When You Need to Remember


Photo courtesy of Unsplash. Photo credit TJ Holowaychuk.

My husband, Mr. Dreamer, loves this time of year with its resolutions and new beginnings; I, Mrs. Over-analytic and Fearful, find the whole new-year-new-you thing kind of exhausting. Scary. Overwhelming. We have a running joke in our marriage: Kevin likes to live in the future; I can’t get out of the past—so somewhere, between the two of us, we find a way to live in the present.

Every January, we get pummeled by the same message: Look ahead! Dream big! Pray brave! But sometimes it’s hard to look ahead. Tiring to dream big. Scary to pray brave.

And that’s where remembering comes in. Remembering what God has already done: love already shown, gifts already given, prayers already answered. Sometimes we become so consumed with the future, so eager to move on to the Next Big Thing, that we forget to celebrate what God has already done. The astounding miracles we have already witnessed. The crazy prayers that have already been answered. The progress we have already made—imperfect progress, sure; incomplete progress, yes; but still—progress! Forward motion! Growth!

The other night we had a fun talk as a family. We intended to make a list of family prayers for the new year, but then we went off on a tangent. Kevin and I started telling the kids our favorite stories about times when God has answered crazy prayers for us—prayers that once felt impossible. We talked about everything from our miracle Christmas baby story after years of infertility (a story the kids have already heard ten thousand times and will hear ten thousand more because it’s the greatest God story of our lives); to the time when, after decades of unbelief, Kevin’s beloved relative turned to God, thanks to a run-in with a falling oak tree; to the “smaller” stories, like a time when we were working like crazy but still couldn’t pay our bills, and Kevin and I both secretly and independently begged God to mail us money—and when we went to the mailbox there was a check for the exact amount we needed!


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How to Find God—and Joy—When Life Is Hard


Reliving these stories, the miracles big and small, was a powerful reminder for me and Kevin, a reminder that we have already seen God perform staggering, “HOW DID HE DO THAT?!” deeds many times; a reminder that even when the road ahead feels scary, our problems overwhelming and impossible, we already have so many reasons for great faith. . . It made me—me! faithless, scaredy-cat me!—get excited about daring to write down big prayers for the new year. It made me faithful that the powerful God who has done great things in the past can—and will—do great things once more—in His own time, in His own way. It made me confident that God hears us even when His answers come more slowly—or in different form—than we had imagined. And it reminded me just how loved—how deeply, personally loved—we are by our heavenly Father. Best of all, as we recounted these stories, we watched faith light in our kids’ eyes. I could see their faith blooming even as we spoke. They laughed, they grew wide-eyed, they stood in awe of God.

As you ponder your hopes and prayers and needs for the new year, I hope you’ll first take an hour to sit down and remember. To remember all the prayers God has already answered, all the miracles you have already seen. To celebrate and thank Him once more for gifts already given. To bask in His love, which He has proven time and again. If you have children, sit them down and tell them your God stories in the spirit of Exodus 13:14: “In days to come, when your son asks you, ‘What does this mean?’ say to him, ‘With a mighty hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.'”

When all that is done, then you’ll be ready to start dreaming for the future, drawing hope and faith and confidence from what God has already done for you.

As for me, I will always have hope;
I will praise you more and more.

My mouth will tell of your righteous deeds,
of your saving acts all day long—
though I know not how to relate them all.
I will come and proclaim your mighty acts, Sovereign Lord;
I will proclaim your righteous deeds, yours alone. Psalm 71:14–16


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When Waiting Is Quiet


when waiting is quiet

I’m sitting in the doctor’s waiting room, magazine in hand. The room is filled with people, but they’re unnaturally quiet—so quiet I can hear the clock on the wall marking lost time…all the wasted life I’ll never get back because I spent it breathing stale air in this crowded room.

I flip a page and stifle a snort: another celebrity has lost all her pregnancy weight in three days, and if I’ll only hire myself a personal chef who serves me a delicious diet of kale, chia seeds, and fresh fish imported by helicopter from Siberia and then boiled in colostrum and coconut water, I too can sport a postpartum six-pack. For the hundredth time, I wish I’d thought ahead and brought my computer—or at least a good book.

A nurse opens the swinging door with a whoosh, and everyone in the room looks up expectantly. I think I see a lady near the door slipping a fiver into the nurse’s hand, as if she can bribe her way to the top of the list.

“Mrs. Smith?” calls the nurse. Everyone not named Mrs. Smith heaves a despairing sigh. Mrs. Smith leaps up with a grin so broad you’d think she’d just been named the next contestant on “The Price Is Right.” (You know you’ve been waiting forever when going in to face the gynecologist with all her evil torture devices feels like an improvement on your situation.) I can’t decide if I want to offer Mrs. Smith a congratulatory high-five or shoot her an envious glare. The room falls silent. I go back to my magazine and mind-numbing stagnation.

