Beautiful

By Danita Hiles

Precious sisters —

Whether you are reading this with hope…
or through tears…
whether your journey through the valley has just begun…
or has settled into a routine of sorts…this truth remains.
You are beautiful.
You are treasured.
You are loved.
You are His.
Turn up your speakers and bask in that.

The Elephant in the Corner

By Danita Hiles

For those who have walked this journey for a season, you may have come to a turn in your road.  A place of decision where you need to decide:  ‘what now’?   You see there is a difference in existing and really living, a difference in surviving life and embracing life. Kittie wrote beautifully last week about a establishing a godly vision for your family.  Excellent advice for those of us with children still at home, but equally appropriate even if you are in a different stage of life. It’s all about intentionally choosing to live.

Reading her post, I realized some things.  It has been seven years since my husband died.  During that period of time, I have moved 10 crates of household goods, two kids and a dog 6000 miles.   Settled in a new community, found new schools and church, dentist and dance classes.  Bought a house which needed a lot of work, got a degree, made new friends, raised my girls, and generally did ‘life’.   We have adjusted to our new normal in a single-parent all female household full of Barbie clothes, jewelry and an abundance of cute shoes and estrogen.

But there in the midst of our new normal, were some things I had managed to not fully deal with.  Elephants in the corner, my mom used to say.  Things we know are there but try not to talk about. I tried not to see them.  I tried to stay busy and tiptoe around so not to wake them but every once in a while they would get noisy or clumsy or even start to smell.  Sure, I’ve thought about it, tripped over it, stressed about it, started to deal with it, but then life moves on and ‘it’ is not longer center stage.   The  elephants in my corner?  ‘Finances’…and… ‘Stuff’.

Two years ago, I finally faced the elephant in the corner called ‘Finances’.  Ugh.  This was not easy or fun but boy, was it necessary! How about you?  Are there things in your financial world which you have been putting off since becoming a widow?  Here are some practical matters that I dealt with:

  • Do you have a will or trust?  Have you spelled  out your wishes about being an organ donor, medical DNR, and /or who would make decisions for you in case you were incapacitated
  • Have you established who would have the guardianship of your children if something were to happen to you? This is vital!
  • Are all of your finances in your name, and all details concerning your finances together in a place where you can easily review them each year or where someone else could find important paperwork if needed
  • Do you have life insurance?
  • Do you have a trusted financial advisor to help you with all of the above?

Whew!  You see, it is difficult to find the energy for day-to-day life when there are undone things we constantly trip over in our minds.   Establishing a firm financial foundation gives great peace of mind and frees up your energy for other things.

The next ‘elephant in the corner’ I am facing is called ‘Stuff’.  This, for me, is a work in progress.  I went to a funeral yesterday for the father of one of my daughter’s classmates.  He was 53, and as I saw his four daughters and grieving widow in the front row of the church, I ached for all they were feeling and for all that they were going to have to walk through in the ensuing days and months.  I also thought about my Dave, a lot.  And remembered his funeral services. And then, remembered the boxes of memories from those services which have been sitting in my garage for years.  The next elephant I am going to tackle is tough one.  Four boxes labeled ‘Dave’ sitting on a low shelf which bother me every time I see them.  With God’s help, I am going to face the memories and sort the stuff.  Remember and cry and pray and sort.  And at the end, I hope to have a scrapbook for the girls and I to look through, some things to share with Dave’s mom, and a tattered box of remnants to tote to the curb for garbage.

How about you? Is there some ‘Stuff’ you need to deal with?

  • Memories from your husband’s services.   Photos, letters, e-mails to print out and save in a scrapbook for your kids. Maybe even some notes you intended to write but just never got around to. Remember, it’s NEVER too late to say thank you to someone.
  • His clothes, personal items, books – are these items a part of your life or could they perhaps be a blessing to someone else?
  • Sports equipment, tools, knick-knacks. This could apply to almost anything. Stuff that was exclusively ‘his’.  If it is not something that brings beauty, pleasure or usefulness to your life, or something you are specifically saving for your children, maybe it is time to get it go.

