The Life of Surrender

He must become greater; I must become less. John 3:30

Category: The Life of Surrender Blog Post (page 2 of 2)

I Need Thee Every Hour

i-need-thee-every-hour

I absolutely love a good hymn. I have been wearing out my Joey + Rory Hymns That Are Important to Us album and every song on there speaks to my heart and soul.  When I sing I Need Thee Every Hour I have been feeling that it is what my life should look like but it isn’t always what my life actually looks like.

I need Thee, oh, I need Thee; Every hour I need Thee; 

Oh, bless me now, my Savior! I come to Thee.

I need Thee every hour, Stay Thou near by;

Temptations lose their power When Though art nigh.

We have been watching some Joyce Meyer broadcasts and on one she talked about having trouble brushing her hair and she felt like God was telling her to ask for help brushing her hair.  At first, she didn’t want to ask for help, but later decided to.  I think my initial thought is that God doesn’t want to hear from me on the trivial stuff.  What I am coming to realize is that when I bring everything to God, he will choose to work through me.

Just last week I was searching for items in my house in two different instances.  I was looking for my one year old’s shoes and my oldest daughter’s library book.  In both instances, I stopped searching frantically and sat down and prayed about it for a few seconds.  In the case of the shoes, it took a little bit. In the case of the library book, I found it a few seconds later.  If I were a betting person, I don’t think I would have found the library book right then had I not stopped to ask God’s help for it.

We wrote a family mission statement and the first thing we need to remember is to humbly acknowledge our brokenness and rely on God’s strength.  I love that relying on God is the first item on our mission statement.  I feel like we can’t accomplish the other items until we are able to rely on Him. I have the best intentions to not rely on my strength, but on His.  I can wake up in the morning fully aware of God’s presence in my life and completely forget by the time I walk out the door.  Just yesterday I was sitting in church struggling with my children’s behavior and not even thinking to ask God for help!

I have seen what God’s power can do in our lives.  I have seen God work through people in amazing ways, but he is not going to do it if we don’t go to him for help.  Going back to the song lyrics: I Need Thee Every Hour.  I am not sure that there has been a day in my life where I have been focused on God every hour.  I think there have been scary times for my family if someone is in the hospital or we are waiting to hear test results where I am very aware of God’s presence in my life and then things work out and I go on with my day depending on myself.  How arrogant and entitled I must seem to him.   Still, he wants me.

With November being the  month where we focus on thankfulness and how much we have, I also want to focus on how much I need God.  I am going to try to say a little prayer when the clock strikes every hour.

I want to say:

Dear Jesus, another hour is passing in this day and I need you.  I need you every hour.  Please help me to work for you and not myself.  Please help me to fix my eyes on you.
I love you,

AMEN

My hope is that God will be an even bigger part of my day and my life.  I want him to be my whole life. Peter and I have been reading in Matthew and Jesus has some pretty intense things to say about our lives:

Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.  Matthew 10:37-39

I have tried too many times to count to “find my life” in myself and my own pursuits.  I have tried to find my life in relationships and circumstances.  It is time that I find my life in Jesus Christ because I do need him every hour.

 

Learning to Love Being Pruned

There are times in my life where I feel like God is allowing me to walk through something because he knows that it will bring me closer to him.  I usually refer to these times as pruning from John 15.

 
I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.  He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.  John 15:1-2
 
