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God Will Give You More Than You Can Handle

Reblogging this amazing post from Kayla Lemmon on All Our Lemony Things

There’s a certain phrase I’ve come to really dislike.

All my life, I’ve heard this phrase whenever I go through a rough patch. *And by rough patch, I mean a prickly, gnarly patch that leaves me bleeding to near death*. You’re probably familiar with those kinds of “patches”.

“God will never give you more than you can handle” is the phrase I’m referring to.

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And it’s a sweet sentiment, really. The people who say it are speaking from caring and concerned hearts.

BUT–it isn’t true.

I know that sounds harsh, but I promise I haven’t suddenly lost my mind or have become an angry-with-God bitter woman who hates the world. Actually, when I realized the simple fact that God can–and will–give us more than we can possibly bear, it got easier.

And it all started to make more sense.

I’ve often trudged through trials that overwhelm me. Ever since my childhood there have been trials that have made me “grow up” pretty fast. But granted, I know for a fact you’ve had your own fair share too, because that’s the reality of life. But this last trial is the one that shook me to my core and had me searching like a mad woman for answers as to why it was happening–and how I could possibly even survive it.

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I lost my Dad to cancer last month–if you’re a follower of mine, this is old news. But–it was absolutely horrific.

Every day leading up to his death was like walking through every level of hell–slowly– for lack of a better term. There’s no other way to describe it. The images…the sounds…the sleepless nights…the cries for God while we look on, helpless…the torment of rubbing morphine in his cheeks, praying it’ll absorb–but to no avail. The horrible, wrenching pain that came with lifting him up, laying him back down, lifting him up, laying him back down…because he became so restless and cried out for “home” every few minutes. And all along, in the back of my mind, I reminded myself that millions of people go through this, and have already gone through this, very thing. And it is simply unbearable. If you disagree–it’s because you haven’t been there.

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This trial was so consuming that I hate to even put it in the past tense–sometimes it still consumes me. Yesterday, at my Dad’s memorial service, it consumed me all over again.

I’ve suffered from nightmares where I relived the memory over and over mercilessly–I sometimes see his face on strangers that pass and worry that I’m going crazy. I cry over sad songs in the car and torture myself with stacks of pictures and yellowed photo albums. It’s beyond just missing him. And even with a firm testimony of the gospel and with peace that he is exactly where the Lord prepared him for, it is still too much for me to handle at times. It steals my breath–and it can steal my joy.

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So, the other day, I turned to the scriptures. I needed help.

I wanted to know where that phrase was that people kept repeating to me in church and at work and over the phone. Why did the Lord “trust me so much”?! Why did He think I could handle these kinds of trials?

And then I realized: I couldn’t find that quote because it isn’t there.

It never mentions anywhere in the scriptures that the Lord won’t give you more than you can handle. Yes, in 1 Corinthians 10:13 it speaks of Him giving us an escape from temptations so that it’s not too much to bear. But when it comes to pain, trials, heartache, and burdens– not once does it say it won’t be more than we can bear. Instead, it beautifully says this instead:

“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me…for my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matt. 11: 28-30)

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The words struck my heart, as you can imagine. Christ is speaking to those of us who are carrying burdens much too heavy for our own shoulders. And in that one verse he simply states the reason why we are given more than we can handle: It’s so we can come to him. It’s so we can trust him enough to hand over our heavy, crippling burdens and let him carry the load.

You might be heavy laden right now like I was before reading and re-reading and re-reading once again this scripture that has never stuck out to me as much as it has lately.

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You might be shrunken with sadness or drowning in debt. You might be overwhelmingly angry at someone at church or aching under the pressures of raising children or maybe the inability to have them. You might be dealing with a terminal disease and you still have young children. And chances are–you might need your Redeemer to find you on the path and take up that heavy cross you’re dragging. Besides, even he tells us that he’s more equipped to carry it, so why not hand it over?

I’ve come to learn–slowly but surely–why I need Him.

I suppose it’s because of pride that I always thought I could just do things on my own. I’m strong, I’d say. I’m a tough cookie. I can help others through their tribulations while carrying mine all by myself. Well…wasn’t I wrong.

