When It’s Easter Week And You’re Short On Hope

I sat across from her. An 8:30 breakfast on Wednesday of Easter week. But we didn’t talk about weekend plans. Instead she tells me her story. A story no one should have. A son taken from her too soon. Despite all the prayers lifted up, despite all the attempts to save him, her baby gone from this earth and all she’s left with is an ache.girl-865304_1920

So everyone celebrates life this week while she breaks.

My stomach tightens, not from the chain-restaurant omelette, but from the knot of longing. I wanted to say I understand. But how can I? Who can understand such pain? I wanted to have some great words of comfort, but none came.

What do you say to a mother who lowered her son in a grave long before his time? What do you say when it seems the whole world is erupting with spring life and hers is cloaked in winter’s chill?

Nothing.

So I listen. And I pray. And I realize that her story is sadly not rare enough. I realize that all around me lie the ruins of brokenness. I realize that the journey through this world is one split by selfishness and greed and hatred and heartache. And too often, hopelessness.

And then I remember the story.

The one where Hope stepped onto the landscape of the world, took on its brokenness and stretched it out on a cross. The one where the sky split open and grace descended.cross-828894_1920

I don’t believe most stories. I think incredible stories are mostly just that—in-credible. And this one is most incredible of all. I mean who can absorb the notion that God would come to earth and pour Himself into flesh?

Not just flesh, but infant flesh. And that He grew into a divine man with the power to heal and to forgive? And then in that power He looked behind and ahead to all mankind—to me and to you—and saw each moment?

Each broken moment. Each unholy moment. Each gunshot fired. Each drug injected. Each harsh word or cold slap. Each tear shed. That He had the power to see my pain and my disease and my injustice and…my sin, and declare it wiped away?

Who could believe such a story?

But I believe this one.

Not because someone told it to me, although I’m glad they did. Not because of a Sunday school flannel board, although it was fun. And not even because I read it in an ancient document, although I now treasure that holy book.lamp-872946_1920I believe it because His story collided with my story and it became our story.

I believe it because there was a time when I couldn’t find my way through the senselessness of my broken road and all I had were whys. There was no making sense. There was only doubt and fear and a sense that I would never be okay again.

And then that story. A man who died on a cross, yet lived. A man who stretched out His arms and declared it finished, yet just beginning. He looked though the corridors of 2000 years and saw my tears and desperation and I saw Him. And it wasn’t just a story anymore. It was Hope and Resurrected Life.

It was God with me.

Emmanuel. God with us. Then and now. Reminding us that we are not alone.

And that this is not the forever world. But there is one waiting for us that needs no words to explain it or make it make sense. A world where a mother who walked this earth years past her prime stretches renewed arms out to her young son who never reached his in an embrace that knows no sorrow.mother-and-son-887058_1920

A world where there is no more death or grief or tears or pain. A world that makes sense of all that is and was.

A world that once only existed in my make-believe mind. But I’ve glimpsed it. I got a peak into that world during my deepest suffering. The curtain was pulled back and I knew. I knew the story was true. I knew that it was possible to live when everything else was dying.

My friend knows it too.

Our breakfast dishes had been cleared away and we sipped the last of our coffee through tears and through laughter. She knows the story. Heaven came down when her son was taken up.

She suffers. She longs. She questions. Yet she knows. She believes. This broken road ends in wholeness.church-750251_1920I hope you can believe that.

I hope you can take it all in despite how in-credible it sounds. The suffering, the heartache, the senselessness. It won’t always be so. It’s only part of this journey and it isn’t forever.

If something in you has died, if all hope is lost, I hope you will believe the story. I promise you, when you look through faith’s eyes, you see what can not be seen with your own. And you can find joy despite suffering, hope despite hopelessness, and life despite death.

I’ve created Hope For the Hard Places just for you, and I’d love for you to download it or share it in anyway you find helpful.

Please leave me a comment below and let me know if you believe the story. Or if you’re not sure. I’d love to have coffee with you sometime.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Turn Failed Resolutions Into ReVolutions That Change Your Life

We’re already past that point in January where most of us have abandoned our New Year’s resolutions and feel defeated by our lack of ability to drop those 10 pounds, start that new project, get our marriages back on track, you name it.

Before you get too discouraged though, let me assure you that you haven’t failed and it’s not too late for a re-do. This time though let’s have a reality check and make sure we’re doing what it takes to see real change rather than just pursuing a phantom wish we hope comes true.

What if instead of a half-hearted resolution, we decide to usher in a revolution?pablo-3

What if instead of making a resolution to lose weight, we revolutionized our approach to health and wellness? What if instead of making a resolution to have a better marriage, we revolutionized the way we treat our husbands? What if we stopped giving in to a defeatist mentality and finally revolutionized the way we see ourselves and determined that this is the year we stop saying we can’t and take the first step toward that thing we always wanted to do?

