Hope and a Pipe Stand

pipe #2It was just a very full pipe stand.

My first thought was how much they reminded me of my Dad…my second was, “Ewwww…that’s kinda gross…think of the mouths that have been on those!” (ever the mother)

Recently I went antique shopping with a friend.  I love looking at all the beautiful things, the knick-knacks, and the oddities of by-gone eras.  It’s very much a treasure hunt.

It’s a joy to meander through packed little shops filled with old jugs that remind me of the hillbilly band The Darlings on The Andy Griffith Show, teacups and pots that make me want to host a tea party as soon as possible, furniture that I know would look lovely in my home, and musty, yellowed books that are just begging to be read again.

Shopping this time seemed more somber.  Every shop offered a reminder of my dad.  A pipe, some Army paraphernalia, an antique clock ticking and donging, a toy car, history books, and it seemed like a hundred other things.

I didn’t feel like sitting down and weeping.  I just felt a little bit heavy-hearted.

Until the past couple of years I wouldn’t have ever used the word melancholy to describe myself.

I think I would now.

At least this particular definition:  “Sober thoughtfulness; pensiveness” (Dictionary.com)

That’s better than the few months after my husband left when I could be found weeping at stoplights and crying in my closet.

Now it’s more of a sigh.  It’s healing from deep sorrow.

The loss of my husband and my father…of my marriage and life as I knew it has been so so so difficult.

There was a time when I just wanted to replace the missing piece in my family.  Just find a godly man and plug him in!  That’d be the perfect solution to my problem.  Insta-fix.

There is no instant fix to this life.  We cannot always regain what was lost.  In divorce or death there is no going back to life before sorrow and its effects.

But there is moving forward.

There is hope.

Hope is a funny word.

Sometimes my hope is lacking.

Hopeless hope.  Know what I mean?

Hoping but not believing.

I thought maybe that was a crazy thing until I looked up hope in Lawrence O. Richards, Expository Dictionary of Bible Words.  The author said that when we use the word hope we usually mean something wavering and doubtful.  That’s exactly what I mean!

But the Bible doesn’t ever use the word hope in an uncertain way.  Our hope is not in things here but the certainty of future things.  We can be encouraged, blessed, and comforted by the beautiful life to come.

But meanwhile there’s this life…pipe #1

I believe maybe the problem is that I’m not hoping in the right thing?

I’m hoping that my circumstances will change.  Hoping that I will change.  Hoping that my kids will change.  Hoping that people who have disappointed me will change.

Hoping in restoration.  Hoping in a fix.

I’m thinking my definition of hope is not exactly right so I looked up hope.

There are a fair number of verses with the word hope in them and reading them was convicting.

I wrote down most of them, all but 2 I think.  God has shown me some things about hope.

He is my hope and the focus of my hope.

For you, O Lord, are my hope, my trust, O LORD, from my youth  Psalm 71:5

Are there any among the false gods of the nations that can bring rain?  Or can the heavens give showers?  Are you not he, O LORD our God?  We set our hope on you, for you do all these things.  Jeremiah 14:22

For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.  1 Timothy 4:10

 Though he slay me, I will hope in him; yet I will argue my ways to his face.”  Job 13:15

I just had to include that last part…because it’s me.  Right now I’m a big arguer with God.  Job was a mess and Job’s life was a mess – and even though he understood God could be trusted he still struggled with the way things were…with his circumstances.

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering for he who promised is faithful.  Hebrew 10:23

My hope is for now and later.

 But I will hope continually and I will praise you yet more and more.  My mouth will tell of your righteous acts, of your deeds of salvation all the day for their number is past my knowledge.  Psalm 71:14-15

He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us.
On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again.  2 Corinthians 1:10

My hope is centered in Jesus

Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.  1 Peter 1:13

He who was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.  1 Peter 1:20-21

Even though hope is something I don’t think I’ve completely grasped, I sure love it!

Hope!!!

How can you not smile when you think of hope!?!

I pray that God will give us a vision of what we have in Him…what a hope we have for His strength to keep us, His wisdom to guide us, His love to comfort and heal us, and His blessings to well…bless us!

And of what a glorious inheritance He has for us and what a beautiful eternal home He is preparing us!

Now that’s something to hope in!

Next time I’m antiquing I’m going to think about the honorable life my father lived and the beautiful place he is now!

How we’ll share heaven together!

And when the circumstances of this life get me down, I’ll remind myself that there is hope…even if I don’t necessarily feel it, I KNOW it!

