From Fear To Faith: Facing the ‘What Ifs’ Of An Unknown Future

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“Bye Mama!”

She looks back at me one final time to smile and wave, before disappearing excitedly into the buzzing throng of her new classroom. Pony-tail swinging, her small frame weighed down by the sparkly Disney Princess backpack and lunchbag she so carefully picked out at the beginning of summer, she looks every inch the incoming kindergartener. Though my mama heart almost bursts with joy and pride at the sight of my baby girl transformed, I can also sense a familiar, yet unwelcome, visitor. A burden that lays heavy on my heart, interrupting this precious, milestone moment, and threatening to rob me of its joy: The ‘what if’ phenomenon. 

What if she has a hard day?

What if she needs me?

What if something happens to her?

What if this is the last time I ever see her?

From the trivial and mundane to the downright unthinkable, I have, from a young age, wasted valuable time worrying and fretting over life’s various ‘what-ifs’ and worst case scenarios. Then I became a mom and fear truly moved in and made its home in my heart.

From the moment my two little babies took their very first breaths, it was there. Right alongside that fierce, first rush of love, there was fear. Fear of the overwhelming responsibility I now held over their tiny, precious lives. Fear that I wouldn’t  be enough for them, and that I couldn’t possibly protect them. 

And the worst one of all: fear that I might one day lose them. 

It may not be something any of us typically want to dwell on, but the what-ifs of the world are nevertheless rarely far from our thoughts. Growing every day with the strengthening bond of motherhood, they can haunt our waking hours and keep us up worrying long into the night.

Perhaps you can relate. Lying in bed at night you snap awake, gripped by a sudden and inexplicable terror—a paralyzing, suffocating dread. Or maybe it stalks you as you go about your everyday routine—getting the children on the school bus or dropping them off at camp. You watch anxiously at the window as they ride off with friends on their bike, or—heaven forbid—in their new car, counting down the days, hours, or minutes until they are safely back in your arms.

It’s exhausting. It’s all-consuming. And it’s not the way God designed us to live. 

He did not give us a spirit of fearfulness, after all (2 Timothy 1:7). He has told us time and time again that we need not worry about tomorrow (Matthew 6:34), and that we should not live afraid  (Isaiah 43:1).

So how does a culture of anxiety-ridden, prolific worriers face the what-ifs of life with courage and quiet trust, reclaiming our faith from the prison of anxiety and crippling fear?

The answer lies in the mighty, unshakeable promises of God and the truth of His Word.

 FROM FEAR TO FAITH

The story of Job is one such example. Despite being a “blameless and upright” man (Job 1:1), he lost his livelihood, his health, and even his children in quick, devastating succession. Yet though his life came to epitomize the worst case scenarios so many of us fear, his story also became a powerful testimony to the character and promises of God. It is one that serves to encourage us as we, ourselves, face the what-ifs of an unknown future. 

God Is Sovereign

“Don’t worry, God is in control!”

It’s a popular go-to response within the Christian community, yet as I have watched terrible, gut-wrenching events unfold across our nation and the world—senseless violence, market crashes, and even a global pandemic, I admit to having wondered at times, Can this be true? As I have borne witness to heartbreaking circumstances in the lives of friends and loved ones—a devastating diagnosis, job losses, miscarriage and infertility struggles—I have thought to myself: What if the same thing happened to me? Could I still say with such assurance that God is in control—and still good?

Job could.

Immediately after suffering the loss of almost everything he owned and held dear, Job fell to the ground and ‘worshipped’ God, acknowledging His ultimate sovereignty: “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised” (Job 1:21, NIV).

Yet, as he wrestled with his circumstances and the ensuing silence from Heaven, Job began to question God until eventually God responded, fully asserting His dominion over all things, Earth and Heaven. He reminded Job once and for all Who was fully in charge. Spoiler alert: it wasn’t Job.

Completely humbled, Job replied: I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted…Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know” (Job 42:1-3, NIV).

It can be difficult at times to see evidence of God’s goodness and sovereignty in the midst of our suffering. Yet Romans 8:28 (NIV) reminds us that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

Oh, we may not understand His ways—for they are not our own (Isaiah 55:8-9), but that does not make them any less good, or His hand any less sovereign. For this is a God who has a plan for our lives, to prosper us and give us a hope and a future. A God who uses every trial, every hard thing to shape and refine us in His image, for our good, and His glory, who doesn’t waste a single opportunity to make His name known to a lost and weary world.

