Christ’s Prayer for Us

Do your kids argue and fight?

I have three kids whom I love dearly. But, there are days when I feel like I will never survive.

“He touched me!”

“She didn’t ask if she could ride my bike!”

“He came in my room without asking!”

The bickering seems to never end. I often become weary because of the whining and complaining, but I have yet to figure out how to put an end to it. Sometimes I just walk away with the admonition to figure out how to get along.

Isn’t that how we as Christians are often perceived by the world? We argue and fight over doctrines. We can’t get along inside the church any better than non-Christians, so how can we expect to be set apart as a light to a lost and dying world?

As a former pastor’s wife, I have certainly seen my share of knock-downs in the church business meetings. It might be over the color of carpet we are going to put in the sanctuary. Maybe it is over what type of music we will have in the service. Maybe it’s over the fact that the pastor doesn’t wear a suit and tie every week.

It’s very much like parenting a group of immature children. Can’t you just see God looking down, shaking his head, and becoming exasperated over the arguing—much like I do with my own children?

“I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message.  I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me. John 17:20-21

Unity.

Jesus prayed for us—Christians today—asking that we would be unified so that the world will believe.

Of all the things Christ could have prayed for us, he chose to pray for unity. More than anything, he wants his body to be unified in the purposes for which he came, unified in seeking to bring others into the kingdom, unified in loving others. He does not want division in his body, because a body cannot thrive when divided. He knew that unity was the one thing that would attract unbelievers to us.

But what does unity look like? Does it mean we must all think alike, agree on every doctrine, perfectly follow a set of rules? No. But it does mean that we must stand firmly behind the central tenets of our faith and let lesser doctrinal issues be covered with a healthy dose of love and grace.

What are those essentials, the tenets of our faith that we must not compromise?

Jesus Christ is the perfect Son of God. Our faith hinges on the deity of Christ. If Jesus was not God, he was not who he said he was. If he was not the Son of God, our faith crumbles.

Jesus Christ died and rose again on the third day. The resurrection sets Christianity apart from other religions. Christ showed his deity through the resurrection. Several of our New Testament books were written by eye witnesses to the resurrected Christ.

Jesus Christ is the only way to heaven. In John 14:6, Jesus proclaimed, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” There is no other way to get to God the Father. It is only through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross that we are reconciled to him.

Our salvation is by grace through faith alone. Ephesians clearly states that our good works do not save us. “God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it,” (2:8-9).

Outside of those fundamental, foundational truths of our faith, we must be cautious. If we are dividing the body over secondary doctrinal issues, we are heaping legalistic rules upon our brothers and sisters. We are destroying the unity of the Body, the very thing Christ himself prayed for us.

I grew up in a Southern Baptist church, a denomination often known for some legalistic tendencies. We didn’t smoke. We didn’t drink alcohol. We didn’t dance. Or, at least those were the rules we were supposed to follow. But, weren’t rules made to be broken? At our Southern Baptist college where dancing was against the rules, we simply went off campus to conduct our “functions.”  Somehow, we realized that it is grace by faith and not our good works (i.e., living by a certain set of rules) that gave us salvation.

Maybe it isn’t alcohol or dancing that you argue over. What about tattoos? Or body piercings? Aren’t they explicitly outlawed in the book of Leviticus? Of course, if we are going to follow those rules, we also have to follow the rules about what we eat, about ceremonial cleansings, and sacrifices.

When it comes to the non-essential, negotiables of our faith, we must be cautious that we are not heaping a list of do’s and don’ts on people. We must remember that salvation is by grace through faith alone. We must remember that we are no longer under the law, but under grace. And we must seek unity with other believers by over-looking theological differences.

What type of non-essentials require an extra dose of love and grace?

Speaking in tongues. Some will say that tongues have ceased. Others argue that tongues are an essential, the out-working of the Holy Spirit. Ultimately, 1 Corinthians 13 tells us that the gifts such as tongues are great, but we must seek faith, hope, and love above any gift. But, if we find ourselves differing with other believers about something such as tongues, we must serve up grace and love.

Divorce and Remarriage. Divorce is an ugly part of life. We can all agree that the enemy is at work seeking to tear apart the family. But, we cannot agree on the how and when and if divorce is acceptable. There are scriptures that clearly state divorce is acceptable in certain situations. There are interpretations that indicate remarriage is acceptable, at least in certain situations. However, there are those that argue that divorce is never acceptable, and if it happens remarriage will cause one to live in adultery and prevent salvation. Again, if you are fiercely arguing any of these positions, perhaps it is time to stop dividing the church over non-essentials.

