Christmas Challenges – Putting on Armor

IMG_0017It’s overcast outside.  Yesterday it rained all day long!  It feels like the weather has been a reflection of the emotions that I’m fighting right now.  Dreariness…discouragement…disappointment…and a bit of disillusionment.  

These are not emotions that I’m proud of…but they are real…and sometimes they are vicious.  They wake me up at night.  They torment me during my quiet moments.  They disturb my conversations.  Somehow, they seem to be at their “best” during the holiday season.

They sit on my shoulder and continually tell me lies.  Lies like…

  • …you are failing.
  • …no one appreciates you.
  • …what you are doing doesn’t really matter…you aren’t making a difference.
  • …your struggles are so much more difficult than everyone else’s.
  • …relationships aren’t worth the struggle and effort.
  • …protect yourself at all costs.
  • …no matter what you do, it will never be good enough.
  • …you are alone.
  • …things have changed, they will never be the same

And I respond with more questions of my own…questions that have lies cleverly disguised within them.

  • …When will life ever get easier?
  • …When will anything I plan go as I planned?
  • …Do others even notice what I do?
  • …Why doesn’t anyone ever say thank you?
  • …Why in the world did I choose to go into ministry?
  • …Why do I always feel like I’m the one left holding the bag?
  • …When will buying Christmas presents NOT be stressful?
  • …Why am I struggling while others appear to be thriving?
  • …Does anyone really know what it’s like?
  • …Why doesn’t anyone even notice that I’m struggling?
  • …Why must I always be the the strong one?
  • …Why does life have to constantly be changing?

The other day I asked a couple of my friends to pray for me…to pray that I could find my armor.  I was struggling…struggling with all the things  I have listed above and feeling like I was struggling with all of them simultaneously.  You know, sometimes to survive life, you need a good suit of armor.  Fortunately, I know where to find that armor.  The problem is that sometimes I just feel too tired to put it on…too tired to even look for it…and sometimes, too tired to even remember that I have been given armor. And yet, the most amazing armor is waiting for me…

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God,so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.  And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. – Ephesians 6:10-18

Sometimes I think the battle would be easier if I could *see* the enemy.  But instead, so many times, the enemy is unseen and seems to actually be my own mind and my own thoughts.  It takes putting on the “belt of truth“…telling myself God’s truth and turning away from the lies that I hear in my head. The “sword of the Spirit” contains the truth and when I wield that sword, I can silence the enemy…I can silence my own mind and thoughts.

I know that to be true.  You probably know that too!  But sometimes amidst difficult circumstances, disciplining myself to put on the armor is difficult.  This season is a busy time…a complicated time…a stressful time.  It has a way of magnifying trials and challenges. Before long, I can find myself discouraged, disillusioned and disappointed in myself, in my life, and in those around me.

But I’m really working at it this year…working at disciplining my mind and my heart to focus on God’s truth.  Sometimes I’m more successful than others and sometimes I fail miserably.  One thing that is helping me this year, is to methodically take my thoughts “in hand” when they start veering to the negative…to the self-pity. Instead of cutting myself slack and allowing myself to wallow for even a bit, I’m deliberately and quickly turning my focus on things for which I am thankful and I’ve been verbalizing those things out loud to others.  That probably sounds corny…but it is making a difference…at least for me it is.

Just this afternoon I came home from trying to squeeze the life out of an impossible Christmas budget (I’m sure you are too)…I was discouraged and frustrated on many levels and for many reasons.  When I got home, John asked how I was doing and I had to admit that I was struggling with a root of bitterness.  He took my face in his hands and acknowledged that he has been feeling the same way over the past few days.  But, he also reminded me that even with all the trials and challenges that we have faced the past few years…health, job, finances, major disappointments and more…that he wouldn’t trade our life or our family for anything.  We both ended up laughing.  It was like “seeing through a glass darkly” and then seeing the circumstances face to face…in the light of eternity.

I know I’m not the only one struggling with emotions this time of year.  Maybe we can lift each other up?  Maybe we can help one another put on the armor needed to walk through the season victoriously…to walk through Christmas seeing HIM face to face…

What are the words to that old song?

Turn your eyes upon Jesus

Look full in His wonderful face

And the things of earth will go strangely dim

In the light of His glory and grace.

So I’m going to keep trying to put on the belt of truth and wield that “sword of the Spirit” which is the Word of God.  I want to walk victoriously this Christmas season.  I want to focus on the right things.  I don’t want to waste time or energy on things that would keep me from seeing what is most important during this season.  I have a feeling if I do that I will gain a new perspective on my life and my circumstances.  

