We all endure trials. Some so intense, lengthy, or heartwrenching we fear we won’t make it out alive. We cannot live very long without facing hardship, such is the nature of life on earth.
This past week, my new devotional, Soul Focus, on the theme of trials was released. It’s close to my heart because this book was birthed out of my own period of pain, and is the fruit of over ten years of devotional writing, blogging, and prayer journaling.
It’s an offering of comfort whether you find yourself in the midst of a trial or are facing the mourning process that comes after. Inside, I offer personal examples as a reminder that you’re not alone.
It was written with the intention to kindle hope during times when it seems your prayers are unanswered, when you wonder if God has stopped listening to you, or when you fear he has forgotten you. I have included journaling pages throughout for personal reflections as you journey through this month of daily encouragements.
Tonight, I’m hosting an event at my church for Soul Focus entitled, An Evening of Hopeful Stories. Three others and I—in an act of vulnerability and sacred solidarity—will share our stories of struggle. I’m hopeful that all who come will feel greatly encouraged and leave with renewed hope.
If you’re nearby, the doors are open! If far, I hope you will be reminded that God hasn’t left you to navigate this trial alone. He is with you. He has never left you.
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6
An Evening of Hopeful Stories:
November 18th at 6:45PM, Knox Galt, 2 Grand Ave S, Cambridge, ON
This past Tuesday, a life-long dream of mine came to fruition. My debut novel was released. The very same evening a supportive crowd of approximately eighty family and friends gathered to celebrate my book launch.
The scene was surreal. The room was full of people from all different facets of my life all gathered in one place. I was flitting around the room working hard to bury my nervousness.
It’s one thing to write a book, but quite another to release it to the world. All the while I was tapping out words on my laptop, editing streams of sentences, and pouring over various details, I was secure in my creative bubble. Now the book was launching and would be in the hands of readers, I felt a little exposed.
The evening flowed beautifully and the enthusiasm of the gathered crowd encouraged me. I explained the book’s inception, my writing process, and offered details about the characters and themes. I enjoyed reading excerpts and left time for questions.
My mom and I
My dad and I
My spiritual mom and I
My publicist had encouraged me to take a moment at the launch to look around the room, soak it all in, and ponder the gravity of what I had accomplished. I was attempting to do that between conversations, photo ops, and a trip to the bathroom to pray! I finally managed to take that moment just before I began to speak. I scanned the room, seeing the faces of the seated guests, and smiled. How is it that they all came here for me?
What struck me the most wasn’t so much my accomplishment, but how blessed I am to have these dear souls in my life. When you really think about it, what would anything big in our lives be without others to celebrate with? To laugh with, cry with, to be silly with, or to accompany us through the hard bits of life? The people in the room represented love to me. A packed roomful of love.
And there was something else. When I finished speaking, I exited the room to make my way to the signing table. Seated just outside the room was our pastor. Having had another engagement that night, he had come late to the launch and sat outside so as not to disturb the presentation. I can barely explain how much comfort and support his presence offered at that moment, but seeing him seated there was so beautiful.
It struck me as a picture of Jesus. I envision him sitting nearby, his steady, comforting presence celebrating in our midsts and cheering me on. And truth be told, he was there. His presence among my friends, weaving through our conversation, amid my whispered bathroom prayers, and on the empty stool as I read from the book he helped me write. And like my gathered guests and their show of affection, my book would be nothing to celebrate without my Saviour.
We can do a great many things in this life. We may write a book, receive a special award, earn multiple degrees, reach all our goals, but for me, it would be empty and futile if I didn’t know Jesus. His sacrificed life saved me. His offered love changed me. His spirit helps me. His presence comforts me.
He gave everything and in doing so gave me life.
My daughter and I
My son and daughter
I’m thankful for God’s grace, and all the dear people he has seen fit to tuck into my life. Those I’m honoured to journey with and celebrate life’s events alongside, and with whom I’m privileged to help bear a burden or who help carry mine. As hard as this life can be, there’s much beauty in our midst. Sometimes we just need to take a moment, look around us, soak it all in, and ponder its gravity.
My sister and I
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)
Life is full of disappointments, hurts and hardship. When our lives don’t unfold as planned, it’s easy to become discouraged. Below are a few thoughts to encourage you to not give up, to keep going, to persevere through whatever you are facing today.
That you would always keep your joy and wonder.
That you would continue to dream big.
That you wouldn’t allow others to dilute your dreams,
Or let obstacles or disappointments crowd out those dreams—
Even when you must scale the mountain or take the long route around.
If some scoff at your goals—say it’s a long shot or that it can’t be done—smile, disregard their lack of faith, and keep going.
