My Week of Interviews – And Sharing One with You!

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Mother’s Day was certainly unique this year due of the COVID-19 pandemic. For me, the week leading up to Mother’s Day was interesting as it was full of video interviews and preparations for various opportunities to share my story.

  • I recorded an interview with a local pastor (and friend of mind) for his Mother’s Day message
  • I recorded an interview with my local church that was used for the sermon application
  • I did a Facebook LIVE interview with my cousin, who is a children’s pastor in Erie, Pennsylvania where we talked about parenting during this pandemic
  • And I did an interview with author and speaker (any my personal friend) Sara R. Ward, for a Mothering Strong Under Stress Virtual Summit
  • Then, I found out that an interview I recorded last fall was set to air on Mother’s Day as well. 

I felt like a “virtual movie star!” Haha! Thankfully, in “real time,” I was able to stay in my pj’s on Mother’s Day to watch these things from my family room. Then, my family made me lunch and we had a wonderful, relaxing day together. Yay for pre-recordings!

I wanted to share one these interviews with you today. I am grateful to Mitch Kruse of Restoration Road for this opportunity. I hope it encourages you!

Feel free to share and send me your feedback! I love hearing from you!

Have a great weekend!

Christy

When the Anchor is Secure, But the Ship is Falling Apart

Copy of When It Is well with your soul, but not the rest of you-2

“I just want something to hang my hat on!” I whined to my husband. The funny thing is, before that moment, I’d probably never uttered that phrase in my entire life. I definitely wasn’t wearing a hat. This quarantine seems to be leading us to say and do new things.

But, I meant it. I was telling my husband that I was having a rough day and felt sad about not having plans I could look forward to and count on.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve looked forward to things. I’m not just the type of person who makes plans and puts dates on the calendar, but one who truly and enthusiastically looks forward to those things.  You could say I hang my hat, and my hope, on what’s to come.

And to be honest, that has been a difficult aspect of this current season for me. Because right now, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, I’m not sure what I can look forward to. What plans can I really count on? Where can I hang my imaginary hat?

I am in a mental void of sorts. What I’m missing is hope.

The funny thing is, my eternal hope is strong and secure. I long for Heaven and truly trust God in the midst of this pandemic. I know that He is in sovereign control, and deep down, that is all I need for peace and hope. It really is. But in the day-to-day temporary and earthly moments, I am struggling.

I’ve thought about this a lot, trying to make some sense of it. I feel guilty that I struggle when so many others have circumstances much worse than my own. I feel guilty that I struggle because there are so many blessings in my life. I feel guilty when I struggle because I do have such wonderful, secure, eternal hope. What is my problem?

But in the course of my struggle, when I’m being honest with myself about my feelings and “humanness,” several passages from the Bible come to mind. They help me put a mental picture to my issues, and perhaps fill up the void I’ve been experiencing with some clarity.

One passage is Acts chapter 27. I recently read and discussed this passage via Zoom with my Bible Study Fellowship group. We recapped the facts first: Paul was a prisoner who was being taken to Rome via sea for trial. On the way, a “northeaster,” a hurricane force wind, came upon them and the whole crew, including the other prisoners, thought they were going to die. They had tried several things to save themselves. They had run ropes around the ship to attempt to hold it together, they had thrown down the anchor hoping it would keep them from hitting a sandbar, they had thrown their cargo overboard, and after those efforts failed, they lost their temporary and earthly hope.

Then, Paul encourages them by telling them, “…not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed.” He goes on to explain that the night before, an angel had stood beside him (I like that detail, it’s comforting!) and had given him a message of hope.

“Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.”

Paul then tells the crew, “So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me. Nevertheless, we must run aground on some island.” (Acts 27:22-26)

They are to take courage, if they stay with the ship they will be saved. But this is not a time when Jesus calms the storm. This is a time when the storm keeps raging and Jesus saves those who are in the midst of it.

As we discussed the passage, I pictured the scene in my mind, and honestly, it had me on the verge of seasickness. I could feel the ship rocking, the pounding waves, and the relentless noisy wind. I would have hated those conditions! Compared to my current circumstances it’s quite the contrast! My “ship” is a comfortable house, firmly planted on the ground, stocked with food, and not containing prisoners, but my loved-ones. Yet, my temporary and earthly hope has been shaken. I am continually disappointed when plans are “thrown overboard” and lost. I want something tangible to hang my imaginary hat upon, and yet those things are being blown by the relentless winds of change.

My eternal hope is secure, yet my earthly hope is shaken. This is a time when the storm keeps raging and Jesus saves me in the midst of it.

This brings me to another passage of Scripture, Hebrews 16. In this passage, God is talking about His promises to us, and how they are trustworthy. He will not change or let us down. Verse 19a says, “ We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.”

It seems we’re back to the ship analogy. The anchor represents our hope. My eternal hope is what holds me safely and keeps me where I need to be. But I realize that even when an anchor is thrown out, the ship is still tossed about. The storms of life can still cause pounding and pain and lead to struggles with temporary and earthly hope. This is what I’m experiencing now, as I try to hang my imaginary hat on something that will be rock solid. It’s not working because I’m being tossed about by the winds of change and confusion and unknown. I’m feeling a bit seasick.

But just like Paul and his shipmates, I must stay with the ship to be saved, but I may experience some pain while I wait.

