God is in Control

God is in Control

God is in Control, Right?

Does the title of this post spark the memory of a song for you like it does for me?  It brings me back to my childhood, listening to my mother croon the words Twila Paris made so popular: “God is in control. We believe that His children will not be forsaken.  God is in control. We will choose to remember and never be shaken.”

Too bad I can’t seem to take these words to heart when I’m in the middle of a lack-of-control freak out.  Once upon a time I never would have described myself as a control freak.  I mean, I’ve got a typical Type A personality and am true to my birth order description, but I’m also generally pretty laid back.  Aside from my teen years and the random drama of junior high and high school, I have always tried to stay neutral through the ups and downs of life (at least that’s how I remember it).

To Everything There is a Season

Friends, I am here to tell you how the tides have changed.  Whether it is just that I’m getting older and losing that notion of invincibility, or the fact that I now am charged with the care and sustenance of four other lives, I don’t know. Maybe it’s too many consecutive years of stress, or perhaps a culmination of all of the above that sparked my intense need for control.  Yet at thirty-one years old, I found myself winding through the mental and physical implications of panic attacks.  I used to puzzle at the idea of fainting.  I knew people who fainted for various reasons, but I never quite understood how a person could get to that place.  Now I fully understand it. While I’ve never officially fainted, I’ve felt that feeling of “losing control” over my body enough times in the past year to last me a lifetime.

Finding the Pieces of the Puzzle, and Trying to Put Them Together

The most difficult part of this past year’s struggle has been figuring out what issues are actually related to a bodily problem and which issues are a result of the panic that has bubbled up inside of me.  For me, my panic is set off by the fear of physical trouble.  I’ve spent a fair amount of time analyzing my issues, and that alone has given me the ability to calm down most of the time.

However, I do have days where I can’t seem to kick the panic.  It’s ever-present and sometimes encompassing.  It tricks me into thinking that I’m having a heart problem, or a blood pressure problem, or that I might have a stroke.  This alone makes me feel like I’m going crazy.  This didn’t used to happen, why does it happen now?  In reality I know the answer.  A scary birth, my newborn being hospitalized, and the loss of a dear friend who also had young children seems to have triggered a type of control issues all its own.

Who Is in Control?

How can I control what’s going on inside my body?  How can I ensure that my valves open and close at the right times? Or that my heart continues to beat to the right rhythm? Or that I don’t have a stroke at home in the middle of the day, leaving my children to fend for themselves?  I can’t.  Obviously, I absolutely have no control of those things.  I can eat right, exercise, and get fresh air, but none of that guarantees I will carry on to see another day.  Here, in this setting, God is truly the only one in control.

Joshua 1:9 says:

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.

This is one of the verses that sustains me when I need to calm my mind and refocus on the Lord.  Here’s another of my favorites.

It turns out that worry and anxiety is not a new thing.

Turns out that the good Lord knew what kind of trials we might face, even those within our minds.  Alongside all of my introspection, I have also taken time to really consider the mental struggle Jesus must have endured during His last days on the earth.  Knowing that He would ultimately have to face not just death alone, but the persecution and hatred of people around Him.  Jesus often went off alone to be in prayer.  I have to wonder if many of His prayers were for mental strength.  How easily He could have been consumed by the fear of his upcoming crucifixion!  Fear of the pain and torture, fear of the hatred.  Spending time with the Father would have been the only comfort for Jesus, and the same is true for me.

Do you struggle with panic and anxiety?  I’d love to hear what helps you through it!

Interested in reading more about control?  Check out Toni’s post and Sara’s post.

Choosing to Love, Even if He’s Not Your Soulmate

Choosing to Love, Even if He’s Not Your Soulmate

I’ll never forget the first time my husband told me he didn’t believe in soulmates.  I’ve always felt like the term itself was a little cheesy, but up until that point I suppose I had never really given the idea much thought.  Still it seemed a little…unromantic.  In our culture we’ve been inundated with movies and stories of finding true love. And what is true love if it isn’t one special person you’re destined to be with for all of eternity?  That’s what the world would have us believe, and I admit, I did buy into the romance of that in my younger years.

In the Beginning

I suppose in many ways the way my husband and I started our dating relationship could be considered very romantic.  It is definitely very similar to a barely believable Hallmark movie.  The story goes that our mothers were best friends in high school.  My mother was even maid of honor in his mother’s wedding.  Then my mother moved away, got married and our mothers didn’t see one another again until they were both pregnant with us (insert collective “awww”).