Life is constantly moving us forward.   Do you have any ‘elephants in the room’ like these that are perhaps keeping you from the freedom God has for your future?  This is tough stuff for all of us to face- mind if I pray for an extra portion of grace?

Lord – thank you for my sweet sister who is sitting at her computer reading this.  I pray that you would meet her right where she is.  Show her, Lord, those areas that you want her to deal with specifically.  Give her courage and wisdom to step out of the safe boundaries she has placed around her heart (and her things).   Give her energy to tackle hard stuff like finances and future plans.  Surround her with wise counsel and clear thinking.  And Lord, the stuff.  Help her deal with the stuff! The boxes and rubber maid containers full of life and memories and hopes and dreams.  Give her your creative plan to deal with the stuff of life that is keeping her from your perfect freedom.  Lord, we give you our futures and trust that you hold our pasts safe in your strong, capable hands.  In Your name we pray, amen.

Don’t get me wrong.  We will never stop missing or loving those who are gone.  Their love and laughter will forever be a part of our hearts.  But maybe, just maybe, we need to take some practical steps to embrace the life we are living today, and with God’s help, finally face those elephants in the corner once and for all so that we can walk freely into the future He has for us.

What is God’s Vision for Your Family?

By Kitty Hinkle

I want you to have a vision for godliness in your home—to yearn for it and expect it with complete sincerity, because without a husband, only you can bring Christ into your home so that godliness can happen.  Allowing you to be without a husband means God selected you to step up your role.  What an honor! Treat it as such, and make your vision equal to that honor by believing in its possibility!  It’s only when you absolutely know in your heart that the achievement of everything in your vision is possible that you open the heart of your home for the Lord to take His rightful place as the head of your household.

I unfold the Sunday school study guide and read aloud one of the questions for my four young boys to answer. “Did you ever feel like questioning your commitment to God?”

This isn’t a Sunday school setting. We were having hamburgers at Fuddruckers on a Saturday night, so I’m not surprised when my two youth-group-aged kids answer without much thought. They rattle off a list of teen distractions—peer pressure, school, busyness, and then get back to their hamburgers.

The real surprise comes when I get the deeper answers from my elementary-age children. Sure, they answer. They’ve questioned God before. “When?” I ask.

“When Dad died,” they say without batting an eye.  They answer so quickly I have to wonder if it’s something they think about a lot.

They were only six and seven when it happened.  Counselors say kids that young haven’t the ability to fully comprehend death. Certainly in those first few months without a father, my little ones shuffled along with ease making us all think maybe they just didn’t get it. While I figured it was all a blur to them, it turns out some very deep questions were brewing inside of them.

I want to take this post to talk about something that scares a new young widow having to rear small children in this situation.  I’m not going to avoid your deepest fears about what effect the death of their father could have on them, because I had those fears too, and I know it did no good to have someone pat me on the back of my hand and say, “Dear, Dear, it will be alright.  Kids are resilient.”

I won’t try to still your heart about it because that’s not my job. That’s the Lord’s job, and only you can allow Him in your heart to create that peace.

No, my job is to show you right here, right now, no matter where you are with your children and your widowhood, there are two truths: you can have peace about it, and that there is no time to waste.  You need to cease any ideas in your head that you can manage rearing your children by going through the motions or using your own strength and abilities, and instead, build a new vision for them with God’s guidance.

People talk about visioning a lot in the business world. Start applying it to your home.  If you are raising children, right here, right now, no matter whether your husband died four months ago or four years ago, I want you to begin to see your family the way God wants it to be.

Maybe you’ve already done this.  If so, share with us your vision.  Maybe you’re not really sure what a vision might look like.  I’ll try sharing an example. I don’t know what God might lay on your heart for your family.  Every family is different.  But let me give you an idea of what I’m talking about by opening the curtain into what God laid on my heart within days of losing Tom.