That’s hopeful hope!

MY HOPE IS BUILT

by Edward Mote

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly trust in Jesus’ Name.

 On Christ the solid Rock I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand;
All other ground is sinking sand.

When darkness seems to hide His face,
I rest on His unchanging grace.
In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the veil.

His oath, His covenant, His blood,
Support me in the whelming flood.
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my Hope and Stay.

 When He shall come with trumpet sound,
Oh may I then in Him be found.
Dressed in His righteousness alone,
Faultless to stand before the throne.

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Anybody Got The Trust Thing Down?

sky

“You’re not my mom, Mom.”

When my 6 year old said this we all chuckled a bit that while referring to me as Mom she declared me “not mom.”

Lately my sweet daughter has discovered that she can wield a pretty hefty weapon against me. Unfortunately, I still haven’t figure out the proper defense.

My two youngest daughters were adopted through foster care. Their adoption has never been a secret. We talk about it and I try and answer any questions I can…with a heaping load of discretion.

Lately though when my youngest daughter is in trouble, she has taken to saying, “I want my other mommy!”

She has been known to call for many people in her state of discipline distress…Poppy, Grandma, Zachary, Emma, Peter, the dog and even Santa…and thankfully Jesus.

Usually I have a good answer…or I just choose to say nothing.

Her wail for the “other mommy” is just a ploy. She and I both know it.

But there is something to the “other” mommy thing that just gets me. And I think it might also get her.
I know she doesn’t mean to hurt me to the depth she does. I know she is just trying to make me crazy…which she does do really well, but ugh…

I can’t help but run ahead years in my head and think about her as a hormonal teenager armed with her “get away from mom” free card.

And to be honest, I’m pretty sure I’ll be menopausal at the same time so beware! When you see the windows pulsating in my house, run!!

Anyway. I digress.

So, I need help! I don’t know how to help my little girl with this issue. AND I don’t know how to help me either.
Thankfully I haven’t been fussy with her…well not too much.…Oh dear, I have been fussy.
It is so difficult sometimes to be the mommy.

In my head and heart I’m making this a really big deal because I see what the potential issues could be.

And you know what? I’m NOT trusting God with this.

Remember when Jesus said, “Do NOT worry about tomorrow”?

Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.   Matthew 6:34

Yeah well…I’ve been worried a lot. And it has not done me any good at all.

As always, Jesus is right.

And I believe I’ve missed the beauty of this command.

What does worry take from me?

Well it definitely robs me of my joy that’s for sure. The joy of being in today and knowing God’s got tomorrow.

The joy of trusting.

Trusting God.

In this situation how do I need to trust God?

I need to trust that

  • God gave me this precious girl because it was His perfect plan that I be her mommy .
  • God knew when he entrusted this beautiful little person to me that my husband and her father would leave
  • God will never leave us nor forsake us.

Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you. Deuteronomy 31:6

  • God knew I’d be a single mamma with 5 kids – that I’d be overwhelmed, exhausted, and definitely not perfect at being mamma.
  • God will be the perfect husband and father to us

A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. Psalm 68:5

  • God knew this little one would be oh so spicey…and that I’d need Him to raise her
  • With God I can be the Mom my kids need – even to Miss Sassy-Pants

I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13

  • God loves us…unconditionally.

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. 1 Corinthians 13:7-8

Unconditionally.

That’s one of those words I take for granted. It’s huge in its application and beautiful in its practicality.

I looked up the definition:

Unconditional: with no conditions or limitations: complete or guaranteed, with no conditions, limitations, or provisos attached.

My Father loves me without conditions or limitations. There is no limit to His perfect love! Oh my goodness…I’m overwhelmed (in a good way!)

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. 1 John 4:18

I can’t really comprehend it but oh how desperately I want to model that for my children. I don’t think it is possible…I get annoyed too easily and can be so unloving.
But God loves my children unconditionally…maybe I can’t model it perfectly but I can pray that God will love my children through me.

And as I answer hard and sometimes hurtful questions, God can give me kind, loving words. Words that soothe achy hearts and heal broken hearts.

God’s words…soothing, healing and loving.

Making that list of what I can trust God for really helped me. I think I might have to do that with some other issues in my life. It really blessed me to see them written out.

Golly, God is good!

I think heading into the fray of single parenting with a trusting heart is going to make a big difference in being able to love my children well.

God can handle them and me…God will love me and love my children in the best way possible!

Unconditionally!

Today and tomorrow.

broken heart

 Broken.

