Hope

Scars and Trust

My trust in the Lord has always been, best put, complicated. I would be dishonest if I was to say it was consistent and constant. If anything, I have most identified with doubting Thomas. Most identified with the "wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind." I long to be consistent, to be steady - immovable in my trust - and yet that typically isn't the case. 

The shock and resulting darkness of losing my parents in a short period of time and at such a young age left many scars. Scars, that although healed, still bears scar tissue. 

Our bodies have a natural way of healing through scars. The scar is a result of a wound in the body and the healing process of the body internally making an effort to heal that wound. Pain from scar tissue can actually occur long after the wound/surgical area has healed. All that needs to occur is a small amount of pressure, a squeezing of sorts internally or externally in and around the scar tissue and the nerves that are present there.

I had three C-sections. I have three operations worth (technically four with an emergency post op procedure) of scar tissue and the more you have built up, the more after pain may occur. It's just more sensitive. As a result, I often experience pain internally for various reasons or if I exude a lot of physical labor or activity (running, lifting, etc). 

I explain all of this not to give you weird insight into my physical pain, I promise. :) I share it because it so perfectly exemplifies what occurs in our own lives. When we experience loss, trauma, painful circumstances, and more - our mind, soul, and spirit works to find healing. The hope is that we allow Christ to do His best work of restoration and healing. Yet, we must acknowledge that even when He does, scar tissue will remain. We live in a fallen, imperfect world - and no healing will be perfectly complete until eternity. 

The more we fight this, the more we will actually move away from God in distrust. We must recognize that, at times, there are events or situations that come along and "squeeze" or "put pressure" on the scar tissue of those old wounds. This causes a rush of pain, and as a result memories of the trauma and loss may occur. Or, at the very least, we find ourselves overwhelmed with uncertainty. We are reminded that sometimes things don't work out, and sometimes God just allows pain.

This. This right here. It pushes hard against the real desire within us to trust in our faithful God. We tell ourselves, I know He is faithful - why can't I just trust? Because at the depth of who we are, we do trust Him. We know emphatically that He is trustworthy. Oh, but that scar tissue is pushing back reminding us of the long nights, the darkness that covered, the fear that ensued, the stark disappointment. 

Grace. Give yourself grace, my dear friend. Because your sweet Father is - in those moments where your trust waivers - pouring out His mercy and grace to help you build your trust again. 

When I experience that pain from my c-sections it never is as intense as when it was fresh and it never lasts that long. In fact, the more time that occurs and I am removed from those operations the less it occurs. 

He reminds us the pain will release. It will pass, and we will find our trust again. We just must hold on. Dig in deep in those moments. Turn quickly towards Him, call out, hold on - and wait.

For He will keep in perfect peace those whose minds stay on Him because they trust Him (Is. 26:3). In those moments where the pain or uncertainty is greater and clouding your senses - remind yourself of His faithfulness. Call to mind the hope you have in Him. Call to mind the millions of ways He has rescued you over and over again. And keep your heart and mind stayed on Him. 

And, when the pain is released or you find yourself being able to catch your breath - you will be able to say with sweet confidence again - Yes. I trust you with ALL my heart. The peaceful places. The painful ones. I trust you emphatically. 

“Praise the Lord! For he has heard my cry for mercy. The Lord is my strength and shield. I trust him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving.” Psalms 28:6-7 NLT

 ...by Christan Causey

...by Christan Causey

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Embracing the Hallmark Holiday

Let's just be okay with who we are, and where God has us. The good, the bad, and the imperfect. My dad died first (I was 24yrs old at the time) and I used to hate Father's Day. I felt bitter towards Hallmark and the church that forced us to celebrate it. My poor husband, even when he became a father, did not receive the celebration he deserved. I would soon rather forget it.

Then my mom died (I was 28 yrs old at the time). I was already a mother at the time, yet even in the celebration of my own motherhood on Mother's Day, came the painful reminders of my lack.

I am very sensitive and empathetic to those that do not have a mother to celebrate, or to those that have lost children, or to those that are barren on this Hallmark holiday. Mother's Day tends to cause even the most peaceful to fight a raging storm of pain.

