Category Archives: Life With Jesus

Scared to Hope

Several months ago I read a book that talked a little about being scared to hope. (I’ve previously written about another nugget I learned from it here.)  When I was reading this book and I got to the part about hope, it actually resonated with a situation I was in the midst of.  I had a big dream that I could see actually becoming reality, and I was literally feeling sick and scared to hope rather than be excited.

Then fast-forward a few months. I’ve  found myself in another situation that should be exciting and hopeful. I’m sitting right on the edge of something wonderful. And yet, I realize once again that I’m scared to have hope. Sensing a pattern here, I started to examine my feelings and thoughts.

I was torn up inside about it.  I wanted to be happy and excited, and mostly to be at peace.  And I remembered the book and went back to dig into it again.  I had to see what I could learn about myself and how i could pray to see things differently.

From Looking for Lovely by Annie F. Downs:

“So when I feel like hoping for something could make me float away into an ocean of fear or disappointment, I remember that Jesus holds me, protects me and keeps me calm. He is my hope. “

This. This sums it all up for me. I can be so fearful that I’ll be disappointed. That the big thing that I’ve desperately wanted will also be scary, and challenging and messy.  And now that it’s really happening, am I ready? Will I mess it up? Can I allow my heart to fully feel the excitement? I want to remain guarded, but there’s no joy living in that place.

My hope is not in myself and how I will handle what is coming.  I know that I will make mistakes. I know there will be disappointments. The hope I have is  a living hope that Peter speaks of.  Which brings me to another quote from the same book:

“So what if after we have suffered, persevered, and allowed our character to grow, Jesus infuses life into the hope that has been deposited in our hearts?”

I started praying for Jesus to infuse life into the hope that was in my heart. I believe the hope is there because I have gone through the process outlined in Romans 5:3-5 of enduring and patience and growing something. But now that it’s time, I’m scared to feel it. i can’t experience it on my own or in my own power, but I can through His.

The road ahead will be messy and likely hard to navigate, but the rewards will be rich. The excitement of what’s to come is real, and I want to embrace it fully. So I’m praying that Jesus will keep infusing life into the hope that is growing in my heart.

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My First Advent: A Recap

This was my first year to celebrate Advent. It is not something that has been a part of my tradition or religious background in the past.

This year some friends introduced me to an advent study For All by Sacred Holidays. It was a workbook with a session to study each day for the three weeks leading up to Christmas. I decided quickly that I wanted, that I needed to do this. And having a group of friends to debrief the study with was also very helpful.

I got so excited about Advent that I began studying on my own. As I did the introduction to my Advent study in preparation, God begin speaking to me about how I could share during Advent with others who might also not be familiar with this practice. I suddenly had an idea to do a series of Advent videos each Sunday during the season. (links at the bottom)

So Advent became for me something pretty significant. Not only was I committed to carving out time each day to do my personal study book, but I was also creating a video each week to share with others. It was such a good motivator for me to study and really listen to what God was saying during this season.

Several things stand out to me that I learned during this time. I saw parallels between Christ’s first and second coming that I had never considered before. I learned to see peace as “completeness”, and Christ as the completer of all things. I saw how the prophets Anna and Simeon got to see Christ because they were anxiously waiting and anticipating and looking for him.  So many parts of the birth story stood out to me in new ways this year.

I also learned a lot personally in this journey. To navigate technology more independently. To be more flexible in my planning and be comfortable with sometimes working down to the wire.  To trust God to use me, sometimes in spite of myself. That even things you really want to do can sometimes feel very hard in the moment, but you must persevere.

It’s a bit sad that Advent and the Christmas season are over. But I will try to hold some of that anticipation and expectation for Christ’s return in my heart for all year.

Links to Advent Videos:

Advent Intro & Resources

Advent Week 1: Hope

Advent Week 2: Peace

Advent Week 3: Joy

Advent Week 4: Love

Do Not Quit

How do you decide whether or not to throw in the towel when a situation feels hopeless?

Recently I found myself in that place. I didn’t  have any fight left and I was ready to quit on something in my life.  There were some good circumstantial reasons to do just that and be justified. I found myself face to face with the question:

“Will I quit? Is this the point where I just can’t anymore in this situation?”

That  week as I was struggling, I opened a new book that I didn’t know much about.  The book was Looking for Lovely. I did the book study with friends, and it was admittedly chosen a lot for the fact that it has a beautiful cover. See?

The first paragraph was about persevering and not quitting. It’s actually what the whole entire book is about that I would study almost daily over the next six weeks.

