Status Reckless

“And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”

Romans 5:5 (NIV) 

It gets me every time.

I am always taken by surprise.

Six months later and I do not see the trend ending any time soon.

What do I do?

I hold hands and cups of coffee.

I run between healthcare staff and family and sit in the waiting room with children who are too young to witness the adults in their lives fall apart emotionally.

I speak prayers and I sit silently, tears being the only expression close to, though not quite, capable of communicating the storm of grief taking hold.

I witness the strength and heart of the staff with awe and their tears with reverence for what they voluntarily experience out of their love for the person, for each beautiful and individual life.

And I hope.

I know the expectations, I know the probable outcome, I understand that if I have been called in, whatever chance there may be is small, and not promised.

And I expect the unexpected.

It’s not a half hope. It is not a “but God could” hope. It is not a last ditch hope.

It is complete, all in, God can hope. It is reckless hope.

And I am always taken by surprise. Because that kind of hope, against every odd, never considers the other outcome, until it arrives.

My heart always stutters in shock, surprise crashing down like a tidal wave. As I reach up for protection, He is reaching out is assurance. And I can stand and be still on the inside while walking through it on the outside.

I can get tissues and chairs. I can speak with family and safeguard sacred moments. I can remain out of the way (at least attempt to) and be readily available. I can give hugs and provide space. I can listen to stories and honor a need for silence.

I can make it home after helping family and friends head to homes that are somehow emptier in a world that makes a little, or a lot, less sense.

And then the wave comes. It has to you know. I’m not in it alone. But it still has to come down.

And I let it all wash out. Every shard of hope on trial.

Of course the defense is prepared and truth reigns.

He heard my prayers. He began answering them immediately. And yes, He was victorious.

In His way and in His time. His ways and His thoughts both higher than mine. His love incomprehensibly complete.

No matter how it feels, His truth reigns.

Not that He is unfeeling. He understands, He knows and He’s holding on. He hasn’t let go- and He’s not going to.

I knew He could do it, I know He can still do it- whatever the situation may be. I believed and believe. I hoped and I hope.

And when the tears come and the hope feels it has turned into shards of broken glass that still small voice whispers,

Child, you are not wrong. 

as He wipes the tears away.

Because there is nothing impossible for our God. Nothing too hard. Nothing too big. Nothing too much. Or too little.

In a fallen world, horrible things happen that were not apart of God’s original plan. And with all of my schooling and study I cannot say for certain why God chooses to move and to stay His hand.

I hope in and I trust a Sovereign, Holy, Loving and Just God who did not create us to destroy us, but to give us a hope and a future, an eternal home.

A last thought.

I was wondering one evening, if this reckless hope would one day dissipate all together? I mean you hear stories of burnout. Of the last straw.

What would the consequences be of recklessly putting all of your heart in, all of the time?

Certainly, there was pain. I wondered, worried, if that chipping was slowly picking away at my hope filled heart. That one day a puncture would go too deep, that my hope would become less than “complete.”

Ironically, I worried that one day I would be less “taken by surprise.”

I had been in that black pit once, I have no desire or intention of going back. Not even the tiniest bit. I could sit down and rest, but there would be no back tracking. That, my heart couldn’t take.

My personal reflection was clearly not getting me anywhere so I took a minute and passed it on to the One whose thoughts are higher than my own. And I got a picture (further proof He understands me- and my appreciation for visual learning aids!)

I pictured my heart, the way I had been “imagining” it before- a chipping from the outside. But then it changed.

Duh. The chipping was not on the outside. It was on the inside.

The chipping may hurt, but growth usually does. Long story short, it was making my heart deeper- not smaller. Capable of holding more, not less.

Child, you are not wrong. 

His picture of immediate victory may vary from mine- but my hope has never been misplaced. He is working, and He is winning. Actually, He has already won.

