Learning to Follow

surrenderProverbsversepicStrength is great, until it turns to pride. Determination is great, until it becomes stubbornness.

How was it my most admirable traits quickly worked against me? Against us?

I was a young bride. Naive, incredibly self-centered, and at times, self-righteous. And insecure. And, as a new mom, utterly terrified. Maybe that’s where our marital problems arose. I don’t know, but what I do know is, left on our own, Steve and I wouldn’t be where we are now, deeply in love, twenty-some years later.

My first venture back into “church-world” happened on a Mother’s Day. Though my husband and I had attended on occasion prior, we eventually quit going. Neither of us were living our lives for Christ. God was more like a back-of-the-mind figure, one we’d call out to once in a while, when things got crazy or we wanted something in particular then forget entirely for long stretches of time. Meanwhile, our marriage began to disintegrate. Not that it’d been incredibly strong to begin with.

But then one morning, completely absorbed in my misery, I took our young daughter out for a walk. I ambled through the neighborhood, pushing her in the stroller. I don’t remember what I was thinking about, but I’m sure I was rehashing all the woes of my life. (Woes of my own making, I might add.) I turned a corner, and a woman, also out for a walk, drew near. Upon reaching me, she stopped and said, “You should come to my church.”

I blinked. Um… Oookay. Then listened as she told me where it was.

The next Sunday, Mother’s Day, I went. Alone.

It’s hard sitting in church by yourself on Mother’s Day, staring at the sea of couples all around you. And as I sat there, looking about, all I could think of was, “I want that.” I wanted the happy little family. I wanted my husband beside me, his arm draped over my shoulder, while we bounced our squirming infant between us.

That picture of peace, love, and intimacy seemed to far away, so unreachable. I knew what I wanted–whatheart-700141_1920 our marriage needed–only I had no idea how to get there.

But God knew, and that Sunday morning He began to lead us on a journey that was equal parts frightening, painful, and absolutely miraculous.

It started with Him prying open my strangled grip on my life as He whispered to my battered and terrified heart, “Let go, and trust in Me.”

Trust in Him. Not in my husband and his ability to be what I needed. Not even in myself and my ability to be the wife I so desperately wanted yet continually failed to be. Trust in Him to work through our messy lives, heal our broken hearts, and not only restore our faltering marriage but make it stronger than it’d ever been. Stronger than we’d ever imagined.

It started with surrender, and that surrender led me to another S word. One that may make you cringe. It certainly did me! Come back next Thursday and I’ll share more.

If God’s saying the same thing to you, this song, one of my favorites, might encourage you.

6In the meantime, speaking of marriage, my publisher has released a free excerpt of my upcoming novel, Breaking Free, which reviewers are calling gripping and suspenseful. You can read it HERE.

Plus, I hope it’s okay to share, but I’m just so giddy about this… The other day I received the best review ever. What made it even better is that, that morning, I was feeling a bit discouraged. (We writers can be moody and insecure. I think it must be inherent to the creative mind.) And it felt like God was saying to me, “Keep at it, girl.” You can read that review here: One of the Best Books I’ve Read in a Long Time

Other resources you might enjoy:

The Spindle Chair (fiction, but wow, a great marriage resource.)

How Death Can Bring Life to Your Marriage

You Gotta Fight (Ignore the crazy bad posture. My word!)

livingbygracepic.jpLet’s talk about this! Are you married? If so, I imagine you’ve had your share of ups and downs. What has God taught you, in regard to developing intimacy? Or maybe simply in regard to doing life together? Or if you’re not married but either hope to be one day or have watched other married couples with intrigue, what are some things you’ve learned that you plan to implement (or think your friends should!)? Share your thoughts in the comments below or at Living by Grace on Facebook, because we can all learn from each other.

And… for those who are participating in our Brain Experiment–any verses you can suggest to help us find the strength and courage to surrender our significant relationships? Share them with us!

 

 

A Life in Review

Time is a funny thing. It zips by when you want to hold on to it most and drags when you’re in a hurry.  Lately, I feel

Me, Steve, and Ash on our way to tour School of the Mines in Colorado

Me, Steve, and Ash on our way to tour School of the Mines in Colorado

as if I’ve been in the zip stage. In fact, the clock started ticking louder the moment our daughter started touring colleges. She has one more year. One more year of family dinners, of guaranteed family vacations, of her coming into my room at night to sit on my bed and dialogue with me about all she’s learned and experienced and all she hopes to become.

When she first entered high school, I heard a lot about “empty nesting” and how difficult it could be. Funny thing, I never understood it. I thought it was about a mother not having ways to occupy her time or, having centered her identity in parenting, now felt empty and without purpose.

But as my daughter grows, I’ve gained a new  understanding. It’s not about losing the what but the who. It’s about releasing a child

MeandAshyou adore with your entire heart, releasing those moments of your day you cherish most, knowing this relationship will soon become one of periodic phone calls and occasional visits.

I know this is a normal part of life–this leaving; maturing; launching into adulthood. In truth, it’s what my husband and I have spent years–her entire lifetime–preparing her for. We’ve prayed, read umpteen parenting books, sought wise counsel from others, at times asked for help. In everything, we’ve done everything we knew to do to help her reach this stage and beyond.

And  yet, that’s not entirely true, that we’ve done everything we knew to do to help her, for there were times, many, that I failed. That I let selfishness creep in, choosing the convenient over the best. There were times when my selfishness infected my attitude and my words. There were times when my mistakes and weaknesses caused her pain.

