My beautiful sisters....
I think it is good for all of us to share our struggles as well as our triumphs. It is heartening to see that someone struggles with the same sin we do, and to have them tell us how they succeed in overcoming. Plus we can pray for each other.
When I last wrote, I was feeling pretty good. I felt that the Lord was really working in my life, that the lessons were painful but productive. Then yesterday happened. Honestly I was in such an emotional morass that I could not even get my head above water. Thank the Good Lord for my sweet TWS who was patient and listened. (However, I DO know that if TWS was not there, the Lord would have sent someone else to help me, or would have helped me Himself....He never leaves us alone!).
I had spent another restless, sleep deprived night the night before, so I was running on empty anyway.
However, in the morning, we got a call that TWS might have to deploy. It is not a sudden deployment or anything, but it ripped out of my hand the barest of emotional control that I had at that moment. Again, everything came tumbling down. I was crying, spun up. It was not the deployment per se, I married a military man and we have been more than blessed in his assignments. I was just thinking "He has not even been out of the woods for 12 hours, I have not been sleeping, I am still fragile from the death of my grandmother...I cannot face this right now. Tomorrow I could face it, but not right now.".
Now, just to give you an example of HOW fragile I was.....we have old Andy Griffith episodes on DVD (we do not like the modern day sitcoms). Precious had been watching them the day before, but some of them were TOO STRESSFUL FOR ME TO HANDLE. Yep. There was just too much drama with Opie and Aunt Bea for me to handle....how pathetic is that????
To put THAT in perspective, one thing that I have handled beautifully in my life, thank the Lord, was when we were in Florida, a hurricane was coming, and TWS told me I would have to start preparing for us to evac (me, Precious, who was two at the time, one dog, two cats and no husband...he would have to stay behind). I must say that I handled that with excitement and determination, thank the Lord. We ended up not having to evac, but I was ready, calm, capable. I have "played camp out" in the closet with my young child during tornadoes, have ridden out a RIDICULOUSLY long earthquake with both young kids without panic, but with aplomb. So I REALLY CAN handle stressful things sometimes....but this week is not one of those times. I could not even handle Andy Griffith re runs.
Anyway, I also had a disagreement with my mom. It was not a fight at all, it was just a difference of opinion. But if I could not handle the stress of the election of a new city council member on Andy Griffith, I certainly could not handle thinking my mother was upset with me.
So I did something I should not have done....started looking at property where I want to be. I know, I know. That was STUPID. It was like a recovering alcoholic going to a bar. With all of that going on, I melted down. I knew I was never EVER going to win the battle in my mind. I WANT to be "happy" and cheerful and content, but I was convinced it was NEVER EVER going to happen. It occurred to both TWS and I that even if we moved somewhere warm, the mess in my spirit would still be there. I KNOW that is a fact because I finally figured out that the root of this problem is NOT my location or how far from family I am. It is not where I live or who I am with, because there are times when I FINALLY give to the Lord, FINALLY trust Him that I am actually FINE with being so far! I do not fear the cold or the snow...I do not even think about it! For a brief moment, i am content and my faith is strong.
No, the problem is not my location, it is my attitude. I was not trusting the Lord that He has a GOOD LIFE planned for me. His goal is not to make me miserable! AND He promised EVERY believer joy and peace. Now, if you do not feel joy and peace, it is NOT NOT NOT because you do not HAVE it, it is because you do not USE it. I knew that, but it is hard to remember when you are being attacked spiritually. The Lord has blessing and strength innumerable for us, like brand new cars in a garage that goes on forever, but WE have to drive them. WE have to make the effort to go out to the garage of our spiritual growth, pour the fuel of faith in the tanks, and hop into those cars and DRIVE them. They do us no good if we deny they are there, or if we will not use them.
Now, I know that there have been massive spiritual attacks on me, because the things that are piling on have gotten ridiculous. Have you ever had one of those days where you just stop and think "Ok, now THIS is getting ridiculous. There is no way that this much can be going this wrong at once."? Have you ever had those days where you are thinking "SERIOUSLY, xyz sin is not even one I WANT to indulge in! Not even a little bit! In fact, it is so utterly dispicable to me that it is not even a little bit "fun"...it irritates me!"? It feels so very unfair, like your best efforts to fight a sin are in vain. That is when the spiritual attacks are at their strongest, and that is where I was yesterday.
