You may want to start by first sitting under the loving gaze of God, eyes closed and allowing His love to flow over you.
Take a moment to sit and look at the picture of the door overleaf.
What do you notice? What do you see?
Allow yourself to enter into the picture using all your senses and see what emerges for you.
Do you see an old door needing a coat of paint or do you see something beautiful, full of character with a story to tell?
How has change affected the door?
How has change affected you?
What does God want to show you through this picture?
Allow His presence to wash over you.
Spend some time talking with God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit.
Harriet Calfo is an artist at heart and loves capturing God’s creativity through photography, art, textiles and poetry. She loves anything turquoise, especially the sea. She is a Spiritual Director and runs art retreats where she loves to see people discover and flourish in their God-given gift of creativity that she believes everyone has. Her mantra is, ‘it’s not about the product, it’s about the process.’ She is on a life journey of learning to be her trueself through God’s tender care. Her other passion is to see modern day slavery eradicated and loves being an ambassador for the amazing charity Unseen. She is blessed to live in the beautiful and inspiring Cotswolds with her family and dog. IG: @harrietcalfodesigns
Standing on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, I tried to imagine the forces of nature that carved this gaping marvel. I could barely make out the emerald green of the Colorado River snaking through the bottom of the canyon 6,000 feet below. How had that tiny green thread created this 277-mile-long wonder? It was hard to grasp the magnitude of it all.
The Grand Canyon wasn’t formed overnight. The process took many thousands of years. Rising and falling waters eroding layers of rock year after year. Some of the changes were relatively abrupt as large segments of softer rock gave way to raging flood waters; but changes to harder rock were more gradual, barely perceivable from season to season.
The process reminds me of the way we experience change in our own lives. In some seasons, change happens so rapidly we beg for things to slow down. Abrupt change can be jarring, making us feel as though we’ve lost our footing. Help me, Lord. I can’t hold on any longer.
Other times, the change is so slow we wonder if anything is happening at all. Lord, I’ve been asking you for years. When will something happen? But just as it takes ages for a river to carve a canyon, we don’t always perceive the beginnings of change in our lives or the lives of our loved ones. This slower process can fuel doubt and frustration.
But both types of change are necessary. God knows the condition of our hearts. He knows where we have grown hard, just as He knows the areas in our lives where we are soft and malleable. His Holy Spirit is the river that carves through our very hearts creating a unique masterpiece.
I look back over the years and recognize the times when He gently smoothed away the rough surfaces with a cool, steady stream and also the times when the flood waters roared, upending everything in their path. Do you know the feeling?
Becoming a mother was one of those upending moments for me. I had decided to leave my job on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC to be a stay-at-home mom. I liked my job, and I loved the people in my office; but I’d had a difficult time imagining how I would balance the demands of a political career with being a mom. I know many women who do it well, but I didn’t think that lifestyle would suit our family. Financially, we could make it work; so, after prayerful consideration, my husband and I agreed it was the best choice for us.
I read all the popular parenting books and sought advice from near and far, but nothing could have prepared me for those first months of motherhood. In many ways, my experience was not unlike multitudes of other women — a difficult delivery, my newborn needing to spend a few extra days in the hospital, postpartum depression, sleepless nights, showerless days, exploding diapers…
I had based so much of my identity on my career that when it was gone, I believed I had nothing left. In a city where it often seems that who you work for is everything, I sometimes even felt ignored at church. I had become used to the attention I was given for my high-level connections. Now, upon sharing that I had become a stay-at-home mom — crickets. Nobody cared. Or at least that’s how it felt. I believed I had suddenly become the most boring human alive.
On reflection, I can see how God used the overwhelming change that came with motherhood to upend unhealthy beliefs and wear down a false identity. Day by day He was showing me I was more than a title or fancy office. But I can’t sugar-coat this process. It was painful. There were countless days when I could only cry out to God as the ground below me shifted and the walls of the canyon gave way around me. Those days of struggle took me deeper, sometimes kicking and screaming, but the Lord was patient with me. It took time for me to realize I was just as valuable to God at home changing diapers as I was in a press conference under the dome of the U.S. Capitol. I began to see a fruitful future, it just looked different than I imagined.
The canyon reminds me of distinctive qualities that have been revealed in my life as the flood waters rose and the winds roared. God used this time to carve out a solid foundation, one where my identity would be firm in Him. He cleared out the rubble from a crumbling identity that wasn’t grounded in Him. He smoothed my rough edges and brought new qualities to the surface. I now see glorious colors and rich textures that have been unearthed through relentless pressure and uncomfortable friction. And I know God’s loving hand was in it all.
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:6-7 NIV)
Shay Mason is a Chicago-area native living in North Carolina. An autoimmune disease and OCD/anxiety overcomer, she is a firm believer in God’s healing love. Her particular passion is helping people go deeper into God’s heart. In addition to writing, Shay loves travel, music, coffee, quirky indie films, and hiking. Shay and her husband Bruce are the founders of Love Inside Out, Inc. in Raleigh and have spent extensive time ministering in Madagascar. They have two college-aged kids and a spoiled Goldendoodle. Shay is a contributor at She Found Joy and a member of Hope*Writers. Her blog The Spacious Place can be found at https://www.shaysmason.com.