Women in ministry. Again, my tradition stated that women could not be pastors, that the title was reserved for men. And yet, there are many women who are anointed preachers, proclaiming the word boldly and without reservation. Which is the proper interpretation? Or does it matter? Should we just accept that there will be differences and strive for unity in the body.

And so many more… Baptism vs. sprinkling. Healing. Homosexuality. Abortion. Capital punishment.   I don’t know what it is for you, but we really have to stop and ask ourselves some serious questions when it comes to doctrines that divide the Body of Christ. Yes, we must all seek to live holy lives, characterized by a true desire to walk in his way. But maybe, just maybe, your convictions are not the same as mine. Maybe, just maybe, we should focus on the essentials. Perhaps if we focus on overcoming pride with humility, anger with forgiveness, hatred with love, we will begin to attract the attention of the world and show them the unity that Christ prayed for. There are so many other things that we as Christians should be focused on, such as supporting our brothers and sisters in Christ who are facing persecution and beheadings simply because they stand firmly on the essentials of our faith.

Do you remember when Peter was told to by the Spirit to go to the Gentiles (Acts 11)? He argued about food. He couldn’t possibly eat what the Gentiles eat because it was his tradition. And yet the Spirit told him not to let food cause division in the body. Or what about circumcision? When the Gentiles were being drawn to the faith, some believers wanted to force them to be circumcised. And yet, God directed the early believers not to force circumcision on the Gentiles.

Ultimately, those were non-essentials, areas where believers were encouraged to extend a large dose of grace and love.

I will never pretend to know everything about God. I will never think that I have it all figured out, that my doctrinal beliefs are infallible. But I will cling to my Savior, trust him to lead me every step of the way. Where my human traditions clash with other believers, I pray that I always cover those differences with grace and love. I pray that I never let my pride and arrogance become a source of division in the body of Christ. I pray that I am always an answer to Christ’s prayer for unity in the church.

Accept other believers … and don’t argue with them about what they think is right or wrong. For instance, one person believes it’s all right to eat anything. But another believer with a sensitive conscience will eat only vegetables. Those who feel free to eat anything must not look down on those who don’t. And those who don’t eat certain foods must not condemn those who do, for God has accepted them….So why do you condemn another believer? Why do you look down on another believer? Remember, we will all stand before the judgment seat of God… Yes, each of us will give a personal account to God. So let’s stop condemning each other. … So then, let us aim for harmony in the church and try to build each other up. Romans 14:1-19 (selected verses)

The Ultimate Safe Room

A friend, who has never been to Oklahoma, asked me to describe our state.

“Think oil,” I began. “Lots of oil. And earthquakes. And droughts. And floods. And blizzards. And ice storms. And tornadoes. Lots of tornadoes. Big tornadoes.”

Certainly makes you want to come visit, huh? And, it probably makes you wonder why any sane person would ever want to live here? But, for me, Oklahoma is home.

And, it is tornado season in Oklahoma once again.

Last Wednesday, we were warned in advance that there was a risk for tornadoes. It wasn’t expected to be much, but there was a risk. So, as always, we were watching the weather throughout the day.

Around 2:30 pm, I received the first notification on my phone of a tornado warning south of us. I called my dad and asked him to let me know if I needed to head home. About 30 minutes later, he called and told me to start home.

I walked in the door around 3:45. I had called my kids to tell them to round up the dogs and have everyone ready to go to the safe room.

The safe room. Those outside of Oklahoma might not understand what a safe room is. Many are familiar with basements and underground storm shelters, but in the last couple of decades, above ground safe rooms have become more common. Tucked away in the back of my closet in the interior of my home is a 4’x8’ room. It is steel reinforced with one foot thick concrete walls. It has a steel door with triple dead-bolts, and it is designed to withstand even the strongest of tornadoes—the dreaded EF-5 that will wipe homes from their foundation.

Shortly after I arrived home, tornadoes were firing just a couple miles south of us in Bridge Creek, Oklahoma. We locked ourselves in the safe room, armed with computers and whipped cream and Cheetos and pizza. Might as well have a party while we are in there!