After I was born, my mother enlisted in the Air Force.  I spent the rest of my days exploring new states and countries every few years, while my husband spent his days exploring wheat fields, farm equipment, and the inside of engines in our small hometown.  Fast forward to August 2005.  I was visiting my great-grandmother who is very dear to me before I left for college.  I was enrolled in a Christian college in Oklahoma City.  At the church potluck a sweet older lady was chatting with my grandmother when I was beckoned over to meet a boy who was also OKC-bound.

Friendship Blossoms into Something More

Honestly, I didn’t give it much of a second thought.  I was engaged to a boy from high school in a very toxic relationship.  Our friendship slowly bloomed as he and I began to ride home together to visit our families.  He was always kind and respectful, and I valued our friendship.  When my engagement came crashing down around me, he was there with words of comfort and support. A couple of months later I was there to reciprocate when he and his college girlfriend broke up.

At this point I had never had a romantic feeling toward him.  It would be another couple of months before our friendship began to blossom into something more.  I remember when I first really realized how blue his eyes were, and suddenly I could hardly bear for him to look at me.  That sounds so ridiculous, but it is so very true.  After a chaste kiss to the hand I was sold, and the rest, they say, is history.

My Plans are not the Lord’s Plans

I promise you have endured that long story for a purpose!  Jaded by my broken engagement and the betrayal that came with it, I told God I was done looking for a soulmate.  My plan was to study, focus on school and my faith, and leave the rest up to Him.  How funny it is to me now that I thought I actually had complete control of things in my life! Alas, I was young and needed to learn so very much more about the Lord and myself.

Many are the plans in a person’s heart,
but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.
Proverbs 19:21

I had no way of knowing that this man would challenge me in more ways that I ever knew possible.  He showed me how to love without shame. I learned how to dream within boundaries and how to plan for an unpredictable future.  He unleashed desires in my heart that I had fought against, desires that were God’s will hushed by my own plans and dreams.


So now comes the question:

If he was so good for me, so helpful in my walk with the Lord, wouldn’t that make him like an–I don’t know–soul mate If you look in God’s word (and I have), there’s no mention of one perfect person to fulfill us, aside from God, of course.  And it makes sense.  God wants to hold that most special place in our hearts.  He requires us to love him above all else and above ourselves.  God very plainly wants to be first in our hearts.  He does not build another human being to be perfect in our eyes. No, He reserves that place for himself.

crucified

Choosing to Love

So as flawed human beings, we are destined to choose love.  We must choose to love one another in the hardest of times.  In my experience, choosing love has been the single easiest way to resolve any conflict in our marriage.  I don’t expect him to fill my needs, to perfectly anticipate my desires, or insure that our marriage stands strong against the enemy.  And I would not measure up if he expected those things of me.

Instead of expecting to fit like a hand in a glove, we expect the snags and grooves along the way.  If one of us has a rough spot, we work to buff it out.  If the other has a hang up, we find a way around it.  There has yet to be a bridge that we cannot cross in love.  When we are both overworked, overtired and over-stressed, it is much harder to choose love. However, it just gives us more opportunity to practice.

How do you choose love with those you care about?

Be encouraged by these posts as well!

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When You Have Nothing Left To Give

When You Have Nothing Left To Give

It’s 3:30 P.M. and I am DONE with this day.  How in the world will I make it until Dad gets home?  The baby just won’t take an afternoon nap anymore, which of course means she will be incredibly cranky by 6:00, but that’s far too early for bedtime.  The big kids are in quiet time, but somehow I can still hear every single thing they do or say.  My quiet time is obviously nonexistent since the baby has decided not to nap.  Instead I’ll have a snack that I have to share.  Did I mention I am thirty weeks pregnant with my fourth child?  Or that I home school, so I am solely responsible for the needs of all of my children all day long?

OK, the baby is playing and reading books happily, I’ll get something to drink and catch up on Facebook happenings and my email.  Then I realize I’d better be sure I have everything I need to make dinner.  Speaking of dinner, what time will Dad be home tonight?  I’d better text him to find out.

Me: Hey, how’s your day going?
Him: Blah.
Me: I’m sorry.  Working late?
Him: I won’t be early.

Great.  Another late night.  Another night that my duties just don’t end.  It’s ok.  Deep breath.  Be thankful he has a good job that pays all the bills.

