Moving Slow but Working Hard

“Then Abraham waited patiently, and he received what God had promised.”

Hebrews 6:15NLT

My freshman year of college I lived on the 4th floor of Robinson Hall.  This dormitory had no elevators, only stairs-many, many flights of stairs.  There’s a “freshman 15” saying referencing the amount of weight you gain your first year of college.  The amount of times I went up and down those stairs on a daily basis I am confident I lost fifteen pounds and then some.  Along with the stair climbing you had to walk across campus multiple times a day for classes, meals, etc.  For a girl who at one point lived across the street from her high school, this world of walking a country mile and climbing stairs that equated to scaling the Empire State Building on a daily basis was a tad much.  It was even worse when I was running late.  Speed walking doesn’t get you to class much faster than normal walking and even at eighteen years old, my knees were not built for running, especially carrying several textbooks on my back.  Have to admit, twenty plus years later, I think my freshman year of college was a mini boot camp for this diva.

After I graduated college, I moved back home.  I had big dreams to change the world and ended up with a minimum wage job at a retail store.  My college relationship ended and I found myself partying multiple times a night.  I found a job that was a remote fit to my degree but it wasn’t stable and it wasn’t satisfying.  I came to a realization that I was going in circles.  Going in circles gets you nowhere. Going in circles, simply makes you dizzy.  I took out a map and I picked a city to move to.  About six months later, I was settling in to a city seven hours away from home only knowing two people in the entire area.  I secured a job in the downtown area and gained many lifelong friendships from working there.  I also walked a lot.  You see, in most cities, there are parking structures that cost money to park.  People who worked downtown typically would spend $40-80 plus in monthly parking fees.  Paying for parking was a foreign thing for this small town girl.  So I found free parking, on the outskirts of a rougher part of the city, and I would walk about six blocks to my office in high heels.  At lunch time I would walk a round trip of about another six blocks to grab a meal and eat it at the office.  On the weekends my friends and I again would walk from bar to bar to go dancing.  You basically drove to the downtown area, just to walk to where you needed to go.

It’s been seventeen years since I’ve moved back to my home state.  Where I live, walking to work or to get my kids to school or even to the grocery story is only a possibility if you’re in the shape of marathon runner.  In fact, the only extensive walking I do now is 1-3 times a week on my lunch break as a form of exercise.  Other than that, I am driving every place we need to go.  Now, walking isn’t a form of transportation, it’s simply a form of exercise.

I have been battling with car repairs and unreliable vehicles for the past decade.  Since moving into the home I’ve raised my children in the past 10 years, I have owned four vehicles.  Each one has needed multiple repairs and each one has left me stranded a time or two.  Some repairs have been routine needs like new brakes or tires.  Others have been incredibly expensive and/or major safety issues.  Each one causes a great stress in figuring out where to get it fixed, how to pay for it and how to get to work and other places I need to go while the vehicle is being repaired.  At some point, the repairs get to be more than the vehicle is worth and then I pray extensively for the Lord to provide a better, more reliable and more affordable vehicle.  Each time, God answers.

Two years ago, God provided me with the nicest vehicle I’ve owned in several years.  This vehicle seemed to fit all my needs and even handles very well on bad wintry roads.  It’s needed a few repairs here and there but it’s all been routine maintenance until last year.  At the beginning of the year, I noticed a loud banging sound when I would drive over bumps. I kept checking the area where the sound was coming from and couldn’t see what would be causing it.  One day I got to my office, checked it again and discovered my entire wheel well was broken.  If you know anything about vehicles, the wheel well holds the rear shock into place.  If the well is broken, the shock bangs up and into the trunk area of your vehicle.  Not only is this a safety issue but it’s an expensive repair.

A family member did a free weld repair on it first.  This lasted several months and I was incredibly grateful.  However, in December of last year, the weld broke and replacing the wheel well was unavoidable.  It was Christmas time and very cold outside.  It was also the time of year where it’s dark until about 8am and dark again around 6pm.  My commute to/from work is 70 miles (112 kilometers) and given the time of year, walking to work daily wasn’t a realistic option.  Neither was driving my vehicle in the condition it was in. Given that fact that is was also Christmas time, financially speaking, this kind of car repair would break the bank as they say.  I prayed a lot.  I cried a bit and I reached out to others for prayer and help.  God answered in a mighty way. My vehicle was repaired, I was provided a loaner vehicle while mine was in the shop, my children had an overwhelmingly abundant Christmas and I suddenly found myself in a position to bless a family in need with an abundant Christmas also.  All this happened in a three-week period.  All this happened because God used friends and family and other avenues to provide for my children and me.

