Recently I have been noticing a pattern in my life.

It goes like this.

I start to feel really good about life.

Some really good things happen and prayers are answered.

It isn’t perfect but I have a peace that God is with me and that He has me right where I need to be.

I start to get really excited and motivated to work for His good.

And then…..

BLAM!

Out of nowhere, something happens that absolutely crushes my spirit. Sometimes it is something big and other times it is really something kind of petty.  Either way, it is always marked by an overwhelming sadness, sobbing, and the million-dollar question.

Why God?

Why now? I don’t understand. I really feel like you are working in my life and I am trying to be as obedient as possible and then this happens. I really don’t get it.  And, it makes me wonder if it is really worth trying at all anymore!

I got yet another opportunity to experience this pattern on Tuesday.

Tuesdays and Thursdays at our house are known as “Stay Home Days.” This means that the kids and I get to stay home together. We truly covet these days. Most of the time we don’t do anything spectacular, in fact, many times I have to do a substantial amount of work and we always do a lot of housework. But we still love our time together and at home.

Tuesday was special though. On Tuesdays I often have a sitter in the afternoon while Mark and I attend some marriage counseling at our church. This week, Mark was out of town so I did not have to go. At the beginning of the day, I debated whether to have the babysitter come or not. Did I need to go do some work or would it be better to stay home with my kids? Ultimately, my kids are a higher priority than my work so I decided I would spend the whole day with them.

We had Indian day where we painted their faces like Indians, looked at pictures of Indians, talked about teepees and then went on a hike on the MKT trail by the river.

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It was blissful.

Missouri River

I love spending time with my kids and a full day always feels like an absolute luxury. Eli and I walked down the trail pulling Emme as she “rode” her tricycle and we sat by the river for probably 45 minutes just talking while they ate their snack.

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Now if you have or have had a 2 or a 5 year old, you know that a blissful day might in fact still include your 2 year old pulling down their pants and pooping in the park and then also pooping in the pants themselves. It might also include several opportunities to discipline your 5 year old because they cannot seem to grasp the concept that they should share with their sister.

On top of all that, I had a couple of crisis at work that I had to deal with via phone (while the 2 year old was pooping in the park, of course!) But in spite of all that, it was blissful. And I was honestly quite proud that I had managed to both enjoy the day and deal with my work issues without getting too frustrated.

After we went home, I remember thinking “I feel really peaceful today. Life is finally going in a direction that seems right and good. I can’t wait to write in my blog about how God has blessed us.”

Until……until…….

We have had the pleasure of having our event director, James and his sweet wife Amanda, living with us for 3 weeks until they can get into their first home. We offered this up to them when we found out they didn’t have a place for 3 weeks, but to be honest, I was a little worried about how well it would actually work. I mean, let’s all be real folks, 3 weeks is a lot of time to live with another family. And, I don’t think that we are particularly easy to live with.

Alas, we decided to give it a go anyways, and they, their dog Crosby and their cat Toby, moved in a couple of weeks ago.

It is no exaggeration for me to say that I might have to invest in counseling for the children when James and Amanda move out. I cannot tell you what a blessing it has been. They don’t even feel like guests!   It has been so easy. Our kids LOVE “Mr. James” and “Manda”.  They clap and jump up and down when they know they are home and they ask every minute on the minute “When will they be home?” when they are not.  We have sooooo enjoyed our extra time with them and getting to know them even more.

Yesterday as the day wrapped up and the kids and I were living in our bliss outside, I decided to let Crosby out. He had been in all day and the kids wanted to see him. Usually I put him on his leash, but Amanda and James don’t normally and he has been at our house for several weeks so I figured he would be fine roaming freely.

I was wrong.

Sweet Crosby ventured across highway 40 and was hit by a car going 50 miles an hour. He passed away before either James or Amanda could get home.

As I waited for James and petted Crosby’s sweet innocent back, I thought,

Seriously God? Today? After all this bliss?  Amanda and James’ dog? These people who have brought nothing but joy to our lives and now I have to tell them this? Why does this sort of thing keep happening?

I DO NOT GET THIS!!

CAN YOU HEAR ME? I DO NOT GET IT.

