Hope for the Future

“Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.”
– Corrie Ten Boom

I used to feel so secure in my future. I had things planned out so far in advance–to the point that I stopped asking God what His thoughts were. Then my future became uncertain, and I was forced to trust God with it. Or at least that’s what I’ve told myself. I use Matthew 6:34 almost as an excuse for why I’m not planning anything beyond the next few minutes: “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today” (NLT).

The truth is, the future frightens me. From one day to the next, I honestly don’t know what new pain or challenge I will face. I’ve told myself that by not planning for tomorrow I’m not worrying about it. But the reality is, I am so worried about tomorrow that I refuse to think about or plan for it. I’ve even trained my kids not to ask about anything beyond today. “Mom, can I have carrots in my lunch tomorrow?” Journey would ask. Then I’d hear Faith reply, “Remember Journey, don’t worry about tomorrow!” It sounds so spiritually stupid now as I write it. But I thought I was protecting them, along with myself, from unmet expectations of the future. If I don’t plan for it or hope for it, I won’t be disappointed.

But the other day, as I was dropping the kids off to school, Journey asked about plans for next summer. My first inclination was to give my usual caution: “We’re not going to worry about things that far in advance.” But I stopped myself before I said it. I felt so strongly that instead of shutting it down, I should encourage a hope for the future, not only for him and his sister, but for me too.

James 4:13-16 says, “Look here, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.’ How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog–it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. What you ought to say is, ‘If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.’ Otherwise you are boasting about your own pretentious plans, and all such boasting is evil” (NLT). This was another verse I used to keep myself safe. But the point of it isn’t to tell me not to plan for the future. It’s to warn me not to make my plans without God’s direct involvement. After all, He said in Jeremiah 29:11, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope'” (NLT).

Just as the Corrie Ten Boom quote above says, I can trust God with my future. I can remember that He’s the one in control and He has good things planned for me. And in my trust of God, I can teach my kids to embrace the future and not be afraid of it.

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The Struggle for Joy

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23 ESV).

I’ve discovered the secret of living a life full of joy. Wanna know what it is? Thankfulness. Finding something for which to be thankful will always point me back to God and restore my joy. But here’s the problem: Most of the time I don’t want to be thankful. I want to complain and moan and cry and whine. Being thankful is just too much work. It’s just easier to complain, and frankly, sometimes it feels better–at least for a moment.

This weekend, my kids and I took a quick road trip to Legoland. What should’ve been a two-hour drive, stretched to nearly three hours. My kids, who are usually pretty good with long car drives, were becoming impatient. The traffic was cutting into their play time. But being the good, hypocritical mom that I am, I encouraged them to start looking for things about which they could be thankful. I even quoted scripture to them: “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18 ESV).

Then Monday rolled around and all I could see was what was going wrong in my life. I complained and whined and got a sinus headache from all the crying. Then Tuesday came and more of the same. What was wrong with me? Why couldn’t I shake this funk I had stumbled into? But this morning, as I took a step back, I realized that in all my complaining, not once had I really taken the time to offer worship or give thanks. I had spent the better part of two days feeling sorry for myself and telling God how He was failing me. No wonder I was in a funk.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s essential for me to be honest with God–to tell Him truthfully when I’m struggling. We all need those unfiltered moments. But even in those times of “realness” with Him, something productive and life-giving has to come out of it. The only way I know how to do that is to take the focus off myself and my problems and look to Him.

So that’s what I’m doing. It’s not easy. It requires me to be intentional about what I’m thinking and talking about. But I’m choosing thankfulness and joy today.

What about you? How do you pull yourself out of a joyless funk?

It’s Time to Let Go

As a parent, I’ve learned that life is a series of stages that we move in and out of. When my kids were younger, I was always a little slow catching up with them and their changing stages. I like consistency and I’m not a huge fan of change. So it’s difficult for me to let go of something, even if it’s not working anymore. I would fight for a week to get them to do what they had done before. It wasn’t until it dawned on me that maybe they’d outgrown it, that we were able to move on to something that worked better.

During this journey, letting go of what I thought I had in my marriage (even if it really wasn’t what it should have been) has been difficult. It felt too much like giving up. But I realized something the other day: No matter what happens in our future, no matter what miracle God does for us, we are never going back to our old life. That life is gone. And just like with my kids and their changing stages, if I’m unwilling to let go of the past and what doesn’t work anymore, I will never be able to grab hold of what God wants to do now.

“Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert” (Isaiah 43:18-19 ESV).

I love Isaiah 43:18-19, “Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” God isn’t asking me to let go of something without offering me something far better. I want the new life God has for me, whatever it looks like. And that is going to require that I let go of a life that is gone and doesn’t work anymore.