I cannot see the big picture from down here. But I trust Him. Meanwhile, I pray friends that you will not fear recklessly hoping, always. Because you are not wrong.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Romans 15:13 (NIV)

 

A Love Letter at Christmas

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 9:6 (NIV) 

Oh my. It’s time.

I imagine my thoughts echo Mary’s. Though if she did feel as if time ran short, she certainly had more reason to.

However, a part of me whispers that God reassured her as He seeks to reassure us now.

Case in point- I try really hard to avoid the hustle and bustle portion of the season.

This is not a season I want to rush. Even then, it seems to slip by faster and faster each year.

Overall I did really well. I almost made the finish line.

However, in that final lap, I missed a hurdle and then hit a wall.

Disappointment and frustration. Somebody wasn’t holding up their end of the bargain and the order didn’t arrive correctly.

And in both instances the conviction hit my heart instantly. Though it was pinprick compared to the guilt which overwhelmed me.

There’s a difference you know, between God’s conviction and the enemy’s taunting.

God’s conviction speaks to you in the moment, encourages you to repent, apologize and move forward. Conviction occurs in those moments when it feels like God squeezed your hand to say “hey, remember…, slow down…, let’s reexamine this…”

The enemy’s taunting of guilt and shame though is heavy- it weighs you down and offers you no way out, no direction for improvement or redemption.

The enemy’s taunting ties you down to the situation, while God’s conviction seeks to lift you above the circumstance.

I prayed through the conviction, I turned my eyes back to my Father and to my Savior and apologized to the Holy Spirit for any grief I had caused him. But the guilt still lingered. Similar to a thick fog, I couldn’t see through it and I couldn’t grasp it to cast it aside.

And in the middle of that burdensome guilt I wondered at how God put up with me. Thinking about this season, the love He had and still has for us, and that love’s manifestation through His son, Jesus Christ…

Jesus.

Our savior and our hope. The one who never tires of caring for us or seeking us.

As I wondered how Jesus put up with me, especially during this season, I pictured in my mind a beautiful red envelope nestled in a Christmas tree. And a voice whispered that on Christmas, we all receive a gift we may not physically perceive- but that it is there for each one of us.

Our Christmas letter from Jesus.

I’m not sure what each letter would say. I imagine they would vary, not a corporate cookie-cutter Christmas note, but a personally detailed handwritten letter.

And while I believe they would all vary, I also believe they would all be written with the same intention; a note that we are loved, a proclamation of our innocence and a declaration of joy at our redemption and reunion. …

Perhaps something like this;

Brittany,

Know that I am as excited as a child on Christmas morning to see you each day. To hear from you. There is nothing you say that does not catch my full attention. I know that the words you speak are born out of a portion of your heart, your current emotions and perceptions of your situation. The writers heart I’ve placed in you may lead you astray at times thinking you must discover just the right words. Trust that I’ve placed the words inside you- you need not search they will come as they are called- you need only to trust in me and my ability to completely and fully know and understand every bit of who you are. I see you has who you were created to be, and one day you will fully see it too. Promise. 

Until that day, know that I am so proud of you. This year was hard, but you didn’t lose hope, remember that. Grief does not negate hope, the two coexist in a broken world where grief was never meant to reign. 

Most of the time you are doing much better than you give yourself credit for. And those times when you do fall short, don’t worry I’m here to fill the gap just reach out, my hand is always waiting, never far. It does hurt me when you sin, but it hurts equally to see you needlessly struggling with guilt when you have accepted the forgiveness I’ve freely offered you. Please trust that my love is enough. I love you and you are fearfully and wonderfully made, there is none like you. However, you are not so powerful that you are out of bounds of my grace. Hold tight to the fact that my grace is sufficient. 