Some waiting seasons are active, jerking us up and down and all around, keeping us guessing, dragging us through wild detours that may be insane but at least keep life exciting. As we wait for The Thing we want, we may be terrified out of our minds, wondering what twist awaits around the next curve, but at least we’re moving; at least we’re doing something!

But then you have the other kind of waiting season: The quiet kind. The monotonous kind. The boring kind. The kind when we’re stuck in life’s waiting room, in between phases, where nothing ever happens and nothing ever changes. Life feels useless, meaningless, a song stuck on repeat. Every day the same: Same old classes, same old job, same old apartment. How we wish things would change, how we long for the next thing—The Thing we are convinced we cannot be happy without…but The Thing won’t come. Life won’t change.


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How to wait on God via @lizzylit

In times like this, we face a choice: We can either sit there filling our time with empty, brainless things—reading magazines about other people’s lives, scrolling through Instagram pictures of everyone else’s Big Exciting Adventures… or we can fill our own time in meaningful ways. We can find ways to use the “down time,” the life in-between, with purpose. But how do we do that? Find purpose in pauses?

We don’t often think of Him this way, but Jesus was no stranger to waiting. In a way, He spent His whole life waiting: Waiting for the cross, the day of suffering that haunted his future like a daily shadow. Waiting to be set free from this broken world and His soon-to-be broken body. Waiting to return home to heaven and be reunited with His Father.

How did Jesus fill His waiting days? Not worrying about Himself or His own needs—no, He filled His days with service. With love. With constant communion with the Father He missed. We too can fill our in-between days by walking in His ways. By finding people to serve, needs to meet, ways to give.

In Luke 9:23–24 Jesus tells us, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it” (NLT). It’s not easy, but selflessness is the way of Christ. The way of purpose and meaning. Selfishness leads only to frustration and discontentment.

Let’s find people to serve, needs to meet and ways to give, even while we wait. If we reach out to comfort or befriend, to serve or to save even one soul while we’re waiting, this time is not lost. Waiting time need not be wasted life. We can redeem waiting times by giving them to God, so that when our name is finally called and our time in the waiting room is over (hallelujah), we can dance out of the waiting room feeling great about how we spent our time there. We might even high-five a few new friends on the way out.

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My new Instagram account, where I post lots of thoughts about waiting on God!

 

 

 

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The One She Needed to Write


when you're struggling with infertility

Today’s post comes from my I-love-her-too-much-for-words baby sister, Alexandra Ghoman. (Who is not a baby anymore, but still.) Alexandra blogs at A Loves J about life as a not-so-newlywed, touching on topics as varied as faith, fashion, family, an adorable dog named Huckleberry, and the occasional semi-sarcastic guide to cruises. When she was still just a teenager, wise-beyond-her-years Alexandra was a great comfort to me during the years when we couldn’t get pregnant. I’m sorry to say I am now returning the favor. If you, or friends you know, are experiencing infertility, know this: You are not alone. God hears; God sees; God cares.

The One She Needed to Write

by Alexandra Ghoman

she’s here

she’s a woman caught between stages. she’s fixed somewhere between just married and happily ever after. she’s not sure who she is. she’s not sure who she’s becoming. she’s unrecognizable. she’s ever-changing. she’s ever the same. she’s defined by this. she’s undefined. she’s all the things. she’s none of them. there’s a chance she’s crazy.

she hurts

she feels dramatic. she hates that. she wants to pray. she cries instead. when she cries, it’s not soft and sweet. it’s snotty, red-faced, and audible. she feels embarrassed. but she feels a little better when she stops.

she aches

she goes on living. breathing in, breathing out. she listens to friends. she congratulates good news. she smiles. she laughs. she aches and she aches. she answers “fine.” she means it sometimes. other times, fine is a fine line. but overall, she’s fine.

she longs

she doesn’t want the moon. she doesn’t crave the stars. she daydreams of normal. she dreams of no meds, no shots, no incessant blood tests. she dreams of pink lines and plus signs, nausea and swollen ankles, booties and sleep-deprivation. she vows to savor. she vows to never complain. she makes promises she knows she can’t keep. she does it anyway.

she waits

nothing is bad. it’s more the absence of good. she has seen what could be. she has felt what might be. she wishes it came easy. she wonders if it’s her fault. she wonders if God knows, if God cares. she wonders what he’s doing up there. she keeps going. she keeps praying. she keeps going.

she wonders

she meditates on His promises. she wonders what it all means. she holds on for dear life. she rides the waves of uncertainty. she fixes her eyes on the Father. she paints his or her face in her mind. wondering what kind of special human is being prepared in the heavens. she thinks it must be someone special. someone she can’t wait to meet. someone she’s always known.

