Never Lost in Uncertainty

I will turn the darkness before them into light, the rough places into level ground.

I will turn the darkness before them into light, the rough places into level ground.

I’ve been trying to write this blog post for a couple days. On Saturday a tragedy struck a family I have only known a short time, but have grown to care deeply about.  Ever since I heard, everything else has seemed somehow insignificant, and my words seem to fall into the abyss of well meaning yet unknowing chatter that brings nothing of importance.  So this morning, on my scheduled day to post I have nothing.  I am so glad that God’s Word has all I need.

There are so many times when we don’t know where to turn, what to do or how to take the next step.  Everyday tasks can mount up until they seem overwhelming.  Young women and mature women alike live such busy and demanding lifestyles today.  The ordinary things of life… our jobs, our children, our spouse… not to mention the interest we have in our communities and other life fulfilling activities, all of these can truly blind us.  They create a whirlwind of choices and decisions that swirls around in our minds and keeps us lost in uncertainty.

Sometimes we are faced with sudden and painful circumstances that make it difficult to know what to do… what to say… how to persevere and continue in life.  Depending on how personal the circumstance is to our life… the pain can be total anguish that completely blinds us and turns our life into total darkness.  Taking any step at all seems impossible.  God is there for each of us… in every situation.

I teach in Boot Camp that the way to God’s direction is in our relationship to Christ and constantly including Him in our choices and decisions.  Key to that principle is being convinced that God does not forsake us!  To forsake means to abandon or desert.  We need to be certain that God is always with us… not just in the overall, general sense of God being everywhere that we learned or heard as children.  But in the personal – intimate with our confusion and pain – sense that God is talking about in this verse.  We need to know that when we can’t see the next step He is right there to guide us.  We need to know the depth of His love for us.

God brings light into the darkness.  Have you ever been in a cave and had the tour guides turn off the lights.  Pitch dark! So dark you can’t see anything even an inch from your eyes… it is exactly what it’s like to be blind.  To think you might be alone in that place is staggering.  But then they light a match and the light that surrounds it is amazing.  You know you are not alone.

My personal experience of being abandoned as a child hindered this “knowing” for many years.  I struggled with the lie that when I needed God the most He was not there.  I listened to that lie and would keep my eyes shut tight… no sense looking for someone whom I was convinced wasn’t there.  Then I would blindly try to find my way, groping and grasping for anything that I thought might bring me comfort.  But God was there and He never left me even for a moment.  When I read and listened to His Word; when I listened for His still small voice in my heart, He brought grace and truth and I would eventually open my eyes and my circumstances glowed with His presence.

In the ordinary life struggles and in painful loss and tragedy God is there. In His moment by moment presence we receive mercy, love and comfort.  When we don’t know the way, He takes us by the hand and guides and directs us.  This verse shows us exactly how God works… In Christ we accept that He is present with us and reach out to Him… He comforts our lost and hurting hearts; levels our paths, guides and directs us … overcoming our blindness and confusion we become convinced even more of His love and presence with us.

“And I will lead the blind in a way that they do not know, in paths that they have not known I will guide them.  I will turn the darkness before them into light, the rough places into level ground. These are the things I do and I do not forsake them.”

                                                                      Isaiah 42:16 ESV

A Prayer

Father God thank you for your constant and unfailing love for each one of us… individually… personally and intimately.  You are aware of the everyday yet overwhelming things of life. You are especially present in the midst of the tragic, desperate confusion we all experience sometimes. Your son Jesus experienced it personally; it was at those times He withdrew alone to pray.  I ask you to guide my steps, each choice and decision that awaits me today.  With you, my way becomes level and smooth, my heart becomes calm and sure.  Thank you that you do not forsake me!

Teaching on how to experience God’s direction moment by moment in your life is available in Knowledge~Relationship~Decisions under resources: Boot Camp Workbook.  Also please feel free to contact me by completing the “prayer request” form or the “contact me” form.  Both are confidential and are not posted on the webpage but are emailed directly to me.  You may indicate if you would like an email response from me.  Or… you can simply add a public comment below and post it to this blog.

Are You Always Motivated?

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Did you know that every child is always motivated?  Now before you click this post shut, keep reading for just a moment.  Every child is motivated; all the time… they just aren’t always motivated to do what we as their parents would like them to do.  When my daughter was a child, instead of cleaning her bedroom she was often compelled to sleep among the mess of toys strewn across the floor.  I would find her cozy and content; wondering why I was so distraught at the mess that remained.  She had started to clean the room.  When I instructed her to do so she agreed and placed several dolls in the toy box.  But it wasn’t long and she abandoned the task.  The stuffed bear was soft and soon cleaning the room was abandoned.  Snuggly bear was comfortable and that desire for comfort became her motivation.  She only became sad when she was discovered and she still needed to clean the room.  Then she had to face the mess and the consequences.  Sound familiar?

