I Just Can’t

One of the biggest mysteries to me when I first got saved was how God could actually change who I was.

I always thought: but isn’t it actually me who is changing myself? Aren’t I the one making the decisions to change?

 I think part of the reason we become so confused about the concept of God changing us, is that we confuse obedience with a legalistic form of trying to attain our own righteousness apart from Christ. Obedience is really quite simple, while attaining our own righteousness is impossible.

On one hand, sometimes God will command us to do something that we can do, it’s just that we don’t really want to. Any example of this is when God prompted me the other week to shut down my Facebook account. Sure, I had about twenty good reasons to listen, from privacy issues, to wasted time…but on the other hand, there were just as many why I didn’t want to do this.

What will become of my blog? I wondered. Most of those who read it are reading it because of Facebook.

His answer? You were never supposed to be writing for them anyways…

Ok, God. I hear you. Loud and clear.

I deactivated the account. Not because Facebook is wrong, but because God saw something that needed to be accomplished in my life away from the spotlight of Facebook.

This is the one aspect: God commands, we obey.

The second one is harder though, because it happens when we recognize that our deeply imbedded habits are not lining up with God’s will for our lives. It’s these habits, these behaviours that we turn to when we’re broken and weak, tired or full of shame. This can include things such as addictions to alcohol, media, food, etc. Or it can be attitudes such as pride, bitterness or shame. It can also be reactions like anger, lying, and gossip.

Now, we can try to stop them (in other words try attain our own righteousness) but usually we just continue to fail and indulge in them all them more. Sometimes, the harder we try to stop them, the worse they seem to get. It’s these things that we are powerless to change without remaining in God. We can not do it. We simply will fail again and again.

We can not change our sinful nature. Only the work of Jesus on the cross can. If we actually think we can change ourselves, we have no business pretending that we need the cross.

A week ago, I had a picture while spending time with Jesus. We often talk about laying our sin and burdens down at the foot of the cross, but the picture I received gave me so much more insight into God’s grace.

Here is the picture: I was sitting on a picnic blanket covered in garbage. Not just wrappers and empty soda bottles, but the real rotten, disgusting garbage – representing my sin. The stench of it stung my nose and the horror of the fact the it was all sitting out like this in the open, where everyone could see it brought me into a panic. I quickly scooped it all up so that it was hidden within the blanket and I held it over my shoulder like a sack, looking desperately for a place to get rid of it. I couldn’t carry the load much longer it was so gross and heavy too. In the distance, I saw the cross and I knew what I had to do. Wearily dragging along my garbage, my sin, I came to Jesus. But instead of setting it at his feet, I lifted the load over my head and placed in on his shoulders. The weight of it pulled on the nails in his hands and he groaned. The garbage leaked through the bags dripping down his back. It was soiling him and causing him excruciating pain.

And it was here that the cross became unbelievably personal: MY SIN CAUSED HIM PAIN. ACTUAL PAIN.

It wasn’t just a casual moment like, “Oh hey Jesus, while you’re taking out the trash for everyone else can you take mine out as well?”

It was very real. Very personal. Very humbling. 

But the picture didn’t stop there. As I look up with shame, Jesus then calls out my name. He looks at me with eyes of love and speaks the words, “I love you, Heather. This is why I came.”

This is the view we must have of the cross. Our sin matters a LOT. It caused him pain. But he wants us to come and bring it to him. That was the whole point of the cross! Not a licence to sin more. Not a reason to cower in shame…but a reason to come and repent, to find true freedom and lasting peace!

He didn’t do this all so we could go on living in darkness like the world, doing whatever we please, but so that we could live in light, for him. ALL for him.

“But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I’ve lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I might gain Christ.” Phillipians 3:7-8

It’s at this point where we cling to him, admitting our absolute inability to do anything good at all. In this state of weakness and clinging to him, God begins to work, which is why this confuses us so much…because God’s works cannot be explained!!! 

That’s why we call them miracles.

Salvation itself is a miracle. The greatest of them all.

