Peace Be With You

Less than a week ago I fell down the rabbit hole. Seriously. Somehow I woke up in a world turned upside down, and I’m sitting at the table with the Mad Hatter and the March Hare. I stare at the goings on, trying to make heads or tails of the riddles, going from bemused to completely disgusted with it all.

We’re all quite mad here.

Lucky for us we serve a God who is in complete control. No matter who wins what contest, God knew it from the end to the beginning. The Bible tells us not to fear 365 times. That’s once a day for a year, and then we can start it all over again.

Our teacher this Sunday morning talked about if we’re fearful and don’t know what to pray, or how to pray. He said to start by praying the scriptures.

Is your heart heavy with the burdens this country is under right now?

1 Peter 5:6-7 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that He may lift you up in due time. Cast your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.

Do you have doubts about what’s going to happen?

Matthew 28:17-18…but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”

Is your heart troubled by the acts of people around you?

peaceJohn 14:27 Peace I leave you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your heart be troubled and do not be afraid.

Philippians 4:7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Ah, sweet, glorious peace. And one last scripture to get you through all the negative thoughts that threaten to crowd your mind.

Philippians 4:8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think on such things.

Peace be with you all today, and every day.

Joy in the Rain

Living on a farm brings with it a boatload of trials and that’s exactly what we need this spring—a boat (not the trials.) Maybe rice can be our new crop this year.

Watching the weather can almost become an obsession, especially when it doesn’t cooperate with our plans. Rain after rain after rain has kept farmers from planting their crops and doing other field work. Normally planting season is finished by now and the planter put to sleep for the season. But not this year.

This is one of those springs when the moment the ground dries enough to get in the field, here comes another downpour. Little by little, with sporadic sunshine, the crops are slowly getting planted though, but we’re concerned now if it will have a sufficient growing season before frost. It’s hard not to worry about the “what ifs” when farming is our livelihood.

Several weeks ago while reading “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young, her choice of devotion topics seemed written especially for these fears. In fact, the theme ‘finding peace’ dominated her writings for several days and the way I see it is this—if you find peace you’ve also found joy.

God has a purpose for all the rain He’s sending us. Yes our ponds will be full and our sub-moisture replenished, but how does that pay the bills, we ask?

Isaiah 41:13 reads, “For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand, and says to you, Do not fear; I am with you.” Only God knows how to draw us closer to Him—sometimes it’s through worry or a fear. Everything that happens is a gift from God and part of His plan for us. Accepting these gifts, even if we don’t understand their purpose, is a sure way to find joy in every situation, even in times of trial.

Joy and Peace and Hope

I like to think of myself as an optimist.

I’m generally a glass half full type of gal, the person who tries to find the silver lining in a bad situation, the one trying to find the positive thing in a sticky situation.

But a few years ago, I was in a bad place. I was working a job I didn’t like, getting paid much less than I thought I was worth, and no matter how many places I applied to, I couldn’t seem to get past a first interview. My writing was stagnating and my prayer life faltering. My husband and I had been married for several years, but buying a house and having children were out of the question financially. I watched as friends and colleagues got married, had kids, moved on to bigger and better jobs. They seemed financially stable, they were buying the houses that I wanted, they were taking the vacations I wanted to go on. They were living the life I thought I was entitled to.

I felt a lot like Rapunzel from the Disney movie Tangled, stuck in my tower watching the world go by, singing “When will my life begin?”

I’ve never been great about daily Bible reading, but I remember reading my Bible one night and coming across this verse:

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

Shamrock scriptureThe thing that stood out to me then was the double iteration of the word “hope.” I was feeling  hopeless, and yet here was the God of hope, my God, telling me that if I only trusted in Him, He would fill me joy and peace and overflowing hope. That’s a pretty powerful promise to a sad person.

I can’t say that finding that verse was a “come to Jesus” moment, and that everything miraculously changed after that. It was still a year before I found a new job, and still even more time before a few other of my “grown up” dreams came true. But it made a difference inside me, to place my trust in God and not myself. To find joy and peace and hope in the little things in my life, the things that were right in front of me all along.

Like Rapunzel, I needed to take a look around my tower and see the wonderful things I had and take joy in them instead of wishing for more. (“I’ve got my mother’s love; I shouldn’t ask for more. I’ve got everything, except I guess a door…”)

God has given me grace to take joy in the things in my life that I do have. I find joy in the encouraging text messages my husband sends me throughout the day. I find joy when my goofy dog brings me her bone. I find joy in seeing new shoots pop up out my garden, and the tiny purple shamrock that is growing in a pot on my deck. I find joy seeing old friends, and getting unexpected emails. I find joy in singing Broadway showtunes at the top of my lungs. I get joy from reading a particularly good book, or crying at a movie I’ve seen dozens of times. I get joy from worshipping each Sunday.

