The Daily Work of Hope

I lose my hope perspective ten times a day, at least. I get weighed down by the crumbs of life…those bread crumbs that stick to your feet when you’re just trying to cook and the smear of peanut butter as you brush against a wall. The things that seem no matter how you wipe them just keep coming back. There’s always more work, something else required of me, some way I can see I’m failing, and that suffocating frustration of when my life feels too boring, too much, too menial and I begin daydreaming of the things that will take these feelings away.

A trip to the craft store, diving into a book or binge watching a show, a few hours alone at my favorite coffee shop, getting out alone for a walk, taking in the breeze and beauty without having to make sure everyone is safe and accounted for. Those things are good and can be helpful tools in realigning myself to the truth, but if I keep looking to those things as the fix, my conventional savior, I’ll always be disappointed and left dry.

Those things can give me space to refuel, to pause and reflect, but in those longing daydream moments they don’t really do me any good. They increase my despair or loneliness, bitterness or jealousy not because they are bad in and of themselves, but because in my heart I’m saying, “If only I could do or have xyz, then I’d be alright/happy/could do this life.”

But the truth is those things will continue to fail me if I’m looking to them for satisfaction of my soul. 

My hope is built on nothing less,
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness 
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

And so, I must do the hard work of turning from myself and turning to Christ, the source of ultimate joy and satisfaction. It’s not easy. Jesus isn’t a quick fix to a perfect life or a continual intravenous drip of happy. But looking to Jesus, the author and perfector of my faith, I can boldly say, “I can’t, but You can.”


I can’t do this day. I can’t take one more question, one more failure, one more thing to stress over.

I can consider him who endured and know in Christ’s power I can endure. And this faintheartedness, this despair to give into sin and apathy—the vanity of life, I can look to Christ and see how he endured for the sake of joy and I too can endure.

To consider Him—not myself, not others, not my circumstances, but Jesus…to do the daily work of living, enjoy life, and not grow weary in doing good in fulfilling the role he’s placed me in. To remember the joy set before me in the new Jerusalem, to turn my eyes upon Jesus look full in his wonderful face, to know this weight of glory.

It sounds so basic. Turn from looking inward and look to Jesus. Basic but essential. Even if I have to do it hundreds of times a day.

And I will.

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It’s all meaningless, so why try?

Yesterday, I was complaining to my husband how the most exciting part of my day was wearing real pants and going to Victoria’s six month appointment. Oh, and making homemade iced coffee.

I was disappointed because I had to cancel an exciting outing to the post office to buy stamps, because Tori wasn’t having it after her shots. Meaning buying stamps would have to be pushed to another day, pushing back the project I needed the stamps for another day with another errand with kids who were cooperative today, but may not be tomorrow. Yay. #momlife

We speak mostly in gifs while Joe is at work and after going back and forth for awhile, he sent me this one:

via GIPHY

Always opening the door, always a door to be opened. I replied, “That’s pretty much #momlife.” And Joe responded with, “maybe mom’s need to read more Ecclesiastes.”

“All things are full of weariness; a man cannot utter it; the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing. What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.”

Ecclesiastes 1:8-9

So I sat down and read the whole book of Ecclesiastes. At first glance, it all seems to say, “It’s all meaningless, all of life is utterly vain and then you die. Doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor, wise or foolish, lazy or diligent in your work, in the end you’re going to die and you won’t be here to see the fruit or effect of your life’s work.”

Sounds uplifting, doesn’t it? An anthem for the long days that seem to suck the life out of you.

Enjoy your life, because in the words of the great Johnny Cash, “sooner or later God’s gonna cut you down.”

But with a closer look—a gospel look—the Preacher ends with “the end of the matter; all has been heard” (Ecc. 12:13a). We know how this life ends. This earth is passing away and we are but a mist, a vapor, like the dust to which we’ll return.

But for a believer, death is not the end but the beginning of a great new adventure,

“The death of the righteous, that is, of every believing and repentant sinner, is a most excellent blessing of God.” 

William Perkins

What about today? I’m not dying. (Lord, willing.) Amid lukewarm coffee, sleep deprivation, uncertainty, monotony, chores, and a life that feels like you’re just opening a door to find one more closed, what do these ecclesiastical lamentations mean?

“Fear God and keep his commandments for this is the whole duty of man.” Ecclesiastes 12:13b

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”

 

And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the Prophets.

Matthew 22:37-40

Yes, life feels futile. Yes, life is repetitive. Yes, the daily details are quite often boring. All our accomplishments will soon fade, our castles in the sand will wash away. Any hope we have in our work or riches or position will not sustain us.

But put your hope in the Lord “where moth and rust do not destroy and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Mt. 6:20).

Fear God. Serve Him. Love others.