If we remain in Jesus, he will prune us to be even more fruitful.  I think that pruning means that he allows us to feel unpleasant feelings and go through hard things because he wants us to grow stronger in our faith.  I feel pruned when I feel tempted to do things that I know are opposite of what God wants for me.  For example, I know that God doesn’t want me to have a mind full of worry.  Satan can see that I have a tendency to worry and he will work hard to plant those seeds of worry in my mind.  I feel like God could stop Satan from planting these seeds in my mind, but how would I ever learn how to recognize Satan’s attacks and run straight to God if I am never allowed to experience them.  I, in turn, feel like a stronger Christ follower because instead of sowing the seeds Satan planted, I can run to my Savior and know the truth of who I am.
This week has been a tough one on my mind.  Peter and I have been reading The Battlefield of the Mind by Joyce Meyer and I am convinced that the fastest way to attract the devil’s attention is to grow in your faith.  This book has been stretching me and making my mind stronger.  I have attracted Satan’s attention and for the first part of this week he has been winning.  He has been winning because I know how I should be thinking and reacting to things and I have not been going to God to get the strength to do what I need to do.  Satan has been winning because I have been refusing to accept responsibility for my actions and I have been blaming my behavior on other people.  Satan has been winning because instead of running to God’s word, I have been running to complaining, whining, and anger.  After a few poor choices, then the guilt sets in and I will often think that God doesn’t want to hear from me.
Satan wins no more!  God does not give us a mind of guilt and shame.  God wants to hear from me and he wants to offer forgiveness for my attitude and behavior.  God wants me to work for Him!  Instead of blaming those around me for my actions, I can accept responsibility for my behavior, ask forgiveness, and move on to follow God’s plan.  Instead of being mad at others around me, I can know that my struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Ephesians 6:12
About a month ago I was having some bad dreams and I felt like Satan was trying to attack my sleeping.  Instead of sitting there worried and afraid I got up and read my Bible and spent some time with God.  I think that is how we are supposed to battle Satan.  When we are hurt by people’s actions, pray for them, and remember that our battle is not against flesh and blood.
I told my husband that I was sick and tired of things coming at me that I had to mentally deal with.  In my frustration I asked, “When will all of this just stop?”  Peter knowingly answered, “When you pass the test.” Ouch!  I love the man, but I hate it when he is right!  When I learn to run to God every time that I feel worried, anxious, angry, frustrated, you name it, then these things will stop coming at me so frequently.
I often look forward to times where I can have peace and I don’t need to be pruned.  If you have been reading this blog for any amount of time, you will see that it seems I only write on here when I am struggling.  I think that is because I feel the closest to God when I am struggling AKA: pruning.  I don’t think I should be looking forward to the times when I have peace because in those times I am not growing.  I need to remember that he prunes me so that I can be more fruitful.  I will have that peace and rest I am looking for in Heaven when my battle here on Earth is over.  Until then…
Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.  Hebrews 12:1

Allowing Our Children to be Disappointed

Tonight while driving home with our one year old shrieking from the back seat, I realized how much we have grown in parenthood.  She had thrown her favorite blanket on the ground, (which she does repeatedly every car ride.)  This time her blanket was trapped in an area that I couldn’t reach.  She started crying hysterically when she realized that I wasn’t making a move to get it.  As I sat there listening to her pleas for help, I realized how far we have come in parenthood.  About five years ago, when our oldest was a baby, I would have had a hard time letting her cry.  I didn’t enjoy when she was uncomfortable and it absolutely made me fall apart when I felt like there was nothing I could do to help her feel comfortable.

As our one year old cried, I thought to myself, I think it’s okay for her to cry and feel disappointed.  In fact, it may even be good for her to experience a little discomfort.  There is no doubt that all 3 of our children are going to get knocked down by the world at some point.  How much better will it be for them when the world comes to break them, if they have felt a little discomfort in the safety of our parenting.  I want them to know that their dad and I love them, but we aren’t able, and won’t, provide them complete happiness 100% of the time.

It is very easy to spoil our children and give them things or allow them to get away with behaviors because it makes them happy.  The problem with this is that they don’t understand that we live in a sinful world.  We need discipline and a lifeline to God to make it through to our eternal home.  They don’t understand that if we give them everything they want, it won’t lead them down the path to happiness.  They don’t know that these things they are chasing are not what is best for them.  It is then our responsibility as parents to guide them to what they do need.  Are they going to be unhappy with us?  Absolutely!  Will they thank us for it later?  Probably not, but we can always hope :).  Do I feel like it will lead them to a closer relationship with God?  Yes.  I think that is the ultimate goal, isn’t it?  I would certainly allow my children to walk through some disappointment, hurt, and plenty of other yucky feelings if I felt like they were walking to God on the other side of it.

I do know that it is terribly hard to allow our children to walk through these things.  I think it is hard for God to see us walk through hard things as well.  I am pretty sure that we would love having our kids come to us for comfort when it is all said and done and even through the process.  God is wanting the same thing from us.  When life gets hard, He is there.  He is willing to walk us through all the hard stuff to get to Him.  How much better it feels on the other side when we can run into our loving Father’s arms for comfort.

So dear children of mine, are there going to be times when your dad and I allow you to walk through hard stuff without rescuing you?  Yes, there will be plenty of times and those days are going to be hard on all of us.  Just know that we love you unconditionally and that you will have a deeper understanding of God’s unconditional love for you as well.  An easy life is not always the most life giving.  Walk the hard roads and lean into your Creator when you do.  We love you!

