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Tag Archives: hope

How to Be Thankful

Three years ago, I should have been in a dark place. Maybe I was actually in a dark place, but there was a light in the darkness.  And light overcomes darkness. As long as I knew the light was there, even if it seemed dim, I knew I could go on.

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2015 started with a startling surprise that left me questioning my life and marriage and set us up financially to lose everything.  Only by God’s grace did we make it through that, and without once failing to pay a major bill or even damaging our credit. I won’t go into details, but none of it made any sense on paper. It was truly a miracle. Then as the year came to a close, we found out we would lose the little girl who had been the biggest part of the light we’d had through all that. The girl we had never known we needed, and now didn’t know how we could could live without, would be taken from us. And if we weren’t careful, we may never see her again.

I was living through a nightmare, so deep in stress and heartache I sometimes had trouble breathing, and I was on the verge of tears at all times. Nothing in my life had ever felt so difficult before. I can’t even remember all the details anymore- maybe I blocked them out- but I know we faced car issues, emergencies around the house, and any number of financial and emotional surprises during this time that made me feel like I was down and getting kicked in the ribs every time I struggled to get up.

But then I took a look at all we had made it through and all the people who had been there to love and support us. I began to actually see where God had been, even in the middle of the worst year of my life. I could not make it through this on my own. I knew that. I just wasn’t strong enough in my own power.

And that’s ok. I wasn’t supposed to be. God wasn’t bringing these things into my life and standing above me laughing. He was allowing them because He knew I would reach out to Him in this time and that He would be the strength I needed to make it through. Even as some new calamity would strike, it always seemed there was something equally good that would happen, often in unexpected ways. He was letting me know He was there, and though I could not see why I was experiencing these hurts or how they would turn out, He had the big picture and was making it all work for my good.  I even began laughing when disaster would strike. What else could I do?

I prayed so hard for our girl to stay with us, but in the middle of 2016, she had to leave. We had done all we could to prepare for that, but I had still been in denial. I thought God would come in with some crazy miracle at the last minute. He didn’t. I was angry about that at first. I couldn’t understand, and still often don’t, how her new situation was a better place for her. But maybe that’s not what it’s about. She loves God, and maybe she needs to learn how to trust Him in the difficult times too. Maybe this is the building of her character, because while I was praying for God to make a way for her to stay with us, I also prayed that if that was not part of His plan, that she would be given the strength she needed and it would make her a better person. It is also a reminder that though she had been placed with us for a time, and we cared for her as our own, ultimately, she is a child of God and He will care for her. I had to give her to Him in that time.

It has been hard. The blessing is that we do still get to be part of her life and she spends every other weekend, and some extra time here and there, with us. To others, she refers to us as her aunt and uncle, but when she’s with us, we are still Mommy and Daddy, and I think it will always be that way. She has been out of our direct care now longer than she was with us, but the bond remains. It’s hard having her less than part time. Our lives had to “go back to normal” to some extent, so weekends with her turn our routines and our “normal” upside down. The disruption can be difficult emotionally, because our lives are on hold at those times… but having that time is precious. She’s still a light. She is our sunshine.

If it had been up to me, I would have wanted to eventually adopt her and to never have experienced most of 2015 and 2016, but then I would not have been able to grow. Neither would she, or my husband. It was awful, and we are still in a constant state of recovery from all of it, but we were blessed through it too.

I’ve realized that bad things happen to everybody. Some people just dwell on the bad more than others. Perspective and optimism go a long way. Everything I went through in that time changed my overall perspective and helped me find HOPE. Sometimes I still have to react emotionally, and even cry it out. But then I remind myself to look to God and all that He has done to take care of us.

Romans 8:28  And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

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My Christmas Prayer 2016

My house is quiet this morning. The dogs followed me out of the bedroom but collapsed while I made my coffee. My husband softly snores yet with the cat. There are no excited children to open gifts. It is just me and thoughts.

Whether today is the true date of Jesus’ birth or not,  I am thankful that he agreed to come here and be born as a little baby who would suffer the trials of mankind, growing in communion and fellowship with so many imperfect people. These were the people who were looking for him, yet refused to see him.

