Poop, Potty and Perseverance

The blog was on a hold due to some pressing matters… poop, potty and perseverance. My daughter tuned two in September. Prior to her birthday, I spent time gearing up in learning how to potty train. I bought two books and powered through each chapter thinking, “my kids got this”. Day six, and I told my husband, “I want to ram my head into the wall”. My lack of patience took over any hope for perseverance.

As I started to back off my intensity of training, teaching and telling my daughter how GREAT the potty is, I noticed a change. Particularly in me. I noticed how before I lacked any peace because I wanted to avoid the suffering part. This is what I learned, not just about how scary poop is to a toddler, but more about perseverance and how there needs to be suffering to get to hope.

Fear of Suffering

Touchy subject because this is not fun, light, encouraging or something we look forward to. Yet, it’s inevitable, part of life and present in our lives at times. Witnessing my daughter be scared of the potty, refusing to use it because of the unknowns, shocked me. I kept thinking, if only she knew how much BETTER it will be once she uses it then the fear will leave. Then I thought, how hypocritical I am to say that. My husband and I are too facing unknowns as we plan to change jobs, cities and re-schedule our lives. Many times I look to God in fear. Assuming I know better in my comfort than He knows in my future. Its no different than my daughter crying out for her diaper, because its all she knows – that’s her comfort zone.

However, now she is confident in her ability to use the potty. I witnessed her growth in a short time period due to her perseverance through suffering. I too must face my fear to persevere. Even when it feels outside of my comfort zone.

Joy of Persevering

Without suffering there is no training in perseverance. Once we train in perseverance we grow more hopeful in Christ. I am hopeful in Christ because He saved me from death itself. I am joyful in my suffering because I grow closer to the suffering of Christ. Who sacrificed His life, died and rose again to save me, a sinner. That hope, resurrection and redemption lives in all of us who believe in Him. There is no greater hope than Jesus Christ. He is where the joy is.

Hope of Persevering

In times of suffering we need to visualize our minds and hearts onto Jesus so we don’t quit. The time frame is irrelevant because our hope is not found on earth, its in heaven.

My hope of my daughter using the potty was set on “day 3” of training… a little TOO ambitious and unrealistic of a goal. But I really wanted perfection not mere progress. How unfair of an expectation to assume of my child. I’m so glad that God, our heavenly father, is more interested in our spiritual growth as progress and not perfection. In some sense *figuratively speaking of course* I’m still potty training in many aspects of life. To step out of our comfort zone is the beginning of growth.

I’ve heard of faith like a muscle – use it or lose it. So whatever we face now is an opportunity to grow our faith muscles. Growing in likeness of Jesus, the original trail blazer.

My daughter will forget these weeks – but doesn’t mean she won’t face it again in other areas of her life. If I want her to persevere in life as a kid, teen and adult – I need to train her up in knowing who suffered to save her, Jesus, our only path to hope.

Perseverance looks like Jesus

We all face unique situations a part from each other. But where we come together in unity is through our knowledge and love for Christ. Our hope found in Him. This is how we encourage one another through suffering. Hope in Christ.

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. 

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5:1-8

Turning to God in the face of Unknowns

The heaviness of unknowns lurk into the next season and it’s weighty. Many of us feel the same weight. As Covid-19 progresses, or stays the same, the unknowns in how to walk it out remains. Some of us are sending our kids to school in fear. Some of us have big life changes looming with fear. All are valid fears. But then I heard of a life near to us that was on the line. The weight of surviving life or death became much more desperate in terms of unknowns. For me, it brought into perspective of how little we know about the trajectory of our lives.

This is what we train for: to have faith despite the unknowns we face on earth. Since earth is temporary to our eternal home in heaven. So, instead of stressing over the unknowns we must think about what we do know. Christ in us for us.