We think of raising the dead, in the flesh, as being one of the “big” miracles, but in reality I think that is very easy for God to do. He just has to speak the words and life comes forth. But forgiving our sins?? That came at a great price…he had to give his very life!

It’s this ongoing work of the Spirit in our hearts that requires us to cling to him for all we are worth. If we part from the vine, we shrivel up and die. We are fruitless, lifeless, worthless – like a twig snapped off a tree. But when we remain attached to him, we grow, we flourish and we begin to bear fruit.

As much as the world tells me that I can do anything if I just try harder, the cross tells me otherwise.

It says: YOU can’t…but I can. 

 

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When the World Around Me Crumbles

Today, Dear Friends, I feel sad.

I call you, my readers, friends. Because it’s you who I write to, not to “my blog”. Not that I know who you are, or how many of you will even read this. I never know. Sometimes it’s thousands, the next time it’s twelve. Strangers approach me and know precise details of my life. They tell me how amazed they are by some of the things I’ve gone through. They tell me they are encouraged by my writings. They tell me I have many talents. But what they don’t seem to know is how very, very weak I am.

The past couple years I’ve been so sensitive, not just to what happens to me, but to the very things which happen around me.

I see and old picture of myself and cry. Who is that girl?

I hear a story of someones heartache and I weep. I know their pain.

I hear about the struggles of the elderly and my heart goes out to them. How difficult it is to grow old.

I read a line of a poem that speaks deeper than its words. Tears flow freely.

And sometimes I literally am like: “STOP!!! Just stop being such an emotional wreck and pull yourself together!!”

But I don’t stop.

I keep feeling all this pain because I know the moment I shut myself down to what I’m feeling, that is the very moment I’ve ceased to heal the wounds which have been afflicted. I’m supposed to be in this season of pain. Only God knows how long. But it is where I’m supposed to be, because I can’t move on until God does. He’s here. And He won’t move until I’m ready.

My world, my hopes, my dreams, my beliefs…everything I built up for the last ten years crumbled in an instant. I was left on a deserted beach with my family among the rubble that was once everything that I knew about me. Gone are my multitasking abilities, I am so limited throughout the day. Slowly, step by step, I found myself in the same place I was ten years ago, with nothing to stand on but Jesus.

How humiliating. How humbling. How naked.

And I’m crying, maybe because of wounds…but mostly because I just don’t know how this all happened. I had thought I was building my house on the rock. I had thought I was strong, trusting in him every step of the way. But it turns out that I was just trusting in my own abilities, in my own way of doing things, in my strong leaders and my godly friends. And yet…

I see him among the rubble. Here he is!

Precious Jesus. Waiting for me to see that it was all temporary. Waiting for me to realize my absolute dependancy on him. Waiting for me to look to him and say, “You are God and I am man.”

And through all the deep recesses of pain within my heart, there is absolutely nothing, NO ONE who can comfort, but him. His words are the only comfort my soul receives. His presence is the only place that feels right, that makes me forget that a piece of me is missing.

When the world around me crumbles, I have but ONE.

Only One.

His name is Jesus.

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 it’s waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day.” Psalm 46:1-5

 

I Just Don’t Have Time!!!

I miss summer today.

Not because of the weather or the season, for I LOVE fall, it’s my favourite season! But today I miss summer because it’s my slow season. All of the other seasons are filled with busy days packed full of events and activities from morning until night, but not summer.

I know that many do not feel as I do, as summers are full for some people: full of holidays, of travel, of camping, and other planned activities…

However, for a homeschooling mom who does very little travelling, summers are like taking a long, deep breath. In summer I move slower. My mornings are relatively quieter and unhurried. My “to do” lists are also shorter and with my mornings free, there is actually a possibility that I may complete them! There are free days too…days to go to the park, play with the children, and enjoy the warmth of the sun.

But come fall, my time is gone.

Homeschool begins, and in comes CHAOS!! There’s always some work for me to do or some place for me to be. My outdoor time is limited to frantically picking the last of the tomatoes before the frost hits, gathering fallen branches and debris thrown about by the wind, picking up jackets and toys left lying around the yard and other work-like activities.