I poured my heart out to TWS and he brought up some very important points:
a) It is not all about me. No really, not everything that happens is about me! lolol
b) I needed to stop focusing on my "worst sin" and take into account the full balance of my life. NOW, that does NOT mean "Oh I am a pretty good person overall...." type thinking, but when all you do is stare at the worst of your life, you do not take the time to praise the Lord for His working in your life. The Lord gives me great grace in so many areas, but I do not think of those when I am focusing on my worst sin. I have to look in balance, so that I work on the things that I need to, accept grace on the things I need to, and praise the Lord for His work that He has accomplished in me already...things I struggled with at one point but no longer do.
So yesterday I decided that for the rest of the day I was NOT going to dwell on trying to battle that one sin of discontent. I was just going to focus on good things. It is AMAZING what happened. I told TWS that I was afraid I would get proud and haughty. I was afraid that the sin I was staring at would overwhelm me. In this case, neither happened. I spent the rest of the day in productive, kind discussion with TWS on how I could be a better wife AND what I was doing well (in the interest of "balance" ;-) ). That gave me good perspective: I had weak points and grace points so I could be thankful that my husband appreciated some points, and I was encouraged to work on my weak points. Then we cooked supper together and went to bed early.
And because I was no longer staring at my belly button (or the houses that are for sale where I would want to live!), the Lord was able to keep me from falling deep into the sin of discontent. In this type of sin, distraction can work VERY well. The Lord can do His work in my life without me constantly getting in the way. I am not sure if this makes sense or not, but it does to me in a weird way.
It is kinda like this: I read that a horse, led out of a burning barn, will run back INTO that barn, even if they are safely in pasture. They focus so much on the flames, that they are drawn to them. They jerk out of the hands of their caregiver and run back into the barn. This is how I feel in this.
There are some sins that one has to be FIRM about--action sins are ones that one has to DECIDE to do or DECIDE not to do, and therefore one has to be on guard to NOT do those. I have to DECIDE not to cuss, DECIDE to wear something modest, DECIDE not to flirt or to lose my temper or rob a bank.
But some sins, thought sins, sometimes need a change in focus, at least for me. The brain can only think about one thing at a time. If I am dwelling on fighting my discontent, I am still focusing on discontentedness. I am still staring at those flames, and ignoring the safe green sweet pasture that I dwell in. I am not focusing on my Father, but on myself, my discontent. I am not focusing on my blessings. It seems wrong to not be WORKING on my sin, but on the other hand, I guess I am.....I am working on it by NOT focusing on it, but by focusing on my blessings or what's for supper or anything else in the world. I am not giving the enemy a foothold, thanks be to the Lord. (btw, we have to be VERY careful not to let even a HINT of what MIGHT turn out to be discontent into our brains. For me, I cannot dwell on the fact that my feet are cold, because that will turn into "and winter is coming, and I hate the cold, and it will be dark and I hate the dark and we live in alaska and other people have warm weather, and all my family is in warm weather and I am all alone....!". NO! We have to be careful in every thought, make it captive to Christ!).
OH! And get this! Today's homeschool devotional from Alpha Omega spoke to EXACTLY what I was going through yesterday! Here is a bit: I'm feeling selfish today....I want to escape somewhere. My life seems like it's not my own, and I resent the fact that I can't do what I want, when I want. Homeschooling requires me to be so disciplined, and I'm starting to feel trapped. I want to take a break....I feel like a huge burden is on my back.
...you have to give yourself 100% and commit... Like the man who calculated the cost in building a tower or the king who assessed his army before he went to war (Luke 14:27-33), following the Lord's call ....requires giving your all. Yes, God knows when you need to rest and will show you how to catch your breath, but He also asks His disciples to carry their cross. So who will you follow today, yourself or the Lord? "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me" (Luke 9:23b).
Lord, forgive my attitude and help me refocus on the call You gave.... Teach me again that Your will and Your way is better than any life I can conceive. I love You and thank You for my family. In Jesus' name, Amen."
The Lord is so good! He tells us EXACTLY what is going on in our lives! Now, I cut out most bits that talked specifically about homeschooling, because it does not matter if the problem is about homeschooling, about marriage, about where you live, about what you do. It is a problem of lack of trusting the Lord and focus on self and discontentedness.
OH, here is one thing to remember....I do not know about you, but I was stuck on the "But what if God wants me never to have what I want in this? What if I am stuck here forever?!?!?!". No, that is in error. We ask for what we want because we think that will bring us peace and joy. INSTEAD the Lord makes it to where we can have peace and joy, no matter what we have! Let me repeat that.....having what we want does NOT give us peace and joy, because peace and joy comes from the Lord**. He directs our life, sometimes not where we want it, AND gives us peace and joy! Doesn't that make perfect sense? He directs our paths, but knows that some of those paths are going to be different from our will. So He also provides us peace and joy so that we can walk the paths we NEED to walk to grow, and yet not get discouraged and lose heart! The path might be rocky, but He provides pillows for our feet!
