Confident Hope

I spent last week in California with one of my closest friends, as she prepared for her wedding on Friday. Bachelorette party, family dinners, centerpieces, Starbucks, packing, prayers, more Starbucks, deep breath, prayers, dresses, hair, makeup, flowers, breathe, photos, candles, napkins, speeches, tears – so many happy tears. It was an incredibly beautiful, busy week.

A week that I was sort of dreading.

For starters, aside from the bride herself, I had never met anyone in the wedding party, or even in attendance for that matter. That alone is enough to send this introvert brain into a bit of a panic. And then there is the single factor – the older I get, the more my singleness seems to stick out like a neon sign on my forehead. And weddings I have attended in recent years, even ones of friends, have left me feeling sad and sorry for myself.

A pretty self-centered approach, I know.

But this time, something changed.

Not too long ago I was talking to a friend about similar feelings I was having about attending another friend’s baby shower. Baby showers are also a reminder that I’m single – and that the older I get, the less likely it is that I will give birth to a child of my own. And then there are the well-meaning, shower guests simply trying to making conversation, who always seem to settle on the “how many kids do you have?” question.

No thank you.

I was trying not to talk myself out of going, and my friend responded with, “Don’t deprive that mom of your love and hope.”

In other words, get your eyes off of you, and go be there for your friend.

I went to the baby shower.

But those words also carried over into the trip to California for wedding week. And what I thought would be an emotional few days, reminding me of what I don’t yet have, turned out to be one of the most amazing weeks I’ve had in a long time, maybe ever. Thing is, when I stop looking at myself, stop going over and over what I’m lacking, I’m free to just be me. If I’m not looking at me, then I’m not comparing myself to anyone else. Few things wreck your joy faster than when you compare yourself to someone, anyone else.

And let me tell you, just being me is so much better than trying to be who I think people want to see.

Looking through photos from the week, you can see the difference in my eyes. It’s hard to put into words – except to say that the hope which has been defining and shaping my life the past few years has finally begun to settle into my heart, and you can see it in my eyes. Confidence in who I am.

It was an absolutely beautiful wedding and happy-tear-filled reception. There were touching speeches and lots of dancing, though I avoided the dance floor. Confidence and hope are growing in me, but it’s still a process. I don’t yet have the courage to ask someone to dance – or walk across the room to strike up a conversation. But soon I won’t be able to use “I’m an introvert” as an excuse.

There was only one moment when the tears were sad ones on Friday. The moment when I knew the day was coming to an end and I was about to hug the bride, this dear ‘Friend of my heart’ goodbye. But even that moment was filled with hope.

Thank you, God for the people in my life who love me enough to say the words I may not like, but need to hear, like “get your eyes off of yourself and go be there for your friend”. This week could have been hard, but instead it’s the beginning of confident hope.

Advertisements

Sunshine and Snow

Outside it’s snowing… there’s a light coating on the ground and the car. Across the street is the lake and behind it, mountains covered in snow. It’s gorgeous. It’s cold.

It’s snowing, but the sun is shining.

My brain has a hard time processing that sometimes. I see cold, snowy weather and I automatically assume the rest of the scene should be grey and dreary.

I often do that with the rest of my life. Something goes wrong, maybe even something small, and I let it set the tone for the rest of my day. All I see is the “snow” and I completely miss the sunshine.

Lord help me to let You set the tone for my day, no matter what the “weather” my be. Help me to see the sunshine in spite of the snow.

A Broken Bench

Saturday, on the way back from Indianapolis, my friends and I stopped at the University of Illinois Arboretum to walk around. I had never been there before, and honestly, until that day I didn’t even know what an arboretum was.

WHY have I NEVER been here before???

There were so many GORGEOUS, trees and flowers and gardens to wander through. The rain had subsided, allowing the sun to come out just in time for us to explore, and for me to take dozens of photos. The trees and flowers are absolutely stunning right now, in all their Spring glory. But this is by far my favorite picture from the day. A teal bench at the entrance to one of the many gardens.

