Prayer, Perspective, and Peace

On a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being “I know You’ve got this, Lord” and 10 being “Thanks, God, I know You are super-capable, but this situation is just not going to get better unless I fret and stew over it…,” I give myself a 5.5. Some days I can go through a twenty-four-hour period without a worry in the world. Some days there are burdens that jump into my thoughts, but they do not take up residence. And still some days I am a ridiculous off-the-charts worry-wart. Yep, I’m going to say I average out to a semi-solid 5.5.

The Bible says, “Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you,” in 1 Peter 5:7. Another version says to throw all your worry on Him.  No matter what version you are reading, the message is the same. God cares about you and your burden and desires to carry it for you. Of course, God knows our needs already, but communication with Him is vital in our relationship with Him.

I look forward to prayer time when I can get to a quiet place, worship God for who He is, thank Him for what He’s done, listen to His wisdom, and then lay my burdens before Him.

Obviously, finding quiet spaces with no distractions is not always feasible. Praying to a God who can hear our prayers through the chaotic symphony of family life is such a taken-for-granted gift. Whether the quality time happens in a serene location (My quiet places are my closet or on our rural gravel road as I run) or in the midst of rush-hour traffic, there is a delight in knowing that we serve a God who is not only accessible 24/7, but eagerly awaiting our decision to spend time with Him and bring Him our needs!

We should guard against allowing busyness, laziness, or disinterestedness to get in the way of communication with Him.

Instead of fretting and worrying about what our family and friends are facing, let’s actually lift them to God in prayer. We should never let a flippant comment of, “You are in my prayers,” be a substitute for actually praying for someone.

Whether my worry is about myself or someone else, I want to always remember that going to God with an explanation of why taking this problem away would be best for everyone really is not praying! I have been learning, slowly but surely, that while there is nothing wrong with praying for a specific outcome, my job is not to convince God of why that specific outcome should happen. Praying is not a closing argument monologue in which we are trying to convince Him that our way is the solution to the problem. I am beginning to realize His Word is the final one, and while I may need an extra dose of His comfort and assurance in handling a less-than-desired outcome, I am getting better at trusting that He knows what is best.

Friends, when I spend time with God in prayer, He grants me a sense of perspective and peace every time, 100% of the time. Seriously. Every single. time. It simply cannot be a coincidence that I feel recharged, refreshed, and reassured after connecting with God. In voicing my worries and requests to God, He often grants an insight that I had not thought of before. It isn’t because the problem is solved instantly and it isn’t because He says, “Yes, I’ll answer the way you want me to.” It is because He reminds me that even if His answer is “No” or “Wait,” He will be with me through it all.

Prayer changes our perspective and gives us peace. Let’s make prayer a vital part of our lives. God is enthusiastically waiting.

The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. Psalm 145:18

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Enjoy the Ride

IMG_2734When I was a young mother, I remember being appreciative of some advice that experienced parents shared with me.

“Sleep when the baby sleeps,” “Pick your battles,” and “Time goes by quickly, so enjoy every moment with your children.” I wholeheartedly agree with these words of wisdom and have passed them along to others from time to time.

I went into motherhood armed with that short list of recommendations found above, but the list of things I didn’t know yet was much, much longer. A couple of decades of parenting has given me new insight. I’m crossing my fingers that a couple more decades will only increase the amount of knowledge! (Well, I’m praying it will, because the finger-crossing trick isn’t very effective.)

This is not a list of advice, as much as a list of “Things You Won’t Realize Until…You Realize Them.”

I now know being a mother is the most exhausting, emotional, educational, enlightening, and extraordinary experience known to mankind.

I now know that you are going to want to give anything to go through the sicknesses and injuries your children are facing in place of your child. Anything. If there was a way to do some sort of Disney-style Freaky Friday movie flip-flop, this mom and every mom I know would have found it by now.

I now know that you will want to shout it from the rooftops (and all of your social media accounts) when your child wins an award or is recognized for an achievement, but the moments when they stand up for themselves or others, stretch out their hand in kindness, or step into bold faith make you beam with an even greater pride. And those instances make you attempt to think of ways to shout from rooftops and post on social media about what an awesome human being your child is without sounding like “that mom.”

I now know that kids can bring you so much joy that the risk of being “that mom” is worth it.

I now know “mother’s intuition” is real and “perfect mothers” are not.

I now know that kids are quite forgiving of parenting mistakes, and staying mad at yourself is pointless and damaging. Decide to do better and be better. When we screw up again, we can decide to do better and be better. Again. Repeat as often as necessary.