Unbelief into Belief

In Mark chapter nine, a father brings his demon possessed son to Jesus. Asking him, “if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” Jesus said to him, “if you can?! All things are possible for one who believes.” Then the boy’s father confesses to Jesus that he has some faith but acknowledges that he is spiritually weak. Then he appealed to Jesus to create in him a heart that believes more firmly. He said,Lord I believe, help my unbelief!” And Jesus healed his son who had an unclean spirit (Mark 9:14-29).

Pursuing life faithfully is a mental battle we must prepare for everyday. Scripture is not just a book with cool stories, its a life line of hope. We learn from the boy’s father who knew Jesus was the Messiah but not sure if he could heal his boy. It’s the half truth we have of Jesus. Yes, I know you’re good God – but I don’t trust you. Without scripture we become lost in our knowledge and understanding of God. Thus, the only way to overcome our anxiety is through fellowship with God by prayer and reading His Word.

Fear into Faith

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”

Philippians 4:6

Every morning I wake up and grab my journal and my Bible. I start my day writing out my prayers, making my requests known to God. I end my prayer with thanksgiving, because I acknowledge and remind myself who it is I am praying to. The Almighty God who was, is, and is to come. The same God who spoke directly to Moses guiding the Israelite’s to the promised land (despite their constant sin and setbacks). The same God who sent Jesus to die for me and bore my sins. I am praying to the God who formed me in my mothers womb. Who knows me better than I know myself. I pray because it turns my fear of unknowns into faith of being known by God.

Unknowns into Known

“And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 4:7

A big part of releasing my anxious thoughts and feelings is through prayer. The peace that comes upon me after I pray is a reassurance that God is with me. He guards my heart and mind like a solider guarding his own territory. As Christians, we can entrust all our unknowns and difficulties to the Lord, who rules over all creation and who is wise and loving in all His ways (Romans 8:31-39). Therefore, having an attitude of prayer and thanksgiving contributes directly to inward peace.

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation, But take heart, I have overcome the world.”

John 16:33

Suffering into Strength

There is no doubt that we will suffer and struggle in our faith because we are up against an enemy that is unseen, but seeks to devour our joy in Christ. Causing a heightened anxiety in us because we are fighting between two voices. A voice elevating our pride to worry and another voice humbling us to submit and pray. We must learn how God speaks to discern what is true.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.

1 Peter 5:6-11

In midst of your unknowns on earth,
recite and believe what you know in Christ!

God is Merciful

God is merciful – saving us even when we least expect it or don’t expect it at all. How quick we are to forget the blessings of God or ignore God’s hand over our lives when we fear our circumstance.

In Egypt, Pharaoh finally set the Israelites free from slavery due to the power and mercy of God through Moses and the ten plagues. They left Egypt to pursue their freedom. Upon their journey God shared with Moses His plan to rescue them once again. The Lord told Moses to lead the people of Israel through the wilderness to reach the sea. As their pursuit for freedom was not finished. Pharaoh and his hosts are coming after them. However, the Lord assured Moses that He would win over Pharaoh.

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Tell the people of Israel to turn back and encamp in front of Pi-hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, in front of Baal-zephon; you shall encamp facing it, by the sea. For Pharaoh will say of the people of Israel, ‘They are wandering in the land; the wilderness has shut them in.’  And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will pursue them, and I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his host, and the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord.” And they did so.

Exodus 14:1-4

In this passage we see God sharing His plan with Moses. The Egyptians are on their way to pursue and bring back the Israelites as slaves. But the Lord will have glory over Pharaoh and save the Israelites. This is all the information we get. No details as to how God will save them at the sea, just that He will. This is when I think of times when God gives me a plan without much detail. I know I have to trust Him anyway. But the Israelites were scared and lacked any trust! Once they saw the masses of angry Egyptians on their trail they trembled in fear. I would too if I was led through the wilderness and to the sea without a Noah-built-size-arc waiting for me.

The Israelites’ circumstantial fear trump their fear in the Lord.