My eternal hope in Christ is secure. The anchor holds and that will not change. However, my earthly ship is getting a little beat up right now. I think it’s okay to admit that. I think it’s okay to feel a little sick about it. Proverbs 13:12 says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.”

So, in this temporary and earthly storm, there is no perfect trite answer that’s going to make it all better. It’s not looking like one of those moments where Jesus says, “Peace, be still,” and it’s just over and everything is calm. (Mark 4:39). Instead, it looks like our ship is getting pretty tattered. There is no earthly place I can hang my hat right now and be certain it is there to stay. No, the ship is being tossed and thrown about and it’s rough. At times I think I will lose my hat, and my lunch, over the edge.

But I’m going to stay with the ship. My anchor is secure. My eternal hope will not disappoint me. And I can take courage that God is with me, right beside me. And I’ll forget about my hat for a while and instead, lean my head on Him.

 

 

On Fear and Falling Shoes

Hi friends,

With the current state of our world, and the unknown effects of the Coronavirus, many people are gripped with fear and anxiety. I get it. I can fall into the same trap, and it’s a dreadful way to live! But, there are truths we can remind ourselves of to help us guard against fear and turn to peace instead. Peace. Doesn’t that sound nice?

This is an excerpt from the “Worry and Anxiety” chapter of my book, If Only It Were a Piece of Cake. Yes, I struggle with worry and anxiety enough to write an entire chapter about it! I told you I can relate! This is only part of the chapter, an excerpt! But, maybe it will encourage your heart today.

You’re not alone! We can do this together!

Christy

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On Fear

 

I stood frozen and unblinking. I held my breath, trying to listen. Trying to prepare for the moment of impact. I was waiting for the other shoe to drop.

And it did.

It was a size-five boys black dress shoe, to be exact, hitting the ceramic tile on the lower floor of our home.

I had already heard what I surmised to be the first shoe dropping.

Thhuuuuumpp!!

In that super-speed mom-brain mode that can think faster than the Road Runner can get away from Wile E. Coyote, I knew what had happened. It was a Sunday morning, and our then seven-year-old son was getting dressed for church. I knew I had laid out his black dress shoes. I also knew that since recently moving into a home with a second-story landing, that our son discovered a newfound interest in gravity. I thought I had made it clear that no “hard objects” were to be dropped below, but with seven-year-old boys I should have been a bit more specific.

So I waited. I waited for the other shoe to drop. It thumped as loudly as the first, and the sound reverberated off the walls and tile floor. I twisted shut the lid to my mascara and placed it back in the drawer. Then I found Karson in the hallway. We reviewed the “landing rule.” Dropping hard objects is not good for the walls, floor, objects being dropped, or little sisters who happen to be standing below. Lesson learned, it appeared, and so we moved on with our Sunday morning.

But, as I was blowing my hair dry, I thought about it some more. I had literally just waited for the other shoe to drop. I figuratively do it so often that it was interesting to actually experience it for real!

I sometimes use the phrase “waiting for the other shoe to drop” when trying to explain how I feel about fear. I struggle with fearing what big, hard trial will happen next in my life.

I’ve had some whoppers of a “shoe drop” in my past. My mother’s sudden death when I was in fifth grade. A cancer diagnosis for our two-year-old son. Miscarriages. These things all contribute to my struggle with fear.

Because I know that shoes do fall, when things are going well, I sometimes find myself waiting for the next one to smack the floor. Before I know it, I’m frozen, unblinking, and holding my breath. Instead of enjoying life and living in the moment, I’m listening. I’m waiting for that figurative other shoe. It can be torturous.

The accessibility I have to the Internet worsens this for me. Maybe this is true for other shoe-waiters as well. I find myself scrolling through Facebook, or reading the news headlines, and suddenly fear seizes me. It’s like hypochondria, only broader to encompass things beyond the health-related. Fearing that all of the awful headlines I read or hear about are going to happen to me. A school shooting at my child’s school, a giant sinkhole suddenly opening in my front yard and swallowing up someone I love, a deadly nuclear attack in my neighborhood, an outbreak the CDC is warning about sweeping through my city, a deranged and deadly alligator on my back patio (I live in Indiana). I imagine it all in detail.

Twitter also poses a problem for me in the sense that it’s so blunt and time specific. I follow my local news stations on Twitter, and they report traffic accidents in 280 characters or less. They frankly state that there has been a crash on a specific road and sometimes they throw in the two words, “with injuries.” I am affected and afflicted by these tweets. I cannot simply scroll past them without caring. I worry that someone I know was involved in the crash. I worry for those who were injured. My worrisome thoughts exceed 280 characters, without a cut off.

Speaking of being cut off, Kraig told me one evening that he was going outside to fix the riding lawn mower and to install a new belt on the mower deck. My immediate response was, “Please don’t cut your arms off.” I was serious. He was going to be working near a sharp blade. Granted, the chances of him actually cutting his arms off, especially both arms, seems pretty drastic, but I needed to issue this warning anyway. As with most every time I make such a ridiculous statement of concern, Kraig responded with, “Oh, thanks. I was planning to cut my arms off, but now I won’t.” Then he rolls his eyes, winks, and walks away. I’m glad I’m getting through to him.

I hate, I repeat, hate, living in this state of mind. Worry and anxiety are lies, and they steal from my peace and joy. But, knowing this doesn’t change the fact that I deal with their ugliness on a regular basis. That’s why it’s a struggle…

Time progresses, but the passage of time doesn’t automatically fix things. It doesn’t end the struggle. Sometimes it just changes the scenery for the battle. The fear and worry fight is a daily one for me. Actually, and unfortunately, more than daily. But I’ve learned it helps if I remind myself of two things when it comes to fighting fear and worry.

