Lessons from Living Among the Boxes

We are living among boxes.

Just  days after our home inspection was done and everything was set to move ahead with selling our house,  I started packing little by little as strategically as possible.

But that strategy didn’t matter in the end, because our move was delayed about 2-1/2 weeks,  so all those things I put in those boxes didn’t necessarily stay there.

For one thing, I didn’t expect to still be in this house when my daughter went off  to camp.   So, I had packed all  the extra flashlights.  And the sleeping bag.  And the extra bug spray.

At first,  it was a bit funny.

I packed up the extra school supplies one day and threw into the box a pink plastic protractor that I last used when I took geometry, oh about 23 years ago.

No one in  this entire house has used this protractor in over two decades.

That very afternoon, though, my fifth grader came home from school, pulled out her math homework and asked, “Mom, do you have a protractor I can use?”

For real.

So,  I did what I have become  an expert at doing.  I found the box, opened it back up, slipped my hand in and pulled out what she needed.

Box fishing.

I’ve been “box fishing” for two months.

Most of the time, I can find an item in just one try.  Every once in a while,  I need to open two boxes to find the one I want.

But one day, after being at peace through this whole process, my son wanted a particular toy from a box.  And I hunted.  And searched.  I opened box after box.

That’s what did me in.  That’s the day I cried.  That’s the day I told God, “This is hard and I’ve been beaten down.”

I  did finally find those micro-machine tanks and airplanes he was looking for,  but the emotional battle was a way bigger deal than any effort to  find the right box.

That was about the time I wondered if we’d have to open all these boxes back up and put everything back where it came from without moving at all.

But today we got the phone call saying it’s all  set.   Papers will be signed.  Money wired.  More papers signed.  Keys handed over.

This is it!

“Living among the boxes” is something I’ve done before just in different ways.

It’s about waiting rooms and transitions, about not knowing the outcome and not knowing the date on the calendar when a promise will be fulfilled.

It’s about leaving what you do know and stepping out into the unknown,  maybe stumbling along the way.

Living among the boxes is a daily lesson in needing Jesus.

How easily I can be toppled into a pit of worry from a place  of peace.

How easily discouragement and disappointment can wear a body right down.

But I think Jesus  knows that.  He knows how hard it is to hold  onto hope when everything looks hopeless.

He knows what it’s like when God asks us to travel  a road we’d rather not be on.

So when I cry for “mercy” and when I tell Him how another round of bad news has me reeling, I’m so thankful for His compassion.

He doesn’t always snap His fingers and fix everything perfectly in that second, but He does minister to my hurt with the encouragement I desperately need.

He did this for Jairus, too.  When Jairus asked Jesus to  please come and heal his daughter, Jesus followed him right away.  But there was a delay.

So, Jairus’s daughter died.

 While he was still speaking, there came from the ruler’s house some who said, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?”36 But overhearing] what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe. (Mark 5:35-36 ESV).

Jairus received the worst possible news, but Jesus’ words were what he needed  to  hold  onto hope even in the impossible:

Do not fear, only believe.

We all have hard days.  We have worn-out days and sad days and I-just-want-to-give-up-days.

Jesus told the disciples what to do on those days and it echoes with familiarity:

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me” (John 14:1 ESV).

Do not fear, only believe.

I don’t think Jesus meant this as a “buck up and just have some faith kind of speech.”

I think He knew what Jairus needed, what the disciples needed, and what we truly need: Comfort. Reassurance.  Hope.

Don’t be afraid. 

Yes, this is scary, but do not fear.

Just keep your eyes on me and believe.

Well friends, with the move finally here I’m signing off for  a bit until after we’re in our new place.  I’ll get back to posting in a week or two!  ~Heather~

