Are You Ready to Find Hope?

“Where have you been?” You might well ask. It’s been a long time since I’ve blogged. But I have an exciting announcement! I’ve moved! No, not out of Michigan. I’ve moved to a new blog site called, “The Hope Finder.”

I would love for you to follow me over at The Hope Finder. I will no longer be posting on Abounding Fruit. If you have enjoyed what you read on Abounding Fruit, and want to read more of the same encouraging real-life ponderings, click here to be added to my email list for The Hope Finder. I promise, I won’t use your information for anything but sending you updates from my blog!

The Hope Finder site has greater flexibility to provide a better platform to share with you all the things that give me hope and help in my everyday life. This new blog has taken me a year to get up and running. It’s been full of frustration, learning, disappointment, waiting, and growth. But head on over to The Hope Finder to see what all that waiting brought me.

Thank you for being a loyal reader. I look forward to meeting you in your inbox on a regular basis, and growing in the hope that Jesus gives, together.

How to Ruin Your Mother’s Day: Expectations vs. Expectancy

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Let’s talk about expectations.

Whether it’s mother’s day or a fun event or just another weekend, we tend to have expectations of what we want to get out of the experience. We may not even think through or verbalize those expectations but they can be there nonetheless.

What happens when our experience doesn’t meet our expectations? It’s disappointing, depressing, and deflating.

I began to think about this as I approched an event I was looking forward to but didn’t want to be disappointed by my preconceived notions. As I discussed this with a friend, she said that her sister just expects that everything will be terrible and then she’s pleasantly surprised when it turns out well. And that is probably healthier than having high expectations dashed.

My friend also mentioned the importance of holding our expectations loosely in expectancy.

As I thought about the difference between expectations and expectancy it hit me:

Expectations are all about me and what I’ve decided I need to be happy. Expectancy is waiting for God to reveal His good plan for my day.

So this mother’s day, when the flowers your kids bought you are the wrong shade of pink, when meltdowns still happen at the dinner table, when you miss a nap because your daughter wants you to watch her on the trampoline, don’t let your expectations ruin your day. Hold your hopes loosely, look at the good that God has planned for that moment, and accept the invitation to enter into His joy.

Happy mother’s day!

What We Need When Attitudes Go Wrong

What's not wrong

We talked last week about how destructive self-criticism isn’t doing you any good. About how we often create and perpetuate the undesirable reality we are stuck in by how we talk to ourselves.

This week I’ve had a chance to test out that theory. Sure enough, destructive criticism isn’t helpful. It’s been a challenging week of short tempers and snippy attitudes from all the female members of the family (myself included).

Life isn’t neat and tidy, so there are a lot of  factors – fighting illness, lack of sleep, plain old selfishness, etc. But I keep coming back to one thing:

Am I focused on what’s going wrong or what is right and good?

When attitudes go south, it’s so easy to continue to spiral down into bitterness and self-righteousness. What we all need more of is grace.

Grace to forgive and ask forgiveness.

Grace to look past the undesirable behavior and to focus on the beautiful and good in the other person.

Grace to move toward the offending party in love.

This week, how will you focus on what is right and good? Who do you need to forgive, see the good in, and move toward in love?

Be Your Own Best Friend: Put on Powerful Truth

For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. Hebrews 4:12

For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. Hebrews 4:12

As we talked about yesterday, sometimes the self-critical words we speak to ourselves end up perpetuating the reality that we bemoaned in the first place. This only discourages and disheartens us.

It is not God’s plan for us to live in discouragement and despair. “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11 NLT)

It is not enough just to heap more condemnation on ourselves and say, “I really need to stop beating myself up.” That’s just one more thing we’re not doing right. In II Corinthians 10:5 Paul tells us he uses God’s power to “take every thought captive to obey Christ.” We must replace destructive negativity with powerful truth.

So we must tell ourselves truth. Lying in bed while I’m sick thinking, “I’ll never get better,” further depresses my spirit, and minimizes God’s healing power and His desire to be my help in trouble. He may have a purpose for my illness and it may last longer than I’d like, but I can still trust Him through it. And chances are I will survive the common cold.

Scripture is the best truth because it’s God’s truth. I need to take a verse that applies to my current struggle and post it in a place I will see it.

One of the most helpful reminders of truth that I use frequently is Ann Voskamp’s list of Father Affirmations. What if, instead of speaking doubt and discouragement into our lives, we lassoed those thoughts, tossed them out the window, and told ourselves how it really is:

“I’m never going to feel better.” I am complete in Christ. (Colossians 2:9-10)

“I’m not sure this project will not turn out well, so I’m not even going to start.”  I have direct access to the throne of grace through Jesus Christ. (Hebrews 4:14-16)

“I’m sure I’ll forget to bring the Bible study book to Sunday School.” I have not been given a spirit of fear but of power, love and a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7)

“I can’t change bad habits.” I am confident that God will complete the good work He started in me. (Philippians 1:6)

“That isn’t fair.” I am assured that God works for my good in all circumstances. (Romans 8:28)

What would life be like if we really believed and lived from the power of those truths?

Why Your Self-Criticism Is Not Doing You Any Favors

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“I’m never going to feel better.”

“I’m not sure this project will not turn out well, so I’m not even going to start.”

“I’m sure I’ll forget to bring the Bible study book to Sunday School.”

“I can’t change bad habits.”

“That isn’t fair.”

