Hope for the Hard Days

No one is immune to trouble.

Job 5:7 but man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward.

For some reason, we tend to walk around in Christian circles believing that no one else struggles with the same challenges we have. Or that no one is dealing with sin like we do. We bury our real and true selves under a façade of fake smiles and trite expressions when in reality the moment we share that we really have had a bad day, or week and the other person smiles in relief with a “me too!”

If we are to bear each other’s burdens, there is a sacrifice that must be made. And make no mistake we are to do just this, but sometimes we underestimate the weight of that burden.

Galatians 6:2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

I don’t know about you but when I read the headlines of the latest news broadcast and check in on Facebook to see the latest child abduction post, political rhetoric from all sides, and just the debauchery that exists in our world, I find my mind goes to a very negative place. Add in the prayer requests and needs of those who have lost loved ones, who are fighting the vicious monster cancer, and yet others who bear unbelievable heartache and heartbreak, it’s easy to believe that life is just too much.

In these times I am reminded that while I am told to bear each other’s burden, I am not doing any of this alone. As a matter of fact, the One who has given me my purpose and job to do here on this earth has already told me His yoke is easy and his burden is light!

Matthew 11:30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

How can this be, when there is so much to be weighed down with that is just what’s outside of me? When I add the weight of the sin I struggle against, the unexpected bad news I hear, or the prayers I pray for my own family – I must immediately turn to the One who knows, sees and hears all.  Laying my burdens and cares at His feet is the ONLY way that I can move forward in this life and help care for others in the way that they need from me. Just a few verses before He tells us His yoke is easy, He tells us in vs. 28

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

The enemy is crafty –he seeks to steal our joy in a multitude of ways, including the words that others say or don’t say, the pressure he applies to those walking outside God’s protection, and the rampant sin at work in our world. All of this combine to bear much weight on the Christian and even more so the Christian in ministry – because we feel those things so keenly. My heart literally hurts physically when I know that others who I care about, or who entrust me with their cares and woes need my support and prayer. Speaking and ministering at conferences can weigh me down quite literally where I need to rest for several days after. Writing and laboring over words that others need to hear can be physically exhausting because of the spiritual battle that is also taking place. Physical rest becomes necessary because of the mental, emotional and spiritual battles taking place.

This is why I sympathize for those in any position of Christian ministry and for their families. The weight they bear is heavier than we can know. The weight of their knowledge can be unfathomable.  The hits in ministry continue without an end in sight.

If you’re not in ministry, you still know the weight. As women we bear these burdens as well. Burdens for our family, our friends, and our church.  The Christian life MUST be lived in our consistent walk in the Word. The consistent practice of filling our minds with the words of Christ, then combined with the act of submission in prayer leaving the burdens we bear at the feet of the only One able to carry them for us.  If we avoid this, or underestimate its importance, we run the risk that our minds will be filled with the difficult news, the negative attitudes and the disappointing and sorrow filled headlines that scream for our attention. And the truth is what we fill our minds with becomes what we live out in our lives.

This morning I read in Hebrews 12 and I continued thinking through this further. This is part of the race we run.  See vs. 1,2

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

And then further vs. 12-14

Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.

All of this rests squarely on our understanding that He is the source. The Holy Spirit power that resides in each of us at salvation.

Our hope truly rests in Him today. Without Him we can do nothing, and as much as we think we can carry our burdens on our own, we will fail miserably.

John 15:5  I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.

If we can’t bear our own burdens in our own strength how can we even begin to think that we can bear the burdens of others as we are commanded in Scripture?

Obedience follows obedience and our comfort and peace are in Him alone. While we cannot live in a vacuum and avoid the bad news or negative spirits around us, we can and must prioritize the place of His Word and prayer and meditation in our lives above the other noise.

