Sometimes I feel like June Cleaver. Pearls, heels, apron. Immaculate home. Dinner on the table. Happy black and white television family.
Other times, I feel like Rosanne.
For the past month or so, I’ve been in Rosanne-mode. Sickness has definitely found its way into our household, along with moodiness, impatience and lethargy. Thus, our halls are still decked and it’s still beginning to look a lot like Christmas around here. The New has been collected and squeezed in the closet beside The Old. Nothing is in its usual place. If you could see my house right now, you’d probably suggest us for an episode of Hoarders.
I hate sluggish seasons like this, as do most people, I’m sure. As I’ve confessed more than once, I’m a List-Maker and a To-Doer, and there’s nothing like a good New Year to bring out the Organizer in me. (I don’t know what it is about Christmas decorating and un-decorating that makes me want to rearrange all my furniture and clean every room from floor to ceiling. I’m going to blame Momma; I’m quite sure this trait was inherited.)
I’m a productive person, so when I can’t accomplish something I’ve set my mind to or do something my brain says needs to be done, I feel tense. And I cannot think in a cluttered space. I can hardly function. It’s like my brain short circuits and I just shut down. Can’t write at a cluttered desk. Can’t cook in a dirty kitchen. Can’t sleep in a bed with Confused Covers. I don’t even know how I’m writing this right now.
Having said, it’s easy to understand when the drudgeries of sickness find their way into my home, I feel down. Really down. Defeated almost. It’s easy for me to emotionally implode and find myself back at The Pity Party.
Rationally, I know I am not defeated. This isn’t the end of the world, it’s just a momentary lapse and life eventually return to normal. The Voices are telling me, “Hello, Crazy! You’re sick. You have a sick toddler, whiny kindergartener, and a husband whose back is out. It’s okay that your house is a disaster and you’ve not accomplished your List. Give us a break, would ya lady?”
So the other night, after weeks of NOT accomplishing things, or at least, not accomplishing them at my usual speed, The Holy Spirit made His way into The Pity Party. He reminded me that my current circumstances will soon change, considering none of our conditions are chronic or life-threatening. “But,” He suggested, “what if they were? What if the surmounting laundry and dishes and disorder lasted not just a few weeks, but months? Years?”
I began to recount the loved ones and friends I know, whose circumstances may not or will not soon change…
…My diabetic, artificial-hip-and-back-laden husband who endures relentless nerve pain, 24-7.
…My father-in-law who struggles with COPD, taking breathing treatments multiple times a day, every day.
…My parents, facing indescribable financial strain and loss.
…A friend with chronic migraines and painful Lupus…and a three year old son.
…A former youth group member who unexpectedly passed away last week, at the age of 30.
I was convicted. My situation is NOT that bad. So what if my house is in chaos? At least I have a house and my family is together. I realized this is a temporary setback for me; this, too, shall pass. Then, after a moment of confession and repentance, The Lord overwhelmed my heart with love and compassion and mercy for those suffering around me. While I do give myself a bit of permission to feel slightly disheartened by my struggles—for the stresses of sickness and Mommyhood ARE real—I realize they are nothing in comparison to others’.
The Holy Spirit proceeded to show me a few things…
You Are An Overcomer Through Christ. Having been sick and uncomfortable lately, I realize I truly cannot fathom the pain and discomfort some people deal with on a moment-to-moment basis. Even as you read this, some of you are in real, physical pain. But Believer, know this: You are an overcomer through Christ. God’s got this! And that means I’ve got this! (If Christ is in me.) One of my favorite songs is Mandisa’s “Overcomer” because it so clearly reminds me to not let discouraging situations get the better of me. I find myself repeating the line, “Don’t quit; don’t give in; you’re an Overcomer.” We ARE overcomers and we can boldly declare this because of Jesus.
“You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you…But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of His Spirit who lives in you.”
~ Romans 8:9-11
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? …No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.”
~ Romans 8:35 & 37
“He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all—how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things?”
~ Romans 8:32
My Problems Are Big, But My God Is Bigger. I just can’t get my mind around the strength of those who truly are Overcomers. Some of you have been through the wringer without losing your faith. How do you keep your focus and sanity in the midst of chaos and noise? Sick, clingy babies are okay for a day or two; but what about for a year or two? How do you learn to deal with that kind of irritation without yourself becoming irritated? I cannot grasp the sort of calm that many of you possess in the midst of trials. It truly is supernatural. Living paycheck to paycheck is daunting. How do you so peacefully deal with surmounting financial pressure and the possibility of loss? Your tenacity inspires me and makes me want to press on.
“…But I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.”
~ Philippians 3:12
“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
~ Philippians 4:7
“Now you have every grace and blessing; every spiritual gift and power for doing His will are yours during this time of waiting for the return of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
~ 1 Corinthians 1:7
“…Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
“Know, therefore that The Lord your God is God; He is The Faithful God, keeping His covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love Him and keep His commandments.”
I’m Not Effective for Christ If I’m Focused On Myself. When I’m sick or my household is ill, I very quickly get a one-track mind, which is Me, Myself and I. As I confessed these things to Jesus, I realized I should ask that He make us well, not for my benefit, but for His. In my heart, I want to be Jesus to the world around me, but when I’m solely focused on my own problems and wrapped up in my own little world, I can’t see anything beyond Me.
