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Revisited: My Perspective on Homemaking and Tiffany Lamps

My perspective on homemaking has changed over the past few years as I've made my heart Christ's home. What I had always imagined wasn't what God wanted at all.

My perspective on homemaking has really changed in recent years as I’ve worked harder to make my heart a home for Christ. What I had always imagined wasn’t what God wanted at all.

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I used to obsessively watch HGTV and dream of my perfect space. But once I had my dream home, I’ve realized that God isn’t interested in how I decorate it as much as he wants to be the master of how I live in it.

I used to imagine my future home once I could afford to move out of my cramped apartment. I pictured a delicious reading nook with a cozy chair and the warm ambiance of a Tiffany lamp surrounded by rich mahogany.

Then I made my first budget on a teacher’s salary, looked at the price of a Tiffany lamp, and put it firmly out of my mind. Even so, often I came back to that idealistic image.

Last night catching up with my DVR, I flipped through one of the holiday catalogs that have already started filling my mailbox. The most beautiful Tiffany lamp caught my eye. I quickly scanned to see the price, $349.

On one salary,The Tiffany lamp was still out of our budget.

I imagined squirreling away $5 here, $20 there, anticipating purchasing this lamp. I pictured right where I would put it, how it would glow against my red accent wall. Staring at the picture, I daydreamed of steaming coffee cups, cozy pajamas, and a book next to the soft glow of my lamp, whisking me away into the perfect bliss of quiet reading time.

Ahem, as if I ever actually FIND time to quietly read, but I digress.

Then, I imagined military movers with my Tiffany lamp and shuddered.

Next I considered how my beautiful, imaginary lamp would really make me feel. I’m in a season of mothering a young daughter with a menagerie of pets.

I wouldn’t want anyone to touch it. Letting kids play near it would give me palpitations. In my mind, watching the dogs chase the cat under the table that houses my imaginary lamp made my stomach knot.

How might I act protecting my lamp? I could almost hear the shrill, sharp tone I might  use if anyone played too roughly near my lamp. If it were broken someday, how would I feel about having wasted $349 when we’re living paycheck to paycheck?

My perspective on homemaking has changed over the past few years as I've made my heart Christ's home. What I had always imagined wasn't what God wanted at all.

My perspective on homemaking began to change. . .

when I realized my identity is rooted in Christ, not how nicely I decorate my home.

I’ve been making a concerted effort to serve God intentionally in my home, with my home, choosing God’s focus in ways that encourage my family to enjoy our things instead of simply not breaking them. My house is supposed to give us a place to rest and fellowship, be a place to live.

My perspective on homemaking changed when I realized our house is a home, not a museum. Click To Tweet
Would a fragile lamp be worth the cost, much less the price tag?

One of the biggest changes in my life has been relaxing who I am in our home. I’ve changed by what standard I measure my success. My standard should always be Jesus. Jesus taught us to love each other, to love others more than ourselves, and that people who value wealth rarely find Him.

I look around at my now mussed, lived-in house and celebrate the growth in my heart. I’ve spent years afraid to live in my version of chaos, stuff that isn’t magically put away the second we are finished with it.

I didn’t understand that my fear of ruining my perfect things was hurting those I loved. The people in my home are more important than the things that might get broken. In the past, I’ve cried over broken ceramics, but ignored the hurts my selfish actions caused my family.

But today, a toy broom lays at my feet because I was playing with my daughter after lunch. Her elaborate “picnic” sits carefully constructed in the middle of the living room, waiting patiently for her daddy to come home to play. Toy friends lie carelessly strewn right in the middle of the hallway. They wait to create an entire imaginary world for her, causing her to stop to play instead of beg for screen time.

Saving up money and waiting patiently for something that we want is a good lesson to teach children. However, right now, that is the only good lesson I can think of regarding this lamp.

Looking at the price tag, I can spend $350 on a lot of things: a plane ticket for one of my stepsons to visit, Christmas gifts for our family, or a carload of groceries for the neighbors who haven’t had fresh vegetables in a month.

So, no, I won’t buy a Tiffany lamp in this season of life, although I might someday buy a budget version.

I have chosen to put serving God above everything else. God always seems to ask, “What can you be doing for me?” I can’t see how I could serve Him with this lamp, either in my home or in my community.