Great is His Faithfulness

Earlier this year, after nearly 17 years of marriage, my husband and I separated. Whew! That was a hard sentence to write. There are a lot of people in my life that don’t know. It’s not that I’ve been trying to keep a secret or lying. But it’s really difficult to admit, out loud, such a huge failure.

From the beginning, I’ve told myself, “As soon as this resolves itself and God moves in our situation, then I’ll tell people. And what a testimony it will be!” But I’m learning that the testimony isn’t always when things are neatly resolved and put in a pretty package. Sometimes the miracle is in the process—in how a faithful God walks with me in the most difficult circumstances. As a friend aptly reminded me: “They overcame by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and did not love their lives to the death” (Revelations 12:11, emphasis mine).

Although we separated earlier this year, the whole process started nearly 18 months ago. It’s been a long season, filled with a lot of life-changing lessons—none of which have been particularly fun to walk through or learn. But there’s a passage of Scripture that God gave me early on that I remind myself of often:

“I will never forget this awful time, as I grieve over my loss. Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him!'” (Lamentations 3:20-24 NLT).

I love Jeremiah’s honesty here. He doesn’t sugar coat it. He doesn’t pretend his situation is better than it is. He actually says, “I will never forget this awful time, as I grieve over my loss” (v. 20, emphasis mine). That’s real life! That’s my life! There’s no pretty way to paint this. It’s just plain awful! But the rest of the passage is the kicker: “Yet I still dare to hope…” And that is what I’m learning. No matter how dark things get (and believe me, there have been plenty of dark times), there is still hope. Not hope in the situation itself, but in a faithful God who has promised He will never leave me or forsake me (Deuteronomy 31:6). It’s in a trustworthy God who also promised in Romans 8:28, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” That’s why I can say, with a confidence that only comes from experience, “Great is His faithfulness!”

Jesus Knows

Welcome back to my Incredible Faith Journey. I have not written in six years. So as you can imagine, a lot has changed. So here’s a brief update on the kids.

Journey is now nine years-old and in fourth grade. He is developing into a funny, warm, sensitive young man. Faith is a smart, bubbly seven-year-old. She reminds me of Buddy the Elf sometimes. She just can’t suppress her infectious smile.

We’ve had a rough go of things lately. And I may share more on that in future posts. But for now, I wanted to share what God is teaching me through my pain. Simply: Jesus knows! Hebrews 4:15 says, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” That’s just fancy Bible-speak for, “Jesus knows!”

Recently, I was reading the account, in the Gospel of John, of Lazarus being raised from the dead (John 11:1-44). If I’m honest, that is one of the most frustrating stories in the Bible for me. I just can’t understand why Jesus delayed going to Bethany. I feel like Martha and Mary who say plainly, “If you had been here, my brother would not have died” (John 11:21; 32). I don’t know how many times I’ve felt that same thing looking at my own circumstances.

But what stuck out to me when reading it this time was in verses 33 through 35:

“When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. And he said, ‘Where have you laid him?’ They said to him, ‘Lord, come and see.’ Jesus wept.”

Jesus knew he would raise Lazarus from the dead. But he was not impervious to the pain Mary was experiencing. He was moved by her pain. And he’s moved by mine and yours. I may not understand his “delay” in coming to rescue me. But I’m comforted to know that he is “deeply moved” by my pain. He weeps with me as he did with Mary and Martha. Psalm 56:8 says, “You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.”

I hope one day I can look back and say, “Oh that’s why!” But there’s no guarantee of that. I just have to continue to trust God in the midst and allow my heart to be comforted knowing that “Jesus knows!”

The miracle of “no nap”

I’ve long held a certain amount of guilt for not being able to give Journey the same one-on-one attention I was able to give before Faith was born. As blessed as we are to have Faith in our lives, I’ve always felt like something precious was lost between Journey and me. Of course, I was still “Mommy.” But the closeness we once shared had been diminished by the frayed nerves and lack of patience that came with caring for two kids. How do people with more than two do it?!

But recently, Journey has dropped nap time. This is a day I long feared was coming—I even put it off a couple of times. The only thing I could think of was all that lost “me time”! But it has turned out to be just what we needed. My “me time” has happily turned into “we time” (don’t worry, I still carve out some time just for myself). We read, play games, color, and more.

I can tell Journey loves this time with me as much as I do. He’s always rushing Faith off to her nap time—”Faithy’s gonna take a nap now!” I can also feel the closeness returning, which makes my heart so happy. There were times when I thought it was lost forever. But I’m realizing that there are seasons for everything—and for that I am very thankful. “For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven. A time to tear and a time to mend…” (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 7 NLT).

