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One Word: Hope

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“This just doesn’t seem fair. Now our insurance may go up because she decided to lie?”

“Sorry, hun. Now it’s a matter of principle. This time I filed a claim purely for justice sake. I am not paying for the damage she caused. I am not paying for her to lie and get away with it. That is what is not fair. For someone to get away with being dishonest.”

This was the conversation between my husband and I. In our kitchen. The day after Christmas. What were we talking about? An insurance claim that I had to file for a tiny scrape to our vehicle. Because the other party caused the damage. Had more to lose.

And decided to side step the truth.

“And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:32

I always started off a new year by picking one word that would define it. Well, by allowing God to pick it. Guide me in picking it. However, I did not pick one last year. I tried. I thought for a while it may have been “light,” because for a time I felt His light was being pushed back, drowned out by darkness so others could not see it.

As my journey sent me through one battle after another, I was also sent on many a mission to fight.

And without mine ever even knowing it, I was sent on many a mission to fight for truth.

So it seemed fitting that in the last few days of 2018, I would be standing in my kitchen fighting for it again. Fighting for truth to win, and for dishonesty to fail. For honest folks to be celebrated, and liars to be defeated.

Fighting for truth that continues to remain unspoken for fear of retaliation. Fear that speaking it will mean one is not believed. Thought to be crazy. Irrational. I know all three of those. I know how big that fear can get. I even know what it is like to not be believed. To stand up before a lie and be called crazy. Irrational.

But…I also know something bigger than those fears.

A just and fair Savior.

“Forget about what’s happened; don’t keep going over old history. Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new.” Isaiah 43:18-19, MSG

Who can speak truth into the dark places.

Even as I sit here writing these words. Looking outside at a dreary day. One that seems to  set the tone for the end of the year that was filled with many dark, dreary days. Wondering if this year will bring more of the same.

“I am doing something brand-new. It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it? There it is! I’m making a road through the desert, rivers in the badlands.” Isaiah 43:19, MSG

Truth in dark places.

Hope in dark places.

Hope that the truth will be brought into light. That more will seek it, speak it. Turn from the lies of the world, and seek the promises found in His Word. A hope that pierces the gloom. The darkest night. Promises to keep shining into those dark places.

Hope that keeps you moving forward, even when you want to give up, because you know and trust God to provide a breakthrough.

Even when you can’t see it in front of you, it is there.

If we don’t have hope that truth wins. That good will prevail. That light will be exposed. That God’s will be done. Then…what’s the point?

Remember Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies. -Shawshank Redemption. 

I think Andy was onto something. Hope. It’s a good thing.

On the hardest of days when I’m fighting for truth to win, I still have my hope. It’s the one thing I can count on when truth fails. Hope never does.

 

 

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Posted by on January 3, 2019 in One Word 2014

 

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The lost (beans) get found

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Anyone that knows me well, knows that I have a slight, unhealthy dependency on coffee. So much so that I have been known to plan entire road trips around stops at Starbucks (don’t judge!).

My husband also knows this about me. Thankfully, he also understands my obsession, and the fact that it is essential to his health that I remain caffeinated. For this reason, he will often come home from Costco shopping trips with the newest seasonal Starbucks blend…and, while we are still working on the “He-Brews” part of the deal, this one is still pretty sweet.

This past Christmas season I found myself in a bit of a tizzy when my “bean” jar had dwindled, and I could not locate the remaining beans from that bulk bag. It was quite possible I had gone through 2.5 pounds of coffee in a month, but I was pretty sure I had hidden those things somewhere in this house. Somewhere I would remember, of course. Or not.

That somewhere was never found.

Until 3 months later. In a cabinet I open every night at home during the dinner making hour. Sitting right next to my beloved casserole dishes, and my well-used measuring cup, were my “missing” coffee beans.

“I found them! I finally found those darn coffee beans! I told ya! Things are finally looking up!”

My husband was slightly (well, probably more than) amused that I had missed them each time I had opened this cabinet. I, however, was not. These beans were just one more “wink” from God that I can miss a whole lot when I am distracted from my purpose.

See, I looked everywhere for those coffee beans, but never once thought to look in that cabinet.

