Hope

You are Shining: Hope in Weakness

I was talking with another mom the other day about how pregnancy has a way of exposing idols that you didn’t even know you had. Idols of the heart in regards to appearance, comfort, expectation, the list goes on and from my understanding it never ends as you enter into the refining realm of childrearing.

This process of refining, in marriage, in friendships, in community, in raising babies is all designed for our good: that our hearts would be stripped of any cruches until our hope is in only Jesus. Peace for my heart and hope for my soul can’t be found in anything apart from him. All of these changes, all of these struggles only make that truth more and more real to my needy heart.

And I am so in need.

This morning I read about how in the beginning Jesus, fully God, was there and all things were made through him. In him was LIFE and this life was LIGHT for us. John writes, “the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.” This text fills me with so much hope. Not only does Jesus breathe hope and light into the darkness and depravity of my soul, saving me from what I deserve but he brings life even into the “little” dark parts of my day-to-day growing.

Hope springs up from seeing that light shines in my life and my own darkness can’t overcome it.
I can’t snuff it out.
Not my selfishness, not my anxiety, not my pride, nothing is so dark that this light keeps from shining the message of LIFE.

Remembering this is such an encouragement when it feels like the growing-pains of refinement are happening in every area of my life right now. I can trust that God will address the darkness (no matter how big or small it seems) with light. He won’t leave me to sort through my sin and the hurt it brings on my own but he’ll lead me; teaching me, growing me and restoring me.

As I write this I’m reminded of how someone once told me, “God isn’t worried about you. He isn’t concerned that you’re not going to make it; that you’re not going to learn.” Isn’t that true? God, Sovereign God, isn’t wringing his hands up in heaven just hoping that someday the scales will fall off my eyes, just waiting to see how everything turns out. No, he sovereignly ordained each and every spot of darkness for our good and his glory.

This I know that God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

 

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An Eternal Perspective in Birth & Death

[Note: I started writing an introductory paragraph for a post on Spinning Babies & Hypnobabies as I prepare for the birth of our little boy but then I got completely derailed by my own thought processes and taken on a sobering mini-journey reminding me of life, death & HOPE in GOD.] 

I can’t believe that this Sunday will be the start of my 7th month of baby-growing! Wasn’t it just Christmas time when we were sharing the news with our family & friends?

You grow up and people tell you to “enjoy the journey because it’ll go by so fast”. They talk about how you’ll blink and next thing you know your babies are getting married and having their own but that notion, that time would go by so quickly, seems so distant when you’re young with your “whole life ahead of you”. But then we talk about death and the brevity of life, how we’re strangers in this land, sojourners, just like all of the generations before us (1 Chronicles 29:15). Our life is just a shadow, a vapor that disappears as quickly as it came and we’re left cherishing the moments that remain. Because who knows, maybe you’ll die tomorrow. Maybe your whole life isn’t ahead of you.

There’s no guarantee that I’ll live to see my little baby boy grow up, that I’ll celebrate my 40th wedding anniversary or that I’ll even make it to dinner tonight. Every moment that we have really is a gift that God has allowed us to experience. Sure, we hope that our children outlive us and that we’ll die peacefully after 50-something years of marriage, holding the hand of our spouse but that isn’t always the case. Too often people are taken from this earth “too early” and suddenly, leaving us standing there seemingly unprepared and shocked.

But don’t you remember? We’re just sojourners passing through. This life isn’t our home. You dont know what what tomorrow holds. Your life is just a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.

So we count the days and plan ahead with hope and surrender. Let this realization cause us not to cling to the things of this life too tightly lest we build up idols that crumble and disappoint. This truth should ignite a child-like trust that is dependent on our Maker for every moment, every need, every next step as we plan and anticipate our days here.

I’ve been reminded of this truth my whole pregnancy as I fight the anxious thoughts of pregnancy complications (my mind runs wild), as we dream as a family and wait for God’s provision and direction in this season. For those that trust in Jesus to pay their debts and cover all of their inadequacies that disqualify them from living eternally, life AND death are beautiful things. We struggle here now for just a little while with heartache and disappointment but we look with hope to enter into our real life in a real city whose builder and maker is God.