One of those words that doesn’t bring a lot of joy.  Who wants to be broken? 

Broken things.

             Broken bones.

                            Broken relationships.

                                                  Broken vows.

                                                                        Broken homes.

                                                                                                Broken hearts.

I assume we are all on the same page and don’t want that word to describe much if anything in our lives.  In fact, the only phrase with broken in it that I can think of ever wanting to use is “broken fever”.

For a while I’ve tried to figure out a different word to describe my family other than broken.  Initially I thought it was just too negative. I started trying out different descriptive words.  Wounded.  Bruised.  Hurting.  Anything but broken.

I wanted to stand up and holler, “WE ARE NOT BROKEN!!!!” 

But you know what?  I believe we are.  And I’m realizing that that’s okay.

We are broken but healing.  God, the Great Physician, is fixing up all the broken parts.

A couple of things have brought me to this conclusion. 

The first was reading this verse:

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.  We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.  2 Corinthians 4:7-10

After reading that verse I looked up the meaning of “jars of clay.”  One of the definitions said that the jars of clay would have brought to mind a common household jar – probably inexpensive and fairly easy to break.  It would probably have cracks and chips from being well-used. 

There is so much to get from this verse, but the idea that struck me was that the brokenness of the jar of clay allows what’s inside to be seen – to flow out. 

The brokenness of our lives allows God to shine through us.  Oh my goodness, that sounds like some really syrupy sweet quote to post on Facebook.   Unfortunately for all of us I can’t think of a better way to say it.

I just know that when everything in my world went cablooey, God was the only explanation for why I didn’t personally go cablooey.    It was abundantly clear that the strength I had to move forward came from God and God alone – “the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.”

One of my first fears following the shattering of my marriage was that my testimony was toast.  I kept thinking of all the people that would think we were just absolute frauds.  I felt like a fraud.  Or maybe I should say I felt like I’d been defrauded.   Everyone, including me, thought we had a great marriage.  How could I speak about my relationship with God, if everyone thought I hadn’t been honest about my relationship with my husband?

But God showed me that my testimony wasn’t about what I could or couldn’t do…my testimony is what God has done and is still doing in my life.

 And He worked mightily in those days following the shattering.  He loved me and my children through our church, our homeschool community, our neighbors, and even the city where my husband had worked.  He provided for us in amazing ways.  He gave us peace and even joy in the midst of our pain and breaking.  It was HIM, all Him.

Just as light shows through or water pours out of cracks in a broken pot, Jesus shows through our brokenness.

He showed through broken vows when He gave me the strength, peace, and perspective to fight for my marriage in the face of my husband’s betrayal.  Believe me it wasn’t me.

He showed through the broken relationships caused by my husband’s actions when He gave our friends wisdom, kindness, compassion, and grace to pursue my husband and love him despite his response.

He showed through our broken home by strengthening the bond my children and I have, strengthening our faith, and gracing us with love and joy.

He showed through my broken heart when I was able to comfort with the comfort I’d been given (2 Corinthians 1:4).

I could probably think of a million more ways that God has shown through the brokenness of my life.  I’ve seen it in others too.  My friends who have or who are battling illness…the grace they have while suffering greatly.   The way my suffering friends reach out to others in their grief and pain.  The compassion I see in my children because they understand what it means to be loved by others while going through difficulties.  The love I see in those who have had their hearts broken, but are still willing to open up to love again.

So I’m thinking that maybe being broken isn’t such a bad thing. 

Especially if God is allowing the breaking…which I believe He does.  If God allows it He is going to use it.  If God allows it He is going to bring good out of it.  If God allows it He is going to bring us through it.  If God allows it He is going to be glorified! All those things are good…very good.

I really am okay being referred to as broken.  I’m not a broken woman…I’m a woman broken by the Lord so that I can be healed.  And I believe that I’m much better as a healed woman than I ever was before the breaking.  

I have a long way to go and there is a lot of brokenness that needs to be healed. 

I’m realizing this is a big topic.  One that I’m going to have to ponder more.  Because it’s one thing for me to be broken and to watch God work with me towards healing.  It is another thing all together to watch how the breaking of so much in our lives has affected my children.  That has been very very difficult for me.  I’m definitely going to have to pray about that before I share my thoughts.

I believe it’s going to be me again recognizing that I have to entrust my children to God.  I have to believe that He is working good for them in all of this too. 

A lot to pray and ponder to be sure.

Thank you so much for being willing to walk this path with me.  For being interested in my thoughts.