One, is this: the other shoe is going to drop.

I know, it’s difficult. But, we all know it’s true. This life is full of disappointment, hardships, and trial. No one is exempt. There are going to be some falling shoes, Chicken Little. You’re just going to have to accept that fact and be thankful it’s not the entire sky.

But, as depressing as the first point is, the second point helps.

Two, I believe in and serve an Almighty God who never allows a “shoe to drop” without it passing through his sovereign, merciful hands.

We’re getting into some deep theology here. We’re opening the discussion about God allowing evil and pain. That’s a tough one. Why would He do such a thing?

I’m not a theologian. I have a simple mind and a simple faith. And so if you’re looking for mind-blowing intellect, you’re reading the wrong book. I’ve already referenced Chicken Little, the Road Runner, and Wile E. Coyote in this section. Hardly John Wesley-level thinking. But, what I do have is a relationship with the God of this universe. I know Him. I don’t claim to understand Him completely, but, I do know what He says to be true about Himself.

God is the inventor of love and life. He’s the one who thought them up. He then put them into practice by creating us. He loves us. Truly. Deeply. Enough to give us life.

But we, us stinking humans, brought sin into this world by our own free will and choosing, and through a couple who just couldn’t keep their little hands off a piece of forbidden fruit. Before we speak too harshly about Adam and Eve, let’s remember we probably would have been the ones to do it if it had been us in that garden. I won’t speak for you, but I know I’m a rotten sinner, I don’t even need a forbidden fruit tree to prove it.

When sin entered the world, the world broke. It wasn’t created for sin and death. Sin leads to death and death just doesn’t sit well with us. I think that’s why death hurts so much. It wasn’t supposed to be that way. We weren’t created for death.

But with sin and death come tragedies and pain. A lot of shoes have fallen throughout history and they have caused significant damage.

Now God, who is perfect, is still in control. That’s what He tells us in His Word. Romans 8 is a good place to start reading if you want to see what He said about this through the apostle Paul.

God could stop every shoe from falling this very second if He wanted to. But instead, He allows them to pass through His sovereign hands. Why? Well, I can’t answer that completely. But, I do know those shoes, and their ensuing pain, have led me closer to God and have helped me to recognize my need for Him. The pain and hurt remind us that we live in a broken world that is not our home. A quote credited to C.S. Lewis (see, I can discuss theology without using cartoon references) says, “The fact that our heart yearns for something Earth can’t supply is proof that Heaven must be our home.”

As foreigners in this broken world, we long for home. At least we should. Maybe sometimes God uses those awful shoes that fall to help us yearn for Him. Like I said, I can’t explain it all, but I believe it. And I find comfort in it.

When I find myself in fear and worry mode (more often than I’d like to admit) and realize I’m missing life because I’m holding my breath and listening for the impact of a falling shoe, I remember point number two. God is still in control. He is only going to allow what He knows is good and perfect in His sovereign way. I don’t know how He does it, but I trust Him.

Furthermore, I think about the fact that God allowed a gigantic shoe to fall on His own Son, Jesus. Perhaps now I’m taking this analogy a bit too far. Can’t you just hear the preschoolers telling their mommies and daddies that Jesus was squashed by a giant sandal? Crushed by a sole to save my soul? On a hill far away stood an old rugged Croc? I digress.

Let me start over with this point.

God allowed His own Son, Jesus, to be murdered by the very people He created. God allowed horrible things to happen to His Son on our behalf. God allowed Jesus, who had no sin, to suffer because of our sin. He did this so that those of us who believe, repent, and accept His sacrifice can someday live eternally in a world without pain. That’s the gospel, folks. It really is that simple.

What’s more, in the meantime, before we experience the wonder of God’s presence in Heaven, we have His presence with us here on Earth. God’s faithfulness, provision, unconditional love, mercy, grace, and hope are always available to me. Now. Today! By choosing to acknowledge and accept them, I can start to conquer that stupid worry and fear. I can thaw out from the frozen stances of waiting for a shoe to drop, and instead move and blink again. I can live! I can even take a deep breath knowing that no matter what shoe drops, God is in control, and He will be with me through it.

I don’t know when the next shoe will hit the ground near me. I hope it’s a flip-flop or something light, but I don’t get to make that choice. I do, however, get to choose how I’ll live in the meantime.

Am I going to waste my time worrying about the future and being frozen with fear, or am I going to live joyfully and fully while trusting in my Sovereign Lord?

I know, I know. It’s easy to say, and much more difficult to live. I understand. I’m right there with you in the trenches trying to make this trust a habit in my every moment. I’m desperately working to replace worry and fear with peace and joy. I certainly haven’t perfected it, but I’m nothing if not persistent. I’m going to keep at it. We can do this together.

A boy’s dress shoe began this mental dialogue and had such a profound impact on my thinking. In the future, I hope that’s the only place Karson’s shoes make impact!

Book Excerpt – “Letting Go and Moving Forward,” From – If Only It Were a Piece of Cake

Letting Go and Moving Forward

With school starting, parents dropping their sons and daughters off at college, young people beginning their first jobs, and empty nest transitions of no more preschoolers in the nest during the day, or kids living under the parents’ roof at all anymore, there’s a lot of LETTING GO and MOVING FORWARD happening this time of year.