There we sat, two dogs, a cat, three kids, and mom. We were streaming the weather on my phone while a steady stream of text messages from friends and family outside the storm area kept us informed. After 30 minutes or so, we felt safe to leave our little room.

But the peace didn’t last long.

As I looked at the tv, I saw a massive tornado in the vicinity and the sirens began to sound. We scrambled back to our safe room to ride out round number two. By this time, our snacks were gone and we were left to entertain ourselves.

After receiving the all clear, we vacated our safe room. Again, the reprieve was short-lived. Tornado sirens sounding. Round up all the critters and the kids. Lock ourselves in yet again.

Round after round of tornadoes seemed to be sent straight toward us. Dropping from the sky. Churning up the landscape. Twisting and destroying everything in their path.

Around 7:30, we saw yet another storm taking a path straight toward us. One last siren. One last mad dash to the safe room. By now, over four hours into our little tornado party, we were tired of being locked in a stuffy room together. Nerves were frazzled. The fun was over. Our Bible verse drills were old. Our movie choice no longer worked for everyone.

I continued to try to stream the weather on my phone, but there were so many tornadoes in the area the meteorologists were unable to focus on all of them. But, there on the radar, I could see the circulation right over us. I could hear the occasional mention of the storm chasers watching from the corner of highways 37 and 4. I knew they were looking directly toward our neighborhood.

The electricity began to flicker. Off and on. Off and on. Finally, it went out and didn’t come back on. As we watched the radar wondering what was over us, we felt a sudden and drastic change in pressure as our ears tried to adjust. We were in the midst of the tornado.

Text messages were flying. “Stay in your safe room! It’s over you! Don’t come out!”

We hunkered down, wondering exactly what was going on outside our little safe spot. The walls were thick and insulated, and we couldn’t hear a whole lot. We knew that something bad was happening outside, but we sat still. Even with the bickering and arguing (and the smell of wet dog), we knew that our little spot was so much better than being outside in the storm.

Around 9:30 pm, we were finally able to walk out of our safe room. Our home was still standing. We were safe and alive and thankful.

Just to add a little comic relief, there is an exotic animal refuge a couple of miles from our house. It, too, had been hit, and the news stations were warning us not to venture outside because there could be lions and tigers and bears (oh my!) wandering free! Only in Oklahoma!

The light of day showed us what we had survived. Many of our neighbors have significant damage. Almost every shop to the west of us was left as nothing more than twisted and mangled pieces of metal, thrown and scattered throughout the neighborhood. At least one of our neighbors has significant structural damage, damage where they can push on the wall of their house and move it. I was blessed that my damage was minimal. But, my heart aches for those around us and our many friends down the road in Bridge Creek that have lost everything.

As I was thinking about our evening, I was so thankful for our little safe room. We could ride out the storm really without a care in the world, knowing that those things most dear to us would be safe. We put our trust in the walls surrounding us as the winds and rain and floods whipped up all around us. We were able to make the most out of a difficult situation.

And that’s what our God is to us.

The storms rage. The winds whip up and throw our lives into turmoil. The flood waters rise around us. Our enemy, a roaring lion, prances around our neighborhood looking for someone to devour. The morning light reveals the damage, as we survey the rubble and debris scattered throughout our neighborhood.

And yet, we can run to our safe place, our Savior. We can ride out the storms swirling around us, knowing that his loving arms are protecting us. We can rest in peace, enjoying the safety and security, knowing that nothing can touch us that he does not allow. We can have a safe harbor, even as the pressures change around us. He is our safe room in this life.

God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble. Psalm 46:1

Thank you, Lord, for being our safe room, our hiding place when the storms threaten to overtake our lives. Thank you that you protect us, that we can ride out the storms in your presence knowing that nothing can hurt us in your presence. Thank you that we have a place of safety, a place where we can run when our very lives are in danger.

Happy Mother’s Day!! 

Happy Mother’s Day to all of you! To the moms, single moms, single dads trying to be both mom and dad, to the want-to-be-moms struggling with infertility… You are all beautiful, precious, treasured. Your sacrifices are great, and God holds your tears in his hand. You are doing an amazing job! 

Today at 3:00 CST, I will be live with Kathy Chiero in The Sitting Room at http://www.610wtvn.com. We will be talking Mother’s Day, the struggles of bearing the entire burden. 

