Too Many Choices Suffocate a Soul

“Truth is ever to be found in simplicity, and not in the multiplicity and confusion of things.” Isaac Newton

The door chimed my entrance as the acetone fumes welcomed me inside.

“May I help you?”

“Yes, I’d like a pedicure please.”

“Pick your color.”

Red. Red is all I wanted. You know how many shades of red exist on the polish wall? Too many.

I picked one, then another, and one more. I tried all three on my nails. If I’d only seen the first, it would have been good enough. But now I knew that something better might be out there. Thus began my search for the best red.

My quest for the best begins to cripple my soul.

I told myself to walk away from the wall. Pick a shade. Be done, girl. I picked Cajun shrimp, which wasn’t actually red.

“Ma’am, which pedicure would you like?”

“I’m sorry, what do you mean?”

“Well, we have the hot stone pedicure, the lavender scrub pedicure, the orange peel pedicure, the ……… pedicure.” She listed about 7 different types of pedicures, and I wanted to laugh. Instead, I answered as kindly as I knew how, “I just want whichever one is like a normal pedicure.”

She proceeded to explain all the differences between each one and my brain began to spin. Now that I knew something potentially better existed I was terrified of making the wrong choice. Can one have buyer’s remorse over a pedicure? If so, it will be me.

“Ok, which is the least expensive? I’ll take that one.”

She led me to the chair and placed a remote control in my hand. More choices. What type of massage would I like? Full body or shoulders only? Hard or soft? What channel would I like to watch on the tv? Or, if I prefer, there is a stack of magazines to choose from at my side.

By the time my pedicure began, I felt mentally exhausted from decision fatigue over choices that made no difference in the quality of my day, life, or eternity.

It didn’t stop there. I stopped by Lowe’s to buy light bulbs. An entire aisle of choices. I just wanted standard bulbs. Plain and simple 40 watt bulbs. I couldn’t find them. Then I found them. But they aren’t the same anymore. There are LED, soft light, natural light, bright light, dimmable, classic styles, funky styles. Oh. My. Word. I just wanted light bulbs.

I realized I am at a decision-making breaking point when I began converting a storage room into a writing room for myself. Do you know how long I spent deciding what color to paint the concrete floor? I’m embarrassed to tell you, so I won’t. I chose white. Then the wall color. White again. Then the back and forth or what if I don’t like it.

I stopped in my favorite store in Omaha. It’s a pop up shop called Rush Market. This store speaks my language because the deals are out of this world. I walked in and the white desk sitting in the hold section beckoned me. I asked the clerk if it was sold and was informed the lady holding it had just passed. I put my name on the tag and continued shopping.

As I meandered through the store, I found another desk. Oh no. Is this one better? Do I stick with the first one? I sent a picture to Steve and my sister. They chose opposite each other. That only made the decision more difficult. I asked the clerk to switch out the desk. I changed my mind.

I continued shopping but the entire time I mentally turned over the two desk choices. Then my sister texted me to go with the same one Steve suggested. Oh no, I’d already had the clerks move the desks around the store once. I can’t believe I did this, but I got those ladies again and apologized that I’m beyond indecisive and humiliated at my own shenanigans but could they one last time switch the desks.

Then I quickly paid and left. At this point I realized something must change. This internal choice debate has gotten out of control. I can make important decisions quickly and easily. But these smaller ones consume me.

Everywhere I turn I’m faced with decisions I really don’t care to make.

I like simple. Simple. Simple. Simple.

I think all day long. I think more than I need to. I don’t want to think about things that don’t matter because I think too much about the things that do matter. And my brain needs a break.

During the course of the day, I can only imagine how many choices I’m making without realizing I’m choosing. I have to think all this mindless choosing is fatiguing my mental capabilities.

Am I choosing well when it really matters? Or am I so worn out on the insignificant choices that by the time the choices that really matter need to take place, I’m out. I don’t care. I’m decisioned to death.

When my kids come to me and need my help making a decision that is important to them, am I quick to brush it aside because I’m mentally spent? When I’m deciding on the best use of our time that evening, do I give little thought because I’m over capacity. I’m mentally tired because all day long I’m choosing and making decisions that are bit by bit wearing me down.

By the end of the day, I’m with the ones I love the most, and I’m so tired I don’t want to make one more decision.

So I think I have another decision to make. Can I find a way to simplify the daily choices that are in my control?

I stood on a stool in my closet reaching for a shirt. Andrew came up behind me. “Mom, what are you doing?”

“I’m about to try a different shirt on.”

“Not surprised.”

After he left my room, his words lingered. Not surprised.

Of course mom is trying on a different shirt despite the fact that she has one on which is perfectly fine. She is afraid she might not have made the best choice in shirts. She needs to be sure she chose the perfect one. What if the temperature changes from the forecast? What if she needs to save the one she is wearing for a different day this week?

I remember a blogger I followed about 7-8 years ago. Her blog was titled One Dress Protest. For one whole year, she wore the same thing every day. Summer, spring, winter, fall. She chose a black dress that she could put leggings under in the winter. She could add a scarf or a necklace to change up the look.

It was part statement and part protest on her behalf. I don’t really know what her goals were, but her idea appealed to me. I was just never brave enough to wear the same thing every single day for a year.