This scenario happens in the life of all children at one time or another.  Personally, even as an adult, I see this pattern repeated in my own life.  The task is set before me, often it’s a task of my own choosing – like writing a blog; smart healthy eating; exercising to improve my fitness. They are the healthy, life enhancing activities that are part of God’s plan for us.  They all seem fine at first.  I enthusiastically begin… creating menus, setting schedules and I sign-up for a workshop.  I start to eat healthy but then give in to the sugar craving within a day or two.  Too soon I exercise less and less frequently… allowing myself to skip days… turning into weeks or months.  I’ll admit there are some writing classes I started and didn’t finish.  The effort to stay committed, to complete the task, to fight the cravings all seem huge and the rewards come too slowly or even stop for a time.  Then… the TV or a nap beckons and at that moment I don’t care about getting my blog post written.  Only later do I wish I had.  That is when I cry out, “Oh God… what have I gotten myself into?”  There are real, practical ways to experience God’s loving response to this question.

  • Remind your self what you really want and expect to accomplish…

It’s time to ask your self an uncomfortable yet real question.  Is it praise and attention you might be seeking?  In my case, not everyone will rave about what I am doing, or even notice.  I’ll probably never do American Ninja Warrior or even the Senior Olympics… but can I get a little stronger and healthier than I am right now?  I like to say I want 62 to be the new 50… but maybe just an energetic, comfortable 62 is a great accomplishment for today.

  • Say no to Huck Finn… the kid inside your self that wants you to play hooky and skip out on the work.

Who are you listening to?  It is easy to get overwhelmed by the busyness and responsibilities of life instead of seeking God for His direction and allowing him to prioritize our day.  Instead of writing, I fuss about the dirty dishes and having to feed the dogs; there’s so much to do I give up and slouch on the couch with a book instead.  The truth is the battle is not actually me against all the other activities I could get involved with.  The battle is inside me…. I need to say, “no” to my personal Huck Finn.

  • Take a break instead of stopping all together.

The reality is that keeping going is hard; fatigue, discouragement, even boredom sets in.  Inside, everything says, “Stop and you’ll feel better.”  And it doesn’t get whispered… it’s loud!  So… that’s the time to stop.  Just when you stop… stop smart!  Take a break before the pressure to stop gets going inside.  Set a time for a break soon enough you might even be tempted to skip the break.  Don’t!  Take the break and enjoy the rest.  Then set a timer for the break to end.  If I write for an hour (or sometimes sit and look at a blank computer screen) I stop and take a ten minute break… stretch, breath, eat a snack… but when the timer sounds to get back to the computer it’s time to start again

As a child of God, maturing in life is a matter of understanding motivation. I need to understand that I am always motivated and begin to ask myself what is motivating me toward God and what motivates me away from Him.  Acceptance, praise and value are great motivators.  God wired the need for these things into my DNA.  In my head I know that God gives me them freely… but sometimes in the midst of my daily struggles it doesn’t feel that way.  That’s when fear and pride motivate me away from God’s plan.  Fear and pride make it easy to allow other things to crowd in.  I am soon looking for an alternative… comfort in the form of reasons and excuses for my failure.

  • Stop imagining the negative outcomes and start seeing what God sees… His plan. Write it down!

God sees His child trying her best… full of imagination and never in doubt of her abilities… thrilled to be off on a new adventure. God sees His child with her own unique way of living life… the more crooked the path the more interesting the journey.  God sees His child standing in victory and glowing with enthusiasm.  It’s not what she has accomplished that impresses Him… it’s her trust and determination that bursts His heart with pride.

God’s love is our everlasting motivator and the source of all our strength.  His ways are real and practical, challenging and exhilarating; with Him all things are possible.  The joy is in taking on the task and seeing it through to completion.

A Prayer

 Father God I am so thankful for the awesome plans you have for me.  You have given me everything I need and I surrender my desires, gifts and talents back to you… you are faithful to guide me every step of the way.  Help me to stay motivated by your love for me instead of measuring myself by the praise and attention of others.  Fill me with a sense of purpose with every step I take… every small accomplishment.  Help me to not give up!   

