Book Anniversary for Jayne’s Endeavour

One thing I love about starting a blog, is that I can post whenever and whatever I like! And today, I just want to drop a quick line telling you about another friend’s book anniversary and some fun things she’s doing over on her blog!

I met Lauren not quite a year ago at King’s Daughters Writing Camp, which is another (LONG) and really good story . . . Lauren had just published her debut novel at the time, an Australian historical fiction adventure which I had the chance to review last August. (You can find my review here.) It was full of delightfully interesting “Australian” details, and an exciting sequence of adventures, through which the main character learned beautiful lessons about God’s provision and love for orphans.

Well, this week is the book anniversary for Jayne’s Endeavour, and Lauren has some fun things going on over on her blog, as well as a sale if you happen to live in the US or Australia! (Sorry fellow-Canadians, I feel your pain!)

Anyway, if you enjoy giveaways or quizzes (yeah – you can try to answer the quiz even if you haven’t read the book, because with multiple choice, you’ve still got a chance of getting SOME of the answers right!) make sure to check out Lauren’s anniversary post, and if you live in the US, you might want to grab the book on sale, too!

Light is Dawning

Five years ago, I think I would have said the light was dawning.

It had been a hard five years previous—perhaps the hardest I’d ever known. For almost the entirety of it, I had been sicker than I’d ever been before in my life, and for a good three-and-a-half years, I’d been without a church also.

There had been good things—things I still feel had a major impact on my future life—but it was hard to see them at the time.

Now, with a new house, a new city, new access to dozens of churches, and a hope of finally recovering some of my lost health—things looked like they were getting better.

And that’s where I found myself one bright and glorious Sunday May 22nd morning—five years ago yesterday—driving down a gravel road to a church I didn’t even know if I wanted to visit, wondering if it would be the answer to all my dreams and questions.

I was right—the light was dawning. But I had absolutely no idea what lay ahead.

The five years that followed have been, without question, the hardest of my life. Yes—not even excluding the five years that went before.

I thought I knew what “hard” looked like—but these last five years have taught me otherwise. Like waves on the seashore, problem after problem, struggle after struggle has swept over me, leaving me no time to recover. I couldn’t list all the things that have made it hard—I don’t think I’d want to even if you would have the patience to listen to the narration.

If it’s true that “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” than I should be pretty strong by now. Because I’m still alive. Because I’m still growing. Because God never let go of me.

But sometimes, I don’t really feel that these years have made me stronger. Sometimes I feel like they’ve shattered the last pieces of me that survived the years before. Sometimes I feel like there’s never an end, and the light will never be more than a distant spark in the distance—a deceitful star of hope beckoning me on to a world of light that doesn’t really exist.

Oh, I know that sounds terrible. It really does. I don’t believe it—not really—but sometimes I think it all the same.

But there’s another side to the story.

Oh, I’m not pretending the darkness away—I wouldn’t dream of it. There is absolutely no consolation in pretending trouble doesn’t exist.

But I think—after all—I was right when I thought the light was dawning.

That out-of-the-way country church has become a home to me. There have been rough spots—I’m the first to admit it. But in so many ways, it became the doorway to the life God had planned for me all along.

I can’t list all the ways God has blessed me through the people I found there—or the people that have joined me there since. But I can say that every dream I now possess for my future has been directly and majorly impacted by the journey that began five years ago yesterday, and I can never thank God enough for each of the wonderful people He has brought into my life through it.

But the light didn’t dawn in the ways I expected it to. It didn’t banish all my problems, or bring an unclouded sky over my head in one swift sweep of fortune. It didn’t mean the road was any less rocky, or that tears never fell, or that weary feet never stumbled on the long journey home.

No.

But then—it didn’t promise that, did it?

The light that dawned, dawned in my heart, and though earthly hands were enabled by the grace of God to have a part to play in kindling it, it didn’t mean the carefree, trouble-less life I thought it would.

The last five years have been the hardest of my life. But they’ve also been the most rewarding. When I look back at who I was five years ago, and all the ways Light has been victorious in my life since—I can only say, “Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift!”

Right now, there’s a part of me that would like to think the light is dawning. It’s been a hard five years—the hardest I’ve ever known.

And as I look out into the coming years, I want to imagine vistas of light and beauty and freedom.

Maybe I’ll find them in the years that are coming.