No matter how beautiful a lamp might be, I cannot allow it to overshadow God’s light in me. My new perspective on homemaking is our house serves my mission as a disciple, not as a museum for pretend perfection.

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Secret Service: the key to unlocking a bitter heart

Secret service was the key to unlocking my bitter, angry heart and learning to love my husband again, which in turn, saved our marriage.

Secret service was the key to unlocking my bitter, angry heart and learning to love my husband again, which, in turn, saved our marriage.

We still really loved each other, but something was very broken. My husband was angry all the time. I was bitter. We could barely talk about anything without bickering, so we didn’t. I did my thing. He did his. We slept in the same bed, but we weren’t any kind of team.

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By the time we tried to communicate, we were boilers ready to explode, harboring so many hurts and slights.

My marriage was failing!

A year after he returned from his last deployment, I didn’t know if we were going to make it. I was trying so hard to be a “good” wife while he was such a selfish jerk.

He didn’t care about how his choices affected me at all. He used the last of the milk, broke my favorite dishes with his carelessness, and left me home with the stomach flu and toddler to go hunting. If I ever dared to complain, he would shut me out completely or explode with rage.

The train wreck of our marriage was hiding so many broken pieces, I didn’t know where to begin.

I wasn’t ready to leave, but I was heartbroken. I didn’t see how I could live the rest of my life with this awful person who hurt me at every turn. Guarding my heart from him, I walked on eggshells whenever we were together. Often, I went to bed aching with loneliness, wishing he would start being what I needed.

What a selfish creep .  .

I was.

Wait, what?

Yep, I’d been angry and bitter because I’d been expecting my husband to fill my heart in the places God should be. I was bitter from my selfish, unmet desires.

I began seeking God’s answers for my life. At first, when I read about letting God be my portion, it didn’t make sense, but I kept reading my bible and praying about it.

Lamentations 3:24 ESV “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”

Over time, the Holy Spirit opened my eyes to my need for grace, and understanding God’s love for me. It unlocked my heart. A veil lifted.

I was able to see other people as loved creations of God struggling with their own sins and hurts.

I stopped seeing my husband as someone responsible for filling my heart, but as someone whose heart was so empty, he could barely function.

Then, I realized I’d been keeping score for a long time. I won’t do this for him because he didn’t do that for me. Each check mark against him cemented a brick in the wall between us.

Can Secret Service tear down the brick wall of bitterness?

Even when I had been doing the right things, I’d had the wrong heart. I would hold up my pretty list of all the wonderful chores I had done for him during the day and wait for his gratitude. Most of the time, I got nothing or a mumbled thanks, then I got hurt and more resentful.

But God really convicted me, “Are you truly doing things to serve or to get something from him?”

Even when I did the right things, I had the wrong heart. I wasn't serving. I was showing off. Click To Tweet

My motives weren’t pure. I wanted his love, recognition, respect.

A lesson from my Bible reading came to mind, about how we are to serve those in need.

Matthew 6:1-34 ESV
“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Was my husband needy?

Maybe not in the traditional sense, but what if his poor attitude was because I was hurting him or not fulfilling his needs?

Through the lens of God’s grace, I suddenly saw my husband weighed down with pain, war, loss, frustration, disrespect, exhaustion.

As God’s word poured grace and forgiveness into my heart, I began to feel His love, and I started to fill up my husband’s cup out of the overflow of my heart.

When God poured grace into me, I began to fill up my husband's cup out of the overflow of mine.

When God poured grace into me, I began to fill up my husband's cup out of the overflow of mine. Click To Tweet

I began my secret service.

I finally felt loved enough to be able to love others. I could serve him secretly, not because I didn’t want him to know, but because I didn’t need him to. Our Father sees what we do in secret.

Quietly, I began doing things without his asking, like noticing his toiletries need replacing, making his lunch, preparing his coffeepot, and even suggesting he go hunting when his week has been frustrating.

My heart was more blessed doing quiet, secret service for him than it ever was by nagging him. Click To Tweet

One job I would never have considered before surrendering to Christ was picking up my husband’s dirty underwear off the bathroom floor.

Every morning – He walks past his closet (where his hamper is) to leave the house, but it never fails that his underwear are on the floor under the edge of the vanity. Previously, I would have ignored them, kicked them, but picked them up – ugh, no thank you.

