I Can Do THIS

“We cannot do everything at once, but we can do something at once.”
Calvin Coolidge

I remember years ago being at a Women of Faith conference, and listening to—I believe it was Sheila Walsh. The conference always partnered with Compassion International (or maybe it was World Vision, it’s always so hard to remember). Anyway, it was Sheila’s turn to tell us about the organization, and the child packets that were available for sponsorship at various tables on the concourse. She talked about how she had been blessed throughout the years to sponsor many children. Then she held up a packet, one that was apparently handed to at random, and began sharing about a little girl. Basic statistics, but one clearly caught her attention. I think it was the girl’s name or maybe her birthday. Because as she was talking about how great the need is and how many people feel paralyzed by the greatness of the need and the fact that we can’t do everything for everyone, she began to say that, yes, it was true that, “I can’t do everything”—and then there was a long pause of reflection, after which she closed, “but you know what, I can do this.” Normally, she would have invited someone to come up and take that packet from her and back to the sponsorship table. But this time, she tucked it under her arm and walked off stage, as if to say, “This one is mine, you’ll have to go pick out your own.”

Her words have stuck with me for years: “I can do THIS.”

I’ve had to apply them over and over ever since, because for some reason that is far beyond my comprehension, God has given me dreams and callings and passions that He has (at least thus far) not allowed me to fully pursue. But in the meantime, He has allowed me small and sometimes seemingly insignificant ways of being involved in those larger scale dreams. Here are a few examples from MY life.

  • I can’t adopt a child from a far-away country, but I CAN sponsor a child through Compassion International.
  • I can’t adopt a child domestically, but I CAN help others to do so.
  • I can’t be a foster parent, but I CAN be a certified babysitter for others’ foster children.
  • I can’t always care for the orphans, but I CAN minister to widows God has placed in my life.
  • I can’t mentor a young child, but perhaps I CAN mentor a young adult (Lord willing).
  • I can’t always DO the things God has placed on my heart, but I CAN always pray for those who can.

I don’t know what your cause is—if you’re anything like me, you probably have more than one. Maybe for you, it’s poverty, or homelessness, or human trafficking, or ________________. Whatever it is, it is most likely too big for you to accomplish on your own. But I hope and pray that, whatever it is and however God invites you to join Him, you will not focus on those things that you can’t do, but rather on those things that you can. It may take reminder after reminder, but know that you CAN do THIS.

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An Adoption of the Heart: Compassion International

I am often eager to talk about my kids and share their photos with anyone who will listen! I have watched them grow, seen them develop spiritually, prayed for them during hard times, and celebrated triumphant moments with them. But as much as I love these children, they don’t actually live in my home because they have families of their own in countries around the world. I sponsor them through a Christian organization called Compassion International which works with local churches to provide food, medical care, school supplies, mentoring, and an opportunity to hear the Gospel.

Sponsorship is an adoption of the heart. Each child only has one sponsor so the relationship that you build and the mentoring you provide through letters is just as important, if not more so, than the financial commitment. If you didn’t get to see the movie “Beautifully Broken” when it was in theaters, I encourage you to rent it to see the dramatic impact that sponsorship can make not only on that one child, but on you and other people that God connects along your journey. In this true story, two families on opposite sides of the war in Rwanda were able to experience forgiveness and transformation through a mutual connection with one a family in America who sponsored the child from one of the families and began serving alongside the other family who had traveled to the United States as refugees.

