Where Does My Hope Come From?

For the last 14 years, my husband has been leading college student groups around parts of Europe each summer. While they get class credit, he shows them the wonders of the Swiss Alps or the history of the church at places like the Colosseum in Rome. He is a tour guide extraordinaire, and he loves to travel. He’s good at it. He’s flexible, organized, and energetic. He loves teaching and spending time with the students.

I, on the other hand, am a homebody, a creature of routine. I like to travel once I’m there, seeing amazing new places and learning more about the world, but I tend to dread it for the months leading up to it. It takes me outside of my comfort zone.

This summer, while my son was on a separate trip to Italy with a group of students, my husband finally had the chance to take my daughter and me to Italy to see a country that he loves. It was beautiful, and we now love it, too. I didn’t realize there were Italian Alps or an Italian Riviera. I love art, but had never given much thought to what you could see in Florence. The leaning tower of Pisa really does lean, and it’s absolutely beautiful! The waterways of Venice were a favorite. The food was delicious.

Through this wonderful trip, though, I had my eyes focused on July 11. That was the day we would travel home, the day we would meet up with our son’s group in the UK and all fly home together. That was the day the trip would be completed and I would know all had gone well and be able to enter back into my much-loved routine with my much-loved family.

But things don’t always go according to plan. Our flight was delayed. We missed the connection. My son would travel on with his group, catch a ride home with someone to our empty house, spend his first night home alone with us overseas (he is old enough and capable—no concern there), and we would enjoy London and return the next day. That all sounds pretty sweet, really. But when your eyes have been fixed on one moment for six months, when you’ve had this one big expectation, when you’re tired now from several days of travel, there’s a big letdown.

Riding the London Underground into the city, I could finally grab my Bible during which time I was able to refocus on what was true. God is in control, not me. And when I exited the Tube and looked up, my eyes met Big Ben, and I realized this could actually be viewed as a special addition to an already wonderful trip. (We even saw the excitement and activity surrounding their choice of a new prime minister that day.)

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When I returned home, I read one of the last things I had written in my journal before leaving, as I had prayed about the trip: “God doesn’t want me to control my circumstances and environment. He by His Spirit wants to control me in them, to help me be self-disciplined and have self-control over emotions, yes, but also to be Spirit-controlled and Spirit-filled—not just to be managed, but to go forward in His will, way, and calling.”

This story is a small example that serves as a reminder: when I fix my eyes and set my hope on anything other than God, I am sure to be disappointed. But when I fix my eyes on God and His perfect plan, I will adjust more easily to the challenges that enter my day.

Since returning home, I’ve had other opportunities to notice how easy it is for me to be led by my emotions, to react and respond with what I feel instead of what I know, to do things quickly then without prayer, using my common sense, instead of looking to God for what He would desire—and it’s never good that way!

When our ultimate hope is God (not British Airways) and we’re looking forward to a destination like heaven (not our earthly home), there will be less room for disappointment, and great cause to rejoice and be glad in all circumstances. When we put our hope and trust in Him, we will see just how much God loves us and is working for our good, transforming us and making us more like Himself.

Psalm 121:

I lift up my eyes to the hills.
    From where does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
    who made heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord is your keeper;
the Lord is your shade on your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
    nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all evil;
    he will keep your life.
The Lord will keep
    your going out and your coming in
    from this time forth and forevermore.

Progress, Not Perfection

This summer has provided more free time than I can ever remember, and it’s been a wonderful blessing. I’ve been able to make progress in several ways.

  • We’ve been eating better — more eating at home, less eating out.
  • I’ve been exercising, trying to walk every other day.
  • I’ve been enjoying time reading and updating the blog, writing a little more here or just in my journal.
  • Along with my mom, we’ve hosted a summer Bible study and daily benefited from studying the life of Gideon (Judges 6-8) together with a group of women of all ages.
  • I’ve been working less and doing a lot to prepare for a busy fall when school begins later this month.
  • We’ve taken care of dental visits and well checks for the kids.
  • We’ve started college visits!
  • We’ve done some traveling, seen extended family, and celebrated the life of my beloved uncle who went to be with the Lord.
  • We also celebrated birthdays and life in meaningful ways.

All in all, it’s been not only a good summer, but one in which I can see progress. You know the defeating saying, “two steps forward, three steps back”? I feel like for us, it’s been “three steps forward, two steps back” or some variation on that where we’ve moved forward and made progress, not perfectly, sometimes going back a little, but then surging ahead again. For this, I am thankful.

The ongoing process of sanctification (our ongoing growth in the Lord, being set apart for His use) is a good one, where the Lord is continuing His good work in us until its completion at the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:6).