You give me this great day. I am doing my best to listen and be obedient and pray and tell people about you and I can feel you directing my path and then, this. I feel so guilty and sad and discouraged. Are you trying to build me up or tear me down?! When you build me up like this, then take it away, I begin to think that I cannot rely on you. I begin to lose faith and I know that is not what you want. I am so confused.

What am I supposed to learn from this? Hurting oneself is one thing and one level of forgiveness, but hurting someone else whether intentional or not is quite another. I am going to feel guilty about this forever.

That is the silent conversation I had with God.

If I were drinking, I would have grabbed a drink. But, I gave drinking on Monday. Mark was not only out of town also out of cell range so my normal sounding board, my normal comforter was not available. It felt bad at the time, but maybe it was good because I sent a text to a couple of friends instead. Here is my exchange with one of them.

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I did not think much of it at first because I wasn’t thinking very clearly.

But then something clicked.

I could almost hear God saying :

“C’mon girl. I know you can get this.”

“Think this through.”

“Think.”

“I definitely did build you up all day. My Spirit is in you and it is working. I love you and I am always preparing you to do great work for my kingdom. I know you can feel this.”

“Do you really think I tested you today?  Do you really think I did this?”

And in that moment, I realized what was happening.

God didn’t test my resolve.  And he did not kill James and Amanda’s dog.

God spent the whole day reassuring me, building me up to feel strong, ready and confident enough to write more on this blog, ready to invest more in my marriage, my kids and to do the good work he has set out for me.

And Satan couldn’t stand it.

I have commented to several people that in the past few months I have just felt like I am under attack. I couldn’t put my finger on it exactly and it was often over petty things, but I still had a gnawing feeling.  At the time I didn’t get it, but now I do.

I can see the pattern now.

Satan doesn’t want to see me working for the kingdom of God. And the stronger I get, the more he hates it. The more he hates it, the more he tries to bring me down, to make me stumble.

Wow.  Not wow in a good way…..just wow this is a big deal, an aha moment.

For those that have never experienced this or who really struggle with good and evil and spirituality, I know this seems a little far-fetched.  I totally get it.  But I am telling you, it is so very real.  In fact, the very next day, I read this verse in the bible.

“We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one.”  1 John 5:19

You may not realize it, but I KNOW you can hear it too if you listen. Satan wants you to live in your guilt and your shame and without Jesus too, because if you do, you won’t rise up.

“If only I had done ______”

“If only I were _______”

“My life is such a mess, God could never use me for good.”

“I will never be good enough.”

In these moments I can hear Satan laughing. “You think God is going to use you? You can’t even take care of a dog.   You are a horrible business woman, wife and mother. You cannot follow through on anything. You have made so many mistakes and you continue to make them. What is wrong with you?!”

You have heard those words too or something very similar. I know you have. We all hear them.  We just don’t talk about them.

So here is the question.

Who are you going to listen to?

Who am I going to listen to?

Who are we going to live by?

Satan?

Really?

Or God?

God’s voice is so much better. It is a voice of grace and love and yesterday it sounded like this.

“Amy, you are going to continue to make mistakes.

You won’t be perfect, not ever.

You won’t be anywhere near perfect, but that’s why you need me.

I am the author and the perfect example of grace.

I give you grace so that you might turn around and model grace in our broken world.

You never have to be perfect so stop living in your guilt.

I know you won’t ever quit messing up and I love you anyway.

That is why I forgive and why you should forgive.

And Amy, one more thing. 

Please quit listening to that jerk.

He is indeed the father of lies.”

And, so on Tuesday, when my sweet friends came home, I went down to apologize.   With tears, I said I was so very sorry and with tears in their eyes and with Amanda’s I-never-take-this-off beautiful smile, she said “No, we aren’t going to do this. Everything will be ok. We will trust God and realize this is just a bump in our journey.”

What?

Who says that?

And then yesterday, James gave me a hug and said “I don’t want you to feel guilty about this.  These things happen.”

That is grace modeled in this world.

Grace by definition is not something anyone deserves. By accepting it, we are freed.

Each day we have the opportunity to listen to the Author of Grace or the father of lies.

When life doesn’t go as planned, maybe it is not “Why God?” that we need to ask, but “Who are we listening to?”

Receive and give grace today my friends…..

 

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