Lately I've been wondering about blessings. Sometimes I get into a little funk of wondering why my life can be so miserable and begin thinking that God must really either just plain hate me, or be trying to fix me, or tell me something, etc. It can be especially frustrating when I get to the end of my rope and find myself taking that frustration out on my family.
Have you ever been there? Feeling like your prayers are just hitting the ceiling and bouncing back down? Or perhaps just wondering why you should bother praying any more? I've been there for a while now and I've been trying to figure out what MY problem is. There are plenty of things around me that it's easy to look at and conclude that the culmination of all those contributing factors make it so that I am miserable. What might be those things that are dragging you down? Here's some of the ones that have been plaguing me lately, just so you know I'm not making things up:
-The kids have been especially argumentative a lot this winter and I feel like a constant referee.
-Brandon and I have both been so busy we find it difficult to communicate at a time when we are not both tired and that makes for some tough conversations.
-Financially our family has been cramped far worse than we ever have been in our marriage and every way that seems to be a possibility of relieving that stress seems to be a door that shuts almost as soon as we notice it.
- I've been having more problems with my skin condition- many days it's painful to use my hands at all, partly why I haven't been blogging much- because it actually hurts to type, or wash dishes, or cut vegetables, or write. My hands bleed after folding laundry, and cleaning things in the house makes them sore for days.
- I've been having back trouble. At first it was so bad that my lower back would spasm and I would hardly be able to walk. It's gotten better. Now it only randomly spasms when I least expect it and then it is sore for only about 3 hours.
- I've had trouble nursing, and even with unscheduled or scheduled, or formula, or no formula, or pumping, or herbal remedies (please don't email me all the ways I can boost my supply, that's not what this post is about)my supply has continued to diminish and Renna is almost completely weaned.
- I've tried to get back into some form of exercise, but each time I get sick, or get back pain, or kidney stones (not recently, PTL), or other joint pain and have to stop to heal.
- I can't seem to get all the school work that needs to be done completed in any given day- mostly due to interruptions, distractions, bad attitudes, or just inability for a child to grasp a concept in less that 6 hours!
- Many areas in the home I feel like a failure- I don't do my laundry (this is not an exaggeration- I mean Brandon or the kids do it), I haven't cooked breakfast regularly for more than a couple of years now, I rarely get anything cleaned up,and the list goes on.
- I try to lose weight and can't, I try to have devotions and they get derailed, I have a hard time sleeping and a hard time waking up... So...all in all...there are some real factors to feel discouraged about.
Trouble is that when all these things are swimming around, the more I focus on them as the problems, the more I'm focused on me. The more I focus on me, the more I see that others are not jumping in to help me, then I get irritated at them for not responding to my problem. Then I conclude that because they aren't helping, they don't really care about me and my needs. They don't really love me. They would notice that I was having a hard time and do something if they were really concerned for my well being. My husband would pour on the kindness and sympathy if he realized what a hard time I was having. My children wouldn't fight and would be more helpful if they knew how difficult they were making things, my friends would call or come by, or even offer to pitch in if they really cared about me.
But really, my outlook is just in the wrong place. I'm looking at me and that is all self centered and self focused. That's not what God is about. Recently as I've been crying out to God for answers I feel like He's been giving me little answers to my questions in bits and pieces. So I'm just going to try and pull the bits and pieces together here to get the bigger picture.
1. Why are my prayers hitting the ceiling. Perhaps he just isn't listening to my needs...
One of my friends recently mentioned a story of a man standing on a balcony representing God and a pile of people below asking him their most precious and important questions as though they were asking God. The man heard them. Just because he was silent didn't mean that he didn't hear.
Now in this example, perhaps the man was silent because he was a man and not God and didn't have the answer, but that's not the point. The point is that just because we perceive silence doesn't mean that God didn't hear us.
2. Why isn't he answering?
Well...a few weeks ago and then again yesterday I was reminded of all the prayers I pray...Please fix this, Please fix that. Please make this go away. Why do I have to be hurting, please let me do this right. Please, please, please.... If God is all knowing, He takes what prayers he knows come from our heart and has to prioritize them I think. For instance, if I ask the doctor to fix my broken leg, no matter what it takes and then I ask the doctor not to hurt me...which does the doctor choose? I might think that he wasn't answering my request not to hurt me- which seems unreasonable taken by itself, but in light of my other request to fix my broken leg it's really his love and answer to the previous prayer that causes him to hear my pain and decline to answer the second. More and more, with the truth behind me that I must believe that he hears, I must also believe that he is answering in the best way possible. A speaker that was here at Fairwood recently, Otto Koning, mentioned in passing one day that when he prays, he asks for a thing, but then recognizes that God might have something greater than our alternative as the answer and that we should just thank him for the answer right then. Hmm...good stuff. I can thank him for the skin condition because if he isn't healing it, then he has something greater in my life to do that he knows I will benefit from by leaving the skin condition as it is. I have no idea what it is, but I can thank HIM for the condition because it's exactly what he wants if it's still there. And so on with other things.