Bible Verses on Spiritual Warfare

  1. Deuteronomy 3:22 ESV
    You shall not fear them, for it is the Lord your God who fights for you.’
  2. Deuteronomy 28:7 ESV
    “The Lord will cause your enemies who rise against you to be defeated before you. They shall come out against you one way and flee before you seven ways.
  3. Joshua 10:25 ESV
    And Joshua said to them, “Do not be afraid or dismayed; be strong and courageous. For thus the Lord will do to all your enemies against whom you fight.”
  4. Joshua 23:10 ESV
    One man of you puts to flight a thousand, since it is the Lord your God who fights for you, just as he promised you.
  5. 2 Chronicles 20:15 ESV
    And he said, “Listen, all Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem and King Jehoshaphat: Thus says the Lord to you, ‘Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God’s.
  6. 2 Chronicles 32:6-8 ESV
    And he set combat commanders over the people and gathered them together to him in the square at the gate of the city and spoke encouragingly to them, saying, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or dismayed before the king of Assyria and all the horde that is with him, for there are more with us than with him. With him is an arm of flesh,but with us is the Lord our God, to help us and to fight our battles.” And the people took confidence from the words of Hezekiah king of Judah.
  7. Psalm 18:32-36 ESV
    the God who equipped me with strength
        and made my way blameless.
    33 He made my feet like the feet of a deer
        and set me secure on the heights.
    34 He trains my hands for war,
        so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
    35 You have given me the shield of your salvation,
        and your right hand supported me,
        and your gentleness made me great.
    36 You gave a wide place for my steps under me,
        and my feet did not slip
  8. Psalm 18:39 ESV
    For you equipped me with strength for the battle;
        you made those who rise against me sink under me.
  9. Psalm 44:5 ESV
    Through you we push down our foes;
        through your name we tread down those who rise up against us.
  10. Isaiah 54:17 ESV
    no weapon that is fashioned against you shall succeed,
        and you shall refute every tongue that rises against you in judgment.
    This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord
        and their vindication[a] from me, declares the Lord.”
  11. Zechariah 4:6 ESV
    Then he said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.
  12. Matthew 16:18 ESV
    And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock[a] I will build my church, and the gates of hell[shall not prevail against it.
  13. Matthew 18:18-19 ESV
     Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed[a] in heaven. 19 Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.
  14. Matthew 26:41 ESV
    Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
  15. John 10:10 ESV
    The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.
  16. Romans 8:31 ESV
    What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?
  17. Romans 8:37 ESV
    No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
  18. Romans 13:12-14 ESV
    The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13 Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. 14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.
  19. 1 Corinthians 15:57 ESV
    But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
  20. 1 Corinthians 16:13 ESV
    Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men,be strong.
  21. 2 Corinthians 10:3-4 ESV
     For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh.For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.
  22. Galatians 5:17 ESV
     For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.
  23. Ephesians 3:16 ESV
    that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being
  24. Ephesians 6:10-13+ ESV
    Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.
  25. 1 Timothy 6:12 ESV
    Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.
  26. 2 Thessalonians 3:3 ESV
    But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one.
  27. James 4:7 ESV
    Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
  28. 1 Peter 4:12-13 ESV
    Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.
  29. 1 Peter 5:8-10 ESV
    Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. 10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.
  30. 1 John 4:4 ESV
    Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.

Bible Verses for Father’s Day

  • Exodus 20:12 ESV
    Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.
  • Deuteronomy 1:29-31 ESV
    Then I said to you, ‘Do not be in dread or afraid of them. 30 The Lord your God who goes before you will himself fight for you, just as he did for you in Egypt before your eyes, 31 and in the wilderness, where you have seen how the Lord your God carried you, as a man carries his son, all the way that you went until you came to this place.’
  • Deuteronomy 6:6-9 ESV
     And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
  • Joshua 24:15 ESV
    And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord,choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
  • Psalm 103:13 ESV
    As a father shows compassion to his children,
        so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.
  • Psalm 127:3-5 ESV
    Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,
        the fruit of the womb a reward.
    Like arrows in the hand of a warrior
        are the children[a] of one’s youth.
    Blessed is the man
        who fills his quiver with them!
    He shall not be put to shame
        when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.
  • Proverbs 3:11-12 ESV
    My son, do not despise the Lord‘s discipline
        or be weary of his reproof,
    12 for the Lord reproves him whom he loves,
        as a father the son in whom he delights.
  • Proverbs 14:26 ESV
    In the fear of the Lord one has strong confidence,
        and his children will have a refuge.
  • Proverbs 17:6 ESV
    Grandchildren are the crown of the aged,
        and the glory of children is their fathers.
  • Proverbs 22:6 ESV
    Train up a child in the way he should go;
        even when he is old he will not depart from it.
  • Proverbs 23:24 ESV
    The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice;
        he who fathers a wise son will be glad in him.
  • Malachi 4:6 ESV
    And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.”
  • Matthew 7:9-11 ESV
    Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? 11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!
  • Ephesians 6:1-4 ESV
    Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

How our hearts long for home

Way back in September, my son screamed and kicked as I carried him back into the house after his sisters climbed onto the big yellow school bus.