Gone are the heartwarming childhood memories of fall… of raking leaves and jumping in piles, I don’t have time for THAT when there’s canning to do, school to finish and cleaning to attempt to catch up on.

But…Autumn! Autumn with its stunning beauty is still there. The freshly fallen leaves carry the same sweet smell. The air holds the same crisp, coolness. The harvest moon is just as big and golden as always, but the beauty of the colours around me are noticed in short glimpses, always with a hint of sadness in my heart: I wish that I could just enjoy these days.

 

Today I read a poem called “October” by my favourite poet, Robert Frost, and my eyes filled with tears, because for me, it captured the very essence of this beauty slipping away:
October.jpg
“O hushed October morning mild,
Thy leaves have ripened to the fall;
Tomorrow’s wind, if it be wild,
Should waste them all.
The crows above the forest call;
Tomorrow they may form and go.
O hushed October morning mild,
Begin the hours of this day slow.
Make the day seem to us less brief.
Hearts not averse to being beguiled,
Beguile us in the way you know.
Release one leaf at break of day;
At noon release another leaf;
One from our trees, one far away.
Slow the sun with gentle mist;
Enchant the land with amethyst.
Slow, slow!”
(This isn’t the full poem)
I don’t know what it is about poetry that speaks to me so deeply, but it just does. I am the type that can hardly get through a fast paced novel without skipping pages, because I get impatient to get to the “good parts”.
Poetry, on the other hand, causes me to slow down. I soak in every word, so I won’t miss the meaning of the poem. Rushing through poetry is as pointless as running through an art museum, you miss the significance of the beauty around you.
And then it hits me: Rushing through life is as pointless as rushing through poetry. The meaning is completely lost when we speed through the days.
Maybe this is why we look back on childhood with such fondness, because children just move at a slower pace than us adults. The meaning of life for my children is NOT getting school work done and…they obviously DON’T rush through it! They take their time in everything they do. Whether the job is to sort laundry, clean up the toys or to rake leaves, it seems as if I always have to get them back on task as they always seem to want to stop the work to have their fun…like when it’s time to clean up lego: suddenly they build an entire city with the pieces!!! Not very efficient, but definitely more fun than putting it into bins.
But for me, stopping to just have fun does not come so naturally anymore. I’m completely burdened by the tasks of the day and I forget that the meaning of my existence has nothing to do with having a clean house. Life will not come crashing down if my tomatoes freeze, or if I decide to not can any more pasta sauce. The meaning of life is not for my kids to be the perfect piano player, or the best readers, or the neatest writer. If I forget to bring the garbage out on time and I miss the garbage truck, if I’m late for my meeting and get annoyed stares as I enter the room, life goes on!! Very little has changed other then my stress levels and my attitude about life.
Work. Money. Careers. School. Success. The world acts as if these things are the meaning of life. But in reality, they do little else than to fill our short slot of time here on earth.
So what then? If meaning isn’t found in these things, then is everything we do a waste?
Only if we make it a waste.
Only if we speed through each of our daily tasks, without ever pausing to find the purpose in them.
Honestly, I don’t have time to write this. I don’t need to write this. I have a hundred other things that would be more useful to me right now. But I am writing anyways. Because it’s in doing things that we don’t have time for, when we realize what is important in life. Don’t know what I mean? Think of this:
I don’t really have time to snuggle my children each morning, but when they come to me, I stop, sit down and hold them in my arms. In stopping my busy activities for the morning, my children know and realize they are precious. They are important. They matter. So I can view it as a waste of time, because it’s not on my “list” or I can stop and realize that they are more important than the list.
I don’t have lots of  time to go out with friends or fit in coffee dates. And taking time to meet new people, this definitely isn’t on my “to do” list…these things MAKE work. They don’t accomplish a task, building relationships takes time, lots of time. But communication and strong friendships are signs of an emotionally healthy person. Why? Because these things have MEANING.
You know what I REALLY don’t have time for? Disciplining my children.
Because BELIEVE me, THAT is NEVER on my list of things to do. Rather, it usually interrupts my lists…which results in me yelling, or putting them in a corner, or, if I’m very exhausted, giving in.
But you know what brings meaning to discipline? When it becomes more than just trying to get correct behaviour. When bad behaviour simply becomes a tool for measuring how your child is doing and discipline becomes rather an opportunity to meet the needs and form the character of the child. It’s only when I stop just dealing with bad behaviour and begin seeing the need behind the ugly actions, where I find meaning to what discipline is all about.
How about time for devotions?
This is a difficult one for many of us! Especially in my earlier days of parenting, when a good nights sleep was getting 3 hours in a row. When my children woke up before I did. When naps were necessary for survival!!! Certainly I was exempt from this one! I didn’t even have time to shower most days!!!
A few years ago, during a conference, God got a hold of my heart in this area. I began to spend an hour or more a day in his presence. The result changed me completely. Before this, five minutes a day was my goal. Because devotions, like so many other things in my life at that time, was just another item on my checklist.
Now, I always cringe inwardly when I read devotional titles like: “Five minutes with God…for Busy Moms”. Not that there’s anything wrong with spending five minutes reading a cute devotional, it’s rather the thought behind it that bothers me.
Was Christianity meant to be a five minute time slot on our to do lists? Really? When you read the Bible, is that the feeling you get from Jesus’ disciples? Or the apostle Paul? Or King David who wrote Psalm 63:1-6:

