My mind is on Easter, which makes sense because it’s my job to prepare for Easter for the children’s ministry at my church. But on a personal level, my mind is on Easter because I’ve been asking God some questions. As I pray for my loved ones who are hurting, as I chat with my friends who are discouraged, as I put clean sheets on my foster daughters’ beds, I’m asking God…
I think these are the questions that will come up each time we face something new—each time we have the option of shrinking back or moving forward in God’s plan for us.
Even though I have gone public with my goal of not shrinking back with my faith (thanks to my book and my blog), I still have an inner dialogue of wondering if maybe I have unrealistically high expectations for God to work in the situations that I’m praying about now.
I’m thinking about my friend who has been praying for her husband for years, and he still treats her like dirt. I’m thinking about my friend who I’ve been praying with for years about getting a job she will actually enjoy, and she’s gone to interview after interview and still hasn’t heard back from the last employer. I’m thinking about the friends I grew up with who are apathetic towards God, and their family members are still praying for them to come alive in Christ.
And it’s weird, but sometimes I feel guilty for believing God will answer my prayers when I knew these friends haven’t yet seen the answers they’re hoping for. Maybe my audacious faith is annoying to some of my friends. But then I stop and remind myself that their story isn’t over, that there’s more God wants to do.
As I mentioned, I asked God, “Are my expectations too high? My expectations for my prayers, for my friends, for my foster daughters—are they too high?”
I felt like God said, “The issue isn’t necessarily with how high your expectations are. What you need to be asking is if your expectations are MY expectations.”
In that same moment, the Lord reminded me of Psalm 103:3-6, as if to clarify to me what His expectations are.
“[The LORD], who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.”
As I read that familiar psalm on that day, I thought, “That’s right. This is what God does.”
It might not look the way I expect it to, but this is what God does:
This is what God does. So that’s my expectation now, and I will pray in agreement with what God has said.
Like the old saying says, we are an Easter people in a Good Friday world. The situations around us often feel bleak and heartbreaking, just like Jesus’ disciples felt on the night Jesus died on the cross. But when we have the hope of Easter in us, we carry the hope of new life, of power over death and power over every single problem we’ll face.
The reality of brokenness is so daunting; I’ve felt that burden lately. But I want to be a girl who carries that Easter-hope in me into every situation I face. That Easter-hope in us helps us to believe that JESUS HAS OVERCOME. Just as Jesus overcame death in the grave, He still redeems lives from the pit. Jesus can bring new life to that person who statistics say will never change. THIS IS WHAT GOD DOES.
This is what God does, so #WeWontShrinkBack.
Here are a few things that have encouraged me this week:
P.S. Next week my girls are on Spring Break, so I will also be taking a break from my blog. (They were also on break this week too, which is why I’m a little off schedule. Lol) I’ll check in with you on April 5 with hopefully another update about my book.
This past week, I’ve felt like selfishness has been calling my name—tugging at my hand, trying to pull me over to the dark side. Selfishness has been whispering to me, “Just think about yourself. Who cares about other people?”
And it becomes this fantasy: If only I could take a million-hour nap and ignore everyone else’s needs forever…
That fantasy is so tempting, but at the heart of it, it is selfish. Now I want to tell you that I did take a 3-hour nap on Sunday, so I am in full support of taking naps and getting rest and simplifying your life and saying no when needed. For better or for worse, I’m all about taking it easy and being gentle with myself when I’m feeling FRAGILE and PATHETIC. But I know in my gut that indulging in a fantasy of selfishness where I ignore others is not living out the life of love Jesus has called me to.
It’s important for me to recognize that I can’t be anyone’s Savior (only Jesus can be that), and I must rely on God’s strength instead of my own when it comes to pouring out sacrificial love in my life. But I can’t shrink back in indifference just because I’m tired and stressed. I can certainly rest for a little while, but I can’t shrink back.
My Most Recent Moment of Feeling Fragile and Pathetic
Perhaps you can relate: Every 2 or 3 months, I’ll have a few days when I’m just not emotionally at my best. This emotional state, it just is what it is, and I think all I can do is ride out the wave with as much dignity as possible.
It started last week when I began having issues with the toilets in my house. (I really hate to talk about toilets, but whatever—this is real life.) By Wednesday evening, both toilets were no longer flushing. This had never happened before, and plunging wasn’t helping—so Thursday morning I sent my parents a desperate text full of crying-face emojis that said I didn’t know what to do, and I needed their help.
