity, intelligence, a low tolerance for injustice, and some big emotions that occasionally precede big reactions (if you’re still reading and can relate, hang in there…), then your battles feel exhausting, frightening, and completely out of control. As the parent who homeschools our children and is primarily the one with them, these battles have left me defeated, scared, lying on the floor in a hallway or in a bathroom, too spent to even weep. Fortunately, my husband has invested a good portion of his own sanity into similar battles with our kids and understands when I plead for permission to give up (yet doesn’t let me).

Any parent who has really spent a significant time in a constant power struggle with a child will know that at some point your mind starts to wonder about the future. It is easy, so easy, for fear to seep in. We start to wonder what their future relationships will look like, we fear about their (in)ability to function in school, in a job. On bad days we envision them in a hospital or behind bars and we shudder. Worse than the exhausting struggles are the places we go in our heads.

With children about to enter the pre-teen and teen years, my worries double. How can an emotionally volatile child handle the hormones of puberty?! I have to talk myself out of victim mentality because often a parent can feel wounded and traumatized by a child’s outbursts, words, tantrums. I have to remember that I LOVE fiercely beyond words these people whom God placed in my arms. I have to embrace the kind of unconditional love that the Father has given me and I cannot cling to a victim mentality.

This is where I’ve been. I’ve walked dark valleys and have spent far too little time on mountaintops as a mother. But I want to cherish those mountain tops! I want to hold those moments up as HOPE! In my dark moments, I need to remember the times that hope shone forth.

Today was one of those days. Our family joked about it light-heartedly, but upon reflection, it was a bigger moment to me than anyone else can imagine.

After picking up my very feistiest daughter (don’t correct my grammar, sometimes bad grammar is necessary) from a class, she quickly informed me that another student from her class was chasing after and tripping a friend of hers, another classmate. Apparently, this is common behavior. She informed me that she turned to said bully and in her sweet but deep voice said, “{Name of bully}, stop it.” Preach.

Our family joked with her…did you give him “the look”? Meaning, the look of burning rage that is usually directed at one of us. She happily confirmed and she informed us that he stopped and seemed almost surprised. My first reaction was (ugh, typical!) of guilt. I apologized for not getting to her class in time to walk her and her friend out of the building (I had no idea this other child was picking on anyone). But she consoled me, “It’s ok, mom, {Name of bully} needs to learn.” Hahaha! I internally laughed hysterically! Of course, my petite little girl would be the one to teach him a lesson! Of course she figured she was just the one to do it! No bully could imagine the fury they could face from such a sweet and soft-spoken girl! We applauded her and teased her that we were happy she was finally using her rage for good. She took the teasing well and I think she was empowered.

As sane human beings, we teach non-violence in our family based on the teaching and life of Jesus. Matthew 5:38-40 tells us not to resist an evil person. But I also teach my three girls that we stand up for others. We defend the cause of the defenseless. Isaiah 1:17 says, “Learn to do right. Seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.” I teach them at a very early age that we cannot hit or bite others, but if there is a bad person trying to hurt them, they should bite and hit and scream. (As preschoolers, they are flabbergasted by this!) As they get older, we talk about what it means to stand up for others. I want my kids to be creative in the face of oppression, injustice, and bullying. A skinny, quiet little girl growling a command at a bully would certainly be unexpected.

The hope I was given by such a little incident was that indeed my child was created by a loving and perfect God. The very traits that I have tried to pray away or at least tame are indeed the very traits that God will use to change the world through her. Who will fight injustice except those who feel it so deeply and are passionate enough and, Lord help me, persistent enough to see the fight through? Who can grab attention with softly spoken words except one who has a fire burning in her eyes and belly? My prayer is no longer to quench that fire, but for it to be flamed by the Holy Spirit. My prayer is that my daughter grasps at a young age that her battle is not against flesh–mankind, but against the powers of the dark world we do not see. My prayer is that I can show her what it means to pray for my enemies and bless those that persecute me.

Our world needs more quiet voices that firmly and persistently whisper the truth. Whisper hope. In a time when we are overwhelmed by the voices that shout the loudest, the quiet truth will prevail. Hope.

Difficult People & Rainy Days

During a recent “decompressing event” (definition: me letting out a bunch of stress by talking about the stressors over and over again to my patient husband), my husband told me that he thinks that sometimes God allows difficult people in our lives in order to teach us something.  Like how not to act.  Ha, ha….but seriously…..often the very thing about someone else that so tries me becomes “the way I don’t want to be.” Have you ever seen this in your own life with difficult people?