Having the Courage Not to Fight Back

Yesterday was one of those days.  I am sure you know the ones.  It seemed like Peter and I were carrying one kid off to time out on repeat and then when one would settle down, the next one started in.  Ugh!  There was lots of disobedience, whining, crying, and just general anger/crabbiness.  I felt like I held my cool for awhile and then I came unglued and was crabby, whiny, and angry.  I didn’t deal with my children’s disobedience in the way that God is calling me to deal with it.

When my children are having rough days with their behavior I seem to end up sinning by acting in anger, expecting my children to behave well and stay self-controlled when I am not, and not taking a break and praying before dealing with their behavior.

Then I feel the shameful thoughts and fears and worries rush in:  I am a terrible mother, I am worried about my children’s souls (Thanks, Mom, for that line!), and I just feel like God is ashamed of me and I am a failure to him.

I have been trying to surrender my emotions to God but sometimes it feels like he is so far away.  I think after days like yesterday it is easy to slip into guilt and shame.  I know that God does not want me to run from him.  I know that he wants me to repent and draw near.  So that is what I am doing.  I am laying down my sins and my fears.

This world teaches that we need to fight to get ahead, take what is ours, win at all costs, and make sure that our children submit completely to our wills.  I know that God has another stance on this.  I started thinking about the movie 42 all about Jackie Robinson’s life.  Branch Rickey was telling Jackie Robinson that he couldn’t say anything when people were discriminating against him because they would make him out to be the enemy.  Jackie Robinson replied with, “You want a player who doesn’t have the guts to fight back?”  Branch Rickey answered very wisely, “No, I want a player who’s got the guts *not* to fight back.”

I thought just how much that applies in parenthood as well.  I think that I need to fight my children’s behavior to keep them behaving.  In all reality, I think that God is asking me to have the guts to not fight their behaviors with my worldly ideas and submit my worries about their behavior to him.  He is not asking for perfection, but faithfulness.  No, I did not exhibit faithfulness when I lost my temper with my children, but I do feel like I express faithfulness when I repent of those sins and entrust my children’s behavior and my parenting to God.  I know that God’s mercies are new every morning.

How to Combat the Icky Days

I get them sometimes, the icky days.  I know that it is a part of living on this Earth in all it’s broken glory.  The icky days usually don’t announce themselves until they arrive and I often feel frustrated with these uninvited guests.  Sometimes they come from a failure to plan, or when I feel like I have nothing to look forward to, and sometimes I just wake up feeling icky.

Usually when the icky days come, my first instinct is to call survival mode and break out all of my comfort items.  It does feel nice in the moment to eat junk and watch way too much television, but it does nothing for the long term.  It doesn’t fix the underlying problem in my heart and it usually leaves me with guilty feelings that aren’t nice to fight off.

When I say icky days, I am referring to days that I feel “off” or just not awesome about life in general. I am not referring to depression and severe anxiety that I know are real in people’s lives.  I know that those are things that can’t be just shaken off and may need more help than what I am suggesting in this post.  Here are a few things that I have been learning lately about how to care for myself on days when I feel icky.

1.)  Talk to God about it.  I know that God already knows how I feel and my day was written in His book before I even had the icky feelings.  I do think that just having a chat with Him about how I am feeling gives me courage and makes me feel less alone.  Before the icky feelings have a chance to take over, talking to God helps us to combat them and put them in their place.  Satan would like for us to let these feelings take over and cause us to sin.  We know that we serve a God who can help us through anything and also cares for us deeply.  What a wonderful gift that we can turn those feelings over to Him and not be stuck in the lonely icky feelings by ourselves.

2.)  Make Good Choices.  Like I said earlier, when I feel my day starting to feel yucky, my first response is to want to eat a bunch of junk food and sit on the couch watching TV.  While this may feel good in the moment, in the long term it is really hurting me.  Instead of letting our feelings rule us and in turn feeling worse later, we can make the choice to eat foods that are going to make us feel good and be present with our children rather than watching TV.  We can make the choice to get the laundry and dishes that we don’t want to do done and we will be so thankful that we did later on.