Every day as I filled in the blanks and read the verses, I was reminded of why we persevere, how it develops character and how we can remain hopeful. There is no doubt in my mind that these weeks were chosen by God for me to be focusing on this concept.

Sometimes we can find peace in quitting something as God releases us from one thing and into another. But in this season, God tells me not to quit.

Don’t quit just because it’s hard.

Don’t quit just because there are dark days.

Persevere because of the character it builds and the hope that is coming.

Set a Wide and Generous Table

Set a wide and generous table.

I’ve been thinking a lot about simple hospitality, the good things that happen around a table and making yourself more vulnerable to others.

I live in a modest log cabin in the woods by a pond. We live a beautifully simple life without a lot of bells and whistles. Our home is never going to be featured in Southern Living. But there are things that can make my home a wonderful space for people.

I think Jesus shared a meal around the table with all kinds of people and just made room for them without asking questions. I bet it was simple instead of fancy, but that the company is what mattered the most.

I recently felt prompted to make some space in my life. And then I quickly thought of people I could invite into that space. But would I do it?

Scary stuff to invite people in. To invite people  that you hardly know. I mean, all the thoughts.

 Will this conversation be awkward?

Will a “no” feel like rejection?  

Will they think I’m desperate for friends? 

The bottom line is that you have to decide that it doesn’t matter.  Be okay with possibly looking like a crazy person. Certainly be okay with a no, because you’ll get a lot of those. Whatever happens will be okay and  the risk of doing this thing will be worth it.

And so I said yes. For me, it meant hard work to clear out a space for those God wanted to bring. And yes, I mean like even physical hard work. Cleaning up my home beyond what is just normally needed to create space for people and an environment for a group. Getting out the extra chairs. Putting away the cluttery art projects.

It meant cleaning off and cleaning up my back yard. It’s paying attention to small details that create spaces for conversation and connection. Making it look like you are expecting people to sit and linger in a conversation.

And as I spent the time on these tasks, I found that they are physical representations of what was mostly happening in my heart.

That’s the hardest work of all. I’m cleaning up in there. Like my back yard, junk just seems to show up there that I don’t want. I’ve got to get rid of some junk to make space for people. To make space to love people.

And how cool is it to have friends who jumped in it with me? They did the physical hard work with me of clean up. They helped me sort through and process my emotional junk too. And then our tribe showed up to welcome new people with us to the point that my load in the end was very little.

So here’s what I’m going to do.  Keep making room for people. Keep having open seats at the table. Try to keep things more cleaned up and welcoming on the outside, but also on the inside of me. Sometimes it won’t be the easiest way or the most comfortable way. But there’s something rich that happens if you’re willing.

Potty Training with Really Ugly Cats

When Abby turned two, we moved to a small island in the West Indies. We traded all that was familiar for something new. Although Abby was barely potty trained when we left, this transition to a completely new life meant that potty training  “came undone” as well.

At that age, Abby loved cats and all things cats. She had a stuffed kitty that she got at 9 months old that had become her “special thing”. She was basically the only one of our children to ever have a genuinely special cuddle item, and it became her familiar and safe part of life when we carted our family around between Peru, the US, and then St. Vincent. Kitty went everywhere at early ages and then transitioned to just nap time or bedtime.

I had to get pretty creative with a ton of things living on the island, and potty training was no exception. I tried hard to think of a potty training incentive. There weren’t many good options. One day when we were in town, I noticed a clear bag of a dozen or so plastic cats in the toy section. The toy section at a store on the island was sort of like the toy section at a gas station or hotel gift shop, only with more poorly made items. This bag of plastic cats was only about $3, which was an incredible price for anything on the island. They were the size of the little animals you can buy in the US that come in a clear plastic tube, but they were much uglier. They were mostly the ugliest cats imaginable. (Photo for proof.)  But they were the perfect potty training item. Each successful day of potty training, Abby would receive a new kitty at the end of the day. She had a little zippered pencil pouch that she proudly kept her kitties in. She would take them all out, sort them, and line them up. She was very excited to get a new one, even when there started to be duplicates, so it worked.

uglycatI’ve kept this one last lonely, ugly kitty on the shelf in my room for over 11 years now. It reminds me of a different season of life. It reminds me of the vibrant little 2-year-old with sparkly eyes. It reminds me to improvise, and how easily you can make something out of nothing or something amazing out of something ordinary.

This ugly cat is a strange thing to keep. What random item are you holding onto because of the memories associated with it?