A friend who always made glib sarcastic remarks about me or my family or my kids has made me more aware and careful about how I joke around with my friends.   I catch myself–sometimes before I say it, sometimes after–joking around and then I have to apologize for being insensitive.  It makes a person feel like garbage when someone thoughtlessly makes fun of them.  Of course.  But I wouldn’t have realized the full impact that even a joking manner can have if I had not been hurt so many times by a friend’s careless words.

When we have been given a heavy dosing of guilt or have felt manipulated by someone close to us, both my husband and I pray in earnest that God would help us keep our promise to never do that to our loved ones.  Sometimes the best reaction to a situation is to determine how to avoid causing the same kind of hurt to someone else.

I got a phone call from a friend today who asked to borrow a table for her garage sale.  I cheerfully agreed she could come pick it up, but later felt an awful churning of realization. The only few times this friend has called me in the last YEAR (we used to talk almost weekly) was to take pictures of her family (for which she never paid me, as agreed) and then to find out if my daughter could go to her daughter’s birthday party (which resulted in my friend crying on the phone because no other little kids could make it, either), and then finally, for this table.  THREE times in the last year and always to her gain, not to credit our friendship or even just to check in.  I felt incredibly used and that alone feels uncomfortable and unsettling.  Watching the phone call unfold (and being aware of the recent history of this friendship) my hubby, in what is becoming our usual response, felt reminded of a buddy of his that he hasn’t made much of an effort to see in the last year or so. I, too, tried to consider relationships where I may be doing the same thing.  I don’t want to be that name on caller ID that warns a person: “She’s calling!  She wants something!”

On rainy days I mull over these things and ask God what it is that He wants to show me.  I try to sort through the irrational (“Am I the bad person in this situation?  Should I have been calling this friend more often and then I wouldn’t feel this way?  Did I do something?!”) and the ungodly (“What a bunch of jerks!  I’m SO gonna leave this relationship out to dry.  And maybe their world can fall apart in the meantime if they keep treating people this way!”).  I want to hear the quiet voice of God that reminds me of the grace that He has shown me–the kind of grace that I can show others only with His help. In the last day or two, I have been whispering this mantra in my head, “More grace.  More grace.  More grace.”  God’s mercies are new and abundant, not just for me, but are there for all to receive.  I need to be less discretionary in my giving of mercy because ultimately it’s not even mine to give.  It was already given by One much greater than me to one as undeserving as me.  Should I not give as I have been given?

Seeking Advice

I have been involved here and there in the youth ministries at my church and have formed a few really good relationships with some senior high and junior high girls.  One of the girls that I have gotten to know pretty well is struggling with depression.  She talked to her parents about it this last winter and they started by getting her some supplements (St. John’s wart and the like).  Since then she’s kind of been off and on herself.  Sometimes she seems fine and sometimes I get the impression that she’s not fine.  She isn’t great at opening up, so it usually takes some point blank questions from me to find out how she is.

This week I got a phone call from her dad (whom my husband and I know at least on a “friendly” basis–we’ve spent time with their family, but I wouldn’t really say that we’re “friends”).  He asked me how she was doing because he and his wife were worried about her at home.  She wasn’t talking AT ALL and they couldn’t get her to open up.  I told him my honest opinion–that I thought she was doing okay and just working through a couple of things. Later that night, I questioned her more and she admitted to me that she is doing far worse than she is letting on to anyone.  While I am not concerned about her immediate welfare at this point, I know that depression, especially untreated, can spiral out of control quickly.  I called her dad the next day to give him my changed opinion.  I then let her know later that day that I was not trying to betray any confidences, but that I was truly concerned about her and had called her dad.

So here is where I need help: she honestly seemed relieved that I had made the phone call, but has since said (it as been two days) that things are really awkward for her at home because her parents aren’t mentioning it to her.  In fact, she said they don’t seem to be going out of their way to even make sure she’s okay (of course, depression can alter our impressions, but the fact remains that they haven’t talked to  her about it).  My heart is breaking for her.  To me, one of the worst things about depression is isolation.  When I have struggled with feeling depressed in the past, I desperately wanted those closest to me to reach out and try to get me help.

Do I take any more steps?  I am becoming more worried each day that if no one reaches out to her, she’ll try something more dramatic to get their attention.  I may be over-reacting, but I’d rather err on the side of caution in this case.  Should I call her mom next?  Call the dad again?  Sheesh…can I take her to a counselor myself?!  Does anyone have a gut reaction on this or some experience?  Help!