Even as a baby he was born to die. He was a sacrifice. Imagine growing up knowing that. Then imagine him surrounded by the hatred and cruelty of mankind (not so different than it is today), and deciding to die for us anyway, Jew and gentile alike. In fact, he died for anyone and everyone who would choose him.

This Christmas, I am thankful for the greatest gift ever, God’s son. So many are lost, hurting, and confused. If I read the news, it brings me to tears more often than not. How can we believe in good when we are surrounded by so much evil? But I pray for this to be a day that gives hope. I pray everyone would have a small moment in their busy days to look past the commercialism and truly appreciate what Christmas represents. There is hope, if we only look. I pray we may all focus on the good and what we do have. I pray for hurting people to find peace. And I pray my little girl would always continue to love God and believe with her childlike faith.

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Merry Christmas!

Hope Changes Everything

A few Christmases ago, I discovered we somehow had this amazingly beautiful song in our collection of 2 days of Christmas music. As it played I realized I had never heard it before, so I paused my holiday scurrying long enough to listen. And then I hit the repeat button and listened again. Something about this song reached my heart like few other Christmas songs ever had and it became an immediate favorite.

Then my world changed. I am not going to say I am like Mary or anything, but last year I came to understand her more through this song, and by reflection, I understood the sacrifice of God to give us His son.

I’ve blogged this before, but in case you missed it, the short story is that my husband and I, intentionally childless, were asked in the summer of 2014 to take in a little girl. We were unprepared and felt we were not worthy of such an important task as helping to raise a child. But we knew we needed to do it, so we said yes. It was hard. Our lives had to completely change to fit her into our world, but we grew as a family and the bond of love became something I could never had imagined, I could never have planned.

She became our daughter… a child entrusted to us, of all people.

Then last winter, right before Thanksgiving, we found out we were going to lose her. No, she isn’t deceased. She just lives with her biological father now.

So when I heard this song last year, the meaning changed for me. I definitely felt the uncertainty of Mary, being chosen to not only give birth to Jesus, but having the honor of raising him. She knew he was the savior, but she did not know how he was to save mankind, that he would have to be sacrificed. She had nothing of certainty except that she had been chosen for the task.

It isn’t easy to give up your loved ones who have become part of your heart and your being. Trusting God’s plan when it makes no sense hurts like nothing I can describe. How must Mary have felt when she beheld Jesus, torn and beaten, hanging on the cross 32 years later, remembering when she had held him in her arms? She had to have felt broken and confused. Maybe even angry. Why had she been given such a wonderful gift only to have him taken from her in such a brutal way?

But he was God’s gift to give, and though Mary could not see it in the midst of her pain, salvation came from Jesus’ death. And no one suffered as God did in that moment when He could not even look upon His own son. He knew what the sacrifice meant for mankind, but in that moment, He hurt and He wept.

I love Christmas decorations, the baking, the parties, the smells, the music, but I remind myself those good feelings of Christmas are meant to remind us of the greatest gift ever given. It’s wonderful when, in the midst of the commercialism, people are able to appreciate the general warmth of the holiday, the love and peace,  but it needs to be more than just that. Let’s remember where Love really originates and who gave it to us.

There is always a plan. It doesn’t always make sense. Sometimes it hurts, but we have been given the gift of Hope.

My Story

If you’ve been in a church, you’ve probably heard about peaks and valleys. Life is full of them. About a year ago, I was checking out a pretty great view on my own mountain peak… and then was shoved from behind into a canyon. Every time I think I’ve found some hand and foot holds to start to climb back up, I slip.

The thing is, as miserable as this experience has been, I know I won’t be down here forever, and what I do while I’m down here matters.

Because one day, I am going to have an amazing story to tell.

I am a writer; however, God is the author of my life. All truly good stories have several intertwined subplots, and as the reader, we don’t always see how all those subplots fit together, but the Author and Creator always sees how it will all connect in the end.

I am learning that I am not the author of my life. God is. I cannot get out of this valley on my own. I have to trust He is working behind the scenes to pull me up. He is giving me an amazing story to tell. He didn’t knock me down here, but He knew I would fall. He already had a plan to raise me up.

My story is not finished yet. One day I can share the story and the happy ending of eternal life.

