When Hope Hurts

artem-kovalev-86365-unsplashOur bird mamma is back. Penelope- the one that’s decided our rotting patio cover is the perfect place to build her nest. I love this crazy, determined, cutie-pie bird.

The irony is not lost on me. I feel like I’m observing a bird version of myself. All the hopes of my heart to adopt over the past five years seem overshadowed by the decay that surrounds them. Five years of broken expectations. Four failed adoptions —  one international, three domestic — chipping away at the strength of my spirit.

But here I sit, day after day, choosing to knit my nest together with God’s promises, while everything around me threatens to cave in.

What is your my nesting egg? The desire of your heart that you believe God planted? Have you asked God to remove it if it’s not his will? I have. Over and over. Yet it remains. And even when the lies of the enemy are crudely constructed, attempting to cover up the promise that God’s plans are to prosper me and not to harm me (Jeremiah 29:11a), His truth still is not obstructed. I can still feel it. Besides, “hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience” (Romans 8:24b–25 ESV).

I may have to grope clumsily in the darkness for a season, but it’s there. Because God is eternal and God is hope.

What is eternal cannot be extinguished.

Did you know the biblical word for hope, tiqvah, literally translates to cord, hope, and expectation? It’s used in the story of Rahab. She’s instructed to tie a scarlet cord (tiqvah, hope) in her window to remain unharmed. (Joshua 2:18). Hope protects us. It’s a holy signal to the enemy that he can’t touch us. It’s the scarlet cord we unabashedly display over our doorframe that cries out, “I belong to King Jesus!”

Grasping it like a rope, I’ve tried to “hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:23 ESV). I still struggle, asking God, Why are you making us wait so long for the desires of our heart?!

In all transparency, my hands have grown weary and calloused from clinging to the rope for so long.  It hurts. My hopeful waiting has been seasoned with suffering. But isn’t this part of the blessing? Callouses give us the ability to endure situations that would naturally tear our hearts wide open. It takes time and endurance for callouses to form.

In high school, I cursed the callouses that formed while trying to learn to play the guitar. However, the first time my fingertips were tough enough to press on the strings to play a worship song, I was flooded with understanding. The momentary discomfort I’d endured made it possible for me to sing a new song of praise. I don’t know all the reasons we’re asked to wait. However, I do know there is a perfectly holy reason for every situation. We are called to hope (Ephesians 4:4), and that means we are called to wait. Not just to wait but also to look.

In fact, the Hebrew root of the word hope is ka-va, meaning to wait, to look for. Faith-filled hope is active. When I find myself wrestling with discouragement, I’m really wrestling with my passivity.  Hope requires that we’re eager watchmen on the tower of our days, scanning the valley for signs of life. Just like Penelope, who is oblivious to the rot around her because her eyes are on the tiny, yet wildly adored, promise beneath her. She waits. She watches.

She constantly tends to the hope among the decay. Sweet Jesus, teach me to do this!

The idea of becoming foster parents was like realizing there was another egg in the nest we’d never noticed! It’s only through the sustaining grip of God’s love that we kept diligent watch over the ragged nest perched in our hearts. I praise God for the gift of hope. I thank Him for reminding me that hope is my protection, my courage, my confidence, my calling, and my strength! I raise my hands in praise, calloused as they are from clinging to hope, to the one that gives life to His promises.

But those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.” (Isaiah 40:31 NIV)

God’s word is always the best source of encouragement! Click here for a beautiful printout of verses celebrating hope in Jesus:God’s Word-Marked by Love-Hope

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No Surprise


“You will keep him in perfect peace,

Whose mind is stayed on You,

Because he trusts in You.”
 
Isaiah 26:3 


I’m sorry to say, but due to the ever-changing conditions in Ghana, the chances of bringing home an orphan anytime soon, are not looking good…

     Our social worker has such a sweet spirit, but her words were just too bitter to swallow this time. We sat on our couch and completed our Home Study update. It was hard not to think: What’s the point? We aren’t getting matched with our child soon…if ever. Having been in the international adoption process for three years now, I know better than to beat my brain with questions I will never have the answers to. Most importantly, I know not to challenge God in his wisdom. A part of me sunk when our social worker explained that a new person in power was holding all child cases back from being dispensed to waiting families. But one thing I heard above my clattering thoughts: 

Daughter, this is no surprise to me.

