Treasuring in My Heart – Part 1

Well, he’s done it!  This is a good “it!”

My seven year old has studied.  He has pondered and asked questions.  And now he’s ready…to commit his life to Christ through baptism.

Praise God and hallelujah!

Now, in this mom brain, that has brought about a series of emotions and feelings, all in short order.

My first thought when he told me was a very human response, I think.

Well, I guess I’m doing OK raising these kids without Keith.

Again, praise God and hallelujah!

Not that I think I am going to mess them up; and not that I think it’s really all up to me.  I just water those seeds in that sweet little soul and pray…and pray…and pray for God to bring the increase.  And He does.

And then my thoughts turn to Keith.  I want to tell him…that I’m carrying on…that we are progressing as a family…that we are moving forward with our lives here on earth.

I want him to be proud of me and the job I’m doing.  I would give anything to see that smile and the love in his eyes.

These are his kids, too.  I want to raise them to be the men of God we dreamed they would be.  That desire has only increased since Keith’s death.  I want my sons to be in the image of their earthly father, who had his eyes always on his Heavenly Father.  That is the best legacy that I can give them.

I have a quote that hangs on my wall that says the following (I’m afraid I cannot find the source):

Motherhood
It will be overwhelming.
It will be difficult.
 It will bring you to the end of yourself.
And at the end, you will find Him.
Mothering kids is hard…very hard.  Single mothering can be an extreme challenge, one that I often feel absolutely unable to complete.
But the good news is that I do not do this alone, even with Keith on the other side of the divider between here and Heaven.
And God’s grace is sufficient to cover me at my weakest, my most ineffective, my most sinful, my most foolish, my most selfish.
Praise God for His provision! But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. – 2 Corinthians 12:9
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Black Ice

After a week of rainy, yucky weather when I have not been able to walk, I was excited to see a clear, but cold, sky this morning.  I do so enjoy my morning walk!

I suited up and stepped out the door and started across the street…only to have to catch myself from falling on my can!

Black ice…little patches of it.  Too small to affect cars and school buses, but doing a number on my balance.  They were forcing me to mince along rather than take full strides.  Since much of my walk is along sidewalk-less roads, I turned and headed home, not wanting to wrench a knee or hip with awkward muscle movements…or worse yet, slide under a car.

In short, I got a little scared.  So I headed home to safety.

In this widow-walk that I know so well, there are moments like this, too.

I can be traveling along, taking life as it comes, trusting the Lord and moving forward, when all of a sudden…those unexpected moments come and I am slipping and sliding…in my walk and in my faith.

It is often something totally innocuous that sets me off…a song on the radio, a gesture from one of my kids that is so like their dad, a phrase heard in passing.

Then I have to slow down, take stock of what I do have, make the decision to either continue where I am and what I am doing, or take the high road and exit the situation.

Unlike this morning, I don’t always have the freedom to turn around and walk home, giving up until another day.  I need to press on.  The bills must be paid; the decisions must be made; the children must be disciplined.  But that doesn’t mean I do it alone.

God is with me every step of the way, whether I am striding along or delicately, painstakingly picking my way.  And He always will be.

God is our refuge and strength,
    an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
    and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
    and the mountains quake with their surging. –
Psalm 46:1-3

Follow-Through Faith

M-o-o-o-o-m, where’s my _________?

In a houseful of boys, this is a cry that is heard far to often.  Some days I am certain that a uterus must be a homing device.  They don’t have them; they can’t find anything.

And it is often quite frustrating.

Oh, if they legitimately look for something, I don’t get so hot under the collar; but if they take a cursory look at best and then start screaming for me to find something that they should know where it is, not I, I tend to get a little…peeved.

Any of you relate?

Then yesterday I read a verse that made me wonder if I do the same thing at times…with God.

It was one of those verses that I have probably read 100 times, and one that has always been kind of ancillary details to me…but something in it stood out to me this time.  How cool that the active Word of God can do that!

Genesis 15:11:  The birds of prey came down upon the carcasses, and Abram drove them away.

To set the scene for this verse, God has just promised Abram a son.  He makes a covenant with him, but God, who created all, has Abram go and get the birds for the sacrifice, and then has Abram keep away the vultures while He prepares to burn the sacrifice Himself.

Abram had to do his part!  The God of the universe certainly could have told the birds of prey to take a hike and let Abram sit and watch the show.  But instead He had him take part.

And God blessed him…then in words and later by the birth of the promised son.

But Abram had to get ready for his blessing, do his part in the preparation of it, not just sit and wait for it to happen before him.  Huh.

As I look at some of the challenges I face this year, I need to keep this in mind.  Instead of just doing cursory things to get it done, I need to keep looking for what God wants me to do as part of preparation for the blessing. 

Financial issues?  Have I done my part and been a wise steward, or am I just barely looking around for what is needed and crying to Daddy? 