(I had this post fermenting in my mind as the first of 2016 over a week ago, and then my pastor gave a message last Sunday that confirmed this was the right thing, right down to the video I had already decided to include. God is funny that way.)

My Words as Weapons: Time for some good news

Since I just launched my second book, my blog has been heavily concentrated in author related content, meaning I’ve neglected my other purpose of spreading awareness about human trafficking.   Sometimes getting caught up in the mire of that topic can become a heavy weight, and I just wanted to think happier thoughts for a while.

Here we are, smack in the middle of the 2014 World Cup. I enjoy soccer and have been watching quite a few of the games, trying not to think about the implications of so many men gathered in one place for a month long sporting event in a country that is already one of the worst as far as the sex trade on human trafficking is concerned. So I thought I might write about this, but then I remembered that I covered that concept already back at the time of the Super Bowl, and I thought, Maybe I could bring some happy news once.

And so, this time I share, not my own words as weapons, but an encouraging story that shows that if people, groups, governments work together, we can free people.

This is one link that came to me through my subscription to the Trafficking Report offered by traffickinghope.org

 

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/06/23/fbi-trafficking-sex-children/11271829/

When I Needed a Bear Hug

On my drive home from my parents’ 45 anniversary celebration, a familiar song came on my iPod and brought back a flood of memories (sorry for the cliche, but it was raining while I was driving, so it seems fitting).

In 2010, my world changed. Robert and I both had secure jobs, but I always felt his was more secure because he is one of those people who never seems to lack confidence, he was amazing at his job, and everybody there loved and respected him… until he got a new boss.  Then, without going into details I still do not understand, Robert suddenly had no job.  Obviously, this was devastating. My exciting teacher’s salary was maybe 3/4 of what he made (if we didn’t count his yearly bonus), and now we would have to learn to live off of just that, and some unemployment, which really isn’t much of anything.

This happened in April, and I was finishing out a stressful school year- in fact, the most stressful I’d had so far after my first year.  I was depressed and struggled just to get up and go to school.  I know, Robert was the one who lost his job, but I have always been the “Money Nazi” in our marriage, so I may have taken it just as hard as he had.  Fortunately there was a severance package; Robert just needed to get a job before that ran out and we’d be fine.

The severance package ran out at the end of June and Robert had no prospects, unemployment was rising in our county, and we were both losing hope.  I didn’t know what I was going to do to make sure we could eat, keep our house, and survive.

I took up running that summer and had just gotten back from a pathetic run (it was way harder to do than I ever figured it would be, so I was feeling pretty sorry for myself), and I was reflecting on all these hopeless thoughts and circumstances and trying to figure out how I was going to fix it.  I just didn’t know what I was going to do, so after stretching, instead of getting up, I just stayed where I was, prostrate on the floor with tears welling up.

And then a song came on, and I listened to it.  In that moment, I realized I had to stop thinking of what I was going to do.  There wasn’t anything I could do.  The problem was way bigger than just me.  What I had to do was let go of it and realize that God was the only one who could get us through this time.  I had no control over the job market or the economy.  I don’t believe God ever brings bad stuff on us, but we live in an imperfect world, so bad stuff does happen.  But God wants to take care of us and let us know we don’t have to do it alone.  The song made me feel like I was getting a hug from God, all wrapped in His arms.

Fireflight- Wrapped in Your Arms

I suddenly remembered Matthew 6:28-34 (NIV)

28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 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? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

I felt loved, protected, and cared for.  I let go of my worries at that time.  I’m not saying everything was perfect after that or that my faith never once faltered, but I kept remembering all the promises God made to us, and all we have to do is give up control to Him.  It’s no coincidence (well, maybe, since I was purposely listening to Fireflight) that after I listened to the previous song a few times, the very next one followed up that message, securing my hope.

Fireflight- You Gave Me a Promise

After almost twenty months, Robert got a job.  Twenty months of unemployment and uncertainty later, we had pulled through, still had a house, and had not starved to death.  Actually, though it had been tight at times, miraculously, we always had at least exactly what we needed.

Maybe that’s where you are right now, needing that hug.  If so, I hope this helped.  We learned so much during that time, and we are now so much stronger in our faith.