If You Don’t Like The Way Things Are


I don’t know why stuffed animals have to disappear at bedtime.  It drives me crazy.  Everything was going smoothly.  The girls had brushed their teeth and changed into their nightgowns.  And then it happened. Bomb was missing.  Our little sweetheart who sleeps with Bomb every night wasn’t happy. She asked “Where’s Bomb?”  I told her I didn’t know where he was but she needed to go look for him.  She got mad. She screamed and she stomped her foot.  I told her again to go look for him.  She just stood there and stared at me. So I said “If you want to sleep with Bomb you need to go look for him.  If you don’t like the way things are then you need to do something to change it.”  She reluctantly left the room to look for him.

Wow.  Did you hear what you just said?  If you don’t like the way things are then you need to do something to change it.  That’s good.  I need to write that down.    

Within a matter of minutes our little sweetheart came back in the room carrying Bomb.  I asked her “Did screaming and stomping your foot help you find Bomb?” She said no.  “Did you find him because you went and looked for him?”  She said yes.  I told her the next time she can’t find something she needs to look for it and skip the screaming and stomping.  I hope she remembers.

It’s hard to go to sleep when you realize you’re a hypocrite.  I’d just told my daughter that if she didn’t like the way things are then she needed to do something to change it.  But I wasn’t doing that in my own life. As I lay there wide awake I found myself thinking about a day at the beginning of 2017. I was standing at the kitchen sink washing dishes. I was feeling hopeless and angry.  Nothing seemed to be going right. Everything seemed to be going wrong.  Struggle after struggle had piled on top of each other.   A few huge disappointments had been thrown into the mix.  I found myself drowning under the weight of it all.  This picture of my life wasn’t at all what I expected.  I started thinking about Jeremiah 29:11.  For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.   At that moment I honestly didn’t feel like those words were true.  How is this situation going to prosper me?  How is this plan going to give me hope and a future? I felt the Lord speak to my heart “I know the plans I have for you.  My plans are different from your plans.  But I promise My plans for you are good.”  I would like to say that as I stood at the kitchen sink that day that I traded my plan in for God’s plan.  But I didn’t.

Instead I chose to let disappointment consume me and my emotions control me.  I cried way too many tears over things that I couldn’t change. Insomnia plagued me for months.  Anxiety reared its ugly head and started tormenting me once again. I could feel all of the hope being sucked out of my life.  I started doubting. I wasn’t sure if God was really good.  I felt like He didn’t love me.  Because if He loved me then something would be going right, wouldn’t it?  I became angry with God and my prayer life suffered.   It’s hard to talk to someone you’re mad at.  I found myself in a pit and I didn’t know how to get out of it.

And then Bomb disappeared and those words of truth came out of my mouth.  If you don’t like the way things are then you need to do something to change it.   I was miserable.  I didn’t like the way things were in my life.  But what could I do to change it?  The truth is that there was nothing I could do to change my situation.  I realized the only thing I could do was change was my attitude.

I had been driving through life expecting my plans to succeed.  Why wouldn’t God want these plans for me and my family? They were good plans.  But for whatever reason God put a road closed sign in my path.  I was stunned.  Why would He do that?  The best thing to do when you come to a road closed sign is to turn around and find a road that’s open.  But what did I do instead?  I grabbed the gear shift, put it in park, and planted myself in front of the road closed sign.  I didn’t move for months because I didn’t want to take a different road.  This was the road I wanted to be on.  As far as I was concerned there was no other road.  I chose to stay stuck in the middle of my grief and disappointment.  I looked exactly like my little sweetheart who didn’t want to go look for her stuffed animal.  We were both saying the same thing.  I don’t like this and I’m mad.  Don’t ask me to do anything to make it  better.  I’m just going to stand here and pout.