I know perseverance is a trait more easily quoted than accomplished. But believe me, you are running your race beautifully. Don’t give up and don’t give in. I am right here! I hope you enjoy your time with family and friends. I know your heart will war between joy and grief. As you ride out the tides of warm memories and deep sorrow, let this truth be always buried at the heart of every thought- and that is today is not merely meant to be a celebration but is a day which recalls that time in which I stepped down from heaven so that I could be with you, all of you. Not one face did not go through my mind as I stepped into that manager, nor when I walked that hill to calvary. And I would do it all over again. But I don’t have to, because I am enough, it was enough and to me you are worth more than enough. Remember how much I love you as you celebrate my birthday. (Can you imagine- existing before the beginning of time and still having a birthday!!- I knew you would appreciate that thought:). 

For I so loved you Brittany, and that love is steadfast and never changing, Jesus ❤ 

… yeah, maybe, something just like that.

I encourage all of you to take a moment during this season as we prepare for Christmas and New Year celebrations and pray to God, asking Him, what would your letter say.

I guarantee it will be exactly what you did not know you were waiting and needing to hear.

My prayers and thoughts are with you all Friends! Do not hesitate to comment or reach out with prayer or praise requests/reports. Happy Christmas Eve to you and yours, I hope that even in the darkest of moments you may feel the pulse of the everlasting joy that flooded our world and which we commemorate today.

Thank you to Kelly for the beautiful photo! – Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Growing Pains

Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. 

1 Timothy 4:12

The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice. 

Proverbs 12:15

 

  1. Know that I should be doing homework.
  2. Know that as a grad student I should always be doing homework.

But this blog post has been waiting in my drafts long enough. Early August in fact, 3/4 of the way through my internship, facing an upcoming season of uncertainties and uncharted territories.

Nearing what I believe is the end of that period and entering a new, yet to be charted season, I can feel the inner conflict beginning to stir.

Turmoil that, when left unchecked, is known to make my battle ready self hesitate.

It is not that I fear God failing. No, I believe in him 100% of the time.

But I have struggled with believing in myself.

I have struggled to believe that I can communicate, discern and complete those tasks in front of me. Oftentimes I am self-convinced that I am getting the message wrong and surely God has called someone much more… much?

In today’s world this struggle is a genuine one. The world we live in is hardly encouraging most of the time. And if we are not tuned into what God is saying and what he has said, then who are we listening to?

No matter where you are in life or what career field you are working in, there will always be “the voices” in “the moments.”

While I hope you are not familiar with the voices or the moments, living in this world is an unfortunate guarantee that you are more familiar with them than most of us would like to admit.

You know the ones where you are “too young,” “too old,” “too conservative,” “too liberal,” “too educated,” “too naive”… and all the other “toos” that make you unable to understand. Your answer is wrong. It’s not your fault, you are just “too much” or “too little” and that is too bad.

And in these moments, in early August, amid all the voices, I found I really missed my mom.

In these moments a part of me wishes I would have grown up faster. That I would have grown up more gracefully, gliding past the obstacles and never missing a step.

Unfortunately I was one often caught between hard places, getting back up with scrapped knees and bloody knuckles. Generally walking away with a hard earned and learned lesson accompanied with a loving, motherly, “keep going.”

Mom was a great director on walking the line between “do not let them undermine you” yet “listen to wise counsel.”

So here I am, walking the line, and it is getting slimmer. Its one of those moments where the enemy has gotten a hold of one of the ends of the line, turning it into a tightrope and has begun shaking it. You’re not sure if you’ll be able to remain upright, let alone move forward without losing your balance.

And so I spent some time laying my case out to one who has all the time in the world- eternity in fact. My fragile and fear disposed heart repeating that I believed in Him, but… but… me, the me part of the plan was questionable.

God haven’t you heard? I am not ready. I am not qualified. I am too much this and not enough that.

And in those moments that still small voice whispered- but I believe in you.

I believe in you.

I created you. Who knows better what you are capable of? And remember- you are not going in alone. I will be there. And you said yourself, you believe in Me.

True.

So repeat the problem?

And the tightrope stopped shaking. Because in that moment I handed the end back to God- and stopped jumping up and down on it as I was placed back on solid ground.