“You God are my God, earnestly I seek you, my whole being longs for you in a dry and parched land where there is no water. I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory. Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live,and in your name I will lift up my hands.

I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you. On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night.”

These verses tell us that our walk with God was meant to be something more! Our time with God was never meant to be something shoved into a five minute slot in our day! In the Bible, NOWHERE does it talk about carving in a chunk of time for God.
Ever.
Rather, it’s his very presence that continually fills us and gives us meaning, moment by moment, day by day, for life!
It’s only in doing those things that we feel like we don’t have time for, that we realize what is important in life.
I don’t have this all figured out.
My days right now are crazy and full and hectic. Sometimes my times with God are cut short by children that need me, sometimes they feel dry because I’m distracted by everything around me. Sometimes my lists just get in the way of me being able to stop and find the enjoyment in the little things. Sometimes the clock is my enemy. Sometimes my own plans are my enemy. Sometimes the way I think things need to be done is actually just making things miserable for me and everybody else around me!
But today, I’m choosing to remember what matters, because allowing myself time to relax brings meaning to life.
Spontaneous field trips that have little educational value?!? Yes please!!
Random coffee dates?? Bring it on!
Skip another school event to soak in God’s presence? Definitely.
Paper plates and fast food? Sure, why not!
Breathing in the last few nice days of fall? Absolutely.
And if it means smashing the clock and ripping up the “lists” so be it! Life is far too short to let another beautiful autumn day pass me by.

Why am I doing this?!?

Have you ever done something that seemed like a really good idea at the time, but when it was all said and done, it left you asking yourself, “Why am I putting myself through this?”

Like going to the gym.

Or getting up in the morning.

Haha…I’m joking, I’m joking…sort of.

Actually what I’m really talking about are decisions that you thought through, planned for and felt really excited about…until the day came and nothing went at all as planned.

For instance the time I thought, “Man, I’ve been stuck inside all summer, pregnant, with three kids under five…I should really do something special!” And then the idea pops into my head, “Hey, I know what sounds like a good idea! I’m going to take my children on a fun family camping trip!” Then I spend days planning for the weekend, packing favourite foods, special toys and blankets – everything to make sure that the weekend is going to be fun for everyone.

Yet when we arrive at the site, it’s raining, all three kids are crazy wild, the mosquitos are terrible and to make everything worse, no one sleeps, ALL night!

And you wonder, “What in the world were you thinking?!?” 

I honestly don’t even know!!

