My Steadfast Companion

Yesterday morning, as I sat down to read my devotional and wrote the date in my journal, it struck me that it had been exactly 6 years since the day my life was forever changed by my husband choosing to walk out me and our 3 children.  It was stranger that it was the Tuesday before Thanksgiving and it happened to be the Tuesday before Thanksgiving when he left.  None of this really shook me in any way.  I am long past those days and honestly, if I hadn’t written the date, the day probably would have past without me remembering at all.

As I read the devotion I was doing(Jesus Calling by Sarah Young), one of the comments spoke about Jesus being our “steadfast companion”.  As I read that, it really resonated with me.  As I thought about my life over these past 6 years there have been a lot of ups and downs, and often more downs than ups because raising three kids on your own is no easy task.  However, as I read that, what stuck with me was the truth of that statement.  As I look back, whether in good days or bad, whether in times I feel like I am ok, or times when I feel like I can’t take another step, regardless of the circumstance, one thing I can say for certain is that Jesus, has been and will continue to be my steadfast companion.  On days when I honestly do not think I can do this a minute more, Jesus is there, saying don’t worry if you can’t, becasue I can and I am with you.  When I am sure that I am failing and doing a horrible job, he not only reminds me that it’s ok, He is the savior of my children, not me, but he also sends someone to tell me that I am a good mom and am doing a good job.

There are a lot of things I have had to learn to live without over these past 6 years, but I have never had to live one moment without Jesus!  He promises me that  He is with me ALWAYS (Matthew 28:20). He promises that He will never leave me (Deuteronomy 31:6) and He promises that his “..steadfast love never ceases” (Lamentations 3:22) Jesus truly has been my steadfast companion and as Thanksgiving Day approaches I can do nothing more than thank Him for the many, many blessings he has so generously bestowed upon me, all of which I in no way deserve.  I am thankful for my kids that may make my life crazy at times, but I wouldn’t trade being with them for anything in this world.  Much has changed over these past 6 years, but the faithfulness of my God has not.  Thank you Lord!   I love you!

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Surrender

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photo credit: Veronica Matthews

I sat down this morning to write this post and honestly, I feel like I didn’t know which direction to turn.  I have about 10 posts floating around in my head, from things about the open wound of abandoment, to the constant struggles as a single mom, to the hurt of watching your children hurt, your friends hurt, your family struggle.  Anger that never seems to fully go away, financial strain and stress, insurmountable debt that I can never see the bottom of, fear that I am going to fail, fear I can’t take care of my kids well enough, and the list goes on and on and on.

Then as I sat down to write, and I had some worship music playing in the background.  The songEverything and Nothing Less by Jesus Culture ft Chris McClarney was on. (you can listen by clicking on the song title) As the words “I surrender all” were being sung, it really hit me, like the Lord saying to me, Kristen, surrender it ALL!  All the hurt, all the pain, all the fear, all the anger, all the worry,  all the doubt, your kids, your house, your money, every wound that still bleeds, give it ALL entirely to me.

The word surrender has so many negative connotations, but when I googled the definition, one that came up said “..to abandon oneself entirely”  As terrifying as that sounded, it also sounded wonderful when I think of WHO I am andonding myself to!

I surrender all doesn’t just mean, ok God, I am going to give you my sins, or God I am going to try harder, it is knowing that there is nothing we can do apart from Him, God I can’t deal with all thats going on, I can’t make my hurt go away, I can’t work hard enough, I can’t fix my kids, my friends, my family, I can’t support my family, I can’t be enough….but Lord, You Are!  You are more than enough, you are everything, you own everything, you see everything and you love me, you love my family, you love my friends.  You have ALWAYS been there for me, every step of the way, even when I turn away, even when I get angry, even when I lose my way, Lord you are there!  You know every part of my story.  You have carefully planned every step I will take.