Still Standing

Rock ‘n Roll’s Life Advice

My hubby and I would probably both agree that one of our favorite Tom Petty songs is “I Won’t Back Down.”  At one point in our lives, it was probably due to the fact that we were both a little hard-headed or stubborn, if you will. Marriage, maturity, and God have all had a hand in softening up those hard edges, but something about this song still strikes a chord in me.  Recently I was out running and listening to it on my mp3 player.  I thought of it as such a literal way we should face life.

Well, I won’t back down, no I won’t back down. You could stand me up at the gates of hell but I won’t back down. Gonna stand my ground, won’t be turned around. And I’ll keep this world from dragging me down. Gonna stand my ground, and I won’t back down.

Spiritual Truths

I think of the spiritual weapons we are told to use in Ephesians: the shield of faith, the breastplate of righteousness, the sword of the Spirit, the helmet of salvation, and the belt of truth.  I remember a friend pointing out, “There’s nothing to protect your backside!  You better stand and fight the devil–you better not run!”  I’ve thought of that so many times in life.  We are to flee evil, but when it comes to the enemy attacking us, we better just hunker down and fight.

Life throws us things we don’t expect and things we feel unprepared for.  Sometimes we actually feel like we are being attacked on every side….in our family, in our friendships, in our career, in our reputation, etc.  Don’t back down.  There are times when life has me down, beaten down, laying prone before God and crying out.  But I have learned to not back down in the sense of running away.  I have learned that it is okay to be down, but to pray for the strength to stand back up again and literally stand my ground.

When Life Gives Us a Chance to Stand

In the last couple of years I’ve struggled with feeling depressed.  I have rarely lost the will to carry on or to face a new day, but I would say that I haven’t been operating at full capacity for a long, long time.  The last six months have been heart-breaking, soul-crushing at times.  A good friend was unexpectedly taken home to the Lord.  In the wide wake of grief, friendships changed and some even became broken.  My husband and I truly felt hard-pressed on every side at times.  Even my dh’s business slowed down and we found ourselves living on not much more than faith.  Loneliness, grief, fear, and insecurity gripped me on a daily basis.  On my knees, so many times in tears, I felt so broken, but I also felt a small little faith deep in my soul that kept me holding my ground.  I knew that everything that Satan wanted to use for evil, God would turn for good–and not just my good, but more importantly, the Lord’s good will and purpose.  I knew that God was working out my character, allowing me to be broken in order to rebuild me for good.  I felt what I felt (the things that kept me in tears), but I also knew what I knew (which kept me from backing down).

Some circumstances have begun to turn, others have not.  I am sure that there will be days that bring me back down again, but I am so thankful that I am able to say that the darkness has lifted and the light has begun pouring in.  Last week I felt better than I honestly have in two years.  I felt happiness and determination and pleasure in ways that I had forgotten.   I enjoyed my children more than I have in years.  I am mortified to think I have gone this long without truly treasuring them.  I’ve lacked selflessness in my marriage and perspective in relationships.  How grateful I am that Christ strengthens us and empowers us in every situation.  How thankful I am to be on the other side of the darkness.  How glad I am that faith, while it didn’t keep me from falling, it kept me from turning around and turning away.

High School Bible Study

Thank goodness I lead a high school girls Bible Study.  Because even if they don’t learn anything from the study, I always learn something good.  Ha, ha…..

Tonight we were talking about forgiveness.  We had opportunities to journal about people who have hurt us and whether or not we have hung on to the hurt or let it go.  I always try so hard to let it go, but ultimately I hang on and keep feeling the pain for a long time.  I’m not particularly vengeful nor am I much of a grudge-keeper, but I am a perfect example of how unforgiveness only hurts the person who chooses not to forgive.  Like I said, I just let The Thing hurt me over and over again.  Seeing The Perpetrator can rise up hurt feelings in me all over again EVERY SINGLE TIME.  *Ugh*  I feel so weak and faithless when I am unable to move past The Thing. Or when a small little New Thing takes on monstrous proportions because I never got past the Old Thing.

Tonight’s study reminded me to take time to pray for the person who had hurt me.  Now I assume that means to pray good things for the person we are trying to forgive.  (Hey, don’t tell me that you have never prayed things like, “Convict them Lord” or “Don’t let them hurt others” or on a bad day, “Discipline them, Lord!”)  Maybe I’m the only dirtball out there, but sometimes it is honestly really hard for me to pray blessing for those who have hurt me.  And the longer I allow myself to not pray in this way for them, the harder it is to start up after time has passed.

Hard as it is, let it begin tonight.

Just sayin’

Not the best day in the history of my life.

Not the worst either.

