By Grace Alone

The real life struggles of a Christian mom

A New Life Verse July 30, 2009

I think I have found my “Life Verse.”  I’ve never had a life verse before, but I know people who do.  The verses are usually very inspirational, something along the lines of reaching the nations or future generations for God.  Good stuff, really.  My favorite verse thus far is Romans 8:1, but it didn’t seem to fall into the Life Verse category.

But a couple of weeks ago when I was doing my Bible study (an awesome study of God’s attributes which deserves many, many blog posts that I don’t currently have time to write), I came across a verse I’ve never noticed before:

2 Chronicles 20:12:  We don’t know what to do, but our eyes are on you.

Some context for those of you who don’t have 2 Chronicles memorized:  King Jehoshaphat and the Israelites are watching multiple nations of enemies coming against them in battle.  They know there is no way they can defeat this multitude.  Jehoshaphat calls the people together, and they cry out to the Lord, asking what they should do.  It specifically mentions that they are all standing before the Lord, along with their wives and children.   Can you imagine this picture?  Standing there, clutching your children to you, watching the enemy come, knowing you are powerless against them and crying out to the Lord for help.  (To see how it ends, see 2 Chronicles 20.)

This has definitely become my Summer Verse, if not my Life Verse.  For one thing, this verse is very easy to memorize.  It rhymes and has lots of 2’s in the reference.  And if there is one theme in my life right now, it is that I don’t know what to do.  I don’t know how to encourage my 5-year-old to not become a prideful Pharisee who craves approval and does all the right things only when someone is watching.  (It takes one to know one, and that kid is just like me.)  I don’t know how to encourage my 3-year-old to put his poop in the potty rather than in his pants.  And I certainly don’t know how to encourage my sister-in-law as she battles the most formidable enemy we’ve faced in a long time:  breast cancer.

I don’t know what to do, but my eyes are on the One who is my refuge and strength, an very present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1).  He promises His perfect wisdom is ours for the asking. (James 1:5).  He hems me in, behind and before, and lays His hand upon me (Psalm 139:5).  When my eyes are on Him, I can choose to be overwhelmed by His love and goodness toward me, rather than being overwhelmed by my circumstances.  (With thanks to my summer Bible study leader for this last thought.)

I don’t know what to do, but my eyes are on You.


Worry August 7, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — Marissa Henley @ 7:11 am
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You want to hear some pathetic? I was looking for this post the other day. I was certain I had written a post about Worry at some point, but couldn’t find it anywhere. Yesterday I noticed I had two drafts–I knew about one, but couldn’t remember the second. Yep, there was my post about worry. Just some notes, waiting to be written into a post. I can be such an airhead sometimes!

So what I thought I had written weeks ago is what Linda Dillow has to say about worry in her book, “Calm My Anxious Heart.” (Click the Linda Dillow tag on the right to see my other posts on this book.) I loved her discussion of God’s character. She writes about how He is trustworthy, faithful, and eternal. His goodness and power are constants, despite our changing circumstances. We know about God’s character from His Word, which also does not change. Truth is truth, regardless of our feelings and situation.

So when difficulties come, we can choose to worry, or we can choose to trust the One who is trustworthy. Dillow writes, “When What Ifs come into our lives, we must ask ourselves if we’re going to judge God by the circumstances we don’t understand or judge the circumstances in light of the character of God” (p. 160).

One reason I struggle with worry so often is that I am too focused on the future and possible troubles that could come my way. Almost all of the possible events I worry about never happen. Dillow included a quote from George McDonald that really spoke to me about this: “It has been well said that no man ever sank under the burden of the day. It’s when tomorrow’s burden is added to the burden of today that the weight is more than a man can bear” (p. 190). I’m trying to focus more on what God is calling me to do right now and not borrow trouble from tomorrow.

In Dillow’s discussion of faith, she writes: “We say we want more faith, but really what we want is sight. Sight says, ‘I see that it’s good for me, so God must have sent it,’ but faith says, ‘God sent it, so it must be good for me.’ God asks us to walk by faith, not by sight” (p. 151). This was so convicting for me. I love information. I hate surprises. I want to know everything, and I want to be the first to know. But God asks me to trust Him, even when I don’t have all the information.

Dillow includes two examples of this type of faith from Scripture. In Exodus 14, the Israelites are fleeing Egypt. During a long, dark night, they can hear the Egyptians closing in, and they are terrified. They cannot see that during the night, God is working to save them by parting the Red Sea.

In Habakkuk, God tells the prophet Habakkuk that his people are going to be conquered by a nation known for its cruelty. Habakkuk asks God why He will allow this to happen, but God does not provide an answer. Habakkuk must endure the suffering, relying on God’s faithfulness and character. In the midst of devastation and an uncertain future, Habakkuk chooses to rejoice in the Lord: Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places (Habakkuk 3:17-19). I had never read Habakkuk before, and I recommend it to you. It is only three chapters, so it is a quick read.