About a month ago, my car broke down on the freeway.  It actually just shut down as I was traveling.  Fortunately, it was a slow motion occurrence where I was able to safely pull to the side of the road before losing my brakes and power steering.  I couldn’t get it started for a bit.  It was raining and vehicles were passing me at speeds high enough to shake my vehicle as they went by.  I prayed and asked God for help.  Tried to start the vehicle again with no success.  This happened a few times and I found myself quickly losing my patience.  At one point the high maintenance diva side of me came out and I actually asked God this, “Do you expect me to walk down the freeway, in the rain, in my high heels? Is that what you’re expecting me to do right now?”  He answered by starting my vehicle and getting me to a safe park N ride area.  I was able to call my mechanic who arranged for a tow truck and delivered me a loaner car to get me home that night.  My car was repaired the very next day.  I thanked God for His continued provision and embarrassingly humbled myself when I thought about those who walk in the rain without shoes because they have no other means of transportation and cannot even afford a pair of shoes.  Who was I that I thought I was too important to walk in the rain in heels?

The past two weeks I have battled yet again with another needed repair.  This time, it’s a second broken wheel well.  This one is worse than the first.  The Lord provided the financial means to repair this one rather quickly, however, the body shop doesn’t have an opening to fix it for three weeks.  I drove the vehicle (after consulting with professionals who said it was ok) for the first week.  However, the noises grew increasingly louder and the damage worsened.  I tried to get the repair done sooner with no luck.  I reached out to a few friends for a possible loaner vehicle, with no luck either.  I prayed asking God to show me what to do for transportation over the next two weeks until I could get my car into the shop.  I didn’t ask nicely, mind you.  I had a world class toddler style meltdown over the whole thing.  In fact, I remember two things I prayed out of anger in that moment-1.)  I told God I didn’t want to learn whatever lesson He was trying to teach me and 2.) I was deeply disappointed in His method right then.  I even tried venting to two people I trusted and was told I was venting to the wrong people.  It was a whirlwind moment of deep discouragement.  My frustration grew as I could feel God going silent-just letting me have my rant.   In December God overwhelmed me with help.  This time, it felt like I had been left alone to figure it out.

But then He answered.  He answered by sending a family member to look at the vehicle once again and advising me on how long I could drive it.  He answered by providing transportation for my kids to get to/from school and by giving a dear friend a willing heart to drive me to/from work.  He answered by the generosity of another friend who loaned me a vehicle for this entire weekend.  Although I don’t have a solid plan for this upcoming week regarding transportation, I know He will answer because He promised to take care of my children and me and God is faithful in keeping His promises.

Now, if you’re still reading this, you might be asking, what do car repairs and where I lived in college have in common.  My answer would be this: turtles.  You see my freshman year of college, 4th floor Robinson Hall had t-shirts designed for each resident.  The shirts had a couple turtles on the front and the back read, “4th Floor, Robinson Hall, Moving Slow but Working Hard.”  I was reminded of this motto this week when I watched a turtle attempting to cross a busily traveled country road.   I actually found myself asking God to please help that turtle make it safely across.  Then I thought about how slowly turtles move.  There is no rush or urgency in a turtle.  They simply were not built to move quickly.

Turtles crossing the road is very common where I live.  Many times, humans intervene by picking up the turtles and moving them out of the road in an effort to save them from getting smooshed by vehicles.  But other times, the turtle has to get across the road by the grace of God only because there is no human intervention.  That was the case of this particular turtle.  Nobody was stopping to help it.  I saw a few cars drive around it and hoped anyone encountering it would do the same.  Aside from darting cars, from the outside looking in, that turtle was on its own to make it safely to where he or she was journeying to.

In life, and especially when dealing with a broken down vehicle, I feel like a turtle.  I can see where I need to go, I can develop a plan on how to get there, I usually choose the shortest route possible and then race off to the finish line.  That’s when I encounter delays or other roadblocks that slow my pace down or bring me to a sudden stop.  Delays and roadblocks trigger my impatience.  There are things in my life,-plans, goals, etc.-that I want to happen in hare speed, not turtle speed (if you’re not familiar with the Tortoise and the Hare story this analogy may not makes sense so google “The Tortoise and the Hare” for a better understanding.)  I especially get impatient when I know how to get something done but delay puts me in a position where I cannot get it down on my timeline and I have to depend on others for help during the waiting process.  I am a very impatient waiter (unlike Abraham who waited “patiently” and received the Lord’s promise.”   God knows this.  He also knows I learn best when He answers with “daily manna” instead of delivering everything I ask for all at once.  Because this year is the year He is developing my character to reflect how He designed me to be, He is slowing my life down to turtle speed, putting me in positions to be dependent upon others and in position to be totally dependent upon Him.