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I didn’t really know what needing him meant until I had no other choice. I didn’t know what it meant until I wrapped my arms around my middle so I wouldn’t fall apart–or the time I choked on tears and yelled toward Heaven. Or the times when I was utterly alone, and the silence was too much to bear. Those are the times that taught me he’s not just a want or a convenient symbol of love or a reason to do good deeds.

No, he’s the very air we breathe.

And he’s the only one who can make it bearable when life is simply anything but.

~Written by Kayla Lemmon

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I Am the Artist

A friend of mine wrote this and posted it to Facebook. Such a valuable concept that I’ve been thinking about it over and over. Too often I’ve given the very design of my life over to others. To their opinions or expectations. But when the metal hits the road, I am the responsible for my own canvas. I choose to look to the Creator with a capital C to help me discover all He intended for this canvas. I often seek wisdom from the world around me, trustworthy people, good books. But in the end I choose. Thanks, David, for giving me permission to share this!

I AM THE ARTIST by David G. Colister

I am the artist and I am the artwork on the canvas of my life.

This canvas is and always will be mine. If it bears unwanted graffiti then I did not guard well enough my canvas. If my painting lacks the color, perspective, style, composition, or mastery I desire to represent my life then only I, the artist, am responsible.

If I lack the talent, tools, resources, and vision necessary to paint my life’s picture as I desire it, then I must devote the time, effort, study, ingenuity, and discipline necessary to realize the beauty I want for my life. And I will remind myself, demand of myself, and force myself, with all vigilance, to own up to the quality of my artwork at all times and in all stages of its development. My life is my design.

I must deny the incessant interruptions that would distract or delay my work. I must persevere in refusing access to the endless line of uninspired critics who insist on invading, without invitation, the studio of my mind.

I find nothing more heinous than the thought of someone forcing me to paint upon my canvas according to their vision. I will not let this happen no matter how much I admire, need, or fear a person — be it a relative, lover, friend, boss, co-worker, financier, celebrity, or ruler. This is my life, not another’s. I hope others love what they see on my canvas, but I will not sacrifice my authenticity for their approval, regardless of the cost to me or our relationship.

Likewise, I will refuse any selfish temptation to force my vision upon or touch my brush to the canvas of another at any cost to myself. Each one must take responsibility for the results of one’s own life’s canvas. I must give others the freedom to paint their life their way. Not only would it be wrong to take credit for the art someone else creates, but it would be artistically criminal for me to force my vision upon another’s canvas.

Therefore, I will make no excuses for the quality of my painting and I will pass no blame. I am responsible for the final version that will ultimately define my life. My painting will hang for eternity in the Museum of Humanity. I am ever mindful that I am only allowed one painting in those hallowed halls, so I will make my contribution count. I will add to the collective beauty of human history, not stain it.

With God as my witness and by His grace, I pledge to maintain my resolve to paint my life on my own terms and with my own hand and according to my own vision.

My mind is set, my hand is steady, my heart is full. I am determined to paint a masterpiece of which I am proud, that represents my truest self, that satisfies my soul, and inspires other artists both now and for generations to come. Therefore, I will paint well. I will paint true.

One day I will place my signature upon my masterpiece when my life is finished. On that day I will kneel before my God, the Creator of creators, to reflect upon the art that is my life and will do so with deep gratitude, humility, and awe for the opportunity to paint a human life…

I am the artist and I am the artwork on the canvas of my life.

You can read more of David’s stirring thoughts by connecting with him on Facebook.

Naked and (UN)ashamed

Don’t you hate naked dreams? You know the ones. You’re in a public place and suddenly IMAG3123realize you forgot to get dressed. You’re horrified and afraid of being seen.

I had one of those dreams the other night.

What’s really funny is that in my dream there was a young man who upset me. We were in a crowd of people, and he kept doing irritating things. Then he started stripping!

The next scene of my dream I ran upstairs, looking for my father to ask him to deal with the chaos this young man was causing. But before I could find my dad, I looked down and realized that I was naked! I ran and found a sheet to hide in and wrapped myself in it, weeping.

When I awoke from this dream I immediately equated it to my life, especially the stuff I’ve been processing the last few weeks. When I wrote my Tension Tummy post I spoke about how boxes and legalism have hurt me and a lot of other people. I ended with these words:

I’ve had ample opportunity to process legalism and judgment lately. . . My human self comes up with all kinds of wonderful ways to fight . . . Instead I ask God to shed Truth and Grace where it is needed.