I don’t want to live life anxiously getting from one day to the next, looking forward to tomorrow more than I appreciate today.  So I’m trying not to do that, but really…..just kind of looking forward to a new day tomorrow.  And hoping for new blessings and an end to today’s battles.

Poor in Spirit

I want to preface this post with the honest reminder that “I ain’t no theologian.”  Any thoughts I have on Scripture are simply thoughts…..not anything I’ve researched thoroughly or even been taught by someone with more knowledge than me.  This is just my real life and my real thoughts.

Blessings

Yesterday I was overwhelmed by them….blessed beyond what I expected.  And it got me thinking….I was literally brought to tears by the blessings and the kindness of those around me.  Am I normally not so grateful or what is it lately that has me feeling so very, very blessed?

A friend bought tickets and took me to see The Blind Boys of Alabama last night.  I was excited, but it wasn’t until during the very first song of the concert that I considered how incredibly thoughtful and selfless my friend had been.  Of course I thought it was sweet and nice that she was taking me out, but it didn’t really sink in how thoughtful she had truly been. Although she really enjoyed the show that night, she isn’t particularly a gospel fan (she didn’t even know who the Blind Boys were).  She bought the tickets because she thought that I would love the show (and did!).

Before the concert, we made a date to go out to eat.  I wanted to pay since she had forked over quite a bit of money for the tickets.  So we went to a nicer restaurant in town, ordered some delicious meals, and enjoyed the company and the food.  As we were finishing our meal, our waiter informed us that the table at the end of the room had gotten our ticket and was taking care of our dinner.  Tears came to my eyes….some friends from church had picked up the (not light) tab on our meal, for no reason other than to be generous.

Poor in Spirit

By the end of the night, I was thinking of the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:

3“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Not only have we been feeling a bit down and out financially, I have also been feeling “poor in spirit”–a bit lonely, a bit broken.  I have faced difficulties in relationships lately or just a lack of meaningful, deep friendships (something my soul LONGS for).  In my brokenness and poverty of spirit, I think I feel blessings in a deeper, more profound way.

It’s not hormones, OKAY?

At different times in my life, when a moment or a circumstance or a story has caught me emotionally, I have allowed people to tell me it’s hormones.  At times I’m pretty sure my husband has shrugged off my tears as “being a chick”.  But lately I have realized that when I am closest to the Lord, I am far more emotional and sensitive to people and to blessings.  I tear up for little  reason, my heart breaks for people I barely know.  I receive a couple of blessings and fight off tears all night.  I feel thankful to be in a place that allows me to be touched like this. Poverty of the spirit does show me a piece of God and a bit of His kingdom that I may not see when I’m not so hungry and desperate for Him.  Is this what Jesus meant? Remember, I’m no theologian, I’m not going to pretend to know the answer, but I do know that the Word also tells us that God desires a humble and broken spirit….perhaps He knew that without brokenness, our pride quickly kicks in and we lack the eyes to see Him and His goodness.

Here’s to the kind of poverty that Jesus promised would bring us an inheritance!

When Ain’t Nothin’ Goin’ Your Way

It’s one of those days.  For me, it often starts with the fact that me or the kids are sick.  No one in this family functions well when feeling unwell.  This weekend, we all came down with colds. This means kids don’t sleep–Annika and Sofie both were coughing the night away and since they share a room, they were keeping each other up.  So, thank heavens for a husband who can take charge when I’m out of commission, one girl slept in the living room with Daddy and one girl stayed in her bed.  Now, when the four-year-old gets sick, she wets the bed.  Which means with all the sickness we’ve had, she’s been wetting the bed almost every night for a month.  Even if we put her in a pull-up, she wakes up and it’s a big ordeal in the middle of the night.  So imagine a day without sleep, a sinus infection (for which I received drugs today–hallelujah!), and a cold that is giving everyone a bad case of grumpy.

I don’t feel able to share too many details, but things are rough in other areas, which just gets me down or frustrated.  On days like this, I’m not sure what to do with myself.  Part of me wants a pity-party, which I know doesn’t do anyone any good (even though it feels so good for a minute or two!).  Instead, I try to offer up prayers for the courage to face what doesn’t just go away on its own and I pray for relief in at least one area, Lord!  Encouragement is something I think I need more than some people do (is that bad that is such a need of mine?) and it has to come in the areas that only God knows I need the most.  False encouragement or encouragement for the sake of encouraging just gives me more frustration and irritation.  I have to pray and wait for what I need and know that it will come at the right time.

And now that the afternoon is coming to a close, I can just pray for strength to make it to the end of this day and for hope for a better tomorrow!