Here is an excerpt from my book, If Only It Were a Piece of Cake, that deals with that very topic!

An excerpt from chapter eight, “Letting Go and Moving Forward”


There’s a difference between moving on, and moving forward. Not to brag or anything, but I’m in the company of Albert Einstein with this thought (this sentence may be the only time I’m mentioned with Einstein. Savor it.)

He said,

“It is the same with people as it is with riding a bike. Only when moving can one comfortably maintain one’s balance.”

Moving forward indicates you’ve already been somewhere, and by moving, you’re continuing the journey. It doesn’t mean the past is forgotten, but that you’re now moving forward from it.

Moving on sounds a bit more like you’re leaving the past behind. You’ve finished the delivery, you’ve made the stop, you’ve completed the task. Now you move on and forget. This is fine if you’re a pizza delivery person, but as a general rule, we can’t just expect to move on to the next stop in life and forget everything else.

We cannot deny that the past happened. We should not deny the good or the bad. The past, the stages and seasons we loved and lived, are always going to be a part of us! The stages and seasons we loathed are too. That’s okay. We shouldn’t move on from them, but move forward in spite of them, through them, with them.

I often call to mind 1 Corinthians 4:16-18 in times of change and letting go. It reads,

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Yes, this passage is about dealing with hardships, but also about change and letting go. You see, as we live, we are “wasting away.” Each day we are moving closer to the end of this earthly life. But inwardly, those of us who are in Christ are being “renewed day by day.”

This renewal is a process. It’s preparing us for eternity and shaping us to be more like Christ on this Earth. We can’t always detect the process or see the change, but it’s happening. Our bicycle wheels are barely spinning, but it’s enough to keep us upright.

Being renewed each day by Jesus requires letting go of what we were yesterday. Not denying it happened, but moving forward anyway.

A sweet little girl, a friend of our daughters, was learning to water ski last summer. I sat in the boat with my girls and our friends, who were driving and shouting out instructions to the little girl. My husband was in the water trying to help her get her skis on and learn how to hold the rope.

And she did it! She got up on the skis and took a long ride around the lake. In fact, a very long ride. I realized we had not clearly explained that she only needed to let go of the rope when she’d finished. Simply let go. But we didn’t make this clear to her, and so, she never did. She skied on and on. After awhile, her little body bent forward at the hips and she looked exhausted.

“You can let go!” her aunt yelled from the boat.

“Do you want to let go of the rope?” my girls yelled as they made a motion with their own hands of dropping the handle.

She wasn’t understanding, and so she skied on, looking as if she were about to break in half.

Her uncle, the boat driver, wasn’t sure if he should stop the boat because we weren’t positive if she wanted to be done, and getting up again would be hard work. So she just kept on going.

Finally, we looped back around to our shoreline and stopped. She fell slowly into the water, still not letting go of the rope until she was forced to by the plunge.

“My back hurts! I’m so tired!” she said.

We all laughed. She could have stopped long ago if she would have just let go of the rope.

I get it, girl!

Sometimes I want to move forward into a new season, and I know it will be exciting once I get there, but I just don’t want to let go of the rope. I’m comfortable where I am. I’m not sure how the transition will feel. I like the way things are going now. Even if my back hurts and I’m tired of the fight, I’d rather hold on and be safe then let go into the unknown.

It’s not just about the unknown. Sometimes it’s about the sadness I feel that a particular stage is ending. I’ve loved it so much, whether it be having preschoolers at home, or working outside the home, or watching my children compete in a sport that they have now finished, that I don’t want to face the sadness by letting go of the rope.

But facing the sadness offers the chance for joy in remembering, and anticipation of what’s ahead. Just as looking grief in the eyes helps bring healing, admitting the sadness of leaving a season of life helps us to move forward with it. When we face the sadness, we also acknowledge the goodness of that particular season, and then hopefully that turns into gratitude that it happened!

As Dr. Seuss says,

“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”

I say, if you want to cry too, that’s okay. Cry, laugh, remember, grieve, and then move forward. And if you need to cry, laugh, remember, grieve, and move forward again later this afternoon, that’s okay. This isn’t a one-time deal. You may have to let go of the rope multiple times. You may not realize you’ve grabbed hold of it once again.

Letting go is a process. It’s a healthy and natural process at that.

As I said in the Chronological Change chapter, Genesis 1 shows us that God created the seasons and time on the fourth day of creation. (Genesis 1:14) They were part of the original creation, before the fall, when sin entered the world. A part of the original design. So, this tells me that even if sin and death never entered this world, seasons and time still would have existed. Now, they would have been different in the sense that they would not have led to death, as time does for us now, but they would have still been part of creation. Seasons still would have been a beautiful framework by which to live, and this encourages me.

We see cycles in life when one season begins, and another one ends. When the leaves fall off the trees, they yield to winter. When the snow melts and the flower bloom, winter yields to spring. And so forth. If we’re still holding on and trying to live in the fall, we’re going to miss every other season.

Letting go is part of living.

I always remind myself that the alternative to letting go and moving forward is holding on and stagnating. Stagnant is never a positive word, is it? Nobody desires to drink from a stagnant pond that is holding on to its growths. Instead, we want to drink from a babbling stream that is moving, and fresh, and purified. Jesus didn’t call Himself  “Stagnant Water,” but “Living Water.” (John 7:38) Stagnating and holding on to the past doesn’t seem appealing anymore, does it?