Including in the ugly remnants of legalism and religiosity in me.

See, my heart is to be loving and grace-filled, but I never perform up to my own desires. When I am hurt, or worse yet when someone I love is hurt, judgement and legalism are right there, ready to take up space in my attitude.

I think my dream is a reminder that while I am passionate about speaking out against boxes and legalism, I can never do it without that voice inside reminding me that I, too, am not perfect.

I have not yet let go of judgment or stepped out of boxes to the extent I want to. My mind is ahead of me even in the progress I have made. Often my thoughts and emotions don’t keep up with what I believe to be true. Sometimes even my actions contradict the grace I believe in.

I’m a work in progress.

There’s something in the Bible that talks about Jesus giving us robes of righteousness. That is the only answer to my naked problem. My raw, naked faults will be exposed from time to time. Hopefully I’m processing forward and becoming more loving, not less. But no matter how I long to be perfect, I’m just not.

That’s when I remember Jesus never left me naked and exposed. Long ago He gave me that righteousness robe to cover all the humanity I wish the world never saw. So when I feel hurt by my own lack, I look to HIM, to HIS fullness. To the way He cares, forgives, and covers me with the Good that is Himself.

Then I grab hold of His hand and hope I can listen to His Voice in a way that helps me be more loving and less judgmental the next time.

It’s not my desire to take away from anything I said in that Tension Tummy post. I believe those words to be true. It just seems important to say that even in my passion for freedom and against religiosity I have to say, “Me, too.”

I too am trying to find my way out of legalism.

I too have boxes I wish I could step out of.

I too fail at this grace thing, no matter how much I wish I didn’t.

Thank God HE is always there to remind me that failure is not the end of the story. That my missteps are forgiven. That He will help me journey down that road to loving more like He does.

Gulps of Grace

I just clicked off on the cordless phone, thoughts churning. My friend is an abuse survivor, no longer a victim, a woman of great integrity and strength. One of my heroes. I’m reminded of her journey forward, of how her abuser kept her in a stranglehold of condemnation and low self-esteem for far too long. How even survivors, victors who’ve long overcome have to keep fighting to maintain their freedom, especially when people who don’t understand knock them down again.

On the radio yesterday a woman called a talk show for advice. Her “husband” was clearly destroying her emotionally, mentally, and spiritually, but still she argued that she “should” stay to do the “right” thing.

If you know me well, you know I am not easily angered. But this. This makes me want to fight hard against the lies, against the boxes, for FREEDOM!

challah bread 9This morning’s phone call from my victorious friend who’d once again endured a senseless assault by a clueless do-gooder left me reeling, as did that lady on the talk show.

I reached for Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts Devotional in an attempt to right the churning inside of me. Ann reminded me that giving thanks is declaring my trust in God and that without the ability to trust God there is no joy.

For years I begged God for joy. Instead His offering was to allow seven years of grueling circumstances far beyond my control. I’m beginning to understand Ann’s words, that giving thanks is about joy and about trust and about choosing. It is curling up with the Bread that nourishes my soul.

So I today I wrote little notes of gratitude instead of dwelling on all that angers me. And what came out surprised me.

I thank Him for: freedom air gulped and eventually breathed in natural rhythm. 

When I first stepped out of my own crap, of walls self-imposed and imposed by others, of boxes of perfectionism and guilt and performance, I couldn’t breathe freedom every day, every minute, like life. I grasped for it. Looked for it. Begged for it. Gorged on it when I found it.

I found it in grace.

I gulped grace. Sucking it in for survival. Guzzling it. Only pure grace, the truth of it, fed me. The gulps pounded into my malnourished system, setting it free, a little at a time.

I sucked in the grace air as I could understand it, when I could appropriate it.

Grace.

God’s complete unconditional love and acceptance. The favor He offered even though I didn’t deserve it.

Wiki says it this way: . .  grace has been defined, not as a created substance of any kind, but as “the love and mercy given to us by God because God desires us to have it, not because of anything we have done to earn it”,[1] “the condescension or benevolence shown by God toward the human race”.[2] It is understood by Christians to be a spontaneous gift from God to man – “generous, free and totally unexpected and undeserved”[3] – that takes the form of divine favor, love, clemency, and a share in the divine life of God.