I pray that they have encouraged you that no matter what way we describe our families…whole, broken, wounded, healing, etc…God has us and it is good. 

final diagram verse

More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.  Romans 5:3-5

This morning my Bible study was on suffering.  I had a few thoughts as I realized what the day’s topic was:

Ugh.  Really? Suffering? 

What a minute…isn’t this Bible study on the book of Philippians – shouldn’t it be mostly about joy!?

Oh no!  I don’t want to study suffering…whenever I study something my life seems to mirror the topic. 

Can I opt out?

I don’t want any more character…

But I diligently went through all the verses on suffering.  They were familiar verses like Romans 8:28-30 “…for those who love God, all things work together for good…” and 2 Corinthians 4:11-18 “…this light and momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” and 1 Peter 1:6-9 “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith – more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire – may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

I really like the verses in 1 Peter.  Being a past grammar teacher (please don’t judge my grammar now…many many brain cells have died since then), I had the fleeting thought of diagramming the verses to see what modified what and all that English major geeky stuff.  Instead I decided to diagram 1 Peter 1:6-9 my own way.

It was interesting to see it all laid out visually.  I’m a consummate visual learning.  Big pictures are good for me.

So often I need big pictures, hand-written notes, and some serious concentration to understand.  Sometimes a friend will say that I’m a deep thinker…really I’m not.  Occasionally I’ll have a profound thought but if I don’t write it down immediately it’s gone…forever.

So as I’m studying today I thought I’d write down what God is showing me about suffering.

I’m in an interesting place right now.  There is no big thing causing me to suffer great amounts of pain or sorrow.  I’m living a life that is just simply challenging.  I don’t believe it’s more difficult than most nor is it easier than most.  It’s just my life.

I used be a judgmental kinda gal…in my head. I recall sitting at a Bible study listening to ladies share their prayer requests thinking, “You’ve got to be kidding?  Really, THAT’s your prayer request?!  Just wait til I share mine!”

Oh my goodness! I’m so ashamed of those thoughts.

I distinctly remember the last time I thought that.  It was during the second year of my single parenting adventure.  I was working full-time, trying to raise two toddlers, two teenagers and a middle child J and I was fried.  A sweet, sweet lady shared a prayer request that seemed so ridiculous to me…and those thoughts started.  Almost immediately I thought, “Who am I to judge how this dear friend feels about things in her life.  Just because they seem minor to me does not in any way discount how major they seem to her.”

I’m not sure what was different at that point except that God was softening my heart with all the love and grace He was pouring into my life.  I’d received so much of it that I was able to offer it…not out of the goodness of my heart but out of the overflow of His.

The suffering in my life has produced something good.  Something wonderful.  I believe that I’m becoming a more compassionate, kinder, more grace-filled woman.  It doesn’t always show but God’s working with me.  Becoming more and more that godly woman has become the desire of my heart.  I have a vision for it…for her…that woman, mother, friend, daughter, Christian I want to be.

It sounds an awful lot like the character thing that Paul mentions in Romans 5:3-5! Maybe I was wrong about wanting more character…well, I think I should probably take the word maybe out of this sentence.  I can always use more character.

Suffering = Endurance = Character = Hope

And hope.  Who doesn’t want more hope!?  I most certainly do.  Each day I’m beginning to understand more and more the hope that is mine in Christ.

In the days, months, years since my family shattered, I’ve been particularly blessed by many of the Psalms.  I especially love how they pour out their anguish, anger, and anxieties to God and then will often say things like this:

Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?  Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.  Psalm 42:5

How beautiful that God continues to bring us back to Him.  What a blessing to know that in the midst of great suffering there is hope.  Not only can we bring all the difficulties of our suffering to God, but we can trust Him to bring us through it all.

It brings to mind another verse I read this morning:

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness.  We do not know what to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.  And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.  And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.  Romans 8:26-28

Those Psalmists probably were groaning to the Lord and the Spirit was interceding for them…searching their hearts.  He interceded for them just as He does for us.  And the confidence of that intercession brought them to the same place those verses in Romans can bring us…a place of understanding that God will always work things together for good.  Thank you Father!

It isn’t just in our suffering that the Holy Spirit intercedes for us though.  I have always loved this verse:

Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.  Hebrews 7:25

Jesus LIVES to make intercession for us!  Lives to do it!  What!?!

Dictionary.com defines intercession like this:  “an interposing or pleading on behalf of another person; a prayer to God on behalf of another.”

