HOPE is cultivated.
I used to think hope was immediate. I had to learn that hope is not something we wake up and instantaneously have.
The images and the pain of that process 20 years ago are all still present with me. I am filled with a joy for the present and future, and as I reflect, I’m not full of regret but of thankfulness. Though the sting is gone now, the past DID happen - and it is a real part of my life:
I sat in the depths of my sorry soul. Everything seemed desolate and without hope. What hope was there for the future of my kids?
I looked at my past and the history of my family: cycles of fornication, of pregnancy before marriage, of divorce, of raising children without a father. This was my inheritance -- the road that had been paved before me -- and it seemed the road that I had chosen to take. Not because I chose it. Instead, as if it was chosen for me; I was just blindly following a track that had already been laid.
A deep darkness surrounded my bright vision of the future - a HOPE-FILLED future for my children and myself. How could I ‘make’ a different future for my kids than the future I found myself in? Would their marriages (if they chose to be married) be riddled with chaos, with pain? Would their relationships begin in fornication and end in divorce?
Facing the Numbers
I wondered if, as my children walked down the aisle, they were on their way to divorce court…
Statistically? The answer was YES.
During this bleak, black period of time, I became aware of the passion I had for the future of my children and grandchildren. I didn’t want any of my children to suffer the agony of divorce. I didn’t want my grandchildren to grow up with an absent father; I wanted my children to be committed to covenant marriage and find partners who had that same commitment. Instead of anxiety, fear, and depression, somehow, the Lord got me to ‘look to the birds of the air’. He lifted my eyes up to see HIM and believe that He could make something beautiful out of the ashes.
could I begin a new path?
would I have the strength? The wisdom? The perseverance to stay the course?
Cultivating a Vision for the Future
First, I began to dig … literally, dig. I read in Isaiah 61 that God brings beauty from ashes and I felt like my life, our family, and the lives of my children were nothing but ashes … EVERYTHING had been burnt up. So, I got my spade and I started digging.
Every weekend, when my children would go visit their dad, I would spend time in the yard digging, removing the layer of grass and weeds in areas of the yard where I would build flower beds. I wept sorrowful tears, releasing the pain, telling God how unfair it was. I learned to believe that God could make something beautiful out of it all
Hard shovelful by hard, weed-ridden shovelful, I dug.
And each drop was a prayer.
I hauled rock. I wanted solid boundary lines around the new flower beds, so I visited construction sites, old, broken-down limestone walls, and other places – all to gather stones for my garden. Oftentimes, the Lord has what we need - we just have to look and be willing to go the extra mile to get it.
Partnering with God to bring forth beauty oftentimes requires heavy lifting.
I brought in dirt. Again, I searched out the resources to build according to what I envisioned, all the while praying and believing that my labor was not in vain. If we till the soil - in our yards, in our hearts - if we bring in the resources we need to fill in the gaps, beauty will come forth.
We are building WITH God. He shows us what we need. Graham Cook says, “God has all we need; we have to STEP into it”.
I relied on friends and neighbors as my resource. Community was important in the development of beauty. Others had cultivated the beautiful flowers and ground cover I wanted in my flower beds, so I ASKED them how they did it.
As single mothers, we need to have insightful hearts. Asking for help in bringing forth the beauty we desire is necessary.
I bought annuals and some mulch. Some flowers, like annuals, are for one season only. I wanted those seasonal flowers to flourish in my flowerbeds – however, I had to be willing to investsomething in the development of beauty. Even with this determination to invest, I found ways to get things at a discount; I discovered that God makes a way.
As I partnered with God in preparing the soil, setting up the boundaries, relying on friends and neighbors, and cultivating beauty … it was if I prophesied that BEAUTY will come forth out of this season.
I wept, sweat, and bled -- with each, my hope in the Lord grew. As my flowerbeds filled out over the next 3-4 years, so did my hope that God is able.
This cultivating ritual became my prayer, my intercession. Through nurturing these flowerbeds, HOPE was born.