Compassion gives sponsors a path to go beyond letters and prayers in the form of mission trips which include a visit with your child. My first trip was a life-changing experience for me when I got to meet Lucson after many years of sponsorship (pictured below). When I told my mom that I was going “over-seas” to Haiti, she very sweetly informed me that Haiti wasn’t overseas – it was below Florida! So, as you can tell, I had a lot to learn. The week that I spent there was very eye-opening and humbling. The families, who had so little in terms of material possessions, were so full of hope. My group arrived on Easter Sunday in time to celebrate with a local church. Later, Compassion brought all the children to a central, old resort and as we stood waiting for our names to be called, I already spotted Lucson and he started waiving to me! It was an incredible day that I won’t forget. Lucson brought me a gift which was home-made peanut butter, and I treasured it. I asked him what he wanted to do first and he wanted to swim … I said ok as I was secretly reminding myself that I only knew the “dog paddle” and we were in the ocean! He and several other kids said they had never seen the beach – even though they live on an island.  My trip to Haiti took place right around the time digital cameras were becoming available so most of the people in my group had one and the kids loved to have a photo taken and then run around behind us and see it.  You can probably imagine our dilemma when a couple of people took photos with film cameras instead and did not have a preview screen for the kids to see! I had sent Lucson birthday money in years past and he had written me to say he bought a goat, and then a second goat, and a third. Well, as I said – I had a lot to learn because I thought he was adopting pets and was a little unsure why he needed extra mouths to feed. So, when we met, I asked him about the goats.  He told me that he was very happy to have them and that he was still taking good care of them like I had told him to do. And then he said something that I honestly did not realize, but you can probably guess – he got the goats not for pets, but so that he could have milk to sell in the market to help his family.  Lucson has now graduated, but he is still a big part of my family and we even exchange an occasional email.

I returned home from that first trip with a deep desire to help other children and to spread the word about Compassion. I became an Advocate and started speaking at churches along with volunteering at concerts and other events. And my family grew! Since then I have sponsored more children and have been blessed to meet five more of them. Each Compassion trip has been a unique adventure. In Kenya, I met Pirante and went on a safari, which was a dream come true.  I learned about the Maasai tribe and saw the contrasts in that beautiful country between the rural landscape that we all picture and the crowded slums in the city where most of the kids live in poverty. In the Dominican Republic, I experienced heartbreak with the family of a little girl I had sponsored named Nancy (pictured below).  I had registered for the trip and a couple of weeks before it began, I received a call from Compassion. They told me that little Nancy had died in a house fire along with two of her siblings when a kerosene lamp fell. I decided to sponsor another child, Romeilyn, and go on the trip anyway, where I met her before we had even exchanged a letter. But when I got there, the leaders told me that they wanted to take me to see Nancy’s parents. At first, I didn’t want to go because I thought it would be such an imposition on a family that just buried three children, but I was told they were the ones who asked for me to visit so I did. We sat and prayed together, and I found out that both parents and an older child had accepted Christ a few days earlier despite the tragedy because of the way Nancy’s church had supported them and shared the Gospel with them. Even as they grieved, they wanted me to know that I was part of their family and that really had a profound effect on me. Other trips have been filled with laughter and lots of hugs including ones to meet my three artists: Edward in Bolivia (pictured below), Josue in Ecuador, and Pedro in Brazil!

So if you aren’t in a position to have a child live in your home either permanently through adoption or temporarily through fostering, would you consider inviting one to live in your heart? You can make such a difference and I think you will find that ultimately you are the one that receives the greatest blessing. Just remember the 4Cs of Compassion – Christ Centered, Child Focused, Church Based, and Committed to Integrity. And if you already have a child, I want to encourage you to write letters – they mean so much! If you have any questions or want to see/hear more, my email is:  drbeckysue@gmail.com. Sponsorship costs $38/month and you can select a child at www.compassion.com/beckysueparton.

Adoption: A Portrait of Grace

Y’all, it’s November! This is one of my favorite months because it is Adoption Awareness Month. And I LOVE sharing not only my own heart for adoption, but also the stories and experiences of others whose lives have been touched by this beautiful gift. Today, I want to kick off Adoption Awareness Month with a guest entry from a long-time friend, Ashley M. Wolfe. As you will see, adoption is a HUGE part of her story. I hope you enjoy!

What is adoption? In Latin, the translation literally means “to choose.” However, my favorite definition depicts adoption as: “the act of taking something on as your own.” Both of these definitions perfectly portray the experience that I have had with adoption.  When people ask me about the factors that have shaped my spiritual walk, two things always come to mind—grace and adoption. These two factors work hand in hand, even more so than I initially realized.

The first time I saw God’s providence in the form of adoption, was in the love that my dad had for me. Bryan, who I refer to as Dad, is not my biological father. He legally adopted me on my 10th birthday. I remember the hurt I felt when my own biological father willingly gave up his rights to me. I was his daughter, the only blood child he had left, after the accident my older sister, Ally, and I were in. An accident that left me scared and confused. And yet, reflecting on my pain and thinking of the things that followed, I hear Romans 8:28 come to mind. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who are called according to his purpose.”