Finding a man in my life?  Have I prayed enough, determined what I need and want enough?  Have I done all I can emotionally, physically, and spiritually to be in a position to accept that gift should it come to me?  I know He has been honing off pieces of me…have I let Him?

So I guess that would be my new year’s plan…not a resolution, per se, but a plan.  

Do my part to be ready for God to do His.

He will be faithful, that’s a given.  I pray that I will be, as well. 

I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you. – Matthew 17:20

In the Pink

This morning I got up extra early to work on getting our day together.  I knew we had a lot on our plate:

  • hair cuts
  • Christmas crafts for relatives
  • Christmas cards
  • Christmas baking
  • youth band practice

Not to mention:

  • house cleaning for our weekend company
  • homeschooling
  • the 5-6 loads of laundry (I have lost count) that are on my bed to fold

Too much for one day!  I hurriedly complete my Bible study (sorry, Beth) and start on the planning of this hairy day.  The Amy Grant song I Need A Silent Night ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KRSSsNbF29I) is running through my mind.

I endeavor to persevere.  I plan the day down to the moments and get ready for the boys to get up so we can hit the ground running.

Then…

Jackson gets up and comes down…he’s got pink eye.

Ugh.

Now, this was not entirely unexpected.  I had started my day Tuesday with a run to the doc-in-the-box around the corner from the house with Tanner..  Since then, we have been washing hands furiously and peeking at everyone’s eyelids.

I thought we had dodged the bullet this time, and that Tanner was going to be the only one down with it.  Nope.

Next, checked Alex’s eyelids…pink eye starting there, too.  Matthew…same scenario.

Obviously my carefully planned schedule is out the window.  Regroup, regroup…

And someone (Someone?) has just turned up the volume of Amy Grant in my ear…

I’ve done it again, haven’t I, Lord?

Single parenthood is never easy, but especially not if you try to be Supermom, creating the best. Christmas. ever.

I know better than this!  Really, I do!

Yet it happens again and again that I get myself too deeply planned, too tightly stretched…

Not good for anyone.

And that is when God steps in…and gives me a time out…this time in the form of pink eye.

Instead of the crazy rushing around, my day now involves movies and jammies and an afternoon nap…and maybe some of those Christmas crafts and that laundry to fold.

Sorry, Lord, for doing it again…and again…and again.

Thanks, Lord, for loving me enough to get me out of my stress-mess via a time out.

Now I have to check my own eyelids…praying that other shoe does not fall.

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord.  “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your waysand My thoughts than your thoughts.” – Isaiah 55:8-9

Testimony Today

I gave a testimony at our church this morning:

Testimony 11-11-12
            Today, I am grateful for many things.
            First of all, today is Veteran’s Day, a day dedicated to those brave enough, devoted enough, to be willing to put themselves in harm’s way for the sake of others.  I praise God for the men and women willing to be of service to their country, regardless of the cost.  There are many veterans in this room.  Thank you for your service to this great country of ours.
            Today is also my 17th wedding anniversary.  Two days ago, Friday, was the 5th anniversary of Keith’s graduation to Glory.
            Today, for me, is bittersweet…but mostly sweet.
            It is in this loss that our family has really learned to be grateful.
            I have much to be grateful for in having been married to such a wonderful, Godly husband.  His Christian example has helped to make the boys and me into the people we are today, and his dedication to Christ and Christian principles have allowed us to go on without him…and even to thrive.
            I look around this congregation and see much to be grateful for as well.
            Several of you were there on the day Keith and I married.  You have been with us since the beginning, welcoming each of our boys in succession, watching us grow and change with each passing year.
            I see even more who have been there every step of the way since Keith’s death.
            In these past five years, the boys and I have confidently, consistently, completely felt your support and love.
            Whether it was Mother’s Day or birthday gifts, home and car repairs, or support for the boys as they become men, this congregation has listened to the Holy Spirit’s prompting and helped out my family.
            That’s what community is supposed to be…the church as described in Acts.
            I can never fully express what that means to me…and to them.
            Mostly, though, on this day I am grateful to a God who loves me in spite of my failings with a passion that I learn more of each day.  He holds me in the palm of His hand…and He always will.  He loves me enough to hone the rough edges…and to make glory out of my ashes.  He quite literally floors me with His love.
            I am thankful that in my grief and sorrow, He has not left me but instead has allowed me to grow ever closer to Him, being my Husband in a new and special way.
            I have learned many lessons over the past 5 years.  Some of them have been painful; some of them have been very painful.  But the most important lesson my family and I have learned is that God is always there.  On the good days, on the bad days, in the middle of the night, on the road trips, as the boys grow.  Always.
            And I am grateful.  So, so grateful.

Of Course I Will!

My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

It has been one of those days.

I woke up with a headache.  I cried at the breakfast table because I felt unappreciated by my children.  I cried on my walk because Keith was not here.  He (usually) knew how to make me feel better when I was in one of these moods.

