Some life lessons come harder than others. Being good is one of them.
While I’ve struggled with various temptations and issues as a child, teen, daughter, friend, wife, and mother, I’ve always understood one truth.
Left on my own, I tend to cross the line, dabble in what pleases me, explore areas of life better left unknown.
Yes, I might manage to hang onto to a husband, produce little people that grow up to be functioning members of society, and enjoy a few close friendships.
I may have more happy days than sad. When you look at me, you might think I have it all together, that I’ve figured life out, that I’m sure about my path. That I am a good person.
But you would be wrong.
Inside, where it counts, I could never claim to be innately good.
I do what’s expected. Cover feelings considered unacceptable. Bite back words I know shouldn’t say. Work hard to fit in. Smile and frown on cue. Move forward. Juggle life. Deal with some issues. Bury others.
But anything truly good, anything right, anything pure does not originate in me. Because inside, I hide anti-good behaviors and thoughts. Inside, I squelch desires I know I shouldn’t have. Inside, I am a completely different person.
Although on the outside it may look like we’ve become better people as adults, sometimes we’ve just become better at masking our flaws and insecurities. Emotions like jealousy, hate, and anger never completely disappear just because we age and develop a few wrinkles.
Some days maturity has more to do with what I censor and harness inside my head than how much I’ve really grown and changed.
Sad, but true.
But hiding is not what God has asked of me. He doesn’t want me to conceal who I really am. He wants to change what’s inside me to reflect what’s inside Him.
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (Philippians 4:8 NIV).
Those are the qualities God asks me to seek.
And so I do. With His help. Hoping one day, what He wants for me will be what I am.
He wants me to be honest. Stop hiding. Quit covering. Be real. Change inside and out. Permanently. He wants a new me. A renewed me. He wants the best for me.
“Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator” (Colossians 3:9,10 NIV).
Thankfully, it is in His strength that I find the best things, put them on, and offer them back to Him.
For in my strength alone, I will always remain helpless, insecure, and eons from innately good.
Lord, help me put on the new today. Help me look to You for the things You want for me. Change me in a way that means I can never go back to the old.
Surely, Lord, you bless the righteous;
you surround them with your favor as with a shield.
(Psalm 5:11-12 NIV)
Today I'm glad God never sleeps.
Last night when I came home from writer's group, the garage door wouldn't go down. I asked Pat to check it.
He forgot. And went to bed.
I thought he checked. And I went to bed.
So the garage stayed open all night--a beacon of vulnerability to anyone who drove down my street. Worse? The door to the house remained unlocked. While my kids slept upstairs.
When I woke up this morning and realized anyone could have walked in my house, I was reminded of how often the Lord protects us and we don't even see what He's done.
Today I'm glad God never sleeps.
I'm glad He watches over me, whether I remember to ask Him or not. I'm glad He never misses anything as crucial as a deadbolt turned the wrong way. I'm glad He sees all the details I miss.
If I can trust Him to protect me when I don't even know I need protection, how much more should I trust Him when I do?
Yet, I have trouble giving my life over.
How will Kyle pay for college? Will he pass the pre-nursing exam? Will he pass his yearly oncology screen? Will Alek finish chemistry and get the required credit? Will he figure out what he wants to do with his life? Will Maddy survive adolescence? Will I survive Maddy's adolescence? Will Pat's job be safe? Will we be able to retire? Pay our bills? Send the other two kids on to higher education? Will I accomplish everything I need to in the time I don' t have?
And the list of will's goes on. We all have a list. A list of concerns, needs,wants, fears and stumbling blocks.
But God says:
For the word of the Lord is right and true;
he is faithful in all he does.
If I believe the Word, and the Word says He is faithful in all He does, I need to believe it. Even when I forget to ask. He knows what I need. He even knows what I want. And sometimes His blessings include things I never imagined.
That's the most comforting feeling in the world.
And safer than seven deadbolts and a steel garage door.
I didn’t make any New Year’s resolutions this year. No diet fads. No exercise plans. No financial agenda. No major list of life changes.
My resolutions have a way of beginning on a rampage and ending on a bout of realism that often shoves me farther behind than where I began. I get derailed. Quickly. My track record for any given resolution, in any given January, hovers around an hour to a week. Exercise being the first thing to go. I blame that on my self-diagnosed ADD.
