Hope?

img_8377Hope.

Such a beautiful word.  In it is bound up all that is good in our perspective and all that we have to look forward to in our lives.

It is spoken concerning the smallest of things, “I hope I remember where I put that”, to the big life-changing desires we hold, “I hope I find someone who will love me well.”

There is not a morning that I don’t wake up hoping that the day will go well, that I’ll be patient with and encouraging to my children, that I’ll accomplish many things, and that good things will happen for us all.

But when my hope is not met with success, what then?  Is all hope lost?

Is my hope dependent on things going well as I define it? Or is my hope something more, something much more?

There is a song out right now called “Even If” by Mercy Me.  The chorus has a line that says, “I know You’re able and I know You can save through the fire with Your mighty hand, but even if You don’t, my hope is You alone.”  

Not my hope is IN You, but my hope IS YOU.

It isn’t a concept I’m unfamiliar with – I’ve heard it before.  That Jesus is our hope.  But much more often I’ve heard that my hope is IN Jesus, which it is, but for me, the reminder that my hope is Him has been a blessing.

There is something about this Hope that calms me…maybe it’s because scripture also tells me that Jesus IS my life.

Christ who is your life….  Colossians 3:4

Kind of big concepts to wrap your brain around…Jesus is my life and my hope.  It is easier for me to understand that Jesus is my Savior,  is the Son of God, is fully man and fully God…big concepts but not too difficult for me to “get”.

How is Jesus my life?  And how is He my hope?

Christ Jesus our hope.  I Timothy 1:1

I’m sitting in my big comfy chair with my coffee, Bible and laptop.  Unfortunately, I’m also leaning up against a heating pad because my back is killing me. And honestly, I have very little hope of completing most of the tasks on my to do list because they require movement. I don’t want to be, but I feel a bit discouraged  

If I believe that God is sovereign there is a reason for me to be sitting here with an achin’ back, a laptop in front of me, and Bible open beside me. There has to be a reason that this morning God brought to mind that He is my hope.  

There is something more to it than me putting my hope IN Him.  I think it is because regardless of what I do or don’t do, He is still my hope.  It isn’t about me DOING anything.

Even if I don’t have the right perspective, Jesus is still my hope.

Even if I’m feeling hopeless about things, Jesus is still my hope.  

Even if nothing seems to go as planned, Jesus is still my hope.

Even if my world is incredibly messy, Jesus is still my hope.

God is who He is.  I have absolutely no bearing on who He is.  He is always the same.  He is always my hope.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.  Hebrews 13:8

No matter how faithless, confused, sinful, hopeless, angry, frustrated, exhausted, weary, overwhelmed I am, He never changes.

He is always sovereign, faithful, loving, gracious, forgiving, and, thankfully, no matter what I do, He is always with me.  

My hope is not just in Him, which in and of itself is a very, very powerful thing…my hope is Him.

In you, O LORD, do I take refuge; let me never be put to shame!

In your righteousness deliver me and rescue me; incline your ear to me, and save me!

Be to me a rock of refuge, to which I may continually come;

You have given the command to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress.

Rescue me, O my God, from the hand of the wicked,

from the grasp of the unjust and cruel man.

For you, O Lord, are my hope, my trust, O LORD, from my youth.

Psalm 71:1-5

Something interesting about this passage is the use of God’s names.  Lord with no caps means “Adonia” which denotes God’s sovereignty, omnipotence and lordship.  So when the Psalmist says, “For you, O Lord, are my hope”, he is saying that the sovereign, omnipotent Lord is his hope.

Lord in all caps was used to bring to mind God’s covenant faithfulness.  That means when the psalmist says, “my trust, O LORD”, he is saying that he trusts in the covenant-keeping God. I just love how the Word of God is so rich and deep and has layers and layers to explore!

My sovereign God is my hope and my trust is the God who keeps the covenant faithfully for both of us!  

The God who hold up the universe is my hope and the God who holds up the covenant is my trust.

That’s pretty awesome!

Why do I feel hopeless or struggle with trust when my Father, who is the Maker of all things, who made me, who loves me, who will never leave me nor forsake me, says He is my hope and trust and life.  

There is very little about this single parent life that isn’t at least a tiny bit challenging, exhausting, and sometimes so very frustrating.  All the burdens of raising children without a partner, all the decisions, fears and practical things we have to muddle through can be daunting.  I’m encouraged though…blessed by the knowledge, the reminder, that God is my life.  

My life is not my children, my accomplishments, my to do lists, my work, my writing, my home, my relationships…my life is Him.  And He is all good.

Good gravy!  Think about it!  If He is my life and He is my hope, then both of those things are MORE than secure.  It isn’t dependent on me keeping my life and hope in Him.  It is Him – ALL Him.  