The Israelites cried out to God and to Moses. They said, “is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us in bringing us out of Egypt? (Exodus 14:11)”. The Israelites’ fear in their circumstance overshadowed their fear in the Lord. Even though the Lord said He will get glory over Pharaoh. The Israelites are viewing their circumstances without reference to the fact that the Lord brought them there.

Trust in God for He is merciful to see His plans through.

God rarely gives us details of how His plans will unfold. But that doesn’t mean we stop trusting Him. The Israelites had proof already of God saving them through the signs and wonders that brought them out of Egypt. Yet, they chose to ignore those signs and feared their current circumstance instead. They were given plenty of good reasons to believe God would save them. How quick we are to forget the blessing we’ve already received.

Crossing the Red Sea – How God Saved the Israelites.

In the next few verses to follow, Exodus 14: 15-18, the Lord again reassures the Israelites. He repeats to them that He will get glory over Pharaoh, “and the Egyptians shall know that I am Lord“. The rest of chapter 14 explains the miraculous power of God controlling the red sea by splitting it half. So the Israelites have dry ground on the sea bed floor to walk through. The lord then closes the sea once all the Egyptians have entered, sweeping them up, not one remained. Then in Exodus chapter 15 the Israelites sing a song to the Lord in praise and worship! They have been saved and finally set free!

God is Merciful

God shares His plans but leaves out the details – not to harm us but to protect us. We learned about the Israelites’ fear in their circumstances and not in the Lord. I want to be more fearful of the Lord that my first response is to thank God for His plans not to doubt Him because of my circumstances. Through all the fear and doubt swarming over the Israelites, God’s plan to save them still prevails. He rescues them by parting the Red Sea and destroying their enemy. God is merciful. His ways are higher than our ways, His thoughts higher than our thoughts, and His plans higher than our plans! We just need to trust Him.

 Then Moses and the people of Israel sang this song to the Lord, saying,
“I will sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously;
    the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea.
The Lord is my strength and my song,
    and he has become my salvation;
this is my God, and I will praise him,
    my father’s God, and I will exalt him.

Exodus 15:1-2

Fear of what ifs Vs. Faith of what is

The Battle

I’m not going to fool anyone by saying, “I figured out how to live by faith not fear!” But, I will say, “I’m trying to figure out how to live by faith and not fear”. It’s a continual process and part of being human. Did I mention, I am a mother? Fear is going to be part of raising children. You want them to succeed, avoid danger or avoid any emotional or physical hurt at all – BAH!!! However, life throws hard “stuff” that we aren’t always ready to catch and is impossible to avoid. So, if I want faith to win over fear then I need to understand who’s leading the battle of both. Then with the knowledge of both I can decide (with confidence) why fighting for faith is worth the battle.

The Faith Team – Led by God

Who is God? Well that’s a big question because He’s pretty big, so I’ll attempt to write simply about Him. God is 3 persons in 1 God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit), omnipresent, creator and ruler of the world. What about His character? God is just, mighty, love and compassionate. Lastly, God is truth and He made promises for us in the Bible. What are some that I can lean on to bring me faith not fear? God promises eternal life to all who believe in Jesus Christ and repent of their sin. As a Christian and believer of Jesus I do not fear death. God promises He will help me and give me strength. I do not fear my own weakness. He promises He is always with me. I do not fear being alone. God says don’t be anxious about anything. I do not fear my own worries!

What is life with God vs. What is life without him.

Life with God means believing scripture is the truth and being obedient to what He says. I read my Bible because it leads my life and without it I am choosing to live without Him. I want real truth to lead my life so I need to know what He says “is”.

VS.