3.)  Plan.  I think sometimes my icky days come from lack of planning.  I feel that looking ahead to potential problems in your schedule is a good way to combat having off days.  If you see that your schedule is too packed or too wide open, you can look ahead and do something about it before a problem arises.

4.)  Look Heavenward.  I also feel like these days can come after I have been doing something I enjoy and it ends.  For example:  My husband and I are huge Olympics fans and our favorite thing to watch has been the swimming.  We have pretty much lived and breathed swimming this past week and when it ended, I felt a little bit of a let down.  I felt like there is nothing to look forward to and I then felt that I had to fill the void I felt with something else.  What really should have happened was that in these moments when I am making something way too important, like swimming, I need to take a step back and realize that there is way more to life than watching swimming on television.  Yes, it is fun and we sure enjoyed it, but my response when it was over tells me that I was making it an idol in my life.  Recognizing these times before they end is a great way to combat those feelings when they are over.  We need to have spiritual tunnel vision and know that all the things on this Earth will pass away and we have Heaven to look forward to.  When we focus on God and our eternal home, the little nuisances here on this Earth don’t seem as hard to deal with.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble. But take heart!  I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
 
So the next time those icky feelings creep in, let’s trust God to take care of us and give those feelings back to Him!

Programs, Schedules, and Parenting Resources are Good; But God is Better!

Parenting recently has been a little bit brutal.  I have one child with emotional breakdowns and some attitude flaring out of nowhere, I have one child that likes to attack the youngest and has some passive/aggressive defiance going on, and my youngest abounds in energy and is into EVERYTHING!  It is easy to feel deflated at the end of the day thinking that our parenting is getting nowhere.  Usually I will then turn to my parenting resources.  I absolutely love reading parenting books and moms blogs and getting tips on how to combat bad behavior.  While I love getting a new tip and having it work, usually it is short lived.  I think I can get lost in all the parenting resources and become very confused on what I should be doing for discipline.

Yesterday was pretty rough.  I would like to say that it ended wrapped up in a pretty bow and we all had feel good feelings at the end of the day.  That is not what happened, but I felt less pressure and stress on myself because I spent the morning throwing my hands in the air and saying, “God, I can’t do this alone.  I have no idea what to do with this child right now and I am turning this situation over to you.”  I don’t feel like an answer came floating down from Heaven and I don’t feel like I am on top of my parenting game, but I do feel like the situation is out of my hands.  (Which it is anyway!)  I feel so much better when I place my children’s lives into their creator’s hands.

Parenting has been something that I will occasionally turn over to God and then I will get a little too self-reliant and take it back.  It is very illogical to think that I can do better for my kids than God can, but I think that is what I am saying by my behavior.  By taking back my parenting worries, joys, concerns, etc, I am taking God out of it and setting myself up for failure.

I am not saying that having a program, schedule, or using parenting resources is a bad thing.  I believe that God sends us these things for support in our lives.  What I am saying is that we need to relinquish our illusion of control over our children’s lives to God.  After we have turned over our cares for our children in prayer, then we can listen and see how God wants us to proceed.  God may then have us implement a schedule, program, or use a parenting resource, but we can’t replace God with these things.

When I think about my ultimate goal as a mother, it would be to have my children come to know Jesus and love him with all their hearts.  I pray this over my kids mostly everyday.  I know that only God is in charge of what my children believe.  When I turn them over to Him daily, then I know that they are in His hands and he will bring them to Him.  No parenting book, diet, family rule book, or schedule is going to enter my children’s hearts like Christ can.  I need to remember to go to Him before anything else, and that is the best parenting tip I could give to anyone.

Choosing to Take the Hard Road

I have been thinking recently about my sinful nature and how it manifests itself in my life.  I believe that we are all programmed to sin in a certain way.  For me, I put comfort in front of Christ.  I will go to great measures to make myself comfortable.  In fact, I sometimes think if I could lay in a nice comfy blanket all day everyday I would have it made!  The truth is, I wouldn’t have it made.  While it would feel great to lay in a blanket all day, at the end of the day I would have feelings of guilt for not getting anything done in my day.

I feel like God has been telling me recently to take the hard road instead of the easy one.  I know the easy road looks really appealing in the moment, but it will end up leaving you with feelings of emptiness.  Taking the hard road can look different for everyone.  Taking the hard road could look like doing that good deed even though you know you aren’t going to get the credit for it, sacrificing your own comfort to help someone out, forgiving people for wrongdoing, and a million other examples.