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When “no” is best…

I don’t know anyone that likes to be told “no.” Doesn’t matter if they are two and want a cookie instead of a nap, or forty-five and desiring a book deal. Hearing no as the answer hurts sometimes.  It’s also practically impossible for some of us to say!  I have the hardest time telling people no to almost any request. It’s challenging to find the right balance. Sometimes I just know deep down that I have to say no but I can’t explain it to people, and sometimes it makes no sense to anyone else. So for a very long time I was a “yes girl.

“Vicki, we need someone to bake muffins for visitation.

Sure, I can do that. “

Nevermind that the kiddos need my attention in the afternoons when I’m baking,

and I’m working from home full-time.

“Vicki, we need a meal for someone who just had a baby.

Sure, I can do that.”

Nevermind that I won’t be home all week because the kids have practices

and I’m teaching in between.

I could go on, but I think you get the point. I have struggled with saying no to extra responsibilities for YEARS.  I like being a yes girl and I like being patted on the back or thanked for being so helpful. Pitiful.  Drive myself into the ground and become #1 grump to my own family, just for this.

Over the last few years, the Lord has been working in my own heart to learn to be honest in my abilities and capabilities instead of just relying on my default yes.  See I know the Bible teaches the principle of “counting the cost.”  Check out these passages – Luke 14:28-30, Ecc. 2:11, and Prov. 11:1.

Sometimes it’s not the monetary cost, it may be time, or having to say no to other things later, because you committed to this. Sometimes it’s rest, time in the Bible, you name it – the cost of saying YES is high and before we say it we should consider if we are willing to make that commitment for ourselves and sometimes for our families also!

Recently, I reflected on this year and thanked the Lord for the work He had been doing in me to start learning to say No.  Now, by no means have I perfected this … I still struggle, but I’m working on it.  I’m working on being honest with people about my limitations, because honestly that’s something I don’t want anyone to think I have. Now that’s just sinful pride right? we all have limitations, why do I feel that I should hide that? No idea my friends, but it’s almost hardwired into me. So I’m a work in progress.

But this work in progress said no earlier this year. About six months ago I said no to a wonderful opportunity and something that took me a couple of days to respond back to because I was trying to justify, work out an angle, anything to be able to say yes and feel right about it. But the Holy Spirit wouldn’t let me. I knew deep down in my core I shouldn’t accept the offer, and eventually told them no.

I was disappointed because it would have been wonderful. Something that would have been work, but would have been enjoyable and I would have loved it.

What I didn’t know is what God knew.  In His omniscience, He knew that in June I would be working on a new book that I hadn’t even proposed yet.  He knew that I would be on a short deadline, and I would have either had to say no to the book deal, or I would have been a literal crazy person trying to accomplish both BIG things not to mention doing life with my family.

I’m so grateful that I listened this time and trusted there was a reason I needed to say No. I really cannot imagine if I had said yes.  There would be regret. There would be a huge emotional toll. The cost would have been far greater than I thought at that time. God in His provision spared me the pain. My friend Dawn Owens recently released a new book Like Me or Not dealing with an approval addiction.  She drills down into how this looks and manifests itself, and then shows how wrong it is by using Scripture to reveal the dangers in this behavior.  The thing is she does it in a very real way.  She lays out her life, her experiences, and her pain in the process of detailing how this has affected her life.  If you struggle with your no’s, you will benefit from reading her story and her challenges to let God deal with your heart.  You can purchase it at a variety of book stores or click the link to get it on Amazon.

Do you struggle with saying No? Do you like to be a yes girl like me, always volunteering and saying yes, even when you know deep down you should say no?  There’s tremendous freedom in learning to trust the Lord and lean on His wisdom.

I pray that you are encouraged today to take responsibility for the “yes” and “no” answers you face today.

 

 

Rainy Days and Long Winters

I think often of the change of seasons and how it relates so intricately with our lives.  We seem to just get settled into Spring around here and boom it’s Summer! Let me tell you in Northwest Mississippi you know when summer hits.  The seasons come and go, and our lives seem to ebb and flow with the same motion. Young adults who get married, work jobs, have children, raise children, retirees, etc. The seasons move along and before we know it the time has gone and we wonder how it happened so quickly.