The Fear Team – Led by Sin

Who is sin? Wait isn’t this a good guy vs bad guy, obvious scenario? Well, if I wrote “the Devil” than yes it would be. No one generally wants to be on the Devil’s team. But writing “sin” is more complicated because the Devil cannot make us sin, but he can tempt us to. So sin can seem desirable, enjoyable and an inviting team. Its a war against our flesh and spirit. So what is sin? Well, simply explaining best I can, sin is anything we idolize above God. For example, its what we do, think or act upon what God hates or does not like. Hmm, that can be a long list, considering we are not perfect. So if sin is evident in us, then how do we fight against its team?

We need to know its strategy…

But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers.

James 1:14-16

Sin is deception

Our culture says truth is anything you believe in your heart is true! Where are the boundaries of good and evil in that? The sin team says, “if you say its good than its good! But fear lives in that because you can never know if that’s really true… so fear is still lives in the, “what if it’s not good for me?” Sin makes false promises to make you think you know better than God.

The sin team says, “do your best in whatever makes you happy!” But fear lives in that too because how do you know what truly makes you happy? Where does happiness come from?! If sin can make you feel “happy” but called evil in the Bible… why do I enjoy sin and sometimes I don’t?

Sin is satisfaction in the moment but detrimental for the long game.

Sin leaves us with no certainty of joy. It’s a hopeless promise into…. “what if” and when your life is on the line that’s just not enough to trust.

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

1 John 2:15-17

What team do you trust?

I want to join a team I know I can trust, believe with certainty and helps me mature righteously. Not one I make up on my own. I don’t trust myself… I’ve made a stir-fry once with oyster sauce as its base instead of hoisin sauce. The over saltiness of my dinner was unbearable to eat, a funny example of how I am untrustworthy to lead myself. Living as salt of the world is no good when it loses its essence to enhance flavor – its useless (Matthew 5:13). I am destructive and useless in my own flesh and in need of God who can lead me by His Spirit.

THUS, here is the battle…

For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.

Galatians 5:17

Our flesh (mortal beings) vs. our spirit (eternal beings) are at war. We must set our mind on things above and trust in the Word of God that is true. So God’s word can be the forefront of our mind and not the world’s ideas and falsified fads of “what’s happy this season” which gives no certainty of joy or eternal peace.

The Bible keeps me away from the destruction of my own sin. I read to understand and have a greater knowledge of He who I am following. This in turn renews my mind which gives me peace and joy in my life. Verses fear, which suffocates me – feeding me lies that the joy is in my control or found within me. Thus, there is freedom in faith – which says, its not in your control but by the grace of Jesus Christ.

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Galatians 2:20

Fighting with Faith

Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

1 Timothy 6:12

What we can control, as Christians, is our faith and how we choose to fight on its team! Each and everyday is an opportunity to renew our mind. It starts through our knowledge of Christ so we can become more like Him who blazed the trail before us.

Lead me God, show me where I lack faith so I can remove the lie of fear that my flesh wants to believe.

Eternal Hope

Three weeks since I have written, read my Bible and sat to spend time with the Lord. In the past three weeks I have experienced sickness, anxiety, prolonged eye twitches, a fun-filled-family vacation, SKIING for the first time and even more sickness.

Covid-19 has hit the world hard and its become a pandemic. Schools, businesses all shutting down to stop the disease from spreading. It has become crazy like a scene from a movie. Our government said to socially isolate. Stay home and to avoid public places and social gatherings.  We respect authorities and obey regulations as it is for our own benefit and the greater good for the world’s health (feels surreal to write that).

As a mom of a toddler, isolation was something I already was struggling with prior to the virus. I worked so hard to plan my weeks around mom groups, drop-in play times, bible studies and exercising at the gym. I was getting in a groove, finding my strength and “mom power” in my schedule. However, now in a immediate HAULT to all the scheduling and activities, we are stuck inside.

As I mentioned before it has been three weeks of not reading my Bible and as this quarantine is in play I have come to notice its effect. I have come to see how my scheduling in daily activities has become a greater hope in my life than the one of I have in Jesus. I am reminded (again) that spending time with Jesus is not a checklist for habit tracking, not just Sunday service, its a lifestyle. It’s an ongoing relationship with God, one that must be prioritized in our hearts above anything else.

