Finding Hope in Expectant Hope

I have a friend who is fighting a tough battle with cancer, and today she has a new appointment with a new doctor in a new place for a new round of hope in her future.

I often don’t know what to say to someone else who is fighting a battle, but it’s just in my God-given nature (truly, not of my natural self) to pray that people never give up hope. So, I do.

Wondering hope leaves us wondering.
Expectant hope leaves us expecting.

There’s a huge difference between these kinds of hopes, and my prayer is that she can find even more expectant hope through her trial—more than she’s already had to muster up in all phases of this years-long journey.

“Expectant hope is powerful and never wasted.”

Those were some of the words I shared with her this morning as she reached out to her friends on social media before her appointment.


We’re all battling something. 

Maybe it’s cancer.
Maybe it’s abuse.
Maybe it’s racism.
Maybe it’s not being understood.
Maybe it’s legal trouble.
Maybe it’s prison.
Maybe it’s anger.
Maybe it’s pornography.
Maybe it’s bankruptcy.
Maybe it’s pride.
Maybe it’s worthiness.
Maybe it’s food.
Maybe it’s smoking.
Maybe it’s our boss.
Maybe it’s our wayward child.
Maybe it’s our church.
Maybe it’s shattered dreams.
Maybe it’s loneliness.
Maybe it’s fear.
Maybe it’s our past.
Maybe it’s self.

Wondering hope leaves us wondering.
Expectant hope leaves us expecting.

My encouragement to you today (and it’s a needed encouragement to my own self-talk, too), is to stop wondering and start expecting. Expectant hope is powerful and never wasted, especially when you stop hoping in the circumstance, and begin hoping in That which is greater than the circumstance.

 


 

The Struggle with Choosing What Matters Most

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Photo and artwork belong to ComparisonTrap.org

This is a continuation of a previous post about a Bible study in which I’m facilitating and participating. 


Better one hand with tranquility
than two handfuls with toil
and chasing after the wind.
~ Ecclesiastes 4:6

The Comparison Trap:  Week One, Day Four… Some of my reminders and my takeaways from the devotional include:

I’m totally guilty of having two handfuls with toil and feeling as though I am chasing after the wind. Totally guilty. I have a lot of tranquility in many areas of my life, but I’ve been guilty of compartmentalizing certain segments of my life, too.

In today’s devotional, Sandra Stanley asks a few questions based on the childhood game, “Would You Rather?” The first question really made me think. It’s not that I haven’t thought about it before… this time, though, I think I was supposed to think about it in the context of today’s Scripture verse. That is something I’ve consciously avoided doing before today.

Sandra writes, “Would you rather get the promotion that everyone in the office is vying for or have consistent nights of dinner around the table with your family?”

I don’t think a promotion like that exists at my job, and if it did, it probably wouldn’t take me away from dinner with my family, but the concept of increasing my work time and realizing how that could impact my family did hit me square in the head when Sandra asked that question.

I was an at-home momma for 18 years. I’ve homeschooled all three of my kids, volunteered as a team mom in every sport or activity in which they’ve participated, have enjoyed serving at my church, have helped my husband with a home-based business, and I’ve found fulfillment in cooking great meals for my family and caring for my home. A few years ago, circumstances with my husband’s career changed, and I knew the time was coming when I’d need to consider re-entering the outside-the-home work force. Sixteen months ago a door opened to that possibility, and fifteen months ago I walked through that door.

I enjoy it, but almost too much. Other than now having only one child left to homeschool through high school, none of my family responsibilities have been lessened over the last year or so, even though I do now work outside of the home, too. If I’m really honest with myself, my home-based responsibilities have actually increased in this timeframe.

But I like my work. I work in an aspect of ministry, and being able to do so does my mind and soul some real good! I really cherish the opportunity to help people build personal relationships with God and with others. It’s hard for me to look at what’s written on the photo above, because my job in ministry does contribute to that which lasts… those relationships and bridges I’m helping to build really could last well into eternity.