Really, though, when you have experienced some sort of loss - all "special occasions" are like that. They bring bittersweet memories or remind you of the memories you lack and others have. If this is the case, are we to rage war against all special occasions and holidays? Pull them off our calendars, turn our heads, and let others celebrate the madness.

A little while ago in my life, I would have been tempted to shout a resounding, "yes"! As someone in full time ministry, I felt strongly the church should not recognize Mother's and Father's Day, because it isolated those who could not participate or celebrate for one reason or another. I have downplayed every special occasion (holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, baby dedications, special celebrations and ceremonies) to the point of not truly celebrating them, isolating myself from those who did or would desire to celebrate with me.

I did this as recent as this last month when we had Havyn's baby dedication and Paxton's birthday. But as God has begun to restore and heal, I realize that this is not the way it should be. Whether it is the celebration of life or it's a culture induced holiday - if I have something to celebrate, I should celebrate. It doesn't mean the painful memories flee. It doesn't mean that I won't cringe when I sit here currently getting a pedicure, and I see an adult mother and daughter sharing conversation and laughter. I do cringe. I breathe deeply for a moment, and remember my own sweet mother. Asking myself what it would have been like to celebrate her this year on Mother's Day.

But here's the thing, I refuse to run from this Hallmark holiday, because really in running from the holiday, I am only running from the pain that the holiday creates. And after a year of focused healing and renewal, I have learned it is best for me to embrace the pain. For in the embracing of the pain, joy and deep faith is found. Please understand, I don't want the pain and I would certainly run from the sadness - I have - yet I know better now. To accept the pain and to feel the loss that has occurred is the first step to healing and joy.

And the pain is something that will occur on these special occasions like Mother's Day. But I have made a choice to celebrate who I am, and celebrate what I have. And in celebrating what I have, I am mourning what I don't have. And...there is peace and joy there. In essence, refusing to acknowledge or celebrate holidays is no longer something I do. Because, I feel, in doing so I will miss the joy and blessings I receive when recognizing and celebrating through pain.

Living in this place of peace and joy despite the pain of my loss is the sweet result of grace. Precious grace. That in my weakness, by His grace, I am made strong. Strong even in the midst of difficult days of celebration. I am truly learning the heart of this passage in 1 Corinthians 6:10

Our hearts ache, but we always have joy. We are poor, but we give spiritual riches to others. We own nothing, and yet we have everything.

So, I celebrate all Mothers today. For none of us would exist, if it were not for a mom. Whether they were good or bad moms, we must be thankful for the choice our moms made to give us life. They gave us the chance to choose faith, life, joy, and more.

I celebrate the ladies in my life who are like moms to me. Showing me your care, concern, support, and love on a regular basis. You know who you are.

I celebrate my grandma in heaven who was my closest friend as a child.

I celebrate my grandma who is still with me. She has been a gift in the loss of my parents. She has persevered in many life and health struggles. She is a champion of faith. And her trust in God is unwavering.

I celebrate my mother-in-law who is caring, loving, and supportive of me and my family. Who regularly shows love and care to her grandchildren. Being a wonderful MiMi to them.

I celebrate the imperfectness of my own motherhood to my three beautiful children. I thank God for His grace. Grace given each day to guide, love, and care for them. Grace given to accept who I am, and realize that I am imperfect - but I love my children and would give my life for them. And, that my friends, is something beautiful with which my God can work.

I celebrate my own precious mom, who is no longer here. A mom who in her own imperfectness, left a beautiful legacy and handprint on my life. Mom- I wish you were here to celebrate with. I wish I could squeeze you and say, "I love you". And I so wish you could see your two new beautiful grandchildren. And you could see how smart, handsome, and big your chunky monkey is getting. It hurts. But I celebrate you today!

Happy Mother's Day, friends. I pray you find joy and celebration, even in the midst of possible sadness.

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By: Christan Causey

The Lack on Mother's Day

We live in a culture that is, often times, in direct opposition to God's way and God's Word. It is a culture and world that is focused on all the wrong things. Finding happiness and contentment in fleeting earthly pleasures rather than things eternal. It's our nature really. This flesh. Paul said it best when he said we know better, yet we still want the wrong things, long for the wrong things, and do the wrong things.