A year ago my kids were 8 and 10. My son’s first love was baseball and my daughter was a few inches shorter. A year ago I had not yet published any of my writings, and social distancing was not in my vocabulary. A year ago I still had my granda Haller. A year ago I had no idea I would leave my 11 year place of employment.
A lot happens in the span of a year. If I multiply this truth by the number of years I have been living, I come up with a mountain of adjustments, trials, and growth experienced. Indeed, my life and this world have changed greatly over the last 38 years.
The last few months have brought a good amount of change in and of themselves. Unexpectedly, I had the opportunity to join a faith- based private practice. I have been a therapist for 14 years, but only in the realm of community mental health. This employment change has brought about a mix of excitement along with every other emotion imaginable!
It was probably my way of coping with this chosen change, but suddenly it seemed as though I needed “new” in other aspects of my life. I bought a new bag, new make-up, new shoes, and some other new clothes. (Let’s just say my husband is thankful I’m a bargain shopper.) Although I frequently color my hair, I had my stylist throw in some fun, bright red highlights. I started painting my nails. I even abandoned my regular grocery in favor of a different store.
I can see how it looks- a little like a mid-life crisis! Perhaps. It also makes me wonder what changes will occur over the next twelve months.
A year from now I’ll have been actively speaking about my faith during counseling sessions. A year from now I’ll have had one year of experience parenting a middle schooler. A year from now my perspectives and opinions may be different than they are right now. I pray that a year from now I will have more wisdom as well as more knowledge and love for my Savior. The truth is, only God knows what changes are in store for the year ahead. Nonetheless, it’s impossible for me to think about change without thinking about the unchanging nature of God. It’s such a comfort to my soul to know that no matter what changes I endure in this life, God is consistently who He is. No exceptions. He doesn’t need to shift and grow because He is within His eternal nature perfectly holy, perfectly just, and perfectly love. He is ‘I AM.’
I love that God first revealed His name to a shepherd guilty of murder-to a man who had re-built his life by herding sheep in the desert. If anyone had experienced change in his life, it was Moses. As a baby he was removed from his familiar surroundings for the sake of surviving Pharaoh’s cruel death edict. He grew up in Pharaoh’s palace after becoming the adopted son of the princess. However, his heritage as a Hebrew man was never far from his mind. Upon witnessing an Egyptian guard mistreating a Hebrew slave, Moses’ anger led him to kill the man. When Moses discovered his murder had been witnessed, he ran. Palace life to shepherd life.
In the hot, dry desert God met Moses and through a shrub of all things! An ordinary desert bush used by the God of the universe to grab the attention and heart
of the man who would set His enslaved people free. The blazing yet unconsumed bush beckoned Moses to investigate. Then he was instructed to remove his sandals, for he was standing on holy ground. Who but God could have written this scene? When God told Moses to go to Pharaoh and command him to let His people go, Moses asked, “Who should I say sent me?” God replied, “I Am Who I AM. Say this to the people of Israel: I AM has sent me to you,” (Exodus 3:14).
What a comfort it is to know that the God we love and the God who loves us is immutable! He is perfectly consistent within Himself and is incapable of changing. Who He is today is the same from all of eternity. This also applies to God the Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ; “he is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being” (Hebrews 1:3). The author of Hebrews says again in chapter 13 verse 8, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”
This truth is a constant source of comfort in our ever-changing lives. The externals come and go: hairstyles, clothes, shoes, and bags. Jobs and relationships may change. Opinions and perspectives can shift. But the triune God and His Word are forever the same. Praise God that in the midst of change we can rest in His unchanging goodness, faithfulness, and love.
Nicole is a licensed marriage and family therapist with 14 years of experience in community mental health. She is the author of Remade: Living Free, a book written for women in recovery from substance abuse and unhealthy relationships. Nicole also maintains a blog at nicolebyrum.com as well as a podcast, 5 Minute Word. Both focus on topics related to faith, relationships, and recovery. She lives in Northwest Ohio with her husband and two children. When she’s not writing, you can find her reading, running, or cooking. You can also find her at Nicolebyrum.com
Life sometimes comes in huge crashing waves: circumstances and burdens that ebb and flow, pounding at our hearts, eroding our strength, our joy, and even our confidence in the Lord.
I am reminded of a weekend some time ago. It was common to have a full schedule for both the Saturday and the Sunday. That particular weekend, though, seemed to have detour after detour written in all the margins and between every line.
Stay the course
On Saturday, I awoke completely overwhelmed. I felt the full weight of burdens I had been carrying for some time; family illnesses, a friend’s unanswered prayer, chronic pain, ministry weight, the regular demands of life. The whole morning, I moved ever so slowly and delayed leaving for an all-day conference. It was an event I had been excited to attend for months.
I missed the first two sessions.
Instead?! I ironed a new blouse to discover it had a stain, repeated the same scenario with another blouse, and even mended a jacket; all of which I didn’t wear, by the way. Then, when I finally left the house, I set my GPS and continued on my way, still uncertain if I would attend. On route, my spirit felt especially heavy. So much so that I pulled into a parking lot and began to weep. I did this a few times that morning. I even began to avoid the conference by running errands. “I’ll just jot into the corner store for a sec to grab a pack of breath mints.”