I now know that being in unknown territory as a parent is a real feeling, but it is not a reality. God is there through it all. I mean, honestly…He is already there – the territory is not unknown to HIm. He is ready to ride along with you.

Motherhood is full of moments of triumph and turmoil; satisfaction and sorrow: glee and gloom. It is a roller-coaster ride evidenced by the fact that you will scream, throw your hands up in the air, brace yourself, laugh, hold on to your loved ones, and just when you think you can’t do it anymore, find yourself in line to get right back on and continue the ride.

Remember not to ride alone. Through every twist and turn, God is eager and willing to sit beside you, hold on to you, and guide you through unknown territory.

Daughter of the King

In today’s world, young women can find themselves tying their self-worth to a number. It might be the number of total favorites, followers, or retweets that their smartphone notifies them of each day. It might the number of likes or comments that their selfies generate. Whether it is social media-induced or not, many preteen and teenage girls measure their self-worth and identity in ways that they were never intended to.

One of my most earnest prayers is that young girls would come to the realization that their identity is only found in God. That prayer led me to write a song a few years ago, entitled, “Daughter of the King,” The lyrics are as follows:

The cruel phrases echo in her mind – the battle rages within. She struggles to ignore the words, but they laugh and win again. They say, “Not good enough, not smart enough, not pretty enough to be,” what she had dreamed she would be when she was just a little girl, like you and like me. Oh, how I long for her to see that she’s a daughter of the King. A precious, priceless jewel; a treasure – made by a God who loves her beyond measure.

It seems now she’s convinced herself that she’s a failure, so what’s the use? When a challenge rises to meet her, she is ready with an excuse. When there are hills to climb, she hurries to hide, and those harsh words win again. They drown out the voice of Jesus Christ and the words He wants her to hear and to believe instead. Oh, how she has been misled. ‘Cause she’s a daughter of the King. A precious, priceless jewel; a treasure – made by a God who loves her beyond measure. Lord, hold her closely. How I long for her to see that she’s a daughter of the King. A precious, priceless jewel; a treasure – made by a God who loves her beyond measure.

‘Beyond measure’  – There really is no number that can accurately represent the identity and value of young women!

My husband and I are blessed with three sons and a daughter. Of course, we think they are all flat-out incredible human beings! But since the title of this is Daughter of the King, allow me to tell you just a little bit about our last-born, Mallory. She’s beautiful, talented, intelligent, compassionate, witty, and kind-hearted. (I’m trying hard to be unbiased here…)

Her dad and I strive to help her realize all this about herself and that she knows that glorifying God through the unique set of gifts that He designed for her is one of the most important things she can do as His child,  Although we strive to put forth parenting efforts that are sincere, sensitive, and somewhat skillful, we are human. So unfortunately, there are times that our best efforts end up being screwed-up, sloppy, and just plain sad! I think we can all agree that parenting is not for the weak.

Fortunately, we have access to the ultimate Source of Strength. He also happens to be the supreme example of parenting! We can pray to Him at anytime and be confident that our prayers are heard. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. Jeremiah 29:12. We can know that He will give us the wisdom we ask for. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. James 1:5. 

If we ask God, He will show us ways to express to our daughters the truth about who they are and Whose they are.

That they are precious, priceless jewels…treasures – made by a God who loves them beyond measure.

 

Dear Lord, Heal Our Land

Dear Lord,
What an amazing blessing it is to identify as Your people. We are thankful for the opportunity to be Yours; that we can go to You in prayer at any time, that we can know for certain You hear our prayers, and that we can know You have a plan for our lives that was set in motion before we were in our mother’s womb. We are grateful, but wow, do we ever take these facts for granted. Forgive us, Lord and help us keep these truths close to our hearts and foremost in our minds from now on.

Lord, help us humble ourselves. We have sadly embraced the idea that we are self-sufficient…that we do not need You until we are desperate. We have uninvited You from being part of the daily routines of our lives, the daily decisions that we make, and the daily burdens that we carry. Forgive us and remind us that we not only need You, but that You actually desire to be in everything we say and do. Clearly, we need to remember Who You are, and who we are in comparison to You. You are God. We are not. Help us live daily in a humble manner.

Continue reading “Dear Lord, Heal Our Land”

Prayer After A Long Day

imageDear Lord, it was a tough one today.

I am not complaining about big burdens or big problems. My family is relatively healthy. I have a loving family. I live in a caring community and have wonderful friends. But today, I lost my focus on the good. My eyes wandered onto what I did not have instead of what you have blessed me with. I wavered in my resolve to become more like You. I struggled. Big-time.

