Thursday’s Thread: Finding joy in the ‘THEN’ & ‘NOW’ of our lives

As I’ve mentioned I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting….
between weddings, graduations and funerals my mind has plenty of memories it’s been resurrecting.
My thoughts have been leaping between
THEN‘ and ‘NOW‘….
it’s from the past to the present God has a way
of  bringing healing to our hurting heart.
What we envisioned our lives becoming years ago
is often so different than the days we live in and yet if we allow ourselves the time to collect the beautiful moments we will find true peace and resolve for these days.

If you told me years ago my sons would one day still be young and yet leading in such brave and courageous ways for the Lord I don’t think I could have wrapped my mind around it…you see not every day in their childhood and teen years were easy.
There were a lot of hard moments…ones of brokenness, pain and even sin.
Because Life is Hard even when it is good!
And as truth has it not every day of parenting feels good…
within my own life I was struggling with disappointment, hurt and even betrayal.
There were many seasons of our lives I spent sprawled out begging God to seize the trials and bring relief to each of us…
times when Coaches and even Christian leaders in our midst were yelling profanity at us, when peers were spewing mockery and where even sin pitched its roots in wounded hearts. I often cried out to God in disbelief for I thought if we lived a life following and serving Him that He would protect our family at best from the pain of the world. Yet this was a broken expectation that I had no idea I was continuing to hold over God. I wanted God to protect my family from pain and sin. I thought if I parented hard enough and well enough our sons would come through life unscathed of its ugliness.
But friends
it was in these moments
THEN‘ God prepared each of our boys for their mission ‘NOW‘ and it was also in my moments of full surrender ‘THEN‘ that God upholds me ‘NOW‘.
Do you see it?
God really does prepare us in advance.
Yet, we often miss these beautiful things He’s preparing in advance for us because we are trying to look ahead to what we want…

Who our child or teen is right now is who they are becoming…the beautiful yet also the ugly that keeps us up at night. The shaping of a life happens in these arenas.  

Yet because so many of us are searching for something bigger we often miss the small yet beautiful moments happening right in front of us.

I remember it like it was yesterday but it’s really been 8 yrs since our oldest son Justin was speaking at a preaching competition. I remember it very well it was in the Spring of his Senior year and my husband and I were right in the thick of praying about moving from Oklahoma to Texas. Justin spoke with such passion in his sermon. I knew he had fully been living his life through his message…. for our suffering is often the most powerful sermon we have. Justin had just come through a very difficult and hard season and his message was piercing my heart. Not only because he was my son and I was reliving his stories with him but it was as if God was standing before me gently speaking into my own aching heart. You see God was calling my husband and I to move our family but I was honestly digging my heels into the ground in resistance. Our oldest son would soon be heading to college and moving our family felt like it was too many changes at once.
(It’s funny what hindsight does with moments like this)

As Justin taught on Paul’s words he eloquently penned the phrase,
‘…
suffering for the sake of gospel to be advanced’
over and over again it was scattered throughout his message.
Every time the words left his tongue they left a stamp on my heart, each time imprinting deeper into my soul.
I found myself thinking…
‘…
suffering for the sake of the gospel to be advanced.’
These words have led me through many hardships since then and they also transitioned my heart to Dallas just a couple months after he spoke this sermon and we’ve now been here for 8 years. 

I love how God writes words upon our lives that carry us through the hard & holy days and uses our children to speak them to us. Although Justin had no idea how badly I needed those words, God knew I needed them and he etched them upon my son’s heart to speak them to me. There’s something about how closely we listen to the voice of God when He speaks through our children!

Fast forward 8 years and a lot has happened since then…we’ve had multiple graduations, weddings and even funerals and His words still guide my thoughts…
‘…
suffering for the sake of the gospel to be advanced‘.

You see, when we were raising our young kids my greatest desire was for them to love the Lord their God with their heart, soul and mind…this was my daily target in growing them. Yet back ‘THEN‘ I never considered what that might look like ‘NOW‘….I did in their spiritual lives but not lived out in their daily lives, like how that would impact where they lived and what all they were going to have to encounter.

Yet these past years as meaningful days have sometimes strolled by with an empty house and my longing to be together passes sometimes unmet I am reminded throughout the years of raising our family how I often felt very far away from my birth family in Maine yet I repeatedly found comfort remembering it was the cost of serving in ministry….it was my (suffering) for the sake of the gospel to be advanced. I got through many of these hard days knowing God’s word was being spread and thanking Him for the family I had right beside me. It wasn’t until recently as I’ve been watching our house get emptier by the years that I realized there is a greater cost happening right under my own roof….my children have been sent out by God to live out their mission that will require a greater cost. You see we have four boys in four states and we may not always get to be together for the meaningful days that come through our lives, but they will be living out ‘NOW‘ what God prepared for them ‘THEN‘ to do. My heart is slowly catching up with His plan for our lives as He daily reminds me of this and calls me to join Him in advancing the gospel, not only through our ministry but also through each of theirs….the cost expended in each one’s service is counted in heaven.  

Today our house is preparing for our youngest son’s graduation…and here we are in the week of it only days away and although my heart would love to have each one of our kids in our home celebrating with us, I know they can’t. You see they are living out the call God has placed on them….One son is in India given an opportunity by God to preach to a people group whose country is preparing to close their borders soon to Christians while his precious wife is back home leading children to follow Jesus in their church, another of my sons is continually serving, meeting with and leading crowds of College students who are searching for their own meaning and purpose in Christ…He and his sweet wife are impacting lives in both the big and small details as they live out each of their God-graced purposes and yet another son who is defending our country and providing us with our freedom with his lovely & brave wife in Alaska….each prepared long ago for today!
Doing what God called them to do.
So as we walk through the celebrations of this week distanced by states and even countries I am reminded there is suffering for the sake of the gospel to be advanced happening. Maybe our suffering looks different but God counts it all…He sees it and is with us in it!
When we settle into this peace we are able to receive what He truly prepared for us these moments in advance to walk through. 

Whatever it is that is happening right now….we need to be present for it. Not wishing it  looked different, but it’s these moments friends that only by the grace of God we’re able to be a part of something greater than ourselves.

Thanking God for our
‘THEN’ & ‘NOW’
is what steadies our restless souls
and roots us in what
He prepared LONG AGO for us!

And above all else friends remember our suffering ‘NOW’ will bring peace ‘THEN’ to a broken world.

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