He still struggled some mornings well into the spring,  especially after spring break.

This morning, partway through June, he once again stomped around the house with his chin tucked down to his chest and his arms criss-crossed after the girls walked out the door.

All this morning I tried to explain summer break to him, painting it as vividly as I could.  This is the very last day in the school  year.  The girls will get to be with us more and we’ll  have adventures together and time at home with each other.

But he still grumped around for at least 30 minutes because that didn’t make sense to him.  The “Promised Land” of summer was closer than he ever realized, but still too far away to be real.

I  sympathize with him.  I know what it’s like to long for the promise fulfilled and to be oh so close, but not quite there yet.

On Monday, I  walked through our soon-to-be new house and signed off saying it’s fixed up the way we want.

Then I drove back home to our current house, dug out yet another item I had already packed in a box,  and continued the waiting for word of our closing date.

So, longing for what’s right around the corner but not being able to fully relax and celebrate?  I’m right there with you, son.

This insatiable longing for what is to come makes me wonder, though, why I don’t ache more often for “home.”

All of us should be longing for heaven.  It should be a deep stirring within us because absolutely nothing we achieve or receive on this planet will fill up that gnawing need for eternity with Jesus.

Before He died, Jesus comforted His disciples with these words:

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also (John 14:1-3 ESV).

Our heart’s truest desire should be this: to be with Christ in that place He’s prepared for us.

We can live like Abraham, who was willing to  abide in tents because “he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, who designer and builder is God”  (Hebrews 11:10 ESV).

He didn’t need a palace, a mansion, or a luxury condo.  Instead, he was satisfied with a tent because he had heaven in mind.

And those other ancestors of faith looked forward also.  The Bible says, “They desire a better country, that is,  a heavenly one” (Hebrews 11:15).

Isn’t this what we desire, too?

When we  hear the news yet again:

Divorce.   Abuse.  Neglect.  Death.  Cancer.   Pain.  Injustice.  Starvation and famine.  Poverty.

Don’t we ache with the way this doesn’t fit?  It’s not right?  This isn’t God’s best?

And that’s when we remember to cry out:  Come, Lord Jesus!  We long for you so!

We long for heaven.  This yearning for the eternal is deep within us and it should drive who we are.

It should stir us to PATIENCE with the now when God asks us to wait because we keep looking forward to His promises fulfilled.

It stir us to  ACT.  Stand up for what is right.  Pursue righteousness.  Offer mercy.  Live justly.  Because the Kingdom of God is  something we can live now in anticipation of perfection in heaven.

Eternity doesn’t begin for Christians after we die.  Eternity begins the moment we accept Christ as Lord.  I’m already living in my “forever with the Lord” and that means pursuing Jesus’s presence here and now.

And it should stir us to PRAY:  To come before Him with hearts crushed and broken by sin and evil.  We seek the hope that only Jesus can bring: the assurance that this isn’t all  there is.

He is indeed preparing a place for us.

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4 ESV).

“This world is not my home; I’m just a-passing through.”

