Take Out

For weeks leading up to Christmas, I’ve been faced with the question of what I want. It’s not that so many people were looking to buy me presents, in fact, very few people even asked. But it’s the time of year when the focus of nearly every TV show, every ad, every blog post is on giving or getting just the right gifts. So I started to ask myself: What do I want?

I don’t think that’s been a very healthy question for me. Rather than looking at all the things I have, all the blessings I’ve already received, I began to consider what my life may be lacking. What don’t I have? What would make my life newer, better, faster? And somehow, searching for these holes, I managed to find them. They seem to glare like crazy–a beacon of how my life just isn’t what it could be, if only I had something else.

You gain a lot when you live a godly life. But you must be happy with what you have. We didn’t bring anything into the world. We can’t take anything out of it. If we have food and clothing, we will be happy with that. (I Timothy 6:6-8, NIrV)

God,

It’s hard for me to believe sometimes that I wouldn’t actually be happier if I had more books or shoes or toys. Wouldn’t my life be easier or more comfortable if I had all these things I want? But, comfortable isn’t really Your purpose is it? You’re making me holy, and apparently that takes a lot of time stretching me out of my comfort zone, and that’s never easy.

Help me to recognize that the more things I have around me, the more tempted I am to focus on those rather than on You. Let the stuff in my life just be stuff. Stuff is incidental. It comes and goes and isn’t really very important in the scheme of things. But, God, You are always with me. I want You to be in the center of me–Lord of my life, and ruler over all my stuff. Thank You that You’re not willing to give me what I want when it interferes with what I need.

Not Ideal

I spend a lot of time feeling crummy. I think of myself as a not-very-good wife or a not-very-good mom or a not-very-good job applicant. I imagine there is this ideal wife/mom/job seeker who does everything right. Her husband loves coming home each night from work to a clean house, a scratch-made meal, and well-groomed children. Her kids do as they’re asked the first time, without complaint. They would never grab the new tube of blue gel toothpaste from the box and squeeze it all over the bathtub, floor, and cabinet (not to mention the blue-tinged footprints I found on the hall carpet). They always treat their parents, siblings, friends, and complete strangers with respect and courtesy. And when she applies for work, her resume is always at the top of the pile.

Sadly, I am not that woman. I wish I were. I try to be, but I can’t seem to do it. Somewhere, deep down inside, I believe that if I would follow all the rules just right, I could live her perfect life. The rational side of my brain recognizes how ridiculous that notion is. Yet, part of me still magically believes the lie.

God gives us the power to serve under His new covenant. This isn’t a legal contract, chiseled into stone, which kills the spirit. It’s written by the Holy Spirit in our hearts, His life in ours. (paraphrase of II Corinthians 3:6)

Lord,

I keep trying to get this life right, as though You’re grading my performance and I don’t want a low score. But life just keeps seeming too hard to do my best all the time. I am beginning to believe that’s Your intent. You allow difficulties and struggles and just plain bad days because there’s no quicker way to get me turned around, running back to You. I’m not supposed to do it all on my own. You give me the energy to continue putting one foot in front of the other because I know You’re walking with me. And You have surrounded us with family and friends–people with whom we’re instructed to share our burdens (Galatians 6:2).

Please help me to stop trying so hard to complete tasks that haven’t even been assigned to me. Making the world perfect, even my little corner of it, is not actually my job. It’s Yours. You are the One who made the ultimate sacrifice to save the world. You are the One who makes us holy. You are the One who can be trusted to finish what You’ve started (Hebrews 10:14-23). God, thank You that because You are perfect, I don’t have to be. Help me to keep looking to You for perfection and do what You give me to do without trying to measure my success or failure every step of the way.

Sufficient

I like to be able to plan and organize things. Not only am I good at it–I’ve spent a number of years as a professional planner and organizer–but I like the predictability of knowing what’s coming next. It feels comfortable and safe.

Over the past few years, I’ve come to the conclusion that God isn’t very interested in my feeling comfortable or safe, at least not because of my own plans. He wants me to trust Him and His plans, which He mostly doesn’t tell me about in advance. He wants me to stay right with Him so that He can lead me wherever I’m going.