So you know what I did last week? I tested it out. I chose my very favorite shirt. Black, cozy, can be dressed up or down, can even be worn with athletic pants. One shirt, one pair of jeans, one pair of athletic pants. That was it for 3 days.

I don’t think anyone noticed. I mean I live with all males, so they wouldn’t notice. Besides saving myself 30 minutes in the closet, mentally my morning felt clearer, crisper. I felt empowered rather than wearied at the start of the day. I was ready for the decisions that mattered because I simplified the ones that didn’t.

What is one thing that you find daily stresses you out to decide on? Clothes, dinner, activities? Is it social media? Choosing what to read, what to land on, which platform to spend your time scrolling on? Is it possible to choose the way of simple if even for a time?

Maybe you give yourself a break from that one thing for one week. For me it was choosing one outfit for a few days. For you it might be drastically different. I imagine in each of our lives, there are areas we could simplify by eliminating our choices.

“Simplicity is the final achievement. After one has played a vast quantity of notes and more notes, it is simplicity that emerges as the crowning reward of art.” ~ Frederic Chopin

Maybe we’ve bought into the notion that more is better. Maybe there is something to the theory of “less is more”.

Maybe we become more of who we really are when we courageously walk in simple steps along simple paths.

Because you know what? I’m not really the grumpy grumbler who emerges from the closet amongst heaps of discarded choices. If the constant choosing is creating in me someone I am not, maybe that is a hint from my soul that one small step toward simplification could be all that is required.

Maybe when we choose the simple path, removing stuff and clutter and choices, we are finally able to see the beauty that has been buried alive.

Maybe parts of our soul have been buried with the weight of too many choices and decisions that don’t bear their own weight in importance.

Maybe parts of our soul have been buried by the debt to create the Pinterest perfect home.

Maybe parts of our soul have died under the suffocation of the pursuit of the best choice for fear of failing in some area of our life.

Maybe a step to the reviving of our soul is to stop allowing choices, and decisions, and stuff to clutter our lives.

Maybe it can’t be forever, but maybe our soul would find relief from a simple reprieve from the daily grind of too many insignificant choices.

Maybe this is the break we need to clear the clutter in our minds in order to see the simple beauty of life. To allow ourselves to awaken to who He created us to be. Maybe our greatest expressions are found when we walk and live in simplicity.

And really, what do we have to lose if it’s a failed experiment? If you are brave enough to choose one area to eliminate choice and decision so you can simplify your life and choose well in the areas that matter, I’d love for you to share the results with me.

 

The Most Brilliant Marketing Strategy I’ve Ever Seen

To listen to the audio recording of today’s post, click here.

Prior to our Yellowstone trip in August, I asked each of the boys to read the history on Wall Drug Store. Wall Drug made a name for themselves in 1931 in a small town where people were wiped clean. Their marketing strategy was simply brilliant. Free water.

Everyone likes free. Everyone gets thirsty. They had water, which cost them nothing. Extend the invitation and bring the people in.

In order to attract customers they advertised free ice water. As it turns out, people were thirsty. Those parched travelers stopped to quench their thirst. Before long, lines of people waiting to receive their promised free water filled the sidewalk. While they waited, they might purchase a 5 cent cup of coffee or an ice cream cone. The business exploded, and it all began with the offer of water without payment.

This idea of water without payment isn’t new.

Revelation 21:6 “And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment.”

It was the thirsty who stopped at Wall Drug and received water to quench their thirst. It is the thirsty who come to Jesus and drink from the spring of everlasting life. It’s available to all, but only received by the ones who willingly open their mouths and drink.

Our pastor frequently says, “God isn’t into headlocks.” He’s right. “He won’t headlock you to Heaven,” he tells the congregation, and our pastors won’t headlock you to the altar. The invitation is extended. The time is now. If you are thirsty, come to the spring and sip. You will never thirst again.

“She was able to believe in this because she needed to; and, believing, was her own true, promising friend once more.”
Natalie Babbitt, Tuck Everlasting

Dear Lord, may today we look to you to quench our thirst. For those who’ve not yet tasted Your Living Water, may today they run to your spring. For the ones who are securely held in your hands, may they turn to you repeatedly as their thirst returns, knowing you satisfy our deepest needs. May we act in love, steadied by faith, anchored by hope. In Jesus’ name we pray.

 

 

Post contain affiliate links. Please see About page for details. I only recommend what I truly love and feel has enhanced my life, our home, or my family in significant ways. If it’s on my blog, then I truly love it!

Cook meals your family will eat instantly fast!

Instant Pot

 

Audible – Listen to great books anywhere

Audible - Listen to great books anywhere

Don’t Withhold Your Love

I will praise the Lord, who counsels me; even at night my conscience instructs me. Psalm 16:7

The water ran steadily from the faucet, cascading over piles of dishes. I stood there waiting. Waiting for the hot water to kick in, forgetting our hot water heater died on us. Mesmerized by the steadiness of the water, I stayed. Still. Quiet. These are typically the moments I hear His voice.

The moments the world around me is quieted, pushed aside.

Don’t withhold your love from him.

I snapped out of my daze. Where did that thought come from? I dared not move. Waiting for more. The explanation.

In the next moment a forgotten dream from the previous night played in my head. It was a snapshot, the briefest of scenes. Can you even call this a dream? It happened in my sleep. Forgotten until the moment at the sink.

