Choose Hope!

by Stacy Sanchez

Blessed are those who trust in the LORD and have made the LORD their hope and confidence.”                                                                                                      Jeremiah 17:7 NLT

Although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of the overcoming of it.                                                                                                                                                         ~Helen Keller

“Hope Ashley will be her name!” I decided right then and there, lying on the table as the sonogram tech wiped the gel off of my pregnant belly. She had just revealed that I was having a girl. The tech was so certain of the babies’ gender that she bet me a trip to Hawaii on it. (I should have taken that bet.)

At nineteen, I was not ready to be a mother. I was living at home with my parents without a way to support a baby. The father of my child – who had just pledged his undying love to me the week before – decided he didn’t want any part of this and left me to figure it out on my own.

“I choose hope,” I repeated over and over to myself. Probably to make sure that I believed it. “Please, God, bring hope from these ashes.”

Four months before the sonogram appointment, I sat in a doctor’s office waiting to hear the results of my pregnancy test. As the doctor walked into the room, I could tell by the look on his face the answer. Emotionless, he announced, “You’re pregnant. Don’t make this into a bigger problem. Get an abortion and get on with your life. Schedule it at the front desk.” I didn’t know how to respond, so I didn’t. Silently, I hung my head in shame. Across my chart the doctor wrote in large letters: ABORTION, and exited the room, leaving me alone to dress.

There was no sleep to be had that night. I didn’t want to have an abortion. I believed abortion to be wrong. But I didn’t know what else to do. As I tossed and turned under the embellished sheets that expressed my youth, my mind raced with what people would think of me. I was a “good girl”. It would be shocking to learn that I was pregnant. (Thirty-three years ago, there was a stigma placed on a teenage, unwed mother – especially among Christians.) And, now, I had an abortion scheduled?

Although I may have been too young to be a mother, I made up my mind that I was going to have my baby. Thankfully, I had a supportive mother and church that rallied around me. They became “Jesus with skin on” for me. They loved me through this and helped me learn to love myself again.

“It’s not that I have already reached this goal or have already been perfected, but I pursue it, so that I may grab hold of it because Christ grabbed hold of me for just this purpose. Brothers and sisters, I myself don’t think I’ve reached it, but I do this one thing: I forget about the things behind me and reach out for the things ahead of me” (Philippians 3:12-14 CEB).

God uses our mistakes and hard times to grab hold of us and not let go. He wants us to grow up into Him for his glorious purposes. I held on tight and chose to hope. Everyday? No. Was it easy? Heck no! It was crazy hard. But, I chose, very purposefully, to be hopeful. Not a Pollyanna type of hope, but one that balanced realism with optimism. A hope that recognized my present difficulty and believed that somehow, someway, God would bring good from this. And, he did!

Just like the many redemption stories in the Bible, God resurrected the ashes of my life for his glory. I not only gave birth to a precious baby BOY!—yes, boy!—but when I was eight months pregnant, God brought my husband into my life. Together, we went on to become a family of seven.

I wish that I could say that I learned all that needed to know about God’s faithfulness in those hard days. Instead, I have given God more opportunities to prove himself faithful than I want to admit. But, in turn, He has given me many more reasons to be hopeful and to pursue it.

Lord God, when we are experiencing hard times, please help us to choose hope, even when everything seems bleak and utterly hopeless. Only you can take our mistakes and turn them into something beautiful. You bring hope from ashes and turn sadness into exceeding joy. Father, you have proven yourself faithful over and over. Thank you! Help us to put our trust in you – again. Amen.

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Choose Hope! – #Encouragement from Stacy Sanchez on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

stacy sanchezAbout the author: Stacy Sanchez has been married to her beloved husband, John, for 32 years, is a mother of 5, and a very young grandmother of six (soon to be seven) yummy grandcherubs. She is a pastor, author, and speaker. Her passions include teaching Christians about the Jewish roots of their faith, as well as helping to empower women to become all that God has created them to be. When not teaching or writing, you will find Stacy and John walking on the beach and playing with their grandchildren. You can connect with Stacy at her blog, writetotheheart.org, and on Facebook and Instagram.

Join the conversation: How has God proved Himself faithful to you?