Life is full of hard, boring, dull, tiresome days. We wipe tables, wash dishes, attend one more pointless meeting, start another load of laundry, call another client, hold babies who won’t sleep, and reheat that cold cup of coffee for a third time.

Life is full of beautiful, surprising, joyous days. Saturday morning family cuddles, surprise visits from friends, a finished cup of coffee, the beauty of community, foggy sunrises, peonies in full bloom,

In all the days—the mundane, heartbreaking, and glorious—fear God, love him, and love others. This life will soon pass by, but if the Lord is our God, even the days we want to throw up our hands and shout, “Meaningless! It’s all meaningless!” even those days are an opportunity to love God and love others.

Only one life, ’twill soon be past,

Only what’s done for Christ will last,

And when I am dying, how happy I’ll be,

If the lamp of my life has been burned out for Thee.

- C.T. Studd,

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Advent’s Longing Cry

SONY DSCAt the heart of sojourning is this,

Will we live for the promise even if we can’t see it?

The sojourner says, “Yes.”

Amidst the unknown and chaos, the sojourner travels on, practicing faithful endurance with each dusty step. There is a promise, but we can’t see it. Not until heaven rains down Glory and Jesus comes to call us home. But even in this, even in the spectacular unknown, in the walking on water, like the sustaining air we breathe but cannot see, we trust the Holy Invisible, for it is–He is–the only one who settles our rattled souls and stills the storm of our heart. In Him we move and live and have our being.

We who have been overwhelmed with the grief and joy of Calvary, we stand secure in the empty tomb. Our debt is paid, our ransom bought. We are free, free! dear ones. No longer are we children of the slave woman, but children of the free (Galations 4:31). We have been captivated by the Truth and He has set us free (John 8:32).

So we say “yes” to the promise we cannot see. We say “yes” to the homeland we’ve yet to  touch. We say “yes” to the one born to set us free as we fall to our knees, chains crashing down, our hearts reverberate His praise,

“Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty, Who was and is and is to come!”

Oh, but the journey is long and tedious. We crave the completion of home. We grow weary in doing good, fighting against the flesh, and the devil’s relentless attacks.

There are times we lament, “Why, Lord! Why?” We shake our finger at the Holy God and with Jeremiah cry,

“Why is my pain unceasing, my wound incurable, refusing to be healed? Will you be to me like a deceitful brook, like waters that fail?” (Jeremiah 15:18).

Against our accusations all He asks is our return, our repentance. Always the Shepherd, our Emmanuel, “…for I am with you to save you and deliver you, declares the Lord. I will deliver you out of the hand of the wicked, and redeem you from the grasp of the ruthless” (Jeremiah 15:20b-21).

We cannot see the end from the beginning, but our hearts cry for the end. We deeply desire the culmination of our faith, to be in the presence of the Founder and Perfecter of our faith, Jesus. In the world’s injustice, in our sanctified struggle, in poverty, in homesickness, in anxiety and in peace, though we ache in our wanderings we are not without hope. We are not alone.

“Remember my affliction and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall! My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me.

But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”

Lamentations 3:20-23

And yet, we remember him “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2). Our longing is not in vain.

In all this, He truly is our Emmanuel. Though we mourn in our exile, he will come and we will rejoice.


The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.

Lamentations 3:26

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Advent…He is coming

This is my favorite time of year. The sparkling lights, cookies baking, friends gathered. The wonder and holiness of God becoming feeble babe. It’s a miracle. A beautiful, desperate miracle.

In my mid-twenties, I began to discover the liturgical church year and was pulled into the beauty of the advent season. There was something that kindled my sojourning heart. The light making the darkness flee. The simplicity and ancient tradition in advent liturgy. Walking in the shadows of saints of old, advent created in me a deeper thirst to know Jesus and see his return I didn’t have before.

Advent is

What is Advent really about?

Advent is so much more than a colorful, chocolate countdown to Christmas. It’s a holy mourning, a cry for mercy and for justice. It is a season of repentance and a call to be the hands and feet of Christ. It is remembering the prophets precious promises fulfilled. It is a desperate and yet, ever hopeful longing for Christ to return to take his people home, right every wrong, heal every wound, wipe every tear, and reveal his glory and majesty to all of creation. All will know and all will see and every knee with bow. It will be the ultimate jubilee.  

This advent perspective of Christ’s second coming was so different from how I had heard people talk about Jesus’ return. With their eschatological verbiage they’d dive into the rapture, point out the signs of the times, and analyze  whether you’re you post-trib, pre-trib, or amillennial. Discussions were more focused on how and when Jesus was going to come rather than He is coming. There was a fervor for the facts, but lacked a passion for the person.  I didn’t see a reason to long for Jesus’ return if it was one big guessing game ending in havoc and chaos.