In the dream the setting was Andrew misbehaving and me “advising” my husband not to withhold his love from Andrew when he disciplined his behavior. That was it. Just the instruction.

Prior to the standing at the kitchen sink waiting for water to warm that would never warm, the morning had been a reversal for Andrew and me in regards to our homeschool reading lessons. One of the reasons we started homeschooling was the realization that a school setting for a child who struggles to read created for him anxiety causing a shut down to learning. Last year we made miraculous progress and this year has surpassed my hopes. Until that morning.

He was back to his old ways. Fighting against me to do his lessons. A total shut down to learning.

I closed the lesson and sent him to his room where he could remain until he got himself together, cooled down, whatever needed to happen.

Each time he would come out of his room, my responses to him were short and distant. I was tired, frustrated, and wanted him to see that I wasn’t simply happy and smiles when he acted this way and school days took this path.

In college I loved learning how to build spreadsheets. Especially creating cells with “if, then” formulas. If this plus this equals this then this. To me it was life captured in blocks that made sense. Natural consequences at play in math.

At times I build spreadsheets in life. I begin to create if then statements in my surroundings. Because they make sense to me.

As the day marched forward, I began to see a change happening in him. A change in his attitude. An acceptance of the situation turned to a desire to get back in my good graces. A change in tone. A change in everything. But each time I ushered him back to his room making sure he knew that the lesson we didn’t complete would eventually get done. He’d nod fully accepting. And there was a sadness.

The kitchen sink. When God brought that thought into my mind and the remembrance of that dream, I got it. Andrew would interpret my response to him as a withholding of love. He’s always struggled to interpret well. He often sees things not at all how they were intended. And this is the dangerous ground I walked.

If I withdraw from him, He would interpret it as a withdrawal of my love. He has always gauged facial expressions to determine where he stands with someone. He studies more intently than he ought. And I’d forgotten that he looks too closely at facial and bodily expressions in an effort to determine how someone feels about him.

God is so good. So incredibly amazing. I find myself speechless. There are no words. That God would instruct me while I sleep in preparation for what I would face and how I would react. And His gentleness. His kindness.

Romans 2:4 Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?

I thank God for His tolerance. His patience and kindness. At times His goodness is too much for me to handle. He doesn’t treat me as I deserve. He doesn’t treat me how I treat others. He is purely good. Good always.

What I deserved is God to grab me by my shoulders and shake me. To rail at me, “I don’t treat you this way. When you act up do I pull back from you?”

But He doesn’t. Instead, He speaks to me according to my natural bents. He lets me trace a trail, connecting dots along that path. He knows me. He knows if I learn this way, I’ll never forget it.

Then God did this. Sent my little boy to me asking this, “Mom, can I have a hug? I need a big hug.” I reached down and squeezed him hard, not letting go first. He squeezed back, allowed me to kiss his cheek. And I said, “I love you so much.”

“I love you too, Mom.”

Redemption is around every corner with the Lord.

Grow them into men who love you with their whole heart. Give them a heart like David’s, one after God’s own heart. Give them a spirit like Caleb that follows you wholeheartedly. Make them strike fear in the eyes of the enemy. Instruct their hearts with truth, even as they sleep.

These are a few lines I pray with or over my boys every single night. But the one I hold dearly is instruct their hearts with truth, even as they sleep.

I want my kids to seek hard after truth. To be protected from lies and deceptions. To be saved from chasing a false reality.

But as I’ve prayed these for my boys, God’s been answering them for me too. He speaks always. He knows I’m a ‘squeeze the most out of every moment’ kind of gal. The kind that wants even the sleeping hours to produce or reveal in some way. So He does. And on this day He did.

And all I can say is. Wow. Wow, God. The God who listens and speaks. The God who loves and cares. We praise you. We thank you. Make our hearts crave you above all things. Draw us into you, make us ultra-sensitive to the Holy Spirit. We love you.

Who Has Time To Rest?

I gently pulled Andrew’s door closed. I switched off the light in the hall making my way to the family room. The lights were off. The candles cast their dancing shadows across my new coffee table, which I’m in love with.

The table arrived, sat empty for a couple of hours, then I filled it with stacks of photo albums. The best time and money I’ve spent is creating these albums my family thumbs through frequently. They do not collect dust.

I, however, rarely sit long enough to enjoy. But this night would be different because I have received a wake up call. Similar to someone who has experienced that turning point in life where you are awakened to the gift of every breath you’ve been given. Mine wasn’t a near death experience. Rather a doctor’s stern warning that if something doesn’t change, my life will.

The couch reached out, wrapped me in a warm embrace, and settled me on its lap. I drew my legs under, hugging myself close. And I opened a photo album from 2010. 7 years ago.

Page after page of images that seem a lifetime ago.

Zachary came out of his room for water and caught me sitting. The surprise on his face stabbed my heart. I model a lot to them. Rest isn’t one.

Right there. That thought is the exact thing I’m aware of now. A constant critique of myself. How to be better. Guilt has been a tormentor for far too long. Guilt steals rest.

The couch has amazing arms I realize as I watched it reach for him and pull him next to me. We flipped, and smiled, and marveled.

Then another door creaked. Andrew tiptoed to the pantry I believe for a sneak food fueling for the night. We exchanged looks without reacting to each other. His look of surprise at finding me on the couch met my softened eyes and beaming smile at the remembrance of days to cherish.