Bible Verses about Summer

  • Genesis 8:22 ESV
    While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.”
  • Psalm 32:4 ESV
    For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
        my strength was dried up[a] as by the heat of summer. Selah
  • Psalm 74:17 ESV
    You have fixed all the boundaries of the earth;
        you have made summer and winter.
  • Proverbs 6:6-8 ESV
    Go to the ant, O sluggard;
        consider her ways, and be wise.
    Without having any chief,
        officer, or ruler,
    she prepares her bread in summer
        and gathers her food in harvest.
  • Proverbs 10:5 ESV
    He who gathers in summer is a prudent son,
        but he who sleeps in harvest is a son who brings shame.
  • Proverbs 26:1 ESV
    Like snow in summer or rain in harvest,
        so honor is not fitting for a fool.
  • Proverbs 30:25 ESV
    the ants are a people not strong,
        yet they provide their food in the summer;
  • Isaiah 28:4 ESV
    and the fading flower of its glorious beauty,
        which is on the head of the rich valley,
    will be like a first-ripe fig before the summer:
        when someone sees it, he swallows it
        as soon as it is in his hand.
  • Jeremiah 40:12 ESV
    then all the Judeans returned from all the places to which they had been driven and came to the land of Judah, to Gedaliah at Mizpah. And they gathered wine and summer fruits in great abundance.
  • Amos 8:1 ESV
    This is what the Lord God showed me: behold, a basket of summer fruit.
  • Micah 7:1 ESV
    Woe is me! For I have become
        as when the summer fruit has been gathered,
        as when the grapes have been gleaned:
    there is no cluster to eat,
        no first-ripe fig that my soul desires.
  • Matthew 24:32 ESV
    From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near.
  • Luke 21:30 ESV
    As soon as they come out in leaf, you see for yourselves and know that the summer is already near.

Looking beyond the bad day

My daughter had a rough day.

Maybe it wasn’t even that the whole day was bad.  But when she tossed her backpack in the minivan at the end of the afternoon and slipped into her seat, she started venting.

This was frustrating.  That was  annoying.  This wasn’t fair.  That wasted her time.  This was hard.  That wasn’t right.

She’s such a generally positive person, but all her buttons had been pushed.  Every one of them.  And the frustrations had piled up into a huge overwhelming load.

Now she felt tired and discouraged, disappointed and defeated, like she just wanted to  crash out on the sofa with a pillow and a good book as an escape .

So, we slipped into “soul care mode.”

I let her talk.  At home,  I quietly turned on the tea kettle and made her a cup of tea.  I slipped my arms around her shoulders.

I reminded her that she was almost done.   This was all  almost finished.  Just a day, maybe two, and then summer break was here.

Then I told her my secret weapon.  When I have something I just don’t want to do and that I’m dreading, I plan a reward for myself.

When I’m finished making these phone calls, I’ll eat some chocolate.   When I have that tough conversation, I’ll read  a good book.  When I finish the to-do list,  I’ll go for a walk.

Then I leap in and get it over with.  Just do it already.  I think the whole time about that reward and then treat myself when it’s all  over.

Because finishing, obeying, and persevering all deserve a little celebration and maybe a lot of chocolate.

We tended to her heart a bit and then I prayed for her.

By the time we climbed back into the minivan, she was at peace and feeling hopeful and ready for what was ahead.

That night,  I found myself tending to my own soul a bit.  A cup of tea.  Some chocolate chip cookies.  A good book.

So  many of you,  my friends, have asked me if we’ve moved yet.  It was supposed to be this Monday, then some day this week.  Then maybe next Monday.  Now we just can’t even say.

We are still here, surrounded by boxes, waiting and waiting to  sign those papers and pack that moving truck.

So, I have had a hard day.   Maybe even a week.

Most of the time I can cheerfully manage trust and cheerfully choose peace.

But there are those moments when that wave of frustration, disappointment or anxiety just crashes down so hard I’m knocked off my faith-feet and flailing wildly, about ready to drown.

Soul care helps.  Cups of tea and bites of chocolate.   Planning out rewards for when this is all done.  Wearing my favorite cozy, white socks and my most comfortable fleece jacket on an unexpectedly cool day.  Good books and my best music playlist shuffling on iTunes.

But here’s the most  important thing, more than anything else I can possibly do on a hard day.

I bring it to Jesus again.

I’ve been reading Eugene Peterson’s book, When Kingfishers Catch Fire, and last night just when our moving news felt most overwhelming, I read this reminder:

Instead is a word of exchange. Rather than one thing, there is another. In place of what we have or expect to have, there is something else. Instead usually represents a radical difference.  It doesn’t just add a little something to what is already here, nor does it take away a little of what is there. It contrasts and exchanges (Eugene Peterson).

And God does this exchange.

He takes what WE bring Him and He gives US something beautiful instead.

Isaiah tells us the Messiah would come:

to grant to those who mourn in Zion—
    to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
    the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;
that they may be called oaks of righteousness,
    the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified (Isaiah 61:3 ESV).

So we bring ashes, and He exchanges them for a garland of victory.

We bring mourning and He exchanges that for gladness.