So rather than write a post about all the things I can’t deal with right now, I decided to write about doing the only thing I can do….surrender, surrender all of it, every part.  Abandon myself entirely.  When I think of doing that, I see myself standing in an open field, or on a hike among the trees or on a mountain top.  I see my arms outstretched to heaven and I think of Psalm 46:10

“BE STILL, and KNOW that I AM GOD…I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth”

 

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The Trap of Memories

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So the other day I had a memory from last summer come up on FB.  It was a really good memory involving one of my children.  I remember the moment so clearly because so many people had made comments to me about how it was the happiest they had seen my child.  This same child right now is no where near that place.  This summer has been filled with a lot of hurt, pain, sorrow, anger, and frustration that has filtered to the entire household.  When I saw that picture, I immediately began to be filled with sorrow.  All I could think about was how good things were then and how bad things were now.    Thanks FB!

However,  as I was driving to work the next morning and thinking through something I had read in my devotions, it really struck me as to how much this is just like what the Israelites did in the desert.  Every time things got tough, they complained about wanting to go back to Egypt.  We see it time and time again.

We see it when they reached the Red Sea.  They had just watched as God delivered them from the hands of Pharaoh, punished Egypt with plague after plague and brought them out with wealth the Egyptians actually gave them!  However, as soon as they were trapped and Pharaoh was chasing them, the complained to Moses.

” As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians, marching after them. They were terrified and cried out to the Lord. They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!”  Exodus 14:10-12

Did they really think that remaining in slavery as they had for the past 400 years was better than trusting God?

We see it again in chapter 16,

In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron.  The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.” Exodus 16:2-3

Did they really think that God brought them through all this to let them starve in the desert?

We see it right up to the time they finally arrive at the Promise Land,

That night all the members of the community raised their voices and wept aloud. All the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron, and the whole assembly said to them, “If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this wilderness!  Why is the Lord bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Our wives and children will be taken as plunder.Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt?” And they said to each other, “We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt.”  Numbers 14:1-4

Did they really want to go back after all these years and return to being slaves?

As I thought through all of this, I said to myself, are things really better than last summer, or am I just afraid and like the Israelites, looking at what I see in the natural rather than trusting God’s plan?

The truth is, if I am honest, last summer was a very difficult summer and this particular day, although it had its good moments, was a rough day.  Memories, like the ones that pop up on FB have a way of making us forget everything except that 1 moment in time.  So often in our lives we look back on things with a skewed memory of how things actually were at the time.  Our minds focus only on the good things of then and the bad things of now.

If we are honest, each year has it’s own troubles.  Our lives are made up of many different moments and yes, there are times that are better than others.  But, it all boils down to the same thing….do we or do we not trust God and His plan for our lives?  God never promises us that we won’t have trouble, He does promise us that we will not walk through it alone. (Deut 31:6)

God is sovereign over our lives, He walks through every season with us and nothing is out of His control.  All of this reminded me that I need to fix my eyes on Him and not on what I see.  Memories taken out of context can trip us up and lead us into grumbling and complaining.  We have the privilege of being able to look back on the stories of the Bible and see God’s faithfulness.  As we read how he brought the Israelites through so much, we often say to ourselves, “what are they complaining about, why don’t they just trust God?”  But the truth is, we do the exact same thing all the time atleast I know I do!  What we need to do each moment of every day is recount the goodness of God to ourselves.  We need to remind ourselves of all that He has done for us.  We need to tell ourselves His promises over and over so that when times of doubt and fear come, we can redirect our thoughts quickly to the TRUTH.  This will help us not be caught in the trap of a single memory.

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God Chose You!

 

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Mother’s Day weekend is upon us.  Honestly, for me, it is always a tough time.  Mainly because as most of us moms generally do, I start to look at myself and see all my failures as a mom.  I look at the ways I don’t measure up.  I look at the ways that my kids don’t act the way they should.  I think about how every other mother seems to know how to manage their kids except me.  I think about all the things I am unable to provide for my children.  Why do we do this as moms?  Why are we always comparing ourselves, always judging ourselves, always putting ourselves down?