Every part of me was yelling, “No, I don’t want to go like this”. I was a crying, weepy mess. Thankfully, in my spirit, I recognized I needed to be there; I needed a recalibration. My inner GPS was screaming out, “recalculating”, “recalculating”, “continue to the route”. – Okay, I now realize that the GPS was literally saying these words. With all the stops and detours it is a wonder it didn’t yell, “Just get to where you’re going already!”
I’m grateful that I eventually continued on to my destination. I was able to spend time with friends that I rarely see. It was relaxing and fun, and I received much needed, valuable advice.
Our spirit will always know what is good for us. Sometimes, I need to self-check, “Is my spirit in line with His Holy Spirit right now?”
He is the compass
What is the point of having a compass if we don’t use it to guide our comings and our goings? Why keep my GPS running when I was going everywhere but where it was directing me to go?
We pray, “Thy will be done”. We sing, “Holy Spirit you are welcome here”. We recite Luke 11:10, “For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” It continues in verse 13, that He gives the Holy Spirit to us who ask. Yet, when He does, are we willing to accept what is revealed? Maybe, instead, we continue to carry silent burdens. Do we keep pausing and detouring from our purpose?
Is it that we ask, seek, and pound on the door of heaven, while in fear of the answer, of what we will see, or what opportunity He is inviting us into?
We can be sure of one thing; whatever His will, whatever His way, it is good.
It’s okay to start over
The next day, Sunday, I had a coffee meeting scheduled with a ministry partner who is also a close friend. Somehow, we got to talking about an old dream that I had, a personal and meaningful project I had yet to begin. She asked, “What are you afraid of?”
Many would say I am a perfectionist; I put the weight of a job well done into how perfectly matched the end product appears in my mind. Being a perfectionist can also mean that you need to know all the steps, and have this and this and this, in order to proceed. Yes, being analytical has many benefits. However, much time is often spent over-thinking and overdoing — sometimes meaning delay or even failure to begin. This can leave others with the short end of the stick. It can also mean missed opportunities. So, I answered her question — “I fear failure.”
She replied, “If it doesn’t work out, just start over.” This may sound silly, but it was almost like those three simple words, in that order, were a new revelation to me:
Just. Start. Over.
You see, failure, for me, meant shame and the constant rehearsing, “If only I had done this”. “I should have done that”. Her tone clearly said — “There is no shame in starting over”. Confiding in my friend allowed me to see from her perspective. It encouraged me that I could embrace the imperfections and allow God the room to do the work.
Delayed dream? Failed business? Broken relationship? Feeling ‘stuck’? Avoiding change? Remember my screaming GPS from earlier, “Proceed to the route!” “Recalibrate!” “Get going to where you’re going!”
If you are able to stay the course, know that there is no shame in starting over — allow the experience gained to propel you. Just start over and watch God do the work. Rely on His help. He promises that if we fall, He will guide us with His light and we will rise again.
“But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me… Though I have fallen, I will rise. Though I sit in darkness, the Lord will be my light.” Micah 7:7-8 (NIV)
While my friend continued to encourage me, she added these two words — “Press on”. Press on indicates something has already begun. I began thinking, “What are you waiting for? You should have already begun this project … like yesterday”.
We often hear the scripture recited from Philippians 3, “Press on toward the mark…” When I got home that night, I studied it deeper.
Philippians 3:12-21 outlines five points that help propel us through whatever changes we face in life, this side of eternity. I pray these words encourage you and offer a means of focus for your tired mind and weary soul:
• Look forward and take joy in the progress.
• Follow an example and live as an example.
• Lift your chin; You are a citizen of heaven.
• Work now, as you eagerly await His return.
• He will bring everything under His control.
“I press on … I have not achieved perfection but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us… we must hold on to the progress we have already made. Dear brothers and sisters, pattern your lives after mine, and learn from those who follow our example. For I have told you often before, and I say it again with tears in my eyes, that there are many whose conduct shows they are really enemies of the cross of Christ. They are headed for destruction… they think only about this life here on earth. But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior. He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same power with which he will bring everything under his control.” Philippians 3:12-21 NLT
Stay the course, start over if you must, and press on! For the King and His Kingdom!
Krista Hewlett is a writer, speaker, and former Regional Women’s Ministries Director in the Greater North Houston Area. She moves and empowers women through transparent stories and valuable insights. Through the word, Krista unmasks the darkness by revealing the light and truth of what God is saying to the women of this time. Her desire is that their gifts and voices would be amplified for His purpose, for kingdom impact – as daughters of the king. Krista holds an Honors Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology, and with 15 years of ministering to women across various platforms, you will often hear her say that ministry thrives through nurturing one-on-one relationships. She loves to hear your story and says mentoring young women is one of her greatest joys. Krista and her husband are Canadian-Americans who enjoy the country life in Texas, and spending time with their Son and Daughter-in-law, and newborn Grandson. She enjoys sailing, frequent trips to the UK, and visiting family in Canada. For more thoughts and encouragement, visit: kristahewlett.com IG: @kristahewlett FB: @krista.hewlett.1
There’s a group of five women who’ve been meeting since June every Wednesday morning. It’s somewhat of a strange little group, five women writers gathering to celebrate, confess where we’re stuck, set goals for the next week, hold each other in accountability—and pray.
This current strangeness. COVID-19 reality. My friends’ daughters’ school and social lives in limbo, always changing. Our writing words, changing. Even this context of our little hope-full circle is a result of changes we all desired to make. To take our callings to minister with words seriously. Investing finances and time to it—obeying our God.