Like Job, even when the hard times come and the very worst fears of our heart are realized, we can put our faith in the One who holds our future in His hands and is always working out our circumstances for good. We can trust that even when fear rises, and our faith is tested to the limit, there is always reason to praise Him, hope to hold onto, and joy to be found.

God Will Restore All Things

Job’s story ultimately ends in a display of God’s restorative provision and power for “the Lord restored his fortunes and gave him twice as much as he had before…He died, an old man and full of years” (Job 42:10,17, NIV).

Job teaches us that we need not fear the what-ifs of the world because we serve the God of restoration—He who painstakingly puts the pieces of our shattered, broken lives back together and makes beautiful things out of the dust. As Elisabeth Elliot said, “Of one thing I can be perfectly sure: God’s story never ends with ashes.”

And yet for so many hurting people, this is not their reality. “What about me?” they cry out to God. “What about ‘my’ livelihood, ‘my’ health, ‘my’ children? When will ‘my’ life be restored?”

Life has taught me there are sometimes no answers on this side of heaven. Yet thanks to the saving power of the cross, we can look forward with hope and confidence to the promise of the eternal restoration to come. As we are promised in 1 Peter 5:10 (NIV), “after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.”

As Christians we must view our life through a heavenly perspective with the knowledge that the suffering we experience on earth will one day cease, the tears will no longer fall, and there will be full restoration of that which was broken and lost for “all these things are gone forever” (‭‭Revelation‬ ‭21:4‬, NLT‬‬).

The assurance of this future restoration is the unswerving hope we can hold onto as we face an unknown future, and the fuel our faith requires to live a life unafraid of the what-ifs to come.

LIVING BY FAITH

“Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength” Corrie ten Boom. 

As finite human beings living in a fallen world, suffering is inevitable. Yet Jesus gives us this promise in John 16:33 (NIV), “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.” In this stressful world, where the threat of danger lurks around every corner, that peace can be hard to come by. But though Jesus goes on to warn us we will ultimately face hard times, He ends the verse with this encouragement, “But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Jesus is calling us to a life of joyful freedom, anchored in His promises and built on His love. But first we must untangle ourselves from our web of worries and surrender the cares of tomorrow at the foot of the cross. Trusting that the God who holds our tomorrows is big enough to carry them—and overcome.

Job himself said: “But as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and he will stand upon the earth at last. And after my body has decayed, yet in my body I will see God! I will see him for myself” (‭‭Job‬ ‭19:25-2,‬ ‭NLT‬‬).

As we cast our cares on to Him, one by one—pinning every worry, every fear, every anxious thought to the foot of the cross, we can rest in the knowledge that they can no longer enslave us. The victory has already been fought, the battle won. Fear has been defeated and the Great Redeemer lives. And this alone, gives us the strength to face tomorrow and the faith to walk through today—and every day. 

“In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety” ‭(Psalm‬ ‭4:8‬, NIV‬‬).

This article first appeared on the Joyful Life Magazine Blog. You can find it here: https://joyfullifemagazine.com/from-fear-to-faith/

Living Extraordinary Lives: Lessons from Biblical Motherhood

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One by one, they took to the stage—a dazzling array of smart, fearless, accomplished women, each with a story to tell and a testimony to share. Authors, speakers, Bible teachers, entrepreneurs, CEOs, and more—these were extraordinary women making big waves for the Kingdom of God in their own unique and impactful way. 

Yet as I live-streamed this inspiring conference from the comfort of my living room, something else was tugging at my heart. These women were wives and moms, just like me, but instead of feeling a kinship with them, I felt every inch of the miles between us—and not just the physical ones. From where I was sitting—surrounded by piles of laundry and unfinished Sunday night chores—the contrast was a little too jarring, and left me feeling discouraged, inconsequential, and more than a little bit ordinary.

The feeling was not a novel one. As a stay-at-home mom to a preschooler and a toddler, my day-to-day life teeters mostly on the edge of the unglamorous and the mundane, the majority of my time taken up with the daily demands of keeping everyone alive and maintaining some kind of order in my home. There is not a lot of room for anything else—especially not anything extraordinary. 

Yet, I am thankful we serve a God who is in the business of ordinary. As Chip Ingrim writes, “God specializes in using ordinary people to do extraordinary things.”

Even moms who are three weeks behind in laundry and haven’t had the energy to change out of their sweatpants?

Yes, even them. 

We need only look to God’s Word to see for ourselves—to meet the mothers whose stories are sprinkled throughout the pages of Scripture. Like the majority of us, they were ordinary mothers living ordinary lives—raising children, serving their husbands and families, and managing their households—except without the sweatpants.