Jesus lives to plead on my behalf.

Doesn’t that just blow your mind?  Not only did He live the sinless life I couldn’t, die the death I should’ve, and be raised to life again with power I can’t comprehend…He NOW lives for me!

Jesus is so all about me!

Why can’t I be all about Him?  (Argh.)

A lot of the verses I read this morning were about sharing in the sufferings of Christ, having a desire to know Christ better through His sufferings, following the example He set while suffering, and glorifying Him through our suffering.

I think being all about Christ means that I’m willing to suffer for Him, with Him, like Him.  I don’t think it means that I have a desire to suffer but rather a willingness to because it is a “gracious thing in the sight of God” (1 Peter 2:18-25) and it brings Him glory and me growth in my faith.

I write about suffering with great trepidation.  It’s not based on anything Biblical, just a fear of more suffering.  I wish I was braver.

I trust God and I know He uses it all for good, I just hate going through it.

I understand though and, like the Psalmist, I do believe that God is worthy of praise and trust even in the trials.

Studying suffering is going to be good for me.  Reminding me again that God is good even when life is bad.  That I can indeed rejoice in my suffering because I have Jesus.

Time to put the proverbial big girl pants on and get busy in the Word!

Be sober-minded; be watchful.  Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.  Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.  And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.  1 Peter 5:8-10


 

Blissfully Aware

clutterSomeone shared with me recently that if a fire fighter trips and hurts himself while trying to save you from your burning house, you can be sued…for a lot of money.

I’m not sure why my friend shared that with me…well, maybe it was a subtle encouragement regarding the clutter in my home.

Golly, I hope my house doesn’t catch on fire ’cause I’d get sued for sure!

There’s just something about the hallway upstairs…it’s full of tripping hazards. Laundry, books, baskets of odds and ends, piles of dirty clothes, towels (damp and dry), an occasional doll, parts of games, sometime a pair of shoes or just one, and a basket of a ridiculous amount of odd socks.

The most confounding thing is that my children are oblivious! Honestly, I believe it’s all invisible to them. What is that?

And why don’t I have it?

What a blessing blissfully unaware would be!

Unfortunately I’m exceedingly aware of the messiness and all the tripping hazards…and it’s driving me bonkers.

Of course, being driven bonkers implies that it’s my destination…I think bonkers is the vehicle I’m riding in.

I just can’t figure out if I’m driving it or riding in it!

I’ve always wanted an organized, beautiful home. Who doesn’t?!
In the past I wanted order in my home for different reasons. I wanted our home to be a restful place for my husband when he returned from work and for my children to know the joy of a peaceful environment. I also wanted to be able to offer hospitality on a whim.

Now I want my house to be nice because I don’t want to lose any more of my mind….really.

This past week has been exceedingly busy and it culminated with the stomach bug hitting. Right now, our house is not as lovely as I’d like. And, to some degree, I’m okay with that.

But on another degree (is that even a saying?) it’s really stressing me out. And it isn’t because people are going to stop by – I’m pretty sure the flu has stopped anyone from dropping in!

It’s because this life is so crazy…I don’t want my house to be too.

A messy house = a terribly impatient mother.

It’s like I become as messy emotionally and mentally as my home.
I keep trying to point it out to my children but they aren’t getting it.

I’m not sure why because I can certainly tell I’m impatient and irritated easily.

Maybe this is another case of them being blissfully unaware.

Maybe I need to be a bit blissfully unaware too.

There was a season a few years ago right after my husband left when I was. I whittled life down to the essentials and the house being immaculate was not an essential….at all.

Essential was defined as loving my children with my actions, words, and time spent together.

In thinking back, I’m realizing it was a choice. I chose to focus on the people in my life instead of the things.

I want to choose that place again.

I don’t have to be blissfully unaware of my surroundings, but I’d like to be blissfully aware of my children.

My children are much more important than the clutter they create.

I could start by figuring out what absolutely needs to be done and working with my children in a gracious and organized way to get it done!

I could choose to spend time with them rather than spending all my time fussing about the house. Honestly I do feel like I spend all if not most of my time grumping about the house. My poor children!

I could pray that God would calm my mind and heart so I could hear His leading on this. I know He desires me to bring everything to Him and He truly does care about all my silly and not so silly stuff.

Lord, there’s so much to do and I don’t want to be only doing. Father, I want to be momma more than housekeeper. Please help me use my time wisely and efficiently so I can focus on the precious people in my life rather than the things that literally trip me up!