The truth of the matter is, that as moms, we aren’t meant to be perfect!  Did you know that? We aren’t meant to have it altogether!  The truth is that if we were perfect, if we never failed, or fell down, or got frustrated, if we were everything our kids wanted and needed, they wouldn’t see their need for a savior!  When we fall down, when we make mistakes, we are showing our kids that we are human!  We are showing them that we don’t have it altogether, that we, just as they, are in great need of help, in great need of a savior!  We are showing them that we need Jesus!

God is the perfect father and the perfect mother and He doesn’t make mistakes.  When he created your kids, he chose YOU to be their mother.  He knew before they were even a thought in your head, that you were the woman to be the mother of your specific kids, with their specific needs and issues.  He didn’t choose you because you were perfect, he didn’t choose you because you would get it right all the time.  He chose you because he knew that you were the woman for the job.   He chose you because He is the sovereign God of the universe, and his plans and his” purpose will not be thwarted“.  You are a part of God’s plan, a part of His story and in that story, he made you a mom, the mother of your specific kids.  And while you might not feel up to the task and you may sometimes feel like God must have made a mistake, you can rest assured that he didn’t.  You can trust that He will lead you and guide you down the path of motherhood.  He will carry you through the tough times as a mom.  He will pick you up when you fall, He will dust you off and give you the strength to go forward when you don’t think you possibly can.

I am not a perfect mother, and I never will be, I don’t always get it right and neither will you, but one thing we can be sure of is that we are the right mom for our kids because God chose us and He doesn’t make mistakes!

 

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For Good Friday

krismatthews.com

cross

I push through the crowd
Trying to get away
Taunts now turned to terror
As the ground gives way

Midday it may be
But it’s black as night
What once seemed like justice
Is now a gruesome sight

I heard some say
They now think it’s true
This man named Jesus,
King of the Jews

They say he truly was
The very son of God
But now he is dead
I guess evil has won.

How could they do it?
Nail him to that tree
Were they so very sure
His claims were blasphemy?

I am glad it wasn’t me
Who put those nails in his hands
I’d hate to be the one who killed the son of man
So I push through the crowd though I can barely stand
I guess it’s hard to run with this hammer in my hand.

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Don’t Miss The Miracle

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At the beginning of each year. our church sets aside 2 weeks for fasting and prayer.  We are just finishing up the first of those 2 weeks and it has been an amazing time of connecting with God.

However, a situation happened with one of my children the other day that made me think about our focus when we are looking for a miracle.  We often go into a season like this with expectations on what we want God to do. And we should pray with expectation! Our God is Great and Mighty, a loving and powerful father and no request we have is too big for him.  But often, we expect him to work in the way we want him to and sometimes, we miss what he is doing because it didn’t come in the way we wanted or expected.

As my kids and I began attending our nightly prayer meetings, after the first night one of them became discouraged because there hadn’t been a specific prayer for something she has been struggling with.  She told me a few things that she wanted to happen.  Wednesday rolled around and she had a very difficult day.  Something happened during the day that brought not only an extreme amount of fear and anxiety but left her not wanting to attend the service that night.  I left it up to her, but encouraged her to attend.  She did.  When the time for praying for others came around, every thing that she had told me she wanted to happen, happened.  Her specific need was not only brought up, but prayed for by more than 1 person.  Several people gathered around her and prayed for her one on one.  Not only that but something even more specific that she said also happened.  As we went home we talked about how God had shown her that not only does he see what she is going though, but he hears her!

In the middle of the night, she woke me up in a state of fear.  We talked through it and we talked about how God was with her.  Her words to me were, “but I need a miracle!”  I told her, you got one!  Tonight!  God showed up in a special way showing you that he sees and hears you.

You see the problem this is a problem we all have.  We want more of God, we want God to move in our lives, BUT we want him to do it the way we think he should and when we want him to.  When we do that, often, we miss the miraculous things he is doing.  God tells us himself in the book of Isaiah that he doesn’t think the way we do or work the way we do.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.