All except winter that is…winter lasts FOREVER. Or at least it feels that way every February.  This Florida transplant still struggles with February and I try so hard not to let the weather get me down, but it’s hard when it’s nothing but rain and gray skies.

Have you found yourself feeling the same? Why do all of the other seasons fly by while Winter drags by slow and stale.  It hasn’t helped  that the last couple weeks have brought their share of minor struggles.  You know the little things that accumulate and make you discouraged or disheartened along the way.  It’s easy to become distracted and encumbered with those weights but even as Paul encouraged us to “lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” (Heb.12:1) My challenge is to do this in the midst of the rain and cold.

When things are smooth sailing, I find this task much easier to do! But the task is not only to be managed in the easy season, it’s also for the Winter of the year and the soul. When we are parched, and raw and yearning for the warmth of the Sun and the Son, we have only to remember those words from Lamentations and know that by His mercy which is new every morning, we can do exactly the job God has for us each day. The purpose that we are here to fulfill on this earth, the precise reason for our living and breathing and moving.

If you find yourself struggling today with the burdens of this life, I pray you’ll turn to the One who bears all our burdens with us, and treasure the promise of the seasons – they are not forever, the next season is right around the corner.

 

This is My Life

by Featured Writer Angela Jamison  headshot

Some days I’m exhausted by 9am.

The process of getting four, independent, listening-impaired, beautiful children out the door for the 8am school bus is comparable to an interval training workout. There are bouts of cardio while searching the house for lost items mixed with strength training of quite literally dragging sixty pound bodies out of bed.

Most days, we make it to the bus stop, with full bellies and a few minutes to spare. Most days, I don’t look too disheveled (I hope), but on the inside I’m feeling ragged and exhausted. I’m feeling grateful for the reprieve of school and guilty that my kids didn’t have a healthy, home-cooked breakfast with a June Cleaver-like mother.

We can all relate, right? Whether it be one child, four or simply getting ourselves out the door, we all understand the stress of the morning. We read articles, study Pinterest and a number of other things with the hope of achieving a flawless start to our day.

Today, my morning started as typical with a few bleary-eyed, blanket clad kids stumbling through my doorway at 615a while I desperately try to become presentable before the flood gates of life open. Clothes are picked, kids start getting dressed and it all goes down hill.

The oldest has managed to tie his shoe in a bazillion tiny knots, tighter than your jeans at Thanksgiving.

The youngest has the dog in a headlock, attempting to release the leg of her precious baby alive.

The middle daughter is still lying in bed, eyes fixed to Monster High on the television, oblivious of the chaos around her.

But the middle son takes the cake. He is grumbling, huffing and puffing as he tries to tie his shoe. He’s stationed himself in the middle of my bathroom floor, exactly where I need to walk to finish getting ready myself. I ask him to move to another location and when he puts his foot down, he begins frantically searching the bathroom.

“What are you looking for?”

A bit panicked he says, “My shoe is missing!”

…It’s on his foot.

He is frantically searching for his shoe that is solidly on his foot. The same foot he’s using to search for said shoe.

This is my life.

It may look strikingly similar to your life or you’re reading this with memories of the past flashing through your mind. Either way, we all have those moments of chaos, searching for something that is right in front of our faces. Sometimes what we’re searching for is Jesus.

Like my son’s shoe securely on his foot, Jesus sits right in front of us simply waiting for us to notice and we miss it because well…chaos. Our lives our chaotic and the devil uses that to separate us from our peace maker. How easy do we make it for him!

The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.

Zephaniah 3:17 ESV 

Take comfort in that the Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save. He is with us amidst our chaos; we simply need to seek him. Zephaniah continues to say that He will save and whether that means he will save me from my chaos, save the baby alive from the dog or the shoes from the garbage I am not sure, but what I do know is that even his smallest save is a big gift.