From mother to daughter

My 35th birthday is quickly approaching and I’ve been reflecting on the woman I am and the woman I hope Faith becomes. I try to imagine the woman she will grow up to be. Then I remember, I’m the one who will teach her to be that woman. I’m not even sure I know how to be the woman I want to be yet.

Having a daughter is an awesome responsibility. And I’m not just talking “hey, that’s pretty cool,” though it definitely is. I’m talking about an overwhelming sense responsibility that leaves me in awe. It’s actually kind of scary. There are probably just as many things I want to pass on to her as there are things that I don’t. I hope she inherits my confidence in my intelligence, but I hope she doesn’t inherit my struggles with self-esteem and body image. I hope she gets my passion for orderliness, but not my inability to adapt when things don’t go exactly as planned.

There are so many things I want to teach Faith. But at the same time, I know there are some things she’ll have to learn through her own experiences. And as much as I want to protect her from every hurt or bad experience, I’m reminded by the scrape on her forehead that I can’t always shield her–though I will certainly try. Though I can’t always protect her, I can hope to teach her to be completely and utterly dependent on God. If she can successfully learn that, I know that no matter who she becomes, I’ll be proud.

“I’m being nice to people!”

Journey is very friendly. He’s always saying “hi” to people and I’ve seen him, on more than one occasion, brighten someone’s otherwise dreary day. I won’t even mention the free stuff we’ve gotten because he’s so sweet.

But a few months ago, he went through a phase where he wasn’t so nice to people. He was downright rude. When someone would say “hi” to him, he would respond by covering his face and throwing a mini tantrum. It wasn’t at all his normal sweet and cordial demeanor. So we started encouraging him to be kind to people. Now when someone says “hi,” he’ll say it back, then in a whispered tone to me or his father he’ll say “I’m being nice to people.” That usually gives us a little chuckle.

But I was thinking the other day about how I’m not always the friendliest. I’m not mean or nasty. I’m always polite and considerate, but not necessarily friendly. Having kids, especially one like Journey, forces me to push beyond my comfort zone and engage with those around me. Not only do I need to be aware of who is talking to my kids, but I have to be example to them, especially Faith, who I have a feeling will be more like me.

I’ve learned a lot from Journey and his interest in others, like the other day at the park. For some reason, there weren’t any other kids or parents at the park when we were there. But there was a groundskeeper. Journey kept asking about her, wanting to know who she was and what she was doing. Finally I asked him if he wanted to talk to her. So on our way out of the park, we stopped to say “hi” and thank her for keeping the park nice. I could tell it made her feel good, which made me feel good. Before having kids, I would have never taken the time to do anything like that. I’m not even sure I would have taken notice of her.

But Journey is doing exactly what I should be doing as a Christian–reaching out to those around him. When he went through his little phase, we kept reminding him that one of the ways we show the love of God to others is by being kind. “Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love” (1 John 4:7-8 NLT).

I have to be honest, when I’m out without my children, I slip into old habits. I usually avoid eye contact with people, too busy with my stuff to make connections with those around me. The people around me are the least of my concern, unless they’re causing me some sort of inconvenience. I forget to be “nice to people.” But I’m reminded of something my father always said growing up. Whenever he would drop us off somewhere that he and my mother weren’t going to be he would say “Do what you know to be right!” It was just a friendly reminder that even though they weren’t there to watch us, we still needed to do the right thing. That’s just as true now as it was then, except, it’s not my father watching, or not watching, it’s my children. So now I’m challenging myself to “do what I know to be right” with or without my children present.

The things I love

I’ve already written about the one thing I hate about being a mom. But there are so many things I love. So since Mother’s Day is approaching, I thought I would make a  simple list of some of those things.

I love:

  • When Faith toddles across the room just to sit in my lap for a few seconds before she’s off exploring the world again.
  • When Journey gives one of his concerts. What he lacks in pitch he makes up for in enthusiasm and gusto.
  • When Faith twirls around to music. It may not be the most graceful, but it’s so cute.
  • When the kids learn something new or master a skill. I especially love when I have played a part in the learning process.
  • When the kids come running to the door to welcome me home whether I’ve been gone five minutes or five hours.
  • When only my kisses and hugs will make it all better. Don’t tell my husband that this is one of my favorites.
  • When the kids play together and the house is filled with their joy and laughter.
  • Saturday mornings when the kids invade our bed.
  • When Faith grabs onto my chin as I settle her for the night.
  • Baking with Journey. I call him my little sous chef.
  • And a million other little things!

Despite the numerous challenges that motherhood can bring, the joys far out weigh the stresses.

Happy Mother’s Day!

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