I jotted the words down, this current strangeness, this one morning. Isn’t growth a process of change? Doesn’t change bring about growth? Whether it’s a chosen change—like a new commitment to work with words, that new workout plan, choosing to put down the phone and pick up a book. Or there are changes more often than not we don’t choose. Like living in a pandemic-riddled world. Or when a new diagnosis crops up. Or your location has to change due to a job. Or how church has changed.
If we’re not changing, we’re not growing. But oh the grace and worship there is to be found amidst the “labor pains” of change and growth. Because God our Father never changes. And this is a fact we can stake our lives on, praising Him through all the changes.
Except these words aren’t so melodically easy to put into practice when the rubber hits the road. But, it is a surefire soul-soothing way for us to practice remembrance of God.
It could look something like this.
Choosing to praise God in the strangeness by borrowing prayers from the Psalms, and letting the words take you to the throne room with brutal honesty and emotion. It may look like doing the next right thing after a pause, and deep breath—whether that be changing a diaper, helping with homework for the millionth time, or pouring a cup of coffee slow, and taking the time to taste it.
Praising God in the strangeness, in your unique pain of these ever-changing times, could simply be taking more time to to kiss your child’s head, sling an arm around the waist of your spouse, calling your mom and really listening and asking questions beyond small-talk. This praising God in the strangeness is a defiant, sometimes loud, sometimes quiet, exercise of faith.
To praise Him in the strangeness is to praise Him in everything. The tension. The waiting. The breath-held, lip-bit decision-making for the near and far future.
Praising Him in the strangeness can look like asking God honest questions. Crying real tears. Saying I don’t know for the thousandth time to your kids or spouse or parent when they ask, “What are we going to do about ______?” Admitting decision fatigue, perhaps decision defeat, because how can any of us know what is the wisest, safest thing to do in the time of COVID?
One of the wisest, and best uses of our time, soul-space, and voices, is to praise God. By using melodies, verses, and choruses to shift our hearts to remember who God is. Unchanging. Our rock-solid foundation. Remembering how all-seeing and all-good and loving He is, even when our circumstances tease us with so many doubts One of the wisest, and best uses of our time, soul-space, and voices, is to praise God. By using melodies, verses, and choruses to shift our hearts to remember who God is. Unchanging. Our rock-solid foundation. Remembering how all-seeing and all-good and loving He is, even when our circumstances tease us with so many doubts as all the questions are raised. Praising God in the strangeness is a powerful weapon, a lifting lullaby to our anxious souls—and a tender offering of our whole hearts to the God who has named every star and knows every hair on our head.
Meghan DeWalt is an author of stories about remembrance and redemption. A full-time writer, she is passionate about theology and discipleship, encouraging othersto know and love God wholeheartedly in order to live according to their Gospel calling. Meghan lives in Pittsburgh with her husband, Jeff, where they cook, practise hospitality, and adventure together.
“He just made a face at me.” “Well, he called me a name!”
“Try to be kind, please.” I asked. “If someone does something you don’t like, respond in kindness.”
The month of April we talked to the children about being kind. There had been harsh words, fighting, and snide remarks. Instead of learning to be friends, the siblings were turning against each other. No one was happy. Everyone was miserable. The only time they weren’t arguing was while they sat alone in their rooms.
Being kind is more than just loving someone. It is love in action. How often have I loved in words but not in deeds? And how often have I let my kindness only come out to the ones who “deserve it”? Too many to count. So I look to God and found His kindness inspires me. When I read Psalm 136, the refrain “His mercy endures forever” echoed in my heart. The word for “mercy” is also translated “loving-kindness,” which is the Hebrew word “checed.” It actually means God’s “covenant-keeping love” for us. Covenant means promise. God’s love is directly connected to His promises. The promises of God are the reason we can wait on God, seek His face, and feel Him close, even in suffering.
Our soul waits for the LORD; He is our help and our shield. For our heart shall rejoice in Him because we have trusted in His holy name. Let Your mercy – (covenant-keeping love) be upon us, just as we hope in You. Psalm 33:20-22
O give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For his mercy (covenant-keeping love) endures forever. Psalm 136:1
People aren’t kind.
Even the well-intentioned people can be unkind. But God is kind. It is all He can be. Even in suffering, we find the kindness of God. In suffering, pain, heartache, questions, doubts, and even in our deepest darkest pits I’ve seen the kindness of God.
No one ever has never suffered. If you have lived you understand suffering. So when I say we see the kindness of God in our suffering, I don’t mean we feel it. I don’t mean we even believe it totally. I’m saying the kindness of God means we can choose to see His love in the dark. In the mercy on the cross, see the kindness of a Father who continues to bear our burdens with us. I’m sure Jesus didn’t feel the kindness of God while hanging in agony with the sun darkened in the sky. Yet here we are. Saved because of this amazing kindness of God.
Suffering can show us the kindness of God.
When I say this, I don’t mean this circumstance feels good. I’m saying the kindness of God means we see His love in the lonely nights with tear-stained pillows. I’m saying the kindness of God means I feel His comfort as I read His words on the days I don’t want to read my Bible. The kindness of God shows up in the peace that passes understanding when all we want to do is hide.