Where’s my Control Button?

by Lynn Eib

But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace.  Romans 8:6 NLT  

I love to play FreeCell Solitaire on my laptop. I tell myself that I play to keep my mind keen as I age and that all the strategizing sharpens my mental skills. But I think the real reason I’m continually drawn to this card game is because I can control it.

Every single game of FreeCell is winnable, and if I find my strategy isn’t working, or I don’t have any more moves, I simply hit CRTL-Z.  I “undo” my past turns and make other choices until once again I emerge a winner. (Current win streak: 929.)

You know what CTRL stands for, right? CONTROL! Yep, that’s why I love the game. I’m in control and if the game gets out-of-control and I might lose, I simply take control and make everything turn out the way I always wanted it to. It’s the perfect game for a perfectionist like me, who hates to lose!

 Don’t you wish life had a CTRL-Z button? You could hit it and go back and change the serious diagnosis you or your loved one have received. Or you could tap it and delete the deep disappointments you’ve experienced. Or you could type that command and forgo all the financial struggles. Or you could strike those two keys and erase the emptiness. Somehow–some way–you could control the situation until everything turned out just as you hoped.

Mary, a member of my cancer prayer support group, would have loved a CTRL-Z button when she was diagnosed with non-small cell lung cancer, just 19 months after being widowed. “My husband was gone; I retired Feb. 3 and got diagnosed Feb. 27,” she says. “It was the one-two punch. The shock just hit me and I was ready to die.”

Not only did Mary feel out-of-control, but the cancer looked out-of-control, as it already had spread to her liver and bones.

However, within a few months of starting treatment scans showed the disease was responding. As I write this, she has been a survivor for more than six years. But despite her good quality of life, Mary still lives under the uncertain shadow of an incurable cancer.

“I find myself asking God: ‘Could I just have a little control? I want your will, but could I have just a little of mine?’” she says with a laugh.

I really appreciate Mary’s honesty and the fact she recognizes the humor in desiring God’s will, but on her own terms.

God is teaching both Mary and me to quit searching for life’s CRTL-Z button and to stop pretending we can be in charge of it all. The truth is, we never were in control in the first place, and none of us has the wisdom to successfully direct our own steps.

The temptation always is there to place our trust in our fallen feelings or our limited view of the facts, but The Message Bible paraphrases a wonderful control-releasing truth in Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track. Don’t assume that you know it all” (MSG).

I’m learning to give up the control-stick and trust the One who is all-knowing, all seeing, and all-powerful–because letting the Spirit control my mind instead truly does lead to life and peace.

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Where’s my Control Button? Insight from Lynn Eib on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

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About the author: Lynn Eib is a long-time cancer survivor, a patient advocate, and an award-winning journalist. She has six titles with Tyndale House Publishing, including When God & Cancer Meet with 100,000+ copies sold. Her website www.lynneib.com provides a bi-weekly blog of encouragement; tips for founding, facilitating and finding faith-based support groups; and free resources for cancer patient and their caregivers.

In Lynn’s beautiful, giftable book, Peace in the Face of Cancer, she shares how to live well from the moment of diagnosis through the rest of life. You’ll discover how to bring God’s peace into your own home and heart―regardless of your or your loved one’s medical prognosis.

Join the conversation: Do you struggle with giving up control?

 

 

 

My Imperfections and God’s Power

by Kristine Brown @kristinebrown43

How could a task-oriented, detail-driven girl like me be so careless? I thought.

Mistakes happen. I knew this in my heart, but it was not just one mistake. It was two, and the errors caused problems for my entire team. I can usually maintain a lighthearted attitude about making mistakes, but not that day. Instead of laughing at myself, I questioned my abilities. Frustration grew as my thoughts centered around my flaws.

Making mistakes can make me feel inadequate. Defeated. Unable to get the job done.

The truth is, sometimes I get caught up in my own expertise, and I run ahead full speed. Tackling one task with ease gives me the confidence to take on another, then another, then another. Before I know it, I’ve run into a wall because I didn’t slow down long enough to place my confidence where it belongs.

“But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong,” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10 NIV).

In verse 9, Paul explains to the church at Corinth how God responded to him when he asked God to take away a “thorn in his flesh.” Paul knew the purpose of that thorn, or weakness. Verse 7 says, “… in order to keep me from becoming conceited.”

