Exchange: The act of giving one thing and receiving another… 

“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ, liveth in me, and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”  -Gal. 2:20

“…and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it…” -Matthew 16:25


I spent what should have been a relaxing day of Sabbath rest, instead- cleaning and scrubbing the house after a long, full, messy week of life in a place where it looks like 6 bodies have done their darndest to litter carpets, deflate pillows, stain furniture, smudge walls and windows, and clutter any and every available surface with stuff.  There’s trash mixed with food mixed with homeschooling supplies and art projects, clothing and dishes.  Where to even begin?  I’m grumbling inside because I hate the sorting of it all.  I feel like dumping the dining room table on end and shoving the entire mess into a giant garbage bag.
I’m just weary of the mess.  The ongoing, never-ending, always there, MESS.

And the stress of having to see it, sort it, deal with it, live in it, and be the primary one responsible for cleaning it, is sometimes more than a mama can bear.

And there’s this funny thing how the house feels like a mirror image of my insides.  I’m one giant mess most days too.  Pulled in a million directions, trying to juggle too much, to keep life sorted out and feeling like I’m failing over and over again.

An old friend wrote the other day–a particularly rough day– to say she was encouraged by an old post I had written, and thanks for being obedient.

I about fell off my chair.
Obedient?  Oh, that email couldn’t have been intended for this wreck-of-a-woman.
No way, uh uh.

I can’t even type it without tears flowing because I’m really and truly just such a failure at life these days (weeks, months…).

You believe me, right?  Because it’s hard to share the hard things here…or anywhere, really.  And why is it that?  Why is it that we are afraid to admit our struggles?  That we think we ought to always only be upbeat and encouraging and filled with joy?  To never speak of our spiritual trials, unless it’s in past tense?
I don’t like admitting it any more than the next person.
So most times, when the goin’s rough, I stay quiet and I choose joy and I believe tomorrow will be a better day.
But really, behind the smile and seemingly confident attitude, there’s a person who’s a whole lot like you, a gal struggling through life too, only most days, I’m pretty sure I’m doing a way worse job of it.

Cuz the real story is this: I am a mess.

At least, I feel I’m a mess in all the ways that count. 

Self control?  Pitiful.  Patient? On a rare day. Kind? Only if you’re referring to people other than my kids and husband.
Ever come to a place where you can hardly stand yourself, but you just can’t seem to change, try as you may?
And you really start asking–
What does a Proverbs 31 woman look like again, and how on earth is this mundane life of mine actually a holy work?
And you for-real wonder–
Am I even filled with the Holy Spirit and if so, why am I living so powerlessly, struggling with the same garbage over and over?  Where is my joy hiding under all this self-pity, and why can’t I think of something to give thanks for in this moment?

Daily devotions? FAIL, unless I’m allowed to count reading Bible stories aloud to the kids.  Small Group Bible Study?  Pshhh.  These days, I can barely make it once a month, with my half-finished homework and just-happy-to-be-out-of-the-house-self…and sometimes I wonder, who was that girl who used to live and lead with such passion, and wow, what on earth has happened to her?

But surely, there are some areas where you’re consistent, you say.
Oh absolutely.
On edge? All the time.  Exasperated, frustrated, irritated?  Hourly.  Hot tempered and ready to blow my top?  Just about daily.  Stubborn and filled with pride?  Check and check.
Nagging, complaining, barking?  Got ’em down to a miserable science.
Most days, feeling like I am straight-up losing this battle called life? Though I hate to admit it, yes.

What’s sad is that you can just about set your calendar by my all-out mama meltdowns–they usually happen every few days, between the hours of 6-9pm, always after my tired, hard-working husband comes home from a long day at the office, and enters “the war zone” as we like to refer to the house these days.