I’m gonna be real right now and admit that this form of character building, I. Do, Not. Like.  But God tells us in James 1:2-4 to “count it all joy…when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  And let the steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing (ESV).”  The NLT version uses the word “endurance” instead of steadfastness.  This word “endurance” is also found in Romans 5:3. “we can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance.” Verse 4 ties it all together with this; “And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation (NLT,)”  Instead of acting like a toddler, God gently reminds me that I should be rejoicing through these trials because He merely developing more of my character through them.

If you’re going through a trial, even something as trivial as lack of transportation, remember this-God uses all circumstances to refine us, especially the ones He knows will really put us through the test.  Our fiery furnace doesn’t have to be something major.  It could be taking the same “test” over and over again until we learn to not let that circumstance rattle us.  Maybe your test is a different financial struggle, dealing with a toxic person, having the same argument with your spouse with no resolution in sight, struggling with a rebellious child or something more intense like battling with a life threatening illness or job loss.  Whatever the circumstance, you may be feeling like you’re going in circles, this journey seems endless, God is silent and your trying to walk through heavy traffic (get through this situation) at a turtle’s speed.  There will be times you will feel like God uses others to pick you up and carry you to where you need to be quickly.  Other times in this journey you will feel like everyone is bypassing you and you’re at the mercy of your own strength to get across that road.  Just remember this, whether a human moves that turtle or the turtle makes it across because travelers choose to swerve and avoid it, God’s divine intervention is what truly gets that turtle safely across the road.  No matter how God delivers your miracle, know this-it’s coming from God, in His time and in His way.  Don’t give others more credit than they deserve and don’t be a hare trying to rush through life on your own.  It’s in the turtle speed that we notice more around us and are even gifted moments of pausing (like when you’re waiting for someone to pick you up.)  You’d be amazed at how beautiful life truly is when you’re not rushing and you’re not rattled.  You just keep going, moving slowly but working hard.  You do what you can, and then trust God to do the rest.

One last note-as each vehicle passed that turtle, it never once stopped or hid in its shell.  It kept its eyes toward the direction it was heading and it kept moving forward. That is the epitome of unshakable faith.  When we’re faced with delays, roadblocks or feel like we’re metaphorically trying to cross a road through heavy traffic, there’s a confident trust we can exude by keeping our eyes focused on where God is leading.  We must continue to move forward believing He will get us to the other side completely unharmed.  God used that turtle to teach me this:  I can look at the problem and worry about how to solve it-or I can look to Jesus and trust Him to bring the solution even if it means hours, days, weeks or years of roadblocks and delays.  God used Abraham’s journey as a testimony that He is never late but always on time in delivering His promises, even delivering car repairs.

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What Fruit is Your Tree Producing?

“A tree is identified by its fruit. If a tree is good, its fruit will be good. If a tree is bad, its fruit will be bad.”

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭12:33‬ ‭NLT‬‬

For the past few months I have been obsessively craving oranges. I can eat six of them or more in a day sometimes. Definitely can eat several over the span of a week. But I’m a bit weird with how I eat them. I can’t peel just one and then eat it. I have to peel several at a time and store them in a dish so they’re readily available whenever my belly craves them. If I don’t peel them all at once, they tend to sit, rot and get wasted.

Tasting the juicy sweetness of a ripe orange and throwing away one that’s mushy and covered in a fuzzy green substance reminds me of God’s calling on all of us to be fruit bearers. In Galatians (Chapter 5 verse 22 and 23) we read about the fruits of the Spirit being love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, gentleness, kindness, perseverance and self-control. These are all characteristics God requires of us to display in our day to day lives. Reading the list sounds easy and I am confident there are many times practicing all of these have come natural to all of us. But what about the times when it doesn’t? Let’s look at some scenarios.

When a person cuts us off on the road it’s human nature to react in a harsh manner (not practice gentleness.) when someone wounds us deeply or continues to disappoint us, it’s human nature to stop loving them, maybe even feel hatred toward them. When we’re grief stricken if feels impossible to experience joy. Addictions make it incredibly challenging to practice self-control. When life feels out of control it’s easy to worry and be anxious instead of choosing to be at peace fully trusting Abba. If you’re a parent dealing with a toddler meltdown or a disrespectful know-it-all teenager it’s super easy to lose patience. On days when we’re just feeling grumpy it’s easier to lash out at others rather than practice goodness and kindness.