God allowed Paul to carry the weakness to keep his dependence in the right place. Paul accepted his weakness with gladness, knowing full well that he needed it. I’m inspired by how Paul acknowledged his own vulnerability. He wanted to remain humble, keeping the focus of his life and ministry on Christ.

God provided grace for Paul, and He does the same for us. Even when our mistakes reveal our weaknesses. Messing up shouldn’t cause us to question our abilities. It simply provides a pause for us to check our dependence. Have we become reliant on ourselves rather than our Savior? Do we put pressure on ourselves to never make a mistake? God cares enough about us to expose our weaknesses, so He can shine through our lives and teach us how to place our trust in Him.

Mistakes happen, because we are imperfect. But through those imperfections, God’s power is revealed. Like Paul, let’s embrace our weaknesses, knowing we can rely on God’s strength instead of our own.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.  Hebrews 4:15 ESV

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My imperfections and God’s power – @kristinebrown43 on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

kristine brownAbout the author: Kristine Brown is a communicator at heart, sharing biblical insight with readers and audiences in a relatable way. Her life experiences blend together to create an eclectic backdrop for her lessons that highlight God’s powerful Word and redemptive grace. She is the author of the book, Over It. Conquering Comparison to Live Out God’s Plan, and founder of the non-profit organization, More Than Yourself, Inc. Read Kristine’s weekly devotions and Bible study resources at kristinebrown.net or connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

Join the conversation: What are the weaknesses in you that have moved you back into a deeper dependence on God?

 

How to Stop Regret

by Debbie W. Wilson

Sometimes I’ve treated errors as catastrophes. I’ve felt worse over a mistake than over sin. Jesus paid for my sin, but I felt I had to pay for my mistakes. Maybe you can relate.

I bought a neutral colored jacket I thought would go with everything. But after I brought it home, I couldn’t find anything I wanted to wear with it. The time to return it ran out before I realized my purchase wasn’t as smart as I’d thought.

“If only I’d known,” I moaned.

That’s when I remembered Eve. The serpent told Eve that if she ate from the tree of knowledge, she would be like God (Genesis 3:5).

Was my “If only I’d known,” an echo of Eve’s obsession with the tree of knowledge? Was I trying to be like God—all-knowing? Was the desire “to know” a way to replace my need for God?

Too many times I’ve let decisions I’d like to do over (with the knowledge I’ve gained from time and experience) steal my peace. God’s Word and Spirit guide us, but in many non-essential areas we learn as we go. Even the boy Jesus “grew in knowledge.”

Here are some practices that have helped me avoid or handle regret.

Before a decision, ask God to lead.
That may mean asking Him to help me want His will. God’s will is always perfect. Mine is shortsighted and inconsistent.

I practiced this during a visit to Chicago. A pair of boots captivated me. They were a timeless style, fit like a glove, and gorgeous. It was snowing outside (I needed them). I peeked at the price. Gasp!

The next morning, I asked God to guide me as the desire for the boots still toyed with my mind. I opened my Bible and read out loud. “Spare no expense!” (Isaiah 54:2 NLT).

My daughter and I laughed. “Mom, you turned there on purpose.” I hadn’t, but it assured me God would lead me. When I tried the boots again, they rubbed my heels. I walked away without feeling deprived.

Before and after a decision, give thanks.
Even when a decision doesn’t turn out like we’d hoped, we thank God that He will use it for our good. “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. (Rom. 8:28 NASB).

Maybe my jacket is meant for someone else or for another season. Perhaps it’s a reminder that God is bigger than my shortcomings.

After, let it go.
God created us to need Him. Joy comes from experiencing Jesus, not from avoiding mistakes.

There were two trees in the center of Eden. Satan diverted Eve away from the tree of life to the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Jesus is “the life” (Jn:14:6). Let’s not let a decision draw us away from Him.

“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 NIV

debbie wilsonAbout the author: Drawing from her personal walk with Christ, twenty-four years as a Christian counselor, and decades as a Bible teacher, Debbie W. Wilson speaks, coaches, and writes to help others discover relevant faith. She is the author of Little Women, Big God and Give Yourself a Break. She and her husband, Larry, founded Lighthouse Ministries in 1991. Share her journey to refreshing faith at debbieWwilson.com.

Join the conversation: What pending or past decision wants to steal your peace?