We need to understand that the Lord provided us peace and joy, REGARDLESS of our situation....but again we have to embrace it! We can choose to ignore peace and joy that He gives, thinking we can only have it if we get what we want. But that is us thinking with our pitiful human minds....like a toddler who thinks they will only be happy if they get to eat every cookie on the plate. The Lord knows what we need, knows when we need it. AND AND AND AND He makes it that we can have peace and joy in the storms of our lives.
(**SHAW, my dear faithful friend, was trying to tell me this, get me to understand this for weeks. God bless her for a faithful, patient woman! He has been trying to get me to understand this through just about everyone I talk to! Praise the Lord that He has patience and has a lot of godly people who are willing to be used for His glory....and to be used to try to get me to pay attention....)
When I was in error the past weeks, I kept telling TWS "But it is like having a great life, but just broke your leg. No matter what wonderful things you have, your leg STILL HURTS!". That was my human mind, not understanding what the Lord's TRUE glory and TRUE grace is. When the Lord gives blessing, He adds no sorrow to it. My broken leg analogy was not a true analogy. The Lord is SO VERY faithful, that the discontent in our lives is actually removed, taken away, when we have peace and joy. The discontent is GONE when we are in peace and joy.
Yes, there are still painful things that happen in our lives. I am not saying that no bad thing will ever happen :-). I am referring to the mental sins we have of discontent and lack of trust in the Lord. I was not trusting that the Lord would provide PEACE for me while I lived in His will. I REALLY DO want to live in His will, but I was afraid that I would SUFFER in His will for years. If He chose for me to not get the things I desire most--living near family and being somewhere warm and humid--then I was afraid that I would NEVER EVER be happy...just be resigned.
But the Lord does not WANT us to be merely resigned! That is not a full, Christian life. We cannot bring others to the Lord by just enduring His will. THAT IS NOT A WITNESS and it is not what the Lord is wanting for us. We might not always be HAPPY, but He does want us to have JOY and PEACE so that we can minister to others, will praise Him, and will bring others to Him. So if there is a situation in our lives where we are discontent, the Lord HAS made a way for you to have PEACE AND JOY. It does not matter if you get what you want, because peace and joy are a gift from the Lord to believers, and you can have peace and joy in the Lord, even if you do not get what you want. God said that "godliness with contentment is great gain"....I think this is what He meant.
I tell ya, that lesson was nigh unto impossible for me yesterday until I stopped looking at what I was discontent about. THEN peace and joy could come. I could not have faith AND stare longingly at what I was discontent about. I had to turn my back on the fire of my discontent and stare at the sweet pasture.
I will tell you, this was not on my strength at all. I was a basket case. Seriously, I was a mental and emotional wreck. No, this was the Lord working in my life. This was Jesus's power being made perfect in my weakness. This was not me, this was Him! If there is any inspiration from this, it is from Him.....I did nothing at all to deserve or earn or make this happen. I simply followed what the Lord was telling me through TWS and through the Holy Spirit. I was being led through the barn and into the field.
I just do not want anyone thinking that I deserve any accolades or praise or was "good" in this. I was dreadful and disobedient. The only thing that I DID do--and frankly it was because I was too exhausted to do otherwise--was to allow myself to be led. I had no faith that it would work, I was just too tired to argue or think.
My dear sisters, pray for me. TBH, I am still afraid that this lesson will not stick and I DESPERATELY want it to. The thing is that when I am right in the Lord, when I have peace, I have PEACE! I get it! It makes sense! But it is hard to smell the sweet grass when I am focusing on the fire. I can't say "I am NOT going to focus on the fire" because that is still focusing on the fire. It is like telling someone "DON'T look down!"--well what is the very first thing they do? LOOK DOWN!
Please pray that I will turn my back to the fire and not be tempted to "peek"! Please let's pray for all of us, because we all, at some points in our lives, have this battle about something. It might be when we cannot find a mate. We might not be able to have children. We might be located somewhere we do not want to be. We might have a death in the family or be facing an illness. We probably all will find something that wears at our soul when we know we want peace and need peace. Lots of spiritual attacks, slings and arrows, will be focused on our attempts at resting in the Lord. Sometimes our battle is not to race in and fight, but just to stand, as it says in Ephesians.
God bless and keep you, dear sisters!