And, here's thing, God wants us to enjoy life. He desires that we should receive His good gifts with grateful hearts, soaking in the pleasure that comes from them. His Word says that He desires to give good gifts to His children. He desires that we live full lives.

Yet, He also desires for us to live life in surrender to Him. He desires that we understand that an abundant joy-filled life does not come from having an easy, put together, all the right things kind of life.

Rather, it is a heart that says, I understand I am most blessed when I am broken before God. I am most blessed when I mourn and grieve over the sin that fills my heart, and - through grace- strive to live in a way that honors Him. I am most happy and content when I humble myself and my position - when I serve and give generously to others around me. Blessed am I when "my hope is found in nothing else, but Jesus Christ".

These Hallmark holidays like Mother's Day and others challenge this in so many ways. Is there anything that so perfectly speaks to this beast inside of us? The beast that says to be happy, to celebrate, to fit in - I must be like you and you must be like me. And may nothing ostracize us from the other.

Mother's Day, while having a good purpose, can create pain for many. As much as it is, for many, a reminder of the joy and graciousness of God in our lives - it is, for many, a reminder of loss, sorrow, and even shame. And, for many (like myself) it is a reminder of deep pain, yet great joy. A reminder of loss, yet God's miraculous redemption and restoration. Which is wonderful. But overall, for me, it is bittersweet. It's hard to feel these deep varying emotions.

I am simply saying we just need to be aware, be sensitive.

We need to give care and understanding.

With good intentions-our church's are the worst. We should know better. We expect the schools, the stores, and Hollywood to fall prey to this obsession of a cultural holiday that celebrates only what you have-and forces the mourning of what you do not. It saddens me that we could possibly cause pain in our church services, because we insist on celebrating and recognizing a holiday that has nothing to do with the core of the Gospel. Sure, Christ said to honor your parents. And we should-each day-respect, love, and honor our parents. But that really doesn't have much to do with our corporate worship. Recognizing the moms in our congregation is not really necessary to our worship to God on Sunday morning. It's just a thing we do. And if this thing that we just do out of tradition and sentimentality could potentially hurt or cause pain - I am not sure it is worth it. Please understand I say this - not out of judgement - just out of an awareness of my own experiences and the awareness of the raw emotional pain of many dear friends and family. If your church, as mine did, recognized Mother's Day...there is no need to be ashamed or to criticize. I am sure for most, as mine was, it was done with grace and sensitivity. At least I hope so. These are just some things to reflect on.

Are we feeding the cultural lie that we must have to not lack?

How many of us fight envy and bitterness, because we do not have what everyone is saying we should have on this special day? How many of us feel a little less than simply because we cannot celebrate with joy a day like Mother's Day?

How many of us have learned not to have any expectations on a day like today-lest we be disappointed and hurt again?

How many of us are tempted to stay home, to downplay any celebrations because what is missing is too noticeable and too big to face?

Peter Scazzero (author of "Emotionally Healthy Spirituality") suggests that we often create illusions and pretense that blind us to the limits of earthly pleasures. And, that's what it really comes down to doesn't it?

On a day like Mother's Day, we forget the limits of earthly pleasures, and fall prey to the illusion that we are or our lives are less than if we only have reason to grieve rather than celebrate. That somehow we are less fortunate, less blessed, and just less.

If you have reason to celebrate, then by all means, celebrate the gifts you have. Embrace it fully. Let it soak in. But, please, remember that our true joy and contentment-our unwavering hope is found in Christ alone. And that has nothing to do with Mother's Day.

If on Mother's Day, you have reason to grieve - if it is bittersweet because of the loss that the day represents - than know that God sees you, He knows you, and is with you in your pain. He longs for you to know His hope and joy. He wraps arms of comfort around you. For in our deepest sense of loss and pain, true healing is found. And no matter what this day or any other day brings, we are more than blessed by the blood and grace that covers all lack.

God, remind us always - in your grace - that true contentment, hope, celebration, joy, and more is found in you alone.