So even in the joy of feeling my baby move, seeing prayers answered and planning ahead for a gloriously bright future, I remind my heart that this joy is just a whisper of what’s to come for the people who belong to Jesus when we will live where there is FULLNESS of joy and pleasures forevermore. Imagine that!

Oh, that my joy in this (temporary) season of anticipation and desire for my little baby wouldn’t outweigh my joy in God and my desire for Him alone.

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Still, He Waters My Soul

I love that in LA you can drive two hours north to the mountains and these glorious hills covered in bright wildflowers and green grass or you can drive southeast to the desert where the hills are decorated by millions of uniquely cut rocks and boulders.

In the desert, the heartiest of wildflowers and trees grow up from beneath the dry soil as if to offer just a glimpse of hope and beauty.

 

 


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Sometimes so much of life is like this where hope springs up from solid ground. In the middle of the desert, still we say “The Lord has done great things!”.

As streams renew the desert, as life rises from the most unexpected places, so He restores our soul.

 

He is the rain and I am the desert
He is the hand that holds my seeds together
He is the breath and I am the dry bones
Oh, He makes me come alive
I’m coming alive

(Sarah McMillan)

Promises of Hope

Today our POD arrives with all of our belongings from Minnesota. We’re slowly adjusting, getting situated and discovering our new routine with a lot of changes taking place.

I’m enjoying having these days off of work to transition. It’s given me more time with the family, to help plan a wedding and to venture into the new territory of photography. I’m having so much fun learning about my camera and getting my hands on anything that will teach me more.


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After playing around with the available light in the house – super beautiful, white, fresh light comes through our bedroom window – I thought it would be a good idea to walk around my usual “loop” in the neighborhood and take some photos along the way.


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There’s a spot in our route, right before you start heading downhill, where you have this incredible view of the neighborhoods set up in the hills across the way. Sometimes you’ll see single houses built on top of a giant hill with no visible way of accessing it. The first time I visited out here it reminded me of the verse “a city set on a hill cannot be hidden” and the light that we should be to the world around us but it also reminded me of the protection that was provided for things that are set on high places. I still see those houses and think of how God not only sets us apart but he hides us.

“For he will conceal me there when trouble comes; he will hide me in his sanctuary. He will place me out of reach on a high rock.”

“When my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the rock that is higher than I.”

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I also found a beautiful gate along the way. It seems to me that the theme of my walk this afternoon was intent on reminding me of the protection of God over my life even in uncertain times. Little things like this hill or that gate remind me of the promises of plans filled with hope for the future.


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Sweet Sunday: Our First Morning at CrossView

Yesterday was so sweet.

It was our first Sunday since we moved so we got to be a part of the “Sunday morning routine”. No planes to catch later that day, no worrying about packing, no rushing out of church as soon as it was done, just the sweet Sunday morning.

My brother pastors a church in LA but every time we’ve visited, I fly out on Sunday to be back at work on Monday, so I miss the chance to attend. Usually Eric gets to stay but then that means he’s on the redeye home later that night. I was so excited because this was the first week that we really got to go!

The church family meets in a little room at a local rec center. The sound of God’s people singing gladly fills the room and echoes out into neighborhood. That moment was beautiful enough to leave you breathless. My heart was so full and thankful to finally be in a local church that I knew we would be calling home.

Joining Bethlehem Baptist during the transition of newlywed, post-graduation, pre-move life made it difficult to feel like I could really settle into my own niche in the church. I ached for intimate community, small group and serving in our community but the combination of our hectic work schedules, trying to find (never found) our own routine and knowing that we would soon be leaving made it hard to put down roots and be a part of our local church like I desired. Like I needed.

Sunday morning was just like a breath of fresh air! My heart was filled with hope as I imagined what the Lord would do with us there, now and Lord willing, in the years to come. It’s exciting to be a part of the “small beginnings” and to not just meet on Sunday but to “do life” with people who treasure truth, are purposeful about loving each other and growing together.

I so value all that I’m learning about biblical church membership and what that looks like as we start the process of becoming members. I’m challenged by the level of accountability, transparency and faithfulness that we’re called to as we pray for and build up each other in the faith.

What a sweet Sunday it was! I am so thankful to the Lord for supplying all of my heart’s needs and filling me with HOPE.