And I’m right back to that trust thing again. If I can’t see where I’m headed and I don’t know the way, I have to put my trust in the One who does, even if He won’t tell me what I think I need to know. My problem is, I want to feel prepared for what’s coming next.

When I don’t know something, I try to figure it out. In general, that’s not a bad thing. In fact, it’s what we teach our kids: What do you think the answer is? Unfortunately, working out what will happen tomorrow just isn’t something we’re made to do. So, when I can’t figure it out, I start to worry that I won’t be ready. I can’t put everything together and make sure I’ll have what I need.

Your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else and live righteously, and He will give you everything you need. So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today. (Matthew 6:32b-34, NLT)

God,

You know what I need today, and tomorrow, and next week Thursday, and whatever other days I have here on earth. Help me to remember I don’t have to worry about tomorrow, because I can trust that You are with me, no matter what happens. I don’t have to imagine every possible outcome because You already know what will be and You are ready with everything I’ll need. It’s not my job to prepare and plan it all out, just to follow You. Thank You for leading me through today and through all my tomorrows. Help me as I continue to learn to trust in Your timing and provision.

Where I Belong

I don’t remember being particularly afraid of the dark as a child. It’s more of an adult-onset condition. And, of course, it’s not the dark itself that’s scary. I tend to have many anxious thoughts around bedtime–the time of day when everything finally settles down and I’m supposed to be able to rest. Only I’ve found that as my body begins to relax, my mind picks up the pace. So long as there are other things I need to focus on, I don’t have the time or energy to devote to my worries. But at the end of the day, when nothing else is happening, all the anxious thoughts I’ve kept at bay come rushing out to attack.

Last night was rough. I was panicky and shaking as I tried to relax in bed. DH asked me what I was worried about. I started going through my laundry list of failures and the fears that I must be reaching the outer limits of God’s grace and my body’s ability to withstand the stress I can’t seem to diffuse and the charity of society as a whole. He chuckled. I recognized how ridiculous my thoughts must appear from the outside of my head.

DH reminded me that the concerns I found most troubling were rooted in lies–the lie that tells me I’m not worth the effort it takes to love me and the lie that says I’m not doing a good enough job fulfilling my responsibilities. I know I’m not supposed to worry about anything. But how do I do that? How can I let go of these things that cause me anxiety?

This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence: If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. (I John 3:19-20, NIV)

God,

You speak truth over my life. Help me to listen to Your truth about who I am, and remember that I belong to You. Help me to know that You are greater than any of my fears, any of my sins, any of my insecurities. Thank You for loving me and taking care of me and even listening to me cry out because I’ve chosen to believe that the me You made isn’t very valuable. Let me rest in You, always.

Ooh, Look, a Rainbow!

The window in our front door has a beveled design in the glass. DD gets very excited each day when the sun shines through the glass, which acts as a prism and makes rainbows on the living room walls. It occurred to me the other day, that I have a lot in common with a prism–at least, I could.

Every color of the rainbow is in the sunlight all the time. But we only get to see them when they shine through something that acts as a prism–a beveled glass, drops of moisture in the air, even a clear plastic cup works, so long as it’s clean. In the same way, God is at work all the time, yet He chooses to show off His “colors” through the hearts and lives of the people He created. But, just like a prism, nobody gets a good image of God revealed in us when we let our hearts get dusty and dingy or we move out of the Light.

God is Light and in him is no darkness at all. So if we say we are His friends but go on living in spiritual darkness and sin, we are lying. But if we are living in the light of God’s presence, just as Christ does, then we have wonderful fellowship and joy with each other, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from every sin. (I John 1:5b-7, TLB)

God,

It’s so easy to get focused on me and forget that I was made to shine Your Light. I want to be noticed. I want to be recognized and lauded and talked about because I’m so wonderful. And yet, as lovely as a prism may be, what makes it positively spectacular is the light shining through, refracted into a rainbow. I simply don’t have the capacity to inspire wonder on the level You do.

Thank You for creating me and shaping me and shining in me. Help me to recognize the beauty of Your Light in my life. Let me be available and transparent enough for You to create a magnificent rainbow through me. Thank You for the privilege of showing Your Light to the world.