I remembered that He is before and behind me. Above and Below me. Even should I fall, He is already there. My own worst enemy had been myself, and the enemy’s doubts I had adopted as my own.

And in that space, on that grounded line, I found it.

Humble Confidence.

A graceful clumsiness. Somedays you will fall. Others you will dance. But everyday you will be fearless.

Because should all else fall away you know your Strong Tower is always before, behind, above and below you. There’s no direction you can fall that he won’t be there to catch you.

As if He wasn’t enough, He has also provided family and friends along the way to encourage us and be lights in an otherwise darkened world.

People who are always behind you, some of who you will meet going forward and others who are watching the ground below you from above.

I know beliefs differ, and I do not have the ultimate answer (I am still in Bible college and God has not granted me a vision or revelation that has been withheld from others until now- not that I haven’t asked), however I highly suspect that loved ones can see us from above. At least to an extent. (I generally reference the story Jesus shares in Luke 16:19-31 of Lazarus and the Rich Man and personal experience).

With that said I also fully believe that our loved ones who have passed into Jesus’ presence are in a place with no sorrow, no tears or hurting and pain of any kind. They are in the best of places, praising our savior and rejoicing.

As much as I miss my mom, my best friend, my grandfather, my aunt and several others; I wouldn’t want them to be in that perfect place missing being here. And I know if my mom (or any of them) recalled the pain our temporary separation caused this side of Heaven, her heart would break.

So I have this hope that should my belief be correct and that they are able to look down at times, there is what I have coined as an “eternity filter.”

A filter that when my mom looks down its through the light of eternity, a light that erases the darkness of this world. While she sees us in the good and bad, she knows that the bad will not endure and the good is not even remotely close to the best. And that we have all the time in world, for one day- there will be no more goodbyes and no more ends.

On this side we see through a “world filter,” its dark and broken. Things are hard and you never fully feel like you have made the mark. There are days when the time inches by and others where it feels as if it flew in the blink of an eye.

Further evidence we are just journeying through this world. Our hearts can never fully fit into this world’s concept of “time,” for He has placed eternity in our hearts.

So lesson learned this season:

Growing up is never a task fully accomplished on this side of heaven. Growing pains mark growth, not completion.

In the moments where the growth is hard come by remember you have a Creator, His host of angels and His saints, who count it a hard earned and won Victory.

So fellow Saints, put on your Armor and remember no victory is too small and certainly no matter how beat up and bruised you may emerge, every one is worth celebrating. Moses didn’t think he could lead the Israelites out of Egypt. Peter was uneducated. David and Mary were teenagers. Abraham and Elizabeth were old.

The reality is that you don’t have this. But God does and He’s called you.

And as the prophets and the early church leaders prayed, so we pray, to continue to grow in the knowledge of God, bearing fruit of every good work. No longer seeing this world through it’s broken and twisted filter, but through the filter of eternity to which we have been called.

*Comment here or on the Prayer Requests/ Praise Reports page any prayer needs or celebrations.

*To see updates for upcoming posts and projects you can follow “declare_hope” on Instagram and “Declare Hope” on Facebook!

Thank James Pond on Unsplash for photo.

Living Legacies

“I thank my God upon every remembrance of you,”

Philippians 1:3

It is strange, the coexistence of love and grief.

To experience such pain, grounded in the purest joy.

The sound of your voice on a recording, a picture with your smile from a happier day…

My heart fills and is full as my stomach drops and feels sick beyond measure.

Sweet memories tinged with bitterness yet now more valuable than any treasure imaginable. Regardless of the pain, remembering you is one of my favorite things.

I believe there is a part of us that will never fully accept that you are gone. I believe there will always be a piece of us that is shocked at the sentiment that you are no longer here.

And I believe it is because deep down you are not gone- deep down our soul knows that this life is not the end and that one day we will be reunited- in a place with no more tears and no more death and no more goodbyes. In the core of our being we have the vaguest inclination of eternity and while we cannot fully grasp it and all its wonder- we know.