We bring a faint and weary spirit and He exchanges that for a garment of praise that He slips onto our shoulders.

These exchanges are all over Scripture, promising us that if we don’t hold back, don’t give up and just keep bringing it to Jesus and bringing it to Jesus, then He will do the resurrection work we truly,  desperately need.

We bring death and He gives life.

We bring sin and He gives grace.

We bring mess and He extends mercy.

We bring sorrow and He provides comfort.

We bring emptiness and He brings abundant overflowing.

My perfect future

 

At least eight of them were going to live in big houses.

One of them wasn’t going to have a big house.  His house was going to be BIG.

They would compete in the Olympics, be world famous surgeons and vets and carpenters, play professional sports, write books, run businesses, and make a lot of money.

They would drive Jeeps or a Ford or a convertible.

They would all marry, have several children (whose names they already knew) and live incredibly happily ever after.

These were the futures my daughter and her fellow fifth graders described during their DARE graduation last year.

We parents in the crowd smiled and laughed and probably some of us cried.  What a wonderful, beautiful, sometimes humorous thing it is to hear eleven-year-olds dream.

My daughter jumped right in there, dreaming with the best of them about education, career, marriage, having kids, and making a difference in the lives of others.

Lovely thoughts, all of them.

But when they read her “My Future” paragraph at the graduation ceremony, I finally succumbed to the tears when I heard her concluding words: “My future is in God’s hands.”

Whatever happens…

Even when the plans don’t turn out the way she hoped or expected….

Even when life gets crazy or even just slightly uncertain…..

“MY FUTURE IS IN GOD’S HANDS.”

I take this to heart.  Shouldn’t we all?

My eleven-year-old self never planned or expected all that God has done and all that He has planned for me.  My life has twisted itself up into a thing of beauty that I never could have created on my own.

There were seasons I thought God was messing it all up.

He told me ‘no.’

He changed my direction.

He made me wait ‘forever.’

He carried me through valleys of darkness when I couldn’t see the next step right in front of my face.

Maybe now I already know the answers to the questions these kids were asking:  Where would I go to college? What would I study?  Who would I marry?  How many kids would I have?  Where would I live?  What would I do?

Yet, still there’s that constant compulsion to lay the future all out clean, perfect, organized, and bullet-pointed with measurable goals and a five-year-plan of how to make it all happen.

My own daughter’s wisdom brings me back.

Do I need to know all that?

Or do I need to just know this:  ‘My future is in God’s hands’?

I think of Joseph, the perpetual Old-Testament dreamer.

God gave him so much more than a fifth-grade perfect-life wish-list.  God gave him prophetic visions of his parents and brothers bowing down to him in homage and respect.

Then he was trapped in a pit while his brothers plotted to murder him.  He was sold to slave traders and carried off to Egypt.  He was falsely accused and thrown into prison.  He was forgotten and left to rot in the jail while others were freed.

It might have looked like one great big hopeless mess.  How could Joseph ever make those God-given visions work out?

The truth is he couldn’t.

And he didn’t need to.

HE JUST NEEDED TO KEEP LIVING, DAY AFTER DAY, MOMENT BY MOMENT, OBEDIENT TO GOD, TRUSTING THAT GOD WAS IN CHARGE OF HIS LIFE STORY.

Louie Giglio writes in his book The Comeback:

Maybe your dream is to go to school or get a degree or accomplish a certain task or find a certain spouse or start a business or move to a certain place or create a movement or carry the gospel to people who’ve never heard it before. Those may be great dreams, but there’s a bigger dream that overrides everything else: it’s that your life counts for the glory of God.

THIS IS THE CONSTANT DREAM WE CAN CLING TO AT ALL TIMES AND IN ALL SITUATIONS:  MAY OUR LIVES BRING GLORY TO GOD.

Yes, in the prison.

Yes, in slavery.

Yes, even when all the dreams come true.

Ultimately, Joseph told his brothers:

And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life (Genesis 45:5 ESV).

Joseph knew nothing happened just for his own benefit, personal comfort or ultimate happiness.

Everything he endured was so God could ‘preserve life.’

HIS LIFE WAS TUCKED INTO THE GRANDER STORY, THE GOD-STORY, THE STORY OF SALVATION.

That’s true for us, as well.