3. How can I change in areas where I feel I am failing? Well, as much as I hated to hear it the other day when a wonderful person said this to me, "You get discouraged, but then you don't quit doing the things that make you that way or keep you discouraged." Hmph! That wasn't a very loving thing to say when I was feeling down in the dumps...or was it? He was right. When I'm discouraged I sulk, I want to just roll over in bed and sleep longer, I want to get away, take a break, avoid the problem, cry about it, procrastinate longer, really anything that keeps me from facing that monster once more. But if my discouragement is a dirty house, none of those options get it cleaner. I may not be able to clean it all up that afternoon, but it didn't get that way in one afternoon either. Now be honest, there are some messes made in one afternoon that are big, but REALLY I always add way more to the list of things that are overdue for a cleaning SUDDENLY than what was done that day. So, I can't fix it in one day. I can do SOMETHING! And laying in bed isn't going to get anything cleaned up. Perhaps it's the kids driving me crazy- well, a break to calm my nerves might be helpful for a little, but in the end- the long range picture, structure, consistency, and discipline is what is most going to help. Of course, many times the flip side of the coin is that they are just as much hating me right then and I am them. :-) Perhaps a little grace for what they are having to put up with is in order.
One speaker recently was talking about problems and said we look at things: BIG PROBLEM here! god here! But God is a bulldozer with a pebble to move. And when you are watching a bulldozer move a pebble do you focus on that pebble or on the power of the bulldozer. Maybe the bulldozer isn't moving your pebble right now, but you still don't focus on the pebble, you are just all enthralled with the bulldozer and how mighty it is and powerful and big and how many pebbles it is moving.
4. Why aren't you blessing me?
Here's another one I've been asking God. I've seen him bless me before in ways that are incredible and yet lately I haven't seen much of that at all. It feels like a struggled out existence instead. Then our homeschooling curriculum told me to read the biography of George Muller to my children and I blindly obeyed. If you haven't read it or read it recently, put it on your list again. Wow! Then when I mixed George Muller with Perspectives speakers that I've been listening to and hearing about (Brandon is taking the class), I got a double dose of WELL, WHAT ARE YOU DOING WITH WHAT I HAVE BLESSED YOU WITH ALREADY? When we weren't struggling financially as much I was having a grand time sharing and being generous and giving away and God is great and I love blessing others and blah, blah, blah. Now things are tight and harder, and I find myself hoarding. Hmmm...George Muller prayed for every single thing and was given more not so he could have a more posh life or get better clothes, or eat nicer food, but because he was a fabulous steward of God's resources and took it and poured it back into something that would further his Kingdom. God handed him a check for thousands of dollars and he didn't worry about what was on the table to eat- he felt God calling him to build an orphanage and so he did that. God gave him food to eat too, but he could trust George with blessings because he was using it to bless others- for real. Not just blessing himself and by doing that allowing it to rub off on others, but REALLY turning it right around and putting it where God directed him. So, I got that from the book and then I got doused with a good dose of God being on a mission in this world and it's not about us and our personal existence, but about HIS MISSION and all the nations coming to know him and how can we be a part of that. Then I got hit with God getting glory and how we as believers are about to please him and serve him and by doing that, bless him. It's about him sending us blessings that we then turn and bless others with.
Some things I do a great job of blessing others with. If I haven't had people here for a while, I can play the awesome hostess and "bless" those people. But what about when I'm tired and want a nap? Um...maybe not so much. I can make an awesome meal for someone when I have the time and energy, but what about when I wanted to eat something special and don't have extras? Am I willing to give that awesome meal to someone else and make something easy and simple for us to eat instead? Not really. That's not how I want to be, but it is how I respond. Of course, we can burn out from trying to meet every need and fit in everywhere, but I'm talking about the things that God lays on my heart. He puts a little finger there and it's uncomfortable, it puts me in a place where I have to deal with unknowns and his supply and creativity and exhaustion, and oh yeah...trusting in HIM to meet my needs AGAIN...which he can and will do or... he has a greater plan for that which he is going to accomplish.
5. Why don't I have victory in so many areas?
Welp....that one was answered in an unexpected way. I was hoping for the Holy Spirit to finally just zap me out of bed in the morning and MAKE me exercise. Or give me laryngitis so it was impossible to yell at my children. OR just stop causing them to wake up in the night so I could sleep and thus be more pleasant. Instead, I got 2 things. Weapons and a check on how I spend my time.