Yet from their lips, prayers were uttered and answered. From their wombs came warriors, missionaries, teachers, and kings. They lived ordinary lives, but through them God built His kingdom on earth and delivered His ultimate story of redemption and rescue. 

These women did not have the benefit of hindsight. They didn’t yet know how their day-to-day actions and decisions would shape the future of humanity. They didn’t know how all the pieces would fit together in God’s divine plan and how their lives would become a testimony to God’s extraordinary provision, purpose, and power. 

Yet we do. And as we re-visit their stories, tracing their enduring legacies back to such humble beginnings, we realize how much these ordinary, extraordinary women have to teach us.

They Acknowledged the Sovereignty of God  

These mothers of the Bible were born long before the existence of gender equality—their lives directed and controlled by their male relatives, their worth and reputation dictated by the fruits of their womb. Yet what so many of these women did have was faith in a Sovereign God, who had ultimate control over their lives and who could bring about change in their difficult circumstances, no matter how unlikely it seemed.

Hannah was one such example. Brokenhearted over her inability to have a child and facing cruel taunts from her husband’s second wife, Hannah turned to God—the only One who could bring about change and give her the blessing she so desperately sought. 

“In her deep anguish Hannah prayed to the Lord” (1 Samuel 1:10, NIV). And she kept on praying, pouring her soul out so fervently that she was mistaken for being drunk on wine. “Lord Almighty,” she prayed: “If you will only look on your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life” (1 Samuel 1:11, NIV).

Hannah had no doubt of God’s sovereign power. When her circumstances seemed hopeless and despair set in, she chose to pour out her heart to the only One who had the power to change them. 

And change them He did. 

“…and the Lord remembered her. And in due time Hannah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Samuel, for she said, ‘I have asked for him from the Lord.’” (1 Samuel 1:19b-20).

Hannah’s story is an extraordinary one. The same woman who knelt before the Lord in deep anguish and pain, finally received the blessing she had dreamed of in the form of Samuel—the Samuel—who would grow up to be a prophet of the Lord and play an instrumental role in the history of God’s people.

In the difficult seasons of life, we are called to be like Hannah—pouring our hearts out to the Lord as our first thought, instead of our last hope. Trusting that He is Sovereign over all, with the power to answer prayers and transform hearts and lives in the process, we are to look to Him for help.

“I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted” (Job 42:2).

Father God, help me to be a mom like Hannah—to acknowledge Your sovereignty over my life and turn to You first, trusting that You alone have the power to answer my prayers and change my circumstances for my good and Your ultimate glory. AMEN.

They Surrendered to His Will

Then, there was Mary—a young Galilean teenager with a divine assignment: to birth and raise the Messiah and Savior of the world.

Young and unmarried, from a small, unimportant town, she seemed an unlikely candidate. We might wonder why God would choose her for such a momentous task. Why not someone with means, with influence, with power?

Yet the Lord, who “sees not as man sees” (1 Samuel 16:7), looked at Mary and saw a humble, willing heart—a young woman who, like Hannah, not only recognized the sovereignty of God, but also surrendered to His will completely.

As the angel relayed the holy message, Mary’s response was resolute and clear: “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38). 

There were no ‘what ifs’ or ‘buts,’ no hesitations or negotiations—only full acceptance of the calling God had placed upon her life. And in that one defining act of complete surrender, God responded to her willing faith by making her the mother of Jesus. Mary’s ordinary life became extraordinary.

Her decision was not without its consequences: explaining her pregnancy to a stunned fiancé and a speculative community; enduring slanderous accusations and whispers from those who doubted the miracle of her divine conception; delivering her baby in a stable after an arduous journey, and then fleeing for safety to an unknown land; raising Jesus from infant to man, and then witnessing first hand His brutal, public death. But then, oh then, she experienced the wonder of seeing Him once more. Resurrected and risen, His earthly mission was fulfilled, and the fruits of her labor and her womb were finally revealed—her living legacy for all of eternity.

What a journey! And to think it all started with a young, unassuming woman who simply and humbly said, “yes!” to God.

Mary’s story reminds us that when we surrender our lives to God’s divine plan and purposes, He will take us on an unimaginable journey of faith, expanding our horizons and pushing us beyond our wildest dreams, making miracles in the midst of the mundane and filling our lives with true fulfilment, beauty, and joy.

“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’” (‭‭Jeremiah‬ ‭29:11‬, ‭NIV‬‬).

Father God, help me to be a mom like Mary—to surrender humbly and willingly to the plans and purposes You have for my life. Help me to trust in Your faithfulness as You guide me through challenging times, and to experience the fulfilment and joy that comes from living a life wholly surrendered to Your will. AMEN.