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering,

for he who promised is faithful.  Hebrews 10:23

I trust Him.  I trust that He holds my life and my hope safely.  That no matter what this world throws at me, no matter what I do or don’t do, no matter what my circumstances are, no matter where this single mom journey takes me, He is my hope.  

Even if all else fails (including me), He will not.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right had of the throne of God.  Hebrews 12:1-2

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Are You Stuck in a Miry Bog Too?

swamp 1
A lot of people have told me lately that I’m too hard on myself. That I refer to myself as a mess way too much.
I believe them.

The problem is that I feel like a mess…I feel like I just can’t get my life together…any part of it.
I told a friend recently that I feel like a spinning top…all wobbly and going in circles. See…that’s not positive either. Honest but not positive.

My friend replied that I’m not a spinning top. I just have a lot of spinning plates and some of them are wobbly. I think they are all wobbly…but that’s just me.

The problem is that my life is messy….maybe I’m not the mess…maybe it’s my life. And I’ve never been partial to playing in the mud.

I believe I’m kinda in the muck right now. It’s a rather yucky place to be. I’m not very fond of it.

Muck reminds me of some verses:

I waited patiently for the LORD; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon the rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the LORD. Psalm 40:1-3

Do you know what a miry bog is? It’s like a muddy swamp. When I think of a swamp I think of a slimy, smelly, wet place. (Actually it also makes me think of Scooby-Doo….the swamp monster or beast or whatever it was called. There are days when I think I might be the swamp monster!?!)

A miry bog is a place where our feet get trapped in mud…where we can sink down and get stuck.

Right now, miry bog feels about right. I’m feeling rather swampy…although I don’t believe I’m slimy or smelly or wet. Just a bit…
ugh…a bit down and stuck.

It’s a difficult place for me. I thought I was done with down. I did the down and stuck thing when my husband left…I don’t want to do it again.

So in the midst of my swamp, what am I to do?

Psalm 40 says I’m to wait patiently for the Lord…at least that’s what the psalmist did. I can do that…I think. I mean honestly my feet are kinda stuck here…my heart is sinking…and my mind is definitely muddy.

Stuck feet…sinking heart…muddy mind. Oh dear.

The cool thing about reading a whole passage of Scripture not a verse or two is that you often get a very beautiful thing…a lovely present from God.

I decided to read all of Psalm 40 and how very glad I am that I did. God showed me is that this psalmist is speaking my heart.

The psalm begins with a remembrance of God’s deliverance and a time of praising God for all He has done…for His continued faithfulness and provision.

The psalmist also reminds God that he has been faithful to share all the wonderful things God has done.

I have told the glad news of deliverance in the great congregation; behold, I have not restrained my lips, as you know, O LORD. I have not hidden your deliverance within my heart; I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation; I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness from the great congregation. (9-10)

The next part of the passage is the psalmist asking again for God’s deliverance. He’s facing new trials.

For evils have encompassed me beyond number; my iniquities have overtaken me, and I cannot see; they are more than the hairs of my head; my heart fails me. Be pleased, O Lord, to deliver me! O LORD, make haste to help me! (12-13)

That’s how I’m feeling right now. When my husband left and divorce became a reality and single parenting became my life, God faithfully inclined his ear to me and heard my cry. He delivered me. He gave me a song of praise to share.

But now things are all wonky again and I need some serious rescuing…again.

And, like the psalmist, I believe and trust that God is going to deliver me. I even on some level have an excitement about what God is going to do. I just know that He is going to do something grand in my life. Even if it isn’t grand by the world’s standards, it will be a blessing by mine.

As for me, I am poor and needy, but the Lord takes thought for me. You are my help and my deliverer; do not delay, O my God! (17)

How often have I wanted to say, “Do not delay God! Please work quickly!”

I know that God’s timing is always perfect…maybe I should say that it always results in the perfect thing, but His timing definitely does NOT feel perfect sometimes. Sometimes perfect to me means RIGHT NOW!! Who am I kidding…not sometimes, ALL THE TIME!

BUT I trust Him. I know Him to be faithful and I know that He will always and only do what is the very best thing for me and mine.

As for you, O LORD, you will not restrain your mercy from me; your steadfast love and your faithfulness will ever preserve me! (11)

He’s taking me to a deeper understanding of His love for me…it’s a glorious thing but oh I have so much to work through in my own heart so that I can receive all that He has in store for me.

Thankfully He does not leave me to work alone…He is totally in charge of the work and the worksite! I’m excited to see what He does and where He takes me in His word and in my life.

God is teaching me so much about Himself and myself. I can’t wait to share. I just want to get my thoughts in order and make sure that what I share blesses you.

Praying that you will seek God, be glad in Him and continually say, “Great is the LORD!”