Now I’ll warn you ahead of time—it may sound idealistic to you. That’s on purpose.  Setting a vision isn’t about trying to make sure you don’t overextend your reach. It’s about really thinking outside of your circumstances and letting God pull away the curtain into how He sees what can be:

I saw my four boys having a true brotherhood in Christ.  Being tight, cheerfully tight.  Like, the kind of brothers who really enjoy each other.  They know each other’s strengths and weaknesses and they build each other up.  They’re aware of how special their bond is because they see the difference when they meet other families with siblings who aren’t each others’ best friends. They hang with the kids in the neighborhood well, but they’re quick to recognize when the typical things of the world creep up—things like arrogance, cussing, lying. They know not to swallow that behavior or conform to it. Instead, they handle it like leaders. Other kids notice and tend to behave better around them. In fact, other kids find themselves drawn to want to hang with these brothers.

 

They do this because they sense our home is happy.  In our home, there’s not much yelling or antagonism.  But it’s not a dead home, haunted with sadness. No, it’s happy.  We laugh so much and play.  The boys have all the video games they need, and they have TV to watch movies on, but they’re not hooked on video games, and they don’t even know what a sitcom or American Idol is.  They’re too busy playing board games, or building something in the backyard, or gathering the neighbors for a game of four square or football.

 

And we pray.  Every meal, every bedtime, every time a fire truck goes by, and every time they feel an urgent need from the big ones like hearing a kid in school has been diagnosed with cancer to the little ones like whether the sniffles they have might turn into a cold and keep them from going to their friend’s birthday party.  Christ is at the core of these boys’ hearts.  We gather regularly for devotions and for quiet prayer time, and when we don’t, they miss it.  They actually ask me why haven’t we done it in a while.  They long for Christ because they know when He’s here, everyone’s happy.

 

They joke with each other, but their jokes are kind, not sarcastic or demeaning. They are lighthearted because they’ve let go of their burdens and yoke of Christ is light. When one brother is running late for the bus, another automatically starts making  a school lunch for him.  He doesn’t even question whether he should.  His attitude is like, “of course I should do it. He’s my brother and he needs help.”

 

And the boys love their mom.  Like Dad loved their mom.  Like Christ loves the church.  They’re practicing.  They know there’s a bigger reason for this respect.  They know they’re being prepared for life.

I could go on.  I could talk about what God wants for their thriftiness, their studiousness, or their honesty.

But let’s be real.  This is the vision.  I don’t want you to think it’s the benchmark of where we all must be. How perfect the vision is or how much my family’s achieved in reaching that vision isn’t the point, except to say I’m amazed at how setting that vision years ago has allowed the attitude in my heart to facilitate some of it to become real in our lives. I don’t know what the future holds, but for now, God has brought about much of what he originally laid on my heart.

I want you to have a vision for godliness in your home—to yearn for it and expect it with complete sincerity, because without a husband, only you can bring Christ into your home so that godliness can happen.  Allowing you to be without a husband means God selected you to step up your role.  What an honor! Treat it as such, and make your vision equal to that honor by believing in its possibility!  It’s only when you absolutely know in your heart that the achievement of everything in your vision is possible that you open the heart of your home for the Lord to take His rightful place as the head of your household.

But first, what is the vision for your home? Take a moment and let God pour His vision over you. Do it right where you stand, whether your home is a happy home right now or not. Step back from what’s happening now and find an image in your heart for where you want to see your family.  If it’s only been months since your husband died, and you’re looking at your little children and worrying for them, I want you to freeze that worry in its tracks for just a moment to focus.  Freeze all your worries.  I mean, maybe your husband died and left you with teenagers who are morose and sullen.  Maybe you have preteens who are angry and defiant.  Maybe it’s only been months and your four year old is asking, “When’s daddy coming home?” Take a moment and let all that go and let the Lord wash over you and pour out His vision of how your home can be different. Imagine your teens and preteens relaxed, trusting, communicating with you. Imagine your little ones peacefully accepting God as Daddy and He’s already home with them.  How will it look in your household when your kids see you as one of their greatest connections to the Lord and His solutions?

When I had that vision, it wasn’t so specific as I defined above. It was just a kind of feeling—like I knew this household could have peace and joy constantly washing over it.  I wanted it so badly that I found the Lord washing peace and joy over me, and I found my actions reflecting peace and joy and my kids being attracted to it.  I believed it could be so, and I knew a single important fact: If it’s to happen with the kids, they have to see it in me first.