Pray that I might decrease so that He might increase. Pray that He would speak through me, that it would be His words and not mine. Pray that He might be glorified and that His word would not return void. 

Happy Mother’s Day! 

Loving Yourself

“Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?” Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.  A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Matthew 22:36-39

I had a conversation recently with a friend recovering from divorce and adultery. He was talking about how he was struggling to focus on himself, to make sure that he knew who he was and what he wanted. This focus on self was so foreign to him that he was apologetic.

I’ve run into a similar situation with my oldest son. He has avoided confronting a situation for months, maybe even years. He has been completely distraught but hasn’t wanted to stand up for himself because it would leave his brother and sister vulnerable. He is so concerned about them that he has left himself in complete turmoil.

As a wife and mom, I often focused (still do) so much time and attention on my children that I neglected myself. There have been days when I find myself hungry as I am getting ready for bed. As I look back over my day, I realize that I made sure everyone has been fed—except me.

We are taught from a young age to look out for others, that we should put other’s needs ahead of our own. We teach our children to always think about others before we think about ourselves.

While we absolutely must think about others, I found myself meditating on the second greatest command recently. Two interesting realities came to me: 1) It is implied that we must love ourselves, and 2) we must love ourselves before we can love our neighbor.

Have you ever met someone who didn’t love himself? Those people are very insecure. Insecurity often reveals itself through extreme self-focus. Everything in life revolves around the insecure person who doesn’t love himself.

I love how Galatians 5 describes the self-centered, flesh –controlled life in The Message:

It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don’t use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom. Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that’s how freedom grows. For everything we know about God’s Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself. That’s an act of true freedom….My counsel is this: Live freely, animated and motivated by God’s Spirit. Then you won’t feed the compulsions of selfishness….It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community. I could go on. Galatians 5:13-21 (selected portions)

This passage, especially the phrase “an impotence to love,” captured me several years ago. It is clearly associated with walking in the flesh, being a slave to the law, being consumed by self. I began to realize that an impotence to love often comes from a hatred of self. The one who does not love himself/herself has a complete impotence, inability to love anyone else.

The antithesis, however, is living in the Spirit. It is characterized by the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Who wouldn’t want to spend time with someone exhibiting those qualities?

So, if self-centeredness is a work of the flesh and often a characteristic of not loving yourself, how do we love ourselves appropriately? How do we learn to love ourselves so that we can love others?

We must remember that love is an action verb. To love ourselves, we must take action. We must actively care for our physical, emotional, and spiritual needs.

After my melt-down last week, I am focusing heavily on loving myself. I can’t even say that I know exactly what it looks like, but I am trying to figure that out. Here are some of the questions I find myself asking:

Who am I? Loving ourselves starts with knowing who we are. We must see ourselves as God sees us, as a masterpiece created to do good works (Ephesians 2:10). We must see ourselves as valuable, loved, and worthy. We must be able to set aside the voices thrown at us by the Accuser of the brethren that say we are stained, unworthy, broken, and useless. We must replace those voices with the loving, reassuring voice of our Savior.

Then, we must know what recharges us. I am an introvert. I like times of solitude and silence. I like peace and order around me. At this time in my life, the thought of a Girls’ Night Out is almost nauseating. It becomes just one more thing on my already crowded schedule, one more evening where I have to be “on,” able to converse and be alive. Nothing about that situation would make me feel alive right now.

Perhaps you are an extrovert, empowered by relationships. Find those people who will build you up, give you the energy and companionship you need.

What empowers me? I have found that physical fitness is a key to my emotional well-being. When I ran the half-marathon a couple of years ago, I felt invincible! I didn’t care how long it took me to run it; I challenged myself and did more than I ever dreamed I could! If I could conquer a half-marathon, I could conquer the world!

There is something about having a strong, healthy body that recharges me. I have recently made some changes to my fitness routine in hopes of regaining my half-marathon level of physical fitness. I make it a point to listen to sermons or praise music as I pound away at the pavement or on the elliptical. And, it’s a great time to pray. God likes to meet me in the solitude of exercise.

When I am physically fit, I can look in the mirror and like the reflection in the mirror. It’s not about my size of clothes or the number on the scale; it is about feeling strong, capable, and ready to face the world. It is about caring for this temple that God entrusted to me.