Example: A couple of days after praying this, my eyes were opened to a homeless man standing on the corner by my local Walmart. He’s been there for a few weeks, apparently, which means I’ve driven past him a few times and never even noticed him. When headed to the store lately, I’ve been consumed by the fact that I barely have enough money to cover our needs and focused on not going over budget. This week, the blinders were lifted and that’s when I met Paul. Long story short, he and his two sons have been living out of an old minivan for the past 6 months since their family home burned. Once I got my mind off of my circumstances, The Lord was able to use me to love and serve this family. Our Life Group rallied together and provided Paul and his boys with food, blankets, toiletries and other basic needs.
As I consider all of this, I realize I am not capable of loving and living as Jesus commands. It’s just not humanly possible; that’s why I need divine intervention every single day, every moment throughout the day, because this sinful body just can’t seem to hack it.
“We Christians glory in what Christ Jesus has done for us and realize that we are helpless to save ourselves.”
“Jesus replied, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. The second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and The Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
~ Matthew 22:37-40
“I can do everything God asks me to with the help of Christ who gives me the strength and power.”
~ Philippians 4:13
Always Be Mindful Of Those Who Are Hurting. Now here’s where it gets a little touchy. The Lord pierced my heart at point-blank range with this one. He’s allowed to; He’s God. So, as I’m fully aware that I am not God, I’ll try not to do the same to you. However, it hurt when I realized my guilt in this department… don’t say I didn’t warn you.
While I know not everyone is in This Place, being here has convicted me to be mindful of those who are, or who have been for some time—especially when speaking about my June Cleaver moments—particularly on Facebook. In an attempt to share our lives, we hurriedly blab our thoughts and unwittingly cross the line between encouraging and gloating. Quickly spoken words are often misused and written words are easily misinterpreted; they unintentionally become discouraging daggers aimed at our friends’ hearts and psyche. We allow words to flow so freely when not looking people in the eye, without that face-to-face reminder that they’re struggling or hurting.
Consider a couple of instances: One morning, when I was feeling particularly down, I came across a post by a well-meaning friend. Her words were in no way intended to discourage, I know. But because of This Place where I am, her spouting off her many accomplishments from the day left me feeling terribly inadequate and longing for better days. It shouldn’t have, but let’s be honest—after reading that post, I felt like crap. (Am I the only weakling who allows this to happen?) Her words simply highlighted the fact (in my mind) that I was failing in multiple areas of my life. Not gonna lie. I cried a little.
Other comments, like some recent ones made by a favorite author/speaker of mine, make me just wanna reach across Facebook and shake someone. Stop griping about the burden of your blessing; it’s not entertaining. It’s paint. It’ll dry and life will go on. Many of us are just thankful we have a house with walls to paint.
Like Momma telling me, “If you can’t say something nice…,” The Lord smacked me with this scripture:
“The more talk, the less truth; the wise measure their words.”
~ Proverbs 10:19 (The Message)
Or to put it another way…
“Don’t talk so much. You keep putting your foot in your mouth. Be sensible and turn off the flow!”
~ Proverbs 10:19 (Living)
I want you to know I’ve sincerely confessed and prayed over these words of mine, for I often use too many.
Friends, let’s seek to use our words to inspire and encourage others, even when we’re being Real and speaking about our everyday lives. “Speak Life,” as Toby Mac so awesomely puts it. As Believers, let’s be careful that social media doesn’t become our outlet for gripes and complaints. No, we’re not perfect and yes, we do have gripes and complaints. We’re sinful humans; how could we not? But God makes it clear that we should control our tongues; scripture is laden with direction concerning our words. Now before you go thinking I’m being preachy, you should know my saying this is a lot like The Pot calling The Kettle black; I’m so guilty of this. Therefore, I must consciously choose to remember that everyone out there in Social Media Land, or Blog-Ville for that matter, does not have the same blessings or struggles as me. When I share things, I should do so in a way that blesses others, encourages them, makes them think or gently rebukes when appropriate, in a way that pleases The Lord and brings glory to Him—not to me. A fellow mom-friend made a wise comment recently that stuck with me. She said she purposely doesn’t post a lot of “mommy” stuff on Facebook because, having lost a child of her own, she is mindful of ladies dealing with the sorrow of that loss or the pain of not being able to conceive. I have never even thought of that because I haven’t dealt with it. Oh Lord, help me be mindful of the hurt around me, even if it’s a hurt I do not understand.
“So speak encouraging words to one another. Build up hope so you’ll all be together in this, no one left out, no one left behind.”
~ 1 Thessalonians 5:11
“The tongue has the power of life and death…”
~ Proverbs 18:21
“Does not the ear test words as the tongue tastes food?”
~ Job 12:11
So, to those of you feeling June Cleaver-ish today, You Rock. Seriously. I love when I have those days. Just try not to rub it in. And for those of you Roseanne-rs, get yourself ready for the Hoarders’ camera crew and I’ll send ‘em your way when they leave my house. Regardless, spend a minute with Jesus. Find your hope or perseverance or healing or rest in Him—He embodies all of that. Time with Him is as refreshing and energizing as a hot shower. Get an extra nudge, if you need it, and listen to the hope in the songs I’ve mentioned. Or, maybe like me, you need to Turn-The-Facebook-Off and go spend some time with a real, living face. Whatever you’re convicted to do or not do, just go with it. Whatever struggles you’re having, see them as the exciting climax in The Great Adventure of Your Life. Because Believer, it will have a happy ending.