Your role in trusting the Lord and modeling that trust by your walk in front of the kids is more critical after loosing your spouse than anytime before.  It makes a difference in how God uses this tragedy, taking what Satan meant for offense in your life and turning it into something that glorifies God.

Write us, and let us know how God’s direction has set your family on his ground with so much peace, or how you desire having that vision set.

My prayer for each and every one of us widows is that we never let the guidance of our Father in Heaven leave our beings.

Lord, please help each and every one of us use our circumstance as a reason to step closer to You rather than stepping away from You.  Open our hearts and attitudes so that You can fill us with Your vision for raising our kids and setting the hearts and attitudes in our homes with purpose.  Amen

Who Is Responding?

By Danita Hiles

The place: Target dressing room….two nights before a family vacation.

The players:  One exhausted mama, one hormonal high schooler and one hungry third-grader.

The scene:   Trying to find a few key clothing items to take on the upcoming vacation.

The mood:  Stress!

Stress between sisters, stress with the shopping experience, stress coupled with feelings of failure that this should have been done sooner, stress over the struggles with sizes and prices, stress of peer pressure and expectations.   Not to mention the anticipation of yet another single mom trip and all the details which that entails.

I sat on the floor in the middle dressing room, a daughter on either side of me in their own rooms.  Tensions were high and things were not fitting or too pricey or simply just wrong for what we needed.

Needless to say, our collective manna for the day had long since been depleted.

We really should have all been home in comfy pjs, eating soup and listening to something relaxing.

Instead I sat under the unforgiving fluorescent glare fitting room lights hoping for a fashion miracle to emerge from either side of m e.

Siblings with short fuses quickly began to take out their frustrations on each other…and then on their mama.  Does that ever happen in your house?  I was headed down the slippery slope of a first class mama meltdown when I heard it.

A voice from above.

No, before you get all excited and super spiritual, it wasn’t the Lord…you know the voice, it was the lovely lady from the Target PA system.

“Target team members’ her silky tones inquired, ‘Assistance is needed in the Ladies department…who is responding?

And again she calmly asked, ‘Assistance is needed in the Ladies department…who is responding?’

Funny how I’ve heard that expression hundreds of times during my Target adventures but this time it was personal…. screamed to me:  Assistance is needed…who is responding?

Sitting in a dressing room, full of frustration, who is responding?

Faced with pouty children and sulky sales clerks, who is responding?

Feeling sorry for myself and my single-mom life, who is responding?

Is it a tired, cranky mama who just wants to get home?

Or is it the Jesus-loving girl who wants to be a blessing and shine her light, in spite of the current drama life is dishing out?

There are an awful lot of things I can’t control.

But I can choose how I respond.

Colossians 3:12-13 is the best dressing room advice ever:   ‘Therefore choose to clothe yourself with compassion, kindness, humility gentleness and patience.  Bear with each other in forgiveness.  And over all this, put on love.’

Sitting there on the dressing room floor, I came face to face with my own ugly attitude.  Sigh.

It was time for one tired cranky mama to step aside.  This Jesus girl has got to try some new things on.

I reached up for some compassion and put it on, pulled over some humility and wrapped it around, grabbed some patience and slipped it on for size and covered it all with a giant cloak of love.

And guess what?  When mama’s attitude changed, the stress disappeared.

Funny how that works.

Never did find the perfect outfits for vacation.

But it just didn’t seem to matter anymore.

What about you….when life gets messy, who is responding?

Shine On…

After Christmas… a love letter from the Father

Dear precious daughter –

Gifts have been unwrapped & meals shared.   Christmas cards sent and received.

Miles have been driven, toys assembled, and leftovers boxed up.

In the quietness of ‘after’ Christmas, come and sit with me, won’t you?

I know it has been a busy time- do you know I’ve been right there beside you all the way?

I saw you there, standing in the middle of Wal-mart, surrounded by shoppers heading home with their treasures ; feeling like you couldn’t breathe  because of the ache in your heart.

I felt you blinking back tears as you encountered one more couple in the aisles bantering playfully over what to buy their little ones.