They Did What was Needed

Shortly after receiving her divine assignment, Mary “arose and went with haste” to the house of Elizabeth—another ordinary woman who was experiencing, first hand, the miraculous power of God (Luke 1:39). She too, against all earthly odds, was pregnant, and would shortly birth to none other than John the Baptist—the prophet and evangelist who would prepare the way for the arrival of Jesus. 

And it seems that perhaps Elizabeth, as an older, wiser woman of faith, was chosen for much the same role as her son—preparing Mary for the journey that lay ahead. Receiving Mary at her home, where she would stay for the next three months, Elizabeth quickly encouraged and reaffirmed her role in God’s sovereign plan: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her from the Lord” (Luke 1:42,45). 

God not only worked a divine miracle in the form of Elizabeth’s improbable pregnancy, but He also used this well equipped and perfectly placed woman of God in a powerful and practical way: to provide encouragement, support, and care to a young woman thrust into the spotlight of God’s ultimate rescue plan. In the same way, God uses ordinary mothers like us to reflect His love and use our God-given gifts, material possessions, and unique life experiences to meet the spiritual and practical needs of the people He has placed in our path.

As Paul writes in Titus 2:3-5: “Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live… to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands…” 

As women of God, this is a calling God has placed on all of our lives—and it can be relatively simple! We can run an errand for a friend in need or offer to care for their children. We can deliver a meal, send an encouraging card, or simply visit and offer a listening ear when required. It may not seem like a lot, yet to someone else, it could be everything.

Through mentoring others and meeting the needs of our friends and neighbors in practical and meaningful ways, we are spreading the aroma of Christ around our community—demonstrating His mighty love in action, and directing a hurting, broken world toward His Light. And this is what elevates our lives to the level of extraordinary. 

“If we are rich and see others in need, yet close our hearts against them, how can we claim that we love God? My children, our love should not be just words and talk; it must be true love, which shows itself in action” (1 John 3:17-18, GNT). 

Father God, help me to be a mom like Elizabeth—to respond to the needs of the people God has placed in my life in meaningful, practical ways. Help me to look for opportunities to mentor and support younger women in the faith, and be a powerful witness of God’s love in action. AMEN.

Testaments to His Grace

You might be thinking: What about the other moms? What about the women in Scripture who messed up, took risks, and made terrible mistakes—the ones that had severe consequences for themselves and all of humanity? 

Eve, I’m looking at you. 

It may be tempting to try and forget about these women and their stain on Biblical history; to simply erase them from the story, hoping their ink blot on the page will fade with time. Yet these women—flawed and imperfect as they were—also had an extraordinary contribution to make to the Kingdom of God. Their lives are a living testament to His grace. 

There was Tamar, who tricked her father-in-law into sleeping with her so she could finally conceive the children she had been waiting for. There was Bathsheba, who committed adultery with King David—an affair that ultimately led to the death of her husband and an illegitimate son. There was Sarah—wife of faithful, righteous Abraham, no less—who laughed at God’s suggestion she would ever be a mother and schemed to manage the situation in her own way, at great cost. There were the outcasts: Rahab, who made her livelihood as a prostitute, and the nameless woman at the well who had quite the reputation. And there was Eve, who fell into temptation at the hands of Satan and enticed her husband to sin. We all know how that turned out. 

And there were so many more—women whose lives were marked by sin, yet who shared one common theme: grace.

For God, in His unfathomable grace, chose to redeem their shattered stories and restore their broken lives. Babies were born and woven into the lineage of the Messiah. Women, once shamed, were given new lives and opportunities to bear witness to the incredible, life-changing power of God. Hearts were transformed, nations were restored, humanity was saved—all through the miraculous, incalculable grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. 

And He can do the same for all of us. When we lay our brokenness at the foot of the cross—every bad decision, every poor judgment, every foolish mistake—something extraordinary happens. We are made new. Our lives are reclaimed from the grave and we are freed from our past sin and shame—from the terrible, unmentionable things in our pasts that we carry with us every single day. 

We become ordinary women, redeemed and restored, with an extraordinary story to share. 

You yourselves are a case study of what he does. At one time you all had your backs turned to God, thinking rebellious thoughts of him, giving him trouble every chance you got. But now, by giving himself completely at the Cross, actually dying for you, Christ brought you over to God’s side and put your lives together, whole and holy in his presence. You don’t walk away from a gift like that!” (Colossians 1:21-23, The MSG Paraphrase).