What about you?

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Ramblings on Storms, Babies, Awe and Gratitude

The sun is just starting to at least cast a glow through the heavy clouds and snow.  I look out the front window and it’s hard to tell how much snow has fallen so far because the wind has been blowing all night.  I can’t see the horses in the corral so I’m assuming they are huddled together in the barn stalls and oh boy, there will be some digging out to do out there so that we can get those doors shut again.  Our best guess is that we have 8-9 new inches on top of the 6 that was left over from the last storm.  They are predicting another 6-10 throughout the day today.  It looks like it is going to be a very white winter here this year.  Not complaining….all this moisture will come in handy during the summer dry season when our state has been so plagued by fires.

I woke up early this morning.  No special reason.  My eyes just opened around 4 a.m.  I tried to go back to sleep but about 4:20, I gave up, walked upstairs and made the coffee and settled in for some quiet moments.  We put up the Christmas tree last night.  It’s stunning.  One of the most beautiful and perfectly shaped trees that I have ever seen.  It was just the three of us putting up the tree.  The numbers keep dwindling.  This year Jordan is living down in Denver and between his schedule and our schedule, I knew we would never get the tree up if we waited on a common day for all four of us.  I wanted to be sure we got it up relatively early since we have a production of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe on the 13th and 14th.  But mostly, because I know that at any time, we could get the call from John Michael and Windy telling us that Windy is in labor down in Atlanta and Christmas in Colorado will be over.  Yep, we are going to do our best to beat “Little Lane” arrival.  Should be interesting…and probably stressful….but “stress is a choice right.”

When Jeremy and Jessica had Emma we made it to the hospital in Los Angeles just in time.  As I walked in, Jeremy came out to get me.  I was shocked.  They wanted me and Jessica’s mother in the delivery room. Now I couldn’t have done that in a million years…but I’m OH SO GRATEFUL that they desired that.  I was a bit unsure of myself when I walked in and just quietly watched, listened and helped as each opportunity arose. And when Emma finally arrived, I felt an overwhelming sense of awe and gratitude.  Awe that God had allowed another precious little one to join our family…awe at the miracle of birth…awe that my son was now a daddy….gratitude that momma and baby were both healthy…gratitude that I had been able to be a part of the whole experience.  There weren’t any words for the way I was feeling.  And, I was still quiet…because there were no words.

Birth has always been kind of a quiet experience for me.  It’s such a miracle.  For the momma, it takes alot of concentration and work.  The daddy is quietly giving comfort and reassurance.  At least that was my experience all four times.  I wanted the room and the atmosphere quiet and peaceful.  When our first son was born we had Christmas music playing…Handel’s Messiah to be exact.  He (John Michael) wasn’t due until January 3rd but he arrived on December 20th…on our second wedding anniversary.  John Michael and Windy’s “Little Lane” is due on December 23rd. So excited!  It’s really kind of surreal that that they are having a baby so close to the time when John and I had our first son….who is now going to be the daddy to “Little Lane.”  It’s made me pretty reminiscent…and once again filled with awe and gratitude.  God has surely blessed our family.  We have had our fair share of struggles and trials.  At times, I think both John and I thought we had MORE than our fair share of struggles and trials.  But when I see the family that God has blessed us with…starting with the heritage that comes from my precious mom and John’s amazing mom and dad, to our four boys, to their spouses and now to grandchildren…all I can feel is awe and gratitude.

Those that don’t know me very well see the “work” that I do with Artios…and I love what I do believe me.  But honestly, all I ever wanted was a husband that loved me unconditionally, who would raise our children to love God and to want to live to glorify Him, and children who would seek after God with all their heart, all their soul and all their mind. As I watch that reality, I am filled with awe and gratitude.  As I’ve grown older, my dream expanded to include spouses for my boys…spouses who would also love God with all their heart, all their soul and all their mind and then, who would love my boys with everything inside of them…who would complete them.  As I watch that reality, I am filled with awe and gratitude.  Now, as God is blessing us with grandchildren, my dream expands yet again.  I want for them the greatest gift of all…a personal relationship with the God of the Universe.  I pray for that even now!

I am filled with awe and gratitude because I know from whence I came…I know the mistakes I’ve made, the sins I’ve committed…and I know how GREAT God’s grace is to have saved me, set my feet upon a rock and directed my path even when I didn’t even know He was there.  I am filled with awe and gratitude because I know that there is nothing I could do to deserve that grace…

and that’s why they call it grace…it is unmerited.  

Awe and Gratitude!  Yep…that pretty  much sums it up.