We look everywhere for love, peace, joy, healing…but never once think to look to Jesus for these things.

I have been feeling lost myself. Like everything I touch crumbles beneath me. Clinging to hope in a dark world. And, praying that God would restore some fire in me to keep fighting.

And, somewhere in a dark cabinet, he shows me some missing coffee beans. The ones I had totally given up on. But showed up, unannounced 3 months later, exactly where I left them, mind you.

To show me that yes, even in those struggles, things are looking up! That good things do exist in a dark world, if you can rid yourself of the world’s distractions and look in the right places.

That he won’t stop pursuing. Won’t let go. Won’t give up hope. For His people. That lost sheep. His purpose. Even missing coffee beans.

Because what was once lost, can always be found!

I once was lost, but now am found; t’was blind, but now I see. 

 

 
 

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after the decorations are gone

christmas-spirit

The days after Christmas. Memories of the laughter. The time spent with family. The remnants of gifts not yet put away. The lazy days. The leftovers. Naps. Netflix. The promise of a new year.

With this promise each year also comes the burning desire to reclaim the space in my house. Get back into my 10 and a half month routine. Everything in its place again. Time to rid my house of the Christmas glamour for one more year.

Usually this need to reclaim my territory fuels me. Sends me on a cleaning frenzy. But, this year was different. If it wasn’t for our choice of fresh fir, and the limp, dying branches that forced me to take the soon to be fire hazard of a tree down, all our shiny and glistening decorations would have just stayed.

As I packed up every ornament. Every tinsel wreath. Beaded garland. Dancing Santa. I had a thought.

Shouldn’t the spirit of Christmas, and the Christ child born on this day live all year long? Is the Christmas “spirit” really only reserved to one month a year. To a plethora of shiny decorations?

Certainly it couldn’t be! There must be something we can do to make sure that spirit remains here. Lives in this home. Lives in us as we carry out a usual routine for the remainder of these months.

But, how?

Well, it can begin with hope.

This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary. Hebrews 6:19

After the expectation of those wondrous gifts. After the anticipation of Christmas Eve night. Still lives the hope that His promises will be fulfilled. Living each day knowing, expecting, anticipating  His faithfulness. His strength. The promise that even though some days in the new year may be hard, we KNOW, and EXPECT that there is hope in the days to come. Bringing a promise of glorious days with Him in Heaven.

It can continue with peace.

“I have told you all this that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But, take heart, because I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

It is not letting the stress, worries, and anxieties of living in this broken and rushed world cause our hearts to be troubled. It’s letting go and feeling relief. It’s choosing calm over the chaos that claims to measure success. It’s being still and rejoicing in Him, even when life gets crazy. It’s living in harmony with each other, even when we don’t agree. It’s accepting our flaws, and those of others unapologetically.

The spirit of the blessed babe can live on past Christmas day with joy.

You will live in joy and peace. The mountain and hills will burst into song, and the trees of the field will clap their hands! Isaiah 55:12

The spirit of Christmas doesn’t live in packages and bows. It’s not the blessings under the tree that give joy after all the decorations are gone. Happiness doesn’t live in those boxes. It lives in the laughter of your kids on a family game night. It lives in the songs of praise raised to Him on Sunday morning. It lives in the full heart as you snuggle with a small child. It lives in the praise that escapes your lips for everything He has done. For the small things. For the blessings He has given that can’t hide under a tree. All He has promised. Made happen in your life. Not just on Christmas Day, but everyday.

And finally, how do we continue to show the spirit of love?

“This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you.” John 15:12

Despite flaws. Despite differences. Despite who has “wronged” you. It’s being patient with the lady in front of you with too many items in the express lane. The driver that cut you off. The colleague that always comes in late. Talks to much. Does something too much. It’s remembering that once the ball has dropped. The last song has been sung. The clock signals the beginning of a new year, to be kind to each person we meet, not just those in our “circle.” It is responding with kind words, not words to tear down. It’s praying for our enemies, and those who have hurt us. It is forgiving and choosing to show mercy those that make is angry, frustrate us, and make our eyes roll. It’s reaching out our hands to life the fallen, and expecting nothing in return. Loving as He has loved us.

It is extending this love past the month of December.