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By: Christan Causey

Glorious Suffering

Are you suffering? Is it causing you to doubt the love and faithfulness of God? Do you feel that your suffering is punishment for your guilt, and you’ve got to somehow make it right so you can escape? Don’t give in to that thinking (unless of course you’re paying the consequences of poor choices)!

I have heard it preached and proclaimed that those who are in the perfect will of God are immune from suffering, and the material blessing on their lives is proof of God’s favor. On the flip side, if someone is going through trials and hardships, they must not be living in the will of God, and need to repent and get right before they can again experience the favor of God! This message doesn’t align with what I see in Scripture.

For a great example of this, we can look at something Jesus prayed shortly before He was betrayed:

“’Abba, Father,’ he cried out, ‘everything is possible for you. Please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine’” (Mark 14:36 NLT).

Jesus knew He would soon have to endure horrible suffering, and He was not exactly thrilled about it! Although He prayed to be released from the trials to come, He was submitted to his Father’s will. That evening Jesus was betrayed by a friend, falsely accused, slapped and punched. The next day He was flogged, mocked, and nailed to the cross. He carried the sin of the world, and felt abandoned by his Father. Then, He died.

Are we willing to suffer in the will of God? Those of us who call ourselves Christians, or Christ followers, should not be so quick to try to wriggle our way out of suffering. Jesus said, “A slave is not greater than the master” (John 15:20 NLT). We cannot expect an easier road than our Master had to walk. There are times when living in the will of God is not a field of daisies and tulips! Living submitted to God brings times of sorrow and heartache. But in the midst of the hardship, we know that “joy comes with the morning” (Psalm 30:5 NLT). We know that there is a joy set before us to help us endure the suffering.

“And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne” (Hebrews 12:1b-2 NLT).

Not only is there joy ahead of us on the other side of our heartache and pain, but suffering itself is actually advantageous! No, I’m not encouraging you to start beating yourself or to go seeking out trials and tribulations. Don’t worry, if you’re not in a rough season right now, your time will come! But when it does, I want you to have the right mindset.

“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation” (Romans 5:3-4 NLT).

“For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever” (2 Corinthians 4:17 NLT)!

Don’t shortchange yourself and miss out on the benefits to come! Endure suffering as Christ did, and reap the rewards of endurance, strong character, confident hope, and eternal glory. Keep your eyes on Jesus, and run your race well!

Dust Off Your Dreams

Life can be ironic. The story you painted for your life, the one that started from when you were a little girl playing make-believe, tends to take on way more twists and turns than you originally gave permission for. The direction we received in childhood was to adventure, to dream, to give life to the most incredible stories, including aspirations of our own. In adolescence, those adventures and dreams seem to meet a constant war against responsibility and expectation. And the child-like faith begins to fade. As a Youth Pastor's wife, I have witnessed the struggle of youth chasing dreams and fulfilling expectations. I have seen teenagers war within themselves for the things that satisfied their soul vs. provide financially for their future. As adults, our life experiences, dreams and passions, pain and trauma, have served to build who we are, what we believe and how we identify with self, with God and with the world around us.

Life can be ironic. It almost never looks the way you thought it would and always takes on experiences you wish you could have lived without. And sometimes that can be overwhelming. And sometimes that can shake you to the core. And sometimes you walk through dark valleys. And sometimes you question the goodness of God. Yet, in every moment, God is ever present.

The only thing I ever wanted to be in my entire life was a mother. My make believe time as a child included creating meals for my “children” utilizing creative (often inedible) recipes in my easy-bake-oven, caring for my water baby and preparing the home which was of course sectioned off by pillows and blankets. I would travel out to the store in my power wheels Barbie jeep and bring home fresh flowers which were conveniently provided by my neighbor’s bushes. I knew the amount of children I would have. I knew their names. It was never a conceivable thought that I might never attain my greatest aspiration.