What drains me? Sometimes we have to look for the things that are sapping our energy and find ways to avoid them. Clutter is a killer for me. I cannot cook dinner if my kitchen is messy. I cannot function if my house is out of order. I need a somewhat organized (not perfect) home if I am to maintain a state of peace.

As a single mom, there are a lot of things clamoring for my attention. Between kid activities and my own schedule, I have found that it is often difficult to clean my house regularly. I finally decided that it would be worth the peace of mind to pay someone else to clean it on a regular basis. The peace I gain from coming home to a clean house is well worth the amount I pay.

I also stress the importance to my kids of helping me keep things picked up. We all know the laws of the universe that tell us that things tend to go from order to disorder. It’s especially true when we have kids. It takes a team effort to maintain this part of our lives.

What can I eliminate? Sometimes the best thing we can learn is the power of saying, “No.” When our lives are ruled by the next item on our agenda, we lose peace.

As a single parent, this one is essential. And, unfortunately, there are times that I find I have eliminated everything that I can, and I am still overbooked. It’s in those moments that I have to trust God to give me the strength to keep going.

My rules are pretty simple: my kids each get one extra-curricular activity (unless it’s during the school day). I do my best to let my kids have friends over and run around, but I am learning to say no when I need to. There’s no doubt that this season of my life is busy, and there is no way around it. But, sometimes “No” is an essential word in our vocabulary.

What boundaries do I need? Have you ever had someone or something that just drains you? Or maybe it’s just a need for a period of silence and solitude?

My mornings are typically my time. I wake up early before the kids and spend time in prayer and in the word. I enjoy the solitude. I have one child, however, who shall remain nameless. He is my early bird. He occasionally wakes up before 7:00, and he loves to come “enjoy” my silence. The problem is that when he gets up with me, I no longer have silence! And it throws my entire day off.

I am learning that one boundary I need to set is that I am off-limits until 7:00 am—unless you are bleeding profusely.

Why do we need to love ourselves? If we aren’t loving ourselves, we have nothing left to give to others. I pray every day that I would be a drink offering, poured out and used up for others. The problem is that I allowed myself to become completely used up without finding ways to get refilled. We are human. We cannot give to others what we do not have ourselves.

My children deserve the best. I can only give them my best when I am loving myself properly.

I think God planned it that way.

 

 

Guess What?

I am going back into the Sitting Room with Kathy Chiero next week! I don’t know about you, but sometimes Mother’s Day puts me into a funk. Maybe it’s because I feel so overwhelmed with doing it all by myself. Maybe it’s because I feel like no one really notices how much I sacrifice as a single mom. Maybe it’s because the one thing I really want and need (time away) is the last thing I will get. Maybe all moms feel this way. Anyway, Kathy and I will be doing a special tribute to single moms on the program Mother’s Day afternoon. In Ohio, you can listen live at AM 610 WTVN. Or, you can listen online at here. Show time is 4:00-6:00 pm EST.

Also, I’ve been asked for information about the upcoming Single Mom’s Survive n Thrive conference in Oklahoma City, OK. It will be held at Crossings Community Church the weekend of July 10-11. Emmy and Golden Globe nominated actress Janine Turner will be the weekend’s keynote speaker. There will be break-out sessions on Saturday with topics ranging from spiritual growth to handling finances to dating. I will be leading a session on overcoming adultery and divorce. You can find more information and register to attend at ariseministries.net. Hope to see you there!

If there is one thing I could ask of you, please keep me in your prayers. Pray that I might decrease so that my Savior might increase, that others would see him and not me. Pray that I might have the time to prepare and that every word that comes from my mouth would be his and not mine. Pray that he might be glorified in all things!

God bless!

 

Crash…and…Burn

Remember how I said I was tired?

Well, Saturday proved to be my breaking point.

Last week was incredibly busy at work. I had multiple evenings where I was still sitting in my room, computer out, working at 9:00 pm. In addition, my oldest had multiple doctor’s appointments yet again (a broken arm…again). And, God has been opening doors for my writing and speaking (a VERY good problem).

But when you put it all together, it can become a recipe for overload.

When Saturday finally arrived, I knew there would be very little rest. OKC Memorial Marathon and packet pick-up, promise to take my son to the movie to meet a friend, pictures for my daughter’s Ice Cream Festival Princess pageant, family birthday party, and church. I felt as if the weekend was going to be at least as busy as the week had been.

I got up early (as I always do). I decided to skip the gym and simply go to the marathon expo to pick up my packet. When I arrived home, my oldest greeted me in the garage.

