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The Choice I’m Making About Hope


Posted By on Mar 18, 2016

“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

For the last few weeks I’ve had some anxious thoughts. Personal situations and discussions about the political climate, along with the random worries I can generate all on my own, have really messed with my perspective.

But I’m making a choice. One which I want to take deep root in my heart and mind and transform my thinking.

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I want to be defined by hope.

A hope that is more than wishful thinking.

A hope not reliant upon a political candidate or an agenda, which leaves me empty and focused on the things of this earth.

A hope that is more than counting on someone to keep a promise, because sooner or later I am disappointed. Or the disappointer.

A hope bolder than feeble prayers I offer when I honestly just want my way.

A hope stronger than my emotions or circumstances at any given moment.

But to really live IN hope. And for that to happen I have to seek God to shake some things up. Change my desires and habits to live a life defined by trust and purpose will require:

· Shutting out the voices of many to focus on the voice of One. It’s my fault for letting the news, social media, and various opinions define my patterns of thinking. While many I chose to hear are positive, that’s not enough. I need to be in God’s word and in prayer.

· Living as if this world is not my home. Too much energy has been given to things I cannot change. Colossians 3:1-2 states,

“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”

I am a steward of what God has entrusted me to care for in this world. But I cannot let those things, however noble and right, own me. Otherwise, they become little gods rather than what can give glory to Him.

· Truly worshipping. Not the Sunday check-in. But cultivating a heart turned to God. Every thought and decision should flow from being in his presence. Without it comes confusion and selfishness. I have known that place of worship. And it’s beautiful. It’s time to go back.

Living in hope is not devoid of struggles and hard times and life changing moments of despair. Actually, I expect these times to come. But, good times and bad, I want a life defined by a hope secure.

Secure because of the work of Christ, who continues to work in me and for my good. And for His glory (Colossians 1:27).

(Special thank you to Ali Leonard, who made the beautiful handcrafted “hope” plaque. Check out her and Courtney Tidwell  at Our Funky Farmhouse page on Facebook.)

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Today’s revised post is one I wrote a few years ago. It’s some humorous memories about my feeble attempts to be a perfect newlywed wife. And I’m not sure even Pinterest and HGTV could have helped me! Hope you enjoy!

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Today Jim and I are celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary (insert happy dance and “whoo hoooo” here!). Life has just been crazy this last year, so no big trip or extravagant gifts planned. Just keeping things simple and enjoying just being together sounds like the perfect evening.

Low key and easy. Definitely not what newlywed Beth ever pictured as ideal. Wow, did I have some unreal expectations!

I had in mind what the “perfect” wife should be.  Fabulous cook. Spotless house. A master at multi-tasking.

Reality check, please

The one time I fixed meatloaf was the last time I fixed meatloaf.  I vaguely remember numerous trips to the bathroom.  One of us may or may not have thrown up. Good times.

And then there was the curtain disaster. I proudly hung a new set, complete with the poofy 90s style valance in the middle, just in time for our first dinner party.  Then a guest whispered, “I think you have those up backwards.”  Awesome.

There was my attempt at making a wreath. I was scarred for life from glue gun burns.  I mean, who needs feeling in your left pinky-tip anyway, right?

And let’s just say never have vegetable oil and Murphy’s Oil together on the kitchen counter.  Because the brownies you make for your couples Bible study could taste funky.  If they don’t combust in the oven first. Or kill you by poisonous fumes.

But I pushed through, determined to be the wife I thought God and Jim wanted me to be. Until the Saturday I ironed a dozen dress shirts. Let me tell you – those babies hung in the closet like starched domestic masterpieces.

I thought so, anyway.  Then Jim mentioned I had done all the collars wrong.

 (To any guys reading this: Do not try this at home. Trust me.)

He had to be kidding!  I had spent my one day off on these shirts, only to hear I had not done them correctly.

I cried. He sighed. Then came the words all wives must be hardwired to say.

“WHY DID YOU EVER MARRY ME? I CAN’T DO ANYTHING RIGHT!”

What Jim said next was probably out of sheer desperation to end my meltdown, but I know the Holy Spirit gave him the words I needed to hear.

“Honey, I didn’t marry you just to do things for me.  I married you because I want you to do things with me.”

