2015 promises to be a year to remember. This year our oldest is getting married and graduating from college and our youngest is graduating from High School. In case you are wondering, we only have two. :) I have oftentimes affectionately referred to them as “my bookends”. I came up with this years ago because of the way they used to flank me on the couch when we were saying goodbye to their papa whenever he left to photograph a wedding. We have a couch right in front of a picture window that overlooks our driveway. As my husband was heading out, we would all kneel on the couch, with me in the middle, and watch as he got in his van and drove away. We would wave, tell him we loved him in sign language, and then pray for his safe return. I cherish those memories and hold tightly to them as this new year starts.
Our oldest is Rachel. She is marrying a great guy named Jesse. They have planned a May wedding. Our youngest is Andrew. He is graduating from our homeschool at the end of May. May is going to be a very busy month!
With a wedding (and a shower) and two graduations coming, there are a lot of extra things to think about and get done. All these things are something to look forward to, and I am. But… I wish that word didn’t need to be put here. But… I am also facing all this in 2015 as someone who cannot stand or walk without pain in my feet or sit without needing to lie down on my stomach and rest every hour.
So much to do. So much I cannot do. So much I will miss!
How will I get everything done that needs to get done since I am so limited? How will I handle the emotions of my family growing up and moving on? How will I handle my physical pain during this time? How will I handle the emotional pain of missing out on things because of my health?
About two weeks ago, I was feeling overwhelmed and anxious about all this. I am the mother of the bride and want to throw a wonderful shower for our only daughter, but I can’t go out and shop for decorations, decorate, prepare food, properly greet guests, or entertain. When it comes to the wedding, there are so many details to work out. That is true of any wedding, but I have additional concerns like what will I wear that won’t hurt my feet or body, how will I get from one location to another without too much pain, and how will I stand long enough for the formal pictures? I don’t want to leave the wedding every hour to rest in a separate room, but I will need to. As to the graduation, there is a lot to do with teaching, grading, and additional graduation paperwork. It takes mental energy that I have to fight for some days. Being in pain is a constant drain. I also don’t want to miss our son’s graduation ceremony that is held in Chicago and hosted by our curriculum company like I missed our daughters, but I will not be able to go. I want to throw graduation parties; but once again, my contribution to the work will be limited. All this and more disturbed my spirit.
I don’t share all this for pity’s sake, but as a backdrop to God’s goodness and hopefully as an encouragement for you as you face whatever challenges might come or have already come this year.
Due to God’s mercy and instruction, I did not stay too long in my unrest. He has shown over and over that he is greater than all the challenges I face. His word comforted my heart as I began to apply it to this situation.
It started at Philippines 4:4
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4)
It is hard to be overwhelmed when you are rejoicing in the Lord. It is hard to be anxious when you realize you have the right to rejoice in the Lord. As a child of God, I can always rejoice in him because of all he is and all he has done and will do. Through his grace, I know him and his unchanging, sovereign lovingkindness. No matter what is going on in my life, focusing on these things brings joy and puts all my challenges into perspective. Rejoicing in the Lord has the effect of making everything more manageable.
It is not always easy and sometimes I forget, especially when things are hard and harried as they will most likely be this year. Maybe that’s why Paul said it three times in Philippians. (See Philippians 3:1) But remembering and offering this praise, and to me rejoicing in our Lord is praise, expresses gratitude for the past, demonstrates trust for the future, and sets my mind at peace.
It continued with Philippines 4:5
“Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near.” (Philippians 4:5)
This hit me hard. In all that I face this year, I imagine that there will be more than enough challenges to my patience and temperament. And yet, I am still called to this. We don’t get a pass simply because pressure is mounting or because we are suffering. There is no loophole. But the truth is, I didn’t see this as daunting. I saw it as home. This is where I want to live through all these challenges. I want to have a gentle spirit regardless of what challenges come up. Thinking about it gave me peace. Why? Because I believe that in my obedience, I bring glory to my Lord and make life a whole lot better for me and everyone around me. I know I will fall short. I do all too often. But I will pick up and press on in the strength that God provides. To him be the glory!
The second part of this verse gave me great confidence that I will be OK: The Lord is near. What a joyous string of words for the believer! What peace and comfort come when I really dwell on it. God is near. Another way to think about it is, I am not alone. Because he is near, I can face the challenges of this year through his grace and strength and extend grace and gentleness to those around me.
From there, my heart delighted once again in the great help and wisdom of the next few verses.
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” (Philippians 4:6-8)
I was reminded that the best way to answer all those “How will I” questions is to stop asking them and trust God, pray, be thankful, and fill my mind with all that is good. Obeying these verses will keep me from being overwhelmed and anxious. Doing so has brought me peace so many times before. They speak right to the heart of what I need to do every day of this year.
Thanks be to God I have these verses and so many others to turn to. I have the whole of scripture to guide and comfort me. Through them I remember not to lean on my own understanding and trust my Lord. (Proverbs 3:5-6) I rest knowing that God cares for me (1 Peter 5:7) and that he directs my steps. (Proverbs 16:9) I rejoice that he is immutable (Malachi 3:6), and that he causes all things to work together for my good. (Romans 8:28)
Along with the provision that I have in God and his word, he has also provided family and friends who care and help and encourage. I am far from alone. Our dear children are poised to have a wonderful year. I’m so thankful and happy for them. I am looking forward to it. No “but” this time.
Experience has taught me that understanding and believing all these wondrous truths does not mean that I have conquered being overwhelmed and anxious once for all. There is a good chance that I will need to refocus on them and Jesus and look away from the frightening wind of my challenges. (Matthew 14:30) That I need to refocus is not a bad reflection on the truth of these verses or on our Lord. It is a matter of my weakness. While I am still in this unredeemed body, I will still fall short; but… Ok, but this one is good… but he still loves me, forgives me, and will once again lead me beside quiet waters and restore my soul. (Psalms 23:2-3)
I don’t doubt that you are facing your own challenges this year. Some you may know about upfront like me. Others may sneak up on us. But we can take comfort knowing that God has not changed even if the date has. His promises are still there and he is still near. No matter what you face, I encourage you to continue trusting in our loving, sovereign Lord. He is faithful and good. When it gets really hard, and it might, or when you are afraid, crack open that glorious Book and read until your heart is calm again. Stay in his word every day and pray for the strength or courage that you need. Maybe even put some helpful verses up where you can see them. Remember to give thanks. He has provided so much and knows what we need. (Matthew 6:8) I am thankful for the Internet, so I can order shower decorations online! :) Move forward in faith, doing what needs to be done to the best of your ability in the strength that he provides.
The peace he gives is real because he is real. Lean on him.
I’m praying for you and your family this year. Please pray for me and mine.