this is me

infertility

A and J

You can find Alexandra at A Loves J, on Instagram, and on Twitter

article about infertility

 


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Outshine the Dark


A story of hope in the everyday, via @lizzylit

Images courtesy of Pixabay

I was third in line at Sam’s Club behind two other women, and the line was taking even longer than the usual inch-forward-one-decade-at-a-time pace. At first I was preoccupied, trying to keep my two-year-old from wreaking havoc while we waited. (She likes to peakaboo dance on the boiled peanuts near the registers. Boiled peanuts, you ask? A glorious Southern food, though you should never buy it canned—only from roadside stands, or at football games.)

kids in grocery stores via @lizzylit

At last I realized the reason for the delay: the customer attempting to pay for her groceries was having trouble with her card. Trouble of the no-money-in-the-bank-account kind. She didn’t speak much English, so the embarrassed cashier was having difficulty explaining the problem.

And that’s when it happened.

The woman in front of me waved to the cashier and mouthed, “I got it. Take my card.” And just like that, she handed her card to the astonished cashier and paid for the other woman’s groceries.

At the end of it all, I couldn’t decide who was smiling bigger—the woman who received an unexpected gift from a stranger, the woman with the heart of gold, or the woman behind them, watching the scene unfold.

I know the world is full of heartache and darkness, but there’s light, too. Kindness. Generosity. Sacrifice. And it’s all around us, if only we take time to see.

At home.

At work.

In coffee shops.

On playgrounds.

In grocery store lines.

As Dostoyevsky wrote, “The darker the night, the brighter the stars. The deeper the grief, the closer is God.” I’m not blind to the evil in the world, but I choose to keep my eyes on the stars, the people bright shining . . . and the One who put them there. Won’t you join me?

In him was light, and that light was the life of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. –John 1:4

Seeing the good in the world via @lizzylit


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Life Lessons from the We Buy Gold Guy


I have a new hero.

The first time I drove past him, it was 11:00 on a brutal August morning in Georgia. The heat and humidity had already exceeded the Dangerous for Old People and Sensitive Writers level—it felt like walking around the inside of a dragon’s mouth, being steam-boiled alive. This time of year, in deliberate over-compensation, I crank the AC in my minivan so high that it’s like the North Pole on wheels.

As my children and I shivered in our van at a busy intersection, waiting for the light to change, I spotted him holding court on the sidewalk in front of a decaying strip mall. I don’t know his name, but I’ll always think of him as the We Buy Gold Guy. He was a stocky white kid, maybe in his early twenties; his baseball cap was cocked at a jaunty sideways tilt, and he held a gaudy gold sign in the shape of an arrow. Large black letters screamed, “We Buy Gold!”

Sign-holders like this guy have been, for me, one of the most memorable—well, signs—of the recent recession. I’ve seen dozens of people holding signs like this one during the past few years: Close-Out Sale! Debt Solutions! $5 Pizza! I always feel a jolt of sympathy for the poor sign-holders. How miserable they look, standing on the side of the road for hours, braving the heat, the cold, the rain—surely these people have fantastic talents, big dreams for their futures—and yet a miserable job market has forced them to spend hours of life waving signs at passing drivers, who are too busy yakking on cell phones to bother sparing them a glance. Some of the sign-holders stand there, enthusiastic as dead-eyed zombies; a few give their signs a weary wiggle every so often; all are clearly counting the minutes until their sentence is complete.

But the We Buy Gold Guy was different. The dude was dancing—not just pumping the sign up and down halfheartedly, like, “Hey, they’re paying me minimum wage to shake this sign and grow skin cancer out here”—but seriously jamming, like he was out to win “Dancing with the Stars.” We’re talking Michael Jackson smoothness, and awesome behind-the-back tricks, spinning and tossing his sign like a baton-twirler in a parade, all to the beat of the old-school boom box sitting at his feet. My jaw dropped open in awe, not just in envy of his rhythmic prowess, but in amazement at his pure enthusiasm, his unbridled joie de vivre. I couldn’t help but grin. (For more on my minivan socializing habits, see The Biker Wave.)

I smiled and chuckled the rest of the way home.

I drove by him again a few days later—the heat was even worse, and yet the We Buy Gold Guy was still out there, break dancing to his own music as the world drove past. Nobody clapped, nobody honked, nobody tossed coins in a hat at his feet. He danced for the sheer joy of it, because hey—if you have to hold a stupid sign on the side of the road, you might as well do it right.

I want to be like that guy. Really, I do. I don’t care what the world throws at me—minimum wage job, spine-melting heat, stinky exhaust fumes—I only get one life, only so many summers, falls, winters, springs, and I don’t want to waste a single minute. I want to live with abandon, dance my rhythm-less heart out no matter who’s watching, make my own party wherever I go. We only get one shot—we might as well dance.