Just like the Israelites and Habakkuk, sometimes we are required to walk through a dark night without knowing why or how it will end. Even without all the information we’d like to have, we know that God’s Word is true and His goodness never falters. We can trust that no matter what storm is blasting through our life, from God’s eternal perspective, we are safe in His hands.


Proverbs July 21, 2008

Filed under: parenting — Marissa Henley @ 8:10 pm
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A wise woman (my pastor’s wife) pointed out recently that there are 31 chapters in Proverbs, and perhaps we should be reading one a day each month. So in July, I set out to read Proverbs. I’m a little behind the one chapter a day schedule . . . probably on the two-month regimen. But it has been fabulous. I’m amazed at how the Holy Spirit has brought specific verses to my attention at just the right time. Here are some verses that have stood out to me:

Yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understand, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. Prov 2:3-5. Am I searching for wisdom from God or for earthly riches?

The tongue of the righteous is choice silver; the heart of the wicked is of little worth. The lips of the righteous feed many, but fools die for lack of sense. Prov 10:20-21. For the sake of my children and others around me, is righteousness or foolishness on my tongue?

Whoever trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will flourish like a green leaf. Prov 11:28. I think you all know this is an issue for me.

A prudent man conceals knowledge, but the heart of fools proclaims folly. Prov 12:23. This one has me evaluating what I write on my blog.

Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad. Prov 12:25. Feeling weighed down? I do often.

A wise son hears his father’s instruction, but a scoffer does not listen to rebuke. Prov 13:1. I want to be receptive to my heavenly Father’s instruction, so I can teach my children how to grow in wisdom as well.

Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin. The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied. Prov 13:3-4. Ouch and double ouch. That darn snooze button betrays me every time.

Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him. Prov 13:24. I’m sure this one doesn’t need explanation if you know I have a 2-year-old.

As you can see, there’s all kinds of good stuff there. I encourage you to read Proverbs with me–if you start now, you will have a head start on August!


Splinters June 12, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — Marissa Henley @ 8:34 pm
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Last night as we were enjoying a gorgeous evening in our backyard, Christopher started complaining that his finger hurt. “Well, how convenient,” I replied, gesturing toward my hubby, “your dad is a finger doctor!” Christopher had two splinters in his finger, and after 10 minutes with the finger doctor, Christopher re-emerged from the house screaming hysterically. The splinters were too deep for tweezers, and Daddy would need to use a needle to scrape away the skin and get to the splinters.

For close to an hour, Christopher was hysterical, and we were miserable. He settled into an annoying wimper, and anytime we mentioned taking the splinter out, it erupted into terrified screaming. I tried begging, distracting, admonishing, and yelling (why is it that yelling at them to stop yelling NEVER works??). Will joined in, pointing his finger at Christopher and saying, “Stop that, right now!” exactly the way I do when they throw a tantrum or fight with each other. (Yep, that one hurt. Will be trying to remove that from my repertoire.) We even tried holding him down, with Little Einsteins playing for good measure, but he went ballistic and there was no way to keep his finger from moving.

So I stuck him in his room for several minutes while I calmed down. He was still crying when I went in, and he didn’t even want me in the room for fear that I would try to take the splinter out. It was insane. But this time I had come armed with new ammunition: Scripture and the promise of chocolate ice cream. I finally got him calmed down enough for us to talk about the situation. I asked if he remembered our memory verse for the week, which conveniently enough, is: Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go (Joshua 1:9). We talked about how it might hurt a little, but that God would be with Him. Plus, if he was good and brave, he would get chocolate ice cream.

Finally, he agreed to the procedure, and Daddy worked on his finger for a few minutes while we repeated our Bible verse and talked about the ice cream.

Daddy was only able to get 1 1/2 of the 2 splinters out, so we gave up, put a band-aid on and went to get ice cream. Christopher commented, “God always gets the splinters out.” **Insert teaching moment here** I explained that God doesn’t always get the splinters out. Sometimes bad, scary, or hurtful things happen, but He promises He will be with us while we are hurting and scared.

It wasn’t until the next morning that I got the lesson God had hidden in the splinter incident for me. I have been feeling very anxious about losing a baby or having pregnancy complications–and I’m not even pregnant yet! The idea of becoming pregnant with preschoolers at home who would be traumatized if something sad happened is scary to me. I realized from my words to Christopher last night that I’m not going to get any promises from God that I will have a healthy, complication-free pregnancy. But I do have His promises that He will be with us. He will never leave us or forsake us! And, obviously, I need to pull out Calm My Anxious Heart again.