It’s Not All Sunshine And Roses

It’s 12:47 am and I have to be up in about five hours, but I felt the need to write this right now. I’m tired and I want to go to bed, but something said this needed to be done, so here I am.

I just finished uploading the biggest part of my grade in my current online class around ten minutes ago. It was a paper I entitled Truth or Fiction: The Fibonacci Sequence. Uploading this paper meant that this class (which I have loathed – umm, hello, math) has only one week left. Uploading this paper meant that the one thing I could do well in this course would be done. Math is not my friend, but I am really good at research and compiling it into a paper.

The problem, however, is that it was due at 11:59 pm on Sunday, April 21, 2019. My paper uploaded at 12:32 am on Monday, April 22, 2019.

It wasn’t that the paper wasn’t done. Oh, believe me, it was done. The school websites didn’t want to load quickly, and some of them wouldn’t load at all. I thought it might be my internet connection, but I didn’t have that problem with other webpages, so it had to have been on the school’s end. Once the page I needed to upload my paper to loaded, it didn’t want to upload my paper. And then it said my paper wasn’t a file. And then the file I uploaded disappeared completely from the page. Finally it uploaded correctly and I was able to turn it in. Hopefully I won’t lose points for something that was out of my control. I tried for nearly an hour to upload my document before succeeding.

Believe it or not, this little fiasco was the icing on the cake of my night. As I sat down (a few hours before) to finish up my paper and turn it in, a sudden wave of discouragement hit me. I messaged my two best friends to let them know what was going on so they could pray for me. To be honest, I sent it to one and then screenshot the messages and sent it to the other one, because I didn’t want to risk running out of time to work on my paper.

I listed six things that were making me feel discouraged – the final one being, “And I don’t want to finish writing this paper.” Three of the other five were the issues that my three daughters are struggling with right now. As a mom, I sometimes feel powerless to help them through some of these struggles, but when I’m not feeling discouraged, I know that that is just the voice of my overwhelmed mind. I can’t fix them, but I can help them. It just won’t all be solved overnight. Some of them might take more than a year. One of the other two is knowing we need a new rental – like now – and I have yet to find one. I have been looking for months. I viewed one last Thursday that I really liked, but the landlord had several people to show it to, and I am waiting to hear back. I am supposed to view another tomorrow, but I have to view it within my work hours. Someone was going to pick up a couple hours of my shift so I could go look at the apartment within the allotted timeframe, but something came up and they are no longer able to cover it. The other one is something I won’t go into detail on. Suffice it to say that parts of my life are still under control – to a degree – of someone I don’t want them under the control of. Their control is very limited, but sometimes it feels like more than it truly is.

Once I was able to list these things out, I felt immensely better. It was also easier to go to God and ask for help for these things, as the causes of my discouragement were now very clear in my mind. I also knew my friends would be there in prayer for me.

So why the urgency in sharing all of this? Because it’s too easy to live social media lives that have little to do with our real ones. It’s easy to type pretty words and talk about how faithful God is when things are going well. And although I can share with you things I have dealt with in the past, I find it’s easier to be seen as a real human with real problems if I can share with you the things I’m struggling with now.

This is not a plea for sympathy. This is merely reassurance that I am you. Not exactly you, but I have issues too. Issues that are quite overwhelming sometimes. The shoes I wear are not always attractive, and they definitely are not always comfortable. But I still believe that God is here and He hears me. He knows my past, my present, and my future, and He is in control. Although all I can see are a bunch of strangely colored puzzle pieces that don’t seem to go together at all, He can see the big picture on the puzzle box, and He knows how it all goes together.

Five hours ago, I wanted to lay down and give up. But now, with less than five hours until my alarm wakes me up to start the day, I am confident. Not in myself and my abilities, but in the fact that because of Him, I can face another day with grace and peace.

Sow Light

When my oldest daughter was six, she referred to Good Friday as “Black Friday”. And even though I know why we call it Good, her name for it often seems far more accurate.

Think about it from the perspective of the disciples. Jesus had told them that He would rise again, but so many things He had taught while on earth were in the form of parables – which had deeper meaning than what they seemed to at face value. It would be easy to believe that perhaps Jesus had meant something else other than literal resurrection – especially as one day stretched to two, and two to three.

Even had they known for certain that Jesus was being literal when He spoke of his return to life, it’s easy to wonder if we are remembering correctly when things don’t come to pass as quickly as we expect.

I was just sharing with a friend that there were things prophesied over me before I was even expecting my oldest daughter – who will be fourteen in August – that have yet to come to pass. Over the years, and especially over the last three, I have often wondered if it was simply emotion ruling both the people prophesying over me as well as myself. Other dreams that God placed directly in my heart seemed absolutely impossible from day one. But as things have changed over the last seven months, I am now seeing ways that God is opening up for these dreams and prophecies. God can open any door, even if it appears locked and barred to me.

For many people, Good Friday is easy to celebrate. Jesus died and rose again over two thousand years ago. We know the end of that part of the story. We don’t have to experience the agony of waiting and wondering what will happen next.

For others, it’s still a challenge. Yes, we know that Jesus died and rose again, but many are still waiting for their three days to be over. And those three days could be three months or fifteen years. I don’t know about you, but I am not good at waiting. Add in stress, pain, and the unknown, and the waiting becomes even more difficult.