In my life, I feel like taking the hard road looks like not drinking 700 Mt. Dew’s per day to combat tiredness and my artificial feeling of comfort.  Being a mother of 3 there are not as many times in my day where I can kick back and relax like I was able to in the past and it can feel really hard to stay present and in the moment with my children when I want to take a few minutes to myself to kick back and relax.  The big thing I have been working on this year has been to surrender my feelings over to Christ.  When I start to feel jealous, angry, lazy, self-deprecating, or filled with worry, I think the hard road is to surrender those feelings to Christ rather than to wallow in them.  There are many times in my day when I don’t “feel” like making a meal, doing the laundry, or playing with my kids.  I do know that I will benefit from fighting through those feelings in prayer and just doing them.

Taking the hard road has one huge advantage and that is being connected with our Lord and Savior.  I believe that Jesus is still with me when I take the easy road, but I need him way more when I take the hard road.  When we face challenges of any sort, he is there to work through it with us and his power is made perfect in my weakness. (2 Corinthians 2:9)

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.  Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.  Hebrews 12:1-3   
 
Jesus’s life was anything but comfortable and there are so many Bible verses stating that this world is not meant to be comfortable.  We will receive that reward in Heaven.  So, while on Earth, I want to take the hard road more than the easy road.  I want to make a mess cooking in the kitchen with my kids and use my energy to help others instead of protecting my body while laying under a comfy blanket.  I believe that Jesus will meet me in the hard places and he will be my comfort.

One Word for 2016: Surrender

The Compassion International Bloggers network gave a writing prompt in late December and I am just getting around to writing about it now.  I will use the busy mother of 3 excuse for that one :).  They said to write about one word that you want to focus on in the coming year.  I did some praying about it and I felt that God was asking me to give up the illusion of control in my life.  I say illusion because that is what control is.  In reality, I don’t have control over anything, but I like to pretend that I do.  I finally landed on the word surrender for 2016.

The word surrender terrifies me for a number of reasons, but I truly believe that this was what I am to work on in 2016. One of the reasons it is terrifying is because I want to be comfortable, and surrendering my life to Christ doesn’t sound comfortable. Peter and I were joking about some words that we think describe us and he said adventure for himself, and I replied with the word snuggly for myself.  We both laughed because we know that comfort is very important to me.  I think the reason that I want to control everything is because I think it will help me feel more comfortable.  When in all actuality I think trying to control everything makes me less comfortable and more stressed out/worried about stuff.  So, in a way, surrendering may make me feel more comfortable after all!

When I knew that surrender would be my word, I started wishing that I would have an easier word like peace.  What I have come to understand is that I will be gaining peace by surrendering.  My life is not peaceful when I am running all over like a crazy person trying to figure everything out for myself.  I worry constantly that something terrible will happen to my kids, Peter, myself, or extended family.  I also worry about my children’s feelings, plans for our family, and the future in general.  I am not in control of any of these things.  I could try to control everything but I will fail EVERY SINGLE TIME.  I don’t get to control the way my children are treated by their peers or how they feel about themselves.  I don’t get to have all of  my plans fall into alignment like I want them to.  I don’t actually control anything.  The more I realize how powerless I am and how powerful the God that I serve is the more peaceful my life will become.

Surrendering everything to Christ is going to take a lot of prayer.  My first instinct is to try to take over in situations where I feel powerless, and I know that it will be necessary to be on my knees way more frequently than what my life has previously modeled.  Prayer is the way that I can understand what it is that God is asking of me.  I am ashamed to say that I haven’t always spent a lot of time thinking about God’s plans for my life and I have spent countless hours trying to make Krystal’s plans work.  I can definitely relate to Solomon when he said, “Meaningless, meaningless.”  All of Krystal’s plans are meaningless without seeking what God wants.

So with that I feel it is going to be a loaded 2016.  I understand that as a Christian I should have this surrender thing down pat since it is pretty much the foundation of our faith, but I struggle.  I am looking forward to leaning on God, and being in good communication with God through His Word and through prayer.  I know that many trials can and will come my way, but my prayer is that I will still be standing because I am building my faith on a firm foundation.

All to Jesus I surrender; 
All to Him I freely give;
I will ever love and trust Him,
In His presence daily live
 
I surrender all,
I surrender all, 
All to Thee, my blessed Savior, I surrender all.
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