This was no surprise to God.

This was no surprise to God.

This was no surprise to God.

The ‘me’ two years ago, would’ve written a seemingly justified letter:

Dear God,

   DON’T YOU KNOW…

Conditions in Africa for orphans are bleak? Politics and pride are coming before the needs of children?  There are over 1 million orphans in Ghana?   We have been on the wait list for over a year now? 

All we want to do is your kingdom work…(Just in case you forgot).  

Love,

      A concerned citizen of the kingdom of God 

But not this time. Sometimes God gives us a little glimpse of how he has grown us. This was one of those gracious moments. Just the soft whisper in my spirit, ‘Daughter, this is no surprise to me’, was like an anointing of peace. It has been months since this conversation, and the peace hasn’t left me. In fact, he has allowed it to echo through my heart as new challenges have risen up. It feels like a crown he has placed on my head. It is not going anywhere. I am so in awe of this sweet gift. Peace in knowing, God is not surprised by anything, is a valuable shield against the enemy. God loves me. All his plans are for my good. All of his plans are to bring more people into his salvation kingdom. Not some of them, not most of them…ALL of them.

Every. Single. Detail. Every delay, every hitch in paperwork, every ‘roadblock’, every signature, every blessing, every trial, every person I speak to…he will use in my life for his good purposes. He will use it all to bring glory to his name. He will use it to shout of his love for the lost. Period. This is true whether I believe it or not.  

I believe it. I welcome it. I stand on it.

It is important that we read God’s word. It is imperative that we live it in our everyday circumstances.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
 
Romans 8:28 

New…or just glued?

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My New Year’s Resolution is allow myself to be new…not glued.  Sometimes, I imagine picking up the broken pieces of my life, and clumsily offering them up to God. I then imagine that he will piece them back together, making something beautiful. Well, almost beautiful. If it weren’t for all those cracks showing through the ‘glued me’…I would be stunning. Although I imagine God has put me back into some sort of functioning vase, you can still see the jagged pottery bits trying to cling gracefully together. I imagine, one little wisp of wind will send the ‘glued me’ crashing to the ground. I will shatter all over again.

But this is how I view myself. This is not how God sees me. I am not the product of a clumsy repair job. This is the nasty lie of the enemy.

We must remember what the word of God says. If we have Jesus, we are a new creation:

” Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come’. -2 Corinthians 5:17

The new has come. It does not say, “If anyone is in Christ, he will put them back together’. Don’t get me wrong. Jesus wants all of our broken pieces. He wants us to recognize the mess on the floor and lay our shards at his feet. But this is not so he can piece them back together. He takes the bits and pieces and exchanges them for something entirely new.,

He wants to exchange our brokenness with His fullness.

Truth is, I do not want broken pieces to be a part of my life’s fabric anymore. If they are, then I am not fully a vessel of Christ. I want my heart to echo John the Baptist,
He must become greater; I must become less”( John 3:30 ).

Sometimes we like to romanticize our past hurts and mistakes. We like to think they contribute to ‘who’ we think we are. In reality, our focus should not be on WHO we are, but on WHOSE we are.

Our past decisions and experiences do not define us anymore if we are children of God. Our Father defines us. Our salvation defines us.

In Isaiah 43:18-19, God encourages his people, ““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?”

God wants to do a new thing in us. Are we too focused on the things of the past to perceive it? Are we so focused on the repaired vase on the shelf, that we miss the brilliant new one being offered to us?

A repaired life is not a bad thing. Satan would have us happily sit in this complacent truth. He assures us, ‘Repaired is enough, it is more than you deserve‘. It is true. A repaired life is more than what we deserve. But who are we to be so bold, to dash and diminish the work of the cross?! And even more so, belittle the power of the resurrection?!