“Mom, I love that smile that you are giving right now.” He expected my typical night time, irritable ‘get your butt back to bed’ reaction. He expected the furrowed brows and stiff shoulders. Instead he saw the mom that I work too hard to be.

Rest.

It’s what God is speaking to me. Rest from your strive for perfection. Rest from your achievements. Rest from your striving life. My life verse has always been Psalm 46:10. Be still and know that I am God.

I gave a talk a couple of years ago called “Be Still”. It was based on my favorite translation of this verse which says “Cease striving”. I strive in my own strength. Eventually, I tire out and have to let go. All the while God’s saying to me, “Cease striving. Let go now and let me carry you. Eventually, you will have to let go, why not do it now without wearing yourself out. My burden is light. Let me carry you.”

So this is how my night ended last night. The boys catching me resting. And me allowing myself to enjoy the gift of rest free of guilt.

I began the evening the same way.

When Steve walked in the door from work, I imagine he startled a bit to find me sitting on the back porch reading a book. Dinner was waiting in the Instant Pot. The boys were playing with friends outside. And I sat. Relaxed. Not rushing around seeing how much more I could accomplish.

This is a new trend for me. Lifestyle change away from impossible standards and expectations I place on myself. A kind grace to me.

Since recovering from a recent ulcer, I’ve been working on being kinder to myself. I’ve tended towards the misconception that to think of self at all is to create patterns of selfishness. This can happen for sure.

In my case, I’ve gone so far in the opposite direction as to live in a state of constant stress, which I don’t see as stress. To me it’s simply become normal life. A visit to a new doctor came as a startling wake up call when he pointed out that I’m 40, and if I don’t start managing stress better, then 60 won’t be pretty.

Managing stress better for me starts in my mind.

I thought this doctor’s appointment would be like all others. Instead, the nurse led me into his office. He began asking me questions about myself. He wanted to know my personality. My strengths and weaknesses. He wanted to know about my childhood, family relationships, how I do life. It felt like a counseling session.

The doctor nodded along. Wrote notes. Offered smiles of encouragement. No judgement. Just listened.

Before he began to discuss my ulcer, he said the words that opened up a surprise gate of tears. “I need you to hear the most important words I’ll say to you today. You will have to hear it here (pointing to his head) and receive it here (pointing to his heart).”

I nodded, bracing myself for the words. “You are a wonderful mom and God is pleased with you.”

That simple sentence. In all my talking about my stomach ailments and my life, his first sentence to me was that God was pleased. But he was setting me up to hear what that meant for me. God is pleased with me not based on how hard I parent or how hard I work in the home.

What I knew to be true of God, I wasn’t living out daily. And it’s dangerous for my body.

I can blame it on many things if I want to. Major change in a year. Cross country move. Homeschooling is me working a full time job, receiving no paycheck, and watching parts of me refined I didn’t know existed. It was a painfully, beautiful year. Learning to teach not only my own kids, but also teach to a learning disability. Deep hurts and wounds from relationships outside of our family I  want to be life-giving instead of life-depleting. Wounds from the past in relationships creating in me a drive to do things in a way as to not hurt others in my life like I’ve been hurt. Pressing, crushing circumstances. Not different from anyone else I tell myself. This is life.

The problem for me is how I handle the jabs, the rubs, the constant friction of life. I overcompensate by becoming more competent, more able, more of a problem solver, more productive, more good. Less forgiving toward myself, more critical toward myself. Less rest. Basically, I’m letting the enemy steal from me. And one day I want to share with you how God showed me 2 years ago I was allowing a thief into my life. Both in the physical and the spiritual world.

All along, He’s drawing me back in. Telling me to lift my eyes to that fixed position. That point that doesn’t move. To the One Who will never hurt me. To the One Who will never abandon me. To the One Who doesn’t expect me to be perfect because He did it for me. To the One Who is saying, “Come to me, you who are wearied, and I will give you rest.”

I’m accepting His invitation to rest in Him. This begins in my mind. Stilling my thoughts that can spin out of control. This is something I’m realizing I need to accept day by day, even moment by moment. A lifetime of habits won’t be corrected overnight. But there is hope. Day by day, He will help me to learn to rest in Him and to accept the gift of rest He offers.

It takes effort on my part. It’s easy for me to work. I’m a worker. Honestly, when I stopped working full-time as a CPA when my oldest was two, I think I feared so much the perception some people have of stay-at-home moms that I went into a mode of being the best mom and wife I could possibly be. That’ll kill a soul.

So to “work” less takes more effort for me than to “work” hard. My resting in God might be the best work I do all day. Especially for my family.

Rest is a gift. Rest isn’t a luxury like I’ve believed. Rest isn’t only for the ones who don’t have so much to do (laugh with me because you know we all think no one has it as hard as we do). Rest is about obedience. Rest isn’t selfish. Rest is a requirement for a life to be overflowing.

For my cup to overflow, I must rest. My cup has runneth on empty for far too long. This is a recipe for me to give the worst of me to the best of those in my life.

Today, I will rebuke the lies of the enemy that tell me resting is selfish. I will accept God’s invitation to rest in Him. I will obey God’s command to rest from my work each week. When I rest, may my eyes become fixed on Him, may my mind meditate on His Word. May I breath in and out of His Spirit. May I be filled by Him in rest so He can work through me in ways only He can.