University of Illinois Arboretum – Urbana, IL

As soon as I saw the bench I thought to myself, “This would be the perfect spot to sit with a friend and have a long conversation in this beautiful space.” It just looked so inviting to me, with it’s Spring backdrop and peaceful setting.

I posted the picture on Facebook “The kind of place that brings quietness and rest to your soul…” once we were back in the car and waited for the comments. You laugh, but we all do it after posting a photo – whether we want to admit it or not. Some people immediately liked the photo, others commented on the color. Nearly all of them seemed to agree that it would be the perfect place to sit and have a long conversation with a friend.

And then someone didn’t.

To be honest, when I read the comment I almost deleted it.

“Anyone else notice the bench is broken?”

Really? I was talking about how nice and peaceful it looked and someone had to go and point out that the bench is actually broken. Look at the photo again – the right side of the bench, several of the boards have fallen through.

I was irritated at the comment and I almost deleted it. Why did it upset me so much? The person who commented is a good friend of mine, and is the type who would see something like that in order to fix it and make it usable, making it better. I wasn’t irritated with his comment, I was irritated because I hadn’t noticed it first.

This bench I had decided would be an ideal place to sit and rest and connect with another soul, was broken and I hadn’t even noticed.

It was the perfect place to “bring quietness and rest to the soul”, but instead of doing just that, I took a photo and moved along.

I didn’t actually stop and rest.

How many times have I posted a picture of something like this with a similar caption, only to let it sit with the other dozens of photos about peace and rest for my soul. Meanwhile, I’m running from this to that, exhausting myself by doing all of the things.

“He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for His Name’s sake.” – Psalm 23:2-3

The 23rd Psalm is probably one of the most quoted passages of the Bible, and yet, I have never thought about this part before… “He makes me lie down in green pastures…” The Shepherd isn’t just showing you were to rest, He’s making you lie down.

And then He restores your soul.

A reminder to me to stop posting pictures of benches and inspiring quotes about rest and taking care of myself (i.e. – put down the phone) and actually take the time to slow down and rest…. and let God restore my soul.

Testing The Anchor

There are few things I find more discouraging than car trouble. Having something go wrong with my car makes me feel VERY single. Maybe it’s because I’m 40 and thought I would be married by now. And maybe it’s because I live alone and anyone I would call on for help would have to go out of their way. Car trouble always makes me very aware that I am single.

Now before you go telling me that being married doesn’t guarantee I won’t have car trouble, and being married doesn’t automatically mean there will be someone to help me all the time…. let me assure you that I KNOW THIS. But that doesn’t change how it makes me feel.

Car trouble challenges my hope.

A few weeks ago I started having trouble with the brakes on my car. One of my brakes locked in place, making it difficult (and damaging) to drive. I had the car worked on, thanks to some some wonderful friends and family, and I was on my way…. until the brakes started locking up… AGAIN.

Ugh.

Challenged hope.

As I drove home Monday night I began praying, “God, I KNOW You CAN fix this. I’ve seen you do some AMAZING things, like open up the sky and stop the rain. I’ve watched you do miracles… please do it again!”

My brake continued to tighten as I got closer to my apartment.

“God, I NEED my car to deliver hope! I use this vehicle to deliver floral arrangements that YOU have given me to share hope!”

Car trouble challenges my hope.

And then it hit me. I’ve tied my hope to whether or not I have a working vehicle and whether or not I have to depend on someone else.

Cars will fail. You don’t have to have one for very long to know that. Brakes wear out, batteries die, and Midwest Winters will bring on pot holes that not only test your driving skills, but often ruin tires. So why in the WORLD would I tie my hope to something SO VERY UNRELIABLE.

That’s when my prayer changed.

“God, help me to trust you with this. YOU are my provider, not my car, not my job, not a husband or lack thereof. YOU are my provider. Help me to truly KNOW that.”

