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Tag: anxiety

Mary & Jesus

Know Your Source

It was a big day in the Dudley household. My sixteen-year-old passed the written driving test to get his learner’s permit. Shortly after, I handed over the wheel and was out on the road with him, traversing through neighborhoods. Handing over the controls isn’t an easy task. My right foot pumped an invisible break, and my grip tightened on the door handle. Somehow, I maintained a calm voice, “you’re doing well, now break… break… break harder.”

It’s strange to think that Mary the mother of Jesus would have fallen somewhere between my oldest and middle child’s ages when the angel, Gabriel, visited her. Here was a young girl who became the mother of the savior of the world before she’d even could qualify to get her driver’s license.

And talk about relinquishing control. Pregnancy itself feels like something has taken over your body. Add to that, the weight of wondering whether her betrothed would still marry her after discovering she was already with child. Back then, women relied on a man’s support and name. A ruined reputation could have landed Mary begging in the streets.

However, Mary’s only question to the angel, Gabriel, when he foretold what was about to happen was a technical one, “How can this happen? I am a virgin” (Luke 1:34). She didn’t ask about the consequences, what others might think of her, or what they might say. She didn’t worry if her husband would divorce her or her parents renounce her as their daughter. If she was concerned about her abilities to raise the Son of the Most High, she didn’t pose them. Mary told the angel, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true” (Luke 1:38).

Mary trusted God. She even visited with her cousin Elizabeth and rejoiced in song:

Mary holding Baby Jesus

 “How my soul praises the Lord.
  How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior!
  For He took notice of His lowly servant girl,
  and from now on, all generations will call me blessed.
  For the Mighty One is holy, and He has done great things for me.
  He shows mercy from generation to generation to all who fear Him.
  He mighty arm has done tremendous things!” (Luke 1:46-56).

That is not the song of an anxiety-ridden, frantic with worry, young woman. Mary’s attitude of praise came not from looking at her troublesome situation but by looking back at God’s faithfulness. He was and is the promise keeper. He was and is the way maker. To another, Mary’s circumstances would have looked bleak, but Mary’s source wasn’t Joseph, nor her parents, or her neighbors’ opinions.

Mary trusted The Source from whom all blessings flow—The Lord Most High.

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Architect, designer, and builder meeting over blueprints

The Rebuild Starts Today

Architect, designer, and builder meeting over blueprints

“The rebuild starts today” is the attitude my husband has taken for his businesses. It may be a bit early, but it changes the mindset to start planning for how we’re going to come out of this pandemic. For two weeks, it feels like we’ve been ostriches sticking our heads in the sand. Perhaps it’s time to raise our heads. It’s never too early to strategize about available options and develop a foundation to rebuild, maybe with a new perspective.

Ostrich

How often before March 15th, when asked, “How are you?” did we respond, “busy”?  The world was running, running, running, and then abruptly stopped. In An Echo in the Darkness part of the Mark of the Lion series by Francine Rivers (one of my favorite series), the mother of the hero has a stroke and can no longer talk. Her life changes overnight. No longer a prominent matriarch of Roman society, God reaches her through this suffering and uses it as an opportunity to redirect her focus to pray for the spiritual salvation of her misguided daughter.

It’s time for us to raise our heads and see the opportunities God is creating for us. Maybe we should acknowledge the new shift in priorities. How are we using the extra family time we didn’t have before the pandemic? Or if living alone and can’t see friends, maybe God is giving us a chance to pray more or read our Bible.

Many of us have been glued to the news channels, following what’s going to happen next, which only tends to be bad news, followed by more bad news. In Philippians 4:8, the Bible tells us to dwell on things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy. Easter changes the direction of focus from death to new life. The stone was rolled away. The tomb lay empty. Jesus rose from the dead. This is our opportunity to also rise from the monotony of our deadened mindsets. We hold a chance to be renewed with life.

three crosses at sunset

Let me back up a bit to Philippians 4:1. Paul reminds us to stand firm in the Lord. Not relax, sit, or lie, but to stand firm. In Philippians 4:2, he begs for unity—to be of the same mind in the Lord—not turning on each other, bickering, or nitpicking, but let your gentleness be evident to all (Philippians 4:5).

In 4:4, Paul tells us to “Rejoice in the Lord always.” But then he makes it a point to repeat himself to drive it home, “I will say it again, rejoice.” At Easter, we have so much for which to be joyful. The world may shake with fright, but we know Jesus has risen from the dead, and the grave no longer has a hold over us.

We have hope because we have a good God. We don’t need to fear because we have a great God.

In Philippians 4:6, it says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” We don’t need to worry. Because God commands it, we can toss anxiety away like that moldy leftover smelling up the fridge. Instead, through prayer and praise, we can tell God what has been on our minds, and in Philippians 4:7 God promises that His peace, “which transcends all understanding,” will guard our hearts and minds.

So, rise and rejoice, Easter is here!

Happy Easter and flowers

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My fearless middle son on the jungle gym

How to Lose Control and Like It.

My daring middle son on the jungle gym.

Danger doesn’t find my kids. They seem to seek it out.

A knock sounded on the door. My kids were watching a movie upstairs (back when they were ages 7, 6, & 4) while I cooked dinner. I sighed and turned the stove down. It had to be a salesman, peddling insect yard treatments, or a person soliciting votes to run for local office. I planned to shoo them swiftly away, so I didn’t burn supper.