Scripture: Jeremiah 29:11; James 1:4; Philippians 1:6

Life Saving Truth

Have you ever felt like you were losing your grip on life? I found myself hanging precariously, my grip strained and my heart pounding, on the verge of plummeting even to my death.  There were times I struggled to find a moment of peace within my heart.  I was without hope and sat in utter confusion and despair.  I was severely depressed and although I hesitate to reveal this… my mind was trained on only one thing… the act of suicide.    God has a lot to say about losing our grip.  In fact he tells us repeatedly to do exactly the opposite.  God tells us to hold fast!  I pray you are not in this place of despair… yet we all can relate to this in some measure.  When our hands start to slip, when our arms get weak and when our hearts are heavy… God says, “Hold fast my child” to the hope that is in Christ!

  • Share your life… you never know what God will do with it.

    Fabia and I 2

    Fabia and I ~ thirty years later

I was 30 years old and committed to the psych ward in our local hospital for the 3rd time in 1 ½ years.  Each time I had spent 5-6 weeks in the hospital, away from my family.  My children were 8, 6 and 18 months old. My young husband was ill equipped to deal with me and was often frustrated and angry. My only other family was my mother who lived in Hawaii.  I had not seen her in 12 years.  I felt the most alone I had ever been!

Then a young woman who was my next door neighbor came to visit me on the psych unit.  I barely knew her really, and I was shocked to see her.  I knew that I was drawn to her but couldn’t say why at the time.  She was warm and loving and completely non-judgmental.  I knew she was a Christian but she didn’t preach at me or scold me. The biggest thing she did for me was validate how I was feeling… she acknowledged that I was hurt, alone, scared and frustrated and that my reasons for feeling that way were understandable and real.  She would just sit and listen and give me a hug and then say a prayer – nothing long and preachy… just simple and heart felt.  One visit she told me I needed Jesus as my Lord and I prayed with her to surrender my life to Him.  It was still not real to me even after the prayer.

  • Share God’s Word… it holds the power of life itself.

The same visit my neighbor left me a little pamphlet with scripture at the top of each page and a short commentary below.  I was raised in church and I had heard scripture read at services my entire life.  I had never opened a Bible on my own.  I didn’t have one at the time.   Making the connection between scripture and what I was feeling and experiencing was completely foreign to me.

When I received that pamphlet I was on suicide watch in lock-up on the unit, sitting on a bed with paper sheets and wearing paper pajamas.  One scripture seemed like it jumped off the page at me.  It was 2nd Timothy 1:7… For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.  Not all versions say “sound mind” but that pamphlet did.  I read that and right away said to myself, that is what I want!  A sound mind!  I knew fear… I could feel fear in every fiber of my body at that very moment.  I knew powerlessness… I had never been so powerless in my entire life!  As far as love was concerned I wanted to be loved but I was convinced I was unlovable.  Still… I thought I might live without love if I could just have a sound mind.

  • Hold fast to your hope in Christ!

Then… the crucial part to all of this took place.  I decided to believe that scripture!  I decided to believe that God was going to give me a sound mind… I didn’t know how but I decided I was going to find out.  I thought I might ask my neighbor for a little help, at least I felt a tiny bit safe with her.  I knew that the first thing I needed to do was get out of lock-up and then off the unit and back to my husband and children.  I took that scripture and I clung to the life saving truth it held!  I read and reread it.  God’s Word was working in my mind and heart that allowed change to take place despite my feelings and circumstances!

It’s hard to hold on in life.  To “hold fast” is all about what we hang on to… and has little to do with our own effort and energy.   It requires action on our part.  In this case I read and reread 2 Timothy 1:7 until it became a part of me.   Once we reach out… God’s faithfulness takes over.  God took one verse and with it he refocused my mind and calmed my heart.  Since that time He has done the same thing over and over again in my life.  Yes… holding fast requires action on our part.  We need to be deliberate about doing this simple sounding suggestion because too often the effort to do it seems huge.  But here’s the amazing grace in it… as you stretch out your hand and heart towards Him, Jesus is already there with his strength and victory.  When it seems like you are losing your grip… HOLD FAST!

A Prayer

 Thank you Father for your faithfulness, love and mercy toward me.  You reached out your hand and held me from destruction; you nurtured me and kept me safe.  Your word is truth.  Help me to seek your word, your wisdom and guidance in every situation and circumstance in my life.  Thank you for placing others in my life, they give comfort and love in just the right measure. Thank you Father for the life of Christ in me… together we do life inseparable and victorious. 

 Scripture: Hebrews 3:6; Deuteronomy 30:20; Proverbs 3:13-18; Jeremiah 31:33

Recipe for Change

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Sometimes I wonder if this mess… the thing about myself that gives me the most trouble every day… will ever change! But then I remember that years ago someone shared with me the key to change in my life. Although I don’t remember who gave me the recipe, I have never forgotten this nugget of insight.