Some days I’m exhausted by 9am. Some days chaos overwhelms me. Even yet, all days, I am in the midst of a God who saves

Hurricane History

by Victoria Duerstock

In the aftermath of Harvey, I have thought long and hard about my experiences once again living on the Gulf Coast of Florida for many years.  We saw many hurricanes over the years, some with very little damage and others with devastating effects for many months.  I hurt for the people of Texas, knowing that very soon, the rest of us will move on with our lives, while they start the very long and difficult process of rebuilding their lives, their homes, and their mental health.

Anytime a hurricane develops, I feel a familiar pit in my stomach.  Although it’s been several years now since the landfall of a major hurricane on the mainland United States, the monstrous effects of Hurricane Ivan on me, and my family personally, remain, likely forever.  As a wife and mom, the effect of the hurricane was not just in the packing and evacuating but also in the separation and difficult decisions that had to be made not just before the storm but after.

While I, my mom, and the kids evacuated from Hurricane Ivan just prior to its landfall on the panhandle of Florida on September 16, 2004, my husband remained behind to help with rescue and recovery efforts.  My husband stayed because he was a volunteer fireman in our local fire department and felt his presence was vital to help our community with recover. He and the crew evacuated just far enough inland to still be accessible once the hurricane had passed through as they were ordered to stay off the roads until the all clear.

Enjoying this post?  Head over to w2wministries.org to read the rest!

Life isn’t all cupcakes and barbies

by Angela Jamison – featured columnist

Life is hard.

After a particularly difficult day not getting everything exactly how she wanted it, my daughter, age six, went into a meltdown. The stars were not aligning properly and she just knew that if she had new barbies life would be perfect. My eight year old son, clearly wise beyond his years, simply told her, “Well, life isn’t all cupcakes and barbies.”

Life isn’t all cupcakes and barbies.

Hilarious, yet pertinent and insightful commentary. It’s true – life isn’t all cupcakes and barbies. Sometimes we feel entitled to “cupcakes and barbies” because we’ve accepted Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, but that’s not what is promised to us. Eternal salvation is promised. Earthly ease is not.

In fact, life is sometimes down right crumby.

As Christians, we have the tendency to assume our place in the family of believers as one of Christ’s children means the absence of trials, tribulations or difficulties. That’s simply not the case. Satan is hard at work here on Earth and he will continue to rear his ugly head.

Being a part of Christ’s family does not mean life will be easy, but it does mean that we will never have to travel alone. The burden of pain, heartache, or trial will be shared and there will be an unyielding hope that resonates within us.

Joshua 1:9 – Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.

God is not wishy-washy, he’s commanding. He commands us to be strong and courageous, not afraid or discouraged.  He commands these things because He, the Lord your God, will be with you wherever you go. Not once does he imply that we won’t face trials that frighten us or defeats that discourage us, but rather commands our behavior and attitude for when we do.

God prepares us with his word and his promise is steadfast. Even on the hard days, we are not alone.

Life may not be all cupcakes and barbies, but it is faith, hope and love.

Where to turn when you’re overwhelmed!

It doesn’t take long to feel overwhelmed in our daily lives.  Moms especially, while the masters of juggling many things, often find ourselves past our breaking point and feeling burnt out.  I’m not sure about you, but it tends to sneak up on me when I least expect it.  I seem to be able to manage many moving parts in general but one unexpected event, or added responsibility can cause me to teeter off.


What can we do when feel that the walls are collapsing in around us?  Running away is not the answer, although in many ways it feels like a viable option. Instead we have to turn to the Source of our strength and lean in to His power when we find ourselves at the end of our ropes.


Whether we are feeling financial or emotional pressure, marriage strain or any other myriad of other things, one constant remains.  

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change 

James 1:17

Catch the rest over at w2ministries.org where I write each Friday some encouragement for wives and moms!