But maybe I’ll find that light dawns in the midst of darkness—that the way is still rocky, that the tears still fall, that weary feet still stumble on the long journey home.

But I believe, with all my heart, that the Light—the “true Light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world” shall dawn in my heart, and make these next hardest five years of my life the most rewarding, most beautiful years I have ever known.

“For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.” – 2 Corinthians 4:6,7

Surrender’s Strength Cover Reveal!

I’m very excited to be part of the cover reveal for Erika Mathews’ new book, Surrender’s Strength (Truth from Taerna Book Three)!!

As a beta-reader for this project, I’m currently enjoying the opportunity to read the book early and I’m eager to see where the story is going to take me! Both of the previous books in the series have changed my life and outlook in so many ways, and I’m looking forward to learning new lessons and beautiful truths this time around! This book might just be the best one in the series so far!

And today I’m happy to tell you that Surrender’s Strength is available for preorder in EBOOK and SIGNED PAPERBACK! It’s releasing on July 19th, 2021!

ABOUT THE BOOK

Her only ambition is keeping her old familiar identity. 

But she isn’t given that choice.

Ever since her mother’s death, all Laelara wants is to keep doing what she’s good at: managing the household. She definitely isn’t interested in higher education. When she’s sent to the city to further her schooling, Laelara finds herself caught up in a case of mistaken identity that seems like the perfect opportunity to avoid the despised Academy. Amid the whirlwind of new friends, new jobs, and the glitzy social life of the Palace District—particularly the trivia contests—her double life becomes more and more precarious. For the first time in her twenty years, everything spirals out of her careful control: her family’s security, her job, her friendships, and her very identity. With her lifelong purpose and identity stripped away, to what will Laelara surrender, and where will she find the strength to persevere?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Erika Mathews writes Christian living books, both fiction and non-fiction, that demonstrate the power of the kingdom of God through ordinary people, transforming daily life into His resting life. She’s a homeschool graduate with a Bachelor’s in Communications, a Master’s in Biblical Ministries, and a passion for sharing Jesus Christ and His truth. Outside of writing, she spends time with her husband Josh, mothers her little ones, reads, edits, enjoys the great Minnesota outdoors, plays piano and violin, makes heroic ventures into minimalism, clean eating, and gardening, and uses the Oxford comma. You can connect with Erika at restinglife.com.

ISN’T IT GORGEOUS?

Design credit goes to Megan Mccullough.

If you haven’t discovered the world of Taerna yet, you can start with Promise’s Prayer.

Thank you so much for attending this reveal party. Watch Erika’s Instagram this month for celebrations, or hop over to restinglife.com/signup for all the updates plus a free short story. And don’t forget to preorder the EBOOK and SIGNED PAPERBACK!

 May the blessings of the Lord be upon you today!

Hold Onto the View

When I was a kid, one of the earliest CD’s I remember owning was a “Best of Buddy Davis” album that was hugely popular with me and my siblings. I can’t count how many times we listened to it over the years—but after a while it kind of got laid aside and it wasn’t until the past year that I remembered that old CD and got the chance to listen to it with adult ears.

At that time I downloaded it to my laptop and listened to a few of my favourites for a while, and then I kind of forgot about it once again.

Until today.

Today when I needed it.

I was randomly selecting an old playlist because I needed some fresh music that wasn’t tainted by the emotions I’ve been dealing with lately. Something that wouldn’t remind me of any of the things I want to forget.

And somehow, I chose a random compilation labeled “Buddy Davis and Others” which had exactly two Buddy Davis songs and eight others from two of my favourite choirs, so why it got its name from the two songs and not either of the four-song choirs may be debated!

Never mind—it had the one song I needed to hear.

I could basically recite the whole song and explain why it brought me hope and a ray of light into a “tunnel” that seems to grow more complicated by the day. But it was one sentence in particular that caught my attention as it has several times before:

“He has given you a vision—you must hold onto the view.”

God gives us visions. He gives us revelations. He gives us dreams and impulses and desires to use for Him.

But when He gives us a vision, He entrusts us with the responsibility of keeping it before our eyes. Yes, He is always there to help us. But He gives us the choice whether or not we’re going to “hold onto the view.”

There are many things that can distract us. Good things—some of them. Things that “seem” important—things that others tell us we should pursue.

Sometimes no one in the whole world understands the importance of our vision but us.

We still need to hold onto the view.