 

Keep Your Eyes On Me

lydsinging

When my daughter Lydia was four years old, she sang a solo in our church for maybe the first time. She basically had no fear. She had the confidence, the love for music and the voice to go with it. I talked to her ahead of time about how she might feel when she was up on stage in front of everyone, and how it would feel a little different to her once everyone was watching. She said, “Mommy, even if I’m scared, I’m still gonna sing.” And she was right.

When Lydia sang, I was watching her and mouthed the words. I thought it would help her and keep her from getting off. I still to this day sometimes mouth the words when I’m watching her sing in public, which is ridiculous. She doesn’t need my help, but it’s instinct. I guess it’s like the thing where your mouth opens and closes when you’re feeding a baby with a spoon. (Y’all know that’s a thing, right? It’s crazy to me our reflexes.)

Anyway, on this particular Sunday of this sweet little solo that was about 12 little measures of music…..her microphone decided to screech. Loudly. So loudly that some people were holding their ears from it, making faces and had audible responses. However, Lydia was unfazed and kept singing right in time, calmly and beautifully. What was her secret?

She kept her eyes on me.

 

See, I didn’t react at all to the microphone incident. No matter how I felt about it on the inside, I did not let that show. I thought only of my treasured little child watching me, following my lead, going with my cues. She kept calm because she had her eyes on me. Peace amidst a chaotic moment. And everyone was amazed.

If she had looked around, she probably would have stopped singing. If she had seen the faces and responses of the people in the crowd, she might have thought that something was wrong or that there was reason to be alarmed. But because I wasn’t alarmed, she was calm.

How many times has my situation seemed impossible, scary or like too much chaos because I’ve had my eyes on someone other than my loving Father? Perspective is so very important. The situation doesn’t change, but the way you feel depends on who you’ve got your eyes on. God will never be in a panic. He will not have an emotional overreaction to a situation. When you keep your eyes on him, you choose the road of peace.

Island Life: My First Criminal Lineup

house

In our early days of marriage and parenting, Nathan and I packed up our two young children and moved to a small island in the West Indies to get Bible stories into a language that had no written verses of scripture. This is a story about that season of my life. You can read more about our island days here.

After a couple of months on the island of St. Vincent, I started noticing that I couldn’t find a few of our clothes. Then one day our clothesline that had been full of laundry was suddenly empty. Someone was stealing things from our yard. They even took a precious little pair of red ladybug rain boots off our front porch.

That was a bad feeling. We started taking our clothes down quickly, and creating a make-shift spot to hang laundry inside the house too. But that was only the beginning.

One day I walked into our kitchen only to find a man in there loading up food items from the cupboard into a sack.  As soon as I entered the room, he quickly left the house out the door from the carport to the kitchen where he had entered to begin with. The door was kept opened, as were all our doors and windows as this was the hottest house I have ever been in. (And I have lived in some hot places.) We had a conversation where he tried to act like he had been in the carport to clean our car, as though I hadn’t seen him in the house. I tried to keep him engaged in conversation and was speaking really super loud, trying hard for Nathan to hear in the other room. It didn’t work, and I’m not sure how that would have helped anyway except to make me feel a little safer.

The guy finally started running off into the woods behind the house and I screamed. Then Nathan came but the guy was gone, and chasing him into the woods unarmed didn’t seem like a good plan. Even if Nathan could catch him, did he want to be known as the missionary guy that came and took down some poor homeless man that was in search of food?

Another day soon after, we found our sliding door just  barely cracked opened to the spot where the stick on the track caught it. There was a giant hand print smear, and this was a door that we didn’t use. So Nathan started sleeping in a bed we moved by that door, and we decided we’d better go to the police.

I had to describe the man. I then later had to go back and look for him in a criminal lineup. I remember how nervous I felt because I wanted to be so very sure that I wasn’t identifying an innocent person.

One thing I don’t remember much is fear for our own safety. As I recall this story and think about the emotions that seem they should go with it, it’s like this didn’t happen to me.  Because how did I not live in fear?  Someone had discovered that we were foreigners with really cool imported items that they wanted, and they were persistent in trying to get them. At night, we had our two sweet children tucked away in beds beside us while someone repeatedly tried to get into our home. We had computers full of hours of work on the project that we would not be able to replace if stolen.  And yet, I don’t remember fear. I remember sleeping well at night, closed up in that room with a very loud air conditioner, not giving much thought at all to who might be trying to enter our home.

I can only give credit to our great God. He is the one who gives peace. He was and is our protector. He kept us from living in fear and brought us through that season.  He brought peace and calm to my heart, despite the circumstances. He will do it for me and for you anytime we will let him.