And choosing to reflect the Christ child. His love. His light. His everlasting spirit.

After the lights have come down. The gifts have all been opened. The decorations are all gone.

All year long.

 
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Posted by on December 29, 2016 in Like Jesus Does, You Make All Things New

 

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Blessings in the midst of weeds

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So let us not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9

Dandelions. Those wispy flowers that can grow in the most unlikely of places. One which most see as only a common pest. A weed. Yet, to another a sign of joy and happiness in the dark and dreary mountain of obstacles in our way. A blessing for the one who chooses to stop and take in its overlooked beauty.

The dandelion is also said to be a symbol of perseverance. However, often in the midst of walking in the gardens we nourish as ministers of His word, we may lose sight of the beauty before us. All we see are the weeds.

Sometimes in the middle of doing, planning, and being the hands and feet we are called to be as ministers of His love and grace, it can be hard to see the lives and people who have been touched by it. Instead it seems all we have encountered is one more battle, uphill climb, or discouragement after another.

Enough to want to give up.

In my role as a children’s pastor, the fruit of all the seeds planted weekly can be tough to see peeking through that soil. When you can see the flowers sprouting physically before your eyes, having fun, smiling, and reciting verses and stories taught to them over the years, there are also times when it is difficult to see through the weeds of disobedience, disconnect, and complacency that plagues this garden, too. The weeds that grow around carefully planned lessons and programs to hopefully encourage them to engage and draw closer to God, seem to only grow taller among criticism, “should have done this that ways, and “could have done that betters.”

Some days it is hard to see the blessing over the weeds. Some days you start to desperately look for an exit. But, you continue to say “yes.” Be obedient, anyway.

And, I continued to be obedient to Him as I made calls, texts, and emails to schedule gift delivery again this year for our annual participation in the Angel Tree ministry. As I watched all the gifts trickle in. Saw them all pretty and wrapped in front of the tree. Ready to bless families of those behind bars. I began to see the weeds again. The calls not returned. The preparation. The work. The late nights. The discouragement of those who just couldn’t offer redemption. Planting seeds of love and grace I was certain I would never see bloom.

The weeds grew taller. I wanted to give up. Maybe even not sign-up next year. I couldn’t see through the weeds, and I needed an exit.

Some blessings can’t be seen over those weeds. But, you get up. Show up, because He says to. You continue to say “yes.” To be obedient.

You work in that garden once again, and finally you see it. The blessing. In the flesh. Standing before you. Blessing you.

As I reached for the gifts for those who had come to take them home to their children, I realized what stood in front of me was what I would have missed if I had stopped being obedient. If I had let the weeds stop me from doing His will.

Here was the gentleman we had been showing hope. Here was the woman we had been blessing through it all. Whose kids we reached out to each year. Blessing me.

Thank God He removed those weeds.

So, if you two happen to be reading this. Thanks for being obedient. For bringing encouragement to a minister who was deeply discouraged. For reminding me that His light and grace does shine through all those weeds in this garden. That redemption is real and standing here right before us.

You are the blessing in those weeds. Thanks for reminding me of the reason I continue to say “yes.”

So, to anyone stuck in a garden you have sowed, over and over. Unable to see your harvest because the weeds of doubt, insecurity, envy, and fatigue are too tall-I pray this Christmas you will be given a dandelion of hope among those weeds. That you are blessed by something or someone that helps you see past the muck. That encourages you to continue to say “yes” to God. To continue, even when you want to give up.

And, if you have been blessed by someone-return it. Show them the grace, love and hope given to you. Bursting forth among all those weeds.

“Give away your life; you’ll find life given back, but not merely given back-given back with bonus and blessing. Luke 6:38, MSG

 
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Posted by on December 20, 2016 in On Purpose

 

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holding on through the dry season

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Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Hebrews 10:23, NLT

I absolutely love fall. There is something about its specific sights and sounds that awaken a certain kind of pleasure. It started back in high school, when Friday nights were devoted to football and pizza. The excitement. The crunch of leaves. That lingering smell of burning wood. The crisp cool air. All the signs that a new season was here. Change was in the air.