And then I found advent, I met Christ in a way I hadn’t before. He was nearer. He was compassionate and humble. His presence closer, His companionship real. Sorrow had an answer. He was eager (and is!) to meet the needs of his people. He is patient that more would be lead in kindness to repentance.  Longing for the second advent gives me a purpose and hope I didn’t have before. There was a promise made long ago and He is that promise.

“God has given no pledge which He will not redeem, and encouraged no hope which He will not fulfill.”

Charles Spurgeon

 

Jesus is ready. Home is on the horizon. He is coming, for now we wait.

 

When we all get to heaven, what a day of rejoicing that will be! 

When we all see Jesus, we’ll sing and shout the victory!

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Lingering Grief of the Named Unspoken

The Named Unspoken: The Lingering Grief of MiscarriageThere are some hurts that never go away.

It’s been nearly eight years since we lost our first baby. It hurts to even say that. Seven years ago, I should’ve been holding a baby in my arms, due a week before Mother’s Day. But my arms were empty.

Miscarriage is a painful and twisted story that never really leaves. Sometimes it hurts so bad I clench my teeth in screams, there have been days where death seemed a better welcome. I know some would say that’s ridiculous and that these children of mine weren’t really babies. They hadn’t breathed yet, right? Were they viable outside the womb?

Or they tell me at least it wasn’t worse than so-and-so, that somehow losing a child at 10 weeks is easier than losing a child at 20 weeks, full-term, etc. It doesn’t feel easier. It feels lonely and painful.

Miscarried babies are easily dismissed in our culture, even among Christians. They’re the not real babies, the practice pregnancies, the ones we don’t talk about because we’re not sure how to make sense of a baby that dies in the womb. It makes the journey even more isolating and heartbreaking.

I’m jealous of those people who’ve gotten to hold their babies as they passed or at least gotten to see their little faces. I didn’t get that. I got “That’s just how things go” along with “Better luck next time” and “It just wasn’t meant to be.” Lonely and painful.

The Named Unsoken: The Lingering Grief of MiscarriageI’m pregnant with my seventh child. With every prenatal appointment, the nurse goes through the list. Blood pressure. Good. Any new meds? No. Same address? Yes. Seventh pregnancy. Yes. The number seems unreal. I have to recount myself, is that right?

I’ve prayed that if I lose this baby, Lord please let it be far enough along I can see their face. Each prenatal appointment is a prayer of “Oh God, please let there be a heartbeat. Please don’t let this baby be dead.” When those ocean tones come through, especially after a lengthy time finding the heartbeat, the praise is “The baby’s not dead!” Morbid, maybe. Reality, yes.

It’s a tormenting, twisted reality. I miss babies I’ve never met. And I feel guilty for missing them. If I had our first and fourth babies I wouldn’t have Joey or Olivia, same with our sixth baby and this current pregnancy. I feel guilt for loving the ones who are here and loving the ones who are not, that by somehow loving one I’m denying or ungrateful for the other. I fear when Joey and Olivia understand the overlap in pregnancies and if they see me cry or sad over these children they’ll think they aren’t wanted or loved. I feel torn between loving the living and the dead.

I’ve struggled to see God answer other’s prayers and see miraclesof what science says should not be. Was sustaining the life inside me so hard? I believe He could do it, why did He choose not to? It would’ve been simple for him. A word, a breath and it would’ve been a different story. Why does this have to be my story three times over?

There’s a story behind each baby and each miscarriage, of the way God carried me even when it was dark and He seemed more than absent. One day I’ll tell those. But for right now, I want to do something I’ve never done. I want to introduce you to our children in heaven by name.

We’ve held their names close for so long. It’s felt too vulnerable to share them at large. Their names are the one thing that marks their existence in a world where they left no evidence. But I love them just the same and I know one day I’ll meet them in glory without a tear on my face. That day…I can hardly imagine the joy of meeting them and seeing the beginning from the end. So be it.

The Named Unspoken: The Lingering Grief of Miscarriage

Addison Justice ∫ September 2007

The Lord is righteous in all his ways  and kind in all his works. He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; he also hears their cry and saves them.Psalm 145: 17, 19

Jordan Ebenezer ∫ December 2011

They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore;  the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat.For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Revelation 7:16-17

Riley Glory ∫ July 2014

But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head. I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the Lord sustained me. Psalm 3:3,5

* * * * * *

I’m going to be bold here for just a minute. I know miscarriage, stillbirths, and infant loss are more common than most imagine. I know this is a painful time of year to remember babies we didn’t get to hold, children we had to bury.

If you’re willing, and I know it’s hard, will you share the names of those you’re longing for? They may not have been long for this world, but they are still our beloved children and, even in this, you are not alone.

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