For years I lived without freedom. I didn’t know it. But I was controlled by the self-condescension of one who could never live up to her own ideals and of one who tried so hard to please others that I lived in a straight-jacket of effort and failure.

I didn’t understand grace saturated the very air I breathed. That I didn’t have to chase after it or fight for it, grabbing and suffocating.

I didn’t get that always, always, always my Creator surrounds me with loving acceptance, cheering me on in my victories, helping me to my feet in my failures, never condemning, only offering Himself and His grace, longing to love me and remake me into one who could love Him, myself, and others.

I had heard about God’s love, about grace, all my life, but I didn’t appropriate it to myself–thus the gulping when I happened upon grace. The gorging on it when I began to understand.

But over time–years, not weeks–I began to feel less desperate. My soul began to know grace would never run out, never be beyond my reach, never disappear.

And I began to breathe normally. Rhythmically.

In freedom.

Once in a while something happens. My throat constricts once again, and I struggle. I am hurt or I hurt others. My imperfections are glaring. And my breathing gets erratic as I take huge, gulping, heaving breaths.

Grace. My lifeline.

As I inhale I stabilize. My breathing becomes natural. Saturated with freedom.

As I type right now I finally understand how all of this comes together. Why in my need to reach for hope, for peace, I seek to offer thanks, to trust God, to hold onto joy. Why in the midst of this churning I wrote those words: freedom air gulped and eventually breathed in natural rhythm. 

It’s because of the process of freedom. It’s because when my friend first fought out of an abusive situation she, like me, had to gulp grace bubbles. She couldn’t yet understand the air was saturated, and grace was always there, free.

It’s like my friend and I spent years under putrid water, pressed down by the voices that said we would never be good enough to deserve such freedom as normal breaths. But eventually we had to breathe, to lift our heads out of the water before we drowned. At first we could only raise our head on occasion, could only allow ourselves stolen gulps because we thought we deserved no more. Didn’t even deserve those gulps, really, just needed them so much we had to take them.

Over time we began to understand that the air was ours, given freely by a loving God, and that we didn’t have to earn it with good behavior. We bobbed for a while at the surface where the air was  tainted by the smell of stinking water. But it was better. At least we were breathing more often, even with the times we were pulled back under. Then came the day we slowly swam toward shore. Swimmers still get their face wet, but they also have air. And they are moving forward

It was a while before we climbed out, touched the shore, realized how good and pure the air could be and that we were given the right to breathe it.

And sometimes, on bad days, we still forget. That cesspool of unworthiness and condemnation is always there, waiting for us to climb back in.

But we’re getting better, my friend and me. We’re choosing to stay away from the stinky water.

We’ve gulped freedom and are learning to breathe it in natural rhythm.

Breathing with you today, my friend.

Until next time,

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Grateful

After the intensity of yesterday’s post I long for the simple again.

Just the everyday thoughts and remembering the everyday stuff that makes life beautiful.20140605_224323

Like the grown kids popping into visit and my refrigerator being full enough to feed them all, no problem.

Full. Abundant. Lots of left-overs. Fresh stuff, too.

Like the cool air on my bare arms last night as hubby agreed to walk at a nearby park. The clouds were cotton on blue and by the time we left the pink tinged them with glory. We bumped into some longtime friends who were at the lake fishing. Our youngest son rode his long board, weaving in and out of the those who, like us, strolled the sidewalk.

Just beautiful, simple living.

Hubby and I went grocery shopping.

We found a great sale and bought meat. Chicken breasts. roasts. steak.

And we COULD. We could pay for it.

How many times have I taken such simple graces for granted?

Today blueberries arrived on my doorstep. I’m dreaming of blueberry pancakes. There’s already real whipped cream waiting in the fridge to top them.

The roses are beginning to bloom, and I planted bright fuchsia and dark purple petunias. Would you believe a few pansies lived all winter long in my flowerbed, right through the snow, and have raised their pretty faces to greet me?

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I put a bright pink Gerber daisy next to them, a feast for my eyes each time I travel my own sidewalk.

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I’m walking again, and those few pounds that tried to steal my weight loss are beginning to recede. I am empowered. Stronger when I walk.