So how do we let go of the rope?

We process the journey, remember the moments, grieve the loss, move forward. Process, remember, grieve, move forward.

Opening our grip and releasing the rope frees our hands to grab the present in front of us. 

When we’re free to move forward and live in the present, we’re ready to open the front door and usher in life, with all of its opportunities.

We shouldn’t put it off any longer.


For more, you can find If Only It Were a Piece of Cake on Amazon here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1091280215/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i1

 

Jeremiah 29:11- The Rest of the Story

FullSizeRenderPerched on the top bunk of my third story dorm room I had a good view of my fellow college students on the sidewalk below. I watched them pass as if staring at the second hand of a clock, absentmindedly watching the rhythm of the afternoon. I adjusted the pillow behind my back and leaned against the painted cinder block wall. My legs were folded under me, and my Bible lay open on my lap to Jeremiah chapter 29.

I wanted to know more about the plans God had for me.

As a Sophomore on a Christian college campus, I had heard the words of Jeremiah 29:11 many times in reference to God’s will for my future.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Those words robotically came from the mouths of professors, chapel speakers, and friends as if someone had pulled a string on their backs that triggered a preloaded response whenever a question about the future arose.

I did not doubt that God loved me or had good plans for me, but as I struggled through worry about the unknowns of my future;

What degree should I work toward?

Who will hire me after graduation?

What type of job do I want?

Who will I marry?

Where will we live?

What type of job will my husband have?

I was looking for more than a pat answer. I was looking for peace in the midst of uncertainty. And Jeremiah 29:11 seemed to be the go-to verse.

I wanted to know more about this apparent feel-good promise, so I read the context of the verse in its chapter, Jeremiah 29.

I felt confused.

The good feelings associated with plans for prosperity and hope were put aside. The verses leading up to verse 11 were not filled with smiles and sunshine. Jeremiah was speaking to Israelites who had been carried off, essentially as prisoners of war, to the country of Babylon.

The first verse of the chapter reads,

This is the text of the letter that the prophet Jeremiah sent from Jerusalem to the surviving elders among the exiles and to the priests, the prophets and all the other people Nebuchadnezzar had carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon.”

The fact that the word “surviving” is in this sentence tips me off that this was sent during a difficult time of war and death.

Jeremiah goes on to tell the people that they will one day be brought back to their homeland, Israel. God does have good things in store for them. He has plans to rescue them… in 70 years. He knows His plans to help them.

Jeremiah 29:10-11 says;

“This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

I realized right then and there that verse 11 had been grossly taken out of context.

Not that God doesn’t have plans for us…. not that God isn’t a good God… but God doesn’t promise ME anything in this passage. He was talking to Israelite POWs in Babylon!

What does this mean for my future? Does God still have plans and hope for me?

I squirmed on my plaid comforter and readjusted both my physical and spiritual position.

If Jeremiah 29:11 wasn’t written to me, then why do we have it in our Bibles? Why read it at all? How can I know what is true for me and not just a message to its original audience?

To answer my complicated questions I go back to the simplest basics.

I believe God is who He says He is. I believe He is all-knowing and sovereign over all. I believe He never changes. Therefore, I can trust that any principle that I can glean about God from any passage of Scripture is still true today.

The specific promise of Jeremiah 29:11 wasn’t written for me, but the principle that God was teaching the Israelites in that passage has not changed.

So what was the principle God was teaching His people?

I assumed from the way Christians had been quoting Jeremiah 29:11 that God was telling His people He was ready to swoop in and drop good things on those who loved and obeyed Him. That He was basically our Santa Claus with prosperity and hope in his sleigh. But the truth was, God wasn’t going to deliver good things to His people the day that Jeremiah’s letter was read to them, or even once a year under the tree, for that matter.

He was not planning to rescue them for 70 years.

And what really struck me were God’s instructions for His people during those seven decades of waiting.

God told them to get on with life.

Jeremiah 29:4-8 reads:

“This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”

The principle I learn here is that God DOES know the plans He has for us. He DOES have good things in store for our future. But while we are waiting, we are to live life and seek peace and prosperity, even if we’re in enemy territory.

Wow.

The principles of Jeremiah 29 are jumping off the page. I now see how I can relate and what I can learn from God’s Word to His people. I’m not so different from the exiled Israelites after all.

I live in enemy territory because I live in this world. One day I know God will rescue me and will take me back to my homeland to dwell with Him. But the principle I learn from Jeremiah 29 is that while I’m here, I need to live. I need to seek the peace and prosperity of this place I call home for now.

I need to get to work because if the work of my hands prospers, God will prosper me too.

It sounds like this principle in Jeremiah 29 isn’t all about what God has in store for me, but also how I can live for Him.

Jeremiah 29:11 is still a great verse to read for encouragement and hope. God hasn’t changed since the days of Jeremiah. He knows the plans He has for me, and when they include bringing me home to be with Him, I know for a fact they are good.

But there’s more to the story. God asks me to seek prosperity and peace in this territory while I wait for His rescue.

It looks like I had better get to work.

Socks…Really?!

DSC_0744This is the time of year when children rip into presents with eager joy and anticipation.

It’s also the time of year when we see a particular phenomenon occur during these times of gift opening.

You’ve seen it.

The child, with tongue pressed to their upper lip and eyes wide open, lifts the lid of a box and pulls out… socks. Then the child, whose valuable time has clearly been wasted, swiftly lifts the socks and drops them onto the floor in one smooth and rapid motion while already reaching for another wrapped box, which they hope contains something they actually want.