We know that this is just part of the journey home.

We all have been sent on our journey and will take different roads home. The duration of our journey may vary, some will take longer and some will arrive sooner- but we all seek the same destination.

And we will collect our souvenirs. Our experiences and blessings we have acquired on the trip, some welcome and unwelcome. More importantly though, we will leave some pieces of ourselves behind.

We will sow seeds and give from what has been given to us; our talents, gifts, words, hope… These things given freely are given in love. And seeds sown in love grow into legacies. Legacies of light, hope, compassion, care… all grounded in love.

And long after one is home, their legacy continues to grow- more often than not in ways unseen, too small to notice yet too large to measure- carried on by those they left to continue on their journey. The seeds they had planted beginning to take full affect as their loved ones seek to fill this world with as much love and joy as the sower afforded them.

Mom, we miss you. We were not, and still are not, ready for your journey to be over. How we wanted you to stay.

You are home, at the home, but it is not the home that we know- it is not the home we have shared.

We hear the echoes of your laughter in our memories and home videos though no longer in the room. We hear your comforting words of wisdom buried in our hearts but no longer on the other side of the phone. We see the physical evidence of the beautiful life you led here on your journey, though we no longer have your physical presence.

And it hurts, God, it hurts so bad.

But Mom, though it was too soon, it is universally acknowledged that generally one cannot have too much of a good thing. The reality is that given five more minutes… we would always want five more minutes. And you mom, you did not leave us with nothing, but with the greatest of somethings, your legacy. Your light. Your laughter. Your smile. Your heart. The seeds were sown and they took root and we remember.

As we prepare to celebrate you today I pray that we can carry your legacy proudly. That we can love and serve as you did. That when we finish our journeys and reach the final destination, we can look at our adventures and point at some of those moments and say “That, that I learned from my mom” and in which God will respond “I know and I knew. For I always have a reason.”

Though our earthly hearts cannot always fathom divine reasoning, I continuously thank God for you at every remembrance. There are days when the memories are harder to weather than others. Days when the grief saturates every memory and turns laughter into tears. However, behind those tears lies the greatest of joys, for those tears only exist because of what was once so wonderfully happy. Truly happy.

No, I wouldn’t change a thing. For the happiness of one moment with you far outweighs the unbearable pain of the days ahead without you. Always my heart remembering, that this is not the end just our final and temporary goodbye. And what is time compared to eternity?

Until then, we will walk our journeys, your legacy firmly rooted in our hearts and in the love you gave to us.

 

Foolish Faith

I knew He could and I had hoped He would.

I wouldn’t be shaken, I didn’t care how impossible it looked or how dark it felt. There was no other option but hope. No other outcome was to be entertained. Victory was the only possible answer. Miraculous, unbelievable, odds defying victory.

Deep down though I knew, though I didn’t want to say it, that God’s definition and picture of victory did not always match my own.

Yes, His visions of victory had included parting the Red Sea, driving out Israel’s enemies and tearing the veil in the temple.

However, His visions of victory had also included 40 years in the wilderness, Nehemiah standing amongst ruins and Jesus hanging from the cross.

And it hurts. God knows it hurts when our visions of victory don’t coincide with His.

And the lies begin to run through your mind, each one a blow directed to destroy your already broken heart, each one intent on tearing you down and stealing what truth and light you knew or at least thought you had known…

Why didn’t He show up?, What did I do wrong?, Were my words not studied enough?, Were my shortcomings too great? Or my faith too small?

The reality is that He did not show up because He was always already there. He heard our prayers and our declarations and our faith and He drew us closer. Because He knew it hurt and He knew we didn’t understand. And that we wouldn’t understand.

And so after only two months, Mom lost her earthly battle to cancer and instead won a heavenly victory. Not exactly the victory we had prayed for and even now a win which feels more like a loss. But though I don’t understand it and although it hurts beyond description… I know that it is a victory which is greater than I can fathom.