Then there’s the concept of being known by our fruit. If we are a person bearing good fruit we should be identified as such. But what about those who constantly bear bad fruit? What about the people who cross our paths who appear to be mean-spirited, toxic, hard-hearted or down right evil? What about those people who seem so hard hearted that no amount of prayer covering seems ever possible that they will ever change?

First and foremost if you’re a Christian who’s known for bearing bad fruit (maybe you hold grudges, is unwelcoming, always arguing, gossips, harbors hatred toward others, loses your temper easily, over spends/over eats or even over works) it’s time to take a long hard look in the mirror, confess these attitudes and behaviors and ask God to cut off the branches that aren’t bearing good fruit. Until you refuse to repent, you will be a tree that produces bad fruit and bears a false witness as to what being Christ like is all about. If you repent, God promises to prune you in a way that will make your tree overflowing with His fruit once again (John 15:2.)

Dealing with nonbelievers who bear bad fruit is a bit more challenging. None of us hold the power in our human strength to change a human heart, including our own. Part of bearing good fruit is being a seed planter for those who bear bad fruit. If you have any knowledge of botany (which mine is very limited) you know that some plants actually populate from having their seeds spread elsewhere. This happens in both plants and weeds which means Christians can plant both good and bad seeds in the lives of those whom we cross paths with. If we want to be good fruit bearers, we have to be good seed planters also (read Mark 4 regarding Jesus’ parable on seed planting.)

How do we do that? We practice the fruits of the Spirit at all times. Think about being a comedian performing on stage for the first time. Your audience boos you and throws rotten tomatoes at you. This is the epitome of being exposed to bad fruit bearers and toxic people. It’s also human nature to want to defend ourselves and to pick up those rotted tomatoes and throw them back. Instead, God calls us to give them good fruit. Sticking with this analogy let’s say when someone throws rotten tomatoes at you, you pull out fresh ripe ones and ask them to join you for a salad. If someone steals from your apple tree, bake them a pie with what’s left. By doing so, you will be planting seeds of the Spirit that God can use to grow your enemies into good fruit bearers also.

This is definitely easier said than done. Trust me-I struggle daily with practicing any of this. I tend to live out my feelings instead of practicing self-control. I lose my temper and throw gentleness, kindness and goodness right out the window replacing them with anger, harsh words and unforgiveness. I wallow in my sorrows and give the enemy my joy. When I try problem solving in my own human wisdom, I get engulfed in worry and anxiety which suffocates any ounce of His peace within me. There are days I make a conscious effort to choose His fruit instead though. Just like choosing healthy food gives your body more energy, choosing His fruit gives my spirit a supernatural energy boost that produces more fruit within me. The more we pour out into others, the more He pours back into us. To keep using a scientific analogy, this would be a spiritual osmosis!

Whether you’re in a season of seed planting or fruit bearing remember three things-one, just like growing a garden or planting trees takes a length of time before the plant is fully matured and fruit is produced, so it may take years before you see changes in those you are discipling to, including even your own children. That’s where consistency, perseverance and the power of prayer play their biggest roles. Just because you can’t see anything growing, doesn’t mean there aren’t roots forming beneath the surface. So don’t give up.

Second, you may not be the person God uses to fully change their hearts. Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 3:6 that he planted the seed but Apollo watered it and only God actually made it grow. This verse reminds us that some hearts may take more than one person to soften and that no matter who God uses, He ultimately gets the glory. It’s His power alone that truly changes hearts. We are just His tools.

Lastly, and this part is a sad reality, some hearts will never change. Choosing the fruits of the Spirit is a choice. There are people who choose to be hard hearted and no effort will ever change them. (Matthew 21:19) I believe God will show you when it’s time to walk away from such a person and surrender them fully to the Lord. We can still pray for a miracle in them but walking away means protecting ourselves emotionally and avoiding getting spiritually burned out. You may not agree with this last concept but just remember Judas was a prime example of such a heart. He walked right beside Jesus and betrayed him. Jesus never pursued Judas after the betrayal because He knew there was no changing him.

