For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.
For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.
Merry belated Christmas, friends! I hope (wanting something to be true) your Christmas was filled with peace, joy, gratitude, grace, and hope (a feeling of expectation).
Can you guess what I (Stephanie) am writing on today?
Although recovery is helping me break old, sometimes destructive, habits like making “worldly” New Years resolutions, normally at this time of year (basically half-way between Christmas and New Years), I’m making a mental and/or physical list of the changes I’m going to make in the new year. I’m thinking long and hard about the new happiness I’m going to obtain because: 1) I’m going to get “it” together (eye roll) and make those changes that are sure to bring me new happiness (eye roll again); and 2) I’m finally going to be content with the “things” (people and at least a few personality traits included) I have which will also result in new happiness. I’m also praying for God to give me “my word,” a word I will use to help some of the changes and, therefore, happiness, come to pass, for 2019. (Fyi, it looks like that word is going to be “acceptance,” though the word without the necessary prayer and guidance received through His Word are certainly needed for application).
Normally at this time of year, friends, I’m focused on my future.
Funny that this year I’m not thinking of what’s to come; I’m thinking about what has already passed.
So my dad (Poppa) and step-mom (Honey) came to spend Christmas with my family. They had never spent Christmas day with us, so I was especially excited that they were going to get to experience the joy and enthusiasm that comes with having little ones who still believe in Santa.
When Poppa and Honey arrived, my dad was eager to share some “treasures” he had retrieved from my grandmother and grandfather’s home. (My grandmother died several years ago, and my grandfather has congestive heart failure now and is in hospice care. Prayers are appreciated).
Several of my high school band concert programs, including the program for my final, senior concert were part of the treasures. There was also a high school newspaper with three articles I had written, which I had totally forgotten about. Memory lane, yes?
This picture was also part of the treasure “package”:
Check out the shoulder pads and those bangs that probably have about a can and a half of Rave hairspray keeping them up.
I’m thinking that I’m 14 in this picture, but although I don’t actually remember for sure when it was taken, I do know that it was taken when my parents were still married and my dad was completing a required internship at a Lutheran church for his Master of Divinity.
Ahhh the “life plan” I had concocted when this picture was taken—college degree by 22, married by 23, baby by 24.
The heart of
man plans his way,
but the Lord establishes his steps.
Strangely enough, since my mom (Grams) and step-dad (Pops) recently downsized to a patio home, when the boys and I visited Grams and Pops for Thanksgiving, she gave me a couple of other blasts from the past, including this “gem”:
Obviously hairspray was still an important part of my life at 17.
My parents were divorcing, and I was living with my dad the summer before my senior year when this picture was taken—although about half-way through my senior year I moved in with my mom. I’m wearing the necklace my dad had given my mom sometime during their first few years of marriage.
Angry, bitter, resentful, confused, heartbroken, lonely, depressed….
This picture doesn’t accurately portray what was in my heart at the time.
My dad had decided that a life pastoring a church was not for him; in fact, from my own perspective, it appeared that he had decided that a life with Jesus was not for him.
While my dad grappled with the loss of my mother and his fading faith, my mom was dating and living the life that a girl who marries at 15, has one child at 17 and the other at 19, never has the chance to experience—or so she said.
I spent a good bit of my senior year in the guidance office with my ONE friend—seriously, I had ONE friend—because it wasn’t unusual for me to burst into tears during American History or trigonometry.
BUT…I still held strong to my “life plan.”
The second “treasure” from my mom was my bridal portrait I had taken…for my first wedding:
28 years old.
I had survived one abusive relationship and several other less than stellar relationships which resulted in even more anger, bitterness, resentment, etc., etc., etc.; gotten a bachelor’s and master’s degree; broken-up with another highly questionable boyfriend; moved to Florida to find “the one,” failed miserably in Florida (because I didn’t find “the one”); gotten back together with the highly questionable boyfriend; opened a business with the highly questionable boyfriend; and married the highly questionable boyfriend….
So there were some hiccups in my life plan. Clearly the timeline was slightly off, BUT…if you’re really determined, you can bring your plans to fruition, yes?
still the vision awaits its appointed time;
it hastens to the end—it will not lie.
If it seems slow, wait for it;
it will surely come; it will not delay.
I know I’ve already shared the “praying-for-peace”-and-a-year-and-a-half-later-God-gave-me-David Peace-story that was the result of the separation and eventual divorce from former highly questionable boyfriend-turned-husband.
Today I’d like to share the second part of that story.
Sitting on my dad’s stoop, waiting to go remove “me” from the house my husband and I had just purchased two weeks before, sobbing, praying for peace in my life (meaning everything and everyone around me is cool, calm, and collected), God spoke to me:
“I’m going to bless you more than you could ever imagine….”
Friends, I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that my tears dried up like a faucet being turned off; one minute they were there, and the next, they were gone.
so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
I was 33 when I was offered my first “dream job;” 33 when I married David; just 13 days shy of 35 when I had David Lawrence; 36 when David and I purchased our home; 38 when I had Caleb; 40 when I was offered my current “dream job;” 41 when we were invited to and attended Celebrate Recovery and when we found our Temple Church family a few months later; 41 when God placed a trusted group of friends in my life who would help me walk by faith, receive God’s grace, and experience the joy of the Lord (among other things); and 42 (it was, in fact, the day of my 42nd birthday) when Share His Peace went “live” and I posted my first Monday Mayhem.
And intermingled with the seemingly external-only God-given life blessings are the internal God-given life blessings that I hope you have at least caught a glimpse of as you have read each of my posts—the healing, the restoration, the refinement, the redemption, the deliverance, the forgiveness, all sprinkled with an overabundance of His mercy, glory, and victory.
And 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.
But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you,not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.
Friends, I can’t say that my life in the past decade (x 4) has been all peaches and cream or sunshine and rainbows or any other tired cliché you can think of. And unfortunately, I can’t say that I’ve always placed my hope in Him.
BUT…what I can tell you is that He has always been faithful to me, extending me undeserved grace time and time again, and truly blessing me more than I deserve or could have ever imagined.
Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.
This Christmas, more than any other time in the last decade (x 4), I have overwhelmingly felt the fulfillment of His all-encompassing promise to me, and I have thought about how amazing it is that all of the hope I’ve ever had or will ever have, once lay in a manger in a stable….
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.
Pray with me, friends:
We praise you for the unconditional, never ending love that you showed us when you sent your son: to begin his earthly life in a manger; to teach us about faith, hope, love, forgiveness, and grace; to endure unimaginable suffering; to bear our sins on the Cross so that we might be saved; and to be resurrected so that we can have everlasting hope. Your plans for us are so much better than our plans for ourselves, Lord. You alone know what we truly need. Thank you for your patience as we came/come to realize how much we need you. Help us to trust that all of our life happenings are blessings, even if in the moment they don’t appear to be. Help us to trust that your timing is perfect, and open our hearts to your will, Lord.
In Jesus’s Name,
Join Jamie next Friday as she wraps up our spiritual virtues series.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:13, ESV).