“Boy, did you get home at a bad time,” he said.

Not exactly what I wanted to hear.

I walked in the house to find water all over my kitchen floor. Apparently, someone had filled the garbage disposal without running it. Another someone came along and turned on the kitchen faucet and left it running for an unknown period of time, causing the water to back up in the dishwasher and overflow.

My dad and brother happened to be nearby, so there we all were trying to clean up the mess. I began to snap at everyone—kids, dad, brother—about everything.

“Pick that up.”

“Clean up your room.”

“What were you thinking?”

The words were flying out of my mouth, and I could sense the sting as they landed squarely on the hearts of those I love the most.

I didn’t like who I was in that moment.

The tears began to leak out of my eyes. Then the sobs began. There was no controlling the flood of emotions.

And that’s when my kids found me, curled in a fetal position in my closet floor, sobbing.

There was a time when my kids would not have been surprised to find me in this state, but it has been years since I had a complete melt down. I could see the confusion and concern on their faces.

With the sobs still coming uncontrollably, I began to cancel every plan I possibly could. I knew that I HAD to have some down time.

Eventually, I ended up sending all three kids away for the night. As I drove away from my brother’s house where I left the younger two to play with their cousins, the dam broke again.

“Lord,” I began between sobs, “something has to give. I can’t keep this up.”

And that’s when truth hit me. Over the past five years, my kids have spent minimal but consistent time with their dad. It might have only been 24 or 48 hours once or twice a month, but it gave me just enough time to enjoy some silence and solitude. I could stay in or go out. I could sleep or play. I could enjoy friends or enjoy isolation. I could do whatever I wanted without having to care for the needs of others.

However, my kids have not gone to their dad’s house in over two months, and I don’t anticipate a time in the near future where they will all be with their dad. That’s another story for another day, but suffice it to say that my kids are growing up and making decisions for themselves. I am proud of them. I stand beside them completely. I love them and love having them with me. I love that they are happy and content.

But I had NO IDEA the impact on my own emotional well-being. I had NO IDEA how much those short breaks meant to me. I had NO IDEA how much recharging I did in those short hours without children.

Widows, I salute you! To those whose children have no visitation with their other parent, I stand in awe of you! To those who have no family nearby to offer a helping hand, you amaze me!

I am entering a new era of single parenting, and I had no idea how difficult it would be. I have worked hard over the years to care for myself, to do little things to make myself feel good. Whether it is a monthly massage or a regular mani/pedi or making time to stay physically fit, I take time for my health and well-being. I use writing as an outlet. I get up early so I can enjoy an hour of quiet and read my Bible before the kids start clamoring for my attention.

But I have severely underestimated the importance of an extended period of solitude.

So now the challenge begins. If this new phase of my life involves no extended periods alone to recharge, I will absolutely have to find ways to get away by myself.

Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place where he prayed. Simon and his companions went to look for him, and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!” Mark 1:35-37

Even Jesus required solitary time alone. He used his time to pray. But, just like being a single parent, his time was often interrupted. I am a firm believer that the solitary time anchored him in the midst of his busy life. Just like a single parent, he always had people looking for him.

As I mentioned earlier, my routine involves getting up early and spending time with God. I get up before the kids for some alone time. I have noticed recently that on the rare occasions when my time gets interrupted, I can sense a real change in my spirit. I find myself on edge. I snap at people. My spirit is simply not at peace.

My dear friends, I can’t even start to explain the importance of solitary time, especially solitary time with God. If you aren’t making time alone with God a priority, I beg you to give it a try. I dare you to test him, to see if your outlook on life changes. He promises that if we seek him wholeheartedly, we will find him (Jeremiah 29:12-13). He promises that his yoke is easy and his burden is light (Matthew 11:30). He promises that when we wait on him, we will mount up with wings as eagles, that we will run and not grow weary (Isaiah 40:31).

As for me, I will be looking for ways to be alone, to get away from the “crowds” (i.e., children) who are always seeking me out, following me. I will be looking to take better care of myself so that I can better care for my precious children who deserve an emotionally healthy mom.

 

Passion Through Pain

I was recently having a conversation with a dear friend whose marriage is struggling. As we talked through the issues they are facing, she shared just how deeply the pain is affecting her. She talked about her dreams—dreams of an extraordinary life, dreams of being used mightily for God’s kingdom—and she wondered aloud how those dreams could possibly come true with her current situation.