I remember worrying that people in school would think I was weird for changing my name, because I had always been known as “Ashley Bridwell” and now I was going to be “Ashley Wolfe.” My grandmother eased my nerves about what my peers might think by telling me, “You’ve always been a Wolfe, we’re just making it official.” Reflecting now, the significance of my own personal story of adoption holds such great meaning, because now I can appreciate that my biological father signed away his rights to me. Bryan Wolfe did not stumble upon us by accident. Bryan has been my father, and so much more. I cannot think of a better man that a woman could possibly search for. And the grace in all of it is- God saw my mother as being recently divorced, alone with two children, and he not only gave her an amazing husband but also gave Ally and me a father. The special thing about my dad and grandparents that makes them unique to others in similar situations is that they always loved us as their own. They never for a second considered the technicalities of me being half, step, or anything like that. To Bryan, I was his from the second he saw me, and that is something so precious and rare.

The next time I saw divine intervention in the form of adoption is with my brother, Andrew. Aggieland Pregnancy Outreach is responsible for my 3 siblings who were adopted. The distinctive thing about APO is the birth mom is the one to select the family that she wants her child to be placed with by looking through “lifebooks” or scrapbooks of the families who are applying to adopt. Drew was our first adopted child that I was there for. I remember taking him home, and wondering if I would ever really feel like this was my brother. Little did I know that boy would have us all wrapped around his finger. And just like any of my other siblings, I always find myself in a rage if someone ever hurt his feelings, or even if he falls down and scrapes his knee. Drew is 100% our baby. I enjoy watching people’s faces when they see Drew walk in somewhere with us. Most of my siblings are blonde hair blue eyes, and Drew is mixed. They look so genuinely confused, which always makes me laugh because to outsiders he looks out of place, but in reality there is no place more fitting. Something amazing about Drew Wolfe is how perfect he is. I know that I’m biased, but he is incredibly handsome, smart, sweet, and a goofball. From a young age, my parents told Drew he was adopted and we have a spectacular relationship with his birth parents. Even when we see them, and are all together it makes my heart full seeing him recognize who they are, and what they have done for him, and still calling my parents “Mom and Dad.” Andrew literally means “manly and strong,” and what a name for this boy. He is always looking to help, to learn something new, or eager to do acts of kindness. Not only is he strong, but his 7 year old self has blessed my family and strengthened our bond since the day we brought him home.

As of recently, we have two new additions to our family. They have lived with us for the past couple months, and we are finalizing their adoption this month. My siblings and I were shocked to hear we would be adopting not one new sibling, but two. My parents delayed telling us because they hadn’t thought we would be selected to adopt them. Again, I felt that old fear creep up on me—that fear that our family wouldn’t be the same or that we wouldn’t get used to being all together, or that Drew would feel forgotten because these new children needed extra care getting adjusted. Fortunately for me, God reined me in. He reminded me of the purpose that adoption serves. He reminded me how I had felt when we adopted Drew and how I feel about him now. Finally, he reminded me that he is sufficient and that our parents would never risk shorting us in any way. They were adopting because it was God’s will, and because we were able and called to do so. In hindsight, this fear was so foolish—these children strengthen our family, and are absolutely precious. Just as Drew did, they already have everyone wrapped around their fingers. These two just happened to have names starting with A— a tradition among us siblings. They are also the same age difference as Ally and I were, and Anna and Alayna are. This is the grace of God, not only that we were chosen by their grandparents but because they had each other and we were able to adopt them together.

But the biggest way I’ve seen grace in the form of adoption is the one that relates to all of us. God has given us grace, and the ability to have a relationship with him and by that same token when we accept him he adopts us into his family, and our old body and soul is gone replaced with one that will strive to live our life for HIM. Adoption is so closely correlated with the grace of God that there is a verse in Galatians 4:4-5 that says, “But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.” This is not only my personal adoption story, and those of my family, but as children of the Lord, it is the story of faith and providence for all of us. What greater correlation to adoption is there, than the God of the universe taking us as his own?

