Overwhelmed

Shoes

Do you ever feel overwhelmed? Do you feel like life is way to hard? Do you look at what you need to do and thing, “That’s impossible”? I do. Very often. There is so much to do, nothing seems like it will work out, or the pressure is just too much.

I’m not just talking about big things. Sometimes small things overwhelm. Even tying my shoes can seem so hard and overwhelming that I just sit down and take a nap. Yes, I’ll admit it. I am weak. There is nothing inside of me that has any great strength. Even the littlest problem can paralyze me.

So how do I survive? How do I get up, go to work, and live my life? That’s a good question. I was waiting for you to ask. Let me tell you.

First of all, I have learned that it is ok to be weak. In fact, it can be better to be weak. God likes to work with weak people. It is often easier to recognize His work in a weak person than in a strong person. If a strong person does something amazing, then we assume that person did it themselves. But if a weak person does something amazing, we have an easier time seeing God’s hand in it. Also, we are less likely to be puffed up with pride. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians talks about this:

…God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong… …so that no man may boast before God. …you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is written, “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.” ~ from 1 Corinthians 1.

That’s awesome. Take a minute to think about what that means. God works awesome things in the lives of the weak. To us who are weak God offers strength. It is not our strength, it is His. So in the face of overwhelming circumstances we can be courageous. Our courage comes because we trust that God is with us.

The next time you feel overwhelmed or afraid, remember that God knows your weaknesses, and still wants to work in your life. Here’s what He says in Isaiah, “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” – Isaiah 41.10.

Safe.

Safety…

I had never really considered it before.

Even when I lived alone, half-a-world away from family, I’ve been blessed with a sense of security & protection all of my life. With safety a seemingly natural thing, I never really considered what it would be like to feel UN-safe, UN-secure, UN-assured. UN-protected.

Then I began a relationship… with someone who made me feel completely safe. Even safer than ever before! So I still didn’t notice it.

As I began preparing for our wedding, I ran across a few blogs, snippets of books, etc that talked about marriage and relationships. They talked about how to overcome common threats to deepening relationships: Anxiety. Insecurities. Inadequacy. Fears.

Suddenly, I began to realize what a precious gift I did have, by understanding what I didn’t have. I was so grateful to my parents, grateful to my fiancé, grateful to God! Moreover, I’ve begun to feel the beautiful weight of how our relationship with our earthly spouse is a mirror of our identity in Christ. (Yeah, yeah, yeah. I’d heard that all my life… but I didn’t KNOW it.)

For those who are 2nd or 3rd generation Christians, we take Salvation through Christ for granted. It’s hard to imagine life without Him. We obviously don’t want to turn back time and live a more sin-filled life in order to drink more deeply of His grace, but… we don’t know what it means to return to our first love, because we scarcely remember that far back! (Except maybe what our favorite toy was!)

And yet… it’s HUGE! It’s such a HUGE THING to be Saved. Washed clean. Redeemed. Uncondemned. Pursued. Loved. Secure. Accepted. Adopted. Wanted. Cherished. Completely whole in Christ. Made new. Safe.

The prayer of an unbeliever.

The prayer of a not-yet-believer.

pursuing the fairytale

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Recently, I’ve been wrestling over the decision of what to do about Arianna’s education.

Now if you don’t have children, please don’t write this off as a parenting post just yet. Last year, I was able to put off this decision, because we weren’t sure where Luke would end up. Now that he’s living his dream as a full-time student, it’s time to focus on the next student in our family.

But there is nothing straightforward about this decision. For one thing, there are hundreds of options here in Saint Louis. For another thing, right now this decision is more about me facing the fears and doubts in my heart than it is about discerning what’s best for Arianna.

I spent most of my school years in good private schools, but we can’t afford private school on a graduate student budget, so that means we consider either public school or home school.

When I was a junior in high school, my parents made the difficult decision to start home education. That created nothing less than an uproar in our home—and in our community. God worked in my heart, and I eventually came to terms with what I believe was God’s will for our family at the time. But now those old misgivings have come flooding back.

That’s not all. I’ve been in the homeschooling community long enough to hear plenty of negative opinions on the public school. So here I am surrounded by other people’s voices and the fears in my own heart.

Luke and I are making this decision together, but part of that means letting God confront those dark corners of my heart. It means asking Him to free me from my fears and help me trust Him one step at a time. It means wanting whatever He wants regardless of how things turn out in the end.

That’s hard—whether you’re deciding your child’s education or pursuing a specific career or figuring out a relationship or choosing a university or major. Most of the time, I just want the path of least resistance. I want the outcome that will encounter the least amount of problems. I want to live a “happily ever after Christian life.”

I am learning that while God gives us promises in the Bible, He never promised us a problem-free Christian life. Instead, He became flesh so that we who were doomed to death might have life. He gave us His presence that we might find strength to face the darkness in this world. He bore the weight of our sin that we might experience the hope and freedom of His resurrection.

That is our fairytale. That is how we face life’s problems and decisions one day at a time.

 

To the Max

keep-calm-and-live-life-to-the-max-smallI was talking recently with a father of nine. His youngest are now about junior high age. He had an interesting perspective on the difficulty level of raising different amounts of children. “When you have your first kid, it’s all you can handle. You’re maxed out,” he said. “Then when you have your second kid, you’re maxed out. When you have your third kid, you’re maxed out. It’s all you can do just to keep up. With four kids, you’re maxed out. With five, you’re maxed out. It’s all you can handle.” And so on. Actually he might have only gone up to four and then said, “That’s how it just keeps on going.”

