When Circumstances Overwhelm Us

I have friends in Houston, Texas, and surrounding towns—you may also—who are experiencing the rains and winds of Hurricane Harvey’s lingering effects. For all that can be predicted, they know they have to wait and then live through what actually comes. And that’s hard. At the same time, all other challenging matters of life haven’t evaporated. For the moment, they may shrink in comparison, but they’re still there.

You know what I mean. A new trial develops, yet the other hard things remain, too. We press on, hanging in there, until sometimes we wear down, fall apart, cry, pray, vent, and try our best to keep praying—to keep holding on to the One who holds us and holds all creation.

“I have been pouring out my soul before the LORD . . . speaking out of my great anxiety and vexation.” (1 Samuel 1.15b-16)

All week I’ve been planted in this passage in 1 Samuel 1.1-20, where God unfolds how Hannah perseveres in faith and how he attends her heart through her circumstances. Hannah prays for years to conceive a child, plus her husband’s other wife regularly provokes her that she’s born multiple children. One big trial compounded by another—Can you relate?

Hannah is “deeply distressed and prayed to the LORD and wept bitterly.” (v.10)

Anxiety, worry, pain, and frustration accompany Hannah’s heart. Yet, the Companion whose company she steadfastly chooses is her LORD. She takes her experiences and feelings to God, not holding back. She unloads every aspect of her burden, letting tears wash her empty.

This is intimacy with God. Raw and honest, yet worshipful. God is Hannah’s heavenly Father and Lord.

“Then the woman went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad.” (v.18b)

Her face was no longer sad. She went “her way,” back to the circumstances that currently define her life. Yet, she went changed—changed by her encounter with the living God. Changed by his love that filled all places in her heart when she emptied all that burdened her. She “went” with God, with His peace that passes all understanding.

Hannah’s no-longer-sad face reflects a heart that has overcome the overwhelm of circumstances in the power of God’s love. She trusts God—that He sees, listens, holds, and loves her through all circumstance.

Dear God,
Thank you for sharing a segment of Hannah’s life and relationship with us. Help us seek to know you more as our Father and Lord, who loves us immeasurably. Teach and prompt us to steadfastly walk with You through all circumstances. Amen.

Dealing with Roadblocks

Last Saturday my friend Libby and I hopped in the car and headed to her church. Boxes of my books were in the backseat, and I was looking forward to speaking and sharing Becoming A Peaceful Mom. She was eager to gather with the others who helped organize the event to finish last-minute details. Excitement and anticipation for what the Lord had in store filled our hearts.

And then we saw the roadblock. Today was the “Mutt Strutt”, an event that draws hundreds of people and their dogs. We drove up to the police officer and asked if we could pass through somehow . . . No. We asked him about other street approaches to get to the church  . . . All have roadblocks in place. We explained about the event and how others would soon be driving up . . . I’m sorry. Of course, we had to see for ourselves, so we dashed around. All were blocked.

At the first roadblock, our frustration took form with self-determination to find a way to the church. We could not change the circumstance. We sighed a lot 🙂 and just maybe I went around one roadblock to park the car. And we prayed—We vented our questions, Lord, how do we get there? How is everyone else going to get there? How are we going to get these boxes up that hill that’s a couple of blocks away?  . . . Then our prayer shifted—God, you’re so much bigger than this. You have the way through. Show us what to do.

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41.10)

How you ever noticed that God’s help doesn’t always look the way we think it should? Libby jogged up the hill while making calls and soon walked back down toward me with a plan. We grabbed as many books as we could carry and began to walk uphill. Uphill among the walkers and dogs. . . Did I mention it was really humid?

(One of the walkers who offered to help carry books.)

As we panted, laughed, and our clothes began to stick to our backs, we praised God that he is good and is not surprised by any of this. We prayed that each woman who was trying to come would not be hindered by the roadblocks.

We got to the church, as did the rest of the team, 15 minutes before the event was to begin. We were sticky, dashing around, focused. And then the women began to arrive. God filled the newly accessible parking lot and then some. Mostly, He filled out hearts.

Do you ever feel hindered by a roadblock?  Or one roadblock after another seems to clutter your path?

No roadblock prevents God from fulfilling his plan.  Ever.

He goes before you and before your child. He walks with you. He leads with a plan, and hopes we seek him and then follow him.

Whatever you face, face it with God. Invite him in to the circumstance. Invite him to lead. Unload your worries and be filled with His peace. No matter how weak in faith or overwhelmed you feel, praise him for he is our faithful God.

In Hard Times, Surprised by Peace

dsc01397As I turned the calendar page to December, I packed for a quick trip to see my Mom in South Carolina. Christmas decorating, shopping, and baking would need to wait until I returned to Houston. My birthday would fall within our visit, so I was particularly grateful for the timing of this trip. My sweet momma has Alzheimer’s. Thank God, she still knows me; she still knows my voice when I call. But the beautiful way that she celebrated her family on our birthdays is now a treasured memory in our hearts. My best gift this year would be her company.

Hours before my flight, I learned that Mom was not well. Of all the dates I could have chosen to visit, He secured this one in my heart weeks earlier. From that moment forward, awe:  You, God, are so good.

dsc01407So what do we do when our plan turns upside down and then spirals downward?
Sometimes a Plan B quickly emerges and all is well. Sometimes we have a pity party or a temper tantrum. And sometimes, we aren’t sure what to do. . . . Emotions stir, yet they don’t lead. Thoughts amass, but order is evasive. Then, whether we have prayed or not, God is faithful. He moves. He moves, for he was present in this moment before we came into it. He carries us THROUGH the hard minutes and hours and circumstances such that often we don’t realize this until much later—in awe and wonder of his tender care and provision in the unexpected hard.

dsc01389As I spent time with Mom in the hospital and later settled her back into her residence, God gave me an Advent gift that I’ll treasure always. Leaning against pillows, Mom and I sat on her bed and I offered, “Mom, it’s Advent. Let’s read the gospel stories of Jesus’ birth.” As I read, I glanced at Mom. Awe covered her face and two soft, child-like gasps of wonder made my heart pause…..O God, this holy moment with You . . . with Mom. Thank You.

God with us. Immanuel.

dsc01406Not long after I returned to Houston, Mom’s condition worsened, so I flew back. Every day was heartbreaking. By GRACE, she seems to be recovering slowly. . . What a different December. . . But, isn’t every December different? Our life and the lives of those we love unfold, and these experiences bring joy, laughter, grief, tears, healing, heartache, hope, and deepening faith in the One who remains the same and loves us the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow—Jesus, Immanuel.

dsc01401“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name ‘Immanuel’ (which means, God with us).” (Matthew 1.23)  Mary held the Prince of Peace, though her life circumstances were anything but peaceful. And God held her.

I reflect on this December and the depth of God’s peace that I experienced surprises me—in a very good way. So many emotions wrestled in my heart and often wore me down. Yet, Jesus lives there victorious over every hard time I’ll endure.  Immanuel.

dsc01409For all of us and every hard time that comes—May God’s peace that passes all understanding REIGN in our hearts.