Last time, you know what set me off?  A missing knob.  A silly missing knob-right there on the cupboard under the sink.  It had been missing for months, removed for whoknowswhatreason, and never replaced, and that night, I was tired of seeing it that way.  It was just another thing I felt like I was fighting.  Annoyed and stewing, I lashed out at my husband with unkind, blaming words before pushing a chair in front of the fridge and climbing up to remove the knob on the tiny cupboard up there (no one can really even SEE it, so why on earth not remove that one instead?).  As I unscrewed it, angry thoughts and an overwhelming wind of despair threatened to topple me right off that kitchen chair.
Yet from where I stood, seething, I could hear my husband around the corner in the hallway, gently talking to our children, preparing to take them upstairs to read a book and get them ready for bed.  I listen as he speaks softly.  I know he’s holding them tenderly while guiding them up.  He whispers his love to them.
I know he’s not perfect.  But in that moment, he was like a picture of Christ.  And I, this wretched, miserable thing.

I lean my head against the top of the fridge.
I’m just not gonna make it, I think, as the tears begin to pour.
Some heart aches and soul cries can’t be stuffed back down.

My man, half way up the steps, hears the beginning of the sobs and he comes back down and around the corner, to see if I’m ok.
In shame, I bury my head-in-hands deeper against that cold fridge, trying to dam up the ocean pouring out.
Do I even need to put it into words?
I stink at life right now.
I know it. He knows it. God knows it.
But that’s only part of the reason I’m weeping.
Why I really cry is because I just.don’t.know if I can live better…if I can live above the storms of this life.

My heart cries, Change me, Lord Jesus! I don’t want to live like this!  
I want to have victory over these struggles. I want to love my children and my husband and my “neighbor” with Your love. 

I don’t want to be counted as a success by the world’s temporal standards only to fail in the areas that count spiritually, eternally.

How do you not give up when you only have one forward-day for every 2 days of stepping backward?

My man, he scoops me right up off that chair like I’m the little child, and I wrap my arms around him and cling tight.  He lets me cry and this time he whispers gentle, affirming words into my ears, as he kisses away the tears.  This is the ministry of grace.

My heart softens…and opens again to hear His voice.

Later with my Bible open, I am reminded of the apostle Paul’s struggles against his flesh, and his words in Romans 7:17-8:4 become my prayer:

I need something more! For if I know the law but still can’t keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.
It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge.
I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question?
The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.

With the arrival of Jesus, the Messiah, that fateful dilemma is resolved. Those who enter into Christ’s being-here-for-us no longer have to live under a continuous, low-lying black cloud. A new power is in operation. The Spirit of life in Christ, like a strong wind, has magnificently cleared the air, freeing you from a fated lifetime of brutal tyranny at the hands of sin and death.

God…didn’t deal with the problem as something remote and unimportant. In his Son, Jesus, he personally took on the human condition, entered the disordered mess of struggling humanity in order to set it right once and for all.” 

My heart grabs to this truth as He leads me gently back to the cross.  
Yes, I nod, always to the cross… 
And as I behold it with fresh eyes, I am filled again with hope as I cling to a God who is holy and beautiful and perfect, a Savior who knew no sin, yet who laid HIS life down that I may have life, and life abundantly!  I gaze again upon His redemptive love–proven by this: while I was yet a sinner, He died for me.
He did not see me cleaned-up, or at my personal best when He hung upon that tree~He saw a sinner, an enemy, a traitor, a failure, a mess…and yet…He took the shame I was supposed to wear, and bore it upon His shoulders.

Man of Sorrows! What a name
For the Son of God who came
Ruined sinners to reclaim
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

His Word breathes new life into my soul.  It seals up the breached places where the enemy has broken through and wounded.  His love restores the ugly places and broken pieces.  His oil alone heals and soothes and re-lights the fires of love, compassion, kindness and gentleness in my heart of hearts, and in Him, I am invited to shed all condemnation.

A grace that is greater than all our sin says to you and to me, Come, begin again!   
Come, you who are battle weary!  
Come, you sinners, you failures!  
Come, you wounded and fearful.  

Come and find rest and peace, hope and healing in me.  
Come, Jesus beckons with arms open wide. 