God won’t necessarily give our vision to someone else. And He won’t always keep forcing it upon us if we refuse to hold it close.

We need to hold onto the view.

“For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry.” – Habakkuk 2:3

This verse is very special to me. It contains the clue of something I rarely talk about—a promise God has given me that I believe He will fulfill in His time. God gave me this verse in a time of doubting His promise and I believe it was His way of confirming His hand in the things so often beyond our physical senses.

He has “given me a vision”.

So often—I look at other things. Things He never told me to look at.

I look at how bad the world is getting.

I look at the problems all around me.

I look at the struggles of myself and others.

I look at my feelings.

Now don’t get me wrong—those things are all true. It’s not “wrong” to see them and to know they are there.

But am I running the risk of losing my vision?

In several places in the New Testament, we are told to watch. Told not to get caught up in the world around us and forget the vision, the promise, the deliverance that WILL come.

Life is tough right now. I’m not going to pretend it isn’t.

But there is the vision.

Are we holding onto the view?

Anne of Green Gables Challenge

My sisters and I are readers. More importantly, we’re students of fiction. We love to spend hours discussing why our favourite stories work and what makes them stand out from all the other stories we’ve read. I actually consider these conversations one of the greatest assets to my own writing.

Last night, two of us were talking about the beloved Canadian classic, Anne of Green Gables, and what makes it better than so many other stories with a basically similar storyline. The answer—it has something to do with Anne’s unique personality and the way she keeps on dreaming, learning and growing in spite of, at times, very negative surroundings.

But then we asked ourselves a question. “Why does Anne have so much hopefulness and emotional resilience when she’s spent her whole life being unwanted, uncared-for and unloved?”

My mom suggested that since it’s a fictional story, maybe it’s just made up and there isn’t a “why” at all. But, of course, as authors of fiction ourselves, we didn’t really like that answer very much!

And after all, I think there is a better answer. Anne’s story isn’t just a piece of unbelievable fantasy—somehow, it works. And if it works in Anne’s world, isn’t it possible it could work in my world, too?

As it turns out, we did come up with an answer—an answer that holds a surprising amount of hope for all of us today!

In the last couple of years, I’ve heard a lot about the value of staying present in the moment. When you’re in the moment, you can’t be worrying about the future or fretting over the past, because you keep yourself grounded in the experience of now.

Scientifically, a conscious practice of staying in the present, can reduce stress and promote emotional healing. (This is where I would quote all kinds of source articles and scientific studies if this were a research paper!)

But of course, we all experience times in our life when “now” isn’t so great either. Times when the stress of the present is almost greater than the stress of the past and the future. In such times, we have to find a way to experience a different present-tense reality if we want to escape from our unhealthy cycles of fear and worry.

In Anne’s case, a wonderful imagination may just be the answer.

You see—when things go wrong, we have a choice to make. We can let ourselves be sucked into the negative reality, or we can choose to see things in a different light. In Anne’s language, we can “imagine” anything we please!

Maybe that sounds like wishful thinking and living life in an unrealistic fairy-tale. But in some strange way, I don’t think that’s actually what’s going on. Yes—Anne daydreams away the negatives in her life, but she sees the beauty in so many ordinary realities also. She takes time to enjoy the loveliness of a flower—she delights in the glories of an autumn day—she finds all the importance and excitement in the little things of life, and her imagination, rather than blinding her to reality, opens her eyes to deeper realities that can only be found by taking delight in the beauty and “romance” of the world.

I admit that some of Anne’s imaginations are totally outrageous and fantastic, and sometimes her propensity for imagining away unpleasant realities gets her into trouble. But I wonder. What would happen if instead of plodding along the road of life, carefully scrutinizing the muddy path we tread and feeling commonplace and unhappy, we would turn our eyes to the beautiful world around us and see “White Ways of Delight” and “Lakes of Shining Waters” all around—maybe even dream up a “window friend” or two, and give ourselves just a little break from the anxieties and cares that are wearing out our lives?

I think there’s a reason God tells us to “take no thought for the morrow” and I think there’s also a reason He gave us the ability to imagine. No—we aren’t to just escape the real world and live a life of useless daydreams. But sometimes, stopping to find beauty in the world around us or the world of our imaginations, gives us just enough space to realize how truly blessed we are!