My new-to-me $25 dishwasher is amazing. After the week and a half of hand washing I’m especially grateful. And it holds more dishes and gets them cleaner than the old one did. And after a week and a half of the chaos of repairing the damaged floor and having clutter everywhere, my living room and kitchen feel huge. Clutter makes me claustrophobic, but oh the joy of putting everything in its place again! It makes an ordinary, familiar room seem new.

20140605_224433-1Fresh mint and lavender now grace my glass water pitchers, picked from plants next to the driveway. Sometimes I add lemon slices.

This isn’t a fancy post. No careful wording, no effort to ease into a poetic feel, no going deep.

Just real.

Just me.

Just thankful.

Just hoping you and I can grab a little joy and rest in a little beauty.

Noticing the little things.

 

 

 

 

Just Life

20140527_183112It got worse before it got better.

I’m talking about the kitchen floor saga.

For days we had the fan running. Finally we had to give up and take out the entire kitchen floor. The stove ended up in the living room, the huge side-by-side refrigerator in front of the microwave, floor boards stashed here and there, kitchen chairs on top of each other, topsy-turvy.

We lived this way for a week. The only saving grace was there were a lot of nights I didn’t cook. But even without the stove there were many, many dishes to do by hand. I know. I should be grateful we had food to eat and dishes to eat them on. Let’s just say that wasn’t at the forefront of my mind while drying dish after dish.

But ife doesn’t stop ’cause a girl’s kitchen is in chaos. Last week we turned a blind eye to the mess so we could enjoy:

A rehearsal dinner at a park while the sun set behind mountain peaks

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A good-bye lunch so we could send our “boy” off to work in those mountains for the summer

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A  wedding where my oldest son’s best friend finally married the amazing woman he’s been in love with since he was 16. Not only was it a gorgeous ceremony on a lush green lawn,

20140530_184355 but we had a blast dancing in the cabin complete with a shining wood floor. This momma also delighted in hearing her son give the best man’s speech.

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Our other two boys were ushers, and there was a bit of a problem with shoes. The bride told Sam and Stephen she didn’t care what they wore as long as they matched. They couldn’t agree on whether to wear Converse or dress shoes and showed up like this. There’s one (or two) in every crowd, especially with Moldenhauer boys around.

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Saturday brought wedding #2. If you’re a Bronco fan you’ve heard of Mile High Stadium. But if you look closely, there’s a wedding party posing right there on the field! Cool huh?

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This beautiful marriage, another example of young love surviving over years, took place club level in this famous stadium.The ceremony actually looked toward the Denver skyline, not the field.

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Hubby especially enjoyed the venue. I admired the china. We both enjoyed the food, including amazing raspberry-peach cupcakes, a little too much.

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It was fun hitting romantic venues this weekend. Good preparation for our 25th wedding anniversary coming up in just over a week. We couldn’t resist getting a picture while we were all dressed up.

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Sunday meant church (and an amazing message which I’ll share more on another day) and then . . . a baby shower for a sweet young woman I taught years ago when she was about eight! Now she’s a married woman and about to give birth to their first child. How time flies. Had to share this picture. I thought the fruit was presented especially well. ;O)

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We rushed home from the shower to watch our youngest play baseball at the high school field. You know, the crack of the ball on the bat, the cool evening air brushing our faces. Sounds like an all-American weekend, right? But after all that wonderful stuff, we returned home to reality.

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We agreed Monday morning held a baptism back into real life. We would conquer the disaster. The goal? To do it ourselves and not spend money on anything. I wasn’t exactly excited about getting up this morning.

When I forced myself out of bed I sought hubby out in the office where he was already working at his computer. This is often how I start my day, and Jerry never fails to welcome me onto his lap. This morning was no exception. He smiled and opened his arms to me, and I snuggled in. Then he told me today was going to be a good day because he got to spend all day working next to me.

And with those few, precious words he turned my attitude right around.

Things got even better when our oldest son told us he had some experience at this stuff from working with a friend. Together the three of us put the jigsaw puzzle of a floor back together. Seth and Jerry did the hard part. I was mostly there to veto the boards that were especially warped and to pick the boards with the least flaws for the most visible spots. If you don’t look too closely you’d never know that some of the seams are no longer smooth. The worst boards are placed carefully beneath appliances or where rugs go. It’s not perfect, but it actually looks pretty good.