What if?

Merriam-Webster defines revolution as “a sudden, radical, or complete change” and “a fundamental change in the way of thinking about or visualizing something:  a change of paradigm.”

So how do we start our revolution?

  1. Make a specific plan and make it a real priority. Let’s be clear on this. Our priorities aren’t determined by what we claim, but by how we spend our time. We may claim that our marriage is our priority, but if spend our free time on Facebook rather than on a date with our husbands, we fool ourselves and nothing changes. However, a complete change in how your time is spent will mean a complete change in what you can achieve.
  2. Find someone you trust to hold you accountable and give support. It will be far too easy to quit if you are the only one who knows the plan. Ecclesiastes 2:10 says, “Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help…”(NLT)
  3. Start today. Mark Twain once said, “The secret of getting ahead is getting started.” Procrastination is the great enemy of great things. I tell my children (and myself regularly) that you can’t course-correct a still object. Don’t be afraid of all the what-ifs of getting off course occasionally. That is far better than standing still and getting nowhere.
  4. Get past the past. Don’t allow past failure or disappointment to define you. Failures are just opportunities to learn a better way and grow. It doesn’t matter that you completely blew it up to this point with your children or nearly bankrupted financially. Life is a series of chapters. Learn from the experience, ask for forgiveness if necessary, and write the next chapter afresh.
  5. Keep the end in sight. Yogi Berra supposedly said, “If you don’t know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else.” Know where you’re going from the start because it will get harder before it gets better. You will reach a plateau and want to quit. But there’s only one thing that guarantees our failure, and that’s quitting. You may need to rest and re-focus, but get back up and get back to work. It’s worth it.

How hard is this? Well I guess that depends on the revolution, but nothing worth having was ever gained effortlessly. But it is not impossible.

You CAN do it!

You’re turn. What in your life is in need of a “sudden, radical, or complete change”? Decide and then start your revolution today.

 

 

Do You Know What You Were Born For?

I’m sure you all know that familiar voice that whispers every now and then, “There’s got to be more to life than this.” Do you know what you are here on earth for, or do you often struggle to find meaning in the mundane of daily living?ID-100339655

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As moms, it’s a question we must settle for ourselves if we are going to be able to guide our children toward purposeful and fulfilled living.

I know not all of you share my faith, but I cannot talk about purpose aside from my faith. As Christmas draws near, I couldn’t help but think of what the birth and life of Jesus teaches us about our own purpose even now.

Jesus knew clearly what He was born for, and He lived and died with singularity of purpose. There was no question; there was no soul-searching. He was born to die an agonizing death. Yet He moved through His life with such focus that in a short thirty-plus years, He changed not only the lives of those He walked with, but also the lives of countless others for more than 2,000 years since.

We may not be called to die for the sins of the world, but we were born with a distinct and unique purpose.

So, how do we live that purpose out?

1—Remember that God alone, not our circumstances, determines our destiny. Jesus was born amidst scandal, grew up in a backwoods town, and was mocked and scorned by the leaders of the day. Yet, He set his eyes on who his Father said He was (John 13:3) and accomplished what had been set for Him to do (John 12:49-50).

2—Finding our purpose requires God-searching rather than soul-searching. Jesus knew His Father in Heaven and talked with Him (Matthew 14:23). God is the author of our purpose and He wants to share it with us. He will show us every step as we get in step with Him (Psalm 37:23-24).

3—Do the hard thing and be willing to stand alone. Jesus challenged religion and tradition in order to fulfill His call. Because of it, He was sought and killed. He was driven to His death alone and shamed. Still, He died as He lived—intentionally (1 John 3:16, Matt 26:52-54).

4—If you seek to be great, seek first to serve. Who serves better than you mamas? The world may not see the glory in wiping snotty noses and jellied fingers, but I sure hope you know that your sacrifices done in love will reap a mighty reward (Matthew 23:11-12, Galatians 6:9)!

5—When you breathe your last breath, it’s really all about love. The “stuff”, the accomplishments, the promotions all disappear, but a legacy of love is eternal (Matthew 22:36-40).

We all have a myriad of choices every day. Some will distract us, some will detour us, and some will completely derail us. Still others will move us toward the life only we were meant to live. When we intentionally seek the Father’s will, walk with the One who made it possible, and serve those placed around us, we will not only exist, but will live a life worth dying for.

How about you? Are you living life on purpose or just trying to get through the day? What one thing can you do today to recognize and passionately fulfill your call?