Father God, thank You for Your life-changing grace. Thank You that You choose to redeem and restore our broken, sinful lives into something beautiful. Help us to live as testaments to Your grace, sharing the transformative power of Jesus so that those around us would hear and experience it for themselves. 

***

Hannah, Mary, Elizabeth, and so many more—ancient women of faith whose lives and legacies live on in the pages of Scripture, demonstrating there is no such thing as an ordinary life when it is lived for God. Our to-do lists may tell us otherwise. We may look at our lives in the midst of the exhausting, all-consuming monotony of motherhood and dream of doing something extraordinary for the Kingdom of God. We may look at powerful, accomplished women through a computer screen, or even across the school playground, and wonder what it is that we’re missing. 

Do not let yourselves be fooled. For if the mothers of the Bible have one thing to teach us, it’s this: It is not what you do, but God in you, that makes your life extraordinary. Your job is simply to hold on for the ride. 

“For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfil his good purpose” (Philippians 2:13, NIV).

This Article first appeared in the Spring 2020 issue of Joyful Life Magazine

Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko on Pexels.com

Don’t Give up: Cultivating a Harvest in the Trenches of Motherhood

“How was your day?”

It was a simple enough question, yet one I found almost impossible to answer. How could I possibly condense the last ten hours into one concise response?

I immediately wanted to reel off an exhaustive and impressive list, showcasing the full range of my mothering and homemaking capabilities. Except I couldn’t—not today or any other day, if I was being honest.

How was my day, really? The truth was it had been a long, relentless, overwhelming blur. I was worn out, weary, and had barely drawn breath. And though I had been home all day with my two young children, somehow it didn’t feel like I had much to show for it. Toys still littered the floor, while the laundry from three days ago was still in the dryer. My girls had spent large chunks of the afternoon arguing and had barely eaten dinner. 

It was only Tuesday. The rest of the week stretched before me and I wondered—not for the first time—if I could do it all again tomorrow.

A PURPOSE, A PROMISE, AND A PLEA

The days are long, and the nights are longer.

That’s probably how many of us could describe life in the early years of motherhood. Deep in the trenches with our little ones, the days (and nights!) can be difficult, energy-sapping, lonely, and long. Down in the darkness with us are the nagging doubts, the quiet, secret thoughts we dare not speak aloud:

I can’t do this.

I’m not enough.

I’m not making a difference.

Unseen, underappreciated, and so very tired, we wonder when, or even if, we will see a return on our labor.

Yet God sees. He sees it all: The daily struggle and the sacrifice, the worry and the tears, the selfless, overwhelming, unconditional love poured out day after day after day even when it takes everything we have. And He responds—with a purpose, a promise, and a plea: “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9, NIV).

THE WORK YOU ARE DOING IS GOOD

“Let us not become weary in doing good…”

In the mayhem and monotony of daily motherhood, it can be easy to forget the significance of what we’re doing. “I’m just a mom,” I’ve heard women say, quickly downplaying and devaluing their God-ordained purpose and significance. Raising children and “training them in the way they should go” is Kingdom work of the utmost significance because these little ones were His first, bestowed to us as a blessing, “a heritage from the Lord” (Psalm 127:3). 

Every day, in big and small ways, from the moment they wake us up in the morning until we tuck them into bed at night, we are fulfilling the Great Commission. In the ordinary moments and the mountaintop ones, we are given opportunities to model and reflect Jesus to our ever-watching little disciples. Our life is a window through which our children can glimpse the Father and experience a taste of His grace, forgiveness, kindness, compassion, servant heart, and fierce life-giving love. As moms, this is our ministry, our calling, and our greatest purpose. As Andy Stanley once said, “Your greatest contribution to the Kingdom of God may not be something you do, but someone you raise.”

Do not let yourselves be deceived—the work you are doing is good.

THE HARVEST IS COMING

“…at the proper time we will reap a harvest.”

In my kitchen sits a treasured gift from a mentor mom I met at church, a plant pot inscribed with vibrant hand-painted letters: “Mighty oaks from tiny acorns grow.

It’s a reminder of the harvest that can come from the tiniest of seeds.

“God’s kingdom is like a pine nut that a farmer plants. It is quite small as seeds go, but in the course of years it grows into a huge tree, and eagles build nests in it” (Matthew‬ ‭13:31-32‬, ‭MSG‬‬).

A mighty giant does not grow overnight. Beneath every tree lies a vast network of roots, representing countless years of unseen growth. Supporting, nourishing, and nurturing, the roots give the tree everything it needs not only to survive but to fulfill its purpose and reflect God’s glory.

