Finding Hope in Shedding an Old Life

In April, I adopted an orchid. It was a take-home gift from a lovely bridal shower I attended in Michigan. I’ve never been tasked with caring for an orchid, but it was so lovely with its six blooms, that I was excited to transport it home.

The conditions in Michigan gave us a wintry blast of ice that coated the car to 1/4″ thick. It took 30 minutes of running the defrost and chipping away to clear the car before loading up my luggage and moving the orchid from the warmth of the hotel room. She was buckled into the seat belt in the back seat for the six-hour drive.

Upon arriving home, I settled her in on my kitchen counter with an ice cube for refreshment (Google is so helpful), before doing some laundry and packing up again for a seven-hour drive to Virginia. I gave strict orders to my family to NOT touch it or water the orchid while I was gone.

I returned a few days later to find a few buds had sprung open and new buds were forming. Yes! Victory in the moment! I had never grown one of these tropical beauties, but she was growing and glowing without much help from me.

Her 15 blooms have dazzled me with their beauty for months. A few weeks ago, her blooms began to wrinkle and lose some luster. Now, just three remain, and soon, she will seemingly slumber. As a first-time orchid owner, I’m not sure how long she’ll rest, but I’ll remain expectantly hopeful of her reawakening, no matter how long it takes.

 

 

This little orchid helps me to see the circle of life through the challenges and hopes within each of us. She has particular needs, and when her needs are nurtured, she is mesmerizing. Overdo or under do anything with her, and there will be issues. She’ll be less than she was created to be.

That’s life, isn’t it? There are surprises, delights, new opportunities, beauty, blossoming, showy moments and confidence in becoming who we have been created to be. Yet, in all of this, there are disappointments, heartache, a shedding of the old, fading joys, wrinkles, retreat, silence, and a feeling of loss where we have trouble knowing when we’ll get our groove back.

Expectant hope abounds in this little orchid, in all of nature, in us and in others. It’s all around us.

Can we see it in the simple?  Can we see it in the small?  Can we see it in the lonely?  Can we see it when we are shedding an old life, old habits or that which leaves us feeling dead?  Can we see it with a new opportunity?  Can we see it in our smile?  Can we see it when the Creator is working in us?  Can we see it?

Expectant hope abounds all around us.
Can we see it?


 

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Finding Trust (Because I Quit My Job)

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Trust is a weighty thing. It’s a two-way street in our relationships with others, but when it comes to God, it’s a one-way street. We don’t need Him to trust us, but we do need to trust Him.

Today is a new day, and it’s a first step into the days ahead. That’s the case for all of us each and every day. But today, it’s quite magnified for me.

I’ve taken some steps toward changes in my life—leaps of faith, as I see them—to move away from circumstances that didn’t honor God or me, but now I’ve moved into the unknown as a result of my choices.

I quit my job.

I gave my notice a few weeks ago, and yesterday was my last day. I don’t have another job yet, but I felt as though staying at that one had become something I could not continue to do. My husband has lovingly supported my decision, as he’s repeated to me that I “haven’t quit or retreated from anything,” but that I’ve chosen to “advance in a different direction.”  


My husband’s words of encouragement are extracted from Oliver Prince Smith—a decorated, four-star general and retired Korean War veteran—to encourage me: “Retreat, hell! We’re not retreating, we’re just advancing in a different direction.” My husband has repeatedly repeated the shortened version to me as I wrestled through making the decision about my job, and he reminded me of these words again last evening after I finished my last day in the office.


I’ve been wrestling with trusting God in my next steps. Today was a new day in the wrestling match of trusting Him.

My study time this morning took me into a lesson about time…and about how He knows the plans He has for us…and about how the plans He has ordained for us have already been written. Then I decided to read through Psalm 138 and 139.

My husband’s Bible was beside me in our library room, so I grabbed it and flipped to where Psalms would be found. The page I turned to quickly and randomly had a verse circled:

“Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall.”

My husband had written “burden” above “cares.”

No coincidence.
None of it.
It’s yet another God-incidence.