We can dream, plan, plot and strategize, but ultimately we return to trust.

WE TRUST THAT OUR LIVES CAN GLORIFY HIM. WE TRUST THAT HE HAS A GRAND, GOD-STORY FOR SALVATION, AND WE HAVE A PLACE WITHIN IT.

WE TRUST THAT OUR FUTURE IS IN HIS HANDS.

 

Originally published 1/15/2016

Bible Verses about Sincerity

  • Joshua 24:14 NASB
    Now, therefore, fear the Lord and serve Him in sincerity and truth; and put away the gods which your fathers served beyond the [c]River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord.
  • 2 Corinthians 1:12 ESV
    For our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience, that we behaved in the world with simplicity and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God, and supremely so toward you.
  • 2 Corinthians 2:17 ESV
     For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ.
  • 2 Corinthians 8:8 NASB
    I am not speaking this as a command, but as proving through the earnestness of others the sincerity of your love also.
  • 2 Corinthians 11:3 ESV
     But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.
  • 1 Timothy 1:5 ESV
    The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.
  • 2 Timothy 1:5 ESV
    I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well.
  • 1 Peter 1:22 ESV
    Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure hear
  • James 3:17 ESV
    But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.
  • 2 Peter 3:1 ESV
    This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder,

A life-long legacy of real-deal faith

Moving sometimes feels like God’s ultimate character-training ground.

And when you’re moving with four young kids,  it’s a faith-growing opportunity for the whole family.

When we first started this process, I didn’t even want to get my kids’ hopes up too much about all the possibilities of  a new house.  I organized closets, purged junk, and packed up boxes for storage without telling them why.

It wasn’t until they were all gone for a day and I painted  their room that I finally fessed up.

The confession went something like this:

“While  you girls are gone, I’m going to repaint your room.”

“What?!!  Paint?!!  I hope it’ll still be purple!!!”

And that was it, the big  moment when I had to share the news.

“Well, actually, no, the whole point is to cover over the purple.  You see, we’re preparing the house to  sell  it and that means making the rooms neutral colors.  Your walls will be cream.”

Long pause.  Long, long pause.

An initially disappointed face:  “Cream?  Cream?  I really liked the purple.”

Then the news sinks in. “Wait!!  We’re going to try to move?!!!!”

And oh the ups and downs of moving have involved us all.  I tried to prep the girls’ hearts for how long it may take to sell our house or what it all  involves.  How we shouldn’t get our hearts set on a particular house unless our contract is accepted.

Truthfully, though, God has been so good to us and the process has been fairly smooth as far as these processes ever go.  But what I love the most is how my kids celebrate the good things He has done.

When a buyer put an offer on our house so quickly after we put it on the market, one of my girls said, “Look how God answered our prayers!  We prayed this would be fast and He did that for us!”

When we picked the new house and it had the right number of bedrooms and was still in their beloved school district, one of my daughters said, “God really gave us what we needed!”

And as we worked through inspections and repairs and all the prep work for moving, they prayed right along with us for God to  help the process go smoothly.

We’re actually still praying!

They are engaging in active faith and using the language of faith.  They are turning to prayer in times of need and praising God for answering  the prayers we offer.

And it’s a beautiful thing.

In life, there are some things we can’t always share with our children, not completely, especially not when they’re young.  We shield them from some of the hardest and scariest situations..

But there are also times and seasons when it’s right to draw them in to see how our faith fares when we don’t know all the answers.

What  does faith look like when we’re waiting?

When we’re uncertain?

When we’re hurt?

When we’re disappointed?

If our tweens and teens think faith is easy, what will happen when decisions are hard and oppression is real and personal?

I’ve been feeling a heart-check, the need  to make sure my faith is sincere and to live that out with my kids.

When I say, “God answered our prayers,” I need to make sure that’s the truth, that my kids knew I was praying….and they see how God came through.

I find that Paul slips this word “sincerity” into his letters quietly and frequently (2 Corinthians 11:3,  Philippians 1:17, 1 Timothy 1:5, 2 Timothy 1:5).

He doesn’t lay out a long sermon about what sincere faith looks like, but he makes this consistent distinction.

Don’t just have faith.

Have sincere faith.

Maybe it was the former Pharisee in  Paul showing through here.  Genuine faith mattered to him because otherwise it’s just show and outward actions.