The kindness of God is found in the small and the big ways; the small moments when I’m with Him in the mornings, quiet with my coffee, the little moments laughing with my children over something silly, the ordinary date nights with my husband, just holding his hand. More and more kindness is given to me and I miss it. I miss seeing the beauty because I’m wrapped up in myself and focused on my own feelings of being lonely.
One of the biggest ways to remember God’s kindness is to keep a list. A kindness list is similar to a gratitude list. How can you see God’s kindness, even today?
There is so much unseen, unknown, and frustrating about life. Right now we are trying to sell a house from miles away and there is a ton of stuff to do. There are people we are going to have to rely on because we are physically not there. But there are people who are there. And that is the kindness of God. We have to do school at home, but we have children who laugh at silly things and that is the kindness of God. It is hot, but we have fans and that is the kindness of God. Our laundry dryer doesn’t work very well, but I have a clothes line and that is the kindness of God. I’m so unfaithful with my Bible reading, but God is always faithful and that is His kindness. I am shamed by my lack of faith, but God says there is no shame; lean into the faith He brings. And that is the kindness of God.
We might feel forgotten, we are not, that is the kindness of God. We might feel unseen, we are not, that, too, is the kindness of God. We see God’s kindness in our suffering when we remember His truth and promises. Here are just a few:
God’s love endures forever. (Psalm 136; Isaiah 54:10)
Mercy is available to everyone who repents. (I John 1:9; 2 Chronicles 7:14; Psalm 86:5)
God never leaves. (Deuteronomy 31:8; Joshua 1:9, Hebrews 13:5)
God provides strength for the weary. (Isaiah 40:31; 41:10)
God is our rescue and protection. (Psalm 9:9-10; Psalm 107:13-16)
God’s salvation is for the entire world. (John 3:16, 3:36)
God will meet our needs. (Philippians 4:19)
God is always comforting us. (Psalm 23:4, Psalm 27:1)
God hears our prayers. (Psalm 34:17; Psalm 50:15)
All things will work out for our good. (Romans 8:28; Psalm 31:19)
What if we woke up today and suffering remains? We can carve a path through the desert and find water when we see God’s kindness in suffering.
Sarah E. Frazer is a writer and Bible study mentor at sarahefrazer.com. Sarah is the wife of Jason and mother of five. She and her family serve as full-time missionaries in Honduras. Her passion is to encourage women to start today with a Bible reading and prayer habit. Sarah is the author of several self-published Bible study resources for women. She shares tools and encouragement for Bible and prayer study at sarahefrazer.com. Follow her on Instagram @sarah_e_frazer and download her 12-Day Bible Reading plan here. http://www.sarahefrazer.com/12days
Letting go of our plans to embrace change or the life we’ve been given requires a daily laying down of our lives, but it’s a path that leads to a deeper dependence on God and the full life He has to offer us.
“Where do you see yourself in five years?”
The question caused me to hesitate. A few years ago, I could easily conjure up an answer—one that stemmed from a five-year plan that held all the things I felt I should be doing alongside dreams and aspirations. A realistic, achievable plan that offered my life a sense of purpose and direction—or, more accurately, a sense of control. My answer today looks quite different.
Change necessitated by circumstances
I used to view my five-year plan as a roadmap through which I could take on the world—a safety net of sorts. Of course, it wasn’t a specific play-by-play of how my life would unfold, but it did lend direction, something to fall back on when uncertainty crept into my life. At least, that is what I anticipated to be true until my life turned upside down unexpectedly. Diagnosed with a rare, aggressive tumor in my mid-twenties, I was caught off guard. A health challenge was not part of my well-crafted plans. As I grappled with the diagnosis, it became clear I wasn’t prepared.
Sometimes, we walk willingly toward change. Other times, change is necessitated by circumstances outside of our control. As change was thrust upon me with my newfound diagnosis, I fought it every step of the way. I desperately tried to hold onto the life I once knew by convincing myself that maintaining my former life meant all would be well.
Holding fast to my goals, dreams, and desires, I resisted change. Within a few months, I found myself not only depleted but filled with discouragement upon realizing I wasn’t doing much well by clinging to this attitude. Something had to give. Pretending life was normal when it was anything but wasn’t cutting it. I painfully accepted that I had limitations to contend with. My reality required me to let go of the life I had planned and embrace what I had been given. In the process of letting go, I held both grief and gratitude. I grieved the inability to do what I loved, while simultaneously holding gratitude for all I could still do. In letting go and embracing the life I had been given, I found beauty in the present moment. As my striving began to cease, I gained the capacity to see all the incredible ways God was at work—even amid unwanted circumstances. Letting go of long-held expectations and plans was slow and painful requiring newfound grace for my limitations. Over time, I came to realize that there was beauty to behold in the ordinary and the mundane. There was joy to be found when my striving ceased. Life was found in letting go of my plans and embracing what was right in front of me.
Holding plans loosely
Holding my plans loosely created an opportunity for me to see God at work in the smallest details of my life—in the places I had never thought to look before. Such as when fatigue set in related to my rigorous medication routine, no longer needing medication to help with pain management, a full night’s sleep in a comforable bed when sleep was near impossible to come by. A book on hold at the library ready for pickup the day before chemotherapy to keep me occupied.
As my dependence on God grew through the struggle and lack of control, it became apparent that God hadn’t left my side. His presence grew increasingly more recognizable.