“I’d love to call you Aunt Marilla,” said Anne wistfully. “I’ve never had an aunt or any relation at all—not even a grandmother. It would make me feel as if I really belonged to you. Can’t I call you Aunt Marilla?”

“No. I’m not your aunt and I don’t believe in calling people names that don’t belong to them.”

“But we could imagine you were my aunt.”

“I couldn’t,” said Marilla grimly.

“Do you never imagine things different from what they really are?” asked Anne wide-eyed.

“No.”

“Oh!” Anne drew a long breath. “Oh, Miss—Marilla, how much you miss!”

Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maude Montgomery

Are we guilty of missing the same thing?

My challenge to you in the next four weeks is to look for the poetry in life—to imagine what it must be like to sleep in a wild cherry tree, or—if you find yourself drowning in a sea of troubles, dream up a boat to carry you safely across—a very luxurious private yacht, of course, with velvet cushions and perhaps a personal musician or two!

Because—when all is said and done—there’s something valuable in being able to keep your hopefulness and imagination undimmed through whatever trials life may bring. Imagination is a gift from God, after all—why do we so often fail to make the most of it?

7 Days of Hope Blog Tour – Day 6!

I’m so excited to be a part of the 7 Days of Hope blog tour! Hope is a theme I’ve always loved but it wasn’t until this winter, in the midst of some pretty significant emotional struggles, that I realized HOW important it is! In fact, it’s at the very heart of the gospel message to the point that it says in Romans 8:24 that “we are saved by hope” (emphasis mine). That thought is pretty amazing to me!

At this time of year, as we celebrate Jesus’ Resurrection, hope becomes even more significant, and I’m so happy to be able to help spread the hope today!

A favourite quote:

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,

To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you,

Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” – 1 Peter 1:3-5

Okay, this was really hard to choose! There are so many quotes—especially Bible verses—that bring me hope, and I find myself wanting to quote all of them! However, somehow, when I was looking for a hope-filled verse, this one jumped out at me. The overflowing abundance, joy and life in these verses—when you really stop to hear what they’re saying—just takes my breath away. I love also how the chapter goes on to talk about experiencing that hope and rejoicing even in the midst of suffering. That is something that just gets me excited! We don’t need to wait for Heaven to experience hope—hope is for the here and now! Our eternal, victorious life in Jesus begins the moment we choose to accept and claim His life and victory and we can live in that reality no matter what sorrow or hardship we are called to go through! If that doesn’t give hope, I don’t know what will!

A song that brings me hope:

Again I could pick so many, but one that stands out and is so fitting this time of year is Living Hope by Phil Wickham and Brian Johnson. The version I like is a choral arrangement by Lyle Stutzman that is just amazing and happens to be sung by one of my favourite ensembles!!

I love the power of the words and music, and the harmony is just exquisite. I definitely don’t get tired of this one! I love how vividly it portrays the contrast between who we once were—without hope—and who we now are through the hope of Jesus’ Resurrection and our own future glory with Him! It’s hard to stay sad listening to this song and meditating on its truths!!

As you journey through life, and face things that threaten to steal your hope, I encourage you to remember just how important hope is—just how much we NEED hope—and just how abundantly Jesus stands ready to give us hope for every circumstance and every moment! Hope is real and hope is worth it!

And don’t forget to enter the giveaway here!

Tour stops:

(April 5) Day 1, Monday:

SawyerMarie https://sundropgirls.wordpress.com/

Clarissa Choo https://clarissachoo.com

(April 6) Day 2, Tuesday:

Hannah K https://mylifegodspath.wordpress.com/

Lilly W https://adaughterservingtheking.wordpress.com/blog/

(April 7) Day 3, Wednesday:

Katja https://littleblossomsforjesus.wordpress.com

B https://singingintherain157252239.wordpress.com/

(April 8) Day 4, Thursday:

Brooklyn http://fiveshekels.wordpress.com/

Abigail Harris https://abigailkayharris.wordpress.com/

(April 9) Day 5, Friday:

Anna Grace https://ideasofanna.blogspot.com/

Lauren Compton http://novelsthatencourage.com.au/

(April 10) Day 6, Saturday:

Tara https://towerintheplains.wordpress.com/

Chelsea Burden https://lightinthetunnel476000978.wordpress.com/

(April 11) Day 7, Sunday:

Abby Elissa https://abbyelissa.blogspot.com/

Jenavieve Rose https://livingoutsidethelinesfindingthewritelife.wordpress.com

7 Days of Hope Blog Tour Starts Today!!

Today is the first day of the 7 Days of Hope Blog Tour!! I’m so privileged to be participating this year, and I’m excited to focus on hope for the next several days.