I mean seriously, what kid is thrilled to get socks for Christmas?

But goodness knows they need them.

Take my son for example. I’m not sure how he does it, but he can wear a pair of new socks a few times and suddenly they have holes on the bottom of them so large that at that point they are really more a pair of leg warmers instead of actual socks. How does this happen so quickly? I don’t understand. But after cleaning out Karson’s sock drawer recently and throwing away enough holey socks to poorly cloth half his elementary school’s feet, I decided we’re buying him socks for Christmas.

A lot of socks.

I’m the parent here and I know what my kid needs. But, I’m embarrassed to tell you that the sock situation around here has gotten so ugly that Karson actually asked for socks for Christmas. Yeah, it’s that bad.

But regardless, I do know what my kids need. And sometimes my husband and I give them things that they don’t want. Take punishment, chores and non-flavored children’s Tylenol for example. But, we know what’s good for them and we do it all out of love. Even the socks.

As Christians, sometimes we give our “wish list” to God through prayer. We have specific wants and needs and with wide eyes and eager hands we wait for Him to come through granting each of our requests.

But sometimes we get socks.

Sometimes the circumstances of my life are not what I had in mind. I think, “Lord, I think you misunderstood. This isn’t what I wanted. Did you check my list twice?”

But He knows. He’s the parent here. He’s my Heavenly Father and he knows exactly what I need.

Matthew 6:25-34 talks about this. Jesus is telling us to stop worrying about what we will eat, drink and wear because our Father will take of us. He says,

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?

So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Our end of this deal is pretty simple. Not easy, but simple. We are to seek first His kingdom and His righteousness. Our focus is to be on Christ and honoring Him with our life. And we should trust Him for the rest. He says, “and all these things (meaning the things we need) will be added to us as well.”

We can trust God to take care of us and to give us what we need. And He delights in often giving us what we want as well. He’s such a loving and trustworthy Father.

So as I watch my son open his socks this year I’m going to smile inside thinking about how my Heavenly Father knows what I need too.

Socks may not be very thrilling, but sometimes it’s necessary to give and receive them.

Don’t even get me started on underwear.

One of my Worst Moments

It is one of the worst moments of my life.

I was six days shy of my eleventh birthday and, as my six-year-old brother would say later, though the day was called Good Friday, it wasn’t a very good day for us.

Instead, there we stood in a sterile hospital room with our dad. We had just taken an awful ride in a police car as we followed an ambulance carrying our mother to the Emergency Room. Our mom had collapsed suddenly and shockingly at the kitchen table that evening and we had just been told by the doctor that she had died of a heart arrhythmia.

The pain I felt was indescribable.

Now the four of us were in a room alone together for the last time. My dad, even in the deepest grief of his life, had the wisdom to ask the doctor if we could see our mom’s body and so there we stood around her. And though it may sound morbid or scary, it was actually just the opposite. It was helpful.

My dad, my little brother and I were able to say goodbye, although my dad reminded us that what we saw was just my mom’s body and not really Mom. We held hands and prayed together, and my dad told us that even though we were heartbroken and we didn’t understand this, he believed God was still in control.

To say that the evening of March 24th, 1989 impacted my life is a gross understatement. The loss of a mom to a preteen girl is full of impact. I was so very sad.

Yet, I had hope.

The conversation with my dad in that horrible room where my mom’s body lay changed me as well. I was taught a deeply profound lesson in a few minutes’ time, and it has helped me in the days, months, and years since that night.

By pointing me to a God who is unchanging in a moment when my entire world had just been completely thrown off its axis, my dad gave me hope that God could not only handle the change, but was in control of it.

By reminding me that God is sovereign in a moment where everything seemed so utterly unfair, my dad gave me hope that I can trust that God not only knew about my mom’s death, but that He was still in perfect control of her death and my life.

By leading me in prayer around the bed where my dead mother lay, my dad reminded me that I can always turn to my Heavenly Father for comfort, hope and love.

It has been 24 years since that night. I’ve grown in stature, maturity and faith. I’m now a wife and a mom and have now lived longer on this earth than my own mother did. I’ve had other hard moments since that night too, and I know I’ll have more to come.

Yet, I have hope.

When I graduated from college and was in a season of life where everything was changing and there was so much unknown…

When I desperately prayed for a godly husband and didn’t know where I would meet this guy or when…

I was able to trust in an unchanging God who knew my desires and needs and was able to faithfully provide for me what He knew I needed and when.

When I miscarried two babies and struggled with surgeries and issues that caused me to not get pregnant…

When I was told by a doctor that because of these issues I would most likely have a small family…

I was able to turn to my God who I believe is sovereign and I cried out to Him for his comfort, love, hope and mercy. He was faithful. …and He not only blessed us with hope and peace, but has blessed us with children.

When our two-year-old son was diagnosed with leukemia and we struggled through three-and-a-half years of chemotherapy and treatment…

When my days were full of dark moments of seeing my son suffer…

I was able to turn in prayer to a God whom I believe is real and not only knows my pain but also cares deeply for both my son, and me. And just like his Word says, He gave me a peace that passes all understanding.

The evening of March 24th, 1989 was one of my worst moments. And yet, through the pain and darkness I was reminded of a sovereign, loving God who offers hope and peace.

And even out of one of my worst moments of my life, God was able to bring good.