Letting go of our plans to embrace change in the life we’ve been given requires a daily laying down of our lives, but its a path that leads to a deeper dependence on God and the full life He has to offer us.
The truth is, I’m not sure where I see myself in five years, but my hope is that wherever life takes me, I continue to rely more on God’s guidance and direction than my own. While I continue to battle against the need for control, I’m learning and relearning that there is more freedom found in letting go and letting God. While my plans convince me that I have some semblance of control over my life, I’ve found God’s plans always pan out better. I’m learning to hold my plans loosely, to bring the desires of my heart to God, and to ask for His guidance and direction. To embrace change. Doing so has allowed me to pay better attention to those hard-to-ignore nudges. Having the future we envisioned upended is hard, but if it’s taught me anything, it’s that resisting change only makes our circumstances harder. Leaning into God as we let go of what we thought our life would look like and embrace the one we’ve been given is how we experience more freedom. May we continue to practise letting go to embrace what is right in front of us.
MaryBeth is a writer who encourages people to hold on to hope as they encounter unexpected challenges in life. As a rare disease warrior, MaryBeth has found God’s provision in her weakest moments and with it the grace she needs to endure. MaryBeth shares encouragement on Instagram @marybetheiler and at www.marybetheiler.com.
‘Letting go to embrace change’ is just one of the articles found in the change issue. Buy your copy here today for more articles, creative prompts, book introductions and beautiful photography.
“In the economy of God, however, there is no short cut to maturity,”
As a child, one of the highlights of primary school was the Easter term, when art classes turned their attention to spring. That inevitably meant creating slightly wonky and surreal ‘trees’, full of pink ‘blossom’, to be displayed on the classroom wall. We painted sturdy brown trunks on what was then called ‘sugar paper’, before indulging in a mad glue and tissue-paper fest, scrunching up the delicate sheets into pleasing blobs and sticking them all over the page with merry abandon and copious amounts of gloopy school glue. While catkins stood drunkenly on the nature table and shattered birds eggs were admired by saucer-eyed children, we moved on to other spring stalwarts. The life cycle from tadpole to frog was laboriously illustrated on many a blackboard, and we were captivated by slimy, wobbly frogspawn in jam jars, watching it develop over a few short weeks into wriggling tadpoles that sprouted legs and subsequently became adult frogs. How magical it seemed, to press our noses against the cool glass of an old aquarium and observe hungry caterpillars munch through a mini forest before weaving a silken chrysalis and disappearing from view, only to emerge sometime later from their cosy cocoons as glorious butterflies. We’d watch them as their damp wings dried out and they patiently flexed their remodelled bodies before being released to fly away into the English countryside.
Metamorphosis: the transformation in form or nature of one living organism into a mature adult through two or more distinct changes. What a wonder!
I’ve been reflecting on the attractive idea of metamorphosis, for those of us who are daughters of the King. There’s a real appeal in the idea of becoming like Jesus overnight isn’t there? How brilliant would it be if, once we’ve surrendered our life to God, accepted His amazing gift of salvation and become part of his Kingdom family, we were instantly little Jesuses in our homes and communities? Wouldn’t it be amazing if our old habits fell away as naturally as the butterfly’s withered chrysalis? The quick temper, the poor self- esteem, the simmering resentment when we feel hard done by, the destructive habits and painful comparison traps. Who wouldn’t want to shed their less presentable character traits with the ease of taking off a coat? No more thoughtless words, an end to harbouring grievances, falling prey to enemy lies, sliding into gossip, nursing bitterness, stingy attitudes and ingratitude. Surely metamorphosis would be a short cut to freedom and contentment.
No short cut to maturity
In the economy of God, however, there is no short cut to maturity, no instant transformation in character. Just as the butterfly needs to strengthen its wings during the process of breaking out of that cocoon, or the tadpole/froglet needs to learn how to use its legs, we learn to walk the Kingdom path, to grow spiritual muscle and become warriors.
In the economy of God, however, there is no short cut to maturity, no instant transformation in character.
New Christians and toddlers have some things in common: they fall over a lot, regularly make a mess and take time to develop skills and gain the expertise required to feed, clean and clothe themselves, to handle disappointment, to stand up again having tumbled and to keep going in the face of obstacles, challenges and loss. We learn how to forgive, how to resist temptation, how to press on, how to respond to the voice of our loving parent. There is a natural curve in our progress as we discard the old ways of life and put on the new ones.1 We learn to ‘take captive every thought’2 so that we’re not bullied or ambushed by enemy schemes that seek to drag us away from the Father’s house.
I’ve been feasting at God’s good, lavish table for over 45 years but perfection still eludes me! I carry a living history of the mercy, grace and provision of God through good times and bad, abundance and lack, buoyancy and bereavement, which I treasure, champion and share; but I still know that my tongue is all too quick with a cutting reply. I find it easier to see the down-side of any situation than the good; I am wired for task and achievement more than relationship and, clearly, God hasn’t finished with me yet. I have come through a season of breast cancer with blooming health and a renewed conviction of the faithfulness of God to walk with me through any valley or any sunlit meadow, and I’m sure there will be more twists and turns before my journey is done.
Pace of change
While I am often frustrated with myself regarding the apparently glacial pace of change in some areas of my life, I am grateful beyond measure that the extraordinary love and grace of God continues to carry me onwards through every changing season. I know there is nothing I can do that will put me beyond His reach and that, as a good Father, He rejoices in me regardless of all this.