This is what Paul says about Timothy:

I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well (2 Timothy 1:5 ESV).

Timothy’s sincere faith is something he learned from his mom, who learned it from his grandmother.

Because they were the real deal, Timothy grew to be the real deal also.

This is what I want for my kids and what I want for me–a lifelong legacy of “real-deal faith.”

May our faith be sincere, rooted so deep-down within us that our automatic response to trouble is the fruit of belief:  prayerfulness, trust,  confidence in God.

May our faith be genuine, not just outward show with Christian catch-phrases and good-girl actions, but  a life led sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit.

 

I remember those days and sometimes I am still living them

I am out of practice.

There were whole years of my life when I went without more than a few hours of sleep in a row on any given night.

I was up with the baby…or the toddler…or even older children…or all of the above in one long succession of people who needed mom.

I functioned with continual sleep depravity it seemed because a mom  is on the job around the clock.

Now, all my kids are three years old or older, so there are entire nights where I can sleep.

Recently, though, my son has woken up several nights with bad dreams of being lost or fighting harmful creatures out to get him.

Last night, he yelled out in fear and I trekked across the house to his room.  I gathered him up for a hug, and that’s when he complained about “Ladybugs.”

I’m not sure what the ladybugs were doing to him in this dream, but they were apparently terrifying.

He wanted to  go to “mom’s bed,” and even after  we had cuddled and I had carried him  to my bed, and held him,  he kept tossing and turning and saying,  “Mom, protect me.  Mom, protect me!”

After his breathing slowed and he was deeply asleep again, I carried him back  to his bed and tried to sleep myself….only  to  be awoken by an older child who needed to go to the bathroom and was thirsty.

At this point I gave incredibly important Mom-advice to this older child who appeared by my bed in the deep hours of the night when we’re all supposed to be sleeping.

“Go to the bathroom and get some water.”

This recent week of nighttime disturbances has me remembering those days of frequent wake ups all night, every night.

After all, I’ve lumbered across the house in the dark, half-asleep,  at 3 a.m. what feels like a million times in my life.   This is familiar territory.

How in the world did I ever make sense in those days?  How did my brain work?  How did I accomplish anything?

How do  young moms live with so little sleep?

I’ve been prompted to pray after this little reminder of those “old days” when nighttime interruptions were my normal existence and not the exception.

I  know young moms now who are still waking up to a crying baby in the darkness.  They’ve been on my mind.

That’s because I’ve been there.  I’ve done that.  I remember those days.  I remember how hard that was.

They are losing sleep.  They are walking the floor. They are rocking babies at 3 a.m.  They are exhausting themselves with midnight feedings.

And now,  it’s my turn to reach back to them.

There is such powerful encouragement in the words, “I’ve been there.  Don’t give up.”

We offer prayer,  praying for them as they walk a path so similar to the one we’ve trudged down ourselves.

We offer the courage to keep going because they will make it through and the reminder they aren’t alone.

And we offer the power of testimony.

The Psalmist wrote:

My mouth will tell of your righteous acts,
    of your deeds of salvation all the day,

    for their number is past my knowledge.
16 With the mighty deeds of the Lord God I will come;
    I will remind them of your righteousness, yours alone.

17 O God, from my youth you have taught me,
    and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds.
18 So even to old age and gray hairs,
    O God, do not forsake me,
until I proclaim your might to another generation,
    your power to all those to come  (Psalm 71:15-18 ESV).

I like what Matthew Henry had to say about these verses in his commentary:

As long as we live we should be endeavouring to glorify God and edify one another; and those that have had the largest and longest experience of the goodness of God to them should improve their experiences for the good of their friends.

We share our experiences of faith and how God brought us through the hard times “for the good of our friends.”

Yes, we do.

But doesn’t it bless us also?  Doesn’t it remind us to worship God for all He’s done for us?

God helped me during those days of stumbling through my house barely awake because the baby cried once again.

And He helps me now with a preschooler and elementary kids and tweens.

And He’ll keep helping me.

Our own testimonies remind us how truly faithful God is and make us better able to encourage and minister to  those around us.

Your faithfulness endures to all generations;
    you have established the earth, and it stands fast.  (Psalm 119:90 ESV)