Definitely a lightbulb moment.

“For” had become a legalistic to-do list of unreal expectations.  “With” could become a to-do life of real experiences.

I needed to choose which I wanted for our marriage.

Fast forward to 2015. If you come for coffee, five loads of unfolded laundry might be on the couch. The bathroom will likely need deep cleaned (and peek behind the shower curtain at your own risk). Feel free to write you name in the dust. It’s an acceptable form of a guest book.

Those things always get done.  But given the choice, I’ll pick being with my husband over an immaculate house.

Because perfect homes and perfect marriages don’t exist.

Memories.  Good times and tough times. Happy days and sad days. Together.

That’s what is real.  And breathes life into marriage.

Newlyweds (and those still learning) ~ go live life as one. Pray faithfully. Serve the Lord fully. Forgive quickly.

Be passionate. Embrace each day. Laugh a lot. Don’t be afraid to hurt. Take chances.

Together, with God’s help, you can do this marriage thing.

Just be careful with the brownies, okay?

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My Year As Job’s Wife

My Year As Job’s Wife


Posted By on Jun 25, 2015

With our 25th wedding anniversary just days away, I wanted to repost this word from 2013. Not because it’s sweet, but because these are the times that make a marriage strong. God was teaching me much about being real before him, the beauty of the ugly prayer, and what our wedding vows really meant. I trust this still encourages wives today.

“Should we accept only good things from the hand of God and never anything bad?” ~ Job 2:10b

couple-holding-hands[1] She really is an easy target to criticize. Married to a prosperous, righteous

man, she had a life of ease.  No doubt she was the envy of other women. Then things got really…really bad.

Her ten children were killed at one time. A trusted team of servants were killed and valuable herds destroyed, resulting in financial ruin. And her once strong, influential husband was afflicted with a horrific puss-oozing skin disease.

I mean, can you imagine watching your man trying to ease his pain by scraping shards of pottery across his skin? While he sat in ashes.  On top of a pile of trash.

So many words come to mind. She had to be exhausted. Fearful. Confused. In an emotional tailspin. And consumed by grief upon grief.

She is Job’s wife. And her life was in shambles. Scripture quotes her only once, but her words and tone are memorable.

“Still holding on to your precious integrity, are you?” she lashes out at Job. “Curse God and be done with it!” (Which translates “so God will kill you and make your misery go away”.)

At one time I would have self-righteously wondered why she wasn’t struck by lightning. Or thought she must not have loved God enough. Or prayed enough. Or read the Word enough. Or served enough. Or whatever enough.

But not now.

Several years ago Jim and I came under Satan’s attack. We did not lose children, but loved ones died. We did not watch large wealth disappear, but Jim’s livelihood did when he lost his job. There were no disfiguring diseases, but several family and friends would soon be diagnosed with physical and mental illnesses.

I went into supportive spouse mode. Denying my own sense of loss to be my husband’s cheerleader, I smiled and pushed through tough days. ‘Cause that’s what a good wife does, right?

Then, tired and emotionally drained, I had my “quote of Biblical proportions” moment. I was angry.  Angry about the pain. Angry our lives had changed. Angry nothing would ever be the same. What was said will stay between Jim and me. But in that moment I knew…

I had become Job’s wife.

Grieving loss took me places I never dreamed possible. It played games with my mind and distorted my judgment.  As time went on I wondered if these trials would ever end. Surprisingly, it was this much maligned woman who gave me hope.

We aren’t given details, but a close look at the rest of the story reveals she was more than one bad quote in one desperate moment.

No matter how bad it got, she stuck it out.

Stayed with him through his lowest days of rejection, loneliness, and frustration (Job 19).

She was faithfully by his side when others abandoned him. And God restored their lives, blessing them beyond what they could imagine (Job 42).

Distance gives perspective. I can sympathize with Job’s wife. She spoke those earlier words, it seems, not because she was wicked. Or rebellious. Or cruel. Because she was real, honest in a raw moment of her life. Someone who didn’t pretend everything would be okay. But was loyal and steadfast and didn’t quit.

My life is not marked with the suffering Job’s wife endured. But because of where God continues to walk with me, I get her. Perhaps you do, too.