 

**********This post contains affiliate links. Visit About page for details. I only recommend what I absolutely love!*********

Don’t Blink, Then I Blinked

#dontblink – a common hashtag when celebrating graduations, birthdays, a new school year, or a life change.

#theniblinked -it’s like a sudden realization that time actually does move at a pace that is frighteningly slow in real time yet megafast in the replay.

One day we are wiping smashed peas off chubby cheeks, then we seem to blink as we watch that same child wiping milk from our new grandbaby’s mouth.

One day we push a shopping cart holding our tantrum throwing toddler through the store as all eyes on us seem to be the cause of the sweat forming under our arms. Then we blink, and  one day we are by ourselves in a store. We look around in a panic for our child for a split second until the realization hits that we no longer have a toddler in tow.

One day we are longing for the nights we can curl up in our bed and read a book uninterrupted or watch a show without pausing every 3.5 minutes because someone wants a cup of water, someone is scared, someone remembered they can’t find their prized possession and are in full panic mode until we come to the rescue. Then we blink, and they are teenagers who become chatter boxes at the point of the night that are eyes are begging to close, our bodies desperate for rest. And we sit on beds and listen to dramas unfold, listen to aches no one else knows of. Then we blink again, and that room is empty except on weekends or holidays.

When in the dark depths of sleep-deprived infant days or knee-deep in the endless days of potty-training (or lack thereof), the moments of parenting can feel like we are living in slow-mo. Well-intentioned, seasoned parents offer smiles of encouragement and tell us to enjoy each drop because it will be over before we know it.

I’ll confess times of a cynical inner-self living inside me wanting to holler back, “Easy for you to say, I bet you didn’t have to….” Fill in the blank with whatever my thorn was for that day. Then I had the glowing moments of cherishing these words in my heart, desperately wanting to hold onto the time at hand. It is a tug of war between these two selves, one wanting to move forward, one terrified to leave the present because I want to never let go of the gift of now.

Scientists say we blink on average about 15-20 times a minute, which is about 28,800 times a day. In 18 years that is about 190,000,000 blinks.

While on the lookback it may feel a lifetime went by in a blink, we actually receive the gift of nearly 2 million blinks in 18 years with our kiddos, Lord willing. What sweet mercy to our souls.

“Mom, if we ever decide to stop homeschooling, the thing I would be most sad about is knowing how sad it would make you. I know you would miss us so much.”

I looked up to catch his tender gaze. “I would miss you. But I live season to season.”

Intrigued, he leaned in slightly. I went back to the task at hand while continuing, “You know God gives us life broken into seasons. I have chosen to embrace each season as God brings it and hold it with open hands. If I cling too tightly, I won’t be ready to release it when God says it’s time. So I try to keep my hands open, ready to release one season and receive the next.”

His eyebrows raised as he nodded. The answer seemed to relieve him of his worry.

“That is why it’s so important not to take any season for granted. Make the most of each moment. Cherish the relationships while you have them because you don’t know when the tide will change.”

It’s not a living in fear of the change of life. It’s living with the excited expectation of what is next on the horizon.

I remember when Jacob was an infant, an older mom saying to me, “This too shall pass.” I knew it was true. I saw moms who received a nightly 8 hours of sleep. It would happen again. All moments pass eventually. All seasons pass.

I’ve observed many in my life enter and exit various seasons and stages of their lives. I’ve gone through many of my own in 40 years. It seems there are the ones who joyfully accept the new while letting go of the old. And there are some who tend to become bitter and cynical even as they transition into new seasons.

It’s easier to release a season and receive another when we’ve made the most of the one we are leaving. But what happens when we squandered the time? What happens when we’ve made a wreck out of the relationships we should have cherished? Or what if we tried our hardest but surrounding situations or people cut in bringing sadness, destruction, or failures?

We can let regrets eat away at our soul. We can make excuses or blame others around us. This will surely create a bitter soul.

Or we can release the past to God. Confess our failures. Forgive others. Let go of resentments. Ask for a fresh vision. We can choose to not let our past define us and live with the truth that His mercies are new every day.

We can’t get time back, but we can choose to walk into the future with joy and hope. When we are in Christ, we are never a moment without hope. Feelings can lead us away from the truth. His Word is the unmoving point to fix our eyes on when we desperately want to enter the next season with a new vision.

My kids have taught me they remember more about the present than the past. In my own head, I may tend to stay in the past. They tend to live in today.

I replay times of failure to myself. They remember the times I was their hero. I’m my own worst enemy at times. They tend to be my champion cheerleaders.

When my boys were little, I played with them a lot. I’d run and chase outside. We’d sit on the floor and play cars. We’d read books for hours at a time. I invested heavily. Despite all the time I invested, Andrew said to me recently, “Why don’t you ever play with me?”

I immediately became defensive. All the years of floor playing, sweating in the yard, and reading until my eyes begged for sleep, and he thinks I don’t play with him enough? Then I realized that it’s today that matters to him. While I initially looked at the negative, I realized this is actually a blessing.

Yes, what I did in the early years is important. Vitally important. It built a foundation of memories and trust. However, it’s what I choose to do today that matters the most for today. He isn’t living in the past. He is living in today. And this is a healthy thing for him to do. And it’s a healthy thing for me to remember. Because I’ve regretted many moments in my past. But it’s what I choose to do with those moments today that matters going forward.

