How to Deal With the “What Ifs”

How many times have you heard the saying, “God will not give you more than you can handle”?

If you said “too many”, same here.

Nothing can strike fear in my heart quite as quickly as any situation where the word “if” is involved. It can be one of the most terrifying words in the entire English vocabulary. I’m guessing it can be for some of you, too?

Often, if hangs in the air like a bomb waiting to detonate. That bomb might sprinkle confetti or rain down disaster.

But, OH! How terrifyingly if hangs there.

If this baby has a disability, too. If this precious egg sticks within me.

If I win the competition. If I don’t even place.

If the job ends. If I get the job.

If.

IF.

IF!

What’s your if?

Because, I can tell you this, whatever it is, there’s an answer to it. An answer that every religion, since religion became a thing, tries to answer differently.

And yet, each answer is essentially the same. Because The Creator of All knows our questions before we ask them. And He is faithful to answer.

In His timing, of course.

Ultimately, that’s what irks this If Asker, the very most. The plotter and planner and want-to-know-right-now-er in me is annoyed that I can’t always know what happens if.

I crave certainty. Stability. Dependability.

“If” provides none of those things.

Sometimes, an answer is for me to know. Other times, times I dread, it’s not. Anxiety could set in so easily, during those times. Two verses that I cling to during a time of waiting for an answer are:

“When doubts fill my mind, your comfort gives me renewed hope and cheer.”

“Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about what happens to you.”

Comfort comes in knowing The One who made each one of us does, indeed, care what happens to us. And, he knows what happens “If”. Not only does He know, He’s got a plan for whichever side of this two-letter word the answer falls on.

Remembering that truth provides a measure of relief, as I consider my desperation for the finality of an answer. It also lifts the burden of trying to figure it all out on my own. There is a time and place for figuring it out, of course. Someone has to decide if we are going to Dairy Queen for dessert or not.

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In the grander scheme of life, though, I’m able to breathe a sigh of relief as I remember that most of what I worry my heart over isn’t for me to decide. God’s ability is higher, longer, wider, and deeper than my inability.

So is His love for me.

And you.

He knows if this is what I can handle.

God knows if this is what you can handle.

“Blessed be God; he didn’t turn a deaf ear, he stayed with me, loyal in his love.”

I’m resting right there.

Yes indeedy.

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Packing My Purse With a Promise

Our bags can easily become far too heavy to carry around, can’t they?

Just when I think I’ve got everything I could possibly need in there, wallet and keys and tissues and chap-stick and lipstick and band-aides and hand sanitizer, I realize that I forgot to pack a book in case I have a few spare minutes at the doctor’s office.   And, oh, how those purse contents change life stage by life stage!  A burp cloth replaces the oil blotting sheets and then a change of clean 2T underoos replaces the book I carry around “just in case”. Before I know it, I’m packing crayons and stickers, and then Sudoku puzzles and Depends,  and then…

But nothing – and I mean nothing ever replaces the hand sanitizer.

Amen?

And why do I pack my purse so full of all of this stuff? Why do we all do this? I think, for me, it’s because I crave security. Each of these things seems to be able to shield me from the shame or disappointment of a worst case scenario.

And we’ll just carry that stuff around for a sweet forever, won’t we? I know I do!

The things in that purse – they will not provide the security that I’m really looking for. Oh, they may clean up the mess, blot away the shine, or moisturize me in the moment.  Eventually, though, I’ll be disappointed as I come to realize how weighted down I’ve become. I will finally notice that I’m putting my trust in a bag full of lipsticks I don’t really like the shade of, half-packs of gum in flavors I had no business trying, or tissue packets with only one already-very-used tissue left.

There is One, though, Who Will Never Disappoint.

And, we can trust in Him. 

He promises.

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I’m going to be carrying that promise around with me.  That’s exactly the kind of security that this heart of mine needs.

And carrying it in my heart means one less thing in my purse.

Yes indeedy!

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I’m participating in Blog Hop Thursday over at Proverbs 31 Ministry’s Online Bible Study.  Click the button below to read how other hearts are growing as we journey through “A Confident Heart” by Renee Swope.