 

 

 

 

 

Surrendering Happily-Ever-After

Family Photo copyAt a young age, my head was full of anticipation for the happily-ever-after-life I would one day lead. I dreamed about who I would marry, where we would live, how many children we would have, how many others we would adopt. I dreamed about the books I’d write and the people I would help, and the list goes on and on.

Today, I’m no different although my dreams have changed over the years. Some I’ve gladly given up, like being a pilot since I’m afraid of heights. Others I still cling to and believe for, like finally putting to pen the multiple books in my heart.

But what of the dreams I long for and see time making less and less achievable? What of the shattered dreams that have left me disillusioned and confused? What of the uprooting and rearranging of dreams I’m seeing right now? Nowhere in my little-girl hopes did hurt and loss come into play. Nowhere did I account for personal failure or the failure of others. Nowhere was there room in my young heart for dreams that didn’t come true.

What about your dreams, dear one? Are you in a season of surrendering your own version of happily-ever-after? Perhaps your prince charming isn’t so much after all. Perhaps your home isn’t being filled with the laughter of children you always imagined or you have a prodigal who you long to come home. Maybe sickness or financial crisis has left you unable to do little more than survive, let alone chase a dream.

Please know how I long to whisper words of hope into your soul.

I don’t know what you’re dreaming today, but I know that you can entrust it to the One who knows every secret longing. He has a way of drawing the line between the dreams others have instilled in you and those He intended all along.

Don’t miss this beautiful, broken journey dearest sister. It’s not about the dream. It never was. It’s about faith in the One who knows what will truly satisfy. It’s not about resigning ourselves to loss. It’s about releasing the right to be bitter for what we thought our life should or could look like and giving God permission to take over. When we do that, He may breathe fresh life into dead dreams or teach us how to relinquish them so that new ones can be birthed.

When hopelessness takes over, remember this, “God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams!” (Eph. 3:20 The MSG)

What are you dreaming of today? Or have dreamed your whole life? Will you be able to trust Jesus with it? Will you let Him decide what will be granted, what will be reshaped, and what will die?

A Wedding Ring Valentine Discovery

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I just love love. I fall to pieces over a mushy love note, gush at Hallmark commercials, and keep every last sentimental scribble my children have ever given me. So imagine how my insides are upside down right now since the discovery of a treasured wedding ring I was sure was gone forever.

Nearly two years ago, I combed everything I owned in search of the solitaire diamond ring my husband had given me the night he proposed September 29, 1989. Married December 23 of the same year, I’ve never wanted another ring. I didn’t care that we could since afford a bigger diamond or that white gold is now in vogue. Jon chose it, spent what was equivalent to a fortune for a twenty-two-year-old struggling fisherman, and surprised me with it the day he drove into Seaford, DE after a cross-country trek from Alaska. To me, it symbolized eternity as we vowed to walk through our dreams hand in hand.

So when it disappeared on our own drive home from a summer of fishing in Alaska, I was heart-broken. Oh, I know it’s just a thing, but that ring was more than gold and a diamond. It was our story.

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I had worn it through every heartwarming moment and every heartbreaking argument Jon and I ever shared, through promises whispered and threats shouted, through successes gained and battles lost. It told of four babies delivered in hospitals and two in heaven, and it devastated me that I would not pass it on to the next generation as I passed along the stories that accompanied it.

After Christmas this year, I searched through every last piece of clothing I’d ever worn for that ring before giving up hope for good. I sat cross-legged on the attic floor alone and cried, feeling silly that I couldn’t let it go. Now here it is, the day before Valentine’s and I found what I was looking for where I never even thought to look. As I dumped the contents of an old tote bag I carry with me everywhere, I noticed a zipper I didn’t remember being there and tucked inside of it was my ring. It had been with me all along. What was lost is found and I can wear it again, not just as a symbol of a forever marriage but of restored hope.

Perhaps your marriage could use a little of that. Perhaps you’ve been looking for what once was, and are losing hope. Maybe like my ring, what you long for has been with you all along and you just don’t know where to look. I pray you don’t stop believing for it but also don’t live grieving over it in the meantime. God knows what your heart longs for and He is the giver of all good things (James 1:17). Even if He doesn’t give you what you’re looking for, He’ll always give you what you need. All you have to do is ask (James 4:2, John 14:13).

Valentine’s Day has changed since my husband and I first married. Romance looks a little different. It rarely includes late-night dates and dancing on the beach, but it is full of something much more real. After years of bandaging boo-boos together, settling sibling rivalry, surviving difficult diagnoses, we have learned what real love is. It’s not all candy hearts and chocolates (although I highly recommend the latter). It’s a story of two clueless people who defied the odds and found exactly what they were looking for.

I pray you’ll be inspired to do the same.