As I took a day of solitude recently, I wandered down to the lake that is a short walk from my house. As I sat in complete silence taking in the sights and sounds of fall all around me. I once again felt the cool, crisp air. The hum of excitement. That wondrous crunch of leaves underneath my feet. And, I thought about not just this season of nature, but of my current season.

This season that hasn’t drummed up the same excitement that those football games did in high school.

The season that has brought a lingering, unexplained illness that has left me breathless, my body weary and depleted. In a season of self-pity.

A new season where some passion has faded. Everything seems too hard. There is just no strength left to even fight for what once made my heart so ready to move.

It has been filled with doubt. Some due to the barks and critiques of others I tend to hold onto for too long. Those barks and critiques that have left me defeated. Not willing to stand up and push past them anymore.

How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul? With sorrow in my heart everyday? How long will my enemy have the upper hand? Psalm 13:2

On this day. This day I declared a “me” day. To rest my depleted body. Disconnect from everyone and everything that was too hard. I took the time to finally look at the beauty that was around me.

All that comes to mind when I get excited about fall.

And I saw it. The beauty. In the trees that blazed shades of green, red, yellow, and orange.

See, they are in a season, too. Having spent many months thriving, growing, providing shade and comfort on hot, muggy days, they are now in another season. They are also in a season of struggle.

Yet, as they cling to their last little bit of strength they have left. As they hold onto that branch so tightly before they finally wither and fall…they are at their most beautiful.

It is in their struggle to hold on that they are at their peak. When they shine the brightest.

And then there also comes the time when they do stop the struggle. Wither and fall. When that beauty. That peak seems to fade.

The Lord helps the fallen and lifts those bent beneath their loads. Psalm 145:14

He doesn’t leave them there. Fallen. No. Not at all. Instead, at the right time, He puts new life in those withered leaves. Gives them a new season. New beauty. New strength to hold on again.

And, he will do the same for me. Through this struggle there is beauty in holding on. There is strength in clinging to that solid branch just to keep from withering. Even though I may fall for a season, He will be there to pick me up. To breathe new life in this weary body, and make me shine for Him again.

 
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Posted by on November 10, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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My mess. Your mess. His power.

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Spring break. A glorious week away from school. From paperwork. Time to sleep in. Enjoy life with the ones I love. And get away from the demands of home.

We meticulously planned each detail of our small trip away. Each day had adventures sure to please the picky fella that would be coming along with us. We were going to have fun! A blast! The kids would love EVERY minute of it. We would have smiling grins to prove it. Beautiful pictures that depicted the fun and excitement of our time away.

But, what about those that were not so picture worthy? What about all those messy moments we didn’t really want people to see?

 We share all the exciting details of our lives. All the things that are going great. All the reasons we are blessed. The fun things. All the delightful details our social media friends long to see.

We make our lives look effortless. We want people to believe we have it all together. We hide our frowns. Our sadness. Our struggles. Because, who wants to see all that? Because, someone, somewhere may have told us that when we profess to others we have Jesus in our life, then life was supposed to be pretty and perfect. That you should stuff all those feelings you have. Hide the mess you are. Put on a beautiful grin and bear it.

Some may even make you believe that going through struggles means that you somehow failed God. Failed to hold onto His promises. To pray enough. That you did something to deserve it. Or, that by sharing your mess you diminish His power. Your testimony is somehow flawed.

Instead, we fail to be real. We hide the mess our lives can really be. We fail to share our pain because others just are not uncomfortable relating to our mess. It’s easier to smile and be happy. It’s easier to respond to happy.

For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and unjust alike. Matthew 5:45

My discomfort. My struggles. My mess. They exist. They have meaning. They have purpose. There is power in the madness. There is glory in this mess. The twist, turns, ups, and downs of what is known as “life,” happen. Sharing them is not something I will apologize for.

This is why.

10 years ago when I accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior…well, I certainly wasn’t happy. My life was a mess. I was lost. Sad. Crippled. I had tried everything. My life wasn’t a slew of smiles, but my photos chronicled nothing but “happies.”

I didn’t call to Him with a painted on smile, or an uttered “good,” “fine,” or “great.” I called to Him in the midst of tears and heartache. In the midst of a mess.

Now, 10 years later…I praise him with for those smiles, for those Instagram worthy moments. But, I still find Him there in my tears. When I am on my knees crying for peace. In the midst of chaos, and the mess that life has handed me.

