God pushes…The Valley of Death.

Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me. Psalm 23:4 NIV

The darkest valley. Called the valley of the shadow of death in the KJV version.

Reminds me of our own “valley of death” where Bo and I run. There is no breeze. It’s always hot. And coming up out of the valley on one side is a steep hill. The other side is a gradual 1/2 mile climb.

Hard work on both sides. 

There was a time in my life when I just couldn’t do it. I’d give up and walk instead of run the climbs. Beat myself up along the way because I couldn’t do it on my own.

Last fall, Bo and I led a small group study called Run for God. One of my first realizations was that I could run with God as I ran for Him. Realized if I asked for help and gave my run to Him, He would push me out of that valley.

So many times I have asked God to push me out. Push me up the hill. And every time He has shown up. He was with me.

My legs burning. My breath laboring. Gravity slowing me down. Feels like everything is working against me to keep me from coming out of the valley of death.

I want to stop. Give up. Like so many times before.

I just ask God…”push me up this hill. I can’t do this on my own.” And every time I ask, He does. I know I can conquer those hills and come up out of that valley with His help.

Just like Bo, who has gently put his hand on my back to encourage me and literally, physically give me a push…I can feel God’s hand on my back, gently pushing and encouraging. 

Just like Bo who has spoken words of encouragement to me as we run together…I can hear God’s words of encouragement.

Only when I don’t rely on Him do I fail. Stop. Walk. Give up.

Of course  I can eventually come out of the valley on my own but there is no celebration or feelings of accomplishment. I feel worn instead of rejuvenated. Defeated.

I need that push! I need that encouragement.

I’ve made a habit of asking Him to join me on my run. Mostly because I know I will need His push out of the valley. I know I can’t run out of that valley without help. On my own, I beat myself up. I tell myself I can’t do it. On my own, I fail over and over. I know I need Him in that valley.

And just like I need His help to run out of that valley, we all need His help as we go through low points in our lives.  Times when we feel like giving up. Times of fear.  Failure.  Disappointment.  Trouble. Despair.

If God is SO willing to help me run up this valley of death in my neighborhood, He for sure is willing to help us through our other valleys. We just have to remember to ask him to join us.

I’ve learned that if I ask him to join me on my run before I reach that valley, I have peace and comfort, knowing He is with me….before I ever even reach the first sign of struggle. I’m ready. Prepared.

If I stay with Him on the easy flats and the downhill slopes, I know He’s there. I know I’m not in it on my own. And I can trust him and know He will push me out of those valleys and up the big hills.

Oh the celebration of hitting the top of the valley!

The air is moving…wind hits my face. My muscles that worked so hard feel lighter, stronger.  And my heart swells, knowing that I conquered that valley.

All because of Him.

And let me tell you….we celebrate! Thankfully it’s a not a populated area or I might be a pest with my whooping and hollering.

He tells me every time “see? I told you. Stick with me. I’ll get you out of there.” 

Every time. He never fails me.

I can’t do it without Him. Whether it’s on a run or in my daily life.

I know that in any valley, He is right there with me. Encouraging me. Pushing me. Getting back up on those easy flats. Celebrating success with me. Staying with me.

There will always be valleys of death. Times of need. Struggle. Pain.

With Him, those valleys aren’t as scary. I don’t have to fear because He is with me.

Long time, no see..and some good stuff.

Hi y’all! Been a while, huh? 🙂 

You know, I was just remembering how I told the hubs this past spring that I couldn’t wait for summer….because things would slow down and we could relax. I could blog again about how fabulous our school year went (it really was pretty cool) and then blog about all the cool things I have in my head for the new school year (really cool too).  I’d have time to research materials for the high schooler who is coming back home from this last year of public school (YAY!!).

That memory flooded my mind this morning right after I thought to myself how I couldn’t wait for school to start so we could get a break from the busy-ness of our summer. Ha!

It’s been CRAZY! Not only haven’t I blogged about the past, I haven’t even started to plan for the future.

It’s already July!!! What?!

It will all come together. This I know. Not sure how….but I have faith. 🙂

So in the middle of our already busy summer, I decided to join our church’s women’s group this month. I haven’t really had the time for it before but I just felt nudged to MAKE time. Kind of like taking care of your body: exercising, resting properly, eating right…you have to make the time because you’ll never ever find it!

This past weekend I realized that I had a major conflict with the day and time of women’s group. Two of my middles were already signed up and paid for (and most importantly they were aware and patiently waiting for) an art day camp this week…in the morning…at the same time as the women’s group.  Then I realized I had scheduled a meeting with our homeschool co-op committee on the 3rd Monday of this month…at the same time as the women’s group!! I felt {more than} a little dejected at that point…especially after feeling the nudge to join. 

I’m like, “God, you want me to do this but you know I have these other commitments, right?….what’s up?” 

Last night I felt nudged to quickly double checked the times, and I realized that the women’s group plus travel time back and forth would fit just perfectly in the time frame of the art camp for today.

So what about that 3rd Monday? Well that is a topic for future post but let me just say that God worked that out too.

{I totally just giggled and rolled my eyes at myself….as I thought “see there? He has a way of working these things out.” …Just as I know we’ll be prepared for the new school year. Have faith, little sheep. If He wants it to happen for you, He’ll make it happen. Not like He can’t see (and prevent) obstacles that stand in the way. Duh.}

{The little sheep part is a joke that will make sense to you later on.}

So a lot of good stuff right there and plenty of a lesson for me today. However, I was overwhelmed with much more than the “oh ye of little faith” lesson this morning.