Consider the farmer. He cuts a lonely figure, but every day without fail, in sunshine and rain, he is in his field, tending to his crops. He is cold and weary. The work is beset with setbacks and difficulty, and he receives little thanks. Nonetheless, every day he shows up. His eyes fixed not on the daily struggle, but on his future vision for the field—the promise and possibility of these tiny saplings and the harvest he will one day reap.

This is the legacy we are creating as we faithfully nurture our children in their journey toward independence and adulthood. In even the most mundane tasks we are endeavoring through God’s grace to provide them with everything they need—physically, emotionally, and spiritually—to grow, flourish, and bear fruit. For these little people who almost smother us with their love and incessant, desperate needs, and these adolescents who simultaneously drain every last ounce of pride and patience, are the future men and women of God’s kingdom with a plan and purpose of their own. This season of cultivation may be painstaking, backbreaking, thankless work, but we can be encouraged that “in the Lord our labor is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58). We have received our inheritance in Christ and one day will be granted the reward He has promised us.

DON’T GIVE UP

“…If we do not give up.”

Through the long days and longer nights, the fear and the failures, the discouragement and the disappointments, the invisibility and the thanklessness, how do we keep going?

Motherhood is not a job that comes with an abundance of daily validation and praise. There will be no certificates of excellence when I finally see the bottom of the laundry hamper and no one will ever offer me a sticker for making my children dinner. This is not a job with a tangible reward system. The accolades and affirmations can be in short supply.

“Do it anyway,” God says. “Do it for Me.”

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving” ‭(Colossians‬ ‭3:23-24, NIV)‬.

God doesn’t demand perfection, Martha Stewart meal plans, and homes Joanna Gaines would be proud of. He desires only us, our wholehearted obedience and unflinching surrender to this worthy calling He has placed on our lives.

As we look to Him for our daily portion—to carry, sustain, and strengthen us in this season—we find ourselves transforming, too. Our own journey of growth not yet complete as He molds and changes us into the women He created us to be, continuing His legacy.

The season we are in may feel equally thankless and exhausting, messy and mundane. There will be hurt and heartbreak, disappointments and discipline. But we must not lose sight of the vision God has given us and its eternal significance. As legacy builders of God’s Kingdom, we must persevere because the harvest is coming. And oh, what joy there will be when it is time to reap!

“Those who shed tears as they plant will shout for joy when they reap the harvest” (Psalm 126:5, NET).

This article first appeared in the Redeem (Fall 2019) Issue of Joyful Life Magazine

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Fearfully and Wonderfully Made: Celebrating the Children God Gave Us

We took our seats at the large, rectangular table in the center of the meeting room, facing an imposing panel of educators and evaluators. As the chairperson cleared her throat and picked up the stack of papers with my daughter’s name at the top, we steeled ourselves for what she was about to say. 

What conclusions had they drawn from their gamut of testing? And what would it ultimately mean—for her education and for her future?

I wasn’t sure I wanted to find out. 

***

Almost exactly five years before, we stood in her newly painted, pink and gray nursery admiring our handiwork. There, on the wall above her crib, was the stencilled white lettering of Psalm 139:14:

“I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”

This chosen verse—and its placement directly above her bed—was no coincidence. For it was our deepest desire that from the very beginning, this child of ours would know who she was, and, more importantly, Whose she was: a beloved child of God, a masterpiece of the Father’s creation. We wanted her to be reminded of it every single day—from the moment she opened her eyes to the moment she laid her head down to sleep.

Yet, ironically, that verse I saw countless times during the long days and even longer nights of early motherhood, was placed there for the both of us. It turned out that in the months and years to come, I would need to be reminded of its truth just as much—if not more—than she would. 

NAVIGATING ‘NORMAL’

She made her debut into the world on a snowy February afternoon. A fierce, red-faced, intensely curious little thing with the bluest eyes I’d ever seen. And—landing herself back in the hospital at barely 3 weeks old with breathing and reflux issues—she soon made it clear this was not going to be an easy ride. A complete novice in the realm of motherhood, I immediately felt out of my depth, turning to the ‘experts’ to guide me through those turbulent first few months—experts my baby mostly ignored.

As she grew, however, more challenges continued to emerge—rigidity, picky eating, sensory aversions, social communication difficulties, gastrointestinal issues, night terrors, the list went on. Oh, she was downright spectacular in other ways too, of course—but more often than not I wasn’t focusing on ‘that.’ No, I was more concerned with what she ‘wasn’t doing’—the things that made her different from the rest, stand out from the crowd, and—I shamefully admit now—the things that made me stand out too.