Trust in God, and he’ll grow your one small, purple shoot of joy into a garden overflowing with His Joy and Peace and Hope.

Jehovah-Shalom, The Lord is Peace

I struggle with my weight.

No big surprise there, obviously. It’s not like I can hide this weight war from anyone, it’s right out in the open for the world to see. I don’t need to wear a scarlet O for overweight.

It’s easy to let defeat distress me, and it often drives me to my knees. It’s all so unfair. Why can my in-laws stack their plates sky high when my plate shows plenty of white space? Why won’t God remove this battle? How do I find peace when my body is broadcasting my sin to the world?

For the past couple of weeks our church has encouraged everyone to fast in some way, be it giving up Facebook, shopping, or, of course, food. We’re to sacrifice, and empty ourselves in order to make room for God in our lives and to draw closer to him.

I decided to fast from specific foods and found a devotional to help me through: Made to Crave, Satisfying Your Deepest Desire with God, Not Food by Lysa TerKeurst. Roughly midway through the book the author included a letter from a friend of hers that finally made this battle make sense:

He knew even before I was born that I could easily allow food to be an idol in my life, that I would go to food, instead of to Him, to fulfill my needs. And in His great wisdom, He created my body so that it would experience the consequences of such a choice, so that I would continually be drawn back into His arms.

Upon reading this, peace overwhelmed me. It finally got through my thick skull that if I didn’t have this “thorn in the flesh” I wouldn’t “need” God. He allows these thorns, these trials, in order to draw us closer to him. And for that I will rejoice!

Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me,“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12: 7 – 10

No matter what you fight against, be it food, alcohol, over-spending, busyness … remember your weakness isn’t a curse but rather God’s way of bringing us back to him.

Now, instead of feeling sorry for myself, I thank God for the struggle, because even in the midst of the battle, the Lord is peace.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

James 1: 2 – 4

Peace in the Middle Seat

Three years ago in the fall John and I drove out to college behind our oldest son’s black truck, moving Austin into the next phase of his life. Before leaving, our son handed us CD with songs he had picked out for us to listen to. We put the CD in and headed down the road on a two-hour trip to York, Nebraska. I was crying before I left the driveway. I bawled the whole way there and the whole way back. One of the songs is particularly haunting to me of time that goes by way too fast, “Then They Do” by Trace Adkins.

Everyone who has more than one child understands the difficulties of family politics. Things such as orderly use of bathrooms, peace keeping missions in the middle and backseats, fair share relations of toys and possessions, and guarding the no nee-ner-nee-ner zones.  The daily grinding of the nerves in these situations leave us wishing for the days to end quickly. Very quickly. But, then they do.

Time has a way of going by unnoticed. Yes we catch the concerts, sports games and yearly vacations. But what about the auto-pilot minute by minute we set ourselves on, portrayed aptly in the 2006 movie “Click”, which zooms by in a whir?

Bickering kidsA friend of mine invited my youngest son Colton and me to go with them to a new place for our kids to play. On the way her four kids were doing what all kids do in the middle and back seats. She said she would be glad when they got past a certain phase in their life. I laughed and said I no longer have that problem, I only have one left. But, I said, now it’s the quiet that unsettles me. Peace in my middle seat has occurred, but was it worth it? My head says yes, my heart cries no.

This weekend my middle son Dylan went out on a college visit, the same college my oldest went to. In a couple of weeks he will be done with high school and will graduate. In a few short months we will make that two-hour drive once again, behind a white car this time. Since he is not the music buff his brother is, we will probably not be listening to a new CD. Which is fine by me, the first one almost did me in. I don’t know how you hold back the hands of time. I have learned that those small moments that I used to take for granted I no longer do. I do more with my third son than I did with the first two because I already feel him growing up faster than I can bear.

While my middle son was doing his college thing this weekend, we visited my oldest son who now lives in that same college town. We talked, we took him shopping, helped him with a few things around the house, and then grilled out for supper. My middle son joined us to eat before we headed back home. This day is sealed as a snapshot moment in time I will always treasure.

Trace sings, “You want all the dreams they dreamed of to come true. Then they do.” I can’t say I did everything perfectly, or that I was able to make the most of my time with my boys. But I do know that God made up for what I lacked in my role as mother. And what I lacked as mom, I will make up to them in my role as grandma.