He said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.    2 Corinthians 12:9

The chaos. The weary mommy moments. The mess. The hurt. The loneliness. The real emotions that my struggles create. He is there during all of them. Giving me hope. Rest. Wisdom.

The disappointments. The hard times. It’s part of my testimony. My story. It’s the stuff he allowed me to endure in order to let others know that God still exists in these struggles. This mess. That there is purpose in the madness. That there is a God who gets us through them.

All I have to do is look for Him. To rest in Him. Not to have it all together. Not to plaster on some fake smile. Because it is in the worst of my moments that I have found the most strength. A power I cannot claim as my own. The courage to keep pushing. The wisdom to weather all the storms that WILL rage, no matter how many blessings he may bestow.

My mess. Your mess. They do exist. They will continue. But, He is proof that there is joy that comes when all the chaos has passed. Proof that even when no one else can handle it, or wants to hear it, He can handle the mess my life has become.

He can handle yours, too. If we are willing to be comfortable with what makes us uncomfortable. If we can stop painting on happy, and share the madness that we all know we really feel. If we can reach out to acknowledge that the hurt and pain someone feels, is also something we have felt, too.

My mess. Your mess. Embrace it. Together. And, then sit back and watch His power make beauty out of our wild and thirsty ashes. Out of our broken and beautiful mess.

 
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Posted by on April 17, 2016 in Broken, Yet Beautiful

 

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Praise Him Anyway

Praise Him Anyway

I will praise the Lord at all times. I will constantly speak his praises. Psalm 34: 1

In my daily work, I often find myself moving from one crises to another. It is for this reason that I often have to forget or put aside my own crisis that may have occurred outside the school building. Those that may have occurred before I even left home. So I can help others cope with their own struggles.

However, sometimes these two worlds collide and you are dealt two crises in your hand of cards. Two that you must strategically play at the same time.

The phone rings in the middle of someone’s meltdown, and you find your own child or loved one is now in the middle of theirs. What do you do? How do you respond?

This actually occurred recently to my co-worker. And, as I watched her calmly sit down the receiver of the phone, slowly take a deep breath, and refocus on the task at hand, I wondered how she mustered the energy to deal with both.

Her answer? “I was just glad I was in the middle of this crisis, because I really just wanted to lay down and cry.”

Which left me wondering…Do I respond in this way? Do I look for what is good and positive in a given situation? Or do I scream, cry, and run for the hills?

These types of days are not uncommon. On most of them, as soon as I hit the ground running, I am then headed to another problem. As I sit down for lunch there may be something or someone I need to calm down or fix. In the midst of it all, I have my own problems in my life, my home, with my children.

It’s enough to make you come undone. To completely unravel. Just like everything and everyone around you. To lay on the floor and cry. To pick up that phone and throw it. To tell anyone who will listen just how crappy your day, your year, your life is.

And some days…I do unravel. I lay on the floor and cry. I throw things. I have a pity party.

But, then somewhere in the unraveling. In the midst of all those mixed up emotions. In the coming undone. Behind those tears is the strength needed to help someone else doing the same. The patience needed to calm down your own children. The perseverance to take a breath and move on.

Or the choice to look at all the great things in my life. All the blessings in this chaos that lies before me.

But as for me, I will sing about your power. Each morning I will sing with joy about your unfailing love. Psalm 59:16

Or we choose to praise Him. Like David. Who had a few troubles and unravellings of his own.

Remaining positive in the midst of our struggles doesn’t mean our problems don’t exist. It only means we are choosing not to let them define our moods. Not to let it separate us from His grace. From His strength.

From His blessings.

Like the morning cuddles from the child who spends the afternoon in tantrums.

Like the random compliment on a day when you have heard nothing but criticism.

Like the things you have been able to provide when the bills keep coming, and the money keeps going.

Like the new day that has dawned after a night spent depleted, discouraged, and lonely. A reminder that you are alive. A promise to start over.

Or the strength that comes from Him to slow down, take a breath, face the crisis in front of you, keep moving forward, and praise him anyway.

 
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Posted by on January 20, 2016 in How Is Your Faith

 

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