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Brave New Year

Climbing back down from Mount WashMore the other day, I was reflecting on this brave new year we are entering around here, and how everything can turn around with a new perspective.

One can lament that school is starting in 1 day and 15 hours.  Or… one can look forward to making new friends and seeing old ones in only 1 more day and a couple of hours. (And, I don’t think anyone has to guess who’s doing the lamenting, right?)

A bouncy haired child can be insistent that she doesn’t need to stay at school All The Day Long this year. Or… she can joyfully look forward to moving on to “big girl school” with brother.  (Say it with me now, “I NOT going.”)

A mama could cry endless tears of sorrow for the years that have flown by far too quickly as she considers that her baby is going off to Kindergarten Much Too Soon and that her oldest is far too tall.  Or… she can step out on the edge of Trust and praise God for this new season and all that it could bring. (There will be more tears, though. Of that, I am sure!)

And maybe, instead of being the girl who talks a big game about how God is faithful and how He loves her children more than she ever could,  she can become the girl who lives like she believes it.

Indeed.

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And maybe she’ll allow her faith to take flight on the wheels of a big yellow bus on Tuesday.

Until then, though, she’s praying.

For strength to wave bravely as the bus heads off and turns the corner.

For the willingness to Cry It Out on a few sweet shoulders.

And for the patience needed to get through the day believing that God’s got this.

And them.

Anyone else???

(Pass the tissues, please.)

I Need To Remember

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I’ve been giving My Story quite a bit of thought lately.  We all have one. Some of us long to share ours. Some hide it deep in the recesses of our hearts, hoping that we never have to.  And still others seem to be able to tell theirs with abandon.

Which one are you?

God seems to be settling the weight of my task more firmly in my heart. Those Petal Soft Whispers are coming more and more frequently.  Through them, He’s been making it abundantly clear that I am to bring my story to Him, first.  I can honestly state that I am well and truly scared.  I need to remember that Perfect Love casts out fear.

Why do I struggle so mightily to step out in faith, in defiance of that fear?

Sifting through memories places me squarely in the sinking sand of emotions.  I find myself getting stuck on a particular period of time, and then on an exact year, and eventually, I feel like I’m sinking in the quicksand of a Specific Memory. I need to remember that God can pull me out.

Who is my solid rock on which I stand?

I’m at the point where I’m weeding through the parts of my story that aren’t mine to tell.  Obviously, my story can only be told from the perspective of the very heart that taps out the words.  But, I’ve started fretting over the wording of certain thoughts for fear of offending.  I need to remember to heed God’s whispers, not those of men.

If God is for me, whom shall I fear?

I’m going into the deepest darkest places.  But here’s the thing – God keeps shining the light of His truth into those places as I continue to learn to trust Him.  He keeps banishing the fear that tries so desperately to cripple me. My trust becomes more fully formed the more He loves me. I need to remember that it’s a matter of eternal perspective.

How do I refocus on the eternal in the midst of the daily?

It would seem, for me anyway, that this is also a maturing process.  The more words I present to my Audience of One to be sifted through, the more I realize that He has lessons for me that I haven’t mastered yet. I continually have to go back to Square One and ask Him to keep maturing me. I must keep asking Him to fill me with more Love to drive out the fear.  I need to remember that He is a Patient and Merciful Teacher.

How do I learn those lessons more quickly, Teacher?

At the end of the day, my only job is to submit what I feel He’s allowed me to see.  Those glimpses of heaven I’ve been given, here, on earth.  Those insights into grace seen on this side of glory.  Each piece of my story that I bring to God, He tenderly shapes and edits to fit His good purposes.  I need to remember that it is His Story, after all.

What about you? Do you long to tell your story?

May I encourage you to start getting it down?  Or to keep putting it down?  Or to bravely step out, with story in hand, knowing that if God’s been laying it on your heart to share it – then He will use it for His glory.

Or, maybe the desire of your heart isn’t quite fully formed in you. Yet.  I’d like to encourage you to keep praying for your desire to line up with God’s will until it becomes clear.