So in this time of mandatory world isolation, as a Christian, how do I find contentment?

My contentment is no longer in my perfect scheduling, in my feeling of being a”fit mom”, “a productive mom”, or “a socially active mom”.  Instead, it’s in my pursuit of being a Godly mom. A mom that does not quit because her circumstances have changed or her fears of isolation has returned. Even if you are not a mom, your schedule has changed by working from home or by putting your plans on hold. As a believer in Christ I, once again, re-focus my hope back on Him – focusing less on my plans and more on His, because His plans are eternal.

I pray everyday for this virus to dissipate, dissolve, and stop completely – because I believe in a miraculous and good God. I pray for faith to lead and not fear. I pray that we draw near to God so He can draw near to us. I pray over those that are sick to be healed and to be restored back to full health.

In my negligence of prioritizing my relationship with God, I’ve become more comfortable with the world’s bond.  If this virus taught me anything, it’s this: I cannot rely on the world – it will always fail me. But what I know that will never fail me is my hope in Christ Jesus.

1 Timothy 6:6-12 (NIV)

But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. 11 But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

Routine Interrupted

Having the same bedtime routine every night can assist in a good night’s rest. Routines help us in creating order and structure in our life. It’s the predicable things we do each day to get us out the door to work, to the gym and back to bed. Routines are good, we like routines.

But routines don’t always work, nor do they always last the same way, same time, and every day. Interruptions occur, more than we would probably like. An interruption to our day could be as simple as the car doesn’t start in the morning, or as severe as someone in the family got sick… Interruptions can be stressful and most often we are never prepared for them.

Being a new mother comes with a lot of FEAR and unexpected interruptions that occur with raising a baby. What gives me comfort is having a routine specifically around my baby’s sleep schedule. I gain confidence in having our daily routine. However, it can change in a moment and when it does it can create a stormy period for us. To gain back control, in midst of the storm, I find it’s in the researching. By gaining understanding and learning about the developmental stages of my baby, it helps me to know how to navigate the stormy period. I learn more about her, myself, and I gain encouragement through receiving messages from other mama friends who have gone before me and experienced this same storm.

The more I study about my baby’s developmental stages the more I am ready for our next storm. As Christians we need to apply the same study to our spiritual life. The Bible is our guidance to living life. I don’t have answers as to why certain things happen to you and I, but God knows and I’m writing to encourage you to seek him in His Word, to understand His character through it.

Jesus, who commands the wind and the waves to be still, will also command the fears in your life to be still. We learn this through Mark 4:35-41: Jesus Calms the Storm:

35That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.36 Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. 37 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped38 Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”

39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.

40 He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

41 They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”

IVP Bible Background Commentary by: Kenner says: “Storms often rose suddenly on the lake called the Sea of Galilee; these fishermen had usually stayed closer to Capernaum and are unprepared for a squall this far from shore.” Key note, from this detail it assumes that to avoid a storm in their journey, routine had them stay closer to shore. But in this passage Jesus commands they go to the other side, far from shore. An interruption to their routine occurs when they sail far form shore encountering a vicious storm. Riddled with fear they ask Jesus, “teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”

So often we get put in these unprepared territories far from our “normal” shoreline and its fearful. It seems like if it’s not in our daily routine, it’s “out of our control”. When Jesus calms the storm He proves that we don’t have control in our human strength, but the control is found in our spiritual strength, our faith in Him. “He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” As Christians we know that Jesus has already gone before us, being the ultimate replacement to our fear, anxieties, loneliness’, and death by His death on the cross. John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish by have eternal life.”

Where in your life have you been experiencing a storm or an unexpected interruption? How are you letting it lead your life? Don’t let the next interruption to your routine defeat you. Beat it by learning about the character of Jesus Christ because faith in Jesus has more power than any storm.