What’s going on with that? Clearly there’s more going on in this guy’s life with nine kids than there was with one. Clearly there’s more going on with two kids than with one. Did his capacities just keep on increasing? Did his need for sleep keep on decreasing? I doubt it. Probably there were some changes in his personal priorities, some willingness to pursue his own interests less, so that he could spend more time and energy on the kids. But surely that cannot account for all of the “more going on” that happened as his family’s size increased. It seems like there must have just been a lot going on that he wasn’t even aware of, and that group of “things going on that he wasn’t aware of” increased as more kids came along. Nevertheless, he remained engaged in as much as he possibly could all along the way: he was “maxed out.” (It would be interesting to find out whether his wife would describe it the same way he did, but if she would, I bet this analysis would apply to her as well.)

I think it makes sense that there is a certain amount of stuff that I can be engaged in at any point in my life…and that God would put the situations into my life at each point that would “max out” my engagement capacity.

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men (Col. 3:23).

The parable of the talents also seems to say that God has given us the right amount of business to keep us busy doing His business.

What does this mean? Well, if it’s true that God has put just the right amount of stuff in my life to max out my engagement capacity, then if I’m over my capacity, there must be something I’m engaged in that isn’t for me right now. Conversely, if I don’t feel maxed out, there must be something in my life that I need to be dealing with, I need to be engaged in, that I’m not. Think about it. Are you overworked or underworked? Are you over-engaged or under-engaged?

To 怕怕 or Not To 怕怕

A few weeks ago, Arianna started saying, “怕怕” (“pa-pa”) first for any number of noises that scared her, and now for any excuse to get me to hold her. Some sounds– like our washer buzzing– can be a little alarming, but other sounds– like the quiet horn on my iPod announcing I had just received an email– are really no big deal.

Since she can’t communicate very well yet, I’ve had to figure out what was real fear and what was imagined, what she should be afraid of and what she shouldn’t. Most of the time, I would say, “Don’t be afraid, that’s just an airplane.” Other times, however, I found myself saying, “Don’t be afraid, Mommy’s right here.”

Watching Arianna go through this stage has made me think through my own fears—fear of losing my family, fear of uncertainty or insecurity, fear of what others might think of me… I’m realizing that if I really believe that God is real (and that He is “right here” with me), then some of my fears are unfounded.

Think about it—if I really believe that God works all things for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28), then I can rest in the reality that He has a purpose for everything that happens in my life—good or bad—and that He will give me the grace to go through it (2 Corinthians 12:9).

If I really believe that God provides for those who seek Him (Matthew 6), then my security should be in Him and not in my own ability (or my husband’s) to provide.

If I believe that God is my Creator and my Redeemer and that I owe Him my very life (Romans 5:8), how can the opinion of man matter when the God of the universe cares enough to have a relationship with me?

So when you find yourself feeling afraid or worried, take a minute to assess whether that fear is grounded in a right understanding of who God is.

“For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” (2 Timothy 1:7 ESV) 

The Fear of the Lord

How well do you understand the fear of the Lord? What does it involve? Is it really that important? Does it mean actually being afraid of God? While I necessarily don’t have all the answers about what the fear of the Lord may entail completely, I am convinced that God expects His people to come before Him with fear.

Throughout the last few months, I’ve been looking at a few different passages in God’s Word with my church small group that have been giving me a better understanding of how important it is to come before God in complete and total fear. Look at Leviticus 10:1, where Aaron’s sons simply came into God’s house with irreverence and God killed them on the spot. Consider also Acts 5, where Ananias and Sapphira didn’t respect a Holy and Awesome God, and were also killed immediately.

It is amazing to see how quickly God’s judgment fell on those who walked before Him without the fear of the Lord, especially during the times where God’s glory was present (which is a topic for another day). Have you ever considered how you treat your Heavenly Father? I don’t deny for one second that we have the ability to come boldly before the throne of grace because of Jesus Christ (Hebrews 4:16); however, it is vital that each one of us walk carefully in the fear of the Lord. The Old and New Testament both declare that our God is a consuming fire, and deserves the utmost respect and fear. But that’s not all: we also have the confidence in knowing that there is tremendous blessing and the power to be kept from sin when we walk within the fear of the Lord.

We have gotten away from revering our Holy God. But if we truly do believe that our God is alive and real, we have got to be living like it: especially when it comes to fearing Him. I would highly encourage you to dive into God’s Word and see all that He has to say about fear and reverence. You will come away with a greater awe for your King.

the mommy dilemma

 

On Februray 4th, God blessed us with a beautiful daughter, whom we named Arianna. In the months leading up to her arrival, I did everything I could to get ready– I read books on what to do, talked to friends about their experience, exercised and ate a baby-friendly diet, which is probably why she weighed 8 lb 10 oz at birth– more than my brother when he was born!

Even with all that preparation, I wasn’t quite prepared for all the conflicting opinions. American doctors say I should eat one thing; Chinese medicine says that would be bad for my body. Some say babies should sleep on their tummies; others say they should sleep on their back. One group says babies should be fed on demand; another group says babies should be put on a schedule.

What to do? How do I know if I’m making the right decision for Arianna and for our family? The more I talked to people about what they did, the less certain I felt about making a decision. I began worrying that my decision might have a negative effect upon our daughter.

When family came to visit, I worried that Arianna might get sick from all the germs people were bringing into our house. Just as I was breathing a sigh of relief after they left, Luke caught a cold. Every time he sneezed or coughed, I winced. What if I catch his cold? What if Arianna gets sick?

In the midst of my worries, a verse broke through like a light in the darkness: “Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You” (Psalm 56:3). Even though I don’t know for certain what’s best, God does and He loves my daughter far more than I ever will.

As a new mommy, living like God is real means remembering that fact and trusting Him to lead us one decision at a time.