I would love to tell you that as soon as I prayed that prayer, my car started driving perfectly fine, but it didn’t. I had to get a ride to work the next day and have my car towed in to be worked on. The issue with my brakes ended up being far more involved than we originally thought. More than just the brakes and rotors, there was a clogged brake line causing the majority of the problems. But while the car was in the shop, they also discovered something else needing fixed that could have resulted in an accident if it had gone much longer without being repaired.

Who would have guessed I would ever be grateful for a clogged brake line? But that brake line not only brought to light things in my car that needed to be fixed, but also some things in my heart.

“And we have this hope as an anchor for our souls…” – Hebrews 6:19

Hope truly IS an anchor. And what we put our hope in will determine whether or not the waves take us under.

My car troubles weren’t just challenging my hope, they were testing my anchor. And my hope, my anchor, was tied to whether or not I had a working vehicle, and ultimately my singleness.

What challenges your hope?

The answer to that question may just show you what or Who your anchor is tied to.

Remind Your Soul

Last Friday, Random Acts of Hope got to be part of an outreach event called PROMise of Hope. At this event, area high school girls who might not otherwise be able to afford it, were invited to come and pick out dresses, shoes, and everything else needed for prom, free of charge. We took orders for 90+ wrist corsages and had the opportunity to see many families blessed as volunteers and area businesses came together for the outreach.

Yesterday, I met a friend at the floral supply company to begin the process picking out and purchasing the flowers and ribbon to fill all the orders. I had gone in with money in hand to purchase at least a portion of the supplies and was told, “No, whatever money you have, or that comes in, put it towards other flowers.” The bill was paid in full and supplies purchased for ALL 90+ corsages.

Wow God. You never cease to amaze me as You continue to provide for Random Acts of Hope and this not-so-little-anymore ministry of hope and flowers.

So then why do I feel like I could crumble under an overwhelming ache.

Again and again, God has provided for Random Acts of Hope in ways that I could not imagine. Just last year we did giveaway events of 300, 1000 and 5000 flowers, sharing hope with so many people. Four different work spaces have been opened at different times (each one opening as another one closed), I have been given more flowers than I know what to do with, and the finances have come in for every single detail.

So

Much

Hope

And yet still, an overwhelming ache.

This season of my life has been anything but dull. As you can imagine, as God stretches me in ministry and provides more and more opportunities to share hope, I am getting to do and be a part of some exciting things. Except I always thought I would have someone to share this season with. So when I have something happen like God providing the funds (unexpectedly) for 100 flowers or 1000, my heart bursts with excitement and I want to share it with everyone I can. But when it comes to sharing in all the joys, I am also reminded that God hasn’t provided the one thing my heart aches most for, someone to share life and love and all of my seasons with.

Ache.

“If God was really good, then He would see the ache that nearly crushes my soul and provide the one thing my heart longs most for…”

Waves.

These are the waves that try to take me under more than any other.

I know that God is good. But do I believe that He is good to me?

If God was really good, then….

Drop anchor.

Sometimes I have to go back and read my own posts.

Tell my soul to hope.

And right now telling my soul to hope looks like choosing to believe that God is good, not because of what He does or doesn’t do, but because He is God.

God is good because He is.

End of story.

If I start to pick and choose the things that determine whether or not God is good based on what I believe about life and love and hope, then I slowly unravel the very characteristics that make Him God.

Drop anchor.

Tell your soul to hope.

Hope doesn’t always feel brave. Today, hope feels more like a voice, whispering through tears, “God, I KNOW you are good – so even in the ache – I trust You.”

Drop Anchor

Waiting is hard. And when the waiting is long, it’s even harder. You have prayed the prayers, and you have prayed them again… and again… and again.

And still you wait.

And wait.

Waves of doubt and disappointment whisper and try to pull you into a spiral of fear.