O-ver-whelmed, I tell you.

We’re doing a study called Knowing the Shepherd by Nancy Leigh DeMoss based on Psalm 23. Day one…I can tell you it’s going to be awesome!!  We’re learning how we really are sheep in need of a Shepherd to take care of our every need. 🙂

Three HUGE things this morning.
1. God understands.
2. God provides.
3. God pushes.

I can’t blog today about all three, and I’m afraid it would just get too long and confusing anyway. I’ll post 2 and 3 at a later time, and just link back.

So… 1. God understands.

This little bitty bit came to me while driving to get my art camp boys after just listening to other moms talk about their children stresses.  It was SO straight out of a book that I’m reading right now called Unglued. Ha! So good…and funny…and true! I can relate.

One of the women in our group was talking about spending morning time with God, and another mom asked how she made that happen. How do we find time to spend with God without having kids running all over us?

This has been a struggle of mine for a while. I have five kids from ages 1 to 15. Until this summer, the hubs had been working out of town Monday-Friday….leaving me to fend for myself with the boys. {Thank you, Lord….he’s home now!! 🙂 Some sanity is starting to creep back into my mind.} Some days I’m completely worn out but haven’t accomplished much of anything. Ok, a LOT of days I feel that way.

On the way to pick up my boys, I remembered a Proverbs 31 study from Good Morning Girls that I partially did last summer. Partially because like so many other things I’ve started in the past couple of years….I didn’t finish it. You know, life gets in the way. The baby isn’t sleeping like he should {clearly missing the memo about giving this mama some sound sleep}. Kids need something or to be somewhere…all the time. Blah, blah, blah…life.

Oh my gosh….but that Proverbs 31 woman has it together, doesn’t she? So accomplished, calm, cool, and collected. The complete opposite of me.

One night last summer, I was thinking how impossible it was for me to be like her. There was NO way!! I had a newborn who kept me awake at night, and four boys who kept me awake during the day.  The hubs was out of town. School was about to start, and my teen was begging to go to public school. I was failing at EVERYTHING. Ok, well it felt like I was anyway. Nothing seemed to be working out for me at all. Plus….just as a reminder, there was a NEWBORN baby in the house. Hello.

I kind of grew to hate that woman, and wanted to give up the study.

Then I watched a video from one of the GMG ladies. Just so you know…I’m pretty sure she recorded and posted that video just for me. 🙂

She talked about all the different seasons in our lives…..and how because of those seasons, we might not be able to live *just like* the Proverbs 31 woman. The biggest arrow straight to my heart? When a newborn sleeps longer in the morning, the worn out mom should most definitely take advantage and sleep in with her baby. This is not her season to rise early. 

Oh thankyouthankyouthankyouthankyou.  I totally did the ugly cry as I kept watching. Relief washed over me.  Brings tears to my eyes now just thinking about it.

Really I needed to hear that because it was my biggest struggle. How do I make myself get up early when I’m SO exhausted that I daydream about long, undisturbed naps?  How can I have alone time with God when the baby just wants to be held/cuddled/fed all day? How do I do this when I have four others vying for my attention every second that the baby is sleeping? I. Just. Want. To. Sleep.

It’s simple. I don’t. It wasn’t my season to rise early. It was my season to take care of a newborn who required so much of my time. It was my season just to be a mother. The release of guilt was amazing. The release of expectation was amazing. The release of judgment on myself was amazing. 

Without all that junk weighing on my shoulders, I began to think about what I COULD do.

I remembered YouVersion right there on my phone. I picked one short devotional and committed to just finding 10 minutes in the morning to read it. Then I let my thoughts wander back to the devotion throughout the day as I fed the baby, changed a diaper, fixed a meal, folded laundry, or fell asleep at night. I didn’t feel obligated to set aside a particular amount of time or pick a particular time of day.

I had those Aha! moments and learned valuable lessons…throughout the day.

I learned that praying doesn’t have to happen with eyes closed, head bowed, and hands folded neatly together.

I learned that singing along with Air1 while rocking the baby or driving to an activity is *REAL* worship and prayer time.

I learned that if I was just honest with myself and God…and admitted that I couldn’t do it myself, He would meet me right where I was…in the car, in the rocking chair, snuggled up with the baby, on my runs, in the middle of the night, sitting outside while the boys played…wherever I was.

And I learned that if I didn’t get to my devotion that day, it and God would be there tomorrow. Waiting on me. Patiently and understandingly and forgivingly waiting.

All that time I spent in little bits throughout the day {and night} added up to a LOT of time with Him.  I did what I could, and He met me where I was. Every time.

During this crazy busy summer, it was just the reminder I needed. Just the reminder that there are so many different seasons in our lives that require different things from us.  We need to embrace those tough seasons. Do what we can to work through them.  And remember that just around the corner is a season of rest.

And God doesn’t want us to feel chained to a certain expectation of how time with Him should be.  It should be freeing, not suffocating.

And when we fail, we don’t have to give up. We simply remember He’s patiently waiting and understanding and forgiving….and then we start again.

Thankful for a women’s group that unknowingly brought this reminder to me today.

Thankful for a God who loves unconditionally.