Come and exchange your life for Mine.


Gratefully Linking up with:

Hearts for Home @ Graced Simplicity
Proverbs 31 Thursdays @ Raising Mighty Arrows
Deep Roots at Home
Faith Filled Fridays
Womanhood with Purpose

13 thoughts on “When You Want an Exchange on Life

  1. Crafty Homeschool Mama

    Megan, lots in common for sure…
    Homeschooling is demanding and very often, glory-less and thank-less! It truly rails against our pride nature, and most of the world, as well as some of our closest friends and family very often, will never “get” why we choose to do what we do. Help us Lord, keep our eyes fixed upon YOU and desire only to bring glory to YOUR name and not our own…Thankful for seasons of refreshing that He always brings as we journey towards “Zion…” Ps. 84:5-7
    Thank you for sharing your heart here with me, I was blessed this morning to receive this…
    In Him, Joanna

  2. Crafty Homeschool Mama

    Yes, Kim, you are so right…never have I had to trust and cling to my Savior before like I have to now…and also, about going through trials so that we are “able to relate to others,” I think that is exactly what Paul was talking about in 2 Cor. 1! Allelujah that He comforts us so that we in turn can comfort others.
    Love your practical suggestions for kids helping for 10 min. after meals! Thank you and bless you, Joanna

  3. Megan

    Wow. Thanks so much for sharing your heart. I have had those same thoughts and have some of them daily still. It’s amazing how many times I have had to pick myself up and find hope again…to let go of that feeling of giving up. This summer I did a short but powerful women’s Bible study for the first time in probably 3 years. It was refreshing, and I found myself reminiscing about the woman I used to be…the one who led ministries, and Bible studies..I had time for those things then. Then came homeschooling. And while I wouldn’t trade it, I guess at times I wonder if I’m making as much of a difference now. And many of those who affirmed and appreciated what I did then, don’t really even get what I’m doing now. (Not that this makes a difference, but it’s there and sometimes I feel it…truthfully I think this reveals my own pride) Anyway, all that to say that I know how you feel and I struggle too. Praise God that His mercies are new every morning and that He is always with us providing His strength…and an extra dose of it when we are at our weakest. Good to know I’m not alone on this journey that not many others will travel. Keep writing and keep sharing. You never know who you will touch..who Christ will touch through you. I found this completely by random…I guess He directed me here. 😉

  4. Kim Adams Morgan

    Linking from Faith Filled Fridays. Such an honest and passionate post. I have never had young children, my daughter came into my life at 19. I can relate to the trials you are going through due to other circumstances (chronic illness) and as the others have said, this is just a season. I believe that God gives us these to help A) appreciate when things are smooth, B) to turn our attention toward Him and trust in His plan, C) help us minister to others when they are in need. If our life were always perfect, we would not be able to relate to others. None of us ever thinks we are doing “good enough” – then we learn later the impact we had in people’s lives by kind words we said, our testimony or how we handle circumstances and sometimes just listening or spending time with someone. My friend has a football team of young children (smile) and they just implemented a rule in their home that has had big impact on her free time. The children had to help her for 10 minutes after each meal (each child did 10 minutes of work to help clean up)or what have you. If there was any arguing or problems, the clock started over. It has changed so much in their life. This might give you some of the free time you are looking for. Kim @ Pouring Down Like Rain

  5. Poetryartist

    I could totally see myself in your post. I think too, some people (like myself) put too much expectations upon ourselves to do everything well. That is all “US” and not other people! Go find your happy place, I’m sure your hubby will MORE than support it, he wants a uplifted wife. There are times that Marty BEGS me to go work out or something.