Has your life been rocked and you aren’t sure how to respond? Trust God, Who will tenderly care for you through the process. And don’t worry ~ if you cry out in angry pain, He can handle it.  Trust me.

He will be faithful to remind you an action of ugliness does not make you a bad wife.

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It’s going the distance that counts.

If you have read past posts via social media, would you consider subscribing to Hearts Unfold email (see box on upper right side of this page)? While I do limited sharing on Facebook and Twitter, it’s easy to miss connections. I promise to be considerate and not flood your inbox!

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“Daddy, I’ve Met Someone”

“Daddy, I’ve Met Someone”


Posted By on Jun 21, 2015

I was not an easy daughter to raise, strong willed and challenging authority early on. Constantly questioning why this, why that. Couldn’t sit still during story time and never…ever…was quiet. While other little girls were taking dance lessons and sleeping in pink canopy beds, I was skinning knees and breaking stuff.

But somehow, I could talk my dad out of (most) discipline with “I’m sorry, Daddy. You know I love you the most in the world.” His heart would break wide open every time.

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As I grew up and began dating, Dad tried to be objective about the guys who came in and out of my life. Not that they were bad guys (well, most of them weren’t), but he always made me think.

“A guy who loves himself that much has no love left to give God or you.”
“You are in church more than him. Odds are that won’t change.”
“He’s a show off and trying to impress you. How does he treat you when he’s not buying you stuff?”
“If you settle for less in a husband, everything else in life will be less than it could have been.”

Nobody is perfect, I would argue, as that stubborn streak from childhood continued through the teenage years. There would be more than one fight and bad decision on my part.  But, as much as I hated being wrong, Dad always ended up being right.

I dated more through college, then career. Grown up and matured in my thinking, I knew what I wanted out of life. All those years of listening to Dad finally made a difference. I was strong, resolved to trust God to bring the right man into my life.

And God did. I just didn’t think I would gain one and lose the other.

Cancer. The diagnosis came out of nowhere for my dad, and for months he fought hard. Aggressive chemo and radiation were done, so one weekend I took a break from trips back home to care for him.

And it was that weekend, I met this guy. Tall, good looking, and wearing the coolest running shoes ever. He smiled. We talked. He asked me out. And somehow I knew he just might be “the one”.

Four days later Dad got the news. The cancer had spread to the liver and was quickly invading his lymphatic system. Three weeks to live.

Before I left to be with my family, I went on the first date with this new guy. And ugly cried the whole time. Most young men couldn’t have handled that much emotion. But at the end of the evening, he hugged me. Said he really liked me. And said when the time was right in weeks to come, we could do this again. He wasn’t going anywhere.

Life was soon a blur. Hospitals. Sleepless nights. Caregiving.  But Dad’s mind stayed sharp, allowing for one last gift of a conversation.

Just days before he died, I was sitting by his bedside. Holding his frail hand, I whispered, “Daddy, I’ve met someone. His name is Jim, and I think you would really like him.”

Dad looked up, tears in his tired, hollow eyes. He grinned and squeezed my hand.

“I know, Beth. I just know. It’s my last answered prayer on this earth. I have to go soon, but without ever meeting him, I know I am leaving you in good hands. God promised me that.”

And, so on a beautiful Easter Sunday morning, Dad’s eyes lit up as he lifted both arms toward heaven. One last deep breath and he was gone. And his little girl grieved hard. But in the months ahead, there was healing and hope and a future.

A future that guy in the cool running shoes walked into with me. Laughs some days. Tears on others. But that early grief strengthened, bonded us as a couple.

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And through good and bad times, he’s now walked by my side for twenty-five years of marriage.

And I just know Dad and Jim would have been the best of friends.

(Rose in the wedding picture above was in memory of my dad)
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when you just don’t want to forgive

when you just don’t want to forgive


Posted By on Mar 26, 2015

 Easter season holds special significance to me. Several life changing events have occurred over the years, which continue to draw my heart to God in the weeks prior to Resurrection Day. My focus this year has been the words Christ spoke in Luke 23:34, interceding on behalf of those who crucified Him. While this is not my story, it parallels a long struggle I have fought with rejection and forgiveness. God gave this to me for someone. As we approach Holy Week, I post with the hope these words minister to your soul.  With love…Beth

 

The alarm sounded, breaking the silence of another restless night of sleep.