Secret service was the key to unlocking my bitter, angry heart and learning to love my husband again, which in turn, saved our marriage.

But God was working on me. Before, I would have nagged him about being so lazy for leaving them there. My nagging would have become an infection between us.

Even several years ago, I would have kindly asked him to pick them up, but secretly resented those stupid underwear.

Then three years ago, I began to pick them up with a grateful attitude. “Thank you, Lord, my husband is not in Iraq.”

Today, I laugh. I even pray over those underwear.

“Lord, thank you for this opportunity to serve my husband, thank you for a marriage that is working, please remind me that all my service is for You ultimately, and is about humility and serving without drawing attention to myself.”

One secret of my service is remembering that my service is ultimately in HIS service. Click To Tweet

I pray over his day. I pray that his body will be enough to face the challenges of whatever he is called to do. Mostly, I pray that his heart will be open to see God in his day. And I pray for him to know I love him, to bring him home safely.

And I choose everyday to thank God for those stupid, blessed, dirty underwear. I’ve even been disappointed when he remembers to put them in the hamper.

My heart has been filled more in doing quiet, secret things for my husband than it ever was by nagging him into doing things for me.

When service filled my heart, I stopped being bitter. I started looking for the next thing I could do for him. My focus shifted. I started giving him real attention, listening to his needs. When his work day had been awful, I gave him some grace to find his peace so he could be the daddy and husband he wants to be.

If this is so secret, why am I writing about it?

It’s humbling and real. And every time I have shared this story with women whether 2 or 100, I’ve seen tears and nods. We all have our own dirty underwear mountain that we need to surrender.

So, I share in case another wife needs to hear my story. Nothing changed my marriage more than loving him and expecting nothing in return.

and Secret service is counter-cultural . . .

Our culture asks what’s in it for me? But I was never emptier than when I was counting the cost and measuring his gratitude.

I’ve never been more joyful than I’ve been picking up his sweaty, dirty, thrown up under the cobwebby vanity underwear because I see how God has moved in our marriage and in his heart through my tiny acts of obedience.

And sometimes we need reminding that we’re not supposed to blend in.

Besides, the underwear was just a start. Once joining the Secret Service, I found so many ways to quietly serve people. Those services are treasures I hold like sweet pearls, knowing I’m seen by my Heavenly Father from whom nothing is secret.

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Stepping-Stones

Yesterday, as we were leaving church, I stopped to chat with our youth pastor. I asked him how he is feeling about getting ready to be a first time daddy. He laughed nervously and said, “OK, but ask me again in a few months.”

I wanted to tell him it will be OK, that you can plan, but you can’t really be prepared for how a baby changes life. I tried to explain, but I couldn’t find the words to truly express what a magical journey parenthood is.

God carefully crafted parenthood, every step. He planned how children grow with how we learn. They start off pretty simple: feed, burp, change, and sleep. Once we master that, they start to roll over, then sit. Our family started off a bit more challenged than most. In the NICU, every time we moved her something beeped. We spent those first few days afraid to touch her, but learned to take her temperature, give her a bath, and feed her once she was allowed to eat by mouth. We got the hang of diaper changes and dressing our premie in her teeny tiny clothes after a few days. Even so, I drove away from the hospital feeling like, “You’re letting us leave with her??”

Everything was new again once we got home. We spent time learning about sleeping routines, gas drops and gripe water, using the baby monitor, and washing the baby laundry in Dreft.  After a few days, we had a routine. Then she grew a bit, her needs changed, and we figured it out again. Every time she changed, I had just enough ability to stave off complete chaos. When I got the hang of that stage, she would change again. Some days felt exhausting, especially since my husband deployed right after the adoption was final and days after I went back to teaching full-time. I look back and think, wow, I survived that year. It was rough stuff, but never harder than I could survive. Sometimes, circumstances were harder than I wanted, were tougher than I was in the moment. Not to say there weren’t failures and disasters, but nothing was ever so hard I couldn’t get through it.

God always gave me just enough, just enough energy to survive the day, just enough wisdom to not lose my mind. When I think about how God provided for me as a parent, just enough patience, just enough knowledge, I am reminded of the story in the desert from Exodus.