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The First of Many Lasts – Dealing with Change


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This was the picture that I was imagining as we stood in my kitchen tonight for the last time, praying for Tara and saying our goodbyes.

Tomorrow morning my best friend moves across the country.

In the midst of the sentimental nostalgia rushing over me as memories flashed like a video in my minds eye during our goodbye, there was a sense of peace knowing that this was a necessary, good thing. The best thing I could liken it to would be growing pains.

You know it’s good, you know it’s necessary and if you’re short like me then there’s an element of excitement but still…ouch.

It seems surreal to try and wrap my head around the fact that this might be the last time we ever live in the same city, that the days of lunch dates, girls night and our other adventures have come to an end.

This season is so bittersweet.

Tonight was the last night I’d have Tara in my kitchen- a place that holds so many of our memories from the last couple of years. It got me thinking that this was just the first of many lasts that are happening in this season as we prepare to make our own move.

Changes, shifting of seasons and times are inevitable. They’re not just something we anticipate but they’re necessary, they’re good and they create an opportunity for us to trust in the Lord and develop our strength of character.

As I say goodbye to my best friend, my family and the city I’ve called “home” for the last 5 years, with all of the details of our move and the months ahead still up in the air, my prayer is that my heart would be quick and willing to TRUST in God’s brilliant plan.

That’s the good news, the silver lining we see in change: that the God of all HOPE fills us with joy and peace as we TRUST in Him, so that WE can overflow with hope too. I can trust that in every change, in every bittersweet season, He is working it ALL together for my good. 

Bittersweet from Coast to Coast

“Winter” in LA looks much different than Minnesota where everything seems to be shades of black and white.


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In the early hours of Thanksgiving morning we got a call that our niece, Danika, had been rushed to the hospital and was fighting for her life. During the week we stood by, getting updates from the family, praying and waiting.

 

My Dad was so generous to fly Eric out during that week so he could be with the family during the fight. However, a couple of days later, I was on my way out to LA as well…

 

Danika had a special way of bringing so many people together. People from all over the world flew in to be with the family and honor her life and now, her memory.

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After the UFC fight ended so suddenly we watched previously recorded Skype calls with Danika in them.


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Family toasting to the gift of Danika’s life.

It was really so incredible to watch a group of people who so strongly believed and trusted in the sovereignty of God, grieve the loss of the one they love. There was absolutely heartache, moments of anger and unbelief but what I mostly remember was a joyful confidence that God is always GOOD and He WILL be glorified.

I’ve suffered poorly before in my life when I failed to trust in the sovereignty of God or His goodness. Without trusting that His will is one that no man can thwart, I was left to snowball all of the questions; the “what ifs…”, the “but if I just…”, or probably the most difficult to understand at the time, “WHY?“.

Unable to answer these questions left me fearful and regretful not confident and hopeful. Trials came, suffering took place in my heart and in the midst of the storm I had forgotten to trust that the One who made me wrote all of my days in a book before I was ever born. He bound the pages of my life together with His goodness and sealed them with a confident declaration that not one page would fall out, apart from His will. I had forgotten that if He could hold and measure the waters in the palm of His hand, then He could surely hold everything in my tiny little life together according to His perfect plan that He had from the beginning.

Danika’s life and her “sudden” death has further impressed upon me the brevity of life. I’m reminded that we aren’t ever guaranteed another day with the ones we love. Her life was a gift for as little or as much time that the Lord had predestined.

Writing this I’m reminded of the Connecticut tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School.  I think of all the little ones who were unjustly caught in the fire of one man and his anger. I think of the parents who got their kids ready for school that morning, thinking that this was just another Friday. I imagine they had plans for a pizza-movie night or building gingerbread houses; a Christmas tradition they’ve had with their little one for the last three years.

Everything can change in a moment. 

In October at our wedding I joyfully talked about how “one night can change your life”.
In December, as we buried our niece, I realized how true and sobering that phrase could be.

Still, as the white horse coach pulled her casket up to the gravesite and as we flooded the area with flowers, lowering her body into the ground, knowing the tension of hope and grief, our song resounded with truth;

“Great is Thy Faithfulness…All I have needed Thy hand hath provided—
“Great is Thy faithfulness,” Lord, unto me!”.


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