Have you ever felt overwhelmed and underwhelmed at the same time? Overwhelmed with tasks. Underwhelmed by God’s presence.
Perhaps this best sums up the past several months for me.
Since October, a mere four months ago, we have been in an accident which totaled our car and led to the need for physical therapy since, faced the passings of two family members, crossed the country by car twice to be near family in this difficult time, my husband and I have agreed on his making a transition to a new company, experienced new growth in our publishing company, keeping us on our toes and busy, and then there has been life to live in the midst (homeschooling, home projects, and the like).
In our nation, a new President took office. Awareness (and opinions) of the refugee crisis erupted again. Women pitted against women in the disagreement of “choice” and life. Protests and riots and loud mouths have prevailed. Not that I’ve personally noticed much of this with my head in the proverbial sand. I’ve watched practically no news. Engaged in practically no social media. Kept my thoughts to myself for some time, relying upon a few close friends to keep me abreast of the happenings.
In the face of such life extremes, have you ever wanted to hide? To go back to a time when simplicity reigned. When right and wrong were easily distinguished. When simply sharing a word could be taken at face value rather than receiving immediate backlash laced with offense? When perspectives were clear, untainted by tragedy and cynicism?
These recent months have left me feeling a sense of distance from my Creator, the Lover of my soul. Not due to any bitterness or blaming on my part. Rather, the race of busy, the tyranny of the urgent has often stolen the selah of silence. And, even more, it’s easy to lose sight of His nearness when you are struggling to survive the day.
Perspective is a powerful thing.
We are now into February, but I’ll let you know that I wrestled through December and January to seek my word for the year. Deeper than a New Year’s resolution, I needed a lens to view the world through – fresh for this season. Ultimately, the Lord clarified His word for me (rather than my word for myself)…
Viewing everything – myself, my family, my marriage, my struggles, the world, other people – through this lens of God’s kingdom. This kingdom which John the Baptist made the way for and Jesus ushered in. This kingdom which seems upside-down in its realities and truths. This kingdom which emphasizes the unseen over the seen.
This lens helps me see anew: Where is God in this?
Where is He when our loved ones die? Where is He when those left behind reel with grief and pain? Where is He when daily decisions press in and pull down? Where is He when our nation turns, brother against brother? Where is He when a people no longer grasp righteousness or purity or brotherhood or patriotism or selflessness? Where is He when I’ve failed, yet again, as a woman, a wife, a mom, a friend?
I am Jacob, wrestling with God through the night, desperate for His blessing, longing for His touch.
In the face of pain and loss, disagreement and uncertainty, chaos and struggle stay desperate. May we not seek answers. May we seek the kingdom – that realm of reality where God is King. King above kings. King above circumstance. King above fear. King above all self-focus.
Today’s post is written by Summer Hoover, a guest contributor and invaluable friend. Her insight, humility and openness speak into my life through every conversation we have. I pray that her thoughts here will bless and challenge you today.
“It is when we notice the dirt that God is most present in us; it is the very sign of His presence.”
Failure. What comes to mind when you read that word? Do you think of a specific moment? A relationship? A job? A sin in your life? Do you see yourself? Whatever it conjures up, I think we can all agree that the word “failure” is filled with negativity, loss, sadness, hurt, pain, regret, embarrassment, or shame. What would you add to that list?
For me, fear of failure has been a paralyzing, self-loathing force in my life. I have allowed it to control what I do or don’t do, how I respond when I mess up and how I allow those mess-ups to form me, oftentimes with negative effects. When I was around twelve years old, my parents got me a Nike T-shirt which simply said, “Losing teaches you one thing…it sucks.” That pretty much sums up the perspective I had on failure.
However, as much as that statement may resonate, it is misses the mark completely. We can allow failure to push us back, paralyze us, derail us or transform us. Three of these four options are void of God’s redeeming nature and His willingness to turn our mistakes and mess-ups into defining and teachable moments where He is revealed and we are transformed.