With my boys each day is a new day to grow in our relationship. Each season offers new and unique gifts. The letting go of one day is the preparation to receive the next day.

If yesterday was a disaster because of my incorrect perceptions or my negative attitude, Lord willing, I get a restart the next day. I am not a victim to the replay. I have the choice to create a new route. Often it begins in my own mindset. How I choose to view this life or this season holds quite a bit of power.

We are entering our second year of homeschool. We’ve mostly completed our summer. Summer #14 of 18 with my oldest. It’s time to release this season with a thankful heart and prepare my hands and heart to receive the new school year. He’s soon to be 14, which is hard for me to believe.

Didn’t I simply blink?

Yes. Yes, I did. About 143,000,000 so far actually.

For each blink, I thank Him. A blink is a gift.

Lord, You are the giver of all that is good. Today, we thank you for the gift of a blink of time. We thank you for the collection of blinks that create a life. We thank you for the blinks blurred by tears. We thank you for blinks happening unaware. We praise You that you are Creator of life. Your mercies are new with each blink. That hope is alive because of Christ. Today, may we receive each blink as the gift it is. In Jesus name we pray, Amen.

 

Want to experience miracles? Try this.

A portion of The Hiding Place is forever cemented in my brain. Before I share what God has been showing me, let’s start here. Corrie Ten Boom, along with her sister and other family members,  were christians hiding Jews during WWII. They were discovered and imprisoned.

Excerpt from The Hiding Place.

“‘Fleas!’ I cried. ‘Betsie, the place is swarming with them!’

“We scrambled across the intervening platforms, heads low to avoid another bump, dropped down to the aisle and hedged our way to a patch of light.

“‘Here! And here another one!’ I wailed. ‘Betsie, how can we live in such a place!’

“‘Show us. Show us how.’ It was said so matter of factly it took me a second to realize she was praying. More and more the distinction between prayer and the rest of life seemed to be vanishing for Betsie.

“‘Corrie!’ she said excitedly. ‘He’s given us the answer! Before we asked, as He always does! In the Bible this morning. Where was it? Read that part again!’

“I glanced down the long dim aisle to make sure no guard was in sight, then drew the Bible from its pouch. ‘It was in First Thessalonians,’ I said. We were on our third complete reading of the New Testament since leaving Scheveningen.

“In the feeble light I turned the pages. ‘Here it is: “Comfort the frightened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. See that none of you repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to all…'” It seemed written expressly to Ravensbruck.

“‘Go on,’ said Betsie. ‘That wasn’t all.’

“‘Oh yes:’…“Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus.'”

“‘That’s it, Corrie! That’s His answer. “Give thanks in all circumstances!” That’s what we can do. We can start right now to thank God for every single thing about this new barracks!’ I stared at her; then around me at the dark, foul-aired room.

“‘Such as?’ I said.

“‘Such as being assigned here together.’

“I bit my lip. ‘Oh yes, Lord Jesus!’

“‘Such as what you’re holding in your hands.’ I looked down at the Bible.

“‘Yes! Thank You, dear Lord, that there was no inspection when we entered here! Thank You for all these women, here in this room, who will meet You in these pages.’

“‘Yes,’ said Betsie, ‘Thank You for the very crowding here. Since we’re packed so close, that many more will hear!’ She looked at me expectantly. ‘Corrie!’ she prodded.

“‘Oh, all right. Thank You for the jammed, crammed, stuffed, packed suffocating crowds.’

“‘Thank You,’ Betsie went on serenely, ‘for the fleas and for–‘

“The fleas! This was too much. ‘Betsie, there’s no way even God can make me grateful for a flea.’

“‘Give thanks in all circumstances,’ she quoted. It doesn’t say, ‘in pleasant circumstances.’ Fleas are part of this place where God has put us.

“And so we stood between tiers of bunks and gave thanks for fleas. But this time I was sure Betsie was wrong.”

*****For the sake of moving the story along, I’ll skip forward to the passage I want you to see. They obediently gave thanks for something as miserable as fleas. They gave thanks in ALL circumstances. Now watch for the miracle.********

“Back at the barracks we formed yet another line–would there never be an end to columns and waits?–to receive our ladle of turnip soup in the center room. Then, as quickly as we could for the press of people, Betsie and I made our way to the rear of the dormitory room where we held our worship “service.” Around our own platform area there was not enough light to read the Bible, but back here a small light bulb cast a wan yellow circle on the wall, and here an ever larger group of women gathered.

“They were services like no others, these times in Barracks 28.

“At first Betsie and I called these meetings with great timidity. But as night after night went by and no guard ever came near us, we grew bolder. So many now wanted to join us that we held a second service after evening roll call. There on the Lagerstrasse we were under rigid surveillance, guards in their warm wool capes marching constantly up and down. It was the same in the center room of the barracks: half a dozen guards or camp police always present. Yet in the large dormitory room there was almost no supervision at all. We did not understand it.

“One evening I got back to the barracks late from a wood-gathering foray outside the walls. A light snow lay on the ground and it was hard to find the sticks and twigs with which a small stove was kept going in each room. Betsie was waiting for me, as always, so that we could wait through the food line together. Her eyes were twinkling.

“‘You’re looking extraordinarily pleased with yourself,’ I told her.