Exodus 16:16-18 “16 This is what the LORD has commanded: ‘Each one is to gather as much as he needs. Take an omer for each person you have in your tent.’ ” 17 The Israelites did as they were told; some gathered much, some little. 18 And when they measured it by the omer, he who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little. Each one gathered as much as he needed.”

God provided just enough manna for the Israelites in the desert each day, not too much, not too little. He gave them just enough to rely on Him for another day. He wanted them to know they lived on His word, by His grace and power, not by human means.

Now that our sweet daughter is four, testing boundaries, asserting her opinions, we have days I feel I have this parenting gig ‘on lock,’ and days I feel like I want to lock her in her room and cry. I don’t have all the answers, but when I cry out to God for the strength to control my emotions, for wisdom in the moment, He always answers. The answers always come when I am truly seeking His desires for my heart. And when I hear His voice, I am never the same.

This weekend every meal has been a struggle.  I don’t know what her issue with food is this week, but I do know that I can instruct and guide or let my frustration damage our relationship. I haven’t stumbled on any magical answers. We use a timer, stars on her chore chart, and now she gets served nothing else until she finishes the food she was served, within reason. I am learning that I cannot control her, I can only teach her to control herself, and mostly by example. Before I react, I reach for the peace of God.

Today when I started to get frustrated, God’s answer to my quick prayer was, “Is this an emergency? If not, don’t treat it like one.” I was able to keep calm, enforce the rules, establish consequences that were fair and reasonable. Then I laughed with her, made it fun, praised her when she took bites happily. She raced to finish her milk before I finished my water. I focused on being empathetic without letting her just have her way.

thoughts-4I had enough answers for today. And our Christian walk with God is kind of like that. If we’re listening, He gives us what we need for where we are in Him and in life. By reading the Bible, we know what the finish line looks like, but have no idea how we personally will get there. I picture a path of stepping-stones carrying us over the torrents of life. We can’t see all the way across. We can only see what we need for right now, but somehow it is always enough. When I truly put my faith in Him, I always have enough strength, enough patience, enough energy. When I rely on myself, I can slip off the path, getting drenched in the murky waters, but when I open my Bible and my heart, the next stone rises to meet my step.

John 14:26 ESV  “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”

When I finally let the Holy Spirit start working in my heart, I noticed His teachings, how he brings ideas to my attention. He gives me a perspective separate from my own and strength to love others with His love.

Yesterday, I was completely wiped out. All I wanted to do was watch TV and order pizza. I didn’t want to wash a dish or cook a meal or fold a sock or even be mommy. My husband has been working late every night and hunting the nights and days he didn’t have to work. It has been two weeks of being almost completely on my own with multiple medical appointments, softball practices and games, and a few days with a sick kid (fighting catching it myself). I started feeling selfish and resentful, but I knew it wasn’t what God wanted me to demonstrate to my husband. I asked for the wisdom to know how to act and the heart to treat him correctly.

Normally my husband cooks on the weekends, but I sensed that wasn’t what he needed. I offered to make dinner as soon as we came home from church, while my husband went to play with our daughter. They got a couple of hours to just play. They both needed that so much. My day didn’t get easier; my attitude shifted. I had the chance to love my husband. I let him hug me, told him I was tired. Then I realized he must be, too. He had worked from before dawn until 9 or 10 p.m. for several days in a row, so I asked him what he needed.

One, he needed me to listen to him. He needed my attention and compassion. As I listened to him talk, I realized he needed me to give to him more than I needed him to give to me. Instead of being selfish, God gave me just enough wisdom to suggest he spend the afternoon in the woods and to let himself enjoy it no matter the outcome, a deer for the freezer or not.

And miraculously, I had just enough energy for my day, just enough strength to take care of the kid and the dishes, to pack his lunch and prep his coffee, handle counting practice and story time, and to be ready to listen when he came home from his adventure, in which he slipped and fell into a creek because there were no stepping-stones. When he tried to jump it, his foot got caught on a tree root. He crashed down backwards onto his tree stand backpack. He literally lay in the creek, angry and alone, feeling water seep into his clothes and boots, stuck in the mud because the weight he was carrying got pulled into the thick, Georgia mud.

I had already been thinking about this entry, had already titled it stepping-stones thinking about the power of God’s provision and direction for our parenting, our lives, and our faith, but as I listened to him, laughing as he acted out his fury at the tiny creek, I thought to myself, thank God for His stepping-stones.