When this morning’s Bible study turned out to be about time, I smiled a bit and said a few “Oh, of course it is!” thoughts under my breath. Those of you who know me well have heard me talk about the importance of trusting God’s timing, but I always throw in a “…but He’s so slow!” comment about my own experiences.

But this!…here’s another God-incidence in a lickety-split moment, found as I was moving into the next course of study. I needed to stop to write my thoughts (that you are reading), because I knew Psalm 138 and 139 were going to keep His reminders coming.

He knows the burden and worries I have been carrying. He knows why I needed to leave my job. He knows why I have struggled to trust Him in these next steps. He knows I need to feel His strength and His love and His confidence and His “I’ve got this,” especially today—on this new day into the rest of my days.


Oh, Lord. I thank you for your presence in my life. You are full of such mercy, grace, love…and hope! I am working on trusting you…on surrendering my wondering hopes to you…on having expectant hopes, instead. Thank you for your patience with me. 


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.

 


 

Finding Hope in Hope

Welcome to June!

May was a magnificent month on so many levels. May brought sad endings, happy endings, fresh starts and new beginnings on my path throughout the month. Memories were made through milestone moments, love was shared and doors were opened.

May was also a tough month. Doors slammed closed on yet another round of hope, justice fell through a manipulative chasm, and loneliness ensued within a black hole of solitude.

June is here, and a new month is a new opportunity to mark a new round of optimism and hope… by choice, of course.

It is a choice.
It’s always a choice.

Within every given ending, start, beginning, milestone, anniversary, reminder, closed door, chasm
or black hole of circumstances, hope is a choice.

Do you hear that?
Hope… it’s a choice.

It’s a choice you have to make, and it’s a choice I have to make, too.

Don’t ever give up on it.
Don’t ever let the darkness overcome the light.
Don’t ever…

Choose hope.

May the God of hope
fill you with all joy and peace
as you trust in him,
so that you may overflow with hope
by the power of the Holy Spirit.
~Romans 15:13 (NIV)


What is your hope for June?
What is the darkness needing to be overcome by the light?
I’d like to pray for you, and I’d certainly appreciate your prayers for me, too.


 

Finding Hope in Friday’s Death

May you find yourself reflecting on what’s He’s done. This post is a more recent take on one done a few years ago about what today brings and how the death of a Friday can mean so much in our lives.

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Good Friday.  It’s a rainy morning here in rural Appalachia, and it seems fitting for the day Christians around the world mark as one of death and darkness.

…To be beaten, flogged and scourged with a barbed whip until nearly unrecognizable;
…To have a crown of thorns pressed into my head;
…To be nailed to a tree with spikes through my wrists and feet;
…To die by crucifixion alongside common criminals…

No. None of this, I’ve imagined, could be good if I would have to experience it.
I haven’t had to, but I know Jesus has experienced it all.

How could it be that we’d wind up called this a “good” kind of Friday when He had to go through such incredible torture?

It’s about 8 a.m., and I’m sipping my coffee while still in my pajamas and fuzzy slippers. I’m reflecting on the ups and downs and the clarity and confusion over the years in my own journey of faith. I’m also reflecting on what must have been going on more than 2000 years ago. My comfort of today makes me feel uncomfortable in comparison to what He must have been going through in these moments. 

It will be 9 a.m. soon…

Jesus was nailed to the cross in the morning at about 9 a.m.** after enduring questioning, a trial and brutal beatings.

Once that cross was set into place, He hung there until noon**, at which point the skies overhead darkened.

I don’t know if it was a rainy day on the hill of Golgotha that morning in Jerusalem as it is here in the hills of Appalachia, but I have a feeling it wasn’t. God often allows us to see great contrasts in revealing His will for our lives, and that tends to make me think it was a sunny day in Jerusalem.

The darkness lasted for three hours, and around 3 p.m.**, Jesus cried out amid His suffering and suffocation to proclaim, “Tetelestai!”  before giving up his spirit and breath of life.

It was finished.

Done.
Over.
Death.