Which leads me to this past week when I found myself questioning my decision to home school. Now, I often get asked why I decided to home school. It’s my fifth year of doing this, so I have my response pretty down pat already. But the other day, when I had a million other things to do, when my whole house was a crazy mess, when I sat beside my child writing at one word per ten minutes, suddenly, all my responses I had ever given to the question came crashing down. And I couldn’t get past the question: “Why?!? Why did I choose to do this?”

Suddenly, my good, well thought through reasons seemed as inadequate as my plans for camping while being pregnant and having three young kids.

And here, in my crazy, chaotic household, I had to face a very scary, intimating question: Why on EARTH am I doing this? When I’m having a good school year, like I had last year, the question is actually exciting for me to answer and I feel like I have so many positive things to say! But on years where everyday feels like a long, dragged out struggle, the question haunts me.

So today I sat down and began to read through my list of “Reasons Why I Home School” (yes, I do have a list…I would have quit LONG ago if I didn’t have it) and…are you ready for total honesty? In my discouragement, I really felt like all my reasons for homeschooling were falling short. There were NO good answers for my “why”.

To have more time with my children. Do I really? I mean, I guess if you look at hours spent with them in my presence, then yes…but is home school giving me less quality time with them?

To have strong family ties. And I wondered…are we really any closer than the families that chose to send their children to public school?

I felt God leading me to this. Did I really? Maybe I don’t hear his voice so well after all.

To be forced to work through character issues and personality clashes. But if I’m ACTUALLY at wit’s end, there’s always the option of throwing on a very long episode of “Bill Nye The Science Guy”, or a having a really extended recess…am I right?!? 😀

To teach my children that God can be a part of everything we do. Ok, I do this…but my kids see me ALL THE TIME and what they see is a very imperfect person, trying so hard to keep it all together, but often failing. Maybe they would see less of the frazzled mom and more of the calm, put-together mom, if I wasn’t always with them!

To have TIME to teach serving through volunteer work. OK, really? LOL!! Did I REALLY think we’d have MORE time for volunteering with all my children at home???

To gain patience in my own life. OK, Einstein…More like MAGNIFY MY IMPATIENCE!!!

To not be negatively influence by peers. Ummm… right now their friends are probably a better influence than their own siblings!!! Like, I’m pretty sure none of their school friends decide to pee out in the open on the play ground! Or completely lose their temper over a hard work assignment. AND the fighting, the arguing and screaming… it NEVER ENDS!!!

As I read down my list, every single reason of mine fell short. And the tears fell freely as I wondered just who am I trying to be?

But then, I read the paragraph at the bottom of my list. It was written five long years ago, when I had first felt led to home school. Obviously, the words had been long forgotten, but they came pouring into my heart like a flood:

Parenting was never meant to have the “get it over with” attitude. Parenting is actually a lifelong calling, a calling with a short season where we have the opportunity to shape, mold and teach our children to live up to their full potential. Homeschooling, if done right and intentionally, allows more time for this and is a much greater sacrifice then a “just let the school deal with it” attitude…If one feels called to send their child to public school, this can be a great decision, BUT the “get my kids out of my hair” attitude must not be a part of the decision or it will greatly damage the relationship between child and parent. The same is with home school, if one doesn’t deal with this attitude correctly, they are setting themselves up for a very disastrous and discouraging experience and WILL NOT make it in the long run. The problems we experience in homeschooling lie within our own hearts.

The problem here was with my own heart. 

Ahhh, there it was. The painful, hard to accept, truth. When I get too busy, when I volunteer for too many things, when I try to do too much – I end up yelling more, being overstressed and pushing my children away more. And when I do this, homeschooling isn’t beneficial to ANY of us. And the opposite is true as well: If I get selfish or bored with serving my family, I begin to form habits where I’m wasting much of my valuable time on social media or playing games on my phone, and also push children away while I sit in my own little world.

So…Why am I still doing this? Why am I pressing forward?

Partially because I’m crazy.

Partially because I’m weird.

But mostly because early on in parenting, I realized that this parenting thing matters. And I only have one shot at this.