I saw you struggle with a photo for your Christmas card.   How could you possibly take a ‘family’ picture when your family feels incomplete?

I was there in the car when ‘I’ll be Home for Christmas’ came on for the hundredth time.  Sigh.

I saw you at the holiday party, standing with a cluster of couples and laughing along with their stories; and aching to look across the room and meet his eye one more time.

I was there in church when they played ‘O Holy Night’ and know that you are part of the ‘weary world’ that rejoices in anticipation of My coming.

I cheered for you as you chose the high road with well-meaning relatives whose unthinking comments seared your very soul.

I was there when you stayed up late wrapping gifts alone and wondered if you had done ‘enough’.

I treasure your tears…

I understand the ache of loss.  I have been there.

I love you. I love you. I LOVE YOU.

I am so proud of you.

The path I have called you to walk is not an easy one, certainly not a pleasant one, but we are walking together you and I.

Know that in every facet of your life I am carving out something beautiful.  And that just as a diamond reflects light after the skilled hand of the master shapes it just so, I am reflected through you.

“…you shine like stars in the universe as you hold the word of life to the world…boasting only in Him” Phil. 2:14b

Stay close as we walk together into this New Year.  I have such plans for you!

Shine on, beautiful one ….Your heavenly Father 🙂

Burned Out Bulbs and Christmas Blessings…

By Danita Hiles

I think the invention of the pre-lit Christmas tree is one of the marvels of this century. Three parts inserted together, three plugs plugged into each other and then into the wall and ‘viola’- an instant, gorgeous, perfectly balanced display!  Can’t you just hear the angels singing?

Except of course, when it doesn’t.

Light up, that is.

The day after Thanksgiving we started getting all the Christmas stuff down from the attic in the garage.  Dragged it all into the house.  Christmas carols played on the stereo, two girls and their mom were excited to get our house all ‘Christmassy’.  We decided the tree should be first.  Bottom section, check. Middle section, check. Tiny pointed top section – all in place.  Plug A into B into C and…tada!!! Well almost.

It was a ‘tada!’  moment, except for three pesky lower branches in the center that remained dark.  We plugged and re-plugged.  Still dark.  We jiggled branches and tested bulbs.  Still dark. For this type A perfectionist – it was a frustrating moment. Then from the mouths of my fifteen-year-old – the same darling girl who can make me swell with motherly pride and moments later sigh w/ motherly frustration – came these words. She squints at the tree, tilts her head and says ‘Momma, I know, don’t look at those branches that are dark.  Just look at the branches that are lit.’   So I did.

Wow.  When I concentrated on the lights, the areas of darkness seemed to disappear.  The lights were so bright, the parts that weren’t just didn’t really matter that much.  Great Christmas tree advice, but also great advice for life.

This Christmas, maybe you can purpose to look at the ‘lights’ in your life instead of screaming in frustration at the darkness.   We all have ugly stuff, and things that we wish were different.  Everyone reading this is missing someone…desperately missing someone around their Christmas table.  Maybe instead of bemoaning your family’s lack of Hallmark card perfection, you can look at the lit branches that are there; love, kids, friends, family… Jesus.  Instead of putting more and more on your to-do list trying to achieve an illusive Christmas ideal, take a step back and count your blessings.

My dark branches are widowhood, family health struggles and financial challenges.  But lighting my way this holiday are branches full to overflowing with love, first the love of God to send Jesus, then the love of family and friends.  A house to live in.

Two precious girls to kiss goodnight.  Flavored coffee.  Fluffy pillows. Hope of heaven. The list goes on.  And if I squint my eyes just right and tilt my head,  my Christmas tree  looks pretty bright after all.  Have you looked at your lit branches today?

Reflections:

Make a list, right now, of ten things in your life you are thankful for.

Are there dark areas do you need to surrender to the Lord, once and for all?

Make a plan to sit in the dark in front of your lit Christmas tree this season and really see the beauty of the lights- even if there are dark spaces.

‘Mary treasured all of these things and pondered them in her heart’ …. Luke 2:19

‘Whatever is true, whatever is lovely, whatever is right…think on these things…” Phil. 4:8

Silence

By Danita Hiles

Silence….