Most of us automatically equate the “it is finished”  to His life, since, just moments afterward, His life was over on this particular Friday afternoon – the day we commemorate in remembrance as “Good Friday.” However, the “it is finished!”  was much more than just a part of the final words he uttered in the final moments of His life before giving over his life and spirit.

The it is finished!” was His “paid in full” proclamation regarding our sin.

He paid the ultimate price by taking the sins of all mankind – the past, present and future sins of the past, present and future mankind – upon himself and shedding His own blood to redeem us in exchange for Himself. The ransom price was paid, and the salvation plan was now complete. He had completed the will of God and the will of the Father.


That’s where the “Good” comes in. He suffered for us. He demonstrated his self-sacrificing love for us and for our wrongdoings by dying for us (Romans 5:8). What He did for us once does not have to be repeated by all of us (1 Peter 3:18) in order for us to live eternally in His presence (John 3:16).

For the longest time, I didn’t understand how His death could be “good” and recognized as “Good Friday.” I knew He died for us, but I guess I just didn’t fully grasp that He died for ME.


Almost 15 years ago, I went to a new church. On my first visit to this church there was a song sung which stood out to me. I didn’t know it, so I didn’t sing it. I just listened.

There can be such power in doing that once in a while.

I didn’t understand what the words meant, but that song awakened something within me.

The song was Above All.  The words which resonated with me were:

“…crucified, laid behind the stone.”
I understood this.

“…lived to die, rejected and alone.”
What did this mean?
Ok, He died on that cross, but what did it mean that he “lived to die?”

“…You took the fall and thought of me above all.”
Me? Me?!? What did that mean?
What did I  have to do with what He did?
I didn’t get it, but I was curious.

I’ll never forget those words. Even today, they still hold meaning to me. It’s like the stone of death and darkness was rolled away in my own life in some of those moments. An awakening within me had begun. I had come to that new church with questions, but now – after only one visit – there was an even bigger question burning within my mind…and in my heart. It was one that would lead to knowing what He did for ME, and one that would lead to me knowing HIM personally.

That’s what is good about Good Friday.

He died for US.
He died for ME.
If He died for us, and if He died for me, then he also died for YOU.

That’s what is good about Good Friday.


There’s a hope to be found, a purpose for this life, and a plan for your future. It’s all a part of the “good” in what was done for us. If you know the story, but you don’t know Jesus in a very personal way, I encourage you to take some time today to reflect on these thoughts and to think about them.

I then encourage you to reach out to THAT friend you have… you know who I mean… the one who has been living a life of expectant hope… the one who seems like she gets this… the one who has been gently loving you while trying to help you see a different way… Yes, her. Reach out to her on this Good day of Friday, and let her know what you are thinking.

He also died for you. That’s what is good about Good Friday.

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Photo taken on a rubbled hill in Costa Rica

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 **Notes about the times of day:
The Gospel of Mark uses “the third hour” to designate when Jesus was crucified or put on the cross. This would have been 9 a.m. (Mark 15:25). Mark then goes on to say that at “the sixth hour,” darkness came over the land (Mark 15:33). This would be noon or 12 p.m. In Mark 15:34, we are told that Jesus cried out in the ninth hour, at 3 p.m., and then, shortly afterwards, took his last breath (Mark 15:37).
The Gospels of Matthew and Luke use similar time designations (see Matthew 27:45 and Luke 23:44). This way of calculating time was based on the Jewish method, where 6 a.m. would have been the first hour of the day, so noon would have been the sixth hour and 3 p.m. would have been the ninth hour.
It is believed the Gospel of John, which presents a different time for the start of the crucifixion, used a Roman method of time calculation, which would have started the day at midnight (John 19:14). There could have, however, been a three-hour period of time between his sentencing before Pilate (sixth hour) and time Jesus spent under the charge of the soldiers, time spent carrying his cross (John 19:17) and arriving at Golgotha where the crucifixion took place.
Various commentaries show a consistency in these interpretations of time. I’ve used Sonic Light, The Bible Knowledge Commentary, and Got Questions for my sources in this post.

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