So after Bomb was found I decided it was time for me to start practicing what I was preaching.  It was time to stop camping out in front of a road closed sign.   I had to stop grieving what would’ve been and I needed to start focusing on what can still be.  So I made a choice.  I grabbed the gear shift, put it in reverse, turned around, and decided to see what other road God has for me.  And a funny thing happened.  I started sleeping again.  I wish I hadn’t wasted so much time letting my disappointment paralyze me.  But the good news is that I’m moving again.  And I’ll keep going.  I’ll trust that God will direct my path.  He’ll show me the road that He knows is best for me.  And I hope that if and when I encounter another road closed sign that I won’t stomp my foot, pout, and get mad because I don’t like it.  But instead I’ll thank Him for closing the roads that keep me from settling for less than His best for me.

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When You’re Between Two Paintings

 

Two paintings hang on the wall in our living room.  Our oldest daughter, Taylor, painted both of these masterpieces.  She was only 6 years old when she painted the one on the left.  I can still remember her sweet face and how she beamed with pride as she showed me her very first painting.  She’d only been going to art class for 2 months.  I was amazed at what she was able to accomplish in such a short time.  Taylor was 19 when she completed the painting on the right.  She was all smiles as she turned it around for me to see.  My mouth dropped open and I squealed with delight.  I grabbed it out of her hands and I hung it on the wall in the living room.

One day as I was sitting on the couch admiring Taylor’s artwork I started thinking about all that had happened between those two paintings.  It took 13 years to get from the painting on the left to the painting on the right.  So many things happened that people will never see.  Taylor spent many hours learning how to paint and practicing over and over again.  She painted over mistakes that none of us will ever know about.  I drove her to class every week and I waited 2 hours for class to get over.  I wrote more checks than I can count.  And there’s dad who worked hard those 13 years to pay for the art classes.  And we can’t forget about Grandma.  Grandma took Taylor to art class for an entire year after Mikayla and Hope were born.  She didn’t want me to have the stress of packing them up and taking them with us.  Getting from one painting to the next painting cost our family something.  It wasn’t always easy.  But it was worth it.

In the last two months our family has been faced with two extremely difficult decisions.  We’ve had a lot of sleepless nights.  Anxiety wrapped itself around me and nearly choked me.  My sweet husband and I have had a lot of discussions (um….I mean fights) about what we should do.   I’ve consumed a lot of chocolate.  And finally we’ve found the answer to both situations.  The answer to the first decision is yes.  This yes came with a lot of questions, uncertainty, and fear attached to it. Our family will be going through a lot of changes because of this decision.  But even in the midst of fear we chose to say yes.  The answer to the second decision is no.  This no came with a lot of disappointment and heartbreak.  I wanted the answer to be yes.  I dug my heels in and I wasn’t going to change my mind.  Why can’t Brett see that the answer is yes?  It’s so obvious that the answer is yes. And then the day finally came when I heard God whisper the answer into my heart.  And His answer was no.   I was devastated.

Something happened to me once the decisions were made.  Even though I knew we’d made the right decisions I felt empty and hopeless.  I didn’t go to church for 3 weeks.  The process of walking through the decisions has been difficult.  I’ve had to give up something that I really wanted.  I’ve had to say yes to something that scares me out of my mind.  Life’s going to look different than I thought it would look.  As all of the disappointment and uncertainty were swirling around inside of me God reminded me of the paintings.

He said: You’re between two paintings.  This is the part that no one sees.  This is the part that costs something that no one will ever know about.  This is the part when you feel like your heart has been ripped out and yet you choose to go on.  Trust me during this time of disappointment.  Trust me when My plans look different than your plans.  You’re acting like this is the final painting in your story.  But it’s not.  You’re in the middle of your story.  I know the plans that I have for you.  And they are good.   

This moment with God gave me hope.  God can paint a better picture for my life than I could ever paint.  He’s taken the paintbrush and He’s painting over my mistakes.  He’s painting over the plans that I made.  He’s painting over the disappointment that makes my heart ache.  And I believe one day I will step back and look at His painting of my life.  And the no that broke my heart in 2017 will suddenly make sense.  Because I will see that His plan was better than my plan.  I will see that He painted things into my life story that I would’ve never thought to add.  I pray that if today you are feeling hopeless and disappointed that you will turn to the One who will give you hope.  If life doesn’t look anything like you want it to look turn to the One who is writing your story.  And trust Him.  Trust that His Word is true.   For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11).