I walked along, tears flowing…whining to God (gotta be honest here).

I knew I was about to reach where Renee stands in the morning, waiting for the school bus with her charge.  I met Renee walking but found out she attends the same Wednesday night service I do.  I dried my tears and smiled.

“Good morning, Renee!”

“Hi, Liz.  How are you this morning?”

“Fine, thanks!  How about you?”

“Good, thanks.”

“Great!  Have a good day!”

And I walked a few more steps.

Then God spoke to me in my spirit.  Nope.  Own in.  Go back.  Tell her.

So, swallowing my pride, I broke stride from my walking and went back.

“Actually, that’s not entirely true.  I am having one of those mornings.  Will you please pray for me?”

With a big hug, Renee said, “Bless your heart!  Of course I will!”

And I walked on, feeling better.  Provision!

I could now hear the birds singing.  I even found a quarter…that will go in the missions box the boys and I are currently filling.  I smiled at the others I normally see and speak to on my walk.  My world had tilted back in the right direction.

My morning was just some of life’s “light and momentary troubles” (2 Corinthians 4:17).  They happen to us all.  Jesus promised they would.

I am thankful for a God who is gracious enough to put people in my path (literally) for the times when I need them.  And I am thankful that He knows I sometimes need that extra little push to take what He has so graciously given to me.  Sometimes, it is just a matter of me looking beyond myself  As I reflected on this, I could see many blessings in my life, things that had been hidden from me as my thoughts circled myself instead of the bigger picture.

At the end of my walk today, I ran into my sometimes-walking-buddie Carol.  We greeted each other and she asked how I was.  And I could honestly tell her that I am doing…OK.

Praise God!

In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.  — John 16:33

Mousetraps

This morning I saw a mouse run across my kitchen floor.  I literally heard the little scampering feet and looked up to see a little dark streak out of the corner of my eye.

My first reaction was to fuss at Dakota, our Great Pyrenees, who was not 6 feet from there, dozing while I did my Bible study.  She should be reacting to this little invader.  She surely reacts strongly enough to every random car and child on a bicycle that comes near the house.

Next, I stalked the little critter to see if I could tell where he had gone. Alas, no luck!  I also had no shoes on, if he did run out at me.  Yes, I would stomp him if I could.  Bloodthirsty or no, he has invaded my territory and the gloves are off.  He’s going down!

So, I pulled out my box of mouse-eliminating paraphernalia.  Oh, I have some of everything!  Old fashioned, standard mousetraps, and glue traps of various shapes and sizes.  (I don’t do poison because of dogs and children.)  They are now placed in some strategic locations.

Then I started looking for the why of the situation.  Is there spilled food somewhere that I missed that is attracting him?  I checked in the pantry and then headed to the garage.  Sure enough, I found a ton of dog food on the floor behind the dog food container.  Note to self:  find a better way for the 5-year old to dip up the dog food.  I cleaned up the dog food and went back to my Bible study.

I probably should have been more prepared, had my traps out already.  It is fall and we have had some cooler days.  Inevitably this time of year, some furry critter is foolish enough to try to find hospitality at the Wright house.  And, inevitably, he never makes it out alive.  I am determined here.  I don’t want those nasty creatures in my home, touching my stuff.

But am I this determined when it comes to keeping out the nastiest creature of all — Satan?

Y’all, I had a whole blog post prepared for this morning.  Reading back over it, it was a bit…whiny.  I know that days like this come, that they are part of life here on this rock, especially in grief, but do I need to wallow in them?

I had been unprepared for the Creature scurrying in under cover of night whispering yuckies in my ear…and he is the one who is in charge of the night!  I should have expected him.  I should have been better prepared to handle the situation, both before and after.  That negative poison is no good for me…and certainly is not good to spew out and pass on in this venue.

In my personal Bible study this morning, I was reading toward the end of the book of Nehemiah.  The remnant who had returned rebuilt the wall in record time, and they praised God for that, but they still had some concerns…chiefly, their brothers and sisters still in captivity.

Know what they did?  They spent time rereading to the assembly the Word of God and retelling the God story they had been given.

My God story over the past nearly-five years could fill a book…in fact, I hope to do just that.

God has been there, there, there!  By recounting that story, remembering all the times He has taken care of me, held me up, saved me from the darkness that could envelope me…I can be free of it.

But it is all about choice.

I have to be prepared, then be ready to take action…away from Satan and toward God.

God can handle my bad days.  After all, He knew they were coming.  In His word, He says “in this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33).  But He also says to take heart, for He has overcome the world.

So my whining will be replaced by rejoicing.  It could be much worse than it is.  Those negative thoughts, that whiny-ness serves no purpose.  I can acknowledge the tough days to God and move on.

The ugly little thoughts are going down, just like the critter in my house.  I am determined!

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;in all your ways acknowledge Him,and He will make your paths straight. – Proverbs 3:5