Jesus forgave Judas and He calls us to forgive our enemies also-even if they refuse to change. Forgiveness is definitely a seed that when planted can produce amazing fruit in ourselves and in those we choose to forgive. Jesus modeled this as He was hanging on a cross enduring excruciating pain, pushing himself up just to take a breath, and said “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” So what seeds are you planting? What fruit are you producing? What is your spiritual tree bearing? Strive to plant seeds that inevitably produce trees that bear His fruit.

Shake it Off or Cry it Out-but always Pray it out and Believe!

Ever feel like life is against you, that no matter how hard you try, something or someone keeps pushing you down?  After a while, you’re emotionally scraped, battered and bruised.  You may feel like you can only get back up so many times and brush yourself, right?  I mean who wouldn’t get worn out from standing up, dusting themselves off and getting another blast right away finding themselves flat on the ground again or worse, deeper in a pit?

I’ve been through this season time and again.  Going through it right now actually.  Each time I fight hard to get out of the pit, to overcome feelings of despair and discouragement. Each time I say to myself, “You should be an expert at this so why is this bothering you so much?”  I strap on my shield faith and remind myself that God is in control, His ways are better than my ways, His timing is perfect, etc.  But the darts thrown seem to get sharper and come at me harder and faster than the other times. I feel myself physically, emotionally and spiritually weakening.  I deal with it through a variety of “Go-To’s.”

First-I lose my temper.  Then I cry.  Sometimes these happen simultaneously.  I wake up at 2:30am multiple nights in a row wrestling with worry, fear and anxiety.  Sometimes despair shows up, throws a party in my mind and I just sink lower and lower. Despair usually brings the gift of uncontrollable sobs.  I use pride as a defense mechanism but everyone knows that’s a false tool of the enemy so in reality all I have done is grabbed a hold of his flaming dart and stabbed it into myself.

Another go-to of mine is gossiping.  I’m embarrassed to admit it but I have shared some hurtful moments way too many times and spoken angrily about my offenders to ears that didn’t need to hear any of it.  I tell myself I’m just venting but that’s merely masking what it really is.  The Bible tells us in Ephesians 4:29 (NLT) “Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.”  And Proverbs 17:9 says, “Love prospers when a fault is forgiven, but dwelling on it separates close friends” Whether you choose to think you’re venting or admit that you’re gossiping, Proverbs 17:9 clearly spells out that dwelling on the offense brings unforgiveness and separation.  Two more things I am guilty of because honestly, venting/gossiping has never helped me forgive my offender.  It does however help me to hold a grudge, sink deeper in a pit of self-pity and drive a wider wedge between my offender and me.

My last go-to is usually prayer and surrender to God.  But again-if I’m being honest, this doesn’t come easily or with a happy heart.  It’s usually more in the form of a toddler after they’re worn out from a throwing a fit and they surrender from exhaustion with the “Fine, have it your way” attitude.  This kind of attitude doesn’t grow my faith or get me out of the pit.  It just keeps me stuck.  And boy have I been stuck for years!

Over the past couple of years, I believe God has spoken different words to me that were my focus for that year.  In 2015 He spoke the word Refinement to me and it was a year that felt like I was being melted down in a hot fiery furnace into a liquid blob.  Last year He spoke the word Trust.  I learned that trusting God was like closing your eyes and jumping off a cliff trusting He would catch me. In fact, toward the end of 2015 I did that exact thing…ok it was a zip line but there was a short free fall before my harness caught me and I screamed like a school girl!  The scariest part (even though the instructor told me what was going to happen) was taking that step off the platform and going through the free fall.  I didn’t know it then but God was showing me what trusting Him is like before He spoke the word to me.

This year God is telling me to Believe.  I came into 2017 with this naïve thought that this was going to be a big year for me-the year I get all my ducks in a row and finally get out of the pit of feeling stuck.  I designed a budget to get some debt paid off.  I spent New Year’s Eve in prayer committing to leaving behind the character flaws I know I need to shed in order to move into what God has for me.  I thought believing God at His word would be easy since I had just endured 365 days of learning how to trust Him.  I. Was. Wrong!

In mid-January I was hit with a financial burden that shook me.  I know everybody has financial issues at certain points in their life but I think mine was so upsetting because it blew my entire plan of budgeting tighter and paying off debt.  I had a back-up plan though.  Someone owed me a dollar amount that almost matched the deficit I experienced and I thought, “If they pay me what they owe me I’ll be just fine.”  I prayed for this provision daily.  But that didn’t happen and truth be told my heart hardened.  Instead, God provided me with His daily manna and taught me to trust Him in the seconds, minutes and hours of each day instead of “worrying about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” (Matthew 6:34 NLT).  He used amazing people in my life to bless me and my children in the most unexpected ways (ask me about the offer of about 6 blow dryers some time. Ha! Ha!)  When anxiety swelled up and frustration built, the word Believe kept flashing through my mind.  I had to tell myself aloud regularly that God promises to be faithful and that I had to choose to believe Him at His word even when I couldn’t see what He was doing, even when He didn’t answer my prayer the way I wanted Him to.