But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who love your salvation say continually, “Great is the LORD!” (16)

Not the List I Wanted to Make

list pic

I’ve been feeling all twisted up in knots.  If I could attach a video (which I probably can but honestly the thought of trying to figure out how and trying to look good enough in it kinda twists me up in more knots) you’d see me waving my hands all over the place to symbolize how my chest feels inside – all frenetic.

There’ve been many things in the last four years that I’ve felt more acutely than I thought possible – physical reactions to emotional things.  A broken heart really does feel broken.  A lump in my throat really does make it difficult to swallow.  And stress really can feel crushing on the chest. 

Lately, I’ve felt a heavy chest burden pressing down on me.  I’ve felt on the edge of tears often…and have even hidden in my closet and jumped over that edge a few times.  I was trying to explain it to a friend. I just couldn’t say exactly why…all I could say was that the last four years have made me very tired and I feel like a just want to hide – preferably in a nice house on the ocean.

I began listing a few of the things that are doing me in – individually a fair number of them seemed absurd while others seemed ridiculously overwhelming.  My friend struggled to understand…asked questions I had no answers for. I just couldn’t figure out what to say.  I was beginning to feel like I was losing my ever-loving mind.  My poor dear friend.

When I got off the phone I decided that it might help to take the time to write everything out….to make a list of everything that causes me stress.  Definitely not the list I wanted to make.  It was a lot longer than I thought it would be.  And I’d left off lots of things that drive me bonkers…wet towels on the floor, never-ending laundry, things opened and not closed, those potential science experiments developing in the cup holders in the backseat of the car, the food left out on the counter, the rust stain streaking down and the green stuff growing up the side of my house, the giant crack in my front steps, the river that occasionally runs through my backyard, contacts that rip, crockpots that crack…oh and taxes.  Golly, I just made another list! 

The list that I made was a bit unusual as lists go, but it really helped to see it all in front of me and I realized that I’m not crazy.  I actually do have a lot on my plate…and there are a lot of issues in my life. 

At a Bible study in college, we did an exercise that impacted me greatly.  We wrote some of the things we struggled with or regrets we had on little slips of paper.  We then put all the slips of paper in a flowerpot, put the flowerpot in a towel, and smashed it to smithereens.  It was cathartic.  In a very visual way, it demonstrated that when we give things to God they are dealt with…our sins are forgiven and our issues resolved. 

I believe that idea works well with things that cause stress in our lives.  In a sense, I had to write mine down so that I could recognize that I wasn’t being irrational and overemotional.  It also helped me to understand that I’m at a point where I really and truly can’t handle all that God has allowed in my life.  I just can’t.  So if I can’t handle things, what do I do?  It’s easy to SAY just let God handle it…beware of any sentence that includes the word “just”…it’s always a doozey.  I’m trying to let God handle things, but I’d really like to know what His plan is… you know, where we are headed, when we are going to get there, who is going to be involved, and our mode of transportation. He does not often share those insights with me.  I believe I’m supposed to move forward with a small flashlight and trust that He’s guiding the beam. 

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.  Psalm 119:105

Oh that I was better at that trust thing. 

Mentally I get it…I KNOW I can trust God with the big and little things, but I still FEEL like I should be doing something to make things better, to make things work out properly.  I guess the point is that I don’t know how to fix most things and I don’t know what “fixed” really looks like anyway.  Even as I write this I can’t seem to let go of my desire to get things where I think they should be.  Let me give you an example:

I’ve got children who are struggling with things.  Things I feel like I should have been able to help them avoid.  There are things I can’t seem to be consistent on.  Boundaries I can’t seem to keep hard and fast…I’m sorta soft and slow on things.  I’m fearful I will lose my most important battles if I don’t get tougher.  That stresses me out.  Why can’t I trust that God loves my children more than me…that He will completely take care of things? I carry a burden I shouldn’t – I need to carry His not mine.  His is easy and light…mine is suffocating me.

And yet, I have a responsibility to raise my children well.  I can’t just throw my hands up and do a “Jesus take the wheel” thing.  I actually have to do something!  It’s the something that’s getting me.  I know that God is teaching me to not base my self-worth on what I accomplish or how well I do what He has called me to do.  He wants me to love Him and love others.  I believe if I could just stop trying to change everything and everyone, I might actually end up loving God and others much better.  

Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.  1 Peter 4:8

I wish I had some final words of wisdom…some grand revelation I could share that would untie my knots and yet tie this post up with a lovely little bow.  I don’t have one right now.  I’ve been trying to figure one out and I think I’m realizing that this is part of the process of healing and growing and learning.  And it’s okay not to have the answer or the pretty bow right now.  But I promise as soon as I do, I’ll share!

What I do know…God is faithful and He will provide all that I need to accomplish all He has called me to do. 

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