But it’s sometimes also a hard process! It seems to require our active participation, that we continue to work out our salvation with fear and trembling, trusting and waiting on God to do all that He has planned (Philippians 2:12-13). We don’t trust in the seen, but the unseen. We hope in God, resting in His promises revealed to us in His Word.  Sometimes we must wait to see how it will all work itself out.

So we trust Him, walk by faith, without sight, hoping and waiting in confident expectation that God will act on our behalf and finish the good work.

All of this, this sanctification is ongoing. We won’t be perfect here on earth, but we can make progress. And I am filled with hope that God will finish what He has started, and I look to him and find Him near on the journey as we walk by faith.

Weeks Nine and Ten of Summer!

The summer is coming to a swift conclusion! It’s been a wonderful summer, but we are ready for the new things the fall has in store!

Most of our last two weeks of summer were spent in Florida! It was a last minute trip that fit perfectly in all of our schedules, so we did it. This is probably my favorite place on earth. I’m a Floridian by birth, so perhaps it stuck with me!

This is the single picture I got of my kids on this trip!
They have grown a lot since our trip last year over spring break.

Unlike our England trip, where I gave up my time in the Word while we traveled around so much (not a good idea! It was a loss!), I thankfully had time every day to read my Bible and pray each morning in Florida, and the Lord met me in very specific and needed ways. I returned with a heart overflowing with praise to God and awe of His personal care for us.

Here’s a verse from my Scripture reading one day that really ministered to me in what we were going through and that I prayed through:

Isaiah 43:18-21:

Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. The wild animals honor me, the jackals and the owls, because I provide water in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland, to give drink to my people, my chosen, the people I formed for myself that they may proclaim my praise.

“A new thing!” He provides and gives “that they may proclaim my praise” (note my blog name!).

A friend from Virginia who was praying for us that week wrote me that same day and shared this same verse from Isaiah 43! I told her I had prayed it that morning, and she wrote me that she had asked God what to share, and that was the verse He gave her.

My last night in Florida, I stood on the shore with the waves lapping over my feet, praying and asking God to “redeem this,” to redeem the hard things of the week. My friend wrote me the next morning, “I am praying God will redeem this.” I got in the car to travel home, and my Bible study lesson was on “Full Redemption.” (I love Psalm 130:7, with the Lord there is unfailing love and plentiful and abundant redemption!) I praise the Lord for this needed encouragement.

There were hard parts to the week as our car was wrecked by an uninsured motorist, we had brought some friends along for the kids, and just other circumstances that were good, but that revealed hard things. So I pray God uses it all for His glory.

I love this time of year when the academic year begins. My whole family lives by it, so this is always fun to get started again.

We have the school picnic today for my daughter. In my Bible reading this morning, it was in Jeremiah 17 which is where the school verses are:

Jeremiah 17:7-8:

Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.

This is contrasted with the person who trusts in man (Jer. 17:5-6) who is like a bush in the wastelands, dwelling in the desert. It sounds like a person who could use the provision of the Lord described in Isaiah 43 above: water, streams, drink! He is the spring of living water (Jer. 17:13)!

Oh, may we put our trust in Him for the coming year and each new day! I praise the Lord for the summer rest and provision and look to Him for the new school year!

Weeks Six Through Eight of Summer!

I would characterize the last three weeks of summer by Harry Potter, friends, and birthdays.

My son has me reading Harry Potter. I am in the middle of the fourth book. I have always resisted this series because of what I thought would be dark themes, but in reality, I am liking it and can see why children enjoy the plot. It keeps reminding me of bigger themes, of true realities, that there really is a battle with a kingdom of darkness, that there is a Kingdom to come, that the greatest stories we can imagine would only be a hint of such a great story, that ideas and thoughts like those found in this fiction show how we are made in God’s image with the ability to think and create, but also that we are all naturally aware of the battle of good and evil at some level.

This morning I was thinking about a broken relationship where God has brought healing. The healing came not in perfect form, but it still came, and there is such a freedom when something is released, even if the best human way of doing it can’t be perfect. There has been forgiveness given and forgiveness received, and the rest can be left in God’s hands, and we can trust Him. And I love it that there can be peace, perhaps imperfect in this life, but still a peace that was worth seeking over leaving things undone and broken. I suspect there are many people who are content to live with brokenness, and I realize sometimes circumstances just require that extreme separation, but I would imagine in many cases, some form of reconciliation could be found, even while boundaries may need to be built.

Anyway, immediately while I was thinking of this, the picture in Harry Potter of Dobby and the dirty sock came to mind. He had brokenness with his “master” and the only way he could be free would be through being given clothes. Ideally, wouldn’t receiving beautiful clothes and being sent away from his master in a loving way be wonderful? And yet, Dobby was released by being given a dirty sock by accident. Yet his freedom still came. Whether it’s beautiful clothes or a dirty sock, the end result was the same, and the fact that in his case, it was a dirty sock showed how necessary the separation and freedom actually was!