I swung the door open with a tight expression to find a middle-aged man nicely dressed, standing back from the door by a good distance.

“May I help you?” I said in a clipped tone.

He glanced up, then back at me and shifted his weight. “I—ah—just wanted to let you know your son and his two friends are on the roof.”

I blinked while his words registered. I felt my eyes widen, and my stomach rose into my chest. Footsteps and small voices sounded on the landing behind me. I spun around and stared up at two curious little faces peeking through the railing. My voice pitched a couple of octaves higher. “You were on the roof?”

Their smiles evaporated.

The man at the door cleared his throat, bid me farewell, and hustled back to his car. I called out my thanks, my voice, this time, sweet as pie. I should have invited him in for dinner. I should have kissed his feet for taking the time out of his busy commute to stop and tell me my children were in danger. How many other cars had seen the kids and just kept driving?

I mounted the stairs two at a time and entered my room to see the open window and screen that led to the farmer’s porch roof. I popped my head out. The concrete sidewalk below the porch loomed like a gravestone. I searched for my oldest son, but he wasn’t outside. The youngest two pointed to the bathroom.

I yelled through the door. “Were you on the roof?”

“I was in here the whole time.”

My jaw clenched as my initial panic switched over to anger, knowing my oldest was the only one who had the height and dexterity to remove the child locks from the windows. 

My boys climbing the wrong side of the stairs
My older boys climbing the wrong side of the stairs

There is only so much control we have over a situation.

I want to protect my children from harm. I do what I can to keep them safe, give them rules and boundaries, put child-locks on the windows, turn on a movie, so they’re not underfoot while I cook dinner, risking serious burns, but there was and will always be something I don’t think of, something I can’t control.

It’s this lack of control that causes me anxiety. It wakes me up in the middle of the night with my heart racing, wondering what if… why didn’t I… I should have…

The helpless feeling sucks me into a dark place. I want to hold tight to my illusion of control and think of more ways to protect my family and our wellbeing, but the problem is just that—its an illusion. There have been so many days when I’ve kneeled on the bathroom floor crying out to God. I’ve failed them. I’ve messed them up for life. I’m not qualified. I don’t know enough.

It’s those times when God speaks into my heart. My love never fails. I’m in control. I will cover your faults. I will stand in the gaps. Cast your cares on me.

God doesn’t expect me to be perfect. It’s a ridiculous pressure I’ve placed on myself. God says, Trust in me and lean not on your own understanding (Proverbs 3:5).

I don’t know what happened to the nice man that stopped. I pray for God to bless him every time I remember this story, and I thank God that he sent him to protect my kids. Now, when I wake up in the middle of the night worried, I say a prayer for God’s protection and whisper to myself.

“God’s got this.”

My youngest stuck under the table
My youngest stuck under the kitchen table

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Back to school ispelled out n Scrabble pieces

Reserved

Getting Rid of First Day Jitters

Back to school spelled in Scrabble pieces.

Nothing can be more horrifying then carrying your tray across a crowded school lunchroom when you don’t know anyone. A new student can blend into a crowded hall, and in a classroom, there’s always an open desk, but lunch is a different story. I’ll never forget the first day of my senior year. We’d just moved up to the Boston area, and I didn’t know a soul. Kids dropped into seats next to their friends, laughing and catching up after a long summer. Girls clustered together at certain tables and boys at others. I lifted my chin and scanned for an open spot, trying to act as if I belonged.

There were open seats at the freshman tables, but I was an upperclassman, I couldn’t eat lunch with them. Juniors and seniors had a specific room sectioned off for us. I thought I found one, but as I attempted to sit, a girl’s hand covered the chair. She informed me it was reserved for her friend. I stood back up and glanced around for another open spot while the girl promptly forgot my existence.

I swallowed down my rising sense of panic and considered skipping lunch. How strict was this school on their hall pass policy? Could I make it to the library and hide among the books? As I stood there dripping with insecurity, a warm friendly voice said, “Hey, new girl. I think you’re in my physics class.” She slid over and patted the place next to her. “Want to sit here?”

I wanted to laugh and cry at the same time. I don’t know if my friend, Jessica, knew how much that simple act of kindness meant to me.

I was no longer alone.

group of people

Elijah, God’s prophet, knew an even more extreme version of loneliness. King Ahab had killed all of the prophets and his wife, Jezebel, threatened to kill Elijah within twenty-four hours. Elijah ran and hid. He told God he wanted to lay down and die because he believed he was the only one left, but God tells him in 1 Kings 19:15-18, “I have reserved seven thousand in Israel—all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal.”  

Elijah thought he was alone, but he was actually number seven thousand and one of God’s prophets. He didn’t see God’s bigger picture and plan. The whole time Elijah was struggling, God was working the situation. We may think we are alone like Elijah did, but we are not. God is aware of our situation, and He is preparing a way, strengthening our faith, connecting us with the right people, and working our circumstances for His glory.

My children start school this week. My oldest starts high school, and my youngest starts junior high. I always remind them to be friendly to the new kids because I know firsthand how rough the first day can be. If you are the new kid or you’re starting a new job, new church, new program, or you just feel lonely, please know you are not alone. God is with you, and he’s not only reserved you a seat. He’s reserved you a people.

To paraphrase Michael Bublé, you just haven’t met them yet.

“God sets the lonely in families” – Psalm 68:6

My boys getting ready for school
My boys getting ready for school. They don’t get as excited as they once did.

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