Hope is something I’m definitely learning to place more emphasis on, as I see the effects of a lack of hope in my own life and the world around me. We need hope!

I’m grateful to SawyerMarie and Abby Elissa for putting together this blog tour. They also happen to be writer friends of mine, so that’s also fun!

My post will be coming a little later in the week, but for now, be sure to check out both of today’s bloggers—SawyerMarie and Clarissa Choo (another writer friend of mine!).

And all the tour stops are linked below!

Tour Stops

(April 5) Day 1, Monday:

SawyerMarie https://sundropgirls.wordpress.com/

Clarissa Choo https://clarissachoo.com

(April 6) Day 2, Tuesday:

Hannah K https://mylifegodspath.wordpress.com/

Lilly W https://adaughterservingtheking.wordpress.com/blog/

(April 7) Day 3, Wednesday:

Katja https://littleblossomsforjesus.wordpress.com 

B https://singingintherain157252239.wordpress.com/ 

(April 8) Day 4, Thursday: 

Brooklyn http://fiveshekels.wordpress.com/ 

Abigail Harris https://abigailkayharris.wordpress.com/

(April 9) Day 5, Friday:

Anna Grace ideasofanna.blogspot.com

Lauren Compton http://novelsthatencourage.com.au/ 

(April 10) Day 6, Saturday:

 Tara www.towerintheplains.wordpress.com

Chelsea Burden https://lightinthetunnel476000978.wordpress.com/ 

(April 11) Day 7, Sunday:

Abby Elissa https://abbyelissa.blogspot.com/

Jenavieve Rose https://livingoutsidethelinesfindingthewritelife.wordpress.com

Is There Still Light?

It’s been a rough couple of days. A lot of emotions. A lot of pain. A lot of things that don’t make sense. A lot of reasons to doubt, to feel frustrated, to wonder when life is ever going to get better.

I’ve been tempted to lose hope. I’ve heard in my heart once more that dreaded whisper, “It’s not worth it! Hope is killing you. Being disappointed time after time is killing you. You can’t do this any longer!”

But if I lose hope—what is there left to live for?

I’ve lost other things these last couple of days. Peace. Joy. Even love, sometimes. It’s so hard to be at peace, to rejoice, to give and receive love, when you don’t have hope. When you close the door to hope because it hurts so much.

I knew it all in the back of my mind, as I gave vent to the frustrated emotions that wanted to lash out against all the things that are hurting me. I knew it—but it wasn’t until today that I faced it out and realized what it all really meant.

Almost three weeks ago, a mentor told me something that really struck me. She said that the reason I feel far away from God when I allow myself to get angry, is because He’s still waiting for me in the pain. Only by going back to the pain that I bypassed through anger, can I find the One I’m really looking for.

That was powerful. I knew it was true. I wanted to do it.

But I didn’t. Because I just couldn’t face the pain.

And so I lost hope. I lost peace. I lost joy. I lost love. I lost the only things worth living for and instead chose to ruin the life I have through anger, struggling and helpless lashing out against the things that I thought were ruining my life. Only they weren’t. Yes—they changed my life, and made it more difficult—but they can never ruin it. Only choosing to run away from the pain and the One who is waiting for me in it, can do that.

That light in the tunnel that I was so sure could be found—it wasn’t there these last couple of days. I missed it.

The strange thing is, that yesterday, in a random, impromptu practice session for my newest hobby—hand lettering—I gave myself the answer I wasn’t willing to see until today.

There is light in the tunnel if you have a Guide.

The implication, of course, is that you have to have a Guide. You can’t run away and be the pilot of your own ship Anger-and-Frustration if you want to have light in the tunnel. You’re going to have to go where the Guide is.

And if the Guide is in the pain, and you are in the anger, you aren’t going to have light. You just aren’t.

Today is Good Friday—the day the Light came to deliver us from darkness.

He doesn’t want us to stay in the darkness. He doesn’t want us to stay in the anger.

He’s waiting for us in the pain if we’re brave enough to meet Him there.

“Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light” – 1 Peter 2:9

He bore the pain for us and He still “bears our griefs and carries our sorrows” today. He’s waiting for us in the pain—and when we meet Him there, He will turn our sorrow into joy and we’ll find that the pain wasn’t really as bad as the anger, after all.

“And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you.” – John 16:20

Friend—have courage to meet Him in the pain, and the promise of everlasting, undestroyable, joy-that-cannot-be-taken-away will be yours.

I’ve been listening to this song and it comforts me so much—yes, the road is hard, yes, the tunnel is dark, but there IS a light when we walk with Jesus—He has borne our pain and He is holding us!

One Year Ago

One year ago.

The words conjure up a different image for each of us. For me—it is a feeling of longing.

Just over one year ago life was normal. Life was good. Life was looking up.

And then it happened. I don’t even want to talk about it, and I don’t have to, because you all know what it was. And life—everything—changed.

I’ve spent a whole year wishing life would go back to the “normal and good” I miss so much. It’s been a hard year and a dark year and I don’t want to minimize that reality.

But a few days ago I realized something equally true and a lot more beautiful. This year I never wanted or asked for and which I resisted almost at every step—it brought something good.

I find I like to idealize the past and negativize (yes! that actually is a word!) the present. I like to think back to the “good old days” and wish I could return to them.

But reality always has two sides, and this week I flipped the coin and took a good look at that “other side.”

What I realized was simply amazing. That normal, wonderful one year ago that I long for so much had another side to it.

One year ago I was still struggling to find stability after a church plant caused major upheaval in life and church-life as I knew it. I had just completed the first draft of a novella that I wrote to prove to myself that I could actually finish a book. I still hadn’t finished a novel. I’d spent eight years struggling with chronic illness and I couldn’t work a full day—not even a half-day really. I felt inadequate, inferior and useless. I wondered why I wasn’t doing something in the world—why I couldn’t reach and help people and make a difference. In the midst of all that “good and normal” I felt different and discouraged and unfulfilled.

It’s true. I just don’t like to remember that side of the story.

This year. Where do I begin? The past year of struggle and discouragement has borne fruit if I’m willing to look for it. I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone so many times and now I step more willingly—some of the time, anyway. I know the good things to be gained by that step are well worth the discomfort and so I step. Whether or not I feel ready.

I’ve made tons of friends. Yes, you heard that right. In the year I had to spend at home I made more friends than any of the years previously! I joined an amazing writers’ camp that started up and made friends with many wonderful ladies and girls! A few of them have become close friends that I’ve built meaningful friendships with. We have a writers’ group for whenever camp isn’t running and the encouragement I’ve gained from that wonderful community is immense. If I’m struggling, or discouraged, a quick prayer request will reach SOMEONE in a matter of minutes—often many someones—and there are a lot of stories of answered prayer as a result!

Another friendship cemented this past year has been a tremendous blessing to me and continues to give me hope and strength from day to day. I video chat with that friend pretty much once a week—how amazing is that?

The struggling writer who couldn’t complete a draft is now preparing to launch the first three books in her series this summer and fall and feels far more competent and able than ever before.

The purpose and vision I was looking for? Somehow, I don’t feel so useless anymore. I have friends who need me—people to encourage and point to Jesus—I have my writing and it’s oh, so close to really making a difference in the world.

Yes, I still have my struggles and some days, it feels like that is all there is. But it’s not true. This past year has taught me that in God’s perfect timing the years of preparation melt away into the purpose for which we were created and trained. It isn’t a flip of the switch, but it happens. And it’s worth it.

I don’t say all this to boast—I know far too well that it’s got nothing to do with me. It’s God. I would have been far too impatient and would have leapt into my work without the preparation He saw fit. Even today, I couldn’t do one thing without His Spirit speaking through me. I pray for His blessing on my work and that His words would be spoken instead of mine. HE does the rest.

But I say it all to remind myself—and others—that the season of purpose and fulfillment comes at last. It really does. Yes, the journey is hard and long and sometimes it seems like we’re being “prepared” for a lifetime, undergoing hard things that seem to make our life-work impossible. But God knows what He’s doing.

As it pointed out in my favourite devotional, Streams in the Desert, Jesus spent thirty years preparing for a three-year ministry. God just doesn’t count time the way we do.

Friend—maybe you are still in training. Maybe a hard discipline seems to block out all hope of anything else and you wonder why. You believe God has a purpose, but you struggle to see. You want fulfillment, you want a purpose, you want to work.