There have been times in my life when it felt like God was simply everywhere…every time I pick up my Bible, the Word jumps out at me.   My prayer life is vibrant and active – I’m talking and He’s listening and He’s talking and I’m listening.  Every time I turn on the radio, the perfect song is playing and I’m instantly in tears.  Daily devotional?  Yep, right on the money.   Phone call from a friend?  You  guessed it, right on  time.

And then there are times like the past few weeks.   Times when I pick up my Bible and read and in the middle of my reading my mind has wondered to my grocery list.  Times when I hear a song on the radio and know it is a great worship opportunity but I just don’t have it in me.  Times when I sit in front of the computer and hope for an encouraging e-mail only to find only a pile of spam messages and solicitations for donations.   Times when I am living the Psalmist’s words in Psalm 63 – ‘God you are my God, earnestly I seek you, fervently I long for you in this dry and weary land where there is no water…’

At times like this, the silence is deafening.

The lonely is overwhelming.

Last week in the midst of this season of silence, I decided to go running. Laced up my shoes and turned on my ipod.  Now, keep in mind, I am not a RUNNER, I am more of a poser, slowly trying to work my way up to three miles without collapsing.   I decided to put my ipod on shuffle and see what came up.    The first song was Toby Mac – ‘Jesus Music’, awesome!  The second song,  Britt Nicole- Glow ,  ok now I was up to a mile and feeling great.

‘Thank you Lord for this day and this moment,’ I thought, ‘ I know Lord, that you are going to put the perfect song on next to finish this next long stretch’.

I waited- and …..nothing.   The silence was deafening.  No new song came on.  Absolutely nothing was coming from my ipod.   And all I could hear was the sound of my footsteps and my ragged intake of breath.   Determined to finish my two miles I kept plodding on.   Step by step.  Breath by breath. And with each huff of breath came these words….

‘God…. Where…Are….You?’   ‘ God… Where… Are… You?’

As I looked up to the heavens there was no audible answer, but I felt His words replace my question with every step:

‘I…am…with…you!’    ‘I…am…with…you!’

Even in the silence.  Even on grey days.   Even when I feel empty and hear nothing, He is with me.

Back to Psalm 63- the psalmist goes on to say:  ‘I have seen you in the sanctuary and I have beheld you power and your glory.  Because your loving kindness is better than life, I will choose to life up my hands in your name.

Regardless of what you are feeling today – His promises are true.

Joshua 1:5 says, ‘As I was with Moses, so I will be with you, I will never leave you or forsake you’

Isaiah 43: 2 says, ‘When you pass through the waters, I will be with you. ‘

You see, His presence is not dependent our feelings.  It is simply a fact.

I pray that whether you are in a amazing season of revelation or an agonizing season of silence you will hear His gentle whisper….’ I am with you’.

Oh- and about my two mile run?
I made it three miles that day, silence streaming from my ipod, saying ‘He is with me’, every step of the way!

Your Future is Now – Part 5: The Stretch

By Kitty Hinkle

What’s your “Boaz’s field”?

Maybe you aren’t sure who Boaz is. In case you’re not familiar with Ruth, she is the widow in the Old Testament and the picture of obedience. The Lord rewarded her obedience by having His hand in what she thought was a random selection over which field to glean. God placed her in Boaz’s field. Boaz’s family relation to Ruth’s mother-in-law set the stage for a future so big Ruth would never have conceived it on her own.

My friend’s questions about a future got me thinking. Does the Lord already have me right now in my “Boaz’s field”?

If you are just visiting this week for the first time, try starting at Part One and continue until you reach today’s posting.

Here are the four parts to this series:

Part 1 :   The Question

Part 2:   My Heart’s Answer

Part 3:   The Future is Now

Part 4:   My thoughts on my Friend’s Answer—Whose plans?

Part 5:   The Stretch—So don’t make plans?

When I study the story of Ruth, I notice how at some point, Ruth’s obedience moved from immediate actions which served the needs of the day (gleaning the fields) to more proactive steps to affect her future.

