Last week will not go down in history as one of my favorites. I know the Lord is trying to teach me something and it seems He has to wreak havoc to get my attention sometimes. I’ve told you before how difficult it has been learning to cope with an empty nest. The “parenting of young children” season of my life has ended and I have felt purposeless.
What do I do now? That question has haunted me many a recent night.
It was with those thoughts rolling around in my mind that I boarded an airplane on a twenty five year “second honeymoon” trip to Hawaii recently. (By the way, it really is paradise.) The seven days my husband and I spent there were amazing and I found myself feeling encouraged and ready to come home to face whatever the Lord had next for me. I was slightly tanned and fresh when I boarded the plane in Honolulu, I may have even had a little North Shore sand on my feet. I wasn’t prepared for the heaviness that landed like a boulder in my spirit when the plane landed on the Mainland.
I felt the despair I thought I’d shaken in tropical paradise return and I fell back into my same old habit.
I whined and complained in my spirit, and to my husband, about all the things that have happened lately and how hard life had been. I told him how I felt abandoned and unheard, as though my prayers hit the ceiling and slapped me in the face as they fell to the floor. I mean, why hadn’t the Lord answered? Why was I having to wait? And why did the waiting have to be so hard? I groaned and griped about it all and my man listened, bless him, and tried to lift my spirits as we drove away from the airport.
So long paradise, we’d left it behind in every way.
When I got home I talked to my daughter about it all, rehashing the same old frustrations I’d laid on my husband. She listened and tried to offer encouragement. But I was not to be deterred, or lifted, or helped. The Lord was making my life harder than I thought it needed to be and I wanted to understand why; and I wanted a way out.
I wanted to “run, Forest, run!”
In the midst of all my turmoil it has become clearer to me that where we focus our attention is exactly what will rule our thoughts and emotions. And for some reason the negative is so much easier to notice than the positive, so I found myself up to my eyelids in negativity.
And talking about it felt like scratching an itch, so talk about it is what I did!
But all that talking seemed to reinforce and magnify the size of my problems, more and more I felt like God wasn’t answering my prayers, maybe he wasn’t even hearing them. These thoughts took my mind captive and I began to feel hopeless, like my prayers were futile. I had prayed and prayed and yet here I was, still asking God to help the same situations I’d been asking him to work in for weeks and months.
The more I thought about it, the more discouraged I felt and the deeper I sank into my hopelessness.
I want to throw this in here. You know, it is so easy to justify a negative way of thinking; I do it way too often. We don’t really believe God is going to answer that request, whatever it may be. Or circumstances get unbearable and the easiest response is to talk about how unfair it feels, or wonder if God has forgotten about our peril. Complaining is human nature and a natural thing to do; choosing to believe the positive in a negative situation takes a MOUNTAIN of faith in my book. To believe God will come through against what my circumstances are screaming at me takes more faith than I have at times.
I was in a complaining state of mind as I headed to church Sunday morning. I knew I needed to confess my ungratefulness for ignoring all God IS doing on a daily basis. Things like opening my eyes in the morning to see the world around me, two healthy legs (albeit older and wobblier than they once were) that are strong enough to walk me to the bathroom at 2am. A mind that works at least half the time, a place to live, a good job, healthy children, a husband who thinks I’m still twenty (I love him for still seeing me that way.) Good conversations, my dad, faithful lifelong friends, hair color (one of my favorite things) the smell of coffee brewing, my blog and the people who read it.
It was then I realized, as I knelt at the front of my little church to pray, how much time I’d spent thinking about all the things that were hard and wrong. I also realized my complaining might just be a disguise for unbelief. I mean, if I really believed God would answer those prayers in HIS time, which is exactly what I pray for, then why was I worried? Shouldn’t I just lay those cares and concerns down and trust He is taking care of them? Even when I can’t see or understand what He’s doing. He is God, after all, He can do what He wants when He wants, right?
So much easier said than done, but it is the secret to joyful living.
It was then I came face to face with a crisis of belief.
Do I really believe God has good plans for my future?
I have a good life. Seriously, it is a good life, when did I lose sight of that?
Now, I’ve always tried to be real with my readers, this is my real, unfiltered life I’m sharing. Sometimes it’s easier than others to be this transparent. I wish I could wrap up this blog with a nice little bow of how I’m focusing only on the good now, and that this lesson has been learned.
But, that would be untrue.
I have reached the place of recognizing what needs to change. Now the tough work begins. Change is hard. I have made a conscience effort to try and stop the complaining in my mind before it reaches my mouth. I am not always successful but I have noticed my heart feels a little lighter and the world looks a little brighter. I still have a long way to go in the process of healing from the blows life throws at you, but I am learning gratefulness is the enemy of hopelessness.
I’m taking it one ordinary day at a time.
I wish I could’ve taken you all on the trip to Hawaii with me, I will forever remember our time there. I’ve made the lightheartedness I felt while touring this beautiful place a goal for my life. As a matter of fact, I brought a little bit of sand home with me…in a container, not just on my feet.
Philippians 4:8 “And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”