Maybe I’m the only person who can’t seem to power through the potential to change my life. Or maybe not. Maybe I’m one of many.
This year, rather than failing before I begin, I decided to try something different. This year, I’ve moved on to promises. And I’ve made a few, to myself, and to other people.
According to dictionary.com, a resolution is, “a resolve or determination: to make a firm resolution to do something” while a promise is, “a declaration that something will or will not be done, given, etc.”
That’s a big difference. One says I will try. The other says I will do.
With my promise, I’ve declared that I will do what I’ve said. Whatever it takes.
Like Yoda says: “Do, or do not. There is no try.”
Resolutions gather around try. Promises project into do.
I like that.
So what are my promises?
I made a promise to spend more time with my family. Time spent in both quantity and quality. Time spent before everything I think needs to be done actually gets done. I’ve promised to use the pause button on my life and push it often.
For our anniversary, I bought twelve cards and put them in a basket in order of months, and presented them to my husband. A year of guaranteed dates. Dinners, movies, adventures. All pre-purchased. Pre-paid. A promise of time as a couple.
My children are a little harder to please. While dangling the date carrot works for my guy, my kids want me in the now. They aren’t appeased by a future promise of time. They need me to drop-everything-and-listen. In the moment.
I’m still working that out. Some projects are more difficult to drop than others.
But, I’m aware of the need to make time. Being aware is a start. This year I promise my kids to make moments. Make memories. Make minutes stamped with “I care” and “you’re important.”
Last, I’ve promised myself to slow down. Set boundaries. And focus on what’s important to me after my family and my friends.
My dreams often conflict with the time I’ve promised my husband and my kids. I think that’s true with jobs and hobbies and lifestyles we chase. Then life comes down to priorities.
My final promise to myself and to the people in my life is that I will let God set my priorities. I see them now as God, my family, my friends, and my work. If I get that right, everything else will fall into place.
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?...For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:25, 32-34 NIV).
Now that many of us have fallen from the Resolution Wagon, would consider making a promise instead? A promise you not only intend to keep but a promise that you will keep?
What are your promises in this new year?
"Then the man bowed down and worshiped the Lord"
(Genesis 24:26 NIV).
The WILLINGNESS to submit to Someone greater than anyone I can ever hope to become. Humbling myself before the God who made me, and then set me free to choose Him, is a powerful gift. A gift that fills His heart with joy. Over me. How amazing is that?
The WISH to be part of something more. Something larger than myself. I’m trading up my 20-inch black-and-white for the IMAX experience, my burning desire to become part of God’s bigger plan.
The WONDER of stepping into God’s presence and being bathed in who He is compared to who I’m not. So much of God’s majesty remains hidden when I’m not actively seeking. Even if He granted me a hundred lifetimes, I could never grasp His greatness.
The WINGS that accompany emptying myself before Him. Laying at his feet, stripped bare and vulnerable. When I offer myself to be filled with His grace and goodness, I fly. How incredible that He loves me in my weakness most of all.
The WANT of discovering a relationship with the One who loves me most. The One who will never disappoint, walk away, or let me down. His perfection allows for nothing less than total commitment. Where else can I find such devotion?
What are your WONDERS of WORSHIP?
About Lori Freeland
Lori Freeland, a freelance writer from the Dallas area, holds a bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In her other life, the one BK—before kids—she has worked as a social worker and a certified dyslexic reading tutor. Currently, she embraces her status as full-time homeschool mom to three awesome children. Her big dream? Becoming a Young Adult novelist, a goal she diligently pursues during the wee hours of the morning with help from a very large mug of coffee and occasionally some chocolate-covered peanuts. In addition to blogging and contributing regular inspirational articles to Crosswalk.com, The Christian Pulse, and Believe.com, she loves to mentor new writers and encourage people to share their life stories. As a member of the Cancer Mom club, she desires to connect with others in hopes of giving support to those struggling down the messy paths of life. You can find her hanging with the North Texas Christian Writers as a Critique Group Leader and Writing Coach or cheering on her writers on the Faith Team at The Christian Pulse where she recently took on the role of editor. She also loves to attend Society for Children's Book Writers and Illustrators meetings where she has begun a critique workshop for new writers. You can visit her website at LAFREELAND.COM.
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