I never, EVER want to look back and say that I could’ve done better. I never want to regret that I was too lazy, too tired, to unmotivated, too selfish, too annoyed, too impatient. I never want to send my child to public school just to “get them out of my hair” or to “let the teacher deal with them.” When I send them back to public school, I want it to be purely for THEIR benefit, not mine.

Who knows! Maybe this will be my last year of homeschooling. Maybe not. But whatever season I’m in, I WILL NOT, under any circumstances, quit because of a few bad days or weeks.

Parenting is a lifelong commitment with a small window where we have the opportunity to train our children. 

If you’re reading this, and your like me…feeling like you’re in an exhausting time-loop of wake, work, sleep, repeat…I urge you today to take the time to rest and reflect. Ask yourself the hard questions, the scary questions. Reflect on why you’re doing what you’re doing and if you find that you are doing too much – cut out the extras. Because once I found my “why”, I discovered meaning to the mundane daily tasks such as endless laundry, preparing lessons, marking, teaching, solving fights and wiping tables. Finding out the “why” is essential to doing our best.

But first, make sure you rest.

Not the “rest” of zoning out on Facebook or Netflix, but the pure, gentle rest of a soul at ease.

Sit down, enjoy the autumn air around you.

Watch the kids playing.

Take a walk and hear the leaves crunching under your feet.

Soak in the warmth of God’s unending patience and love.

Rest. Then reflect…and you’ll find your “why”.

 

A Mother’s Greatest Lie

I’ve always wanted to write a book. Not just any book either: a classic. One of those books that touches the reader so deeply they can’t help but ponder it for the next few days or even weeks. I want to use my words to transform people’s lives and their way of thinking. I don’t just want to write another book, I want to write THE book.

Today I sat down once again with visions of writing a bestselling Novel. As soon as my pen hit the page (yes I’m sometimes old school like that…I still love writing with pen and paper) the words took off! They flowed onto the page as fast as my pen could keep up with my mind! And then it happened, the same thing that happens every single time:

Children.

Their fighting began and as soon as I heard their cries and angry shouts, my heart sank. At first, I tried to block out the noise, but I could tell my story was getting weaker as my divided mind could no longer fully engage with what I was writing. I stopped. And once again I knew in my heart that I’d lost it. Never again will I write that story. The moment was gone.

I clambered down the stairs and took my frustration out on the younger two boys, who were the culprits of the trouble. In my anger, I tried to deal with their pain, which ended up causing more tears and wounds to our souls because I was already impatient. I had already in my mind found them guilty of wronging me and so I had no room in my heart to hear them out or to listen to “sides”. They were guilty of the repeated offence of “Disrupting MY life” and in my mind it was the only offence worth convicting them over.

“I’m so tired of you fighting all the time! I don’t really care WHAT your problem is, I just want you to stop! I can never have any peace and quiet in this house!” The words flew out of my mouth, along with others, expressing how badly they were acting at the time. I wish I could say that I had the decency to come to my senses, take my boys into my arms and listen to them, but I didn’t. I just sent them to their rooms, storming off to my own to cool off, to try to get back that which I already knew was lost. To try to write my story. But it was too late. The only words that now came were:

“I will NEVER write a book, because I am a Mom.”

I can’t write, because I am a Mom. These words, this thought, is one of the most painful, binding lies I have ever struggled with since becoming a Mom. It takes on many forms and is at the very centre of the struggle of motherhood. It can be rephrased into the following thoughts:

“My kids are holding me back from living up to my fullest potential!”

“My children are the reason for my failures.”

“If it weren’t for my children I’d be doing important things with my life!!”

“My life is less productive because of my kids.”

“My kids are a distraction and they are the reason I have let go of my dreams.”

“My children have ruined MY life!”

In the end, these thoughts, these LIES express the lonely cry of a wounded mother and the resentment she feels towards her kids for the changes their lives have brought to hers.

Oh, we rarely, if ever, give voice to these thoughts and feelings. But we bury them deep, deep within our souls only to hear them whenever we face disappointments and failures. And in our pain we hear these lies whispered within our hearts: it’s all their faults.