But the truth is that although Jesus died and the three days that followed were excruciating for most – if not all – of his followers (including his own mother), but the story didn’t end there. Jesus did rise again. He kept His word. Which means we can trust that He will keep His word in our personal situations as well.

As I was doing my devotions today, I came across a verse that I’ve read a dozen times before. It isn’t one of the more well-known verses, but it impacted me today. Here it is:

“Light is sown for the righteous, and joy for the upright in heart. Rejoice in the Lord, O you righteous, and give thanks to His holy name.” Psalm 97:11-12

How dark and terrifying Jesus’ death must have been! How dark and terrifying our lives can be now. But God’s Word promises us light and joy when we live for Him. We will not always feel light and joy, but it’s there waiting for us if we choose it. You will often hear me talk about choices, because I am a firm believer that our choices directly affect us, as well as the people around us.

When my day does not go as planned, I can still choose light. If I wake up in a lot of pain, I can still choose joy. When my finances are tight and I don’t know how I will pay for bills, food, or rent, I can still choose light. If someone chooses to try to destroy me with their words, I can still choose joy. And as you may have heard before, happiness and joy are not the same thing. Happiness is temporary and dependent on things outside of us. Joy comes from within – from knowing that our present troubles are far outweighed by what God will bring in and through us on down the road. From knowing that we have a place in heaven once this life is over. From knowing that God doesn’t waste pain.

Many will ask why God causes us to go through hard times, why “bad things happen to good people”. The truth is that He doesn’t cause us to go through bad things anymore than He causes us to burn our hands when we touch something that is really hot. He allows it – because that is how we learn not to touch things that will burn us – but He does not cause it. As we are healing (and after we are healed) from the burn, He enables us to use our experience of pain to help someone else. We can warn them away, or if we find them after they have been burned, we can empathize and help them to heal.

As you go through today – whether you see it as Black or Good – know that light and joy are not far away. Once you find them for yourself, I hope you will then sow them into the lives of others, so they may find them too.

It’s Okay To Feel Discouraged

Yesterday was not a bad day. It was my day off and I was able to get some things done before snagging a nap. I even got to talk to my mom for a little while (Hi, Mom!)

Around 3 in the afternoon, I started to feel really discouraged. God has been providing for us, but lately my financial situation has been overwhelming at times. Being a single mom can be really hard in a “normal” situation, and dealing with all we are going through makes it even more challenging for me.

At first I was irritated with myself. I shouldn’t be discouraged. God has brought immense healing to me and my girls, and He does keep providing. I immediately started thinking of ways to pull myself out of my funk, but then I felt a stillness that reminded me that it’s okay to feel discouraged.

I knew I didn’t want to stay discouraged, but letting myself feel this hard emotion is healthy. We live in a drive thru world – everything must be now. I’m hungry and tired and I don’t want to cook? Let’s go through the drive thru. My kids are whiny and fighting and I know screens will keep them occupied? Let’s go through the drive thru. I don’t like how I’m feeling and it’s obviously a lack of faith? Let’s go through the drive thru. There are a lot of drive thru options here. Alcohol, binge-watching tv, taking a long nap, and even some that sound like good options, like reading the Bible, praying, or listening to worship music.

Please hear me out. There is nothing wrong with going through a drive thru (especially if you are buying God’s chicken at CfA) when you are hungry and tired and don’t want to cook. There is nothing wrong with letting your kids have screen time sometimes when you are about to pull your hair out and/or turn into The Hulk. And napping is good when you need the rest and recharge. And yes, reading the Bible, praying, and listening to worship music are very good things.

My point is this – those things may help short term, but they don’t take care of the underlying problem. We can only do this by allowing ourselves to feel. When we don’t, it’s like slapping a bandaid over a surgical incision. We need to take time to discover why we feel like we do before we try to pull ourselves out of it.

My fellow moms will be able to relate to this story. When my youngest, who is nine, has feelings she doesn’t understand or doesn’t know where they are coming from, automatically assumes it’s because a little girl in her class has been “so sassy” to her. Now, this little girl has hurt my daughter’s feelings before, but nine times out of ten, that is not the real issue. The real issue is much deeper. Maybe she is feeling insecure, or lonely, or feels inadequate in some way. Maybe the trauma she has experienced in her life is raising its ugly head and claiming territory in her heart. But the easy answer is that this girl is being sassy, because that is what she can see on the surface. And even now, our nine year old inner child is doing the same thing.

A friend of mine recently got on a low dose of medication for anxiety. I asked them if I could make a suggestion, and they gave me permission. I suggested they not get off the meds (with their doctor’s help) until they resolve the underlying issues causing their anxiety. Not their growing to do list, not the financial crunch, not the loneliness they currently live with from day to day. I mentioned that perhaps it was a subconscious feeling of inadequacy because they had not reached certain important life goals, even though they were successful in many other areas. I’m not a therapist, but I’m a pretty good listener, and even if I was off with the subconscious sense of inadequacy, I knew there was something deeper.

We need to stop going through the drive thru with our emotions. Let yourself feel. Discover what hides behind the emotion du jour. Only then can you truly deal with what lies underneath. Only then can you find a permanent solution.

So please, read your Bible, pray, listen to worship music. But let it be out of a heart of gratitude to God – not as a temporary fix. God will use these things to bring healing to our lives, but if we are unable – or unwilling – to deal with the deeper issues, it’s only going to grow our guilt.

Faith is not being perfect. It’s trusting in the One who is perfect.