I vividly remember at a birthday party one afternoon, trying to coax her unsuccessfully into joining the other children digging into their pizza and juice—how obvious her differences were. Driving home frustrated and a little heartbroken at yet another ‘typical’ experience she had missed out on, a haunting refrain echoed in my mind. 

Why can’t you just be like everyone else?

It wasn’t the first time I had thought such a thing, and it certainly wouldn’t be the last.

DEFINING DIFFERENT

Finally, after almost five years of wondering and worrying, we had an answer: Asperger’s Syndrome, or High-Functioning Autistic Spectrum Disorder as it’s otherwise known. 

There was relief, of course. A diagnosis would help us more effectively understand her mind, her behavior, and her world. It opened doors for support and services, and demanded a greater understanding and empathy from others in a way that hadn’t been possible before. But I also balked at the significance, permanence, and harsh repercussions of such a defining label.

A torrent of questions raged through my mind, threatening to pull me into a spiral of doubt, worry, and fear.

What would her future look like? Would she have meaningful relationships? How would she navigate school, college, and beyond? Would she be happy, fulfilled, and accepted just as she was?

And then I remembered the verse on the wall. The letters were peeling a little now, tarnished with age and wear, yet their message stood firm. A message that drew me back to the only One who could provide solace to me in these fearful moments—the One who had created her. 

FEARFULLY AND WONDERFULLY MADE

As I poured out my heart, surrendering my doubts, fears, and many tears into His Almighty hands, His response resounded in my mind with piercing clarity. He wasn’t worried—and neither should I be. She belonged to Him first, after all, as we read in Jeremiah 1:5:

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart” (NIV).

It was the jolt I needed to shift my perspective and start seeing my daughter through the eyes of her Creator. All this time, I’d been unwittingly viewing her through a lens of comparison, measuring her against unrealistic, worldly standards and my own misplaced expectations. Instead of delighting in her differences, I resented them or wished them away. I apologized for them, often downplaying them—and in doing so, inadvertently diminished her.

Yet, she was not merely a lump of clay created to fit the mold of this world. She was clay in the hands of the Master Potter—a Potter who molded her with tender love and exquisite care. He crafted every remarkable detail of her being, even down to the hairs on her head, with a purpose and a plan, and formed her in His image to reflect His glory and make her unique, indelible mark on the world. He intended her to shine His light brightly and unapologetically for all the world to see—in a way that only she could. And yet it was this very light that—in my quest for ‘normalcy’—I had been hiding under a bushel, lest someone might see it. 

I resolved then and there to celebrate her—every part of her—in the same way her Heavenly Father delighted over her with singing and great joy (Zephaniah 3:17). I decided to take pleasure in all that she was instead of all that she wasn’t and be filled with gratitude and joy at the beautiful, curious, smart, hilarious, creative child He had entrusted to my care. I was determined to finally stop trying to fit her into a mold that was never meant for her. 

And when I did, it freed us both.

DELIGHTING IN OUR DIFFERENCES

Maya Angelou once said: “If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be.”

For so long, I had regarded the traits that set my daughter apart as problems to solve or challenges to overcome. Instead, God began to show me they were treasures to be celebrated—gifts He used to reveal Himself, impact His kingdom, and gently transform my heart.

  • GOD USES OUR DIFFERENCES TO REVEAL HIMSELF

“So God created mankind in his own image, 

in the image of God he created them;

male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27, NIV). 

The Bible is clear: We are, each one of us, image-bearers of the God of the Universe. Each created in our own unique way to reflect the character and nature of the Living God. As the whole of creation sings His praises and declares His glory, so too, do we. 

We read in Romans 1:20: “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.”

My child’s creative, curious, gentle spirit; her compassion and empathy for all living things (especially those of the four-legged variety); her determination and drive; her zany sense of humor and infectious, abundant joy for life—they all point directly back to the Father. Her unique blend of characteristics reflect the different facets of the Father like a living, breathing kaleidoscope of color and light, through which I can see and experience Him in wonderful and surprising new ways.

We read in Isaiah 43:6b-7: “Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth, everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” My daughter was formed and made to reflect the glory of God. By dismissing her differences, I was, by default, dismissing Him; by embracing them, I was able to enter into a richer, fuller understanding of my God. And for that alone, I was truly thankful. 

  • GOD USES OUR DIFFERENCES TO IMPACT HIS KINGDOM

“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’” (Jeremiah 29:11, NIV).

As children of God, each one of us has been created with a plan and purpose in mind, divinely appointed to do “good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10, NIV). Our distinct personalities, passions, talents, and traits are no happy coincidence, but gifts He has given us in order to do His Kingdom work, and do it well (Romans 12:6). They are carefully designed tools, equipping us to touch the hearts and lives of the hurting, the hungry, the broken, and the lost with His message of hope, restoration, and life.