Being a Mother has taught me this much: Every trial and difficult situation is magnified when having kids. Insecurity. Depression. Financial struggles. Loneliness. It doesn’t go away when having kids. Children can sometimes be a wanted distraction, but more often than not, they just actually bring more stress into a hard situation. But let’s get something straight here: IT’S NOT THEIR FAULT.

Your pain, the pain deep within your heart, is not because of them.

My struggles are not MY kids fault anymore than my parents’ struggles and failures are mine. And if I let myself believe that lie, I’m not only setting myself up for a life of bitterness and resentment against my children, I may also unknowingly be planting seeds of shame and rejection into their little hearts.

Now let’s be honest, children DO make things difficult. But the reality is that no child can ruin God’s plans for your life.

The only person who can prevent you from fulfilling God’s calling on your life, is you.

And maybe, just maybe, I’m not supposed to write a book right now, during this season of my life. Maybe God wants me to wait.

During this one post I have left this computer approximately ten times. I’m solving fights, helping with bathroom breaks, getting towels for the kids coming out of the hot tub, prepping supper, telling children to move their noisy play to a different room so that I can concentrate. And I have to ask myself sometimes: Why do I bother? Why not give up? Why not give in and just call it quits on the rest of my life until the kids have moved out?

Because I know better.

Being a Mother and raising my children is hands down one of the most important callings of my life, and at the end of my life I want to look back and say that I did my best. But I know better than to say it’s the only call on my life.

Being a Mother changed me and shaped me into a new person, but it doesn’t define me. If anything it’s trained and strengthened me for my real calling.

My first and most important role in this life is to follow Jesus with all my heart, all my soul, all my mind and all my strength.

This means many things: It means to look different than the rest of the world, it means to do my best in all things, even the small things. It’s doing things I really would rather not like loving the unlovable, showing kindness to the mean spirited, putting others needs ahead of my own wants and desires. It’s repenting when I’ve done something wrong. It’s giving to the poor. It’s blessing those who mistreat me. It’s turning my back on the lusts of this world. It means shutting out the lies that my head wants to believe, silencing the excuses that try to push blame onto others. It also means using the different talents and abilities God’s given me, for his glory.

So I continue to write, recognizing that right now, maybe God only wants me to have the time for short blog posts, but so what! I’m using my gifts, my passions, as best I can for the time being. With joy in my heart I can lay my “big dreams” his hands. So maybe I will never write THE book…or maybe I will, neither is all that important.

What matters is that I was faithful in the small things and, to the very core of my being, did my best in it all.

I Only Planted the Seeds

I only planted the seeds.

You tilled the ground and made it fine.

It was you who broke the hardened soil, and worked through each new line.

You added nutrition to the dust and fertilized the dirt,

Scraping every inch of earth, though your hands, they bled and hurt.

You sifted through rocks and plowed the weeds, under the beating sun.

Never once giving up or shutting your eyes, till the work was done.

I only planted the seeds.

How great I must’ve thought I was, far bigger than I am;

To think that I should be the one with the master plan.

For you caused the sun to shine its warmth, and the cool, wet rain to fall;

You kept the creatures and the bugs from devouring it all.

And yet I cried out: How unfair! I wanted to see it through!

After all my work in what I did, I never witnessed the fruit!

But really, I only planted the seed, it was never my job to watch it grow.

How hard to admit it’s up to you, harder still to let them go!

For that little seed was planted with care, with tears and with my heart!

How then could I step back and let it wither, couldn’t I play a bigger part?

“These things take time, my dear,” you spoke to me,

“Your job is done! Now let it be.”

Oh that I could see what came from my tiny, dead, old seeds! I may never really know.

For it was only my job to plant the seed, now it’s yours to make it grow.

Undeserved Grace

“I NEVER get the respect I deserve!”

“I just deserve a break once in a while!”

“I did nothing to deserve this hurtful treatment!”

These are all things we say to ourselves. And quite honestly, after the rough past few years, my mind thought about these things daily: “I don’t deserve this! I deserve better! I’ve done my best!”