I want to encourage you that it will come. It just might take longer than you want it to. But when the moment finally comes and you look back and see just how far you’ve come, just how much God has changed you and trained you through the things that you never wanted and resisted all the way—when your longings for fulfillment melt into a wondering adoration at all that God is doing in you—remember. Remember that the journey was worth it. Pause to realize how much has changed and how perfect was the plan that brought you here.

Yes, it’s hard. But I promise you that when that moment finally arrives, you’ll be able to say with all your heart, “It was worth it! Praise God for His work in me!”

Hope is a Living Reality

I’ve been thinking a lot about hope lately. Some days, I’ve felt like it was really far away. Something I longed for. Something I dreamed of. Something I almost despaired of ever finding.

Hope. What is it really? A bright, brilliant vision of things to come that trembles on the distant horizon of our lives? A dream of all that we long to become and achieve? A fleeting fancy borne away on the rough, rude winds that sweep through our lives, stripping us bare of all that is tender and beautiful?

This last year has been a very difficult one in our world—and in my life. Hope is something I lost this year. It was just too costly. Too painful. Too devastating to cling to something that slipped through my fingers again and again. Disappointment after disappointment. Surprises and shocks and unthinkable happenings—completely undermining all I thought I knew about the world I lived in.

Life didn’t make sense, and things I deemed too impossibly horrible ever to happen broke wave after wave over my stunned, aching heart.

I stood in shock, hardly knowing how to respond, how to process the series of events left me breathless with shock, wondering what would happen next.

At times, I was too numb even to feel the full force of pain, and other times I sobbed until I thought my heart would break.

And gradually, imperceptibly, I let go of hope. It just. wasn’t. worth it. If you hope, you have more to lose. More to suffer. More capacity for pain. The higher you rise the farther you have to fall. And sometime, it hurts too much to try.

But you can’t live that way. Not really. When you cease to hope, a part of you dies. Perhaps you insulate yourself from pain. A little. But it’s not worth the death of all that loveliness within you.

We need hope.

I’ve discovered what happens to you when you lose hope. You keep on sinking and sinking until the depths before you are so frightening you can’t face them. And then you have to reach for hope or perish.

The wonderful, beautiful thing about it all is that hope is there, just waiting for us to reach up and grasp it.

Hope isn’t a wishful dream, an imagination too frail to stand the touch of real life. It isn’t a “castle in the air” that comes crashing down and leaves you devastated.

It’s a beautiful, living reality that brightens more and more into an ecstatic, almost unbelievable confidence in something too wonderful to be true, which at the same time is the truest thing of all. It’s grasping hold of God’s promises and allowing ourselves to live in their glorious light. Yes, it takes faith. Yes, it can seem scary. Yes, there are times when hoping will open us up to pain. But most of all, it’s a confiding of ourselves and all we are into the Hand that can never fail—and being content and joyful in the certainty that His will is truly sweetest and happiest.

It’s daring to believe that God really meant what He said, and that those unbelievably beautiful promises are as real as they are unimaginable.

It’s meditating on truths so much greater and more profound than anything on earth and allowing ourselves to realize the gloriousness set before us.

It’s looking up into the night, and saying, “I know there is a purpose, I know there is a God working all for good—even these dark, difficult things that seem to hold nothing but despair and bitterness—I know that in the end, Christ will be victorious in me!”

Hope, my friends, is a beautiful thing.

I’m still learning to reach for hope. Still learning to catch myself in the midst of pain and confusion and frustration and say, “Yes! I will hope! I choose to hope, no matter what! Think of all that Jesus has promised me!” But as I do, I’m discovering that hope is just as real as fear. It’s just as real as despair. It’s just as real as sin, and gloom and destruction. It’s just as real and far more powerful.

Remember, friend—Jesus has already overcome.

Reach for hope. Meditate on hope. Live hope.

Look up into the darkness and dare to be undismayed. Dare to believe that there is a purpose that is going to be so beautiful, so incredible, so unbelievably glorious that ever second of pain and confusion and suffering will be so worth it and you will even be glad of all you went through for the glorious afterward!

“For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.” – 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

I cling to this verse. And the more I think of it, the more inexpressible it’s beauty and meaning becomes! I have staked everything on its reality. And that, friends, is what hope really is!

Here is one of many songs that is bringing me hope right now!