Hope is necessary if we, as mothers, want to raise sons and daughters who fulfill their destinies.
How are you cultivating hope in your home?
I love the beach, the water, the waves. But recently the “waves” of my daily life have felt like tsunami-sized waves, crashing in from every side: overwhelming, destructive, leaving me sinking, drowning, fighting my way back to the surface. In these waves of torment lie questions that I find myself fighting through:
Grief, sorrow, and pain crowd in around me
They are the darkness in the wave that want to keep me under
Keep me from resurfacing
But resurface I do. I fight my way through the lies, through the heartache, through the anger, through the betrayal -- and I fill my lungs with air again. Unfortunately, I barely get my footing before another wave comes, from an unexpected place or person.
Braving the Waves
I sense I am not alone; that many of you reading this have been in such seasons, or are in one now. Over the years, I have learned a few things about dark times like these:
I learned this key to life amid tumult almost 20 years ago, when I was going through my divorce:
I remember being in a situation with a friend. She was trying to talk me ‘out of my pain’, but I wanted to be IN my pain. I wanted to stay in my anger, unforgiveness, and bitterness. I hated, and I found comfort in my rage.
She did not like to see me in this place, and a yelling match started. “I don’t want to see you get stuck in the pit,” she screamed.
Without missing a beat, I replied, “Jesus is bigger than my pit and He won’t let me get stuck but I WANT TO BE IN MY PIT FOR A WHILE.”
Of course, that was 20 years ago and I have grown. But the Holy Spirit spoke something that day to me that increased my faith in the power of what Jesus has accomplished:
God IS able. But I need to be honest with Him and others about where I am, and confess with my mouth that He is able.
So here I stand amid another ‘valley of trouble’, wondering if the Lord will again transform it to a gateway of HOPE. And I know my God is able.
My saving grace has been and continues to be the Word of God. When I read His word, it’s like peace envelops me. Peace slowly seeps under the door of my heart. My mind triesto shut off access to my heart. But in the Word, peace sneaks under the crack in my door, slowly satisfying the emptiness of my heart - filling me, surrounding me, enveloping me. I want to hide in His Word because it seems to be the only calm, quiet place.
In these moments, I often read parts of Song of Solomon again. I read Exodus, too - I remember snippets of other passages and look them up.
But for thisseason of life, I am drawn back to one verse from Isaiah 54: “Oh storm-tossed and not comforted”.
“That’s it,” I think. That’s how I feel:
Like a ship out on the water, caught in a relentless storm; like the vessel Paul describes in Acts, where the crew literally throws everything overboard. Like I’m in the storm Jonah was caught in.
I am the ship
beaten down by the waves,
fighting to stay with my head above water,
breaking, bending, bleeding.
Our tendency in the storm is to ask Jesus to CALM the storm. But as I look at Isaiah 54:11, I see two things about where the verse falls. It is sandwiched between:
Somewhere I have learned that God responds differently in different kinds of storms. There are passages that even indicate that God stirs up the storm himself… that He allows it.
But oh, what our God purposes to do in the storms is beyond what we can imagine.
And in this season of storms, I believe God wants us to remember and to believe.
Remember where our peace comes from: He IS the God of peace. And in the world we have trouble … but he has overcome the world.
Believe that HE has a purpose in the storm: He is making something beautiful and building strength.
In my remembering and my believing, I remind myself WHOSE kingdom I belong to. After all, I am a child of God. And Jesus is the Prince of Peace. I dwell in their Kingdom of Peace; peace is truly my portion and my inheritance. As I remember these things, my emotions, my thoughts, and my heart each find their rest.
God is building strongfamilies that can endure the storms of life. He is raising up our sons and daughters to weather these waves and winds that often destroy. He is using us, the mothers, to equip our children -- but to empower our children, He is inviting us to be made beautifully strong.
So, single mother, don’t lose heart. God is at work. He is building, refining, and restoring. Let’s stay the course.
How are you weathering the storms of life?