“What if,” I began, “God’s path to fulfilling your dreams is through the pain you are experiencing right now?”

We continued talking, and I told her about my dreams. Since the age of 20, I have felt that God had a writing and speaking ministry for me. I have seen his hand provide experiences for me that would prepare me for the fulfillment of those dreams.

But, those dreams have lain dead and dormant for many years.

In all reality, I had given up on those dreams. I had accepted that my role was that of wife and mother. I had chosen to serve quietly, faithfully beside my husband, content to be the strong but silent pastor’s wife in the background. I felt that my highest calling was to support the ministry that God had given my husband.

When God plants a dream in your heart, however, he refuses to let those dreams die. They may lie dormant, unfulfilled for many years. You may forget about them, become content to live your quiet, ordinary life. You may settle for the status quo, believing that your best years are behind you.

But God has not forgotten you. He has not forgotten the dreams planted in your heart. He will not let your dreams go unfulfilled.

Be prepared, however. Does God ever do things the way we expect? Or does he take the most unexpected, unconditional route to achieve our dreams?

I am finding that God often uses the most painful circumstances of our lives to fulfill our dreams. He creates passion in us by walking through the pain. He molds us into his image, igniting a burning passion that will not die. He gives purpose to our pain.

Twenty years ago, my dream was to write and speak. I never dreamed that God would use adultery and divorce to give me a voice. I never dreamed that he would allow everything to be ripped away from me so that I could be prepared to be a voice for him.

When we are tempted to believe that our dreams are dead, we must remember the promises God has given us.

If you will search eagerly for God, plead with the Almighty, If you are pure and do the right thing, then surely he will become active on your behalf and reward your innocent dwelling. Although your former state was ordinary, your future will be extraordinary. Job 8:5-7

Job’s “friends” were not the most encouraging in his time of distress, but I love this little gem! His friends tried to convince him that somehow the calamity that had befallen him was because of his sin. Of course, we know the back story. We know that God had a conversation with Satan and hand-picked him to be tested. God saw his heart, his purity, his righteousness, and he knew that Job would pass the test.

And what happened to Job at the end of his life? He proclaimed, “My ears had heard about you, but now my eyes have seen you” (Job 42 5). Through the trials of this life, God gave him a deeper, more intimate relationship with the Savior. And, the second half of his life was more blessed than the first (Job 42:12).

For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. Ephesians 2:10

God has created you for good things. He will stop at nothing to accomplish his purpose in you and through you. Almost every biblical character went through a period of preparation that involved pain, isolation, learning dependence on God. Elijah was fed by ravens at the Kerith Brook. Joseph spent years in bondage and prison between the birth of his dream and the fulfillment of his dream. David spent years running from King Saul after he was selected to be King of Israel and the time he took the throne.

Your trials are accomplishing a work in you, an eternal work that God will use to prepare you for the great purpose he has planned for you. Maybe, just maybe, God will use this season of pain to give you the future you desire.

Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Ephesians 3:20

Our perspective is limited. We are not all-knowing, all-seeing. But our God is. You see, he can see our past, our present, our future. He can take and weave it all together into a beautiful mosaic. He sees the final picture even when we can’t.

As a matter of fact, we can’t even begin to imagine the way he will fulfill our dreams! It will blow us away!

Here I am, my dreams of writing and speaking have been dormant for 20 years. I had almost given up. And yet, after walking through divorce and adultery, God has prepared me for an amazing future. He has used my pain, my isolation to create a heart for those walking through marital pain. He has given me new compassion, a new outlook on life. And, today I see this amazing ministry unfolding in front of me.

When I started this little blog two and a half years ago, I hoped to have a few readers. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that I would have readers around the globe, be writing for a variety of Christian sites. Never did I imagine that I would be a guest on radio shows, have invites to speak in Kenya, be honored to speak at the upcoming single mom conference.

I am blown away by God’s grace, humbled by the doors opening before me. I am amazed at God’s goodness on my life. I am blessed by every email, every comment, every view on my blog.

God has begun to fulfill my dreams, but it came through immense pain.

Are you facing pain? Perhaps it is through the pain that God will give you passion. Perhaps it is through the hurt that God will fulfill your dream. Search for him. Plead with him. You won’t be disappointed!