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Why, yes, we do validate!

Friendship is not for the faint of heart. Real friendship can be messy sometimes if we’re real, honest, and hold each other accountable. Nothing is harder than hearing you’re wrong from someone you really respect and want to be respected by, but if I’m wallowing in pig poop, I need someone to tell me this isn’t the time for a facial!

However, I’ve been known to stand in the poop and try to argue that it’s a spa treatment. God has really been teaching me to listen to the correction, searching my heart for any truth in it. Because I’ve learned that even if the entire message doesn’t apply, there is usually a grain of truth in it. But that grain of truth can rub skin raw like a salt scrub body treatment in the moment. Humility is hard. I want to be right. I want to get things right, so the past 24 hours has been hard. I beat myself up a lot when I don’t things right, but I’m learning.

Yesterday, one of my dearest friends and I had a disconnect. We were both trying to be Godly women, but between text messages, and conversation snippets (talking on the phone around kids, meals and husbands), we both ended up wounded and wounding each other on accident.

She was upset about an interaction during her day. I was trying to be a good friend. I heard the words she used in her message, tried to process what I thought was happening and vowed to give her some time before calling, but when she came to me with her hurt, I rushed in with my opinion. She was still raw, and we talked before she’d really had a chance to process. I had prayed about her situation before talking to her, tried to wait for the right words, but I still jumped in before she was ready to listen, and made some mistaken conclusions about how she was feeling. And because she was so hurt already, nothing I said could be heard with the heart from which it was spoken.

Luckily, we’ve been in the trenches together as teachers, women, wives, moms, Christians, and friends together for a long time, so even in the worst moments of this situation, we were calm and kind, even though we were both feeling like we missed something somewhere.

But thank God for His love that transcends the human emotions of a moment that wants to throw in the towel and quit. His love pushes us to say, “Can we try that conversation again?” Thank the Lord for His word, where we both immediately went in our emotions, and kept coming back from, ready for restoration.

In bits and pieces, between vomit and poop crises and softball practice and big brothers with sharpies, she and I did eventually manage to figure out where each of our hearts were right and what needed correcting in both of us. We were both validated, and also, both instructed. We both got to say, I’m sorry and I forgive you. It really was a beautiful moment in a friendship. We were both able to start over, communicate more clearly, and realize that if we’d both slowed down yesterday to do that in the first place, neither of us would have spent a day feeling upset.

Because we have had these conversations over the past 24 hours, broken into pieces, I’ve been in prayer and deep contemplation about how to talk to her, asking God to show me what I personally needed to hear.

First, I heard, “speak from where you are. You know what you’re thinking and feeling for certain.” When I did that, it we got to the right train of thought, but we still had some work to get to good. So I kept asking, what do I not see?

Usually when I ask Him that, he turns my family into my living object lessons.

Lesson #1 My husband came home from the ER yesterday with a smashed thumb. He dropped a missile on it. (Yes, a missile. Gotta love the army.) He was howling in pain as he tried to ice it. Our daughter tried to show him the ocean-themed get well card she created while he was in the midst of his pain. He wanted to listen to her, to give her proper attention but he couldn’t because of his intense pain. She tried to get louder and louder, but he was trying not to cry, he couldn’t do anything gentle or productive at that moment.

Note to self – when someone is really hurting, they can’t hear anything in their crisis. Just hold on to them and wait.

Lesson #2  I was on the phone (blue-tooth/hands-free) on the way home from our daughter’s softball practice, trying to get some wisdom from another treasured friend to get some insight into how I can better approach people. I’m about to start a ministry with people from all different places in their walk with Christ. I want to make sure I really learn how to love people correctly.

My daughter was screaming from the back seat. I signaled her to stop several times, but she just got more willful, until I did the most terrifying thing a mom can do – I pulled over. I don’t know about you, but my parents threatened to pull over or turn around a lot, but stuff got real when they actually did it. I made it clear that she could not scream while we were in the car, nor while I was on the phone, especially not the double whammy of being on the phone while in the car.

My daughter quieted down, but continued to be upset. When I ended the call a few minutes later, I looked into the kid view mirror. She was still in a puke stained, dirt encrusted softball outfit. Her sweaty hair was plastered to her forehead. She was exhausted from just being her little four-year-old self, and her tiny face was twisted into the biggest sad face ever.