I remember the numb sensation that invaded my body when the doctors told me my husband and I had unexplained infertility. Hearing those words for the first time, was one of those defining moments I will never forget. The pain and the question and the mourning of that season of my life was the hardest season I have ever experienced.  In that moment, I didn’t want to hear that “God had a plan”, I didn’t want to think about “other options.” In that moment, I grieved my dream. In that moment, my ability to hope and believe were somewhere deep below my anger and sorrow. Little did I know how God would use the pain of my new-reality to launch me into His redemptive purpose. Years later, I accepted a position as Executive Director of a Crisis Pregnancy Center, a life-affirming Christ centered non profit that seeks to provide thorough pregnancy and parenting support to women and couples facing an unwanted pregnancy. God called the infertile woman to lead a Crisis Pregnancy Center, ironic. Everything in my flesh was telling me this was going to be the hardest “yes” I would ever commit to, but God has used it to be one of the biggest unforeseen healing agents in my life.

A few weeks ago I was asked a question. This question was more than just a question, it was a Holy Spirit moment of restored hope. This woman looked at me from across the table and said, “What kind of mother do you want to be?” I smiled. I paused. Memories flooding back of those years of make believe and easy bake ovens and water babies and paying house. Years of happy memories I had suppressed in order to protect my heart.  I responded, “Hmmm, no one has ever asked me that question before.” I smiled. I paused. I cried. And in that moment I heard the Holy Spirit speak to me and say, “Its time to start dreaming again.”

I don’t know what you are facing right now. I don’t know what your deepest God-given dreams and adventures are or where you are in your journey to accomplishing them. My hope, is that if you have forgotten those dreams or even dismissed them, that today you might pause long enough to dust off those dreams of yours, the ones you created long ago, and that you would allow God to speak to you about them again. If there is one thing I have learned through my journey, it’s that God is present and He sees me. Through the waves of pain and mourning, peace and hope; God is present. I pray that hope would be stirred up in your soul today.

Proverbs 3:5-6
Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.

Romans 15:13
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.

Matthew 11:28
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

 Psalm 119:114
You are my refuge and my shield; I have put my hope in your word.

Hebrews 10:23
Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.

Romans 8:25
But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

Proverbs 13:12
Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.

Romans 5:3-4
Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.

 Written by: Molly Hurtado

Written by: Molly Hurtado

He Is Doing a New Thing

When we moved to Massachusetts two years ago, we were returning to full time ministry after a difficult two year hiatus. I had just given birth to our third baby three months prior and was deep in the throes of a mental and emotional battle. Postpartum depression and anxiety hit me hard within a few weeks of arriving in Massachusetts and would not relent for over a year. I was suffocating, drowning, buried alive and didn't know how to ask for help. My husband and I disconnected from each other. I was lonelier than I had ever been, but the Lord was so good to me during that time. He proved his faithfulness to me over and over again.

When I came out of that dark and desperate season, I longed for a more intimate relationship with Christ. Postpartum depression unraveled me in a mysteriously beautiful way, but in a lot of ways I felt like I was starting from scratch. I had spent years studying the Bible, serving in ministry, obtaining a degree, but after spending two years praying nothing but, “God, please just help me get out of bed today.”, I felt like I didn’t know Him anymore. I hadn’t studied Scripture the way I used to, hadn’t prayed and interceded like I used to, I wasn’t hearing him speak the way he used to. I was desperate to reclaim the relationship we had before hormones and a difficult transition took over my mind. 

I started thinking back on Bible College days and the words that were spoken over me, promises given to me, and the many sweet times of intercession and communion with Christ. I yearned for those days again. But God, as he always does, sent me a loving reminder, 

“Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” Isaiah 43:19

In seasons of uncertainty, of trials, and in transitions, it's hard not to look back to the way things were. But we can’t spend our lives grasping at the past, trying to reclaim some fragment of the way things used to be. Instead of resisting difficult seasons, we can embrace them and lean into them as seasons of learning and shaping. If we look back at all on our previous spiritual mountain tops, we should look back with fondness, not yearning. God is doing a new thing! How wonderful that we can experience God’s grace and mercy new every morning! What a joy it is to open his word every day, knowing that he will speak fresh promises and truth to our hearts.

He is a doing a new thing in you, in me, in us, in our cities, and in our world. Let’s not look backwards with longing but look with hopeful hearts at what he’s doing now and what he will do in the future.  

“Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do : forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:13-14

What new thing is God doing in you? 

Written By : Kristen LaValley