Wolfe Family Photo

 

Hearts and Words

I’ve always been one of those who has said that I am more patient with my kids than most, that I yell at them less than most. And granted, that has a bit to do with the miracle of modern medicine, but that’s beside the point. It’s beside the point because I’ve come to realize that it’s not enough. It’s not enough to be able to say that I am usually patient or that I’m usually respectful. You see, it has come to my attention that they don’t necessarily hear, remember, or believe what is most frequent.

Instead I believe that they hear, remember, and believe what seems most authentic. And what seems most authentic? It’s what comes out under the greatest pressure. Sadly, that means that what they may be internalizing is what I say that is most negative—when I’m in a bad mood, when they’ve been difficult, when circumstances haven’t panned out as planned. One unkind word, one hard day, one fight—it can cancel out a month of good times.

How do I know this? Because I’m the same way. I don’t believe your fair-weather words and accolades, if they don’t hold when the pressure is on. It doesn’t matter if we’re friends, family, colleagues. What matters to me is what I believe to be authentically you. What do I believe you really think about me? How do I believe you really feel about me? That is what I will believe. The question becomes what to do about it. I think what we do depends on whether we are on the giving or receiving end of others’ words.

As a speaker and actor, the Bible has a lot to say about how WE should treat others:

Psalm 141:3
“Set a guard over my mouth, Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips.”

Proverbs 12:18
“The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”

Proverbs 15:1
“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”

Proverbs 15:4
“The soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit.”

Luke 6:45
“Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.”

Likewise, when it comes to the words that others speak to, about, or over us, the Bible tells us that we should find our worth and value in what GOD declares to, about, and over us.

Exodus 14:14
“The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

Psalm 62:5-6
“Only God gives inward peace, and I depend on Him. God alone is the mighty rock that keeps me safe, and he is the fortress where I feel secure.”

Psalm 73:26
“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

2 Chronicles 20:15
“The battle is not ours, but God’s.”

Ephesians 2:10
“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

So, in either case, perhaps the first step is to begin by meditating on HIS words, and by letting those become the inpouring and outpouring of our hearts.

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Skipping Showers

Luke 10:30-35

“A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii[c] and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’”

That title might sound strange. What does skipping showers have to do with anything? Well, it so happens that I read a blog a few months ago that listed a bunch of things that we should all do or embrace this summer. One of the recommendations was to let the kids skip showers on pool days. Now, if we did that, the kids wouldn’t get a bath but twice a week. And I simply cannot skip a shower myself. Bangs = greasy hair. But I did feel like I should embrace the spirit of the suggestion.

And what does that look like in my own life? It might look like having coffee with an old friend, or a mojito and a good laugh with a new one. It might look like stopping to visit an elderly neighbor whose health is ailing, and allowing my unofficial therapy dog to cheer her up. It might look like visiting with another student’s grandma during swimming lessons, instead of using that time to catch up on work reading. It might mean setting course prep aside for a spontaneous game of Old Maid with the kids. It might mean going swimming with the kids four or five days a week. There are so many things, actually.

To be honest, you’ll often hear me say, “I really need to get some work done.” But that’s because on so many occasions, I set that work aside to be in the moment that is set before me. I don’t want to miss whatever divine appointments might come my way, so I reason that the work can wait. But what if those unexpected opportunities actually ARE the work, the work that God has prepared in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2:10)?

It makes me think of the story of the Good Samaritan, which Jesus once shared with a religious leader. I find it hard to believe that this guy was just aimlessly wandering the road to Jericho, with nothing on his agenda for the next two days. And yet, while the other passersby where too frightfully busy to stop, or maybe too skittish at the sight of blood, the Good Samaritan stopped, cared for the stranger, saw to his care in his absence, and returned to check on him later. This is the work to which we are called, and it’s how I want to live my life.

So what about you? How might you be able to figuratively skip a few showers in this season of your life? I pray that you find and take some opportunities to live in the moment, to be present for someone in their time of need, to slow down and take stock. I assure you, it will be worth it.

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Still

Your promise still stands, great is your faithfulness!
I’m still in your hands, this is my confidence—You’ve never failed me yet!

“Do It Again”
( Elevation Worship)

When I hear these lyrics, they seem designed to comfort someone in the throes of the unexpected—cancer, job loss, infertility, divorce….But for me, they bring to mind a more expected but no less daunting future. It’s no secret that one of my greatest fears is that of growing older. Not like, gray hair and wrinkles older. Not 98, but active and full of life older. So, not Betty White, in other words. No, I mean the kind of older where your mind or your body, or both, begin to decline rapidly, leaving you unable to do the things you once loved, or even the basic things that you once could.