 “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways
   and my thoughts than your thoughts.”         Isaiah 55:8-9

God has His own plan and purpose and as the book of Job (Job 42:2) tells us His plans will NOT be thwarted.  If you are praying to get something from God and to get it the way you want it, you are not only missing the whole point of prayer but you are going to miss out on the miraculous things that God does.  Don’t miss the miracle.  Don’t pray and wait in a spirit of expectation and then miss out because it doesn’t happen the way you want it to.  This is a lesson we all need!  Many times I have to say , “ok Lord, you are God and I am not, so do it your way…because you know far more than I do about what is best for me.”  Don’t miss the miracle! Trust God to do what only he can do and trust that His way of doing it, is the best.

 

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New Year’s Hope

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This morning when I woke up, I felt a bit of depression creep in.  As I laid there I felt a bit overwhelmed about the coming year, fearful of what I couldn’t see and a bit sad at some of what has transpired over the past year.  It seems every year is this way.  We get to the end of the year and we think “good riddance”.  While I think it is positive to want to leave the past behind and move into a New Year with an attitude of anticipation, I think we can’t ignore the year we have just gone through or write it off as  bad.  Each year has plenty of both good and bad.

This year was a particularly hard year for me.  At times, I didn’t think that I would emotionally or physically make it through the day.  However, this year also forced me to self-examine in a way I don’t think I have ever done.

There were so many ups and downs.  Some  BIG Ups and BIG downs. But, through those ups and down I learned a lot.

I watched as my daughter went to her first prom, went on her first date, fell in “love” for the first time and brought a young man into our house that seemed to fit like a puzzle piece into our crazy family.

I also watched as she chose to end that relationship and felt the sting of loss as this same young man would no longer be around.

I learned that the once love of my life, the father of my children, the man I had been married to for 13 years (and divorced from for 3),  had married another woman. But I also learned that as I sat there receiving the news, I was not crushed or even shaken because the True love of my life will never be taken from me.

Through both of those situations I learned that the long and deep hurt of my past was still not completely healed, but I also saw the areas where God has worked miracles in me.  I learned that God brings us to things at the proper time for us to deal with them even when we may not want to. I learned I still have a long way to go!

I watched one of my children who had completely walked away from God and church, come back to Him seeing the cries of a mother’s heart be heard and answered. Who but God could work such a miracle?!

I was pushed to the brink of losing it more times than I can count, but learned that each time, God was there to pick me up and draw me back.

I was encouraged by friends who pray for me and with me, who love me through all my faults and I was able to be that same kind of friend to them.  I learned how blessed I am to have these amazing women that God has given me to do life with.

At times this past year I had no idea how I was going to provide for my family.  And while that worry still rears it’s ugly head at times, I have  learned and am continuing to learn to rely on God for everything because HE IS FAITHFUL!

I learned that raising 3 teenagers is too much for one person to handle on their own and I learned to ask for help more than I would like to!

This past year may not have gone the way I would have chosen it to go, but I know that God is sovereign and there is purpose in everything and that He will work it all for my good and his glory no matter how awful it seemed at the time.

As I spent some time reading this morning I read a statement that really helped me out of my New Year’s worry.  At my church we often read books together and currently we are reading a book called “Union With Christ” by Rankin Wilbourne.

Wilbourne wrote:

Union with Christ touches on the highest and most profound truths of the gospel and at the same time reaches down into the depths of the human heart to fill us with more joy and hope, more comfort and strength than anything else ever could.  Is there any truth we more need to lay hold of this day than our union with Christ?”

As I read that, I thought to myself, this is the truth I needed to be reminded of today.  This is the truth that sums up all of last year.  In despair, in fear, in worry it is my union with Christ that brings me hope, joy, comfort and strength.  It is that union that brought me through the dark times of this past year and that union that allowed me to enjoy the bright times of this past year.  It is this union, that can never be broken, that will carry me into the next year and give me the strength to become more of who He created me to be. Without Christ, I am nothing, I can do nothing and without Him I wouldn’t make it through one moment of one day.  However with Him, I can go into the New Year with hope, with joy, and with courage. Thank you Lord!

 

 

 

 

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