I woke up with positive plans. I read my Bible, spent some time with You in prayer, and attempted to put my day in perspective.

Then life happened.

An abrupt response, an irritable child, a broken-down appliance, no clean pair of socks, forgotten homework, a flat tire, and an unexpected bill.

I took the first couple of mishaps in stride. After that, I lost it. I was responsible for some non-Christlike reactions, some negative comments, and fixing my mind on some thoughts that were definitely not authored by You.

Lord, I could have done that whole “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” thing and that “Be imitators of God…walking in love” thing if my day would have been smooth sailing. It is easy to serve You heartily, happily, and wholly when difficulties are not seemingly getting in line to attempt to defeat and disappoint me.

Lord, I wish there was a reset button. But there is not. So, please help me concentrate on what IS available to me: Your amazing mercy, Your second chances, Your unfailing love, and Your all-encompassing forgiveness. That is already quite a list, and there is even more.

You do not hold these gifts of grace in some secret place, waiting for us to go through a special ceremony to unlock them. Instead, You hold them out to us in Your arms that happen to already be outstretched in order to hold us and tell us You are here to comfort us.

Lord, please refill me with Your Holy Spirit, refresh me with Your peace, and renew me with Your power.

Lord, You love me. You love me when I ask for forgiveness, and when I repent of my wrongdoing. You love me when I seek You and when I call on Your name. You love me when…I could go on forever.

I am the recipient of unfailing love that I do not feel worthy of, but You declared on a cross that You are willing to overwhelm me with. You continue to cover me with that love on bad days, good days and all days in between.

May I never use Your promised love as an excuse to not strive to be more and more like You every day. The “You love me no matter what,” fact should be incentive to become more and more like You, not an excuse to ‘get away with’ actions that do not reflect Who You are.

Lord, maybe people did not see You in my actions today. Lord, I ask You that they will see a glimpse of You in my renewed determination to display Your character tomorrow.

Only You can shine through a broken vessel like me. Thank You for wanting to show Your glory through my weaknesses and imperfections. Thank You for assuring me that while sin separates us, my repentance and Your forgiveness bring us back together again.

Thank You for second, third, and countless chances. Thank You for being Who You are. In Your Holy Name I pray. Amen.

Lamentations 3:22-23

Ephesians 4:32

Ephesians 5:1

It’s Okay Either Way

I am in the midst of preparing for a graduation open house in honor of our 18-year-old son, Drew. Two long, rectangular tables will be reserved for photos of his childhood and scrapbook pages highlighting his growing-up years and achievements. Our shop will be filled with family, friends, food and photos on May 22nd.

While perusing his baby book, I came across the following prayer that I wrote down when Drew was 4: “Dear Jesus, please help Brady tell me all of his secrets, because I won’t tell anyone. But it’s okay if You don’t make him tell me because You are the Holy One and You’re my favorite guy. In Your holy name, Amen.”

Drew’s style of praying was straightforward, reverent, and unswerving from the very beginning, and hearing him pray aloud recently showed me that is still the case.

In this particular prayer fourteen years ago, a little boy voiced a request in a straightforward manner, addressed God reverently, and displayed a faith that is unswerving…a faith not shaken by God answering a prayer differently than he hoped. A faith that led him to say, “It’s okay if You don’t…”

I asked Brady (his next-oldest brother) if he remembered those secrets that his younger brother found so enticing, but he did not remember what they were or if he revealed them. Wondering what provoked this prayer made me smile. It also made me think. The child-like faith that is expressed in this prayer is the type of faith we are all supposed to strive for. Often children bring honest requests to God, knowing God is in charge and understanding that His way is the best way.  Basically it is: ‘Here is my prayer… please answer it however you see fit, because You are God. It’s okay either way.’

How often do adults pray that way? I’ll start with me. Do I have a straightforward way in relating to God? Yes. Do I address God in a reverent manner? For the most part, but there is room for improvement. How do I do with the unswerving faith component?  Here is where I sometimes fail. Here is where my work begins. My goal is to begin consistently praying something like: “Answer my prayer how you see fit, God, because I know You have my best interests at heart. You love me. You have a plan whether I see it or not. My faith in You is based on who You are, not what You do. It’s okay either way.”

I was searching for cute photos, but I came across a cute prayer that contained a lot of wisdom. The open house tables will be filled with photos of Drew growing up with his brothers and sister, playing sports, playing with cousins and friends, and other important memories. I also plan on finding a special spot to display this sweet prayer. May I learn from my son’s prayer from 14 years ago. I do not know if God answered that prayer with a yes or a no, but I know Drew’s faith was unswerving. It was okay either way.

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