The truth is, that none of us, no – not a one, is fully formed yet.  We are all a work in progress.  Whatever that work may be.

And our job is to trust, but be ready. We must wait, while holding tight to the belief that God will reveal all in His perfect timing.  Not ours.

Oh Lord, form us fully in Your Love and help us to see Your Light in our story.

With That Red (Or, Read)

Let. It. Go., by Karen Ehman, has officially Now. Been. Read.   And, in case you missed it, I’ve kind of talked it up a storm.  Because, y’all!  I have some serious control issues.  Can I get an Amen?  (Not needed from The Nana, thank-you-very-much. Not that I’m trying to control what you’re saying or not saying. Just saying…)

As part of the final Blog Hop over at Melissa Taylor’s Online Bible Study page, I’m coming to you live, from my couch, to tell you one surprising thing that I am taking away from this study.  And it was a doozy of a lesson, if ever there was one.  You see, I’ve been all about being controlling as a wife, as a mama, as a reformed Plotter & Planner.  But, I knew that.  That was not up for debate.

What was?

Trust.

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Well, that was unexpected.

Karen Ehman makes a point at the end of the 3rd chapter that rocked my socks!

“We begin taking our cues from him (God) rather than listening to deceit and becoming convinced that we know better… Then we, for the first time perhaps, walk by faith, not by sight. Nor by strategy. Nor by plotting and positioning.”

Oh. My. Stars.

And later, in chapter 8, she writes,

“I responded by doing what I could… and trusting God with the outcome.

This is hard for me.  Sometimes, I’ve learned, I take control because I’m scared.  I’m scared that the outcome won’t be a desired one.  Or, that if I don’t dictate circumstances now, then the outcome I do desire won’t ever come to pass.  And that is okay!

And that’s what I’m slowly coming to learn.  I’m coming to see why this verse spoke so powerfully right into my soul:

“But I trust in you, Lord;
I say, “You are my God.”
 My times are in your hands
.”

Psalm 31:14-15

I am learning to trust God for The Outcome.  I’m learning to do what I can, and that involves some planning, yes. But, it also means that after I’ve done some planning, it’s time to Let. It. Go.    How many times have I told some of you, right here, that God’s got this?  He’s got you?

He is a patient God.  For He bears my turtle-like crawl toward realization.  He is a loving God.  For He patiently waits as I begin to put my hope in Him and not in my own plans.

I’ve certainly been held close to The Refiner’s fire during this study.  No one likes discipline at the time, and I am no exception. But, I am thankful.  Yes, indeedy.  And I know there is much practicing that needs to be done.  I’m ready to Let. It. Go.

Anyone want to pray for me?

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If you have a few minutes and would like to read what some of the other women who’ve participated in this study had to say about it, click here.  There are plenty of other fantastic insights to read on this blog hop page.

The Philosophy of Winter

In a way, winter is the real spring, the time when the inner things happen, the resurgence of nature.”
-Edna O’Brien (Irish Novelist)

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I don’t do winter.  I may have mentioned that a time or twelve.

Winter, particularly, brings out my inner philosopher.  No one likes my inner philosopher.  Especially not me!

I begin asking questions like “Why, specifically, am I here on this earth, Lord?”

Each time that question pops into my mind, I end up having a conversation with myself that’s 5 kinds of crazy. It usually goes a little something like this:

Me: “Why are you struggling so hard to make sense of It All?”

Well, me again, I guess: “Because I want to understand why I’m here. I want to make sure I’m doing what I’m meant to do.”

I get to thinking about that intersection of Faith and Follow. It’s sometimes blaring with so much traffic, that it’s no wonder we get directionally confused. Or worse, forget that I have to wait for the light to turn green before moving forward. And the longer I live on this earth, the more convinced I am that when I’m not sure which direction to go in, there’s really only one help for it.

Patience. Especially when it feels like winter in my soul.

Because:

“There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears.”

Philippians 1:6 (The Message)

And if I’ll just practice some more patience, and keep trusting, then what’s inside, will indeed spring forth.