For those who also look wistfully at the process of metamorphosis and long for more godly characteristics to grow (preferably much more quickly) in their lives, then let me finish with two important words of encouragement:
Progress, not perfection, is what every parent wants to see in their child. Are you moving on, growing and being shaped like the clay in the hands of the potter?3 Even if the clay didn’t respond immediately under the craftsman’s hands, Jeremiah noted that he didn’t just throw it away and pick another piece. The artisan can remould the most recalcitrant clay into something beautiful; that keeps God – the divine potter – busy in my life every day. I pray that the water of the Holy Spirit will keep me malleable, sensitive and available for His skilled hands.
While growing in character and Christlikeness is an ongoing journey, salvation is actually described in the Bible in terms of metamorphosis; a dramatic change of ownership and direction. Paul says that those who are ‘in Christ’4 have moved from darkness to light,5 from death to life5; you can’t get much more transformed than that!
‘Change is the only constant in life‘
The old Greek philosopher Heraclitus said: ‘Change is the only constant in life’. Whether you love or loathe it, change is an inevitable part of life as we pass through our allotted time here. Physically, the ageing process starts at birth, and we’re forcefully reminded of that every day when we look in the mirror. Spiritually, change is to be welcomed as evidence of God at work in us and through us as we embrace His abundant life and become the people we were designed and called to be.
The spring blossom still reminds me of both the tissue paper artworks and the annual delight of observing metamorphosis in frogs and butterflies, which I enjoyed as a child. As an adult with a living relationship with their designer and creator, who shows His hand so powerfully in nature, I am content to trust Him to change me by increments as I choose to walk with Him, submit my will to Him, and keep my eyes fixed on Him each day.
One of the advantages of getting older is that I enjoy a longer history of intimacy with Him; I have more stories to tell as I reflect on the path behind me. Sometimes it’s only by looking back that we can see how far we’ve come; try it.
1 Ephesians 4:22-24 2 2 Corinthians 10:5 3Jeremiah 18:4 4Romans 8:1 amongst others; it’s well worth doing a Bible study on this phrase in the New Testament. 5Ephesians 5:8 6Ephesians 2:5
Jenny Sanders is an international speaker, prophetic teacher and writer who has been involved in discipling and training Jesus-lovers across streams and denominations for over thirty years. Her passion is ‘to see the lights come on’ for people when they grasp the magnificence of God’s grace and the excitement of living life with Him at the helm. She is the author of Spiritual Feasting (Instant Apostle, May 2020). Jenny is married to Bernard with whom she adventures around the world. They have four fantastic grown & flown children.
“The aches of our most heartbreaking changes can be the catapult to our greatest epiphanies and relationships”.Changes can be the catapult – Katherine Smith in iola the change issue
Lying on the living room couch with my eyes closed, the once-forgotten sound of passing trucks teases traces of distant memories to the front of my mind. Thoughts of Saturday morning toast with fried eggs and honeycomb cereal start flowing. Has it been fifteen years since I last stayed the night here? Somehow, the sounds and smells make it feel like childhood was yesterday. My sister and I would pull out the box of toys and somehow, the noisemakers we loved so dearly would disappear as we played “I Spy” in this very room.
Differences stand out the most
While some things are the same, the differences stand out to me the most. There is now one recliner where there had been two. One bedroom has been unoccupied for six years. The piano looks as though it hasn’t made music in at least that long. The kitchen has new carpet, but the tablecloth with matching placemats is still around, tucked away in the hall’s linen closet.
Walking back into the hall, I step into the room I occasionally slept in as a child. The scent reminds me of the nights my older sister and I would share the room. We’d argue over who got to sleep where on the bunk bed and were always wanting to get up long before we were supposed to. Deciding the clock was wrong, we’d sneak out to the kitchen to look at the clock in the corner over the cabinets. We must have been right once that our time was wrong, and we never trusted the clock again, causing us to get fussed at “go back to bed” by a voice I hear only in echoes as I recall those days.
Despite everything that has changed
The echoes grow louder as I carefully tread down the stairs. Despite everything that has changed, the calendar in his study stays the same, like a plaque commemorating the month and year the change occurred. The pile of Bibles with notes scrawled within them has a dust layer that grows thicker as time passes. A timepiece lies there, reminding us we ran out of time. It feels irreverent to move them; they’re a memorial to every-day holiness.
Sometimes, you learn more about a person after they pass than you did before. The minuscule becomes essential as you realize people and relationships are more complex than you thought. Those wrinkled hands I knew as a child were once strong as they farmed the ground. They were steady as they gripped the steering wheel while transporting coal, gentle yet firm as they raised children and grandchildren, and delicate as they turned the pages of a Bible.
I looked at him once and exclaimed, “You’re old!” not recognizing then that the lines on his face carried not only his age but also his wisdom. I prayed one day I’d find someone just like him. Someone with an ornery glimmer in his eye who could rework a tractor so the front was the back and leave a legacy of devotion to his Savior that makes others want that, too.
Changes can be the catapult
Some change is uncomfortable; it is bittersweet. It can leave you wishing you could go back in time and play the piano once more for individual ears to hear and enjoy. Turn another somersault across the living room floor while you can and see the joy on a face you now see only in pictures and memories.