In this season of my life, there’s another ministry to which I’ve been called:  I’ve been called to care for and minister to my family as the primary caretaker, teacher, and source of income. The ministry of lovingly caring for my husband and my children is important, and I need to make sure I’m focused and available to meet those needs. The relationships and bridges I help to build here are also an investment which will last well into eternity. It’s just not time for me to be spending more mental and physical time at my job than I do in my home-based job.

Based on the Scripture verse for today, the photo with the artistically-crafted reminder, and the insight-filled Challenge of today’s devotional, I really do need to focus upon and dwell upon more of what matters most, because one has a shorter season left than the other. Even though my work time and my home time are both spent “ministering” to how I’ve been called, my primary ministry is to my family. It won’t be long before my youngest child graduates from high school. It won’t be long before my husband will, once again, be able to help to support our family.

My “someday” for whatever is to come will be here soon enough, and when it does come, I can trust that God will open the right doors through which I can walk. In the meantime, it’s important for me to stop toiling in my mind, worrying about the money I need to support my family, and chasing the wind that challenges my contentment in the ministry of being fully present for them.

It’s a season, and soon enough, the wind will change. For now, I need to focus on the tranquility of that one open hand, find a way to help to open up the clenched fist in the other one, and breathe in the peace and satisfaction of knowing that finding balance for all of us is what matters most. The “more of what matters most” is them, and today’s devotional has been a reminder for me.

 


 

 

 

The Search for Contentment Continues

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Photo and artwork belong to ComparisonTrap.org

This is a continuation of a previous post about a Bible study in which I’m facilitating and participating. 


I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.
I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation,
whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.
I can do everything through him who gives me strength.
~Philippians 4:12-13 

The Comparison Trap:  Week One, Day Three… Some of my reminders and my takeaways for today include:

Paul inspires me. I want to learn to be more like Paul, who was always striving to know more of Jesus and to live by the path the Lord had prepared before him.

His contentedness awes me. Like many of you, I’ve read and studied his story. With all he had done in his past life (before meeting Jesus on the road to Damascus), and with the beatings, shipwrecks, sufferings, hardships, time in prison, and challenges he faced, he was still able to know that finding his own strength and purpose through the strength of his Lord was his pathway to contentedness.

I haven’t met Jesus on a dusty road, nor have I been physically blinded by His presence, but I’ve traveled on roads of uncertainty seeking His answers, and I’ve been blindsided by quite a few harsh realities in life. I’ve lived seasons of being well-fed and with plenty in my life, and I’ve gone through seasons of hunger and emptiness, begging to be relieved of my heartaches and hurts.

Comparing these seasons to one another can be a trap, and when I’ve failed to reach out to Him, failed to dig for His hope, and when I’ve chosen to close His Word in frustration and wondering, then I’ve fallen into a trap. The snare has only seemed to tighten when my focus has been on comparison and discontent.

Just like you, I’ve, too, looked around me and asked, “Why me?”

In Day Three, Sandra writes, “The habit of praying and reading Scripture before my day gets going loads me up with the strength and perspective I need to resist the comparison trap.”

I’m still working on finding my perfect peace in contentedness, but I do know that the more I allow His presence to fill me, to surround me, and to overwhelm me, the more contentment and patience I find in my circumstances. The more time I spend dwelling in Scriptures and reading through His Word, the more I continue to learn that it truly is Him who gives me more of His strength to be more of the woman He is calling me to be.

When I dwell in His Word, I dwell in His presence. It is there I find His peace.

 


 

 

 

Moved by the Music

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He was just a few rows in front of me on Sunday.

A little boy…probably seven or eight years old. He was sitting in the auditorium with his dad just a couple of rows from the stage.

I first noticed it at the start of the service, and it bothered me just a bit.
His motion was distracting.
It was tense.
It was filling the entire space in front of him.
From the start of the opener, he rocked front to back in his seat to .every.single.beat. of the music.