That is the only explanation, my best answer- I simply don’t get it and all my faith is still in Him.

Many thought my faith was foolish then. Foolish optimism. To be looking at what was an impossible escape and still proclaim God’s ability to intervene. To declare life where surety of death was indisputable.

I can only imagine what some think of my faith now. A faith which from all outwardly appearances lost its battle. A faith which seemingly fell short in the end. Such a faith could surely not survive, not now, not after such a disastrous loss.

However, it not only survived but is yet growing.

A faith which even now, amid heartbreak and loss, declares the righteousness of a God whose promises are for our good and whose love is steadfast. A faith that says yes God could have intervened but He stayed His hand… because His was a greater purpose than we could ever comprehend. And that in the greater picture, this heavenly victory will cause a ripple effect and continue to change the whole world, one heart at a time.

Foolish optimism, realistic faith. God’s victory didn’t look like the one I had imagined, hope for or prayed for ceaselessly. In fact His victory looks exactly like my definition of defeat. And it really sucks.

But my faith didn’t end with my mom’s earthly life. A faith which she had instilled and encouraged in me.

How can I be sure that He knew what He was doing? That He cares? That He was prepared for this when to us it is so sudden and so unexpected?

The small things. His small assurances.

Fun fact about me: I love libraries. I love walking through the aisles of books and always pray I pick a book that may be my next favorite. And as little and insignificant as the prayer seems, one carelessly and arbitrarily thought, He hears it and He answers it. I know that now.

Often I end up checking out a completely random book. I will grab something I’ve never heard of, something I am not sure I even really want to read. (Note: I have a to-read list on Goodreads nearing 1,200 books so I do not necessarily need to pick a completely random book ever… but I do).

I picked up such a book in November 2018.

For some reason I pulled that book off the shelf. And for some reason I brought it home and literally continuously renewed it for several weeks until… for some reason I finally decided to lay everything else aside and read it.

And for some reason I’m marveling at how He did that while also surprisingly not surprised.

The small assurances. When He whispers in that still small voice from the most unexpected of places at the most unexpected of times.

Not while everything feels it is collapsing in or when you’re crying out to Him, I’ve learned in those moments He simply holds you. Amid destruction He carries you to unshaken ground and He holds you. He doesn’t say anything, because there is nothing to say. It hurts. And nothing will make that better this side of heaven. Nothing will fully heal the loss until we are all reunited in the place where there is no more death and no more tears. He provides the comfort we need to keep our hope burning, though it may barely be a flicker.

And then when it is time He stokes the fire. That book I checked out in November, I finally set everything aside and read it. Tucked inside it’s pages was exactly what I needed to hear. Several things I needed to hear in fact. Including that which is included in the featured image of this post…

“Earthly hearts cannot always fathom divine reasoning.”

You are right God. And that’s okay. We were never meant to.

Meanwhile, He has also reminded me that after 40 years the Israelites made it to the Promised Land, Nehemiah did rebuild the wall and Jesus… well Jesus overcame the grave for all of us and in Him no goodbye is ever the last word but merely a until we meet again.

It still hurts. God’s still good. And although I have several books to read at home, I’m still going to the library.

** Bonus Quotes from “Such a Time as This” by Kate Breslin**

Because they were exactly what I needed and may be exactly what someone else needs too.

“I do not doubt Your message God. But I do wonder when…”

“Why had she assumed God would speak to her in some great audible sign, like a thunder-clap, lightning or burst of fire from the sky? Had anger and bitterness made her deaf to His whisper?”

“A strong belief in God is like forging steel; it must be repeatedly tested in fire, then cooled in the waters of His mercy before becoming resilient enough to withstand evil.”

** This last quote was written down with the others, but it was a couple of days later that I really felt its full effect. Story to follow in upcoming post.**

“Papa told me a boy only fails when he does not try,.. I think it must be the same for a girl.”