Lately, God has been opening doors for me to walk through in pursuit of His call on my life – to lead others to know Christ and show them the way out of captivity. These recent months have been a beautiful whirlwind of ministerial blessings, spiritual transformation, and personal face-to-face encounters with my God.
After so many spiritual “highs” of late, I was excited to celebrate over dinner with ladies from the post-abortive Bible study I’ve had the honor of leading (called Surrendering the Secret). We may have started out as facilitators and group members, but God has grown our relationships into ones without labels or roles – simply sisters in Christ. At dinner, when our server told me they didn’t have Dr Pepper or Mr. Pibb (all kinds of wrong, I know), I opted to have a Peach Bellini from the bar – a rare choice on my part. Despite the food in my system, I started to feel a bit light-headed, not surprising considering my drinks normally consist of water, Dr Pepper and creamer with a bit of coffee.
After dinner, one friend reminded me that another friend at our table had a past addiction to alcohol. Failure.
How could I have forgotten? I knew that. How did that not even cross my mind? How? I don’t even like alcohol that much. How could I have been so careless? I was distraught, wounded by my own sin to my core.
I immediately called this friend and apologized through sobbing tears. She was so gracious, compassionate, and forgiving. I plead for forgiveness. She willingly, without question, offered it. She assured me that she had not felt tempted in the least. A healing stitch. I then cried out to God, praying, crying, apologizing, and receiving His forgiveness. But, the paralyzing, self-loathing response to failure had already begun to take root in me. It has been, after all, my default. Losing teaches you one thing: it sucks. Remember?
All those amazing “God moments” of late were in danger of being swept from my mind. The self-loathing threatened their very existence in my heart and mind. I had failed…in a big way. How could someone who is supposed to be leading do something so thoughtless? Then, God stopped me and reminded me of a main point from that weekend’s message: Defining Moments by Kay Woodward – “The moment of truth is the truth of the moment”. He snatched me from the deceit of my habits.
Yes, it was a failure on my part, but it was also a defining moment – one that can either be defined by the truth of Christ or by the lies of Satan. What truth did God speak to me in the stillness of my bedroom? “Yes, this was a mistake, but it was unintentional and made in a safe place. I know you won’t do it again. You must forgive yourself.”
This was the truth of the moment. We can either allow our failures to define us or we can allow our God to define our failures, to sanctify us and reveal His glory to us and through us.
Jesus reminded me, as only He can, that my failures do not strip me of His love or calling on my life any more than my goodness is responsible for Him giving them to me in the first place. Failures are defining moments, there is no doubt, but how we allow them to define us is completely up to us.
It’s no coincidence that I was able to sit in all three services the previous weekend and hear Kay preach the same message three times. My God knew. He knew what was going to take place, and He knew I would need that truth planted firmly in my heart. He prepared a way for me out of my failure before I ever entered into it. He has done and will do the same for you.
I was tempted to fall into what I believed was my default, but our God is faithful to keep His promise when he said through the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 10:13, “You are tempted in the same way all other human beings are. God is faithful. He will not let you be tempted any more than you can take. But when you are tempted, God will give you a way out so that you can stand up under it.”
Hear me. You are not defined by your failures. You can choose to believe the lies Satan so freely whispers in your mind. You can choose to partner with him in saying them to yourself. Or you can choose to seek God’s face, crawl into His arms and allow Him to show you the truth of who you are.
In her book, Breaking Free, Beth Moore says, “A Christian is held captive by anything that hinders the abundant and effective Spirit-filled life God planned for him or her” (p. 25). This is what Paul says about that in Galatians 5:1, “Christ has set us free. He wants us to enjoy freedom. So stand firm. Don’t let the chains of slavery hold you again.” Don’t let the chains of shame, guilt, regret, or self-loathing hold you again.
Do something for yourself. Fill in the blank: “I am letting the chains of ________ hold me captive even though I have been set free by the blood of Christ.” Now…go. Pray. Seek God. Open your Bibles. Do not let another minute of that captivity go by.
Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom…Jesus came to give you life and life to the full…While we were still sinners, Christ died for us…I no longer live, but it is Christ who lives in me.
In order to know the truth, you have to know the Truth. God has an abundant and effective Spirit-filled life planned for you. Do not remain in the cage of captivity when Jesus has already opened the door and set you free. Failures will happen.Fail forward.
Go check out Summer’s previous guest post, Surrender All To Me.
So, yesterday was a pretty terrible day for me. Nothing external that happened was bad necessarily. It was mostly just me…emotions running high and hormones running everywhere. I was absolutely NOT at my best and I knew it. (Anyone relating here??)
But this morning, something miraculous happened! I got a fresh start! I woke up before my alarm (miraculous in and of itself!), got to snuggle with my hubby, get a shower while the house was quiet, and have some time in the Word and actually listening for God’s voice in the (still) quiet, pre-dawn hours. After a while, I put on some worship music and listened through my earphones. Just minutes later, my son emerged, fully dressed. Despite my crabbiness from the previous day, he came over to me. And despite how I’d felt the day before, I tapped the seat and he climbed up to cuddle with me while we shared the headphones.
What a different start to the day! What a needed change! “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies are new every morning…” (Lamentations 3:22-23)
I got to experience those new mercies this morning, even though I didn’t do a thing to deserve it. God is just good…that’s it.
I could have started this day regretting how yesterday went. But all that would have served to accomplish is assure that this day would be a new regret. But, instead, today my goal is to focus on God TODAY, letting go of yesterday and not worrying about tomorrow. Today is what I have…and Today is full of His new mercies.
In my mind, our camping trip, and our entire vacation was going to be a time for contemplation and reflection…to be purposeful in examining areas that I need to take back to God. And then reality of what “vacation” means while having preschoolers hit me!
One-bedroom hotel rooms, an enclosed vehicle, and a shared tent don’t exactly offer the opportunity for quiet, thoughtful time. And, quite honestly, there were some very difficult moments and, yes, tears on my part. But, looking back on it, and trying to jot down a few highlights from each day, I can see that even amidst the chaos and my periodic emotional breakdowns, there is a lot about myself that came to the surface.
My daily routines are so incredibly helpful in keeping balance…but routines often are flung out the window on vacation. So, this planner-girl had to go with the flow, which is not a natural bent of mine. Again, the issue of impatience rose to the surface…as well as fear (of those bears and other such mysteries in the woods)…and especially my desire to be in control of the situation. (What is it about wanting to be in control that deceives me to think that peace will come?)
I also was reminded again of the influence of my personal perspective.
Through one lens, one particular incident would look like this: I woke up freezing cold in our tent and couldn’t feel my toes…hungry and the campfire was taking forever to get going…with hyper kids who wouldn’t stop asking for “Mommy”…finally sitting alone in the van with the heat on my tootsies.
But, through a God-lens, here’s what that exact, same scenario looks like: I woke up to a chilly morning with the combined sounds of a bubbling brook and a joyful 5 year old. My amazing husband started the campfire and handled all the cooking that morning for me. The kids were having a blast throwing pebbles into the brook and wanted to share their joy and discovery with me. When I mentioned the “toe-situation” Steve gave me some of his thicker socks and encouraged me to get in the van to warm up. A few minutes later, he brought me a plate of food that I didn’t have to make and he made sure I was doing fine while he took care of the kids.
The first perspective sounds awful!! But the second sounds almost blissful.
I’m sad to say that I chose in that moment to live in the first perspective, looking through a tainted lens. But now that I’m home, with a few moments to finally think through that and other experiences, I can see the difference. And I pray that I actually learn from it and choose next time (as in a few hours from now when I’m trying to get excited kiddos down for a nap) to intently look through the God-lens…see the blessing of my children, be thankful for the time I’ve had to myself, be kind and gentle to help them get ready for bed and live in a state of joy rather than exasperation.
Living with a chronic issue has required that I consider the power of perspective. Discover the God who heals in my latest book, Chronic Healing. Order your copy today!