Monday, October 6, 2014

He holds my hand

Date night is something to look forward to, isn’t it? My relationship with my husband can get swallowed whole by the hustle and bustle of everyday life. The kids have needs and agendas. We both have needs and agendas. Life is busy and without some intentionality, date nights don’t happen. Having a date scheduled on the calendar can bring hope to a relationship through another day of drudgery.

It’s been some time since we’ve had a date night, so I was looking forward to a night out with my husband and our friends. The kids went to Grandma’s. This allowed us adults to watch a musical, eat dinner and even stop for ice cream. Extended, uninterrupted time without kids… shared with friends… who could ask for more?

… except maybe a little self-control?

It’s sad to think how quickly our evening turned sour… and it’s all my fault. Our friends didn’t have any idea that a simple question would stir up years of emotion. Honestly, I didn’t have any idea either. Anger, irritation, pride… it was all mingled in and I couldn’t shake it. I walked away from the conversation… but it was too late. I’d already done damage.

Even worse is the fact that when my husband attempted to calm the raging storm, all it did was stir the embers into flames. There was no love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness or self-control on my part. Not a sign of the Holy Spirit in my life. It was the exact opposite and I felt defeated.

It’s hard to come off of a setback like that.

I am reading Magnetic by Lynn Cowell and she encourages young women to wear the fruit of the Spirit in order to be the girl God wants. It’s a good challenge for older women as well. I turned to Psalm 37 as she encouraged and found myself consumed in the words God gave me as a gift that morning.

The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand.” – Psalm 37:23-24

I clung to that verse on the way to church.

Though he may stumble... 

He will not fall...

That was all that happened. I’d stumbled but it didn’t mean I’d fallen.

During communion yesterday, our pastor challenged us to think about how much God loves us… not how much we think He loves us… but the objective fact that He loves us.

The fact is that the Bible tells me “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” He doesn’t love me because I keep from sinning. He loves me in spite of my sin.

Shortly after, we sang “Freedom Reigns” by Jesus Culture.

This song reinforced the same message I knew God was nudging my heart with all morning:

In Jesus, there is freedom and I don’t have to feel defeated because I failed the day before.

As we walked out of church that morning, I turned my head to the screams of our 6-year-old daughter. She was sitting on the sidewalk, hugging her knees. When I asked if she tripped, she said she was just running too fast. Apparently, her body went faster than her feet. It’s just a little scratch, thankfully. She’ll be fine.

This morning God brought that picture to my mind as I continued to mull over this verse. Our daughter ran on up ahead of us after church. When she was a little younger, we would have walked hand in hand which would have allowed me to help her when she stumbled. My knee jerk reaction would have been to pull up on her arm and keep her body from making contact with the ground. I would have kept her from falling.

This was the picture painted in Psalm 37. God upholds me with his hand.

This weekend, I felt like a failure when anger won out… again. Self-control wasn’t exercised… again. They feel like repetitive struggles in my life. Yet I’ve been reminded that I should call it what it is… sin.

My “struggles” are sin. That’s what the Bible says. Every time I allow sin to rule my actions instead of the love, I feel like a failure. Jesus says I don’t have to stay in a cycle of guilt. With Him, there is freedom.

I love God.

I love my husband.

I love my girls.

I love others.

So, why do I react so poorly to them so often?

I know that in Christ, I am free. Not free to sin, but to live without its bondage on my life. In light of this, it’s a hard reality to stumble so far away from the path I want to be on so often.

I may have stumbled this past weekend, giving in to sinful choices. However, as long as I continue to stay close to Him, I won’t fall. I still need to seek forgiveness – from Him – and from others – but I haven’t fallen from His grace. I never can.

He holds my hand.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Do I thank Him?

The rain pounded and the wind sounded ferocious.

"Lord, please stop the rain..."

A field trip to the pumpkin farm was scheduled for my youngest daughter. It would be our family's final time to share in this activity with the preschool after 7 cumulative years. My heart instantaneously lifted this request up to God.

Honestly, I would have been fine staying home. There's always plenty to accomplish around the house. It was the thought of my daughter's disappointment that triggered my request. She'd been talking about this trip all week and I hate to see my children struggle with sadness. Who doesn't?

All morning I checked email and Facebook to see if the trip would be canceled. All morning she asked when we would leave. All morning I informed her that I wasn't even certain we would be able to go.

When are we leaving for the pumpkin farm?

The rain dwindled a bit but it still looked cold and dreary and unhopeful.

Without notice of a cancellation and a check of the weather, I prepared for the field trip. The rain wasn't supposed to last all day. When I called for my daughter to get ready for the day, she didn't fight me like other mornings. Anticipation has a way of diminishing the everyday battles.

As we walked down the stairs, I noticed the sun peeking through the clouds, and I remembered...

It would have been easy to exit the house in our excitement with hope fulfilled.

It would have been just as easy to leave without any gratitude.

When things go our way...

When prayers are answered the way we had hoped...

When weather cooperates...

When good health remains...

When the bank account is plenty...

When life stays on course...

Do I thank Him?

Do you?

I worry...

I fret...

I lift up prayers to my genie... I mean God...

Sometimes it's easy to forget He's not our personal genie, isn't it?

All too often I rattle off my list of requests never taking the time to acknowledge Him...

I know how to complain when things don't go my way...

But to thank Him?

I cannot forget.

He may not always give me what I ask for. What good parent does?

But He'll give me what I need.

He doesn't want to see me disappointed any more than I want to see my own children upset when their wishes aren't met.

So, while He's not my own personal genie...

I'll continue to ask in anticipation... knowing He is the source of my hope. Anticipation has a way to diminish our everyday battles. But will I remember to thank Him when He doesn't grant what I've asked?

I must remember to thank Him.

The pause as we walked down the stairs that morning filled my attitude with gratitude.

"The sun is shining! Do you think we should thank God for giving us good weather for the pumpkin farm?" I asked my daughter.

Her response was immediate. "Thank you God..."

She prayed and I realized my attitude impacts my kids. When I complain and grumble, they complain and grumble. When I give thanks, they give thanks as well.
At the pumpkin farm, the wind didn't bother me. The mud didn't bother me. The chill in the air didn't bother me. Even the fact that this was our last preschool trip to the pumpkin patch. We were there...
and we thanked the Giver of all good gifts.

What do you need to pause and thank Him for today?