“What is the matter?”

She looked at me and said, “I don’t feel special or loved anymore.”

Whoa! Yes, she IS that dramatic. Of course, I love you, I said, then we talked about what she had been doing wrong, that she needed correction. She agreed that she knows better than to scream and yell at me.

But then she added, “But I don’t feel special or loved when you get mad at me.”

What a wondrous child to be able to tell me what she needed. I told her that of course, she is loved and special all the time, that even when she is at her naughtiest, I love her forever and always, more than the whole world. But her bottom lip quivered, so I told her again. Then I held her leg. I can’t reach her hand in the van, but I can hold her ankle. So we drove home with her smiling happily while I held her leg.

I validated her feelings FIRST, then again. Then I held onto her with all I could, and only then could she hear the correction of her behavior, not who she is.

aha4aiconAh ha! The moral of the story – instead of being able to gently lead my friend to what I was learning in Christ that might relate, she was already in so much pain, then I added to the heap of coals by making her feel criticized, like I didn’t value her, like she wasn’t special or loved, like maybe somehow I saw her as less or broken. Well, no wonder she couldn’t hear me. She was doing her smashed thumb dance, and I thought it would be a good time for a deep philosophical conversation. Why would she want to??

I had to learn how to hear her first, then how to support her, and then ask her “What are you feeling?” “What do you think about it now that you’ve had time to think?” “What are you hearing from God about this?” AH HA!

As soon as I asked her that question, we were back on the right track. She felt really good being able to process what she was feeling, thinking, learning. I could hear growth in her relationship with God, and she could know that I was empathizing with her, not trying to fix her.

Was she wallowing in pig slop and needed me to stop her from giving herself a poop facial? In the end, not so much. Did she need me to be a voice of truth? That remains to be seen. At that moment my behavior wasn’t the most effective. But luckily she was super patient with me and really walked me through a gentler way to get her to come to those realizations herself.

Wow, I know how to use questioning to lead people to finding the right answer; I really feel like kicking myself, but the truth is even when we “know” something, sometimes until the Holy Spirit has opened our hearts, that knowledge is just words. In a very real way, He taught me how to better be an ambassador of love today. Even though nothing I said was wrong or un-Biblical, I learned that I can better choose when or if to say something.

Both of us grew closer to each other and God through going to Him today.

2 Corinthians 3:18 (ESV) 18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord,[a] are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

Because when we stand and look at Him, he cleans us up by degree. And sanctification, like good friends, is a tremendous blessing from God. Cool-Cat-Cafe-Free-Parking-with-Validation

So hopefully, she knows now, that in my friendship parking garage, why, yes, we do validate here. When examining the muck, I need to ask her what she thinks. Is that poop or chocolate? If it’s poop, let’s find the car wash together. If it’s chocolate, it’s every woman for herself.

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Faith Mountain

I am standing in the muck right now, spiritual muck. Life got real hard spiritually during the past week. From the outside, everything looks great or at least no different, but from the inside I’m standing in front of a faith mountain pounding my fists against its craggy surface, screaming, “MOVE!!!” But it doesn’t budge.

I’m feeling discouraged, defeated, depressed, wounded, alone. I spent several days last week near tears every second of the day. My heart felt like an albatross around my neck. I had moments of laughter, but the sadness just kind of hung around. The situation grew into a mountain. It was a mountain that I have known was there, but all of a sudden it was very real and very present, and very in my way. A few times my faith mountain even grew into a volcano erupting all over my life. I’ve been praying for this particular mountain for a while, but it hasn’t moved at all. If anything, it has gotten larger recently.

Matthew 17:20 ESV  He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.”

Are you familiar with this verse from Matthew? At first, reading this it felt like an accusation. Do I not have enough faith? Certainly cause to spend some time in my bible and in prayer. Of course, we can always use more faith. The closer we draw to God, the closer He draws to us. The more faith we have, the more faith we get because we see Him move in our lives.

James 4:8a ESV Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.

I felt really lost. I didn’t know what to do. I really couldn’t DO anything. Isn’t that just the worst feeling in the world? Feeling upset, angry, depressed, anxious and not being able to DO anything about the situation feels like emotional quicksand. The more I thrash against it, the faster I sink into it. One sad thought leads to another and another. Before I know it, my heart is leaden with anxiety and sorrow. Then my daughter’s memory verse came to mind. (I love how her memory verses have become mine as well. We sing them and learn them together.)

