Friday, June 26, 2015

Carrying Burdens

I feel like I have been very fortunate in life. I haven't had many hardships or difficulties (by my standards, at least). Sometimes I have felt that I shouldn't say it out loud for fear that something bad would then happen. (Side note: I've been reading Dr. Brene Brown's book Daring Greatly and she calls this "foreboding joy". It is actually refreshing to know that this is fairly common for people and has strategies for being able to embrace joy.) 

Anyway, I had been thinking about my feeling that I don't have a lot of drama in my life and yet I know many people dealing with difficult circumstances and pain. I listen and pray and try to keep tabs on how they are doing but feel like I don't have any power or ability to do anything really meaningful to help in their situations. I have been texting a lot with someone who is dealing with and overwhelming situation and one day she said that I seemed to know when something was going on with her and would text or email her when she needed it. I responded that it was God prompting me to contact her (which is true).

Recently I had the thought that perhaps I don't have a lot of drama going on is so that I can listen to what is going on with other people and help carry their burden through encouragement, support and prayer. I shared this with a good friend of mine and she seemed to think it was possible. A couple of days later I found Galatians 6:2 in my morning quiet time. "Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ." Okay then. That sounds like confirmation to me. The next day, she texted me her devotion reading for the day called Attentive to People's Needs. Here's an excerpt from it:
 Are the people around you happy, or are they struggling in some area of life? Maybe the real question is: Are you attentive enough that you would recognize the difference?
Although we may not be able to solve all their problems, a simple word of encouragement is sometimes enough to lift the weight of the world off their shoulders. But to do that we have to be tuned in to the lives of the people around us and God's leading. Be willing to stop, listen and care.
The devotion ended with Galatians 6:2. Apparently this is God's message for me right now. I pray that I can be faithful to follow his leading through the Holy Spirit.
Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Love Like a River

This morning I heard a song by Third Day that had the lyrics, "Your love is like a river flowing through my heart."  I pictured a river in my mind and it looked like a babbling brook. I was going hiking to see waterfalls later in the morning and thought I'd see some small rivers and streams along the way. 

The appropriately named Little River taken on my hike

I then remembered that, in the Bible, Paul says, "I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge - that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God" in Ephesians 3:17-19. 

It does not sound to me like God's love is a small, shallow brook where you can see the bottom and wade into the middle without getting your knees wet. I tried to think about larger rivers I've seen and the Missouri River from when I lived in St. Joseph came to mind. It is very wide and deep. You would get carried away if you tried to swim in it. I did a little research and found that the Missouri River is the longest river in North America, flowing 2,341 miles before it enters the Mississippi River near St. Louis. Its basin is 529,350 square miles which sounds like it contains a lot of water.

Image captured by Linda Gordon Rokosz
Imagining God's love like the Missouri River sounds much more accurate. It is too big to see all of it at once. It is much too deep to stand in. It is so powerful that it will drag me in and whisk me along with it. I probably couldn't get out of it in my own power. This image was a better help for me to understand the enormity of God's love. 

Later in the song it says "Your love is like a rock that I am standing on." I acknowledged to myself that normally I would probably picture a rock about my size but should probably be imagining a mountain, strong, unmovable, and towering.

Through this imagery my heart revealed that I have a tendency to limit God. I keep him confined to what I can imagine instead of relying on the truth that says "Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen" (Ephesians 3:20-21). It now makes sense that these verses follow the ones previously mentioned. Once we realize that God is bigger than we think he is, we can acknowledge that he can do much more than our minds can comprehend and remember that his plans are for his glory to be made known in and through us. 

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

More than Mommy Guilt

I have been confronted lately at how much I deal with guilt. I make decisions trying to avoid feeling guilty even when in my head I know I shouldn't feel this way. I think it is my desire not to offend or disappoint others that fuels my responses to these feelings of guilt. Trying to rationalize why I shouldn't feel guilty does not seem to work to ease the tension I feel inside. I'll share my two current conundrums.

I am visiting my family in another state for a few weeks. I always enjoy getting to spend time with them and giving them the opportunity to spend face-to-face time with their grandchildren. I always have fun exploring their city, playing games and making memories. When I'm here, I stay in the room upstairs away from everyone else and the main living room. My mom has encouraged me to sleep in and relax from my normal daily activity of getting the kids up and breakfasted (they are early Byrds like their dad). I have struggled EVERY DAY I've been here feeling guilty for not going downstairs to help the minute I'm awake. I have gotten up early(ish) to have some prayer and Bible reading each day and some days I'll also do some exercise before going downstairs. But whenever I know that the kids are up, my guilt awakens in my head telling me I should go downstairs and help because the kids are my job. It kind of sours the remainder of time I spend upstairs. For some reason I don't feel like I deserve to have a little time to myself to do things I enjoy. I feel guilty that my mom is doing "my job". It's silly. I'm sure mom enjoys getting some time with just the kids as we only see each other a couple of times per year. I just don't know how to feel okay about it.

This year I have been provided with an amazing opportunity. I was selected to be part of a book launch team for an author who has spoken truth and wisdom and laughter to me through her books. An online community has developed that is so open and kind and loving and encouraging. It is incredible. The author has consented to hosting a launch party for all of the team members in the fall. It sounds like an awesome opportunity for fellowship and to meet in person all of the encouraging people I have only been reading about. I have really wanted to go but struggled with knowing that it would 1) cost money (flight, hotel, rental car, food) and I do not provide any income; and 2) require me to leave my family for a couple of days and give sole parenting duties to my husband. I feel guilty about that because for some reason I feel like it'd be a burden for him. It's really dumb. They're his kids and he loves them and will probably enjoy the bonding time. I just know how long days on my own with kids can be and don't want him to be inconvenienced. I'm afraid he'll feel resentful that I am spending money on a solo venture and leaving him with the kids. As I write it, it seems silly, but that's what my inner monologue is saying. He's encouraged me to go for it which I had hoped would ease my guilt but it hasn't.

I may appear full of confidence but at the moment I am not. I don't know why I am feeling this way right now. I have been praying. I feel like the root of these feelings is being concerned of others thinking badly of me and being inconvenienced themselves. They have both told me otherwise and yet this permission still has not caused these feelings to cease. It's probably a battle with my people-pleasing tendencies. Lord, help me! Help me to accept the assurances I receive from others at face value and not think that secretly they are feeling put out. Help me to comprehend that taking time for myself is a necessity and not being selfish to the detriment of others. I struggle so much with feeling selfish and then feeling guilty when I don't need to be. Please give me peace and confidence. In Jesus' name, Amen.
You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you. Isaiah 26:3