“God must have forgotten you…”

“If God really loved you then…. “

Waves that try to take you under.

Time to drop anchor.

An anchor keeps a ship from being destroyed by the waves or lost at sea, but it doesn’t stop the waves. It holds the ship secure, but you can still feel the intensity of the storm. The ship might take on water, but it’s not going under.

Hope is our anchor in the storm.

“And we have this hope as and anchor for our souls…” – Hebrews 6:19

Hope – the kind of hope this scripture talks about – settles down deep at the core of who we are and anchors our souls. It doesn’t stop the waves in whatever storm you are in, but it keeps you from going under.

But just like a ship that has to drop anchor – sometimes we have to remind our souls of the hope we have. A ship can have an anchor and still be lost at sea. An anchor won’t do any good unless you use it. You have to drop the anchor for it to hold.

Drop anchor.

Remind your soul to hope.

Have you ever noticed that the more you tell yourself something, the more you believe it.

Drop anchor.

Tell your soul to hope.

Guard Your Heart

One thing I’m learning about being Brave is the incredible freedom that comes with being real. I’m talking about being REALLY real, not just “I decided to start going to the gym today after stepping on the scale”. But the kind of real that says, “I stepped on the scale today and it read 350.1 lbs. It’s time for change” and deciding to fight for my life. Not to make people feel sorry for me and my struggle, but to draw a line in the sand that says “I’m no longer going to tell half truths in order to make myself look better.”

Bringing things to light brings freedom.

No more half-truths.

That being said, as I have been navigating through the edges of depression and counselling I have discovered some things about myself and how I deal with pain. Probably like most of you, I tend to do everything in my power to avoid it. I know it is impossible to be alive and breathing and not experience some sort of pain. And so when I do go through a painful experience, instead of working through it, I tend to avoid it, avoid the emotion, and avoid the deep wounded places. I fill my life with noise and make myself busy to avoid the ache.

Last Fall, in my attempts to not deal with pain, I made myself so busy that I didn’t have time to take care of my own home. I would go straight from work to Starbucks where I would spend the entire evening writing. And when I say “writing” I mean half of the time would be spent cruising through Facebook, texting friends or wasting time. But I felt okay about it because at the end of the night I would have a new blog post to show for my time. Or I would stay late at work (and not because I had to) then run errands on my way home, which ended up being me wandering through Walmart for an hour or so, only to buy a couple things. All the while, my apartment became more and more neglected and it was beginning to show.

Random mounds of laundry (seriously – how much clothing can one person go through?) and dishes, piles of papers and journals filled with ‘someday I will finish writing’ and so on… Instead of a refuge and a safe place for this introvert heart, my home became a place that I no longer enjoyed. Clutter is overwhelming and my laziness only made it worse. Instead of enjoying the space God gave me, when I was there I only wanted to sleep. And so began the spiral I took with depression. Because I didn’t enjoy being at my apartment it also meant I ate out A LOT, which has contributed not only to bad spending habits, but also to me being the heaviest weight I have been in my life. Being overweight makes me feel tired all the time, insecure in my own skin and honestly, ashamed that I let myself get to that ugly number on the scale.

While I know that depression comes in many forms and there are people who deal with depression so debilitating that they literally cannot get out of bed, for me depression was a choice.

No, I didn’t wake up one day and decide I was going to try out depression for a while. I know how serious depression can be. But I did choose to not take care of my heart. I chose to avoid the pain that comes with processing through healing. And not doing that spilled over into other parts of my life.

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” Proverbs 4:23

In other words, take care of your heart because however your heart is doing will affect the rest of your life.

Let me say that again.

Take care of your heart because it affects every other part of your life!!

My apartment is still in bad shape. Again, it didn’t get this way overnight, and so it’s going to take a little time to make it a place that brings joy again. But as I care for my heart and let God bring healing to the deep places, I’m not only taking care of me, but also taking care of the space around me.