She pulled the blinds, greeted by dark skies and steady rain. Perfect, she thought. Gloomy weather to match my mood. A quick glance at the calendar reminded her it was Good Friday. A day she had once treasured. A quiet and reflective time, marked with humility and gratitude for the sacrifice made and sins pardoned.

But not this Easter season. Unforgiveness was her new comfort zone. Strangely, dark pain had become her preferred companion. At least she knew what to expect.

Living back in the light was a risk she was not willing to take.

Betrayal in any form hurts. But when it comes from the one who vowed to honor and protect and cherish you, well…that line between love and hate becomes a slim, frayed thread.  Passion had turned to an icy numbing of her heart.

Her friends had plenty of advice, too.

“If I were you I would…”
“It’s not your fault and no one would blame you if you decided to…”
“The same thing happened to so-and-so and…”
“I know a good lawyer…”

First came the anger. Out-of-body rage, foreign to her normally even-tempered nature. Sharp words, designed to cut like a serrated edge dagger, hurled his way. But in time, the fury gave way to indifference. Not just toward him, but everything.  Family. Job. Hobbies.

And God.

How did this happen to them, a faithful couple who wanted to follow Jesus?  It wasn’t like he woke up one morning and decided to break his vows and shatter her heart. But one unguarded moment led to another and here they were. He begged for a second chance. God had broken him, he said. He loved her and promised to be the man of God she needed, wanted him to be. If she would just let him back in.

Everything in her wanted to run.

But there is no escaping the Holy Spirit and God’s relentless pursuit of her heart. He would whisper, gently reminding her of the vows she made, too. Ones not conditional on her husband’s behavior, but upon her obedience to Christ.

She couldn’t remember the last time she opened her Bible. But on that most sacred of mornings, she did.  Tearfully, she turned to their wedding passage.

Love is patient.
Love is kind.
It does not envy.
It does not boast.
It is not proud. It does not dishonor others.
It is not self-seeking.
It is not easily angered.
It keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
It always protects.
Always trusts.
Always hopes.
Always perseveres.
(I Corinthians 13:4-7)

Words once lovely now so hard to live.

How, God?  How can I even begin to want a heart to love like that again?

Even as she asked, she knew. Because love is the heart of this holy day. She needed to forgive. As Christ had done for her.

Christ, who knew that pain of betrayal and rejection and public humiliation. And He had a choice, too.

Choosing, in the moment of the greatest, most historic grief ever recorded, to ask the Heavenly Father to forgive the very ones who mocked and tortured and crucified Him.

In that moment, at the most excruciating point of agony, His voice touched heaven on their behalf. Praying that God would not see them as their actions, but through the action of His son.

The heartbroken, praying for the heartbreaker? Is that part of the way forward? The path to freeing an earthly heart chained by bitterness and anger?

Lord, forgiveness is gut-wrenching. So much work to fix something I didn’t break. I don’t know if I can do this.

Tears, flowing like the hard rain outside, poured down her cheeks. Would she continue to see him through her eyes, to focus on betrayal? Or would she hit her knees in surrender in order to view him through Christ’s lens of love and grace?

Perhaps you face a similar crossroads.

No life is untouched by the need to forgive. Pain may come from a one-time misunderstanding with a friend to years of piled up disappointment and hurt.  Injustice may have left you with a fire for revenge. But unforgiveness does not give us control or power.

It imprisons. Isolates and entombs.

But today, you have a choice to move forward. As a follower of Christ, we can live in freedom through the power of the cross and His glorious resurrection. It’s ours to claim.

I wish I could give you a hug, assuring you everything would be as good as new. But life is complicated. Trust does not magically return, nor does hurt suddenly disappear. And sadly, broken relationships do not always resolve. The guarantee we do have in forgiving others is the beauty of a restored relationship with our Savior. The One Who has granted us forgiveness, not based on the outcome of our lives or a conditional contract He can break.

But because He literally moved heaven and earth that Good Friday to sacrifice what He loved most for us. All in the hope we would return to Him.

The forgiveness journey is step by step. But only in surrendering present pain do we have the promise of future hope.

And, as the rain clouds part, we can once again see peeks of the Son.

 

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