“The aches of our most heartbreaking changes can be the catapult to our greatest epiphanies and relationships.”
Physical things will pass away, but may we always remember that truth will not. “Hope = divine certainty” – words written in his Bible and spoken at his funeral. I learned I couldn’t know how many people he influenced and changed during his life. He changed my life. I mark the words in my Bible and build my outlook on them. The aches of our most heartbreaking changes can be the catapult to our greatest epiphanies and relationships. The best is yet to come.
Katherine Nadene is an old soul contained in a small body. She started writing after she realized her calling to encourage others who are also chronically ill and found healing herself through the words she writes. Her heart lives in the mountains, but her body lives in a small town in Pennsylvania with her husband, her twelve-year-old puppy, and never enough books. A worship leader and youth worker at one church and the administrative assistant at another, she enjoys writing, reading, and knitting in her spare time. www.purelyhoping.com IG @purely_hoping
“Heartbreaking changes can be the catapult” is just one from iola the change issue. Get your copy here.
Smoke fills my lungs as I near a fire that towers seven feet above me. I watch in terror as the wind shifts, and that fire takes on its own embodiment, turning itself toward our cabin. Mom springs into action, grabbing a nearby towel and wild with rage and fierceness, she beats the fire in front of her. She yells for my brother and sister to do the same and for me to get more water and towels.
Throwing the remaining water on the fire, I race back inside to fill the buckets. I heave oxygen into my lungs in the pause of impatience. Oxygen I desperately need. Pause I desperately need. But I can only think about getting back outside to put out the fire.
I don’t see the benefit of waiting. I feel useless.
Buckets filled, I race back outside, eager. But the fire can’t be extinguished by me and my family alone. Mom races inside and calls 911. She rushes back out and continues where she left off.
My body moves despite its exhaustion and my thoughts race, questions taking over, scared prayers whispered while looking beyond flame and smoke to deep blue sky where great grandma had told me Jesus was. But he feels much further away.
I race inside, and it is there while waiting for buckets to fill with water that I yell angry, despair-filled, pleading prayers to him somewhere way beyond the blue.
The phone rings, hushing my frustration. I answer in case it’s Dad who’s speeding home from work. But it isn’t him. It’s someone from our church. I fumble over words, speaking in fragments.
“hello…yes…it’s us…out of control…I gotta go…”
I grab the buckets that finally finished filling and run back outside.
The cycle continues. I rush outside with water. Race inside, filling buckets. I answer a ringing phone or yell at God to answer me.
The fire moves away from the house and deep into the woods. Dad arrives. Firetrucks come. Everyone disperses into the woods to find and fight the flame.
Mom instructs me to stay at the house, so I answer phone calls. Neighbors call. Folks from church call. They each ask how they can help. I am near 12. Uncertain.
“However you can, like, now” I answer.
It’s an invitation to show up, to be present. And each arrive, some go into the woods to help put out the fire, and others stand in a circle of prayer and concern. One woman brings towels. I don’t recall mentioning towels, but she brings fresh, clean towels that aren’t tattered and filthy.
Hours later, my parents come out of the woods soaked in sweat and soot, and upon seeing nearly half the church waiting to help, tears of gratitude wash away grime from their cheeks.
The fire is over.
But the months that follow yield still smoldering trees that sizzle at the touch of rain. The months that follow are bleak—no beauty in charred land. Summer feels dead. The fall and winter cold and dark. Lifeless.
It’s hard to wait for newness, for normalcy. And in the waiting, we sometimes forget to forge on with faith. We look at charred, empty land and cast our eyes downward. And they stay down for so long that we almost miss it. And we must navigate the heartache of it all, our senses attune to the black, the soot, the brokenness.
After months of smoldering darkness, Dad takes me into the woods, kneels, and pushes away soot with calloused, work-worn hands. He’s lived through more—seen more. And I kneel with him, uncertain yet again, but hopeful.
And there, sprigs of life. Gentle. Tender. Bright green, tiny buds.
I take my smaller hands and search the ground, my eyes wide with wonder. Hiding under all this is something brand new and beautiful.
I push away the soot, revealing the bright green buds, and see beauty and life. But beauty and life couldn’t be seen right away, because we had to wait for spring.
We stand back up, and my Daddy speaks words that I speak now into present, metaphorical darkness. “This will all be green again. Slowly. But you’ll see it. Gradual, ‘til one day any remnant of what happened here will be hard to find.”
Hiding under all that’s charred
So, I keep searching, hopeful. Still waiting, because spring is not yet here. It’s not quite time. But the days are growing warmer, and I know I’ll see those sprigs of life. My Father promises a new thing. And though this land will never look the same, I will take the newness in with wide-eyed, child-wonder. Because hiding under all that’s charred is something brand new and beautiful.
Shelby L. Hughes is wife to Youtuber, @TheAmp4Life, mom of three beautiful daughters, and author of Every Little Life: process your grief at your pace and in one place set to release in November of this year. Every Little Life is an interactive book for women who’ve experienced miscarriage, stillbirth, and infertility. She also has a 7-day devotional called Conquering Change and is the host of Making The Time podcast. Shelby encourages women, wives and moms to focus on what’s right in front of them over at shelbylhughes.com. You can find her on Instagram and Facebook @shelbyhughesauthor.