This is the moment my peace begins to crumble.

The big kids get done with quiet time and the battle to clean up their rooms begins.  Everyone is bickering or distracted.  Everyone is hungry and tired of each other.  Here’s the thing: I know what to do in these situations, right?  I mean, I have a degree in child development.  I have an arsenal of clean-up songs and games and quick activities that can give us all a break.  Except all of those things are lost in my pregnant brain…OK, prayer, right?  I can say a prayer; read a verse; have a breath of fresh encouragement to pull from.  Except who can say a prayer or read the scriptures when there’s a screaming banshee baby attached to my legs?

I’ll stop there.  As you can see this scenario is set up for defeat.  Mom is over-tired, over-worked, under-encouraged, and too pregnant!  Obviously not every day goes like this.  Some days the baby will nap, or Dad does come home on time.  Occasionally, everyone can manage to get along.  Some days.  But some days are just hard.  And in that moment, a mother can really start to spiral downward.  Especially when there is no one else there to provide back-up, relief, or just run interference for a while.  Single moms.  Moms of overworked husbands.  Working moms!  Any mom can find herself here.

But take heart, Momma!  There is hope.

Here are some verses I have found helpful and will be referring back to during these particularly turbulent days.

Psalm 120:1

I call on the Lord in my distress, and he answers me.

This is step one!  Call upon the Lord, He will hear you.

1 Peter 5:7

Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.

Step 2.  Cast your cares upon him.  There is nothing too small or too insignificant for God.  He cares about YOU.

Psalm 46:1-3

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.


Oh my goodness, yes!  Isn’t it funny how the children’s fighting and the baby’s crying and the mother’s exhaustion can be so symbolically perfect with this verse?  It can so easily feel like the earth is giving way and the mountains are falling into the sea. This verse is a soothing balm to my soul because I know the Lord is my refuge during these times.  He is a safe place for me to rest, if only for a moment!

More Verses of Encouragement

Isaiah 1:10

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Step 3.  Do not fear.  God will strengthen you and help you.  He has not left you or forgotten you.  You are important to Him!

John 14:27

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

Step 4.  You have peace.  After approaching God and casting your cares on Him, He will give you strength and peace to endure.  Praise the Lord for His promises!

Psalm 16:8

I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With Him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.

Step 5. Keep your eyes upon the Lord.  I frequently struggle with this step.  If I were able to keep a proper perspective in the beginning, I would not be so easily overwhelmed.  However, we know that the flesh is weak but in God we can be made strong!

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Encouragement on the Motherhood Journey

I hope that these verses can be an encouragement to you like they are to me.  I find myself dealing with an easily overwhelmed spirit as I enter the end of a pregnancy and exhaustion creeps in.  These verses are a great help to me in those times.  I hope these can be a help in whatever trials you find yourself struggling through during your motherhood journey.

What are some ways that you find renewal during the particularly tough days of motherhood?

What encouraging words would you give to yourself or another struggling mother during the hard times?

 

Be encouraged by these posts as well!

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Always Looking for Something Better

Always Looking for Something Better

Something Better to Solve My Problems

I’ve been noticing something about myself lately.  One of those light bulb moments when I wonder how long this particular aspect of my personality has been manifesting itself. Then I get a little self-conscious about how many other people know this about me.  Of course, you introspective types generally know yourself well enough that you are probably seldom surprised by these types of revelations. I live in a cloud of oblivion and have these types of sudden revelations happen more often than I’d like to admit.

always-looking-for-something-better-pinterest

But I digress.  The other day, I realized that I am regularly looking for some amazing solution for my problems.  On Amazon I can generally find something that might solve whatever homemaking, homeschooling, or other problem I may be having for about $12.99.  Unfortunately that solution may or may not fix my problem.  If it does, that’s great, but inevitably another issue will crop up that I then have to find the solution to.

a-discerning

The Foolishness of Searching for Something Better

This verse brought my previous thoughts rushing back to me this morning at Bible Study.  Our ladies’ Bible Study has been working through the book of Proverbs.  Some proverbs have been relatively straightforward and easy to talk through. Others have been a little more thought-provoking.