Even though I am on the upside of that financial burden, believing God is still not coming naturally to me.  I have been trying to change my career for some time now only to repeatedly get rejected. I have a pending application as a graduate student at a highly reputable university and recently told I have to take the GRE for any further consideration.  Do you know that costs $205 and is the most ridiculously difficult test on the planet?  Ok, that last part may be my own opinion but it is a very challenging test.  I have plans to run in a 5K but training for it feels impossible when the longest I can run consecutively is a minute and 30 seconds.  I then have to walk as I attempt to catch my breath in order to try running again.  I still desire to have debt paid off this year but got hit with two major repairs during and immediately after January’s financial hardship, increasing my debt actually.  If that’s not enough, I have people in my life who are petty, cruel at times, arrogant and disrespectful. And some of them I have to deal with daily.  Why is all this happening?  Because the best way for me to believe God is to trust Him as He walks with me through the fiery trials, allowing Him to continue to refine and purify me, plucking off the branches that don’t produce fruit and molding me into His image.

This morning, while traveling to work, a passing vehicle threw mud so hard it splattered across the side of my vehicle making my driver side window completely muddied.  I immediately thought, “That is exactly how I feel right now-just getting heaps of mud thrown at me and the people throwing it don’t even care.” That’s when God spoke to me and said, “Cease striving and know that I am God…”  (Psalm 46:10 NASB).  He gave me flash of Joseph when his brothers threw him into a pit and sold him into slavery.  What God was saying was, “Stop fighting, stop holding on to the frustrations you’re carrying and STOP trying to fix this all on your own.”  He also promised that, “I am Your God who is going with you!  I will fight for you against your enemies and I will give you victory! (Deuteronomy 20:4 NLT)” I don’t know how God will deliver me from my enemies or this pit but I know He will because I believe His word.  It never fails. In fact, the first three verses of Psalm 40, David stands on this promise, “I waited patiently for the Lord to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire.  He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along.”

If you’re going through this season too-remember this.  You’re not alone.  You’re not defeated and God will deliver you.  In Taylor Swift’s song, “Shake it Off”, we’re told that “haters gonna hate, fakers gonna fake and heart breakers gonna break.”  The singer chose to shake it all off-the hate, the fake and the heartbreak.  That’s not always easy to do.  Sometimes need to cry it out too.  Whatever you’re go-to is, make sure you’re also praying it out, giving it up to God and believing Him at His word. Read Psalm 61 and 62 daily for a week (advice given to me just last week and one I am putting into practice this week) and see how much your belief increase!

My August Son

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Psalms 139: 13-14 NIV

When I was fifteen-years-old and completely frustrated with my two-year-old brother who would not stop walking across my board game, I looked up at the ceiling and yelled, “IF YOU’RE A SMART GOD, YOU WON’T LET ME HAVE CHILDREN!”  As a little girl I loved playing house and had many baby dolls but as a teenager, I never liked babysitting, never had patience with small children.  That impatience readily increased with having three younger brothers who are 14, 16 and 20 years younger than me.

That all changed in my twenties.  First, God moved me into children’s ministry and I fell in love with a fantastic little toddler named, Andrew.  He and I spent many evenings in the church nursery watching Muppets while his mom attended whatever class was being offered at the time.  That little guy could turn any bad day into a happy one in just a few short moments of silly interactions.  In 2001, I quit working at that church and moved out of state.  Unfortunately, I have no idea how my toddler buddy has grown up.

When I was twenty-five, during a routine exam, my doctor discovered some health problems that only surgery would fix.  The day after my surgery I learned I only had a 50% chance of ever having children. It was at that moment I recalled that exasperated prayer of a selfish 15-year-old girl and I prayed that God didn’t take me seriously then and would gift me with children.  Two years later, He gifted me with a beautiful daughter.  Twenty-one months after she was born, I gave birth to her baby brother.  After that I had two more surgeries that reduced my chance of pregnancy down to 0%.