Someone needs to persevere. It may as well be you.
Nothing worthwhile comes without dogged effort. No effort is wasted.
Fight fear with faith.
Be brave; bring courage with you wherever you go.
Keep trying hard things.
If you fail, you’ve learned something priceless.
Be patient and kind to yourself and others.
Forgive quickly so you remain free.
Choose to remain positive—
Don’t allow the negative voices or treatment of others to detract from what you know to be true and good and right.
When hurt, embrace the hard work of healing.
Use your unique skills, knowledge, intellect, voice, talents, and resources to help those around you, to influence and change the world for good, and to glorify God.
Keep your sense of humour. Don’t take yourself too seriously, but be serious about your intentions and integrity.
Remember life is not a sprint; it’s a marathon. Not everything will happen instantly.
Keep your eyes on the finish line, but enjoy the scenery on route—
Life is composed of all the moments made while you move forwards and reach your goals. Don’t miss or mistake these moments that matter for distractions;
The main event is never really the main event; it’s all the bits between.
Be thankful for everything. Even the hardships—they make you beautiful, strong, and mature.
God is your help and is cheering you on.
He has a plan.
Trust Him in everything.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” ~ Jeremiah 29:11
What discouragements are you struggling with today?
Bring them to God, hand them over to him in prayer, and find his comfort, help, and peace in your time of need.
I call her my spiritual mom. We aren’t linked biologically but through the things of God. She’s been a constant in my life for over ten years, and we’ve shared many conversations and events. Without meaning to, or possibly knowing she has, Nancy has taught me many things. I thought it would be insightful to share these priceless morsels. It may sound like I’m bragging, but bear with me. I’m hoping one or two might be meaningful to you!
Eighteen years ago, I embarked on an unlikely journey of teaching my children at home. I only planned to continue until they reached high school, but the three oldest chose to home school through grade 12.
We learned a lot of things during those years, but what sticks with me the most isn’t the multitude of things we gleaned from books, but the things we discovered about life and ourselves. Those years weren’t always easy. Life still happened. And though I was far from a perfect teacher or mother, we came out the other side loving and respecting each other. Today, I am humbled and blessed by the close relationships we share.
Below is a random list of some things I learned. I’m sure I can’t think of everything, but these are a few that easily came to mind. Although it refers to our home schooling journey, I have a feeling you’ll be able to relate, or, at the very least, may find it an encouragement!
52 Things I Learned From Home Schooling:
1. Show up, even when you don’t feel like it.
2. Any effort is better than none. It all compiles.
3. Bear with one another.
4. Patience is necessary – it grows when exercised.
5. If it’s not working, try harder. If it’s still not working, try a different approach.
6. Meant to and actually doing the job are two very different things.
7. It’s hard, but nothing worthwhile is ever easy.
8. Quitting isn’t an option. Redirecting your effort is.
9. There’s no such thing as perfection, but hard work, perseverance, and a good attitude are a close second.
10. Don’t compare yourself to others or you risk feeling both inadequate and missing what you were created for.
11. Laugh. Cry. Start again.
12. Speak truth when needed.
13. Don’t worry about what others think.
14. Character, integrity, and wisdom are more valuable than all the knowledge in the world. There are plenty of intelligent jerks.
15. Figure out what your passions are and build on those.
16. Nothing is wasted. No effort, trial, or experience.
17. Put down the books, leave the work, and go outside.
18. Play often.
19. Be kind. Speak gently. Smile freely.
20. Not everyone will agree with you. That’s okay. Accept your differences.
21. Make your encouragements more prolific than your critiques.
22. Those entrusted to you rise to your expectations. Set the bar achievably high.
23. Forgive yourself and keep moving forward.
24. Even if it’s difficult, monotonous, or thankless, you are still making headway.
25. Nothing stays the same forever. Cherish now.
26. Life has seasons. Learn what you can from each one.
27. Read beautiful stories out loud to your kids.
28. Besides God, be your child’s biggest cheerleader.
29. Expect the best in others.
30. Catch your kids doing good.
31. Tell your kids what you like about them, and about the good you see in them.
32. Keep hugging your children even if they appear to no longer appreciate it.
33. A little mess won’t kill you.
34. Say sorry when you’re wrong, then ask for forgiveness.
35. What you do speaks louder than what you say.
36. Talk your kids openly about your faith and failures.
37. Let them work alongside you so they learn from you.
38. Help your children see the beauty in nature and in other human beings.
39. If possible, travel with your children. These experiences offer priceless bonding and provide hands-on experience they won’t get from books.
40. Teach them to serve others so they won’t be self-serving, but compassionate.
41. Guide, don’t control.
42. They aren’t you. Don’t try to make them be. Give them ample space to be who they were created to be. Celebrate their individuality.