Under the guidance of her mother-in-law, Ruth waited until all the field hands were sleeping to slip under the blanket at the feet of Boaz as he slept . When Boaz noticed her there, he was taken by her appeal for him to marry her. Being a relative of Ruth’s mother-in-law, Boaz could redeem Naomi’s land and restore their social position by marrying Ruth.

Think about what a risk Ruth took there. A woman sleeping at the feet of a man? Clearly a bold move like that isn’t something the Lord would normally encourage you to do.

This direction to Ruth wasn’t given out of the blue. When Ruth received those instructions, she had been walking in trust and obedience for a long time. First she was obedient and loyal in coming to this land with Naomi rather than going back to her own land. Then gleaning the fields. Imagine how in-tune Ruth must have been to true versus false directions—enough to be able to discern that sleeping at a man’s feet was, in fact, something the Lord approved of her doing.

That brings me back to my friend’s insistence that I begin preparing for my future career now. If I have been truly faithful, truly obedient to what the Lord has called me to do, eventually He will reveal a plan to me for my future career. Has He already? What “Boaz’s field” has God placed me in which will springboard me into the future? What does God want me to do about it? I will recognize it only if I’ve been walking in obedience. Am I listening, and am I bold enough to execute it?

Father God,

 

I pray that You grow our hearts to be optimistic and open like Ruth’s, and reveal to each of us what “Boaz’s fields” you have placed in our lives. In the name of your precious Son, I pray for softening and changes upon all of us. Amen.

Thank you for taking your time to follow this series. It was a longer posting than typical. Next month I promise to keep it shorter. Please offer your insights as to what you would love to have us discuss as a new topic.

Now on to Part 5:  The Stretch—So don’t make plans?

The Future is Now – Part Four: Whose Plans?

“So what about a career?” my friend asked.  I had just gone through explaining what I wanted in my future after raising boys.  I figured I was on the right track.  To her, something was missing.

If you are just visiting this week for the first time, try starting at Part One and continue until you reach today’s posting.

Here are the five parts to this series:

Part 1 :  The Question

Part 2:  My Heart’s Answer

Part 3:  The Future is Now

Part 4:  My thoughts on my Friend’s Answer—Whose plans?

Part 5:  The Stretch—So don’t make plans?

My friend wanted to see me nail down my career.  “You’re a writer, so publish,” she said.  “Your manuscript is drafted, finish it.  Start marketing yourself.”  She wanted to see me out there, getting more articles written, posting more on my blog, getting a Twitter account, starting my facebook marketing.

I puzzled over our differences.  I thought it was enough to know a general direction ten years out and that I was building my writing skills at my own pace. She wanted me to have a game plan.  Is either of us right?

My hunch is there is something to gain from both perspectives, but the Lord has each of us in a unique place in life. Only staying in tuned with God’s direction can give you assurance you’re taking the right direction. My friend has no children so her career is her focus in life. It’s how she interacts and meets new people in her life whom she can minister to and help along the way.

I’ve been in the career world before. I tend to approach career with single-minded focus and attention much as I approach raising my children.  I could dive in and plan a future career now, but I know my limitations.  My focus would move away from where God is asking me to place it—on the boys.

In my case I have a modest amount to raise the boys and for now, that’s where God has put me. So I’m settled on not delving into a huge career right now. At any time, the Lord might tell me differently, and I’ll be open to hearing that.

I think about how odd I must seem to the world, not marching to their drum. In this working mom, working woman magazine inspired culture, my choice goes against the grain.

Joshua’s men went against the grain of the world after they crossed the Jordan and came across the city of Jericho. They were told by an angel of God that the city was to be theirs, but wouldn’t be handed to them. They had to be courageous and obedient to get it.

God tells us we are to handle what He’s put before us, whether it’s raising kids or managing a career, and He will take care of us, but we need to be obedient first, even to the point of staying in a less-than-glamorous role for now.

The angel’s instructions to Joshua’s men seemed crazy to the world (it may have even seemed crazy to them).  Rather than fight Jericho dead on, they were to march around the walls in silence and blow horns at Jericho.  Imagine the trust Joshua’s people had in God to do such a thing.  Did they really believe God would give them the city after marching and blowing horns?