All of these statements have been thought or expressed in my house lately. Mostly by me, if we’re talking truth. How about in your household?

Are these statements true? It’s possible some could be. It’s true that I might forget a book or something isn’t fair (okay, that one may have been spoken by a 7-year-old). Even if they are true, are they helpful? Probably not.

A few weeks ago I (ever so gently) laid into one of my children who was disparaging her own abilities. I knew I needed to help her see that her thinking and beliefs were hindering her from progressing. I had some ideas of what I wanted to tell her: “You bring about what you think about.” “You’re a product of your beliefs.”” As man thinks in his heart, so is he.”

I didn’t think she would understand what those saying mean. Then these words came:

“What you tell yourself about yourself comes true.”

That seemed to get her attention. And it got mine too. How often do I speak doubt and discouragement into my own life and then see the self-fulfilling prophecy come true?

Why do we do this to ourselves? There are plenty of options: false pride, fear of failure, fear of success, avoidance, habit, and more.

Yes, there is a time for self-critique and evaluation. That’s an important part of how we grow. But what if you had a friend who talked to you the way that you talk to yourself? Would you want to have coffee with her every Tuesday night? Or would you begin to make excuses about needing to take your pet parrot to the vet or having your shoes, all of them, shined?

Don’t be your own worst friend.

Begin to examine, in a good self-critical way, what your critical words – your “shoulds,” “can’t dos,” “I’ll nevers,” and “I’m nots” – are doing to your spirit. Are they helpful? Constructive? Causing real growth and joy in your life? If not, maybe it’s time to try something different.

So what can we do when we speak doubt and defeat to ourselves? If what we tell ourselves oftentimes creates the reality we live in, we need to think and speak truth; truth about God, truth about ourselves, and truth about others.

Tomorrow we’ll talk more about how to tell ourselves truth in a good and healthy way. For now, think about why it might be a problem to speak discouraging words into your own life. And leave me a comment about any insights you have.

 

Easter Joy

I’m thinking about joy this morning. The resurrection of Christ on Easter morning gives us the hope of joy. We may struggle to live fully in joy, but it’s available, possible, and our ultimate destiny as believers in Christ.

Joy is available because it’s one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23)

Fruit isn’t something we just try harder to do. We must pursue God and allow the Holy Spirit to being about that joy in our lives.

Not only is joy available, it’s also possible because of God’s life-giving power.

“It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.” (Mark 10:25-27)

If God can restore broken relationships between Himself and His creation, He can bring about joy in our lives as well.

And our ultimate joy will come in heaven when we see God face to face. What’s even more amazing is that God longs to have us there.

…looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2)

Jesus willingly went to the cross so He could be in relationship with us. He longs for every one of His creation to trust in His power to forgive sin. He longs with joy to have us feast with Him in heaven (and we all love a good feast)! That is something to rejoice in.

Are we pursuing God, asking for His joy, and rejoicing in our future hope?

Happy Easter everyone!

How to Turn the Bitter into Sweet (or at Least Bearable)

Last night the family went to a basketball game between Midland’s own Northwood University and Ben’s and my alma mater Hillsdale College.

The littlest had been pretty cranky all day and started complaining about her tummy hurting. This paranoid mama recalled the conversation the night before about the stomach flu going around and started dreading the worst. Then my stomach began to hurt.

But we all went. I started feeling better, the Hillsdale ladies were winning, and it was nice to just sit and not have to do anything. Until the littlest got bored and I became the playmate. I enjoyed it, I really did… for the first 40 minutes. Then I started feeling tired and weary. So were the Hillsdale ladies apparently.

I began to complain in my spirit. I’m tired, I just want to go home, if we stay too late the kids will all be grumpy tomorrow, why do I have to play with Naomi all the time, why didn’t I bring more things for her to do?

We muddled through the ladies’ game from 6-7:40, which Hillsdale lost 92-64. The men’s game began at 8 and we had discussed how the kids probably wouldn’t make it through much of the men’s game. So my expectations were that we were close to leaving and close to bedtime. But then the oldest, as Ben said, “steadfastly,” wanted to stay and the middle did too. That just left me and the little one in the minority. So we decided to stay, and I went to go refill water bottles.

I asked God why I was having such a bad attitude and asked for strength and a better attitude for the rest of the night. Fisrt He asked me to examine what I was believing. I realized that I was believing the lie that I was all alone, that it was all up to me to help the little one and change my attitude. But it wasn’t. Ben was there and began playing with her when I asked him to. God was with me, waiting for me to come humbly to ask for help. He gave me the insight to realize that this was a special night for the older girls that they will probably remember for a long time; less for the 75-60 Hillsdale men’s team loss than for the overall experience. We discussed on the way home that this had been the first basketball game above the middle school level the girls had ever seen in person.

Hillsdale v Northwood

Hillsdale v Northwood

God did change my attitude. I was still tired, but I was no longer bitter about being there. I believe that my attitude changed because of three main things:

  • God showed me my disempowering belief that I was all alone and replaced it with the true belief that Ben could help and that God would give me strength if I asked.
  • I thanked God for helping me see my wrong belief and asked for His strength for the rest of the night.
  • God showed me the perspective of the other people who were there and gave me the ability to rejoice with them.

What situation are you in where you need to examine your beliefs, ask God for strength, and look for a new perspective? I know it’s easier to say than do, but if your know Christ, you have the Spirit of God residing in you, and you are NOT alone!