Every year on my children’s birthdays I tell them the story of how they were born.  As unique as their personalities are to this day, so were my pregnancies and subsequently, their births.  My son’s was the hardest pregnancy, easiest birth.  After complications I suffered birthing my daughter, my only option to birth my son was a scheduled cesarean section. Although it was petrifying to be fully awake during such a major surgery, having no labor pains and delivering a child in a matter of minutes was a tremendous blessing compared to the 13 hours of labor including an hour and a half of pushing to deliver my daughter.  His pregnancy was tough-his birth was easy-but life with him has been an adventurous challenge ever since.

My son was colicky at birth.   He cried so much that there were days I didn’t even want to come home from work because I knew he was just going to cry and I couldn’t console him.  Honestly, I would cry too.  I felt guilty and helpless all at the same time.  He had stomach issues that led to multiple types of formula changes, food allergy testing at the appropriate age, and even an upper GI.  He also bounced between ear and sinus infections for several years. He was on so much antibiotic I worried he would become immune to its effects.  If that wasn’t enough he ended up with asthma, severe allergies and hernia surgery by the age of 6.  He endured allergy shots for seven years and spent many school days in the office using a nebulizer during croup season. We became frequent flyers to our pediatrician, allergist and the children’s hospital that was two hours away.  If his health wasn’t a big enough challenge for him and me, he was also diagnosed with ADHD when he was 5.

ADHD has its own challenges.  One of those was determining to medicate or not.  We tried both.  The first meds he was on he acted like a drug addict coming off a high when the med was wearing off.  The second med made him completely indifferent to anything-as if he had no emotions at all.   He was pulled off meds and for five years we tried behavior management and naturopathic methods.  By fifth grade he was struggling academically, behaviorally and emotionally.  With a resistant heart (I am a very anti-pill popping parent) he was put back on an ADHD medication.  I praise God this one is working with minimal side effects.

As he enters his final year of childhood and prepares for the teen years, I’ve reflected on how much he’s grown over the past 12 years.  In spite of his health hardships and behavioral struggles, my son is one of the toughest and gentlest young men I have the pleasure of knowing.  No matter the setback we would experience, he was taught to treat it as his norm and to persevere in spite of it.  He has a natural athletic ability hitting pitched baseballs and bumping volleyballs at the age of 3.  He is a man’s man kind of boy and loves everything that has to do with being a guy.  He even demands to have man soap for showering.  He has however been banned from Axe body spray after excessive usage caused major eye burning, choking and a literal evacuation from the house. My favorite thing about him is that his tender heart still loves to snuggle with his momma even though he’s embarrassed if I kiss him in public.

Raising him has changed me.  Having a child with ADHD requires patience that I was simply not born with.  With God’s grace though I can actually find humor in seeing his pants hanging from my ceiling fan and  finding his socks hanging from magnets on the refrigerator when he was supposed to be getting ready for school.  On days when he is super high energy, God equips me with added measures of patience as well as creativity to help him burn off his energy in a positive way.  Most importantly, raising him has taught me I am not in control-God truly is.  I never planned to have my children so close in age, but God did.  I never planned to have a son who would have multiple health and behavior issues or to be raising my children as a single parent.  But God did.  And with each setback, health scare, meltdown, impulsive outburst and hyperactive day, God’s been with us helping us through each one.  He has a huge purpose for my son and I know every hardship we’ve endured is making him into the man God made him to be.  I pray every day my son will continue to seek God and learn what his purpose is in order to effectively live it out.

Recently I stumbled up a poem I had written years before my children were born.  It was actually written during a time when I was on the fence of wanting children.  It was entitled, Unconditional Love.  These are the words from that poem:

“Although you are not born yet,

The love I feel for you has always existed.

Even though you haven’t been created yet,

I’ve always felt you growing inside of me, inside of my heart.

You’ve always been a part of my life.

When I was a child you were the baby doll I dressed up and played house                                      with.

Now that I am a woman, you are a mystery that will someday be my reality.

You are my child, my son, my daughter…”

Fourteen years ago, that mystery mentioned in my poem became a reality with the birth of my daughter.  Twelve years ago, that reality doubled with the birth of my August son.

Practice Makes Patience

“But if we look forward to something we don’t yet have, we must wait patiently and confidently.”

Romans 8:25 NLT

Patience is not a virtue I was born with.  I’ve said that many times and unfortunately there’s a great truth behind it.  I used to pray for added measures of patience but learned a better way to pray is for opportunities to practice patience.  Yes, you read that correctly-I ask God to give me opportunities to practice patience.  Some of you reading this might be thinking: “Are you crazy?  That’s asking for trouble!”  I’d say “You’re right”-I am asking for trouble because the best way to grow patience is in circumstances that test said patience.  The more opportunities God graces me with, the more my patience will increase.  After all, practice makes perfect, right?