This summer, I’ve found myself with a front row seat to witness such decline. My parents’ elderly neighbor is suffering from dementia, and she seems to have lost so much of her memory and her ability to care for herself, even since I saw her last summer. Watching her struggle with the frustrations of not being able to remember things she knows she should remember is heartbreaking. It must be very frightening. My dad also has a dear friend, a woman he’s worked with for years and who has known me all my life, who suffers from Alzheimer’s. When he visits her now, she doesn’t know who he is. I can only imagine how lonely she must feel. And then recently, even my own grandmother has begun to struggle to maintain her independence, after living her entire life as a strong, resourceful, and self-sufficient woman.

In these times, I remind myself that His promise still stands. What is His promise—or what ARE His promises, rather? Here are just a few that come to mind.

  • “In all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28).
  • Our Heavenly Father will give good gifts to those who ask! (Matthew 7:11)
  • “The LORD’S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning.” (Lamentations 3:22-23)
  • “The LORD your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6)
  • “Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)

I know that a time will likely come when I will need to face this fear myself. God, whatever condition I find my body and mind in at that time, I pray that You will allow me to STILL remember these truths: that your promise still stands, that great is your faithfulness, that I’m still in your hands, that this is my confidence, that you’ve never failed me yet. Amen.

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Building Some Church

1 Corinthians 12:25-27

“…there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.”

One day, as some of us moms were watching our kids play on the playground at church, one of them observed some workers, and construction equipment, and some loud noises adjacent the playground. A friend’s son commented that they were “building some church.” Indeed, we are in the process of expanding our physical church campus, but my friend and I laughed at the phrase, joking about how it would make a great hashtag to describe the more figurative process of building and growing in biblical community. The latter a much slower and subtler process, not nearly as easily visible as the physical processes associated with a construction project.

I was recently prompted to reflect on my own experience with biblical community—granted, it was under unfortunate circumstances. A couple of friends and friends’ family members have found themselves in the hospital lately. And there is always an internal debate—Should I go visit? How long should I wait? Do they even want me to visit? Do they want any visitors at all? Would I want visitors if it were me? And WHO would I want to see? That last question got me thinking, and I drifted off to sleep one night composing a mental list of welcome visitors for my own hour of need—from church, from work, from the neighborhood, from school, from the grocery store, and so on. The list turned out to be much longer than I’d expected.

Contrast that with my hospital stay 7 years ago, when Tijge was born. We were new to town, even newer to our church, and hadn’t made a whole lot of friends. I honestly couldn’t think of a single person (other than Chris, of course) I would have wanted to see. That was okay. It was a special time of bonding as a family and getting used to the newness of motherhood. But I would have felt the same way about visitors even if I’d been in the hospital for some other (less joyous) reason.

So, I guess the revelation is this: whatever else I’ve been doing over the past 7+ years—raising kids, working, building a home and a life in perhaps the most unexpected of places—I’ve also been, you guessed it, building some church. And I’m so grateful for the blessing that has been. Thank you to all of you who have been part of this journey!

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Forbidden Fruit

Genesis 3:6

“When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it.”

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I have a confession to make. I LOVE pear trees. I love everything about them—the way they look, the way they smell. They calm me. The problem is that I’ve recently become aware of the environmental curse that ornamental pear trees represent. They are weak in structure, they choke the life from native trees, and they cross pollinate with other trees so that they spread like kudzu, according to Durant Ashmore of the Greenville News. Ashmore further adds that they are very difficult to get rid of, as some varieties produce 4-inch thorns. This means that bulldozing them can be the only solution.

So, at this time of year, my sin constantly accosts me. It taunts me at every turn. It is SO hard to look at these trees and see them for the danger they represent. They don’t look dangerous. They’re aesthetically beautiful, pleasing to the eye. And it occurs to me that they are not unlike so many other temptations to sin. I think that we look back on the Garden of Eden, and often villainize Adam and Eve. They were given so much, and were denied only one thing. Why couldn’t they just say no, and walk away? We become very sure that, in their (lack of) shoes, we would have done just that.