Do you really believe God will deliver you out of your circumstances if you trust and obey Him?

We are asked to do tough things as widows with gnawing feelings that we’re not taking care of our own plans.  If you are really listening and you feel the Lord is encouraging you to stay where you are and keep at the job He has you at, trust Him that He has your future provided for.

I’m grateful for my friend’s questions, though.  She stretched me to think more carefully about the future.  More on that tomorrow.

Part Three: The Future is Now

By Kitty Hinkle

But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?”

(Exodus 3:11, NKJV)

Do you ever feel like saying, “who am I?” like Moses did? Do you ever feel like you’re so mired in the day to day of managing life without your spouse that it’s hard to see beyond it?

Yesterday I wrote about how surprised I was at being able to put into words plans for a future beyond kids.

If you are just visiting this week for the first time, try starting at Part One and continue until you reach today’s posting.

Here are the five parts to this series:

Part 1 :  The Question

Part 2:  My Heart’s Answer

Part 3:  The Future is Now

Part 4:  My thoughts on my Friend’s Answer—Whose plans?

Part 5:  The Stretch—So don’t make plans?

 

Three years ago I couldn’t imagine a future without Tom. How did I manage to form a plan in my heart while caught up in the job of raising four kids?

Caught up is an understatement. I’m sure you’ve had a lot on your plates too. When we’re left with kids to raise alone and family affairs of the deceased spouse to untangle and manage, the process of life can become arduous and slow.  You might have a hard time seeing a vision or purpose beyond the daily mundane.

I bet Moses felt that way. Last week at our church, a pastor pointed out the frustration Moses must have felt when he first left Egypt. He had been trained as a prince of Egypt only to spend forty years as a simple shepherd. As he tended sheep and wondered over his unused princely skills, I bet he didn’t realize the changes going on inside of him. Author/speaker Michael Kelley wrote a fabulous article about desert experiences and how God uses them in your life to prepare you for something.  You might want to read it here.  He explains how forty years in the Sinai desert as a shepherd softened Moses’ heart and prepared him for the years ahead when he led his people through the same desert.

There are times when I get lost in the tasks of the day and wonder if I can ever see the light at the end of the tunnel.  But it’s in those tasks where God is working on my future plan, not holding my plan back.

When I raise the boys with a God focus, the values I want to see in the boys are the same values I need for a healthy future for myself. By applying those values to them, I’m equally building them in myself.  It’s kind of like Moses, in carrying out his duties as a shepherd year after year, shed his prideful nature and strengthened his surrender to the Lord.  Applying God’s values to the kids is strengthening my values and vision for a future. Here are some examples:

  • Writing – The written word is precious to me and gives me that creative outlet. I’ve encouraged the boys to begin writing. In turn, they’ve encouraged me to finish my novel’s draft manuscript and take on as many writing projects as I can handle.  Who knows what career can come from that?
  • Travel and mission work– I want my boys have travel experiences, so I take them all over the country.  I’m adding mission work to the travel because it’s so important to build the character of service in the boys. Next month I take my boys to an Appalachian mission trip. We serve in soup kitchens every few weeks and I help out with the Youth team at church.
  • Forethought and planning – We needed to support our mission trips so I’ve started a small fund raising operation. I want my boys to learn how to think ahead and plan for the future, so I talk with my teens a little about our finances.  It’s gotten me planning my own financial future.
  • Health and Wellness – I want to keep up with the boys and be strong so I take them with me to the YMCA where I do a Pilates workout several times a week.

Do you see how settling into my role raising the boys put into place some of the building blocks for a future? When my friend asked about my future plans, I only leaned on what’s been developing inside of me through where the Lord has placed me.  Really, the future beyond my raising boys shouldn’t wait.  It starts with how I’m raising the boys.

I sat at the restaurant with my friend—my thoughts spilled all over the table.  They seemed so clear to me as I spat them out, but now out in the open they seemed lost in the confusion of clanging dishes and background music.

My friend scratched her head.  She seemed to think something was missing. “But what about a career?” she asked.  More on that tomorrow.

Now on to Part 4:  My thoughts on my Friend’s Answer—Whose plans?