Therefore, as Paul concludes in Romans 12:4: since we find ourselves fashioned into all these excellently formed and marvelously functioning parts in Christ’s body, let’s just go ahead and be what we were made to be” (MSG).

Who was I to stop my daughter from being who she was made to be? She had been given a distinct voice within the symphony of heaven to reach and bless those around her, simply by being herself. And if I diminish that voice I diminish her and the vital Kingdom work God is doing in and through her.

Coco Chanel once said, “In order to be irreplaceable one must always be different.” If my daughter’s differences make her an irreplaceable servant for the Lord, there is no greater reason to celebrate them. 

  • GOD USES OUR DIFFERENCES TO TRANSFORM OUR HEARTS

“Do not conform yourselves to the standards of this world, but let God transform you inwardly by a complete change of your mind” (Romans 12:2, GNT).

Looking back, I had wasted so much precious time and energy attempting to conform my daughter to the worldly standards Paul warns us about in the Scriptures. But, for what? Why was it so important to me that she ‘fit in’? Why did it take me so long to embrace who she truly was?

One word: Pride.

Parenting a child with Autism forced me to confront my own sinful nature—to look deep inside the dark, hidden corners of my heart and bring my prideful motives out into the open. It forced me to clearly see the idols I was unwittingly bowing down to and the areas of my heart and life that were in desperate need of the transformative power of God.

It wasn’t my child that needed to change—it was me. And God knew it. He may have not given me the ‘perfect’ child—for such a child doesn’t exist—but He had given me the child that was perfect for me. One that would humble me, and lead me to seek God’s opinion first over anyone else. One that would direct me back to Him, seeking daily the strength, patience, and wisdom I needed to face every new challenge and parent this precious child with grace and love. Among so much more, through this daughter of mine, Christ would finally help loosen the chains of my striving and perfectionism, and help me find peace.

***

Parenting a child—any child—brings with it its own unique challenges. Being their advocate and their biggest cheerleader in a world full of people who simply don’t see them the way you do can be exhausting, defeating work. The pursuit of ‘normalcy’ can be an ever-present temptation.

Yet, repeatedly, God draws us back to His Word, inviting us to look upon our offspring with fresh eyes—with His eyes. For when we love them the way He loves us, we, in turn, point them back toward their Father, and show them who and Whose they truly are.

As I sat in that meeting room, holding my breath as the chairperson prepared to speak, I wanted more than anything for them to see my daughter as I saw her—fearfully and wonderfully made. To see the potential and possibilities in the midst of the challenges presented before them. To see her, as she truly was, and love her for it. 

And I wasn’t disappointed. 

“I just have to tell you before we start,” she began, “your daughter is simply a delight.” 

“I know,” I said with a smile. And this time, I truly believed it. 

This article first appeared in the Delight Issue of Joyful Life Magazine.

Photo by Pavel Danilyuk on Pexels.com

Light that Transforms

It was a dreary November morning, the trail we were walking devoid of all color and life. The clouds formed a thick, seemingly impenetrable blanket of gray above us, casting a gloomy shadow over the already desolate landscape. We, like the exposed, skeletal trees lining the river, shivered against the chilly late autumn wind as we headed back toward home.

And then all at once the landscape changed. The sun, flooding through a crack in the heavy sky, danced and sparkled across the blackness of the water. Barrenness transformed to beauty; desolation to delight.

What a difference the light can make.

God has been using the imagery of light to speak to my heart in this somewhat desolate season— Light that penetrates the darkness and overcomes it; Light that guides us through unknown seasons and shadowy landscapes; Light that transforms, not only our lives, but those of the people around us—if we will only allow it to filter through the darkness.

“Once your life was full of sin’s darkness, but now you have the very light of our Lord shining through you because of your union with him. Your mission is to live as children flooded with his revelation-light! And the supernatural fruits of his light will be seen in you—goodness, righteousness, and truth” (Ephesians‬ ‭5:7-9‬, TPT‬‬).

When the desolation of our current season threatens to overwhelm, let’s allow the Light—Jesus Himself—to break through the gloom; dancing across the deepest shadows of our heart, transforming what was once barren—dead even—into glorious beauty and fruit. Fruit that can, in turn, be a lamp to those around us who may be lost and struggling in the dark.

“Light is not so much something that reveals, as it is itself the revelation.” James Turrell

No matter how gloomy, how desolate the landscape of your life today, friend, look for the Light—and experience its supernatural power to transform.