So it struck me how books can paint pictures that portray a larger idea so beautifully, even if imperfectly. And I’ve enjoyed connecting with my kids and their friends through this series, too!

The rest of these weeks of summer have been spent in town, taking my son to football camp and workouts, being with friends (we know two families who now live overseas, but who have been in town), and then this last week, celebrating birthdays!!

My daughter’s birthday is always special as we remember what God did for her through her birth. I never tire of remembering it, because God has done great things for us, and I want to praise Him! My birthday follows hers by four days, so we celebrate a lot during this week of summer!

I did not plan to come up with a theme on my birthday for this next year, but God gave me something quite clear: Walk in the Light.

I was reading in my daily reading from Micah chapter 4-7, and I had underlined and thought about first the word “walk” in Micah 4:2 and 5:  “He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.” and “we will walk in the name of the LORD our God for ever and ever.”

Then second, these words from Micah 7:8-9 about light: “Though I sit in darkness, the LORD will be my light…. He will bring me out into the light; I will see his righteousness.”

I love the thought of God teaching me his ways that I may walk in his paths and that He is Light and He will bring me out into light.

Then I opened some gifts that some friends had given me the night before at Bible study, and my friend wrote in her card about me shining light out of darkness.

Later at work, I was looking up some verses and ran across something else in Ephesians 5:

for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), 10 and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. 13 But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, 14 for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,

“Awake, O sleeper,
    and arise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”

Then lastly, I was looking for my Scripture memory cards from earlier this year, and when I found them, I realized that the last verse I had listed to memorize in February was from Matthew 5:14, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a <sup class=”footnote” value=”[f]”>hill cannot be hidden;

There was also a song on my heart all day that we sing at church called “I Want to Walk as a Child of the Light.” 

So as the day went on, I realized I had a theme, not one I went looking for, but one God brought me: Walk in the Light. As I’ve battled complacency and dealing with sin that keeps tripping me up, I was encouraged that He will teach me the way to go. He will light my path. I keep my eyes on Him and walk in the Light, and He will free me from habitual sin and easy entanglements.

There are some sins in life where I feel God gave me supernatural, immediate freedom (though I still have to deal with it, but not at the same level or intensity that once was), and other things that seem more minor (yet sin is never really minor!) and easy to live with or justify or just think I’ll always have to live with. Those are the ones I feel like God is telling me that is not the case. He is powerful enough to overcome these, too, but He is wanting me to seek Him about them, to walk in the Light, to let Him do the work by His power and strength, but to be willing to let Him and to do the work He is asking of me. He can break these familiar and long lasting strongholds that seem impossible to be free of. 

Do you know what I mean? Do you walk around with things that you’ve just accepted as part of life and not really allowed Him to deal with? I need to allow Him to retrain me, to help me rethink, to revive me so that I walk more fully in Him and His light!

I know it might be hard, but I want to be willing to surrender to Him. So “I want to walk as a child of the Light, I want to follow Jesus.”

Two weeks of summer to go until school starts and my regular work routine begins again! I have loved capturing the summer by weeks this year. It has been the best summer I can remember having in many, many years! Thank you, Lord!

Weeks Two through Five of Summer!

The weeks are passing quickly this summer! We spent Weeks Two and Three in the UK.

London
Cambridge
punting the Cam
Ely
Ely Cathedral, a favorite stop on our trip
We went to “Songs of Praise” at Ely Cathedral. We sang “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty” (a favorite hymn of mine) and “How Great Thou Art” – beautiful!
Oxford
Christ Church, Oxford
Christ Church, Oxford
Blenheim Palace
We loved Blenheim Palace and took many pictures inside and out!
Warwick Castle
Stratford on Avon
Shakespeare’s birthplace
Wales
Back to Cambridge
Cambridge American Cemetery

one of the colleges in Cambridge
We were so thankful for safe travels and health for everyone while we were away. We were traveling with my mom and my in-laws, so we had a lot of family which made it particularly fun. I posted about 200 pictures on Facebook, which was really only a fraction of what we took. I’m always grateful to travel and have my picture and knowledge of the world and history expanded.

We returned to the States, while my husband went on to Switzerland to finish another week with students that he teaches overseas in the summer.

Week Four of summer was unpacking, laundry, resting, and enjoying the 4th of July with dear friends. Our friends live on a golf course and river in a nearby town, and it’s becoming our tradition to spend the 4th with them, having a cookout and watching the fireworks on the river. It is such a beautiful and peaceful place to be, and the weather was perfect. We enjoyed the evening with good friends, but I failed to take pictures!