He stopped for the announcements. At the moment we were invited to stand for worship, he started again. Through the four worship songs, he just rocked in perfect rhythm with the beat…fast or slow…it didn’t matter.
He kept perfect timing.

About half of the way through the first song, I think I started to get it. In that moment, I felt awed. I think this little boy may have been autistic, and he was completely moved by the music. His daddy would glance at him now and again, but the little boy’s response to the music during worship was perfectly normal to his dad.

The beat of the music slowed for the last two of the four worship songs, and so did his rocking. By the time we hit the first bridge in “Oceans,” I knew the attitude of my heart during the service’s opener was way off base.

The lyrics to the bridge say:

“Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever you would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
By the presence of my Savior”    

Here was this wonderful little boy…he was fully immersed in worshipping his Savior. He was fully immersed in the beat of the music. He was fully immersed.

He was trusting.
He was out there walking upon the water.
He was going where he was called.
He was being taken deeper.
He was being made stronger.
He was sitting there rocking in the presence of his Savior.

The only distraction I was now feeling was how this little boy was worshipping so deeply and was serving as such an example for me.

It often takes the faith of a child to help us see where He’d have us go.


(Lyrics via MetroLyrics & Hillsong United – Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)


Monday’s Musings — A Shelter Pup, Me & the Safe Place

Maya sitting in a chair watching baseball on Saturday
Maya sitting in a chair watching baseball on Saturday

My youngest son had a baseball scrimmage on Saturday evening.
I decided to take along our dog, Maya.

She’s a shelter pup.
She’s a shelter pup we adopted just over two years ago.
She’s a shelter pup who, we believe, came from an abusive situation.

Maya doesn’t like riding in the car.
Maya doesn’t like men.
Maya doesn’t like men wearing hats.
Maya doesn’t like little girls.
Maya doesn’t like people she doesn’t know.
Maya doesn’t like other dogs.
Maya doesn’t like paper towel rolls, cords of any kind or objects which look like bats.

Taking Maya to baseball activities can – obviously – be a challenge.
So why do I take her?
I want to help her to overcome some of her fears in a safe way.

She is a wonderfully perfect dog for us at home; it’s just when she comes into contact with these things that her nervousness, fearful growling and hesitancies occur.

Maya is part German Shepherd and part Chihuahua (…uh-huh…go ahead…you can ponder that one for a bit…). At home, she’s all Shepherd…she smells everything, she’s a fantastic watchdog and alerts us to anything going on in the house, driveway or yard that isn’t in her view of 100% normal, and she’s loving and protective. However, should something outside her view of normal persist, should she encounter one of her fears, or if we take her out of her environment, then the yippy, growling, shaking and fearful Chihuahua comes out in her.

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I can relate to Maya. I like my home environment. My things are where I want them, my thoughts are where I need them, and my routine is mostly mine. I’m like a Momma Shepherd at home, but I’ll let doubts and hesitancy flare up when I’m away from my comfort zones.

I’ve had to deal with new people and new situations a lot over the last few years…many of which I would never have imagined or have chosen. I’m not a hermit by any means, but I can get a little nervous when I’m called to step out of my comfort zone, even if it is in a safe place.

Sometimes I wonder…
What will others think?
What will they think of me?
Am I up to the task?
Will I be good enough?
I cherish when there are others near me who know me and who can help me walk through hesitancies or challenges.

Through my own challenges, I’ve found comfort and confidence in a few close friends, but mostly, I’ve found my strength in the Lord.

I’ve had to repeatedly tell myself that if He has allowed me to walk through this season of my life, then He will be with me. I’ve found comfort in His Word and in knowing He will be my shield, my strength, my comforter and my defender. He has, and — despite the challenges of life — my joy has overflowed as a result of His presence.

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That’s what I have to do with Maya. When she’s shaking and staring at me with that “I’m so afraid” look, I need to be a good master by helping her to confidently walk through the hesitancies and by helping her to safely (for her and for others) deal with her fears.

She knows she’s safe when I’m near and when she can sit at my feet,
and I know I’m safe when He is here and when I can sit at His feet.

 

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