And I trust He’ll be faithful to do the same in every moment of my future.

I Don’t Want To Let Go!

DSC_0459

Hi. My name is Christy and I struggle with letting go.

Hi, Christy.

I mean, I get excited about new things, but I don’t like having to let go of what is familiar and comfortable and safe. Change can be scary, particularly if there are unknowns ahead. Like, if I can’t picture what my routine will look like in the next stage or what my purpose will be in a new season of life, I start to fret.

Please… tell us more.

 I guess, well, I mean… I feel like I don’t want to let go of what is certain because what if I don’t like the next step as much as I like this one. How can I be sure it’s safe to let go? But yet, as time marches on, I’m simply forced to let go of some things.

(Christy starts biting her nails.)

 ——————————————————————-

All right, I don’t actually have a support group. But, I do have a husband, whom I asked one day why he thinks I feel sad during times of change, like on my kids’ birthdays or last days of school. He said it’s because I have issues. Maybe I should get a support group. They’d probably be nicer.

But although my husband is somewhat right to so kindly point out that I have issues with change, I don’t think I’m the only one who feels this way. Women tend to agree with me. At least I think they do. Please, someone tell me (or at least tell my husband) that I’m not alone.

We ladies can sometimes struggle with change… and in particular, the changes that force us to let go. The act of letting go of a season of life, comfortable routine, or familiar territory is hard. We’d prefer to keep a white-knuckled grip on our children, dreams, schedules, plans, hopes and security. Trading the familiar for the unknown can be a bit unnerving.

This time of year always makes me feel sentimental too. Another school year has come to an end and I’ve seen kids that I used to babysit wear caps and gowns. I am feeling nostalgic as my own son reaches a grade I can clearly remember being in myself (and not that long ago, either)! I am once again slapped with the reminder that time marches on more quickly than I’d like it to. I’m forced to let go of this stage and phase and usher in the new.

And that kind of scares me.

But, wouldn’t you know, I’ve found comfort and reassurance. Not from my husband or my imaginary support group, but from my Heavenly Father through a wonderful hymn reminding me of His truth.

As I stood with a group of ladies in a Bible study that I attend, we recently sang the hymn, Praise to the Lord, the Almighty*, and one of the lines struck a deep chord in me.

Hast thou not seen how thy desires e’er have been

Granted in what He ordaineth

I’ve thought about those lyrics countless times in the last few weeks. It’s two short lines with a lot of meaning. In other words, it’s saying:

“Hey! Haven’t you noticed that God has provided peace and joy for you in every stage of your life, good and bad, up until this moment? He has basically made your desires fit with his will. What makes you think He won’t be faithful to guide you and give you peace and joy in the next stage of life? Let go and move on, dummy!”

(You can see why my translation hasn’t made it into the hymnal just yet.)

And so, as I continue to replay that wonderful hymn and it’s truth in my mind I’ve found comfort and been reminded of God’s faithfulness. It’s hard to let go and to take steps into the unknown, but I trust that my God will go before me. He will lead me with His loving hand.

Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

Psalm 139:23-24

—————————————————————————————–

So, let me ask you something, Christy.

(Imaginary Support Group leader leans back in their chair and crosses their legs. The rest of the imaginary group members lean in close to listen…)

 Christy, hast thou not seen how they desires e’er have been granted in what He ordaineth?!

 Yes.

Yes, I have seen. And with that in mind, may I look forward to the days ahead with joy and anticipation, as I trust in Him who leads me.

*Words: Jo­ach­im Ne­an­der (Stras­lund: 1680); trans­lat­ed from Ger­man to Eng­lish by Cath­er­ine Wink­worth, 1863. Music: Lobe den Her­ren, An­der Theil des Er­neu­er­ten Ge­sang­buch, se­cond edi­tion (Bre­men, Ger­ma­ny: 1665)

Daddy Loves You

IMG_4051 2My memory of the moment is both crystal clear and fuzzy at the same time. It’s hard to explain, but yet if you’ve ever been in shock, you’ll understand.

My body felt numb and weak and apparently that was obvious to those around me because a nurse pushed a stool underneath my legs and helped me sit down beside my son’s hospital bed. I hadn’t even realized until I sat just how much I needed that support.

My two-year-old son, Karson, was laying on the bed along with Lyle the Lamb, his stuffed companion. My husband, Kraig, stood on the opposite side of the bed and rubbed Karson’s little back. Our heads were reeling with the news we’d received just mere hours before. Doctors were telling us that our toddler had cancer. Now we were crammed in a small procedure room at a children’s hospital watching them prep our son for a bone marrow biopsy.

I was experiencing feelings of denial and shock. Our son had been limping for a week and he presented only mild cold symptoms. Why were they suddenly throwing around words like, “leukemia,” and “chemotherapy?” Wasn’t this just a virus that would pass on its own? Do we really need to do this procedure?

But deep down I reasoned that if these trained medical professionals thought there was enough evidence of cancer from a small bit of blood work, then I must allow them to proceed with further testing of Karson’s bone marrow. They had explained that leukemia starts in the marrow and they must take a look to find out what type of leukemia we were fighting.

And so, in what was literally half a day, we went from a normal morning routine to that dreaded procedure room in a hospital two hours from our house. I can still smell that moment and feel the sterility and darkness of that room. It was awful.