“‘You know, we’ve never understood why we had so much freedom in the big room,’ she said. ‘Well–I’ve found out.’

“That afternoon, she said, there’d been confusion in her knitting group about sock sizes and they’d asked the supervisor to come and settle it.

“But she wouldn’t. She wouldn’t step through the door and neither would the guards. And you know why?”

“Betsie could not keep the triumph from her voice: ‘Because of the fleas! That’s what she said, “That place is crawling with fleas!'”

“My mind rushed back to our first hour in this place. I remembered Betsie’s bowed head, remembered her thanks to God for creatures I could see no use for.”

AMAZING. MIRACULOUS.

How many miracles are we missing because we fail to consider His ways are not our ways? Or we are so focused on ourselves, we can’t see up? Or….we fail to offer thanks?

Now let me share how God has been teaching me this.  In church a few weeks ago, the pastor pointed out something I’ve never noticed in 16 years of Bible reading. 2 small words.

Sacrificial thanks.

Psalm 116:17 “I will sacrifice a thank offering to you and call on the name of the Lord.”

Psalm 50:14-15 “Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and pay your vows to the Most High; call upon Me in the day of trouble; I shall rescue you, and you will honor Me.”

A sacrifice costs something. It’s easy to thank God when life is going our way. But when it’s not, thanking Him becomes a sacrificial offering. Whoa.

Ya’ll I can’t move past this one.

Now it’s about obedience. I must offer thanks, sacrificially, as an act of obedience.

While sitting on the beach, it’s easy to whisper thanks to God. But when hunkered down by pelting rain and high winds? I typically thank God for the things I like. What I FEEL thankful for. The good things.

Or when life feels difficult, I find everything except the difficult thing and thank Him for those good things. I look for the good outside the bad. But what about the bad things?

I attended a women’s event this week that again had me hearing this idea of sacrificial thanks. It was explained that we aren’t saying this thing is good. Instead we are agreeing that God is good and Sovereign. We are aligning with His will.

Some of the “bad” things in my life have produced fruit that could only come from the difficult. I’ve paid attention to my thoughts. My quickness to complain when I dislike something.

Our new house has a ridiculous amount of light switches. We’ve lived here 3 months, and I still find myself hitting 10 switches before I find the right one. “I hate hitting 10 switches to find the light.”

Steve glanced my way, “How about being thankful you have 10 switches to hit.”

Well, that’ll stop the complaining. You see, God continues to show me how I’m prone to complain. How I want life to be my way. I want peace in my home. I want my kids to stop fighting for the love of all things holy. I want my kids to be kinder, and I’m mad they aren’t and I can’t make them. I want. I want. I want.

But this sacrificial thanks thing. It’s pretty much a wrecking ball right now. Knocking down habits and patterns of destruction in my life.

I woke today planning a glorious surprise for my boys. As I finished my coffee, I slipped quietly to the laundry room to throw a load of towels in. A smile dawned as I thought how perfect the morning would be. I envisioned excited and thankful boys who would be delighted to partake in my plans.

Then God said, “Let go of your expectations.”

I heard it ya’ll. In my spirit. I heard God speak. Clearly.

I set down the laundry basket. The smile slowly faded. And I said quietly, “Ok, Lord.”

The boys awoke. I shared bits of my plan. Life began to happen. I don’t know what mornings look like in your home. But we have 3 boys and 2 aren’t morning people. Things can get ugly fast. Like spinning out of control, and the control freak in me goes into overdrive and God is whispering…. Stop. Stop. Let me.

So I stopped. I ran to my bathroom. My hideaway. And I prayed. God, I need you. In the name of Jesus I cast out pride in the hearts inside this home. Give us new hearts. Plant kindness and patience inside each of us. Help me to not parent out of anger or impatience. Amen.

I had about 20 seconds for a help me prayer.

I walked back to the battle zone. Nothing had changed immediately after praying. Except my heart. I was submitted to the work of the Holy Spirit. Surrendered to the fact that I’m not God. I can’t make these young men into any image I want. Praise God for that!

My boys loaded into the car. I listened to the words exchanged among them I wanted to erase. I wanted to get in there and shush them up right then. Stop them from warring with words. But I’ve tried that, and it doesn’t change their hearts. So before I entered the car, I prayed. “Thank you God for bickering kids that exhaust me. Thank you for unkind words thrown carelessly around. Thank you for disappointed expectations. Thank you for every bit of all of this.”

The miracles began to happen. For the sake of privacy I will not share the details. But I will say what happened in the minutes and hours after in the hearts of these children and me was miraculous.

I remember reading One Thousand Gifts many years ago and a line has remained with me. Ann Voskamp wrote “Thanksgiving precedes the miracle.”

I guess I’m a slow learner. I agree with Ann now. More importantly, I agree with God. He is good. I will obey because I trust Him. If He sacrificed His own son for me, can I not sacrifice an offering of thanks to Him?

Miracles do happen. The greatest miracles happen when the Holy Spirit gets a hold of a heart and massages it, shapes it, forms it. When we obediently thank Him for the things that aren’t lovely, we lay down our expectations at the foot of the cross. We lay down our need to control. We lay down our pride that thinks we know best. We lay it all down and simply say, “Thank you, Lord.”

Open your hands in surrender. Keep them open to receive the miracles that can only come from a place of obedient surrender.