I texted my mom, “It’s so gross, I just want to die.”
She said, “Ok drama queen.”
My parents came to check on it that evening, but soon decided that I needed to call a professional. In the meantime, my foster daughters and I had to drive over to my parents’ house for our potty breaks. I was wigging out a bit, and my older foster daughter said, “Mary, you have no chill. It’s just toilets.”
I almost started crying because—really, is it “just toilets?” Or is it some straw that is threatening to break my back/my sanity/my emotional resolve to keep up with life?!!!!!!
I woke up the next morning and thought about how I was feeling. “Overwhelmed” didn’t quite seem to describe it.
But I wrote in my prayer journal and read some Psalms, and then my dad graciously came over to my house to meet the Roto-Rooter guy.
While Dad and the Roto-Rooter guy were outside assessing the situation, I was inside sweeping my kitchen floor and trying to decide what to fix for supper, which can be kind of a complicated task. I love my girls to pieces, but they are picky eaters, and they don’t like my style of cooking. Mostly they like pizza rolls and hot pockets, but I feel guilty when I let them eat that too often. I was brainstorming options that were halfway healthy, but it was hard to figure out something that they would both like. I knew that since I was emotionally on edge that day, I would not handle it well if I went through the trouble to go to the store and make them something only for them not to eat it.
Dad came inside to get me, and the Roto-Rooter guy told me that he couldn’t help me. (I wanted to tell him that I would pay him 50 million dollars if he could just make my toilets flush right now. But since I didn’t have 50 million dollars, I kept listening.) He said that because we’ve had so much rain, my septic tank is flooded with ground water—so you know, just stop using water in your house until we stop having rainy weather.
When I heard this news, I put my broom away and sat on the couch. I knew this meant this would be a recurring problem whenever we have a rainy season. I checked my weather app and saw that it was supposed to be rainy for the next few days. I couldn’t move off the couch. It was my day off, and I had been hoping to get a few other things done that day, but I thought, I can’t clean one more inch of this house, and I just want to quit on life.
Dad saw that I was feeling low, and he took pity on me. He went to the store to buy a pump, and then he set it up, so it would pump out the ground water. And praise God, a few hours later, my toilets were flushing again.
I went over to my parents’ house in the meantime, and Mom had made sloppy Joes for lunch, and it tasted so good because I hadn’t eaten anything all day. I remembered that I had a gift card for Cracker Barrel, so I decided that I would take the girls there for dinner, which meant no grocery shopping, no cooking, no dishes for tonight. And I could feel my muscles relaxing a little.
I cheered up once I picked up the girls from school and took them out to eat. I was feeling more like me and invited my niece and nephew over for a sleepover. It wasn’t necessarily a restful ending to the day, but it was a happy one. :)
Even though the situation with my toilets is (mostly) resolved, I’m still feeling stressed about some other things this week.
The problem is that I’m just tired and on edge. Tired of cleaning and tired of keeping track of money and tired because it’s been so rainy and because I lost an hour of sleep to Daylight Savings Time.
I keep catching myself feeling impatient. I keep catching myself wanting to think about only me—and that’s the selfish trap that seems inviting right now. The little bit of self-awareness I have allows me to ask, “So where is this selfishness coming from? Stress? Hormones? Spiritual attack? The emotional weight of pain and hardships that I’m now carrying with my girls?”
I probably just need to go to bed early tonight. But the million-dollar question I’m asking today is… HOW can we ride out this emotional wave without giving into selfishness?
The best I know to do is to acknowledge the selfishness, tell God that I don’t want to live like that, and then think through the people I’m interacting with today and pray, “God, help me to see (insert name) the way You see him. Help me to see (insert name) the way You see her.”
When I can’t muster up sacrificial love on my own, I can at least ask God to help me to see those in my path the way He sees them. I can beg that He gives me His love for them when really, all I want to do is whine about my toilets.
P.S. I wrote this yesterday, and I did go to bed early last night. I was asleep by 9:30, so I’m feeling much, much better today! Lol :) Also, I’m still working through the final formatting details of my book, and my goal is for it to be released in May!
Mary works at Brookville Road Community Church, where she leads children's ministry and women's ministry. She is the author of She Won't Shrink Back: A Story of Building & Believing.