First, I was reminded of the weapons of our warfare, again from Otto Koning. The ones that most stuck have been rejoicing and resisting. And I use them at the wrong times. I'm suppose to rejoice when the problem or frustration comes. And I am supposed to resist the Devil when struggling with temptation or distraction. Instead I tend to rejoice at the distraction, calling it a "break", and resist the problem. So I was convicted that I should be thanking God FOR THE PROBLEM on a more regular basis. I'm such a whiny prayer. God help me. I can't do this. Please fix this. Help these people...Really, if I was my mom, I would say, "Can't you be happy about anything I do?" I don't want to hear it anymore. Just come up with something you like, anything, just one thing. I would love to hear one time when you were glad I did something!" I'm glad God doesn't yell that from Heaven, but I think he did a good job of pointing it out to me anyway. Thank you...I'll try to work on that. And then, the resisting part. I don't HAVE to put up with the Devil. I think sometimes we give the Devil too much credit, but sometimes how do you know? That's what Otto asked, "How do you know if it's the Devil or just a fleshly response or desire? How do you know whether you need to resist the Devil and he will flee, or put away a fleshly desire?" When he asked everyone thought and no one spoke. Then he said, "well, why don't you just eliminate one of them." Huh! Now that's a different idea. So what if it gives the Devil credit- it's all evil! If I resist Him and he flees, then hey! That was an easy problem to fix! If it doesn't get better, then I can dig in and work on it. But I can get him out of the way first! Why don't I do that more often? Because it's awkward. It feels weird, funny, other people will think I'm crazy or feel uncomfortable. Maybe it isn't the devil and nothing will happen and I'll feel silly in front of others, or my children. WHOOPTY-DO! The bottom line is, if it does work, it was worth all that! Get over it and try it, life just might get easier then. I tried it this morning. I felt silly, but the whole house was a big pile of noisy chaos. I stood in Brandon's office feeling ridiculous and just said, "I resist the Devil in the name of Jesus." expecting that I would have to add some spankings or something to back it up, but you know what, as soon as I said Jesus' name, at the same instant, Jonathon up in the kitchen- who knew nothing of what I was doing, turned to his siblings and said, "Stop it right now!" and they all did and got quiet instantly! Now I say, it worked! If it hadn't worked, then I could have started in with my dealing with the flesh tactics, but I didn't have to!
The other temptation for me is distraction and I've been working on that. It's so easy to come up with reasons I need to relax or take a break. Sometimes are ok. Breaks can be good and refreshing, but too many can lead to times when I could be getting something done and I'm not. Hulu has been a struggle for me, just as television would be. I've found some things on there that I enjoy watching and find that it takes no effort at all for me to find a reason why I need to relax, sit down and enjoy some show, but it just causes me to detach from reality and then it's still there staring at me when I return. I'm not making a case that hulu, or TV is bad (that's not what this is about), I'm simply saying that I get sucked in little by little and go from one thing occasionally, to getting hooked on a show, to seeing another show and getting hooked on that one, and another and another until most of my evenings are full of show watching and while that's fun and relaxing, and maybe they aren't even "bad"- I'm not trying to make a case for or against that- I'm just saying that I did all kinds of things and all kinds of energy for stuff before I had the option of sitting in front of the screen. Now, I don't think that any of that has changed except for the availability to sit down and be lazy. Even if I just played a game with Brandon instead of watching something. That at least causes us to interact with each other in a way that watching something does not. Now I'm not saying that I'll never watch anything again, but I did feel a check in my spirit that I should cut back. SO I have stopped for a while, to give myself a fresh start and bend the paper the other way, so to speak. And in doing so, I've found time to research some interesting health options, make Joseph's birthday present, wash the dishes, go to bed and get real rest, connect with other people and a host of other options. And as far as being blessed so I can be a blessing to others, I don't think that is accomplished very well by sitting there night after night. If God is blessing me with that time, then how can I use it to bless others? I'm sure I can come up with a better way. Sometimes it might be sitting and watching something with someone else or seeing something so that I have a connection with a particular person. It's not the easy thing to do, and sometimes, not the most fun thing to do, but if I'm suppose to be blessing others with what I'm given in order to be a good steward, then I'm going to at least try to do it more often...and as I'm willing, he gives me plenty of ideas...
So, I'm not sure I'm completely out of my discouragement cage yet, but I think I'm headed there. I don't think it's going to all be instantly better, but I do think a lot can change by just how I look at it and how I approach my life in light of God's mission for the world. As another speaker that I enjoyed last night said, "It's not about praying, "God please bless me in my busy day today." It's about accomplishing HIS mission and "How can I best glorify Him and use the resources He provides me to share HIM and his greatness with all the nations"...or at least the people around me.