Hope

I believe the Holy Spirit brings people to mind for a reason. Sometimes I take it as a sign that God wants me to pray for them or to reach out and see how they’ve been. Other times, it’s God’s way of telling me that we’re about to cross paths for a very specific reason. Like a few days ago when I thought about a family friend and, before I had a chance to pick up the phone, she called me to say that she was at a convenience store and one of the employees was thinking about coming to Chicago.

“A woman I know has stage four colon cancer and her local doctor told her that she has maybe six months to live,” my friend said. “She’s too young to just give up and is thinking about coming to Chicago for a second opinion.”

“Does she know who she wants to see?” I asked.

“Someone told her about the Cancer Center of America but she doesn’t know when the doctors there can get her in.”

My friend was hoping I would help the employee with transportation once she found a doctor who could see her. Imagine her surprise when I mentioned that I had the number for an amazing colon surgeon programmed into my phone.

My daughter Katie was with me a short while later when the colon surgeon’s nurse called me back with instructions to pass along to the person in Nebraska.

“After she calls the main number to register, have her call the cancer center to schedule an appointment,” the nurse said.

When I got off the phone, Katie mentioned how nice it was that I was helping a person I didn’t know.

“I’m just doing what I would want someone to do if I were in her shoes,” I said. “Everybody deserves hope.”

“Literally,” Katie said with a smile as she reminded me that the name of the person at the cancer center who was waiting for the Nebraska woman to call…was Hope.

 

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. – 1 Peter 5:7

Road Maps

At the end of our driveway stands a new mailbox. Its presence marks the end of a long road of frustration that began when the mail carrier drove up to our old one and opened the lid with such force that a hinge broke, causing it to fall to the pavement below.

When repeated attempts to fix the hinge failed, Bill wired the top of the lid to the box to keep it from flopping open every time the carrier forgot to treat it with care.

I read once that people will do what’s important to them at their own inconvenience. What I didn’t catch was: When? When does the pain of ‘what is’ become enough to motivate us to work toward what can be? For me, the moment came when I tried to squeeze an armload of letters out of a half-open mailbox and imagined how hard it must have been for the postal worker to slide them in there.

I’ve met a lot of people who refused to start a project until they knew exactly how it would end. The problem with this approach is that God never gives us a complete road map. Instead, He wants us to step out in faith and trust that the journey will eventually lead to the finish line.

My first step was to call a customer service representative from Frontgate, because I had seen a mailbox that looked like ours in their catalog. The person I spoke to gave me the name of the manufacturer and, after confirming that ours was made by the same company, I called them about replacing the lid. To my delight, the one that our builder purchased came with a lifetime warranty.

A few weeks later, the broken lid was a distant memory and it wasn’t just our mail carrier who noticed.

“I need to fix mine too,” a neighbor said when he saw Bill replacing ours.

After seeing the bad condition that his was in and comparing it to the flawless appearance of ours, it occurred to me that people, like mailboxes, stand side by side. Some looking more worn than others: All able to be made new with a single leap of faith and the decision to say ‘no’ to the status quo and ‘yes’ to the delivery of God’s very best in life.

“For we live by faith, not by sight.”

2 Corinthians 5:7

So That …

On March 17th, I attended the 2012 Hearts at Home Conference in Normal, Illinois. The fist speakers of the day were reality TV stars Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar. As I listened to the famous couple talk about the circumstances that led up to their series, “19 Kids and Counting,” two words came up so frequently in their conversation that I felt compelled to make them the cornerstone—and title—of mine as I learned how:

  • God told Jim Bob to run for a seat on the US Senate so that …
  • a photographer could take his family’s picture when they showed up at the polls so that
  • the New York Times would buy the photo and write about the large family from Arkansas who supported their father on election day.

Sometimes you have to let go of something good to make room for something great. Jim Bob had to lose his race for US Senate so that he could say “yes” to a documentary and the television series that followed. It’s a lesson that inspired me to create my latest (and shortest) parenting rhyme as I concluded that every “drat” has a “so that.”

It’s hard to understand in our darkest moments that God’s hand will one day be removed to let in the light, but it does happen when we lean on verses like Romans 8:28 and Isaiah 43:19.

I’ve had a lot of “so that’s” in my life. One of the most memorable occurred in 2010 when:

  • my ovaries stopped producing estrogen so that …
  • my digestive system would slow to a crawl so that
  • the doctor would schedule a colonoscopy ten years before my first one would normally be due so that
  • the silent killer known as colon cancer could be discovered before it had time to spread.

Hind sight is not just 20/20. It’s a 10-4 that God is at work in our lives. The disciples realized this first hand when:

  • God sent his son to die on a cross for our sins so that …
  • all who believe in him will have eternal life so that …
  • we are free to serve God, not out of obligation, but in celebration of what Jesus did to save our lives.

This wasn’t what the apostles had asked for. They were looking for someone to save them from the Romans, not themselves.

I read once that the purpose of prayer is not to tell God what we want from Him, but to teach us about what He requires of us. Jim Bob knew this when, on the heels of defeat, He prayed for insight into what God would have him do next with his life. Our challenge is the same as we ask, not for our will to be done, but to understand His and trust that when things don’t turn out the way we hoped they would, God can use bad for good.

See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.

(Isaiah 43:19)

Giving Up Control to Gain It

If you break a few traffic laws to make an appointment, does the good deed cancel out the bad one? This was the question I asked myself after a dentist appointment ran long and I wondered if I would make it home in time to take my daughters to the station. Katie had talked Bill into taking her and her sister to a rock concert and I didn’t want them to miss the 5:13 train to Chicago.