Week Five brought my sister-in-law and her family to town. We spent the week doing activities with them and their children.

Then Saturday I met up with my “big sister” from my sorority in college. We hadn’t seen each other in 16 years! They were in town for vacation, and we got together, and it was so much fun. I have Facebook to thank for how easily we have been able to keep in touch in recent years.

First friend I made in college: went through Rush only to meet people, not intending to join a sorority, but met a great group of Christian friends who made my years in college very special! Thankful to the Lord for this dear friend and her influence in my life!
Now we enter Week Six, and I feel like we have a slow week ahead of us. I’m looking forward to it! We’ll be home the rest of the summer, and I love it!

My son is in workouts and camps four days a week. I have a goal to not eat out as much! I’ve been planning my menus and cooking more, and I’m enjoying it. I never know what to do when I have so much time on my hands, so I’m trying to make the most of it.

And lastly, my mom and I started our Beth Moore summer Bible study on the Psalms of Ascent. It’s only 7 weeks so we could fit it in starting late! It’s always fun to see the group that God brings together, people He’s brought in our paths. I last did this study five years ago with a couple of women I worked with at the time, and it’s fun to look back at what was happening in life then. We’re supplementing the study with Journey to Joy: The Psalms of Ascent, and they actually complement each other well.

I read the book Radical by David Platt before we went to Europe. I wanted to read it after I finished his book Follow Me. I am being challenged in the area of personal evangelism. I thought about it a lot after finishing these books, the preacher preached on it in Cambridge when we were in church, the book of the month at our church has been on this subject, and in other ways, it seems to be at the forefront of my mind. There are way too many thoughts for me to process here, but I just don’t want to be complacent. I think it starts again with prayer.

One other theme has been “looking up,” “opening my eyes,” “lifting up my eyes,” etc. I pray God gives me eyes to see and a heart to obey and follow Him each day wherever He leads, whether in the mundane tasks of life or in the adventures life brings, and to reach out to others in His Name.

First Week of Summer

There are all kinds of events and reflections from the first week of summer!

  • Both kids and my mom were sick with a virus. My son coughed easily through and kept going. My daughter got fever and is still getting over the cold and cough a week later. So a touch of sickness marked our first week.
  • My son began two different camps that will take up 12 hours of his weeks this summer. This has been both exhausting and fun for him. He’s liking the friends he is meeting, and I enjoyed meeting the coaches at a parent meeting one night this week. I’ve been glad to see my son step out into new things without hesitating. He is okay if he doesn’t know anyone, and he’s willing to give new things a try, and I’m thankful.
  • I’m getting used to driving back and forth to my son’s new school! It reminds me so much of my high school. I have loved becoming familiar with all of this, seeing friends out there, and meeting new people.
  • A big storm came across the Midwest this week. We went to my mom’s to stick it out with her and see what would happen. It had been predicted all day, and the weather map made it look like we were in for trouble. We prayed. In the end, it seemed as though maybe we got a little rain, but no hail, tornadoes, or heavy winds and storms that were predicted. It’s so easy in those situations to just say, “Wow, they predicted a huge storm and nothing really came of it.” But I want to say, “Thank you, Lord!” and acknowledge that we did pray and ask Him to let it go around us, and the storm did just that. So we praise Him that we didn’t have to worry that night with power outages and the risk of flooded basements and everything else that can come with dangerous storms.
  • My son and I are in the middle of probably our fifth game of Monopoly! We’ve been spending our extra time playing some games, and he is absolutely hilarious. I had a couple of girl moms at school at the end of the year tell me how much their daughters were going to miss him and how nice he had been to them, how funny he is, how much they enjoy him, and I was wondering about the “funny” part. What is so funny? But I totally get it. Sort of a clever humor tying in things in life to present moments in the game. I can’t even describe it, but we’ve been laughing a lot and having fun.
  • My daughter and I did a little shopping, but she wasn’t feeling so great, so we didn’t get too much accomplished. But it always feels good to get caught up on a few errands.
  • I am enjoying just being home the rest of the time, having a leisurely pace, staying up late, reading, sleeping later, enjoying time with the kids.
  • I read one book this week: Follow Me by David Platt. I would recommend it. It’s thought provoking. It focuses on discipleship and what it looks like to really follow Jesus and make disciples. My own story of how God saved me seems to be in line with the things he shares in this book, so it resonates with me, but he does challenge a lot of things we sometimes see and hear. It has made me also want to read his earlier book Radical which I have on hand to read next.

It’s been a really good, restful, full first week of summer, and I’m thankful.