We’ve all done it, and we’ll do it again, because were imperfect, selfish beings. But that’s where humility comes in: dialoguing with our children openly (and age-appropriately) about all those times when we’ve failed and asking them to forgive us. (I also suggest opening a therapy fund as soon as they’re born. Kidding. Sort of.)

That’s where prayer comes in, confessing our shortcomings to God and asking Him to buffer and strengthen our children’s hearts, using every struggle, every parental failure, every weakness for their good.

Because that’s what He’s good out–making beauty from our messes.

Moms, I have a feeling you can relate. None of us our perfect. None of us our patient 100% of the time. There’s no fail-proof book on parenting that promises if we do X, Y will occur, and though we have the Holy Spirit to guide us, much of the time we still feel like we’re playing a guessing game. Except this isn’t a game. In fact, it’s the most important job we’ll ever have. It’s the one area we hope and pray we won’t fail in. Then one day, our children stand at the door, bags packed, and we hope we’ve done enough.

Isn’t it great to serve a God who makes all things beautiful and who showers us and our kiddos with grace?

A God who loves our children even more than we do, who created every fiber and cell of their being, and knows exactly where they’ll be ten years from now and what they’ll need to get there?

A God who, though we want to hold tightly to these precious, growing children, gives us the strength to release them when that time comes.

 

Oh, my do I love that child!

HappyMothersDayHappy Mother’s Day, my friends. If you’ve got kids at home, hold them time. Take the time to enjoy every giggle, every snuggle, every late-night awakening.

 

And moms of any age, I encourage you to read Eileen Rife’s post on Faith-filled Friends about letting go.  You can read it here. Plus, return on Saturday to learn who one our May gift-basket!

If you’re getting tired of my “Time is Short” motherly posts, sorry! I’d say they won’t continue, but I have a feeling they will, growing all the more frequent as her graduation day appears. 😉

livingbygracepic.jpLet’s talk about this! If you are a parent, what are some of your most  precious memories? What areas have been hardest for you to “let go”? How have you seen God redeem some of your shortcomings and blessings in your child/children’s lives?

Grown children, what are some of your most precious memories of you and your mother? I encourage you to call her or send a card listing telling her of three or four of them and why they meant so much to you. If your mom is not around anymore, I encourage you to share those memories with your children. Time passes quickly, but aren’t you glad we’ve been granted the gift of memories?

For those raising children, find a way to make a memory this week.

You can share your comments here or at Living by Grace on Facebook.

Making Lemonade

On Mother’s Day, our family spent the afternoon looking through old photo albums. As we flipped through page after page, I was struck by how quickly time had passed. Glancing at my daughter–taller than me and of course much wiser. 🙂 — I had a strong desire to draw her close, to pull her into my lap like I used to.

But she doesn’t fit, and she balks at snuggles and butterfly kisses.

I wanted to hold her tight just the same, to cherish what little time we have left before she launches into adulthood.

Little did I know, God was stirring my heart for my next big task–one that hits a bit closer to home. It’s funny how He does that. He can (and sometimes does) command us to do something we’d rather not. But most often, He stirs our hearts first, planting a seed of desire.

1 Philippians 2:13 “For it is God who works in you to will and act according to His good purposes.”

On Wednesday, we sat in our KC house, packed boxes all around, my daughter crumpled in my arms, crying. The next day would be her last day of school. She’d have to say goodbye to some dear friends, to a wonderful church, to loving neighbors … to embark on the unknown.

But what she fears most is loneliness. I feared the same–a long lonely summer of her stuck in the house.

Driving that evening, I poured my heart out to God. I know He values community. I know He longs for us to live in close relationships, to avoid isolation. I knew He had a solution, I just couldn’t see it.

So He showed me. This summer, I will be her friend. We’ll turn this event into an extended vacation–an opportunity to explore, have ice-cream, sight see, and giggle over silly things.

Incredible joy swept over me as I realized God had been setting this up all along. It began with a fledgling of a desire, stirred by a very real need, that blossomed into a solution.

What a tender heart He has!

So that’s what I’ll be doing this summer. And while we’re exploring Omaha, I’ll use our time–this move–to show her:

1) God is good, loving, faithful, and true. In all things, always.

2) God can and does turn all things to good. (Romans 8:28)

3) Blessings abide in every storm cloud … if we’d but avert our focus.

4) A faith that is not dependent on our circumstances, but instead, that is rooted in the truth of God.

5) How to trust not in our home, our savings, our friends, but instead, in God’s unfailing love.

Psalm 147:11 “No, the LORD’s delight is in those who fear Him, those who put their hope in His unfailing love.

What an opportunity God has provided! Making lemonade indeed, and my, is it ever sweet.

Let’s talk about this!

We all experience tragedy, hurdles, storm clouds that attempt to shroud our view and distort our vision … if we let them. But Romans 8:28 tells us God works all things out for our good. That doesn’t mean He’ll fix everything, but instead, that He will use every event, painful and joyful, to mold us into the men and women He created us to be. And that is cause for celebration.

Sadly, I often spend so much time bemoaning my circumstances, I miss out on these hidden and unexpected blessings. Blessings that abound in each day, each trial, each storm cloud. The question is, will I focus on the rainbow or the rain?

Join us at Living by Grace as we talk about making pitchers of lemonade.

And congrats to Dicky To and Nichole Parks, May’s book give-away and gift basket winners!

Dicky, you’ve won a copy of Deborah Rainey’s Remember to Forget.

Nichole, you won the gift basket bundle listed on the May Donors page.

I’ll be contacting you both via email to get your mailing addresses. Be sure to join us Monday for another inspiring “Reach Out to Live Out” story.