43. Take each child out on one-on-ones. You get to know them better this way.
44. Love your spouse.
45. Set clear boundaries and stick to them.
46. Help them form strong habits to achieve their goals.
47. Champion their dreams.
48. Let them make mistakes.
49. Don’t do for them what they can do for themselves.
51. Let your children go and be the miraculous humans God made them to be. It was always the end goal.
52. Choose love first, always.
“Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony.”
People who are mad at God aren’t always truly mad at God – they’re angry at a person or system linked to God.
That system or person failed them in some way, and because it somehow represented God to them, they transfer ownership for the wrongdoing to God. Even though God didn’t deal the blow, He’s been made responsible for it.
Disillusioned, the wounded leave the faith and walk away from God, carrying deep pain and anger with them for years. What’s sad about this misrepresentation is they miss the true nature of God.
Religious systems and religious people are imperfect. They fail. They sin. The sin harms. The harm hurts. The hurt runs deep.
If you’re reading this and you’ve been hurt in this way, I want to say sorry on behalf of the people who caused you harm. But I also want to encourage you that they are not God. God is love and His love never fails (1 John 4:8; Psalm 136). Although you may feel you want no part of God if this is how He looks, don’t mistakenly bundle God’s infallible character with the flawed character or behaviour of human beings.
What they said or did, or failed to say or do, is no reflection of the true nature of God. I hazard a guess that God is deeply saddened when people leave Him on account of people. He understands this kind of pain and is likewise pained when His relationship with those who have been wounded is fragmented. He offers healing, counsel, direction, and the gifts of deep love, joy, and peace; being severed from Him doesn’t afford these pleasures.
Sometimes the anger toward God isn’t misplaced. Instead, the wounded one isn’t mistakenly blaming God but rather asking why God let it happen. As difficult as this is to absorb, we’re not often privy to these kinds of answers. Sometimes, we merely need to trust. That’s where faith comes in.
Can you believe in a God who doesn’t always tell you why? Who allows hurts this side of heaven? Who isn’t a divine Genie? Bad stuff happens to good and “bad” people alike. We aren’t living in heaven…yet. We just have to trust, even when it doesn’t make sense.
Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge. Psalm 62:8
“So let God work his will in you. Yell a loud no to the Devil and watch him scamper. Say a quiet yes to God and he’ll be there in no time…Get down on your knees before the Master; it’s the only way you’ll get on your feet.” James 4:8-10 (Message)
Let’s not make it about people, but about God. He’s trustworthy, perfect, and loves us unconditionally. Let Him heal your broken heart and bind up your wounds. (Psalm 147:3)
May you have the courage to trust God despite the wounding.
Make a list of those who have wounded you.
Can you forgive them one-by-one? Can you forgive God for allowing it? Return to God and ask for forgiveness for your anger, knowing He is quick to forgive, then rest in Him believing it’s done.
In the fall of 2014, I had an idea. I would make a list of important things I wanted my children to know. Being a serious list-maker in general, this idea posed a fun and interesting challenge. Before I knew it, the list grew to over thirty items. Then, each day I posted a thought for them until they were all used up.
This week I’m branching off slightly from my regular devotional to share my “Thirty-three Days of Thoughts” in hopes that it might inspire you and your loved ones as well. Enjoy!
Every day is a gift; enjoy the unwrapping.
Dreams are the flight path to beautiful realities.
Be merciful; you never know the mountains others have scaled.
Whether insult or praise, linger briefly on what others say of you.
A well-timed hug removes the need for words.
Spend time with those you love, even when you have no time.
Do what is right, even if no one else is.
Finish what you start; it builds character.
Be kind and expect nothing in return.
Words are powerful; use them wisely.
Nothing worth attaining is easy.
Smile at passing strangers, especially children, teenagers, and the elderly – you make them feel less invisible.
Respect yourself and others in word and deed.
Be gracious to everyone whether they deserve it or not.
Believe in miracles.
Stop and smell the roses; literally and figuratively.
Forgive AND bless your enemies.
Try difficult things.
There is no suitable substitute for hard work.
Keep your word.
Things need to be broken in order to be fixed.
Joy can be found even amid the darkest days.
Choose to be thankful; especially in trials.
Be a faithful friend.
Do good when no one is looking.
Be honest, even if it hurts.
Say I love you, often.
Say I’m sorry when you are wrong.
Listen more than you speak.
Be slow to get angry and quick to forgive.
Be willing to go last.
Put God first.
And one more thought written as a blessing over you:
May you measure your worth not so much by who you or others say you are but rather by Whose you are!