Here’s the area I lack the most patience in-waiting!  It’s the worst for me.  I’m not talking about waiting in line or stuck in a traffic jam (although depending on my day and if I’m in a hurry or not I can lose my patience in those situations also.)  What I’m referring to is waiting in life-on a dream, on an answer to prayer, on a change.  Waiting for the open doors God has for me.  And this “season” of waiting feels like longer than Abraham waited for Isaac or the Israelites waited for their promised land.

What am I waiting for?  God knows what the specifics are but in a nutshell-I’m seeking favor and increase in two specific areas of my life.  And I’ve been waiting for both to come to pass for what seems like an eternity. I have prayed, fasted, attempted to manufacture my own miracles, given up, cried, fell into depression, climbed out the pit and clung to hope again.  I’ve even pulled a Gideon and laid out prayer fleeces asking for specific signs that God heard my prayer and would answer accordingly.

Know what I don’t do-trust God.  Every time I pray I verbally lay my request at the foot of the cross but as soon as I say “Amen” I pick it back up mentally.  I worry, stress, overthink and plan for worst case scenario.  The result-I get in God’s way and end up closing the door myself.  This pattern has took place too much in my life and it’s a terrible habit to break.  In fact just today I woke up sick to my stomach worrying about these requests but unable to find peace, even after praying.  When I ask for a spoken word from Him, He sends me Proverbs 3:5; “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.”  Not exactly what I was looking for.  When I ask God to specifically show me what’s going to happen and His answer is simply, “Stop overthinking and trust Me”-honestly I get quite frustrated.

There are days I loathe reading Proverbs 3:5.  I want life to be like a book. When the story gets too complicated and I’m too impatient to read on, I simply skip to the end to find out what’s going to happen.  But in real life-we don’t get to skip to the end.  There are seasons that we have to just wait it out.  During that season it will seem like everyone around you is getting your “happily ever after” and you’re sentenced to a lifetime of pit dwelling.  I’ve spent many years thinking the same thing.  But that’s simply not true.  We can either believe the lies the enemy feeds us about our future or we can do what Proverbs 3:5 tells us-simply trust God and stop overthinking.  We can also choose to be content right where God has us. (Philippians 4:11) There’s a reason He makes us wait or takes us on a journey that seems to be opposite of where we want to God. Walking with Jesus doesn’t always makes sense (even His disciples had trouble understanding Him at times) but it always leads to His best for us.  And the secret to peace while we wait-praise.  Praying doesn’t always bring peace.  Especially if you pray like me-obsessively at times just begging God to show me the answer or to make this dream happen or bring this desire to pass etc.  But if I just pray my requests, leave them at the cross and then praise God-I find that peace that surpasses all understanding.  It’s exactly what Paul did when he was in prison (and when he wrote the scripture on choosing to be content in all circumstances.)

If you’re like me and feeling like a modern day Abraham waiting nearly 25 years for your Isaac (that desire of your heart to come to fruition) do what the great waiters in the Bible did-trust Him, worship Him, praise Him and serve Him.  I believe one of two things will happen, God will bring your dreams (and mine) to pass, or He will align our hearts with the desires He has for us.  He promises to keep us in perfect peace when we stay (keep) our minds on Him (Isaiah 26:3).

I want to end today’s post with a prayer of confession as I continue to struggle with this season of waiting.  If you’re reading this and struggling too, please say this prayer with me:

Abba God-I confess to You that I am SO over waiting.  I confess my impatience Lord but what I confess most is my lack of trust in You.  Forgive me for getting caught up in what I don’t have, obsessing over dreams that haven’t come to fruition yet and taking my mind and eyes of who You are.  Forgive me for disobeying Proverbs 3:5.  I give the enemy my joy every time I choose to worry instead of just trusting in You.  Father keep me in Your perfect peace and continue to draw my mind and eyes back to You.  I lay my requests, the desires of my heart, down at the cross and this time Daddy, I’m leaving them there. If it’s Your will Father-I trust You to bring them back to me Your way and in Your time.  If it’s not Your will, I trust You to remove what I should not desire and plant your dreams into my heart.  You are the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords and I am Your daughter.  I am learning that this season of waiting is making me into a modern day Esther and the time will come that I was born for.  I praise You for refining me.  Lord-surprise me because today I place my trust back in You.  In Your precious name I pray, Amen.