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It’s late. The day is drawing toward tomorrow, the clock ticking to midnight. I should be in the kitchen using my new-to-me dishwasher (a $25 find on Craig’s list) and enjoying the fact that for the first time in days I’m not hand washing. I could also be moving everything from surrounding rooms back where they belong. Or maybe I should simply be sleeping. Honestly, I’m not sure why I’m here typing instead.

Maybe just because things turn out okay. Because real life is full of the juxtaposition of pain and pleasure, of leaky dishwashers and beautiful, fancy weddings. It’s full of jigsaw pieces that we’re not always sure how to fit together, even as it offers open arms to help us through.

Chances are next time I’m upset I won’t remember this lesson. But tonight I am grateful. My heart is quiet.

And I trust.

Until Next Time,

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Water Under the Floor

It’s not earth-shattering, Lord.

It’s not death or disease.

But even such a little thing can feel like destruction.

Even such a little thing is an assault on your gifts.

And they were your gifts.

In a time of financial empty you gave them to me, one at a time, over the long season of want.

A dishwasher and a new floor.

Both hand-me-down gifts that looked brand new.

I should have paid closer attention when something didn’t seem right in front of the dishwasher. Why did I wait until the beautiful floor seemed to buckle before sounding the alarm?

My heart dropped as the dishwasher was pulled from the cabinets and we saw the gush of water.

I cried as we began pulling up my beautiful floor, one long gorgeous board at a time.

We don’t live in financial nothingness now. But we’re still unprepared for this expense in this season of college bills and baseball teams.

Habit has long taught me to worry at such times.

But it has also taught me to give my worries to you.

That floor was your promise to me that all that was wrong in my home could be provided for in a snap when you chose to move.

Not only were the boards themselves a gift, the labor of love, the weekend of friendship was from you, too.

But hanging onto the gratitude is a bit testy while I watch my gorgeous floor boards crumble from the wet, smell the rank of saturated sub floor.

I’m not sure how to deal with this, Lord.

Even if there are enough scraps in the garage for the repairs, we don’t know how to cut and lay them.

And there is the issue of the gaping hole where a dishwasher used to be.

(I’m not thrilled about doing the volume of dishes we go through by hand, Lord.)

I want to fight through to gratitude and hope and praise and faith.

After all, if you cared enough to give me these gifts back then, isn’t such still important to you now?

The floor that my sweet family has walked upon, where I have fed precious children meal after meal. The room I’ve opened to guests, no matter how we had to crowded around my small table.

You care about my floor.

You care about my dishwasher.

You own the cattle on a thousand hills. This is not even pennies to you, this repair, this new provision.

Guilt whispers to remember all I have in this land of America. That I have dishes. Food to put in them. A comfortable home, pretty floor or not. Guilt says I should not care so much about such things as broken appliances and broken beauty.

But you’ve been showing me that your voice isn’t guilt.

You teach me to care about others, look for ways to serve and give, but not to pretend I don’t care about my own needs because they seem petty compared.

My needs and desires are my own.

And they are important to you, the hopes of this mom in America, just the same as the hopes of a mother in Africa who today prays for more immediate, life-giving needs.

I won’t live in guilt. I won’t pretend I don’t feel this need.

I won’t live in the knee-jerk hopelessness and worry of the past.

I will live in faith of provision.

I will live in the Truth that You see and care.

I will remember the provisions of the past and look to the provisions of the future, no matter what form they take.

Friends, I started praying with pen and journal this morning, talking to the God who Loves about this issue (and others). But this little blog beckoned, this place where I’ve chosen to be vulnerable about the big things and small. This place where I’ve asked for prayer, and it has been given.

I’m not sure why I choose to share this mundane problem. Maybe because I so desire to take a stand for hope and faith and to it in front of the whole of the Internet seemed definitive. Maybe because I know some of your stories and how my little tales of provision have given you hope in your own long season of want. Maybe because I know some of you will whisper a prayer for my attitude and my provision. Maybe just because we’re journeying together, you and me, and this is today’s journey.

As I type I whisper a pray for your journey of this day. Whether issues are big or small assualt or whether it is a day of sheer ease, I ask Him to bless you, to provide for you, to show His love. I pray that you have hope and faith. That neither you or I try to ease the stress by stuff that never fixes anything, like pigging out on cheese dip and chips. ;o)

Until Next Time,

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