To be completely honest, I’m not even sure I want to draw up those memories or that emotion ever again. I wrestle sometimes with the watershed moments that were burned into my mind in the coming three-and-a-half years of my son’s chemotherapy and treatment. Some memories can bring the sting of tears in a matter of seconds. I used to see them often when I closed my eyes at night. Now it’s much less frequent, but the pain is just as raw. It hurts. So you may ask why I write about it or even bother to relive it at all?

I guess I don’t want to waste it.

As awful as Karson’s cancer was, there was so much good that came from it as well. Most of that good came in the form of God’s gentle presence in the midst of the rough storm. Kraig and I learned so much and felt like we were matured in our faith in a way that would otherwise not have been possible.

And on February 9th, 2007, as we took the first shaky steps into that journey, my husband… my son’s father, told me of how he now understood the love of our Heavenly Father in a deeper way. It was the first of many things we would learn along the way.

Kraig recounted the horrible moments of having to physically pin Karson down on that hospital bed as doctors used a large and painful needle and tools to extract bone marrow from our little boy’s hip. Karson was awake and acutely aware of the intense pain. As he lay there on his stomach, his face was turned toward his daddy who was firmly holding him still and talking to him. Karson was screaming and crying for the pain to stop and looking at Kraig with questioning eyes as if saying,

“Why, Daddy?”

“Why are you letting them hurt me?”

“Please make it stop!”

And oh, how we wanted to!

Kraig and I would have crawled onto that bed in a heartbeat and taken that pain instead of watching our son have to experience it. But we couldn’t. We knew that we had to allow to the doctors to proceed. We had to allow them to extract bone marrow so that they could determine what course of treatment would be most effective for fighting this cancer. But we couldn’t explain all of that to a two-year-old. Even if we had, he wouldn’t have understood.

And so as Karson screamed and pleaded with his Daddy, all that Kraig could say in response was,

“I love you, Karson.”

“I love you, buddy.”

“Oh, Karson! Daddy loves you so much!”

It was heartbreaking and profound.

And as Kraig shared with me later, he thought about how many times in life our Heavenly Father has had to hold us down through pain, trial, sin and ugliness. And we don’t understand it. And perhaps even if He told us, it wouldn’t matter. All we need to do is look into his eyes and hear His words.

Daddy loves you.

1 John 3:1 says,
See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!”

I don’t get it. I can’t mentally grasp it or figure it out. I don’t know why my Heavenly Father has allowed pain in my life or my child’s life. I simply don’t know.

Yet the lesson Kraig learned in that moment, I continue to learn as well. I submit to my Father’s hands holding me firmly through the pains of this life, and listen to his almighty and loving voice reminding me of His unconditional love.

I know my Father’s love. And that’s all I really need to know.

Behold! I Stand At The Door… and Ring the Doorbell.

It’s fun to mess with your kids! In love, of course!

Since moving to a different house a few months ago our family has repeated a new trick that has yet to get old. Well, it’s not yet old to me anyway. In fact, I was giggling about it earlier tonight and my husband called me immature. But he started it!

The trick is that we now have two doorbells: one at the front door and one in the garage by the door leading into the house from the garage. The chime sounds exactly the same no matter which doorbell you push so of course we’ve been driving each other insane by ringing the garage doorbell and sending whichever gullible family member is closest to the front door. And nobody is there. It’s hilarious!

This evening I got our son with the trick once and then the second time he came looking for me the in garage. I tried to duck down behind the trashcan but I wasn’t quick enough so I earned a “Mooooommmm, I knew it was you!”

A bit later I had my husband ring the bell while I was with our son and it didn’t fool him for a minute. He knew it was his Dad. But… he’s not able to outwit his parents yet. We sent our three-year-old out to garage (she can barely even reach the doorbell!) and while our son was changing into his baseball uniform near the front door (why he changes his clothes there… we don’t know!) and when he was down to his undies our daughter rang the doorbell with Mommy and Daddy both in plain view of our son. He looked from one of us to the other and his eyes got huge as he took off down the hall. Gotcha!! 😉

Ahhhh…fun times. Yes, they’ve gotten me with it several times as well. Mainly my husband, the one who called me immature, has sent me to the front door while I’m trying to make dinner or do some other important task. See, he really did start it!

And here’s the thing. I got to thinking about it while doing dishes one day (when I was not interrupted by a doorbell!) Sometimes in life we’re looking for direction. As Christians we say we’re searching for “God’s Will.” We have options, but we’re not really sure if we’re supposed to go toward “Door Number One” or “Door Number Two.” We think we hear God’s leading but the chimes sound the same. How do we know what God’s will is?

My Dad has always told me that if you want to be in God’s will, well then you probably are. I like that. What he means is that if you’re truly trying to honor God and live in obedience to Him then you most likely are. God’s not going to trick us and ring a doorbell and run away. He’s not going to send us to an empty front porch and make us feel like an idiot. Instead, our Heavenly Father loves us and desires for us to live in righteousness and obedience. He will help guide us if we’re truly seeking His direction.

But we still have to move when the doorbell rings.

We can’t just sit back in our Lazy Boy or continue with our housework while listening to the call of the bell. At some point we’ve got to move.

Romans 12:2 says:

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

Test and approve. See, we have to try the doors. God’s not going to drag us to the right door. We have to move. And we have to trust that He’s not going to trick us. He loves us and will gently guide us as we honor Him with our actions.

Our Heavenly Father desires our obedience. He has a perfect will and if we want to walk in it, well then we probably are. He won’t deceive us with the call of the doorbell.

I wish I could say the same for my husband!