“We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” –Romans 6:4

We will never understand the self sacrificing, all consuming love of our Savior. We can at least understand, the foolishness of clinging to a repaired life, instead of passionately grasping a hold of a new life. A new life that our Jesus died and rose from the dead in order to pour over us. My prayer this year, is that I accept his beautifully gracious gift of a new life everyday. Everyday I want to wake up and pray, ‘Jesus,p today, make me new’.

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20

 

Show Me.

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The prophet Isaiah was called by God in one of the most beautiful and awe-inspiring ways in the Bible. Read his account and imagine yourself in Isaiah’s place:

‘In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another:

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.”

At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.

“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”

 Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.” Isaiah 6:1-7

Breathtaking. Frightening. Awesome. Humbling.

Even more mind blowing: Isaiah’s God is my God.  With the same power and holiness He is high and exalted in my life.  He is seated on the throne now; just as he was in Isaiah’s time.

I realize I don’t ask to experience God in his most powerful holiness in my everyday life.  He is my friend.  My comforter.  My Father. My Solid Rock. My salvation.  He is all these wonderful, holy things.  But how often do I walk hand in hand with the ‘Lord Almighty’? How often to I see him seated on a throne, high and exalted?

How often do I pray: ‘Show me your glory, God’.  The answer: Not enough.

All these emotions of unworthiness came to the surface of my heart as I read a Muslim women’s testimony this week. Latifa was praying to God : Show me! Show me the way! Show me.  If Jesus Christ is the true way, show me.

I was so blessed by her bold prayer. I cried as I read on how she was at the beach with some Christian friends and they asked her to partake in communion with her. They asked her to read from 1 Corinthians 11.  This is what happened:

“As I was reading,” Latifa recalls, “I was in the Spirit. I was transferred to the upper room. I could see Christ. I could hear Christ. I could sense him saying, ‘This is my body, broken for you.’ ” I didn’t know how I looked. Everybody disappeared. Time stopped.  I was there with Christ, with the awesome presence of his holiness. I started looking at my life with his eyes.  Suddenly  my life, with which I’d been content, looked terribly dirty.  I wanted to run away. then I heard him say, ‘Eat. I came not for you to run away, but, on the contrary, for you to come close to me.’(Daughters of Islam, Miriam Adeney).

Tears welled up in me from a deep place as I thought of Isaiah and Latifa. They both reacted the same way in the presence of God’s holiness. Isaiah cried, ‘Woe to me! ‘ He immediately saw his uncleanliness.  Latifa immediately saw how ‘terribly dirty’ her life was. Isaiah thought he was ruined! Latifa felt she had to run away. But God is the same today as he was in 740 BC. God reacted in the same spirit to his children…thousands of years apart from each other!  Isaiah was cleansed and his sins were forgiven. Latifa was told to ‘Eat’ at the communion table. She was told to come close to him.

Such grace. Such holy, holy grace.

We must see how worthy God is, to understand how unworthy we are.  We must understand his mighty power, to understand his grace.  Our God, with his robe filling the temple, being worshiped by seraphim, their voices shaking the thresholds as they cry,  ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty’– this true God: He could wipe us out.

He has every right to leave us dirty and unclean. We are sinners. He is sinless.  How dare the unholy enter the presence of the holy? Only by the blood of the Lamb. While Jesus was hanging on the cross, Matthew 27:50-51 reads:

And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit. And behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom”.

The veil was torn the moment Jesus gave up his spirit as a ransom for us. We can enter into the temple with confidence.

Only because our holy, powerful God, is good. 

He is always good. Forever holy and always good.

So this week, I am praying for the boldness to pray like Latifa and Moses. Moses declares to the Lord in Exodus 33:18  “Now show me your glory.”  I pray that I have a passionate heart to see God seated high and exalted everyday. Isaiah’s God is my God too.  He is sitting on his throne, waiting for me to enter into his temple.

At his feet, I will be cleansed.

At his feet, I will be loved.

Dear Lord Almighty,

     Show me. Show me your glory. Teach me to want your presence above all else in my prayer life.  I only want you. I want to see my life through your eyes. I want to have a deeper understanding of your holy grace.  Give me a deeper understanding of your holiness. Set me apart for you. Amen.