Again and again, hurtful words said to me and actions done against me, replayed in my mind. And oh! The scenarios I made up in my thoughts about how I could change things, how I could defend myself, how I could make myself look better…even how I could make others look bad!

But you know what this type of thinking brought me? No peace at all. 

None.

I was tormented by my thoughts, by self pity, and as hard as I tried I could not, COULD NOT, see any chance of break through for the future. I felt hopeless. I felt like I needed justice and I needed to be set free by the person who had wronged me. And I knew that aside from a miracle, that would never happen.

Finally, I cried out to God one day saying: “God! You know I’ve been treated unfairly, you know I’ve been wronged…but it’s no longer that person who’s torturing me day after day…It’s my own THOUGHTS! How can I change?!? I’ve tried so hard! How can I be set free? I sat with my bible open and scanned the pages waiting, hoping for something to stand out, for something to give me peace…but the minutes ticked by and nothing happened. There I sat, alone in my room. The silence was deafening, the loneliness was painful. God seemed to be far away.

The next day again, I pleaded: “God! I’m just numbing my pain day after day! I sit on my phone and play games. I browse aimlessly on social media, waiting, hoping, YEARNING to fill the empty void that was once filled! Where did I go wrong? What did I do to deserve this?” And nothing. Just the sound of the clock on my wall counting the seconds away. Oh, once in a while I’d get a verse that spoke of God’s love for me or of his faithfulness to us, and I’d feel hope. Once in a while I’d read the book of Job or the story of Joseph and be comforted that God was working in my pain. But most of the time, I just felt like I was on a constant waiting list. Just holding on to hope that “joy would come in the morning”. When would morning come, God?

Then one night I had a dream, a sad dream. I dreamed that my sister, who loves me dearly, came over and was watching me. I’d do I bit of work, then sit back, drink wine, and play games on my phone. She looked at me, full of compassion, and said, “Heather, this isn’t you. I know that you’ve been beaten down, but this isn’t you.  Please, choose your next steps carefully because the road you’re on is a very dark path.” I woke up and felt deeply convicted. For this was the very thing I had been doing for the past while. Immediately, in the middle of the night, I deleted the games, social media and any distractions on my phone. That was the first thing.

This freed up much of my wasted time, but still, my thought’s drifted more then ever to what had happened to me. And I still felt discouraged reading God’s word. But I didn’t give up. Day after day, morning after morning I pushed through the pain and I opened the bible that had once given me so much joy.

Then one day there it was, a verse that I had read many many times, but never really seen:

“Therefore since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.” Romans 5:1-2 NLT

Undeserved privilege. Completely, utterly undeserved.

And I broke down weeping, because no, I didn’t “deserve” the pain of this last year.

What I really deserve is hell itself. That’s what I deserve. That’s what my sins deserve. But losing sight of this undeserved grace had led me to where I believed I actually deserved better.

I am completely undeserving, but able to stand confidently and joyfully before God, sharing in his glory!

My heart wasn’t able to find joy because I was focusing on all the things I deserved, but didn’t get. Now joy flooded my soul because I saw all the things God has given me that I HAVEN’T deserved. And the list is very long!

I have been saved from a meaningless life because of HIS sacrifice. I have a husband who loves me unconditionally and forgives me again and again and again, I have five beautiful HEALTHY children, I have many loving and caring friends and family who pray for me, I have an amazing church, I live in a free country that I never had to fight for, I have food on my table every single day. I have hope of one day going to heaven to meet God and you know what? I don’t deserve any of it. 

It’s SO hard to change this way of thinking. It really is. But, man, the joy is worth it. Living from a heart of thankfulness, instead of a heart full of pain is worth meditating on these things and taking every thought captive.

Friends, it’s worth seeking him through the hard times, because in the ups and downs of life there is only One that has never changed. He’s there every morning when I rise, and every night as I drift to sleep, even when I can not feel him. And I lived long enough to know from experience that while there are many things that can numb the pain, there is only one that can heal it: Jesus.

“My heart has heard you say, “Come and talk with me.” And my heart responds, “Lord, I am coming.” Psalm 27:8 NLT