2 Cor 10:5b “Take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

Letting my thoughts run away with me wasn’t going to solve anything. It was only letting worry and anxiety rob me of the truth. So, instead of reacting with my emotions, I prayed for God to be present for me and opened my Bible app.

Psalm 55:22 ESV “Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.”

Like soothing waters, God placed that verse right on my opening screen as the verse of the day. I needed to read that verse. But my mountain didn’t move. My feelings of being overwhelmed with grief didn’t instantly go away either. But it was a start. A chance to learn that my job is to be righteous and let God hold me up against the attacks in this world.

Isaiah 41:10 ESV  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.

Then I read all of Psalm 55. David was feeling alone, betrayed by a close confidante, fearful, depressed, but he believed God listened to his cries, that God redeemed his soul in the midst of his battle.

Psalm 55:18 ESV  He redeems my soul in safety from the battle that I wage, for many are arrayed against me.

God knows we’re fighting a battle. God knows that those closest to us can betray and destroy, but our protection is in Him. God promises us that He is listening to us, planning our victory. Again in Mark, he promises us our mountains are nothing for Him.

Mark 11:23 ESV  Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him.

Awesome stuff. But read the next verse.

Mark 11:24 ESV Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.

I’ve asked in prayer. I’ve believed it will be mine. But then I considered that the verse doesn’t say when the mountain will be moved, just that it will be.

This is how raising my daughter is sanctifying me, again. We were headed out to the pool. It was full of leaves and bugs from the storms of the week. It was kind of nasty. Now, that I’m the mom, I get to do the nasty things around here. FUN. So I climbed in with our skimmer and started swimming in the muck. My daughter stood outside our pool waiting to climb the ladder. I could hear her impatient yelling as I dove in over and over to scoop the leaves from the bottom. She wanted to swim NOW. She couldn’t see over the side of the pool and understand why she couldn’t get in yet. There was nothing wrong with her desire to swim, but the water wasn’t the best it could be. She had to trust that before she could come in that I had some work to do.

It was in this moment, scooping wasps, floating fire ants, and decaying leaves that I realized my faith mountain is only what I can see from my limited human-centered perspective. Maybe God is standing on the other side doing His good work, preparing the way. His timing isn’t slow to torture me. His timing is so that none will perish. God wants us to have His best. Sometimes His best takes time, but He isn’t ignoring me. God is good all the time. He is working in ways beyond my understanding, just like my ways were beyond my daughter’s comprehension.

2 Peter 3:9 ESV The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

When I think about my faith mountain in the perspective of eternity, I realize that my impatience isn’t worth anyone staying lost. In fact, just holding onto that verse strengthened me. I drew close, and He answered.

Isaiah 61:1 ESV “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;”

I was reminded that my struggles might be so that I can claim victory in His gospel, to be a salve to the brokenhearted. Some of the most horrendous experiences of my life have resulted in me being able to be a blessing, to proclaim God’s power to those still in darkness and pain. God doesn’t necessarily want my pain, but if I am faithful, I can seek Him through it, and receive His comfort for me so that I can offer that comfort to others.

I can honestly say in that moment my darkness lifted, even though my mountain has not, yet. Knowing God’s perspective and promise and perfect love for all of us really gave me a joyful heart in the midst of the battle.

I can’t share exactly what my faith mountain is because it really isn’t my mountain. It is more like someone else’s mountain that just happens to be standing smack dab in the middle of my life. But I don’t believe it matters. In fact, if I told you, you might say,’ well that isn’t something I struggle with’. By just calling it a mountain, you can imagine your greatest obstacle in my way. Kind of like Paul never clearly describes his thorn in the flesh, so we can imagine our greatest weakness and see his testimony as personal.

We all have faith mountains. Some are molehills our fear and anxiety turn into mountains, but I think as Christians, we’ve all stood in front of our own ideas of a mountain and prayed for it to be removed. I know I have and only realized God’s plan was working the whole time, long after the fact.

Do you have a faith mountain in your way today? Do you have something that you’re impatiently waiting to have moved or solved?

Psalm 34:18 ESV The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.

Claim this verse today. Let Him be your comfort. Seek His word. I always find Him there.