Grace + Truth + Time = Change.

It’s such a simple recipe… just three ingredients, mix well and voila… you have change, right? But is it really that easy? I know for a fact that it’s not always easy… you can really hurt people by trying to say change is too easy. Some change is hard, extremely hard and painful as it happens. Yet it’s not impossible and the result of hard fought change is fulfilling and rewarding in amazing ways. You can also hurt people by trying to say change is too hard. Can a person really change? Are there things that a person cannot change? Sure there are! Physical elements such as gender and intelligence you cannot change. There are some things you can change and some things you can’t… there is wisdom and grace in knowing and accepting that.

Perhaps to fully understand the recipe for change we need to make sure we have all the ingredients. I’ll just tell you, you have them all at your disposal… grace and truth and time. They are available to everyone, given as a gift from God. And to those who surrender their lives to Jesus as Lord these ingredients are always and forever changing you… into the glory of God He created you to be. It’s like an empty pottery mixing bowl… patiently molded and crafted to the right shape and size, painted, glazed and fired to perfection but still missing something. It is still without any substance that brings glory to the one who crafted it.

You need to put something in the mixing bowl… mix well, knead and allow it to rise, then bake in the oven of life to produce the awesome smell and taste of a glorious creation. In Christ, that’s what is happening to you… Jesus came into that hallow place within you and brought grace and truth! Jesus, the one who came from the Father and made his dwelling among us is full of grace and truth. Jesus lives in you… and he is always working to produce change.

Jesus brings Grace…

What is grace? God’s grace is all at once 100% of His kindness, tolerance and patience shown toward each and every one of us. It works like this… I know my shortcomings, my failures and the things I just plain don’t like about myself. I’m my own best critic and worst enemy at times. Left to my own devises I will beat myself up and become buried in shame. Then Jesus comes in with grace… he tells me he loves and values me just the way I am.

Grace reminds me that no matter what I am up against… when I’m an exhausted, frustrated Mom of young children; an overweight, out of shape office worker addicted to sugar and TV; an impatient, critical wife in a quickly failing marriage; a hurt, angry daughter trying to deal with an aging parent… no matter what I am up against ~ Grace is essential in creating an environment that is right for change! On the basis of grace I can ease up on myself a little… maybe even a lot! Grace tells me that there is a reason for the struggles. Grace is love… God’s love for me just the way I am; it is also God loving me enough to not leave me that way! Grace tells me that it’s not me but Him who is making the change in me happen.

Jesus brings truth…

Truth is the essential ingredient that brings about change. Truth needs to be folded into my mind and heart and kneaded throughout my life. Truth begins to highlight areas of my life that I am hurting myself and hurting others. When truth comes in it challenges me! It exposes lies that I may have believed for decades… about myself, about others, about God. Truth corrects and protects… the Word of God comes in and says if I keep going the way I am going I will crash and get hurt. Truth makes change necessary, practical and most of all attainable.

Truth isn’t always comfortable… I see my shortcomings but that doesn’t mean I want anyone else, including God, exposing them. And when God comes in with His loving truth that contradicts the condemning lies I believe about myself, I’m really no happier. Truth isn’t natural to me… sometimes truth confuses me… truth can be frightening! That’s where time comes in!

Jesus gives us time…

Time gives the grace of Jesus, mixed with the truth He brings, the opportunity to work its way through my mind and heart and gradually bring change. In my life, time lets me see the things I need to change yet makes room for the fact that I can’t fix it that first day. Being given time is crucial to change!

Grace + Truth + Time… I believe everyone is doing the best they can with what they have! Some people may have a hard time with that statement… Jesus does not. The grace He brings into my relationship with Him assures me of that. Does that mean I can stay in the mess I see in some areas of my life today? No… truth brings a responsibility to surrender to the change God wants to make in me. But God gives me time! Time respects the need to build trust… to reshape my thinking… to discard old habits… and to feel good right where I am while God is changing me!

Prayer

Thank you Father for the awesome gift of Jesus and all he brings into my life! Such a simple and clear recipe for the change I desperately want to see happen in my life… everything I need is mine through Jesus! Help me experience the grace He brings. Help me give myself grace instead of the self-condemnation I can so easily slip into when I see my shortcomings. Help me experience and accept the truth of your Word. Balance grace and truth in my life so it brings about lasting change. Thank you Father that the time of my life is one continuous journey… with you loving, comforting and changing me every step of the way!

Scripture: John 1:14; Romans 2:4; Malachi 2:6; Ecclesiastes 3:1-12