  6. Crafty Homeschool Mama

    Read this through tears, Launa. You could not be more right…I have 0 outlets right now, at least not consistently. We just got back from “vacation” –4 days in Cook Forest as a family. While we were there, my husband kept asking if I was ok, that I didn’t seem like I was relaxed…and until I read your comment here, I really couldn’t put my finger on it…but the thing is I wanted so badly to go hiking by myself, or have some time not taking care of everyone…if I am to be honest, I really was not much of a vacation, LOL, though the change of scenery was wonderful.
    And LOL @ Fonda heaping on the guilt! ha! So true though… I’m feeling guilty already just saying I need/want a bit of away-time, but I do believe it’s EXACTLY what I need right now–to walk, pray, listen, exercise, get some fresh air…yes please!! Thank you for your encouragement and practical advice. feeling so appreciative for the body of Christ, and kindred spirits near and far…

  7. Poetryartist

    This is something that we all feel, endure and struggle through! It is funny because sometimes, when I read your blog posts, I feel worse about myself!!! I think, “I should be doing more crafts with my kids, make stories more interesting, get out of the house more, make gardening fun for them, etc. etc.” It is SO GREAT to see that your too are exactly like the rest of us out here, Joanna. I think that you being vulnerable like this will really help a lot of despairing stay at home moms and homeschoolin moms. They (we) are the ones who are truly in the trenches 24/7. And it is even more difficult with kids with special needs (trust me!) Working moms and dads get to escape the constant barrage of demands for a time each day and usually stay at home moms rarely get a chance to release the tension. Don’t beat yourself up; when kids are small we just DON’T get to have much “me time” devotional time or time in the shower that is not accompanied by: “Mama, he hit me!” “Mom, I’m hungry!” “The dog is peeing on the carpet!” and “Mommy are you in THERE?” We are tied by the hands, feet and heart, but there is a reason that we are making this sacrifice. This season too will pass and you will quickly wonder how they grew up so fast. Lower your expectations for yourself because you might just be a type-A overachiever, (again-I CAN relate) but this isn’t the time to have perfection. (There’s time in heaven for that.) If you aren’t getting out about an hour a day to walk, run, workout, whatever-you should… (maybe after dinner when your husband can hang out with the kids; he hasn’t seen them all day, they NEED dad time.) When I just had 2 and never got a break, I started running in the evenings and my girls would sob and run after me down our dirt road. BUT I knew I HAD to have this in order not be a sobbing, cranky, explosive mom. The endorphins sure helped! When I returned, they’d be waiting and ran to me with open arms like I had been gone for over a month. One time, Fonda, my oldest, said, “Mom, every time you go running, you’re breaking up the family.” Can you imagine? Already spreading the guilt on as thick as peanut butter-and at such a young age! The botto, line is that you shouldn’t feel guilty for taking a little refresher each day, (even though that’ll be the first emotion that comes.) YOU need it for mental and emotional health. You are like a huge pitcher; you can’t continue pouring out yourself to your children unless you get poured into too! (PS I also used this running time to think and pray) Breath and relax! You’re doing a great job with your kids and you are PERFECTLY NORMAL!!!!!!!!!!

  8. Crafty Homeschool Mama

    SO touched by your words, my friend! (and lol’ed at your comment about “temporary insanity” …so true!!) But thank you…you know, this kind of encouragement from you “veteran” mamas is often what keeps me from totally freaking out during this super busy (and really short as you say) season of life. I am thankful for you, and I believe our Lord does indeed arrange /allow certain fires of testing in order to refine us and grow us in Him…and desires that we trust more fully in Him as a result. Thank you <3 Love Joanna

  9. Rhonda

    Hey! I’ve heard this story before…OH WAIT A MINUTE…You have just described my life a few short years ago…My heart goes out to you my friend, I completely can relate to where you are in life right now, it is hard…VERY hard, I’m not gonna lie!! I promise you God’s promises are true, you will see the fruit of your labor in these early years very soon! All of the storms in your life are a part of the plan God has for Joanna. Its all planned out by God for His daughter. The trials we walk through are designed to strengthen us and draw us closer to our God. When you’re on the other side of this (really short) season of life, the wisdom you will have gained from all the tears you’ve cried and moments of what we would consider temporary insanity…will be your crowned jewels of life. You will get through this season…I am praying for you!
    a daughter of The King

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