But I wouldn’t have—not when I can’t even look away from these “beautiful” pear trees. And come to realize, we even have a couple in our yard (they came with the house). But I don’t know if I could bring myself to tear them down—at least, it isn’t at the top of my priority list. And when I do finally get around to it, it will not be cathartic or freeing or vindicating. Instead, I think it will be a bittersweet day, a sacrifice I’ve made at great personal cost.

We aren’t to hold this attitude toward sin. We aren’t supposed to let it maintain control over us. And we are supposed to be disgusted by it. Proverbs 8:13 says that “the fear of the LORD is hatred of evil.” And Romans 12:9 tells us to abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.” There’s no halfway when it comes to sin. We must put our sin to death…not keep it around like a pet. Matthew 18:9 commands, “if your eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.”

Is my love of pear trees my mother of all sins? Of course not. But it seems to me to be the most poignant illustration during spring time in Texas. May it serve as a reminder and conviction to us all.

Beautifully Well

Colossians 4:6

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt,
so that you may know how to answer everyone.”

A week ago today, I had the opportunity to attend the memorial service for a friend’s mom. It was a very nice service. And while I didn’t actually know my friend’s mom personally, by the end of the morning, I wished that I had. The preacher spoke of her hospitality and generosity, and so many other endearing traits. One thing he kept saying that stuck with me was that she lived her life “beautifully well.” She seemed to radiate God’s love and His character. Not unlike Jesus, people gravitated toward her. They saw Jesus in the things she did, and the things she said, and the way she loved. So when people saw Jesus in her, they turned toward Him.

I thought to myself how that would be a wonderful thing to have someone say upon my passing. I mean, sure, my hope is that I will hear Jesus say, “Well done, good and faithful servant…Come and share your master’s happiness!” But He might say that even if I show up in Glory by the skin of my teeth, because He knows well the dust that I’m made of. But when our fellow sojourners say things like that, there’s a certain comfort that comes.

So the question becomes, Would they? Would they say that I lived my life in Christ “beautifully well”? Would they say that about you? What would that even look like? There are an endless number of ways, I suppose. But it might look like a smile, a kind word, an extra dash of patience in the grocery store checkout line; it might look like a load of laundry, a load of dishes, or a load of diapers—tended to without complaining. It might look like opening your home to welcome someone in need, taking a meal to an elderly neighbor, or serving in your community. Remember that each person you come across represents a divine opportunity to share God’s love, through your words, actions, and attitudes. It’s like they say, you may be the only Jesus they ever see. So show Him, beautifully well.

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Fathoming Hope

Romans 5:2-5

“…And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”

Today, I encountered a woman whose story painted for me a picture of hopelessness. She was desperate and alone, discontent with just about every aspect of her life, and seemingly helpless to do anything about it. Beyond that, she was haunted by her past experiences and memories. She had become so accustomed to loss and disappointment that she couldn’t imagine any other way.

I myself am no stranger to despair, having struggled with depression for many years. But there was something different about this woman. That something was God. No matter how hopeless I might have felt in any given moment, or even for entire seasons, I never lost sight of God. I knew He loved me. I knew He had a plan for me, and one that would give me hope and a future. I knew that He would work everything I felt and was going through together for good and for His glory. Granted, the hope I had was at times about as big as those mustard seeds of faith Jesus talked about in Matthew 17:20. But as it turns out, hope works kind of like faith—it grows.

But for hope to grow, it has to exist. And then it has to survive some harsh conditions. This woman may have had hope at one time, but hope that was crushed by one too many harsh realities and rude awakenings. Or she may have never had any to begin with. One thing was and is clear to me. She needs the hope of salvation, the hope of redemption, the hope of restoration—in short, she needs Jesus. From the outside looking in, she seems so far from Him. But look at what Luke 15:20 says about the story of the prodigal son:

While he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.”

God will run to this woman, too. She needs only to start out in His direction.

Sovereign Lord,

I don’t even know the name of the woman I’m praying for—but you know.
You know her name, her story, her sorrow, her past, and her future.
And you know the plans you have for her, plans to prosper and not to harm her,
plans to give her hope and a future.
The impossible is possible with you, so a mustard seed of hope is something you can do.
I believe you for this hope, and I pray it in the matchless name of Jesus. Amen!

Lenten Blossoms