Thank you, God for your Word. Thank you for the Holy Spirit who brings us revelation. Thank you for who you are. Thank you for loving us relentlessly.

 

Do Not Worry- But How Can I Not?

He sat across the table sipping his orange juice. He ordered a man-sized breakfast of chocolate chip pancakes, eggs, and bacon. I patiently awaited my whole wheat toast, sipping water, while dying at the smell of coffee all around me.

The night before I’d spent in the emergency room. The verdict? A stomach ulcer. My medical diet became no citrus, coffee, alcohol, high fat or fried foods, no chocolate, no tomato based anything, nothing spicy. Basically they said eat small and bland. This was meal one on medicine to help with the symptoms while I await further tests and begin the process of healing.

“Mom, wanna play tic-tac-toe?”

“Yep, but I’m hard to beat.”

He grinned at the challenge. A boy is competitive by nature.

He placed the X. I placed the O while planning out my next O marking. I was strategizing 2 possibilities as he placed his next X. I went with my initial strategy to secure myself a sure win. The smirk began to give birth on my face as his 3rd X came down forming a 3 in a row. Smirk gone. Disbelief moved in its place.

He looked up at me incredulously. “Mom, what were you thinking?”

“Oh my goodness. I have never lost to one of y’all like this. I really can’t believe that happened.”

It was 3 across the top. Plain as day. Not many X’s and O’s to crowd the board. Simply that I wasn’t focused on the step right in front of me. I was laser-visioned steps ahead- planning, plotting, and thinking so far out that I failed to see the very next move to keep me in the game.

Our walk of faith is a moment by moment game. One that requires our eyes set on the next step set before us. No need to worry and fret when our Savior simply says, “Take my hand and walk with me. Let me guide you, strengthen you, provide for you, protect you, pick you up when you stumble, comfort you when the aches and pains overwhelm you.”

Matthew 6:25-34

Do Not Worry

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life[a]?

28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

You see. I do worry though. I’m constantly thinking not only steps ahead, but weeks, months, and years. Maybe the reason I now have an ulcer?

The ER sent me home with two medications. Day one and two I still had pain but less intense. I found myself all day those first two days fearing the next bout of pain. Finding myself scared to go exercise or plan anything for fear the pain would hit when I was away from home unable to curl up and stare at the walls until the pain passed.

At the end of the 2nd day, I began thinking about a dinner invitation we received for one week away. I felt the anxiety over the what-if’s of pain striking while we were at a new friend’s house. Could I manage to get through an evening?

That’s when I heard God’s soft whisper. Do not worry.

How can I not worry? This hurts intensely. I can’t function through the pain when it hits. There is no rhyme or reason to when it comes.

But worry doesn’t change anything. I can’t figure this out. I can’t heal this. I’ve been praying. I have lots of people praying. So why am I worrying about something 7 days away?

God brought to mind the Israelites in the desert. How He brought them daily manna. He didn’t provide a week at a time. He was teaching them to rely on Him day by day, moment by moment. One meal to the next.

I needed to rely on Him for this moment only. This day only. One meal at a time.

My mentor always reminds me that God’s grace is for right now in this very moment. She says, “Christmas grace arrives on Christmas morning. Grace to handle the next thing doesn’t arrive ahead of time, it arrives the day you need it.”

I was attempting to think 7 days away in fear and near panic but God hasn’t given me the grace for that day yet. My daily grace for 7 days away arrives in 7 days. Worrying about the future is me relying on my own strength and not God’s strength.

I went back to God’s whispering and listened closely. He was speaking. In my spirit I heard Him. Trust me. Let me care for your daily needs. Bring them to me. Cast your cares on me because I care for you.

A friend sent me a text in response to my prayer request for healing that read, “I stand in agreement with you that you are being healed. He paid too high of a price for you to be anything but totally restored, whole and without pain. I command the pain to leave in Jesus’ name.”

A key in her text that struck me was “you are being healed.” Not that healing would come instantaneously. All at one time in a miraculous kind of  ‘it’s gone in an instant’. It could because God is God. However, healing could take time and likely would. I couldn’t lose faith. I couldn’t let fear grow.

The next morning I didn’t think about my ulcer the same way. I didn’t think about pain that may come down the road. Instead I prayed, “Lord, I trust you. I’m healed by Your stripes. By my faith, I am healed. You are good, faithful, true, kind, loving, and compassionate. You tenderly take care of me. You love me to the point of death and back. I pray for healing and will trust you moment by moment while it comes.”

Then at each step of my day, I asked Him for what I needed. I wanted to go exercise. I didn’t stay home (which I had planned to do for fear of pain hitting in the middle of the class). I asked Him to strengthen me to exercise. I told the teacher I would be modifying my exercise while my ulcer is being healed. I thanked God when I left having completed the class.

The next meal I asked God to help me through it. He did. And the next and the next. I wanted a date night with my husband, but for the last several weeks I’d spent every evening on the couch or in bed in pain. On this new day of asking God step by step, I asked Him to keep me pain free for a date night. He did.

This ulcer is teaching me how to hold His hand step by step. How to place my worries on Him and keep my eyes on the step right in front of me. I won’t look at 2 moves ahead. Eyes right here. On my Savior, then my next step. On my Savior, then my next step.

God is good and works all things for His glory and our good. He takes the schemes of the enemy against us and turns them into something beautiful.