This was one of those passages for all of us ladies in the study.  Through cross-referencing and a little help from the footnotes, we were able to glean the picture of a wise man looking towards the plans God has for him and storing up treasures in heaven while a foolish man chases his desires to the ends of the earth.  As profound as that is, it seems a little silly to relate it back to what has become a shopping habit.  However, when I look at the heart behind the behavior I recognize that very verse.  I recognize the foolishness of chasing material possessions to alleviate discomfort or stress because of clutter, disorganization, or bad habits.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about a few sanity-saving necessities! The fact that Amazon Prime allows me to put those products to use in my crazy home in two days is amazing!  It has been one of my very favorite modern amenities.  However, when I dig to the root of my behavior I begin to ask myself, “Did I pray about this problem before I hopped online?”  Uh, nope.  Didn’t even cross my mind.  I’ll admit that I am regularly at fault for this transgression.  In fact, the bible is very clear:


Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

Philippians 4:6


So the bible is telling me to bring everything to God in prayer.  Not some things.  Not a particular list of things God deems important enough to listen to.  Everything.  So when I’m struggling with something and I bring it to the Lord in prayer, He will hear it.  And perhaps instead of buying my idea of a “solution” from my favorite online retailer, the Lord will reveal to me an attitude that needs to be fixed, or a habit that needs to be built, or perhaps just patience on my part.

I’ll send you off with the words from one of my favorite hymns:

What a Friend We Have in Jesus

What a friend we have in Jesus
All our sins and griefs to bear
And what a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer

Oh, what peace we often forfeit
Oh, what needless pain we bear
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer

Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged
Take it to the Lord in prayer

Can we find a friend so faithful
Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness
Take it to the Lord in prayer

Are you going through a struggle that you could bring to the Lord in prayer?

I’d love to hear the ways you remind yourself to take everything to God in prayer!


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Loving Your Neighbors During the Holidays (Pumpkin Bread Recipe)

Loving Your Neighbors During the Holidays (Pumpkin Bread Recipe)

I have a tough time loving my neighbors.

loving-my-neighbors-pin

For me, this is just not something that comes naturally.  I can say hello and make a bit of small talk here and there, but beyond that I mostly try to ignore my neighbors.  That sounds so mean!  However, I think it’s something that’s true for most of us.  We are comfortable to a certain degree with the strangers that surround our own personal space. But beyond a quick hello or wave, I think most people prefer to tuck away and not be sociable.

To me, it feels funny to be expected to make friends with complete strangers.  After all, my friends are people I’ve CHOSEN.  Neighbors are not chosen.  I choose to surround myself with like-minded people.  Because I like to be comfortable in expressing myself with the people I spend time with, I choose them accordingly.  I also like to surround myself with friends who have similar parenting styles.  Someone I trust my children to.  None of these qualities are things I get to choose in my neighbors.

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light of the world

A Light for Christ Cannot Be Hidden

I do, however, recognize that I cannot possibly shine my light for Christ if I’ve kept it hidden away behind the door to my house. And so each year I try to do something nice for my neighbors.  That sounds pretty lame now that I’m writing it out.  Once a year?  Is that all I can muster?  Perhaps I will have to find other opportunities throughout the year to bless my neighbors. For now, sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas, my children and I bake pumpkin bread for our neighbors.

The recipe I want to share with you today is from my dear friend Megs.  There is probably someone who needs to be credited with this recipe, but she’s the one who first made it for me so she’ll get the credit here!  This recipe turns out incredibly delicious, so keep that in mind when you’re baking!  You’ll want to be sure and leave some for your family as well.

Pumpkin Bread

Preheat oven to 325 degrees

5 eggs
1 1/4 c. vegetable oil
1 (15 oz) can pumpkin
2 c. flour
2 c. sugar
2 (3oz) packages of instant vanilla pudding
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt

In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs well.  Add oil and pumpkin and beat until smooth.  Next, combine all of the dry ingredients in a separate bowl and stir to mix.  Gradually beat into pumpkin mixture, scraping the bowl between additions.  Pour batter into two well-greased 5×9 loaf pans.  Each pan should be a little over half-full.  Bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until a knife can be inserted and removed cleanly.  Let stand 10 minutes to cool.  Remove from pan and serve!

Mini-Loaf Option for More to Share

When I make this for the neighbors, I use a mini loaf pan that holds 12 mini loaves.  I grease the pan generously and fill about 3/4 of the way full.  Bake at 325 for about 45 minutes.  After my mini loaves cool completely, I wrap them in plastic wrap and tie a pretty bow around the loaves.  I try to include a message of well wishes from our family and we hand deliver them to the neighbors.

How does your family like to shine the light of Jesus?

What are some ways that you love your neighbors?

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