If it’s possible to try so hard to control a situation that you wind up losing it, that’s where I was mentally at when I used my iPhone to see if the freeway was backed up. The application I checked showed heavy traffic for most of the way home; and I decided not to take the on-ramp, even though cars on the interstate seemed to be traveling at normal speed. Several minutes (and stop lights) later, I realized that I had made a big mistake.

Sometimes too much information is as bad as not having enough, I decided as I called Bill to give him an update.

“It’s five o’clock and I still have four miles to go.”

“You’re not going to make it,” he said. “If you catch the 6:13 instead, the girls will understand.”

Determined to stick to the original plan, I called home to tell them to be ready.

We had less than ten minutes to get to the station as I turned onto our street. Thankfully, Katie and Hollie were both standing in the driveway when I pulled up.

“Are we speeding?” my youngest asked before we reached the end of the block.

“We haven’t gone far enough to be speeding,” I assured her. Hollie didn’t ask again as I maneuvered through traffic like a NASCAR driver vying for the win at Talladega Superspeedway.

We arrived at the station with two minutes to spare, making me glad that I had tried. There was even time to solicit the help of two moms who were also waiting for the train. Much to my daughters’ dismay, the ladies were happy to keep an eye on my “babies” until they reached Ogilvie Transportation Center, where Bill would be waiting.

Someday, Katie and Hollie will realize that you can take the girls out of the suburb, but you can’t keep a suburban mom from taking care of her girls. For now, I was content to be the student and my lesson for the day was that too much of a good thing is a bad thing: Even parenting.

As I drove home after watching the train pull away, it was hard to fight the urge to call Katie to see how the ride was going. Although one part of me wanted to hover over my daughters like a helicopter parent, another part—the rational one—knew that if I did I’d be robbing her of the confidence that comes from taking this trip without me. My job as a mom is not to make my kids need me; but to help them realize, one new adventure at a time, that one day they won’t.

Foster Cline and Jim Fay agreed in their book Parenting Teens with Love & Logic when, on page 49, they said: Self-esteem doesn’t just “happen” by making teens feel good or happy. It begins when children assert their independence and try to show their families and the world that they are their own persons.

Katie is definitely her own person, with her own choice in music. And so I reminded myself of my obligation to “do my best and let God do the rest” and decided not to call, trusting that the girls would have a good trip downtown and a great time at the concert. That’s exactly what happened, and when they came home to tell me all about it, I realized that Cline and Fay were right when they said that “worry is the price you pay in advance for most of the things in life that never happen.” (p. 95) And sometimes we have to give up control to gain it as we live by faith and not by sight.

2 Corinthians 5:7

If you have a parenting issue or another area in your life that you would like to gain clarity or get back on track, e-mail julie@nolimitslifecoaching to schedule a free 30-minute coaching consultation and remember to …


Equipping the Called

They say that absence makes the heart grow fonder but, when I go for weeks without posting to my blog, the only thing I feel more of is fear.

Fear that the craft I spent years developing will slowly slip away until I wonder if writing was ever one of my gifts at all.

Experience has taught me that confidence, like a muscle, develops with use. And the longer we go between workouts, the less useful we become.

All of us, at one point or another, have watched someone accomplish an amazing feat and said to ourselves: “I could never do that.” What we should have been saying in these instances is: “I have no intention of trying.”

As I type this, I am watching the movie The King’s Speech with my daughters. In the scene that just transpired, speech therapist Lionel Logue was talking to his wife about an argument he’d had with a patient.

“This fellow could be great, but he’s fighting me,” Logue explained.

Without realizing that her husband was talking about the son of a king who suffered from a severe case of stuttering, she replied: “Perhaps he doesn’t want to be great.”

I have to wonder if God feels as frustrated as this therapist when people say they want to do His will, but never take the time to find out what it is.

Luke 12:48 states that to “everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” Why then do so many of us know what our gifts are and fail to develop them? Could it be that we fear success more than we do failure?

Every time I think that what God is calling me to do is more than I can handle, I tell myself the same thing that I say to my daughters when they don’t want to take their medicine: Don’t think, just drink.

God is challenging all of us to do the same by drinking more and worrying less about the cup He has placed before us. Those who do will find that if we don’t think we can do something, it’s probably because we’ve been thinking about things too much.

Colin Firth’s character in “The King’s Speech” definitely thought too much when he doubted his ability to assume the role of king. To allay his fears, the therapist said: “Every stammerer fears going back to square one. I won’t let that happen.”

Our king feels the same way about us so don’t let your dreams die for lack of trying. Instead, remember that God doesn’t call the equipped, He equips the called. And the best way to gain confidence, is to do.

When It Is What It Is

I hate to be tardy but sometimes … it happens. Most of those times, it’s my fault. Like when I was fifteen minutes late to an appointment that my friend Tina was driving me to.

“I should have scheduled the meeting for later when traffic wasn’t so heavy,” I said as she signaled to change lanes.

“I can’t believe you’re so calm,” my friend replied.

I was calm because there was nothing I could do to change the situation. Experience has taught me (over and over) that the peace that transcends all understanding never came on the tail end of a panic attack. And no matter how much we want to be in control, there will always be some unforeseen circumstance to remind us that God is God and we … are not.

I feel so strongly about this that I came up with a rhyme to remind my daughters—and myself—that obsessing over the unknown or the unavoidable is an unproductive waste of time:

If it is what it is, why complain? It makes you unhappy and drives others insane.

Although not my best poetic prose, these words are a reminder that controlling our behavior is in everyone’s best interest as we keep problems in perspective and encourage fellow travelers to do the same.

Whoever is patient has great understanding,
but one who is quick-tempered displays folly. – Proverbs 14:29